Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Heading South

There are a lot of miles between Davenport, Iowa and our winter destination in Florida – a thousand in fact. Luckily, the state just south of Iowa is Missouri which is my home state. I  have family in St. Louis so we try to stop twice a year as we make the north-south migration (like the “snowbirds” we are).

The drive south through endless corn and soybean farms left us in a little bit of a trance with a very monotypic view of America’s farmbelt.  We pulled into an Army Corps of Engineers campground near Hannibal, Missouri for a one-night stay and quickly wished we had more than one night to enjoy this respite in the woods.  The fall colors were dancing on the trees in the quiet campground which was occupied by one other camper.  The weather was perfectly sunny and cool so we ventured out for a walk and popped into the nature center which had a great view of the lake and short interpretive hiking trail.

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While we didn’t want to leave our quiet, woodsy campsite the need to get our Aqua-Hot heating system serviced was nagging at us – especially with temperatures dipping into the 30’s.  After our service appointment, we decided to stay at a state park nearby in case the repairs were not done properly and needed follow-up (yes, that has happened before so we were just being smart!).  Bennett Spring State Park is one of my favorites for a couple of reasons.  Not only do we like the campground but there are beautiful historic Civilian Conservation Corps buildings that add character, plenty of hiking trails, and it is one of Missouri’s “Trout Parks.”  The park has been in the business of raising fish since the 1930’s at their fish hatchery which are released into the the spring and stream flowing through the park.  Thousands of anglers are attracted to this trout hot spot which can be shoulder to shoulder at times.  Luckily for us, the late fall has less crowds and on weekdays will only draw a handful of anglers.

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Next up on our trek through Missouri was a stop in St. Louis for some family time and to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast.  It was great for us to get to see so many family members especially those who drove up from Arkansas and in from 20161124_174729Pennsylvania.  The fall weather cooperated and was perfect for being outside.  South of the city is Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery and Military Post - the oldest operating U.S. military installation west of the Mississippi River which is now used as a base for the Army and Air National Guard.  Jefferson Barracks was an important and highly active U.S. Army installation from 1826 through 1946 and by the 1840’s was the largest military establishment in the United States.  It was decommissioned in 1946 and some of the buildings have been transformed into museums, one of which was the Telephone Museum which peaked our interest.  The museum houses hundreds of pieces of telephone-related equipment and tools, and memorabilia from the 1880s through the 2000s.

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St. Louis County has lots of free museums everything from the art museum, the zoo, and a large science center and more.  Since the weather was conducive to being outside we opted to visit the Laumeier Sculpture Garden.  The Laumeier was founded in 1976 and is one of the first and largest sculpture parks in the country.  It all started in 1968 when Mrs. Matilda Laumeier bequeathed the first 72 acres of the future Laumeier Sculpture Park to St. Louis County in memory of her husband, Henry Laumeier.  Shortly thereafter in 1976, local artist Ernest Trova donated 40 works of art (estimated at nearly one million dollars) to St. Louis County for the formation of a sculpture park and gallery.  The park, which is free and open daily, attracts nearly 300,000 annual visitors who come to meander through the grounds decorated with shiny, whimsical, and abstract pieces of art.  They also offer education programs, art classes, guided tours, and much more. One of our favorite pieces was “Deer.”  This 20’ high fiberglass and steel structure garners your intrigue because of its size and interest with its sweet fawn face.  The artist created this much larger than life-size animal to emphasize that nature is out of balance in today’s urban and suburban spaces and humans have impacted other species in the environment.

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With the glorious weather continuing to shine on us we kept looking for outdoor activities and decided to venture across the Missouri River to St. Charles, Missouri.  Historic St. Charles comes alive the weekend after Thanksgiving as they kick off the Christmas season when yesteryear merriment meets the present.  The "Christmas Traditions Festival" is one of the nation's largest Christmas festivals.  Legendary Christmas figures stroll down Main Street, live music fills the air, a festive parade rolls through town, live street performers entertain the crowds, and there is plenty of shopping to help you get a jump on your Christmas lists.  The town is charming with its brick-lined streets that highlight this Nationally Registered Historic District. 

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Before getting too deep into the shopping and events on the street, we popped into the Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Museum.  The museum is appropriately located here as the legendary explorers began their momentous journey westward from St. Charles via the Missouri River.  The museum is an educational attraction with exhibits, artifacts, and videos displayed upstairs about replica keelboats and piroques that resemble those used by the men. 

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After spending a week and a half in St. Louis, it was time to get on the road and make a couple quick overnights so we could get to Florida in time for work.  Yep, it’s back to “work” for us. We will be volunteering at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park (in the Florida panhandle) for the winter.  Walks on the white squeaky beach and through the sunlit longleaf pine forests will give us plenty of time to ponder our 2018 travel plans.

























Wednesday, December 27, 2017

RV Park Review–Poncho’s Pond (Ludington, Michigan)

This park is a very nice RV park.  All 257 sites are full hook-up (with cable), level, and have paved patios and for a $2 nightly up charge you can get a paved site.  Our site was super long (over 100’) and had a nice view of the large pond. 

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All of the sites are really nice and range from back-in to pull-thru and the park is definitely big-rig friendly.  Some are situated on the “pond” while others are tucked under large trees.  There is pretty good separation between sites and on one side of us were large bushes that added privacy from our neighbors and the adjacent pathway.  There are tent sites set off along one area of the park near the bathrooms. There are a few trees among the tent sites but they are not very private and located near the garbage dumpsters/recycle bins and on a main exit thoroughfare.  There are also three nice-looking “haciendas” for rent.

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One of our favorite features of the campground was the fitness center.  Poncho and his wife are triathletes so the facility is top notch with weight machines, free weights, cycles, treadmills, elliptical, medicine balls, and lots of resistence bands. There are three heated pools on the property – two outdoor and one indoor and two spas.  Since we were there in mid-October the outdoor pools were closed but the indoor hot tub and pool were open (albeit, super crowded on the weekend with kids).  There are two laundry rooms and three bathrooms that are very modern and clean.  One of the cable television stations displays security camera footage around the property which was nice because you can see how busy the laundry is before carrying all of your stuff there.  There is a game room for kids, playground, shuffleboard, a clubhouse and a stocked pond on the property but it is only for kids (17 and under) to fish in.  Cable television yielded 55 channels and WiFi was available at our site with a decent signal.  The campground is very well-maintained with nicely mowed grass and while the grounds crew was always working they were not annoying with constant loud machines.  There is a railroad track that runs behind the park but it does not get a lot of use so the noise was not too bad.  If you don’t want to be near the tracks, ask for a site away from the south side of the park.  There is an off-leash dog park but it really is too small and narrow for big dogs.

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The campground is very convenient to lots of shopping and restaurants and within walking distance of a McDonalds, fruit market, drug store and grocery.  Downtown Ludington is only about five minutes away which has a cute downtown with shopping, galleries, and restaurants.  Ludington State Park is about 15 minutes away and has miles and miles of hiking trails and beach access.  There is also a city park downtown which is along Lake Michigan with beach access and lots of room for a nice walk (but dogs are not allowed).  The office staff was super helpful pointed out places to hike and things to do for the weekend.  Also loved that they gave us a choice of sites and let us drive around the campground (in their golf cart) and pick out the one we wanted.

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We really couldn’t find anything we didn’t like about this park and even extended our stay.  New customers get a 10% discount and during our stay we fell into low season and nightly rates were discounted 50%.  So for $28/night we got a really nice site with lots of amenities in a great location.  If you are looking for a nice RV park at a great price near a nice coastal Michigan town, give this place a try.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Crab Cakes with Chipotle Remoulade

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I posted this picture on Facebook and Instagram and got a few requests for the recipe. Not that I wouldn’t want to share a recipe, the problem was I didn’t follow a recipe so the challenge was to make it again and write one down. Betsy put up no resistance to being the taste tester for the recipe challenge and volunteered to be the guinea pig.

Crab cake recipes are all over the board with lots of things thrown in like celery, parsley, onions, and red peppers. We prefer crab cakes where you really taste the crab and not pasty “filler.” But, if you like other ingredients, by all means add it.

These crab cakes are so moist (because there is little filler to dry them out) that you really don’t even need a sauce. But, I do like the combination of crab cakes and remoulade so I threw it together and used the left-over sauce for a dipping sauce with boiled shrimp. Remoulade is a sauce with its origins in France but we came to know it living in New Orleans. The Creole version has paprika or ketchup that gives it the distinguished pinkish-red color and is commonly served with shrimp, but it shows up as a condiment with pretty much any type of seafood. What goes in remoulade depends on who you ask. Derivations include adding hard boiled eggs, anchovies, celery, chopped pickles, horseradish, and more. I keep my remoulade pretty simple with the odd addition of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce which gives it a smoky spicy flavor.  A large crab cake, simple salad, and glass of white wine makes for a great dinner.  Another option is to make smaller size balls and serve them as appetizers.  In which case if you want to simplify the cooking process, place the mini crab cakes on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees F about 15-20 minutes until golden brown and warmed through.  

CRAB CAKES:

1 large egg
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon chives, minced
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
½ teaspoon Tabasco (or more if you like it spicy)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup panko (2 tablespoons reserved)
1 pound lump crab meat
Canola or vegetable oil (for frying)

Combine the egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, chives, Worcestershire, Old Bay, Tabasco, salt, pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Add the crab meat (be sure to check the meat for any hard and sharp cartilage) and panko. Gently fold mixture together until just combined, being careful not to shred the crab meat. Shape into four crab cakes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Just before frying coat each side with the remaining panko.
Preheat a large nonstick pan to medium heat and coat with oil. When the oil is hot, place crab cakes in pan and cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200° F. oven.

CHIPOTLE REMOULADE:

½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Creole or whole grain mustard
½ tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons capers, drained and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon chipotle chili mashed with adobo sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all items in a food processor and mix until combined (or place in a small bowl and mix with an immersion blender).

Happy eating!

Note: These can be made a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator or frozen (just don't coat with the crab cakes with the remaining panko until just before frying).

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Want a Platform Where You Can Learn about Full-time RVing by Experts?

Have you ever considered becoming a full-time RVer but are afraid to jump in? Or, are you a “newbee” and find you still have tons of questions? We’ve been in both those scenarios and after seven years on the road, believe it or not, we are still learning. But here is a way to bridge the learning gap and hit the road with confidence. Earlier this year, our friends, Brandon and Kerensa, launched a Facebook group called RV to Freedom – Learning to Live in an RV which helps guide you through the complex and unknown world of full-time RVing. The group quickly swelled to over 35,000 members indicating that there is a lot of information people crave about full-time RVing.



Kerensa and Brandon realized there was a need for more knowledge and insights to successfully transition into a full-time RV life and decided to launch a formal on-line course to delve into this subject. Roadmap to Full-time RVing is a comprehensive 8-module series that will cover everything you need to know from how to find a suitable RV that meets your needs, how will you get mail, what opportunities for work are available, understanding the financial side of full-time RVing, and so much more. Plus you will get access to live video Q and A sessions which means all the questions you have will be addressed and answered by experts who have lots of knowledge to share. Sometimes you don’t even know what questions to ask, but they have that part covered in this comprehensive course. Betsy and I know Kerensa and Brandon personally and consider them friends and are confident that they will do an amazing job navigating you through this process.



About nine years ago (when we were “wannabees”), we attended a week-long course called “Life on Wheels” and it 
15055810_10207656792126443_750236060193210663_nwas the best thing we did preparing for RV living. We didn’t even have an RV yet but learned so much and felt the course was so valuable to our planning process! The course we took was so valuable and we think this one will be too for new full-timers or those not yet there but considering full-time RVing. So we loudly applaud our friends for enthusiastically wanting to help others and launching this course.

The cost of the course is $297 and will open for registration this Sunday 12/17 and close on 12/23 (12:00 am eastern). And, there’s also a contest to give away a FREE seat which ends WEDNESDAY evening (12/14 at 12 am) so don’t delay. Here’s a great way to achieve your goal of full-timing with confidence.

Below is a short introductory video which provides more details and to see if this course is right for you.