We outran Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence has made me paranoid. That’s what happens when you move your house four times in a week to avoid a major hurricane. It seemed like she was following us.

As Florence approached we were ordered off Hatteras Island, booted out of a KOA in Greensboro, North Carolina, and fled the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Now we’re in a campground 50 minutes north of Pittsburgh, taking stock and getting ready to drive back to the beach.

I ache for those who couldn’t just drive out of the storm’s path. They lost everything in the storm and its flooding. Joe and I hope to be able to help in someway with the recovery.

The journey, while a little crazy, has been fun. Check out the elk. We saw them up close and personal in the Smokies. The KOA refunded us all but $20 of the cost of our stay in Greensboro because we only stayed one night instead of our planned six because of the hurricane.


We visited with our daughter and son-in-law and dined at Alla Familgia–the best Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh. Tonight we’re going to a Pirates game. Go Bucs!11aflorence_4

Outrunning our first hurricane on the road wasn’t that bad.

There are bits of joy even when there are perils in the journey.






Waiting for Florence

I’ve been watching the surfers as I sit on an Outer Banks beach this fall.

We’re all waiting. The surfers are patient. They line up on their surf boards in the ocean beyond the waves breaking on the beach. They’re watching the water, waiting for a beautiful wave, a high one with a long roll that they can ride all the way to shore. It’s a beautiful dance.

The rest of us are waiting for Hurricane Florence.

Whenever Joe and I talked about retirement we dreamily spoke of spending a month on a beach. I had always envisioned a condo. Joe saw us in a motor home. We would stroll in and out of the water, park our butts under a canopy and read to our hearts’ content.

So here we are, living in a 32-foot motor home separated from the Atlantic by a sand dune on the Outer Banks National Seashore. We’re in the Ocean Waves Campground in Waves, North Carolina.

The campground is about a mile from Rodanthe. It’s the setting of  “Nights in Rodanthe,”a movie with Richard Gere that makes the hearts of middle age women beat harder. It also happens to be some of the best surfing on the East Coast, according to Outside magazine.

It’s an odd little place where the people in big  beautiful vacation houses that probably rent for several thousand for a week are served by one Dairy Queen, a Dollar General and a handful of small restaurants.

We’ve been casually watching the weather, noting tropical storms, more for the impact of a day’s rain on our beach time than anything else. We have a weather radio that we’ve yet to turn on.

Florence started as a tropical storm way out by Africa. The forecasters at first offered cautious optimism that it would not become a hurricane and hit the East Coast. Few storms that formed in that part of the Atlantic have ever hit the U.S., said the weather person at a television station in Norfolk, Va.

Toward the end of the week warnings about Florence ratcheted up. It could become a Category 4 hurricane.


The Weather Channel.

Friends from the Virginia Beach area called Friday. Had we seen the news? They planned to leave their stick and brick house, jump in their motor home and head to Greenville, S.C.. Maybe you want to head for the hills too, the friend advised Joe.

Then North Carolina’s governor declared a state of emergency. Apparently it allows the state to bring in the resources it needs in case the storm strikes. It also allows farmers to use transportation to quickly get their crops out of the fields. (I don’t quite understand that part of the declaration. Can’t farmers always do that?)

Some of our campground neighbors have begun to leave. The first to go was an older couple in a motor home who had pulled in after us. Their son told Joe he had driven them down for a  three-week stay. We saw them filling up the motor home at a gas station on the way out on Sunday. They were headed north.

The pastor of the Fair Haven United Methodist Church, where we attended Sunday morning, urged the congregation to attend a community dinner that night to discuss preparing for the storm. Then he preached a sermon about not letting fear control your actions and separate you from God.

After the service, Joe spoke with the pastor offering our help with the community’s storm preparations. For the next six weeks this is our community. We have a bay full of tools ready to use to help the people in it.

The pastor accepted our offer and urged us to go to the meeting. He told Joe he has seen storms before, but this one, this one, has him afraid.

We plan to leave when an evacuation, which seems inevitable, is ordered. Our house is mobile. We will pack up the beach chairs, drive several hours inland, park and ride it out. When the all clear sounds we’ll return and help with the clean up.

For now, I watch the surfers and wait.



Pontiac to Pontiac with 7 stories inbetween

The last time we updated this blog we were headed from Erie Pa to Pontiac MI. to spend time with our grandchildren.  In seven days we went from Pontiac to St. Joseph Michigan, on the other side of the state and the back across the state to Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio.

The sand dunes on Lake Michigan were pretty,the weather was hot and the lake cold.   Lake Michigan makes the cool water of the Finger Lakes where we had our house feel like hot tubs.

Southwestern Michigan  is full of little towns. One rainy day we found an old fashioned movie theater, The Loma ,in Caloma where we paid 1970s prices for the tickets and popcorn. Then it was off to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, where we squeezed our two adult daughters, two grandkids and us in the 32-foot motorhome for a day at the amusement park.

We walked just over 8 miles in Cedar Point.  Grammie and Pop were spun on the tilt a whirl to the point of being sick.  We all rode at least two roller coasters and some people did a few more.

Sorry, no one in our group was willing to join Colleen on a coaster that shoots you out of the start 70 miles an hour.

“Cedar Point was awesome,” said seven year-old Grace.

We said our goodbyes to the grandkids and drove off to our NOMADS volunteer project in Pontiac, Illinois.

Part of my insane life plan is to get off the main roads and see America.  So this meant driving 364 miles on secondary roads for two days. Most of it was on sideroads sandwiched between corn and soybean fields. A few were barely wide enough for our motorhome to navigate, not to mention the occasional  tractor coming the other way. Good thing they could pull to the side because I couldn’t.

We camped at the Livingston County 4-H Park with the rest of the NOMADS group working on Evenglow Lodge, a seven-story senior citizen complex in Pontiac.  NOMAD work groups have been doing projects here for years.

Kitty and John the team leaders had worked here before and knew some of the residents.

Over three weeks the nine of us on the team cleaned and painted the balconies on six of the seven stories, painted the 4th and 5th floor ceilings, walls, trim and handrails.  


The team started the day at 8 a.m. with devotions, followed by work until 10 a.m.  The folks at Evenglow provided coffee, tea, snacks in the morning and again the afternoon break at  2:15 p.m. We worked until noon and then they fed us lunch, which always included ice cream for dessert.

They gave us Dairy Queen gift certificates when we arrived, and a gift bag when we left.

It was rewarding work. But the biggest reward was speaking with the Evenglow residents everyday. Bob always shared his tomatoes for lunch. Margaret warned us not to let the doctor at the local hospital operate on us, and Shirley told us about her farm where she raised her children.

Now we’re back in Pontiac, Michigan where we started a month ago. We’re watching our grandkids for four days before they start school.

In all we’ve gone from Pontiac to Pontiac with seven stories in between.


What’s your address?

4-h.jpgWhere are you from?

It’s an innocent question that for the last six weeks has caught me off guard. Bank clerks want my address. Pastors ask politely after Sunday service: where are you from.

I hesitate before I reply. I want to say I don’t have an address, but that makes me sound homeless.  I could say Auburn, New York, where we lived for 30 years.

We haven’t lived in Pennsylvania for three decades. Yet when I went to Pittsburgh to transfer my license, the clerk at the DMV welcomed me back to the state. I even got my old driver’s license number back. (Yep, I remembered it.)

We’re wandering around the country in a motorhome, full time. I don’t have a fixed address.

Our address was one of the first things I taught my daughters. By the time they were two or three years old Sarah and Colleen knew their names, their sister’s name, mommy’s and daddy’s full names, our address, phone number and where mommy and daddy worked.

It came in handy when Colleen, then 2,  fell off the babysitter’s porch, splitting her forehead open. She and her sister were taken to the emergency room. Sarah told the nurse all of the pertinent information before I could get there.

What’s my address?

For the next three weeks it’s the Livingston County, Illinois 4-H campground in Pontiac, Illinois.


Joe and are volunteering with NOMADS, a Methodist church group, that is doing some repairs on Evenglow Lodge, a senior citizens complex. There are nine of us on the project.

Beginning Monday, you’ll find me seven stories up scraping and painting the front of the complex’s balconies.

Then we’ll move on. And again I won’t be able to answer the question: What’s your address?


What’s that in the tree?

shoe tree.jpgThere are shoes in the trees in Covert, Michigan.

Now that’s not something you see everyday.

We had picked up our grandkids, Grace and Charles, to take them to the sand dunes on the western side of Michigan, one of their favorite places. Must be a popular place because all the state parks in the area were booked. So, we parked in a KOA. That’s Kampground of America to you RV neophytes.

KOAs are quirky campgrounds. They’re the Holiday Inn of the camping world.

They’re kid and pet friendly. They almost always have a pool, some weird fake gem mining station where for a fee you can pretend you’re mining for gold, a jump pad and playgrounds. The one in Covert is in the middle of a blueberry farm. (The sign said we were in the blueberry capital of the world. Who knew?)


This KOA also had a nature trail that went into to the woods surrounding the campground.

Walking the dog through the short woods city girl was more interested in making sure she didn’t encounter something slithering, as well as slapping mosquitos, than in looking up at the trees. At a bend in the trail Niki stopped to sniff something and I happened to look up.

There were shoes dangling from the tree branches, dozens and dozens of sneakers of all sizes and colors. Had I slipped into some Stephen King novel?

Years ago, it was popular for city kids to tie together the laces of their rundown sneakers and throw them over the electric lines. Was this some weird farm thing?

A woman in the KOA office said the kids in the family that owns the campground-triplets plus one- begged their parents to throw their old shoes in the trees along the nature trail like the city kids. It became a family tradition.

When asked, however, the owner tells guests that the shoes are all that’s left of the campers he’s hung in the trees after they’ve broken the rules.

Like I said, KOAs are quirky.


Between a tree and hard place

motorhomeWhat does it take to turn an 80 mile, 2 trip into a 6 hour 120 mile trip?  Well for Charley and I the answer is: 3 gas stations, 2 bad turns, 1 state trooper, 1 member of the Hyde Park Police and 2 NY State Park Rangers. Let me explain.

Charley and I wanted to stop at the Vanderbilt Mansion as we left the Hudson River Valley.  On the way,  we needed gas, but I missed the driveway and had to turn around.  I pulled into a hotel parking lot thinking I could pull around the building and then head back to the Pilot Plaza.  Wrong! 

We found ourselves trapped behind the hotel with no place to go.  It’s not possible to back up in a motor-home when towing a car.  So, that required unhooking the car from the motor-home, (in a pouring rain) turning around and hooking the car back up. 

After successfully completing this, without hitting any cars or trees. it was off to the Pilot for gas.  I pulled into the Pilot, but the turns into the pumps were so tight I pulled right back out. 

 So we drove down the road to an Exxon and encountered the same problem. Then it was driving back up the road to a Mobile station. Finally, 1 hour  and 3 gas stations into our trip, and 7 miles later, we were gassed up and good to go.

Charley routed us the long way around to Hyde Park.  We went 20 miles out of our way through small towns and side roads to avoid several really bad turns on the short route.  I wanted to avoid turns I felt were too tight to navigate in the motor-home with the Mini in tow. 

We arrived at our destination ready to tour the Vanderbilt Mansion. Low and behold we couldn’t get in.   The gate designed for elegant horse and carriages of the Gilded Age is not wide enough for a motor-home.  Well no harm just lost time.  

And we needed another place big enough to turn around.

We continued up the road.  Charley found a nearby state park just up ahead where we should have been able to turn around.

Well of course we missed the first turn. Now what?

Remember my re-route to avoid the tight gas station turns? 

I forgot my caution and became Joe the expert driver.

 There was sharp left heading back to the park. I took it turning left, or mostly left, only to find myself face to face with a large tree.   Can’t go over it, can’t get around it I have got us stuck.  

I can’t back up with the Mini. So I have to unhook it, again. Only this time I have a new dilemma. The car is blocking a lane of traffic on Route 9, the only two-lane road through Hyde Park. 

So, here we are blocking traffic and wedged in a position that won’t allow me to unhook.

 A Hyde Park police officer arrived. With a bemused look on his face, he asked how we got in this position and if we were okay. 

I told him I was a stupid human.

He also points out that we could have easily turned around off Route 9 since all of the neighborhoods have streets that form squares.  I think they should put a sign up outside of town about that. “Easy turn arounds for motor-homes. Just use the side streets.”

Next two state park officers arrive and offer their assistance. Then a state trooper stops by, to joke with the Hyde Park cop and to see what’s going on.

While directing traffic, the police looked on helplessly as I hammered out locking pins to the tow so Charley can move the Mini.

I managed to get the car unhooked and backed the motor home away from the tree without any damage, except to my pride.

We hooked back up and off we went. Six hours and one hundred and twenty miles  after starting out we pulled into Promised Land State Park just outside Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania to camp for several days.

So today’s lesson: Don’t try really tight turns in our thirty-two foot motor-home and remember the Hyde Park neighborhoods are squares.

The one where we watch fireworks from 212 feet in the air

Where are you going?

That’s what everyone asked before we left on our grand motorhome experiment.


Patricia Richard and Charley at the IronGirl, by Bill Richard.

People who are staying put want to hear that you’re taking some grand tour as full time RVers. First to the Grand Canyon, then Bryce and Zion, over to Yellowstone and Yosemite. Or maybe you’ve set your sights on going to every stop on the Dave Matthews tour, or hitting all of the major league ball parks. Or in our case every Penn State football game home and away.

Nope, we spent our first weeks on the road less than a day from Auburn.

So that’s why on the Fourth of July, Joe and I were sitting in lawn chairs on an old railroad bridge 212 feet above the Hudson River.  We hadn’t planned it. But long about July 2nd, Joe and I began to wonder where we would watch fireworks this year.

Had we stayed in Auburn, we would have parked the car in the driveway on July 3rd, moseyed down to Emerson Park on Owasco Lake with our lawn chairs to listen to a symphony play the “1812 Overture” and watch a fireworks display that never disappoints.

Joe wanted to watch fireworks from the Palisades in New Jersey across from New York City But it was so hot. So where to go?

That’s the big question, where are we going.

Since Joe retired: I’ve run the IronGirl Sprint Triathlon at Oneida Shores in Onondaga County, we’ve hiked along Lake Ontario at Robert Wehle State Park in the 1000 Islands, skipped down the grand staircase of Boldt Castle while I hummed the theme to Masterpiece Theater, and visited every brown-signed park in Hyde Park. (We’re a little addicted to history.)

Before we left town, I’d look for hiking trails in the Mid-Hudson area and that’s when Google showed me the Walkway Over the Hudson State Park. A 1.2 mile-long former railroad bridge that has been converted into a walking, running, biking trail 212 feet above the Hudson River. The bridge connects to a rail-bike trail on either side of the river that runs for miles.

The best thing about the Walkway is the fireworks. For a fee, you can watch the City of Poughkeepsie’s fireworks shot off from a barge in the middle of the river. Locals come early bringing lawn chairs  and dinner. The adults next to us played cards and discussed national politics. Kids played games and blew bubbles that floated over the river.

We watched boats and kayaks maneuver for the best viewing spot on the Hudson, including Pete Seeger’s sloop  the Clearwater.


As dusk drifted to twilight,  the sheriff’s boat escorted a small tugboat to center stage and the first of the fireworks began popping up over the hills in towns up and down the river.

A little boy yelled out “C’mon Dad we’ve got to go there. We’ve got to go there,” pointing to a distant display.

Our heads were on swivels. Joe, at one point, counted 15 communities with fireworks going off all at the same time.

The main act took it’s time giving the smaller displays their moments in the night.

With a loud BOOM! Poughkeepsie’s fireworks announced its presence  and put on one of the best fireworks displays I’ve ever seen in person. The flashes of red ribbons and hearts, bright blue flowers, gold stars burst in a seemingly endless display with a grand finale that couldn’t be beat.

There is joy in a journey that stops to watch fireworks, no matter where they’re found.