Kevin Costner dined at my table

One of the things that happens when you travel in retirement is you see a lot of the big sites first. Places you’ve dreamed about. Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia, elk in the Smoky Mountains, petroglyphs on an archway in the Grand Canyon and booming Old Faithful in Yellowstone.

Once you’ve hit those things you move on to smaller sites. Astronaut Gus Grissom’s museum in his hometown of Mitchell, Indiana, the Museum of the Gilding Arts in Pontiac, Illinois or Charleston, South Carolina.

Often you find the best surprises in those little places, like Kevin Costner in Hyman’s Seafood in Charleston.

We stopped at Charleston last week on the way down to a mission project in Florida. It’s a nice spot to spend a couple of days off the road.

I didn’t know much about Charleston.

I knew it has a big port that has been vital to the country since Colonial times. Francis Marion, AKA the Swamp Fox played by Mel Gibson in The Patriot, is from that area. Fort Sumter is there.

What I didn’t know was it was a large slavery center, that abolitionist icons the Grimke sisters were born there. Or that I could create my own perfume at a fancy shop or buy a puzzle box in a four block-long Charleston City Market.

Charleston’s tourist area isn’t that big. We opted not to pay for a tour, and instead chose to walk around on a cold January weekend with the air smelling like newly sharpened pencils.

I was fascinated with the porches with hardwood doors. It seemed odd, front doors opening to front doors.

Back in the main tourist area I spotted Hyman’s. People were outside waiting for a table in the old dry goods store that is now a restaurant serving seafood and kosher meals. Anytime the locals are waiting for food you know it’s going to be good,

Sitting on a joggling board and eating hush puppies, we waited 20 minutes for our turn inside.

“Table 31,” said the hostess after our name was called. “Follow the carpet upstairs to the second floor.”

Another hostess upstairs led us through the crowded room to a small wooden table by the window. The table had little plaques on it. Kevin Costner read one. Tara Lapinski another. Kyle Busch. Looking around, I could see the little labels on all of the tables.

Looking up, the walls held white plates that appeared to be signed by other famous people. I squinted to see better: Mel Gibson signed one, so did a member of the band Imagine Dragons.

Had Kevin Costner really sat at this table, I asked the server.

“That’s what they say,” she said. “I don’t know. I’ve only been here a year.”

We ordered generous shrimp and crab dinners allowing ourselves to dream that we were eating with Kevin Costner.


On the road again

Pocket just loves traveling!

It’s been a while since we’ve talked.

How’ve ya been?

Last year was a hell of a ride. I started off in the hospital for my birthday in January, took a family trip to Hawaii in July and welcomed a beautiful new granddaughter in September. Serafean brings the number of grub grabbers in our family to three.

Our health is good.

I’m writing this from Charleston, South Carolina, the first stop on a work trip for Methodist NOMADS in Florida and Louisiana. We’re repairing a church in Florida before heading to Louisiana to repair homes damaged by hurricanes. By the way, we’ve been told the houses we’ll be working on in Grand Isle, Louisiana are perched on 14-foot- high stilts.

Of course, we’re stopping along the way to sightsee, repair flat tires, plug leaks, meet great people and eat wonderful stuff.

We’ll head back to Pittsburgh in March for doctor appointments before heading out in May for another project in Rhode Island. Back to Pittsburgh for the summer and then out again on projects in New York and North Carolina in the fall.

Expect to see more posts on the places we go, and lots of updates on our motorhome. (We’ve made a few changes as you’ll soon see.)

Take care,



Viva La Resistance!

Fort Necessity

Resistance to Donald Trump’s whacked out policies comes in all forms, including scarves.

It’s evident at the Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Farmington, Pa. The park commemorates the skirmishes that sparked the French and Indian War, which then ignited a world war.

As we entered the small visitor center, I noticed the National Park volunteer behind the counter was knitting a beautiful multi-colored scarf.

Volunteer with climate change tapestry. She’s using a linen stitch to knit in the different colors on the scarf.

I’m a knitter. Knitting is a universal language. I’ve met knitters in Mexico, and even though I don’t speak Spanish, we exchanged knitting techniques.

Forget the historic battlefield. I immediately wanted to know what the volunteer was knitting, what kind of yarn she was using and what stitch.

I’m knitting a scarf with colors representing climate change, the volunteer explained. Volunteers across the country are knitting the scarves as part of a tapestry project to show visitors how climate change affects the national parks. The different colored yarns represent daily temperature for a year. Blue yarn represents cooler temperatures. Yellows, reds and oranges represent warmer days.

One scarf represents the year the park was founded and the other will be the current year, she explained. They’ll be displayed together so that people can easily see how the park’s climate has changed, she said.

That’s cool. A small act of resistance.

Climate scarf

The resistance to the Trump, though, goes further.

Later Joe went back to buy a postcard at the small park gift shop. He got to talking to the volunteer again.

National Park rangers have long kept track of the weather statistics for their parks, she explained. The collected information was uploaded to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s databases, adding to the agency’s knowledge about the nation’s weather and climate.

Two weeks after Donald Trump took office rangers were ordered to stop tracking the climate, she said. They were told it wasn’t their job to collect information on the climate.

That’s when the volunteers stepped up. They now keep daily records. When the Climate Denier in Chief leaves office, the information will be dumped back into NOAA’s databases, she said.

Viva La Resistance! Whether it takes the form of a scarf or recording data for future generations.


A Baker’s Dozen

Charley and I have been living on the road for 13 months, 19,000 miles and 21 states. The journey has been wonderful, fun, exciting, confusing, frustrating and sometimes just plain scary. To quote the Grateful Dead: “What a long strange trip it’s been!” So what have we learned in this baker’s dozen of months on the road.

First, the Boy Scouts got it right when they said “be prepared.”  This is especially true when you live in a motorhome. Things break and others thing just need regular maintenance.  Driving your house down the road tends to shake things lose: Screws need to be tightened, seals treated and seams caulked. Selling our bricks and sticks didn’t eliminate the maintenance list. It created a new one. Driving your house down the road also means things break.

The electric harness connecting the car we towe to the motorhome has been repaired three time in the last year, once by a professional and twice by me.  The cable connecting the gear shift to the motorhome transmission shook lose and stranded us in the middle of a driveway in the Washington-Jefferson National Forest for 24 hours. Water began leaking into the house around the dinette slide-out window when driving through torrential rains. It took two trips to rv dealers for that problem before one of them “fixed” the window on the wrong slide-out. Recently, one of the two air conditioners died and had to be replaced. That meant three weeks on one air conditioner in ninety degree weather. Then the other one died too.

While sitting in Mitchell the second air conditioner died. The fine people at Camp Rivervale lent us a portable air conditioner.  Good thing too, since the temperatures in stayed in the 90s during our three- week stay. This past Saturday while re-positioning the house the leveling system broke and the jacks needed to be raised manually.   Oh, and for good measure the driver’s wiper was about to fall off, the only door on our house would not close correctly and the lock needed to be fixed.

No problem we were scheduled for service on Monday and everything can be fixed.  These repairs entailed three days of breaking down camp, packing up in the morning and then setting up again in the evening but all repairs were completed and under warranty too. Yahoo! no cost except for the oil change!   This list doesn’t include what I broke.

I ripped the awning off the side of our house by driving away with it extended.  I backed into a small tree and damaged the left rear panel of the motorhome. I also did not check a weed patch when pulling out of a campsite and crumpled the exhaust pipe on a hidden tree stump.

So be prepared to play mechanic, carpenter, plumber and jack of all trades as you drive down the road in your house.  Stuff happens and not all of it is your fault but you must either fix it or pay to fix it.

Second lesson, learn patience. All of my mistakes were made when rushing instead of taking my time.

 Third lesson, be flexible. Living full-time in a motorhome requires a level of flexibility and a willingness to accept the unexpected. 

We quickly learned to be flexible in our plans. Our plans called for six weeks on the beaches of North Carolina last fall.  We were evacuated twice by hurricanes, we ended up in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville Va.

We had a good time on the beach and enjoyed our unplanned side trips.  Our plans called for us to spend last January and February in the Southwest. Minor medical problems grounded us in Pittsburgh.

We volunteered at a local church and a soup kitchen. We spent time with our family and managed to sneak down to Mexico for a week on the beach.  Our plans had us working a Habitat for Humanity project in June but it was cancelled. So we ended up on a Nomads’ project in North Adams Massachusetts. Being flexible and ready to make changes to our plans is just part of our trip.  

Don’t get me wrong, even though the comments above sound like I am complaining I’m not.  We have enjoyed the last year immensely.

We have spent more time with our children and grandchildren then we ever could while working.  We can go to Pittsburgh and Waterford and spend more than a weekend. We have camped with family in St. Joseph, Michigan and Cedar Point, Ohio.  We rafted on the New River and spent a week with our family in West Virginia. We took the grandkids to Gettysburg and Philadelphia.

Traveling with our grandchildren is fun and we can’t wait to do more of that.  Mobility allows us to spend time with our family in between our travels.

Our journey around the Eastern United States has been great.  We stood on a mountain top in New Hampshire from where you could see four states.  In Acadia we stood on Cadillac Mountain and looked for miles in every direction. In Michigan and Indiana we toured abandoned iron mill and farming communities. 

Volunteering for Nomads has taken us to Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, Illinois and Massachusetts. These service projects have introduced us to great people and took us to areas we would never have picked as stops on a road trip. 

It has been a long strange journey and we have loved it and are looking forward to continuing down the road.  So the final lesson is simple: enjoy life’s journey no matter where it takes you!!

We’re grounded

20181217_101051That’s right.

Joe and I will be spending our winter in Pittsburgh. Not a bad place to be, but not the sunny Texas gulf shores we had planned on.

Here’s how we got here.

After being on his feet for more than 30 years are as a retail manager and then a teacher, Joe has varicose veins.  This fall they started acting up while we were on the beach in North Carolina. He went to a doc in the box who recommended he visit a vein clinic.

He put it off. We were already scheduled to spend three weeks in Pittsburgh around the holidays where we had doctor appointments scheduled.

The doc at the Pittsburgh vein clinic evaluated Joe’s legs and recommended an out patient procedure. He could do it and Joe would be good to go in a week. But, that old ugly insurance raised its head.

The insurance company wants Joe to wear compression stockings for 12 weeks before it will even consider the surgery.  And the doc said the clotting in Joe’s legs is so severe he doesn’t want him to drive long hours.

That means we’re grounded, in a campground, in Pennsylvania, in the winter.


We could skirt the camper with sliver insulating panels and buy lots of propane. I could wrap my self in throws and sit in the dark with the shades pulled to keep warm.

I mean, we could do it. But I wouldn’t be happy.

Joe’s mantra has always been “Happy wife, happy life.”

So we began looking for a short-term rental apartment, an expensive proposition. We found one in the city, near a park and children’s museum. It had a gym and  dog park. It would even take Nikki and Pocket, for a fee.

We put down a deposit and paid an application fee. Then the nice young rental agent wanted a picture of the dog, for the insurance company. The complex restricts dogs. They don’t accept “lock jaw dogs,” like pitbulls.

Nikki is a lab mix rescued from the pound. She has blue eyes, which makes us think she has some husky in her. She’s also 13 years old, sleeps a lot and is such a scaredy cat she runs when you jangle your keys.



The insurance company wanted us to guarantee her breed. There was a lot of faxing and phone calls back and forth with the vet. Bottom line, no one can tell you what the mix is and we’re out of an apartment.

Plan B.

Luckily, my son-in-law is part of a co-working space co-op called Work Hard Pittsburgh, which has an apartment above its space. The tenant is scheduled to move out Jan. 1. The co-op has kindly allowed us to rent the apartment for a short time and they don’t care what kind of dog we have.


We’re three minutes away from my daughter, who has gym equipment and a washer- dryer in her house. There’s a park near by. And my cousins have graciously said they will allow us to park the motor home on their horse farm.

So, Jan. 1 we move in above an old hardware store. We’re reliving college. We don’t have a bed, a couch, a table or a lamp. We’re buying a futon and borrowing the rest.

We’ll be warm and close to family. If you have to be grounded, there’s no place I’d rather be than Pittsburgh.

Happy wife, happy life.




How many full-time RVers are there?


Joe and I aren’t alone in our desire to become nomads late in life.

When we  pull out of Auburn, New York, we’ll be joining an estimated 250,000 to 1 million people living in their RVs full time. At least those are the numbers I see on blogs. Nobody really knows the actual number because no one has accurately counted them.

The U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t separate out full-time RV living from other housing structures. The American Community Survey for the years 2009-2011 estimated that the nation has 131.8 million housing structures. The vast majority of those, 61.5 percent, were traditional single family homes.

Then there are various kinds of row homes and apartment buildings.

The closest the survey comes to counting something like an RV is the estimated 8.6 million mobile homes, or 6.5 percent of the nation’s housing stock.

The Census Bureau puts RV living in the “other” category, which is where it puts occupied boats and people living in a van. The “others” represent an estimated 111,000 or 0.1 percent of the nation’s housing structures.

Based on what I see on full-time RV Facebook groups and books I’ve read, the full-time Rvers are way under represented in the survey.

In California, the housing crisis is so severe in some areas that people are living full time in RVs that they’re parking on city streets.

The Facebook sites that I belong to also show a number of young families with mom and dad and two, three, six or eight kids living in fifth wheel bunkhouse pulled by a big truck.  In many of those cases the kids are home schooled and the family is nomadic, traveling around the country  as parents chase jobs.

I’m also seeing a number of military families on Facebook who are living in RVs as they move from post to post.

Then there are those who buy a used RV and are parking it for free on a friend or family member’s land. They don’t travel.

In June, Joe and I will pull our 32-foot Jayco Precept out of the driveway and put Auburn in the rear view mirror. And at that point, I guess, we’ll fall off the Census Bureau’s radar. We’ll be “others.”

Our legal address will be at my daughter’s in Pittsburgh, but our home will be on the road.20180127_155455