If you've read much or any of the other annual journals on this website
you know that Jim and I live a lifestyle that is becoming
increasingly popular with retirees and even younger folks who are still
working -- traveling around North America in our RV most of the time.
Our "ideas of living" have changed since our retirement ten years
ago, when we mistakenly assumed we needed a home base somewhere. We've
learned a lot about our need to explore since then.
Ellsworth AFB near Rapid City, SD in September, 2012
Because we're frequently on the move and stay pretty busy I
didn't get around to writing this introductory entry until the
end of the year. For the sake of continuity, however, I'm dating it in
mid-February. I'll date the remainder of this year's entries in a
similar manner, close to the time we were in the various locations I'm
talking about and not when I actually wrote them (journalistic
Many of this year's entries will be summaries to make it easier for
me to get caught up to date.
If you've just discovered our website and this intro doesn't satisfy
your curiosity, there are longer introductions at the beginning
of each annual journal since we began the site in 2005.
Our lifestyle and activities have morphed over the last decade as
we've aged from our mid-50s to our mid-60s. We are Boomers who haven't
reconciled with the concept of middle age, let alone senior citizenship.
We know we "aren't 35 any more" but we by gosh aren't
ready to act like Olde Pharts yet!
Frazz comic by Jef Mallett (10-16-12)
Our dream of traveling full time and not just 3/4 time in our RV
hasn't changed -- we plan to finally sell our house in Virginia
this year -- but bum knees prevent us from enjoying the trail
running and racing that we both loved for 30+ years. We remain
physically active, however, with our cycling (Jim) and hiking (Sue)adventures.
We have two lovable, energetic Labrador retrievers that make sure we
Casey and Cody play tug with a rubber Kong stick in
a grassy area near
our campsite at Air Base Charleston (SC) in
Cody, a male black Lab, is almost 11 years old now but still has some
puppy left in him. Casey, a cream-colored yellow Lab, is a furry ball of
hyperactivity at 18 months. Even though I take Casey on long daily
walks or hikes she still pesters Jim to play ball with her (she's a
retriever, after all) and "reminds" him when he forgets. She
also loves to run beside him on short bike rides.
Jim and I want to stay mentally and physically fit until we die. Since we
don't know when that will be, we try to live each day like it might be
our last one. Considering our proclivity for adventure and all the time
and miles we're on the road, it well could be.
ABOUT THIS SITE
Our website primarily focuses on our travels in a 36-foot Cameo 5th-wheel
camper and some of the activities we enjoy at each location we visit.
I want the site to be a source of information (and occasional
amusement) for folks
who like to travel, particularly in an RV -- routes and road
conditions, campgrounds where we stay, interesting things to do and see
at each destination, some local history and culture, recreational opportunities like hiking
trails and bike paths, and whatever else I feel like writing about.
A long, paved bike path follows
scenic Rapid Creek
through several parks in Rapid
City, SD. (9-29-13)
For privacy's sake I don't include much about our family and friends,
controversial topics, or even all of our activities. I seldom write about
shopping or eating out, either, because what little shopping and eating
out we do is seldom noteworthy. We choose to
live a pretty simple, quiet, and frugal lifestyle.
Since I enjoy photography as much as writing, this site will continue
to be chock full of scenic photos of the places we visit, as well as the
flora, fauna, geology, and other things that catch my eye.
always got my compact digital camera in hand, from sea level to the
Hardy alpine flowers in bloom at the summit of Mt.
Elbert, at 14,439 feet the highest peak
in Colorado; Mt. Massive, the second highest
Colorado peak, is in the background. (7-11-13)
We love camping in the Rocky Mountains in the summer. The photo I
chose for this year's page headers is Mt. Moran reflected in a lake at
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
One of these days I'll get
a Big Girl camera -- definitely before we visit Alaska again
-- but for now I'm mostly pleased with the 16-megapixel,
16x-optical zoom Sony Cyber-shot that I've been using the last 20 months.
It's easy to carry when I hike and bike and part of my KISS philosophy.
DSLRs are not simple.
EAGLE HAMMOCK: OUR HOME FOR THE LAST TWO MONTHS
After spending the winter months in mostly-warm southwestern states for
several years we've been snow-birding in southern Georgia and northern
Florida the last three winters.
Our favorite winter destination in this area is Eagle Hammock RV Park
on Kings Bay Submarine Base near St. Marys, Georgia. The campground is
only a few miles as the crow flies from the Florida
border and less than a 30-minute drive to metro Jacksonville.
Our site this winter in the
lakeside section at Eagle Hammock; we have a
2010 Cameo 35SB3 5th-wheel towed by a 2008 diesel
Ram 2500 3/4 ton truck.
This is our third time to camp at Kings Bay. Some retirees have come
here every winter since the campground was built nine years ago, and
some active-duty families live here year-round. It's
nice to re-connect with people we met here last winter season.
Military retirees can reserve a site for up to four months at a time
in the winter, and longer in the summer if they like hot weather. We
stayed here a total of six weeks in February and March of 2013. We came
back on December 15 and will be leaving tomorrow. It's been nice to stay
in one site for a little over two months.
This bench and a channel of the
lake are very close to our campsite. (1-17-14)
Here's another view of our site
(above). There are three more lakeside sites to the left
and another 50 sites a
little farther from the lake (some are shown below). (2-9-14)
Eagle Hammock is one of the highest-rated military campgrounds in the
country. The location is scenic and convenient, the staff is
accommodating and personable, the cost is very reasonable for a
full-service site (even more so at the monthly rate), the sites are
spacious and attractive, and there is no extra charge for cable, WiFi,
and the laundry facilities.
We also like the quiet setting. For all but one week (last March) we've
had a lakeside site very close to the water. From our windows we can see
white egrets, blue herons, wood storks, and other birds flying around,
people bass fishing and kayaking, and alligators swimming from one island to
Because of the alligators we can't let the dogs into the water of any
of the numerous ponds and lakes on the base but there are plenty of
trails and bike paths where we can walk them safely.
We also have lots of places on and off base to ride our bikes. Last
year when Jim was training for the Leadville 100-mile mountain bike race
he was able to do training rides of up to 50 miles by combining paved
roads, bike paths, and dirt trails on base, down to the historic town of St. Marys, and up to
Crooked River State Park.
One of several adult gators in
the lake by the RV park; we see them on sunny days.
On cloudy days or when it's below about 50 F. they
stay warmer under water.
The weather this winter has been more variable than when we were here
last February and March. We've had some days well above the normal low-high of
40s to 60s F. and some days well below that, too. Most days were
clear and moderate enough that we were able to get out to hike and ride.
Here are some of the places where we go:
Jim isn't training for as long of a bike race this year as last but
he still does frequent 20-mile bike rides or longer on his Specialized
29er Stump Jumper mountain bike. His longest ride recently was 48 miles.
I do a couple eight- to ten-mile rides a
week on my Specialized Tricross cyclocross bike and walk the dogs from
three to seven miles a day.
YOU CAN TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS!
Jim and I are the "old dogs" I'm referring to. We recently tried kayaking for the first time
and we're sorry we waited so long to try this sport.
The lake by
our campsite (Lake D) was a good place for us to learn the paddling technique on
calm water. Initially I was a little fearful of the alligators. It
wasn't the ones sunning themselves on the shore that I was concerned
about; it was the ones we couldn't see in the water that we might
run into accidentally.
forgot all about them and just had fun paddling around.
The first time out we rented a two-person kayak from MWR on base for 24 hours. We
paddled together for over an hour on our first sunny outing, doing a circuit
around the lake and its three islands:
Jim put the kayak in the little
channel in front of our campsite and paddled
past the pier, where the sandy
shore made it easier for me to get in. (2-3-14)
We decided it's easier to paddle
a one-person kayak alone than coordinate
our strokes in a two-person kayak! We
did pretty well for newbies, though.
Out in what felt like "open
water" to me
Jim took the kayak out several more times by himself that afternoon.
The next morning we both went out in the fog before we had to return
The water was high enough Jim
could paddle under the pier to reach the channel
of water by our campsite;
sometimes the lake level is lower and this would be impossible.
I always loved running in a foggy forest. Paddling in sea fog was
equally intriguing to me.
We had so much fun on our maiden voyage that we rented a one-person kayak a few days later
and both of us went out alone in it on another sunny day:
Now we're considering buying two small kayaks! It's easier for us to
carry and paddle the single-seaters. I think we'd use them
enough to justify the purchase but we aren't sure how to transport them.
We have enough trouble hauling two bicycles.
Kings Bay has a large commissary for groceries and other goods, as
well as a Navy Exchange store (like a small department store). We also
shop nearby at a WalMart superstore, Lowe's, and Publix in Kingsland,
GA. Any Big Box store we want is 20-30 miles away to the north
(Brunswick) or south (Jacksonville, FL and environs).
The little town of St. Marys is just south of the base. It has lots of
tourist attractions, including the ferry that goes over to nearby
Cumberland Island National Seashore. I took the ferry there twice last
winter but didn't go this trip. You can read more about St. Marys and
Cumberland Island in the 2013 journal.
Sunset on the water near our
The Okefenokee Swamp is nearby, too. We highly recommend a swamp tour there.
In addition to nearby attractions in southern Georgia and northern
Florida, our RV park also offers a variety of activities for those who
want to participate. Examples are pancake breakfasts, potluck suppers,
ice cream or wine and cheese socials, New Year's Eve party, card games,
exercise groups, movie nights, trips to local restaurants, music venues,
or tourist destinations, and other events.
FORMULATING A PLAN TO SELL OUR HOUSE
Our focus this winter has been less on fun activities than on
selling our house this spring.
We have wanted to sell our house for the past six or seven years but
didn't want to take a beating financially while the housing
market in our rural area of southwestern Virginia was still depressed.
Every spring since 2008 we've contacted several real estate
agents in the Roanoke-Smith Mountain Lake area to get their
market analyses, opinions, and "comps." Each year since 2008 the
news for sellers has been depressing. Since we don't have to sell, we
don't want to lose any of our equity.
We did try a 60-day listing last spring but the response from
buyers was so underwhelming that we let the listing expire. We
left again on an extended "summer trip" to Colorado and put off
selling the property for yet another year.
Early spring color on some
trees near the campground (2-2-14)
This winter the housing market in our area appears to be
improving to the point where it makes sense for owners like us
to finally list our "shadow inventory" for sale. It's still
more of a buyers' than a sellers' market but at least
the scales are more balanced now than they've been since 2008.
Our focus since we got to Kings Bay two months ago has been to research
the housing market as much as possible online, talk by phone to
seven different real estate agents in our area, and talk about
what we need to do to update our house so it's more appealing to
buyers (besides listing it at an attractive price).
The most fun part of this research was our discovery in December
of HGTV, a cable channel we've never watched before. Many of the
shows are relevant to us -- not just the ones with remodeling but
also the ones focusing on buyers because they give us a better
idea of what people want (expect!) nowadays. We haven't bought
or sold a house for ten years and we've been gone traveling so
much during that time that we haven't kept up with current
I've spent hours almost every day watching these shows, getting
ideas about what is popular and what is practical for us to do
to update our 25-year-old house. It's been fun to plan what we
want to do when we get back to the house.
The actual doing won't be as much fun, I'm sure.
Egret in the water near our site
Fortunately we already have some desirable interior features
like an open-concept living
area and 12 acres of open and wooded land that should appeal to
buyers who want to live in the country.
The HGTV shows have shown to us how important it is to update
our older appliances, however, and to stage the interior to
showcase all the desirable features. Much of the work we can do ourselves.
If we get a new roof (one of our top priorities) we'll have pros install
We've done all we can do long-distance -- talked to
agents by phone, began having roofers do estimates, looked at
appliances, fixtures, tile, etc. at Lowe's and Home Depot,
attended home shows in Orlando and Jacksonville, and a ton of
Because we have a lot to do at the house before we list
it in mid-April (when the azaleas and dogwoods are blooming), we have
cut short our "winter trip" by a few weeks.
We are heading back to the house tomorrow.
The timing to travel north is
terrible because our rural neighborhood recently got a foot of
snow (up to two feet in town). Although some of it has melted we aren't
sure we can get the camper in our driveway yet. But we need
to start meeting with roofers, take advantage of Presidents' Day
appliance sales prices, and have several agents come out to assess
our ideas about updates -- what will appeal to buyers and
what is most cost-effective.
So . . . back to the land of winter snows for one last
time. We will sell the house this summer!!
Next entry: a successful but very stressful effort to
*finally* sell our property and become full-time RVers
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2014 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil