Monthly Archives: December 2009

Don’t put those blankets away yet!

Making the bed this morning we had to chuckle at ourselves. We sleep most of the year with a sheet and comforter on top. We designed our bed linens set so we can flip the set over and have a light blanket on top, instead of the comforter. We don’t remember the last time we put the light blanket on top and the comforter under us. But we’re ready, if we ever find ourselves in weather too warm.

Sometime after midnight this morning Deb awoke. She was cold and pulled another blanket and covered us. Yeah, it was forty degrees outside, forty-four inside, just a little chilly for only one blanket. But it was so nice yesterday, our first day in Lake Okeechobee, Florida. The high temperature was around 72 degrees. We arrived and checked in early at Ancient Oaks park, set up camp, got out the golf clubs, played tennis, and went grocery shopping.

It was nice enough outside we walked to the clubhouse and soaked in the hot tub awhile, talking to Rex from Michigan. Then we hit the showers and returned home to grill supper. After a really nice dinner of salmon, salad, and coconut cream cake (fresh from Debbie’s mom), we played Rummikub until we just crashed. And it still felt warm — we’re in Florida, for Pete’s sake. But it sure cooled off later.

We’re glad to be here. This is a pretty park. We already caught up with a few friends and good neighbors, and look forward to renewing friendships with many more. Our tennis racquets still work. Jim was able to dig out his golf clubs and hopes to find his way to the driving range later today and a few more times this week. We’ll have some warm afternoons, some very cool nights sometimes. It is Winter, after all.

We’re still chasin’ 75 degrees, I guess, until we find it. Until we do, we’ll keep the blankets within reach.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

Holiday Surprises and Delights

This is the season for surprises and delights. Hopefully, the holiday is filled with delight and joy for all of us. We’re glad to be in North Carolina amongst our family during this season.

Monday we spent the day running errands in Charlotte. We had our semi-annual teeth cleaning and check-up, visited our financial advisor, picked up some needed items from a few local stores, and had a great lunch visit to Mr. K’s Soft Ice Cream and Drive-In. We didn’t get the ice cream — we always have a Mr. K burger with chili, slaw, and mustard, with some fries. Yum!

Tuesday we made a couple of holiday visits and spent a half-hour at our little storage unit. We dropped off a few things, like our backpacking gear and goose-down sleeping bags we won’t need in south Florida. We exchanged a few clothes (to freshen up our wardrobe), and picked up some things we’d been missing awhile like a few of our music CDs.

Our biggest surprise was to find things in our storage unit we didn’t remember storing. How did these things end up here? We spent a little longer than we expected as we peered into a couple of the boxes. Sometime in the next year or two we’re going to need an entire day to go through everything and thin it out.

Christmas visit with Chas

Christmas visit with Chas

Wednesday we had a short day trip to Asheville, NC, to visit Charles, Jim’s son. Asheville is 140 miles west of Kannapolis. Each mile westward we saw a little more snow and a little cooler temperatures so, by the time we arrived in Asheville, we found snow everywhere. Charles had a little time before going to work so we had a nice brunch and opened presents with him. It was great to see him again.

Snowy Western NC

Snowy Western NC

Western North Carolina received 12 – 18 inches of snow last Friday and we saw plenty of evidence of it during our drive. We thought you who may be in non-snowing climates might enjoy a couple of pictures. The pictures are probably a lot easier to manage than the roads, driveways, trees, gutters and other things subject to damage from snow and ice. Enjoy!

Christmas iHouse

Christmas iHouse

How can this keep happening? First we saw an iHouse in Everett, Washington. A few months later we were surprised and delighted to find an open model on display in Mesa, Arizona. We saw the iHouse on display in Austin, Texas, on our way across the states last week. And today we stumbled upon our fourth iHouse by Clayton Homes, on I-40 in Statesville, on our way home from Asheville to Kannapolis. This model unit hasn’t been announced or officially opened, but the nice folks at Clayton Homes in Statesville, NC, allowed us a long visit.

This visit we noticed one big difference — the North Carolina version of the iHouse has twelve inch, instead of no, roof overhangs on the long sides. Each time we visit one we figure out another thing about the house, and we find ourselves liking it even more. We could live in one of these. But we still know neither where we would want to put it, nor when.

The weather outside is frightful

The weather outside is frightful

The weather in Kannapolis is still cold. We are so ready to be in warm weather again. We miss playing tennis. We miss being warm (whoops, did we already say that?). But there’s a time and place for everything. There are things we need to do in this home territory, like our dental visit, a little truck service, banking, and the storage unit. And we’re glad we’re with family for Christmas.

We’ll see lots more family Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, between Debbie’s family in Kannapolis and Jim’s family in Charlotte. We’re excited to see them all, it’s been many months since our last visit with many of them. The biggest surprises and delights are yet to come for us and for you. Be careful, be good, and be joyous. We’ll write again after Christmas, perhaps from sunny (and warm) south Florida.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from both of us.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

Still Chasing 75 Degrees?

You might think we’re avoiding 75 degrees, instead of chasing it. We seem to repeatedly stop in chilly places. In fact we would not have guessed we would stay so often in places cooler than 70 or 75F degrees. We really aren’t trying to find cool weather but our travels sometimes lead us to great places temporarily cold.

Our Minnesota visit was lovely (hmm, less warm now) and our Tim Horton’s Trans-Canada Tour was mostly very comfortable, temperature-wise. Vancouver, B.C. was right at 75F degrees most of the time we visited. Everett, Washington was nice and warm in early October with highs in the 70s when we left for Idaho.

Our first night in Idaho, just north of Boise, was snowy and we didn’t see another warm day until we arrived a few weeks later in Mesa, Az. Six weeks of great Arizona weather spoiled us — bright warm sunny days, nice cool nights, a little rain every week or two. Our traveling weather from Mesa to Kannapolis was fine, too, but not warm.

We arrived in Kannapolis just ahead of a great winter storm. We had briefly a nice snowfall yesterday, followed by sleet and freezing rain. The high temperature yesterday and today is 39 degrees, and we saw freezing last night. Boy are we glad we skipped driving on Friday — we wouldn’t have wanted to drive in the winter conditions.

We stayed in Idaho to see friends, to explore a little longer, and to see the Sun Valley Jazz Festival. Snow, ice, and very cold temperatures made it all the more interesting. We were, on our way to Mesa from Ketchum, Idaho, going to linger in the Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon areas. But the weather and temperatures were just TOO interesting, and we didn’t want to winterize our home while living in it.

We’re not trying to find cool or cold weather, it just happens this way. Our next travels, we think, will again take us to warm weather. Until then, we aren’t here for the climate anyway. We’re here to celebrate the season with family and friends, no matter the weather.

We’re still chasing 75 degrees, when more important matters allow.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

I Like Calling Carolina Home

Ask us “Where’s home?” and we’ll tell you it’s the silver bullet behind our truck. Discussions about home are fun — we’ll talk about full-timing a little while (or a long while if you have time). But it won’t take a couple of minutes before one of us starts talking about North Carolina.

UNC Chapel Hill Tarheels

UNC Chapel Hill Tarheels

We are North Carolinians through and through, with family and friends and Alma Mater and residency and our hearts. We love being in North Carolina and love being from here. Our travels take us all about North America, and we haven’t yet found a place we like better. James Taylor said in it perfectly in a song, Carolina In My Mind.

We’re back in Tarheel country at last. We’ve been away since mid-May, our longest absence ever from North Carolina. Driving into North Carolina, especially via I-40 in the Great Smoky Mountains, thrills us to the bone. The mountains, with the slopes sometimes forested with mature forests and other times showing craggy granite rock faces, are just gorgeous.

The return, late last night, was a little less showy than our homecomings the previous two years. We have, for the past five years, eschewed night-time driving (I’ll come back to this) but we arrived in North Carolina well after dark. And we didn’t enter NC via I-40 through our beautiful mountains, but via I-85 through South Carolina instead. Just not as majestic, you know?

NCDOT--Rock_Slide I-40

NCDOT--Rock_Slide I-40

Actually, we generally would avoid the mountain route this time of year because of colder temperatures and chance of winter weather on the road. And we couldn’t have entered NC via I-40 by the Smokies anyway — have you heard of an Interstate closed for six months in modern times? Read this for the story about this major interstate closing — amazing!

We left Mesa, Az, Tuesday morning three days ago. Thanks to Bob Simms for steering us straight on I-10 from Mesa — we considered bushwhacking due-east from Mesa on route 60 then intersecting I-10. Bob reminded us we were planning to make mileage, not sightseeing, and I-10 would suit us better. He was right. We drove Tuesday 680 miles on I-10 and Wednesday we did another 630 miles.

Wednesday started with cloudy skies and the sun didn’t peek out until it was at our backs. Yesterday morning we left Sulphur, Louisiana, just after 05:00 hrs heading east on I-10, and found ourselves in a light rain for a couple of hours. We cleared Baton Rouge before rush hour and Mobile just after rush hour traffic. Thursday started with dark skies, and the sun didn’t shine all morning.

Okay, those hurdles done, we looked forward again. How’s the weather going to be ahead of us? We had a good internet connection to check the weather forecasts. Atlanta is no problem. Greenville-Spartanburg, check. Charlotte is expecting a winter storm, and the weather guessers projected an early incidence of wintry mix and accumulation in Kannapolis, NC, of two to four inches of snow.

Friday would not be our best weather day, and except for Wednesday morning’s little rain we have had just about the best weather you could ask for driving. If we lay up, as planned, west of Atlanta then we are driving five hours on Friday. We would hit North Carolina right behind a winter storm. We either drive extra-long Thursday or take chances with the weather.

Our drive had been so easy and smooth and we didn’t want to break the spell. What if we keep going, straight-through, to North Carolina? We would double our day’s drive, double the amount of gas we buy in one day. We would be driving in the dark. And one more little thing — we would hit Atlanta squarely at rush hour. Why ruin a perfectly good cross-country drive?

Okay, we could take a dinner break and short nap west of Atlanta. Refueled and refreshed we would hit the Atlanta bypass (I-285) at 19:30 hours. Barring any pile-ups left over from rush hour we could zip past Atlanta without incident. What about those other issues? Total driving miles and gasoline consumption would be unchanged, so it doesn’t matter when they occur. What about driving/towing in the dark?

We drove in the dark on our first ever camping trip with the Airstream, August 2004. We missed a turn on our way to the campground and ended up on a farmer’s gravel drive. After a twenty-three point turn we arrived hours later to the campground with fresh water draining from the now missing bottom drain valve. You can read the whole story here on a page of our website, but we decided we just don’t need (or want) to tow at night.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings we were on the road by 06:00, 05:20, and 05:15 hours respectively, to miss the next big city’s rush hour. This time of day is 0-dark-thirty, just as dark as 10:00 at night. We found the early morning very nice for interstate driving and really like the much lower traffic volume. Our early starts enabled us to successfully avoid rush hours for every major city between Mesa, Az, and Atlanta, Ga.

The only night-driving problem on this trip was with the jersey barricades for construction east of Newnan, Georgia — zero clearance on the curb side and no rear-view/side-view visibility along that edge. Fortunately the construction didn’t last more than five or ten miles and only one trucker decided he had to pass us in the precious little width of the left lane. All’s well that ends well. . .

Okay, we set aside our objections to pushing ahead. And the advantages were several. We could, with a small dining and nap stop, avoid Atlanta’s rush hour. We might, with a little luck, find there is less traffic between Atlanta and Charlotte at night than daytime. We could get to Kannapolis before the road temperatures drop below freezing tomorrow. And we would, for sure, beat the wintry mix.

We hit our rhythm with each of us alternating driving and resting two-hour shifts. The truck and trailer behaved wonderfully. The interstate highway from Arizona through Louisiana to Alabama was the smoothest and easiest interstate we have driven anywhere.

What if we did take a chance with winter weather? We were caught in a heavy snowfall one afternoon several years ago, after picking up the Airstream after warranty work seventy miles away. The weather forecasters called for a late afternoon snow. It’s always fun to browse the Airstream dealers’ lots and showrooms and accessories, isn’t it? And we had lots of time and only seventy miles to drive back to the house in Charlotte.

We finally pulled ourselves, and our RV, away from the dealership and hit the road a little later than we might have planned. Thirty miles into the drive, the snow came down in blankets. Hey, not our fault! The snow came early. Yeah, right. Totally our fault for lollygagging around and taking a chance with weather. We had an interesting (but successful) snowy tow the remaining forty miles on I-77 and into downtown Charlotte.

Back to this cross-country trip. Our great cross-country road trip from Mesa, AZ, to Kannapolis, NC, ended successfully at 12:45 last night. Jim backed our Airstream into the driveway of Debbie’s parents and we were probably asleep by 01:15.

Here are the numbers for the three days:
2,257 miles total
950 miles on the longest day (18 hours)
43 hours on the road (excluding two overnights)
251 gallons of gas for $600
59 mph rolling average, 52 mph overall average
3 meals each totalled $44
48 Red Vine liquorice sticks consumed (thanks Bob & Faith!)
1 interior rivet popped in the Airstream (smooth roads!)
No traffic collisions seen anywhere
No construction delays
A great (and safe) road trip, = $Priceless

Outside, early this Friday morning, it is sleeting. The grocery stores, undoubtedly, are packed with frantic shoppers removing all traces of bread and milk and who knows what else, from the shelves. Local schools closings are trailing across the bottom of the televisions throughout the city. We drove eighteen hours yesterday and arrived in NC on dry pavement.

We’re glad to be back in North Carolina, a great place to call home.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

How not to tour Texas

We missed Texas. We just sorta flew across, you know? Every time Jim would awaken from a catnap, Debbie would have moved the truck and trailer east another hundred miles or so. After one nap we were out of the desert and in grasslands with, get this, water in the river beds. What, not dry riverbeds? If you’ve spent any time in Arizona or west Texas, you know what we’re talking about.

Yesterday morning we drove 400 miles from Mesa, AZ, and entered Texas from below Las Cruces, NM. We then drove another almost 300 miles and were still in west Texas, in Ft Stockton. This morning we left the Wal-Mart in Ft Stockton, TX, at 06:00 a.m. and started our zoom eastward in the dark and cold morning. It stayed dark and cold all morning, too, aided by very nice cloud cover.

The cloud cover is great for easterly sunrise travel, no hour or two of driving into the bright light on the horizon. Unfortunately the lack of sunlight also meant the day didn’t warm up much. Jim checked Texas cities current temperatures at mid-morning — not a single reported city anywhere in Texas, among two or three dozen, had temperatures above 42 degrees. We would have enjoyed even 42 — we were driving through 25 to 30 degree zones all morning.

Every hour or two we stopped and checked the Airstream’s indoor thermometer. The temperature stayed above 40F, not too bad. We ran the furnace for five or ten minutes during two stops, just to warm the plumbing spaces in the cabinets and under the floors, and turned it off again before heading out onto the highway. Great news, no frozen pipes.

Again, we alternated driving a couple of hours at a time each. Interstate I-10 was great, again. And we schemed to zoom through San Antonio and Houston before their rush hours, morning and afternoon, respectively. It worked great, except for I-10 and I-45 ramps construction right downtown Houston. Small delay there and another one in the ‘burbs of Austin. No big deal, and we arrived almost without incident in Sulphur, Louisiana at 17:45 hours Central time. Zoooooom!

Almost without incident, you might ask? Well, there was this one moment in Austin, TX. . . You see, they also have a Clayton Homes i-House in Austin. And, like the others, they stage their iHouse in a prominent place on their lot. Everyone driving by can see it, stare (a replacement for texting while driving, we suppose), and hit the brakes to try and turn in and visit it.

So we have, as of today, seen the iHouse models in Everett, Washington; Mesa, Arizona; and Austin, Texas. Except for Clayton Homes staff, and possibly some support/install staff of Ikea, we think we might be the best visitors Clayton Homes has for iHouses. Unless, we suppose, they more highly regard the visitors who also purchase an iHouse. What do you think?

Back to missing Texas — we didn’t stop anywhere and eat Texas Barbecue. This isn’t actually much of a loss to most North Carolinians, since we have much better BBQ in NC anyway. We didn’t stop and visit the LBJ State Park, although it looked really nice. We would love to return to Johnson City and Fredericksburg some time when we can return. El Paso looked interesting. Tex-Mex food is one of Jim’s favorites, and how did we do sampling this while crossing Texas?

Let’s see, we stopped last night at a Sonic for a burger and fries. That’s it for Texas dining for us — all the other food consisted of snacks in the truck while driving. What would Ray LaHood, our federal Secretary of Transportation say? Well he already did, and we weren’t so much eating as snacking. The difference, we maintain, is the same as the difference between cell-phone talking and talking to each other in person.

We have only 1,000 miles remaining to arrive in Kannapolis. We’re only 150 miles ahead of schedule, not really a very big deal although it took part of three hours extra driving to attain. Before we hit the sack tonight we’ll check our distances to any rush-hour potentials between here and Montgomery, Alabama, and plan tomorrow’s drive accordingly.

Follow us next time, to tour Texas. We’ll take our time in Texas, and enjoy it. Next time we visit Texas, we want stopping time instead of driving time. There’s a lot to see, and a whole lot of it isn’t even on I-10. Don’t tour Texas on this schedule — too fast, too thin, nearly might as well have flown across.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

“The weather isn’t usually this _______.”

Our first week or two in Mesa, AZ, folks told us, “It’s not usually this hot in early November.” This past week the same folks told us, “This is much cooler weather than usual for Mesa.” All across Canada this past summer, locals told us “We don’t think we’ll have much summer this year — the weather is much cooler than usual, corn is late. We should go south.”

And tonight in Ft Stockton, TX, they tell us, “The weather here is usually warmer this time of year.” It is pretty cool, 39F. The forecast low temperature tonight is low 30s, which is okay with us — we’ll set the furnace on low and it will run a few times as sunrise approaches, just to keep the plumbing (and humans) from freezing.

We arrived this evening after thirteen hours very easy driving on as good an interstate highway as we’ve ever driven. Great pavement through Arizona, New Mexico, and our first quarter of Texas, and easy grades. Our plan was to drive 500 miles, sort of a break-in day into our 2,300 mile journey.

We left Mesa at 06:00 this morning, made it through Tucson’s rush hour without incident, slid across Las Cruces and El Paso, then discovered Texas has 880 miles of I-10. WOW! Did you know I-5, from San Diego, California, all the way to the Oregon border atop California above Mt Shasta, is less than 800 miles?

So Texas is wider than California is long. This realization may have been part of why we felt inspired to go beyond our planned 500 miles today. Everything went so well and traffic was so easy, especially after sunset, we just couldn’t stop for 681 miles. And we still have 620 miles of Texas I-10 before we get to Louisiana.

Tomorrow we will try to get through San Antonio just after morning rush hour so we can zip through Houston before their evening rush hour. This fine plan depends upon our getting up and out early tomorrow. The trailer is already all hitched up to the truck, so all we need to do is dress, brush teeth, wash faces, and climb into the truck to go.

A quick sandwich supper and showers tonight and we’re off to bed. We would write more, but really are ready to hit the sack.

And we hope we find out, when we get to North Carolina, the weather isn’t usually this NICE! A White Christmas would be fine, or an unusually warm week would be fine with us.

But whatever the weather, we suspect we’ll hear folks say, “The weather isn’t usually this ________.”

See You Down The Road!

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

Six weeks is a long time to stay

It hasn’t seemed so long, but we’d been in Mesa six weeks yesterday. We did have a feeling we’d been here awhile — we’ve both been getting itchy feet for the last week or two. So we started making lists to help get us ready for departure.

That’s right, we’re checking our list carefully before we head back East. We’d hate to get a couple of thousand miles down the road and then realize we left something behind, like the RV. These things are avoidable, you know?

We both are list-makers for any number of purposes. We’ve been accused of being extremely linear (I think it meant I always added 1 + 2 before I did anything to 3). You could, at any given time in our RV, find a couple of active to-do lists and a grocery list (for the things we didn’t find and the things we’ve since discovered we wanted).

We have a pre-flight list of things we’ll do before we leave Mesa. The big things are arranging the radio antennae for the trip, programming the amateur radios for enroute repeaters, setting tire pressures for all eight tires for highway driving, dumping the RV’s two holding tanks, securing all loose items in the RV, donating clothes to local Charity, and getting groceries for the 2,300 mile ride.

We have only a couple of loose ends with the resort park office, like turning in our mailbox key, paying our electric bill, submitting the mail forwarding request. Jim has one more tennis match tomorrow morning. Deb wants to play tennis one more time before we leave.

We’d love to get the truck (and maybe the Airstream) cleaned up before the drive. Clean windows, floor mats, and a clean hood are all we really need — we can’t see the rest of the truck from our truck’s seats anyway. And it’s nice to at least clean the windows and door on the Airstream, if we can’t get it all washed before we leave.

We’re facing a long four days, or we may take a fifth day, for the 2,300 miles from Mesa, TX, to Kannapolis, NC. Yet we’re looking forward to the drive, the scenery, the change. And we’re especially excited about returning to green North Carolina.

Mesa, and Towerpoint particularly, has been wonderful. We enjoyed so much here, from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen West to Scottsdale’s Old Town and the Sugar Bowl; desert hiking with friends from Towerpoint and visiting Tempe; finding our way around vast metropolitan Phoenix; playing tennis every day and having nice soaks in the park’s hot tubs.

We’ll miss the tennis club facilities and people, just 100 yards from our RV. We’ll miss the interesting and changing desert weather. We’ll miss our Towerpoint friends and our fun times with them. We’ll look forward to another season here, another time. Now it is time for us to go.

Let’s go somewhere. Six weeks is a long time to stay.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr