Our first day on the road was uneventful during our drive in beautiful but very hot weather. Once we arrived at our campsite however we discovered our car battery was dead. Luckily we had purchased a portable car charger (about the size of a large cell phone) earlier this year and it jump started the car perfectly. I guess we’ll be removing that fuse in the car we’re supposed to remove from now on.
Our first stop on this year’s adventure took us to Galveston, Texas. There we boarded a ferry to Port Bolivar and crossed Galveston Bay. Several people had mentioned we should try this at least once while a couple of others said it’s the best way around Houston. In the end, Claudia loved her boat ride while I remained unconvinced that it saved us much of anything but definitely added to our adventure. With retirement comes the advantage of trying new things without feeling rushed. This was one of those things.
Our first official stop of 2018 was a return trip to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Once again we had a beautiful day for a drive as we got off the highway in Natchez, Mississippi and began traveling on the 444 mile Natchez Trace National Parkway. We had been on this route before up until Tuscumbia, Alabama when we had to get off of it a couple of years ago due to weather. This year we intended to make it all the way to Nashville.
Once settled in Vicksburg we headed off early and visited the Old Depot Museum down on the waterfront. It contained exhibits that examined earlier modes of transportation, the Siege of Vicksburg and many other elements of the city’s history. It included railroad memorabilia, a collection of model Civil War gunboats, a detailed diorama of the Siege of Vicksburg and models of architecture styles employed throughout Vicksburg’s past. Following our visit to the museum we crossed the street to enjoy lunch at Rusty’s Riverfront Grill. This was the same waterfront restaurant we had dinner at two years ago following a win I had of over $200 at the casino across the street from our campground. After lunch we decided to see if our luck would continue and stopped in at the same casino. Unfortunately I didn’t have the same luck and lost my $100 fairly quickly. Here’s where the story takes a funny turn though. Claudia, who hates to gamble, decided to try her luck and played her $20 (her personal limit) on a dollar machine. That’s quite unusual since she prefers quarter machines only and hates losing her $20. Right away she hit for over $30. At this point she usually heads for the door. Not this time. Instead she went to the two dollar machines and hits for over $50. Ok, so now she’s feeling rich and lucky. She tells me she’s heading to the five dollar slots and I laugh as I tell her just to go have fun. Off she goes and a few minutes later comes back with $290!! At this point we called it quits and headed to the door $170 richer than we walked in. I really enjoyed watching Claudia win instead of me for a change. She was so excited. I guess Vicksburg is a lucky stop for us.
The next day we returned to the Natchez Trace and traveled to Tuscumbia, Alabama where we ended our Natchez Trace travels two years ago. From there we completed our 440 mile journey along the trace as we arrived in Nashville. Along the way we stopped at many of the interesting historic spots including several stops where we could walk along the original trace as well as a couple of scenic viewing areas we were able to enjoy. The best part of driving the trace is how relaxing and peaceful it is. This is the route to take if you’re not in a rush and just want to enjoy your surroundings.
Our original plan was to spend a couple of nights in Nashville but it turned out the CMA Festival was taking place at the same time as our arrival so all campgrounds had been booked solid for quite some time. Instead we traveled about ninety miles further and stopped in Cave City, Kentucky for a couple of nights. Cave City is home to Mammoth Cave National Park, home of the world's longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored. We took a tour of the Mammoth Cave, the largest and most popular of the caves with access through the historic entrance. It was a tour of a little more than an hour and covered less than a mile underground. The ranger who led the tour was great as he described just how enormous the cave system is, along with much of its history. We followed that tour up with a self-guided tour to another cave before calling it a day. It was a gorgeous day so we really loved just taking a nice hike through the woods and enjoying the outdoors.
Following overnight stops in Walton, Kentucky, Seville, Ohio and Akron, New York we arrived safe and sound at Camp Sawash, home of my sister and her husband in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. Our entire 2,400 mile drive over ten days was uneventful with no RV problems or weather issues and was quite enjoyable.
We started our six week visit off right away with an impromptu “happy hour” at 4pm. We had neighbors joining us along with many of our family members including a bunch of our kids. Stella had a blast as she was welcomed into the pack of six other dogs. She was so exhausted by bedtime that we had to check if she was still breathing. It was a great way to start our visit.
The next day began with us taking care of our 5 year old granddaughter Grace. We took her to her gymnastics class and watched as she showed us how much she’s improved. Then we headed off to do some shopping before stopping for lunch at whatever restaurant she wanted. We were hoping for clam strips or scallops. She selected McDonalds. That evening we all headed off to Tony’s, a great Italian restaurant for pizza with my daughter and her whole family. To finish the evening off we enjoyed our 7 year old grandson’s final baseball game of the season. It was an exhausting but totally awesome day.
Next we enjoyed a lunch visit with Claudia’s sister followed by a few hours at Claudia’s dad’s home reminiscing and selecting items that we wanted to keep. Her dad was a cabinet maker by trade so he had many tools that were just too interesting not to put aside for our trip back to Texas. I probably added about 50 or 60 pounds of tools in our storage area under the RV.
Later that day we took a drive over to my son’s house followed by dinner out with just my son and his wife. Three of our granddaughters were not there and they found a sitter for our other two grandkids and for the first time ever, the four of us had some alone time. It was a great visit.
The following day was Father’s Day. To celebrate my daughter hosted a pool party at her house. Claudia and I enjoyed a beautiful, wonderful day together with all three of our kids, along with their spouses, her daughter’s fiancé and all nine grandchildren. It was an awesome way for all of us to just enjoy each other.
Over the next week we took care of some business appointments before I headed to Cape Cod for a two day visit with my mom. It’s always great to see her but this was special since it was just the two of us and we could catch up on all our news and I could help her with some chores and computer issues at the same time. My mom is the greatest fan of our website and is responsible for much of what you see on it. I don’t get to see her often but it’s always a highlight of our trip back “home”.
Our next excursion came when we babysat for our seven year old grandson, Jon. This kid is a bundle of energy so we decided to take him to PinZ, an entertainment complex with bowling, arcade games and a place to eat. The three of us had a wonderful time. By the way, Claudia beat both of us in the two strings we played.
During a few down days, I washed and waxed the RV as I try to do a couple of times each year. It always looks great but as we’ve learned over and over, that doesn’t last long. It’s still nice to see what it looks like without all the bugs and road dirt all over it.
Over the next couple of weeks we made a few visits with family and friends. With stops in Manchester, NH to visit Claudia’s daughter and family, Plaistow, NH to visit my son and family and a visit to Rockland, MA to visit my uncle we covered hundreds of miles. We had great visits with all of them and wish we could have had more time with each of them.
We also spent a day at our old campground in Connecticut where we spent every summer weekend for ten years. Many of our old friends were there and it was really nice seeing them again. The weather was perfect and we had a wonderful day.
As our visit was coming to a close, Claudia spent two days on Cape Cod where she and my sister enjoyed a visit with my mom. Claudia made a point of sharing a picture of her Lobster Roll that she enjoyed on her first night there while the three of them ate out in Sesuit Harbor along the waterfront. Since I stayed behind to take care of Stella while she enjoyed her visit, I decided to share a picture of my brats with Mac & Cheese to get even. It didn’t work. On the second day of their visit, my niece and her two kids joined them and they all enjoyed a picture perfect day at the beach. Within hours of Claudia’s return to Camp Sawash, she was off again - this time for an overnight stay with her daughter and granddaughter. It was quality time that she loves to have each trip home.
Before our visit concluded, we enjoyed a great brunch at a historic landmark in Sturbridge, Massachusetts with some good friends. We also enjoyed a day with our youngest grandson as the three of us visited a local zoo. It was quality time that this 3 year old will probably soon forget but that we never will.
Last but not least we held a farewell party at Camp Sawash where just about everyone showed up and gave us a chance to say our goodbyes. It’s always difficult but we have the greatest families that all seem to understand how happy Claudia and I are as we tour the country and spend our winters in our Texas home. Leaving them is the hardest part of every trip. Arriving back to them is always the best part. If our current plans hold true, we’ll be returning in September, 2019. Our thoughts however, are with them every single day.