Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Our Year in Review

Note: I'm going to try posting in the mornings starting tomorrow for a while starting tomorrow and see how that goes.

I have either emailed this letter for Christmas to a lot of you or sent it via snail mail but have updated it a little bit at the end to cover the last few days of December

The winter of 2006/7 was mostly spent on the Texas Coastal Bend - specifically Mustang Island State Park, Port Aransas, Goose Island State Park, and Rockport/Fulton. The winter there was colder than normal, so the locals say, but still quite pleasant. We always enjoy being near the Gulf of Mexico, walking on the beach and photographing the birds.

Probably the highlight of our stay in this area was seeing and photographing Roseate Spoonbills and taking the Whooping Crane Tour through Rockport Birding and Kayak Adventures. We managed to get quite close to a pair of Whooping Cranes and took quite a few good photos of them from the boat.

Near the end of February we started across to join Betty & Garth in Fort Myers, Florida. We made quite a few stops on the way, one in Louisiana where we met up with internet photography friends, Gayle & Breland. One of our favourite stops was at Dauphin Island, Alabama which is on the migratory birding path. Unfortunately at this time of year we didn’t see many birds but put this on our list of places to go back to.

We spent a great month in Fort Myers, FL at a fairly reasonably priced park for the area, Fort Myers Campgound visiting back and forth with Betty & Garth who were staying in a condo at the Kelly Greens Golf and Country Club. There were lots of great places to see birds and alligators, including Lakes Regional Park right in the city and not far from our RV park and Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. Betty and I had a few shopping days together and quite a few dinners at their condo.

We also visited Gordon’s long time friend, Bill near Bradenton, Florida, spending the night at his house. That was one of the first nights we spent away from our home on wheels. There was also a trip to Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park, another place we feel we’d like to return to.

On April 7th we started our trek northward, stopping to see Gordon’s family in Ohio and to have lunch with friends, Mel & Janice in Dayton before our usual stop at Erie, Pennsylvania on the last leg of our journey to Ontario.

We arrived at Rideau Acres Campground in Kingston, Ontario on April 24th and from there drove to Ottawa on April 28th to sign our income tax forms, overnighting with my sister, Margie and family. While there we were able to see Nick and Becky as well. While in Kingston we had to replace the rear end in the truck (under warranty) and we also got new tires all around (not under warranty).

We were unable to get a park in Ottawa for the month of May as we usually do, so called on our favourite park, Tranquil Acres in Carleton Place, and Dave and Shonagh let us come in even before the park was open. During the time spent near Ottawa, we visited with my sister Margie and her family several times and I was able to get in a couple of visits with my friends and former co-workers at BreconRidge. It’s always good to go back for a visit.

We spent the summer at Tranquil Acres until mid August when we started out for Lindsay, Ontario to spend time again with Betty & Garth.

In May we drove to Toronto to overnight at Betty’s condo and attend my friend, Laura’s wedding the following day in Kitchener. After the wedding we stopped at the Wings of Paradise Butterfly Conservatory at Cambridge, then on to Cobourg where we blew the budget at the Best Western Inn there. While in Cobourg, we found a cute little RV park on the beach and decided we wanted to return there, so that was planned for arrival on the Monday of the long weekend in August on our way to Lindsay. Not a good plan as it turns out. The park looks much larger with no one in it. With wall to wall RVs, the spot they had chosen for us was way to small and contrary to what we were told, we couldn't have accessed the satellites, so a phone call to the Double "M" RV Resort & Campground, our favourite RV park in Lindsay, and we were on our way there a week early.

The following weekend was 'cottage weekend' and the family from Ottawa arrived at the cottage. As usual we ate too much but had a great time. We did some little trips while there north to the Haliburton area, once on our own and once with Betty and Garth again taking more photos of the changing leaves.

Both Gordon and I got sick while in Lindsay so we wound up staying about 10 weeks instead of the usual 4 weeks. Instead of going west through Canada as planned and then south through the Dakotas, after leaving Lindsay we went to a park near Fort Erie called Sherkston Shores. It’s a really nice RV park in close proximity to Niagara Falls although we hardly went there at all, having been at the Falls several times before. We did go to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a quaint little town where Sue, a friend of mine that I worked with at Nortel, has a B&B. Betty and Garth were staying with her so we met them there and I got to see Sue again. Betty and I had another day of looking around the quaint little town while Garth read the newspaper and Gordon photographed the local historic fort.

Sherkston Shores may be our future stopping off point before crossing into the U.S. as it’s a fairly easy crossing at Buffalo, New York and a shorter distance to drive to our first stop, Columbus, Ohio on our way south. Again, visits with Gordon's family, brief this time due to staying ahead of freezing weather, before going west on I-70 with stops at St. Louis, Missouri where we stayed a couple of days to see and photograph the Gateway Arch.

We continued west, trying to stay ahead of the cold weather, with our final destination expected to be Arizona. While en route though, ten wonderful days were spent at Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. This is just a lovely stop with all the red rocks. Our RV site backed on these beautifully coloured rocks and except for weekends, it was a very peaceful place to be.

Photography friends and part-time RVrs, Gayle & Breland had been near San Antonio, New Mexico at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge for over a month, so we stopped there for the Festival of the Cranes. Sandhill Cranes abounded and we saw thousands of them as well as many thousands of snow geese and quite a few other kinds of birds and little critters. It was another wonderfully scenic place to spend four days.

While there, we also saw some of the area, including the VLA Radio Observatory, and then we managed to get out of there about two days ahead of a cold snap coming through, overnighting on this final leg of our trek to Arizona at Deming, New Mexico where we briefly saw the nearby City of Rocks State Park.

We made it to Tucson, Arizona on November 20th. I had found a brand new RV park just west of Tucson called Justin’s Diamond J RV Park which backs on the desert. The sites are huge and we could walk out our door and be in the desert on a trail in seconds.

While in Tucson we met two other traveling couples, Fred & Jo and Jim & Ellie I have followed Fred & Jo's blog for a long time and met Ellie through our rv-dreams chatroom.

We extended our stay until December 27th and was there for Christmas and also purchased a membership to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It’s a very interesting place so we spent a couple of half days a week there. It’s a lot of walking though!

We left Tucson for Mesa, AZ (a suburb of Phoenix) on December 27th and spent our New Year at Usery Mountain Regional Park. We are enjoying being the country more than the cities and the Regional Parks in this area are in natural settings yet this one is only a couple of miles out of the city. We’re here until January 10th at which time we’re hoping to try another Regional Park here called McDowell Mountain. These parks don’t take reservations so it’s first come, first served. We had been corresponding with another couple via email, Doug & JoAnn who were also staying at Usery Mountain and they made us a lovely meal on our arrival. There are lots of wonderful people that are full timer RVers and we're just getting started meeting them this year. We hope to meet a lot more down the road!

Just before Christmas I managed to sprain my right foot quite badly so have been hobbling around. It's on the mend now so am able to walk but I'm still pretty careful when walking on uneven surfaces. That'll teach me to vacuum!

We have been enjoying our traveling retirement immensely. We’ve seen so many beautiful places, met some very nice people and done lots of interesting things. Here's hoping that we can continue this lifestyle for the foreseeable future!

Have a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year and to all of those part time and full time RVers out there, travel safely!

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