Hello and welcome to Mike and Donna's retirement adventures.
After many years of working and taking care of family, we decided to look for adventures in other places.
Donna's retirement came at the request of her former manager (little Hitler) on 9/27/21 after 18 years with the IT vendor at the San Diego Convention Center. Mikes retirement began 46 years after high school on 3/18/22.
We have always liked cars and driving; we love to travel. We decided life on the road could be a new challenge/adventure for us.
In August (2021) we ordered a new home: An Airstream 30' Classic and a new Dodge RAM 2500 Diesel truck to tow it.
On Friday December 2, 2022, we finally took possession of it.
Have fun following us down the road.
We traveled to Rio Verde RV Park in Cottonwood AZ for a week (12/29 – 1/5/23). As for the weather – well – we hit it all on this drive – yikes! Rain, sleet, and then snow made for a white knuckle drive since we were newbies at this. We sure were elated when we finally arrived at the beautiful RV park!! We managed to get a nice site that backed right up to the Verde River. Since we were going to be there over New Year’s, it was the perfect location for day trips to Sedona, Jerome, Tuzigoot National Monument, Montezuma Castle National Monument, and Montezuma Well. We went to the Ghost King Mine outside of Jerome and did the tour. There were lots of opportunities to hike but the weather wasn’t the best while there – it was COLD and rainy most of the time! But…we had a fantastic time exploring all around the area and the cute historic district.
Jerome (106) MK
Jerome (40) MK Jerome (45) MK Jerome (54) MK Jerome (58) MK Jerome (70) copy Jerome (78) MK Jerome (129) MK
Sedona (15) MK Sedona (69) MK
From Cottonwood we went to Prescott AZ and stayed at the Pine Lawn Ranch RV Park for a week (1/5 – 1/12). Got a nice pull through site nestled in the pine trees amongst others who were permanent residents there. Wow was it COLD – and – we learned our first winter camping lesson. If it’s going below freezing, make sure you have fresh water in your tank and disconnect the fresh water hose outside. The first morning there we woke up to everything frozen! Uh oh……okay – calm down – we can do this!! Get out the manuals and figure out what we’re doing…and we did just that – Whew! Crisis averted J
Prescott is a great little town we had visited many years prior and were excited to get back again. We spent several days walking around all the shops in the historic area downtown. We hiked “Thumb Butte” which was absolutely gorgeous at the top. Little did we know that coming down on the shady side would render lots of packed snow with ice as the topper! We were glad we had our hiking poles with us – LOL!! We took a couple of other hikes (ground level) which were much easier but also had beautiful scenery as there are many lakes in the Prescott area. We had several “visitors” at our camping site. The area houses several deer families and many Javelinas.
Thumb Butte (126) MK Thumb Butte (139) MK Thumb Butte (155) MK
On to Lake Alamo State Park near Wenden AZ for a week (1/12 – 1/19). Very remote but a beautiful area tucked within the surrounding mountains. Again we lucked out and got a very nice site with a view of the lake. We’re glad we stocked up on necessities prior to coming as there is NOTHING OUT HERE J That’s the beauty of it though….you can hear a pin drop most of the time. We’ve had rain off and on, even a thunderstorm - so the weather hasn’t been the greatest but….it is winter we keeping telling ourselves. We did a couple of hikes and drove up to the Alamo Dam overlook. Stunning views!!!!! The area is filled with wild burros but we’ve yet to see any except for 2 as we were arriving to the park and they were fairly far away – way down in one of the crevices. Lots of “evidence” they are around though.
Alamo lake (52) MK Alamo lake (81) MK Alamo lake (88) MK Alamo lake (119) MK
July, August, September, October, November, December 2022……
Okay we haven’t updated in a while.
We had so much fun with our families especially the little ones we didn’t do any writing.
So how about a quick look back.
-Still no truck or Airstream-
We bought lots of fireworks for the 4th and had a great time lighting them in the driveway with the family.
We took care of the littlest Grands while their parents went on a well-deserved European vacation. Baths, food and bedtime reminded us why we had little ones when we were young! We even all went out for a Sunday brunch and everybody behaved J It’s been an awesome time getting to spend so much time with them!!
Coloring Declan Fireworks-01 Fireworks-02 LC Fair (69) MK LC Fair (329) MK Park bench Showtime Silver Diner Watermellon
-Still no truck or Airstream-
The entire family went to Oak Island North Carolina for a week at the beach. Lazy days on the sand, playing in the surf and lots of seafood made for a fun week. The kids enjoyed the pirate treasure hunt and the light sticks were a big hit.
After we took possession of our West Virginia house we immediately began looking for ways to make it our own. We hired a contractor, with the help of our agent Nan. But first - we had a weekend pool party with the whole family. So much fun! Everybody brought what was needed as remember – the house was completely empty…we had the perfect time along with a slumber party to top things off….
Jose our contractor was amazing. With the help of his crew, walls were removed and the entire house completely repainted inside and out. New sinks, fixtures and all new door hardware that Donna and I replaced made the place “ours”. We are so happy with the results.
We spent our week days at the new house. It made it easier to answer questions and make decisions being there. Mike learned how to mow 5 acres of grass and do pool maintenance. Donna worked in the yard and found a few snakes (not her favorite thing!). Making meals amongst the dust was almost impossible, so we found the Mountain View Diner to be our favorite dinner spot. On weekends we would spend time with our family bike riding, playing games, and movie watching. We even went to a high school football game.
A retirement present to ourselves were tattoos. We found a great guy simply by accident as we were out exploring our old stomping grounds one day.
01Beach-01 02Beach-02 03Beach-03 04Beach-04 05Beware of allligator 06Light Stick-01 08Light Stick-03 07Light Stick-02 010pirate-03 010pitate-02 09pitate-01 Cam Soccer basketball Air and space Air and space-03 Air and space-02 Air and space-01 New house New house-01 New house-03
Tattoo 01 Tattoo 02 Tattoo 03
-And still no truck or Airstream-
We took Camden, our oldest Grand, to the National Zoo in DC for a day. We traveled both ways on the subway and had lots of fun listening to Camden tell us all he knew about the zoo animals. We celebrated with another Grand on her 5th birthday (Paige), with a dinner date at the Silver Diner, just the three of us. We had bought her a cute new outfit to wear and she picked where she wanted to go. She loved it!
The air show at Leesburg Airport (our old stomping grounds) was a special treat. Hadn’t been able to see it for years and it was almost across the street from where we used to live. Good times!!
As the leaves began to change, the work on the house was complete. Now time to find renters. After putting so much work into our new house, we debated staying and simply abandoning the Airstream plans. After careful thought we realized we would regret not going out to explore. With the help of our fantastic agent Nan, she found a couple to rent the house starting Dec. 1. We met them before we left the east coast and they are in love with the house. They offered to purchase it and we said…………..nope!!! J
Air show Camden zoo-01 Camden zoo
Declan School Paige goes to school
New house-01 New house-02
New house-05 New house-06 New house
Paige Birthday-01 Paige Birthday
-And…… still no truck or Airstream-
But wait. A text from the dealer told us The Sandman was off the assembly line and soon enroot to the west coast. Could it be true? We still didn’t have any way to pull it. We needed a tow vehicle!! After telling a few friends we needed a truck new or used, we began getting calls from all over the country with offers. Then, an ad shows up on Donna’s Facebook. A 2021 Dodge RAM with only 5k miles, only an hour’s drive from Tiffany’s (our daughter) house. Could it be true? 5 thousand miles! By weeks end we had our tow vehicle. So we began making plans to yet again drive across the country. Keep in mind that the truck we ordered in January, still not available yet!!! What the heck is going on??????
One of the beautiful Sycamores in the side yard of our Harpers Ferry house was sadly infested with termites. We hired a local company to bring it down. It was not an easy job bringing down a 40 ft. tree. We did save a few pieces to burn, the rest into the chipper.
Halloween was rainy but that didn’t dampen the spirits of pirate Camden. He collected lots of candy and was more than willing to share it. J The other Grands had a fantastic time going around their neighborhood with some other littles….
Sunday afternoons was watching Camden’s soccer team and family dinners J
Diner Movie New house-01 New house-02 New house-03 New truck Halloween-01 Halloween_2022 (31) MK
Elk Run Fall 2022 (134)-2 MK Elk Run Fall 2022 (230) MK
Oh Deer (117) MK
Elk Run Fall 2022 (20) MK
Big tree vid Camden first Soccer (154)
With the house construction all finished we spent a beautiful fall day hiking around Harpers Ferry. We climbed to the top of Maryland Heights for a mountain top view of our new home city. We went to Tennessee twice for reunions. First, Shipmates from Mike’s time in the Navy, from the USS Oakridge gathered in Oak Ridge Tennessee. We all served together in Rota Spain in the late 70’s. It was great to see every one again. The second reunion a few weeks later was with several classmates from Donna’s DOD school in the Philippines in Nashville for a long weekend. We had driven through the area several times but had never stopped or spent time poking around. What a fun city! We took the “Redneck Bus Tour” – what a hoot!!
After Camden’s birthday we began another cross country journey to California on Nov. 18th. This was number 3……On this trip we needed to obtain a Texas driver’s license and register the truck. Not as easy as it sounds. In order to get a driver’s license, you must be resident of the state (6 months). How do you do that in one day? We did a lot of planning ahead. We changed our address at the bank and insurance. First things first. Get the truck inspected. We found a garage that does that for only $7. Next drive to the county you domicile in. For that we are using a company called Escapees for mail service. They cater to full time RVers like us. So we drive to Livingston Texas. Find the County tax assessor’s office, pay the taxes and get licenses plates for the truck. Now we need a driver’s license. Because COVID had backed up all appointments in the big cities we started looking for a small office that we could make an appointment. We found a hole in the wall office at the end of the runway at a small airport. We have found everyone in Texas to be friendly except the people at the Department of Public Safety. Anyway, after a couple hours we are now residents of the great state of Texas. Y’all….
3 Days in Texas gave us time to visit peeps we knew from other areas we lived and they all now live in Texas. We visited Donna’s friend Robynn, and her former manager Shawn and his wife Kate. Fun times. Thanksgiving dinner was with friends Mark and Jean who used to live near us in CA. Tucson Arizona was next. Driving through west Texas is a long and boring drive. At a rest stop I overheard some truckers talking about snow.??? A half hour later the flakes began. The snow piled up to about 3-4 inches on the road. We used 4wheel drive for several hours before we were out of it. We met Admirals old friends Don and Addy at the Queens Copper Mine in Bisbee. Really glad we went, really cool place to visit. We ended the day with dinner in Tombstone. The next day a visit to the Sonoran Desert Museum just outside of Tucson, with a raptor bird demonstration.
On to California. We stayed with our good friends Steve and Arlana in Del Mar. They are such great people. They fed us and let us use their downstairs apartment with a very comfortable bed.
Camden birthday L'Berge Mike and Donna packed truck Snow Texas-01 Texas-02 Texas-03 Thanksgiving
Our dreams are about to come true – after waiting SO long…..
We finally got to see our new home on wheels for the first time on Dec. 1st. First time we see it The Sandman was at the back of the lot getting shined and prepped. Talk about nerves, excitement and anxiety!!! We spent an hour in awe finally able to see it. The next day was our walk through. That night we had a really nice time with our good friends Jonathan and Becky, telling stories from our summer. I don’t think we slept at all that night. The excitement of our life changing adventure was about to begin. Because we didn’t want to give the State of California any more money than we had to, we opted to take possession of The Sandman in Arizona. We were informed during our walk through that we had to be at Exit 1 Ehrenburg Arizona at 8:30 am the next day Dec. 2nd. Oh that’s a 4 hour drive!!! So we made hotel reservations for that night. Erick in Service at Airstream of Orange County was absolutely amazing. A usual first timers walk through is 3 hours. He gave us almost 8. He explained everything from using the stinky slinky to the tires. Front to back, inside and out we learned it all. We had dinner with Jon and Becky and then we hit the road. Huntington Beach CA to the Arizona line is not a fun drive, especially in the dark. Again not a lot of sleep. A short drive on Friday morning from our hotel to the Wendy’s at Exit 1, we met a notary, signed papers and we owned The Sandman. J Wow – it’s really happening!!!!
Fortunately we had made camping reservations at a campground in Quartzite AZ only 20 miles away. Luckily we got a pull through site and could check in early. So trying to plan a head, the next day we would have to back into our site in Oceanside. I decided we should practice. We really didn’t do very well. After I went around the park for the fourth time, some very friendly folks came to inform us it was a pull through. I tried to explain I was just practicing. We all laughed. J
The next morning Dec. 3rd, we nervously and cautiously drove 5 hours to Oceanside CA where we stayed at Guajome Regional Park for 5 days (12/3 – 12/8). A very nice camper from Canada helped us get into our space by driving it in for us. I was able to learn a few things about parking a 30 foot trailer. We spent the next week emptying our storage unit in Oceanside of stuff for the inside of our home on wheels. Several friends came by to look at our new home - Jean, Nina, Mark and Darleen, Joe and Donna, Joe and Rosie. It was fun showing off our new home.
Good bye Pacific ocean Camp Del Mar
The following week we moved to the Surf and Turf RV Park in Del Mar for a week (12/9 – 12/15). We boldly drove the coast road - yikes…. I was holding my breath every time we had to pass parked cars. Parking at the new place in Del Mar was much easier. We had more space and with Donna’s guidance we felt good about what we are doing. Several more friends came by to look.
Leaving Del Mar we made our way to a very nice campground in La Quinta, CA – Lake Cahuilla Veterans Regional Park for 10 days (12/16 – 12/26) . Donna’s help made backing much easier. We had a beautiful site on the lake. We hiked in the desert and around the lake. We even got our bikes out for a ride as the weather was perfect. We took a nice hike up into the surrounding hills. We are getting better at planning our grocery store trips. Cooking is getting easier. We are now sleeping better. Donna has done an amazing job to make The Sandman look like a home. Nice touches of Christmas decorations. We went to the animal park in Palm Desert to look at Christmas lights. Walked Palm Springs and enjoyed the Christmas season. Robbie and Erin (our son/daughter in-law) gave us 2 nights at a time share in Palm Desert. It was nice to sleep in a large room and endless hot water showers. We had Christmas Eve dinner at a seafood place.
Camp La Quinta Horse in the desert Lights Christmas pic-01 Merry Christmas Sedona
Lake Havasu State Park in AZ was next. A short stay of a couple days (12/27 – 12/29). We saw the London Bridge and had a nice Mexican dinner nearby. We had a perfect site that overlooked the lake with its own beach to enjoy. In hindsight we wished we could have stayed longer. The small town was beautifully decorated for Christmas which made strolling after dinner a nice treat. J
Okay, we will be the first to admit we have neglected our blog.
So, let’s get you caught up.
Many special events have happened since we drove to Virginia on March 26th.
Please remember this is not necessarily in order.
After arriving in Virginia early April, we had such a good time with our Grands and their families. We celebrated a birthday. We visited breweries, wineries and many dinners and lunches together.
We were invited to a grandparent’s tea at the school with our two littlest grands Paige and Declan. Walking our oldest grand Camden to school, was a special treat. Coloring Easter eggs and in general keeping the house loud was something we hadn’t experienced in a long, long time! We cherished every moment……
Walking to school
Easter egg hunt Game time Grandparent Tea Soccer with the youngest Grands Soccer with the youngest Grands
Riding bikes, hiking, throwing balls and Frisbees rounded out many hours of fun.
Biking with the CunninghamsWhile on our ride we stopped on a cool bridge for a family picture. Camden on his bike Bike ride in Purcellville Bike ride in Purcellville
We took Dad to the Naval Academy one last time.
Dad returns to the Academy
We landed in Northern Virginia in early April in a 16' rental truck. We were ready to buy our new Ram we ordered in January, but guess what?? Not ready. We both felt uncomfortable always asking to borrow a car or a ride.
We went looking to buy something. Both of us agreed something comfortable and a little higher end would make the trade-in a little sweeter when we finally got our truck.
We ended up with a 2016 Land Rover Discovery from CarMax. Several friends call it a Disco. It has lots of fun options and it’s very comfortable to drive.
While we were on the road to Virginia, we sold our California house of 18 years. With the help of our good friend Steve, who made all the negotiations and arrangements, we signed all the paperwork remotely.
We have too much stuff We have too much stuff We have too much stuff We have too much stuff
We left Virginia the middle of May with a plan to visit friends from all over the country, on our way back to California to tie up loose ends.
First stop was the Ram truck dealership in North Carolina where we ordered our new Ram from a friend of a friend (no more paying California taxes). As we pulled into the lot, we saw many faces plastered to the windows. Who were these Californians? Were they coming to visit with a British car bearing Virginia license plates? Meeting Danny the General Manager whom we placed our order with, was a very pleasant experience. Unfortunately, our new truck was still several months away. Lack of labor, fuel, materials and just plain “I don’t know” are just some of the answers on why we still don’t have a new truck. But we weren’t discouraged. We’re still waiting for our Airstream which is also VERY delayed! We can’t have one without the other.
We took almost two weeks to travel back to Oceanside. Stops included Raleigh North Carolina,
Mike and Sister-001A great visit with my sister Leanne, whom we haven't seen in way too many years Mike and Sister-001A great visit with my sister Leanne, whom we haven't seen in way too many years
Myrtle Beach, Jacksonville Florida, New Orleans Louisiana, 4 stops in Texas and New Mexico. So much fun seeing folks we haven’t seen in some cases over 20 years.
Jim and Lyn Shawn and Kate with us at Baylor University C. Mark and Debra Vaughn with us John and Gina DaCrema with us Sue Gage and Lisa Patrick/hubbySue Gage and Lisa Patrick/hubby Mr. ChrisMusician Chris Ellinghaus with us. Our previous next door neighbor when we lived in Leesburg, VA.
We visited a Botanical Garden in Florida.
Bourbon St. in New Orleans
Bourbon St. Bourbon St.
While we were in Tucson Arizona, we were treated to a Total Lunar eclipse.
EclipseTotal Blood moon
The Oceanside house needed a final clean-up and trash removed. We sold our bedroom furniture, and with the help of our great neighbors they let us borrow a portable mattress so as to not have to sleep on the floor.
Donna and I shared the driving duties and many hours together gave us a lot of time to discuss what it would be like to live on a few acres of land with a house in the middle of nowhere. Maybe we could have a view of the mountains, or a river or a pond? Looking into the future, we knew we wanted to be near our kids and grands, but not in Virginia because of the property taxes being so high. Well……West Virginia has one of the lowest property taxes in the US and….it’s close to where the family lives!! Ding Ding……
We visited historic Harpers Ferry West Virginia while in Virginia and decided it could be a place to call home after or during Airstream travel. When we lived in Virginia, we went to Harpers Ferry many times and the kids loved it.
Wouldn’t you know, shortly after we cleared out the last of our stuff in Oceanside, an ad for 5 acres and a 4 bedroom house with a swimming pool became available? We had hooked up with a super nice real estate agent already – spending many hours on the phone with her, explaining our wants and what we were about to embark upon with our Airstream.
After several phone calls, along with visits from Robbie and Tiffany to the property with our agent, we decided to bite the bullet on the property. Settlement will be Thursday 6/16. We certainly know how to live on the edge! The sellers want to stay until the end of August so win, win for everybody. After they move out, we’ll have some time to do a few upgrades/updates before renting it out while we’re on the road. One of Donna’s favorite old songs is by John Denver and now it will come to fruition – “Take Me Home Country Roads”. And now you have it in your head – LOL!!!!
We said goodbye to our Mazda's.
Mazda CX5 Mazda MX5
We enjoyed a final dinner at Jake's.
Currently we are visiting my brother Steve in Alameda California. He and his daughter Sarah have a cozy, very cool English Tudor style home on the island. We have been exploring the San Francisco area. We’ve discovered some great places and not so great places……We got lost in a really scary part of Oakland the other night. We saw a part of Oakland the Chamber of Commerce does not want the rest of the state to know about. We saw homeless camps that went on for blocks, and blocks. Are they dangerous? Fortunately, the car didn’t break down for us to find out.
On the other hand we had a lot of fun exploring the area. We spent a day amongst the Redwood trees in Muir Wood National Park. We have ridden our bikes around the island. We drove to Roseville to visit a good friend we met in our MINI club. We enjoyed our 39th wedding Anniversary weekend and had a dinner at a very nice seafood restaurant in Jack London Square, Oakland. We spent Sunday on Treasure Island hiking and a nice lunch.
Muir Redwood Donna amongst the giant redwoods.
San Fran Sunset from Alameda looking across the bay at San Francisco. San Fran Looking up under the Bay Bridge.
Treasure Island Looking at San Fransico and the Bay Bridge.
Our new adventure started about 3 years ago when we decided to change our lifestyle and make the decision to become Nomads when we retired. That finally happened on Sept. 27, 2021 for Donna, March 18, 2022 for Mike.
As luck would have it, everything has a delay because of parts, labor shortages, and all of the worldly things happening.
We were expecting our Dodge RAM 2500 Deisel to be delivered to North Carolina (got the "friends " deal)at the end of April. Unfortunately, it's still in Mexico with a new delivery date of July!!! We ordered it in January 2022.
Our new Airstream is also delayed. New projected roll off assembly line late July. We might see it in California Late August. Original delivery was supposed to be April.
We decided to pull the trigger anyway and sold, gave away and donated almost all of our things, including our California house.
The stuff we saved and wanted our kids to have or they wanted, was loaded into a rented box truck along with our 1958 MGA and taken to Northern Virginia.
Driving a big box truck made a challenging adventure.
We departed Oceanside on Saturday morning March 26, and our house went on the market the same day. Blue skies and windy with a full gas tank of California ($6.25/ gal.) gas, with hopes of making it to cheaper Arizona gas.
The learning curves of freeway driving with the wind often times felt like I was at the helm of a sailboat.
Our first stop a McDonalds after avoiding so many big trucks with a stiff south wind, I underestimated the turning radius and got stuck making a U-turn. Lesson learned. We appreciate the help we received from a total stranger!!
Saturday night an old but clean hotel on old Route 66 in Seligman Arizona. A really cool little town being swallowed up by the desert. Dinner at the Roadkill Cafe was amazing.
Sunday morning had us up early. TV weather news had a big storm entering California behind us and had me a little nervous.
Donna and I took turns at the wheel following Route 40. We kept a steady speed of 60MPH and tried not to slow the big trucks down. We got a kick out of flashing our light so the big trucks could slide in front of us and got the flash of thanks. Lunch at a rest stop with tornado shelters was sandwiches with fixens from our Yeti cooler.
Sunday night March 27th was spent in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. With not many restaurants to choose from, there was a Mexican restaurant across from the hotel. The clerk told us not to order the chicken wings, they "tasted like a dog chew toy" she exclaimed. We ordered cheese enchiladas. By far the.... worst..... meal..... we ever tried to eat. String cheese sticks between barely warm tortillas with fire sauce called enchiladas. Good thing the chips and salsa were good!!
After a night of restless sleep, we were on the road early again Monday morning March 28th to Okemah, Oklahoma. Both of us shared the driving, we were getting good at scoping the gas station parking lots, and finding easy ways to get in and out. By the time we got to the hotel, it was after dark and the sidewalks were already rolled up. Our choice of dinner? Subway or McDonalds.......McDonalds it was because as many of you know, Donna makes the funniest face when the word "Subway" is even mentioned.
Sleep was not our friend. We both woke early once again and Tuesday morning March 29th we were off to Jackson,Tennessee. By the way, Tennessee has beautiful smooth roads. We thought we were losing teeth on Arizona and New Mexico roads. Pot holes big enough to swallow us whole!!
Donna is a great navigator using our new map. Thank you, Oceanside CERT, for the great and useful gift.
Cracker Barrel dinner outside of Jackson, was a great chance to have a hot home style meal. We both had giggle fits because Donna ordered a roast beef dinner medium rare. Our server said in his Tennessee draw "We don't do temperature on our meat. I'll ask the kitchen if they ever heard that before". The other guests in the restaurant must have thought those people from California are a little bit looney.
Wednesday March 30th we were off to Christiansburg/Blacksburg Virginia. Back in familiar territory (our son/spouse, son in-law all graduated from VA Tech and our daughter from Radford), we knew dinner HAD to be at Macado's - one of our favorites!! Years ago, we celebrated both of our kid's college graduations and post football games there.
The threat of severe weather was always over our shoulders with each morning's news reports. We were thankful it was behind us, until Thursday.
We woke up to rain and more wind Thursday morning, March 31st.
More stressful driving to Northern Virginia. (NOVA).
We were so proud of ourselves by not getting stuck in a strip mall in Purcellville, Virginia (pit stop) in the final hours before getting to our sons in Vienna.
Donna was an excellent guide as I backed the truck and auto transport into the driveway for the night. Unpacking could wait till morning.