Holy Macaroni, how time flies! My last post was exactly 1 year ago. I last left off with Memorial Day of 2016 and well... yeah, I'm going to ignore the second half of 2016. Let's just quickly summarize it:
, not Florida, Florida, not Florida, Florida for Halloween at Disney
, Key West for Thanksgiving
, and then Port Charlotte for Christmas
and the New Year. WHEW.
Let's take a "quick" (lol) glance back on 2017 now...
But first, some geek stats:
Highlights of 2017
With a year that busy, it's hard to decide what the high points are. But a few things stand out.
Fostering a friendship with the Jacobs clan, The Possibilitarians
. The Mommas had hung out a couple of times before and Mandie knew she wanted to get to know Dawn better. We hung out a little in Florida in January and then intentionally met up a few times this year- Kentucky
, and Oregon (Bend
and Lincoln City
). We loved every minute together!
|Hanging out for an afternoon at Disney's Fort Wilderness|
|Dinner together in Bend, OR|
|The quietest July 4th in the history of ever|
|All of us in Moab, UT|
The Great American Eclipse
The Eclipse was the first full solar eclipse to cross the entire United States. When we decided we wanted to ensure we got to see totality, I started calling RV parks somewhere near February. I contacted or called every RV park in Oregon in the path of totality. Only 4 had availability- 2 were dry camping for $100/night (uhhh, no
), I forget the 3rd, and the one we stayed at ended up as a little RV park along a river
: fulfilling my fulltiming dream of "living in a van, down by the river!
If you didn't see totality, you didn't see the Eclipse.
No really, we had friends who saw 99.7% coverage. The first 99.9% was cool to see with your special Eclipse glasses. But 100% was literally awe inspiring and jaw-droppingly beautiful. My words will absolutely fail me in describing it- but the sky went dark, the moon went black, and the sun appeared to be a white fiery ring. Our group gasped, cheered, and tears were shed. Once our time was up and the sun started to peak out, we saw the Diamond Ring
that pierced the darkness.
|That moment of totality.|
Take note: the next eclipse
that crosses a large portion of the USA is in April 2024. Make plans now. Start saving money now. Do anything you can to make it to where you can see totality. It was THAT AWESOME.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
The Balloon Fiesta
hit our bucket list in 2015 when we saw pictures coming from other fulltime families who were there that October. This absolutely needed to happen; it took 2 years, but we made it! We were fortunate to have Mandie's mom, Lisa
, join us. At the fiesta, we were part of the Fulltime Families hangout and were 1 of 20 or so families who were there.
The Balloon Fiesta exceeded all of our wildest expectations. We lucked into amazing weather and every day found hot air balloons floating over the RV parking area each day. For most of the fiesta days, Paige helped crew a hot air balloon called Carried Away piloted by the Dinklers. She got up by 5am and out shortly after. She was rewarded one of the last days by being offered a ride up in the balloon. While she was nervous, she took them up on the offer and loved every minute of the flight - including the roller coaster like take off!
|Grandma and Logan watching balloons|
|Balloons and our home|
The Lowest Moment & the Moores
The year wasn't without trials, of course. In September, we were headed south through California when we found that we had major frame damage. We were literally sitting next to the road when a truck service mechanic told us that we should drive straight to the nearest RV dealership and trade it immediately. Dejected, we went to the nearest RV park and regrouped.
Mandie posted to the Fulltime Families
Members group and the Moore family
literally came to our rescue. Tara responded to Mandie and offered her husband saying, "he's worked in heavy equipment all his life and might be able to help".
The next morning, Josh was the calm in our storm. Showed up in a big ass work truck and flip flops. He confirmed the frame damage but instead of suggesting an immediate sale, his response was coolly, "yeah, it's buckled but we can bend it back."
|Flip flops and all, Josh jumped right in|
He then talked to his boss and secured a spot at his work. Over the next 4 days, "we" (read: he did all of the work and I held heavy things... poorly) cut our bent and twisted cross member supports, pushed one side of the frame out, pulled the other side of the frame inward, and added heavy steal C-channel steel cross-members. At the end of the week, we were able to be back on the road.
In one week time, we hit the lowest of lows and made new lifelong friends. I'll forever be grateful.
Let's talk through the months...
|The field at TTO full of kids|
|Pennsylvania family get together, at Disney's campground|
|Visiting with Grandma June|
|Adults dinner with the Jacobs|
|Campsite at Camp Gulf. Lucky that our neighbor was a|
motorhome and we shared a yard.
|Warm enough for a beach day in February!|
|Start of our first parade.|
|We got to spend time with Anna and Amy.|
In March, we headed further north in Alabama to Huntsville where we got to spend a couple of weeks with the Setzer/Schroeder family
. Y'all, we ate so much fantastic food. It was frightfully amazing. Oh and we went to a drive through safari
where Logan screamed when he came face to face with an emu. We got our 1st of 4 snows this year in Huntsville; let me tell you that I am not amused.
|Logan tempting an animal with food|
|Feeding a whateverbeast.|
|We had a couple of fires with the Schroeders.|
|Each rig is a different Fulltime Family.|
|We took Paige's bestie, Melody, on a cave tour with us.|
|It's a law that when in Kentucky, you must drink bourbon.|
|One of the movie nights.|
|Mandie trying out the rifle.|
|We toured Diamond Caverns with the Cropp boys.|
We zipped back down to Huntsville
for a few days to start April off. Once we said our sad "see you laters" to the Setzers and Schroeders, we started heading west.
Onward we went to the Dallas area
(Grapevine, TX) where Alan and Lisa flew in to babysit while Mandie and I flew back to Orlando
for yet another follow-up appointment for her vocal chord polyps. Unfortunately, it looks like she's going to need surgery again but we're holding that off until later this month (January 2018). The good news, she and I got to spend a fun couple of days running around Disney.
We didn't let the tires rest and got back to Dallas where we immediately turned and headed for Amarillo, TX
. Amarillo was the site of snow #2 (of 4) for the Setzers in 2017. The Big Texan and Cadillac Ranch were our touristy stops there- cheesy but fun nonetheless.
|A night at the campground, by the fire|
|Pictures don't do justice to the size of the barges.|
|Our campground at Crater of Diamonds State Park.|
|One of our dig sites.|
|Wet sifting the dirt afterwards.|
|While Grandma and Grandpa had the kids, Momma and I|
clean up nicely for a day of hotel hopping.
|She playgrounds well.|
|They went kayaking.|
|And to an aquarium.|
|When we got back, Logan, Grandpa, and I went fishing.|
Didn't catch anything but Logan.
|Epic snowball fight.|
|Wet and muddy fun!|
Whew doggie, so many places, so many photos and we're only to May. May was pretty quick moving- we were trying to make it to southern Utah to explore a bit. We stopped for a few days in Albuquerque
and drove the Musical Road there (it's neat, but not as nice as the one in California).
And then headed to Towaoc, CO which was supposed to just be a place to sit for the work week before heading down the road again. Instead, we happened to stop at the Aztec Ruins National Monument
on the way where we started learning about the dwellings left behind from the ancient Puebloans. That led us to heading to Mesa Verde National Park
which was absolutely phenomenal. My family completed what is affectionately known as the "Indiana Jones Tour" (the Balcony House Tour
) which starts with ascending a 30' ladder and ends with climbing through a 18" hole (no kidding) before heading up another set of ladders.
I've decided that when I get a tattoo, it's going to read "You're stronger than you know." as a reminder to Mandie (and eventually Paige and Logan) that things may scare them and seem bigger than they can do, but they've rocked through some awesome stuff (even if we were all wheezing for air).
As we left Colorado, we hit a bucket list item for me and that was to stop at the 4 Corners Monument
Now, let me try to summarize that all down to a small set of pictures.... (lol, no chance).
|The musical road in Albuquerque.|
|The Great Kiva at Aztec Ruins National Monument.|
|One of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde NP.|
|No kidding, they start you off with a 30' ladder.|
|Remember this moment, my love- you never thought you'd make it|
but you did and you did awesome. I love you, Mandie!
|4 Corners National Monument|
|He's goofy, that's for sure.|
|It was a real life horse ranch!|
|Hiking near Lake Powell|
|Hiking the Toadstool Hike in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument|
|Lower Antelope Canyon - very touristy, but still quite beautiful.|
|North Rim of the Grand Canyon.|
|One of many dinosaur tracks at a site near Pink Coral Sand Dunes.|
Beware: it's 2 miles of deep sand driving that's much more narrow than my dually is!
|Sledding on sand.|
We actually left Kanab and made it to Moab in May
, but my May section had gotten pretty big. Plus, the majority of our stay was in June, so here it goes.
In Moab, we caught up with the Jacobs again! We stayed at OK RV Park
in Moab, right next to the fairgrounds. It's a decent place and affordable- I just sort of wished they had a pool.
While in Moab, we tried to take in as much as we could squeeze - we hiked to the Corona Arch
(2+ miles of all uphill in full sun with a ladder in the middle, but an awesome arch at the end!), checked out Indian petroglyphs and pictographs, caught a mouse, celebrated Logan's 5th birthday (with some extra specialness from the Jacobs to him), took in a rodeo, went to Arches National Park
, Dead Horse Point State Park
, and Canyonlands National Park
, dinner and drinks out, midnight tacos
, fancy anniversary dinner out,
ruins, and lakes, and waterfalls, and whew... I'm sure there's more!
|Hiking to Corona Arch|
|Here's what I love about Dawn. See that girl in green on the right, she was someone who Dawn chatted up while we were hiking to the Corona Arch. Maddie was on a cross-country trip and camping along the way. In the course of the discussion, Dawn invited Maddie to dinner and to get a shower. Super friendly.|
|For Logan's 5th birthday, the Jacobs took him to enjoy 5 fun things (3 parks, rock shop, and McDonald's if I recall correctly).|
|There was nowhere in Moab that we could get a cake decorated (seriously- people were away with family emergencies and vacations). Mandie got a blank sheet cake and decorated this!|
|Dead Horse Point State Park.|
|Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park.|
|One of a couple of swims at Ken's Lake.|
|After a night of dinner and drinking- these 1am tacos were glorious.|
|Anniversary dinner with this beauty.|
|We checked out Indian rock art but then went in search of an arch (found it too!).|
|Picture perfect beauties in the ruins of this building.|
|Faux Falls was another welcome respite from the heat.|
|Art installation in SLC.|
|It's hard to see- we're the dots to the left, but we swam and Paige floated!|
|Mommy and me day back at Olympic Park with Paige.|
I'm beginning to think I'll never finish this year in review. But I'm on the second half now.. that has to count for something! July found us heading up into Idaho
because Mandie read something about Craters of the Moon National Monument
. I found an RV park in the small town of Picabo
. This town was so small, the gas station was the campground office, town store, post office, restaurant, and fly shop. We spent our visit here with the Simpsons and Jacobs for the quietest July 4th that you can possibly imagine. To beat the heat, Mandie and I took a small pool with us and set it up on our site for the kids.
Chris, a couple of the girls, and I went for a couple of exploring drives. First in his van and second in my truck since it has 4x4. We found some really beautiful country up there.
When our time was up in Seattle, we headed south. We stopped at Chehalis, WA for a couple of days
. There we caught up with the Jacobs (who left a day before us) and then had a nice evening gathering with the Travaglino and James families. While there, we went to Mount St. Helens
. This mountain fascinated me as a kid as it went from being dormant to blowing it's top (well, side) off.
Ok, onward with pictures!
|Seems only right- we set it up, we should enjoy it first!|
|July 4th cookout|
|Exploring the nearby river|
|Exploring the mountain roads|
|Craters of the Moon National Park - basically everything you see here except the paved path is lava.|
|Lava cave. There was a larger/longer one but this was still cool. We just ran out of daylight.|
|Awning troubleshooting. Jason helped me fix this properly in Seattle (and helped me raise my pinbox on the camper so I tow more level-ly).|
|Folks were using the campground building for an antler auction. Logan helped setup for it.|
|I love that Mandie drives. This is looking back on Deadman Pass- which she drove, without breaking a sweat!|
|Well, that's one place to hang out.|
|Jim Henson Exhibit at the MoPop.|
|We went up the Space Needle. Not all selfies go well for us. :-)|
|The kids built tepees in the woods behind the sites. This is a long tradition for Fulltime Families staying here.|
|Impromptu gathering of Fulltime Families.|
|That's Mount St. Helen in the background!|
As I write this, I was just telling Mandie that it's no wonder we are tired all of the time! In August, we made our way to Bend, OR first
. We ended up getting a pair of sites and pulling through them with my camper and driving the Jacobs into their headfirst. It gave us a great shared common area. It only works since we were both leaving at the same time, otherwise the Jacobs would have been stranded in there! At Bend, Fulltime Families came in full force as there was a Solar Eclipse Hangout.
We didn't stick around for the hangout, as I made reservations back in February at Coyote Rock Marina and RV Park
in Lincoln City
. This is a cute little river side campground with a lot of small sites but we lucked into a super nice spot. While we explored a little, the prime attraction was the Great American Solar Eclipse
(photos at the beginning of this behemoth year in review).
The other big excitement for August is that we sold our house! Many thanks to Deb McPherson of Exit Realty
who went above and beyond with helping us arrange contractors and handled the negotiations with the buyers.
|We all explored Lava Butte at Lava Lands together.|
|The Mommas floating in the Double Momma Tube.|
|Impromptu Gathering of Fulltime Families|
|Impromptu Gathering of Fulltime Families|
|We went for a drive and found a sunset.|
|I went exploring an island one day.|
|Whale watching. We saw some but didn't get any photos.|
|The Eclipse is happening! A neat trick we learned is you could see hundreds of eclipses by using a colander and letting the sun shine through it.|
|So very cool. Taken though our eclipse glasses.|
|We were enthralled. You can see the paper plate shield we made for Logan to keep him from peeking around the glasses.|
|Redwood National and State Parks held the Redwoods that had been on Paige's bucket list.|
|It's hard to describe just how huge these trees were.|
|Their centers could be burnt out and the tree still lives.|
|The Founders Tree, named for the people who helped establish protection of the trees from logging companies.|
We went into September having no idea what lie ahead- major frame damage. We went for an overnight stop at Thousand Trails Russian River
in Cloverdale, CA
. This was where we found our first indication that we had problems.
Foolishly (but serendipitously), we left the campground and within 30 miles had gotten a flat in a tire from it rubbing on a portion of the under side of the camper. We got off of the road and into a cul-de-sac of sorts where we spent 6 hours while I tried to disassemble a portion of the camper to keep going. Failing that, I tried to tie it back with a ratchet strap. Unfortunately, within a mile down the road, we had another flat and ended up having to pull over again. I described the remainder up above, but longest story shortest- we were told the camper is shot and it'll be $8-10,000 to fix it to then having another Fulltime Family come to our rescue. The husband had the knowledge, tools, and shop to get us in and fixed up in 4-5 days. We're proud to call the Moore family
our friends now.
After San Francisco, we made a 2-part drive to get to Anaheim. First we stopped in Castaic, CA
for an overnight. Then we got down to Anaheim
where we first stayed at a Disney Hotel using our Disney Vacation Club membership and then moved over to the Anaheim RV Park where Grandma and Grandpa came to visit.
Leaving Anaheim, we started eastward on a trek towards Albuquerque. Our first stop for a couple of days was in Kingman, AZ
. In Kingman, we finally broke down and took Paige to the doctor to get checked-out. She had been having daily headaches and given her history - this was a nerve-wracking visit. Fortunately it sounds like she was just having bad allergies with the new area. But man, what memories came back with that.
We then headed to Holbrook, AZ
where Grandma Lisa got to see a true Setzer travel day where I saw a sign and begged Mandie to let us stop until she gave in and did. The sign was for Meteor Crater
. I had seen posts and maybe a thing on Roadside America about it and knew I wanted to stop; I'd just forgotten that we would be driving past. At first, Lisa couldn't understand why we were stopping for "some hole in the ground". After we stopped, even she said it was pretty dang cool!
|Playing in the Russian River at the Thousand Trails park.|
|Logan making the best of our 6-hour roadside stop.|
|Our HERO - Josh straightening part of the camper to get travel-able.|
|Our Labor Day Celebration... picnic lunch next to a port-o-pot with our new friends. Forever friends.|
|Chinatown in San Francisco.|
|The Alcatraz Tour was really neat.|
|We looked at Lombard Street, but didn't try taking the dually down it. (I will next time!)|
|Traveling on our way to Castaic.|
|The bellhops said getting luggage straight from a RV was unusual.|
|We celebrated Halloween while there- here we are as the movie Inside Out.|
|Grandma and Grandpa came to visit!|
|Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.|
|Our spot in Kingman, AZ was actually really nice.|
|Meteor Crater did not disappoint. It's an amazing impact site.|
|Getting a better view.|
The hard drive from Anaheim was to get to Albuquerque
for the Balloon Fiesta. We first stopped at a local park for a few days with full hookups before our 2 weeks of boondocking were to begin. We lucked into seeing one of Mom's great friends, Cindy. Cindy and her husband Stet decided to sell it all so they can winter in Arizona and be lake bums in the summer. We had a great evening together.
The Balloon Fiesta was an amazing event watching the hot air balloons. I won't include many pictures below as I picked some of my favorites up above. We were sad to see Grandma go home at the Fiesta, but knew that we'd be seeing her soon enough (we were headed back to PA at the end of the month and into November)!
After the fiesta, we had to beat feet to make it to Austin, TX for a buddy's wedding. It was a 2-stop trip with us first spending a few days in Slaton, TX
just for a spot to stay. The second was a beautiful overnight at a winery in Lometa, TX through the Harvest Hosts program
Finding a spot in Austin was tricky. Almost everywhere I called was sold out. But we ended up finding a beautiful spot at La Hacienda
. It was a little more than I like to spend, but it worked.
The wedding was cold, but beautiful! It was a freak cool pattern in Austin but with the dancing and campfire, everyone had a good time. The one thing that amazes me about life is the opportunity to meet new people. We went to Texas for my friend (named) Austin but left that evening becoming good friends with his parents- Mike and Shellie treated my kids like gold.
|A visit with Cindy and Stet!|
|Paige "crewed" almost every day she was there. She was such a hard worker, the pilot and his wife repeatedly told me how much of an asset she was to have.|
|Watching the balloons from atop the rig. You can see how many rigs there were at the RV parking!|
|This was literally the most excitement we had in Slaton- a cat walked over the truck. After the 2 weeks of a flurry of excitement at the Fiesta, this was a perfect way to slow down.|
|More relaxation at the winery- a couple glasses of wine and nothing to do.|
|The kids laid and read by the vineyards for a while.|
|Our whole reason for being in Austin- being there to celebrate Austin and Grisella. Beautiful couple, beautiful love. Here's to you, guys.|
|Paige dancing with Mr. Mike.|
From one wedding in Texas to another in Pennsylvania
. This time we got to celebrate my sister getting it right- she and Jerome got married on 11/11/2017. I couldn't have picked a better guy for her. And for him... well, good dang luck! While back in PA, we had our second Halloween of the year with our Shark and Rosie the Riveter (the "We can do it!" girl). While in Pennsylvania, Mandie abandoned us all and flew down to Atlanta for a couple of days for a Silhouette Conference
And, we saw our 3rd of 4 snows in Hershey. Not funny for a family who attempts to avoid the white stuff!
Pennsylvania was super busy with a special calendar and literally a visit or two each day. But we loved it. It's so wonderful to see everyone- even if we do surprise them when we got there (I'm looking at you Dad and Grandma Janet!).
Many thanks to the James gang for fish sitting Darth!
|Rosie the Riveter and a scary SHARK!|
|For a change, I took pictures at Dad's house. Here's some serious card game going on.|
|Momma got a year more beautiful and turned 30-$#@$#-something.|
|I'm beyond happy for these two. Note: this was immediately before I coordinated 5 Mardi Gras confetti poppers to be set off. Confetti was E'RYWHERE.|
|Childhood friends are getting all grown up.|
|Grandma and Grandpa with all of their kids... and a blur.|
|Time to fly home. Interesting to think that "going home" isn't to a location for us, but to our house on wheels.|
|The James, us, and the Moores.|
|Darren is awesome. You better recognize.|
|Fulfilling a tradition, we went swimming the first day we were there. The water was chilly but not unbearable.|
|A fun day bowling!|
|On another beach day, I managed to dislocate my knee cap and sprain the ligaments that hold it into place. Lots of pain and doctor visits to come.|
|We toured a decommissioned oil rig. The technology they use was pretty awesome to learn about.|
|After the Moores left, we needed replacements. (j/k!) We hung out with the Mills family checking out Christmas lights.|
I think I'm on hour 6 or 7 putting this together. I only assume it's taken you about that long to read it. And lord help you if you clicked any links to the full photo albums. You could be there forever! (While back in York, I actually setup a Flickr app on each of the grandparents TVs so they can see a slide show of photos whenever they want. We let it run quite a lot at Alan and Lisa's and there are literally thousands of pictures to go through.)
December found us traveling a bit. We headed to Lafayette, LA
first for a week where I wanted to catch up with a coworker and hang out a bit. This is where we got our 4th damned snow of the year. It also got COLD and the forecast for Christmas in New Orleans looked less than fun- rainy and highs barely in the 60s.
Due to the forecast, we called an audible and cancelled about a month and a half of reservations in order to head to southwest Florida. To get there, we still needed a couple of days in New Orleans
because we had a crap-ton of packages shipped there. While in New Orleans, we made a trip into the French Quarter to get beignets at Cafe Du Monde
(which literally translates to: Mount of Sugar) and checked out the area. The highlight of the night was paying $1 to get the kids flipped off by Santa.
Our sights were set on Nokomis, FL but we needed to stop for an overnight at a Walmart in Bushnell, FL
. Through my lack of navigation and planning ahead, I had Mandie drive over a curb. Longest story shortest, it ended up tearing a mount for a shock and busted one of our leaf springs. Good Sams Roadside Assist pulled through with a mobile mechanic on a Sunday and the local True Value store surprised us with having leaf spring packs that we could make do with.
Due to the issues, we didn't get to the Royal Coachman RV Park
in Nokomis until 10pm - it was only an 120 mile/2 hour drive! Royal Coachman turned out to be a gem
and we had an absolutely wonderful stay. Plus, with the Thousand Trails' Trails Collection, it was only $20/night. Alan and Lisa joined us for 10 days and celebrated Christmas with us.
We wrapped the year up heading deeper into Florida to Pompano Beach, FL
where we landed into an absolute dud of a campsite. It was a parking spot no wider than the camper's body without slides. This is the tightest we've experienced- and after San Francisco, that says something!
|Logan does love fishing.|
|Logan eating |sugar beignets.
|The adults were no better!|
|Quick goodnight selfie!|
|Getting the leaf springs replaced while sitting in a Walmart parking lot.|
|Paige turned 14. Such a beautiful and special young woman.|
|Swimming in December? Yes, please.|
|We went with our friends- former fulltime RVing family and now fulltime boating family.|
|Our New Year's Eve parking situation- tight and tighter.|
|Yes, our slides actually overlap.|
|Happy New Year!|
|So many fireworks in the neighborhood- some pretty big, too!|
Looking Forward to 2018
We are still in south eastern Florida. As I write this, it seems like the whole country is in a deep freeze. We aren't immune, but our "freeze" was a high of 58 today. I'll take it!
As I mentioned above, Mandie is scheduled for surgery to remove vocal chord polyps again on January 26th. This is the 4th time she's had them removed and our 3rd (I think) surgery with this specific doctor. That will have us in the Orlando area from mid-January until mid-March. Since we'll be there so much, we went ahead and got Disney annual passes again.
After mid-March, we don't have plans. We were supposed to go back to Fort Myers to catch up with friends but it looks like they're stuck in Indiana and likely won't make it back down.
We do plan on being in Pennsylvania by late May to be there for Aunt Danyiel's daughter graduating from high school. I can't believe she's that old, but I guess time does that. (smile) And while there, we're going to have all of our stuff delivered to us in order to sell it off- look for announcement of a HUGE yard sale!
And then, we really don't know... maybe north east and explore a bit. Or maybe a little west. We don't know!
We'll likely winter in Florida again- we are kind of sissies for cold weather.
Anyway, I hope 2018 finds you healthy, wealthy, and well.
|Happy New Year from the Setzers!|