Yeah! I’m on the road again! Currently in VA, just a couple days short of landing in MD where I’ll spend the next four months. It’s been wonderful being mobile again, and thus far (knock on wood) the mechanics of the trip have been uneventful. Since leaving my home base in FL in mid Apr, I’ve spent 3 days in GA, a week in SC, 4 days in NC, and now 4 days in VA. On Sat, I’ll complete my final 250 or so mile trip to my MD destination. I’m so looking forward to seeing family and friends. I’m looking forward to a terrific summer.
Friends & Family
Before I left my home base of FL, I got to spend time with my brothers. My oldest brother Dick, sister-in-law Kathi, and her mom Rahrie came out to visit me at the RV. We had a nice time chatting and getting the grand tour of the home base, then went into town for a terrific lunch. Then, we took a bit of a driving tour of downtown Lake Wales, and also a really cool lakeside community just down the road from my place (more on that later).
Then on Easter weekend, we all gathered at my brother Don’s place. Brothers Dick, Don, Gerry and Dave were present, along with in-laws Debbie and Kathi, and Kathi’s mom Rahrie. We even got to meet Dave & Deb’s new sheltie named Brodie. He’s really a great looking dog. It had been nine years earlier that all the brothers had been together at the same place. In fact, we recreated the picture we had taken 9 years prior, though this time without our brother Paul who sadly passed away back in 2019. It was great all being together once again. Master Chef Don whipped up a fabulous Easter dinner, and we all had a wonderful time seeing each other and catching up. Thanks Don for hosting!
As I travelled north towards Myrtle Beach, I stayed in a fantastic RV resort (aka EXPENSIVE) with tons of amenities. My nephew and his family live an hour or so north, just over the boarder in NC, and his dad, my brother in law Ricky and his wife Mary, live just 30 minutes from me. So, I invited them all over for a day of fun and sun. It was great seeing them all again, and the kids really enjoyed the pool, put-put golf, jumping pillow, and other campground fun. I made up a batch of my world famous lasagna, and we all enjoyed a terrific dinner together. After that, I lit up a campfire so we could sit around, socialize, and make up some S’Mores. It was a wonderful day and I really enjoyed spending time with them at the RV resort. Sorry about the picture Kenny – I didn’t realize you had turned your head before I snapped the pic until after you had left. I’ll do better next time! 🙂
This particular campground, Carolina Pines RV Resort, is in Conway, SC, and just opened up a year or so ago. I remembered seeing all the coming soon pictures on FB, and reading all about the resort class place it would become. So, I had to book there for the week. Sure enough, it was as nice as the literature made it out to be. Complete with a water park (which sadly was not open on the day the kids were there), a pool, beautiful golf course, fine dining restaurant, complete grocery and camping supply store, and the like. They even had these tent-like pool-side cabanas available for rent that had two nice lounging chairs, a mini fridge, and a TV. Now that’s luxury! I had an up front deluxe RV site right across from the put-put course. It really was a nice place to visit, but not the kind of place that I would normally stay at when I’m by myself. But, I figured I could share the place with some local friends and family, and that way we could all enjoy it. That in fact turned out exactly as I had hoped.
Some Sad News
Unfortunately, not all the news from my stay in SC is cheery. When I planned my north-bound trip itinerary, I made it a point to spend a full week in SC. Besides the family to visit as noted above, I was also planning on spending some time with my friend Joanne. You may recall from my Oct post last year that she had come down to FL to visit with me for a week, and we had a wonderful time doing all sorts of touristy things. I was looking forward to doing the same with my stay in her hometown area. Sadly, she started to get sick back in Jan, only to ultimately discover that cancer had again invaded her body. Having successfully battled cancer two times prior, we were all hopeful her warrior spirit and positive attitude would once again allow her to beat it for the third time. Sadly, this cancer was quick and aggressive. I was able to see and spend some time with her in hospice while I was there, but sadly she passed away just a few days later. She is a dear friend and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to see her before her passing, and will greatly miss her. I’m also glad that I got to see her family and give hugs of support to them. May she rest in peace.
I’m thrilled that I can once again resume my quest to see all things weird and eclectic across the country by resuming my Roadside America visits. First up is actually a Roadside not far from my place in FL, and one that I was having a hard time finding. I first visited this area back in Oct of last year, but did not find the actual shrine. The tips that accompanied this particular entry in Roadside suggested that it was back in the woods. On my first visit, I had my big boy truck, and there was no place anywhere in the area to park it. I figured I’d be back some other time with my scooter so I could look further. I did go back, but again no luck. When my brother Dick was here visiting, I took him to this area to show him the really cool lakeside community. While driving through it, I was telling him about the shrine that I’m still looking for, and he basically says – “oh, you mean that one right there”? Now this is the same brother that is a very advanced geocache finding machine, so apparently those finding skills also apply to Roadside America items. Anyway, I went back there s short time later on the scoot and snapped some pictures of the place. It really is cool. The grotto-like shrine was built around 1920 by a Canadian (believed to be Napoleon Pelletier) who came to Florida with his terminally ill son. After swimming in the lake, he miraculously recovered. As a result, he built the shrine to St. Anne, a popular Canadian saint associated with water. In the years that followed, thousands would make pilgrimage to the shrine. It was a very interesting place to visit – now that its been found that is. Thanks Dick!
Next were a couple of Roadsides in GA. First up is the original Brunswick Stew Pot. Located along the waterfront at Mary Ross Park, this pot from 1898 is supposed to have held its historic stew on July 2nd of that year. Brunswick stew is a tomato-based stew generally involving local beans, vegetables, and originally small game meat such as squirrel or rabbit, though today often chicken. The exact origin of the stew is actually disputed. The states of Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia all claim its birth, with Brunswick County in Virginia and the city of Brunswick in Georgia both claiming it was developed there. I don’t know if there’s a pot in VA, but certainly the pot in GA look to be the real deal. In fact, so proud is Brunswick of its stew birthplace that this second monument was created by an Eagle Scout project and placed at the I-95 southbound rest area just north of town. Also in Brunswick GA is the Lovers Oak Tree. A huge oak tree in the center of Albany St is said to be 900 years old and was a former rendezvous for Indian lovers. Old tree legends are not always true, and the story of this tree may have been invented just to give it a catchy name. But, it was a huge and beautiful tree none the less.
Also in GA in the town of Townsend, you will find what claims to be the smallest church in America. Built in 1950 and sporting a whopping 10 ft x 15 ft exterior and seating a congregation of 12, it may very well be the smallest in the country. Grocer Agnes Harper built the church, and wrote its deed in the name of Jesus Christ, and is open to all denominations. In 1998, a small bell tower, in proportion to the size of the church, was added by Wayne and Toni Moeller in dedication of their union. Really a very cute place to visit, and I certainly have not seen anything smaller.
Last up are a few finds in NC and VA. First up was a Snow Ball stand in Smithfield NC whose building is that of a cup and snow ball. The place was pretty busy too, so I’m guessing they make pretty good snow balls. Next in Petersburg VA is a house built out of tombstones. The story goes that in 1934, Oswald Young paid $45 for more than 2,200 old tombstones and used them to build a humble two-story dream house. The stones are reportedly from 2,200 Union soldiers killed in the siege of Petersburg. There are two slightly differing versions of how the house came to be. One is that Poplar Grove Cemetery ripped out the tombstones, replaced them with something easier to maintain, and sold the tombstones to Young for the construction of his house. Further, the inscriptions on the stones face inward and were plastered over. The other, more likely story is that the cemetery, looking to save on maintenance costs, uprooted the tombstones, cut off their lower halves, and then laid the tombstones flat in the ground. The two-foot base, free of any inscriptions, were then sold to Young. I have no idea which, if any, of these versions is true. But, they certainly do tell an interesting story. Last up we go to Colonial Heights VA to find where a local man made it his life’s work to rebuild Noah’s Ark out of metal to ride out the coming flood. It has reportedly been there since at least 1974, and has gone through a couple iterations – increasing in size each time. It sits in the side yard in a residential neighborhood on a dead end street. I would guess that the neighborhood has had 50+ years too much of this thing sitting around.
Public Service Announcement (PSA)
I’ve recently made an amazing discovery! Though the reach of this BLOG is rather small, I wanted to at least put this out there in case it can help just one other person. I received an email from my insurance company (Florida Blue) advising me that I might be able to save some money on my healthcare premiums. Since I’m retired and under age 65, my only healthcare option is the ACA (aka ObamaCare). My healthcare costs are the single most expensive item in my annual budget – just north of $16k annually. So, if there’s an opportunity for saving some money there, you’ve got my attention. Well, it turns out that the latest round of stimulus, the $1.9B American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (that same stimulus where many folks recently received $1,400 checks), also included, among many other things, some funding to expand the subsidy eligibility for ACA healthcare plans. So after spending an afternoon doing research, going to the Healthcare.gov website and submitting my application, speaking with numerous customer support and sales agents with Florida Blue, I discovered I qualified for a subsidy, and that I could re-enroll in the ACA and select a slightly different but mostly compatible new plan, and ultimately save upwards of $7k annually. Now, while I don’t live the life of luxury, I do have a comfortable retirement income which in the past was no where near qualified for any ACA subsidy. However, under this new plan, I qualified for $517 a month in subsidy savings. So, after dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s, I pulled the trigger and changed my health plan effective May 1st. So, my premium went down by almost $600 per month almost immediately. So, if you or anyone you know has an ACA plan that historically did not qualify for a subsidy, please check this out again. You too may be in a position to save a few $s. So, thank you US Gov’t for helping me reduce my greatest expense. Much appreciated!
Well, the resumption of my nomadic lifestyle will be somewhat short lived. Once I land in MD in the next couple of days, I’ll be stationary there for the next four months. But, with so much family and friends in the area, I’ll no doubt have the time of my life, and before you know it, the time to travel back to FL will be upon me. In the meantime, I get to enjoy the company of much family and I get to spoil the grandkids a bit. I’ll actually be making a mid-Jun mini trip up to NH, RI and VT to visit with friends, to attend my nephews wedding, and to participate in honoring my brother Paul’s final wishes with his ashes. So, that will be time well spent with friends and family too.
As I wrap up this blog, I’m still wrapping my head around the unexpected loss of my dear friend Joanne. We spent a week together just six months ago, where she was perfectly fine. Now, here we are six months later and she is no longer with us. This definitely serves as a reminder to me, and I hope to all of you, that our time here is short, and our end date is unknown. With that, we need to live each day with vigor, and enjoy the company of friends and family as often as possible. I do believe I represent that spirit in my nomadic lifestyle, and I’m thankful each day that I can continue to live and travel as I do. I look forward to continuing to see friends and family, including those I’ve not reached yet when I hopefully resume my travels out west in the spring of 2022. Till then, be well and safe travels.