Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Retirement Means Time for Walks in the Parks with Jon & Bella--That's Healthy Living!

Bella Enjoyed Boondocking in Destin
Destin, Florida
     The beach resort town of Destin was our first stop in Florida. We decided we wanted to boondock (dry camp for free) in this town so we could walk to dinner at one of the restaurants overlooking the white sand beaches and emerald green water. The parking lot of the Destin Fishing Museum and Old Destin Post Office was our free, peaceful campsite that night. 
Old Destin Post Office Museum
     We parked, dropped our leveling jacks, opened our bedroom slide, and set out our lawn chairs--life doesn't get much simpler than that! We took a walk around the grounds to visit the Old Destin Post Office, and then sat down in our chairs to read and let Bella enjoy laying in the soft green lawn for a while before dinner. 
Boondocking at the Destin Fishing Museum
     Jon and I had a nice quarter-mile long walk to the Harborwalk area in Destin where we decided we had saved enough money by boondocking that we could go out to dinner at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville®.  Destin was a much more touristy vacation town than we realized until we arrived. The area was very pretty and looked like a fun family area with pirate ship rides, fishing, shopping, and other amusement activities for the kids. We enjoyed the food, margaritas, and view of the bay, sailboats, and fishing boats while dining at Margaritaville®. The people-watching was entertaining, but the frenzy of tourist activity left us feeling we were ready for some peaceful Florida State Park time.
Beautiful Tree Carving at Destin Margaritaville Entry
Florida State Parks
    The Florida State Parks along the coastal areas that we visited were beautiful, interesting, relatively inexpensive, had water and electric hookup, and, surprisingly, had laundry facilities in good condition! They provide a multitude of opportunities for walking and bicycling, contributing to our goal of living a healthier lifestyle. Many of the state parks had white sand beaches, swimming areas, rolling sand dunes that are strictly protected, nearby restaurants, and nature walks through wooded areas and saw palmettos groves that we could enjoy with Bella.
St. George Island State Park 
St. George Island Walkway to the Beach
St. George Island White Sand Beach
     We arrived at St. George Island State Park the end of May without a reservation since we like to be flexible about where we decide to land our motorhome for the night. It is highly recommended to have a reservation at the state parks during the summer vacation months, but we were always lucky enough to pull in at between 5:00 and 6:00 in the evening and get the last RV site available. Most likely we were given a site that someone had reserved and then cancelled at the last minute. The park rangers were very friendly and helpful in each State Park we camped in. Our biggest complaint was that dogs were not allowed on the beaches within the State Parks so we had to take Bella to a beach outside of the parks for our walks.
Manatee Springs State Park 
Manatee Springs State Park Swimming Area

Manatee Springs Feeds the Suwannee River
     I have to admit that even after camping in four Florida State Parks, I never did get comfortable with watching for snakes and alligators on our walks. Manatee Springs State Park was one of the most beautiful, but the signs warning to watch for alligators and the two snakes we saw on our walk there were enough to keep us out of the swimming area. We enjoyed the long stroll on the boardwalk through the swamps to see where the Manatee Springs water joined the historic Suwannee River, hoping to see one of the endangered Manatees that live in the river, though we never did.
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park, Flagler Beach
Campsites Overlook the Atlantic Ocean
Good Kite-Flying Weather at Flagler Beach
     Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park in Flagler Beach is a very popular, small campground so we were fortunate to get a site. We would have liked to stay longer, but one site was available for two nights due to a cancellation, so we happily accepted it. Every campsite has a view of the ocean. The beach stretches for miles, though we had to walk a ways down the public sidewalk to reach the public beach where we could take Bella. She satisfied her hunter's need by sniffing and digging in a few sand-crab holes in the sand. The weather was hot and breezy in late May, a perfect day for kite-flying in the state park. I especially enjoyed the galloping white horse kite that flew above the RVs. 

Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine
Bella Kept a Close Eye Out for Any Critter That Moved
     Not all of the wildlife was scary in the Florida State Parks. We enjoyed the many turtles munching grass along one path we walked in Anastasia State Park. Bella, our dachshund,
 is a natural born hunter and thought the turtles were something that should be chased when they ran. She never understood why we wouldn't let her. The brilliant red cardinals and curious tree squirrels kept her entertained while she was tethered in our campsite. 
    Most campsites in the state parks had natural sight-screens from neighboring sites with large shade trees, tall saw palmetto plants, and other vines and brush (full of spiders and their webs). Each site had electricity and water hookups, but no sewer. We had to drive to the dump site to dump our sewer after three or four days, so that's when it was time to move on to the next State Park. Maybe by not providing sewer hookups in the campsites it keeps people from staying too many days in a stretch and gives more folks a chance to stay in the State Parks. We were just glad they provided electricity so we could run our air conditioning. By the end of May, it was too hot for us to boondock in Florida--we would have had to run our generator all night to keep our motorhome temperature down to 75 degrees.
Walk from Anastatia State Park to the St. Johns Pier Park

Music By the Sea & Volleyball at the Pier Park
     We stayed for a week at the Anastasia State Park because it was in the city of St. Augustine and there was plenty to do and see. It was a pleasant walk along the beach to a good selection of restaurants around the pier. We caught some of the "Music by the Sea", a free concert series at the St. Johns County Pier Park where there was good rock 'n' roll and lots of dancing. Dinner at the restaurant, Salt Life, across the street provided good food, more live music, and a view of the beach volleyball games at the Pier Park. 

Free Beach Bus to Historic St. Augustine
      One day we walked about a mile from the Anastasia State Park to the trolley stop at the Alligator Farm to catch the free shuttle to the Old Town Trolley for a tour of the historic district of St. Augustine. The tour was well worth the price as we got an informative overview of the history of St. Augustine in a short amount of time. We learned about the many extravagant hotels that Henry Flagler built in the late 1800's to bring tourism to Florida. Then we walked around the downtown, saw a reenactment of a colonial day battle, and had a nice dinner at Meehan's Irish Pub overlooking the Matanzas River.
Hotel Cordova, a Henry Flagler Hotel from 1888

Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in the U.S.A.
Reenactment of a Colonial Battle

Drawbridge on the Matanzas River & Horse-Drawn Carriages
     Of the four Florida State Parks that we visited, Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine was our favorite. In addition to all of the places we were able to walk, there was a lake ideal for swimming, wind-surfing, and kayaking. The campground was far enough from the beach and town that it was an ideal area for bicycling. We rode our bikes a few miles from the state park into town one day for haircuts and color at a very professional salon called "London Looks Hair Design". Anastasia State Park and St. Augustine had all the services we needed and the area was great for our healthy RV lifestyle! Any town where we can walk, ride our bike, or ride a bus anywhere we want to go is our kind of town!
Anastasia State Park Windsurfing & Kayaking Area

Our Florida Beach Route
     After Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, we were on our way to Jacksonville where we had tickets to the "Florida Country Superfest"! We had purchased our tickets months ago and were anticipating a great show. More on that later...
     See more of our adventures in the United States and Mexico at .

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

BREAUX BRIDGE & NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: Escape the Stresses, Enjoy a Simpler RVing Life

Louisiana: Continuing Along the Gulf of Mexico

Relaxing at the Breaux Bridge City Park

More Time to Relax While RVing Relieves Stress

       When we were still working, it didn’t feel like we had enough time to relax. A lifestyle of work, work, and more work to stay ahead of the bills did not allow enough time to relax, definitely contributing to stress. Retirement allows us all the time we want to relax. Full-time RVing gives us to the ability to relax wherever we want. RVing allows us to escape the stresses of our old life. We find that spending time in small towns and city, state, or national parks are good places for us to unwind and leave the stress behind.
Entering Town -- Sign on the Breaux Bridge

Relaxing in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

     Breaux Bridge, Louisiana is a small town of about 8000 people with a long history dating back to the late 1700's. We discovered the town when we were searching for a place to spend the night in our motorhome for free and found that the pretty Breaux Bridge City Park allows free overnight bus and RV parking (boondocking). We had a view from the park of the majestic St. Bernard Catholic Church and the old Breaux Bridge, the focal points in this quaint town. The city park turned out to be a peaceful place to sit by the river in the evening. When we arrived, we set our chairs next to the river that runs through the park and had a glass of wine while we watched the water flow lazily by. That’s relaxing!
Peaceful Boondocking in the City Park 

Money Saving by Boondocking in an RV

     Boondocking, also called dry camping, is free overnight parking. Finding a good place to boondock saves us an average of about $35 U.S. dollars per night, depending on the area. The nightly rates in parks we stay in range from $17 to $100 USD, even using our Passport America or Good Sam discounts. So when we are able to boondock, we save enough money that we celebrate by going out to a restaurant for dinner. The added advantage of boondocking in a town is that there are usually restaurants within walking distance. We get a little exercise while we explore the area, walking to and from dinner.
     Boondocking in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana was a good example of dry camping where there were restaurants nearby, with plenty of choices within a mile radius of the park, so we set out to choose one. As we walked to dinner that evening we could see that the downtown was small, but there seemed to be plenty of action. We had a tasty pizza and listened to live country music at Buck and Johnny's Pizzeria, the popular evening spot in town.  It was a short, pleasant evening stroll back to our free camping site at the city park. We noticed that the police cruised through a few times and some teenagers were parking nearby, but no one bothered us and the young people were polite and quiet. Free lodging and I didn’t have to cook or wash dishes that night—that simplifies life!
St. Bernard Catholic Church  Next to the City Park
Breaux Bridge Has Plenty of Cute Restaurants
And Events at Quaint Old Buildings

Beat Daily Monotony With Full-time RVing

     Before retirement, many mornings I opened my eyes and thought, "I don't know if I can get out of bed and face another day of the monotony of filling prescriptions. I wondered if I could bear the stress of listening to people's problems at the pharmacy counselling window even one more hour. Now that we live in our motorhome full-time, my biggest task that is pure drudgery is cleaning our 21" X 39" shower every week or two. But we can get up in the morning and say "let's skip the housework and go see New Orleans!"

Historic Buildings & People Watching in New Orleans

     Three days in New Orleans was a "vacation" for us. We splurged by staying at the French Quarter RV Park right in town so we could walk to everything in the area. We went out to dinner every night to experience the traditional New Orleans foods, Jambalaya, fried okra and fried pickles, and Crawfish Etouffee. We walked for miles admiring the old French and Spanish colonial buildings, watching people ride by in horse-drawn carriages, musicians playing on the sidewalks and in pubs, and, of course, watching people party on Bourbon Street.
Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides through the French Quarter
Love the Old Street Signs on Buildings
Good People Watching on Bourbon Street
Pretty Balconies, Wrought-Iron Railings & Plants

St. Louis Cathedral, Opened in 1794, Oldest in North America
Parades Continue even in the Rain in New Orleans
     We enjoyed several evening meals in historic restaurants in the French Quarter and the Frenchman Street area. The Praline Connection was our first fun exposure to cajun and creole food and, of course, pralines. Located on Frenchman Street, it is a good ways from the French Quater and worth the walk. Our favorite cajun restaurant in the French Quarter was the Original Pierre Maspero's, housed in one of the oldest buildings in New Orleans. In 1788, when it was built, it is said to have been the old slave exchange. Inside it felt somewhat like being in an old British pub to me, lit with gas lamps, dark and cozy. The tourists and locals were elbow to elbow, the waiters bustling around to serve drinks and regional comfort food, and everyone was content and happy to be out of the rain. Being a tourist for a few days now and then is one of the things that makes retirement fun!
Bar Area of the Original Pierre Maspero's Restaurant
     Below is the map of our route through Louisiana beginning in Galveston, Texas (see blog article by clicking: "Touring the Texas Gulf Coast" . Now, onto Florida, and then the Florida Country Superfest with Keith Urban and the Zac Brown Band in Jacksonville--that should be some real southern fun!
Our Route from Galveston, TX to Breaux Bridge & New Orleans, Louisiana


Sunday, June 7, 2015


Retirement Means We have Time to See Our Own Country!

Port Isabel, Texas Lighthouse
Port Isabel, Texas
     Port Isabel, Texas was the first place we stopped after crossing the Pharr, Texas bridge at the Mexican border in mid-May. While the rest of Texas was flooded with torrential downpours, we enjoyed a week of beautiful weather, though it was a bit hot and sticky. Port Isabel appears to be a town of retirees and fishermen as well as a place that is trying to be a tourist attraction. 
Port Isabel Boardwalk
    Port Isabel has its benefits as a retirement and winter snowbird community. The weather from November through April is pleasant with daytime temperatures in the 70's and only one to two inches of precipitation per month. It is definitely an inexpensive place to live with many mobile home and RV developments priced very reasonably. We stayed for a week at the Sandpiper RV Park; it was nothing special but it was across the street from Wal-Mart and it was time to stock up on supplies. Since we don't own a car, shopping convenience is important to us.
First Stop After Leaving Mexico: Sandpiper RV Park
     The Sandpiper RV Park was also walking distance to great seafood restaurants, banks, and the bus stop for the "Wave", the free shuttle bus to South Padre Island. RV Park living doesn't get much cheaper than the Sandpiper--the rate was $120 for the week and it included all utilities! We chatted with one couple who had first visited in their pickup and camper 26 years ago and never left. They were proud to tell us that they now live in a large mobile home on the property for $180 per month plus electricity--they said they couldn't afford to live anywhere else, and had saved $100,000 by selling their home and renting there all those years!
Boarding the "Wave" to South Padre Island

South Padre Island, Texas

     South Padre Island was just a 15 minute shuttle bus ride away from Port Isabel. Since the Wave was free, we rode the entire route several times that week to get a good view of the area. When we saw an attractive beach bar and grill overlooking the water, we hopped off the Wave to have lunch and a margarita. The Palm Street Pier was one of our favorites with an atmosphere that left us imagining Jimmy Buffet might wander in for a cold one any minute.
Palm Street Pier-- A Hangout for Sailors, Fisherman, & Tourists
View of the Laguna Side of the Island From Palm Street Pier
     The nicest beaches in the area are on the Gulf of Mexico side of South Padre Island. The Wave dropped us at the Isla Blanca State Park, a beautiful RV Park on the beach at the south end of the island. We wished we had stayed there for the week and we put it on our list of places to return to. We enjoyed a walk around the peaceful state park then out to look at the beach. The red flag was flying, indicating that the waves were too rough for swimming or boogieboarding, but there were still plenty of people out under umbrellas enjoying the beach. We took a few photos and headed for Laguna Bob's Bar on the Bay for fish tacos and a "Blue Rita".
Peaceful Isla Blanca State Park
South Padre Island Beach on the Gulf of Mexico
      We hopped back on the Wave and rode down to the South Padre Birding and Nature Center where we walked on the boardwalks that extend into the Laguna Madre and did a little birdwatching. We saw a few grey herons and seagulls, but mostly just enjoyed the walk and the view. It was interesting to be in a bird habitat with a row of classy beachfront hotels as the backdrop.
South Padre Birding and Nature Center Boardwalk

    Galveston Island, Texas 

View from Dellanera RV Park on Galveston Island  
Beachfront Site at Dellanera RV Park
     Dellanera RV Park was an enjoyable place to stay for a few days, situated on the white sand beach of Galveston Island with the soothing sound of the waves on the Gulf of Mexico. With the beach in front of our RV and the pond in back, we had plenty of birds to watch. 
Birdwatching from our RV Site at Dellanera RV Park
     The ten mile long Galveston Island seawall starts near the Dellanera RV Park and has a great concrete boardwalk for walking, biking, or rollerblading. This boardwalk competes with the Malecon in Mazatlan, some of the longest promenades in the world. 

We Rollerbladed to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier
We Made It in the Heat and Against the Wind!
     We hadn't done a real tourist day in ages, so we decided to rollerblade from the RV Park to the Historic Pleasure Pier where the rollercoaster and merry-go-round looked like fun. Then we had a pleasant mile-and-a-half walk through the Historic District of Galveston to the Bishop's Palace. 

The Grand Bishop's Palace
The Bishop's Palace Entry Stairway
     For a fee of $12 each we were able to take a self-guided tour of this amazing 17,420 square foot home built by the Gresham family in 1892. By the time we walked back to the Pleasure Pier, carrying our rollerblades in our backpacks, we were exhausted and ready to have lunch and a margarita at Bubba Gump's. A taxi ride the six miles home was a pleasure at that point!
Trying out Forrest's Suitcase, Bench, and Shoes
    We left Galveston Island on the Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry. I was worried about driving our motorhome onto the ferry, but once I saw a large truck with a backhoe on a trailer and a school bus drive on ahead of us, I knew it would be no problem. On to Louisiana...
Our Smiling Motorhome on the Ferry from Galveston Island
Touring the Gulf Coast from Reynosa, Mexico to Port Isabel to Galveston Texas