Maine 2020 – Part 1 (July 14 – August 16, 2020)

On Tuesday, July 14th, we drove 307 miles from Middle Grove, NY to Biddeford, ME where we spent two nights at Homestead by the River RV Park.  The drive was almost entirely on interstate highways (mostly toll roads) and was largely uneventful, other than numerous work areas and service plazas in Massachusetts that were not big-rig friendly.  When we arrived at the campground, we learned that they had had three inches of rain that morning and our reserved pull-through site was a swamp.  So, rather than risk getting stuck in the muck, we were offered a back-in site.  Phil was not excited about the prospect of doing a blind-side back-in around a tree so the owner arranged for an experienced semi driver to back our rig into the site.

On Wednesday, we picked up a lobster roll at Pool Street Market in Biddeford and drove to Biddeford Pool.  After consuming our lobster roll, we hiked the 1.5-mile East Point Audubon Sanctuary Trail that took us along the rocky coast and provided us with a view of a lighthouse.

On Thursday, we drove 180 miles on the Maine Turnpike to Trenton, ME where we will spend 64 days at Timberland Acres RV Park.  This is the same campground where we spent a month in 2019.

The weather on Friday was cool and overcast so we just drove the Park Loop through Acadia National Park, including a brief stop at the Jordan Pond House.  We also drove through Bar Harbor, where we noted that several of the businesses we had frequented in 2019 had closed for 2020.

On Saturday, we stayed closer to home and hiked the 2.8-mile Trenton Community Trail.  Although the trail didn’t include much scenery, it was a pleasant walk through the forest and included a short boardwalk over the bog.  On Sunday, we sought to escape the heat by driving to Seal Cove, where we sat by the water and read our books.

On Monday, we returned to Acadia NP and hiked 6 miles on the Eagle Lake Carriage Road.

On Tuesday, we returned to Jordan Pond and hiked the 3.5-mile full loop around the lake.

On Wednesday, July 22nd, we returned to Acadia NP and hiked the Ocean Path from Sand Beach to Otter Cliff and back again, nearly 5 miles in total.  We timed our stop at Thunder Hole to be exactly two hours before high tide.  This is supposed to be the time when the waves at Thunder Hole are the loudest but it was somewhat disappointing.

On Friday, we hiked the 2-mile loop at Lower Hadlock Pond.  Then, on Saturday, we drove to Surry, ME and hiked another 2-mile loop at the Carter Nature Preserve.  We arrived at the coastal part of the hike exactly at low tide and were able to walk along the rocks.

Timberland Acres campground has special activities on the weekends during the summer.  Our first weekend had a Hawaiian theme, with a luau that included a pig roast.  Although we did check out the pig on the spit, the $15 per plate for dinner was a little too pricey for us.  Our second weekend was Christmas in July and offered prizes for the most impressive Christmas decorations.  Some people went all out and had some very elaborate displays.  Jan got in the spirit of the season and decorated our picnic table with the few Christmas items we carry with us.

On Monday, July 27th, we did a 7.3-mile hike on the Witch Hole Pond Carriage Trail.  Although the carriage trails make for rather smooth walking, this was the longest distance we had hiked this year.  We spotted several large birds of prey sitting on branches along the trail but we were unable to identify them.

On Tuesday, we hiked the 3-mile out-and-back Big Wood and Shore Trails. After walking through the forest, the Shore Trail brought us out to the coast. We found two Adirondack chairs conveniently placed above the shoreline of Western Bay.  It was a warm, sunny day but the chairs were in the shade and there was a cool breeze coming off the water.  We watched a couple of seals and some kayakers pass by.  If we had brought books with us, we would likely have stayed there a long time.

Phil had researched pickleball venues in the area and, on Tuesday, headed out to play.  His first stop was at the Ellsworth Tennis Club where they have four indoor courts.  However, he learned that Mainers apparently don’t play pickleball indoors when it is warm outdoors.  The clerk at the tennis club recommended Phil try the outdoor courts at the YMCA.  This worked out well and he found a nice group to play with several afternoons each week.  Making matters even better, there is no charge to play at the YMCA, unlike the Tennis Club.

Wednesday’s hike was back in Acadia National Park.  We did the 2.4-mile Great Head Trail that begins with a walk across Sand Beach and then continues in a loop around the cliffs overlooking Fisherman’s Bay and the beach.

On Thursday, we hiked another Acadia NP carriage trail, the 6-mile Aunt Betty Loop.  This trail included two long, steep ascents and two long, steep descents.

Friday’s hike was a combination of three trails near Southwest Harbor; the Flying Mountain, Valley Peak and St. Sauveur Peak trails.  These three trails made two loops totaling over 4 miles, with an elevation rise of 931’.  The Alltrails app mistakenly had these trails listed as ‘easy’ but they were definitely not easy.  In addition to the usual tree roots and rocks on the trails, we had to scramble over lots of large boulders while we climbed up steep paths.  The scenery was worth the effort, though.  We rewarded ourselves by picking up a lobster roll on the way home.

On Saturday evening, we went to Bar Harbor for dinner at Jalapeños.  Downtown Bar Harbor was quite active and everyone was wearing masks.  After dinner, we strolled around town and along the waterfront.

Panorama of the harbor at Bar Harbor

On Sunday, we hiked the 2.5-mile Branch Lake Public Forest Loop.  Our initial challenge was in reaching the trailhead.  The GPS coordinates stopped on a busy highway and didn’t show how to reach the trail.  By using Google Earth, we could see some sort of road to the trailhead but we couldn’t understand why the GPS wouldn’t take us there.  We finally found a sign for the forest.  The parking area was a mile down a single-lane gravel road with deep ruts.  It was slow-going but, fortunately, we had no oncoming traffic.  Once we reached the forest, the hike was enjoyable and took us to the edge of beautiful Branch Lake.  We snacked on whoopie pies we had purchased Saturday night; Jan had Classic Chocolate and Phil had Blueberry Lemon.

On Monday, August 3rd, we drove to meet Jason at the Bangor airport.  On Tuesday, we began our re-introduction of Jason to the challenges of hiking in Acadia.  We hiked the Champlain North Ridge Trail, an up-and-back trail to the summit of Champlain Mountain.  Although it is only a little more than a mile to the summit, the route has an 833-foot elevation gain and mostly involves climbing on granite boulders.  That evening, we went into Bar Harbor and had dinner at Route 66.  We all had hot lobster rolls with melted butter.  After dinner, we visited some shops in Bar Harbor and, since it was near low tide, we were able to hike across the sand to Bar Island.

Overnight, the effects of tropical storm Isaias reached Maine and we had heavy rain and strong winds.  Because of the rain, we decided to avoid hikes that would require climbing up the rocks.  Instead, we hiked a couple of out-and-back trails with very little elevation gains, the Jesup Trail and the Kane Trail.  The Jesup Trail was quite easy, with much of it on a boardwalk.  However, the Kane Trail mostly consisted on walking on boulders along the edge of The Tarn, a large pond.  After our hike, we drove to the Schooner Head Overlook and hiked down to the rocks overlooking Frenchman’s Bay.

On Thursday, we returned to Jordan Pond.  Jason and Phil hiked a strenuous 5-mile loop consisting of the Spring, Penobscot, Deer Brook and Jordan Pond trails.  Jan opted for a easier hike by doing the full Jordan Pond Loop again.  That afternoon, Phil took Jason to the YMCA for a couple of hours of pickleball.

Friday’s adventure took us to the more remote part of Acadia National Park, the Schoodic Peninsula.  After stops at Frazer Point and Schoodic Point to enjoy the views, we continued to Blueberry Hill.  We hiked the Anvil Trail to the summit of Schoodic Head and ate our breakfast there.  We then returned down the Alder Trail.  A short distance further down the park loop road, we came to the trailhead for the East Trail.  Phil and Jason hiked this strenuous 1.4-mile out-and-back trail that involved a lot of climbing up the rocks.  Jan decided to stay behind and enjoy the views from the shoreline.

On Saturday, August 8th, we drove to Sand Beach.  We all hiked the Ocean Path together until we reached the Gorham Mountain trailhead.  Jan continued down the Ocean Path to Otter Point, then returned to Sand Beach.  Phil and Jason hiked the Gorham Mountain and Bowl trails, which brought them back to Sand Beach where they met up again with Jan.  We sat on the beach for a while and cooled our feet in the bay.

We took a day off from hiking on Sunday.  Instead, we did a road trip down the coast of Maine and drove through many harbor towns.  Phil had found an article on the Internet titled the “Top 10 Places to Retire in Maine” and we decided to visit two of these towns, Belfast and Rockland.  We reached Belfast first and spent some time walking along the harbor, visiting the downtown shopping district and driving past a few houses listed for sale.  Our next stop was Camden where we visited several shops.  We then continued on to Rockland where we ate lunch at The Brass Compass, strolled down to the harbor where we could see a lighthouse and drove by a few houses for sale.  On our return trip, we drove to see a house that we had seen listed on the window of a Rockland realtor.  It had a Lincolnville address but was actually located over a mile down an unpaved road along Coleman Pond.

Jason stayed with us for another week and worked remotely during the day.  He was able to stay connected successfully using the hotspot on Jan’s phone.  We resumed our morning hikes on Tuesday while Jason worked.  We hiked the 3.5-mile Conners Nubble Trail.  The beginning and end of this hike was along the Eagle Lake Carriage Road.  Then we headed up a steep trail that took us to the Conners Nubble summit.  We ate our breakfast while enjoying the views of Eagle Lake and the Bubbles range.

That evening Jan packed our dinner and we headed to Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunset.  When we arrived, we discovered that there was no view of the western horizon from the summit.  Instead, we drove down the access road to a pullout and carried our chairs and food through the bushes to a plateau where we could set up for the show.  The only downside to this location was that it was extremely windy so we had to turn our backs to the wind while we ate.  The sun set at 7:44 pm and we enjoyed every minute of it.

On Wednesday, we drove to Southwest Harbor and hiked two fairly short hikes.  The first, Ship Harbor Trail, was a 1.5-mile figure-8 hike that took us out to the harbor.  Since it was close to low tide, we were able to climb on the rocks and explore the many tide pools.  We ate our breakfast on a big rock facing the ocean.  Our second hike was the nearby Wonderland Trail, a 1-mile out-and-back trail to the rocky coast line.  We spent a lot of time climbing on the rocks and examining the many cairns that had been built along the shore.

We attempted to hike the Kebo Mountain Trail that evening after our dentist appointments and after Jason finished working.  Unfortunately, we ran out of daylight and had to turn back after reaching the summit, rather than finishing the whole hike.

On Thursday, we drove to the town of Blue Hill and hiked the 2.5-mile Blue Hill Mountain Loop.  The initial climb was rather steep but we were rewarded with beautiful views of the Blue Hill harbor.  After our hike, we drove through the town.

On Friday, August 14th, we drove to Northeast Harbor and hiked the 3-mile out-and-back Day Mountain Trail. Although most of the hike was through the woods, there were some great overlooks of the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean from near the summit.  That evening, we had dinner at the Chart Room before heading into Bar Harbor for some shopping.  During Jason’s 2019 visit, we had driven by this restaurant and Jason had mistakenly read the sign as the Chat Room.  This had been a running joke ever since then but this was the first time we had actually eaten there.

On Saturday, we took Jason for his last hike in Acadia for 2020.  We left early and were lucky to get the last spot at the Bubbles parking area.  We did the 4-mile Jordan Pond Carry to Eagle Lake and Bubbles Trail Loop.  This hike had a little bit of everything.  The trail along Eagle Lake was extremely rocky and required a great deal of care in finding our footing.  Then we climbed to the summit of Conners Nubble, repeating the trail we had done on Tuesday.  The next leg was a climb to the summit of North Bubble, before descending and returning to the parking lot.  We were glad to have started early since the parking lot was packed and tensions were high among the many people waiting for a parking spot.

That evening, we rented kayaks and spent 2.5 hours paddling on Long Lake during sunset.  Jan and Phil shared a tandem kayak while Jason had a single.  It was a beautiful night with a light wind.

Sunday marked the end of our first month at Timberland Acres RV Park.  Fortunately, we have another 33 days here.  We drove Jason to the Bangor airport for his flight home. The 13 days he was with us went by very quickly and were very enjoyable.

The Road to Maine (June 21 – July 14, 2020)

We left Kerrville, TX on Sunday, June 21st, and retraced the path we had taken when heading south in December. We drove 220 miles to Elm Mott, TX and spent one night at the I-35 RV Park. On Monday, we drove 264 miles to Texarkana, TX where we spent two nights at our usual campground, Shady Pines RV Park. On Wednesday, we drove 235 miles to Forrest City, AR where we spent the night at Delta Ridge RV Park.

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact our planning for our summer travels. We were already aware that Maine had implemented a requirement for a 14-day quarantine upon arriving in the state. However, this requirement was modified somewhat by allowing visitors to forego the quarantine if they can prove that they have gotten a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arriving in Maine. We hope to get tested while in New York, immediately before leaving for Maine.

Massachusetts also implemented a 14-day quarantine. We had planned to spend five nights in Massachusetts on our way to Maine but, for now, we have rescheduled this stop until our return trip in late September. We are hoping the quarantine requirements will have been lessened by then.

On June 24th, the governors of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey implemented a requirement for a 14-day quarantine upon arriving in their states for travelers coming from any of seven states with a spike in COVID cases, including Texas and Arkansas. We had booked reservations for four nights in Byron, NY, beginning July 5th. Since this would have been only 10 days after leaving Arkansas, we would have had to quarantine the entire time so, instead, we rerouted through Pennsylvania for the four nights. We will then head to Autumn Moon Campground in Middle Grove, NY on July 9th since, by then, 14 days will have passed since we left Arkansas.

On Thursday, June 25th, we drove 271 miles to Goodlettsville, TN where we spent a week at the Grand Ole RV Park. Our activities were limited due to COVID. Jason joined us the first morning for breakfast at Cracker Barrell. It was a different dining experience, due to the social distancing and sanitation requirements. Jason also came over for dinner several nights and we sat outside afterwards listening to live music. He picked up a pizza from Gino’s East one night on his way home from work. Jason’s roommate, Steve, joined us for spaghetti, salad and Butterfinger cake another night. We also were able to celebrate an early birthday with Lizzi at a Mexican restaurant near her house.

On June 30, the governors of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey doubled the number of states requiring quarantine, now 16. The new list included Tennessee so our five-day stay at Autumn Moon campground will be spent in quarantine. Had we known we would have to quarantine the entire stay, we would have just skipped New York and done our quarantine in Massachusetts instead. Unfortunately, it was now too late to cancel our New York reservation without a penalty.

On Thursday, July 2nd, we drove 275 miles to North Bend, OH (bordering Cincinnati) where we spent two nights at Indian Springs Campground. We had overnighted at this campground twice before but, because it was considered part of the July 4th weekend, we were required to stay for a two-night minimum. This turned out to be fortuitous since Jarrod and Jess flew in to Cincinnati that day to visit Jess’ family. They dropped by to visit on Friday morning and then we joined them for lunch at the home of Jess’ father and stepmother, Henry and Sandy Mollman. We enjoyed sitting outside and had a very filling meal, topped off with homemade ice cream.

Lunch with the Mollmans

On Saturday, July 4th, we drove 267 miles to Streetsboro, OH where we overnighted at the Streetsboro / SE Cleveland KOA. The campground was in full swing when we arrived and there was little evidence of social distancing going on. The pool was crowded and many large groups were gathered.

On Sunday, July 5th, we drove 270 miles to New Columbia, PA where we spent four nights at the Williamsport South / Nittany Mountain KOA. It is one of the upscale Holiday KOAs and we had a large pull-through site with no neighbors nearby. One of the popular activities was the twice-daily feeding time at the petting zoo. We joined the youngsters in the pen (masks were required) where we fed and played with the goats.

We had planned to hike in the area but torrential rain overnight forced us to scrap that idea. Instead, we attempted to hike the nature trail connected to the campground but had to turn around when we encountered No Trespassing signs.

On Monday, we drove to Lewisburg. Our first stop was at the Street of Shops. Located completely indoors in a restored historic woolen mill, this large building contains 375 shops selling a wide variety of merchandise (mostly antiques and collectibles). We spent about two hours strolling through room after room.

Later, we visited downtown Lewisburg and had lunch at a local pizzeria where Phil had a cheesesteak and Jan had an eggplant parm sub. Both were delicious.  After lunch, we drove through the largely-empty campus of Bucknell University and visited Soldier’s Memorial Park.

On Tuesday, we drove to Williamsport, PA. Our first stop was at Original Field, the baseball field where the Little League World Series was held for the first 12 years. There wasn’t much to see at this complex, which is now used by the local softball league. We next drove along Millionaire’s Row, where lumber barons had built huge Victorian homes at the turn of the century. Williamsport once had more millionaires per-capital than anywhere else in the world, but this area was definitely showing its age. Our final stop was at the current home of the Little League World Series. With the World Series cancelled for 2020, we were free to roam around the two stadiums and visited the Casey at the Bat sculpture.

Since Maine would allow us to avoid the 14-day quarantine if we could get a COVID test done within 72 hours of entering the state, we had been exploring options for testing while in New York. Most were limited to New York residents or required a doctor’s referral.  On Tuesday, Phil was able to get us signed up for free COVID tests at RiteAid in Colonie, NY on Saturday, July 11th. The test results are normally available in 2-7 days but, due to the demand, it may take longer so we may still have to quarantine for some period in Maine.

On Wednesday, we returned to Lewisburg and visited the Farmers Market. This was one of the nicest and largest farmers market we have visited. They had a huge variety of local specialties, vegetables, fruits, baked goods and crafts. Many of the vendors were Amish. There was even a Schlegel Farms, Jan’s maiden name, so we had to buy from them. Since we knew it would take a long time to see everything, Phil left Jan at the farmers market and headed to Walmart to buy enough food to last us through the full quarantine periods. Jan also loaded herself down with fresh meats and vegetables, as well as a lemon meringue pie and fresh bagels.

On Thursday, we drove 300 miles to Middle Grove, NY (near Saratoga Springs) where we had made reservations for five nights at Autumn Moon Campground. The first 270 miles were on interstates but the travel was slower than hoped due to lots of road work zones. The final 30 miles were quite challenging as they involved many turns on small country roads. When we approached the final turn, Phil’s GPS chimed as he neared a couple of gravel roads. Since this is the indication that he is at the turning point, Phil pulled up the first gravel road and drove up to the road to what he hoped was the campground office. Jan’s GPS showed that the correct turn was 400 feet farther but she couldn’t call Phil before he made the turn. As it turned out, Phil had pulled into a farmer’s driveway. We spent most of the next hour trying to get the fifth wheel turned around. It would have been easier if not for a BMW that was parked next to the house. Jan knocked on the door of the house but no one answered. After multiple attempts, we got turned around and made our way to the campground.

The owners of the Autumn Moon Campground were quite friendly but the campground was less impressive than where we’d normally stay. Since we only had 30 amps available, we were limited to using one air conditioner. Even at that, the circuit breaker on the pedestal kept flipping every few minutes. Phil finally solved that problem by turning off the charger to our batteries. It was 82 degrees in our living room and it took a couple of hours before we got the temperature down to a pleasant 72 degrees.

The requirements for quarantine vary by state and, even for a given state, are quite fluid. Phil discovered, after we arrived in New York, that Pennsylvania had implemented a quarantine on July 1st for travelers from 15 states, including Tennessee. Oops!

On Saturday, we drove 30 miles to Colonie, NY to get our COVID tests. The process was somewhat different than in the YouTube we had watched. We pulled up to the drive-through window at the RiteAid and the pharmacist gave us our test kits. He explained the procedure, which consisted of inserting the test swab one inch into one nostril, rotating it twice, holding it in place for 15 seconds and then repeating in the other nostril. It wasn’t too unpleasant, although both of us had watery eyes and Phil sneezed twice. The test results were supposed to arrive via email in 2-7 days but we were pleasantly surprised when we both received negative test results on Monday afternoon. That will eliminate any need to quarantine when we arrive in Maine on Tuesday.

Kerrville, Again (April 14 – June 21, 2020)

On Tuesday, April 14th, we made the 350-mile drive from Brownsville to Kerrville. Although the drive was uneventful, we had not driven much in the previous three months so it was quite tiring. We arrived at 4 pm and set up on our new site. We got the end pull-thorough site in the Executive section. In addition to a larger concrete patio, the end site provided us with a large grassy area next to us.

Beth and Todd Ehlenfeldt, who were also staying at Buckhorn, dropped by to visit and, since we had not been able to see them for the last few weeks in Brownsville, it was good to catch up again. We learned that, in addition to the office being closed due to COVID, the pools, fitness center and social room were also closed.

On Wednesday morning, Phil rode his bike over to the pickleball courts but there was nobody playing. Later that morning, we drove the Willow City loop to see the wildflowers. We had driven the Willow City loop years ago but the flowers had not been in bloom then. This time, the bluebonnets were in full bloom and were quite beautiful.

As we passed through Fredericksburg, we couldn’t help but notice all the empty stores. However, Jan noticed that the door to our favorite shop, Russlin’ Rob’s Texas Gourmet, was open but the store was dark inside. Jan checked their website and learned that, although the food sampling stations were closed, the store was being manned for drop-in customers. She called and ordered some of our favorite sauces. When we returned, Phil knocked on the door and the store manager already had the sauces wrapped up for us.

Our activities over the next few weeks continued to be limited due to COVID-19. Phil managed to find enough pickleball players to fill one court most days. Jan walked the campground most mornings and we generally got out for a stroll each evening. Trips to the grocery stores and Walgreens involved wearing face masks.

On April 16th, we drove to Ingram and visited Stonehenge II. It is 90% as wide and 60% as tall as the original Stonehenge in England. Jan had hoped to get pictures of the sunset but it was too cloudy.

Fortunately, we were able to get together with Beth and Todd most afternoons for Happy Hour. We hosted a farewell brunch with the Ehlenfeldts on April 20th. Jan made cinnamon rolls and Beth brought seafood quiche. After saying our goodbyes the following morning, we drove to San Antonio to get the Mazda serviced at our dealer. We also stopped at Sam’s Club and Whole Foods to load up on groceries. Masks were worn at all stops.

We drove to Louise Mays Park in Kerrville on April 18 and 22 and enjoyed long strolls along the Guadalupe River.

On April 23, we drove to the Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden to see if Jan could get pictures of the sunset. She had better luck than she had at Stonehenge II.

On April 24, we did a long scenic drive through nearby Mason County to see the wildflowers. We had directions for three different routes. The first route we took involved driving on a unpaved road that crosses several spots with the potential for high water. When we came to the first one, we turned back rather than trying to cross the river. Although the water wasn’t overly deep, the current was quite fast. The remainder of our drive was beautiful and, although there were quite a few low spots, none were underwater.

Our laptop, which we had purchased in 2015, had been experiencing problems with the DC power port and finally died in late April. Jan contacted Dell support and they identified a refurbished replacement part. However, since we were uncomfortable with the thought of disassembling the laptop ourselves, we took it to a local PC repair shop. After examining our laptop, the owner decided it couldn’t be repaired. We decided to purchase a new laptop. However, since the old laptop was now deemed worthless and the replacement part was only $15, we decided to see if we could fix it. In our enthusiasm to see what was involved in dissecting a laptop, we removed a seemingly endless number of screws and Jan disconnected numerous cables and parts. Then, when the replacement cable arrived a week later, our challenge was in remembering how to put the pieces back together again. Fortunately, Jan’s prior life in PC support paid off and the reassembly went fairly easily and we got the old laptop running again. That bought us some time in getting files and applications transferred to the new laptop but we’re still glad we invested in the new laptop.

Mother’s Day, May 10th, was the most active day we’d had in a long time. We started with a trip to Luckenbach, TX. We sat outside and enjoyed some live music. Jan bought a new hat. Next, we visited Wildseed Farms and walked through the gardens. For dinner, we went to the West End Pizza Company in Fredericksburg. We dined on the shaded patio, where the tables were spread out for social distancing. This was our first restaurant meal, inside or takeout, since the start of the COVID-19 crisis and it was quite enjoyable.

Later, we went for our usual evening stroll. Near the end of our walk, we met a man walking his three dalmatians. He let up on the leashes so they could come over to sniff Phil. Since they were acting friendly, Phil bent down to pet the dogs. As Phil was petting the second dog, the third dog lunged at him and bit him hard on his forearm. When Phil pulled his arm back, the dog lunged again and bit him on the thigh, ripping a hole in Phil’s favorite shorts. Blood was running down Phil’s arm so we hurried home to treat it, without finding out if the dog had had its vaccinations. We just had to assume that they had.  Phil reported the bites to the office the next day and we never saw the dogs again.

On May 12th, Phil visited his doctor to get x-rays of his pinky finger he had injured a week earlier while playing pickleball. The x-rays showed no sign of any broken bones. The doctor also examined the dog bites and prescribed some antibiotics. The governor of Texas had authorized the reopening of barber shops and hair salons a few days earlier and we were both overdue. We both went in for haircuts that afternoon. Phil had not had a haircut in over four months and the barber told him he had the start of a mullet. The difference was significant.



We decided to extend our stay in Kerrville for another month, until June 21st, to see what direction the COVID-19 infections go. After initially being told the campground was full over Memorial Day weekend, there was a cancellation that enabled us to stay in our same site. Phil spent the next two days reworking our travel schedule for the summer and hoping that it holds up.

On Saturday, May 23rd, we rented kayaks at Louise Mays Park and paddled up and down the Guadalupe River for two hours. We encountered lots of turtles sunning themselves on rocks and logs, as well as flocks of ducks floating down the river. Unfortunately, the lack of recent rain had left the river quite shallow as we got upstream and we had to turn around before we would have liked.

On Wednesday, May 27th, we drove to Austin for one of Jan’s doctor appointments. The appointment was in the morning so we got on the road early for the two-hour drive. After the appointment, we spent a relaxing afternoon in Austin. We enjoyed sitting in the shade and people-watching at Zilker Metropolitan Park, then made some shopping stops at TJ Maxx and Whole Foods. That evening, we had dinner and socialized with Caleb and Brittany Dickerson, Katie Schlegel and, Katie’s friend, Michael at the Dickerson’s new condo. The weather forecast had called for severe storms that evening but we missed most of it on the drive back to Kerrville. However, we decided to stop at Walgreens upon our arrival back in Kerrville and discovered that the streets were flooded and the power was out. As we drove back to the campground on I-10, we saw piles of hailstones along the interstate. We later learned that they had experienced quite a severe storm in our absence, with lots of trees down and hail damage. We were glad to have missed the excitement and were relieved to not see any damage to our vehicles.

Our remaining time at Buckhorn was rather quiet, largely due to daily high temperatures in the 90’s. Phil continued playing pickleball six mornings a week, but the starting time was moved up to 7:30 am to lessen the heat. We visited the pool several days and enjoyed the cool water. Mostly, we stayed indoors and took advantage of our air conditioners. Phil ordered DVDs of all eight seasons of ‘24’ and Jan ordered four seasons of ‘Outlander.’ These will provide us with plenty of entertainment throughout the summer, assuming we can resist the urge to binge watch.

We celebrated Phil’s 66th birthday on June 14th with an afternoon at Luckenbach, TX. Upon our arrival, we discovered that we were attending the Waylon Jennings Birthday Bash. There were about 30 musicians who, one after another, got on stage and performed non-stop Waylon Jennings songs. Each hour, they held a sing-along to the song ‘Luckenbach, Texas.” We stuck around for three hours of the four-hour event. Phil grilled steelhead trout for dinner and dessert consisted of Jan’s blueberry pie.

Phil’s body had taken a beating during our time at Buckhorn, between dog bites and three falls on the pickleball courts resulting in bloody body parts. However, the main event came on Monday night, June 15th. Phil heard the rain starting and raced out the door to move our lawn chairs under cover. He slipped on the wet step cover and, while falling down on the steps, managed to slice open the bottom of his right foot. This excitement happened after the Urgent Care centers had closed for the evening so, as Jan raced off to WalMart for bandages, Phil kept pressure on the wound until the bleeding had slowed. Upon Jan’s return, she administered first aid to get Phil through the night. The following morning, we were off to the doctor’s office. Although the nurse was quite impressed with Jan’s bandaging efforts, the doctor decided to suture up the cut. It took nine sutures to close the wound. The most painful part of the procedure were the many shots needed to numb Phil’s foot, as he gained an appreciation for how many nerve endings one has in the bottom of one’s foot. Phil spent the next few days hobbling around the RV but quickly learned to get around while avoiding putting weight on the site of the cut.

One of Phil’s regrets was that the injury eliminated any chance for him to play pickleball over our final five days. On our final Friday afternoon at Buckhorn, Cindy Welch invited us over for a happy hour with several of Phil’s fellow pickleball players.

Brownsville – Month 2 (February 12 – March 11, 2020)

On Thursday, February 13th, we attended a happy hour on the patio outside the Amenity Center. A two-man band called Shake & Bake performed for two hours. We were surprised when Hill Dishman, the campground owner, joined the band to sing a couple of songs. Hill has a very good voice and did an outstanding imitation of Willie Nelson.

Friday was Valentine’s Day and we celebrated by heading over to South Padre Island. We first stopped at Tequila Sunset where we sat outside overlooking Laguna Bay and listened to live music. When it started to get too cool for sitting outside, we walked up the street to Louie’s Backyard. At Louie’s, we were able to sit inside and listen to live music. We also visited the nearby sand castle displays.

Jason arrived on Saturday, February 15th, for a week-long visit. After picking him up at the airport in Harlingen, we went to Texas Roadhouse for a very filling dinner.

On Sunday we headed to the Los Fresnos Rodeo. Prior to the start of the rodeo we watched a performer demonstrate his skills with a lasso and bullwhip. We also watched the Banana Derby where dogs raced with small monkeys as riders. Our seats for the rodeo were very good and provided us with great views of the many events. The contestants were all professional rodeo cowboys and quite a few were former world champions.

On Monday Phil and Jason played pickleball in the morning. They were able to play pickleball four mornings that week. Monday afternoon we headed to South Padre Island. Our first stop was Isla Blanca Park. We walked along the beach, visited the monument to lost sailors and strolled out on the jetty. It was a windy day and there were lots of kiteboarders in the bay. We later had dinner at Pier 19.

On Tuesday we returned to South Padre Island for an afternoon fishing boat excursion. Jason quickly caught two sheepshead (one of legal size) before succumbing to seasickness. Phil then caught a sheepshead. Unfortunately, someone else’s line had gotten tangled with Phil’s line. After he was able to remove the hook from the fish, he started to untangle the other line. Once he had untangled the two weights, the other person jerked their line and Phil’s hook became imbedded in his finger. Fortunately the fishing boat had a person on staff who was trained in first aid. The captain took the boat into smoother waters and the assistant snipped the barb off the hook before pulling the hook out of Phil’s finger. Jan did catch the most interesting-looking fish. It was some sort of flying fish but was too small to keep. One we returned to port, the captain filleted our sheepshead. We had them for dinner on Thursday and they were very delicious.

On Wednesday we started the day at the Don-Wes Flea market. We then crossed the border to visit Nuevo Progresso. After eating lunch at the Red Snapper Restaurant, we headed to the beauty salon where we all had pedicures.

Thursday afternoon Jan and Jason headed to Mercedes and did some shopping at the outlet mall. The weather on Friday was quite cool so we decided to go see a movie. We picked up Beth and headed to the Sunrise Mall and watched “Call of the Wild.” After the movie, we met up with Todd.

On Saturday we awoke at 4 am to take Jason back to Harlingen for his 6:10 am flight. We returned home and went back to bed. By the time Phil woke up at 10 am, Jason was already back in Nashville. We participated in a Tropical Trails shuffleboard tournament that afternoon. Although Phil had a fairly low score, he ended up winning $2 for coming closest to the targeted score. The group then headed to Los Fresnos for dinner at Arnie’s. After dinner, we joined the group for a campfire back at Tropical Trails.

On Sunday afternoon we joined a group from Tropical Trails at Harley’s Beer Garden in Los Fresnos. The Rykals and Ehlenfeldts also joined us. We sat outside and listened to music. A potluck dinner with BBQ was available but we chose not to stick around for it.

On Monday evening, February 24th, Phil finally got his crown installed on the implant he had done a year ago. Jan went to play Mexican train. On Tuesday evening we both played LCR.

Strong winds started blowing Tuesday evening, with gusts in excess of 40 mpg, and continued all day Wednesday. We got going early Wednesday morning and drove to Nuevo Progresso to get our teeth cleaned by one of the many dentists. The service seemed quite professional. Although the equipment was not state-of-the-art, everything appeared very sanitary. The cost of $25 per person for the cleaning was considerably less than the $85 the Brownsville dentist would have charged. In the afternoon we played cards at the Amenity Center.

Over the next few weeks we largely fell into a routine, with fewer notable activities. Phil played pickleball six mornings and Jan exercised, either on her bicycle or the treadmill in the fitness room. We played games (Mexican train dominoes, LRC or Golf) a couple of evenings each week.

On Thursday, February 27th, we had another shrimp boil at the Amenity Center, with musical entertainment again provided by Shake and Bake. Later that evening we had a bonfire for several couples who would be leaving in the next few days.

On Saturday morning Jan attended a class on making tamales while Phil played pickleball. That afternoon we participated in a shuffleboard tournament. Later we had dinner at Russo’s NY Pizzeria.

On Tuesday, March 3rd, we joined the Rykals and Ehlenfeldts at Winter Haven RV Park for a game of Mexican Train that lasted several hours. We had to move several times to stay dry when the drizzles started but they never lasted very long. After the game Roxi served us tacos for dinner.

On Wednesday Phil visited a new orthopedic surgeon regarding his shoulder that has been hurting since September. He got a shot of cortisone and was sent home with a list of exercises designed to strengthen his shoulder muscles.

On Thursday the group from Tropical Trails headed to South Padre Island for Happy Hour. We sat outside overlooking the bay at Longboard Bar & Grill and enjoyed the musical entertainment. We then drove half a mile to The Meatball Café where we had dinner. Phil ordered eggplant parmigiana and Jan had cannelloni. Both were very good.

On Friday we returned to South Padre Island. We started at Clayton’s and enjoyed an order of nachos. It was apparent that Clayton’s was starting to gear up for the Spring Break crowd. Gone was the old people music and, in its place, they had a deejay playing hip hop. We decided to move on to Longboard where we sat on the deck and enjoyed music that was more to our taste.

On Saturday, March 7th, we met the Rykals and the Ehlenfeldts in Harlingen and attended the Jackson Street Market. This event occurs on the first Saturday of each month. There were vendors set up on both sides of the street for about six city blocks. We examined the wares at lots of booths but ended up only buying three pounds of red licorice. For lunch we headed to Carlito’s Wine House where we enjoyed the music and the food.

On Sunday we met the Ehlenfeldts at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville. It was a beautiful day so the zoo was quite popular. We drove around for about 15 minutes before finding a parking spot. We had planned to arrive in time for a 2:30 presentation on ocelots. However, when we arrived, we learned that the time had been changed to 2 pm. We were still able to see the end of the presentation and see the ocelot. After that, we strolled the entire loop around the zoo for a couple of hours. We managed to see all the exhibits except the reptiles and fish, which we skipped due to both tired feet and lack of interest. We then all headed to Cobblehead’s Bar & Grill where we dined outside and listened to music. Three members of the band were the same musicians we had listened to at Longboard on Friday.

On Tuesday, March 10th, we had a farewell bonfire for Joanne and Dave who were leaving on Saturday. We toasted marshmallows and ate s’mores.


On Wednesday we participated in a bean bag tossing competition, followed by shuffleboard.


Brownsville – Month 1 (January 12 – February 12, 2020)

On Sunday, January 12th, we left Fredericksburg and drove 349 miles to Brownsville where we will spend three months at a new campground, Tropical Trails RV Resort. Jan had learned about this campground online and we booked our reservation last summer. Originally, we believed it was going to open in October 2019. However, over the following months, the opening date kept getting delayed. Each time, Jan would call Bonnie, the General Manager, to seek assurance that the park would be open by mid-January. It did finally open on January 1, 2020. When we arrived, we noted that there were only about 30 rigs parked in the 165-acre campground. We quickly discovered that the campground was clearly still a work in progress. We took one of the sites with some grass growing on the door side. In the days to come, Phil watered the grass most mornings. We hope to have an established lawn by the time we leave in April. Although it felt like we were camping in a construction site, the owner was wise enough not to park campers next to each other. As a result, we had plenty of privacy and were able to park our truck on an empty site nearby.

One of the advantages to being in a nearly-empty campground was that we were able to meet a lot of the other campers at the many organized activities. On Monday morning Phil joined about 10 other campers on the four new pickleball courts. He was one of the few who had played the game before and was disappointed that the group disbanded after playing only two games. On Monday night we joined a number of fellow campers to watch the NCAA football championship game and, for non-football fans, a game of Mexican train. While Phil watched football, Jan was quite successful playing Mexican train.

On Tuesday we went to our dentist appointment. After sitting in the lobby for an hour, we learned that they had been unable to confirm our dental insurance. So rather than wait any longer, we rescheduled for Wednesday. We then dropped by to visit the Rykals and the Ehlenfeldts who are camping at the nearby Winter Haven campground.  On Wednesday we met at the amenity center and learned to play shuffleboard. Although we had a large crowd, no one really knew the rules so we had to rely on the few who had watched YouTube videos beforehand. In the afternoon, we returned to the dentist. Although we were able to get x-rays and an examination, the cleanings were delayed until mid-February.

On Thursday we joined a group at the amenity center for a shrimp boil. In addition to shrimp, there was more than enough sausage, potatoes, corn and bread so no one walked away hungry.

On Friday we joined a caravan to Nuevo Progresso, Mexico. Since we had been there several times before, we explored on our own but we did join the group for lunch at Arturo’s. After lunch, we headed to our usual beauty salon and both got $10 pedicures. When we returned to the campground, we attended a presentation by a local travel agency that included a Mexican dance team and free margaritas.

On Saturday evening, Jan’s friend, Sheila Gaskin, arrived for a weeklong visit. We attempted to eat dinner at the Texas Roadhouse in Harlingen but the line was too long. We left and headed to the Texas Roadhouse in Brownsville. Although we still had a 40-minute wait, the meal was very good.

On Sunday, January 19th, Jan and Sheila spent the afternoon at South Padre Island. Phil stayed at home to watch the Tennessee Titans lose to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game. That evening, we met the Rykals and Ehlenfeldts at The Lucky Barrel to watch the Green Bay Packers play for the NFC championship. Unfortunately for our friends from Wisconsin, the Packers lost to the San Francisco 49ers.

On Monday, after Phil played pickleball, we headed back to Nuevo Progresso. This was Sheila’s first visit to a Mexican border town.

On Tuesday we attended the campground’s ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce. We then headed to South Padre Island and visited the Sea Turtle, Inc. rescue facility. Later we had an early dinner at Pier 19.

The weather forecast for Wednesday had called for rain all day. Although the rain ended early, we opted to spend the day indoors so we headed to the Sunrise Mall. Phil went to see the movie ‘1917‘ while Jan and Sheila went shopping. We then went to Russo’s NY Pizzeria for dinner.

On Thursday we went to South Padre Island (SPI) and headed to Clayton’s for music and cheap wings and beer. Although the temperature in Brownsville reached 81 degrees, it only reached 68 degrees at SPI and was quite windy. We moved our seats four times to stay in the sun. Beth and Todd Ehlenfeldt joined us for the last hour.

On Friday, Jan and Sheila picked up Roxi and Beth and headed back to Nuevo Progresso for the day. Phil met up with Tom and Todd at C & C Wings.

Jan, Beth, Roxi and Sheila at lunch in Nuevo Progresso

Saturday morning we woke up at 4 am to take Sheila back to the Harlingen airport for her flight home. We got back home shortly before 6 am and had no trouble falling back asleep for several more hours.

On Sunday we went to the SPI Convention Center to do some shopping at the Marketplace. We met the Rykals, the Ehlenfeldts and some friends of the Ehlenfeldts (Ed and Teresa) there. After having explored all the booths at the Marketplace, we all headed to Louie’s Backyard for lunch. We then headed to LongBoard Bar & Grill where sat and enjoyed music by a husband and wife band.

Phil played pickleball on Monday morning. In the afternoon we headed to Boca Chica Beach and spent an hour walking up and down the beach. We were able to see the expansion to the SpaceX facility that has happened since we were in Brownsville last winter.

Phil spent most of Tuesday dealing with various medical and dental issues. We both played shuffleboard on Wednesday morning.

On Thursday, January 30th, the owners of Tropical Trails RV Park, Hill and Donelle Dishman, hosted a happy hour at their condo at the Boardwalk Yacht Club on South Padre Island. Their home was beautifully decorated and included a tiki bar in the lower level. After the happy hour, we all headed across the road to Gabriella’s Italian Restaurant. The food was very good and we had a good time getting to know some more of our neighbors.

We participated in a shuffleboard tournament on Friday afternoon. We played four games but, unfortunately, did not come away with any of the prize money.

On Saturday we drove to Donna, TX and strolled through the Don-Wes Flea Market and made a few purchases. We then headed across the border to Nuevo Progresso for a late lunch.

Phil spent the following Monday and Tuesday prepping for his colonoscopy. The combination of prepping for the procedure and needing to be at the surgical center at 6:15 am Wednesday kept Phil up all Tuesday night watching five episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger. The procedure went smoothly. As usual, the prep was worse than the actual exam. Upon returning home, we both slept a long time.

All ready to go

The high winds kept us from doing much over the next few days.   On Thursday afternoon we drove to downtown Brownsville with the intention of having dinner at the Made in Mexico Festival.  Unfortunately the neighborhood was quite seedy and didn’t appear to be where we’d want to be after dark.  We wandered around the block but decided it wasn’t worth paying the $5 admission.  Instead, we headed back to Russo’s Pizzeria for dinner.

On Friday afternoon we went over to Winter Haven RV Park and had dinner with the Rykals and Ehlenfeldts.

Sunday was Leslie Verhaeghe’s birthday and her husband, Jim, had planned a surprise campfire for her. Unfortunately, the strong winds made a campfire a no-go so, instead, we all met in the Amenity Center and ate birthday cake and played games. We learned a couple of new games: Golf and Zonk. Golf is a 9-round card game and Zonk is a variation of Farkle, played with six dice.

The wind on Monday was so strong that Phil could barely manage to get our door open. We are really getting tired of the wind and are already thinking of spending next winter elsewhere. The one excitement for the day came when a herd of goats found their way into the campground. Jim Verhaeghe and his dog, Vader, responded quickly and shepherded them back to where they belonged.


On Tuesday, February 11th, we joined a group from Tropical Trails for a trip to the Heritage Museum in downtown Brownsville. We attended a lecture by a history professor from UTRGV. The lecture covered Mexican history from their independence from Spain in 1821 until the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848. The professor discussed the factors that kept Mexico from evolving as successfully as the US after obtaining their independence. We learned a lot about Santa Anna who served as president or military-backed dictator 11 times from 1833-1855. Apparently Santa Anna quickly grew bored of being president and would frequently relinquish power to his vice-president, only to change his mind shortly thereafter.

Short Stop in the Texas Hill Country (Dec. 28, 2019 – Jan. 12, 2020)

On Saturday, December 28th, we left Goodlettsville, TN and drove 270 miles to Forrest City, AR where we spent the night at Delta Ridge RV Park. Heavy rain had been forecast for the entire day but, fortunately, we only got light drizzle until we were set up at the campground. Then the skies opened up and we had torrential rain all evening.

On Sunday, we drove 235 miles to Texarkana, TX where we spent two nights at Shady Pines RV Park. This was our fifth stay at Shady Pines and, as usual, we used this layover to get our annual vehicle inspections on the truck and trailer.

On Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, we drove about 285 miles to Elm Mott, TX (outside of Waco) where we spent the night at I-35 RV Park. We had hoped that our route would bypass Dallas but our GPS took us all the way to the edge of downtown Dallas. Then, due to new highway construction, the GPS had Phil in the wrong lane to make the turn to head south. We continued on on I-30 until we found a different highway to the south. It was quite stressful and an experience we will try to avoid in the future. This was our first stay at I-35 RV Park and it was quite nice for an overnight stay. They provide free made-to-order breakfasts that were quite good, albeit a little slow.

On Wednesday, we drove 215 miles to Kerrville where we spent nine nights at Buckhorn Lake Resort. The weather during our stay was surprising nice for January. Although the nighttime temps dropped slightly below freezing a few times, the daytime highs were mostly in the 60s.

Our sole reason for this visit to Kerrville was so Jan could see her HMO doctor and Phil could get his dentist’s final signoff on the implant he got last February. We took care of both of these appointments on Monday, January 6th. Other than Phil playing pickleball every morning, we really didn’t do much else during our stay. We did a 80-mile scenic drive through the Hill Country one day and visited Enchanted Rock State Natural Area another day. When we arrived at Enchanted Rock, we expected to hike the Summit Trail but encountered a sign that said the trail was closed. It appeared that we would be limited to hiking the loop trail around the perimeter of the rock. However, as we began our hike, we could see other people at the summit so, after almost circling the rock, we hiked up the side of the rock to the summit. We descended along the Summit Trail and never did see any reason why the trail would have been closed.

Our original travel plans had called for us to spend the weekend of January 10-12 in Austin, visiting Jan’s nieces, Brittany and Katie, and Brittany’s husband, Caleb. However, when the girls expressed an interest in spending the day in Fredericksburg, we cancelled our Austin reservation and booked a campsite at The Vineyards of Fredericksburg for the weekend. On Friday, January 10th, we made the 35-mile move from Kerrville. Although the winds were gusting during our move, the storm held off until we were settled into our new site and had lunch at West End Pizza Company. However, when the storm did arrive later that afternoon, it was quite intense. The winds were fierce and there was plenty of thunder and lightning. We watched out our living room window as a 15-minute hailstorm pounded Jan’s car but, fortunately, the hailstones never got big enough to do any body damage.

The weather was better on Saturday. Brittany, Katie and Caleb arrived from Austin shortly after noon and we had lunch at the Rathskellar Restaurant where we all had German food. Then, the girls went off to explore the many shops along Fredericksburg’s Main Street and the guys headed to National Museum of the Pacific War. This museum, the only one of its kind in the Continental U.S., is centered on World War II’s Pacific campaign. The tickets are valid for 48 hours and one could easily spend two full days exploring all the many exhibits and media presentations. Unfortunately, Phil and Caleb only had three hours available until the museum closed so they had to move along fairly quickly. They both learned a great deal about the many battles to capture remote islands throughout the Pacific. When the museum closed, the guys met up with the girls again at the Auslander Restaurant and Biergarten where we relaxed and enjoyed drinks and snacks.