Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Relax, take it easy, don’t stress

We got back to LBI on the Jersey shore on Labor Day weekend, so we decided to sit tight until that was over before hitting the road to go back home. I can never get enough of the beautiful sunsets from our driveway parking spot at Jimmy's house.

For the trip back, we decided to do the Blue Ridge Parkway. We've been there before, but it's been a long time. We know it's beautiful and we're up for it. We started with the Skyline drive that turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway. So here's our whole route ...

Skyline Drive - thru Shenandoah National Park

I can feel it in my muscles and my bones. Traveling on the skyline Drive with solid green scenery, no traffic, no cell service, and no electricity at the campgrounds. Your one choice is to just be. The driving is sometimes steep, always curvy, but it's still relaxing because it is so beautiful and so little traffic. This is not just a scenic road, it is a Scenic Road. It was built for the stated purpose of providing access to scenic beauty and it runs the length of the Shenandoah National park. Trucks are not allowed and, if you know what's good for you, you don't drive a big rv here either. No commercial traffic at all, no trucks on the road, no businesses beside the road, no billboards or any signs other than directions. There is a scenic overlook it seems like every mile or even more.  Our little camper van is so perfect. 

The campgrounds are beautiful, and empty. We stayed at Mathew's arm , the northernmost campground on the skyline and at Loft Mountain, the southernmost. I even found a perfect spot for some on moms ashes at loft mountain. Right in our campsite, a beautiful old oak tree with a cubby hole in it and I could just heart her say, "I wish I could just curl up and go to sleep in there", so she did.

Our comfy bedroom is so nice when we can leave the back curtains open and see forest

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Train travel - better in Europe

 I'm sure I've mentioned several times that we so enjoy train travel. That's how we got around Italy for the month of May and it's how we got around the UK. Certainly there are some places you can't get to by train - there was a hot springs between Rome and Tuscany where we wanted to stop, but the train was not nearby - but anywhere major was a piece of cake.

Our train travel in the UK was great

When we flew in to Gatwick, we immediately saw a sign for "All train tickets -> this way" We bought our ticket ($22 each) and walked just a hundred yards or so to the platform where our train arrived in just a few minutes and took us straight to Bexhill, our destination. Then it was just a 10 minute walk to the sea and our room.

Train travel in Europe is easy

And it is so comfortable

The USA needs more trains

When we needed to get to JFK from the Jersey shore, we ended up paying $300 for a private driver. We didn't want to take any chances! When we returned we decided to figure out public transit. Seems to me there should be a train from some central NYC location that goes down the Jersey shore to Atlantic city, making stops along the way. That would be perfect, but no such thing exists. Using Google Maps public transit directions, we took an airport people mover train to the subway station, subway to Port Authority bus station. At the ticket counter, we asked for a bus ticket to Barnegat NJ and she directed us to the gate. When we showed our tickets to the bus driver and said we're going to Barnegat, he said these tickets won't get us there. His last stop was Lakewood, then we'd need to change buses, buy a new ticket and continue on. Well, OK, what can we do. Realize that it's about 10pm now (3am UK time) and we just want to sit down. 

When we reached Lakewood bus terminal, I noticed a bus to Atlantic City was just pulling out. Yep, that was the bus we wanted and the next one wouldn't be there for 2 hours or more. Now, it's past midnight. At this point we called an Uber! $60 was worth it to have no more worries and be dropped off right at our door. The driver was delightfully chatty and that last hour sped right on by. 

All totaled we paid a little less than $100 for the trip from JFK to LBI.

Let's try Canada's trains

We're thinking of a trip in 2023 to Vancouver and are looking in to driving to Toronto, then taking the CN train across. Whaddaya think? I've never slept overnight on a train before, sounds like fun.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

A non-planned and perfectly executed tour. Stonehenge, Titanic, Isle of Wight and more

When all the festivities for Phil were over, we hopped on a train and traveled a few hours to Southampton. Jim had booked us a room on Booking.com and we knew there was lots to do there - we had 3 days.
First, we had to see Stonehenge. And we did it all with trains and buses. We thought we had to spend $300 each to take a tour, and all the tours were booked. The train round-trip from southampton was $52 and the bus tour to Stonehenge was$80. That's for both of us. So, no problem spending $$ on dinner!

What a great idea to give people something to do in taking their photos here. It wasn't easy!

Next day, we were in our <$100/night room, near the harbor in southampton.  This morning was the first of September and there are some computer projects I like to get done on the first. We woke up about 7:30 and made some coffee, then turned on our computers. I was thinking, anyone else in this situation would be saying, hurry up, time to get going. There's so much to see and do today. And it has to be today because we leave tomorrow. But no, we had some things to do, and we like to relax in the morning. We'll see and do whatever works out.
We had two things on our want-to-do list today: the Titanic museum and a get ride to Isle of Wight . We left the room and started walking to the museum-about a mile away - when Jim notices a building that says Solent Sky - an air museum that he read about and would like to see. He said, maybe we'll stop here in our way back because it's so close to our room. I said, no. If it's something you want to do, we go now. Never pass up an opportunity when it's offered, you don't know if it will work out later. It was wonderful. Great old planes, wonderful history lots of photo opportunities. And the cell signal was even good enough that we could do a live stream.

Yes, we spent some time there, and it might mean we wouldn't make it to Isle of Wight. So be it.
We continued our walk to the Titanic/Southampton museum. The online ticket site said "not available" for today. I figured that was just the online ticketing, but want sure. We walked in the museum and had no problem getting 2 tickets. There weren't many people there. We watched all the little videos, read about how devastating the loss was to southampton: every street in southampton had at least one person who died on the Titanic. Jim played with the simulation of captaining the Titanic out the Solent, and we had a nice lunch in the museum cafe. 

We ate lunch in the museum cafe. This is a "Jacket" potato with Brie - yum!

By the time we were done, it was a little after 3. 
We walked to the harbor and found the ticket office for the jet boat to Isle of Wight. The next one was leaving in 10 minutes! We tapped our credit card to their terminal and paid 22 pounds for 2 tickets.
What a day, quiet, and luxurious ride! A beautiful day with the harbor full of ships and sailboats, we arrived at West Cowes about 4:30-5, and we were hungry. How perfect ! Unfortunately, most of the restaurants didn't open till 6-7. But, after a walk thru town and strolling the waterfront, we found one where the bar was open now and they started serving food at 5:30. It was especially good food. Black Rock - they put a hot Rock on front of you with raw scallops and a steak. You cool your own! It was scrumptious. 

We finished in perfect time to catch the 7:05 ferry back to Southampton, walk 15 minutes to our room, unwind, and crash. We ready to wake up, pack and get to the train station for a9:30 ride to Gatwick.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Ahoy me Matey's - Phil turns 60

 Phil and Tracey know how to throw a party. When they partnered with us to host an RV rally 10-12 years ago, they made sure that everyone had fun. This party was going to last 5 days. 

  1. Dinner at spanish restaurant
  2. Karaoke and cake
  3. Pirate Party
  4. "Musical chairs" Dinner at Taj Majal
  5. Classic car show
We stayed in a room over the pub - what a delight. It was a B&B so all we had to do in the morning was walk down the stairs and sit down to breakfast. Walk down in the afternoon for happy hour. Walk down at night for the Karaoke party. The food was great, no buffet of meats and pastries for this B&B - no, we could choose from eggs benedict, full English breakfast, and a couple other choices. Yum. 

The pub where much of the festivities occured, and our room was just over the bar.

Several others who had come by plane, or car, were staying here as well. We got reacquainted with Sue and Nobert who we knew from our previous visit. We're hoping they'll come visit us sometime.

The karaoke night was a real riot. I'm accustomed to karaoke parties where there are actually good singers - so I'm intimidated from participating. I love to sing, but if you heard me you probably wouldn't call it singing! Well, this was the karaoke party for me! I don't think anyone called it singing, but everyone called it fun!

Phil and Tracey, the hosts of the party

You really have to see the video for this one - they're 'singing' Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody 

Then, the next night was the main party. The Pirate theme. People went all out with their costumes! Jim and I just found a second-hand store in Bexhill and put a few things together. A black and white striped shirt, a red sash, a black scarf. I think we fit in OK. Jim even picked up a pair of clip-on earrings!

Jim and the birthday boy


Ahoy me mateys! This was a great party


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Am I dreaming?

 I had to ask Jim to pinch me, I must be dreaming. This little town, Bexhill-on-Sea, feels like a fairy tale. The sea is just a 5 minute walk from the train station, the weather is sparkling and sunny. The streets of the town are lined with shops: restaurants, food stores, banks, second-hand stores and more, and there are people everywhere. We arrived on a Wednesday and there were people everywhere, all speaking with that delightful British accent, and they all seemed happy. No one was rushing anywhere, no one was dressed in business clothes. I guess it is a beach - tourist town, but these people all seemed like locals, not tourists.

Everyone is out walking, and you can walk to everywhere. We met up with Phil to walk Murphy and we ended up going 3 miles! Most of it was along a broad pathe by the Sea.

Follow that Duck - an art trail in Bexhill

Adding to the fairy tale, they have these ducks everywhere. The photo above was our favorite one with the undersea artwork.

Notice the sign “Dogs welcome”

I love this place!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Headed "across-the-pond"

 So far, our plan has worked out quite well. The whole goal of this trip was to visit Phil and Tracey in the UK for Phil's 60th birthday party. We combined it with a road-trip up the east coast so we could catch a non-stop flight out of JFK. The road trip has been wonderful! You can always tell by the quantity of photos. When we were just home for July, my monthly album has 12 photos in it. My August album (and August isn't over yet!) has 87 photos. 

We left the RV in Jimmy's driveway and packed our carry on bags to catch a ride to JFK. We got there early enough to relax, have a snack and a glass of wine while waiting for our British Airways flight. At the gate, there were plenty of available power outlets at a counter where we could sit with our computers. So civilized.

The flight was right on time and we were on our way. A 7 hour overnight flight and we arrived at Gatwick airport about 8am. With no sleep! So disappointed. We took 2 Tylenol PMs and expected to be able to sleep in our seats at least a few hours. Not a chance, the tylenol actually seemed to have the opposite effect on me and left me restless. It was torture. And it was a full flight - we had the aisle and the next seat in the center 4. Not even a window to lean against. We were zombies getting off the plane, but all was so easy. We just followed the crowd, slid thru customs, and soon saw a sign that said "All train tickets here." We purchased one way tickets to Bexhill-on-Sea and were told the train would be at platform 2 in 10 minutes. Platform 2 was just a 2 minute walk, and we were on our way. An hour and a half later we were in Bexhill.

Bexhill train station

Just a few blocks walk to SeaSpray Rooms where we would be staying

Unfortunately, we couldn't check in till 3. I SOO wanted to sleep! we found a bench on the beach where we could sit in relative comfort on a beautiful day. We went back to SeaSpray about 1-ish and they said, Good News! your room is ready early! We crashed into blissful sleep.

LBI Family

 Jim lived on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, from the mid 60s to the mid 70s, and he's taken me there nearly every year since we've been RVers. We love it, and we always stay at his old friend, Jimmy Lyon's, house. He has a big driveway that ends right at the bay, and it is our second home.

If I have one gorgeous sunset photo from this spot, I have 250! I can never resist.

We love that we can stay here, without intruding on the rest of the house, because he has plenty of family that comes to visit as well. We like to think of them as our extended family! This year we got to meet the latest addition - Logan. What a cutie-pie!

1-year-old Logan with Dad - Bob

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Outer banks

Ocracoke campground on the Hatteras National seashore holds a special place in our RVing memories. 
 See blog posts from 2004: Ferry to Ocracoke  One month on the road - yep, the first time we were here it took us a month to get here from Fort Lauderdale! That's what fulltime RVing is all about. This time we've taken 5 days. 
The first time we were here is when I had my panic attack about living on the road - I got over it pretty quick! We both loved the fulltime lifestyle. Wherever we parked the RV was home. Today I'm also in a quandary - at the other end of the spectrum. We love our townhouse in Fort Lauderdale so much that we really have to push to leave it. We've replaced the big RV rallies with an online audience, so we don't need to travel by RV much. The "Rhythm of the Road" and The Open Road no longer holds the same appeal. I just wouldn't write those posts today. I mean, it's OK - I'm even quite comfortable driving this little van - and it is the only time we listen to audible books - right now it's Life by Keith Richards (what a TRIP!)  
Maybe that's why I was intent on taking a route with Ferries this time. Break up the highway driving. We took the Cedar island - Ocracoke ferry to get to the Outer Banks. It's over 2 hours on the water. We stayed in the camper most of the time and could imaging we had a houseboat! We get another ferry ride today, headed north thru Hatteras, and the plan is to stay on the coast and take the Cape May ferry to New Jersey.

Once we got to the other side, it was just 10 minutes to the campground. I had made reservations just a couple hours before - no problem! It appears that there are some electric sites now (not in 2004) but, we were prepared for a dry camp night. The temperature was in the 70s, so I got a campsite right at the base of the sand dunes by the beach. So cool! And cheap - $28/night with -14 for our Golden Age National Park pass! So, just $14 to stay here ...

And, I slept so good that I even woke up with the sunrise, took the short walk over the dunes and got some beach-at-sunrise photos!