When the temperatures drop, we are often asked by concerned family and friends if we are warm enough in our travel trailer. People are especially concerned if we are warm enough at night. The answer is always yes!
One of the things about the RV lifestyle is that you have to be willing to roll with the punches. So many factors can change your plans at the last minute. That’s always been ok with us because it has often led to some of our best experiences.
This last year, travel for us has changed drastically. We are traveling across the country more and more for business. Often these trips have to be made very quickly; more quickly than towing a travel trailer allows.
Lately, we’ve been traveling a lot by plane or rental cars; staying in hotels and eating out the entire trip. This has become very expensive, not very good for our health, and to be honest…down right old. We love to travel but we long for the days of traveling in our own home.
We’ve kicked around a lot of different t ideas to make our travel better and less expensive. We decided that a truck camper would be our best option but instead of buying a new one, we really wanted to redo an older one. As we looked at difference RV sales sites, we weren’t finding exactly what we were looking for until today when one kind of fell into our laps.
We didn’t have any travel on schedule for awhile when we got back from Rockford, IL so we spent time making some upgrades to the camper. SuzAnne was able to squeeze in some time kayaking and hiking with friends.
A friend told us about a beautiful campground on the Tensaw River so we spent a weekend there with our grandson. Live Oaks Landing is beautiful and we can’t wait to go back.
Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2/3 cup chocolate or vanilla flavored powdered creamer
- 2 cups powdered milk
Whisk all ingredients together, making sure there are no lumps. Store in an airtight container or canning jar. I like to use 2/3 to 3/4 cup of the mix with one cup of hot water or skim milk to make my hot cocoa. It also makes great chocolate milk. I use a blender to get it well mixed.
I’m not sure really how long this can be stored because it doesn’t last long.
After we finished up in North Carolina, we headed to Rockford, IL to help out another Insulation Machines customer.
This trip was especially fun for us because we lived in Rockford for eight years when our girls were little. We wished we had more time to visit with friends and family who live nearby but we had to get back to South Alabama. We did squeeze in a little time to drive past some of the places we loved while there.
It was definitely a walk down memory lane.
After the First of the Year, we headed north to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina to help out an Insulation Machines customer. We stayed right on the Atlantic Ocean. We didn’t have a lot of time to sightsee but after the little we did, we definitely want to get back to explore this gorgeous area; especially via kayak.
The best part of the trip was meeting up with a good friend who volunteers with an organization that works with stranded sea turtles. It was great walking along the Atlantic with her catching up and talking about sea turtles!
We arrived home from South Carolina just in time to pull our camper over to Gulf State Park for a week of camping at Christmas.
We spent the week biking, catching up with full-time RVer friends, and relaxing after a fall schedule that was filled with a lot of travel.
The best part was seeing the park through the eyes of our grandson.
… with a camera, of course!
When I [SuzAnne] was in the fourth grade, my class went on a field trip to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Necedah, Wisconsin. This Refuge is home to the very rare and endangered whooping crane.
Now all these years later, we have visited Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Alabama over the last three years specifically to spot whooping cranes that migrate from the area of Wisconsin in which I grew up.
We have never visited Wheeler that it hasn’t been cold, rainy, and overcast but each time we talk about our next visit as we pull away. It is truly a magical place not just because of the whooping cranes but also because there are a few thousand sandhill cranes and several species of songbirds and waterfowl. It’s a great place for birding and wildlife photography.
We stayed in one of the brick cabins at the beautiful Joe Wheeler State Park which is about an hour away from the Refuge. A couple of years ago, we camped at this park but it is the first time we stayed in a cabin. It was very nice and we can’t wait to go back.
We are late in finishing the Advent Calendar because we were gone in the days leading up to Christmas and then Christmas was a whirlwind. When my girls were little, this would have stressed me out because we weren’t on schedule. I would have fit it in no matter what but it probably wouldn’t have been an enjoyable or memorable experience forcing something in the midst of chaos just to say we got it done. I’m a lot more relaxed as a grandma and realize that sticking to a strict schedule isn’t all that important sometimes.
What is important to us is keeping some traditions with our grandson even though we live in an RV. I’ve probably mentioned it before but I had the best grandparents in the world and I want our little guy to have the same experience. Most important to us that we share our faith with him from an early age. This advent calendar made for a fun and memorable way to do all the above.
The Advent readings are not from Fisher-Price but are my own.
Day 1—The Angel
God sent an angel to do a very special job. The angel went to Mary. Luke 1:28
The angel went to Mary and said, “Hello! God has chosen you to give birth to a son. You will name Him Jesus.” Mary said, “I will obey.” Luke 1: 26-38
Video Days 1 & 2 https://youtu.be/jgtwKsKct0g
The angel came to Joseph in a dream. The angel said, “Mary is going to have a very special baby. You are to name Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.” Joseph obeyed. Matthew 1:18-25
The King said that everyone had to make a long trip to be counted. Joseph and Mary had to go so they started to gather supplies. Maybe they rode on a donkey to get there. Luke 2:1-7
Mary and Joseph had a long journey so they would have needed supplies. Maybe, they took a wagon with them to carry everything. Luke 2:1-7
Day 6–Basket of Food
Mary and Joseph were wise and took food with them for their journey.
“And everyone, including Mary and Joseph, went to their own town to register.”
“Joseph went to Bethlehem, the town of David.”
“While they were there something amazing happened! She gave birth to Jesus. She wrapped Him in warm clothes and placed Him in a manger.” Luke 2:1-7
Let’s be very quiet so we don’t awaken the baby. Can you say, “Shhhh?”
Video Days 3-6: https://youtu.be/cUbMBE7GIh8
Day 7–Sheep #1
“There were shepherds in the fields watching over their sheep.” Luke 2:8
Day 8–Shepherd with Lamb
“An angel appeared to the shepherds and the glory of the Lord was all around them. They were afraid.” Luke 2:9
Video Days 7 & 8: https://youtu.be/-Mfq7KExy2A
Day 9–Sheep #2
The angel told them, “Don’t be afraid because I have really good news that will bring joy to ALL people.” Luke 2:10
The angel said, “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah.”
Video Days 9 & 10: https://youtu.be/jwhSpLEnbNw
Day 11—Haybail #1
“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
Day 12–Tree and Fence play set piece
‘Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”’Luke 2:14
Video Days 11 & 12: https://youtu.be/OFB9kNNrJ-E
Day 13–Chicken #1
The angels left and the shepherds said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem to see this thing the Lord told us about.” Luke 2:15
So the shepherds hurried and found Mary, Joseph, and the baby. The baby was lying in the manger. Luke 2:16
Video Days 13 & 14: https://youtu.be/-YOLzqbIif8
The shepherds saw Jesus and told everyone what they had learned about the child. Luke 2: 17
And all who heard what the shepherds said were amazed. Luke 2:18
Video Days 15 & 16: https://youtu.be/Dvi2REtLf6I
Day 17 —Chicken #2
Mary treasured everything that happened and kept them in her heart. Luke 2:19
The shepherds came back. They praised God and gave Him all the glory for what they had seen and heard. Luke 2:20
The angel had told Mary and Joseph to name the baby Jesus so that’s what they did. Luke 2:21
Video Days 17, 18, & 19: https://youtu.be/ewdOD0GiZ1U
Day 20–Haybail #2
For to us a Child is born and to us a Son is given. Isaiah 9:6
Day 21 —Camel
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Day 22–Wiseman #1
The wisemen came to the stable and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1 & 2
Video Days 20, 21, & 22: https://youtu.be/Vmkw9xdYdgY
Day 23–Wiseman #2
When they saw the star, they were so happy. They followed it to Jesus. Matthew 2:9 & 10
Day 24–Wiseman #3
The wisemen arrived at the stable where they saw Jesus. They bowed down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:11
Day 25–Baby Jesus
She will give birth to a son. You are to call Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. Luke 1:32
Video Days 23, 24, & 25: https://youtu.be/_dAY8emKLaY
We love camping at Lake Lurleen State Park. The lake is large and beautiful. The sites are huge and many of them overlook the lake. As with many Alabama State Parks, most of the sites have electric, sewer and water. The park is clean, remote and the staff is first-rate!
With approximately 19.5 miles of trails, you will find them perfect for short hikes or long bike trips.
WiFi Signal Problem
The MAIN difficulty with this park and really, the ONLY downside for us wanderers, is the lack of internet and phone signal. The park is in a valley and the cell towers are up on the hill. Our phones may receive a text, sporadically, but that is few and far between.
Before we made our next trip to Lake Lurleen, I saw some YouTubers talk about the same problem and they said it was solved by using a booster system. Having researched boosters, we bought and installed the SolidRF Signal Booster.
Every morning, I would jump in the truck with my laptop and MiFi card to get signal. It was about a 7 mile drive until I could reach strong enough signal to check my email and phone messages. Since my businesses are 100% internet-based, I found myself having to make this trip multiple times throughout the day… THEN… I thought… “what if my drone could carry my MiFi card into the sky and connect with a tower?” So, two questions:
First: “Will the State Park let me fly my drone?” I got permission.
Second: “If I send the MiFi card 100-200 feet into the air, will the MiFi signal be strong enough for me to still connect to it?” It does!
Make sure you watch the video below to see how I connect to the cell tower using my drone and MiFi card! I am probably the first camper to actually watch a streaming YouTube! 😉
Here is a link to the parts that I used to make my “Drone MiFi”
SuzAnne has the uncanny ability to find wildflowers whenever we hike. Until she started to show me wildflowers as we walked trails, everything just seemed to be another green weed – to me. She can pick out the smallest of flowers that I NEVER would have paid attention to! Today’s hike is NO exception! In fact, I never saw or heard of this flower until we made this video.
While hiking this trail in northern Alabama, SuzAnne said that she was looking for a “little brown jug.” Mind you, hiking in the woods of Alabama, looking for a “little brown jug,” a wildflower is the last thing that comes to my mind! Did she stumble into someone’s backyard still?!
Seriously though, this plant is hidden under thick leaf litter. You can find the plant by finding the main heart-shaped leaf that extends above the leaf litter. Watch the video below and you will see this amazingly cool plant!
When we began this wild adventure, we started with 3 young girls who have now grown up and are making their own way! Here is an update on our travels and what we are now doing!
We “settled” down in Gulf Shores, Alabama. While sitting around a Michigan campfire in the summer of 2012, I asked our girls, where do you want to spend the winter? Secretly, I had already chosen the Keys of Florida… but everyone of our girls, wife included, said “Gulf Shores” without hesitation. So… here we are… what was supposed to be wintering in Alabama has now turned into our “home base.”
Jenna, our oldest daughter took training to become a realtor. She happily runs up and down the coast-line selling properties. She also now has a baby boy that is the joy of our life!
Mikayla, our second daughter started a painting business, found a great guy, and now lives in North Alabama. She amazes us with her industrious and hilarious approach to life! Whitley, our new son-in-law, is an amazing musician and shares Mikayla’s sense of humor. We are so glad they found each other!
Èva, our youngest, just bought a RV and lives a couple of rows away from us, at the moment. She, like our other girls, is an extremely hard worker. For a number of years, she worked with Marine Science Adventures and really loves wildlife. Currently, she works for a Coastal Alabama program.
SuzAnne works for Marine Science Adventures. She volunteers at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge where she guides walks about the native plant life. She worked hard to earn both, the Mississippi Master Naturalist and Alabama Master Naturalist certifications.
Barry Well… I continue to sell insulation machines and travel all over training crews on how to insulate houses. My website company is now just the right size to manage. Website technology has come a long way since 2013… I have now developed into more of a media company. The kids moved out and the drones moved in! 😀
Here’s how much of the US we have covered, so far. Looks like SuzAnne and I have quite a bit more traveling ahead of us!