Flight To & From Florida, Then Back On The Road

Family Gathering At The Villages, Florida

Our hostess in Minneapolis, Robin, got up early and drove us to the airport for our 7:00 a.m. direct flight to Orlando.

Using frequent flyer miles from our winter flights to speak at RV shows, I booked the early morning departure because it was a direct flight with no stops, layovers, or plane changes.

Upon arrival in Orlando, we had pre-booked the shuttle bus to The Villages where Linda's mother lives and where we own a small villa that we bought in 2017 (which we are currently renting out on a long-term basis).

Her Mom's 80th birthday was this past week, but we flew in for a planned celebration on Saturday night. It turned out to be a great party with about 70 people, family and neighbors that feel like family.




Part of our contribution was Alaska salmon that we shipped to them a few weeks back. Zoa's husband, Adam, smoked some, and it was a big hit.



Linda's brother, Jon, composed a moving song, and the two of them sang to their mother.




There were some tears and hugs.



Unfortunately, Linda and Jon's sister, Karen, became ill during the week and couldn't come - it was supposed to be a trio for the song.

We enjoyed food, music, and dancing, until it was time for a family photo.



So, that was a successful evening. Happy Birthday, Zoa!


We were staying until October 3rd as we had gotten tickets for an October 2nd show called "Ballroom With A Twist" at the Savannah Center in The Villages. It was a live show combining dancers from "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With Stars" with singers from "American Idol". We're not watching TV anymore, but we enjoyed the amazing young talent on those shows when we were.

Each morning during our stay, I got up early and played pickleball for a couple hours. There are over 100 pickleball courts in The Villages, and it's pretty easy to find a game. I hadn't played since March, but it all came back pretty quickly.

The RV park where we'll be staying this winter, Recreation Plantation, has 14 pickleball courts, and they have a pro that provides instruction. We'll be flying out to four RV shows in January and February, but otherwise I'll likely be found on the court.

While we were there, the freezer in our rental house went out. Fortunately, our presence made it easier to work with our home warranty company and get the issue fixed. In the process, we had the pleasure of meeting our tenant, a recent widower, and we were able to take a look at the inside of our house. The villa is still in great shape, and David seems to be a wonderful guy. After a long insurance career, he's now a published author and has some selections on Amazon - David Carl Mielke. He gave us the first book in his Lena Mills Trilogy series, and his autobiography is on Kindle Unlimited.

When October 2 came around, our show got cancelled. The President, who had to cancel a prior visit, had rescheduled for October 3 at the Savannah Center, so the venue had to shut down to prepare. 

All was not lost, however. October 2 happened to be Zoa & Adam's 20th wedding anniversary, so we celebrated with them by going out to dinner nearby at The Rose Plantation, the closest thing to fine dining in the area. We had a wonderful meal to end our time with family.

The next morning, we shuttled to Orlando and caught our plane back to Minneapolis, where our host, Scott, picked us up and took us back to the house and our home on wheels.


Minneapolis Errands

After a good night's sleep, I got up at 5:30 a.m. to join Scott for morning basketball at the YMCA. I hadn't played a basketball game for several months, and it showed. But I got up and down the court pretty well for a couple hours, and found I'm in better shape than I thought.

Linda went with Robin for morning pickleball at some public courts. And Scott and I joined them a little later. The skill levels were quite varied, and it was a good environment for Linda to get back into it. After most people left, Scott and I played with two other skilled players and we had five really good, competitive games. That was fun.

Back-to-back basketball and pickleball was a great start to the day. After getting cleaned up, Linda & I went to a Quest lab for my periodic blood test, and then we made our way to Costco and a local grocery to stock our nearly empty refrigerator.

In the evening Linda made some parmesan garlic wings and spinach/artichoke dip for Scott & Robin as we watched playoff baseball (since the Minnesota Twins were playing). They came to our 2015 Spring Educational Rally and our 2019 Boondocking Rally, but it was great getting to know them better. They aren't sure if they will full-time, but they are part-time full-timers and will be heading south for the winter.

Thanks Scott & Robin for allowing us to park in your driveway and your hospitality. See you down the road.


Stop In Cedar Rapids, Iowa

It poured rain almost all last night and until around 9:00 a.m. this morning. I think we had more rain in one night than we had during our entire four months in Alaska.

When the rain let up a little, we quickly kicked into gear to move on. We thanked Robin & Scott, and headed south toward Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We had a two-purpose plan for a stop there.

The couple that bought our beloved fifth wheel in the Spring of 2018, Doug & Kristi, live just north of Cedar Rapids. And they've decided that the fifth wheel is too large for them, so they are selling the truck and trailer combination and looking at a smaller Class A motorhome. The truck and fifth wheel are on the market and will make someone a fantastic full-timing set-up for a nice price. If anyone out there is interested, just let us know and we'll pass along the contact information.

But the reason for our stop is Linda made two pieces of stained glass art for the fifth wheel, and they graciously agreed to remove those out of the fifth wheel for her. We had left the original glass for the door and the electric fireplace in the fifth wheel, so replacement was easy.

It rained pretty much the entire 230-mile drive but let up a little once we arrived around 3:00 p.m. We got set up and parked on their rural property.



In a scene we never envisioned, our motorhome was parked in front of our old fifth wheel.



In addition to allowing Linda to do laundry, Kristi & Doug invited us to join them for dinner. They've been doing Keto for a few years, so we didn't have to make any special requests and quickly accepted. After another wonderful meal, and getting caught up, we retired to our rig for the night.


The next morning, we said our "thank yous" and "goodbyes" and drove the 15 miles into Cedar Rapids where we met Linda's half-brother, Jan, for breakfast.

They didn't grow up together, but they've been able to re-connect through our RV travels as we've passed through over the years. He's doing well and we had a nice visit before we continued east.


Into Illinois

We had a better travel day as we drove the 180 miles to East Peoria, Illinois. I had picked out the Carl Spindler Campground on the Peoria Lake section of the Illinois River.

They have a mix of full hook-up sites, water/electric sites, electric-only sites, and no hook-up sites. The office was closed when we arrived on this Sunday afternoon, ....



and the map didn't indicate which sites had which services. So, we unhitched the Jeep, I checked the sites that were reserved for the night and then drove through to pick out a spot.

Most of the sites are occupied by monthly and seasonal RVers. With a monthly rate of $330 for a full hook-up site, it's a wonder any sites were available. There is a marina and access to the river, .....



so it's a great place for boaters and fishermen.

Actually, there were several electric-only sites available next to the river, .....



but the full hook-up sites were only $5 more at $27, so we snagged the only one I found that was available - Site 15.




If you happen to stop there sometime, be forewarned that the water pressure is really high, so be sure to use a pressure regulator.

The river was also "really high" as I walked around and took a few photos.



The six "beach" sites were a bit damp.




This sailboat floating in front of the Peoria skyline wasn't deterred by the high water.



A little later, Linda put together a dinner of leftovers, and we settled in for the evening. I streamed a little football and baseball while she worked on another locker-hooking project.

Before bed, we watched a couple of documentaries on nutrition using our Amazon Prime video. With our relatively new Keto lifestyle, we are much more focused on what we are consuming than we have been in the past. I've always been one to say that healthy eating is a matter of discipline and "calories in, calories out", but now that we are looking at not only "macronutrients" (carbs, fat, protein) but also ingredients on packaged food, what we are seeing is shocking. Not all calories are created equally, and the wrong type of calories can't just be "burned off" before some damage has been done. 

The estimate is that 70% - 80% of packaged food has added sugar, and we are finding sugar in the most innocuous of products like powdered soup mix and taco seasoning. The food industry has been trying to hide this from us for years. According to several different authorities on the subject, there are over 60 different names for sugar on packaged food nutrition labels. Sugar is addicting and the food industry is quite aware of this fact.

Also, if you look closely at labels, the food industry plays with "serving size" because the nutrition information labels are based on serving sizes and if the serving sizes are small enough the percentages of ingredients are smaller and the bad stuff doesn't have to be disclosed.

Sugar not only adds calories with no benefit other than taste (a teaspoon of sugar is 4.2 grams and has 16 calories), it also leads to addiction (some say a stronger addiction than cocaine) which results in cravings and more consumption. Over-consumption of sugar leads to numerous health risks including over-eating, obesity, and higher risks of heart disease, stroke, joint pain, arthritis, and depression.

The good news is that the FDA established new rules in 2016 that require food companies to improve their "truth in labels" (aka Nutrition Facts labels) by requiring them to include on the labels "added sugar" (as opposed to the naturally occurring sugars in such ingredients as fruits and milk) and what percentage of the recommended daily allowance of sugar that comprises. Also, the new rules require more accuracy in serving sizes. Of course those standards were supposed to be implemented in 2018, and some companies are already complying, but the compliance time was extended to 2020 for the largest of food companies and 2021 for smaller food companies. In the meantime, if Linda sees one of the 60-something names for sugar in the ingredients, she leaves it on the shelf.

Now, I don't want the government telling me what I can and can't eat or drink, and reading labels is a major pain, but we as a society are eating way more sugar than is healthy and that leads to the numerous problems I mentioned above that may be curtailed by keeping sugar down to 10% of daily calories as recommended by the World Health Organization.

Check this out from ExperienceLife.com:

You know a sugary treat when you see one — a slice of cake, a wedge of pie, a scoop of double-fudge ice cream. But you may be surprised by how much sugar you don’t see in your everyday diet.

Let’s say you start your day with low-fat yogurt topped with berries and granola (50 grams of sugar); you drizzle fat-free dressing (8 grams) on your salad at lunch, sip your favorite coffee-shop chai latte (42 grams) in the afternoon, and then tuck into a big bowl of pasta and tomato sauce (30 grams) at dinner. Between naturally occurring sugar in these foods and hidden added sugar, you’ve consumed 130 grams of sugar by the end of the day — roughly 33 teaspoons, or two-thirds of a cup — without eating anything that resembled dessert.

Nearly two hundred years ago, the average American ate about 6 pounds of sugar a year; by 1999, annual consumption had ballooned to more than 100 pounds. That much sugar is foreign in terms of human evolution and beyond our bodies’ ability to process it, says Lisa Nelson, MD, a family physician and the director of medical education at Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Mass. “Most people are unaware of how detrimental sugar is to their health — and how pervasive it is.”


Low-fat and fat-free packaged foods are often the worst when it comes to sugar content.

We've adopted Keto because our friends that accompanied us to Alaska had been doing it for two years, and it was easier to prepare meals for the four of us if we were all eating the same thing. They helped educate us,and I followed up with some research of my own. It isn't for everyone, and there are certainly several other healthy, less-restrictive nutritional options out there. Keto requires discipline and cutting out a lot of what we used to enjoy, but it's been a great way for us to wean off of sugar and still eat lots of things we love that satiate our appetite (which helps keep our daily calorie intake down).

Of course I miss cinnamon rolls and pancakes swimming in maple syrup and ice cream and milk chocolate, but I don't crave any of those things and watching other people eat those tasty treats doesn't bother me in the least. We use some healthy sugar substitutes to satisfy our "shrunken sweet tooth", and I don't feel deprived at all when I eat my bacon, pork chops with crispy fat, prime rib slathered in butter, and all the seafood I want (especially the fatty salmon from Alaska). And I've even started to enjoy low carb veggies that I cook on our Blackstone in butter, olive oil, and/or bacon grease. Plus Linda is enjoying the creativity of creating tasty meal options that continually expand our menu choices.

I don't care about living to a ripe old age, but if I do, I hope to be as active as possible with as few ailments and medications as possible and, though nobody knows for sure, perhaps eliminating most of the sugar in my daily diet will help. Perhaps not, but as of right now, I feel great. And Linda's knee pain has evaporated, which makes her ecstatic.

Food is a big part of RV life, and sugar deprivation may tread into the "no fun zone" for a lot of folks, but I for one get a lot more joy out of hiking with 20 less pounds and being able to participate in my sports for hours at a time.

Live your life the way you want to live it. Quite frankly, I just want everyone to be happy. You know I hate to be told what to do, so I certainly wouldn't tell anyone else what to do; however, if a little bit of our own education might be helpful to some, then I try to put it out there. All the hidden sugar in our packaged and processed foods and our diets is not good for us, and if we are aware of it, we can at least make more informed choices. If nothing else, it can't hurt to cut back on sugar even if it's just a little bit.

Okay, well, that was one of those unanticipated tangents that I sometimes get off on. Sorry about that, but you know we write about pretty much everything, and this was fresh on my mind, so there you have it. Trust me, I shortened it a bit.


Indiana Moochdocking

Last night was a paid stop, but tonight we're back to what we call Moochdocking, parking for free in the driveways of friends and family. We're taking a more northern route to Myrtle Beach going through central Indiana and Ohio before dropping south through West Virginia and North Carolina.

And tonight, we're stopping at our friends house in Avon, Indiana on the west side of Indianapolis.

We've stayed with Dan & Sheila before, and we met up with them last summer in Portland, Oregon as they were visiting family. It was a beautiful day as we backed into their drive and plugged into the outlet in their garage.




Sheila has advanced MS, and Linda wanted to stop for a couple nights to take care of a project or two for her and relieve Dan of his caretaking responsibilities for an afternoon.

Linda prepared a big ol' dinner, and after I grilled up a couple packages of bacon on the Blackstone, I grilled some Sockeye salmon and brussel sprouts to add to Linda's salad and cheesy broccoli and cauliflower casserole. It was all delicious and the biggest meal we've had in awhile.

After dinner and getting caught up, we called it a night.

The next day, Linda helped Sheila organize her closet - a woman's touch was needed.

While they were doing that, Dan and I went to the Avon Town Hall Park and played some disc golf. That's a passion for Dan, and we were able to get in two 18-hole rounds. It was another beautiful day, and we both enjoyed being out and walking the course.

Back at the house, I did a little work in the rig while Linda did some touch-up painting in the house, mostly wall marks from Sheila's wheelchair and other equipment.

She then prepared another dinner for us - a shell-less taco salad.

As Sheila tired, we called it a night.

Tomorrow, we'll make a stop in Ohio before turning more southward.




Flight To & From Florida, Then Back On The Road