On the Homestretch

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Readers of our last blog probably realized that we were scraping the bottom of the barrel for new blog material. Our activities last week consisted of more preparations for moving into our new house in September and, as a result, we are scraping the barrel again this week.

We mentioned last week that that the closing on our house is scheduled for September 4th so we have a good idea of who will win our guess-our-house-completion-date contest (And the Winner Is…). However, things can change so we will not announce a winner until the closing actually occurs.

We continued to camp last week at Lake Powhatan in the Pisgah National Forest, southeast of Asheville.

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Our (last?) camp site with our Airstream at Lake Powhatan–we look forward to having reliable phone and internet service so we will no longer have to search for locations where our phones work, like on top of the picnic table. Lake Powhatan is in the Bent Creek area which is packed with hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as the North Carolina Arboretum.

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We have complained about living in our 30-foot trailer for more than a year but we were amazed that two of our camping neighbors spent the night in this trailer—sort of the camping equivalent of a circus clown car. Of course they were also gone after one night.  We met other neighbors who were originally from Gainesville and had lived in a trailer for three years. After our experience with trailer life, we are very impressed with any couple that can live happily in a trailer for more than a year.

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Nearby in the Pisgah National Forest is an area known as the Cradle of Forestry where the scientific practice of forestry management began in America. It started here because the owner of the Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt, wanted to restore the forests that had been clear-cut on the small plot of land he owned in the Asheville area–125,000 acres. Vanderbilt already hired a pretty good landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead who designed New York City’s Central Park. Olmstead told Vanderbilt he needed a “Forest Manager” so he hired Gifford Pinchot who developed and implemented a plan to manage Vanderbilt’s forests. Pinchot later became the first chief of the United States Forest Service.

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As always, we shared the showers with daddy longlegs, some of the biggest we have seen on our trip. They are not dangerous but, for some reason, Patty still prefers not to shower with them.

Speaking of showers, our blog is winding down so we would like to use this forum to resolve a personal hygiene difference of opinion. Ed normally starts his shower with his lower extremities and ends with his face. Patty thinks this is gross and starts with her face and works her way down her body.  To determine who has the best approach, please respond to the following survey:

Desperate for blog-worthy material, Ed insisted that we take a break from house-related activities and visit Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain east of Colorado. It is located about 20 miles northeast of Asheville as the crow flies, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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The Blue Ridge Parkway as seen from Mount Mitchell

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Scaling Mount Mitchell is not too challenging because you can drive to this point. There is also a snack bar so you can prepare yourself for the climb to the summit at an elevation of 6,684 feet (a daunting elevation increase of 106 feet).

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Foliage on Mount Mitchell (a la Ansel Adams)

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Flora and fauna on Mount Mitchell—the bugs in the bottom right photo were everywhere and got all over our clothes. We initially thought they were ticks but were somewhat relieved to find out they were weevils. The Park Ranger indicated there was a recent infestation of the bugs at the top of the mountain but they were dying out. Some of the bugs clung to our car windows all the way back to Asheville and Ed found one crawling on his leg the next day.

Finally, Ed was in the campground bathroom and happened to be looking at the infant changing table when he noticed markings on the table that looked like Braille letters.

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Infant changing table with a message in Braille—Ed was intrigued so he went to the Internet and, after considerable study, discovered that the first line of the message was “Never leave child unattended.” This warning is also included on the inside of the changing table in seven different languages. As with the previous warning labels we have discussed in previous blogs on beach balls and ravioli, is this really necessary?

[Editor’s note: Ed came up with the title of our last blog, I Will Tow No More Forever, which is a play on the famous quotation attributed to the great Chief George of the Nez Perce: “I will fight no more forever”.]

I Will Tow No More Forever

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Our Airstream travels have come to an end! We are back in Asheville, NC and plan to stay here until our house is ready—our closing date is scheduled for September 4th.

We camped last week at Lake Powhatan, a very nice campground in Pisgah National Forest, about eight miles from our future home. Most of our time will now be spent preparing to move in so blog-worthy activities will be limited—unless you would like to hear about our shopping for a refrigerator and washer/dryer. As a result, this week’s blog consists of a random assortment of unrelated observations.

As we become familiar with Asheville, it is inevitable that we discover some negatives to go along with all the positives. While being surrounded by mountains provides beautiful views, it also results in an Asheville road system that is much more challenging than that of our flat former hometown, Gainesville, FL.

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As shown on the left, Gainesville primarily consists of roads that run either north/south or east/west, and they are numbered sequentially–for example, we lived on NW 43rd Street. Once you know the system, you can find most locations in Gainesville without a map, Garmin or smart phone.

It’s not so simple in Asheville, as shown on the right. First of all, there are three interstates, I-26, I-40, and I-240. You can go east/west on I-40, east/west on I-240, and (despite what the map shows) east/west on I-26. This has already caused much confusion, especially for Patty, but Ed is quizzing her during each car trip and her understanding of the road system is improving.

Once you get off the interstates the roads are even more confusing. We have been using Google Maps Navigation on our smart phone to find our way around Asheville, but it continually gives us questionable guidance. If our smart phone can’t figure out the Asheville road system, what hope do we have?

As if to foreshadow our driving future in Asheville, we met a lost elderly couple from Georgia who asked us for directions. Normally we would not be too concerned about lost Georgians but these were Florida Gator fans so we felt obligated to do our best. We hope they made it home but their predicament raised a question:  Is old age and a confusing road system a bad combination? Being optimists (well, at least Patty) we will take the glass half-full position that the road system will help keep us mentally sharp as we move into our golden years.

Ed always tries to make sure that the information we post on our blog is factual so he was upset to learn that we incorrectly identified a photo of a damselfly in last week’s blog as a dragonfly (our friend and biologist, Don Holmes, pointed out our error). As a public service, we are reposting the following photos from previous blogs so no one else will have to suffer the embarrassment of making this mistake.

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On the left is a dragonfly which has wings that remain open when the dragonfly is at rest. On the right is a damselfly which has wings that close together when the damselfly is at rest. There are other differences but this is the easiest to identify.

In a previous blog, we discussed the potential advantages of keeping a bike rack and bikes on the back of your vehicle if, for some reason, you do not want anyone to see your license plate. There was a significant change to our license plate last week as shown on the following photos.

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On the left—license plate before, and on the right—license plate after

As you cannot see, we now have North Carolina license plates. As a result, we have proven the advantage of bike racks because we drove with an expired Florida license plate for two months as shown on the following photo. (We did not intentionally do this but getting North Carolina license plates was a challenge—it’s a long story.)

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We will miss our Everglades license plate, even if we rarely saw it.

Ed calculated that we have towed our Airstream about 12,000 miles since we left Gainesville last June. That is equivalent to driving from New York to Los Angeles and back—twice—and then taking a leisurely drive down to Asheville. Therefore, we would like to apologize for both accelerating the depletion of the world’s petroleum resources and significantly increasing carbon emissions. To make amends, we plan to replace our Toyota Sequoia with a hybrid car.

Cereal update—we previously reported on the many imitations of brand-name cereals we have spotted on our trip, specifically imitation Crispix. Here are some photos of one of the imitators.

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On the left—the old box, and on the right—the new box

Laura Lynn is a brand name of Ingles Markets—apparently someone determined that shoppers would be more likely to buy imitation Crispix that is called Hexa Crisp rather than Crispy Hexagons. Maybe they felt that an actual geometric shape was too intimidating.

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Ed would also like to point out a new cereal marketing scam. On the grocery store shelf, the cereal on the left looks like a good deal until you pick it up and realize that the box is much thinner than typical cereal boxes.

By the way, note the recipe for Chicken Picatta on the Hexa Crisp box—Ed wonders what percentage of imitation Crispix sales are due to the making of Chicken Picatta.

Finally, Ed came across a Henry David Thoreau quote that we should have included in our blog, To Retire or Not To Retire:

“There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.”

But Is It Blog-worthy?

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In addition to this blog, we have written an annual holiday letter for the last 23 years to let friends and relatives know what our family has been doing. Ed has always used the annual letter as a measure of whether or not we have been living life to the fullest.  One year he found we had done so little during the year that he was too depressed to write–Patty had to write the entire letter herself.

Now we are writing this blog every week which brings Ed stress 52 times a year—he starts getting nervous around Wednesday if we have not yet engaged in any blog-worthy activities. Fortunately, we recently participated in an activity for the first time that was sure to make this week’s blog—zip-lining.

Ironically, Ed considers zip-lining to be what he calls a “pseudo-nature activity”, one of his pet peeves.  Here are some others:

  • Jet skiing. Maybe if jet skiers slowed down and were actually going somewhere, they could enjoy nature. However, they always seem to go as fast as possible, back and forth, over and over, usually in front of our camp site (thus eliminating the possibility that we could enjoy nature).
  • Air boating. We may be biased because we were almost run over by an air boat while kayaking but this is probably one of the most unnatural outdoor activities invented by man. Here’s a hint—if you have to wear ear protection, you are not enjoying nature.
  • Mountain biking. Although Ed enjoys mountain biking, you can’t really enjoy nature when you are avoiding running into trees. If mountain bikers were on a relatively safe trail and slowed down, they could possibly enjoy nature. However, for most mountain bikers, going as fast as possible seems to be their primary goal.

Despite the fact that Ed was skeptical of zip-lining, he knew it would be blog-worthy. As a result, we paid $84 per person to go zip-lining at Shenandoah River State Park.

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Ready to go–we should say that this was one of the safest activities we have ever done—Ed had less straps when he went sky diving.

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Patty on the zip line conducting what is advertised as a “canopy tour”–in fact, zip-lining has been used for many years by scientists to move slowly through tropical tree canopies and study flora and fauna. However, commercial zip-lining consists of “zipping” through the forest (at speeds up to 40 mph according to our guide), so the likelihood that you might spot a bird in a tree is about the same as winning the lottery.

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Patty enjoying nature?—Ed couldn’t even get Patty to look at the camera, much less the tree canopy.

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After eight zip lines and two rope bridges, Patty was not happy to find out we still had to rappel to the ground from the last platform.

Our conclusions after zip-lining: it’s safe and fun but it has little to do with enjoying nature. To be fair, our guide did describe what types of trees the zip lines were attached to so we now sort of know the difference between black, red, and white oak trees.

In search of more blog-worthy activities, Ed, daughters Lindsay and Adrienne, and son-in-law Al visited the James River to do some hiking and kayaking.

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Lindsay on the James–when we got to the launching point, Ed was concerned because: 1) there were rapids downstream of the launch, 2) our kayaks are not intended for whitewater, and 3) Lindsay has little experience with this kayak and none in whitewater. As a result, Ed made sure that Lindsay wore a life jacket.

Ed’s concern turned out to be misdirected as Lindsay easily kayaked through the rapids but Ed’s kayak flipped over. Some (including Patty) may consider this another example of Ed taking unnecessary risks, but he considered it an opportunity to demonstrate what to do in a kayak emergency. The following photos demonstrate proper emergency procedures.

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Step 1 (not shown) – Put on your life jacket. Ideally you should do this before beginning to kayak (and landing in the water) but Ed did not, even after insisting that Lindsay wear one.

Step 2 (above)—Pump the water out of your kayak—water in your kayak makes it very unstable so you have to get the water out (at least Ed brought a pump).

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It took a lot of time to pump the water out of Ed’s kayak so Lindsay lost interest and took a selfie.

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Step 3—Blow up and attach a float (the yellow object) to the paddle. Attach the other end to the kayak. (Note that Ed is standing on the river bottom—he practiced these procedures once before in our old Gainesville swimming pool and it is a little harder when the water is over your head.)

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Step 4–Climb up on the back of the kayak, using the paddle and float as an outrigger for stabilization

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Step 5–Move forward to the cockpit, keeping your weight towards the side with the outrigger.

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Step 6–Climb into the cockpit and dismantle the outrigger–disaster averted!

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Bonus tip—make sure you put your valuables in a waterproof bag (which Ed did) and make sure the bag is tightly closed (which Ed did not). Otherwise, like Ed, you will be leaving your valuables out to dry.

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After our adventure in the river, Adrienne’s dog, Roary, swam out to greet us–the first time she has shown any interest in swimming!

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In addition to swimming for the first time, Roary went kayaking with Adrienne.

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Al kayaking on the James

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From left: Roary, Lindsay (nice sunglasses), Olivia, and Adrienne

Patty and I also did some kayaking two weeks ago on the Shenandoah River. The water was higher than when we visited last year so we were able to kayak upstream from the park.

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Kayaking upstream on the Shenandoah River—as Ed likes to say: “You can’t spend your life always floating downstream”. Ed realized that this is a good metaphor for life.  You paddle upstream and sometimes progress is easy and other times you reach obstacles that are difficult to overcome. Inevitably, you reach an obstacle that you cannot pass. At that point, hopefully you can retire.

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Enjoying nature

Bottom left—a dragonfly on Ed’s hand appears to be trying to tell him something

Top left—a totally silver dragonfly on Ed’s kayak

Top right—a dragonfly on Ed’s paddle

Bottom right—birds do it, bees do it, and (apparently) dragonflies also do it

Ed is pretty sure that jet skiers and air boaters do not routinely observe dragonflies that land on their watercraft.

[Editor’s note: Patty would like to thank everyone for all their kind words after the passing of her mother, Eleanor Deyden.]

Eleanor, Gee We Think You’re Swell!

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Patty’s mother, Eleanor Deyden, passed away last week at age 83. As shown in the photos above, we will remember her love of life as well as her love of family including husband Jules, six children and twelve grandchildren. She will be greatly missed by family and friends.

Sadly, we really lost Eleanor many months ago to a terrible disease—Alzheimer’s. Here are some facts about the disease from the Alzheimer’s Association web site:

  • Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life.
  • Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, although the greatest known risk factor is increasing age. Up to 5% of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s, which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.
  • Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms.

Our family can attest to the terrible effects of Alzheimer’s, both on the individual and their family. Many of you probably have friends or relatives who have also been affected. In Eleanor’s memory, we urge everyone to make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association at http://www.alz.org.

One Year and Counting

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“Wild horses couldn’t drag me away”—Mick Jagger

As we mentioned in last week’s blog, we recently completed one year of traveling and living in our Airstream. So it’s an appropriate time to summarize what we have been “livin’ in a trailer down by” for the first 365 days of our adventure.  Here are the types of places we stayed and the number of visits for each:

  • Lake (man-made) – 17
  • River – 14
  • Forest – 7
  • Driveway – 5
  • Ocean – 4
  • Prairie – 3
  • Bayou – 3
  • Mountain – 2
  • Swamp – 2
  • Spring – 2
  • Creek – 2
  • Gorge – 2
  • Lake (natural) – 1

That is a total of 64 locations where we parked our Airstream for an average stay of 5.7 days. On the glass half-full side, that was 64 different places where we were able to hike, bike, kayak, sightsee, listen to music, or visit friends and relatives. On the glass half-empty side, that was 64 times we hooked up our temporary home, emptied the wastewater tanks, hauled it a few hundred miles, and unhooked and set it up again. Just writing this makes us tired but, all in all, it has been a great experience that we don’t regret. The next few months until our house is completed may be more of a challenge—sort of like the last few miles of a marathon—but we are determined to continue our blog until we are in our new home.

Last week we camped at Grayson Highlands State Park in the mountains of southwest Virginia, one of our favorite parks.

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Patty starting on the trail

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How can you not enjoy a hike when this is the view from the trail? Most of the Appalachian Mountains are heavily wooded so scenes like this are not common while hiking, but Grayson Highlands has many open areas.

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One of the many wild ponies of Grayson Highlands along the trail

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Mother and child

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Ed looks to the future

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Patty climbing to the top—her primary complaint was that she had to look down most of the hike to avoid tripping on rocks.

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We were surprised how high up the mountains the ponies roamed to graze.

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The ponies are supposed to be wild but some seemed to expect to be fed. This guy sniffed around Patty while she tried to post a photo on Facebook and attempted to eat Ed’s map while he was trying to read it.

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On the A.T.—the white blaze on the rock indicates that a portion of our hike was on the Appalachian Trail. We hiked about one mile of the trail so along with the 2 miles we hiked last year, we now have about 2178 miles to go. At this rate we should complete the entire trail in about 1088 years. [Editor’s Note: The length of the A.T. varies depending on what source you read but, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, it is 2181 miles].

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Flora and fauna along the trail

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Ed on the forest trail–notice the black socks. You would think he was a Scandinavian tourist.

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The fungus among us—we’re not sure what this was but it was very colorful.

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Patty among the ferns

While at Grayson Highlands, we visited friends, Karen and Jim, who are campground hosts during the summer at Raccoon Branch Campground in Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. When Karen and Jim first retired they planned to travel in their trailer for a year but ended up traveling for more than four years. We are always impressed with their love of the outdoors and we also appreciate the great books we have received from Jim’s collection—several have been discussed in our previous blogs.

After Grayson Highlands we traveled to Shenandoah River State Park near Front Royal, Virginia, our base camp for visiting friends and relatives in the Washington, DC area. We had a great visit with our friends, Tim, Liliana, Brint, and Pat in Herndon. As we mentioned before, the hospitality we have received on our trip has been unbelievable—we will do our best to return this hospitality once we settle in Asheville.

We also visited Ed’s mother in Gaithersburg, MD and it turned into a mini-reunion when Ed’s brother Dave and his wife Kary happened to be in town at the same time. Along with Ed’s sisters Karen and Nancy and Nancy’s husband Craig, we had an enjoyable Sunday brunch. We all agreed that it was nice to get together on a less stressful non-holiday for a change.

Bear guidance update: In previous blogs we have discussed the somewhat contradictory advice from state and federal parks for avoiding problems with black bears (Into the Wild). However, Grayson Highlands State Park provided some additional guidance that makes perfect sense: “While camping, don’t store food in a convertible.”

To Retire or Not To Retire

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“The mountains are calling and I must go.”—John Muir

We reached a milestone last week—one year living in our Airstream (there was no celebration). We decided this would be an appropriate time to offer our thoughts on retirement, with the hope that we might help others who are contemplating this life change, now or in the future.

We have discussed retirement with many people in the last few years and we find they generally fall into the following groups:

  • Group 1 – Those who are looking forward to quitting their jobs and retiring as soon as possible. (You can tell if you are in this group by answering the following question: Do you normally look forward to Fridays or Mondays?)
  • Group 2 – Those who really enjoy their jobs and are in no hurry to retire (This is a small group—Mick Jagger is a good example.)
  • Group 3 – Those who would like to retire but are not sure what they would do after retirement. (This is a surprisingly large group and includes husbands and wives for whom being together too much could be a problem.)

Our advice to each group is as follows:

  • Group 1 – Retirement is great but it opens up a multitude of things to do. Life is much simpler when you go to work every week–retirement suddenly requires you to make many more choices. Be prepared.
  • Group 2 – We have no problem with people not retiring because they enjoy what they do. However, this could be a problem if your spouse or significant other falls in Group 1—we can’t help you with this potential problem.
  • Group 3 – Get a life—it should not only consist of working. Volunteer, enjoy the outdoors (like us), or play golf, whatever you enjoy. Being active is especially important if staying home would not be a good option, either for you or your spouse/significant other.

We cannot give you specific guidance on when to retire but we do have these recommendations:

  • Health care is a major issue for retirees, especially if you want to retire before Medicare age (65). Make sure you know what options are available to you and what the costs will be.
  • It is difficult to predict how much savings you will need for retirement. However, don’t wait too long to retire—the best years of your life may be over before you get a chance to spend your savings.

We left Brevard, NC last week for several weeks in northern North Carolina and Virginia before returning to the Asheville area to wait for the completion of our house.

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Taking a break from traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a short hike

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Déjà vu, River New—we camped last week at New River State Park in northern NC, the second park that we stayed at after leaving Gainesville a year ago. We decided to rent a canoe instead of using our own kayaks because the water level was low and the rudder on Patty’s kayak is broken.  Judging by the number of times we ran the canoe into rocks, it was a good decision (It also reminded us why we don’t own a two-person kayak).

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And the winner is…the bathhouse at New River State Park. After a year on the road, we know a good bathhouse when we see one, and the one at New River is the best we have seen (Patty was in heaven).

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Patty among the Xmas trees—northwestern North Carolina is Xmas tree country.

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Enjoying retirement at the Thistle Meadow Winery in Laurel Springs, NC–the owner of the winery, Tom, took our photo. He is an 82-year old retired pharmacist who, according to his wife, cannot stop working but he really enjoys winemaking.

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The 20th Annual Wayne C. Henderson Festival and Guitar Competition at Grayson Highlands State Park in southwestern Virginia–the festival raises money to provide scholarships to kids in Virginia and the Carolinas to play traditional Appalachian music. Grayson Highlands is one of the prettiest parks we have visited and Wayne is one of the nicest people and best luthiers (stringed-instrument makers) in the world.

Bottom left: A view of the festival stage in Grayson Highlands

Top left: Trying to watch Vince Gill perform in the rain—he was great. For performing at the festival, Vince received a Wayne Henderson-made guitar.

Top right: One of the top Japanese bluegrass performers (yes, they have bluegrass in Japan), Kazuhiro Inaba, showing his Henderson guitar that he received for performing at the festival. He flew in from Japan two days earlier with seven friends who joined him on stage for a rousing finale of Will the Circle be Unbroken—definitely a one-of-a-kind performance.

Bottom right: Wayne (in the red shirt) performing with some local friends and Vince Gill on the left singing back-up harmony.

They had a raffle at the festival to win a guitar made by Wayne—serial no. 600—and it raised $27,000 for music scholarships. Ed would have entered but we ran out of cash. Twenty guitar players entered the guitar competition to win the first prize of—you guessed it—a Henderson guitar.

Getting a Little Squirrelly

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As we approach one year of living in our Airstream, we still don’t know when we will be able to move into our new Asheville home. Our best guess is September but we’re not sure we can survive three more months in our 8’ by 23’ trailer.  Things we are tired of include:

  • Showering in public bathhouses
  • Eating the same meals prepared in our small kitchen
  • Dragging our laundry to laundromats
  • Living within 204 square feet
  • Moving our Airstream every week
  • Not having a real home address
  • Climbing over Ed at night to get to the bathroom (Patty only)
  • Making the bed that is against three walls (ditto)
  • Wearing the same clothes day after day (Patty only, Ed doesn’t really care)

But this all came to a head last week when Ed was draining the gray water tank of our trailer.   We have two tanks—the gray water tank stores waste water from the sinks and shower and the black water tank stores waste water from the toilet. If we stay in one place more than one week, Ed usually has to drain the gray water tank to a portable tank and then convey it to a dump station. After filling up and conveying the portable tank twice, and spilling gray water everywhere (which can be surprisingly foul-smelling), Ed said to himself: “Why are we still doing this?” Patty readily agreed so we are now looking for a hotel, apartment, cabin or anything that will allow us to get out of our Airstream in the upcoming months. Stay tuned.

So we have been getting a little squirrelly but the photos above are of the famous white squirrels of Brevard, NC (We just missed the annual White Squirrel Festival by one week). Several decades ago, a man visited Brevard and brought two white squirrels with him that had apparently escaped from a carnival truck (Would anyone actually pay to see white squirrels?). He gave them to a local family but one escaped and, feeling sorry for the one still left in captivity, the other one was let loose. As squirrels and other rodents tend to do, they multiplied and are now protected by Brevard City ordinance. We have to admit they are very cute, but probably cause as much destruction as their gray cousins that terrorized our yard in Florida.

In addition to white squirrels, Brevard and surrounding Transylvania County is a great place to visit, especially if you enjoy outdoor activities. The county is known as the “Land of the Waterfalls” with more than 250. It is also a very popular mountain biking area with hundreds of miles of trails, as evidenced by the mountain bike racks on half the cars in our campground. We both agree that we will visit Brevard in the future—it’s only about 45 minutes from our future (we are really tired of saying future) home.

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Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest—several waterfalls including this one can be seen in the movie Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day-Lewis. Portions of Hunger Games were also filmed in the forest (Woody Harrelson reportedly enjoyed the Laughing Seed Café vegetarian restaurant in Asheville).

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Patty at the bottom of Triple Falls

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The top two-thirds of Triple Falls—it was difficult to take a photo here due to the spray from the falls.

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High Falls in DuPont State Forest

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Patty relaxing on the Little River downstream from High Falls

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Fawn Lake in DuPont State Forest

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“May the forest be with you” (saying from one of Ed’s tee shirts). With an average annual rainfall of 80 inches, Transylvania County has one of the highest annual average rainfalls east of the Pacific Northwest. In contrast, the average annual rainfall at our future home on the north side of the mountains is about 40 inches.

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Connestee Falls not far from our campground—although difficult to see, there are actually two waterfalls with one beginning at the bottom of the photo where we are standing.

Our daughter Adrienne suggested that Ed provide some guidance on taking waterfall photos.  He is no expert (but he does have a book) so here is an example of different approaches to photographing waterfalls.

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Three photos of the top of Connostee Falls. Taking a photograph consists of two variables: 1) how wide the shutter opens as indicated by the f stop setting, and 2) the time that the shutter is open. With most single lens reflex (SLR) cameras, you can choose a shutter speed setting and the f stop setting will be automatically selected. That is the technique Ed used to take the three photos above:

Upper left – Shutter speed is 1/60 of a second. This is what your eye typically sees.

Upper right – Shutter speed is 1/4000 of a second. Very short shutter speeds “freeze” the movement of the waterfall.

Lower – Shutter speed is 1/8 second. Longer shutter times of 1/8 second or more produce the blurred waterfall photos that are very popular. It is important that a tripod is used for these longer shutter times to keep the camera steady.

In the old days of film photography, you had to wait until the film was developed to determine if you obtained the effect you wanted.  With digital cameras, you can take many photos with a range of settings and select the one(s) you like the best.

Brevard 005

Saturday night we went to a CD release party for Balsam Range at the Isis Restaurant and Music Hall in West Asheville. Ed heard this group on the radio in Knoxville a couple of years ago and loved them, even though he was not a big bluegrass fan. It turns out they are from the Asheville area and are great musicians, singers and entertainers. Here is a video for the song Ed originally heard, Last Train to Kitty Hawk, which was voted the best bluegrass song of the year for 2009.

Beer Collage

It’s not all fun and games here in Asheville—we have been meticulously visiting microbreweries to determine those beers that we would recommend to future visitors (Ed is preparing a spreadsheet). In Brevard we have visited Brevard Brewing and Oskar Blues Brewing that is pictured above. It’s a lot of work but we are glad to do it for you, our future visitors.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder”—Kinky Friedman