Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Hello's Christmas Day and we wanted to wish all of you a Very Merry Holiday!!  We certainly missed spreading the yuletide cheer with family and friends this year.....but the Florida sun has lessened the sadness a bit!  Tracy even celebrated with her own little Christmas Day "polar dip" into the Atlantic....check out the video:

We also thought we would share our 2011 Christmas Card & Holiday letter with our readers....we hope you enjoy! 

Until the next exit,

Amy & Tracy

Happy Holidays!
To say that 2011 was an exciting year for us would be a bit of an understatement.  As some of you know, we embarked on a little “adventure” – a term we coined when we started dreaming about this  7+ years ago.  We originally envisioned a fun hiatus from normal daily life to hit the open road and see some amazing sights.  What we didn’t realize is the entire process (from planning to execution) would forever change how we look at life.  I guess you could say we woke up one day, looked around at all the “things” we had accumulated that require a great deal of time, money and space to upkeep and had an epiphany – do we own our “stuff” or does it own us?  Our mantra quickly became “own less, live more” and it led us down an inspiring path of selling our home, our cars and at least 1/3 of our belongings.  We packed the bare necessities into a 98 square foot RV (with the rest in storage), and embarked on the journey of a lifetime! 
Collectively, we had zero experience with how to operate an RV….or much of an itinerary for that matter….but we figured it out as the miles passed.   And we certainly found the “adventure” we were looking for!   After  172 days on the road, we’ve traveled 17,813 miles, visited 32  states, and sat on countless beaches.   We got caught in a buffalo herd in SD, learned to sandboard in the OR dunes, were amazed by hot air balloons in NM, were awed by the Redwoods in CA, laughed hysterically at theme parks in PA and WI, and were inspired by artists in San Diego…the list of memories is truly endless.
With 5,000+ pictures documenting our journey, it was almost impossible to choose only 13 for our card!  We tried to pick a fun handful though…..
·         Big Sur, CA – enjoying McWay Falls which crashes directly onto the beach below
·         Nashville, TN – sitting on our 98 square foot doorstep before heading downtown for live music
·         White Sands, NM – such an incredible place!  Who needs snow? We made gypsum sand angels!
·         Yellowstone Nat’l Park, WY – one of our favorite stops where we enjoyed summer days by the water’s edge
·         Napa, CA – a tasty flight of Reds at Frog’s Leap winery
·         Charleston, SC – oh cannonballs!!  We loved this city’s rich history and opulent charm
·         Mt. View, CA – kayaking at Shoreline Park where we also learned how to paddle board
·         Chicago, IL – cocktails on Navy Pier after a walk around the city
·         Carmel, CA – a relaxing day in the sand with Pebble Beach golf course as our backdrop
·         Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ – just hanging out on the edge was very surreal
·         Pismo Beach, CA – reeling in “the big one” while fishing on the pier
·         Custer State Park, SD – pulled over to feed some wild jackasses  we saw while out for a drive
·         Sedona, AZ – a hike to the “vortex” for a great view and spiritual experience
While we miss our family and friends very much, we have thoroughly enjoyed our mobile lifestyle.  When we grow tired of the view out the back window, we simply roll out of town with our little house in tow!  Right now, we’re in Flagler Beach, FL with the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean about 15 steps off our front door… we may just stick around for a bit J  Many of you have followed our “adventure” via our blog and/or facebook…..your comments, emails, texts, phone calls and support have meant more to us than a simple Christmas letter can possibly express and we carry you with us wherever we go!  We hope you have the Merriest of Holidays and the New Year brings realized dreams and daily adventures!
Love,  Amy & Tracy

Friday, December 23, 2011

Charmed by Charleston!

Hey everybody, the Happy Campers had a very busy November!!  With the "adventure" part of our trip winding down, we've been putting some focus into where we're going to settle for the winter here in FL.  But before that, we did manage to hit some beautiful parts of South Carolina and Georgia.

After pulling out of Maine and heading south, we picked up 98 square feet in NC and pointed our wheels towards the coast.  

First stop - Charleston, SC.  We absolutely loved this charming little southern seaside community. It was so rich in history and no different than any other town that we loved - we pretty much ate, drank and walked our way around town on several occassions!  And it's a place that we could almost see ourselves living - beautiful ocean, cool downtown, lots of activities, etc.  Of course that means we'd have to pick up adorable southern accents....which Tracy has been diligently practicing!

"Yes, I'm just the cutest southern bell you ever did lay eyes on"  It flows right off the tongue!

Here are the highlights of our coastal trip to this lovely city:

Isle of Palms - very cool little island with absolutely stunning beach homes.  We loved starting our day with a walk on the beach and collecting amazing shells that lined miles of beautiful sandy shores. 

Just a sampling of the shells we
collected one day!

Miles of beautiful beach to take our morning stroll on

Downtown Charleston - as usual, we found some great pubs with good food and good beers.....and thanks to our handy AAA books, we took a cool walking tour through the downtown area to take in some culture.   The really neat thing about downtown were all the gas lanterns that adorned the streets as their street lights and are also featured on many people's homes - so beautiful and historic.

Balls!  Historic parks had cool war time displays - including
this one complete with Cannonballs!

Historic buildings all through
the area

Gas Lanterns everywhere - such a unique touch
to this historically rich city

Southern charm - huge, old mansions overlook
the parks and the bay.

Cannons once protected this area and supported
the Fort out on the bay

Cemeteries - wow, these were so amazing....tombstones from the 1700's.....really cool expereince!

Strolling through these cemeteries
was actually not creepy at all

We found ourselves looking at each one since
dates back to the 1700's fascinated us
Southend Brewery - quickly became a favorite, and was supposedly haunted.  The only ghosts we experienced were the ones who apparently kept emptying our glasses!

Even pubs are old...Circa 1880

The Griffon - our kind of place - a dive bar! When we walked in, there was a small wedding party (bride and groom included) on one side and a chic wearing a knit turkey hat on the other side....and the place was covered in dollar bills....Loved It!! 

The exact kind of dark, eerie pub you want to visit
when in a town like Charleston!

Sticky Fingers BBQ - no trip would be complete without some delicious southern wings and that's just what we got - the BBQ/Ranch dipping sauce was amazing!!  The drinks were yummy, too

Loved the name - couldn't
resist stopping in!

These went perfect with our
wing appetizer!

Rooftop Bar - had a couple of cocktails with an old friend, Kelly Moran, and enjoyed the incredible view.  Plus, we learned that no building can be taller than the church steeple....yes, religion is very strong down here in the south!  Apparently the Happy Campers forgot to snap some photos!

Cupcake - Like most college towns, Charleston has a collection of neat little shops all around - so when we saw "Cupcake", we knew we had to have one (or two)!  Plus, Martha gave them a thumbs up!  Delicious - and a good laugh since we ate them in the car while parked next to a church as a wedding let out.....nothing like stuffing your face with a chocolate cream cheese frosted cupcake while watching some poor chick squeezed into a wedding dress!

Amy promised to get ONE and we would
split it.  Guess how many came out?
Yep, TWO!

Festival of Lights - Voted in the Top 10 of Christmas light displays each year!  On James Island, they assemble this amazing 3 mile drive of Christmas Lights every year....and just our luck, it opened while we were there!  We couldn't believe how cool it was with everything from deer to animated snowball fights, to an undersea world, to candyland - it was endless with imagination!  The pictures can never do it justice since many of the lights had movement to them....and it's hard to capture the magic that comes with flickering lights via camera. 

This was cool - the dragon swims up as the fisherman
tries to reel in his catch

Snowball fight over the road as snowman family
watches - very fun!

Ahoy Matey!  Crap, here comes a Croc!

All different "lands" lined the streets

The church was cool

Tracy's personal favorite.  Sponsored by Weight Watchers,
Rudolph and Santa are measuring the chimney. 
Seriously made me laugh out loud!

Animals heading to the arc before we head into Candyland

The farm had some charm to it with the green grass

Boone Plantation - the incredible 500+ year old oak trees that line the entrance were the inspiration for scenes in Gone with the Wind.  And the original brick slave houses are still standing and now provide education to folks who visit.  The history of this place was amazing - they've produced everything from cotton, to bricks, to pecans...always adapting to the demands of the area.

500 year old trees greeted us as we drove into the Plantation

Sitting on the deck where supplies would arrive to the
Plantation via boats on waterway channels.
This structure burnt down, and they rebuilt it
to maintain the Plantations heritage

Inside one of the Slave Houses

Slave House Row.  It's unimaginable that not long ago,
our great country once condoned slavery.
Reading all the amazing history was truly inspiring.
It's incredible to see the timelines and realize we went from
ugly discrimination to having an African American President
in the last 100 years.  Thankfully , we've come a long way.

The Plantation
This area has been used in the making of
many movies....including The Notebook

Battle of Secessionville was going on when we were
visiting - yep, the South still loses I'm afraid

Can't you just see us dressed up like this?  LOL!

One of the most photographed trees - it's branches
extend out in so many directions.

The Smokehouse
Built in 1750 - the oldest existing structure on the Plantation
It seriously still smells like smoked meat inside! 

As you can see, we really enjoyed Charleston.   If it stayed just a bit warmer in the winter, there's no question 98 square feet would have taken up residence for the next few months. 

Dear, sweet Charleston, I do believe we'll be back one day to take in more of your amazing grace and charm! (said with a southern drawl)

Until the next exit...

Amy & Tracy

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thank You Campers Inn

Hey everybody - it’s the Happy Campers coming to you from rainy (but warm) Flagler Beach, Florida.
As we’ve somewhat wrapped up the “adventure” part of our trip, we really wanted to take this opportunity to thank Campers Inn for all of their support and generosity over the last six months.

As many may remember, we left Maine on June 26 with a 14’ camper in tow that we picked up in New Hampshire with not a clue as to what we were doing.  We quickly discovered we had some leaking and refrigerator issues when we reached our first destination in Hershey Park.  It’s never good when the fridge doesn’t stay on since the beer gets warm – it is a camping adventure after all!
Leaving Maine...Day 1 of our Adventure

Long story short, Campers Inn in Elkhart, Indiana happened to be along the way and proved to be our saving grace!  The team there was truly amazing – Barry, Cheryl, Mike, Meg, Scot and the rest of the gang!  Not only did they work diligently to try to fix our issues, but somehow managed to give us a good deal on a better model….so we drove out with our 17’ baby and have been so thankful ever since.  We made it all the way around the country and only had to call Mike (the most awesome RV tech guy to ever live) 2 or 3 times….we consider that a win….for HIM!  J

New 98 square feet in tow!

But the icing on the cake came when we hit Tennessee and decided to make a surprise trip up to Maine.  We gave Barry (the most awesome Sales Manager) in Elkhart a call and asked if he thought the Mocksville, NC Campers Inn would be willing to house our baby for a week or so while we scooted north.  Without hesitation, he made a call and we were hooked up. 
And the team in Mocksville didn’t disappoint!  Tim greeted us with open arms and really made us feel like part of the “family”.  And to boot, Scott (the “big wig”) was in town and said he was thrilled to meet the Happy Campers that have been providing blog posts for their site.  Then there was Ron, Ron and the new Ron…, wasn’t hard to remember their names!   They housed and cleaned up our baby while we ventured home to see friends and family and for that we are most grateful.
Interested in an RV?
Go to Campers Inn.  You won't be disappointed!

We know this is a copy intensive blog, but we really just wanted to say a BIG Thank You to everyone at Campers Inn!  This whole experience has been so wonderful and they made the entire adventure more enjoyable with their unbelievable Customer Service.  We love being part of the Campers Inn family!!  And we agree with their slogan....they helped us create "Memories that will last a lifetime!"

Until the next exit...

Amy & Tracy