Merry Chistmas!

We hope everyone has had a safe and enjoyable 2022 as our world slowly but surely gets back to normal.

For us, it has been our first full year of retirement and we are still trying to get used to it!  It has been a time for wondering that well, now that we’ve done it, what next???  This led to our decision to buy a RV travel trailer and get on the road.  We had a couple “local” shakedown trips to Pigeon Forge, TN and Mistletoe State Park, GA before heading out on an epic summer six-week trip to Maine and back.  We were able to spend time with family and friends in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont plus explore many places along the way.  We look forward to a lot more exploring in 2023.

We’re still working on our 2023 plan so stay tuned.  It should be starting off with a great trip overseas including some places we haven’t been plus one we have.  At the risk of repeating ourselves, it will be epic!

In addition to all his other hobbies, Pete’s new thing this year is motorcycling.  He earned his motorcycle endorsement and bought a dual-sport (on and off road) 250cc motorcycle.  He has clocked up over 2,500 km on the north Georgia back roads near our home.  He’s also putting his aviation knowledge to work helping the American Aviation Historical Society identify and catalog thousands of aircraft photos and slides in their collection.  Good relaxing fun!

Mary has not pick up any new hobbies (or dogs) this past year!  Bailey (our German Shepherd Dog) underwent a pretty major surgery last year for a torn knee ligament, recovery, while lengthy, has gone well and Mary is spending a lot of time with her. Local businesses know us well and even ask where is Bailey when we go without her.  If Bailey’s physical conditioning allows, next year she may be at competition dock diving, where dogs compete for distance jumping into a pool.  And of course, Mary is always searching deals for that next “epic” adventure for us!

You can keep up with our adventures by vising our online photo album:


2022 Maine Expedition is complete

The dust has settled from our first epic road trip with our travel trailer, Snickers. Departing north Georgia on August 1, we covered 3,165 miles to northern Maine (Greenville) and back. The 2022 Maine Expedition found us driving through 14 states and staying at 18 different campgrounds. We’re now busy organizing photos from all the neat places we visited along the way including Natural Bridge VA, US Army Heritage Center, Moosehead Lake ME, the Morgan Horse Farm in VT, Niagara Falls NY, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland OH, USAF Museum in Dayton OH, and Kentucky Horse Park. The best part was getting to spend time with family in ME, NH and VT. Photo galleries coming soon!

That’s a wrap!

From Georgia to Maine and back, gone about a month and a half, sleeping in 10 different states. What a trip!

Dublin Valley Farm RV Park, Kodak, TN

We enjoyed two quiet nights in this beautiful location. Located very close to I40, so there is a bit of road noise from the highway. We booked online and when we arrived it was an easy self check-in. While we didn’t use it, we did check out their well provisioned and clean bath house. There weren’t many other campers and most of the time, we never saw anyone else. One night during Bailey’s walk, we startled a small skunk. Luckily it scurried off without spraying.

We took Bailey for a hike at Trotter Bluff TVA Small Wild Area. It was a relatively easy trail with some large limestone sinkholes and some core samples that were taken and discarded when building the Douglas Dam.

Nearby is the tourist meca of Pigeon Forge, which we have been to several times. Much of the tourist stuff we have “been there, done that”, however very close to the RV park is the Old Tennessee Distillery Company ( and they offer a free tasting. So, we decided that we’d go check them out. We sampled flavors like lemon, blackberry, coffee, and s’mores. We can neither confirm or deny any purchases.

So far we are enjoying Snickers. Mary even fired up the oven to make dinner one night. Yes it does warm up the RV a bit but the A/C kept up pretty good. We’ve been sleeping pretty good…the blinds pretty much block out all outside light. So far only one minor maintenance/warranty issue, the bathroom vent fan quick working this morning. We’ll get a technician out to fix it when we’re parked longer in Maine.

Well that’s about it for Tennessee, we’ll be in Virginia tonight!

Introducing “Snickers”

At 21 feet Snickers is “fun-sized”…big enough for both of us and Bailey, yet small enough to fit into most state park campgrounds. So far we have checked off two USA states, setting a goal to camp in 47 more (sorry Hawaii, we won’t be shipping Snickers on a boat). During our first two expeditions, Snickers has proven to be everything that we had hoped for in a RV. We love having the comforts of home wherever we decide to roam.

New year, new toy

Pete reports: We’ve officially been retired for a year now. I decided that retirement was a time to get involved with hobbies I never had time for but wanted to do. Typical story, right? So with a new motorcycle permit in hand, I went to buy a 250cc TBR7 dual sport I’ve been eyeing. You can order this bike from Amazon and it shows up at your house in a crate with some minor assembly required. Then I found a shop 30 minutes north of us that sells them with the very attractive offer to use their shop, tools, and expertise to let me finish the bike quickly. All for the same price as the Amazon delivery. After talking to them, I learned they also sell them fully assembled and tested for the same price too! No brainer. I bought the bike and the owner said, oh, you live in Ball Ground? I go there several times a week. Want me to deliver it? Heck yeah!

After a couple months and over 400 miles on the back roads near home, I can report it is as fun as I hoped!

Merry Christmas!

Like seemingly for everyone, 2021 has been a year of significant change.

The biggest for us personally was both taking advantage of early retirement from the workforce, Mary at the end of December last year and Pete on March 1 this year.  It certainly is a leap of faith but we’ve been planning for this for quite some time.  We both know how lucky we are to be able to do so and have been enjoying our free time with hiking, kayaking, and some travelling.  We have a big trip planned for the near future and hope that travel restrictions don’t change between now and then.  Keeping our fingers crossed!

Our household at Rott’n Manor is now Mary, Pete, and our German Shepherd Bailey.  Another (literally) big change this year is Mary’s new crew cab F150 pickup truck.  Mary loves her new truck.  It has been fitted with a large wire crate in the back seat area for Bailey.  Now, the three of us can start exploring the southeast together and might try working in some longer road trips.  We intended to be doing road trips already but Bailey needed knee surgery in September to repair a ruptured ligament and is happily almost back to unrestricted activity.

In a typical post-retirement fashion, a major effort we’ve had underway is simplifying our household.  We are well into cleaning out the 27 years worth of “oubliets”, stuff we stashed to deal with later.  Pete even reduced his VW collection by two!  Now we only have the 57 Beetle and 74 Thing for him to tinker on.  Well, that’s not entirely accurate.  There is also the 67 Mustang coupe stored out back that Pete intends to get working on in 2022.

We were grateful to make two Maine trips to be with family this year.  The circumstances for making the trips were sad, both for memorial services for Mary’s Mom Elizabeth Richards and Pete’s Step-Mom Fay Clukey.  However, the time being together with both our families was very much needed after such a long time apart.  We hope to see everyone more often now that our schedule is VERY flexible.

We wish everyone the best in 2022 and hope to see you soon!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and all the best of health and happiness in the coming New Year!

At this time of year, we pause a moment and look back at the year, often we are amazed at how fast it has gone by.  This year, however, in some ways it seems like we are on the 300+ day of March. And while we haven’t been able to spend nearly enough time with our family and friends, nor traveling to far flung locations, we are healthy and have enjoyed exploring closer to our home. And for that we are happy!

We were both fortunate in that our jobs allow us to work full-time from home during this challenging year.  We’re both thankful that our careers with Royston and Lockheed Martin have remained steady as we look forward to the future.  Pete passed the 30 year mark of working for LM!  Several trips are planned for mid-2021 in hopes that travel will open back up soon.  On our target list are Puerto Rico, Portugal, Spain, Dominican Republic and our favorite sailing ship, the Mandalay, out of Grenada.  Who knows what else lies over that horizon.

When we moved to Ball Ground in 1995, it was a town lost in time and saw no development for quite a while.  Things are sure changing now, though.  The past 10 years have seen several restaurants established including a food truck with a wood-fired pizza oven.  We have a coffee shop that ages their beans in used bourbon barrels, giving the coffee a great flavor. Now in mid-December, we have a micro-brewery opening.  All of this within walking distance of our house!  We also have a winery in town that hosts live music on weekends.

Hiking and kayaking are becoming a favorite weekend activities  We found 10 miles of trails in a 220-acre nature preserve nearby and try to get out every weekend to hike with our German Shepherd, Bailey.  There are two reservoirs nearby that we paddle on often.  Mary keeps busy watching the interwebs and travel shows to plan our next adventures.  Pete keeps busy with his guitar restoration, aviation history, and vintage VW collection.  No new VWs joined our family this year but there’s always room for one more!

You can keep up with our adventures by vising here or on our online photo album:

The Tail of the Rabbit

A tail of Mary’s first car in Florida from 1988/89.

Mary began shopping for a car not long after she moved to Daytona.  It didn’t take long for her to find a deal on a used VW Rabbit that was in decent shape and fit our budget.  She bought it and drove it home to our apartment on Butler Blvd, beachside in Daytona.  This Rabbit was light blue with three wide blue stripes down the side that were all a slightly different shade of blue.  We’ve never seen another Rabbit with the same stripes.  This feature will be important later in the story.  Also important is that the windows were tinted dark.  Very dark.  So there’s Mary’s Rabbit, parked on the side of the road, with a temporary license plate taped in the back window.  The dark tinting made the plate hard to see.  Since Mary was working only two blocks from the apartment, she didn’t have it insured and wasn’t driving it.

One fateful day, Pete comes home from school in the afternoon to find the car gone.  He thought it was unusual that Mary would have driven the car since it wasn’t insured and it wasn’t raining.  He waits for Mary to come home to see what’s going on.  Mary comes home a few hours later and asks Pete “What did you do with my car?”  Uh-oh…  Someone stole her car.  We called the Police, filled out the report, and never expected to see the Rabbit again.

Fast forward a few months.  Mary and Pete just finished their laundry and are waiting at a traffic light where Mason Ave approaches the Halifax River and crosses over to become Seabreeze Blvd.  A light blue Rabbit with three wide stripes zips by headed for the beach!  We look at each other in disbelief and both yell “That’s the Rabbit!”  Our light turns green and the pursuit is on.  Well, it’s a slow speed pursuit and we just tail the car from a good distance.  We head north on A1A and it soon pulls in to the parking lot at Steak and Ale.  We pass by as they park then we circle back for a closer look.

Upon closer inspection, the car is definitely Mary’s.  It has the distinctive dent on top of the left front fender and X scratched in the paint on the driver’s door.  Mary calls the police to report that we found our stolen car.  An officer shows up very soon and we explain the situation.  He calls in for backup and gets the Watch Supervisor to show up, too.  After all, we’re dealing with a dangerous car thief!  They were justifiably concerned because there was a big Rambo knife sitting on the dash.  Pete takes off back to the apartment to get the paperwork proving the car is ours while Mary hangs out on the stakeout.

So there are Mary and Pete, sitting in the back of an Ormond Beach patrol car, chatting with an officer about our stakeout.  The Watch Supervisor made a walk-through of the restaurant to look for the car thief based on our description.  That didn’t help any.  We helped prove that people’s observations about what they saw are usually incomplete or just wrong.  We did get the car right, though!

Pretty soon, a couple comes out of the restaurant and gets in the Rabbit.  They are immediately swarmed by patrol cars and officers, pulled out of the car and quickly put in handcuffs.  The officers soon determine the couple isn’t a threat and take off the handcuffs.  Turns out the guy bought the car from a dealership in Deland, about 30 miles away.  The bad thing was his date was asthmatic and didn’t enjoy the situation very much.  After sorting through the paperwork, the officers determined that Mary could take the car home since she’s the original owner.  That left the poor guy and his date stranded in Daytona.  We gave them a ride home to Deland because we felt bad about what happened to them.  Nearly being arrested and having your car taken away doesn’t make for a good evening.

The following day, Mary sets out to make the car less appealing to thieves.  We pull the battery, seats, door panels, carpeting, etc.  We pretty much stripped out the interior.  Mary wanted to overhaul the interior anyways.  She soon was working on custom door panels that looked really cool.  We weren’t too clever and put all the nuts, bolts, and fasteners in one coffee can.  That would normally be a problem but it was soon solved for us.

A couple weeks after getting the car back, Pete notices a wrecker parked out front and a couple guys looking at Mary’s Rabbit.  We go out and talk to them.  They are from the dealership in Deland that sold the car to the guy that was nearly arrested.  You can imagine they were in some hot water for selling a stolen car and, as it turns out, for stealing it in the first place.  They had taken a different blue Rabbit (not running and sight unseen) as a trade-in from a lady in our neighborhood.  They sent an 18-year old kid to get it with the wrecker.  He saw our Rabbit, didn’t see the temporary licenses plate, the key from her car happened to fit ours, so he hauled it off.  The dealership then failed to check the VIN number when they processed and sold it.  Whoops.

Now they needed our help to get out of trouble.  They wanted Mary’s Rabbit to give back to the other guy.  We told them no, we wanted to keep it.  They kept offering more money and we kept saying no.  I think we got up to $1500 for a car that Mary paid $400 for.  We liked the Rabbit and didn’t want to deal with shopping for another car.  They came up with another idea.  They had a friend with a car lot in Daytona.  They would take us there to look at his cars.  If we saw something we liked, they would exchange it for the Rabbit.  We said OK, we’ll look. The only thing we liked was a brown Toyota Celica hatchback.  It looked good, drove fine, but the tires were nearly worn out.  We told them the Celica would be acceptable, but they would have to put new tires on it.  They had little choice and agreed to the deal.  We later found out the price on the Celica was $2200!  Not a bad trade for a $400 Rabbit.  We drove the Celica home followed by the wrecker.  They hooked up to the Rabbit and tossed in all the loose interior parts.  They said not to worry, the kid that took the car the first time would have the pleasure of reassembling everything.

Dinner inspired by our past travel

At the end of 2012, we traveled to Morocco where we were served shakshuka; a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, onion, garlic, aromatically spiced with cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper. It appeared one night for dinner and included meatballs. Tonight Mary recreated that meal using this recipe:

Here is a picture of the meal that we had in Morocco back in 2012:

And here is a photo of Mary’s shakshuka:

Hopefully someday soon, we can travel to a country where this dish is served, but for now this will have to do!

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