2016 Year in Review

Well…just as I said last year at this time…another season in the books and we’re back at our usual winter site 101 at Seminole Campground, North Fort Myers FL.

Alabama’s football season ended last night just slightly short of the goal of another national championship. They fell 35-31 to Clemson on the last play of the game when the Clemson quarterback threw a short touchdown pass. It should have been called back for offensive pass interference…just like one of their previous scores should have been called back…but even though setting a pick play like they do in basketball is illegal it’s rarely called. The rules say that obvious attempts to impede the ability of a defensive back to cover his assigned receiver should be penalized. Teams that throw the ball a lot run what they call rub plays with 2 wide receivers on one side crossing…the outside one cuts inside and the inside one cuts behind him as he passes and goes outside. That’s fine…but in both of these cases the Clemson outside receiver blocked the outside defensive back into the other defensive back…preventing either from covering his assigned receiver. Clear case of offensive interference to me…but then I’m not a ref so that doesn’t really count. It’s not really sour grapes either…after we scored with about 2 minutes left to go ahead by 3 there were plenty of opportunities for the D to stop Clemson’s last drive. Unfortunately…the Clemson QB is really good and was feeling it by that point in the game and he was helped out by some outstanding grabs of passes on the final drive. They were also helped out by an injury to our power running back in the 3rd quarter which limited the offense.

Much was made of Alabama’s freshman starting QB last night and in the previous couple of weeks before the playoffs…but by this time of the season he’s not really a freshman anymore. Not as experienced as Clemson’s QB…and doesn’t have the touch he needs for long throws yet. His leading of the offense to score and take the lead with 2 minutes remaining was the way we should have called the whole game…but at this point in his career they were trying to get him to be a game manager and not game winner. Ah well…we’ll start up again in the fall.

The two teams have now played the last two championship games…with an overall point differential of 1 in Alabama’s favor…they really were the two best teams in college football this year and Coach Saban and the boys have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s only about 8-1/2 months until kickoff again…and Alabama once again has the highest rated recruiting class. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both of them back in the playoffs again next year.

Let’s recap the year…shall we.

We departed the day after Easter in the spring…our immediate goal was to arrive in Hanna IN on May 1 where we were going to swap BAT for Big Red. On the way we had stops in Valdosta GA, Knoxville TN and Charleston IN. We were originally supposed to be in Hanna for a week followed by heading back south to Chattanooga for the NHOG rally then northwards through PA and NY and up on into the Canadian Maritimes where we would spend the summer then head south to arrive back in Cedar Key FL for the last 10 days of October then on to Seminole on 1 Nov.

Connie’s eye…however…had other plans. As we drove into our scheduled stop at the Last Resort Campground in Hanna…the closest campground to Valparaiso where Big Red was being built…Connie noticed her eye issue…what she called a black rocket ship sticking into her vision from the side and loss of acuity. After parking we did a little internet research…figured it was probably a separated retina…and searched for a retina specialist who was in the Tricare Network. We found Retina Associates of Chicago…who have an office in Michigan City IN just north of Hanna. Called them and they said that since she wasn’t a patient to go to the ER. So we go there…they said to go to an opthalmologist the next morning for a consult. Did that…and he said “Yup, separated retina, go see a retina specialist.” His staff got her an appointment for that afternoon at…you guessed it…Retina Associates of Chicago office in Michigan City.

Long story short…she got a bubble injected into her eye to stick the retina back down, some laser surgery to weld it in place and a whole bunch of followup visits with the retina specialist up there. That…naturally…pretty much killed our Canadian Maritime plans as we spent May, June, and July in Hanna. We did get out of there for a couple of short trips in between follow up visits…the NHOG rally, over to DC and Midlothian to see Alex and various doctors and such, and spent the week of Independence Day up in the MI lower peninsula seeing where Neil’s ancestors were buried and the various sites up on the lake.

In late July…her doctor wondered why she wasn’t seeing any better as the retina healing looked great…so she ran a test and found that the center of her retina was bunched up. Turns out that a frequent complication of detached retina is that some cells get released into the goop inside you eye. Once the retina is flat again the cells attach to the front of the retina and sort of scrunch it up like a Kleenex…which means the vision doesn’t get better. Fortunately it’s an easy fix…basically you scrape the cells off and it gets better. Unfortunately that requires some more followup visits…and by this time it was almost the end ofd July. So we asked what happens if we wait 6 weeks until we get to FL…turns out that the answer is nothing, just longer before it gets fixed. So we packed up and left…did a quick run over to Kansas to visit Camp Horizons and get some warranty work on our fiberglass cracks…then skedaddled down to FL arriving on 1 Sep. She had an appointment with Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in mid September, had surgery the next day and we did all the followup visits down here…and her eye is pretty much back to normal. We originally planned on going up and doing our 10 days in Cedar Key the end of October…but then the hurricane went through there so we ended up just moving those reservations to same time next year.

OK, let’s have a few photos…just to help recap the year.

Paddlewheel steamer in Louisville.

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Small waterfall in Louisville.

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Hawk in KY or TN…can’t remember which.

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Amazingly brilliant green bug.

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Samplin’ a little bourbon in Louisville.

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Connie and her best Vanna White imitation as we picked up Big Red in Valparaiso IN in May…you can’t tell it here but she’s pretty much blind at this point as her separated retina was healing with the gas bubble in her eye.

Big Red 2

We didn’t get any closer to Chicago than this…she wasn’t comfortable going into the big city with limited visibility.

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Another waterfall…

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E8…the surviving eaglet from the spring 2016 nesting season by our local Fort Myers eagle Harriet and her mate M15. This was just a couple of days before he fledged (first flight) in March.


Connie at her alma mater for her graduate degree…Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant MI.

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Lighthouse on the lake shore at Frankfort MI on the western side of the lower peninsula…we spent the Independence Day week here.

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The dunes on the Lake Michigan shoreline at Indiana Dunes State Park and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

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Tombstone of Neil’s 5x great grandfather buried in Michigan…he was one of the members of the group that founded the settlement that eventually became Detroit. The Connor Greenway in downtown Detroit is named after him and we visited both his second homestead as well as the original area he settled in on Connor Creek off of the Detroit river…but the original homestead is now covered by the. airport.

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The creek surrounding his second homestead…none of the structures are left but there’s a small peninsula in an oxbow bend on the creek where he lived.

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Abraham Lincoln’s father’s house.

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Back in Florida again…at Pelican Roost RV Park at Naval Station Jacksonville…by this point she was pretty limited visually…the retina had healed but the scar tissue on it hadn’t been surgically removed yet so we mostly just stayed around the rig pretty much from May to September when we got back south.

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Grand baby Alex’s second birthday party…we drove up there in December for the festivities.

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Ok…let’s check out the stats for the year…they’re not nearly as impressive as 2015 was but then we didn’t do much…out of our normal 7 month travel season we spent 3 in Hanna and got here to Seminole 2 months early so we really only had a 2 month travel season.

  • States visited: 13
  • BAT/Big Red Miles: BAT 1403 all towing, Big Red 6352 towing, 8329 solo, 14681 total. I expect this trend to continue with solo mileage on Big Red about the same as the towing mileage unless we end up buying another vehicle for our daily driver. Neil offered her a Harley trike…and she turned him down.
  • RV Miles: 7,755 on 29 towing days
  • Average towing miles: 267 (high of 445 and low of 78)
  • Car Miles: 2,298 until we donated it in May 
  • Campgrounds stayed in: 31
  • Number of RV travel days: 29
  • Northernmost and southernmost points reached: Lake Leelanau MI and North Fort Myers FL
  • Easternmost and Westernmost points reached: Junction City KS and Fairfax, VA
  • Number of contributions to the “Connie Meets the Town Drunk” page: just 1 but Mikey at Down the Street in Casey IL is one of the better contributions over the years…you can read about him as Town Drunk #6 on the Town Drunk page from the menu at the top of this page. We never did get our blueberry cobbler from him…dang it!
  • Bicycling miles: 1026.5 miles on 71 rides, average speed 15.22 mph, fastest speed 32.82 mph (musta been downhill)
  • Photographs taken: 663 frames for 20.24 GB…Connie’s eye limited our Fun Stuff© this season
  • Photographs published: 156
  • Blog posts published: 54
  • Blog views: 4836, busiest month was May with 909 views…the rest of the blog stats like champion commenter and such got deleted this year as WordPress stopped sending you the end of year review apparently…and I’m too lazy to figure them out…usually you get the summary from them the last day of the year but apparently they’ve stopped sending them out. Poop. MJ is still far in the lead with 188 total comments though.
Disasters for the year. Yeah…2016 was pretty much a year with a lot of problems in it for us…here’s a list of everything that went less than fully satisfactory shall we say.
  • Connie’s retina detachment and associated treatment and surgery when we got back down to Fort Myers.
  • Connie had some sort of respiratory disease at Easter right before we left…and couldn’t sing all the Easter music she had practiced.
  • Problem with our A/C condensate pump requiring ordering parts and dismantling half of the LR A/C unit to fix it.
  • Awning issue…we found the morning we were leaving in April that our awning would not fully seat…we figured it out but were scared to use the awning most of the summer unless it was a more lengthy stay. Finally got that fixed once we got back to Fort Myers as it was a real pain to get back in if we put it out.
  • Our Mazda 6 died while we were in Hanna. We got ripped off by the local Mazda place since we weren’t locals and they refused to make it right. Turns out that we ended up donating it to the St. Vincent de Paul Society anyway since Connie could not see well enough to drive safely from May until October. We hated to waste the 600 bucks we spent getting it not fixed though…the rip off artists at Kennedy Mazda in Valparaiso IN should never be patronized for any reason ever again. Service Manager and General Manager both declined to make it right and we could not convince them to let us talk to the owner. That would likely not have helped anyway as greed and lousy customer service that pervasive most likely starts at the top.
  • Fiberglass cracks on our rig on the driver side above the basement door and slide openings. Turns out that New Horizons had some faulty design and installation of the walls back in the 2012 time frame and we needed some relief cuts put into our wall after the fiberglass was repaired. The frame flexes and fiber glass doesn’t…hence you get these little hairline cracks. It’s an easy fix…and while we figured it was their fault so they should have fixed it we also realize they need to keep the company in business so their policy for out of warranty units like ours was to only charge half of the labor hours it took to fix the cracks and put in the relief cuts. Not as good as them fixing it on their nickel of course…but we are out of our 2 year warranty by over a year so that seemed fair enough.

So…what are our plans this year. Good question…we haven’t really made detailed ones yet but here’s a general idea of what we’re doing before Neil does all of the detailed planning.

We’ll again depart Seminole the day after Easter on April 17. Our first real stop will be Midlothian to see Alex and the kids. Don’t know exactly how we’re going to route ourselves yet but not through Orlando…we’re planning on spending the first night at the Elks Lodge just north of Tampa then overnight in Brunswick GA and Florence SC. Then we’ll head on up to Northern VA for financial/dentist appointments…and to do the portion of our Fun Stuff© from Ocean City MD to Fairfax VA via an overnight trip over to the coast without the rig.

After that’s done we’ll start the Fun Stuff© portion of the summer. We’ll transit the length of US Route 50 from Ocean City MD to San Francisco…all 3,008 miles of it although the signs at each end claim 3,073 miles…but it’s been rerouted slightly since those signs were put up. We used to live right off of US-50 at our sticks and bricks in Fairfax VA and always wanted to see the whole length. A lot of it is 4 lane at grade crossing highway, some is dual numbered with interstate highways, and some of it is just a 2 lane road. Nonetheless…we’re doing it…in fact the portion of it in Nevada is known as “The Loneliest Highway in America” and there’s a certificate you get for completing that portion of it. We won’t do our usual detailed planning of every stop along the way except for figuring out where to spend holiday weekends as reservations for those can be hard to come by. Instead we’ll meander as seems necessary as long as we get to holiday campgrounds on time and meet the rest of our schedule. We figure on spending May through July getting to the west coast…with particular time spent in Utah and Colorado as we haven’t seen the southern portions of those states…Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Zion National Park all beckon us along with the portion of the road in Nevada and several earlier portions in Ohio and IL.

Once we get to the west coast…we’ll head generally northwards and catch northern CA and southern OR that we missed in 2013 when Neil broke his foot…our next real commitment is the NHOG Rally in mid September in Spearfish SD in the northwestern corner of the state. Our friend Joe Claxton and his bride live up near Coeur d’Alene Idaho and we hope to get by and see them…but it all depends on when we get to the west coast and how quickly we want to get to Spearfish.

Once the rally is over on 20 September…our next firmly scheduled stop is Cedar Key FL on 20 October. We were originally going to just meander south and east to get there…at least until our friends Bill Napier and Roy Brody got involved. They’ve got this itch to go see the polar bears in Churchill Manitoba…which means you leave the rigs in Winnipeg about 100 miles north of the border of Canada with ND and MN…and fly about 700 miles to Churchill to see the bears…then return to Winnipeg and head south. The bears are there in September and October…and the cold weather arrives by late or maybe mid October. Anyways…Roy is doing some information gathering and the plan is for at least the 3 of us…plus whoever else wants to come along…to sort of loosely caravan from the rally in Spearfish to Winnipeg. We’ll all make our own reservations and travel together or separately as we desire…more of a friends traveling more or less together than a formal caravan.

It’s about 3 days travel from Spearfish to Winnipeg…then figure a week to go up and back and see the bears. That would put us back in Winnipeg ready to head south by about the 3rd or so of October. That’s about 1950 miles from our reservation in Cedar Key on October 20…which means we would have 17 days to get there and it’s 6 or 7 travel days. If we go…we won’t be doing a whole bunch of Fun Stuff© on the way south…mostly just getting south. It’s 3 days to get to Cedar Rapids IA including the delay for getting back across the border…and by that far south we’ll be out of any real possibility of bad weather. We’ll probably…assuming the plans come to fruition…go ahead and plan to go via Winnipeg as we can always cancel it if looks like winter isn’t going to cooperate with us. The overall trip would give us about 9,000 miles before getting back here to Seminole…and maybe 1500 less if we skipped Winnipeg because of winter and headed home via Nebraska and Missouri instead.

Our guess is that although there will be some cold weather in Winnipeg by early October the likelihood of heavy snow conditions that last and essentially winter us in is relatively low. Even if it snows…the roads should be plowed in a couple of days and we should be able to head south…once back into the US we’re continuing to get toward less wintery climate. Neil’s wanted to see more polar bears and Winnipeg isn’t that far out of the way.

If Winnipeg and the polar bears doesn’t work out we’ll either head south to Albuquerque NM for a few days at the balloon festival there before heading eastward across the southern states…or we’ll just head south and east gradually from SD towards our eventual reservations at Cedar Key FL on 20 Oct and back in North Fort Myers on 1 Nov.

Ok…gotta have a couple of interesting things ya know.

Who wore it better?


You know what this is…doncha?


Why…it’s Fred Flint Stone of course. Wiiiiilma!!

This is an example of queuing level (lining up) Thai.


And finally…and no, this isn’t a political statement other than that a Republican president will be less likely to take any crap than a Democratic one.



About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
This entry was posted in RV, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 2016 Year in Review

  1. Mj Trainor says:

    YAY! I’m still da blog Queen! 🙂 Lemme know if your travels bring you thisaway!

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      We’re heading up the coast when we leave but have no idea yet what we will do after our trip across US 50 and the rally in SD. We’ve got a couple of possibilities but none have been selected yet.


      The three kinds of stress…nuclear, cooking and a&&hole. Jello is the key to the relationship.


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