So, we headed back to our old stomping grounds in Georgia for some Jace time, some friend time, and for an appointment at the VA Clinic in Atlanta for me.
Getting to be of an age where skin issues take on some importance, especially after so many younger years without a whole lot of protection against the sun, when something changes shape, size or color on my exterior, I'm on it.
While in Gunter Hill COE in Alabama, I noticed that what once looked like an age spot was get darker (almost black), larger, and thicker. Sent my primary care physician at the VA in Georgia a couple of pictures, and a few days later I had an appointment at their huge clinic in Atlanta. The appointment was set for about 3 weeks from the day I requested it; not bad.
Meanwhile, life went on. We finished up at Gunter Hill and headed towards our two week stay in Florida. Meanwhile, the spot continued to grow larger to about the size of a dime, and turned almost black completely black. Then, with a week to go before my appointment, it started shrinking. No drainage of any kind; it just started getting smaller, although it remained darker than normal. By the time my appointment day arrived, it was almost back to normal size. Thank God I had pictures to show the docs at the VA, or I would have looked like a kook!
My appointment was scheduled for 1300 hrs. Got there early to process COVID-mandated paperwork. At precisely 1300 hrs they called me back into the examination room. A perfectly marvelous and friendly PA by the name of Sabrina took all the usual vitals and got me set up for the examination of 3 different areas I wanted checked out.
A good twenty minutes later, I had 1 primary and 3 residents all staring at my head and knee. Lucky me, I had come on the day when residents were training with the primary dermatologist! So now only did I have 4 people staring at my vanishing problem area, I had 4 people looking at my iPhone to see what the fuss was all about. Multiple views using a hand-held magnifying glass, multiple questions from the primary to his flock, and it was determined that one of the three was no problem at all, one behind my knee didn't look like a problem, but since I was scratching it and opening it up it should be removed, and the mystery area was undetermined; but that a biopsy should definitely be taken of the site. The suspicion from the primary was that he wouldn't be surprised if I had a “foreign body invasion” (bite or sting), but that the lack of any drainage made it curious.
Now I'm officially a medical oddity in yet another area, in addition to my one-in-a-million circulatory system setup.
Barbara thought that it was (once again) entirely appropriate given my nature.
Twenty minutes after the primary's grilling, the resident who drew the short straw (or maybe the long straw due to my being a “medical oddity”) numbed both areas, removed the spot behind my knee and took a healthy-sized biopsy from my head. Sufficiently sealed and plastered with copious amounts of gauze and tape, I'm handed a wound care kit capable of taking care of things for the next few days with a promise that I'll get the results in the next couple of weeks.
Fast forward a week and a half, and I get a voice mail from the VA with the good news that nothing bad was found in either biopsy and that I'm good to go. There was also a follow-on call a couple of days after the procedure to check in on me and my condition.
Many of you who know me know that I am not a fan of government-run anything. There have also been a lot of negative stories about the quality of care veterans can expect to receive in many VA clinics and hospitals across the nation. While my experience could be a result of lower patient traffic due to COVID-19 restrictions on certain in-person visits now being handled by tele-medicine, I can honesty say that my visit and procedure done at the VA Clinic in Atlanta was every bit as good as any private medical facility. My hope is that my fellow veterans receive the same care across the country as well.
Medical oddity taken care of, it's now time for Barbara and me to visit a city we've always wanted to see, but never had in the 29 years of living south of the Mason-Dixon line – Charleston, South Carolina.
But that's for my next report.
So it's late October, and we still haven't found a site for January. The plan is to stay in Florida for January, head to Port Aransas, Texas for February, then meander our way over to Phoenix, Arizona for mid-March through mid-April. The reason for all this is because I really don't like to spend more than a couple of weeks in any location, so staying in one place for three months (as many snowbirds do) just ain't gonna happen with me. My only concession is going to be staying a full month in one place, rather than three.
Now, we could always reverse this process and hit Arizona first, but my hope is to be coming from Red Bay sometime in December after having our damaged rear basement door and cap repaired, then a quick stop in Georgia for Christmas with our family, so Florida is the more likely destination for January.
So Florida it is. The nightmare year 2020 has given us a bit of a break due to COVID-19 by keeping Canadians home. Not only is our border closed to them right now, but Canadians aren't even sure if they can get back home after it begins warming up even if they were able to get down here. So a long, cold winter for many Canadian snowbirds is giving us some help in finding open spots this late in the season.
Heading south from Montgomery, Alabama, we find another Harvest Host site in Tallahassee, Florida. The Tallahassee Automobile Museum is a must-see for collectors of virtually everything. Hundreds of antique and classic muscle cars, including a Deusenberg valued at $2.5 million if it were ever to go to auction, are showcased on two floors easily accessible by elevator or ramp. Interspersed between them, around them, and tucked into every nook and cranny are golf club collections, a knife collection that has to be seen, as well as toy cars and trucks, dolls, pianos, farm equipment, antique canoes, outboard motors and collectibles of every kind.
And each and every piece in the museum is owned by just one man. And I'm still not sure why. But it is.
As with most Harvest Host sites, the camping is no frills, but free. Members are asked to reward their host with a purchase or two during their stay, so we purchased two tickets for admission to the museum; $15 each. No guides, no maps, just a super friendly lady telling you to have a good time. The area they've set aside for RVs is a large level lawn in the front yard of the site. A bit close to the road and nearby I-10, but quiet enough once it gets late in the evening.
Our next stop for the following two weeks was Holiday RV Resort in Leesburg, Florida. This was recommended by our fellow Tiffin 36LA owners Bob and Jamie Freed Bailey, who had stayed there for a month previously. The reason we chose it was that it was centrally located between the two coasts, just north of Orlando and right in the area we thought we could find some good deals on winter rates for January. It's also a Passport America member, so the daily cost was cut in half to a very reasonable $27.50 per night.
One of the reasons we wanted to scout out destinations in person in Florida is because there are many parks that bill themselves as RV parks, but are really park home resorts that include a few RV lots for rent. So from an RVer standpoint, you have a lot of people who live in some northern state for 6 months, then head back down to Florida for 6 months to live in their manufactured home, otherwise known as a park home. Being full-time RVers, we naturally want to associate with other RVers. Don't mean to be snooty or anything; we just have more in common with people who move around a lot rather than stay in place.
So you can see all the pictures you want online, but many places don't show you how many, if any, park homes they have on site. So we really had to see potential landing sites in person. Come to find out, many of the parks we had initially hoped for as possibilities ended up being busts. General rule of thumb; the closer to the coasts you get, the more proud these campground owners are of their properties. And anything with the term “resort” in the name – whether it really is a resort or not – can also command a steeper price. The old joke going around is that if an RV park has a pool and a playground, it's now a “resort”.
And we're not looking for a lot. A pool might be nice, but in central Florida in January it had better be heated. What we really want is what we usually look for; level lots, level paved streets so that we can ride our Montague folding bikes, and maybe some water nearby so we can kayak. Civilization nearby is also a must; we don't want to be driving 30 minutes just to get groceries and gas.
After much searching of places that were pretty proud of themselves (or kinda seedy), we finally settled on (drumroll) Stage Stop Campground in Winter Garden, FL. It's affordable at about $700 per month, in between a couple of good-sized towns, and it's about as dead center in Florida as you can get. Level grass lots, a small pond warning you to beware of alligators and snakes, and just a few park homes around the perimeter. We're looking forward to it.
Our visit to Florida was also time for family and friends, as Barbara's brother Rick and sister-in-law Celia have lived just south of Ocala for years. We were able to pry them away for a late afternoon / evening visit so they could see the new motor home. I think they liked it. Rick was particularly impressed with the RV systems that are needed to run everything. He also really liked Grover, but then, who doesn't?
During our search for a place to stay in January, we also had an opportunity to visit with fellow 36LA owners Bob and Jamie Freed Bailey. We had met them last year about this time during our visit to Red Bay for our repairs to everything following our Liquidspring issue. They've been staying in the Tampa Bay area, so we packed up Grover and headed for an afternoon of socializing.
A final night of family with a dinner at a local Ocala restaurant with Rick, Celia, our nephew Adam and our niece Beth, her husband Parker and their two kids Carter and Walton. Interesting restaurant which had a decent menu, but all their entrees were unavailable for the evening; only sandwiches, salads and appetizers. Even with that limited offering it took almost 3 hours to get our food, as the kitchen was understaffed and backed up. Good thing they had plenty of wine and beer in stock!
Our time in Florida complete and our destination secured for January, it's time to head back north to get us some Jace time, and to see if we can snag a site for Thanksgiving.
And I have an appointment at the Atlanta VA for some skin biopsies.
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're living the ultimate retirement experience - traveling the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, playing golf and stopping at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.