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TEXAS

21 July 2014 (Mon) – Went to the Stockyards in Fort Worth today.  What a tourist trap!  It was both fascinating and repulsive at the same time.  Everywhere you went, there was a charge – to see a video introducing you to the stockyards, to go into Billy Bob’s Texas (largest honky tonk in Texas), to park your car.  Nothing went without charge.

      They did a pretty good job of restoring the town and making it look like an early western town.  The stockyards had about 20 longhorn steers in the pens in back of the stock exchange.  At 11:30 and 4 o’clock every day, the steers are taken on a “cattle drive” which consists of a walk around the block accompanied by cowboys on horseback. 

      There were lots of historical markers around town, describing early activities.  We wandered into buildings where we could, and looked through lots of shops selling all kinds of stuff.  We had lunch in the Hunter Brothers H3 Ranch.  There was a signature beer on the menu – the Buffalo Butt Beer.  Didn’t sound very appetizing. 

      We got back to the truck at 2 p.m.  We looked up several other attractions that we wanted to go to but they were all closed, some on Sunday and Monday, others on Monday and Tuesday.  We’ll have to wait till tomorrow to see some.  So we drove into the town of Fort Worth proper, parked the truck, and walked the town.  They have some very interesting architecture – some very new mixed with very old.  One particular high rise had overhead bridges connecting buildings to each other.  It reminded me of the buildings in Minnesota where people can go from building to building without ever going outside and, thus, avoid the snow.  Here, people go from building to building to avoid the heat.  The temperature did reach 98 degrees today.

      Since we couldn’t find any other attractions open, we hunted up a laundromat and did some wash.  Afterwards, we stopped at Albertson’s to pick up a few food items then returned to the campground.

20 July 2014 (Sun) – Whew!  What a day.  We packed up and left Kilgore, TX, heading for Cedar Hill State Park near Fort Worth, TX.  About an hour into the ride, Paul noticed the tire pressure was getting low on one of the camper tires.  He pulled off at an exit looking for a service station but there was none there.  Now imagine this – a 38 foot trailer being pulled by 15 feet of truck traveling down a narrow country road.  It was a nail biting experience.  We finally wound our way around back to the interstate when Paul decided to stop and put some air in the leaking tire.  He located the hole and plugged the leak. 

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       We got back on I-20 headed back on our way.  Immediately, the tire began losing pressure again.  It was going down quickly.  Fortunately, there was a TA at the next exit and we got off.  It was not quite noon.  The attendant told Paul they were busy and wouldn’t be able to fit us in until 8 p.m.  EIGHT HOURS!  We then called our car insurance agency to get roadside assistance.  Apparently, we only have the policy on the car, not the camper.  In order to get help, we had to pay $276 to the insurance agency.  They then contacted a few companies and found one that could send a repair truck in three hours.  We told the agent we were parked in the TA service area and asked if she could contact TA to do the work.  She called back and said they told her they had no road service crew working today.  So we agreed to the other company.  (Interestingly, the roadside service truck at TA left with two guys a half hour later – we saw them down the road, helping a trucker).

      We sat in the truck for half hour with Paul fussing and fidgeting.  Finally, he walked into the TA service center and asked if he could borrow a jack to change the tire himself.  The guy told Paul they didn’t have any jacks available even though there were several of them lying around the bay.  Paul came back to the truck really annoyed now.  He decided he would try to raise the trailer using boards and blocks and proceeded to build piles to drive the camper on to.  After about 20 minutes of trying to get the camper high enough to change the tire, the road service company that was not going to show up until 5 p.m. showed up (it was 3:15 p.m.).  They had finished the other job faster than expected.  I was SO relieved!  Paul’s do-it-yourself project was making me very nervous.

       Tire changed, we were back on our way.  By now, we were really hungry so we stopped at a Subway to get a bite to eat.  There were three girls in the place – two were standing there chatting in Spanish and one came over to wait on us.  She took my order and began working on it.  Neither of the other two girls came over to serve Paul.  He got annoyed and walked out.  I got a salad and went out to the truck. 

       We arrived at the Cedar Hill State Park a little after 4 p.m.  The park is huge with over 350 camp sites, a lake with fishing and boating, and ranger demonstrations.  There are four campgrounds here; we got a site in Coyote Campground.  It was nerve racking to maneuver into the spot.  It is very narrow and on a rocky hillside.  We are right on the lake, but the trees on the shoreline have grown tall and you can’t really see the water from our camper.  There is a path to the lake. 

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       After dinner, Paul and I took our chairs down to the lakeside to watch the sun set.  There was a gal fishing in the lake and several boaters were out on the water.  When the sun was down, we went food shopping to pick up some items we needed.  We got back to the campground and drove around looking at the area.  There was a beautiful view of the city lights across the lake.  Looking forward to exploring Fort Worth tomorrow.

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19 July 2014 (Sat) – Drove into town looking for breakfast and wound up having burritos at Sonic drive in.  Afterward, we went to the East Texas Oil Museum.  There were really good things and really bad things about this place.

      The place had the AC blasting yet the outside temperature was only 69 degrees.  It was freezing inside!  The two teenage clerks working the counter couldn’t have looked less interested in being there.  There was no senior or military discount available.  The introductory film was filled with Kilgore talking about how wonderful it was.  We got up and walked out half way through it.  There were videos in a couple of places throughout the museum and they were very educational.  I found one particular video about horizontal shale drilling that was quite fascinating.

      The highlight of the museum was a recreation of the 1930s town at the height of the oil boom.  There were storefronts you could walk in and out of along a board walk.  We looked at a general store, a blacksmith, a pharmacy and sweet shop, a barber shop, and a post office.  In the middle of the room was a recreation of the muddiest street I have ever seen.  There was a team of mules, a cart, and two cars mired in the mud.  It was quite real looking.image

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       There was an elevator ride that simulated the ride down several thousand feet into the earth where the oil was extracted.  It was kind of hokey – certainly not Disney animation quality – with two little puppets having a conversation about the different layers of soil in the earth.  The scientist dummy’s voice was very low and hard to hear.  Using your imagination, I could see where kids would enjoy it.

      The best part of the exhibit was in the movie theater.  We found a key next to the panel and turned it on.  The theater went dark and the show came on.  An actor portrayed one of the 1930s folks talking about the changes in the town caused by the discovery of oil.

      We returned to the camper and puttered around with odds and ends for most of the afternoon.  I reheated leftovers for dinner.  There was a baseball game taking place in the ball field so we decided to go watch it.  As we came across a break in the bushes, a couple walked through.  A woman turned to us and asked if we wanted tickets to the game.  We said yes.  She gave us two tickets.  We got into the game free.  It was the Pump Jacks (home team) playing the Generals (visitors).  Very much like a Ducks game back home.  The Pump Jacks won the game in the last inning.  Quite exciting. 

       We are getting ready to move to Fort Worth.  Tried to call the campground but couldn’t get through.  The website didn’t work at all.  We will have to try to call on the fly tomorrow.

18 July 2014 (Fri) – Went into the town of Kilgore to look around.  It is a quaint, western town looking just like I would imagine.  The main street is lined by simple storefronts and two story buildings with sidewalks on both sides of the wide street.  The historical society has done a good job of restoring the town.  In the back of the main street stand about 50 oil derrick replicas.  At one time, Kilgore boasted the world’s wealthiest acre because of all the oil derricks.  There were 1,100 rigs in the town; today there are over 17,000 working rigs.  They have oil rigs sprinkled throughout town in the strangest places – in lots next to people’s homes and shops, in a cemetery, two in our campground, on the side of the road.  Weird!

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      We had breakfast in the Circle Café, a quaint, western style restaurant.  There were pictures of John Wayne all around the place along with other western paraphernalia.  After breakfast, we walked along the main street.  There were two old style movie theaters right across the street from each other.  One of them – the Texan – had a long horn steer neon light over the entrance with two huge stars on either side.  In the sidewalk, they had horseshoes with the name of famous stars and their horses etched in the cement.

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      At noon, we took off for Shreveport.  Met Frank and Joan at their hotel, then drove to the First Baptist Church in Blanchard for Sam David’s memorial service.  They did a really nice job of commemorating his life on earth.  After the service, the ladies of the church provided a wonderful array of foodstuff for the family in the Orchard (a Quonset hut down the road).  Everything was delicious.  Afterwards, we went to Frieda’s house and visited with family for an hour or so.

      We drove back to the hotel with Frank and Joan, had coffee and chatted for a while, then returned to the campground.  It was a long day.

17 July 2014 (Thu) – Drove into town and had breakfast at a local café.  Stopped at CVS to have a prescription refilled and get some cash from the ATM machine.  Made a quick stop at Pet Smart to pick up food for the animals.

      Returned to the camper and packed up to leave.  I called the Kilgore Town Hall to see if they had space at the campground, which they said they did.  It was overcast and threatening rain all day.  It rained on and off on the way from Lavon Lake to Kilgore.  We arrived at Kilgore RV Park.  There were eight spaces and no one in any of them.  Each site has a concrete pad, electric & water hookups, a barbecue, and a picnic table with benches.  The area is pretty open with very few trees around the sites.  The campground sits in back of a ball field with a walking/jogging track circling the fenced-in field.  In front of the ball field is a very nice U.S. Veterans Memorial Park.

      We pulled into a site and unhooked the trailer, hooked up to the electric and water, dropped the legs, and put out the slides.  Oops!  The breakers kept popping.  The electrical system said we had a faulty ground.  Oy vay!  We closed in the slides, unhooked the electric and water, pulled up the legs, and hooked back up to the truck.  Paul tested a couple of other sites with a volt meter and found one where the system was working properly.  We pulled into the site and repeated the set-up process.  In the middle of all this setting up and breaking down and setting up again, it began to pour.  What a mess!

     We had hoped to have everything set up and able to get to Shreveport by 5:30 p.m.  As it was, we weren’t done getting everything done until 6 p.m.  We quickly changed, hopped into the truck, and took off for the wake in Shreveport which was taking place from 6 to 8 p.m.  In the meantime, we were getting text messages from Paul’s sister, Joan, and brother, Frank, about their travel problems.  Their connecting flight from Dallas to Shreveport had been cancelled and they were waiting at the airport to see if they could catch a later flight.  Otherwise, they would have to rent a car and drive the three and half hours.  They eventually got on a flight and arrived at the Shreveport regional airport after 7 p.m.

      Our trip to Shreveport was full of pouring rain, traffic accidents, and roadwork.  What should have been a little over an hour turned into a two and a half hour ride.  We missed the wake and wound up meeting everyone at Ruby Tuesdays for dinner.  There were about 25 of us there. 

      What a day!  But it felt like coming home.

16 July 2014 (Wed) – The day was filled with constant text messaging as we found out what the plans were for the visitation and services for Sam, for Frank and Joan’s flights to Shreveport, and directions to the funeral home.  Visitation will be at the Boone Funeral Home in Bossier City on Thursday and memorial services will be at the First Baptist Church in Blanchard Friday afternoon.  Frank will be flying in at noon tomorrow and Joan should arrive at 4 p.m. tomorrow.  We will pull up stakes and leave tomorrow as well.  We will not go all the way back to Shreveport, but will be closer than here.

      Went to the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas.  There were so many interactive exhibits to see and touch that I was almost sorry we didn’t have any kids with us to share in the experience.  The museum was four stories tall and seemed to cover everything imaginable.  There was an exhibit specifically dedicated to dinosaurs, next to one about birds.  Topics covered included the human body, energy production, the earth, the solar system, weather, athletic performance, and a wonderful array of minerals, gems, stones, and geodes.  Unfortunately, I think every kid’s camp was there on a field trip as well.  The place was crowded with camp groups and the noise was deafening. 

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       When we finished touring the museum, we walked across the street to El Fenix Restaurant for a Mexican lunch.  The place was delightful and the service was outstanding.  Done with our repast, we found our way back to the truck parked in a public parking lot for which we paid $3.

       Next stop was the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.  I have never been to a presidential library before and was eagerly looking forward to it.  There were security guards scanning everyone and they made me take my pepper spray and pocket knife back to the car.  Strike one.  When we came to the desk, there was a $7 charge for parking (which, by the way, was VERY difficult to find).  Strike two.  There was an admission charge of $13 for Paul (senior) and $10 for me (retired military).  Strike three.  We arrived at 4 p.m. and the museum closed at 5 p.m.  They didn’t give any discount for coming in late.  Strike Four.  This was a federal museum and we were surprised that they were even charging an admission fee.  There was staff everywhere so it was probably to pay all those salaries.

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      The museum itself was interesting.  There were a set of exhibits with gifts that were given to the Bush’s from leaders of other countries.  Some of them were quite expensive – made of gold, silver, and diamonds.  We wandered past dioramas of the 9-11 history, the No Child Left Behind policy, the housing bubble, Hurricane Katrina, and the Gulf War.  There were videos of different things and a replica of the oval office where you could get your picture taken at the president’s desk.  It was all interesting but I do think $30 was excessive.          

15 July 2014 (Tue) – There are a couple of trees around our campsite and they are full of insects singing their songs.  They kind of sound like locusts, but not quite.  They are certainly as loud.  It is quite a cacophony (symphony?) of nature’s music.

      Drove to the Audie Murphy and American Cotton Museum in Greenville, TX.  What a delightful tribute not only to Murphy (who actually preferred to be called Leon by his close friends and family), but to all men and women who have served in our nation’s military.  It was also quite interesting to learn about the cotton industry.  There was a sample of cotton from its growth on the plant through all the processes it goes through to become cloth. 

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       We left the museum and drove to Rockwall to see the wall that the town was actually named after.  There was no mention of the wall in any of the tourist brochures we picked up and no signs around town to direct you to the site.  We even stopped in at a TA Center and the two clerks did not know anything about a rock wall.  Perhaps it is on private property whose owners are not giving any tours to the public. 

      Next stop was a winery in Grapevine.  The town was so attractive; very reminiscent of Huntington or Sayville back home.  The town was very artsy; full of art stores, consignment shops, restaurants, and wine bars.  We had wine and cheese in Farina’s Winery & Café then walked down Main Street.  There are many historical markers along the way and even a log cabin to peek into.  We strolled through two consignment shops, looking at many stalls filled with all kinds of wares.  The most interesting thing is that the places were so clean and attractive.  They looked nothing like the flea markets back home.  I picked up some items for family back home.

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      Got a call from Ricky, Frieda’s sister.  Sam passed away this afternoon.  He was returning from physical therapy and they were trying to get him back in his bed.  He apparently had a heart attack and died on the spot.  He was so miserable with his physical illness and limitations.  He was praying to God to end it; he just couldn’t go on like that.  His spirit is at peace now.

14 July 2014 (Mon) – Packed up and left the Red River Army Depot at 11 a.m.  We had some problem getting the new RV GPS to give us exactly what we wanted.  We are still learning our way around this device.  Finally got something close to our destination in and were on our way.

      Arrived at the Lavonia Park Campground on Lavon Lake in Wylie, TX, at 2 p.m.  Most of the sky was clear with some clouds off in the distance on the far side of the lake.  As we were setting up, there was thunder and lightning in the distance.  The storm slowly moved our way.  I called up NOAA on my smart phone and saw that a thunder cell was coming in directly over our campsite.  Paul and I went sat on the covered patio at our site and watched the storm come in.  Slowly, the shoreline across the lake disappeared in a white mist and then the wind began to pick up.  Soon, it was uncomfortable to sit outside and we went into the camper.  The wind began to blow and the rain poured.  We took down the antenna, shut off electronics, and brought the slides in.  The only place we could sit was on the bed.  There we were – Bonnie, Paul, and I sitting on the bed watching the storm blow outside.  The camper rocked back and forth, the rain pelted the sides, and the thunder rolled overhead.  We lost power.  With the temperatures in the 90s, it got pretty hot inside. 

       The storm passed in about 20 minutes, then I heated up some leftovers for dinner.  More clouds passed over later in the day, but nothing like that first storm.

     Spoke with our son, Travis.  He started a new job today and we wanted to see how things went.  The first day went well.  That’s good.  They are expecting a baby in February and this job will give him greater opportunity for advancement as well as more money.

13 July 2014 (Sun) – Did some laundry today.  The washers were $1.50 each and the dryers were $1.00 each.  One of the machines wasn’t working right.  After an hour, the clothes were still wet.  Had to put another dollar in another machine and wait another 45 minutes for that load.

      We spent most of the day lounging inside the camper.  It was 103 degrees – too hot to do anything outside.  Bonnie will be lucky if we take her for a walk.  lol. 

      After wine and cheese for late lunch (it was too hot to prepare anything), we went to Copeland’s for dinner.  I was too full from our snack to eat much.  I ordered a cup of corn & crab bisque and a crab cakes appetizer.  We also got their famous red beans and rice side dish (can’t go to Copeland’s and not get that!).  Paul had some kind of steak dish with shrimp and mushrooms, but the sauce on it was too sweet.  We both took leftovers home.

       I am annoyed with the WiFi service here.  The clerk told us it was available but it doesn’t even show up as a choice when I log on.  We have a WiFi service through Verizon that costs $89.99 a month.  It is only for 20 GB and we occasionally go over that.  Then the company will sell us another 20 GB for $89.99, even if you only need a couple of gigabytes to make it to the end of the month.  Seems ridiculous.  I have been experimenting with turning my smart phone into a hot spot.  We’ll see how much that costs.

       Started packing up for our move to Lavon Lake near Dallas tomorrow.  So excited!

12 July 2014 (Sat) – Went to Randy’s Smokehouse BBQ in New Boston for lunch.  This is the second place in Texas where we went in, ordered the meat portion first, got it, and then moved down the counter to get the sides and drinks.  Guess it’s a Texas custom.  The food was quite good.

      After lunch, we drove to the state line between Louisiana and Texas to get a Texas state map.  The information center had quite a bit of material.  We loaded up for all the areas we will be passing through to New Mexico.  There really isn’t much around here to see.  We probably stayed too many days.  Looking forward to seeing the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

      On the way back, we discovered that the interstate exits include a U-turn lane so people can get off the interstate and back on going the other way without getting into traffic.  Guess a lot of people around here make U-turns.  We stopped at Gander Mountain, an outdoor hunting/fishing/sportsmen store.  It wasn’t as big as Cabella’s and was really designed more for the hunter and fisherman than the sportsman.  We are still looking for the gel coat repair kit for the camper.

      After heating leftovers for dinner, we went over to the camp office where they were playing Heaven Is Real on an outdoor screen.  Our nephew, Ed, would have been impressed with the set up.  The movie was very slow – definitely NOT for kids.  The star of the movie looked like our great nephew, Devin.

11 July 2014 (Fri) – Drove to Texarkana today.  This town sits on the state line between Texas and Arkansas.  We took a picture as we stood split between the two states (ouch!).  The town is suffering like so many towns across America – victims of the interstate highway system and large malls.  Businesses have moved out, followed by the people.

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      There was a very interesting house in town dubbed the Ace of Clubs House.  The house was built in the mid-1800s in the shape of a club (three round sides and one “stem” side), said to have been built by a man who won the money to build the house in a card game.  The inner foyer in the center of the house is open three floors up with a winding staircase.  The very top cupola has windows that open and draw the warm air out while bringing in the cool air from the basement (an early form of air conditioning).  Many of the furnishings were from their original time periods.  There was a very interesting rollup door between rooms that resembled the roll top desk.  Of all the old houses we have toured, this was the first time we have ever seen something like this.  All the rooms on the first floor had huge windows that stretched from floor to ceiling.  There have been seven owners over the years.  One of them was a young woman who had a shoe fetish.  It is claimed that she owned 500 pairs of shoes when she died (most purchased from Neiman Marcus).  There certainly were a lot of them on display.

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      After the museum, we walked over to the federal court house and post office situated on the state line, then walked down the street to a hamburger joint called TLC.  The food was delicious.  We then walked down the main street.  Many of the stores were empty but some group (Main Streets of America or the local historical society) had put interesting displays in the storefronts.

      On the way back to the campsite, we stopped at Albertsons to pick up groceries and then Pet Smart for dog and cat food.

10 July 2014 (Thu) – Said goodbye to Frieda and Rick and left for Texarkana, Texas.  After three and a half months parked in their driveway, the feeling of being on the road again was a little giddy.  It’s kind of feels like starting all over again, although we actually left home almost a year ago.

       We headed off on LA Route 1 north, then west on I-30.  The GPS said the trip would be about two hours but because we were not on an interstate highway, it was closer to three hours before we pulled onto the Red River Army Deport installation.  The Elliott Lake Rec Area Campground is buried deep on the base – ten miles in.  We pulled into an empty space then went to the office to check in.  They were too busy and asked us to come back tomorrow to finish the check in process.

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       After setting up, we walked the small area we are camped in.  It is one road with about a dozen campers aligned on one side of the road.  At the end of the road is a good sized lake with a fishing area, a swim area, a boat launching ramp, and fun looking playground.  There are also cabins arrayed around the lake side.  We have full hook-ups at our site; we think this is the newer part of the campground. 

        Bonnie is still scratching and biting.  She pulled a large chunk of fur off the base of her tail.  We put Neosporin on it and wrapped her tail with a bandage.  She doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.

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       We drove off to tour the base.  There are warehouses upon warehouses full of stuff.  This is a major base for maintenance for the U.S. Army and there are tons of vehicles and parts all over the place.  We passed row after row of sand colored trucks, Humvees, tanks, etc.  I was snapping picture after picture.  Suddenly, a security patrol drove up and said there was a report of someone driving around base taking pictures.  That is prohibited and they had to confiscate the camera.  Paul’s camera was sitting between us – he had taken pictures of the campsite and lake but none around the base.  I had used my cell phone, which I quietly tucked away.  Paul showed them he had no prohibited pictures on his camera and they let us go. Whew!  There are no signs posted around base, which I have seen on other installations.

      This is a unique base.  The Defense Logistics Agency has a headquarters here.  It is comprised almost entirely of civilian personnel.  There is no base housing, no recreational facilities, no mess hall or club, nothing of interest.  Hope Texarkana is more promising.

LOUISIANA

9 July 2014 (Wed) – We went to the RV Supercenter to look for some gel coat to fix the crack in the RV skin.  It needs to be repaired quickly before water gets into the camper.  They had none.  Then we drove to CVS to get some cash and to pick up some bandages for me.

      I arrived at the doctor’s office a half hour early.  Her calendar was full so they told me to just stop in and see if I could fit in between patients.  That worked.  The PA looked at the wound and said it looked smaller than it did on Monday.  She put more silver nitrate on it and wished me luck.  We are cleared to launch.

      We left the doctor and drove to a marine sales store to see if they had any gel coat for the RV.  They did not.  Paul is getting frustrated with not being able to find this compound anywhere.  We then headed home for an hour.  Paul put some caulking on the crack for now.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow (of course, we plan to move).

      Picked up fried chicken and sides at Brookshire’s then drove to the hospital.  Sam, Frieda, Rick, Ricky, and Ingrid were there.  We had a “picnic” where we sat around the room in chairs and on the floor sharing the food.  It was very nice.  Sam was a different person today.  You could see he was extremely depressed and disheveled looking.  He was looking for a bottle to turn into a urinal that will fit better than the urinal they give him to use.  He finally drank all the chocolate milk and saved the bottle.  Paul had to put a note on it so the hospital staff doesn’t accidentally throw away his personal toilet.

      We bid everyone goodbye and left to go home and start prepping to move tomorrow.  We are excited at the prospect of being on the road again.  We have been parked at Sam’s for almost four months.

8 July 2014 (Tue) – We went to McDonald’s for breakfast and also picked up a sausage biscuit for Sam.  Sam was out to physical therapy when we got to the hospital.  Paul dropped me off and returned back home.  I sat for almost two hours before Sam got back to the room.  We had wonderful conversation throughout the day – he was lucid, attentive, and conversant.  I enjoyed our time together.  He was disappointed with his performance in physical therapy.  It wasn’t as good as he expected it to be and is falling back into deep depression.  The nurse told me to tell his wife he is talking about going into hospice.  I assured her he has been saying things like this for four months.

      Paul & Frieda came in at 2 p.m. and we stayed until 4 p.m.  Paul and I left and went to the veterinarian to get some heartworm medicine for the cat and ask about something for fleas.  The vet recommended Trifexis – a combo pill of heartworm and flea treatment for the dog.  We bought a year’s worth of heartworm medicine for Bonnie three months ago.  The vet agreed to take back the unused portion of the Heartgard and credit the refund against a year’s supply of Trifexis.

      After the vet, we went to Ralph & Kacoo’s for dinner.  The meal was delicious.  We stopped by an RV supply center to see if they have any gel coat.  Paul needs to make a repair to the fiber glass cap on the camper.  They did not have any.  He had also stopped at Home Depot and Lowe’s today but they didn’t have any gel coat either.

      Frieda’s sisters, Ricky and Ingrid, arrived today as did her son, Rick.  Ricky brought us four bags of cracklins.  We will keep two and give two to Sam.

7 July 2014 (Mon) – Whew!  What.  A.  Day.  We pulled the camper out at 11 and drove down to the Flying J to dump the tanks.  Unfortunately, there was construction going on and the surface of the roadway was scarified in preparation for new blacktop.  There was all kinds of bumping and jarring during the drive.  It reminded me of someone who told me that a hurricane and a tornado take place in your camper every time you move on down the road.  I was not looking forward to opening any of the cupboards and drawers later.

      When we got to the Flying J, one of the trailer tires was flat.  You could put your finger over a hole and feel the air hissing out.  A Firestone service center stood adjacent to the travel center.  We drove over there and had them take the tire off and put the spare on.  They did not have another tire to sell us and they couldn’t repair the damaged tire.  Paul got a referral to Gateway Tire Service across town.  

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      We returned the camper to Sam’s back yard.  We had just enough time to set the camper back up and grab a bit to eat before taking off for the doctor.  The surgeon looked at my seeping wound and said it just needs to heal from the inside out.  His PA put some silver nitrate on the edges of the wound (burned like a son-of-a-gun!) and advised me on how to take care of it.  She wants to see me once more on Wednesday to be sure the wound is getting smaller.  If so, we will be clear to hit the road again.

      Left the doctor and drove to Gateway Tire Service to see if they sold the type of tire we need. They didn’t have the tire but they were able to repair the damaged one.  All for just $10.  Cool!

      We then drove over to the hospital to visit with Sam.  He was very coherent and interested in visiting with us.  His hearing aids were in and he is able to hear fairly well.  He has not had any physical therapy for four days because he arrived on a holiday weekend.  He wasn’t even allowed to get out of bed.  This set him back some.  The therapists came in to assess him this morning and found he has grown weaker and lost a lot of the strength he had built up last week.  They will start him at the gym tomorrow.  Frieda ran out to buy him some clothes to wear to therapy (don’t want that open-backed hospital gown).  On a more positive note, the pneumonia – while not entirely gone – is better.

      While we were there, we dialed up Joan and she, Peter, and Chrissy all Face Timed with Sam.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the visit.  Sam was quite taken with my iPhone.  We showed him how to take a picture and a video.  He was talking about buying one when we left for dinner.  That’s so funny because their daughter, Laura, bought an iPhone for Frieda when they were here and Frieda wound up giving it back and getting herself a simple Trac phone.  The iPhone was too complicated to use.

       Stopped at Nicky’s Mexican Restaurant for 2-for-1 enchilada night.  Margaritas and enchiladas.  What a meal!

      Bonnie and Sheba are still scratching.  The flea shampoo didn’t help Bonnie and it doesn’t look like the flea treatments helped either one.  Since Sheba is due for a blood test for heartworm so that we can refill her medication, we will bring both of them to the vet to see what he can do about the fleas.  Bonnie is SO unhappy.  She has never had fleas before and is very perturbed with the whole affair.

6 July 2014 (Sun) – Went to church this morning.  We are quite impressed with this church.  They do a lot of things that involve young people.  Last month, they sent thirty plus kids to Belize for two weeks to build a church.  There was a group of teens from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana called World Changers in church today.  They are here in Louisiana for a week doing volunteer repair work for people in poor neighborhoods.  They have many programs and activities for kids.

      After church, we went to Southfield Grill for lunch.  We bought extra food to take to the hospital (today is National Fried Chicken Day).  When we got there, Laura was in the room with Sam.  Frieda spent the night then went home to take a shower and get some errands done.   Sam did very well last night and they were both able to get some sleep.

      Laura brought Sam a kolachi (a boudin ball inside a sealed hamburger roll) when she arrived this morning so he wasn’t hungry enough to eat anything we brought.  We had a delightful visit while Sam entertained us with stories of his life (he is a great story teller).  Frieda came in later and was delighted with the fried chicken and vegetables we brought and we all munched away.  We had a good visit today.  

5 July 2014 (Sat) – Bonnie came in at 2:30 a.m. this morning to get us up.  Paul took her out thinking she had to go to the bathroom but she didn’t do anything.  Turns out she has fleas and is very agitated by them.  She has never had fleas and does not like them at all.  Paul ran out at 8:30 this morning to buy some flea shampoo and a flea bomb for the camper.  Blah!  We gave Bonnie a flea shampoo, dried her off, fumigated the RV, vacuumed the dog and the camper, and sprayed around the grass outside.

      Went to Southfield Grill for lunch and picked up grilled pork chops for Sam.  Visited him at the hospital and he gobbled up both the chops.  He was awake, alert, lucid, and interacting with Laura, Frieda, and us.  We played a game of Rook.  Sam got lessons on the laptop from Laura.  Then he needed to use the bathroom so he asked us to go run errands for two hours and then come back to watch Huckabee on Fox. 

       We ran home, fed the animals, walked the dog, let the cat run around the yard, threw some laundry in the washer, had cheese and crackers, and returned to the hospital at 7 p.m.  We all watched Huckabee together then visited for an hour before leaving.

4 July 2014 (Fri – Independence Day) – Sam got moved to Promise Hospital late yesterday.  He was greatly agitated and insisted Frieda stay with him.  She hadn’t had more than 2 hours of sleep in the last 8 days so her kids sent her home and Rick stayed the night with Sam.  They had to go out and find an electric blanket for Sam – he was complaining about being cold.  Kim wound up going to her mother’s house and getting one (who sells electric blankets on July 4th in Louisiana?).

      Went to the hospital to visit with Sam.  He seemed very animated and alert.  Laura was trying to teach him to use the laptop computer and set him up with an email account.  Frieda said the doctor told her Sam has a touch of pneumonia and has put him on super strong antibiotics.  Scary!

      Promise Hospital is, surprisingly, NOT part of the monster Willis-Knighton Healthcare System.  It is new and clean and bright – very appealing.  A nurse sits at a desk right outside of Sam’s room.  The room is larger than the one he just left.  Because this is more of a nursing facility, the staff should be more consistent and rotate less.  That will make it easier to build a relationship with the staff.

      Kim and Rick left for home this afternoon.  Laura will be here through Monday.  Frieda’s sisters, Ricky and Ingrid, are coming in on Tuesday.  It is good Frieda will have more help.  Sam is certainly a handful!

       We went to the Saltgrass Steak House on the Louisiana Boardwalk for dinner.  This was a great place.  It was decorated in a very western style with lots of wood and western type stuff.  The food was very good and the waitstaff competent.  We signed up for Landry’s Select Club when we were in Disney in January.  One of the benefits is that we got a $25 reward for signing up at the next visit – so, we got $25 off our bill.  The membership also moved us up in the wait line from 40 minutes to 15 minutes.  That, alone, made the membership worth it.

       After dinner, we sat on the patio outside the restaurant facing the river and waited for the fireworks to begin in an hour and a half.  Just as the fireworks started, Joan & Peter called us to FaceTime.  We couldn’t hear a thing with the noise of the fireworks, the squeals of the crowd, and the music playing from a nearby band and overhead speakers.  The show was about a half hour and was great!

3 July 2014 (Thu) – I spoke with Kim this morning.  She bought some housecleaning materials, thinking she could do more help for the family by cleaning the house rather than sitting around the hospital. She planned to wash and iron clothes, and dust the cobwebs away.  Frieda has had her hands full since Sam developed this disease a year ago, but especially this last week with Sam in the hospital.  She will appreciate the help, I’m sure.

      Paul and I went to the hospital at 11:30 a.m.  Sam had a bad night.  Laura showed Sam how to use a laptop computer and now he shops for items.  He is obsessed with getting a headlamp so he can read at night (he rarely reads but he is afraid of the dark).  He is obsessive compulsive about the things he becomes interested in.  It is driving everyone crazy!  He was supposed to be transferred to Promise Hospital yesterday or today.  Everyone is waiting for that to happen – especially Sam.  He is pushing everyone to check on when the move is going to happen.  Again … . that OCD thing.

      Frieda, Rick, and Laura went to lunch while we sat with Sam.  The physical rehab folks came in and got Sam to walk from his bed to the door before having to sit down.  He didn’t go as far today as yesterday, and was terribly winded.  It took him a long time to stabilize his oxygen. 

      After the crew returned, we left and had lunch at El Potrillo Mexican Restaurant.  We then stopped at Lowe’s to pick up some water filters, then at a Barnes & Noble to get some books for Sam to read.  As we were driving back to the camper, we passed a sign announcing that Coldwater Creek was having a Going Out of Business sale and everything was 80% off.  Well, that wasn’t true.  Only SOME things were 80% off, others were 30 to 60% off.  Coldwater Creek is my favorite store and I am so bummed that it is going out of business.  I shopped around and bought one pair of capris (and they weren’t 80% off.  Bummer!).

2 July 2014 (Wed) – We stayed home today so as to give Laura and Rick a chance to visit with their father.  Additionally, the hospital room is so small; just two people make it crowded.  Six of us would be ridiculous.

       We took the opportunity to run several errands: picked up items for the camper at Home Depot and Southern RV Supercenter; shopped for dog and cat food at Pet Smart; bought groceries at Brookshire’s; had lunch at Ruby Tuesday.  Paul said it’s time to leave – we are eating in the restaurant chains now.

      Called Frieda’s cell phone several times today but she didn’t answer.  I finally called the hospital and spoke with Rick (Frieda was supposed to be home resting).  Rick said that Sam is doing wonderfully.  All the nurses have been telling him that Sam is a different person than who they have been dealing with for the last week.  Frieda later called and said that Sam should be moved to a rehab center tomorrow.  I am so happy for him.  I have to admit I was frightened for him.

      We got to Skype with our son Travis, Sam, and Noah.  Sam is expecting a baby sometime in February.  It is always such fun to hear Noah talking in that little baby voice.  He is such a little dolly.

 1 July 2014 (Tue) – New month, new Sam.  It’s like he got a boost of something and a miracle happened.  He ate every meal with gusto and was more lucid than he has been since he arrived at the hospital.  He even walked from the bed to the doorway with the physical therapist.  He had a brief period of confusion for about an hour and a half, but the cloud lifted and he was himself again.

      Frieda spoke with the lung doctor and was told that while Sam has a serious illness (pulmonary fibrosis), the doctor believes Sam still has a few good years left in him.  Hospice is not on the horizon.  Relieved, Frieda asked for Sam to be moved to Promise Hospital.  It is closer to them and has an excellent rehab center.  Her sewing ministry is involved with the hospital as well so she is familiar with the staff, patient treatment, and policies

      Laura, Rick, and Kim (Rick’s wife) arrived tonight.  I am sure Frieda will be happy to see them (she is spending the night at the hospital with Sam).

 30 June 2014 (Mon) – Had to go back to the doctor today.  One of the incisions from my surgery started bleeding.  It’s probably because of all the activity of running to and from the hospital.  The PA said I have a small infection in the incision and put me on antibiotics.  I have to clean the wound and change the dressing twice a day.

       It is frightening to watch Sam.  He seems to be going downhill fast.  He refuses to eat.  Does not cooperate with the nursing staff or us.  Yells at Frieda to take him home.  Hallucinates about what the TV remote and bed controls can do.  It’s a mess.  The internist told Frieda that she needs to think about comfort care sooner than later for Sam.  In Louisiana, that translates to hospice.  She called their children (Rick and Laura) so they could arrange to come in.

 28 -29 June 2014 (Sat & Sun) – It’s been a blur these last few days.  We’ve all been taking turns staying with Sam in the hospital.  He has three big problems – he can’t hear, he can’t breathe, and he is not allowed to move.  For some reason, we have been unable to keep his oxygen at a good level.  It keeps plummeting and then he starts acting out.  Then we have to start fighting with him to stay in the bed and keep his canula in.  Because Sam is a mouth breather and not getting the full effect of the oxygen through his nose, we have been putting the canula in his mouth.  He also wants to get out of the bed to use the bathroom but he’s not allowed. 

      The staff at this hospital are not the best either.  Frieda says it’s the weekend staff – the “A” team works the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift during the week.  The “B” team takes nights and weekends.  From what I can see, it’s a hit or miss affair here.  You either get a great nurse or a real bad one; there’s no in-between.

      The Willis-Knighton (WK) Hospital System here is Shreveport is huge!  There are several buildings around the area and hospitals referred to as WK Pierremont, WK North, WK South, and WK Bossier.  Doctors have offices right in the hospital buildings or right next to it.  The policies in the hospitals are different from New York, too.  There is no security desk.  No one is questioned or given a pass when they come in.  You can go to any room you want at any time of the day or night.  There is also no limit on the number of visitors per room, nor are there are set visiting hours.  It all seems very loosey-goosey.

 27 June 2014 (Fri) – Went down to the house, let Shadow out and stirred up last night’s dinner (he didn’t eat anything), and checked to see that Smoky was OK outside (she’s not allowed in the house when they’re not home).  Paul and I headed out to the hospital at 8:30 a.m.  When we got there, we picked up a cup of coffee for Frieda in the cafeteria and went on up to Sam’s room.

       Frieda was glad for the coffee.  Sam seemed fine – clear and lucid and not really in any pain.  We all visited for about an hour, then Paul took Frieda home.  I picked up some breakfast at the cafeteria and spent the day watching over Sam.  It was a flurry of medical personnel floating in and out of the room all day long.  There was the respiratory department to do lung treatments; physical therapy to get him up and moving; nurses checking vitals; food service personnel delivering meals; staff emptying garbage and cleaning floors; doctors touching base; and a case manager to assess Sam’s need for rehab. 

      It turned out that the hip had a clean break across the bone so they did not have to replace the hip.  Instead, the surgeon put a screw (pin?) in the bone.  Sam had no pain as long as he didn’t move.  In the afternoon, he began to get antsy and wanted to get up.  I had a hell of a job keeping him in the bed.  After the physical therapist got him out of bed and sitting in the chair for a half hour, he began to grow agitated and confused.  When Paul and Frieda got to the hospital at 4 p.m., Sam was fully involved in whatever was going on.  He was shaking and hallucinating and talking nonsense.  We think his oxygen hose was twisted and he wasn’t getting the full dose of oxygen he needs.  It’s frightening what a lack of oxygen can do to a person.  Frieda suspects Sam is having a reaction to all the medications he’s being given.  He is no used to getting medicine.

       We visited for two hours, then Paul and I left.  Frieda will be spending the night with Sam.

26 June 2014 (Thu) – Woke early and went down to the house to check on the dogs.  Called Frieda to find that the doctor will be putting a rod in Sam’s leg.  Because of his lung condition, he can’t take anesthesia so they will give him a spinal block.  He is not happy about being restrained and unable to get up.  I told Frieda we’ll come get her when she’s ready to come home.  She asked me to call the church and let them know what happened.

      The day was full of telephone calls and text messages as we let everyone know what happened.  Sam’s friends stopped by the house because someone had told them they had seen an ambulance at the house the night before.  Word traveled fast.

      We did grocery shopping at Brookshire’s.  Went to drop the garbage off in the dumpster in back of the store but there were two police cars parked back there.  Guess we will have to try to get the garbage to the dump (there is no garbage pickup here – residents bring their garbage to the local dump).

       We went to the hospital around 1 p.m.  Sam was still out from the operation.  Frieda’s friend, Barbara (who had spent the whole day at the hospital with her), took her home so she could get a little sleep.  (Barbara napped, Frieda was inundated with phone calls about Sam).  We watched over Sam but he basically floated in and out of consciousness.

      Barbara and Frieda returned to the hospital about 6 p.m.  Frieda didn’t get to take a nap but felt she would be able to sleep on the couch just fine.  We stayed for an hour or so longer then left.  Picked up dinner at McDonald’s and returned to the RV.

 

25 June 2014 (Wed) – Sam made breakfast for us this morning.  The guys have been going into town to the Gator Bait for breakfast.  When they went there yesterday, there was a sign in the window saying they would be closing permanently the next day.  The group has been meeting every morning for breakfast for years.  Guess they’ll go back to McDonald’s.  Sam’s breakfast included sausage gravy on biscuits and fried eggs.  Frieda also cooked up a sausage but it was too spicy to eat.

      After breakfast, Paul and I returned to the camper and began making preparations to move.  Paul got on top of the RV and cleaned the roof, then washed the rest of the camper.  I stored items away, cleaned out the fridge, and packed up the dog’s toys.  Dark clouds rolled in and thunder boomed.  Soon it was raining.

      Frieda called and asked if we wanted to go to lunch at the Main Street Restaurant in Gillam, LA.  This is a restaurant in farm/plantation country that all the workers go to.  It was a 40 minute drive to get there (nothing is close around here) and there were over a dozen pick-up trucks parked in front.  The place looked a little run down outside but was quite nice inside.  There were pictures of race horses on the walls and several large TVs around the room.  The tables were covered in bright red and white checked cloths and two walls were red brick.  The service was OK and the food was very good.  The daily special was only $7.99 and included a fried pork chop, mashed potatoes with gravy, fried okra, a biscuit, and a drink.  After lunch, we drove down the old Dixie Highway.  This road runs past a lot of farms/plantations growing corn, pecans, and other crops.  Many had large patches of sunflowers growing in front.  Frieda says the sunflower crops are not regulated like the other crops so they are planted as a supplemental income.  They were pretty to see.

      We got back and returned to getting the camper ready to move on.  Paul washed the truck.  The rain had stopped and we finished getting most everything ready.  Sam cooked a pork loin on the smoker.  It was quite good.  We also finished off some of the left overs in the fridge.  After dinner, we talked a while then returned to the RV.

      Frieda called at 10 p.m. to say that Sam had fallen and couldn’t get up.  Paul went over to help him.  Sam didn’t know how he had fallen.  His hand was pretty much cut up from the fall.  Paul sat him in the chair and Frieda called 9-1-1.  They took him to the hospital; Frieda rode along.  She called us at midnight to say that Sam had broken his hip and they were keeping him at the hospital.  What a mess.

24 June 2014 (Tue) – I went to the church with Frieda and Kate this morning to help the Lydia Sewing Ministry group.  There were eight people missing, not to mention the three they just lost (two died, one moved).  Kate stuffed pillows all day; I pinned clothing pieces together for Peggy.  Paul picked me up at 1:30 p.m. and we dropped Bonnie off at Pet Smart for grooming at 2 p.m. 

       We stopped at Capital One Bank to cash in some coins but they did not have a coin machine.  We exchanged some 20s for larger bills.  We then went on to the surgeon’s office for my check-up.  The Nurse Assistant removed the staples and said everything looked fine.  She did not see any reason for our not hitting the road again.  We made a quick stop at the wine store and then stopped in at the American Legion Post for a quick drink.  Got the call to pick Bonnie up and returned to Pet Smart to get her and pick up some pet food.

      We got home and brought some ribs over to cook on the BBQ.  Ten minutes into the cooking, the propane tank ran out.  Paul took the tank and ran down to the Dollar General store to get a new tank.  He was back in 15 minutes, got the propane hooked up and cooking again, and finished the ribs.

       After dinner, we played Rook.  The guys won two hands and were quite pleased with themselves.  I got a call from our son, Travis.  He will be starting a new job that pays more money and has an opportunity for advancement.  Things are going well for them right now.  I am happy for him.

23 June 2014 (Mon) – Had physical therapy today.  Doran measured the flexibility of my foot and had me walk for six minutes.  He gave me some suggestions for exercise and stretching to keep my foot feeling good.  All in all, I have improved greatly and look forward to continued improvement.

      Ran some errands today.  Went to CVS to pick up a thank you card for the doctor that identified the cause of my stomach problems.  I think we landed here in Shreveport, Louisiana, for a specific reason – to help Sam through his darkest hours and to get treatment from Dr. Geist.  I also picked up a heel cup to put in my shoe, as suggested by my physical therapist.

      Stopped at Lowe’s and picked up a few items for the camper.  Couldn’t find the hydraulic bar for the door on the basement, so Paul ran over to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and found it in there.  He had an urge for a hot dog so we stopped at Sonic for lunch.  The hot dogs were OK but not as good as they are in New York.

      On the way home, we stopped at Brookshire’s and picked up a couple of things.  Sam & Frieda’s granddaughter, Kate, arrived for an extended visit.  We had Pizza Hut pies for dinner.  Afterward, Sam wanted to go for a ride by the farms to look at the sunflowers.  We drove for an hour with the sun setting in the west and only found one sunflower area.  We saw a coyote standing on the side of the road by one farm.  It was a mean looking critter.

22 June 2014 (Sun) – Frieda’s sister left this morning.  We didn’t go to bible study but we did go to church.  Afterward, we went to the Southfield Grill for brunch.  When we returned, Paul and Sam retired to the shop to work on the Trabant.  They are painting the tires and buffing engine parts.

       Enjoyed dinner together and Rook afterward.

21 June 2014 (Sat) – I spent most of the day scanning receipts and documents into the digital files.  It’s amazing how fast papers pile up.  Paul worked with Sam in the shop.  They are getting one of Sam’s cars – a Trabant – ready for an antique show.  Sam seems to be enjoying himself again.  I am beginning to think we were held here for a higher purpose.  We arrived at a time when Sam was having big problems.  Paul’s presence has helped his brother to cope with his illness and adjust his life style to fit his reduced capabilities.

      Ricky, Sam, Frieda, Paul, and I went to dinner at Ralph & Kacoo’s.  This was a really neat place.  You walked into a small storefront selling Cajun stuff – spices, foodstuff, toys, trinkets, etc.  There was a bar on the left and the restaurant in the back.  Zydeco music was playing overhead and made you want to tap your toes.  The place was decorated with posters and stuffed game fish.  The service and food was very good.  It was an enjoyable evening.

20 June 2014 (Fri) – Went to physical therapy at 8 a.m.  I was afraid if I cancelled one more appointment, they would void the script.  The therapist said they understood the situation and wouldn’t do that.  She measured the flexibility on my foot, did a little bit of stretching with rubber bands and made an appointment for next week.  Because I couldn’t do the leg exercises or lay on my stomach so they could do the sonic treatment, she said she didn’t feel I really got the therapy I should have so she told the office to credit my co-payment.  Next time I go in, it won’t cost me anything.  What kind of medical facility does this?  That’s two offices now that refunded money to me.

      We stopped at the Southfield Grill for breakfast then walked next door to pick up wine.  Paul stopped at Home Depot to pick up some material and we returned to the camper.  The tanks were full so we packed up the camper and towed it to the Flying J to dump.  When we got back, we left the camper closed up so Paul could do some work on the RV.  He greased the wheels and examined a leak under the camper.  While I was standing around waiting for his next request for a tool, I noticed a wasp fly into the outer grill cover for the furnace.  Immediately, I had a flashback to articles I have read about wasps and bees building nests in furnaces and water heaters.  When Paul finished under the camper, I told him about the wasp.  He rapped on the side of the grill and a wasp flew out.  No more followed, so he popped the cover and looked inside.  There was no nest in there – whew!

      Later, Paul came in and reported that he had been stung.  He had looked behind the hot water cover and found a wasp’s nest in there.  One of them stung him on the shoulder blade.  He said there were three or four wasps sitting on top of the camper looking down at him.  He put dryer sheets in all the outside areas.  Let’s hope that keeps the little buggers out.

       We had flank steak for dinner and watched some TV before calling it a night.  Frieda’s sister, Ricky, stopped in for a visit on her way back from a conference in Indiana.  She arrived about 11 p.m.

19 June 2014 (Thu) – Had a hairdresser appointment at 2 p.m.   While there, the doctor’s office called and gave me a 3:45 p.m. appointment.  We finished the hair appointment at 3:30 and returned home but Paul and Sam weren’t there.  I was going to take the pick-up truck but Frieda offered to loan me her car.  With the tender tummy, that would be an easier drive.

      I arrived at Dr. Norwood’s office at 3:50 p.m. and after ten minutes I was ushered into an inner examination room.  A nurse asked me a bunch of stupid questions (they are required to ask them because the office is listed as a center for excellence).  She removed the bandaid over the one spot that was hurting and then left me laying on the table for 45 minutes.  Finally, Dr. Norwood’s assistant, Dr. Burke, came in to take a look at things.  He didn’t find any reason for the pain that I have been experiencing.  He proceeded to remove all the waterproof bandaids covering the six incision sites.  Why?  I don’t get the staples out until Tuesday and now I can’t take a shower because he removed all the waterproof coverings.  I am so annoyed with this office.  The anesthesiologist gave me nothing to help clear my lungs after the surgery.   The doctor cut me six times, not four, and one of the incisions is very long.  He used staples instead of stitches to close everything up.  He didn’t give me anything to support my stomach muscles while I heal.  The nurse in the office was snotty and they all seem to have an attitude.  And my stomach still hurts.

18 June 2014 (Wed) – Although I woke frequently throughout the night with pain, I got up this morning with a minimum of discomfort.  On a bright note, my foot has not been bothering me.  I guess that old joke applies:  if your head hurts, slam your hand in a door and the headache will go away.  lol.   Guess I’ll wait to see if it gets bad before I call the surgeon for an appointment.  I did cancel the physical therapy on my foot because I still can’t lie on my stomach or use stomach muscles to lift my legs. 

       The pain did start up again this afternoon.  I’m tired of this stuff.  I put off calling the doctor, thinking I am just taking a little longer to get better.  I don’t think it’s a prudent act.

      Went to Bossier City to pick up food for the animals at Pet Smart, then had lunch at Ta Molly’s.  I really enjoy that Mexican foodstuff.  After lunch, we went grocery shopping at Brookshire’s.  When we got home, I settled into the lounge chair to rest my stomach.

       Had dinner with Sam &Frieda tonight.  I made potatoes.  Frieda had cooked a rice and beans dish to take to a sick friend, but never brought it over.  The friend, Jackie, had a stroke this morning and was at the hospital   We were all pretty anxious to hear how she was doing.  After dinner, we sat around and Sam questioned me about my childhood years, as well as my married years with Paul.  He is feeling SO much better.  The prednisone has really turned him around.  He is using the treadmill fairly regularly and doesn’t panic when there is a problem with his oxygen.  He even spends some time with the hose out of his nose while talking or eating.  Sam is a different man than when we first arrived three months ago.  The transformation is amazing.

17 June 2014 (Tue) – Paul worked around the garage with Sam and Steve today while Frieda and I went to the Lydia Sewing Ministry.  I made an ambrosia salad to take and Frieda brought pinto beans and cookies.  I have always enjoyed the pot luck suppers at the church.  Now, I can enjoy them once a week at the ministry where the ladies each bring a dish (or two).  I ironed, stuffed pillows, pinned bibs, matched towels to bib tops, attached tags to finished items, and helped pack bags and boxes.  It was a busy day.  I was fine for most of it with limited pain.

     We grilled pork chops for dinner.  Frieda made mac and cheese and we enjoyed the pinto beans left over from this afternoon’s repast.  For dessert, we finished off the ambrosia salad.  I had no problems with eating at all.  It’s beginning to look like we have solved the stomach problem.  Now, if we could only get rid of the surgery pains, I’d be a happy camper (literally).

       We played Rook after dinner.  The guys had a strong start but the girls still beat them soundly.  My stomach really starting giving me a lot of pain towards the end of the night and I finished the game standing up.  I will see if I can get in to see the doctor tomorrow.

16 June 2014 (Mon) – Paul went shopping with Sam today.  I lay around the camper feeling like crap.  The surgeon’s office called to see how I was feeling.  I reported that I am having extreme pain in one spot on my stomach; all the other incisions are healing fine.  The nurse said she would check with the doctor.  She later called back and told me I was constipated and should buy a bottle of citrate.  The LAST thing I want to do right now is have a bowel movement.  She just didn’t listen to my complaint.  Boob!

      I cooked some chicken and rice for dinner.  This was the first full meal I have had since surgery.  It was a test to see if there was any problem with eating.  Everything went down without difficulty.  Very encouraging.  

15 June 2014 (Sun – Father’s Day) – I was in too much pain to go to church today.  Spent the day laying around the RV, trying to minimize movements that cause pain.  It shouldn’t still hurt like this.  Travis called to wish Paul a happy day.

14 June 2014 (Sat) – Spent the day laying around the camper, dozing on and off, making all kinds of noises whenever I had to move.  I wasn’t very hungry today either.  We had some cheese and crackers around dinner time.  Later on, Paul made some soup for us.  He is so attentive.

      Travis had a birthday party for Noah today.  They had a kiddie pool for the babies and a blow-up play thing for them to romp on.  Baby had a great time and lots of family and friends attended.  They skyped in with us before the party started so we could see Noah open our gifts.  The foam bat and ball seemed to be a big hit.  He is so adorable!

13 June 2014 (Fri) – What a miserable day!  I was in so much pain all day long.  I got a call from the hospital asking how I was doing.  When I complained about the pain, the nurse told me to get the Percocet.  Paul ran out to CVS to fill the prescription.  It does take a bit of the edge off, but still doesn’t completely dispel the pain.  I spent the day dozing on and off in the lounge chair.  I tried to go to bed but it hurt to lay down so I wound up going back to the lounge chair.  Paul picked up some soup for dinner but I wasn’t very hungry.

      Sam &Frieda’s daughter-in-law, Kim, and two children (Kate & Rhett) stopped in for a visit on their way to Waco, Texas.  Kim was on the way to visit with her parents.

12 June 2014 (Thur) –Up at 6:30 a.m. and arrived at the hospital a little after 7:30 a.m.  There was a long conversation between my health insurance company and the hospital.  Because of the delay, I didn’t get checked in through registration until after 8 p.m.  We were then brought to a private room where I got undressed and went through the medical check (temp, BP, respiration, etc.).  A nurse came in and tried to get an IV going in my left hand.  Even though she stuck me with lidocaine first, the stick still hurt.  To add insult to injury, it didn’t work anyway.  Then she lined up the inner part of left arm.  That hurt, too.  What the heck is with these people?

      After they got their information and made sure I was prepped for surgery, we just sat.  Paul and I watched TV and checked the clock regularly while time dragged by.  I was brought into surgery at noon and was back in recovery about 1 p.m.  I told the anesthesiologist that I get sick from the stuff so he gave me a patch to put behind my ear for motion sickness.  WTH???  Everyone else puts something in the IV to mitigate the nausea but this guy didn’t.  Sure enough, I got sick and suffered light-headedness and dizziness for two days afterward.

      The doctor gave Paul a prescription for Percocet but I still had pain killers from the gall bladder surgery so we didn’t fill it.  I was in extreme pain, particularly on my right side.  I looked at the surgical sites and see that he punctured my abdomen six times.  Ouch!!!

      Sam & Frieda’s daughter, Laura, and her husband, Glenn, flew into Dallas and drove to Shreveport.  Laura’s best friend’s mother passed away and they came here for the funeral.  I hope everyone had a good visit.  I has in two much pain to visit with anybody.

11 June 2014 (Wed) – I had an 8 a.m. appointment for physical therapy today.  But when I got there, they did not have the appointment in the book.  After some back and forth conversation, Carla (the therapist) agreed to fit me in.  After some stretching, she massaged my foot then had a tech do a sonogram.  She thinks I have a bone spur in addition to the plantar fasciitis.  She suggested a foot pad where I can cut out a piece that would go over the tender spot in my heel.  Paul and I stopped at Walgreens but couldn’t find the right heel pad.

      We had breakfast at Southfield Grill.  The food is always good.  Our daughter-in-law, Samantha, called to see if we had received the pictures from the wedding.  Yes, we got the two discs yesterday and started looking through the hundreds of pictures on them.   There are some great shots.

      We then stopped at the Tractor Supply Co. to pick up some horse treats and dog food.  There are two horses in the pasture in the back of Sam & Frieda’s property.  They are terribly ignored – they only get to graze on the grass with no supplementation at all (hay or alfalfa).  Their water bucket has algae moss growing on the inside.  It’s awful.  They are not being socialized at all.  Makes you wonder why the people even have the horses.

      We got back to the house at 11 a.m., gathered up Sam and Frieda, and headed out for the Dorcheat Historical Museum in Minden, LA.  Stopped at Home Depot on the way to pick up some outdoor lights and a switch.  When we got to Minden, we looked for a place to eat.  There was a sign advertising Hamburger Happiness.   Frieda said she has seen these signs all over the place.  Being the curious folks we are, we hunted the place down and had lunch there.  It was a small, kind of seedy place with ripped up seats.  The entire menu board was hand written and consisted of all different kinds of hamburgers.  We got the special of the day which consisted of a hamburger, fries, and a drink.

      When we arrived at the museum, it was 1:40 p.m.  The museum was closed for lunch from 1 to 2.  We hung out on the sidewalk in front of the museum until a woman pulled up and opened the place.  The museum was all about the town of Minden.  They suffered some terrible things in 1933.  So much so that they labeled it the Year of Disasters.  There was a fire, a tornado, a flood, and bank failures.  Whew! 

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      After the museum, we walked across the street to an antique store.  It was pretty large and had a mix of antiques and old junk.  Frieda found a large stuffed panda bear for her granddaughter.   We got back to the house about 4 p.m.  Dinner was all the left-overs from our two refrigerators.  Pretty yummy.

      I got a call from the insurance company while we rode to Minden.  The billing agent told me that I would have to pay $300 when I arrived at the hospital tomorrow.  I told her I only have a $60 copay for outpatient hospital services with Blue Cross Blue Shield.  She said she would check with the insurance company and call me back.  I don’t understand the confusion.  I had an operation on May 6th and there was no problem.  Why now?

      During dinner, Sam’s lawn service arrived and began mowing the grass.  There were two ride-on mowers going as well as a weed whacker.  The service is provided by a man and his two grown children – his name is Chopper (appropriate, huh?).  The excitement began when the son ran over an old gas line.  Chopper (who works full time with the local gas company) noticed the smell of gas.  Then began the search for where the smell was coming from.  The break was located and Chopper called the gas company to come turn the gas off (Sam & Frieda get their gas from a competitor company).  Turned out the gas line used to go to a lantern in the yard that was removed several years ago.  The line was capped off at the point where it fed into the lantern, and the rest of the line was left buried in the ground.  Over time, the line worked its way to the surface where it met the blades of the lawn mower today.  Chopper crimped the line shut and will be back tomorrow to take the line out and cap it at the main line into the house.  Enough excitement for one night!

10 June 2014 (Tue) – I had pre-op testing at the hospital at 9 a.m.  I had to stop by the doctor’s office first, pick up a form to fill out, and make a payment of $250 on the physician’s bill.  Depending on what the insurance company pays, I will be billed the remainder of his fee.  I then walked over to the day surgery unit and had an EKG and bloodwork done.  The technician had angel hands.  I didn’t feel the stick at all.  First time ever a blood draw didn’t hurt.

       We went to Another Broken Egg for breakfast.  They have such interesting things on their menu.  We sat outside on the veranda.  There was bird nest overhead, built on top of a speaker.  We watched the little birds fly back and forth, rebuilding the nest.  Last week, there were babies in the nest.  Guess they flew away and the happy little couple is starting all over again.

      We made a quick stop at CVS and I picked up a heel pad to see if it will help with the pain in my heel.  It didn’t.  Then we went to the post office to mail off a package to our pastor back in New York.  We got home around 3:30 p.m.  Paul grilled hamburgers on the barbie and Frieda cooked veggies to accompany the meal.  After dinner, we watched TV then turned in.

9 June 2014 (Mon) – I had physical therapy at 9 a.m.  I have been wearing the foot splint at night and that is helping.  When I get up in the morning, my foot does not hurt.  Then it slowly wakes up and begins to ache in the heel.  I got a very thorough and comprehensive treatment today – exercises, massage, and sonogram.

      After therapy, Paul and I went to breakfast at the Waffle House.  The waitress was quite taken with my New York accent.  She thought it was “cute.”

      Sam & Frieda had to take their van into the dealership because of a recall notice about the passenger air bag.  It was supposed to take an hour and a half but they waited over three hours.  Very aggravating!

      There was a fierce thunderstorm today.  It really poured and thundered for better than a half hour.  There is a string of severe thunderstorms coming up from the Texas coast moving northeast.  The storms are coming up Texas into Oklahoma and Arkansas, sometimes cutting into the upper northwest corner of Louisiana (where we are).

      I got to Skype with Travis, Samantha, and Noah today.  That baby is so adorable!  He has such a little guy voice and repeats everything like a parrot.  He delights in saying whatever his parents ask him to say.  He had a train and when I made train noises (chugga-chugga, toot-toot) he seemed very amused by that.  He then pulled out a monster truck and giggled when I made zoom-zoom noises.  Too cute!

      We grilled some steaks and had asparagus with red beans and rice for dinner.  Afterward, we played a game of Rook.  The girls soundly beat the guys.

8 June 2014 (Sun) – Frieda and I went to Sunday School at 8:45 a.m.  The class was quite empty.  Several of the ladies are on a 10-day bus tour to Hershey, PA.  It was an interesting lesson and one that hit home.  The lady leading the bible study spoke about how God is love.  We talked about how you could also love one another and she used some examples.  I enjoyed the class and the chance to mull over my own situation.

      We met Sam and Paul in the sanctuary for the 10:30 a.m. service.  They had a baby dedication and two people came up after the service to bear witness to God.  They will be baptized next.  The church has a new youth minister and his wife.  There will be having a covered dish supper followed by a pounding tonight.  A pounding is when people bring household items and gifts for the new couple.

       After church, we went to breakfast at IHOP.  Then we drove around town for a while.  Sam took us by where they used to live in a trailer park.  It has run down since then with many of the trailers looking like they are 40 years old.  

       When we went to return home, Sam got very agitated and didn’t want to go back yet.  He wanted to continue driving around.  Paul and I wanted to skype with our son and his family and Frieda wanted to get changed.  Sam was overruled and we returned home.  We couldn’t connect with Travis – we each had something going on and couldn’t seem to coordinate our schedules.  We said we would try to touch base tomorrow.

      Frieda cooked a meatloaf and field peas; I made mashed potatoes and carrots.  Dinner was good and we followed it up with a movie.  We found a DVD in Kroger’s that we have been wanting to see – Steel Magnolias.  Sam and Frieda told us that the movie was filmed in one of the towns near Shreveport.  The actresses and actors took up local residence for many months.  Julia Roberts acted like a real prima donna.  Dolly Parton and Daryl Hannah were very nice and down to earth.  The movie was very much a chick flick – the guys did not like it.

 

7 June 2014 (Sat) – Sam & Frieda ran errands most of the day.  We went over and did some laundry in the afternoon.  Later, we had dinner and played Rook afterward.

6 June 2014 (Fri) – It was a busy, run-around day today.  First was physical therapy at 9:30 a.m.  That was followed by a late breakfast/early lunch at Southfield Grill.  My stomach gave me problems, so I had to take most of the meal home.  Thrifty Liquor was right next door, so we walked over and picked up some wine.  Paul stopped in Bed, Bath & Beyond while I was in therapy and found a roasting rack.  Yaaayyyy!   We stopped in PetSmart to pick up some pet food and got Sheba a couple of toys.  She needs stimulation.  She’s a young cat that needs to run and chase things.  She climbs the door every morning, meowing to go out. 

      I saw Dr. Geist, the gastroenterologist, at 12:30 p.m.  He said there was nothing he could do so he refunded the office fee.  What doctor does that????  Next, we went food shopping at Kroger.  I like that store much better than Brookshire’s.  It’s just not as close to go to.  The surgeon’s office changed my pre-op appointment and surgery date.  I will get testing on Tuesday morning and have the stomach surgery on Thursday.  I sure hope this clears everything up.  I’m tired of all the nonsense.

      We got back and went over to visit with Sam & Frieda.  They were looking at the operating hours of a local museum, thinking we would go there tomorrow.  Unfortunately, all museums in this area seem to only be open Tuesday or Wednesday through Friday.  None are open on the weekend.   How dumb is that?  That should be their busiest day of the week.

       Paul and I went to dinner and a movie at the Boardwalk.  We saw Maleficent with Angelina Jolie (she was the PERFECT actress for this part).  After, we went to Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner.  We both had crab buckets.  It was too much work and way too messy.  The noise level in the place was loud (don’t know if it was my age or poor acoustics that made it that way).  I thought the waitress was working hard but seemed to keep making extra trips for things.  For instance, Paul asked for wet naps and she went off to fetch them.  She came back with something else we asked for but no wet naps.  When Paul reminded her we wanted them, she said her hands were full and she would come back with them.  Well, what is that cute little apron around your waist for?  The air in the pockets makes you more buoyant?  She lost my respect with a silly lie like that. 

5 June 2014 (Thu) – There is a very large tract of wooded land fenced in along the highway going toward Shreveport.  The story goes that the guy who owned the property took a trip to Africa and became enamored with the animals that roam the Serengeti.  So he got some gnus, elands, zebras – that type of range animal – and brought them back to his preserve.  Sometime later, the man died in a plane crash (he was a private pilot).  Everyone wondered what would happen to the animals and no one saw them for a long time.  Then the rumor mill said the son decided to take over the property and its animals.  Now, when you drive past the area, you can sometimes catch sight of one or more of the animals grazing along the fence line or at the pond.  We have managed to spot something that looks like it had a zebra parent.  It is light colored with brown and tan stripes on its legs and hind quarters.  There are other animals, but none that really look very exotic.

      We went to CVS and picked up two birthday cards, then went to the post office to mail off several packages.  Our grandson’s 2nd birthday is coming up this month, as is our niece’s 11th birthday next month.  There was also a special find we came across that we sent to our pastor, and the “Slap Ya Mama” spices for Paul’s sister as an “apartment warming” gift (she had to move from the house she rented to a basement apartment).

      Sam & Frieda said they wanted to go to New Orleans to see their grandson race this weekend, and they want us to go with them.  I have two doctor’s appointments scheduled for tomorrow.  By the time I spoke with Frieda, the offices were closed.  I promised to see what I could do about rescheduling them.  I called one office and left a message on the machine.  I also called the kennel down the road to:  (1) tell Penny that we might be dropping our animals off tomorrow; and, (2) ensure they had room for our animals.  Penny said she had a full house and could only take one dog and our cat.  When I said that Sam and Frieda would need to leave their animals, too, Penny said she would look at doubling up a couple of her dogs.  She would let us know tomorrow but don’t drop anybody off before noon (Sam likes to drop the dogs off very early in the morning).

       I called Frieda to let her know what Penny said.  She told me they decided not to go to New Orleans after all.  The weather is too hot during the day.  Instead, they are planning to go on June 28 when their grandson will be competing in the evening when the temperatures are cooler.

4 June 2014 (Wed) – Went to physical therapy today.  My back was really acting up so my movements were limited.  The therapist, Carla, did the scraping thing again but only on my heel.  The instep doesn’t hurt any more (that’s good).

      We then drove to Posados Mexican Café for lunch.  My stomach really acted up and I didn’t more than three or four bites of food in before I had to throw up.  I am really anxious to have that surgery.  In fact, the surgeon’s office called this morning and set next Wednesday for the surgery.  She said she would call me back about pre-op testing.

      On the drive back home, we passed Creamer Furniture.  This is a large store that has intrigued us for over two months now.  We finally stopped in to take a look.  Frieda told us that her granddaughter bought some stuff in there when she moved into a new apartment.  Apparently the prices are pretty good.   It might have a Salvation Army store back home.  It was full of all kinds of houseware items including wall art, clothing, shoes, videos – many used and new things.  We wandered around the huge warehouse for about a half hour.  I wound up buying some music CDs.

      My back was really hurting tonight so we begged off dinner with Sam & Frieda and stayed in tonight.

3 June 2014 (Tue) – Steve came over today to help out around the place.  Paul and he replaced the weather stripping on the back door and removed some old phone lines from outside the house.  

      Frieda asked me to help at her sewing group today.  A group of ladies from the First Baptist Church of Blanchard form the Lydia Sewing Ministry.  They meet every Tuesday and sew clothing items for local nursing homes, hospitals, hospice, and the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital.  The group has taken a severe loss this month.  Two members died, one moved, and one had a stroke and went into the hospital.  Additionally, there was an AARP driver’s education course given today that several of the ladies attended.  So I was glad to help.  My job was to stuff filling into pillow shells.  I stuffed about three dozen pillows.  Meanwhile, the ladies sat at sewing machines and created all manner of clothing – bibs for adult patients, dresses, pants, capris, and book bags.  There were also two ironing boards set up in the corners of the room and had at least one in use at all times.

      The ladies bring in food each week in a kind of pot luck luncheon.  There were lots of salads and desserts to nibble on that were quite good.  The whole operation made me think about the ladies back home at my church.  They have a craft group that meets once a week to make items for the annual Christmas Fair.

      We finished up around 4 p.m.  It was a long day.  Frieda cooked up ham steaks and peas for dinner; I made mashed sweet potatoes.  After dinner, we watched Bill O’Reilly on FOX News then played a game of Rook.

2 June 2014 (Mon) – Went to physical therapy this morning at 10:30 a.m.  They took me 20 minutes late then let me go early.  I think I got a half hour, not an hour, of therapy.   They had me do exercises (I had already done them this morning).  The therapist, Carla (filling in for Doran), put some lotion on my foot and calf then “scraped” the surface of the skin.  It was designed to break up the nodules in the foot but looked more like it belonged in a pastry chef’s kitchen than a physical therapist’s office.

      When we got out, we went around the back of the hospital to McAllister’s Deli.  Deli’s here don’t mean the same thing as deli’s in New York.  They don’t open until 10:30 a.m. and they offered salads, soups, chili, and sandwiches.  The food was very good but it was a high price.  A salad for me, a sandwich with soup for Paul, and two drinks, cost $23 and change.

      We drove across the street to Target, looking for a roasting rack. They didn’t have any.  We then stopped in at Sports Academy where I got new sunglasses.  We also picked up a case of water and a new stair stepper with resistance bands attached.

       Frieda mentioned a hardware store down Benton Road so we drove over to Tubbs Hardware Store (still looking for a roasting rack).  This was quite the place!  The first thing you saw outside when you drove up was a wild boar trap.  The inside of the place seemed to have something of everything for the redneck and more!  We picked up gifts for family and an Americana sticker for the truck.  We really enjoyed cruising around the store.

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      Frieda also said there was a kitchen store at the Boardwalk in Shreveport so we drove over there.  Took advantage of being in the area and walked through the Bass Pro Shops (that’s a fun place to wander around).  Found the Kitchen Store but they had no roasting racks.  This is becoming a tough thing to find.  Wish I hadn’t sold mine at the yard sale.  Lol.

      We walked over to the Margaritaville Casino to take a look inside.  Went to the bar and had a margarita.  We will probably be back for dinner – either to Margaritaville or one of the other restaurants on the boardwalk.  Stopped at the Thrifty Liquor Store to pick up some wine, then the Dollar Store for milk on the way back home.

      Brought pork chops to the house to barbecue, and Frieda served up potato salad, baked beans, and mac & cheese.  After dinner, there was the usual dish of ice cream.  We watched Bill O’Reilly on FOX News and were appalled to see that the POW who was traded for five Taliban leaders (since when has America started trading with terrorists?) was a deserter.  Now, it seems that any terror organization in the world will be encouraged to kidnap Americans because we give in to demands.  This country has grown so weak!

1 June 2014 (Sun) – I went to Sunday School with Frieda this morning.  The group was kind of subdued and there wasn’t much chatting before bible study started.  After class, we met the guys for church service.  The AC was on and the place was freezing cold.  There was a baptism at the beginning of the service.  These things always seem so weird.  The minister stands behind a window high up in the front of the sanctuary.  The person to be baptized enters wearing a white robe and steps into the tub.  The pastor seats the candidate, conducts the ceremony, then dunks the person backwards in the water.  Then the person goes up the stairs out of site to the right, and the minister goes up the stairs out of site to the left.  I guess he changes out of his wet pants and robe (he was also standing in the tub of water), then shows up to give the sermon.

      After church, we went to the Southfield Grill for breakfast/lunch.  Then we took a ride over to the Drug Emporium.  What a great place.  It was huge!  There were all kinds of organic and health food items to choose from.  We spent a good hour poking around the place.

      We returned to the church where we picked up Frieda’s car.  The guys drove off to the book store and I took a nap.  After dinner, we played Rook.  Sam appears to be doing much better, yet he sometimes starts complaining at night.  I am confused as to what’s happening with him.

31 May 2014 (Sat) – Paul & Sam went back to that estate sale to look at the house.  Sam & Frieda looked at it 40 years ago when they were shopping for a house.  After doing some banking online, I went over to see if I could help Frieda with a project.  She was busy ironing clothes so we sat and talked till the guys got back.  Sam & Frieda had some errands to run so Paul & I spent the rest of the afternoon potsing around the camper.  After dinner, we went back to the house and watched Huckabee.

30 May 2014 (Fri) – Woke to a rainy day.  It really poured and threatened to put out Paul’s fire.  He went out to put a flat board over the top of the last of the logs to try and keep the rain out.  The fire has been burning for a week.  The rain let up, the sun came out, and the fire resumed.  There is about one log left to burn now.

      Sam’s friend, Steve, told him he saw a treadmill for $50 at an estate sale yesterday.  Sam asked us to go get it for him, so we took Sam’s truck and drove over to Bethany, TX.  It was quite an estate sale.  The house was jam packed with so much stuff; it was hard to maneuver around everything.  They must have done craft shows or flea markets – there were lots of multiples of things, indicating that they were selling stuff.

       Ricky said good-bye around 3:30 p.m. and headed back to Branch, LA.  Paul’s sister, Joan, called to say hi and we talked for about 20 minutes.  Sam and Frieda were exhausted after their day of shopping with Ricky, so they passed on dinner.  Sam and Paul sat outside for half an hour visiting while I cooked dinner for us.  Then it was a quiet night watching TV.

29 May 2014 (Thu) – Went to a physical therapy session on my foot.  The therapist spent an hour examining my foot and leg.  Gave me some exercises to do and advice on how to carry on.  Made three appointments for next week.

      Left the therapist and went to the Southfield Grill for breakfast.  The food was quite good and the cost very reasonable.  After breakfast, we were driving past Greg Tilley’s Mobile Home dealership and decided to stop in.  A couple of the models were appealing and we gathered some information about the homes before leaving.  Maybe, some day …

      Made a quick stop in Brookshire’s to pick up a few more groceries and returned home. 

      Frieda’s sister, Erica (“Ricky”), stopped in for a visit.  We all went to the Chinese buffet for dinner.

28 May 2014 (Wed) – We packed up and took the camper down to the Flying J to dump the tanks.  It began to rain pretty hard as we were going down the road, so we went into Denny’s to have lunch.

      Brought the camper back to the house, stopped in to say hi to Sam & Frieda, then went off on more errands.  Went food shopping at Brookshire’s and picked up wine at Thrifty Liquors. 

      We cooked smoked sausage on the BBQ.  I cooked up the Louisiana red beans and rice we bought. Think we like the Viggo brand better.

      Watched the last night of the History Channel’s special on WWII, then returned to the camper.

27 May 2014 (Tue) – Have been having problems with my weblog.  Contacted Tumblr on Friday but couldn’t get any answer.  I thought, perhaps, that the office was closed over the holiday weekend.  Then I got an email offering to sell me a tech support plan for $10 a month.  How outrageous!  It was finally worked out and it seems my blog is back online.  We’ll see.

      Went to the doctor today to consult on my stomach issues.  There seems to be a problem with my health insurance and this doctor not being in the network.  The billing clerk said she would call my insurance company tomorrow to get more information.  I also promised to follow up with them as well.

      Left the doctor and stopped at Wendy’s for lunch.  It looks like Wendy’s has changed its look.  The place is built with a very square look and colored black and red.  Inside, the seating area is bright and decorated with a glass partition top painted with grass.

      Afterwards, we stopped at Wray Ford and Paul picked up paint for the truck.  We have managed to get some dings and scrapes on the truck over our travels and this touch-up paint should help to fill those in.

       We had dinner with Sam & Frieda, then watched the History Channel’s special on WWII.

26 May 2014 (Mon – Memorial Day) – Travis called us last night to tell us that an 18-year old man was killed yesterday when he fell down the bluffs at the beach by the cabin.  Turns out that our neighbor (who is always allowing the kids to drink and party while she absents herself) had let her kids drink with friends.  After the boy was killed, she and her father packed up all the beer and left.  This smells like a big law suit in the making.

      Laura and Tommy left early this morning.  Sam got in the car around 8 this morning and drove off.  Turned out he went down to the Gator Bite for morning coffee with the guys, but they were closed.

      We went to the house at 11 a.m. and all drove off to Sue’s Kountry Kitchen for lunch.  Afterward, we went to the Tractor Supply Company.  What an interesting place!  It was a kind of country store with a little bit of everything.  We wandered around for about an hour and still didn’t get to see everything.  We will have to go back.

      We got back to the house and went to the camper to put away our purchases.  Returned to the house around 6:30 p.m.  Frieda had her hands full trying to get phone calls and emails returned so I made dinner.  Paul grilled steaks on the barby and I cooked up mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.  Everything was very good.  Followed it up with coffee and ice cream.

       After dinner, we watched the History channel’s special on WWI and WWII major players.  It showed Churchill, Mussolini, Roosevelt, McArthur, Patton, Stalin, and Hitler during WWI and how their attitudes were formed to influence WWII.  Looking forward to watching tomorrow’s show.

25 May 2014 (Sun) – I went to the house at 8:45 a.m. to meet Frieda for Sunday school, but she was still in her pajamas.  Sam had a bad night and Frieda needed time to go over some things with her daughter, Laura.  We all (except Laura’s son, Tommy) went to church at 10:30 a.m.  Sam, Paul, and I went in the van; Frieda and Laura went in Frieda’s car.  Frieda asked us to take Sam out for breakfast after church so she and Laura could continue getting things done. 

      We drove back to the house to pick up Tommy.  When he came out and saw that Sam was driving, he stopped.  Paul recognized the boy’s dilemma.  His mother told him not to drive with his grandpa.  Reluctantly, Paul told Sam that he is a bad driver and Tommy is not allowed to ride in the car when he is driving.  Paul then went on to add that he would not ride with Sam anymore either.  It was a heartbreaking scene.  Sam begged everyone not to do that to him – driving is the one thing he can still do and it relaxes him.  He insisted that Paul drive with him and point out what he does wrong.  We drove around the area while Paul pointed out all the things Sam does that are unsafe.  We got back home and Paul repeated that we would not ride with him anymore.   This is such a bad time for Sam – he is feeling better from taking the prednisone and is able to breathe much better, yet we are telling him he is not safe to drive with.  My heart breaks fro him.

      Sam gave in and let Paul drive, so Sam, Paul, Tommy, and I went to IHOP for breakfast.  Afterward, we went to WalMart to shop.  I rode an electric cart and Sam had his cart.  It was quite the parade.  We had expected Sam to try to change Paul’s mind about the driving, but he never said a word about it.  He was very subdued.

      At 7 p.m., Paul and I went to Trejo’s Mexican Restaurant for dinner.  We walked into a medium sized restaurant, decorated very colorfully, but not a soul in it.  It was kind of weird.  They advertised .99 cent margaritas all day from Monday thru Wednesday (how good can a .99 cent margarita be?).  We both ordered the margaritas and our meal.  They were not that good (who thought they would be) but the food was OK.  Half way through our meal, a group of people came in – three women, a man, three boys, three girls, and an infant.  At least, we weren’t alone in that big space any more.

24 May 2014 (Sat) – I did some housekeeping chores today.  It was difficult to clump around the camper with the cast on.  There was a dead tree in the front yard.  The electric company cut it down for Sam without charge, and neatly piled the wood up (this is a service they do for everyone).  Paul has been piling the wood on a cart and using the tractor, hauling it to the burn pile in the back yard for two days (It was a big tree).

      We went over to the house about 2 p.m. to see what everyone was doing.  Frieda was just preparing breakfast for everyone.  We talked a little while then went back to the RV.  Sam & Paul left for WalMart later to buy a new cell phone for Frieda – she dropped her purse yesterday and broke her phone.  The new medicine is making Sam edgy – Frieda says he just can’t sit still.  Turns out, the guys never went to WalMart.  They just drove around for an hour.  Ric and his son, Rhett, left.

      At 5 p.m., Paul returned and we dressed for dinner and left at 5:30 for Sam’s Town Casino.  We had dinner at Smokey Joe’s, then attended a concert by Aaron Neville (a smooth jazz performer).  The room where the concert was held was a big ballroom with rows of chairs from front to back.  The floor was one level, so I could not see from way in the back where we were seated.  There were two large screens in front on either side of the stage that showed the performers closed up.  The camera kept showing pictures of the back of the drummer or Aaron Neville singing.  He was very stiff when he first came out.  We thought he was stoned or drunk.  As the show went on, he became a little more animated but never really seemed to be all there.  There was a tall, thin, black woman down the row from us that stood during the whole performance, gyrating and waving her arms.  She was quite the entertainment.

     Nobody was in the mood to gamble, so we were back home by 10:30 p.m.

23 May 2014 (Fri) – Paul left at 6:45 a.m. to pick up Sam & Frieda’s daughter, Laura, at the airport.  They got back about 8:30 a.m.

      We left for the funeral home at 9:00 a.m. to attend the memorial service for Virginia.  We stopped quickly at the orchard where they were having the lunch so Frieda could drop off some food.  When we got to the funeral parlor, the coffin was still open and we went up to say our good-byes.  At 10 p.m., the funeral director came up, tucked the satin in around the edges, and closed the lid.  The pastor had everyone stand, and then the family filed in and sat in the first row.  A man from the First Baptist Church where we go sang two songs and the pastor gave a moving testimony to Virginia’s life.  When the service was concluded, we all got in our cars and formed a line behind the hearse.  There were three police cars that accompanied the funeral procession.  They took turns leapfrogging to the next intersection and blocking the traffic so we could all get through the light.  People along the way pulled over and gave the right of way to us.  Anyone driving in the area stopped to let us go by.

      The cemetery was very large.  We wound along the interior roads until we got to the plot that was open and waiting for the casket.  The family sat in the front and the empty seats were offered to anyone else who wanted to sit.  Afterward, we were going to attend the lunch but Frieda was worried about Sam.  He had a bad night and stayed home with his daughter, Laura.  We got back and everything was fine.  Paul and I returned to the camper to give the family time to visit with each other.

      At 6:30 p.m. we went to the house and Frieda said Ric and Laura went to pick something up for supper.  They got brought Kentucky Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, green beans, biscuits, and gravy.  There was lemon cake for dessert. 

      Laura’s son, Tommy, rolled in about 9 p.m.  He lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  It was a full house last night.

22 May 2014 (Thu) – Clumped around with my cast today.  Tried to walk the dog but it was too irritating.  Just hung around the camper, sulking most of the day.

      Sam had a bad night; he did not sleep well.  He was feeling so bad that he insisted that Frieda call the doctor and get him some medication.  She called, explained the situation, and the doctor prescribed something for Sam.  Sam and Paul drove to the drug store to pick up his medication as well as Frieda’s eye drops.

      Met Frieda at the house at 4:30 p.m. to go to Virginia’s wake.  Sam was not doing well and I wound up asking Paul to come to the house and sit with Sam while Frieda and I were gone.  I worry that Sam might have had a stroke.  It was like he was stuck in a deep sleep and couldn’t rouse himself.

       Frieda and I met her friend, Joanne, and she drove us to the funeral home.  Virginia was laid out in her coffin, looking very pretty and polished.  Her son dressed her in a lovely purple dress with a matching purple ring and purple nail polish.  The spray of flowers on the casket was gorgeous.  The florist did a superb job.

       We got home a little after 7 p.m.  Sam was sleeping in his chair and Paul was watching TV.  He said Sam woke to eat, then went back to sleep.  Frieda and I heated up some food.  While eating, Sam woke up and started calling for Frieda.  It turned out he had not taken the medication he had been in such a hurry to get from the doctor earlier this morning.  I chided him to take the meds but he refused.  He later decided he wanted to go to bed (I think it was only 8:30 p.m.).  When Frieda got him in his pajamas, he asked her to send me in with his pills.  He then told me he was only taking the pills because I wanted him to.  Funny.  Sam got tucked into bed and I left.

      Their son, Ric, and his son, Rhett, arrived from New Orleans at 10:30 p.m.  Their daughter, Laura, is flying in from Florida tomorrow.

21 May 2014 (Wed) – Left at 7 a.m. for a doctor’s appointment in Bossier.  This one was with a foot specialist.  I have been limping badly for several weeks after a slip down the steps.  Turns out that I have plantar fasciitis and hammer toe.  They put me in a soft cast for four weeks.  I also have to go to physical therapy three times a week, do exercises three times a day, and sleep with a splint.  Paul’s new mantra is “We’ll never get out of Shreveport!”

       After the doctor, we went to Another Broken Egg for breakfast.  The menu is amazing at this place.  We’ll have to make it a favorite stop.  Next, we went to PetCo to pick up some pet food.  Then it was a stop at the liquor store for some wine, and CVS for splints and medicine.  We then went to the rehabilitation center at Willis-Knighton Medical Center and I got an appointment with a therapist for next Thursday (I am on the waiting list if someone cancels earlier).  Finally, we got back home at noon.

      The psychiatric hospital brought a patient over today for Sam to interview.  Apparently, there are no other doctors in the area who can do certifications.  Since Sam couldn’t go out, they brought the patient here.  His written report had to be at the hospital by 4 p.m. but there was a transportation problem.  Family of Frieda’s friend, Virginia (who died on Saturday), are in town.  Frieda took a sister-in-law to the hair dresser and had to pick her up when done.  Unfortunately, the appointment was taking longer than expected.  Sam needed to get to the hospital to drop off the report but Frieda was waiting to pick up Gladys.  As time was running out, I volunteered to pick up Gladys and Frieda took Sam to the hospital.

      We grilled burgers for dinner then watched some TV before calling it a night.  Sam spends a good deal of the time snoozing in the chair.  He is having such a hard time breathing and is so miserable for it.  My heart breaks for him.

20 May 2014 (Tue) – Sam did not go down for coffee this morning.  Guess he wasn’t feeling well enough this morning.  Frieda went to her sewing group at the church.  Sam’s friend, Steve, came over and Paul and he worked on trying to resolve the oxygen machine issue for Sam.

       At 1 p.m. we all went down to the Chinese buffet for lunch.  This is a delightful place.  They have about six or seven kinds of chicken and there is shrimp cooked nine or ten different ways.  There are four kinds of soup to choose from and even some chicken and greens to munch on.  It is very different from the Chinese restaurants in New York!

      I cooked dinner tonight – chicken parmesan, sticky rice, and turnips.  There was coffee and ice cream afterward.  We watched some TV then called it a night.

       Frieda is still working hard on coordinating the memorial service luncheon for her friend, Virginia.  The phone never seems to stop ringing.  Frieda said that their sewing group had a difficult time today trying to decide how to replace her friend.  Virginia apparently did a lot for the church without being asked to – she just did things she saw needed doing.  Family and friends will be descending on the house this weekend.

19 May 2014 (Mon) – I called my doctor’s office back in New York and coordinated to have my medical records faxed here to LA.  They said I needed to fax a signed, written request.  I typed up a FAX then drove down to the post office to mail a letter and see if they had a fax machine.  They did not.  I then went over to the insurance office and asked the agent there if he would send the fax (he has done it for Sam on several occasions).  He gladly did the favor.  He had a gigantic hornet’s nest hanging in the back of the office – he took it down from his neighbor’s yard.

      Paul and Sam went to McDonald’s this morning for breakfast then drove around trying to solve the mystery of his oxygen machine.  It appears that his car does not have the power needed to run the machine properly.  They put the machine in our truck and it ran fine.  Sam was still not entirely convinced and drove off to confer with a friend of his after dropping Paul back home.

       Paul and I went shopping for groceries at Brookshire’s.  They insist in not only bagging your groceries but walking out to the car with you so they can collect the shopping cart.  This irritates Paul as he feels the management does not trust its customers (the boy that walked out with us told us he would be fired if he didn’t go the car and collect the cart right away).  When we got back and I described this to Frieda, she assured me that this is actually a southern custom.  The grocery stores have always packed the groceries, taken them out, and loaded them into the car.  Up to two years ago, the counter was set up so that shoppers could put their carts right up to the counter and the checkout girl took the food out of the cart and rang them up.  Now, the customers have to take their own foodstuff out and put it on the belt.  That made a lot of people in the area pretty mad.  This didn’t ring true with Paul because no other store in the area (in the south, in fact) has been so insistent on doing this.  He feels it’s this one particular store that has the silly policy.  Wonder what would happen if I mentioned it to the manager?

      Frieda cooked round steak for dinner.  She reheated the jambalaya she made a few days ago and I roasted some fresh vegetables.  After dinner, we had coffee and ice cream, then played Rook.  The girls won.

18 May 2014 (Sun) – Art and Vicky left early this morning.  I went to bible study with Frieda at 8:45 a.m.    Everyone was distraught about Virginia’s death.  They went around the room so that we could give a happy memorial to her.  Some of the ladies cried, others wrung their hands, and everyone praised her with love and affection.  She will be sorely missed.

       Apparently, Sam got in the car at 9 a.m. and drove around to pick up Paul, then motored around town for over an hour before meeting us at the church.  We attended the Sunday service.  It was graduation Sunday where they dedicated the service to three graduating seniors.  Then a newly appointed youth minister and his wife were introduced to the congregation and he gave a sermon about preaching the word of God.

      We then drove to Sue’s Country Store in Bossier for breakfast.  It was quite good.  When we got back in the car, Sam declared “So where are we going now?”  He did not want to go home.  So Paul drove over to the Air Force base and we tootled around, going through the housing area, past the Global Power Air Museum planes parked along the roadway, and around the campground with all the RVs.

      We started to head home, but Sam did not want to go back yet.  Frieda told him she had to get back and prepare a meal for Virginia’s family.  Virginia’s brother, sister-in-law, and son are in town.  The ladies of the bible study class this morning were all picking days when they would bring a meal over to the family.  Tonight is Frieda’s night.  There will be a service on either Wednesday or Thursday.  We went home, Frieda and I got out, and Sam took Paul driving somewhere.  Sam finds driving soothing.  He says it calms his nerves.  It is difficult for him to do anything without having to rest because he is so short of breath.  Driving is the one thing he is able to do without too much difficulty.

      We all threw in our left-overs tonight and had pot luck for dinner.  Afterward, we had coffee and ice cream, then played Rook.  The guys won.

      I called our neighbor’s son this afternoon to find out what happened.  Apparently, his parents both caught chest colds and were admitted to the hospital.  They both died within hours of each other.  They were both sick and had compromised immune systems, but that is really weird.  The son gave their dog away to a family where the wife is home full-time (the dog gets upset if left alone).

17 May 2014 (Sat) – This area is often referred to as ArkLaTex because of its proximity to neighboring states – much like we refer to the Tri-State Area (NY, NJ and Connecticut).  We are six miles from the Texas border and 30 from Arkansas.  There is a town called Texarkana in the area that is half in Texas and half in Arkansas.  Interesting problem with police, schools, etc.  A lot of businesses use the ArkLaTex name – the ArkLaTex paint store; the ArkLaTex drilling company; the ArkLaTex beauty supply.  I guess it means they have stores in all three states?

       A pair of Sam’s friends arrived yesterday in their motor home.  They live in Birmingham, Alabama, and know Sam through the car shows.  Arthur and Vicky Bolton came to discuss an antique scooter Sam had rebuilt.  It is called a TRAG.  It was originally built by the Methodist Church for missionaries to use when they traveled around in undeveloped areas.  The board that decides which vehicles are awarded antique status denied Sam’s vehicle for inclusion.  He has been gathering information and sending letters of appeal for years.  Art and Vicky are newly elected members of the board (or one of them is), and Sam turned over the paperwork and supporting documentation to them to make another pitch to the board.  He also gave them the TRAG.  If it is awarded antique status, they will present it in the next scooter show under Sam’s name.  After that, the TRAG is theirs.

      We received word that Frieda’s close friend, Virginia, died this morning.  She went into the hospital on Thursday for a heart valve replacement.  When she started to come out of the anesthesia yesterday, she tried to pull off all the paraphernalia attached to her.  They gave her sedation to calm her down.  There was some question that she had a stroke somewhere along the line (during or after the surgery).  She passed away a little after midnight.  Needless to say, Sam and Frieda are very grief stricken.  Frieda had to make a number of phone calls to let their sewing group and church members know.  Paul and I ran down to the grocery store to pick up foodstuff for lunch so Frieda could keep making her calls.

      We all went out to dinner at the Longwood Country Store.  This is one of those redneck places where you walk in to a falling down place that opens to a small grocery store and has a small dining area with about eight or ten tables in the back.  Everything is either paper or plastic.  The food is pretty good.  The waitresses all call you “Sweetie” or “Honey” and think nothing of reaching across you to plunk down a plate of food or coffee cup.

      I got a text message from our daughter yesterday saying that our next door neighbors back in New York died last week.  She didn’t know any details.  They were nice people.  Sorry to hear of their deaths.

16 May 2014 (Fri) – Sam had his driveway paved today.  A company came in yesterday and dug up areas where roots had pushed through and broken up the pavement.  They came back today with asphalt and a roller to finish off the driveway.

      We took Bonnie to PetSmart for grooming.  The weather here (when it’s hot) is extremely muggy and uncomfortable.  It will be unbearable for her with all her husky down fur so we took her to be shaved.  The groomer said it would take four to five hours.  We were perplexed.  Why make an appointment if they are going to do other dogs at the same time?  We left her and tried to fill our time with shopping while we waited.  We went to the liquor store to get some wine, then to WalMart where we picked up some household items.  We had just walked into the Academy (a sports store) when the groomer called to say that Bonnie was ready for pickup.

      It looks like they took her head and glued it on another dog.  Her head and tail are untouched.  Her body is all white with a black strip down her back. Her feet have retained their tri color and black coloring.  It really looks weird.  Anybody who sees her immediately asks what kind of dog she is.  One guy said he had never seen a dog like that (I think he wanted her puppies).  We felt so bad about her looks that we took her to Dairy Queen and bought her some soft ice cream.

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      When we got home, Travis called and we were able to Skype for a little bit.  I cooked pork chops, onion, and potatoes for dinner and Frieda cooked baked beans.  We watched a little TV then played Rook.

15 May 2014 (Thu) – Went into the hospital for a scope.  Dr. Geist said he saw nothing that would account for my stomach trouble. He is referring me to another doctor for consultation.

      After the endoscopy, we went to Another Broken Egg for breakfast.  It was quite good.  Frieda says this place is very popular and hard to get into.  We didn’t have any problem, but we were there at an off-hour.  We returned home and I took a nap to sleep off the anesthesia.  

      It’s been raining on and off for the past three days.  It was in the 40s this morning.  Darn cold.    

13 May 2014 (Tue) – Went to Dr. Byrd, the surgeon, for a post check.  He removed the stitches and said everything looks good.  Dr. Byrd told me he removed two very large gall stones, and that I had been fortunate to have the gall bladder removed when I did.  I was a gall bladder attack waiting to happen at some remote place with no hospital around. It wouldn’t have been very pleasant.

      We went across the street and had breakfast at IHOP.  We got a new waitress who was not very good at the job.  I was able to get hold of Dr. Geist’s office (the gastroenterologist) and made an appointment for 12:30 p.m.  Now we had to kill time rather than drive back to the camper and then back into town (everything is at least a half hour away).  We drove to Catherine’s and I bought some clothing.  We then stopped at a western store and Paul poked around but didn’t find anything he liked.

      Finally, it was time to go to Dr. Geist.  He scheduled me for an endoscopy on Thursday.  He said that the last one was done by another doctor and he wants to see what things look like for himself.  We then stopped at Kroeger’s Supermarket and picked up some groceries.  

       On the way back, we stopped at Cross Lake to visit the American Legion Post there.  A member of the post gave us a tour of the facility, which was quite large.  They have eleven acres right on the lakefront.  There was an elevator to the second floor ball room and a gorgeous club room on the first floor overlooking the lake and bridge.  The bar is open during the week at 4 p.m. and on the weekends at 2 p.m.  They also have full hook-ups for campers, although many of the posts have been knocked over by unobservant drivers.

      We got back to the house around 5 p.m.  Frieda cooked dinner.  I prepared vegetable fritters using the cookbook for my new convection oven.  Afterward, we watched some TV then called it a night.

12 May 2014 (Mon) – Had lunch with Frieda and Sam today.  She made hot dogs, chili, and corn chips.  I got stomach aches and wound up throwing up.  Oh, boy.  Does this mean my problem is not fixed after all?  Gonna see the doctor tomorrow.

      Frieda and I went to her friend’s, Jackie, house.  I have an American Legion cap that needed embroidery and a patch sewed on.  She had some assortment of high end sewing machines and quilting gadgets.  We spent two and half hours there while she tried to match the letters embroidered on my cap.  I finally left the cap for her to work on because we couldn’t quite match the letters during our visit.

      We came back to the camper and I cooked meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and carrots for dinner.  Again, I wound up throwing up.  There is definitely a problem unresolved by the gall bladder excision.

      Sam often jokes about living on the wrong side of the tracks.  To get to town, you have to drive down the road and over the railroad tracks.  There are often freight trains going by with hundreds of cars in tow.  When you get caught at the tracks, it can be a long wait for the train and all its cars to pass.  This is quite a bit different than Long Island which has a limit of (I think) seven or eight cars at a time.

11 May 2014 (Mother’s Day) – Frieda and I went to bible study at 9 a.m.  Sam and Paul met us at church for the 10:30 a.m. service.  Today was dedication day.  Once a year on Mother’s Day, all the babies that were born during the year are dedicated to God.  It is something like the christening we do in our church.

      We didn’t think we would be able to get into a restaurant today, given the fact that it’s Mother’s Day, so we went home.  I cooked a pork loin with pineapple salsa and sweet potatoes.  Frieda prepared field peas and green peas.  It was a delicious dinner.

      After lunch, we went to Sam’s Club to pick up some walnuts for Frieda.  Sam and Frieda seemed to enjoy walking around the store.  Paul and I finished looking around and wound up sitting in chairs waiting for Sam and Frieda to finish.  We then drove to Barnes & Noble so Sam could get something to read.  Paul and Frieda went next door to Office Max and I went to the café for coffee.

       We returned to the house and went back to the camper to feed the animals.  Paul promptly fell asleep for 15 minutes.  After he woke, we went back up to the house.  Paul grilled hot dogs on the barbeque and we had a late dinner.

10 May 2014 (Sat) – Sam drove out around the neighborhood this morning to see what effect the storm had on the surrounding area.  He found downed trees, broken tree limbs, and flooded areas.  When Paul walked Bonnie, he found that the creek down the road was swollen to full force.

       At 9:30 a.m., we drove down to Main Street to watch the Poke Salad Festival Parade.  We parked in the Town Hall and walked to the street.  Paul, Frieda, and I poked through an antique shop across the street.  At 10:10 a.m. the parade started.  We were amazed with all the “Miss” this and that – Miss Poke Salad Queen, Miss Poke Salad Alternate, Miss Elementary School Queen, Miss Runner Up, Miss Toddler Queen, etc., etc., etc.  It was ridiculous!  The parade was about a half hour long.  The reviewing stand consisted of three people dressed in casual clothing commenting on the event.  The sound system was pretty good.

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       We returned to the house, Frieda and I stayed home, and Paul and Sam took off for Harbor Freight and Home Depot.  At 1:20 p.m., Frieda and I went to the hairdresser so I could get my hair cut.  Michelle was a very talkative lady – I don’t think she stopped talking from the time I walked in the salon until the time I walked out.  And she had customers waiting all over the place.

      Afterward, Frieda and I went to the Poke Salad Festival.  It was an area with vendor tables and rides set up.  The tables ran along a kind of haphazard line at the back end of the festival area.  We walked along the tables, admiring the crafts and items for sale.  We listened briefly to the band playing music in the pavilion (last year, they brought in a band from Opryland).  There were several carnival rides in the back of the festival area, accessible to anyone who had purchased an arm band (POP).

      We returned to the house.  Paul and I then got in the truck and drove into town.  After a quick lunch in Ta Molly’s Mexican Restaurant, we picked up pet food at Pet Smart and our groceries at Brookshire’s.  We came back and watched Huckabee with Sam and Frieda, then turned in for the night.

9 May 2014 (Fri) – Paul puttered around Sam’s workshop, straightening and sorting things out.  I spent the day scanning receipts into the digital files.  At 4 p.m., we left for the Baptist church annual fish fry and auction.  The menu included fried fish that had been caught from February through May in their fishing contest.  There was also French fries and cole slaw.  I was highly cautious of the fried food, considering that I just had my gall bladder removed.  I had a little but stopped long before I was full.  I bought a brownie and a Mississippi mud pie slice for dessert that went to the Belize mission fund.

       After dinner, we went into the old sanctuary.  They had 180 items donated for auction, some of them quite expensive – charcoal grills, smokers, fryers, pick-up truck tool boxes, artwork, yard work, etc.  There were about 100 seats set up in the sanctuary, facing the front altar where the auctioneer was going to be.  As we were waiting for the auction to start, a big rainstorm rolled in.  Soon hail was also falling.  The sound of it pounding the roof was like a roaring freight train.  Sam got extremely distressed and had to get out of the room.  He rode his scooter out to the portico and sat outside watching the storm.  Paul stood out there with him.  The kids were having a ball sliding on the ice balls collecting on the sidewalk.  It was a ferocious storm.

       The power went out.  There were two small lights on the ceiling still working, and light was coming in the stained glass window at the end of the sanctuary.  They dragged out a bullhorn from somewhere but it wasn’t that loud.  The church folks went ahead with the auction.  It was noisy.  One auctioneer was on the stage calling the numbers bid by the attendees.  A second auctioneer was standing in the audience, pointing out the people who were making the bids.  A woman sat on the stage making note of the amount bid and the bidder’s number on a paper.  The people talked throughout the event – about the weather, about the items begin auctioned, about whatever.  Someone brought in portable lights, and another person managed to get the audio system working.

       My stomach was bothering me and we left before everything was done.  When we got home, the power was out at the house.  Paul rigged up the generator and just as we got everything up and running OK, the power came back on.  We played a game of Rook then called it a night.

8 May 2014 (Thu) – We both took showers this morning.  Did some laundry at the house.  Went shopping for groceries.  Baked a cornbread pudding for a covered dish supper at the Baptist church this evening. 

      At 5:45 p.m., we drove over to the Baptist Church for a presentation by a lawyer on Power of Attorney and Living Wills, along with our dinner.  It was raining pretty hard – not supposed to do that until late tonight.  We brought our hot foods into the kitchen and laid them out on a large table.  Desserts were put on a smaller table in the dining room.  There were about 16 couples there – not much of a crowd compared to what we usually did in Islip.  One of the women made a comment: “There’s nothing like a Baptist covered dish.”  I bit my tongue, wanting to tell her she ain’t seen nothin’ till she’s gone to a Methodist covered dish supper.

      Apparently, the attorney guest speaker did not show up.  A member of the church who does mission work in Belize was called on at the last minute to talk about his work there.  He did a good job describing their work over the last three years.  

      I had some mild indigestion/heartburn during dinner.  Not sure if it was related to the gall bladder removal or just spicy, southern food.  The cornbread pudding I made was well received.  It was one of the recipes in the cookbook that came with my new microwave.

       When we left the church, it was pouring outside.  The drive home was a real soaker.  We dropped Sam and Frieda at the house then hurried to our camper out back.  Bonnie had gotten into a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups.  We’ll have to keep an eye on her.  Probably get diarrhea during the night.

7 May 2014 (Wed) – I slept pretty good last night.  I did not want to take the narcotic that Dr. Byrd prescribed so I took three Anacin Blues.  Seemed to work well.

      I am sore but functioning today.  It feels like I got punched in the stomach.  The doctor fills the abdomen with air to separate the organs so my belly is very bloated.  There are four puncture wounds on my stomach, covered with plastic bandages.  I was instructed to leave the bandages on, even when I shower, until my check up next week.  Unfortunately, my bra kept rubbing on the top bandage and caused it to shift and some blood to leak out.  I put on more bandages to protect the area.

      The new microwave showed up at 8 a.m. this morning.  Paul put it aside while we packed up the RV and drove to the Flying J to dump the tanks.  After we returned, Paul went to work on removing the old microwave and installing the new one.  

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      At 6:30 p.m. we went to Sam & Frieda’s for dinner.  She made a delicious meal of meatloaf, cornbread dressing, corn on the cob, and fruit jello.  After dinner, we played a game of Rook. 

5-6 May 2014 (Mon-Tue) – We painted the back porch on Sam’s house in the morning.  Paul went back to give it a second coat while I began to prep for tomorrow’s surgery.

      The nurse instructed me to buy a 10 oz. bottle of magnesium citrate and drink it between 2 and 4 p.m.   She said it would begin to work in 20 minutes and continue working for the next six hours so stay at home and close to the bathroom.  Well, I drank the stuff at 3:15 p.m., stationed myself on a chair outside the bathroom, and waited.  One hour went by, then two, and three.  Still nothing.  Four, five, six, seven hours and nothing.  I began to wonder whether I should run out and buy another bottle of that stuff.  What if nothing happened?  Did that mean I would have to postpone the operation?  I went to bed at 11 p.m. and watched TV until midnight.  Still nothing.  I finally went to sleep hoping something would work itself out. 

      I bolted upright at 1:40 a.m. with an urgent need to use the bathroom.  The stuff continued to work for the next six hours until 7:30 a.m. the next morning.  Needless to say, I did not get much sleep.  At least I wouldn’t need much anesthesia.

      I got up at 8 a.m. and took a shower.  The drain did not go down, meaning our tanks are full.  It is time to go to the dump again.  We arrived at the hospital at 10 a.m.  I was ushered into the prep/recovery room and instructed to shed all my clothing and put on compression stockings (weird – why do they put a hole in the bottom of the foot?).  A young nurse came in to start my IV line (I later surmised she was a student nurse, probably doing a stick for the first time in her life).  She took my left hand and tried to get a needle into the back of my hand.  Besides hurting, the vein blew out.  She removed the needle and sat pressing the stick site for 20 minutes.  Then she turned my left arm over and tried to stick the needle in the middle of the arm.  I think I actually came off the bed.  Pain!!!!!  I nearly began to cry, it hurt so bad.  And she wouldn’t stop trying to force it in. 

      Then the anesthesiologist came in to introduce herself and ask some questions.  After she was done with her interview – all the while watching me whimper like a little baby – then she offered to help the nurse with the stick.  She came over and seemed to make the damn needle bigger.  She commented that there was something in the way and did it hurt when she pushed on it?  Was she kidding?????  Finally, she left the needle just short of the something-in-the-way, and the nurse finished taping everything in place.  Paul was summoned to join me in the prep/recovery room.

      Then the surgeon, Dr. Charles Byrd (70 years old and quite a charming little sprite) came in.  He proceeded to lead us all in prayer, then left.  This caused a flash back to the day I deployed for Iraq in January 2005.  Here we were standing around the airport waiting for our flight, when a priest invited us to join him in a communion service.  Those of us interested (I think there might have been about 20 or 30 of us) formed a circle in a corner of the waiting room and prayed together, then shared in communion.  It was then that the reality of where I was going really sunk in.  Dr. Byrd’s prayer made me realize that this was not a frivolous event.  Although these operations take place all the time, there is always the chance something can go wrong.

      My arm began to swell and it was apparent that the IV drip was leaking into the surrounding area.  The student nurse went out to get another nurse to look at it.  The new nurse agreed that it was a bad stick and removed the needle.  Again, I sat with a nurse pressing on the site for 20 minutes.  Then she turned to the back of my right hand.  This time, she injected lidocaine first, then the IV needle.  All went fine. 

      It was after noon that they finally came to get me.  We think that because I was not ready when Dr. Byrd was ready, they took another patient in front of me.  At any rate, the surgery took about 40 minutes, then recovery was close to two hours.  We got home around 6 p.m.  Paul has been very attentive in making sure I obey the pre-op directions.  I have to breathe into a tube every day for three days.  Also, there is no bending or lifting allowed.  He is tenacious!

4 May 2014 (Sun) – There was only one combined service today.  Frieda and I went to bible study class at 9:15 a.m.  We then met Sam and Paul at the 10:30 a.m. Sunday service.  They had a senior’s appreciation day after church, where they served a nice luncheon for the “older” folks.  The menu consisted of tossed salad, chicken fried steak with gravy, potatoes with cheese, some kind of green bean, and apple cobbler for dessert.

      We returned to the house and Paul power washed the back deck on the house.  We found out that Sam’s friend’s son was killed in a motorcycle accident yesterday morning.  A friend of Frieda’s, who has been in hospice for several weeks, passed away yesterday, too.  Sam is taking things pretty badly.  He’s reflecting on all the friends who have come down with terminal illnesses this last year or so and told us to leave before we get sick, too.  Pretty depressing.

     We went over Sam & Frieda’s for dinner.  She reheated the chili soup.  Add in the 7-layer salad and it was quite a delicious meal.  We watched some TV then called it a night. 

     Those foot pads have helped so much in relieving the pain, that it hurts terribly when I don’t wear them.  What have I gotten myself into?

3 May 2014 (Sat) – Paul worked on repairing the automatic gate out on the front of Sam’s property.  A childhood friend of Sam & Frieda’s son stopped by for a visit.  Frieda cooked up some of her delicious chili soup.

      Our microwave stopped working for some reason.  After some unsuccessful attempts to fix it, I got online and ordered a new one.  Stores in the area carry a very limited selection of appliances.  With logistics today, you simply place an order for what you want online and it is usually in your hands within the week.  Best Buy promised a delivery date of May 24th, Loewe’s on May 17th, and Home Depot for May 7th.  We went with Home Depot. 

      I cooked a chicken in the broiler/convection oven and some of that delicious red beans and rice we discovered last week.  Everything tasted so good.  After dinner, we watched Hannity then Judge Jeanine Pirro on FOX.

 

2 May 2014 (Fri) – Went to Dr. Byrd’s office this morning.  The GPS got the address wrong so we had a bit of problem finding the place but we finally got there.   There were 5 or 6 people already waiting in the office when we arrived.  The doctor had been hung up in surgery and was late getting in.  We sat for over two hours before I was called in.  The Dr. was very pleasant and seemed to be quite competent.  He approved the need for the surgery and sent his nurse in to set up the surgery date.  The assistant took the information she needed, scheduled Tuesday, May 6, for the surgery, and sent me off to the hospital for pre-op bloodwork.

      We stopped at Applebee’s for lunch then arrived at the hospital around 2 p.m.  They took two vials of blood and gave me pre-op directions.  We then drove to Walgreens to pick up Magnesium Citrate (I have to drink it Monday afternoon) and a few other items, including some foot pads for ailing feet.  They certainly helped to relieve the pain I am experiencing.

      On the way back, we spotted a plane doing aerobatics.  We were so mesmerized that we turned off the road to find the airport the plane was flying over.  We arrived, parked, and watched for about 15 minutes.  The pilot was flying straight up, stalling, kicking over, and tumbling downward in a flat spin.  There were spins, turns, and rolls.  That pilot was sure talented.  Don’t know how that pilot didn’t pass out from the g-force of all those maneuvers.  Sam later told us that a 7-time world champion stunt flyer lived in Shreveport.  That was probably him practicing.  He is in his 80s now and doesn’t compete any more – just spends his time teaching his grandchildren to fly.

      Got back to the camper around 4:30 p.m.  Went to the house to fill Sam and Frieda in on the doctor’s findings, then returned to the camper for dinner.

1 May 2014 (Thu) – When I got up this morning, my foot was feeling almost normal.  I took Bonnie for a 2-mile walk and by the time I got back, I was limping pretty badly.  Guess I have to baby my foot for a few days.

      When I walk down the country lane with the houses each placed on 5-acre lots, I am struck by the lack of wildlife here.  I have not seen cats, raccoons, or opossums out here – alive or dead in the road.  When I mentioned it to Frieda, she remarked that everyone has dogs.  Where there are dogs around, the wildlife usually goes elsewhere.  We had dogs back home.  And the neighbors on either side of us had dogs.  Most people on the block had dogs.  Yet there was plenty of wildlife around.  We had a raccoon that used to come back every year to build a nest in our eaves.  It puzzles me.

      We all went on errands this morning.  Sam needed to stop at a place to get the transmitters and receivers for their automatic entrance gate.  We also stopped at a health food store where Frieda picked up some herbal stuff for Sam.  Lunch followed at the Southfield Grill (Sam’s favorite place).

      When we got back home, I put my foot up and wrapped it in ice.  It didn’t seem to help much.  At 5 p.m., we drove over Sam’s friend’s house, Judson and Marvel.  Judd gave us a tour of his house and workshop.  He put an addition on his house that was as big (if not bigger) than the house itself.  After our tour, we went to the Outback Steakhouse for dinner.  That blooming onion is sure delicious!

30 April 2014 (Wed) – It was a pretty quiet day.  I hurt my foot falling down the stairs yesterday and I am limping pretty badly this morning.  Took some Anacin Blue and that made it better.

      Paul pattered around Sam’s workshop most of the day.  I did some housekeeping, laundry, and computer work.  Paid some bills.  Sam and Paul took a ride to trade in his oxygen machine for another model.  The new one is lighter and easier to transport.  They (Sam & Frieda) are getting ready to drive to New Orleans for their grandson’s graduation.

      We brought the shepherd’s pie I cooked yesterday to the house for dinner.  We had more of that 7-layer salad that Frieda’s friend made.  After coffee and ice cream, we played a game of Rook.

29 April 2014 (Tue) – Paul went with Sam for breakfast at the Gator Bite this morning.  When they came back, Sam, Steve, and Paul worked on resetting the posts for the fence line.  I spent the morning working on the computer.

       At 1 p.m., the guys broke for lunch.  Sam and Steve went to Home Depot and lunch, and Paul and I went to Ta Molly’s for lunch then grocery shopping at Brookshire’s.

      The guys returned to working on the fence posts.  Got to talk with my son and daughter-in-law today.  We missed a chance to Skype tonight.  Will try again tomorrow.

      I cooked Shepherd’s Pie for dinner.  Unfortunately, no one was very hungry so we wound up putting the pie aside for dinner tomorrow.  Frieda had a 7-layer salad she picked up at her sewing group today.  She and I had some.  It was quite good.  

      We watched O’Reilly on FOX News, then called it a night.

28 April 2014 (Mon) – Paul put the emergency weather radio on before we went to bed last night.  It was on the “Alert” setting.  The idea was that it would sound off if a tornado happened to appear in our area during the night.  The problem with the emergency broadcast weather system is that the alert comes through every hour.  You have just settled into a nice deep sleep when a screeching tone blasts into the room followed by a mechanical robot voice announcing that there is a tornado watch in the surrounding area.  The voice then proceeds to list the places where you need to be on the alert – Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.  After the third such blasting alert, Paul turned the radio off.

      There was some rumbling that rolled through with a little rain sometime during the night, but nothing dangerous.  This morning’s news said 16 people were killed overnight when tornadoes appeared in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Carolina.  The news was calling for more very strong storms coming through the area today.  However, this afternoon cleared up fine and the temps reached the low 70s.  The storms moved east toward Georgia and the Carolinas.

      Paul worked with Sam on resetting the posts for his fence line.  They are all set in concrete, so Paul had to dig around the foundations and literally move the concrete bases back into line.  It is certainly very physical work.

       Frieda cooked a dinner of fried steak and rice.  Paul barbecued some asparagus but it was not fresh and turned out tough to chew.

27 April 2014 (Sun) – I woke with a terrible stomach ache this morning.  Paul, Sam & Frieda went to the 8:15 a.m. church service while I stayed home.  After they got back and I was feeling better, we went to the Southfield Grill for a late breakfast/lunch.  We beat the rush of Baptists and Methodists (according to Sam).

      After we were done eating, we went to Bed, Bath & Beyond so I could buy a pillow and a few other items, then to CVS for cash from the ATM machine.  Sam & Frieda directed us to the Broodmoor neighborhood where their son, Ric, used to have his first and second houses before moving down to New Orleans.

      We came back to the house.  Paul and Sam worked on setting up a generator in case of a power outage.  We are expecting severe thunderstorms with hail tonight and tomorrow.  Severe weather storm warnings are beaming over the air waves.

      At least Sheba is doing well.  She is having a bowel movement every day now and has even lost some weight – she doesn’t look so much like a tootsie roll any more.  She is not eating very well though.  We are still trying to find something healthy for her to eat that she likes.  It is a chore.

      We were able to Skype with our son, his wife, and the baby tonight.  That little guy is so cute.  He has found his voice and it is adorable to listen to.  He makes these cute, kind of little “O” sounds.  He counts and says the alphabet and identifies colors.  What a bright little guy!  His voice automatically brings a big smile to my face.  I love listening to him.

26 April 2014 (Sat) – Packed up and checked out of the motel.  Had breakfast at the diner next door.  Got on the road at 9 a.m. headed for home.  Stopped in Jackson, MS, at Appleby’s for lunch. Stopped at a McDonald’s at 4 p.m.  I ordered two senior coffees and one café mocha.  After five minutes when I kept seeing orders going to other people who came in after me, I asked, “Who’s making the coffee?”  A young man came over and told me the mocha machine was broken and they couldn’t make any.  I told him to refund my money.  The cashier, who was a brand new employee, stated she didn’t know how to do a refund and needed help.  The guy went over and helped her with the process.  After another ten minutes, I asked who was making the coffee.  The same young man came over and stated that they had to make a fresh pot of coffee and started to wash the pot out in preparation for making the coffee.  At this point, I was boiling mad.  I told him to forget the coffees and just refund my money.  There was a whole process (again) of helping the cashier to refund my money.  I spent 20 to 25 minutes in that McDonald’s and didn’t get a thing.  How frustrating!  Frieda said it was typical southern Louisiana.

      We got back on the road and arrived home at around 6 p.m.  We dropped the car at the house and jumped into the truck to drive to the kennel to pick up Bonnie and Sheba.  They sure were glad to see us.  Sam and Frieda picked up their two dogs.

      We got back to the camper, gave Sheba and Bonnie a chance to get a little exercise then brought some rice and beans to the house.  Frieda heated up boneless roast leftovers and some peas and corn, followed by ice cream for dessert.  We watched some FOX News programs and then called it a night.

25 April 2014 (Fri) – Went to breakfast at 8:30 a.m. - first at the complimentary breakfast bar at the Super 8 Motel (which was not acceptable), then at a diner next door.  Afterward, we drove to Booneville, Mississippi, where Sam drove around looking for familiar neighborhoods.  I tried to imagine what the place looked like back in the 1940s through the eyes of a young boy growing up.  We stopped in at a place where a high school friend of his worked.  Sam sent Frieda in to see if the friend was there.  She came out with the bad news that Sam’s friend had passed away on April 5th.  Boy, Sam is going to be depressed tonight.  Add to his already current depression over his ailing physical condition, and Frieda is going to have her hands full.

      After we looked at the farm that used to belong to Sam’s grandmother, and then the house they moved to when he was five, we drove to Shiloh National Battlefield in Tennessee.  This was purported to be the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.  There are more than 3,200 soldiers buried here – over two-thirds of them are unknown.  Talk about depressing!  The visitor center was playing a movie about the battle but it was 50 minutes long and Sam was waiting out in the car, so we passed on the movie.  As we were driving back to Mississippi, we saw a sign for Brices Cross Roads Battlefield and followed the signs.  We followed a few of the self-guided tour signs then gave up on it and drove back to Tupelo.

      In Tupelo, Mississippi, we drove over to look at Sam’s grandma’s house (which has been torn down) as well as his Aunt’s former home (she has since passed on).  We went to the graveyard where Paul & Sam’s dad is buried along with some other members of his family (including his first wife – Sam’s mother).  Then we drove over to the birthplace of Elvis Presley.  There was an area with a very small house, a church, a memorial chapel, a welcome center, and a living fountain.  The center was closed so we walked around the area, reading the different signs in the area.

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     Elvis Presley was one of two babies born in 1935.  His twin brother was stillborn.  When Elvis was ten, his mother took him to the store to buy something.  He wanted a gun or a bicycle but his mother was afraid he would hurt himself so she refused to buy either.  The merchant, seeing that Elvis wanted to buy something, brought out a guitar and the music world was changed forever.  Elvis’ father was in and out of prison (the signs didn’t say for what), and his mother was the primary adult in the home.  They were very poor and received “commodities” (welfare).  In 1948, when Elvis was 13, the Presley family moved out of Tupelo, Mississippi, to Memphis, Tennessee.

      The town of Tupelo had those artistic sculptures situated around town – these were guitars.  There were guitars of all kinds of colors and pictures around the main drag; all dedicated to the memory of Elvis Presley.

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      We drove past the Antique Automobile Museum, which was closed.  It is bigger than the new one that opened in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but Sam says the cars are not as classy.

       We finally returned to the motel at 8 p.m.  We parked Sam’s motorized cart in our room to charge (their room

24 April 2014 (Thu) – We dropped off  Bonnie and Sheba at the kennel at 9:30 a.m.  Returned to the camper and packed up then walked to the house to see if we could help Sam & Frieda.  Sam had a doctor’s appointment this morning so we left later than intended.  We didn’t hit the road until 1 p.m. 

      I tried to call the surgeon’s office but kept getting busy signals.  This usually means the phone is out of order.  I finally got through after office hours and got a recording that the office was closed.  Lol.  I’ll try again tomorrow.

      Paul asked the GPS for a nearby restaurant and it recommended a seafood restaurant.  We got off the interstate and followed the directions to a place a couple of miles off the highway.  It didn’t even look like a restaurant.  It was a small ranch style house with the word MAYPROS printed in large, hand-painted letters over the stairs.  Inside was small but neat.  There were many different kinds of pictures and decorations around the dining room – a stuffed bobcat, a picture of an anguished Christ with thorns on his head, Coca-Cola memorabilia, pictures of the U.S. and U.S. presidents tacked on the wall.  There were all types of signs for sale around the cash register.  It was all very eclectic.  The place was serving a seafood buffet that turned out to be quite good.  Everything was pretty tasty (although I did not care for the deep fried corn – they ruined a good piece of vegetable), but the cost was a little pricey. 

      As we got closet to Tupelo, Mississippi, we started to experience lightning and rain.  We finally arrived at the Super 8 Motel at 9:20 p.m.  After everyone was checked into their room, Paul and I walked to a nearby shop and bought some Southern Comfort, a bottle of Sprite, and a few snack items. 

23 April 2014 (Wed) – Paul spent the morning working on the brick post out in front of the house.  It had settled in the clay and was listing to the side.  Paul had to dig out the post and pour concrete in to shore up the post. 

      I did some housekeeping chores as well as laundry.  Took Bonnie to the vet to get a blood test for heartworm.  We finished off her medicine and vets require a blood test before renewing that particular medication.  She turned out fine.  We also had her anal glands expressed and her nails trimmed.  Paul walked next door and picked up a portable oxygen generator for Sam to take with him on our trip to Mississippi.

      We stopped at the Walter P. Jacobs Nature Park on the way home.  There was a sign saying that the park was a Louisiana World Exposition ’84 site.  It might have been quite something in 1984 but it certainly hasn’t seen 30 years of funding.  The place was run down and in need of refurbishment.  There were some cages with wildlife on display.

      I made pork chops and rice & beans for dinner.  We discovered a pretty good brand of rice & beans – Vigo.  We’ll have to add some andoui sausage next time.

22 April 2014 (Tue) – Paul went for coffee with Sam.  When they came back, he started doing major repair work on brick posts in the front of Sam’s property.  He had to jack up the post, dig out the dirt around the base, then pour a new footing.  When I walked out at noon to tell Paul it was time to get ready to go to the doctor, I found him digging under the post and three guys standing around watching.  I wanted to know if he had decided to go back to work for the state.

      We went to Dr. Geist at 1 p.m.  He said the results of my HIDA Scan show that my gall bladder is not functioning properly and needs to come out.  The surgeon’s office will call me to set up a surgery date.

     We went to CVS to fill a prescription for more antacid medication but the insurance company said it is not reimbursable until May 3.  We stopped at Thrifty Liquor to pick up some wine and liquor.  Had lunch at El Potrillo.  It was quite enjoyable.

      Got back to the camper around 4 p.m.  Sam and Frieda were getting a new HVAC system installed.  Sam wanted to hear all about my medical plans.  We were sitting around watching TV when Sam decided he wanted to take a ride to test out his oxygen generator.  We all piled into the van and took a ride around the countryside for an hour.  Stopped at the Dollar Store on the way back home and picked up some ice cream.  Returned to the house and enjoyed a bowl of ice cream before turning in for the night.

21 April 2014 (Mon) – Paul went for coffee with Sam.  I spent most of the day scheduling activities.  Called the doctor to follow up on the HIDA Scan I had last week – got an appointment for tomorrow.  Called the vet and got an appointment for Bonnie for Wednesday to get a blood test for heart worm.  Called the kennel and arranged to drop off both our animals and Sam’s on Thursday morning when we leave for Mississippi.  

      When Paul got back, he worked on painting the posts in front of the house and making edging for the bottom of the posts.

      Frieda made a delicious pot roast for dinner.  It was de-li-cious!!!

20 April 2014 (Easter Sunday) – Went to church with Sam & Frieda.  The service was pretty much a repeat of last week’s service, but not as showy or powerful. 

      After church we went to the Outback for lunch.  The food was good and, because of the holiday, the place was very crowded.  We had to park Sam’s scooter out of the way and he seemed to be put off by that.  Sam was in a pretty depressed mood all day. 

      Frieda picked up a Sunday paper and Sam cut out a bunch of coupons for Harbor Freight.  We drove there and got several items for free and other items on deep discount.  It turned out that this place is Sam’s favorite store.  He seemed to enjoy the opportunity to toodle up and down the aisles.

      We returned to the house and sat on the porch for a while, enjoying the lovely weather.  Paul’s sister skyped in and we got to talk to family as we watched our grandsons take part in the annual Easter egg hunt at Joan’s house.  I can remember all our children doing the same thing.  Now it is a whole new generation enjoying our traditions.

      I cooked chicken and rice for dinner.  For dessert, we had some of Frieda’s friend’s blueberry salad (inappropriately named since it contains fresh blueberries, whipped cream, coconuts, and walnuts – it should be called blueberry crème de la creme).

19 April 2014 (Sat) – We met Sam & Frieda at 11:30 a.m. and drove to the Shreveport Water Works Museum.  We took an hour tour with a very informative guide.  After we left, we stopped at El Potrillo Mexican Grill & Cantina.  The food was excellent and very plentiful.  The wait staff was friendly and attentive.

       We left the restaurant and drove to Hobby Lobby where Frieda wanted to look for something to raise their television set up about twelve inches, but would look attractive in the room.  She didn’t find anything but we enjoyed the place very much.  It was like a combination of Michael’s, Party City, and Jo Ann’s.  There was a large selection of Americana items.  We picked up a couple of things, including a piece to send back to our church.

      We then drove to a bookstore called Books-A-Million where Sam wanted to look for a book to read.  He didn’t find anything, but I bought five books (ugh).  Frieda went shopping next door at Stage, a popular department store down here.

      We got back about 8 p.m.  After feeding the animals and letting Bonnie run in the yard, we went back to the house to discuss our plans for tomorrow.  Frieda will go to Bible Study at 9, and we will come to the church for the 10:30 a.m. service.  After the service, we will go out for brunch.

      Sam is also concerned about his illness.  He does not believe he is getting much better and is fixating on his coming demise.  He wants to return to his hometown of Booneville and Tupelo in Mississippi.  This is an eight or nine hour ride.  Sam can’t drive that far – Paul and I will do the driving.  We are planning to go on Thursday, look around on Friday, and come back Saturday.  We’ll have to call Penny at the kennel to see if we can leave Bonnie and Sheba there while we’re gone.

18 April 2014 (Fri) – Paul and Sam went to the Gator Bite for their morning coffee and political debate.  We gathered Sam up at 11 a.m. to take him to see the Shreveport Water Works Museum.  On the way, we stopped at a place called Herby-K’s for lunch.  What a dive!  The place was packed with people waiting outside.  It was small – one room had a long picnic table that sat a dozen people with another picnic table on a platform that sat four people, and a second room had four booths and a counter with seats for eight people.  A sign said the place opened in 1936 and the shelves behind the bar were loaded with stuff, most of it from that time period.  The food was OK, but the service needed help.  There was a white man and woman overseeing operations, and several black teens who were serving and cleaning.  One of them was mixing drinks at a makeshift bar. 

      After lunch, we drove to the water works museum only to find it was closed for Good Friday.  We dropped Sam back at the house, then Paul & I went food shopping.  We also stopped at PetSmart to pick up pet food.  We are still trying to find canned food that appeals to Sheba.

       We came home and I cooked meatloaf and potatoes for dinner, then brought them over to the house.  Frieda made corn and we shared a delicious dinner.

17 April 2014 (Thur) – Did some laundry.  Paul went down to the Gator Bite with Sam for their morning coffee.  Apparently, there are a group of guys who meet there every morning (the “democrats” and the “republicans”) to have breakfast and bemoan word events.  Sam has been taking Paul with him on Tuesdays but now is inviting him on a regular basis.

      Sam & Frieda had to run an errand.  Paul painted the posts in front of the house then we cleaned off the roof.  It was full of pine needles and debris.  Bonnie played in the yard while we worked and managed to find a big pool of wet mud to dig in.  We had to give her a good washing before letting her back in the RV.  What a mess!

      The animals gave us a god run for our money today!  Paul opened the door and Sheba ran out.  He turned to grab her and put her back in when he saw that Bonnie had run out of the open door while he was chasing down Sheba.  She was in the nearby field running with the horses (Sam & Frieda rent their pasture to a guy who owns two horses).  Paul finally recovered Bonnie and left.  Sam’s dog came wandering over while I had the cat out. I tried to get the cat back in the camper but she ran through an opening into Sam’s workshop.  I had to go to the house to get the key to unlock the workshop.  I went in and Sheba ran out.  I locked the shop back up and went out to recover the cat.  She ran off under some items and I searched but couldn’t find her.  Certain that she ran back through the opening into the workshop, I unlocked the double padlocks again to look in the shop.  Sheba was not there.  I relocked the shop and continued to hunt for her.  I found Sheba around the side of the shop.  When I approached, she bolted off and ran up the stairs onto the roof.  Knowing there was nowhere she could go except back down the stairs, I just waited for her return.  When she came down, I scooped her up and put her in the camper.  In the meantime, I was trying to chase Sam’s dog, Smokey, back into the yard so I could close the gate.  Bonnie, who I had chained to the steps, was dogging me (no pun intended) while I tried to get Smokey into the yard.  I kept expecting the leash to tighten up so she would drop off but she never did.  I turned to look at the leash to see that she was not attached to the camper and running free.  It was only because she thought I had a treat to give Smokey that kept Bonnie next to me.

      After they got back, Frieda and I went to the dollar store to pick up some grocery items.  I am afraid we will have to make a run to the full grocery store because the dollar store didn’t have everything I needed.

     When we got back, Frieda cooked another one of her delicious meals and then we played Rook.

16 April 2014 (Wed) – Spent two hours this morning packing up the camper, then we towed it down to Love’s travel center and dumped the black and grey water tanks.  The hook-up was higher than the camper tanks and resulted in a very slow dump. 

      We returned to Sam & Frieda’s and set the camper back up.  After we were set up again, we rode into Shreveport to pick up some paint for the front posts on Sam’s house.  Then we ran several errands – got cash at CVS, bought some Easter cards, mailed the cards off at the post office, and stopped for lunch at Posadas Café.  On the way back home, we stopped and looked at some pre-fab homes.  Some were pretty nice and some left you scratching your head.

       We got back to the RV about 5:45 p.m.  Fed the animals, took Bonnie for a quick walk, then went in to see Sam & Frieda.  Sam had a gift card for the Cracker Barrel so we headed there for dinner.  The service was sooooooooo slow, but the food was good.  Louisiana is the only place we have found where the service at Cracker Barrel has been so slow.  Frieda says it has been slow wherever she has stopped at Cracker Barrel – no matter what state they were in.

15 April 2014 (Tue) – Paul went for coffee with Sam this morning.  When they came back, they worked on the posts in the front of Sam’s house.  At noon, we took a ride with Sam and his friend, Steve, to Home Depot to get some stain for the posts (after stopping at Johny’s Pizza for lunch).  The guys finished the project after we got back but no one likes it.  They are going to buy paint tomorrow to cover it over.

      Frieda made dinner tonight.  It was one of the most delicious chili soups I have ever tasted.  I have to get the recipe.

       It was very cold this morning – 37 degrees.  It never really got that warm today.  I think it hit a high of 59 degrees.  And once the sun started to dip in the sky, the air got chilly again.  I think it’s supposed to be in the 30s again tonight.  Bbrrrrr.

14 April 2014 (Mon) – Woke at 7 a.m. and drove to the hospital to take a medical test for the gastroenterologist.  It turned out that my appointment was scheduled for Wednesday, despite the fact that the scheduling nurse told me Monday.  It was my fault that I didn’t look at the date written on the paperwork.  They made adjustments and fitted me in anyway.

      The nurse injected gamma ray stuff in my arm then used a machine to trace the movement of the stuff to my liver, gall bladder, and small intestines.  The test was one and a half hours long and there was no discomfort during it.

      After the test, we went to IHOP for breakfast.  A cold front blew in and lowered the temperature by 22 degrees.  Damn!  It was cold.  We went to CVS to get a prescription filled by the gastroenterologist.  My medical insurance will not approve the specific medication – just a generic equivalent.  I have been taking that generic since November and it is not working.  Dr. Geist wants me to try a different medication.  I had to get a number for the insurance company, call the doctor’s office and give it to them, ask them to call the insurance company, justify the reason for taking this new (non-generic) drug, fill out a form and swear to the reason.  The insurance company will review the form and, if approved, will send notification to the pharmacy to fill the prescription.  A person could die waiting for the wheels to turn here.  Fortunately, the doctor gave me 25 days of free samples because he knew there would be a problem with the insurance company.  Ugh.

      We then drove to the movie theater and saw Noah.  It was interesting but a little too much computer graphics for my taste.  It entertained, and that’s what I wanted.  We then walked along the boardwalk although it was too cold to linger for long.

      We returned to the camper, fed the animals, then went in to visit with Sam & Frieda.  Paul & Sam researched generators online.  Sam would like to buy a generator for the house in the event of a power outage.  The two of them will probably go shopping for one tomorrow.

13 April 2014 (Sun) – I enjoy walking Bonnie in the morning.  Chocktaw Lane is a straight, narrow paved road with no shoulder that dips and rises for over a mile.  It passes brick, one-story homes situated on 5-acre lots and large front lawns.  Most of the houses have dogs that bark loudly when we pass by.  One house has a rooster.  There are not many flowers in bloom yet, but you can imagine what they will look like.  There are many areas filled with trees where so many different kinds of birds hang out.  I have been able to identify cardinals, blue jays, catbirds, hawks, and woodpeckers.  It is a peaceful walk and gives me my daily exercise.

      Went to church with Sam & Frieda.  It was quite a show.  They had two large TV screens on either side of the stage and a very large screen set up in the center of the stage.  There was a large choir of maybe 50 people up in the choir loft.  They were going to read their lyrics on a screen in the back of the hall but it wasn’t working.  The technical folks brought in a large TV screen but couldn’t get that working either.  Someone finally came in and handed out hymn books to the choir.

      They started with the story of creation and continued through the generations to the birth and death of Jesus Christ.  People on stage read scripts and the choir sang at key points throughout the slide show.  It was quite breathtaking and very moving.  It leaves me wondering what they are going to do for Easter.  They told it all today.

      After church, we went to IHOP for breakfast/lunch.  There was a 40 minute wait but we were finally seated and had a good breakfast/lunch to eat.  We returned to the house, then Paul and Sam went on a ride to test his oxygen system with his car.  

      I cooked dinner and brought it over to the house to eat.  We had coffee, cookies, and pleasant company afterward.

12 April 2014 (Sat) – Paul and Sam drove off to look for generators today.  A tree fell on the power line yesterday and the block was without power for several hours.  Since Sam depends on electric for his oxygen, he is very concerned about not having power for when he needs it so he wants to get a generator for the house as a backup for power outages.  Apparently, it happens fairly frequently.

      Frieda cooked a wonderful dinner of red beans and rice, sausage, and tossed salad.  She tried a box of Zatarain’s rice and beans.  She said it wasn’t as good as another brand she uses.  We didn’t think it tasted as good as Copeland’s rice and beans.  

      After dinner, we took a ride around the area.  Sam drove to Orangeport, Mooringsport, and Oil City.  Louisiana used to be a booming oil producing area until Barack Obama was voted into office.  During one of our earlier tours, we learned that a company had twenty oil rigs that employed 5,000 people each (a total of 40,000 employees).  Because Barack Obama favors natural resources (i.e., air and solar), the oil companies left.  Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs and the economy in the area collapsed.  As we drove around these towns tonight, we saw dozens of oil wells with nonworking drills.  Silent sentinels attesting to the oil companies’ evacuation from the gulf.  

11 April 2014 (Fri) – Went to the casinos tonight.  First, we arrived at Sam’s Town but the restaurant we wanted to go to wasn’t open yet so we played the slots for an hour.  Had dinner at Smokey Joe’s.  Everything was delicious.  Then we walked over to the Eldorado and played the slots there for an hour.  We lost just about everything we put in the machines.

      On the way back to the parking garage, we spotted an area under the highway bridge marked the Red River District.  We walked under the bridge where shops and restaurants lined the walkway. There was a band playing on a small platform.  We stopped at a place called Nicky’s for drinks and listened to the music.  The weather was balmy and just delightful. 

10 April 2014 (Thu) – Woke to sunny, blue skies.  The temps reached 78 today.  The wind was blowing softly, the flowers were blooming, the smell of wisteria filled the air, the insects were buzzing around, and the birds were chirping away.  What a beautiful day!

      Collected Sam & Frieda and drove to Gibsland  to try and get into that Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum again.  Unfortunately, after an hour ride the museum was closed.  We tried the door, hoping maybe the guy just forgot to turn the “Closed” sign around.  No such luck.  Went across the street to the service station and asked if they knew anything about the museum.  Other than that it was supposed to be open at 10, they knew nothing about the place.  The attendant did know that the owner lived in the trailer just up the block.  We drove over to the trailer – a decrepit, run down, broken up residence.  The man was sitting in a badly conditioned living room (broken window, walls falling in, stained carpet, etc.) with another man and woman.  He said he was 80 years old, sick, and trying to listen to his doctor to slow down.  He apologized for not having the museum open, gave Paul a business card, and encouraged us to call next time we wanted to come in to tour the place.  Unfortunately, the phone number listed on his card is the same number with a recording that says the place is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  He needs to update his message.

      We left and stopped at the Huddle House in Minden for lunch.  It was a kind of 50s style diner – clean and attractive.  The food was good.

       We drove the hour back to the house, then Paul and Sam went off to visit with some of Sam’s friends.  I looked over our mail and caught up with some paperwork.  After Paul got back, we went over and played Rook with Sam & Frieda.  The guys beat the gals soundly.  We’ll get them next time.

9 April 2014 (Wed) – Skies were blue all day and temps were in the high 70s.  We went to the Shreveport Water Works Museum and Railroad Museum with Frieda (Sam wasn’t feeling well).  It was quite interesting.  You just turn on the faucet and there’s the water.  You never really give much thought to where that water comes from other than the water company.  This water works was built in 1887 and operated until 1980 (almost 100 years).  It sat for 30 years and was then opened as a museum.  They got the raw water from the bayou and Red River.  It entered the facility, was put through a filtration system that allowed the dirt and sludge to fall to the bottom of the tank.  Then it went through a series of filter tanks, each time making the water cleaner and cleaner.  Finally, the cleaned water went into a holding tank where it was chlorinated, then pushed on to the town.  This particular plant processed 5 million gallons of water a day.

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      After the water works museum, we walked over to a trailer with some railroad memorabilia in it – some lights, tickets, brochures, news articles, a model train running on a track, etc.  They are expecting to get some actual rail cars to set up around the area within the next couple of years.  It promises to be quite an exhibit.

      We came back to the house to get Sam then went to Copeland’s for lunch.  We all had their red beans and rice.  It was delicious.  After lunch, we stopped at the Dollar store to pick up a few item, drove past a friend of Sam’s house to see how he was doing, then returned home.  The dog and cat got some outside time, then we spent the evening visiting with Sam and Frieda.  Sam is so depressed about his physical state.  I hope our visit is cheering him up.

8 April 2014 (Tue) – The skies were blue today.  Not a cloud to be seen anywhere.  The temperature is still a little cool – high 50s.  There is pollen covering everything.  Frieda is literally washing off the porch every day to get rid of it.  It seems to cover everything.

      Tuesdays are Sam’s workshop day.  When he had all his antique cars and scooters, he would work out there with friends, restoring stuff.  Since he has been sick, he has sold off most of his vehicles.  A friend of his still comes by on Tuesdays and they poke around the shop.  Afterward, they go down to the pizza place for lunch.  Sometimes, it’s not about what you do at all but the ambiance of the socialization.

      Spent a good part of the day scanning receipts and paperwork into the computer.  Paul washed the truck and part of the camper then it rained (lol).  A small cloud passed overhead amongst the wide blue skies.

      Frieda cooked dinner for us all tonight then we sat around and chatted for a couple of hours.  They are delightful people to visit.  So glad we came here.

7 April 2014 (Mon) – Went food shopping at WalMart (of all places), then over to Pet Smart to buy food for Bonnie and Sheba.  Wrangled an appointment with a gastroenterologist.  I have been having some serious stomach issues that need attending.  The doctor scheduled some tests.  Hopefully, I won’t have to go under the surgeon’s knife.  We’ll see.

      On the way back to the camper, we spotted a sign for a water works museum.  Sounded interesting so we followed the sign, but the place is closed on Mondays.  We will have to go back and see what that is all about.  We still have to get back to the Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum.

       After dinner, we visited with Sam & Frieda.  Sam can sure spin a story.  He is so interesting to listen to when he starts to recall some funny event in his psychology career.  I enjoyed the visit very much.

6 April 2014 (Sun) – Well, we made it back safely.  It was a whirlwind week.  Seemed like we flew into town, ran around like nuts, then left.  Our son’s wedding was near perfect.  They made such a stunning couple.  Windows on the Lake was a wonderful setting and the staff did justice to the occasion.

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      We got back to Dallas, TX, on Friday around 7 p.m.  We dropped our luggage off at the hotel then headed out to find someplace to grab a bite to eat.  The first street we drove down had about twenty bail bondsmen on it.  What the heck kind of town is Dallas?  Then we drove through town and saw police officers on every corner – in cars, on foot, riding motorcycles – they were everywhere!  It was evident they were expecting something big to happen.  We tucked tail and headed back to the hotel. 

      Parked the truck, walked next door to Doubletree Suites, and had dinner in their restaurant.  The food was good.  Returned to our room at Best Western, watched the news, and discovered that there was not only a free concert during the day but also the Final Four basketball competition that night (called March Madness).  Guess the folks get rowdy around Dallas when these things take place.

      We drove back to Shreveport, LA, yesterday.  Picked up Sheba and Bonnie from the pet kennel.  They sure were happy to see us.  They enjoyed the opportunity to get out and stretch their legs when we got back to Sam & Frieda’s place.  Frieda cooked dinner for us all, and we spent the evening visiting and catching up on each other’s news.

      Today (Sunday), we went to church with Sam & Frieda.  We attended the 8:15 a.m. service then went out for Sunday brunch.  Unfortunately, they were no longer serving breakfast so we had to settle for lunch.  It was a buffet service, something like Ponderosa.  There were a lot of food choices.  We returned to Sam & Frieda’s where they proceeded to teach us how to play a card game called Rook.  It was very similar to hearts.

26 March 2014 (Wed) – Closed up the camper, then went in to say good-bye to Frieda.  Sam was at a doctor’s appointment.  Took the animals to the Good Going Pet Resort.  Sheba was mad to be left and Bonnie was upset.  The lady that runs the place, Penny, is supposed to be very nice with the animals in her care.  Hope things go all right.

      Left Shreveport shortly after 10 a.m. and drove the three hours to Dallas, TX.  Stopped for lunch at Terrell Steak & Grill Restaurant along the way.  Checked into the Best Western about 4:30 p.m.  After looking over the room, we drove to one of the restaurants recommended by Guy of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  Avilas Restaurant is a real Mexican style eatery.  It was small but very neat and clean and well decorated.  The food was quite authentic (spicy) and plentiful.  Paul had beef brisket tacos and I had chicken mole.  Returned to the motel to get ready for our flight to New York tomorrow.  So looking forward to seeing our grandson and attending our son’s wedding on Sunday.

      This is my last entry until we return to Louisiana on April 5th.  See you then.

25 March 2014 (Tue) – Did some housecleaning and laundry this morning.  Sam took Paul down to the coffee shop where he usually goes on Tuesday mornings to meet with his buddies.  When they came back, Sam had his friend pull some of his antique vehicles out of the barn for us to drive (Paul drove, I rode).  There was a 1941 12-cylinder Lincoln Zepher, a 1947 Chevrolet Master Deluxe, a Cushman motorbike, a Tragg motor cart.

       We rode down to Johnny’s Best Pizza for lunch.  It was like a pizza buffet.  There was a salad bar on one side and a selection of different types of pizza on another bar.  There were even dessert pizzas – peach custard and iced cinnamon.  They were tasty.  There was a windowless room in the corner of the restaurant (which wasn’t very large to start with), that had a door on it with three big locks.  It looked to be about the size of a standard bedroom (10’ X 12’).  There was a sign on the door that indicated it was their casino.  It couldn’t have fit more than four to six machines with chairs.  Weird!

      After spending the afternoon playing around with all the antiques, Frieda cooked a superb meal of meatloaf, potato salad, corn, green beans, salad, and corn muffins followed up by coffee and ice cream.

We then spent a pleasant hour reminiscing with Sam about childhood and young adult experiences, before returning to the camper to pack for our trip back to New York.

24 March 2014 (Mon) – Whew!  It was a busy day today.  It started out cold in the high 30s – got up to the low 60s.  We left for Bossier City to do some shopping.  We stopped at Chick-Filla and got breakfast, then drove to Barksdale Air Force Base.  The GPS ran us all over the place.  We finally arrived at the air force base and they were doing construction that had one of the main gates closed.  We went to the Air Power Museum and saw some displays on Generals Barksdale, Eaker, and Doolittle.  The outside displays were far more interesting.  There were so many historic aircraft lined up for viewing.  We spent well over an hour walking the line and reading about each aircraft – the B52, the superfortress in many versions, the MIG 21, the Blackbird, etc.  It was all quite interesting.

      We stopped in the Class VI store but didn’t find what we wanted, so we left Barksdale AFB and drove back into Bossier City.  Stopped at the Thrifty Liquor Store and picked up some wine.  They had a drive-up window to get frozen drinks.  Crazy.

      Went to Dillard’s and bought a dress for me.  Walked across the mall and bought a dress purse at Sears.  We left the mall and drove across the street to Cheddar’s for lunch.  What a mistake!  The food was good, but the service was lousy.  The waitress was stoned or something.  She was surprised at some stuff and clueless about others.  It was either her first day at EVER waitressing, or she was stoned out of her mind. 

      After lunch, we drove over to the Shoe Carnival and found a pair of dress shoes for me.  The day complete, we returned to the camper.  Went in and visited with Sam & Frieda for a couple of hours.

23 March 2014 (Sun) – Went to the First Baptist Church Sunday service with Frieda.  Sam was not feeling well so he stayed home.  The church – dubbed the Cowboy Church – usually has a classic service on Sunday and a service on Thursday for cowboys who ride in on their horses.  Once a year (and it was today), they combine the two services for a Cowboy Church Sunday.  There were many people there in jeans and chaps.  The altar had a saddle on one side and a tree stand with cowboy hats on the other side.  The service was nice – a woman gave testimony about how the cowboy church is drawing in people and the youth minister baptized four young men.  We met the pastor who gave us a welcome gift of CD music, water bottle, book, and a pen.

      When we got back to the house, we picked up Sam and drove to the Southfield Grill for brunch.  We tasted okra, fried squash, and cabbage.  Everything was very good.  Afterward, we drove over to Shreveport proper.  Frieda and I looked in Burlington and Labels for a dress for me but didn’t find anything.  We returned to the house about 3:30 p.m.  Threw some laundry in the washer, had coffee, then returned to the camper, fed the animals, and had dinner.  We Skyped with our son and his family.  That baby is adorable.  He is talking now and that baby voice is so cute.  Can’t wait to hug him!

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      We went to Sam & Frieda’s at 7 p.m. and watched the Huckabee Show.  Afterward, we taught them how to play thirty-one.  Frieda believes that her granddaughter would love the game.

22 March 2014 (Sat) – Frieda called this morning to say that a friend of hers was diagnosed with brain cancer.  She is in the hospital and asked that all the ladies from her sewing group come in to see her.  Frieda apologized but felt she needed to go see her friend.  We agreed and said we would get together later for dinner.

       Paul and I drove into Bossier to look for a dress.  We went in and out of stores – bridal shops, department stores, specialty places.  It was exhausting!  And I never found anything.  We stopped at the Men’s Warehouse and got Paul measured for a tuxedo, then sent the information back to New York.  Had lunch at Logan’s Roadhouse.  They brought a small bucket filled with peanuts and another one to put the shells in.  The food and service were very good.  We stopped in Petco and Pet Smart looking for the special food for Sheba only to discover that it must be prescribed by a veterinarian.  Tried to call the vet Sheba saw in Branch but the office was closed.  We will have to try to get in touch on Monday.  Then we shopped in Kroger to get the baby food for Sheba, as well as a few other items.

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     Went to dinner with Sam & Frieda to a small place called Longwood Country Store.  There were about ten tables in the place, along with a couple of shelves of goods.  Sam’s friend and wife, Judson and Marvel, joined us for dinner.  It was quite an enjoyable evening.  Unfortunately, Sam started to have breathing problems and needed to get home to get on his oxygen machine.  His portable unit was not working as well as it should have.  We visited for a while then bid them good night.

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21 March 2014 (Fri) – While Sam took his dog to the groomer, we drove to the kennel with Frieda to see about boarding Bonnie and Sheba when we fly back to New York next week for our son’s wedding.  Penny was very nice and we were assured that our babies will be well taken care of.

      Got back to the house and Sam returned with his neatly groomed Shadow.  We then climbed in the car and drove to Gibsland, LA, home of the Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum.  Apparently, this couple were something of folk heroes in the town and the people in the area feel they were gunned down in cold blood unfairly (it doesn’t matter they killed some people or robbed banks).  The museum was closed because the owner had to go home for medical treatment.  It was expected he would be back in about an hour (he was waiting on the home nurse to arrive).  We got in the car and drove seven miles down the road to the location marker where Bonnie & Clyde were actually shot (the museum is the location of the café where they bought sandwiches before they drove down the road to their deaths).  The one marker was pretty beat up – looked like people had been shooting at it.  There was also a lot of graffiti on the marker.  There was also another marker to the government officials who shot the couple.

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      We drove back to the museum, but it was still closed.  We had an enjoyable conversation with two couples who were also waiting for the museum to open.  After an hour, we all decided it would not be opening and we left.  We returned to Sam & Frieda’s, had coffee and cake and cheese, then returned to our camper.

       Spent the night finding a hotel in Dallas to stay when we fly back to New York.  Finally settled on Best Western and called to make the arrangement.  We can keep the truck parked there for no cost for the week.  That will save us a lot of money since it looks like parking is $10 a day.

 20 March 2014 (Thu) – Drove to a nearby mall to shop for a dress for our son’s wedding.  Tried on dresses in Dillards but didn’t find anything special.  We then drove to Natchitoches (pronounced NACK-ah-tish).  They are celebrating their 300th anniversary as the oldest town in Louisiana.  We wandered through the general store and hardware store.  There were many interesting items to examine.  We walked around the town and went down to the lake where a couple of colleges were doing scull training.  There used to be two branches to the Red River.  The Corps of Engineers cut off one branch and turned it into a long lake that now runs through Natchitoches.

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      We drove to Fort St. Jean Baptiste.  It turned out to be a replica that was built based on architectural plans that were found in one of the engineer’s papers.  It was a tight fort that housed fifty marines with a jail cell, a storehouse, a storage building, a barracks, a house for a shopkeeper, and a house for the commandant.  It was all surrounded by a rough hewn fence.

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      On the way back, we stopped at another mall and looked at dresses in J.C. Penney, David’s Bridal, and Dillards (another one).  Still didn’t find anything.  Returned to our camper and went in to speak with Sam and Frieda about tomorrow.  

19 March 2014 (Wed) – Went online and found that the Bonnie & Clyde Museum is closed on Wednesdays.  Bummer.  We walked over to tell Sam & Frieda, who were as disappointed as we were.  I threw a load of wash in the machine, then in the dryer.  We chatted awhile about where to go and then decided to drive to Jefferson, Texas.  It is an old town on the border that is struggling to stay alive.  There were empty buildings and many run down homes.  But there were also a lot of historical buildings with markers outside.  We stopped for lunch at the Hamburger Store.  Every chair in the place had ripped upholstery, yet everything was clean and looked well maintained.  There were license plates, auto related signs, and even a grill from a mac truck on the walls.  The menu was everything burger.  Frieda and I had hamburger in a bowl and the guys had sandwiches.  Food was good, service was satisfactory, and price was decent.

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       After lunch, we walked through the Jefferson General Store.  It was a real neat place, quite large, and gave you the feeling of an old time store.  The ceiling was very high and the floors were wood planks.  There were many unusual items packed around the walls and displays, and they even had a bunch of food items available to sample.  It was very interesting.  We walked over to the Blackburn Jelly distribution store and Frieda bought some items.  

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      We left Jefferson and drove to Marshall, Texas.  We drove around and looked at their historical buildings for a while, then drove back to Shreveport, LA.  We looked at some pictures of Sam’s family, chatted awhile, got the laundry out of the dryer, and enjoyed coffee and pound cake together.  

18 March 2014 (Tue) – Left Ricky & Helmut’s at 10:15 a.m.  We had a great time visiting with this side of the family and look forward to swinging by this way again.

      Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch.  The service was soooooo slow.  OMG.  We are really in the deep south now.  Not only that, we had to push for the biscuits and they didn’t come out until the end of the meal.  We wound up taking them home.  There was a work crew paving the parking lot at Cracker Barrel so we couldn’t pull forward.  I walked into the street and helped direct Paul back onto the roadway while holding up traffic.  It is so “fun” to drive a big rig.  It has its special challenges.

      Pulled into Sam & Frieda’s drive way in Shreveport, LA, a little after 3 p.m.  Frieda was working down at her church with a sewing group.  Sam was in the garage with one of his friends.  He has been ill and is quite depressed about his condition.  I hope that our visit will help to cheer him up.

      When Frieda got home, we sat out on the porch and chatted for a while as we let Bonnie run about the yard.  Unfortunately, they have a dog that kills cats so we can’t let Sheba out.  This is too bad since she is finally starting to feel so much better.  Around 7 pm., we left for the Chinese Buffet for dinner.  They had quite a selection and it was all fresh (unlike most of the buffet places back home).  We agreed to meet at 11 a.m. tomorrow to go to lunch, then the Bonnie & Clyde Museum.

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17 March 2014 (Mon – St. Patrick’s Day) – Saw no parades today and no real signs of celebration.  

A cold wind blew in last night from the north, dropping the temps down to the 40s.  Woke this morning, and the temp was still in the low 40s.  Put on our winter coats, hats, and gloves and headed out to Champagne’s Swamp Tours on Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge.

      Stopped at the post office on the way and mailed off souvenirs.  Arrived at the swamp tour five minutes late.  There were four other people waiting to go on the tour, too.  It was cold, and the tour guide was trying to gather up some coats and sweaters for the ladies (a grandmother, her daughter, and two granddaughters).  We got in a flat bottomed aluminum boat with ten swivel seats and the tour guide standing in the back steering with an outboard motor.  The tour was almost two hours long.  It was too cold for the alligators to be out, but we spotted a barn owl, an osprey, cormorants, white egrets, blue herons, and dozens of purple martins skimming the water.  The cypress trees in the swamp were covered in Spanish moss which made it both beautiful and spooky at the same time.  The other tree common in the area is a Tupelo gum.  There were water hyacinths that were not yet blooming.  There was a rookery on the road that we were not allowed to come near with the boat (we drove by it later).  We saw this rookery last week with Ricky.  There were more birds in the trees this time, but still not 20,000.  We saw white egrets in the interior and blue herons on the outer ring.  There were two roseate spoonbills that we spied as well.  I bought a t-shirt.

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      Drove back towards home.  Stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel.  Picked up some cracklins for Paul’s brother, Sam.  Spoke with our son by phone tonight.  He was feeling pretty depressed.  Sometimes, life just sucks.  Prepared to move tomorrow.  Headed for Shrevesport, LA.

16 March 2014 (Sun) – It rained on and off all night; at some times, accompanied by thunder.  Sheba came running into the bedroom to hide in the closet.  When we got up, we found she had had a bowel movement.  Guess the thunder scared the shit out of her.

      Went to church with Ricky & Helmut this morning at the Mowata Baptist Church.  Everyone was very friendly and we ran into Duane, who promptly continued our education on rice farming.  After church, we went to Chef Roy’s for lunch.  The food was very good.

       At 3:20 p.m., Ricky came by to pick me up and we went back to her church.  Two Mexican women (members of the church) were cooking up some food for the membership.  The large kitchen was filled with sixteen women, plus the two women cooking and a young man interpreting Spanish (they didn’t speak a word of English).  The kitchen was filled with the sound of women chattering; asking questions, English and Spanish flying around the room, and the smell of cooking food filled the room.  They made green and red salsa, wheat and corn tortillas, refried beans, shredded chicken, and flautas.  The food was good (but the salsa was too hot).  It reminded me of working in the kitchen at our church back home during a Christmas fair or other dinner event.  It was lots of fun.

15 March 2014 (Sat) – Ricky & Helmut drove to Washington to pick up a table they ordered some weeks ago.  It is made out of re-purposed cypress tree wood and pieces of an old tin ceiling.  We hung around the yard, trying to get Sheba to move around.  She is in a great deal of discomfort and just sits where you put her.  Poor baby.

      When Ricky & Helmut got back, we helped them move their new table into the kitchen.   Then we drove into Rayne to do some grocery shopping.  Had lunch at the Candy Cottage – ordered Frito pies followed by a piece of butter pecan fudge.  Filled up the truck, did the food shopping, then returned to the camper.  

      After dinner, we walked over to Ricky & Helmut’s and taught them to play thirty-one.  We tried out a new wine we bought (I didn’t care for it), and we munched on veggies and olive salsa while Helmut showed us what a card shark he can really be.  It was lots of fun.

14 March 2014 (Fri) – Spent the morning giving the animals play time.  Bonnie always gets so goofy.  Poor little Sheba is in great discomfort.  She does not want to move.  We picked her up and put her a little ways away in the yard.  She simply snuggled down and refused to move.  We tried to get her to do a little walking but it is obvious she’s hurting.  The vet gave us laxatose for her.  It is a thick, viscous, dark brown medication that smells strongly of molasses.  We are supposed to give her a teaspoonful two or three times a day.  It is very thick to get into the syringe but we struggle with it.  Hope it works soon.  Poor baby is so tender.

      We left at noon to drive to Louisiana Spirits, home of Bayou Rum, in Lacassine, LA.  The owner gave a tour of the plant.  Unfortunately, they were going through some renovations so no bottling, labeling, or packing was going on.  We saw the tanks and learned how they make rum.  It was informative.  The tour finished in the bar room where we got to taste Bayou Rum Silver and Bayou Rum Spiced.  Then we got a drink of some kind of sangria they were experimenting with (not bad – I would drink it at a party but wouldn’t go out to buy it), followed by a hot buttered rum drink (WOW!  We will DEFINITELY have to make that one).  We bought a bottle of spiced rum and continued on our way.

      Stopped at Lil’ Cahon’s Meat Specialists for lunch.  It was a small place with a deli counter and four tables in the place.  Paul had boudin balls and cracklins; I had boudin links.  Everything was quite tasty.

       We followed the road down south to coastal highway 82, called America’s Scenic Byway.  It was a lot like driving down Ocean Parkway on Fire Island back home.  There was lots of open swamp land with water, cattle grazing, and exotic birds flying around.  The horizon was dotted with off-shore oil rigs, and there were many refineries, holding tanks, and pipeline terminus’ along the way.  We even had to take a ferry across a bayou to continue on the road. 

13 March 2014 (Thu) – Took our cat, Sheba, to the vet this morning.  She has only had one bowel movement in the past seven days.  She had a serious calcium deficiency when she was a kitten and this resulted in a skeletal deformity.  One of those deformities resulted in a narrow pelvic canal, making it difficult for her to go to the bathroom regularly.  She eats a high fiber dry food and we add fiber to her can food, but apparently it’s not enough.  The doctor prescribed a laxative for her and suggested we change her diet to include pumpkin and squash baby food.  We’ll see how she does.  Because we did not have an appointment but walked in, we waited over two hours to get in this morning to drop her off, then an hour and a half to pick her up at the end of the day.

      Drove into the town of Eunice and had lunch at Ruby’s Restaurant.  The street was an old, narrow main street with high curbs and trees planted in the intersections you had to drive around.  The restaurant was surprisingly spacious compared to the small store front.  There were two large bars and lots of tables that were nearly all full.  The place was quite popular.  The food was good, as was the service.

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       After lunch, we walked over to the Jean Lafitte National Park Acadian Cultural Center.  We started with a very moving video of about 20 minutes, than wandered the museum area reading about the different areas that make Cajuns so different from everyone else.  They are, in fact, French Canadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia by the English.  Their story is an emotional one and you had to marvel at their resilience in making a new life for themselves down in the swamps of Louisiana.

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      We had a delightful conversation with the park rangers about the Mardi Gras celebration in Eunice.  It is so very different from what they do in Mobile and New Orleans.  A group of people go from house to house, dressed in costumes (nothing like those worn elsewhere) and beg for food.  The homeowners give them a chicken and it’s a race to see who catches the bird.  Other donations include sausage, potatoes, and other foods.  At the end of the roadside trip, all the contributions are brought back and a huge meal is prepared for everyone in town.  It was so interesting to see how the same holiday is celebrated in such a different way.

      Got our laundry and threw it in the washer, then ran to the natural food store to pick up pumpkin seed extract (recommended by the vet for Sheba).  They only had capsules, and the lady at the store told us we could puncture the capsule and squirt the oil on the cat’s food.

      Threw the wash in the dryer and drove over to the vet to find out about Sheba.  The vet was unable to do an enema on her because the feces is still high in her intestines.  We discussed what we could do for her, then took her back home after picking up the laundry.

      When we got back, we went over Ricky & Helmut’s for wine and cheese.  They gave us a tour of their family home.  It is a wonderful place rich with history of Ricky’s parents and siblings.  They have done some interesting things to the house and are still working on renovations.

       After enjoying wine, cheese, and boudin balls (they were scrumptious!), we went to dinner at Hawks.  This place is only open during crawfish harvest season.  People were ordering platters of four pounds of boiled crawfish.  It was an orgy of seafood!  People were breaking the crawfish apart, sucking the meat from the head, peeling the tail, dipping it in sauce, and popping it in their mouths.  And there was no resting between fish – they can’t seem to shovel the stuff in fast enough.  Tables were strewn with hundreds of crawfish bodies.

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      Paul and Helmut had a fried crawfish salad, Rickey had a burger, and I had a crawfish etoufee.  Because of the snacks we had at the house, my appetite was low so I wound up taking a good portion of my meal home.  Everything was very good.

     

12 March 2014 (Wed) – Took a tour of Mr. Charlie, an old oil rig turned training institute.  This was the first floating drill platform used in offshore operations.  It had a platform that sat on the ground and the legs filled up with water to weight the rig.  When done drilling, they let the water out, raised the platform, and floated the rig to the next site.  The rig was named after the guy who invented it.  The rig was only two stories high (today’s rigs go as high as eight stories).  There were 50 people who worked on this rig.  We saw their bunkroom, galley (set up as a cafeteria with four meals a day served), and rec area.  Outside, we saw the drill operation explained – the form is dropped onto the ocean floor and the double sided drill pipe is fitted through the center of the form.  A special mud is pumped down the drill pipe and returned on the outer side of the pipe along with the debris they dug up.  Forms are continually fitted one on top of the other to keep the sea water out of the drilling operation.  Drill pipes are connected to each other as the drilling goes deeper until they hit oil.  The oil is then piped to an oil platform, which is moved on via other pipelines through platforms until it reaches the terminus back on shore.  It was a fascinating and very educational tour. 
      We had lunch at Rita Mae’s Restaurant in Morgan City, LA.  It was a little house converted to restaurant.  There were four small rooms.  The room we were in had two and a half tables (one table seated one person who sat in the corner facing the wall).  The room adjacent to us had four tables seating four to six people each.  Another room off that one, adjacent to the kitchen, had one large table that could seat eight people.  There was a counter on the porch with about six stools, and one table that could seat two people.  The silverware was plastic and wrapped in a napkin.  There was one waitress serving all the tables.  The customers kept coming and going – the place was quite popular despite its tiny, one-man showmanship.  All the signs around the place were scrawled in black marker.  The food was good, but the cost was pretty high – $30 for the two of us.

      We got back to the camper about 6 p.m.  It was a full day.

11 March 2014 (Tue) – Had a great day today!  Ricky brought us over to her Cousin Duane’s farm.  He raises both rice and crawfish (also called crayfish, crawdads, and mud bugs).  He took us on a tour of his 1,200 acre farming operation (he owns some of that land and rents the other part of it).  It was raining this morning and the fields were muddy.

      In the wild, crawfish burrow into the ground to the water.  In the process, they leave a mound of dirt on the surface to breathe through.  Ricky has several of these mounds dotting her yard.  When the crawfish are farmed, the fields are filled with water and then the fish are dropped into it.  The crawfish mate and the females dig down and incubate their eggs.  When the eggs hatch, the babies swim out of the burrow.  Because they are a prey food for birds, turtles, frogs, mammals, etc., a female lays thousands of eggs at a time.

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      The crawfish farmer puts baited nets in the water, about 50 feet apart on the side and 60 feet along the row.  There are approximately twelve nets per acre.  The crawfish crawl into the net through one of three tubes and can’t get out.  The nets have to be emptied every day once the harvest season starts.  The harvester rides up and down the aisles in a flat bottom boat he steers by foot, lifts the net out, empties the contents in a bin, re-baits the net, and then puts it back in the water.  As the bin fills with crawfish, the harvester puts the crawfish in a bag for weighing.  Crawfish currently sell for $3 a pound.  Duane told us they pull in about 14,000 nets a day.

      The other part of his operation is rice farming.  The fields are smoothed out so the seedlings will take root.  They spray the grass with Roundout and then fill the fields with water that acts as a natural weed control.  The seeds are dropped by airplane and in about two weeks, the seeds have set in the soil.  The plants grow about waist high, then a combine (like they use for wheat crops) is used to harvest the rice.  The rice is brought to a grain silo where it is dried to a specified moisture level before being shipped out.  Temperature plays an important part in the rice growth – if it’s too cold or too hot, the rice won’t grow properly.  The stubs from the rice plants are used to feed the crawfish when they are seeded into the same fields.  They eat the plankton that forms on the stalks.  It is all interconnected.

      After the tour of Duane’s farm, we drove to Lafayette to do some shopping.  Returned to the camper a little after 5 p.m.  The sun was still up and shining warmly (it got up to 76 degrees today).  We took a pleasant walk out around the rice fields (Ricky has a couple of hundred acres that she rents to a rice farmer).

10 March 2014 (Mon) – Left with Ricky at 9:30 a.m.  We drove through several small towns between Branch and St. Martinville.  We toured the African American Museum and the Acadian Museum.  They were small but very informative.  We learned that before the civil war, there were three classes of peoples – slaves, free people of color, and whites.  After the civil war, our society was reduced to two classes – blacks and whites.  The free blacks were the real losers in the war between the states. 

      The Acadians were French persons who were ousted from Nova Scotia by the English.  Some went back to France, some were deported to other states along the east coast, and some retreated to Louisiana.  Over a 30 year period, the displaced Canadians found their way to Louisiana.  Some of the Acadians were offered land grants by the Spanish to come to Louisiana.  Every four or five years, they have a big reunion of the original 50 families that settled in Acadiana. 

      After the museums, we walked over to St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church founded in 1765.  It was a beautiful old church with figures along the walls and a domed ceiling made out of wood.  There were two statues in niches as you entered the church.

      Next, we walked over to a local restaurant for lunch.  Ricky, Paul, and I all ordered the crab cake with potato and a tossed salad.  Yum!  We walked back to look at a memorial to the Acadians.  There was a wall with 3,000 names on it, and across the room a mural was painted on the wall.  A narrative accompanied the mural that told the story of the Acadians who were thrown out of Nova Scotia.  In the courtyard was a diaspora cross, tiles with names of the early settlers laid out on the ground, and an eternal flame.

      There was a town square with the Evangeline Oak and a bust of Henry Longfellow (who wrote the poem to Evangeline).  The park sits on the Bayou Teche.  It was all very pretty and many years old.

      The cardinal has managed to circumvent our Mardi Gras beads and was still attacking the windows.  We strung up a plastic garbage bag hoping that the wind would make it move and scare the bird away.  This is one determined bird!

9 March 2014 (Sun) – Woke at 7 a.m. to find Helmut’s friend and son already working on the pipe.  It turned out that the water in the pump froze, which caused it to pull away from the pipe.  They were able to get everything working again, and Paul and I were happy to have running water again.

      Ricky came by at noon to get us and we drove to Washington to see about picking up an antique table they ordered some time ago.  We had lunch at a wonderful place called the Steamboat Warehouse.  The ceiling beams were rough hewn and you could see the cedar shingles through the slats on the ceiling.  The walls were brick with some of the cement covering crumbling away.  It was very rustic looking.  We had fried catfish and shrimp etoufee (a shrimp and rice dish with a creamy sauce).

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      After lunch, we went to the antique mall which was made up of vendors set up inside an old converted school gymnasium.  The table Ricky wanted to pick up was not ready.  We walked around the building and looked at the antiques for sale.

      After we were done exploring the mall, we drove around the small town of Washington which was established in 1817 (eighty percent of the town is on the National Historic Register).  It is so amazing to drive around this state and see mobile homes sitting next door to brick houses sitting next door to three story frame homes sitting next door to run down shotgun houses.  There is such an amazing mix of architecture around here.  And much of the land is wet.  The rice fields are flooded with about a foot of water, and they also raise crawfish in the same fields.  We will be going to Ricky’s cousin’s farm on Tuesday to hear more about rice and crawfish farming.

      Some crazy cardinal keeps attacking our camper.  It sees its reflection in the windows and thinks there is another cardinal invading its territory.  We strung up some of those Mardi Gras beads to chase it away from the windows (everything in a camper does double duty).  Hope it works.

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8 March 2014 (Sat) – Went to Avery Island today.  Avery Island is actually not an island, but a plug of salt that pushed up to form a huge mound on a peninsula.  The McIlhenny family has been mining rock salt here for over a hundred years.  When you drive up to the entrance, there is a small shack with a very old, wizened man sitting by a window who greets you by passing out a long stick with a clothespin on the end.  He passes you a brochure and you pay him a $1 entrance fee, all on the stick.

      Once inside the park, you follow the signs to the Tabasco Factory.  They grow peppers here, and make pepper sauce as well as export seeds to South America to other farms.  The Tabasco label is printed in over 20 languages and Tabasco is sold in 160 countries around the world.  They ferment the pepper mash for three years!  It is one of the most recognized labels, next to Coca-Cola.  The tour began with a short video about how the family started the business, followed by a walk through a hallway that looked through a glass window onto the factory floor where they produce many of their products.  Unfortunately, it was a Saturday and no one was working, so we looked through the window and guessed at what each piece of machinery did.

      After the tour, visitors are invited to visit the country gift store where you can sample several Tabasco products.  We tried pepper soda pop, raspberry chipotle ice cream, and other spicy treats flavored with Tabasco (jelly, mayo, mustard, etc.).  There were all kinds of Tabasco products for sale – aprons, t-shirts, kitchen ware, etc.  We were each given four tiny little bottles as part of the tour.  And there was no charge for the tour!  Each little bottle cost $0.55 in the gift shop.  I used to get these little teeny tiny bottles of Tabasco sauce in the MREs we were issued in the Army.  I remember being so impressed with how far along the pre-packaged meals had come compared to the K-rations from Korea/Vietnam.

      After the Tabasco Factory tour, we drove to Jungle Gardens (still on Avery Island) and paid an entrance fee to drive along a five mile scenic roadway that featured all kinds of plants (few were in bloom) and various wildlife (we spotted a couple of alligators).  The highlight of the drive was a stop at the Bird Watch.  Back in the day, the snowy egret was facing extinction because it was hunted for its beautiful white feathers.  McIlhenny brought seven young egrets to his plantation where he built a bamboo platform for them to nest on.  Fifty years later, there are over 20,000 snowy egrets that come to the rookery to breed and raise their young.  A man standing on the observation platform with us said that when the eggs hatch, you can see the alligators hanging out below the platforms trying to get the chicks that fall out of the nest.  There were the most gorgeous live oaks around the property.  One had a limb that stretched out longer than the tree was high.  Many of the trees are more than 300 years old.

      We left the “island” and stopped at a Mexican restaurant for lunch.  We each had a big mug margarita, and some typical Spanish food (taco, enchilada, refried beans).  The place was decorated nicely, but was a little on the seamy side with ripped upholstery, peeling paint, and plastic forks wrapped in little napkins.  Enjoyed the experience.

      We drove back to the house and found that Ricky and Helmut were home from their cruise to the Caribbean.  We chatted for a while, met their three dogs, and planned out some activities.  Paul and Helmut looked at the pump for the well but couldn’t get it to work.  Helmut called a friend who said he would be over tomorrow morning to look at it.

7 March 2014 (Fri) – Went shopping at the commissary and did some laundry this morning.  Stopped by the office and got some of those delicious red beans and rice when we picked up a FedEx package from Escapees forwarding our mail.  With everything cleaned up and tucked away, we left at 12:30 p.m. for Branch, LA.

       We stopped at a visitor’s center in the Atchafalaya Basin.  What a great place!  They had a video about the area, and animated critters singing and joking with the audience in a swamp like setting.  There were loads of brochures and flyers about activities in the area, and they were offering free coffee.

      Back on the road, we arrived at Paul’s brother’s wife’s sister’s place in Branch, Louisiana.  They are away on a cruise to the Caribbean and will be back tomorrow.  They have a large land area and directed us to park in the back where her brother parks his motor home every year when they visit at Christmas.  There was not enough maneuver room and the truck got stuck in the mud.  Paul had to jack up the truck so we could put some wood and stone under the wheels for traction.  That didn’t help much and we wound up leaving the truck.  We were unable to level the camper so we will be living on an angle for a few days.

      People just don’t understand the amount of room required for a fifth wheel RV to maneuver.  Our camper is almost the same length of a motor home, plus the truck.  We have to drop the RV, then unhitch the truck.  The ground must be solid for a greater amount of area.  The same with height.  People just don’t seem to be able to imagine how much clearance we need for 13’.

      After we stopped fiddling with trying to level the camper, we tried to hook up.  The electric and sewer were fine, but there is no water.  The faucet turns on but we are not getting any water.  This is probably a well and there is a pump somewhere that needs to be switched on.  Guess we’ll have to wait until Erica (Ricky) and Helmut get back from their cruise tomorrow.

     Sheba is not feeling well.  She only took a few bites of her breakfast this morning.  She is listless and not interested in interacting.  She turned her nose up at dinner – didn’t even come over to sniff at it – and I haven’t seen her drink anything all day.  We will have to keep an eye on her.

6 March 2014 (Thu) – Went to Mardi Gras World today.  It is a huge warehouse where they make floats and figureheads and other animated figures/items for Mardi Gras.  About 30% of their business comes from making items for Disney World, Universal Studios, Las Vegas, and other places around the world.  We saw a 15-minute video on Mardi Gras, had a piece of King Cake (a kind of bread pastry with icing), then walked through the warehouse.  We saw one artist placing paper mache over Styrofoam pieces, and all the floats that were used this year were lined up in the warehouse.  They have 15 warehouses to store floats and figures, as well as a work area to create their artistic pieces.  The best time to tour this place is right after Mardi Gras.  The staff was cleaning out the floats, which were full of so much stuff – beads, bags, insulated bags with food stuff, and all kinds of give-aways.  They were offering visitors to take whatever they wanted – and there was stuff on every float. 

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      We discovered that a basic float costs about $60 to $80 thousand to build, and that they build in a bathroom (port-a-pottie) on every float.  Revelers are on the floats about six to ten hours, and they are all drinking.  We saw the Zulu krewe with a port-a-pottie that was being used during Tuesday’s parade.  We didn’t realize every float had one. 

      We left Mardi Gras World and looked up Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on my iPhone to find a nearby place to eat lunch.  We followed directions to Parasol’s Restaurant & Bar.  What a dive!  It was a tiny little place with four rooms – the main dining area had six small round tables adjacent to a small kitchen.  There was also a side room that you stepped down to with four small round tables.  You passed through a narrow doorway into a bar area.  Paul ordered a muffaletta (an Italian sandwich on a huge sesame seed bun), I ordered a Po Boy Firecracker Shrimp, and we shared an Irish sundae (potato salad with roast beef drippings).  Everything was quite good.

      On the way back to the campground, we passed the Audubon Zoo.  On a whim, we stopped in.  What a great decision!  The place was old, but they had animals here that we have not seen in other zoos.  The cages were clean (there were no scuzzy left-overs gathering mold or animal droppings that needed to be cleaned up), the animals all seemed healthy, and the cages seemed appropriate to the particular type of animal contained in it.  It was a large zoo and easy to follow the lay out.  The only complaint we had was with the reptile house.  There were several signs where the lights were out and/or the cages were empty without explanation so that you were standing there trying to find the critter in the cage where there wasn’t, in fact, anything in the cage.

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      We stopped at one of the cafes to warm up with a cup of hot coffee.  Got a cup of gumbo that was pretty good.  All was hot and tasty.  The zoo closed at 5 p.m. We crept back home in the rush hour traffic, arriving at about 6:30 p.m.

5 March 2014 (Wed) – Went to the NASA Stennis Infinity Science Center in Mississippi.  It is a rocket engine test facility where engines for the space program have been tested since the early 1960s.  The visitor’s center and museum had the feeling of being newly established and not quite finished, despite the age of the test facility itself.  I think the federal government said, “The tourist industry brings in loads of funding – open up the space programs to visitation.”  The standard fee is $10 per person (we arrived on seniors Wednesday and got to pay half-price).

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      We took a bus ride over to the concrete pads where the engines are set up and ignited.  Back in the 60s, when a rocket test took place, people could hear it up to 100 miles away.  It caused ear damage and broke windows within two miles of the test.  Today, you can go up to a quarter of a mile of an engine test without injury. 

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      The museum had display boards that told the story of how people came to expand their horizons and travel beyond their shores.  Seems it all came down to commerce – people traveled beyond their shores and traded with the people on other shores.  From Phoenecia, to Greece, to Italy, to Europe, and so on.

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      There were many interactive displays for the kids that were quite educational.  We stopped in the gift shop and picked up something for our grandson.  Also picked up a dehydrated ice cream bar.  It was surprisingly good.  Tasted just like a slice of Neapolitan ice cream.  As you put it in your mouth, your saliva rehydrated the ice cream.  It was quite an experience.  Having gotten the taste for ice cream, we stopped at the Dairy Dip on the way home and got hot fudge sundaes.  Yum.  Once back on base, we stopped in at the Class VI store and picked up some wine. 

      Although it has not rained today, it is still overcast and dreary.  Hope tomorrow is nicer.

4 March 2014 (Tue) – Left at 7:45 a.m. for the ferry.  The day was rainy and cold.  The temps ranged in the high 30s to low 40s.  When we parked in the lot near the ferry, the guy tried to charge us $40.  (He charged us $20 two days ago for a spot that was supposed to cost $10.)  When we balked, the guy only charged $20.

      Arrived on Canal Street and decided to go into Harrah’s for their breakfast buffet.  It wasn’t bad, but a bit expensive.  After we finished eating, we put up our hoods, donned gloves and hats, and walked to the French Quarter to see the Zulu krewe parade.  The crowds were six to eight people deep.  People were crowded together and those with umbrellas were poking people in the head, back, and eye.  We couldn’t really get very close to the parade route where the Zulu krewe was handing out painted coconuts along with other throws.

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      We decided to walk around the parade route into the French quarter.  Walking down Bourbon Street, we decided to stop in a place called Bourbon Heat.  They had a really great courtyard, nicely decorated for Mardi Gras, but all wet from the pouring rain.  Upstairs on the second floor was a bar and small eating area.  The place was decorated with old, peeling walls – paint over brick – and dark wood floors.  The food was tasty and the service was good, but the price was pretty steep.

      At 11:45 a.m. we continued down Bourbon Street to St. Anne’s where they were conducting a gay costume judging contest at noon.  There were ten judges on two balconies, split on either side of the street.  Music was playing and they were dancing and cavorting around, throwing beads to the crowd below.  Some of the guys in the contest put women to shame; they were so beautiful.  We are sure there would have been many more contestants had the weather been nicer.  As it was, there were entertainers and contestants prancing, singing, and strutting their stuff. 

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       When it was over we left the judging area and walked over to Café Dumond for coffee and beignets.  The place was packed.  The coffee was nice and hot, and the beignets were a mess of powdered sugar.  We then traversed the Moon Walk from Jackson Square to the ferry, where we rode the boat back across the Mississippi. 

       On the way back to the campground, we stopped at Copeland’s Restaurant to pick up red beans and rice for dinner.  This is the place where the campground folks got the beans and rice the other day that we found so delicious.  I had to wait twenty minutes and wound up with two dinners to go that had not only the red beans and rice, but also Andouille (pronounced Ahn-doo-wee) – a very spice sausage.  We got back to the camper at 4:30 p.m., cold, wet, and partied out.

      It was so funny to watch the local news coverage of Mardi Gras.  These folks take this holiday very seriously.  The king of Mardi Gras, Rex, challenged the mayor of the city last night.  He demanded the mayor halt all business and proclaim the next day (Fat Tuesday) a holiday and direct the people to party.  The mayor capitulated and awarded King Rex the key to the city. 

      A reporter was interviewing the officers of the Zulu krew – the president, the historian, and the witch doctor.  These guys are elected by their fellow krewe members, and serve for the year.  They sat in their chairs dressed in bright, sequined gold suits with gold and black striped bowties, holding instruments of their office (a scepter, a book, and a voodoo spear with skull), speaking very seriously about their respective roles.  The news reporter, likewise, was very serious. 

      The reporters covering the parades today showed up wearing wigs and other costume items.  In fact, walking the streets today, we saw every kind of costume imaginable.  People wore some of the most ridiculous items.  There were also all kinds of street performers trying to make money from the revelers, as well as groups of religious fanatics standing in the middle of the sidewalk blaring out news of everyone’s demise over portable loudspeakers.  Drunk kids threw water balloons and other items at them.  Music blasted out of all the bars and restaurants we walked by.

3 March 2014 (Mon) – It was overcast, cold, and blustery today.  After breakfast, we walked over to the community center and did some laundry.  When that was done, we went over to the office to share some information about a website with the clerk.  They had some rice and red beans available for lunch.  It was delicious!  Paul and I both had two bowls each. 

      After that wonderful lunch, we drove to the Chalmette National Cemetery & Battlefield.  We took a small ferry that cost $1 to go over, but nothing to come back.  There are over 15,000 graves in the national cemetery - over 6,600 of them unknown soldiers.  In their place are just small square blocks with a number.  It is sad that no one should know who they were, and families who pined for their sons and husbands never knew what happened to them.  There are personnel buried in the cemetery spanning five major battles, starting with the War of 1812 and ending with the Vietnam War.  Some of their dependents are buried there as well.

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      The battlefield was from 1815, the last fight of the War of 1812.  Unfortunately, the visitor’s center is open from Tuesday through Saturday.  Furthermore, this national park will be closed for Mardi Gras tomorrow (a state holiday).  We were able to walk around the battlefield a little.  There were many signs that made it easy to self-guide the park.  There was a large monument to the men who fought and died there, as well as a replica of a plantation home that was on the battlefield that day.  At about 4 p.m., a ranger showed up and told us he was locking the gates so we had to leave. 

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      On the way back, we stopped at Zydeco’s for some Cajun cookin’.  Everything was outrageous!  We started with a gumbo, then followed with a crab au gratin for me and a BBQ shrimp dish for Paul.  Each of our meals came with a half loaf of French bread brushed with melted butter.  Wow!  After the last two days experiences with poor service and bad food, this was heavenly.

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     While we were driving along the levee, you could see ships behind the mound of grass (the levee) literally in people’s backyards.  The ships stood higher than the houses and you could imagine the levee breaking and the Mississippi River pouring into the area.  Scary.    

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2 March 2014 (Sun) – Watched some of the local news last night.  There was a special about the Edymion Krewe parade that took place during the day (the one we WOULD have seen had we been able to get around the parade).  The organization held their extravaganza in the Superdome.  There were 18,000 attendees, all dressed in formal gowns and tuxedoes.  They lined the parade route as the floats came in through the middle of the crowd.  There were several high school bands playing and the whole thing was led by the New Orleans Motorcycle Police brigade.  There were lights flashing, sirens blaring, bands playing, people yelling, and horns blaring.  It was an incredible cacophony of noise and costumes and color.  The news reporters were trying to yell above the noise.  They were saying that the parade participants ha marched five miles to the dome and were still as fresh as when they started.  Amazing!

      Left for New Orleans a little around 9:30 a.m.  Got to the ferry at Algiers Points without incident (whew!).  It cost $20 to park in a lot that we were told would only cost $10, then had to pay $2 each for the ferry when the website said it was free.  This town can’t seem to get any of its digital information to line up with what is actually happening.  The trolley had a sign saying the cost was $1.25 each and that you had to have exact change.  The gal at the information booth told us they have machines on board the trolleys now and have just not adjusted their signs.

      The ferry ride was all of five minutes (if that).  The exit deposited us on Canal Street.  Harrah’s Casino was right across the street from the ferry depot.  There were people everywhere with all kinds of costumes, beads, ballet skirts, and other colorful paraphernalia.  We stopped in a couple of souvenir shops to find something party-appropriate.  I got a black sequin hat with flashing lights and a colorful crown to put on the hat.  Paul found nothing he liked.  We also picked up a Christmas decoration.

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      We proceeded to walk down the street to the French quarter.  We got to the Court of the Two Sisters and decided to pop in for the Jazz Music brunch.  Things were very confusing.  The gal at the reception desk told us to stand on line – no, wait a minute, wait until the line goes down – no, stand on the line – no, sit down on the bench.  We weren’t asked to pay anything and people were walking past us and getting on the brunch line.  Finally we jumped up and got on the line (which didn’t seem to be moving at all).  I peeked around the corner and saw that we were, indeed, on the brunch line.  No one had asked for any money and I couldn’t see where we were supposed to pay.  A couple walked up to a second reception station.  Asked if they had reservations, they said yes and were shown right in – the waiter didn’t even ask their names.  Greatly aggravated, we left.

      Back on the street again, we discovered there were small parades from local groups taking place aside from the large, scheduled parades.  We walked down to Jackson Square, then up to Decatur Street near Café Dumond.  The line from the café was miles long!  OMG.  We decided to just leave.  Walked back to the ferry and drove back to the base.

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      On the way back, we pulled into The Original New Orleans Breakfast and Pancake House, intending to get some lunch.  There was a woman chatting with another woman who, we thought, was the receptionist.  When five minutes went by and she did not acknowledge us or stop her personal conversation, we figured she was not an employee and turned to the reception station.  There were two women standing there smiling away.  When we asked about getting a table, we were told to wait for the woman who was chatting who was, in fact, the receptionist.  When the woman saw the receptionist was not finishing up her personal conversation, she offered to take us to a table.  A few minutes later, the receptionist appeared at our table to take our order.

      Everything on the menu was eggs and something.  Eggs and steak; eggs and pancakes; eggs and catfish.  I ordered a seafood omelet with smothered hash, and Paul ordered biscuits and gravy with eggs.  We waited over a half hour for our food.  The waitress at the table next to us was telling her customers that they had been overwhelmed with a big order and begged their patience.  There was a table with seven people at it.  That was overwhelming?

       Finally, the waitress brought my food.  Nothing for Paul.  She gave me grits and said the smothered hash was coming.  I never ordered grits.  Ten minutes later, the waitress tending the table next to ours brought Paul’s order.  It looked like they had scraped the bottom of the pot to get what was left of the gravy onto the biscuit.  It didn’t cover half the biscuit and was dried out.  The sausage patties looked like hockey pucks.  The waitress also told us they were out of hash browns – had been for two hours.  Then why did our waitress take our order for them?  Paul pushed the plate aside in disgust and asked our waitress for the check.  She apologized and said she would take his meal off the bill, yet we still paid over $17.  They kept complaining that they had been slammed with orders.  There were five tables with two people each in addition to the one table with seven people.  Two waitresses were serving the tables.  They certainly would not be successful in New York!

1 Mar 2014 (Sat) – Grrrrr.  Wasted three hours sitting in traffic trying to get to the ferry.  We were driving along when we came upon a Mardi Gras parade.  The road was closed and all the side roads were congested with parked cars.  We slowly crept our way down a side street onto a road by the levee, cut across the lower end past the parade route, then tried to head back up towards our destination.  We outsmarted ourselves and found ourselves wedged into a narrow street where people had simply parked their cards in the middle of the road and walked down to watch the parade.  We turned the key off and waited for the parade to pass.  After 45 minutes, we saw some people walking past us and asked if the parade was over.  She said, yes, it was almost over but the parade would be coming back.  Apparently, they loop around and come back down the same parade route. 

      We tried to back down and around, then go back up the narrow street.  It was blocked by a police car and two cars behind him.  A traffic cop appeared and told the two cars to back up.  One of the cars had no reverse gear, so the cop called on the bystanders to help push the car out of the way.  The party revelers, with one hand full of throw downs from the floats and drinks in the other hand, boisterously joined in to push the car to the side of the road.

      We got down the road then had to sit in a long line of cars trying to get out of the side streets.  People were driving the wrong way down one way lanes; they were cutting across a major roadway to jump onto another byway; and driving up and over medians.  It was a mess.

       We finally got through the mess and headed back to the campground.  We were supposed to meet a couple we had met in Mobile, Alabama in the French quarter and have lunch together at 1:30 p.m.  Since we never got to the ferry, we called and cancelled the date.  We came across Lil G’s Kajun Restaurant on the way back to camp and pulled into the parking lot.  We walked in and saw three booths and one table occupied.  We stood at the reception station for 15 minutes.  The waitress passed us four times, and never even acknowledged us.  She did not look at us, nor offer to seat us or tell us to seat ourselves.  We left and posted a very negative evaluation on Trip Advisor.

      After we got back to the campground, we had wine and cheese for lunch while the animals played in the sunshine and grass.  Later, we barbequed steaks for dinner.

28 Feb 2014 (Fri) – Left Hattiesburg, MS, at 10 a.m. and arrived at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Aviation Arbor RV Park in New Orleans, LA, at 2 p.m.  We stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel along the way.  The weather was clear and cool, and the ride was uneventful.

      When we checked in, the clerk overwhelmed us with information about New Orleans and Mardi Gras “stuff.”  The charge is $20 a night; $120 for a week (that makes one night free).  We got full hook-up and the campground is right on the base, two blocks down from the commissary and exchange area.  We are in the heart of the base and right on the other side of the runway.  Can’t wait to watch some of the flights take off and land.

      After we gave Sheba and Bonnie some outside time, we headed over to the commissary to pick up some groceries, then the Class VI store to pick up some wine.  We came back and snacked on wine and cheese while we read all the material Kenny gave us.  Dinner was left-overs.  Called and made a reservation for the Court of the Two Sisters tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.  We should be able to catch a 4 p.m. parade in the French quarter.

MISSISSIPPI (& ALABAMA)

27 Feb 2014 (Thu) – Woke to 29 degrees this morning.  Luckily, it was not raining or snowing.  The news said New York was down in the single digits.  Ouch!

      Took Bonnie and Sheba to the veterinarian today to get required vaccinations.  Bonnie got a bordetella shot and her nails clipped; Sheba got her rabies, distemper, and feline leukemia vaccinations. 

      After dropping Sheba back off at the camper, we took Bonnie with us to the Paul B. Johnson State Park.  The entrance fee was $3 and you were expected to follow the honor system and leave the money in an envelope at the gate.  It was a large, very well kept park with cabins, cottages, and camping right on a big lake.  We drove over an earthen dam and then over a roadway where the lake was spilling over the retaining wall and running across the road to a basin on the other side.  It was freaky!

      We came back to the campground and paid the campground host the camping fee for the three nights we will be here.  It seems like we probably could have just taken off and not paid anything.  The guy never came near us to ask for the money.  We had to seek him out.

      We let Sheba and Bonnie play outside for an hour.  It’s a shame.  This has been a great place for Sheba – lots of space and virtually no one here.  She has had lots of space to run and play in but the weather has been so bad – rainy and cold.  Hope the next place is good for her.

      Paul set up the sewer hose for tomorrow so he wouldn’t have to try to set everything up in the cold.  He also went out after dinner to top off the fuel tank for tomorrow’s drive to New Orleans.  Looking forward to seeing Mardi Gras and family.

26 Feb 2014 (Wed) – Today was cold, rainy, and miserable.  We dressed warmly and drove to the African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg, MS.  It was a small building but well designed.  It used to be a USO building for colored troops during WWII.  The museum suffered damage from a tornado in February 2013 and just finished making repairs to the building this year.  The thrust of the displays was not only to explain the military activities of the times, but also to honor the men and women of Mississippi who served in the armed forces.  We watched a video, looked over displays, and read stories of tremendous heroism.  All in all, it was neat, well laid out, and informative. 

 

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      After the museum, we drove into town, parked the truck, and walked to Mrs. Butta Beans for lunch.  It was a kind of cafeteria set up where we stood in front of a counter and selected food items.  Paul had fried pork chops and I had meatloaf.  The butta beans were actually speckled beans in a kind of sauce.  Very good.

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      We stopped by the visitor’s center and collected some information on the area.  Apparently, there are three attractions to see: mthe Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby (we saw that yesterday), the African American Military History Museum (we saw today), and the Hattiesburg Zoo.  Perhaps we will go to that tomorrow if the weather is more pleasant.

25 Feb 2014 (Tue) – Drove to Hattiesburg, MS, from Biloxi.  It took a little over an hour.  We are in Forrest County RV Park.  The campground has over one hundred sites but there are only five campers here.  There are large pavilions with portable horse stalls in some of them for shows.  It looks like they might have had a show this past weekend. 

      There is a small pond adjacent to the property with a bridge crossing to the other side.  The water is muddy brown and you can’t see what might be in there.  There is a sign that the park is run as a wildlife management area and fishermen were advised of the restriction on how many fish they are allowed to catch.

      After we set up and let the animals play and get acquainted with the area, we drove over to Camp Shelby.  I was here with my Army reserve unit over 30 years ago.  The place has been upgraded significantly and is now called a Joint Forces Training Camp.  There are many new buildings around the camp as well as a campground that was full.  They also have some very nice cabins available to rent.

      We toured the Armed Forces Museum on the camp grounds.  It was a fantastic museum.  It was free, it was well laid out, the director was very friendly, and everything was clean and well kept.  The displays and artifacts covered actions from the civil war right up to today’s war in Afghanistan.  There was equipment not only from American forces, but also from enemy forces – Japan, Germany, Russia, Korea, Iraq.  What impressed us most was that the museum was laid out well and easy to follow.  The history of each conflict was covered thoroughly, objectively, and very comprehensively.  The Battle of the Bulge was given an excellent overview, as was D-Day, and the Korean conflict.  There was a Medal of Honor room to recognize Mississippians who served in the armed forces. 

      Outside were more items on display – helicopters, tanks, personnel carriers, howitzers.  All in all, this was a remarkable collection that paid tribute to members of the armed forces.   The director told us they just got a grant to double the size of the museum.  It would be wonderful to come back and see what they do with it.

24 Feb 2014 (Mon) – Drove to Dauphin Island in Alabama to tour Fort Gaines.  It was quite a luxurious fort for its day.  There was a bakery with four ovens and a kitchen with another six ovens.  There were ramparts with canon emplacements and tunnels from the outer walls to inner areas of the fort.  There was even a 10-seat latrine that was cleaned out twice a day when the tides came in and washed everything away.  There was a blacksmith forging a decorative piece out of a horseshoe.  We took a seat and peppered him with questions while he wielded his hammer, chisel, and punch.  The piece was so nicely made that we bought it.  It was a horseshoe with a horse’s head on one end and a horse’s tail on the other.  All made out of iron.

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      We left the fort and drove along the beach.  You could see oil drilling rigs out on the bay.  Sure would like to tour one of those rigs.  Unfortunately, ever since 9/11 security is extremely tight and nobody can get on the rig who doesn’t work there.

      We drove along an Alabama scenic byway.  There were many poor, dilapidated houses with junk all over the yards.  In between the houses were large tracts of land with scrubby pine trees and swamp.  We could not understand why Alabama would designate that roadway a scenic byway.

      We stopped at a Mexican restaurant called Aztecs.  It was very nicely decorated for Mardi Gras, as well as culturally.  The food was excellent and the bill was really cheap.  We enjoyed it very much.  Unfortunately, the tables on the outside veranda had not been cleaned off and there was garbage blowing around the patio.  It really detracted from the place.

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      We got back to the campground and spent almost an hour skyping with Paul’s sister, Joan.

 23 Feb 2014 (Sun) – It rained off and on all night and day.  After lunch, we rode over to the commissary and did some shopping.  After we returned, we did some laundry.  Took the dog over to an area of the campground where she could run off leash.  Unfortunately, she found a puddle and managed to cover herself in mud.  Paul put on his swimsuit and washed Bonnie off with the outside shower hose.  What a mess!

      We love going on a military base.  You see license plates from all over the place.  We’ve seen Alaska, Hawaii, the US Virgin Island, and Guam.  We even saw one from the United Kingdom.  It kind of reminds you of all the places there are to see yet.

22 Feb 2014 (Sat) – Drove to Mobile, Alabama, to tour the Oakleigh House.  Stopped at Cracker Barrel on the way to have breakfast.  The house was interesting to see although it was very difficult to find.  It was the only one in its day to have an outside, winding, free-standing staircase.  The home owners were quite wealthy and it was interesting to see the extra touches the rich added to their homes back then.  There was also a home of a middle income mason next door.  We were able to see the contrast between the very rich and the moderately rich in how they furnished and decorated their homes.

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      We then drove into town to look for a place for lunch.  We ran into the police setting up for a parade and wound up being directed into a parking lot where they charged $10 to park.  We parked and followed everybody to the parade route.  It was still 45 minutes before the 2 p.m. parade was due to start, so we decided to walk along the route looking for something to drink.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any bars.  We finally decided on a vantage point and took up point.  The family standing next to us was very friendly and we learned some interesting facts about the parade.  For instance, the barricades run the entire length of the parade route.  We witnessed several people jump over the barricades to grab up some of the stuff they were throwing off the floats.  Suddenly a police car drove up and took the mother into custody.  Her young son kept jumping into the street to pick up stuff and they were arresting her for his behavior.  The fine is $250 for breaching the barricade.  Ouch!

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      The first parade was sponsored by the Mobile Mystics and their theme was Hollywood.  Their floats were decorated for different movies.  They were throwing all kinds of things off the floats – the typical beads, moon pies, stuffed animals, toys, mints, ice cream sandwiches, Frisbees, commemorative cups, and special coins.  The noise of the yelling, horns blowing, and whistles blaring was near deafening.  The stuff was flying fast and furious and you had to watch out you didn’t did hit in the face or head.  There was a guy next to me who kept reaching out in front of me to grab throw outs.  I gave up trying to catch anything since he kept snatching the stuff away from me.

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      The debris left in the wake of the parade was incredible.  There were broken beads, discarded plastics, and other items that were run over by the floats as they rode by.  There was a group of young men who followed at the back of the parade who are supposed to clean up the streets and get them ready for the next parade.  They really just looked like a line of prisoners following the parade who weren’t really doing much.

     We cut across a courtyard and went into the Royal Scam, a pub and grill, for lunch.  They had a white bean soup with sausage and kale that was delicious.  When we were done, we made our way back to the truck and returned to Mississippi.

21 Feb 2014 (Fri) – A big thunderstorm blew in about 2 a.m. this morning and carried on for three hours.  The first thunder boom literally lifted me out of bed.  Paul was sitting up and said it sounded like a lightning strike hit right behind the camper.  The poor cat disappeared right after the first thunder notes and didn’t reappear until it was all over.  When we got up this morning, the temperature was in the high 50s but a brisk, cold wind was blowing in from the water.

      We drove over to the AFB auto hobby shop at 12 noon to do an oil change on the truck.  While Paul did the oil change, I walked over to the post office to mail off tax documents to our accountant for our income taxes.  This is the first year we are on the road when our taxes are supposed to be filed.  Hope it all works out OK.

      After the oil change, we drove over to the coliseum to see the boat and RV show.  It was mostly boats.  We walked in and out of campers, but didn’t find anything we were really impressed with.  Many of the boats were quite interesting.  Paul spent some time talking to a salesman about kayaks.  Hmmmmm.  I think he is interested in getting one (or two) kayaks.

      Went to Shady’s for lunch.  This place has two and three smokers going all the time outside the restaurant.  The smells always get your mouth watering.  We finally stopped for lunch.  It was very good.

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We drove along the gulf drive after lunch, looking over all the lots for sale and the deserted or destroyed buildings.  After nine years, you can see they are still hurting from Hurricane Katrina.  It looks like the beach is open to the general public – none of it is privately owned.  Unlike New York, where you can’t seem to find a place to get on the beach without trespassing on somebody’s property.

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      Returned to the campground around 5 p.m.  Took Bonnie for a walk over by the pond.  Most of the geese and ducks, as well as the muskrats, were gone.  Wonder if the storm last night chased them away.  Fed the muskrats peanuts but they didn’t like them.  Tried bread and they gobbled it up.  Who knew?

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20 Feb 2014 (Thu) – Drove to WalMart and picked up supplies to do an oil change on the truck.  Picked up a few other things and continued on our way. 

      Went to the AFB to use the auto hobby shop to change the oil in the truck.  The sign said the shop didn’t open till noon Thursday thru Sunday, and it was only 10:30 a.m.  We walked over to where the map said the ITT office was but it was no longer there.  We stopped in the arts & crafts center and they told us the ITT office moved to the BX complex.  We drove over there and checked in at the ITT office to find out what attractions there are in the area to see and if there are any discount tickets available to them.  Turns out most of the attractions are closed for the winter – what’s the sense of snow birding to this area in the winter? – and they really had no discount tickets available for much of anything.

      We drove back to the auto hobby shop, but it was still too early, so we went to the car wash nearby and washed the truck.  We finished at 11:30 a.m. so we just sat in front of the auto hobby office waiting for it to open at noon.  At 12:15 p.m., the office was still not open so we walked over to the arts & crafts center to see if they knew why the shop was not open.  The employee told us they are only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  She gave them a new sign to put up but, apparently, they did not post the revised operating days.  We will be sure to let them know tomorrow how aggravating their incorrectly posted sign is appreciated.

      We drove over to the Imperial Palace, a casino on the bay.  We signed up for the player cards and got a ticket for a free lunch buffet.  We had lunch then played on the machines for two hours.  We wound up walking away $45 richer then when we entered the casino.

      On the way back, we parked in the Biloxi Elks Lodge #606 and walked into the median on beach Drive to take pictures of some wood sculptures.  When Hurricane Katrina hit Biloxi, it destroyed many homes and businesses.  It also killed off a lot of the trees along the coastline.  A prominent artist spent three years carving birds and fish out of the dead trees.  His sculptures span 40 miles of the coastline.

       We walked back to the Elks Lodge and went in for a visit.  They had a very nice lounge and bar.  We had a drink and chatted with the folks at the bar.  They serve a lunch every day for just $5 and have bingo on Saturdays.

       We finished up and returned to the campground.  Fed the animals and then took Bonnie for a walk along a nearby creek/pond.  The water had loads of geese and ducks swimming around.  We spotted a furry head in the water and stopped to investigate.  It turned out there is a community of muskrats that live in the pond.  I tried baiting them with dog treats but they didn’t eat them.

20 Feb 2014 (Wed) – Went to Beauvoir, final home of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States.  It was quite interesting to see the grandeur of the house, and to hear the story of Jefferson Davis.  He had six children – only one lived to marry and have children.  He was captured at the end of the war and imprisoned for two years.  The federal government never wanted to try him because the issue of the secession of the southern states was actually legal as the constitution was written.  Not wanting to tackle that sticky wicket, they just released Davis and let him return to his family.  There was a national confederate cemetery at the back of the property with a tomb of the unknown confederate soldier. 

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       After the tour of the home, we drove down the gulf shore road.  There were many lots for sale.  We came across the Biloxi Visitor’s Center and stopped in.  Wow!  What an elegant building for an information site.  The building was two stories high.  You walked into two huge rooms, each with Mardi Gras costumes displayed.  We looked through some historic items, then walked up a carpeted staircase to a second floor theater that was playing a video about the impact of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Biloxi was very badly impacted and many homes and businesses were wiped out.  Everywhere we went, you heard people talking about the impact of the hurricane and their work on recovery.  Beauvoir was badly damaged, and the tour guide kept describing pieces of furniture and other artifacts that were lost in the storm.

      As we were driving along, we came across the Edgewater Mall.  Went in and looked around.  I bought a stun gun.  We finished poking around Biloxi and returned to the campground around 4:30 p.m.  Barbecued a steak for dinner, then watched the Olympics.

19 Feb 2014 (Tue) – Left Pensacola, Florida, at 10:35 a.m. in a heavy fog.  Drove the two and a half hours to Keesler Air Force Base (AFB) FamCamp to arrive at a little after 1 p.m.  After setting up and giving the animals a chance to acclimate, we drove over to the base to scope it out.  The road follows right alongside the runway and there is no fence keeping the pedestrians out.  There is a running track that parallels the runway as well.  There is a sign at the entrance into the roadway that says if the lights are flashing red, do not enter the roadway.  The flight path comes in right over the bay and the roadway.  It’s crazy!

      We picked up a few things at the commissary, then went to the Express Class VI store to pick up some wine.  We enjoy going on the military bases as we travel.  We have seen license plates from all across America including the Virgin Islands (US), Guam, Hawaii, and Alaska.  It seems weird that all the places you want to go to, those people are down here visiting our area.  Don’t they know how beautiful they have it in the Midwest and west coast?  Guess we always want something more.

      Drove back to the campground, had dinner, then watched the Olympics.

FLORIDA

17 Feb 2014 (Mon) – Went back to the Santa Rosa Island, Gulf Islands National Seashore.  Paul wanted to visit the Naval Live Oaks Area.  Back in the day (when ships were made out of wood), the government set up a federal forest for shipbuilding.  The Live Oak is a dense wood that withstands canon fire.  In addition, the trees have naturally curved and bent branches.  This made it easier to cut wood to fit ship forms without having to forcefully shape the timbers.  There are really no live oaks left of the forest – a tree here or there among the bramble.  They use fiberglass and metal on today’s ships.  A picture in the visitor’s center showed a live oak that was just humongous.  It looked like it was wider than taller, and it looked like it stood about a quarter mile high.

      We drove back into Pensacola Bay to return to the historic village but it turns out they are closed on Mondays.  We walked around, looking for a place to have lunch, but most restaurants were also closed.  Probably only pays to be open when the tourists are there.  We finally found a place and ate, then walked back to the truck.  We came across a park with a beautiful collection of live oaks intertwined over the walkway.  They weren’t as large as the picture we saw, but they were still quite impressive.

      Went to the base commissary to get some groceries then returned to the campground.  Did some laundry.  Went down to the beach to take some pictures of the sunset.  Returned home and began packing up for tomorrow’s move.

16 Feb 2014 (Sun) – Spent the day hanging out around the camper.  Let the cat out almost all day long.  She is sleeping well tonight.

15 Feb 2014 (Sat) – Got a real feel for Mardi Gras today.  Drove to Mobile, Alabama, to visit the Mobile Medical Museum.  It was a small place, but quite interesting.  Being the curious folks we are, we were familiar with a lot of the items on display and the procedures of past medical practices.  There were two plaster of paris forms showing the inside of a human being – a French man with mustache, goatee, and eyelashes.  It was creepy!  We were able to share some information we picked up along the way, and the exchange made the tour much more enjoyable.  The museum director took our picture and posted it on Facebook.

      Then we headed over to the Mobile Carnival Museum.  That was a jaw-dropping experience!  It was a great education on Mardi Gras:  how it started, and what it means to the people in the area.  They say there are only three seasons in Mobile:  football season, hurricane season, and Mardi Gras season.  Mardi Gras is actually catholic based and originally started in Mobile, not New Orleans like everyone thinks.  There are two organizations that host a Bal Masque (masked ball).  They are made up of the very wealthy of the old south – one group is composed of wealthy black folks, and one group is made up of wealthy white folks.  They each elect a queen and king, with a court of 18 ladies and knights, and several pages (boys about 6 years old).  They dress in the most elaborate costumes I’ve ever seen.  And all the sparkles on the trains are Austrian crystals, not sequins.  The trains are only worn for the event that year then retired.  Daughters and granddaughters will use parts of their mother’s/grandmother’s train to make their own, making it a family tradition.  The trains on display were just eye-popping – in color and in cost.  The guide said each train costs between the value of a new Chevrolet and a brand new Mercedes 360 with all the accessories.  Add to that the outfits, the parties, the crown, the scepter, etc.  There are massive amounts of money spent on this throughout the year.

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      There are 65 krewes (organizations – also called mystic societies) that host parades during Mardi Gras, and parties all year long.  Each krewe has a parade theme, and a new theme is chosen every year.  Each parade has at least 18 floats.  Multiply the 18 floats (and more) by 65 krewes and you get an idea how big this business is in the area.  The people on the floats are all throwing beads, toys, stuffed animals, and moon pies (a southern favorite) as they travel the parade route.  You have to watch out.  They are flinging these things out and you don’t want to get hit in the face or head.  The stuff is flying through the air and you can barely catch them before the next thing is flying at you.  And all the while, the crowd is cheering and screaming, the bands are playing, and horns are blaring.  It is a cacophony of noise and color and sound.

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      After the parade, we walked over to Dauphin Street to look for something to eat.  All the restaurants were closed and all the bars (of which there were many) were full of party-goers.  People were walking up and down the street with glasses of beer and other drinks.

      We came across a beautiful church that is the Archdiocese of Mobile called the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  We snuck inside to take a look.  It was gorgeous.  The stained glass told the story of Jesus’ mother, Mary, and how she was involved in his life.  There were stairs spiraling downstairs that led to a crypt.  Former rectors were buried in the wall, set in a beautiful room of marble.  There were six chairs facing the front of a small altar.

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      We couldn’t find a restaurant so we stopped at a food place along the parade route.  I got chick-on-a-stick and Paul got a Polish sausage.  We returned to the truck and drove back to Pensacola.  We arrived just in time to watch the sunset.  Then we returned to the camper where we watched the Olympics for the rest of the night.

14 Feb 2014 (Fri) – Happy Valentine’s Day!  Went to Historic Pensacola Village today.  Driving down some of the streets, some buildings had the same balcony with wrought iron railings that they have in New Orleans.  The French influence is evident here.  The historic village is about four blocks wide by one block long and has old buildings in the area.  We saw houses built in the 1700 and 1800s and a church that was refurbished by the Pensacola Historical Society.  The history of the area is so fascinating.  Spain settled here first; the French chased them out; Spain took it back; the British took the city; Spain took it back during the American Revolution; the confederate states claimed it; and, finally, Florida joined the USA.  They have a Fiesta of the Five Flags every year to commemorate their history.  Also, this area was one of the most liberal in the nation and both free blacks and escaped slaves poured into the area.  There is quite a mix of ethnicities here – Seminole Indians, Spanish, French, British, African Americans, and southern whites.  And many of them have inter-married over the years.

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      We then walked over to the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Museum.  Mr. Wentworth was a collector of artifacts and historical items.  He had a collection of over 150,000 pieces that he turned over to the State of Florida.  The building is three stories tall and full of his items.  There was one whole room just devoted to Coca-Cola items.  The top floor had an exhibit on alligators (not a Wentworth artifact).  The museum was not as captivating a collection as the one in Vermont.

      We went to the Oar House for lunch.  It was a delightful place – very much designed as a summer café.  The walls of the room we sat in all open up in the summer.  There is a grass roof, and wooden framing inside and out on the patios.  There were all kinds of decorations, including a pelican sculpture.  All over this town, we have been seeing pelican sculptures.  It is like other towns that had sculptures of whales, planes, cows, and horses.  An artsy display.

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      We drove to Joe Patti’s.  They sell fresh fish.  It was a huge counter with all kinds of fish laid out.  It was a veritable indoor fish market.  The place was unbelievably packed.  We took number 39 when they were calling number 8.  Paul got on the line while I waited for our number to be called (this gives you an idea of how long the line was).  They went quickly and I got my order in less than five minutes and joined Paul on line, who had to step aside because he had reached the register area before I got to him.  There were five registers going.  We bought a pound of fresh flounder and a loaf of sourdough bread, which is supposed to be the best in town.  It was delicious!  We bought a bag of six beignets.  We each had one, and gave the rest to the receptionist at the campground.

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      On the way back to the campground, we came upon a Veterans Memorial Park.  We stopped to look at it.  There was a replica of the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.  Three sculptures were spread around the park – one devoted to all service people, one for Vietnam, and one for Korea.  At the end of the park we spotted another park across the street right on the bay.  It was a National Memorial for Missing Children.  Intrigued, we walked across the street to look at it.  It was a pier that went out to the shoreline with a platform.  A sculpture sat in the middle of the platform with parents and a child under a large pair of hands.  Around the sides were posted pictures of different children that are missing.  Their names and the dates of their disappearance printed on them. 

      We walked down to the beach to watch the sunset but the clouds were too low to pick up the colors.  Walked back to the camper, had dinner, and watched the Olympics.

13 Feb 2014 (Thu) – Went back to the National Museum of Naval Aviation today.  Wow, what a place!  There were so many things – special touches – that made the displays wonderful.  This place is definitely better than the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.  It has many of the actual planes that performed missions from WWI through to Desert Storm.  There were displays for dirigibles, float planes, biplanes, jet fighters and bombers, helicopters, and space vehicles.  There was a set up to make you feel you were actually inside an aircraft carrier and another to replicate a 1940s town in Alabama – complete with the smell of ginger snap cookies baking.  And the best thing about the whole museum was that you were allowed to touch just about everything.  There were several cockpits you could climb into, and cut-aways of planes and engines to look at.  It was absolutely fabulous.

      Finished up about 3 p.m. and returned to the campground.  Let the dog and cat outside to enjoy the sunshine.  The temperature got up to 58 degrees today.  Everything is drying out nicely.  Watched the Olympics tonight.  It is so amazing what these folks put their bodies through.  Such talent!  So sorry for the Russian ice skater whose back problems made him withdraw from competition.  At least he won a gold and helped his team win gold.

12 Feb 2014 (Wed) – Woke to heavy rain.  Put on our raincoats and new hiking boots (we stopped at Pro Bass Shops yesterday and bought waterproof hiking boots), then drove to the National Museum of Naval Aviation.  The place seemed to be more crowded than this weekend!  I guess everyone thought a rainy day was a good time to go to the museum.

      We took a one and a half hour tour with a guide who walked us around the main floor, stopping at certain planes and giving us a wonderful description of their history.  The best story was about the Sopwith Camel.  They used castor oil on the engine and the pilots had to cover their faces because the oil would fly back into the open cockpit and get in their mouths.  The pilots ate a diet rich in cheese to offset the effects of the castor oil.  We barely touched everything on the first floor.  This place is huge!

      At 1 p.m., we took a trolley tour of the flight line.  There were about 70 planes of varying vintage parked out there.  The tour guide drove back and forth before the planes, stopping at selected points to talk about a particular aircraft.  He spoke too fast and had a strong southern accent, which made it very hard to understand him.  I missed about three-quarters of what he said.

      We left the museum and drove to Captain Joey Patti’s Seafood Restaurant for lunch.  It was a real local dive and everything on the menu was fried.  Paul had a combo plate and I ordered plain, grilled chicken.  The place was humming with people.  It’s very popular.

      We stopped by a CVS and bought some Valentine’s Day items, then went to the post office to mail them off.  Finally, we returned to the campground.

11 Feb 2014 (Tue) – Woke to a rainy, cold day.  The wind was biting, making it feel much colder than it was.  We drove over the border to Mobile, Alabama to Battleship Memorial Park.  The battleship USS Alabama and submarine USS Drum, as well as several aircraft, were on display. 

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      The USS Alabama had three self-guided tours: two were below deck (one forward and one aft) and the third was above deck.  We started with the below deck forward part of the ship tour, then followed with the below deck stern of the ship, and a little of above deck wanderings.  What a great experience!  We were able to poke around just about everywhere on the ship.  We climbed up stairways, we climbed down stairways, we wandered into rooms, and we investigated passageways.  The ship had so many activities that you would not expect to find on a battleship – bakery, cleaners, tailor, print shop, movie film room, barber shop, and diving rig.  The ship also had two floatplanes they used as spotters and sub killers.  We were able to go deep into the bowels of the ship below the engine room.  We also got to see all three levels of the gun turret – the only battleship on display that lets visitors do that.  We spent three hours wandering that battleship.

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      Next was the USS Drum.  The submarine was out of the water and on stanchions.  There was a great deal of damage to the hull and renovations were taking place.  We climbed in the hatch leading to the forward torpedo room and exited the after torpedo room.  The sub was a lot roomier than other submarines we have been on.  They said this is the oldest submarine on display, but we think we have seen older ones.  There were some things on the sub that were unexpected – extras like an ice cream station, a mess hall area, and a control room on top of the central control room (two levels in the center of the boat).  Like the battleship, we were allowed to climb all over and around the submarine.

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      There was also a large building with aircraft from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam on display.  There were a couple of videos playing around the facility.  A simulator stood in the corner that you could pay to ride on that was supposed to be simulate take off from an aircraft carrier.  We did not do that.

      We left the park at 4:30 p.m., spent and very satisfied with the day.  We stopped at Felix’s Fish Camp for dinner.  The outside looked something like the Oak Beach Inn used to look like.  The outside had a corrugated tin roof and peeling paint.  Inside, though, was a wonderful area.  We were seated at a table overlooking Mobile Bay.  The entire wall facing the bay was filled with windows.  Unfortunately, the day was gray and drizzly but the view was still captivating.  The meal was delicious – the crab bisque was outrageous! 

       We returned to the camper, fed the animals, walked the dog, talked with our son and his fiancé and  then watched the Olympics.  The luge was phenomenal!

10 Feb 2014 (Mon) – Took it easy today.  While Paul washed the truck and trailer, I played with the animals.  Sheba really enjoyed the extra time outside.  There were only a couple of clouds in the sky this morning but by this evening, the skies are overcast and rain threatens.

      Drove over to the Navy Exchange and picked up a cat toy, a blouse, and a box of wine.  Then went over to the commissary and picked up some groceries.  The campground is about 14 miles away from the base.

      Came back to the camper, put away the groceries, and went off to play disc golf.  This is a game of 18 stations that is played with frisbees.  You “tee” off and then make your way down the course to the final point which consists of a large basket with chains to help catch the frisbee and deposit it in the basket.

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      Afterward, Paul grilled dinner on the BBQ, we did some laundry, then watched the Olympics.  It was a laid back, easy day.  Delightful!

9 Feb 2014 (Sun) – Left at 9:45 a.m. to drive the 45 minutes to Fort Pickens, the fourth part of the defensive network built to protect the Pensacola Bay.  We drove over a causeway that had a sign posted that said it was a long bridge and to check your gas level.  It was not that long.  It just must be that a lot of people run out of gas on the bridge, for some reason.

      The causeway took us to Santa Rosa Island.  We drove through the towns of Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach.  VERY beachie towns.  It reminded us of Dune Road in the Hamptons or Atlantique on Fire Island.  Both towns had loads of colorful buildings, bars, restaurants, and hotels. 

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      Finally, we came to the Gulf Islands National Seashore.  Our golden pass saved us $6 on the entrance fee to the park.  That pass has already paid for itself and we are now making money on it.  Cool.  As we drove along the narrow island road, we came across a battery of two cannons.  We got out and climbed up into the dunes to look things over.  While we shuffled through the bramble and brush on top of the dune, we spotted an armadillo rooting around in the bushes.  As we stood and watched, it came out of the bushes completely into the clear so we could get a good look at it.  It seemed not the least bit fazed by our presence.  It was delightful to see up close!  I tried to touch it but it scooted away.  They really can move fast.

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      We climbed back down from the dune and continued our drive to Fort Pickens.  It was a massive fort.  Built similarly like Fort Barancas and Advanced Redoubt, there were tunnels and arches and cannon emplacements and so on.  The difference, unfortunately, is that this place has not been given the loving attention of the others.  There were stalactites and stalagmites growing in the darkest, moist places.  Many places were crumbling and discolored.  But very little of the fort was off limits to exploring.  Love that!

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      After Fort Pickens, we drove over to look at more gun batteries along the shoreline.  There were a total of nine batteries.  They seemed so incongruous nestled into the dunes of the whitest sand and blue green waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  We stopped at a small pavilion and walked along the beach.  The water was much colder than we expected but it sure was clear.

     We drove into Pensacola Beach and had lunch at Flounder’s Chowder House.  It was quite an interesting place.  It had a big shrimp boat in front of the restaurant, and a giant clam in the hallway.  The place had a big outdoor patio, another patio area that was enclosed in glass that could be opened up, and an indoor area.  The place was huge.  There was a performer playing a fiddle along with some canned music that sounded really good.  Some lady from the audience jumped up on stage and sang a couple of songs with him.  It was so much like our friend, Laurie.

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      We drove back to the base looking for fuel but the gas station was closed (it’s Sunday).  We returned to the campground and spent the evening watching the Olympics.  Love those ice skaters!

8 Feb 2014 (Sat) – We went back to the Advanced Redoubt for the 11 a.m. Park Ranger led tour.  What an amazing story!  The redoubt was going to be a fort; part of a defensive network of coastal defenses on the Pensacola Bay.  It was built between 1845 and 1870.  Before they fully completed it, it was obsolete.  The fort was never opened and never named so it was never officially called a fort.  The redoubt is remarkably well preserved.  We were able to walk into the redoubt over a moat, to stand in the center parade field, and go down the tunnels into the scarp and the counter scarp.  We even passed a couple of tiny bats sleeping on the ceiling in one of the tunnels.  The craftsmanship was remarkable, considering it was all built by slave labor.

      We then drove over to the National Museum of Naval Aviation.  It was huge!  Since we wanted to go to the 2 p.m. tour of Fort Barancas (another fort in the defensive network), we only had about two hours to look around.  We started on the second floor, then made our way down to the Cubi Bar Café for lunch.  There used to be an Officers’ Club at Naval Air Station Cubi Point in the Philippines where Navy and Marine Corps units gave plaques to the club to hang up when their deployments were over. When that place closed in 1979, they donated all the plaques and emblems adorning their walls to the Naval Aviation Institute.  They were considered items of historical significance, so they replicated the club in the Cubi Bar Café.  It was very pleasant, although the food was kind of bland.

      At 2 p.m. we arrived at the Ranger led tour of Fort Barancas.  Another fascinating place!  The Spanish built a Water Battery in 1787 which the U.S. added to by building the fort.  We so enjoyed being able to explore almost every part of the fort – the tunnels, the parade field, the powder magazines, the guard room – all of it.  So many places have major areas closed off because they don’t want wear and tear to ruin the facility.  This place was wonderfully preserved and in excellent condition.

      Next on the docket was the Pensacola Lighthouse & Museum.  (All of these places are located right on the Navy base.)  The lighthouse is the longest continuously working lighthouse in the U.S.  It is still working.  After we climbed up the tower (177 steps of spiral stairs), the light was on and turning.  The view was spectacular.  The sign said you could see for 27 miles from the top.  I’d say you could see all the way to the horizon where the earth curved.

      Returned to the RV, had dinner, and skyped with our grandson and his mom.  The rest of the night was spent watching the Olympics.  What talent!  Just love the ice skating.

 7 Feb 2014 (Fri) – Reveille sounded at 6:30 a.m. right outside the window.  Ugh.  Got up at 7 a.m., had breakfast, then packed up to leave.

      The ride was almost four hours long.  We left Panama City at 9:30 a.m. and arrived at Blue Angel Recreation Area & RV Park in Pensacola, Florida at 1:10 p.m.  It turns out that there is a campground on the base and one off the base.  Paul wanted to stay on the base but we wound up going to the off-base campground.  The clerk called over to see if there was any space available over there, but there wasn’t.  We signed in and drove over to our area.  This campground is divided into two parts – Battleship Row and Anchors Cove.  Battleship Row has full hookups so we chose that at $20 a night.  Anchors Cove has electric and water, but no sewer and is $13 a night.  If we were staying only a few days, we’d go there.  But since we are staying here a week, we took the full hookup. 

      The campground is right on Pensacola Bay.  We did not take the front row looking at the bay because we felt the wind coming off the bay might be cold.  We took a spot in the middle of the campground.  The site has a concrete pad, a picnic table, and small bushes on both sides.  We think this is a new campground, only built in the last year or two.

      After we got set up, we drove over to the base.  As we were driving along, we passed what we thought was an old fort so we pulled over to take a look.  It turned out to be an Advanced Redoubt.  It was huge!  Most redoubts we have seen are little more than fortified dirt mounds meant to delay the attacking force.  This redoubt had fall back points, a moat, overlapping fields of fire for muskets, cannons, and underground tunnels.  The only way to overtake this place would be to conduct a siege.

      There was a sign saying a tour of the redoubt would be given Saturdays at 11 a.m.  We drove over to the visitor center to confirm the day and time but it was closed.  The same sign that was at the Advanced Redoubt was posted at the visitor center.

      We drove over to the campground on base to see what it looked like.  It was much older, and not all had sewer hookups, but they were full.  I think there were about 50 campsites.  We then stopped at a place called CashSaver – a food store that sells everything at 10% over cost.  We picked up milk and wine (what a combination), then returned to our camper.  Had dinner then spent the night watching the Olympics.

      I had not been able to sign onto the Internet for two days.  When I checked the records, I found that the monthly payments for the Internet access and the DISH Satellite service were both on autopay.  When our credit card was compromised and cancelled, I forgot to contact those merchants.  I called and gave them another credit card number.  Service has been restored and all is good.

 6 Feb 2014 (Thu) – Man, it was cold today!  It never got past 47 degrees and it was rainy off and on all day.  Sure glad we threw the electric blanket back on the bed last night.  Sorry we took the flannel sheets off.  Thought we wouldn’t need either of these until we hit Alaska.  We were wrong.

      The base call to wake up came blaring over the loudspeaker right outside our bedroom window at 6:15 a.m. this morning.  The fighter jets starting screaming overhead a little after 7 a.m.  We were surprised they started so early.  Guess the residents in the area don’t complain.

      Left for Panama City Beach at 9:30 a.m.  Went to the Man in the Sea Museum.  What a great place!  They had underwater everything – breathing apparatuses, various types of equipment and machinery, pictures, and videos.  There was a fascinating video about underwater cave diving that surprised me when they found the remains of a mastodon (giant prehistoric elephant) inside one of the caves.  There was another video playing about the Sea Lab project that the astronauts trained in back in the 60s.  There were three Sea Labs before the program was discontinued in the early 1970s.  The only criticism I have is that the museum, while well thought out and extremely comprehensive and inclusive, was kind of rundown and seedy.  They need an infusion of money to perhaps put the displays in a bigger building and refresh all the outdoor displays.  They were covered with rust and the descriptive signs were faded.

      We left the museum and drove down the old route 98 into Panama City Beach Pier Park.  They sure do like their colorful buildings!  It reminded us of Aruba.  There was a partly completed mall like the Tanger Mall in Deer Park – all outdoor.  With the rainy weather today, they didn’t have many customers shopping at the stores.  We went over to the IMAX 16 movie theater to see what was playing.  It was only noon and the first movie we could get into didn’t start until 1:30 p.m. 

      We left to have lunch at the Olive Garden.  The service was really slow.  The general manager came over, apologized for the long wait, and gave us 25% off the bill.  The other day when we ate at the Bonefish Grill, there was a delay in taking our order.  That manager came over, apologized, and gave us a card for free Bang Bang Shrimp.  I guess slow service is a big issue down here.

      We went to the movies and saw “Lone Survivor.”  It was a great movie and a wonderful tribute to the men who lost their lives during the mission.  They kind of exaggerated some things – I would say it was for entertainment’s sake – but the story was compelling and the scenery breathtaking.

      The movie was over at 3:45 p.m. and we drove back to the campground in the rain.  We got back at 5 p.m.  Walked the dog, fed the animals, tried to get on the internet but couldn’t get a signal.  It didn’t make sense because we were able to get on yesterday as well as this morning.

      The base played the Star Spangled Banner over the monster loudspeaker at 6 p.m.  We had dinner then watched the first games of the Olympics.  The base played taps over the loudspeaker at 10 p.m.

 5 Feb 2014 (Wed) – Got up, packed up, had breakfast, then hit the road for Panama City.  It was almost a 3-hour ride through occasional rain showers to Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB) FamCamp.  This is a winter campground for snow birds.  They have a large community center with lots of planned activities.  Many of the folks we spoke with have been coming here for 10 to 15 years.  They spend the winter here and then return to various places around the country, including Nebraska and Alaska!

      We did our laundry.  The machines were just $0.75 each.  Aside from the free machines we experienced elsewhere, this was pretty cheap.  After we finished the laundry, we took a ride around the base.  There was a park with four jet fighters on the plaza with descriptions of what type aircraft they were and for how long they were flown at the base.  There were flags flying for all 50 states and plaques in dedication to different people in the area.  It was quite nice.

      Tyndall AFB has recently been designated as a training base for F-22 Raptors.  They were screaming by all day long about every 15 to 30 minutes.  The poor cat was so stressed, she hid in the closet.  When they flew by, the jets rattled the windows and you had to shout to be heard over the noise. 

       After dinner, we went to the activity center and played darts.  Then we walked over to the common area and sat around the fire pit.  It is a screened-in pavilion with a pit in the center of the room with a chimney running up out of the center of the roof.  The fire was burning brightly and about a dozen people were sitting around the circle exchanging stories about their various trips around the world.

      Had to turn the clocks back one hour today.  We are now in the Central Time Zone.

 4 Feb 2014 (Tue) – Woke to a foggy day.  Paul took some gorgeous pictures of the area.

      After breakfast, we worked around the camper a little then went to the Florida Capital State Park.  It is closed Tuesday and Wednesday.  We drove into town to see the historic buildings.  Perry used to be a big deal in its heyday, but today there are many businesses closed or abandoned.  It seemed like we drove by motel after motel that was boarded up.  Someone told us that the main route changed and many of the businesses moved over there.  The historic district was all of two blocks long.  It was over before we really got started.

      Decided to drive over to the shore and have lunch there.  If anyone is afraid the country is overpopulated, all they have to do is come down here to Florida and drive off the beaten path. There are forests waiting to be culled (paper mills are a main industry), ranches with cattle or horses grazing, and large, swampy, uninhabited areas.  There were many dilapidated shacks with garbage on the lawns and fences falling down.  We never found a restaurant – the waterfronts of the towns we drove through were not developed.  Back home, they would be worth a lot of money and have loads of condos surrounding the shoreline.

      Drove back to town and stopped back at the Chamber of Commerce to get more information.  The clerk was surprised to hear that the museum and park were closed.  She said the old homestead display was open even though the museum was closed.  We were really interested in looking at a Florida Cracker homestead so we went back to the museum.  There was a fence all the way around the homestead, so we didn’t really think it was open but we climbed over the fence anyway.  Most of the buildings were locked up so we couldn’t look inside.  The homestead was supposed to represent the homes of early settlers from Spain in the 1500s.  The house was on stilts and built with mud and wood planks.  There was a smoke house, a chicken pen, an outhouse, and a few other unidentifiable buildings.

      We discovered a veterans memorial park in town.  They spent a LOT of money on this thing!  There were pillars for each war from WWI through to the Gulf War, and a blank space with a sign saying it was reserved for future use.  There were granite stones with the names of everyone in town who served in the military carved in the stone, along with the conflict they served in and the years they served.

      We came back to the camper.  At 5:30 p.m., we walked over to the Elks Lodge thinking they would be serving dinner.  We were wrong.  The bar was open so Paul had a couple of beers.  There were all of four people in the bar.  We returned to the RV and had dinner, then skyped with our son, his fiancé, and grandson.  Man!  They are just getting pounded by winter storms.  Sure glad we left when we did.

3 Feb 2014 (Mon) – The day started with a light fog around the campground.  It was lovely.  We finished packing up and drove over to the SmartWeigh station to get our rig re-weighed.  After days of giving away stuff and redistributing the weight around the camper, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference in the weight.  Paul is scratching his head and trying to figure out a solution.

      Left at 9:45 a.m. and drove to Perry, Florida.  We are staying on the lawn next to an Elks Lodge.  They have electric and water hook-ups for 20 RVs.  The place was closed and there is no one else camping here.  It’s kind of funny.  We just pulled up and parked on the lawn next to the lodge.

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      After we parked and set up, we drove into town to see what there is to see.  We found a Chamber of Commerce and picked up some tourist pamphlets.  Had lunch at a small café.  Returned to the campground and watched TV/worked on the computer.

      2 Feb 2014 (Sun) – Went to the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary in Tampa.  It was an hour drive and a difficult place to find.  The roadway into the place was potted and unpaved.  When we got to the gate, we found several young teens in blue shirts waving everyone in.  It kind of felt like falling into a teeny bopper clubhouse.  We walked around the gift shop then joined a group of 21 people taking a tour of the sanctuary.  It was like a zoo for big cats.  Each cage we stopped at, the tour guide played a pre-recorded description of the cat and how it came to be at the park.  Every recording included a plug for some kind of political action, or called for activism, or asked for donations to support the park, or subtly hand slapped the listener for buying animals. 

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      I am upset that there are people in this world who could abuse animals – domestic as well as exotic.  I am so glad there are people out there who step forward to help these poor creatures.  I understand the need to always have to seek financial support wherever you can.  I support the call to action to get legislation that stops ownership of exotic animals.  I just don’t like being hammered over and over about it.  I always do my part to help where I can – I don’t pay for my pets (I adopt), I spay/neuter all my animals, I make donations to numerous animal organizations, I encourage all my friends and family to do the same, I have volunteered at various animal organizations.  The point is that I do what I can.  I don’t want to be made to feel guilty for someone else’s actions.  I think the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary could lighten up a little.

      After the sanctuary, we went food shopping at WalMart.  Then stopped by CVS to fill a prescription and pick up various sundry items.  We stopped at a Bonefish Grill on the way back to the campground.  Yum!  Can’t get enough of that Bang Bang Shrimp.

      It was Superbowl Sunday.  Everyone from the campground was in the activity center, having a chili cook-off and watching the game.  Since we are moving tomorrow, we stayed in the camper and began preparing for the move.  We watched the game in between packing and cleaning.  What a waste!  That was the worst game I ever watched.  It was like the Denver Broncos got paid to throw the game.

1 Feb 2014 (Sat) – What a beautiful, sunny day!  Now, THIS is Florida.  Ahhhhh. 

      Went to breakfast at the activity center.  Paul had biscuits and gravy and I had scrambled eggs.  When we came back to the camper, Paul decided to adjust the RV hitch to lift the camper a few inches.  This will result in better balance as well as less weight on the rear axle.  It was funny to watch.  Paul went out to do the work but couldn’t find the right tool.  He unloaded the basement compartment of the RV.  Nope, wasn’t there.  He tore the truck apart looking in the truck bed and the back of the truck.  Nope, not there either.  As he stood there scratching his head trying to remember where he put those tools, another guy came over and asked what he was doing.  When Paul explained that he was looking for socket wrenches, the guy said he knew who would have them and went off to get his friend.  The two of them came back with a third guy interested in knowing what was going on.  Another man walked over from a camper next to ours.  Soon there was a gaggle of guys standing around watching Paul and one other guy adjust the hitch.  Just like state workers!  Two guys doing the job and the rest of them standing around, watching.

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      The whole scene reminded me of a seminar we went to years ago at Life on Wheels.  The speaker said if you are having a problem with your car (or camper), simply open the hood, stand there scratching your head, and someone will wander over to help.  Soon, you will have a group of men gathered around offering suggestions on how to solve the problem and even making the repairs.  It’s so true!

      Stayed around the campsite all day.  Let the cat play outside for an hour.  After days of being cooped up inside because of the rain, she was very happy to get out.  The only worry is the big birds around here.  You have to stay close to her to be sure some big bird doesn’t try to carry her away.  Worked on creating a business card for us to hand out to people we meet.  Scanned some more receipts and documents into the files.

31 Jan 2014 (Fri) – Another cold, rainy day in Florida.  Ugh.  We had breakfast and then puttered around the camper.  When it became evident the day was not going to clear up, we took a ride to the post office to mail off some souvenirs to folks back home.  Then we drove over to Dade Battlefield Historic State Park.  It is a small park with a $3 admission fee that you pay on your honor by putting the money in an envelope and dropping it in a box.  After you drive through the gate, there is a visitor center a short way into the park.  We saw an 8-minute film that described a battle that took place in the park in 1835.  The Seminole Indians ambushed a group of soldiers that were on the way to capture them and ship them off to Arkansas.  The Indians killed all but three of their attackers.  In the end, the Seminoles lost the Seminole War, the Second Seminole War, and the Third Seminole War.  The Seminole nation claims they are the only Indians to never sign a treaty with the white man.

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      After the video, we looked at some of the artifacts on display that were recovered from the area.  Then we walked along the route where the combatants marched and fought.  The trees in this area are amazing.  They grow so big and their limbs stretch way out in curving, jutting, kinky ways.  Most of the trees in the area are covered by ferns and moss.  They are beautiful to look at during the day; I think they would be scary in the dark.

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      When we finished exploring the battlefield, we drove to Crystal River Archaeological State Park.  It was over an hour drive.  Had we known it would take so long, we probably wouldn’t have gone but then again, we didn’t have anything else to do today except sit in the camper and listen to the falling rain.

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      There was a 3/4 mile walk around the park that wound around six mounds dating back to pre-Columbian times.  They found artifacts that date back to 200 BC.  The mounds (of varying heights) really didn’t have anything special to see – just a pile of dirt covered by grass.  The way they described it, it sounds like they were garbage heaps.  Will someone come to New Jersey in two thousand years and marvel at the “mounds” containing all our artifacts? 

      We walked around the park in the cold, wet rain.  There was one really high temple mound that we climbed up.  There was just a platform up there that looked over the area.  They think some kind of ceremonies took place on these mounds but don’t know what.  The mounds kind of reflected the Mayan pyramids and there is some speculation the Mexicans sailed over and influenced this population.

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      We left for the campground.  Stopped at an Outback Restaurant and had dinner, then returned home.  There is a swamp in the back of the campground.  Paul came in a few nights ago and said that there were all kinds of sounds coming out of the swamp.  Since then, it’s been raining so the wildlife has been quiet.  Tonight we walked by the area and picked up some sounds.  They still are not as loud as Paul claims they were when he first heard them, but some of the sounds, I have to admit, were a little scary.  Probably frogs, gators, birds, and insects all buzzing, croaking, and chirping away in the night.   If it is not raining tomorrow, the sounds will probably be louder.  We will keep an ear out for it.

30 Jan 2014 (Thu) – It was a cold, dreary, rainy day.  Certainly not Florida weather!  Went over to the office and extended our stay here through to Monday.  With the cold snap up in the panhandle, we aren’t too eager to head that way right now.

      After extending our stay, we threw the laundry in the washing machine.  While waiting, we got to talking to a couple who have been to Alaska three times – the first time in a fifth wheel, the next two in a truck camper.  That guy whetted our appetite for the trip.  We can’t wait to go!  Picked up a lot of great tips for traveling the Alaskan-Canadian (ALCAN) Highway.  Threw the laundry in the dryer and kept picking the guy’s brain about Alaska.  He gave us a tour of his newly purchased truck camper.

      After we were done, we returned to the camper and poked around all day.  Paul worked on cutting and redistributing the weight in the RV.  We gave away a lot of canned foods.  We eat fresh or frozen vegetables all the time; canned vegetables are just a backup.  We don’t need that many canned items around here.  There are plenty of stores close by that make it easy to pick up what we need quickly.  It will be different in Alaska.

      I spent the day scanning piles of receipts and documents with our Neat scanner.  I barely made a dent in the pile; have lots more to do.  Ugh.  At 5 p.m. we walked the dog, fed the animals, and then headed over to the activity center for a dinner of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, and éclair cake.  Yum.

29 Jan 2014 (Wed) – Went to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park today.  I can remember watching the mermaids show on TV when I was a kid and was eager to see the performance in person.  Newton Perry, a Navy Seal, started Weeki Wachee in 1947.  It was later bought by ABC Studios.  In 2001, the state of Florida acquired the park and refurbished it.  The spring that the mermaids swim in is the deepest natural spring in the United States.  It is a constant temperature of 72 degrees and the water is so clear, it is amazing!

      We first started out with the Wilderness Cruise on the river.  It was cold and raining today, and the difference between the temperature of the air and the water resulted in a light fog hanging over the water.  There were no manatees or alligators to be seen, but we did spy an eagle’s nest, a grebe, and a stork.  It was so easy to see the fish swimming in the river as the water was so crystal clear.  We were the only two people riding on the boat.  The park was very lightly attended today.

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      After we got back to the dock, we walked over to the café and got coffee to warm up.  We then needed to kill time until the mermaid show started at 1:30 p.m. so we went on Tranquility Trail – a short circular walk around a few trees.  We then walked over to the outdoor amphitheater to look at the peacocks hanging out there.  There were about a dozen of them and they seemed to be happy to peck at the dog biscuits I found in my pocket.  We then wandered over to the gift shop and picked up a few souvenirs to send back home to the kiddies.

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      Finally, it was time to go to the show.  There was a small enclosed seating area in front of the glass enclosed spring.  There were four mermaids performing in the show.  Just fresh off our 2-week vacation at Disney World, we were worried we would not be as appreciative as we should be.  That was not the case.  The young women swimming in the tank were very talented – lip sinking with the opening song, eating a banana underwater, and smiling and making the whole thing look so easy.  I panic when I have to hold my breath for ten or fifteen seconds; forget about two and a half minutes!  The show covered some of the history of the park, and allowed us to see some of the apparatus the girls use.  We enjoyed the park very much.

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      We left Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and drove to Jersey Café for lunch.  The menu was very reminiscent of New Jersey diners, and the food was just as good.  We then found a WalMart superstore to do some grocery shopping.  Returned to the campground and fed the animals.  We went to a bingo game at the campground – Paul won $4.  Since it cost $4 for the two of us to play, it was a break-even night (except for the ice cream cones we bought at half time.  Oops.)

28 Jan 2014 (Tue) – We spent the morning sorting through some of our stuff, trying to determine how we can lighten the camper.  Gave away our 3-piece wrought iron frying pans and griddle, a bag of kitty litter my brother gave us that weighed 40 pounds, and some bug repellent lanterns.  Let the dog and cat play around outside the camper for a while.

      We took off for Tampa and after enjoying lunch at Cracker Barrel, went in to look at Lazy Days RV Store and Park.  Just like a snowy hill attracts skiers, and a blue sea attracts swimmers, so Lazy Days is an attraction for campers.  If you are in the area, you MUST stop and check this place out.  They have 120 salesmen, 500 total employees, 200 service bays, a restaurant, a lounge area for shoppers, an exchange area for buyers to transfer their belongings from their old RV to their newly purchased RV, a camp area for new buyers to stay a couple of days in their new RV so they can learn everything about their new rig, and a campground with 299 sites. There is also a Crown Plaza camp area for owners of RVs worth more than $200 thousand.  Lazy Days claims to be the biggest RV dealer in the entire United States.  It sure looked like it!

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      A salesman took us on a golf cart ride around the 155 acre area over to the truck campers.  They didn’t really have many that would fit our truck but we looked at some Lance and North West campers to get an idea of what they have in them.  We also wandered in and out of some of the fifth wheel RVs they had on display in front of the place.  We got a brochure describing the Lance truck campers which we will use to go online and shop for one on the west coast.  It turns out Lance campers are manufactured in California, so that will save us some shipping costs.

      We left Lazy Days and drove down the road to Camping World.  Walked in and out of several fifth wheels, then went inside to shop in the store.  We picked up some items we needed then drove back to our campground.  All in all, we enjoyed the day and were quite impressed with Lazy Days.

7 Jan 2014 (Mon) – A mystery has been solved!  We had heard that Florida is among the largest cattle producing states in America.  Yet, every time we passed a large area, there would only be a few cows – four, five, six, ten at most.  Why were there so few cows?  How could anybody make a living with that?  We discovered that Florida gives a discount for having cattle on your land.  All the property we have been passing apparently isn’t the large cattle producers.  Just the little guys trying to save a buck.

      We arrived at Sumter Oaks RV Park in Bushnell, FL at 11 a.m.  After we checked in, we went over to the scales to get our rig weighed.  It is a service provided by the Escapees RV Club (for a fee).  We got the truck weighed, the camper weighed, and the entire rig with truck & RV was weighed.  We have to make some adjustments in order to redistribute the weight load.

      We set up, had wine and cheese sitting by our camper outside, then walked around the campground.  They have an indoor heated pool, an activity center, a weekly crafts day, a Laundromat, and an ugly looking swampy area adjacent to the campground.  This is a nice site and we are looking forward to relaxing for a few days before we head north.  Hopefully, we will miss the snowstorm on the way that is  scheduled to hit the panhandle.

26 Jan (Sun) – Brought some eggs to Greg and he cooked breakfast for everyone.  Afterward, we went to services at Shining Light Church.  It was a very energetic service with a band composed of a fiddle, three guitars, a keyboard, two drum sets, and about a dozen singers.  The minister was a very gifted speaker who we enjoyed listening to.

      After church, we went back and changed our clothes.  Then we went to the Myakka River State Park.  It is a 55 square mile wildlife preserve full of alligators, vultures, eagles, exotic birds, etc.  We walked over to a spillway and counted about a dozen alligators floating in the river.  There were trees full of vultures, eagles, and osprey.  A small boy was fishing at the edge of the water catching small fish.  We were appalled to see no parent nearby.  Here was this boy catching gator foodstuff right at the end of water filled with alligators.  It wouldn’t take any effort for a gator to jump out of the water and grab that boy.  The whole experience of being so close to these guys without any cages or fences was both scary and exhilarating at the same time.

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      We left the spillway area and walked along the William Boylston Nature Preserve on the canopy trail.  The forest of palm trees looked so wild and overgrown.  It had a feral feeling to it.  We came upon a canopy tower.  We climbed up four flights and walked across an aerial bridge to another tower that went five or six stories higher.  The platform at the top of the tower projected far above the top of the forest canopy, giving an incredible view for miles around.

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       We drove to a bridge that crossed over the river where Potsy said the “big boys” hang out.  Sure enough, there was a large alligator lying by the shore with what looked like a dead fish on the ground in front of it.  There was also a bunch of fish up on the bank wiggling around – large fish weighing 2 or 3 pounds to little guys barely bigger than minnows.  They looked like they were working their way back to the water.  A large egret (or stork) saw one of the little fish moving and flew over from the other bank to eat it.  The bird walked warily around the gator, eyeing the fish sitting in front of it.  A couple of birds strutted around the gator looking at the fish, but none came close enough to try to grab it.  Finally, the alligator gave up and ate the catfish.  How horrible!  The fish squeaked when the alligator picked it up then there was the sound of crunching bones and blood running down the sides of the gator’s mouth.  The gator then dropped its snout into the water to rinse its mouth out.

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      It turned out that the group of fish that were wiggling around up on the riverbank were walking catfish.  These exotic fish are not native to the area and there are signs posted warning that if you catch them, do not return them to the water.  Someone had caught a bunch of fish, had taken them to the side and sorted through them, then left the bad fish (uneatable walking catfish) stranded on the riverbank.

      Greg had to get back to the house to pack up and return to Palm Beach where he is working during the week.  We said our good byes then took Potsy to Rev-El-Ry for dinner.  We met her son and his wife, Gregory and Kat, where we had a delicious meal.  All in all, it was a most satisfying day.

25 Jan (Sat) – Left Margaret & Rich’s in Port Charlotte and headed off to Sarasota to visit with Melody’s brother, Gregory.  Stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch.  Arrived at Greg & Potsy’s house at 11:30 a.m.  We parked the camper on the lawn and hooked up to water and electric.  Melody’s brother, Christopher, happens to also be in Florida visiting a friend so they stopped in to visit, too.  We all went to Poblano’s Mexican Restaurant for a late lunch.  Afterward, we returned to Greg & Potsy’s for coffee and cake.  Chris left and we watched Captain Phillips on TV with Greg & Potsy. 

      Today was my son’s fiancé’s bridal shower.  I tried to Skype in but it was so noisy - nobody could really hear me.  I asked them to call back when Samantha began opening her presents, but they called back when she started opening my presents.  It was still too hard to hear, so I hung up.  We spoke again later at 7:30 p.m.

      My brother, Timothy, called from Georgetown.  He has had some interesting problems during his sailing adventure to the Bahamas.  It was good to hear his voice and to be reassured that he is OK.

24 Jan 2014 (Fri) – Went to visit with our friend, Laurie, in Englewood for lunch.  Her friend’s husband, Jay, joined us.  We had lobster bisque and sandwiches at Mango Bistro.  It was an enjoyable day as we walked up and down the main street and strolled along Lemon Bay.  Laurie has done marvelous things with her new house (she moved down from New York a year ago).  Made a quick stop at Publix to pick up a few things, and then at the gas station to top off the tank for tomorrow’s move to Sarasota.

      When we got back to the camper, we walked the dog then went in to visit with Margaret and Rich.  She made steaks and salad for dinner, and a coconut pie for dessert.  We had a wonderful evening eating, drinking, and reminiscing.  Sorry we couldn’t stay longer.

23 Jan 2014 (Thu) – Got up early and drove to Kars RV Campground to watch the Atlas V lift off from Cape Canaveral sometime between 9:05 and 9:45 a.m.  When we got to the campground, we noticed no one around (there should have been a crowd).  We asked the guard about it who said he thought the launch was going to be at 9:05 tonight. 

      Disappointed, we turned around and drove to George’s shop.  He’d gotten a new, custom built AR15 and offered us the opportunity to fire it.  We got to shoot that and a pistol.  What a great experience!  It felt like being in the Army again. 

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      Returned to the camper and finished packing up.  Pulled out at 11 a.m. and headed for our friend’s home in Port Charlotte.  Paul used to work with Margaret at the New York State Department of Transportation until her retirement from the state in 1996.  Margaret and her husband, Rich, graciously allowed us to hook up at their house.  She also cooked a delicious pot roast dinner.  Yum!

      At 9 p.m. we walked out onto the lawn and watched for the Atlas V launch.  It finally lifted off at 9:40 p.m.  We finally got to see a NASA launch!

      When we pulled up the a toll booth today, the toll collector said to Paul, “Your truck matches your trailer.”  Needless to say, we were impressed that someone should notice it so quickly.

 22 Jan 2014 (Wed) – Drove to the graphics design place at 8:15 a.m. but they weren’t open yet.  We drove to a diner and had breakfast, then drove back to the graphics design place at 9 a.m.  George was there talking to his friend.  We left the truck and George drove us back to the campground.  We did laundry and began packing up to move tomorrow.  Had lunch in the Moose Lodge.  The designer texted to say the truck would be ready at 1:30 p.m.  Advised George, who picked us up and brought us to the shop at 2 p.m.   The design is very nice.

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      Went to George & Linda’s for dinner at 5:30 p.m.  Their son, Neil, and his girlfriend and baby joined us, as well as their neighbor.  Everything was delicious and we enjoyed the company. 

21 Jan 2014 (Tue) – Drove to George’s shop at 11 a.m. to meet them for lunch.  We went to Jabber’s down the road.  The baby was really fussy when Linda tried to change him (she watches her grandson during the day).  I tried to console him but he would have none of it.

      After lunch, we dropped the guys off back at the shop and Linda and I went to the hairdresser.  Got my hair washed and cut.  It cost $35 (plus tip)!  Back home, my hairdresser only charges $17 for a wash and cut.  And I thought New York was expensive.

      Got back to the campsite and Paul was leaving to track the distance from the camper to the graphics designer.  The designer sent the graphics for the truck to us today and will put them on tomorrow.  Paul will meet George there at 9 a.m.  He spent all afternoon cleaning the truck to get it ready.  He is so excited.

      Went to the Lodge for drinks at 3:30 pm.  Played table shuffleboard.  Paul is very good.  He beat me hands down.  Returned to the camper,   made dinner, and began preparations to depart on Thursday.  Skyped with our son and daughter in law tonight  I finished scanning another photo album.  Where did all these pictures come from?  Oy vay!

 20 Jan 2014 (Mon) – Did some housekeeping duties around the camper today.  I lined two more shelves (after Paul went out to pick up more double sided tape).  We did the laundry.  The Moose Lodge has one washer and one dryer on the patio that campers can use for free.  That is really convenient!

      Went to the lodge for lunch.  Paul had a club sandwich and I had tuna salad. The cook quit so the menu was very limited in choices (the new cook refused to make certain items).  After lunch, we drove to Publix and did some grocery shopping.  Paul picked up tape at Home Depot and an electric blanket at Target.  I put the flannel sheets on the bed.  It was so hot last night!  We never needed any electric blanket.

19 Jan 2014 (Sun) – Met George & Linda at the Moose Lodge for breakfast.  After breakfast, we went to the 11 a.m. service at the Methodist Church.  The minister was a very gifted speaker – he didn’t use a single note to follow during his sermon.  I can’t do that!

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      We returned to the camper for a while.  Had Bloody Marys at the lodge.  At 2 p.m. we drove to Walgreens to get a birthday card and gift certificate for George’s son, then drove to George’s condo, where he drove us all to The Grill for a late lunch/early dinner.  George’s daughter and her husband and son, and George’s son and girlfriend with her son joined us at the restaurant.  Afterwards, we went to their daughter’s house for cupcakes.  Left at 6 p.m.  Stopped at WalMart on the way home and bought flannel sheets.  It’s been so cold, we wanted to buy an electric blanket.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find one so we settled for flannel sheets.

      Called Las Vegas and spoke with my cousin, Bonnie.  Found out that my aunt had a massive heart attack on January 12th.  She was in the hospital until she passed away yesterday.  They plan to have her body cremated.  All her children are flying to Vegas.

 18 Jan 2014 (Sat) – Made breakfast, then drove to Port St. Lucie to visit a friend.  Dan was one of Paul’s customers in New York and is down here in Florida making repairs to his winter home.  We had a pleasant visit for a half hour, then took off for Fellsmere where they were having their annual Frog Legs Festival. 

      We had to park at an off-site then take a shuttle bus to the festival.  It was a combination carnival and craft fair.  The town started the Frog Legs Festival a few years ago as a fund-raiser.  It was so successful, that they now have it every year.  They serve about 7,000 dinners, plus other food stuff that is available to buy (turkey legs, hot dogs, corn dogs, etc.).  The menu included a pound of frog legs, frog legs alone as a dinner, gater tails alone as a dinner, or a combo of frog legs and gater tails.  We bought the combo for $14 that also included hush puppies and cole slaw.  We also had to buy a bottle of water for $2.  This was after we first got there, saw the line wrapped around the tents, and bought chicken on a stick and lemonade for $28.

      The frog legs were kind of sweet and had a faint fishy taste to them.  Its texture was very much like chicken but not its taste.  The gater was very tuff to chew and tasted nothing like chicken.

      We returned to the camper, walked the dog, and fed the animals.  Then we went into the Moose Lodge for drinks.  It was Spanish night and they were serving salad, pulled pork, and Spanish rice.  We bought one dinner, took it back to the camper, and split it.

      It’s funny.  Everywhere we went in Disney World, the bathrooms had paper towels to dry your hands.  During the Backstage Tour, we learned that Disney has a strong recycle program that includes composting.  They must be sending the paper towels to the compost along with the foodstuff they throw out.  There are many places outside Disney today where they use those jet engine hand dryers that threaten to blow your clothing off if you stand too close to it.  Your hands are dry in ten seconds.  Is it really more efficient to use the paper towels than to use the hand dryers?  It would be worth investigating.

      Got a phone call from my cousin in Connecticut saying my aunt in Las Vegas passed away.  She was the last of all my mother’s sisters and brothers.  A whole generation gone.  

17 Jan 2014 (Fri) – Took it easy today.  Toodled around the camper all morning, then went to the Moose Lodge for lunch.  We both had chili for $6 a bowl, and drinks (beer and cocktail) for $5.25.  After lunch we went to the post office to mail packages home, to Auto Zone to buy diesel exhaust cleaner, then to an ATM to put some cash in our pockets.

      Went to the Moose Lodge for dinner at 5 p.m.  They were running a bingo game from 4 to 6 p.m. so we sat at the bar for an hour.  When the bingo game was done, they served dinner.  We got two buffet dinners for $6 each.  Two couples sat at our table with us and we had a delightful conversation about camping and New York.  One couple was from Schenectady, NY, and the other couple’s husband grew up in Flushing.  At 7:30 p.m., a DJ started playing music.  Many couples got up and danced.  Some of them were quite good.   We left at 7:45 p.m. and came back to the RV to skype with our son. 

16 Jan 2014 (Thu) – Left Orlando and headed back to Merritt Island (good-bye Disney World!).  Hooked up in the camping area behind the Moose Lodge.  You can’t really call it a campground.  It is fifteen sites with water and electric hookups (no sewer).  The campsites are in a line in the back of the lodge.  The lodge is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and Saturday, and 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.  They serve lunch every day, and dinner Tuesday through Friday and sometimes Saturday, as well as breakfast every Sunday morning.  There is a full bar and a very nice lounge area.  There is a bathroom and free laundry but no showers.  That is a problem with no sewer hookup.  We are back to using paper plates and plastic silverware, and limiting toilet use to first or last thing in the day.  We will probably drive back over to Kars Park (the stinky campground) to take showers.

      Arrived at Cousin George’s body shop at 12:30 p.m.  A guy he knows who does graphics came over at 1 p.m. to look at the camper and truck.  He will produce some designs to put on the truck that will match the RV.  He will email the design to us for review and approval, then George will apply the graphics to the truck.  What a sweet setup we will have going down the road!  Whoooeeeee!

      Left George’s and returned to the campsite.  Completed set up then went into the Moose Lodge to check it out.  The bar was open so we had drinks and a snack.  We came back to the trailer and took naps.  Seems we were pooped after our two weeks at Disney World.  We are able to stay here for six and a half days for what it cost us to stay at Disney for one day.  What a cost difference!

      Went to George & Linda’s at 6 p.m., had drinks, then went to the Bonefish Grill for dinner.  Everything was delicious.  The company, as always, was just as enjoyable.  Finished, made plans to go boating on Sunday, and returned home.

15 Jan 2014 (Wed) – This is our last full day at Disney.  It is funny.  You want to avoid the crowds so you come at off-season times.  While you don’t suffer wall-to-wall bodies (a wonderful convenience), there are drawbacks.  Several attractions have been closed for refurbishment (a major inconvenience).  We understand that Disney must refurbish and repair its attractions during off-peak periods.  It is just disappointing not to be able to experience those particular attractions.  Trade-offs.

      Went to the Magic Kingdom this morning and went on the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Run Away Train.  Returned to the campground and did some laundry.  Also started packing away stuff for our move tomorrow. 

       Went to Le Cellier Steakhouse in Canada for dinner.  We had to eat early – at 4:30 p.m. (everything later was booked until 9:30 p.m.).  We finished and decided to go to France for coffee and dessert.  Since it was so early, we took the long way around, arriving at France around 7:00 p.m.  We had coffee and dessert (de-licious!), then walked up and down the showcase for two hours until the Illuminations Fireworks Show began at 9 p.m.  The show was great!

      Returned to the camper about 9:45 p.m. and prepared to pull up stakes.

14 Jan 2014 (Tue) – Woke with my throat on fire.  When will this stupid thing go away?  Arrggghhhhh!!!

Showered then headed off to Hollywood Studios.  Went on the Star Wars ride, the Tower of Terror, the Movie Ride, and Toy Story Mania.  Snuck into the Indiana Jones Stunt Show to see the ending (it wasn’t working when we went).  Picked up a Disney Christmas decoration for our tree (when we decide to come off the road and move back into a sticks and bricks house). 

      Got back to the RV around 4 p.m.  Walked the dog and fed the animals.  Did a quick change and hurried off to the Polynesian Resort where we had tickets for the Spirit of Aloha dinner show.  Checked in, got a lei, had our picture taken, and were seated.  The food was family style and consisted of tossed greens, mango slaw, noodle salad, and pineapple for appetizer; followed by pulled pork, barbequed spare ribs, roast chicken, and mixed vegetables for dinner.  Dessert consisted of pineapple bread pudding with a caramel drizzle.  The show was fabulous with lots of hula dancing by men and women, and a fantastic fire dance by Chief Cody.

      After dinner, we went up to the second floor of the resort, got drinks at the bar, and walked out to the beach.  Dried off the lounge chairs (it rained today), relaxed into position, and watched the fireworks.  All in all, it was a very lovely evening.  A great day.

13 Jan 2014 (Mon) – Woke at 6 a.m. with a bad coughing fit.  Got up and sprayed some Chloraseptic in my throat.   Looks like my tonsils are swollen in addition to the sinus congestion.  Blah!

      Went to the Animal Kingdom today and took the Jungle Safari.  It was pleasant (besides the rough ride) and most of the animals could be seen.  After the ride through the refuge, we walked through the discovery trail and saw more animals on exhibit. 

      Then we went to the Everest roller coaster ride.  After looking at it, I decided not to go.  Since we had fast passes to the ride (there was a 30 minute wait), Paul used his fast pass first then took my magic band and used my fast pass.  I contentedly sat and watched the cars filled with screaming tourists roar by.  Paul thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and I even got a picture of him plunging down the mountainside – arms raised overhead and a big grin on his face.

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      We walked over to Dino Land and rode the Dinosaur.  It was a ride through very dark displays with different kinds of dinosaurs popping out between roars, screams, and flashing meteors.  Some of the animatronics and lights were not working properly.  Disappointing.

       At 12:45 p.m. we arrived at the Rainforest Café for lunch.  The entire ceiling in the place was covered with tree branches and vines, and numerous animals were sprinkled around the room – all of which came alive and roared, screamed, and made ungodly noises every 15 minutes.  Several aquarium tanks,  filled with all kinds of exotic fish, were also located in several spots throughout the café.  We found that the café is not owned by Disney, although it is located on Disney property.  The waitress talked us into signing up for a membership in the Landry Select Club.  They have about 20 different name restaurants located across the U.S. (including Bubba Gump Shrimp, Rainforest Cafe, and Morton’s, to name a few) and offer many benefits for belonging to the club.

      After lunch, we took the Kali Rapids Ride and got soaking wet.  Luckily, the weather was not cold (could have been warmer) so we were not uncomfortable (other than wet, heavy clothing hanging on your body).  Stopped at Dino Land again and rode the Twirl and Hurl (a small coaster kind of like the Mouse at Coney Island but the car twirled in circles).  Sat in on a show featuring many of the exotic birds at the park.  Walked around the Tree of Life, saw a show about a bug’s life, looked at more animal and birds around the park, watched the parade, and then left for home around 5 p.m.

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      Got back to the RV, fed the animals, walked the dog, played with the cat, then barbequed some dinner.  We were able to Skype with our son for a while.  The baby had already gone to bed, although we did get a peek at him when daddy had to go in and reassure him.

      At 9 p.m., we fixed ourselves a drink and walked down to the lakeside.  We relaxed in the lounge chairs on the beach and waited for the lakeside parade to float by.  The parade came floating by at 9:40 p.m.  They have some phenomenal sound system!  The music was awesome, as was the electric light parade.  They ended with an Americana theme by displaying many flags and playing patriotic songs.  Quite enjoyable.

12 Jan 2014 (Sun) – Woke with my sinuses congested and puffy eyes.  Why won’t this virus go away? Arrggghhhh!  Went to EPCOT.  The marathon runners were finishing their race through the park, ending at the globe.  There were traffic cones down the walkways on which the runners were kept to one side and we (the tourists) were kept on the other side.  Rode Spaceship Earth and Soarin’.  Walked over to the American Adventure and watched their show.  Stopped in at Italy and had drinks.  Wandered through the shops in China, Norway, and Canada.  Got back to the campsite around 3:30 p.m. and took a nap.

     Had dinner at the Wave Restaurant in the Contemporary Resort Hotel.  Afterwards, we walked through the lobby and searched for the five legged goat (we found it), and the three legged chicken (it was nowhere to be found).  [During our Backstage Tour, the guide told us that there were this chicken and goat at the Contemporary Hotel and you could see them on a mural when you came into the hotel by monorail.]

      Tried to find our way up to the restaurant on the top floor.  Figured we’d have a drink and look out over the Magic Kingdom.  Turns out access to the top floor is controlled by a concierge.  He told us they were at capacity and he couldn’t let any more people up; however, if we came back after 10 p.m., he would be gone and there would be no control on the elevators (wink, wink).

     Left and took the launch back to the campground.  While we were waiting at the pier, we saw the lakeside parade floats out in front of Wilderness Lodge, then move to Fort Wilderness.  We will have to be sure to walk down to the lake to see it close up.

11 Jan 2014 (Sat) – Paul and I are still suffering our colds – Paul has aches, I have the sniffles and sinus congestion.   Took showers this morning then went to First Watch for breakfast.  Delicious!  Afterward, we headed for Universal Studios.  Half way there, we decided we really didn’t want to go (we’d seen everything we wanted), so we turned around and went to Disney’s Blizzard Beach Winter-Summerland mini-golf.  Thought there would be some animatronics but there weren’t any.  There were cute little poems at each hole describing what to do.  The decorations were very Disney.  Paul golfed a 41, I got a 49.

      Left the mini-golf and returned to the camper.  I did some housecleaning, Paul greased the wheel bearings on the camper.  I discovered some water on the floor in the kitchen.  Paul found that the clean-out hose for the toilet leaks.  The joint is behind the shower wall, making it impossible to repair it.  We should be alright as long as we don’t use the hose.

      Took a bicycle ride around the park.  Stopped at the concierge to pick up mail and clarify a charge on our Mastercard.  It is just like on a cruise ship – you register your charge card at the beginning of the trip, sign for all your drinks and purchases throughout the cruise, then get hit with all the charges at the end of your cruise.  We have been using our Magic Bands to charge meals and purchases, and they finally got them on our card.  Ouch!

      We had hotdogs for dinner, then waited for the campfire movie to start at 7:40 p.m.  Unfortunately, it began to rain and the campfire and movie were cancelled.  The fireworks didn’t go off at 8 p.m. because of the rain, but they did go off at 9 p.m.  There was no lake parade tonight.

 10 Jan 2014 (Fri) – Had breakfast at First Watch – a very interesting breakfast/brunch/lunch place that sells good-for-you food made from scratch.  There are several avocado dishes available, and not at exorbitant charges.  Paul and I had eaten there when I came back from Iraq in 2005.  It was remarkable that Paul remembered where the place was.

      Went to Universal Studios.  It was $16 to park in a garage then walk what seemed like miles over moving and stationary sidewalks.  We went on several rides – Shrek 4D show (too annoying), Transformers 3D ride (too fast), Twister (amusing), Revenge of the Mummy (an indoor roller coaster that was OK), Disaster (took a subway ride that suffered an earthquake, fiery crashes, and a flood), Men In Black (a ride through alien land where you have to shoot as many aliens as you can), Terminator 2 3D show (hasn’t changed in 20 years), and the Horror Make-Up Show (very funny).  We had lunch at Finnegan’s Bar & Grill.  Left at about 6 p.m. 

9 Jan 2014 (Thu) – Paul wasn’t feeling well today.  He woke at midnight with indigestion, then at 3 a.m. with cramps, then suffered indigestion again at 5 a.m.  About 8 a.m., he got the chills.  He went back to bed and slept till noon.  When he got up, he took Dayquil.  A miracle medicine!  Within five minutes, the chills went away and Paul stopped feeling feverish.

      Picked up a package at the concierge desk – mail forwarded from the Escapees RV Club.  Drove to the Disney Boardwalk intending to walk the boardwalk and play mini golf.  It started raining so golf went by the wayside.  We had lunch at Big River Brewing Company on the boardwalk.  Afterward, we drove to Downtown Disney to go to the movies.  The schedule was not convenient so we just walked along looking at the storefronts.  Pleasure Island was completely blocked off.  Wonder when they closed that?  There were loads of shops and some eateries.  We stopped at a place called T-Rex for drinks and snack.  The place was great!  There were animatronic dinosaurs, jellyfish, and wild plant life all around the place.  There was an ice cave and a couple of aquarium tanks with exotic fish.  The bar was backlit with a blue light, making it look like it was carved out of ice.  Every 15 minutes, a meteor shower supposedly hit the earth and all the dinosaurs in the place started roaring.  What a noise!

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      After T-Rex, we walked further along the waterfront and came to the Rainforest Café.  This place was built to look like a lava flowing volcano.  Flames were shooting up ten feet high out of several places in the volcano.  We took a quick walk through the place.  The ceiling was covered with trees and vines to look like a rain forest.  There were animatronic animals scattered around the restaurant.  A couple of aquarium tanks were placed throughout the café.  It looked very appealing to youngsters.  Paul said he thinks the café has a thunderstorm every 15 minutes (like the meteor shower in the T-Rex).

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      We caught the boat across the lake to save having to walk back to the parking lot.  Got home a little after 7 p.m.  Spoke with our daughter and reviewed mail that had come to the house.  Spoke with our son and reviewed his wedding plans.  Everything seems to be coming together nicely.

8 Jan 2014 (Wed) – Got up late today.  My throat was raw.  Took a shower and did some work on the computer.  Left around 11 a.m.  Stopped at post office, ATM, and then Cracker Barrel for lunch.  Got to Universal Studios around 2 p.m.  Our tickets worked perfectly (we had bought them at the ITT office back at Fort Bragg, just like the Disney tickets).  Turns out they have two parks – Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.  Since we have never been to Islands of Adventure (and everyone was raving about the Harry Potter ride), we went there.  It was quite entertaining.  We walked through the Dr. Seuss area and took a ride on the trolley.  I can imagine that – for a kid – this is a wonderful place.  It certainly brought a smile to my face!

      We wandered through the next area and got on line for Poseidon’s Fury.  It was an hour wait and the thing was a joke.  Definitely not worth the wait.  We went on to Harry Potter’s ride.  It was another hour wait.  Winding our way back and forth, up and down, in and out of the lines, we found ourselves mooing.  We passed the time by looking at everyone’s shoes.  It is SO amazing to see the variety of colors and styles among sneakers.

      The ride was definitely worth the wait.  There were talking pictures, and floating candles, and all kinds of things right out of the Harry Potter books.  The ride was so incredibly real.  You were lifted in a chair and twisted and turned all kinds of ways as you followed Potter and friends on a wild ride around the Hogwarts Castle and quidditch field.  We are going back tomorrow!

      Stopped at the Three Broomsticks for dinner.  It was modeled on restaurants like the Ponderosa where you look at the menu then place your order at the register, then pay, get your food at the counter, and finally sit down.  The place was decorated very nicely and all the workers were wearing costumes. 

      Left the park and returned to the campground.  After walking the dog and feeding the animals, we walked over to the lake and watched the fireworks show.  Then we went to Crockett’s Tavern for drinks and snacks.

7 Jan 2014 (Tue) – Went back to EPCOT today.  Paul again had a problem with his magic band when he tried to enter the park.  We went right to guest relations where we were told once more that the problem was fixed.  Sigh.  This is getting so ridiculous.  There is an arctic front crossing the U.S.  Every state has been experiencing freezing temperatures.  It got down to the low 30s last night.  We dug out the electric heater and wore warm jammies to bed.  It didn’t get over 46 degrees today.  Everyone at the park was dressed in coats, jackets, hats, gloves, and blankets.  It was kind of funny to see.

      I was not feeling well this morning.  Managed to pick up some kind of bug.  I have a tickle in the back of my throat causing me to cough.  Paul let me sleep late this morning, thinking it would make me feel better.  It didn’t really.  We didn’t get to EPCOT until almost 10 a.m. 

       Went to the Test Track ride.  While waiting on line, the ride broke down and everyone was sent away.  They gave us a free fast pass to come back with.  We walked over to the International Pavilion.  Stopped at Norway and rode the Maelstrom ride then watched their film.  Continuing on, we stopped at Japan and watched the drum show.  We continued on to Canada and watched their film.  Got back to the Living Seas and took the Nemo ride before going to lunch at the Coral Reef.  The restaurant was really interesting.  You sat at your table and looked over at a huge aquarium tank filled with sharks, sting rays, and all kinds of fish.  There were three divers in the tank, cleaning the coral.  One guy swam by throwing out food for the fish. 

      After lunch, we returned to the Test Track and took the ride.  They have upgraded the attraction.  It was great.  We left there and returned to the campground.  There were port-a-potties lied up by the dozens in the parking lot, along with traffic cones, barriers, tents, and signs.  We asked a cast member what was going on and he told us they are hosting all kinds of runs over the next four days (5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon).  I’ve never seen so many port-a-potties lined up in one place like that.  The line seemed to go on forever.

      Got back to the camper, fed the animals, and walked the dog.  Afterward, we did the laundry, then skyped with our son.  We heard music coming from the lake around 9:45 p.m.  We thought they stopped the water parade but apparently not.  It was freezing today.  It must have been some cold on that water.

6 Jan 2014 (Mon) – Went to EPCOT today.  Had a problem with the biometrics on Paul’s magic band.  The agent at the station entered some information in his iPad and Paul was able to get into the park.  Stopped at Spaceship Earth first.  They redesigned the entire ride.  They started with the first caveman etchings and followed the progress of communication all the way through to today’s computers.  We really enjoyed the ride.  Paul’s magic band wouldn’t work on the rides but the ride operators overrode whatever the computer was saying and passed him through as my guest.

      We went on other rides, then stopped at Mexico for lunch.  The meal was delicious and the waiter very attentive.  After lunch, we took the boat ride in the Mexican pavilion.  It always seemed weird to take a boat ride through a restaurant where people were actually eating a meal.

      We went over to The Land and the Universe of Energy and rode some of the rides there.  Stopped by guest relations to get our magic bands and entrance cards fixed (again).  The agent told us the last two people who had worked on our account had messed things up and he was going to fix it.  We took his word with a grain of salt.  We’ll see what happens when we try to get into the park and rides tomorrow. 

       Left the park at four, hurried back to the camper, fed the animals, changed, then went to Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian.  It was a huge place based on an elegant Floridian mansion of the 1940s.  Our reservation was for 5:45 p.m.; we were seated about 6 p.m.  The hostess told us the fireworks were at eight and could be seen out the window.  We tried but we just couldn’t make the meal last that long.  We were finished about 7:40 p.m.

      Walked back to the hotel from the restaurant (the restaurant was on the lake), then took the monorail around the WDW property.  Hoped to catch the fireworks during the ride but it didn’t work out.  Got back to the Grand Floridian hotel and walked around the second floor looking at the shops.  Walked out to the parking lot and drove back to the campground.  An arctic front is moving in and it was cold – down to 46 degrees.  The wind was cold!  It is supposed to drop to 31 degrees by tomorrow morning.  Brought out the electric heater tonight.  Brrrrrrrrr.

 5 Jan 2014 (Sun) – Went to the Magic Kingdom today.  Took the boat launch across the lake.  Had trouble with the Magic Bands (again) and had to go to guest relations to get it fixed.  Took almost an hour.  The castle was beautiful!  They had loads of white lights on the castle that looked like icicles.

      Went to Frontierland and rode Splash Mountain, the Run Away Train, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, and Buzz Lightyear shoot out.  Had lunch at the Be Our Guest Restaurant.  How very interesting!  Disney sent us an email asking us to participate in a test program with the restaurant.  We had to make reservations online and make our menu choices ahead of time.  Then we were given a time period to show up at the restaurant to pick up our meal.

      When we got there, the line was so incredibly long.  I don’t know how parents could keep their kids waiting so long for food.  We went to the Fast Pass lane and were ushered right up front, then right into the restaurant where we checked in with “Joey.”  After Joey entered us into the record, we were directed to the service line.  After waiting a while, we were directed to a kiosk where a waitress asked us to verify our menu choices and had us pay for our meal.  Then we were told to go sit down and they would bring the food to us.  We found a small table in back of the room in the corner and sat down, wondering how in the world they were going to find us.  The room was a recreation of the Beast’s ballroom (from Beauty & the Beast).  Within three minutes, our food arrived.  We asked the waitress how she knew where we were sitting, and she told us it was part of the Disney magic (there is probably a tracker in the magic bands.)  There was another room that was decorated to look like the Beast’s bedroom, painted dark with ripped hangings and slashed paintings, and a rose in a glass dome.  Another room was decorated to look like the library with the Beast and Bell dancing in the center of the room.  There must have been over 200 seats in the entire place.

      We ran back to the camper to feed the animals and walk the dog.  Spent an hour and a half at the RV, then rode back to the Magic Kingdom to have dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern.  They still had a holiday dinner on the menu – it was a family-style meal with salad, three kinds of meat, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and Johnny Appleseed cake for dessert.  We got to watch the electrical parade through the window as it passed by on the street outside.

      Went on a few more rides then returned to the campground around midnight.

4 Jan 2014 (Sat) – Woke at 7:30, took a quick shower, and then headed off to Hollywood Studios.  The guy parking cars didn’t know what he was doing.  They parked us in a lot far from the entrance and the trams were not running.  Hate to start the day off aggravated.  Argh!

      Stopped at Guest Relations to synchronize our Magic Bands with our entrance cards.  Turned out we had two accounts opened.  The agent synced them up.  Went on the Tower of Terror (it was not as bad after taking that Backstage Tour yesterday), the Great Movie Ride, Toy Story Mania, then watched the Stunt Show, Davey Jones Locker, and the Indiana Jones Stunt Show.  Had lunch at the 50s Prime Time Café.  Interesting place.  Very 1950s looking with TVs playing shows from that time period. 

      Left at five, ran back to the camper, fed the animals, walked the dog, had dinner, and headed back to Hollywood Studios for the Fantasmic show.  Arrived at 6:15 p.m. and they were parking cars about as far back as they could.  We would never make the 6:30 show, so we decided to leave.  Went to Downtown Disney and saw a movie – “Saving Mr. Banks.”  Excellent show.

       There was a bar serving cocktails right in the theater lobby.  Since we were early, we thought we would have a cocktail before the movie.  I had not brought my purse in with me and when the bartender asked for ID, I couldn’t produce any.   He refused to serve me so we left and went to an outdoor bar next door.  As we stepped up to the bar, I looked down and saw a wallet laying on the ground.  I gave it to the bartender and then we ordered drinks.  The bar comped Paul’s beer for turning in the wallet.  That was very nice of them.   The customer that lost the wallet came back to claim it later.  He was very glad someone had turned it in.

3 Jan 2014 (Fri) – Got up at 6:30 a.m.  Fed the animals, walked the dog, ate breakfast, and headed out to EPCOT where we met our tour group for our Disney Backstage Magic Tour at 8:30 a.m.  We went to four parks – EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.  There were 39 people on the tour, with two guides, and the bus driver who took us from park to park.  The whole tour was seven hours long with a stop at the Wilderness Lodge for lunch at the Whispering Canyon Café.  We saw loads of stuff behind the scenes where they create sets, characters, costumes, signs, topiary, parade floats, etc.  The most fascinating thing was to see the utilidors – utility corridors that run under the Magic Kingdom.  This allows the cast members to move around out of sight of the tourists. 

      After the tour was over, we drove into town to do some grocery shopping.  Picked up some potato soup and crusty French bread for dinner.  Yum!  The temperature never went over 50 today.  Combined with a steady wind, it was cold.  Many of the tourists wore gloves, hats, and winter coats.  We kept reminding each other that the folks up north were getting hammered with winter storm Hercules that was bringing six to ten inches of snow today.  It still didn’t make it any warmer.

      After dinner, we sat around the table and set out our schedule for the two weeks – made dinner and lunch reservations and planned for a break from Disney midweek to visit Universal.  About 9:40 p.m. we heard music playing again (same thing happened last night).  Melody ran out to the lake to see what it was.  Turns out that they have an electric light water parade on the lagoon every night, followed by fireworks at the Magic Kingdom.  You could see them across the lake.

2 Jan 2014 (Thu) – Woke to the sound of fog horns on the river this morning.  The fog was so thick; you couldn’t see two feet in front of you.  It burned off by 9 a.m.  It’s interesting how used you get to your conveniences.  We used to hike the trail and camp in lean-to’s along the route.  Then we moved to a tent.  Then we got cots in the tent.  Wow!  That was luxury.  Then came a pop-up; then a bigger pop-up.  Then we got a fifth wheel and then moved up to a bigger fifth wheel.  During most of our camping years, we had no running water or toilet in the camper.  We had to use the campground bathhouse facilities.  With the move up to our fifth wheel RV, we have enjoyed all the comforts of home in our “rolling house on wheels.”  This week has been a challenge with going back to using the bathhouse because we had no sewer hookup.  We had to conserve water use so we didn’t fill our tanks.  We did it by using paper plates and plastic silverware, conserving water, and using the bathroom for our “other activities.” 

      We took the Bee Line from Merritt Island to Orlando.  It was $12.25 total.  What a rip off!  

      Got to Walt Disney World at noon.  The campground is very full and the campsites are very close to each other.  We are on a concrete pad with some trees in-between the sites.  Some people have an insane amount of decorations on and around their trailers.  There is one trailer that has so many of the blow up figures and lights that they must bring another trailer with them just to carry all the stuff!

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      We were given a handful of documents when we registered – information about Disneyworld and its events and parks.  There is a whole page dedicated just to reviewing regulations regarding Christmas decorations at campsites.  We looked over the material we got and were disappointed to find important information omitted.  We were mailed Magic Bands for a new program Disney is implementing.  By waving the bands over a special port, you can charge your meal or ticket, make a reservation, and gain access to certain areas around the park.  We have not had an easy time making these things work.  Trying to go online has not been as easy as you would think it should be either.  For instance, their website has a link called “Contact Us.”  But when you click on it, it takes you to a page of most asked questions.  There is no phone number to call.  Seems to be something simple but a huge oversight on the part of Disney.

      After we set up, it started to rain.  It stopped and the sun came out.  Then the clouds moved in and it started raining again - this time, on and off for the rest of the day.  Had to walk the dog in the pouring rain.  And there is no readily identifiable place to walk the dog.  It’s isn’t clear where to take her.

      Went to dinner at Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge.  What an amazing place the lodge is!  It has a huge entry way that goes up the entire seven floors.  Railing surrounds the hallways on each floor.  There is a huge fireplace on one side of the room and totem poles and carved posts reaching all the way to the roof.  Each floor seems to also have a fireplace burning in a common lounge area.  There are a couple of pools outside, and a giant geyser that erupts every few minutes.

      We came back to the campground and Paul promptly began to decorate our RV.  There was noise over by the lake at 9:30 p.m.  It was some kind of parade on the water.  At 10 p.m. we heard several booms.  They were fireworks going off.  We need to get a schedule of events from the concierge tomorrow.

1 Jan 2014 (Wed) – It has been so interesting watching Port Canaveral across the river.  Two or three cruise ships a day come in and out of that place.  I am amazed that so many people are cruising; so many as to make cruising a profitable business.  Where is the recession the news keeps reporting? 

      Went to George & Linda’s at 3:30 p.m. for corned beef and sauerkraut dinner.  Everything was delicious.  We sat and chatted for a few hours, then returned to the campground.  Began to pack up for our move to Disneyworld tomorrow.

31 Dec 2013 (Tue) (New Year’s Eve) – Went to Diane & Chris’ house for snacks and drinks at 5:30 p.m.  Left around 8:30 p.m. and went back to George & Linda’s condo.  Watched the Times Square show on TV, wished each other a Happy New Year, then returned to the campground. 

     The campground was a party place.  All kinds of campers and tents were set up with campfires and lights and decorations.  The folks here really enjoy celebrating.

30 Dec 2013 (Mon) – Went to Kennedy Space Center today.  What an experience!  Besides the historical aspect of the center, it brought back memories of events that took place during our growing years.  The Atlantis space shuttle was on display, as was the lunar command module from an Atlas mission.  There were displays that showed space suits, the international space station, descriptions of the many different missions and how astronauts live in space (sleep, eat, and poop).  We watched an IMAX 3D movie about the Hubble Telescope and took a bus ride to the launch control area.  We spent the entire day there from 9 to almost 5, and could have stayed longer.  The admission fee was steep ($46 per person), and you could buy some tours if you wanted for another $30 to $50.  We had lunch at the Orbit Café and shopped in the gift store for souvenirs.

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      We hurried back to the campground, fed the animals, walked the dog, changed our clothes, and met George & Linda at the condo.  Drove to Carrabba’s where we met Denise & John for dinner.  The restaurant was very busy; we waited almost an hour for a table.  The food was good and the company, as always, was enjoyable.

 29 Dec 2013 (Sun) – Met George & Linda at the Moose Lodge for breakfast.  It was only $6 for all you can eat.  They had scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, French toast, sausage, gravy, biscuits, and grits.  It was all quite good. 

      We then went to a United Methodist Church on the Island that Linda has been wanting to go to.  It was a pretty building.  Many of the windows had colored panes and there were many poinsettias along the front altar.  The website said they had three services: 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00.  We opted for the 11 a.m. service, but when we arrived at 10:45 a.m. we discovered there was no eleven o’clock service because of the holiday.  There was only a ten o’clock service.  What little part of the sermon we caught was nice, followed by communion, and a hymn.

      We then went over Denise’s house.  We spent a pleasant hour visiting with Denise & John.  We stopped at George’s body shop to see his boat, meet his dogs, and admire the recent paint job in the office.  Afterwards we returned to the campground and did some laundry.  While sitting at the table, I looked outside and spotted a large rainbow.  The colors were very intense and the rainbow seemed to sit right on the water.  It was stunning.  After we initially spotted the rainbow and were oohing and aahing over it, we realized we should be taking pictures.  I grabbed my iPhone and Paul ran over to get his camera, then we both dashed outside to start snapping photos.  The cameras just did not capture the beauty and grandeur of that rainbow.

28 Dec 2013 (Sat) – There were two ships in port today.  It rained overnight but it did not help to chase away the smell.  Peeyew!!!  There were dark, threatening rain clouds on the horizon all day and it rained a little.

     Met George and Linda at their condo.  Paul and George went off to do their thing; Melody and Linda picked up Diane and baby Ryan, then drove to Kohl’s to exchange a wrong-sized belt Melody bought for Paul.  After Kohl’s, we went to Grill’s for lunch.  After lunch, we drove to Appleseed, a health food store.  Then we dropped Diane and Ryan off at home, and met the guys back at the condo.  The guys apparently also had lunch at a Grill’s (the place to go for lunch).  They went to George’s body shop, looked at the boat but did not go out because the weather was unpleasant (George is an avid fisherman).  They also went to a jewelry shop to exchange a gift George had bought for Linda, stopped at the canal lock at Port Canaveral, then stopped for a beer at the oldest bait shop on Merritt Island.  We made plans for breakfast and church tomorrow, then returned to the campground after a quick stop at the supermarket to pick up pet food. 

      We went to do laundry but the room was closed up for the day (hours of operation are 9 to 6).  We both took showers at the bathhouse then went back to the RV for dinner.

27 Dec 2013 (Fri) – Had a most delightful afternoon when my cousins came over for a barbeque.  This is the first time we have entertained anyone in the RV since our trailer warming party in 2011.  Had to have Linda bring two plates because we only have four place settings (have to keep the weight down in the camper).  We would use paper plates but steak doesn’t cut well on those.  Cooked London broil, baked potatoes, and grilled asparagus.  The wind was kind enough to blow in the other direction so we did not have that awful smell while we sat outside and enjoyed the meal and each other’s company.  As we were winding down, the wind began to shift and the smell started seeping into the area.  By 10 p.m., the smell was so bad, we had every window and vent closed up tight and the air conditioner on.  It was making me gag!

      Miranda called and we reviewed the mail she has received for us.  She sent us a video she and Kenny made of the baby in his Superman outfit.  Funny!

26 Dec 2013 (Thu) – Took off for the Kennedy Space Center today.  It was $10 to park the car and there were loads of people there.  We were looking at the information board to see what tours they offered when an employee announced that all tours were booked for the day. We got to talking with him and found there were eleven thousand people there (the normal number of visitors in a day is three thousand).  We decided to come back after the new year.  Less people will mean no lines, and nobody in the way when trying to look at a display.

      Left the Space Center and drove over to Patrick Air Force Base.  We had planned for the base to be an alternate camp site if KARS Park had been full.  Patrick AFB was large and the campground was nice – at least it had full hookups.  The sites were close together with some palm trees interspersed throughout the campground.  There was a golf course and a marina right next to the campground.  We went into the marina clubhouse to see if we could get a bite to eat.  A guy at the bar told us the officer’s club burned down so there is none on the base.  The marina serves hot dogs and burgers.  The golf clubhouse serves hot dogs, burgers, and chicken nuggets.  We left base and stopped at a Denny’s for lunch.  The service was soooooo slow.  OMG.  It took an hour to get our food.  Our waitress told us she was new when she took our orders, but it was clear they were short staffed.  There was only one cook in the kitchen and another waitress came in to work shortly before we left.

      Tried to find a stationary store where we could pick up a flash drive.  Paul wanted to download pictures he had taken at Denise & Chris’ house yesterday.  There were no nearby Staples or Office Max.  We tried asking for electronics, computer, or stationary stores but Siri couldn’t find anything close.  As we were pulling a U-turn, Paul spotted a sign for Office Depot.  Sure enough, Siri gave us directions to that.  Isn’t Office Depot a stationary store?  Stopped at a Publix and picked up some charcoal (for barbecue) and vinegar (for ant bites).

       Returned to the campground and took Bonnie for a long walk around the park.  They have an area for miniature airplanes and scouting groups.  The site has the nastiest little stinging gnats.  They come right through the screens.  You spend a good deal of your day swatting and scratching.  We also got bitten by ants.  Their bites leave little welts that turn into itchy whiteheads two days later (I joked that the ants laid eggs in there).  Don’t think I especially care for this campground. 

25 Dec 2013 (Wed)(Christmas Day) – The day was cool and partly cloudy.  Since we have no sewer hookup, we have to be careful about using the water.  Consequently, we are using paper plates and plastic silverware, and using the park’s facilities.  Walked over and took a shower, then returned and made breakfast.  Paul worked around the camper on various projects, and Melody worked on the computer.  Took a walk down to the pier after lunch.  There was another cruise ship in port – we think it was Carnival (it was gone later on in the day).  We walked by the marina and saw the noses of some manatees poking up now and then. There were signs around warning you not to “water the manatees” and not to feed the alligators.

     This reminded us of our trip to the Florida Keys a couple of years ago.  We were staying in a friend’s house on a canal, and a pod of 7 or 8 manatees came swimming along.  My cousin said they like to drink fresh water, so we lowered a hose into the water.  Sure enough, they came over and started drinking from the hose.  It turns out that manatees only drink fresh water, despite the fact that they swim in a salt water environment.  They treated the water like candy and wouldn’t have stopped drinking if we hadn’t taken the hose out.  It was one of the coolest experiences we had ever had with wildlife.  We later found out that it is against Florida law to interact with the manatees.

      At a little after two o’clock, we left for George & Linda’s daughter’s house for Christmas dinner.  We met their 9-month old grandson, Ryan, and greeted Diane & Chris (their daughter and son (in-law), and Neil (their son).  My cousin, Denise, arrived later.  We exchanged gifts and then enjoyed a very pleasant lasagna dinner.  We returned back at the campground around 7 p.m.

24 Dec 2013 (Tue) – Woke to a drizzly, overcast day, but it cleared up in the afternoon.  Ran to Home Depot to pick up some repair items.  When we arrived here yesterday and opened the slides, a package got in the way of the living room slide and popped the molding off.  Paul had to nail it back on.  This is a reminder that we must be ever vigilant about making sure to secure everything before moving.

      We went to Home Depot to pick up some repair material, then to Publix to get some food stuff.  Returned to the campground and Paul was able to repair the molding.  Then he strung Christmas lights in a tree shape along the back outside of the camper.  We put a solar lighted cross at the top of the tree.  It was beautiful.  Paul also put a string of Christmas lights inside across the top of the living room slide.  It looks very festive in here.

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      You can see Cape Canaveral across the river.  There was one cruise ship there when we arrived yesterday.  There were two ships there today – Norwegian cruise lines and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.  They left sometime during the day.

      We drove to my cousin George’s place, and then met Denise and John at the Discovery Christian Center for Christmas Eve services.  It was a very big, warehouse looking place.  They had a slide screen that projected the words to songs in the front of the room, and a few members of the congregation (including the pastor) were playing musical instruments.  A woman and young girl were singing, and various members of the congregation came up and read the Christmas story from the scriptures.  They had communion – you just walked up, took a piece of cracker the size of a grain of rice, drank the grape juice, picked up a candle, then returned to your seat – then we stood in a huge circle around the room with lighted candles and listened to Oh, Holy Night being played over the speaker.  Then we all sang one verse of Silent Night and it was over.  It seemed so impersonal, not like back home.

     Afterward, George, Linda, Paul and I went to the Bone Fish Grill for dinner.  We had something called “Bang Bang Shrimp” that was outstanding.  Paul had crab cakes and I had broiled salmon.     

 23 Dec 2013 (Mon) – We heard a loud ship’s blast in the canal way in front of the campground at 8 a.m.  We ran out to see what it was.  A barge was spraying its fire hoses to each side in a welcome gesture (two fire trucks did the same thing when my plane taxied onto the runway in Texas returning from deployment in the Middle East).  A Navy ship was coming into port with all the sailors lined up along the rails on deck.  The ship was sounding its horn regularly.  Soon, all the ships in port at the Navy base began to blast their horns.  Two hours later, another ship came in the same way – blasting its horn as if to say “Maaaaaa, I’m home!”  The answering blasts said “Welcome back.”  A Navy port is very noisy when ships come in.  Wonder if it’s the same way when they leave port.

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      Finished cleaning and packing up everything and was on the road by 10 a.m.  Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch.  I was on the phone for an hour with the insurance company; Paul used the time to Christmas shop in Cracker Barrel’s store.  We had 3-cheese grilled cheese and green tomato & ham soup.  It was quite tasty.

      Arrived at the campground around 3:30 p.m.  It used to be for the exclusive use of the employees of the Kennedy Space Center, and only recently opened to the military (active and retired).  It is located on a wildlife refuge area and our campsite is literally on the banks of the Banana River.  Three big steps will put you right in the water.  The very first thing we noticed when we arrived was the stench.  The tide was out and the rotting seaweed seemed like rotten eggs.  It was strongest right in front of the door.  Ugh!  We have to watch out for alligators, snakes, wild boar, and other critters.  Guess we’ll keep Sheba indoors for now.

      As you look across the river, you can see the Kennedy Space Center standing tall in the distance.  It is the perfect place from which to watch a space shuttle launch – IF there was going to be one.  Unfortunately, NASA is no longer doing these so it’s just a big building on the far shore.

      Drove to my cousin’s place and had dinner with George; his wife, Linda; his sister, Denise; and her boyfriend, John.  It was a delightful evening!  On the way back to the campground, we spotted a live armadillo on the side of the road.  There was also a huge tortoise.  It’s like being in a zoo without walls.  Cool!  Coming from the suburbs of New York, the only wildlife you usually see is a dead one on the side of the road.

22 Dec 2013 (Sun) – Took it easy today.  Did some housekeeping duties.  Shopped at the PX and commissary.  Did some laundry.  Packed away the cold weather clothes.  Brought out the lawn chairs and, with wine glass in hand, watched the sun set in the west.  It was a great day.  Ready to jump tomorrow.  Headed to Merritt Island.

21 Dec 2013 (Sat) – Woke to a beautiful, balmy day.  Took Bonnie down to the beach.  Let her off the leash and she took off, ignoring all calls to come back.  Fortunately, I had brought a chicken wing with me in case she did just this thing.  I kept waving it and calling that I had a treat.  Finally, she caught the scent of it and came running back to me.  Good thing, too, because we had taken her pet tracker off so it wouldn’t get wet in the ocean.  It would have been tough to find her if we ran off.

      The ocean was vast.  We watched a container ship sail by on its way somewhere far across the ocean.  The tide was going out.  The water was cold.  I had forgotten how loud the ocean can be with the waves crashing on the shore.  There were two or three fishermen on the beach – that was it.  We could have been standing on the beach at Atlantique on Fire Island.  The sand was filled with crushed shells.

      We brought Bonnie back to the camper, dried her off, and left for the ITT Office.  They said the only place worth seeing around here is St. Augustine.  They had tickets for the trolley tour and a holiday light tour that takes place at night.  We decided that St. Augustine would be more appropriate for a walking tour, so we didn’t get any tickets.  St. Augustine is the oldest established city in the continental United States.  It was founded by the Spanish; taken by the British; taken by America in the revolutionary war; given back to the Spanish for their help in the war; then purchased by America for $5 million.   

      Got on the interstate and headed down to St. Augustine.  Much of the ride was like driving along Ocean Parkway on Fire Island or Dune Road in the Hamptons.  There were many beach houses along the shore, sometimes so narrow that you could see the water behind the houses on both sides of the peninsula as you drove along the road.

      Arrived in St. Augustine and it was immediately clear that we were there on a weekend.  People were everywhere.  We went to the visitor center and got information about the sights.  Walked across the street to the Castillo de San Marcos.  It was a fort built by the Spanish in the late 1600s to protect the city.  Quite old and fascinating.  There was a cannon firing and the volunteers were getting ready to fire their muskets when we left.  The tour of the old fort was so interesting.

      We left the fort and walked down the street in the Colonial Quarter.  It was a brick lined street with some of the oldest buildings in the city.  There would be store after store with vendors hawking their wares, then there would be an historic building right in the middle of everything, with a plaque explaining its significance and maybe an admission fee, then back to the vendors. We found a place to eat, then resumed our tour.

      We walked down Aviles Street which is purported to have the oldest established area in the United States.  The street was cobble stoned and many of the buildings certainly looked very, very old.  We stopped at the Government House and toured that facility.  There was a display describing the very earliest settlers in St. Augustine dating back to 1565.  Another part of the museum talked about the building but we were out of time and needed to get back home. 

      Walked back to the garage, retrieved our truck, and returned to the campground.

20 Dec 2013 (Fri) – Left the campground at 9 a.m. with the temperatures in the low 50s.  As we moved south, the temperature slowly climbed until it was in the high 70s.  It was interesting to watch the topography change.  The low country of South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida is swampy and open.  Trees are covered with hanging moss, and there are many pine trees.  They are different from the pine trees in New York – taller and thinner with few branches on the lower part of the tree.

      We stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel at 11:30 a.m.  The parking space for RVs was too small to fit our rig and truck, and we stuck out a little bit into the passing lane.  Sure enough, we got into the restaurant and a delivery truck for Cracker Barrel arrived.  The semi was too big to fit past us so Paul went out to move our RV.  After lunch, we found we had a hard time getting around the truck that was parked to deliver supplies.  We managed to maneuver around it and get back on the interstate.

      Shortly after we got back on the road, Sheba (our cat) began to start pacing and crying.  We tried stopping and putting her in the cat box thinking maybe she had to go to the bathroom.  She only jumped right out of it and ran to the door like she wanted to go out.  We put her back in the truck and continued on our way but she continued to be quite agitated.

      We finally arrived at the Pelican Roost RV Park on the Mayport Naval Station at 3 p.m.  What a nice post!  The campground is on a peninsula jutting out into the St. Johns River.  It is right on the navy base and looks over at the port area where naval and cruise ships dock.  The laundry is free, as well as coffee served all day long.  There is WiFi and cable offered for free also.  The campground is immaculate with about 50 spaces in three rows all facing the river.  The campsites are well spaced apart with palm trees interspersed among the sites.

      The first thing we did after setting up was to throw open all the windows.  A balmy breeze was blowing in from the water and the sun was shining down.  It was just beautiful.  I am beginning to understand the mindset of the snowbird.  We let the dog and cat explore the area before we took off to explore the base.  There is a large beach that looks just like Fire Island or Jones Beach.  We got to drive by the docks and look at the ships up close.  The USS New York is in town.  It was kind of thrilling.  We found the NEX (Navy Exchange) and bought some wine.  Returned to the campground, grilled some dinner, and investigated area attractions for tomorrow.  Skyped with both the kids.

South Carolina

19 DEC 2013 (Thu) – What a delightful day!  We left the campground at 8:30 a.m. headed for the Early Bird Diner, as recommended by Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.  Melody had the waffles and chicken, and Paul had the biscuits and gravy.  We left and headed into historic Charleston.  Had a little trouble finding a parking space for the day, but finally found a garage where we could leave the truck.

      We walked the streets of Charleston.  First stop was the Old Exchange & Provost.  A docent dressed in a colonial costume gave us a tour of the dungeon.  It was originally the ground floor but over the years, the ground raised and the dungeon is now in the basement.  The dungeon was all bricked with curving archways.  There used to be an area used to imprison pirates and other persons.  The history of the building was truly fascinating.

       We left the Old Exchange and headed off to Nathanial Russell House.  It had a floating staircase (which wasn’t really “floating”), and was a wonderful example of early 1700s architecture.  We learned about the original family, and all the other families/organizations that owned the building before it was finally turned over for historical purposes.

      We stopped by St. Michael’s Church to explore the inside.  President Washington and Robert E. Lee both attended church services there.  The building was beautiful with velvet seats, stained glass windows, and a large pipe organ.  The baptismal font was shipped in from England many years ago.  The bells in the church travelled back and forth from England several times to repair damages.

      It was late in the afternoon so we decided to seek out a place for lunch.  We walked down the street and came across the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and stopped in for food.  We got an assortment of four types of shrimp with fries and a drink of ginger, cinnamon, and spiced rum.  For dessert, we tried a sampler of three desserts – bread pudding, strawberry shortcake, and chocolate chip sundae.  Yum!

      While walking back to the truck, we came across the Charleston Market Place, a large bazaar (or flea market type) arrangement.  There were so many wonderful items to explore.  It is too bad we live in a camper where we must watch out for both space and weight limits.

      Charleston is jam packed with historical places to explore.  You would need at least a week to get to everything worth seeing.  It is a lovely, old charm, southern neighborhood that is very reminiscent of New Orleans with garden courtyards, moss covered trees, wrought iron railings, and narrow streets.  It even has a French Quarter.

      We returned to the campground and Skyped with both our children.  Afterwards, we did the laundry then prepared for our move tomorrow to Mayport, Florida.

18 DEC 2013 (Weds) – What a wonderful day!  We drove to Charleston, looked for parking, wound up parking in a public garage, and bought tickets on a boat to Fort Sumter.  The fort is free but you have to buy passage to it on a boat – it’s on an island.  The passage was $16 each. 

      While we were waiting for the boat to leave, we watched a pelican flying back and forth searching for fish.  On one particular dive, up popped a dolphin.  Looking out, we discovered several dolphins were swimming in the river.  We were very entertained watching them.

      The boat had a taped intro to the island playing overhead, and also described as other things in the area.  When we got off the boat and stood in front of the fort, it was overwhelming.  Here we stood, in front of a place where the first shots of the civil war took place.  Many men died here trying to defend their ideals.  First, the union (north) had the fort and held it for two days before surrendering to the confederates (south).  Two years later, the confederates held the fort against union forces where they withstood a siege 22 days.  Later, the fort was used during World War II.  In 1945, it was turned over to the National Park Service. 

      After we returned from Fort Sumter, we went to the Charleston Aquarium.  It was quite expensive - $53.90 for the two of us.  We saw a 4D movie – Polar Express.  We wore 3D glasses and experienced blowing wind and cold snow falling.  Didn’t really feel the movie was worth the extra cost.  The aquarium was interesting.  It was clean and well kempt.  We stopped to talk to a volunteer who was standing around with a 2-year old alligator on his arm.  Shortly thereafter, he invited us to take a “behind the scenes” tour.  We went up to the 3rd floor to the top of the GOT (giant ocean tank).  He talked about how they feed the over 750 tank habitants representing 50 different species.  The loggerhead turtle gets distracted and put in a special basket to eat.  The sharks are trained to take fish steaks off a pole at the other side of the tank.  The moray eel is fed in a PVC tube.  The schooling fish are fed as they need.  Everyone gets the food they need in the way they eat it.  It was quite interesting.

      While we were at the aquarium, our daughter called.  She had a crisis in her family.  We were left pretty upset about the whole event but unable to help.  We tried to get in touch with her later but she was busy with the baby.  Hope to make contact soon.

      After the aquarium, we drove around the city of Charleston, looking for a local place to eat.  The streets were narrow, and many of the buildings reminded us of New Orleans with their wrought iron railings and pastel colors.  We finally found a public parking lot to put the truck.  We followed a map on Siri to a place called Poogan’s Porch.  It was a restaurant set up in an old mansion.  Everything was decorated nicely for the Christmas season.  We were seated next to a fireplace and Christmas tree.  The she crab soup was exquisite.  Paul had a shrimp and grits dish that seems to be popular here in the south; Melody had a NY strip steak with a blue cheese drizzle.  We shared a slice of pecan pie with smoked bacon ice cream.  It was certainly an experience.

17 DEC 2013 (Tue) – It was a wonderful day today, albeit a long one.  Left just a little after 9 a.m. to drive to Patriots Point.  They had a submarine, a battleship, and an aircraft carrier open for touring.

      The USS Clamagore Submarine was an interesting tour.  You entered on the bow end, walked through the sub through its very tight and narrow corridors, and came up in the aft.  Shuddered to think of the tight, cramped quarters that the 25 men lived in.  Couldn’t figure out where they put them all.

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      Next was the USS Laffey Battleship.  This was a little more spacious, but still cramped quarters with men living in and among the bombs and torpedoes.  This ship had a complement of almost 100 men.

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      Last came the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier with a crew of over a thousand.  What a palatial ship compared to the other two!  There was even an escalator that took the pilots up the flight deck from the ready room.  There was a simulator for the kids, videos, and displays of all kinds.  There were displays for all the aircraft carriers, not just the Yorktown.  Loads of memorabilia described the actions and battles that the carriers took part in.  The best part was getting to wander around the many levels of the carrier to see how it worked and where the sailors lived and worked.  If there hadn’t been arrows to follow, we surely would have gotten lost in the bowels of the ship.

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      When we exited the ship area, we discovered a replica of a US Navy support base that was set up in Vietnam.  There were many items on display, including a jeep.  A jeep!  I drove around in one of those when I first enlisted in the National Guard back in the 1970s.  Now it is an item on historical display.  How did that happen?  Where have the years gone?  I don’t feel old enough to be historical.  Blah.

      There was a wonderful architectural marvel that we drove across to get to Patriots Point.  The Arthur Ravenel Bridge that spanned the Cooper River is a beauty that closely resembles the bridge crossing the James River in Virginia. 

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16 DEC 2013 (Mon) – Left Fort Bragg at 10:30 a.m.  The sun was shining and the weather cool, but not cold.  As we moved further south, the temperature went up and finally reached 59 degrees by the time we pulled into our campsite at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, SC.  The drive was uneventful.  We stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel just before arriving here.  We had not been able to get a reservation beforehand so we made contact while driving here, keeping our fingers crossed that there would be a space available when we arrived (the further south we come, the fuller the campgrounds get).  Also called the next two campgrounds as well.  The bases in Florida do not even take reservations – it’s first come, first serve.  That’s how popular camping is down south during this time of year.  While two campgrounds in Florida said they currently had space, they instructed us to call ahead just before coming to make sure there was open space.  One campground said they are not full, but their overflow is in use.  Hopefully, we won’t have a problem finding a campground to stay at.

      This is the first time we have stayed on a military base without having to go through a security check point.  It is quite a large base with housing, commissary, exchange, etc.  The campground has about 50 campsites in it.  It is pretty full; only about 5 or so spaces are empty.  As we were setting up, a couple pulled up, introduced themselves, and explained that they were helping the camp host.  They are fellow campers here.  They asked to see our ID, gave us a parking pass to put in the windshield, a paper describing the rules, and a map of the base.

      Once we were set up, we took a walk around the circle of campers.  Many campers are old and some are obviously here for extended periods of time.  There is a bathhouse in the center of the circle with showers and laundry machines.  Our “greeting committee” said the machines here are too expensive and to use the machines at the exchange.

      Went over the brochures for the area.  Looking forward to touring the USS Yorktown tomorrow.

North Carolina

15 DEC 2013 (Sun) – Potsed around the camper this morning.  Gave Bonnie and Sheba some outdoor time.  Sheba discovered pine needles.  She had such fun with them.  Brought one back into the camper like the Viking queen bringing home her treasure.  Funny.  Made French toast and bacon for breakfast.  Used the Vermont syrup we picked up during our visit there this summer.  It was SO much better than the Aunt Jemima stuff we have always used.  Tried to make reservations at our next campground but they were closed today.  We’ll have to do it on the fly tomorrow on the road.

     Went to the 1 p.m. showing of Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  Bummer!  They left you hanging for movie number 3.  Hate that kind of stuff!

      Drove to the commissary on base and picked up a few things.  Returned to camper.  Had dinner and finished up a number of things online – banking, trip advisor submissions, emails, etc.  Getting ready for our jump to South Carolina tomorrow.

14 DEC 2013 (Sat) – It was below freezing this morning when we woke up.  It got up to a high of 52 degrees today, with mostly drizzle until after dinner.

      Went to the Museum of The Cape Fear Historical Complex (strange wording, huh?).  It covered the local history in the area, beginning with native Indians and the arrival of the British in the late 1600s.  The displays also covered North Carolina’s involvement in the war for independence as well as the civil war.  They covered the economic impact of slavery on North Carolina and had quite an interesting photo array covering child labor use in the textile factories. 

      As part of the museum, there was also a house next door called the Poe House.  One of the children had even been named Edgar Allen Poe (after the famous poet), but the family was of no relation.  The house was simply an example of an 1897 home.  There had been six boys and two girls in the family.  The youngest child, Hilda, made a deal with the state to leave the house as a historical building after her death.  The tour guide was a very animated individual who was quite entertaining.

      Also on the complex were remains of the Fayetteville Arsenal.  It used to span a large area that is now bisected by a major interstate highway.  There was a footbridge that crossed over the highway where there were remains of the arsenal.  The foundations are all that’s left, and a simulated watch tower was erected to show visitors what they looked like scale-wise.

      We left the Museum of The Cape Fear Historical Complex and headed over to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum, also in Fayetteville.  As we pulled up, we saw a Veterans Park across the street.  Since it wasn’t raining hard yet, we decided to explore that outdoor display first.  What a tribute to veterans!  The park was absolutely amazing.  It was divided into three parts – pre-service, service, and the period after military service.  There were columns with handprints in them representing each of North Carolina’s counties.  Along a brick wall curving around the back of the column display were one hundred hands raised at shoulder height as if swearing their oath of allegiance.  There were five brick arches, each with the name of the service above it (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard).  Sculptures sprinkled the area with one of the seven virtues of service displayed before an artwork that used scraps from military equipment.  There were lots of benches to sit on among flora and fauna displays as well as loads of water fountains.  There was also a brick building that contained displays describing North Carolina’s participation in each war.  A huge TV screen was situated in front of a couple of rows of chairs with music and parades of the various services playing.  The rousing tunes made me want to step in time!  There was also a display of dog tags – one for every service member killed in service during each war on a wall display.  There were also thousands of dog tags hanging from a display on the ceiling.  It was quite moving.

      We then walked across to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum.  Wow!  What a place.  The ceilings were very high in order to accommodate the full size planes with parachutists that were on display.  There were story boards, mannequins, videos, and equipment displays telling the story of the nation’s airborne forces:  from the first 48 test group to today’s highly skilled soldiers.  We watched a movie that told the start of airborne forces and heard veterans tell stories of their service years.  There were two large statues out front – one was Iron Mike, the symbolic airborne trooper.  Many carved stones were inlaid with names of donors, as were stone markers lining the walkway with the names of units that have served, or are still serving.  We enjoyed the museum very much.

      After leaving the museum, we stopped at Mi Casita for lunch.  We had margaritas and Mexican food.  Everything was delicious and the cost was much less than we have been spending as we travel around the country.   When we came out of the restaurant at 5:30 p.m. the skies opened up and the rain came down in droves.  It’s been a long time since we have seen rain that hard.  Got back to the campground and found (very happily) that nothing was leaking.

13 DEC 2013 (Fri) – Woke to 27 degrees.  Bbrrrrrr!  But it got warm quickly – up to 50 by 3 p.m. Went to the Averasboro Battlefield in Fayettevile.  The field was large and you could easily imagine hostile forces moving about the area, shooting at each other, firing off cannon attacks.  A coop owns the area and it is directed that the original family that owned the area can farm it, but no buildings can be put up on it.  There was a small private museum with a very extensive collection of civil war artifacts – even a femur with a bullet in it (yuk).  There was comprehensive description of the next to final battle of the civil war that took place in the area.  It was here that General Sherman of the north and General Johnston of the south clashed and fought for eight days.  In the end, Johnston surrendered and Sherman continued on to Goldsboro.  I thought the museum treated the subject fairly; Paul felt they leaned toward in favor of the south. 

      We left the museum and traveled down the road to visit the Chicora Civil War cemetery.  There are 54 confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery – only two of them are known.  There was supposed to be some kind of video presentation but it wasn’t working. 

       Stopped at Hardees for lunch then returned to the campground.  Melody had called her doctor to have some test results faxed and we stopped at the camp office to pick them up.  When we got back, we did the laundry.  Reconnected the hose – we have to disconnect it when the weather falls below 32 degrees so it won’t freeze and burst – and took showers.  It was heavenly!  Cooked dinner and planned the next day’s activities.

 12 DEC 2013 (Thu) – Got up, had breakfast, packed up, and left for North Carolina.  It was a long drive – 5 hours.  But, the weather was clear – no rain!  We stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch and arrived at Fort Bragg in North Carolina around 3:30 p.m.  The campground is more mature than our previous campgrounds.  The pines are full grown and the grass is all grown in.  We got a site with full hook-ups.  We are on a hill with some other 15 or so campers.  This is the most campers we have seen since we left New York.  Guess we’ll see more and more as we get further south.

      After setting up, we drove onto the post (the campground is on a lake off the main post) aiming to have dinner at the Fort Bragg Officer’s Club.  Arrived there and found although there were two formal events going on, the club closed to serving dinners some two years ago.  We left, headed for McKellars Lounge on the outskirts of the post.  They were closed – only serve lunch Monday through Friday.

      Drove outside the post onto the main strip and found a number of fast food restaurants.  Ate at Ruby Tuesday.  Returned to the campground, planned out the next day’s activities, and turned in.

VIRGINIA & WASHINGTON D.C.

11 DEC 2013 (Wed) – Went to Yorktown National Park.  We now have a golden pass and don’t pay anything at national parks.  Whoohoo!  Turns out, there was no battle as we think of but rather a siege of Yorktown.  The British had captured Yorktown and fortified the perimeter of the city.  The colonists (who were also British) laid siege to the city for eight days.  At the end, General Cornwalis surrendered and this action spelled the downward spiral of England’s claim to the Americas.  The park ranger that took us on a tour described the action and brought everything to life.  It was such an interesting experience.  We drove around the park and saw where the French, Germans, Scots, and colonists fought together to overcome England’s control.

      Afterwards, we drove to the National Civil War Museum in Richmond.  Turned out that we had been there on an earlier trip.  The museum had been closed and we walked around the area looking at the displays.  This time, the building was open.  There were three floors of story boards, videos, and artifacts showing the civil war activities that impacted Richmond.  Returned home and prepared for tomorrow’s move to Fort Bragg, NC.

10 DEC 2013 (Tue) - Woke at 7 a.m. to find a snowy sleet falling.  There was about an inch or two of slush on the roadways.  We made the call and decided to leave rather than stay in place another day or two.  We hooked up and pulled out the gate.  The roadway was a hill that began right at the exit gate, so there was no chance to build up speed.  We turned onto the roadway and headed up the hill.  The wheels began to slip and spin.  Paul never let off the gas because if we stopped, we would be stuck there for the rest of the storm.  He continued to apply pressure on the gas.  The wheels were spinning like crazy.  The smell of burning rubber began to drift into the cab.  Then the truck started to slide sideways.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the side view mirror.  There was no shoulder on the road.  It just sloped down into the woods.  I had visions of the camper flipping over or of our rig and camper falling into the gutter area on the side of the road.  It was a hair-raising experience!  We made it to the top of the hill without crashing, falling off the road, or blowing a tire.  It took us over 20 minutes to get up that hill.

      We stopped at a Dunkin Donuts at the top of the hill to find it was closed due to “severe weather conditions.”  Severe weather conditions?  There was only an inch or two of slush on the roads, with light snow falling.  We laugh at that kind of stuff back home!  We were on the road by 9:30 a.m.

       Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for brunch, then arrived at the Naval Weapons Station Yard Cheatham Annex in Williamsburg, VA around 2:30.  The drive was slow – at some points, there were big snowflakes falling; at other times, there was icy rain pelting us.  The further south we moved, the lighter the rain/snow became until it finally stopped.

      The drive south was peppered with the sound of tweets and rings as our cell phone told us of incoming text messages and phone calls.  Melody’s brother, Tim, was sailing from Florida to the Bahamas and his emergency beacon transmitter went off.  The Coast Guard called to see if we knew where he was last located.  The entire eastern seaboard lit up (well, at least New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Florida) as family all communicated what they knew about Tim’s whereabouts and intentions.  It took about 24 hours, but Tim was finally tracked down and found to be OK.  We are all waiting for him to return to America so can beat him silly for scaring us all so badly.

      The Naval Station is very clean, neat and organized – just like any military facility.  The campground we are at has 50 campsites and about a dozen very nice cottages.  Examining the map they gave us of the base, it looks like this place is mostly cottages and campsites.  There are several large warehouses in the center of the property and recreation sites on the outer fringe of lakes and the York River.

      Drove into town and had dinner at the Second St Bistro.  Very fancy but they had good food and reasonable prices.  Returned to the campground and turned in early.  It was a very trying day.

 9 DEC 2013 (Mon) – The weather was cruddy today.  Icy rain and sleet most of the day. Everything covered in ice and slush.  It looks beautiful – like a winter wonderland.

     Did the laundry.  It was only a dollar per washer and a dollar per dryer.  Compared to what we experienced in other places, that was pretty cheap.  We drove to the PX and commissary to do some shopping.  We both bought hats and I got a pair of mitten gloves.  We went back to the campsite and took showers at the bathhouse.  It was a nice new facility, fully tiled all the way to the ceiling.  Took a drive to the historical town of Occonquan.  It was beautiful – just like we remembered it from years ago.  Had dinner at Madigan’s Waterfront restaurant.  The old fashioned town was decorated for Christmas.  There are condos being built along the riverfront.

      We decided to stay the night instead of leaving early.  Winter storm Dion ran through and there is a second storm coming in from Texas.  The weather folks are predicting 3-6 inches of snow accumulation.  We pulled the slides in when we went to bed to avoid getting snow and ice on the slide covers as well as keep the camper warmer.  It was tight but cozy. 

8 DEC 2013 (Sun) – Woke to freezing rain and sleet.  We fiddled around, waiting for the weather to clear but it just kept getting worse.  Face timed with Paul’s sister and her husband back in New York.  Checked the email, sent text messages, served the Internet, etc.  Finally, we just decided to bit the bullet and go.

     We drove around the post to orient ourselves.  Found the package store and bought a box of red wine.  The housing on post is beautiful.  The enlisted personnel have just as nice a housing as the officers.   Many of the houses are decorated for Christmas with one candle in each window.  Others have wreaths on their doors and some have decorations on the lawn.  It is all very colonial looking.

      Drove over to Fort Washington National Park in Maryland.  The area was quite large.  Unfortunately, the sleet and icy rain had picked up and it was uncomfortable walking around the area.  The park ranger took us on the outdoor tour anyway.  I wore a raincoat with a hood so I was just chilly; Paul had no hat or hood.  His hair was soaked by the time we were done.  The fort was well laid out and many of the original buildings and emplacements were in reasonably good condition.  The place was originally named Fort Washburn.  It was burned down to save it from capture by southern forces during the Civil War (the commander was court martialed for that decision).  It was rebuilt shortly thereafter and renamed Fort Washington.  Technology soon made the fort obsolete (ironclad ships, better artillery, etc.) and it was no longer used after 1946.

      Left the park and went to the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA.  The building is modeled on the Greek Parthenon.  It is nine stories high with a grand, sweeping staircase in the front.  Admission was free but limited you to the first two floors.  We paid for the tour and wound up seeing the entire building.  There was a replica of the meeting room of a masonic lodge on the second floor.  The third floor was devoted to memorial displays of George Washington and his involvement with the Free Masons.  The fourth floor explained the history and organization of the masons.  It was fascinating to see the many offshoots of the masons.  The top floor had an outside viewing area that circled the outside of the building.  If it weren’t for the fog and rain clouds, the view of the surrounding area would have been terrific.

      Stopped at a Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que on the way back.  Melody ordered a Mama’s sweet tea which turned out to be a huge glass of some kind of rum drink.  It was good.  We returned to the camper and found there were now seven campers (including us) in the campground.  Everything was covered in icicles.  Bbrrrrrr.

 7 DEC 2013 (Sat) – Took the metro to Washington, D.C. today.  The system is clean, quiet, and well kept.  The fares are expressed in dollars and cents, but the machine only sells the tickets in whole dollars.  So, although it was $5.50 for one round trip ticket, we had to pay $6 for the fare plus $1 dollar for administrative fees.

      We went to the International Spy Museum.  They gave us a military discount on the admission price.  Took the elevator to the third floor.  The first step was to choose a pseudonym as a spy.  They had 16 personas to choose from. You had to remember the name, age, birthplace, residence, travel destination, and business of your cover.  At the end of the tour, you had to answer questions of border control agents.  If you answered wrong, they got suspicious and detained you. 

      The museum itself was quite interesting.  There were displays of equipment used by real life spies and stories about spy rings both discovered and not caught.  There was also a special section devoted to James Bond movies and the special villains from each movie.  There were movie clips and story boards and photographs and music – all to stir the imagination.  We took an elevator to the third floor and only walked down one set of stairs, but somehow would up in the basement gift shop.  Don’t know how they did that.  We never noticed that we were walking on a downward angle.

      When we got out of the museum, we spied a Gordon Biersch restaurant.  We had eaten at one when we were upstate New York and enjoyed it very much.  We immediately made a bee line for the restaurant and had lunch there.  It was as good as we remembered.

      When we came out of the restaurant, we walked across to a holiday street bazaar set up on the street.  There were many 10’ X 10’ white tents set up with vendors selling crafts, handmade goods, scarves, hats, imported items, etc.  A group of renaissance singers were belting out Christmas carols.  We sat down to listen for a while.  It was very pleasant.

6 DEC 2013 (Fri) – After a 7-week hiatus, we are finally on the road again!  Left New York at 4 a.m.  It was drizzling and foggy.  Stopped for breakfast at Cracker Barrel in New Jersey.  Ran into traffic on the loop around Washington, D.C. because of an accident.  Arrived at Fort Belvoir, VA, at 12:30.  The campground is brand new and located right on the Potomac River.  Every campsite has a concrete pad, full hook-ups, and even a de-icing element.  The bathrooms are very nice with private rooms to do your business.

     We were spent when we arrived, so after setting up and taking the dog for a walk in the rain, we napped.  Then we went to the Officers Club for the seafood buffet special.  They had everything except lobster – crab, scallops, calamari, salmon, king crab legs, tilapia, etc.  It was quite a spread with some great desserts to finish off with.  There were a couple of tables with people dressed very nicely who seemed to be from a dance club – or, at least, have been dancing together for quite some time.  They were ball room dancing to tunes being played by a 3-piece band.  When the band took a break and the canned music came on, the fun began.  They did line dancing to music that you would not think about line dancing to.  There was Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, a samba, and a country music song.  After several songs, there were only men dancing.  It was very interesting to watch.

     I have come to understand the dilemma of many would-be campers.  About 95% of the people who hear that we are retired and traveling the country say that they would also like to do the same thing.  They are either planning for it (if still working), or have wanted to do it but have not.  The most common reason for not following through is that the wife does not want to leave the grandchildren.  Boy, can I relate to that!

     In the logical part of your brain, you know your children have moved on.  They have their spouses and their children – their own lives now.  While I was a central figure in their lives when I was their primary caretaker, I am now a peripheral figure in their lives.  That is how it should be.  That is why we are able to take off and follow our retirement plan to travel the country for the next ten or twenty years.

     Unfortunately, there is an emotional part of the brain that pulls at you mercilessly.  You see your children having problems and you want to stay and fix it for them – or at least help as best you can.  Our children are now starting to have their own children and those little babies are SO cute.  It is so hard to leave them.  We know that we will visit once or twice a year, and when they get big enough, they will fly out and spend some time with us.  It will be a great experience for our grandchildren.  But to miss these early, growing years – ooohhhhh, how it tugs at the heart.  There is the cell phone and there will be SKYPE conversations, but it isn’t holding and rocking those little guys.  sigh …  It’s me and my hubby now with visits with the family from time to time. I want to cry.

PENNSYLVANIA

Oct 13, 2013 – Whoeeee, did we do a lot of walking today!  Left under cloudy, drizzly skies for breakfast at the Waffle House.  Returned to the U.S. Army Education & Heritage Center in Carlisle.  We drove around the historic district in Carlisle and saw many beautiful buildings built in the 1800s.  Took advantage of touring the Carlisle Barracks, U.S. Army War College post while there.  Walked through the Hessian Powder Magazine built in 1777 and learned of the several uses of the area over the years.  The Indian School that Jim Thorpe went to was actually located on this very spot.  We stopped in the PX and picked up a few things, then drove over to the museum to do the mile-long walk of the outside exhibits.  What a fantastic experience!  There was a trench from WWI, a bunker from WWII, a base from Vietnam, and some buildings displaying Civil War days.  There were displays of various tanks and choppers, and lots of plaques describing events of the period.  There was an Oktoberfest taking place on the outside mall.  It was weird to see carnival rides intertwined with tanks and military bunkers.  Since it was a fund raiser for military families, we ate lunch there.   The weather cleared up nicely.

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     Drove to Harrisburg and toured the State Museum of Harrisburg.  It was very comprehensive and informative about the land, dinosaurs, Indians, geology, astronomy, etc.  There was also a special exhibit about the Civil War.  Many items we looked at were the same as exhibits we saw in other museums.  My only criticism would be in the flow of the exhibits.  The layout was confusing – if you followed one, then you didn’t get to see the rest of the display in the room before you went off into the next room.  Also, several of the signs next to displays were hard to see in the dark.  They needed lights for reading.

     This is our last blog for a while.  Tomorrow, we return to New York to await the birth of our next grandchild.  Our daughter has a date for her C-section of October 30.  We will stay to help her through Thanksgiving, then take off to continue our travels.  Be back online then.  Ciao.

Oct 12, 2013 – It was mostly overcast all day.  Some flooding still continues around Harrisburg.  We went to the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum this morning.  They did such a wonderful job of laying out the displays and placing the hundreds of cars, buses, bicycles, and motorcycles effectively.  There were so many other things from the 1900s as well – including a replica of a diner.  There were three floors, and admission was $16 for the two of us.  There was an interesting car in the front of the building in the shape of Hershey kisses.

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     After we were done, we drove to the Official BBQ & Burgers café for lunch.  It was something of a dive but the food was good.  One of those places that all the locals know about. 

      Decided to go the Wolf Sanctuary in Lititz but it turned out they only give one tour a day.  Today’s tour took place at noon.  We missed it.  With a heavy sigh, we asked Siri to find the nearest winery.  Stopped at the Vineyard at Grand View.  It was the most expensive tasting to date - $6 for 7 wines.  We weren’t overly impressed with their wines.

     Got back to the campsite about 5 p.m.  Grilled a steak and cooked up the last bunch of salt potatoes.  Yummy!

Oct 11, 2013 – It was a gray, rainy day.  At some points, it was pouring very hard.  We drove past creeks and rivers that were overflowing their banks.  We saw two small local roads washed out.  The TV said Harrisburg had gotten a record amount of rain, breaking the last recorded most-rain-in-a-day on 1890!  More than a hundred years; and we happened to be here then.

     Went to the Turkey Hill Experience.  It was kind of like they were trying to copy Ben & Jerry’s.  It was most certainly a place for children.  Everything you ever wanted to know about ice cream as well as the four generations of Frey family, who are very proud of their accomplishments.  There were also free tastings of ice cream and ice tea.  Interestingly, military personnel were free.  The Civil War Museum charged military folks.  Seems somebody has their priorities screwed up.

      We left Turkey Hill and drove to the Vineyards at Hershey.  The wines were very good.  The port wine with chocolate overtones was so good, that I bought some bottles as gifts.  The charge was $3 each to taste five wines.  We wound up buying six bottles.

     After the winery, we drove into Hershey to get lunch.  We landed at a place named Fenicci’s.  It looked like it had been around a while.  There were dozens of posters on the wall of plays that had been performed at the Hershey Theater.  Each poster was signed by the cast and crew of that production.  Paul had crab bisque and half a hoagie, Melody had broiled salmon.  Just after we placed our orders, we got a call from Sam’s friend saying they were leaving in an hour.  The weekend was a washout and they decided to leave early and not stay for the judging competition tomorrow.  We told them we’d finish lunch and meet them at the hotel.

     We finished eating and drove back to the hotel.  It was raining hard and traffic was crawling.  It took us 25 minutes to make a 10 minute ride.  When we got there, they were on their way to Friendly’s for lunch.  We drove over there and spent a pleasant hour visiting before they left.

     We came back to the RV, fed the animals, and Skyped with our grandson and his mother.  He is growing so fast.  What a dolly!  Afterwards we went to the movies and saw Captain Phillips.  Tom Hanks is such a good actor.  We enjoyed the movie very much.

Oct 10, 2013 – Woke to an overcast, drizzly day.  Drove to the National Civil War Museum and once there, remembered that we have already been there.  Went in and toured the museum regardless.  It was still good. 

      Decided to drive to Restaurant Row on 2nd Street in Harrisburg but we couldn’t find any parking.  Gave up in disgust and drove on to the U.S. Army Education & Heritage Center.  On the way, came across a Cracker Barrel and stopped for lunch; then continued on to the U.S. Army museum. 

      By now, it had started to rain pretty steadily.  The museum was very interesting. There were a couple of simulated displays – one was of what it is like to be an airborne trooper descending on an objective.  Another was a replica of a bunker.  You went into the small dark cubicle and looked at a small lighted window that simulated the lookout port of the bunker.  You were supposed to be a soldier on lookout duty watching for the advancing Chinese.  The enemy came over the hill, the artillery shells landed with big explosions, and the flares added light flashes.  The sound of rifle and machine gun shots resounded in the background.  It was a pretty entertaining demo.

     We left to meet Sam and his friends for dinner.  Traffic was terrible.  It was either an accident or rush hour traffic.  We went to the Outback for dinner (eight of us).  The service was OK, there were several mistakes in the food orders.  When we came out of the restaurant, it was pouring.

     Given the rain, it is questionable as to whether Sam will stay through Saturday, the last day of the AACA show.  That’s when they hold the judging of the vintage antique cars.  If it is raining, many people won’t bother bringing their cars out.  We called Paul’s sister to tell her not to come.  She was going to drive over from New York to see the show and visit with brother Sam.

Oct 9, 2013 – Spent the day at the Antique Auto Club of America (AACA) annual show at the Hershey Fairgrounds. What an incredible event!  Cars, tents, and car parts as far as the eye can see.  Row after row of tables selling everything car related (and some not car related).  It is a lot of walking but quite an event.  We met up with Paul’s brother, Sam, and his friends.  After the show, we all went to Plain & Fancy, an Amish restaurant in Bird in Hand.  That was also an awesome experience.  We chose to eat family style.  There were eight in our group and four people from another group, making twelve of us at the table.  They brought out plates and bowls heaped with food – fried chicken (the very best!), mashed potatoes (couldn’t get enough!), chow chow (a relish), roasted corn, sausage, roast beef, etc.  That was followed by chocolate cake, shoo fly pie, apple crisp, and a big bowl of ice cream.  We were all stuffed.

Oct 8, 2013 – Arrived in Harrisburg, PA, today.  This is a good sized campground, neat, and laid out nicely.  Although the spaces are small, at least there is a tree between us and the next camper.  Four of us all came in today.  Our campsite is right next to I-83 and there is a constant highway sound.  It’s going to be tough sleeping with that!

      Took a ride out to see what’s in the area, and had dinner at Lancaster Brewing Company.  Excellent food!  We will have to go back there.  Looking forward to seeing our brother tomorrow in Hershey.

Oct 7, 2013 – Woke to a cloudy day.  Decided to hike Bushkill Falls in the Delaware Water Gap National Park today.  When we got there, it started to rain lightly.  Inside the entrance area, there were many stuffed animals on display.  The taxidermy was so old, the colors were off.  Two skunks were brown instead of black.  Several of the other animals were in the same sorry shape.  We bought our tickets and walked the trails.  There were four different trails, ranging from easy to difficult.  The trails were very well kept.  There was a lot of wood used to build walkways all around the area surrounding seven different waterfalls.  There were other buildings on site that sold souvenirs and food, told the story of the falls, and provided play areas for kids.  The only shame about it all was that someone was charging money to go look at nature.  Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right. 

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     We left the falls and drove to East Stroudsburg to a laundromat.  We threw our clothes in the washer and walked across the street to get some lunch.  The place was built to look like the old train station that used to stand on that site.  It had two parts – the Liquid Restaurant & Martini Bar on one side, and the Trackside Station Grill & Pub on the other side.  The food was very good, the portions were huge, the price was reasonable, and the service was pleasant. 

     After lunch, we returned to move our laundry from the washer to the dryer.  It started raining very hard and the wind kicked up quite a bit.  Finished the wash, ran to the truck, then drove to the grocery store where we stocked up supplies and got some cash for our pockets.  Returned to the campsite and began getting ready for tomorrow’s move to the new campground

Oct 6, 2013 – Woke to a gray, overcast, formless sky.  The temperature was 71 degrees.  We drove to a miner’s village but found they didn’t open till noon (it was 10:30 a.m.).  We decided to drive back to Lansford to take the No.9 Coal Mine Tour we missed out on last Wednesday.  I-80 had some parts socked in by fog.  It was pretty thick, calling for a speed reduction to as low as 40 mph.  It was kind of scary. 

     We arrived at the No. 9 Coal Mine and paid for a tour.  There was another couple and a single man taking the tour with us.  At noon, the tour operator came in to collect us and brought us out to a man car - a low ceiling steel car with bench seats pulled by a small engine.  It was a very bumpy ride into the mine.  We went in about 250’ and the tour operator gave us a very informative tour not only of the mine, but also of the conditions under which the miners worked.  There is a vein that extends almost 2,000 miles (almost the width of the entire U.S.).  The mammoth vein in this mine extends about 100 miles.  There were four levels in the mine – we were restricted to the first level; all others are under water.  They had as many as 1,500 mules working in the mines at one time and almost 5,000 coal cars.  SO glad we decided to go back and take the tour!

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     After the tour, we drove to Jim Thorpe.  They were having a Fall Foliage Festival this weekend.  We had lunch in the Broadway Grill & Pub – we weren’t impressed.  We walked up the street to the Old Jail and took the tour.  This is the jail where there is a handprint that cannot be washed away, left by a prisoner who said his handprint would stay to profess his innocence.  Apparently, several institutions have conduced scientific studies and there is no explanation as to why the handprint can’t be removed.  We saw a dungeon in the basement with 16 cells where men were kept in the dark.  We toured the two-level cell block with 32 cells split between the upper and lower level.  We saw the gallows built on the lower level to hang the Molly Maguires, a secret society of Irishmen resisting the coal mine owners. The warden and his family also lived in this building.

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      After the jail, we walked back down the street.  We took a detour over to see the historic stone row houses again, and then walked over to the town square where the festival was taking place.  There were maybe a dozen tents set up selling various items.  We bought a funnel cake and sat in the park, listening to the band play. 

      We returned to the truck to find we got a parking ticket.  We put $10 in cash and put the envelope in a special collection box.  Hopefully, the person who opens it is honest and doesn’t try to claim we never paid.

     We drove across the river to see the Jim Thorpe Memorial.  His actual grave is at the site, along with two sculptures (one carrying a football, and one throwing a discus), and some pictographs describing his history as a young Indian and Olympian.  The thing that troubled us most was that it never explained why he was buried in THIS town or why the town was renamed after him in 1954.  What connection did the town have with Jim Thorpe?  He didn’t grow up there.  He didn’t seem to have family there.  He didn’t die there.  Why was he honored in THIS particular town?

Oct 5, 2013 – Had breakfast at the Triplets Diner.  It’s been very busy whenever we passed it so we figured the food would be good and cheap.  Paul had creamed beef, and I had corned beef hash and eggs.  The food, service, and price were good.

     Intended to hike Bushkill Falls in the Delaware Water Gap National Park today.  When we got there, there were hundreds of people on line waiting to pay admission fees.  They all seemed to be speaking Russian (or some kind of Ukrainian language).  We decided to go back on Monday, when the crowds would be less.

     Drove further into the park to Dingmans Falls.  There was a gate across the road with a sign saying the park was closed due to the government shut-down.  We parked next to the other cars in the parking area, walked around the gate, and hiked to the falls.  We passed a small falls named Silver Thread Falls.  Since it is the end of the summer, all the falls waters are light – in some cases, dried up.  Would love to see this area in the spring with the waters roaring down the creek.  A walkway had been built over the rocky/swampy landscape using recycled plastic.  It was very nice and well kept.  The visitors center and bathrooms were locked and empty.  The falls were delightful.  Again – we’d love to see them in the spring when the full force of the water is running down the mountain.  During our drive out of the park, we got hit with a big sun shower.  The rain poured down for a good two or three minutes.  Love the smell of the earth when it first starts to rain.

     We stopped at the Pocono Indian Museum.  It was a small self-guided tour that described the life of the Lenape and Delaware Indians.  We knew the Indians had caught diseases from European settlers, but we were appalled to learn that some people deliberately infected the Indians by giving them clothing worn by someone who died of smallpox and letting them wear the clothing back to the village, thereby condemning everyone to death.  All just so the Europeans could get their land.  The tour ended in the store where there was a large collection of Indian-type merchandise for sale – moccasins, serapes, music, pictures, sculptures, books, etc.  There was also cold weather clothing and gear for sale on the second floor.  Melody bought a CD of Sacred Spirit.

     We stopped at Pub 570 Grill & Tavern for an early dinner.  We both had fried chicken and took left-overs back for lunch tomorrow. 

     Got back to the campground and paid for the additional four days we will be here.  A bunch of RVs have come into the campground for the weekend.  We have campers on the right of us (from New Hampshire) and on the left of us (from Nebraska).  We are quite hemmed in.  Other campers in here are from Montana, Oklahoma, Ohio, and California.

Oct 4, 2013 – Went into Easton, PA, today.  First stop was actually across the river in New Jersey at the Delaware Railroad Station.  We wanted to take a scenic rail tour but the place is only open on weekends.  We’ll have to go back. 

      Next stop was back in PA at the Crayola Factory.  I was a little leary about touring a crayon factory.  It is very clearly a place for young children.  It was four floors of everything you ever wanted to do with crayons – you could melt them and draw pictures or make molds, make labels with your name on them (we made four for our grandson), interact with computer programs, take pictures with Crayola characters, and so on.  We watched a demonstration of how crayons are made (it is a very easy process).  We got wrapped up in a puzzle making activity that we had lots of fun with.  Afterward, we tootled around the store and bought some gifts.

     We went to lunch at a place called Maxims22, a French bistro.  The menu had lots of French descriptions and names, which made it difficult to understand what the item was.  Melody had a quiche, and Paul had a ham and brie baguette.  The food was good, as was the service.

      We left the restaurant and walked down the street to Sigal Museum.  It was new (only opened in 2010) so we forgave some of its shortcomings.  It seemed like a collection of Items from back in the 1700 and 1800s by a local family.  There were items displayed with no real explanation of why they were there or how they related to the town.  For example, there were several George Martin guitars on display but no explanation as to how they were connected to the museum – Were they owned by someone in the family?  Were they produced in this town?  Why were they there?  There was a display in the basement for Just Born, makers of Mike ‘N Ike candy, Peeps marshmallows, Teenie Beenies, and other delights.  We enjoyed that exhibit much more than the museum displays upstairs.

      We left the museum and stopped at Carrie Ann’s Antiques & Collectibles.  The front window was decorated for Halloween and appealed to us.  We wandered about the store, admiring many of the items for sale.  Paul explained what one piece was for that the owner didn’t know.

      We got back to the truck.  The meter was expired but, thank goodness, we did not have a ticket.  We drove down the street to see National Canal State Park but it was closed due to construction.  The place was pretty torn up and the canal was empty.

      Driving back to the campground, we saw a sign for a winery so we stopped.  Sorrenti Cherry Valley Vineyard was pleasant.  For some reason, the girl didn’t charge us for the tasting.  We tried six wines and bought two bottles.  We then walked over to the pizzeria on the property, and had sangria and pizza for dinner.  We sat on the outside deck and enjoyed the pleasant weather.  The weatherman was sure wrong about the weather today.  As we were sitting out there, we could see a sign in the wood line just beyond the property that posted the area as a wildlife refuge.  When we finished our lunch, we wanted to walk through the refuge; however, there was a sign posted on the fence saying that the area was closed because of the government shut-down.  What a farce!  The small open area is not staffed.  Why should it be closed?  This whole thing is just posturing by the government to make a stupid point.

      We returned to the campground, fed and walked the animals, then drove to Stroud Mall to see a movie: Galaxy.  It was only in 3D and we did not want to see that, so we decided to just walk around the mall.  When we turned around and walked back down the hall past the movie theater, we changed our minds and decided to see it.  The 3D actually enhanced the outer space experience.  The story was lacking but the visual effect was excellent.

Oct 3, 2013 – A delightful day, indeed!  Frist, we went to the Sunset Hill Shooting Range.  We have applied for pistol permits in New York.  We thought we’d go to a range and try out a few pistols to see what we want to buy when our permits come through.  There was a safety instructor assigned to each shooter (one for both of us as we were both on the same lane) who stayed with you the entire time.  The guy we got was very knowledgeable and helped us to understand the difference among the pistols and their operations.  We fired 11 rounds with a .22, 6 rounds on a Walther PPK, and 6 rounds from a Model 1911 .45 cal.  It was a bit pricey, but we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

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     We left the shooting range and drove over to American Candle, a place that resembled the Yankee Candle in Vermont, only on a smaller scale (oh, the curse of a well-traveled visitor!).  They had several rooms filled with clothing, candy, jewelry, Christmas decorations, bric-a-brac, and candles, candles, candles.  Paul bought some penny candy, and Melody bought some Christmas gifts.

     We left there and drove to Big Daddy’s BBQ for lunch.  Melody had a rack of ribs and Paul had beef brisket.  The meal came with baked beans, corn bread, and one side (Melody had cole slaw and Paul had dirty rice).  We both had an Arnold Palmer made with vodka (apparently it’s a popular drink in PA).  The place had quite a large arcade in the back and everything was decorated with a cowboy flair.

     We left the restaurant and drove to Hickory Run State Park.  Melody had picked up a small description of a 16.5 acre boulder field in the park while reading a tourist pamphlet.  It was a long drive of almost three miles on a one-way, narrow road that wound through the forest.  The changing leaves were beautiful, and the ferns on the ground turning gold gave the woods a soft glow.  We imagined a big field with about a dozen huge boulders in it that we would walk around.  Nothing could have been further from reality.  In the middle of the forest, peeking through the trees was a huge field that would have been a lake, had the rocks been water.  But it was filled with rocks and boulders instead.  The area measured 400 by 1800 feet and was 12 feet deep.  Some of the rocks were loose and wobbled when you tried to walk on them.  It was the most amazing thing to see.  It is right up there with the lava rocks in Hell and the mud flats in the Bay of Fundy.

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     On the way back, we stopped at the Mountain View Vineyard.  We have been to many wine tastings (at the risk of earning the label of “lush”), but this one was delightful.  With each of five tastings, they gave you a food pairing.  It was amazing how the food modified the taste of the wine.  For $5 we got the five tastings with food pairings and got to keep the two wine glasses (we’ll give them as gifts to somebody – we don’t need any more wine glasses!).

     We got back to the campsite about 6 p.m.  Grilled pork chops on the barbecue and planned our day for tomorrow.  The weather gurus are calling for rain.

Oct 2, 2013 – Drove to Lansford, PA, to see the No. 9 Coal Mine and Wash Shanty Museum.   A group of miners who worked in the No. 9 mine got together in 1985 (the mine closed in the 1960s).  They worked for over 12 years to clean up the mine and open it to tourism.  It is run by volunteers on a limited schedule.  Unfortunately, the museum was open but the mine tours only take place on weekends.  After we talked to the volunteers working there, saw all the artifacts, watched a film on how the coal industry was unionized, and learned how they changed history, we drove to the town of Jim Thorpe. 

     Asa Packer was a rich man who ran the mines in the area.  He built a row of 16 stone houses for workers – now called the historic stone row.  It was like stepping onto a street in Europe.  The street was narrow, the buildings had very little space between them, and they were built of grey stone.  They are all occupied by small businesses today.  At the end of the street, there was a beautiful stone church (in fact, there were several old stone churches in the area).  The town was built in a valley and many of the houses were on steep slopes.  The Parker mansions were closing in 15 minutes so we didn’t get to look in them.  We walked up and down the streets and enjoyed poking around the historic shops. We even found a winery to take a tasting in!  Bought two bottles of wine and left for home.  We stopped at the supermarket on the way back and picked up supplies.

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Oct 1, 2013 – We really got our exercise today.  We hiked the Appalachian Trail – Mt. Minsi trail.  It was a 4-mile loop.  There was a great view at the summit – you could see I-80, the Delaware Water Gap, other mountain tops, and towns in the valley below.

     We stopped at Panera Bread to pick up a loaf of bread, then came back and had home-made corn chowder (courtesy of Paul’s sister).  We let the animals out to play, then tuckered in for the night.

 Sep 30, 2013 – Went to Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA.  What a place!  Everything you ever wanted to know about the DL&W Railroad is covered and how the country was transformed and serviced by rail.  There are old engines, freight cars, mail cars, and passenger cars to look at as well as climb on board.  There are even descriptions of all the players in the railroad – to include the Tycoon, the Passenger, and the Hobo.  There is a roundhouse, lots of videos and display boards, with pictures and historical descriptives.  They had a cut away of a steam engine and fire box so you could understand the principle of how the machine works.  The railroad was responsible for the standardization of time (i.e., time zones across the U.S.).  We learned how train engines get their designation – they are named for the number of wheels on the engine.  You could even walk in the rail yard with dozens of tracks running through the yard and working trains going by.  There are signs to warn visitors to watch out for trains and advising parents to keep a close eye on their children (in New York, this would be fenced off).  We want to take a fall foliage ride on a steam train, but the government shut down means the train will not be running on Saturday (when it’s scheduled to run).  We’ll have to look to the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, a private company, for the foliage tour.  We were interviewed by a reporter on the looming government shut down.  He said he sends the news feed to NBC, ABC, and FOX.  Both Paul and I got a chance to say what we thought about the whole thing. 

     We took a break in the middle of our tour of the Steamtown Park to walk over to a shopping mall that is connected by an overhead walkway to the train yard.  The mall was eerily quiet – it was large with few shoppers and some empty shops.  We ate at a pub with bad service then returned to the museum to finish our tour.

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     We left the museum, returned to the campsite to fetch the laundry, then tried to find the laundromats listed on the campground information sheet.  The first one was no longer there – a Best Western stood in its place.  The GPS was sending us one way; the iPhone was sending us in another.  It was all so aggravating!  We stopped at a DQ in frustration and got a cone (ice cream makes everything better).  We finally landed in a place run by a retired Army Sergeant Major.  The washing machines were $3.75 each and the dryers were $0.25 per seven minutes.  Expensive!

     While the wash was going, we went to a self-service car wash to wash the mud off from our adventure in getting out of the last campsite.  It cost $3 for four minutes.  Who can wash and rinse a full size pick-up truck in four minutes?  It didn’t even get fully washed!  We had to invest another $3 and rush through finishing the wash and rinsing the truck off.

      Went back to the laundromat to find one dryer just wasn’t doing the job.  Wound up spending $1.75 on it and still pulling out damp clothing.  The other machine cost us $0.75.  We took our clothes back to the campsite and thumbed through the TV channels to see if we could see ourselves.  No such luck.  Wonder if the news interview made it to air on TV.

Sep 29, 2013 – Woke to cool temperatures – low 50s.  Bonnie came in and woke me at 7:30 a.m. (that was late for her; she’s usually getting Paul up at 6 a.m.).  We went for a walk.  Mist was just lifting up and hovering a foot or so off the ground.  It was very ethereal.  Things finally warmed up about 10 and I brought the animals outside for some sunshine.  We just hung around the campsite all day.

      Paul returned around 2 p.m.  The memorial service went well and Paul brought back some of his sister’s delicious corn chowder.  We had lunch, played with the animals, then drove into town to see what we could see.  Had dinner at Studebaker’s Restaurant.  Returned to the campground and took Bonnie for a long walk.  Made plans for tomorrow.

Sep 28, 2013 – Paul left at 8:30 a.m. this morning. He is returning to New York to attend the memorial service for his brother’s wife, Britta, who passed away unexpectedly last month.  I spent the day hanging out with the dog and cat, exploring the campground, and dabbling with little projects.

Sep 27, 2013 – Things we learned about New England:  There are many old buildings throughout the area.  In some towns, it was like stepping back in time.  Connecticut was very old and wealthy (statistics should show this state to be the richest in the nation).  Boston, Massachusetts, has a college on every corner (statistics should show this state to be the most educated of all).  The most northern states – New Hampshire, Vermont, upstate New York – find all businesses and many homes with metal roofs. We assume it’s designed to repel snow and ice accumulation.  Some roofs had a heating element on the first twelve inches of the leading edge of the roof.  These roofs come in very bright colors – red, green, purple, blue, brown, and black.  Vermont’s favorite dessert is the maple creamee – maple flavored soft serve ice cream.  Vermont is very proud of its maple syrup industry.  Vermonters describe things they like as “wicked good” – your son is such a wicked good boy; that steak tonight was wicked good; that movie was wicked good.  Vermont has a rule that no billboards or advertisements of any kind are allowed on the roadside.  Each exit on the interstate has the international symbols for food, lodging, gas, etc. but no names of providers.  If you are looking for a particular vendor – say, Mobile gas – you would just have to get off at the exit showing gas and hope Mobile had a station there.  Upstate New York has an incredible number of farms and dairy barns.  There are also numerous storage places for rent.  With all the space up there, it seemed kind of ludicrous to see all these extra storage spaces.  Further south but still very much upstate, there are many apple farms.  These farms are treated like a destination place for families – they have tractor rides, petting zoos, apple picking, shops to buy apple goods, and mazes.

     We had quite a day today.  We woke up at 8 a.m., finished packing up the camper, and were ready to pull out by 9.  But the grass was wet and the tires on the truck just kept spinning.  Paul couldn’t get any traction to get up the embankment to hook up the RV.  The owner’s son was going by and offered to have some wood planks brought over.  The planks arrived, we put them behind the tires, but the truck still couldn’t get a grip.  Then the owner came over.  A renter who was waiting for his boat battery to recharge wandered over to offer his advice, too.  It was quite a thing to see – this group of guys trying to figure out how to give the truck some traction.  The owner went and got his back hoe.  They chained the bumper of the truck to the back hoe and tried pulling the truck back in place.  The truck was able to get closer to the RV, but not close enough.  Then the owner took off to get some gravel to put down on the wet grass.  Paul decided to take the truck down the road a little to build up speed.  He floored it and came flying backwards down the road and turned it into the campsite right up to the fifth wheel.  He stopped one inch away from the RV hookup.  A professional truck driver couldn’t have done it any better!  The three guys got in front of the truck and pushed it the last inch or two to seat the camper into the hitch.  We were finally hooked up and ready to go at about 10:30 a.m.

     It was supposed to be a little more than a two and a half hour drive to Pennsylvania.  As we moved further south, more and more trees were in the process of turning their autumn colors.  You would have expected the northern leaves to turn before the southern trees but it seemed to be the opposite.  Amelia (our GPS) announced we had arrived at our destination, but there was no campground to be seen.  We turned around to try to figure out where we went wrong.  We asked Siri (the iPhone) for directions and were told we were miles away from our destination.  We called the campground to ask for directions.  They didn’t know the names of the streets we needed to drive on, but they gave us left and right directions.  They didn’t even know what the exit number was off of I-80.  We started off but quickly found we were lost again.  Paul tried backing the trailer up (have you ever tried to back up a 12 foot truck with a 36 foot trailer attached to it?).  He bumped into a stop sign and scraped the side of the RV.  We were getting very frustrated.  The tension was thick in the cab and there was a hefty sprinkling of colorful words.  We finally figured things out and arrived at the Pocono Valley Park & Campground in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, around 4 p.m.  We suggested the campground put up some directional signs from the interstate to their place.  They said the town forcibly changed the names of the roads in the campground two years ago and GPS hasn’t reflected the changes yet.

     The sun was shining and it was hot.  We got set up, walked the dog, then took a walk around the campground.  It is very large, with over 200 campsites.  Many of them are permanent residents here, in addition to the seasonal campers.  Many of the campers have huge porches built out in front of them; a few had buildings built around them on both sides, with a porch!  The camp store had a sign stating the hours for today were 6 a.m. to closing(???).  The laundry room had a sign up saying they are removing the machines and there will no longer be a laundromat on the premises. 

     Drove into town.  Picked up some items in Lowe’s.  Stopped in a pet store but didn’t find what we wanted.  Shopped at a Giant grocery store to pick up a few things.  Came back, had dinner, and Paul packed up a few things for his trip to New York tomorrow.

NEW YORK & CANADA

Sep 25, 2013 – Went to Fort Ontario in Oswego.  It was a wonderful tour.  What made it really nice was the fact that they let visitors completely explore the fort.  We got to walk on top of the ramparts, go down into the casements, and wander around inside the historical buildings on all floors and in all rooms.  There was also a museum on location that told a story of 982 refugees that were brought over and housed at Fort Ontario during World War II but it was closed.  The story of the fort was interesting.  The fort was built by the English in 1755; destroyed by the French in 1756; rebuilt by the English in 1759; destroyed by Americans in 1778; rebuilt by the English in 1782; surrendered to the U.S. in 1796; destroyed by the English in 1814; then rebuilt and refurbished over the years by the U.S.  It was used to train and house soldiers for both world wars.

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    After touring the fort, we wandered into town for lunch and wound up at a place called Water Street Café (but the receipt read Old City Hall).  The food was OK.  The place was made of dark wood and very empty looking, although there were tables and chairs in it.  There were two bars at opposite ends of a long room.  Two small dogs were sitting on the bar at one end – they belonged to the owner.  Paul felt it had a kind of Mexican feel to the place.

     We left the café and crossed the street to walk along the river and canal.  Right across the street was a lock.  We walked along the river, admired a veterans memorial park that had a monument to Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom with a start date of 2001 and no end date.  Scary.  We got in the truck and drove across the river to look more closely at the lock.  We then drove along the river road and passed four more locks. 

     We stopped at Beak & Skiff Winery & Distillery to sample the wares.  They had five ciders, vodka, gin, and three wines, all made from apples.  We tasted but didn’t buy any.  The pourer lady told us the company had just finished building a new place down the road and suggested we go look at it.  We thanked her and then drove to the new updated facility.  It is a destination event for people in the area.  They have a bakery, a store, a café, and a gorgeous wine tasting area.  They bought three barns in Pennsylvania and brought back all the wood timbers to build their place.  The tables were huge slabs of white pine, and the bar was a 20’ long slab of white pine.  The owner said the pine was from a 200 year old tree that was huge. 

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     We returned to the campsite.  The weather was so pleasant – sunny and warm (high 60s).  We let the animals out to play for a bit while we enjoyed wine and cheese snacks.  After we put the animals back in the trailer, we walked out on the dock to watch the red and orange colors of the sunset sky.  There were a flock of birds that flew by like a parade of soldiers all in a line and consisting of hundreds of birds.  They flew low over the lake and slowly rose like a rising fog off the water.  Geese honked their way overhead in long triangular formations as they began their southward migration.  There must have been about one hundred geese in the grouping.

      Last night, we tried making salt potatoes.  Someone told us they were a favorite food up here and she enjoyed them immensely.  They actually started in the salt plants – the Irishmen, wanting a quick meal, would throw their potatoes in the salt vats.  The potatoes would cook in the water as it slowly boiled off in the vats.  Frankly, it didn’t taste any different than the potatoes I have been cooking for years.  It was a little disappointing.  We expected a special treat but didn’t find one.

Sep 24, 2013 – The weather was cold this morning, but clear.  Went to Skaneateles Lake today.  We went to the office of Mid Lakes Navigation to buy tickets for a cruise this afternoon, and asked the lady where a good place for breakfast was.  She recommended a couple of places – one of them the Sherwood Inn, a historical place built in 1807.  We went there but found the end of a buffet meal.  We asked the waitress where a better place was, and she suggested the Blue Water Grill across the street.  What a delightful eatery!  Melody had a Greek omelet and Paul had corned beef with poached eggs.  The toasted ciabatta bread was so much better than rye or wheat toast.  The meal was a delicious treat.

      We had parked at a meter for $2 for two hours ($0.25 per 30 minutes).  A waitress told us we could park at the public parking lot for $2 for the day.  So after breakfast, we moved our car.  After breakfast, we walked the streets of Skaneateles.  It was very much a tourist summer town.  One store owner claimed that they are the only town located directly on a lake.  We ran over to Tops Grocery Store and picked up some items, then walked the main street.  After poking in and out of stores, we arrived at the Lake House Pub and had wine and French fries while we waited for our 2 p.m. lake cruise.

     At 1:45 p.m. we reported to the Judge Ben Wiles tour boat for our 50-minute cruise on Skaneateles Lake.  There was very little about the history of the lake or town – a lot about the wealthy who owned houses around the lake shore.  It was somewhat disappointing.

     We left Skaneateles and drove to Marcellus for a laundromat.  You would think that laundromats would be more plentiful, but whenever we have had to use public mats, we have been directed miles away from where we are.  Marcellus was about 15 miles away from Skaneateles.  We hung around waiting for the laundry to be done.  Melody called her sister to see how she was doing.

     Laundry done, we returned to the campsite.  The weather had turned lovely – the sun was shining brightly, the clouds were gone, and the temperature was seasonal.  We let the animals out so they could enjoy the outdoors for a little while.  Then we called our daughter-in-law and talked with her, her parents, and our grandson.  He has such a wonderful smile.  We will miss his little sounds when he starts saying words.

 Sep 23, 2013 – Drove to Pratt’s Fall Parks.  The falls were 165 feet high.  The hike to the foot of the falls was all too short, but it was steep.  Many of the steps were cast in concrete and we were wondering how in the world they did that.  After standing at about 2/3’s of the way down (you couldn’t go any lower – there were sign everywhere warning of the dangers of stepping off the trail ), we climbed back up and stood at the top of the falls.  The park was small but nice.

     We left the park and drove to Harbor Mills Cidery and sampled their fare – it was $4 for 5 tastings and you got the glasses for souvenirs (we turned down the glasses; we have enough wine glasses).  We each bought one bottle.

     We then drove into the town of Rippleton and had lunch at Dave’s Diner Common Grounds (“famous” for its coffee).  It was a cute little place and well attended.

     After that, we drove to the mall and saw a movie – Prisoners.  It was a film with an interesting twist.

     We returned to the campsite with crappy, cold weather.

 Sep 22, 2013 – Drove back to Syracuse today to tour the Salt Museum.  It didn’t open until 1 p.m.  It was located in the Onondaga State Park.  It was a large, beautiful, very well kept and attractive park right on the lake.  There was a skate park, a “good dog” park, a big play area, and a great walking/biking trail around the entire lake. 

     We wanted to go across the street to tour the Ste. Marie Village, but we found out it had been closed for renovations for the past two years.  Bummer.

     Since we had time to kill, we rode over to the Destiny USA Shopping Mall.  It was a place to rival the Mall of America.  It had an indoor go-kart track, a mirror maze, a Wonder Works amusement area, an aerial jungle gym, an IMAX and a 19 screen Cinemax.  The mall was four stories high and looked brand new.  There were dozens of stores and eateries in the place.  We lunched at Gordon Biersch Brewery, where they boasted that everything was made fresh – no frozen or substitute foodstuff used ever.  We had a Mediterranean Sampler for starters, then a pretzel burger for Paul and goat cheese chicken for Melody.  Of course, Paul sampled the brews.

     After lunch, we went back to the Salt Museum.  It was quite the interesting place; also depressing.  At the height of operations, the salt plants in Syracuse employed 3,000 people and were turning out tons of salt.  Then things changed, and the salt plants went out of business in the late 1920s.  It seems like this was just another example of successful enterprise being extinguished by technology and time.  The salt business was replaced by better finds out west, the canals were put out of business by better transportation methods, the St. Lawrence Seaway was once the hey day for millionaires, the Syracuse China company was replaced by cheaper methods, the mills along the rivers stopped operating because of better technology.  It seems everywhere we go in the New England states, there was a flash-in-the-pan for some business or industry and then it was gone. 

     After the tour of the Salt Museum, we drove to Anyela’s Winery and sampled the products.  It was $3 each to sample five wines.  Paul bought one bottle and we returned to the campground.  The weather was overcast, damp, and windy all day.  The cat didn’t even want to stay outside.

     On an aside, our daughter was married yesterday in a hand fasting ceremony.  It is a Pagan ritual.  She wanted it to be private so only the minister, she, her husband, her girlfriend, his boyfriend, and her girlfriend’s mother were there.  It was disappointing that we could not be there for her wedding, but it was something she wanted to do her own way.  We wish the bride and groom all the best in their new life with their new baby (when he arrives next month).

     Another note: our daughter legally changed her name from Miranda Pauline Thomas to Lilah Morgan Pauline Quinn.  She will take her husband’s name when he legally changes it from Fryer to Mitchell.

Sep 21, 2013 – We drove to Syracuse today.  We found a parking lot and left the truck for $6 for the day.  As we got out of the truck, we noticed some dark clouds in the east and then went on our merry way.  Stopped in at the Syracuse Museum of Science & Technology (MOST).  It was quite the place for children.  There were many hands-on demonstrations and big mockups for kids to crawl over, around, and through.  We saw an IMAX movie about the melting ice of the Arctic and the plight of the animals living there.  As we were walking around, we could hear raindrops pelting the metal roof.  Why didn’t we take our raincoats with us?

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     When we were done looking over the three floors of the museum, we walked over to Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub on the next block.  It was drizzling outside – not hard but enough to get you wet.  The Pub was a surprising delight.  We tried Irish Cannonballs – something like a Reuben sandwich in a deep fried ball.  Quite delicious.  It turned out that Guy from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives did a show there and the cannonballs were one of the recommended food items from his visit.

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     We decided to take our leftovers back to the truck and grab our raincoats.  We asked Siri on my iPhone for directions to the Erie Canal Museum.  She said it would be half a mile to the museum so we decided to walk it.  As we started to follow the route, we found it was for cars, not walkers.  As we adjusted our route, we found the museum was more like a mile away.  After a little bit of confusion, we managed to find our way to the museum.

     There was no charge but they asked for $5 per person donation.  It was an interesting compilation of canal boat history in upstate New York in general, and Syracuse in particular.  There was a model canal boat you could walk on and see the set up for passengers, cooking, and baggage.  It was quite interesting.  When we were ready to leave the museum, it was raining pretty hard.  We were very glad we had decided to fetch our raincoats.  Got back to the truck, shook off our raincoats, and drove back to the campsite. 

 Sep 20, 2013 – We are in Apple country!  There are loads of u-pick-ems around the countryside. 

     Drove down from Watertown to Marietta, about 20 miles south of Syracuse.   It took about one and a half hours.  The Otisco Lake Campground & Marina is a very small site – we think we are the only transient here.  It looks like every other camper is a long-term or seasonal resident.  The space they gave us to park in is not only narrow, but has a downward angle that made it difficult to even out the camper.  We went through a convoluted process of dropping the legs, raising the camper, putting some boards on the trailer hitch, lowering the camper, dropping the legs again, then raising the camper.  We finally got it worked out.  Not looking forward to trying to get out of his place.  And the dump site is nestled in a little alcove on a dead end road that will be near to impossible to use.  I think we are taking our load with us to the next site.

     After we got the RV set up, we took a ride north along Otisco Lake and then over to the top of Lake Skaneateles.  There are many things to see and do here, and we are looking forward to them all.  Returned to the campsite and reheated the ribs from dinner two nights ago.  There is brisk wind blowing off the lake that is refreshing.  We have decided to keep the awning rolled up to avoid an accidents.

Sep 19, 2013 – Finally got over to the 10th Mountain Division Heritage Center Museum.  It turned out that the acquisition of the land surrounding Fort Drum was the biggest government claim of imminent domain in history.  There were thousands of people uprooted by the expansion plan.  And there was no opportunity to negotiate the price offered to the landowner.  You either took it or left it; you were still leaving the area. 

      After we toured the museum, we walked next door to look over an area operated by the USO.  A staff member gave us an impromptu tour of the facility.  It was quite impressive in what they provide for the servicemembers and their families.  There was a pool table, a ping pong table, computers, game consoles, a home theater, quite a selection of movies, and two big TVs with lounge chairs.  The USO offers a hot snack every day provided by local businesses – Monday is Domino’s Pizza, Tuesday is Walmart, Wednesday is the Texas Roadhouse, Thursday is open to local businesses, and she never touched on who provided Friday’s treats.  They are totally run on donations and by the looks of things, they have a generous population in the area.

      Returned to the campsite.  Paul washed the truck and RV; I did the laundry.  Getting ready for our move to the next campground tomorrow.

Sep 18, 2013 – What a beautiful day today!  The sun was shining, the sky was clear blue, and the temperatures were in the high 70s.  It was so nice, in fact, that we decided to give the animals some extra play time outside.  It was utterly appreciated.

      Took a bike ride around the camping area.  We stumbled across a broken roadway with historical markers along the way.  After reading them, we were able to piece together an interesting story.  In September 1941, Fort Drum underwent an expansion program and bought up property in the area.  A town named LeRay with about 100 residents was displaced.  The signs said there used to be a school house, three churches, a tavern, a hotel, and a couple of homes there.  It seemed kind of sad.  The general public would never see this – you can’t have people just wandering around in the woods on a military reservation. Only the military personnel who happen to come along this backwoods roadway would see these signs IF they stopped their running to read them.  We are more determined than ever to get into the 10thMountain Division Museum on post.

     After our bike ride, we drove to the post office to mail a card, than over to the commissary to do some grocery shopping.  After the food was all put away, we let the animals out some more while we indulged in cheese and crackers under the afternoon sun.

     At 5:30 we rode over to Buster’s Brew House for their rib special.  The keyboarder was there and he even remembered we were from Long Island.  There were more people in there than we’ve seen before.  The building is old and part of the lighting does not work because of a short in the circuitry.  Yet they have upgraded the place so that it is attractive and modern looking.

     After dinner, we returned to the campsite and lit up a campfire.  The landscape was aglow with a bright full moon.  During our bike ride, we came across the body of a house cat.  It was a beautiful gray tabby and probably about one or two years old.  You couldn’t tell what it died from.  We told an MP officer who was driving around the campground so he could notify animal control.  Not believing that they would really do anything about the carcass, Paul rode over with a shovel and buried the cat.

     Our son and his girlfriend both called us tonight.  We had delightful conversations with them both.  I also texted with our daughter today.  She is getting married on Saturday.

Sep 17, 2013 – Woke to a cold morning.  Had to put on the heat and a jacket.  Let the dog and cat get some play time outside.  Bonnie went into her “red zone” and acted her nutty self.  The cat especially enjoys the time she gets in the grass.

     Drove to Alexandria Bay today.  Had lunch with our niece, Rebecca, at Brass Tacks.  It was a delight to catch up with family far away.  After lunch we took Uncle Sam Boat Tours along the St. Lawrence Seaway for what was supposed to be a two and a half hour ride but turned into a four hour one.  The boat stopped at Singer Castle on Dark Island.  It was a fascinating castle with four floors of delights.  It even included secret passageways, peep holes, and underground tunnels.  The boat also stopped at Boldt Castle, but we didn’t bother getting off the boat since we had already toured the castle. 

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Sep 16, 2013 – It rained last night.  Woke to a drizzly, cold day.  As the day went on, the clouds cleared up, the cold wind died down, and the day got warmer.  It never got into the 60s though.

     Drove to Kingston, Canada today.  Went to Fort Henry but found out it closed yesterday for two weeks.  It won’t open until September 28 for Fort Fright for six weeks – a big Halloween event that everyone looks forward to.  Someone told us the fort makes enough money from this six week event to cover its costs for the entire year.  (Note to self: do NOT go into the north country after Labor Day because most places are closed for the season or have severely restricted operating hours.)

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     Drove into town and parked in a public parking lot.  The meter charged $1.50 per half hour.  It cost us $6 for two hours.  We went to a nearby pub for lunch, walked around the town a little, then returned before the meter ran out.  We drove around looking for cheaper parking areas but there were none.  Kingston was very much a tourist town – there were restaurants and bars galore with many museums to explore, to include one on health care.  We didn’t get to see any of them.

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     Left Kingston and drove along the road adjacent to the seaway on our way back to the US.  There were many stone houses nestled among the rest of the homes in most neighborhoods.  It is remarkable that these stone houses have been preserved in so many ways.  Came across the Military Museum of Communications & Electronics.  It was a comprehensive museum starting with the bugle, went through morse code, described switchboards, covered cable lines, and went right up to the sophisticated equipment being used in Afghanistan today.  The museum chronicled Canadian involvement in all the conflicts around the world by displays, plaques describing items and actions, and mannequins showing uniforms of the times.  It was quite informative.

      We continued along the seaway trail and arrived in Gananoque, Canada.  It billed itself as The Canadian Gateway to the Thousand Islands.  It certainly was a tourist town, to include a company offering seaway tours on its boats.  It looked like a delightful town that would be fun to explore during the summer months.

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      Continued back to the US.  No problems crossing the border (either way).  Went to the Cracker Barrel for dinner, then returned to the campsite.  The weatherman is telling us the temperatures will fall to 34 degrees tonight.  Bbrrrrr!  There will be frost on the pumpkin tonight!

Sep 15, 2013 – Went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast.  Drove into Watertown intending to go to the Science Center.  The town advertises a Historical Museum and a Science Center.  The museum was really a collection of interesting stuff displayed in an old house.  Although we drove around twice, we couldn’t find the science center.  Said the heck with it and headed off to find a vineyard when we passed a mobile home distributor with nine units open for display.  Did a quick turn-around and stopped in to take a look.  Some of the units were OK, some had odd layouts, and some were quite appealing.  It was enjoyable.

     Continued on our way to the Otter Creek Vineyard.  Sampled some fare and bought a couple of bottles of wine.  There were dozens of wind generators in the surrounding area and we drove off into the fields to look at them.  They appear to be set up on farms, which is actually quite efficient.  The farmer can continue to plant the crops or graze the livestock without interference from the wind turbines, yet make some money by renting the space to the NYPA.

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     After tootling around the farm, we got back on the road and drove to the Venditti Vineyard.  Paul liked their wines and bought three bottles.  We also bought a chocolate cheddar cheese fudge bar (had to try something like this out – couldn’t really taste any cheese).  Got back on the road and returned to the campsite.  Gray and overcast all day but at least no rain.

     We were able to Skype with our daughter-in-law and grandson tonight.  He has such a radiant smile (he gets it from his parents – they both have smiles that light up a room).  When that baby smiles, I just turn into mush.  I wonder if he will always have that effect on me.

Sep 14, 2013 – Brrrr.  It was back to cold this morning.  Had to put the heat on.  Made a frittata with our left over prime rib.  Making frittatas was a pleasant discovery.  We still have a whole serving of prime rib left to eat.  They sure gave us a huge portion!

      Left for Tupper Lake over toward the east border of New York.  It is in the Adirondack Preserve.  It took much longer to drive there then expected.  We got there about 1:30 and didn’t find any of the trailheads listed on our map.  Picked up some foodstuff in the Save A Lot and ate lunch in a park on Tupper Lake.  There was a brisk wind blowing across the water and we had to spread a blanket over our laps.  Looking at the map, we decided to drive back west to find any area on the Grasse River with several waterfalls.  Unfortunately, there were several roads with no name or route number and we were forced to navigate by guesswork.  I missed a point where we turned off our route and wound up on another road that took us away from where we wanted to go.

     When we discovered this, we adjusted our route and headed toward a new point.  There was construction going on and the bridge just before our designated goal was closed.  There was a detour around the bridge but unlike the city where a detour will take you maybe a couple of blocks – at most, a mile – out of your way, a detour in the country takes you thirty miles out of the way.  We finally arrived at Lampson Falls and hiked the half mile to the river.  The falls were nice but a longer hike would have made it more rewarding. 

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     I tried the tracking feature of the pet tracker to see how it would work out of the designated zone.  My iPhone could not get a signal so I couldn’t track Bonnie.  We have to make sure we don’t lose her in an area where there is no cell signal.

     At this point, it was late in the day and we needed to head back.  It was a lot of driving for one little waterfall.  When we got back to Fort Drum, Paul realized he left his military ID in his other pants.  Fortunately, we had put our passports in the truck in the event we wanted to go to Canada on one of our excursions.  He got on the base with that.  Arrived back at the RV after 6 p.m., reheated left-overs, did some laundry, turned on the heater, and settled in for the night.

Sep 13, 2013 – Woke to a cool, overcast morning with temperatures in the low 50s.  A blowing wind makes it feel much cooler.  Guess the heat wave is over. 

     I was walking the dog a couple of days ago when she got away from me.  The area around the campground is wooded and hilly.  There she went, grinning ear from ear, leash dragging behind her, bounding over the grass and off into the woods.  I tried to follow but quickly lost her.  Now was test time – to see if the pet tracker we bought works.  I hurried back to the camper to get my iPhone.  I pulled up the app and saw the little dots marking her and my positions on the map.  She was moving away toward a roadway on the other side of the woods.  I started to get the truck, thinking I would have to drive around on post to get her when the little dot started coming back my way.  I began to walk back up the hill toward the wood line when she burst out, sweaty and panting.  I called and she came running to me as though she had always intended to do so.  Hah!  It was a scary ten or fifteen minutes but worked out fine.  I had great piece of mind while I was looking for her and did not get that panicked feeling you usually get when you don’t know where your pet is.  I would recommend this pet tracker to anyone who wants to keep track of their dog.  It worked perfectly!

     Drove to Clayton to tour the Antique Boat Museum.  I t was quite a collection of water craft – yachts, sailboats, motorboats, rowboats, skiffs, canoes, kayaks, etc.  There were several items marked as the first or only one of its kind.  The houseboat built for the Boldt family had been restored and we were able to walk onboard and look it over.  It slept 12 people, had a full kitchen, 5 full bathrooms (with tubs) sitting areas, and a dance floor.

     We left the museum and went up to the Thousand Islands Restaurant to try out their thousand island dressing.  Alas!  They were closed for the season.  We walked down Main Street, stopped in the American Legion for a drink, then had a late lunch/early dinner in the Channel Side Café.  We enjoyed a shrimp and corn chowder (not as good as Paul’s sister’s chowder), fried cheese curds, and cottage pie.

     When we finished, we drove back to the boat museum but it closed at 5 p.m.  Oh, well.  Got back to the camper and fed the animals.  Our dog, Bonnie, started whining and carrying on about something outside the camper.  As we learned a long time ago (that’s another story for another time), you never ignore a barking dog.  Paul took the flashlight to check it out.  When he opened the door, the dog bolted past him and off into the woods in pursuit of whatever.  The pet tracker again paid for itself and allowed us to recover her within ten minutes.  A great invention!

Sep 12, 2013 – It was a damp, dull, drizzly day.  Since we were locked in to the campsite this morning because of the Mud Run, we tended to general housekeeping duties.  Paul fixed the shaky dining room table and Melody did some cleaning. 

     Around 3 p.m. we went in search of the post office.  That RV GPS we bought was the worst product ever.  I don’t think I will EVER buy another product from Magellan again.  Not only was this item defective, the tech support was lacking as well.  We wound up calling the RV center we bought the item from in Vermont and arranging to send it back to them.  We also drove to the PX and bought some clothes for Paul.  Melody couldn’t find anything.

     We went to Buster’s Brewhouse on base for the prime rib dinner special.  There was a guy playing the keyboard in the dining room.  He was playing some great music from our generation and we had a great time interacting with him.

     After dinner, we drove to the mall and bought some clothing for Melody.  Then we went to the movies and saw The Family with Robert Dinero and Michelle Pfeiffer.  It was funny.

Sep 11, 2013 – It was so warm last night, we slept with all the windows open and no covers on the bed.  After several days of having the heat on at night, it was a refreshing change.

     The Army folks were in the area setting up the final touches for the Mud Run tomorrow.  They put a notice on everyone’s RV advising that the run will starti at 0600 hours.  Guess we’ll be getting up early.

     Drove two hours to Massena, NY.  The Dwight D. Eisenhower Lock Visitor Center was closed (what else is new?) but we went to the overlook and looked down on the pass through.  Having just been to the Panama Canal locks last October, this was small change. 

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      We then drove over to the Hawkins Point Visitors Center and read about the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project.  Across the seaway you could see the Saunders-Moses Power Plant.  It was fascinating to read the story of how the project came to be.  It was opened in 1959 – we were young children then.  Over 7,000 people had to be relocated and two diversion dams were built to bring the water to the power plant.  An amazing project!

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      We drove over to Robert Moses State Park (hey, just where are we?) to look at the campground.

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The sites were very nice and reminded us of North Lake Campground in the Adirondacks.  There were even some sites right on the water.  We will try to remember this for another trip up here (site 252 was especially nice).  We went to the Long Sault Dam and walked around the area.  We then drove into town and had lunch at the local sports bar, Coach’s Corner.

      When we were done exploring the dam area, we followed the shoreline west back to Watertown.  We stumbled on the River Myst Winery and stopped to do a tasting.  It was OK and Melody bought a small bottle of wine.

     We arrived back on post at 5 p.m.  Fed the animals, grabbed the shopping list, and ran to the commissary to pick up some foodstuff.  Stopped at Buster’s Brewhouse on base for ribs and chicken, then returned home.

Sep 10, 2013 – Woke to a ferocious thunderstorm this morning.  The weather report was dismal – rain for the next four days.  After the storm passed, the sky was overcast and grey and looked like it was going to be a dull day.

      Some Army folks showed up in the campground today and put up a wooden wall in the field.  They took the pile of mattresses that have been sitting in the roadway all week and piled them at the bottom of the wall.  We believe this is in preparation for the mud run that will be taking place on Thursday.

      We drove to Sackets Harbor to see the battlefield.  It was bigger than we were led to believe and it took us about an hour to walk the entire the area.  There were placards along the way that explained the battle that took place there.  We wanted to go in the museum but it is closed on Monday and Tuesday.  We wanted to go into the Seaway Trail Discovery Center but it is closed until next spring.  Labor Day is clearly the cut off for much of the tourism up here in the north country.

      We then drove over to Fort Pike and Madison Barracks.  It broke our hearts to the dilapidated condition of many of the buildings.  The stone barracks used to house the soldiers look like they have been turned into apartments, but many had chipped paint and broken sills around the windows.  The area needed cleaning.  There was some kind of construction going on in the parking lot.  There was a water tower that was closed and looked like it has sustained damage over the years and needs repair.  The parade field was large with colonial buildings around the perimeter – some turned into living quarters or businesses and some just boarded up.  There was an area marked off as a burial ground but there was just one plaque saying about 200 unidentified soldiers were buried there.

      We decided to follow the Seaway Trail to learn more about the War of 1812.  We headed west on Route 3 in search of other historical sites to visit.  There were some spits along the way that had a picnic table, parking for one or two cars, and a placard describing some action that took place at that site.  Finally, we arrived in Oswego.  The streets were wide, the buildings were dated, and signage was poor.  After some confusion, we were able to find the Fort Ontario State Historic Site.  It was a huge fort built upon breastworks.  The view of the harbor from the fort was impressive.  There were no cars in the parking lot and Paul turned to me and said, “How much you wanna bet they’re only open on weekends?”  He was right.  The place was closed.  But it is open Wednesday thru Sunday.  Again, we chose poorly for trying to see the sites.

      The weather turned beautiful.  The clouds cleared up, the sun came out, and the temperature rose as high as 91 degrees.  We rode with the windows open, enjoying the warm breeze.  Bumble bees kept flying into the window and landing on me.  After bee number three, I rolled the window up and put on the AC.

Sep 9, 2013 – Last night, the night sky was clear and filled with stars.  We used our Sky View program to try and find stars and constellations and satellites and the international space station.  It was fun.

     When I got up this morning, there were troops running all around the campground doing their PT.  There’s a Mud Run coming up on Thursday that might see as many as 600 people running through here.

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     Went to Alexandria Bay today.  It was very much a tourist town – like Fire Island or Lake George.  The streets were lined with bars, restaurants, and gift shops.  We took a ferry over to Boldt Yacht House then to Boldt Castle.  What a remarkable place!  The yacht house was built to house the boats owned by George & Louise Boldt – they had 64 boats.  There was even a living area for the crews.  The castle was a tragic love story.  George built the castle for his wife, Louise, as a gift.  It was started in 1900 and just about finished in 1904 when Louise died.  George told the 300 workers at the island to lay down their tools and leave, and he never returned to the island.  The castle had 127 rooms and was built to accommodate 100 guests.  There was a separate power house and a playhouse modeled on a castle they saw on a trip to the Rhine River.  It sat empty for 74 years until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority took over it and began restoring everything.  It is truly a labor of love.  We saw beautifully restored rooms as well as rooms that were dilapidated and filled with graffiti that will be restored over the coming years.

     When we got back to Alexandria Bay from Heart Island, we went to lunch at Riley’s.  They had a pot roast special that was delicious.  We walked the town and stopped into a shop for coffee.  There were many older buildings and historical areas in town.  You could see it was old.  It was quite the place in its day – late 1800s and early 1900s when the newly self-made millionaires carved out a play land for themselves.  They called the shoreline Millionaire Row.

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     On the way back to Fort Drum, we stopped at Thousand Islands Winery.  Paul found three wines he liked and I found one.  We returned to our campsite and took Bonnie for a run at the dog park on base.  We drove around the pond and found some very amusing signs. 

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     We had a campfire tonight.  It was nice.  Love the smell of a wood fire in the campsite.  The air was filled with the sounds of Canadian geese beginning their migration south.  There’s something sad about the sound of that.  I guess the summer season is really over up here.

SEP 8, 2013 – Drove to Cape Vincent, NY today.  It was supposed to be a sleepy, fishing village at the entrance to the St. Lawrence seaway.  It certainly was small but it didn’t look much like a fishing village.  We went into the Chamber of Commerce office to get information about things in the area.  The guy behind the counter seemed to be quite amused by us.  Apparently the season is over as of Labor Day weekend and a lot of what we wanted to see is closed until next spring.

      We had lunch in a busy restaurant.  At first, we thought it was crowded because it was good eats but it turned out that was basically the only place in town to eat out.  The food was OK but nothing special to go out of your way for.  After lunch, we walked Main Street.  We started to walk to the Tibbets Point Lighthouse but came across a sign saying it was three miles down the road.  The walk there wouldn’t have been so bad, but I think the walk back would have been very long.  At any rate, we went back and got the truck and drove there.  The lighthouse was closed off for safety reasons.  The living quarters have been turned into a hostelry and that was closed, as was the fog horn building as well as the gift shop.  We were able to get a pretty good picture of the wind generators on Wolfe Island across the seaway in Ottawa.  Paul counted 85 that we could see.  That will definitely be a trip for us this week.

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     Plugged in the name of a local winery and Amelia brought us to the site.  We did a tasting – didn’t like anything in particular but did get two more wine glasses.  We left there and drove into Watertown.  Walked to the riverwalk and found a plaque dedicated by Gov Mario Cuomo naming it the Veterans Memorial Riverwalk.  We walked up to the center of town and looked at the Paddock Arcade – the first official shopping mall in the U.S.  It is a four story building with shops on the first floor, offices on the second floor, and apartments on the top floors.  It was quite interesting.

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      We then drove over to the N.Y.S. Zoo at Thompson Park.  It was a nice local zoo, but I would never call it a state zoo.  Specimens were limited, and there were no plaques explaining the background of the animals and reptiles living there.  There were some wolves that were howling.  Paul thought it was because they wanted dinner.  Do wolves get fed at the end of the day?

      Day was done and we returned back to the campsite for a nice grilled steak dinner.

SEP 7, 2013 - Arrived at Fort Drum in Watertown, NY, yesterday.  It was quite a ride around the world, too.  We drove through West Canada Valley, into Poland, then Russia, over the Cincinnati Bridge, and into Denmark – not to mention going through several towns with the same names as other New England states.  At any rate, we are here now.  Fort Drum renovated their campground in the last year and everything here is new.  There are three campsites with log cabins and concrete pads with full hookups for RVs.  We are in a large open area and the wind blowing across the field. This makes it hard to keep the awning or any decorations out.

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      The refrigerator suddenly started working again the morning we dropped it off at the Kingston Camping World.  The technician said he spent two hours resetting the factory default and cleaning out the carbon box, but we don’t have high hopes the problem is fixed.  We’ll see how long it lasts.     

     Spent the first day doing laundry.  The cat got scared by the dog and peed herself while standing on our bed, so all the linens had to be washed.  Drove around the base and had a difficult time finding everything.  First, the check in desk had no map of the base.  Then we drove to the outdoor recreation center and the only map they had was of walking trails.  The guy tried to show where things were on the map but all he did was mark circles.  After we left, we couldn’t remember what each circle meant.  There are no signs posted around base so we had difficulty finding the commissary, PX, and other facilities.  We never did find the club.

     Yesterday, we drove to Clayton in the Thousand Islands.  It reminded us very much of Greenport, Long Island – a seaside town with lots of quaint shops.  We walked the main street, stopped in a winery and even found an American Legion post (Colon Couch Post 821) where we stopped in and had a drink.  We stopped by the Chamber of Commerce to get some brochures on the area, but it was closed.  We will be back to explore this town.

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VERMONT & NEW HAMPSHIRE

8/27/2013.  Got word that Paul’s brother’s wife, Britta, is in the hospital and failing rapidly.  Cancelled our next campsite and began packing up to go home.  Will leave bright and early tomorrow morning. Tried programming the new GPS we bought.  What a piece of s**t.  A lot of money for something that is NOT user friendly.  Can’t take it back because we already threw the box out.

       Called Camping World in Kingston and asked if they could look at the fridge.  Figure we can drop the RV off on the way home.  Get free storage for a week or two while we stay at the cabin.  Worst case is that they can’t fix it and we have to buy a new refrigerator.  Paul says we will go with a regular house fridge – all the RV ones are three times as much money and always have problems.  We’ll see.

      Went to the Dutch Mill Family Restaurant for dinner.  Everything on the menu was sandwiches with fries.  We both got BBQ pulled pork.  It was so sweet, it made my teeth hurt!

8/26/2013.  Went to the Dutch Mill Family Restaurant in front of the campground.  It had an Amish-like feel to it when you walked in. The facility was small – ten tables and a counter with four seats.  Melody had a Vermonter omelet (cheddar cheese, apple, and sausage).  Paul had a Canadian omelet (sausage and Swiss cheese). 

     We then drove to WalMart to look for a GPS but couldn’t find what we wanted.  Drove to Pete’s RV Center to have one of the keys they made redone because it did not work.  While there, we bought a GPS designed for RVs – the Magellan RoadMate RV916T.  We also took the time to ooh and aah over a Big Horn fifth wheel by Heartland.  It had a nice floor plan with a bathroom suite that we liked very much.  Keep it in mind for the next RV purchase in three or four years.

          Decided to drive up north to look at the islands between Vermont and New York, up by the Canadian border.  It was a long drive over very plain territory.  Those folks apparently don’t go out and don’t eat out.  Just houses and farms and cows and horses and sheep and goats and trees, trees, trees.  On the way back back, we stopped in St. Albans for lunch at the Cosmic Bakery & Café.  Melody had chicken chili and Paul had a marinated steak sandwich, both with bagel chips rather than potato chips. 

    After lunch, we walked over to a large central square in town.  There were several monuments dedicated to troops who served in all the various wars, as well as one dedicated to veterans in general.  There were a couple of very old churches as well as buildings facing the park that were a throwback to the civil war.  You felt like you stepped back in time when you walked down the wide main street.  There was an old armory across the street which we walked in and looked around.  The town was in the process of an urban renewal project - putting in new sidewalks, traffic signals, and redoing the gas pipes.

     On the drive back, we stopped in a fireplace shop to look over their different fireplaces and stoves.  Some very nice stuff – for the next house.  We then walked across the street to The Christmas Loft and wandered the store for about an hour, admiring all the Christmas decorations, lights, villages, etc. It made us nostalgic for our music box collection.

8/25/2013.  Took Bonnie to the dog park.  There were several dogs there, which was good socialization for her.  After all the initial smells, she didn’t seem much interested in interacting with them.  Took Bonnie back to the RV, packed a lunch and left.

      Went to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes.  There were 16 buildings depicting the history of the lake, of boats, and of area history.  There was also a boat that we were able to board and talk to a docent about how such a boat was used in battle.  The museum shares its location with a golf club spread out over a large area.  On the site was a restaurant with an open field in front.  There were several small planes parked out front.  As we watched, a Cessna flew in and joined the group parked there.  It appeared that the planes fly in, the pilots have lunch at the restaurant, and then fly out.

      Went back to the RV, fed the animals, and then left for Burlington.  Took a sunset cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen III.  Clouds obscured the sky and we really didn’t get much of a sunset.  There was a wedding on board – we sat on the deck of the third floor and looked down on the ceremony taking place on the second floor.  The cruise was two and a half hours long, and was very relaxing.

8/24/2013.   Paul spent the morning troubleshooting the refrigerator, to no avail.  Finally gave up and went to WalMart to buy a cooler.  Found one that plugs in and cools 40 degrees colder than the outside temperature.  Then drove down the road to Pete’s RV to see if they could do any repair work on our frig.  It would take a minimum of a week for them to assess, and they couldn’t get us in for a month.  Guess we’re stuck with the cooler for a while!

      Pete’s RV was everything to rival Camping World. They had a show room, a store filled with camping delights of all kinds, and hundreds of RVs.  We tootled around the store for almost an hour, then went outside and spent an hour wandering in and out of different fifth wheel models.  We delighted in new finds and look forward to our next purchase in four or five years.

       On the way back to the campground, we stopped at the Magic Hat Brewery.  They were having a fund-raiser, and there was a DJ playing annoying funky music and many loud, young people imbibing on brewery products.  We paid an entry fee and got to taste four beers each.  We took the tour but it was a big joke.  The “tour leader” joked around a lot, put on a video for us to watch, then walked us into an overhead observation area to look down into the plant.  Unfortunately, it was Saturday and no one was working.  Our “leader” asked if anyone had any questions.  Since no one did, he said he was going to the bar and left us all just standing there.  We got to stare down at the work area, replete with all its machines and wondered what everything did and how the process worked. 

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      Stopped at Shaw’s and picked up some groceries to replace some of the stuff we had to throw out.  BBQ’d chicken breasts for dinner, chatted with new neighbors, and watched Bonnie try to play with another dog.  It was cool again tonight.

8/23/2013.  Went back to the Shelburne Museum.  The place is spread out over 45 acres and has 38 buildings.  The collections got more and more diverse with each building we went in.  There were dolls and doll houses, horse carriages of seemingly every make and model (including a Conestoga wagon), quilts, weaving demonstration, printing presses, furniture, paintings, water colors, weather vanes, wooden figures, apothecary, general store - you name it.  And Mrs. Webb had bought old houses built in the 1700s and filled them with her collections.  The good thing was that you were able to wander about most of the buildings and touch most everything.  We spent almost five hours wandering about the place.

     When we came back to the campground, we discovered the refrigerator was not cold.  The thermometer read 70 degrees.  Threw out everything.  Turned the frig from AC to LP power.  The trouble with an RV refrigerator is that you have to take the entire camper to the repair shop.  Have to seek out a repairman tomorrow.  We’ll see what happens.  In the meantime, we tried eating all the cheese and other open items before they went bad.

      Had a campfire tonight.  Temperatures had dropped and it was chilly.  On the way back from the bathroom, I saw a skunk walking across someone’s front yard (there are several seasonal campers here).  It was just ambling along.  Paul thinks they are trying to trap the critter – camp folks were putting out traps earlier today.

8/22/2013.  Went to the Shelburne Museum this morning.  It is a very large area with several buildings, a train engine and car, a carousel, a lighthouse, and one of only two existing paddlewheel boats in America.  It turns out that a wealthy woman named Mrs. Webb liked to collect things.  The museum displays her very eclectic collection of stuff – weapons, furniture, circus memorabilia, the Ticonderoga paddlewheel boat, an artist’s collection of paintings and water colors.  It was like a rich woman hoarder – if she didn’t have the money to buy the stuff and the buildings to put them in and the acreage to put it all on, she would have been on today’s hoarder shows.  She liked to collect things that appealed to her.

     We toured about half of the area when big black clouds and high winds started to move in.  We quickly left and drove to the Shelburne Vineyard.  While a ferocious thunderstorm raged outside, we tasted a flight of wine, with cheese and crackers for $5 each (included a wine glass).  When the storm was over, we left and stopped at the Shelburne Country Store.  It was quite an amazing place.  There were seven rooms stuffed with all kinds of Americana things.  We bought a Christmas ornament of Vermont , a pocketbook, and maple creamees, then returned to the campsite.

8/21/2013.  Took a Segway tour around Lake Champlain and around the University of Vermont campus.  It was supposed to be for two hours but we actually rode around town for almost three hours.  We had a great time riding the Segways - the guides, unfortunately, did not know about the history of the city.  Many of their facts were guesses and they failed to mention many of the areas we rode past.  A husband and wife just started the business this summer as a supplement to their tree farm and paragliding school.  The wife and an intern were our guides.  They need to study the background of the city a little more.  Everyone had walkie talkies but they kept going dead at different times.  Good idea; poor implementation.

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     After the tour, we drove into town and had lunch at the Vermont Pub and Brewery.  I had Toads in the Hole (maple sausage, onions, and cheese in a pastry) and Paul had a Bird’s Nest (mashed potatoes, onions, and cheese on a Portobello mushroom).   Afterwards, we walked the three city blocks that contained the Church Street Marketplace.  There is an earth line that marks the division of the hemispheres that runs in a brick line down the middle of the road.

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     Came back to camp, took a nap, Paul went for a quick swim in the pool (it was cold), then had wine and cheese while the cat and dog got some fresh air.  Took a ride down the peninsula to see if we could find a spot to watch the sunset but all the property is privately owned and we couldn’t get close enough to the water.  Spent an hour trying to find a creamee (Vermont’s favorite treat – soft ice cream), then finally came back and bought them at the Dutch Mill Restaurant, right by the campground.

 8/20/2013.  Left at 10:45 a.m.  The day was clear and the drive was uneventful.  Pulled into the new campground at around 12:30 p.m.  The site was really tight and it took Paul several attempts before he was able to get the RV backed into place.  After set up, we drove down Route 7 in South Burlington to take a look at what was in the area.  Stopped at Shaw’s to pick up groceries.  Returned to the campground, cooked dinner, then watched the sunset with a glass of wine and my true love nearby.  Made an appointment to take a Segway tour of Burlington tomorrow.

8/19/2013.  Started the day out trying to get through to Fort Drum.  Finally!  They are open 9 to 9 weekdays.  They did not have the dates we wanted, so we adjusted and make arrangements to come in after Labor Day.  Then we made reservations at another campground up on the Canadian border to fill in the time between our next stop and when we can get into Fort Drum.

      Drove to Norwich, VT, to King Arthur Flour Bakery.  What an amazing place!  They have a school for bakers, a store that sells everything an aspiring cook could ever want, a snack bar that sells their products, and a viewing area to watch the artisans ply their craft.  We had a snack, watched bread being made, and roamed the store oohing and aahing at all the selections.

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      Went kayaking on the Connecticut River.  Dartmouth College in New Hampshire has a rowing club and they rented canoes and kayaks.  We kayaked for an hour and a half for just $15.  We were so happy with the whole event that we gave them another $5 contribution for the club.

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     Had lunch at The Shepherd’s Pie.  Then drove to Sugarbush Farm where they make 18 different types of cheese and collect maple syrup in the spring.   They had a room stacked with cheeses and tasting stations where they gave you a taste of whatever cheeses you wanted to try.  Then you walked into the country store where you could buy their products and more.  There was also a walk through the sugar maples where you could see how they tap the trees.

     Came back and began putting things away for the move to our next campsite tomorrow.

8/18/2013.  The day started out cool and cloudy, but it got pleasant later on.  Continued trying to get hold of Fort Drum but still no answer.  Apparently the Army doesn’t work on the weekend.   Made a reservation at another campground for our next move, which will be close to Burlington, VT – the north western corner of the state.

     Left at 10:30 a.m. to do some laundry and get breakfast.  Drove into White River Junction and was delighted to find a town that was a throwback to earlier years.  We found a diner designed to look like the old silver diners but it wasn’t a train.  In fact, it was listing to port a few degrees.  The door was in the center of the one-story building with six tables on the right and four tables and nine seats at the counter on the left.  There were two waitresses serving and one cook at the grill behind the counter.  It took 35 minutes to get our meal and we had to try to grab the waitress for a refill on the coffee.  The food was OK. 

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     We asked where the nearest laundromat was, but the waitress didn’t know.  She tried to get directions from someone else but wasn’t effective in sharing that information.  We left the diner and followed a sign to a welcome center.  As we walked across the tracks, we spotted a diesel engine marked Green Mountain Express.  It turned out to be a tour along the Connecticut River.  They were getting ready to go but held it up for us.  We bought two tickets and jumped on board for the two and half hour ride.

     It was one hour down the track, then a stop at the Cedar Circle Farm.  We got off and walked around the farm looking at crops of fruits and flowers, and the signs they had posted around the place talking about land management and recycling.  There was a field of sunflowers that were all facing the same direction.  It was like little aliens watching the horizon for the return of their leader.  Weird.

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     The train was back in a half-hour and we returned to White River Junction.  One of the train company employees gave us directions to a nearby laundromat.  We drove there and found that they cost more than the campground (we thought the campground was high at $2.75 a washer and $2 a dryer).  The laundromat was $3 a wash and $0.25 for eight minutes.

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     While our clothing sloshed around in the machine, we walked to an ice cream store.  They had 24 soft serve flavors to choose from.  We each got a small cone, sat and ate it, then returned to the mat.  When everything was done, we hit the road.  Stopped in the country store to get a roasted chicken for dinner and returned to the campground.  Paul hunted up some sticks and we enjoyed a small fire.  The sky was fire red with the sunset tonight.  Beautiful!

8/17/2013.  Today was an easy day.  Reviewed campgrounds in preparation for our next move.  Spent all morning trying to call Fort Drum but there was no answer.  Guess they don’t work on weekends.  Left at noon for lunch at The Long Trail Brewing Co. in Grafton, VT.  They had a flight of six beers (4 oz. each) for $7.  It was a buzzin’ place!  It is a very popular stop and the place was packed.  You could see where it had several additions as it built out into the river.  There were kids and dogs strolling in the river, people sitting on the deck, patrons sitting inside the building, and others taking a tour of the brewery.  We even bought tee shirts that say “Vermont: Take a Hike.”

     We left the brewery and stopped at Shackleton Thomas Furniture and Pottery.  The pottery is created by Miranda Thomas and the furniture is built by Charles Shackleton.  It is quite upscale; some vases priced at over $3,000.  Someone was working on the pottery wheel creating a vase (Miranda must have helpers).  We watched a man working on a lathe, creating a wooden bowl.  There was a workshop upstairs why you were supposed to be able to see them constructing furniture, but they were having a special workshop today with a group working on putting together tables.

     Driving back to the campground, we passed the VINS (a nature center) and stopped in on a whim.  The place was nice.  They were putting on a show about raptors.  Admission was high - $12 each – but we knew it was for a good cause so we paid it.  They brought out five birds and discussed each one and gave demonstrations.  It was interesting, but nothing I didn’t already know from my days at Volunteers at Wildlife.  We looked at the cages with birds that could not be released back into the wild and read their sorry stories.  It is sad how people are impacting the wildlife around us.

    Stopped at a farmer’s market on the way home to pick up some corn for dinner and returned to our campsite.  We bought some wood for a campfire.  It was so nice!  The sad fact of full time RVing is that you don’t have the outside campfires like you used to when you were vacationing.  First off, you have to buy all your firewood (no backyard or neighbor to get wood from).  Then all the states have a law against transporting firewood across state lines because of insects.  Oh, well.  We’ll enjoy it when we can.

     Interesting event last night.  Paul was watching TV and I was working on the computer when an odor started to permeate the air.  I immediately gave Paul the eye, and he responded with every husband’s standard response, “I didn’t do it!”  Both of us look at the dog.  She was lying on the floor chewing on her new bone, entirely oblivious to everyone around her.  We talked about when she had been out last as the smell became more and more intense.  My eyes were starting to water.  I suggested that Paul lift the dog’s tail to make sure there wasn’t some kind of leakage going on (he was sitting nearest to her). No, it didn’t appear to be the dog.  Where was that smell coming from?  Was the holding tank backing up? We’ve only been here five days and there hasn’t been any more activity in the toilet than normal. That couldn’t be it. At this point, we are now both up and sniffing at every possible source in the trailer. Suddenly, the cat comes running by and we realize she just used the cat box (the running was probably her attempt to get away from the odor, too).  Mystery solved, but a dawning realization that all of us living together in a 36 foot box has certain disadvantages.

8/16/2013.  Woke to 53 degrees; it got up to 75 degrees this afternoon.  First stop was Ruggles Mine in New Hampshire.  We felt it was a rip off.  It was a non-working mine that closed in the 1960s.  They charged $25 each for us to go in and look at the large, jagged, hole in the earth – not even a guided tour!  It was the oldest mica, feldspar, and beryl mine in the US.  There were people digging for minerals in several places – a fun thing for young families to do but of no interest to persons like us.  We just wanted to look and should only have had to pay $5. 

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     We then took off for Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in New Hampshire.  Stopped at The Route 104 Diner for lunch.  It was decorated like a ‘50s diner, complete with juke boxes on each table (although they didn’t work – period music was piped over speakers).  We continued on to the Wright Museum, a WWII museum on the east side of the lake.  It was just like Lake George.  There were B&Bs, cabins, motels, hotels, and resorts.  Restaurants, souvenir shops, and all kinds of amusement activities lined the shores of the lake.  The going was slow and we didn’t get to the museum until 3:10 p.m.  The museum closed at 4.

               Because it was so late, the clerk only charged us $8 to get in.  The museum was great.  The man who created it was a Korean veteran, and his father served in WWI.  He painstakingly gathered all the information about WWII and recreated it in displays of artifacts and posters.  The museum had a time tunnel that was really interesting.  They set up a room for each year from 1939 through 1945 that showed what was going on in America on the home front.  There were period uniforms and equipment as well.  We stayed past closing about 20 minutes and the clerk never threw us out.  We enjoyed the museum very much.

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8/15/2013.  Woke to 48 degrees this morning.  Had to put the heater on.  Waaaaaaa!  It’s still summer time.

     Had a great Skype session with our grandson and his mother last night. Up to now, we haven’t been able to hold his attention or get any reaction.  Tonight, he gave us a smile and clapped his hands when we sang him his favorite song and grandpa made duck noises.

     Toured the Cabot Creamery (cheese factory), Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, a maple syrup farmhouse, and a winery.  Found out that there are four grades of maple syrup and that the state of Vermont regulates the syrup industry.  We stopped and had lunch in Montpelier (capitol of Vermont) at The Skinny Pancake – a crepes place.  There was a house across the street that looked like the house from Psycho.  All the buildings in town were old – built in the late 1800s to 1900s. 

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     We came back and picked up some of that great smelling pulled pork the deli across the street from the campground has been cooking in his smoker out front.  Took Bonnie to the dog run and let her play a bit.  She was more interested in sniffing everything than playing.  A new camper pulled up behind us.  They have a dog and Bonnie and her barked at each other, trying to pull their leashes closer together so they could play.  Maybe we can get the dogs together for some a play date.

8/14/2013.  Woke to 53 degrees. Brrrrr.  Weather forecast for today was a high of 69 degrees.  Had to dress in jeans and long shirt.  Drove to the Quechee Gorge, VT.  It was a brief hike of 0.5 miles from the visitor center to the bottom of the gorge.  It was OK but we have seen better – the Letchworth Gorge in Buffalo is really nice as is Niagara Falls.  We then hiked back up the trail another 0.5 miles to find the top of the gorge where there was a dam.  Apparently it was a little short and they added a 4-foot wooden fence to the top of the dam.  It looked really flimsy – would hate to live downstream from this one!

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      Left Quechee and drove to Woodstock, VT.  1,000 Places to See Before You Die called this “the prettiest small town in America.”  It was, indeed, quaint and charming.  We walked past many old buildings, some with plaques reading “Built in 1861.”  Had lunch at the Mountain Creamery, then explored some more before leaving.

      We stopped at the Marsh-Billings-Roosevelt National Historical Park (also in Woodstock).  It was a real working dairy farm.  We saw cows with full udders waiting to be milked, noisy sheep baaing away, horses grazing in the pasture, an old barn, and the old house the manager of the farm lived in.  The house is now a museum with three floors depicting life on a farm in the 1800s with stories and sample tools showing ice cutting, plowing, reaping, granary, butter churning, tree cutting, garden planting, etc., etc., etc.  I don’t know how they ever managed to get everything done with so many tasks facing them.  They had to make everything they needed – clothing, tools, glass, butter, flour, vegetables, blankets, furniture  – everything!

      On the drive back to the campsite, we took a wrong turn and wound up on a very narrow road – one car wide.  At one point, we were driving alongside the river and there was no guardrail or shoulder.  One misstep and we would have been in the drink.  It was white knuckle time!  Got back to the campsite in one piece (whew!).  After dinner, we walked down to the camp store and got some ice cream then explored the camp.  Found a nice dog run that Bonnie will enjoy.

8/13/2013.  Left Hanscom AFB at 10 a.m.  It rained on and off the entire drive to VT.  (Why does it always seem to rain when we move from one spot to the next?)  Stopped at the Cracker Barrel for lunch.  We had missed the exit and took the next one to go back.  Good thing we did because it was the only Cracker Barrel in all of New Hampshire and Vermont.  Arrived at the Quechee/Pine Valley KOA in White River Junction, VT, around 2 p.m.  It stopped raining long enough for us to set up, then it poured.

     When the rain let up, we drove to the supermarket to pick up some pet food and groceries.  We had to drive back to Lebanon, New Hampshire.  There was a huge market complex – department stores, two large grocery stores, lots of eateries.  We had dinner at the 7 Barrel Brewery.  Tried a local dish: an appetizer called poutine – a dish of fried potatoes, cheese curds, and gravy. It was tasty.  We tried a mead and found it so delicious, we will be visiting the meadery.

1. The Boston Common (oldest public park in the US).  2. Reading room in the Boston Public Library.  3. Paul & Melody at the Cheers bar.  4. Entrance to Faneuil Hall Marketplace.  5. Tombstone for Paul Revere.  6. Duck sculpture in Botanical Gardens (oldest in the US).  7. Paul standing by the gangplank at the USS Constitution.

MASSACHUSETTS (& CT)


 8/12/2013.  Up and out by 9:30 a.m.  Now something of savant travelers (with yesterday’s experience under our belts), we zipped through the turnstile, got on the subway, and rode all the way to our destination (no detours today).  We got off and found the trolley tour bus with minimum fuss.  Got off at the stop for Trinity Church.  Wow!  It certainly has to rival St. Patrick’s church in NYC.  It was humongous and made entirely of stone.  The tour guide said they had to drive over 40,000 posts in the ground to support the weight of the structure so it wouldn’t sink into the ground (a good part of Boston is built on landfill). 

    We had to walk a bit to find the trolley stop, but we finally got one.  Rode the trolley past many of the stops back to Faneuil Hall Marketplace.  It is three large buildings with large areas between each building.  Inside and out, there were vendors and food places galore!  The smells of so many different foods were overwhelming.  It was so hard to choose!  We finally decided to eat at an Irish restaurant, up on the second floor.  We sat looking down of the parade of people walking through the marketplace as we enjoyed chowder, lobster roll, and shepherd’s pie.  We strolled past vendor’s carts but didn’t buy anything.

     We continued on to Cheers, the bar that the TV sitcom was based on.  Had a drink, took pictures then continued on to find the trolley bus to take us back to the subway station.  While waiting, we noticed the Old State House was across the street.  We decided to take a tour of the building.  It was a beautiful collection of artifacts and stories of the early days of Boston.  We got in free with our military I.D. – it would have cost $7 each.

      We walked through Boston Common on the way back to the subway. It is the oldest public park in America.  We also walked through the Botanical Gardens (also the oldest in the U.S.).  There was a cute sculpture of a mother duck and eight ducklings.  It is based on a book – Make Way for Ducklings – that has become something of a Mother’s Day tradition in town.  In May, the children are dressed like ducklings and parade through the park.  Cute.

     We found the subway, made our way back to the truck, and drove home in the rush-hour traffic.  We went back to the auto store to get the exhaust cleaner for the truck – the store was open.  Then we drove down the road and found the ice cream shop.  One scoop equals a big cup of ice cream.  It was certainly double the size of what you would have gotten in New York.

      Although the visit to Boston started out a little shaky, all in all, we enjoyed the tour very much and would gladly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning the history of this country.  All those stories from the history books came alive in this town.

 8/11/2013.   Had a rocky start to the day. Melody had stomach issues in the morning, so we didn’t leave until after 11 a.m. (half a day wasted).  We drove to Alewife Station to catch the subway into Boston. There were no instructions on what tickets to buy and we wound up buying the wrong tickets (as did a young man next to us and a pair of ladies on the other side). The customer service booth was empty so we were all beside ourselves to figure things out.  Finally, a guy came walking by (must have come back from break) and we all descended on him. He explained how to buy the correct tickets.  We did so and got on the subway.

     They were doing maintenance on the tracks over the weekend, so we had to get off the subway and take a bus to our next stop.  We got off but couldn’t figure out how to find the trolley tour we had bought tickets for at the campsite (many Military sites will sell tickets to local attractions at deeply discounted rates – we got tickets for $10 less than if we bought them in town). We were getting totally frustrated.  Finally, we decided to stop and get lunch but couldn’t find a decent restaurant.  We wound up in a Potbelly sandwich shop, something very much like Subway.

     We sat in the window and watched the passing crowds through the window.  There was a buzz of excitement in the town.  There were tour buses, trolley tours, duck boat tours, and walking tours with leaders holding up flags or placards calling to their groups to stay together. Many people were from foreign countries. It was startling to hear people from Germany, or Portugal, or Australia touring Boston. Then I realized that Americans go overseas to tour their countries so why shouldn’t they come here? It was interesting to see them come to Boston, the seat of America’s birth and fight for independence.

     We finally wound up at a ticket booth for the trolley tours and the clerk explained the signage to us and gave us stickers to wear identifying us as paid-up tourists.  We got on the trolley and began the tour of the city.  After two stops, we got off to see the U.S.S. Constitution. This is the oldest serving ship in the U.S. Navy today (built in 1671) – it has never been decommissioned.  Its story was a fascinating one.  We then took a tour of the museum before walking the liberty trail to Bunker Hill.  (The liberty trail is a one and a half mile circle around Boston’s historical areas that is marked in a red line down the middle of the sidewalk.  Just follow the trail to see the story of Boson and the fight for independence.)

     As we arrived at Bunker Hill (which was a steep climb up the hillside), we found a National Parks Service Ranger telling the story of the battle that took place there.  His story resonated over the hillside and held everyone spellbound.  He reminded us of Paul’s brother – a wonderful story teller who can make you feel like you are in the very middle of the story. The monument looks like the Washington monument in D.C.  A sign said it had 269 steps to the top. Melody refused to try it; Paul did, but stopped at 162 steps.  That’s a lot of stairs!

     We also toured the Granary Burial Ground in the middle of town.  There were many old, old tombstones with writing on some barely visible.  Several famous individuals were buried there – Benjamin Franklin’s parents, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Mother Goose, and even Robert Treat Paine (possibly an ancestor who was a signer on the original Declaration of Independence).  What was most remarkable was the way the city built up around the cemetery.  Building foundations butted right up to the fence, and in some cases, the actual headstones were in the foundation of the building.

    We found a trolley and took it to the subway station to leave.  We got down the stairs, put our tickets in the machine, passed through into the subway when a worker came out stating that everyone going to the Alewife Station had to go back upstairs and take the bus.  Why wasn’t there a worker at the top of the stairs before we walked all the way down? (sigh)  We went back upstairs, crossed the busy street, and got on the very packed bus for the ride over the bridge and to the subway station on the other side of the river.

     Got back to Alewife Station, bought two round trip tickets for tomorrow, and paid for our parking. On the way back, Paul wanted to pick up some exhaust cleaner fluid and Melody wanted to try some of that New England ice cream (it is the number one dessert of the Massachusetts’ folks).  The auto store was closed and we couldn’t find the ice cream store.


8/10/2013.  Had breakfast, packed up the camper, and moved to another site.  We no longer have the cover of the trees, so it’s hotter, but the dish satellite will now work.  Six of one; half a dozen of the other.

      Left at lunchtime and ate at Margaritas.  The food was good, the margaritas were huge, and the place was wonderfully decorated.  Then we drove to Saugus Iron Works.  The I-95 was all backed up.  We tried to take a side road but it didn’t work, so we wound up getting back on the interstate.  The Saugus Iron Works were established in 1641 – it was the first commercial iron works in the new land.  It was so interesting to see the renovated works, read the story, and learn the history of the place.

     Returned to the camper, grabbed the shopping list, and drove to the BX/Commissary on base.  We shopped for groceries, toured the base complex, stopped at the Class VI shop to buy wine, and returned.


8/9/2013.  Woke to heavy rain.  Drove into Lexington and toured  Buckman Tavern and Hancock-Clarke House.  We saw the Battle Green (an open field) where the English fired on colonists with the “shot heard ‘round the world.”  The buildings were very old and the stories of early colonists and patriots were fascinating.  To think that we were right where the earliest fight for independence took place was exhilarating!  We then drove down the main street looking for another tavern but wound up at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum.  It chronicled the birth and growth of freemasons in America.  It was quite a story!

     Then we drove to Concord to hear the story of how the colonists and the British Regulars squared off at the North Bridge.  After watching an 8-minute movie on the Lexington-Concord conflict, we started off to see the bridge when our cell phone sounded.  It was a message from the new Pet Tracker saying that Bonnie was outside the established zone.  Thoroughly confused as to how she could have gotten out of the camper, we hurried back to the campsite.  It turned out that the electric beaker had tripped and we lost power to the trailer.  Guess it was all the rain that did it.  The camp host wanted to move us to a temporary spot, then another spot tomorrow.  That was ridiculous!  We said we would stay where we are running on battery power, and move to the other spot tomorrow.

8/8/2013. Spent over an hour vacuuming the camper – half of that spent on the furniture.  Furniture makers take note – most people have pets and pets have fur.  Make your furniture out of something that repels pet hair!  We took off at about 11:30 a.m.  Stopped to pick up an egg sandwich and coffee at the Homestyle Café then hit the interstate.  Pulled into Hanscom Air Force Base FamCamp around 2 p.m. 

      Nothing fancy here. The campground is right on the other side of the fence adjacent to the air strip. Each site is close to the other; certainly won’t be any privacy here.  The check-in clerk told us the Air Force base no longer has any military aircraft there (although we watched four Marine helicopters land at the airport) – that the airfield was turned over to the municipal authorities and that all the aircraft flying there are private jets. There was a lot of air activity – it’s going to be noisy.

       Drove over to the Air Force base.  It was at least four times the size of Westover Air Reserve Base.  Don’t understand how this place isn’t active any more.  There was base housing, a big complex with movie theater, bowling alley, BX, and clinic, as well as a base club that we had drinks at.


8/7/2013.  Drove to Holyoke shopping mall and spent two hours walking around looking at everything.  It seems like it is just like any mall in America – Macy’s, Penny’s, Sears, Lidz, Things Remembered, etc. Any store we had in New York was there, although all the stores seemed twice as big.  I guess the cost of operation is not based on the size of the land parcel or taxes are paid on some other basis. Melody picked up two pairs of jeans.  We stopped at a Susan’s Café for lunch and headed back to begin packing up for our next move.

 

8/6/2013.  Spent the day in the campsite. Paul washed the truck and trailer, and worked on trying to fix the truck bed cover.  Melody vacuumed the camper and spent a good deal of the day reading a book.  We both watched C5’s doing touch and goes.  After dinner, we took a ride to DQ with our dog, Bonnie. We all enjoyed the treat.

 

8/5/2013.  Went to the Homestyle Café for breakfast. It was good and cheap.  $15 for the two of us (included tip).  We drove to Hartford, CT, and took a tour of Mark Twain & Harriet Beecher Stowe’s houses.  Twain sure liked to show off his wealth.  What a house!

      We discovered a Cabelas and detoured to visit the store.  We had lunch and spent about an hour and a half wandering around looking at everything.  The camping section was particularly fun as we looked at the tenting equipment and reminisced those early camping days before we got our “rolling house on wheels.”

 

8/4/2013.  Drove into town to try breakfast at a cute little café down the road.  It was (what else?) closed.  So we got route 33 and drove until we found a local place – Susan’s Café.  The food was good and cheap. Then we took a Sunday drive along some scenic byways.  First was the Route 116 Scenic Byway from Sunderland to Adams in the west.  We watched the thermometer drop from 76 degrees to 54.  Then we took the Mt. Greylock Scenic Byway south.  We stopped at the Mt. Greylock summit and admired a war memorial that was built in the 1930s.  At one time, it had the brightest light along the Berkshires for pilots to see as they flew along the valley.  We got back in the car and then followed Jacob’s Ladder Trail Scenic Byway eastward.  There were some breathtaking vistas along the way as the temperature continued to go up and down with each new mountain top.  We stopped at a trailhead in Chester Blandford State Forest and hiked the gently (almost) upward sloping two miles to Sanderson Falls.  There was a small amount of water splashing down over the boulders and rocks.  The place must be awesome in the spring with the runoff.

      Along the way, we stopped at a retail outlet to buy some jeans for Melody but we couldn’t find anything.  After hiking Sanderson Falls, we drove into town and ate at a local bar and grill.  Again, the food was good and the price was right.  Finally, we returned to the campsite, walked the dog, and got inside just as a nasty thunderstorm rolled in.  Perfect timing!  We tried to Skype with our grandson and his mother but the signal wouldn’t go through.  Probably affected by the thunderstorm.

8/3/2013.  Worked around the camper all morning, then drove into town and had lunch at Ninety Nine, a local restaurant.  It reminded us of Appleby’s.  Afterward, we went to WalMart and picked up some odds and ends. We tried to get keys made at Home Depot but they didn’t have the right keys

 

8/2/2013.  Went to Denny’s for breakfast.  Drove to Old Deerfield to see Yankee Candle Village. Wow! Never saw so many different kinds of candles, candle fragrances (to include bacon), and decorations.  There were several large rooms, each filled with thousands of selections.  There was a special section for children where they could dip their hands into wax and get a mold of their hands. There was also a station where they could build their own candle, much like the sand paintings.

    After Yankee Candle, we stopped at a Big Y and bought some cheese and crackers. Then we drove to Amherst Winery and sampled their fare while sitting out on the deck with our snacks.  Their tasting included five wines and the glass for just $5. There was a red tail hawk sitting in a nearby tree frantically calling out. Don’t know if it was for a mate,  a parent, or a child, but it was definitely calling someone.

     We returned to the camper then decided to go bowling at the base center. It was $2.50 a game and just $2.25 to rent shoes.  We ordered burgers and drinks at the snack bar and bowled two games.  It was quite pleasant and the whole night cost us only $30.

8/1/2013.  It was an overcast day so we tended to housekeeping duties.  I worked on setting up a new account with USAA Federal Savings Bank.  Teachers Federal Credit Union charges us to use a non-TFCU ATM machine, in addition to the ATM charge by that bank.  USAA refunds ATM fees up to $15 a month. I had to go online to the NYS Pension System, download the Electronic Funds Transfer form, fax it to USAA, and then have them fax it back to the pension system.  The whole thing should be in place in a month or two.  In the meantime, they will be sending our ATM cards to our address in Bay Shore.  We’ll have to figure out how to have them sent to us out here.

     Broke for lunch and went into town to the Ha-Ke-Lau Restaurant. It is a large building, decorated with palm trees and a big tribal mask.  We expected some kind of luau setting.  The inside was surprisingly new and refreshing.  Decorations were definitely Hawaiian, but the staff was Japanese and the food was a Chinese food buffet.  We were seated at a booth with a fish tank in the wall as big as our booth and half of the booth behind us. The food was OK.

 

7/25/2013.  Left Connecticut in the rain.  Our drive to Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, should have taken about an hour and half.  Unfortunately, we entered the coordinates for our destination (rather than the address) into Amelia (our GPS).  She caused us to drive for an extra hour.  Don’t enter coordinates into your GPS – all it takes is one wrong number and suddenly, you’re 30 miles off course and still going.

     The base is neat but small.  The campground has about 20 spaces, mostly in a row along the tree line.  Military campgrounds tend to be plain since you can drive onto the base and enjoy all the amenities available.  There are a lot of renovations taking place around base right now.  The club is closed for renovations.  The perimeter fence is being replaced.  Several other buildings and roads are closed as well.  There is no commissary on base.  We had to run off base to shop at a WalMart Supercenter.  Wow!  The place was huge.  It had a full grocery store on one side and a full department store on the other side.  It took an hour to get just a few things because you had to walk so far to find everything.

7/26/2013.  Took it easy today.  Woke to rain so we decided to take care of housekeeping duties.  I worked on lining the shelves with paper (a project I started at home but didn’t get finished).  Ran out of paper and will have to buy some more.  Paul worked on getting the DISH network back up.  Seems when you have the network off for more than a couple of days, it has to be rebooted and programmed by their technicians.  At any rate, it’s back up and we can now watch TV. (Gotta love that camping lifestyle)

     We have electric and water hookups, but no sewer.  In order to not fill the tanks over our 2-week stay, we are using disposable plates and silverware, and using the camp facilities for toilet and shower.

     We spent some time trying to discover what attractions are in the area.  Without a map, it is difficult to orient yourself.  Between Paul on the computer and me on the iPad, we still weren’t able to easily discover everything we wanted to.  Finally, we admitted we had to go find a paper map of the state and spent almost an hour online trying to figure out where the nearest welcome center was.  Once we found it, we hopped in the truck and drove to Northampton.  As we pulled into town, Paul pointed at the clock on the dash that read 5:01 p.m. and remarked that the center probably closed at 5 p.m.  He was right.  It was a college town on a Friday night so we parked and walked the city.  There was quite an eclectic collection of artsy shops and street vendors.  We had dinner in the Northampton Brewery then returned home to a beautiful sunset reflecting off leftover clouds in a clearing sky.

7/27/2013.  Drove to East Windsor, CT, and toured the Trolley Museum and Fire Museum.  It was a very interesting collection of old trolley cars and the story of how this form of transportation helped to change American culture.  We took a 1-1/4 mile ride on a trolley while the driver regaled us of stories of trolley life in the 1800s.  We then walked to the back of the property to view old fire engines that have been restored.  There were two calliopes in front of the property, one of which played extremely loud.  With the two of them going, it was a cacophony of noise that sent you looking for quieter areas.

     Next, we drove to the New England Air Museum by Bradley International Airport.  There were so many examples of early aircraft as well as stories of early pioneers in the aero industry.  Especially interesting was the story of Igor Sikorsky, who actually started his business on Long Island (another reason to return home and examine Long Island history).

      Since we were in Windsor, we thought we would go over to Windsor Locks to see the canal.  Ha, ha.  All the locks have been abandoned and there was no indication there had ever been any locks there.  We did see a short canal run off the river, but that was it.  Very disappointing.

7/28/2013.  Drove to Springfield, MA, to tour the Springfield Armory.  A VERY fascinating facility that is actually a national park.  The site was once comprised of several buildings, including housing for personnel, but much of it is now a college campus.  We saw an Organ of Muskets (firearms stacked in the shape of an early organ) and read stories of early inventors and firearm innovations.  There was one placard that said one-third of the muzzle-loading muskets recovered at the Gettysburg Battle were inoperable.  The U.S. government now contracts its firearms production to private companies.

      We drove through a small section of town that still looks like it did in the heyday of the armory’s activities.  We then had lunch in a place called the Student Prince The Fort.  It started as a small café, then had additions built over the years.  The story goes that the café was a rowdy place where men went to drink and carouse.  Wanting to be more family friendly, the owner added a dining area. If someone was going to the bar to drink, he would tell people he was going to the Student Prince; if he was taking his family to dinner, he told people he was going to The Fort.  It was a kind of code that told friends whether he was going to play or behave.  The place had a tremendous collection of steins and delft blue plates around the place.  There was also an amazing corkscrew collection.  The food was also excellent German fare.  A delightful experience.

7/29/2013.  Left to go explore the Blackbirch Winery in Northampton today but it was closed. On the drive back, we stumbled across Mt. Tom State Preservation, a 2000-acre Massachusetts state park. It was filled with hiking trails, picnic areas, and scenic vista overlooks. We climbed a 4-story tower overlooking the valley below.  The site is used every fall to record the migration of hawks, osprey, falcons, and eagles.

     We then drove into Northampton to look for a camera strap and an insert for Paul’s bicycle helmet. The camera shop was closed (so what else is new?), and while the bicycle shop didn’t have exactly what we were looking for, they did have something to substitute for the foam padding that Paul lost.  We then strolled around town, had lunch in FitzWilly’s (best dry rub ribs and BBQ beans I ever tasted), then returned to the base.  Took a bike ride around down by the flight line and admired the big aircraft parked there.

7/30/2013.  Did some laundry this morning. I’m not so sure about this doing laundry in the public room so you can meet people and find out what’s in the area.  We’ve taken several trips to the laundry mat at our campsites and never met another person except once.  And that woman didn’t know anything about the area.  After the wash was done, we took a ride to Springfield and explored the Springfield Museums.  There were four buildings – a science museum with planetarium, a fine arts museum, a Dr. Seuss garden, and a museum chronicling the growth of industry in Springfield.  We toured the science museum and saw a show in the planetarium contemplating life in the universe beyond the earth. The garden dedicated to Dr. Seuss had several sculptures depicting his most famous books.  He was born and raised in Springfield before he left for college, fame and fortune.  We also walked through the museum depicting Springfield’s heyday.  It seems like everything had its beginning there – the birth of basketball, Smith & Wesson pistol, Springfield rifle, Friendly’s Ice Cream, Breck shampoo, Milton Bradley games, Fisk tires, Indian motorcycles, you name it. There was also a Rolls Royce factory in the valley.  It seems like Springfield was the place of inventions, innovations, and manufacturing for everything.

     Afterward, we stopped at a DQ on the way home and reminisced childhood tastings. When we got back to the airbase, a Galaxy C5 was doing touch and goes.  We rode over to the flight line and watched the plane.  Soon, a C130 came flying by and some parachutists jumped out of the plane. First pass saw three jumpers, second pass had four parachutists, and on the third pass five troopers stepped out.

7/31/2013.  Drove to Worcester to view the Higgins Armory Museum.  Thought it was going to be about guns (like the Springfield Armory) but it turned out to be a collection by a metallurgist who was fascinated with coats of armor, chain mail, lances, and other medieval items. It was quite a collection. We learned that there were three classes of armor – one for combat (40-60 pounds), one for jousting (70-100 pounds), and a third (lightweight – 20 to 40 pounds) for parades and ceremonial dress. The museum is run by a non-profit board of directors but will be closing in December.  The collection is due to be transferred to an art museum.
     On the way back to the campsite, we saw a sign for Sturbridge Village.  We decided to stop and found the detour well worth it. It was a recreation of an 1830s village around the time of the industrial revolution in Massachusetts. We saw how society was rapidly changing and how many innovations were being developed at the time. It was a display to rival Williamsburg, VA, or Old Westbury’s Bethpage Village in NY.

     After we got back to the campsite, we tried to Skype with our grandson but the quality of the connection was very poor, and the baby didn’t want to sit still.  There really wasn’t a chance to talk to his mother either. I was pretty upset by the whole thing. Hope it goes better next time.  Then came the time to pay bills.  Have to LOVE online bill paying!  Wouldn’t do it any other way.

CONNECTICUT

7/18/2013.  Arrived at Wolf’s Den Campground in East Haddam, CT.  The campground is large but tight.  It was very difficult to maneuver our 36’ 5th wheel camper around the campground.  Since we lost the keys to our truck and camper this morning, our first order of priority tomorrow will be to get copies of our copies so we have backups in the event the keys are lost (again).

7/19/2013.  We went to Gillette Castle State Park in Hadlyme, CT, today.  The 122-acre former estate of actor William Gillette was neat and well-manicured.  The driveway meandered through woods and large grassy areas until it arrived at Gillette Castle, a formidable looking stone mansion built in the 1920s.  The castle was a delight to explore.  Mr. Gillette loved stone and wood, both materials used extensively throughout the residence.  There were four floors, with three bedrooms each sporting its own bathroom - quite a luxury for the time period.  There were many carved doors, electric light switches made out of wood, and beams using hammered wood that made the place seem both massive and warm at the same time.  There was a greenhouse and lights made out of pieces of broken glass, along with Tiffany lamps.  Gillette also used mirrors to keep an eye on his guests and he delighted in playing tricks on them.  The estate sits on a hill that overlooks the Connecticut River and provides a breathtaking view of the area.  William Gillette was best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, a part he played in theatrical productions around the world over 1,300 times.  He also wrote plays and had a few patents for stage effects.  It was evident he was quite successful at his craft and enjoyed the profits of his trade.

     Down the road from Gillette Castle was Hadlyme Ferry, the second oldest continuously operating ferry in CT.  It first began operation in 1769 as a private facility before it was turned over to the town in 1877.  It has been run by the CT DOT since 1917.  There was a post showing various flood levels over the years as the Connecticut River rose and fell.  The worst flood saw the waters rise 15 feet in 1938. 

7/20/2013.  We went to the East Haddam Historical Society Museum today.  It was a neat and presentable facility with many rooms to wander through.  There were dozens of photographs, lithographs, drawings, and paintings by residents over the years.  Examples of jewelry and dress of earlier times were also on display.  A half-hour video told visitors about William Gillette, a famous actor who lived in the area (we visited his stone castle the previous day).  In the back room, there was a train set donated by a resident of East Haddam that filled the room with replicas of a bygone era, including several Lionel trains.  The docents were eager to share the history of their town and regaled us with stories of a different era filled with mills sprawling along the Connecticut River.

7/21/2013.  We hiked the trails in Devil’s Hopyard State Park today.  It was barely a mile from the trailhead to the “vista” but it sure felt like a 10-mile forced march with full pack AND boots.  The trail was steep and the humidity didn’t help either.  There had been a fire some time ago and many trees lay scorched on the ground or carried the burn marks on their trunks.  Our dog enjoyed her first hike in the woods as well a passing dog or two.

      Later in the afternoon, we went to see the Nathan Hale School House.  Although the sign said the site was open Wednesday thru Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., there was no one there and the building was locked up tight.  We did get to peek into the tiny building and marvel at how Hale taught 32 children ranging in age from 6 to 17 in that one room.  We discovered that Hale was hanged by the British as a spy during the revolution on Long Island.  Now we have to go back home to see that site. lol

7/22/2013.  Went to the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat today.  Although it was called a steam train, the engine was actually a diesel.  The president of the railroad, Robert C. Bell, was dressed up in period costume and greeting all the people coming for the train ride.  We were given the senior rate without having to prove our age (and we really didn’t qualify yet - should we be offended?), plus today they offered a double discount for seniors.  We took a 2-1/2 hour train and boat ride along the Connecticut River.  We thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

     After the train and boat ride, we drove to the town of Essex and had lunch at the Griswold Inn.  This place is listed in “1000 Places to See Before You Die.”  It was a very old, colonial style building with many old paintings and pictures decorating the place.  The service was good, prices were fair, and the food tasty.  We followed this with a walk down Main Street.  The entire town is like taking a step back in time. and visiting the colonial era.  All the buildings have a sign outside saying the name of the person who built the home and the year it was built.  The dates ranged from 1799 to the 1830s, although we did see some with later dates - one with 1901 displayed.  It was a very quaint and charming town.  We were amazed by the number of houses that were up for sale.   We passed a real estate office and saw some prices posted for houses in the area.  Yeow!  Several were over a million dollars.  One was listed as a bargain, “Just Reduced” at $800K.

7/23/2013.  It was raining today so we took a ride to Mohegan Sun to see the casino and do some gambling.  We made our usual donation to the casino gods then had lunch in an Irish pub.  The food was OK but didn’t come near to the food we have on Long Island.  Mohegan Sun is such a beautiful and impressive place.  It’s fun to just wander around and gawk at everything.

 7/24/2013.  Took it easy today.  Went for a ride to Lyme and Old Saybrook.  We were amazed with the number of very large homes in this state.  And stone!  Everything has stone - stone fences, stone houses, stone as part of the houses, stone piles in meadows.  My impression about Connecticut is that it is very colonial, rural in many ways, very green with lots of trees, and quite genteel  This is a state with a lot of well-to-do people living here.