When you think Maine, you think of Bar Harbor which is representative of a true summer retreat. It is a quaint town on the Atlantic. Today, it has become a tourist attraction invaded by cruise ships and many tourists from across the USA. Still quaint but very crowded. I was wondering where are the beaches? There are very few sandy beaches here…so different from my idea of sunbathing and surfing. (There you go Bonny – your “minds eye” is tricking you again. This is a part of the fun of discovery) Costal Maine is, however, the perfect place to escape the heat and humidity of summer on the East Coast. We also headed to the end of the island for a photo op at the Bass Harbor Light House. After navigating steep steps and stairs we were left to climb over large boulders for the picture. This is when we came face to face with the fact that we were no longer agile enough to do this…we will have to buy a postcard. Doug never did get this classic picture of this particular lighthouse.
Exploring the “quiet side” of the island, we stopped at South West Harbor for a delightful lobster dinner.
July 20, 2016…
The Demotropolis and McConnell Clans are converging on SunRiver, Oregon today. On our drive north from Long Beach yesterday, Doug and I had made a brief stop in Redding with our granddaughter, Madison. Madison wanted to spend a day of “shadowing” at Shasta Regional Medical Center. She is going to be a high school senior next year and is considering a healthcare path. She is focused on the role of a Physician Assistant (PA). With Papa Doug around, she may have gotten a lot more than she bargained for. Since no heart cases were going on, she settled for a colon resection in the OR, rounds in the CCU, review of an angiogram in the heart cath lab, followed by lunch in the famous SRMC cafeteria. The rest of the day ended with the Emergency Room where Melanie works as a PA. We dragged Madison out around 1030 that night…..the ER was her favorite. She loved the excitement, drama, and variety!
Our newest granddaughter, Paige, is now 5 days old (born July 15th). Our other daughter-in-love, Janice (a labor nurse) orchestrated a most perfect and timely delivery……Lindsay (the mom) did a great job too. Paige is thriving at 7-10 0z. & 19 inches in height. She seems so small to us.
The heavy rainfall in Northern, Ca this winter has resulted in a beautiful drive from Redding to Bend, Oregon. Shasta Lake is almost full, the fields are green, and there are wild flowers in the mountains. Our car is packed to the brim with everything from food to pink fishing poles and a wet suit for Regan… we looked like the Clampets.
Having the whole family together was the original intent and proved to be an impossible task. We missed Andy, Lindsay, Dylan, Malia, and Paige but, having a baby is a good excuse in my book. We are delighted to add Paige to our family of grandchildren.
I want to give a special “shout out” to my daughter-in-law, Janice. I have known her since she was a senior in high school and cannot even remember our life without her. She and Sean took so much “off my plate” that my anxiety about being in two places at once completely went away. Thank you, Janice.
Melanie & Mike (Doug’s daughter and son-in-law) & Matt & Marianna (Doug’s son and his fiancé) were able to join us for a couple of days. The kids managed to do a float down the Deschutes River, horseback ride, do white water rafting, bicycling, swimming, soaking in the hot tub & fishing. Papa Doug and I weren’t always able to keep up with their incessant energy.
Silver Pines Lodge is a 5 bedroom gathering place with a fabulous kitchen and great room in SunRiver, Oregon…..we spent every night on the patio for dinner. I would love to be here when the snow falls. The other night while Rosie and I were star gazing, some star dust fell in my eye. I found that a corneal abrasion can really take you out.
We had a caterer, Susan Zimmerman, come in for 2 dinners….what a treat. She was so generous with her time that we got a private cooking lesson as well. She said she was a little intimidated making fish tacos for all these “Southern Californians”.
As all good trips go……the time went by in a flash. The Demo’s left for the airport at 3:30 am of the 8th day. Morgan and Madi and Fran (the 4th Demo daughter) were leaving for Hume Lake Church Camp then returning for a week of beach camping……oh to be a kid again when mom and dad do all the planning and you just show up! My grandma called this “living the bread and butter life”. Madi will be saying goodbye to her best of friends as Fran leaves for college in the midwest in two weeks.
Before I could even change the sheets, my three BFFs from Long Beach arrived with their husbands in tow. We celebrated Carole’s birthday in style with another fabulous dinner prepared by Susan….this time ribeye roast, arugula pasta, carrot souffle, and peach cobbler.
I have known Carole since junior high school when she was nicknamed “barrel tits”. My nick name was “cheese buns”. Connie & Leslie & I have known each other since kindergarten. We have been friends through the “coming of age”, learning to drive (with or without a license ), marriages, childbirth, raising our children, divorce, loss of a spouse, remarriage and everything in between.
The frosting on the cake was discovering a former sorority sister and class mate from Poly…Sandy Small. She reminded me that we haven’t seen each other for 51 years…imagine! She has lived in Bend for 22 years. Her home is on the banks of the Deschutes River and is truly heaven on earth. We celebrated our reunion with an Oregon only Yumm Bowl. Sandy, will you be my FB friend?
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Did you know that Michigan has more shoreline than California? We didn’t either-until we visited Michigan.
I have spent the last two days with one of my good friends from Long Beach Memorial….Bev Vanderwal. She is one of our most beloved nurses. She moved to Grand Rapids 5 years ago to be close to her daughter and grandchildren. It seems that every town I visit on this trip is my favorite…..same with Grand Rapids. Almost everyone in this area has a lake cottage. Bev’s “cottage” is only an hour from where she lives. The drive out was beautiful going through farm lands with Amish red barns and white homes. We stopped and picked up fresh eggs, strawberries, and cookies from an Amish farm. It is all done on the honor system, you select what you want, you write your own receipt and put the $ in a box. Nobody was there! Can you imagine doing that in LA?
Her home is modest and decorated in a sweet cottage style and the view of the lake is spectacular. The windows in the back of the house all open on to a beautiful lawn and lake. It was so restful and wonderful there. She thinks it is even more beautiful in the winter. Winter brings ice fishing and snowmobiling on the lake.
I also got to see the home that they completed in February with “grandma quarters”. They live in a forrest complete with dirt road. Being a California girl, Bev had some great stories about learning to navigate in the snow…..maybe I should getting lost!
She fixed my “need to shop” by taking me to a couple of great gift and antique stores. The best was a “junk” store where my total bill was $12 and I got 4 treasures……a candle holder, bookends, a lamp, and a lamb. (Doug here:well done, Bev)
Grand Rapids seems to be a mix of old and new. Fortunately the city has not demolished many of the old building….you will find them right next to brand new construction. Having been involved selling Amway at one time, it was fun to see the Amway headquarters in Grand Rapids employs 13,000 people. I am not a salesperson and my career as an Amway “what ever I was” was dismal. If you have ever used their products…they are great.
Summer Solstice June 21, 2016
One of my “forever” favorite books is Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I have read it many times. It is sort of like the Bible…the message has a different meaning every time you read it. She calls the summer solstice “midsummer eve” and her simple message is….take joy.
We celebrated the longest day of the year at our RV site located on a little lake with a bonfire & BBQ…..you just had to block out the noise from the expressway…..a couple of glasses of wine usually take care of that. It wasn’t twilight until 1015. I think Doug has mastered fire making – finally. A large fire was well established by the time Bev and I returned around 7:30. Doug has cherished these two days to himself as I spent time with Bev. We served our usual mainstay of steak and salad. Summer was officially declared on a beautiful balmy night with a good friend – and Doug.
June 22, 2016 Around Chicago and on to Wahoo
With severe storm warnings being broadcast, Doug was very motivated to out outrun the storms…..and we did. However, the RV park we stayed in for the night in Davenport, Iowa made it very clear where we were to go if the tornado warning sirens alarmed…..to a shelter under the park office. Now, we only had to evacuate if the sirens “stayed on”. If they “go on and off” there was “nothing to worry about”. I have never seen a tornado except on TV. I can’t say I was really scared. Maybe this is the same way midwest folks feel about the possibility of an earthquake while visiting California.
Doug and I have a “go bag” in our RV (just in case the RV catches fire). I guess we can add “tornado watch” to the reasons we have one. It contains an extra set of Jeep keys, cash, meds, a pepper blaster, head lamps, emergency phone #’s (do you even know your own cell #?), copies of our passports and medical cards, and an outdated credit card. It is not big enough for my hair drier and makeup……we would need a suitcase. I am the only one that would consider these items emergency necessities.
“Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt.
We circled Chicago and the Great Lakes and I never saw a single drop of Great Lakes water.
Iowa is an incredibly beautiful state at this time of year…corn or soy beans as far as the eye can see. Did you know that the farmers in these states actually carry hail insurance? It also contains the world’s largest truck stop. I am beginning to think that I am more comfortable at a truck stop than a formal affair.
Wahoo, Nebraska June 23,2016
We arrived to a warm welcome (literally and figuratively) at Lake Wanahoo near Wahoo Nebraska greeted by Nick & Mary Kay. Lake Wanahoo is actually a watershed that was developed and turned into a recreational area. The fishermen were on the lake by 5:30 am and the fireflies stayed up until midnight.
I went to high school with Nick at Long Beach Poly. Nick and Mary Kay live “just over the hill and behind the trees”. They were so gracious to even come out and select an RV site for us before we arrived. We were treated to a wonderful Italian dinner and introduced to a Moscow Mule (drink) that evening. We watched the sunset from their deck. I think that deck is a source of much inspiration for Nick since many of his PostKards (his spelling) from Nebraska originate there.
We had the pleasure of meeting Mary Kay’s dad, Bob Shanahan. At 91, he had spent the day mowing the lawn on their farm. Family ties and this beautiful little town lured Mary Kay and Nick away from Huntington Beach, California. Doug and I were struck by the love they show her dad. The gift they are giving him by their presence is selfless and beautiful.
Nick and Mary Kay gave us such a wonderful look into life in Wahoo. The day started with breakfast at The Stockyard Cafe. This is a gathering place before the work day begins. They even keep their patrons individual coffee cups ready and waiting. Yes, the blueberry pancakes are to die for.
We were shown many country roads labeled with only numbers, a trip to the farm 20 miles away and a great look at Wahoo. We washed the morning down with a tomato beer. Later in the afternoon we were headed to Lincoln’s Haystack District which is really the college town adjacent to the University of Nebraska and the famous Corn Huskers (formerly known…….you are not going to believe this…as the Bug Eaters!). We got to peek at their world class football stadium. They said every square inch of the town is covered with tailgate parties on game day. Nick let me in on a little secret…..the parties are too fun to miss, but they go home and watch the game on TV. He said 9 degrees is a bit too cold for his bones. It was a bit warm on our tour that day so we shared an ice cream with the cement.
On to Omaha June 25, 2016
Today we toured downtown Omaha, starting with Saturday Market & a great lunch with a childhood friend of Mary Kay’s. Doug is normally is reluctant to eat Indian food. Even he had to admit it was delicious. The downtown seemed a bit crowded even for the 1st day of the Market. The College Baseball World Series was being played only a few miles away and the town was busy. Our afternoon ended with stealing a tractor wheel from a local junk yard. After my great finds at the last junk yard, I couldn’t pass one without wanting to stop. The yard was closed as we headed to Omaha and was closed again on our return. Nick suspects that the owner never opened that day. Apparently businesses in Wahoo are loose with their schedules. What else could we do? We were leaving the next morning.
It is said that “envy rots the soul”. I find I am envious of their life style in Wahoo. They are surrounded by family and great folks that work hard and seem to take care of each other. The fields of corn and soy beans as far as the eye can see, four seasons and fireflies. Every cultural, dining, shopping & sports opportunity is 36 miles away.
PS. Nick went back to the junk yard on Monday and paid for the tractor wheel.
PSS New experiences in Wahoo…Russian Mule-a drink served only in a tin cup, tomato beer, Runza (well seasoned meat is a sort of pastry), and Kholrabi ( a green vegetable that looks like a small cabbage and the consistence of a very heavy jicama ).
You thought I was going to comment on my legs again……no….we are on the last leg of our journey and heading west. Now that we are pointed home, we seem to have lost interest in sightseeing other than what we see from the cab of the RV. We are amazed at the vast changes in topography we have witnessed on the trek.
Made it to Cheyenne, Wyoming – June 26, 2016
Got on the road early. We are no longer surrounded by corn fields. Kearney Nebraska is exactly half way between San Francisco and Central Park on the Lincoln Highway…a bit of trivia. We explored downtown Cheyenne late Sunday night…it was still light after we pulled in. Like so many cities, it is completely shut down on a Sunday evening…sort of like a ghost town.
Our stop in Cheyenne was to see Jim Harper and his wife Ingrid. Jim was responsible for bringing Doug to practice at Long Beach Memorial. Doug and Jim were part of a enthusiastic group of cardiac professionals that started the Heart Center at the hospital. Jim was one of the founding members of the TCS Medical group. At one time the group numbered 6 cardio-thoracic surgeons…..today, Doug is the “last man standing”.
Day 100….June 28, 2016
As we were leaving the state of “oil & gas” or “cattle & feed”, Jim, always generous, sent us on our way with a care package of his favorite foods.
Turning the bend from Park City, Utah we came upon Salt Lake City. All I could think is that I have not seen smog for 3 months. Next were the salt flats. I have never seen anything like this….snow except it is 93 degrees outside.
Today in the news Hilary is leading Trump in the poles, the UK has voted to leave the EU, and there was another terrorist attack in Istanbul’s airport.
As we arrived in Elko, Nevada, we realized that we are now back in the pacific time zone. I love heading west…perhaps I will stay in the good habit of getting up at 6am instead of 9 am.
I usually feel depressed when a long awaited trip has come to an end. For years my girlfriends and I have gone to Palm Desert for a long spring weekend. When the kids were at home, getting away was a tremendous undertaking. Sometimes you wondered if all that preparation was really worth it…it always was. To combat the inevitable feeling, I would stay until dark on Sunday (this literally gave us almost a whole other day) missing the traffic, get to bed by midnight, then get up and go to work at 7……avoiding any time to feel sorry for myself. With that in mind, I wonder how I will feel at the conclusion of this 100 day adventure?……I may need an antidepressant. Just kidding……I have not felt depressed since I met Doug.
Nothing chases away the “end of trip blues” like looking forward…and we are. A new precious grand child is due in mid July in Long Beach and a trip to Sun River, Oregon with family and friends will occupy the end of July.
Days on road: 101
Miles traveled: 9,167
Gallons of diesel consumed: 1345
States crossed: 27
Number of states “toured”….. 16 Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Wyoming
Cost of trip……priceless.
McConnell’s Mill State Park, New Castle, and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
The day before Patti and Dick arrived, we took the Jeep over to Slippery Rock Creek gorge to see the famous McConnells Mill. The mill and the adjacent covered bridge have achieved national fame and are listed as National Historical Landmarks. The mill is visited by over 500,000 people yearly. It remains one of the few standing water powered functional (sort of) grist mills in all of the U.S. The nearby covered bridge spanning Slipper Rock Creek is a very popular spot for marriage proposals and many lovers paint their initials with hearts. The Mill has even been a wedding venue. The river that runs by the mill is known for its great white water kayaking. We had the opportunity to watch a couple of brave souls traverse the water way. Doug and I love to kayak, but only on a quite lake like our beloved Whiskytown Lake. Initially we did not drive down into the deep gorge – our mistake! We parked at the top of the gorge and got quite a workout coming and going using the steep switch back pathway on the sheer gorge wall. Laurie and my hiking gals from Redding would love this. The park and the mill have been beautifully maintained.
The mill was rebuilt at the site of a previous mill which was struck by lighting and burned. The “new” mill was opened in 1874 with state of the art water turbines and the covered bridge spanning the famous Slippery Rock Creek was built to enable the new mill to serve farmers on both sides of the gorge.
The man who built the new mill was Thomas McConnell a former captain in the U.S. Army. He was wounded PRIOR to the horrible Gettysburg confrontation and thus was NOT involved in that confrontation. Doug’s dad had often reflected that had Thomas McConnell been sent forward as an infantry field commander at Gettysburg he well may not have survived – thus that line of the McConnell clan including Doug’s father would not have existed. No descendants! So is this an example of a “good” wound? Direct descendants of Thomas McConnell and cousins from New Castle Thomas Hartman (a banker), and Malcolm McConnell (Doug’s grandad a U.S. Steel executive) arranged for the transfer of the mill, the bridge and the surrounding property to the State of Pennsylvania. The transfer was completed after the death of the one remaining employee, Mose (Moses) around 1955.
Mose himself is an interesting story that Doug has always talked about. It appears that Mose was born in the south prior to the Civil War and thus was a slave. After the civil war as a young free man he moved north with his mother. He soon took a job with Captain Thomas McConnell at the mill. We know Mose worked at the mill for over 74 years and he was a well respected community member. He always lived at the mill and never married. There were several cute stories about the man. One in particular…..whenever families came to visit the mill and they returned to their cars or wagon….Mose would leave an apple, an orange, and a piece of candy for each of the children. People loved to come to the mill on errands. It is said that Mrs. McConnell and later Mrs.Hartman (different from Doug’s grandmother) would always have a piece of pie or cookies waiting for customers or visitors.
Doug met Mose for the first time in 1950 when Doug was 5. It was his impression that Mose was then near 100 years old! He has a treasured picture of his grandfather, Mose, and Doug standing by the mill. It seems the McConnells and Hartmans would regularly bring supplies to Mose down in that gorge long after he ceased to be self sufficient. By 1950 Mose was living in the owner’s home next to the mill.
Doug recalls that it had been decided by the extended family that Mose would live out his days in that home at the mill where he had been his whole adult life. On those summer trips Doug and his grandfather would bring supplies to Mose about every weekend. When Mose died the transfer of the property and mill to the state was soon completed – some time in the mid-1950’s.
Mose was truly loved and respected by the McConnell and Hartman families and all the visitors to the park. This is a touching, very human story of a family dedicated to “Ol’ Mose”. They kept him on the payroll and provided housing all his remaining days. Mose is buried in a nearby church next to his mother. Doug said he learned a lot from his grandfather – including how the family treated Mose in those later years.
Moraine State Park is really just across the road from McConnell’s Mill State Park and has a 32,000 acre lake with beaches, great camping facilities, miles of hiking trails, and a 7 miles biking trail. We enjoyed a short 8 mile ride. Unlike a rails to trails bikeway this one had hills…..after climbing out of the gorge earlier, my legs felt like jelly.
New Castle C.S.I.
Our first day out with the Lanni’s was to New Castle. Our first stop was Patti and Doug’s grandfather’s house. This was the home he retired to after 40 years at US Steel. It was empty. There was no car in the drive, so we took to looking in the windows……we felt like the ultimate “peeping Tom’s” since there were 4 of us converging on the house and many windows. Remember the letter I mentioned earlier that Doug wrote hoping for admission to the house? Our investigative skills led us to the mail box which we unashamedly went through. We found the letter delivered but not received. Other mail produced the current owner’s phone number which we called. As it turns out the house was purchased by the local mortician who is also a realtor. That seemed to be quite a combination of professions…..any conflict of interest there? This house was purchased about 7 years ago for $110,000. This leads us to the “State of the City” of New Castle.
It seems the city that Doug so fondly remembers has steadily declined since about the 1960’s. As the steel industry moved to bigger cities the population slowly decreased from a high of about 48,000 to 23,000 today. The downtown is erie with little traffic and many empty buildings. This was really driven home in a conversation with a local gentleman about our age. He said when he graduated from the local high school in 1967 there were 600-700 graduates. This June that same school had a graduating class of around 100. Growing up in Southern California where there has been nonstop growth since I as long as I can remember……it seemed almost surreal.
The highlight of the day was visiting the country club were Doug’s grandpa was a member. Doug remembers going there every Sunday for dinner. His grandad let him drive in New Castle when he was only 14 years old! Apparently the neighbors felt that Doug was probably safer than his grandad. Doug loved that. Despite not being members, we were graciously invited to look all around and have lunch there. The golf course reminded me of Virginia Country Club. It was a wonderful afternoon!
At trip to the cemetery ended the day. Finding the McConnell grave site was another adventure. First of all there are three cemeteries in New Castle. To narrow the choice required a call to Doug’s other sister in Ventura for the exact cemetery. Once we had the right place this old cemetery has no central office with a simple listing of grave site locations. Finding grandad’s grave site required joining a local association, and searching the archives of the newspaper obituaries from the 1960’s in order to find the exact date of death. Apparently they had NO way to find a grave if you didn’t know the date of death. Well we did that. With that new information, an unhappy volunteer had to return to the office to locate the grave site in their records. She also wanted to make sure a donation was made to the association. Was it worth it?….ask Doug & Patti. (Doug here: YES it was. We did feel a little like CSI New Castle!)
June 15, 2016 McConnell’s Mills – Again
Today we returned to the mill with Patti and Dick Lanni. We had a very informative tour by, Natalie, a ranger that has made the history of McConnell’s Mill her personal quest. This was a grist mill which meant it was equipped to grind corn, wheat, and buck wheat. If the wheat harvest went bad, buckwheat could be grown in a very short period of time and thus provide grain for a family for a season. A bushel of raw wheat yielded only 44 lbs of white flour. At that time, white flour was very desirable for the fluffy cakes and breads it produced. This 1800’s mill was eventually so automated that wheat could be ground to flour in approximately 40 minutes – all from water power. Electric motors and the internal combustion motor had not been invented yet! The miller was paid a portion of the final product.
Fireflies, fireflies, fireflies…….I finally saw fireflies…..how magical they are. I wonder what God had in mind when he created them….perhaps, like the birds, purely for our delight.
June 16,2016 Pittsburgh
Doug’s grandad was eventually the superintendent of Homestead Steel Mill which was the most productive steel mill in the world and part of US Steel. Our goal for the day was to find his grandfather’s house in a suburb of Pittsburgh called Munhall – “at the top of the hill”. Doug’s father said he would walk to the Carnegie Library in Munhal to swim, which was “just down the street”. As it turns out the house (or I should say mansion) was next door to the library, built on one entire square city block. Unfortunately it was torn down in the 1960’s and a retirement facility was constructed on the grounds. Always the detectives, Doug and Patti only learned this from one of the retirement home residents. Doug’s dad had recalled as a child going with his dad(grandad McConnell) on Sundays to visit any employees that were sick. It was to his grandad’s credit that during the years that he was the superintendent, there were no major labor conflicts.
This place looks like it was “adequate” for entertaining. We also have pictures of Doug’s grandfather escorting Albert Einstein around the steel mill during a visit.
As we were heading back to New Castle, we all got flood warnings on our phones. I have never been in such a deluge in my life. I was secretly hoping that we would just stop and wait it out…..but we were on a mission to get back.
We had experienced several days of investigation and discovery of family roots with Patti and Dick. They were great company and we loved sharing the experience and some of the frustrations together. Dick was a former Naval Officer and we were glad he was driving because as we left Pittsburgh it seemed we had become a submarine! We were glad to have the three days together.
Friday June 17, 2016 Incredible Family
The people we meet have been half the fun on this journey. Today is no exception. As I was loading up the washing machine at our camp ground a gal came in with 4 loads of laundry to do. I thought that was rather odd to be doing so much laundry on a Friday…..school is just getting out…..surly they just recently arrived. I kid you not, it took the machine 20 min just to fill with water. She said to me “ya it is always like that”. Hum??? With 20 minutes to wait she told me her story.
Her husband is a contractor and currently is building a Nordstrom’s Rack in Pittsburg. She and their 4 children travel with him. The kids are 3, 7, 14 & 17. They live in a large 5th wheel and, up until February, her dad was also with them. They have a home in Tennessee, but decided that they were rather be together with their dad. All the kids enthusiastically love this life style. Dottie, a former teacher, home schools all the kids. It seems they are in one location about 6 months at a time. The kids get involved with sports where ever they happen to be. Most of the past winters have been in warm climates. This winter they will be in Chicago. This weekend they are all going to Washington, DC. They have his work truck to pull the 5th wheel and she drives behind in a Suburban. The two older kids, a boy and a girl, have been to 42 states. What an eye opening experience for them. This is a gal that ‘does not shit the small stuff”. The kids are delightful. Both of the teenagers seem very outgoing and friendly, even to a stranger like me. No grousing when I asked if I could take their picture. The 3 year old even put her high heels on for the the occasion!
Doug and I finished the day with a couple of hours kayaking on the lake.
The US Open was being played near here at Oakmont Golf Course. The deluge of Thursday had to affect the playability of the course. One of our fellow campers gets to be a marshall and is hoping to play a round if the Open concludes early. The rain didn’t help that hope. He is retired for the third time and has his PGA card. He says he is going to play golf and mow his lawn. Lawn mowing is an art form here….it can consume days, I think.
June 18, 2016
We just got on the Ohio Turnpike and are not seeing many trucks…..We may have made a mistake and have a hefty toll.
As it turns out, it is not as bad as we anticipated……..$27 for 120 miles.
Congratulation Madam President
A big congratulations to my “youngest” oldest granddaughter…….she was just elected president of the ASB at her school, Newcomb, in Long Beach. She won with these two slogans. “Vote for me Regan D” & “Regan will go the extra mile to make you smile.”
Happy Father’s Dad to all my favorite fathers June 19, 2016 Ann Arbor
We made a detour to Ann Arbor for a brief visit with a friend of Doug’s from his UCLA days as a resident. Dave Bloom is chairman of urology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. We had a delightful brunch at their home which is nestled in a beautiful forest. A few years ago they added on a huge screened porch…..it really is like sitting in a tree house. We are so appreciative that we were able to squeeze into their very busy schedule. Martha, Dave’s wife, had a wonderful brunch just waiting for us. We did spend some hours as Dave and Doug relived their early days at UCLA. They met on the first day as brand new medical school grads with all their new responsibilities. What an exciting time in their lives. Dave has as many stories to tell as does Doug! Hard to believe but true.
Thank you Dave & Martha
Moving on to Mystic, Connecticut
We are going to Mystic for no particular reason except to hunker down for the Memorial Day Weekend.
Last year on July 4th we were in Glacier National Park and our reservations had run out on the 3rd of July. We just thought, at worst, we would stay in a Walmart Parking lot. (Not a glamorous place to spend the 4th) The KOA we had been in for a week was very accommodating and kept moving us to spots where reservations were not kept….on the 4th they let us dry camp on their property so that we could watch the fireworks. Not wanting to be in that position again over a holiday weekend this year, Doug made reservations well in advance. Why Mystic? It is on the way to Cape Cod, it is on the coast, and the name sounded intriguing.
This is the first time we have been in a campground that is completely filled. It is a bustling hive of kids….riding their bike, swimming, fishing. The number one attraction seems to be this inflatable trampoline…sometimes there are 20 kids jumping. Rosie would love it!!!!…….Dylan too.
There are 258 sites here. Camping, especially tent camping, is a ton of work for moms and dads. Those of you that have ever done this are shaking your heads “yes” right now. Paul and I did it ONCE. Not being “campers”, we had to borrow almost everything we needed. That was already too much work for a vacation! Andy wasn’t even born, so it was just Sean & Christopher as toddlers. We went to Tuolumne Meadows with our good friends the Parks. Ron and Vicky were experienced from their backpacking days. They had two little girls, also toddlers. There were three events that I clearly remember. The first was trying to hike. Getting 8 people ready to hike, 4 of them little people, got us going around noon….just in time for someones nap time. You all know what a tired toddler can be like…….we didn’t get far before we abandoned that outing. The second was that wonderful time after dinner, with the campfire blazing. You just want to sit back and enjoy, maybe with a cup of coffee……this was not to be. With the dinner dishes done, it was time for baths. There are no showers in this camp ground. Now we were to start heating water for bath time for the kids. Boys don’t need baths when they camp, do they? I believe that some dirt is good. (I even let my boys eat dirt if they were that stupid) The girls were bathed, put in clean PJs, and then not allowed to walk anywhere but in their tents. The glow of the evening was lost. The third was Ron’s doing and not approved by his wife. He was always up to something. He decided that we needed the experience of seeing a bear up close. After we all called it a night and were snuggled up in our sleeping bags……Ron snuck out and strategically placed marsh mallows around our tent. Yosemite has very strict rules about storing food as we all know. Since I am here to tell the story……he fortunately was not successful. That was the end of tent camping for our family. That of course was not the end…we still had to come home and clean everything in order to return it is better condition that we borrowed it.
The next try was an outing with our church to Newport Dunes. Knowing that Paul would never tent camp again, I borrowed a camper from one of my friends. Remember when I said we liked to return things in better condition?…..Paul drove under a low lying branch in front of our house…..the camper was returned minus a roof.
Seeing these families making memories this weekend makes me wish I had tried harder to take the boys camping…..
This KOA is a stark contrast from where we spent the previous night, at a state park in the Poconos, The Promised Land. We were in a remote site several miles in with essentially no other campers. I seem to like solitude with people around.
Although there are a few very wealthy counties in Connecticut, this does not seem to be a wealthy thriving state. Our camping neighbor, who lives here, said that he cannot even sell his home. The little towns we drove through yesterday seemed generally unkept. The freeway infrastructure is very old. The taxes have driven out several major companies like GE. There are homes for sale everywhere.
Memorial Day Weekend
My grandmother lived with us when I was young. On Sundays she loved to “go for a drive in the country”….we used to drive way out in the country to Orange County….. when it was country….remember?
Today we drove in to Mystic River, a charming costal town with a draw bridge. Our ride home along the river revealed beautiful homes with big lawns built in the New England style. The next day was a drive to Newport, RI., about 40 miles from our camp site. This is the town of the rich and famous of yesterday year….homes on the Atlantic cliffs of folks like the Astors & Vanderbilts. We did The Cliff walk along will several hundred other tourists. Dinner was the food of Connecticut, clam chowder.
It is Monday. We are taking a vacation from vacationing. It is pouring. We are paying some much needed attention to the RV. Doug takes better care of this rig than I take care of our home. We watched Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, filmed in Savannah. Since we had gone to Durham we thought we would watch Bull Durham. It took 16 hours to download. I thought it was supposed to be about baseball….smile.
Other random thoughts……
I have never seen a fire fly.
I know that it is not the building that make a church a church……..but some of these old churches just seem a beautiful place to worship.
Doug actually enjoys the problems that are inherent in RV’ing. He loves nothing more that a challenge. Also, always curious, he was experimenting with which brand of toilet paper disintegrates most rapidly. Scott for septic tanks was the winner, if you are interested. He also fixed our water heater. The interesting thing about this was he was able to order this obscure part from Amazon and it was delivered then very next day to the RV Park we were staying in. That is amazing.
I have found one thing in which he is a complete failure…….he cannot build a fire…not even with a blow torch. We enjoy the paper starter burning and then it is just smoke and cussing. Where is Andy when you need him? Doug actually consulted the web on fire building. He will overcome.
Have you ever tried doing yoga in a moving RV?
May 31, 2016 on to Cape Cod
We are staying at a beautiful RV park call Sweet Water Forest. We usually come to Cape Cod with a suitcase, not a house on wheels. Doug’s good friends from his Palo Verdes days live here in Chatham. We usually stay with John and his wife Lona when we visit. Their home is my most favorite ever. Lona is a artist and just has that perfect eye for pulling everything together.
I have to say I love New England architecture. I have decided my perfect house would look similar to New England structures, have a big front porch and off to the side a sun room that is screened in in the summer with glass windows in the winter. The yard would not be fenced and it would take a sit down mower to keep the lawn cut. The back of the house would have a forrest. There would be several wood burning fireplaces and I would learn to start a fire. I think I just described Lona and John’s house on Cap Cod. Oh yes, and a view of the water that would be easy walking distance or up on a hill with a view. Before I get too enamored …I must remember that we are visiting at the perfect time of year, spring. I also love how all of the towns are separated from each other, usually by farm land or forrest….or so it would appear from the highway.
We were going to do a BBQ at our camp site, but was informed by John and Lona that we are in the most tick infested area of the Cape. They made us put on bug spray before we set out on a bike ride. Also there are these little tiny caterpillars that just seem to fall out of the sky. The pollen from the pine trees is really bad this year. It makes your car look like it hasn’t been washed for a year, like green dust. Despite all of this, it still looks like heaven to me, but I don’t think the BBQ is going to happen. Doug has enjoyed the challenge of making sure we are “tic free”.
Our first day on the Cape was glorious. There are miles and miles of paved biking trails called the Cape Cod Rails Trails. The Cape is covered with many small towns from the Lower Cape through Mid Cape and Upper Cape, with such names as Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Sandwich, Orleans, Provincetown. These are all connected with these wonderful trials that run in tree covered forests along the many waterways. You could spend a month or a summer here and it wouldn’t seem like enough.
Oddly, cranberries are the number one food of Massachusetts. They are grown in cranberry bogs and that is about all I know. Perhaps I need to wait for fall for them to surface. Our RV camp had a “retired bog” – so designated by Massachusetts. Apparently even bogs can retire in this state.
We feel like we are eating our way through Cape Cod. Lona and John have been such wonderful hosts. Eating at their house is like being in a 5 star restaurant. Weather permitting we can sit out by their fire pit or up on the balcony and watch the sunset over the water. If it is cold we sit in their family room and have a real fire or if it is sunny we can gather in their sunroom. They only arrived back in the Cape last week from wintering in Florida and the place is brimming with beautiful flowers. This is one of my most favorite places on earth.
The fish is to die for….we have had Cod, Scallops, Clam Chowder, Fish Tacos, Oysters on the Half Shell, fried Soft Shell Crabs.
This morning I spent browsing through the Brewster General Store. It is a charming way to spend a gloomy morning. We are waiting in rain for another glorious day.
John and Doug kept themselves entertained for hours on end with computer challenges and preparation for the OBP board meeting next week. It is fun to see two men enjoy each others company so much.
June 5, 2016
With some sadness we left Cape Cod. We had planned 5 days there. It is definitely an outdoors type of place. Unfortunately it was gloomy or raining 3 of our 5 days. We went out on their boat and by the picture, it looks like we should have gone skiing. Oh well….we have spent many fun times here on the Cape.
Today we are stopping at the Minuteman RV park out side of Boston. Doug is busy for the next couple of days with meetings. He is the medical director/board member of a company – OBP medical products. They make high quality disposable LED lighted surgical retractors and speculums. It is a very inventive group and Doug contributes his medical perspective. Cape Cod John is the financial board member and the rest are engineers, attorneys, and business men – all with creative minds. Doug really enjoys the challenges of participating in a growing business making a valuable medical product.
It is pouring…….perhaps I should start doing rain dances in California….it seems to follow us.
June 6 & 7, 2016
I have spent 2 days at this RV park and have absolutely no clue where I am. Doug has taken the Jeep for these 2 days of meetings about 26 miles away. Fortunately the surroundings are beautiful. We are nestled in a forrest of tall trees. Every site is roomy, private, & green. I have gone to my UBER app a few times to see of some sort of transportation is available….none. There is no taxi service either. The office said I could have an Enterprise car dropped of here…..but where would I go since I don’t know where I am? Actually I have enjoyed a couple of days of reading and walking. I was able to join the OBP group for dinner.
We had dinner at Philip’s Academy in Andover. Apparently it is one of the most exclusive boarding schools on the East coast attended by some Kennedys and Bush, the elder. It was a wonderful time to get to know the folks that Doug has his “every Monday morning” tele-conference call with. Three of them are young men in their 30’s, all with new babies. It was delightful hearing about these young families. One of the boys said he never thought he would be the type of dad showing videos of his 2 month old daughter to strangers. I love a proud papa.
Every 15 Minutes………
My granddaughter, Madison, participated in a project at school called EVERY 15 MINUTES. I had never before heard of this….apparently it is a project done in many high schools all over the US. This was the first time it was done at a Long Beach Unified School District high school and was the senior project of one of the girls there. Madi had to apply to participate, as did the other students. It is very graphic and is meant to make a serious impact on the students regarding drinking and driving. The students that were “killed” were removed from school and their obituaries were left in their place. My son and his wife, Madi’s two sisters, and their other grandmother all found themselves as participants. It was chilling to watch. The video was shown to an assembly of juniors and seniors along with speakers who had lost family member to drunk drivers….I am still shaken. Here is the link and please watch – particularly if you have family to whom this message is aimed.
June 7th afternoon
Doug was out of his meetings by early afternoon….we took off to the town of Ayer that was only 3 miles away. There is a Rails to Trails bike trail that we ended up walking for a while. We couldn’t figure out why there were so many cars parked at the beginning of trail. Well we found out when the train arrived and people were hightailing it to their autos. Could you imagine taking a train to work everyday? It actually sounds kind of appealing. The downtown of this quaint little town of 7,500 was charming. When does charming become “old” and when does old become “charming”?
June 8, 2016
Today we did the Minuteman Bike Way Rails to Trails ride for about 18 miles….running between Bedford and Concord through Lexington. I even saw my first Trader Joe’s in what seems like months. We love the Rails to Trails rides because they are very predictable with no steep grades (it was a railroad after all) and essentially no automobile traffic. This particular one is apparently the busiest one in the US. Many of the riders use it to get to the train station and on to Boston for work. This trail also has signs for points of interest….like Trader Joe’s. We stopped outside an old Mill House. It was closed. To our surprise the president of the Mill preservation board saw us and said since we came all the way for California, he would give us a tour. The mill was founded by a German family in mid late 1800’s. Initially it ran on water power but then was converted to steam power. It was in active use until the 1970’s. The mill today is part of a preservation plan but still has artisan woodworkers that are able to run all the belt driven machinery making wooden picture frames…including round and ovals frames. These shapes are very difficult if you think about it.
June 10, 2016
Today was one of the best days ever. We took our bikes and rode the Battle Ground Trail. This is a very famous dirt road that the the British used to march from Boston to Lexington and Concord in April 1775. It was at the North bridge over the Concord River, that the local militia stood their ground and an organized battle took place – the beginning of the American Revolution military action. The shocked British army of some 400 troops used this very road to retreat towards Lexington where they hoped to meet reinforcements coming from Boston. They took heavy casualties inflicted by the surrounding American militias. You could say the United States of America began RIGHT HERE!
The British soldiers were over 3,000 miles from their homes and family. Although they had been trained, few of them had seen battle. Other than loyalty to the King, they had no flesh in the game as did the colonialists. The American colonialists were fighting for their rights that were slowly being obstructed by the crown. The British had come to confiscate the colonialists arms and gun powder. (The Second Amendment battle between an armed citizen and a central government wishing to disarm the citizen started in Concord 1775! That tension and political battle continues to this day if you think about it.)
Back to the battle…..after crossing the river out of Boston and the long night of marching, the wet, tired, hungry British soldiers marching into Concord and found themselves essentially 20 miles behind enemy lines. After the shooting confrontation at the Concord bridge, they were now encircled by a growing number of militia on their retreat march back towards Lexington and Boston. The Americaan militia started initially at 400+ but eventually became greater than 4000 men by the end of the day. The militia also had the “hometown” advantage – they knew the topography and where to hide in ambush.
The British started off on an unknown mission that day (to the men) and without adequate supplies for what they were to face. I sort of felt sorry for the British soldiers – they are buried all along the retreat route. They did receive reinforcements of some 1000 troops near Lexington but they had to fight their way all the way back to Cambridge and the safety of Boston Harbor. That battle was over…but the war had just begun.
In the colonies, men between the ages of 16-60 participated in the militia and trained in their communities. Out of this came the “Minute Men”. They are what I would call the National Guard – Citizen Soldiers of today. They pledged to be available on very short notice, hence “Minute Man.” They were defending their homes and their families.
As for the militia, I am not so sure that a couple of years of mandatory service to this country would be a bad thing. Doug, while already a commissioned Army officer, was deferred from active duty while he was finishing his Cardio-thoracic residency. When he was fully trained, he was obligated to 2 years of active duty and 4 years of Army reserve duty. At 36 he was a fully trained surgeon. He would have loved to get started with is career, but had a Vietnam obligation. I believe it was 2 of the best years of his life. He has a very healthy respect and understanding for our military. (Doug here – I fully support Bonny’s thoughts here. They were formative years of service to great Americans)
The trail is a 5 mile interpretive road with several restored or maintained building along the way. Many of the areas remain as they would have been back in 1776. Finishing the HBO series of John Adams, I fell like my head is exploding again with information.
The trail has the still standing home of the captain of the militia – Abigail Adams brother!
Why all the rock fences throughout the area? In order to clear a field for a crop, trees had to be removed as well as all the large boulders and rocks. It was a huge job. If you can imagine the effort it took to remove a large bolder…the farmers simply piled them up along the boarders of their fields. This was not an attempt to separate land, but a more expedient way to clear it. An interesting nano-fact.
As we returned to our camp site the evening warmed. We had a wonderful bonfire and a delightful evening. Dusk isn’t falling until 830-900 pm. A perfect last evening.(Doug here – I BUILT that “wonderful fire” – so there)
June 11-12th, 2016
On the road through Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut & back to Pennsylvania
Being from California, it is hard to realized you can travel through 4 states in one day. We drove until almost dark and hunkered down behind a Cracker Barrel Restaurant for the night. Not wanting to look like we were camping, we let our slide out only enough to get around the bed. Little did we know that this left the side unsealed and the mosquitoes found this a great way to get to us. (ONE mosquito only and he died quickly)
We had another “incident” as we were driving. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I brought glass nesting bowls. Doug made a tight turn, the bowls flew out and the largest one broke into a thousand pieces. In and of its self, not so bad……except shards of glass got under the slide. It took several days to finally get them all out. Every time we closed the slide you could hear glass grinding. Again this could have resulted in not being able to close the slide, which meant we could not move, which meant we would have had to have the RV towed. It seems all the lessons I have learned in this lifetime have been because I did it wrong a least once.
The Orlando, Florida Islamist attack occurred today. We have no TV and very spotty satellite radio….we have sadly heard enough, however.
(Doug here – When are we going to deal directly with the obvious confrontation between our Constitution and Islamic Sharia law based fundamentalists? I see no middle ground between the two different belief and governmental value systems.)
Onto McConnell’s Mills State Park
Today will be a walk down memory land for Doug and his sister. Doug’s sister, Patti, and her husband, Dick, will be joining us to tour the area where Doug and Patti enjoyed summer visits to their grandparents here in Pennsylvania. Doug’s parents were both Pennsylvania residents prior to their marriage in 1944. Doug’s father was an Army Air Corps Major at the end of WW II and moved the family to Southern California when he left active duty in 1946. We are also going to tour the McConnell’s Mill and State Park. More info to follow.
Virginia is for Lovers
Today was a day of a very fortunate coincidence. It occurred to me that our former long time neighbors in Long Beach, John and Betty Loudermilk, had moved to Virginia. Could they possibly be anywhere near where we were staying???? They just happen to live in the very same town in which we had parked the RV, Waynesboro! With the aid of past emails we were able to locate them and, yes, they were in town and available….if we could join them Saturday night at their newly renovated theater for a Doo Wop concert. Oh what a night it was. We were able to join them for a pre performance gathering and meet many of their friends and supporters of the newly opened Waynesboro Theatre (they insist on the ‘re’ – its a Virginia thing). The show itself was one you simply didn’t want to end. The Doo Wop Project group had people dancing in the aisles. Every song was an “oldie but a goodie”! Lucky us…..we got the last two tickets.
Their theater renovation was similar to what Redding’s Cascade Theatre (Theater?) went through. The theater was threatened with demolition but then tremendous community support came together to save the 1930’s structure. John and Betty contributed greatly and even had a lounge named after them. It is beautiful and will be a center of community activity for years to come.
John was raised in this little town of 20,000. He and Betty moved back here in 2012. They are busier than ever. One of his activities is being a “trail angel”. Waynesboro is one of the favorite stops for those traversing the Appalachian Trail which runs for 2,900 miles in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He and the many other volunteers will drive in and pick up travelers wishing to resupply, sleep in a real bed, or get a shower or need to get off the trail for any reason. Remember “Into The Woods” with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte? John said this movie has spurred an increase in trail travel. The day we arrived, John had just transported two guys up to the trailhead….”they were so over packed…they will be off the trail in a couple of days”. He blames the movie for some very unrealistic “hikers”.
Perhaps we loved this little town because it reminds us of Redding. The people are friendly and happy and do not take the beauty of their surroundings for granted.
Madi at the Los Alamitos Prom…..
May 15, 2016 Monticello
The reason for camping in Waynesboro Virginia was so that we would be near the beloved home of Thomas Jefferson – Monticello. After raining on and off yesterday, we woke up to clear cool skies. The temperature actually dipped into the 30’s and, best of all, no humidity…a great day for a tour of this beautiful plantation “on the hill”.
Thomas Jefferson was a self taught architect and Monticello is a good example with some very odd design features. We took the “behind the scenes” tour which we would highly recommend….wonderful insights into this great man’s mind. For example, the two stair wells which served 4 stories, were not grand staircases as you might expect in the great mansions of the south. They were not more than 2 feet wide and very, very steep! Could you imagine going up and down the stairs holding a candle and a baby with a long nightgown? Jefferson never used these stairs – only his guests and servants were upstairs. Not really a great design in our opinion. All of HIS large rooms were on the well appointed first floor. This is in marked contrast to the small rooms on the upper floors. He also had an enormous dome built on the house (the first structure of this nature in the US). The dome is closed off and does not seem to serve any interior purpose for the empty room on which it sits. We did find one reference to this room as a possible ballroom BUT those stairs would have prevented any easy access to the third floor and this “ballroom”. This home was often crowded with as many as 30 people at a time.
Jefferson was not an inventor, but had a mind that was always inquisitive. His scientific interests led to the commissioning of the Lewis & Clark expedition to explore the recent Louisiana Purchase which doubled the territory of the US. Monticello’s entry parlor is decorated with many of the animal skins, antlers and Native American gifts presented to the expedition (replicas). Jefferson, however, seemed to not consider this expedition one his great achievements – remarkable.
Jefferson was described as a “conflicted” man. When writing the the Deceleration of Independence at age 33, he penned these words “…all men are created equal” but he was the owner of up to 600 slaves during his lifetime – conflict. Monticello was built on a hill – conflict. The construction and management of a farm away from the water supply and on a hill would not have been possible without slave labor – conflict. He knew that slavery was an issue to be addressed in “another time”.
Monticello seemed to be an experiment of Jefferson’s. He longed to be there but served 1/2 of his adult life in public service away from his beloved home. I think that is the kind of leaders we need…those that serve out of a sense of duty, as he did.
Only 2 of his 6 children with his wife lived to adulthood. I cannot imagine burying 4 children.
He died with over $1,000,000 (today’s dollars) of debt forcing the sale of Monticello after his death. Interestingly, the plantation and home was purchased by the first Jewish U.S. Naval Commodore in honor of Mr. Jefferson. Jefferson was a strong proponent of religious freedom and was supportive of the early Jewish community in the U.S. Commodore Levy appreciated that. He and his extended family worked to maintain and preserve the structure until it was turned over to the current foundation in the 1920’s.
Lesson learned….Many people of great accomplishment may struggle in other aspect of their lives. These failures do not negate those achievements – it simply demonstrates their humanity. Thomas Jefferson was a great man.
Green Leaf Cafe in Waynesboro…..not to be missed if you are in the area. The chef Chris came from the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. We got to meet him but didn’t get ask what brought him to Wayensboro. Our meal was beyond good.
I am seeing this RV park as I would imagine my grandson, Dylan, would see it……magical. It is way off the highway with tall trees everywhere. There is a playground with what looks like are real pirate ship on white sand with a brook running behind. A forrest with a nature hike beckons you to just keep going…it is getting dark…is that poison Ivy??? You can see glowing campfires almost everywhere you look. The night has an ever so little nip to it. Lots of tents with kids laughing and flashlights streaking about. I love the sound of kids having fun….this is the kind of place I love. The afternoon sun sparkling through the trees. There is a swimming pool too and a gift shop brimming with goodies. The light throughout the park are warm and glowing like lanterns in days of long ago. I don’t want tonight to end and the fires to go out.
May 17, 2016
Today it rained….we never left the campsite. Doug is always “organizing” our storage…I think he is finally finished! My only contribution to the day…..I buzzed his hair. He does think that looking like Delbert is not becoming. He says I now have a new job.
Today was spent on the battlefields of Gettysburg….a documentary, a diorama, a tour of the battle fields and the museum…..ending with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I found it a little difficult moving from Thomas Jefferson and the American Revolution to Abe Lincoln and the Civil War…..my eyes are starting to cross. This area is so rich with history it would take many trips to absorb everything. I wonder if those that live here visit these great tributes to history. I grew up in Souther California and still have never been to all of the California Missions or even Universal Studios for that matter. It sort of makes me want to come back to California and revisit the missions and the gold rush country. I am really not being flip…….just overwhelmed. I will probably only remember a fraction of what I learned today. One of the things that really touched me was the aftermath of this battle and what the people of this town faced after the soldiers left There were 7000 dead soldiers and 3000 dead horses in the battle fields around the town. In addition all the non transportable wounded from both sides were left in town with ongoing medical care.
Another lesson was the differing missions of both the Union and Confederate Armies. The Union never took the stars representing the Confederate states off the flag, always hoping to reunite all states. The Confederates wanted to spread slavery to all the new US territories and perhaps to Cuba and northern Mexico (extended Texas).
This war was far more complicated that just the issue of slavery however. The strategies of the battle and the missteps that changed the course of this country were are detailed. I didn’t realized that the war continued for almost 2 years after this horrific battle. More Americans (> 620,000) died in our Civil War than in WW I, WW II, Korea, and Viet Nam combined! This Civil War death count does not include the injuries and maiming and late deaths attributable to infections etc.
Of all the statues and monuments here, this is one that Doug found particularly important. It is called “Friend to Friend” demonstrating the complexities of this war and relives the actual moment a mortally wounded Confederate General is giving his watch and personal effects to a Union Captain to pass on to the captain’s General. The two Generals were good friends from their days at West Point. The Confederate General died the next day. The Union Captain and General fulfilled their promise. All three men were Masons.
In 1863 Gettysburg was a thriving commerce and farming center…..picture a wheel with 10 spokes (roads) and a railroad passing through the town. Because of this access and the potential need for resupply, Gettysburg was an attraction to the two armies roaming the Pennsylvania countryside in June – July 1863. Both armies were surprised by the other. No conflict was originally planned at this location.
Today many of the original buildings still stand. The battles were fought in the hills and valleys surrounding Gettysburg. Actually, despite this bloody battle, only one civilian life was lost…..thought to be a stray bullet. The town became the hospital for the dying and wounded of both sides and the burial ground for the rest. Kitchens became operating rooms.
In touring the town today, I think what would those folks in 1863 think of all the cars, gift shops, & ice cream stores that line the streets of what once was their home. However, many have gone to great lengths to preserve that time in our history. We enjoyed the first day of the Farmer’s Market in Lincoln Square. The strawberries did not make it to the RV. They were “first of the season” and the size of an apple and oh soooooooo sweet. I did a little bit of window shopping……I know Doug hates this, so I really try to restrain myself. After a wee bit of wine tasting and a pint of beer, I couldn’t wait to take a nap. We ran into the same problem here as in Canada, they cannot ship wine to California. We did pick up a couple of bottles made from grapes that are not found in California….I doubt they will make it back home.
Friday May 20, 2016
We are leaving today for Lancaster, Pa to explore the Amish country. Before we left we took a little hike. Being the disciplined hikers we are, we only took a cell phone as provisions. I don’t think Doug thought we were going to make it back to civilization although you could hear the traffic on the road in the distance. I don’t think he enjoys hiking much unless he has his camera and a great excuse to stop frequently. As I get older, the stopping is fine with me. Trying to listen to the birds, all I could hear was his chirping…..smile.
Please don’t think I pick on Doug or write things behind his back. He has editorial oversight and corrects all my spelling and grammatical errors. (Yes, I do – Doug here!)
May 21, 2016……Today is 2 months on the road
I woke up this morning to an oral history of the Amish and Mennonite cultures as seen through the eyes of Doug McConnell. Apparently, children are raised in the church and in the ways of the Amish but as a teenager they are allowed to choose which path they will lead as adults and are baptized at that time. 85-90% of children choose to remain within the Amish community.
Doug: The Amish and the Mennonites both descended from the original Anabaptist movement shortly after the protestant reformation in the early 1500’s. They believed in adult baptism and the entry of adults into the church. In the late 1600’s, Jacob Ammann separated from the group and choose to follow a more separated life from the surrounding world. Ultimately they came under heavy persecution in Europe. William Penn offered for them to emigrate to Pennsylvania and many did. The Mennonites also came to Pennsylvania for the same reason. To this day the Amish shun motorized tools, use buggy transportation, do not use buttons on their clothing and do not have electricity or phones in their homes. They are strong, polite, self educated largely and very respected by the community. Bonny and I watched entire fields plowed by teams of horses and mules and insecticide (modern??) spread by a mule powered rig. They have beautiful markets for the “English” to come buy their superb agricultural products.
The religious persecution that forced our ancestors to flee Europe is unthinkable. Thank you to the founders of this country for providing the religious freedom we we experience today – and take for granted. I reread this sentence and it seems so obvious, but now finally understanding is life changing for me.
What can we do in the rain?? My friend Chris Neal wrote that on their Spring road trip across the US, they spent their time out running tornadoes. We seem to be following the rain.
On Orange is a small restaurant “on Orange Street”. We were ushered to a basement table and served oatmeal pancakes. I have never had an oatmeal pancake. Slathered in butter and syrup…..quite filling. Then we visited the Saturday Market. I wasn’t that excited since the last two in New Orleans and Charleston were mostly just touristy…….this one was fabulous with fresh picked produce, fresh baked bread, meats, fresh flowers and so much more. Apparently it is greatly anticipated and patronized by the locals….we bought fudge. jam, chow-chow, and pork chops.
We were served by a gentleman name Dan who is Amish. He was quite forthcoming and helpful. His whole family was there selling pastries in one area and an entire meet market refrigerator in another. We bought some home made jam from Dan and then met his daughter and niece over at the meat display case. They are wonderful people. We noticed on his card that there was neither a phone number nor a web site. He also calculated our bill on a piece of paper and a pencil. DUH … they don’t use electronic devices and that includes phones and computers. These folks are respected by the community for their sincerity, honesty, and commitment to family and faith and separateness from Western culture. How is this for a concept…sitting down as a family together for all meals….that alone could change this world. I am so curious about this Amish culture, but feel like I am being intrusive.
May 22, 2016
What do you do on a rainy day in Lancaster? My visions of bike riding in the Amish countryside is slowly dissolving. We headed about 30 miles to the town of Hersey. This is a small town of about 14,000 that was built by Milton Hersey. It is the home to the Hersey Bar. The streets have names such as Chocolate Street, Hersey, and Cocoa Avenue. He chose this country side for his candy factory because there was lots of land for growth and it was in the middle of dairy country…..necessary for milk chocolate. This is truly an American success story…..a success story for the entire town not just Mr. Hersey. Around 1886, he introduced affordable chocolate. Before that time, chocolate was a delicacy that only the very rich could afford. Can you imagine a world without chocolate? He took his wealth and build a town for the employees and families that he employed. He owned the bank, provided mortgage money and encouraged his employees to purchase their own homes. He provided huge parks and many recreational facilities for the community. We drove through the neighborhoods and I couldn’t find any place this town would not be proud of. It sort of looked like a street in Disneyland…..perfect.
May 23, 2016….Rails to Trails
We were told by a couple of people when we inquired about what would be of interest in Lancaster…..”loose yourself in the countryside”. That is exactly what we did. We were looking for a particular bike trail that we really never found. We did locate a Rails to Trails route that, despite the threatening clouds, we took. It was beautiful with farmland and trees, and was flat. Large rain drops and thunder made us halt our journey and head back to the car.
Doug was telling me that this type of weather is quite common in the summer months. He said as a kid when he would visit his granddad in Pennsylvania and that they would often spend the late afternoon rain storms on the screened in porch visiting with neighbors. Doug has looked up his granddad’s address and is going to try and contact the current residents and see if they would allow us to visit the house that holds so many memories for him.
Today also included at trip to Costco. I love this picture. Doug and I could hardly believe what we saw as we exited the parking lot. Kudos to Costco for providing “parking spaces” for their Amish patrons. We also found out that Target also provides shaded carriage stalls for the horses. These carriages are also used all winter for shopping I suspect.
This Old Mill Stream RV park has proven to be a beautiful place when the sun is out. Just across the “stream” is the farm land of an Amish farmer. We have watched as he plows and readies his fields for planting using only horse drawn farm equipment. We found a beautiful little park just the other side of the stream. In the afternoons an Amish gentleman comes around selling fresh baked goods pulling his pastry cart with a horse of course. We are waiting for him today.
May 24th…..Sampson at Sight & Sound Theater
This is touted as one of the “must see” attractions in Lancaster. First of all, when we went to purchase tickets, there were few available….on a Tuesday afternoon! The theater was enormous and full. I had never heard of this venue and was surprised to hear that it has been presenting Bible stories for 40 years. It was the story of Sampson. At first I thought it was a little theatrical, but soon became absorbed by the presentation. If you are Christian and want to see a BIG stage production, here it is! It had a very emotional ending.
We are leaving Lancaster tomorrow……..Looking at the Pennsylvania countryside gives me a sense of peace I have not felt before.
Friday May 6, 2016 More of Charleston
Our friend’s Maryann & Scott treated us to a buggy ride through the streets of Historical Charleston today. We were fortunate to get a route that took us to places we didn’t see yesterday. We had a great lunch at a sea side cafe……I so wanted to order shrimp & grits but have got to STOP. A stroll through the Market ended a wonderful day.
A little more about Maryann and & Scott……eventually all their children moved to other states and they found themselves retired in an enormous house in Knoxville and no family……they had the freedom to just explore and chose Charleston. One of the sweetest things he told me when I asked him what his goal in retirement was……”to make Maryann happy”……and he is.
Their community actually resembles the famous “rainbow row” houses in old Charleston with their pastel hues. They have a beautiful new home build much in Charleston fashion across the street from a lake where Scott can be found almost daily kayaking or SUP…..An occasional alligator has been spotted in the lake, however.
The ocean surf is actually good and there is a surfing community here, he says. He goes to the web cams to check it out.
Saturday May 7, 2016
Because we didn’t want to repeat the congested mess of last Saturday, we didn’t go in to Charleston but went to Mount Pleasant, Boone Hall Plantation, instead. They are famous for The Avenue of the Oaks which is in one of the early scenes of Gone With The Wind. There are 88 Live oaks that are on average 270 years old and laced with Spanish Moss. Also many scenes from the movie The Notebook were filmed here.
During our “Mr. Toad Ride” around the plantation, we met a lovely couple from Myrtle Beach, Brian and Anne. They are an adventurous RV and motorcycle team that we enjoyed. Brian actually drives tour buses professionally and loves his time off in an RV – get that! We took these photos as they left and we hope to meet up with them later on our “road through life”.
There was a wonderful presentation of the Gullah culture. This culture and term was new to us so we will pass on what we learned. Many of the slaves originated from West Africa and often were in the caribbean prior to coming to the British colonies. The Gullah culture – the language music and melodies reflect this diverse background of all the slaves that came to live in the colonies and eventually the U.S.
This trip has certainly presented me with many insights… As appalling as slavery was, I well might have accepted it as “normal” had I been born and raised in the South at that time. I lived through the Civil Rights movement, but from a Southern Californian’s perspective. We had always been an integrated society in California during my lifetime. I have always said that in a few more generations we will all be the same color. My grandchildren are color blind.
Charleston is a peninsula with rivers on both sides and the Charleston Harbor. It is called “Low Country” because it is at sea level and surrounded by marshes that you can actually see the tide ebb & flow twice a day….a mix of salt and fresh water. The streets are narrow & traffic moderate as people travel bridges connecting the many islands like James, John, & Sullivan. From the bridges you will see a completely flat landscape carpeted in green. As I said before, there are no high rises…..the tallest building being maybe 8 stories. You see only church steeples poking their heads above the trees. Tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes have all left their mark on this city.
The population is 682,000 and growing. Many big employers are moving here…Boeing, Volvo, & BMW to name a few.
Happy Mother’s Day
Doug surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers delivered to the Sandie’s house. He has always felt like he took me away for from my kids and grandchildren when he accepted the position in Redding……he has tried to make it up ever since.
With all the churches in Charleston, it would take a month of Sunday’s to visit them all. We joined the Sandie’s for services at their church. The music got me to that perfect place of worship.
We joined their son and his wife for lunch. Crab bisque put me in a fat induced coma for the afternoon. The day was hot…..too hot to go for a bike ride until about 6:30. We headed out to a great green way that ran through marshes and canopied trees…we barely made it back to the car before dark – good timing!
May 9, 2016 We see South Carolina in our rearview mirror – On to North Carolina
One of the nice things about traveling north is that we keep hitting springtime. We are traveling north on Highway 95. I never thought I would say this, but the green tree lined road actually gets boring. Every shopping center, house, or thing of interest is hidden behind a forrest of trees.
North Carolina is the “clean & green” state. After visiting I can say it lives up to that quote very well.
We arrived in time for dinner with Caring & Gary. I call her Abby. We worked together when we were both in our 20’s at Pacific Hospital. Every nurse we worked with, it seems, was having babies at the time….Pam Rossetti, Jan Callaway, and Terry Furlow. We have not seen each other for 40 years. She still has that same sweet smile and “can do” attitude I always remembered. She was born in the Philippines the 3rd of 15 children…..no shoes, no electricity in their home. Her nursing career allowed her to come to the US and eventually bring her parents and all but one of her siblings. That alone is an accomplishment. She has worked all her life with the exception of a couple of years when she had her 2nd child. Never to let a moment go unused…she would take her son in his stroller and play 9 holes of golf, go home, eat lunch, nap, then go play another 9 holes (self taught of course). This is just one of many cute stories. She meet Gary playing tennis when she hit him with the ball. They are a bundle of energy and we had a hard time keeping up. Gary is quiet and delightful. He is an entomologist. He just sent me the itinerary of their month long European trip….it is perfectly scheduled…to the minute. That kind of attention to detail goes along with being a scientist.
The first night they had dinner ready…..Gary did a complete BBQ on his Trager….corn, yams, ribs….I couldn’t stop with the ribs and literally “rolled” out the front door. The next night Caring taught me how to make pansit. No Filipino nurse can come to a potluck without producing this dish. I have tried making it from a recipe and it never tastes the same…..now, finally, I think I can.
Durham is one city of “the triangle ” including Chapel Hill and Raleigh. It is simply more beautiful that I expected. The Tobacco Trail is a “rails to trails” that runs through the city….we spent an afternoon exploring it on our bikes.
Doug and I were exhausted after 16 miles but Caring and Gary hadn’t even broken a sweat. The next day Abby had an itinerary set and we started our “tour” at 10am…..Duke University Gardens and Chapel, DownTown Durham, and a tour of the Duke Lemur center. Duke University is one of the most beautiful universities I have ever seen.
Downtown Durham has been rebuilt from the old American Tobacco Company warehouses and cigarette factories. Now it is beautiful venue with restaurants, offices, breweries, the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), and a baseball park for the famous Durham Bulls! There is a dual purpose area called “the cage” which is a basketball court by summer and an ice rink in the winter. The entire American Tobacco Company facility is now “Smoke Free” – progress!
May 12, 2016
We need a rest!!!!! We spent the day “recovering” and had Caring and Gary to dinner at our rig which was at Jone’s Station RV Park, about 30 minutes out in the country. The day started sunny, we had a camp fire (in the fire pit this time), dinner was on the table and the skies turned black and a down pour started. We grabbed our food and returned to the RV for dinner indoors. Little did we know but it would rain all night.
We said goodbye to Caring and Gary that night. Our goal had been to get to North Carolina before they left on their European trip……we now have about 2 weeks with no reservations and no plans. So far we have traveled 4,800 miles on our adventure.
May 13, 2016 Happy Birthday Madi……17 years
A memorable transition for a parent is when they realize their child is perfectly capable of taking care of themselves in the world around them. I now am starting to see this growing self reliance in my granddaughters. I guess that represents good parenting. They were quite young when I would notice that my ring tone or screen saver was changed or new apps would suddenly appear on my phone. If it weren’t for Doug, they would definitely be my “go to” girls for anything computer related. I am supposed to take care of them in September when their mom and dad go on a much deserved get away…..I wonder who will really be taking care of whom?
Our shower is on the interior of our coach and has a skylight…..makes you feel like you are outside. Today I am showering until the hot water runs out…I will also do the “biannual” shaving of my legs. I look at them and think yuck….wrinkled, discolored, veined, and spotted. Then I think how thankful I am for them. They have supported me through 43 years of my nursing career. They have bounced to the rhythm of the Poly High fight song, chased 3 active little boys to adulthood, walked me down the aisle with two husbands and shown me the wonders of Mt Shasta.
A few last thoughts about Tennessee
I LOVED Tennessee. Many of the front yards are as big as a football field…..well maybe only 50 yards deep. If you live here you need a sit down lawn mower for sure. The other thing we noticed was that the yards are not fenced. The back yards don’t seem to be developed for outdoor entertaining. A screened in porch or sun room was more common. The freeways around Nashville are old and complex partly due to the Cumberland River. Tennessee does have a state income tax but it is only on dividend and interest, not earned income…..attractive if anyone is thinking of relocating. Sales tax 9-91/2% depending on the city.
“Come as guests & leave as friends” That was the slogan at “my most favorite” RV park. We do feel like we are leaving friends.
Onward to Savannah April 28-May 4, 2016
Today we are on the road and stayed the night at a KOA out side Atlanta. We have been so busy that in 5 weeks we have not set out our chairs and just “chilled”. We thought tonight might be that night since Doug had already made friends with our camping neighbors…….not to be. The bugs were soooo annoying (they were after my wine!) that we opted to eat inside.
Doug is working on his maps, trying to avoid going through Atlanta. According to the camp host, Friday’s traffic is gridlock all day long. Apparently the city moved the Braves stadium and the road reconstruction is horrendous…..bumper to bumper 20 miles in and 30 miles out.
The next day as we got on the freeway, there was an accident that would have added 12 miles to our “bumper to bumper” traffic. Doug did a detour. That sounds easy, but No No No. Unless you stay on a truck route, you can be faced with tree limbs and low over passes, and itty bitty streets…..remember, we cannot back up. He actually managed very well despite not having a detailed map of the area. He did such a good job of getting around Atlanta that I can honestly say I never saw the city. It is sort of like having a lay over on a flight….you have been to the city, but not really “in it”.
We made it to Savannah…….After being on the go for 5 weeks…I need a lot of maintenance. (Doug here – Bonny is remarkably low maintenance!)
Saturday April 30, 2016
After spending the day on all those things that are necessary, wasting a perfectly good vacation day……we thought we would head into Savanna Saturday evening around 6:30……mistake. We could not find a parking place anywhere, not even the public parking structure…FULL. An empty stomach makes for less tolerance of this inconvenience. With a bad taste in our mouth for Savanah, we went to Kroger’s about 9:30 to buy something for dinner. We ended up staying up to 1:30 am watching Forrest Gump…remember the opening scene with Forrest sitting on the bus stop bench with a box of chocolates? Can you guess what city that took place? That movie was so well crafted and Tom Hank’s is remarkable.
Sunday May 1, 2016
Twelve years ago today Doug and I were on the streets of Paris, watched a May Day Parade, and we walked to Montmartre….I can’t remember what I had for breakfast today, but I remember this, my first and only trip to Europe.
I could not face going back into Savannah, so we headed to where the Savannah-ites go to the beach…Tybee Island. It is about 15 miles out of town. It is an island surrounded by marshes, the Savannah River and the Atlantic Ocean. I have now completed the intent of this trip….I have crossed this country via the highways and byways and walked in the Atlantic Ocean.
I was surprised at how warm it is. The waves come in in such a way as to not support surfing. This is a beach town about 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 miles. I read some place that a nuclear bomb was accidentally dropped on the island… it obviously didn’t go off, but has never been recovered. Perhaps I should check that one with Snopes.
Apparently the population of the island has dramatically increased since the BP oil spill in the Gulf. I hate to repeat this but…..it was very difficult to find parking and EVERYTHING was metered. We did get in a bike ride. We couldn’t tell if this was the beginning or the end of the season…….beginning, according to a local.
Monday May 2, 2016
I fell like I am eating my way through Savannah. We ventured back into the city this morning. Our destination was Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House and Restaurant. It is located on Jones Street which is considered one of the most beautiful streets in the South by Southern Living Magazine…red brick sidewalks in a houndstooth pattern, huge trees, and cute row houses. We arrived before 10am and were not the first in line for an 11 AM first seating! This place is loved by tourists and locals alike. Lunch is served family style and the food is pure “comfort”. There were at least 15 different dishes on the table…fried chicken, BBQ pork, beef stew, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, red rice, cornbread stuffing, green beans, collard greens, squash, more squash, black eyed peas, lima beans, sweet tea, banana pudding and peach cobbler. I know I have missed something.
We met Diane and Dennis while we were standing in line and spent much of the morning with them. She is an avid traveler and became our tour guide. We visited the Jewish synagogue and St. Johns Catholic Cathedral. Interestingly, the synagogue is actually built on a floor plan similar to all european catholic churches. It is the only one in the US so built. It also may have one of the ten oldest Torahs known in the world -a long story. The Synagogue was beautiful and it had have a wonderful museum documenting the often challenging history of the Savanah Jewish community which started here in 1733. The synagogue was a real historical surprise to us. Thanks, Diane, for finding this important piece of history. St. Johns is also perhaps the most beautiful Catholic church Doug and I have ever visited. These two historical wonders are about one block apart.
Did you know that the Girl Scouts were started in Savannah? I still have may sash and badges.
Savannah is a beautifully planned city approximately a mile square packed with tons of history. We will have only scratched the surface by the time we leave on Wednesday. Imagine, no front yards, row house like construction that faces on a park. There are over 24 of these park squares in this area…..what a gathering place for the neighborhood! Late in the afternoon we ended up in Forsyth Park, the largest park in the city. Sitting by the fountain we were at the “dog meeting” place of the neighborhood. We made many new friends among the “doggie gang”. We also got a great dinner recommendation. What a great bunch. Tomorrow they are bringing drinks.
They directed us to the Old Pink House Tavern…..we had heard about this place and told we would have trouble getting reservations on such short notice. The “doggie gang” told us no reservations were needed in the basement Tavern. I loved it. Low wood ceilings, fireplaces at both ends, used brick walls, and candlelight. Well, after our enormous lunch, we did need to eat yet again…right? We shared a fried green tomato & bacon salad called a BLT and fried cheese grits & shrimp coved with ham hock gravy. It think it is the best thing I have ever tasted….we are coming back tomorrow to the upstairs dinning…..luck wold have it that there was an early reservation. Thanks, “Doggie Gang”.
The Red Gate RV park is quite beautiful and was originally a farm that has been divided between five family members. Portions of the RV park are located in the field…great if you desire satellite reception or nestled under giant oaks with Spanish Moss trailing over your site. There is also a lake, fields for horses, and a chicken coop. We have been awaken each morning to the crow of a rooster- over and over and over. We did get some fresh eggs…still warm from the womb.
Doug takes care of this coach the way a guy takes care of his first car. This is hard to believe for those of you that know him….at home he can’t even close a drawer. I have even caught him polishing the woodwork.
My morning ritual is a cup of coffee in complete silence. I made the mistake of sitting on the bed with the window open……well I woke up fast when Doug squirted me with he hose. He was out in the wee hours of the morning washing the rig. He claims he didn’t realize the window was open….do you think he resents me for not doing a lick of housework in 5 weeks?…..where is Dr. Phil when you need him?
Tuesday May 3, 2016
Today we rode our bikes to the “back of the property” and were treated to the most beautiful venue. An enormous 3 story house with wrap around porches, woods, ponds and fresh flowers on every post…one of the farm owners lives on the top floor…we could have toured the house but it was by appointment only. We had seen cars come and go over the weekend, but could not figure out where they were going and where they had come from. It is amazing the treats you will find just around the bend or down the road.
We thought we would take it easy today, go into Savannah and aimlessly take the “on off” trolley around until our 515 pm reservations at the Old Pink House.
First off, Doug got to talking to our neighbors…..surprise. They were driving their brand new 33 foot Bounder, fresh from the factory, to Pennsylvania. Get this, the wife was the driver. I am ashamed to admit that I am somewhat skittish about even turning on the ignition or activating the jacks on our coach. I know, I know, but the thought of driving this scares me to death. Since they didn’t have a tow car and really no supplies, she was going to drive it to Whole Foods. She was either very sure of herself or crazy or both. We suggested she take our Jeep…..she returned quite grateful. I wish I had her moxie.
Down on the waterfront, it started to rain so we ducked into a gift shop. The folks in the south pride themselves on being friendly, sometimes that can be a very time consuming quality when I am with Doug. An hour later we were late for our dinner reservation, but the owner and Doug had discussed everything from AIDS to ghosts. The question she posed to Doug was “what did you think Jenny died of in Forrest Gump”? This of course led to a very detailed discussion of how aids is transmitted (she was a biology major). Do you realize that our children have not lived in a world without aids? The rest of the time was spent on the fact that they were soon going to have a paranormal investigation done at their shop. It seems that several customers at many different times have said they see a woman sitting on a settee up in a room at the store. Their description of her is always the same. They said things have fallen off the walls and that items get moved all over the store. The other occurrences happen in the flat upstairs which was going through renovation for a new tenant. The contractors claim that power tools will turn on with no one close by or pieces of wood are flung across the room with no one standing where the wood comes from. This project was originally to take 8 months, 3 years later the owners cannot get the subcontractors to come back. They say the place is haunted. I don’t believe in this sort of thing, but have to admit I am intrigued. We will check into their web site in a few weeks and see what the investigation found. Stand by.
Our dinner at The Old Pink House was fabulous. The place is reminiscent of the 5 Crowns in Corona del Mar where Doug & I were married. I would simply like to try everything on their menu. I think my gall bladder has started exercising it rights, but I am not listening.
We planned an early evening by the pond at the RV park watching the sunset. Instead we were treated to a thunder and lightening storm. It actually got quite fierce. Sitting in a swing under a metal roof was not wise. The rest of the storm was enjoyed from the first seat of our coach….not as wet either.
Doug and I have been in a “news” void most of the time. We just heard that Ted Cruz suspended his campaign after a loss in Indiana. Just a thought…what if Hilary picked Bernie as a running mate? A year from now, we will reread this blog and know how the presidential election of 2016 turns out.
The history in Savannah is endless. One of the sites we didn’t see was the First African Baptist Church….one of the sites of the underground railroad during the Civil War. Doug says I am sometimes a little literal “like Forrest Gump”. I actually thought that there were underground tunnels with tiny little tracks like in a coal mine! (Sorry, Bonny)
Georgia is famous for it’s fried chicken and waffles. I don’t think I could face that in the morning. Fried chicken…….why have I limited myself to only once a year with Colonel Sanders.
Wednesday May 4, 2016 Onto Charleston, SC
South Carolina is shrimp & grits……..my new favorite food and I get to keep eating it in Charleston. We arrived in time to meet up with my good friend and former nursing colleague, Maryann Sandie and her husband, Scott. They left for Tennessee (he was a coach and principal at Valley Christain in Cerritos, California) as soon as their youngest son graduated from high school. This was particularly memorable because Scott is a true surfer. No surf in Tennessee. They and all their adult children made the move. Scott became the superintendent of a small Christian school district near Knoxville. I loved this…he said all of the seniors at his high school had to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course as seniors. I can’t think of a better introduction to adulthood.
Thursday May 5, 2016 Happy Birthday Mike Catalano
I am so happy to wake up to sunny skies and no humidity. I hate cloudy gloomy overcast days except when it ends with a good rain. I am afraid I would be a statistic if I lived in Washington State.
This beautiful day started with the absolute best walking tour of Historical Charleston led by a wiry attorney turned tour guide whose family has lived here for several generations. We learned so many fascinating facts. This is the second most frequent city for destination weddings, second only to Las Vegas. 40% of the incoming slaves were sold in this port. This is generally a geographically segregated city, by choice. The race relations here are very cohesive as demonstrated by the city’s reaction to the horrible shooting at the AME Church here in 2015. This city, led by the people of the church, showed forgiveness and would not allow the media (and “Reverend” Al) to make it into a circus of racial discord. SOB now has a new meaning…South of Broad (street). It a designation of the the wealthy area of the city….those charming antebellum homes that range in price from 2-7 million dollars. The Historical Preservation Society will not allow any alteration to the exterior of a home in the district…not even the removal of a tree. Nothing can be torn down unless it is less than 75 years old. They still have debutantes presented here and kids still go to cotillion dance classes. The homes have very little street frontage with the front door on the side with piazza (porches) on the 2nd floor. This allows for the breeze from the water to cool the homes(before a/c).This is called the “holy city” because of the enormous number of churches and there was a tavern for every 15 resident at one time. You look at the skyline of this city and you don’t see high rises only church steeples. At one time all religions were welcomed to practice their faith here…..except Catholics. How is that for a multitude of unrelated facts. I could go on.
That evening we decided to “entertain” for the first time since we have been on the road…..I used our best Melmac dishes and set a fine table and even used a tablecloth. We learned quickly that a plastic table cloth plus candles plus wind make a dangerous combination. As we were sipping wine and having a lively conversation something bright caught my eye…….our table was on fire!
Running inside to retrieve our industrial size fire extinguisher, I realized it was overkill. I had forgotten about the small extinguisher by the front door. Doug was calling for ice……what do you need ice for?….is that a new way to put out a fire? Seems he managed to contain and extinguish the fire with his bare hands…..the ice was for a painful burn to his ring finger. He is not stupid, as this would indicate, but the melted plastic stuck to his finger… a second degree burn is healing far faster and better than we expected. Our first aid kit contains a multitude of items, but nothing for a burn except aspirin…….if he had cut off his finger, we had enough supplies to suture it back on.
(Doug here. The finger is now just fine. I was moving the plastic table cloth to the ground off the table to then stomp the flames when a portion of the molten plastic stuck on my finger)
Back to reality…we heard the Stock Market hit 18,000 today.
I really need a hair cut…this has been troubling me on the road. I have had only 2 people cut my hair in the last 38 years! How is that for stuck?…or maybe obsessive should be the word? I want something a little “spiky” (not nose ring, tattoo spiky, but sort of perky, 70, spiky) I did it…not nearly as painful as I had anticipated, but her instrument of choice was a razor. Does this mean I am on the cutting edge? Ha, Ha!
Today began three days of fun, fun, fun, with Doug’s former Army buddy, Bob Johnson and his lovely wife Julie.
Doug spent two of the best years of his professional life as a surgeon with the 101st Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles) based in Fort Campbell, Ky.
The staffing called for six surgeons to be assigned to cover general, vascular, and thoracic surgery but there were only three. Doug was counted as a general AND a thoracic surgeon – sort of a two for one arrangement. These three Army surgeons were very busy and very much appreciated by the Division. Doug will often talk of the outstanding people he met in this all-volunteer, active, Air Assault division. Bob Johnson is certainly one of these outstanding individuals.
Bob is an Army Aviator – a special type of person. Doug and Bob were both Majors at the time and they both loved to fly. Doug had a little over 1000 hrs of fixed wing flying experience but NO time in helicopters. Bob and Doug became close friends and were even known to fly Army helicopters together on weekends with Bob letting him take the controls when appropriate. Bob was an experienced aviation officer, a pilot and commanding officer of Army aviation units. Bob even came to the OR one night to help Doug operate on a soldier needing emergent surgery. It turns out Bob had thought about going to medical school at one time and his interest remained even that evening. Bob and Doug have stayed in contact for over 35 years – mostly through phone calls. There have been three visits and now number four was this trip.
Bob’s aviation career was long and distinguished. He led the initial Special OPs aviation elements into the Grenada invasion in October 1983 to rescue the British Governor-General held under house arrest by the rebel forces. Cuban “construction details” were building a very long runway for questionable purposes. Bob and his crew completed their mission but Bob was badly wounded by Cuban gunfire. He flew his helicopter to a Navy carrier for medical care and surgery. Bob later returned to flight status and was a lead aviator into Iraq during Desert Storm. More recently, Bob was featured on the Smithsonian channel when they presented the Blackhawk capability in combat operations. Bob has written a book about his Special OPS helicopter unit, the Night Stalkers, entitled Night Stalkers – surprise! Actually the full title is The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The first review on Amazon is written by none other than …Doug! Go check it out! Its a very good read for military aviation buffs. Bob’s coauthor for this book was the pilot that survived the incident documented in the movie “Blackhawk Down”.
Bob is now retired from the Army and lives with his lovely wife, Julie, in Clarksville. He works at the base as a civilian managing a team that rebuilds and refurbishes the very aircraft he flew for so long – the Blackhawk. He says the desert exposure all our aircraft have had over the last 13 years has been very challenging for these complex helicopters.
Julie Johnson is a fireball on legs. Bob said it was love at first sight…..she was this cute blond in her flight suit. She also was a Army pilot and found she didn’t like flying (she gets car sick) so it was suggested she become an Aviation Maintenance officer. However, because of a personnel shortage in the 101st division, she ended up doing a lot of test flying of helicopters. After she got out of the Army, she got her masters and then her PhD in computer science. She now teaches at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. She is also considering running the Boston Marathon-AGAIN (Second time!). Not being a runner myself, she gave me a much better appreciation of the training, qualifying, and recovery from participating in a 26 mile run. She said, because she is “old”, it would be an approximate 2 year process. I could be her mother!
Sunday April 24th
Clarksville is a town of 134,000 that borders Fort Campbell Military Base on the Tennessee side. It has 200 churches. We attended Bob and Julie’s church, Grace Community Church. If I lived here, my church seeking would stop here. It is currently held at the high school while their own sanctuary is being built. It can only be described as “young & lively”. Doug and I were sure that we would qualify for “most senior” attendees. While our host, Bob, felt the music was too ruckus……we loved it….guitars and drums…..soulful and singable and a little country. The pastor looked to be about Sean’s age and his message came from the Sermon on the Mount and really hit a cord with the two of us. Communion was served. I have never seen “prepackaged” wafer and wine. We both had a hard time opening it and was distracting. I can understand the expediency necessary in serving Communion to a large crowd, but this struck me as weird….fast food bread & wine…..WWJD?
Bob is a wonderful cook and we enjoyed 4 meals with them…..from Creole BBQ, grilled pineapple marinated in rum, brown sugar & cinnamon, banana & walnut pancakes to home made pizza. Dinner one night was in Nashville at a college hang out. You know, one of my favorites….a hole in the wall with plastic utensils. It was a Mexican restaurant, run entirely by blacks, and not a word of Spanish spoken…smile.
Leaving Clarksville for Nashville – People we meet on the road of life (Doug reporting here)
In his wonderful book, Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck noted that the real adventure of his travels was meeting new people on the road of life. We agree! We have met some of our most memorable new friends at diesel pumps and gas stations. When I pull in I may be pumping 80 to 100 gallons – so I have some time. Men pumping diesel are usually traveling or working, and usually friendly. I now have decided that no one should be allowed to run for president of the USA unless they have driven across this country from shore to shore and has pumped their own gas or diesel. Its educational and enlightening.
The young man above is a heavy construction worker, cowboy, entrepreneur, and owns a bison heard! He and his veterinarian wife founded their own local business, parlayed that success into a bison ranch in Kentucky, and now have a home in South Africa! He also told us of a 2 billion dollar solar panel production facility he helped build in Clarksville with 2009 stimulus money. The money came from the Federal, state and local governments – i.e the taxpayers. That plant never opened for production! Where have we heard this before? The plant never produced a single job after it was built! Ouch! We exchanged emails and now we have yet another new interesting friend on our road of life.
Today…. Off to Nashville for 3 nights
Staying at The Grand Ole RV park just outside Nashville in Goodlettsville. It is my favorite so far. First off we were greeted by a guy right out of Duck Dynasty, Glenn. I have never had a park host come out and disconnect our tow…that is my job (well I am learning). I am not sure if this is custom or the fact that there were about 5 rigs showing up at the same time. They also have a cafe in the “lodge” with a cook that is outback smoking ribs all day. We decided at the last minute to go to an Elvis concert. The cook put together a dinner of smoked beef ribs. I told him to give us his favorite sides. mac & cheese & sweet potato casserole….I am seeing a pattern here. Glenn found a nest with a bunch of newborn bunnies that have been abandoned by the mommy. He is so sweet…calling a vet to find formula to feed them.
Got to see the King – a wonderful performance actually.
April 26, 2016 Nashville
Fontanel Mansion……home of Barbra Mandrel
This was a fun tour that was recommended to us of the grounds and home built by Barbra Mandrel. This is the only star home tour in Nashville. It was like a walk down memory lane of country singers. It was built in 1988 and home to her family for 14 years.
You would think that after all these years, Doug and I would run out of things to talk about. We purchased our tickets then went for lunch…we had an hour. We were so busy talking that we realized we were a few minutes late. The bus had left…to our surprise the CEO of the property was in the office and drove us up in his golf cart (named Reba) to join the rest of the tour group. That is Southern hospitality for you. Thanks CEO Bob Eckman of Fontanele in Nashville. Visit this interesting and informative place.
Grand Ole Opry
Great show…If I was a Country Music fan I would have known more of the songs. Amazing that the 4,000+ seat venue was packed on a Tuesday night.
April 27, 2016
Doug humored me and took me to Franklin today for a little shopping. This is a very cute upscale town about 45 minutes from Nashville. There was a lot more to see but I was pretty focused on seeing what the boutiques in Tennessee had to offer. There was one display in a small dress shop that surprised and delighted me. It was a praying wall. You could write a prayer request and hang it on the spikes on the wall.
I was looking forward to dinner at our RV Park and live music on the patio and a bonfire…not to be. A storm came up and moved everything inside to the RV store. I do have to say that a backdrop of plungers, antifreeze, and toilet paper diminished the ambiance I had in mind…but the music was great with just a guitar and drums. The drummer was a gal I had seen around the park and the cook came out with a variety of pots and pans and she played a fabulous solo. I do have to say, I am sorry to leave tomorrow. “Come as a guest and leave as friends” is their slogan…….true true true.
Doug has just informed me that we have already traveled 3,056 miles. Our day ended on the banks of the Mississippi River near the town of Natchez and the beginning of the Natchez Trace.
You must understand that the “Trace” is a pathway (now a road) that connects Nashville, TN with Natchez, MS. Initially the trace was a south to north migratory route for the “Kaintucks” (the Kentuckians). These men built large flat bottomed boats to float Ohio River Valley goods down to New Orleans. When they arrived they sold everything including the boat for lumber! They then walked, yes walked, home using a well established trail – the Natchez Trace! There were no boats that could move upstream against the Mississippi River current. (more information to follow) By 1820 the steamboat ended the need for the upstream, south to north walk to Nashville. However there soon began a reverse north to south migration which remains a dark part of America’s history – the slave walk.
In the early 1800’s one half of all the millionaires in the U.S. lived in one town, Natchez! Their fortunes came primarily from the expanding cotton industry and, sadly, the slave trade. By 1820 the importation of slaves into the U.S. was illegal. However, the declining tobacco farms in the North provided valuable slaves for the ever growing southern cotton fields. Selling slaves remained legal in the southern states. A Virginia or Maryland slave was worth 50% more if transported to Mississippi. This financial incentive generated the new north to south slave trail. The civil war ended this slave trade – thankfully! There is more to this trail and road but the fact that it ends in Natchez explains the city.
Natchez, once one of the wealthiest towns on the Mississippi, survives mostly on tourists visiting the many antebellum mansions. Don’t think I am smart using big words like “antebellum”. I had never heard the word before today. It simply means pre Civil War. These are homes that survived the civil war and are original buildings built before the Civil War.
The openness of this RV Park on the river is Natchez is a stark contrast to The French Quarter. Natchez has shut down by 9 pm while New Orleans is a 24 hour city. The closest RV is at least 60 feet away not 12 feet away as in the French Quarter. A bike ride on the banks of the Mississippi river completed our day. Dinner was at a darling cafe called the Cotton Alley Cafe. Seems they can fry anything here…..even our dinner rolls were fried! So far I have not encountered a vegetable that isn’t fried…
Today my church is sitting in a swing on the side of the Mississippi River. I am grateful for the privilege of being able to see this fine country and learn more of how it came to be. It seems that the majority of people in the world simply want to earn an honest living, love their God and their families. Why do things get so complicated? As my grandma La Bertew used to say “What is this world coming to?”. Something else comes to mind….Dinesh DeSousa mentioned in one of his documentaries that, throughout the world, many millions of people are born into this world and NEVER venture more than a mile from their birthplace….imagine. I am glad we have this opportunity to see our wonderful country – from sea to shinning sea.
It is Sunday and I am expecting to see some pleasure craft on the river, but no….it seems this part of the waterway is “all work and no play”. This is the 4th largest river in the world as determined by its length and volume. It is muddy brown.
We will be dry camping (no hookups) for the next few days, so we need to get some clean clothes and food. Walmart….. I can find my way around the food section of the store, but I doubt I will ever be able to navigate the rest of the place. It is the most bizarre store I have ever shopped. Is it my logic or their’s? At any rate, their parking lots are usually easy to navigate and we have been known to spend an occasional night there. I did find that along the I-5 coming back from Washington last year, that several of the Walmarts did not allow “overnighting” … it seems some people spent there entire time “vacationing” in the parking lots….yuck.
Another Adventure begins…..The Natchez Trace 4/18-22/2016
The trace stretches 444 miles from Natchez Mississippi, through the north west tip of Alabama, to Nashville, Tennessee. It originated in prehistoric times when giant bison carved the original path. Then came hunters, numerous indian tribes, the Spanish conquistadors followed by trappers. As stated earlier, the “Kaintuck” boatmen would float their goods down the Mississippi then sell everything, including their boats for lumber in New Orleans. They would then tramp home on the Trace. With the development of the steamboat in 1820, the Natchez Trace was suddenly quiet Time marched on and the Civil War was fought. Some of the notables that lived in the area were Elvis Presley and Helen Keller.
This is the longest National Park in the US. It only averages about 800 feet wide. The renovation and preservation of the highway started in 1938 and not completed until around 1996. It is simply a two lane highway in the most beautiful country you can imagine. There are no billboards and cell service is weak to absent. No trucks or commercial vehicles are allowed and the speed limit does not exceed 50 miles per hour. There are a multitude of places to stop and explore. We found that 5 days on the Trace was not nearly enough time. Doug always says “ We will come back”. I know we never will. (Doug here – yes we will!)
When the rebuilding of this “road” was conceived and started in 1938, RVs, big RVs, were not even a spark in someones conscience. This is reflected in the road’s construction. There are numerous turnouts for picnics or historical markers. We never knew if we were turning into a pullout from which we could not easily exit! Doug is a master at driving this huge hunk of machinery. He can manipulate this thing within an inch of a tree now….did I mention that he did once back into our Jeep (our brand new Jeep) a few years ago…our maiden voyage to Bend, OR? He has become a true master since then. Fortunately we only had one incident in the 444 miles where we had to unhook our Jeep just to back up. This does make for some anxiety.
1st Day out…..we only made it to mile marker 55.
Our first stop was Mount Locust, only 15 miles into our journey. It is the only place on this entire road that we saw a Park Ranger, and these were volunteer docents. The structure was a residence of a married couple that homesteaded the property in the early 1800s. They were required to build a structure 16×20 feet to honor that agreement with the Spaniards. They found that men would stop for shelter and food. They added a few rooms and started a business….perhaps the precursor to today’s B&Bs. These were called “stays”. This was the only “antebellum” stay left standing on the Trace. The docents were a married couple that had been “full timing” for many years. She said when they first started that they didn’t see their children for 5 years. They encouraged us to “just let your imagination run wild and imagine what life was like back then”………and we did.
We spent the night at Rocky Springs Camp Ground. First come, first served. 18 sites and only 1/2 full. No services No cell signal No reservations No Fee, only a beautiful forrest with a fire pit and a picnic table and pull throughs. NO KIDDING. With “nothing to do” Doug and I watched the first half of Gone With The Wind…….very appropriate for the Civil War National Military Park..Vicksburg….that we toured the next day.
Day 2…..Vicksburg…..The “Key” Victory for the Union Army
We thought we would be moving up the Trace today but we were encouraged to visit this Civil War site. This is an enormous memorial to the Confederate and Union troops that fought one the the “key” battles of the American Civil War. It was the battle for control of the Mississippi River in the South. This was a battle waged over an approximately 7 month period with an actual 47 day siege on the city. The park spanned 16 miles of battle fields. I had not realized the 620,000 lives were lost during the Civil War. Roughly 1,264,000 American soldiers have died in all the nation’s wars–620,000 in the Civil War alone and 644,000 in all other conflicts. It was only as recently as the Vietnam War that the amount of American deaths in foreign wars eclipsed the number who died in the Civil War.
While we were in one of the museums that housed a restored iron clad boat (one of six produced for the war) we started talking to couple of other tourists. Doug wears his 101st Airborne hat because it often starts some very interesting conversations with total strangers. There is a certain affinity within the ranks of the military that we outsiders don’t understand. Steven was a retired Army aviator and had served at Fort Campbell where Doug was stationed for two years after finishing his residency. Well, I should have just gone and taken a nap…..this conversation went on and on. It turns out Steve had worked with Bob Johnson, Doug’s best friend and the person we were going to be spending some time with at Fort Campbell. To top it off, Steve also knew John Mihalka, the son of our friends Denny and Mary from Redding and Long Beach. Their son John is an aviator graduate from West Point that gave up his commission and became a Warrant Officer in order to continue what he loved best…flying. True aviators love to fly! Small world.
Day 3….we have only gone 60 miles
Another of many interesting places along the Trace. I was keeping my eye out for those “logs with eyes” (‘gators) and glad I had turned in my flip flops for hiking boots. We had been warned that there are 6 species of poisonous snakes here.
This place turned out to be an amazing stop. The population is 176 with an additional 150 students enrolled in the French Camp Academy…..total 326. It is a small American town but with a VERY big heart. It was established in 1838. The entire town works to support the mission of the Academy….”French Camp Academy is an interdenominational Christian boarding school. Striving to feel more like a home away from home and push toward academic excellence, French Camp Academy accepts students from first through twelfth grades who are interested in a fresh start in life. They provide a safe, healthy, community for young people from all over the country nestled in tall southern pines located in rural Mississippi away from many distractions and negative influences of our culture. Their goal is to educate academically, develop sound character qualities and an inspiring work ethic, develop skills and talents, open doors of opportunity, mentor and counsel for social and emotional maturity, and lay a Christ-centered foundation on which to build a successful life.”
The one thing I particularly liked was the work program. Each student works 10-15 hours a week. This helps offset their tuition. They pay according to family ability or not at all. A student is never turned away due to inability to pay. Besides a diploma they end up with a work resume. Some of the skill development opportunities are in radio broadcasting, horse care, building maintenance and management, clerical skills, photography, quilting and needlework, pottery, grounds keeping, woodworking, mechanics, photography, graphic design, and construction projects. Another component introduces juniors and seniors to resumé writing, interview skills, and exploring career fields.
We spent some time talking with the waitress at the little cafe at the Academy where we stopped for “Mississippi Mud Pie”. Besides enjoying her “drawl” we learned so much about the heart of this community. She was the 2nd person that day to mention how terrified she is about our country’s national debt. There is no grocery store…the downtown is about 1/2 block long. It seems when you have a “mission” in your life, life is certainly fulfilling as demonstrated by the folks we met. This town actually works to ensure that the Academy succeeds in offering these often troubled kids a new life. They all know the reason the town exists is “the kids”.
Do you know the origin of the Apple logo? Just a thought… We were asked, is it linked to Genesis?
The night was spent in civilization at an RV park in Tupelo, Mississippi….the birth place of Elvis. I had almost forgotten what a great artist he was. You cannot go to Tupelo without actually visiting the King’s birth place. That is Doug sitting on the porch where Elvis was born. Did you know that Elvis was the 2nd of twins? He was born 30 minutes after his stillborn brother.
Send me to your favorite “hole in the wall” diner and I am a happy girl. Tonight we had SOUTHERN BBQ. I had fried green tomatoes, brisket, corn bread fritters, & sweet potato casserole. If I don’t stop this, I am going to look like a little sweet potato. Our RV stay was at a place call Barnes Crossing almost behind the big Visitor’s Center for the Trace. $35 Veteran discount and cash only “Obama does’t need to know our business” was their answer. I like their moxie – they are very direct.
4th Day on the Trace
Today we celebrate one month on the road. Someone asked me if we have wanted to kill each other yet……Doug has got to be the easiest person in the world to live with. I can’t even “pick a fight” with him….I have tried. However, every once and a while he will say “It is a good thing you are cute” which I interpret to mean “Hon, you have stepped on my last nerve”. So far, no need for Dr. Phil.
A small part of the Trace traverses the north western tip of Alabama. Can’t really say we “saw” the state. The number one food to taste in Alabama is “white BBQ sauce. What do you think it is? The predominate ingredient is mayonnaise. Doug’s two favorite food groups are peanut butter and mayo. We may not be able to pass this one up.
Our last night on the Trace was at The Meriwether Clark Camp Ground. It beautifully accommodated our big rig. Again no hookups, no Host, no cost. It was so incredibly dark. It rained and rained and rained. And, it is not cold. The RV felt like a steam bath. Made for a rather sleepless night…….ah but the morning was beautiful. We ran into a couple of other campers that were alone………I love having time to myself, but camping or hiking alone is not the least bit appealing to me.
Meriwether Clark of Lewis & Clark fame died a age 35….on the Natchez Trace. We have all heard of Lewis & Clark, but learning about them is fascinating. For us it began in Astoria Oregon which was the western terminus of their famous expedition, finding the mouth of the Columbia River. To become a part of this history making trip, one had to be the equivalent of a Navy Seal (or and ARMY Ranger) and have a skill that contributed to the success of the mission. The manner of his death remains a question……was it suicide or murder? The forensics of the time were questionable. Doug did point out that the pistols at that time only shot one round and had to be reloaded. With at least 2 gun shot wounds and his money missing, how could suicide even be considered?
What you don’t see, but you must imagine, is the sound of the wind, the smells, and the bird song. I read once that God made birds for our pleasure. Here, their sweet voices are everywhere. The wild flowers are everywhere, white, purple, pink, yellow, and red.
Leaving the Trace in Tennessee is an enormous double arched bridge. As we went to walk out on it, we saw this sign.
I could’t figure out what it meant, Doug did!
Our condo in Redding……from the front door you know you are in a condo development. But you walk to the back and you would think you are out in the country with a grassy knoll covered with oak trees, manzanita and wild black berry bushes and not another house in site. But, just over that hill is the I-5. The Trace is sort of like our condo, you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, when civilization is just around the bend or through the trees.
Louisiana April 11-16, 2016
Today we are exiting “the great state of Texas” and entering Louisiana known for Jazz, the French Quarter, Mardi Gras and humidity. Our goal was New Orleans which was 2/3 distance across the state. This required an overnight stop…….we overnighted in a rest stop that touted “overnight security”. This was already scarring me. Why did we need “overnight security”?
There was an immediate stark contrast from the prosperity of Texas to the somewhat depressed economy of Louisiana. There suddenly were billboards all along the freeway touting only two things….casinos and attorneys. Every sign for a casino had a disclaimer at the bottom with a 800 number to call for gambling addiction. Some lawmaker had its hand in this one.
In all fairness….have you ever looked at Los Angeles through the eyes of a tourist?
The other noticeable difference was the humidity. As it turns out, we were in the middle of the largest river fed swamp in North America, Atchafalaya. Can you say it? We learned that they have only two seasons in this particular Louisiana swamp…high water season & low water season. This explains why the trees looked like they were underwater along the causeway.
Four Days in New OrleansYou have heard me discuss the amenities of the various RV parks we have stayed in. This one, The French Quarter RV Resort, is located about 2 blocks from the French Quarter and perfect for walking (if you have pepper spray). It seems an unusual spot for an RV park…..flanked by a very very old cemetery (no one is buried underground in New Orleans due to the water table), the I-10 freeway, and industrial and abandoned buildings. It is probably the most expensive place we will stay on this trip at $105/night. The park itself is very nice and caters to very high end travelers. Compared to the $500,000-1 million dollar coaches around us….we fell like “Jed Clampett and his Beverly Hills Hillbillies.” We are surrounded by a Prevost Club Rally! After we moved in and we were all hooked up, we were told we were in the wrong space and “had” to move. We immediately made friends with our other “errant” neighbors and went to dinner with them. No one had to move and we made new friends with the couple from San Diego, John and Debbie.
We had our first taste of what Louisiana is famous for…. Gumbo, soft shelled crabs, charbroiled oysters, and bread pudding. The four of us ate at the Acme Oyster House on Iberville St.
We dashed back to our RV to watch our Long Beach neighbor, Caity Peters perform on The Voice. This was the week that the “people” could vote. The participants had been narrowed down to 24. One Half would not be returning. Sadly she went home. Keep your ears tuned, this is not the last you’ll hear of Caity Peters. Doug says “she is not a dancer or a prancer”, as the show seems to like, but a beautiful singer of soulful ballads and praise songs.
(Doug here – I really see her as having great talent but the “show and staging” of the TV show required action and “hip hop” antics. Her talent is her VOICE and her soul. Can you imagine Barbara Streisand jumping and hopping on stage? I can’t. Barbara, time to move over – Caity has arrived.)
Day # 1
I have never been in rain like this……..all night long and into the afternoon there was a down pour. If it rained like this for one day in California….the draught would be over. Not wanting to miss one minute of sightseeing, we went on a City Tour that took us from the French Quarter to the 9th Ward where the flooding following Katrina was most damaging. We drove out St. Charles Avenue near Tulane University where the homes are fabulous Southern mansions (one of these being being a model for staging of Gone With The Wind). St. Charles Ave. is the beginning of the Mardi Gras parade route.
The rest of the day was spent at the World War II Museum….originally called The D Day Museum. It has expanded to include the Pacific Theater. It is beautifully done with actual planes and tanks and war gear, interactive displays and narratives by men and women that were actually there.
I was born a few years after the end of the war. My father was essentially an orphan from England…his mom died in childbirth when he was 4, leaving no siblings, and his dad was a Merchant Marine. He came to the US and was raised by a family that were not relatives. My maiden name was Cheesebrough…very English. My father had polio as a child, so was not physically able to serve in WWII. Because I had few cousins or uncles….I grew up not hearing much about “the war”. It was only after I met Doug that the fascination about WWII started. His dad and all of their Southern California transplants were Vets. His dad was in the Army Air Corps as an aviation engineer and was actually in an airplane crash out of Long Beach Airport. All of their friends were also transplants in California working in the Aerospace Industry after the war. As you well might understand, I have heard story after story from the “supreme story teller” about his dad and WWII.
One of the things I learned today, that I never realized until now, was that our entire world could have be ruled by tyrants like Hitler……we were on the brink of this being a reality. All of our generation, the Baby Boomers, have lived a life of freedom because of our fathers. Once we were in the war, this entire country put their heart and soul into winning it. Can you imagine graduating from college and within hours being inducted into the service and wondering when your life was going to start? I feel like such a spoiled and unappreciative person when I read about all the sacrifice. Again, very emotional.
Doug here. One of the great quotes of the day was in a display of the new role of women in the war. It showed women being trained as welders and aircraft mechanics. Underneath it read “Aircraft can sink battleships and women can build aircraft” . You bet they can – and they did!
On a lighter note….we ran into friends from Redding outside the museum….a half a world away. New Orleans had been invaded by four additional Redding ladies celebrating a “29th” birthday.
Doug is a meat & potato type of guy….never very experimental with his food and not much of a fish eater. He has ordered fish both nights here. Tonight was fish tacos at Kingfish in the Quarter. Andy, these were almost as good as yours.
Day # 2
Again, it rained most of the night. Everything is damp. Our day got started a little late since we had to move the RV. Our new found friends, Debbie & John Giiaquina, are on their maiden voyage, moving their brand new RV back to San Diego.
We are fascinated by the enthusiasm of the locals about their city. They are very proud of how the city has been rebuilt after Katrina – a long 11 year process. We happened upon a tour driver retelling his personal experience during the unexpected flooding following Hurricane Katrina. If you didn’t have someone to move in with out of the area, you had no place to go. This man spent 2 years living in Philadelphia waiting for his home to be rebuilt. Where would you work or make a living while waiting to come “home”? It was harrowing. We are often quick to criticize how this tragedy was handled, but can you imagine dealing with unexpected flooding when all the communications systems, except am radio, were knocked out by the hurricane just before the flood? Can you imagine a world without cell phones or the internet, even for a few days?
Doug and I saw one big hospital that sits empty surrounded by barbed wire. It never reopened after Katrina. We are told there are several others.
Imagine being a nurse working at that hospital – the flooding happened at 6 am. You can’t leave. No one can come to relieve you and you couldn’t get home anyway. You have no communication with your family or with the families of your patients. Where are you kids? It’s hot and there is no ventilation. You can’t even open the windows. Your supplies are running out. All electricity is shut off. You must ventilate your respirator dependent patient by hand! The oxygen supply system is gone. When do you stop the hand ventilation? The hospitals became morgues. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror.
We walked to the waterfront (Mississippi River) and Cafe Du Monde for beignets. It is open 24 hours a day and closed only on Christmas and for the occasional hurricane. These are fried dough with powdered sugar on top. This is equivalent to eating three donuts. We did this so late in the day that we were not hungry for dinner. I hate to miss one meal in this city of wonder food. We walked through the French Market which had become a bit shabby and touristy, as has Bourbon Street. As our Swamp Tour guide mentioned, “the locals don’t go there”. We found that one pass was enough and thoroughly enjoyed the street music.
The evening found us back at City Park….1200 acres of wonderful beauty. It is slightly larger than Central Park in New York. It is home to many many activities. We stopped in at a concert with local Jazz and happened upon the night lights of a temporary exhibit call China Lights….you can guess what Doug was doing. We had hoped to do an earlier bike ride, but we were exhausted and needed a nap.
Day #3 Swamp Tour
This can only by described in a picture show. We did choose a swamp barge instead of a ride on an air boat. It was peaceful, warm, out of the rain, quiet, and fun to watch the kids fascination with the alligators and other reptiles available for “petting”. A great suggestion by Lori Goyne. One of the people selling tours sort of suggested that Doug and I were too old for an air boat.
Doug and I have made a big mistake by eating lunch late….we are not hungry at dinner time. We did it again at a small diner called Pier 51. I had crawfish chowder. We asked the waitress “how do you eat crawfish?” A patron at a table near us gave us a few of his and instructed us on how to twist the little body and pull it apart, suck on the head, and maneuver the itty bitty body out…tasty, but I think I would rather eat a raw oyster.
Final thoughts on New Orleans…….there is so much more to see. As always, the more we see, the more we want to see. The weather has been oppressive with what feels like 100% humidity and we have not seen much of the sun. One of the last things our Swamp Boat captain said was Louisiana wants to be remembered as “friendly” by its travelers. The folks of New Orleans love their city and it shows. New Orleans is far, far more than the side show that is the French Quarter.
Last bit of information….30% of the residents have never returned after Katrina.
On to Natchez, Mississippi!
One goal Bonny and I created for this trip was to seek out friends now scattered across the U.S. and set up “reunions”. Unfortunately, our lives do not come with a “rewind button” so you can’t wait too long. We decided to be proactive and go see friends. We, of course, assumed they wanted to “see” us but that may just be our egos speaking. We haven’t been turned down yet!
There were two reunions in Houston. The first, was with Jim Livesay and his lovely wife, Robin. Jim and I were about two years apart in our UCLA residency days. Jim is from Texas and has that laid back, gregarious personality so common of Texans (Jim, that is a compliment!). We became friends and shared a few adventures together in our younger residency years. I am referring to an attempted flight from Santa Monica to Mammoth for a weekend of skiing. We were in a Cessna 172 and I was flying. After being tossed and pushed through the sky as we started up the long valley from Mojave we decided that the turbulence was too much for us and landed in a small town and rented a car. We enjoyed the skiing and the smoooooth flight home 2 days later. Jim and Robin were married toward the end of our residency. They moved to Houston, where Jim has established himself with Dr. Denton Cooley as a premier cardiac surgeon. He is wrestling with retirement decisions as I know only too well. It was great to share a meal with them both – Sunday we went to church together for a special morning. Good friends make good memories. Thanks, Jim and Robin.
The second reunion is difficult to describe so I will ask the reader to bear with me. As a surgeon from 1971 until my “retirement” in 2014, I have operated on many patients and dealt with many, many families during difficult and anxious times.
This is a story of one of those patients and her family. In 1971 I was a senior medical student at UCLA and taking an elective rotation in Pediatric Surgery. A beautiful, little, two year old girl named Felice Pampolina was admitted to our service at UCLA. She had been diagnosed with a neuroblastoma with probable lung involvement. This particular tumor is a very aggressive childhood solid tumor of primitive neurological tissue. She was a delightful, beautiful little girl accompanied by very similar parents and grandparents. They were a strong Italian family focused on this brave, small little girl
I have NEVER, EVER forgotten Felice and her parents and all that happened so long ago. This little angel died of her tumor after two or three weeks of surgical biopsies, attempted resection and other frustrating treatment attempts. The great medical center, and the great practitioners were powerless to stop her disease or to help her. We were all humbled and frustrated. This little girl and her family became so special to the nurses, medical students and the residents that we all were devastated when the inevitable came. I knew that dreaded moment would come. In my heart I remember saying something like, “No, God not her, not now, not ever.” Her death was very hard to deal with for us all on that Pediatric service on that dark day. Her passing challenged all our faith beliefs and we all asked “Why?”
The other loss that sad day was that the wonderful family, the kind grandparents, the gentle beautiful mother, the gregarious ever present father were all gone – gone from our lives forever! It was done.
Over the many years I have always wondered – how are they? Did they stay married after the loss of their first child? If so, did they go on to have other children? Are they happy? What has transpired over the 45 years after this devastating death so long ago?
Fast forward to December 2015. After telling her about Felice, Bonny encouraged me to try and find the Pampolina family. With the help of Google I found Felice’s mother, Ginger, as a real estate agent in Houston Texas. I will jump past all the phone calls and emotion and excitement and say that we all agreed to meet at their home for a real Italian Sunday Family Pasta Dinner and celebrate Felice! After those phone calls, Bonny and I added Houston to our cross country trip.
Last Sunday was the day. It was a healing and wonderful day for me beyond descriptive words. I found the same special, warm, life loving family that I remembered from UCLA! YES they are married and happy, YES they had two more children who both came to dinner. It was wonderful to meet Phil, Ginger, Carla (Queen Bee), Damon (the Entertainer) and his lovely wife, Jennifer. The real entertainment for the evening was provided by Damon and Jennifer’s energetic son, Roman.
We talked about those dark days and how Phil and Ginger adjusted. We had conversations about the grandparents (now deceased). We talked about their eventual move back to their beloved home state of Texas. And we talked about Felice for a long time. Bonny and I were shown family pictures of Felice as an infant. We simply enjoyed being reunited and being in a home so filled with love. Finally, my questions from 45 years ago have been answered – all except “Why?”.
To this day, the family regularly visits a small little grave on a hillside in Rose Hills Cemetery just off the 605 freeway. There they honor their little angel with birthday flowers. Felice is still very much alive in their hearts and memories – and now ours. Thank you, Felice, for bringing us all back together in 2016. Bonny and I will be visiting Rose Hills soon – you are still very much loved and remembered. Someday, I may understand the answer to my question, “Why?”
San Antonio, Texas 4/6-4/8/2016
Today we travelled the short distance from Austin to San Antonio…… just a short travel day. I decided to get a pedicure upon arrival…my feet have gotten way too far from my eyes (Presbyopia is setting in, Bonny ). I felt right at home at a Vietnamese salon. For dinner we went across the street from our RV park to a little Mexican restaurant where no one spoke English – except for us.
I was a little under the weather yesterday and didn’t do my “due diligence” readying the coach for departure for San Antonio. While we were driving we heard a crash, but couldn’t determine the source….until we tried to put our slide out. On investigation we found a block with knives had fallen off the counter and 2 knives got wedged in the mechanism of the slide out. This had a potential catastrophic outcome. We could live with the slide in the “in position”, but you cannot drive with it protruding even an inch. This could have resulted in hauling the coach to a Freight Liner yard and being some what dismantled to retrieve the errant knives. Fortunately with some maneuvering, Doug was able to recover the knives. Lesson learned. ……follow your preflight check off list…always.
All over Dallas there were enormous pictures of photos claiming to be taken with an I Phone 6S. …they are stunning. About 4 years ago Doug decided to guide me into the 20th century. I was hell bent not to give up my flip phone….who cared about texting? I was having some minor knee surgery…this meant I couldn’t escape. He decided it was the perfect time to introduce some new technology. Our household was converted entirely to Mac. He gave me an I Phone and an I Pad and the iPad book for “Dummies”. He has always been dismayed that I never read an operations manual. I did learn to functionally use all these devices. Then two years later he decides to get a Samsung Galaxy??? I couldn’t even figure out how to answer it , let alone use GPS. Again a lot of grousing….he purchased an IPhone 6-S yesterday and has been in heaven reading the manual and adding apps….we are again on the same page. Upon reflection, I am seeing a pattern in my life (taken 69 years)…. I don’t change with ease. I have had only 2 jobs, with both lasting 20-25 years each. We still own the same house in Long Beach that was purchased in the 1970’s. I was born and raised and lived in Long Beach for 63 years. Where was I going with this???…..the pictures and video from the phone are amazing. Many of our future pictures will be from this phone. I wonder if this means I don’t have to schlep Doug’s camera bag and tripod any more…..nice. (Doug here – don’t get too excited yet Bonny)
April 7, 2016 San Antonio, Texas
Doug picked the RV park in San Antonio, Traveler’s World, specifically because it was on the River Walk Bike and Hiking Trail. This is a recent addition in the city and is 12 miles of paved and beautifully landscaped grounds that run along the San Antonio River is in the downtown surrounded by hotels and restaurants was where we had Texas BBQ….it wasn’t exactly gourmet, but after 2 margaritas, it all tasted good. I don’t think Doug or I have had a loaded baked potato in over 3 years. With Texas BBQ there seems to be little offering of vegetables….Doug loves it when there is no green on his plate. It had been 85 degrees during the day which made for a balmy beautiful evening.
April 8, 2016…To the Alamo and beyond
Today we headed towards town on our bikes. We met Ray on the bike trail, asked directions to the Alamo, and he personally escorted us to the front door. Ray is the first person we have met in San Antonio that is a resident….every single other person was a tourist, like us. He took a “short cut” and showed us through the King William section of town where the big old original homes were built. Then we wove our way through down town traffic, turning from left hand lanes into traffic……….it was scary.
As nice as the River Walk Trail was, there were some bugs…..I accidentally opened my mouth and got some unwanted protein….I am not a bat, so it wasn’t particularly enjoyable.
The Alamo is smack dab in the middle of downtown San Antonio and actually seems dwarfed by its surroundings. I think I finally have some understanding of how Texas came to be its own country( for a while ) and the huge Mexican influence of the area. Did you know that people from the US were encouraged to move to Mexico with large land grants….you had to become a Mexican citizen, convert to Catholicism and learn to speak Spanish! These American were referred to as “Texians”. That is an immigration policy advanced by the Mexican government! There are parts of that I could support today.
While we were riding on the trail, we met a couple from Great Britain. They said they were “SKI-ing”. Odd……Spending Kid’s Inheritance. They took every opportunity when school was on holiday to visit the USA. They have visited all but 3 of our states. They are going to Hawaii for her 50th birthday. Of course the topic came up of how the US is perceived in Europe. Seems they too have much the same trouble we do in getting unbiased news. She said rather sheepishly that the way Donald Trump is portrayed to the European audience makes the USA seem rather laughable.
As I mentioned before, our new favorite Mexican restaurant is across the street from our RV Park. Our waitress and the owner spoke very little English and had a hard time explaining the ingredients of mole sauce…something I have never before tasted. Last night, by the time we left, the place was full and we were the only Gringos to be seen. Dinner $22 & that included 2 beers.
Doug and I have both experienced first hand how illegal immigration has affected the economy of California. There is a very different feel here in San Antonio, a positive vibe, if you will. The Texas and American Flag can be seen everywhere. Driving into Huston, at one point, I saw 5 Texas and USA flags at one time. Texans are proud of their state and proud of the USA and proud of the Mexican roots of the Texan culture. Today’s Texas culture descends from the Texians and the Tejanos.
4/9/2016 Driving to Huston
Doug is fascinated sighting a single young blonde, thin 18 wheel truck driver. Not the typical female truck diver at all. I believe he is planning a scientific study. So far he has found one!
This is how Texans apparently deal with a traffic jam. I saw this once in Redding also.
We had dinner with a fellow surgical resident of Doug’s from UCLA, Jim Livesay and his lovely wife, Robin. He is a cardiac surgeon at the Texas Heart Institute and is nearing retirement. We also attended their church, Christ the King Presbyterian Church….a relative traditional Presbyterian Church minus the robed choir. It is a new church that has grown quite fast and had predominantly young families. Doug and Jim enjoyed reliving their exciting times at UCLA as co-residents.
I have read Travels with Charley twice and loved the fact that John Steinbeck attended church where ever he was on Sunday……too bad we won’t be in New Orleans next Sunday.
Our time in Huston has not been spent sightseeing, it has been “people seeing”. Doug will explain the Sunday afternoon we spent with the Pampolina’s This reunion was very emotional. We all found ourselves getting teary eyed at times. I was very touched at how interested their two adult children were in learning about the sister they never knew, little Felice.
Here are some homes in their beautiful neighborhood. Theses homes with pools are available for a fraction of the cost of southern California homes – and no state income tax!! They do have property taxes that are somewhat above California. I did mention No State Income Taxes!
A few last thoughts about Dallas
Doug and I have been on the go from dawn to dusk for the last 3 days and I am pooped. With Matt’s help and driving skills, I think we got a good introduction to the city. What I did not see in Dallas was an RV traveling through the city, graffiti, or an abandoned grocery cart.
Before we left Redding you could say I was grouching about missing Spring there. Guess what???……Spring happens in other states too!!! The highways around Dallas are green with beautiful pink, orange, and purple wildflowers. We just learned that Lady Bird Johnson actually had wildflower seeds spread along the state’s highways. Interesting. Dallas and Redding temperatures seem similar. As Matt says “when it snows in Dallas the entire city shuts down”. He is pretty sure the state only owns one snow plow. Sounds like Redding. Also the temperatures are in the triple digits during the summer months. We both really loved Dallas.
4/04/2016 On to Austin
Today we traveled a short three hours to Austin. Monday night our neighbor from Long Beach, Caity Peters, went on to win yet another round on The Voice. Caity, you are an amazing young lady. Next week the audience…the TV audience….gets to vote. You might want to tune in to ABC next Tuesday and cast your vote.
About 9 pm, we decided to drive into Austin for a quick peek. We ended up at the Capital Building and guess what………it was open to the public until 10 pm. It is a replica of the US Capitol except, typical of Texas, it is 14 feet taller. Also the State Troopers that were manning the metal detectors were carrying M-16s. It was kind of weird seeing such big firearms….but then it is Texas.
4/05/2016 One day in Austin
Today is the Wisconsin Primary. As of this writing, we don’t know who prevailed Cruse or Trump……Hilary or Bernie.
Because we only have one full day here, we took a minivan tour of the city and Hill Country. After fortification in a charming beer garden on 6th Street call Easy Tiger, we did a 9 mile bike ride around Lady Bird Lake (which is really a river). The sun was out and the trail was well traveled. There were folks out in kayaks, paddle boards, and crew boats. The Texas state crew finals will be held here in a couple of weeks.
Austin is a much older appearing city than Dallas with much road work and building going on. The population continues to grow and reached 2 million this year. It is considered the Silicon Valley of the Southern US. There would be so much to explore here, we regret having only one day. Again our RV park is beautiful with sites under big oaks….hence the name Oak Forrest. Full hookups, with Doug’s military discount, only $30 a night. The drive into Austin is about 7 miles. We were advised to stay off I 35 because it is a parking lot much of the time…true. The campus of the University of Texas at Austin is in town. It employs 25,000 and enrolls 50,000 students. It has the 8th largest football stadium in the US. It has an enormous endowment but the money can only be used for buildings not tuition or scholarships. There is a brand new Medical School and hospital being build on the campus.
We arrived in Arlington, a suburb of Dallas and part of what they call the MetroPlex. The sky was cloudy and becoming more threatening. Just as we were heading out to meet my friend Irene Benjamin for dinner, the heavens opened and we were treated to a thunder and lightning storm with the treat of hail. Doug was fearful of what hail could possibly do to our rig. Just a few weeks prior there was a hail storm that did considerable damage in this very RV park. One neighbor had 400 dents in the body of his truck. Apparently mobile dent repair is very big business in this area in the spring. The RV has vulnerable antennas and skylights on the roof.
Irene is a good friend of ours from Long Beach. She was one of the first tenants Paul and I had when we bought our first apartment building. Irene selected us to be her daughter’s God parents. Irene eventually helped us care for both our parents in their later years. She lives her faith and we love her for it….a great inspiration. She introduced us that night to Texas BBQ…Yummmmmmmmmmmmm.
Every where we have gone out of California, gas is around $2 a gallon – even under $2.00 here in Texas. Our last 100 gallon diesel purchase was at $1.88 a gallon!
A little about Texas….the Metroplex of Dallas has a population of just under 7 million, same as as LA county. There is no state income tax, but the property tax for Dallas County is 2.53% of assessed value.. That seems high, but we are told you can buy a 4-5 bedroom house in the suburbs with a pool for $320,000. That is not so bad either. Matt said that most of the people he has met were not born here. Everywhere we traveled in the city (exhibits, museums, restaurants) people asked us to “come to Texas!”.
RV Parks are not equal. Some have every amenity with absolutely no charm. Here in the Tree Top RV Park there are over 300 sites and it is charming. This park has mature oaks everywhere.
My guess is it was built many many years ago out far far in the country. Today it is less than a mile from one of the most beautiful and extensive shopping areas I have every seen. I did read that there are more shopping malls in Texas per capita than any other place in the US. This proved to be true as we explored.
Today we ventured into Dallas to meet Doug’s son, Matt, and his partners in his impressive office in North Dallas. Wow look at this view. Matt is a Major League Baseball agent and attorney in Dallas. This is his dream job. He loves his job, his associates and boss. He loves and lives baseball!
We also found out that despite Google Maps, Dallas 5 pm traffic is just as bad as LA. With all the construction, a driver, and a navigator (me), we found it hard to navigate the city. Matt came to the rescue as our tour guide and driver.
Speaking of happy sons, if it weren’t for my recent Face Book membership, I probably would have missed this picture. This is a picture of my oldest son, Sean, at his promotion ceremony to Batallion Cheif for the City of Orange. He is flanked by my other two sons, Christopher and Andy. How they all ended up in the Fire Service beats me. Christopher is an engineer for LA County and Andy is a fireman in the Long Beach Fire Department. I am so proud of them but, most of all, I am happy that they are happy in their chosen profession. There is a certain camaraderie in the fire service that you often don’t find in other professions
April Fool’s Day
We started the day in the Historical District called West End at a restaurant called Ellen’s….breakfast served all day. I was adventuresome and tried a fried tomato salad and side of cheesy grits. Loved it. I don’t think I could find either dish in Redding!
The day started at Dealey Plaza, the famous site where John F. Kennedy was shot. We all remember where we were on that morning in November 1963. I was a senior in high school and practicing for Poly’s homecoming game. Doug was helping build a huge bonfire for Big Game at Stanford. Dealy Plaza is smaller than I imagined.
A few days later we spent an afternoon on an audio tour of the 6th Floor Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly fired the fatal shot. It is a beautifully done museum detailing the history and events of that sad time. Doug was surprised that, as detailed as this tour was, nothing (nanda, zip, zero) mentioned about what happened at the hospital nor were the observations of the trauma surgeons that cared for him presented. Doug remains very skeptical because the the attending surgeons’s observations of the original wounds do NOT support the Warren Commission conclusions of a single assassin. (Click Here for Doug’s thoughts) Did you know that a Congressional Commission on Assassinations (published in 1979) found that there is high probability the president was killed as the result of a conspiracy and that there were probably two gunmen? Interestingly these newer conclusions have never made it into school history books.
I was surprised at how emotional this trip back in history was for me. I found myself tearing up at many of the familiar photos. (See Doug’s attached notes)
The Perot Museum was our next stop… four floors of fabulous exhibits from skeletons of enormous prehistoric mammals, to longitudinal slices of the human body, MRI’s of the brain, gems stones, to displays of oil excavation. We wished we had allowed more time.
At 6:30 pm we met Matt at DBU (Dallas Baptist University) for a baseball game. He and his partners were watching a couple of future MLB prospects. This is the most beautiful college campus I have ever seen. It was like a movie set….rolling hills near a beautiful lake. The church is the center of the campus. It is a school of 5,500 students. The baseball stadium was consistent with the rest of the architecture of the campus….red brick. Guess what…..no beer was served at the concession stand!
I love Dallas. We spent the afternoon at the George Bush Presidential Library on the campus of SMU (Southwest Methodists University). This library is in downtown Dallas and is bordered by a residential area called Highland Park. This is an area of large trees surrounding beautiful old homes – sort of like Tierra Oaks or Virgina Country Club on steroids. The Library is actually on the campus of Southern Methodist University – yet another beautiful college campus.
This beautifully done museum/library details President Bush’s contributions to our history. He is a man of faith and led this county based on the principles of that faith. His presidency encompassed 9/11, the Iraq war and the removal of Saddam Hussein, the Iraq occupation, hurricane Katrina, the “surge” and the financial crisis.
Again I found myself very emotional at the 9/11 exhibition. As with the Kennedy assassination, we all remember where we were when our nation was attacked. Two of my favorites exhibits were the life size replica of the Oval Office decorated exactly as it was when he was in office. We got our picture taken there. This may be the closest Doug or Matt comes to being President – well Matt is still thinking about it!
Matt lives in a area call Uptown. A Yuppie neighborhood (can I still say that?) that reminds me much of Westwood CA,…very alive. He treated us to a beautiful evening at a restaurant on the edge of Klyde Warren ParkPark. This is a 3 block long park in the heart of downtown Dallas. According to Matt, a rich Dallas man bought this park for his youngest son. He didn’t feel this particular son had enough sense of responsibility so he told him he needed to keep the park clean. Concerts are held on the grass. Our pictures can’t show the smells, or wind, or the sounds of kids on the playground. It was simply alive and this beautiful balmy afternoon that turned into the night sky line of Dallas.
We were up early to drive back into Dallas. Because of the location of our RV park we had a 30 minute drive in and out of Dallas….things are actually starting to look familiar. We decided to attend a church that is located the center of the downtown. It is a “mega” church called First Baptist of Dallas. The pastor is Robert Jeffers is familiar to us as a Fox News contributor. The original church is very traditional with brick, leaded glass windows and steeples. The newer church literally “encompasses” the old church as part of its inner structure. It has approximately 10,000 members and has a worship hall that holds 3,000. There was a 160 member choir and a full orchestra. Doug was in seventh heaven with the music like Amazing Grace. He spotted a large pipe organ and said “Now I’m in a real church” – he loves organ music.
Upon arrival we were met in the parking structure and escorted by a greeter assigned to new guests. He introduced us to another greeter that showed us the diversity in age and ethnicity of those attending the service. At least half of the men were in suits and ties and half the women wore dresses and high heels. Refreshing!
Tomorrow, Monday, we pack up our RV house and “move on down the road” to Austin the state capital. More to follow…
It is hard to go to Dallas and not recall the Kennedy assassination. Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the sad news.
I am going to take a surgeon’s approach to the wounds as reported by the treating surgeons. There were three faculty (senior)trauma surgeons present in the ER treating Kennedy. To this day, all three have identified the small ANTERIOR neck wound (pencil diameter) as a probable ENTRY wound. In addition, these experienced trauma surgeons identified the POSTERIOR right sided skull wound as an exit wound. Importantly, these three men were the ONLY trauma experienced physicians to examine the President – ever. Their direct observations totally undermine the Warren Commission’s (desired) conclusions of a single shooter from BEHIND the president . The surgeons observations of probably two frontal entrance wounds mean there were at least TWO assassins. It also means that the Warren Commission ignored evidence of a conspiracy knowingly. The Who? and Why? thus remains unexplored and unexplained to this day.
The autopsy on President Kennedy was performed by Navy pathologists at Bethesda Naval Medical center who were NOT forensic pathologists and were not experienced in evaluating gunshot wounds. The surgeons from Parkland hospital were extremely experienced in evaluating gun shot wounds treating several hundred a year! These three experienced surgeons have testified and presented their observations but have largely been ignored. In fact investigators went to great effort to challenge their opinions and try and bend them into compliance with the convoluted “magic bullet” theory advanced by the Commission.
Suffice it to say, if a high velocity rifle round exited the neck near the trachea there would not have been a trachea to evaluate much less operate on. Remember this is supposedly the same weapon and bullet type that destroyed Kennedy’s head but somehow left a pencil sized exit hole??? Not likely at all. I believe the Parkland Trauma Surgeons.
Passing through El Paseo, population 650,000, our first impression was an absolutely beautiful Texas State visitor’s center.....a great resource for all we want to see.
In El Paso itself we saw areas of houses that were, let’s say, less than moderate. However, We didn’t see one single bit of graffiti anywhere. There is a lot of road reconstruction here and the new freeways are actually architecturally beautiful.......In the 400 miles we have travelled into Texas......still not a speck of graffiti. I find that amazing. So unlike LA ! Graffiti is an art form I don’t particularly appreciate. A few facts about the Lone Star State...it became the 28th state in the union in 1845 after becoming a stand alone country, The Republic of Texas. Texas was segregated until the 1960’s. Coming from Southern California, that is a piece of history I find difficult to comprehend. It was predominately agriculture and ranching until the discovery of oil in 1901. The speed limit on I-10 is 80 miles an hour. We settle in at 65 because we are towing. The first night out, we stopped at a rest stop on the highway. Because we were in the middle of no where, with no ambient light, the night sky was spectacular!!!! Pluto, Orion, the Big Dipper, the Milky way.....things we have been able to identify since 3rd grade...they really are there, the difference being, I could really see them. We were told that many of the people that move to Las Cruces do so to star gaze. Doug and I tried to eliminate the noise that night from the big trucks that seemed to come by frequently....we brought the slides in to plug the hole in the coach and I could only find one ear plug.......result....a fitful nights sleep. Every time I rolled over, I had to switch the ear plug to the other ear and when I had to get up the bathroom, I had Doug’s sleeping legs to crawl over. At 70 the stiffness settles in about 30 minutes after you lay down...you get the picture. The scenery for the last 400 miles has be bleak with remnants of the oil industry, farming and ranching.....very flat with little color...except for some wild flowers that are starting to show their pretty heads. Comparing this to the drive between Sacramento and the Grapevine......it makes the Sacramento jaunt look like Disneyland. Speaking of heads...I haven’t washed my hair for three days. I woke up this morning, looked in the mirror and thought to myself “You look like Albert Einstein minus the IQ.
Speaking of IQ.....Doug is my go to guy. He is smarter than Siri and tells much better stories. We really never get bored or run out of things to discuss....we are still pretty early in this adventure...day 9 out of 110. Tonight we spent the night in a bleak RV park off the highway, but next to the railroad tracks. It is a combination of junk yard and RV hookups with pull-throughs (didn’t have to unhook the Jeep) We had a yummy dinner of baby back ribs and an artichoke, fresh biscuits, and chocolate chip cookies...I do cook well on the road. We settled down to the sound of Soft Rock and a good book...waiting for the thunderstorm that was forecasted. I am reading The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. Doug and I have also been listening to the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. What a gift of describing the minutia of life. Do you think our grand children would be as enthralled by the antics of a beetle in church or a purchased prized tick?
March 21, 2016 – The Takeoff
We are finally on the road about 2pm…..only six hours later than planned. Rain and then a downpour delayed our departure. Excuses excuses excuses. We call this “Carole Collins time”. Judging by everything we are taking, you would think we are going to a 3rd world country. Our coach weighed in at 30,840 lbs. fully loaded, 700 lbs short of maximum weight…..gee what else could I take?? Doug has done a remarkable job of making this a cozy home with ultra-filtrated water, new TV, Apple TV, Sirius Radio, & new tires, just to name a few. Did I mention that our bed is sooooooo comfortable? We are going to call this 400 sq. foot box home for the next 3 1/2 months OR until we have to call Dr. Phil. Rolling down the I-5 to the music of Elvis, we stopped 40 miles into our journey for lunch & then at 52 miles to take a nap. At this rate we will never make it to Texas. Our first night out we discovered that the running and brake lights on the RV didn’t work. Doug has been a plumber all his life, now he needs to become an electrician as well. As you know, Doug loves a challenge. Scanning the Tiffin forum and a call to Safari Bill yielded no answers on how to fix this dilemma. Well there won’t be any night driving until Dallas. It was late, so we slept in the rest stop with the truckers.
(Note: Doug fixed the lights in Las Cruces, NM. We are good to go now)
Call me crazy, but I love the drive between Redding and Sacramento. With the rain, everything is green, the Red Bud is in bloom, and we see fields of yellow wild flowers. Rice paddies, almond trees, olive & peach trees predominate with lots of grape vines springing up. On one web site I saw that they claim that marijuana is the number one crop in California.
March 22, 2016
Our second night out we stayed in an Elk’s Club in Redlands and Doug set up our satellite so we could watch our Long Beach neighbor Caity Peters win her 2nd round on The Voice……..go Caity. She has a remarkable earthy voice. Doug and I wonder if we were not living next to a future star in the making. Once we emerged from the Grapevine, it seems we saw nothing but asphalt jungle and desert until we left Phoenix. Wow has Phoenix grown. Phoenix
March 23, 2016
Spring break and spring training contributed to the feeling of a mad house. We did manage to meet Doug’s son, Matt, for a quick dinner before he flew out. Matt is a baseball fan as well as working as an attorney/agent for a MLB agency. He is a walking “google” when it comes to the game. When he was younger, he and Doug would travel in the RV to Phoenix and park in the parking lots at the baseball field where spring training would be taking place. From dawn to dusk Matt would wait for an opportunity to collect an autograph. Sometimes he would get his picture taken with a player, Doug would print it, and then Matt would wait for the player to emerge from practice for a signed photo. We are so happy he has transformed this passion into a profession.
One of my hiking buddies from Redding, Mary Self, gave me a list of one food each state is famous. Arizona’s is Prickly Pear. So I obliged with a Prickly Pear margarita. Not bad.
March 24, 2016 – Tombstone, AZ
(For More Tombstone Photos Click HERE)
Our 3rd night out we took a detour to Tombstone “The Town that was too tough to die” . It became famous for being one of the big boom towns that grew up during the silver rush and the infamous gun fight at the OK Coral. Today it survives by tourism only in a 3 by4 block area consisting of saloons, The Bird Cage Theater, Western attire shops, & ice cream parlors. Combining parts of Bill O’Reilly’s depictions of western characters, some internet research and a “ghost” tour, I am beginning to put together another piece of “how the west was won”. We learned that when men came to town they didn’t just park their horses in front of the saloon, but would board them at the OK Coral. Parking your horse in front of the saloon was like leaving your car with the doors open and the engine running….ripe for theft. We also learned that “cowboy” was considered a derogatory term back in 1882. Importantly we learned that the “gunfight at the Ok Coral” never happened there but up the street a block or two. Our guide said “who would ever have gone to see a movie called ‘The Gun Fight In the Middle of the Street’ “? The legend was created by Hollywood and has stuck.
(For More Tombstone Photos Click HERE)
March 25-27, 2016
Las Cruces, New Mexico We are staying at the home of Fernando and Susan Ravessoud and their children….complete with full RV hookups. Their home has a very typical adobe flavor located at the base of the Organ Mountains. Fernando is an orthopedic surgeon that Doug knew in medical school and then worked with at Long Beach Memorial. His wife, Susan, is a NP that also worked at Memorial. They have acres of property that they have populated with 6 horses, 8 cats, 4 Guinea hens, 22 chickens, and 2 dogs. The Ravessoud’s moved to Las Cruses to escape the medical environment of Southern California and for a less congested place to raise their children.
Las Cruses has a population of about 100,000 bordered by the Rio Grand River which is dry bed most of the year due to a dam up north. Primary crop is pecans and, you guessed it, chilies. It gets very windy and the humidity is 0. Around July they have a monsoon like month followed by the desert in bloom. We spend our first day building a chicken coop followed by an all you can eat BBQ with Fernando’s famous ribs, neighbors and colleague from the hospital. A surprise guest was a former medical school buddy of Doug’s.
This morning is Easter and we went to Holy Cross Catholic Church for Easter service. This congregation loves to sing. A couple of things I loved…..if you listen you can hear all the children, such a sweet sound. Because we were “late” we were seated in the very front….it was quite beautiful watching all the parishioners take communion. A very special Easter for us.
We walked the campus of New Mexico State University which is the primary employer in the city. We literally had the campus to ourselves. The evening was complete as we watched the sunset from the roof of a neighbor’s house….saying goodnight to Easter with, appropriately, a glass of wine.
The “food” of New Mexico is the chili. We had ample opportunity to sample this. When eating in a Mexican Restaurant in NM (I am not sure there is any other kind) you are always asked of you want your enchiladas “flat” or “rolled” and if you want red or green chili sauce.,,,I had enchiladas of breakfast this morning. Doug is rightly very proud of himself for fixing our electrical problem, eliminating any need to make an appointment in Dallas for our rig. At the conclusion of week one we have traveled 1,350 miles. Susan and Fernando are off to work this morning. We said goodbye last night…..it is off the TEXAS today!
We were expecting to hike in the Rain Forrest today, but, instead, the rain came to us. We are both feeling a little ragged and longing for the ‘road to the sun’. We have decided to head back to Redding.
HOME! HOME! we feel like E.T.
Today we thought we were going to hike to the top of the world, Hurricane Ridge. From that point you see a 360 degree vista of Victoria, BC, Northern Seattle, Pacific Ocean, The Straight of Juan DeFuca, and Mount Olympus. We did hike, but into a cloud or maybe it was heaven. There were times I couldn’t even see Doug. We saw deer and one very discriminating one that choose Doug’s Coors over Pepsi.
An interesting little town. In the late 1800’s this was the port the where the China Clippers docked. It was THE northwest trading center for the U.S. This was a thriving Victorian town until steam power replaced the sailing ships. This allowed ships to navigate Puget Sound under power. At about the same time (turn of the century) the railroads finally made their way to the west coast. Now large amounts of agriculture products and manufactured goods from America’s midwest could be brought to the new Pacific port of Seattle. Port Townsend essentially became a ghost town overnight. It was so quickly abandoned that the town could not afford to modernize and, therefore, didn’t tear down any of the buildings.
Today it is a tourist town with a downtown full of REAL Victorian buildings. It is caught in a time warp. I read somewhere it was called the “Paris” of the US…….I don’t think I would go that far.
Doug and I are still speaking to each other. No fighting either. As you that know him know…you simply cannot fight with Doug. He is a delightful traveling companion. He makes sure that all systems are go and also make all the travel plans and is the navigator as well. I am truly on vacation. Do you know how hard it is to keep 400 sq. feet clean? I can clean the whole coach almost without moving : )
Although I would love to explore Gig Harbor more, we are moving up closer to Port Angeles today.
We spent most of one day driving through the North part of Washington close to the Grand Coolie Dam ( the largest dam in the US). We are still amazed that this part of Washington is desert, dnot pretty or inviting in any way.
To continue on the “not so pretty note” we stayed at an Elk’s Lodge in Tacoma. Our spot was next to the side of the building. Inside there was a concert raging on with a band playing loudly. They said it would be over bymidnight. Did I mention that the front of the RV faces their container dump site? The price was right and we were tired. You won’t find nicer people than at an Elk’s Lodge though.
The next day was spent visiting with long time friends of Doug’s. First were friends from his Lamaze class when he and Benny were pregnant with Matt……Debbie and Robert Secombe. They have kept in touch for over 30 years. Debbie and Robert both have worked for American Airlines, he as a pilot and she as a flight attendant. They currently live on Fox Island in a home built in 1908 that they have restored. We get to see it tomorrow. The evening was spent with a classmate from Stanford, Carl and Jude Mundt.
They live on Bainbridge Island in a home that is right on the waters edge with a spectacular view of Puget Sound.
As the crow flies, there home was only 15 miles from us, but with all the islands and bridges to traverse, it took us over an hour to reach their home. We really thought we were imposing as they had just arrived home from a weekend of sailing their 40 foot sail boat. Carl delighted us with the most delicious halibut dinner and Jude with a wonderful strawberry crisp.
A couple of very interesting things we learned…….Bainbridge Island was the real setting for the book Snow Falling on Cedars. I remember loving that book. After seeing this area, I think it will be a reread. They, as a family also did a very interesting trip while their two girls were in 4 th and 7 th grade. They swapped homes with three families in Europe, home schooled their girls and traveled around the world for 15 months. As you can see, one evening with them was not nearly enough.
Yesterday we spent with Debbie and Robert. We originally were going to spend the day taking a ferry and exploring Seattle. I was a little under the weather, so we stayed at their house. It was so nice. Their home is on Fox Island and was built in1908. It was originally built on the water but was later moved to it’s present location. It is a little funky with many obvious additions that made it absolutely charming. I loved touring every single room. Robert is about 6’4″ and I am sure he has to bend some to enter a few of the rooms. We also walked a little and saw several deer. Debbie is a real animal lover and is involved with animal rescues. There was a sweet cat in almost every room.
This is the only desert in Canada with temperatures in the 3 digits range last week.
We are in Lake View RV Park looking across the street to a private beach. The surrounding area is desert like with lots of hills covered with vineyards. This morning I can see a group of women doing a boot camp on the beach. Maybe I should go for a walk. Actually, yesterday, Doug and I did a bike ride along this side of the lake after our short drive down here. It is a very crowded area with a range of accommodations from resorts to seedy camping sites. This park is tiered with 5th Wheels high above us. Each of the sites are individually owned and most are here for the summer. People get around in golf carts. We are considered “transients”. This is a far cry from our camp site at Lake Louise and twice as expensive. The girls would love it here. If the wind dies down, we may rent a kayak this afternoon.
This is truly a gem in Canada and a place we would like to spend a few more days. There are fresh fruit stand everywhere on the roadside. We would love to load up, but are not sure what will be confiscated at the border. Cherries, apples, and grapes are the predominant crops.
The wineries primarily do reds in this area. Had lunch with a view at the NK’MIP Resort. This is an Indian resort. We have been told that this chief is quite an entrepreneur and has a beautiful winery, restaurant, resort, RV Park, cultural center.
We also went to an iconic place called Tickleberry’s for ice cream. One of their flavors was “sweet & hot”. ….the sweet was mango with a vanilla base and the hot was jalapeño pepper. It was actually good when I tasted a small amount. I am so boring that I didn’t buy it. This little ice cream store was sort of out in the middle of no where. Doug and I walked in and it was swarming with people. Doug had no choice but to wait in line : ). (Doug here – I WILL wait for ice cream – always!)
Our final stop was a general hardware store that we were told we couldn’t miss seeing.
I was thinking, what is wrong with these people that a hardware store was a highlight of this town. It was like an Ace on super super steroids, 5 levels full of everything your little homey mind can imagine. We dropped $180 there 😁 (Doug here… WE Bonny, WE? I bought a single filter for the motor home – cost $12. Where’s Dr. Phil when you need him???)
Bonny and I have arrived into the land of WiFi and thus can now create the next chapter in our travel saga. This morning I will include some random photos from our adventures.
First the Grizzly Hunt:
Bonny and I rode a ski lift at Lake Louise into the mountains to walk a couple of trails. BUT things changed… when we met Olivia!
On the trail was Olivia – Bear 57! I took this photo at about 40 yards handheld and it turned out just fine! We were fine too. Olivia seemed more interested in digging in the dirt than following us.
Our hiking was curtailed and we of course retreated to a wonderful restaurant for dinner. Bonny still was wearing her Bear Spray canister in the restaurant! What a trooper!
This valley is known for its wine. There are multiple wine trails with 88 winerys total. Mel, you would love this. And… tasting we did. Because of the climate in Kelona and the Lake Country region in the northern end of the valley, mostly white wine is bottled there. We will be seeing more reds as we make our way south. Apparently it gets more desert like with a longer growing season ( up to 180 more days). We did go to 4 vineyards today. Unfortunately, you can’t ship the wine to the US. You can only bring 2 bottles per person back without paying duty. We were not able to find out what the duty actually is. Everyone said simply that it was “small”…no straight answers. It is a little discouraging to taste and not be able to purchase much. I can’t do 4 tastings in one day : ( It was fun seeing all the different vineyards. Only 84 to go : )
Today we leave these magnificent Canadian Rocky mountains via the Trans-Canada Hwy. These 250 miles are probably the roughest Doug has driven. If I didn’t have such faith in his abilities, I would have “white knuckled” much of the way….winding mountain roads, steep grades, rain, cliffs, two lane only roads, and roundabouts. I personally enjoyed the entire trip. It was beautiful entering the Okanagan Valley. This is lake country and known for its great grape growing climate-surprise! A Canadian Napa Valley. Picture green hills covered in grape vine and apple trees, farm land with corn, pastures with cattle and horses edged with beautiful blue lakes.
As usual we didn’t have reservations or the Internet to search, so as soon as Doug had cell service, he started to call. Our first choice was full and it even had 500 spots. That was a little worrisome. We were referred to Apple Orchard RV Park which was way off the beaten path. It has only 10 sites and is surrounded by apple and cherry orchards.
We sort of missed hearing the train every 2 hours at night, but the coyotes were out there. The sunset was awesome and Doug is in hog heaven with access to the Internet.
What a fabulous day!!!! Doug and I seem to get started way to late in the day. We did a “walk” along what they call the Bow River Loop near our camp grounds. It actually was too warm and we returned to our site and enjoyed a few hours reading. I hate finishing a good book. I have done that twice already on this trip, so have decided to read The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. Fall of the Giants is the first of three and I only have 29 1/2 hours of reading left. Yippee!! Doug is reading a couple of books and sometimes he reads to me. I love it.
Around 4:30 we decided to do the gondola ride in the ski area. It was so beautiful, you could see the glaciers above Lake Louise that are not visible from the lake. The ski area is very nice. Makes me wish I could ski.
The biggest treat of all was Olivia, bear #57. We saw her below us on the lift and then were treated to watching her forge all around the perimeter of the lift, actually on a trail we had hoped to hike. Doug got some very good photos of her. However the “Interpreter” person seemed quite anxious with her bear spray and Walkie Talkie. There was a similar electrified fence (as at the soft sided camp ground) there that seems to give the visitors (us) a sense of security she didn’t share. She repeated that this bear had gotten very frisky and social and that if she chose to go through the fence she would simply do so. I was ready to hop on the lift and head towards home.
Side note…We met a young family and asked them where they were headed…..Redding… to participate in Bethel Church.
How lucky does one get….we escaped with our lives and it started to rain just as we exited the lift. We decided to reward ourselves with dinner out (we see certainly couldn’t BBQ). We chose a place at The Post Hotel. WOW. We were admitted because we had the bottoms of our hiking pants zipped on….no bare legs in this place…..grubby hikers in a fancy French chateau …so we had chateaubriand and a bottle of wine. Before you start thinking I am really spoiled…we had soup from WallMart for the previous two nights. What I want to know is, who really lives likes this? Andy, we celebrated your birthday for you.
The rain is thumping on the roof of the RV as I write. I feel sorry for all those campers that expected to sit around a bonfire on a balmy summer night and even sorrier for the tent campers. I also wonder what the mosquitoes will be like tomorrow.
The Ice Field Parkway
At last I fell like I finally got to see a glacier up close and personal. We took the parkway about 90 miles north of Lake Louise just into Jasper National Park. Along the way we saw several glaciers throughout the day. Doug discovered a new phone app called GPySy Tour that followed our position on the parkway and narrated a description and gave us anecdotal information about what we were seeing…..it was great. I think I finally understand the difference between a glacier and an ice field and have a far greater appreciation of how these beautiful Rocky Mountains were formed. I am now a junior geologist!
If we ever are fortunate enough to return, I would like to hike the Wilcox Trail very near the Columbia Glacier Field. It is about a 3 hour hike with extraordinary views of the glaciers and mountains. This was recommended by one of the guides at the information center that found the swarms of tourists as unappealing as we did. There were long long lines of people waiting to board a bus onto the Athabasca Glacier. As you know, Doug has an aversion to lines….so that was never going to happen.
Our last stop on the way back to our camp was this beautiful and VERY rustic lodge called Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. If we weren’t expected back at the RV, we would have stayed for dinner. This was not the “try to look rustic look” but the real thing……I would have liked to stay longer.
We came back for a glass of wine with our new neighbors my from BC. They have been traveling since 2007 and have seen all of Canada and most of the U.S. wintering in Arizona, Florida, and Texas. They were leaving the next morning, so we had a lot to learn in a short time. The weather also changed and we were treated to thunder and lightening and a downpour instead of a camp fire.
A short word about Doug and the RV……He has done a wonderful job of making all of this work…..I have yet to be without power, fresh water, warmth, or a clean windshield. The many systems on this RV are mind boggling. Always the teacher, he is determined that I understand the difference between amps and volts and propane and a generator……this may take a lifetime : )
Today we went to Banff. It is approximately 30 miles southeast of Lake Louise down the Trans Canada Highway. It is much bigger than the town of Lake Louise and dominated by the famous Banff Springs Hotel. This is a castle like structure several stories high overlooking the Bow River and the water falls down river. The majority of our time was spent exploring the hotel and enjoying a dinner on an outdoor patio overlooking the valley. The view was stupendous. As usual, by the time I was starting to look in the shops, they were closing. (Doug here – good planning on my part!)
The town consists of several bustling streets overflowing with tourists, just like us. The day was especially warm, according to our server, at 87 degrees with a haze spoiling the view due to a couple of fires some where in Washington and Oregon and another in Jasper.
For this reason, we decided not to take the gondola to the mountian top. We were rewarded with the opportunity to watch two large deer that decided to hang out in the parking lot. They paid very little attention to the people gathered around.
Today started off late because of train noise and going to bed after midnight. We can’t seem to adjust to the sunlight at 10 PM! Anyway, took a wonderful bike ride along the Bow River which is right by the camp[ground. Upon our return to our campground we found we had new neighbors – all the way from Long Beach, CA!. What a coincidence. Anyway we had fun trading Long Beach stories. The two couples in their Bounder were returning from the Calgary Stampede.
About 8 PM we decided to go up to Moraine Lake just in the mountains above us. We planned to eat about 10 so we had time for a quick hike and pictures of the lake near sunset. Well, the sample pictures are below and Doug will publish the remainder when we have better internet access. It is a beautiful glacial lake with the same unique aqua coloring due to being fed by glacial runoff. See for yourself!
Doug and I have discussion “when does a walk become a hike?” We concurred that, if most of the women are carrying purses, it is a walk. Today we “walked” to the end of Lake Louise and then some. Beautiful. Doug’s pictures will prove that!
The lake is a chalky blue, almost milky in color from fine particles of rock that are scraped as the glacier moves down the mountain. The lake is fed by melting glaciers. The silt coming down the mountain is forming mud flats and the sediment that will eventually fill in the lake. The lake will become a meadow when the glacier ends. We wondered how long it will take before Lake Louise becomes a meadow but we will have to wait to get that answer. We believe that that is how Yosemite Valley was formed.
This trip has really shown us how dependent we have become on the Internet. So many of my ” why” questions go unanswered. Today we paid $2 for 15 minutes of Internet connection. Tomorrow they are having a special for $5 all day! You have to sit on the sidewalk or on a bench outside a small office called “The Depot” and have a wireless connection. Phone cellular data is crazy expensive. Verizon is selling us 100 megabytes ( megabytes now – 1/10th of a GB) for $25. That translates into $250 per GB. Our Verizon plan in the USA has 15 GB for $50 per month. If we bought that 15 GB here is would const us $3750 a month! I bet there is some fascinating governmental regulatory reason for this amazing difference.
We have actually considered coming back into the U.S. as we travel west just so we can text or make a phone call. I have even resorted to writing an occasional post card : )
The bike trails here are great, not paved but compact gravel.
This evening we went to a Ranger presentation on the Year in the Life of a Grizzly. Did you know that an adult Grizzly eats the equivalent of 75 Big Macs a day (200,000 Buffalo Berries a day) during the 6 months they are not hibernating? In addition, the sow grizzly will go into labor and deliver up to two cubs during hibernation! These babies are a little over 1 pound at birth and are hairless. Apparently she wakes up for the big event. Cleans up the cubs, shows them the food supply and goes back into her deep sleep while the cubs eat and grow. When spring time comes, they exit the den and start looking for Buffalo berries and tourists. Incidentally these cubs are not twins but the grizzly has delayed implantation of embryos from potentially several mates!
They have done a lot here in the park to protect the bear population as well as the human population. This large camp ground has an area for “soft” side camping and another for “hard” sided vehicles, like our RV. The area for tents is surrounded by a very unobtrusive fence that is electrically charged to keep the bears out of that area ( or is there to keep the people in?) – remember Jurassic Park? Our area is unprotected since we can keep our food easily secured and we can stay up at night counting the bears. (kidding) There is a train that comes near the park it seems every 2 hours day and night. We could not understand why the engineers seem to lay on the horn. Apparently the trains are the number one killer of bears in the park. Total number of bears counted is 60. The train is also the number one cause of insomnia and eventual psychosis in the campers, particularly if you are trapped inside of an electric fence for the night – !!
Another interesting thing they do here to protect the wildlife is called “twinning”. As we were driving on the highway into the park we noticed what appeared to be very short tunnels on the road. They are actually overpasses for the animals to get from one side of the busy highway to the other side. Does it really work, we asked? We were told that 10 species of large mammals use these. A great way to prevent road kill.
Doug accuses me of changing the subject without telling him where I am going with the conversation…..ATTENTION….. I am changing the subject and going back to our conversation with Harry and his wife (Black Foot chief) of July 4th. We asked them if referring to them as Indians was offensive or would they prefer to be called Native Americans. He was OK with either but prefers Native American. We also talked about all the controversy about current the trend of forcing team names to be be changed to be politically correct. Harry and Jana said the only term that is ” highly offensive” is the name Redskins. I was always taught the it was the Indians that scalped the white man. Harry said it was the English settlers that paid a bounty for Indian skins and scalps first, not the other way around….hence the name “redskin’. He also said that the price paid was different if the scalp was that of a child as opposed to an adult. It seems the brutality was horrendous on both sides. Doug and I have always thought this “Redskins” issue was silly bickering in a world with so many other important issues to address….talking to Chief Harry helped us see “Redskins” through the Chief’s eyes. A good day… a lesson learned and our opinion changed with knowledge of the origin of this name. The chief is fine by the way with Indians, Warriors, Braves etc. Those are honoring Native Americans. “Redskins” is a dark term of slaughter for bounty and the cheapening of human life.
How delightful it is to wake up surrounded by pine trees and sunshine. Yesterday, July 5th ,we woke up to rain, wind,clouds, puddles and mud. We weren’t very motivated to get started, so we didn’t. A late start and a border crossing into Canada yielded a beautiful drive through the prairie land of Alberta…..farming and ranching for as far a your eye could see.
Calgary is one of the biggest cities I have seen in a month and has a population of 900,000. It is very clean on the periphery with lots and lots of newer looking housing tracts. My question is why they were built so close together when there is so much land? I can’t answer that because we also don’t have any wifi access. Our phones and tablets are essentially off…the expense here for cellular Internet access is enormous. Could it be that Canada does not want its people glued to a machine? The subtle differences you see here are interesting. Everything is also written in French. You can’t buy liquor at Costco or WallMart. Our debit card was not accepted at Costco and their money looks funny! We arrived July 5th in Lake Louise about 9:30 at night but it was still daylight here in the north country!
Today we just explored and looked into what we want to see here. We tried to go to Lake Louise Chalet twice, but the traffic was so incredibly bad, we turned around. We will go early in the morning tomorrow. We started driving up towards an ice field, but got so enthralled with taking pictures of the wildflowers, that we never made it.
After an early dinner, we attended one of the ranger led shows in the camp ground on hiking “ToThe Top” of Temple Mountain. Great history lesson, safety tips, and humor. Our camp site is one of the nicest we have ever been in despite the fact that it only provides electricity 30 amps (occasionally), no available water and no sewer connection. The sites are all pull through that will accommodate a big rig and are situated at least 20 yards from your neighbor’s site with forest and pines in between for privacy….we hope to extend here at least 3 more days…we just have to ask daily for cancellations and be willing to move.
July 1, 2015 Hiked Avalanche in West Glacier
Another trip over the Going to the Sun road to West Glacier…..to hike to Avalanche Lake. This was a MUST hike according to several people we have met. It is described as an easy 2 mile hike with 500 foot elevation to Avalanche Lake and 3 waterfalls. It was more beautiful than we could imagine, but easy, no. Perhaps our mistake was listening to folks in their 20’s and the 500 foot elevations occurred several times in that 2 mile span. Only the pictures can tell the whole story. Hiking with Doug works for me because he stops so frequently to take photos.
I cannot begin to tell you how many interesting people we have met. You know how shy Doug is. One of our encounters was an engineer working on a portable machine that converts feces and polluted water into electricity and potable water. The project partially funded by the Gates Foundation. The other was one of the most gorgeous men I have ever seen. He was hiking alone and was on holiday from his job as a statistics professor in Colorado, but originally from Wales. He was buff, with a chiseled face, articulate, about 6’2″ with the most wonderful accent…..makes me want to go to Fort Collins, Co : ) (Doug here: I do read these things Bonny!)
Out last big surprise of the day was to see two bears along side the road as we were driving back to our campsite. We are all encouraged to have bear spray. I even saw the waiter at one of the hotels wearing it inside the restaurant. Now if I saw a bear while I was hiking, there would be no need, I would simply die of fright. Even those smiling bulls scare me.
June 30, 2015 In to Canada, Waterston Lakes
Today we went up the road into Canada via the Chief Mountain entrance. The first WOW was the wild flowers…….white,blue, yellow, pink, purple all along the road for miles….the day clear and the sky cloudlessly blue. We passed range cattle that were casually walking in the road and more than one bull smiled at us. With the top off our Jeep, we almost have a convertible.
The next WOW was turning a bend and seeing the Prince of Wales Hotel perched up on a knoll at the upper end of Waterston Lake. This is the same vintage as all the lodges built in Glacier with magnificent windows overlooking the lake. I should like to return for High Tea.
Waterston Village is quaint with a Main Street with high end shopping and very appealing restaurants. There is a small marina, beach, and bike paths. I want to spend a few days here, but reservations in the in town RV park are not to be had : ( The guy at the bike shop said in winter the snow reaches the roof of the shop and that only 42 people remain in the town through the winter months. I realllllly want more time here.
I was saddened by the news that Paula Blosser died. She is from Long Beach and an original member of our investment club, Wins.
June 28, 2015. Two Medicine
Another entrance to the East side of the park is Two medicine Lake and campground and East Glacier Lodge. Because of the heat, we simply cannot hike after mid morning. We find sightseeing in the Jeep with the top off and the a/c on to be quite enjoyable.
A late lunch at a beautiful lodge frees me from cooking dinner…. usually!
Doug Here: While admiring Running Eagle Falls after our hike there, I met a Stanford classmate at the same observation deck! Small World.
Lesson learned today: “Do not try to rinse out your black tank with the drainage valve closed and forget that the rinse hose is on”. Doug and I were blissfully taking a nap when there was a rap on our coach door…..we had water flowing from our roof. Oops. Or should I say “Poops”? The roof is clean and all is well. The EPA will be talking to Doug soon… (No pictures of that event provided. Enough said, Bonny dear.)
East Glacier Lodge