Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Visit with our soldier

Scout, Dot and I left Savannah early on Sunday morning. Our destination was F D Roosevelt State Park which is about 25 miles north of Columbus. We drove the secondary roads to enjoy the beautiful spring weather and the accompanying fragrance of the Wisteria that seemed to be everywhere. All along the road, the vines climbed high onto the Long Leaf Pines. In addition, the peach trees were just beginning to blossom. The route took us through the town of Vidalia, renown for its onions. Huge fields were filled with the young sprouts and the air was filled with the pungent aroma of these sweetest of onions.
Turtle in the front yard

I arrived early in the afternoon at FDR State Park and booked us in for four nights. The price is very reasonable at the Georgia State Parks, only $23/night. And, if you stay seven nights in any of the parks, you earn a free night. Selection of campsites is first come/first served, so I couldn't believe my luck when I found what I consider to be the best site in the park. There is a shaded site right on the shore of the small lake, site #205. I could watch the ducks,  geese and turtles from my 'front yard'. This was waterfront property at its finest. The park is very quiet and the people, as always, are very friendly. The only drawback was that the topography presented a real challenge to my resolve to run at least every other day. The only direction to run was uphill for at least one mile from the campground. Nevertheless, I dutifully kept my promise to myself and then some, circumnavigating the campground for a distance of 3.9 miles with an elevation gain of over 450 feet in thirty seven minutes. Not bad for an old man.

On Thursday I moved the trailer to Lake Pines Campground in Middleton, GA. The campground is just 10 minutes from the hotel where John, Becca, Audrey and Nancy were to stay. Sarah arrived with the other ladies on the flight from Boston to Atlanta about 8:30PM. We tried to find a Thai restaurant for dinner, but they were all closed so we ended up at The Outback Steakhouse.

On Friday morning we drove onto the fort and found John's battalion area where a short ceremony was performed whereby they earned the right to wear the Infantry Barrett. After the ceremony they were released for a pass to leave the fort until Sunday evening at 6:15PM or 1815 in Army lingo. The soldiers were required to remain in dress uniform whenever they were in public, could not use tobacco products, drive a car or drink any alcoholic  beverages.
Waiting in the Bravo Company Battalion area

John with buddy, Alejandro Rios

John had very specific goals for his time on pass. The first item on his agenda was to get a new smartphone after which, he wanted to go to TGI Fridays for his favorite steak. That evening we all went to see "The Hunger Games", a very predictable but enjoyable movie. After the movie we went to O'Charley's Restaurant for a late dinner.

Becca and John enjoyed some time alone at breakfast on Saturday. We met them at IHOP and we all drove to Callaway Gardens that is very near to FDR State Park where I stayed earlier in the week. We spent most of the day strolling the grounds and enjoying the exciting raptor demonstration that featured hawks, owls and vultures in free flight just inches above our heads. We were hoping to include a trip to FDR's Little White House in Warm Springs, but we ran out of time. We were all famished by early in the afternoon. A late lunch at Subway fulfilled another must for John and Becca. After a little down time, we gathered later in the evening for some fine Thai food at Chili Thai. We gave Becca the key to the truck so she and John could have Saturday night and Sunday morning to themselves.

 The time was flying and Sunday was here before we knew it. Sarah and I made a pork roast dinner, one of John's favorites. Nancy and Audrey arrived about 11 AM and helped prepare potatoes and carrots. Becca and John arrived about noon. The weather was perfect for dinner on the picnic table. It was nice to see that the guests of honor fell asleep before me for a change. Becca returned John to the fort well before his witching hour. No doubt their separation was difficult.

It was great seeing how enthusiastic John is about what he is doing. The pride displayed in the results of his hard work and determination made us all happy for him. He acknowledges that the next four weeks will be even more difficult, both physically and mentally, but he now knows that he can endure it. Besides, he has become a little narcissistic about his physical condition. That can be a powerful motivating force for a young man, as evidenced by his FB photo. Ah well, he earned it.

Ah, a little postprandial  alkaline tide?

On Monday, Sarah and I took the Mary Joan II back to FDR State Park. To our surprise, we once again were able to get campsite 205. That afternoon we hiked 4 miles round trip to Dowdell's Knob, a favorite picnic spot for FDR. From there we went to Warm Springs and toured the Little White House. It was easy to see why he loved this place so much and visited it 41 times while president. The simple cottage he built here must have been a place of great comfort and serenity compared to Washington, DC. It was here that he learned of the hardships faced by rural Americans in the depths of the Great Depression that allowed him, a wealthy aristocrat, to take up the cause of the common citizen. For Sarah and I, our visit here completed our tour of his history having visited Campobello, Hyde Park and finally Warm Springs.

We leave in the morning for Northern Georgia, stay tuned.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sunny Florida

Not all the 'wildlife' \was out of doors. This carved and painted lion is
in the Ringling Circus Museum

My mom, Sarah and I enjoyed ourselves in Florida very much. We visited with long time  friends of my mom, met Sarah's Uncle Ed and Aunt Marge. Ed and I even got to sneak in a day of sailing with Denis, who I had sailed with a few years ago.

In Nokomis, just outside Sarasota, we stayed at the Encore Royal Coachman, a very upscale park that was perfectly maintained. Just a ten minute drive from the park to our friends Bob and Jackie, who shared dinner with us in their beautiful home.

As nice as the commercial parks are, we still prefer to stay in state parks. Generally, the campsites are much more spacious and the scenery and wildlife viewing so much better.  However, we found out that reservations are a necessity if one wants to stay in these parks. Although some parks set aside a number of spaces on a first come first served basis, it can be very difficult to get one of those spots. We got lucky in our desire to stay at Lake Myakka State Park,  east of Sarasota. The staff were very helpful in explaining how the system works. Essentially, anyone staying in the park that has not reached their 14 day limit have the opportunity to extend their stay by informing the staff by 10AM of the day they are to check out. Any campsites not reserved or spoken for by 10AM are presumed to be available.  But, the check out time is not until 1PM and the park rangers cannot hold sites that are to be vacated. So, we waited at the ranger station in order to be first in line for any available sites. We got one of two that became available.
The airboat on Lake Myakka
Spending a few days at Lake Myakka was very relaxing. The day after we arrived, we booked the airboat tour for that afternoon and the tram tour for the day after. Both tours were fun and informative. We saw lots of wildlife on the airboat tour with the huge alligator topping the show. While  we didn't see any exotic wildlife on the tram tour, our guide gave an excellent from which we learned a lot about the ecology and the history of the area. Both tours were easily accessible for mom.
They eat just about anything. 
The last day near Sarasota we visited the Ringling Museum. The museum is on the grounds of John Ringling's estate which is right on the water in Tampa. The museum includes the mansion, a circus museum, a miniature circus, gardens and a large art museum filled with works collected by the Ringling's. Seeing the Ruebens on display was a highlight of the trip for Sarah. We all especially enjoyed the rose garden which was in full bloom.

The scooter worked great

The Ringling's Pullman car, probably made on Pullman St., Worcester, Ma
Wonderful restoration
While we were in Florida, we learned that John would be allowed a weekend pass on March 23 if he successfully completed all of training requirements and PT testing up to that point.  It would have been nice if my mom could have stayed but she had appointments and commitments at home. Since we have the dog and cat with us, we decided to have Sarah and Mom fly home while I stayed with the dog and cat and moved the trailer to Columbus, GA. Since they had an early flight from Tampa, we stayed at the Bay Bayou RV Resort, just a short distance from the airport. After leaving Sarah and Mom at the airport, I took the trailer to Ft. McAllister State Park, just south of Savannah where I spent the week waiting for the extravagant St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Savannah has the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the country after NYC. With perfect weather forecast and the celebration falling a a Saturday, Savannah braced itself for almost 1 million visitors. The party started on Thursday with events continuing through the weekend. I was forewarned to arrive early for the parade which was scheduled to begin at 10:15 AM. I found the corner where the parade began at 8:30 and was able to get a great view. The sun was bright and it was very warm for the parade which lasted nearly four hours. Way to go Savannah, you sure know how to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Stay tuned for more adventures.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fun in Florida

On Saturday an open house was held whereby the public was invited to see the vintage and some not so vintage trailers. Ours is definitely not so vintage, but many people frequently ask us if Airstreams are still being manufactured. We certainly enjoy the retro look. But, the stars of the show were those who had lovingly restored trailers from the 40's through the 80's. This was also the day for the judging to determine the winners of the show for best restoration. There were so many beautifully restored trailers, I could not have easily picked one over another.

This Trailer won the first prize.
Here is last year's winning entry.

The motor home pictured above is owned by John and Janet Wright of Ontario, Canada. John runs John & Kori Wright General Repairs and Towing. He managed to replace the original engine with a GM Duramax this last year, as well as replacing the complete suspension with modern air cushioning shocks. Quite the beautiful restoration. We enjoyed the time we spent with this charming couple.

What year is this?
See more pictures of these beautiful restorations soon on our photo page. Please be patient because we are still on the road and we don't have reliable high speed internet for uploading. (check back frequently).

It was nice spending some time with the couple responsible for introducing us to the TCT. Rich and Dottie Walbridge. The are members of the Cape Cod Chapter of the WBCCI that we met on our first rally. They introduced us to Larry and Pat Lamontagne of Holland, MA. We thoroughly enjoyed their company.

The Massachusetts Group
And special thanks to the Charon, who took the above picture. An illustrated woman and sword swallow-er extraordinaire.