Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Snowbird Route

The University of Georgia's football team came to Auburn the weekend we arrived. A lively game was expected and both teams surely delivered. It's always nice to spend time here as it's so much like home to us. 

Awhile back we made a dental appointment for Lexie at Auburn University Vet School.  We are concerned about her slightly enlarged right atria found two years ago and we want to get a comparative image to see if it's worsening. 

Ozzie and Pop sport their college logo clothes.
More good stuff!  Auburn pulled off a miracle win against Georgia and Lexie's heart condition has not worsened. Furthermore, the luxating patella seems to have miraculously dissapeared!  There's no sign of it! Such good news.  Her dental cleaning was a bit complicated, though, as she had to have yet another tooth extracted (making a total of 11 missing teeth now), but her anesthesia and dental cleaning went well.

Our sweet Lexie the evening after her dental.
Her little right leg was shaved for her IV.
She's still groggy and has a real dirty face after the procedure.
Wayne reconnected with one of his old Auburn friends this year who stopped by the campground for a short visit.  We look forward to seeing him again next year.

Tommy Weathers and Wayne 
We left Auburn before the Iron Bowl (Auburn v. Alabama) weekend as our campsite was reserved as they all are, every year, years and years in advance.  It's the Iron Bowl after all.  Surprisingly, Auburn will defeat 'Bama, go on to win the SEC Championship and play for the National Championship against the undefeated Florida State Seminoles.  Whew! 

Just before Thanksgiving we arrived at Alliance Coach in Wildwood for the repairs and adjustments to the coach.  Generally, we keep a list of things to have checked, repaired and adjusted when we're in this area or near Coburg, Oregon or when we're in Indiana. 

But once again, the Alliance Coach experience would prove disappointing when on the second day, our technician became ill and our work stopped. Egads.  Frustrated, we paid for the single item they repaired, the steps, and then left for a long weekend with friends at Paradise Oaks Campground in nearby Bushnell, Florida.

The visit at Paradise Oaks seemed to work miracles on our psyche. Parked beside our good friends, Pam and Joe Wilkins, we relaxed, ate good food, strolled the dogs, enjoyed a nice view and played a few games with the campground regulars. After a couple of days, Wayne suggested we give Alliance another go with the repairs. Hummmm.
Lexie and Ozzie like romping with their many dog friends at Paradise Oaks
And so, on the following Tuesday we returned to Alliance to restart the repair process but we couldn't get our work started. The second day our service advisor became quite ill and would be out for several days. Days are turning to weeks and we've fallen between the cracks again, it seems. Finally we managed to get the repair to the damaged bay door underway and get the roof resealed.  We won't be returning to Alliance Coach.

The final buffing of the new door finish. 

An anxious RV'er who's ready to move along now. 
After an exasperating nine days at Alliance Coach Service Center we completed approximately 20 hours of work on three of the seven repair items. But at least we are ready to roll again. The remaining repair items will wait for another time and place.

I think even Lexie and Ozzie are anxious to get away from Wildwood. Here they are in their Auburn shirt and dress after the SEC Championship game.

So finally Endie gets fired up and ready to roll on into south Florida. 

Then Summer 2013 Turns To Fall...

There's a sweet little family owned campground in Crossville, Tennessee where we stop occasionally to rejuvenate ourselves. Pat and Leroy at Spring Lake RV Park are such nice folks and we look forward to visiting with them.  Our stops are most often in the fall as we make our way to see family in middle Tennessee.

During our stay in October this year we found ourselves in the midst of a rally of Prevosts, Marathon, Newell and Bluebird coaches.  Fall in east Tennessee is busy with leaf peeping tourists and most of the campgrounds are hosting fall foliage rallies.

While here, I restarted my daily walking.  I enjoy the early morning walks and sometimes remember to put a camera into my pocket.   Here's an early morning shot of our coach from across the small campground lake.

Spring Lake RV Resort in Crossville, Tennessee
The stop at Crossville turned into a month-long visit while we watched summer turn to fall with at least two nights of temperatures below freezing . It was so cold, in fact, that we had to disconnect the water to prevent lines from freezing.

Finally at the end of October, we traveled west from the Cumberland Plateau to Murfreesboro where we'd get in a few family visits and take care of our annual health checks.

Wayne with sons, Cam and Chad and one of the grandsons, Cole. 
The middle Tennessee visit lasted about two and a half weeks. During that time Wayne got to spend time with his sons and three of the five grandchildren. Our medical and dental appointments went well and we're blessed to begin another year of good health.  We established a relationship with a new dental group and found a veterinary clinic we like well enough to call Lexie and Ozzie's "home" vet.  Ozzie made two visits there as his anxiety seemed to be getting worse.  We tried using some anxiety medications but after a few days, discontinued it.  Wayne and I believe the noise of acorns hitting the coach roof in the campground (directly beneath an oak tree) set off his nervousness. Sure enough, it got better once we were gone.  

I spent a day or so visiting my brother while my sister-in-law was hospitalized. Fortunately, she was stabilized, released, and expected to make a full recovery.  More blessings. 

Mid-November we left middle Tennessee but not before we managed to damage Endie (the coach). Noticing one of the rear tires was flat, Wayne aired it and drove to a large tire repair center where the air stem was found defective. Backing out of the bay without assistance (bad idea) he connected with a large tire service truck. That's gonna require some body work. 

As if the body damage wasn't enough, the very next day the automatic step motor died leaving the steps flailing uncontrollably while the motor made a wretched grinding sound.  We tied the two steps together and limped south out of Tennessee.  We'll stop at Alliance Coach in Wildwood, Florida for these two repairs plus anything else we manage to break between now and then.  The broken steps did present a huge difficulty getting in and out though, so we stopped in at Camping World to see if we could get the motor changed. Not a stock item, they couldn't repair the step in less than a few days, but did notice we had a leaking hydraulic line so we added that to our ever growing repair list and continued southward.  

Our next destination, however, will be Auburn, Alabama where we will do a bit of tailgating. Auburn's football team is having a surprisingly good season after such a miserable one last year. 

We'll pick up there on the next post....

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lee and Jackson: The Lexington Connection

It's Christmas already and I continue to fall farther and farther behind in keeping this journal.  I could kick myself for not keeping up, but my "writer's block" continues and there's no point in trying to write when the words won't come. Let me try again to jump-start...

We spent a few days in Lexington on our ride south during the last few days of September...

Lexington, Virginia 

Back to this post after refreshing my memory with notes and photographs:  Lexington, Virginia was settled in 1777.  It is home to Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute, the latter being raided, shelled and burned during the Civil War.
In January 1778, Lexington's name, shape and exact size were finalized.
The original town surveyed 1,306' long by 900' wide. Lexington would have six streets.
Thirty six one-half acre lots were designated including one for the jail and one for the court house.
The photo above depicts the original town.
Two of the best known Confederate Generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried at Lexington.

The George C. Marshall Foundation is here as are at least seventeen locations in this quaint little town on the National Register of Historic Places.

Virginia Military Institute (VMI)

Before its formation as an institution of higher education, VMI’s site was occupied by an arsenal of some twenty young and undisciplined soldiers.

In late 1839 however, those young Virginians were mustered into the service. On a cold snowy November day, the first cadet sentry relieved the old arsenal guard. Cadets continue to perform guard duty and serve the State as a military corps, just as the first Corps of Cadets did.

Welcome to Virginia Military Institute
Twelve acres of the VMI campus are designated as the Virginia Military Institute Historic District and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The campus is commonly referred to as the "Post" and cadets are housed in a large five-story "barracks." The Old Barracks, which also has been designated a National Historic Landmark, stands on the site of the original old arsenal. This is the structure that received most of the damage when Union forces shelled and burned the Institute in June 1864.

VMI was the last US military college to admit women in 1997.

 "Stonewall" Jackson

Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born January 21, 1824. He lost his father and sister to typhoid fever and became an unwanted stepson to his mother's second husband. A few years later, his mother's health failed and just before she died, young Thomas was put into the custody of his birth father's parents. In 1842, at age 18, Jackson was accepted at West Point. Because of his inadequate early education, he had difficulty with the entrance examinations and began his studies at the bottom of his class. Thomas worked hard to absorb lessons. Displaying a dogged determination that would ultimately characterize his life, Jackson became one of the hardest working cadets in the academy. Jackson would ultimately graduate 17th out of 59 in the Class of 1846.

In 1851 Thomas Jonathan Jackson accepted a newly created teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute where he was Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Instructor of Artillery.  He was stern and religious and not a popular teacher. Jackson was often referred to as "Tom Fool" by the VMI students.  Parts of Jackson's curriculum are still taught at VMI today as they are regarded as timeless military essentials.

The only home Jackson ever owned is in Lexington. He bought it in 1859.  It is now a museum and has a nice side and back yard garden area. 
Built in 1801 this was the Lexington, Virginia home of Stonewall Jackson

The Presbyterian Church where Thomas Jackson worshipped while in Lexington.
Stonewall Jackson died May 10, 1863 after being accidentally shot at the Battle of Chancellorsville eight days earlier. His death was a severe setback for the Confederacy, seriously affecting soldier morale.

On May 15, 1863, Stonewall Jackson's body was escorted by the Corps of Cadets to his final resting place in Lexington.

Just before the battle at Chancellorsville, Jackson surveyed the field.
Seeing VMI all around, said, “The Institute will be heard from today.”

The "Lee" Part of Washington and Lee University

After the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee declined several job offers to serve as Washington College president.  Lee believed that in this job he could make a contribution to the reconciliation of the nation.  Lee's wife was a direct decedent of George Washington too. Lee welcomed the challenge of leading a college endowed by and named after the first president.

Washington College Presidents home.
Robert E. Lee is the father of an Honor System and a speaking tradition at Washington College that continue to the present time. Ardent about restoring national unity, he successfully recruited students from the North as well as the South.

Robert E. Lee Memorial Church
He attended church services here when he was in Lexington.
Lee died on October 12, 1870, after five years as Washington College president. The college's name was almost immediately changed to Washington and Lee University, linking Lee's name with Washington's. The university's motto, "Not unmindful of the future", is an adaptation of the Lee family motto.

General Lee and much of his family—including his wife, his seven children, and his father, the Revolutionary War hero "Light Horse Harry" Lee—are buried in the Lee Chapel here.

At the doorway to Lee Chapel. 

Lee Chapel 


Robert E. Lee's beloved horse is buried outside Lee Chapel. The horse's life story and death are quite interesting.

Traveller's current resting place. 
This garage was once Traveller's stable.
The doors always remain open so Traveller's spirit may roam freely. 
We stayed in this area only a few days, fighting continually with the dreadful stink bugs that invaded our coach.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Road South

After the friendship reunion with the gang from Florida, we began making our way southward. We will visit family and get our annual medical tests and dental cleanings done in middle Tennessee before moving on to Auburn for a football game or two and a visit to Auburn's Vet School Clinic. 

First Stop:  West Point Military Academy

There are a few things at West Point we missed on our last visit. 

I strolled Lexie and Ozzie around leisurely while Wayne busied himself with history.  We snapped a few photos.

The Honorable Army Mule
The mule has been West Point's mascot since 1899 and promotes the spirit of the Corps of Cadets.
Mules were very important to the Army in the late 1800's and on to World War I.
While not used as standard Army mounts, mules were known to be stronger,
more surefooted and more intelligent than horses. 
Added bonus: they eat less.

West Point Cadet Chapel was dedicated in 1910.
It has a cross-shaped floor plan, soaring arches and ornate stone carvings.
This chapel hosts the largest chapel pipe organ in the world with more than 23,000 individual pipes.
 The campus view from the chapel was beautiful the day we were there -- clear with bright blue skies.

Looking out over some of the main buildings of West Point from Cadet Chapel.

Finally, we spent some time around West Point Military Academy's Michie Stadium.

Michie Stadium is named for USMA cadet Dennis Mahan Michie, born at West Point in 1892.
Michie was killed in action in San Juan, Cuba in 1898. 
Eight years before his death, Dennis Michie organized the first football game played at West Point Military Academy.

The USMA football equipment truck.  Nice.

Second Stop: Carlisle, Pennsylvania 

That's where we took on our first hitchhikers -- the dreaded brown marmorated stink bugs. They became an immediate nuisance and caused us to keep the coach windows closed. While we worked hard to keep them out, we knew they were getting into the coach at every opportunity.

Third: Manassas, Virginia --

Catching Up on Forty-Two Years...

Another bonus in retirement is having time to look up old friends. Another bonus in retirement during this particular time in history is having access to data at your fingertips and cell phones.   Through membership in one of those "people finding" groups, Wayne gained access to names and telephone numbers of old high school friends, Army buddies and college buddies. 

To this point, he's surprised his old Army Sargent in Franklin, North Carolina and now he's found another of the guys with whom he served at Grand Isle, New York. He was thrilled to hear his friend Richard Drake's voice on the phone and couldn't wait till we reached Manassas, near Richard's home.

What a great reunion this would be!

Richard (L) and Wayne in Richard's fabulous gourmet kitchen.
Richard's family was the original Drakes Cakes Drakes. The Drakes Cake name and the original recipes have recently been purchased and the old Drakes Cake Devil Dogs are back on store shelves.  Of course that was cause for still more celebration. 

With the Devil Dogs
While Wayne had often heard Richard speak of the sweet girl who would eventually become his wife, he had never met Kim. This trip we did meet her and fell in love with her.  Such great folks.

Blurry but beautiful, Kim, Richard and Wayne
In all, Wayne enjoyed three short but valuable visits with Richard. We did our best to encourage Richard and Kim to consider the RV'ing lifestyle.  What great fun it would be to cross paths with them along the road!  We will see.

Our campground is at nearby Haymarket not far from the significant Civil War battlefields of First Manassas. 

First Manassas

The First Battle of Bull Run, known as First Manassas by Confederate forces, was fought on July 21, 1861. While there, we returned to the battlefields and re-studied the Civil War during that time.  We're both always saddened at this part of our country's history. 

Looking out from Henry Hill Visitors Center toward Brawner's Farm property.
In addition to the Henry Hill Visitor's Center and Brawners Farm, the Stone House is available to visit. The day we were there, the Stone House was closed, but the grounds were available to walk. 

This poster puts America's war casualties into perspective.
Each red soldier represents 10,000 deaths.
Notice how the Civil War casualties dwarfs those of World War II.

There's plenty to do in this are to 'while away' a few hours. We explored the museum and saw the displays of uniforms, weapons and field gear.  There's a 45 minute film shown at the Visitors Center, but we didn't watch it this time.  We did browse the bookstore, but left without a purchase.

There's also a self-guided one mile battlefield trail that we didn't walk as lunchtime was drawing near and that's an event we just don't miss.

Another "to do" item at the Battle of First Manassas is to pay honor and have your picture taken standing alongside the statue of Stonewall Jackson.

"There stands Jackson like a stone wall" -- statue base inscription.

The dreadful mormorant stink bugs, first encountered in Carlisle, Pennsylvania have overcome the family farm campground at Haymarket.  The awful boogers literally will fly into your mouth. I'm sure all the coach openings are invaded and we'll have stink bugs to fight for a long, long time. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Groton and SSN 571 Nautilus: First and Finest

Ken enjoying his Bavarian creme filled... Second or third?

One of our Seminole Campground reunion activities was a very loosely organized visit to nearby Groton, Connecticut and The Naval Submarine Base at New London. 

A bunch of us loaded into a couple of cars and off we went...

Of course this group of unruly senior citizens doesn't go anywhere or do anything without eating, so we stopped at a nearby Dunkin Donuts. 

At least a dozen of us piled in to devour coffee and donuts. The tiny little shop was overwhelmed... each couple asking for their senior discount.

The Naval Submarine Base at New London began as a naval yard and storage depot in 1868 and was first used for laying up inactive ships.  

The land for the naval submarine base was donated by the state of Connecticut. The base was closed in 1898 but reopened in 1912.

A few of the outside submarine displays.
I'm a bit claustrophobic so the "very early" model submarine in the picture below bothered me.  Imagine going through the tiny opening in the top and being beneath the waves inside it.  No thank you.

The specially constructed elevator in the next photo was specially built for President John Kennedy prior to his visit of the USS Thomas A Edison SSBN 610 in 1962. The elevator was lowered into the ship through the hatch. It's final use, in 1985, took Senator Barry Goldwater onto a Los Angeles class submarine in San Diego, California.

On January 21, 1954 the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, was launched from Groton. USS Nautilus became the first vessel to transit the North Pole during an historic trip across the Arctic in 1958. It was retired from service in 1980. This would be our second boarding of the USS Nautilus.

The Nautilus is permanently moored along the Thames River
And now for a few photos of our visit inside Nautilus.
Rear Admiral Smalley approaching... Attention!

Looking up into the hatch.

Mary photographing Fran, Nan, Ken, Wayne and Charlie aboard the USS Nautilus.

Looking back onto the stern.

The familiar photograph of a surfacing submarine
Visiting U.S. Naval bases is a special joy to Wayne. All his military serving family members were Navy men. Typical of Wayne, he opted to join the Army instead. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Reunited (And It Feels So Good)

I've really been remiss in keeping the blog up to date for the past month.  I confess I've fallen off the wagon in Zynga's Words With Friends where the game playing addiction is simply stronger than my will to resist. 

Today, I'll go back to early September and our Seminole Campground Reunion.....

Cape Cod (Sandwich, Massachusetts)

Several months ago, one of our Florida camping friends arranged a late summer reunion. Our plan is to meet at Cape Cod for a few days and then move over to the Mystic Seaport area in Connecticut.  Wayne and I are looking forward to seeing the folks we met last year at North Fort Myers.

Reaching the Cape a few days early, Wayne and I settled in near Sandwich, Massachusetts to await the arrival of the others.  We're at Peter's Pond Campground and we like the set-up here.

Our campsite at Peter's Pond was perfect! Shady and private. What a great find!

We had visited Cape Cod many years ago and toured the area by car so we won't make the long drive out to Providencetown this time.  Instead, we enjoy some of places we didn't explore back then.  We did take a day trip to Falmouth and investigated the auto ferry to Martha's Vineyard. The seashore visit was especially nice.

Typical housing at Falmouth.
The seashore is to the immediate right of the roadway.
The day at Falmouth was blustery and almost downright cool but certainly enjoyable... maybe perfect for this area.  Makes us want to eat chowder and bundle up by a campfire. 
Falmouth seashore.
  • English colonists settled Falmouth in 1660 and named it for Falmouth, Cornwall, England.
  • In 1859, author, poet and lyricist Katharine Lee Bates was born at Falmouth. She wrote America the Beautiful
We stopped for a few minutes at a dog friendly beach where we could park right along the water. Lexie and Ozzie enjoyed the beach exploration.

Lexie has trouble with small stones as her toes are splayed from years of standing on wire.

Ozzie smells every single thing he sees at the beach. Lexie does too.
On Friday, Linda and Dale joined us at Peter's Pond for the weekend.  This would be our time to welcome them into the full-time RV life.  Just three days before, they completed the sale of their home in Ohio.  Congratulations to them and we wish them much happiness in their new adventure. 

How nice to meet up with friends from afar!

After giving Dale a day to relax his aching back, the four of us took a ride to Hyannis Port for lunch and a bit of sightseeing.  Naturally another visit to the shore was in the making.

Congratulations to Dale and Linda.
New full-time RV'ers!

On Monday, Dale and Linda and Wayne and I  will relocate to Scusset Beach State Reservation and welcome the others to the reunion.

Scusset Beach Reunion

This is our campsite. Dale and Linda are parked directly behind us. That's their rig in the photo center.
This group of RV'ers does not gather without food and so did some serious eating here at Scusset Beach. This night we enjoyed  haddock and plenty of trimmings.  Fran's special, yet simple, recipe for fried haddock became a favorite of everyone!  For this part of our reunion, we're joined by Rick and Louise who live nearby but unfortunately, do not seem to appear in any of the pictures.  They opted not to go on to Bozrah with  us but we'll look forward to seeing them again in Florida.

Charlie, Joyce and their son Tom along with Mary, Ken, Fran, Dale,
Wayne and I don't know who's on the other side of Dale.
Another reason to celebrate this gathering is Ken and Nancy's wedding anniversary.  We made a toast to that and to Dale and Linda's new full-time RV life along.  In addition, Charlie and Joyce just bought a new motorhome.... that's more celebrating, isn't it? 

And so our time at Scusset Beach ended.

On To Connecticut!

First night at Odetah -- wiener cookout! 
In exchange for Rick and Louise who didn't make the drive over to Bozrah, we welcomed Brad and Barb who joined us there. 

Left to right: Ken, Nancy, Brad and Barb
One of our nights at Bozrah was our "Soup Nazi" dinner where we had a smorgasbord of soups.  Even I, with little to no cooking skill, prepared two chowders, thanks to my good friends at Ellsworth who shared delicious lobster, clams and yes, even the recipes to make them.  Great food and fun continues and seems especially good when shared with friends. 
Three of our four soup choices

Every dinner at Odetah Camp was followed by a nice warm campfire, a few outrageous stories and plans for the next day's activities and meals, of course.  Even Zoey, Fran and Mary's little Spaniel, enjoyed the campfire.
Mary insists that Fran keep his loose fitting shorts legs tucked away from view of the camera.
Oh heck! Mary!

Mary with a real relaxed Zoey. 
Linda, Dale and Charlie to the right.

Nancy and Barb
As we've all learned to expect, no camping trip is complete until someone has a problem with electric, water, sewer or satellite reception. This trip is no different. Given the thickness of the surrounding forest, I was surprised we ever expected to receive a satellite signal, but Saturday's college football was a day away and Wayne really wanted to see two games. 

Being the good friends they are, Dale, Charlie and Ken pitched in to try to assist.  Adding insult to injury, our 18 month old DirecTV receiver died. A new one was ordered and received but unfortunately, DirecTV sent the wrong receiver and it will not work on our system.  Drat! 

Searching the skies for a solution to our satellite dilemma.

Deep in the foliage, Dale and Ken scour the sky for the signal.

But alas! Nothing works.  Even Ken's portable was set up, but was not compatible.

Retreating in defeat. 
In the end, we were able to see the Auburn v Mississippi State game on Ken and Nancy's antenna reception.  Thanks to all who worked toward that end for us.