Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Visits With The Grandchildren

On Saturday, October 25, we enjoyed our last football Saturday afternoon with Macky and Donna.  The following Monday, we left Sharon Johnston Park Campground, headed to middle Tennessee where the children and grandchildren live.  While we're there, we will get our dental cleaning and our annual flu shot from the dentist and doctors who are in nearby Franklin.

We call Nashville I-24 Campground "home" when we visit the area. It's the campground from which our full-time RV life was launched way back in July 2010, just after Wayne's retirement. Over the years, we've developed a good friendship with the campground manager, who, we learned last winter, is married to a former customer of the bank from which Wayne retired.

Cam and Amy invited us to join them for the church's annual chili cook-off and Halloween party where Amy's chili, we later learned, won first place.  Following are a few pictures from that evening.

Going out the door to the chili cook-off and Halloween party. 

Cam and Amy and their sweet little ones. 

Additional visits, including at least one football game watching, took place at Cam and Amy's home.  We also got to see Buddy, but not other grandchildren.

Reading a storybook.

Granddaddy reads too..... without glasses!
A total of ten days were spent in and around middle Tennessee. As Macky continued to improve, we began thinking we'd move on down to Birmingham to see relatives there for a few days.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Alabama Welcome To Pam and Ernie

Having Pam and Ernie come by Sharon Johnston Park Campground was such an unexpected thrill. One of the great things about our RV life is the opportunity to rendezvous with friends as we travel.

They arrived late in the afternoon and will stay for 2-3 nights. We've not seen them since we left North Fort Myers last March.

Ernie and Pam at their campsite.
Ernie's been getting a few warranty items done on the new motorhome. He and Pam were about 100 miles away in Red Bay, Alabama when I sent Pam a note about the kitten I'd found. While she managed to decline the kitten, she didn't decline the invitation to come to New Market for a few days. I was overjoyed!

Pam and Ernie spent their first full day at New Market getting their motorhome squared away after the repairs. They are really enjoying the new coach and have discussed taking to the road full-time.  Of course, Wayne and I enjoy this life and have to be careful not to oversell the idea to those who might not be ready. I bit my tongue.

Our second night together we had delicious sliders Pam cooked on the grill followed by another campfire where we planned our visit to see the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville the next day.

And the next day was picture perfect and we had a wonderful time exploring the huge U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Pam and Ernie

We first stopped at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Gift Shop where Ernie made an instant fashion statement. Unfortunately, his taste in style is nearly as bad as mine. While he and I both loved one particular souvenir sweat shirt, Pam explained that it's "old person" styled big buttons were just not suitable. In the end, we caved, Pam won and Ernie selected another. 

Ernie in the "old person" sweatshirt.
Pam laughing at our lack of style savvy. 
The old, original section of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center was, frankly, disappointing to me. Growing up in Huntsville, I remember when the center was new and exciting and all the displays were held in the one building. I've always enjoyed visiting here and was sad to see the building in disrepair and the old displays replaced by what they call "feature" exhibits.

But then we came upon the U.S. Army Apache Helicopter Flight Simulator where we stood in line for more than 15 minutes to take turns (two by two) flying and firing upon our imaginary enemy. 

Ernie and Wayne go first.
The rear seat (Ernie) will pilot while the front seat (Wayne) is the gunner. 
Instructions for insuring a successful mission in the Apache took several minutes with each person. Unfortunately a computer malfunction caused Wayne and Ernie some technical difficulty and I think they would have surely been shot down by a shoulder fired rocket if they had been in actual combat.

The Gunner. Wayne. 
When our turn came around, Pam took the front, gunner seat while I applied my outstanding flying skill in the rear.  In the photo below, Pam prepares herself for our important mission.  I think we were flying in Iraq.

With my instruction complete, I waved a smiling but tearful goodbye to Wayne and Ernie.
My mission was about to begin.
As terrible as Wayne and Ernie were at flying the Apache, Pam and I were much worse. Our guns and bombs hit nothing except perhaps a few of our own camps. Our scoreboard was embarrassing.  

We quickly escaped to the outdoor displays...

The majestic Saturn rocket display to the left with other military hardware in the foreground.

Notice the upside-down astronaut over Wayne's head on the space lab mock-up. 
During his military service, Wayne was part of the Nike Hercules Missile Program.  It was the second generation of the Nike family of missiles. Hercules was a high-altitude surface-to-surface missile with the capability of intercepting tactical missiles and high-performance jets. They were first deployed in 1958.

The photo below is of one of the Nike Hercules missiles. It is no longer in the U.S. Army's inventory.

Wayne standing beside one of his Nike Hercules Missiles.
The Nike Hercules had a range of eighty miles and could be made mobile. In August 1960, one of these missiles destroyed another incoming missiles at White Sands Missile Range, marking the first known intercept of a Mach-3 missile by another missile. The following month a Nike Hercules shot down another at an altitude of nineteen miles, the highest known missile kill.

One of the most thrilling first-hand sights at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, is, in my opinion, the mock up of the Space Shuttle, combined with the booster rockets here and identified as the Pathfinder Shuttle Stack. It is the only full shuttle stack in the world. This particular one was the first orbiter ever built and served as a non-flight test vehicle before being put on display.

Then there's Space Shot.  It offers a chance to experience 3 G's of liftoff and simulated microgravity.  Not ordinarily a thrill seeker, I said I'd take the plunge if Ernie did. Of course Ernie did. I thought I was going to die. Photographs could not capture my horror of the blast-off and subsequent fall back to earth.

Ernie and me. Taken just before liftoff.
The newer complex to the Space Center is the Saturn V Hall where a full size Saturn V2/A4 Rocket, the grandfather of all rockets, is displayed in the gargantuan building.

The Apollo 16 Capsule was launched and returned in 1972, carrying three astronauts.
The parachute is attached (orange and white) here.
The Moon Rock collected by astronaut Alan Bean in 1969 of Apollo 12.

Lunar Excursion Module

Ramp / Walkway for access to space capsule atop the rockets.
There was much more to see, do and learn here but these are the highlights of the visit for me. One item I missed seeing was the A-12 Blackbird that, in it's day, traveling from New York to London, is just 60 minutes, was super fast. Today, it is considered an antique.  Amazing stuff for space travel lovers.

In the end, feeling completely educated in space rocketry, we pronounced ourselves "Astronauts". Here is our official photo taken in our uniforms.

With face shields open, here's Wayne, me and Pam. Ernie wouldn't lift his shield.
We don't know who the other guy is...... 
Pam and Ernie would stay on for an extra day at Sharon Johnston Campground, where they relaxed, took walks, fed ducks, practiced golf and visited with us for a few more precious hours.  It will be winter before we'll see them again -- in south Florida.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What? We're Not In High School Anymore?

This is yet another delayed post but I'm making progress in getting caught up.

With autumn in the air and college football season well underway, we spent most Saturdays at Macky and Donna's house (my brother and sister-in-law), watching the games. After a flurry of hospitalizations in September, Macky has been home and doing well for several weeks.  We've been enjoying homemade pies that Wayne and I pick up from New Market BBQ on the way to their house. We devour feasts of wings, pizza or hamburgers too. The silver lining to having this family illness is the long leisurely visits we've enjoyed.

It is intentional that I have not posted pictures of Macky. I don't want to remember him looking different than he's always looked. He has always been a handsome and healthy looking man.

The very common sight of cotton in rural Alabama and Tennessee.
This field is ready for picking which, nowadays, is done by machine.

But by the third week of October, Wayne and I began thinking about moving along. With family in middle Tennessee and central Alabama, we're anxious to see all of them too. Later we'll we drive on to south Florida for the winter months. 

Hastily, and with the help of Facebook, some high school girlfriends agreed to come by the campground for lunch the week before our departure.  There were just five of us girls, Wayne and one other husband.  The day was perfect -- warm in the sunshine, cool in the shade.  We spent several hours poring over old high school yearbooks and laughing at everything in them.  Sadly, as we've grown older, the deaths of teachers and our own parents had to be reported too.

Lila and her husband, Billy and me.  Didn't realize who Billy was until today but I knew him long, long ago.  

The famous K-Mart pose with my high school pals.
Left to right: Marilyn, Micki, me and Janice

I sure enjoyed this reunion and look forward to another but under different circumstances, of course.

By late afternoon, my school friends were gone and I looked up to see our friends, Pam and Ernie pulling into the campground.  They've just finished a repair trip to Tiffin at Red Bay and are on their way home to Maryland. We were hopeful they'd get to swing by to see us.
Pam and Ernie and me. Ozzie is in my lap. Lexie is in pop's chair. 

Pam and Ernie and Wayne and I finished off the food I'd gotten for lunch. Afterward, we enjoyed a campfire and the evening air was cool enough to really enjoy it. We're looking forward to a couple of days catching up with Pam and Ernie as they're considering going full-time in their motorhome.

Friday, October 17, 2014

With Military Honors

This post is another written several months in arrears due to the serious illness of my brother.  Until recently, I didn't want to post about our activities during this difficult time. I've changed my mind.

Columbia Military Academy Gate 
Wayne attended Columbia Military Academy (high school) and has stayed in touch with several of his school and classmates over the years. CMA was a boarding military school and I suppose that fact alone can make the friendships stronger. At any rate, at least three CMA alumni live in or around Huntsville, Alabama. When word got out that we were in the area, plans were made to get together.

One afternoon in late September, two of the old friends, Dan and Walker, came to the campground for a late afternoon cookout and visit. A week or so later, on a Saturday afternoon, another friend, Bob and his wife Kim, drove out for a visit and took Wayne to lunch.  I think he enjoyed these get-together a great deal. Wayne has always been sentimental, but more so as he ages. Sadly, I didn't take photos of him with either of these friends. I'm sorry about that.

In early October Wayne was received a phone call asking if he'd like to attend a special award in the making at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. Seems another of the CMA alumni would be the recipient of the U.S. Army's Silver Star for service in Vietnam during 1969. Wayne and several other of the local CMA cadets would attend the ceremony for their friend, Phil Fikes, together.  Rather than attempt to include all the very important facts surrounding the award, the circumstances and the man, I will include a link to the local news coverage. It is Here

Retired 1st Lt. Phillip B. Fikes (right) and U.S. Army Four Star General Dennis L. Via 
At one time, long ago, Wayne was a very good photographer -- but that was back in the days of roll film and heavy 35mm cameras. Sadly, the very important photographs to be had this day were shaky and blurry. It doesn't matter. He was there to be a part of this long overdue military award and that's what did matter.

Phil and his wife, Frances.

Columbia Military Academy alumni, Bob, Dan, Wayne, Walker and Johnny attended
 the ceremony to award the Silver Star to their old friend and schoolmate.

God Bless America

Friday, October 10, 2014

Doggie Treats, The Sweet Smell of Salmon and... A Kitten!

As weeks turned into months in North Alabama, we busied ourselves around the campground when we weren't visiting Macky -- at home or in the hospital.

I bathed and groomed Lexie and Ozzie over several days they stayed clean about 48 hours.  On several occasions, I drug out the camera and took a few "proud dog momma" photos. Here are some of my favorites.

Lexie holding the remains of a large chew treat in her mouth.
She wouldn't let go. 

Ozzie breaks his large carrot treat into tiny pieces -- then eats them one at a time. 
Both the dogs love to "go for a ride in the car" and Ozzie runs to get in when pop says it's time to go.

A rare, almost happy expression for Lexie. She usually doesn't pose well for photos. 

Ozzie loves the camera. Here, he's just finished eating a delicious raw carrot... or was it a pigs ear?

Lexie in her new pink "dress up" collar.

Ozzie in his new sombrero

A while back, on the recommendation of our vet in Crescent City, California, Wayne began adding omega 3 oil to Lexie and Ozzie's food in hopes of making some headway against their licking and paw biting.

After doing some research we decided to try Alaska Natural Wild Salmon. I ordered it on Amazon. It's made a real difference in the thickness of their coats.

It has not, however, done much for the paw chewing and chest licking as was hoped.

One early October afternoon, while Wayne was doing paperwork, I loaded Lexie and Ozzie into the car for an afternoon ride to visit Mack and Donna. Their home is ten miles down the road and is definitely "out in the country" as I grew up saying.

As usual when traveling along a country road, I had an eye out for pets that might have been dumped on the roadside. Anybody who knows me or looks, even casually, at this blog, knows of my animal rescue obsession. This day, I passed a small kitten crouched on the edge of the road.  I stopped the car and got out. The skinny little kitten ran into my arms and began a constant crawl all over me.. purring all the while. This behaviour made it clear that she had been dumped by someone she loved. No doubt there had been others dumped with her who had not lived. This one was clearly starving.

The kitten the day  after I found her on the roadside.
Covered in fleas with ears full of mites, she's as thin as paper but otherwise appears healthy.
I wanted to keep the kitten but I had to prove to Wayne that I could rescue without adopting and so the process began to get this little girl into a good home. It came as no surprise that Wayne was gentle and sweet about the kitten and worked with me to care for her.  I asked around in the campground and made a few contacts about getting a home for her. No one was interested in taking this beautiful and lovable little girl.

She appears to be about 9 weeks old. 
The kitten was so lovable that she would wind herself around my feet and I couldn't walk without fear of stepping on her. To our surprise, she could squeeze her little head and body through the wire of the dog's playpen. I finally managed to keep her in a dog crate during the daytime hours. At night, she had the run of our car. Fortunately we were deep enough into autumn to have mild night temperatures.  Covered in fleas and ear mites, we couldn't let her in the coach or play with the dogs, but they did seem to like each other.

The escape artist at work. 
To keep from getting too attached I didn't give the kitten a name. After nearly a week, I got her into a rescue group. It helped to make a financial contribution.  Once again, Wayne was gallant and wrote a generous check. I love that man.  On a Sunday afternoon, we drove the kitten to meet the rescue group lady. I managed to hold back tears that afternoon mainly because I know she will be easy to place as she appears to be a healthy little Siamese. The rescue group are calling her Olive. Sweet.

Ozzie and Lexie seemed to like having the little kitten around the campground even though they could not all be together. Here's a picture of Ozzie just after we left the rescue property. Maybe it's me but he looks a little sad.

This post is another in a series of several that are overdue by a few months.