Monday, October 31, 2016

Back and Forth: Friends, Family, Vets, Football, Tourists and Reunions

After visiting the Eisenhower property in Abilene, Kansas in September 2016, we spent a few nights at Coachlight RV Park in Carthage, Missouri where we enjoyed playing golf on one of the best municipal courses we've seen. Wayne's looking to get new batteries for the coach but we struck out in Carthage. Seems our battery watering system is specially fitted to a particular battery brand.

The last week of September we moved to Tom Sawyer Campground along the Tennessee River in West Memphis, Arkansas. We stayed two nights and enjoyed nine holes of golf at another surprisingly good municipal course.

Along the river at Tom Sawyer Campground. 
On September 28th we met Gary and Shelia at Pin Oak Campground at Natchez Trace State Park for a few days. These are wonderful times we enjoy and we see them so seldom.

At Pin Oak Campground in Natchez Trace State Park (Tennessee)

Brothers enjoy a nice fall afternoon visit in the campground 

Nice golf bag.  Wayne on the left, Gary on the right. 

Wayne and Gary's wife Shelia 

Next stop would be Spring Lake RV Resort in Crossville, Tennessee but just for two nights as we were in route to Knoxville where we've called ahead and ordered the new batteries. Wayne feels confident. I am skeptical.  Yes, the batteries were ordered as promised but the technicians at Buddy Gregg RV removed and threw out our battery watering system. When confronted with the error, a complimentary replacement system system was ordered and would be sent directly to us at our winter destination.  You just can't trust anybody to do what they say they're going to do.

We were in terribly hot weather even though it's mid October and it's not likely to get cooler as we travel south from Knoxville to Auburn. It's time for Lexie's transition from medical care at Washington State University Vet School to Auburn. It's also time to have her six-month neurological check-up and blood work. As usual, we have a site at Auburn Leisuretime RV Park where we'll get to see our friends, Tom, Thomas and Emily Sparrow, who own the campground.

Lexie might be the patient today, but Ozzie gets a "once over" too and loves the attention of the female students.

Ozzie waits with mom for Lexie to return from her exam. 

WSU's treatment plan for Lexie's encephalitis was agreed to by the neurologists at Auburn. Her anti-seizure med was increased by .2 ml to coincide with the 2 pounds she's gained since her low weight in July. All her tests proved near normal, allowing us breath easy. She seems normal...  as normal as Lexie can be.

Now, we'll go right back up I-65 again. We're going to meet up with Pam and Ernie to "Do Nashville". A rendezvous at Nashville I-24 Campground in Smyrna is already on the calendar. We look forward, as always, to seeing our friend, Donna too, whose family owns the campground.

The familiar site of the castle along I-840 between Franklin and Smyrna, Tennessee

The Fab Four found a new favorite Italian dining establishment at Mossimo's LaTavola in Smyrna
Aspiring musicians are plentiful in this area. This is a family looking for their start at the campground.

Listening to the music with campground owner Donna.
Beside her is Don, a workcamper at I-24 campground. He's an author. 

Pam and me. No self-respecting tourist can say they've seen Nashville unless they tour the Ryman. 

Pam at Wildhorse Saloon -- closed for a special event. 

Wayne, me and Ernie. Upstairs at the George Jones store, restaurant and bar overlooking the river.

We spent an afternoon in historic Franklin, Tennessee too.
Here, Pam and I are modeling our best Halloween look. 

A visit to the Factory in Franklin called for antics on the giant rocking chair 

A night out with friends in one of Nashville's most trendy new restaurants. (Can't remember the name though)
Left to right, Ernie, Pam, me, Wayne, Donna and Gary

Tickets for the late Grand Ole Opry.
Performances by John Conlee, Connie Smith, High Valley, Del McCoury Band, Charles Esten and Little Big Town.
Here, Chip Esten sings Wayne's new favorite "I Love You, Beer"

Welcome to the Grand Ole Opry!

Donna and Molly (Ozzie's other girlfriend) 
My high school reunion was scheduled for one of the weekends we were in Nashville. We decided to make the long drive from Nashville to north Alabama and back the same evening in the truck instead of taking the whole rig, which would be comfortable but time consuming.  A reunion dinner was planned at one of the old barbecue places near the school. After we all visited at the home of classmate Danny and his wife.

Janice, Micki and Julia

Tony Sexton, Gwin Laxon, Micky Higginbotham, Sandra Copeland, Danny Barksdale, Carol Balch, ?, Larry Cottles, Julia Wales, Janice Adams, Iris Locke, Marilyn David, me and Hal Parvin. (can't see the guy in the blue shirt)

Carol and Larry looking over the old annuals.

Gerry Swan and his wife

Iris and her husband 

Hal and his date

Danny and his wife.
The two youngest grandchildren live in middle Tennessee so we spent as much time as possible visiting with them during our stay in Smyrna. As Halloween approached, Wayne and I had fun bringing bags of cheap holiday treats to three year old Barbara and Jude every visit.  Of course, it was good to see their parents, Cam and Amy too.

Cam, Barbara, Amy and Jude 

Will you fix this Granddaddy? 

Jude's scary 2016 Frankenstein Halloween costume. 

Jude and Barbara drink juice from the Halloween pumpkin sippie cups. 

Barbara wearing the dress of her Bride of Frankenstein costume.

Barbara is practicing her scary face for Halloween 

Who knew the Bride of Frankenstein was an angel?

As October wound down, we took to I-65 yet again, backtracking south.  We squeezed in a single afternoon/evening visit with Aunt Helen and cousin Lynn in Birmingham to watch Auburn play Arkansas.

Lynn is giving bites of people food to Ozzie. He adores her now. Aunt Helen on the right.

Wayne, Lynn and friend, Becky

Lexie, Ozzie and Aunt Helen's dog, Dusty. 

Helen and Dusty

Wayne, Lynn, Aunt Helen and Becky.
Yes, they are Bama fans. 

Dusty shows Lexie and Ozzie around his home. Lexie has to wear "non-skid" socks. 

Aunt Helen lets the dogs play all over the house. Including the sofa. 

Following the short two night stay at in Birmingham, we're headed back to Auburn where Ozzie will have a dental cleaning.

The big, scary exam table. Pop keeps Ozzie safe. 

With our best vet pal, Robert Lofton, Clinical Professor at Auburn Vet School.
This was taken October 31. Ozzie got an "all clear" for winter travel to Florida

Always love seeing Auburn's Raptor Center vehicles in the parking lot. Never got to see them in the clinic though.

On Monday, October 31, we pulled out of Auburn. Next stop... Myakka River Motorcoach Resort in Port Charlotte.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Wagons Ho! Southbound from Kansas

From Covered Wagon Campground, Abilene, Kansas       Our two day journey from Rapid City, South Dakota to Abilene, Kansas was uneventful except for the aggravation that comes with the loss of cool in the coach's chassis air conditioning.   That coupled with the ever warming outside temperatures made us quite unhappy. This happened last year about this time and we had freon added in Foley, Alabama. I think there's a leak in there somewhere. Anyway, we arrived Abilene in a scorching 91 degree, sun drenched afternoon and waited for the world's longest train to make it's way through town just two blocks before we reached the campground.  Insult was heaped onto injury when the campground parked us in a treeless field. A final slap would be the horrendous black flying gnats that swarmed our heads when we dared to venture outside. Egads.  Good news is we are but a block or so from the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and boyhood home -- the reason we came here.

Here is a map of our route from Hart Ranch in Rapid City to Covered Wagon Campground in Abilene.

Without notice on the first travel day, we happened upon Carhenge, (think Stonehenge) an ingenious display of old cars, stacked and half buried in the dirt in the tiny town of Alliance, Nebraska. Evidently, the idea was conceived in 1987 buy a man in England to memorialize his father.

Late in the afternoon we came upon this spectacular Archway spanning I-80 near Kearney, Nebraska. This beautiful archway represents 170 years of westward movement by Americans. From what I read, the archway has a variety of interesting displays.

The original plan for this destination was to rendezvous with Joyce and Charlie who live about a hundred miles south of Abilene in Wichita.  Two weeks ago, however, Joyce began her long awaited cataract surgery and it didn't go well. She's had several follow-up visits with the eye doctor and she is better, but her vision still isn't even as good as it had been before the surgery... much less better.  Joyce and Charlie are also in the midst of extensive remodeling of their home and the timing just didn't work out for them to be away during this time.

So on Tuesday morning we left Lexie and Ozzie at home in their play pen and drove the short two blocks from the campground to the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and boyhood home. To make the best use of our time, the ticket clerk suggested we go first to the Place of Meditation, where President Eisenhower, wife Mamie and first born son, Doud are buried.

The President's grave is on the left, First Lady on the right. Four year old Doud is buried here too but it's not clear where.
This purple banner hangs in the Place of Meditation and is apparently the words of then General Dwight David Eisenhower in prayer sometime before the war.

A bit of DDE trivia.  At birth, he wad David Dwight Eisenhower, but somehow upon enrollment at West Point, his first and middle names were transposed and he forevermore became Dwight David.

From the Place of Meditation, we walked to the boyhood home. This is where the Eisenhowers lived from 1898 until mother Ida Eisenhower died in 1946.

Concrete work is being done at the front of the house so tours were conducted through the back door, near where I'm standing in this picture.
The Eisenhower home remains on the original site and contains original furniture and household items just as they were when the family lived here.

The sitting room

The parlor

Dwight Eisenhower's mother, Ida. She lived in this house until she died in 1946.
Service men often came to the house after the war to pay respects to the Allied Commander. Mrs. Eisenhower usually had lemonade and cookies on the front porch for the unannounced visitors. 

The Eisenhower family Bible is on display in the house. 

The original telephone was never changed.  
The Eisenhower Museum was built by the Eisenhower Foundation with funds raised through public gifts. It is made of Kansas limestone and is a short sidewalk walk from the Eisenhower home.

Highlights of the Eisenhower Museum for me were:

Mamie's wedding gown and a display of wedding invitation, a pair of pearl earrings given her by Ike and a tiny piece of wedding cake contained in the small shield box.

Mamie's first inaugural gown

A personal card of Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer S.S. and personal stationary of Adlolf Hitler
Original watercolor by Adolf Hitler

The D-Day Planning Table

The Inflatable Rubber Dummy. Hundreds of these were ejected from planes over the Normandy coast. The silhouette gave the appearance of Allied troops parachuting to the ground. The dummies exploded when they hit, making the Germans think they were being fired on. The blast destroyed the decoy, causing the Germans to believe the soldier had moved out of the area,
This letter, marked "Personal and Private" was special to me too. It was from British General Montgomery to General Eisenhower.  Because it's hard to read, I typed the message in the caption block under the picture.

Dated: 27-9-44   "My dear Ike, H.M. The King has asked if he can come and stay with me for 3 or 4 nights, and see his troops. He proposes to arrive on evening 10th October. I have told His Majesty that I am sure will have no objection to his visit. He is anxious on of the of these days of his visit to lunch with you (as I think you asked him) and to visit American troops in the First U.S. Army next door to me. My tentative programme for him would be as follows. Does this suit you?
11 October - Second Army, 12 October - Canadian Army, 13 October - Lunch with you and see American troops.
14 October - Return to England. I am keeping the whole thing very secret and no one here knows anything about it except myself, and Lt. Col. Downey, my M.A.    Yours ever, Monty"
General Eisenhower's 1942 Cadillac Staff Car

After the War 

Eisenhower accomplishments - Both extremely special for us in our retirement travel.

A built bullet-proof podium built for Ike by IBM 

Ike's golf clubs along with a scorecard showing his play against proffessional golfer, Bobby Jones. 
Following our visit to the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, we enjoyed lunch at a local cafe in nearby Abilene Old Town and then rummaged around a consignment shop where I bought two nice, functional baskets. We returned to the coach, loaded Lexie and Ozzie and toured the rest of Abilene.

We followed signs to the Lebold mansion, not knowing what we'd find. Turns out this property site is that of the first cabin in Abilene Overland and Butterfield Stage Line. The couple who lived in the cabin were the parents of the first white child to be born here. They also were responsible for naming the city of Abilene.

Trains are everywhere in Abilene. I saw two depots. Wayne swears he saw a third. 

Lebold Mansion is for sale.  Completed in 1880, this 23 room mansion was built by a local banker who lost it after the depression of the late 1880's. For some 53 years, the building served as an apartment building, a telephone office and an orphanage. Restoration on the home didn't begin until 1972 and still is incomplete.
By 3:30, with our city tour complete, we returned to the coach.  Our time here is short as the weather is miserably hot. We pull out tomorrow, continuing the southeastward travel where I don't expect we'll get much cooler.