Tag Archive for: #tiffinmotorhome

A blur and a blog

I’m back home, on solid ground, after being in constant motion for the last 5 ½ months in our
motorhome.

I’m sitting at my desk, covered with research books, book proposals, correspondence, works by
upcoming Claire’s Day authors and illustrators, sipping tea and reflecting on our adventures.

Here’s how the (approximate!) numbers stack up; 8,000 miles. Endless hikes with Luna.100
miles biking. 25 rounds of golf. 16 unique camping experiences.13 different bodies of water we
kayaked on. 7 States. 6 visits with friends. Only 4 days of rain. 3 weeks spent with family
members. 2 vet visits with Luna. 1 fun fishing expedition. 0 days laid up due to illness.

When I add up all of the adventures, it equals one hell of an experience.

We left in October when the leaves were just changing in Ohio. We came home in early April
with the trees blooming again. We left with an itinerary, a wish, and a prayer that we’d be safe on
our travels. We came home with unforgettable memories and a sense of accomplishment.

I mean, let’s face it. 5 ½ months spent together in the equivalent of 500 square feet would be a
challenge for anyone.

But we rose to the occasion and had a blast together. Sure, there were squabbles, but, as I offered to
Brad, other than the few times we wanted to throw each other out the window, we did great. I
feel so blessed to have a partner in every sense of the word.

The whole experience reflected how we deal with life. If there’s a problem, we work together to
figure it out. If one of us is feeling a bit down, we build each other up. If one of us is literally or
figuratively on the ledge, we guide each other to a safe place. If we get pissed at each other, we
let it out and let it go.

During our wedding vows 35 years ago, our minister encouraged us to laugh together, cry together, dance
together, make love together, to celebrate life together.

Together.

Here are a few shots of the blur of the last weeks on the road. We visited Blue Ridge,
Georgia, kayaked on the Toccoa River, shopped in the vibrant downtown, and stopped at the
little Serenberry winery for a tasting.

We had to maneuver around the many fishermen on the Toccoa.

I cracked up when seeing this memory again…I thought the hens were going to peck Brad’s toes as he put the kayaks back on the Jeep.

Sun. Wine. Cheers.

We snuck in a short visit with our daughter Kyle, our son-in-law Will, and their pup, Riggins.
Sadly, we didn’t sneak in any pictures of our hike, lunch at a brewery, and cookout at their house.

We wrapped up the journey as it began, stopping at the Rubini family home in Tryon, NC and a
quick overnight with friends Chris and Diane Evans in Lexington.

With Brad’s mom, Lynn, and sister Gail outside the Purple Onion in Saluda.

Thank you for following along on our journeys. These reflections in my blog have been fun for me to create, an outlet as I contemplate my next writing project.

We hope that perhaps our adventures have inspired you to get out there and discover our beautiful country.

Until next time…

 

From Coast to Coast

Don’t you love it when the perfect book enters your life at the perfect time?

My friend Beth Fry lent me Last Train to Paradise, the story of Henry Flagler’s quest to build the railroad along the eastern coastline, and ultimately, all the way to Key West.

The timing to read this fascinating account couldn’t have been better, as we had just traveled along much of the railway route.

From our last reported east coast adventures in Port St. Lucie, we traveled down to Fort Lauderdale. Our digs for the two weeks were quite unique…

Yep, that’s our rig, with literally a million (or Five!) dollar view. We stayed at the Yacht Haven Park and Marina which is located in the Marina Mile district. As the term suggests, yachts of all sizes call this area home.

We had awesome neighbors, the Covely family of New Jersey. John is an avid fisherman, and was kind enough to take us out on his boat. We had a great time listening to John’s stories and catching a variety of fish. Sadly, none of them were large enough to keep. As John offered, the hour long trip through the channel, past the Intercoastal and out to the ocean was worth the price of admission. The closer we got to the big water, the bigger the homes got!

We also had a blast cheering on the Eagles in the Super Bowl with John and Marianne’s family, including their daughter Colleen and crew. We love making new friends on the road!

Two are always better than one!

During our stay, we ventured over to Naples for an annual golf event staged by our friends Jim and Susan Stahl. The event drew over 50 golfers from Toledo, with another 50 joining us after for cocktails. Our foursome was the only team of women, and took a respectable 3rd place.  Brad and I spent the night with brother and sister-in-law, Mark and Marcia before heading back to Fort Lauderdale.

Our awesome team…from r to l Susan Stahl, Linda Gilmore, Marcia and yours truly!

We also snuck in a day trip to visit our friends Rob and Marina Wade in Boca Raton. Luna made herself quite at home, enjoying the salt water pool. The four of us ventured out for a St. Valentine’s dinner at Louie Bossi’s Italian Ristorante. The salmon was delicious!

We don’t go out to eat too often on the road, so this was a special treat, with special friends.

After two weeks exploring, kayaking, golfing, biking and seeing friends on the east coast, our travels took us west.

Although Henry Flagler’s rail line ran along the other coast, The Last Train to Paradise detailed the horrific damage to the railway due to hurricanes. This was relevant as we ventured into Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda and witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian.

We had a lovely time with Tom and Beth Fry, who were kind enough to allow us to park our rig on their lot. What fun we had hanging out with them during the day, and popping back into the motorhome to sleep at night. Luna enjoyed swimming in their pool too. We cruised in their boat across the bay to Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda for lunch.

Tom and Beth were quite hospitable, even hosting a Rubini family gathering. We were treated to a visit with Brad’s niece, Liz and her family, including husband Jason and sons Jackson and Brendan. (Brad’s half-brother Stan stopped by too.) We had so much fun at the cookout that we forgot to take pictures! But, we snuck in some extra time with Liz and Jackson the next morning at the farmer’s market in Punta Gorda.

After our brief three-day visit, we pointed the coach north, traveling to Land O’ Lakes, outside of Tampa. We stayed for a week, hanging with long-time friends, Jan and Bryan Spaulding. Bryan was Brad’s fraternity father, that’s how far the friendship goes back to!

Jan is training for an upcoming biking adventure through Amsterdam, so Brad and I were happy to help in her efforts to prepare for the trip. Jan and I spent a morning on the Pinellas Bike Trail, then enjoyed brunch at the Wild Iris Cafe in the cute little town of Dunedin. I’d love to get back and explore the adorable village more in the future.

Bryan and Jan hosted us for several awesome dinners at their lovely home, and a fun evening out watching their friend, Cat, participate in the finals of a community karaoke contest. On our last day in the area, we traveled to the Weeki Wachee River for a kayaking adventure. We launched from Mary’s Fish Camp on the Mud River. Established in 1946, this camp is a quaint, old school spot. Brad and I wished that we could have hung out there for a few days.

We didn’t see any of the famous live mermaids, but we did see two manatees literally swimming under our kayaks.

This is the only picture we took over the week of Bryan and Jan…both trying to see the elusive manatee. 

During our time in the area, Brad, Luna and I snuck in a visit with a friend who can claim responsibility for us. We traveled to Holiday to enjoy the hospitality of none other than Tim Gage and his lovely wife, Carrie and their daughter, Griffin. Their dachshund, Minnie, was quite tolerant of Luna as she made herself at home immediately, jumping into the pool and making a mess of their landscaping. (I’m sensing a pattern here!)

Tim and Carrie introduced us to their favorite haunt, Miss Vicki’s on the River. It was a beautiful, fun evening, spent reminiscing about high school antics (the guys) and sharing favorite music and concert experiences (the ladies).

Just as Henry Flagler’s quest came to an end, so too did our coast to coast adventures.

Next stop: The “Forgotten Coast.”

 

 

Death by Alligator

I sensed movement off to my left, just behind reeds that lined the Juniper Spring Run. I drew my paddle back into the water, quietly, cautiously. As I came around a bend, I felt my pulse quicken. There, just a paddle length away was the biggest alligator I had ever seen. He stopped moving, just on the brink of the clear water.  His massive body seemingly ready to use his legs and tail to jettison off the well-worn dirt shore and into the spring run. The urge to spin around in the current and try and capture his image passed as I saw Brad come up from behind me on his kayak. Not wanting to startle the beast,  I simply nodded my head to the shore, and said, “Gator.”

Brad and I were camping for a few days in the Juniper Springs Recreation area. Our site was beautiful and private with a fire ring we stoked up to smoke some ribs over, followed by the requisite S’mores for dessert. The site also featured a storage locker for your food, so as to not let the other creatures that roam the park enjoy your provisions while away. The first night we were there I heard the dense foliage crack and shift. Was it bear or the wild turkey that were prominent in the park? I’ll never know.

When we learned of the 7 mile Spring Run, considered one of the top 25 kayak/canoe runs in the country, we knew we had to figure out how to work through the logistics of the trip. There is no official ferry service any longer from the end of the one-way run back to the launch site. Brad initially suggested that we dump the kayaks at the start, drive our Jeep with our kayak carrier to the end of the run, then bike the 9 miles back to the start. All well and good in my book, with the exception that the 9 mile bike ride back was along major highways with a narrow shoulder. I think if we’d gone that route this post might be titled “Death by Distracted Driver.”

I got my research brain working and found a woman who transports paddlers from the end spot to the start for $40. We were lucky, for someone else had already booked her and she charged us just $20. I would have been happy to pay the original amount, especially when Brad told me that she informed Brad that the intersection of Route 19 and Highway 40 is one of the deadliest in Florida. Yikes.

While Brad drove the Jeep to the end, I waited with the kayaks. I struck up a conversation with a younger couple getting ready to launch. I wished I hadn’t. The young man’s words were so cautionary that I began to question my paddling abilities and whether it was safe to even attempt the run.

“You know it’s quite a challenging, narrow, waterway with a fast current,” he said.

Yes, I was aware.

“It’s tough to navigate, not ideal for everyone.”

My husband and I are proficient paddlers, I responded.

“There’s quite a few gators, snakes and spiders on the run,” he said.

I understand.

As his words brought about a bit of anxiety, I thought about how we can all be guilty of being naysayers. As a mom with two adventuresome adult children, I’ve tried to bite my tongue when they share their upcoming endeavors. Better yet, I have asked to have them tell me after the fact.

It’s probably just as well that they heard about this adventure afterwards.

Especially after seeing that gator.

One of the dozens of turtles we saw on the Jupiter Run.

We came upon the young couple on the run while they were stopped along the bank. I think the young guy was rather impressed that I’d not only managed to navigate that far without being eaten, but was also bypassing him. I intentionally paddled hard and strong down the run as we went past, missing the first gator sighting. I wanted to prove to this obnoxious young man that I was quite capable. As I paddled away, I said, “Haven’t seen any rapids yet.”

This was the first gator on the run…I missed it because I was too busy trying to prove myself.

“Oh, they’re coming, trust me. And, by the way, your paddle is upside down.”

Note the upside down paddle. I didn’t start that way…the many twists and turns often required a twirling of ones body and paddle to avoid running into trees or the bank. Just sayin’.

It was about fifteen minutes later that I saw the huge reptile. He watched me with his dark, black eyes, perhaps weighing whether I was worth the effort to slide off the bank. I knew that in colder temperatures alligators metabolism slows. I was hoping he’d had a good meal recently. I was amazed at how calm I felt, given that it would probably take just a nudge of his snout and a slap of his huge tail to capsize me.

This isn’t the actual gator we saw on the bank, but his size was similar. Seriously.

Photo credit:dreamstime.com

I paddled away, and he stayed.

And those rapids I was supposed to be so afraid of? They were maybe a level 1, the easiest of rapids. I think I’ve seen bigger waves in the swimming pool during annual family cannonball contests.

My story doesn’t finish with me meeting my end by Death by Alligator.

But I never did see that young man finish the run…

Moon River and Me…a Christmas Memory and Wish

The Jazz Corner in Hilton Head has served as a haven for jazz enthusiasts for nearly a quarter of a century. Brad and I were fortunate to take in Lavon Stevens on the piano and singer Louise Spencer this past week. Dinner was fantastic  and the crowd responsive as they played a variety of holiday songs and traditional jazz tunes.

As soon as I heard the familiar strains of the classic song “Moon River,” tears began to swell.

Moon River, wider than a mile, I’m crossing you in style some day…

Memories flooded back to my childhood, to a simpler time during the holiday season. Snuggled in my pajamas with footies, the multi-colored lights from the fresh Christmas tree reflecting on the ceiling, the pine scent flooding our family room. I could hardly wait for one of my favorite holiday traditions; The Andy Williams Christmas Show. Mom turned on the TV, and adjusted the rabbit ears. The NBC Peacock appeared and then magic. Andy Williams and ensemble started crooning “We Need A Little Christmas Now.”

My five-year-old self squiggled and wiggled on the shag carpet covered floor, trying to make space among my four siblings (the youngest, Gordie, wouldn’t make an appearance for two more years). I watched my first crush sing “The Christmas Song” to his mama. My heart swelled as I felt Andy was singing to me. My dreams were dashed when his beautiful wife, Claudine Longet showed up on set.

Oh dream maker, you heart breaker, wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way… 

I waited patiently, hoping to hear Moon River during the broadcast. It wasn’t to be.

But, it didn’t take much pleading for my mom to dig into the wooden cabinet filled with vinyl and pull out the album with Andy’s renditions of movie themes, including the Grammy Award winning Moon River.

Williams-Moon.JPG

The day after our Jazz Corner experience, Brad and I drove to Savannah and decided to take in the city via the Old Town Trolley Tours. We could explore the city while hopping off and on the trolley. We hit the City Market, walked through Forsythe Park, and marveled at the massive Greek Revival and Italianate style homes.

A highlight was stepping into the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist.

Volunteers were finishing up the last touches to the glorious Nativity.

Two drifters, off to see the world, there’s such a lot of world to see…

And then, after hopping back on the trolley, the little Christmas miracle happened.

“On the right you’ll see the Mercer-Williams home, built for Johnny Mercer’s great-grandfather,” our personable driver Miss Denise offered.

Denise stopped briefly in front of the beautiful home and said, “So who was Johnny Mercer? Let me play a little something for you…”

And with that, she clicked on her phone, and just as the night before, those familiar strains of nostalgia once again came back to me.

Moon River, wider than a mile…

Stop the bus! Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to not only Moon River, but to hundreds of songs over his career, from the 1930’s to the late 1960’s.

I turned to Brad, squeezed his hand, and cracked up.

Coincidence? One of life’s little gifts?

We’re after the same rainbow’s end, Waitin’ ’round the bendMy huckleberry friendMoon river and me

As the song wrapped, I knew I found my message for this Christmas wish for you.

I hope your holiday season is filled with fond memories, nostalgia, and loved ones to drift through this world in.

 

 

Family, Friends and Flames

One of the greatest benefits to this on-the-road experience is being able to spend time with family members and friends. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve visited with my mother-in-law, Lynn, daughter Kyle and her husband, Will, son, Ian, and friends Steve and Debbie Gibbs.

I’ll get to the flames in a bit, but for now, here’s the highlight reel of our family and friend experiences.

Aiken

Brad, Luna and I arrived in this quaint town in South Carolina in time to spend Thanksgiving with Lynn. We enjoyed a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner of fantastic rib roast, sweet potatoes, maple bourbon carrots and homemade cranberry sauce. Lit candles and the sounds of Harry Belafonte (Lynn’s favorite) crooned in the background while we enjoyed our feast. We managed to help Lynn with some “honey-do’s” around the house during our stay. Lynn and I also enjoyed shopping in uptown Aiken.

Aiken, SC

Photo credit: South Carolina, Travel

Aiken County was historically the winter colony for wealthy families from the Northeast. The comfortable climate and the sandy soil make Aiken a favorite for horse owners. Today such traditions as fox hunting and polo continue. For those of us who prefer to walk on our own two feet, there are lovely sites, including the gorgeous “Avenue of the Oaks.” South Boundary Avenue is nationally recognized as one of the South’s most beautiful streets.

Aiken, South Carolina

Photo credit: Peter Frank Edwards/REDUX

I didn’t manage to get any photos of the three of us during our stay, I promise to do so when we go back to visit Lynn over the Christmas holiday.

Atlanta

Time with Kyle and Will awaited in their adopted hometown. We’ve found that major metropolitan areas do not have a plethora of campground options for big rigs, but we enjoyed both of our experiences at Stone Mountain and McKinney on Allatoona Lake.

Our first exciting experience with Kyle and Will was to attend the Georgia State semi-final football contest between Walton High School and Carrollton High. Will and his father, Bill, have both coached the Walton team. Although Walton lost, it was so fun to be in the stands, hanging with Kyle and her new mother-in-law, Lori,  cheering the Raiders on.

Kyle and Will drove over to Stone Mountain  and joined us for Brad’s special smoked ribs. We love camp fires!

We didn’t hike to the top (I’ve done twice, once as a child, and once with the kids when they were young) because we had Luna and Riggins with us, and they weren’t allowed, no matter how cute they are.

Brad and I took an early morning bike ride around the perimeter of the park…my legs had forgotten what hills were like!  This is an image from a piece written in Conde Nast Traveler about the magnificent, largest piece of exposed granite in the world. Click on the image to read the full article. One could easily spend a week here, hiking, biking, kayaking, and taking in the view from the top.

Atlanta, Georgia, GA, Things to Do, Stone Mountain Park

Allatoona Lake

We then untied from our hitching post (i.e. disconnected our utility hookups) and headed north of Atlanta to McKinney Campground, an Army Corps of Engineers site. It was just what my soul needed, both in the amount of hop-skipping we had done in our travels, and what was in store….

Our site was perched on top of a hill, overlooking Allatoona Lake. We’ve heard geese, sandhill cranes and a free-ranging rooster. Every once in a while the sounds of a train or a bass fishing boat disturb the quiet, both otherwise incredibly calm and peaceful. Brad and I kayaked one morning on the lake, and hiked six miles at the nearby Red Mountain Top State Park.

Vegas, baby!

Okay…so I’ve been hinting that flames are involved in this post…

Ian and I were supposed to see Adele in Vegas back in February. But then Adele postponed the residency, offering that the production just wasn’t ready. Oh my, was she worth the wait.

Here we are, nearly pinching ourselves before the show.

Adele had me at Hello, her first number. Simply elegant in her black ball gown, with nothing but a white grand piano behind her on stage, Adele promised that the production would get bigger.

Much bigger.

So much bigger…with full orchestra behind, including the strings in individual huge squares elevated in the back.

And then this…when Adele set fire to the rain.

I’m getting goosebumps all over again just writing about the experience. Unforgettable.

Ian and I find the whole Vegas scene a bit overwhelming, so we set out to discover Sin City on our own terms. We took in Fremont Street, visited the Mob Museum, and perused vintage shops and an artist colony in the Arts District.

But most of all, we enjoyed hanging together for this rare occasion of just the two of us traveling together.

Priceless.

Photo bomber at our base hotel, the Sahara.

We left the Big City on (ugh!) 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time flights, Ian back to his home in Denver, me back to Atlanta.

Our last days were filled with dinner at Pure Taqueria in Woodstock with Steve and Debbie Gibbs, hiking, and taking in the beautiful automobile collection at the Savoy Museum in nearby Cartersville.

I’d take either one of these beauties, but especially the cute guy in the background.

And, of course, if you’ve followed my journey, you know that purple turns up when least expected.

Brad and I snuck in one last dinner with Kyle and Will before heading off to our new adventures.

So, there you have it…family, friends and flames! Wowza!

 

 

Paddling

It has been said that a duck looks calm above the water, but is paddling like heck underwater to stay afloat.

I’ve learned that this is simply not true.

Ducks only paddle to change direction, or to move forward.

Ducks have a gland at the base of their tails that secretes an oil that they spread on their feathers to keep from sinking. The waterfowl will frequently tuck their head and bill to help sleek the oil over their plumage to remain above the surface.

But sometimes, the oil gland gets plugged. Stress or trauma can be one reason. It is suggested that to help ease the stress, that the duck might need a reprieve, some down time from others to recover.

Northwest River, Chesapeake, VA

I thought a lot about ducks while kayaking on the Northwest River in Chesapeake, Virginia. As I came around a bend, wood ducks would flap up out of the water, startled by my approach. The river was covered in duckweed, a protein that wood ducks will eat, and serves an important role in the healthy ecosystem of the river.

I thought about how, like ducks, we need to take care of ourselves every day to stay afloat. And, that if we’ve experienced pain, grief or anxiety, sometimes we need quiet time to recover.

(And sometimes, like when we see a snake along the shore, we take a moment to take it in, snap a shot, then paddle the hell out of there.)

My husband Brad and I had planned our next adventure, six months in our motorhome, ever since we bought it last February. Brad has less tolerance for winter, and I’m always game to travel, so we began plotting our trip.

Sadly, I lost my oldest brother, Kevin, just a month before we were to leave. I know he would not have wanted us to alter our intentions, in fact, just the opposite.

After gathering with my awesome brothers and their wives, Jeff and Cindy, Greg and Lisa, Gordie and Debbie, along with Kevin’s wife, Bobbie, to celebrate Kevin’s life, Brad and I took off.

But, like those ducks, I realized I needed to take care of myself to keep my head above the surface. I needed peace and quiet to restore my soul. Our first stop, the Rubini family homestead in Tryon, North Carolina, offered just that. Plus bonus time with our daughter Kyle and our grandpup, Riggins, and our dear friends, Susan and Pam.

Sunset in North Carolina

Our daughter Kyle snuggling with Riggins and Luna

Pam (l.) and Susan at the creek below Chimney Rock.

Every day I preened my feathers, doing what I could to take care of myself. Hikes, picnics at waterfalls, glasses of wine at sunset, fun rounds of golf, writing, reflecting. Slowly I felt myself rising to the surface once again.

And then, like those ducks, I dug my paddles into the water and moved forward.

From North Carolina we ventured to the Cheseapeake area. Along with kayaking, we explored Williamsburg and spent amazing time with my niece Wendy, her husband Tony, and their 7-year-old daughter, Isabelle.

Entering Williamsburg with one of the historians. Brad is on the right…

Inventory of original items in the Peyton Randolph home.

On Veterans Day, we visited the Military Aviation Museum with Wendy, Tony and Isabelle. When we entered a restored, musty control tower brought over from England, Isabelle said, “This building smells like history.”

On our last day in the area, we spent the afternoon kayaking on Lake Christopher with Wendy and family, then ventured to the Norfolk Botanical Garden for an incredible holiday night display.

One of the last light structures we saw was tree shaped, with a star on top. It hovered over the walking path. Isabelle and I stood for a moment under the strings of blue lights. “Look up,” I said.

“Whoa,” Isabelle shouted. Whoa was right.

In that brief encounter, all that I’ve experienced these last few months melted away. I felt like all of my angels gone from my life too soon were letting me know that all is well. They are with me, helping me on this life journey.

They are lighting my way, and I’m paddling, moving forward.

 

Selma

By the time you read this, I’ll be back from round two of our adventures in our new-to-us motorhome.

I’ve cranked out five blog posts in the course of a day, all the while wrapping up details for a presentation and making sure I have materials for a book festival at the end of the adventures. I like to leave our townhome clean for when I return, a place of peace after our travels. So, laundry was done, sheets were washed, vacuumed and dusted, cleaned out the refrigerator, and tried to wait as late in the day as possible to pack, so as not to freak out our Labrador, Luna.

All the while, I’ve been wanting to get to this last post in reflecting our initial set of travels.

Selma. Selma. Selma.

All-day long thoughts of this experience have been haunting me, making sure I got to this point in my reflections.

Hell, Selma has been haunting me ever since we visited in mid-February.

We pulled into town around 3:30 pm, crossing over the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, and making our way to the Selma Interpretive Center. We were greeted by site manager Kenneth L. Williams, who when learning we were from Toledo, announced proudly that he was originally from Cleveland. I was curious as to what brought him down to Alabama, and he graciously shared that his momma had a house and some property in the area, and when she passed, he moved down to the area and loves it.

This short interaction was huge, given what we were about to witness. How times have changed, I thought, that a Black man from Cleveland would love living in Alabama.

Kenneth explained that although the bookstore was open, the exhibit area was not, due to Covid. However, the Lowndes Interpretative Center, 25 minutes away was open, but we had better hurry, he said, because it closed at 4:30.

After a quick stop at the historic St. James Hotel, a brief exchange with a local heading into the property, (“Come back to Selma! You could spend three days here!”) we ventured to Lowndes.

Even though I researched the facility, I’ve learned of poll taxes, literacy tests, the historic march, Bloody Sunday, and Turnaround Tuesday, I was not prepared for the emotional impact of reading the firsthand accounts of the march, of the beatings, of the hate.

I read about Tent City, a settlement on Black-owned property as a result of sharecroppers being kicked off their land because of their roles in voter registration demonstrations and activity. My heart hurt as I read the accounts of senseless violence that occurred there.

The thirty minutes we had was a drop in the bucket to what I would have liked to have spent there. As my husband offered to the volunteer at the front desk, “She likes to read everything.” I guess it’s the nonfiction writer in me. I’ll never know when I’ll have the chance to go back again.

We closed down the place. I felt like I needed more.

So, Brad discovered Prairie Creek Campground, one of many that fall under the Army Corps of Engineers. The campground was just 15 minutes away, between Lowndes and Selma. We decided we both wanted to go back to Selma the next morning.

The campground was the best experience we’d had so far on the trip. Large sites, peaceful surroundings, with woods and water, campfires, families making S’mores, reminiscent of yesteryear with the kids.

Although we didn’t have three days to spend in Selma, we had the morning. We crossed back over the Edmund Pettus Bridge and visited official and makeshift tributes to those instrumental in the Civil Rights movement and March. We poked our heads into the St. James Hotel. We ventured past the sad public housing projects and took pictures of grand historic homes. Our last stop was the Live Oak cemetery, with its beautiful, yet eerie live oaks throughout.

We left Selma feeling sad, yet hopeful.

Everyone should go to Selma. I’m not sure I could spend three days there.

One was enough to remind me of how far we’ve come, but how far we have to go.

 

Psych out

There isn’t anything much more intimidating than the prospect of playing golf with a sports psychologist.

I know that the opposite should hold true, but not for me, at least at the very start. Brad and I had the opportunity to play with Jon Stabler, co-founder of Golf Psych in Boerne (that’s Bernie for those of us from parts elsewhere) Texas. Brad took Jon’s course last year and played with Jon at the beautiful Resort Course at Tapatio Springs.

Brad wanted to reunite with Jon and play a round at the course he enjoyed so much before.

The night before our outing, our motorhome shook and shimmied to the significant wind gusts blowing through the area overnight. I suppose it didn’t help that we were camping at the Top of the Hill campground, prime real estate for wind.

I tossed and turned, my thoughts floating back to a camping trip years before with our kids and my sister-in-law, Gail, in Northern Minnesota, outside of Duluth. I remember holding on to the kids and Brad as we were all piled in the same bed of our pull trailer, hoping and praying we’d all be fine.

All was well the next morning, the winds calmed down, and after taking a hike at a nearby park with Luna, Brad and I headed to Tapatio Springs. After settling up in the pro shop, we headed to the range, grabbing a few clubs to warm up with. Soon after Jon showed up, offering a huge smile and a warm, strong handshake. I suggested that the student and instructor should ride together, and I would hang in my own cart, which they agreed made sense.

The first hole was a par 5 dogleg left (as opposed to dogleg right as I thought). I hit a decent drive, nice second shot, then needed a wedge for my approach shot. I repeat, I needed a wedge for my approach shot. I looked in my bag, then over at Brad’s thinking maybe I’d accidentally put my wedge in his bag after warming up. No wedge in sight. After a quick inventory of my clubs, I realized I’d left three clubs at the range…a first for me.

There’s nothing like the drive of shame from the first green back to the range, making my way strategically past the group behind us so as to avoid disturbing them or getting hit. I checked in with the golf pro by the shop to see if anyone had turned them in, no such luck. Drove to the range and discovered the clubs exactly where I left them.

I sped back to the guys, who were already midway into the second hole, a par 4 with the approach shot over water. I decided I’d just skip that hole. Feeling a little unnerved and embarrassed, I took a deep breath at the next tee, a short par 3, and struck a beautiful shot, which was tracking toward the hole.  An easy birdie putt later, I felt back in my groove.

Hole #12

We had a great time, both Brad and I played well, perhaps as a result of the calming influence of the golf mentor. At the end of the round, Jon gave me a hug and said I “had game” and that it was really fun to play golf with me. I felt the same about the experience and was proud of myself for not letting the mistake at the start of the round affect the rest of the afternoon.

Our Texas time came to an end and made our way the next morning to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where my niece Liz and her husband, Nick live. We had a wonderful evening enjoying their homemade chicken pesto pasta, always a family favorite. Temperatures dipped overnight, and I was grateful for my winter hat for our walk with Liz the next morning.

As we said goodbye, Liz gifted us with frozen salmon and halibut from their adventures up in Alaska last fall. Yum!

One of the many upsides to traveling by coach is the chance to see family along the way. Soon we’d have a quick stop in Atlanta to visit our daughter before heading home.

But, before then, Selma happened.

 

 

Bessie, Joanie and Frederick

We pulled into the San Antonio KOA and there she was.

Bessie. That’s what we’ve named our new-to-us motorhome. Not the most original of names for a vehicle, but it seems to fit.

Standing outside our soon-to-be new home were the soon-to-be previous owners, Joanie and Frederick. Joanie was petite, blond, and had a wonderful positive aura about her. Frederick, taller, sported a ball cap, where a long white ponytail flowed out of. His eyes twinkled behind his glasses, a quiet smile from underneath his mustache.

Welcome, they both said in unison and ushered us into the motorhome.

As soon as I made my way up the three steps into the coach and onto the threshold, I felt like this was home. I felt like I belonged here, all the while emotions of having been here before swept over me.

This was to be the third motorhome we traveled in. The first, an all-gold Cortez, brought people out on their porches throughout New England back in 1992. This isn’t the Cortez we drove in, but you get the idea.

I was pregnant with our daughter, Kyle, and little baby Claire spent most of the long travel days snapped into her car seat watching the world go by. My favorite story from that adventure almost was the worst story. Back then, mapping consisted of an Atlas, with dog-eared pages and oily finger stains. A thick campground book served as our guide to sites. Driving along the coast of Maine to our overnight destination, as we passed through a small town, Brad suggested we stop for dinner. I grumbled that I thought we should just keep going. Claire was getting fussy, and I was tired, dealing with a huge sinus headache. I just wanted to be there, wherever there was. The road went from a four-lane highway to two lanes, to something just above a gravel drive. The nearest thing to any dinner was looking like the few cans of beans we had in the cupboard.

We pulled up to the campground welcome stand, not much more than a little hut that kids would huddle in waiting for the school bus. The owner welcomed us and offered a site right along the bay. Claire began screaming on cue, and Brad asked if there was anywhere nearby to grab something to eat. The owner directed us just up the roadway, where she said we’d be in for a treat. It was close enough to walk, so we scooped up Claire and her highchair and hoofed our way to the dinner surprise.

There was a little weathered shack with a deck, right on the water. I set up the highchair and cuddled Claire, trying to settle her. Brad went inside and came out with a huge grin on his face and a spindly lobster, pinchers banded with rubber.

Lobster was the treat. I can still taste the buttery, soft meat from the fresh-caught crustacean. I’ve not had better lobster since.

The owners took us under their wing and showed us their lobster traps on the deck, explaining to these Midwesterners how they worked.

Our second motorhome we purchased after losing our daughter Claire. I was emotional as we met with the owner of the small dealership. This purchase stemmed from our vision of moving forward literally and figuratively after her death. It was a huge investment, both monetarily and with our family. The owner, an older gentleman, pulled me aside and asked if I was okay. He calmed me by offering that what we were doing was “honoring your daughter as well as your other two children. Think of all the amazing adventures you’ll have, the sights you’ll see, together.” He said that we were wise to do it now, for too often he had customers wait until they were older and found it difficult to get around.

Boy, did we get around…to 47 states in the unit.

(Our daughter Kyle filling in our travel map. Note to self: Buy a new one.)

And the adventures? From a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque to a seaplane ride in Coeur d’Alene to hiking in Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and an unforgettable kayak trip trying to beat a storm on Jenny Lake in the Tetons, we did it all.

So, here I was, once again, stepping foot inside our next adventure-transport vehicle. It couldn’t have felt more right, from Joanie and Frederick’s welcome to their generous gifting of many household goods, cleaners, and supplies. We learned in our time together that “Bessie” had served her purpose for Joanie and Frederick, and now it was time to move on.  We’re grateful they have entrusted us to take good care of her.

So now Bessie has a new purpose. Serving us safely as we attempt to continue to explore, learn, golf, and meet people along the way in our travels.

I think she’s up for it. I know I am.