Category Archives: Family

Family

Family has always been a big part of my life.  Growing up in a small town, next door to my grandparents, whose eight of their nine children raised their families near by, allowed me to know my kin well.  My grandparent’s house was the gathering place for holidays, Sunday dinners, afternoon ice cream making and watermelon cuttings.  We were a close family, and I know growing up amist all that family defined who I am today.

I moved away from that familiarity forty-two years ago, but made at least several trips a year back.  My grandfather died the year that I married and my grandmother passed while my first child was very young.  After that it never did seem the same.  The big gatherings grew smaller and less frequent and no longer in my back yard.  My grandparent’s children remained very close, so I guess you could say the fault lies with my generation.  Some of us moved far away, others just a short distance away, and the town grew and grew.  It just isn’t the same small town, even though it is still considered small.  Our lives grew busier and busier, speeding along like a fast moving train.  Life seemed to be so slow back then, and I miss that.

My youngest son was here last week with his wife, two girls and our new grandson.  They live in California, far away from any of their family.  We get to see them several times a year, somethimes more.  Last year, we made a trip in the RV and spent six weeks in their area.  We plan to do the same this year.  Family is still important to me.

 

 

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California Fun, Part 3 (the final chapter)

Our final destination in California was Joshua Tree National Park.  We camped at Indian Wells Carefree RV Resort in Indio.  It’s a beautiful RV park that offers a lot of amenities.  Snowbirds come there for the winter. Their rates were exceptionally low, $25!  That is the cheapest we stayed in California.

Since we arrived early in the day, we took a ride to Joshua Tree NP. Twentynine Palms is the closet town to one of the three entrances to Joshua Tree.  It is on the northern side of the park and does have a RV park.  We chose to stay on the southern side of the park, which meant a 45 minute drive to it’s entrance.  Most of it’s trails and sites are in the northern part of the park as well, so it meant a lot of driving for us.

We grabbed a map at the visitor center and talked with the park ranger about places to see.  He recommended a couple of good places to be around sunset. Cottonwood Springs was our first stop.  It is a little oasis you can drive to with a very short hike.  The palm trees looked weird as they had never been trimmed. They were tall with green tops and dead palm fronds hanging to the ground.

Next, we drove to Cholla Catus Garden.  It was amazing!  The area had a large concentration of Jumping Cholla cactus, also known as Teddy Bear Cholla, as far as you could see.  It looked beautiful with them all glistening in the sunlight.  I would like to have walked through the gardens, but there was another area we wanted to get to before sunset.

Skull Rock and Jumbo Rocks are across the street from each other and offer some great sunset shots.  There are trails where you can walk around and over the rocks.  At Jumbo Rocks a couple was having a pre-wedding photo shoot. What a beautiful setting for wedding pictures.  The bride had to be freezing though.  The wind was blowing and the temperature was really dropping as the sun faded.  This area has Joshua trees.  They only grow in the northern part of the park.  The Joshua tree is neither a tree or cactus.  It is in the lilly family and looks like a yucca.

We got to the park early the next day, driving to one of the north entrances to go hiking to Fortynine Palms Oasis.  It was a moderate hike three miles long with an 300′ elevation gain both ways.  The weather was great for hiking – sunny and cool.  As we climbed the ridge the landscape was dotted with barrel catcus.  John stopped me on the trail and pointed out some Bighorn Sheep.  We watched them as they crossed the trail and went up the ridge where they stopped to graze.

Upon reaching the oasis, we saw charred palm trunks caused by an out-of-control campfire.  According to the park’s information, fire can be benficial to the palms by encouraging seed developement and killing off competing plants. However, campfires are illegal.  The oasis are formed from a crack in the Earth’s crust and groundwater rises to the surface.

After our hike, we went into town for lunch and then returned to the park.  We made the ride out to Keys View.  The elevation is over five thousand feet and you can overlook miles of valley, mountains, and desert.  It was very windy and cold. Since we were in shorts and the views were hazy that day, so we did not stay long.

It was much nicer in the lower elevations.  There were still two short hikes I wanted to do, Hidden Valley and Barker Dam.  Hidden Valley is a rock-enclosed valley said to been used by cattle rustlers.  It certainly was a well hidden place for cattle, but I wondered how they managed to get water to them.

Joshua Trees abound in this part of the park.  The landscape was just thick with them and some of them were huge.

Just before sunset we hiked to Barker Dam.  It was built around 1900 to hold water for cattle and mining use.  Sometimes you can see wildlife there, but not during our visit.

We really enjoyed our visit to Joshua Tree NP.  California is a great state to explore with so much to offer.  There was only two highlights for the trip back east after leaving California.  One was a stop in Arizona at Green Valley to visit with John’s brother, Eddie and his wife Judy.  We spent five days there doing some maintenance and repairs on the RV.  While there, we also visited the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in the Coronado National Forest.  Then our last stop was in NC to visit with my family.  It was a great ending to a wonderful trip.

 

Family Time in California

What is more wonderful than spending time with family?  There are many things that top my list to make me happy, but family time, no matter how simple it may be, well, let’s just say I am at my happiest.  Being able to spend six weeks in California near my grandchildren just put me on top of the world!. I have so many memories to look back on.

We celebrated three birthdays and one anniversary while we were there.

All of us visited the tidal pools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.  The girls loved looking for creatures in the pools and then playing in the cold water.

Kayaking at Half Moon Bay was a blast!

We took the kids to Lemos Farms at Half Moon Bay to ride the ponies and get a pumpkin.  It was such a fun time.  Sadly, Kevin and Susie couldn’t go with us since it was a weekday.  The traffic and crowds on the weekend would had been impossible to bear.

The girls loved to help with the meals.  They were always pulling up a chair to stand on so they could just watch.

They can be the silliest girls, especially at bedtime.  You should just see their bedtime routine.  It is a hoot!

The Oatland Zoo was a big hit with the adults and kids!

The kids visited us at Half Moon Bay.  We all enjoyed the beach.

We enjoyed lots of meals outdoors, reading to the girls, playing games and most of all just enjoying being with them.

It was sad to say good-bye to them, but I am dreaming about the next trip to see them.  Oh my goodness!  I forgot to tell you, there will be a new arrival in March! Eliza says it is a sister, but we will be waiting for the birth to find out.

Just a Bump In The Road

We are westward bound to the west coast where we will spend five weeks just thirty minutes from our youngest son and his family.  His family includes his beautiful wife and two of the cutest and sweetest girls around – at least in my eyes.  I’ve been telling everyone that I was going to find out what it is really like being a grandparent, well, a grandparent who gets to see their grandchildren regularly.  Not only that, we will get to explore the San Francisco Bay Area!

We are allowing eleven days to our final destination, Half Moon Bay.  That way John won’t have to drive extremely long days and we can even spend two nights at a couple of spots.  One thing about RVing that all RVers know, you may hit bumps in the road………that is in your well laid plans.

It was a good start, traveling smoothly down the road, until we hit Memphis, TN.  John hates driving through Memphis.  There is not a great southern loop around the city and the roads are rough to say the least.  We made it to I 40 in West Memphis when a trucker was honking at us and his passenger was waving wildly at us.  At first we both wondered why he was honking at us.  We certainly couldn’t tell anything was wrong, but we knew something had to be up, so pull over on the shoulder we did.  John gets out to check things out and then returns with the words, “It’s bad.”  We had lost a wheel off our tow dolly and the dolly was dragging along the road.  Amazing that we didn’t even feel anything.  Even more amazing that it didn’t cause us to wreck or damage the car.

We don’t know how long we had been traveling that way, but surely not far.  John unloaded the car and went in search of lug nuts so he could put the spare on.  Luckily, he did not have to go far to get to an auto parts shop.  He even backtracked to see if he could locate the missing wheel with no luck.  With the spare on, we decided to camp in West Memphis in order to buy a new rim and tire.  We didn’t trust that spare for the distance we were going.  Oh, and all this happened with a light rain falling of course.

Now for the lucky part of the story, and we are very thankful that we had some luck too.  When we arrived at the campground, the bottom fell out of the sky.  Thank God it waited ’til we were off the road.

I explained our predicament while I was checking in and they gave me a business card of a tire shop very close by.   After the rain let up, John went to the shop and they said they could have a new rim and tire ready by 9:00 the next morning.  As luck had it, it was ready by 8:00 and we got back on the road by 10:00.  I’m so thankful we didn’t have to wait two or more days.

Bump number two happened in Oklahoma.  Rolling down I 40 and a beep beep starts sounding.  Now we are losing air pressure.  We just happened to be at an exit with a Loves, plus a mechanic.  If it had happened a little sooner, we would had lost all our air and the brakes would lock up, leaving us on the shoulder of the road again.  We just did make it to the parking lot.

John found a hose where a hole had rubbed in it.  Between him and the mechanic, they removed it, but of course they didn’t have a replacement part.  The mechanic located a part for it, but it required John driving a good ways to get it.  When he returned, the mechanic was busy and John replaced it himself.  The mechanic did not charge us, so it was a rather inexpensive fixed, but we lost a lot of time.  We are still on schedule though, but we did lose one of our two night stay to do something fun.

Then we hit scenic New Mexico along with it’s long grades of hills.  Now our RV does not have a big engine allowing us to go uphill at a fast rate, but the slowness we were going was bordering on ridiculousness.  I kept thinking we didn’t have this kind of trouble for these size of hills before and was wondering how the heck we would ever cross the mountains in California.

We stopped for lunch and John brought up the subject.  He had been wondering the same thing.  Something was definitely wrong and the only thing he came up with was a dirty fuel filter.  He had a new one with us, so he changed it at a truck stop.  What a difference it made!  It was just a short hang up and we were once again rolling smoothly along.

Now we are in Bakersville, CA, just one day from our final designation, and a day early!  Tomorrow, I get to see my son, Kevin, his wife, Susie, and their two daughters, Eliza and Hazel!  Yea, yea, yea!

Christmas Time on Tybee

We spent two and a half weeks home during the Christmas Season.  Only our oldest boy would be coming home.  Our youngest lives in California and would be spending the holidays there.  Since we would not be home long, I only did a little decorating.  We put up a live tree, a reef on the door, the kids photos with Santa, and a few tabletop arrangements.  I love decorating the tree, except for stringing the lights.  Does anyone like that part?  Last year, I bought new ornaments in a green, red and white color scheme, but this year I decided to go back to my old, cherished ornaments.  Some are homemade, some are vintage ornaments which use to belong to John’s mother, some are beachy of course, and some were gifts from dear friends and family.  As I hung each one, the memories of Christmases past filled me with warmth and love.

We attended a couple of Christmas parties, always a lot of fun.  I love Christmas parties, seeing the different Christmas attire the ladies are wearing and seeing so many friends that I haven’t seen in months.  And what is Christmas without some holiday baking.  I made fruit cake cookies – a first for me, and John loved them. I also made a nutroll and a green coconut cake.  The nutroll is a recipe my grandmother tweaked and became a Lee tradition at Christmas.  The star of the Christmas season is my green coconut cake.  It is not green.  Green just means fresh, which means that I grated the coconuts.  This cake is also a Lee tradition. We only make it for Christmas . . . . well, actually I did make one during the summer once.  John and I brought home coconuts we collected while down in the Keys.  They seem to be sweeter than the ones I have bought in the grocery stores.  John gets the coconut out of the green outer shell, not an easy feat by no means, which leaves you with the brown, hairy coconut that you see in stores. After I drained the milk from them, John then cracks them open and pries the white meat away from the shell.  Then the grating begins.  I usually settle on the sofa with a Christmas movie on while I grate mine.  A lot of work goes into this cake, but it is so worth it.

Christmas Eve, we always have oyster stew.  Oysters are Todd’s favorite food. We watched Home Alone.  I really am into watching Christmas movies. Christmas morning was quiet with just the three of us at the house.  Todd humors me every year by wearing a Santa hat and passing out the gifts.  He is such a good sport.

Later in the day, we gathered outside our neighbor’s house to fry turkeys and enjoy Bloody Marys.  Several other neighbors joined us.  We put out Christmas cookies and treats, and this year our neighbor provided steamed oysters.  We fried two turkeys, one turkey breast and one chicken.  Afterwards, our neighbors Jacky and the Smiths joined us at our house for Christmas dinner.

Christmas always makes me feel sentimental.  I was thinking about when I was young and what were the special times I remembered.  We always drove around town one night to see all the Christmas lights.  Going to the Burlington Mills Christmas party, which is where my parents worked.  The Christmas programs at church are etched in my memories.  Christmas Eve was always spent at my grandparents house.  All of my mother’s family would gather there for a huge meal and watch my grandparents open presents.  Mama had eight siblings, but one lived in Maryland and was seldom in NC for Christmas, so the house was full of cousins running around all excited.  On Christmas morning, after finding what Santa left and having breakfast, we all piled in the car and visited our other cousins to see what Santa brought them.  I really miss being around a large family in a small town at Christmas time.  Here are some very old pictures.

Christmas was indeed good, but I sure missed having Kevin, Susie, Eliza and Hazel with us.  With them, it would have been perfect.

Kevin and his family with his in-laws.  Picture taken just after Christmas, courtesy of Holly Ritger.

Kevin and his family with his in-laws. Picture taken just after Christmas, courtesy of Holly Ritger.

 

 

A Month in the Florida Keys

John and I have been busy since we returned home from our trip out west and yes, I should have published this long ago.  We were not home long at all before I flew out to California to visit with our son, Kevin, and his family.  It was a wonderful visit and so great to be there for Eliza’s third birthday party!

On the way home, I made a stop in NC for a few days to see my family and to attend my great niece’s wedding reception.  It was so great to visit with all of my aunts – I have four, and to spend some quality time with my sister and two brothers.  I’ll have to think about doing that again the next time I fly out to California.

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My sister, brothers and their spouses.

Then, John and I went to Charleston the first week in November to attend his 40th reunion at the Citadel.  We saw a lot of old friends and reminisced about the fun times in Charleston and the hardships of attending a military college in the early 70’s.

Returning from Charleston, we spent a couple of days packing the RV and taking off for the Florida Keys for a month.  We love the Keys and spend a lot of time there, especially in the winter.  John and I just don’t like the cold weather or maybe we never did like the cold weather, but we seem to be more sensitive to it now.  And since winter arrived early this year, why not go down to the Keys where the promise of sunshine and warmer weather awaits us.

The Jolly Roger is our home away from home when we are in the Keys.  It’s located on Grassy Key, which is close to Marathon, on the Gulf side.  We settled into a harbour spot, which has delightful sunset views.  The campground was not crowded yet, but a few of our winter friends from Canada and northern states were there.  That all changed Thanksgiving week.  But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

A beautiful  Key sunset.

A beautiful Key sunset.

There was much to do after arriving.  John always spends a day getting the boat ready to go in the water, and we spent some time putting lights on our palm tree and also around our shade shelter.  We created a nice little area for enjoying sunsets and dinners with friends.

Enjoying an evening with friends at our site in Jolly Roger.

Enjoying an evening with friends at our site in Jolly Roger.

We spent what time we could fishing and lobstering, but the blustery winds kept us from doing it as much as we would have liked.  Even when we did fish, we were not tearing them up. We caught some nice size grouper, but not legal size. There were some decent size snapper we kept and we released a lot of small ones.  The sea gulls were a big nuisance.  They kept going for our bait as we cast and sometimes try to fly off with it.  We would have to jerk it out of their beak, only to have them come back and try again.  John had one to get tangled in his line, and we were able to get him in the boat and untangle him.  He flew away unharmed and without harming us.  It is not easy to untangle fishing line from a wiggling bird.

John really wanted to lobster more than he wanted to fish, I guess because of the poor fishing and the fact he does love being in the water.  The cooler temperature of the water this time of year is certainly not as inviting as the warm summer water, but with wet suit on, he dove many holes.  He did find lobsters, but they were not as plentiful as when the season opened in August.  Lobster season runs from August 5th thru the month of March.

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Snapper and Lobster

 

We had some Tybee friends come visit us.  The weather was not the greatest while they were there, lots of cloudy, windy days, some rain and cooler temperatures.  One day was beautiful and the winds were down too, so the Scarbroughs went boating with us.  We stayed inland, just taking in the sights and enjoying the day, and stopped at The Islander for lunch.  The Jarrells went fishing with us one day, and everyone caught fish, just nothing to brag about.  It was a lot of fun though.  All of us spent a day in Key West and did other fun stuff. We had a blast with them and wouldn’t you know it, the winds calmed down and the temperatures rose the day they left.

For the first time ever, we went out to eat Thanksgiving dinner.  We joined our friends Buddy and Dixie at the Sunset Grill where they had a Thanksgiving buffet set up.  Everything you expect to have for a Thanksgiving meal was present, plus dishes like lobster bisque, clams and crab balls.  The meal was good, although I was a little disappointed in it.  The best part was being there with Buddy and Dixie and the beautiful view of the seven mile bridge and the Atlantic Ocean.

Jolly Roger was very busy Thanksgiving week.  Lots of families with children and more boats in the harbour.  The winds were terrible that week and hardly anyone did any fishing.  I was hoping that a bunch of us would do Thanksgiving dinner there, but it seemed most everyone was going out to eat.  There were several RVs that were traveling together that were camped along the harbour next to us – a great bunch of friendly people from up north.  One fella did a lot of cooking on a pellet grill and shared with us.  That was some good cooking!  We shared our lobster with them and they were quite impressed with the southern lobster, and then we found out we had a mutual friend.  Well, it was the guy’s cousin, but we know him because he camps with us in January – small world.  That is what RVing is all about, meeting new people and sharing good times.  Well, also for seeing the world too, but the people sure make it more enjoyable.