Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Last Look at 2008

American Falls, Niagra. NY

Oh, what a year this has been.  This was our first to be able to travel full-time even though Gene was still tethered to the office via blackberry and laptop.  This seems to have been the year of the “family”.  I began 2008 by spending a week with my mother.  Our first stop on our journey was a week long visit in Spartanburg, South Carolina with my uncle and cousins.  We returned to Spartanburg for another week in March.  Being back in Nashville for a brief visit in April gave me the opportunity to go with mother on a little side trip to visit with the newest member of our family—my great nephew.  We had a good visit with Gene’s nephews in New York City in September before spending about 10 days with his brother in Lancaster, Ohio.  Then, of course, we ended up our year back in Nashville with our daughter, son-in-law, and my parents, aunts and uncles.  What a great blessing family is and all the family time this year made some wonderful memories.
Cuyuga Ridge Winery, Finger Lakes, NY
Cloud over Mt Wilmington, Adirondacks, NY
Cooper Kiln Pond, Adirondacks, NY

View of Mt Marcy from Marcy Dam
Our travels this year took us to South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Ohio and Alabama. To our map we added New York, Pennsylvania and Alabama. This is a great big, beautiful country we live in and every place is special and unique in its own way.  When we are traveling and out sightseeing or hiking, it is not uncommon for me to take a100 pictures a day.  I have tried to pick out a few of my favorites from the year and one of my all time favorites to share on this the last day of 2008.
My all time favorite photo--mountain goat at Glacier Nat. Park
We wish you a very happy and blessed new year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blount Cultural Park

An interesting wooden bridge

If I were rating attractions which we have seen, I would have to give the Blount Cultural Park the highest rating.  This was outstanding.  As part of the Montgomery City Park System, the Blount Cultural Park is home to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art and the Alabama Shakespeare Theatres.  Still, it is a park in every way you would think of a “park” being.  It is a huge expanse of green space within the city, with numerous ponds, water fowl, paved hike/bike paths, grassy knolls for picnicking, manicured landscaping, and several sculptures.  And on this beautiful day there were several folks out for walks, tossing footballs, feeding the ducks, and soaking up the sunshine and breathing in the fresh air.
Montgomery Museum of Fine Art
One of several ponds
Shakespeare outdoor theater
We spent the afternoon at this marvelous place.  I took to the walking paths and, with camera in hand, thoroughly enjoyed myself on a wonderful warm, sunny afternoon.  Gene enjoyed the exhibits in the museum.  It is not a large museum, but has a variety of pieces from porcelain to oil paintings, all nicely displayed. The museum also has a small cafe and a gift shop.  The large Alabama Theatre was closed today, but we were able to wander around the outdoor Shakespeare Theatre and the Shakespeare Garden.  The garden is supposed to have every type plant Shakespeare mentions in his plays.  That was pretty special even on a winter day.  We are both giving Blount Cultural Park two thumbs up.

Our morning was spent with the laundry and we stopped by the grocery on our way home from the park.  It was a very full day.  I think tomorrow I’d like to stay home and concentrate on a little relaxing.  Perhaps a little reflection on 2008 may be in order.
Alabama Theater

Shakespeare Garden

Monday, December 29, 2008

Walking Tour of Historic Montgomery

We were out early this morning to do a walking tour of the downtown historic district of Montgomery.  Our first stop was the Visitor Center which is located on the banks of the Alabama River in the old Union Station.  The Visitor Center offered a map and self-guided walking brochure, but we wanted to do the 7 mile walk offered by the American Volkswalk Association (  The start point for the AVA self-guided walk was across the street from the Visitor Center at the Embassy Suites Hotel.
Old Union Station, now the Visitors' Center
First White House of the Confedercy
Dexter Ave King Memorial Church
With our map and walk instructions in hand we headed out.  Now, we walk a lot and can do 6 miles at a fairly easy pace in about two and a half hours.  However, these AVA walks tend to take from 5 to 6 hours for us.  We stop often to take pictures, look at the architecture, and go inside anything that is open, especially if it is free.  Today’s walk took us first through the oldest residential area of historic Montgomery.  We were disappointed in the condition of most of these late 1800s homes.  There were a couple that had been restored to their former glory, a few that were being remodeled, but most were in sad shape.  Most of the walk centered around the 10 or so blocks of Dexter Ave from Court Square to the state capitol building with a few side trips north or south of Dexter to take in the top Civil War and Civil Rights Movement sites.  We passed the corner where Rosa Park got on the bus, the Civil Rights Memorial, and the Dexter Ave King Memorial Church.  We went inside the First White House of the Confederacy, the State Archives, and the State Capitol.  We even went to pay our respects to Hank Williams.  We got pretty tired and started cutting a few corners at the end and figured we only walked about 5 miles of the designated 7.
Alabama State Capitol

Rotunda in the Capitol

By 1 o’clock we were tired and hungry.  I had packed us a picnic lunch, of course, and we sat in the truck to eat, too tired to try to find a picnic table.  The Visitor Center has a little trolley route which takes in most of the places we had seen on foot.  We decided to take the 50¢ ride which included a narrative by the driver which was quite informative.
Civil Rights Memorial

Water flows over the names of those killed.
Water flows from a reflecting pool down this wall.
We limped into the house this afternoon after a full day of walking and history.  We’ll sleep well tonight.
Hank Williams gravesite

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tuskegee, Alabama

We are again out and about seeing this great land of ours and it sure feels good, especially since the temperatures are in the 60s.  Today we drove about 40 miles east of Montgomery to the small town of Tuskegee.  There are two attractions there which were on our list to see—Tuskegee Institute and Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Sites.
Booker T Washington Memorial
White Hall
Our first stop was at Tuskegee Institute and its main attraction, George Washington Carver Museum.  We watched both films—one on the life of Booker T. Washington and the other on George W. Carver.  Both were very interesting and dedicated men, but we felt they had opposing views on educating the black community.  Washington’s dream was to teach young men and women a skill which they could use to better themselves as well as the community in which they lived.  Dr Carver, on the other hand, loved to learn about the things around him from flowers to rocks.  He then took that knowledge and applied it to everyday problem solving.  We spent about an hour in the museum which had displays of contributions made by both men to Tuskegee Institute.  We drove around campus, which was almost deserted since students are away on winter break, and visited the gravesites of both Washington and Carver.  We were disappointed to find many of the campus buildings needing repairs.  Margaret Murray Washington Hall has deteriorated to the extent that the roof has caved in.
George W Carver Museum Building
Inside the Museum

The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field proved to be almost a wasted trip.  There are only about 3 or 4 of the original buildings are still standing, and they were undergoing remodeling and therefore “off limits”.  The Visitor Center was open, but scheduled to move to a new location tomorrow, so everything was packed up leaving nothing to see except the 15 minute film.  I got a few photos from a knoll above the airfield which, by the way, is still being used.
Moton Field in use today for small aircraft
Old plane at Moton Field
The original hanger
We had somewhat of an adventure getting to Moton Field.  We had entered the address as given on the National Park Service website into the GPS.  Wanda (that’s what we call the little lady who lives in the GPS) directed us as best she could, but we failed to turn quickly enough to suit her so she was constantly recalculating.  We finally got to the street and even saw a small brown park service sign indicating we should turn.  We turned and after about a half mile, Wanda wanted us to turn into what looked like a clearing by the side of the road where folks had been dumping garbage.  We drove on and of course Wanda kept insisting we turn around.  We tried and drove down streets never intended to be driven down.  As a last resort, we consulted a map and decided we had not gone far enough down the street.  We soon arrived at Moton Field.  We noticed, as we entered the Visitor Center, a brand new, huge Park Service sign.  We would have been able to see this sign (and I’m sure others like it) had we driven to Tuskegee by way of the interstate.  We, however, wanted to see a bit of the Alabama country side and drove there on a secondary road.  About all we saw was a huge flock of starlings.  What we didn’t see were signs directing us to the National Historic Sites.
Carver's gravesite
Washington's gravesite
Tomorrow we are going to try our luck with visiting downtown Montgomery.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Montgomery, Alabama

We left Birmingham about midmorning with less than a hundred miles to Montgomery.  The traffic was a little heavier than yesterday, but still not bad.  We started out with a few clouds which quickly gave way to bright sunshine and very pleasant temperatures in the mid 70s.  We are actually far enough south to see a little Spanish moss.  I think I’m going to like this.
A beautiful farm as seen from I-65 near Birmingham
About the time we cleared the Birmingham City Limits we saw a billboard advertizing free camping at Sun Coast RV Center.  I had my eyes peeled and my neck stretched to get a good look as we zoomed by at 65 miles per hour.  It looked like about 10 sites on the south end of their parking lot.  I couldn’t tell if they had hookups or not, but I suspect they had at least water and electric.  There were perhaps 5 RVs parked there.  If we had only known, that is were we would have stayed last night.
Woods RV Park in Montgomery, AL
Tonight we are at Woods RV Park just off I-65 in Montgomery.  As you can see from the photo, it is a large open park without trees.  There is a small pond at the back for fishing.  I was turtles sunning themselves there this afternoon and I expect to see water fowl of some sort (I hope a great blue heron).  We have free Wi-Fi and cable.  Cable is going to be a treat.  We have had only network TV since we left New York.  This is completely adequate for the 5 nights we plan to be in town, especially since we got Passport America discount for 3 nights.
A small pond out our back window at Woods RV Park

We got settled in today and made a quick Wal-Mart drug run this afternoon.  We also sat down with the brochures Gene picked up at the Welcome Center and our list of things we want to do and tried to make a tentative plan.  Tomorrow, unless it is pouring down rain, we are off to Tuskegee Institute and the Airman’s National Historic site.  We are excited to be doing some sightseeing again.
Adding Alabama to our State Map

Friday, December 26, 2008

On The Road Again

We pulled away from Two Rivers Campground this morning about 10 o’clock.  We are starting our next adventure.  Briefly, the plan is to spend a few days in Montgomery, Alabama before going over to Perry, Georgia to visit with family.  After that we will be heading south on I-75 to connect with I-10 in Florida.  We’ll make a left on I-10 and head to Texas eventually driving up the Oregon coast and spending a couple months in Washington State.

So this morning we got started early taking down the holiday decorations and getting the Montana back to a condition at which it can travel down America’s highways.  Gene went to fuel up the truck at the station just down the road where the diesel has been the lowest of anywhere in Davidson County for the entire time we have been here.  He has been paying only about $2.15 for the past 6 weeks.  However, he was distressed when not even an hour later when we were hitched and passing by the station on our way to the interstate that he noticed the price had dropped another 10¢.

Our drive to Birmingham today was mostly uneventful.  It was cloudy most of the way with a very light drizzle early, but by afternoon we were starting to see a few small patches of blue sky and I even put on my sunglasses for a few minutes.  I-65 from Nashville to Birmingham was in good condition with very little construction and very light traffic, making for a pleasant drive.  Within Birmingham City Limits, the road surface deteriorated quickly, but at least it was over quickly.  We stopped for fuel at a Flying J just as we were approaching Birmingham.  There was a pothole on the entrance ramp that the truck could have fit into.  Luckily, we were able to get around that big black hole.

Gene commented about the time we got to the TN/AL state line that he finally feels like his retirement is starting.  That’s a good feeling to have and we are looking forward to a fantastic trip this year.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Family Christmas

A few weeks ago after we had been back in Nashville for about 4 weeks, we developed a case of hitch itch and were really ready to get back on the road again.  Then as we waded through the rains and the record cold temperatures of December we were jealous of other fulltime RVers who had already arrived at their winter destinations and were enjoying balmy afternoons on the patio or wading in the Gulf.  But today, as we gathered our family around us to share food and fellowship on this holiday, we wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world.

Yesterday, I prepared the salads to go along with our ham and turkey sandwiches for tonight and I fixed a large crockpot of vegetable beef soup to take to mother’s on Christmas Eve.  Part of the family gathered at my parents’ home for a very relaxed soup supper.

Today, Gene and I had a quiet morning to open our gifts from each other and have a small breakfast.  This morning we had country ham and biscuits.  Both the ham and the biscuits were special treats, since we only eat it about once a year.  As the day progressed there was more food and more family until our tummies were full and the Montana was overflowing late this afternoon.

I’ll have to say, it was one of the best Christmas holidays we’ve had in a long time.

Tomorrow, we’re heading south—the beginning of our next adventure.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Greatest Gift

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” Luke 1:68

We wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We're Closing In On The Big Day

As Gene is fond of saying, this is “Christmas eve, eve” and the beginning of final preparations for the holiday.  Yesterday, we tried to relax some and went for a walk.  It was bitter cold here, only 9 degrees when we got up.  Far to cold to walk outside, so we went to the mall.  There were several others there doing the same thing.  By the way, we left our water hose hooked up to the hydrant and the heat tape and insulation did what it was suppose to do and our water was fine.

After our walk we went to the grocery.  My list was pretty long; I just knew Gene would have a stroke, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  Of course, today he had to make another trip for more chocolate chips and we’ll go tomorrow for bread for the Christmas evening sandwich supper. My refrigerator is so full I have the bonbons I made this afternoon in the truck!

I have been in the kitchen all day today.  First finishing up the candy and then baking ham and roasting turkey.  It sure smells a whole lot like Christmas around here.  Gene was a lifesaver and did the laundry for me.  There is no way I could have gotten it all done without his help.

Peanut was a big help, too.  His favorite job was helping put bows on the packages.  Honestly, it was help I could have done without.

Tomorrow will be another day in the kitchen, but by mid afternoon it will all be done with nothing left to do but enjoy the holiday.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Remembering Our Soldiers

We are blessed to live in a country that honors and tries to protect the rights and freedoms of her citizenry.  Those rights and freedoms have been hard won by the brave men and women throughout our nation’s history who believed in their homeland and cared enough to make the ultimate sacrifice for the land they love.

Often we get caught up in the shopping, baking, and partying at this time of year and fail to remember that there are several thousand military personnel away from home and away from family this year.  Let’s keep those men and women and their families in our thoughts as we enjoy the season’s festivities with our loved ones.

It seems to me that the American people are more eager to display signs of patriotism now than a few years ago.  Perhaps it’s a result of the 9/11 tragedy or perhaps it’s because we are engaged in war.  Whatever the reason, it is always thrilling to see our flag flying from lampposts and porches in parks, campgrounds, or front yards.  Here are a few pictures I’ve taken of “ole glory” in our travels this year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just Four More Cooking Days 'til Christmas Dinner

Oh my gosh, the clock is ticking and today I was astonished at how much there is left to do to be ready for the holiday.  I thought I was so organized and on top of the situation.   Christmas Eve we spend at my parents’.  She usually has a few people over and in the past it has been a dress up, finger food kind of party.  This year, we’re into blue jeans and soup and cornbread.  Christmas day Gene and I will have a quiet breakfast, then Jack and Ansley will be here in the middle of the day.  My parents will be here mid afternoon and the rest of the family will arrive early evening for sandwiches.  Now, that doesn’t sound too complicated or stressful.  Of course, there is that next Christmas celebration with my brother and his family the following weekend.  While at mother’s today, we were making menu plans for the four days we will be down there.  With 9 people for dinner every night, that sounded like a monumental task.

We had a good visit with my parents this morning and enjoyed visiting at her church.  Then my dad made his famous Philly steak sandwiches for our lunch.  They were really good and I just love the smell of sautéed onions and peppers.

This afternoon I got started on the candy making. It brought back some memories.  I haven’t done much candy making in many, many years.  I did the easy stuff today—peanut clusters, white almond bark, and molded dark chocolate.  My cupboards are already full of cookies and I am having difficulty finding a place for everything.  It seems like a lot of sweets, but then I think of all the people here on Christmas day and those 9 folks in Georgia for 4 days and I wonder if it is enough to last.

This was a beautiful, sunny day, but it is bitter cold tonight.  The forecast is for 13 degrees.  We have decided to leave the water hooked up.  The hose and the water pipe both have heat tape and a generous coat of insulation.  I have my fingers crossed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Another Movie Night

I can’t believe we watched another movie this evening.  We have been watching movies that have come out within the past 3 or 4 years, but tonight it was a blast from the past, well not that far past actually.  From 1998 (I guess that was in the last century), Cocoon, the Return.  I hadn’t seen the first Cocoon, so Gene tried to remember what he could and filled me in.  It was a real “feel good” movie and we both enjoyed it.

This morning we went for a walk along the greenway.  That was the first for that since the rain set in a couple weeks ago.  As always, it was good to get out and stretch and breathe in some fresh air.  We walked about 4 miles.  That was long enough to get really cold.  With the walk I didn’t feel quite so guilty eating a few pieces of the wonderful peanut brittle given to us by our neighbors.

We are beginning to concentrate on the festivities for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We are going to my parents’ on Christmas Eve.  It will be a very casual soup supper.  I’m in charge of making the vegetable beef soup.  That’ll be easy.  Christmas Day most of my family will be coming here.  I don’t think I can count on the weather being warm enough to eat outside and since there isn’t much room in the Montana for very many to eat at the table, I had to be a little creative for Christmas Dinner.  How does sandwiches sound?  Kroger had hams and turkeys on sale this week so we stopped by to pick up one of each.  In my opinion, you can’t hardly beat a slice of roasted turkey on a dinner roll.  I think it will be fine.  If it goes well, who knows, it may turn into a real family tradition.

We are battening down the hatches for the cold weather forecast for tomorrow.  With a low tomorrow night of 13 degrees, we needed to take a few precautions with our water system.  Today Gene filled up our fresh water tank so we can disconnect our hoses from the water faucet outside.  All our holding tanks are enclosed in the “basement” in our Montana and the basement is heated.  As long as we have the furnace on we will be in no danger of any plumbing freezing.

We are looking forward to church with mother tomorrow morning then my dad is making Philly steak sandwiches for our lunch.  I’m licking my lips already.