Thursday, August 22, 2019

Making our way back to familiar territory

So, I’ve been told by more than a few people that I’ve been slacking on the blog . . . lol . . . they’re right!  I just haven’t been that motivated to get on the computer at night (too much wool applique stitching to keep me busy!), but I’m going to try to get caught up – that means covering over a month in this one post – and then try to get back on track posting more frequently.  We’ll be getting back on the move soon, so that should help!

So . . . after our few days in West Virginia, we hitched back up,

headed out our narrow driveway,

and headed north on I-77 for a few miles until we picked up US highway 33 which would take us diagonally NW through Ohio.  It was a nice road – some 2-lane, some 4-lane divided – and the only traffic we encountered was when we went through Columbus.  We took 33 all the way to where it meets I-75 in Wapakoneta, OH, our destination for the next few days.

We got set up at the Wapakoneta KOA,

and cooled off in the swimming pool before dinner.

Wapakoneta is the home of Neil Armstrong, and our visit just happened to coincide with the week of the 50th Anniversary of his famous moonwalk.  The town was having a Moonfest that week, and they were getting ramped up for all the festivities.

We went into town one morning, but all the shops were closed, getting ready for the festival.  We walked through town anyway, but there wasn’t too much to see . . .

Old architecture . . .

I like how the old buildings have the names of the original businesses.

moon-themed stuff in every store,

and a new statue of Neil Armstrong, waiting to be unveiled.

We didn’t peek under the tarp!!

We were only there a few days, so we missed the main festivities, but it was time to continue our journey north.

Rather than getting on I-75, we continued a little further on US-33, until we reached US-127, and took that north.  It’s mostly 2-lane road and goes through several small towns, but it’s a good road and was a pleasant drive.

Our destination was Greenwood Acres Family Campground in Grass Lake, MI.  It’s a new resort for us – we usually stay south of Detroit, in the Monroe area – but both of the campgrounds we’ve stayed at in the past we fully booked  this time, so we had to find a new place to stay.  This is a large park (1000 sites) with lots of seasonal campers, and nice facilities.  For the first month of our stay, we were in the middle of the “weekender” area – it was a nice, wide open site, but the utilities were kindof far apart – good thing we have a lot of hose!

The park has a small lake with a lot of pontton boats on it (although we haven’t actually seen many of the boats out on the lake!),

and a really nice pool that just completed a complete renovation.

The pool gets a little busy on the weekends, so we tend to avoid it then, but during the week it’s pretty nice.  We often head over to the pool in the late afternoon for “Adult Hour” , and sometimes even after dinner.

We were there for both Halloween,

and  “Christmas in July”,

both of which were really busy weekends in the campground!

It’s been a busy month for us, too – with all the typical financial and medical appointments, as well as a few days spent in the office for me – but we’ve also managed several dinners with family and friends, and visiting a few of the small towns in the area.

We met our friends Bill & Linda in the little town of Mason,

and met up with our ‘former’ (not ‘old’) neighbors in Chelsea

-- home of “jiffy Mix” --

on a night when there were 10 stages set up around town with different bands playing at each.

We had a nice dinner at a new BBQ restaurant, followed by ice cream,

and then Tom and I stayed to listen to the music at several of the stages.

The old guys in front of the library were pretty tame,

these guys were a little more lively,

and then these guys were about the best of the bands there – they definitely had the biggest crowd.  We stayed and listened to them the rest of the evening.

It was a really nice evening!

Just down the road from the campground is the little town of Grass Lake – there’s not much there except for a Bar/Grill and an Ice Cream Shop/Deli, both owned by the same person.  Tom and his Dad ate at the grill one night when I had gone our to dinner with my college girlfriends, and Tom and I had ice cream a couple of evenings.  It’s a nice little downtown, with a cute gazebo at the old train station, where we sat and ate our ice cream.

We even found a little fairy door at one of the shops.

Before Bryce left for his internship in Pennsylvania, we spent a couple of evenings in East Lansing with him – dinners, shopping, cleaning up his apartment, and making sure his car was ready for the trip.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair was going on that first weekend we were here, and we haven’t been able to go for many years, so we headed into Ann Arbor on Friday morning to check it out.

It’s a huge art fair – actually 4 individual fairs – and takes over most of the downtown area for the better part of a week.  It was fun to walk around and look at all the pretty things . . . but we didn’t find anything we needed!

On another trip to Ann Arbor, we drove back to our old “hood” to visit another neighbor (Hi Larry & Pat!) and check out our old house.  We took a drive up the driveway, and one of the kids was home and walked around outside with us. 

The old place still looks really good,

and the spruce trees we planted as seedlings are really HUGE now!

Another dinner with friends, Joe & Krys, followed by ice cream again!

The first month went by in a flash, and it was time to move to our new site.

Another nice site, but not quite as wide open as the last one.  We’ve got a little bit of shade this time!

Meanwhile in Virginia, Nicolas has had a couple more underways, and they’re busy getting the ship and crew ready for deployment.

Another carrier, the Stennis, joined them on this last underway so that all of the ammunition from the Stennis could be moved over to the Ike.

Helicopters carried the ammunition between carriers.

More supplies arrive by Supply Ship.

Two carriers operating together – quite a sight to see!

So, there we are – I’m all caught up!  Nicolas and Stephanie arrived today for some well-deserved vacation time, so they next 2 weeks will be busy and full . . . but lots of fun!  Hopefully it won’t be a month before I post again!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Time to say good-bye, and adding a new state to our map

As the holiday weekend wrapped up, Nicolas had to head back to the ship for his next underway, and we started preparing for our move north.  We had everything ready to go, but decided to wait one more day so that we could try to see the Ike as it headed out to sea again.

As we made our way over the Hampton Roads Bridge, we could see that one of the carriers was out of position, so we figured it was probably the Ike.

We hoped we would get to the Fort before they passed by!

We made it, but just in time . . . we could see the Ike as it passed over the I-64 tunnel and by the time we parked in front of the lighthouse, it was passing on front of us.

Nicolas was standing in that open space on the hangar deck.  We stood on the seawall and waved, but I don’t think he could see us.  He took a picture looking at the Fort where we were standing.

We watched them make their way past the Fort and the fishing pier,

As they got further away, we drove down to the beach to watch them as they made the right turn to head south into the Chesapeake Bay.

There they go . . . bye Nicolas!

With him gone, it was time for us to get back on the move, too.  Early the next morning, we hitched up and got back on the road.  We made our way through Richmond, and then took I-64 through Charlottesville and the Shenandoah Valley.

Our first stop in our travels was an RV Park at a truck stop along I-81, the Lee-Hi Campground.  I was a little skeptical of it being at a truck stop, but it was actually pretty nice, and definitely fine for a one night stop . . . and we got to eat dinner at I-Hop!

Not a bad view, either!

The next morning, we got back on I-64 and made our way across the mountains into West Virginia.  It was a beautiful drive!

Crossing the New River in Charleston, WV

We’ve passed through West Virginia may times, and last year we tried really hard to stay there but it didn’t work out . . . but this year I was determined to spend a couple of days and add WV to our map.

Our map is filling in – only 2 more to go in the lower 48!

We got set up on our site at Rippling Waters RV Campground, a nice, peaceful campground in the foothills north of Charleston.

Our pull-thru site was so long, you could have fir another motorhome and Jeep behind us!

There is a little lake in the middle of the campground, with a little chapel that gets used for weddings – very cute!

They also have a pool, which was surprising, and Tom and I had it to ourselves for several hours one afternoon . . . at least until the summer camp kids arrived and took over!

The path around the lake was nice for walking Casey, and she liked to relax by the edge of the water to watch the ducks swimming around.

Friday was our relaxing by the pool day, and then we spent Saturday exploring nearby Charleston.  Our first stop was the Capitol Market, our outdoor farmers market and a few indoor shops.

We bought quite a bit of produce to take home with us – oh, the peaches and corn were soooo good!

After shopping we drove to the other end of downtown, along the New River,

to the West Virginia State Museum located at the Capitol Complex.

The Capitol itself was covered with tarps and scaffolding, so I didn’t take a picture.  The grounds around the complex were beautiful, though.

We walked around to the museum entrance, and entering the lobby we greeted by a display of “Quilts of West Virginia” – WOW – there were some really beautiful ones!

So many beautiful quilts!

While I was admiring the quilts, Tom talked to the docent and found out that the lower level of the museum was a walking tour of West Virginia through the years – from the first settlers,

through the Civil War when West Virginia became a separate state (they sided with the Union during the war, and took that opportunity to declare themselves separate from Virginia).

We followed the path through the decades and learned about the history of the many industries that have made up the economy of West Virginia.

Tom trying his hand at being a telephone operator!

Progress came to West Virginia with the riverboats and the railroad.

Moving into the 20th Century, as electricity and indoor plumbing finally came to West Virginia!

The New River Gorge Bridge

We completed the tour of West Virginia’s history, and took a quick look on the balcony at the display of Miss West Virginia costumes and a display of all the first ladies of West Virginia.

It was a really nice museum . . . and it was FREE, so that was a bonus! 

We had time for an early dinner before church, so we asked the docent for a recommendation, and he sent us to a great little pizza place in an old house on top of a hill across the river.  Definitely a good recommendation!

After dinner, we went to mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Basilica,

and afterwards enjoyed some live music and an ice cream cone at Streetfest – a monthly gathering in downtown Charleston with a band and lots of games and activities for kids.  There were lots of young families out enjoying the beautiful summer evening.

It was a great day, and a wonderful way to enjoy the state capitol!

Monday, July 15, 2019

A busy July 4th week

With Nick home from his June underway, it was great to be able to hang out with him again.  One night, we met him and a group of his friends in downtown Norfolk for a free concert at the Waterside District.

It was a beautiful, warm evening – a perfect night to sit out along the river and listen to live music by Michael Ray (country).

We had a pretty good view ourselves!

Hey, Tom and I fit right in with this young crowd!  We’re right down there in the front row!

It was a fun evening, and we were glad that the “young folks” let us hang out with them!

Nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by my kids, and now that they are older and in relationships, that includes the girls in their lives, too. 

Nicolas’s ship had tossed around the idea of having a “Family Day” cruise over the July 4th holiday, so Bryce and Hannah made plans to come to Virginia for the week so that they could go with us.  Unfortunately, the cruise dis not get approved, but they already had their vacation plans in place, so they came to Virginia anyway.

We had a very full week – a wonderful, busy week!

They arrived in the late afternoon on Saturday, and we just hung out at the camper – I made dinner for everybody, and then Nicolas had a fire down at his camper.  On Sunday, he took Bryce and Hannah to the ship for a tour,

They enjoyed their tour and were amazed by the massive ship that Nicolas calls his “home away from home”!  During the week, Nicolas tried to get home as early as he could, and we spent time at the beach at the campground, had a couple of dinners out – including a delicious dinner at the Taste of Smithfield, and we watched movies or played cards in the evenings.

Nicolas got an extra day off, so we planned a day at the beach in the Outer Banks.  It takes about 2 hours to get all the way to the beach at Corolla, so we got an early start.  After a quick stop at 7 Eleven for ice, we were on the road.

Now, Nicolas has always liked going to the beach at Corolla because you can drive on the beach (17 miles of beach, all the way up to the Virginia State line!) and it’s FREE . . . or it was last year!  We got there and found out that now they require permits if you are going to PARK on the beach – you can drive for free, but if you want to stop and picnic, you need a permit.  $50 for a 7-day permit!!  Nicolas was so mad!  That’s not a bad price for people who are vacationing there for a week, but for a day trip, it’s kindof outrageous – especially when you have two vehicles! We bought a permit for the truck, since we were going to have an easy-up and grill set up in it, but we figured we could keep the Jeep moving enough to not need a 2nd permit.

While Nicolas went to get the permit at the Visitor Center, the rest of us picked up breakfast . . .

Duck Donuts – an Outer Banks institution!

They were hot, delicious, and incredibly messy!

Everyone was hungry, so rather than taking them to the beach with us, we dug in right there in the parking lot on the tailgate of Nicolas’ truck!

Oh yeah, they were good . . .

We aired down all the tires then, and Nicolas set up his flags, and we were off!

Soon we were on the sand, and making our way down the beach to the area where we could set up for the day.

We found a good spot, and got set up.  Stephanie pondered, “How many Gimmarro’s does it take to set up an Easy Up?”

All set up and ready to enjoy a day at the beach!

It was a hot day, and we spent a lot of time in the water – it felt great!  They even got Hannah to swim out to a sand bar.  She just had to keep telling herself, “There’s no sharks out here, there’s no sharks out here!”

They all made – there, and back!

We took turns taking the Jeep for a drive on the sand,

and spotted a few wild horses (but for the most part, they were keeping themselves pretty scarce).

Bryce thought about bringing his hammock with him, but I reminded him that there were no trees at the beach.  He said he could hang it between the Jeep and the truck . . . and what do we see down the beach from us??!!


While Tom and I were out driving, the kids grilled up our dinner, and packed up the Easy Up because the wind had really started to pick up.  We got back just in time to eat, and afterwards the 4 of them took off in the truck to do a little playing in the sand!

Had to get it un-buried first!  No problem!

The beach was starting to empty out as people packed up and headed home,

We took one more swim, and we could really tell that the waves had increased in size and frequency since our earlier swims!

It was such a beautiful day!

Before long, the kids came back and we headed out after a few photo ops.

The couples – Nick & Stephanie

Bryce & Hannah

My silly boys . . .

and the two couples together.

The sun was getting lower in the sky as we said good-bye to the beach,

and after a quick stop to air up the tires and get an ice cream cone, we watch the sun sink into the horizon as we made our way back to Virginia.

It was a long day, but lots of fun and family togetherness!

Nicolas had duty on July 4th, so Tom & I took Bryce and Hannah down to Virginia Beach to check out the Boardwalk . . . and the crowds!

That’s definitely a different atmosphere than we had on our day at the beach!  Parking the Jeep was an adventure, too . . . Tom first tried pulling into a private lot – $80 for the day!!  No thanks!  We continued on, and snagged a metered spot on the street for $6 for 3 hours – that was plenty of time!

We walked along the Boardwalk, visited a few shops, had lunch at Subway and ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s, and all managed to home home a little redder than we started!  It was a really HOT day!

We got back to the campground in time for the July 4th potluck, and were planning to watch the fireworks on the beach.  We were playing cards while we waited for dusk, when we heard the rain start . . . and continue all evening!  No fireworks!

Nicolas said he was able to see a few fireworks from the flight deck before the rain started, but then he went inside.  Well, that was a bummer!

After his duty day on the 4th,  Nicolas was off the rest of the weekend.  He did some cleaning at his camper when he got home from work, and then he, Bryce and Hannah picked up Stephanie and the 4 of them went shopping at the Outlet Mall in Norfolk.  They met us back in Suffolk for dinner, and then the 4 of them went out to a club in Virginia Beach for Bryce & Hannah’s last evening.

Tom and I stayed at the campground for the re-scheduled fireworks on the beach.

It was a beautiful night, and they put on a good show!

I love the way the fireworks reflected on the water!

It was a really nice Independence Day celebration!

Saturday arrived, and it was time for Bryce and Hannah to head back to Michigan.  We were sad to have them leave us, but we’ll be following them in a few days and will see them again soon.  We loved having them vacation with us again!

The campground had a beach party that night, so Tom & I and Nick & Stephanie joined in the fun.  There was a DJ, and games on the beach, and it was so warm out, lots of kids were swimming in the lake all evening.

Tom got in on the cornhole game first . . . with Brian, Janetta, and Alan . . . I think they’re debating the rules!


Then Nick & Stephanie got in on the action,

while Tom played with his new friend!

It was a nice evening – we really enjoy the family-like atmosphere of this campground and the people there.  It’s a good place for Nicolas, and makes us feel good to know he’s got that community in addition to his friends at work.

That wrapped up our busy vacation week . . . but I loved it and wouldn’t trade that time with the kids for anything!