Saturday, January 2, 2021

Good-Bye 2020! It's been quite a year!

 2020 started out as a monumental year for our little family . . . after spending the first couple months of winter in south Florida in the RV, Tom & I packed up a bunch of our stuff and moved it out of the motorhome and into the new house, putting the RV into a nearby storage lot.  We were ready to start enjoying life in The Villages!    

In January, we took a quick trip up to Virginia to help Nick pack up his camper and see him off on his first deployment.  It was a cold and blustery night when we dropped him off at the pier, but he was excited -- after 5 years in the Navy, he was finally going to get to see the world!  (At least we thought so at the time . . .)

Bryce was thoroughly enjoying his senior year at Michigan State University, and looking forward to his graduate position in Athletic Training at the University of Florida, where he would also earn his Doctorate in Athletic Training.  

He came down for Spring Break to enjoy a little warm weather, and also to tour the campus and meet his new employers.

All was well in our world . . . .

Then it was mid-March . . . and you know what came next . . . COVID.

Bryce had just arrived back in East Lansing after Spring Break when all of his classes went online and all of his remaining clinical work was cancelled, as was MSU's graduation ceremony.  He stayed in his apartment and made the most of the rest of the year with his friends, but it was a bummer of a way to end his college years.

The Navy declared that there would be no port calls for deployed ships, and the Ike was ordered to remain at sea indefinitely.  After the initial disappointment, Nicolas settled into a routine and made the best of the situation.  They still managed to have some unique experiences, and see some amazing sights, even if only from a distance.

On the positive side, since they had left their homeport in January and not stopped anywhere, their ship was completely Covid-free, so they had none of the restrictions that the rest of us were living with . . . no masks, no social distancing, and all facilities on the ship were open.

Down here in Florida, we had plenty to keep us busy . . . we accomplished lots of home improvement projects, I made my first king-sized quilt for our new bedroom and refinished lots of furniture, and we started the decorating phase.  Facilities around The Villages shut down, but we were still able to walk and bike, play golf, and hang out with our close neighbors.

In early spring we fully embraced the Villages lifestyle and purchased our very first golf car -- a little birthday present to ourselves!

We also said good-bye to our Monaco Dynasty -- it was a great home on wheels for the last 4-1/2 years, and we will miss travelling in the comfort of a big diesel pusher, but we'd much rather see it put to good use with new owners than have it sit in a storage lot for most of the year.  The new owners have great plans in the works, and I'm sure they will also enjoy several years of adventures!

With the motorhome gone, most states still under lockdown orders, and no graduation ceremony planned at MSU, we shortened our planned trip to Michigan in May, and just went up there for a week to get Bryce's apartment packed up, get some graduation pictures, and have a quick visit with the family.

Bryce loved being a Spartan, and it was unfortunate that his college years had to end this way, but the important thing is that he got an great education and some excellent practical experience, and left there as a Certified Athletic Trainer, with a very bright future ahead of him!  We're very proud of all he accomplished!

We returned to The Villages, and Bryce followed us a few weeks later, and we all experienced our first Florida summer -- it was hot, but not as bad as we thought it would be.  We still managed to get in bike rides and golf -- just later in the day -- and we had some spectacular sunsets!

Later in the summer, it was finally time for the Ike to return to her homeport, so we made the trip back to Virginia to welcome our favorite Sailor!

With COVID restrictions still in place, we were not able to be at the pier when the ship pulled in, but we gathered with a bunch of other proud families at Fort Monroe to watch as she sailed by.

206 days . . . that's how long they were at sea, without ever touching land . . . I can't even imagine!

We couldn't see the ship up close this time, but I got a few pictures from the ship's Facebook page, and Nicolas got a photo from the Media Department as he manned the rails with the Michigan flag.

We spent a few days getting him set back up in his camper, and then we had to get back to Florida, as we had a new family member moving to the Sunshine State!

Tom's Dad had grown weary of Michigan winters and decided to buy a small villa in the same Village as us.  We had handled the closing with him remotely earlier in the summer, and Tom found somebody selling an entire villa of furniture/decorations/essentials -- so it was all set up and ready for him to move in!  After returning from Virginia, Tom flew up to Michigan and drove him back in his car, with his personal belongings loaded in the trunk.

He's settled in quite nicely, and is really enjoying his new home!

We also continued our decorating projects, and replaced the Jeep with a new Lincoln!

We had also been shopping for an RV to replace the Dynasty, probably a Class C, but hadn't located one yet (they really became a hot commodity during Covid!), and we had rally coming up in the fall in North Carolina, so we needed to figure something out.  I knew that Howard & Linda (RV_Dreams) had toyed with the idea of renting their motorhome, so we contacted them out and worked out a deal that worked to both of our benefits.  We got to try out a smaller motorhome, and enjoy another wonderful RV Quilters SEW2GETHER in Franklin, NC!

I think that's the first time their RV has been covered in quilts!!

We had a great time re-connecting with old friends and making new ones . . . and I completed several projects!

Back home, things were opening back up and we were adding to our schedules.  Tom decided he wanted to give softball a try, I joined the Quilt Guild, we joined a bowling league with Howard & Linda, and Bryce gave us golf tips whenever he came down for a visit (Grandpa, too!)

As the holidays neared, Nicolas came down for a Thanksgiving celebration and we got an early start on Christmas spirit by re-instituting an old family tradition of getting a real Christmas tree!

We couldn't go with the "Florida" trees, though . . . too prickly!  We went with our traditional frasier fir -- these were brought in from North Carolina.

I don't have a lot of Christmas decorations anymore . . . didn't keep much in the motorhome . . . but I'll gradually add more over the years, I'm sure!

Nicolas will be leaving on another deployment in January -- hopefully with port calls this time -- so we rented an Airbnb in Virginia Beach and took a road trip up there to spend Christmas with him, help him get his camper packed up and winterized, and bring his truck back to Florida for safe keeping in our garage.

Bryce came down a few days early and helped with the cookie making,

and Nicolas got into the holiday spirit on the ship!

We had a great visit, and Grandpa got to see Nick's ship for the first time.

Lastly, but certainly not least . . . I RETIRED after 32 years at Ford Motor Company!!  When we first went on the road in 2012, and I was able to continue working remotely, I thought it might last a year or two . . . I never imagined that I would reach my full retirement benefit.  But I reached that point this year, and made the decision to retire as soon as I was eligible!  I'm so grateful for the career I had, and the opportunities I was able to realize, especially these last few years, but I am definitely ready to move on and enjoy this new phase of life!

So, despite all the negative effects of COVID on life in the world, we still had a pretty good year, and we have much to be thankful for!  So know that we are all doing well, and I'll try to post an occasional blog to keep our friends on the road up to date with what we are doing.

Take care, friends, and we wish you all a Happy & Healthy 2021!!