Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Among The Unfamiliar

Epsom, New Hampshire. That's where I am, but I really don't have a clue where that is. Well, I know it is in the northeastern corner of the U.S. of A., but I've not taken the time yet to take a good look at a map to know where I am exactly. Near Concord is all I can tell you at the moment.

I'm still trying to recover from road fatigue. We drove (not counting stops) about 35.5 hours. My backside is looking more like the seat of a Dodge Ram every day. And girlfriends, that ain't pretty!

I'll tell you what is pretty. Vermont--what bit of it we saw passing through--is pretty. In fact, pretty won't quite due. This description calls for the Texan vernacular. Folks, let me tell ya. Vermont is down-right purdy. REAL PURDY!

As I'm able to get out and about in New Hampshire I'll let you know what I think about it. I don't know how long we will be here. Rick doesn't have very many claims, so I only paid for two weeks here at the campground. I have reserved our space until the 29th of August because he hopes to get more claims as he gets some of these closed out. Just one day at a time we make our plans, knowing that they will probably change before the sun goes down.

One thing I hope to see while we are here is a moose. As we drove through Vermont and into New Hampshire we saw "Moose Crossing" signs along the highways. How cool would it be to see a moose crossing the road? I think it would be VERY cool! I did see a swan floating on a little lake along the roadside, but I've seen a real live swan up-close before. I've never been up-close to a live-in-the-wild moose before. I'll be sure to take my camera with me when I go to Wal-Mart, just in case a moose walks by.

Speaking of Wal-Mart--well, this really doesn't have anything to do with Wal-Mart, (or as the Yankee keeper of the campground calls it, "Waw-Mawt") it has more to do with being thankful.

I've titled this post Among the Unfamiliar. That's where I am. I remember a time when I thought I was in the middle of a spiritual growing spurt because God had taken me "outside my comfort zone." I did experience a growth spurt, and that made me glad, many times later, to have opportunities to be outside my zone. But I'm tellin' ya now, it has been so long since I've been "inside" my comfort zone, I don't even have one any more. If getting outside one's comfort zone is all it takes to grow spiritually, then I ought to be a giant by now! I'm not, so I guess there is more to it. Ya think?

Anyway, this uncomfortable feeling I always have when we go places I've never been before made me think of you, my readers. Especially those of you who are, at this moment, wishing for something like a moose to cross your path. I want you to live with a heart of thanksgiving. Here are just a few things that crossed my mind (like a moose crossing the road) that come with living inside comfort zones.

1. If you can find your local Wal-Mart Super Center without a GPS, be thankful.
2. If the word "local" puts the name of only one town or city in your mind, and if the word "community" stirs an emotion, be thankful.
3. If you know the best route to take to get to work or church or school, thank the good Lord.
4. If you can go into a store where you are accustomed to buying your groceries and find the Velveta Cheese without walking every aisle three times and asking the stock boy for assistance, then you have a lot to be thankful for.
5. If you go to the mall and see at least one person you know or have even seen somewhere before, be very thankful.
6. If you know your address without having to look it up, say "Thank you, God, for my comfort zone."
7. And if you have a place you call your "church home" and people there who are "like family" to you, who insist on knowing all your business--because they care and want to pray for you, drop to your knees and give thanks to the God who has given you all good and familiar gifts.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Stopped For The Night

I don't know where we are... somewhere in Ohio about 20 or 25 miles from the Pennsylvania line. We've been rolling well over 21 hours and that doesn't count rest stops, fuel stops, and overnight sleeping time. That's more than 21 hours of moving down the highway. If I ask myself, "Are we there yet?" one more time, I'm going to make myself sit in the back seat with a rag stuffed in my mouth!

I'm getting a little buggy!!!!! I've tried to read, sleep, and played a few games on my Palm Pilot. Every time I dozed off today, Rick turned the radio over to NASCAR talk radio. All that loud belly-aching grates my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. So my naps were short. Maybe I should ride in the back seat with rags stuffed in my ears!

We are stopped for the night---and hopefully a few hours sleep. If all goes as planned we will get to our destination tomorrow evening. We are just under 600 miles away. Just in case you were wondering, New Hampshire is a LONG WAY from Amarillo TX!

I'll let you know when we get there! Happy trails!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Something Changed

So do you remember the last line of my last post? "I'll see ya' in Atlanta--unless something changes."

I guess I had that funny feeling--something changed. Last night one of Rick's managers called him with new instructions. In the morning we will hook on and head back to New England. This time we are bound for New Hampshire. He will be working there and in Maine.

Wasn't it just a little over a week ago we left New England? Sometimes circumstances are beyond crazy. If we could have known that we would be deployed there again, Rick could have just flown home for Granny's funeral. But, since we are not able to know those kinds of things, we will spend the next four days and about $1,000.00 driving almost 2,000 miles. Sounds like fun?

Now, if I don't get back to you in the next four days, I'll see ya in New Hampshire--unless something changes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Riverboat Ride Up The Connecticut

Well, did you give up on the riverboat ride? I'm really sorry about this taking so long for me to post. As you know, there have been a few interruptions in my life, and when we are home (as we are at the moment) I find myself spending all my spare time playing with the granddaughters. Who cares about blogging if you can play in the sandbox?

Finally, as I promised, here are a few of the pictures I took as we went up the Connecticut River. You can see more of my Connecticut pictures by clicking here. I don't have all my Connecticut pictures there yet, but I intend to get them there in a few days. This is a picture of the boat we rode on. I took this picture a different day, but thought it would go good with this post.This is just a bit of the view. In the picture below, notice the dead tree to the right side. I don't know if you can see it or not, but there is a little dark speck on a dead branch that sticks out to the left...That dark speck is a bald eagle. It was a little shy and would not look at us. It was way on the other side of the river so I had to zoom in to get its picture. That's why it is a little blurry. The guide we had said that the eagles nest in the dead trees along the river.
Below is a picture of the school house where Nathan Hale taught before the Revolution. This was one of the places that I wanted to visit before we left, but things don't always work out like we would like. So I'll settle for a picture of it from the river.
If you want to see the school for yourself, it is in East Haddam where we stayed. Just a little way up the river from the school is the Goodspeed Opera House. It was built in the 1800s. (pictured below)Some famous Broadway shows, like Annie, got their start at this opera house.
This is a photo of an old inn and restaurant. We ate there one evening, out on the patio under the striped roof. It is really nice because you have a good view of the river.
Below are some pictures of a swing bridge connecting Haddam and East Haddam. We drove across it many times. It was cool watching it in operation as it opened to let a boat pass. The bridge has been there and operating since the 1800s as well. More pictures that I plan on putting on my Flickr page include our time in Essex. I took pictures of buildings that were built in the 1700s and early 1800s. We also made it back to the Gillette Castle and I'll post those pictures on Flickr as well.
Now that we are no longer in New England, I figured I wouldn't keep yacking about it here. Life moves on and so do we. I'm sure most of you are expecting my next posts to be from south Texas because of Dolly. I hate to disappoint you, but we are headed to Atlanta instead. Go figure.
When Rick got the rig home last Thursday, we started discovering some big maintenance issues: The brakes on the trailer were not working just right. The oven door broke so we are having to have the frame of it welded before I can use it. Some little doohickies that hold the axles to the springs were about to wear in to, and in the process of replacing them, we discovered that the frame was broken in two places and cracked or about to break in several other places. When Rick opened one of the slides, it hung up and messed up the rubber roof of the slide and tore up the gasket that seals it off. Man! What a mess! To top it all off, Rick had a cap come off a tooth that he needed to have stuck back on. Because of all our repairs, and because Rick really wanted some time off, he didn't take the Dolly job. So, they tried to send him to South Carolina. Again he said no-can-do because we still didn't have all the repairs made on the camper.
Yesterday he was called three times. Finally, I guess, his manager was persistent or insistent to the point that when Rick told him that we could not go anywhere until Monday, or the weekend at best, his manager said okay. So to Atlanta we will go, to "clean-up" some old storm claims. Just for the record, clean-up is not Rick's favorite thing to do, and Atlanta has not been our favorite place to be. But such is life. So if I don't get back here in the next day or two, I'll see ya in Atlanta --- unless something changes.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I last posted here Monday morning. Monday evening Rick took me to Hartford where I spent the night in an Econo Lodge suite, (there's a How-Stupid-Can-I-Be story there that I'll have to tell you about later) then I caught a 7:50 flight out on Tuesday morning for Amarillo. My itinerary had me to arrive in Amarillo at 6:45 p.m., but God's goodness and rushing through airports in St. Louis and Dallas allowed me to fly stand-by on earlier flights. I got to Amarillo just a bit before 3:00 in the afternoon. (Rick left Connecticut Tuesday morning and drove long and hard to arrive at home Thursday night.)

My sister and mother picked me up at the airport and took me straight to Hospice. My hope was to see Granny before she passed away. As one of my cousins later reminded me, Granny never waited on anything or anyone if she was ready to do something. And I guess she was ready to see Jesus face to face, for she took her last breath as we were pulling into the parking lot at Hospice. I didn't make it in time. That was tough for me, but fine with Granny.

When a beloved family member dies, it is never easy. I will miss my grandmother very much. I have only good memories of her and I know that she loved all her children and grandchildren very much. She always bragged about how good-looking all her children and grandchildren were. She would say, "There's not an ugly one in the whole bunch!" I believe she loved the Lord even more than she loved her family, and for that I am thankful. She left a wonderful legacy.

Now I have to tell you a story. I really don't want to, but my Aunt Laveta told me she expected to see it in my blog, and I love her, so---

After Granny made her escape to heaven, the sweet hospice servant straightened her stooped little body in the bed, placed a red rose in her folded hands, and then called the family back in to the room. Along with the hospice spiritual director, we all gathered in a circle around the bed to pray, remember, cry, and just honor the memory of the woman we all loved so much.

Now I need to tell you a couple of things about Granny. She wore dentures, but you'd never know it because she saw to it that no one ever saw her without her teeth. And she had a dowager's hump on her back. That hump complicated things a little because when they put her on her back, she couldn't exactly lie flat. The hump made her head tilt back more than just a little. When a person passes away, the mouth has a tendency to open and the jaw sort of locks. So here is Granny, without her teeth, head back, mouth open, and all of us gathered around her bed at this solemn yet undignified moment.

After we prayed and my dad spoke some words of comfort and reassurance, we all stood in an uncomfortable silence, so much on our hearts but without words to adequately express our feelings. My Aunt Laveta leaned over the bed, looking into the face of my grandmother's body and said, "You'd be really upset if you knew we were all standing here staring at you without your teeth, wouldn't you?"

Then I, the "Talkin' Texan," with mouth in overdrive and brain in park said, "Oh Granny would just die if she knew, wouldn't she?"

In the split second it took for my words to hit the bereaved brains of the family, Aunt Laveta replied, "Yes, I think she would!"

Instantly tears and gentle sobs were transformed--laughter filled the room. Loud, till-tears-filled-our-eyes-again laughter. Oh, I could have just died! My dad offered to help me pull my foot out of my mouth.

I felt terribly about my blunder, but everyone else said that it was just what we needed. If Granny was watching, I know she laughed harder than any of us. She was cute when she laughed.

What a wonderful thing it is to know that these bodies we inhabit are earthen clay, formed by the hands of God to serve us for a short time here on earth. And we can laugh and rejoice when we, or our loved ones, are released from this earth and imperfect bodies to a glorious eternal existence in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ!

We buried Granny's earthen vessel, teeth and all, on Friday. We all rejoiced in her 90 years here, and I look forward to seeing her again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

More Reality

Again, today has been one of those days when reality jumps up and slaps me in the face.

I've been working for two days trying to get our riverboat ride posted. Between slow connection, blogger problems and flickr foul ups I'm frustrated to the extreme.

Then my mother called me this morning and told me that my grandmother is in the hospital. It looks like she will be going home--to that glorious eternal rest in the arms of Christ--very soon.

I need to start getting things situated so I can go home. Rick is almost done here, so we can start home as early as tomorrow with at least a four day drive ahead of us, or I can fly by myself...

I hate making decisions that are necessitated out of the unknown. For now, I'll take a shower and do some more laundry...while I wait.

I'll keep working on getting those photos uploaded, but we may be gone from Connecticut before I get it all done! Oh how nice is high-speed Internet!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reality Check

You thought you were going to get to take a boat ride up the Connecticut River today, didn't you? Yeah, well, so much for that. Some days reality just pops up and slaps you in the face! And today is one of those days. The have-to out weighs want-to so guess what I'm doing? Yesterday I spent $7.50 to do two loads of laundry and they still didn't get dry. So last night I went to bed with clean clothes disseminated around the camper so they could "air dry." The humidity is high here so everything is still damp this morning. I'll spend a good part of the afternoon ironing/drying the clothes I washed yesterday.
Have I mentioned that it rains here a bit more (actually a LOT more) than it rains at home? And have I mentioned that that makes the grass grow around here pretty fast? And have I mentioned that the campground staff mows the grass OFTEN? And all that mowing leaves loose grass that gets tracked in to the camper. Ughhh. So, I have to just "suck it up!"
Guess what?!? I can still multi-task! I can hang from a ladder, wash windows, and talk to my sister on the phone all at the same time! Bless her heart, she was having a mid-life moment in the clothing department of Target. (Love ya sis) She needed some consoling.
Yes, reality hits hard sometimes. Dirty dishes, smelly laundry, filthy floors, windows too dirty to see out of, or--clean enough for the whole world to see into..., and aging. I admit, it is a lot more fun to simply ride through life just looking at the pretty sights along the way, but that's not reality, and that's not what is best. I praise God for reality that keeps me going back to His word for encouragement, and keeps me humble, and keeps me looking forward to the fun days that come along ever now and then.
We will take that boat ride soon, I promise. Until then, I'll see ya in the funny papers!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Toot-toot, Toot-toot, Off We Go

Rick grabs a little R&R whenever he can. Twelve hours a day, seven days a week starts to make him batty. (His word, not mine.) He never makes appointments on Sundays. That's a "catch up on paperwork day." Sometimes he works late into the night on Saturday just so we can have a little time to do something fun or go to church together on Sunday. So, to continue our 4th of July weekend between phone calls and writing estimates, we took a sightseeing trip through the Connecticut River Valley.
We drove from East Haddam to the train station in Essex. The train took us to Deep River where we boarded a riverboat that took us up the Connecticut River to East Haddam and then back. We got back on the train which returned us to Essex where we walked around for a little while and ate some ice cream. Then we drove back to East Haddam.

More pictures are coming in future posts, but for the sake of my sanity and so I can get something else done today, I'll stick to the train ride this time.
The train was first put into service in the early 1920s. Engine 103 was not the engine that tugged us up and down the tracks, but it looked much the same as the one that did. They are coal-burning steam engines.

I took this photo hanging myself out the window right AFTER we were told NOT to hang any body parts or children out of the windows. We weren't moving yet so I figured, what's the harm?
The engine and all the cars are the "real deal" (no replicas here) dating back to the 20s and 30s.

Now I'm not sure about this guy. He was one of the trainmen who checked our tickets to make sure we didn't ride in the wrong car. Something about his short pants didn't seem to fit with the whole 1920s thing.

Here the conductor was just about to call, "All Aboard!" I think he looked a little more classy with his vest and long pants.

We paid $5.00 extra to ride in the "Pala Ca." And for all my readers who know how to pronounce the letter "r" when it is at the end of a word, we rode in the Parlor Car, aka Pullman Car. The lady selling tickets at the depot had the New England accent and could not sound out her final rs. Poor thing.
We don't usually go first class. Actually I don't know that we've EVER gone first class, except maybe the time we rented a Chrysler Sebring convertible and drove to Key West with the top down and stayed at a Wyndham Resort. That was pretty classy. But this was first class 1920s style. The other cars had either wooden bench seats or padded bus type seats. I would have taken some pictures, but they wouldn't let us go from one car to another while the train was moving. I had already hung myself out the window, so I thought I shouldn't press my luck.

I tried to get some scenery shots out my Pala Ca window, but pretty much all you could see were trees. I caught a glimpse of a swan, a small water fall, and a few other interesting things, but we were whizzing along about 20 mph and the trees here are THICK.

Here are the only shots I got that were not blurry green blobs. You can get an idea of the tree population.

Hope you enjoyed the train ride. We did. It got Rick away from the computer and me out of the camper for a while. Watch for the riverboat ride coming to this blog soon!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fourth of July in Connecticut

Stars and Stripes, Yankee Doodle, and gee the day was just Dandy! Rick did some paperwork in the morning and we took off for a drive in the afternoon. We drove a bit, and found a different public beach along Long Island Sound. If you're planning a vacation and want to head for a beach, I don't recommend anything we've seen along the sound. You understand that in my mind I'm comparing the beaches of Florida and Alabama with the beaches of Connecticut. And as far as playing in the water... The warm water of the Gulf vs. the cold water of the Atlantic, well it's a personal preference, but I'll take the Gulf.

I saw a girl walking along the shore, wearing her tiny little bikini, (the temperature was 74 degrees) and she had goose bumps. Big ones, from head to toe! I told Rick that maybe someone should tell these folks that you don't go to the beach half naked and get all wet when it is 74 and the wind is blowing. You've got to have the "mind over matter" thing down really well to call that a fun day at the beach!
The beach was not really crowded, but there were plenty of folks having a good time.This little guy was running around leaving his webbed footprints in the sand. The people were leaving their cigarette butts. We didn't hang around long.

Our afternoon drive took us on to New London, Fort Trumbull, and the Thames River.New London had some beautiful old buildings, but I didn't get any close-ups. We were pushed for time and the streets were so narrow I couldn't get far enough away from the buildings to get a good shot. One of those things you just have to experience.I'll let you look up Fort Trumbull and read the history for yourself. The visitor's center was closed so we didn't get to tour the fort, but we enjoyed walking around, seeing the view, and reading the markers anyway.This building was built in the 1700s--the oldest part of the fort still standing.Part of the fort we walked around. The walls were very thick to protect against attacks from the water.The "big guns" date back to the 1800s.

Here are a couple of pictures of the Thames River. It is no West Texas creek! I'm talkin' big river--and a couple of islands.There's enough river to handle this cruise ship. She's the Explorer of the Seas, part of the Royal Caribbean cruise line. Some of the locals told us she was on her way to Canada. A long way from the Caribbean! In this photo she was headed back out to sea after a stop in New London.Massive boat! I've never seen a cruise ship up close before now. The people on the decks looked like, well, like little specks. And God cares for--no, He loves so much He died for--each of those little specks. Huge forts, big guns, deep wide rivers, gigantic ships, and the freedom of man. It is for freedom He sets us free. I challenge you to keep a list of all the things you see around you that reminds you of your "independence" and your freedom.

Trying to post this has taken me most of the day because of slow connections. Saturday Rick worked all day but Sunday we had a little fun. I'll tell you about it later.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Until I Can Post My Pictures...

Well I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July! We had a pretty nice weekend. That's why I've not posted in a few days. We were able to take a few hours off and do a little sightseeing.

I've got pictures and will be getting them organized and posted over the next few days. I'm trying to finish up my homework assignment (it was due on the first and I'm still not done) and I HAD to do a load of laundry today. I've had phone calls that have taken some of my time too. I'm not complaining mind you. I love visiting with family and friends so I don't mind the calls at all. But I can't talk and post at the same time. I find multi-tasking harder than it used to be. (Another downside of being part of the "over 40" crowd.)

Now, while you wait to read about our train ride, our boat trip, and our visit to the fort...

I can't believe someone has not commented on my "Lessons Learned the Hard Way." Am I the only dummy who has ever tried to put kiwi fruit in jell-o? And has no one else ever parked under a pecan tree? Gee whiz. I thought I'd get either some sympathy or some wise cracks, or maybe someone that would ask WHY you can't put kiwi in jell-0 or park under a pecan tree. Guess I'm in the corner wearing the pointy hat!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Stone Fences

So stately and picturesque, they are everywhere. Stone fences, one of my favorite New England specialties. They make me think of the poem by Robert Frost-- Mending Wall
by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'

From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

More Little Cones

Okay, okay. So, some people collect stamps, some butterflies... I really don't collect pinecones, but I'm so fascinated by my newest find. In the picture above,the "Big Boy" in the back is the little fellow featured in my last post about cones. You remember? The one that was not much bigger than a quarter. I just thought it was a tiny little cone. Check out the itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny cones I found hanging on a tree today! They are barely a half of an inch tall.
I wish I had my BIG California cones to add to the picture, just for the WOW factor. If I was the least bit creative, I'd come up with something I could make using all my different sized cones. But, you know what they say; while God was passing out creativity, I was holding the door for everyone else. So, all these little cones are lying around on my table and a few are in a catch-all drawer. When I finally get tired of moving them around I'll probably toss them all.
But for now, they have made me smile as I worship the creator. And, because I have blogged three times about pinecones, you are starting to think that I need to get a life!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Newport RI

Newport is where the wealthy come to play and where poor rednecks like us come to look at their toys.
These pictures really don't do Newport Harbor justice. It was getting late in the day and the humidity was very high. There was a heavy haze in the air so it was hard to get good pictures. We walked through the "visitors" area of the Newport Yacht club. (Yes we were WAY out of our league.) As far as you could see, boats or yachts bobbed in the harbor. I'd love to see all these with sails unfurled!
REALLY BIG BOAT! (I zoomed in to get this shot.)
If we get to go back to Newport, I want to take ride around the harbor and look at the boats up close. There's something about the sea...