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It has been a while since the last travelog. Given
that these travelogs also serve as a documentary of our life on the
road, I'll summarize our path since we left off in Fairfield Glade,
Tennessee in the last travelog. Then we'll start off with a new
travelog for 2006.
As we usually do in the Fall, we headed to the
Atlanta area and parked the motorhome in daughter Jill's driveway for a
couple of weeks where we got to visit with kids and grandkids, as well
as take care of doctor and dentist visits. The Newmar fulltimers
chapter was having a rally at Stone Mountain, which we opted to skip
due to our wanting to take care of everything we had to do in Atlanta
and then head to Ocala to visit with my mom and help her with some
items that needed to be taken care of. We did, however, get to hook up
with the two couples with whom we plan to journey to Alaska: Karl and
Fran Winckel, and John and Roberta Hirth. We met at a Macaroni Grill
about half way between Douglasville and Stone Mountain and had a great
meal and visit while chatting
about going to Alaska. We now have a name for our three motorhome
caravan: Team Alaska.
We got to visit with some former neighbors, Ron
Tarlton and Alan Rosenfeld, and a dear friend from the church we used
to attend when we lived in Marietta, Dave Kukielski.
With our visit and tasks completed in Atlanta, we
drove down to Ocala to visit with my mom. We booked into the Ocala
Ranch RV Resort for a month. We were away for six months so there was a
lot to talk about and several things to tend to, such as helping her
with this Medicare Prescription Drug thing. What a mess. I can see why
old folks are confused about it given all the choices they have. While
in Ocala we did lots of movies, chores, took my mom out to eat, and got
to golf a couple of times. One of the things we have done every January
we have been on the road was to attend the Tampa RV Supershow. We won't
be there January 2006 because we'll be out west. That meant our annual
see my Aunt Mary and cousin Jay in Tampa wouldn't happen in January. So
I suggested that we drive over one day from Ocala to visit and that
would give my mom a chance to visit with her sister. We had a nice
lunch and then stopped over to see Jay on the way back to Ocala.
We are always in Ocala visiting with my mom for
Thanksgiving. Usually, we take her out for a Thanksgiving meal, but
this year Jill, Tonya, April, and Richard decided to drive down from
Atlanta for the weekend. I told my mom that the kitchen belonged
to Jill and Diane and it was her day off to just relax and enjoy the
company. My mom invited her dear friends and neighbors, Walt and
Evilyn and we had a very nice day. The day after Thanksgiving we went
to see the new Harry Potter movie and then everyone came over to the
campground where we cooked out. Another nice day.
We got to visit with some RV friends while we were
in Ocala. Bill and Martha Verity, RV fulltimers, were staying at the
Escapees park in Bushnell. They drove up one day and the four of us
went to play golf at Marion Oaks and then out to eat. John and Sue
Churn used to be RV
fulltimers, but now live south of Jacksonville. They loaded up their
Dutch Star and drove over to Ocala for an overnight. We went out to eat
and had a nice visit. It continues to be a great perk of our lifestyle
to be able to visit with so many friends we make on our journey.
We always like to stay in the Orlando area when we
are in Florida, so we made sure we allowed for a week down there before
heading up to Atlanta for Christmas. Our favorite park in that area is
the Encore park on Rte 192. We have stayed there every year for a week
or two, and we have twice spent longer periods (two months one
time, three months last winter). To be sure we had a site for the
winter, we left a deposit when we left in the spring, but needed to
cancel it when we knew that we would positively be heading out to
Unfortunately, we did not stay at the Encore park this time. When I
called to make a reservation, I found out they were charging $252 for a
week and that is just outrageous. The most we have ever paid for a week
was $180 and that would be my upper limit unless there was no other
choice. We did have a choice and we went to the Citrus Valley
Campground on US 27 a few miles north of 192. Is that campground as
nice as the Encore park? No, but all we needed was a place to park the
rig for a week. Plus, Citrus Valley had FREE WiFi, whereas the Encore
park still hasn't installed a WiFi network, which won't be free if they
ever get it installed. The
Encore park was not anywhere near full, so I figure they lost $180 in
revenue. The monthly rates are still pretty reasonable, so we'll
definitely go back to the Encore park for long term stays, just not for
a weekly stay.
In the meantime we went to see our favorite movie
in the France pavilion and watched the groups perform in the UK and
Morocco pavilions (including a belly dancer who can really move).
always seem to migrate to Japan for sushi and had a great sushi
lunch. We were lucky to get
to the American pavilion just as the Christmas show was
starting. What a show. There was a 50 piece orchestra and
something like 400 people in the choir. They had celebrities
narrate the Christmas story and it was Cicely Tyson who was finishing
up her three day stay. Part of the show was a candlelight
procession by the choir down to the stage. It was an excellent
show that concluded with the Halleluah chorus that always generates
emotion when I hear it.
After the show, we took the monorail to check out the decorations at the hotels over near the Magic Kingdom. The nicest was the Grand Floridian with a tree that was at least four or five stories tall. What an elegant hotel that is. The weather was cool, but we had a great afternoon and evening. It was the slow season, but I was surprised at how many people were there. Aren't all those kids supposed to be in school during the week so us old retired folks can have the parks to ourselves? ;-)
Also while in the area we got to visit with my
cousin Dawn to talk about the upcoming dual singing Christmas tree
performance that she is part of in the choir. We also got to visit with
Earline and Ray Greer to chat about their journey to Alaska last
summer. We got some good tips and information to use for our journey
this coming summer.
When we moved to Marietta in 1982 we had never
seen or heard of a singing Christmas tree. We saw an ad in the
local paper and decided to take the kids and check it out. The
performance was a single Christmas tree populated with a choir and was
held at a large Baptist church less than a mile from where we
lived. It was beautiful and we got hooked. We did the show,
which was a different story each year, for the first four or five years
we lived there.
My cousin, Dawn, who lives in the Orlando area has been in the choir at First Baptist in Orlando for 15 years. It started out in 1980 as a single tree in a small downtown church, but expanded to two huge trees when they moved to a gigantic complex out along I-4 towards Disney World. Dawn asked us to try and come to a performance, but we were never in the area. This year we were, so we got tickets and took my mom to see the show.
The stage showcases two 40 foot structures
comprised of 300 choir and orchestra
members and more than eight miles of light strings. The two
become brilliant symbols of the season when decorated with greenery,
more than 250,000 "dancing" lights and over 250 "singing ornaments"
(the choir members!). It was fronted by a 50 piece
orchestra. What we saw was the final performance of the final
season of the Singing Christmas Trees because they were retiring the
trees after a 25 year run and coming up with something new for next
Christmas. I could feel the sadness of the locals in the audience
and the pastor as they said good-bye to their Singing Christmas
Trees. The performance was excellent. Unfortunately, I
forgot my camera so I don't have any photos of the trees. You can
for a link to the website, although I don't know how long the site will
be active. My apologies if you find this travelog at a point
where the link no longer works.
Although we are fulltimers and away from family much of the year, the one thing we aren't yet ready to do is to be away from grandkids during the Christmas season. We packed up the motorhome and headed north to Atlanta. We stopped for a couple of nights in Lake City to visit with Diane's brother, Jerry and his wife Jan. They take care of an adorable little granddaughter named Angel. We arrived at Jill's place on December 15. We still had several doctor visits to take care of before the end of the year and some Christmas shopping to be completed.
A former colleague of mine in Atlanta, Carolyn Green, suggested we get together for lunch. We hadn't seen each other since before I retired in 2000. Carolyn and I worked together for several years. She is one of my favorite people that I have ever worked with. Smart and funny and very easy to get along with. It was a pleasure to work with her. We met at a Friday's for lunch and had a great visit but, like all visits after so many years, the time went by so quickly and there was still so much to talk about and catch up on. I guess that will wait for another lunch date.
Christmas came and went before we knew it and it
was time to head out for our 2006 journeys. The first stop was the
Rainbow Plantation Escapees park in Summerdale, Alabama where we hooked
up with Norm and Linda Payne. If you've been following our travels you
remember them from the 2003 tour of the Maritimes and Newfoundland when
we traveled for ten weeks together. In 2006 we planned to travel for
about eight weeks together as we headed west to do the Newmar rallies
in Quartzsite, Arizona and Puerto Penasco, Mexico. More on that in the
We pulled out of Rainbow Plantation on December 29
for a two day drive to the Rainbow's End Escapees park in Livingston,
Texas, which is home for the Escapees RV Club. We wanted to be there
for New Years Eve and to allow time to visit with Mark Nemeth who we
hadn't seen for several years. Mark took a job with the Escapees RV
Club and had settled into life in Livingston. Kirk and Pam Wood were
there and parked right behind us. That was fortunate because Kirk has a
satellite internet dish that he shared with us. We
all had a nice evening at one of the two parties going on New Year's
Eve. On New Year's Day we all went over to visit Mark at his house. He
showed us how he brews his own beer and we had a beer tasting party all
afternoon. We tried four different beers, all of which were very good,
but I was partial to the lager. He also makes his own mead wine made
from honey. Mark told us it is thought to be the first alcoholic
beverage discovered when honey was left to age and it fermented. The
Romans called it ambrosia. I found it quite delicious, like a dessert
Ted and Donna Rogers live in The Woodlands, which
is north of Houston and we made plans to drive down there to visit with
them. Diane and I had met them when they were in Florida.
After taking in a movie (Chronicles of Narnia), they gave us a tour of
the area and then we went out for an early dinner at the Alpen House
German restaurant. The Woodlands is a very nice area with several nice
golf courses, and lots of restaurants and shopping. We had a very nice
visit with the Rogers and look forward to crossing paths with them out
on the road sometime.
Diane and I had a great time in 2005 as we toured
the Pacific Northwest and went to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.
We are looking forward to 2006 and the exciting journey to Alaska.