(May 29, 2007 to July 21, 2007)

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Our plans for the roughly six weeks after our granddaughter's graduation and the time we would start a three week vacation in Europe was to go up to New York to visit family and friends and then do some touring in Virginia on the way back south to the Atlanta area. Things changed dramatically when we were contacted about a crisis situation involving my mother in Florida.

May 29: Bristol, Virginia (326 miles)

Road conditions: I-285; I-75; I-81

Campground: Wal-Mart

Fuel: Flying J (Wytheville) - $2.519 per gallon.

An overnight stop.

May 30: Winchester, Virginia (310 miles)

Road conditions: I-81

Campground: Wal-Mart

Fuel: Flying J (Clear Brook) - $2.589 per gallon.

An overnight stop.

May 31 to June 2: Intercourse, Pennsylvania (166 miles)

Road conditions: I-81; SR 581; I-83; I-283; SR 283; US 30; SR 340; SR 772

Campground: Beacon Hill Camping This is a small rural campground with a minimum age of 16 years. We got a free three night stay coupon at the Tampa RV Show and decided to use it on our way up to New York. I checked it out on the web and some of the reviews said the campground was very nice, but a bit tight. That is an appropriate description. There were two tiers to the campground with the smaller rigs up top and larger rigs up to 45' on the lower level. We had no problem backing into our site even with the feeling of tightness. Although some sites may be very level, ours wasn't and we had to raise the front of the motorhome quite a bit to get it level, although we did not have to lift the wheels off the ground. A positive for Beacon Hill is the free WiFi. It worked pretty well, but did have some times where it had delays in the connection. When it worked, it worked very fast, and one can't really complain when it's free.

Our main purpose in stopping in Pennsylvania on the way to New York was to visit with Dennis and Cindy Henderson who are fulltime RVers workamping in New Holland over the summer.

While we were there, we were told it would be worth our while to visit the National Christmas Center, so we decided to give it a look. We thought it was a worthwhile attraction.

It is in Holland that the story of Santa Claus as we know him today began. Legend is that Nicholas was born about 270 years after Christ. As a very young man he was consecrated archbishop of Myra. He led a good and charitable life and many miracles were attributed to him. His works benefited the needy from all walks of life but is most closely associated with poor children and orphans. He is now recognized by Christians around the world as the patron saint of children.

Here is some trivia we learned at the Christmas Center, some of which we already knew:

* St. Nicholas as a Santa figure became widely known in America with the publication of Clement Moore's classic "A Visit From St. Nicholas" better known today as "The Night Before Christmas."

* St. Nicholas Day is celebrated annually on December 6th which marks the date of his passing in the year 343.

* The tradition of tannenbaum, or Christmas Tree, originated in Germany.

* Wassail means "what hail" or "to your health" as well as a hot drink.

The popular custom of displaying a Nativity scene at Christmas dates back to St. Francis of Assisi of Italy in 1224. One evening he saw shepherds asleep in the fields near Greccio and it reminded him of the shepherds in the Christmas story. He was inspired to create a nativity scene that ordinary peasant folks could more fully understand the beauty and simplicity of the birth of Jesus, so he built his creche in a forest grotto. He placed a wax figure of the Christ Child in a hay filled manger and brought in a live ox and donkey. Real people were dressed as Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, much like what some towns and churches do today.

The Mennonite Visitor Center was one of our stops in the area to learn more about the Mennonites. The Mennonite Church traces its origin to 1525 in Zurich, Switzerland where the first Reformation Church free from state control was born. An important early leader of this first free church was Conrad Grebel who was convinced that government should have nothing to do with the theology and practices of the church. He also believed other reformers of the day, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, weren't going far enough with their reforms.

The problem at the time was that the state church baptized infants soon after birth, which not only made them part of the church, but also citizens of the state. Grebel and his contemporary reformers believed in "believer's baptism." They believed one needed to knowingly repent sins and pledge loyalty to Christ prior to receiving baptism. Such believers came to be known as Anabaptists, meaning "those who baptize again." The state objected to this because such a practice meant considerable delay in getting people on the tax roles. On January 21, 1525, Grebel, Felix Manz, and Georg Blaurock rebaptized each other for the first free church. By Palm Sunday they had 500 converts in Zurich. Conrad Grebel was persecuted and arrested for his beliefs. Early in 1526 he was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of visitors. He managed to escape from prison but soon died of the plague in Maienfeld, Switzerland.

We heard about the Amish Experience where we could watch a very good movie about the Amish, as well as take a tour of an Amish home. The movie was titled "Jacob's Choice" and showed the choice faced by an Amish teenager, Jacob. The movie was well done and informative. We learned that the Amish choose to follow the religion and customs when they are old enough to understand. Amish youngsters often dress in non Amish style clothing and can even own a car and participate in non Amish activities. However, once they choose to follow Amish teachings they can't leave. If they do, they are shunned by the community. The movie showed how Jacob was faced with making his choice and the conflicts he had in making a choice to follow Amish teaching or to go off into the secular world.

After the movie we toured an Amish home on the property. We learned that the Amish go to school up to the eighth grade and then must farm or learn a trade. Their belief is that they learn all they need, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, by the eighth grade to function and carry on day to day activities. Our tour guide was not Amish, but she was very knowledgeable and gave a great tour.

June 3 to June 6: New Holland, Pennsylvania (9 miles)

Road conditions: RS 772; SR 340; SR 897

Campground: Spring Gulch Resort Campground  Spring Gulch is a very large campground. We don't usually like to stay in campgrounds that are wooded as it prevents us from using our dish, but we do occasionally do that when cable is available as it was at Spring Gulch. The sites were very large and level, and the trees made it very cozy. It wasn't crowded when we were there, but it did seem like a very family friendly campground. Knowing Denny & Cindy Henderson also helped us feel right at home while we were there. We always enjoy visiting with them.

We last saw Dennis and Cindy Henderson during the winter when we were in the Orlando area. After our free days at the Beacon Hill Campground we moved over to Spring Gulch where they were working. We timed it to coincide with their days off so we could spend some time together. We had a great time and Dennis and Cindy were great hosts.

They used to live in the area and when they found out that Diane had never been to Hershey, they offered to take us there one day to tour the area. I had been there once back in 1976, but it has changed since I was there. It was no longer possible to tour the actual chocolate factory, but the visitor center had a very good display showing how the chocolate was made.

Dennis and Cindy own kayaks and invited us to go with them to visit Al and Val Funari, friends of the Hendersons who were working in another campground and to go canoeing. We had a great time on the river for a few hours. Afterwards, the Funaris put some food on the grill along with salads and we spent another few hours eating and socializing at their motorhome. A great day.

One of the guys, Gene Newcomer, who I played golf with in Orlando over the winter lives in the Lancaster County area and we were hoping to get together to play a round of golf as we passed through. After breakfast one morning, Diane and I were walking around the campground and thought we heard a call from someone, but couldn't place it. So we continued walking until we heard someone honk an air horn. We backtracked and saw that it was Ron and Carol Cells. I also played golf with Ron in Orlando. They live there, but were traveling in their motorhome for the summer. Small world. Ron, Gene, and I did get in a round of golf. It was nice to see them again and get out on a golf course together.

A very well known restaurant in the area is the Shady Maple Smorgasbord. It has one of the best buffets we've ever seen. They have a specialty item every day of the week and it was prime rib when we were there. It turned out that we were there on Dennis' birthday so he got to eat free. A group of ten went to the Shady Maple for a wonderful evening of eating and camaraderie.

June 7 to June 10: Accord, New York (184 miles)

Road conditions:  I-75

Campground:  Rondout Valley Resort  We have been to this campground several times and have always loved staying here. The last time we were here was in 2003. It's still a nice campground, but a few things were different for us. Although they offered WiFi, it wasn't free, but was offered via TengoInternet, a provider we aren't too fond of due to very poor service in other places we've been. The WiFi wasn't offered to the entire campground, but only available up near the office. So you have to pay to use the service and then have to drive up to the office to actually access the internet. The other problem we had was no Verizon cell signal in the campground. Other than that, the campground is still fine.

Fuel: Flying J - $2.419 per gallon.

We had planned to be in the Hudson Valley for about 10 days. The first week would be at Rondout Valley so we could visit with our son, Curt, and grandson, Talisian. Then we planned to move over to an Elks Lodge in Poughkeepsie to visit with Diane's sister, Marge. However, that wasn't to be.

I was at the office using the internet when a 911 note came in from Jill. Having no cell signal I wasn't able to call her, but we were able to use instant messaging. We had a crisis brewing with my mom down in Ocala. We knew she was starting to get very forgetful and that night she was walking in the neighborhood looking for my father who died in 1996. The sheriff came to make sure she got home safely and he called Adult Protective Services. Someone came over to her house and started trying to find a family member to call. They found my number and left a message, but I had no cell signal, so I didn't get the message until days later. They found my brother's number, but he and his wife were out for the evening and hadn't yet returned. Then they found Jill's number and got hold of her. That's when Jill sent me the 911 note. It was a good thing I went up to the office to use the internet or I wouldn't have learned about the problem until sometime the next day. It was obvious it was now time to intervene and get my mother to a place where she would be safe and secure. However, we knew it would not be easy as she was very resistant to leaving her house.
Diane and I made plans to pack up and head out the next morning and get down to Ocala as fast as we could.

Before this crisis arose we had a chance to visit with Tom and Mary McInerny and had a great lunch with them at their home. Tom was a high school buddy of mine and we hadn't seen them in four years. It was great to see them again and get caught up.

It was disappointing that we only got to see Curt and Talisian a couple of times. However, we did get to visit with them when they came to Atlanta for April's graduation. We never did get to visit with Marge and some of our friends in the area.

June 11: Roanoke, Virginia (509 miles)

Road conditions:  I-75

Campground:  Wal-Mart

An overnight stop.

June 12 to 13: Douglasville, Georgia (465 miles)

Road conditions: I-75 to US 44 to US 27 to FL 192

Campground:  Jill's driveway.

We stayed here long enough to pick up Jill, April, and Richard to head to Ocala.

June 14 to June 28: Ocala, Florida (396 miles)

Road conditions: I-75

Campground: Mom's driveway

Charlie and I always knew we would be faced with this situation and that it wouldn't be easy. Our mom was struggling to maintain her independence and not have to leave her house. However, it was time. She didn't drive and was starting to become more and more forgetful. Adult Protective Services got involved and explained to her that she could no longer live alone. The only solution was assisted living, which she has always resisted. This was intervention big time and it wasn't easy. However, we got her to agree to talk to her doctor, her priest, and the church nurse, all of whom told her she would be much better off and safer in assisted living. So now it was time to look for the right facility. After many discussions, she decided it would be best if she moved to Port St. Lucie to be near my brother. That was a good choice as there was no one in Ocala for her other than a couple of neighbors.

While we were in Ocala we got to drive over to visit with Charlie's step-son, Terry, and his wife, Ann, who prepared a great meal for us as we were dealing with this crisis. It was greatly appreciated.

June 29 to July 3: Port St. Lucie (190 miles)

Road conditions: FL Turnpike

Campground: Charlie's house

On June 29 the movers came to load some furniture to take to the assisted living facility (ALF) and my mom walked out of her house for the last time. It was a very sad time for her, but she took it much better than we expected. Diane reminded me that she broke down and cried when we pulled away from our house in Marietta to start our RV fulltiming lifestyle, and she WANTED to leave, so this had to be extremely difficult for my mother who did not want to leave. A couple of neighbors came to say good-bye to my mom and wish her well. She road down with Charlie while Diane and I took our CR-V. The motorhome stayed in Ocala in the driveway. We beat the truck to the ALF, but not by much. As they unloaded everything and we got the small apartment set up, she stayed in the dining room meeting some of the other folks. Then it was time to bring her up to her new home. She had seen it before without furniture on an overnight trip to scout out some ALFs in the Port St. Lucie area. There was so much stuff to unpack that we knew it would keep her busy for quite a while.

Diane and I stayed in the area for five days to visit her and help her get situated. While we were there, Charlie's step-son, Greg, had us over for a wonderful dinner and a breakfast. That helped to relieve some of the pressure and it was greatly appreciated. After things seemed to have settled down a bit, Diane and I headed back to Ocala to start getting the house cleaned up and ready to put on the market.

July 4 to July 12: Ocala, Florida (190 miles)

Road conditions: Florida Turnpike

Campground: Mom's driveway

It was absolutely amazing how much stuff my mother had in her house.  Diane and I worked all day, every day, to get stuff packed up for Goodwill or the church or the dump or the garbage. Plus there was paperwork to get done and carpets to be cleaned and painting to get done (that was done by a neighbor who does handy work in the area). Finally, on Friday, July 13, we had a maid service come in to do a final cleaning and a guy with a truck to haul away the last of the stuff to the dump, and then we moved the motorhome to the Wal-Mart up the road to spend our last night in Ocala.

Whew. As we looked back on the almost five weeks from the time we first got the word we needed to head to Florida, we accomplished an amazing amount of stuff. We had to travel from New York to Florida; convince my mom she had to move out of her house which, although traumatic, went well; find a suitable ALF; hire a mover; move her to Port St. Lucie; and empty out the house and get it ready to sell.

As of this writing, my mom seems to be adjusting to her new home. My brother is close enough to visit her and take her shopping or to a movie. We plan to be down there for six to eight weeks starting sometime in October.

July 13: Ocala, Florida

Road conditions: NA

Campground: Wal-Mart parking lot

Last night in Ocala.

July 14 to July 21: Douglasville, Georgia (396 miles)

Road conditions:  I-75

Campground: Jill's driveway

We now had a week to get ready for our planned vacation to Europe starting on July 22. The week went fast as we had to tend to some dentist appointments and do some shopping. As the week went on, Diane and I were getting more and more excited about our trip. When I was working and traveling 100% we always got excited about a trip abroad. Although it had been 7 1/2 years since we took a trip abroad, all the juices came back to us and we were very excited about getting on that plane and heading out for another adventure.

Our vacation plans were to spend a week in Paris, then take the TGV (France's high speed train) to Zurich to visit friends, and then fly to Prague for a week. We actually made all the travel plans last fall and now the time was here to depart. We are actually back from vacation and I will work on those travelogs and photos next.

Until next time, safe travels.....

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