Christmas in Arizona
  (September 24 to December 31, 2008)

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This travelog documents our trip back to the east and then up around Lake Superior. Overnight stops are shown because these travelogs also serve as a journal for us to look back on in later years.

September 24: Kimball, Tennessee (281 miles)

Route:  I-65; I-24

Campground:  Walmart parking lot

Just an overnight stop.

September 25 to October 19: Douglasville, Georgia (140 miles)

Route:  I-24; I-75; local roads

Campground:  Jill's driveway

Fuel:  $3.869 per gallon at a Flying J in Resaca

We had heard there was a fuel shortage in the southeast so we weren't sure what to expect when we arrived at the Flying J in Resaca, Georgia where we usually fill up. The Flying J website indicated they had fuel at this station, but it was a critical supply. We were limited to 25 gallons, which I figured would get us to Jill's place with enough to get to the Flying J in Jackson, Georgia when we headed south to Florida.

Our stop in Douglasville was the usual visit with kids and grandkids and to take care of doctor and dentist visits.

We were also looking forward to visiting with my high school friend, Joanne, who had moved to the Atlanta area from Long Island last year. She and her husband, Rich, had a house built and moved in while we were touring this year. They invited to dinner at their house and we had a very nice meal and visit. They have totally assimilated to their new home and were already involved with friends and the community. It was great to see them again.

One weekend we drove the car down to the Destin, Florida area where our daughter, Jill, got married to Chris. It was a small, but nice ceremony right on the beach attended by family.

October 20 to October 21: Lake City, Florida (307 miles)

Route:  I-75; I-10

Campground:  Oaks n Pines RV Campground 

Fuel:  $3.339 per gallon at a Flying J in Jackson; $3.389 per gallon at a Flying J in Lake Park

We always try to stop in Lake City as we head into and out of Florida to visit with Diane's brother Jerry and his wife Jan.  Plus, we enjoy the Oaks n Pines RV Campground.

October 22 to October 29: Orlando, Florida (155 miles)

Route:  I-75; FL 44; US 27; US 192

Campground:  Encore Lake Magic RV Resort

Another favorite spot is the Encore park in Orlando (although the mailing address is Clermont). We usually winter here when we are in Florida. However, in recent years we have been wintering in Port St. Lucie to be closer to where my mom is living in an assisted living facility. We several friends who winter at Lake Magic, but none were there as yet when we were there this time.

Luckily, Gustav was in town and got a site across from where we were staying. He had been traveling with a couple who were long time close friends of his. We met Franz and Angelica Rieder who had been traveling with Gustav in his motorhome. They would be returning to Germany from Orlando. Gustav and I took out our grills and we had a couple of nice meals and visits together.

Unfortunately, Gustav had some problems with his refrigerator and his Honda. The Honda had to be towed to a repair facility that diagnosed the problem as requiring a new transmission. Ouch. Sadly, that messed up Gustav's plans to spend time visiting Disney World with his friends. Diane and I were more than happy to drive them to the parks so they could experience Disney World. It was a very nice few days meeting new friends and seeing Gustav again.

October 30 to December 31: Port St. Lucie, Florida (140 miles)

Road conditions: US 27; FL 60; I-95; Saint Lucie West Blvd; US 1

Campground:  PSL RV Resort  and Rich's brother's house

Fuel:  Flying J in Fort Pierce, Florida for $3.269

We arrived in Port St. Lucie and set up at the PSL RV Resort until we could scout out a few storage places where we could store the rig. My brother Charlie suggested storing the motorhome and spending some time in his house. That was an offer we couldn't refuse. There were several storage facilities in the area, but we opted for one close to where my mom's assisted living facility was located. We actually lucked out and got a great site. The guy in the office first said he had nothing available, but then said he could create a site by combining a couple of small vehicle sites in the back. The facility was all asphalt and there were small trees that shaded the motorhome after the sun past overhead in the early afternoon.

Our Dutch Star had never been in storage so this was something new to us. We had to empty all the tanks, including the fresh water tank. The we just hoped that everything would work out okay. Being close to where my mom lived gave us the opportunity to check on the rig at least once a week. It turned out the rig was in storage for four months and everything worked fine.

In addition to my brother living in the area, my high school friend Frank Pesile also still lived in the area. It was great to see him again and get out to play golf almost every week. He was still singing at assisted living facilities, including where my mom lives. The folks love him as he sings favorite songs and jokes with them.

December 16 to December 31: Chandler, Arizona

Road conditions: via Delta Airlines

Campground:  Diane's sister's house

Diane's sister had been asking us for years to come spend Christmas with them. They all came to our house back in 1995, and Carol and her youngest daughter Jenny came again in 1999 just before we sold our house. So we decided it was time to return the favor. We had a companion coupon for Delta so we got two tickets for the price of one. The trip from West Palm Beach through Atlanta to Phoenix was great. Diane and I love to fly so we don't mind any of the minor inconveniences associated with flying these days. We had a long enough wait in Atlanta to avoid any pressure in making a connection and to relax and do some people watching.

Kevin picked us up at the airport and then we went to get something to eat before popping into the place Carol was working to say hi. Diane and Carol are pretty close and they loved seeing each other again.

They surprised us with tickets to a Michael W. Smith concert that was held at a huge church. It held more people than some small auditoriums we had been in for concerts. He's a religious/secular singer, I guess. This was a Christmas concert and he put on a great show and sang beautifully. It was a nice evening and we appreciated the treat.

We did not rent a car on this trip because they were running more than $400 per week due to the holiday season. Kevin and Carol offered their cars, but I don't like driving other folks' cars. Not because I'm not a good driver, but because I didn't want some idiot involving me in his/her stupidity and getting into an accident. I would feel very badly if that happened. But the lack of a car didn't turn out to be a big problem. Carol worked close to the mall where the movie theater was located so we tried to go to movies when she could drop us off or pick us up. Kevin would pick up the slack on the drop off or return. We were there for 16 days so we did get to see several movies and read several books.

One of the highlights of the trip was watching their traditional baking day. A few days before Christmas, Carol and her two daughters, Justine and Jenny, baked for 14 hours. Carol did the entire 14 hours and the girls helped until they had to go to work their part time jobs. Diane pitched in where she could and I just sampled everything as the goodies came out of the oven. They baked so many different types of cookies. The smells and tastes filled the senses. I hadn't seen so many goodies since the time my maternal grandmother would bake lots of different cookies and cakes from her Slavish heritage.

Kevin has a lot of family in the Phoenix area. They hosted the Christmas Eve dinner with everyone bringing over a dish. We had met most of the folks before so we were comfortable in the setting. Carol told us they used to exchange lots of gifts with each other until the family got so big that it got very expensive to do that. So a couple of years ago they started giving everyone a number. Then everyone would pick a number and buy a gift for just that person. No one would know who was buying for whom until Christmas Eve. They started with one person giving a gift to their designee. Then that person would give his/her gift and so on. It was fun to watch and a good way for a large family to handle the gift giving.

Our stay was drawing to a close with New Years Eve and Day left. We had a nice New Years Eve dinner at Jay's house, a close friend of Carol and Kevin. New Years Day was mostly spent watching bowl games. And then it was time to head home on January 2. We couldn't get a reasonable flight home out of Phoenix so we had to book our of Tucson. We had planned to rent a car to drive down there, but Carol and Kevin offered to drive to extend our time together. It was sad saying good-bye at the airport. This was the first time that Diane and I hadn't spent Christmas with at least some of our kids and grandkids, so we weren't sure how we would feel over the holidays. It turned out that we had a wonderful time thanks to the kindness, generosity, and love we always feel when we visit with Carol, Kevin, Justine, Jenny, and Jeff.

That wraps up our 2008. We'll be wintering in Port St. Lucie and then heading north to Atlanta to visit family and friends and take care of medical visits. Due to the severe financial crisis and recession that hit the world in late 2008, our travel plans for 2009 are to stay in the east and try to limit our travel to 5,000 miles or less on the motorhome. We will probably go to the Hudson Valley in New York to visit family and friends and then slowly head south and tour Virginian and the Carolinas.

Until next time, safe travels.....

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