Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bumpy Ride to Florida

Wow, I haven't written since forever because of so many activities.

Our new location in Spring Hill Park is beautiful.  We've never been in a Pull-In before, and having our front window face the woods was new for us.  We usually have to back in to a scenic spot, and therefore can't enjoy the view as our picture window is in the front.  I highly suggest finding one of these spots if you can find one (if you have a motorhome).

A family of deer came to visit almost daily nibbling on the tender shoots and leaves closest to our coach.  They also wandered all around the park as it was so quiet and peaceful.  We loved this park except for two things that only applied to us: no cell service and so far from our daughter's home.  However all obstacles can be overcome, and we just flowed with the flow.  The owners, Tom and Lynanne, were very accommodating. 

One Friday we drove to Ramseur because Gary had stopped at a stall at the Fairgrounds Flea Market to inquire where the vendor had purchased his leather tools.  Because of our MotionX GPS iPad app, we found it tucked away off the highway.  Oooo, Gary started salivating.  This store was for the leather professional.  You could buy everything!  If you liked the leather fragrance, this is the place for you.  There were tons of hides and leather belts, saddles, and pieces just asking to be decorated.  We had to set a spending limit, but he got some good tools to work on his projects.

Labor Day weekend was a no-family weekend as they were filling the lake house with Joe's side of the family, so we had some time for ourselves.  First we started at the Carrboro Farmer's Market.  Just lovely.  Fresh goat cheese, all kinds of produce, soaps, artisan breads, flowers and home made sewing projects.  Very friendly vendors and lots of people.  Spent a couple dollars there.

Sunday we hit the Fairgrounds Flea Market again, and then met Gail and Rick at their rig at the fairgrounds campground later before a night of storms.  Their friends, Cynthia and Ronnie were parked next door and came over for some appetizers, which turned into dinner because it was much too stormy outside to attempt to drive anywhere for dinner.  Gail pulled out anything she had from cucumbers to brownies and we had a ball, chatting until it seemed the storms had finally let up a bit.  We had an hour's drive, so we left around 9 pm and arrived safely home to Bella.  It is wonderful meeting new people which we think is the best reason to RV.  Enjoy your adventure, Ronnie and Cynthia!  We wish you all kinds of luck.

My daughter, Michelle, called and begged me to come and help her in Tampa.  She was in a furnished rental home while their new home is being renovated.  This will probably take them into next year.  But, as usual, the builder promised them a move in date around the end of October.  Because their rental house was re-rented after that date, they needed to move - to an unfurnished house down the street from their renovated house.  The furniture they had moved into the renovated home onto the third floor needed to be moved out so the builders could work there.  So she needed some ORGANIZATION!  Who do you call?  MOMPOM!  So I flew down on Tuesday morning and proceeded to help organize what went where, by whom and when.  In between 6 children, 2 bull mastiffs and her husband flying out of town for 5 days, we did it.  A few more gray hairs, to be sure, but it was 'fun' all the same.

Everything went smoothly, including my flights (amazement there), except I had to miss our grand daughter's birthday party.  Sorry, Ainsley, but I'm glad Poppy got to enjoy your party!

Six years old!
Her new desk - done by Mommy
  The Friday before Granny's 90th Birthday Bash, my son, Tristan and his girlfriend, Tracy arrived in Raleigh for the weekend at the same time I arrived back in Raleigh from Tampa.  So we all piled in the car and drove home from the airport.  Huge BBQ on Saturday with all his old high school buddies that are still around, 30 pounds of wings grilled, and good food everywhere!  Beautiful weather again, and on Sunday it was time to go to Dunn for church and the big birthday bash.  We had our Norris Family photo taken on the steps of the church.

Happy 90th Granny!
All the church ladies and gentlemen had prepared a virtual FEAST, and we couldn't eat it all.  These ladies are southern belles and they can COOK.  We left stuffed.  Later, at home, we looked at all her gifts and cards.  A lot of people love this lady.  She is really the sweetest person I know.  We're hoping she goes on for another twenty years or so...

Monday came too soon, and Tristan and Tracy had to say goodbye to each other and to all their friends and family.  They only get to see each other once a month, but Tracy's grant was officially accepted. This means she will receive funding while she completes her dissertation next year. AND she can complete it in New York, 'near' Tristan.  Guess they're a little happy about that. Could I possibly hear the distant ringing of bells??

Wednesday we left Raleigh after two months of visiting and having fun.  We only had to drive two days to reach High Springs, Florida.  Did we? 


About three hours after liftoff, the battery light came on.  Here we go..  We stopped at a TA Travel Center for a diagnosis.  Gary thought it was either the 9 year old starter batteries, or the alternator.  Guess which one we HOPED it would be.  Well, the batteries were indeed dead.  Let's replace those and see what happens.  Bella started right up, but, you guessed it, the light was still on.  (have I EVER mentioned how much I had yellow dash board lights???  They are the bane of my existence)

So they checked the alternator, and, of course, that was bad.  Nearest Freightliner place?  Savannah.  Sheesh.  Put tape over the light and drove praying all the way to Walterboro, SC where we stayed at a Walmart for a number of reasons:  if we needed to be towed the next morning, there would be lots of room; need a part? maybe Walmart has it; lots of other RVers usually around (and there were - SIX of them). Plus right off the interstate.  So we opened the BR slide and left the big slide in, which was unfortunate, because I ended up spraining BOTH my little piggy toes.  Seriously.  This is not a fun trip.  I can hear you smiling...

The next morning, we whispered a little prayer for Bella to start, and she did, graciously.  We ignored the yellow light under the tape all the way to Savannah, where sweet Danielle said 'park it over there.  Someone will be over to look at it in a little while.'  Sure enough, Jason came over to take a look, and within a minute, said 'yep, it's the alternator.  We will have to overnight one.' 

It took about 30 seconds for me to say yes to Gary's suggestion that we stay at the Hampton Inn across the road.  Oooo, long, hot shower, free cooked breakfast, HD tv and king bed.  We slept well, knowing that it wouldn't be long before we were back on the road.  They finished up around 12:30 and we headed out arriving in High Springs, FL around 5:30.  They showed us into our spot, and we dropped anchor.

There's a really nice guy next to us who gave our Jeep a jump after we unhitched.  Yep, it's always something

And THAT IS WHY WE HAVE DECIDED TO HANG UP THE KEYS.  Yes, it's true.  For all you fans out there that thought we'd never give up, you were right.  We aren't giving up, but we never intended to do this forever.  We did it, we loved it, and we are excited about the next chapter in our lives.  Which is...

[you need to read the next blog]

High Springs CG, Florida

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chicken Visit and Grands

You don't know what you're missing unless you have a visit from a chicken.  This is Sleepy, a Black Star chicken belonging to a friend of our grandson, Jack.  Owen's family have 7 chickens in their backyard, and he brought one over for us to see.  Sleepy was very tame, although not very happy when Brutus, the Golden Retriever seemed interested.  Brutus was banished inside, and we attempted to 'harness' Sleepy with a scarf and dog leash.

sweet girl

getting her wings adjusted

It kind of acts as a diaper, too, I guess.  I must say, Sleepy was very calm through all of this, thus her name.

Then the boys took turns shooting Gary's bb pistol at targets. 

A few days later, Jack stayed with us in the coach, and Saturday we took him on a rainy day (along with 3 million other people) to the Museum of History in downtown Raleigh.  It was a wonderful museum.

We could have stayed and learned for days, and it was free! 

Last Saturday was Jack's first soccer game of the season.  He plays with CASL, and this year his dad is assistant coach instead of Coach like the last few years.  Jack's team won 6-0, which surprised Jack as most of his last year's team had moved on.  Apparently they have another great team!

And he scores!
We had been in touch with Rick and Gail because they were in the area, and we made a date for paddling on Monday, which had to be one of the most perfect days of the year, low humidity, sunshine and light breeze.  We actually didn't paddle too hard (as you can see from the picture on Gail's Facebook page), but we kinda dropped anchor in the shade of some trees and chatted away. 

Soon tummies were rumbling, so we made our way back to their site (on the lake) and chowed down on perfect burgers (thanks, Rick) and beans and pasta salad.  Delish!  We folded up our kayak, chatted some more, and made the trip back to the coach.  But we plan on seeing each other again - real soon!

We paid for another month, but we need to move to another site, as we are in a primo daily site.  The next site will be a pull-in, so that we will be facing the woods with our big window, and enjoying a fabulous view every morning!

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Graham's Visit in North Carolina

We made it down the 7% grade from Virginia into North Carolina, piece of cake, and landed in the VanHoy Farms Family CG in Harmony, NC.

Casey VanHoy and family has owned this lovely country campground for many years.  This is also the site of the Old Time Fiddler's Competition as well as other concerts in their 12,000 seat arena.  Casey is an accomplished musician, and to ease stress, he gets on his tractor with his headphones on and mows about 2 acres of grass.  One night he's hanging out after dinner and gets a call asking if Willie Nelson and Brad Paisley could drop in for a visit.  [this would be in a helicopter from Raleigh].  Nice to have friends in high places.  :)

We were glad to have stayed here (as other friends we know have) but we should have driven all they way to Chapel Hill on the same day, as storms rolled in the day of departure.  AND it poured and thundered, AND traffic was horrible on 40, AND the bridge over the Yadkin River was closed and needed an hour detour around it, but we finally got to our new digs in Carrboro called Spring Hill.  It's got everything and since we will be here for two months, it is a real bargain.  We have a giant 70 foot pullthru, FHU, free (fast) internet, cable and nicely wooded lots.  Too bad we will not be at our site very much, because everything happens in Raleigh, which, unfortunately, is a 40 minute drive.

The day after we parked, we drove 3 hours to South of the Border where we were meeting Graham (6) who was going to spend some time with us.  He was beyond excited to see his cousins, Jack (9)and Ainsley (5).  Except for forgetting his suitcase, the dropoff went as planned.

Graham, Jack and Ainsley at Goodberry's
Then we drove two hours north of Raleigh to a friend's farm where Jack drove everyone around and around in the Kubota.

Jack was in camp all day for the first week, so Mandy (our daughter), Ainsley, Graham and we began on Monday with a trip to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. 

Hi, cow

Need a scratch?
We started at the barnyard.  And moved on to the remote control boats, one of Graham's favorite things.  We had to pull him away from there with promises of going back if there was time...

But the butterfly house had some magic of it's own...

And of course the train ride, another favorite...

A good beginning. [Graham really can smile sweetly, really]

The next evening was a new experience called Frankie's.  Nothing boring about this place, and nothing quiet either.  The boys met friends and played a game of Laser Tag, then they went on the go karts three times, played video games and won tickets at SkeeBall, which Graham turned in for a whoopee cushion (oh joy) and a fake mustache (cute).

Friday came and we packed a suitcase for a trip to the lake house at Lake Gaston at the northern border of NC.  What fun that was!

Graham and Jack tubed behind the boat, they jumped off the dock a million times, Gary fished, we swam and ate and shopped and had a thunderstorm and generally had a ball. 

One, Two, Three, GO!
Jack and Graham tubin'
first kayaking attempt
Unfortunately our weekend ended and we headed back to Raleigh.  Sunday after church, we played in the back yard with friends and then headed back to camp.

Monday, was Defy Gravity day.  Our reservation was made a week ago and the kids had been waiting pretty patiently.  It is a building full of trampolines.  The light was terrible, so please excuse this photo of Mandy and Ainsley having a go.

(Our daughter also did a double flip into the foam pit more than once) 

The next day was deliver Graham to Mommy day and we returned to South of the Border for the dropoff.


He had a wonderful time, and so did we.  We are relaxing now, and doing a little work around Bella, but looking forward to some more fun in Raleigh...

Life is never dull...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sad to Leave NJ

Of course you know that time flies when you're having fun.  We have left New Jersey and are on our way south to North Carolina.  But let's back up to all the good times we had in NJ!

My brother, Kirk, is a Moose Lodge member, and Gary wanted to join, so he sponsored us at the big BBQ picnic one Saturday.  Good timing on that one.  [I didn't even know my brother WAS a Moose].  So now we can take advantage of parking anywhere a lodge allows RV parking on their property across the country.  All for $45 a year! 

picnic spot
darn good food, too!
It rained hard at one point, but then the sun came out again and everyone steamed till we were cooked.  The kids didn't mind, they were all on the bouncy water slide having a ball.

We did some work on the Jeep, and decided not to paint Bella this time around, maybe next year. 

The Tinnicum Art Festival was happening again while we were visiting, and our dear friend and artist, RoZ had entered her 'seated mermaid', and won an honorable mention.  She took a dress dummy and placed glass mosaics it all over after preparing it with fiberglass, plaster and fabric.  I should have taken a closer picture of the mermaid, too.  Beautiful work. 

the art exhibit barn, with artist stalls all around, and a band
It was terribly hot and humid for New Jersey.  Last time we were here, it was over 100 several times, and this time it felt near 108 on some days.  So near the end of our visit, it started to cool just slightly, so we grabbed the opportunity to go bike riding on the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail path.  It runs for miles and miles, but we just did the bit between Milford and Bulls Run Island.  It was only about 5 miles, but the humidity wore us out in the end.  However, it was a beautiful, flat ride and we had a blast.
Gary ready to go!


wild raspberries - yum!

through the woods...

wildlife, kinda

and Gnome life

whoa, what's going on here?
We got our bikes back on the Jeep, and headed for home and a shower.  Soon after Gary noticed a bird flapping and squawking on the ground.  He took a look and noticed this black snake being chased by this catbird across our front yard.  It did the trick, he slithered away. 

When we visited the author, Pearl S. Buck's home last time in NJ, we stayed longer than we had planned because it was so interesting and beautiful.  So we missed the Moravian Pottery and Tile works.  This tile works was started in 1898 by Henry Chapman Mercer during the Arts and Crafts Movement in America.  The works are still producing tiles and mosaics today and it is one of three poured concrete buildings built by Mercer.  Three years ago, we visited the Mercer Museum about a mile away, and his home, Fontill on the pottery's property.

We talked with the artists in the museum, some of which have been there for 25 years!  They still use the original molds, local clay that is dredged from a nearby lake, and the slips and glaze formulas (to a safe degree).  The artists love what they're doing, although it can get very, very hot (like today) to very, very cold and drafty.  They were very informative and told us things that aren't in any brochure.

We walked over to Fonthill to take a tour of Mercer's home.  What a place!!  Built between 1908 and 1912, it had 44 rooms, over 200 windows, 18 fireplaces and 10 bathrooms.  It contains much built-in concrete furniture and is embellished with decorative tiles on every ceiling and wall and floor.  In some places there were six staircases from a hallway, and he designed all the rooms first, then had them put together to form the house like a puzzle.  The home also contains around 1,000 prints from Mercer's extensive collection, as well as over six thousand books, almost all of which were annotated by Mercer himself and kept in the exact locations by his housekeeper who was with him all his life, as Mercer never married.  If you get a chance to see it, do, it's really fabulous.  No photos were allowed in the house, unfortunately, but it is amazing.

My ancestors can be traced back to the 1640s.  And my maiden name is not very common.  Records and family trees have been kept all along, and each family has their roots begun in New Jersey.  Located in Basking Ridge and Millington our family has our most recent roots at a recently designated national historic site called the Kennedy-Martin-Stelle (me) Farmstead.  Begun in 1700, the farmhouse, barn and outbuildings have changed over the years, but the original house is now being used as the Farmstead Arts Center, where artists can use the rooms as their studios and hold classes.


I won't go into my family history, but when before my parents passed away, we went through all the old photos and papers.  Then we put them away.  My brother, Bob, has kept them all in his attic, and during our stay with him, I scanned as much as I could.  Hours and hours.  Probably because I had to read everything and put things together.  Anyway, I am glad that the house is being put to good use, and that we get to visit it. 

Our last day in NJ was spent in Middlesex at our niece, Jennifer and her husband, Keith's home for dinner.  Gabby entertained us rocking on her singing rocking horse, playing ball and squishing play doh while we ate delicious short ribs.  Cute beyond dispute!

Now we're on our way south to North Carolina and spending this evening at Dixie Caverns CG in Salem, VA.  The cicadas are going nuts.  We look forward to opening the windows again tonight, and enjoying COOL weather.  Funny, we had to go south to get cooler.  Go figure.

Anyhow, Life is Good with family.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

In New Jersey at Last

On June 27 we bid farewell to Pigeon Forge and ran over to Buddy Gregg's RV in west Knoxville to get our oil changed and our slide motor looked at.  I noticed a little spot of oil on top of a plastic container lid which was apparently dripping from the motor above it.  They had to order the motor, so we will have it replaced when we leave New Jersey the end of July.  Hate to drive all that way again, but we get to see our friends again, too.
The northeast has been having record rainfall and flooding and we were hoping for good weather, and we only had a little sprinkle in the three days it took to go 664 miles.  We are staying at my brother's in Stockton with 50A we rigged when we stayed here three years ago and water.  His house has the sewer. 
First on our agenda was the fourth of July Great Crate Race (alias the soap box derby) and Parade.  We skipped the parade, but drove some of Bob's refurbished antique cars to the race grounds.  He has refurbished about 15 antique cars as old as a 1904 Glide.  Gary got to drive the hot rod, and my brother drove his handmade 'racer'. 
This little girl is the epitome of the patriotic American.  Freckles and all! 
On Friday we climbed up on the roof and removed our in-motion satellite King Dome which our previous owner used.  It never did work for us, and it would have involved shipping to King Dome, updating and reshipping to us which was too expensive.  We use our portable Direct TV dish which we can place anywhere for great reception. 
Saturday was picnic day.  BBQ pulled pork and fish caught by my fishing-loving brother, Kirk.  Mmm, delish!  Tristan and his girlfriend, Tracy took the train in from Brooklyn, and we picked them up at the station that morning.  Bob gave Tracy a ride in the racer while Tristan remembered how to cut the grass.
After gorging ourselves, it was time to walk to the creek at the back of the property.  Bob outfitted Tristan and Tracy and I wore my duck boots.
We mucked around in the stream looking under rocks like I did as a kid.  It was a very warm day with no breeze, so we enjoyed watching my grandniece, Gabrielle, splash in her pool.  Isn't she a cutie?
It was great to see most of the family, and with promises to see each other again, we all departed.  Tristan and Tracy stayed overnight.  And around eight the next morning, we jumped in the Jeep with our suitcase and headed into Brooklyn to Tristan's apartment.  We had tickets to see Monkey - Journey to the West at the Lincoln Theater Sunday night, but we spent the day at the Museum of Natural History and eating a food truck lunch.  Fabulous!

I haven't been on the NY subway since my old work days in the city.  It hasn't changed much, except for the ticket price!

The show at Lincoln Center began at 8 and we had fifteen minutes before curtain to take some photos and look for celebs. 
Our celebs

The show incorporated animation, acrobatics and subtitles (as it was all in Chinese).  Interesting concepts combined into a unique production.  They got a rousing reception and a ten minute ovation.  Afterwards, we cabbed it down to the Village for our favorite Blue Ribbon Sushi.  Ahh, the New York life.  You need to be young to walk miles and miles.  At least on pavement.  Give me grass any day.

The next morning I was surprised to be able to get out of bed, and we walked 10 minutes to a fabulous bagel shop then walked over to Prospect Park.  There are free concerts and plays all summer in the Bandshell that Tristan attends regularly. 

Lilly and us ready for a walk
After our walk, we went back to the apartment and Tristan played the piano for us and we sang songs. Then we decided to head back to the country as thunderstorms were predicted for later in the day.  Hugs and kisses, and promises to see each other again before we left NJ.  Glad we had our GPS on our iPad, however it did tell us to go down a one way street the wrong way, so we had to quickly improvise.  We ended going over the Manhattan bridge into NYC and down through the Holland Tunnel.  It was actually fun to remember how many times I did that when we visited NY in a previous lifetime. 

We stopped at Wegman's, a HUGE grocery store, and visited with my niece and her husband who work there.  We also had lunch in the cafĂ©: more sushi!  We arrived home just before the rain and had dinner with Bob.

We had planned to repaint the front and back top of the coach, as Bella is losing her clear coat.  But, we haven't decided to spend the money yet.  Paint is really expensive.  Meanwhile, we will continue to do a little maintenance here and there and also go play.  Riding bikes along the Delaware tow path is on our list for this weekend!

Family is good.