December 2004

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December found us at Patrick, AFB near Cocoa, Florida.  We enjoyed the warmer weather and coastal area.  Friends, Ted and Nancy, showed us how they decorate for Christmas around here.

December’s focus was spending time with family and friends, and doing a little sightseeing.  We left Huntsville on December 1st, heading south to Florida.  The two weeks spent in Palm Bay went by too quickly.  We stayed at the RV park at Patrick AFB, overlooking the Banana River.  Most days were spent on home repairs where Lucille’s parents live.  Her aunts Florence and Lorraine, sister Yvette, and friend Karin popped in during our stay.  We joined friends Rick and Eileen for dinner one evening.  RV neighbors Ted and Nancy got our vote for classiest yard décor – a high-tech pink flamingo shaded by an equally high-tech palm tree, complete with holiday ornaments.

Mid-month we started to head west, stopping for a few days at Rainbow Plantation, the Escapees RV park in Summerdale, Alabama, near Mobile.  RVing friends and fellow Habitaters Jim and Pen were there, so we caught up on news since we’d seen them in September.  Longtime friend Norlando came by for a visit one afternoon, and again, we caught up on news over the past year.  Jim and Pen introduced us to Lamberts’ Café, ‘home of the throwed roll’ in nearby Foley.  The wait staff will throw you a hot roll upon request, either across the table or across the room, depending on how good a catch you are.  The food was wonderful, plentiful, and reasonably priced.

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We spent a few days at Rainbow Plantation near Summerville, Alabama.  We showed off some of our own Christmas decorations.

Time to continue our trek west, with an overnight stop at ‘Camp’ Sam’s Club in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on the way to Rainbow’s End in Livingston, Texas, an Escapees park and their national headquarters.  While at Rainbow’s End, we toured their CARE facility, ‘a non-profit adult day care and residency program designed for RVers whose travels are permanently ended because of age or temporarily interrupted because of an illness.’  A wonderful concept and a very affordable way to hang up your keys, for a few days or forever!  Where can you get three meals a day, full hookups for your RV in which you are living, laundry, housekeeping, transportation to medical appointments, Alzheimer’s programs, and help with daily functions from a professional staff, all for no more than $900 a month?  Finding comparable services for that low fee at a traditional nursing home or assisted living facility is almost unheard of.  We also toured the Escapees’ headquarters, including a tour of their state-of-the-art mailroom, to and from which all our mail flows.   More mail passes through their facility than the nearby city of Livingston.

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During our stay in San Antonio we visited four historic missions.  The most famous, San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) is pictured in the two top photos.  The lower two photos picture Mission San Jose.

On to San Antonio where we finally met longtime email friends, Karen and Galen.  Gracious hosts, they invited us to join them for dinner at a friend’s, followed by Christmas Eve service at their church.  They were our guides to several of San Antonio’s missions, including Mission San Antonio de Valero, commonly called the Alamo, whose history is well known.  Walking the grounds where so many sacrificed their lives for freedom was very moving. 

Mission San Jose was known as the “Queen of Missions” because of the size of its complex.  At the peak of its development, there were 350 Indians residing in 84 two-room apartments.  The Spanish colonial Baroque architecture is extraordinary, as is the fine detail on its legendary Rose Window.

Mission San Juan Capistrano, established on the banks of the San Antonio, was a regional supplier of agricultural produce because of its rich farm and pasturelands. 

The church at Mission Concepcion looks essentially the same as it did in the 1700s when it served as the center of the mission’s religious activity.  Several interior paintings, some religious, other decorative, can be found on the church’s walls.

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The mission San Juan Capistrano, pictured in the two top photos, was established on the banks of the San Antonio River.  The lower two photos show the Mission Concepcion and an example of its religious art.

In general, the missions served to bring Indians into Spanish society by concentrating scattered tribes into church-centered communities.  Life was structured. Bells called all to morning prayers at sunrise.  After a morning meal, most men and boys headed to the fields, orchards, gardens and quarries or to tend livestock at distant ranches.  Others stayed behind to forge iron, weave cloth or build structures.  Women and girls learned to cook, sew, spin, tend gardens, and make soap, pottery and candles.  Life in the missions was disciplined life –religious, social and moral.  These missions represent a connection with the past, carrying the legacy of the American Indians and Hispanics, and some still serve as active parishes. 

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The famed San Antonio River Walk.

The famed Riverwalk downtown was pretty to see with its holiday decorations.  Fans from both Ohio State and Oklahoma State were in town for a bowl game that week, so it was a challenge maneuvering through the crowds and finding a restaurant that didn’t have a long wait list to be seated.  Galen came up with a solution – eat dessert first!  We gave Tony Roma’s Restaurant our names for dinner and while we were waiting for seating, we enjoyed some wonderfully delicious ice cream from the Marble Slab Creamery.

Karen and Galen gave us mountain dulcimer lessons, making it look so easy.  Later in 2005, we’ll be joining them, as well as Donna and Ron, in Alaska, where we’ll spend the summer as school ground sitters in the Kenai Peninsula.  We hope to play well enough by then to have jam sessions together – we’ll have to practice a lot before we get there!  One evening we met with their friends Richard and Lee who have been to Alaska numerous times, so we picked their brains about what to expect on our trip.  Richard and Lee’s neighborhood is home to dozens of deer that freely roam through yards.  What an awesome sight to see these critters wandering around, looking like mobile lawn statuaries.  And of course, we left our camera home.

We enjoyed Christmas dinner as Shari’s guests at the Escapee Co-op park in Hondo where she winters.    Her invitation is yet another example of the wonderful camaraderie we find amongst RVers during our travels.

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A desert sunset at Balmorhea, Texas.

We hit the road and celebrated New Year’s Eve parked at a small combination truck stop and campground in Balmorhea, Texas, about 200 miles east of El Paso, surrounded by desert and mountain ranges.  What a spectacular sunset we saw that night with an equally awesome sunrise to kick off 2005!

Next:  a few days in El Paso before continuing on to our workamping jobs at Desert Haven Animal Refuge in Williamsburg, New Mexico.



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