November 2005

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Monte Sano State Park served as our home base during the month of November.  Monte Sano boasts hiking and  mountain bike trails as well as camping.  Note Shelley guarding our rig.

Most of November was spent taking care of our annual appointments – medical, dental, vision and even Shelley’s annual checkup!  But we still managed to have fun in between our appointments and our camp hosting duties. 

This is the 2nd year we’ve camp hosted at Monte Sano State Park.  Our duties were simple – check in campers in the evenings from 5 to 9 pm.  Before officially going on duty, we’d take a ride around the campground loops with the golf cart provided and check out which sites were available, how many pull-thrus, how many full hookups. 

Prior to arriving in Huntsville, we learned that FEMA had brought in 38 trailers for evacuees from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.  We weren’t sure how that would impact our responsibilities, but FEMA has had a lot of experience with temporary housing due to the recent hurricanes.  They installed larger exterior propane tanks which were filled at least weekly; external gray and black water holding tanks were placed at the sites that did not have full hookups and were pumped out weekly by Roto Rooter; and water lines were insulated to keep them from freezing.  Local churches ‘adopted’ the families.  There was a non-denominational gathering each Sunday evening and meals provided on Mondays.  Bicycles were donated to the children, as well as clothing and personal items for any of the families.  One of the local churches ‘adopted’ specific sites and would check on their inhabitants, outfitting the very basic FEMA trailer with a microwave, possibly a TV.  We understand FEMA will start evaluating the needs of the evacuees and relocating them to a more permanent area.  Our initial concerns were groundless and we were kept busy renting the other 70 available sites to recreational users.

While in the Huntsville area, we dropped the truck off at Top Line Tires to have the front end aligned and the new tires trued.  Truing, if you are wondering, is shaving off the uneven parts of a tire so that it is more evenly round.  It must be a dying art as we’ve had a hard time finding someone to do this in other states, but knew Top Line trued tires as we’ve had several vehicles done there over the years.  We were on the way back up the mountain when they called to tell us that both inside dually wheels were bent and they may have been that way since Day One.  So, we turned around and went back down looking for another wheel (the spare wheel was fine, so it got swapped out), lucking out by finding one at the local Ford dealership, which we then brought back to Top Line.  Back up the mountain only to get a phone call a couple of hours later to tell us that one of the new tires was too out of round to be trued.  Grrrrrr…A local General Tire dealer reluctantly agreed to replace the tire.  Finally, the front end was aligned and all tires balanced and trued – a much smoother ride.

You may wonder how we managed to get around if the truck was in the shop.  When we broke up housekeeping in 2003, Larry sold his Ford Ranger pickup to friend and coworker Sheila, who graciously allows us to use the truck during our stay in Huntsville, all for the cost of a wax job – wotta deal!  Having the smaller truck is a big help, both at the gas pump and maneuvering around town. 

One Sunday, we attended the early service at Grace United Methodist Church, where friend Gail is part of the choir, and saw friends and former neighbors Bill and Cindy there.  After the service, the five of us visited over breakfast at Country Vittles.

One Friday evening, we had a get-together at our place with longtime friends Ron, Linda, Deb, Neil, Gail and her friend Andrew.  We provided the meat and dessert and the others brought potluck dishes. The weather was perfect for a campfire and ‘smores.  But we learned a lesson that night – because of the unexpectedly nice fall weather, we had lots of campers checking in.  We both spent a lot of time taking care of park business and not as much time visiting with our friends, as we would have liked.  Next year, we’ll plan our get-togethers on any other night but Fridays.  Our friends understood and pitched in to help – what a great gang!

We had campfires going several evenings.  Lucille’s former coworker Mickey came up one night and shared a fire, as did our friend Teri on another night.  We enjoyed lunch with several of Larry’s former coworkers (Tom, Mike, Carl, Bob and Suzanne).  One night, Sheila and Val came over for a burger and hot dog cookout.  We enjoyed lunch with Tom and his wife Jane; Larry met former employer Mike for lunch one day and former co-worker Kaye on another.

One afternoon, we met Teri at her place and went to Red Bay, AL.  Our tour guide, Red, gave us a tour of Tiffin Motor Homes--very impressive.  We spent two hours touring the plant as well as seeing several of the motor homes needing minor repairs.  What is unusual about the Tiffin tour is that we could climb in and out of most of the RVs on the lot and in some on the assembly line.  In case you’re wondering, we are not thinking of changing our rigs.  We lived in Alabama 15 years and never managed to tour the facility – this was the year.  We are impressed with the product and would definitely consider one if and when we change rigs.

Genece called one afternoon and invited us to visit with her and daughter Phoebe.  Lucille worked with Phoebe several years ago so it was nice seeing them both again.  We met at Genece’s current home and visited there for a little while then walked next door to see her and husband Tom’s new home--under construction, but it should be finished by mid-December.  What we saw so far is beautiful—we are anxious to see it completed when we return next year.

There were two rooms of furniture we couldn’t part with when we sold our home in early 2003, storing them in a climate controlled 10 x 15 room.  Well, we decided after paying storage fees for the past 30 months that we’d probably never have a house again big enough to accommodate this furniture, so we contacted a local consignment shop. After they picked up our furniture, we downsized to a smaller unit to store our antique wall and grandfather clocks, photo albums and some other items we’re not ready to part with, yet.  We also dropped off a box of goods to an eBay consignment store – let the experts handle the sale.

Thanksgiving Day was spent with Deb and Neil and her family.  The meal was wonderful but the camaraderie even more special.  Before we headed down the mountain for our holiday feast, we checked in several people.  It surprises us how many people ‘camp’ over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Our last weekend was spent with final visits with our friends (and lots of eats).  Ron and Linda came up for dinner Saturday evening, bringing grinders from Bellacinos – very good.  The next morning we met Gail for brunch at IHOP.  That afternoon, Helene and her friend Bill came by to visit for a couple of hours in the afternoon.  Helene brought homemade split pea soup and a plate of sticky buns that Larry proclaimed wonderful.  Lucille enjoyed the soup for lunch the next day.  That same evening, Deb and Neil came up that night and brought pizza from Donato’s.  It’s been nice getting to see the gang separately, giving us all time to visit.  Lucille couldn’t leave town without having Green Hills Grille’s portobello meatloaf – Mickey joined her there.  Our last lunch in town was to celebrate Lucille’s birthday, meeting Teri at Casa Blanca, followed by ice cream at Marble Slab Creamery – yum!

Ron D. came up to visit for a couple of hours one evening. We met Ron and his wife Penny, fellow Escapees, when we first got to Monte Sano.  The host site wasn’t available right away so we parked in a temporary site.  Ron walked over and invited us to join them at their campfire.  As he mentioned, it’s fun to see a fellow SKP during our travels. 

Gregg, friend and financial adviser, came by our last evening on the mountain, bearing a bottle of wine and his wife’s homemade fig preserves as well as our latest reports.  We enjoyed hearing Gregg tell about the antique vehicles he and others are restoring.  Hopefully, when we return next year, we can arrange to see these old cars and trucks.

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Congratulations were in order for Park Ranger Brian.  He received a promotion and transfer to Cheaha, another Alabama State Park.

Park ranger Brian, with whom we’ve worked the past two Novembers at Monte Sano, has been promoted and will be moving with his wife Crystal to Cheaha State Park.  We were invited to participate in a going away potluck luncheon for Brian being held in the Dogwood Room of the Monte Sano Lodge, a beautiful building that was restored about two years ago.  We’ll miss Brian and his sense of humor and gung-ho attitude.

And thus ends November.

Next destinations:  Rincon, Georgia; Palm Bay, Florida in December.  


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