It seems like we’ve just gotten October’s travel update uploaded and here it is the end of November already!
We hit the ground running the very first day of the month – we had back-to-back dental appointments that morning. After grabbing a quick bite for lunch in town, we hurried back up to Monte Sano State Park to get set up in the host site and be ready for when our ‘shift’ started at 5:00 pm.
Sonny, the October campground host, had arranged to have a load of gravel delivered and spread around the host site to make it more level and allow for better drainage when it rains. We took it a step further and rearranged the pallets, bricks and other items that had accumulated at the back of the site so the view out the kitchen window would be unobstructed. We also rearranged the picnic table so that it was under the path lights – a convenient location for late arrivals to complete their check-in cards.
The state park staff told us they were having a good year, with campers coming in steadily. We noticed the same trend. Typically, Fridays are always very busy. In fact, we learned to either have a huge lunch on Fridays or snack on stuff because there usually wasn’t a let up in late arrivals till almost 8 pm. All other nights, we’d check in at least one camper. In years past, evenings were quiet Sundays through Wednesdays – not this year.
The highlight of our stay at Monte Sano this year was the parade of deer that we saw at the host site. One night, when Teri joined us for a cookout, we sat at the campfire and watched a doe come to feed, just ten feet away – awesome! Another night, the two of us sat in the swing and were visited by a doe and her two fawns coming by to snack. We made sure there was plenty of corn, water and a mineral lick out there for our deer friends to enjoy. And the squirrels and birds certainly didn’t starve – we kept busy refilling their feeders daily.
Lucille’s former coworker Phoebe and her parents, Genece and Tom, came up for a visit one afternoon. We saw them about two years ago at Genece and Tom’s home then, getting a sneak peek at their new home still under construction. This time, they saw our home on wheels.
One Saturday, friends Randy and Debbie came up with their friends Larry and Debbie – all of them interested in the fulltime RVing lifestyle. They brought lunch for all of us that day – we kidded them we hoped they were slow learners so we could con them out of a few more catered lunch sessions! We are never at a loss for words to talk about our lifestyle and pass on what we’ve learned, and we still continue to learn.
We enjoyed a last minute cookout with longtime friends Ron and Linda – sometimes the impromptu gatherings work out the easiest. Donato’s Pizza, our favorite pizza restaurant when we are in the area, got a lot of our business during November – we made multiple trips there, either on our own, or with Teri, or to pick up a to-go order to enjoy with Debbie and Neil. Bill and Helene came up to visit us on the mountain one evening, bringing pizza from the Italian Pie.
Lucille enjoyed a gal’s lunch at the Olive Garden with Linda (friend and professor at Athens State University) and Tina (friend and former classmate from Athens) – it had been four years since we’d seen each other last. We sure had a lot of catching up to do!
Larry met some former coworkers over lunch on a couple of different days. He visited with Tom, Carl and Mike at the West End Grill one day and Rodney and Kaye at O’Charleys another day.
One Saturday afternoon, we met Tom and Jane at Victoria’s Café for an extended lunch, a tradition we started last year. Victoria’s is a great place to meet friends – good food, good pricing, and a quiet atmosphere so you can comfortably carry on a conversation.
Escapee friends Ron and Penny camped at Monte Sano one weekend. They joined us at our campfire and the evening just flew by. Ron works part of the year at Redstone Arsenal and part traveling as he works on completing his goal of walking the Appalachian Trail, one section at a time. They’ll be wintering in Key West – we hope to catch up with them sometime while we are in Florida ourselves.
One Sunday morning, we attended services at Grace United Methodist Church in Madison where longtime friend Gail and her husband Andrew participate in the Praise Band for the early morning service. Afterwards, we returned to their home and caught up on news while we enjoyed lunch together.
Sheila, owner of the Ranger pickup truck she graciously lends us every year (she bought it from Larry in 2003,) came by with Valerie one evening for a cookout. We really appreciate use of the truck when we’re in town – much better on fuel than ours and easier to maneuver.
The Huntsville area professionals saw a lot of us during the month. Between the three of us (Shelley included), we saw the dentist five times, two trips to the vet, seven doctor appointments, two routine wellness tests, three visits to the lab for blood work, one eye exam, one appointment with our CPA to look at tax implications now that the Florida house has been sold, and one major medical procedure – more on that later. It sounds like we did a lot of running around during the daytime but keep in mind, we compress a year’s worth of routine checkups into a 30-day period.
During the course of Shelley’s annual heartworm check (which actually tests for four different diseases,) she tested positive for ehrlichia, a tick-borne disease that she may have picked up during our New England visit. Her vet prescribed a 21-day treatment of pills with a recheck sometime in December. Other than the ehrlichia, Shelley is doing pretty well for her age, whatever that may be – she’s not sharing that bit of personal information with us.
The major health issue for Larry was a visit to a cardiologist and a subsequent heart catheterization test. Larry’s regular physician wasn’t comfortable with the fact that Larry had been hospitalized in Maryland but was still having the same symptoms. Because there are heart problems in his family, the doctor rightfully was being cautious. Good news – his heart is in good shape. The cardiologist felt it was esophagus-related and prescribed some medicine for that. Larry’s own doctor, after a follow-up visit, wants him to continue on the meds. Larry noticed an improvement in his symptoms immediately – at last! He was getting frustrated with not feeling well and not knowing why.
When we learned that Larry was going to have the heart catheterization done, we made the decision to move off the mountain and over to the military campground at Redstone Arsenal. Because we didn’t know what we were facing, we didn’t want to get stuck up there, especially if our stay extended into December. Monte Sano State Park is gorgeous but is accessible only by a pretty stout hill. During the winter, the mountain often has its own weather and it’s not unusual to be stranded up there because of ice or snow. Redstone’s RV park has been open since early summer and is conveniently located to Huntsville as well as the post’s commissary and PX. We enjoyed our stay there – there’s a walking/bicycle path behind the RV park that we checked out a few times. Moving off the mountain was the right decision. Sonny and Janice, the October hosts, moved back into the host site to finish our ‘tour of duty’ – we appreciate their helping us out.
Our stay on a military post did pose a small problem. We had invited our Ontario friends Harry and Marie to join us for Thanksgiving, assuming we’d still be at the state park and they could get a site there too. Because of security restrictions, they weren’t allowed to bring their truck or fifth wheel onto Redstone Arsenal. Luckily, the nearby Space and Rocket Center RV Park had openings, so they stayed there for several days. We learned from the gate guards that they could visit us as long as we were driving our vehicle, which has a military post decal, and they had their passports. We tested that one evening and had no problems getting them on to the post.
Thanksgiving was fabulous! We had ordered and picked up a Cajun deep-fried turkey from Popeye’s Chicken on Wednesday, reheating it for our holiday meal. Ron and Linda joined us, bringing a wonderful green bean/corn casserole and two home-made pies; Harry and Marie brought snacks, a veggie dish, and their own bottled red and white wines; Lucille prepared a few accompanying dishes. We didn’t lack for food or conversation – we were blessed, not only by our friends joining us, but also with good health. We have so much to be thankful for.
While Harry and Marie were in town, we visited Cathedral Caverns State Park the day after Thanksgiving. We thought we’d be just a few people because we figured everyone else was out shopping but apparently, 45 other people felt the same way we did. The scheduled twelve-noon tour started earlier to accommodate the larger crowd. “Uncle” Bob was our tour guide that day, giving us a bit different perspective than when we visited the caverns a few years ago. After the tour, we enjoyed lunch at the picnic pavilion, finding the table with the most sun to take advantage of the solar heating. Marie stated that this was the latest in the year they had ever had an outdoor picnic.
All too soon, it was the end of the month and time for us to head south. We'll stay at Yvette and Pat’s for several days while Lucille checks on her parents in nearby Richmond Hill. We had their place to ourselves after that first night because our hosts left for a week’s cruise the day after our arrival. But we did get a chance to visit with them for several hours that night, making the long trip from Huntsville to their place in one day worthwhile.
Next up: After a few days in Rincon, Georgia, on to Jekyll Island for a month’s stay. While there, we’ll play part of the time, and help with the Brunswick Habitat for Humanity affiliate part of the time.
PS: When we were leaving New England to head down to Alabama late October, covering over 1,200 miles in three days, and passing quickly through states that have so much to see, we decided traveling this way is nuts. We’re going to try to slow it down. To start, we’re consolidating some of the locations we visit every year. We now have a campsite lot at Klondike Resorts in Otis, Massachusetts. That will be our base when we are visiting our family in New England. To visit our family down south, we’ll stay around Yvette’s area, using that as a base. At the same time, we’ll be moving our medical care to the Georgia area – we can take care of routine appointments and visit with family in between visits. As a result, we won’t be returning to Huntsville to host at Monte Sano State Park. The park staff thought it was something to do with them, but we assured them it’s not. We want to have more time to travel, to do what we planned when we retired. And having a medical scare that turned out okay just reinforced our feelings that we want to enjoy our retirement while we have the health and means to do so. To our friends in Huntsville – we’ll miss you but we’ll be back sometime. And we’ll have more time for visiting, not just what we can squeeze out of a day of appointments and obligations. And to those that have taken care of our medical needs for the past twenty something years, we’ll miss you too and the level of services provided over the years – it will be a challenge to find that elsewhere.