April 2008

We went from South Carolina, to Georgia, to Florida, back to Georgia and then on up to Connecticut.  No we were not lost but we did haul the RV over 1200 miles and then made an 950 mile side trip with just the truck.

Our April travels will be easy to write about, and a little boring to read – we spent most of the month either traveling or waiting to travel.

The only new place we visited, and it was new only for Lucille, was a day trip to Fort Jackson in South Carolina, where Larry did his basic training forty years ago this year – wow!  Has it been that long???  After driving through the post, going past the parade fields, and seeing the modern barracks, Larry decided it had changed quite a bit.  Back when he was there, the recruits were housed in World War I barracks – wooden buildings raised off the ground a bit.  When he reported in back then, he was advised to either throw away his civilian clothes or – bury them under the buildings!  The recruits could retrieve their clothing once they completed their training and went on to their next assignment.  Larry chose to bury his clothing.  Looking at today’s new barracks (they look like apartment buildings), they obviously have changed their policies with the times. 

When our two-week stay at Shaw Air Force Base was up, we didn’t know until almost the last minute whether we’d be heading north or south when we left there.  Earlier in the month, Lucille’s Aunt Lorraine had asked us, if we were still going to be nearby, to come down to Tamarac, Florida, and help both her and her sister Florence out while she (Lorraine) was in the hospital.  She called as we were getting ready to leave with the news that her surgery was most likely going to be scheduled later on in April.  We pointed our home on wheels south, with plans to stay at Pat and Yvette’s till the surgery date was set.  We had decided to leave the rig at Yvette’s, keeping it plugged in for the fridge and freezers.  Pat and Yvette would check on it periodically.

At this point, we were hoping for a surgery date sooner rather than later so that we could still join friends Karen, Galen and Dianne in Cape Charles, Virginia.  But the soonest available date was the middle of the month, so we cancelled our plans – family needs come first.

While waiting to head back down to Florida, we took advantage of our week-plus stay at Yvette’s to interview and arrange for some occasional home health care for Lucille’s parents.  Larry also got to meet our new dentist – months earlier than planned but a broken tooth needed repair.  We also brought Shelley to her new veterinarian to have a suspicious lump checked out (much to her embarrassment – it’s just fat!)  At the same time, we arranged to have a health letter prepared for her for our upcoming trip to the Maritimes.  Not to be left out, the truck met its new maintenance shop – the local Ford dealer in Rincon – time to get new brakes and some routine maintenance done, again in preparation for this summer’s trip.

During our stay in Rincon, we attended Goshen United Methodist Church.  One Sunday, the pastor’s sermon was about Men of Valor, such as Moses, Noah, etc… He then honored someone more current – someone within the church community.  It was like an episode of “This Is Your Life” (for those who remember that program from years ago.)  What a moving experience for those attending, even those of us who didn’t even know the man.  His family snuck in during the service, unbeknownst to him.  We all watched a slide show of this gentleman’s life, and then several of the parishioners and his family members individually gave testimonies about this man.  That was almost a hanky moment but what did everyone in was when he was given a plaque with his name and told that the new addition to the church was being named after him – what an honor.  Now all the hankies were out! 

Another stop we made in Rincon was visiting Habitat for Humanity’s Restore.  We had worked on a Habitat build with this affiliate back in 2004 but the Restore wasn’t even built then.  As we drove by the parking lot, we noticed several houses in various stages of development.  Volunteers build the houses on the premises, and then they are moved to their permanent location.  The house mover volunteers his time – impressive.  They had a two-story house there and we were trying to figure out how you move a two-story house.  Curious minds had to know, so we asked and learned that the house was staying there on the property.  The first floor is more of a garage devoted to housing building supplies and tools for the builds; the second floor will be a dormitory for visiting volunteer builders. 

Time to leave for Tamarac – we packed up the truck with what we thought we’d need for at least a week’s stay, including Shelley’s stuff – food, bedding, and meds… We typically drive around 250 miles a day when we travel but we weren’t towing this time and didn’t want to hassle with getting a hotel room for one night, so we drove the almost 500 miles straight through.  We were all whupped by the time we got to Tamarac, a reminder why we don’t like to travel that many miles in one day.  Even Shelley was out of sorts.

Surgery day arrived – we brought Lorraine to the hospital and got her checked in, lunched at the cafeteria, then waited, and waited….  The surgeon was running late and her procedure got started late and she was slow in recovering.  By 10:30 pm, she was finally moved to a room. We were glad to get back to her home for the night ourselves.  The next few days were spent visiting her in the hospital, enjoying our stay with Florence, and finally picking Lorraine up from the hospital four days later.  We stayed one more night to make sure she was okay  (and she was.)  On Monday, we reversed our route and made that same 500-mile trip back to Rincon. 

Our plans were to rest up a day, then head north on Wednesday.  And plans changed, again…  Last fall we submitted paperwork on behalf of Lucille’s father to see if he was qualified to receive the Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance Special Pension.   He was approved in February but a fiduciary had to be appointed to handle his benefits once they started to come in.  He’s no longer able to do so and her mother’s strong suit was never anything math-related.  Lucille applied to be appointed as fiduciary back in February, so we were back in the waiting game.  Our scheduled departure date was Wednesday.  On Tuesday, the local VA rep called wanting to meet with Lucille on Wednesday, a very important appointment that we could not miss.  We were glad we were still in the area and glad we’ve got the flexibility to change plans.  (Lucille was approved – now it’s back to waiting for the government wheels to turn before the funding is released.) 

We decided to head north via Columbia, South Carolina, a more direct route and more pleasant than driving on I-95.  We passed through towns named Denmark, Norway, Oslo – hmmm… Wonder who settled there?  We spotted a country road named Cow Pie Road; we drove through North, South Carolina – confused? 

Because we had lost about three weeks, we decided not to meander going north but to travel long days.  Day One ended up with our spending the night in a shopping plaza outside of Roanoke, Virginia, after obtaining permission from one of the store managers.  Day Two was at the Sam’s Club in Middletown, New York.  Of course, we had to make it an adventure getting there.  Our plans were originally to stop somewhere in mid-Pennsylvania but we were making such good time that we changed our plans on the fly, including re-routing our GPS.  Lucille goofed – instead of keying in Sam’s Club, she keyed in Middletown.  The GPS directions were correct, if you wanted to go to downtown Middletown.  Streets were narrow and very steep with cars on both sides – white-knuckle driving.  Folks watching us couldn’t figure out why an almost 60 foot ‘train’ was driving through their neighborhoods.  We eventually found Sam’s (wrong exit taken at first) and were really glad to stop for the night.  Larry found some damage to the bike carrier support strap as well as scuff marks on the rear window where the bike handle rubbed up against it as we climbed some of those steep hills.  We were very lucky the window didn’t break.  Lesson learned:  don’t change plans on the fly without double-checking the route. 

We finally got to Branch Brook Campground in Thomaston, Connecticut, where we stay when we’re in the area.  The next two weeks will be filled with visiting family on both our sides. 

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We made a trip to see our campsite at Klondike Camping Resort in Otis, Mass.  We had a large tree removed to allow better access for our RV.  Coincidentally, where you see the truck parked is where we got stuck moving the RV in.  But we'll save that for next month's update.  Thanks to Bonnie for the photos.

We kicked off our stay here, and our visiting, by having an impromptu caravan day trip to see our campsite at Klondike Camping Resort in Otis, Massachusetts.  Larry’s brother Brian and his wife Bonnie and Lucille’s brother Ray and his wife Tracy and daughters Katie and Jessie joined us as we checked out our site.  We were glad the guys were with us – we had to move a well-built platform/deck out of the way so we can back in the rig when we get there mid-May.  Both Ray and Brian and families will be using our site during the summer – our families might as well get use out of it seeing as we won’t be there more than three weeks this year. 

The month ended, after over 2,150 miles of traveling, some of it backtracking, and lots of time helping and visiting family.

Coming up in May:  we move to Klondike for a few weeks, then after Memorial Day, meet up with Karen and Galen at West Thompson Lake, a Corps of Engineer park in northwest Connecticut.  From there, we’ll kick off our summer traveling, heading to Maine, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland – lots of wonderful sightseeing planned over three months – we can’t wait!

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Since we are lacking photos for the month we figured we would give an update on how we communicate with friends and family while on the road.  The left photo shows the old way.  We had a satellite dish we mounted on a tripod outside the RV.  We communicated with a satellite that communicated with a ground station in Virginia.  It worked as long as you had a view of the sky where the satellite was located.  Generally, we could use it better than 95% of the time.  The bad part was the time necessary for setting up and the latency due to distances the signal had to travel.  In January we purchased a Verizon USB wireless card (second from left) that uses cell phone towers to communicate.  It is very small, plugs into the computer's USB port and takes less than a minute to set up.  Since we have two computers, we purchased a wireless router with a USB port (third from left) that the wireless card plugs into (second from right).  We then communicate with the router using WiFi technology.  In areas where the cell tower signal is weak we connect the wireless card to an extendable antenna mounted on the rear of the RV. 

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