Our April travels started in Florida and ended in Massachusetts - and we covered more miles in a month than we usually do and than what we originally planned. We'll start with why we migrated so quickly, then we'll fill in the blanks before and after.
Larry's mother Vivian had been hospitalized late March with pneumonia and dehydration. After getting those two medical issues resolved, she was moved to rehab to regain some of the mobility she'd lost while hospitalized for the week. Other issues cropped up while she was in rehab, unrelated to rehab, but serious enough to warrant our trip back to Connecticut earlier than the originally planned Memorial Day arrival. In North Carolina at the time, we cut our stay short there as soon as we learned her health was deteriorating, hitting the road Thursday morning for the two day trip north. Sadly, she passed away that afternoon, but Larry had talked to her the evening before and told her we were heading up there. We've derived some comfort in the fact that she knew we were trying to see her.
About the same time this was going on, his brother Brian's father-in-law, Dave, had been hospitalized for pneumonia, which may have triggered a secondary medical condition that he never recovered from. Dave passed away within 30 hours of Vivian's passing, which shocked us all.
Coincidentally, Lucille's aunt Florence's funeral Mass and burial in Connecticut was to take place the day after we arrived (she had died in Florida in January with a memorial service then and the Connecticut portion of her funeral waiting on warmer weather.) Originally, we hadn't planned on being there but with being in Connecticut for Larry's mother, we were able to attend Florence's funeral and burial, the first of three funerals we would attend in a five day period - too much sadness back to back.
We hit the ground running when we got to Connecticut, meeting with the funeral director about Vivian's arrangements. How we managed to get the funeral and luncheon planned in such a short time is amazing but it all came together. The only good thing about a funeral is seeing family gathered from all parts of the US - all of Lucille's siblings, two aunts, and local cousins were that that weekend for Florence's funeral. Two days later we spent some time with Larry's relatives, both from the area and from Maryland and New York. It was a sad time to see Bonnie's siblings again as they gathered for their father's funeral.
Backtracking now to the rest of April. We had started off the month at Patrick Air Force Base - we got in a much too short, and way overdue visit with Rick and Eileen who live in Cocoa. We were neighbors when we lived in Alabama and have kept in touch with them since they moved to Florida many years ago. Rick is the captain of Grasshopper Airboat Ecotours - if you're in the area, tell Captain Rick we said hi - his tours are awesome. We enjoyed a visit in their home before heading out to dinner at their friends' restaurant, the Palm Tree Cafe. The owners are Culinary Institute of America trained and the meals testified to their skills. Rick and Eileen surprised us by ordering alligator ribs for all of us as an appetizer - wow! We've had alligator tail before that we found chewy but these ribs were similar in taste and texture to some very tender pork ribs - thanks guys, for introducing us to these ribs, something we probably wouldn't have tried on our own.
Time to leave Florida after having been down there for four months - first up, Fort McAllister Historic Park in Richmond Hill, Georgia. Isn't it amazing that our trip to Richmond Hill just 'happened' to pass by our favorite shrimp place, B & J's Steak and Seafood in Darien, Georgia, so we just had to stop for a shrimp fix - wonderful as always.
After getting set up at Fort McAllister's campground, we visited with Lucille's mother Rita who lives just a few minutes away. We had ordered a new dinette set for her and assembled it that evening as well as fixing a minor computer issue.
Lucille had a couple of follow-up medical appointments in Savannah, which got taken care of quickly. While in Savannah, we met with Virginia Brown, the executive director for the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. Virginia had questions about the RV Care-A-Vanner program and if the program would be a good fit for their upcoming projects - looks promising!
Another day we brought Rita for a doctor's appointment, then met with the funeral home that handled Jerry's arrangements in 2011 to arrange for a headstone. Our stop in the Savannah area was short but certainly productive. That weekend, Pat and Yvette brought their camper down to Fort McAllister and we enjoyed hanging out with them one more time before we continued our travels.
Next stop was the Charleston, South Carolina area for a week, with our home base being the military campground in Goose Creek run by the Charleston Naval Weapons Station. We'd last been there in 2007 and knew this was a good home base for exploring the area. While there, we visited the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, a South Carolina state park. After picking up our rented MP3 players for the walking tour, several hours went quickly as we followed the audio tour markers, with a side track to visit the Animal Forest (a small zoo) and an enclosed avian area where we successfully spotted most of the birds listed on the information board.
Charles Towne Landing is located off of the Ashley River. In 1670 English settlers landed here and established the birthplace of the Carolinas colony. There is a replica of the fort as well as the beautiful Legare-Waring House, historic gardens, and an interactive museum in the Visitors Center. Probably later on in the season, there are interpretive rangers throughout the park. We lucked out and spoke with the one manning the Adventure, a replica of a 17th century trading ship docked at the park.
We even snagged a geocache located in the park and finished off our tour with a picnic lunch - this would be a wonderful place to revisit, if for nothing else but to walk the well-laid out trails on the beautiful grounds.
Later that evening, we headed into Charleston to take Bulldog Tours' Ghost and Graveyard Walking Tour. Over two hours, we covered several city blocks, getting information from our guide Anna - lots of interesting and unusual tidbits. Bulldog is the only tour company allowed to access the graveyard at the Circular Congregational Church after hours - what a wealth of history we learned, and of course, didn't think to record it to share with others - you'll just have to take this tour when you are in the area and learn about all the ghosts and ghouls haunting this grand old city
A few factoids about the cemetery at the Circular Church: it may be the oldest burying ground in Charleston. Over the years, many gravestones have disappeared but there are still over 500 there, with 730 individuals named on these stones. The earliest unmarked grave is 1695 and the earliest inscribed gravestone 1729.
The Circular Congregational Church is one of the oldest continuously worshiping congregations in the South. Charles Towne's original settlers founded this protestant church about 1681. The current building is the third structure - originally built in 1804, it burned in 1861 with bricks then used to build the present sanctuary in 1890.
Coincidentally, Yvette was in Charleston that weekend for a women's' church conference. We met her and friends Ginny and Sheila at the Hominy Grill for dinner. We chatted with our neighbors to see what they recommended and seeing as this was their fifth visit that week, they knew the menu pretty well and passed along several recommendations.
Time to continue our trek north, destination Camp Lejeune's military campground near Sneads Ferry, North Carolina. We like to warm up the car before we connect it to the motor home so we made a run to Hardees for their breakfast egg and cheese biscuits - a very productive way to warm up our Honda Fit and fill up our bellies. We stayed on US 17 most of the way up to Sneads Ferry and except for a lot of stop and go traffic around Myrtle Beach, it was a pleasant trip.
What a beautiful location for their campground - a few minutes' walk to either the Atlantic Ocean or the Intracoastal Waterway. For the few days we were there, we walked the beach often. We were treated to several nighttime displays of small missile target practice, with radio controlled drones being deployed from the beach but separate from the recreational beach - a great display of our soldiers training to preserve our freedom.
We weren't in the Sneads Ferry area very long but did manage to get in a day trip to Beaufort, a quaint shipping town about 30 miles north of Camp Lejeune. First stop was lunch at The Spouter Inn Restaurant and Bakery overlooking Taylor's Creek. Portions were large and quite tasty and the prices quite reasonable but the scenery was awesome. In addition to boats out on the water, we spotted a couple of common loons - how cool! And of course, we had to stop and pick up some huge and wonderful cookies at the bakery as a treat for later.
The North Carolina Maritime Museum is almost across the street from the restaurant so we headed over there to learn more about this coastal area and its maritime history. There are several exhibits about Blackbeard and the other pirates that used to ply the coast. His flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge, ran aground near Beaufort in 1718 and may possibly be the shipwreck remains that were found in 1996. Archaeologists and historians continue their research and excavation to determine if these shipwreck remains are in fact the Queen Anne's Revenge.
Also within the museum are exhibits on the settlers, the seafood industry, and how boats evolved from dugout canoes to high-speed motorboats. There are several really old boat motors there - we didn't know that boat motors were made back over a hundred years ago.
Across the street is the museum's Watercraft Center where you can learn the traditional skills of building a boat, with courses being offered throughout the year.
From the museum, we then visited the Old Burying Ground. The earliest graves (early 1700s) are marked with shell, brick or wooden slabs because stone was too difficult to obtain then. Had we downloaded a map in advance, we would have learned more about the cemetery than our quick stroll through it.
And that brings us to the end of our travels for April - we ended up the month at our site in Klondike Camping Resort in Otis, Massachusetts, where we'll be till the middle of September. This was a first for us to be up in Klondike this early in the year - spring still hadn't arrived yet. It would be several weeks before new leaves would start adorning the trees. We were pleasantly overwhelmed with 'welcome backs' from fellow churchgoers at the First Congregational Church in Lee - it was like a homecoming.
The rest of the month was spent getting settled into our new site, as well as opening up our original site - it's now ready for whenever our family wants to use it.