Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Even though it's late on this special weekend, the reason for the holiday has been on my mind for days. Rich and I have our poppies and wear them with pride. The Army has always been a part of my family's life.

My dad served in World War II and subsequently spent his career in the Illinois Army National Guard as a full-timer.

Since I graduated from high school in 1967, I knew many who served during the Vietnam years. My first husband served there in the Army...fortunately he survived...our marriage didn't.

Both of my brothers have served in the Army. This is my youngest sibling, Tom, and regrettably I don't have a photo of Wayne in uniform.

I didn't meet him until years later, but MOAO also served in the Army in the sixties.

I have always been so proud of the Army men in my life and so acutely aware of the fact that freedom is not many have paid so much for the freedoms we all too often take for granted.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Flowers of Florida

We are home from our first retirement trip and trying to get caught up on many chores. There will probably be more posts of our trip as I go back through photos, but today I'm posting a collage of flowers.

I took a number of photos of flowers and trees while we were in Florida. My niece, also blogs at under the name Our Backyard and Beyond. When we stopped at their place after leaving Memphis, she told me about this site where we can make collages of photos to post to our blogs...way cool!
Don't forget to click on the image above to see a larger display of this collage.
Most of these were taken in Key West; the flowers there were so beautiful! And Rich gets much credit for his participation and patience...always. Every time I would shout "STOP!" so that I could take another photo he would have to find a safe place to pull over, or go around the block, or maneuver around some other obstacle. What a guy!

It pleases me so much to hear from some of you who really enjoyed following along on our trip through this blog; hopefully you will enjoy seeing these flowers too.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Home Stretch

It was barely raining when we got to Beale Street earlier so we walked along the few blocks of restaurants and shops.
Now listen, this next photo has everything to do with those zippered bottle jackets we got in the Keys and absolutely nothing to do with the sign over Rich's left shoulder. It was taken on Beale street for Rich to send to the guys he worked with. After we got home and looked at the photos we both cracked up...Rich said "Does that sign make my ass look bigger?" Neither of us saw that sign at all when we were there...still laughing...
We ate at STAX Rum Boogie Cafe, a really cool place that's been in business on Beale Street for 25 years. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of guitars hanging on the walls and from the ceiling everywhere you look. Each was signed by a famous performer in the music industry or other celebrity. STAX provides the guitars but all of those people have actually been in the place and signed the guitar while there.
The food was amazing too. We started with a cup of Gator Gumbo...yes, it had alligator in it along with so many other meats, seafood, veggies, etc that I can't remember half of them. It was interesting but certainly edible. I had what was perhaps the best catfish filets I've ever eaten...perfectly breaded and fried.
But the Memphis BBQ ribs that Rich had were indescribably delicious and oh-so-meaty! There was a dry rub on them that was an ideal blend of spices and on the side were a couple of great sauces.
This was the sky over Marion, Arkansas as we came back this evening. 
After the storms, the weather has cooled so much that we have had both doors and all the windows open since we got back. Again tonight, Rich just couldn't beat me at Dominoes...hasn't been able to win at Casino either...the luck's all been mine, in so many ways! Tomorrow we head up the road a short piece to visit our niece and her family in southeastern Missouri. From there we plan to stop and see my mom, brother, and SIL before driving the final leg back home on Thursday or Friday. This has been an amazing adventure! My thanks to all of you who have followed along!

My Hero...Always!

This morning we took the girls along for a drive along what is marked as a scenic highway in Arkansas...different definitions of scenic must apply to various areas because rural roads with bean, milo, and corn fields alongside that pass through very small, very poor towns do not imply 'scenic' to me.

Then as we drove along a pretty little lake, there was a sign that said the pavement was ending; that was the beginning of a 15 mile stretch of dirt/gravel one lane road with no houses or signs of human life at all...yikes! It was scenic though, especially the swamp sections.
 Expecting to see some wildlife in such a remote quiet area, we were talking about our disappointment in only seeing a rabbit that had jumped across in front of the car. Suddenly Rich stopped the car and asked if I saw it...nope, I missed it...did you kill it? He wasn't sure so pulled to the left side of the road and suggested that I get out and take pictures of it. Well...there are limits to my wildlife photography and he had just exceeded them! Always my hero, he pulled the car to the right of the road and jumped out with the camera in hand. He had not hit it after all and took several photos of it leaving the road and climbing an embankment. It was a full grown Timber Rattlesnake! 
Right now we're back at the RV waiting out the storm so we can go to Beale Street. When we got back up to Memphis, we drove through torrential rain. It seems to be letting up and he's ready to hit the town...more later perhaps!

Our Daughter's Birthday!

No matter how old your children come to be, it still seems like they were born just Yesterday. But this particularly special Yesterday took place on this date in 1972. My first child was born, my daughter...isn't she adorable?
And, Sandee, this is how you were...a happy, fun, easygoing child who has grown into a happy, fun, easygoing mom. I have always been so thrilled that you are my daughter, so proud of you and loved you without measure. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

I will never forget the day that I met this enchanting young girl who took the trouble to type me a note thanking me for a little bear that I had given her.  I was smitten then and continue to be.  What else can I say?  Have the happiest of birthdays and I hope that you are as happy each day as I am each day that I have known you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's a Small, Often Beautiful, Sometimes Bizarre World!

Today we visited this house. Do you know whose house this was?

But before that...we left Florida yesterday morning after a fabulous two weeks. I've never been a fan of that state until now and still, I prefer the Gulf side and the Panhandle to the more popular Atlantic coast and Keys.

We (meaning Rich of course) drove more than 400 miles yesterday from Panama City Beach, Florida to Tupelo, Mississippi where we 'camped' at a Wal-Mart. Passing through Hoover and Birmingham in Alabama brought back memories of our visit when Sandee and Shawn went to school in Tuscaloosa...Roll Tide Roll! From Birmingham to Tupelo we drove Hwy 78 through the longest stretch of undeveloped land we've seen in many years...beautiful rolling green hills and forests.

This morning we hit the road early and pulled into our KOA in Marion, Arkansas just west of Memphis, TN about 10 a.m. After going around Memphis, we crossed into Arkansas on the I-55 bridge over the Mississippi River...this state line crossing was a special one because until today there were only two states that Rich had never visited, Arkansas and Hawaii. Now he has been to 49 states! I'm not sure that he'll ever catch up to my 50 though!
After getting the RV and the girls settled, we went to Mud Island in Memphis. There, the Riverwalk is an exact scale model of the Lower Mississippi River flowing from its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois 954 miles south to the Gulf of Mexico. It features twenty cities mapped along the Riverwalk; the main rivers flowing into the Mississippi; river engineering structures such as floodways; four watershed walls which map the entire drainage area of the Mississippi River; and then the model empties into an acre size Gulf of Mexico. It is so very cool and something I've wanted to see since hearing about it several years ago. Here are a few photos: The first is the mapped version of Cape Girardeau, near where our niece lives and below that is the mapped version of Baton Rouge where our son-in-law grew up, and the last one is the model of the Mississippi River at the Gulf of Mexico. I did not know until today that it spreads into many streams or tributaries or channels that all flow into the Gulf...the river does not just 'dump' into the Gulf as one wide body of water...fascinating? It was to me!
After leaving Mud Island, we had a great Memphis BBQ mid-afternoon dinner before visiting that home you saw earlier. Did you guess correctly?
Yes, Rich and I toured Graceland, Elvis Presley's home in Memphis.

And if that isn't bizarre enough (for those of you who know us well and know how out-of-character that was)...we came back to camp and did laundry. While at the laundry we met two other couple was from Des Plaines, IL and the other from Valencia, about what a small world it is!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Panama City Beach...Oh My!

I'm just going to summarize the two days between the Everglades evening and this morning. We drove a lot of state highways, staying away from the interstates. We drove from Florida City to Ocala on Wednesday, passing through St Petersburg and Tampa, then from Ocala to Panama City Beach on Thursday.

Along the way we passed lots of farms-corn, squash, vegetables, nuts, avocados-workers were picking tomatoes in huge fields. There are lots of very large cattle farms in Florida and we also passed several thoroughbred racing operations...some even had regulation tracks on the premises! The many, varied sights throughout the drive kept our interest for both days.

After we got set up at Raccoon River RV park in Panama City Beach we walked down a lane to the rear of the park, across a street, and we were on the most beautiful beach either of us have ever seen. We walked on the beach for a bit then came back and changed our stay from one night to two...gotta love the flexibility of retirement!

This morning we went to the beach and spent two hours in the water and then some time on the beach watching the Bluntnose Stingrays...oh yeah. The water is clear, no big seaweed or kelp beds like at beaches in other parts of the country. It was also a perfect temperature, not even a bracing chill when we first went in. We had been told that unusually large numbers of stingrays have been seen for the past week. The first group that we saw swam within a couple of feet of me; Rich was standing on the beach and saw them approaching so I yelled "Grab the camera, get some pictures!" You know me, fearless whenever faced with a photo opp.
We still cannot believe our luck; we watched them swim back and forth across the beach for a long time. They are not dangerous if left alone so people were still swimming as though they were not even there. It was a magnificent experience!
By the way, Rich took this video about 9:30 this morning...just to get the stingrays you know...breakfast of champions? There is another video that is fabulous of the beach and the surf sound but I had zoomed in too close to the stingrays so this one is the best to show you this school as they swam past. This video took an hour and a half to upload and the other one is much longer but I may link it some other time.  

We had such a perfect day...we're having so many of those! Tomorrow we are on the road again. We're headed to Arkansas over the next couple of days. Rich has never been there; this will be his 49th state and maybe his last since he has no interest in going to Hawaii.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Meandering Through the Everglades

Yes, we are still in Florida and obviously have Wi-Fi this evening. We left the Keys on Tuesday morning and only drove as far as Florida City. After settling into an RV Park (Wal-Marts are off limits in much of Florida it appears) we loaded the girls in the car and drove all the way through the Everglades to Flamingo, at the southern end of the park. What an amazing place that is and we were so lucky to see so much wildlife. A snake in the road was so quick to get away that I couldn't even get a photo. Here's a selection of what I did get though...
A pair of loud pig frogs
An alligator that backed away from the shore and swam across the pond
Herons, pelicans, flamingos, turkey vultures, and a large turtle...
But the best of all, was the baby crocodile on the road...
Tonight we are in Panama City Beach, Florida...and what a beautiful beach it is! Tomorrow I'll fill you in on the past couple of days, which have mostly involved driving through rural areas of western Florida.