Crazy and fun weekend!

Last week, hubby and I rented a very cute and fuel efficient Ford Focus to drive to So Cal for our grandson’s second birthday festivities. We left Thursday early afternoon and arrived in the San Fernando Valley that night. We managed to hit Phoenix I-10 gridlock, but missed LA traffic. Our bed was adequate, not perfect, but it would do. Thankfully I remembered to bring an Ambien to ward off the sleeping in a different place insomnia. Hubby and I were tired and ready to relax.

Ha!

My daughter told us there were 52 humans who had RSVP’d!! I looked at my daughter with gaping mouth. She said of the 52 she expected 14 children. OMG!

Friday morning we got up early enough to see Charlie before he went to daycare and then the rest of the day was spent taking care of some legal stuff on our part for the foster/adoption thing and birthday party prep.

Did I say she expected 52?

Chuck was tasked with making a cut out frame for party selfies, a birthday banner, a bean bag toss game thing, and putting stickers on cups. I made 72 cupcakes. Red velvet, chocolate, and vanilla, with frosting. I also made a small cake for Charlie to demolish as is the custom with birthdays for little humans.

Melissa and Charlie got home and we had fun hanging with the munchkin. Gosh he is so cute and he has elastic arms so we spent a lot of our time keeping him out of the party stuff. At one point we gave in and took a bunch of bags to the cars for safe keeping. After he went to bed we opened a bottle of wine for the girls and a beer for hubby and proceeded to fill a crap load of goodie bags! Bed time for big humans.

Saturday. Party day. Chuck made a bunch of pigs-in-blankets so they would be warm for the party. We loaded the cars with pigs-in-blankets, cupcakes, goodie bags, selfie frame, bean bag game thing, Charlie, and headed out by 9am to do set up. My daughter’s good friends and landlords brought the helium and balloons, we got busy setting up and managed to be mostly ready for the first arrivals at 10am.

I did say she expected 52, right?

The party was held at the private school where my daughter teaches, just outside her classroom. There was a great covered area with tons of tables and next to it a huge grass lawn for little humans to run. Happy Birthday was sung, candle blown out, and Charlie was properly covered in chocolate after eating fistfuls of thickly iced cake. He looked like he had a beard, and was thoroughly happy and on a sugar buzz.

We were cleaned up and gone by 1pm. I was impressed. My heart was warmed by the wonderful friends of my daughter who are there to support and encourage her and Charlie in this life adventure of theirs. She is a fantastic person and it is obvious by the long-time good friends she has. We headed back to her place to unload and open gifts-what a haul! I took off and got us Cavaretta’s deli sandwiches for dinner. Yum!

Sunday morning was departure day for us. We got our stuff together though, as I found out after we got home, we left several things there. Breakfast was at Weiler’s, us, Melissa and Charlie, then it was time to come home.

It was fast and furious-Vaughn style.

Cheers!

-N

 

No cure for travel bug

I was born into a military family. When I was six months old my father was transferred from Harlingen, Texas to Yuma, Arizona. This began a life of travel for our family, thanks to the US Air Force. It was all I knew and I adapted well to this transient lifestyle. I made easy but not lasting friendships, and I looked forward to the next assignment my father was given.

By the time I started high school in Tucson I had lived in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Japan and the Philippines. In 1971 my father retired at Davis-Monthan  AFB in Tucson.

I was not happy about it. My sisters felt very different than I.

2There were so many places I wanted to see, but my dad was done. His retirement after 20+ years was what he wanted. Before his service in the Air Force he had spent active duty in the Navy then post WWII in Navy reserves as a very young man. So to him his military career was completed.

However, I had acquired an incurable case of travel bug.

I love going someplace I have never been, finding my way around, and fitting into life in that locale. Becoming acquainted with the locals who give you tips on the best places to eat, shop, and relax is enlightening and empowering as a traveler. Regularly I get what I think is a sort of travel depression from longing for the sights and sounds of a distant place.

My dilemma is the disposable cash to fulfill these desires.

So I study photos, history and literature, immersing my mind in what is still left to discover about places like Istanbul, Edinburgh or Budapest. Amazing as it may seem I’ve never been to New York City and count on it, that it’s on my bucket list. I would love to travel from Tuscany to Sicily trying local wines and food. I want to hike the Appalachian trail, spending the days finding the secrets of the mountains. I would love to sit at a bistro in Paris within sight of the Eiffel Tower, watching humanity pass by. Diving in the Florida Keys or the Red Sea, walking a forest of Blue Bells in Kent, waiting for Civil War ghosts at Gettysburg and riding the train from Tokyo to Misawa in Japan. You get the drift.

Desiring the unknown, compelled by different culture and language, finding out what I need to collect for understanding from the next stop and pushing myself toward discovery, I dream of skies, stars, food, faces, and an understanding that my journey will ultimately bestow on me is thrilling.

Immersing yourself in a new environment and culture is the best way to accept the differences and similarities in all of us.

Cheers!

-N

(P.S. My father was movie star handsome!)

 

 

Coast to Coast-almost part 3

Dude – Florida is freakin’ far from Arizona!!

I admit I was a touch weepy when I left my baby boy in Florida. But I am always that way when I leave my kids behind. I have the BEST kids, evah.

Destination Catalina, Arizona.

Thursday morning I headed my truck toward I-75 in the direction of Tallahassee and points west via I-10. Stopped for a big coffee and a cup of donut holes from Dunkin Donuts, filled the truck, and took advantage of very light interstate traffic.  Found a music station and set my cruise control to 70 and let my mind wander. The southeast is so beautiful, filled with huge trees with big leaves and grass that grows right to the edge of the road-very unlike southern Arizona. I decided on a side trip that represented my weather geekness. I would swing down to Pass Christian, Mississippi and visit the site of the Richelieu Apartments. This building along with dozens of others were decimated by Hurricane Camille’s 23 foot storm surge in 1969. The area also took the brunt of Hurricane Katrina’s eye wall winds and 28 foot storm surge. I had to see for myself how close to the gulf this sleepy little town really is. See for yourself.20161027_155121

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These two photos show the lot where the apartments stood. As you can see from the one on the left showing the view toward the ocean it is only five or six feet above sea level. The pic on the right shows there is construction going on at the site. Perhaps, as is evidenced by other structures in the area, the ground floors are unused or used for parking. As I came down the road toward the ocean I realized I hit a point where the trees thinned out significantly and I saw dozens of cement slabs, evidence of the storm surges swiping the earth clear. It was humbling to see nature’s unstoppable strength. 20161027_155235 20161027_155247

Standing on the ground, looking directly across the road at the ocean, imagine seeing a wall of surging, debris filled sea water, over 20 feet high coming toward you. This is what the gulf normally looks like. It is stunning to picture in your mind the wrath of Neptune.

I must say Mississippi has some incredible rest areas just near the borders of Louisiana and Florida. I stopped to move around, rest and reflect at this gorgeous spot just inside the border before Louisiana. 20161027_164951 20161027_164945 20161027_164939

One inside Louisiana I discovered the freeways are a nasty, bumpy, narrow mess. I’m pretty sure I’ve not experienced freeways so badly cared for. I can’t imagine how the truckers deal with it. Probably just blast on through to get it over with. Florida and Texas highways are way better. Another thing I noticed as I moved further from Florida, with the friendliest population I have ever met, the people weren’t as nice. I was so spoiled after nearly a week in Florida.

Florida people are wonderfully friendly.

I spent the night at a Super 8 in Lafayette, Louisiana and all I can say is the WiFi was crappy, and I was at the end of the hall next to the ice machine and an exit. Scary for a woman alone. At 5am the next morning someone decided to fill their ice chest at the obnoxiously loud machine. Check that one off the list. I found a place to fill the truck, it was a nice, wide open clean place. However the diesel pump did not have a latch on the handle! It is a nightmare to hold the pump while you fill the truck with 35 gallons of gas. Switching hands several times I finally stopped when I knew I had enough to get me to Texas. Both hands were sore and shaking. Never do that again.

I cruised on through Beaumont, Houston and San Antonio on I-10 heading toward my stopping destination of Ft. Stockton. I stopped in a little wide spot called Seely, Texas for a Whataburger and gas fillup. Never again! It took me 40 minutes to get my food, and only then after I brought up my receipt to get a refund and leave. They compensated me with an apple pie, no thanks. I was bummed because I love Whataburger. Then it took me two tries, crossing back and forth across an over the top busy road with no traffic lights to get gas. I really think this place is a truck stop turned into a town and they didn’t do it well.

I arrived in Ft. Stockton around 8pm and found a room at the Hampton Inn, super nice, very friendly and helpful, ready to get a good night’s rest. I spent a comfortable night in the spacious room after dinner at the restaurant next door (got a 20% discount showing my room key.) I got up the next morning, packed and headed down to the lobby for a complimentary breakfast only to discover the lobby was filled with a football team. UMHB-University of Mary-Hardin Baylor and I loved it. They were so sweet, lots of yes ma’ams and deferential treatment for me while I sat in the middle a bunch of cute boys. I did discover they were undefeated and heading to play a local college team (which I found out later they had beat.)

I filled up and directed the truck toward El Paso via Van Horn. My grandmother used to say there was no reason to cremate anyone because there is enough land between Pecos and Van Horn to bury everyone in the world! Hilarious woman. During this time I found myself in the middle of “the fight of the 18 wheelers” much to my dismay. These drivers didn’t seem to care I was there, they were in this game of who can speed up and pass the other the closest, then cut off the other guy behind him, who then speeds up and passes that guy. I was nearly side swiped by a red car trying to get away from them. I will say it made the trip go quickly as I tried to stay alive!

I didn’t need to stop for gas, amazing mileage in the diesel truck, so I blew through El Paso, Las Cruces, Deming, Lordsburg, Willcox, Benson, and into Tucson. I arrived in Catalina SAturday afternoon around 4pm very glad to be done with the trip.20161029_154807

Took this pic after I pulled up to the house, glad to be home. Got lots of welcome home love from Chuck and Millie. Unloading, unpacking and laundry was on the agenda.

But my heart was happy that we helped make it possible for Aaron and Chelsea to live as they start their grand adventure.

Cheers!

-N

Coast to coast-almost part 2

I have an amazing son.

Saturday, after we got the RV all set, hooked up and running, we took Chuck to the airport.He had to be at work the next day so he had to escape back home. My sister, Lisa, picked him up at the Tucson airport, and Aaron and I settled into getting his house in order.

A big thing we discovered was a seal at the base of the toilet had somehow got twisted and was across the opening!

Nasty. The toilet paper was getting caught on it keeping it from draining-ok TMI.

When we bought the RV we purchased extended warranty insurance which covers a lot. It does cover the bathroom thing, but only the connections. Really?! Seals wear out and are not covered! Suffice it to say we were majorly bummed. The repair guy I talked to who does warranty covered repairs suspected this and instead of us paying out of pocket for him to come repair it he said, “If your son is good with tools he can do this himself and will save you some money.” Needless to say Aaron is just like his dad about fixing things. So Aaron took off the bolts, tilted the toilet on its side, (I cleaned it up-no need to have my repair man gagging) and we found the seal was fine just twisted. He replaced it and taa daa! It worked perfectly.

Across the street from the RV park is a huge RV sales, service, and supply store. We headed over to get a look at it. He can get his propane there, discounted because of where he is staying, we got some black water tank deodorizer, a new sliding piece for the front door, and a new sprayer for the toilet (it was leaking.) Aaron met the lady who works in the store, and when we got back he got to work doing more stuff.

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Another problem we found was the nut that connected the gas to the pilot lite on the stove was loose. So he took it apart, tightened the nut and the pilot lite worked perfect

After all that it was time to set up his PO Box, and have a bit of fun. I will say this, Winter Garden, Florida is beautiful. The streets are clean and the trees and shrubs groomed, the buildings well tended and Jill at the Post Office is a very cool woman.

Aaron and I decided to head to the Atlantic on my last day in Florida. We planned to stop in at Kennedy Space Visitor Center and then head down to Cocoa Beach for some ocean time. The Space Center was very interesting, very interactive and a bit pricey. Still as space geeks we dug it. My late uncle Jimmie Forehand was truly a rocket scientist!

It was a great time and I would love to go back and spend the whole day exploring.

Cocoa Beach was special because it was clean, beautiful, not too crowded, and it was my son’s first visit to the Atlantic Ocean. The waves were great, at least 3-4 feet, and a nice breeze was blowing in.

I’m pretty sure I’ve been there to introduce Aaron to every ocean he has seen. As an ocean lover it is my pleasure. This day finished with a drive back through Orlando at rush hour but we had enjoyed such a relaxing, cool day we handled it with the help of Sirius radio comedy shows and classic vinyl rock music!

Part three is my drive back to Arizona, by myself, all the way from Florida with a special side trip in Mississippi.

Cheers!

-N

Coast to Coast-almost, part 1

I have been out of communication for two weeks while I help my son make a move from Texas to Florida. It was a huge thing for him and hubby and I had the honor of helping him accomplish it. He was hired as a stage technician at DisneyWorld.

You see, Aaron and Chelsea will be living in it until they find a place to move into, probably an apartment or rental house.

First step was in Catalina and getting our 5th wheel ready for the move.  Got it cleaned up, stocked up, and made sure everything was set. Then we took the truck in for service. It’s a 2004 F250 diesel, a real workhorse, and it was time for the checkup. We were told it needed a new serpentine belt and rear pinion seal!! Only about $600-700. Color me dumbfounded. The service guy said these had to be done before we pulled the RV all the way to Florida. Chuck decided to look on you tube for videos – maybe he could do it himself since the seal only costs $15! After his research he figured he could do it, he needed two new tools. The belt actually cost more, but didn’t require taking apart the drive train. The plan was to leave at 1am on Wednesday morning after Chuck got off work Tuesday at 11pm. But…the truck needed these two things done before we left.  So the rush was on!

Monday morning we bought parts and Chuck started working. The pinion seal was the worry since it required disconnecting the rear drive train, pulling the seal, filling the diferential fluid, and putting it all back together. He got it half done, stopped to go to work then picked it up Tuesday morning. It was a relatively easy job and he felt confident. It worked like a charm. But then the belt came next and it was a freakin’ nightmare. We finally got on the road Wednesday morning at 4:30am! We had both be up since 7am Tuesday morning but we headed out for Lewisville, Texas. After eighteen hours of driving we arrived at the parking lot of the First Baptist Church in Lewisville. The facilities manager, Jeff Hobson, gave us permission to park for the night. He was amazing!!

We slept for about four hours, solid hard sleeping, and got up to meet up with Aaron so he could store his stuff in the trailer. He was driving one of their cars out with us, so we filled up and headed out I-20 toward Shreveport. About an hour out of Lafayette it starting raining. An annoying hard rain, especially in the evening, at rush hour, on the highway, towing a 5th wheel. We made it to an amazing rest area just inside Mississippi and spent the night. We started out and managed to arrive in the Orlando area Friday night around 8pm Florida EST. We bunked again at a rest stop and the next morning we cut out at 7:30 am, grabbed some coffee and donuts at the Dunkin Donuts and were at Winter Garden RV park by 9am.

The rush was on again to get the trailer set up, plugged in, and turned on before we had to get Chuck to the Orlando Airport by 1:30pm for a 3:00pm flight. I was staying for a few days to drive the truck back to Tucson.

But we did it!!

Chuck did go coast to coast thanks to Southwest. He flew from Orlando to San Diego to Tucson!

More to come. Cheers!

-N

Spending the day in my woman cave

Got up, grabbed a coffee and my phone. Looked at the news (what is up with Hillary Clinton?), checked emails and blogs I’m following, looked at social media (love twitter), and got a shower, made breakfast of toast and honey, and then escaped to my room.

Here I am.

I’ve got a netflix movie on the TV, did a bunch of filing, paid some bills, pulled out my story notes and as soon as you lovely blog followers are updated I will start on my writing.

We were in California for four days last week so my work was on hold. It was okay though, since we were spending time with our daughter and our soon to be grandson. Hopefully three more months and the adoption will be done.

We had so much fun watching him experience new places and things. He is eighteen months old and is a busy, bruiser of a toddler. He is very cute, very smart, and a charmer. We went to the ocean twice in one day, had a morning adventure at TravelTown at Griffith Park, made my regular stops at Weilers for Eggs Benedict and Cavaretta’s for deli sandwiches and canoli’s, and enjoyed the days in the Valley.

Now it’s time to get back to work. I am bouncing between two stories, two genres-historical and contemporary-trying to find the flow for both of them. I suppose it seems strange to be working on such different genres simultaneously but it seems to keep me fresh.

So I’m handing off this blog to you lovely followers.

Cheers!

-N

 

 

Yep, I did it again!

As is obvious, I have changed my page format. The last one seemed to be hard to read, difficult to navigate and seemed to scream at me every time I looked at it. I promise I won’t change it again, soon.

Bloggerverse citizens, how often do you change your page? I like the simplicity of many of the blogs I follow, so rather than suffer from blog envy I am tweaking (not twerking) my page theme. You know-going for that respectable author thing. What ever that is?

Hubby is going to be out of the house tomorrow for a several hours so I will be glued to the computer pounding out pages of the new story I am about 60 pages into. I have a ton of research to do on post civil war reconstruction-glorious. David McCullough said the interesting thing about history is when it was happening no one knew how it would turn out. Writing, research, music, wine and chocolate-note to self, have to remember to let Millie out to do her business.

A fun way to discover the history of our country is with a “National Parks Passport.” Chuck and I started with the small one and once it was filled we moved to the larger binder. It is a great way to see the country and find places you would never normally visit. 20160429_135443

When we know we are taking a trip we pull out the Passport and see what is nearby and plan our trip with these places in mind. As a history geek, I have learned so much about places in Nebraska and the Dakotas I would never have known about.

You can purchase the large binder or small book at the visitor center, usually near the stamp/sticker kiosk. What you do is head to the visitor center at a National – Park, Memorial, Historic Site, Battlefield, Reserve, etc., find the Passport kiosk (ask if you don’t see it right away) and there you will be able to stamp your passport page with a date/time stamp that has the name of the place you are visiting and now you have a permanent memory. You can also purchase a beautifully made sticker specific to the location. We have been to places so off the beaten path the date on the stamp had to be changed and the stamp pad re-inked. 20160429_135349

I remember once Chuck and I were heading into a visitor center in the Chiricahua National Park and just before we got there these two boys hopped out of their car and raced each other to the kiosk. That gave me the idea of purchasing them  as baby gifts. I’ve several young friends I’ve given them to who’ve let me know they use them all the time.

It is a very good way to discover the amazing places in the USA and appreciate the lessons we need to learn. Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas is a place every American needs to visit.

I told Chuck we should be Passport travel guides and have our own show. Right? I mean, come on we have this thing down and it would so feed my travel bug.

So my blogger friends do you have any special way you make your travel plans? Do any of you use the Passport?

Cheers!

-N