Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

Christmas 2007 is about over but we want to wish all of our friends and family a very Merry and Joyous Christmas. Christmas this year was spread out over three days so that we could get everyone in.

On Sunday, 12/23, we had our grand daughters and their mothers to our house for dinner and exchange of gifts. Aurora's mother had to work during the day so Aurora came over around 11:30 am and spent the day with Grandpa Rick and Grandma JoJo. Her mother, Maegan, had to work late and missed the rest of the bunch. She did get to enjoy a late dinner when she did arrive after 9:00 pm. Emma, who was two years old this past July, arrived around 4:00pm with her mother, Shelly, and her little sister, Lily. Emma's stepdad, C.J. also had to work. Joanne's mom, Mardell, also joined us as we shared a good Lasanga dinner together.

Christmas Eve we had our traditional gathering with Joanne's family. In addition to her mom we were joined by her niece, Carrie, and her family, husband John and son J.J. We shared a full blown turkey dinner and then had a good gift exchange. J.J. celebrated his first birthday earlier this month. John and J.J. had a good time playing with J.J.'s toys and entertaining our dog, Buddy Joe.

Christmas Day was spent with the Stone family at my oldest brother's house in Purcell, Oklahoma. My parents, George & Max, were able to celebrate with all four of their sons along with their wives. Pictured here are us four boys, Bill, Chester, David and Rick with our parents. The wives decided we should all sit together in the dinning room while they and the grandkids that were there sat at a table in the living room. We weren't sure if this was to give us a chance to visit and catch up or they figured this would be the loudest table. The wives there today were Nancy (Bill), Susan (Chester), Elizabeth (David) and Joanne (Rick). Also we had David's daughter, Lisa, and my oldest son, Alex. Later in the day Chester's two youngest sons, Jason and Justin, and Justin's wife Tiffany dropped in.

Some pictures of the day are below:
George &
Bill & Nancy

& Lisa
& Susan

& Alex
Buddy Joe

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back to fairly normal

The winter weather has left us, at least for a few days, and we have gotten back into our normal routine. The temperatures this week have been in the high 50's and it got up to the low 60's today. It is supposed to hold like this through tomorrow and then we have a new winter storm coming in. So far we have only lost one tree from the ice storm. What is left of our Youpon Holly is now piled by the curb, waiting for the city to pick it up. This type tree is mostly brush/bush and it had very little usuable pieces for firewood. The house sure looks different with this tree gone from the entryway.

The Bradford Pear tree was also heavily coated in ice and this caused it to split at the fork. We were afraid that one side or the other was going to toppel over but it never did. After the ice melted off the tree pulled back together. I'm checking with a local nursery to see if the tree can be strapped together somehow in an attempt to save it. The Bradford Pear trees are very popular here but they really took a beating during this storm. It is normally accepted that 15 to 20 years is pretty much the life span of these trees. Most of the these trees in our neighborhood are between 12 to 15 years old. I hope to save this one because my youngest son and I planted this one about 13 years ago and really had to nurse it along to get it to take root in our very thick red clay soil.

Almost all the houses in the neighborhood have piles of brush and tree limbs piled by the curb. Although most of the houses have fireplaces it appears not very many people actually use them. I have taken out my trusty chain saw and have been liberating some of this timber for future use in our wood stove fireplace insert. Without a pickup in the family I have to use my HHR as a truck. This is the third load I brought home today. Was able to pretty much fill up one of the wood racks in the back yard with today's haul.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter finally hit Oklahoma

Although we had experienced some cool weather here in Oklahoma since we returned from the East Coast in October, it had really not gotten "winter" cold. That all changed this past week. On Sunday evening, 12/9, we started getting rain mixed with sleet. As this continued the temps got colder and the ice started forming on all the trees, fences and the electrical wires. By Monday morning the tree branches started crashing down, bringing down the electric lines with them. Joanne's mother lost power around 11:00 am Monday morning and ours went out about an hour later. The house and trees were coated in ice by this time. After listening to the radio news reports it appeared that this was a major strom and we would be without power for a day or so. At that point we decided to get the motor home from the storage lot, park it in the driveway and move into it. With it's generator we would have heat, lights, TV, microwave and all the other comforts we did not have in the house.
As the week drug on we realized the enormity of the situation with over 600,000 homes and businesses without power in Oklahoma, over half of that number in the Oklahoma City area. We kept a fire going in the wood stove in our fireplace to keep the house from getting freezing cold and to protect the water pipes but it was not enough to get it warm enough to stay there. In the coach we were warm and comfortable. We did elect to go out to eat each evening rather than try to cook in the coach. Jo's mom accompanied us to dinner but elected to stay in her house at night, having gas logs in her fireplace to keep warm. Jo would take her a pot of coffee each morning, in a thermal pot, that would last her most of the day. Her power came back on Wednesday.
By Wednesday we were made aware that it would take some time for them to get all the broken lines repaired in our neighborhood. I took an assessment of our trees and shurbs in our front yard and saw the damage. A large Youpan Holly tree in our entryway was completely broken down and was ruined. This tree was approximately 25 years old and protected our front door from the western sun during the summer months. Also the other shurbs in the entryway were coated in ice and leaning over. It made it almost impossible to get to our front door. Also, we have a rather large Bradford Pear tree in the middle of the front yard that my youngest son and I planted about 15 years ago. It was now loaded with ice and had split in the fork of the main branches. (As the ice melted off the branches have come back together but it appears that the split goes almost half way down the trunk of the tree. Not sure yet if this tree can be saved.) On Wednesday the temps came up some so I took this opportunity to get my chain saw out and take out the Youpan Holly and the other damaged shurbs in the entryway. The house really looks different without that large Holly tree.
As the week drug on most of the ice melted away but we still did not have power. On Thursday we were informed that they had found at least a dozen different broken power lines in our neighborhood and it would probably take at least another week or possibly two before we would get power. Concerned about a freezer full of food in the garage, I ran a cord from the freezer out to the coach and operated it off the generator. We did lose some food that was in the two refridgerators. By Friday another front was moving in with snow forcasted. This strom did not come in as strong as predicted and we got about two inches of snow on Saturday morning.
Although we had most of the comforts of home in the coach we did not have access to the internet on the computer. Our internet access is through DSL and the modem requires electricity and a phone line. After going six days without being on the computer I was starting to have withdrawals. On Saturday evenings we normally travel to my parents home, about 45 miles south, to play cards with them and my brother and sister-in-law, who live close to the folks. We decided to go down early in the day so I could log on to my brother's in house WiFi with my laptop and check my e-mails, pay some bills and get my computer fix. (When I logged on I had over 530 e-mails, not counting the over 300 in the Spam Box.) I took care of the necessary stuff and then we joined the folks for our card games.
Later we headed home and, after dropping Jo's mom off at her house, we were discussing how great it would be to drive into the neighborhood and find the power on, even though we had been told it would still be a week or two before that happened. Well, miracles do happen. As we turned off the main street onto our street we noticed some houses had lights on. As we came around the corner we saw that our porch light was on and there were lights on in the house. We are not sure what time it came up but it had been on long enough that the furnace had kicked on and the house was warm. So, we are now back in the house and getting settled back in. Tomorrow I'll take the coach out to Flying J and re-fill the propane and fuel tanks and put it back in storage. At that time we'll know how much this power outage really cost us considering the price of diesel fuel.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Baby, it's cold outside!

Winter has definitely hit here in Oklahoma. The ice storm moved in last night and has not let up. They are predicting this to continue through the first part of the week. So far the firewood is holding out so we are staying warm. Buddy has decided the best place in the house is directly in front of the wood stove with it's forced air blower.

We celebrated our favorite nephew's first birthday yesterday. His mother, Carrie, is Joanne's neice and is one of the joys of our lives. A great party was held at her in-laws house with as many family members we could cram in there. This is a picture of Carrie, John and the birthday boy, JJ.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Goodbye to a family member

Brandi Jane Stone

We said goodbye to our precious dog today. Although she originally got sick last January and was later diagonosed with bladder cancer she was a fighter and kept up her spirits to the end. On her many visits to the doctor this past year the doctor and his staff were just amazed at how good she looked each time and how much spunk and energy she showed. Rest in peace little girl. We will miss you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

East Coast--Heading home--Day 20

We're having to cut this trip short and head home. We still had at least four weeks left with two Monaco RV rallies to attend but it is not to be. We have just learned of a major medical emergency within the family and must return to Oklahoma. The new plan is to leave Charleston, SC, tomorrow morning and head west. If all goes well we should be back in Oklahoma City by Friday evening.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

East Coast--Charleston, SC--Day 18

Another light house, another plantation. That was today's sightseeing. Earlier we had found a modern light house on Sullivan Island, across the river from Charleston. We were also aware there was an old light house, no longer in service, on the southwest side of Morris Island. This island is not accessible except by boat. From everything we had seen it appeared you could not get close enough by car or on foot to get a good view of this light. The closest point on our maps was from the far east end of Folly Island. This morning we drove down to Folly to see what we could see and were pleasantly surprized with a good view. This light, the Morris Island Light House, is very old and has not been used for many years. It was originally on Morris Island itself but over the years the waves have washed away the sand and now it sits on a small patch of land of it's own. When the tide comes in, as when we were there today, the little island is under water. It is now starting to lean toward the sea and continues to deteriorate. There is an organization trying to raise enough money to save this light but it may already be too late. It would be a shame if it is lost and would be missed by light house freaks like us.

Later we drove out west of Charleston to the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. This is one of the few plantations that have been in the same family hands for many centuries. The Drayton family has owned it since the 1600's. The original planation consisted of 2000 acres. During the Civil War it was occupied by both Confederate and Union troops. At the end of the war there were many renegade union troops running loose, buring all the plantation houses they came across. This was the fate of the house on this plantation. After the war the resident Drayton found himself destitute and had to sell off 1500 acres of the land. The gardens, which had been world famous before the war, had survived and to raise funds the owner opened it up to tourist, which they have now been doing every since. The current house was built over the foundation of the original house after the Civil War. Touring the gardens took well over an hour. There were some plants blooming but it would be a much better tour to come in the spring or summer. There are several areas on the grounds to tour including a petting zoo with many animals to see up close and personal.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

East Coast--Charleston, SC--Day 17

Old Charleston, a boat ride and Fort Sumter. Not a bad day that got started late. Yesterday's touring of the aircraft carrier Yorktown wore us both out. I had forgotten how many ladders you have to go up and down to get around a ship. (For you landlubbers, what we call a ladder is what you call a set of steps.) Anyway, we slept late and let our bodies try to catch up. It was close to noon before we headed out. First stop was the older part of Charleston south of the downtown area. This is an area of beautiful old homes and an area referred to as "The Battery". This is on the very south end of the peninsula that makes up Old Charleston. We wondered along the sea wall and through the White Point Gardens. Most of this park, like about everywhere else in the deep south, is dedicated to the Confederacy, including a large statue in honor of the defenders of the south. It should be noted that South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union and was the location where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Later, we boarded the harbor tour boat for the ride out to Fort Sumter. The fort is located on an island at the opening of Charleston harbor and was very vital in defending the main shipping channels from the Revolutionary War forward. It was not decommissioned until 1947. When South Carolina seceded from the Union the fort was manned by Federal Troops. South Carolina immediately demanded the fort be turned over to the state since the U. S. government was no longer recognized. The Federal commander refused. The southern troops then started firing on the fort from four directions, thus becoming the first shots fired in the war. It did not take the commander of the outnumbered Federal troops to realize he was in a bad possition and he surrendered. Surprisingly, there was no loss of life during this initial battle of the war. During the last two years of the war the northern troops laid seige to the fort to take it back from the south. The fort originally was three stories tall but after two years of shelling it was pretty much turned into rubble. Even with that the southern troops did not surrender and did not give up the fort until after the surrender of the Confederacy in 1865. The fort was rebuilt by the United States but only as a single story site. There is still a lot of damage left. The barracks and officer's quarters were never rebuilt and only there foundations remain today.

Friday, September 28, 2007

East Coast--Charleston, SC--Day 16

We arrived at the Naval Weapons Station, Charleston, SC, yesterday afternoon. This appears to be a great town and we look forward to doing some sightseeing. We got started today and immediately ran into problems. We were going to Patriot's Point where the USS Yorktown is moored as a museum. To get there from North Charleston we had to cross a major bridge over the Charleston River on Interstate 526. Just prior to our arrival to the bridge there was a major accident on the opposite side of the river. It was a fatality accident where a vehicle went over the side of the bridge. Traffic was shut down in all three lanes. After waiting for about 30 minutes the police started having the cars turn around and go back down, the wrong way, and get off at the last exit. The semi-trucks could not turn around and had to back down the bridge, some well over a mile or more. This pushed us south into the downtown area where we could pick up U. S. Highway 17 to get across the river. Of course, everyone else was going that way so the new, six lane Ravenel Bridge was like a parking lot also. Since we were getting off immediately on the other side our outside lane moved a little faster than the others. This picture is of the Ravenel Bridge.

We spent most of the day touring the Naval and Marine Museum at Patriot's Point. In addition to the aircraft carrier Yorktown they also have a WWII submarine, a retired Navy Destroyer and a retired Coast Guard Cutter. A major part of the Yorktown is open for self guided tours and we tried to see it all. It was a very tiring day. One of the things I did when I was stationed aboard ship was to stand watches on the bridge. There is only one chair on the bridge of a Navy ship and it belongs to the Captain. Everyone else stands up during their entire watch. Here is a picture of me sitting in the Yorktown's Captain's Chair.

Another part of the Museum is a very realistic mockup of a Navy River Boat Crew's base camp in Vietnam, complete with the river boat. These guys were referred to as river rats and this was one of the hardest jobs in the Navy during the Vietnam War. These guys patrolled the inter rivers within the country. We lost a lot of river rats during that war.

Once we finally got completely tired out and could do no more climbing of ladders or walking the ship's decks we decided to head south to Sullivan Island. I had read there was a lighthouse there and if there is a lighthouse close by we have to check it out. This lighthouse is not one of the historic types we normally seek out but is a modern one that was built just a few years ago. It is very different from the old, historic ones.

Our last stop of the day was another one of the forts that protected the harbors along the coast. This one was Fort Moultrie and is operated by the National Park System.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

East Coast--Savannah, GA--Day 14

Things have slowed down a little. Yesterday we had a maintenance day. While Jo did the laundry I spent the day doing some maintenance on the coach. These are one of those days you need to take every so often to keep things working. Jo also fixed dinner for our friends Diane & Russ who came over in the evening after they got off work. Today we got started in late morning and went to downtown Savannah. Russ had taken us on a driving tour of this area last Saturday so we went back today to walk part of it. This part of Savannah is steeped in history and has many beautiful old buildings. Down around the river, where the boats tie up are still cobblestone.

After walking River Street and doing some of the tourist things, such as picking up gifts for our grandkids, we decided it was time for lunch. We first were just going to get in the car and head back to the motor home and see what along the way looked good. As we were going south we saw a sign pointing to Tybee Island, where we had spent some time last Saturday. We decided to head out that way and have lunch at Fannie's again. We had shrimp burgers, a new experience. These turned out very good. The patty in the burger is made with shrimp instead of beef.

We did not eat lunch until around 2:00 pm so we figured we'd skip dinner and just snack. That was until Diane called and asked us to join them for dinner at a Chinese place close to their house. After driving all the way back to the west of town to the coach, in rush hour traffic, to feed the dogs, we headed back to the east side for dinner. We had a really good dinner and a great last visit with our friends. As we came out of the restaurant we noticed the full moon over Savannah. This was a very fitting end to a wonderful visit to this beautiful city. Tomorrow we will be back on the road and heading for Charleston, SC.

Monday, September 24, 2007

East Coast--Savannah, GA--Day 12

Site seeing today. We started off this morning my stopping by my friend Diane's office. She works as the volunteer coordinator in a facility for alzheimer's patients. She also owns theaphy dogs and she usually takes one of them with her to work as the dogs help with the patients. Here is a picture of Joanne and I, at Diane's house yesterday, with four of her five dogs.

Our first sight seeing stop was at Old Fort Jackson. This is one of many forts that were built along the East Coast in the 17 and 18 hundreds to defend the U.S. ports. This fort is one that is not under the control of the U.S. Park Service and is owned by a private, non-profit group. Considering all their money is from donations they have done a tremendous job of refurbishing this fort. The history in these old forts is really interesting. We have been able to tour several of them in our travels around the country.

The next stop was for lunch at the Crab Shack on Tybee Island, east of Savannah. Our friends had driven us by this place on Saturday and insisted the food was great. They were not wrong. Lunch was served outdoors on their deck. They have many unique and humourous displays around the place and have an enclosed pond in front full of small, live gators.

After lunch we headed for Fort Pulaski National Monument. This is another of the U.S. forts that were built to protect the harbor. This fort was seized by the Confederacy upon the start of the Civil War but was later taken back by Union troops. As the Union forces maned this fort the Rebels maintained control of Fort Jackson, which is farther up the river into Savannah. The Park Service Ranger took us on a walking tour of the fort and explained it's importance in both the Civil War and in other times during our nation's history. While the Rebel's had control of the fort they were bombarded by Union forces from two different directions. One can still see the cannon ball hits in the outer walls. This fort, as most of them we have seen, was surrounded by a moat filled with water and had a draw bridge for entry. This helped to keep the enemy from being able to scale the walls. The moat today has several gators swimming in it.

Our last stop was to see another lighthouse. This is the Cocksur Island Lighthouse. It is located on it's own little island and at high tide the island is under water, as it was today. Due to this we were not able to get very close to the lighthouse to take it's picture but we do have another lighthouse to add to Joanne's collection.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

East Coast--Savannah, GA--Day 10

A great day today. We went to see my friends here in Savannah and they took us on a tour of the town. Russ is the County Manager here and has a wealth of knowledge about Savannah and the area. (A County Manager is like what we have back home in a City Manager except he is over the whole county.) Diane is into dogs and has been able to rescue several. She also has some that are trained to be thearpy dogs to be used with the sick and dying. She currently has five of the most lovable pooches a person could ask for.

Russ took us all on a tour of Savannah, starting out on Tybee Island. We had told them that Joanne was really into light houses so we went to the Tybee Island Light Station. As was posted in previous blogs on our trip last winter to Florida you know we try to see all the light houses we can and climb the ones that are open to the public. This one was open and we climbed all 175 steps to the top. Di and Russ said they had done this before so they waited on the ground. I find the more of these things I climb the older I feel.

Later we toured the beach area of Tybee Island and had lunch at Fannie's right beside the beach. This is Russ's favorite place and I must admit the food was outstanding. We later walked around the area and went out on the fishing pier just in time to see three guys pulling in a hugh man-of-war. This is the same type creature that killed the Crocadile Hunter in Australia. All three guys had hooked the beast and were moving up the pier toward the shore to bring him in. The pier itself was quite inpressive and was not only built for fishing but was used for many functions such as weddings.
From Tybee Island we moved to the downtown Savannah area and drove through both the tourist areas and the historic district. This is a beautiful old town and we saw several places we will be returning to spend more time during this next week.

Friday, September 21, 2007

East Coast--Savannah, GA--Day 9

We have definitely covered a few miles since the last post on day 2. We wrapped up our visit with the Birds of a Feather motorhome club in Oklahoma on Saturday night with a big cook out. The food was great as was the company. Cecil Moore did a great job of overseeing the cooking.

On Sunday morning we headed back up to Interstate 40 and east. We drove to Shirley, Arkansas, to see our friends Don & Vicki Leith. This is one of the couples we trekked down to Florida with last winter. Don & Vicki are living in a local RV Park while building their new house on Greer's Ferry Lake in Central Arkansas. We were able to go out and take a tour of the house with Don that evening and then had a wonderful dinner with the Leith's at that coach. Monday morning saw us heading out again but we'll be seeing the Leith's again next month as they are joining us at the Monaco America Rally in Virginia.

We spent Monday and Tuesday on the road, spending the night in the Wal-Mart parking lots at Savannah, Tennessee, and Marietta, Georgia. On Wednesday we arrived at Stone Mountain State Park in Georgia. Stone Mountain is a massive outcropping of rock and the state park in dedicated to the history of the Confederacy. On the side of the mountain has been etched three of the great Confederate Generals riding their horses. There is a cable car ride to the top of the mountain which we had to take. This gives breathtaking views of the area and some close up views of the Generals. Also on the grounds is an Antebellum Plantation that was a delightfull tour. We spent Wednesday and Thursday nights at the RV park within the state park. During our stay something in the air did not set well with my allergies and I have been sniffing, sneezing, coughing and had my eyes watering for the past three days. Today seems to be better since we have moved on to another area.
We left Stone Mountain this morning and headed south and then east, arriving in Savannah, Georgia, this afternoon. We are here to visit with one of my best friends from high school and her husband, Diane & Russ Abolt. We are in a RV park on the west side of the city. Since Di & Russ had a previous commitment for tonight we used the time to get the coach set up and clean the "love bugs" off the windshield and front end. (This is an endless job that has to be done each time we stop after a day of travel.) We have not been able to get in contact with Di since we have no cellular telephone reception out here. (We have AT&T and apparently on Verizon works in the area we are staying.) We also do not have internet connection at the coach. To get on the parks WiFi I am sitting in the car outside the park office since that is as far as their signal will reach. We will be in Savannah through next Wednesday before starting north and the Monaco rallies next month.

Friday, September 14, 2007

East Coast--On the road again--Day 2

We have finally loaded up and headed out on our newest adventure. Although our main destination is the east coast we actually started out going south. We left yesterday morning and drove down to the Arbuckle RV Park in Sulphur, OK, for the monthly meeting with our local RV club. We'll be here until Sunday and then will really start moving east.

This weekend is the Murray County Tractor Show. I went over to the fairgrounds this morning with a few of the guys to see what was going on. They had a pretty good size flea market set up and a bunch of old tractors on display. They had a really old steam driven tractor that they were giving rides on. It had a whistle that sounded like a train.

In the afternoon Joanne and I drove over to the city of Gene Autry, OK, to visit their museum. The museum is in what was the school building and is quite large. Many years ago the original town offered a deal to Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy. If he would provide the stuff for a museum the town would change it's name to Gene Autry. It all worked out for everyone. The museum has a very large selection of Gene Autry stuff but is also dedicated to all the cowboys, and some cowgirls, of the movies and early television. A person could easily spend a large part of a day touring this place. If you ever find yourself in Southern Oklahoma on Interstate 35 it is worth your while to take the short drive east of Exit 40 to the City of Gene Autry and take a walk through yesteryear.