Monday, December 21, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

The Christmas Season has arrived. We normally start our activities on the weekend prior to Christmas. That is when we have our two oldest grand daughters, and their mothers, over to eat and exchange presents. Our oldest grand daughter, Emma, has a younger sister, Lily, that we have pretty much accepted as one of ours. The next grand daughter, Aurora, had her cousin, Tyler, join her this year. So, this past Saturday evening we had four beautiful little girls, all under the age of five, here. Here are all four posing with Grandpa and Grandma. From left to right are Lily, Aurora, Emma and Tyler.

Joanne and I have already exchanged gifts. She wanted a new trunk type chest to replace the cedar chest at the foot of the bed. The cedar chest was fine if we had stuff we needed to store for long periods but she likes to use it as an extension to the clothes chest. Everything that was put in there came out smelling like cedar and had to be laundered before it could be worn. I found what I thought she wanted but thought it best to have her approval before I bought it. So she got her present a couple of weeks ago.

When I was asked what I wanted for Christmas all I could come up with was another gun. We are blessed that we really don't have a need for anything and are able to live comfortably although probably a bit conservative. I have several hand guns that I enjoy taking to the range but have never owned a long gun. I am now the proud owner of a Henry Repeating Rifle. This is one of the rifles that was used in taming the west. It shoots .22 magnum shells. Took it to the range today for the first time and was pleasantly pleased with the way it handled.
We have traditionally gotten together with Jo's family on Christmas Eve and my family on Christmas Day. Now our Christmas Eve get together is down to the two of us and her mother. Some years Carrie, Jo's niece, is able to join us but she usually is with her family at her in-laws house. Christmas Day we will have the Stone clan at our house again this year. My parents, all three of my brothers and their wives, one nephew and one of my sons will be with us this year. We also include Jo's mom in all the Stone activities. Christmas looks to be another fun gathering of family.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another outing with Birds of a Feather--Part II

Our meeting with the Birds continued through the weekend. The afternoon Saturday was spent watching our Oklahoma State Cowboys beat up on Iowa State.

During the evening we had our annual, end of the season combination Thanksgiving/Christmas pot luck dinner. As is normal in these affairs the food was plentiful and fantastic. After dinner we had our annual gift exchange. Of course, we do ours with a good round of Dirty Santa. Was not as lively this year as in the past since the guy we usually pick on did not get his number called until towards the end. After dinner and festivities we all adjourned to watch the Oklahoma Sooners get mauled by the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Sunday morning was time to break camp and head for home. Spent Sunday afternoon winterizing the coach and it is now put away in the storage lot for the winter.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Another outing with Birds of a Feather

We are out in the coach for, apparently, the last time this year. Our local RV club is having it's final 2009 meet this weekend. We locked up the house and came over to the Twin Fountains RV Park on the east side of Oklahoma City this past Wednesday. The rest of the club came in on Thursday. Today the group decided to visit the new Oklahoma History Center that is located over by the State Capitol Building. This is a great facility with many displays on the different aspects of the development of Oklahoma and on the Oklahoma people who have made this a great state. One very nice exhibit is a replica of the Winnie Mae, the famous plane that Wiley Post flew around the world. (The real Winnie Mae is in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.)

The front of the History Center faces the Capitol Building. The Oklahoma State Capitol Building was built in the 1920's and 1930's. At the time they ran out of money and were not able to include the dome that was in the original design. For many years the building, which was built from native stone brought in from quarries in the southwestern part of the state, sat without a dome. Over the years there were many movements to add a dome but they never seemed to get off the ground. Finally, in the 1990's, we got a Governor who made up his mind this was going to happen during his term. The building now has the dome that was in the original plans.

Back at the campground our club has eight members coaches here this weekend. The park requires us to have at least 10 coaches to be able to use their rally room without charge. Since we only had eight we were going to have to pay $50.00 per day to be able to use the room after 7:00pm. Jo and I have an RV friend, through the Monaco groups, that just happens to be on his way from California back down to Florida, where he spends his winters. He also had a traveling companion who is in her own coach. They were planning to stay here at the same park this weekend while they do a little sightseeing in Oklahoma City. Soooo, we just added them to our club for the weekend and now have our required ten coaches. We are not only enjoying our visit with Fred White and Pat, his travel buddy, but have included them in our group. Tonight we all went down to Bricktown, the downtown OKC entertainment district, for dinner at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill for dinner. The seats in the waiting area are Ford pickup truck tail gates. Fred, Pat and Joanne tried one out while we waited for our table. With the campers plus another couple of visitors for the evening we had 17 all total in the group for dinner. Hope Toby appreciates our business tonight.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tea Party Express II comes to Oklahoma City

We had the privilege of attending the Oklahoma City stop of the Tea Party Express II this evening. The original Tea Party Express covered much of the country this past summer. Tea Party Express II is going to all the states that were missed the first time around. The OKC stop was held on the north steps of the State Capitol Building. The local activities started around 5:00 pm with a kind of an open mic for local people to speak. The Tea Party Express II buses were scheduled to be in town in time for them to start their program by 6:00pm. They were coming from Wichita, Kansas, where they had done a 1:00pm program so they were running late. It was close to 7:00pm before the national group got started.

All the people who are traveling with the Tea Party Express are volunteers. They have taken time away from their normal lives and jobs to spend several weeks on a bus, performing several times per day. As stated, they were in Wichita at 1:00pm and then came on to Oklahoma City. After the performance here they will leave for Amarillo, Texas, where they'll spend the night and do a show tomorrow morning. These are dedicated Patriots speaking out with their conservative beliefs. The crowd turnout here in Oklahoma City was tremendous, as they have seen in most of the cities where they have been. It was hard to estimate how many people turned out but the North Capitol Plaza was packed with people spreading out in several directions. There were several hundred people out there tonight.

Not only do we agree with what the Tea Party people have to say we also went to see our good friends, Ron & Kay Rivoli. As I have posted in previous entries Ron & Kay perform their Rivoli RV Revue throughout the country. They have performed at many of our Monaco America rallies, including the one last month in Gulf Shores, Alabama. They will also be performing at the Monaco America rally in Hutchinson, Kansas, in May 2010. We really enjoy their music and are glad to be able to call them our friends.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 17--Home

Spent part of the day yesterday trying to find out the problem with the windshield wipers. Checked all the fuses and found none that had blown. Checked the motor that operates the wipers and found that it was hot to the touch. This should not be since the coach had been sitting overnight with the ignition turned off. We (Don & I) decided to spray everything to do with the wipers down with WD-40. This seemed to work in that it loosened up the motor and we could manually move the wiper blades. We folded the wiper arms away from the windshield and they appeared to work fine. We could also get the system to work if we only put the driver's side arm up with the blade on the windshield. Put both up and everything stopped. Final diagnosis: The motor is going out and is not currently strong enough to operate both wipers. We wound up removing the arm and blade on the passenger side until I can get a new motor. We also coated the windshield with Rain-X. Turns out this is great stuff.

We left Don and Vicki Leith's house around 9:00 this morning in another rain storm. Was very impressed with the Rain-X on the windshield in that we seldom even had to turn on the wiper. The rain just streamed completely off the windshield. We drove in rain all morning. After a stop in Russelville for fuel and another stop a few miles later for lunch we finally crossed the state line and returned to Oklahoma soil. We arrived home about 4:30 this afternoon, just in time to pay the lawn guy as he was just finishing up with the mowing and edging. The coach is now in the driveway waiting to be unloaded. That will happen later this week.

This was a great trip. We got to spend time with some old friends, met some new ones, had some great entertainment and ate a bunch of fabulous food.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 15

We are still on the road but no longer in Alabama. We loaded up Saturday morning and pulled out of the Gulf Breeze RV Resort around 9:00am and headed up U. S. Highway 98. This road took us up through Mobile and across Mississippi to Hattiesburg. From there we went north to Jackson and then west into Louisiana. After turning off Interstate 20 onto U.S. 65 we stopped for the night in Oak Grove, Louisiana. Our plan was to spend the night at their Wal-Mart but when we got into town we saw a sign that directed to a city park with RV hookups. Turned out they had 30 amp electric and water and the cost of free. We always like free. We were unable to get any TV reception in this town so we decided to watch one of the movies I had picked up recently when a video store in Oklahoma City was going out of business. The movie starred Jennifer Aniston and it turned out to be one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

We had beautiful weather to drive in all day Saturday. The sun was shinning and there was not a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately it did not stay that way. About bed time it started raining and continued to rain all night. When we got up this morning it was still raining. We pull out of the park around 9:00 am and headed north on U.S. 65. We had about 240 miles to drive and it was in rain all the way. After about 20 miles our windshield wipers were having a hard time working since we were driving directly into a heavy wind. At that point they stopped completely not to come back on for the rest of the trip. So, we wound up driving just over 200 miles in a blowing rain storm with no wipers. The only saving grace was in the coach we sit up much higher than the regular car traffic and could still see the road.

We arrived in Greers Ferry, Arkansas around 2:00 pm and are now set up beside our good friends home. This is our third visit to Don and Vicki Leith since they built their new home. To make it welcoming to their RV friends they have two RV parking sites adjacent to the house, complete with concrete pad, 50 amp electric, water and sewer. They also have a WiFi Internet connection for those of us that don't carry telephone company air cards or other means to reach the Internet.

The Leith's took us out for Bar-B-Que this evening at a local place. Tomorrow I'll start trying to figure out why the windshield wipers on the coach decided to quit working. Hopefully it is just a blown fuse.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 13

After wrapping up the rally last night today was a day for sightseeing. This our final day down here in Southern Alabama.

Got around this morning and drove out to the far end of Mobile Bay to Fort Morgan. This was a very important site during the Battle for Mobile during the War of Northern Aggression. (People from the north call it the Civil War but a study of history will show there was nothing civil about it.) This fort is now maintained as a tourist attraction by the State of Alabama. Adjacent to the fort property was a fishing area maintained by the state. The bird pictured here was standing watch on two fisherman, hoping they'd throw some scraps from their cleaning his way. It was curious that he only had one foot but that did not seem to bother him. He flew away when we got too close.

After wondering around the fort we drove back into Gulf Shores to have a late lunch at Lulu's at one of the many marinas in the area. We had a great seafood lunch in an open air facility followed by some more driving along the beach front, admiring the home and condos along with the beautiful white sand beaches.

Later in the day we met up with two other couples from the rally to take a boat cruise, on the Southern Rose, to see the dolphins. Usually the tour boat goes out into the Gulf of Mexico on this trip but the Gulf was way too choppy today for that. We had about a two hour tour of the inner bay that is part of the Inland Waterway. We did see several dolphins as they swam around us and feasted on fish that they caught. As the dolphins surfaced a person had to be quick with the camera to get a picture. In most cases by the time I was able to take the shot the dolphins were back under water.

This has been a good week in Southern Alabama. We will reluctantly head out tomorrow morning, working our way back to Oklahoma. One highlight of being at a rally is we usually have a vendor that will detail out our coach. We had our pressured washed and a complete wax job done on it, including the roof. This is a major job that I have been reluctant to take on myself. Here is a picture of our coach today after they new wax job.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 12

We wrapped up the Monaco Fall 2009 Rally this evening here in Gulf Shores, Alabama. This has been an outstanding rally and everyone seemed to have a good time. Most of the morning was spent at the information/registration desk accepting money from our members. As the club treasurer I have the responsibility of collecting all the funds that come in and to maintain the accounts. We have just started our membership renewal drive for calendar year 2010 so many of our members paid their dues during the rally. Additionally we have already received 26 applications, with full payment, for the Spring Rally that will be held in Hutchinson, Kansas, starting May 25, 2010.

This evening the caterer served us all a fine steak dinner with all the trimmings. After dinner was an evening of Bingo for those that wished to participate. I am worn out and had a splitting headache, which it seems I've had since we arrived down here, so I cam back to the coach to clean up the financial books and do other paperwork that goes with putting on a large rally.

The main part of the clubs First Vice President is to put these rallies together. The person who is currently in this position is Gary Granat from Indiana. He has served in this position since early 2004 and has done a tremendous job. Not only is he responsible for securing the site for the rally but he books the entertainment, catering, lines up vendors and the dozens of other things required to be successful. This is his last year in the job since he has elected to step down and let someone else "have all this fun". The Hutchinson rally in May will be his last in this capacity. The picture is of Gary presiding over the session prior to dinner tonight.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 11

A rather slow day at the rally. I spent most of my day at the work station I set up in the Information/Registration Building. This is the one building here at the Gulf Breeze RV Resort that is not air conditioned. Earlier in the week it was stifling to stay in there with the high temps and humidity. Night before last a cold front moved in and the temps are very comfortable and the humidity levels have dropped drastically. (We actually had to sleep under a blanket last night.) The main building that we have been using for our meetings and meals/entertainment is on the edge of a small fishing lake. The building includes both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool and an indoor hot tub, along with a large hall with kitchen and a couple of smaller meeting rooms.

This afternoon was the traditional "pet walk". This was started a few years ago by one of our members. Everyone brings their pets and parades them around. (Nancy Cormier and her husband Dave were charter members of Monaco America. Nancy not only started the pet walk but would also be at the gate at the beginning of each rally to greet each and every coach to share treats with the members pets and make sure everyone knew their pets were welcome. We all just referred to her as the Dog Lady. Unfortunately Dave passed away this past year and Nancy has retired from the RV lifestyle.) The Hill Company, the maker of Science Diet pet food, provided a large supply of items as prizes for the pets at today's walk. Another couple who attend all our rallies have two miniature schnauzers so Buddy Joe had some company. (Buddy is the one wearing the Rebel Flag bandanna.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 10

Today was the first full day of the rally and started off at 7:30 am with a full breakfast served by the caterer. Spent most of the day in the Information/Registration Center collecting membership dues for 2010 and rally applications for our Spring Rally next May in Kansas.

The evening activities started off with a cocktail hour at 5:00 pm followed by a pasta dinner, again served by the caterer. Our cousins, Yvonne and Bob, joined us for dinner and the entertainment tonight. They seemed to have a good time and had the pleasure to be around a bunch of friendly RVer's. The picture to the right has all six of us ready for dinner: from left to right, Rick, Bob, Bill, Nancy, Yvonne and Joanne.

Our entertainment tonight was the Rivoli RV Revue. Ron and Kay Rivoli do a fantastic job performing their original songs, mostly related to the RV lifestyle. One of my favorite numbers is "I'm a gator hater" about those rubber gators (pieces of truck tires) that we find in our path in the road and the damage they can cause when hit by one of our RV's. They also got a standing ovation when they did their "Dial 1 for English". The video of this song has been the number one played tune on You Tube and now has had over thirteen million views. To view this video go to:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 9

We've been busy getting everything ready to kick off the rally. Spent most of Saturday working on setting up the information/registration building, doing the final paperwork, getting welcome packages put together and many other things that have to be done before we can start a rally. Although we had advised the attendees in advance that our "parking crew" would not be available to assist folks until Sunday many of the coaches were in and in place by Saturday night. We did get the information registration center open for business at noon on Sunday.

Our entertainment for Tuesday night will be Ron & Kay Rivoli of the Rivoli Revue. They arrived late Saturday evening. Ron & Kay are full time RVer's who criss-cross the country performing their music at RV shows, RV rallies and many other venues. They just completed a tour of the United States as a part of the Tea Party Express where they were met by tremendous crowds to hear their message of conservatism. On Sunday afternoon they did a Gospel Music/Worship show for our members. As usual, they did a fantastic job. They do not charge for the Gospel show but do take a "love offering" that is donated to their favorite ministry.

On Sunday evening we had a pot luck supper. We have gotten so used to most of our members coming in days early for our rallies that a couple of years ago we started having the Sunday night pot luck for all the early arrivals. The food was very good and plentiful. This is the first semi-official gathering for us to all get together.

Monday night we had our official welcome session and the official start of the rally. The bar was open and we had light refreshments put together by several of the ladies in the club. Starting tomorrow morning the caterer will take over the food service serving breakfast and dinner for the duration of the rally, Tuesday through Thursday. Here is Jo visiting with our good friend Judy Wagner at the Monday night kickoff session.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 6

This morning was the time to start setting up for the rally. We moved tables from one building to another so we could set up the information/registration center. Unloaded my stuff from the back of the car and moved it over to the registration center. That took most of the morning. We also welcomed in several more coaches. Afternoon we were visited by the cousins, Yvonne and Bob. That took us up to dinner time.

Dinner took us back to Lambert's Cafe. We initially had a group of 18 going but had some more come in so we wound up with 22 folks pigging out on the tremendous food served there.
The last picture to the right is our cousins, Bob & Yvonne Graham, who are now full time residents of Florida.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 5

We rolled out early--well, early for us--to go visit kinfolk this morning. About 9:00am Bill, Nancy, Jo and I headed east to Navarre, Florida to visit our cousins who now live down here permanently. Our cousin, Yvonne Graham, and her husband Bob have lived for many years in Cleveland, Ohio, but have wintered in the Navarre area for the past several years. This past year they sold their home in Cleveland and moved to Florida permanently. I had planned to take some pictures of their new house, which backs up to a small lake but I forgot and left my camera in the coach.

I had plotted out the drive on the GPS program on the computer and it showed it was 62.2 miles from the RV park here in Alabama. Back home that would be about an hours drive. This drive was through several small towns and the city of Pensacola. The trip over took two full hours at between 35 and 45 miles per hour. We did change the route back, which took us down along the Navarre and Pensacola beaches. Not only was it a prettier drive but reduced the drive time about 15 minutes.

As of yesterday, counting us, there were four coaches here for the rally. Three more came in this afternoon. We expect several more tomorrow and Saturday with the bulk coming in Sunday. Although the rally does not officially start until Monday evening almost all our folks come in early. We usually say that if you arrive at a Monaco America rally on the day it starts you are about four days late.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 4

We rolled out of Biloxi around 9:45 this morning on the last leg of our trek down to Gulf Shores, Alabama. As we passed through Mobile we had to go through a long tunnel under Mobile Bay on Interstate 10. We arrived at the Gulf Breeze RV Resort around 1:00pm, set up the coach on our site and settled in. We'll be here until Saturday, October 3. We are here for the Monaco America Fall Rally which starts next Monday evening.

When we arrived there were two other coaches from our group already here. A couple of hours later Bill and Nancy, my brother and his wife, arrived. After they got all set up and had a little time to relax the four of us loaded up and headed back up the road to Lambert's Cafe. This is the third Lambert's location in the country. The first two are in Missouri between Springfield and Branson. Lambert's is the "Home of the Throwed Rolls". Not only do they serve enormous portions of the food you order they have folks coming around throughout the evening with their "pass arounds". Some of the items included in the pass arounds are fried okra, pan fried potato's, applesauce, sorghum molasses and boiled cabbage. They also have a guy that brings around large pans of the most wonderful yeast rolls a person could ask for. To get a roll you just hold up your hand and the guy throws it to you, thus the "throwed rolls". Lambert's is always a must place to go anytime we are down in this part of the country.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 3

We are staying at the Martin Lake RV Resort. Although this place has a Biloxi address it is actually just north of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. It is a very nice park with most of the amenities that a good RV park should have. The only real problem is their WiFi connection. They have a completed system of using the individuals own computer MAC address as the access code for their system. I have been totally unable to connect to their system since we’ve been here. There is a close, unsecured WiFi signal that I’ve been able to lock onto but it has a very weak signal and periodically drops my connection. The signal is not strong enough to attempt to make blog entries. So, I’ve been doing them in Microsoft Word and will upload them to my blog when we get to Gulf Shores and a good signal.

We did some local sightseeing again today. One of the few places that were not totally destroyed by Katrina is the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library. This is located right on the main highway through Biloxi and is directly in front of the Gulf. The house did receive massive damage from Katrina but they have been able to restore it and to save almost all of its furnishings. The home is called Beauvoir (pronounced BOV-WAH). Although this home was completed in 1852 it did not come into the Davis’ possession until 1877. Mr. Davis chose this place to spend his later years and to write his memoirs, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. He lived here until his death. In 1903, at the insistence of Mrs. Davis, the home became the property of the Mississippi Division of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans and was used as a retirement home for Confederate Veterans, their wives and servants. It served in this capacity until 1957. Under the terms of the sale of the property it was, in addition to being the Confederate Veterans Home, to be maintained as a memorial to the only person to serve as President of the Confederate States of America. Today it is still maintained by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. On the back side of the property is a Confederate Soldiers Cemetary with the almost 800 graves being from the many former soldiers and their wives who had lived at the home over the years. There is also a Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier there.

This evening we went to McElroy’s Seafood Restaurant, in Ocean Springs, for a splendid dinner. Afterward we went to Biloxi to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. This place had just been completed and was due to open for business the week that Katrina hit the area. When we were here in 2007 they were almost complete with the rebuilding and were planning to open it soon. It is a beautiful facility right on the beach in the middle of Biloxi. We spent a little time in the casino and donated a very few dollars to the local economy before heading back to the coach.

Although the weather man had predicted rain and it was overcast most of the day we only got a few drops and we drove around today. We never had more than a few sprinkles. As we were driving back this evening we did see a lot of lightening to the north of us. Now it is around 11:00pm and is pouring down. The rain is hitting the fiberglass roof of the coach so hard that it is impossible to hear the TV. Hopefully this will pass on through tonight since we must unhook and move out of here in the morning. Next stop, Gulf Shores.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama--Day 2

Got underway around 9:45 Sunday morning (20 September) headed for the Monaco America Fall Rally in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We made a stop for lunch at one of our favorites, The Hungry Traveler in Henryetta, Oklahoma. We pulled into the parking lot of the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana and parked next to my brother and sister-in-laws coach around 6:00pm. We are not due in gulf Shores until Wednesday, 23 September. This gives us some flexibility on where and how long we’ll stop along the way.

Bill and Nancy had left from their home in Purcell around 6:00 am so had arrived in Bossier City well ahead of us. After Jo fixed some sandwiches for dinner we sat around outside the coaches and visited until bedtime.

We have never been ones to head out before dawn. We like to get around after the local rush hour traffic has diminished and we usually stop for the day before the evening rush hour develops. This was the case on leaving Bossier City. Monday morning Bill cranked up his diesel, which was parked just outside our coach’s bedroom, around 6:00 am and they were on the road by 6:30. On the other hand, we slept in and did not get on the road until about 8:30. We headed east and crossed the mighty Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Mississippi. We had talked about stopping there but after looking at the information we had on the area decided that it would really take more than one day to do justice to sightseeing. With that we decided to push on east and then south to Biloxi. We arrived here around 4:00 pm.

We were in the Biloxi/Gulfport vicinity in March of 2007 and had been surprised how little reconstruction had been done in the two years since Hurricane Katrina had hit the area. At that time most of the area from the beach inland for three to four city blocks was pretty much gone. Today most of the residential property is still vacant with “for sale” signs on most of those lots. Some of the property has been bought up for commercial use with hotels, casinos and condos being built where large, expensive houses had once stood. Most of the hotel/casinos that were damaged or destroyed by Katrina have either been rebuilt or restored. Prior to Katrina all the casinos had to be located on water (riverboat gambling). Even though the hotel portion may have been on dry ground the casino itself had to be a boat. After Katrina the state changed the laws and almost all the new casinos are now on land. There are a couple being built out over the water but on large concrete pilings to protect them from future storms.

We’ll be here in Biloxi for two nights before heading east to Gulf Shores. We’ll see some of the sights around here and do a little relaxing. Although it is very hot and humid here today they are predicting rain for the next couple of days.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Packing up with the help of a two year old

As usual we waited until the last minute to start loading up the coach to leave. We were scheduled to leave out on Sunday morning, September 20. Well, we did not start putting stuff in the coach until after noon on Saturday. During this we were asked to look after our 2 and ½ year old granddaughter, Cadence. We love to have any of the girls at our house so we said okay.

We had a good time with Cadence and she seemed to enjoy herself. She is always very shy when she first comes around us but it did not take very long for her to warm up to us and started playing with the kids toys we keep for them. While I would stay with Cadence, Joanne would get a load of stuff together to go out to the coach. Then she’d stay with Cadence while I took that load out and put it away. A couple of times Jo would go out to the coach and Cadence would follow, climbing up in the driver’s seat to play like she was the driver. She also managed to “adjust” every knob on the dash board so that they all had to be reset before we could pull out on Sunday.

As it turned out we got it all done and still had a good time with this precious little girl. We were able to pull out about 9:45 Sunday morning without a hitch and so far have not found anything that we forgot. Of course, if we ever do forget to bring anything it is no big deal. We decided not to worry about those type of things since we know there is a Wal-Mart everywhere we go.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A long weekend with the Birds

We are actually out in the motorhome this week. Our first time out since the last week of June when we went to Branson. We left home last Wednesday morning and headed northeast to Claremore, Oklahoma, (just to the east of Tulsa) and are at the Will Rogers Downs Racetrack/Casino and RV Park. This is the monthly meeting of the Birds of a Feather RV Club.

We were the only ones to arrive on Wednesday. Arrived here around 2:00 pm and got all set up: Coach slides out, leveled, hooked up to electric and water plus getting the car unhooked from the towbar. Spent a little time down at the casino (actually won $9.00 on a penny machine), before heading into Tulsa to check out the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. We had a good time and had dinner there at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill. (Also lost $10.00 in a penny slot machine.) On the way back to Claremore it started to rain and by the time we arrived it was raining so hard I could hardly see to drive. The drainage ditch by the road into the park was running over with water. We thought about sitting in the car and waiting it out but little Buddy Joe was in the coach by himself and he is deathly afraid of storms. When we stepped out of the car the water was ankle deep. (Jo was smart enough to slip her shoes off and tread through barefooted.)

By Thursday morning the weather had cleared and we had a nice but overcast day. Around 11:00 am the first of the other coaches pulled in and by 4:00 pm they were all here. Due to weather and family illnesses we only had five coaches here this weekend. Since we were the only ones who had ever been here before it was left to us to decide where we would dine. We knew of a great bar-b-que place over in town so that's where we all trekked for dinner.

Normally, during the meetings of this RV Club whoever is designated as "host" for the weekend gets up early Friday and Saturday morning, puts on the coffee in the recreation building the park provides and then heads to the nearest donut shop. I had told everyone that the casino had a great breakfast of two eggs, a large slab of ham and hashbrowns for $2.99 and the normal trip to the donut shop was waived. Most of us spent the day Friday visiting, catching up or just relaxing. The women did play several games of cards. For dinner we led everyone into town to the Hammitt House. This is a place we have been to several times before and it was enjoyed by everyone.

On Saturday we started off with the $2.99 breakfast down at the casino. They were expressing concern on the local TV news that we were to get another "gully washer" rain storm again tonight and through tomorrow morning. Some of our folks were getting antsy about either getting stuck (the RV sites where we are parked are on grass) or having to drive back to Oklahoma City tomorrow in a heavy rain. After breakfast one couple did pack up and head out. The rest of us decided to just stay put. As it turns out the storm is tracking far to the south of us so we decided to venture out to see the area.

This afternoon we went to the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum. Claremore was the boyhood home of Will Rogers. His parents farm is just northwest of here and the home where he was born, which his dad, Clem Rogers, named "The White House on the Verdigri's", referring to the river that runs next to it. Although we did not get over to tour the farm house we did have a good time in the Memorial and Museum here in Claremore. It has been several years since Jo and I had been there and we were surprised on how much it had been enlarged. Will, his wife Betty and three of his four children are buried on the grounds of the Memorial. (Will Jr., who died in 1993, is buried near his home in Arizona.)

Saturday evening is when we normally have our pot-luck dinner. Tonight we had chili, followed up with pies and ice cream. The meal was great and the freezer of homemade ice cream was fantastic.

We'll get up tomorrow and head home. Just in case it does rain I have already hooked up the car to the towbar and dumped my holding tanks. All we'll have to do before leaving is pull up the leveling jacks, raise the air level to traveling height, pull in the slides, and unhook the electric and water. We hope to be on the road by 9:00 am. This has been a fun weekend visiting with some of our RV friends.

Sorry there are no pictures with this post. Although I brought my camera I've forgotten to take it with me each time we've gone out. Really wish I had taken it to the Will Rogers Memorial.

Addendum: Just heard a really loud explosion from somewhere near and behind the coach. Jo had already gone to bed but it brought her up in a hurry. I went out and looked all around, along with several other RVer's who are staying in the park, but did not find anything. The coach and car seem fine and could not see anything out of the ordinary in the area.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's been 21 years

Twenty one years ago today Joanne and I were married. It's amazing how the time has flown by. What is really amazing is that she has put up with me all these years.

We celebrated the occasion by both of us getting fitted for hearing aids. (Getting old is not for the faint of heart.) We also went to Applebee's to relax and have a good dinner.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Traveling Wall

The Traveling Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Memorial that is located in Washington, DC, is in the Oklahoma City area this weekend. It is set up on the football field at the High School in Piedmont, Oklahoma. In 1995 Joanne and I visited the real wall in DC. That visit was very emotional for me since I have several high school friends whose names are on the wall but also the names of 20 crew members of my ship, USS NEWPORT NEWS (CA-148). Although these 20 shipmates served, and died, after I had left the ship they are still considered to be my shipmates.

This morning we drove out to the display in Piedmont. It is a very nice set up with US flags lining both sides of the road for several miles before you get to the stadium. Today we only went to the panel with the 20 shipmates names. I was surprised at the effect this had on me. I thought after seeing the real wall in DC that this would be different. Just as in 1995 I found myself chocked up and unable to speak. After taking a couple of pictures I needed to get away from the wall and with tears streaming down my face I walked away. (The visit to the USS ARIZONA memorial in Pearl Harbor had the same effect on me. Something about seeing a huge wall with the names of all these valiant men who had given their all for their country.)

I'm glad we took the time on this Independence Day to honor our guys. As I get older I find myself getting much more emotional when thinking about these things. The 20 shipmates all died on October 1, 1972, when a bad 8 inch round exploded in the barrel of Turret Two. I can't help but feel this could just as easily have been my name on that wall since the powder handling room, directly below the turret, in Turret Two was my very first general quarters station during the ships first Vietnam deployment in 1967.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Branson, Missouri

On Saturday morning we pulled out of the Outdoor Resorts and headed north to Branson. We had reservations at a RV Park that is just off the main strip (Hwy 76) where we have stayed before. First order of business was to tour the Titanic exhibit. We have been to Branson twice since the Titanic exhibit was built but have not had to chance to visit it. The building itself is built as a one-third version of the ship. It is billed as the largest museum in the world with over 2000 displays. (I would have to question this since we have toured several Navy ships that have been converted to museums, including the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.) The exhibit was very interesting and included a two-thirds model of the ships grand staircase. The only disappointment was that no photography was allowed inside the museum.

Saturday evening we stopped at the Uptown Diner, a 50's style diner, for a good old fashioned meal before heading to The Osmond Brother's Theatre for a show. The Osmonds were not in town but the show, Magnificent Variety, was performing in their theatre. This was an outstanding music show, showcasing the music of seven decades from the 1940's to the present. In addition to the band the troop consisted of nine performers, including the husband and wife team who lead the show. Overall they had 300 costume changes during the show. Here is "Sonny and Cher" doing the song "I've got you Babe".

On Sunday we managed to do some shopping. Joanne made her regular trek to the outlet malls to her favorite store, Bon Worths. In Branson there are two outlet malls and each of them has a Bon Worths so we did make both of them. While she shopped at the first one I made my way to a Wal Mart to get some stuff to do some minor repairs to the coach. After a relaxing afternoon at the coach we headed out to another show, this one a play. It was a musical production with all the music written by Neil Sedaka. There was a cast of six plus an on stage band. It was an enjoyable evening of good music. (Here, the lead character, Del Delmonico, opens the show.) Monday morning saw us back on the road with our return trip home.

Friday, June 26, 2009

On the road to the Ozarks

We left home on Thursday morning heading to the Ozark Mountains. Our ultimate destination was to be Branson, Missouri, but we would first stop just south of the Arkansas/Missouri state line on the south end of Table Rock Lake. We had been given a coupon for two free nights at the Ozark Outdoor Resorts of America RV Park. This is a an upscale park that is mostly owner occupied. The individual sites are mostly owned by individuals and the rest are for sale. After purchasing a site, at between $40,000 and $60,000 depending on how close to the lake they are, people immediately start upgrading their sites. Many have had additional concrete poured, retaining walls installed, statues and fountains placed on the sites. When the individual owner is not present the resort rents those sites to overnighters like us, with the rental fee going to the owner after the resort takes their commission. This is a very beautiful place to stay but is also very expensive at $70.00 per night. There is a nine hole, par 3 golf course along with swimming pools and tennis courts. Waterfalls and fountains have been placed in the open spaces around the resort.

Although our plan was to spend time in Branson during this trip it turned out the resort was closer to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, than to Branson. Since we have always like visiting Eureka Springs we decided to take Friday and drive there in the car. After strolling around town and checking out the shops we stopped at the nightclub, Eureka Live. This is operated by one of the people I worked with for many years who had become a good friend. Michelle retired from state employment the same day Joanne and I retired.

After a good visit with Michelle we headed back to the coach and spent the evening wondering around the resort, checking out all of its amenities. Although we were impressed with the park it is really out of the way, down several miles of narrow, mountain roads and is not close to any other activities. Even if we were in the market for an RV home base this would be a little out of the way for us, especially at the price of their lots.

Monday, June 22, 2009

2009 Stone Family Reunion

The Stone family gathers every other year for our family reunion. This reunion is for the descendants of W. A. and Martha Stone, my paternal grandparents. My dad is the sixth of the eight children. At age 90 he is now the oldest with just his younger brother and sister still living.

This past Saturday the clan gathered at the Senior Citizen/Community Center in Byars, Oklahoma. This is where my dad was born, grew up and met my mother. This is also where my grandfather, William Alexander Stone, farmed and later served as Mayor. The Byars Cemetery holds many, if not most, of the Stone Clan that has gone before us. We had a good turnout considering how many of Dad's generation have passed on. As his siblings left us their offspring tended to stop coming to the reunions. The picture to the right is of my parents, George and Max Stone. They are both 90 years old and have been married for 72 years.

This is one occasion that my brothers and I try not to miss. All four of us were there to celebrate the family. The picture to the left is of the four of us (Chester, Bill, David, Me) with my dad and his younger brother, Dale. With the cousins and other family members we had better than 40 attend. My cousins, Yvonne and Bob Graham, came from Florida for the reunion. They almost always come and stay at our house while they are here. They have spent the weekend with us and will be heading back to Florida tomorrow.

As I have mentioned in previous post on this blog my dad wrote a book about his life. The first version was printed this past fall. After we got it printed he thought of all the stuff he left out so he started over. The latest version is now completed and he presented it at the reunion, giving each family present a copy. This is a truly remarkable book. Dad wrote it all out in longhand on legal pads and then I typed and edited it. We have filled it with pictures from over the years, including not only family pictures but many from his world travels. This is what the finished project looks like.