Sunday, March 1, 2015

Exploring Virginia

Virginia had a climate similar to Alabama, one I was used to being in; cold in the winter and hot in the summer with time in between for the leaves to actually change colors and then fall off the tree. In Florida we had hot summers, a few cold days in winter; this meant we also had green leaves one day and they were brown, dead and all over the ground the next. It was nice to be back in a climate that had all four seasons portrayed properly.  The drives through the hills on those two lane winding highways were very beautiful and relaxing; these rides also gave me and the lil one time to just talk with no distractions. Wild turkey was one thing our eyes were always open for, it seemed there was a flock on every other hillside; there weren’t as many brave deer here as in Texas, they were still smart enough to stay away from people in Virginia.

     We tried to get out and explore the different small towns around us as much as possible. It seemed we were always passing a Civil War Cemetery, Memorial Marker, or a rock fireplace still standing from some structure that was significant during the Civil War. The country side was littered with them; if we had stopped and read about every single one we had passed, we would still be in Virginia a year later. Our landlord was a history buff and filled us in on a lot of the local history. Such as the old grooves dug into the ground behind his house was part of a road to move soldiers and supplies through the rolling hills during the Civil War. Lynchburg was a town he said we had to visit, just for the beauty of the historical town perched precariously on the steep hills leading to the main water source; the views here were awesome! This just so happened to be the only major city in Virginia that was not captured by the Union before the end of the war. I will advise against visiting Lynchburg if you happen to have to travel West back home in the evening as the sun sets; you will be driving up and down STEEP hills on very narrow streets facing due WEST. This city was nicknamed the ‘City of Seven Hills’ and I guarantee you I drove over at least 5 of those hills, blinded by the sun, wondering if I was running a red light or stop sign and about to get side swiped by somebody.

     We decided our plan of action was to find a central parking area and walk around to explore, we didn’t have daddy with us to help navigate the unfamiliar roads; it was left up to us to not get lost. We didn’t too many times; our first stop was to ride the trolley tour. This would provide us with a local’s perspective and also an idea as to where we wanted to go in this city that was saturated in history. As our luck goes (if you’ve followed us to this point, you know I’m laughing as I type this thinking of our ‘luck’), the trolley got stopped about 5 minutes into the tour. We had to wait on the street to clear from a construction zone that didn’t look like it was ending anytime soon. The trolley operator got word that it may be 30 minutes before we could move again about the same the lil one told me it was time to visit a potty. Great. The trolley driver broke the rules and let us get off midway; we were just sitting there anyway, and pointed us in the direction of the nearest bathroom. This ended up being a 2 block hike with a lil one doing the pee pee dance all the way.

     We found the free museum the trolley operator told us about. It was a beautiful old house with the lined walkway up to the HUGE white pillars that was normal on the plantation houses of old. Inside this magnificent structure, there was a winding staircase in the original gleaming hard wood that went from the ground floor

to the third floor. I only thought I was in good shape until I started climbing this staircase. In every room there were artifacts to look at and plaques to read, we spent a little bit of time there exploring 
the two floors that were open to the public. The lil one’s eyes would twinkle as we wound around another corner to view something of the old days, the mind was slowly taking it all in. We talked about what it would be like to live back then and have to wear 50 lbs. of corset and dress even in the 110 Dog Days of August with absolutely no air conditioning. We decided those days wouldve been a lot harder in some ways but much simpler in other ways.

     Slowly we made our way back out into the blinding afternoon sunshine, looking to walk the streets of downtown enjoying the architecture. It seemed on every street there was some old antique building that made us stop and stare for a few at it, snapping all kinds of shots; there was beauty from every angle. Soon enough we were staring at a huge hillside with steps and terraces all the way to the top (after doing some research, I learned it was 139 total steps). 

On each terrace there were benches and a monument commemorating Lynchburg citizens who fought and died in any war. I say this vaguely because they literally had every war that I can remember studying represented here; the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and those serving presently. I was so thankful for those breaks in climbing those never-ending steps; we took advantage of every single bench along the way. At the very top of this climb, looking down, you felt like you climbed Mt. Everest; I did anyway. We found ourselves looking at the doors of the old Court House Museum and dreaming of its air conditioning cooling our heated skin after that momentous climb. I didn’t really care what the charge was to get in; we were going in no matter what. This one wasn’t one our most favorites, but it was interesting none the less.  

     We slowly wound our way around down town, up and down those steep hills, finally making it back to the parking deck and our truck.  There was one place we still had to stop at that we spotted on our way in, the banks of the river that made this town a town way back when. There was a nice park, with more benches and a sidewalk that meandered along the river. There was a stark beauty in the old abandoned broke down warehouses across the street and the beauty of the majestic houses right across the river dotting the hillside. Soon enough it was time to load up and head back to Dillwyn and a family dinner.

     As I mentioned previously, the drive out of town was torturous. The sun absolutely blinded me to the point that I didn’t know if I had a stop sign or red light at any of the intersections ahead. I prayed a lot during those few blocks. Soon enough I was out of that area and facing a different direction and could finally see again. I had decided to stop by a 100+ year old cemetery on the way home, it was on the way; or so the map said. We found the cemetery easy enough; our luck was that everything was closed. They had buildings from the civil war era that were as original as could be, an old pharmacy and such to step back in time in. One thing that wasn’t closed was the ol’timey rope swing hanging from the majestic 100 year old oak tree. We took a minute to smell the flowers and feel the breeze as we swung under the shade tree.

     As our luck would also have it when me and the lil one wondered out on adventures, we had road construction causing a detour and causing me to get lost. Go figure. The lil one just so happened to have to go potty too, yep could it get any better? Lost in a town I have no clue as to where to go and know by the bars on the windows and project style apartments we had just passed getting into the cemetery that we probably weren’t in a very good part of town; what’s a mom to do? Pull up at the nearest gas station boasting to have the best fried chicken for 3 counties and ask to the men standing outside how to get to the main road and if their chicken was really that good. Yep I went in with them to get directions from the cashier who was better at directions than them; and some of their famous fried chicken and potato wedges, there goes the appetite for the family dinner later. She got us back on track, telling us to turn 3 different turns; 2 of which happened to be by Juniors Used Tires (the names of the places weren’t Junior’s Used Tires, Junior was what the owners were called, I knew no Juniors that owned tire places so I was technically still lost but getting full on the best fried chicken for 3 counties).

     We decided to get in the truck and head in the general direction they pointed us in and was lost again soon enough, it never fails. We found a road construction crew standing along the side of the road with a parking lot next to them, pulled in there and they got us going in the right direction; FINALLY heading home. It was a peaceful ride through the hillside as the sun set, after it made it past the horizon and I could see the hills that is. The only worry was running into a deer that just happened to be standing in the middle of the road, other than that it was the same as taking a trip down the Natchez Trace on any fall day. Soon enough we were home safe and sound, the lil one filling daddy in on what all we saw and of course that mommy got us lost not once but TWICE in ONE DAY!! I had to hang my head in shame after traveling the countryside and back and getting lost in a small town like that, laid out like a perfect grid; even I have my moments.

Until next time…..

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 7: 1966-1974

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Heading North for the Winter

We got back with only a day to finish packing and get the rig loaded on the truck and ready to roll north along the interstate. This was absolutely no easy feat to accomplish, but we had been in this exact position so many times in the past that we were getting really quick at it. There were a few tears from a few neighbors, and plenty from our lil one as we were leaving the lil one's home town and brother, again. I think there was some jealousy that he got to stay and enjoy all that Jacksonville had to offer, but we knew we’d always look for ways to visit as much as possible. With the rig packed, everything tied down, movies in the truck for the ride, snacks and drinks in the cooler, the dog taken out for the last time and loaded up; we were ready to pull out of Pecan Park RV Park and head to a much cooler climate. I wasn’t looking forward to this part of the adventure; I loved the warmth and sunshine all year round.

     We slept with the rig hooked up to the truck and slid in mostly, this way we could leave at the crack of dawn. It sounds like a good plan and we think it is a good plan every single time that we prepare to pull out, I can’t count how many times we have made these plans. These plans are all good and actually work if you live in Fantasy Land. In the real world this is what happens, we wake up at the butt crack of dawn, make coffee, and enjoy a cup with the sunrise. Refill the cup of coffee, enjoy more sunrise, slowly start putting up all of the little things I hadn’t got around to yet, toss everything else in the first bag/box/basket that I lay my hands on and toss it under the table. 
     There have been times that we have had to pack and move so quickly that I’ll look under the table and it is slam packed full of what seems like 50 bags and containers; enough that we dare not try to put our legs under it for a family dinner. After landing it takes me weeks to get around to unpacking these bags/boxes/baskets that are filled to the gills with miscellaneous stuff that sits on any flat surface of any American home. We being able to go without these items for these long stretches of time makes me wonder just how much we really need it to begin with.
     This trip was a very long trip, truthfully it should’ve been stretched out into 2 days; but if you’ve gotten to know how we travel, you know we don’t roll that way. We tackled it all in one day. It turned out to be a very dull, uneventful trip; these I have begun to enjoy. When we have trips with no surprises it only means that our pockets are a little fatter when we get there, this gives me a couple of days to stay out of the kitchen and explore the local cuisine (and possible get some leg room back under the table).

 We landed in a little town called Dillwyn, in the backwoods of Virginia close to midnight. What we were expecting to be an RV park ended up being an elderly couple that had a couple RV hookups positioned around their yard. The best part was that it was only 15 minutes from the job site. The other points are that it was very secluded, we had no bath house to use if an emergency arose in ours (luckily one didn’t), we were on well water in the middle of coal country; just to name a few.  

     We stayed about 12 minutes outside of Dillwyn; this was a typical one horse town in the middle of nowhere. It had two grocery stores, how it supported two I’ll never know; one wasn’t a favorite as it only sold their off brands, similar to Aldi’s. We had about five restaurants, two quickly became our favorites.  A Mexican place that had amazing cheese dip and burritos and an Italian place that had one of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted. If they could crisp up the crust just a bit before putting on a pound of cheese and ½ lb. of meats on top it would’ve been hands down the very best. We never really tried anything else from there, only their pizza; there was no Domino’s, Pizza Hut or Papa Johns to call if you didn’t like theirs; you made your own, simple as that.
     I learned how to make a few of our favorite restaurant dishes during these winter months locked inside the rig in the frigid Virginia hills. One of them being Pasquale’s roast beef sandwich, Granny D gave us her famous recipe from when she worked there; it was delicious but not as good as her personal sandwiches were. To finish out the town there were about three gas stations, two hair dressers, four thrift stores and two dentists, plus a small downtown that stretched all of two blocks with a pharmacy and lawyer to anchor it alongside the library.
Our view on most trips to anywhere, these were very enjoyable
journeys thru the rollings hills.

     Most days we stayed around the house or went to Dillwyn, usually to Food Lion or to lunch at McDonald’s. When we did venture out farther to get certain things like dark roast coffee, we had to drive 45 minutes to a bigger town called Farmville; it was the nearest one with a Walmart and many more options for dining out. If you’re one of the ones that play the game on Facebook, as my family does, you get the irony here; right? It was a miniature Florence, AL in my mind.
     Because we had already went to universal studios at the first of November to celebrate the lil one’s birthday early, I had forgotten to bake a cake and dinner until the day of the birthday. I woke up and realized that I didn’t have anything special planned; the days had slipped away from me. I ended up cooking our favorite meal, spaghetti. We got dinner finished and while waiting on daddy, it dawned on me about the same time this came out of the lil one’s mouth, “What about the cake?”  As we were running out the door headed to the nearest bakery at Food Lion, daddy got home from work just in time to ride with us.
     I was in disbelief that I had forgotten the lil one’s birthday cake until time to sit down for dinner. I explained the situation to the deli lady and I think she felt sorry for the lil one, having a mother that forgot the birthday cake. We looked at the measly options and chose one with pretty flowers on top. The deli lady got out her recently cleaned icing bag and dug around until she found enough icing to write the birthday wishes on it.  She even tossed in a light up fairy princess for free to go on top of the cake with flowers on it. Like I said I think she felt sorry for the lil one to have such a forgetful mom.
     We got back and had our small family dinner of all the favorites, and very simple too. After a trip to Universal I was aiming for as simple as I could get at this point, I was still exhausted after those whirlwind days. The lil one enjoyed the tablet we picked up as an extra gift, I know the trip was supposed to be the present but I couldn’t resist.  This was what occupied while I sorted thru the numerous bags/boxes/crates of miscellaneous BS if you ask me, and I got my dinner table back.

Until next time….

No quote today, just my most favorite picture from the trips thru the backwoods…..

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Third Day is the Charm

     This was the third and last day to enjoy a real vacation; I know we travel all the time, but rarely is it the throw-your-money-away-let-your-hair-loose type of trip. We normally end up walking around at the free downtown festivals, gold panning, and seeing all the national parks and such; pretty much anything educational we try to do. It was nice to know that we had this much time/money to enjoy a few days honestly enjoying ourselves doing whatever we pleased with no schedule except our stomachs. This was the day we were visiting Hogwarts again and riding the water rides, we saved the best for last. Our plan was to ride the water ones at the very last so we could head out to the truck, put on dry clothes and drive the three hours back to home.

     The hubby and I decided to try and get a funny shot on the Hogwarts Castle ride, we had an idea of where the camera was hidden after riding it twice before. Of course we went with the football teams our home is divided with, Alabama and Florida State Universities. The lil one enjoyed the idea of sneaking something in on the ride and displaying it while riding, any reason to ride it again was a good one in that lil brain. It worked pretty well, the cashier got a kick out of it; even showing it to a co-worker before letting us get out of there. We already had the wand from the previous trip so we didn’t need to carry too many trinkets and gifts this trip.

 We rode everything we had missed the previous day, even the smaller ones we hadn’t planned on riding. I wanted to ride the Hulk roller coaster but the lil one was a bit short, we had to do the parent swap and ride it solo. It was still one hell of a rush! I would have rode it a few times had the lil one been begging to get on with it and hit the favorites on our way to the water rides that we had waited so patiently for.
This day being the last, for some reason I went a lot lighter on the pictures; I may have went heavier on the videos though, as I think about it. We were fully enjoying ourselves to the point of not wanting to stop and take pics; our plans were to leave shortly after lunch for the boring ride ahead of us.

As we made our way around the loop of rides we had ridden, we found ourselves staring at the entrance to the first soaker; Popeye’s and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges. It wasn’t long before we were stepping aboard, trying to find the driest seat to start in and tucking the camera in the dry covered cubby hole in the middle. We were quickly shoved away from the safety of the dock to rush down the river and be soaked with waterfalls; not to mention and mean little kids standing on the bridge arming the water cannons aimed at our barge. The lil one squealed and tried to avoid the downpours and waves that seemed to be around every corner. You tried not to laugh at your neighbor knowing that at any moment with the right turn, you could be next to be laughed at as the cold water rushed over you. After this ride, the lil one was ready for the next one and looking for the quickest route to it on the map.

 Just around the corner we found the Jurassic Park River Adventure, this one we had to lock everything up in a locker; you knew it was a good ride if you couldn’t carry anything on it. The lil one had started watching the movie but we decided after watching the first body being ripped in half that it was just a little too soon for this flick. The ride was awesome with a few spots that made you jump if you weren’t prepared. The very end of the ride received the epic response we were looking for, the gut wrenching screaming on the edge of your seat drop that totally soaked you; the lil one absolutely loved the thrill of the plunge. As we were exiting we heard the ever pressing question, “Can we ride it AGAIN?!?!?!”

 Next on our list and the last of the water rides was Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, the tallest of the plunges and the one that was most anticipated as the lil one watched them scream all the way to the bottom. The lines were moving relatively fast in comparison to the 2 hour wait times in the dead of summer, for this reason I didn’t mind taking a few days off from school to enjoy vacations during the off seasons. On this ride we all sat in a single file row, with the lil one in front, me in the middle and daddy holding down the anchor in the back. This one wound us around and around in circles and over small drops in the dark, uphill. Yes, I said uphill; through the windows we got a sneak peak of how high we were climbing, the lil one started getting nervous the higher we went. There was no getting off and turning back point, there was only hold onto to what you could and enjoy the adrenaline rush that was building within our brains. As we neared the top and saw a small waterfall ahead the lil said “Hold onto me”, I clutched the small shoulders in front of me as we went over the first fall. Soon enough I heard “HOLD ON TIGHTER!!” as the lil one saw the huge drop off in front of our hollowed log. I squeezed as hard as I thought I could without causing pain, wishing I could hold onto the bar in front of me but knowing that I was the rock and security as we plunged over the edge and got the full split second view of how far up we were before gravity drug us back to Earth into the frigid waters. We only thought we were soaked after the last two rides, the last plunge was definitely the best and wettest. I had to take the opportunity to find a photo pass person and get our drowned rat look recorded for future laughs. Luckily since me and daddy had been there 15+ some odd years ago, they added driers just outside of the rides; I never thought I would pay for hot air to be blown onto us but we did, just this once.

     A bit drier and still floating on cloud nine we began to make our way to the gift shops at the front of the parks. This had been a wondrous vacation, as I’ve mentioned before; we may travel a lot, but it is mostly educational and budgeted. Never have we thrown money into the wind for a good time, but this was one birthday that ended up being magical and well worth it. Granted we were a week early in celebrating but this only meant that we got to do it big and then a second smaller family dinner on the day of the birthday, that made it extra special (or so we thought, but that is for a future tale). We wandered from shop to shop, knowing that we wouldn’t be back to Disney or Universal for a couple of years at least we made very smart lasting purchases as reminders. The lil one and I had made sensible clothing purchases that would last a year or two, and we splurged on a few 8 x 10’s printed for us; especially the one with our Roll Tide and FSU signs in Hogwarts. Because we had already gotten a pearl necklace and the SpongeBob jacket there wasn’t much left that the lil one wanted, only as many memories as we could cram into the last hour at the park. It just so happened that in one of the gift shops, Spiderman was greeting guests and taking pictures. You know we had to have one last one. In classic Spidey form the lil one got the fingers just right, and Spiderman posed all around. The issue here was my cheap camera and being indoors, I could not get it to focus for the life of me; a new camera is going to be added to my wish list for a future extravagant selfish purchase. 

     We made our way out to the truck, and out of the gates; waving a sorrowful goodbye to one of the most rushed but happy places on Earth. I say rushed because it is just a bit expensive for my blood most of the time to stay 10 days, the needed time to actually see and do everything within all of the parks. I’m still hanging on to the dream of hitting the lottery and living nearby one day. I’m holding my breath and waiting patiently on this to happen; NOT! But one can dream can’t we? We stopped at the first available gas station that had diesel, after having to push Ol’ Blue on the last trip from Disney a couple of years back we had definitely learned our lesson; fill’er up when you can. This trip thankfully was uneventful, no flat tires or any unexpected emergencies that seem to hit us at the worst possible time. We stopped and had dinner on the road and made it home just a little past bedtime. The vacation bliss soon ended when we remembered that we were to move in just a couple of days to the new job/town in a new state. We were slowly adding them one by one to our USA sticker map to show where we had been.

Until next time……

There are seven days in a week and 'Someday' isn't one of them!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Day of Bliss

We awoke to a beautiful scene; the sun coming up over the horizon, the pool glistening and the breeze blowing through the palm fronds. It was going to be another beautiful day in Florida; exhausting but beautiful. It wasn’t long before the lil one was bouncing off the walls asking when we could leave, what time did they open, when could we leave, can we leave now; did I mention the lil one wanted to know when we were leaving to go to Universal Studios. This was our one day pass to this park unless we changed our minds about which park to use our third day option on.
     With all the excitement it didn’t take us long to get dressed, have breakfast and hit the gates. We knew that we only had the one day here but also knew that we would skip a few rides due to the lil one being too short for them at the moment. At the gate we got our map and magical birthday badge and began formulating a plan to see it all in but only one day.

     Right off the bat we met Scooby Doo and Shaggy, it was almost as if they were there to welcome us. By looking at the map we could see that we weren’t far from Bikini Bottom. This path was dotted with shops, rides and even a talent show with the four legged actors from the Universal movies; the lil one especially loved this. We rode one ride and wanted to buy the picture, they explained how the photo pass worked (better than the guy yesterday did) and we quickly jumped on the chance to have someone else take our pictures throughout the park (I’m usually the one behind the lens). Every person we saw holding a camera we ran up to them, had our card scanned and smiled pretty for the cameras; I couldn’t wait to go online and print them out.

     Soon enough we found ourselves in the middle of Bikini Bottom waiting on SpongeBob for a meet and greet with him. They had replicas of his chair, house and Gary to take pictures with, not to mention SpongeBob himself. The lil one had two dreams to come true in two days! It was time to move on to other sights and rides. We loved riding bikes with E.T., you really felt like you were there. I’m glad the lil one had watched the movie prior to this trip; similarities were pointed out through the whole ride.

     The Transformers and Simpson’s rides were two of my favorite. The lil one really enjoyed the minions, the lil one and I rode this one by ourselves; daddy took a break. The lil one even got special attention from one of the HOP bunnies in the birthday, they came over with birthday wishes; these were those magical powers provided to us by the birthday badges. We saw and did absolutely everything we could (we thought), we ate at as many different places as possible; we smiled and laughed until our cheeks hurt.

     As the sun started going down, we rounded a corner and spied one more ride. I let the lil one and daddy go on it by themselves while I took a mommy break from the hustle and bustle. While enjoying some mommy time I did what every mommy does; I thought of and shopped for the lil one. There just so happened to be a vendor for the pearl jewelry outside the ride. While talking to the sales lady about the oysters and prices, she showed me several pieces within my budget. I showed her the few that I could afford for her to show the lil one, I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a necklace that may or may not get broken/lost. When the ride was over I pitched the idea to the hubby behind the lil ones back in parent code that you learn over the years. He was sold; we did a U-turn and pitched the birthday gift to the lil one. Oh how the eyes sparkled at being able to pick the ugliest oyster and be the very first person on Earth to see what was hiding inside. It ended up being a HUGE pearl, a whopping 7.9 in size. We had all agreed that with the size of the oyster it needed a setting to do it justice; a butterfly was the only one big enough to hold such a magnificent pearl. This is very fitting as the lil one is very fond of butterflies. With the pearl set and placed safely in its carrying bag we were ready to find seats for the fireworks over the lake.
getting ready for the show!
     This just so happened to be after Universal’s 100th Anniversary and they were still performing the amazing show at the closing of the park. They had water curtains to show scenes and images from their movies they have created over the years. It was fun for the hubby and I to try to name all the movies that we knew from the images created in the falling water; we knew almost all of them. Before long we were following the crowds out of the park along all of the conveyor belts (this was something the lil one had to do all the time, every time) and into the parking decks; only to join the lines of cars waiting in line to get onto the Interstate. I didn’t have another meal cooking while we played; this meant a stop before getting back to the relaxing room.
     We stopped at CiCi’s pizza and filled up. On the receipt there was a coupon for the gift shop next door. Being the tourists that we were, we had to see what they had to offer. After filling the bellies and emptying the debit card, it was time to hit the room and shower. The beds were getting more and more comfortable as our exhaustion levels went up, we were falling asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

Until next time….

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.   ̴̴̴  ̴̴̴Paul Theroux

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Better Than Toys

A friend watched our furbaby for us, something she had swore she would never do again after he whined the whole time we were at the Magic Kingdom on that one day birthday trip. For some reason she had let us shnooker her into watching the spoiled rotten dog for not only one day, but for three this time! We appreciate her so much for putting up with him for this long, I know how big of a pain in the butt he can be. Our tickets were paid for, the bags were packed and we were going the night before to prevent some of the exhaustion after driving 3 hrs. The last trip we took to Disney we by passed the hotel due to monies (or lack there of) and drove down and back in one day; this made for an exhausting day. We played the tourist role well and got the room for the three nights we would need it. I did however save a ton on dinner one of these nights by packing the crockpot, roast, and all the fixings. You just can't beat the frugal out of me!
     We made this trip with no problems except for getting turned around in Kissimmee looking for the hotel.  After finding it and lugging everything upstairs it was time for a bit of normalcy; showers, TV and bed.  With the excitement brewing I the room I wasn’t sure any of us would get any sleep. The lil one had a collection of brochures from the lobby, already working on plans for the next birthday trip. I think it was midnight before we all actually wore down enough to fall asleep.
     The sunrays beaming in the window, knowing we were on vacation with no schedules, was an amazing way to wake up. It was going to be a wonderful day full of amazement, thrills and laughter. I am loving how materialistic toys are being traded for memory making family trips; these memories will last a lifetime, unlike the toys. Universal Studios has something no one else does, something the lil one had dreamed of seeing for months, they had Diagon Alley and Harry Potter! The lil one had drifted off daydreaming of visiting this place ever since the TV commercials started playing. We had gotten three day tickets for the two parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, this meant that we got to visit one of the parks twice. Islands of Adventure had Harry Potter so the decision was made that it would be the park we visited twice. This also meant that we could meander through the park and relax some; we didn’t have to try to squeeze everything into only one day. Upon arrival we got the customary maps and birthday badge, the badges really have a lot of special powers inside the parks. All of the actors/actresses dressed as characters paid extra attention to the special recipients of the birthday badges.

We had to make it through Dr. Seuss’s crazy and comical world, this was pure nostalgia for me. Dr. Seuss books were my favorites growing up. As a family we had decided to save the water soaking rides for the last day here, we didn’t want to walk around drenched for hours afterward, plus it would be warmer on the third day. Our plan was to take the most direct route to Diagon Alley.
 It just so happened that we had a few rides between us and the wizarding world of Harry Potter, the excitement was building like crazy and all we were hearing was “How much longer?”, “When will we be there?”. I’m thankful there were these other rides to distract and take the lil one’s mind off of the main reason we had come to this particular amusement park.

Soon enough we were walking through the gates of Hogsmeade and the lil one was jumping up and down with joy, this dream was coming true! We couldn’t decide where to go first; on the castle ride, through the shop, to get a wand. Oh at the options to be had here. To help make this experience even more memorable I had decided on lunch at the Three Broomsticks restaurant, we had a couple of hours to burn. The castle won out to be first in line of things to do, it was AWESOME! So much that we planned on riding it again.

one of the shows that made the lil one's eyes twinkle

the sorting hat on the way
to fly with Harry around the
castle grounds.

A wand was something every wizard needed; a stop in Olivander’s was needed for this. They put on a small show before you went into the shop to have a wand choose you. The even had a caged Book of Monsters for us to enjoy, the lil one jumped as it growled and lunged at us. After trying the flick and swish technique with several wands the most perfect wand chose the lil one as its new owner. This was turning out to be a very good day, it helped that with the new job we had thrown caution to the wind on money and were enjoying a real vacation.

After another ride through the castle and lunch at the Three Broomsticks we were ready to enjoy the rest that Islands of Adventure had to offer. We rode through the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, flying through the air riding a Pteranadon,  moseyed through the gift shops; plus one more ride through the castle with Harry Potter. I took as many pictures as I possibly could; if it was there to take a picture with, we took one, or two, or three with it.

We knew as the sun started setting that it was time for one last ride on the way to the gate. We ended up climbing our way through a rope jungle. It just so happened to offer a perfect photo op on one of the rope bridges. I enjoyed just being able to stand still, take a breath, and enjoy the sunset. This seemed to be the first time I had been still all day long. After a short car ride to the room, there were only a few floors that separated us from being able to sit down and kick our feet up. When we opened the door we were welcomed with the smell of pot roast, cooked perfectly all day in the crockpot. I was one happy momma to not have to worry about dinner after this exhausting day. We pulled the curtains, cut the TV off and dreamed of what tomorrow would bring.

Until next time…..

Friday, May 9, 2014

Time Away from the Hubby

About a week before leaving Memphis I had called Pecan Park, the old park we were in previously in Jacksonville, and made reservations. I was very site specific as we still had friends living there that knew our personalities well enough to help us select a site. Our arrival date had changed by one day and I called to make sure this would be okay and confirmed our site with them again. I had done everything needed to be done to ensure we knew where we were going within the park in case of a late/early arrival. There is nothing worse than driving for 20 hours, spending 2 hours setting up, only to find out you have to go thru the process all over again and move to different site.. if you’ve followed us this far, you know how good our luck can be but also how bad it can be. You guessed it, when we went to pay in the office after arriving early and setting up, they informed us the site had been reserved and paid for the previous week; we would have to move. If only I hadn’t listened to the girl in the office upon making the reservations, she assured me the site would be available without my paying for it before hand.
Glad to be back at the beach
     These ladies in the office made my blood boil at this moment. I was running on empty and now these people, whom I had talked to twice about this specific site, were telling us we had to move to another site. Apparently she has never lived or camped in a fifth wheel with the way she was telling us that it was ‘ONLY’ one site over, telling us it shouldn’t be too hard to move it over just one site. I quickly informed her that if we loaded the rig back onto the truck that we could damn well move it anywhere, including to another RV park. They got lucky that day in them being the only one that wasn’t a 55+ only park and close to Jax, FL. The one north of Jax didn’t have ½ of the amenities, we really had no choice but to push ourselves for a few more hours and move the rig.
     Almost as soon as we got settled the hubby had to go out of town to work in South Carolina. This was only to be a short job; until he got there. As it happens in the construction field, this job lasted longer than originally planned. The lil one and I planned a trip to see him and spend a weekend with him. I planned and cooked extra meals to freeze in individual servings if only to bring him a piece of home to him while he is away.
The hotel he was in happened to be next to a Celebration Station, this helped with keeping the lil one occupied. We spent an afternoon riding go-karts, water boats and playing video games for tickets. These three days went way too quickly, knowing that he was going to have home cooked meals in the weeks to come made leaving a little easier.
     It wouldn’t be long and all of us would be back together, I was already missing my oldest; he moved out as soon as we hit town. With Halloween just around the corner I had plenty to keep my mind busy, the lil one was going as our very own Hermione Granger this year. Of course this meant trips to the thrift stores and some crafting by me. Amazingly we walked down the aisle in one of my favorite stores and hanging there waiting just for us was the Gryffindor robe. Soon we had found a dress to chop and altar into the skirt, a new white shirt and shoes to match; the only thing left was to make the beaded handbag.
the beaded handbag we crafted
     The lil one demanded to have curly hair just like Hermione’s, this was another trip to the thrift store for a curling iron. This made the most drastic change in appearances I have seen in a while. With the hubby still out of town we were left to celebrate this holiday almost alone. Thankfully we were in Jacksonvile where we knew people, I quickly found someone to trick or treat with us. With flashlights, trick or treat bags and good conversation, we were off to cast spells on any unlucky bystander who happened into our path. The candy bags were overflowing after this haunting night.
Happy Halloween!
     We also visited one of the parking lot carnivals while here, these seem to be everywhere in the fall down here. The lil one is getting big enough to ride some of the rides alone, this gave my friend and I time to talk with no interruptions. We all tossed quarters on the colored squares, betting that the mouse would run into our color to win a prize. The lil one learned here that if you gamble you had might as well be throwing your money out the window, a good lesson if you ask me.
     It wasn’t long before the hubby was home again. His first words in the door was “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news”. The experience of living with him for almost ten years now has taught me that these few words can be life changing when he speaks them. I held my breathe as I asked what the ‘good’ news was. It ended up his being offered a position with the company, the bad was that the next job was in Virginia. There was no question on if we were taking the rig or not. After being without him for the last 5 weeks, him having to live in a hotel room; there was no question in us making this trip with him. It also only took us a few hours to decide that if we could make it happen, we would celebrate the lil one’s birthday trip this year (a little early) as Universal Studios before heading north. Soon we were on the phones working out the details and packing our bags for a three day fun filled trip to Orlando, FL.

Until next time….

Where thou art — that — is Home. ~Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Changes in Plans

     Everything went good on the first few miles of our departure from Wheeler Dam Campground; we made it in one piece across the way too skinny dam. Only a few miles down the road our luck struck again. We had a flat tire on a late Saturday afternoon about 30 min away from civilization. Also as our luck goes there was but one tire center open on this beautiful sunny afternoon. We pulled into a church parking lot and waited until the hubby could get the tire changed out. This consisted of him leaving me, 2 kids (even though he’s technically an adult my oldest will always be my ‘kid’), and the dog with the house but without a drivable vehicle for over an hour. We had packed a bare minimal cooler; this was only going to be a short 3 ½ hour trip, right??
     To keep the lil one amused for this period we made up and played games that consisted of throwing and tossing rocks. We also toured and paid respect to the fallen soldiers that had found that cemetery as their last resting place. We try to instill a sense of Patriotism in the lil one and make the sacrifices paid for the freedoms realized in the ever growing mind we are cultivating. Finally, while on our last bottle of cold water the hubby returned with a new-to-us tire for the rig. A quick 30 minutes later and we were back on the road.
Our view in the RV Park in Southaven, MS
     After this escapade we made pretty good time as RVing time goes, you are really on your own schedule when you travel the way we do. It was dinner time when we landed just south of Memphis in Southaven, MS. We chose to stay just across the state line in Mississippi so the lil one can add another state the map and be one state closer to seeing all of the lower 48.
     The only places I really wanted to show the lil one here was the Memphis Zoo, one of the best in my opinion, and the Pink Palace museum.  We wouldn’t get to be here for the Memphis in May celebration unless the security badge was approved. This would be the only way to stay in the area longer than a few months. As soon as we hit town the hubby started looking for temporary work, it would only be 4-6 weeks until we got news on the work badge; we only had to survive for this long. After only a few days and a few temp daily jobs the hubby landed a job building a Waffle House with a guy named Denton from Denton, TX, LOL. We tried to get my oldest in on the work too but his asthmas wouldn’t allow it in the sweltering Southern heat. I got in on some of the painting on the end to help us out with bill money.
     Thankfully he still had this job when we got the denial for the security badge, very depressing for a few days after that news. We had counted on this badge going thru and having the security of the full time permanent long term position that we had moved to the Memphis area for. Now we had to back up and punt as they say and come up with another plan. The hubby called a few old work contacts in Jacksonville, FL and soon had a job, albeit in South Carolina for a week. Temporary work but work none the less. This soon led to more work and led to our decision to move back to Jacksonville, FL and follow the work. My oldest was happy with this decision; he was looking to move back anyway.

     When the plan started taking shape we got in a rush to see the sights we hadn’t been able to yet. The zoo was top on the list; the Pink Palace could wait if I couldn’t find the money for both. 
The lil one really enjoyed the surprise upon waking on one of the last few weekdays there, we always tried to be tourists while everyone else was at work; we had decided to visit the zoo before packing the rig up. We all loved watching the penguins and the sea lions, especially there show they performed in, the lil one’s eyes shined with pure amazement.  It was a very tiring but fun filled day that will go down in the memory books of the lil one’s childhood to be reflected upon in the years to come.
     We finished our work on the Waffle House, got all the stuff stored at the mom-n-laws again and were preparing to head south. Due to money being very tight we planned on an all-night drive, making a 16hr run all at once instead of 2 days. This trip ended up being pretty uneventful. I was coming to love these trips like this; you know, the ones with no surprises. 

We landed in Jax safe and sound the following morning and pulled into our site about an hour before the office opened. We were exhausted, road weary and in need of showers and long naps; but the important fact was we had made an uneventful trip and landed safe and sound.

Until next time……

Luck never gives; it only lends.  ~Swedish Proverb