Summer Travel Map

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Home from the "Spa"

May 25, 2011
Broad Brook, CT

[Catching up from what has already been on Facebook...]

OK, nobody likely called Johnson Memorial Hospital a "spa", but at least Geri's home! We knew she was feeling better when she started complaining about the food. She's feeling better, but that's relative, of course, since she felt awful before. The hospital provided various discharge instructions and prescriptions for extending the medications she's been on. She'll finish the meds by the end of the month, then have follow-up blood tests and a doctor's visit on the 2nd and 6th, respectively.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Graduation #2 - Check

May 22, 2011
Hartford, Connecticut

Today was Alicia's graduation from Eastern Connecticut State University - yeah! Apparently, the campus doesn't have a facility large enough for 700 graduates, so the festivities were held at the XL Center in Hartford (used to be the Hartford Civic Center back when the Whalers played hockey there). We headed into the city early (everyone except Grandma Geri, unfortunately) and were able to grab reasonably good seats beside the stage. It was a pretty long event, starting at 9:30 sharp and wrapping up close to 1:30 PM. Of course, the aftermath was a mob scene in the lobby area, but we were able to collect everyone in short order. Paul and I found a local watering hole that was open (like many cities, downtown Hartford is not a happening place on Sunday afternoons) where everyone congregated for a nosh and a libation. This really helped bring everyone into a nice, calm, mellow state after all the excitement of the graduation. After that, everybody headed home for pizza and wings (except me; I headed to visit Geri). All in all, it was an excellent day.

I didn't haul all the camera equipment to the graduation, since long lenses, low light, and fast-moving subjects don't often make for good pictures. But, I was able to find a spot to grab this video of Alicia "walking" with our small Nikon:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Well, it's not bronchitis...

May 21, 2011
Broad Brook/Stafford, Connecticut

...but Geri does have pneumonia. Now where did that come from? Who knows; who cares? Now, it's time to get better...

Friday morning, she decided that a trip to the local ambulatory care center was in order. It didn't take long for them to order an x-ray and report back with the diagnosis of pneumonia. Then it became a question of prescribing medicines or recommending a trip to the hospital. Because she has impaired breathing anyway, the hospital became the preferred choice, and by the end of the day she was properly ensconced in a room at Johnson Memorial Hospital. They've got her on various medications to knock it out and she's in a "productive" stage, expelling goop from the lungs at a prodigious rate. She's disappointed that she won't be able to attend Alicia's graduation tomorrow, but hopeful to get better enough to be discharged within a couple of days.

We had some additional sad news Friday: Paul's (Melisa's significant other) father, Gordie, passed away in the morning after a long illness. We'll know the specifics on arrangements early next week.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Pat and Al

May 19, 2011
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Broad Brook, Connecticut

Today was an easy driving day. We left Gettysburg shortly after 8:00 AM, cutting across to US-15 then north to Harrisburg where we rejoined I-81. In Scranton, we picked up I-84 eastbound and continued, with a fuel stop in Newburgh, all the way to Hartford. A quick leg on I-91 north brought us to the East Windsor borough of Broad Brook and we were parked at Pat and Al's place before 3:30.

We had a small celebration with their friends Mike and Lynne and family Melisa, Paul, and Jesse. We grilled a Beef Tenderloin, Pat made a Mushroom Risotto, and Lynne made a Pasta Salad. With a some good wine, we once again had a great meal.

In other news, Geri's been feeling poorly since Tuesday, with flu-like symptoms increasing as we've traveled north. She hasn't had a bout of bronchitis in a long time, so we're keeping our fingers crossed...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Deja Vu?

May 18, 2011
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

...or Vuja De? Years ago, some joker explained "vuja de" to me as the opposite of deja vu: the intense feeling that you've never been here before. I've harbored a suspicion that we visited here when I was very young during a family vacation. I spent a good part of today at the Gettysburg Battlefield, but I definitely don't remember being here before. Must have been someplace else.

It was interesting tour in any event, and the Visitor's Center/Museum is very well done, but driving around a Civil War battlefield in pouring rain is less than effective. Overall, I'm glad we stopped here on the way north to Connecticut. It was an educational stop, and it broke up the travel with a day "off the road".

Here are some pictures. As always, click the picture for a larger version...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Paging Noah...

May 17, 2011
Athens, Tennessee to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

We hit the road early again, and had another (planned) long driving day. We were soon in Knoxville, then on I-81 which will take us north to Pennsylvania. It didn't take long before we were in rain showers, then periods of heavy rain, with a little thunder and lightning mixed in here and there. We had a few spells where traffic slowed to a crawl due to the downpours. We had one stoppage due to an accident, but it was all cleared by the time we were moving again.

Our destination for the evening (actually a two-night stay) was Gettysburg. I think we came here during a family "station wagon vacation" (pile all the kids in the '59 Chevy wagon and head for a destination that might keep them out of trouble) circa 1965 or 1966. I'll spend a few hours poking around the Gettysburg Battlefield tomorrow and see if anything seems familiar.

We rolled in just before 6:00 PM and were quickly parked and set up. Geri made a batch of Dirty Water Dogs, and now we're settling in to chill out before bed. I see from the weather radar that we'll have waves of rain rolling over us for hours. As long as it doesn't involve thunder, we'll be fine.

Oh, and here's one of the perma-rigs (what we call RVs that never move) in this park - looks like Noah was already here!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rolling North, mapping it Old School

May 16, 2011
Mobile, Alabama to Athens, Tennessee

Today was what we used to call a "travel day" several years ago, before we tried to slow down while on the road. With only a week between graduations in Alabama and Connecticut, we're rolling "old school", putting in back-to-back days with more miles than we'd like.

We left Mobile early, around 8:00, after doing all of the necessary tasks. After slipping onto I-10 for one exit, we were soon back on I-65, heading north. We fueled up just before Montgomery. We looped around Birmingham on I-459 and were soon on I-59 heading for Chattanooga, back in the Eastern Time Zone. Quickly switching to I-24 and then I-75, we pulled over in a Rest Area for a quick night's sleep. I whipped up some cheesesteaks with some of the pieces trimmed from the beef tenderloin we picked up in Alabama. With a strong DirecTV signal, we were able to relax a bit watching DWTS. We'll be calling it an early night.

We did have a little change in procedure, with respect to the PC I use on the dash for navigation and engine monitoring.  When I powered it up, I got the Blue Screen of Death, and I wasn't able to recover to an earlier set point.  Since we had to get going, we defaulted to our Atlas and Interstate Guide.  I thought about the errors, mostly kernel page faults.  When we stopped for lunch, on a hunch, I pulled out the add-on memory card and it fired up fine.  Back in business.  Cost of repair: $0.  Love it...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's all sinking in...

May 15, 2011
Mobile, Alabama

Today was packing day. Rick rented a U-Haul truck and we all convened at Alyson's apartment mid-morning. With a bit of an assembly line set up for packing boxes and bags, then moving same out to the truck, we had everything pretty much in hand by mid-afternoon. Once the cleaning supplies were the only things left, I knew it was time for me to head home.

It was a tough day for Alyson. As much as she's happy to have completed her degree and excited to move forward, it's hard to leave college and friends behind. All in all, she got through it OK, and it'll only get easier.

Tomorrow, we all head out, again independently. We'll hit the road as soon as we're ready in the morning. They'll finish up at the apartment (collect cats and fish, close out with the management company) before heading for Albertville. We'll retrace our route to I-59 and then continue north to Chattanooga where we'll pick up I-24 to I-75. I'm aiming to stay near Knoxville, probably at a Wal-Mart for just the night, then we'll continue on early Tuesday morning, heading for Gettysburg.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Graduation #1 - Check

May 14, 2011
Mobile, Alabama

Today was Alyson's graduation day, and everything went off without a hitch. We car caravanned to the campus early to get decent parking, and got excellent seats on the upper deck of the arena right behind the stage. We were able to have a decent view of the proceedings, although we didn't stay through all 1,300 graduates.

After a quick trip back to the coach to walk, water, and feed the pups, we headed back to the party zone. Alyson and a group of her friends went in together to get a back room at the local Buffalo Wild Wings. Wings and craft beer; how can you go wrong? Everything wrapped up around 9:00, so we had another early night.

Here's a video I was able to get at the graduation...

Friday, May 13, 2011

May 13, 2011
Mobile, Alabama

Alabama is a "tall" state. We drove almost the whole length from North to South today. Rick and Annette live near Huntsville and the border with Tennessee. Alyson goes to school at the University of South Alabama ("USA") in Mobile, on the Gulf. As far as the "downhill" part, we lost over 1,000 feet, but it took 340 miles to do so, so we really didn't notice.

It was an easy drive for the most part, US-431 to AL-77 to I-59 toward Birmingham. We looped around the South side on I-459 then took I-65 south through Montgomery to Mobile. The weather was cloudy for the most part, with a few sprinkles at times until we were about 50 miles out of Mobile. Then we ran into some sort of microburst storm that involved blinding rain and 40+ MPH winds. Well, that slowed things down! It was over in about 10 minutes (5 miles) and we continued on our way without further incident.

Unfortunately, Annette's father, Gerry, didn't fare as well. Everyone else was just a bit behind us (we all left Albertville at different times and travelled at varying speeds; we were surprised to be the first ones in since we're slowest), and Gerry got rear-ended just as they were getting off I-65. That's what he gets for stopping at a red light that locals just cruise through, I suppose. They were able to get a local body shop to pry open the trunk (luggage) and bungee/tape everything together so it was drivable. Ouch!

Dinner was a group party at a local seafood restaurant, Felix's Fish Camp. I think everyone had seafood, even though they had "landlubber" items on the menu. Geri had a stuffed Flounder and I had seared Ahi Tuna. I won.

We had a nice sunset and dinner (I'll get configured to copy pictures from the new phone next week), and everyone was ready to call it an early night. Big day tomorrow!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Another great visit winds up

May 12, 2011
Albertville, Alabama

Where does the time fly? I sure don't know. We wrapped up another great visit with Rick and Annette today, and we're all packed up and ready to head out tomorrow morning for Mobile and Alyson's graduation on Saturday. We did some shopping up in Huntsville on Tuesday, since that's the nearest Costco location. Oh, and since Geri's phone has started to fail, we upgraded our cellular technology since we went right past a Verizon Wireless store.

OK, Geri's phone could probably have just used a new battery, but where's the fun in that? And, since we were both eligible for discounts on upgrades (we bought the old phones in AZ before we left for our Alaska trip in 2009), it just made sense to upgrade both. This way, we can help each other through the conversion from BlackBerry to Android.

We also picked up a nice beef tenderloin, which I cut into steaks for Wednesday night's dinner (an early nod to Rick and Annette's anniversary later this month) and a boneless leg of lamb, which I ground up using the Kitchen-Aid for Geri's dog food recipe (we can't get ground lamb everywhere and it's often priced way too high).

So, we're all ready for travel: tanks dumped, awnings up, car packed. Rick's ordering pizza for dinner and we'll call it an early night since we have a full travel day tomorrow.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Visiting with Linda and Wendell

May 8, 2011
Birmingham, Alabama

We packed up the Rover and headed for Birmingham on Friday morning and - get this - we left the pups behind! Rick and Annette were kind enough to offer to watch them while we headed off for a few days to visit our long-time friends, Linda and Wendell. It's been several years since we had a chance to visit them at their home in Birmingham; we've seen them at their "lake place" on our more recent trips through the area. This was a nice change since we had a chance to see their family and friends this time as well.

Friday afternoon, we did some shopping with Linda before Wendell got home from work, then she made a new recipe: Pulled Chicken Pizza with Peaches and Gorgonzola Crumbles. Woo-hoo; was that good! We paired it with a couple of white wines, both Sauvignon Blancs (one still and one sparkler). This one's a keeper; we got a copy of the recipe and will make this one on the road when peaches are easier to find.

Saturday was one big party. We started out at Cosmos Pizza, where they put on a great weekend brunch, including a "make-your-own-Bloody" bar. After a power nap, they put on a barbeque spread of tri-tip and pork loin for us and family/friends - Wendell's son Patrick, Linda's Mom, Dad, and brother (Til, Bob, and Joe), and friends Pat and Clarence. Wendell set up the outside table under the lights and we took advantage of a beautiful spring evening; doesn't get much better.

Sunday, we were treated to another brunch including Wendell's Fritatta and Linda's Blue Corn Gouda Grits. Full once again, we packed up and headed back to Albertville, thankful for another great visit. The pups were none the worse for wear, having bonded nicely with Rick and Annette. we capped off the day with dinner at Annette's parents, Gerry and Lois, , including a belated birthday cake for Erik.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Erik

May 6, 2011
Albertville, Alabama

Erik (our nephew) arrived home from college Thursday afternoon. He's just completed his freshman year at the University of Montevallo, just south of Birmingham. And today's his birthday. Good deal!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Power Up...

May 5, 2011
Albertville, Alabama

We've had a nice stay in Albertville so far. Power came back on and everything's back in operation with no real damage. The only thing requiring a "reset" appears to be Rick's cable modem and/or router, since Internet access has been spotty. All the "old" food is consumed or tossed (very little of the latter), although fresh supplies aren't being loaded in too quickly since store shelves are still a bit bare. Interestingly, even though this area is home to numerous Tyson plants, chicken is the last thing to appear in the stores since the factories were also shut down by the extended power outage. I'm sure the shortages will translate to price increases somehow...

There's no shortage of portable generators, though, as every home improvement, warehouse and hardware store has palettes of them sitting around now. Good luck with that; people who don't have one already won't think about buying one until the next disaster.

Back to local happenings, I changed out the bad macerator pump and toilet, so everything's flowing smoothly in the coach now. Rick and I painted the bedroom in the apartment side of their house (where Mom used to live) so Alyson will have a place to stay when she comes home from College in a week-and-a-half. Annette and Geri picked out a nice color in the "brown" family ("Vanilla Brandy"?) that looks like something from a magazine ad.

And, the weather has cleared somewhat, with no strong storms in the forecast at this point. Yea!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Back in 'Bama

May 1, 2011
West Memphis, AR - Albertville, AL

Yesterday, we followed storms and today, we made it to my Brother's in Alabama.

It was sunny when we left Oklahoma City, looping around I-240 back to I-40. Clouds were on the increase as we traveled east across Oklahoma and almost all of Arkansas. We stopped for the night in West Memphis, on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River. Our original Destination, a RV Park down near the River, had called a week before to say they expected to be flooded when we arrived. I booked us into a safer location in Marion, along I-55, for the night. If it wasn't for our plumbing issues, I'd have found a boondocking spot, but I wanted to head for Rick's with empty holding tanks.

Soon after we were parked and set up, I could see from Weather Underground that a line of storms was approaching, and we had thunderstorms all night long. These storm systems are different than we're used to, which would be a line of storms along a weather front. Once the front passes, the storms are gone. Not with these systems. The storms form in a line, but then move along that front one after another. From what I could see, we had a series of storms from 8PM on, but places 50 miles northwest and 50 miles southeast of us got nothing. In any event, we kept the slides in and Maya Lynn had a very difficult night as she was quite frightened by the thunder.

We were up early and on the road by 8:30, following I-55 back to I-40. Although it was only 10 miles or so, the rain and wind increased significantly. We stopped for fuel and I was looking around for the Weather Channel guys (didn't see them). I was soaked by the time I was back in the coach, and we slowly made our way back to I-55, across the Mississippi, and then leaving the interstate to cut across the corner of Tennessee to pick up US-72 in Mississippi. We followed this route (US-72 and US-72A) to Alabama, turning to AL-67 in Decatur and AL-69 through Arab and Guntersville, then US-431 into Albertville.

Once we were in Alabama, we started seeing some evidence of the tornados and strong storms that had hit the area several days before. just before Decatur, we saw a row of houses that were heavily damaged and even totally destroyed, and we started seeing areas where the power was still out. Common sense suggests that drivers treat inoperable traffic lights as "stop signs", so we had some minor slowing but nothing too bad.

Once we got closer to Guntersville and Albertville, the damage was more evident with more trees snapped off or uprooted. We saw several power crews working to restore electricity. Interestingly, most (60%?) of the downed trees weren't snapped off but rather their whole root system came loose from the ground. We saw several sections where numerous trees were damaged this way. It's possible that these were what's called "straight line winds" as opposed to tornados. Overall, the damage can still be severe, just different. Right up the street from my brother's place, an older house was just crushed by a large tree.

They haven't had power here since last Wednesday at 6:00 AM (it's now Sunday), but it should be back soon. Rick's done a fine job of managing out of various coolers without losing much of the food stocks. This has been a good thing, since most stores in the area are closed and not getting new food shipments at this point.

More later...