We are currently residing in Bushnell, Florida and thanking God that we are not in the path of Hurricane Sandy. Holy Cow! That is one seriously dangerous storm and we are praying that it somehow fizzles before it hits land and spares the coast the worst of the potential damage. We were just in the areas that are going to be significantly impacted by this storm and can only imagine how they will cope with the surge of water that is headed their way. We got a call from the Red Cross asking us to be in New Jersey to serve on a Disaster Relief team, but given our pending trip to Haiti we had to turn them down. I am sorry about that because I know how much work the Red Cross has in store for them, but we could not make the 3-week commitment and still get to Haiti. Please pray for the people who have been and will be impacted by this storm. Based on the latest projections, that could include people as far west as Ohio and Kentucky.
So, here's a rundown of what we did this week - - a whole lotta nuttin'. We relaxed a bit the first part of the week and then checked out the Del Webb in Ocala. We really liked this community too. It's much newer (started in 2006) so there aren't as many homes as there are in others like Charlotte and Hilton Head. The amenities center was beautiful and so is the golf course. Apparently, Ocala has a different sort of weather pattern for summer. Because they are at a slightly higher elevation, they don't get as hot as the rest of northern Florida, plus they get a nice breeze all summer long. Could be a possibility for us as we like the tax structure for the state of Florida too.
The big thing we did this week was attend the 8th Annual Florida Finders Fest. This is a geocaching event held in Ocala National Forest and let me tell you, it was an absolute blast. There are a number of events that go on over the course of the weekend that were geared toward people of all ages. Every event was geocaching related, however, but some were more challenging than others. For example, there was a team gauntlet run that was several miles long and involved not only finding caches, but solving trivia questions along the route. Everyone we talked to thoroughly enjoyed that event, although it was a bit more grueling than they had anticipated. The event developer (Dave, whose geocaching name is "IceCreamMan") said it was a 5-mile course. What he failed to mention was that the course was 5 miles point-to-point, but the caches were placed in such a way that you criss-crossed the course in order to find everything and it ended up being 10.5 miles in total. OOPS!!!! Oh well. All kinds of teams participated - - there was a 3-generation family, a team of high school kids (boys and girls) who all wore fake mustaches (their team name was "Team Mustache"), a team of 10 people who were all in their 50's and 60's, etc. In addition to geocaching, they had a pinata full of candy for the younger kids, a creepy graveyard (including fog machine) that the pre-teen and teenagers had to cross to go trick or treating, t-shirt contests, a chili cook-off, tin foil hat contest and star gazing at night. Most of the participants camped right on site so they were able to enjoy all the festivities. We, however, were an hour away so we came to geocache and eat. We were lucky enough to win one of the door prizes though. YAHOO!!!!!
That's it for the update this week. I am anxious to go to Bible Study at the church we attend when in Bushnell as one of my fellow Moody students is a deacon there. I have never met this man in person but have had several on-line classes with him. Should be interesting to finally meet him. Aside from that, Steve and I plan to re-visit The Villages community one last time to completely rule that out as a future home site. We are going into Orlando to visit with one of the former pastors from Westgate Chapel who moved down here about 2 years ago, and a stop over in Disney. The remainder of our time will be spent preparing for our trip to Haiti and shopping for gifts for our dear Wilguens. I am excited to meet him but anxious about being in Haiti. I got sick when I went to India so I am a little leery of traveling again to a place where the water is unsafe to drink. I am sure it will be fine though and God will show us amazing things while we are there.
Love you all and for those of you on the east coast, please be safe. Until next week . . . . .
"I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."
– Diane Ackerman
Good morning everyone! Hope all of you had a wonderful week. Not sure what the weather is doing in your part of the country, but where we are, it's in the upper 70's and sunny. LOVE IT!!!
Steve and I have moved 3 times and have driven 565 miles since we last updated you. We left the Outer Banks area of North Carolina (a vacation destination for all of you to be sure - - check it out some time) and headed to Wilmington, NC. Once again, Steve and I were absolutely shocked at how cool this little town was - - and when I say "little" I mean slightly smaller than Toledo. The character of the city is that of a Savannah or a Charleston with the historic homes and waterfront amenities, but has a much younger kind of vibe that I would liken to that of Little Rock.
Apparently, Wilmington is called the "Hollywood of the east" because there are several television shows and movies that are filmed there. For example, Jennifer Aniston just finished her filming in Wilmington just a couple of weeks ago. I can definitely see the draw to this city and we just loved it. I believe it has hit our top places to live along with Charlotte, Hilton Head and Little Rock. Sadly, we didn't get to stay very long but we did get to do some fun geocaching within the city which allowed us to do a "walking tour" of that charming town. If you are on the east coast of North Carolina, be sure and stop in to Wilmington. You will not be disappointed.
On our way south to Florida, we stopped in Hilton Head to revisit the Del Webb community there. Again, we loved it like we did the first time we toured the community. First of all, Hilton Head is just gorgeous. Secondly, this Del Webb community has models that offer us exactly what we are looking for in a home - - 2 beds, an office, room in the garage for two vehicles and a golf cart, tons of things to do, 3 golf courses, 30 minutes to Savannah - - the list could go on and on. I graduate from seminary in December 2013 so we want to narrow down where we will be settling down when I start my second career and since we will be focusing our travel efforts on everything west of the Mississippi this coming year, we need to close the books on the east coast. For me, Charlotte and Hilton Head are tops on the list.
We really didn't have time to do anything else in Hilton Head because we needed to get down further south as we were planning to attend the Blue Angels air show in Jacksonville, FL. We stayed in a campground in Woodbine, Georgia because we know this place. We stayed here when we visited St. Mary's, Georgia back in the Spring and also, because we really liked the young Australian couple that bought this campground and are fixing it up.
Anyway, let me tell you about the air show. The day began with Steve and I heading to church. We had chosen a church that was a few blocks from the Jacksonville Beach (the site of the air show) so that we could attend church and then just leave our truck there and walk to the beach. On the way to that church, we passed another church that had a sign out front that read "Beach Service 10:45". AWESOME! We love to attend service in unusual places as we think the location adds to the ambiance of the service. You will recall that we've attended services in a former drive-in theater (Daytona Beach, Florida), on top of a mountain (Stone Mountain, Georgia) and a lakeside pavillion (Lake Champlain, Vermont). Why not add a ocean side service to the mix!!! We were definitely in! So we park the car and Steve hops in the back seat to change out of his church clothes and into his beach clothes. We grab our beach chairs, the cooler, sun glasses, camera, our sun hats (Steve's big straw hat that he got from MIS) and head to church. We are so excited and just know we are going to love the experience. Since we were new to the whole beach service concept, we ask someone working the parking lot for directions on where to go. He was so kind and was willing to walk us all the way to where we needed to be. Steve and I were a bit taken aback because we were several blocks from the beach, but hey, he's a Christian so kindness is not unexpected for strangers. Anyway, as we are following him and chatting away about being in the area for just the day, he walks us right into a building which turns out to be - - you guessed it - - THE CHURCH SANCTUARY. Here's Steve and I standing there with beach chairs over our shoulders, a cooler and camera, sunglasses, straw hat, shorts, sun glasses and sandals and everyone else is dressed in their Sunday best. We were mortified. I mean absolutely stunned. We looked like total goobers and drew a lot of attention (as you can imagine). We tried to explain to them that we saw a sign that said "Beach Service 10:45" only to find out that the name of the church is BEACH UNITED METHODIST. C'mon people. Really? Your big sign reads "Beach Service"
Anyway, they welcomed us, gave us a glass of lemonade and a place to stash our beach gear. Then we attended the service. The message was about fear and trusting our God to help us either overcome the situations we are in, or to take us out of the situation if He deems it to be the right course of action. The message hit home for me as I am coming to the end of my masters program and will be looking for employment in ministry soon. I am a bit fearful because it is a world that is foreign to me, but I know that God will provide the right opportunity for me when the time comes.
So after the service, Steve and I head to the beach to watch the air show. What a spectacular venue for this event. The weather could not have been more perfect - - 79 degrees, nice breeze, and not a cloud in the sky. We plopped down our lawn chairs and relaxed while watching bi-planes and World War II era fighters and older jets do their thing. An F-22 Raptor came on the scene at high speed (although they can go faster than the speed of sound, we were right on top of a residential area and I am sure the Air Force didn't want to replace a bunch of broken windows that would result if a sonic boom were to ensue). WOW! The speed and the sound of this piece of machinery are so impressive that it can literally take your breath away, especially if it comes up from behind you and you don't even know it's there until it passes you VERY LOUDLY! I love speed and loud engines which is why I am a NASCAR fan, but these F-22's make NASCAR pale in comparison. Tons more airplanes performed for us and then finally, the Blue Angels arrived.
If you have never seen these planes in action, please find an airshow and go see them. The precision with which they fly in formation is something to behold. They also do a number of stunts that are very exciting to watch. They come within inches of each other and I mean inches. They typically fly 18 inches apart going 400 miles per hour. WOW. Steve got some awesome shots of the two planes that would pass each other periodically while doing barrel rolls or flying upside down. For me, however, the coolest part of their show was their entrance. They were staging way out over the ocean and then flew in formation, straight toward shore where the crowd was, with the smoke billowing behind them. From that far out, it looked like fire in the sky because all you could see was this huge cloud of smoke getting larger and larger and coming straight at you. As they neared the shore, they shot straight up in the sky leaving all of us staring skyward, mouths agape. I got chills just reliving that moment as I wrote this blog. Loved it!
Ok, this morning we are headed to Bushnell, Florida where we will land for a couple of weeks as we prepare for our trip to Haiti. Steve and I will be starting our malaria pills this week which should be interesting. Last time I had to take malaria pills (when I went to India) I had such incredibly vivid and psychotic dreams. If I have any dream worth writing about as we go through our pill regimen, I will definitely share it with you. We have big plans for the next two weeks - - a trip to Disney, a visit to the Del Webb in Ocala, a visit to St. Augustine, and a huge geocaching event on the 27th. Good times! Weather will be in the mid-80's and sunny. Geez it sucks to be us! Kidding....
We know how truly blessed we are.
Take care everyone! Miss you all.
"Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing until it gets there."
– Josh Billings
Happy Monday people. Hope you all had an excellent week. The Cleveland Browns finally won yesterday so Steve's happy. It happens so rarely that one really needs to celebrate the moment - - you Detroit Lions fans used to know that feeling.
This week's update is going to be a bit different. I am going to work from today backwards.
So here I sit in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina looking at the most beautiful sunrise sky. The background is a pale to medium blue, but the clouds are bright yellow and white, being lit from the early morning sun. Absolutely lovely. I hope the day stays this way because we plan to take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel to Kitopeke State Park and do some geocaching. For those of you not familiar with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel, it is a 17-mile long series of bridges and tunnels that take you from the mainland of Virginia via Virginia Beach, across the Chesapeake Bay and over to the eastern point of the tip of Virginia. Check it out at this website: http://www.cbbt.com/history.html. So yeah, I am hoping that my claustrophobia doesn't kick in. Could be interesting.
Yesterday, we had a delightful day. We began our day with a wonderful pancake and sausage breakfast at our campground. This brought back wonderful memories of the 20+ years that Terry and I went to Family Camp on the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan. People just staggering in, wearing their pajamas and not really caring what their hair looks like. Adults headed straight for coffee with that glazed look in their eyes. AAAAAHHHHH, the good old days! After this, we headed to Kitty Hawk for church. We visited the Lighthouse Christian Church and had a wonderful service. I must tell you a quick story about how good God is. I have been dealing with some self doubt about my calling and my effectiveness in counseling those who are seeking God. I won't bore you with the details but yesterday's message was all about encouragement and how God doesn't lead you somewhere and then forget about you. Both Steve and I felt that this message was meant specifically for me - - especially when the pastor woke up Sunday morning and got the idea to speak about how God encourages us. Do you see what I mean? Isn't that cool?
Ok, so after church, we visited the Wright Brothers' Memorial which was very interesting. These guys made several trips to Kill Devil Hills (which is the actual location of their first flight, not Kitty Hawk) because it provided them good wind and soft sand for landings. Their first flight was 12 seconds and went all of 120 feet. They steadily improved this performance and on their fourth attempt, they achieved flight for more than 800 feet. That was worth celebrating! One of the facts displayed in the museum really caught our eye and that was the comment that it was 66 years between man's first flight and man's landing on the moon. Incredible, no? Steve and I climbed the hill at the top of which is the memorial to the Wright Brothers. From there we could watch the kite flying contest which was happening below. That was really cool.
From there, we headed down the coast to Cape Hatteras and stopped and had lunch at a beachside pier. The weather was sunny and a spectacular 77 degrees. Perfect!
Earlier in the week, Steve and I spent a couple of days in the Washington, D.C. area. Steve had never been to our nation's capital so I was excited to show it to him. We took the subway in from College Park and stopped at the Smithsonian station which is right next to the mall. When we came to the top of the escalator that leads you out of the subway, I lead Steve to the middle of the mall because from this vantage point you have the Washington Monument on one side of you and the Capitol Building on the other. Quite the wow factor and he was impressed. We walked and walked that day going from the Smithsonian station, to the Holocaust Museum, and from there around the Tidal Basin to see the Jefferson, Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, and Lincoln Memorials. It was a monumental trip (get it - - monumental - - I crack myself up). While resting at the Lincoln Memorial, we met Orlando Rivera, a Vietnam vet, and his dad, Isidor, who is a World War II vet. Both were visiting D.C. via the Honor Flight program. They were telling us about their experience with first leaving Atlanta (where their flight originated) and how the city of Atlanta's police escorted them all the way to the airport. As they neared the airport, the Atlanta firefighters made a tunnel with the extended ladders of their ladder trucks for them to pass under. They said it was quite spectacular. When they arrived at Ronald Reagan airport in D.C., the firefighters there greeted their plane with a water tunnel on the tarmac. Coldwell Banker sponsored their trip and paid most of the expenses. How cool is that. We thanked them for their service and left that conversation with full hearts.
While in D.C., we also visited the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. This was a very understated but beautiful memorial which consisted of 184 benches, one for each person killed at that location. Here is the website if you want to learn more about it: http://pentagonmemorial.org/. What was really eerie about this memorial is the location. It is located right next to the actual wall that was hit with Flight 77 the morning of 9/11. Obviously, the building has been repaired since this terror attack but there is one stone in the facade of the building that was left from that explosion. It is soot-covered and black and stands out from the rest of the limestone slabs. As you look back at the Air Force Monument to the south, you get an idea of the flight path that the plane took as it headed for the Pentagon. Very creepy to visualize the plane heading toward the building and what the people on that plane must have been going through, knowing they were about to die. You know, it's been 11 years since that awful day and we were all so emotionally impacted by it at the time. But eventually the pain and fear subsides and we go back to our lives and sort of "forget" what happened to our country, and the world for that matter, on that day. Being at that memorial sort of brought it all back for me and I am glad that we visited it for that very reason. We cannot be complacent about our freedom and what it takes to maintain it. Thank a military service person next time you see one!
Arlington National Cemetery was interesting. We visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which contains remains of an unknown soldier from World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and until 1998, the Vietnam War. It is guarded 24/7 by the Third United States Infantry. Each soldier who guards the tomb takes a very specific path in front of the tomb. He walks 21 steps, turns to face the tomb for 21 seconds, then turns back in the opposite direction from which he came and waits another 21 seconds, and then heads back to the other side for 21 steps. The number 21 alludes to the 21-gun salute, which is the highest honor given to any military or foreign dignitary. We tried to capture the beauty of the changing of the guard ceremony in pictures, but they really don't do it justice. There are a number of YouTube videos you can watch - - here's one for your viewing pleasure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqZ-mkdp1H0.
We didn't really visit any of the Smithsonian museums with the exception of the Air and Space Museum. That was interesting but disappointing for us because I had built it up to be something really cool - - which it is for most people - - but we had been to so many NASA locations and military museums along our journey this past year, we were already well-versed on the vast majority of the exhibits contained in the museum so we didn't really see much that was new. The main difference is that the aircraft exhibited were the actual ones... not a replica. The remaining Smithsonian exhibits will have to wait for another time. The old man and I were exhausted. We walked almost 10 miles in two days and that is not something we were physically prepared for - - know what I mean?
Ok, so we get to the first part of the week which is the last thing I am going to write about. We stopped in Pittsburgh to visit our friends Ed and Ilona Wilkocz. We met these two lovely people at Watkins Glen, New York and have became fast friends. They took us around the city of Pittsburgh which is quite impressive. The downtown area has gone from steel-related company buildings and services to a conglomeration of more high-tech and service-oriented companies. They make excellent use of the waterfront and the drive around that area is quite interesting as you can't go more than a mile without going through a tunnel or crossing a bridge of some sort. Take a weekend and check out Pittsburgh. There is much to do and see.
Alrighty then, that's it for this week. Steve and I are hot-footing south at this point. From here we go to Wilmington, N.C. for a couple of days. Then to Edisto Beach in South Carolina. A quick stop in St. Mary's, Georgia, and then in Bushnell, Florida a week from today. We have many adventures planned between now and then so we will have much to share next week. Stay tuned and stay warm. I don't know if the weather is going to get cold again for you northerners, but for us - - it's all about 75 and sunny!!!!!!!!!
AAAAAAAHHHHHHH! It's good to be home! After almost two weeks staying with family, Steve and I have retrieved our dear Big Red from the manufacturer and are happily sleeping in our own bed again. But before I get to that, let me update you on the week of visiting friends.
First, while Steve and my dad went to have dinner with my brother-in-law Yog, I met two friends for dinner at my mother's favorite restaurant - - Mexican Fiesta! These two women - - Lisa Harris and Michele Patrick - - are the funniest and craziest women I have ever known. All three of us used to work at Visteon but Michele moved on to Continental and I retired so Lisa is left on her own, but she manages okay. Anyway, I absolutely loved visiting with them and laughed so much the entire time we were together.
Next, Steve and I focused on cleaning out that storage unit. We were giving away furniture and "stuff" like there was no tomorrow, but honestly, I am not missing any of it. On Tuesday afternoon, we went to visit our friends Dave and Deane Luce who live next door to our beautiful farmhouse in Swanton, Ohio. While we were visiting them, I looked over at that house and was taken aback to realize that we used to have enough stuff to fill up that huge house, a 3 1/2 car garage, a party barn, a 40 x 60 pole barn, and a chicken coop. Now, the sum total of everything we own fits into a 40 foot fifth wheel and a 10 x 7 storage unit. I was really blown away just looking at that house and realizing how much has changed in just a year or two.
Anyway, back to Dave and Deane. We just love these people so much. They are a total hoot, even if they do beat us in euchre every time (well, except once, the memory of which we cling to like it's life-giving or something). Anyway, our dear Deane is having some health issues and had just gotten out of the hospital but had to model her "Mighty Mouse" cape for us. A neighbor made this cape for her because no matter what medical issues befall her, she keeps coming back and charging hard. Thank you Lord for her ability to rebound because we want to have these two people in our lives for a long time to come.
One evening last week I got to go and visit Little Lauren Marie (she's not named after me but does carry some of my personality traits - - Oh Lordy!). This girl is so adorable and the last time I saw her, or her brother Alex, they were so much smaller. Now Lauren is 3 and Alex is 7 and in second grade. When you see little kids after a long period of time, I think that's when it hits you that time is really moving quickly. Know what I mean? I think it's because children just change so much so quickly that not seeing them for a year makes a huge difference. Anyway, the main reason for the visit was to catch up with my friend Michelle Laser who I have known for almost 20 years. We worked together at Dana Commercial Credit back in the early 90's, then again at Dana Corporation in the 2000's, and then at Visteon. She's "together" as ever and looked great and I love the family picture I was able to take. Also, if you are looking for a good tax man, I highly recommend her husband, Aaron. His tax firm - The Laser Group - is located in Toledo and can be reached at 419-578-1040. Ok, that's all for the commercials.
Now on to my buddy Christine Perrine. She is such a cool chick and I am so glad that we got to spend some time together, even if it was just a brief lunch. It's hard to believe that her baby, Stephanie, is finishing her last year at OSU in the Nursing program and plans to go on for her Physicians Assistant degree. Geez, that girl used to clean my house when she was about 13 years old so to know that she's about to graduate from college just blew my mind. Chris and her husband, Bob, like to go to Vegas so Steve and I are hoping that they come out for the March NASCAR race in Vegas and hang with us for a few days. That would be a blast.
So Friday came and we had to say goodbye to everyone and head to Indiana to retrieve Big Red. WOW was I excited to see her! It's not that I don't appreciate seeing family, but I really really really love my own bed and my own stuff. Can you relate? Steve and I spent the night in Indiana and then headed east to Cleveland where we spent two days relaxing at the Round Up Lake campground. On Saturday, we celebrated our 12th anniversary at the camp's Chili Cook-off. I couldn't have asked for a more appropriate venue for our anniversary celebration, given our new lifestyle. I enjoyed myself and met some really nice people so to me, it was perfect. Can you believe it's been 12 years? And you thought it wouldn't last . . . . . .
Anyway, today we visited the Cuyahoga Valley National Park which is just south east of Cleveland. What a lovely park and what a great time of year to visit with the leaves in full color mode. We took a little hike to see the Brandywine Falls, which were absolutely gorgeous. Alongside these falls was an old electric company - Champion Electric - which produced restaurant appliances and was the last industry in the Brandywine area. Since this park is only 2 hours from Toledo (or 3 from Detroit), I highly recommend a visit. There is just so much to see and do in this park - - the hiking trails alone could take weeks to get through. There are a number of old farms that sell fruits and veggies, a beaver pond with live beavers in it, a beautiful train that takes you the length of the park (which, by the way, is a 3 1/2 hour ride). There is also a paved bike path that runs alongside the old Ohio & Erie Canal that is very scenic and a nice path to take for some exercise. Along the way, you can see a number of buildings that were quite important when the canal was in great use. We also saw "Hell's Half Acre" which is where the Canal Visitor's Center is located. So when someone tells me that they've been to Hell's Half Acre and back, I'll know exactly where he was.
Okay, that's it for this week. Tomorrow we head to the Pittsburgh area to visit Ed and Ilona, friends we made while we were in Watkins Glen, New York this past summer. From there, we will spend a few days visiting our nation's capital (capitol? I can never keep those straight). From there, we head south to the North Carolina coast, then through South Carolina, Georgia, and on to Florida where we will be participating in a huge geocaching event in the Ocala area.
Thanks to everyone who made our visit to the Detroit and Toledo areas so wonderful. My dad was the best host ever (even his crazy dog, Sandy, was nice to us). Steve's sister Beverly and her husband Larry were also gracious enough to house us while we were engaged in the Toledo area. Thanks to everyone else who hugged us and said that they missed us. Our life is quite special, no doubt, but missing all of you sometimes takes its toll. Even a life of perpetual vacation has its drawbacks, no?
Alrighty, try to stay warm folks. We are not happy that we've had to run our furnace continuosly since we picked up Big Red so we have to head south in a hurry. We will be thinking of you as we walk the beach later this month. Sorry, but I had to say it!!!!
Love you all!