Saturday, April 18, 2009

Homeward Bound :(

The last three days have really been 'travel' days - with lots of museums and unexpected delights along the way.

Thursday we left the Mr. Rushmore area via Spearfish Canyon - another beautiful drive. We did, however, dodge the latest snow storm the entire day. In fact, news of the weather ahead of us (the same storm that just 'dumped' 3 ft in the Denver area and closed I70) caused us to stop a little early in Buffalo, WY. This was fine because we needed to do a load of laundry to get home and I spotted a good-looking steak place for dinner. Friday morning we were still watching the weather - waiting to be sure the 10,000' pass we had to go over that morning to Cody would be clear by the time we got there. Another beautiful drive with a lot of new snow along the road but only slush for us to drive through.

So - we arrived in Cody mid-afternoon ready to spend the rest of the day in the Bill Cody Museum. Another small disappointment - the western art section was closed while they were relocating the display to another portion of the museum. We enjoyed the remaining exhibits, but were really looking forward to seeing what we couldn't. This just means another trip back. Perhaps after June 1st next time to also see the nightly rodeo! We were rewarded with another good steak dinner, entertainment from a talent contest and a few good dances at a local 'hot spot' we wandered into! So - all in all - another good day.

Saturday led us to the most unexpected 'find' in the most unexpected place! We were following the pertinent section of a particular 'road trip' visiting all the noted museums - in towns of 350, 3500 people, etc - not huge metropolises. While in the photo museum in Meeteetse (population 35o) we learned of a 'chocolatier' next door. Well - we had to check this out - and OMG!! A true cowboy/rodeo bronc rider was the owner and 'chocolatier' who made everything in the shop (no one but him was allowed in the kitchen!). He started this 'vocation' after being proded by his mother when he needed money to buy a new bronc saddle. He made a few items and took them to a rodeo in Cody - and sold everything! This was the beginning of something wonderful. This is not average/normal stuff. It is wonderful Belgium chocolate chipotle mousse with a sea salt carmel sauce, Belgium dark chocolate with Bailey's truffle brownie, etc. etc. etc. In case you have any interest, Tim has a website - . Eat your heart out - we did!! From here the rest of the day was just a drive.

Butch and Sundance frequented this Hole in the Wall Bar.

Bellying up just like Butch and the Kid.

Drawing of a precursor to our Magic Bus. 

A forerunner to our current motor home.

Yes, I now get the Senior Pass at the National Parks, but I am not THAT old.

Tomorrow we will be home after 5 weeks and 3 days on the road - and just under 7,000 miles. We have seen desert, rolling hills, beautiful pink and white flowering trees along the road, ranches and farms. We have survived tornado, severe thunderstorm, flash flood and snow storm warnings. Animals of all types have waved to us as we have passed them by in our travels. Golf courses challenged us along the way. And - oh yes - those three babies that gave us the reason for the trip are adorable!!

The 'Magic Bus' performed wonderfully and has been a dream. So - we will be home 2 days to let it rest before we set out for California on Tuesday!! Hope you have enjoyed this trip with us - and enjoy those to come.

More later - E&G

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gary and I are always in a FOG!

Just as I talked about how beautiful our country is - we drove across South Dakota! Poor South Dakota. The only time the entire trip I had to pull over and ask Gary to drive during my shift as I was falling asleep! Thank goodness two men had the idea to create Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse and enlisted two men with great vision and persistence - or poor South Dakota would be left devoid - of anything.

Badlands was interesting - and with all due respect to Frank Lloyd Wright - we like Northern Arizona with the Painted Desert and Monument Valley much better.

Badlands S.D.

BUT - one of the many highlights of the trip for me was the anticipation of seeing Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse - a new experience for me. We rose early because we had a lot to do today (April 15 tax relief for us). As we got closer to Mt. Rushmore - the excitement mounted. When we pulled into the parking lot I asked Gary "where is it"?? IN THE FOG! Not a sight of anything. Disappointment set in - but there was always Crazy Horse and perhaps the skies would clear and we could return later in the day. 

Our first view of Mount Rushmore

So - off to Crazy Horse - IN THE FOG!!  We could barely see beyond the entrance gate here. 

Even less to see at Crazy Horse

Well - perhaps a day in the car driving was in store for us today. Custer State Park and the Wildlife Loop was just what the Dr. ordered. We saw Bison/buffalo, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, elk, wild mules (who wouldn't let us by on the road. Talk about stubborn - they didn't care that we were bigger than they were!), prairie dogs and regular old deer. By the end of the drive, skies were still cloudy but much better than in the morning. So - we began retracing our steps.

Long-Horn Sheep

Very stubborn

He is giving us the rasberries

Prong-horned Antelope

Back to Crazy Horse. All the rescheduling and disappointment of earlier were rewarded with being able to see a 'blasting'! This was an awesome experience as we watched them blast 12,000 tons of granite away from the monument. This monument is soooooo LARGE that when the blasting of all that rock was done it barely looked like a dent in the rock! This is truly an amazing endeavor. To give a bit of perspective of how large it is - all of Mt. Rushmore would fit into the head of Crazy Horse!

The sculptor's model of Crazy Horse with Sculpture on mountain in background

Smoke from the blast, with paint outlining horse's ears above the smoke

Now I was happy! But, there was still Mt. Rushmore - so on we go. As we turned the corner for the profile of Washington - there he was! Beautiful! Around the next corner were all four - Mt. Rushmore - just as promised and imagined! I was a happy camper - and so was Gary as he did not have to listen to my whining!!

Washington's Profile in the background

The boys are back from the fog

All in all a VERY good day! Although we are in the fog much of the time - on occasion it DOES clear and all is beautiful.

On to Wyoming today - AND 6,000 miles! More later - E&G

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Old Thoughts - New Thoughts

Well - we have spent the better part of the last three days 'on the move'. Which has given time for thinking - for better or worse.

First the activities - then the thoughts.

Finally weather and lack of planning caught up with us. Saturday we were up bright and early for our drive to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park via the Blue Ridge Parkway. What we could see was beautiful - but we were in a cloud/fog a good portion of the way. AND - this was to be Gary's BIG day - the purchase of an annual National Park pass for a mere $10!! (This is a result of his celebration of his 62nd birthday.) After driving all over the park without any entrance gates to collect our fee/buy Gary's pass, we found out that there is no entrance fee for this park!! Gary was soooo disappointed to NOT spend his $10!!

Rain and fog in the Great Smokey Mountains

Our spot next to the river in the Smokey Mountains

The next morning was still rainy and foggy, preventing any kind of views - so we decided to continue on to Nashville. The thought occurred to us to call and see if anything we wanted to see or do was open since we were now to Easter Sunday! The Grand Ole Opry is dark on Sunday and Monday (and we just missed Vince Gill and a host of others on Saturday night), the Bluebird Cafe is closed on Sunday, etc. etc. etc. After deciding that we could at least 'do lunch' at Cafe Loveless - only to find an hour wait - we grabbed pulled pork sandwiches at their market and kept on trukin' to St. Louis for the night. It was still so rainy, windy and cold that we did not even stop for a picture at the arch.

Monday was an all day drive to North Sioux City, SD - right through Omaha, again because of the rain, wind and cold we did not stop at the zoo as previously planned. We did have a little sunshine by the time we arrived at a KOA campground to get the golf clubs out and dry them off from our rain-out at Mt. Mitchell on Friday!! One other item I keep forgetting to note - mileage. As we passed Kansas City we logged 5,000 miles on this trip!!

Now for the thoughts. All this driving gave lots of time to ponder------

1 - Our country is beautiful! We came back to the land of pink blossoming trees the last couple of days - much like what we saw through Arkansas and Alabama. They really made the highway wonderful to drive. AND - it is also interesting how the landscape knows where the state line is! It is true - trees, hills/mountains, grass, etc changes as you pass from state to state. How does that work???

2 - Remember when you were young and did these road trips with your parents (or maybe as young parents with your children) and you looked for the Stuckeys for a bathroom and snack break? I wondered where they had all gone - I found them! They are still out there, especially along the old Route 66 stretch. Now, however, they are really a Dairy Queen (under the sign of Stuckeys - did they buy this right??). This is just fine with me as I live for a small chocolate Dairy Queen sundae mid-afternoon. So - all is well on the Stuckeys front.

3 - There are more Baptist churches in Arkansas, Alabama and South Carolina than Catholic churches in Italy!! Something I never thought possible. AND - there are so many different kinds - Free, Independent, Free Will, Evangelical - you name it. They are from the very large to the very small - BIG brick buildings to corrugated sheet metal - three on every corner across from each other - very BIG out in the middle of no where! How are all of these supported??

4 - Every town and city seems to have an 'Historical District/Main Street'. Does every town really have historical significance? Do you have to have historical significance to have an historical district? In our travels yesterday I came to the conclusion that every town in America puts up a sign on the highway "Historical District Next Exit". I came to this conclusion as we passed by Blackwater, MO and asked Gary what he thought the historical significance of Blackwater was?? He looked up Blackwater on his all-knowing iPhone. Blackwater has a population of 199 people covering .3 square mile (according to 2005 census) and had NO mention of any historical battles, birthplace of any notable, nothing! It almost made us want to go back and see WHAT made up the Historical Main Street of this town - original saloon, sheriff office, ?????

Well - this is probably enough of my rambling and we need to get on the road to the BADLANDS!

More later - E&G

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Back On The Road Again

It was so very hard NOT to drive the Bus to the Byrne house as we drove out of town.  We so enjoyed the babies (and Bethany, David and Westley) and the time we spent with them.  But, all good things must come to an end - and so we took one last look at Charleston and the Chapel of Ease (just down the street from our little home away from home) - and were on our way.

Chapel of Ease 

Next stop - Asheville, NC.  This originally was not even on our agenda, but because of many recommendations from friends, we decided to add it and are very happy we did.  The area is beautiful - so our overnight stay extended to three days!  We golfed and lunched at Grove Park Inn, 'almost' golfed at Mt. Mitchell (we were rained out after 3 holes!), drove some of the Blue Ridge Parkway to Little Switzerland, and visited and dined at the Vanderbilt home - Biltmore!  

Such a beautiful stop - we will let Gary's pictures tell the story and talk to you again after the Great Smokey National Park.  

At the 17th at Grove Park

Teeing off on 18 in front of the Grove Park Inn

Rained out at Mt Mitchell Golf Course

George W. Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate

Wine Tasting at the Biltmore Estate Winery

More later -  E&G

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Happy Days - Sad Day

The last four days have been awesome!!

There have been feedings, play times, naps on the couch, diaper changes, loads of laundry, lunches and dinners (for the big people), trips to Charleston (for Mom and Dad) and just watching babies. It is amazing how much time you can spend just sitting and watching babies sleep!!

Olivia and George Share a Moment

Elizabeth relaxes with George and Olivia

Gary and Olivia Share a Nap

The last two days gave us two BIG events. Yesterday was Gary's birthday, with lots of phone calls.  We even had a 'skype' call with Heather and Haley, which really impressed Bethany and David.  It was a lot of fun as everyone got to see and meet everyone!  Then we celebrated with a pizza party given to Gary by all the Byrnes - Bethany, David, Westley, George, Olivia and Samuel (who was there in spirit from Charleston)!! After the fun day - we really enjoyed the party. Then - today was our babysitting day! David was back at work and Bethany went to see Samuel in Charleston - so we were entrusted with Olivia and George all to ourselves. Two wonderful things happened today. First - we made it through the day without any alarms on Olivia's monitor, which means we did NOT have to use any of that baby CPR or monitor training!! Great relief at the end of today. And second - Samuel breast fed today!! This is really big and we pray that Samuel just keeps getting stronger and stronger every day so he can get home and enjoy all the things about HOME that Olivia and George are enjoying.

This evening was a sad one because it was our last night with the Byrne family.  We have soooooo enjoyed our visit here and are grateful for how Bethany and David (and Westley) shared the babies with us!

Tomorrow we are on our way again - off to Asheville.  More later-E&G

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Forgotten Ones

In her diligence to carefully cover the happenings of the last few days, Elizabeth blithely forgot Scout and Belle, the family retriever and beagle.  The poor dogs have no idea how their lives have changed.  While waiting all day for the new additions to arrive, Belle and Scout spent most of the day in their laundry room space with the occasional outdoor break and an evening walk with Omi.

Finally, they were introduced to George and Olivia shortly before bedtime.

Scout is introduced to Olivia.

Belle meets George.

There was much attempted licking and sniffing going on.

Babies, Babies and More Babies

Brace yourselves! Thursday and Friday were VERY BIG days for VERY little people - AND us!!

Thursday was a very grey, rainy day (like one of the worst rain storms I have ever been in!). We got up early and headed over to the Byrne household to help with 'behind the scenes' stuff.  David had done a wonderful job of getting the nursery ready for George, Olivia and Samuel's homecoming - but washing and folding baby clothes was not high on his agenda. (Not a guy thing.) And, there were bags and bags of baby clothes given to the Byrne Babies. So, I spent time washing, folding, organizing and putting away all those cute little clothes while Gary put dressers and strollers together.

(A parenthetical note - it helps to know that Bethany went in for a doctor's appointment the end of January. They immediately sent her to Charleston (about 1.5 hours from Beaufort) for more testing. At this point, Bethany thinks she will return home and have several more weeks to 'get things in order' before the babies are born. Instead - she was put to bed there and the babies were born the next day - January 28. The babies went to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NNICU) in the Children's Hospital in Charleston and Bethany moved into Ronald McDonald house across the street from the NNICU and has NOT been home since. So - no time for Mom to get the nursery in order as she would like it!!)

Then it was time to get on the road to Charleston as we had classes waiting for us. The drive there was 'interesting' as the rain was coming down in sheets! We arrived just in time to sit in on the doctors briefing - which occurs every day around noon. The doctor and all residents and nurses gather to go over each baby (each baby has its own assigned resident doctor and nurse) discussing changes, weight gains, new care instructions, etc. This is quite a site! The other good news today is that Samuel had been moved to the Special Care Unit - so all babies were in one place! This was REALLY special - so there will be more about this in a minute.

Briefing - What a great team

Then we had to scoot to class - first we had our baby CPR class followed by monitor training. All I can say is that I truly hope we never need to use either! And, the good news is that Olivia has not had another episode in several days.

Now - back to the news about all babies in one place. This may not seem like much - but it was a BIG DEAL. All three babies were in the same room and could now be put together - something which had not happened since they were born! What an event - what a day. Needless to say there were many pictures taken - and here are some 'family photos'! (Gary and I even got in on a few.)

Together again at last

David, Bethany, Olivia, George and Samuel

Gary, Elizabeth, Omi, Mom, Dad and kids

By this time - Gary and I were exhausted!! So, we left the proud parents and Omi (David's mother Westley) with the three little ones and headed 'home' in the still pouring rain. There was no scrabble this night as we both fell into bed. However - remember that thing about the worst storm ever?!?!? Again, we were under storm/tornado/flood watches. A little before 3 AM we both woke up with the sounds on the roof of the Bus. Gary said - hail. We both just listened until there was this HUGE thud right over my head - which scared the crap out of me!!! Again, Gary said - hail. I said - NO WAY was that hail - it would have had to be baseball size to make that noise! Next morning we found the culprit - a limb from one of the many trees over our head - picture below. We were among the lucky ones with our camping spot - as we were not underwater as many of the sights were!

Things that went bump in the night

Thank goodness this was not our spot

We did manage to get some sleep and were up on Friday for another BIG day as George and Olivia are coming home today! We did errands in the morning - things for the Bus, grocery shopping, etc. Then back to the Byrne house for more baby clothes laundry while Gary worked on the Bus. Then - the BIG event. Here come Olivia and George with Mom and Dad! This was REALLY SPECIAL - and we are so happy we got to share in the moment!!!! I will let the pictures tell the story -----

Olivia and George arrive home

Their first home cooked meal

Now that we have this posted-we need to get ourselves in gear and get to our post at the Byrne house to help where needed.  More later-E&G

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Alabama to Beaufort, SC

Well - when last I left you we were getting lots of rain in AL and hoping for one more good golf day. We got it! We played the last of the Robert Trent Jones golf trail courses on Sunday in Auburn/Opelika and had a very nice day. The rain held off - the sun came out - and we were paired with another couple from Minnesota that played about like us. So - all was well.

After the round of golf we went in search of a Starbuck's for the internet connection. We became the 'techie couple on the road'! We found that we could get the wifi connection in the Bus - so sat in the parking lot working on the computer. Gary decided that he wanted to test the satellite, as we had not been able to get it to work in the state park - assuming due to all the trees blocking the reception. So - he cranked up the dish and low and behold we had great reception of the Bay Hill Classic (you know - the one where that guy Tiger that has not played golf for 8 months sank a 20+ foot putt on the last hole to win the tournament!!). Then, we decided to see if we could get Heather and Haley on the skype connection to see what was going on with them and had a nice conversation. So - there we were - in the Magic Bus working on the computer with a skype conversation with Heather and Haley watching golf! What could be any better than all of that?!?

Monday morning we finally left Alabama and headed to Beaufort. We ventured through Atlanta so that we could have lunch and a very nice conversation with cousin Dodge. We were very sorry that Jeanie could not join us and to hear of the recent passing of her Mother. The ears of everyone in the family should be burning as we touched on all of you!!

We arrived in Hunting State Park (our home for the next week) just outside of Beaufort very late Monday night. But, we were up and on our way to Charleston very early Tuesday morning to see Bethany and the babies.

Elizabeth holding George

THEY ARE SO CUTE - AND SO TINY!! I even got to hold George and tell Olivia and Samuel stories. We had a wonderful time spending the day with them all and David drove in to see the kids in the afternoon and we all went to dinner before we returned to Beaufort. Right now they are hoping that George and Olivia will go home on Friday. In anticipation that this does happen - and Gary and I do some babysitting the first of next week - Gary and I are taking a baby CPR course and baby monitor course (Olivia would most likely go home with a monitor on) tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. YIKES!!

Olivia in her usual "tongue sticking out" position.  

Most of today we have been doing errands - like laundry, grocery shopping, taking care of the Bus - AND FINDING AN INTERNET CONNECTION!! This is the hardest it has been to find one. No Starbucks, the library is closed until the end of the week for inventory, etc. etc. etc. Finally found a coffee shop with quite a nice wifi area - so here we are.

You will get much more on the babies in the next posting. Until then - prayers to keep them all healthy. More later - E&G