Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Family, Friends & Worn Out!!

Well - it has been 5 days since we left the Byrne family of five - AND we are still exhausted!! We had a GREAT deal of admiration for Bethany and David before - but it grows every day as we realize how worn out we were/are after being there a week. Taking care of triplets IS A LOT OF WORK!!!! Definitely need to be younger than we are to do it - and again - GO BETHANY & DAVID!!!

We left Beaufort and headed to Atlanta to ‘park’ at the Stone Mountain Park and to see cousins Dodge and Jeanie. What a FUN couple of days. We LOVED Stone Mountain Park. The fact that we had a beautiful camping spot did not hurt - the campground was fabulous (one we definitely want to return to). We were in the trees with a lake view - BEAUTIFUL --

The view from our living room window

Of course, the highlight of Stone Mountain is the mountain itself and the ‘carving’ in the granite - a Confederate Mount Rushmore, which consists of the twenty-times-larger-than-life figures of Robert E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis carved into an 800 foot high hump of granite. In the evening this carving ‘comes to life’ via a laser show and fireworks:-))

The Stone Mountain Sculpture

Also on the grounds of the Park is the Antebellum Plantation, which is a collection of original buildings from around the state of Georgia, built between 1783 and 1875. They were chosen for their authenticity and historical value and represent the diverse lifestyles of 18th and 19th century Georgia residents. Each building was moved from its original site and carefully restored at Stone Mountain Park. Of course, the highlight for us was the Dickey House (circa 1840).

The Old Dickey Antebellum House

Touring the Antebellum Relics with Dodge and Jeannie.

We did make our way out of the Park and into Atlanta to see the Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.

The Cyclorama is the world’s largest oil painting - the “Battle of Atlanta” - and is presented ‘in the round’ and comes to life with music and the story of the battle as you sit and rotate very slowly around to see the entire circle of the painting. Incredibly interesting to see! The museum also displays the “Texas”, one of the steam locomotives used in the Great Locomotive Chase in April, 1862.

The MLK, Jr. NHS includes a four-block area that holds many important landmarks in the life of Dr. King, including his birthplace, the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he, his father and grandfather all served as pastor, and his tomb engraved with the words “Free at Last, Free at Last”. There is also a visitor center with information, exhibits and films on his life and this sad period in our history.

All of our investigation and touring was done with our cousins - Dodge and Jeanie - who were wonderful tour guides! We also spent lots of hours visiting, eating, drinking and much more visiting for the three days we were in Atlanta. A BIG thank you to Dodge and Jeanie:-))

Tuesday (April 27) it was time for us to hit the road again - and we were off to Red Bay, AL to Tiffin, the manufacturer of our Bus. On the way, we made a stop to see a childhood friend of Elizabeth’s - Art Molter (and Wendy Fletcher). Art & Wendy recently relocated from NM (we saw them there on our Spring trip last year), so we got to see their new home, have a yummy lunch and a VERY nice visit.

With all this activity - you can understand why we have not had time to recover from the triplets. I think we plan to spend the next couple of days ‘vegging’ on the Tiffin lot. LOTS more about what that means in the next post. So - stay tuned -

Worn out - Elizabeth & Gary

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Byrne Family of 5

WOW!!! What a week we had in Beaufort with the Byrne Family of Five!!

After leaving the Everglades, we made one quick stop in Titusville (near Cape Canaveral), played a round of golf and rested up for the triplets - so we thought.

We arrived in Beaufort on Friday, April 16, just in time for the March of Dimes 5K on Saturday. Gary and I thought it would be a lot of fun to join Bethany, David, Olivia and George (YEAH - Samuel is home but this walk would have been a little much for him) on this fine Saturday morning to support a good cause. Little did we know we were walking with ‘royalty’. The morning started with Bethany taking the award for ‘top individual money raiser’. AND - Everyone in Beaufort knows the Byrne family - so it took us a little time to get going, as everyone had to come up and talk. While we are experienced at these walks - we have never pushed a TRIPLE stroller in one before. That in itself is a novelty - then you put these cute little ones in it - and you have quite a show stopper!

The March of Dimes walkers getting organized

George the preppie one

The Byrne family team hits the road

David, Bethany, Olivia and George at the halfway mark.

Us too

The rest of the week we just had a BLAST!! We played, danced, went to the park, played - in general, we enjoyed Olivia, George and Samuel - and Bethany and David!

The pictures can tell the story.

Finally figured out how to hold Samuel without knocking his trache hose off the connection (which we did 3 times in the first ten minutes:-(().

Olivia finally decided that Gary was not an ogre (this took the whole week!).

Olivia staring Gary down.

George's "Argh" face

Hmmmmm, I guess the big guys is okay

Olivia's swinging encounter.

I like this slide thingey

What a great week - Thanks to the Byrne Family of 5 for sharing with us:-)) As always - it was very hard to leave, but all good things must come to an end. We promised to make this an annual event and to return Spring of 2011 - if not before.

Next stop cousins Dodge and Jeanie in Atlanta.

Worn out by the triplets - Elizabeth & Gary

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Family, Friends and Jimmy Buffett

Well - it has been a few days. Somehow I equate what we have done to how many pictures we have. And, since there are not a lot of pictures of different activities from the past few days, I was thinking there wasn’t much to write about. But, as I sit here thinking about it - there is way too much to tell.

We left the Cape Canaveral area with our heads spinning from the sight of the launch!! Next destination was Sarasota to visit with cousins Julie and Mike AND to celebrate Gary’s x#@-something birthday.

Monday was a settle-in day and getting ready for a ‘celebration’ day for Gary. Tuesday - b-day - was wonderful - we joined the circus for a day:-))!!

Our morning was slow and easy - then off to meet up with the Cuz’s and wander St. Armand’s Circle and enjoy a relaxing lunch. Then, Gary, Julie and I went to the Ringling Brothers Circus Museum where there is a fabulous exhibit of “Howard’s Miniature Circus”. Howard Tibbals spent years traveling and studying the circus to get all the details accurate in this miniature replica of the circus in the early 1900’s when it still traveled by train and was a ‘Main Event’. AND it IS incredible - right down to the little forks and knives! Gary even tried to get into the act.

At the Ringling Brothers Circus Museum with Cousin Julie

The Howard Tibbals Miniature Circus was amazing

Hanging with the crew

We also toured the home of Mabel & John Ringling - and took a quick ‘spin’ around the Ballroom in their house -

Dancing at the Ringling Mansion

Then we toured the Ringling’s private train car that accompanied the Circus train. I guess this was there version of the ‘Magic Bus’.

John and Mabel Ringling's "RV"

This FUN afternoon was followed by a wonderful Birthday Dinner for Gary. All in all - a VERY NICE DAY!

Wednesday the 4 of us (Julie, Mike and us) headed to Key West with a quick overnight stop in Key Largo. Thursday we settled in to ‘our spot with a view’ which would be our home for the next five days.

A great view from our camp site in Key West

There was much to do in Key West - besides just chillin’ and drinkin’ and eatin’ a cheese burger in paradise. We took the Conch Train to get the overview of this little island, wandered Duval Street, biked into ‘downtown’ and had breakfast with the locals at Harpoon Harry’s, wandered Duval Street, ate and drank.

We did take time for a little history. The Navy has a significant presence here in Key West, although not what it used to be. In 1890, the US Navy built an 8700 square foot home (really a duplex) on the waterfront to house the base commander and paymaster. As time went on, the wall separating the two units was removed and the building was modified to one home. Harry S. Truman had visited and loved it so much that from 1946 to 1952 he used the house 175 days as both a retreat and functioning White House - thus it became known as the Harry S. Truman Little White House. In subsequent years President JFK met here with the British Prime Minister just prior to the Bay of Pigs (1961), US Secretary of State Colin Powell hosted peace talks at the dining room table between Armenia and Azerbaijan (2001) and the Carters (1996) and the Clintons (2005) visited for a little R&R.

President Truman's Little White House

The Navy is also ‘home’ to the Blue Angels - and they just happened to be here for an air show this week-end (they hadn’t been here for 10 years!). AND, we had front row seats as the air base is just across the water from our little ‘parking spot’:-) Our friends Bill & Louise (you know - the goat ranchers we stayed with in Houston) were now here with us and we all settled in for cheeseburgers in this paradise and the air show. A glorious day!!!

Terrific views of the Blue Angel's performance from our camp site

Look out!! They are coming for us.

Don’t know how we could ask for anything after this wonderful day - but it just kept getting better. We had dinner at Blue Heaven - the subject of Jimmy Buffett’s song ‘Blue Heaven Rendevouz’. Food was very good and the atmosphere can’t be beat for here in Key West - expecially the little chicks and roosters roaming around between the tables!!

Our Blue Haven Rendezvous....

...with Bill & Louise

After dinner was a short stroll up Duval street - where Gary & Bill were approached by some of the most interesting ‘women’ of the street. Next was dessert at Better Than Sex! No lie - that is the name of this little restaurant that only serves desserts and wine. AND - their desserts are BETTER THAN SEX!!!

Desert at Better Than Sex was orgasmic

Sunday was a peaceful day visiting with friends who live in this paradise - Bruce and Risha - in their beautiful home lovingly built with incredible attention to detail. After watching the completion of the Masters - the six of us (Risha, Bruce, Louise, Bill and us) met up for a wonderful, relaxing dinner at Lattitudes - a boat ride away to an escape island!

Monday we were to head over to the Dry Tortugas to take in another National Park. However, a ‘little’ electrical problem prevented that trip. I am happy to say that the problem turned out to be the RV park’s and not Magic’s - but the discovery of that made us ‘miss the boat’ to the NP. So - we spent the day on Duval St and headed to the Southernmost point in the Continental US and actually drove all the way into Key West on Hwy 1 to be sure we completed the trip to the end - or is it the beginning - of Hwy 1!

Only 90 miles from here to Cuba

The end of the line.. just the beginning of the next adventure

Tuesday we were on our way again. This time to the Everglades. Unlike early parks established to protect scenery, Everglades was created to preserve a portion of this vast ecosystem as a wildlife habitat. The park’s unique mix of tropical and temperate plants and animals - including the manatee, alligator, crocodile and Florida panther - has prompted UNESCO to grant it international biosphere reserve status as well as World Heritage site designation. We saw various birds and gators - but, no manatee or panthers:-(

A three colored crane

An Anhinga drying off after a long swim

Oops, sorry, we didn't mean to disturb you

These birds seemed very calm in the midst of all the gators

It has been a VERY active week - with lots of family and friends! Now we are off to Beaufort, SC with a little stop on the way and maybe a round of golf. More later -

Elizabeth, Gary and Magic

Monday, April 5, 2010


Friday and Saturday reminded us why we set our new ‘rule’ for travel. After last spring’s trip we decided that our travel days should be NO more than 250 miles or 4 hours. HOWEVER - sometimes there are special events that come up that make all those ‘rules’ go by the wayside.

Back to the beginning - as we were planning our trip this year, we thought it would be really neat if there was a launch at Cape Canaveral at any time that we might be in or around Florida and could work our schedule to be there to see it. After checking a couple of times and seeing nothing on the NASA website during my early planning days - the thought kind of went away. Wednesday there was an article in the USA Today about the ‘NASA Teacher Program’ and the fact that a teacher was going up in the launch Monday, April 5th! Needless to say, I flew to the website AND sure enough there was a shuttle launch scheduled now for the 5th - the last scheduled launch in the dark. Immediately, we began to think how we could make this happen as we were to be in Tallahassee the 3rd and 4th and on to Sarasota on the 5th. We thought - WE CAN DO THIS!

Getting a place to ‘park’ around Cape Canaveral would prove to be the difficult part, I thought, as it was Easter week end - AND it was a shuttle launch. BUT, we did it. A few quick calls to cancel the other arrangements and reservations and we were ready to put the peddle to the metal. Friday - armed with many bags of homemade snacks from Louise - we flew out of Texas across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and into Florida. After a 9 hour day we were ready for a break - and, again, reminded why we set the rule of NO MORE THAN 4 HOURS TRAVEL A DAY!!.

Where's the light at the end of the tunnel.

Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee.

Saturday was more of the same - all the way across the panhandle of Florida from Pensacola down to Cape Canaveral - another 9 hour day:-( I must say, Saturday was at least a beautiful day to drive because there was little traffic, beautiful scenery and NO WIND!!

Little traffic, beautiful scenery and no wind - what a beautiful morning for a drive.

We now had all of Sunday to check out the area and assess the launch site to see where we wanted to be to see this event.

Sunday - countdown to launch time and are we getting excited! After a nice, slow Easter morning we headed to Highway 1 - the preferred ‘watching’ area for the launch according to the NASA website and everyone we talked to. Boy, Titusville (the town across the river from the island ‘housing’ Cape Canaveral) is DEAD. Like a ghost town! Looked like the whole town was ‘out of business’ - made worse by the fact it was Easter Sunday. We had been told there were two mall parking lots on HWY 1 that they let people park at in the morning (we were told we needed to be in the area by about 3AM!!!) and then you walk to the viewing area of your choice. As we arrived at the now closed Penney’s parking lot, a coach was pulling up to park. Steve (driver of the coach) indicated he had talked to the Chamber of Commerce and been told one could park here overnight for the launch. HMMMMMM. Maybe we should go back, pack up Magic and move over here to the parking lot for the night instead of getting up at 3 and driving over in the car?!?!? OK - LET’S DO IT!! By 5 PM we were back to the parking lot - greeted by Steve - and set up in Magic. We greeted our fellow Tiffin Bus travelers and the rest of the RVers here to see the launch. What a kick - almost like a Jimmy Buffett concert!!

Early arrivers at the JC Penney parking lot.

The launch platform the afternoon before blast off.

What a lovely parking spot.

More sundown arrivals

We tried to get to bed early as we knew it would be a VERY early morning. But - it was opening night for baseball and the Yankees were playing the Red Sox (not a good result):-( Anyway - 4 AM did come early - but we were up and waiting for the countdown - 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 - BLAST OFF!!!!!

The launch platform about 10 minutes before launch. It hasn't gotten any closer. That's as good as I can get it.

T minus one minute.


Lift off!

I can take you higher (thanks Sly & Family Stone).

Higher, and....

Higher, and ....


Heading for the horizon.

That's all folks.

What's left at the launch site after the launch.

Elizabeth also captured a video of the launch - the sound effects are the best part!

AWESOME!! We were so glad we came - it was beautiful!

Now - on to Sarasota and cousins Julie and Mike.

More later - Shuttle Struck E & G