Oldsmobiles. Lots of Them…

We made the short hop from Philadelphia to Reading and set up in the trailer parking lot for the annual National Antique Oldsmobile Club convention. My buddy and Meet Host Paul did a great job on the meet, the biggest and best in my history as Editor.

Into every car show a little rain must fall…

We joined a tour of a private collection of horse drawn carriages and cars. The building itself was a work of art. We tagged along with President Jim for the day. He was driving his dad’s 1957 Oldsmobile that Dad bought new. Jim has lots of Oldsmobiles and rotates them regularly. We have gotten to ride in several of them now. The Wall Street Journal sent a photographer to the show to shoot this car.
The forecast called for nice weather except for Saturday, the big day of the show and the judging; it called for 100% rain. Boo! Fortunately, the rain switched days and Saturday was beautiful. Stormy skies over the trailer lot on Friday evening.

This gentleman was a delight to meet and talk with. Ninety one years young, Ron had a constant smile on his face. Such a great attitude. He recently lost his wife and a few years ago his garage burned, taking with it six beautifully restored Oldsmobiles. He brought these two to the show, the 1966 was driven by his 19 year old grandson. He bought both of these cars new and the 1950 won the prestigious Helen Earley award. He told me that he has started another project and can’t “kick off” until it is finished! Look for an in depth story on him in a future issue of the magazine. A real inspiration.

More Oldsmobiles:

The first day we were in Reading our friends Bob and Cindy came over to the bus for a visit. They live nearby in the summer and we plan to spend a couple of days with them after the show.

In the Garden

We settled into Michael’s beautiful, private back garden in Philadelphia for almost two weeks before my Antique Oldsmobile convention just down the road in Reading.

Our spot in the back garden for the bus. We love this place because we get to spend time with Michael! The kitties love it too. They drag their strings around the yard and chase the chipmunks. Tikita even caught one! When I saw Carmella zoom over I knew there had to be a bird or critter involved. At first it appeared injured but he scooted away and up a tree as soon as we intervened. Those darn cats!

Michael has a large yard and garden and pool with lots of upkeep so we offered our services, as usual. He and Jim did a couple of fencing projects. Jim mowed and weed whipped and I helped weed garden beds and get the pool back in shape after some repairs due to a leak. Vacuuming and the right mix of chemicals brought it back to life and we christened it by being the first ones in this year! Lovely and refreshing as always.

The first weekend we were there we attended Eveningsong Trinity at the Episcopal Cathedral in Philadelphia. If you were in Philly and missed it, you lost out. Michael is in the choir and the cathedral is gorgeous with lots of stained and painted glass. The music was ethereal and lovely. You can hear their unusual rendition of Amazing Grace here. And as Michael said, “Not the television version either…”
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My sister Tina lives nearby and dropped off some roses from her garden one night while we were doing something else. Later in the week she came over to the bus for Happy Hour in the evening. We munched on crackers, cheese, olive tapenade, shrimp, Michael’s quince chutney and guacamole. No dinner that night! We took some selfies. Practice obviously needed!

She has been taking art classes and brought some recent paintings along. These are gouache.

Not sure of orientation of ones with no signature. Colorful indeed.

Speaking of art, Michael’s house and garden abounds with it. A brief walk-through. A picture around every corner.


Michael was having some work done on the house and we got to see the finished product.

We enjoyed some fabulous meals including pot roast with mashed potatoes and Amish asparagus, salmon steaks with melon and squash and roast chicken with more asparagus. Michael is an extraordinary chef. He made raspberry cobbler from his own raspberries and cherry pie! We also enjoyed Vietnamese food and Philly Cheese Steaks. The morning we left we had the Randy Dalton Memorial Breakfast with huckleberry pancakes, Pennsylvania maple syrup, bacon and lots of coffee. Our only wish was that Randy could have enjoyed it with us.

After the breakfast we said our goodbyes. We hated to leave but it is time to move on to Reading and the National Antique Oldsmobile Club Annual Convention. It’s always a busy time as Editor and designer of the monthly magazine but we had the best respite beforehand!

Michael’s apron was perfect! Edited for family viewing.

We love spending time with Michael; he is a gracious and elegant host. We can’t thank him enough. We tried though.



The Many Faces of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

We knew we were setting course for Philadelphia where our friend Michael warmly welcomes us to his beautiful garden and home. We always look forward to catching up with him, relaxing at his pool and helping him out with various garden projects, of which there are many. His bus parking consists of a lovely three acre garden smack in the middle of the city with room for the kitties to roam and chase chipmunks. Tikita even caught one! More on that later… It is a little hectic getting in there through Philly traffic but after four visits we recognize the turns to make and we know we have to stop traffic in both directions on the residential street to back the bus up his garden driveway.

One suggestion we had from Sue and Richie was to visit Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens on
South St. When we mentioned this to Michael, of course he knew all about the Gardens and knows the creator, Isaiah Zagar. He even has a Zagar sculpture in his yard. The whole evolution of the gardens can be found here.

We made our way to South Street (Hurry on down…) with Michael at the wheel. It’s nice to be able to look around and observe instead of drive/navigate. Word of caution: don’t “lock” your bike on South St. Most of it will disappear. This is NOT MY BIKE!
The “gardens” were an amazing tableau of mosaic, mirrors, colored glass, bottles and fired ceramics, along with found objects like china, plates, glass block and statuary.
I took a few overall shots with my fisheye lens but it quickly became sensory overload and I decided to concentrate on the many faces incorporated into the designs. Michael said Isaiah always includes his own image into the art. Michael also said that although he had visited the Gardens many times he always sees something new. That is Art. And as Isaiah Zagar says and has inscribed many places in the Garden, “Art is the center of the real world.”

Some of the faces:


Michael and Jim in the Garden…
The next day Michael texted me at the bus and said he was going to unearth his Zagar sculpture. Michael said that vine was not invited to grow there and he set to work. Of course, we had to get Before, During and After pictures. I love the blue light reference to Randy.

More Philadelphia coming up. Then on to Reading, Goggleworks, friends from Texas and my national car convention. How convenient that they are all in the same place! Stay tuned.

Eating Our Way Up the Eastern Shore

After we finished provisioning we took off for Earleville on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to meet up with Sue and Richie for a few days of eating, drinking, good conversation and the natives’ look at the area. They moved their motorhome so we had a very good spot for the bus with 15 amp electric, enough to power everything we needed. Even make ice!

We started off the visit by eating a delicious dinner of roast beef, potatoes and asparagus, all favorites. The asparagus was from the local Amish and we made a note to visit the market while we were there. The next day commenced with a bar hop/crab crawl to several different spots, seeing the landscape and area history along the way.
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Crabby Dicks for mussels, crab balls, clams and shrimp.
We polished off a huge platter of crab, mussels, shrimp, and clams at Woody’s in North East.
The next day. Lunch at Fishwhistles was fish and chips, salmon and more crab.

When we weren’t eating out, we were eating in. Richie was a cook in the military and it shows! He made us several delicious breakfasts of bacon, Amish eggs, pancakes and muffins. Sue made her famous chipped beef biscuits and gravy. And the Philly Cheese Steaks were some of the best I’ve ever had. Even in Philly!
They make these cool custom serving trays/spoon rests out of bottles. All shapes and sizes. The labels are removed, the bottles prepped and fired in the kiln, then the labels are re-attached. A store in Chesterton had a good sampling of them.

The Eastern Shore is rural and picturesque and we got to see quite a bit of it.
Around Chesterton…
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We went to the local Amish produce farm and bought asparagus, tomatoes, eggs, strawberries, snap peas and baked goods. Everything was fresh and delicious and they had some of the biggest lily blooms I have ever seen. All the fields worked by horses, a big barn full of them.

Sue is a kitty lover too; she lost her girl, Dharma, last year. Now she is slowly befriending a notched ear feral cat she calls Big Boy. He is a real paw kneader and is getting pretty friendly. Especially when you feed him.

They have lots of unusual art; Sue is a potter as well as doing the glass thing. Their house and gardens are colorful and quirky. Every plate and coffee cup was made by Sue, even the cat dishes! When Sue mentioned that she saw a frog’s face in these kitchen stained glass panels, that was all I could see too.
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When Sue offered her washer and dryer, we demurred until she said, “Look. You’d do the same thing for us, right?” Of course we would! So we did laundry too.

We went up to the local bar right up the street so we could see “Richie’s bar.”
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We just had one drink because we had more eating to do! That night we cooked steaks and made mashed potatoes. And Sue made broccoli and ice cream with Amish strawberries. The night was a little chilly so Richie got out some of his cool hats and we had some fun in The Man Hole.
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Full moon with palm tree
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We love spending time with our Texas friends one-on-one. Or two-on-two. It’s fun and gratifying to get to know people better and see their surroundings and area through their eyes. We are fortunate to have the locals guide us toward things we might not see otherwise.

How can we thank these guys enough? We had a wonderful visit filled with laughter, conversation and  fun, not just eating, but there was lots of that too. As Richie said, “When you come here, you eat.” Thank you, thank you, Sue and Richie, so much for your warm and genuine hospitality. Are we lucky or what?

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The next morning after another fortifying breakfast, we hit the road for Philadelphia. Even though it is only about 60 miles to our friend Michael’s place, it is smack in the middle of the city with some narrow streets and traffic stopping necessary to back the bus into the driveway. Across the Bay Bridge we go!

From Cheraw to Chickahominy

Once we left South Carolina it was getting close to Memorial Day/Jim’s birthday and we knew we didn’t want to be in a campground or even a state park. Where to go? The Elks Lodge, of course. We contacted the Elks in Raleigh, North Carolina and planned to stay there over the weekend to ride their excellent Greenway system. We thought they would have 15 amp electric but it turned out it was a GFI outlet, which for some reason always throws the breakers. Jim has changed the outlet before but we figured they didn’t want us messing with their electrical system. No problem. As our friend Michael says, “The generator is our friend.” We knew we were were headed for Chickahominy to ride the Virginia Capital Trail for several days where we would have full power.

When we first got on the Raleigh trails we got separated and it took a while to get back together. Still good riding. And lots of hills! We pulled some pretty steep ones but by the end of the weekend we were more acclimated. I also turned over 3000 miles on my “new” bike.
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This little guy landed on me and stuck around for about 20 minutes.  And we were treated to a spectacular sunset on Jim’s birthday.
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His birthday always seems to have a good sunset. Last year in Marthasville, Missouri:

The North Carolina Art Museum was on one leg of the Raleigh trail system. They had some whimsical sculptures along the trail and a sculpture garden with two Henry Moores and a Rodin.

After the weekend we set off for Chickahominy where we rode the Virginia Capital Trail which runs about 60 miles between Jamestown and Richmond. Lots of historical signage along the way. A lot of it doesn’t make one very proud of how “America was made.” Jamestown was interesting enough but we didn’t do the Settlement. I forgot we have our National Park senior passes but there were hundred of schoolkids all around, the type of carnival atmosphere we don’t enjoy. We biked around Jamestown Island where there was more history to see. Some of it not very nice. We started annihilating the Indians in the early 1600s. They never had a chance.
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Toward Richmond. We ate at the Courthouse Grill in Charles City and it was good.
Along the Jamestown end of the trail.
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The recent rains made everything so lush and green.

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The cats loved our spot at the park and we let them out without their strings. Carmella was sitting under a picnic table when all of a sudden she shot across the road and emerged from a bush carrying a bird! I hollered at Jim to close the bus door because I knew exactly where she would go. Sure enough, she ran toward and under the bus and Jim got her to release the baby blue jay. It hopped/flew back across the road and Jim put it back in the bush. Didn’t seem to be injured. Whew!

We had planned to meet up with our friend from Texas who lives in the area, Tony, but he was sick and had to cancel Next time, Tony!

Right below the bridge over the Chickahominy River where I took this picture was an eagle’s nest with a fledgling in it. I never did see the big eagles. We also saw eagles on the Jamestown island loop.

The last afternoon we were there we had a sobering experience. After we returned from 30 miles on the trail, about six emergency vehicles, fire engines, state troopers, and an ambulance all gathered across the empty field behind the bus. I rode my bike over there to see what was going on just as a helicopter circled and came in for a landing on the field. Two people got out with a gurney and they brought a woman bicyclist out of the ambulance and into the helicopter. Her smashed up helmet and glasses were all I saw. The helicopter took back off and we hope she fared well. No pictures, that person was obviously having a bad day.

When we went to Google we didn’t find any info on that particular incident but learned that several bicyclists have been hit and some killed in recent years, including a woman in the Chickahominy park in April of this year. Hit by a cement truck at the trail crossing, two bicyclists hit by a semi passing another car, mountain bikers flying over the handlebars… URK! Be smart! Pay attention!

We wrapped up our stay at Chickahominy and began our re-positioning by fueling up, getting propane and groceries and pointing the bus toward the Eastern Shore of Maryland through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnels. We like tunnels.


Ft. Sumter: The Last of Charleston

After we left Drayton Hall, we stopped at The Crab Shack for some crab stuffed mushrooms and a bucket of steamed oysters, shrimp and king crab. Yum!
The last day we rode the ferry to Ft. Sumter, the strategic island in Charleston Harbor that played such an important role in the Civil War. More war stuff, I know. I have  yet to tour a peace memorial. It was interesting though. Built by slaves and rebuilt and maintained by them during the siege lasting 57 days, it was the last brick fort built due to the fact that the armament had “improved” to the point that bricks were basically reduced to rubble. That is pretty much the shape the Fort is in now, with the outer walls standing but not much else. A few cannons and the museum clarified the events that took place there.
Munitions storage
Union shell embedded in fort wall
Black Union soldiers

And this also made it clear why the South lost the war. They had slaves to do everything for them instead of doing anything themselves. When that system started to collapse more blacks were fighting for the Union, not building Confederate forts amidst shelling and death. Clearly the energy was misplaced.

The ferry ride was interesting though and you can get a good look at the placement of the forts in the harbor and their geographical importance. The sky was pretty too.
Back on land we walked to Slightly North of Broad to eat but they had no outdoor seating and really steep prices. Like $45 for an entree. We ended up at The Noisy Oyster in the French Quarter for more seafood and libations. Oysters Rockefeller, Buffalo oysters and seafood soups.
Around Charleston on the way back to the car. Love the alligator guy.
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IMG_5961 The bicycle taxis had some cool graphics on their garage wall. The bike taxi guys were great; young skinny guys hauling around old fat tourists. I hope they tipped well.

From here we are off to Cheraw State Park in South Carolina where we will plug in and give the batteries a good soak. We’ve been boondocking since Georgia and the generator gets them almost fully charged but not quite. There is a lake there and bike trails but rain is predicted.

Update: We are at Cheraw State Park now and it did pour down rain for the first three days. Tomorrow we are making our way up the road to the Elks Lodge in Raleigh, North Carolina which is conveniently located very near an extensive bike trail system. We will lay low for the holiday weekend and Jim’s birthday before we continue on to the Virginia Capitol Trail for another 60 miles or so.

And the batteries did charge after an anxious day where the invertor did not seem to be functioning, on our 30 AMP service or the generator. Needless to say, Jim had a few anxious moments hours over that but after some research and a hard reset it came back to normal. Whew!

Drayton Hall: More Charleston

Since we had the car in Charleston we wanted to make maximum use of it so we looked at the various plantation tours and decided on Drayton Hall, the oldest unrestored plantation house and grounds open to the public. It is on the Ashley River in a lovely setting surrounded by live oaks, formerly fantastic Victorian gardens and a reflecting pond built by slaves (of course) from a diverted stream on the property. A slave cemetery is on the grounds. During the tour, which wasn’t crowded, the guide referred to the slaves as enslaved African Americans. Hah! It may sound more gentle or correct but does not take away from the miserable lives those people had. Some people cite the fact that the slaves sang in the fields so they must be happy. A former slave set the record straight: “They sang because they was unhappy and nuthin’ else to lift their soul.”

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Built in the 1740s by slaves, naturally, Drayton Hall is a prime example of Georgian Palladian architecture, a careful copy of the popular styled English houses of that period by John Drayon. The main house was originally abutted by two “flankers” connected by a curved portico walkway. The flankers are no longer there nor do any of the slave quarters remain. A privy house sits about 100 yards from the main house, one of two small 18th century buildings remaining on the grounds. Beyond the house toward the river there was a garden house designed for propagating plants and entertaining. The gardens are no longer kept, unfortunately; I can imagine they were fantastic. All tended by slaves.
The symmetrical grand staircase and a detail of the mahogany carvings
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The back slave staircase was narrow and winding. No grand entrances here.

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Which makes me wonder: What did these people DO all day long? They didn’t cook, clean, take care of their own children, dress themselves, tend the fire, work or exert themselves in any way. The men, I assume, rode around checking on the work and the property; Drayton Hall consisted of 76,000 acres of rice and indigo plants. They reportedly had over a thousand slaves so I suppose that took quite a bit of oversight. Many of those who ended up as slaves came to the country as indentured servants and worked to pay for their travel until the Dred Scott Decision where all indentured servants became personal property. What an abomination! Shouldn’t be surprised after how we treated the Native Americans.

I imagine the women ran the household and directed the inside slaves, arranged menus, socialized and played cards, had tea and napped? Unless a woman developed a painting or drawing hobby I cannot imagine how they filled their days. Some may have ridden horseback or taken carriage rides with everything prepped by slaves. I would go stark raving mad. Maybe there was a lot of day drinking going on.

The presence of slaves would be hard to get used to; it would be weird having other people around all the time, especially people you did’t even consider human, just  expendable property. I have read extensively about slavery and the Civil War and the slaves did not have an easy life, even on the best of plantations. Families were separated on a regular basis. Whippings were common. The work was backbreaking. John Drayton’s wife was given a slave for their marriage present; who knows what wretched circumstances she had to go through to become a gift. Shameful.

And the clothes they had to wear in the South Carolina heat and humidity! Corsets, layers of petticoats and outer skirts and bonnets. Long sleeves. And they changed several times a day. I guess that kept them busy. The day we were there it was extremely hot and humid and we got a good look at what they had to deal with. No air conditioning or fans even. Maybe the slaves fanned them. Again, what a terrible deal for the slaves. Better than picking cotton maybe.

Anyway, the house was interesting and much of the original woodwork remains, including the mahogany staircases and ornamented banisters. They imported mahogany and other exotic woods and then painted them! Yellow ocher, no less, for the original color. The greenish color of the interior now was painted in the 1880s. Some of the ornate plaster ceilings remain but many were damaged by the leaky roof.
One of the remaining plaster ceilings, not the most ornate.

There is a basement which is unusual in the area. The house slaves lived there and cooked in the big fireplace. I bet it got blazing hot during the summer.


Live oaks along the Ashley River

Once we toured the house and walked along the river garden, we went to the African American cemetery. Many grave markers are missing but a few remain. Black people continue to be buried here. It is far from the main house and unattended. As the black caretaker said, “Leave “Em Rest.
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Charmed by Charleston

We knew we wanted to visit Charleston, South Carolina so we took a few extra days getting there so we could take advantage of Enterprise’s weekend car rental deal. Only $10 a day to rent a car Friday through Monday. We checked into the Elks Lodge in Augusta and met Rick, the Exalted Ruler and he showed us where to park. They had a dance that night but the rest of the time we had the place to ourselves.

We found another Elks in Summerville, just north of Charleston for the next four nights near a bike trail along the canal. The Elks was quiet and deserted and kitties had free run of the place. We rode the Sawmill Branch for about 50 miles over a couple days and got into seafood eating mode while we were there. We found the Shuckin’ House and settled in for drinks and shrimp and, of course, oysters. The shrimp was so good that we went back the next day for more.

Besides the trail, Summerville has old neighborhoods and gardens and the railroad runs right through town flanked by mature magnolia trees. And lots of places to eat!

We knew we could stay three nights at the Elks in Charleston and we wanted to make the most of it. We picked up the car on the way to our nice shady spot where we once again had the place to ourselves. Elks rule!

First we went to see the Angel Oak, a huge live oak tree that is hundreds of years old and spreads its massive twisting branches across almost an acre of ground. Some of the branches draping along the ground were the size of a large tree themselves. Carmella would have loved running all around in it but no pets allowed.

My fisheye lens got a workout.

This guy was working on a painting of the tree.
We drove down the road on Johns Island to St. Johns Church built in 1719. In the graveyard; no relation to Jim.

This stone was carved with a full thesis about the person; many of them were. And some were laying flat so no chance of reading them now. The earliest grave I saw had a death date of 1801.

We headed into Charleston to look around and find more seafood and happy hour specials. We landed at Pearlz Oyster House on East Bay Street for more shrimp after seeing someone’s plate with giant shrimps on it. It did not disappoint and provided good people watching from the sidewalk cafe.



We walked all around the waterfront and historic districts to take in the sights. Parking is a big problem in Charleston but we found a paid church lot and easily got in 11,000+ steps wandering around. Windowboxes of flowers are profusely extravagant and lovely. Lots of ornate ironwork adorns the historic houses with descriptive plaques telling when they were built, by whom and whose ghosts remain. Some have lush southern gardens you can peek into. Many were built in the 1740s and ’50s. Rainbow Row features houses of all different colors. Art galleries abound as do tourists.
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Old cobblestone street.

The Waterfront Park was cool and shady with fountains for the kids and live oak arches over the promenades. The Charlestown Historic Market has been in existence in the same spot since back before the slave days. They were selling lots of sweetgrass baskets which were beautiful! And expensive. A small, like miniature one cost $60. I didn’t price one this size.
This church summed up my feelings exactly.

After walking and driving around, we went back to the bus where the cats were raring to go outside. They explored around the grounds while we enjoyed the beautiful evening.

Next stop: Drayton Hall, the oldest unrestored plantation house open to the public.

West Point Lake R&R

Before we left the Elks in Childersburg, Jim snagged the very last available site at the R. Schaeffer Heard campground at the Corp of Engineers West Point Lake in LaGrange, Georgia. The sites are spacious, private and wooded, right on the lake. We planned four nights here and have ridden our bikes, walked the cats, eaten some great dinners and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

Arrachera from Junior’s in south Texas and what we call potato sticks. Tasty!

I also decided to take Cher’s example and got in a walk of 11,742 steps yesterday. Any day I’m not biking I am going to try to get in 10,000 steps. My legs weren’t sore but my feet bottoms got tender. Some ice cleared that up and we rode miles around the park again the next day.

The nice thing about riding in this park is that there are some actual hills to conquer, not like the rails-to-trails where it is all railroad grade. We rode over the dam the first day and were treated to an eagle’s next with a young eagle in it.
We also saw this heron catch and devour a good sized catfish.
He’s got the fish in his beak
Drags it to shore
Stabs it through the neck
And after turning his back to swallow, struts off. Note the lump in his neck.

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The lake and park are beautiful and the weather has been perfect. I even had a chance to do some mixed media iPad art.
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There was absolutely no wind or even a breeze the whole time we have been here. The cats are as freaked out by that as they were the constant dry wind in south Texas. It’s really nice and quiet.

Abstract sunset in the campground.
Still life with bus.
Fish eye view in the evening.

From here we are heading to the Elks Lodge in Augusta, Georgia on our way to Charleston, South Carolina. It will be a hilly trip but we are looking forward to soaking up Charleston before we head north.


On the Lake with Cher & Steve

After Houston we set our sights on Lake Lurleen State Park in Alabama to meet up there with Steve and Cher, friends from Texas. From her Facebook we realized we were close and decided to get together. The lake is named after Lurleen Wallace. We fueled up on the way.
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Layered sky at the truck stop and somebody stole my seat!
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The weather had turned cool and rainy so we enjoyed catching up over Mexican food and margaritas. We planned three nights at Lake Lurleen and the second day was cool and rainy too. We took the kitties out; they loved our site right off the lake. A walk was cut short by rain but we read our books and enjoyed the day. We all had Happy Hour in the bus that night.
Our site on the lake. Cher and Steve had a great lakefront site with room for their new (to them) canoe that Jim helped them rivet before we all left. We got to paddle all around the lake when the weather turned nice. Cher’s dad is in hospice care at the VA hospital and that takes up part of her day. She also keeps up her 10,000 steps a day; has now for over 450 consecutive days! Quite an accomplishment.

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Cher planned a cookout for Saturday and the weather cooperated. We celebrated the 11th birthday of their motorhome with delicious steaks, potatoes, corn on the cob and her perfected Brussels Sprout and kale salad. We put together a campfire to take the chill off the evening air and had a great visit.

Playing around with wide angle lens and selfie stick. Need to work on that.

After a stop to buy some steaks at Winn Dixie, recommended by Cher, we plan to spend a couple of nights at the Elks Lodge in Childersburg, Alabama and try to figure out where the heck we are going next! We have ridden all the bike trails of any length in this area and need to spend a day or so finding some new ones. lurleen-pano