The last stop on our summer trip was in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to visit our great friends Judson and Donna Jo Emens and their daughter Nadia. Judson had set up a reservation at a lovely riverside campground in nearby Florence, and when I went to check in, the camp hostess told me that not only was there no charge, but "Please take that basket of candy, cookies and other goodies that your friends left for you before I eat it all!" Judson took us for a four mile run to work off some of the sweets, and then the five of us enjoyed dinner together in town. It was a most pleasant end to our cross-country adventure.
It was a fabulous 2017 Tour, with many events where My Lovely Bride Suzanne helped people and shared her Messages of Hope. We visited 21 states (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Pennsylvania), putting around 12,000 miles on The Coach (she now has over 64,000 miles under her tires, but since she's built on a Freightliner truck chassis, that's not so much - truckers often put a million miles on their semis - although a motor coach is a bit different... imagine driving your house down the road at 55-65 mph, especially with the fun of potholes!) For example, I had to get the front windshield repaired - fortunately just a chip and not a big crack that would require total replacement (been there, done that!).
While traveling, we have to do normal things like finding a barber... We have had more than our fair share of (mis)adventures getting haircuts in small towns. We were in Oregon, an hour from the nearest town, and I looked on my phone for a barber shop. Cindy's Barber Shop (a pseudonym, to protect her reputation and me from lawsuits) was the only place nearby. I called, and asked Cindy if I needed an appointment. "No, but how did you get my number?" "It was in Google Maps." "Ok, come on by in 15 minutes." I pulled up to a modest ranch house surrounded by hop fields. A tiny 75-year old lady wearing a patch over one eye walked out as I drove up. "Don't mind the patch. I just had eye surgery, but I've been cutting hair for 30 years. You'll be fine. I asked how you got my number because I haven't cut an outsider's hair in years, just locals." With more than a little trepidation, I walked into her house and was directed to the kitchen, where Cindy pointed to a wood straight-back chair in front of a mirror propped up against the sink - it was one of those 5 dollar, four foot high mirrors that you see attached to the backs of doors in cheap motels. "I am doomed" kept running through my mind. But I got a decent haircut, and even a straight razor shave (that gave me some pause) without shedding any blood.
Rudy and Gretchen are also glad to be home, probably because the resident rodent population (squirrels) has burgeoned to the point where you can't walk down the street without seeing a pair of the little beasts doing what squirrels do... I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Rudy has again found a favorite spot astride pillows to take a nap, while demure little Gretchen keeps watch for geckos and squirrels.
In St. Louis, we saw this preposterously pink and purple poodle... what were they thinking???
It's great to be home again with family. Suzanne's Lovely Mom Ruthie is very happy to have her daughter Suzy home. (Ruthie, by the way is a bridge shark - her biggest complaint these days is not having enough challenging bridge games. We should all be so lucky at 90 years of age!)
We had dinner last week with Ruthie in her assisted living dining room. To celebrate our return, I brought an especially nice bottle of Cabernet, and asked our server to open it. She returned in a few minutes, and I went to pour Ruthie a glass... but nothing came out. Perplexed, I looked into the open bottle and saw that the cork had been pushed in, rather than pulled out! I stifled a laugh, and had to push the cork down with a pen to get the wine out, until the cork was down a few inches.
Note: wine was not involved in the next picture! Suzanne and I have a saying, "Never take yourself too seriously". We will extend our hands in an "okay" gesture and turn them inwards over our eyes into a "Space Cadets" look... recently Suzanne posted this photo on her Facebook page.
We thought we were pretty cool, at least until we received this image from our dear friends Jeff and Lynn Hollahan, who said "This is what happens when you're at the confluence of good friends, nice weather and tequila!"
We just returned from a short trip up north; Suzanne had flown to Wilkes-Barre, PA, to give one of her Serving Spirit classes. Meanwhile, I was driving up to Asheville, NC, where we would meet for another event and some hiking. I had planned on stopping for two nights in Marble, NC, almost as far west in the state as you can go, where Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina come together. The night before, while south of Macon, GA, I looked at the weather forecast... snow... SNOW??? Driving The Beast, our 42 ft motor coach, is interesting enough in rain, but the prospect of a combination of mountain roads and snow was a bit much, so I diverted to a campground near Greenville, South Carolina, where a balmy 50 degrees awaited me and the pups.
Greenville is very close to Clemson University. Football fans know the Tigers well, their having won a national championship a few years ago. Everywhere you look in Greenville you see orange tiger paws.
We drove on to Fletcher, NC, near Asheville, where Suzanne met us after her flight from Wilkes-Barre. She then had a very successful event at Unity of the Blue Ridge, in Mills River, NC; thank you, Reverends Darleen Christie , for your warm hospitality and a great dinner! Asheville is a delightful area; the coach was set up next to a small lake with this sunrise view...
The following weekend found us backpacking overnight on the Art Loeb Trail in Pisgah National Forest, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Brevard, NC. The first day was pleasant, and the six mile hike mostly uphill. This windblown stand of trees was not the typical foliage.
The forest floor was littered with fallen leaves and not a few trees that were slowly returning to where they came from, while hosting moss and lichens during their decay.
The rain squalls stopped long enough to have an al fresco dinner. I was the designated chef - a tough job, requiring boiling water and pouring it into the bags holding our freeze-dried dinners, chili mac for Suzanne and chicken gumbo for me. Wait 10 minutes, and "Presto!" hot meals, if not gourmet treats.
The next morning loomed misty and grey, but we had slept pretty well, considering it had rained most of the night, and the two-man tent was just barely big enough for our sleeping pads and down bags. Our packs and food bags remained outside under the tent fly in a small vestibule (staying almost dry); a passing bear could grab the food, but just in case, I positioned Suzanne by the tent door with the bear spray so she could protect our food supply. She looks amazingly chipper, all things considered. Fortunately, the 6 miles back to the trailhead was mostly downhill.
Someone asked recently what I do with all my spare time... well, I am hard at work planning our 2018 Summer Tour, and already Suzanne is booked for events in The Villages, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Scottsdale, Prescott and Sedona, Arizona; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Los Angeles, California; Denver, Colorado; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Creve Coeur/St. Louis, Missouri; New York City; Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada; The Monroe Institute, Lovingston, Virginia; and Orlando, Florida. It looks to be another 12,000 mile summer.