2016 Travels:  Post #2


September 26th

Re:  ON THE ROAD WITH RBS & MC (2015-2016)

Dear  Friends,

This is our news of the holidays. Take what you like and leave the rest—or skip this whole blog. 

Know that we’re thinking of you and inviting you to share our journey.  Put your arms around yourself, and give yourself a big hug from us. Now switch arms, and do it again.  (This is good for stretching your shoulder ligaments too). 

Our next blog follows shortly and will be about our in the Florida Keys and the adventures in the Everglades.

~ Marguerite

Other People's Christmases


Newtown, PA to North Carolina coast

We leave Pennswood early on the Sunday morning before Christmas, having the road to ourselves (which is good since our route is Interstate 95 all day through the challenging Philadelphia/Wilmington/Baltimore/Washington corridor).

Our travels take us in a somewhat surreal way through the experience of other people’s Christmases.  Our first stop is an almost-empty RV park near Emporia, VA where several small children whose families live in the RV park are walking next to their dad, running around him, playing tag, their excitement, anticipation, and animated conversation making them practically jump up and down.  A sweet moment as we pass the RV office decorated with a few strings of Christmas lights, is seeing a tiny, red tricycle neatly parked like a car alongside the office.

We continue south, along the coast, to visit old friends, Steve & Judith, in a beautiful gated community called St. James Plantation.  It’s quite a contrast to RV park simplicity. This well-planned Southport, NC suburb is a wonderland of artfully displayed Christmas lights, and has miles of meandering drives, multiple golf courses, fishing lakes, handsome homes, beautifully manicured lawns, sculptured landscapes and wooded areas. We speak of the fun and challenges of our past work lives, now in service to projects of our own choosing in our respective communities, and the opportunity of “retirement” to embrace new lives and new skills (Judith has become an award winning basket-weaver and quilter).

Georgia and Florida

The next day’s drive is characterized by bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95 through most of Georgia, the heavy thunder storms causing a car or two to skid into the medium strip about every 5 miles.  We limp into Kingsland, GA, in the rain and dark, hours after we expected, grateful to be off the road.  The Christmas lights of the RV office twinkle through the downpour in a welcoming way, and the Spanish moss hanging off the trees signals that we are finally “down South.”



 Our nephew Erick, a Navy man, and his new wife Christine, who works for Johnson & Johnson, live in a small development.  Erick works at the nearby Kings Bay Marine Base, the major employer in the local economy.  We get to be with Erick & Christine in their first home together and meet Christine’s parents who are also visiting.  Stockings for them, their two stray dogs and a cat hang in a doorway.  There’s a tall, fat Christmas tree heaped around with presents.  Our conversation focuses on Erick’s next duty station—overseas, possibly on a boat like the one recently captured by Iran—and how being separated for a year might affect their relationship and their individual lives and careers.  They give us a photo from their wedding of the Chandler side of the family.

Christmas & New Year’s in St. Pete

Four days after we embark, we arrive at our first major destination:  St. Petersburg, FL, the town where I grew up.  We camp at Robert’s RV Resort, a “mini-city” with 1,000 sites, including a pool and club house, blocks of stationary single-wide and double-wide trailer homes, a bustling community of activities from line dancing and bingo, to a Red Hat group, horseshoes, volleyball, and a big New Year’s Eve party.  It’s two days before Christmas, and every flat surface and counter in the office is covered with plates of Christmas cookies.  “Please,” the woman who checks me in says, “Take some cookies so we don’t eat them all ourselves!”

Huge Class A rigs dominate this park, along with 5th-wheels like ours, and trailers, pop-ups, and tents of all sizes and types.  There’s something egalitarian about an RV park—everyone here is glad to be here, whether as an affordable, full-time resident, a “snow bird” or an overnight for those just passing through—and each of us knows that our close proximity requires that we be “good neighbors.”  People “on the road” are unfailingly polite and helpful, the courtesy of strangers tied together by our shared vulnerability.

We spend the next two weeks visiting a few hours most every day with older relatives, Jackie & Jim, who are both dealing with significant health challenges and conditions.  Jackie is about to have open-heart surgery, postponed due to a serious fall.  Due to several falls and his early dementia, Jim needs full time attention except at night, with care workers coming and going in four hour shifts for the past year.  Now Jackie is housebound too.  Richmond introduced her to "texting" with her phone and then equipped it with Pandora and the Amazon shopping app. He linked her flat screen TV to the WiFi so that she can enjoy movies and internet video entertainments.We anticipate these links to a larger world will make her convalescence from surgery less isolating.

Other than lots of phone calls from relatives and well-wishers, Christmas is quiet and low-key with a modest table-top tree.  Richmond and I bring pies, lots of cookies, and the turkey we’ve brined ready for roasting.  We enjoy a festive home-cooked Christmas dinner.

Jackie & Jim, of necessity, have their daily routine around doctor’s visits, care worker schedules, medications, meal times in front of the TV, and, of course, a celebratory cocktail before supper.  A second marriage for them both, they honor their 25th wedding anniversary on New Year’s Day.  Jackie has done everything possible to maintain Jim’s quality of life.  Her love and unfailing patience in answering Jim’s repetitive questions is inspiring.  Now she needs to focus on her own care too—a not unfamiliar problem as people age in place together.

Our adult children’s holiday adventures

Our adult children create their own holiday escapades, and we talk by phone.  Adam & Caroline and their kids leave Austin to ski in Taos, NM.  Mark and Cristy abandon balmy Key West to explore AZ and the Grand Canyon. Laura and David’s family adventure is to cut an enormous tree themselves—and then figure out how to get it into their Great Room and find enough lights and ornaments to decorate it. 

Our Christmas gift to ourselves is our Nordic Walking Sticks (think cross-country skiing without the skis, snow or cold).  We’ve made a commitment to walking 5,000 steps a day.  Our Nordic Walking Sticks make that fun and assure that we use good posture and get a terrific aerobic workout when we walk.  Check them out at www.walkingpoles.com.  They’re excellent for burning calories and great for the neck, back and shoulders. So far, so good!

Reflections on the holidays

The holidays are always a pause in the day-to-day flow of life.  We especially love to use the last week of the year as an opportunity to reflect on lessons learned and blessings received before we begin the New Year.  Richmond writes a grandfatherly letter to our adult grandkids about getting involved in the 2016 political process in a healthy way (click here if you’d like to read it).

We’re also mindful that the holidays are bitter-sweet for some people. They suffer as others celebrate.  For many it's a time of year when the gap between expectations and disappointing reality may be the greatest.  For some, Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s can be like storm-driven, cold waves breaking over one’s head.  Traditions can be nurturing or suffocating.  Memories of past holidays can be delightful or crushing.  Remembering or being with people we love can fill our hearts or break our hearts. However the holidays may have been for you this year, as the days begin to lengthen once again, may you find yourself looking towards the Light in this New Year.

Coming next: Adventures in the Everglades and the Keys.