Thursday, October 27, 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NANCY......10/27/........

Tuesday, 10/25/11 - We ventured deep into The Villages to visit my cousin Joan and her husband Lee. We saw them last in The Villages during our 2004/05 USA trip. Girlfriend, GPS went straight to their front door in the first section of The Villages, Spanish Springs. We were invited for a delicious home cooked dinner, a rare event for Will and to meet their son Ron, his new wife and baby, Natalia and Michael.

Dinner was wonderful and we spent a lot of time visiting with everyone. Joanie is a wealth of information regarding my father, Charlie and his life as a young man. He lived with Joan's mom, my Dads sister, Nancy, and their two other brothers, Hennie and Louie. It's always a treat to hear family stories and Joan is full of them, what a memory she has. WHAT FUN! After Ron and his family left we broke out the cards of our new card game, 5 Crowns, as Joan & Lee are avid card players and they were not familiar with the game and wanted to learn it. Well, after one hand they knew the game just not by that name....5 Crowns. They then proceeded to teach us a new card game called....Golf. OMG it was really fun so much that we went out and bought 2 decks of cards to play this game ourselves. Who would believe that Will and I would be able to play 2 different card games, go figure.

Wednesday, 10/26/11 - Another beautiful day here, the weather is in the 80's and the humidity is not to bad, there, but no bad. We invited Joan and Lee out to dinner this evening and they picked a deli restaurant called TooJay's in the Lake Sumter square. Before dinner they wanted to show us The Village RV park called the Plantation. A very nice park with a pool, clubhouse and all the amenities of a nice park. We even got to go inside a park model of a friend of theirs that are still in New York and have not come down for the winter yet. A cute little place and great location in the park.

We then hit a speciality grocery store, looked for The Villages postcards and then headed for dinner. The food was great but the service was bad, actually it was our server Amanda.....just a little on the slow side. After giving her our credit card and the check she forgot us so we waited and waited and finally she showed up. Fortunately, our food was good and plentiful. After dinner we took Joan & Lee home and didn't stay as Joan's hip was bothering her plus the fact she is facing surgery this Saturday. Another fun day at The Villages for us.

Thursday, 10/27/11 - This morning I woke up with a sore and "raspy throat" and it didn't get any better as the day progressed. We were suppose to go back to Joan and Lee's to play cards but I was to afraid if I'm coming down with something and Joan is having surgery I just stay home and get better. Thank you Joan and Lee for your wonderful hospitality.

A HAPPY BIRTHDAY wish to my very special daughter, Nancy today......10/27 what a joy she has been....much love to you my dear and all my family and friends.

Monday, October 24, 2011

OMG you won't believe The Villages, Florida

Monday, 10/24/11 - We arrived at our first stop in Florida, Three Flags RV Resort in Wildwood, FL on Sunday afternoon and find it's a very nice park but not much going on in it. It's ok, we actually are in this area to visit my cousin & her husband, Joan & Lee who live in The Villages which are only about 15 minutes from where we are. I called Joan and we set up sometimes to visit with them, the first one being Tuesday at their house for dinner where we will meet her son, daughter-in-law and grandson for the first time.

On our last trip in 2004/05 when we hit The Villages, Will was sick with the flu and never got to see much of anything so this trip he was all in to find out what The Villages "lifestyle" was all about. We headed out after lunch looking for a sales office to sign up for the bus tour that they offer. Now this place is 40 sq acres with a population of 85,000 so finding one of the sales offices wasn't easy. Now understand, the general mode of transportation of a "Villager" is a golf cart and may I add there are hundreds roaming around. We stopped at one of the many shopping centers and picked the perfect golf cart driver to ask where the sales office was....and he gave us directions right to it. And lucky for us they had a 1:30 pm tour going out and 3 seats left.

While waiting we went out into the town square of Lake Sumter to walk around and started talking to a very nice man who purchased a house in The Villages and loves it. Unfortunately, he has been unable to sell his house in Ohio in the last 14 months so is not living here full time. He gave us lots of wonderful information and we so enjoyed talking with him.

Finally, our full trolley/bus took off and they took us on at least a one hour tour of The Villages and explained and showed us many of the different parts. It seems they have 2 complete sections,
Spanish Springs, the first one built, Lake Sumter Landing, the one being currently sold and finished up and in the works is a new one, Brown something a theme of an old cattle Florida town.

When we were finished we were introduced to a salesman, Carl who then took us on a 2 hour personal tour of some of the recreation area's, he also took us into some model homes and gave us lots of papers to read about The Villages.....all the recreation available, every type of store you can imagine. My favorite was that every night at 5 pm (love the early start time) they have music and dancing in the town square and twice a week vendor tents. In looking through the recreation paper they have a club/meeting for anything you can imagine. Swimming pools, tennis, pickle ball courts, bocci, shuffle board and golf courses, you can't even believe how many golf courses they have. It was truly the most unbelievable thing we ever saw. Just as an FYI, we went into the cheapest house they sell "the patio house" for about $150,000 and it was 1,150 sq feet. With NO mortgage your cost for taxes, amenities and monthly expenses...would cost approx $750 per month. It was a wonderful day and we were dead tired when we got out of there at 4:30 pm and headed home to our RV.

Tomorrow we look forward to seeing Joanie and her family and more of The Villages. Much love to all our family and friends.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tomorrow we finally arrive in FLORIDA

Friday, 10/21/11 - Unfortunately, we found out to late about sightseeing in Cumberland Island located off St Marys in Georgia. All the brochures indicated once you took the National Park Service boat over to the Island there was no other transportation or tours available aand you were there for 6 hours. However, on Thursday we found out differently, very recently they have set up a boat and bus tour combination of Cumberland Island, which is not out in brochures yet and were booked for our last 2 days here, Friday and Saturday. Our next reservation with Coast to Coast has already been made to arrive Sunday, 10/23 so NO Cumberland Island for us.

We made the best of it and booked a 2 hour river cruise with Amelia River Cruises that leaves from Fernandina Beach, FL, about a 45 minute drive South of our RV park. The cruise was to leave at 10:30 am and of course we were early and enjoyed an early morning walk around the historic downtown area. Finally it was boarding time and there were about 15 people total for the ride which turned out to be wonderful and a real history lesson of the places we saw.

The cruise started out along Amelia Island and our amazing captain David gave a real descriptive narrative of the area and has lived here so long and known many of the people on the island and knew so much of the history. Actually, it was a joy just listening to him talk for the entire 2 hours with people asking questions all along the way.

We learned about the shrimp industry and how it is a dying business back here, they can't compete with the foreign imports the same story you hear over and over in every field. On our way out we were able to see dolphins but unfortunately no manatees were in viewing today.

On our way out to cruise along the Cumberland Island shore we had a rare treat in store for us....a submarine coming towards us in the Atlantic Ocean that is stationed at the Naval Submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia. The Captain says it only happens once in a while and it was our lucky day. He said the last time they saw the sub, a patrol boat that goes out in front of them, maned with big guns, came right towards them and motioned them off. The patrol boat looked like they were coming towards us but didn't so it was an amazing photo op for all of us aboard. I just couldn't believe how it looked in the water as we passed each other......Rog, you will love the pictures.

As we continue on our way up to Cumberland Island our next big treat was a beautiful bald eagle the Captain spotted in a dead tree along the shore. Cameras were clicking again and then the eagle flew out of that tree into another one close by with branches for more protection. My lucky shot was I captured the eagle in flight. Already I had my monies worth on this trip.

Finally, we reached the shores of Cumberland Island and the first thing you see are wild horses grazing on the grass. There has always been a band of wild horses on the Island and the Captain told us about the birthing process he has witnessed. How they eat only the grasses on the Island and the National Park Service does NOT interfere in any way of protection for the horses. We learned that Cumberland Island was the home to the very rich many years ago, we saw Rockefeller and Carnegie houses. You should have seen Rockefeller's handyman's house....YIKES. The last handyman just retired after 36 years and they built a new house for the new man.

We learned this was the Island that John F Kennedy, Jr and Caroline Bissett were married on and got to hear the whole story from the captain of the wedding and reception. It was pure many wonderful stories he told about the people of the Island....I plan to try and find a book of the history of Cumberland Island to learn more about it's history. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and we had a beautiful sunny but windy day on the boat.

We returned to the house late afternoon for a short nap as we were dead tired and were going out again this evening.....a rare night out for us. We are going to the Woodbine Opry which is held at the renovated "Old School" Woodbine Community Center. These are musicians from around the area that get together at 7 pm on Friday night for gospel and bluegrass music and Saturday for country western music. Will said he would buy dinner this evening so he picked Aunt Bea's Buffet with Southern fried chicken and gravy and off we went. It was Southern alright, okra, greens, cabbage and so many vegetables fried and fried fish and lots of other stuff. Well we had plenty to eat and then headed off for the music. We were only about 10 miles north of our RV park and of course arrived early and drove around the town of Woodbine before going inside.

Once inside it was the auditorium of their old high school and on the walls in the hallway were senior pictures of all the different classes. The concert is free but they sell raffle tickets for a 50/50 drawing and also a drawing for cakes, pies & other sweets that people make and donate for the drawing. The money is to help pay for keeping the lights on and restoration of the auditorium. We of course bought $5.00 worth of tickets.

I would say the average age of the musician this evening was 75 years old, most were men but there were 2 ladies. The music and singing were "ok" ...better than the last local concert we went to in North Carolina but it was a pretty long 7 to 10 pm concert. Actually, they played mostly country & gospel music and very little bluegrass. There was one exceptional singer, a local minister that had an unbelievable voice and did 3 gospel numbers. The rest were pretty ordinary. Finally, time for the drawing and I managed to win a bake good.....3 blueberry & 3 chocolate chip muffins. We didn't win the 50/50 drawing. Heading home it was as dark as dark could street lights and no idea where we were and the girlfriend, GPS was a little confused (she gets that way in the dark) but finally got us close to something I recognized (I was driving) and then I was able to find my way home. A long but very fun day.

Saturday, 10/22/11 - A beautiful, warm sunny day and we spent today with Will checking the car & RV as Sunday is moving day and me washing clothes, talking on the phone and mostly doing nothing, a great day! Much love to all our family and friends.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sightseeing in Historical St Marys, Georgia

Wednesday, 10/19/11 - At least it wasn't raining this morning when we got up so that was enough encouragement for us to make our lunch and head out for St Marys which is about 15 miles from where we are staying.

St Marys is a very old and cute little town that dates back to the early 1800s that seems to be famous for a couple things. The ferry for Cumberland Island leaves from here twice a day. Cumberland Island is the largest of the Georgia Coast's Barrier Islands. There is camping, day trips, fishing, hiking, biking, wild horses, loggerhead turtle but unfortunately no transportation out there so for Will and I it would be hard to get around. The other thing is a submarine base very close to St Marys.

We decided to just walk down the main street of Osburne and see what was there. The first thing we ventured on was a Submarine Museum and since my old retiree breakfast buddy, Rog is a "very old" submarine guy we decided to go in and look around. It was 3 floors of everything you ever wanted to know and much more about Submarines. Much has been donated to the museum from old Navy Submarine guys from everywhere. It was incredibly interesting looking at all the different pictures and memorabilia and then we ventured onto Rog's old sub.....Queenfish SS393. That was so fun as I took pictures with my phone so I could send to Rog.....he did learn how to view them and we even talked on the phone while I was at the museum! I of course take pictures with my camera but unfortunately those will never be seen by anyone but me....way to many pics taken over the course of the trip.

After the submarine museum we hauled out our "famous" chairs and TV tray for our lunch and sat on the walkway overlooking the bay/inlet and had our lunch. Lots of boats coming in and out and we could even see submarines off in the distant at the base. We just love having lunch this way.

We then headed on to Orange Hall which was built in 1838 in a beautiful Greek Revival type of architecture. It takes it name for the large sour orange trees that at one time surrounded the entire property. It was purchased & built by Rev H. S. Pratt and his father in law, John Woods directly across the street from the Reverends church, First Presbyterian Church. Unfortunately the Reverends wife died very young of yellow fever leaving 2 children so the good Rev latter married the nanny, which also was the wife's cousin and they moved to Alabama where he took a faculty position at the University of Alabama. WOW

The house is very open and large, 9,000 sq feet with 12 fireplaces, one for each room. The main floor was a music parlor, study, dining area with an original Tiffany chandelier and front parlour room. The upstairs were 4 very large bedrooms and the basement were the servants quarters, wine cellar, kitchen and old dining hall. A wonderful Orange Hall society works very hard in restoring and staffing the house for tours.

The most interesting thing for me was the the third owners of the house were James Howard Becker, an automobile manufacturing tycoon from New York & his wife who lived there from 1919 to 1925. They were responsible for installing electricity in the house, the Tiffany Chandelier and adding a brick floor to the basement which had been just a dirt floor. Unfortunately, Mr. Becker fell out of favor in St Marys due to "local political disputes." Yes, we could have been related. Note: Becker is my maiden name.

We then headed over to the church across the street to see the church and the grave sites of the young wife and her mother and father. We then continued on the walk viewing the old, large historical homes and businesses along the main street. The entire town is decorated for Halloween and I must say the people in the South take Halloween very serious. Everywhere we go in the South they have amazing decorations. Several other old churches, an old Toonerville Trolley they have on display and finally we reached the end of the line where we started and our car was parked but before we departed we decided in indulge in a ice cream and watch the people and boats. A fun sightseeing day but the weather threatened rain (but never happened) and then the winds picked up.....there is a tornado in Florida right we headed home for a nap under a warm blanket. Much love to all our family and friends.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A relaxing time in Woodbine, GA

Monday, 10/17/11 - Our first full day here and it's absolutely beautiful, temp is 85 and I am determined today to accomplish 3 things.....RV park reservations for February & March 2012 and lay out in the sun! And I am happy to report .....I got it ALL done.

I spent most of the day on the computer and phone checking out RV parks for reservations for February & March. Of course cost is our first issue and those are two high priced areas. First, off we need to be in Clearwater, FL the month of February because that is where a Fleetwood RV Service Center is and we have several issues that need to be taken care of by a dealer. I spoke w/a service repair manager, Kim and she was able to recommend several parks close by. As luck would have it I was able to find a reasonably price one on the same US Highway 19 N only 2 miles away so that will be great for running back & forth plus Clearwater is right on the Gulf side of Mexico.

Tampa was a little harder....the first place I called wanted $1,200 per month plus electricity, I thanked them and hung up quickly. After calling many parks and checking different locations I found one very close to Busch Gardens and not far from the Yankee Spring Training camp. Each park only required a $100 deposit to hold a space so that was reasonable in case something very unforeseen happens. I got those deposits off in the mail today and feel a sense of relief that is taken care of.

All that was left was to take my lazy self outside and lay in the sun and start a fabulous James Patterson book, Kiss the Girls. It's so good I have almost finished it by the second day.

Tuesday, 10/18/11 - Our day to go sightseeing in St Marys, GA a historical community located on the Atlantic Ocean. Many interesting things to see and do there but unfortunately the rain storm that has dumped 7 inches in Florida hit us today and it has not stop raining all day. That accounts for why I almost finished my book. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better weather day and we can start some sightseeing. We both felt like caged "lions" today and need to get back out on the circuit. Much love to all our family and friends.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We're in Woodbine, Georgia...15 miles from Florida

Sunday, 10/16/11 - We left Hollywood/Charleston, S.C. on Saturday morning intending to finally stay in a WalMart parking lot in Pooler, GA. When we crossed into Georgia that afternoon we stopped at the Georgia Welcome Center and learned that WalMarts are posted in overnight camping. Our first WalMart stay of the trip was shot down. So we started scrambling and found a RV park just a few miles away and spent the night there at a whopping cost of $ of our more expensive stays. It was a nice park and actually located in Port Wentworth, just outside Savannah. We saw Savannah on our last trip through here in 2004-05 so never unhooked the car & just spent the night.

This morning we arrived in our Coast to Coast park, WalkaBout Camp & RV park in Woodbine, GA owned by a young Australian couple w/4 kids. It's back to our $10 park and we will be here for 7 days. There seems to be several things to see in the area including Cumberland Island. However, this afternoon, after our nap, we made a WalMart shopping run and then treated ourselves "out to dinner" at Wendy's, as we had a free coupon for a Dave's Hamburger which is a few miles down the road in Kingsland, GA. My favorite kind of town, one long road and everything is on it.

Going to work this evening on getting settled with an RV park for February & March, 2012 in the Tampa area....that is my goal for the week. Much love to all our family and friends.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sightseeing at Ft Sumter & USS Yorktown, Charleston, SC

Friday 10/14/11 - Today we were suppose to see Ft. Sumter, where the Civil War began in 1861 and Boone Hall, a plantation, both across the bridge from Charleston in Mt. Pleasant. We set the alarm clock for 7 am as the boat for Ft Sumter leaves at 10:45 am and we have been sleeping in these days.

We got out there about 9 ish and found out the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum, which Will really wanted to see was aboard the USS Yorktown
and required another admission ticket. We purchased both tickets and then spent the entire time out there so will have to catch up seeing a plantation in Georgia when we get there. While waiting for our ferry boat to take us out to the Ft Sumter island we boarded the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown to go through the Congressional Medal of Honor exhibit. It was very interesting and we learned so much about the medal. Wills' disappointment was....they had nothing on Audie Murphy but a Look magazine cover. One of our most decorated soldiers and no mention or display of him.

We left to board the boat for Ft Sumter. which is a 1/2 hour ride out there and then you actually stay on the island for a one hour self guided tour. They have park rangers giving talks and available to answer questions. It was incredibly windy out there today to the tune I was wearing 2 sweatshirts. Of course most people didn't even have a jacket on which always amazes Will and I. We wander through the museum and all over the fort, me taking pictures and Will reading ever sign. The hour went by in a blink of time and we headed back to shore and our car where we had brought our lunch, one more time.

After lunch we went back to the USS Yorktown and boarded the aircraft carrier to go through the six self guided tours they have on board. Some of what you see is: Living & working areas, Fire and Engine rooms, Flight Deck & Bridge, Ships Memorials & Models, Wardroom & Brig and Charleston Navel Shipyard Museum. All of it was incredibly interesting but you have to realize this is a very BIG aircraft carrier and we were going up and down hundreds of stairs to all these different levels all afternoon, it was exhausting but we did it. We saw everything the ship had to offer. As we were finally leaving Will spotted the submarine Clamagore that was on display next to the USS Yorktown was open to the public for viewing so we hurried down there. I especially wanted to go through the submarine as my old friend Roger served on one and still talks about them fondly. Side Note to Rog: I sent you 3 pictures on my phone so figure out how you can view them.

Well after going through that submarine I can't imagine how anyone does that. Just getting through each of those doors was a job. I even asked some guy ahead of me to take my picture attempting to get through the door. And speaking of close have to be kidding that submarine made the aircraft carrier look like the Westin Hotel. How did you do it Rog?????

We finally left there about 5 pm right in the middle of going home work traffic. We and everyone else here were on highway 17 going South. All traffic in Charleston is either going South or North on 17, one very long highway with houses and business all along the way. I came up with a brilliant idea, I thought, why don't we find a place to eat and when we finish the traffic will be gone! As luck would have it, I had spotted a Chinese Buffet just yesterday and was able to drive right to it. So we had a good leisurely dinner and then got back on the road and guess what...there was just as much traffic as before......but we were full and revived so it didn't matter and we headed home. Tomorrow we leave for Georgia. Much love to all our family and friends.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Big NEWS for 2012 - Travel Annoucement

I have just received amazing news from daughter additional present for my 70th birthday next year is being planned right now!


My father's family is from Hungary and I have always wanted to see Budapest ever since I made a family connection there while doing some genealogy many years ago. Our trip will start when we leave from Newark, NJ on 8/31/12, fly to Munich, Germany & take a flight to Budapest, Hungary where we will be for 3 days.

We return to Munich and then fly on to Florence, Italy for 8 days and return back to Newark, NJ on 9/10/2012. Of course the fun part of the trip starts for Nancy right now....THE PLANNING of our schedule and activities. I, of course, am just out of mind excited.....I never dreamed I would ever return to Europe plus actually get to see the Tuscany area.

An amazing daughter I have and thank you Nancy just doesn't seem enough...but thank you, I love you and am so grateful for your generosity.

We are in Charleston, So Carolina, y'all

Thursday, 10/13/11 - We have been experience technical difficulties with the computer the last few days which is why the blog has fallen behind. Unable to access the computer at all I put out an emergency text last night to Nancy for the names of Verizon & Geek Squad in the area. An my "no fail" daughter provided both in the same shopping center just down the road from where we are staying. I decided to try Verizon first and little faithful 3g Internet seemed to be the problem, they even upgraded me to a 4g which they say will be faster & better.....will see about that. The important thing... it is working today.

We rolled into Hollywood/Charleston area on Tuesday, 10/11 in the afternoon to a Passport America park, Lake Aire RV a real nice park with pull thru spaces and lots of lawn instead of dirt. We overlook a small lake with a bunch of ducks that hang out there all the time.

Unfortunately, Wednesday, 10/12 our day for sightseeing, we overslept and didn't get out of here until late morning. Normally, that wouldn't matter much but there is NO parking in the city of Charleston if you don't get there early. We finally found a parking garage and then went down to the Visitors Center to sign up for a Gray Line 90 minute city tour. We were able to get on the 12 noon tour and really enjoyed the wonderful history and the incredible old houses. Street after street, house after house each one more beautiful than the last one. Our driver who was rather strange but very knowledgeable and we both thoroughly enjoyed the tour. The driver than dropped most of us off at the Market Place in the heart of Charleston where they sell all kinds of "stuff" plus many African-Americans have stands where they are making Palmetto Baskets which are for sale. They are beautiful and incredibly expensive, one bread basket I looked at was $365 and took 29 hours to make. Your right, Will was not interested in purchasing it! Our bus driver said, "years ago he purchased from an old lady, Mary that made beautiful baskets and she let him pay them off on the installment plan, but today they are worth a lot of money." Several of Mary's baskets are in the Smithsonian Institute today.

We then had a fabulous lunch across the street from the Market Place and just watched the people.....a great place to do that. We then walked around downtown and took a "free" trolley car ride back to the parking garage to head on home. Just getting out of that downtown area is difficult, all the streets are so narrow and the traffic is horrendous. On our way home we found the local WalMart superstore and did our grocery shopping and headed home exhausted. We were going to do more sightseeing today but I decided to get the computer working so we then ran a few errands. First off we found a Book Exchange store to turn in Will's 42 western books that he has read and then we purchased more cowboy books while we were there, he is definitely set for the rest of the trip. Wandered through Kmart and then found the first full service car wash and Will couldn't pass up getting the car washed by someone else. We will finish up our sightseeing tomorrow and head out of here further South on Saturday. Much love to all our family and friends.......Oh and PS to Will & Becky, we found the card game Five Crowns in downtown Charleston and now we can start playing!

Monday, October 10, 2011

We are in KINARDS, South Carolina

Monday, 10/10/11 - We left Old Fort, N.C. this morning as it was starting to rain and they are predicting rain all week. We saw what we had come to see in North Carolina....the Biltmore and fall colors. North Carolina, what we saw of it, is a beautiful state with very friendly people. The older couple, Fred and Jean that run Cove Creek RV park where we stayed, couldn't have been nicer to us. When we left this morning she gave us both a big hug and told us to hurry back.

We headed west on I40 and then east on I26 as we are heading for Charleston, South Carolina with an overnight stop in Kinards, So. Carolina. Will's son in law and daughter, are Kim & Bill Kinard, so our question to you you have any famous relatives in this town? We wanted to take a picture of a Kinards sign, any sign but unfortunately were unable to find anything and we didn't unhook the car to travel into the city of Kinards.....but it's here, take our word for it.

We are staying in a Coast to Coast park, Magnolia RV & Campground for just this night and will head into the Charleston area for a couple of days. Unfortunately, there is rain everywhere in this area with a good size storm due in Charleston. It seems like the rainy weather just continues to follow us. At least this afternoon we were able to wash clothes and get hair cuts and feel presentable again. Much love to all our family and friends.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 2 at Biltmore House, Asheville, No Carolina

Sunday, 10/9/11 - We have thoroughly seen the Biltmore House and are dead tired....but a good tired. We had 2 great days roaming through the house, the gardens and other places on the estate. All I can say this place makes Hearst Castle look like a small second home!

We arrived this morning about 10 am as we had an 11 am Architectural Tour so in that hour prior to 11 am we went back into the house to wander around. First off, there were very few people on the property, the staff said Sunday mornings are usually the quietest. We had no audio head sets so we just wandered through the rooms and were able to notice so much more details on the ceilings, walls and furnishings.

Just before 11 am we went back to the main hallway where our tour was to assemble and all 14 of us on the tour were there so off we went. The Architectural Tour takes you into rooms not on the regular tour plus our guide pointed out many things on the outside of the house and told us what they represented. One thing we learned about today was "gargles" which are all kinds of different little figurines. She then took us out onto a patio on top of the roof, actually two of them, where the views were spectacular. Unfortunately, our 76 sunny degree weather from yesterday didn't follow us today. Note: the roof material was slate and copper and some of the copper actually had 24 carat gold oak leaves and EACH roof tile was tied on with copper wire. We also learned the house has 175,000 SQUARE FEET, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces with only 16 chimneys. Our favorite fact was Mr. Vanderbilt's bedroom was 1,300 sq feet and Will's entire house in Tollhouse was 1,150.

After the tour, we went back down to the food court (formerly the stables of the house) and today we brought our own lunch and only bought cokes. After lunch we went down into the the beautiful gardens, that are located right beside the house. Lots of arbors with old, old vines growing, stairs every where, a tea house, Italian garden, a walled garden that was planted with lots of fall mums, yellow marigolds and in this garden they had planted a design with a peacock of flowers to tie in with the Tiffany Exhibition, it was amazing. We then walked through the rose garden, which was pretty much done for the year, but they had roses planted that you were to vote on....which smelled the best... to be the official rose of Biltmore. Of course I was smelling them all and the fragrances were something you just don't get in the "new" rose varieties.

We then headed into the Conservatory which consisted of many different sections of flowers and cactus's. My favorite was the orchid garden and our old favorite....the flower of Hawaii. How many pictures I took of flowers alone????there will have to be a big "delete" session with my camera. They change the flowers in the outside gardens with every season and I can't imagine what this place looks like in the spring.

After we left the House and gardens we drove back to Antler Hill Village as we realized we had missed the Winery tour and there was a lot to see there. We especially wanted to see the Vanderbilts' rare 1913 Stevens-Duryea Model C-6 automobile, one of 10 in existence. To get to the Winery tasting room and where the car was you wandered through an amazing tunnel with displays of wine barrels, wine rooms, old pictures on the tunnel walls and then came out into the tasting room which was jammed with people as the wine tasting is free! Of course you then exit into the room where you can purchase the wine and lots of other goodies.
We passed up the wine tasting (of course I did partake of the pretzels and tasting of the dips and sauces) the wine tour and headed out to see the car. After the winery we headed back to Cedric's Tavern (which was named after their favorite St Bernard....Cedric) to see pictures of Cedric, his collar - which is under glass and a statue of Cedric looking up at daughter Cornelia. The family had 6 St Bernard dogs but Cedric was the favorite and stayed in the house.

After we left Antler Village we headed for Deerpark Restaurant (still on the estate) where we heard they had a wonderful Southern buffet. Unfortunately, they closed at 3:00 pm and we arrived at 3:30, well maybe not to unfortunately, on Sunday they are only open for lunch and the cost is $27.00 each. We took a few pictures, wandered around this beautiful place and then headed off to the Barn where they keep the horses and carriages for carriage rides. We inquired about a carriage ride through the estate and found that for a 45 minute ride it was $35 for each person over the age of 5 years old. So again, we just looked at the horses and carriage, took a few more pictures and then decided it was time to bid farewell to the Vanderbilts' Biltmore Estate. It truly was a wonderful weekend here and we enjoyed everything we saw and did and would say this was definitely a highlight of the trip.

On our way home to Old Fort (gosh, I always want to write Old Fart) we stopped in the town next to us, Black Mountain and had dinner at a Denny' just can't beat a Grand Slam as far as I'm concerned & far less than $27. Afterwards, we headed across the street to a grocery store for a few needed items and then drove home.....thoroughly exhausted. It is now 7:30 pm and our goal is to try and stay awake until 9 pm. Much love to all our family and friends.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Awesome Biltmore House, Asheville, N.C.

Saturday, 10/8/11 - We have been waiting along time to see the Biltmore House and today is the day! Saturday is the busiest day of the week so they give you a timed entry for an self guided tour of the house that they say takes about 1 1/2 hours to see. Our entry time was 12 noon so we left our house about 9 am as our RV park is about 25 miles from Asheville and they told us the traffic around the Biltmore is "heavy" and God forbid we would be late.

Girlfriend, GPS took us right to the front entrance of Biltmore about 10 am and we headed up the long, beautiful road along side a river and breathtaking scenery in search of the ticket office. Fortunately, it is a one way road going in and the signage is excellent. We picked up our tickets, that I had purchased on the phone the day before while driving to our RV park. They have so many different "ticket packages" you can purchase and the price just gets higher and higher. We finally decided on a 2 day entry (Saturday & Sunday) into the Biltmore, with a 1 hour guided architectural tour at 11 am Sunday. This tour takes you into rooms that are not open to the public and goes up onto the roof with a 360 degree view and at this time of the should be spectacular.

The timing was perfect, we arrived at the House by shuttle bus from parking lot C and they drop you off right at the front door. That first sight of the House from outside is absolutely breathtaking, it's hard to even imagine all that you are seeing. We walked around outside and I took a few pictures and then we headed into the food court to eat lunch and I had a delicious slice of vegetarian pizza and of course a diet coke. We met a nice couple, Violet and husband (name escapes me) from Michigan and got another lead on a RV park near Tampa. It was soon time to line up for our 12 noon entry.

This amazing house took 5 years to build and was officially opened Christmas Eve 1895 by George W. Vanderbilt. The wonderful part of this story, Georges grandfather, Corneluis Vanderbilt at the age of 16 borrowed $100 from his mother and bought a boat and charged to go between Staten Island and New York City. His father, Jan was a farmer on Staten Island and Corneluis has no education just a lot of ambition. Corneluis sold his shipping interest for 1 million dollars and started building railroads across the USA and became the richest man in America. George on the other hand didn't seem to ever have a job he just travelled, spent money and took care of his ill mother at the Biltmore Three years later he brought his bride, Edith to Biltmore and in 1900, their only child Cornelia was born here. Today, Biltmore still remains a family business and employs over 1800 employees.

Upon entering the House we purchased an audio tour so that we could learn more about each of the rooms and the items we were seeing. They really have the tour down to a science, there are velvet ropes and you just keep strolling in a forward motion going into the rooms, one after another and up three floors. They give you a booklet that tells a brief description of each room and also the number so you can press the audio and hear the story. I loved having the audio as it gave you so much wonderful information on the family, the people and the rooms.

The bottom floor consisted of the entrance hall, winter garden, billiard room, banquet hall with an organ loft, breakfast room, salon, music room, tapestry gallery, library. The second floor was a temporary exhibition, If These Walls Could Talk, Mr. Vanderbilt's bedroom, oak sitting room, Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom. The third floor was a living hall where diplomats, politicians and others were entertained while staying at the House. Oh and by the way they have 33 guest bedrooms. The third floor consisted of a third floor hallway, Louis XV hallway, Damask room, Claude room, named for French painter Claude Lorrain, one of George's favorite artist and his prints are everywhere. We then started back down the grand staircase to the basement and recreation areas where we saw the stone hallway, halloween room (doesn't everyone have a halloween room?) bowling alley (2 lanes) dressing rooms, a 70,000-gallon indoor pool, gymnasium. On this level we went into the many different kinds of pantries, walk-in refrigerators, servants' bedrooms, pastry kitchen, rotisserie kitchen, main kitchen, kitchen pantry, servants' dining room and entrance, main laundry and drying room plus a laundry for fine hand washable clothing & linens. A bachelor's wing consisted of a smoking room and gun room. I have listed all these rooms that we viewed because it's hard to believe they had all this in 1895.......The house alone covers - 4 acres with 250 rooms.

Words really can't describe this place it is something you have to see and experience. We were also amazed at how busy and crowded this place was. While walking in the parking lot we spotted license plates from all over the country. Before leaving the property we drove down to Antler Hill Village which consist of a winery with tasting room, restaurants, shops and the special exhibition going on till October 23rd, a large Tiffany display. We finally left there to return to the RV park about 4 pm thoroughly exhausted but anxious to return tomorrow for our tour and to see the extensive gardens and grounds. We were so lucky as the weather was beautiful, sunny and about 75 degrees....just a perfect day. Much love to all our family and friends. Oh a PS to the end of the day story, we stopped at a gas station in our town Old Fort and while talking to the cashier she said she has lived here for 25 years and has NEVER seen the Biltmore and I am remined I can count on one hand how many times I have been to Yosemite......such is life.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Alive and well in Old Fort, North Carolina

Friday, 10/7/11 - We left beautiful Virginia today and I would have to say we both agree it has been one of the prettiest states we have been in and the people are incredibly friendly. We were sad to leave our new friends in Greenville, Becky, Will, Carter & Ruth and the "Lunch Lady" (sorry I forgot the name) who were so nice to us and introduced us to that new card game - Five Crowns. I can't wait to buy a package for Will and I to play.

After leaving Greenville Thursday morning we stayed overnight only in a Passport America, Lake Ridge RV, Hillsville, VA. It was a beautiful park but unfortunately had no telephone service on the day I really needed it. My sister, Alice was under going out patient surgery and the line of information went this way: Ed, her boyfriend would text Nancy who in turn would send me an email (good old Verizon works everywhere!) So all day and evening I kept checking the computer for any news. And the news is GOOD....she did just fine and is home and we are all relieved. Thank you Jesus!

I was very nervous about out newest RV park as I was unable to find anything in Asheville, NC due to some big something going on. I found a Passport America park about 23 miles from Asheville and the cost was only $15 a night.....OMG, what could it be? As Will always says, "It has to be better than Stanley's in Ohio." But I booked it anyway for 3 days figuring we could survive. Well, we rolled in here at 3 pm and the place is GREAT!! A wonderful older couple own it and invited us to going into town tonight where they play in a, gospel and bluegrass!! We are parked up on a hill looking out at the beautiful mountains and fall colors, Fred, the owner says in 2 to 3 weeks it will be a solid blaze of color (the story of my life, either to late or to early.) We have already booked tickets for this Saturday and Sunday at the Biltmore Mansion in Ashville. Much love to all our family and friends.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge, VA

Tuesday 10/4/11 - Someone here at the park mentioned Natural Bridges being one of the wonders of the world was right down the road....who knew, we had never heard of it but decided we should go and see it as we were this close. Because it has been so cold and rainy we wanted to wait for a nice day and today was it. Finally, the sun came out and made it all the way up to 71 degrees so we packed a lunch and headed south on I-81 for about an hour.

Natural Bridge is an actual town and they have their own post office. Actually, it's an entire complex of hotel, Natural Bridge Caverns that descend 34 stories and they are billed as the deepest caverns on the East coast. They have a zoo, wax museum, a antique toy museum and a large indoor butterfly exhibit. Will really enjoyed this as he had never been inside a live butterfly display. They were all over the walls, ceilings and floor (unfortunately, when they hit the floor they are getting ready to die as they only live 5 to 7 days.) We even saw them being hatched....this was really something to see.

But we came to see "The Bridge" so instead of climbing down the 137 steps we waited for the shuttle bus to take us down. We noted as we were waiting for the shuttle it listed the things to see along the path from The Bridge to Lace Falls (the very end) was 1,300 yards....13 football fields. As we got off the shuttle bus right at a darling cafe you walk along a large creek that runs under the Natural Bridge and all along the path to Lace Falls. As we started down that path I was totally unprepared for what the Bridge looked is over 215 feet arch of rock formed with trees growing out the side at the top. You see a fence up at the top and learn that is highway 11 that runs over the bridge into the Natural Bridge parking lot entrance with the walls spanning over 90 feet. It is a magnificent sight and overwhelming when you first see it. I understand at night they have a light show down there which must be something to see......of course, we never stay out after dark! Lucky for us it was just 1 pm and they were having a young man give a talk on the bridge that was very interesting. First off it is privately owned....there have been 18 owners and President Thomas Jefferson was one of them. The first owner paid $4.00 the last owner between 30 & 40 million (now that's inflation!) It was discovered by the Monacan Indians, was a travel stop for Civil War soldiers and was once surveyed by a young George Washington. George even carved his initials into the rock and they have it covered in glass with a white frame around it so you can see where it is (I got a picture of it.)

After the talk, we headed up the trail to see a wonderful display of what a Monacan Indian village looked like, a cave with an underground river that you can hear but they have never been able to determine where the water comes from. Heading for that "last football field" of the 1,300 yards we came upon Lace Waterfall which was a small by comparison of what we have seen, but a beautiful 50 foot drop and about 25 feet wide that flows into the James River. The entire outing was a wonderful photo op with my NEW Canon camera, which I love and is so easy to work (thanks, Nancy!) The trip back down the 13 football fields was so much was down hill and took no time getting back. We had a wonderful day and very grateful for all these experiences.
Much love to all family and friends

......Special Yankee Annoucement.......

Monday, 10/3/11 Ok, the bad Yankee announcement is they are down one game to Detroit in the play offs but the good Yankee announcement is: Daughter Nancy has purchased for Will and I:

2012 Season Tickets to 16 Yankee Spring Training games in Tampa. FL including a parking pass.

What can I say but a great big THANK YOU, NANCY, you are definitely one of a kind. We are so excited and now I am scrabbling to find a place to stay in Tampa for the month of February, 2012......what a way to celebrate my 70th birthday on 2/26......seeing 16 Yankee games. And the fun just continues.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The cold & rain continues in Virginia

Sunday, 10/2/11 - The cold and rain continues where we are in Virginia but the leaves on the trees are really starting to turn so we will soon see spectacular fall colors. It really is absolutely beautiful here. Today was a pretty lazy day, washed clothes, took a nap and extended our stay here until Thursday morning. However, in the evening our neighbors, Will & Becky asked us if we wanted to join them and a couple of friends in a card game. Now, we don't play cards and figured we would never learn or embarrass ourselves or something awful, but we said yes and joined them in the clubhouse for a very fun card game. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name but will get it from them so we can buy a set and play it ourselves. It was great fun and we both caught on pretty quickly and Will Lyon was even leading in the scoring going into the last game or so and then got beat out by Becky. Get ready Kim & Bill we will teach this game to you guys when we get home so we can ALL play it.

Monday, 10/3/11 Still off and on rain and cold again today, the weather man promises tomorrow will be better, we want to go see Natural Bridges but want a decent day to do so. Today took us into Greensboro, VA where there is a WalMart as we needed our toes done and shop for groceries.

Fortunately, this WalMart did not have a nail/pedicure salon so we found one across the street, Q Nails and headed over there. What a great experience, first of all it was the first salon we have been in since this trip started that our manicurists were NOT Asian. We had two darling girls, Benita and Daniell and they were wonderful, very personable, the four of us talked through out the entire pedicure and Will said it was the BEST pedicure he has had on this trip. Because I forgot to bring my flip flops and had to wait so long for my toes to dry, I had a manicure (of course) while I waited. Will went out into the car and made phone calls as we don't have phone service at the RV park. Then it was back to WalMart to shop and head home exhausted as we had such a busy day (stop snickering) and take a nap. Much love to all our family and friends.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's House, Charlottesville, VA

Friday, 9/30/11 - We arrive at our Coast to Coast park, Stoney Creek Campground in Greenville, VA a straight shot south on I-81 from Gettysburg. A very nice park overlooking a large, beautiful lake. About an hour after we arrived all the power in the park went off, yikes not a good sign. But it turned out great, Will went over to our next door neighbor, also Will and wife Becky and asked about the power. Pretty soon another neighbor called and said they were building a big fire and for all of us to come down....which we did. It's not raining here but it's cold and we relish the idea of sitting around a big fire tonight. It was great fun and they enjoyed having us there. They told us about lots of things to see in the area, more than we have time for but it was fun roasting marshmallows and visiting. Finally, the power came back on about 3 hours latter and we went home. A really late night for us. Oh and the power went down for about 65,000 other people. Most of the people here are members and spend their entire summer here in their trailers and boy do they have LOTS of stuff.

Saturday, 10/1/11 - Thomas Jefferson is Will's favorite guy after Ben Franklin so when he heard that Monticello was only an hour away that was our first place to go and see. However, we discovered they had a restaurant at the camp store and on the menu was biscuits and gravy so the first order of business for him today was to go and have some Southern biscuits and gravy while I took my walk. And he was down there at 8 am when they opened up! Unfortunately, they didn't get a good rating in his book, he says Denny's in Fresno is better....go figure.

After packing our lunch we were on our way to Charlottesville to see Monticello......girlfriend GPS had the address so we were on our way. We arrived at around 11:30 am and decided to wait on lunch after we looked around. We bought our tickets for the tour and our time was 12:40. Before taking the shuttle we watched a movie on T. Jefferson and Monticello and walked around the museum. They take you up the mountain in a shuttle bus to Monticello and you are free to roam around on the grounds but have to line up for your guided tour 5 minutes before.

Because this was Saturday there were lots of people there and our guide took us and our group in at exactly 12:40 pm. She was probably one of the best guides we have ever had and the tour includes the ground floor only of three floors. We entered into the main parlor which is decorated with lots of replica Indian artifacts that were sent to Jefferson by Lewis & Clark. We went into the tea room, dining room and Jefferson's chamber (bedroom), we saw a guest bedroom that was called the Madison room as Dolly & James Madison slept there so much. We also saw several other room and then they lead you out onto a beautiful L shaped terrace and the 35 minute tour of the house was over. The place is really amazing and Jefferson was a self taught architect and designed the house from books and observations of Ancient Rome. In 1768 he began leveling the mountaintop for his house, surrounded by 3,000 acres he owned and that began a 40 year period of design, construction and remodeling

We then toured by ourselves the underpart of the house that consisted of an ice house, a stable for the guest horses, their kitchen and several of the slaves quarters. They have lots of artifacts from digs at the site and they are under glass but available for viewing. We then got on a tour at 2 pm to hear about the slaves and their lives. Jefferson had over 200 hundred slaves and it really was an incredible story learning of them and their lives. It seems that Jefferson had several children with one of the black slaves, Sally Hemings during his first term as President and the brochure states that DNA testing have proved that to be true. Just a little drama up on the mountaintop. We then walked down to the cemetery where Jefferson and his family is buried and then walked through the extensive vegetable garden. All this is overlooking a beautiful valley of trees that are starting to turn into fall colors. As we were leaving the property in our car we saw a sign for apples/cider up the hill which appeared to be on the Monticello property and decided to take a look. You would have thought it was a rock concert. A steady stream of cars coming and going up this 1 mile hill road, when we got there, no lie, there must have been 500 people up there buying apples, picking apples, all kinds of baked apple goods, plus other food stands. We just couldn't believe it. We purchased 6 apples and got the heck out of there as we were dead tired anyway.

It was cold today, in the 50's but at least the rain held off until 7:30 tonight. We just can't escape the stupid rain. However, it was a fun day and we had a great time and have the heater going right now trying to stay warm. Much love to all our family and friends.