November, 2017 – Auburn, Alabama

The trip to Wind Creek State Park on Lake Martin was uneventful along roads we were well familiar with.  The only thing out of the ordinary about the trip was that we moved on Sunday, instead of the usual Monday.  This was to make Monday easier as we had a retirement reception to attend.  I had reserved the site next to the one we stayed in last year, so we even knew how to get to it.  We did have an unexpected pleasure as Jenny’s friends, Janna and Jep still live on the property and she along with two of their sons joined us to set up the campsite.  After watching us back in the RV into the site, they “helped” us set up the RV and stayed to visit for a couple of hours.

We spent most of the day on Monday just relaxing in the campsite until the Jeannie’s retirement reception at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences building on Auburn’s campus.  Due to a misunderstanding about the time it would take to travel from Alexander City to Auburn, we arrived just after the reception began.  Therefore, we did not get to visit with anyone prior to the reception.  After the formal presentation from the Dean everyone who worked with her got to say a few words.  Along with everyone else I got the opportunity to talk about the pleasure it was to work with Jeannie over the years and some of the many accomplishments she brought to the School.  When I started at Auburn, the faculty in the School was relatively young and for years pushed the technology envelope at the University.  We were often the test case for new technology, partly because we were a small unit, but mostly because we were often already using much of the technology.  We were the first unit to create our own student database for advising and one of the first student computer labs on campus.  We were also pushing the envelope on early use of the internet and publishing webpages.  Jeannie had a lot to do with these many of these early development and continued to introduce new technology, sometimes pushing the faculty faster then they wanted to move.  She was the first to get a second monitor, which eventually became the norm in the School and by the time of retirement she has three large monitors on her desk.  As the faculty generally aged this became more of an issue as learning new technology was not a top priority any more.  I have to admit I began to feel the same by the time I retired and struggle now with the latest gadgets.  I am probably one of the few people who still has a simple phone, although this is mostly a function of cost since we are dependent on a large data plan for internet access with a hotspot.  Like last year, we will be spending time with Verizon with the hope that they have a reasonable unlimited data plan for someone in our situation.  We need an unlimited plan for the hotspot, not smart phones.

Following the retirement reception we went to dinner at our favorite mexican restaurant in Auburn, Cancuns, and then went to check out Jeannie’s brand new home out near Gold Hill.  They were still in the process of moving in, but this is obviously her “dream” home.  It has a spacious and open living room with a vaulted ceiling and the largest kitchen I have ever seen in a house this size.  The master bedroom and large bathroom are downstairs with a guest bedroom and bathroom upstairs.  There is room for a second bedroom, however, they have chosen to leave the side open to crate a balcony overlooking the living room at the top of the stairs.  We spent a couple of enjoyable hours with Jeannie and Rodney before heading back to our RV.

Tuesday should have been open, however, we had afternoon doctor appointments we had made last Friday.  We easily found his new offices on Dean Road and since we had appointments were quickly in to the see Dr. Roach.  Primarily this was our annual checkup up for insurance purposes, however, both of our blood pressures were too high.  We had been flirting with this for the past couple of years, but we decided it was time to start taking medication to try and lower it.  We dropped by Walgreens to turn in our prescriptions and headed back to eat left overs from the day before.

We had an early start on Wednesday to head to Auburn again to the Medical lab to get our bloodwork done.  Surprisingly this took less than an hour as we got there soon after they opened.  This was great since we had to skip breakfast for these tests and were not too hungry when we dropped into IHop for breakfast.  This still left us a lot of time before we needed to be in Tuskegee for Thanksgiving dinner.  Therefore, we drove south to Tuskegee with enough time to spend a couple of hours revisiting the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.  Since we had been there three years ago, they had opened the second hanger at the airfield, so there was a lot of new things to see.  Whereas the first hanger focuses on the creation of the airfield and formation of the Airmen leading up and the early years of World War II, the second hanger gives the full story of their accomplishments during the war and the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.  They have added an excellent film from which we learned a lot.  Only part of their story is about their accomplishments in Italy during the war providing support to the bombers.  The other part was the continuing problems of segregation at home.  The most telling incident occurred when the 477th Bombardment Group, which was never deployed, was assigned to Godman Field, Kentucky in 1945.  They were the only unit training there at a field with a deteriorating runway that was too short for their B-52s.  In March, they were transferred to Freeman Field in Indiana, which was a better facility, but they faced severe discrimination.  Segregated Officers Clubs became the focal point of contention.  In small groups they would enter the “white’s only” club until they were ordered to leave.  Eventually, over 100 officers were arrested for their peaceful resistance and most refused to sign an order that essentially stated they would abide by the segregation practices which were in direct violation of standing orders from the Army.  They were transferred back to Godman Field where they were incarcerated in a makeshift POW camp surrounded by barb wire.  Eventually, all but three were released, but this experience convinced many of them that changes needed to be made and how to go about it.  After the war, many of the Tuskegee Airmen remained active in the Civil Rights Movement, especially in the south.

After spending a couple of hours at the airfield we went to William’s in-laws, Doug and Lynn Hileman for Thanksgiving dinner.  Along with their family and friends we had a very enjoyable time chowing down on turkey and all the fixings.  I even got the opportunity to see the progress Doug has made on his model train setup.  While he has still not laid a lot of track, he has began the long process of constructing buildings that will eventually become the town in his setup.  He has been spending time on the latest technology to control model trains and got a kick showing off all its capabilities.

Thursday was the formal Thanksgiving Day, but since we had celebrated on Wednesday, we enjoyed just spending a quiet day in the campgrounds.  We had plenty of left overs from our feast the day before to keep us satisfied.

Friday was another busy day as we drove up to Birmingham to visit with Kal’s parents and brother.  Since her brother, Phil, was on holiday, it was a rare treat to spend a long period of time visiting with him and Kal’s dad in a relaxed setting with nothing else going on.  Once again we were treated to Thanksgiving leftovers, which were very good.  After we left their house, we dropped in for some quality time with Kal’s mom in the Assisted Living Facility.  While she is doing about as well as we could expect, her memory is certainly suffering.  While she did still recognize both of us, she spent most of her time trying to figure out where her husband was.  She did enjoy the video of her new great-grandson that Kal had downloaded onto her Kindle.  It was with a heavy heart that we left her to make the trip back to the campground.


The only interesting part of the weekend was the Iron Bowl on Saturday.  TV reception in the park had been spotty all week and we were concerned that we would grow frustrated with CBS coming in and out.  Thankfully, we were now in an area where radio reception of the game was easy to find, so we used that as a backup.  It was also obvious that most of the weekend campers over the long weekend were also there to watch the game, so it was a festive atmosphere.  Not quite to the level of a tailgate party, however.  The reception was good enough for most of the game that we did not miss very much, especially since the TV coverage was delayed.  This made it very difficult to listen to the radio instead of the TV since we would know the outcome of the play before we saw it on the TV.  In any case, it was a great game and not just because Auburn won.  Both teams were very good, especially the defenses.  I was a bit surprised to see Alabama self destruct in the fourth quarter as they desperately tried to score twice in the final five minutes.  Two bad snaps before the quarterback was ready was not the way to end the game.  In any case, Auburn won the Iron Bowl and now faces Georgia again for the SEC Championship and a chance to become National Champion.  Not bad for a two lost team during a year when the “fans” were calling for firing the coach!!

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