December, 2019 – Tyler, Texas

The drive southeast out of the Dallas area to Tyler, Texas was a slow trip since none of it was along interstates.  So far, even the Farm to Market (FM) roads are excellent so the delay was due to all the small towns along the way.  Even then it only took less than 2 hours to make the trip.  Our GPS did a strange thing trying to take us directly to the campground instead of the main entrance of the state park.  Fortunately, the road it wanted us to turn on was closed with a gate, so we just headed on around to the main entrance.  We got checked in and then drove the 2 miles to the campground around the lake that is in the center of the park.  Unfortunately, we missed our turn into the campground loop and had to drive all around the lake in order to try again.  The layout of the campground was amazing.  All the full hookups sites were on a single loop with sites on both sides of the road.  Every one of the sites is a pull-through off the side of the road with the hookup between the RV and the road.  This meant your front door opened up away from the road.  What an amazing concept!!  It was very easy to get hooked up for the week.

Campsite

We had two main focuses for the week.  The first, was to travel back to the dentist to adjust my denture and the second was to get our Christmas shopping done.  On Tuesday we headed into Tyler to do some shopping which included stopping at a Verizon store to upgrade our phone plan.  We decided to finally go with iPhones 8 with unlimited data.  We also decided to get a new iPad which would also have unlimited data.  A new jetpack with 15 GB rounded out the plan.  Since each of the devices could also be used at hotspots with 15GB data, this should increase our data to 60 GB which is 4 times what we had.  In addition, each of the three devices have unlimited data with speed caps after 50 GB.  We hope this means we can finally start streaming more programs we would like to watch, just as long as we have a good phone connection.  After figuring this all out, we went to lunch with an old friend that lives nearby, Ron and his partner John.  Ron, who now is known by his middle name, Scott, was once married to my sister and is the father of her two children.  Over the past several years, he has reconnected with our niece and we were glad to have the opportunity to spend some time with him and his partner over lunch.  We still consider him as a part of our family.  Except for the fact that they had to watch me eating nothing more than mashed potatoes and mac&cheese, it was a very good time and we look forward to spending more time in the spring when we start back north for the year.

RonAndJohn

Wednesday was back to the dentist in Plano, Texas which was a 2.5 hour drive on the interstate.  After he adjusted my denture, which made it a LOT better, we took Pam out to lunch.  Then we drove all the way back to Tyler, making a long day in the truck.

Thursday was back to figuring out Christmas with some shopping in Tyler and ordering presents on-line.  Friday was spent finishing this up and working on this blog.  For Saturday, it was one more time to Tyler to pick up our phones, iPad, and jetpack from Verizon before heading to Best Buy for accessories.  Merry Christmas!  We then went to lunch at Applebees where we spent the afternoon watching LSU beat Georgia in the SEC Champsionship.  Sunday was back relaxing in the campground before our long trip on Monday to Louisiana.

November, 2019 – Dallas, Texas

For two weeks after returning from North Carolina, we camped in Lavonia Park COE campground.  For the first week we stayed in the same campsite, but then on Sunday we had to move to a different campsite as ours was reserved.  We literally moved across the road to a new campsite, so except for our view changing slightly, there was little difference.  Whereas, the previous campsite was sloped so we had to use boards under the front pads to level the RV, this new campsite was just the opposite.  We had to put a board under each tire in order to be able to lower the front end as low as it could go to get it level.  In addition, the sewer hookup was behind the RV which meant we could not reach it even with our extension on the sewer hose.  We ended up having to haul the full tanks to our next stop on Monday to be able to empty them.

Campsite2

We had two reasons for staying an additional two weeks in the same campground.  First, was to spend Thanksgiving with Mark and his friends and family.  The second, was to get a brand new full denture.  This meant I visited the dentist twice the first week to get impressions made and check the bite and again the day before Thanksgiving to remove the last of my teeth.  This made Thanksgiving very interesting as I could hardly eat anything with the new denture that badly needed to be adjusted.  However, this would have to wait at least a week to allow everything to heal up.  While Thanksgiving dinner was special with turkey, dressing, gravy, mac&cheese, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, etc, all I could eat was a little bit of the softer foods!  Kal had a good time playing with her grand-nieces and we both enjoyed time with Mark, Pam, and their friends and family.

We also managed to drive the hour to Mark’s on both Saturdays to watch college football which included the amazing Iron Bowl when we beat Alabama destroying their chances of playing for the national championship.  As is often the case lately when we win the Iron Bowl it had it’s share of controversy.  The end of the first half saw Auburn, with no time outs, be allowed to get their field goal team on the field while the refs checked replay and put 1 second back on the clock.  Even more amazing was the end of the game when Alabama missed a field goal to tie it and Auburn was able to run the clock out when they fooled Alabama using a strange line up for the punt.  Alabama ended up with too many players on the field and the resulting penalty gave us a first down!!  Another memorable Iron Bowl.  Other than those trips to Mark and my trips to the dentist we spent the time relaxing in the campground.

November, 2019 – Asheville, North Carolina

Unlike previous years when all the kids came to join us for a week, this year it was our turn to go to them.  This year we all decided to meet in Asheville, North Carolina for a week prior to Thanksgiving when everyone could get off from work.  Chris booked us a week through Airbnb for a house on Lake Lure, which is south of Asheville.  So on Saturday, after dropping off the truck at Mark’s, he drove us to the airport where we boarded a plane for Atlanta.  To save some money we decided to rent a car in Atlanta and drive to Asheville instead of flying straight there.  This worked out well until we discovered that Kal had booked a rental with Avis for Sunday, not Saturday!  So much for saving money, since we now had to take what they had available for whatever price they wanted to charge us.  It also turned out that the car did not have navigation, so we had no GPS device and no map!!  Thankfully we had driven to Asheville in the past and should be able to find our way there, although it had been a few years.  We did fine until we got to Greeneville on the Interstate and were not sure of the highway we needed.  So we found a McDonalds and used their free WiFi to connect our iPad and checked the route.  We got to Asheville in good order and met Nikki at her home.  Rather than trying to find the house they had rented for the week on Lake Lure and staying there by ourselves, we decided to spend the night at Nikki’s.  It had been a long day and we went to bed early.

Sunday morning we followed Nikki to the Asheville airport to pick up Jenny who flew up from Orlando.  From there we headed south to Hendersonville to do some serious grocery shopping for the week before heading to Lake Lure and our house for the week.  We were immediately impressed with the house which had three bedrooms that had five beds and a futon coach, so there were plenty of places to sleep.  As expected the house had everything you would expect for cooking, eating, and sleeping.  There was also a screened-in porch overlooking the lake.  Although the view of the lake was not great as the house was tucked in a small inlet and our view was completely blocked by other homes on the lake.  However, this was the only drawback.  We later discovered that phone reception, especially within the house, was terrible and their internet connection was very intermittent.  Since the TV used the internet, this would have been a problem, if we had any intention of watching TV.  We hardly noticed it.  William, Kristen, and little Liam arrived late in the afternoon and the celebration got underway.  We did not have to worry about dinner as we were all invited to Chris’ parents condo which was also on Lake Lure.  We had a great meal of chili and wings along with beer and wine.  Kal decided to cut loose and drank more than her normal share of the wine.  Except for a spinning head for the rest of the evening, she had a great time playing with Liam.  Liam even got her to bounce down the stairs in the rental before the night was done!  We even got a video of their shenanigans.  Everyone sure enjoyed playing with Liam who turned out to be the “life of the party” all week.  Kristen pulled out some balloons she had brought and bouncing the balloon around was the highlight of the week with Liam standing in the middle of the floor.  We must have spent hours every day playing with the balloon.

Monday was going to be the last warm day of the week with possible snow showers on Tuesday, so we all headed out early to spend some time outdoors.  We drove to Asheville to explore the Western North Carolina Nature Center.  This is actually a fairly good size zoo of mostly native Appalachian species and domestic animals in a “natural” habitat.  Of course, the primary reason for the trip was to entertain Liam and we had a great time.  There are numerous pathways winding through the center and we explored them all.  Liam easily kept up with us and seemed to enjoy interacting with the farm animals, watching the bears (who were not moving), and picking out all the birds on display.  We managed to time our exploring to be at the river otter exhibit when they fed them.  This at least got them out of their dens and moving around.  It was a lot of fun for everyone and we got lunch at Zaxbys, which was a favorite of William and Jenny in Auburn and is not available in Maryland or Florida.  This still left the afternoon to get the spade game going, which still left at least two adults to play with Liam.

As expected, the weather on Tuesday was stormy with cold rain all day.  We did not see any snow, however, Asheville got a dusting.  It did turn very cold, which for Jenny was a delight since the weather in Florida never gets close to freezing.  It was a day full of spades, playing with Liam, and having a great time with the family.  Unfortunately, we did not see much of Chris or Nikki, as they were busy with meetings for the brewery and working at the hospital, which I was afraid might happen.  Except for a run to the grocery store, we spent the day indoors.  I had asked for homemade mac & cheese to be one of our meals, so they picked up what we would need at the store.  One of our favorite meals for our family over the years was baked mac&cheese made with velvetta cheese and a can of peas.  However, now we had to upscale the meal.  They bought three different kinds of cheese which had to be shredded before being melted into the white sauce.  Even the peas had to be upscaled with onions and mushrooms.  While the meal was very good, it bore little resemblance to the mac&cheese I remember.

For Wednesday, the kids had planned to go bar hopping in Asheville and Chris had given them a list of breweries to explore.  This would have given Kal and I some time alone with Liam which we both were looking forward to.  However, William began feeling poorly, so those plans were canceled.  Instead we all went to check out the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Asheville.  Whereas, their original brewery in Oregon was an organic growth over time, their brewery in Asheville was meticulously planned to reflect their strong commitment to sustainability.  The brewery itself has a rustic feel looking like a mountain lodge using huge timbers.  Attached to the brewery is a bar and restaurant. While you can take a guided tour of the brewery, they have the option of taking a self-guided tour along corridors looking down on the manufacturing and packaging of the many beer products that make.  You can even order and take a beer along with you on the tour.  After we finished the tour itself, we found a table in the restaurant for lunch.  Like the rest of the brewery, even the lunch was unique.  Instead of individually ordering a meal, you instead order what I would call appetizers that are shared with everyone.  So we tried a couple of interesting looking appetizers and then ordered two more.  The presentation was amazing and the food excellent.  As much as possible, the vegetables are from their gardens behind the brewery.  So after lunch we walked out behind the brewery where they have an outdoor stage for live performances during the summer, as well as, vegetable beds.  Of course, in November there was very little growing, but it was still a very interesting approach.  There are also suppose to be walking trails through the woods around the brewery where they are actively managing the forest to replace the trees used in building the brewery.  We did not check this out as the weather was still very cold with some snow on the ground.  We did give Liam the opportunity to play a while in their “sand box”, although the sand was too hard to do very much.  It was a nice opportunity to get outside before we all returned to the house for more spade games.

Thursday was going to be our family “Thanksgiving” and they had a wide variety of dishes planned.  Most of the day was spent cooking with Chris smoking a turkey and everyone making their favorite sides.  The resulting spread was impressive with more variety then we ever had before as a family.  Except for the turkey, where Chris overdid the spicy rub, it was all excellent.  In addition to two types of dressing, we had mashed potatoes, gravy (which was also VERY spicy due to the turkey drippings), sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and rolls.  My sister, Suzy, drove over from Tennessee to join us for the day and spend the night.  She was a welcomed addition to the festivities.

Friday was still quite chilly, however, we decided we had to go for a boat ride on Lake Lure.  Nikki and Chris had recently bought a small house on the lake that came with a boathouse.  They also managed to get the owner to include his boat and all the “attachments”!  They had to show it all off to us.  The house itself was in the middle of reconstruction, so it was not much to look at with very little currently on the inside.  Although we could certainly see the potential.  However, the boat was operational, so we all bundled up and went for a ride.  Liam really enjoyed the experience. Chris took us around the lake ending up at a restaurant where you could tie up the boat.  We had a great lunch with everyone before heading back to their lake home.  Plans are to use the lake house a couple of weekends a month during the summer, renting it out as an  airbnb the rest of the time.  This worked well for their condo in Asheville, which they sold in order to buy this property.

Saturday was the day to say goodbye.  William, Kristen, and Liam left early in the morning to drive back to Maryland and soon after them, Kal and I left to drive back to Atlanta.  Jenny had a couple of hours to spend with her sister before she boarded a plane for Orlando.  We got back to the airport with time to spare, however, I made a big mistake.  We used Kal’s iPad to navigate our way back to the airport and I managed to leave it in the rental car!!  I realized it before we went through security and Kal rushed back to the rental car while I watched the bags.  She was unable to get them to retrieve her iPad, so it was a wasted trip.  It took us over a week before we got Avis to send us the iPad, which they had located the next day.  Except for this, it was just another long day of traveling, especially since we still had an hour drive back to the campground once we landed in Dallas.  Kal’s brother Mark picked us up at the airport and fed us dinner before we did, thankfully, it made the drive a lot nicer not having to worry about a meal.  Without a doubt it was a week worth remembering and we both wished it could have been longer.  We are looking forward to everyone joining us next summer in the Black Hills of South Dakota.