Happy Holidays 2004

These notes record the events of the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve. 


We were staying at Boyd's Key West campground on Stock Island in our RV (see Summer/Fall 2004, email14 for details on how we arrived there). It was rainy and windy in the morning, so we hung around the RV and talked with our son Bill and our daughter Katie and then walked to Hogfish Grill for a lunch with local color. After lunch we walked in to Key West and picked up some gifts that we'd ordered. We walked around, talked with our daughter Alex, and then tried to take a bus back to the campground. Very few buses were running, so we had to pay $20 for a taxi. We cleaned up and changed clothes and drove to Cathy's cousin Ruth Ann's home on Sugarloaf Key. Others already present there were Ruth Ann's husband Harry, Cathy's cousin Tom, and Tom's friend Jule. Harry is a waterman who dives for Florida Lobster and traps Stone Crabs and Blue Point Crabs. Our Thanksgiving feast consisted of a huge bowl of Stone Crab claws, a cookie sheet packed with lobster tails, twice-baked potatoes, cole slaw, and asparagus. It was a seafood lover's delight. The meal was topped off by pecan pie and brownies. We lingered over good conversations and finally got back to the campground at around 11:00 PM.

Friday, November 26

We walked into Key West, picking up a bus schedule en route. We ate a relaxing lunch at Sunset Pier and spent the afternoon walking up and down Duval Street doing some light shopping. I picked up my packed for the Hog Trot at Hogs Breath Saloon. We sat by the water at Mallory Square for a while and then ate a great dinner at Mangoes Restaurant (pics:1,2). We caught a bus back to the campground.

Saturday, November 27

We arose at 5:45 AM and caught the first bus into Key West. We had to settle for a cup of bad coffee at Burger King. I ran the Hog Trot 5K (pics: 1,2) in very humid conditions (hey, it's Key West) ; the highlight was running past Mile 0 of US 1 on Whitehead Street. After the race, I won a $50 certificate for food and drink at Sunset Pier in a raffle. We went to Sippin coffee shop so I could get a late breakfast. Then we went to the museum in the old Custom House. We ate a big lunch at Sunset Pier which cost a total of $6, including tax and tip. Then we walked back to the campground in the heat of the day via the beaches. When we arrived at the campground, we reserved 6 nights next October for Fantasy Fest and then set about packing up. We ate dinner in the RV during a beautiful, romantic evening with a big moon on the water.

Sunday, November 28

Our time in the Keys was over, so we arose at 5:10 AM and were on the road at 5:40 AM. We stopped for breakfast at the IHOP on Marathon and lunch at a Subway around Fort Pierce. My worst fears for horrible traffic never materialized, so we had a normal, fast drive on I95 to the Georgia Line (550 miles) where we stayed at at a KOA for $23.

Monday, November 29

We arose at 5:00 AM and hit the road at 5:23 AM. We had another fast drive on I95, stopping for breakfast and lunch at Cracker Barrels. We took US 58 over to Virginia Beach and rode over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel just before a beautiful sunset. We continued up the DelMarVa Peninsula to Pocomoke City, where we stayed at the Lake Somerset Campground for $26 after picking up a pizza at the Pizza Hut at the Chincoteague turnoff. We enjoyed the pizza in the RV in a surprisingly filled campground; we figured there were a lot of duck hunters camping there.

Tuesday, November 30

We slept-in until 6:10 AM and drove to the ferry terminal, stopping for breakfast at a IHOP. The Delaware Bay was as smooth as we've ever seen it as we cruised across. We shopped at ACME and then we unpacked the RV. After lunch, Cathy had to go to work at GED testing at the Technical HS. I dumped the RV tanks and winterized it (again). I wasn't feeling very well, but managed to get the work done. I parked the RV behind the house to protect it from the winds that were predicted for the next couple of days. After dinner, I went to bed very early.

Wednesday, December 1

I stayed in bed until almost 10:00 AM since I was feeling so lousy. It rained heavily all morning and the wind continued to blow hard and gustily. I worked on various computer tasks and stayed in the house all day.

Thursday, December 2

I felt a little better when I arose at about 7:30 AM. I researched a cruise to Hawaii for us on the Norwegian Wind departing on 4/20/2005. All of our available options are booked up, but we are on a waiting list of 5 people, so there is a chance for us. We visited our skin man, Dr. Weiss, for a periodic checkup and then went to Staples, the bank, had lunch at Avalon Coffee, and went to the post office. Cathy went to work at GED. I drove the RV to fill the gas tank. Later, I drove the Jeep to get us hoagies for dinner from WAWA. I started researching memberships in Western Horizon Resorts, where we're staying for a few nights in January in St. David, Arizona. I found that it is best to purchase an existing membership if possible. I found someone selling on eBay and emailed him a few questions about his membership. There are issues about "home resort", annual dues, and nightly fees that I wanted to have clarified. I also emailed Nancy Paddack to see if she could give some insight on those issues. I updated my PayPal account in case I wanted to bid on the membership before bidding closed in 3 days.

Friday, December 3

It was windy and cold as we arose. We did our weights and then worked on cleaning out the RV. After lunch we drove to Hamilton Mall and walked for a couple of hours in the calm, warm air inside. Then we did some Christmas shopping. We headed to Mac's in Somers Point for dinner and found ourselves alone in the large outer dining room while a large crowd of locals ate in the inner dining room near the bar. Although we felt ostracized, we had a satisfactory meal.

Saturday, December 4

The wind had dropped overnight, so it was calm but cold (31 degrees) in the morning. Our neighbor Tom and I headed out on his boat at about 9:30 AM and found the ocean unusually calm. With a bright sun, it didn't feel cold at all as we entered the rips. We put clams on a pair of rods hanging off of the stern of the boat and cast bucktails (white with green worms) off the sides. We each caught 3 fish, all but 1 on the bucktails; Tom caught a very small one on a clam. I had a 24" slot fish and Tom had a 28" slot. Meanwhile, there were some good charter boats right around us that weren't having as much success as we had - it was a good feeling. We had to freeze our share of the fish because of our commitments for the next few nights. Later in the evening, we had a "neighborhood dinner" with Tom and Joy Brzoska and Jim and Fran Lewis at Alfe's in Wildwood. We had good food and conversation.

Sunday, December 5

We were to have colonoscopies on Monday, so today was a day of fasting and purging. I talked with Larry Paddack and decided not to bid on the Western Horizon membership. We drove into Cape May to visit Corey Gilbert's gallery and some other shops before heading home for a rather grim afternoon and evening of hunger pangs and races to the bathrooms. I was relegated to the upstairs bathroom and hence got more exercise. We had rented a couple of DVDs (Elf and The Clearing), but were a bit distracted (we almost wore out the "pause" button on the remote) and didn't find either movie compelling enough to hold our interest. It was a very long and not very enjoyable day.

Monday, December 6

I slept OK overnight, but Cathy was bouncing out of bed and racing to the bathroom all night. We got up around 7:00 AM and I took a shower. Our driver from the hospital picked us up at 7:45 AM because neither of us were allowed to drive home from the hospital later. We went through the various steps of waiting together and at one point were seated next to each other in hospital gowns and with IVs dripping into us; I wish we had a picture of that. Cathy had her colonoscopy first. I had an endoscopy followed by a colonoscopy, but as one continuous procedure. When I awoke, Cathy was dressed. I was a bit woozy and felt abnormal the rest of the day. We got our ride home and then I drove us to Uncle Bill's Pancake House to break our fast. We followed up with a stop at the post office and for gas and then headed home for a quiet afternoon. I spent most of the afternoon researching possibilities for a cruise to Hawaii and found one that seemed to fit our schedule. I called Ed Adgie, a fellow member of the county Pollution Control Financing Authority and a travel agent, to ask his advice. He said he would work up some information for us and give it to us at the Authority's "banquet" that evening. Later we went to a short meeting of the Authority and then went to the Sea Grille in Avalon for the dinner. We all had our usual good time, although I felt less than perfect. Ed gave us a packet of information about the cruise and we talked about it when we got home.  

Tuesday, December 7

I slept-in until 7:30 AM and hurriedly took out the trash, which we had forgotten to put out, in a pouring rain. We talked more about the cruise and decided to go for it. I called Ed and he reserved cabin 4214 on the "Pride of Aloha", sailing 4/10/05, for us. I emailed a B&B that we had found on Oahu to try to get lodging for some additional nights after the cruise. I wrote a proposal to Jimmy Johnson of Imperial 500 Motel for a registration program based on that at Armada By-the-Sea Motel. We grilled the striper from Saturday and enjoyed it as we usually do. The south wind was blowing pretty hard as we went to bed.

Wednesday, December 8

There were gale warnings for all of the nearby waters, but it wasn't blowing hard at all around our house. We decided to go for a 6 mile walk before the wind picked up. The wind hadn't picked up by the time we got back, which was about 1:00 PM. Our neighbor Tom decided to take a chance on the wind and fish for the rest of the day. I accompanied him. As we left his marina, the west wind was blowing pretty hard, but once we were out on the ocean it wasn't bad at all, and got better. The west wind at the beginning of our trip put us off from going to the rips, so we fished close to where a clamming boat had been working off of Wildwood Crest. We enjoyed being out, but only caught 3 dog sharks for our effort. It was a worthy try, however. Afterward, I drove to WAWA to get some hoagies for dinner since Cathy was working at GED testing. Later in the evening, I decided on the rest of our Hawaian stay: a bungalow on the North Shore and then a B&B closer to Honolulu.

Thursday, December 9

We started the day by taking the RV to Cape Camping for Marty to install another battery and look at whether our alternator was charging the coach battery. When we returned home, we took a walk/run; I ran for 3 miles and walked for 4 miles, while Cathy walked for 6 miles. Marty had called while we were out; he told us that the alternator was not charging the coach battery and that we shouldn't need another battery after getting the problem fixed at our RV dealer. I called Sunbird RV and was told by the service writer that it was a Chevy problem which they don't fix. I called Greg, our salesman, and asked him to intervene with service. He did so and we made an appointment with Rick to fix that one issue on Friday morning . I went to the bank and the post office to send a $250 cashier's check to Greg Siok as a deposit on the Hawaian bungalow. Then I picked up hoagies for our dinner as Cathy was working GED again. It rained all night.

Friday, December 10

We awoke with the alarm at 6:00 AM and drove to Avalon Coffee for breakfast. At the next table, a group of 5 men were having a bible study; I finally found some Bush voters. After breakfast we enjoyed a rainy drive up the Parkway with light traffic as we brought the RV to Sunbird. We arrived by 8:45 AM and were able to get our battery problem fixed by 10:00 AM. We were back home for lunch. Afterward, I mailed a $75 check to the J&B B&B on Oahu; I sent it priority mail to try to get it there in a timely fashion. I also dropped off some knives and a machete to John's Sharpening on Route 47 in Green Creek. Then I got propane for the RV at P.J.s and also gassed it for our holiday trip to Atlanta. I rented a couple of DVDs at Blockbuster (Dawn of the Dead and Scary Movie 3 ) since Cathy was to attend a "Chinese Polyana" at Carol's house for dinner and the evening. I reserved a rental car for our 9 days after the Hawaian cruise and then turned to dinner and the DVDs.

Saturday, December 11

The morning was calm for a change. After we did some weights, I washed the RV. After lunch the weather took a turn for the worse. Cathy went to pickup some Christmas baking from George (the former chef at Peaches). I received an email from Jim at Imperial 500 that he approved my proposal for a registration program. We went to Water's Edge for dinner; the food was as good as ever, but the service was a bit slow.

Sunday, December 12

We took the 7:30 AM ferry to Lewes and ate breakfast on the boat. The bay was pretty choppy due to a strong west wind. Don, Bern, and Donny picked us up at the terminal. We went to the beach and walked to Rehoboth. It was a pleasant walk with fairly good conditions for mid-December. We ate brunch at the 2nd Street Grill and then chilled out at the Ernakovich's for a couple of hours. We caught the 4:30 PM ferry and were met by some of the teachers who were gathering at Margaret Lloyd's for a dinner party. We turned in early.

Monday, December 13

We began the day with some weightlifting. Then I worked on the program for Imperial 500 motel. After lunch, we did some walking in Cape May and visited Lauren at Atlantic Books. The west wind howled. We ate dinner at home and listened to the wind until we went to bed and listened to the wind some more.

Tuesday, December 14

We went to the dentist at 8:30 AM. When we got back home, I called Jim from Imperial 500 and arranged to go over there to install the program and get his old mailing list data. All went well on my visit to Wildwood Crest. After lunch we drove to Borders to buy a copy of Hawaii by James Michener. Then we went over to Hamilton Mall to walk for a while. After walking, we searched for packing cubes, but couldn't find any. We were driving over to Target and were in the left turn lane near Borders when the car in front of us went through the red left arrow and got trapped in the middle of the intersection. I saw this unfolding and left some room in front of me for the car to back up out of the intersection. The car was a late model white Nissan with four people. A chinese lady in the back seat kept looking back at us as we motioned them to back up out of traffic, which they did. I noted that the driver had left the car in reverse, but there was still some room in front of me and I prepared to lean on the horn as soon as they started in reverse. When the left arrow went green, the car started like a jack rabbit and slammed into us. I was just getting out to talk with the driver when they took off down the road. I took a look at our front end and saw that the bumper was pushed back and cracked (pics: 1,2,3). The other car had some smashed lights and dents (we saw them as they left the scene). I decided to pull across the highway and park in the Target parking lot. Then I called 911 and reported the hit and run accident. A Hamilton Township police officer arrived and I described the accident and the car that caused it and ran. Later, when we arrived home the officer called and said that he had located the other car and was trying to interview the driver. I worked on importing the old mailing list data for Imperial 500 before dinner. The wind was still blowing and the temperature was dropping below freezing as we headed for bed.

Wednesday, December 15

At 1:38 AM, I heard the business phone ring. I was awakened from a deep sleep and didn't get a chance to get it. I used the opportunity to head into the bathroom where I heard someone coming up our outside stairs. I went to the door in my underwear and found a Lower Township Police officer there. He asked if I were me and if our car was ours. So far, I knew the answers, but I excused myself to put on a pair of pants. The officer asked how the front end of the car got damaged. I explained about the hit and run accident and showed him the card from Hamilton Township and the case number there. He explained that he was investigating a local hit and run accident and had been following a trail of water drops that ended near our driveway. What an unbelievable coincidence! The officer called in the Hamilton Township information to his dispatcher and quickly apologized and left. I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning from the double dose of adrenalin. I finally climbed out of bed. The outside temperature was 28 degrees and the wind was howling. After breakfast I made several phone calls and coordinated between Byrne Insurance Agency, Rio Auto Body, and Enterprise Car Rental for a 2:30 PM drop off of the XTerra and a pickup by Enterprise. Stephanie from Byrne said that she would get the police report from Hamilton Township and mail us a copy. I made arrangements to go to Imperial 500 on Thursday morning and left a message for Steve Tecco to try to go to Armada on the same trip. When I went outside to look at the XTerra, I saw that the front-end had moved too close to the right front tire to safely drive. I called Lou at Rio Auto Body and asked him to send a towtruck. Then I called Enterprise Car Rental and asked for a home pickup. After lunch, the towtruck came. Later in the afternoon, I went to Enterprise via my pickup and signed for a Pontiac rental car. The car was filthy because Enterprise had suffered a broken water pipe. I took it through the car wash in Rio Grande on the way home. On the way, I also picked up our knives and machete from John's Sharpening Service in Green Creek. Cathy and I went shopping at ACME. When we got back home, my DVDs for the extended edition of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King arrived. I watched the over four hour feature during and after dinner.

Thursday, December 16

I drove the Pontiac over to Steve Tecco's house in Wildwood Crest for a 9:30 AM appointment and installed the latest changes on his computer. Then I drove to Imperial 500 and installed their changes. I passed Cathy on her walk by the Bay as I was on the way home. I dropped Cathy at GED testing after we went to AAA to get some more packing cubes and a map of Arizona. Then I returned home to watch some of the special features on the Return of the King DVD. I went out to get hoagies for dinner and then drove to pickup Cathy shortly after 7:00 PM. We continued to watch the special features during and after dinner.

Friday, December 17

 Tim, from Western Pest Control, came over in the morning to check the house for problems. Later in the morning we went to Hairport for haircuts from Linda. After a quick lunch, we went for a six mile walk. It was sunny, chilly, and a bit windy. When we got home, I used the machete to trim the growth on our front dune. The machete worked very well. We went to Gorman's Liquors for beer and wine and picked up Linda and Jim Sosna for dinner at the Copper Fish in Cape May. This was our annual thank-you dinner for Jim and Linda for their help caring for our house during the winter. The food was good and we had a good evening of eating and conversation.

Saturday, December 18

We left around 9:30 to drive to Katie and Tom's house. We arrived at their house at noon and found them out. We went to Starbucks for lunch and then returned to their house. Katie and Tom arrived from picking up a chest of drawers and crib. I helped Tom carry the furniture into the house. Cathy and Katie went to see Kay Keeley while Tom and I hiked six miles around the Lake above their house. When we all got back together, Katie opened her birthday presents, including a beautiful pair of emerald earrings from Tom. Then we went to Knight's House Restaurant in Doylestown and enjoyed Katie's birthday meal (pics: 1,2). We all turned in somewhat early after dinner.

Sunday, December 19

We ate breakfast at Starbucks and then went to mass at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Chalfont. We were amazed at the number and lateness of people coming in after mass started and then the number and earliness of those who left mass before it was over. Cathy and I packed the car after mass and then we all went to Moe's Southwest Grill for a good lunch. Cathy and I hit the road after lunch and shopped at ACME before going home. Rain had started while we were in the store. The rain and snow were blowing hard in the wind and the temperature was steadily dropping as we headed for bed.

Monday, December 20

It was 15 degrees and the NW wind was howling when we arose. We did as much as we could do indoors: packing, packing, and packing before daring to go outside. We went to George's home to pick up holiday bread and be mauled by his great dane. After lunch I plugged in the RV and turned on the furnace. Cathy posted herself in the RV while I shuttled items from the house to the RV. The temperature reached a balmy 22 degrees and the wind was still blowing hard by mid-afternoon. Our electric heater finally quit working, so we stopped at Sears for a replacement on the way to dropping off the rental car at Enterprise in CMCH. We obtained a ride home from Enterprise. I took out the trash in the still blowing wind. We enjoyed our last dinner at home for a while while huddled in front of the fireplace. The wind was finally dropping a bit when we went to bed.

Tuesday, December 21

The temperature had risen to 28 degrees and the wind was lighter and from the SW as the sun rose on the shortest day of the year. The good news is that the days will now get longer. I got a shock when I went out to dewinterize the RV: the antifreeze had frozen in the pipes and in the water pump. We had some panic-filled hours as we ran the furnace and the new space heater to thaw things out. Finally, we got the water running and completed the dewinterization. We got everything packed and shutdown the house by 1:30 PM and headed for the ferry terminal. We had an easy trip over on the ferry and an easy drive down the DelMarVa toward Cape Charles. The sun went down at 4:40 PM. We stopped at the Pizza Hut near Chincoteague where we had some mediocre pizza for dinner. I decided that I'd like to drive further than planned, so we drove over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel and through the Norfolk area and up US 58 almost to I95 before staying overnight in a WalMart parking lot. I went inside the store and asked permission at the Customer Service desk. We were both tired and got to bed around 11:00 PM.

Wednesday, December 22

We arose at 4:21 AM and were on the road at 4:40 AM. We had very light traffic and stopped for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel off of I85 at around 6:30 PM. We made good time on I85 and stopped for lunch at another Cracker Barrel a bit after 11:00 AM. It started to rain a bit as we neared Cumming, GA and Bill and Stacey's home. We arrived there at around 3:00 PM. Stacey was at home to greet us and Bill returned from work about an hour later. At that time, Bill and Stacey showed us the sonogram of the coming baby and announced her sex. We went to the Atlanta Seafood House for a wonderful dinner. We all went to bed fairly soon after returning home. We didn't run the furnace in the RV because it wasn't supposed to freeze overnight.

Thursday, December 23

The rain lasted for a couple of morning hours before the wind chased it away. We went out to breakfast at IHOP and then shopped in a number of stores. The temperature kept dropping as the day wore on. When we returned, I started the furnace in the RV and also turned on the holding tank heaters. I wondered how long the propane tank would last with the furnace working so hard. We did some chores to finish readying the house for Christmas and ate a late, light lunch. We talked with Alex; they had been delayed by an hour and then had left a luggage item in the airport terminal. We watched a DVD version of "Hero", which was visually beautiful. Alex, Phil, Erin, and Bridget arrived in time to enjoy a great dinner of eggplant Parmesan, meatballs, chicken Parmesan, and various side dishes. Tom called from the Philadelphia Airport to say that they were delayed. Bill and I left at about 9:30 PM to meet them at the Atlanta Airport. When we arrived at the airport, the status monitors indicated that they had landed at 10:40 PM. The monitors went out of commission shortly thereafter. The airport was in a state of chaos with people mobbing the baggage pickup and others settling down on the floor for the night. We didn't know it, but Katie and Tom had to wait in their airplane on the ground for an hour due to ground traffic control issues. Finally, Katie and Tom emerged and we headed back to Cumming. I got to bed around 1:00 AM.

Friday, December 24

The whole crew was in the house and people awoke in stages, with the grandkids waking up first. We had a good day around the house, getting the young girls familiarized with the two cats, Boots and Sandy. We ordered pizza for lunch. Bill and Phil spent a long time on the mission of getting a ham for the evening's meal. Tom did some ironing and we all put on our holiday finest. We all piled in two cars at 3:00 PM to head for mass in a Catholic Church about 1/2 hour away. We arrived at the church 1/2 hour early, but people were being turned away due to overcrowding as we arrived. The nice thing about being a Catholic is that the intent is what is most important, so our Christmas obligation was satisfied painlessly. When we arrived back we took lots of photos (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10) before changing out of our holiday clothing. We had a great Christmas Eve meal, centered around the great ham. After the little ones spread reindeer food outside and went to bed, all of us put the mass of presents (pics: 1,2,3) under the tree. Cathy and I went to bed shortly thereafter. The other guys stayed up to play video games (pics: 1,2).


The morning started for us very early at 6:30 AM. Bill had already put out the turkey for a last thawing and Alex and Bridget were getting some breakfast. Everyone else was up soon and had breakfast. Then out came the stockings, followed by all of the rest of the presents (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7). There were lots of great gifts given and received. Tom and Katie gave me a pair of walking sticks so I could be more professional on our hikes. Bill and Stacey gave us each a booklight which we can use in the RV. Alex and Erin had made and painted a set of salad dishes to complement the set of plates that Bill had made for us a couple of years ago. When the dust settled, there were 3 IPods in the house along with scores of toys. Stacey made fabulous waffles for brunch. Then Tom and Katie cut bread cubes for the stuffing while Bill and I cut vegetables. Bill had the turkey flying on schedule and with a lot of help we got the turkey on at 12:35 PM. After getting the schedule set for the rest of the meal, I went for a walk through the neighborhood with Cathy and Katie, aided by my new walking poles. It was mostly a relaxing afternoon. When we returned, Tom helped me with the potato peeling. Everyone pitched in as we completed the meal preparation. We had a feast befitting the holiday. Everything was wonderful. Stacey made pecan bars for dessert in case we hadn't consumed enough during the meal; it was fabulous. Erin and I put on a puppet show with her and Bridget's new puppet show set. Unfortunately, I didn't know a lot of the story lines for the fairy tales that we presented, but Erin knew them all. Bridget pitched in with some bit parts, including a frog and a wizard during the show. Bill cleaned up in a hearts game, beating Cathy, Tom, and me. Because of her cat allergies, Alex had to sleep out in the RV for the second night. The outside temperature was below freezing again, but I monitored an inside temperature of 63 degrees in the RV. The overnight temperature was below freezing again.

Sunday, December 26

Bridget hit the deck early in the morning to start things out. Erin followed shortly and they enjoyed some TV while Phil ran out to a convenience store for milk. After breakfast, Bill, Phil, and I took the RV to BJ's to try to get propane, but they wouldn't pump into an RV. We went to Twin Lakes RV Resort, but the office was closed on Sunday. So we didn't get propane and returned to the house. Tom, Phil, and I planned a trip to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, but we decided it was too late in the day this day. After lunch, Katie, Tom, and I drove to Lake Lanier and hiked the Laurel Ridge Trail (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6). Katie used my hiking poles and did really well on a very hilly 3.8 mile trail, especially considering that she's 6 months pregnant. Cathy's sister Marianne called while we were hiking and I talked as we walked. We loaded two cars: 1) Phil, Alex, Erin, Bridget, Cathy, and Stacey; 2) Bill, Katie, Tom, and me. We all went to Moe's Southwest Grill for dinner. Then, we drove to a 2 hour traffic jam on Lake Lanier Islands called Magical Night of Lights, punctuated by various irate individuals yelling at other cars to douse their lights. Our car stopped on the way in to buy a bag of boiled peanuts from a roadside vendor. Tom and I worked on the bag; the peanuts were salty, mushy, and tasted like pinto beans. As we drove through the array of lit displays, Tom took several photos. We heard that there was a bit of noise in the other car and some physical discomfort during the long show. Finally, the show was over and we all headed home.

Monday, December 27

Tom and I got up at 6:30 AM and were in the RV and on the road to Amicalola State Park by 7:00 AM. We were quickly into the very rural North Georgia countryside which was both beautiful and bereft of places to eat breakfast. Finally we found a little, rundown gas station and store and went in. In our minds, banjo music was lightly playing as we surveyed the scene. There was a guy sitting at a table with a look on his face that said, "If I wasn't so lazy, I'd gut you carpetbaggers with my survival knife." Tom bought a chocolate milk and I got a biscuit with jelly and butter and a cup of coffee. We ate out in the RV so as not to to anger the hillbilly inside and then drove to the Appalachian Trail office in the state park. We registered for a hike to Springer Mountain and then drove up to the trailhead near the top of the falls. It was a beautiful, crisp day in the mountains. Our route which included 3.4 miles on the Appalachian approach trail to the junction with the Len Foote trail, 4.3 miles to the summit of Springer Mountain, 4.3 miles back to the junction with the Len Foote trail, and a 6 mile longcut down the Len Foote trail back to the RV, was a total of 18 miles of up and down terrain. The summit of Springer Mountain contained the Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail and an awesome view of mountains and valleys to accompany our lunch (pics: 1,2,3). We saw several friendly people, two hunters carrying guns, and a surprisingly exposed wild turkey as we hiked. We also saw a couple coupling on a bench right on the trail as we neared a bridge over a creek. None of us was embarrassed, but Tom and I were sort of surprised by the display and didn't get any photos. We completed our circuit in 7.5 hours. The average time is 12 hours. When we arrived home, we joined the rest of the group for a delicious dinner of leftovers. After dinner, I won a very competitive game of Hearts by "shooting the moon" on the last hand. I celebrated with a victory dance while Bill, Cathy, and Tom looked on with shock and awe.

Tuesday, December 28

After an early breakfast, Bill and I drove the RV to Twin Lakes RV Resort to get propane. The tank took 8.2 gallons for a total of $21. One of the two men in the office showed me photos of huge striped bass that were caught in Lake Lanier. I was really surprised that a landlocked lake would have such big bass. The lake record is 46 pounds. The ladies all went to Babies-R-Us and we guys went to Best Buy. I bought "Easy Rider" to prepare for our New Orleans jaunt. We all met at California Pizza for lunch. After lunch, I returned with the group heading home and called a U-Haul shop in New Orleans to try to arrange RV storage. I was put on a long hold which I hung up from and when I called back I was promised a call back from them. I finally talked with a clerk, but found out that all storage was indoors with a maximum height of 10 feet. Cathy, Katie, and I took a walk around the neighborhood. When we got back, I called KOA East and reserved storage for $10 per day. Their office is open until 7:00 PM. Alex, Phil, and the kids went to see Amy Magaro, who lives with her family nearby. Bill and Stacey's friend Mike came over and we went to the Ichiban Restaurant for great food and a fun show of cooking at the table. We went to the Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream treats afterward. Bill demolished us in Hearts, bringing his record to a smashing 2 wins and 1 second place.

Wednesday, December 29

Today, all of us except Bill and Tom headed in to Atlanta. We ate lunch at the food court in the CNN Center. Then, Alex, Katie, and Phil took the CNN tour and the rest of us walked over to the Children's Museum of Atlanta. Erin and Bridget had a fun time in the hands-on environment of the museum (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10). I got a call from Phil that Alex had sprained her ankle on the CNN tour, so we would have to meet them back in the CNN Center later. The kids continued their fun for a while longer and then we headed back to meet the others. Poor Alex had her ankle elevated and iced when we arrived. We headed home in the first wave of rush hour. Cathy and Stacie went out to the store for the makings of dinner. The rest of us worked on various computers or watched TV. Erin and I explored Barbie.com. CNN had extensive coverage of the recent tidal wave in the Indian Ocean. We had baked ziti for dinner; one dish with meatballs and the other without. It was a great meal. Bill and Tom went to a bar for a trivia contest. I watched the first half of "Easy Rider" on my laptop with earphones. The kids went to bed and the others watched "Garden State" on the main TV downstairs.

Thursday, December 30

I awoke at 6:00 AM. Alex was already in the shower and other members of the household were stirring. Bill drove Alex and Phil to the train station at a bit after 7:00 AM. They were flying to Cleveland to attend a wedding and would be away for two nights. When they left, I took over the role of playing with the kids for a while. I was a prince in a dramatic role-play involving Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. All of us loaded up the rental car and went to the Mall of Georgia. We ate in the food court. Katie and I bought maroon t-shirts for the Sugar Bowl at Galyas Sports before we headed back home. Cathy and I went back out to buy some items at Home Depot and Wal-Mart. The temperature went up to 66 this day and I wore a t-shirt with no outergarment. We had an Italian night at dinner; great food!

New Year's Eve

Bridget woke us about 5:00 AM as we listened to her talking via her monitor which was in our room. We finally went to her around 6:00 AM. By that time she had stripped off all of her clothes including her diaper. After breakfast, I repaired the box that we were to ship to Katie and Tom's house and packed my serious winter clothing therein. For Cathy and I and Katie and Tom, much of the day was dedicated to packing to leave Atlanta and readying the RV for the road. Katie also tried out her new sleeping bag. The Atlanta area came up with another mild day in the 60s. Bill cooked hot dogs, hamburgers, and garden burgers for a New Year's Eve cookout. Cathy and I were sound asleep at midnight.

Our adventures continue into 2005

William G. McArthur