Sunday, November 28, 2010

Back in Georgia

We made it back to Georgia on November 15th. We are pretty much settled into our RV life at Holbrook Campground here on Ft. Stewart. Lots of familiar and friendly folks here at this time of the year. We had our Thanksgiving dinner with the men and women and their families of the 3rd Infantry Division in one of their brigade mess halls.

We're not doing a lot at the moment except for fishing and visiting with our neighbors.  We hope to carouse around Savannah a few times and make some day trips to see the Christmas decorations in the nearby small towns.  This is relax time for us and by the time we move out on January 24th, we should be really recharged.  Not sure where we are going from here, but it will assuredly be farther south.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Whistling Acres Hermit (a cookie) Recipe

This award winning recipe is posted in memory of its author Lois (Tutu) Brierley Bernier, grandmother to two of my beautiful daughters, Heather and Krystal.  Enjoy.

Whistling Acres Hermits

Preheat oven 375

1 1/2 cup shortening
3 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
2 cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
4 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup raisins

Cream first four ingredients. Sift together dry ingredients (not raisins) and add to wet ingredients a little at a time until well mixed. Add raisins and mix. Make two cylindrical strips of dough down each cookie sheet. Sprinkle tops heavily with sugar and press into dough with bottom of wet glass. Bake 12-15 minutes. Do not over bake. Remove from sheet when cool enough to handle.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Almost Migration Time

Seems these past few months have dragged by. Since our last posted camping trip we have not done much other than work on this house trying to keep it up to sale standards. We did find time for another five day camping trip into the West Virginia mountains in early October. We stayed at the Trout Pond Recreation Area in the George Washington National Forest.  As with our previous trips we started after the weekend crowd had departed.  It was beautiful and refreshing with very few people.  We so enjoy these kind of secluded adventures.

I took another short excursion with my cousin Jim shortly after returning from West Virginia.  Jim's g-g-grandfather, like my g-g-grandfather, was a Civil War Confederate soldier assigned to the 9th Georgia Infantry Regiment.  Mine was assigned to the 22nd Georgia Infantry Regiment.  They both fought and were wounded on July 2, 1863 during the battle of Gettysburg.  Jim's g-g-grandfather survived.  Mine did not.  We toured the battlefield on the first day and on the second day we walked the route the 9th Georgia took as it made its attack on the Union lines.  This particular attack would be known as the Wheatfield, one of the bloodiest skirmishes during the  three day battle.  We both were awed by Gettysburg.  It is truly Hallowed Ground.

We entered the Corvette into two car shows bringing home a trophy from one of them. The O'Doodle boys went to the last one and had a great time. This was their first show.

Now that fall is firmly entrenched we have been getting ready for our annual migration to Georgia.  Our departure will be on November 14th.  Our destination this year will be Holbrook Pond Campground on Ft. Stewart in Hinesville, Georgia.  This is our favorite place to stay and it just so happens our friends, Lori and Dock, are the campground hosts.  Oh yeah!  Spinner is there, too.  You remember Spinner (see Dec. 19, 2009 post).  Guinness, Rosco and Spinner will have a ball.  Our plan is to stay at Holbrook until mid-January then move on to Charleston, SC for several weeks.  After that it is any body's guess.  Probably into Florida or Alabama.

Speaking of Rosco, he has fully adjusted to our family now.  It has only been in the past few months that he started to be completely comfortable here.  He and Guinness are totally inseparable.  They play and do everything together.  It is great to see them get along so well.  They both are very well mannered in public and we get a lot of complements about their demeanor.

Next post will be from Georgia.  Can't wait.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Day at the Bay For Guinness and Rosco

This past July we took Guinness and Rosco to the upper portion of the Chesapeake Bay to swim.  They loved it.  See for yourself.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cabin Fever

And did we have it bad.  We had to get away from this place for a while before we went stir crazy.  We thought about where and decided to stay close.  Cotoctin Mountain Park was our choice for this adventure.  School is back in session so we departed Baltimore on Monday planning to return on Friday hoping that the campground we chose would be sparsely populated during the work/school week.

Cotoctin Mountain Park is a U.S. National Park so our senior pass gave us 50% off the fees.  Another reason we chose it.  Can't beat $10 a night.  This park, also, is the home of the presidential retreat, Camp David.  Our retreat was the Owens Creek campground located about a mile, as the crow flies, northwest of Camp David.

We arrived around noon after a leisurely hour and a half drive.  OK.  Nothing is leisurely about driving around here, but we did make it there without incident.  Setting up camp was easy and quick.  Before too long, the O'Doodle brothers were romping around the site.  Unfortunately, they had to remain leashed at all times due to campground regulations.  They did, however, get to go off leash for a few minutes each evening close to chase each other and burn some energy.  No one was around so we took the chance.

The days and nights were cool and they flew by.  On Wednesday, we made the short drive to Gettysburg and did a small bit of research.  My cousin Jim and I are going there next month to see what both our great-great grandfathers saw when they fought there in 1863, his with the 9th Georgia Infantry Regiment and mine with the 22nd Georgia Infantry Regiment. That, however, is the subject of another post next month.

Our last day brought us rain in the afternoon and through the night.  It was very heavy at times, but we endured it without any problems.  We were lucky this time for it usually rains the whole time we are out. The boys took this time to lay back and relax.  They both slept most of the afternoon and all through the night.  Needless to say, the next morning they were ready to go.

Friday morning we packed up and were on the road by 10 AM.  We took the back roads through the Maryland countryside to stay away from the Friday traffic around Baltimore.  It took us a hour longer, but we enjoyed the slow drive and light traffic.  The boys were extremely excited about getting home.  They went to their toy boxes right away.  They had their fill of camping for the mean time.  The short respite did what we were hoping it would.  We felt better all around and immediately started to make plans for our next adventure.  Look out West Virginia for you are next.

Monday, September 6, 2010

From Then to Now-July Through Labor Day Weekend

May through June was a blur. Before we knew it Independence Day was upon us. The summer was continuing to be hot and dry. We continued to stay close to home, but the urge to travel was nagging at us so we decided to do some camping during the week. It is almost impossible to get to a campground any where within 3-4 hours of here. Too many people, not enough campgrounds and now, the economy. Weekends are booked up months in advance. During the week, however, most campgrounds have room to spare.

We have been tent camping for many years and have all the equipment stored so we can just pack up and go. We also camp in our truck (see Oct 2008 posts), but with the Doodles that has become impracticable. Not enough room. Tent camping is becoming a bit hard for us, too. The tent, although it is quite large, does not have the room we need for the four of us, especially if the weather is bad. Finally, our bones are not as they used to be. How were we going to do this?

We decided to invest in a used pop up camper. We started looking and found the best place to shop was at The campers on Ebay were priced too high. Craigslist had a good selection, they were reasonably priced and it was much easier to locate and speak with the seller. The one problem we did not expect was these used pop up campers have become a premium in the used camper market lately. The economy again. A camper would be posted and within minutes the seller was getting calls. Most were sold the day of posting. After trying and trying we finally located one in Pennsylvania. When we called the seller said someone else was on their way to pick it up. Missed again, but we did catch a break. The prospective buyer backed out and the seller called us back that evening.

We drove up the next morning and brought it back to Maryland. Great! It was perfect. A 1994 Coleman Destiny. This is the smallest model in the pop up series. It can sleep 6, but not comfortably. It can sleep 4 very well. Just right for the four of us. It took several days to re-arrange things, stock it it the way we wanted and to make some very minor repairs, but for the price, it was more than we anticipated. Now a test trip.

Locust Lake State Park lies in the Pennsylvania mountains just off Interstate-81.  This was the destination for our shake down cruise.  We were confident the two of us would be comfortable, but not so sure about the O' Doodle boys.  Guinness has a lot of experience tent camping, but not Rosco.  This would be different than in the RV where all the night time noises are subdued.  It was going to be interesting.

We arrived mid-afternoon, set up and immediately got settled in.  The trip was easy.  We explored the area and we all had a great time in the mountain forest and fresh air.  The temperatures were much cooler than in the Baltimore area and we all felt great.  Rosco and Guinness were having a fantastic time.  Rosco found he could follow a chipmunk, with his eyes, and he became fixated on that task for the rest of our stay.  He loved it.  Guinness had his ball and that is all he ever needs to be satisfied.

Of course, though, the Berrys are camping and what does that mean?  Rain.  We are rain campers.  Just about every time we go, it rains at some time during the trip.  Most often, all the time.  We have gotten accustomed to it and we deal with it very well.  The boys, however, are a different story.  In the RV there is a lot of room and plenty of things to do on a rainy day.  In a small tent camper there isn't.

It started to rain just after we all settled down for the evening, about 9:30 PM.  It was a drizzle at first, but graduated to a tremendous downpour for the rest of the night.  The boys settled right down, thank goodness, and immediately went off to sleep.  They were exhausted and seemed very comfortable and the sound of the rain helped.  We were up several times looking for leaks, but all was OK.  Not bad for a 16 year old canvas trailer.  The rain tapered off just before dawn, but it continued to drizzle for a while and the morning started off very foggy. The next two days were a repeat of the first.  We were thankful the days were dry.

The O'Doodle boys camping

Time for nite-nite

I see you Mr. Chipmunk

Fresh mountain air makes me sleepy

The campground had 282 campsites and most were occupied during this particular week.  We guess it was because it was only a week after the July 4th holiday and a lot of people were still on vacation.  These campsites were very close to one another and that was our concern for the boys, especially at night.  We did not want them to be barking all night at the noises in the park.  We took care of that with our anti-bark collars.  OK.  Before you all get upset, these collars are NOT shock collars.  These spray a fine mist of Citronella if the dog barks.  A gentle "woof" will not set it off.  They, obviously, do not care for the scent so they remain quiet when they have them on.  The collars went on each night and they acted like angels.  Anyone interested can check them out at the company's website (Click here) and order them at (Click here).  We highly recommend them.

When we returned to Maryland we made a few adjustments to the trailer and then covered it until our next planned trip scheduled for the last weekend in July.  During the following two weeks we stayed very close to home and, again, tried to deal with the mid-to-upper 90 degree weather.  Again, it was cooler in Savannah than here in Maryland.

Lori and Dock are great friends and are full-time RVers.  We spend winters close to them in Savannah and summers close to them here in Maryland. During the winter, they are the Ft. Stewart campground hosts and during the summer they kick back in the Pennsylvania mountains just north of Gettysburg and close to family.  If you will remember (see our Dec. 19, 2009 post), their dog Spinner and Guinness are great friends.  We had not seen them since they left Savannah in April, but this trip we would make up for that.

We wanted to try out another state park so we departed a day early to stay the night at Caledonia State Park in Pennsylvania before heading to Lori and Dock's campground.  The state park campground was OK, but not great.  Most Pennsylvania state park campgrounds do not have many amenities like water or electricity.  Their bath houses are OK, but most are worn and need repair.  This one did have electricity, but water had to be hauled in from several locations throughout the campground.  And that is OK if you are expecting it and prepared for it.  We were.  It was quiet for there were very few people camping on this Thursday. A lot of state parks in this country are extremely over regulated.  Usually pets and alcohol are always listed as a no-no and the rangers patrol for violators.  They do not look for the drugs, just the wine coolers and kitties or puppies.  Our tax dollars at work.

Arriving mid-morning, Lori met us and showed us our campsite for the weekend.  Neat.  It was under beautiful trees and beside a mountain creek. Good sleeping for all.  The weekend flew by.  Lots of good food, good drink, great weather and great company.  Guinness, Rosco and Spinner ran free and had a great time.  When we started home Sunday morning, they were exhausted and slept all the way back.  Now comes the rest of summer.

August started off like July had been, hot, humid and little rain.  We did nothing of particular interest.  Our time was taken up by vet and doctor appointments, house and yard repairs, keeping the boys exercised and occupied and more house repairs.  Do you see B-O-R-I-N-G here?  Very.  We did attend a Bull Roast with friends one Saturday evening and had great time, but that was it for the month.

Well here we are, Labor Day 2010.  The past week and a half has been rather difficult.  Joyce, Guinness and Rosco are fairing well, but I suffered a rather sever knee injury around Aug 26th and have been nursing it ever since.  This has put us behind schedule in our house repairs, but we are almost there.  What comes next?

Not sure.  A couple of small things planned.  Maybe.  Stay tuned and see.

Friday, September 3, 2010

From Then to Now-May through June

Wow! What a summer it has been. As mentioned in the last post, things have been going non-stop since we departed Berry Oaks at the end of April. Retired life is supposed to be easy going, but I guess it is what one is involved in that makes one's life slow or fast paced. We'll have to look closely at what we are doing and consider readjusting our involvements. That will come later on this month, but for now here's what went on from the end of April to the end of June.
Departing Berry Oaks - April 27, 2010

We spent a total five months on Berry Oaks and we knew we had to return to Maryland in the spring to take care of the house. We were not happy about that. It took a week to police and pack up everything we had put in place to make us feel at home here in Georgia. We could not leave anything for it would be gone when we got back. Everything went into our storage facility in Savannah.

We decided to take a few days off before we headed to Ft. Stewart Campground to attend a Bluegrass festival being held in southeast  Georgia. Hoboken, Georgia, a small crossroads town, is about 15 miles east of Waycross, Georgia and about 15 miles north of the great Okefenokee Swamp. Several times a year the population of this small town triples with the Bluegrass festival events held at the Twin Oaks Music Park. The event area has a covered stage with room for many attendees under and outside the stage area.  What was most amazing about this place is it has camping hookups (water and electricity) for 875 RVs at very reasonable rates. It was huge.

We departed Berry Oaks on April 27, 2010 and stayed our first night at Laura Walker State Park.  The next morning after a short trip (10 minutes) we arrived at Twin Oaks and were greeted by a staff of awesome country folk.  They guided us to our spot and we began to settle in. 

The festival went from Thursday evening to late Saturday night.  There were a dozen or so groups performing throughout the weekend and we were pleased to be able to see each at least once. 
The entertainment was great and the atmosphere was very family oriented.  We will return here often.

We returned to the Ft. Stewart campground on Sunday and began making preparations to put the trailer into storage for the summer.  While cleaning the trailer's roof it came to our attention there was a soft spot near the rear.  Not good.  The next morning we brought the trailer to the Camping World in Savannah to have them look at it.  Not good again.  It seems the seals around the ladder had been leaking for a while and water had gotten under the rubber roof and rotted a portion of it.  The whole rear laminate had become detached, also.  Definitely not good.  It would have to be repaired soon.

We went back to Ft. Stewart and hurried our preparations for returning to Maryland.  On Friday morning we packed up, dropped the trailer at Camping World and headed up I-95.  It would take several weeks for the repairs.  The trip back was uneventful.  Once the trailer was repaired I returned to Savannah (alone), put it into storage and drove back to Maryland.

Once back in Maryland our time was consumed with putting the house back into shape after the terrible winter they had experienced here.  We were sad having to be here and Guinness was upset as to not being able to stay outside a lot.  We began to discuss adopting another Doodle as a playmate/companion for him hoping to make it easier on him and us.  After looking through many websites for rescues, we came across a three year old male Labradoodle residing in a foster home near Dallas, Texas.  We talked it over, made some calls and decided to do it.  We had been stationary for three weeks and we were eager to be back on the road.

We considered driving straight to Dallas and then back, but we came to the conclusion it would be better to take our time and not put too much stress on the new Doodle right away.  We drove back to Savannah, stayed a few days at the Ft. Stewart campground and headed to Dallas on May 31, 2010.  Our intention was to pick up our new addition on Friday, June 4th, however, the foster home had something come up and asked us the day we left for Dallas if we could pick him up on the 3rd.  We said yes.  That was going to be a long drive in two days.  We stayed the first night in a small and very quiet RV park in Marion, Mississippi which was about half way to our destination in Denton, Texas.  The next morning we were on the road early and made it to Dallas just at rush hour.  What a horrible experience that was, but we were pumped for the next day and pulled into the RV park in Denton and relaxed.

________MEET ROSCO___________

Hi All!!

Rosco is a small (35 lb), charcoal, male, 2nd generation Labradoodle.  He was put up for adoption by the family who raised him due to health problems with one of the family members.  Like Guinness, he has a wonderful disposition, well mannered, loves people, especially children and other dogs.  He is a perfect match for for the three of us.  We, especially me, were worried about how he would get along with Guinness and how he would take to our life style of traveling.  We were about to find out.

We remained in Denton that evening and started out for San Antonio, Texas the next morning.  We planned to stay at a campground down the street from my brother, Don, for a few days.  On the way we stopped and visited with a dear friend, Jean, for several hours then made our way to my brother's arriving around 4 PM.  Not a bad trip comparing it to the previous days of travel.

We kicked back for several days, letting Guinness, Rosco and my brother's dogs romp through the house while we all drank a lot of Shiner Bock and ate, ate and ate.  Thanks Bro.  It was good to see the family again.

Monday morning we started the return trip to Savannah this time, though, taking our time.  We wanted to make sure Rosco was comfortable traveling and being close to Guinness.  It turns out he was wonderful on both counts.  We traveled in 4-5 hour hops staying the first night in the Cagle campground in the Sam Houston National Forest in Texas. Staying off the main highways, we found ourselves at Chicot State Park in Louisiana the next night.  Our next destination was the campground at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.  We had stayed there before and we had liked the location right on the beach on the Gulf of Mexico.  We figured on staying there 3 days before continuing on.  Guinness and Rosco loved the beach.  It was Rosco's first time and he was very wary of the water, however, he slowly got to like it.

What is this place?

Rosco's first swim

Guinness the Water Doodle

Ahhhh!   The Dog's life.

Next was the Atlantic coast.  We stayed at the Mayport Navy Station RV park outside of Jacksonville, Florida for three more days before we made the short trip back to Savannah.  We had stayed here, also, and liked the setting.  Different than Pensacola, but very interesting because the Navy ships come into the station right in front of the park.

Navy Tugboat

See Rosco?  This is how it's done.

We love this life.

We only stayed two days at the Ft. Stewart campground. We wanted to get that 12 hour drive back to Maryland over with as soon as possible and get Rosco settled into the house. We were concerned about him being in the truck for that length of time, but he took it like the little trooper he is.  We believe the several weeks he and Guinness were in the RVs tight quarters made a big difference in their getting along.  They took to each other right away and have since become inseparable.

The few weeks remaining in June were taken up with the house and the Doodles.  The house has been a big pain since every time we turned around something is breaking.  We remained close by and tried to suffer through the summer days.  Long and hot.  It was actually warmer in Maryland than Savannah.  Go figure.

Next post:  July through now.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Catch up time.....Soon

Things have been absolutely mayhem here. All is OK, but just proceeding at such a rapid fire pace that we have had little time to do anything but keep up day-to-day. We will start catch up posts, shortly. That is if things do not escalate again and the creek don't rise.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fence Project

Berry Oaks has about 900 feet/274 meters of road frontage on a private dirt road.  The two drives accessing Berry Oaks are protected by cable gates. 
No real security other than to keep the trash dumpers, lovers, and hunters out.  Oh!  I also should mention the ATV's or commonly called 4 wheelers here in the Low Country.  They are the ones that rip up the land.  Usually they are younger people with little regard for others property or privacy.  Local law enforcement have quite a problem with these intruders.

Recently, the local power company came by and cleared their power line easements along the road.  In our case they virtually destroyed our frontage by knocking down trees and opening large gaps in the brush that protected the land from entry, but that is another story yet to be completed. 
We were left with three entry ways, besides the two drives, large enough to drive a pick up through.  With us living here, we have not had a problem, but when we leave the word must go out and the parties begin.  Luckily we have neighbors who look out for the land while we are gone.  I had to, however, block the gaps to keep vehicles from entering them.

After considering options I decided the least expensive way was to make our own fence.  We only need it to last a year or so until we can erect a permanent fence along the property line.  I chose to make the fence of fresh pine.  We have an abundance of young pine trees here so I picked five that were obstructing the drive and the power lines.  Once felled, I cut them to length.  We needed eight fence poles and eight rails. 

I used the thicker tree bases for the posts and the upper thinner sections for the rails.

Digging the post holes was the easier part since the soil here is all sand. 
I used a hand post hole digger and dug all eight holes to a depth of 2 feet/0.6 meters in a half hour.  The posts were 6 feet/1.8 meters each. 
Once the posts were set in the holes, filled and tamped, we placed the rails, two per section, and secured them to the posts with 1/4x6 lag bolts.  All in all it was a day and a half worth of effort. 
The pictures show the results.  We are, now, somewhat secure from the marauding hordes until we return in the fall.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An Amtrak Odyssey

I had to make a quick trip back to Maryland to return Joyce's car.  Taking advantage of the journey, I loaded it up with as much as I could so we would not have to bring it back next month when we return to Maryland for the summer.  While I was there I made a quick dusting of the house and a quick pick up of the yard then prepared for my return trip to Savannah.

I had hoped to take a military hop from Andrews AFB to Charleston and then Amtrak to Savannah, but due to ambassadorial events that could restrict access to the base passenger terminal when I needed to leave, I decided to take the Amtrak Palmetto train from Baltimore to Savannah instead.

I began my trip with a ride from my neighbor to the Maryland Area Regional Commuter train station at Martin Airport in Essex, MD, about 6 miles away.  I hopped the 7AM train to Baltimore's Penn Station and awaited the departure of the Amtrak Palmetto (#89) at 8:54AM. It was on time and my odyssey began.

The journey from Baltimore to Savannah is about 12 hours if all goes well.  It didn't.  We were on schedule up to Petersburg, VA., but once we departed the station, the conductor made an announcement regarding speed restrictions resulting from the hot weather.  It seems all of the rails south of Washington D.C. are owned by CSX Corporation and Amtrak, when on their rails, must abide by their rules.  CSX had issued a speed restriction beginning at 1 PM through 7PM.  This meant to use we had to reduce our normal speed of 80MPH/129KPH to 60MPH/96KPH.  This would cause a delay in route from that point on getting us into Savannah about an hour and half late. Not too bad. Oh well, Mother Nature strikes again.  But wait!  Not so quick!

Resigned to a late arrival most passengers, including myself, called ahead to alert those necessary about the delay.  All was well as we pulled into Fayetteville, North Carolina.  The train remained in the station about 10 minutes and as it departed we noticed a number of police officers converging on a large man on the station's platform.  In the few seconds it took to leave, we saw the officers surround the man and try to take him into custody.  Oh, well.  We all have seen something like this before. A few moments later we heard that this man had been waiting for his girl friend and as she departed the train, he noticed her turn around and waved at a passenger in the train.  The passenger waved back.  I guess that is all it took for the man in question boarded the train, went through the cars, found the man and punched him in the face.  Some of the passengers came to the aid of the stricken man as the, let's call him the Perp, tried to leave.  By the time he did get off the train, police had been called and several were waiting for him on the platform.  His girlfriend had gone and he was left with the police officers as company.  He was quit irate and began to get pushy.  That is when we pulled out of the station.  We saw the man who had been punched later on and his right eye was swollen shut.  On to Savannah.  But wait!  Not so quick!

We had traveled about 30 minutes from Fayetteville and were passing through the small town of Pembroke, North Carolina when everyone in our car heard a loud muffled thump followed by an immediate stopping of the train.  The conductor came on right away and told the passengers that the train had a difficulty and they were going to inspect it to make sure it was still travel worthy.  Uh Oh!  I had been on an Amtrak train before that had a similar problem (and sound).  It had been an electrical cable that had come loose between the cars and had to be replaced with spares they carried.  Not too bad.  But wait!  Not so quick!

Word spread quickly through the cars that we had hit someone.  Several people in the last car (I was in the next to last of 10 cars) tried to get off the train and help the victim, but the conductors quickly stopped that effort.  In retrospect, if a train had run over someone there would be no use for first aid.  Anyway, several of the train staff had already investigated and we were quickly told their had been an "accident" and the police had been called.  We would be delayed for a short while until they arrived.  Somehow I did not believe it would be just for a short while.

The police arrived quickly as did the fire and rescue.  Additionally, quite a few civilian personnel arrived at the scene.  They looked very "official".  After about an hour the conductor came onto the intercom and updated us on the situation.  It seemed a local had been lying on the tracks and the train struck him/her.  The person had been thrown up under the train and had ricocheted under the cars.  That's the thump we heard.  By the time the train had stopped, what was left of the victim was behind the train.  No one could see out the back of the last car.  All for the better I suppose.  The police would not release the train until after they investigated completely.

We were finally released and our journey resumed.  By this time it was past the 7PM speed restriction and we were able to continue the trip at the proper speed.  The conductor came on the intercom again shortly after we started to move and explained what had happened in detail.  He was audibly shaken.  The delay was not all due to the police investigation.  The train's engineer had asked to be relieved.  Completely understandable.  Also, Amtrak senior personnel were on the site along with a replacement engineer and had to be briefed as did the replacement engineer before we could continue.  The rest of our journey was without incident.  We arrived in Savannah at 12:34 AM.

I had been in touch with Joyce through the whole odyssey and made sure she was updated on our progress.  She and Guinness had arrived at the Amtrak station in Savannah an hour before our scheduled arrival of 9:03 PM (she wanted to drive there before it got dark).  When I got off the train Joyce and Guinness were waiting on a bench  for me a short distance away.  They both recognized me right away and Guinness went ballistic with joy. After he calmed a bit I was able to get a kiss and a brief hug from Joyce before we headed back to Berry Oaks (around 1:20 AM). 

Don't confuse this with Homer's Odyssey ( I'm sure you won't), but it is one of my very many odessi.  Home and safe.  Heading back to Maryland for the summer in mid-May.

Click on this link to the local news report on the Amtrak incident:  Amtrak train kills man in Pembroke

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Making of a Shillelagh-Part 3

Many do not know the origin of the Shillelagh other than it is an Irish icon. Claims bounce back and forth between Ireland and Great Britain as to who made it and used it first, but most authorities give the Irish credit for its invention.  

"Sticks have been used as weapons since fighting began, however the skilled use of hardwood clubs by the people of Shillelagh led to these clubs to be called Shillelagh's by Richard II in 1395. With the dispersion of these peoples through the ages the term Shillelagh spread throughout Ireland and the new world in reference to a weighted fighting stick.  The unique qualities of these sticks were first developed by the Siol Ealaigh people of this region more than 1200 years ago.

When it became illegal for any Irish person to carry a weapon their Shillelagh's were often elongated to appear as a walking stick but were just as effictive  a weapon when the need arose. These irish who emigrated to America enjoyed the right there of all men to carry arms and Shillelagh's became very promenant in the faction fights in the turbulant years of the young United States. Many Irish Americans can remember this kind of Shillelagh in use or will have heard stories about them while most English and Irish people will remember them as walking sticks or lucky charms from home."  ---Olde Shillelagh Stick Makers, Shillelagh, County Wicklow, Ireland.

These sticks are of all designs.  It is the maker who decides what it will be.  This design is primarily for walking, but can be used in the traditional manor as a weapon for self defense, if ever needed.  Not its intention, but what is tradition if not to replicate it?

The carving phase is now finished.  This was fairly easy, a bit time consuming though.  The hardest part was making the wrist strap hole at the bottom of the stick.  The same knife used for carving made the hole.  Since the knife had only a half inch long awl and the stick is almost an inch wide, careful measurements were taken to assure the holes on each side would line up.  They did.  Next will come the smoothing phase.  This will be interesting.  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Making of a Shillelagh-Part 2

Had some free time today so it went toward the Shillelagh project.  It was determined the handle would be sort of form fitting to the hand.  A sharp knife was used to carve the finger and palm impressions.  This will give the handle a comfortable grip and a bit of style.  Not sure what the end of the handle will look like yet.  Once the handle is finished, the whole project will be smoothed out for finishing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Making of a Shillelagh-Part 1

In the spirit of our last post, I wanted to do something a bit different with the enormous amount of time on my hands.  HA!  If you believe that, I have a few bridges I would like to sell you.  Since we were under the weather on St. Patrick's Day, we did not attend Savannah's gigantic parade so we opted to watch it on TV.  Coverage was excellent and we probably got a better view than had we been there.  It was three hours and fifteen minutes long from beginning to end and well worth every minute.  Hopefully, next year we can see it in person.

For those who have ever attended a good St. Patrick's Day parade, a majority of the entries are families whose ancestors originated in Ireland.  They form in family groups and walk the parade route waving and showing their pride as an Irish descendant. Many of the parade walkers carry the traditional walking stick known as a shillelagh (usually pronounced shill-lay-lee).  For more history of the shillelagh, click on this link:  Irish Culture and Customs.  Many of those who carried the shillelaghs had one feature about them; they were all different.  It was obvious some were store bought, but most were hand made.  All of them, however, were very attractive.

I did some research and found many web sites explaining how to make a shillelagh from scratch as did the Irish  so many years ago.  I decided to try my hand at this art craft.  Knowing the wood used was not readily available here in the Low Country of coastal Georgia, I looked for a wood that would be comparable to the oak or blackthorn tree used in original shillelagh construction.  Our most common small tree/large bush here  is the Mayberry (Vaccinium elliottii).  Mayberry is, actually, a blueberry bush that grows very large, up to 10-15 feet.  The wood is light and very hard so it should make a good substitute.  During the process of clearing Berry Oaks, we have cut many of these bushes.  I looked in our pile of brush and found the best piece.  It had been drying for several months so it was perfect.

First, the protruding branches were cut off with a small buck saw so the piece would be the approximate size necessary.  The handle is a bit big, but it can be carved that down to a good size.  A measurement was taken of the arm at a 90 degree angle to the ground.  Several inches were added to assure it could be trimmed, if required, later on. Most important, at this phase, is to have enough wood to work with.  You can always cut it, but you cannot add it back on.

First the  bark was shaved from the piece.  This was easy since it had been drying for several months.  Next  the excess remaining bark was scraped with the pocket knife resulting in a some what smooth surface.  The pocket knife will be the only tool used for the remainder of this composition. The term composition is used for it will be a work of art. 

That's all for now.  Stay tuned for Part 2.

Signing off from Berry Oaks.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Enough Already...

Enough of the cold weather that is. The past few days have been moderating, but it is still dipping into the freezing temperatures at night. It looks like, however, there will be a warming trend over the next week or so. Hope it continues and the forecasts are correct. Dealing with the cold weather in your home is not like dealing with it in an RV, especially, if you are boon-docking it. These things are not made for sub-freezing weather.

Guinness and Joyce saw a beautiful red fox run through the glen early this morning. Guinness pined for 20 minutes wanting to go out and play with him. Not a good idea. If he had been off-leash when he saw him he would have been chasing him through the woods trying to catch up with him.

Brush clearing is progressing. Each day we (mostly Joyce's effort) clear a small amount and burn it for warmth. Makes for a good afternoon as it gets cooler. As it gets more open, we are seeing more wildlife venture in and around us.

We took a Foody Tour last week. We will make a post about that soon. It was awesome, lots of fun and very filling.

We continue to hang out here in the low country woods. Birds are becoming more active and we see, maybe, an early spring here. Well deserved, we are sure. Hope all is well with everyone out there. We think of y'all often.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I Guess We Did Go Far Enough South.....

Back in Maryland they are getting hammered with a blizzard. It is the same storm we had yesterday as a rain event. They are forecasting up to 24 inches or more for the area. Whew!!! We feel sorry for our family, friends and neighbors back there.

Click here for pictures of storm results.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Quickie Update

All is well. We have been working hard on making some small improvements to the homestead here. Made some small excursions around the local area. The weather has gotten warmer, but the rain continues at least once a week. The rivers are swollen and have been since we arrived in November. No luck on selling the house in Maryland yet.

I made a quick trip back to Maryland a few weeks ago to pick up the Tracker, check on the house and pick up a few things we needed. Used the Space-A (Space Available) military hop to get back there. That was an adventure all in itself.

Plans are to head back to Maryland late April or early May for the summer. This all depends whether or not the house sells. If it does, we'll be here for our forever.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

We didn't move far enough south...

...and I don't think that would have helped much with the coldest winter on record in the South. It was 17F/-8.3C this morning. Our fresh water pump froze so I'm trying to get that thawed out. No pipes busted, thank Goodness. The trailer was built to withstand freezing weather. All the water pipes are flexible and are insulated. The water pump is under the galley sink and enclosed from the living area so I had to open it up to get it warm. The gas furnace in the trailer and a small electric heater keeps us toasty warm in here.

High for today will only be 42F/5.5C, but we are in a warming trend. By Wednesday morning the temperatures should not dip below freezing anymore at night. For a while, anyway. Hmmmm....maybe Puerto Rico would have been a warmer destination. Wonder how we can get the trailer there? You listening, Hector?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What's The Deal With Jack Frost....

...and with this global warming crap? It was 21F/-6C when we got up this morning. The highs today, and for the next 4-5 days, are going to be in the mid-40s with the overnight lows in the mid-20s. That is almost unheard of around here. But, on the upside, no snow or ice.