I’ve been a very bad girl lately. Well, in the overall scheme of things, that’s probably not true. I’ve never been much of a trouble-maker, although I did once climb the gates to break into a national park at 1 AM in Washington, DC, but I digress. (And if anyone says anything about road rage, just ignore them.) The issue at hand is this blog and the lack of contributions on my part. Sooooo, in order to rectify the situation, this is going to be a long one to catch up. I promise to get back into a rhythm.

After our Huntsville visit, we headed up to Windover, my mother-in-law’s mountain house. I think I’ve said before that being in the mountains, any mountains, just makes me smile. It always feels like coming home, although being from the flat coast of Georgia and never living anywhere in the mountains, I’m not sure why. (My place of birth would be the mountains of Wyoming or Montana for sure if we chose such things!) I always thought John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” was about a bunch of people sitting around a campfire in the mountains smoking pot. Well, it was John Denver, so that probably was the case, but maybe just being in the mountains helped that along, too. I guess it doesn’t work for everyone, though, because Colorado jumped on the legalize marijuana train really early. You wouldn’t expect that if they were all already walking around high, would you?

The trip over was uneventful, and we arrived mid-afternoon to a beautiful view across the valley. The house sits up on a ridge in Sky Lake, a gated community in the Sautee-Nacoochee area about 20 minutes from Helen, Georgia. (If you’ve never been there, it’s worth a visit. Good restaurants and an atmosphere to match their sister city, Fussen, Bavaria. The original developers of Sky Lake wanted to create a park-like atmosphere, and they truly succeeded. On the drive to the top, you pass two lakes, pastures, the stable, hiking trails, and almost always deer. There is also a waterfall and creek to play in, which the kids used to LOVE! (If that sounds like heaven to you, it is on the market. Send me a message, and I’ll put you in touch with the right people. We are going to miss it when it is gone, though!)

After unloading, we turned the recliners to face the rear windows and sank in to enjoy the view through the valley and beyond across several ridge lines of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Ahhhhhhhhhh! Peaceful. A few days later we got up, loaded up, and headed out. Just kidding. We sat there for a day, maybe two, tops.

On Monday morning we were up and out to take a walk in the woods. Since we just started hiking again and my knees are staging their own little revolution, I did not want to jump right into the mountain hike. We drove down to the lake and walked over to the stables and back. After returning to the house and getting cleaned up, we mostly sat around reading and watching movies with the exception of getting the laundry done. Sooooo nice!

Tuesday we decided to venture out and get some errands done. We made a run over to Cleveland to pick up oil and a filter for the car and a few other things, then went to Helen for lunch at the Troll Tavern. This place sits on the Chattahoochee River right by the bridge (hence the name). You can dine inside, but the best spot if the weather is nice is out on the patio overlooking the water. It was early, so there were only a few tubers out. We enjoyed our sandwiches and people-watching. Well, there were a couple of exceptions that were irritating. Two separate tubers came down the river with fairly large dogs. Really??!! In both cases the dogs were totally terrified, trying to balance on the giant inner tubes while looking for an escape route and shaking all over. One of the women physically dragged her dog into the river when she was out of the tube, then dragged him back into the tube when she was ready to move on. So sad!! Why do people think that everything they do is appropriate for their pet? Why would you force the dog that you supposedly love, to spend half a day scared to death for no reason. Just leave them behind for a little bit where they can enjoy a nap and a chewy, for gosh sakes! Okay, end of rant.

Back at the house we worked on some chores. Peg asked me to take a look around to see if anything else needs to be done to help with house showings. She has done a really terrific job of decluttering and cleaning it up, so there wasn’t too much to do. We finished up the laundry, relocated a few things to the basement storage to clear up the entry area, fixed the leaky bathroom faucet, cut back the trees and shrubs along the driveway, and changed the oil in the car. Then we sat back and enjoyed a little evening television.

Wednesday morning we were up early to hike again, this time tackling the mountain. I’m serious, it is a mountain. The first half wasn’t too bad, except that my knees do not really like down. The second half, which took a bit longer, was TOUGH! Well, it was for me. MW (Mr. Wonderful) doesn’t seem to be affected by anything, which is really kind of irritating if I’m totally truthful. In any case, by the time we got near the top, I felt bad. Not your normal I’ve worked my ass off bad, but something along the lines of “I can’t breath, I’m going to throw up, my heart is going to explode, and I’m going to die” bad. We just started walking three days a week last month, and I’m clearly still WAAAAYYYYYY out of shape. Near the top I had to sit down. Bad idea. I suddenly felt like I was being stabbed with a needle repeatedly. Don’t know what the critter was, but it really enjoyed my sweaty flank! I finished the climb up and sat on the patio assessing the damage. Thankfully, I started feeling better overall as soon as my heart rate went down and I had some water. My side, however, was eaten up by something and drove me crazy for quite a while with the itching!

After recovering, we put the house back in order and hit the road for North Carolina. Although the drive is very scenic through the mountains and Asheville, we stuck to the interstate, intent on getting there. We arrived at the Quality Inn in Reidsville, North Carolina, late in the afternoon, ordered Chinese takeout for dinner, watched a little TV, and hit the sack.

First thing Thursday we picked up Brutus and headed over to Bill Plemmons to finally GET PETUNIA!!! Yay!!! We were so excited! I’d been feeling completely discombobulated since the house closed and hoped that being back in our own space would fix that. Everything was taken care of as expected, so we left the dealership happy and headed over to meet Tina for lunch at Big Daddy’s Burger Bar. We’ve been there before when they first opened, and the food is very good. Most importantly, I got to catch up with my BFF that I miss terribly! After visiting for a good while, we went to Hagan Stone Park to spend a couple of days. The plan was to have a mini-shakedown to make sure everything was truly fixed, do a little unpacking and organizing, see the kids and Boogers, and hang with Tina some more.

On Friday after taking our morning walk, I picked up Amber and the Boogers, and we met Tina and her son AJ at McDonald’s for lunch before heading over to catch the Dora movie. It was a lot of fun, and I LOVED seeing everyone. That evening Ryan and Alene came by the campground and visited for a little bit when they picked up the kids. The next morning I picked up Amber and her crew again and we headed to meet Ryan and his crew at the Hagan Stone pool. It was a beautiful day, and thankfully there was an open picnic table with an umbrella available when we arrived, so I was able to stay out of the sun! That pool is awesome! There is a tall, curvy slide and multiple play areas for kids of all ages. They also have a snack bar and plenty of sitting areas. Needless to say, the kids had a blast, and us grown ups had a good visit, too. After a really nice day, we all said our goodbyes for now. On the way to take Amber and crew home, we popped in so that Angel Booger and Missy Booger could visit with Papa for a bit.

Sunday we headed out early to check on the progress in Tennessee, arriving at Panther Creek State Park in Morristown in the afternoon to set up camp. After our morning walk on Monday, we crossed the mountain to Sneedville to take care of some business and meet with Nick the builder at the farm. Things are moving along there and we left with a list of items to purchase, which gave us our marching orders for Tuesday.

Wednesday morning we decided to take some time for a little fun. We took the beautiful drive over to Chestnut Hill, Tennessee, to check out the Bush’s Visitor Center. Wow, what a story. The facility is located in the original A. J. Bush & Company general store that began in 1897. It is across the street from a huge plant (one of several) and the original A. J. Bush house, which has been restored and is used for company retreats and meetings. The Bush’s Best brand has gone through a lot of changes over the years, including its start as a tomato cannery, before ending up as makers of the best baked beans on the planet. There is a nice video history and a lot of memorabilia to look through, including Jay and Duke stuff. At the end of the line there was a store with, of course, beans and bean stuff to buy. After watching that “beautiful bean footage” and taking our time on the tour, we picked up a few things to take home. One thing that makes me like Bush’s as a company is their commitment to their community and making sure they are good stewards. They even have a waste water treatment plant to recycle the water used in the process back to the local land. The final stop was the Bush’s Family Cafe on site, where instead of bread, they give you a sample of the baked bean of the day. Yum! Interesting side note, on the way out to the truck we saw a helicopter flying very low over the hill. It ended up landing in the field across the street, then the pilot and one passenger walked across to the visitor’s center. Now that is the way to sight see!

As we headed back towards camp, we took one more little side trip to take a run through the Briarwood Ranch Safari Park in Bybee, Tennessee. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I LOVE a good animal park. It was interesting from the start, because as we rounded the bend to get there, there was a vehicle in the road and several people trying to get some type of deer back through the gate. When we checked in at the office, she said they occasionally get out, but always come back looking for supper. The place had a few smaller animals in fenced areas as you walked in to buy tickets and just before you went into the safari area, but the bulk of their wildlife would be found on the drive. Elk, llamas, bighorn sheep, zebras, ostrich, emus, peacocks, donkeys…and many more. I think the coolest thing for me, though, was the white buffalo; both a large one and a little fella. After driving through, feeding anyone who approached the car, we walked around the other areas before heading back to Panther Creek for the night.

Thursday was a light day. We headed back over to Sneedville to finalize our order at the hardware store and ran a few errands, then just hung out for the evening.

Friday morning we were up and headed south, but not before a quick walk and spying a doe and baby passing through the campground. We passed through Knoxville on our way down to Rising Fawn, Georgia, and Cloudland Canyon State Park. Now, as I may have said in the past, I was born in Georgia and have spent a great deal of my life around the state. At various times I lived in Brunswick, Savannah, Augusta, Macon, Kennesaw, Marietta, and Norcross, and am pretty well traveled. But I was honestly blown away by this tiny, northwest corner of the Peach State. First, the park is pretty awesome. It has two separate campgrounds: one that was more open and bright, and one that was more in the trees, shady and well-spaced. There are several nice hiking trails and spectacular views. Who knew we had a mini Grand Canyon in Georgia?!?! This park definitely goes onto our list of favorites! We spent four nights there, relaxing, hiking, and enjoying the peace, quiet, and views. Our only outings were to Trenton one day for gas and supplies and out for barbeque one night at the Trading Post Smokehouse (a really small joint of four or five tables and pretty darned good food).

On Tuesday we headed down to my Mom and Bonus Dad’s in Rockmart, Georgia, for a visit and to help them complete some chores needed to put their house on the market. I was happy to be heading there, because it was also my Dad’s birthday; the first since his accidental death from carbon monoxide poisoning in April. Being at Mom’s was a good thing, and the chicken pasta she cooked for dinner was great, too!

On Wednesday we went over to Villa Rica to meet Aunt Pat and Uncle Russ for lunch at Evans Barbeque Company. We’ve met here before, and it is a pretty frequent stop for my family, so that should tell you something about the food. I’ve never had anything bad, the portions are good-sized, and the atmosphere is eclectic. (On this visit it was 1000 degrees outside, though, so it felt a little cold in the dining area!)

On Thursday we headed over to Carrollton to check out The Lazy Donkey, a Mexican joint…definitely well above average. I loved the donkey out front! I didn’t love the lady who sat down at the table next to us with a young boy and proceeded to talk to him very loudly (almost like she was trying to draw attention to them) and let him play on a phone/tablet with the volume turned up. What happened to thinking about the people around you? There are appropriate places for video games with the volume turned up, but restaurants are not on that list. What conversational skills are kids going to have if they are never put in a situation to practice? I truly believe that meal time is one of the best times to teach children valuable skills and learn what is going on in their lives, how they feel, and what they think. Regrets are not productive, but looking back if I could change one thing about raising mine, it would be to put a meal on the table EVERY night and talk. We did some, but like every busy family, not nearly enough, especially as they got older. Now, when we have the opportunity to gather around a table, we truly enjoy it. We laugh, have some lively discussions, catch up on what everyone is up to, and just really enjoy each other’s company. Often after dinner we will play cards (Go Fish is still big because some of the Boogers are small) or other games before dessert. I absolutely adore these times. When we packed up the house and loaded up the RV, I was sure to include those Go Fish cards and a few other games. We will be sitting around a picnic table soon, laughing and playing for sure! Well, that was definitely a “squirrel” situation! We also hit Robinson Salvage and Ollie’s before heading back to their house.

Friday Mom and I headed out to get our toes done and run a few errands. Then spent the rest of the day at home. I cooked some Adobo Chicken for dinner, which Larry LOVES.

Saturday we met my cousin Bill Smith at Johnboy’s Homecooking in Cartersville, a pretty good buffet. I see Bill every Thanksgiving, but there is usually a large crowd, and we don’t get to visit much. This was a pretty nice time when we really got to catch up, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. After lunch we headed back to the house to finish up a few chores.

Sunday came, and it was time to say goodbye. We headed over to my Grandma’s home place (a lot now with RV hookups thanks to Uncle Roy) in Lincolnton, Georgia. There were several things to take care of with regard to Dad, and I needed to check up on my Bonus Mom. She came by when we arrived, and we went down to Evans to a Mexican restaurant (twice in one week)! It was good, and we were back before too late to call it a day.

Monday I woke up feeling puny. I had a few errands that had to be taken care of, but came right back, took a nap, and laid around the rest of the day. There is something about staying here that is peaceful, though. There are so many wonderful memories of visiting Grandma Sara and Papa here, and although it has changed a lot, just the smell can take me back. Augusta Tower (about 45 minutes away) was my first Air Traffic facility. I remember how excited Grandma was when I called to tell her we were leaving Oklahoma and coming her way. She immediately told us we could stay with her while we found a place in town, and we did for a little while. When I left for work in the morning, I would find a little packed lunch or snack on the table with a note telling me to have a wonderful day, or how much she loved me, or how happy she was we were there. After we found our townhouse (near Augusta National Golf Club), I would go out to visit often. We would visit for a while, and every time she would send me home with frozen containers of her amazing vegetable soup or pear preserves (two of my favorites). Man, you just couldn’t beat Grandma’s cooking! Occasionally I would go pick them up and bring them to town for a bit. Their favorite restaurant was Po’ Folks, although the food was never quite like hers. I guess it was nice not to have to cook it yourself occasionally. My daughter, Amber, was born at Saint Joseph Hospital in Augusta on October 29, 1984 (her father’s birthday). Grandma and Papa arrived just after she was born, but were told they were not “immediate family” and could not come in. (Times have truly changed for the better in that regard.) I’m not sure what my Mom or (now ex) husband said to get that fixed, but I was happy not to have to walk that little baby out into the hallway to meet her Great Grandma and visit. (Everyone who knows me absolutely knows I would have done it, though!) I’ll never forget the memory of Grandma holding Amber and just beaming. I think I have a picture of it somewhere, but will have to search when things are unpacked.

On Tuesday I took my Bonus Mom to decide what she wants for a headstone and meet with the lawyer. It was a dreary day for a dreary task. We had lunch at the Huddle House while we were out, then called it a day. The rest of the week was spent doing a few chores at her house, catching up on some bookkeeping work, doing chores at Petunia, and doing laundry. Aunt Pat (Dad’s side – I have two) and Uncle Ken were camped down at Soap Creek, so we hung out with them a bit, went to dinner on the deck at Williemacs (where the Josh Hilley Band was EXCELLENT), and took a sunset cruise on their pontoon boat…beautiful (although hot) weather for a great visit. We also made it over to New Hope Baptist Church on Sunday morning for services.

Our original plan was to head south on Monday. My baby sister, Kate, was down in Jacksonville visiting my middle sister, Julie, and I thought it would be nice to catch up with them together. Hurricane Dorian scuttled those plans, though. My sisters headed inland to visit our niece for a couple of days while MW and I headed west. Thankfully the hurricane turned and did not come ashore in Jacksonville, but it still dumped a LOT of rain and high winds in the area and wreaked havoc on Ocracoke Island later in the week. Years ago when we lived in Plantation, Florida, we weathered a couple of category 3 hurricanes, but that was in a sticks and bricks house. In a fifth wheel, my plan is always going to be RUN FOR THE HILLS!

That’s it for now. We are almost caught up! See you on the road.