Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'Be Prepared' and don't sweat the small stuff

Green River State Park campsite

From my days in the Boy Scouts many years ago, I was taught to "Be Prepared." I haven't always followed the motto although I do think about it a lot.

Especially when on a trip -- when on a long, long trip.

Because we camp a lot, there are items we always have in our van when on the road -- food, Coleman stove, pots, pans, dishes, water, snacks and a porta potty.

On long, long trips, I start thinking outside the box.

That was especially true on our roundtrip to California a number of years ago. We have learned from past trips out West, that places are few and far between --- very far between.

Therefore on our little more than 6,000 mile roundtrip jaunt, I took just a couple extra items.

When I look at people who run into trouble in strange places, the thought always comes to mind "If you are prepared, you usually don't need it. If you aren't prepared, heaven help."

I checked out our spare tire before the trip to make sure it was ok. I also took along another spare tire, just in case.

I knew we would always have food in our vehicle for at least three days, but I just couldn't resist taking along some MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) left over from our encounter with Hurricane Katrina.

We took along a 12-pack. That's enough food for two people for six days. There's even a heating element included to warm up the food.

MRE's include an entre, some side dishes, snacks including crackers and candy, seasonings and powdered drink mixes.

One packet is more than enough for one meal. It packs something like 2200 calories which is more than one needs for an entire day.

We made it to California and headed back.  Upon spending a long day going through Nevada and Utah, we decided to stop for the night in Green River, Utah.

It wasn't that late, but after finding a spot at the Green River State Park, we decided to dig into an MRE instead of going to the grocery store for more provisions.

Before the trip I did manage to cook up a couple and they were tasty.  To some people, they may not think so, but it is good enough on which to survive and in some cases, thrive.

The units now were about three years old. Reports indicate that if they are kept at cool temperatures, shelf-life is about five to seven years.

I opened a pack and started heating the entree. There were some sweet-type crackers in the pack and I opened them up and started snacking.

Wifey came along and picked up a cracker, put it in her mouth and after about a chew or two turned away and spit it out.

It wasn't her kind of snack, although I didn't think it was that bad.

We ate the entree and some other snacks and called it a day.

During the course of our trip, we didn't have to eat any MRE's in an emergency situation, nor did we have to use our regular spare or the extra spare tire.

After all, if one is prepared, emergencies usually don't crop up.

Next post: February 7, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Taking down the tree brings surprises

The Christmas holidays usually end on Jan. 1 at our house.

That's when wifey Linda normally takes all the decorations off the tree, carefully packs them up in boxes and I place them in the attic awaiting the next time.

My job prior to Christmas is getting our plastic tree out, putting it up and making sure the lights are working.

Then I get out of the way. I don't like to decorate. Linda does. I have never had to take things off the tree.

On the day after Thanksgiving, she, along with our two sons, daughters-in-law and six grandchildren begin making the tree look festive.

Our sons have numerous homemade decorations from years past, made at school and daycare, that they and their children put on the tree.

And then all the other balls, icicles and myriad of treasures collected over the years are added.

But the routine after the holidays changed this year.

With wifey having a stroke on Good Friday back in April, the task of taking decorations off the tree fell on me.  And it wasn't on Jan. 1, it was two weeks later.

I started out rather fretful. There were hundreds of ornaments.

My, my, what a task!

And then I began, and before long I had to get my camera out.

There was the cable car ornament from San Francisco. The cones gathered from under the giant trees in California more than 30 years ago.

The plastic toy of a ship to remind me of our cruise to Alaska. And the "Mouth of Truth" from our visit to Rome. There were many others.

And then the small replica of the Eiffel Tower, a reminder of a very enjoyable trip to Paris.

All of a sudden the chore turned into a joy -- memories came flooding back adding the final gift to the holiday season.

Next post: Jan. 31, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Orange Beach trip a 'Lulu' of an outing

Sunset photo taken from patio at Lulu's in Gulf Shores, AL

Wifey and I took our first couples overnight trip since Christmas this past weekend.

We journeyed over to Orange Beach, AL., just to look around. Seems like we haven't been over that way for a while and felt the distance wasn't too unbearable to make in two days. It's about a 200-mile or so roundtrip.

Band adds atmosphere at Lulu's
We use to travel to Gulf Shores, just west of Orange Beach, a number of times per year because of the Gulf State Park motel units that were located on the beach.

Each eight-unit building (there were about 10 or 12 of them) was two stories and sat in close proximity to the water's edge.

Linda liked to walk along the beach and this was perfect. Just step out the sliding glass door and you were on the beach -- unless you were on the second floor, then you had to walk down the steps.

Chicken wrap with some chips
One could open the doors and hear the waves pounding the shore.

The state-park-operated units weren't that pristine, but they offered a good price that was even better during the off-season. There was a gift shop and restaurant which we enjoyed very much.

Salad with oil and vinegar dressing
But all good thing must come to an end. One of the gulf coast's hurricanes hit a few years ago and washed out all the buildings. The state has cleaned up the location but it just looks so forlorn.

Even though it was a holiday weekend, there were plenty of rooms available.

Having stopped at the Alabama welcome center, we picked up a motel coupon booklet and decided to give the Fairfield Inn/Suites a try. It is part of the Marriott group.

Good night's rest and great breakfast
Its located in Orange Beach. Our coupon was honored and because of my wife's condition (she suffered a stroke last April and doesn't walk too fast) the night clerk, after assigning us one room on the second floor, changed us to the first floor near the door where we parked our van.

I don't know what our original room looked like, but the new accommodations were great and would seem to have been an upgrade.

Thanks to the Fairfield staff. They really made our visit exceptional. The breakfast the next morning was good and I have to say the grits were great. There are not many places (even restaurants) that can offer grits that I deem great.

Beach beckons for holiday travelers
We spent Sunday night and for supper decided to go back to Gulf Shores and eat  at Lulu's which is located on the intracoastal canal.

Lulu was the childhood knickname for Lucy, the sister of famed singer Jimmy Buffett. The restaurant was family friendly, a non-smoking venue and offered music via a four-piece band.

Multi-story condominiums dot Gulf Shores beach
On Monday (the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, or for others in the South, Robert E. Lee's birthday), we weaved our way through the state park. We then traveled off the main road  to look at beach houses and things along the intracoastal canal. We finished up with a short walk along the beach.

All in all, the overnight jaunt was great.  I think we'll  go back more often.

Next post: Jan. 24, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The joy of Christmas with the little ones

Our Christmas week travels this year took up some 300 miles roundtrip to visit youngest son and family in Louisiana the Wednesday before.

It was there we enjoyed the Christmas school program in which one of our granddaughters participated.

We then packed up Friday and took off, ending up in Georgia on Christmas Eve (about a 600 mile roundtrip in three days.)

On that Saturday night, television reports tracked Santa and his reindeer across the globe.

And our four grandchildren there were prepared to help Santa and his chargers.

I have to say that in all my 67 years on earth, I have never, on the night of Dec. 24, taken a journey out to my front yard to scatter food for Santa's reindeer.

But that's what our "Fab 4" as we call them did.

It was an enchanting moment. Pictures could not have captured the look of joy and anticipation on their faces as they scattered the food across the lawn and came back to their mom for more. 

Rudolph and his buddies surely must have enjoyed the treats that gave them sustenance to make it to the next location.

It was the first time we had been with any of our grandchildren on Christmas Eve. I experienced the profound pleasure of the innocence of children getting ready for the big day. 

Following the opening of gifts the following morning, we journeyed to church to celebrate the real reason for the season, the birth of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ.

Next post: Jan. 17, 2012