Friday, October 30, 2009

Not A Degree Too Soon

We’re slowly making our way home and not a degree too soon.

As we left Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri early in the morning we encountered frost. We moved on to Omaha, where it rained. In Kansas City it rained for 2 days and on the third day we awoke to frost and freezing temperatures. In Wichita it was cold and windy and it rained as we left. It rained all the way from Wichita to Liberal and at night there was frost again. Perhaps we’re the bad-weather folks from California. We’re now headed for Albuquerque where we’re hoping for a little friendlier weather.

Thanks to the hospitality of friends and family we’ve kept warm and well fed. Bob has bought two warm jackets and I’m pulling out my thermals. We’re moving on down the road headed for California weather.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hunt Soldiers

We left Newport Wednesday morning on a mission to reach Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in time for our grandson Ramond’s graduation from the US Army Motor Transport Operator Course on Friday morning. A steady 1400 mile ride got us there Thursday night in time to hear 9PM taps.

Very early Friday morning we woke to the sound of soldiers marching and counting off the cadence loud and strong. Throughout the day we saw perhaps ten different units going through their drills. Some were in full combat gear.

As I sat at the graduation and watched the very organized ceremony I reflected on our young people in the armed services. All those fresh eager young men and women with so much ahead of them make you stop and think. Whether we lament their choice or agree with it, we have to acknowledge that the choice is theirs to make and they deserve our support and encouragement. They are serving our country. They have endured rigorous training and separation from home and family. They are facing their futures with hope and commitment, looking toward challenges and opportunities. Some will go to war and return shattered by their experience. Sadly, some will not return. Some will build long and rewarding careers in the military and some will use the experience as a stepping stone to other jobs and careers.

During the ceremony the soldiers chanted a cadence led by an African-American female sergeant. I laughed because a “sista” will be a “sista” no matter what. With a touch of soul she led the cadence – “I used to date a beauty queen. Now I drive a 915.” (I later learned from my grandson that a 915 is a truck.)

Earlier on our trip we also visited another of our grandsons, James who is stationed in Washington, DC with the US Army and has already served a tour in Iraq.

No doubt James and Ramond were inspired by their father, Robert Hunt Jr., who retired from the US Army. They are clearly excited about their military careers and enjoying what they’re doing. They have also followed in the footsteps of their grandfather, Robert Hunt Sr., who served in the US Air Force and their cousins Andrew Hunt, who served in the US Army and Timothy Hunt, who is currently serving in the US Air Force.

As I write this I cannot leave out our granddaughter-in-law, Valencia Hunt, the wife of Robert Hunt III, who has also bravely chosen the army as a way to realize her dreams of furthering her education. She has recently been promoted and is currently serving a tour in Iraq, leaving behind her daughter and her husband.

We are proud of them and we thank them for serving their country.

In the words of the Army Song “Proud of all we have done. Fighting ‘till the Battle’s won. And the Army goes rolling along.”

And on another note: We enjoyed our time with both grandsons who I think enjoyed the opportunity to “eat.”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jog

Home again, home again, jiggety jog. My mother used to say this when we happily returned home at the end of a day. I don’t know where she got it from or really what it means, but I thought of it while I was home in Newport, RI. We enjoyed four glorious days in the town where I was born and spent my early years.

It is because of my cousins that our stay was so enjoyable. Cousin Elaine and her family are beyond belief. They provided bed, breakfast and dinner. What a five-star treat. Cousin Ralph drove us to Providence for a tour of Elaine’s family business. Cousin Phyllis kept our family on the west coast informed of what we were doing.

On Saturday I joined Elaine in the kitchen of the family church and fed the homeless. It felt good to be doing something for someone who needed it. We served 70 people a meal of baked chicken, stir fried vegetables, baked potatoes, salad, bread, punch and desert. I peeked into the hall to see who I was feeding and it was heartwarming to see a diversity of people with challenges in a congregate family style setting enjoying a gourmet meal. Elaine is one of a group of dedicated volunteers who do this every Saturday.

To my delight Elaine organized a family gathering after church on Sunday in the church hall. What a way to see a number of family members in a short visit. I am honored that so many showed up – many of whom I’d never met. Good food too!

We took my elderly aunt to visit her oldest sister who is in a rest home suffering from dementia. It was heartbreaking that she didn’t remember me, but amusing to see how she responded to my husband so happily. My cousin and I laughed when I told her that our aunt was flirting with my husband. These two paternal aunts are my only surviving aunts and it was a joy to see them.

We toured my Cousin Elaine’s family business. What a legacy she and her late husband Robert Lewis created. The business includes a child care center, several group homes and several pieces of property. It employs over 100 employees, many of whom are family members. Yes, family members working side by side in harmony for a common goal. I hope to write a more extensive piece about what I saw there later. I believe this is a story for Black Enterprise magazine.

We had breakfast with one of my maternal cousins and her husband and regretted that we couldn’t spend more time with them. We shared stories and memories of our childhood.

I took a little time to go down memory lane visiting my kindergarten school, going to a beach where I played as a child, walking up the street I once lived on, stopping for a look at the former homes of my maternal and paternal grandparents, and riding streets I used to walk. An emotional time, but a fun time.

As Rossmon pointed when we called him to let him know we were in Newport, we’ve reached our most easterly and most northerly destination. Now we’re turning around and heading west. It’s getting way too cold out here and the rain just won’t leave us alone. Westward ho’.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oh, Do We Miss ...

6 weeks ...
Nearly 6000 miles ...

The time, the laughs and the memories of old times shared with family and friends are like a quilt with squares of fabric too numerous to count, but each so beautiful. However, there are certain things one cannot help but miss.

I miss my:
•Children and our fantastic conversations any day of the week
•Beautiful grandchildren
•Wednesday’s with my grandsons
•Weekly chiropractic visit to the best chiropractor on the planet
•Squishy old waterbed
•Afternoon naps in my comfy bedroom chair
•Monique insisting we eat our veggies
•Big comfy bathroom and the convenience of a shower on demand

Bob misses:
•Very little
•Afternoon and morning naps in his comfy bedroom chair
•Hitting the fridge at-will all day long

After a most memorable and glorious time in Newport, RI we’re turning around and heading west.

Hazmat, Bridges and Turnpikes

Eleven years ago we made this trip and mistakenly tried to cross the lower deck of the George Washington Bridge with hazardous materials. Upon arriving at the toll gate the toll taker asked if we knew we weren’t supposed to be on the lower deck with our RV propane bottles. We’d noticed the Hazmat signs, but had no idea they pertained to us. Eight lanes of the bridge were shut down as we were escorted across the lanes, through the bridge corp yard and onto the upper deck. I kept my eyes averted from the glares of New York rush hour commuters and tried to ignore the cacophony of blaring car horns as Bob negotiated his way to the upper deck.

Experience is the best teacher so of course we would not make the same mistake this time. We left Woodbridge, VA at 9:30 in the morning with hopes of making the 400 mile drive to Newport, RI before nightfall. Suddenly I see the hazmat sign for a bridge ahead. We get off at the last exit before the bridge, pull into a service area and spend an hour – Vonnie on the phone with AAA and Bob roaming the parking lot asking truckers, delivery men and police officers for advice. We put all this info together and managed to negotiate our way across an alternate bridge. We are also reminded to stay in the lanes that direct us across the top of the George Washington Bridge when we get to NY. We know that!!!

The AAA lady also gave some info on a route that would avoid the NY traffic and take us across the Tappan Bridge rather than the George Washington Bridge. We later spent another hour researching this option with our GPS, truckers and local delivery men. We opted not to take it. With all these hours of research and the traffic, we finally gave up at about 8:30PM and stopped for the night in Connecticut. Both of us were suffering from the stress of it all. Newport, we’ll see you tomorrow.

Now, about the turnpikes - I know turnpikes are supposed to move the traffic along, but I’m not sure why the taxpaying drivers are required to ante up at the toll booth. We paid nearly $40.00 in tolls from DC to Newport. If the tolls are for maintenance, someone needed to get busy a while ago. There is a significant amount of road work going on now, probably as a result of the Stimulus Package, but boy does it slow the traffic down. Can we get a smile from those toll takers as they take our money, please?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

On Safari

The thesaurus says synonyms for safari are expedition or trip. Wikipedia says the term is used today to describe a trip taken for the purpose of observing and photographing big game and other wildlife. It goes on to say that khaki clothing, bush jackets and slouch hats are the style and theme associated with the word.

Shortly after we arrived at the home of our “framily” in Huntersville, North Carolina, Gerri and Ted informed us that they would be taking us on a safari. I thought they were kidding and decided to play along. Could they be taking us with them on their next trip to Africa? I even donned my safari hat as we prepared to leave. After a scenic ride through the countryside we turned into a driveway with a sign, “Enter at your own risk.” We went through the gate and were immediately met by a herd of various animals. As we rode through the Lazy 5 Ranch, we were able to get up close and personal with 750 animals from six different continents - everything from pot-bellied pigs to Texas longhorns, giraffes, a rhino and zebras. Bob and Gerri stuck their hands out of the windows and fed the animals. I couldn’t stop laughing. Yes, we went on a real live safari on the Lazy 5 Ranch. It is a privately owned exotic animal drive-thru park that offers a 3.5 mile safari through the gently sloping pasturelands of Piedmont, North Carolina. This was a drive-thru experience unique to North Carolina that we’ll never forget.

Ted and Gerri have made our entire time in Huntersville a sightseeing safari. They’ve driven us around to see the sights and we took the nighttime trolley tour of Charlotte. Bob and Ted have followed each other around the house talking non-stop and fooling around with their computers. Gerri and I have spent our time "catching up." We’ve had soooo much fun and enjoyed our visit soooo much. It will be very difficult to move on tomorrow.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Why Do You Live Here?

My sister Claudia has often said that she is intrigued by the reasons people live where they do. I thought about that too, while spending a glorious weekend in North Carolina with her daughter, Teri. Teri was raised in California, went off to attend Clark Atlanta University, and after graduating has chosen to stay in the south. She merrily chauffeured me around miles of country roads during my visit. I wondered at her ability to negotiate all those beautiful quiet country roads and not get lost. They began to look all the same to me. She told me she loves the pace of life in North Carolina.

Historically, black people migrated north to find work and better opportunities. Many years ago my ancestors left Virginia and went to Rhode Island to find work. They bravely left all that was familiar to seek a better life. While doing our family history research my sister and I discovered that many of their Virginia family members and friends did the same. They found work and made new futures in a new place.

Three sets of friends we’ve visited while on this trip are what I lovingly call “California escapees” and they all say they’re happy with their decision to leave California. Cynthia and Jimmy are not sorry they left California for Dallas. Nate has just bought a home and he’s reestablishing his roots in Dallas. Gerri and Ted are delighted with their new home and new life in North Carolina.

Why do you live here? Althought the answer will be different every time the question is posed, I think the reasons will still basically be the same. We all seek to make our best life. The opportunity to choose where you live is a precious gift.

FOOTNOTE: No, we’re not planning to become “California escapees.” Our visit with our “framily” (my word for good friends who are as close as blood relatives), Gerri and Ted, in Huntersville, North Carolina has been a time to savor. The area is charming and we’ve made many happy memories with them while here. We visited a friend in Oak Island, North Carolina earlier this week and I thoroughly enjoyed the island atmosphere. Oak Island would be my choice if, and only if, I were to consider “escaping.” Bob, on the other hand, would be happy to live just about anywhere in the south. We're going back to Cali.