A lengthy stop in Opp

Opp, Alabama. Does that lady look like she is balancing eyeballs?

Opp, Alabama is iconic small town America. It’s the kind of place that is struggling to keep a two-block, downtown, main street in business. There are some offices, some retail, and several barbers, all of which have outside, red, white and blue poles, reminding me of Floyd from Mayberry’s shop. It’s the kind of place in which a Winn-Dixie supermarket could not survive, but the Grocery Outlet is booming, and with good reason. The prices are shockingly low. It is the kind of place where you can get discount tobacco and a cash advance or a payday loan to tide you over. Opp is not opp-ulent, nor does it pretend to be. It is a place where every day living is simple. It is a place that I will call home for the next two weeks. I plan to enjoy the small town vibe, the Southern hospitality, and a platter or two from Hook’s Bar-B-Q joint.

Gypsy is fraying her collar, her leash and my nerve endings. She is not learning the art of heeling, or loose-leash walking. I Googled ‘pet supplies near me’ and was directed to the Opp Co-op. I trekked 2.5 miles from our campground, and found the building. After the tricky walk, which included cutting through parking lots on Florala Highway, I discovered that the co-op did not have collars or leashes, only kibble. I asked if they carried Royal Canin Labrador Puppy Food, and was told “You’re not going to find anything like that in Opp.”

Opp’s mural says it is the City of Opportunity. Apparently there is plenty of opportunity to open up a pet supply shop, perhaps in one of the vacant downtown stores?

On the outskirts of Opp is Frank Jackson State Park. It was built in 1970 on Lake Jackson, and although it shows its age, the nature trails are beautifully maintained by a volunteer group who call themselves the Trail Masters. The lake is picturesque, and dotted with die-hard fishermen who are willing to face the winter weather in order to snag a few Black Crappie, Bluegill or Channel Catfish.

There are only 30 campsites in the park, but 23 of them are large, private, and directly on the lake. All sites have full hook ups and cable TV. I don’t camp to watch TV, but on cold, rainy, blustery days I am grateful to have the option.

The Honeysuckle Trail crosses a bridge that takes you to Memorial Island, a small isle in the middle of the lake. I have noted, in past posts, that Florida is for the birds. Well, Memorial Island is for the bird houses. I’m sure there is a story behind the strange number of manmade homes for our feathered friends, I just don’t know what it is.

I love having the lake right outside the door. The views are amazing from Big Bertha’s numerous windows. I would love to be outside, but a cold front is blowing through, and even in Southern Alabama, we are expecting temperatures in the 20’s the next couple of nights. I am sure that in the next two weeks we will have ample opportunity to sit at a campfire by the lake.

Undoubtedly, you’ll all be relieved to hear that we managed to retrieve MOST of the kitchen utensils, and to (at least temporarily) repair the drawer with screws and gorilla tape. Necessity is the mother of invention.

However, this morning the Dometic 7600 vacuum toilet did not flush. No whoosh. No vacuum sound. No flushing. Gross. We read the troubleshooting instructions, replaced a fuse, said a prayer, then called the RV manufacturer. They told us to take it to a repair shop. Right. An RV repair shop in Opp? We called RV Urgent Care, a mobile repair service. A very knowledgeable and helpful Billy Harris was able to assist us but would not be able to get here until Sunday. Billy was in Florida, repairing RVs. If you are an RV tech, you are NEVER without work. Billy, did, however, give us a few pointers to consider in the meantime. Because I had no plans of running to the bathhouse in frigid temperatures if nature called in the middle of the night, I was sorting through my plastic bowls to see if one would be suitable for use as a chamber pot. When, Eureka! My hubby discovered that he had not initially replaced the correct fuse. He (and Billy) are now my heroes, and my Tupperware is safe to use for its intended purposes.

Going to get cold tonight. Stay safe and warm if you are facing the impending Nor’easter.

I’ll let you know how Hooks Bar-B-Q is. Stay tuned.

Sweet Home Alabama

Sweet Home Alabama, where the skies are so blue..

“Big wheels keep on turnin’. Carry me home to see my kin”

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Eventually these wheels will be carrying us back to our kin but in the meantime we are keeping in touch via phone calls and text messages while we enjoy an opportunity to explore the Gulf Coast.

It was hard to say goodbye to Florida’s Emerald Coast. The little towns along highway 30A are each unique and all boast the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Blue Mountain Beach is the highest spot, at a whopping 65 feet above sea level. It’s all relative.

It’s been cold, cold enough to wear ski jackets and an assortment of North Face gear. Yet, it has been sunny enough to enjoy long walks along the beach and some quality time outside with my vagabond pup. Gypsy enjoys the outdoors almost as much as I do. I love the solitude of winter walks. I stroll along contemplating the universe and she strolls alongside me, contemplating her next meal.

Prayer of the woods.

“… the wood of your cradle and the shell of your coffin…”

This beautiful prayer was posted in a cave formed by live oak, on a trail that was passageway through dunes thriving with vegetation. It was the perfect spot for meditating and giving thanks for the grandeur of our amazing world. I could not pass this sign without reading aloud.

Where the skies are so blue?????

Today sweet home Alabama has grey skies and is spewing copious amounts of rain. These are the days that make me question the wisdom of living in an RV with a Labrador pup. I am not a fan of wet weather or wet, smelly dog fur; or wet puppy paws. It’s all part of the package, so I have to suck it up, regularly wipe down the wet pet, and pray for sunny days ahead.

Thankfully, we had a sunny, cool day to explore Gulf State Park yesterday. I managed an early morning run during an extremely brisk dawning of a new day. Only the heartiest souls and disgruntled dog walkers were out in the chill of the morning air. We then, took a 10-mile walk along the perimeter of the park. The path was paved and fairly well used by hikers, bikers and joggers. There is such magnificence that goes missed when you don’t explore on foot.

We loved this place SO much, and our stay here is so brief, that we booked a 2-week stay for next winter.

Tomorrow is off to Opp, AL. Have you ever heard of it? Neither have I.

Stay tuned.

It’s not all fun and games…

There is no doubt that life on the road has its perks. There are many changes of scenery and ample time to explore new places. It is not, however, an endless vacation. It is still life, and is filled with dirty laundry, dirty floors, unplanned changes, inclement weather and broken stuff. The propane issue is fixed but when we finally turned on the heat, it sounded like a percussion section was warming up under one of the cabinets. It seems that the drawer filled with kitchen utensils fell apart and was allowing various items to slip behind it, into the great abyss. We retrieved spoons and spatulas and skewers but will have to dismantle the cabinet to retrieve everything.

Labradors shed a lot, drool a lot, and love playing in mud. Gypsy can turn a relatively clean RV into a grime covered home at warp speed. I have channeled my inner-Pippy Longstockings and am now skating around on Swiffer, wet jet pads in order to keep the dirt to a tolerable level. I clean often, but to be fair, there is not a whole lot to clean. With three Clorox wipes I can scour and disinfect the entire place in ten minutes.

Have I mentioned that it has been bloody cold for Florida? I have to don my winter hat, gloves and down coat to take Princess Gypsy for her morning constitutional. We have not had ice or snow to contend with but I’m glad I packed fleece jackets and warm, woolen mittens! These inclement days are good for completing puzzles or playing Scrabble in a ski vest. So, fun and games manage to remain a small part of the equation.

Our campsite at Grayton Beach State Park is large and private. A good many quaint and eccentric areas are within walking distance. On the warmer days we have managed a few muddy hikes and have explored some fun, quirky places on the panhandle’s Emerald Coast. We stopped for lunch at the Red Bar, which was featured in Jim Carry’s 1998 movie THE TRUMAN SHOW. Rumor is that it is frequented by Reece Witherspoon, Peyton & Eli Manning, and a number of celebrities that I do not know because, let’s face it, I’m old and not up to speed on current pop culture.

Florida is for the birds. I was so impressed by the display of birds that I saw while in the Everglades, but the Gulf is littered with some magnificent winged creatures as well.

A short bike ride took us to the hamlet of Watercolor. The properties there are pristine, pastel colored and overlook the open gulf. There is a small spattering of upscale dining and high-end boutiques interwoven with a caravan of food trucks. I just love the unconventional vibe of the whole area.

Cold rain is in the forecast for today and tomorrow. I see muddy paw prints in my future. Better break out the Swiffer pads….

Stay tuned…

The Problem with Propane & Bear Bait

When there is a recall on your motorhome that has to do with a propane line, you turn the gas off until you can have the required service work done. It’s a no-brainer. Propane is flammable, and with just the right leakage factor, potentially explosive.

Do you know how long it takes to get a service appointment when you are bopping around Florida State Parks in a rolling combustion coach? Too long. No propane means no heat, no range top burners, no hot water. I can wash dishes in cold water, but a cold shower is out of the question.

Maybe it’s the shower thing. Maybe that is why I smell like bear bait.

I have had two close encounters with Florida Black Bear in the past week. In the first near-brush with Yogi, I was jogging down a path that ran along the Tamiami trail. A car stopped, rolled down the window and was yelling something about “blah-blah-blah, behind you.” I thought he was telling me that he would soon be jogging behind me. Not so. He waited for me at the end of the trail to inform me that he had been trying to tell me that there was a bear behind me. It was not my lightening speed that kept the bear from catching me. He just lost interest. Mauling me took too much effort.

Later in the week, while walking Gypsy through the Ross Prairie Trailhead, I met a nice man who was walking his dog. Well, he was kind of running with his dog. The look on his face told me that he was not out for a recreational run with his canine companion. It seems that he was in full retreat. Yep, another bear, but this one was ahead of me.

Thank goodness we managed to get that service work done, and I can FINALLY take a nice, hot shower in my own RV. No more smelling like bear bait for me.

To set the record straight, I DID shower. Thankfully we were in Southwest Florida for the few weeks without heat or hot water. A nice, warm bathhouse was close by, and although the mornings and evenings were chilly, the temperature was tolerable.

Yes, we had to confront cold water and a couple of bear, but all was not lost. We also had the pleasure of meeting up with old friends from our Baltimore boating days and sharing a bucket (or two) of cold beer! How wonderful to find some friendly faces. It makes us feel a little more connected to home during this crazy voyage.

The Ross Prairie Trailhead is a beautiful spot, near Ocala. We had planned to be here a bit longer, to explore the parks and eat some gator bites, but it was not to be. There is a cold front sweeping across the Gulf, and torrential rains and high winds are in the forecast. We hightailed it to Grayton Beach State Park (on the Redneck Riviera) a day early to avoid traveling in adverse conditions.

We have just settled in for a night of stormy weather and some NFL action on TV…

Stay tuned…

CAVORTING WITH CRITTERS AND CHUMMING WITH CHUMS

See Ya’ Later Alligator

There are an estimated 1.25 million alligators in Florida and I met three of them on our walk through the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. They were long, lazy and luckily lackadaisical. These remarkable reptiles were more than content to ignore us while they bathed in the warmth of the sun. The marsh trail was overflowing with feathered friends. Egret, heron, stork, ibis, snail kite and cormorant were abundant. There were lizard and snakes and all kinds of creepy-crawly things hiding in the sawgrass and Cyprus. Gypsy was with us, and I was overly concerned that she might look tasty to some of these creatures, but apparently Labrador is not high on the list of Everglade edibles.

Does anyone else find it amusing that Nudity is prohibited at Ten Thousand Islands? I mean, this had to have been a problem if it was necessary to post this restriction, right? I am easily amused, and keep thinking, what would inspire someone to run through a mosquito filled marsh, with their “dangly bits” swinging around like bait???  It does take all kinds to make a world, I suppose. As for me, I will do my marsh meandering clothed.

If you manage to evade the reptiles, there are also mammals that could pose a potential threat. Our recent campsites have all posted information about the elevated activity of black bear. Although Big Bertha has given us multiple headaches, I am thankful for the protective armor of an RV. I don’t think I could comfortably sleep in a tent with bear, gators, rattlers, and panthers roaming about.

We are blessed to have friends that reside in Bonita Springs. They were kind (and brave) enough to take us offshore, into the Gulf of Mexico, for a fishing excursion. Although I had done some fishing with my dad in my early years, this was NOTHING like fishing on the muddy banks of the Conestoga Creek. This fishing was done on open water that sparkled like sea glass. Our friends are experienced at deep sea fishing and they gave clear and concise instruction. In no time, we were participating, and actually reeling-in fish. There is a WHOLE LOT I do not know about fish, like which are edible, and which are not; which have toxins in their pectoral spines, and which do not. Left to our own devices, my husband and I would be eating bait and pulling venomous dorsal barbs out of our hands. We did catch some “keepers”, a few blue fish, a snapper and a permit. Our knowledgeable and patient host taught me how to filet the fish. The fresh catch was then prepared by our gracious friends. We enjoyed an outstanding dinner of blackened fish and a delicious, lemony fish piccata.  What a thoroughly enjoyable day.

A grandchild fills a space in your heart that you never knew was empty ~ Unknown

I am loving the warm air and all the outdoor activities. It’s January. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s winter. Although I love my shorts and tank tops, there are Maryland moments that I am missing. I would love to build a snowman with my grandchildren. I would love to make them hot chocolate and snuggle with them in front of the fireplace.

At least, for the time being, I can call them regularly, and hear tales of their icy adventures.

Ahhh….. <sigh>

But back to sun and fun…

Stay tuned….

Learning to Live with Less

After leaving Savannah and Christmas Day behind, we headed to Faver-Dykes State Park, near St. Augustine, Florida. Despite my resolution to look forward with optimism, I was still feeling a bit sad and nostalgic about holidays past. I subscribe to convention, and nothing could have been further from long-established traditions this year.

No home, leaving my loved ones, and the reality that all of my belongings were in storage kind of hit me between the eyes as were were rolling Southward. Yet, my mood seemed to improve as the temperature crept upwards. I prefer flip-flops to snow boots.

Faver-Dykes is a gem of a State Park. The campground is small but the individual sites are well laid out and very private. The trails are wide, and well-marked. The atmosphere is subtropical, with large, live oak, and an abundance of both Spanish Moss and Saw Palmetto providing ambiance. The ground was covered in fine sand. Gypsy likes to roll in fine sand. Fine sand likes to find its way into every tread on the bottom of our shoes. Sweeping the RV became an hourly task, and even that was no match for the relentless dirt.

Our kids gave us multiple board games for Christmas this year. We chose to test-drive them at Faver-Dykes. Although it is perfectly acceptable to play 365 games of Scrabble per year without needing intervention, the kids were obviously concerned about our apparent addiction to the game. Introducing new games is their attempt to keep us from requiring a Scrabble-12-step-program. Although we have not tossed Scrabble aside, we thoroughly enjoy playing A Little Wordy, Sequence, Blokus and Word on The Street.

Saint Augustine Beach was wildly crowded when we ventured into town. With Covid still looming large, we opted to skip some of the congested areas. This meant we would have to cross a busy street to escape the throngs of beachgoers. The crosswalks are equipped with orange flags, intended to alert motorists to pedestrians. We noted that, even with orange flags flapping, not all motorists are conscientious. Still, we managed to cross and enjoy a cold beer and a tasty lunch at the dog-friendly Café 11 before returning to our house on wheels.

Next stop:  Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples, Florida. Immediately after setting up, we discovered that our neighbors were old acquaintances from our marina days in Baltimore. Small world! We took advantage of their campfire and caught up a bit. We were enjoying our social time, but it was my husband’s birthday, so we retreated to our site, grilled a couple of steaks and enjoyed a quiet birthday dinner.

The campsites at Collier Seminole are “tight” but there was adequate room at the rear of the motorhome to erect a screen room, which is necessary. The bugs are brutal at dawn and dusk. The park offers trails, boat ramps, and bike paths. The rangers are extremely knowledgeable and kind. We took advantage of a guided hike on New Years morning. Henry, our guide, did an amazing job of introducing us to the flora and fauna in the area. It was somewhat unsettling to be hiking through areas that are inhabited by bear, bobcats, panthers, alligators and rattle snakes but Henry assured us, that (aside from rattle snakes) we were unlikely to encounter these creatures.

Cousin Eddie??

What’s worse than snakes and panthers and bears? Learning how to use the portable, sewage tote tank, that’s what!

Marco Island is a hop, skip and a jump down the road. It is a beautiful place. We were fortunate to be able to meet up with friends to enjoy an afternoon of fun and frivolity, 1st at Stan’s Idle Hour for lunch, then to 2-Shea’s Salty Dog to watch the Raven’s go down in defeat. It was an ugly season. Hoping for a great pick in the draft and a healthy team in 2022.

Plenty more to do near Naples since this is a 2-week stop, and a fishing trip is in the planning stages. Not much opportunity to blog, since WiFi is virtually non-existent in the area….

BUT, Stay tuned…

A Campground Christmas

Santa finds Savannah

I am almost done moaning about missing my traditional Christmas celebration. Due to silly circumstances, I could not drink eggnog and carve ‘roast beast’ with my loved ones, and I just need to get over it, make lemonade from lemons, and be joyful for the blessings I have.

Blessed, we are. We are spending Christmas at Fort McAllister State Park near Savannah, GA. The park is gorgeous and the campground is modern, with spacious sites and lots of Christmas lights. The night skies are star-filled. The sunrises and sunsets are awash in vibrant colors.

After calling friends and family on Christmas morning, we decided to see what the “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks” were all about in Savannah. We headed to Forsyth Park, and were surprised to see such a large number of people, out and about on Christmas Day. It should not have been surprising, however. It was a sunny, warm day; feeling much more like late May than late December.

The Omnicron variant of the Covid-19 pandemic is particularly Grinch-like; trying to keep Christmas from coming. We would not be deterred from enjoying a beautiful day, but for safety’s sake, left the downtown area, and headed to an unlikely Christmas destination: Bonaventure Cemetery. It is an historic acreage, and is well worth a visit. The statuary is amazing, and there are some interesting stories about the souls who are permanent inhabitants.

All things considered, it has not been a bad Christmas at all. Many campers have elaborate light displays surrounding their rigs; some making it appear as if snow is falling. Santa and Mrs. Claus have been running around on a golf cart. It’s not Rockefeller Center, but it’s making an attempt.

A camping Christmas may not be what I am accustomed to, but it is far better than I feared. We had a warm, sunny day filled with history and exercise, and enjoyed a candlelight dinner and a game of Scrabble, which I won. Merry Christmas to me.

I know, I know…. you are all wondering where the naked Barbies and warranty woes are…

I won’t disappoint. We just received a recall notice on the RV. It seems the propane line was threaded through a spring of some sort, which causes wear on the gas line. Good thing we didn’t know that when we lit those candles last night. KABOOM!

We will be turning off the propane as we head to the St. Augustine are tomorrow….

Stay tuned….

“Dogmations” and the Pavilion of Misfit Toys

Dogmation

When my precious granddaughter was a wee, little thing, she thought that those cute, spotted dogs who rode on the back of firetrucks, or hung out with Cruella Deville, were called “dogmations”. When Gypsy emerged from her rampage through a particularly muddy creek, it struck me that she looked much more like a dogmation than the yellow lab that she is.

It all started out so innocently, with a 10+ mile hike in Poinsett State Park. It was a sunny, albeit chilly day, and the trails were wide and well marked. In my mind, we were wandering through Poinsettia State Park, I mean, it’s Christmas time, right? All was beautiful and picture perfect, then SPLASH. Gypsy apparently does not seem to care how cold the water is. I thought she had more sense. She doesn’t. In fact, it invigorated her. It was a catalyst for a severe case of the hyper-zoomies. She ran like a dog possessed, up and down the stream, splashing mud everywhere. There would certainly be a bath in her future.

Undeterred, we continued our holiday hike, looking for natural reds and greens along the way. With no real Christmas tree this year, nature would have to provide reasonable facsimiles.

Poinsett State Park has been around for a while and it has seen better days. The road in and out is, shall we say, challenging for large motorhomes. The buildings, which were erected by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in the 1930’s have not had much updating. The acreage is beautiful, but the park could use some infrastructure work.

There was an old, screened pavilion in the campground area. There was a hole in the roof, covered by a tarp, and moss was growing on the chimney. It appeared abandoned, and perhaps a bit spooky. Naturally, I wanted to explore. Curiosity often leads to strange discovery.

Inside the dilapidated structure , I encountered THE PAVILION OF MISFIT TOYS. Headless dolls and crumpled stuffed animals hung from the rafters. Cabbage Patch creatures were covered in cobwebs. A Christmas reindeer was cavorting in the fireplace with a naked Barbie. I was flabbergasted, and fearfully waited for Chucky to creep out of a dark corner. Rudolf’s Island of misfit toys, with it’s Charlie-in-a-box and ostrich-riding cowboy, could not compare to this oddity.

Creepy. I’m ready to move on to our Christmas in Coastal Georgia.

Stay tuned…

Ozurie

Feeling torn between the life you want and the life you have

My sister, Beth gifted me a book entitled THE DICTIONARY OF OBSCURE SORROWS. Yes, it’s an odd title for something intended to bring Christmas joy, but it is a book about new words that attempt to define emotions, moments in the human condition for which there are not already adequate, descriptive phrases. This is how I stumbled upon Ozurie: It is the story of my life. I am torn between what I want and what I already have.

I have always wanted to live on a lake. Be careful what you wish for. We have the lot, replete with beautiful views and a developing neighborhood. We do NOT have a house. Not yet. I’m not sure that I fully grasped that making this dream come true would entail selling our home, moving away from our family, and living in a truck for a year or more, while the architects and builders mess around with site maps and permits. Well, yes, I guess I knew it would have to be done, but actually doing it is a whole different ballgame. Ozurie. <sigh>

We have been living in Big Bertha (pet name for our often troublesome motorhome) for over a month, but we were cheating. We were cozily snuggled into an RV park that was close to our old home. We could still go to the gym, shop at our regular stores, see our friends, get the kids on the school bus each morning, and spend time with our extended family. We were thoroughly enjoying the luxury of having our cake and eating it, too.

The holidays were approaching and I was vehemently opposed to starting our RV voyage before Christmas. My husband, let’s just call him Ebeneezer, wanted to head south before the weather turned wintery. He claims that he never wins. He won.

Christmas would just have to come a bit early. I did not want to be the guy with garlic in my soul or termites in my smile. I needed carols, and candles, and twinkling lights. Fortunately, Cherry Hill RV Park also rented cabins, so we procured one, put up our cheesy, white, dollar-store, mini-Christmas tree, and prepared to ‘make merry’ in a very minimalistic way. We had no room for wrapping paper, large gift boxes, frozen turkeys or real trees. This year would be a Bah-Humbug year.

The cabin table boasted a maximum seating capacity of six. A sit-down, formal dinner was impractical. No roasted goose or figgy pudding for us. Instead, we opted for seafood snacking. It was a watered down version of the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. With only crab, salmon, shrimp and stuffed clams, it turned out to be the feast of the four fishes. Who’s counting? At least there were plenty of cookies.

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” – Burton Hillis

Perhaps this gathering will not be featured in any upcoming Hallmark, Christmas movies but we played lots of games, drank lots of wine, stuffed our faces full of food, and shared a great deal of laughter. I love this crowd. Family is everything, which is why it was so difficult to get into the motorhome and pull away the next morning.

I hope Santa fills my stocking with lots of Facetime.

It was a tearful departure, raining both inside and outside of the cab as we headed down I-95. I was staring ahead, feeling empty, when a car pulled up beside me, frantically waving in an overly emphatic pantomime, indicating that a door was wide open on the passenger side of the RV. It was the door that was just fixed under warranty. That’s right, folks, the Griswolds are back in full force, and Bertha continues to plague us with her menu of maladies. Thankfully, we were able to force it closed and get on our way.

After a rainy evening, we awoke to a clear, crisp, cloud-free dawn. It was good to enjoy a long hike, clear my head, and focus on the discoveries to be made on the journey ahead of us. They say there is a reason that the windshield is so much bigger than the rearview mirror. I will concentrate on looking forward. That is my resolution for the upcoming new year.

Did I mention that I always wanted to ramble endlessly in an RV? Be careful what you wish for.

STAY TUNED…..

Advent Adventure

“The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown, of all the trees that are in the woods, the holly bears the crown.” – traditional English carol

Advent is about preparing for the arrival of something wonderful. It is about patiently awaiting renewal. It is about new beginnings. It is about finding joy and beauty in the process.

Crisp, morning walks give me time to reflect about what lies ahead. I wrap myself in warm, memories, and trudge onward. If the dog is with me, I am pulled onward (but her discipline issues can wait for a new blog post.) I am doing my best to put bygone moments in the past, where they belong. It is time to participate in my own, personal advent. It is time to prepare, with eager anticipation, for the coming of a new day… a whole new adventure, a whole new lifestyle.

What has been holding me back? Simple. I suffer from Christmas Syndrome. I am obsessed with stockings and wreaths and candles and fireplaces. I want to bake gingerbread with my grandkids, build a snowman, put marshmallows in my hot chocolate and chop down my own fir tree. I want to sing carols, sip eggnog and wrap gifts that I cannot really afford. I WANT TO LIVE IN A HALLMARK MOVIE, not in a truck.

I love Christmas. Fa-la-la, deck the halls, city sidewalks, etc. I may not have my mantle filled with greenery, or my shrubbery lined with symmetrical lights. I may not have a welcoming candle in every window, or a decorated tree in every room. (Come to think of it, I don’t even have rooms!) No wrapped piles of presents lie hidden under the beds, waiting for Santa to delivery them. Bah Humbug!

Because I’m a fan of the Grinch, however, I know that Christmas cannot be stolen. So, with my RV gently snuggled in its Whoville site, I began my search for a camping Christmas.

I’m a snob. I admit it. I prefer highbrow holidays, with real garland, and tasteful white lights, tartan prints, and silky red ribbon. I want canapes, Crosby crooning, champagne, pate de foie gras, and solo piano music.

Looks like that may not be in the cards this year. So, I have chosen to embrace the colored lights, the inflatable lawn ornaments, a can of Bud, and the strains of Grandma being run over by a reindeer. I vow to shed my pomposity and to be more like George Bailey, running around the campground, yelling “Merry Christmas, inflatable flamingo! Merry Christmas, inflatable Grinch! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old, problematic RV!”

It serves us well to remember that Christmas is also about some other weary travelers, whose accommodations were far more meager than those that we are currently enjoying. I guess it helps to keep it all in perspective. We have warm beds, soft sheets, plenty of food, and there are no cattle lowing inside.

We will miss our traditional Christmas gatherings this year, but our blessings are many, and, if the fates allow, we will make up for it next year.

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam,
If you want to be happy in a million ways
For the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home.