Saturday, November 19, 2016

Anchoring the Dawntreader

Following days at the Prevost repair facility in Jacksonville, FL, Tim twice turned the Dawntreader south to Florida's Space Coast.  One of the Dawntreader's airbags was leaking.  We thought the mechanics had fixed it, but during our 2-hour drive to Titusville, Tim noticed it still wasn't holding air so back to Jacksonville we went.  There we loitered another day and at its conclusion, the mechanics told us they'd tried everything.  I think they were as vexed as we were.  To test their work, we spent the night in the parking lot.  Low and behold, the next morning the airbag was still full of air, allowing us to continue our interrupted journey back to Titusville. 

Kennedy Space Center

Florida's Space Coast encompasses the region around the Kennedy Space Center and includes the Atlantic coastal towns of Titusville, Port Canaveral, Cocoa Beach and Melbourne.

Phil and Joanne, friends of ours, had kindly offered to let us stay in Titusville at their members-only RV resort, The Great Outdoors.  There they own--and pay property taxes on--a 40 by 80-foot concrete pad.  

The resort with its golf course, fishing pond and an array of tennis, shuffleboard and bocce ball courts was beautiful nestled as it was between two swampy nature preserves.  We enjoyed walking through its neighborhoods for the gated community included not only campsites but also lavish homes with RV ports, large garages big enough to house a long, tall RV.  It was all very impressive, but we agreed that we are still infatuated with life on the road.  We're not ready to anchor the Dawntreader to a particular spot; there are yet so many places in the U.S. and Canada that we'd like to see.

Last Sunday while we were marooned in Jacksonville, we attended services at the Episcopal St. John's Cathedral.  Its first services were conducted by The Rev. R.A. Henderson, a missionary priest from St. Augustine, in 1820.  The church's structures have twice been burned, the first time during the Civil War when federal troops torched the sanctuary in 1863.  Then on May 3, 1901, the church sanctuary, the parish hall and the rectory were destroyed by The Great Fire of Jacksonville, a conflagration that devastated much of the city.  

Now the stone cathedral is anchored firmly atop Billy Goat Hill in the middle of Market Street, the city's high ground above St. John's River.

For me, meeting with fellow believers is a way to grow in faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  Searching out a church to attend while we've been traveling has given me an anchor to hold firm in the faith.  A favorite hymn of mine is "It Is Well With My Soul."  The story of its composer, Horatio Spafford, rivals that of the biblical Job.  A wealthy lawyer in Chicago, Spafford and his wife watched helplessly as their young son languished and died.  Then the 1871 Great Fire of Chicago swept away most of his real estate investments.  Two years after that he was asked by Dwight L. Moody to accompany him on an evangelistic tour of England.  Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him on a ship that collided with another.  All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife survived.  It was while he was aboard ship on his way to comfort his grieving wife, he penned the words to this hymn.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul

The frustrations Tim and I experienced with the Dawntreader's repairs this week cannot compare to the difficult trials of Spafford's life, but the same Lord offers each of us an anchor that holds.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul).
It is well, it is well with my soul. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Ins and Outs of Washington, D.C.

After this year's rancorous presidential campaign, it's over.  "Thank God!," many are saying!  Whether your candidate won or not, it's time to look past those loyalties to the common goal of  strengthening our democracy.  It's time to work together to build a future that is brighter for all Americans.

Just like the Obamas, it's also time for many Washingtonians to look for another residence.  The District of Columbia and its surrounding suburbs are a transitory location.  Over the 14 years we lived here, we had many friends move in and out of the area.  It was difficult to say goodbye to these intimates with whom we'd shared life.  Still, we've been fortunate that with our current lifestyle, we've been able to rekindle some of those friendships as we've traveled the country.

This week Tim and I moved back to D.C. temporarily.  Rather than go through the hassle of finding a new healthcare network, we kept our doctors here. Over the past four days and between the two of us, we've had 11 medical encounters with doctors, dentists, imaging centers and my audiologist.

The historic domed Billings Hospital at Johns Hopkins Medical Center

In spite of the good health we both enjoy, I must confess--most of those appointments were mine.  Due to my progressive hearing loss, I've decided it's time to have a second cochlear implant.  I've scheduled this surgery for next March at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore.

There are few campgrounds in the D.C. area, but we found a fine one in College Park, MD just northeast of the district.  Cherry Hill Park has full hookups, pull-thru sites and spacious campsites.  

Best of all, public transportation is right there.  Every hour the Metro bus makes a regular stop within the premises of the campground, picking up tourists and dropping them off at the College Park Metro Station four miles away.  Anyone who has dealt with the clogged Beltway and District streets knows what a wonderful boon that is.

Once campers have visited all the museums and monuments that D.C. has to offer, they can return to Cherry Hill Park to soak in the pool or hot tub or play a few rounds of (miniature) golf.  

In addition, just down the road is the pedestrian/biking Paint Branch Trail.  The trail is part of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System which leads 15 miles south to the District.  

Tim and I walked a portion of it last Sunday.  We've made plans to return to this campground next spring; it will be a good home base while I recover from surgery.


However, the most important part of our stay here were the opportunities to visit family and friends.  Our son Richard and his girlfriend Montana joined us for dinner at El Centro, a restaurant in the District that not only features delicious Mexican entrees but also has a rooftop bar and a basement tequileria where one could order over 200 tequilas or Mescal drinks.  Not that we tried any of those!  We were too busy talking and tasting the to-die-for guacamole.

Sunday morning we worshipped the Lord and reconnected with friends at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Arlington, VA.  We also finalized our plans to have dinner with four couples who were our closest friends during our last stint in D.C.  It was wonderful to catch up on the events in their lives over the past year since we left.  But those ins and outs of Washington, D.C. were once again evident.  Two of the couples are moving out of the area.  Steve and Tami are counting the days until retirement when they'll relocate to the home they've purchased on Cape Cod.  Jim and Karen are anticipating their cross-country move to San Francisco where their son, daughter-in-law and grandchild live.

Today we are leaving D.C. after our brief stay to travel south to Florida, chalking up another in & out to our list of stays in Washington, D.C.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Season of Change

Every autumn leaf peepers travel to New England to see the changing colors of the trees.  Although I’ve never had the opportunity to join that pilgrimage, I believe the fall colors of eastern Tennessee could give those Yankee trees some serious competition. 

This week we’ve been in Vonore, TN for maintenance work on the Dawntreader.  While we waited for all the items on Tim’s list of concerns to be addressed, 

I paid a visit to my friend Julie.

and another visit to Smok'N Bonz, a local barbecue place we'd first discovered last fall which has raised the bar for all the barbecue restaurants we've ever tried.

However, it was the fall colors that lured us to the hiking trails in Fort Loudoun State Park and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Jakes Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains

More than any other time of the year, to me, fall is the season of change.  Change is not a state of being that I embrace.  This first year of life on the road has challenged my comfort zone.  As we’ve moved from one campground to the next, I've figuratively held my breath until the Dawntreader is safely moored once more.  And while I've enjoyed the comradery of other Care-A-Vanners on the Habitat for Humanity builds we've participated in, I've missed being a part of a close-knit community of friends.  Still, this chance to travel has opened up new vistas to admire like these of eastern Tennessee.  

Poets express the beauty of this season much better than I ever could. 

"Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile."  ~ William Cullen Bryant

"The one red leaf, the last of its clan, That dances as often as dance it can, Hanging so light and hanging so high, On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky." ~  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree." ~ Emily Bronte

"How beautifully leaves grow old.  How full of light and color are their last days." ~ John Burroughs

But there is One who never changes.  He is always with me no matter where I am; no matter the season of my life.  As it says in Psalm 90:1-2,  “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."

From the shifting chaos of life, God forms beauty out of change.  A favorite hymn of mine, written by Henry Francis Lyte two months before he died, is Abide With Me.  Its second verse is a testament about the presence of God in our lives regardless of the changes that threaten to overwhelm us.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim;
its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

No matter the season, the location or the circumstances of my life, I'm grateful that the Lord abides with me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Lincoln's Childhood Homes

Over the course of his life, Abraham Lincoln lived in humble homes, in middle class homes and most famously, in the home that has housed all American presidents since John Adams, the White House.

Over the course of our lifetimes, Tim and I have visited four Lincoln homes: the White House, his home in Springfield, Illinois and now two of his childhood homes on this leg of The Jacobsons' Journey.

Or perhaps I should be truthful and say that this past weekend we visited a log cabin replica of his birthplace and the stone foundation his childhood home.  Nothing else remains of his formative years.

Tim and I are en route to Washington, D.C. with scheduled stops in Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN to visit family and friends.

Terry and Debby are friends from Louisville.

However, we serendipitously stopped at two national parks, land originally owned by Thomas Lincoln, father of the famous Abe.  At the Black River Visitors Center rest stop on Interstate 64 just across the state line from Illinois into Indiana, we read an exhibit about Lincoln's Boyhood Home located nearby.  With time to kill before our dinner with Louisville friends that evening, we decided to detour there and add another tick mark on the list of National Park Service properties we've visited during our first year on the road.

That's our RV, the Dawntreader on the right.

Lincoln's Boyhood National Memorial is just ten minutes off I-64.  This is the frontier property claimed by Thomas Lincoln after land disputes in Kentucky forced him to move his family 100 miles west to this densely forested claim.  

It was here that Abraham spent his formative years from seven to 21, years that shaped his sense of honesty, pursuit of learning, respect--but not love--for hard work, compassion and notions of right and wrong.  

Illustration displayed at Lincoln's Boyhood Home

"My father taught me how to work, but not to love it...I'd rather tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh--anything but work," recalled Lincoln.

Only the stone foundation of the Lincoln's one-room cabin remains.  

However, a living farm, staffed by volunteers, recreates the hard life of pioneers who settled this area.  While we watched, a volunteer demonstrated how early settlers made candles by pouring melted beeswax into a tin candle mold and placing the mold into a tub of water to set.  

Yet, what I found most meaningful was the Trail of Twelve Stones.  Leading from the site of his boyhood home to the cemetery where his mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln is buried, this 1/2-mile path through the woods is dotted with stones, enduring witnesses of significant events in Lincoln's life.  

Gravestone of Nancy Hanks Lincoln

Two years after their arrival, his beloved mother contracted fatal milk sickness, a disease that occurs after drinking milk from cows that grazed upon white snakeroot, a plant that contains tremetol which is poisonous to humans.  In 1845, Abraham Lincoln penned these words that capture his feelings about his boyhood home:

"My childhood-home I see again, 
And gladden with the view:
And still as memories crowd my brain, 
There's sadness in it too."

A selfie with Jillian

Saturday morning we traveled from Louisville, KY to visit our daughter Jillian who lives in Nashville, TN.  We didn't plan to stop, but I noticed while mapping our route on the atlas that Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace was not too far out of our way.  Since this weekend was shaping up to be an educational exploration of Lincoln's childhood, I talked Tim into diverting from the interstate to Hodgenville, KY and Sinking Spring Farm, the scene of his birth. 

Thomas Lincoln, Abraham's father, was the younger son of his parents which meant that he did not inherit their land, but instead had to make his own way in the world.  He became a skilled carpenter but what he really wanted to do was farm. 

When he finally had enough savings, he purchased 230 acres and moved his pregnant wife and one-year-old daughter into a one-room log cabin built on a hillside near a water source called Sinking Spring.

Almost 100 years after Lincoln was born, a cabin thought to be his birthplace was disassembled and reconstructed within the Memorial.  

It's not the original Lincoln cabin but it is similar to what Thomas Lincoln might have built.  

The Memorial itself is an imposing edifice, financed with small donations from countless Americans and placed at the height of the hill with 56 steps symbolizing the 56 years of Abraham Lincoln's life leading up to it.

I always thought the Lincolns were dirt-poor.  I'd read what I called, based on the book's bright color, his 'orange biography,' one from the children's biography series, Childhood of Famous Americans, published in the 1950s by Bobbs-Merrill when I was a child, never realizing that though based on fact, much of their content was fictionalized.  So, while the Lincolns' pioneer lives were austere, a look at the tax roles of LaRue County where Abe's birthplace cabin sat show that the Lincolns were in the top 20% of landowners in the county.

Land disputes were common in that day when surveyors were few so when his claim to Sinking Spring Farm was contested, Thomas moved his family of four ten miles to a farm on Knob Creek where the land was richer.  This location is also under the authority of the National Park Service.  It was here that Abe received his only formal education, two years of blab schooling so-called because of the constant recitation of lessons, a technique much favored when books were few.  It's hard to believe that this gifted orator and statesman had only two years of formal education.  Amazing what one could achieve with only a few books and the Bible as resources!

So over the course of this weekend, we've gained new insights into President Lincoln's life, insights that we would never have gained had we stayed on the interstate.
"I happened, temporarily, to occupy the White House.  I am a living witness that any of your children may come here as my father's child has." ~ Abraham Lincoln