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FL - NC...Starting Our Summer Strong (May 20th - June 2nd, 2021)

We woke up at the I-95 Rest Area in Hastings, FL just south of St. Augustine. We got lucky and had slipped right into the first pull through spot next to a semi rig. Our rhythm will be a little different on this trip considering we now have Apollo. He likes to get up and go out at 6am. I needed a walk myself so I took him and got about a mile and a half under our belts before handing him over to Ted for their walk.

Apollo is our 5 month old Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. We got him at 6 weeks from a couple in Miami Lakes back in January. 6 weeks is a bit early, but the lady that had him was about to give birth herself and wanted him in a good home before she had her baby the very next day. Apollo's integration into our family was a challenge (and still is sometimes). Azlan had a phobia of dogs for a long time. Ted and I love dogs so we kept working with Azlan slowly to help him get over or at least be able to control or function with his fear. It was Azlan that actually asked for a puppy...but I have a feeling he regretted that decision almost immediately. Apollo has a lot...I mean A LOT of energy and between the jumping, running, and biting - it gets to be too much at times. We even had a conversation about putting him up for adoption when he was about 3 months old but decided against it since that would be setting a poor example for Azlan and we were also not ok with making a commitment of this size and then just giving up when it got hard. We chose to get a dog, now we have to figure out how to make it work. So, we all went to puppy training, dug deep in our patience box, and are all learning to love long walks twice a day! To be honest, he is going to be an AMAZING dog and a wonderful part of our family in a few years when the 'puppiness' subsides. He's actually a really good dog already...just loves to get into things like laundry, active wear, paper goods toes, laces, and trash!

Once Apollo has worn us out, we take off, heading north to the Savannah Oaks RV Resort on the Ogeechee River, arriving just around lunch time. It had been a while since we set up the Glamper at an RV site, but we didn't have any issues and I did most of the set up just to see if I could remember all the steps - and I did. Once we were all connected and hooked up to the site, my parents joined us and we spent the afternoon going out to lunch, and driving to the historic district and back. My parents took Azlan to the hotel with them and as much as I would like to say that Ted and I had a wonderful romantic evening, the truth is that we fought that night and again in the morning. Thankfully we have gotten pretty good at communicating (thanks therapy!) and were able to move on and enjoy our Saturday with friends touring the downtown historical district of Savannah. The Old Savannah Tours trolley took us through the famous streets hugging the grassy, tree-filled public squares and along the riverfront while highlighting the architecture and historical events that took place in this beautiful city. In 2001, I had visited Savannah while attending UF's School of Architecture. At the time, we were working on a project which would theoretically be built in Savannah. As part of our school trip, we toured SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) and I remember really liking what I saw, not only at the school but also within the city proper.

Savannah is laid out in a grid designed by James Oglethorpe, the General who founded the city in 1733. The grid was designed to give each Ward (or larger grid section) a Square (or a communal park) for group activities. Currently, there are 22 Squares in Savannah. Most have grassy knolls, tall shady trees, beautiful flower gardens, park benches and statues or monuments. We caught views of a wedding party photo session, kids playing, tourists exploring, and locals walking their pets or visiting with friends. Savannah felt like a lively city but with lots of secrets. This is a city I would like to come back to one day.

May 23rd we got ducked! There is a game called Duck Duck Jeep where you leave a little ducky on someone's Jeep to make them smile. We didn't know about it until we found a ducky on the Jeep! We will definitely be leaving some ducks around. Then, Ted and I went for a walk with Apollo in the J. F. Gregory Park and proceeded to get attacked by giant, blood-sucking Biting Sand Gnats! We had bug spray, our bug deterrent machine, were walking fairly quickly and constantly moving and these dive-bombers were making landings! Turns out they don't like open areas where there is sunlight...they like to stay in the shade of the tree canopy, so we got a few breaks over some bridges. Other than the life sucking fly squad, it was a lovely walk! After that I hit the local Kroger to stock up and get some food for our gathering of friends that afternoon. Ted stayed in the car with our now sleeping pup. Well, I had completely forgotten about new supermarkets! We get used to the usual stores near our homes and forget what it's like to try and shop somewhere new...like for all the items you need...like every week! After visiting the same isles a few times and getting a few extra items that were not on the list, I get to the car and Ted and I look at each other and say that it took way longer than we expected. I have to just laugh it off...I don't know where everything is and not every store is laid out the same! Grocery shopping will be an adventure every time until August haha. After our extra long shopping excursion, Ted dropped me off at the Glamper and went to pick up my folks and Azlan at the hotel before our party that afternoon. Our friends came together, we got to catch up and our kids got to play and fish together. This Sunday afternoon get together was a great success and was one of our earlier events. We said our farewells to my parents as they went back home and to our friends, hoping we get to see everyone again in the future.

Monday, May 24th, we packed up the Glamper and hit the road for our 3 hour drive. The ride was uneventful and nice, despite the nausea (yes, I get motion sickness when I try to look at my phone, my computer, or when I walk around in the Glamper while we are moving). We arrive at the Weston Lake Recreation Area in Fort Jackson and get hooked up and leveled in record time. Next to our site in Coronado, San Diego, this is by far the nicest military campsite we have stayed at since we bought the RV! We had a concrete pad, a nice picnic table, a fire pit, a grill, and plenty of space between us and the next RV site. We also had a view of the lake, or what was left of it. The dam broke and the lake is really dried up at the moment. We are finding the mosquitos to be plentiful since Georgia...not sure if that's because we are fresh meat and attracting them or if GA and SC have extra crazy skeeters! Either way, we really liked Weston Lake...but then they started...The Army Bugles! I had heard them before but not all throughout the day and into the night. I am pretty sure they started at 5:55am and went all the way until 11pm (maybe even later). These bugle calls stayed with me and when they weren't blaring through the speakers on base, I was hearing them in my head...even a week later!

The next day I slept in while Ted, Azlan and Apollo went for a walk. In the afternoon we went over to our good friend's house where they let us do some (ok, a lot) of laundry. We visited the Red Lobster for lunch and while I love butter with a little shrimp...I sure felt that butter later ha ha. We stocked up at Walmart, finished up laundry and headed back to the Glamper for our bedtime lullaby - the bugle calls!

May 26th Ted and Apollo walked about 6 of 15 miles on the Palmetto Trail. Then Ted made me Bacon - that's true love right there! I got to have lunch with a friend I knew from Korea at the Pontiac House of Pizza while Ted had lunch with one of his buddies. While Ted and I like to do visits together, sometimes we split up so we can see our respective friends as time is limited. That evening, we had a get together at the Glamper and I opted to make pulled pork sandwiches. I'm still figuring out the Instapot so those came out more like chopped pork sandwiches but yummy just the same. We ate, we drank and shared some good laughs. Hopefully we will get to see everyone again in the future. The next morning we met up with our friend and visited Congaree National Park (this makes 19 out of 59 National Parks). The Boardwalk Loop Trail was lovely, an easy 2.6 mile walk hovering above the marshy swamp lands. Here I saw something I had never seen before. They are called Cypress Knees and they come up from the land and swamp like a stalagmite. Apparently these are the roots of the tree coming up but they do not have a confirmed purpose. In earlier times, it was believed that the roots of the tree would grow up out of the land to capture more air. I also saw a mosquito meter for the first time. According to the meter the level of mosquitos was "2 - mild" and we were still dodging them left and right...I would hate to see a "6 - war zone" reading on that meter! The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to napping and relaxing followed by a lovely dinner with lovely friends at California Dreaming - a cool train station converted into a restaurant. Food and service were fantastic!

May 28th, after I did a quick virtual Tabata class, we rolled out towards Jacksonville, NC. This drive was a bit bumpy and nauseating for me, but no matter, as we made it safely. We pulled into Seahaven Marine RV Resort around lunch time and set up the Glamper. I gave myself a mani/pedi, the boys went exploring and then we spent a quiet evening hanging out as a family. May 29th I was supposed to meet with a friend but plans changed. Ted and Azlan found a car show, did some laundry, we dropped Apollo off for a bath, and had a nice picnic lunch by the water - even saw a gator close by! On Sunday, we met up with a friend of mine that had been my partner in one of our previous accountability groups. We had a nice lunch at the Riverview Cafe in Sneads Ferry (like 5 mins from the RV Park). After, she came to check out the Glamper and the kids raced around playing soccer - let's just say they had a good night's sleep after that! It was fantastic to finally meet her and her grand kids in person.

May 31st - Memorial Day. I started off the day with a virtual Strong30 class while Ted took Apollo for a walk and checked out the memorials. This is his experience:

"The LeJeune Boulevard Greenway is a beautiful trail that runs next to Camp Lejeune and has several Memorials on it. While it is pretty, it is right next to a highway, so there is constant noise. Apollo and I arrive at the trailhead about 7:30. On the drive across the base, I was remembering friends lost and starting crying, but Apollo sniffed around my head to make sure I was OK. As I pull in on this chilly Memorial Day, I see that there is the Coastal Carolina Veterans Cemetery across the street, so I decide to go pay my respects there first. I don't ever remember feeling this intense an emotional reaction to Memorial Day in the past...last year was kinda tough...but before that, nothing that I remember. Anyway, I walk into the cemetery, and I'm overcome with sadness for the friends I've lost, and the families they've left behind and at the same time I'm grateful for being able to be home with mine...and wondering what it would be like if it was reversed? I chose to be a Drill Sergeant, my CSM fixed it so I was DA selected, but I chose to do that so that Daisa and I could start our life together...but if I hadn't, would I have been there to effect a change on EZ or maybe Matt...or countless others...or could I have taken their place? I don't regret the decision I made, 17 years later, I am happy, Daisa is the center of my universe, and I get to spend time, really good time, with my son everyday...something my fallen brethren will never again be able to do... Anyway, this is what has been running through my head on the drive and as I wander through the cemetery...in the distance I hear a set of bagpipes, and move that direction. As I walk up to the 9/11 Memorial, a steel beam from the Twin Towers in NYC, I see the bagpiper in the distance, playing in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, he finishes a song and then plays Amazing Grace, and I start bawling! He finishes the song, salutes the memorial and walks in our direction...there's no where to go but to us...he says hello to Apollo and can see that I'm struggling to compose myself, he shakes my hand and claps me on the shoulder while saying, "Happy Memorial Day Brother." That was the last straw...I couldn't stand up anymore...I just crumbled to my knees and sobbed. I just cried. Apollo was really good and laid down and let me get it out...I'm not sure how long I was there, but Apollo is only five months, so probably not very, he licked my face, and I decided to get up...so I did...and we walked...and it was good. I spent the morning with Marines I didn't know, but somehow it helped me realize my own loss better. I cried a lot that morning, and when I got home, I cried some more in the arms of my family. For the rest of the day, I was constantly aware of my sorrow. It was a tough one this year, I miss my friends."

I could see the sadness in his eyes, feel it in his body and I can only hope that my hugs and kisses were a small comfort.

On this day, I got to meet another friend from accountability groups and her family for the first time. We knocked out 3 miles on the beach while the boys played in the surf and had lots of good conversation. Beach time was followed by some Glamper Grillage before they headed back home at the end of the day. In the evening, we watched the Memorial Day Concert on PBS and explained the significance of the day to Azlan before finishing off this emotional day.

June 1st we rented a pontoon boat and spent the morning discovering the waters of NC. Conveniently the RV park is at a marina so when we wanted to sketch we just floated right up to the dock and ran to the Glamper to get supplies. It was cold, but sunny and the time we got to spend together priceless. After our morning exploration, I went into Jacksonville for a quick visit with a friend followed by a Zumba class at Gold's Gym. I've been to all sorts of classes ranging from low intensity to high intensity from boring to straight up fire....this one was a fire one! Energy was through the roof and it looked like the whole class knew exactly what they were doing...if I would have been a beginner I would not have been able to keep up. I loved it, it was just what I needed to de-stress before we moved again. If you re ever in Jacksonville, NC and are looking for a high intensity, super fun Zumba class - check out the one with Laura @laurarodfit !!!

June 2nd was a moving day, this time we headed for Ft. Bragg, NC pulling into the Fayetteville RV Resort and Cottages. This place has 2 pools, a park, a mini golf course, a gym, a nature trail, group activities and more. We are looking forward to spending some time here and linking up with new and old friends.


Stay tuned as we move from NC to VA to DE!


Sending good vibes your way!


Love,

Daisa, Ted and Azlan











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