Thursday, May 28, 2009

Grand Canyon AZ

Internet connection is almost non-existent at this less-than-adequate campground. We skipped the rotten Wi-Fi supplied here and are using Sprint's broadband air-card, which is usually lightening fast, dead-on reliable. Cell phone coverage at the Canyon is sketchy too. Check later for updates, could be a few days after Bryce and Zion, when we get to Las Vegas. We'll see.

We made it to the Grand Canyon, where again I am wordless at describing this. You must see this place with your own eyeballs as flat photographs or prose is inadequate. Like a tremendous gash in the crust of the earth, it reveals a landscape alien beyond description. There are myriad colors, rocks and texture, striations, wideness, depth, a hugeness in every way that is not captured by anything but being there in person. Although the crowds are casual, shorts and sweatshirts, there is an overall subdued awe demonstrated by everyone as we stand on windy overlooks. I could stay here for a long time just gazing at the details of the Canyon in silence. There is just not enough time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Off to the next destination

We are going to try to leave Phoenix today and make it to the Grand Canyon. My son's Jeep has problems so we leave him with his car in the shop...

Goodbye dusty southwestern RV park!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sombre Memorial Day article about my deceased POW Dad

A local Loudoun County historian recently interviewed my Mother. When we lived in Saigon, Gustav Crane Hertz, my civilian Dad was captured by the Viet Cong. He died in captivity.

Throughout the ordeal, my mother prayed to Our Lady of Ransom, the merciful Virgin to whom many begged for freedom from the Moors around the time of the Crusades. The feast day of Our Lady of Ransom is September 24, ironically the reported day that my father succumbed to malaria.

Through a quirk, I learned very recently through a letter-to-the-editor in Vietnam Magazine and some personal exchanges of email, that a brave Colonel led a failed attempt in the Vietnam jungle  to rescue my father. By the time the these experienced soldiers got the permission and necessary supplies, it was too late. My father's camp had moved. At the time, our family did not know of Colonel Carvell's efforts. It would have only added to our anguish to hope for a rescue and hear of its failure. After learning this almost 40 years later, I was able to express my gratitude to Colonel Crash. I wonder too, how many other efforts of so many individuals went unnoticed on my father's behalf throughout the military and government agencies.

Below are extracts of the Life Magazine story on my dad.
[If you click on each photo, you should be able to read the enlarged text. Then use the 'back' button on your browser to return to the smaller size.]

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Friday, May 22, 2009

In case you are wondering...and even if you are not

I've posted placeholders below in order of the trip locations to which I will add. I'm a newbie at this and Blogger, although super easy to use, has some organizational limitations. I like blaming the limitations on Blogger instead of me. [Software creates a convenient vehicle for redirecting blame, just in case you haven't noticed. For some, it is it's primary purpose!] Please bear with me as I try this placeholder thing out.
Over the past week the Mac blew up, the Apple store fixed it, and now I have everything back, including my photos and notes of the trip. Yay. Organizing this way should allow me to catch up from this temporary disaster, while allowing me some running commentary of this full trip as we roll along.

Sedona AZ

A post will follow shortly - this was one of the weirdest towns I've ever visited. Fantastically beautiful. Small with 40 churches [what is going on here??]. Psychics and tourists, mixed with Indian influences. Bright red rocks and plateaus surrounding this happy town. Four magnetic vortexes out of 21 in the world. [This only means something to you if you have read anything about electro-magnetic patterns covering the earth. Okay, I've heard of that, but still don't know what a vortex really means to me personally. Hopefully, it cures insanity.]

You WILL check back on this one. Don't you feel the magnetic pull?


Phoenix AZ

Placeholder for this town.

We've been forced to stay here a week. Hot. Boring. Like Los Angeles without the advantages. Fortunately my son lives here and it has been great to see him. We got to a TLM too! Additionally, getting to know a resident of the RV park here added to the interest.
We planned to leave Thursday, but were foiled after many tries. Okay, there must be a reason. Being flexible [easily discouraged] we gave up. We will stay in this gravel pit posing as an RV park for Memorial Weekend. Possibly might include a trip to Las Vegas. Then when the 'karma' changes, we will proceed to the Grand Canyon.

In the meantime, we made a trip to Sedona. Wow.

check back. lots to tell. [at least I'll make it seem that way]

About Phoenix Arizona:
update 052609
Mad dogs and Englishmen.

When we arrived, East Coasters that we are, we were shocked by the intense heat. I was so hot I could hardly breathe, was dizzy and found it really hard to concentrate. I mean it is HOT here.

We arrived just as the weather changed from bearable to lung-scalding, after mid-May. Folks just stay in during the hottest part of the day, doing things early in the morning or as the sun is setting or later. Unless you are a tourist or insane, you avoid outdoor exertion in the afternoon.

It doesn't rain in Phoenix, being in reality a stark desert, unless it is monsoon season, when it pours and floods over the hard ground. But fortunately, for a few days we had overcast skies and the temperature dropped to about 80. This made life much more pleasant!

My son John-Joseph explained that I must drink twice the amount of water that I think I should. He drinks about 2 liters a day here. Water bottles are sold everywhere. At Costco, I got a bottle of water for donating to a hospital. John-J says that restaurants are required to provide free water to anyone requesting water, no matter who you are, paying customer or not. The dry, dry desert heat sucks any moisture out of the skin. Because of the dryness, no sweat stays on the skin, so one is unaware of the massive amounts of moisture loss - until you feel lightheaded, lose concentration and get sleepy. Forget beer or caffeinated drinks, its water, water, water! Anything else might flush the needed water right out of you.

Not that I don't drink coffee and alcohol - I just must remember to drink three times as much plain water if I do.

For a place so dependent on water, residents and foreign plants, the water must be brought in from far away sources namely the Colorado, Salt and Verde rivers. These sources are replenished by melting snow packs. The water quality isn't great, almost undrinkable, unless you like sea monkeys and rocks. Its very hard water. We buy water from a store called Water n Ice, filling our five-gallon bottle with treated water at 25 cents a gallon. Bottled water and treated water is big business here.

The dog is hot all the time and pretty listless. He drinks and drinks and drinks.

The pleasant winter temperatures and the shriveling heat explains why 'snowbirds' arrive for the winter and leave mid-May. However the residents stay. Some like the heat. My son says he likes it here. "Winter" to them is 60 degrees apparently and they never want to experience snow again. Then there are those who are forced by family or circumstance to be here, like the lady from Illinois who moved here because of her husband's work. She has been here 20 years and hates it and can't get used to it. She wants humidity and rain and wants to grow something.

As we drove in from Payson, the scenery changed from thick pine forest to rocky desert. Then Saguaro cacti appeared all over hillsides. Wow what a change. The RV started creaking and crackling from the heat. We could feel heat rolling off of the windows.

We rolled into the Tempe RV park, "Apache Palms". Not a treed place ["patchy palms"?], to make an understatement. A few short trees and a couple of palm trees, and some cacti. Everything is gravel. Not a blade of grass. More like a dusty gravel pit. Welcome to the Southwest! If you want something to grow, you have to water it every day or no shade for you!

The gravel here is strange. It is white and sharp. Not the nice pebbles or river rock common to East Coast landscaping, but gravel harsh and painful to walk on. I understand how gravel must cover the grassless dust, but I don't understand the painful rock thing spread all through the Phoenix area. The dog will not walk on this stuff. He just stands on the cement, looking away, ignoring me and my tugs on the leash. Oh and forget the black pavement if you don't want to cook the dog's paws.

But keep in mind, people DO live here. Five million. There are schools, universities, businesses, malls...traffic. So like any place else on earth, people work around the negative aspects and enjoy the positive. Hey, after all, there doesn't appear to be any bugs at all, the lack of lush flora provides little allergens, and there is none of that oppressive humidity that plagues other watery climes. Because of the dry air, body sweat dissipates immediately in the high temperatures, cooling the body efficiently.

At this small RV park, I've met a few of the full-time residents. Folks live in gigantic motorhomes or teeny-tiny ones. One gentleman in particular, a British citizen, lives in a trailer so small, it only holds a bed and a doll-house-like kitchen. He uses one of the two RV park bathroom/showers and the laundry room of about ten machines. Living on retirement from his days as a British airways steward with the addition of other jobs, he has been here about a year. Bubbly and energetic, Dennis calls him the Prince of the Park as he greets and chatters with anyone who has just rolled in and visits regularly with his fellow residents. His very small Silky Terrier, though my Silky Terrier is bigger, and mine get along great. The Prince even sat my dog all day while we went to Sedona. We gave him a copy of Lucille Ball's "The Long, Long Trailer", a classic hilarious story of camping. The whole park is friendly.

The RVs here bake in the sun. Different from cooler climes, weather affects these campers harshly. You really miss shade as air conditioners labor to keep the campers only at 84 F degrees or so. Tires are covered with white or silvery material to keep them from melting. I saw one set of windshield wipers resting on plastic bottles to keep the rubber from adhering to the windshield. Windows and windshields are covered with silvery batting as rubber gaskets, curtains, and interior upholstery will disintegrate in no time. Hanging off of awnings, full-timers frequently have misters that spray a fine mist to cool the air. Sitting outside is rare in the heat of the day and direct sun.

I won't miss the pervasive dust! Gradually, a fine coating of dust is noticed throughout the RV, penetrating upholstery and shades, rugs and clothing. This fine dust creates subtle silhouettes of furniture and walls and cabinets. Dust makes the hair feel gritty, blackens the used bathing water. Air filters must be cleaned frequently, and moving parts like steps and doors need grease. I wonder what this does to car engines? The tragedy of The Dust Bowl of the 1930s becomes more real - every little plant, every drop of water makes a difference. My son mentioned, as we watched a water truck lumbering up a street, that trucks water the dust along roads and construction sites keeping the dust down. Dust and sand whips up easily into dust storms here.

Its hot. Did I say that already?

Petrified Forest / Painted Desert; Holbrook, AZ

This park left me speechless. Unfortunately for you, I can always find words, which I will force you to read in order to look at our photos. Soon!

Santa Fe, NM

Wow. this is a great town - lotsa pictures to post here. Be sure to check back. Or I will stalk you.

Elk City OK

Now this really is the middle of nowhere... a placeholder for a story here too.

Alma / Ft Smith, AR

In spite of being similar to 'the middle of nowhere', there's a story to tell. Check back

Memphis TN

Oh yea, we went to Graceland. I'll tell ya more...

Hanceville, AL

More to follow here

052409 update:

Looking towards the side entrance, into a small courtyard, through grill work.

 Dennis inside the courtyard, just outside that side entrance.

In the middle of the monastery's humongous piazza is a statue of the Infant Jesus, holding out His heart.

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Looking across the piazza towards the Shrine and the attached monastery.

The Shrine, a Temple honoring the Most Blessed Sacrament adjoins Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a cloistered contemplative religious order, dedicate themselves to adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament day and night.

We entered the convent chapel around 6 AM to the sound of the nuns singing the Divine Office. Unable to see these hidden Poor Clare Franciscan nuns in the cloister, the high, light voices floated through the church. Occasionally a microphone was used, such as for the readings. The few laity in the congregation followed silently along in their LOTHs [Liturgy of the Hours], as well as what may have been extern nuns [those working outside the cloister] in the front pew. On the other side of the aisle were a few Franciscan brothers also joining in the Office.

Following that, the Mass in Hanceville was a singular experience. This 7 AM OF [Ordinary Form] conventual Mass [the nun's convent Mass] was said in the spectacular Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, a vaulted Gothic convent chapel reminiscent of a European cathedral lined by columns and high arches, interspersed with stained glass windows. The visual impression is light, white and gold. The walls and ceilings are white. The Italian white marble floor is inlaid with darker marbles. Gold surrounds the side altars, the sanctuary, even the altar rail appears to be gold. A gold reredos, a 55-foot high gold-leafed screen hand carved from exotic Peruvian cedar, stands behind the altar, across the church from wall to wall. This spired Gothic gold screen hides a quarter of the church. Atop this high sanctuary screen is a gigantic gold monstrance exposing the Blessed Sacrament for constant worship, surrounded by statues of adoring angels clothed in gold. This 24-hour exposition is covered by a painted screen of angels during Mass. The large gold Tabernacle is formed like a spired Gothic church. The effect brings oneself mentally into the presence of God, being made mindful of both His terrible power and enlightening love, amidst a mortal vision of heaven filled with light. Towards the rear of the chapel are very large wooden spired confessionals like you see in old cathedrals, the kind where the priest sits in a booth in the middle, hearing hidden confessions on either side.

Mass began as the clergy and servers processed in solemnly holding crucifix and candles as the nuns sang an Easter-season polyphonic Latin hymn of Mary. I caught the words 'laetare Maria' and 'gaude Maria' [rejoice Mary].
One of the Franciscan priests, familiar to viewers of the EWTN station Mass said this Mass. The familiar Deacon Bill read the Gospel. Said Ad Orientem, the sung Mass was all in Latin, except for the English Propers. The congregation, of which most of the women were in veils, responded readily to the priest with the sung Latin responses. The ethereally-singing nuns were accompanied by a lovely smooth-sounding organ. I saw no pipes but it sure was nicely played. The impression was truly heavenly - I could feel the prayerful songs rising straight up to God the Father. The sopranos were light and airy, the altos were strong, and the two lower parts were clearly heard, holding their own. At the a cappella 'O Sacrum Convivium' of such precision and beauty, I had to hold back tears.

No Exchange of Peace disturbed the recollection and focus expressed by all. At Holy Communion, a white cloth was draped over the filigree communion rail and all recipients knelt to receive, as much as I noticed, all on the tongue. At the rail, I caught a glimpse of the full habits and white wimples of the nuns behind their screen.

At the end of Mass, "I know that my Redeemer Lives" was sung.

The overall impression was an OF Mass said as well as it could be said, with every solemn reverence, regal and recollected, permeated with a lightness borne of internal joy.

After the Mass, we went downstairs to the crypt chapel where the nuns who have died are entombed. This low-ceilinged chapel is understated, encased in white marble with a dark marble trim. There is a statue of the Virgin and a large Crucified Jesus. The wall surrounding the Tabernacle is gold with a statue on each side.

Leaving the building and crossing the enormous piazza centered by the Infant Jesus proffering His heart in His hand to humanity, we entered "The Castle" that holds a gift shop and large rooms. Inside there are suits of armor and heavy 13th century era-style tables and chairs, and tapestries.

Atlanta GA

More to follow...

052409 update

My brother Gus has been a pilot all his life, starting with model airplanes in early youth. When he's off from work, his favorite pastime is flying.
Dodging the RV, taking out the plane for a flight.

Gus taxies towards the grass runway for takeoff.

Steve and Gus chat over a Martin's breakfast after daily Mass at the FSSP parish.

Martin's is apparently the cheapest breakfast around - and the food is good. I had grits and eggs.

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All hitched up and ready to roll out of Atlanta.  

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Gus gives wife Martha a hug, a wonderful hostess. [When can we come back?]

Knoxville TN

More details to follow at this posting

052409 update

From Mass we drove to my niece's house. Lisa and her husband Chris recently had triplets and I was itching to see the three little girls, and see how the whole family was doing. 

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Lisa had warned me that one of the triplets had gone back into the hospital. Fortunately, before we left, this one came home with her sleep-deprived dad. Chris told me he hadn't slept but one hour for each of the two previous nights. I couldn't tell, frankly - except that his hair wasn't combed. I think Chris is going to do just fine with these triplets in the endurance and perseverance department.

While we waited for Chris, Lisa and I chatted. Lisa always seems so calm. She held and fed one child, while I held and fed the other child. All the girls are beautiful. Carly, the first-born seems to think her new sisters are pretty cool. Their dogs like the babies too!

We didn't stay long because Dennis and I didn't want to interfere with any sleep for which Chris and Lisa might find time. On our way out, Chris gave us passes to get free dinner at one of his McAlister's restaurants. Thanks Chris!!

We stopped by a McAlister's and had some yummy southern-style food, and then drove back to the RV. Dennis and I watched a little bit of TV and fell asleep to the sound of wind and rain. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Technical Difficulties

Griffin enjoying the Petrified Forest / Painted Desert in Arizona.

We have suffered technical difficulties as the iMac crashed with a major hardware failure. This includes losing all the photos and notes up to just a few days ago. The Mac is in the Apple "hospital" in Phoenix while a 'genius' in the store investigates the damage and data retrieval.

Fortunately Dennis brought this PC laptop that I can use to continue posting.

We have traveled from Hanceville to Memphis [Graceland] to Arkansas to Oklahoma thru Texas to Santa Fe New Mexico to the Petrified Forest to Phoenix.
There's plenty to tell.

Hopefully the data can be retrieved before we leave Phoenix, otherwise, the photos from a segment of the trip will have to wait til I get home. If this data is retrievable, that is.

It is hot here in Phoenix - the people that live here year 'round are crazy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

And now for some photos, catching up on the trip

Updates to this article below, ~t.

Dennis dumps the RV tanks before leaving the Knoxville campground. That morning we ate and showered, and packed up for a five-hour drive  to Atlanta. 

Parked in front of brother Gus's hangar in Atlanta. That's Dennis and another brother, Steve.

We arrived at my brother Gus's house where we parked on a cement pad in front of his hangar. With satellite dish and lawn chairs beside this large RV, did his very nice neighbors wonder how in the heck long these interlopers were staying.

Martha, Gus's wife, fixed us a wonderful dinner of marinated steaks on the grill, baked potatoes, bread, and salad. I contributed my corn casserole. Now who doesn't like a dinner like that? Oh, and of course some red wine. Martha even made strawberry shortcake soaked with Grand Marnier. Why would we consider leaving this place? Oh yea, after three days, fish and guest start to stink!
Besides us visiting, another brother, Stephen, happened also to be there too. 

Gus generously drove Steve and me to daily Mass early one morning. Atlanta traffic forced us to leave at 5:30 AM and travel an hour. Can you believe that Gus does this every Sunday? After daily Mass [outside Atlanta in Mableton], here's the sanctuary of the FSSP parish, St Francis de Sales. Formerly a full-immersion Baptist church, the sanctuary was transformed from a huge baptismal pool into this lovely altar and railing with rescued Italian marble from a another Catholic church. Also, a view outside. The low Mass, said by the pastor Fr Fisher, was appropriately reserved and faster than a Sunday Mass. This parish, dedicated to the Extraordinary Form, is fortunate to have two daily Masses as well as the Sunday Masses, all in the Extraordinary Form. 
See for more information.

Traveling from Atlanta through Alabama, we were hit by scary weather. Amidst tornado warnings, the motorhome was buffeted by high winds, pelting rain and threatened by lightning and thunder. We passed cars parked under overpasses waiting out the storm and poor visibility.

Under brighter skies, we reached the next campground 15 miles from Hanceville, Alabama.

Without signs, would anybody find this remote Hanceville monastery of Mother Angelica's?


The gates to the monastery of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament - shrine and monastery in the background. 
And here's the author at the steps of the plaza in front of the Shrine.
Below, more shots of the monastery.
The approach.

  The 'Castle' housing the gift shop and meeting rooms, and suits of armor, tapestries and heavy medieval furniture to amplify the 13th century era of the monastery architecture.

Arched walkway with view of distant landscapes.

Photo-taking inside the chapels are forbidden. These photos are outside the chapels. 
The door flanked by angels is the entrance to the enclosure of the nun's cloister.
The staircase leads from the lower church in the basement to the upper church.
Two angels surround the sign of the entrance to the upper church. The dark wood is similar to the beautiful exotic wood used in the chapels.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Santa Fe!

The motorhome is connected into the Santa Fe campsite. We made it to the Southwest!! Arriving just as night fell, Dennis plugged in by flashlight while I walked the dog.

This morning is cool, we have the RV heat on. Birds are cheerily chirping in the surrounding scrubby pines. The air is filled with an intensely sweet pine smell. We look forward to a warm and sunny day, after an entire trip of overcast skies and rain daily. SUN. FINALLY!!

We expect to stay here three nights to rest from the long haul and catch up on sightseeing, grocery shopping, laundry, and just relaxing.

Check back later, I'll be updating more today and tomorrow.

Monday, May 11, 2009

We are in Oklahoma somewhere. In a KOA campsite [this franchise is usually a safe bet when you don't know the area]. The campsite is clean and flat [yah, we ARE in Oklahoma] with Wi-Fi and everything we need. HEY. Is that a Budweiser sign I see in the window?? This IS a good KOA. No wait, this is right off the Interstate. Well, okay. We can't hear the road noise inside the RV.

Last night we experienced a violent Oklahoma thunderstorm. The temperature is very cool. Rain and wind beat our RV most of the night, with sharp cracks of thunder and brilliant light. Nothing much here to stop the roll of a storm across the plains. This morning all is calm though pretty mushy. 

We spent too much precious time trying to unjam our Capresso coffee machine this morning. The grinder isn't spitting out the grounds. Instant coffee YUCK.

Today I plan to plop some laundry in a bin with soap as the motorhome bumps down the road, and place it on the floor of the shower. The soaking and agitation should suffice for a cleaner load, you think?

We are packing up for the next destination. Santa Fe or BUST!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stalker ducks

Sipping instant coffee to wake up. I'll fool with the coffeemaker after we return from Mass. Yesterday the burr grinder on the Capresso made an awful noise and the coffee was weak. Yesterday we also discovered that the camera wouldn't charge, forcing us to stop and purchase an inexpensive camera. Being on the road makes it too hard to troubleshoot or replace parts for an old Kodak.

I'm tentative about going to Mass this morning as the closest parish's 8 AM Mass is Spanish. The later Mass is too late for us as we must pack up and check out of here by 11. The parishes here appear sparse with few Masses. Last night, searching for the parish, we passed by a retirement home for the Sisters of Mercy and a Mercy Hospital. There seems to have been a larger Catholic community here at one time.

We rolled into the Alma/Ft. Smith Arkansas campground. Its pretty deserted and has Wi-Fi and a bunch of ducks who seem used to being fed by campers. They are stalking us. The guy that checked us in is pretty entertaining. After leading us to our parking spot in his golf cart he parted with "What do you get with 12 Arkansans?... a full set o' teeth".

Arkansas reminds me of Virginia. It is lush and green here with familiar trees, flowers, and plants. There also is evidence of flooding as we pass flooded pastures and waterways that have exceeded their banks. We passed a sign "Restoring the Wetlands". I couldn't read the bottom of the sign because it was covered by water! The ground everywhere is mushy and puddled.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Memphis campground

Walking the dog this morning, a woman and I greeted each other. This is the  South, where you acknowledge everyone and chat politely, whether in the grocery store, at a dumpster, or in church. In a southern drawl, she mentioned how much seeing my dog made her miss her own dog that died last year. With nicely coiffed hair, her clothes were tidy and crisp. Make-up was applied neatly. Blue eyeshadow went from eyelash to eyebrow.

We are enjoying the morning coffee in a balmy morning. A warm breeze makes the leaves above us flutter, and lifts the RV awning. Rain is expected this afternoon.

Last night we walked around the campground after eating delivered Memphis barbecued ribs and brisket. We checked out all the other campers' vehicles and trailers. Some are real antiques, faded and old, but still serviceable, some shiny and new.  Others are the huge 40 foot monster A class motorhomes. We wonder how they even park in most places, lumbering everywhere they go.

The folks next to us left this morning for Branson Missouri - its the country music capital of the world for has-beens from what I can tell. Lots of stars have their own theatres or stages. You go there to hear the greats  of country music. We've chatted with fellow campers and traded stories. Campgrounds are probably the friendliest and most laid-back places in America. "Where'd you get that hitch for your car?" "What kinda dog is that?" "Where y'all headed to next?" And so on...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Moon over Memphis

There's a full moon over Memphis in a clear sky. Calm, mild and pleasant. Cool. AND. its. not. raining! We are waiting for Memphis barbecue to be delivered to our RV. ooh. There's the delivery guy in a pink Cadillac. what a scream.

Posting on the road

I'll be posting in the next few days to catch up with our latest adventures. We left Knoxville after visiting my niece and her new triplets. We then stayed two nights parked at my brother's in Atlanta. Gus took me to a daily EF Mass at his FSSP parish. Then we stopped at a campground near Hanceville to visit Mother Angelica's monastery for early morning Mass. Now Dennis is unhitching the motorhome as we prepare for the next destination: Elvis Presley's Graceland, another 'temple' of sorts I suppose. Be right back...!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

At the Extraordinary Form Mass, meeting Henry

We arrived at St Theresa's church in Clinton, TN. I was very happy to find the church, which I had learned about from a fellow Fr Zuhlsdorf Fan and pen pal, Henry. Fr Z has a website where many conservative Catholics congregate to read and comment.

This little church, normally an OF [Ordinary Form] parish, holds a EF [Extraordinary Form] Mass on Sunday afternoons. For those unfamiliar with the EF, its the old Mass said before the Vatican II changes, and my preferred Mass. The priest faces the Tabernacle and there are many more detailed prayers, more candles, more altar cloths. This Mass is more full of the expression of the Faith, in my opinion.

I found Henry at the back of the Church as he had predicted and we tentatively introduced ourselves, having never met. A joyful first meeting! We then sat and readied ourselves for Mass. The Sanctuary was fittingly set up. Mass started with the Asperges [oops, it was the Vidi Aquam, according to the season] as Father blessed the congregation with holy water and the little choir sang nicely the Latin. The Missa Cantata included all the sung propers and ordinary parts of the Mass, which the congregation joined at times. Many women wore veils, all dressed modestly, everyone was quiet, attentive, and reverent. The little choir sang familiar favorites including O Lord I am Not Worthy and Mozart's Ave Verum. Since there was no altar rail, Holy Communion was received in the first pew so we could kneel.   

After Mass, we spoke again with Henry. He introduced us to Father John Orr.   This little 'club' of Fr Z fans hit it off instantly, as we recognize immediately our shared Catholicism and similar devotion to its important details. [Henry called it a 'Z-fest'.] Not only that, but there is a shared sense of humor. Then again, I like anybody who laughs at my stabs at humor.

We would have liked to spend much more time with Henry and his wife Alice, as we found much to discuss...but it was getting late, and Dennis and I had to get on to the next destination.

Left to right, Fr John Orr, Chaplain of the Knoxville Latin Mass Community; Tina, and Dennis.

Henry Edwards, President of the Knoxville Latin Mass Community, and Tina.

So much to discuss, in spite of rain.

Clinton's St Theresa parish, north of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Monday, May 4, 2009

First stop

We made it out of the house and into the RV. The house was piled with collections of clothes here, pans there, pantry items and boxes on the floor [ow!] which eventually migrated into the RV. I remembered the wine and the toothbrush charger. Forgot the dishrag. An advantage to the RV is that many things can be left in it for the next trip, but not food or anything a mouse likes to chew on, or the stuff you use in the house for which you have no duplicates.

We did NOT leave on time. It always takes longer to depart than we think. I made it to First Saturday Mass, impatiently listening to the homily...and then finally when we did leave, realized those extra 10 minutes that morning wasn't a blip in the overall time it took us. Typically, I 'stow' everything in its place for a short trip. But stuff for 5 weeks or more takes considerably longer to put away. Determined to leave before time turned into the next day, we finally just stuffed everything into paper bags and lodged them immovably anywhere we could. Dennis did a great job immobilizing boxes and bins with pressure rods. [Being knocked out by flying objects while going down the road is counter-productive.] As Dennis drove, I moved things around and put stuff away. Made the bed. I also brought him, the driver, food and drink. And I took a short nap.

Got down to Knoxville in one day, in spite of advice to travel around 250 miles a day, we doubled that. Dennis did all the driving [though we did stop SIX times, grrrr]. A long first day isn't so bad. Perfect day for travel: cool and slightly overcast. 

Its a beautiful drive down the Shenandoah Valley. Its not craggy Appalachia, nor the rolling Piedmont of horsey Virgina, but in between. Hilly farmland with lots of flatland surrounded by mountains on either side. Settled by a lot of Germans, you can imagine them being reminded of home in this environment. Everything is lush and deep green from the recent rains. Black Angus stood out against the bright green pastures.

We did what all campers hate to do: arrived at an unfamiliar campground in the pitch black darkness. Dennis had called ahead several times to let the campground know we were late - its better than waking em up at midnight, searching for the lot with a flashlight, making a lot of noise waking the other campers. So he knew to "drive straight ahead, past the dumpster, park in the pull-through next to the brown rig". Dennis unhitched the car, situated the levelers, plugged in the electricity. I immediately cooked a bit of meatloaf since we hadn't eaten anything except a salad. Then it started to rain and we conked out.

Suddenly it was Sunday. Still raining. We had freshly ground and brewed coffee and artichoke quiche. The Traditional Latin Mass we were attending wasn't until 1:30 PM. At first I thought this inconveniently late but it turned out to be perfect since we slept so late and worked a bit at organizing the RV. After a bit of puttering, we got ourselves showered and into Sunday Best [RV style], put the dog in the car and followed the GPS to  our next destination.

Dennis driving south down I-81, through Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Will it fit in the fridge?

Making everything from scratch including all the sauces, yesterday I pre-cooked some meals: creamed chicken, baked ziti, scalloped corn casserole, blanched pork ribs, 2 quiches [roasted artichokes & Asiago, and spinach], mashed potatoes, creamed onions / peas, pre-cooked bacon and sausage, plus assembled coleslaw. I had made my yummy meatloaf previously which is raw and frozen.

This will allow getting to eat a lot more quickly, without taking time after a tiring day to put something together. 

As the trip wears on, we will make grocery stops or eat locally. Food will likely be less expensive than here on the East Coast.

I'm picky about food - Dennis is diabetic and I hate processed food which usually contains MSG [keeps me awake all night], hydrogenated fats, too much sugars, inadequate fiber, or just simply unpronounceable mystery ingredients that make my joints hurt.

Eating out has its obvious advantages but it gets expensive and you are at the mercy of meat- and starch-heavy meals. Sometimes you just don't know what you are eating! [La cucaracha?!]

This is a big advantage to the RV, being able to manage the food if you have diet restrictions or allergies.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The RV is gone?

Ha! nah... Dennis has driven off to top off the propane tanks. I assume he'll be back. The dog got excited but calmed down after he realized I was still here.

I am now going to have some coffee. Maybe try some of that Red Bull that everyone seems to know about-- the time is truly short. Its all about final cooking, gathering, packing, and I've already gotten to the yelling-at-the-husband part.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wish you were here

At, upload your own photo to create a postcard, type in a message, pay $1.50 per card, and the card is printed, stamped and mailed for you. Found this tip in Budget Travel magazine.

For taking pictures

Photoshop Elements is loaded into my Mac now with hopes that the software is as good as the reviews. More ready for travel blog photos! As a lousy photographer, I need cheater's help. Yea, uh, you like pictures of feet and headless individuals? Some may consider that 'artsy'... Boy, I can butcher a simple shot.

Maybe I'm thinking of other things when I take pictures? I do have focus problems. [bada bing]

Monday, April 27, 2009

We are different, in a good way

The difference between the way the caveman and I camp: 
Husband, after seeing the list, "Why do we need placemats? Can't we just use paper towels?"

Keeping up with the "clean" before you leave

As with any travel preparation, one must juggle keeping the house and kitchen clean while you prepare to take half of it with you, and leave the place in welcoming tidiness for the return. Don't people eat and live in their home while they get ready for a trip?

In an RV, there's not much keeping you from taking things you 'might' need, rather than as it is when traveling out of a suitcase.

Likewise, packing clothes. What is the secret to not having any laundry to do, not wearing anything you need to take, while being able pack everything clean?

Getting to Mass, keeping up with prayers

As Catholics, we are bound to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. This adds some excitement to the trip as we will have to get up early on a Sunday in a strange town, dress nicely, and make it to Mass on time.

Thank goodness for [see the my link list] which lists parishes throughout the country along with addresses, phone numbers and schedules. Being pretty conservative, we prefer not to suffer through happy-clappy liturgy and heretical, or even trite, homilies. So picking out a parish becomes an art as you read descriptions of parishes, looking for 'code words' that hint at the tenor of a parish. When I investigate the many possibilities in an area, I look for words like "Adoration", "Benediction", "Novenas", "Vespers", and the best word of all "Latin". I have found that pastors promoting these kinds of activities are the most seriously mindful of Catholic practices. I am not looking for "centering prayer" or "labyrinth" or "folk Mass" for instance.

Added to the wonderful opportunity of attending the Mystery of the Mass, is the way getting into a local parish flavors a community that speeding through a town does not provide. In my youth traveling with my mother, we had much more interesting adventures as we searched for and attended parishes. The experience of the locals and the towns is richer.

The daily need to pray is also a concern as we whip through hitching up the RV at day's end in a new park and making dinner, as well as dismantling and securing the RV for departure. Not only will I bring my rosary and a prayer book, but there are online resources to use. Friends use CDs to listen to on the road too, which is a great idea to keep the mind occupied.

The day looms closer

The day of departure looms. Will I get it all done in time? I'm still working on the itinerary details and identifying the local attractions and little stops. There's the important identification of suitable campgrounds at right spots. The prevailing wisdom says to travel about 250 miles a day in an RV  so I'm piecing together the stops and mileage. As we go, of course, we can always cancel reservations and make new ones as needed I guess. Also, apparently RV parks are more available for drop-in the further West you travel. On the East coast, reservations are needed at the less available and fewer campgrounds and RV parks.

Besides the itinerary, there's the clothing and food to identify and pack. All clothes have to be laundered and clean for packing. The kitchen will need appliances [small crock pot, coffeemaker, and such] and pans, as well as the food to create meals. This entails some menu-planning and cooking food ahead of time like quiche, meatloaf and other easily heated-up  foods. Obviously, grocery stops will replenish perishables like milk and fresh produce. This has to be balanced against the very small freezer and limited cupboard space, and the overall concern of total weight. 

Little details like buying enough cat food and stopping the paper delivery for the house are peppering my consciousness.

Many of the details are the same as for any vacation but there are added tasks particular to RV travel.

Right now, its all about fast thinking, making lists, hard work, and maybe a bit of panic. When this part is over and the RV is all packed, then we can enjoy the happy feeling of the trip.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Intolerant Marine watching the house

While we are gone, a large ex-Marine who did his stint in Iraq will be house-sitting our place and feeding the cat. 

The cat will miss us terribly. She is very sweet but pretends not to notice us too much. You know how cats are. But when we return from a jaunt, she runs to greet us and is hungry-looking. Her plate of food is barely touched and neighbors tell me they can't really get her to eat. Her best friend is the dog. She takes orders from him [as well as a cat can]. Being on this long trip, she will need somebody here full-time to keep her company.

Many RVers take cats along. I just can't face a litter box in a small RV nor the tons of cat hair that she sheds. This kitty is the sheddingest cat I have ever had, having had cats all my life. Fuhgeddabowdit.

I hope this tough Marine does okay with the cat.

On having a blog at all

I haven't had this blog for more than a month. I love to write, I've imagined having a blog for many years but never made the time. One thought frequently chasing me was always the concern that I would have writer's block and be at a loss for words.

Actually, there are so many ideas running through my head, I can't possibly keep up. Like a toilet. My mind runs like a toilet, I'm tellin ya.

Just wanted you to know...I'm holding myself back. If I didn't, I'd be at the computer all day and my husband would never get fed. There in front of the computer would be found a mute, congealed mass, pitifully reaching up from the chair, typing with the one finger left mobile.

Playing it safe for now.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Looking for ideas on stops and sights, traveling east to west

What can you recommend? I am especially interested in Catholic churches, history, and sights.

I got this from my son John's friend. Thanks Tony!

It is definitely worth going north and hitting Utah.  There’s a reason they call it God’s country.  I spent 5 months out there and went on a trip every weekend.  Here is a list of the best places I went:

Zion National Park, UT – you drive into the park in the valley and climb up the cliffs.  Great scenery, hiking, and camping.

Brice Canyon , UT – you arrive in this park above the canyons.  Really cool looking.  I would have liked it even more if there wasn't 2 ½ feet of snow when I was there.

Moab, UT – Crazy rock formations, cool hiking.  I went there three times.  Get gas before trying to cross UT on your way to or from Moab.  That’s where we (John’s fault) ran out of gas in the middle of the desert. 

Slide Rock State Park, UT – great place to camp near Moab.  Also really cool mountain biking.  You camp in the middle of rock formations or on top of them.  It is rolling hills of stone (slide rock).  You can bike all over the place if you like physical exertion.

The Painted Dessert and Petrified Forest, AZ – these are close to each other.  The first is cool to drive through.  It is just crazy looking desert right out of a painting.  The petrified forest is not a forest (I was confused/disappointed at first).  It is a desert with a lot of rocks that used to be trees.  It is amazing how many rock/trees you can look at before you get bored.  There is also an Adobe house built out of rock/trees.  It didn’t have a door so you wouldn’t go inside so you have to climb in the window. 

Sedona, AZ – really cool yuppie/hippie town in AZ.  Cool Indian cliff village near the town that you can tour.  I think they were Hopi Indians.

Farmington, NM – Really cool pine tree (?) desert.  Don’t get drunk and wonder off.  You’ll never find the car.  Probably just cool because I went there with John and we had a fun camping trip.

Death Valley, NV – Really cool salt flats, 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and my Dad almost died.  The last part was only cool because he didn’t.  Do not drink Tequila after hiking three miles straight out into the dessert.  Wait until you get back to the hotel alive and drink a whole liter before going to diner in Vegas.  We did both.

Las Vegas, NV – duh.  The greatest city to visit in the world.  I heard Gomorrah was pretty sweet, but never got a chance to visit.  You can stay entertained without gambling a dollar or going to a single strip club for about a week.  There is something really cool to see at every casino on the strip.  Also, you can get free eats if you play lots of black jack and get a players card.  We only had to lose $300 one morning to get a sweat avocado cheeseburger breakfast.  We also got lots of free Jack Daniels while sitting at the blackjack table for those 30 minutes.  That took the sting out of “paying” $300 for breakfast.

Salt Lake City – the temple, town square, and conference center are all really cool.  The conference center has a park on the roof complete with a stream and a water fall that goes over the side of the building.  The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is amazing if you get a chance to see them.

Provo – Lots of young Mormons.  Only reason to go there would be to see more mountains and BYU.  It gets an honorable mention because I lived there.  I never spent a weekend there.  Lots of good Mexican food and a really good Brazilian restaurant.

Grand Canyon (North Face) – Don’t go there in the winter, it’s closed and buried in snow.  It is also a bad mistake to make because it is a really long drive around the canyon to the South Face.  We drove all night to get the North Face and had to press on.  Oops.

Grand Canyon (South Face) – the most amazing views you will ever see.  You won’t believe it’s real.  They have coyotes, so don’t leave your food out.  We didn’t have anything left the next morning.

Get a National Parks pass.  It will pay for itself when you go to Brice Canyon and Zion National Park.  All the other national parks will be free admission after that.  There is even more to see in Wyoming and Idaho but it was too cold to venture that far north when I lived out there.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Can the RV teach you detachment?

Because of the tiny space in an RV, many RVers state that you will be surprised at how little you need.

Most of us live with too much stuff from packed kitchens, garages, tons of clothes, gadgets, and such.

Get in the RV with some food and just enough clothes for your jaunt. See how unnecessary 'stuff' really is! Free yourself for a time. When you return to your domicile, you'll view your possessions differntly.

We don't own 'stuff'. 'Stuff' owns us.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

AAA is great

Hoo boy was I tired and headachey! Yesterday I spent about two and a half hours at the AAA office getting advice for the upcoming trip. This guy, Randy, was really helpful. Randy has parents who RVed so he had a bit of insight from the stints in his youth. Randy also has been to some of the areas which we plan to visit.

We worked over the proposed itinerary which I brought along. Randy made some really good suggestions which will change our route a bit. He suggested a more scenic route in the Las Vegas area, and recommended our stop in Atlanta at the beginning of the trip rather than at the end. This allows us to skip the uncertain trek across Texas. He suggested some areas of which I was unaware, while adding ideas to stops we were already planning. I got my money's worth for this visit! Then Randy loaded me up with guides and maps.

We will be crossing Birmingham. Should we stop at EWTN?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ready the HOUND!!

Griffin got his nails trimmed today in preparation for the trip. I also made an appointment for his torture, I mean, full grooming session next week. This coincides with my own grooming date for a haircut.

Dennis cut out wood to screw in a shelf under the sink. This allows for storage of tall things while not taking up all the space.

Hubby Dennis has carved out some shelves to optimize space on the stove-top [what we already had was too small] and over the sink [the chain allows the shelf to fold down for travel].

Monday, April 20, 2009

Planning the itinerary

Tomorrow I have an appointment at AAA for additional help on the itinerary. I have a loose itinerary, but I'm looking for ideas on the exact route and timing. On our way back for instance, not sure we want to drag ourselves over the emptiness of west Texas for days. Nor am I secure in picking the more southern route along the Mexican border...don't they have gangs or something? I imagine the raided stagecoach scenario in the middle of nowhere, aiming the gun out the window at the whooping attackers, while hubby guns the engine.

"Did you ever hear tell of Sweet Betsy from Pike..."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Post-RV trip clean up and planning the next

Today was spent mostly washing all the loose rugs, reviewing Dennis' work of newly built shelves, folding and storing newly washed sheets and towels, gathering and putting everything in its RV place. We will get the RV out of the driveway and back to its storage lot to await the next trip.

I'm rushing around to get everything in order as I must join my choir tonight to sing Holy Thursday Mass. Dinner might be rather odd tonight too...will I get done in time? This weekend is the Triduum - the three holiest and most grace-filled days of the entire liturgical year. I'll be busy singing every day through Easter Sunday.

I made contact with an internet buddy today for information on the TLM in Knoxville TN. To think we will be on our second day of our trip and enjoy the graces of the old Mass! And meet this internet buddy who is the pres of the Latin Mass Society there.

The anticipation of the trip grows.

Why RV?

If you love to camp, you will love RVing. I tent-camped years ago and loved the experience of fresh air, stars at night, cooking outside, campfire tending, sleeping in stillness. Now the mere thought of sleeping on the ground makes me...ache.

I used to view RVers with contempt as I camped. Sheesh! I mean, you come all this way out here to stay in your RV and watch TV? I saw RVers missing out on 80 percent of the camping experience. Today, older and stiffer, I enjoy the convenience and comfort.

Are you a germophobe? Okay, do you look forward to filthy gas station bathrooms? How about that sticky toilet paper that has followed you out to the parking lot on the sole of your shoe? In an RV, you get your own germs and control the cleanliness of your own bathroom. And you can always have soap and a towel!

Picky about food? Okay, do you enjoy chancey food that may have been microwaved, over-processed plasticated mystery of non-life origin? Do you crave food with actual nutrients, freshness, or even, *gasp* fiber? In an RV, you can control the food. Organic nut? Alcoholic? or you just want to know what's in it and from whence it comes? In an RV, you don't have to hunt for a restaurant or wonder what the menu options are going to be. And you can clean your own silverware to your satisfaction. Add real butter to the potatoes.

Have a pet? Have you looked at the kennel bill lately? Noticed how the kennel cost more than your entire vacation? Ever felt guilty about leaving the dog in a cage while you are selfishly enjoying yourself for days? Many RVers take their pets along. Our dog LOVES the RV. Its a car but it also has a bed and FOOD! Heaven! You meet the friendly fellow travelers when walking the dog. And a bark or two inside an RV can deter any possible snoopers too.

We have found RVers to be friendly and honest, easy talkers, adventurous and interesting. Nice campgrounds attract nice people.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Are RVers church-goers?

Nope. I haven't seen much evidence of this. Let me know if YOU are!

We generally get up and go on Sunday mornings by ourselves, leaving behind the fellow campers who are assiduously fixing breakfast, walking their dogs, or quietly breaking down camp before a departure.

In my travels around the world, getting out to Mass has been a great way to discover a town and the environment. Searching for the church, we are driving around seeing the town and the people. The same applies as we RV - we aren't just at camp, we are all over the place.

Catholics HAVE to go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. If we miss, we have to go to confession before approaching Holy Communion again. So unless there really is no available parish for miles, there is no excuse. And I'm glad for that!

Working out the storage and space organization

The cabinet over the couch will hold pantry items in some sort of sliding box - not sure what kind yet.

In the cabinet over the stove, Dennis put his quickly built wood shelf.
On the door are plastic pockets found at the Container Store for quick access to eating utensils.

One of the kitchen cabinets - I added short wire shelves for stacking.

Yup. We are pretty much in the middle of nowhere!