Their 54 year love story impacted so many lives. They had each other's back from day one. Here they are when they were dating and the next photo is from their 50th anniversary trip to Pigeon Forge in 2017. They were dedicated to each other. They had fun and they worked hard to provide for their family. On March 26, 2021, Daddy passed peacefully surrounded by loved ones.
When he passed away, a hole was left in our hearts. My mother was rocked to the core. The entire family swarmed around her as we attended his funeral and bid farewell. The turnout of well-wishers was overwhelming. His siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews were all so loving and supportive. To say he left an impression is an understatement. Family friends that considered him a parent figure were there to offer condolences. A friend from grade school told us of his heroism during the Vietnam war. During the funeral the crowd limit rule was broken and no one complained.
The past few years have been difficult for Mama and Daddy and the next few days and weeks will likely be unbearable for my mom. No matter how strong an individual is, a loss such as this can crumble them. Thank God for my younger brother, my sister and my oldest brother. We all have our roles and I believe Daddy would be proud.
Our journey to Georgia to attend the funeral was destination oriented. We averaged about 650 miles per day, we wanted to get there quickly. We stopped in Deming, NM our first night on the road. We found Rockhound State Park and decided to give it a try. As we approached, there were cones blocking the entrance. We pulled over on the shoulder just before the gate and ate our dinner. As we finished and were about to start the search for another spot, the ranger pulled up. We let him know we were looking for one night and an early departure and he hooked us up with a primo spot in the park. It is amazing what nice respectful behavior will get you.
We hit the road early and made it to Bays Landing in Bridgeport, TX. The Thousand Trails campground was huge but quiet. Well worth a return visit one day.
We made it to Collinsville, MS and came across what seemed to be an awesome US Army Corps of Engineers Campground, but it was closed due to flooding. We drove past and came across their Day Use area parking lot right on the water. Great spot for the night.
We headed out early and made our way to my childhood home. I'm still blown away by the heartwarming support from family and friends. There were some tasks that needed tending to so that kept us busy for a few days. Before we left, we had a few conversations with Mom about the future. She outlined a framework of how to move forward and seemed like she could get a glimpse of a way to begin again.
Darin and I stayed several days after the funeral before we got back on the road to head west. Leaving was not easy but it was necessary. Our first stop was in Arley, AL at a Thousand Trails campground. We took a walk around, relaxed and tried to send positive vibes back to Evans County Georgia. Being outside and taking in nature is the best medicine. We all cope in different ways.
We had stocked the van with several K.I.S.S. Airflow van window screens and quickly sold out. It is Spring and the bugs are out! We inactivated our Amazon listing and extended the shipping window on our Etsy account, while we made our way west. The whole point of us 'vanning' is to take our time. We are still learning how to do that.
We thought about heading north and getting into cooler weather but we decided to take a more direct route home. Our next stop was Piedmont, Missouri at the Clearwater Lake Dam US Army Corps of Engineers Campground. This spot was a real treat and practically empty.
We made our way toward Oklahoma and had another USACOE campground in mind. In Catoosa, OK just east of Tulsa on I-44 we were pulled over by Officer Walker. We were traveling the speed limit and couldn't imagine what the problem was. So we pulled over and he approached our van on the passenger side. I lowered the window and he asked me to open the door. So I did. He immediately started complimenting the van and saying how much he liked it. Then as a side note he said that lane sweeping was illegal in Oklahoma. We both looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language. He described the lane sweep and let us know when changing lanes you have to maintain each lane prior to moving into the next one. OK. He didn't ticket us but we learned about his son and their annual road trips to upstate New York. Oh, and he drives a red pickup and has a red boat that looks fast. Ok, I have to tell you this was the nicest officer I have ever encountered. He and his son love to fish and his son has been accepted by a few colleges including West Point. It is always great to meet folks, meeting them on the side of a major freeway is a bit hair-raising but cool nonetheless.
We carried on to Canton Lake USACOE Campground in Canton, OK and stayed at the newest looking, cleanest campground that you could ever imagine.
We met a full-time, boondocker, solo, grandmother that told us she pulls into the USACOE campgrounds when she wants to treat herself to a Spa-day! Considering the newness and cleanliness of this particular campground we definitely understood her perspective. We took advantage of their clean hot showers and got back on the road.
Since we had spoiled ourselves in USACOE and Thousand Trails campgrounds, we decided it was time to check our iOverlander app and find a spot on our route in New Mexico. As usual we scored a remote location near Edgewood, NM at the 5K Trailhead. There were so many spots to choose from and all provided the potential for a great sunset view.
Our final stop for this journey is Cottonwood, AZ. We do enjoy this area and wanted to check out the Thousand Trails for future travels. This trip is coming to an end and plans are in the works for future journeys. We are looking forward to doing a van conversion for my mom and being part of her travels.
Home on April 15, 2021