We made our way from Florida starting on Thursday, Feb 22nd. Friday we stopped in Tampa for our new stereo to be installed in the RV. Saturday night we were west of Tallahassee. Sunday morning we got up and had home-church (at some point we will write about this precious part of our on-the-road experience) and headed west, stopping near Baton Rouge.
|Here is Ben & Jack with Uncle Ned in Key West (due west of here is Mexico!).|
Up early Monday morning, we drove to Southwest Houston by supper time to meet up with Toni’s good friend, Mary Ann Parker.
Tuesday, we got up and drove 20 minutes to west Houston to have coffee with another good buddy, Pat Hunt. By 4pm on Tuesday (six days after leaving the southern most point of the contiguous United States), we arrived at our destination: Georgetown, Texas.
We park our RV right next to Toni’s sister, Jenni’s home which is located on 10+ acres. We still live in our RV, but our boys have so much fun with the Loden kids: Alex, Nathaniel, Micah & Elijah. You might remember them from the
We’ll be here in Texas for all of March and half of April before we start making our way back to Missouri by the first of May. Both Ben and Jack are excited to play league baseball in May and June with their buddies.
One day Jack announced that he wanted to make some money. Clearly he had made the connection between wage earning and toy acquisition. Flushed with the entrepreneurial fever, he decided he wanted to have a lemonade stand. Of course that meant – right now – at four oâ€™clock on Thursday afternoon. It was a determined spirit that we werenâ€™t going to be able to redirect so we ran with it. We talked to both boys about the great idea of a lemonade stand and encouraged them to make a plan instead of throwing one together. They created a fail proof business plan that included:
1. Advertising – colorful hand drawn posters announcing Saturdayâ€™s event
2. Demographic Analysis – thirsty grandmas and grandpas galore walking dogs, riding bikes and golf carts past our RV all day long = ca-ching, ca-ching
3. Cost of Doing Business Report – how much will grandma pay for that glass of lemonade that she charged 2 cents for (fresh squeezed) at HER lemonade stand?
4. Purchase of Supplies – having qualified for a small business loan from dad
5. Setting up Shop – creating that irresistible atmosphere
6. Crash Course in Customer Service – salesmen must be freshly showered, nicely dressed, handsomely coifed AND remember that grandmas are persnickety about germs – no sneezing, scratching funky body parts or spitting while serving!
On Saturday at 9:30 a.m. the shingle was hung and the boysâ€™ lemonade stand was open for business. Passersby were enticed, lured actually, with the sweetest invitation to stop by for a cold one. They had regular or sugar free, treats for FeeFee and IOUs available. Some walked by and smiled. Some werenâ€™t thirsty. Some had schedules to keep and this 3 minute lemonade stand stop was not on it. Others skidded their golf carts to an abrupt stop to get in on the fun. Most couldnâ€™t help but rush back with money to get to know these two little boys who had a wonderful idea. Even the community police officer stopped by. Joey, a tough, retired New York under cover cop (a big teddy bear actually), caught the thrill of the event instantaneously as he pulled up and demanded a permit from the boys. Next thing you know he had them spread eagle on the squad car scolding them over the charge of â€œhaving and illegal lemonade stand on the premises!â€ He couldnâ€™t pull himself away. He shared several stories of his exciting law enforcement career but painfully recalled how it demanded so much time away from his wife and three children. One day, in the middle of his busy life, he got a call telling him that his wife and 14 year old son were killed in a car accident. Joey totally got the lemonade stand. And so did we.
Ben and Jack were bored to distraction by 1:20, just ten minutes shy of closingâ€™ time. They learned a lot. The boys were each a cool $21 richer by 2p.m. That night while Jack lay next to me saying his prayers he thanked God for the lemonade stand and the money it made and he added, â€œGod, you can always have my lemonade for free.â€
This HAS to be the Becker record for fish caught in one afternoon! Every time I looked out the front window one of the boys was reeling in a fish. The final number today? 25 Mangrove Snapper AND they threw back more than they kept! The water off the dock is so clear and blue that, earlier today, they spotted a “giant grouper.” Ben convinced Brian to put a grunt-fish on a large hook and it actually took it! Brian fought the grouper for an exciting couple of minutes but then it got under a dock and broke the line. The grouper came back a little later in the day but wasn’t interested in the bait. Sadly…it is not among the whole mess of fish you see in the following picture.
We are settled at Bluewater Key, about 10 miles from Key West. Yes, back in the Keys, and we are waiting for a visit from my sister, Debbie, and her husband, Ned. They arrive tomorrow night and will celebrate Jack’s sixth birthday with us before leaving on the 20th.
I’m sorry, but I have to brag here.
The boys spend time every day doing art, so when Ben was asked to make a cover for his Wildlife of Florida booklet, this is what he drew. WOW! If you would like a frameable print, he said he’d sell copies of it for $25 each. 🙂
TITUSVILLE FLORIDA:From Texas, we drove back across the southern states once again all the way to Florida where we landed in Titusville, on Floridaâ€™s east coast, very close to the Kennedy Space Center. We all enjoyed having Sissy with us. We rang in 2007 by going to a late showing of Eragon which let out just before the midnight hour. We spent two days touring the Kennedy Space Center which is SO incredibly awesome I could write a whole blog about it. The rest of the time we just enjoyed hanging out with Sissy. We were sad to see her leave.
FIESTA KEY FLORIDA: After Titusville we drove down to the gorgeous Florida Keys for some serious fishing. The last time Brian and I were in the Keys was in the mid 90â€™s with about 20 kids from the youth group. We hooked up with Scott Welchâ€™s (our Pastor friend from Tampa) youth group and biked the Keys, staying at KOAâ€™s along the way. We reminisced about those good olâ€™ days as we set up for the next 7 days of fishing, swimming and more fishing. The Gulf was our back yard! Each morning the boys were out there catching Mangrove Snapper for dinner. They even reeled in a moray eel, stingray and a puffer fish! Those were just for looking at and letting go of course. What a marine life education they are getting. Ben studied the south Florida ecosystems for school and we enjoyed a hands on field trip to the Theatre of the Sea facility where they touched and actually got a smooch from a dolphin and a sea lion and watched a colorful Parrot show. They were taught about conservation and responsible fishing to help preserve the natural habitats of the vast array of marine life in the Florida Keys.
Brian booked a 6 hour sea fishing trip on a VERY, VERY WINDY day. The boat rocked and rolled, swaying wildly with each swell. Did I mention it was a VERY, VERY WINDY day? Thanks to a family from Canada we had dinner with the night before who gave us sea sick medicine, I did not violently spew all my innerds into the sea, not once, the whole trip. Brian was not so lucky. Jack passed out within an hour and awoke an hour before we made it back to shore. With eyes fixed on the horizon, not an easy thing on a VERY, VERY WINDY day, I enjoyed the amazing blue of the sea and the hypnotic effect of the sun sparkling across the waves. Oh, and I enjoyed watching Ben and Brian catch very big fish and thinking about eating very fresh fish for dinner. In all they caught enough to freeze for another day.
ORLANDO FLORIDA: It was a little tough to pull ourselves away from such a spectacular place but we had an exciting time ahead with Grams and Papa at their condo in Orlando. Each year Grams and Papa spend three weeks at Orange Lake Resort and the family is always welcome to join in on the fun. The last time we were there is when Jack was only one year old. He barely remembered the place but Ben remembered well the pool and putt-putt golf area. This visit was timely because the RV was scheduled for maintenance. I must say it was nice having a little more room – especially in the shower. Jack gets so excited now when he can spread out and play in the tub! After school time weâ€™d head to the pool and on the last day Papa took us to a water park on the property. The boys played hard but itâ€™s hard to wear Papa out. Heâ€™s such a kid! One night Grams and Papa treated us to dinner at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament where we got to eat with our fingers and watch Knights on beautifully dressed horses entertain and compete for the King and Princess. That was lots of fun! We thoroughly enjoyed our week at Orange Lake with Grams and Papa.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH FLORIDA: On Sunday, January 21, Brian and I did music at Scott Welchâ€™s church – Fresh Start Church – in Oldsmar (Tampa). We always enjoy what Scott has to say, how unafraid he is to tell it like he sees it. He is refreshing to listen to and to talk with because heâ€™s always stretching, growing and wrestling with stuff. It is so nice to have a friend you can say things to and know that heâ€™s not judging you, he trusts you and he accepts you just the way you are. I strongly encourage you to check out his sermons online at http://www.freshstartchurch.com and see what Iâ€™m talking about. This time we got to meet his wife, Lori, and have Tijuana Flats lunch after church with them, their kids, Keenan and Marissa, and several people from his staff. Once again Scott let us stay in his condo on Indian Rocks beach while the RV was in service and once again it was such a blessing. The weather turned pretty cold and rainy which made fishing less of an option but it is a wonderful thing to be able to look out your windows and see the ocean. I could get used to that.
ORLANDO AND TITUSVILLE (AGAIN): We spent a couple of nights boon docked near the Parentsâ€™ condo in Orlando. Most of the time was spent at Orange Lake hanging out with mom, dad, Aunt Dianne, and momâ€™s cousin, Caroline, whoâ€™d come to visit from Fredricktown Missouri. As the Missourians headed back to their wintery Missouri, we packed up Aunt Dianne and headed back up to Titusville. Aunt Dianne spent five days with us there. We got lots of great hanging out time with her even though the weather continued to be rainy and cold. The boys KNOW that if they ask Aunt Dianne to play with them the answer is likely to be â€œSure!â€œ so they took full advantage of her playful self. Sheâ€™s not going to settle for watching them play video games or watch TV, sheâ€™s going to insist on something more inventive and imaginative and sheâ€™ll spend hours doing it. I really admire her for that. (Check out her website http://www.diannebecker.com and see for yourself how inventive and imaginative she is.) For a school field trip we went to the Jungle Adventure Nature Park where we got real close to Florida Panthers, Black Bears, Gray Wolves, White-Tailed Deer, tropical birds, and other reptiles and mammals. We petted a baby alligator and the boys had a four foot Python wrapped around their necks. We took a jungle swamp cruise and were surrounded by dozens of alligators. We saw how Spanish Conquistadores lived in the 16th Century at a Replica Spanish Fort and went on a Live Guided Exploration of a Native American Indian Village Replica. Before we took Aunt Dianne to the airport we went on an airboat ride on Lake Tohopekaliga (the lady in the bait shop couldnâ€™t even pronounce it so have at it!) We experienced the central Florida everglades with its native wildlife in style, flying (at times) in a very loud airboat through the wetlands, catching glimpses of exotic birds, turtles and alligators in their own natural environment. The boys fished a while but caught nothing and then we were off to find a spot to have dinner before dropping Aunt Dianne off at the airport. We found, of all things, a German restaurant and ate stuff like wurst and schnitzel and goulash. It beat BK or Dennyâ€™s all to heck. We said goodbye to Aunt Dianne and headed back to the RV.
Many people have called and asked if we made it through yesterday’s storms. We were safe from the tornadic weather, but found ourselves in the outskirts of the band of weather with plenty of lightening and thunder.
The night of the storm, I was going to bed at midnight when the winds really started blowing. As one who now lives in a non-permanent structure, any major wind causes us to check the weather channel. I saw the band of weather and it showed the dangerous weather was going north of us but stayed awake another hour and a half to make sure we were safe. Toni was awakened several times in the middle of the night from the lightning and thunder. Storms feel so much closer when your four walls and roof are so thin.
We want to thank everyone for your prayers and phone calls! We feel fortunate that we were safe from the destruction of the storm.