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Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering with Honor



My grandfather passed away 33 years ago.  He was 92 at that time and lived a full life.  He was a kindly man who spent his retirement years painting pictures.  He was already 70 when I was born.  He was in my life but I didn't know who he really was.

I had heard my mom once talking about my grandfather's military service.  She said he was a machine gunner in the English Army in the first World War and had been hospitalized for Trench Foot.  That was all I ever heard about it.

My grandfather was born in Southend-on-Sea in England in 1885.  He grew up in a family that had much artistic ability.  He came to the United States in 1912, evidently planning to stay.  In the following years, he traveled around the U.S. and Canada, that must be where I get my wanderlust to travel in our RV. ;c)

A couple of years ago I decided to look into how he was involved in WWI.  I found out many things, but not the whole story.

When the war broke out in 1914, my grandfather was still here in the U.S. and I'm sure was following things closely.  In late 1916 or early 1917, at age 32, he returned to England and enlisted in the Army.  The branch he chose was the Machine Gun Corps (MGC).

From my research, I was shocked to find that then men in the MGC were known as "Suicide Jockeys" because they were the first to be targeted by attacking German troops.  The machine gunners could do the most damage to the enemy and had to be eliminated as quickly as possible.  The MGC had some of the highest casualty rates as any branch of the English Army.  To be a member of the MGC, the soldier had to be of the highest physical and mental ability.

This was my grandfather, quiet and reserved.  I never knew he possessed those qualities.

My research into his military record hit a dead end.  In World War II, during the German bombing "Blitz" on London, the record repository where English military records were stored was destroyed and with it about 90% of the WWI files, my grandfather's included.

I hired a researcher in England to look into things and from shreds of records and official war diaries and casualty roles, I tracked down a basic outline of his service.  He trained in the MGC and deployed to France in November 1917.  He probably fought during some of the fiercest battles, in either Ypres, or the Somme. The fact that he had suffered from Trench Foot showed that he spent prolonged periods of time standing in water in the horrible trenches where soldiers from both sides lived, fought and too often died.

 He was awarded two medals:


The British War Medal (Also know as the "Bread and Butter Medal" because of its silver content.  Many English veterans sold the medal during the Great Depression to buy food while they were out of work).


                                         The Victory Medal.

I talked with my mom and dad about this and they surprised me by producing my grandfather's medals.  They gave them to me, knowing how much that would mean and that I would treasure them.


My grandfather survived the war without any physical wounds.  What I learned later was that the war never left him.

After my grandfather was demobilized and left the Army, he returned to the U.S. and became a citizen.  He met my grandmother and married and led a quiet life as a master cabinet maker.

Years later, after my grandmother had passed away, he came to live in our home.  He had his own room next to mine where he enjoyed the rest of his years peacefully watching baseball and smoking his collection of pipes.  He did, however suffer from bad dreams and often times would moan loudly in his sleep, unable to wake up.  I'd have to go in to his room and gently shake him until he awoke.  He'd thank me and then roll over and go back to sleep.  None of my family thought to much about this, but now I realize that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and never received any help for it.

I tracked down the MGC hat device that the soldiers wore on eBay.   Crossed machine guns under the English Royal Crown.


 Now I have a shadow box to put everything in in a nice display to remember my grandfather, Private Oscar W. Measom, 121758, Machine Gun Corps, English Army.  My military roots go back to him and his service during a terrible time in the world.


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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Welcoming Home Our Hero.

It came as a total shock. None of us saw it coming.  Our son-in-law, Brian, a LT in the U.S. Navy Reserve was called up to active duty to serve a year in Afghanistan...with the U.S. Army!

It turned his family upside down.  His boys, Andrew and Owen (our grandsons) were too young to understand the sacrifice they were making in support of their daddy.  Heather was going to be a single mom for the year Brian was gone.

It was really hard, Marti and I and Brian's parents stepped up and tried to fill the void, but we couldn't replace him.  Brian did keep us all updated with emails and pictures of him in Afghanistan.


He even got a fancy set of wheels to drive around in.


An occasional picture came showing some of the lighter side of his deployment.


Brian and his team dressed in the local garb, called "Man Jammies".

No matter how much the emails and pictures helped, it wasn't the same.  We even tried to included Brian via a webcam for his son Owen's birthday party.


You could see the homesickness in Brian's eyes. 


But the day came!  Heather had a great surprise in store to welcome Brian home.


The city hall had a big banner put up.  Heather had a huge surprise party set up at the town's VFW hall.


Everybody pitched in, Andrew's class at school made the American flag by using their hands to paint the red, white and blue colors.

 

Heather decorated each table with a theme of important events that Brian missed, Halloween, Independence Day, even Andrew's first soccer game.


Andrew and Owen were dressed to match their daddy's uniform.




It was a great time, many friends and relatives turned out to welcome him home.

But the best part was to see Brian and Heather together again.


Brian came home okay, he did his duty and served his country. We are so very proud of him.

  This Memorial Day, let us not forget all the brave men and women of all the wars that were not able to come home and be reunited with their families.  We are blessed with freedom and security because of their sacrifices.



Long may the flag wave over our country because of all who served!


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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marti's Musings - Altered Thinking


Before you get the wrong idea on 'Altered Thinking', let me clarify.  I am not referring to drug altered, nor alcohol altered thinking (sorry to disappoint some of you, LOL)

Rather, I am referring to how we, Paul and I, are thinking these days, as we make purchases and plan for improvements for the 'stick n brick' house.


In the past, we purchased rather randomly, and at a whim (within reason - unless we were buying for the grandkids *wink*).


These days, however, when we are shopping for things for the house, or even for ourselves, my mind immediately goes to: "'Can we take that with us?" "What will we DO with it when we are ready to hit the road?" And invariably, if we STILL feel we need to purchase whatever-it-is, I have already half decided which child would want or could use whatever-it-is. 

Our conversations invariably go something like this: 

"Do you think we should get whatever-it is?"

"I don't know, what do you think?" 

"Well, the grandkids would love it (hee hee), but what will we do with it when we hit the road?"

 "Good point." or "We could sell it on Ebay" or "So-and-so could use it" or (rarely) "We could take it with us".

More often than not, these days, we walk away from it.  There have been a few exceptions this year however.  In great anticipation of the grandkids visiting this summer, we purchased an above ground inflatable 4' x 18' pool.  (Of course, we had to get HOA approval, grrrr - don't get me started on THAT topic!)


This weekend, as we are RV-less, we have cleared the ground and will begin setting up and filling the pool, so it won't be frigid when the kids get here.  Yup, I have already half decided which child will want this pool when we hit the road (anticipating it will still be in good condition at that point in time).

This is a change for us, or at least for me.  It let's me know that the reality of full-timing has actually hit home.  Even as I sit home in the evenings, de-stressing from the day, my mind invariable goes to different areas of the home that need cleaning out, and we have already discussed who-will-want-what when the final stages come.  That line of thinking can get overwhelming, as we have 12 years of accumulated junk - proof positive that I have pack rat tendencies and difficulty letting things go.... (See my previous post regarding our decision to not get rid of EVERYTHING when we finally hit the road)

Events from this past week may be early warning signs that the time may be approaching sooner rather than later.  At times that causes a quickening of the heart, part fear and part excitement - at other times it creates a deep longing for that time to come very soon.  The times of longing are happening much more frequently, and that, my friends tells me that my thinking has altered from the past.

The get-ready-task for this weekend is weeding out our overstocked coat closet.  Our goal is to complete at least one task a weekend, and get rid of one box in the basement a weekend.  (OK, we will have to speed THAT up, or we wouldn't be able to head out for the next century!)


 Last summer, we spent weekends travelling, relaxing and doing little else. See? Altered thinking.


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Friday, May 28, 2010

Number 106100


I put it off just too long.  I always had an excuse, no time, budget too tight, I'll get to it later.

However, the closer and closer we get to our full time adventure, it couldn't be put off any longer.

What am I talking about?  Escapees RV Club, we finally joined.  And we are now number 106100.  Just a few people have joined before us.

I know many of you folks out there are already Escapees (aka SKPs), but there are some that are not aware of the club and what it has to offer, so please bear with me.

I went to the Escapee Website and joined online.

                                                   SKPs

It was easy, filled out the form, sent my dues and a week later I got a package in the mailbox.

It contained the following items:



Two very nice club stickers.


The Escapee magazine with some really excellent articles.


The member handbook with all the scoop on what benefits you have by being an SKP.


The Escapee Travel Guide, listing all the SKP  Rainbow park, Co-ops and other campgrounds that offer discounted camping to SKP members.


The information about the various parks in the SKP system are listed state-by-state.


And last, but not least, our membership cards.

So what good is all this for $70 the first year and $60 annually after that?

The Escapee RV Club is an organization dedicated primarily to full time RV travelers.  They have many services to offer, from mail forwarding, to a dedicated forum where you can get outstanding advice from  experts that have been on the road for many years, real been-there-done-that folks.  Along with rallies, called Escapades, where many seminars are presented, there are also fun activities.  Escapees  also hosts CARE, where RVer's that have health issues and cannot travel are able to still live in their RV and receive professional help to do things they are not able to do themselves.

The most important reason to join is you will have a voice in legal and legislative issues that affect you as an RV owner.  Numbers count and our number is 106100.

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave a comment.  We love e-mail too!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pass the soap.


It was hot and humid in Branson, MO.  We still had a couple of vacation days left, so on a whim, we pointed the motorhome North and ended up here:


We were amazed at the power and beauty of Niagara Falls.


Being the thrill seekers we are, we had to get close to the falls.


Still wasn't close enough, so we took the trip down to the bottom of the American Falls where you can walk on a wooden deck right up to the cascading water.


You are provided with a raincoat and a pair of rubber slippers for a small fee before you head up the steps to the falls.


You still get a little wet.  But there was more bathing to come.  We couldn't let all that nice water go to waste.


So we boarded one of the Maid of the Mist boats that run right up to the bottom of Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the falls.  They actually run right into the rising mists at the bottom of the falls.


My favorite red head.  Get the blow dryer ready!


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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

First flat on the road and it wasn't even my fault!

We have a list of places we want to visit and things we'd like to see.  We fiddled around with our schedules until they clicked at the same time and we were off to Branson, MO. for our first visit.


I always get the motorhome ready the day before, bring it home from the storage lot and plug it in to cool down the 'fridge.  I also check over all the fluids and the last thing I check before we pull out is the tire pressures on both the motorhome and the toad.

We left after everything was checked and tires were topped off to the correct pressures.  It was going to be a great trip.

Several hours later, we stopped at a Flying J to fill the gas tank.  There was a long line to get to all the fuel pumps and this Flying J was an older one, with no separate RV pumps like most of the newer ones have.

We didn't care, we were not on any schedule, there was no time pressure for a change.  It was a nice feeling.


I pulled up in line, picked the farthest lane to the right to try and make it easier for the many cars needing gas.  I waited as the two RV's in front of me filled up and pulled away.  Finally it was my turn, so up I pulled.

My gas tank fill was on the left side.  I hopped out the right side door and walked back around the toad and then up the left side to the pump.  There was a line of cars at each pump and a couple behind me.  The car right behind me had a bunch of college aged kids in it and they were complaining loudly about the wait, probably for my benefit. 

I moved as fast as I could and as soon as I finished I climbed in my driver's side door.  I always do a walk around and look at all my tires and tow hitch, but I didn't this time because I was trying to be considerate and drove off  to not delay any of the cars behind me.

We just started down the road and a car pulled up along side us beeping their horn.  I looked over and the passenger was pointing to the back of our motorhome.  Not knowing exactly what was wrong, I quickly drove off to the shoulder and got out to look.

The right rear tire on the toad was almost flat.  I was glad the nice people in the car had alerted me, because I might not have noticed it was low on air until it blew out and did real damage, or even caused an accident

We slowly pulled off the road at the next exit and found a safe place to change the tire.  I put on the tiny doughnut spare.  We checked in our Next Exit book and found a Super Walmart at the next exit  (no pun intended) where we could get the tire fixed.  I looked and couldn't see any reason for the loss of air.  No nails, screws or holes.



We got to the Walmart and I took the tire into the Tire shop.  The tech put the tire in a water tank after filling it with air and with both of us looking at it, we could not find any hole or leak causing the flat.

I was quite puzzled and didn't know what to think.  As I looked out at the motorhome and toad, I noticed the right front tire was low, too.  I went out and checked the tire with my gauge and it had only about 15 psi in it instead of the correct 35 psi.  I was really puzzled for a couple of seconds until it dawned on me.

When I had been fueling up, the kids in the car behind me let air out of my tires to get back at me for taking so long and causing them a short delay. I couldn't see them from where I was pumping the gas and Marti never stepped out of the motorhome.

 I should have ignored their loud complaints and done my normal check, I would have caught the low tire before I pulled out.  But since I was trying to be the nice guy and rushed my routine, I drove off and almost had a real problem.

I proved my theory by filling my tires to the correct air pressure and checking them repeatedly for the next hour to be absolutely certain before we pulled out.  I checked them again and again the whole way to Branson and had no further problems.  In fact, I never had to add air to them again right up until the time they wore out.

Now, no matter what, I double check everything every time I stop and before I roll again.  It boggles my mind that those kids, because they were impatient, would vandalize my tires like that to "punish" me for taking up a few minutes of their time.

It was a minor issue that could have been very bad, but we didn't let it ruin our trip.  We had a blast, saw a bunch of great shows and really enjoyed the show put on by Yakov Smirnoff!


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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Having your cake and eating it too.

Today's post has absolutely nothing to do with RVing.  Once and a while, you have to break away and do something different and what Marti and I did I wouldn't have missed for anything.

Today we attended the Change of Command ceremony for Admiral Thad W. Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, who after serving in that capacity for four years turned over the helm to Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr.  The ceremony was held in Washington, DC at Fort McNair.


The reason I went was because I had been on Admiral Allen's staff for two years and traveled throughout United States and all over the world with him on official business.  It was one of the best jobs I've ever had.



Over 3000 people attended and it was quite an occasion.


The really cool thing was the specialty cakes, carefully hand crafted by some of the Coast Guards finest chefs.  The following pictures are all items that are cakes.






All good things must come to an end, Admirals Papp and Allen cutting the cakes.

Afterwards, we went to Admiral Allen's retirement picnic.  There was one more cake there.  Note the figures of Admiral and Mrs. Allen on the bow.


I wished my former boss the best of luck in his retirement.


No uniforms, picnic attire!  I never did eat any cake, they were just too beautiful.

Now I better go read an RV magazine and get back on track! ;c)

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