We stayed in the Raleigh area longer than we planned, and had to revise our trip south. The RV park where we wanted to stay in the Jacksonville, FL area was full so we spent a couple of days at the Navy Submarine Base in Kings Bay, GA. It was a fortunate choice because we discovered some friends from Key West were camped there as well. We brought each other up on our adventures since last winter. They were headed straight to Key West and we were going to Tampa so we planned to see each other after the first of the year. While at Kings Bay I discovered my sister and her husband were vacationing in Cocoa Beach and made plans to see them.
The best place to stay in the Cocoa Beach area is the Manatee Cove RV Park at Patrick AFB. They are undergoing a lot of construction and they only had room for us in their overflow parking lot. As we were only staying overnight, that worked fine for us. We met Gerry and Susan for dinner and a short walk on the beach. What a fortunate occasion to be able to see them so far from Michigan!
On December 2nd, we pulled into Raccoon Creek RV Park at MacDill AFB. MacDill is a very popular campground for snowbirds and we were only able to get a site in dry camp (no water, sewer, or electric hookups). This isn’t a problem for us as we are prepared for dry camping and expected that only dry camp would be available. We met up with some friends from Michigan, Dick and Marti. Dick had been one of my NCOs when I was a company commander back in Michigan and a few years ago we discovered that they spend the winter at MacDill. Even though we were dry camping we still decorated for Christmas, including our “Christmas Tree” of lights.
The volunteers at Raccoon Creek are a busy group and schedule a weekly potluck on Friday nights, Sunday worship service, Tuesday dinner trips and more. It makes it very easy to get involved with our temporary community. There was a “Welcome Back” party to kick off the winter season that was a lot of fun.
Our niece, Robin, and her kids live in the Tampa area and we always look forward to spending time with them. They enjoy joining us at the trailer and we joined them for worship at their church. It is a large church featuring a contemporary worship and is growing in multiple locations around Tampa.
For the past few years we have volunteered with “Wreaths Across America” to place wreaths on graves of veterans, making sure that they are not forgotten during the holiday season. This year we found a small cemetery run by the American Legion and joined a large group of volunteers to place the wreaths. On Dec 16th we flew back to Michigan for Christmas with our family. Our first stop was in the Lansing area for our annual doctor appointments. We met our son, Dave, for dinner at DeLuca’s, our favorite pizza place. We are all convinced that there isn’t a better place for pizza in the whole country!
Our longtime friends, Susan and Gary Aten, again opened their home to us while we were in town. We finished our Christmas shopping, had dinner with Roger and Darcy, friends from Grand Ledge, and joined Susan and Gary for church.
Susan and Gary have a Christmas tradition of decorating Christmas cookies with their extended family. We had a great time helping the grandkids decorating cookies. It was lots of fun to see how focused they were and the different ways they approached the task. When we were done, there were dozens of cookies that were shared across the family – what a nice tradition!
Monday, we finished our appointments and drove to Bad Axe. We usually look forward to a white Christmas, but that was not to be this year. The temperatures were higher than normal and we were treated to rain and fog, instead of snow.
Visiting with Pat’s family at Christmas has been a tradition for years. The extended family is so large that we rent the small civic center, “commonly referred to as the ‘Hall,'” in the town of Elkton. With a potluck dinner involving that many families there is always plenty of food. This is often the only time that we have to see some of our relatives and it makes a great time for visiting and catching up with the latest developments in the family.
After the dinner at the hall we returned to Pat’s brother’s house for the family gift exchange. We had a wonderful time exchanging gifts, eating, and playing games well into the night. With people sleeping in almost every room in the house, it is a testament to the hospitality of Geri and Marcia.
On December 28th we went back to the Lansing area for one last medical appointment, had a final lunch with Dave, then drove to Detroit for an early flight the next morning. After more than a week of mild temperatures, we had snow and freezing rain on our last day. Fortunately our flight was on time and without any incidents, and we returned to the warmth and sunshine of Florida.