The lead title on this post is a phrase that is familiar to any Navy veteran who ever spent time aboard ship. It indicates the taking in of the last mooring line attaching the ship to a dock or buoy, and the lowering of the national ensign (US flag) at the stern and the simultaneous raising of the flag at the masthead, as high as it can be flown on the ship’s upper mast. It also signals that the ship is heading to sea on her next mission. In our case, we recently “got underway” in our motor coach for our 2018 Messages of Hope Tour. This summer’s voyage will take us through 28 states and 3 Canadian provinces. We are looking forward to making lots of new friends, and renewing acquaintances with old friends. Please let us know if we’re passing through your area and we can try to link up. (A rough map of our trip is posted on the right side of this page.)
We departed The Villages at the end of March, and stopped for the first night at Falling Waters State Park in Chipley, FL. After a long day’s drive, we were delighted to set up camp in a pleasant setting of pines and sinkholes. A 4 mile hike covered the entire park and Florida’s highest waterfall.
Our next stop was in Covington, Louisiana, where we caught up with my sister Karen and her partner Debbie. They had prepared a Cajun feast, with crawfish bread (a “to-die-for” treat) and about 20 lbs of boiled crawfish with accompanying corn and potatoes boiled in Cajun seasoning. (It WILL set your mouth on fire!)
Suzanne got to spend some quality time with Nicole Reilly, a medium who lives in Covington and who had given both my sister and me very accurate and evidential readings.
We also went to dinner with Karen and Debbie at a fabulous Covington restaurant… if you’re ever in the area, Del Porto is amazing. I had one of the best meals ever – appetizer of fresh Mozzarella with confit tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, anchovies and olive oil over crostini; main course was pan-seared duck breast with sweet potato mash and Luxardo cherry sauce. Oh, and did I mention a scrumptious Tiramisu? And a delicious Michael David Petite Petit (a petite sirah and petit verdot blend).
Our campground on Covington was at Fairview Riverside State Park, in Tangibihoa Parish on the Tchefuncte River. The setting was serene and typically Deep South.
We kayaked the narrow, winding upper reaches of the Tchefuncte, but forgot our camera and phones back in the car. Boating is popular, and fishing for striped bass, largemouth bass, catfish and sac-a-lait (crappie) is excellent. We saw one guy cleaning his catch, which would have easily fed a platoon of hungry Marines.
A boardwalk through a swampy area was surrounded by wild orchids (I think… help from knowledgeable gardeners in identifying this flower would be much appreciated).
One final Tchefuncte River photo – in the background is a riverside estate with a palatial home, several large white columns and numerous statues in the garden. It could be owned by an Italian mob family, or perhaps by a very successful (Italian) crawfish vendor… and there ain’t many of them out in the bayous… this is Cajun (AKA “Coonass” Country!)
From Louisiana, we drove long days through Texas to Silver City, New Mexico, where we stayed for four nights in a small family campground with great sunset views…
When we arrived in Silver City, we linked up with friends – Scott and Denise have had a reading with Suzanne, and last year took us hiking. We had two great dinners out in this delightful town, and Scott gave me some recommendations for places to go backpacking.
I only had time for a two-day backpacking trip, but the Continental Divide Trail runs through the area… It’s 3,100 miles long, from the US-Mexico border to the US-Canada border, running through New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. I couldn’t do the whole trail in two days, so I settled for a short section between Pinos Altos, NM, and the Twin Sisters, 8,341 ft peaks in Gila National Forest.
Here’s a Shout-out and thank-you to our good friend Brad and his US Forest Service buddies for their great work in making America’s forests accessible, safe and user-friendly for us city folks!
My Lovely Bride wanted to see me off on my trek, and hiked in a couple of miles with me, and then returned to the car – Rudy and Gretchen were back at the coach and had to be taken care of. There was absolutely no one on the trail that day, and she carried bear spray with her, just in case. (Not to use against me, but any psychopathic coyotes she might meet. In any event, her return trip was uneventful.)
This was my first overnight backpack since turning 70, and we had just come from sea level to 8,000 feet. I will admit that it was a hard hike, what with carrying 30 lbs of my normal gear plus 5 liters of water (the area is very dry, with nary a single spring for many miles). The other “issue” was a distinct lack of comfortable campsites. I am not a hedonist… well, let me re-phrase that… I am not a wuss… but I don’t particularly care to sleep on bread basket-sized rocks and chunks of lava, which is what most of this area is blessed with. So when I passed a nice stand of pines with a relatively soft forest floor, I said to myself, “Self, if we can’t find a nicer place than this to spend the night, we’re coming back here!” And indeed, this was the best place for miles to set up camp.”
For those interested in the culinary aspects of backpacking, let me show you my kitchen… here we see an Esbit stove (11 oz. with fuel tabs, compared to 23 oz. for my MSR butane stove), protected by some well-placed rocks for a windbreak, with all of the duff scraped away to prevent the forest floor from catching fire. The Esbit’s “pot” holds a voluminous 585 ml (19.7 oz) of water, which two fuel tabs will bring to a not-quite-rolling boil in about 7 minutes. That was enough for my gourmet dinner of Spanish rice and chicken, and a cup of coffee in the morning to go with my blueberry crisp Clif Bar. (No, I wasn’t going to gain weight on this trip.)
We departed Silver City this morning and are now at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson for one night. Our arrival at the base was somewhat eventful – the female airman (that is a rank, and has nothing to do with her gender) looked at our ID cards, saluted, and said, “Have a good one.” On a Marine Corps base, the gate guard would salute and say, “Oooh-Rah, Sir! Welcome to Camp Pendleton!” On an Army base, we would be greeted with, “Hoo-ah, Sir! Welcome to Fort Bragg!” Even on a Navy base, we would hear, “Good morning, Sir! Welcome to Submarine Base Bangor!” But “Have a good one”???? Only the ChAir Force could think that one up…