We all get them. We all give them. Whether we plan to or not, there are ways that we just want to help others and allow others to help us as well. I know this, but this past month has been one big lesson of the power of friendship and love.
When we decided to take the trip to PA, we knew that there was something much bigger happening all around us. From the initial phone call that led to us totally changing our course to help provide some peace and solace for a man who had been given news that his life was coming to an end…to providing comfort for several families when we returned to the Western NC/East TN/SW VA areas in times of great life changing events. It seemed that we were placed in those places for a purpose. All we knew was that we needed to act, without even thinking, to whatever we needed to do in those moments.
It’s all about love, isn’t it? And not the conditional “if you do something for me, Ill do something for you” type of love. No, this love is unconditional…it is the love that you just give because it is within. You see a person hurting and in need and you want to reach out to that person because we are human beings living life together on this earth.
We didn’t really know the full intention of our trip east. We thought that we were going to be there for some wonderful people in our lives and then get back to our travel plans.
Then, we ended up being in need. In one day, we found ourselves needing some comfort and solace. One of our beloved pets got out of the RV at the last campground we stayed and ended up getting hurt very badly and passing away. We had moved on 4 hours away before we had realized what had happened. Friends, true friends, stepped in and took our place by looking for our cat, finding her and then burying her. I’m crying as I type this at the love that was shown in this action. Love, given freely…unconditionally.
Since then, we have been blessed with people that I know have been placed in our path to be refreshment to us. Our close friends in Nashville, then meeting up with friends in Alabama unexpectedly that have been a constant source of encouragement.
It has caused us to reevaluate this life of traveling with our family and what the purpose really is…and it isn’t about us.
It’s about connection, listening intently to what our next steps should be and to love.
“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Jesus
We have some very dear friends that we met in East TN and they recently moved to Alabama, so when we were planning to come through their area (or at least close!), we knew we would have to stop in for a visit!
And as we thought, we were welcomed with open arms! We had a great day spending time with them, chatting, playing chess, a golf game for the guys and then dinner at Mellow Mushroom. Luckily, we’ll be in the area for a few more days and we’ll be able to connect with them again before we leave. I love those forever friendships! No matter what happens in life and the distance that develops, there’s always that connection that remains constant. Looking forward to seeing them again in a few days!
I’ll try to get more pics when we see them again on Wednesday… we were having so much fun, I didn’t think to take some until after we were gone. We did have a fabulous time and can’t wait to do it again!
Beauty and Blessing Awaits,
Getting to Alabama was quite an interesting journey. I’ll save you from having to read all the details but I will say this….what should have been a 5 1/2 hour trip, turned into 9. But hey, we made it in one piece and we arrived to see a beautiful campground with a very friendly and helpful host, so all is very well.
Hannah made some new friends this morning, a family that is full timing as well, so that was a fun connection. Unfortunately, they were leaving today and playtime was cut short, but they are actually going to some of the same spots that we are in TX, so we may just see them again very soon!
We are planning to see some very dear friends in a few days while we are here, so we are looking forward to that outing. Where we are located is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, Alabama. About 30 minutes to the closest grocery, about an hour from the closest Walmart, no cell service….you get the idea. But we have very good internet access and lots of beauty surrounding us, so we are a happy little family.
Beauty and blessing awaits,
This was our view the morning that we left Bluff City. New tow dolly with car attached, ready to cruise down the road a few hours. Wow, it feels good to be able to tow our car!
The trip was quite enjoyable for a first trip with the RV after 3 1/2 months. Everything went very smoothly. Hannah loves being able to help in any way she can and really enjoys washing the windows of the RV….and apparently posing for the picture!
We arrived in Pigeon Forge by early afternoon and got settled into our campground at Pine Mountain RV Park. It was a beautiful park with all the amenities we needed. Great pool and we had access to the pool at the hotel next door which had a lazy river and an indoor/outdoor pool. There was also access to a trolley, but we didn’t take advantage of that on this trip. It was very centrally located to everything we needed and we loved it.
Our first day there we decided to take it easy and relax and the pool. We had a bit of rain as well, so we spent some time indoors and then later on, went out for ice cream. The following day, we took a trip to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. We had a fun time finding a place to park , but the walk to the aquarium was nice. It’s located right along the river and was a beautiful view.
There was a dinosaur exhibit there when we took the tour and we saw some incredible replicas of prehistoric animals. There were also animatronic dinosaurs, but we didn’t visit them. They looked amazing from a distance, though!
The following day, we took a trip to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. What a great park! I had never visited there before, so it was a new experience for all of us. There was so much to do and we were not able to go to every section of the park…definitely could get a multi day pass for this one. We were so glad we were able to go!
Hannah enjoyed trying on many hats while we were there and acted out the part of each one! She’s an imaginative gal!
This one made me so dizzy, I had to close my eyes for part of the ride….and wait a few minutes before I tried to walk. Hannah loved it, though. This is one of her favorite rides.
We took a tour of Dolly’s bus. It was really gorgeous inside. There was a photographer inside the bus, so I didn’t take any pictures while there, but I did find this video if you want to see the inside yourself. (It’s not the greatest quality and it’s rather long, but you can still see quite a bit of the decor) We had planned to visit the museum there, called Chasing Rainbows, but Dolly was actually inside doing some interviews to unveil her new changes to the park, so it was closed for the day.
Dolly knows how to build a playground….complete with shade and high powered fans. I wish every playground was equipped with these!
And our last stop of the day was for some fresh baked cinnamon bread, located inside a working mill. Awesome bread!
The following morning, we headed out for our trip to Alabama. It was a great time in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, a place that we would love to visit again, for a little bit longer.
Beauty and Blessing Awaits,
The last 4 1/2 months have been spent in Bluff City, TN. In some ways, the time has really flown by and in some ways, we have been waiting patiently for this time to arrive.
A few things that I am thankful that we have accomplished this summer:
The park that we have stayed in has been just wonderful. The owners, the workers, the residents and all the friends that we have met here…they have all been such a blessing. Hannah put it well this morning: “The people that work here are so nice. They have the spirit.” And I think that is it, there is a spirit of community and friendship here that you don’t see in many places. We are thankful to have been a part of it all for even a short time.
We were able to clear out one of our storage units. This was such a huge load off of us (literally) and even though we do still have one unit and we could simplify even more, it is definitely progress.
We were able to see and visit with so many people while here. We are so blessed with great friends and family that we love dearly. We look forward to crossing paths again in the future, but until then, we are so thankful that we can still connect online.
Hannah celebrated her 7th birthday here. It was a great time, with her special friends and will be one to remember, for sure.
Gymnastics and horseback riding lessons for Hannah…pool time, visits to the Bristol Public Library, exploring the area…visits to book and music stores for Dylan…lots of campfire chats, events at the campground, boat tours, walks to the lake, shows, dinners, playground and park fun…so many memories!
We were able to get our tow dolly a few weeks ago! We are super excited and so thankful to my mom and dad and our neighbor, Bob who helped us make that a reality. We will be able use it for the first time tomorrow. It will be SO great to be able to tow our car with us!
I know there are so many more things that I am missing, but it really goes without saying that we have been blessed in many, many ways.
Thanks for the hospitality, East TN. We will miss you, but will see you again….sometime.
Beauty and Blessing Awaits,
Actually, not only did Hannah’s birthday happen on August 4th, but her adoption day is also celebrated on that day. Seven years ago, this precious girl was born and five years ago we became her forever family. I love saying that. She never has to worry again whether about the family she is with….we are together forever.
So, we turned the birthday celebration into a three day event….isn’t that what birthdays are for? And shouldn’t we celebrate them as long as possible? We always love a reason for a party!!
We began the party on Saturday, the day before her birthday, for a party with her friends in Bristol and Abingdon at the campground that we are currently staying. They have a pavilion and small party room that we could use and since we have been staying there all summer, they offered it to us for free. Have a mentioned that I love the hosts at this campground?
The following day, we had an appointment for Hannah to go the The Beehive, a spa for girls, in Johnson City, TN. She loved it and I loved watching her be pampered on her birthday. This was a place I would want to hang out for a long time….so cozy!
Later, we traveled to Boone, NC to see family and celebrate a bit more.
Later that evening, Steve played a concert in Blowing Rock and we were able to attend and see some friends that we haven’t seen in quite some time. Fun night and awesome time celebrating Hannah.
A huge thanks to everyone that made Hannah’s birthday one of the best celebrations so far! We love you all!!
Beauty and Blessing Awaits,
We have been part of a group called, Full Time Families, for quite some time. Even before we bought our RV, we made some connecti0ns online with others that were already living the life that we were dreaming of living. The online group has been incredibly supportive and patient as we pondered question after question regarding the full time RVing lifestyle….from earning a living on the road, what to do with all of our stuff, class A or fifth wheel, towing…the list goes on. Each question was met with an eager and helpful response and the group has been such a life saver for us. To know that there are so many others on the same path and journey as we are, is very refreshing and many times, inspiring.
We had the opportunity to not only connect with others online, but also meet them in person! We arrived at the Fulltime Families Winter Rally in Live Oak, FL and made some of the best friends ever! We arrived a few days ahead of the actual rally and the campfire talks began. Our kids played together and lifelong relationships were formed.
What a ride! Oh, my goodness. To say we had a great time is an incredible understatement…really. It took us so much time, money and persistence to get there, but we are so glad we did. This is an experience not to be missed, for sure. One thing that really struck me as a very real part of this group was this: When I first thought of the term ‘Full Time Families’, I thought of units of families getting together that live full time on the road. But it is SO much more than that. It goes beyond that thought. Fulltime Families IS a family. Many people coming from different backgrounds, looking beyond those differences and coming together to support and encourage each other because we are in this life together. I love that. And I love this group.
Beauty and Blessing Awaits,
We’ve had lots of fun, here in PA…went to see Jonah at Sight and Sound (thank you, Hutt family for gifting us the tickets!!), visited with family, saw The Hobbit and made some gingerbread houses (thanks Aunt Judy!) We’ll be here a few more days, then off to NC!
Beauty and Blessing Awaits,
After leaving Ventura, we traveled south and our first stop would be Simi Valley. We passed through Santa Barbara and other places along the coast. It was just lovely.
On our way, we saw this car in front of us and it gave us a laugh. “4N Dude”
Simi Valley was so nice. Really a cozy and super cool place to be. And everyone there was just so friendly! Steve met up with a friend at Starbuck’s while I planned our menu for the week and the kids entertained themselves. Would LOVE to go back there sometime!!
Our next stop was Shane’s Inspiration Playground in Glendale, California. We planned to meet some very dear friends of ours and their kids. They were so great and drove all the way from San Diego to meet with us. It had been 4 years since we had seen them and we really were looking forward to seeing them again. Our first attempt at getting to the playground was met with a road block, so we met in the parking lot of the LA Zoo and chatted for awhile before deciding to try a different route to the playground. And about an hour later, we arrived. Let’s just say we know that area of LA *VERY* well.
When we arrived to play, we were approached by an interviewer from Good Morning America. She stated she wanted to ask several kids what they thought about Santa. So, we asked the kids if they wanted to be interviewed and they decided that if they could do it together, they would go for it. The interviewer asked Hannah, “why do you like Santa?” Her response, “because he has reindeers”. Then she asked, “why do you like reindeers?” Her response, “because they are pretty”. The boys were so cute in their responses, too. We have no idea if they will actually air their responses or when, but they had fun!! And we had fun watching them.
Other fun sightings at the playground:
A sand angel
A hot dog riding down the road
Three of the greatest kiddos, ever! (and 2 others that didn’t make it into the picture!!)
And two of the best friends, ever!
Thank you, Kimber and Fabian. We had the best time catching up with you, laughing and just enjoying being with you. Hopefully, it won’t be 4 more years before we see you again!!
Our next stop was Whole Foods and we took a little bit of time getting there. We thought we would first take a trip to their distribution center, just to see if we could get our 38 ft RV in downtown LA. Turns out, we can! Saw a few sights along the way… This one’s for you, Rusty!
The sun setting in downtown LA
And a fire truck on top of a building
We finally made it to the campground for the night, finished laundry, made dinner and we were ready to hit the hay! A fun day for sure.