America The Beautiful – Part 2

So, we were off on our first big cross-country adventure together and we had finally made it to my daughter Talya’s, and her husband Michael Effler’s house on base at Ft. Meade in Maryland.  We got there the night before Thanksgiving (Wednesday) and we got to meet Mike’s mother Miss Virginia.  She’s a East Coast beach girl, born and raised, and the daughter of a Navy sailor, married a sailor and had two sailors for sons  What finer contribution to America do you get than that?  Both Cheryl and I liked her instantly, in spite of all her quirks.  I have to say she’s a total hold out from times past, and she loves to party with the boys.  But both of those qualities are part of who she is, we formed an instant strong bond on the basis that we were parents of my beautiful daughter and son-in-law.

Thanksgiving at the Effler’s was something totally unexpected even beyond that.  Talya takes care of animals, she is what is called these days a “Professional dog-sitter.”  Although she takes care of cats and other pets for folks as well.  She developed her little business all on her own, after working at Camp Bow-Wow in Denver for about a year and a half.  She does her job mainly because she loves animals, she certainly won’t ever get rich by doing what she does, but then you see the motives are more pure than that as I said, she does it because she loves the animals.  And she’s very good with animals too.  So, when folks are away, they often arrange to have Talya “house-sit” their animals at Talya and Mike’s place.  I’m trying to remember how many dogs were there when we visited over Thanksgiving, 2010.  I think there were just 3 additional animals, each had a crate, and each was very well behaved indeed.  My daughter definitely has a way with them.

Talya and Mike also have two animals of their own, a dog named Star and a cat named Spook (Spooky?).  Spooky is kind of like a miniature version of our cat Rascals.  We got Rascals nearly the same time as Mike and Talya got little Spooky, she just stayed small while Rascals got huge!  They’re both tabbys, grey color pattern, short-haired, and frisky and playful.  They both are extremely curious and will climb into any box to see what’s in there.  I don’t know if Spooky is like Rascals, but Rascals likes bags too, he’ll explore just about anything to see what’s in it.  Star is a Blue Tick Hound, or Coon Hound, I can’t remember, but she’s big and lanky and lovable, and clumsy, and floppy-eared, and cute as can be.  She doesn’t know she’s big, so she’ll climb right up in your lap to get a hug, and she just couldn’t be more lovable really.

Anyhow, there were 4 people and the dogs and a cat for Thanksgiving dinner at the Effler’s.  Talya did a wonderful job!  We were so impressed, it was her first “All out” Thanksgiving and we all loved it and ate till we were stuffed.  We had some great meals together, and some good talks, Mike, at the time, was preparing to get his E-5 promotion.  What we learned was that the early part of the next week he was to go through a “Ceremony” with some other Navy personnel and get his E-5 (Petty Officer 2nd) as part of the group promotion.  That sounded like fun to us, so we made plans, tentatively, to make it back for that ceremony.  Staying with Talya and Mike was actually the first time I have ever slept on a military post.  I did not serve in the military, and I have regretted it most of my life.  So, in all my 51 years of life, I had visited military bases before, but never actually stayed on one.  A first!  Oh, and I guess I was only 50 at the time, it was before my birthday.

We visited the Base eXchange (the BX as it’s commonly known) and did some shopping.  They had good prices, about comparable to Costco on some things, not so good on others.  Well, you take what you can get I guess, we didn’t know if it was Baltimore prices or what, we just know we can get pretty good deals at some of our favorite places.  I should say, we had a bunch of favorites in Denver, we’re still finding those (favorite shopping places) in Los Angeles.  Anyhow, it was a very nice visit, but by Friday afternoon and soon enough, it was over and we said our goodbyes and headed off to the Eastern Shore to see Cheryl’s folks.

Cheryl’s mom had passed away a few years ago, I think she said that this past year her mother had been gone for 5 years, so it was a bit over 3 years (as of Thanksgiving 2010 that is) since we had been to Virginia having last been there for the funeral.  As you can imagine, Cheryl had all kinds of emotion heading home this time.  We made good time, there was some traffic going that direction on a Friday afternoon, but most folks had traveled on Wednesday or Thursday, it was a holiday after all, and the traffic was not that bad.  We got into Salisbury (MD) around 6p, and it was getting dark.  We stopped at Lowes to get some locks, and a heavy-duty chain for the trailer we were going to pickup.  I was not going to be able to lock or secure it in any way to the vehicle, so I figured if I had to leave it anywhere on the roadside, at least I would chain the wheels together so it could not be moved.

We ate and headed on into Parksley and got to Cheryl’s dad’s place around 8p.  He was expecting us and welcomed us “Home.”  It’s always nice to go home, no matter what.  Cheryl soon felt at ease, and we made up the spare bedroom and crashed pretty early.  The next day we went over to see Donna and Billy at their place in Assawoman.  And that night, Saturday night, they had a family get-together at their place and I got to meet “Mr. Bill” (Billy’s dad, William McCready, but I’m not sure if it’s Sr. or I or what, he’s just “Mr. Bill to everyone), and Billy’s brother Timmy, and their wives.  I had never met the extended family before, it was very special.  We ate and had dessert, and the ladies played on the Wii, and the guys sat around and talked.  I had a very nice long conversation with Mr. Bill.  He was well into his 80’s I remember that much.

He talked about the shop he used to have, a “General Store” in the little town of Atlantic, just down the street from the Fire Station where Billy and Timmy have both been Volunteer Firemen for years.  It’s kind of an incredible thing, Billy and Donna always treated me like family from the first time I met them.  I admitted to Billy that if I’d been born around there, I would have been part of his Volunteer Fire Company too, and that I’d be proud and wouldn’t hesitate to follow him into a fire.  Billy’s just that kind of person, he is confident, yet reserved, but always willing to help out anybody in need.  It’s that empathy quality that makes him such a good chicken grower too probably.  You wouldn’t necessarily think that about a person who has about 2M chickens growing to become fryers at any one time, that he could care about those birds, but he does.

It was a very fine evening.  We missed Cheryl’s mom not being there, but her dad came with his friend Miss _______________ and we all had a wonderful time.  Dad (Don) is still seeing her these days, although they’ve probably slowed down a bit.  Don just turned 80 the other day (Happy Birthday dad!).  We did make it down to Wright’s Restaurant (pretty much a tradition when visiting back home) and we all had a wonderful dinner that night too.  I think we actually got some pictures of Cheryl’s brother Mitch almost smiling.  It’s a standing family joke, that you’ll never get him to smile for a picture, but we came close!

After that, we decided to head back up to see Mike get his promotion to Petty Officer 3rd Class.  Tally and Michael had told us about it, and they were both so excited that we decided since we were in the area that we couldn’t miss it.  So, on the day of the promotion ceremony, we hopped back in the Tahoe and headed to Ft. Meade again.  This time, there was no “Wrong gate” or any such.  We knew where we were going, and got right to their house, and then followed them over to the meeting hall where they held the promotion ceremony.  Having no idea what to expect, we were both shocked and pleasantly surprised by what took place.

We got to the hall early (on base) and Sailors and Petty Officers and a few Officers started coming in.  There were already 30-40 there when we got there, but soon the place filled up.  When the ceremony started, there were about 200 or so folks sitting in the chairs they had put out, and about 150 Sailors and Petty Officers in line behind us.  Oh my!  A Captain got up (don’t recall his name, sorry) and started the proceedings by welcoming us and telling us what a privilege it was for him.  He quoted Navy statistics and said that in the Navy as a whole, the advancement rate (those who are eligible for promotion and who get advanced in rank) is about 3%.  The advancement rate for these folks here at Ft. Meade is 40% he told us!  Wow!  I instantly realized that these men women in uniform (there were about 40 women in the group being advanced) are the best and brightest in the Navy!  In fact, some of them are the best and brightest in the country!

I leaned over and whispered to Cheryl that among those women being advanced, those were the types that if they had been at a University, they would be getting straight A’s and blowing the curves for the rest of us on all those exams.  Talk about a rare privilege!  We felt proud to be there both to celebrate and to witness this ceremony.  After all, Ft. Meade is an Army base, the Navy personnel are there with primarily one purpose, they all work in, well, I actually cannot tell you, because then I’d have to shoot you!  I hope you understand though, that we witnessed America’s future being advanced in the next step of their careers.

After the ceremony, we got to meet some of those young men and women that Mike works with, or was working with every day.  And then we went out and got some Frozen Yogurt after which Chery and I had to get back to Parksley.  The time of our visiting with family and friends was drawing near the end unfortunately.

I will tell you about another short road trip that Cheryl and I took while we were there visiting though.  Ocean City, MD is not far from Parksley.  In mileage, I think it’s less than 60 miles, but being all country back-roads, it took over an hour and a half to get there.  But, it was a pleasant drive, the weather held out for us.  Ocean City was cold though, and windy.  We were practically the only tourists in town.  It was either the Saturday or Sunday after Thanksgiving, and the place was just deserted.  I’ll try to get some pictures in here to show you how isolated we felt.  Three miles of boardwalk all to ourselves!

We ate breakfast at a little cafe’ – practically the only place open.  It turned out to be wonderful though, we enjoyed the place very much.  The folks were friendly, and they had lots of wonderful nostalgic pictures, and nautical decor.  Cheryl and I are such saps for that kind of thing.  Then we walked the town.  We only walked about a half mile of the boardwalk, the amusement park was closed, they were working on several of the rides we could see.  We walked out on the pier, took lots of pictures of the windswept beaches and the ocean and harbor.  A few boats were out, I think we even saw a Coast Guard vessel out doing drills of some sort (Life-saving drills?).  Then we found a little shop and got gifts for Mike for his promotion ceremony and for Talya and we even bought one of the little pieces of artwork for ourselves.  Cute art by a woman, can’t remember her name to save my life.  Fun stuff.  Mike’s gift was a fish with a sailor’s cap on and a cigar in his mouth – how fun we thought!  They were all painted bright colors, much like folk art (especially Mexican folk art) but I think the gal who does them is in California somewhere.

Then, we walked a bit more and found a museum, we couldn’t tell if it was open.  I don’t remember what type of museum it was either, but it was very eclectic, with lots of junk signs and such all over the outside.  I got pictures, again, I’ll try to get ’em posted here.  We didn’t go inside because we couldn’t tell if it was open or not.  After that, we hopped back in the car and drove north.  I told Cheryl I wanted to set my feet in Delaware.  It was only about 5 miles from Ocean City, and in fact, the beach towns are continuous along the seashore, making it difficult to tell when you actually get to Delaware.  Originally on this trip, I had planned the route, you see, to get as many states onto our route.  Delaware was just a small side-trip, but one worth the extra effort in my mind.

We made it there, to the town of Fenwick Island.  We got out and tried to go walk down the beach to see a real life-saving station!  We have seen several videos at church about our Christian churches, how they are like life-saving stations, but we had no clue they really existed at one point.  We didn’t find the one there on Fenwick Island, actually couldn’t tell if it was even still there or not.  There were pictures of it on the signs that made it look like a Victorian building with lookouts on the upper floor (and roof?).  We poked our heads up and over the dunes and saw the ocean, just couldn’t see any trace of a life-saving “Station” building.  The signs said it was there, but somehow either we missed it or it’s not there anymore.  Oh well, now we know they do exist and we’ll be looking for one next time so we can check it out!

We pretty much got out of there after that.  Went back to Cheryl’s dad’s place, and got ready to head south.  The visit with the folks was really only the 1/2 way point of this particular journey.  Soon we were to be headed south, way south, all the way to Georgia.  Our destination:  Savannah.  Neither of us had ever been there, and I looked it up and did a small amount of research to discover that it’s one of the few towns in Georgia to have survived Sherman’s March during the Civil War.  The story goes something along the lines of:  When General Sherman and his army arrived at Savannah, they had left a huge trail of devastation and destruction behind them.  They were tired, and hadn’t met much in the way of actual resistance.  So, they weren’t in much mood (or need) of a fight, most wanting to just head back north I take it.  Anyhow, they got to Savannah, and there was no army there.  General Sherman apparently observed the town and its beauty and was captivated.  Then, the ladies’ in town sent a delegation to the General to beg him to spare their beautiful, picturesque town.  He was moved to grant leniency that one time and he spared their city.

And, I’ll tell you more about that in the next chapter!


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