RV Trip 3 - Destination - Washington DC and Orlando, FL
March 24 - Depart Buffalo Gap
On Monday, March 24, we left on our inaugural "camping" trip in the Waggin' Wagon. Our objective for the first part of the trip was to get to Gaithersburg, Maryland fairly expeditiously. As such, we decided to take advantage of a policy that WalMart has -- and that is to allow motorhomes and recreational vehicles to park overnight in their parking lots. We spent the first night on the road at the WalMart in Hope, Arkansas, second night at WalMart in Nashville, Tennessee and the third night at WalMart in Woodstock, Virginia.
March 27 - April 3 - Gaithersburg, MD
While in Gaithersburg, we were welcomed into Lori's home (affectionately known as "The Weiman Inn." We had several healthcare and dental appointments, which lasted over the next several days. Lota attended Executive Summit meeting during the evening of March 27, and Cary enjoyed dinner with Lori and Pat. On March 28, we attended our friend Jamie's 40th birthday bash! Here are a few photos from that gathering.
Some Wikipedia facts about Gaithersburg:
Gaithersburg is a city in Montgomery County, Maryland that has an estimated population of 60,000, making it the fourth largest in the state behind Baltimore, Frederick and Rockville. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is headquartered in Gaithersburg. Other major employers in the city include IBM, ACE*COMM, Lockheed Martin, MedImmune (recently purchased by AstraZeneca) and Sodexo. Gaithersburg began in 1765 as a small agricultural settlement known as Log Town, gaining the name Gaithersburg a few years later.
In 1899, Gaithersburg was selected as one of six global locations for the construction of an International Latitude Observatory as part of a project to measure the earth's wobble on its polar axis. The Gaithersburg Latitude Observatory, currently the only National Historic Landmark in the city, and five other observatories in Japan, Italy, Russia and the US gathered information that is still used by scientists today, along with information from satellites, to determine polar motion; the size, shape, and physical properties of the earth; and to aid the space program through the precise navigational patterns of orbiting satellites. The Gaithersburg station operated until 1982 when computerization rendered the manual observation obsolete.
While in Gaithersburg, we had dinners with Linda & Dean, Becky & Christine, Kathi & Chuck and Lori, Toni & Deb. Lota had to make a quick trip to San Francisco for a Hyperion board meeting. The last night we were in town, Lori graced us with a wonderful meal so that we could "christen" the Waggin' Wagon appropriately. Our friend, Deb, provided the champagne. Unfortunately, inclement weather prevented the actual christening from occuring that evening, below are the photos of Cary christening the big Wagon, and Lota christening the little Wagon. Thanks, friends!
April 7 - 10 - Orlando, Florida
On April 4, we left for Orlando, Florida to meet Callie, Jason, Quinn & Dylan for a Walt Disney World adventure during the boys' spring break. We again took advantage of WalMart's policy, staying the first night at WalMart in Rocky Mount, NC and the second night at WalMart in Brunswick, GA. We arrived at arrived in St. Augustine, FL and stayed at the St. Augustine Beach KOA - lovely. We arrived on April 7, and stayed at the Orlando/Kissimmee KOA for four nights - it was delightful.
On our first day of "play," we all went to the Magic Kingdom. -- and it was a family affair with Callie, Jason, Quinn and Dylan. With Uncle Cary and Aunt Lota around to spoil them, they also got anything they wanted from Nana and Papa (Nancy - Cary and Callie's mom -- and Gene), Without planning ahead, we happened to have the good fortune of meeting up with Callie and Jason's neighbors and good friends, Kurt and June, who were there with their son Matthew. It was a fun day with Mickey.The next day we tackled Animal Kingdom, and had a blast!
Check out the photos below.
April 11-12 - Pensacola, FL
Once we completed our adventures and saw Callie and gang off, we enjoyed dinner with Nancy & Gene at Coronado Springs resort. Collectively, we decided that they should not risk having their flights back home canceled during American Airlines' fiasco. So, on April 11, the four of us (actually the six of us, with Molly & Jordan) set out to return to Texas. First stop was in Crystal River to visit Callie & the boys as they stopped to see Jason's dad, Jim. Crystal River is in a beautiful area on the Gulf coast. We drove along the coast to Pensacola, and stayed at the Milton/Pensacola KOA. We were a little tired, so we decided to enjoy Pensacola Beach and the area for a day. Here are some WIkipedia tidbits about our stops. Crystal River is a city at the heart of the Nature Coast in Florida, and has a population of about 3,500. The city is situated around Kings Bay, which is spring-fed so keeps a constant temperature year round. Kings Bay is home to nearly 400 manatee during the winter and is one of the few places where people can interact with them in their natural conditions.
Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle, with a metro population of about 440,000. Pensacola is a sea port on Pensacola Bay, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico. A large US Naval Air Station, the first in the United States, is located southwest of Pensacola, and is home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. Nicknames include "World's Whitest Beaches," "Cradle of Naval Aviation," "Western Gate to the Sunshine State," "America's First Settlement," "Emerald Coastc, "Redneck Riviera" and "Red Snapper Capital of the World." Pensacola has a rich and colorful history dating back 450 years, being the first European settlement in the continental US and controlled by five countries. Pensacola's location has caused great turmoil, with many buildings destroyed by wars and by numerous major hurricanes. The location, south of the original British colonies, and on the dividing line between French Louisiana and Spanish Florida, has caused the possession of the city to change multiple times. .
Here are our photos.
April 13 - Gulf Coast Drive
On April 13 (Happy Monthiversary!), we continued the drive along the Gulf coast through Biloxi. This was our first time to see the coast since Hurricane Katrina's devastating blow. The rebuilding is slowly happening (check out the brand new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino), but many of the empty foundations are still a reminder of the history and the beauty lost forever. Some Wikipedia info: Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest hurricane, as well as one of the five deadliest, in the history of the US. Hurricane Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005, and crossed southern Florida as a moderate Category 1 hurricane, causing some deaths and flooding there before strengthening rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm weakened before making its second landfall as a Category 3 storm on the morning of Monday, August 29 in southeast Louisiana. It caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge.
Biloxi is a small coastal city, and is co-county seat with the larger city Gulfport. Pre-Katrin, Biloxi was the third largest city in Mississippi; but with its population losses following that storm, Hattiesburg now has that distinction. The beachfront of Biloxi lies directly on the Mississippi Sound, with barrier islands scattered off the coast and into the Gulf of Mexico. Biloxi's casino history dates back to a period in the 1940s, when open if technically illegal gambling took place in a casino within the Broadwater Beach Resort. The Mississippi Gulf Coast became known as the "Poor Man's Riviera", and was frequented by Southern families interested in fishing expeditions during the summer. In the early 1960s, the Gulf Coast again emerged as a prime alternative to Florida as a southern vacation destination among Northerners, with Biloxi a center of the focus. Biloxi hotels upgraded their amenities and hired chefs from France and Switzerland in an effort to provide some of the best seafood cuisine in the country. With the introduction of legal gambling in Mississippi in the 1990s, Biloxi was again transformed. It became an important center for casinos, and the hotels and complexes brought millions of dollars in tourism revenue to the city. Among the more famous casino complexes were the Beau Rivage casino resort, and the Isle of Capri Casino Resort. By the early 2000s, Biloxi's economy rested on the three prongs of seafood, tourism, and gaming.
Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast with high winds, heavy rains and a 30-foot storm surge, causing massive damage to the area. Katrina came ashore during the high tide, a phenomenon called by many "our tsunami." A couple days later, the Mississippi governor stated that 90% of the buildings along the coast in Biloxi and neighboring Gulfport had been destroyed by the hurricane. Several of the "floating" casinos were torn off their supports and thrown inland, contributing to the damage. All coastal churches were destroyed or severely damaged. Hurricane-force winds persisted for 17 hours and tore the branches off many coastal oak trees, but the tree trunks survived the 30-foot flood and many have since regrown smaller branches. Hurricane Katrina claimed 53 victims in Biloxi. Eight casinos have reopened since Katrina. Multiple plans have been laid out to rebuild the waterfront areas of Biloxi, and the federal government has recently announced that it is considering giving up to 17,000 Mississippi coast homeowners the option to sell their properties so that a vast hurricane-protection zone can be implemented.
See our photos below. Unfortunately, they don't do the story justice -- we carry many more images in our heart.
April 14 - Shreveport, LA
On April 14, we spent the night at the Shreveport/Bossier City KOA, and then made it home. After such a wonderful inaugural trip in the Waggin' Wagon, we were very happy to be home in Buffalo Gap.