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            “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”—Tim Cahill

One of two ponds at the entrance to Carthage Gap RV Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Adventures with Pepper: Day 26

            What I didn’t tell you about my drive yesterday were my concerns about where I would spend the night.

Brandy, sort of my granddaughter for a weekend, in the costume her mom made for her. The outfit included a hook and specially braided hair. — Photo by Kim

I hadn’t seen an RV park all day, and my campground directory listed only one near the end of my day’s drive.  It was the Carthage Gap RV Park outside of Coolville, Ohio.

I was worriedly hoping it would be a nice, safe, clean place because I didn’t fancy driving another 100 miles. I’m happy to tell you my hopes were met — and then some.

The park was located in a beautiful setting, and the staff was enthusiastically friendly when I checked in for two nights. The manager explained that I had come just in time to experience the park’s early Halloween celebration. She offered me the option of being in the middle of the large park, or of hooking up in an isolated section.

I guess I was sort of people hungry at this point in the trip because I chose the small site in the middle of it all.

After the park manager led me to it, and guided me as I backed into the squeezed space, she introduced me to my next door neighbor, Kim.

“She’s one of our seasonals,” the manager said, then hurried off to help other RVers get settled for the busy weekend.

Kim became my guardian angel for the next two days, taking me under her warm wing and adopting me into her brood, which included parents, a sister, a niece, a husband and a daughter. They lived not too far away and their travel trailer was almost permanently parked at the scenic campground, I learned.

The brood had all gathered this weekend for the spook celebration, which is an annual event at the park.

I was the family’s guest at the Halloween potluck dinner that preceded the trick or treating the next night. And I got to sit around their campfire as candy was handed out to the many young treat-or-treaters. The most unusual costume of the night, I thought, was the young boy dressed as a railroad crossing. As a mom, I was never that inventive. My kids were usually witches, hobos or ghosts, things that didn’t require any sewing on their mom’s part.

The second pond at the park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Kim’s daughter, Brandy, was one of the trick or treaters.            “Just wait until you see my niece’s costume,” Tracy had said at dinner. “My sister’s an excellent seamstress and can sew up anything.”

I waited. Tracy was right. Brandy was the most lavishly dressed pirate I think I’ve ever seen.

Since Kim had officially adopted me into the family for the weekend, Brandy felt like a granddaughter, of which I have eight.

I left Carthage Gap with great memories tucked away in the brain’s rolodex. And a bit homesick for my own family, too.

Book Report: Travels with Maggie is still stuck. Too much traveling – I’m currently on the Blue Ridge Parkway in my journey and driving 100 miles takes five hours. I need to settle for a day soon and catch up.

Bean’s Pat: Couch surfing in India http://mymeanderingtrail.com/ This travel blogger, who writes about hiking the Appalachian Trail, is a good model for Tim Cahill’s quote about the journey being more about the people you meet than the miles. And about the kind of concerns all travelers who get off the beaten path endure — and overcome.

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“I talk to him when I’m lonsome like; and I’m sure he understands. When he looks at me most attentively, and gently licks my hands; then he  rubs his nose on my tailored clothes, but I never say naught thereat. For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothers, but never a friend like that.” — W. Dayton Wedgefarth.

Friends

My grandson, David, and two of his best friends. Scout and Levi. I didn’t take this picture, but it’s one of my favorites. I think my son, D.C. took it.

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 “Birth and death; we all move between these two unknowns.” Bryant H. McGill

 

Life goes on in Florida's Brevard Zoo for these two magnificent eagles, who are injured and could not survive in the wild. Have they made peace with their limited environment? Hopefully, because life goes on one way or another. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 

Travels With Maggie

 

As leaves of this Japanese pear tree fall, a flowering bud is eager to take its place. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I’ve reached an age when acquaintances and dear friends are dying. This past year I lost two who were especially dear to me. One had adopted me into her family for holidays when mine were far away. She made it all the way to 99 before she finally gave up her will to live. Her funeral, per her wishes, was a celebration.

Another dear friend, an irreverent writing colleague who was the life of any party and who was always making me pee from laughing so hard, also left this world. She was a year younger than me, and this death was much harder to bear.

I’m not a religious person, so I get no comfort from well-meaning comments that suggest she’s in a better place now.

It’s not that I don’t believe in this better place, I do. It’s just that I believe this better place is here and now. It’s all we have. It’s up to each of us to make it the best it can be.

Life goes on through grief. It goes on when something or someone kicks us to the ground. It goes on if we can’t afford all our wants. It simply goes on.

This is a picture that speaks louder than a thousand words, so I won't say them. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 

These thoughts all roared through my brain this morning as I walked Maggie. The flowering Japanese pear tree in my son’s yard first stirred up the cacophony in my brain. As winter teases and taunts and hides in Texas’ Gulf Coast, as it’s doing today when the air conditioner in my RV is running, this small tree comes to life.

For each leaf that falls, it sends out a bud that will bloom this winter. In the background, between the pear tree’s naked limbs, is another tree, one that’s providing onlookers a rustling, reality video of brilliant color.

I find meaning and comfort in Mother Nature. Her message to me is one of reincarnation, not that I expect to come back to live another life, but that a tiny drop of who I am will become a permanent part of this planet.

 

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Mount Ben Lomond, which is Ogden's northern backdrop, always has a smiley face to cheer you up if you know where to look for it. From this angle it's pretty easy to see. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” — Albert Schweitzer

*Travels With Maggie

My week in Ogden was a busy one that enriched my life. It included a barbecue with Kim and her family, visits and lunches, , with other old friends, a baby shower for Kim’s daughter-in-law, visits to former haunts including the newspaper where I worked for 22 years, a drive up scenic Ogden Canyon beside the snow-melt-full Ogden River, and a memorial service for Kim’s grandmother, GG, who had adopted me into her family because mine was far away.

GG, which stands for Great Grandmother, had told everybody to celebrate her 99 years on this earth and not to mourn. Of course we mourned our loss, but we also obeyed her wishes and celebrated, too, including singing joyful songs and dancing.

I enjoyed my Ogden visit immensely, including the celebratory funeral.

Most of my 23 years as a journalist for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden was spent in a converted armory. This new building, located on former Defense Depot Ogden (now Business Depot Ogden) was built just a few years before I retired. As shown here, the building reflects the mountains off to the east. -- Photo by Pat Bean

When I drove by my small, old home on 20th Street, I was tickled to see that the tulips I had planted along my fence line were in full bloom. The new owners, however, had dug up the huge Rose of Sharon bush that had run beneath my bedroom windows. Sigh…. But the huge Elm in the backyard, which had actually been why I had bought the house, was still there.

I’ve left places many times in my life, and I find it interesting the things I forget and the things that become more dear. It’s like separating the chaff from the wheat. It’s something everyone needs to do occasionally, it’s just that moving away makes it easier to do.

Not only do you have an opportunity to get rid of useless stuff, which somehow accumulates in all the hidden storage spots in a house, but it’s good to separate yourself as much as possible from negative people who dampen your days.

Fortunately all the people I renewed acquaintances with while in Ogden were the kind who make others feel good about themselves. It was good to see every one of them again. It was also good to sit in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains, which continues to hold a part of my soul.

It would be good also to go in search of new mountains and new friends, especially knowing that for this summer I would only be a couple of hours away. .

Day 20-26 of my journey, May 8-14

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 “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” — Harold Wilson

The looks nothing like the 25th Street I was first introduced to in the early 1980s. -- Photo by Pat Bean

*Travels With Maggie

Some say you can’t go home again. That of course is not true. What you can’t do is go home and find things exactly how you left then

For example, on March 31 of this year, I blogged about returning to my grandmother’s rural home on the outskirts of Dallas, where I lived as a young child. I found the small two-bedroom home condemned, the gardenia bushes outside her front door no longer there and another dilapidated house where her garden used to be.

It was exactly the opposite in Ogden, where I lived for 23 years before retiring seven years ago. I’ve returned yearly since and every time things have changed upward.

The downtown site where a mall was torn down, and which remained obscenely vacant for many years, is now a thriving hub of restaurants, theaters, small shops and bustling activity.

My friend, Kim, and I, and some of her friends had dinner this evening at the Sonora Grill, one of those chic new restaurants. Afterward we walked down the revived 25th Street, which when I first moved to Ogden, was a hangout for the homeless, motorcycle gangs, scary bars and a liquor store.

Colorful horse statues are now a common sight in downtown Ogden in recent years. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The bars have mostly up-scaled, the liquor store moved, restaurants and small business opened, and the street spruced up with fresh paint, charming statues, fresh facades and colorful flowers.

Our group ended up at The City Club, a private club serving food and booze that once had been one of my let-down-the-hair places I occasionally visited after a frustrating work day.

It was both the same and different. Beatles’ photos and memorabilia still covered every inch of the walls, but the place was no longer a private club where you had to be a member to enjoy a quiet drink, and I didn’t know half the people there this night.

It felt a little strange, but here I was sitting with my old and dear friend, Kim, and fast getting to know five new people whom I had only met earlier in the evening.

Life’s like that. Things change. Buildings come and go and people move on and new ones take their places. Even the people who stay in your life, like my friend, Kim, change with time.

Thankfully, although differently, the two of us had grown in ways that had enriched our friendship bonds. If either of us had not grown, we probably wouldn’t still be friends.

Life never stands still. And if you do, you get left behind.

*Day 19 of the journey, May 7,201

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