Monday, April 20, 2009

Huntsville, Alabama and Nashville, TN

April 19, 2009
The last four days have been like old home week! We had the good fortune to visit so many people in Huntsville. They each travel so often that we were lucky to find them all in town. Bill, Penny, and Megan Lamb had us over for dinner on our first night in Huntsville. What a lovely home, and the boys enjoyed their huge back yard where they played tag for the first hour. We saw Bill in Alaska, but the four of us haven’t been together since our days in Austin, TX when Thom and Bill attended UT together. We had a good time catching up and getting to know Megan who is a senior in high school. The boys ate burgers, brownies, and watched King Kong….heaven for Besch Boys!

The next day we headed for Space Camp. Robby was our tour guide, since he attended a week-long class there back when he was 10. Tucker and his cousins loved the museum, the rocket garden, the space shot ride, watching the artist spray paint cool planetary art, and shopping at the gift shop. The new Davidson Building which houses Saturn V was awesome! We watched an exhilarating IMAX movie called Magnificent Desolation narrated by Tom Hanks which showed what it’s like to walk on the moon. John Fellows stopped in for a visit while we had lunch, and Thom and I enjoyed talking with him.

That evening, we were delighted to host dinner for Jack Clouse, Lin Beckem, and Ronda Raiford, who we know from our Alaska days in Missile Defense. Thom especially was interested in how people are doing, after 10 months of being away from work. We enjoyed hearing about Ronda’s family, with Gene coming soon to join her in Alabama. Her two infant grandsons, Leo and Tyler are now home from the hospital – yahoo! Leo’s birth weight was only about 1 ½ lbs and his twin Tyler weighed in at a miniscule 13 oz!! God is watching over them.

Another exciting day followed when Scott and Faye Campbell invited us to join them at their cabin on Lake Smith, about 1 ½ hours south of Huntsville. Before we departed Huntsville, we got a chance to see their beautiful home and Japanese tea garden. Faye especially has worked hard on a complete kitchen remodel. (What a great collection of ideas I have for our next home from all these visits!). As we drove to the lake, we noticed the dogwood trees in full bloom and just how green everything is here in April. I had to call Tina Jenkins in Alaska to find out where she grew up in Alabama, which turned out to be about 100 miles northwest. It’s just so gorgeous here. Faye stopped to buy freshly picked strawberries at a roadside fruit stand, and soon after we stopped to walk across Alabama’s longest covered bridge. We picked up Alabama BBQ (pulled pork) and headed for the cabin.

What a peaceful place it is sitting on their porch overlooking Smith Lake! The limestone rocks are a natural platform to dive into the deep lake, which is a reservoir. All five boys, including cousin Tucker were soon swimming in the chilly water. After a tasty lunch of BBQ and fresh strawberries, Scott and Faye treated us to a boat ride down the lake. I couldn’t believe all the enormous, expensive homes, many of which are weekend getaway homes! Their daughter, Shana was married in a beautiful mansion overlooking the lake last July, which they pointed out to us. We stopped at the marina where the boys fed crackers to the mammoth carp…about 3 feet in length! There must have been 10 fish with huge mouths, and the boys were able to pet their slow moving bodies. Will water-skied on a slalom ski, which was a great way to end the boat ride. On the way home, Faye showed us an old civil war jail which was tiny yet held as many as 100 prisoners. She told us that this Alabama county actually seceded from the Confederacy to be part of the Union during the Civil War! Although Faye is a retired elementary school teacher, she still enjoys educating children at every opportunity.

Thom joined Bill Lamb and about 10 others for breakfast on Saturday morning, while I went to a local laundromat to do 6 loads of laundry! It adds up quickly when you have 5 boys who love to play in the mud! Soon after we returned to the RV, General and Mrs. Campbell bicycled over to visit us! They came to Ft. Greely together a couple years back, and we very much enjoyed our time with them. General Campbell played quite a bit of hockey growing up in Massachusetts, so he came over and skated on the Besch hockey rink behind our home at Ft. Greely. The boys still talk about playing hockey with him! Kathy told us to let them know if we were coming to Huntsville, and we’re glad we did! They toured our “home on wheels” and every minute spent in conversation was a delight.

Another terrific visit was with the Armstrong Family. Scott Armstrong and Thom worked together in Alaska, but this was our first complete family visit (except for the oldest son, Taylor). Scott and Donna invited us a small lake right on Redstone Arsenal. We had the place to ourselves since the main road was blocked by fallen trees from a recent storm, and the alternate route had one deadly mud bog. We gunned it, sprayed the SUV with mud, and didn’t get stuck! Our car no longer has 4-wheel drive, since Thom altered it in order to be towed behind the motor coach.

Scott, Donna, Trevor, and Robert are true outdoorsmen and throw a great BBQ, complete with grill, table, and delicious food. The kids headed for the lake with two inflatable boats and fishing poles. Nobody caught a thing except minnows, but we all enjoyed a nice afternoon listening to bull frogs and cicadas (loud, chirping insects). Their dog, Rygel kept the boys entertained as he played fetch for hours. Our boys can’t wait to have a dog.

Today was our last day in the Huntsville area. On our way north, we visited Patty and Tom Gargulinski along with their sons Chris and Tony. Thom worked for Patty in missile defense, and she visited many times over the years at Ft. Greely. It was our first time seeing their home on 40 awesome acres. This is what our boys would love. They have two ponds for fishing and swimming, and although the weather was lugubrious and rainy, Sam and Ben swung off the rope swing into the water! The highlight was when all seven boys had their air soft pistols firing away on their target range. Will was thrilled to shoot his 22 at the ten steel plate targets from about 40 yards. Even when the rain poured, he refused to come in or even put on a coat! It was really great to see Patty and get to know her family.

We finished the day by driving north to Nashville, where Tucker will fly home tomorrow morning to New York. Since Will’s birthday is April 21, we decided to celebrate it today before Tucker leaves. He’s become a huge fan of western writer Will Johnstone, so we headed to the Wild Horse Saloon in Nashville. The place is huge with 3 floors all focused on the stage and dance floor. We arrived just in time for a dance lesson, and I was really pleased that all the boys were brave and came out on the dance floor. A dance instructor taught us to line dance with all the steps, kicks, turns, claps, heel-ins, and heel-outs. I’m sure most people were wondering why these five young men were in a saloon on a school night at 8:30! We had a ball. Then a band played for an hour while the boys shot pool. I enjoyed watching the dancing, which included couples doing the 2-step as well as more line dancing. Thom and I even kicked up our heels a bit more.

We returned to the motor coach where Will blew out the candles to his home made cake (yes, everything is possible in this RV!). Did I mention that we camped out in Sam’s Club’s parking lot? We wanted Tucker to have the full Besch RV experience!

1 comment:

John Fellows said...

What a joy it was to finally meet the entire Besch family. All of us in Huntsville would love to have y'all settle here. Lots to experience and many diverse opportunities exist here for Thom and the entire family. I wish you all the best as you continue your adventure. DO NOT CUT IT SHORT. Enjoy and Best Regards, John