Christmas Day with the Ready Rovers

By: Kevin

img_5802The long-anticipated day had arrived. Christmas Day. Tradition says we should open presents, eat ham, and visit with relatives. But we aren’t normal, and we like it that way.

Our Christmas morning started with a trip to Waffle House. We were actually surprised how many people were there when we pulled in the lot, but that didn’t phase us. We were on a mission to bless a stranger.  We waited about 20 minutes for a table, ordered, ate, and conversed with our waitress which was doing a fantastic job keeping up with her section of the bustling diner full of people. She asked the kids if they had opened presents yet, and was quick to attend to any requests we had. She did a great job waiting on us. Once we paid our bill I walked back to the table, as our waitress was beginning to clear it, and handed her a tip well in excess of our total bill amount. She was so surprised and teared up a bit as she thanked us. She even gave the kids hugs before we left. After we left and were headed home in the van we explained what we had done to the kids and why. On a day many people focus on what gifts they are receiving, it felt great to give a gift to a total stranger. Whether our waitress was in NEED of the money, or if she was simply mandated to work Christmas morning is no matter. In either case, she was working, and we were able to bless her. The reaction and gratitude were real, and that is what mattered.

Once back home we opened a few gifts and the kids started playing with their newly acquired toys. We did not have a huge stack of gifts, in part to the fact that we had already celebrated Christmas with both sides of the family already, so these gifts were just from each other and not extended family. We did some laundry and relaxed for most of the rest of the day. In the evening Heather made a turkey roast in the Instant Pot, which was quite delicious, even if it didn’t go quite according to the recipe directions. We started watching “A Christmas Story” on TV, but grew tired of it and watched E.T. instead. Gotta love classic movies! E.T. is actually older than Heather or I, not that ‘The Christmas Story’ is any younger of a film.

Once the kids were in bed Heather and I got to spend a while sitting in front of my chiminea stocked with Cedar wood. The smell of cedar and the crackling of the fire were nice and relaxing. We didn’t spend any time with extended family or eat traditional Christmas Day fare, but we were perfectly ok with that. We spent the day together and happy.

Daytona Speedway Magic of Lights

By: Kevin

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During my parents’ visit to Daytona Beach this year we took the opportunity to visit the Daytona International Speedway “Magic of Lights Holiday Display”. It was a drive-through light display with a local radio station providing Christmas music as one drives through the 1.5 mile-long display. It took us about 25 minutes to get through the whole thing. Everyone, both kid and adult, enjoyed  the display of LED and incandescent lights. The display featured both secular and religious displays, and both static and animated displays. They even decorated the Speedway ambulances with lights. The kids liked it well enough that when they learned that our neighbor was planning to take them to it a few days later, they were more than happy to go through the display again.

The best part was that while there was an admission fee for the display, a portion of the proceeds went to the Florida Hospital Foundation for the betterment of the community.

As an after-thought I remembered that I had recently installed dash cameras in both of our vehicles, so I pulled the SD card from the dash camera and saved the video of our drive through the light display. It actually turned out pretty well 🙂

Speedy Trip to Ohio

By: Kevin

Looking back at our post history, we have been silent for a while now. Sorry about that; we were off enjoying our experiences. So, prepare for some catch-up as we post multiple blog posts over the next few days.

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As many of you know, we are changing our speed of travel a bit by joining the US Navy. My first assignment will be in California for the next three years. In preparation for this move we wanted to make a few visits with some key family and friends prior to our westward departure. Of course, some of these key people are located in Ohio, where both Heather and I grew up. So, a trip to Ohio was in order!

I found a few days in a row that I was off work, and we made plans to make our rounds. Heather’s family decided they would like to have Christmas for the kids while we were in the state, since they were not planning to visit Florida this season. We packed up the van, and after I got off work at 3:00am, we piled into the van and headed North. We were on the road by 4:00am. Logically, I took the first shift driving as I was still wide awake from working, and the iced coffee by my side helped keep me awake too.img_5722

Once in Ohio, some 15 hours and two fuel stops later, we enjoyed “Christmas Dinner” before heading to bed. Over the next day and a half we made our rounds and visited family and friends as well as a rather crazy present-opening frenzy with the family. The kids received loads of presents and were overjoyed! They even got winter coats, hats, and gloves for when they make their way to Ohio and then Rhode Island later this winter. We were very thankful to be able to make the trip and see these special people before we head west.

 

San Francisco

By: Kevin

During our whirlwind trip to San Francisco over the past two days we did find about 8 hours to explore the area before having to return to the airport for our return trip. While we would have liked to explore the area more, we had limited time to fit this trip in between days of work back in Florida.

Our first stop was at In-n-Out Burger for lunch. For anyone who has not had In-n-Out before, it seemed pretty equal to Steak-n-Shake, except I found it to have a much smaller menu than Steak-n-Shake. Small menu or not, we enjoyed our lunch at an outside table before moving along to our next stop.

img_5545From there we ventured further North to It’s-It Ice Cream shop. Their claim to fame since 1928 has been an ice cream sandwich with 2 crispy oatmeal cookies and one of many flavors of ice cream that has all been dipped in dark chocolate to create a shell. Bug chose pumpkin, Pie chose mint, and I chose strawberry. Heather decided to simply sample all three of ours.

Our next stop was the Golden Gate Bridge! We stopped at the visitor center and while they do not have an official Junior Ranger program, one of the rangers was more than willing to lead us around on a guided tour of the artifacts and displays around the visitor center. At the conclusion of our personal tour the kids received Junior Rangers badges, however they were not specific to the Golden Gate Bridge, but rather a generic wooden Junior Ranger badge. We also visited some outdoor displays around the grounds that showed how the bridge is engineered to withstand earthquakes. We finished our visit to the Golden Gate Bridge by driving across it and back.

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Our final stop before the airport was at the Fisherman’s Wharf and the piers along the San Francisco bay. There were plenty of shops to explore, including one nautical shop that I really enjoyed. There were eateries with fresh-catch seafood as well as a few tap rooms. We strolled the piers a bit looking at the fishing boats and walked out the Aquatic Park Pier. From the end of the pier we were as close as we could get to Alcatraz without actually taking a boat to the island. If we had had more time we may have ventured out to Alcatraz, but there simply was not enough time this trip. The kids enjoyed some free time running around the grass at the Maritime National Historic Park before heading to dinner.

For dinner we had some very good soup, salad, and sandwiches at Boudin Sourdough Bread Company. The kids opted for pizzas atop sourdough crust. The bread is baked on site, and one can observe the bakery through a 30-foot long observation window. We also found it neat to watch baskets of fresh bread cruise along a track affixed to the ceiling on their way to different areas of their building. Along the observation window they had a 7-foot alligator made entirely of sourdough bread.

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After dinner it was time to return to the airport and fly back to Florida. It was a quick trip, but a fun one, and once we are settled in San Diego, San Francisco will be within driving distance for future explorations of the area.

navy blue to Navy Gold

RN to Ensign

by: Kevin

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Today was a big day for us. We joined the United States Navy! While this may sound like a complete change of course for us, it is really just an adjustment in the direction in which my career is going. I will still be serving as a nurse; however the next three years will be served at the naval hospital in sunny San Diego, CA.

Today a year of paperwork and preparation has come to a close. I have been working for some time now to lose weight and build stamina in an effort to meet the physical fitness requirements of the US Navy. As my current travel nursing assignment schedule is from 3pm-3am, this has entailed running (sometimes up to 3.1 miles) at 4am after returning home from work. I run during the day or in the evening on my days off as well, but sometimes you just need to take a 4am run to keep in shape. I have passed their physical fitness requirements.

I have also done TONS of paperwork over the past months including multiple interviews, background checks, degree audits, nursing license audits, and both peer and management reviews. I have passed all these requirements. I have received two thumbs up from the selection board as well as the Secretary of the Navy.

It has now come time to sign on the line and raise my right hand. Today, with my wife and children present, I completed the final steps of the process and have been commissioned as an Ensign, a US Navy Officer.

The next step is for me to attend a training program that will teach me the ‘Navy way’ of doing things and better prepare me to serve as a Navy officer. I have received many questions about this, and I can tell you, No…this is not boot camp, this is officer school.

Heather and I are very excited about what the near future will bring as I start active duty. We still plan to RV and explore, so fear not faithful followers. Our travels are not ending, but rather just beginning.

“Flying” trip to San Jose, CA

[Written by Kevin on May 25th, 2017]

Since October of 2016 I have been talking with a Navy officer recruiter about the possibility of joining the Navy Nurse Corps. I first learned about the program via Facebook on which a fellow travel nurse made the conversion to Navy nursing along the same path as I am currently pursuing. I have sent many emails back and forth, scanned and sent documentation and certifications to her, and filled out online questionnaires for security clearances. However, some things you just cannot do over long distances. I had come to that part of the process and needed to fly to California to complete the physical exam and processing as I prepare for entry to the US Navy. At this point, I have not yet shared my plans with the majority of my friends and family, so this trip would be covert in nature. I found a gap in my work schedule and booked the flights. The only people that knew that I was making the trip were my kids and my wife, and since my kids are elementary school aged, censoring electronic communications proved pretty easy.

I drove from my current assignment in San Angelo, TX to Dallas to reduce the cost of airfare, then flew direct to San Jose, CA. I spent the night in a hotel (courtesy of the federal government) and arrived at the processing center at an early 5:45am local time. I then spent the next 8 hours being examined, tested, and giving samples for analysis. After successful completion of the medical exam I ventured upstairs to complete the remaining paperwork which I needed to sign in-person. And then I was done! Everything had been completed, and was now just waiting on the selection board to approve or deny my application packet.

I returned to the hotel to waste a few hours in the lounge before heading back to the airport for the short flight from San Jose to Los Angeles, and then a longer overnight flight from Los Angeles to Dallas. Upon arriving in Dallas I retrieved the van and started back to San Angelo. From the time I left Dallas to the time I returned to Dallas, only 40 hours had elapsed, and I was tired! Along the way to San Angelo I stopped at a Waffle House for breakfast, where the staff commented on my very tired appearance and offered me a LARGE coffee instead of a standard mug. They exchanged small talk with me over my meal and gave me a 25% discount since I told them I was in California for military processing. I did not request this discount, nor did I show them any military ID, but I appreciated the gesture none the less.

I found it rather interesting that I took a trip to a city 1,500 miles away and only 2 other adults knew that I was making the trip. During the trip I sent and received text messages with family who assumed I was still in Texas, while in reality I was in a different state and time zone than they thought.

On a side note, I realized that I really enjoy flying. I love watching the scenery scrolling by underneath me. I like the thrill and thrust of take-off and landing. These are a few pictures I was able to take during my trip to California.

I also found this at the LAX airport. I found it surprising that in such a liberal area of the nation that even the water fountains were segregated ;-P

[In actuality, the bathrooms were on either side of the frame of the photo, but the positioning made me laugh]

Fort Castillo de San Marcos

By: Heather

Today we made the short drive north to St. Augustine, FL and visited the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. It is a Spanish fort, built in 1672, that was built out of Coquina, a rock made of compressed shells and sand. It was very interesting to see how the fort was operated in different ways over time and how people lived inside the fort. After going over the draw bridge,and over the moat (the kids thought this was SO cool!), we passed through the front gate and explored all of the different rooms and displays in the lower level. The kids worked on their Jr. Ranger books and were done before too long. A Ranger had a special display set up about spices and the spice trade that we found very interesting. The ranger explained how the sailing ships utilized the trade winds and Gulf Stream currents to maximize speed and distance while traveling between Spain and the Americas.

Little Miss Kicky Feet had quite a bit of fun walking all over on the lower level. She was not very interested in the displays. We had to watch out for mosquitoes as there were quite a lot of them. I am not sure any of us escaped without at least one bite.
When we went up to the upper level we mostly looked out at the view across the surrounding landscape and river. The upper level was comprised the roof of the fort, which doubled as a platform from which canons could be fired, troops could fire muskets from, and sentries could stand guard. I spotted some dolphins playing in the water nearby. That was a special treat. We also watched a few modern sailing vessels travel down the river which required the drawbridge just to the south of the fort to be raised for safe passage of the vessels. The older two kids liked watching the drawbridge raise and lower.
After our visit we traveled south along route A1A to Captain’s BBQ in Palm Coast, where we all had a very delicious late lunch! Mmmmm! Now that we are all completely stuffed I am ready for a nap before watching the Indians baseball game tonight.