Billy Bob Thornton, Lauren and Brett
Trip Start Jul 07, 2011
1Trip End Jul 28, 2011
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Thursday, July 7, 2011
Bob, our 13-yr.-old granddaughter Lauren and I left Englewood on our latest adventure Thursday morning. This trip would be filled with joy, sorrow and a lot of family. We realized, 57 miles from home, that we had left BOTH sets of camper keys behind. So, a quick call to Kirsten (Lauren's Mom), a sandwich at DQ, a serious perusal of paint colors at Lowe’s (Lauren has been promised a redecorated room upon her return) and, voila, Kirsten saved the day when she arrived with the keys. Thank goodness she had not gone to the beach two blocks from our house; it had been her favorite place for two weeks. Bob complained about the drivers—erratic, dangerous, etc., etc.—I surmised they were all as anxious as we were to get to Titusville.
Friday, July 8, 2011
We awoke to a stormy sky and only 30% go on the launch; breakfast was gloomy, but we hoped for the best. By 11 AM, there was a break in the clouds and, miraculously, at 11:26, the last voyage of Atlantis exploded over Titusville. I screamed with excitement and even Lauren felt the appreciation of the crowd. It was the best ever—but, I’ve said that about a dozen times at a dozen launches. You just have to be there to understand.
Saturday, July 9 2011
Today we traveled to Orlando to meet Jeanine, Darryl and our other granddaughter Ava at Sea World.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Rain was falling this morning, we were exhausted, so we camped at Manatee one more day. Bob reserved (and unreserved) a site at Florida Caverns State Park. We had wanted to stay there two nights and see the caves (Bob and Lauren are nuts about them) until we learned the caves were not open Tuesday and Wednesday! So, the decision was made to leave FL and head for GA; Bob reserved a night at High Falls River State Park, not far from Macon. We gassed up and headed for Fort Christmas once again.
Monday, July 11, 2011
We were up by 6:30, on the road by 7:30 and soon passed a town called Pierson. We felt like calling American Pickers as we drove through this place—a whole menagerie of sculptures greeted us from the side of the road: horses, giraffes, buffalo amid myriads of pickins. Lauren complained that the portable DVD player wasn’t working. What next?! We made Ocala by 10, felt we were doing well until Oops! A flat on the trailer ¾ of a mile from Gainesville. We were cursing our neighbor (he used our jack last), but Bob managed to change the tire and soon we were at Firestone purchasing a new tire. The GA state line appeared by noon; at about the 150mm, a 100-ft. sign read: "I was anti-Obama before it was cool." Sign of the times? Next came a petrol stop at Cordele. For some unknown reason, our gas was pumped at $3.01 (never thought I’d think of $3.01 a gallon as a bargain!) and we rang up 50 gallons. That almost made up for the flat, the broken jack and two busted DVD players. But the best was yet to come. We should have purchased lottery tickers! At about 6 PM, we ended at High Falls River State Park. As we entered the park, we noticed 15-20 Movie Movers trailers.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Today began at 8:30 with a mad dash to the film location just 200 ft. from our campsite. We claimed the table opposite the hill that everyone was climbing laden with equipment.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Today we left High Falls with Bob calling Lauren “BBTBF” (Billy Bob Thornton’s Biggest Fan). The question for the remainder of the trip from Lauren: “Grandpa, did you know Billy Bob would be at High Falls River?” We’ll never tell. Georgia was soon behind us, Kentucky also, and we ended in Johnston City, IL at Arrowhead Lake Campground. For a mere $13 a night we were afforded a large site, clean showers, quiet atmosphere and a picturesque lake complete with resident ducks. Naturally I left the hosts some jelly. A large sign with Lamentations 3:40—“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD” was the final image I was left with.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Champaign was next on our radar. Carolyn, my best friend from high school and college days in Minnesota, has lived here since getting her master’s at the University of Michigan, and Bob insisted we stop to see her. There had been too few visits in the last 45 years! The GPS refused to help us find her house but, thankfully, the cell was still working and we managed to arrive at her doorstep by 11 AM. It was a wonderful few minutes and we vowed to meet up soon; hopefully she and Don will come to Florida next winter.
Friday, July 15, 2011
As we were leaving Mirror Lake, a kind couple from Wichita gave us some phone numbers for possible campgrounds. They, too, were on their way to Duluth and had been lucky enough to reserve the last site at Buffalo Valley Campground. I left several messages and hoped for the best. As we neared Superior, WI, Leroy from Saginaw Campground called us to say that he had plenty of room and we would be welcome. When we arrived, Bob and Leroy were getting the camper situated and I asked Leroy if a lady named Rose Jenny camped here. She is my cousin with whom I finally became acquainted three years ago (better late than never!). It turned out that she had camped right next to us yesterday! So there was a great, brief reunion with Rose, a call to my sister Linda, then on to Perkin’s to meet Mom, Linda, brother John and wife Barb. We were finally here! A screening of Pushing Tin closed out the first Minnesota night.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
After a full breakfast of bacon and eggs in the camper, we were off to Mom’s to do laundry and make cookies. We expected much company over the next week; I have three sisters and two brothers and many nieces, nephews and great-nieces and nephews, so Lauren and I made nine dozen! They were all filled with my yummy jelly and they would all disappear quickly. We baked three pizzas and brother Bart, wife Jeanne and daughter Madelyn as well as niece Michele, hubby Matt and daughters Isabel, Audrey and Chloe helped us make short work of them.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
We were up early today to use wi-fi at McDonald’s. My Aunt Shirley and her family were there as well as Uncle Larry and his family. It’s always great to see them as they were both so much a part of my childhood. Larry is just 10 months older than I am so we are more like brother and sister. And my fondest memory of Shirley is sitting between her and Mom, reading sheet music lyrics while listening to a 78 playing on the turntable. It’s hard to grasp that time over 60 years ago!
Monday, July 18, 2011
I had been promising Bob and Lauren a lunch of Chinese food for days and someone suggested that there was a good eatery in Cloquet just outside Duluth. So, after a shopping stop at the Cloquet Wal-Mart, we made the big mistake of stopping at the Panda Buffet. This was NOT the recommended restaurant, we soon learned. It was so bad that Bob refused to eat, and I should have protested even paying for the little that Lauren and I ate. If I had been paying attention I would have noticed that we were the only patrons in the joint at lunchtime. Sometimes I marvel at my stupidity. Thank goodness Mom had planned a scrumptious pork chop dinner. My contribution—two calamondin pies. Barb brought Regan and Nixon, two of her nine grandchildren (lucky her!), and Jeanne and Madelyn arrived.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
After breakfast we drove to Glensheen, the historic mansion on the Lake Superior shore in East Duluth.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Today began with a trip to Super Valu for groceries. This chain used to be the predominant one when I lived here 45 years ago. Now the market (literally) belongs to Super One where Linda works. There is a location in West Duluth where our house used to be and where I spent my growing-up years. My sister Kathy arrived soon after we got to Mom’s and Lauren was ecstatic! She lives in Sundance, Wyoming and if you’ve read my blog from June 2009, you know all about that adventure. We spent the day playing Scrabble, working yet another puzzle (Mom is a perpetual jigsaw worker—I think it keeps her sharp), eating our favorite green bean/ground turkey casserole and hoping that Brett’s memorial service went well. Mom insisted that I take several items to “clean out” her spare room. Lauren received Dad’s gorilla shirt which Bob had airbrushed many years ago; Dad always wore it on Halloween to hand out candy.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
After a scrumptious omelet breakfast (compliments of yours truly), we made one more Wal-Mart stop for necessaries. Bob dropped Lauren and me at Mom’s and he headed for Iron River, WI to retrieve Tim, Kathy’s hubby. Their next task was to pick up some huge tugboat rope that Bob had been promised. All of us girls decided to go to Enger Tower, an 80-ft. Duluth landmark that sits on a hill 451 feet above Lake Superior.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Kathy and I had been watching Mom precipitously use her overhead microwave for a few days and decided that it would be safer for her to have one on the counter. So, after some measuring, we were off to Sam’s with Lauren in tow. We found just the right one and Lauren found just the right camera to purchase with the $90 she had been saving the whole trip. After yet another pizza dinner (I didn’t want to see any more for a long time!), the guys wanted to see the Tower, too, so back we climbed up to Skyline Drive
Saturday, July 23, 2011
The last day in Duluth. My wonderful family showed up for a fun time at Mom’s. I made a calamondin cake which disappeared as fast I could frost it! Kathy gave Bart the last of the family quilts she’d been making (we all received one, the youngest last). They are all masterpieces, each one lovingly crafted according to hobbies, careers, etc.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
We were on the road by 7 AM and Bob shocked Lauren and me with a superhuman feat of driving, almost non-stop, for the next 12 hours!
Monday, July 25, 2011
Today I helped Lauren examine all the treasures that were left over from the room reorganization. Some became trash, some became yard sale items, some were donated to Ava, Lauren’s younger FL cousin. We took it slow, still recuperating from our stressful drive yesterday!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Lauren and I finished up our examination of “stuff” today. I left three cases of jelly with Kirsten to sell and we left samples at a local farmers’ market. She treated us to a great lunch at the downtown Price Cutter Bistro. Then we perused Good Girl Art; if you are ever in Springfield, don’t miss this place! It has the most eclectic collection of original, recycled treasures I’ve ever seen. And next door is The Cup, a delicious cupcake shop that beckons to every sweet tooth. We had a short visit with Juanita and Milas, Kirsten’s next door in-laws, more tearful hugs and kisses and to bed early.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Believe it or not, Bob and I were up by 3 AM and on the road. We ate a sandwich while driving at 5 AM and Bob gorged himself on diet Cokes to stay awake. Guiltily, I napped intermittently. We allowed ourselves to stop at Berry’s Restaurant outside Florence, MS, and what a great stop it was! This place has the best home cooking imaginable: potato salad, huge shrimp, fried oysters, catfish, vegetable soup and desserts to die for! It was just the petrol stop our tummies craved. Even the décor seemed fitting—more than 30 deer heads, bear, turkeys, bobcat and more on the wall and the Ten Commandments on a tablet on the porch. Of course, there must have been 100 other hungry people there, too. We ended the day at our favorite FL campground, Blackwater River State Park. This is a beautiful locale with a beckoning river perfect for a canoe trip. We will definitely bring Lauren here.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
We made it home by 4:30 today. My Superman Bob had driven from Duluth to Englewood, more than 2000 miles, in 32 hours. The trip total: over 5000 miles in 22 days, all accident-free. Amen and thank you, God.
Because my brother’s passing was so much a part of this trip, I felt compelled to include my thoughts about him and what he meant to me. Thanks for reading, Margaret
My brother Brett was born just three days past my 16th birthday. Our father came from a family of twins—three sets of them! Dad always bragged that he, too, would be a father of twins. Every week we gathered around the TV to watch a popular Western show called “Maverick” which starred two brothers named Brett & Bart Maverick. Mother was big as a house, as usual, but only one bouncing baby boy was born that July 6th, 1959. More on the other brother later.
When Brett was five, I married in an elaborate church wedding in August 1964. Brett carried our rings that day and one of my cherished memories is of him in his miniature tuxedo looking up at me. I missed most of Brett’s childhood when I left Minnesota in 1965 for a future in Missouri that lasted until 1992. My three children were born there, but Mom wasn’t done yet. Liane had been born just 16 months after Brett, and Mom fulfilled Dad’s wish when brother Bart was born September 16, 1970. Dad finally got his other Maverick. There were never any twins. Perhaps that’s how our family grew to seven children—Mom and Dad were always trying.
Sadly, like Brett, I made too few return visits over the years. I remember his high school graduation, a few summer trips and one Christmas. Brett and I saw each other several times after he and Jim moved to St. Louis and I was living in Springfield. He came to see us in Florida one spring. However, one realizes too late that there should have been more time spent together. In 1998, Bart asked Brett to be his best man and Brett spoke so eloquently that I was moved to tears. I had no idea that he had such talent. As he, Bart, and John Jr. were seated at the bridal table, our Father, with that huge Rodberg grin on his face, said, “Look, Margaret, look at my three sons.” I’d never seen him so proud and happy.
The next time I heard Brett give a speech was just four short years ago at our Father’s memorial service. He told a story from his high school years of a fouled chemistry experiment in the family basement. It went terribly wrong and there was quite a mess and a lot of smoke. Mom screamed for a few minutes and ended with ”Wait 'til your Father gets home!” When Dad arrived, he surveyed the situation, asked if anyone was hurt, said “Clean up the mess” and that was the end of it. Brett also spoke with much pride about the strong character that our Father possessed and instilled in him and the rest of us. I was very proud of Brett that day; he gave Dad such a fitting farewell.
The family reunited one last happy time on Mother’s Day last year and I had hoped for a repeat this year. As I watched Atlantis blast into the Florida sky three days before Brett’s passing, I felt his spirit and wished him Godspeed, too