We have camped with large groups before at rallies, but this month is different. To celebrate Cori and Greg’s launch into the big wide world, we decided we wanted to be together. The first two weeks here we have 4 couples (Cori and Greg, Bill and Kelly, Jo and Craig, and us) then we are joined by Sue and Guy and Eileen and Gene and hopefully Red and Pam if Pam can get Red’s butt in gear…. (love you Pam!) So it’s interesting being with a group for an extended period of time. Most folks who full-time wander their route and as they meet up with others they hang together for a week or so. There are exceptions of course. Groups of friends meet at Quartzite (an RV hangout place in the desert) or at rallies. Some do like to caravan and travel together for extended periods or will plan a trip together to Alaska or Mexico. As with everything else in this life, there is endless variation and it’s certainly not “one size fits all”. Being with a large group is interesting because the dynamics change as the group makeup changes. For those who haven’t done this it’s like a dinner party in some ways. Great mix of people and you strike gold, wrong mix of people; not so fun.
So I think we were all a little nervous about throwing ourselves together for an extended period of time. We talked about it in advance and promised each other we would give each other space. You really need to allow each person some alone time, each couple some couple time, and give the group enough time. For those who have done this for years maybe it happens organically, but we planned it out a bit. One of the funnest things we did was give everyone a “job”. It sounds silly, and it is, a little, but it was fun assigning a role to everyone in the group based on what they loved to do and what they were good at. If this is starting to sound over structured…it’s not. It was a fun way to kick off the first night and when we have a group disagreement we always defer to the person who is ultimately in charge of the thing. So here are the “jobs”; it was a pretty fun conversation.
- Party Planner – Cori is in charge of all things party and made a master schedule for us on what nights we would cook together and what types of dinners we would have (pot luck, theme nights, progressive dinners.) We are 40 minutes round-trip from a grocery store with a limited supply of food, so we all agreed a little extra planning in the food department was called for to avoid spending a fortune in gas.
- Master Chef – Jo is an amazing cook and when the meals are being prepared she is in charge. She doesn’t cook all the ingredients but coordinates them and makes sure we have all the other pieces parts (ie: condiments, vegetables, bread) needed for the meal. Again, you might think this is overkill but we all love to eat and its important the workload and cost is fairly distributed.
- Logistics – Kelly makes sure we all get to where we need to be. She coordinated the campsite, paid the deposit (since they only accepted checks), made sure our sites were next to each other, and generally anything related to getting the group from one place to another we defer to her.
- Bartender – Bill managed beverage and bottling companies his entire life and spent many years in Jamaica in the rum business. Plus he makes one hell of a drink and has an amazingly well stocked bar so he plans our drinks (coordinating of course with the master chef). We just need to make sure we keep supplying him with the raw materials he needs. I’m telling you, if you ever have an opportunity to have Bill make you a drink, take it. He even puts fruit and little umbrellas on the glasses…awesome!!
- Fireman – Craig was a fireman his entire life and now is in charge of all things fire. Since we hope we don’t have a fire in any rigs we have expanded those duties to include building fires on the beach and grilling. The other guys help since we have three grills running simultaneously but Craig is definitely the man in charge.
- Media Consultant – Lee gave himself this job and at first we all thought it was a bit of nonsense, but he has taken it upon himself to grab the camera and capture some moments. He also talks about press releases (which I think are just made up) and is going to be videotaping a couple installs Greg is working on so we will see if this job actually carries any weight.
- Security – Speaking of Greg, he has put himself in charge of security. Which basically means he wants to stand around and look cool in his Ray Ban’s. I will say though Greg has proven himself to be very courageous in a crisis. He saved his dog from a vicious attack earlier this year and helped rescue a couple who fell out of their kayak on a Peace River kayaking trip. Seriously, he can be heroic, but mainly I imagine him just standing around a lot.
- Safety and First Aid – Greg assigned me this role and you would hope there would be little need, but last night Craig gashed his knee and with a little encouragement let me clean it out for him. I definitely need a better first aid kit. Craig was being all “I don’t need to worry about it” tough but since I am the Safety director I got to override him and he handled it with his usual grace.
So there you have it. It’s somewhat tongue in cheek of course, but also a great way to have one person make a decision when the group can’t agree. If you are ever with a big group for an extended period of time…seriously…I totally recommend it.
I did want to mention that we were all so excited Cori and Greg were finally here we went a little crazy. Craig had the idea for the sign which we posted at their site, Jo and Craig and Kelly and Bill provided champagne and Lee and I gave some gag gifts to welcome them to their new life.
Saturday, Jo made a delicious French Toast breakfast (see recipe below it was really good) and then Lee and I took off to see Pea Island and explore a bit. Cori, Greg, Bill, and Kelly have all vacationed here, but it is our first time so we wanted to see some nature stuff. Pea Island is part of the Hatteras National Seashore and is a bird sanctuary. They have a walkway (about 1/2 mile) that you can take down to a viewing station and we got some beautiful pictures of the marsh and sound. I also added a few new birds to my bird page…hooray!! But had to share here some cool pictures I got of birds and their reflections. It was very relaxing as usual…those nature walks are wonderful for me to clear my head and get into the weekend mode. Plus it’s totally free which is my favorite kind of nature!!
Saturday night we had another great dinner…thanks to Jo with fajitas, some amazing homemade guacamole, roasted vegetables, and home-made tortilla chips and we stayed out chatting and catching up until after dark. The only bummer is there are no fire rings right at the campsites. You can have fires down on the beach but the tides haven’t been quite right so Craig and Bill are keeping an eye on the tide schedules so we can hopefully have a fire soon. Nothing better than hanging out by a fire with a group of good friends.
Sunday we let everyone know we were going up to Kitty Hawk to see the Wright Brothers National Memorial. What we all agreed was if someone wanted to do something, they would let others know and it was up to everyone if they wanted to go or not. Cori and Greg were getting settled and Jo and Craig has some family stuff they were working on, but Kelly and Bill came with us and we had an awesome day. Bill has been here many times with the Boy Scouts so is very familiar with the area and he was our tour guide as we visited some places. We stopped first at the Bodie Lighthouse which to me is the quintessential lighthouse. It turns out that Bill’s great-grandfather worked in a lighthouse, which was really neat and we spent some time learning about how the lighthouse was rebuilt twice (lost once to weather and blown up once by the Confederates). We could have climbed to the top but it was $8 each and 217 stairs so we all decided to give it a pass. Still really nice and the rangers were extremely helpful.
Next we stopped at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. It was only $4 per person to get in (very reasonable) and Bill and Kelly who have an America the Beautiful pass got in free. Well, I was delighted when we pulled up and saw a sign saying the memorial was free today because it was National Parks Week. Yes, it’s only $4, but my friends know me and Bill called it when he said he wanted to see my “It’s Free” happy dance. I also just love this country. It is so great that we have this memorial and nice that they have free days on occasion. The Memorial is the large field that they actually took off from and you can walk the path of that first flight. Up on a hill is a beautifully maintained granite sculpture created in the 30’s and there is a small museum with some artifacts inside. Let me say that if you don’t buy into the idea that this moment changed all of human history going forward, you probably would think it was lame…but all four of us were struck by the importance of the moment and Lee and I actually felt we were walking on hallowed ground. Growing up in Ohio, we learned about the Wright Brothers (born in Dayton) when we were young elementary school kids, and I never really thought I would have an opportunity to visit the place I had read about. I know we are not the only ones who felt that way because Neil Armstrong carried a piece of the cloth and wood from the original 1903 Wright Flyer when he set foot on the moon. We all highly recommend it and hope you will get a chance to visit it if you’re ever in the area.
A hand drawing showing why they chose the site
After the hike we were starving and all really wanted local seafood. Our Logistics specialist Kelly, jumped on Trip Advisor (which she and Bill say rarely steer them wrong) and found us a great local restaurant on the water called Miller’s Seafood. Kelly had a lobster roll that was so good Bill didn’t even get a bite. His fish sandwich was good and only $10. Lee and I splurged and got combo plates with local shrimp and local flounder, fries, and hush puppies. The portions were huge and every single bite was delicious. Since we got waters to drink with tip we ate very well for $42 for the two of us and I had enough left over to take home for lunch on Monday. Plus the company was delightful and we had a nice time catching up.
After lunch we also all went to Kitty Hawk Kites which is a HUGE kit store and more. Yes their prices are high..the quality of their product is top-notch, but we all found some cool stuff on clearance. Bill got a terrific stunt kite 50% off. Kelly got this balloon she’s been wanting. I picked up a cotton zip up jacket for only $10 and Lee didn’t get anything because he already bought his kite back in St. Augustine. I think he was regretting that a little bit. It was a really cool store and fun to look even if you don’t choose to buy, plus they offer hang gliding lessons, kite seminars…really all things kites. My favorite was a HUGE cow kite that was hanging from the top of the building…totally cracked me up.
It was a really fun day and we enjoyed hanging out with Bill and Kelly very much. For dinner I cooked my mom’s spaghetti and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Thankfully the rain held off long enough for us to eat outside under Greg and Cori’s canopy. If the rest of my weekends here are this good, I will be a happy, happy girl.
Mama Jo’s Sugar Free French Toast Casserole
- 5 cups of cubed bread
- 4 eggs
- 1-1/2 cups of milk
- 1/4 cup granular Splenda
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pam Cooking Spray
- Spray baking dish with Pam
- Beat eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons sweetener, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and vanilla extract together in a bowl
- Mix Bread with Egg/Milk mixture above
- Pour into pan
- Place in refrigerator overnight
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Sprinkle additional Splenda and cinnamon mix on top of the casserole
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until top if slightly crunchy
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