The Gathering of the Clan, Chapter Two (or II, whichever you prefer)  

Posted by Alex Pendragon

Up until departure time, THE Wife was not entirely sure she would be able to accompany due to some family issues of her own, but came the day and she felt she could come. According to the weather reports I had glanced at, I had assumed we would be passing through a mild weather front that might shower us a few times, but it turned out to be one long gray journey through some nasty, cold rain that persisted all the way to Mobile, Alabama. Now, let me back track slightly and tell you about some trip planning considerations……..

The entire drive to South Toledo Bend State Park in Louisiana was Google Mapped to come in around 12-13 hours. That would have had us getting up at some ungodly hour and getting there fairly late if we left on the day the cabin was available. Oh, the cabin……before we left I finally arranged to share a cabin with my cousin Tammy and her husband Steve, who were flying in from California. Otherwise it would have been a tent site, and it's been years since these old bones have had to experience camping out in cold nights. We split the cost with them so it wasn't that expensive. So, as it turns out, a Blogger friend of mine who I have know for many years now, Jules, had informed me that her and her husband were dying to meet us and would be more than happy to put us up for the night if we decided to drop by while passing through. This was providence at it's best! Mobile Alabama is just about halfway between here and there and the overnight stop would afford me the leisure to stop off at my Grandfathers' old place long enough to see what shape it was in and take pictures for the other cousins to see. The property is in probate since my Grandmother passed away, and the proceeds of it being sold would be spit amongst the aunts and uncles, including me, who has survived my late mother. I had an idea I might want to try and acquire the place myself, being on a bayou and all, but I changed my mind about that once I saw the place. Mother nature had reclaimed the plot to such an extent that it would cost as much to rehabilitate it as it would be to purchase it.

So, we stopped off in Freeport, Florida, I did my reminiscing, and we continued on our way to Mobile, Alabama, following the directions Jules had given me over e-mail. We pulled up to this really cute house across the street from a little canal, and Jules and her husband Blan came out to usher us into the backyard to park. Thus began a very pleasant night in which we got to meet this "old friend" of mine for the first time, sharing a nice dinner with them and getting to know them better. All this time I had only known Jules through comments to my blog, but I knew instinctively that she was good people, and believe me, they are! We all had a wonderful time getting to know each other! Before we left Jacksonville, THE Wife had expressed misgivings about spending a night with "people we didn't know", but the really funny thing about it was that Jules confided in me that her husband had expressed the same feelings, and now we all have this running joke about the "serial killers" coming to spend the! They even drove us down to the marina to show off the small sailboats they love to sail out in the bay with other members of their unpretentious "yacht club". I think I made yet another pair of friends for life, in no small measure due to my blog and having followers who have actually come to grow fond of "THE Michael" and the telling of his life on his blog.

The next morning, we got up bright and early so that we could continue our journey and they could get to work, but I hadn't gotten much sleep. I'm sure most of my readers can empathize with me when I state that a mattress can be a very personal thing, and this mattress was much to hard for me to sleep on. I do not fault my gracious hosts for this, but it did remind us why we brought along an inflatable queen sized air bed that we knew we could tolerate other than our own bed, which has lots of layers of foam to cushion our aging bodies. We would deploy that mattress on our return trip, as we did at the cabin.

We left Jules and Blan with the admonition to stop again on our return, and we parted feeling so good about our experience meeting these wonderful people. I thought I liked Jules from what she would write to me in comments and the occasional letter. Now I knew I liked her AND her husband a lot more than I ever thought I would. Thank you so much, you wonderful people, for trusting us and being there for us when we needed a place to rest our bones. These invitations go both ways. Sunny Florida awaits you when you head out OUR way!


So, the weather had improved remarkably by this next morning and we continued on our way in sunshine. Let me tell you, if the speed limit on interstate highways was still at 55, I would have been one unhappy camper. I happen to be one of those who thinks 70 miles-per-%&@#&$-hour is damn fast enough, but the majority of Americans have gotten so used to instant- every-damn-thing that I usually end up being the slowest car on the road, these idiots blowing by me at 85 MPH or faster. And yes, America, the highway patrol is still busy out there ruining your insurance rates and adding points to your license, all because you all think you are so $#@&^%$ SPECIAL! (This rant was brought to you by the National Association of just how $%@&&%$ fast do you need to go?) I want to apologize to sensitive ears for my language, but sometimes I have this keen interest into getting my point across, and nothing does it better than those old American standbys, the four letter words. So sue me.

(While editing this, I simmered down, a cooler head prevailed, and I censored myself somewhat. Don't come back here expecting me to always be this considerate. Grin....)

So, finally, after a few fill-ups, a thrilling drive though the downtown traffics of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, in which crazy people tried to kill us, and thanks to google maps, we made our way into the South Toledo Bend State Park, located on the border of Louisiana and Texas. It was nice not having to venture into Texas, because, quite frankly, 8 plus years of Texas was plenty enough for me. Besides, being an American without a passport, I probably would have been considered illegal anyway and promptly arrested by some Ranger. Texas has been itching to succeed from the union and I will gladly wave bye bye if they are ever allowed to do so. Just don't think you're taking any nuclear weapons with you. If we're not letting Iran have any, we SURE as hell aren't letting YOU play with them….he he.

Hey, laugh, I joke a lot, OK? I love you guys, even the Texans.

We stopped off at the park office to pick up a cabin key, which of course they didn't have, but we did get a nice piece of stiff red paper to hang on our rear-view mirror. Then we drove straight to the camping area we expected the rest of the clan to be gathering at and boy, were there CLAN. All KINDS of clan. The cousins had reproduced and now we OWNED this place. It was such an emotional moment for me, leaping (OK, fine, I don't leap so well anymore but I got out of the car somewhat faster than usual) out of the car and embracing Aunts and Uncles and Cousins I had not seen in SO, SOOOOOO many years. And, of course, I shook hands and hugged the various spouses that accompanied the relations. They all welcomed Gail into their club with equal affection, and before too long she was not feeling so much the outsider.

Then, after awhile, we made our way to the cabin, and let me tell ya, these cabins are NICE! They come with two bedrooms, one with a queen sized bed, the other with two bunk beds. The living room has a fold-out couch. There's one bathroom (which is a minor annoyance when you have several families sharing) and a kitchen, completely stocked with dishes and utensils, and towels and linens were included. We brought the food and booze since Tammy and Steve had to fly in from California, and homeland security makes it hard to smuggle a rack of baby-back ribs onto a jet. Since WE were sharing the cabin with THEM, we got the bunk bed room, which of course wasn't working for us, being the pansy-ass-gotta have-the-perfect mattress couple that we were, so later that night we blew up the air mattress in the living room and slept there, once the initial day and night of getting aquatinted wound down. It had a wood burning stove, also, but we never got around to using it, instead depending on the central air to defend us against the frigid cold of the night. We did some visiting, then Steve and I got some wood and charcoal going on the outside grill and cooked us up some chicken breasts and ate some of them with baked beans and salad. OK, fine, we ended up having to NUCK them in the microwave to finish them off, they were so thick. Some cavemen WE turned out to be…sheesh!

And, of course, I had brought along my make-shift karaoke system and set that up in the living room and we had a blast singing the night away.

Then we wore ourselves out talking and comparing notes and eventually in the wee hours of the morning we said our goodnights. Of course, physics tends to screw with the best laid plans of mice and wives, so we blew up the air mattress (it has a built-in air pump so no, no lungs are required) and set it on guessed it.....cold tiled floor. OK, yes, an air mattress can be nice and cushy and comfortable, but it is filled with AIR, and air quickly picks up the ambient temperature of whatever it's in contact with, which in this case was this suck-the-heat-right-out-of-everything stone tile floor. So, in no time at all, we were trying to fall asleep on a slab of very cold mattress, and all the blankets in the world wasn't helping. We didn't get any sleep that night either, but hey, with this kind of excitement, who the hell needs sleep?

Hey, this was only day one, Thursday. Two more days to go! Stay tuned for another exciting episode in which THE Michael gets adopted by an adoring teenage cousin once removed.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 25, 2010 at Thursday, March 25, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

1 slick comments

It sounds like such a fantastic time! Glad you enjoyed yourselves so completely (despite the mattress problems).

Looking forward to the next installment... :o)

March 26, 2010 at 1:05 PM

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