In May, we began our RV adventure at the Kings Bay Naval Air Station in St. Mary’s, GA and now our journey heads back south. We arrived at Camp Lejeune Marine base in North Carolina ten days ago. My nephew Scott Schaller is stationed here and we hoped to see him during our ten day stay. Last Thursday, he joined us for dinner and we hoped for a second visit so we could cook some steaks for him and a few buddies, but it’s not going to work out. I think he’s pretty busy with some new responsibilities and a promotion. I was so excited to see him that I forgot to take pictures.

This is our first experience with a Marine Base and it is definitely ‘interesting’. Young Marines train here for war zones, so there’s a constant drone of helicopters, rifle shot and tank guns in the distance. We drove to the store one day and could see the troops practicing about 2 football fields away. The thunder of gunfire was so loud it scared the beejeebers out of me. The street signs warn of tank crossings and possible crossfire. Last night they must have been training, for we heard helicopters right overhead, well into the wee hours.

The good news is that the RV park is right on the beach. I’ve awakened to some pretty spectacular sunrises and hearing the waves has been fantastic; I’ve been sleeping really well. There’s even a doggie beach about a mile’s walk and the puppies have really been enjoying some romps in the sand. We couldn’t walk very far this week, as the Marines were practicing beach landings and the doggie beach was closed.

Last weekend I had to work …  okay, feel sorry for me now – I lead a retreat on Topsail Beach! Dave drove me the short half an hour to the Christian retreat center, with plans of attending a mullet festival on Saturday. The retreat was just amazing; I feel like I did a good job and got in some good beach time too.

I love the beach, and saw some wonderful sides of life, which nurtured my soul. A young child and his mom were building a sand castle. Gosh, it’s been  years since I’ve done that. They were having such a good time. It was a little chilly, so I didn’t take off my shoes. A dear friend who I’ve always considered to be quite conservative surprised me however, by abandoning her shoes and sporting a pretty wild pedicure; Halloween colors picked out by her granddaughter. Kids bring such a lovely perspective to life.

I also met a handsome young man who proudly showed us his treasure – a shark ear! I listened as he described the bone that protruded and smiled at his innocence, seeing a shark’s ear in a sea shell. His dad had actually picked up some real shark’s teeth and I was so happy to see that he played along with his son’s great discovery.

Ah, and there’s nothing like love on the beach. I asked this hand-holding couple if I could take their picture. They agreed and went smiling on their way. On our return trip, I found them again, with the guy carving “I love you” into the sand with his toe. I was all prepared to snap a picture when the tide rolled in and washed his sign of love out to sea.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about this trip is visiting a new Catholic church each Sunday. I’ve seen some great stain glass windows and statuary; when I pull out the camera, someone inevitably will approach and tell me a little story about their church. We’ve met people who’ve created their own stained glass windows (a parishioner was an artist) and another who’s daughter had carved the Crucifix.

St. Jude the Apostle is a simple church – plain glass windows and not much glitz but it did have something that really intrigued me – Father Terrence Collins! I noticed that he was not wearing shoes! After Mass he candidly informed me that he has much better balance in his bare feet and hasn’t worn shoes for five years. I think he had Parkinson’s, but his engaging smile was indicative of a great attitude for whatever life has to offer.

We also took one little day-trip to Fort Macon, historically known for the siege in spring of 1862, where the Union army hammered the little stronghold for a month until the Confederates surrendered. It became a national park but was reactivated for a short time during World War II as a battery command bunker. It seemed crazy to be so close to the Outer Banks and not see it, so we took a drive to the very southern end, just so we could say we were there. Beautiful water vistas! Glad we decided to see this beautiful part of the state.

I’ve enjoyed some great bike rides here; the roads lack the hills which have challenged me in a few of our past locations. I won’t be riding much at Sandy’s, unless we can find a bike path and borrow Craig’s truck to transport my 3-wheel recumbent. She lives on a country road, with a few hills but more challenging are the cars that zoom on the little two-lane highway. So I guess my alternative will be walking.

This has been the best summer of my life. After Charlotte, we’ll start working our way to Florida. I have a convention in St. Pete and then the last NASCAR race of the season in Homestead. We had initially wanted to spend Thanksgiving in Key West, but have tentatively decided to come home instead. I’m not ready yet, but by then I think I will be!

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