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Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 Christmas Letter


     I decided that it might be a good idea if I turned our annual Christmas letter into a blog.  Of course, this runs the risk of redundancy.  If you are a regular follower of the blog (thank you, by the way) or if you have received a copy of the letter already, there will certainly be some things you have seen before.  Before I post the letter here, I'll do two things.  I'll include a picture of Baxter in front of our tree, and I'll wish all of my readers the most pleasant Christmas ever.
     Also, I must point out that the letter is Durelle's creation; I merely did the formatting and picture insertion.  So here it is:


Season’s Greetings from the Cloutiers’ 2007 Allegro Bus!
            Right now I am in the shop, duct tape and all, for a few repairs, so I guess I have time to write the Cloutier Christmas letter.  If you were driven by Frank and were transporting Durelle and Baxter all summer, you’d need some refurbishing, too.  I need a whole new back end.  It seems that Frank spotted some cheap diesel in an unfamiliar and cramped service station.  While leaving he scraped my backside against a concrete post.  The electric flush switch failed on the toilet; the refrigerator door seals failed causing a frosting problem; the stove top doesn’t always light; and the dishwasher occasionally quits too soon.  And...the retractable step doesn’t.  The main slide-out works poorly I think from the residue of that broken safety glass from when I was burglarized a year ago.  Rumor has it that I’ll be asked to get them up to Maine again next summer when I’m feeling perky again.  I’ve heard that I’ll be parked in a new spot, facing the old one but with a better view of Penobscot Bay.
     Thank goodness I won’t have to travel the routes and the miles I did this summer.  I started off by taking them from Hanahan, SC to the FamCamp at Nellis AFB near Las Vegas, NV for their granddaughter Melissa’s lovely wedding.


  Then I went to Cedar City, UT for a few days so they could check out Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.  From there it was on to the Air Force Academy with a stop along the way for a visit in Parachute, CO to visit Frank’s cousin, Carol.  The piece of oil shale from her husband Tom’s homestead in DeBeque is now proudly on the mantle.  Crossing the Rockies at 11,000 feet was no problem, but my “Jake Brake” got a lot of use coming down the east side.  At USAFA I had to park “the wrong way” so the dish on the roof could see the satellite.  They left me with the dog a lot as they visited, wined, and dined with the Catalfamos, the Glenns and the Dills.  Fortunately, I got them out of there before the Wando wildfire forced the evacuation of USAFA.  
            We then proceeded across Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania until we stopped in Westfield, NY on the eastern end of Lake Erie.  They spent a couple of weeks enjoying sunsets, wineries, quaint villages and new friends Larry and Jane from the strangely named town of Boston, NY.       




     We then headed east on the NY Thruway until I pooped out in Glenville, NY at a lovely park on the Mohawk River.  My four, relatively new, AGM house batteries failed and had to be replaced with the old lead-acid type.  From there I carried the three of them to the Hanscom AFB FamCamp in Fourth Cliff (Scituate), MA.  I parked so close to the edge of the cliff that I could have easily jumped in the ocean. 

     They took a few day trips in the car to Brant Rock, to Plymouth to reunite with Durelle’s roommate Marcia and husband Peter, and to Lynn to visit Durelle’s brother Marty and sister-in-law Ann.  While there we met former acquaintances and fellow Allegro Bus owners, Bill and Diane Russell.  Durelle just loves walking around campgrounds with Baxter and hearing someone say, “I know you!” 

     The next stop was the owners’ hometown of Athol, MA which required squeezing over that scary old Millers River bridge by the old UTD factory.  I parked in the parking lot of the shuttered Silver Lake School so they could enjoy the festivities of Athol’s 250th anniversary including a two-hour parade complete with the Clydesdales as well as several Athol High School reunions with friends from the classes of 1942 to 1965 but most importantly, 1956.
            I finally got to go to Maine on July 23rd and enjoyed watching my owners reunite with their many camping friends and enjoy a visit from their daughter, Cindy.  I provide an expensive windbreak for many lobster feeds.  This is what Maine coast camping is all about. Note the barnacles on this old-timer.



     I also am a baby-sitter (with Rick’s help) for Baxter as Frank, Durelle, and Cindy went to Southwest Harbor to visit the vacationing Gobiens, a good friend and former co-worker of Frank’s.  They also went to Lewiston for an annual reunion with Durelle’s cousins Eleanor and Phyllis and her husband, Fred.  And, of course, they had to make a sentimental journey to New Harbor and Pemaquid Point which included a visit with another of her cousins Harold and his wife, Diane.  After seven weeks in Maine, we trudged on down to the Field and Stream RV Park in Brookline, NH and stayed three weeks so that my owners could spend time with their son, Mark, his wife, Heather, grandson Kevin, granddaughter Meghan, grandson Dave, great granddaughter, Brielle and her mother, Carolyn.  Granddaughter Melissa now lives in Sydney, Australia with new husband, Illia Zotos.  Durelle also really enjoyed seeing a lot of good friends from Nashua Country Club.  While in Brookline they checked out the status of Frank’s sister Marian’s and her husband Eldy’s “log cabin” in Royalston.  They have moved in!
     They finally let me start home on the first of October which included a couple of stops in Virginia to reconnect with the Looses, the Myers and the Wegners.  We got home on the 5th at which point they off loaded a half ton of stuff.  Boy, did that feel good!  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from this tired, sick, but happy camper.  

       That's our Christmas letter.  To those who have already seen it...my apologies.  To those that haven't...I hope you enjoyed it. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our eagle friend

     You have seen pictures of this fellow before, most of them crisper and steadier.  I am adding this one because it captures the almost intimate connection we have here.  This was taken through our living room window this morning.  It is kinda special.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Has it been a month?

     Nope, ONLY 28 days.  Tonight, at Durelle's insistence, we took a ride around the better decorated neighborhoods in our immediate area to look at the Christmas decorations.  The first stop was Park Circle in North Charleston.  This is a huge traffic circle with a park in the middle. It must be at least 200 yards in diameter.  The entire perimeter, both on the inside and outside of the circle are decorated by the city, by individuals and by local businesses.  
     As you know, night photography is a different ball game.  With low light and long exposures a tripod is required, and I have yet to purchase one.  It is a challenge with a hand-held camera to get a reasonably sharp picture.  For every one you see here I deleted several.
          So, what have we been doing for the past month in lieu of updating the blog?  Not much.  Durelle and Cindy have played golf about once a week.  The Christmas cards have all been mailed.  Some of you will notice that this year's card has been written BY the Allegro Bus.  Because of the peripheral neuropathy, I have been doing twice a week physical therapy with Alison, Stacey and Jennifer at the Balance, Mobility & Dizziness Center of Charleston.  It's helping, but it prompts me to recall the difference between a therapist and a terrorist...you can negotiate with a terrorist.
     This is the last picture from Park Circle.  The remaining pictures were taken on Dominion Drive in Hanahan which winds along the water as it empties into the harbor.
     At Christmas I'll get some pictures of our tree for the next post.  By the way, a few days ago I missed a super picture because I didn't take the camera along for our evening walk.  Cindy, Durelle and I were marveling at a particularly extravagant sunset when we heard the unmistakable sound of a C-5.  Sure enough, it descended right into the midst of that sunset as it landed at Joint Base Charleston.  It was one of those awesome fish that just got away.  Oh, well...we'll keep trying.