Christmas/Birthday 2017

 2017-12-24, Sunday, home to Craig’s Castle For Christmas

The Christmas season had come, as it always seems to do this time of year, and it was time again to gather with family. We would spend three nights on Craig’s driveway in Stockton for Christmas and my birthday which is the day after, then drive up to my sister’s place in Gridley, CA on the 27th to celebrate our birthday a day late. Yep; we are twins and were born the day after Christmas many, many years ago.2017-12-24a loadingThe day of Christmas eve we loaded the coach for a few nights of visiting family – probably our favorite past time!

We arrived at Craig’s a bit after 1300. After parking the coach and setting up for our three night stay, we spent much of the afternoon in the house with Craig and Brett. I spent some of my time in the coach which included my daily grandpa nap.

2017-12-26b Big Blue IIBig Blue II parked in Craig’s driveway for Christmas and more!

Breanne arrived around 1600 and Laura, Carly and Mike arrived shortly after. Craig, Laura and Bre did most of the cooking and Lavonne helped out, too. Dinner was the usual feast and included pork chops, scalloped potatoes, salad, and a wonderful roasted veggie dish. And more. It was another memorable holiday feast.

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A bit after 2000 I bid everyone goodnight and headed to the coach to edit photos and get this travelogue underway. It had been a long day and I was whipped. Lavonne joined me about 2200 after their Bingo game was over. We called it a night and were heading to bed sometime before 2300. Perhaps Santa would visit during the night…

Day 2, Christmas Day 2017, at Craig’s Castle

Christmas day dawned cold and cloudy. As family goes, nothing special was planned, but Lavonne had mixed her famous French Toast Casserole and brought along to bake for breakfast.

Craig joined us in the coach for a morning chat sometime after 0800. We whiled away the morning and didn’t even get around to breakfast ’til around 1000. Brett and Breanne had gone to their mom’s in Livermore for Christmas.  The day was mostly biding our time in the coach waiting for… well, for dinner, I guess.

Dinner was awesome! We brought a Honey Baked whole smoked turkey that required only some time in the oven to warm up. And we also brought a big Honey Baked ham, which is always delicious. Craig whipped up mashed potatoes, and not instant mashed but the real stuff. And dressing. For me, dressing is one of the best things about the holidays. Craig was gone for hours during the afternoon to shop for a few things we needed for the dinner – and to visit friends and I don’t know what all. But he had returned in time to make dinner. Laura, Carly and Michael arrived in time to help, too. We had another very memorable Christmas feast.

Lavonne and I spent that night in the coach, cozy and warm while outside it was a cold Christmas night. 

Day 3, Tuesday, at Craig’s Castle… My  Birthday!

December 26, 1943 and World War II raged on. That Thursday, in a busy, war time, “fortress city” known as San Francisco, my dear sis and I were born.c1944 Gale, Uncle Keith, DaleWe were pretty cute babies c1944 in our Uncle Eldon’s arms. Well, my sis was, anyway. Mom used to tell folks I was “bald as a billiard ball” when I was born. Sure enough.

My appearance was a complete surprise as I followed my sister into this world just 15 minutes after her arrival – I was completely unexpected! A couple days later, my mom and sis headed home without me. I was left in a hospital incubator to reach the minimum requirement of five pounds before I could go home. 

Today marks 74 years since that happy event. And today we celebrate the fact that we’re both still on the sunny side of the lawn!

Lavonne and I began this happy day around 0600 aboard Big Blue II, the one place I prefer to be most any time. It was a cold, clear morning in Craig’s driveway where out back fog tried to form among the tules of the delta which is Craig’s backyard.2017-12-27a new shirt like 2016 but BLUELavonne and I pose for my official birthday photo. She just presented that new shirt to me, much like the red one she gave me my last birthday.

Around 0800 we joined Craig and Laura in the house for a breakfast of quiche and whatever leftovers from the prior two feasts tempted us. Laura headed to work after breakfast.

Craig busied himself around the place as I tinkered around the coach. One of his jobs was to run over to Lowes for some building material for a shed he was having built, and I went with him. We had talked earlier about having In-N-Out burgers for lunch for my birthday, so as he pulled into Lowes, I saw the burger store and went in for our order as he headed to the nearby Home Depot. Back home the four of us dug into the burgers and fries. A delicious Double-Double Burger, fries and a vanilla shake is a real treat for me as I rarely allow myself such fare. But… it was my birthday!

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Another great gift for my birthday was a shiny, new exhaust tip for the motor home. The old one was dented and rusted and ugly. It was one item I really wanted to replace. I asked Craig, who has a fleet of diesel trucks where he’d buy one. I tried his suggestion and they didn’t have any my size. I put the project off ’til after the holidays. Craig knew the size I wanted and wouldn’cha know… he bought me just what I needed for my birthday – and they ain’t cheap! What a guy! Next time I need a new car, I think I’ll ask Craig where he’d buy one…

Another son, Allen, and wife Nancy who live near Denver, flew in to be with family and kindly timed their visit to be on my birthday. As it turned out, as it often does, it was my job (I volunteered) to pick them up at the airport in Sacramento at about 1600 hours. The traffic was horrible as I drove north on I-5, but I made it on time and our timing was perfect; I drove up to the arrival area just as they walked out the door. The trip home was much better and we had a lovely visit the entire drive. I got them to Craig’s Castle just as folks began arriving for the big party.2017-12-26c Delta sunsetA lovely valley sunset starring Mt. Diablo as we cruised south on I-5 toward Craig’s Castle, Photo credit: Nancy Walters

Now, this gets to be a sticky wicket, but I’ll try to explain briefly. The evening was to be with family for my birthday, and we’d have my favorite Dave Wong’s Chinese food brought in. Mmmm. That would be another wonderful birthday treat! But the “family gathering” turned out to be much more than a family gathering.

The gathering grew to include a bunch of people I didn’t even know. I advised the family that I’d rather spend the evening alone, aboard the coach, happy as could be, and to please not worry about me. I don’t do parties, as they well knew. Nor do I do noise and I certainly don’t do crowds! “But,” I added, “y’all have a great time.” So they did. And so did I. And I still wound up with a plate full of Chinese food that the family brought to me! Now,  it certainly is a happy birthday when I can avoid a crowded party and have a great meal.

As it all turned out, by staying in the coach  I had several very nice visits from family members. I even got several nice birthday presents. So I’d have to say I got more attention by staying in the coach than if I’d gone to that crazy party. Good choice!

I went to bed about 2300 and moments later Lavonne returned from the house as the party was finally over. It had been a good Christmas and birthday, and the next day we would extend the birthday celebration as we headed to Gridley to visit my sis and her husband, John. Life is good aboard  Big Blue II!

Day 4, Wednesday,  Still in Craig’s driveway…

Once again, things changed unexpectedly. John, my sister’s husband, called and advised that Gale was not doing well, and that we’d have to put off the visit. So we’re now zero for two in having planned trips cancelled, the first on Thanksgiving and again today. But we’ll make the trip to visit them as soon as Gale is up to it.

Meanwhile, the family decided they wanted to do some local wine tasting. Lodi, the town just north of Stockton, is well known for their local wineries, so we’d be heading there for a fun day – and we’d make the trip aboard the coach! I don’t much like wine, so I’d make a good designated driver for such an adventure.2017-12-27c Lodi wine tastingWe were at one of the Lodi wineries aboard the coach when we all got together for a family photo. (L-R) Brett, Lavonne, Tom Selleck, Nancy, Allen and Craig pose for the day’s family portrait with beautiful Big Blue II.

The trip began a few minutes after noon, and we were back home at 1715. We had a very good lunch at the Michael David Winery’s Farm Cafe. We ate outside at one of their picnic tables. It was a bit cool, but the sun shined brightly all day and we had a good time together.IMG_6283Nancy and Allen sight-seeing at Oak Farm Vineyards, one of the wineries we visited. 

We visited only three wineries, but everyone had a grand time. On the trip back home, we stopped at Paradise Point Marina on the delta to let Craig and Allen off to pick up Craig’s beautiful thirty-some foot Sea Ray boat that was just serviced. From there we drove the few miles to Craig’s Castle – and they had arrived with the boat about the same time we did, after cruising the delta to Craig’s dock behind the house.

Talk of dinner was next, and Craig informed us that he had tri-tip and several rib-eye steaks that he had to cook as the expiration dates were coming up. It took no more than that for all of us to choose a beef pig-out for the next meal. And it was great! He cooked mine a perfect rare with warm center. And as it turned out Allen, Nancy and Craig joined us in the coach for dinner. Brett had a few friends over for the evening and the rest of us wanted more peace and quiet than the house afforded with the noisy young’uns.2017-12-27d sunset enroute homeAnother lovely sunset photo with Mt. Diablo in the distance taken during our drive home from the wine tasting trip.

We visited for some time in the coach, I guess ’til the young guests departed and the place quieted down. And I could just kick myself for not getting a photo of all of us at the time!

After Craig and all went back to the house, Lavonne and I readied for bed and were tucked in for the night by 2300. It had been a long and very pleasant day.

Day 5, Thursday, December 28, Craig’s to home via I-5, CA99

2017-12-28a sunrise StocktonA cold December sunrise in Craig’s neighborhood. 

It was another cool December morning at Craig’s and our last for this Christmas and birthday visit. We would be heading home around 1000 and on the way would stop at a Walmart to pick up our groceries for the week. We now order online a day ahead and pick up – no fighting the crowds in the store and no extra cost. We love it and pick up every week.

Craig had to get back to work that day, and Allen and Nancy would visit relatives in the Bay Area for the next day or two. Life was getting back to normal.

A sign on our home fridge reads “No matter how far you may roam, the best part is coming home.” And it was good to be back. We unloaded the coach and then I dumped the tanks. I parked her in the RV lot ’til the next call to duty.

It was a grand Christmas/birthday week, and we’ll be heading up to see my sis as soon as she’s up to it. We had the good news that she was home from a night in the hospital and we were looking forward to visiting her – hopefully within the next week.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all…

About FishWisher

Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.
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