“How big a snowman can you make Big Daddy?”

I was on the phone with our 10-year-old grandson, Liam. Mireille had told me he had a question.

“How big a snowman do you want?” I asked in reply.

“BIG!” he said, and I could hear the anticipation in his voice. It was matched by my own.

Mireille and I had come to Grand Island, New York about two weeks earlier than we had intended. The reasons escape me now, but one of them was to try and surprise our daughter Sonia, Doug (her soon to be husband), and Liam, our grandson. We thought it would be fun to show up on their doorstep completely unannounced.

We got to Grand Island on Sunday the 19th of May. We initially planned to stay at the Cinderella Motel and Campground, however, as soon as we pulled in and saw the place we knew it was not for us and got on the phone to the KOA down the road, trying to get a spot there. We got a spot at the KOA and moved to that site Wednesday of the following week. All the time that first week as we were going to the grocery store, tooling around Grand Island and pretty much any time we were out in the evenings we were worried about running into Sonia or Doug. We wanted to surprise them and didn’t want to spoil it.

Friday, the 24th of May, we just showed up at their door. It turned out as good as we had hoped it would. The surprise was complete.

After visiting with everyone at their house, we all went out to dinner at an Indian restaurant in Buffalo. When we came back, Liam packed some things for overnight and came to stay with us for the weekend in Charlie.

Doug, Liam, Sonia, and Mireille

Saturday and Sunday we spent with Liam. I am sure somewhere there were waffles. Liam loves Yaya’s waffles with maple syrup. (Mireille is Yaya) We walked around the park, he jumped on the jumping pad and went swimming. We made s’mores, jumped on the jumping pad and swam some more, and Liam told us about a series of books and a movie that is in the works featuring his monsters. His imagination never stops, and his stories are very detailed and consistent. It was a busy weekend!

Sunday afternoon, we were invited to Doug’s mom and dad’s house in Hamburg for lunch. We had been to Mike and Chris’s place last year when we came through New York from Canada. They are lovely people and have a cool place. One feature I especially love is an enormous oak tree that is beside their house. Their home is not a small building, and the tree dwarfs it.

It is important that you understand that this is not a trick of perspective. That is a two story house and that tree is every bit that big!

I cannot recall if it was before or after eating the hotdogs, but at some point, Mireille and I were in the house, and Mike and Chris were outside. Sonia gave Mireille and I a card while Doug gave one to Chris and Mike. Mireille and I were sitting next to each other, and we read the card at the same time. After a moment of confusion, it dawned on us that they were telling us they were expecting a baby in January!

Just the kind of card one would expect from my daughter and her husband…just trust me on this.

We were utterly blown away but perhaps not quite so much as Mike and Chris. Everyone was so excited the rest of the afternoon was a blur. But one memory is fixed clearly in my mind. As we were driving back home to Charlie, Mireille, still reveling in the news, said that we had to be here to see that new baby come into the world! I could not have agreed more. From that moment to this one, things have been a blur of activity, excitement, trepidation, and anticipation.

Mireille, Sonia, and Doug the day we got the good news!

One of the things we have learned over our time in Charlie is to stay loose and be flexible. Stuff does not always happen according to plan, and there is only so much that you can control. For both of us, switching gears on what we thought life was going to be has not been hard at all. We are just thankful that the freedom my job allows gives us the chance to confidently decide to make a change like this from the time we left Hamburg that afternoon to the time we got back to the KOA on Grand Island!

Our apartment for the next year. We have the upstairs and the garage.

In the week after learning of the new baby, we found an apartment on Grand Island in which to live. It would not be ready for us until the 14th of September, which gave us time to go to Canada as planned to see Mireille’s family. Friday of that week we got to see Doug and Sonia get married, something we had been looking forward to for a long time. Doug is a wonderful guy!

Celebrating Doug and Sonia’s wedding on the Maid of the Mist.

The first week of June I had to go to Houston for work. Traveling for work is another reason that settling down for a time is good for us. I am involved in a big project at work and have team members in Houston, Mexico, and India. I need to be free to travel more than I have been, and on less notice than I might like. Since we have been living in Charlie, I have tried to have things planned out pretty far in advance, so we always know we have a place. Sometimes my work trips come up at inconvenient times to those plans. I don’t want to leave Mireille in situations where she knows no one, and I don’t want to get into a position where we move someplace new, and I have to leave immediately. Thankfully neither has happened yet. However, calendars are bound to clash sooner or later, and I want to avoid it if possible. With this big project at work, I expect to have to travel more, so the timing was right for us in that regard.

I found a place to store Charlie about a half-hour away and have been studying up on RV storage since I found out about our new plans. I wanted to find a place where we could store him inside, but none were available so he will spend his first actual winter out in the cold.

For Mireille and I, we are looking forward to the change. We both love fall. She’s French-Canadian and has missed seeing the colors. I love cold weather and sweaters and boots, so I am looking forward to seeing my breath again! We will miss our friends in Mesa this winter, but our apartment is big enough to have all our kids over for Christmas, and we can’t wait for that to happen. There are a lot of things we can’t wait for:

  • We can’t wait to get to go trick-or-treating with Liam.
  • We can’t wait for Thanksgiving.
  • We can’t wait for Christmas.
  • I can’t wait to build that snowman with Liam.
  • I can’t wait to go fishing with Doug.
  • I can’t wait for Mireille to have a big kitchen in which she can spread out and some cold weather to cook/bake in.
  • We can’t wait to meet the new baby.

One thing about this change that Mireille and I have talked about and upon which we agree. We have gotten used to not having much of anything. We probably have clothes in both our closets that we have not worn since we first left on our adventure. We are moving from less than 400 square feet into about 1300. I want to be as intentional about things we bring into our apartment as we have been with Charlie. I do not ever want to go back to being tied down by “stuff.”

So what about Charlie? To quote Johnny Reb in “How the West was Won,”

I don’t rightly know!

We will hang on this year. I want to go back to Redbay and get some minor things fixed. I want to take a trip with Liam someplace; there are myriad cool places to go in the northeast. I would love to be able to go to the places we have always wanted to go here in the US, which we have not yet visited. We haven’t gotten any farther west than Arizona!

But we also want to travel around Europe and other parts of the world. I got to go to India in April and loved it. I will go back for work, but being there reminded me of how wonderful it is to be in a place where you are unaccustomed to almost everything. I love that and want to do more. We may sell Charlie once we find out how things go, but that decision is not for now.

In the meantime, I have a lot to write which I have neglected this summer, Nashville is a perfect example. We plan on exploring places around us here in New York and sharing that. I still have technical stuff to share, our new network setup, how I keep track of where we have been and what we did for posts such as this one and storing Charlie all come to mind. I enjoy writing about our adventures, RV related or not, and if people enjoy it or find it helpful then so much the better.

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