A Vagabond Life

Our view can change when we want it to!

Category: Friends

April Wedding Bells

Nothing can be finer than April in North Carolina for a wedding!

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Ferri are proud to announce the wedding of their son, Nick Ferri, to the vibrant and beautiful Ashely Zaytoun of New Bern, North Carolina, on April 29, 2017. The ceremony took place on Wrightsville Beach and the reception was at the Ironclad Brewery in Wilmington. Family and guests traveled from as far north as Maine, as far south as Florida, and as far west as California.  There was plenty of food and wine and the DJ was outstanding!

The ocean provided a perfect backdrop for the wedding with clear skies and a gentle sea breeze that accentuated the romantic setting. Beachgoers were lounging about adding to the moment with many young woman wearing what passes for a bikini today, and a couple of fellows strolling around and posing briefly for the cameras in their brief Speedos.

Ironclad Brewery was an ideal receptions site for this down-to-Earth couple. The drinks were cold and plentiful and the meal catered by Mission Barbecue was superb.  Frankie Hill from BTA Entertainment was the best DJ we’ve seen at any wedding. She didn’t miss a beat, pardon the pun. We danced and sang and toasted the night away. Everyone had a great time! The adventuresome bride and groom are spending their honeymoon hiking about 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Wilmington is a charming port city situated in the southeastern part of NorthCarolina between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear river. The port was vital to the Confederate States of America and served as a focal point for resupply during the Civil War.

Fort Fisher lays at the mouth of the Cape Fear river and was a Confederate stronghold from 1862 to 1864. The largest sea to land battle of the war took place at Fort Fisher from January 13th 1865 – January 15th 1865. A massive naval bombardment from more than 50 Federal ships lasted for two days followed by the largest sea to land troop assault of the war with over 8,000 Union soldiers and Marines storming the fort and overrunning the Confederates. The siege of Fort Fisher was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

Today, the area surrounding Wilmington is a perfect blend of natural and social elements – great geo-physical location, a moderate climate all the year through with clearly distinguishable four seasons, the historic preservation district, annual festivals such as the Azalea festival and numerous other recreational activities, as well as a great place for a spring wedding!

 

Eastward Bound

After more than six months on the road, the Vagabond tour has reversed course and is heading east! We departed the Davis-Mothan Air Force Base family campground in Tucson last week and have made our way to Texas. After visiting family and swapping out cold weather clothes for more summer items at our storage space, we’ll continue east and eventually stop in North Carolina for Nick and Ashley’s wedding! We’re super excited about the wedding and about getting together with family members coming in for the event.

Tucson was a wonderful place to hang out for three months during the winter. Besides enjoying reasonably mild weather, staying in one spot for an extended period allowed us meet many great people and make several new friends. Some people staying on the base campground were part-time campers and the rest were living a Vagabond life full time. We couldn’t tell who was full-time and who was not unless we asked because everyone was so laid-back.

After more than six months on the road, we have to admit that a Vagabond life is liberating. Owning less “stuff” means there less to worry about, and the people we’ve become friends are the genuine article. No one talks about money or social status – there’s no keeping up with the Jones. No one is out to prove anything to anyone. The people we’ve become friends with are comfortable with who they are and have no desire to be around people who have a problem with that. We’re all there living a dream and being part of each other’s dream.

All this probably sounds like Fantasyland to some people. They are, unfortunately, people who think human existence is hopeless. For those folks, I have some relief. There’s a place south of Tucson where you can blow-up half the world (the other half). The Titan Missile Museum south of Tucson is the last remaining Titan missile site on US soil. All others have been imploded. For a modest fee, you can tour the site, see the missile, and may even be selected to “turn the key” in the control room.

Daria had this honor during our tour.  She sat at the control desk and turned one of two keys 90 degree clockwise for 5 seconds. The tour guide didn’t turn the other key simultaneously so there was no missile launch (plus about 10,000 other reasons like no fuel in the rocket). I asked how she felt afterward and could she do it for real? Daria said it would have been very hard to turn the key but that she would follow the President’s orders.

I know how Daria felt about turning that key. Back in 1988, I was one of two pilots in my squadron who was qualified to carry and drop nuclear weapons. Here’s a little about how that worked: we would fly into bad-guy territory very fast and at a very low altitude; when in range, I would pull back on the stick and go vertical, the computer would throw the bomb high into the atmosphere, and I’d perform a split-S maneuver and head for the hills; the bomb would parachute down and explode at altitude, incinerating everything within 25 miles; at top speed our aircraft would put us about 12 miles away. Get the picture?

For all the good we took from our stay in Tucson, we unfortunately left something behind that was near and dear to our hearts. Major, one of our two trusted K-9’s, crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Dog Heaven.

Daria wrote Major a eulogy:

How do I start to talk about Major? It’s so hard to do.

You see, back in 2008, we wanted to get Rocko a friend.  Bandera had a dog and cat shelter called Cowboy Capital Pet Assistance League.  We went to the facility and there were quite a few dogs to choose from.  As we walked around, I saw a little dog cowering in the corner of his kennel. We walked up to his cage to coax him to come but he would have nothing to do with us, so we continued looking.  None of the other dogs gave me that good feeling of our soon to be Major.

Rick was talking with the volunteers when I went back to Major’s cage. I sat down on the ledge and talked to him until he cautiously walked over to me. Then he sat down, looking at me, probably wondering if I was a human that could possibly be good to him.  He came closer so he could smell my hand and I slowly stuck my fingers in and started petting him.  He seemed to enjoy that until I moved to get a little more comfortable…he ran away to his corner.  I was able to coax him back over until Rick walked up and once again he ran away.  I was thinking what abuse did this poor little dog go through before he ended up in this cage.

I told Rick that this is the one that we should adopt. We talked to the volunteers and asked if there was a way we could take him home to meet his new buddy to make sure that they got along. They said that we could foster him and if for any reason the friendship with Rocko didn’t work out, we could bring him back.  I was already thinking there was no way that I could bring back this poor, scared dog.

Long story short, the two dogs got along.  What we didn’t realize is that Major was probably abused by someone in a baseball cap because he ran away every time Rick wore one.  It took a while for Major to understand that we were not going to abuse him.  He wouldn’t go up to strangers for several years, but towards the end of his life that changed and he walked up to most people he met.

Major started retaining fluid and became lethargic.  We took him to the vet and the Doc said that the left side of his heart wasn’t strong and he maybe had 2-3 months left, but not 2-3 years.  By adopting him we gave him the best life a dog could ask for.  He was able to live on 58 acres and roam.

One final note, Angus, our black lab took everything in stride and he’s getting LOTS of attention! That’s all for now.

Day 53: North Carolina Tour

North Carolina has a special place in our hearts.  It’s the state that has beautiful mountains, coastlines and memories! It’s where Rick and I first started our married lives together.  It’s also the state where Thomas was born, met his first best friend and started kindergarten. Nick was born in Texas and living in North Carolina before he was two years old. He also made his first best friend there. Ashley was born in the state and would have loved to have grown up on the coast because of her passion for surfing.

North Carolina is where we returned recently to spend some of our Vagabond days. Our arrival was Labor Day weekend. Nick has been stationed here for five years and owns a home in Wilmington where he lives with his fiancée Ashley and her daughter Laini. The Rains of Hermine and a broken air conditioner at our son’s house couldn’t spoil this reunion.
laini

This was a special visit because the two families were coming together for the first time to meet each other and celebrate Laini’s sixth birthday. The drinks were flowing, the food was great (have you ever had a tomato pie?) and the company was excellent. Later in the day, as the men were snoozing on the couch the women were gathered around the table talking wedding details. That left us thirsty, so we went to see the wedding venue to get drinks and come up with ideas for decorating. The reception is going to be at the Ironclad Brewery in downtown Wilmington. The location is ideal and it was decided only a minimal touch was needed for decorations.

Our residence for ten days was the military campground on Camp Lejeune’s Onslow Beach. It was right on the ocean with miles and miles of mostly deserted beach – a benefit of being on a military base. Angus went swimming in the Atlantic for the first time. He also chased a lot of crabs.

Ashley asked me to go wedding dress shopping with her and Nana, her grandmother.  Who could say no to that?  The first shop we went to had a dress on sale and it was off the rack. Ashley came out and Nana and I both said, “That’s the one!”  Ashley thought so too. Just to make sure, she tried on two other dresses at that store and then more at a second and third store.  Nothing compared to the first dress.  After lunch, we said goodbye to Nana and Ashley and I headed back to the store for Ashley to say yes to the dress and celebrate with a wine toast!
ash_dariaOur last few days at Onslow Beach were memorable because we took Laini on her first camping trip.  She loved it!  There was a family in the tent area across from us that had a little girl Laini’s age.  They hit it off immediately and became inseparable.  Laini thought our campsite needed more decorations so we all decorated clothespins and the girls drew pictures that were hung around the camp from a rope.beachbeachart

We also met up with Mike and Dotty Dolan. Mike and Rick served in the same squadron in the Marines and have a lot of similar interests. Visiting with the Dolan’s has become somewhat of a tradition whenever we’re visiting Nick. We always have an enjoyable time catching up with them.

The time had come to say goodbye to our family and friends from the North Carolina coast and head inland. We would be back in April for the big wedding.

Our next stop was Monroe, NC, where another good friend of Rick’s from the Marine Corps lives. We spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Donnie and Betty Jordan and got to see their amazing old home, The Henry Hall Wilson House.  They host many events at their fine historic home and were busy when we arrived getting it ready for a wedding that weekend.

Our last stop in North Carolina was near a state park called Chimney Rock. We didn’t go up to the rock that looks like a big…well, use your imagination, but we did walk around the tourist town and had a great campsite right on a river.  The views were amazing as was the whole Lake Lure area. This about sums up our North Carolina trip!

p_rock

Day 27: Fish Tremble at the Name Dosev

Nemo sent an urgent message to all the fish within 50 square miles of Pensacola Bay, “The Dosev brothers are coming! Quickly, swim deep into the ocean!” Some fish didn’t listen and they paid the ultimate price. They became fish tacos.

The Gulf Coast is a fisherman’s paradise. I was fortunate to spend one morning with two of the best fisherman in the area, Vincent and Cristov Dosev Jr. There’s nothing these two brothers enjoy more than motoring their 24 foot SeaHunt Triton out to a favorite fishing hole and catching a few big ones.

My instructions were to be at the marina no later than 5:30 AM. I arrived at 5:15 AM. The brothers were out on the town the night before so I figured they’d be late. Wrong. Not when it comes to fishing. They arrived at 5:20 along with their Bulgarian helper, Nickolai.

In no time the SeaHunt was in the water and Skipper Vince took the helm. Surf conditions were perfect – no chop and a 7 MPH breeze out of the east. The Gulf Coast sunrise was breathtaking as we motored out of Pensacola Bay.

Sunrise1Sunrise2

Our first fishing spot was 20 miles off the coast. We dropped anchor on sandy bottom about 100 feet deep and then dropped in a few lines to catch live bait. The Ruby Red Lip Grunts were very accommodating and we snagged a couple dozen in no time. Now the real fishing begins. Within a few minutes we hooked a 7-foot shark and another big fish that escaped at the last second. The Amberjack we were fishing for didn’t seem to be around, so we pulled anchor headed to another spot.

Pete Tide Wreck is a sunken tug boat sitting about 9 miles off the coast in 90 feet of water. Wrecks are a magnet for big fish because that’s where the little fish are. We cast our lines over the wreck and the fish took notice.

Our first strike was a 20 pound Amberjack. It was a nice fish and within the legal limit. The story is that I caught this fish, but like most fish tales, there was only an element of truth to the story. Cris hooked the fish and gave me the rod. Somehow I managed to reel it in without losing the fish or the rod.

Our biggest strike happened about an hour later. Nickolai hooked a 35 pound Cobia. This is an unusual catch because Cobia are typically running in the spring. Cris was ecstatic after we gaffed the fish and brought it aboard. In fact, I think he fell in love with it. You be the judge.

RickAJ

Cris-w-fish

The fish tacos were delicious. Lisa Dosev used a special seasoning. I had to look twice at the label to make sure I read it right. Thanks Lisa!

YaMama

The fishing expedition was a nice break from weeks of campaigning for Cris Dosev for US Congress. He’s a front-runner in the republican primary in this district. The election is Tuesday, and that means our stay in Pensacola is getting short. We’ll soon pack up and get on the road to visit Nick, our newly engaged son, Ashley, his fiancée, and Lani, our soon to be granddaughter. Daria and I will be feasting on Amberjack and Cobia along the way.

Crew

The motley crew.

Day 11: On the Campaign Trail

Dosev

August 10: Helping a buddy get the country back on track

We stopped in Florida for the sun, beach, and if you can believe it, politics. We’re not here counting hanging chads – those of you remembering the Bush/Gore race know what I’m referring too – we’re here to help my good friend and former Marine aircrew Cris Dosev. He’s running as a republican candidate for US Congress in Florida’s 1st Congressional District.

Cris is a combat vet, father of eight children, staunch Christian and a small business owner. He and his wife Lisa are also Godparents to our daughter, Ashley Stewart. Cris has been extremely active in veteran causes and co-founded the Wounded Heroes Foundation. We need people like this representing us in Washington.

The field consists of seven republican candidates and Cris is right up at the top. His grass roots campaign is mostly self-funded and is powered by a small army of friends, former military members from all services, and family members including his eight children who claim at times to be slave labor.

The most serious contender is a young 34 year old lawyer and current state representative. His multi-millionaire daddy is a former state senator and well known in local politics. Daddy not only helps junior fund his campaign, he’s gotten him out of a DUI and helped him cover-up 17 motor vehicle citations. Do we really need another silver spoon in Washington?

The primary election is on August 30. It will be decided by popular vote. Whoever wins the republican primary will likely win the general election because the district is heavily republican.

I’ve never helped on a political campaign before so I didn’t know what to expect on the first day. I was given a t-shirt and a stack of brochures, and piled into a car with three other people. I sat shotgun because I was the old guy. Cris’s son was the driver and head list master. He detailed data on every neighborhood in the district where known republican primary voters lived.

Our mission is to find voter’s homes, ring their doorbells, and talk with anyone who answered. We did this for eight hours in 95 degree heat and 90 percent humidity. This swelter was occasionally broken up by a torrential downpour. By the day’s end, our team had visited 600 homes and spoke with approximately 300 people. I spoke with about 100 would be voters.

You may be thinking: What does a republican voter look like and where do they live? Here is my observation. Voting republicans are old and they are young; working, unemployed, and retired; some live in huge mansions and others in trailer homes; many are well-educated and others are not; they are single, married and divorced; some have children; many have dogs and some have many dogs; the majority are white and mostly straight as far as I could tell; and most everyone was friendly and interested in the election.

I only had one bad experience. A guy called me a politician, told the young child standing next to him that all politicians are sleazebags, and slam their door in my face. This likely happened because I wanted to find out how good the list was by visiting a few few houses not on the list. Bottom line: the list is good – believe the list.

More campaign trail stories to follow.

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