With our friends leaving at the end of November, our social activities slowed down considerably in early December. However, we were blessed with daytime highs in the 70s for most of these days. This allowed us to get outside more, to enjoy bike rides, walks on the beach, and outdoor pickleball. Phil found time to wash our rig and perform other maintenance. We had hoped to make a trip to Dauphin Island but thick fog every morning kept the ferry shut down until later in the day.
We were entertained for several days by a cardinal who visited the tree behind us regularly. It seemed confused by the reflections off our back windows and flew into the glass over and over again. We would chase it off, only to have it return a short time later. We tried hanging things outside on our windows, but this had no effect.
On Saturday, December 10th, we visited the Christmas festival at The Wharf. We visited the vendor booths and listened to live Christmas music. We then made our first trip of the year to Flora-Bama, where we had lunch and listened to live music.
On Monday, six weeks after submitting our septic system permit application, we got a response from Natalie Lankford, Environmental Consultant for the Chattanooga office of the TN Division of Water Resources. She wrote, “On paper, there appears to be sufficient space for a 3 bedroom Modified Low Pressure Pipe system, but I will know more once I flag out the LPP laterals on contour.” Although we’re not exactly sure what that means, it seemed encouraging enough for us to schedule a meeting with an architect in early January.
On Thursday, December 15th, we drove 475 miles to Nashville to attend Lizzi’s graduation from Belmont University. Although she had earned her Bachelor’s degree from Belmont in 2015, she returned two and a half years ago to earn a Master of Science in Strategic Communication and Leadership from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. We left the campground at 8:07 am and arrived at Belmont just a few minutes before the hooding ceremony began at 5 pm. Fortunately, there were only six students receiving their Masters from this college so the hooding ceremony was quite short. After a brief reception, we headed to our hotel for some much-needed sleep.
On Friday evening, we attended the graduation ceremony in Belmont’s Curb Event Center. This time, there were about 1,000 students receiving degrees so the ceremony lasted quite a while. Afterward, it was too dark and cold to take pictures outside the arena, so we all headed back to our hotel. After taking lots of pictures, we headed to Darfons Restaurant, where we had a delicious meal, with very large portions.
On Saturday, we drove to Camden, TN for a get-together with Jan’s relatives at the Country & Western Steakhouse.
On Sunday morning, we picked up Jason at 9 am and began the long drive back to Gulf Shores, AL. We got back home at 6:30 pm and were ready for an early bedtime.
The following week brought unseasonably cool weather to Gulf Shores. Daytime highs never got out of the 50s and, by the end of the week, we were having lows below freezing. Although we were spared the artic weather experienced by much of the rest of the country, it largely kept us indoors. Jason did manage to get out for some running, walking, and bicycling, but he had to really bundle up to do so.
On Thursday, December 22nd, we received approval from Natalie Lankford on our septic system application, enabling us to continue with plans for our 3-bedroom house.
On Saturday, Christmas Eve, we enjoyed an early dinner at the Shrimp Basket restaurant. We also picked up individual cheesecake slices at Hope’s Cheesecake for later. That evening, we attended the Christmas Eve service at Central Church, in the Orange Beach Community Center.
On Christmas Day, we attended a potluck Christmas feast in the campground’s activity center. We shared a table with a couple from Pensacola and enjoyed getting to know them.
Jason’s flight back to Nashville was originally scheduled to depart from Pensacola on Christmas day at 6:40 pm. However, as the day progressed, his flight on Southwest became increasingly delayed. By the time we dropped Jason off at the airport, the flight was already delayed by two hours. When we were halfway back to the campground, Jason learned that his flight had been cancelled. He was rebooked for Tuesday at 7:30 am and, fortunately, was able to retrieve his luggage.
On Tuesday, we all woke up at 4 am, with the intention of taking Jason to the Pensacola airport. However, we quickly learned that that flight had also been cancelled. To make matters worse, his return wasn’t rescheduled until Saturday morning, New Year’s Eve Day. Over the next few days, we learned the extent of Southwest Airlines’ problems and that many Southwest customers had experienced even greater hardships than Jason’s.
On a more positive note, the weather for Jason’s second week in Gulf Shores, although windy, was much warmer than it had been for his first week. We were all able to spend considerable amounts of time outdoors.
On Saturday morning, we all got up at 4 am and drove Jason to the Pensacola airport. This time, his flight departed on time. After napping upon our return home, we went out for an early New Year’s Eve dinner at Doc’s Seafood Shack. Since New Year’s Day was a travel day, we didn’t attempt to stay awake long enough to ring in 2023.