A Bittersweet Journey ~ 23

We’ve had a wonderful season of travel this year but Neal and I haven’t been quite ourselves on this year’s journey. We’ve stumbled onto many new places and adventures and revisited some old ones but through it all our hearts have been hanging with a constant numbing sadness.

Randy on his Harley in Bisbee Arizona.
Randy on his Harley in Bisbee Arizona.
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Shelia & Randy on one of our rides through the Texas Hill Country.

At almost every turn we’d comment “Oh…Shelia & Randy would love this!” or “Remember the time when we rode here with Shelia and Randy.” Sometimes our comments would be with a laugh or a big smile, other times with a sniffle and a tear.

Riding in the Florida Keys.
Riding in the Florida Keys.
The four of us enjoying Luckenback, Texas after a ride in the Texas Hill Country.
The four of us enjoying Luckenback, Texas after a ride in the Texas Hill Country.
Neal & Randy in front of the Hideaway Grill in Cave Creek, Arizona
Neal & Randy in front of the Hideaway Grill in Cave Creek, Arizona
Shelia and I in Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Shelia and I in Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Summer trip to New York City...Historical Irish Pub.
Summer trip to New York City… Historical Irish Pub.
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Same summer trip at a Yankee game.
At a New York Rangers Hockey game on a winter trip to New York City.
At a New York Rangers Hockey game on a winter trip to New York City.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

We met Shelia & Randy several years ago while camping in southern Arizona and hit it off right from the start. The two of them together were a sight to behold. Always smiling and laughing, even when they were in a corner alone together. Shelia always trying to keep track of Randy’s forever disappearing phone and sunglasses and Randy always there to hold Shelia’s purse, open her door, and any other gentlemanly thing you can think of. It was obvious they were such great friends and they loved being together.

Shelia & Randy at the Firestone Sky Bar in Downtown Fort Myers
Shelia & Randy at the Firestone Sky Bar in Downtown Fort Myers
Shelia & Randy on one of our rides through parts of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona.
Shelia & Randy on one of our rides through parts of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona.
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Always the good sports…Shelia & Randy with Mr. D at the Old Country Store in Lorman, Mississippi (middle of nowhere). We poked around Mr. D’s country store and  ate off the huge (soul food) buffet.
Arizona Coyotes hockey game during one of our stops in Cave
Arizona Coyotes hockey game during one of our camping stops in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Randy was often unwittingly the center of attention with his quick wit and personable way. People naturally gravitated towards him. His sincere charm and thoughtfulness were only part of his endearing personality. He was always there with a helping hand or funny comment. As I think of him I smile. He liked gummy bears, ice-cream and cartoons, as well as, fast cars and motorcycles, hunting and a TWO FINGER pour of Jack Daniels.

Jackpot Port-a-potty in the middle of no where.
Jackpot…Randy found a Port-a-potty in the middle of no where on one of our off road jeep trips.
Randy & Neal at one of our many St. Patricks Day celebrations together.
Randy & Neal at one of our many St. Patricks Day celebrations together.
Randy with his famous Shot Pot.
Randy with his ingenious “Shot Pot” at  one of our countless campfires together.
Randy helping with the crawfish boil at my brothers in Baton Rouge Louisiana.
Randy helping out  at Paul & Orhan’s crawfish boil in Baton Rouge Louisiana.
Randy the dancing girl at the Crystal Palace in Tombstone, Arizona.
A VERY FUNNY moment at the Crystal Palace in Tombstone, Arizona.

Even though we live hundreds of miles apart we managed to cram  a lifetime of wonderful memories in a short timeframe. We were lucky enough to be able to travel together often through the last few years. Every winter since 2008, minus one or two seasons, we’d figure out a meeting spot and spend the next few months wandering the country side.  We’ve traveled together coast to coast, from  Tybee Island, Georgia to Oceanside, California.

Checking out the Manatees at Blue Springs State Park in Florida.
Checking out the Manatees at Blue Springs State Park in Florida.
Camper cookout with Shelia and Randy's nephew and niece during out visit in Fort Myers.
Camper cookout with Shelia and Randy’s nephew and niece during our visit in Fort Myers.
Visiting friends Ted and Deb in Fort Myers, Florida.
Visiting friends Ted and Deb in Fort Myers, Florida.
Neal & Shelia at the Railroad Blues bar in Alpine Texas on a visit to Big Bend National Park. We had to chuckle at Shelia...it was BYOB in this town...only serving wine & beer.
Neal & Shelia chuckling at the Railroad Blues bar in Alpine Texas on a visit to Big Bend National Park. It was BYOB in this town…only serving wine & beer.
Neal, Shelia & Randy in Bandera, Texas on a ride in the Texas Hill Country.
Neal, Shelia & Randy in Bandera, Texas on a ride in the Texas Hill Country.
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Wonderful friendships made in Tombstone, Arizona.
Randy & Bud helping me with my target shooting in Tombstone Arizona.
Randy & Bud helping me with my target shooting in Tombstone Arizona.
Camping near Tombstone, Arizona
Camping near Tombstone, Arizona
We lost our best buddy Otis last summer. Shelia & Randy were always there to  spoil him...an Easter basket from the Easter "Shelia" Bunny.
We lost our best buddy Otis last summer. Shelia & Randy were always there to spoil him…an Easter basket from the Easter “Shelia” Bunny during an Easter campout in Cave Creek, Arizona.
Three special ladies... Nancy, Shelia & Cindy...Put-In-Bay, Ohio.
Three special ladies… Nancy, Shelia & Cindy…Put-In-Bay, Ohio.
Refreshments after a day spent at ArtPrize...an art festival on the streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Refreshments after a day spent at ArtPrize…an art festival on the streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

When the four of us traveled together, between our two rigs, we managed to bring enough toys to impress any big boy romper room. In some fashion, with any combination of toys and ingenious methods, we’d manage to bring the necessities, the Harley and Jeep, and sometimes bikes, golf clubs and quads.

Jeeping on the beach in St. Augustine.
Jeeping on the beach in St. Augustine.
Golfing in Benson, Arizona.
Golfing in Benson, Arizona.
Beaching it in Marathon Key.
Beaching it in Marathon Key, Florida
Off road trip that ended in a broken ankle for our pal Cindy.
Off road trip from hell, Gunsights Pass in Arizona, that ended in a broken ankle for our pal Cindy.
Shelia and Randy are behind us, with all their stuff, taking a picture of us, with all our stuff, as we cross into California.
Shelia and Randy are behind us, with all their stuff, taking a picture of us, with all our stuff, as we cross into California.
Randy and Neal in Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Randy and Neal in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

The plan for this year was to meet Shelia & Randy in South Padre Island in southern Texas on the Gulf Coast in January, Friends Bud & Cindy along with Nancy & George also planned on joining us. Tragically those plans changed. Randy was diagnosed with Melanoma over a year ago and the disease progressed rapidly this past fall. We lost Randy just after Christmas.

I’ve learned that you never get over the loss of a loved one. Life on the road this winter was lonely and sad at times without our buddies Shelia and Randy.  The realization that we have to rely on our wonderful memories of Randy can be devastating at times, but I always end up smiling or even laughing through my tears thinking of all the fun and love Shelia and Randy have brought into our lives.

Cheers to Randy…We will miss you at every turn my friend. And Cheers to Shelia…we have more turns ahead. We’ll always be here for whatever you need.

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