Scranton, Jersey and an Almost Broken Toad

Suzanne’s mom grew up in Dunmore, PA, which is a borough of Scranton, PA. There are very few places on our “must visit” list for this trip but Scranton was definitely one of them. When we left Rhode Island we knew we were heading straight to Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Suzanne has been to Scranton many times over the years. She even lived there for a summer during college. But this visit was special for two reasons. Number one, this was the first time that anyone from Suzanne’s mom’s side of the family would meet Kevin. And number two, there was a new Vietnam Memorial in town with Suzanne’s mom’s name on it. First though, let’s talk about Kevin.

This was Kevin’s first visit to Scranton. Oddly enough, he has another Scranton connection – his friend Elizabeth from grad school grew up there – but this was the first time he would step foot in Lackawanna County. He wasn’t necessarily nervous about meeting Suzanne’s family, but he did know that Suzanne’s Uncle Drew still lived in the same house that he and Suzanne’s mom grew up in and was rumored to be a tough critic. Fortunately for all parties involved, the meeting of the Uncle and the Husband went really well. Uncle Drew loved Kevin and agreed that Suzanne’s mom would have loved him too. (Really though, what’s not to love? He’s smart and sensitive and good-looking and he has a soft spot in his heart for geriatric dogs!)

Kevin also had the opportunity to meet a wide variety of Suzanne’s cousins while in Scranton. He met Celanos, Englehardts, Vitalettis, Bankos and Cuffs. They all gave him two thumbs up. A few of them even liked him so much that they made us a delicious ‘Happy First Anniversary’ cake. Suzanne’s cousin Dana is a master chef and baker and this cake was amazing! Dana and her mom, Bonnie, hosted a BBQ while we were in town so we could visit with lots of relatives all at once and spend time with the next generation of the family (aka Dana’s four adorable kids, who are all characters to say the least).

While we were in the Scranton area we spent our nights at Lackawanna State Park, which is about 10 miles north of Scranton. We were surprised at how quiet the park was but maybe now that we’re into September we’ll start seeing more and more parks with more empty spaces as summer vacations come to an end. We took advantage of the solitude and the network of trails thoughout the park and got in a few good trail runs while we were there.

Now let’s talk about the Vietnam Memorial we mentioned earlier. Suzanne’s mom was born Marianne Theresa Fisher on November 29, 1943, and grew up on Clay Avenue in Dunmore.  When she was just 21 years old, Marianne and her best friend, Carol, volunteered to serve as army nurses in Vietnam. The two had been friends since first grade and had just graduated together from Scranton State General Hospital School of Nursing when they signed up for the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Unfortunately, just months after arriving in Vietnam, Carol became one of the first American women to die in the Vietnam War when a helicopter she was riding in crashed near Saigon. All seven passengers died. Marianne was heartbroken at the loss of her dear friend and requested permission to escort Carol’s body home to Scranton. After the funeral she returned to Vietnam.

On June 16, 2012, the Friends of the Forgotten dedicated a memorial to Carol Drazba. In the end, she was one of only eight American women to die in the Vietnam War. Uncle Drew knew the memorial was going in and made sure Marianne was mentioned as well. The memorial sits outside the Geno Merli Veterans Center in Scranton, which was built on the same site where Marianne and Carol went to nursing school. When the Scranton State General Hospital was torn down several years ago the Veterans Center was built in its place. Suzanne’s mom lost her battle to breast cancer in 2005 and didn’t live to see this memorial go in, but the two friends and nurses will now be honored forever on this site they knew so well.

Scranton will always have a special place in Suzanne’s heart because of the connection to her mom so it was really meaningful to be able to share this visit with Kevin. Being in Scranton brings back a lot of good memories and now we have new ones to share together.

On our way out of town we stopped for gas and for a moment we thought we had broken our toad. For those of you who haven’t been following our blog since the beginning, “toad” is a term that we in the RV world affectionately use to refer to our “towed vehicles.” In our case our toad is a Toyota 4Runner. Anyway,this gas station had plenty of room for us to maneuver, not all gas stations do, but it was built on the side of a hill, which we didn’t identify as an issue. As it turns out, however, in order to situate the RV in such a way that we could reach the gas tank, we had to make a loop around the island, come around from behind and start heading the RV out of the gas station, meaning it was heading down this hill. Well…when the front of the RV is downhill, this means that the back of the RV is now several feet higher in the air because there are still several feet of RV hanging out behind the back tires. And when the back of the RV is lifted up in the air, that means that the tow bar connecting the toad is also lifted up in the air, which means that the front of the toad is now at a weird angle because we were making a turn and the tow bar is now torqued due to the position of the RV. The front tires of the 4-Runner were now turned at an angle from which Suzanne didn’t think they would ever recover. We thought maybe the pressure put on the front of the car from the angle of the RV and the tow bar had broken an axle or damaged the suspension.

This situation would be so much easier to explain if we had just taken a picture, but at the time it wasn’t very funny. We were more than two hours away from Newark Airport, Suzanne had to catch a flight to Memphis for work out of Newark that same afternoon and here we were with what we thought was a broken toad. And, to make matters worse, you can’t unhook the toad if the tow bar isn’t level, so we were stuck with what we thought was a broken toad and no way to unhook it from the RV. This was not a time to think about taking pictures. In the end though, we worked together to come up with a plan that involved patience, communication and several rounds of using a jack to lift the front of the car off the ground. We managed to save the toad and get back on the road in time for Suzanne to catch her flight. And the moral of the story is: the next time something like this happens, we won’t forget to take a picture of it.

Kevin and the dogs stayed at Liberty Harbor RV Park in Jersey City while Suzanne was in Memphis. This RV park isn’t much more than an asphalt parking lot but it is right across the Hudson River from New York City, so the location can’t be beat. Kevin was able to take a ferry back and forth to the city and was never away from the dogs for more than a few hours at a time.

Suzanne had been looking forward to this part of the trip because she has a lot of Mooney relatives in New York and New Jersey, so having a work trip pop up at the same time wasn’t ideal. When she flew back to Newark at the end of the week it was time to get back on the road and she missed out on seeing some of her favorite people (but then again, she gets to work from an RV while traveling around the country, so she really has no room to complain about anything). Kevin represented for the family though and got to have dinner with Suzanne’s cousin Carolyn and Carolyn’s fiance, Matt. Nobody remembered to take a picture during the aforementioned dinner (and they are all in trouble for that oversight) so we are repurposing this adorable photo of Matt and Carolyn from our wedding last summer. They sent Kevin home from dinner with a care package for us and for the dogs. We love these two and know we will see them again soon.

With Suzanne back from Memphis the team was back together again and it was time to get back on the road. As the Willie Nelson song goes, “like a band of gypsies we go down the highway…and our way is on the road again.” We said good-bye to New York and New Jersey and pointed our directional compass towards Washington, DC. See you on down the road!

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6 thoughts on “Scranton, Jersey and an Almost Broken Toad

  1. First: Suzanne, your mom was so lovely…I’m humbled to read how much she and Carol gave during such a horrible period in our lives. Second, I’ve followed you four since the beginning of your adventure and you have no idea how much your writings and pictures make me smile. Thank you so much for sharing your journey…every picture of any combination of the four of you warms my heart every time.

    1. I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but your mom is the spitting image of Jacqueline Onassis. Wow! It’s an honor to follow in her footsteps as a nurse myself.
      I had to laugh at the toad predicament but I KNOW it wasn’t funny at the time. In fact, I will file this in my memory bank so if it ever happens to Ken & I we can avoid 3 hours of disputing how to resolve the issue & just learn from your past.
      Happy travels friends!

  2. What a great post, we love you guys too! We will work on taking more pics next time we’re together! 😉 I never saw that pic from the wedding, thank you for sharing it with us! 🙂 Safe travels, talk soon!!!!

  3. Pat & Dennis shared your blog with us “rockers”. What a lovely story, and we feel so fortunate to have met your mom, Suzanne. Happy and safe travels. Lois & Vern

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