the story of “us”, and a plea.

As I was readying these pictures to be posted (the last ones from the PocoMos, promise!) I realized that I’ve never really shared how “the compound” became “the compound”. I’m going on day five of missing my friends so it seems appropriate to write about it today!

The boys (Brent, Rich, and Steve) + Amy go way back to their days at the Air Force Academy where they met as cadets. Brent, Rich, and Amy were all in the same major (mechanical engineering) and Steve was in Brent’s squadron for his last two years there. They were all acquaintances but not close friends. Steve and Samantha were dating at the time they graduated and so were Brent and I. I’m fairly certain we met at their midnight, June 2, 1999 commissioning ceremony but I don’t have a specific recollection of her.

Fast forward two years to the summer of 2001. I had finished my early childhood education degree at Auburn, Brent finished his Master’s there, we were married shortly after and moved to Dayton on Air Force orders. We arrived in February and by July I was desperately lonely. Brent heard that Steve and his new wife, Samantha, had moved to Dayton as well and he called to invite them over for dinner. They accepted, they came, we ate, Samantha sent a thank you note, it was all good. The funny thing about that night is that when they left I distinctly remember looking at Brent and saying, “she’s really nice but she’s not gonna be my best friend.” Ha. (Sam, have I ever told you that?).

A week (maybe two) later found Samantha and I in final interviews for the same kindergarten job. If I had any notion that our families would be friends I figured that experience would be the end of it. Again, I was  wrong. By February of 2002 the Cobbs and Clarks were inseperable, spending every weekend together and many week nights too. We shared meals, we took trips,we shopped, we golfed, we camped (some of us not happily, but still, we camped), we threw parties and we attended weddings of dear friends. We did it all.

In the summer of 2003 the Clarks and Cobbs loaded up and drove to the plains of Iowa to celebrate the marriage of another Air Force couple. We had entirely too much fun. Entirely. Suffice it to say that Samantha and I ended up carving a place for ourselves into the YMCA dance show of the wedding party…of the wedding next door. The entire trip was, well, a trip. And who was there to join in the fun with us? Why, Mrs. Amy Shertzer. It was my first time meeting Amy and by the end of the weekend I was hooked. We clicked immediately and when the Cobbs and Clarks moved to Colorado Springs the very next summer (2004) we began looking forward to the arrival of the Shertzers that November. It seemed the Cobbs/Clarks/Shertzers had come full circle – together for three years to teach at the Air Force Academy where the boys + Amy had met. We bought houses within blocks of one another and thus, the compound was born. Weekly dinners, daily walks, and carpooling gave way to the arrival of first babies and the joy that comes with helping and watching and championing each other as we went about the work of growing our families. Those were good years. Amazing years. Sarah and Caroline were due four days apart (Sarah expected to arrive first…HA!) and Hayden followed just over a year later. We watched as our friends’ children were baptized and rolled over and took their first steps. We shared and reveled in it all.

And then we moved. We left first, headed here to Alabama. As long as I live I will never ever forget how it felt to pull away from our Colorado house as I watched the rear view mirror through blurry tear-stained eyes — our dearest friends, holding babies all waving their goodbyes. The ugly cry was the fourth passenger in our car until at least the middle of Kansas. Samantha and Steve were next to go, heading to Boston just weeks later. And then, a year later, the Shertzers packed up and moved to Bozeman, Montana. Which brings us to now. It’s been two years since our moving van shoved off and yet it seems we’re closer than we ever were.

The compound lives.


Rich, Brent, Steve


Samantha, Amy, Me.

Sure, living thousands of miles apart is very much less than ideal but it’s where we are. We’ve been lucky enough to see each other several times during these past two years and our week long trip last week was the icing on that cake. We’ve resolved to make it a yearly event which means our wheels are already turning about where we’ll convene next year. Which brings me to my plea…can you help us figure out the perfect place for 2010? With readers all across the country I thought I’d see what places you all might know of in your neck of the woods that might meet the following requirements:

– a location with week-long housing rentals – or other accomodations where we can all stay together. In other words, not three condos.

– a location that has some sort of accessible water attraction – either on the beach or with pool access on the grounds. We’re dealing with small children which means we don’t want to have to load them up every time we want to head to the water.

– a location that is within two hours of a major airport.

– ideally, we’d like to be somewhere that is resort-ish without neccessarily all the bells and whistles of a full-on resort. Somewhere a bit manicured but not neccessarily planned. Like Seaside (if you’re from around here) but not Seaside since, well, we’d like to go somewhere different.

– somewhere that has things to do but not too much. The Shertzers are called the “Crazy Shertzers” for a reason and if there’s any sort of outlandish, possibly life-threatening attraction or activity within a 100 mile radius I fear we’ll never see them. 😉

Okay, I think that’s it. I may come back and add to the list as I remember our other requirements. Some ideas we’ve tossed around include the coast of South Carolina, the west coast of Florida, the Saugatuck area of Michigan, the Ozarks, Big Sky, the Great Lakes area, Jekyll Island. Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? THANK YOU!!!

BethanyAugust 6, 2009 - 12:52 pm

Well I have NO suggestions for you whatsoever on your next vacation destination, but I just wanted to say that this post tugged at my heart strings. We left Kansas almost three years ago and the night we pulled away from our Kansas driveway was much like the night you pulled away from your Colorado driveway. I remember it like it was yesterday and the emotion is still so real. It is amazing how over time some friendships have faded, but like you, the truly important ones have only gotten stronger, despite the distance.

I am glad you all had such a wonderful trip! Best of luck planning the next one!! 🙂

LaurenAugust 6, 2009 - 1:22 pm

Erin, you should really check out Tybee Island, GA. It has great beaches, there are all these really neat beach cottages and it is a hop, skip and a jump from Savannah. YOu can even stay in the beach house (which is breath taking by the way and OH so neat) of Mary Kay Andrews (Author of the best mindless beach reads that you could ever partake) and you could take the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil tour or the Paula Deen tour in Savannah.

PS: Here is the link to the beach house of Mary Kay Andrews, just so that you can get a peak:

JoeyAugust 6, 2009 - 2:23 pm

Dayton!! Except that we don’t have water nearby or a resort-like feel…lol

Kristi SmithAugust 6, 2009 - 2:36 pm

My vote is for Bald Head Island, NC. You take a ferry from just outside of Wilmington (leaving your car for the week) and then pall around in golf carts the entire time. Definitely a must for families with kids. There’s a golf course on island, country club with pool, and more picturesque beach than even imaginable.

BeckyAugust 6, 2009 - 2:58 pm

Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Family-oriented small (5.8 sq. miles) beach “island” that has deep beaches and small waves (perfect for little ones). Not a tourist-y place, but just over the quaint wooden swing bridge you will find a tiny putt-putt place and Crabby Oddwaters (family friendly and fabulous seafood) … plus where else can you get a t-shirt that says you’re just a little “Crabby”? Sunset is just north of Myrtle Beach so if you want all the tourist-y stuff it’s only 45 minutes away, plus there is a plethora of golf courses close by. We’ve had two family reunions at Sunset with some coming from Kansas, Atlanta and Virginia…it’s the best! Check out and look at Paradise Found.

shelbyAugust 6, 2009 - 3:29 pm

What a great story! It is so wonderful to have friends like that!
I would suggest the Cambria area in California. My husband is from a very large family and I know that for many years now they have rented several large homes on the beach in that area for a week or two at a time. I know that many houses in the area would accommodate you all because I believe that about 12 of them stay in one house together. It is on the beach in a really pretty area and close to several large areas where there are things to do (Santa Barbara, Solvang, etc) which also makes it close to several large airports (Burbank, Los Angeles)

KristiAugust 6, 2009 - 3:45 pm

Lake Tahoe!! Incline Village. It’s beautiful!!! We stayed at a hotel/resort. I think they have guest houses.

RebeccaAugust 6, 2009 - 3:59 pm

I’m in the NW, so my suggestions will be up here. 🙂

My husband’s #1 all time favorite place to visit is Lincoln City, OR. It’s GORGEOUS! We usually stay at the Westshore Motel ( because it’s right on the ocean, it’s cheap and it’s where he grew up going. The only downside is that you’d all have to grab your own rooms. Unit #5 is the biggest, but it’s a two bd, one ba with a futon in the living. It won’t sleep more than 6. But, you could get the whole first floor! The first floor rooms are the best because they have little decks – you could take over the whole area. shows the decks.

Another option – Seabrook, WA on the WA coast. A friend of mine takes her kids there each summer and they love it. I found one house that sleeps 15 – is that enough?

There’s also a new resort (within two hours of Sea Tac Airport) called Great Wolf Lodge. They have a huge indoor water park that’s only for guests… I’ve heard it’s pricey ($500 a night or something?) but I also heard it’s really fun.

Last suggestion – wherever you decide to go, check out Vacation Rental By Owner at for houses. Lots of good ones there!

A.K.August 6, 2009 - 4:06 pm

DEFINITELY Sunset Beach. It’s right on the boarder of North Carolina and South Carolina but I think it’s actually NC. We have gone there ever since my cousins were about 3 years old- wanted to get in the water but the Outer Banks were getting too rough. The whole island is 3 1/2 miles long- great for runs, walks, bike rides. You have to get to the island by a little bridge- and on the island there is a mini mart, an ice cream shop, rental place, and that’s it! You are close enough to Myrtle though if you want to go out for a nice dinner or something. Calm waters, lots of little tidal pools at low tide for the kids to play in. Also, because it is an island- there is a sound side that you can stay on a house with a canal or go kayaking in the sound. DEFINITELY a place for little ones. We love it! My parents and sis’s family just went there. Not very resorty, but definitely a nice beach house. Let me know if you want anymore info!

KimberlyAugust 6, 2009 - 4:12 pm

The Outer Banks!

Katie RasmussenAugust 6, 2009 - 4:36 pm

We went to Tybee Island off the coast of Savannah, GA last year and had a blast! We found a condo on (there were nine adults and three kids) — I don’t think you’d have a problem finding a place that could accomodate three families. For the crazy Shertzers, there’s kayaking and parasailing (Cody and I did both), the beach is right there (we found a condo two blocks from the beach and walked to and from at least twice a day), and Savannah is just a short drive inland. Lots of girly stuff to do — shopping, etc. Lots of historical stuff too — forts and tours. You should google it and check it out…it was definitely a fun time.

Ellen PattonAugust 6, 2009 - 5:07 pm

What about Cape Cod?!

adminAugust 6, 2009 - 5:31 pm

YAY! You guys rock! This is giving us tons of places to research. Keep ’em coming!!!

Mary VAugust 6, 2009 - 6:38 pm

cute story. you guys are very very lucky to have each other. I vote renting a house in South Haven, Michigan. Or any of the beach towns in Michigan. S. Haven or New Buffalo is about a 2 hour drive from Chicago. My family is headed there next month for a relaxing beach house getaway!

marianAugust 6, 2009 - 7:07 pm

Remember when we met you guys in South Haven and camped that night?

I vote for anywhere in NC, of course. My aunt and uncle have a house on Figure 8 Island, which is a private island north of Wilmington. They have rental homes there, some are VERY expensive and others not as much, especially after Labor Day. Wilmington and surrounding beachy towns are cute. There probably are more family friendly sites but we love the solitude and cleanliness of Figure 8. Something to check out!

There’s always a mountain retreat somewhere near us, Waynesville, Asheville, etc. Tons of great stuff to do.

BethanyAugust 6, 2009 - 8:16 pm

Come to Michigan! I’m in Holland, just 1/2 hour from Saugatuck. Saugatuck is a great little town with some fun things to do! And you are close to Holland (which has a great beach!) and Grand Rapids (which is bigger!). If you need any help finding something, let me know!

Tami ButlerAugust 6, 2009 - 8:27 pm

The West Coast of FL!!! It meets all your requirements and some. If you are interested check Clearwater, Sanibel and Captiva….beautiful, beautiful beaches!! I just left Clearwater last weekend.

KellyAugust 6, 2009 - 8:45 pm

Well my vote is for Big Sky 🙂 but that is entirely selfish… I wish I lived on the compound. If Amy wants to get out of doge I’d suggest Whitefish, or Lake Pend Oreille in Northern Idaho.

JeannineAugust 7, 2009 - 5:59 am

We go away with my husband’s family every year to the Outer Banks (Corolla Light) – there are 30-35 of us every year (2 houses) so there’s no problem finding a large enough house. Stay at the beach, do some shopping, day trips to Roanoke, Kitty Hawk, Drive on the beach (4×4) to see the horses (Carova Beach), Sand dunes @ Jockey’s Ridge or full day trip to Ocrakoke…

LaraAugust 7, 2009 - 6:22 am

I’m not sure how close it is to a major airport (I’ve always been within driving distance), but the Outer Banks is a great place to hunker down in one house. There are tons of different areas in the Outer Banks with different offerings. Obviously, Nags Head and Kitty Hawk are more commercial, but Duck, Corolla, and Currituck are still close to the commercial stuff yet more quiet and private. They also have lovely homes that can easily accomodate all of you together. The prices are remarkably reasonable given that most of the homes have their own pools and other means of entertainment (board games, some with basketball/tennis, DVD players, etc.). My very large extended family goes down there every once in a while and rents a 14-bed house, and they have a blast. I’ve not ever been able to join them because of work, but I’ve been down there on other occasions and loved it.

LeeAugust 7, 2009 - 6:24 am

Pawley’s Island, SC. Absolutely amazing. Only 30 minutes south of Myrtle so its close enough to do the fun stuff up there but far enough away that you don’t deal with the hustle and bustle. Only 1.5 hours from Charleston. The island itself is only houses but a quick causeway drive away from stores and restaurants. The beaches are great for kids and adults!

TerriAugust 7, 2009 - 7:30 am

I agree with Bethany – West Michigan is great in the summer. The beaches of Saugatuck & Holland are beautiful. Grand Rapids is not far and has a wonderful Children’s Museum. Another place to visit is Meijer Gardens which has a children’s garden playground that kids love (great for photos!) Plus you could meet the ladies of “Hank & Gertie”! Let us know if you need any help planning!

ConnieAugust 7, 2009 - 8:21 am

I would highly recommend the Outer Banks!!! We love it and the houses to rent are perfect – larger enough for your three families to be together but not on top of each other. We stay in the northern portion with beautiful beaches, houses with pools, watching dolphins everyday swim just off shore and wild horses that roam the northern tip beach. There is a wonderful grocery store so you dont need to bring much from home and a great shopping area complete with movie theatre in case of a rainy day. There is jet skiing, parasailing, dune buggy riding if you want but we usually just chill. We have gone for 10 years now and wouldn’t go anywhere else. Here is who we rent from: My favorite areas are Whalehead and Ocean Hills.

adminAugust 7, 2009 - 12:10 pm

YAY! Thank you guys SO much. I’m so thrilled to have all of these options to start researching. (well, for Amy to start researching…she’s our dedicated planer).

KimAugust 7, 2009 - 12:22 pm

What a wonderful story!! I am glad you guys had a great time reconnecting. As far as vacations go…we love the Outerbanks, NC. So much to do within an hours drive. If you do the west side of MI, Holland & South Haven are perfect slices of midwest life. Holland is the quaintest little town and in August you can’t miss the blueberry festival in Grand Haven, great blueberry pancakes!!

Best of luck planning your next compound get together!!

GinaAugust 7, 2009 - 3:07 pm

MAUI of course! I think you should all come out here for the 2010 book club reunion and then have the families come out before or after the book clubbers to complete the trip! See a little bit of Maui and then you could always meet everyone in Honolulu or stay on Maui.

Sound good….I think it is a great idea 🙂

tara pollard pakostaAugust 7, 2009 - 3:31 pm

Union Pier MI which may be close to the area of MI you mentioned, about 60-90 minutes from Chicago!
I heard it’s GORGEOUS and it’s where we plan to rent a cottage for a week next summer!!!!

JenniferAugust 7, 2009 - 4:01 pm

Another vote for Lake Tahoe!! It’s beautiful, you can rent houses close to – if not right on – the lake. There’s hiking, biking, golf, water sports. If you stay at South Shore you can even gamble! It’s close to Reno, Carson City, Virginia City for day trips. And the air smells out of this world!!! It’s one of my most favorite places.

BeccaAugust 7, 2009 - 8:44 pm

I loved this post. You are very blessed to have found not one couple but two that both you and your husband enjoy spending time with. I really isn’t that easy to find and husband/wife combo that works!

My vote would be somewhere in the Ozarks. Near Branson by Silver Dollar city is beautiful with lots to do, especially with young ones. I grew up in NW Arkansas and enjoyed going there as a kid. I look forward to taking my kids there!

SarahAugust 8, 2009 - 9:55 am
KimTAugust 8, 2009 - 9:59 pm

I am another in favor of the Outer Banks, but one island that hasn’t been mentioned yet. Ocracoke. We LOVE it. We always stay at The Castle Villas and have had as many as 14 people in house I and II (they share a wall and have a door on the 1st and 2nd level that can be opened up to make it one GIANT house!). It also has access to it’s own private pool. Not sure about the airport… probably Wilmington is your best bet. But you can only get there by Ferry (or small plane). Your car goes w/you on the Ferry though! Once on the island you really don’t need it as most things are walking distance and/or biking distance. IT’s very peaceful and relaxing. Our favorite part… if you have access to a 4×4 vehicle you can drive it on the beach. There is nothing better than loading up the SUV, heading to the beach, finding your spot and parking for the day. No lugging all the stuff to the beach! It’s where my hubby & I hope to retire one day! 🙂

MarciAugust 9, 2009 - 5:14 pm

Hello Erin! I cracked up when I read that one of the places you are considering coming to is West Michigan! I live in Holland (very close to Saugatuck) so make sure to let me know if you are headed this way!

adminAugust 9, 2009 - 6:29 pm

Thank you guys SO SO SO much. This has been so valuable to all of us. I’ll keep you guys posted!!! =)

StaceyAugust 10, 2009 - 11:25 am

2 years ago my whole family went to Deep Creek, Maryland. It was great. We rented a huge house that we all stayed in. There is a lake you can go boating on with a little beach. Lots of trails to hike, some activities, but not a lot. They have activities for kids too. We took our son to this little center where they had morning playtime for kids, a nature walk where we stopped at 2 playgrounds and saw birds, owls, etc. and the morning ended back at the center with finger painting. We had a pool table, hot tub, and fire pit at our house and it was a short walk to an indoor pool with a play area outside. Nice relaxing weekend. It sounds like a perfect place for your “compound” to gather.

Sara CooperAugust 11, 2009 - 1:20 pm

PLEASE COME TO HOLLAND!!!! I know I wasn’t part of ‘the compound’ but I miss you all dearly!! We’re seaside, international, flowery, and if you catch the right week it is sunny (otherwise, pack your pretty, polka-dot umbrella!) I promise I can find plenty to keep the kids entertained, and you and Amy VERY busy with your cameras! SMILE!

ten on tuesday. » The PigBearApril 6, 2010 - 1:23 pm

[…] Beach, South Carolina (or a very nearby area) for our annual Cobbs/Clarks/Shertzer family vacation. Last year I told our story and posted a plea asking for where we should head this year. You guys came through in a big way and helped us narrow down our search for the perfect spot for […]

ten on tuesday. » The PigBearJune 15, 2010 - 6:28 pm

[…] shove off again for our week in Isle O’ Palms with the Clarks and Shertzers for the Compound Reunion, Year Two. Woot! (nope, still not cool enough to use “woot!”. Just checking. I’ll try again […]

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