Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17 - 23, 2016, AZ

Monday, October 16.  I did it! I got myself in gear to go to water aerobics this morning - I really need to keep this body moving, especially after the physical challenges I've had the last couple of months. It was a great time, nice bunch of ladies, and a great workout.

Wednesday, October 18.  My first week at home has been busy, taking on a few tasks a day, and so far I have got the inside dusted and vacuumed and the patio and carports cleaned off.  I also got the patio furniture outside and the swing in the back yard so I can enjoy the birds and the nice weather.  Naturally, the Pablo Verde trees needed a good trimming and I cut them back only enough to allow me to walk under them without getting bonked in the head - a job that will need to be continued at a later time (after the trash can is emptied).

I've also connected with some of my community friends: had drinks and dinner with Jan, 
Jim, Jeanne, Connie, and Jacki on Monday night to celebrate Jacki's 87th birthday. Arlene and Tom joined me for a drink on Tuesday night and we never tire of things to talk about.

Tonight, I watched the final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and there is no doubt in my mind who to vote for.  Trump even said that he didn't know if he would support the elected president, he said he would wait and see what happens.  What a total slug of an example of humanity. I don't understand why anyone would vote for him - he is unethical and not qualified for the highest responsibility that a president carries.

I also got a call from Jan, inviting me to go see Michelle Obama speak tomorrow at the convention center - you darn right I want to go.

Saturday, October 22.  I arranged for Arlene to let Frisco out on Thursday so I could go see the First Lady.  Jan and Connie picked me up at 9 am and we headed to the light rail station where we met up with Jodi and Montana (Jan's daughter and granddaughter), Sandy (Jodi's sister-in-law), and Pam (her friend and coworker). The train took us right to the convention center and we  were directed through the lines to get to security and it all worked pretty efficiently. 

We ended up sitting in the cheering section - not necessarily because we should have been there - you were supposed to have a wrist band - but they let us on the bleachers and that is where we stayed.  We were handed banners to wave and instructed to cheer at various times while we waited for her to come on - at least a 3-hour wait.

Michelle Obama came on and she said all of the things that we expected her to say - stay above the crap that is going on in this election, encourage everyone you know to cast their vote, and pray that Hillary gets more votes than Donald Trump.  My picture of her didn't turn out too great, but it documents that I was there!

I have spent the last 2 days appreciating my home, not wanting to wander too far.  I did some cleaning, laundry and more yard cleanup.  

Arlene invited me to a wonderful dinner last night with Sharla and Tom, James, Betty, Tom K and I.  For a woman with poor vision, she sure cooked a heck of a meal - ham, roasted veggies, warm bread, corn, and cranberry sauce with apple and grapes.  We had lots of laughs and a great time, as always.  A great bunch of folks to hang around.

Today, I wasn't feeling too great - stomach has been upset all day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

October 10 - 16, 2016, MO, OK, TX, NM, AZ

UWednesday, October 12.  Happy Birthday to my dear friend, Hoovey!

I arrived at Bob's house in KC around 3:00 and got set up in my usual parking spot. Later on, he and Penny had an appointment, so he dropped me off at Rita's and we visited until it was time to go to Waldo's Pizza.  Stella, Josh, and Barley, Aaron, and Bob and Penny all had dinner together and Joel stopped by so Lincoln and Harlow could say hello too.  It was a pleasant, although short visit with the family - to be continued at another time, probably next summer.

Rita picked me up Tuesday morning and we headed for Costco, then Brookside to do some shopping (lots of little boutiques and a modern day dime store) and we had lunch at Charlie Hoopers Bar and Grill.  When we got back to her house, we laid down on her king sized bed talking, then both fell asleep for a nice nap.  Bob picked me up and we went back to his house and when Penny got home from work, we all had a nice dinner together.

I was on the road by 8:30 Wednesday morning in order to meet Randy and Julie in Joplin for lunch at Cracker Barrel - they drove from Springfield so we could hook up - how nice is that?  Our lunch visit was very nice and then they headed to a nearby casino and I headed west on the Will Rogers Turnpike.  I only drove as far as Claremore because it would be another 2.5-3 hours to the next KOA.  It was a rainy drive, sometimes visibility was poor, and I saw several accidents along the way.  No problem stopping sooner than I had planned.

Friday, October 14.  I spent last night at the KOA in Amarillo, TX, after about a 7-hour drive, and I was ready for a break.  While setting up, a couple from St. George, UT stopped to chat about small rigs like mine.  They had just bought a Casita and were interested in hearing about my experiences.  Everywhere I go, people stop to comment on my trailer and that happened a few times on this trip as well.

Today's drive was uneventful, thankfully, and I stopped at the KOA in Grants, NM because of what a nice place this is.  They serve home-cooked meals and some of the best pies.  I ordered the turkey dinner and it was delivered to my site, steamy hot and delicious.  The grounds and facilities are well maintained, the staff is friendly. And there is a nice nature walk through the desert with mounds of black volcanic rock scattered all over the place. I love it and will stop here whenever it works into my schedule and route.

Sunday, October 16.  I was on the road by 8:30 yesterday morning and it wasn't long before I crossed over to the Arizona border and I pulled in front of my house at about 2:30 pm.  It is still standing, no worse for wear.  Naturally, there is a coating of dust on everything and the debris from the trees in the back yard needs to be cleaned up but I will approach it slowly. No sense in hurting myself by taking on too much at one time.

I unloaded the trailer - wow, that thing holds a lot of stuff - and then the car (Spotted Cow beer, a box of "in case" stuff, a suitcase full of off season clothes, the grill).  Several neighbors and Connie came by to say hello and welcome me back.  I warmed up my left-over turkey dinner and went to bed early (according to the Arizona time zone) because my body was exhausted.

Today, I continued putting things away, doing laundry, and running a few errands - a stop at the grocery store for meat and fresh produce, and the pet store for Frisco food.  I roasted a chicken for dinner, enjoyed a cocktail, and walked the park loop after dinner.  Home Sweet Home!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October 3 - 9, 2016, MN, IA

Tuesday, October 4.  Happy Birthday to my sweet brother, Bob! He is not only celebrating his birthday, but his retirement from owning and operating Windscape Apartments.  Congratulations on a very successful career.  Jill is off again, this time to Dallas for her regular job.  It is strange having full days to myself - the twins started full-days at preschool this week.  They were both tired when they got home, naps must not have gone so well.

Thursday, October 6.  My summer in the Midwest and my stay with Ben and his family is winding down and I will be leaving here on Sunday after celebrating Norah and Camille's birthday on Saturday. My time here has been busy and I'm glad that I was able to help them with the transition from at-home care to preschool .  They are still adjusting, but it can only get better from here.

Today, I got my car organized and cleaned up the camper a bit.  I had to pull it out of its storage spot in Kevin's driveway yesterday, as tree trimmer were here and they needed to pull their truck in there.  All is well, that job is done.

Saturday, October 8.   Celebrated Norah and Camille's 3rd birthday today, starting around 9:30 when the Quinn's arrived and the gift opening began.  They were happy and excited about their gifts.  Ben fixed a yummy breakfast of bacon, toast, and frittata, and then the big gifts were presented - balance bikes.  Camille figured it out right away, but it was a bit hesitant.  Her bike might be just a tad too big yet - she is so tiny.  We then all headed to Lynnhurst playground for an hour of bike riding.  Norah was more interested in Ben's skateboard than her new bike - she even shifted her body in order to balance.

Waiting for the big surprise.

While the little ones napped, Jill and her mom and Charlotte made Runzas - a traditional fall recipe for their family -  burger, onions, and cabbage wrapped in dough and baked. And then after dinner, it was time for cake and singing Happy Birthday.

Sunday, October 9.  I said my emotional goodbyes to the family and then pulled out around 9 this morning and drove as far as Des Moines, stopping for a few groceries along the way.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

October 1 - 2, 2016, MN

Sunday, October 2.  Jill took off in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday for SF. Norah and Camille had another day home from school since they require a full 24 hours after treatment for the pink eye.  They went back to school on Friday and I got a little break.

Yesterday was a good day for Ben and I, a walk to Brueggers for bagels, he took Norah grocery shopping while I took Charlotte and Camille for a walk along the lake. After naps, wee all went to woodlake nature center for a hike and then to Punch Pizza for dinner. Yummy!

This morning, we all slept in, so the day got off to a later start.  Ben took Camille for groceries today (stuff for their classes at school) and I took the others two to the playground.  Jill got back this afternoon.

Monday, September 26, 2016

September 26 - 30, 2016, MN

Wednesday, September 28.  Back on Monday, after packing up and saying my goodbyes to the girls, I headed off to Roseville to rescue my little dog.  He got a great report and the staff that I talked to really liked him.  He was so happy to see me, as I was happy to see him too.  I was back in time to unpack, get organized, and head off to pick Norah and Camille up at school.  I could see a change in them, even after only a few short days - mostly with their speech but also appearance.

This morning, I met my friend, Karen, for breakfast. She is visiting from Connecticut. We went to Wise Acres, a place near Norah and Camille's school. Breakfast was delicious and we had a nice visit, catching up on the last 2 years.  Karen lost her husband, Paul, about a year after Mike died, so we have a lot of experiences in common.  We are both adjusting, although you never stop missing them.

Unfortunately, Camille woke up with Pink Eye this morning, confirmed by the doctor and given medication to stop it. Hopefully it will not spread to the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September 19 - 25, 2016, MN

Wednesday, September 20.  Yup, busy, busy, busy, although Monday and Tuesday were not unmanageable and I had a couple of mornings alone. Today, Norah and Camille had coughs and runny noses so they stayed at home today.  They were pretty good, needed a little extra TLC (whining and crying) but mostly cooperative and playing well together.  There are times when Camille, who has a strong personality (in fact, she thinks she is an expert at everything) is a little overpowering at times.  She does things for Norah, when Norah wants to do things for herself. I was very happy when Mom and Dad finished work and I could get myself a break.

Friday, September 23.   I started preparing to empty my room yesterday, making sure that the bedding was clean for the next guests, Leah, (who is a long-time friend of Jill and Ben) and her baby son, Luke.  I will be joining the girls from Milwaukee; Leslie, Linda, Jane and Chris at the River Valley Inn in Osceola, WI for the weekend.  I only had an hour to drive but I left Ben's house around 11:00 and dropped Frisco at the Petsmart Pet hotel in Roseville and did some shopping and some sightseeing along the way.

I drove along the St. Croix River on the Minnesota side and stopped at a few sights along the way.  The St Croix River played a major role in the lumber industry and was used to transport logs from northern woods.

Looking south toward Stillwater from a scenic overlook.

I got to the hotel early, sat in my car waiting, I decided to go to the grocery store but my car wouldn't start. I tried and tried but no go, then I remembered talking with the guy who did my oil change before leaving Arizona. I had asked him to check my battery and he said that it would do no good, that when it goes, it just goes. So, I think that is what happened here.  I called my roadside assistance and they were experiencing very high call volumes, so I decided to wait and see what happens in the morning.

The girls arrived, we checked into our rooms, and then sat around Leslie and My room and had a drink and mulled over the plans for the weekend.  Dinner was right next door at the Tippy Canoe. Unfortunately, my walleye was overcooked and my old fashioned wasn't the best, but it was all ok.

I received news from Bob and Randy that Travis Standlee, the man who murdered my brother, Ray, was sentenced to 50 years in prison and will not be eligible for parole until at least 35 years have been served.  He is also facing 50 years in the upcoming trial of the woman he is suspected of murdering only days after he killed Ray. I am relieved that he will not be drifting around as a free man ever again.

Saturday, September 24.  Wow, I slept in until 8:15 - boy, did that feel good.  First on my list today was to get that battery problem resolved.  My roadside assistance sent someone to jump the battery, a nice local guy who had all kinds of suggestions for things to do and places to see in the area, and he got my car going quickly.  I drove to the Walmart in St Croix Falls, bought a battery and had it installed - only a $93 repair, not bad.

I met up with the girls on Main Street in Osceola and we browsed through some of the shops before going to the train station for our 90 minute ride along the river.  It was so enjoyable and the scenery was beautiful - I bet it is gorgeous when the fall leaves are at their peak colors.

The bridge that crosses the river into Minnesota.

This building was a pump house, distributing fresh drinking water from underground springs to nearby homes and communities.

After our train ride, we headed to St Croix Falls to the Dancing Dragonfly Winery, sampled some of their wines (most were named after dances - like CanCan, Polka, and Foxtrot - and browsed the small art far that was on the grounds - a beautiful spot with fountains and ponds and rows and rows of grape vines.  It was cold, as the wind was pretty brisk and there was dampness in the air from the rain that would be coming through later tonight.

We had dinner at the Dalles supper club and lounge - had a tasty flank steak (delicious flavor, but a little in the tough side) and dinner was served with yummy popovers.  A good day!

Chris, Leslie, Me, Linda, and Jane

Sunday, September 25.  It was a lazy morning and after lounging around until almost noon, we went across the way to the Tippy Canoe to watch the Packer game. I wasn't real interested, so after breakfast I went back to the hotel and sat in the hot tub with Jane for a while. Then we both went back to the bar and watched the last half of the game.  They gave us a raffle ticket for every drink you purchase and I won a bottle of wine in one of the drawings. I think these girls bring me good luck - last summer I won't $300 when we met up for dinner one night.

The packers won and when the game was over,  took a drive to Interstate State Park, named because there is state park land in both on both sides of the river and in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. What a gorgeous place!  We drove through the park and then parked and walked the Pothole Trail that was scattered with huge boulders that looked like they fell from the sky.  The path led us to the top of the high rock outcrop along the river - it was a long way down.  We did see some potholes - they are holes formed in the granite by water.  One of the potholes was at least 10 feet deep and one was full of water, resembling a small pond. Some of the leaves are starting to turn with the shorter and cooler days - it is fall after all.  I would definitely like to come back here to camp in the future,

Thursday, September 15, 2016

September 12 - 18, 2016, MN

Thursday, September 15.  When my first journal update is written on a Thursday, it is an indication of how my week has gone.  Ben left for SF on Tuesday, leaving Jill and I to run the show.  Any window of time without kids has been used to shop, prepare for meals, do minor clean ups and take a nap whenever I can.  That is probably what I should be doing right now.  Twice, I have had to wake the twins up after only an hour's nap, in order to get Charlotte after school (Jill had a couple of days that she couldn't do the afternoon pickup.

Yesterday, my first time driving Jill's car to pickup Norah and Camille, I couldn't get her car to start - I have no experience with a car that has keyless starting. I had to call Ben at work to learn how to get it started.  Then, in the scramble to get lunch bags, sweaters, dirty clothes, and 2 3-year olds to the parked car, I managed to drop the bag of dirty clothes, losing Camille's shoes and clothes.

Then in the afternoon while they were napping, I was out back watering the lawn when I heard a squeal, turned around and found the dogs chasing a chipmunk. I aimed the hose on them and they came away, leaving an injured chipmunk struggling as he hid in the corner of the patio.  I got the dogs in the house and observed the little guy for a while and it appeared that it was dying, staying in one place and twitching now and then.  I knew I should probably put it out of its misery, but I just didn't have the heart to kill it, choosing to let it die on its own instead.  I checked periodically and every time, it moved just a bit.  After an hour or so, I checked and didn't see any movement, so I went to the garage and got a shovel to dispose of it. When I scooped underneath, the thing ran, trying to get away from me. Fortunately, it ran off the patio and behind the fence - good thing, since I didn't want the kids to see it. I check a couple of times and each time, it had moved several feet - maybe it was going to be ok.  The last I checked, it was gone. I have no idea where, but I couldn't find it anywhere. I hope it didn't suffer too much longer, or died quickly.

I made an apple crunch for a special treat for after dinner on Tuesday but there was so much yelling, pushing and completely uncooperative kids, that the privilege was taken away

We have a pot luck for Norah and Camille's school tonight, so I made a cornbread this morning.  It looked beautiful coming out of the oven but as I tipped it out of the pan, it broke apart.  This is the result

 Dang, we won't be taking that to any potluck.

Jill sent me a quick salsa recipe and I pulled that together. I also got groceries for my camping trip with Charlotte this weekend,  Whew!  Resting now.

Sunday, Sptember 18.  What a great weekend I had, camping with Charlotte again.  This time, we went to Lebanon Hills Campground, only a 20-minute drive from here.  We got setup, then went on a walkabout to check out the park.  We were camped in the west loop, an area for RVs that had full hookup sites. We walked up to the East Loop, where the playground is and found those sites to be more desirable for the next time - the drawback is that they are electric only sites, so I would have to fill up with water and empty tanks at the dump station, but it would be very doable.  Those sites are bigger and more secluded, with trees surrounding each site. Another plus is that the playground is right in the middle of the loop.

We headed back home, and saw a family pull into one of the sites across the street. Charlotte wanted to see if the little girl could play, so Eliza joined us and they got to know each other and had a great time together; coloring, running around and playing with some of Charlotte's toys.

We had shrimp, rice, and edamame for dinner and then a special treat of an ice cream cone from the store.  By then, it was time to get a fire started and we sat and sang campfire songs and enjoyed the fire until it started to rain.  We were hoping to see the full Harvest Moon tonight but there were way too many clouds covering it up.  We scurried off to bed and had a fun tickle and giggle fest until she wore out and we both went to sleep.

We got right to it on Saturday morning with chats with the neighbors, Julie and Lisa and thier German Shepherd, Bago (who we learned is the same age as Charlotte, born 3 days later than her).  The dog was so smart and well behaved, loved little kids and Charlotte  loved him too, asking frequently if she could go over there to pet him.   Also, we got new neighbors on the other side of us and she had to meet that little black poodle named Molly.  Molly survived an attack by her mother when she was just a puppy and her face was deformed and crooked, but she was still a real "cutie", Charlotte's description of her.

Bago stole a kiss from her, just as she was posing for the photo.

Once things tried out a bit, we went back to the playground for a while and when we got back to the camper, Eliza joined us again in the afternoon and they played for a couple of hours, coloring, practicing leaps, Eliza teaching Charlotte how to do cartwheels, rolling down the hill, eating, and playing with toys.  

After dinner, we went for a hike along a forest path that wine along the lake shore.   Unfortunately, a large section of the path was flooded from the recent rains, so we couldn't go all around the lake, having to turn around and take the same path.

She got bored of the campfire and we went inside about 8:30, never did get to see the full moon until just before she went to sleep, and we saw it through the window.  I suggested that we go outside in our pjs to get a good look, but she was too sleepy by that time.

I had a miserable night of sleep, waking up to the sound of coyotes around midnight and then not going back to sleep until after 3 am, and when I did sleep, it was that kind of sleep that is right on the edge of awake and asleep. Charlotte sleep in until 8:00.

She was ready to go see Bago and go for a morning walk so we had a quick bowl of cereal and headed down a different woodland path, this time around another lake and it was so quiet and peaceful. When we got back to the campsite, I made eggs in a hole for breakfast and we packed up and got ready to leave.  

We ended our weekend with a stop for pizza.