Monday, July 16, 2018

July 16 - 22, 2018, MN

Sunday, July 15.  On Friday evening, we went to dinner at Fiesta Cancun Bar and Grill in downtown Maple Grove. It was a celebration of our 9 months together.  Unfortunately, I can only say that dinner was ok - every entree was flavorless and we kept adding sauces and seasonings to perk it up a bit.  The servings were generous and ingredients were fresh but nothing had any flavor.  I kept thinking that the food was designed for midwesterners brought up on bland food - not me - I wanted some spice! Needless to say, I will never return.  I also wanted to leave comments on their website but there was no option for that. Also, reviews on Yelp were all favorable, so I thought mine would just be overlooked anyway. 

Ben and the family were tent camping at Baker Park this weekend so we drove over

there on Saturday morning and hung out for a while. We walked to the beach but Tom and I didn't bring suits so couldn't venture in the water and we had Frisco with us and he wasn't allowed on the beach, so we had to sit back from the beach with him.  According to Ben, their first attempt improved after the first night and they plan to do it again.

Sunday was wash and wax day for my Toyota, it was badly needed and looks so nice now.

  This guy crawled through our site this afternoon.

Thursday, July 19.  The trouble with a gap in days between writing is having to reconstruct the previous day's events.  This week, my focus has been on medical - my annual Medicare checkup was on Tuesday and I had a good, thorough discussion with my new doctor on my medications, questions, and concerns. All is good and no follow-up is needed except for getting the new 2-part shingles vaccination, Zoster Shingrix that is out on the market. Apparently, it is in high demand and they were out of it. She said it is supposed to be 90+% effective and I will definitely be following up on that - I do not want to get the dreaded shingles.

I spent the afternoon at the dental hygienist yesterday at the Herzing Dental College Clinic - the only reason the appointments take the afternoon is that a student is doing the work under supervision of an instructor.  They are thorough checkups including cancer screening of the neck and jaws, blood pressure and pulse check, reviews of health history and a cleaning/polishing/fluoride treatment - all for $18 and well worth the 3-hour commitment.

After my appointment, I headed to Ben's house to pick up Norah for a 2-night sleepover. She was excited and had all of her stuff ready and packed. It was after 6:00 when we got back home, so we only had a short time to play at the playground after dinner, but it was fun.  Even though her eyes kept closing, she still wanted to return to the playground before bedtime.  After a shower and stories, she drifted off to sleep.

Today, we had planned to go see an interactive musical show for kids at the town center, but the rainy weather changed that plan.  The bandshell is right next to the library, so we picked up a bunch of books and a couple of movies and headed back home.  We did a walkabout (she rode her bike) in between rain showers. Now, it is cold and gloomy outside and she is napping.

Monday, July 9, 2018

July 9 - 15, 2018, MN

Thursday, July 12.  Most of the week has been very typical for us, except for an early morning visit to the lab for blood work in preparation for my upcoming annual checkup and a little bit of shopping therapy.

Last night, Tom and I went to the Maple Grove Town Green to see a Billy Joel Tribute band.  We were unsure of what to expect so got there a few minutes after the band started and were unable to find a seat on the lawn where we could actually see the band.  There was no problem with hearing them. It was a beautiful night for a concert in the park. We left a few minutes early in order to avoid the traffic rush after the show - good thing, as it started to pour down rain just after we got to the car.

This morning, in spite of the temps being near 90 degrees and high humidity, we headed to the Crow-Hassan Park Reserve, about 11 miles north of here.  The reserve is part of the Three Rivers Park District, an area that covers 27,000 acres of parks and trails with 25 different areas for recreation.  We hiked about 3 miles along unpaved trails and roughly mowed paths through forest and prairie lands.  The flies and mosquitoes were thick when we first started out, so we both doused ourselves and our clothes with 100% DEET - I know, it's nasty stuff but it is effective and allowed us to finish the hike.  Neither of us could wait to get in the shower when we got back home - we were hot, sweaty, and covered with insect repellant.  Frisco was a trooper but I know it tired him out - the humidity must really affect him - I've never seen him pant as much as he did on this hike. Perhaps it was a bit too long for him.

Monday, July 2, 2018

July 2 - 8, 2018, MN

Sunday, July 8.  I just realized that I haven't written anything this whole week and there isn't a whole lot to write about.  Then again, there is:

On Friday morning, I headed over to Lois' house, as she had the grandkids overnight and we were taking them to the beach today.  The Lake Ann beach in Chaska is very nice with a long, wide, grassy area that provided plenty of shade and picnic tables and a long, wide beach with clean, soft sand and shallow, clean water.  We had lots of fun building castles and romping around in the water.

When we got back to the house, Norah and Camille took naps and Lois, Charlotte, and I relaxed on the porch. I hung there around until Ben got arrived to pick the girls up.

Back at home, Tom and I went to Luann Chin for dinner and it was ok - pretty typical for an Asian fast food restaurant.

Saturday was another full day when Ben and the girls joined us for the afternoon here at the KOA.  We walked, they rode their bikes, colored, ate snacks, and were fascinated by the trailer. Norah and Camille wanted to take naps but had a hard time going to sleep, they eventually succeeded, and we sat around talking and coloring.  When we asked Tom to join us, he said he was ok with reading but when Charlotte said "Pleeeeese" he joined us - and I think he had fun doing it.

Last night we went to the Hamel Rodeo, a local event just down the road from where we are staying.  We saw several of the usual Rodeo events like steer roping, bareback riding, barrel racing, and bull riding with some clownish entertainment and and some trick riding by The One Armed Bandit in between - an enjoyable evening doing something a bit out  of the ordinary.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

July 1, 2018, MN

Sunday, July 1.  After hooking up between rainfalls yesterday and last minute chores this morning, we pulled out and headed northwest to our campsite at the KOA in Maple Grove, MN where we will be spending the next 2 months.  Half of the drive was through rain and at times, pouring down rain and some high winds too.  Other than that, it was an easy 4-hour drive.  Just before we arrived, they received 3.5 inches of rain, so there are puddles everywhere.  Our site isn't bad, kind of muddy and the electric/water hookups are on the wrong side of the RV.  That is certainly an inconvenience and we will have to buy a 30amp extension.

Just down the road is Mama G's Bar and Grill and we headed there for a bite to eat and a beer.  There was music and volleyball on the patio but we decided to eat indoors where it was a bit more quiet - are we getting older or what?

Monday, June 25, 2018

June 25 - 30, 2018, WI

Tuesday, June 27.  We did some touring yesterday as I wanted to show Tom around to a few Wisconsin originals and we started out with a stop at Fosdal's Bakery in Stoughton for one of their famous chocolate donuts (I chose a fruit bar) and we were hoping for a breakfast sandwich but they only had lunch sandwiches, so we walked up to the Koffee Kup for breakfast.  You can't get more Stoughton than that. 

Tom suggested a visit to the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, so we headed in that direction and he got to experience driving the Beltline in Madison (not bad when it's not rush hour).  The museum was interesting, we sampled several and bought a few too.  The next stop was to be Capital Brewery but they were closed on Mondays, so we headed toward Wollersheim Winery, but drove past that to Dr. Evermore's sculpture garden.  We strolled the grounds to view the Forevertron (a space ship like sculpture that is to beam him up to the heavens when he dies), musical instrument insects, and all of the other incredible creations the man has made from scrap metal objects during his lifetime.  I learned from his daughter that they are working on a Netflix movie and that there is an "Evermor" TV show, but I haven't checked it out yet.

And then, we went to the winery where we strolled the beautiful grounds, sampled a few wines and then walked over to the distillery and sampled the Rye whiskey and the Absinthe.  We missed the rush hour traffic on the way home, thankfully. It was a full and fun day and we were both thankful to have each other to explore with - it's not much fun doing those things on your own.

This morning, I had an appointment to have my transmission flushed and brakes checked at Conant's.  While they had the car, Tom and I took care of some chores and checked out a few shops in Stoughton. At TSC, we filled a propane tank, at Cheezers we bought cheese. I had hoped to take Chocolate cheese back to the kids but it was not Gluten free, so that plan was nixed. We drove to Badgerland campground and Kegonsa State Park and checked them out, but VV is probably the best deal for us in the future.

It was a rainy day off and on and when we went to Pat's for dinner, it poured for a couple of hours straight.  We did have a nice visit, though, and Dawn joined us for a while.  When we left, it was goodbye for a couple of months, as we will head back this way in the fall before we go back to the southwest again.

Wednesday, June 27.  We had a bag full of laundry, so took care of that this morning and walked in between showers.  No breakfast, as we wanted to have lunch at Sonny's (it has a new name but looks the same) in Stoughton. Our sandwiches were tasty. 

Back at the trailer, we started to tidy up and get ready to roll again in the morning.  It was beautiful out and we sat and enjoyed the evening. This park is quite pretty and most of the week there have been no neighbors.

Friday, June 29.  Hookup for departure went well yesterday morning except for a little glitch with the connector for trailer lights, but Tom was able to get it cleared up - for he problem was moisture or dirt.  We were on the road by 10ish and only had 125 miles to go to the Pine View campground in Fort McCoy, an easy drive with one stop at the rest area north of Wisconsin Dells.

Our site is very nice with plenty of shade. It's going to be a hot few days as temps are expected to get up in the upper 90s with high humidity. There is an occupied site to the right of us and across the street, but plenty of Woods separating us.  We took a walk and sat around the campsite - too hot for a fire.

Today was fun - a leisurely wake up, a nice, long walk and then a trip to the Cranberry Capital of Wisconsin, Warrens - a small township of 350+ people that swells to 100,000 in the fall when they celebrate the annual Cranberry Festival.  We stopped at the Discovery Center and learned a lot when we went through the nice little informative museum and checked out the beautiful collection of antique cranberry glass (not made in this area, but the name fits). And then we shopped, leaving there with 2 jellies, some potpourri, and a bottle of cranberry moonshine (not distilled in WI).  

Back home, we sampled that moonshine and it has a bite - the bottle is filled with cranberries and they have a bite too - it is definitely sipping stuff.  There wasn't much else to do, so we went and took a dip in the cold, clear water of the little lake that is fed by the LaCrosse River.  It didn't take long to cool down.

I grilled pork chops and potatoes for dinner while Tom cut up some salad.  We ate, cleaned up, and headed to the Tomah-Sparta Speedway for an evening of modified, sportsman, stock car, and super cup races topped off with fireworks.  I don't remember the last time I saw a race and it was a fun thing to do.


Monday, June 18, 2018

June 18 - 24, 2018, WI

Tuesday, June 19.  I've been busy getting together with family.  Yesterday morning, a long walk with Dawn and most of our conversation was about Rich's last few months leading up to his death.  After our walk, we talked with Katie and played with her little guy, Henry.

I met Tom, Karen, Sharon, Becky, and Lizzie for lunch at Erin's Snug Irish Pub in Madison and we celebrated Tom's birthday, I think it might be his 67th.  Unfortunately, he is not in the best of health, had multiple bypasses earlier this year, had surgery for a blockage in his leg 2 years ago, and is facing surgery in the other leg now.  It's always nice to be with family and it was good to see everyone.

Tracey made a yummy chicken recipe tonight - chicken breast halved and stuffed with garlic, spinach, and provolone cheese. I'll have to make it one of these days.

This morning, Dawn and I met Jonnie at Sugar and Spice for breakfast and we talked and talked on so many subjects - mostly health if you can imagine that.  We also reminisced about family and shared memories of our aunts and grandmother.

Sunday, June 24.  Pat's work got rained out so I got to spend the day with him again on Wednesday. We got things ready for a garage sale that they are having over the weekend and watched some tv and also took a drive around the lake to check the high water levels.  The news is full of reports that the levels are at a 100-year high, and we found that to be true.  Piers are under water, as are some picnic tables and walkways.

   The box on top of the pole in the center of the picture is a grill.

I was on pins and needles Thursday morning in anticipation of Tom's arrival.  By 2:00, I got his text and headed right over to Viking Village RV Park where we will be for the next week.  It was wonderful to feel his hug and sit and talk again - that is, once he got all setup in the rain.  We went in town to Deek's Pub for a beer and burger - just like old times.

Other than grocery shopping and walking the trail along Viking Park, the highlights of the weekend were Fran's 93rd birthday party at Erin and Joe's house where Tom got to meet my cousins in her family.  He was welcomed with open arms and fit right in - we had a good time there.  After that, we went to Pat and Tracey's and he met them and was welcomed. Pat cooked brats and beans and I brought coleslaw and we had a great visit and dinner.

  We found this little guy on one of our walks.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

June 11 - 17, 2018, MN, WI

Wednesday, June 13.  I misread the clock this morning and got up at 5:45 instead of 6:45, so I'm sitting here having coffee and enjoying the morning sounds of squirrels chattering, cardinals whistling, and the hum of traffic as people hustle off to work.

The family finished loading the van and headed off on their road trip to Pennsylvania yesterday afternoon and I have had the house to myself.  I've been busy doing a few chores that they weren't able to get done before they left, like cleaning out the refrigerator, giving the lawn and garden a good soaking, and writing up instructions for the neighbor girls to keep up with the watering while they are gone.

I was planning to take my bike in to have the locked brake checked but ran out of time, so I took it back to my storage unit in hopes that it might be a project that Tom and I can do together.  I'm sure there is a You Tube video out that that can guide us through the process.

Charlotte and I visited the rose garden, rock gardens, and bird sanctuary yesterday and had a fun time.  I turned the camera over to her and this is what she did.

Saturday, June 16.  After washing my bedding and doing some cleanup at the house this morning, I got on the road, heading south to Montello where I spent the night at Pat and Roger's house.  As always, it was wonderful to see them again.  We took a couple of nice walks with the dogs, had Old Fashions on the front porch, a nice dinner and lots of good conversation. They took me to Frannie's Cafe (formerly Maggie Mae's) in Oxford for a tasty breakfast on Friday morning. And then I headed south again.

Next stop was to see Sharon in Portage.  I didn't call ahead but when I drove by and saw her garage door open, I knew she was home. We had a nice chat and I hung out for an hour or so before taking familiar back roads to Stoughton.  I drove past the nursing home in Wyocena where Mom spent her last 8 years, then past Covance, where I spent the last 25 of my working years, then on to Pat's house in Stoughton.  

Tracey and I had a great visit and then when Pat got home from work, the 3 of us had pizza and lots of good conversation.

Pat and I worked in his flower beds for a while this morning but it started getting hot, so we took a break.  90 degrees and 71% humidity was feeling pretty hot.  We dug up some huge hosta plants, divided them, and put them along the fence.  We also transplanted a Bleeding Heart and Stella d'Oro lilies from the front garden to the back where the hosta was removed.

When Pat took a nap, I went for a ride out to see my old home on Starr School Rd, then past the house where I grew up on Hamilton Street, and then to see my cousin, Fran.  Lucky for me, my cousin Ken and his wife, Gerda were there too, so we all had a good chat and caught up on the last year's events.  When I left there, I went to the cemetery to visit Mom, Dad, and Rocco's grave.  The hosta plants had gotten so big that they were covering Mom and Dad's headstone, so I got a gardening tool out of my car and cut them back.

Tonight, after dinner, we watched a couple of episodes of the latest season of "The Ranch"

Thursday, June 7, 2018

June 4 - 10, 2018, MN

Ï    Last swim classes of the season for these girls.


    Norah and Camille

Monday, June 4. Rich Bogen, a very good friend and the husband of my cousin, Dawn, passed away on this morning. His cancer was stage 4 by the time it was diagnosed in January and he struggled with the effects of chemotherapy and pain ever since. My heart aches for what he and his family have gone through and may he rest In peace and his family cope with their grief. His obituary follows:

STOUGHTON—Rich Bogen passed away on June, 4 2018, with his wife, Dawn, and daughters, Adriane and Kate, and his car parts by his side. Rich left us for his next grand adventure, after surviving just shy of 40 years of marriage to Dawn. He grew up in N.Y. on Long Island, driving his big brother Michael crazy about cars, ham radio and all things electronic.

Although there was much more for Rich to see and do, the life he lived was full of wonderful adventures. Whether he was hitchhiking across the U.S., backpacking through the Grand Canyon, watching Jimmy Hendrix at Woodstock, or playing the piano in one of his many bands, he was always busy. Outnumbered by women in the house he could often be found hiding in the basement playing on his ham radio.

Then he discovered his next love, British sports cars, restorations, drives, car clubs, car shows and fixing cars took up much of his time. Rich dragged Dawn around the U.S. and Canada for the last 20 years to car shows, where he continued to add photos to his ever expanding collection. Photos his family will enjoy for generations to come.

For his piece of mind, he asked to be told in his final moments, that 45 had been impeached, in which he grinned and peacefully passed.

As per Rich’s wishes, there will not be a funeral or burial service. A celebration of his life will be held on Aug. 25, 2018, at EAST SIDE PARK in Stoughton, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Please bring a dish to pass, your instruments, and a sense of humor. Please pass the information on to all who knew Rich.

In lieu of flowers please donate to the musical, car or amateur radio group of your choice.


This morning when Ben looked out the bathroom window, he spotted a fox with a rabbit in its mouth, he opened the back door and scared the fox, it dropped the half eaten rabbit in the alley and took off, missing out on breakfast. Fortunately, the trash pickup is today, so it wasn't a problem to dispose of it.

Other than a bit of shopping, helping out with kids, and some household chores, I haven't done a lot this week.

Thursday, June 7.  Tom reminded me in a text today that it was 1 month ago that we left Mesa. And I sure didn't make it too far into that trip, did I?  Well, regrets will get you nowhere, so I am not walking that path.  I realize that I have a good, patient, loving, and caring man in my life and I need to make the best of it.

Got kids?  It is a constant in this household and everything revolves around them.  I, fortunately, can step back and have some space when I need it.  Today, just when all was going well, I was playing with Norah in the back yard, Ben was done with work and was in the kitchen preparing dinner when Charlotte started freaking out, crying, coughing, and choking, but able to tell him what happened.  It turns out that she accidentally swallowed a penny that she had in her mouth - why? Who knows?  Daddy to the rescue - he calls the nurse hotline and learns to give her small amounts of water, then bread to force the penny to her stomach (no problem with it passing through) and that works and he is able to get her calmed down.  After that, all she wanted to do was to lay down on the couch and she quickly fell asleep.

Ben got back to dinner prep, Jill got home from her long day of work, and we had a yummy pasta and salad dinner.  Whew! I was ready for a short walk with Frisco followed by a glass of wine.

This morning when Ben looked out the bathroom window, he spotted a fox with a rabbit in its mouth, he opened the back door and scared the fox, it dropped the half eaten rabbit in the alley and took off, missing out on breakfast. Fortunately, the trash pickup is today, so it wasn't a problem to dispose of it.

Charlottes last day of school was Friday and they had a picnic in the park with lots of fun games and activities, ice cream and a food truck lunch. We went to help her celebrate and I got to meet her teacher who is retiring after 41 years.

Sunday, June10. Yesterday morning, Camille and I were walking Frisco when she spotted the fox crossing the street.  We watched as it went into the year of the house on the corner, peed, and then headed west across the next street.  It's pretty rough looking, been foraging for a while.

I heard from Tom yesterday that he was broke down on the side of the road about an hour from Texarkana, AR, with a broken heater hose and lost all of the fluid out of the radiator.  While on the phone with his roadside assistance folks, a friendly guy who was mowing his lawn came to his rescue.  The cut the hose and reclamped it and he gave him a gallon of antifreeze and water to get him back on the road, and he wouldn't take a dime for it, just told Tom to help some other unfortunate person along the way.  Things like that sure do restore your faith in humanity. I've always believed that most people are good folks and would help when needed.  It was definitely a good outcome for Tomnd I was glad to hear it.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

June 1 - 3, 2018, MN

Sunday, June 3.  Here we are, at the beginning of another month.  I have a trip to Stoughton planned and will spend a few days with Pat and Tracey before meeting up with Tom there.  We'll spend a week there and I can show him around my old stomping grounds, and he can meet me son, Pat. I'm looking forward to it.

Norah stayed home from school on Friday, as her tummy was sick and she was running a fever.  She and I cuddled, read stories, played doctor, and napped a good part of the day.  

Camille had a sleepover with me on Friday night and Charlotte shared my bed on Saturday night.  It's so fun to have that one on one time, reading and story telling are their favorite bedtime activities.

Yesterday was a rainy day, but we managed to get walks and some outdoor activities in.  Dennis and Ben built a raised bed garden and Jill, Lois and I shopped for plants - if you know me, that's an activity that I love to do. So many choices to make.

Today was busy, with everyone pitching in to clean the house, doing laundry, food prep,  planting the veggie garden, and a bit of shopping in preparation for dinner guests. Camille and Norah's friend, Georgia, and her parents came over and we had a nice visit and a great dinner.  The kids all had fun running and playing in the back yard.

Monday, May 28, 2018

May 29 - 31, 2018, MN

Monday, May 28. Happy Memorial Day, an opportunity to spend the weekend with my son and his family, a flurry of activity as expected for those in the working world.  For me, a bit more activity than wha I'm used - not to say that I don't appreciate being pushed or encouraged to be a bit more active than usual.

In conversations with Tom, he has gotten in some good walks and is busy visiting with friends.  I feel pretty bad that I walked out on him and also that we are not experiencing these things together.  Perhaps the time and space apart will make things better when we do join up again in late June.

Yesterday was kind of low key but today, Jill had plans for a bike ride with Camille and Norah this morning, so Ben and I did some prep work for tonight's dinner and then we walked around the lake with Charlotte and had a stop at South Beach for a swim and another for a snack at the bandshell.

Ben grilled baby back ribs, Jill made potato salad, and I made cucumber salad - a yummy summertime dinner menu.  The kids had fun playing in the pool in the back yard and riding bikes.

Thursday, May 31.  This week with the family has been busy, for sure.  I've been walking to school and bus and picking kids up after school, feeding snacks, biking, playing, and all of those other things that come with grandkids.  I've also run errands, grocery shopping, gotten my bike out of storage, looked into some housing options, helped with household chores, groomed Frisco, and managed to stay busy.  Naturally, once the kids are down for the night, I get a short dog walk in and am ready for bed.  There's not a lot of time for adult conversation but once in a while - play is cooperative and quiet - much more than when they were younger.

I got to see the girls in their dance performances on Tuesday night - so darn cute.  Camille is really getting into it, Norah had some darling moves, and Charlotte might have preferred to do something different.

Tom and I will be meeting up in Stoughton next month (as we had originally planned to spend some time there), and he is still exploring Texas and then working his way north.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

May 21 - 27, 2018, MO, IA, MN

Monday, May 21.  I worked my way to the KOA in El Reno, OK and spent the night in one of their cabins at a cost of $45 - very nice accommodation, sitting on the edge of a hill overlooking the Canadian River. It had fast flowing water! I would definitely do this again - a much nicer environment than a motel room.

I made it to Randy's house on Saturday afternoon and spent 2 nights there. I was able see all 3 of his kids, as they all took time out of their busy schedules and stopped by for a visit and it felt good to be with family again.

Today, Randy and I headed north to Sunrise Beach to hang out with Rita and Denny and Bob for a couple of days at Rita's lake house.  I had hoped to stop by to visit Rene on the way there, but she came down with a case of shingles last week and wasn't feeling up to company.  She may still be contagious, so the rest of us were uncomfortable with her even coming to the lake house for a short visit.

I had a good, long talk with Tom this morning and I felt much better after that, although still very emotional about it all.  I'm hoping that we can work through our issues and maybe even connect again later this summer.  

It felt good to be with four my siblings again and we had a nice boat ride, quite quiet around here with few boats out and many of the homes haven't even been opened up for the season. That will probably change this week, as Memorial Day is coming up soon.  Bob and Randy stained the catwalk when we got back from our ride and Rita, Denny, and I got dinner together.  Naturally, we partied on the deck after dinner, listening to music, a dance or two, and having lots of laughter and conversation.  I was the first to retire - no, Frisco was the first to retire - he started bugging me, so I took him out for a short walk and he headed right to his bed in the room we are sharing.

Wednesday, May 23.  Tuesday was a work day, as Rita had several projects for the guys to end them with and she and I did yard work, raking up sticks and pulling weeds.  The guys stained a lattice wall, burned some of the crud that we raked, out together a new grill, and did some general repairs.  The work earned us a nice boat ride to Bagnell Dam.  It was so nice that we almost had the lake to ourselves and the weather was perfect.

    Rita, Bob, Randy, and I

Bob brought steaks and salad greens from his garden for dinner and we had red potatoes and asparagus with it - yummy!  The night was much quieter; Randy turned in early, Bob and Denny watched TV, and Rita and I enjoyed talking and watching the lights on the water before retiring.

Bob and Randy got ready to go back home this morning and the day for the rest of us was relaxed and enjoyable.  Rita and I did a bit of shopping in Laurie and then we all had lunch at Frankie and Louie's - a huge restaurant and bar with land and water access, outdoor seating, a beachwear shop, beach volleyball, and a sandy beach for the kids to play on.  Lunch was yummy.

This afternoon while sitting on the deck, Frisco saw a squirrel on the ground and squeezed through the slats and jumped the 12-15 feet to the ground. I was terrified that he might have broken a leg, went running in search of him, calling out for him until I heard his footsteps on the deck. He was just fine and has shown no signs of stiffness or injury since. What a little shit he is.

Saturday, May 27. I arrived at Ben's house yesterday after spending Thursday night st the KOA in Adel, IA, about 15 miles west of Des Moines on I-80. The place is one of the best that I have stayed at and the nights in their cabins is much better than a hotel. I sat on the swing and made phone calls and had a glass of wine.  I ordered chicken wings and had them delivered fresh and hot right to my cabin.  I took my time getting ready in the morning, stopped for a car wash and a breakfast sandwich, and the drive was easy.  I did go through a couple of rainstorms, but not bad.

I pulled up to the house just in time to go and walk home with Norah and Camille after school - they were riding their bikes and were quite proud to show me their skills.  We put bikes in the van and went to Lynnhurst playground so they could burn off some energy and Ben and I shot some hoops - yea, it has been many, many years.  We were heading for the bus stop to meet Charlotte when she ran up to welcome me with a big hug.

    Violet, Norah (not into the photo op), Charlotte, and Camille

Unfortunately, Ben and his family had to say goodbye to the family dog, Ruby, yesterday. She was 14 years old, lived a good life and we will always remember Her Majesty Queen Ruby Quinn Bridge as such a sweet, gentle and loyal pet.

Today was the usual flurry of activity. Jill and Lois took the girls to the children's theater to see "The Lorax", so Ben and I rode bikes around Lakes Calhoun and Harriet, about a 6-mile ride and stopped for a beer at the Bread and Pickle.  It was a beautiful day and there was a flurry of activity at the lakes - biking, running, skating, dog walking, people walking, sailing and the usual summertime stuff.  When the girls got home, Ben ran around the lake while Charlotte rode her bike.

After an evening walkabout (Camille is very interested in walking Frisco), the girls watched a movie and the adult sat on the patio and enjoyed the evening quiet.


Monday, May 14, 2018

May 14 - 20, 2018, NM, TX, OK, MO

Monday, May 14. Our only activity planned for the day was to visit Artesia, a community about 12 miles to the north.  Folks told us to check out the Main Street where there are several giant bronze statues, so that is what we did, starting with breakfast at the Chaos Cafe.  The coffee was a bit weak and my pancakes were served under-cooked - the first fork full was still batter and I had them sent back and Tom was almost done with his breakfast before I even started on mine.  They were pretty good though, full of yummy blueberries.

    This sign was on the door in the Ladies room at Chaos Cafe

We strolled about 4 blocks of Main Street and read about the various statues depicting early settlers, the cattle drives, railroads, the artesian springs (ruined by the oil industry), and the oil industry.  There was also a nice little courtyard built in the space where a building that burned to the ground once stood, complete with shade trees, murals, water fountains and pools - all constructed from nice, colorful tiles.

We had planned to go to Carlsbad Caverns at sunset to see the bats leave the caverns but nixed that idea because we didn't feel like driving the fifty miles there and back again. Neither of us were that interested in seeing the caves.

Tuesday, May 15. Travel day. I was up early to allow enough time to take care of getting the inside of the trailer ready for travel, walking Frisco, having enough down time with coffee, and being ready to roll by 10:00.  Tom takes care of all of the outside chores.  We were chatting with some folks who stopped by last night, about our destination, and they strongly suggested we take an alternate route, other than US 285 road south to Pecos.  They said the road is very heavily traveled by huge tanker trucks hauling fuel and it was pitted and rough. Many accidents have happened along the stretch and they highly recommended we alter our plans.  We were thankful for the advise and took it serious, going out of our way by 30-40 miles.  The total drive was 330 miles, a bit much for our likes and we pulled into the rather dumpy Study Butte RV Park at about 6:30 (Central Time Zone) for the next few days.  It is the closest RV Park to Big Bend National Park and it doesn't look much different from the others we have seen - and there also are few options.

The roads that we traveled were nice, very lightly traveled, and the scenery was very easy on the eyes.

Wednesday, May 15. Today, we toured Big Bend National Park.  It was a hot one, peaking out at about 106 degrees but we did do a short hike and a large auto tour.  We started out by driving the 26 miles to The Panther Junction Visitor's Center where we checked out the small museum and talked with a friendly guy from Houston - he was definitely in the mood for giving his advice, making suggestions, and talking up Texas.

We headed out to the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive that heads to the southeast to the Santa Elena Canyon Overlook, where the canyon walls separate and the Rio Grande River flows between the United States and Mexico.  We stopped at several places along the way to enjoy the viewpoints.  

From my perspective, my first visit here back in 2009 had me thinking that the area was spectacular, after all, it was the first time that I had seen anything quite like it and it was hard to even imagine a place like this - a midwestern girl that knew green for as far as the eye could see.  A mountain was Timm's Hill in Wisconsin, about 1200 feet.  Today, after living in Arizona and traveling through New Mexico, it was more desert and more incredible rock formations, but I didn't really feel the excitement that I did the first time.

One stop resulted in about a half-mile hike into the Burro Mesa Pourout. We were glad that we hiked it because the views there were spectacular.  The trail led to an area of cliff walls that were formed from water pouring down them. Way at the top, maybe 100 feet straight up, you could visualize the water pouring over the cliff, dropping down to a small pool and dumping from there down a smooth volcanic rock wall. I sat at the base and tried to get a photo and it was difficult to get down low enough to see the sky above it. These photos don't do it justice.

The Santa Elena Canyon could be seen from far away, we both thought it looked like a bite was taken out of the top of the Mesa.  As we got closer, the bite appeared bigger, and we ended up at the canyon where the water flowed through.  We took a path that led to the river and were a bit disappointed that the water was so low, so we followed another and walked the dry bed so we could get our feet or hands wet in the Rio Grande.  It was insignificant and we imagined how it must have been a MIGHTY river in its early days

The drive back to the main highway was along the Old Maverick Trail, an unimproved of road that was pretty rough but we traveled along slowly and saw some different sights along the way.  Luna's Jacal was the homestead of Gilberto Luna, where he raised his large family was raised in a very low-roofed, stone shelter and his crops were grown and watered from the nearby Terlingua Creek.

Saturday, May 19.  After a rather minor disagreement Wednesday night, I spent the night tossing and turning and during that time, I decided to pack up my car in the morning and head north on my own.  Since then, wondering if it was the right thing to do and if I will forever regret it.  My struggle is personal - being single for the last 5 years, I am finding the stress involved in making the relationship work is more than I can handle right now.  My heart is feeling heavy now and I have a lot of decisions to make.

I made a stop in Midland, TX and paid $198 for a room at the La Quinta (price gouging at its worst, for the many oil workers in the area), then west of Oklahoma City at a KOA cabin for $45 (much more to my liking) and then on to Springfield, MO to my brother, Randy's home.