Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 27-29, 3013 - On The Road Again

I started the long haul back to Mesa bright and early Saturday morning and stopped for the night in Elk City, OK after driving for about 6.5 hours.  I had another hour to kill before I could check in at my hotel, so Frisco and I went to the historical park on the edge of town.  It was a nice place with a pond and an old mill for grinding corn meal, a nice calliope for the kids, and some historic buildings. We went for a nice walk and enjoyed the cool, breezy day.

After checking into the hotel, I took a nice nap, had a quiet dinner, and enjoyed just vegging out for the rest of the day.

Sunday's drive was also uneventful and I stopped for the night in Albuquerque, NM.  I've spent quite a bit of time on the phone with Ken and Gerta, Rene, Sharon, and a FaceTime conversation with Ben and Charlotte.  There were some good storms through the night and lots of rain was splattering on my window.

I took my time getting ready this morning and even had some breakfast at the hotel, although I probably would have done better eating my own yogurt and granola or evening having a McMuffin at McDonalds - the waffle I had probably wasn't too healthy.  The clock in my car said it was 8:30 when I left, although when considering Mountain Standard Time, it really was 7:30.

The entire drive from Albuquerque is nice - the mountains in the distance and the red rock country is beautiful.  The most uninteresting stretch is from the Arizona state line to the turnoff at Holbrook.  From there to Mesa is absolutely gorgeous.  I pulled into my carport at about 2:00 and began the process of unloading and unpacking.  It feels good to be home.

This entire trip has been such a pleasure - although a bit of a drag at times without my sidekick.  You all helped me to get through it and I now know that - I can do it.  Also, living from a suitcase on the 3-day plan and visiting with family and friends can become a bit tiring, but believe me, it was well worth it.  It was so nice to see everyone and I thank you all for your wonderful hospitality and great company.

Friday, July 26, 2012 - Springfield, MO

I did some laundry the other day and discovered there were huge stains on my new capris (from Frisco's blanket bleeding through), so I headed right out to Walmart to get Goop.  That is one product that has always worked for removing most stains.  Unfortunately, after 2 attempts, the stains are still there.  I will try again when I get home, as they are getting lighter and lighter.

I went to Rick's apartment and spent a couple of hours before we met Randy and family at the theater where we saw the movie, Red 2.  I thought it was as good as the 1st one - got lots of laughs anyway.  Julie and Lanae chose a different movie and then we all met up afterward and went to Springfield Brewing Company for some dinner.  None if us were too hungry after filling up on popcorn at the movie.

It was a quiet, relaxing evening after picking up Frisco at the kennel.  We are packed and ready for the road.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013, Springfield, MO

Julie and I packed a picnic lunch while Randy went to pickup Rick at his apartment.  We went to Phelps Grove Park where we found a shady spot to have some lunch, good conversation, frisbee throwing and catching and just a good time hanging out together for the afternoon.

It was opening night at the county fair, so Julie and I took Lanae and her friend.  We wanted to see the animals and the 4-H entries and the girls were interested in the midway and the rides.  The only animals in the barns were cattle, sheep, and giant Percheron draft horses and many of them were already tucked in for the night.

We ate some BBQ while listening to some very laughable and groanable karaoke, then we headed toward the exhibit hall.  The photography exhibits were nice to look at but then we were asked to leave as they were locking up at 9:00 - we thought we had until 11:00 when the fair closed and the girls weren't supposed to meet up with us until 10:30.  Darn!  Now we had time to kill where there wasn't much that we were interested in seeing.  We sat and listened to some pretty good country music for a while and then called to see if Lanae was ready to go home and were glad when they said they had enough for the night too.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wednesday, July 24 - On To Springfield

Frisco and I had a nice walk to the lake and back this morning and when we got back, Rene and Mike were up and we sat on the front porch enjoying our coffee.  I then started to get ready for the next stop on my trip, Springfield, where I will stay with my brother Randy's family and get a chance to visit with my brother, Rick.

The drive was picturesque as I headed south in US65 through a few small Midwest towns.  When I got to Randy's, I decided that Frisco would need to go to the pet hotel for a couple of nights, as it didn't appear that he and Josie would get along.  I was considering this anyways because it didn't work well the last time we were here.  Then, the next morning, Rick offered to keep him but I didn't want to add yet another strange place for him to adjust to.  Maybe next time.

That evening, Ryan, his girlfriend, Audra, and her 1 1/2 year old son came by for a quick visit.  They already had plans for the evening so they didn't stick around for long.  We had pizza for dinner and then Julie and I took Josie for a walk along Springfield Lake.  The deer were really tame and didn't mind us walking near them at all.

July 23, 2013 - Truman Lake, MO

Rene has tubs full of jewelry that she has collected through the years, some to resell and some to keep for herself.  This morning, we went through those boxes and I tried to help her decide what to keep and what to get rid of.  She needs to learn how to sell things on EBay - could supplement her income nicely.

This afternoon we went back in to Warsaw to run errands  and made a couple of stops at local thrift stores to look around.  We both came home empty handed except for the items that were on the list.

We had a great dinner tonight and they invited their neighbor, Duane, to join us.  Mike fried some Crappie, Catfish, and White Bass from a recent fishing trip.  Yum!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 22, 2013 - Truman Lake, MO

My second day here has been very nice too.  Rene has been in charge of some the papers that were left behind by my dad and brother, so we took some time this morning to go through them.  I am taking a few with me so they can be scanned and entered into the Family Tree that I have been working on for years.

After sipping on coffee for a while, we drove into Warsaw and stopped at the Visitor's Center,  a beautiful building that sits on top of a hill overlooking the lake.  There, we learned how the lake was formed and that giant Mastodons skeletons were found in the area.  The views were beautiful from the second level of windows.

Downtown, we went to the Common Ground Cafe, an interesting little place that was once a hotel.  The entire building has been refurbished with barn wood and other woods that have been recycled; bar stools from beams, smooth and glossy wood tabletops that sit on the stumps of trees, interesting little shelves that hold condiments, the list goes on.  Our sandwiches were very tasty, made from today's batch of homemade bread.  They had some natural body care products and I couldn't resist making a purchase.

Monday, July 22, 2013

July 21, 2013 - Truman Lake, MO

After my walk this morning, I did some laundry and packed up again to head to my sister, Rene and her husband Mike's home near Truman Lake, about an hour's drive from Rita's home, where I will spend the next 3 days of my trip.  The drive took me almost straight east, along some pretty remote back roads - beautiful!  It has been 6 years since I've been here and they have made a lot of changes to the place, added on a workshop, a new driveway, and made it more of a home than a cottage since they are now retired and living here permanently.  The place looks good and the hugs felt good!

After visiting for a while and the air cooled a bit, we headed down to the lake for a boat ride.  This lake is a lot different from Lake of the Ozarks in that you are not allowed to build a home on the shoreline and very few houses are visible from the lake.  It was quiet and peaceful and we saw lots of wildlife; Great Blue Herons, a muskrat or beaver, a few Bald Eagles, and a gorgeous sunset.  What a nice evening!
My little sister, Rene.

My second day

July 19-20, 2013 - Lake of the Ozarks

On Friday morning, we loaded up the cars and headed to Rita and Denny's house on Lake of the Ozarks, a two and a half hour drive from KC.  Once the cars were unloaded, we headed in to the small town of Laurie to pick up a few groceries and to let the AC cool the house down a bit. The rest of the day was spent relaxing on the deck, cooking burgers for dinner, taking short naps, listening to music, and having a nice time.

We had planned to go to Aquapalooza, a music event at one of the restaurants on the lake, but when we got there, it was so crowded we couldn't get a parking spot, so we stopped at The Poop Deck for some lunch - not a good choice as our food was just mediocre.  We had a nice table with a view of lots of boats tied up together for the music event, although the music could not be heard for where we were.

We had another nice dinner and hung out on the deck, perfectly content to enjoy each others company and the beautiful environment.  We didn't even put on a swimsuit or got in the boat, but it was just nice to relax at the lake.

Thursday, July 18 - MO

Today is moving day again and I am headed to my sister Rita's house.  Before I went there, though, I spent a few hours with her daughter, Stella.  Stella, Josh, and Barley live right in the city but their home is on nearly an acre of land that is quite wooded, so it seems like you are in the country.  When you see chickens roaming around, it really feels like the country.  As soon as I took Frisco off the leash, he chased the chickens and caused a huge ruckus, so he had to be kept tied up.  I was really hoping that he would have a chance to run around with Stella's 2 dogs and Barley.

We had a really nice time together and she fixed a nice lunch.  We watched Mike's memorial slideshow and looked at other pictures, some of hers and some of mine, and played cars and Jenga with Barley.

We then headed to Rita's where I had an enjoyable evening just chilling with Rita and Denny.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wednesday, July 17 - MO

Bob and Penny both took the day off so we could hang out and prepare for tonight's family gathering. Bob got things together while Penny prepared Sausage Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers and I cut up fruit for a batch of Sangria.

Later on, we packed a lunch and then picked up Penny's Mom, Norma, and went for a boat ride.  Norma and I both started crying as soon as we saw each other - she lost her husband, Phil, just 2 days after Mike passed away.  It is typical midwest summertime weather, hot and humid, but was tolerable out on the lake - and we had it to ourselves.

Tonight, all of my nieces and nephews and their families joined us for the evening.  It was so nice to see them all.  The little ones had a great time playing in the water and we had a great time visiting.  Unfortunately, I was not very good about taking photos and the ones that I did get didn't turn out very good.  Hopefully, other family members will share.

Tuesday, July 16 - MO

Rita and Barley came by to get me this morning and we went to Powell Gardens where they were having a display of Lego sculptures.  It is amazing how thousands of tiny colored blocks can be assembled into creative images.  The largest sculpture, a bison, was made of 45,000 pieces.

Barley with Bison and Calf

It's a good thing that we went early, as it got hot and humid quickly.  The gardens are huge with gorgeous ponds and waterfalls, tasting gardens, orchards, and many things to keep the kids interested.

My sweet sister, Rita

I hung out with Bob this afternoon and then we went to pick his Grandson, Lincoln, up from preschool. We played with him until Penny got back home, then we took him back home to his house.  I got to see Amber and Joel briefly.  They are expecting their 2nd child the end of August, so little Amber's baby bump is quite large..

This evening, we had a very nice dinner at the Marina at Lake Lotawana, enjoying a cocktail on the patio while watching hot air balloons and boats cruising by.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Monday, July 15 - WI, MO

On Sunday morning, Sharon and I went to see Mom one more time. We took her out to the patio and she was pretty quiet for most of the visit, and she enjoys being outdoors.  After Sharon left, she got to be a little more talkative.  She asked me, "how long do you stay here when you come"?  I told her "a few weeks" and her reply was "then your time is almost up".  I only wish I understood better what she is going through.  It seems like she is lost in her own world but when she says something that makes sense, you wonder.  It was sad to say goodby, as usual.

Back at Pat's tonight, we had a great treat for dinner - green beans from his garden, Walleye, Crappie, and Bass that he caught, and ice cream with raspberries (also from the garden).  Yum!

We said our goodbyes this morning and I was on the road by 7:00, as planned.  The drive got pretty tiresome, but I made it to Bob's house in Grain Valley, MO by 4:00, an 8-hour drive with a few stops in between.  It is a huge relief to be off the road.  I'm thinking that I should do no more than 6 hours on the road in the future.

We had a nice, relaxing evening and a good meal and a bit of excitement too.  Frisco was being real good about sticking around me, so I let him off the leash and we played fetch with a stickmfor a while.  I went to the car to get some treats and he walked along with me.  He ran back to the deck ahead of me and Bob grabbed him just as a large Coyote walked through the yard.  It's a good thing that Bob saw it just as Frisco got to him - it would not be a pretty sight if he went charging after it.  It was the first time that Bob and Penny have seen one go through their yard, although they have seen lots of other critters like deer, skunk, and raccoon.  Later on, as we were heading to bed, Frisco started barking like crazy because he spotted 2 deer from the window on the front side of the house.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Saturday, July 13 - Portage, WI

Sharon had to work on Friday, so I took my time getting ready for the day and then headed to Oxford to see my cousin, JoAnne.  She and her husband built a log home on Hill Lake a few years ago and I haven't seen it since they moved in.  What a beautiful spot.  It was great to have some one on one time with her, as we had coffee on the deck, took a walk around the lake, perused the garden, and did a lot of talking and reminiscing.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of Jo or her beautiful home, just the lake.

A couple that lives in our community in Mesa, Don and Sharon, also have a summer home in Oxford, so I gave her a call to see if we could connect.  They were just getting ready to head to Portage for an afternoon of shopping, so they stopped by for a short chat on their way out of town.  It was nice to see them and to meet their friends and it was good to introduce them to Jo.

The Lodi Ag Fair was our activity for Friday evening.Ithink I'm getting my redneck on this weekend - lots of good old small town Wisconsin activities.  We met Rachael and her 2 kids and watched as they had fun going on a couple of rides.  Then we met up with 
Ron, Becky, Brooke and Elizabeth for a pork chop dinner from the Wisconsin Pork Producers Association - a yummy tender, tasty pork chop.  We then watched the demolition derby, an entertaining event where a bunch of guys and a couple of women try to damage their opponents cars and eliminate them from the heat.  Many of the cars end up smoking, sputtering, tires fall off and they turn into crumpled metal.  The only injury was when a guy played head-on into another car - he ended up with a broken nose and lost several teeth- they hauled him off to the hospital and his wife finished the heat in his car.

It was a good thing that Sharon was driving the back roads on the way home, as she spotted several deer hidden in the grass and avoided hitting them.  My eyes are no longer trained, as I didn't see a thing.

Today marks 5 months since Mike passed away and its still hard to believe that this is permanent.  Sharon and I have had several moments during this visit.  This morning, we headed to Princeton to the flea market and had mini donuts and cheese curds for breakfast, then perused the goodies for sale.  Princeton is known for its antique shops and Saturday flea market in the park.  We bought some veggies for tonight's dinner nd I picked up some local maple syrup.

Dan and Sharon's family joined us this afternoon for a cookout with brats, burgers, beans, coleslaw and sweet corn for dinner.  Again, we had our moments as we remembered our loved ones who can no longer be part of these family gatherings.  It is a good thing there are kids around to keep us distracted.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thursday, July 11 - Off To Portage

What a great night we had for sleeping!  Windows were open and it was a cool night and I actually slept.  The night before was a rough one for some reason - I felt so sleepy but my body just would let it happen - until 2:30am.  Yuck!

Today is moving day (I'm on a 3-day plan) and I'm off to spend the next few days in Portage with Sharon and her family.  Once we all had our dose of caffeine, we headed out on a nice, long walk.  The morning was cool and comfortable.  I leisurely got my stuff packed and headed out in time to get to Mom's to help her with her lunch.  She has no interest in eating these days, so she needs some coaxing.  I got a nice, big smile from her when I arrived, but she sure doesn't add to the conversation any more.  It sure is sad to see her like that.

Sharon is working, so I had some time to spare - I stopped to see some old friends from my working days at Covance, Connie and Bill.  We had a nice chat before I had to get going so I could be at Sharon's when an AC repair guy showed up (she bumped it with the mower and wanted it checked out for damage) - none done, so she was quite relieved.

We chatted for a while, then met up with Becky, Ron, and Lizzy at Culver's before heading to Endeavor for an evening of Bingo.  This was my first ever trip to a Bingo hall and I needed some training before we got started - it seemed confusing but it didn't take long to catch on.  It was a fun evening, but I didn't have any luck at all - just made a donation to the local Lion's Club.  In fact, Ron was the only winner in our group.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wednesday, July 10 - WI

After a haircut appointment with Marion on Monday, I headed up to Pat and Roger's to spend the next 3 days with them.  We had a nice dinner and hung out, enjoying our usual cocktail time.  It's not right, just the 3 of us, though.

Yesterday, after a nice walk with the dogs, we headed to Middleton to see Rogers's daughter, Cheryl's new flower and gift shop, Promises.  She has been open for almost a year now and is in a great spot and seems to be doing well.  She had lots of very unique gift items, things that I haven't seen anywhere else.

From there, we went to the Odana Antiques Mall and had a little lesson in history.  What a nice store.  Everything was neat and clean and nicely arranged.  I asked Pat to keep her eyes open for a copy of Charlotte's Web and she just happened to pick up a pile of books and one fell out - it is an original 1952 edition.  I will save it and give it to Charlotte when she gets older.

A front came through in the afternoon and the temperature and humidity dropped, making it very comfortable to sit on the deck and enjoy our cocktails and conversation.  Later on, though, the humidity was back and the AC had to come backmon for getting a good night of sleep.

This morning, we walked along the Yahara River Trail and enjoyed the cool summer morning, the dogs had fun sniffing and exploring new territory.  Lots of wildflowers are in bloom and the water in the river is flowing swiftly.  While walking, we heard the roar of F22s coming out of Truax Field and we watched as 4 of them climbed into the sky quickly before disappearing, probably headed for Fort McCoy.  That is one thing I always enjoyed about working near Truax, I could see them several times a day from my office.

We all got busy with a gardening project when we got back home, digging and splitting Hostas.  That is one shade loving plant that is prolific around here - they get so big that they need to be divided every few years and you can usually find an empty spot in the yard to put them - and we did.  several were left over, so I will take them to Pat when I go back there on Sunday.  After hat project, we are all limping around from overworking our aging bodies.  Grrrr!

Pat and Roger chose the Casino Supper Club in Fall River for dinner tonight and we met Chris and Norm, Gary, Dick and Bobbie there.  It is an out of the way place that only Roger would discover - I think he knows every back road in Southern Wisconsin.  It's a nice place with good food and drinks, and especially good company.

It was another good day with great friends.

Sunday, July 7 - WI

On my walk this morning, I walked by my old friend and classmate, Judy's house, so we sat on her front porch and chatted for a little while.  We proceeded on our walk and then I headed out for a couple more visits that I wanted to make before leaving Stoughton.

My first stop was the cemetery to visit Mom, Dad, and my brother Rocco's graves.  Barely two minutes at the gravesite, I was attacked by swarms of Mosquitos and had to run back to the car.  The hatch must have happened overnight.

From there, I went to my cousin, Fran's house - she is another one who I wanted to spend a bit more time with, but sure didn't have much of a chance to visit at Mike's Memorial.   She is my oldest living relative, her memory is still sharp, and she played a major role in my childhood.  We had a nice chat and we looked at some old family photos, she shared some good stories about my grandparents and other family members.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out with Pat and Tracey

Saturday, July 6 - MN, WI

Saturday, July 6 - MN, WI.  I headed back to Stoughton with tear-filled eyes - dang, goodbyes are hard.  The drive back was another uneventful trip.  Traffic was worse near the bigger cities of La Crosse, Wisconsin Dells, and Portage.  Back at Pat's house, he was awaiting the arrival of his friend, Dan and his 2 sons for a cookout.  It's always nice to hang out with Dan - a great guy.  My brother, Russ also stopped by and joined us for dinner.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Friday, July 5th - WI, MN

Happy Independence Day!  I must have been excited because I was up and on the road by 7:00, headed to Mankato, MN to see Ben's family at his in-law's home.  It was a beautiful morning and not much traffic - a 5-hour job to get there.

Charlotte recognized me right away and gave me big kisses and hugs.  We played in the back yard (she calls it Granny's garden) and she is testing the boundaries, as she tries to go into the neighbors yards.  She didn't like being barefoot in the grass at first, then later on, she thought it was ok.  She loves going up and down the steps now and is quite agile doing it.  Her conversation has improved since I saw her in April and she is stringing words together a lot more now.  I also saw a side of her that I've not seen before, the terrible two tantrums when she doesn't get what she wants - mostly at meal time.  For the most part, she has been able to be distracted and gets out of it quickly.

Jill's belly is expanding with the twins and her energy level has decreased a lot.  She thinks her size is comparable now at 24 weeks to what it was just before Charlotte was born at about 40 weeks - no wonder she is tired.
We had a great dinner of grilled spareribs, potato salad, baked beans, and melon-perfect 4th of July feast.  It was Charlotte's first time eating the meat right off the bone - she liked it!

We spent Friday just hanging out and being entertained by Charlotte.  We took walks, bike rides, played in the swimming pool, blew bubbles, and spent time at the park.  The park was farm themed and included a small petting zoo.  Charlotte's favorites were the peacocks and the horse, but she really has a love for all animals.

We got to enjoy the fruits of Dennis' recent fishing trip and had Walleye for dinner tonight.  Needless to say, it beat Toby's by a long shot.

Tuesday, July 2 - WI

Yesterday was a day of rest - sort of.  We met up with Ben and Dennis for breakfast before they headed to Minneapolis where Lois, Jill, and Charlotte were arriving from San Francisco later in the afternoon.  Ben and Jill will be house hunting for the next 2 days while Charlotte keeps her grandparents entertained.

After breakfast, I headed to Pete and JoAnne's house where Mike's childhood friend, Jim is staying.  We had a nice visit and then they were ready for lunch, so I joined them, although my breakfast was still keeping me full.  The rest of the day was restful, another beautiful day in Wisconsin.

Today we stayed home and did some gardening work.  After last week's rain, the weeds were taking over, so we got the veggie gardens weeded.  I also edged a couple of the beds, in hopes that the weeds wouldn't creep too quickly.

A trip to Stoughton just isn't complete for me without a stop at St.Vinnie's thrift store.  Pat found a great deal on a tent for his friend, Dan's 2 sons.  He set it up at home and it is in great shape and has all of it's parts - what a buy!

I met some of Mike's family for dinner at Toby's tonight;  Tom and Karen, Sharon, Becky and Ron and Brooke, his Aunt Joan and cousins Louie and Vicki.  I thought dinner was much better tonight than Friday night - so was my Old Fashioned.  We had a nice visit but it also got pretty emotional since we have all experienced the loss of the 3 cousins, all in just a 3-month period this year.  What a loss to all of us.