Saturday, May 30, 2009

Blog Draft 5/30/09
Have been having so many good times with family and friends that I have neglected to update you, loyal blog readers! So sorry. Today we are camped at an Indian casino near Ashland, WI not far from the shores of Lake Superior. It is sunny, but windy and we will be devoting the day to catching up with things, such as this blog. For you RV travelers who might appreciate a camping tip, this is the Bad River casino and they have 20 RV parking sites along the back side of the parking lot with free electric and water. The only drawback of being here is that we have no cell phone or air card signals, so I guess this is good practice for the deprivation we will have in Canada. Additionally, along the shores of Lake Superior in Maslowski Beach Park in Ashland, there is a spigot pouring out water from an artesian well which the locals say is great water. If we hadn’t already passed it by 12 miles, we would go there to fill our tank.
The last post was when we were with Elaine's nephew, Jerry Traughber and his family in Delafield, WI. After a great visit with them, we drove to Mayville, WI to spend some time with his mother, Elaine's oldest sister, Barbara, and her daughter, Lisa. They went out of their way to have delicious meals planned and provide fun experiences in their area. Because they live near the Horicon Marsh, we went there 2 days for hiking and explorations. We were there too late for the busiest time of bird migratory visits, and lots of the birds were now nesting, so they were hunkered down in the marsh grass, but we still saw a few.

They also arranged for us to have a boat tour out on the main waterways of the marsh. The marsh is an area of 32000 acres of wetland that was created mostly as a place for migratory birds to rest and recover. Ducks Unlimited puts quite a bit of money into this place because it is important for increasing duck populations and that helps hunters. There was some excitement when we were there because 5 whooping cranes had visited, and we also saw some sandhill cranes. Turtles were quite abundant as well.
Here is a picture of Elaine and me with Barbara in front of the boat place in Horicon:

And here is a picture of Lisa, Barbara, Elaine & me on the boat:

Lisa is a physical therapist and we were glad that she only works 3 days a week (LONG days) because then she was available to do things with us and she also showed us some new ways to do our daily exercises, and provided us with some exercise bands. Now we just have to practice using them!
Some friends from the Jan/Feb cruise we took around South America, David & Diane Wilson, have a summer home in northern Wisconsin, and we headed there next. It was so good to see them again and their hospitality was incredible. Additionally, their home is located on a small lake, with lots of trees around, and being there was like “On Golden Pond”. Here are David & Diane and their “greeter” bear:

This is their view looking at the lake:

They had lots of bird feeders so every time we looked out, we saw lots of colorful birds such as yellow finches, rose breasted grosbeaks, orioles, 3 kinds of woodpeckers and hummingbirds.

Luckily for us, we arrived in time to accompany them to Minneapolis where their daughter Joni, and her husband Barry, have a gorgeous house on a golf course. They own 20 race horses and 2 of them were running at Canterbury Park on Saturday. It was special being there with horse owners, because first we got to go to the stables and see lots of the horses, as well as meeting the trainer. Then we went to the inside restaurant part of the track where Barry had reserved a table right on the finish line.

Of course we wanted to make some money, so we all threw in a dollar for a joint bet and the plan was that we would each pick the horse in a race and bet it to show and then put the winnings on the next race, and the next person would pick that winner, etc. A few personal side bets were placed as well. There was usually at least 20 minutes between races, so we sat around and talked, drank beer and had a delicious lunch. Just before the race where their horses were running, we got to go down to the owner’s circle as they paraded the horses around.

Then we sat in a special section when the race was in progress. Unfortunately, their horses took 3rd and 4th. But we still won the bet because we had bet their horse to “show”. At the end of the day, it was Barry’s turn to pick the last race. We had won every race, so our $6 was now up to $47. The pressure was on. It was a very short race and the horses were bunched at the photo finish. Hooray, our horse took 3rd and we won about $60. Barry and Joni then proved what generous hosts they were by not only picking up the check at the race track, but providing a sumptuous Happy Hour and delicious dinner in their newly redecorated home. Their friends Marie and Kim were there also, and added much merriment to the gathering. When they gave us a tour of their home, there were so many impressive things, such as this room sized wine cellar in the basement. This is Diane and her daughter Joni in the wine cellar:

There is also an impressive array of koi in their backyard pond, although recently 9 had been picked off by a visiting great blue heron.

They have a small parrot, named Popeye, which I decided to hold for a picture because I was wearing the shirt I got in Panama with some parrots in the molas on my shoulders:

Diane and David have 3 dogs, border collies, and Joni has a schnauzer. Here is a picture of Joni providing them with a treat after dinner:

It was a very entertaining and enjoyable visit with them and we so appreciated their impeccable hospitality. But all good things must come to an end, so we departed on Sunday with a very important stop, since we were in the Twin Cities: Trader Joe’s!! Too bad we couldn’t load up on wine but with an imminent crossing of the Canadian border, we had to limit ourselves to foodstuffs, darn it. Another stop was at a roadside sculpture park, which was free, and also had HUGE sculptures scattered all over a field.

David has purchased 20 acres of land about 5 miles from their cabin where he is converting it from pasture land to a tree farm. He calls it the Plantation and he plants thousands of tiny trees every year. It is an investment of time and money in restoring the land to what it used to be and he will never make any money on it but is doing it for posterity. Here is a picture of Farmer David on his land:

On Wednesday, construction started on an addition that Diane and David are making on their “cabin”. So the whole area around the house was torn up by a bulldozer, in order to find all the wires and pipes, and also to lay the footings and foundation for the new area.
Here is a picture of their cabin from the side that isn’t torn up:

David was very busy helping the construction crew but he took time to take us out on the lake in their very purple pontoon boat just before we left.

Diane has a funny thing up in their cabin, that I’ll bet will apply even more during this construction project:

On the way to our last walk with Diane, a big black bear ran right across the road in front of us, and we saw some deer in the woods too. We quite enjoyed this rural place!
Now that we are near Lake Superior, we plan to do some sightseeing in the next few days, especially since we are fairly close to the Apostle Islands. We will be heading for Michigamee, MI by June 4 in order to spend a few days with George Backes, another cruise friend, at his cabin and hopefully, doing a bit of fishing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

5/17/09 Another Sunday, and for once, it IS sunny! We are visiting Elaine's nephew, Jerry Traughber, his wife, Lori, and their kids Mitch and Maddie in Delafield, Wisconsin. Our arrival here was mid-day yesterday and since then we have been on 2 hikes with them, and had three great meals. Here are a few pictures from today's hike:
This is the tower we all climbed to look out over the area. It is the highest point in the county at 1233 feet (gee, the tower doesn't look that tall, does it?!)

The tower and trail were in one of the Wisconsin state parks: Lapham Park. This is the trail sign:

And here are most of the happy hikers: Elaine and the Traughber Family.

We always have a good time when we visit Jerry & Lori because they are always in a different location! The last time we saw them, they were stationed in Spain, and before that we visited them in Germany, Virginia, Georgia, and California. I wonder where they will be stationed next??!!
Last week we were visiting several of Elaine's sisters at the Cannell family farm, where Elaine grew up. It is in Winnebago, IL, near Rockford. There are 3 houses in a row on the farm and her sister Georgeanne and her husband Dennis live in one, her sister Mary Sue lives in one, and her nephew Tom Daly and his family live in the other. The house that Mary Sue lives in used to be the old Fell School where all of them went to elementary school. The land for the school was donated by the Cannells, and Elaine's Dad was in the first class there, and her brother was in the last class, before the school closed down. We parked on the grass right alongside it and enjoyed the family visits but not the weather. There were several very windy days, and also one HUGE thunderstorm with torrents of rain, and several smaller storms. The ground was getting pretty soggy under our tires and if the expected storm for Friday night had hit, we probably wouldn't have been able to leave until things dried out. One day Elaine's cousin, Lynell, drove out for a visit and I remembered to get the camera out. This is a picture of Elaine, her sister Georgeanne, cousin Lynell, and sister Mary Sue:

A frequent visitor at Mary Sue's is Tom & Lana Daly's son, Allen, and he liked to visit us too. Here is a picture of him with Georgeanne's husband (and his grandfather) Dennis Daly:

Those of you who have followed our travels for a long time know that we used to spend some time visiting Elaine's cousin Sheila, who owned the Juan de Fuca Cottages in Sequim, WA. Much to our dismay, she sold her property there 3 years ago and moved back to Rockford. We quite miss our visits with her and also the beautiful parking spot we had there overlooking Dungeness Bay and crabbing there in our inflatable boat. But because she lives here now, we got to have a delicious lunch with her at Red Lobster (thanks again, Sheila)and see her new apartment at St. Ann's. Here is a picture of Elaine and Sheila on the grounds of St. Ann's:

Friday, another sister, Thomasine and her husband, Frank, drove up from southern IL to see everyone and there was a big party at Georgeanne and Denny's place. Here they are sitting in the kitchen:

Sometimes, when Elaine gets together with her sisters, they bond over vodka gimlets. Here is a picture of Elaine and Lana Daly bonding over vodka gimlets at Friday's party:

The other family that showed up for the party was Georgeanne & Denny's youngest son, David, his wife Carrie, and their 4 children:

As soon as they arrived, the activity level went up quite a lot and it reminded us of when Elaine and I first lived together and our 4 kids were ages 9,6,3, and 2. We looked at Dave & Carrie's kids who are nearly those same ages and we said to ourselves, "How the heck did we ever cope!?" It must have been because we were younger - MUCH younger! Dave & Carrie do an excellent job of it!
Tomorrow we are going to do some shopping with Lori and then leave here to head up to Mayville, to visit Elaine's oldest sister, Barbara, who is Jerry's Mom and Lori's Mom-in-law. Jerry's sister, Lisa, also lives there. That will conclude the family visits for this trip. More on future plans in the next posting.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

5/10/09 Happy Mother's Day Everyone! With any kind of luck you will hear from your adult children today, which is always a highlight. We got calls from 3 out of 4 and a bonus call from my oldest granddaughter, so it was a great day for us too.
We are at the Cannell Family Farm, where we arrived yesterday. After some debate, we decided to park our rig on the side of Mary Sue's house, on the grass. Because there has been a bunch of rain, we started to sink on the lower side, and totally buried our plastic "lego-type" leveling blocks. So we had to get some heavy duty 2X12 boards from Elaine's brother-in-law and now we are level and happy. Had a great reunion with Elaine's 2 sisters who live here, Mary Sue and Georgeanne, and Georgeanne's husband, Dennis. And these three also took us out for a delicious Mother's Day lunch/dinner at a Rockford Italian place called Lino's this afternoon.
Prior to arriving here, we had a very enjoyable 4 day visit with Daryl and Patrick at their place in Joliet. I must have been asleep part of the time because I never took any pictures of their gorgeous home, which is fairly new and quite spectacularly furnished, and landscaped. Happily, we fit in their driveway and managed to get ourselves level, so we were able to have many interactions with them in both our place and theirs. They have a cute puppy named Gracie, and here is a picture of her:

The weather was a bit of a challenge because there were frequent thunder storms, with lots of wind, so we found ourselves pulling the RV slideouts in quite often. Happily, on Friday when we all drove into Chicago for a guided tour by Patrick and Daryl, the rain held off and we even had some sun in the afternoon after the fog burned off. Elaine lived in Chicago for two years because she started medical school there, but I had never spent any time exploring the city at all. So I was quite excited that we were there and I was very impressed with how beautiful it seemed as we drove down Lakeshore Drive and we saw all the great beaches and parks. We stopped near the Planetarium for pictures because Patrick knew that this was a great place to see the Chicago skyline. Here is a picture of Daryl and Patrick taken there:

Then Patrick drove us down Michigan Avenue where I was very impressed with the beautiful and diverse buildings and also there were hundreds of tulips that were in bloom:

This day was Daryl and Patrick's 15th anniversary, so we offered to take them out for lunch to celebrate. They picked Russian Tea Time, which has Slavic food, of course. It is located very near the Chicago Art Institute and the Palmer House Hotel, which we also wanted to see.

The food was delicious! Elaine and I shared a plate of beef stroganof and another of chicken livers with onions, all served with different salads and dense, dark bread. Here is a picture of four happy diners:

After lunch, we walked over to the park nearby to see the really spectacular fountain that was there. At this moment, I can't remember the name of it. But here is a picture:

We ended the touring by walking over to the Palmer House Hotel where Elaine used to work when she lived here, more than 40 years ago. It is a really fancy hotel with an impressive ceiling:

But what is even more impressive is that when Elaine turned 21 and flew to New York with a friend, the Hilton Corp. put her up for free at the Waldorf Astoria, and sent up a special fruit basket and champagne for her birthday. Too bad I didn't know her then and I could have been the friend that was with her there!!!
Our day in Chicago ended when we all drove to Downer's Grove to see the house that Daryl grew up in, where her parents lived for more than 50 years. They are both gone now and Daryl and Patrick are in the process of clearing out the house so they can eventually sell it. It was interesting to see it and also a different suburb of Chicago. It made Elaine and I realize what a nice thing we have done for our kids by clearing out all of our furniture and paring down the amount of our possessions so they won't have to deal with much when we die.
Before leaving Daryl and Patrick, they got us to do something that lots of our friends have been trying to do for a while - we joined Face Book. I am still trying to learn how to use it, but it looks like a fun way to find out what is going on with a lot of our far-flung friends. It also looks like you could spend a lot of time doing it, which I won't. So, if you are on Face Book and want to be our "friend", please either invite us (we are registered under Mary Lane), or let us know so we can invite you.
We will be here at the farm for about a week, then will head up to Mayville, Wisconsin to see more of Elaine's family and then up to Frederic, WI to stay with more cruise friends, Diane and David.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

5/5/09 Happy Cinco de Mayo! Are you cooking a Mexican dinner tonight? Going to a fiesta perhaps? We are shooting across Illinois in order to have a visit with Daryl & Patrick McGrath in Joliet before they leave on Sunday for North Carolina. They became great friends of ours on the Around the Horn cruise and we are excited about seeing them again.
Since we have been trekking East on I-80 for a number of days, there have not been scads of exciting events to write about. But we have stopped a few places that were fairly interesting, and which also gave us the chance to stretch our legs. In North Platte, NE we stopped at Fort Cody, which is basically a souvenir and gift store which is exploiting the fact that Buffalo Bill Cody was from around there.

Here is a picture of some of the kitsch on the fort wall:

They have a huge display of miniature figures depicting his Wild West Show, and a life-sized figure of him, and also one of the Indians from his show.
Here is a very small part of the diorama:

They also have some oddities, such as this:

Their ploy about having all this stuff to suck in customers didn't work on us, because we spent no money there.
The next stop was Gothenburg, NE which is a community of mostly Swedes and Germans. Right off the freeway there is a replica of a prairie sod house, something we had never seen before.

They claimed that the pioneers preferred these houses, even when they had the lumber to build a frame house, because the sod houses were fireproof, well insulated, inexpensive to build, and they did a much better job of keeping out the incessant wind. In front of this sod house, was a sculpture of a buffalo made entirely out of barbed wire. It took 144 miles of wire to make this!

Also in Gothenburg is one of the two surviving buildings from a pony express station. It wasn't here originally; they moved it and restored it. This picture shows it, but it used to have a stable for the horses underneath it.

We found out a few facts about the pony express that I never knew before. The route was close to 2000 miles and they covered it in time periods of 7 to 11 days. There were stations every 10 miles or so where the riders changed horses and a rest station every 70-100 miles. It cost $5 per 1/2 ounce when it first started. The telegraph and railroad which followed caused the pony express to last only about a year and a half and the company that started it never made any money but instead lost $100,000.
Across the street was the heritage museum, which wasn't much after the great one we had seen in Sterling, CO. But the lady that was running it, and who started the entire Heritage Society 29 years ago, told us that she had just bought the local Lutheran church at a tax sale for $2000. It was 2 blocks away so we walked down there and here is a picture of it:

It needs a lot of work, but she thinks just the stained glass windows in it are worth what she paid for it. She is going to build and apartment for herself in the basement and maybe an art studio in the main church part.
Near Kearney, NE there is a truly unique attraction - a huge arch built OVER interstae 80!!!

It is called the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. I'm pretty sure it is a private business, but it is a multi-media experience and it was well worth the $7.50 we paid to go through it. We could also have stayed in their very quiet parking lot overnight, if we had been there closer to the time we wanted to stop for the night. We were met outside by one of their greeters:

The exhibits give the history and experiences of the pioneers on the various trails that ran along the Platte River (Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, etc.), as well as the Lincoln Highway, which was the precursor to highway 80. They do this through movies, animated figures, stories which you hear in your headset, special effects, etc. Here is Elaine helping one of the pioneer women in an exhibit push her wagon:

In the part of the experience where they talk about traveling on the Lincoln Highway, we thought this information applied to modern day RVers:

So we are now almost in Joliet and I have to start helping Elaine find her exit. More in a few days from the rainy, cool mid-west.

Friday, May 01, 2009

5/1/09 Happy May Day! Usually it is a warm Spring day for May 1 but today has been cold (42 degrees) and overcast here in Colorado. Darn - we had to pick the year with no Spring to head north....
We had a lovely 4 days in Denver, visiting my twin sister and her family, with a quick day trip to Boulder to visit friends too. Finding a place to park the rig might have been a challenge, but Sam's Club in Denver right on Broadway, allowed us to park there the entire time. Because it had a big parking lot, with businesses all around it on the busy streets, we were in the middle and away from the noisy traffic. My sister lives with her partner, Debbie, and their 12 year old son, Joseph, not too far away, so we were able to have lots of time with her, and many delicious meals. It is nice that she is retired now, so we could have more time together on this visit. Here are a few pictures from our stay there:
Debbie, Marsha & Joseph, with their cat, Caleb:

Mary & Marsha On a Walk at Washington Park

Elaine, Debbie, Marsha & Joe On Their Deck

On Wednesday we drove to Boulder to spend the afternoon and evening with Tom & Kimbra Eldridge. Tom and I were on the Santa Clara Swim Club together as kids, went to the same high school, and ended up teaching together for years at Cupertino High. Now that Kimbra has retired from being the harbormaster in Santa Cruz, CA, they have bought a home in Boulder because they are avid skiers. We had a delightful time with them, seeing their new home and exploring Boulder, a place we had never been before. It is a lovely college town with a great pedestrian mall area called Pearl Street. We went down there for a stroll and also some Happy Hour specials on appetizers and drinks.
Elaine, Kimbra & Tom with some tulips at the pedestrian mall in Boulder:

Mary, Elaine & red tulips:

Unusual yellow tulips with pointed petals in the pedestrian area:

Today we left Denver and started heading slowly towards Illinois. It was drizzling and cold when we left and it stayed cold all day. When we got to Sterling, CO we decided to stop to see some of the wood carvings by a local artist, Bradford Rhea, which have made this town a real tourist attraction. He carved figures in local dead trees, and as they started to deteriorate, the some of the carvings were cast in bronze. They are scattered all over the town, so we got a tour of the place as we tracked down the carvings. My pictures weren't very good because the day was so dark, but we got a few good pictures of some of the carvings that were inside places like the library.
Seraphim, in the library:

Windlace, in the library:

Mary with a bronze clown sculpture in a local park:

There is also a fairly good museum here called The Overland Trail Museum. It records the greatest migration of people our country ever experienced, because the Overland Trail was the road that led to the goldfields in California in 1859. There are lots of interesting artifacts in the main buildings but the real gems are the 14 outbuildings. There is a blacksmith shop, an 1891 one room schoolhouse, a print shop, a general store and soda fountain, a 1915 stone block house, a barber shop, a 1910 barn, a restored railroad caboose and train depot, and many more. In many ways it was kind of a trip down memory lane, since we were familiar with some of the artifacts, such as the old wood burning kitchen stove, which my aunt used to use on the farm; the old wringer washing machine; and the general store had lots of products in it which we had seen as kids. Remember Dad's root beer, horehound candy drops, the old Coca Cola chest ice boxes, etc? There were also some great quilts, but the one I liked had distinct stitching around all the patches. Here is a picture:

I'm sure we would have spent more time poking around here but it was too cold! Hopefully, tomorrow will be warmer, as we proceed on our journey.