The Road Trip, Part II

The saga continues…

We drove to Paducah by way of St Louis. What a mess St. Louis was, part of the freeway thru downtown was shut down, which we didn’t know, so we ended up rerouting a few times before we finally figured out how to get out of town to get where we wanted to go. Now THERE was an adventure. South on the freeway, exit, north on the freeway, exit, drive a few city streets, back on the freeway, oops not THAT way, don’t miss the NEXT EXIT, ARGH, missed it, get the next one, and then finally we were headed toward Paducah. 

As we continued on, the countryside and river were just so peaceful and beautiful. That’ was a lot of the fun of the trip, just being relaxed and seeing the scenery, not knowing what was ahead, and on the way, we found Clarksville. No, not THAT Clarksville, although I’m going to pretend it is. IMG_3451This one is a really tiny town, with the railroad running through it, between town and the river. As we got to the river, we could see there had been major flooding this year. A rock monument by the river marked a high-water spot from 1973 and some folks we spoke with said this year eclipsed that easily. Many of the businesses have not yet recovered and reopened. It’s a cute town, with a lovely area along the river where it looks like they might have a farmer’s market, and a great spot for tourists to stop and hopefully they’ll be able to get back on their feet. After I got home, I posted a photo Gina took of me under the brick arch by the railroad track in Clarksville, where the RR crossing was visible, and put it on Twitter, tagging Micky Dolenz (yes, THAT Mickey Dolenz) saying “look what I found on the Great River Road”. The next day he had clicked “like”. Am I absurd because I’m completely geeking out over that?

We made it to Paducah that afternoon, and found it to be delightful!  On the way down we tried to get an air B&B, but all were filled. Gina called the Hotel 1857, and they had one room left. Just as she was about to tell them we’d take it, they told us the owner had just opened up his condo across the street for rent, for $10 more. So instead of $165 a night for a nice hotel room, did we want to pay $175 for a newly renovated half million-dollar warehouse condo that was 2800 square feet, 2 levels with a private entrance and 2 decks? Um, heck yes! Within walking distance to everything, it was a fabulous place, and normally rents for $275 a night so if you ever are in Paducah, check out the condo with the hotel. It had hardwood floors throughout, an up-to-date kitchen that was stocked with basic necessities if you want to cook, and well-appointed guest rooms. The master suite had a beautiful glass walled walk-in shower that was about 6 x 10 feet, with a rain-style shower head, and towel warmer.

The town had a catastrophic flood in 1937, and built a concrete flood-wall for protection, The panels that face away from the river are painted with murals that tell the history of the town, and on the river side are two areas with multiple steps, like an amphitheater. There is a place for a stage, and musicians play in the summer. Behind the stage is a sloped concrete boat ramp about a block long, and wide enough for several lanes of cars. While it functions as a boat ramp, on that warm summer night with a full moon it looked more like a summer cruise lane with cars driving continuously across, coming in one side of the open flood wall and going out the other.


Paducah is also the home of all things quilting, the national quilt museum and Hancock’s of Paducah, one of the largest quilt fabric stores I’ve ever seen (i.e. mecca for quilters.) Imagine fabric, tools and patterns spread over an area the size of 2 basketball courts, and you’d about have it.  I spent over 2 hours shopping for fabric and could easily have spent 2 or 3 more. While I’ll be going back, I hope that the next time I’ll pick a weekend that isn’t the National Quilt Show, which was the reason why all of the hotel rooms were sold out! You couldn’t throw a rock that weekend in Paducah without hitting a quilter, and while I wish I’d had time to get to the museum, unfortunately we just couldn’t make that work. 

After Paducah, we took a little trip to Metropolis, home of Superman. Yep, there really is a town called Metropolis, IL, just over the Ohio River from Paducah. IMG_3433They have a huge Superman statue in the town square, a museum, and some other artifacts. All a bit silly and lot of fun! Of course, we HAD to take our picture with Superman.

From there we drove across MO to Jefferson City to spend a night with my husband’s nieces, his most fun and delightful relatives. While not as picturesque as the river drive, it was nearly as interesting. There was a time or two I told Gina I was really happy I knew I’d just had my car serviced and gotten new tires, because I wouldn’t have wanted to break down where we were. We saw a Confederate flag or two flying, and there were places were the general state of run-down made us feel like we were definitely not somewhere we were comfortable. I even remember one spot on highway 72, where we saw a multi-unit housing complex, like a 4-plex, right on the side of the road that had been abandoned, maybe 20 or 30 years ago. It’s slowly being swallowed by nature, vines are growing over it, trees up and around it. It won’t be long before you can’t see it, and it’s either swallowed up completely or falls down. It’s sad, so desolate and deserted. How does that happen? People just walk away, stop fixing things up? There were lots of little towns too, although calling them towns was generous, as they weren’t more than a handful of houses clustered together.

fullsizeoutput_9f9fWe got to Jefferson City around 6, unpacked the car and headed downtown with my husband’s nieces and had a wonderful dinner. They both are the most gracious hostesses, and I love spending time with them.  After dinner we sat on their deck and had a margarita, enjoyed the warm evening, watched and photographed the antics of a couple of praying mantises as we made friends with their beloved 19-year old Missy Kitty. I’m so glad I got to meet that lovely beauty as I learned she passed away a few weeks ago. She was lucky to have moms that loved her as much as those two did. 

The drive home on Sunday was LONG…almost 7 hours from Jefferson City to home, but the trip was fantastic. The difficult part was that the shortest route from there is very zig-zaggy – as in, go north 3 miles, then west 2.5, then north 5, then west 1 etc. and we kept doing that for what felt like forever, until we finally connected with the freeway somewhere south of Des Moines, IA. The alternative would have been to either head straight west to catch I-35, or go to Columbia and then get on some more main highways to Minneapolis but those would all have been longer routes.  The trade-off was shorter but lots of turns, or longer and a few turns and then just drive. No great choices either way, so we went with shorter. We (meaning me) rewarded myself with a stop in Des Moines at Krispy Kreme, because of course, why not?

So, the adventure is done, and it certainly was one. Would I do it again? Absolutely!! It was fun, I learned a lot about my cousin and myself, and had a great time. 

The Road Trip, Part 1

When my husband told me he was going to go on a camping trip with a couple of guys again this year, I decided I was NOT going to be left out. No siree, I was going to have a little fun of my own, and got ahold of my cousin who is also one of my dearest friends and asked if she would like to go on a vacation with me. Her response was an instant “of course!” and after a lot of back and forth as to where we’d go, we settled on a road trip down the Great River Road, driving down along the Mississippi River for 5 days. One of our aunts asked if we were going to be like Thelma and Louise, and if we were smart, we’d have gotten t-shirts about the movie (or at least a couple of them with Brad Pitt’s face on ’em, goodness!) But it certainly was an adventure, and I thought I’d share a bit of it with you.

Day 1

Got only a little lost, twice, because really it wouldn’t be a road trip without getting lost, right? To our credit we were following the map we got from the Great River Road website, but it was a really crappy map. But that’s ok because getting lost was part of the adventure, and who cares, it’s vacation. We spent the first night in a lovely hotel in Muscatine, Iowa, called The Merrill, right on the river. If you’re ever in Muscatine, I highly recommend staying there. It’s a new hotel, the staff couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming and helpful, the rooms were comfortable and clean, with nice amenities and the price was good. Breakfast the next morning was excellent (steel cut oats with dried fruit compote and creme brulee-like crust of brown sugar on top. It was absolutely heaven, and then once again we were on our way. 

Day 2

As we continued down the road, we stumbled on Fulton, where we noticed a huge windmill in the center of town. Being we are both of Dutch descent we had to check that out, so we drove to it and found out it was one of two working windmills in the US. IMG_3393Fulton was settled by the Dutch, and as they say “if you’re not Dutch, you’re not much” so I guess it’s a swell little town. We took selfies by the windmill (it’s REALLY hard to take a selfie while facing the sun and trying to make sure you get the windmill included in the background, just sayin’), then texted our moms and told them we lied about the road trip and flew to Holland instead. I’m pretty sure neither of them bought it, but it was still fun anyhow, and just the kind of mischief our grandpa Cornie would have loved. 

Continuing the drive south from there, we wound alongside the river, through farmlands, and just enjoyed the scenery of the midwest. We had hoped to make it through St. Louis when there wasn’t rush hour, but I guess there is no such time. We also didn’t know that the route we planned to take had an unexpected closure due to a chemical spill, so that caused us to get slightly lost the second time as we couldn’t take the exit we planned to, shot farther south than expected, went off the freeway and turned back north, got on the freeway, then went past where we wanted to be, had to exit the freeway again and ended up in a residential area that quite frankly had seen slightly better days before we were able to find the reroute we needed. 

We finally got to Hannibal, MO that second night, home of Mark Twain. We thought about touring his boyhood home but decided against it as we thought $12 seemed a bit much. I didn’t know his home was only a block from the Mississippi River, which helps to explain its influence on his life. Dinner was a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi, and I’m fairly certain that other than the crew we were the youngest ones there. We did meet a lovely couple in their 60’s who made it a goal to visit all 50 states, and this year they were on #’s 44-47. Next year they will finish the last 3. They fly from home and fly state to state, taking in something of each state over a period of a few days. When they finish next year they’ll wrap up their trip in Fargo, ND, because apparently at the visitors board in Fargo you can have your photo taken next to a statue of the woodchipper from the movie “Fargo”, complete with a fake leg coming out of it, if you’ve visited all 50 states, and you get a certificate indicating you’ve completed all 50. Since their last name is Fargo, she said it just seemed apropos.

The dinner on the boat was nice, the ride on the river was fun, but the downside was returning to the dock.  The gnats/bugs were swarming the dock lights, which were right outside the exit door. And when I say swarming, I mean when I first saw them, they were so thick I thought it was fog! Leaving the gift shop, you literally had to hold your breath, duck your head and run. My cousin and I could do it, but the older folks on board had a hard time of it, and even running we still had to swipe bugs off our clothes when we got to the car. A nice heavy-duty fan to blow them away wouldn’t have gone amiss there!

That night we stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Hannibal and I’ve never had a bad night at one, until that night. We were awakened sometime after midnight to the sound of what seemed like bowling balls being dropped on the floor. Repeatedly. After several minutes of heavy footfalls, repeated thumps and no speaking, we called management who said they would take care of it. The noises stopped; we went back to sleep only to be reawakened a short time later by the same noises. Another phone call to the management, another request to have it handled. Then at 5, my cousin woke me saying “do you hear that?” it was water (or some clear liquid) dripping onto her bed from the ceiling. It was in a straight line, about 18″ long, steadily dripping. Another call to management, but this time we asked him to come to the room. He did, where the poor 30-year old manager was confronted by 2 tired and crabby middle-aged women. We showed him the issue and handed him the bill that had been slipped under the door and my cousin just said “take care of this. We’ve had a horrible night between the guys above us and now this, and we aren’t paying for this room.” Fortunately, we’d gotten a room with 2 beds, so rather than move to another room we shared my bed for a couple more hours of sleep before getting up and heading on our way. But I swear I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck those guys were doing up there? Meth lab? Dismembering bodies? Good lord I know I have a vivid imagination, but who makes that much noise in the middle of the night without talking? Seriously!

Day 3

Before leaving Hannibal, we thought about touring the Mark Twain caves, but decided not to pay the $20 admission fee and instead drove up a lovely overlook called “Lovers Leap”.

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There’s a legend about an Indian Princess and her lover, who leapt to their deaths rather than be separated.  Here are photos of the monument to them along with one with the story. fullsizeoutput_9f53There was also a monument there to 3 boys who disappeared from near there after going exploring one day, back in the late 1960’s. To this day they’ve never been found and it’s not known if they fell into some caves and couldn’t get out, were abducted or what happened. fullsizeoutput_9f58Look the story up, it’s spooky and very odd.

 

 

 

Still to come, Paducah, KY, the confederate flag, Jefferson City and donuts! Next up, “The Road Trip, Part 2” and the rest of our adventure.

 

A Little Birthday Gift

As we’ve gotten older, my husband and I have found that we don’t need as much as we used to. Food, clothes, pay the bills, and a few toys here and there. What IS different of course, is the size of the toys: no longer are we content with jigsaw puzzles and a “Please Don’t Break the Ice” game. Now the toys we want are more likely to have multiple zeros on the end, which of course makes it challenging to figure out what to get each other for birthdays and Christmas without breaking the bank, or more appropriately, what I need to get my husband for his birthday or for Christmas. By contrast, I’m easy to buy for. I’ll make a list for him…a long list with many options as a matter of fact, which he will then proceed to ignore, try to figure out what to get me on his own and tell me I’m impossible to buy for. He on the other hand, will not put together a list, and there is a reason for that

You see, Mike can’t seem to resist getting little treats for himself right before his birthday or Christmas. No matter how often I have asked, begged, pleaded, cajoled, demanded, and insisted, I just can’t seem to get him to understand that he’s losing husband points when he does this. I keep telling him ‘do NOT buy things for yourself in the month before your birthday and in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s likely you’ll get that thing for said upcoming event”, but it doesn’t matter.

So, when I do come up with an idea for something he doesn’t have, it really feels like a ‘eureka!’ moment for me. I get really excited, I’m happy, feel giddy, and wonder if I can pull it off. Then I get the gift for him and hide it where I pray he won’t find it before I can have a chance to wrap it up. Pulling this off successfully, however, requires cooperation from my husband, which in 19 years together I am sad to say I have only been able to pull off once. Doing the math, that’s 1 out of 38 chances, an only 2.6% success rate. To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, that’s horrible.

It happened again today. We have a tiki hut outside – a screened porch that we’ve decorated with a fun tiki theme. Of course, if you have a tiki hut you have GOT to have tiki cocktail glasses, right?

Well, about 2 weeks ago, I decided I would buy a set of replacement tiki bar glasses for him, since we’d broken one of our original ones a few months back. We’d talked about getting the backup set but never did it, and I thought “what a perfect birthday gift!” Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 10.23.02 PMSo I found it on Amazon, ordered it, prayed it would arrive when he was at work (it did), hid it in a closet and waited. Since he’ll be camping when his birthday is this year, I figured I’d give him the glasses this weekend. This morning, while I had a small break from working, he came into my office and said “oh by the way, just thought I’d let you know I just ordered another set of the tiki bar glasses as a backup set for ours.” I just sat there and finally said “you have got to be kidding me” then got up, went to the closet, pulled out the box, handed it to him and said, “well, hell, Happy Birthday honey!” He peeked in the box and just started to laugh.

I guess the good news is we’re set if we break a few more or have lots of folks over for cocktails in the tiki hut.

Happy Anniversary to Me!

I was fiddling around this morning, checking stats in my blog, when I found out that yesterday marked 4 years to the day from when I published my first blog post. It was quite short, the bulk of it is below, and I thought I’d share it with you so that I can admit to what I have – and have not – accomplished in that time.

As I now must admit I’ve passed one milestone in my life and have a nodding acquaintance with middle age, and am approaching another as I near completion of my studies in graduate school – finally! – it’s time to start doing some of the things that I’ve either said I would, or have envied others for doing. Improve my photography skills enough to win local awards, and perhaps be published; not miss sending anyone a birthday card all year long (no, really!); start my novel; write a blog (thank you Diane Henders, for a little push, and a lot of inspiration.)

I was pretty ambitious when I started this, and was sure that blog writing would inspire me to get off the dime and get my novel written, but as it does, life got in the way. Since that first post I’ve had hip surgery, changed jobs, lost my job and started a new one, lost a family member, taken up old hobbies and started some new ones. What I haven’t done is written my novel or won any photography awards. But maybe that’s ok, because I’m having fun, and finding inspiration in the world around me.

I’ve started quilting again, and even took on a part-time job in a quilt fabric shop last fall. Right now, I’m scrambling to finish up a quilt for “Quilts of Honor”, which is an organization that collects quilts with patriotic themes, which are then donated to veterans who’ve been wounded while on active duty. Specifically, the group I’m working with has requested ours go to women vets this year, and they will be given on Veteran’s Day this fall. Here is the top of my quilt, and I’m hoping that by the end of this week I’ll have it all stitched with the batting and back so I can get to the binding.

I’ve also been knitting a lot and have found I really enjoy making socks! If you’d have asked me when I first started knitting again (I first learned in high school) I would have told you I probably would like larger needles and thicker yarn better, but I’m finding for some reason that I do enjoy making socks on small, circular needles. Maybe it’s because it’s a small number of stitches, and seems to go fast.

I also took up rock painting over the past few years, which I really enjoy. We found no shortage of rocks in the dirt in our yard as we mucked about with planting new shrubs and plants, and when we found some that were suitable for painting (i.e. smooth surface, interesting shape and a large enough surface), we’d set them aside (and by we I really mean my husband who did most of the digging!) and then washed ’em up. Now I have a lovely free collection, along with no shortage of ideas thanks to Pinterest.

I’m still not so hot on sending out birthday cards, so if you’re waiting for one from me, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you could be in for a letdown. I do try, really, but apparently my brain is just not wired for it. Consider yourself really lucky if I remember to send you an email. At least I’m not sending you a rock!