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 Yummy Sound

My husband and I were enjoying decadent breakfast of French toast made from homemade cinnamon raisin bread yesterday morning, and mid-way through the first couple of bites he made the yummy sound. You know the one, especially if you’ve seen the movie “Young Frankenstein” (if you haven’t, that’s a different conversation, and shame on you!). Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 6.54.06 AMWe started going back and forth with how many times a day we use quotes from that and from Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 7.03.50 AM“The Princess Bride” which happen to be our two favorite movies. Between the two of them, there is probably a quote for just so many occasions. Don’t believe me? Well let’s see how many I can come up with. 

 

You made the yummy sound. To acknowledge that someone has shown appreciation for how something tastes. Which is only the right thing to do, after all. 

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. What a nice way to correct someone who’s using a word incorrectly, with a little bit of humor. Especially if you can sound like Inigo Montoya.

Go back to the beginning. Stuck on a problem? Can’t find that thing you lost? Start over.

What a meanie. When all else fails go back to your basic schoolyard taunts and pouts.

Honey, did you see I put another hamper in the bathroom? This one’s for your shirts, the other’s just for socks and poo-poo undies. When your husband crabs about the shirts not getting washed separate from his poo-poo undies, here’s your solution. Now I’ll grant you this is a lesser-known quote. I just think saying poo-poo undies is too darn funny. 

Let’s all go have some sponge cake and a little wine. At least once a week.

Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has. Sound advice for a good many things.

Get used to disappointment. Parents of teenagers, memorize this, and practice it until it rolls off your tongue readily and with ease. Imagine the satisfaction you’ll feel using it on them whenever you hear “It’s not fair!” followed by the foot stomp and the inevitable turning around in a huff. If you’re ready with this, you can interject it between the stomp and turn.

I’ll explain and I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon. Feel free to substitute some other insult, but reserve this for some truly small-minded individual that refuses to listen to reason. 

Have fun stormin’ da castle. When friends are going off on a grand adventure. 

I admit it, you’re better than I am. See…it’s just not that hard to be gracious and make someone feel good about themselves. 

Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. On the other hand, it’s also not hard to be sarcastic. You should probably use this one about 1/10 as often as the one above. With someone who usually thinks they’re better than you are, but this time really boffed it. 

It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. We usually use this when looking at bugs or other vermin, as in “oohh, see that wasp? He’s mostly dead. Mostly dead means it’s slightly alive”. Typically followed by “Kill it!”

Are you a rotten liar! Parents of children, see above at teenagers.

Yes, you’re very smart. Shut up. Parents of children, ditto. Delivered, of course with all love and affection due to them. And maybe a hug too.

Inconcievable! Handy for a variety of things, but don’t overuse it. Look how well that worked for Vizzini. And remember, never go up against a Sicilian, when death is on the line.

Let me explain…no, there is too much. Let me sum up. If you tend to overexplain things, this one’s for you! Hear it in your head and maybe learn to cut yourself off?

I’m not a witch, I’m your wife. If your hubby ever tells you “acting kinda witchy, aren’t you?”, well here’s your comeback. If you’re feeling really sassy you can finish the quote, but I’ll leave that up to you. (In the spirit of fairness, my husband has never told me that I’m acting witchy. He’s too nice of a guy.)

Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped. Substitute anyone’s name for Tyrone’s, tilt your head and shrug your shoulders a bit at the end and look pitiful.

Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.  And of course this follow up must be delivered deadpan. 

Gently! Anytime anyone needs to be reminded to slow down, take it easy or be careful. Just remember, the “ly” at the end has to be said going up like it’s a question.

As you wish. Men…husbands, boyfriends, significant others. Memorize this. Commit it to memory. Brand it on your brain.  When you screw up (notice I didn’t say if) just plan to use this at least once a day for a week, perhaps longer depending on how badly you screwed up. 

Now I’m off to do some castle storming of my own, as I head out to face 2 degrees above zero, a brisk winter morning here in Minnesota. And since I’ll be dealing with traffic not once, but twice today, by the end of the day I’ll likely need a little sponge cake and some wine. 

 

A Trip to the Twilight Zone

Several years ago, my husband brought a proposal for a trip to witness an event to my attention, and at the time I really didn’t think he was all that serious about it. Fast forward to a few months ago when he brought up the topic again, and it was readily apparent to me I’d significantly underestimated his interest in this event, so we began planning how we might be able to be among those who watched the 2017 Solar Eclipse, and in August we took a road trip down to Columbia, Missouri for the big show. We are terribly fortunate, my husband’s brother and his wife live there, so we were able to stay with them, and his nieces were in the process of moving from Florida to Jefferson City which is about 30 minutes south of Columbia. One was there already and was gracious enough to let us stay with her for the first two nights in spite of the fact that she didn’t even have towels or pillows unpacked yet, items we were happy enough to bring along. (Thanks Mary!!)

The trip down was mostly good, up until the last half hour before Jefferson City, when we hit a heck of a rain storm. Suddenly our long drive got even longer, when hubby had to slow WAY down just to see the road. Fortunately that didn’t last terribly long, and after winding our way on a curvy, hilly road in the dark, we got to Joanna and Mary’s house, a couple of weary travelers stumbling out of the car and into an unexpected wall of warm humidity. Yeah, that wasn’t planned for at all, after all that time in an air conditioned car and we were instantly dripping wet. Fortunately his nieces’ house had AC, so we were quite comfy inside. What we didn’t realize is that Missouri is known for it’s humidity, and the air conditioners go on May 1, and don’t go off until the end of October. The other thing we didn’t know, is that there are armadillos in Missouri…yep, you read that correctly, armadillos. We saw a couple of dead ones on the road, and fortunately other drivers hit them, not us, as I’ve heard they can do some awful damage to your car. I guess it’s because they have this weird startle reflex causing them to jump straight up in the air…so when cars drive over them, they jump up, and that lovely armored shell causes all kinds of damage to the undercarriages of cars. Ugh.

Sunday morning we headed up to Columbia, where we had the unique experience of attending church where my husband’s brother is the pastor. It’s not an ordinary church, but rather is an international church on the campus of Baptist University. There were attendees from a number of different countries and cultures there, so his brother is kind of acting as a missionary right here in the United States. His wife teaches Sunday School to the children, and she said it can be really interesting as some of the children don’t speak any English at all. She finds she has to be creative, and uses lots of crafts to teach the kids. Look out on glitter Sundays!

Monday dawned, and was the big event. We set up our lawn chairs and waited, then watched in dismay as hazy clouds started to fill the sky. Apparently this isn’t an unusual phenomenon with eclipses, as the moon begins to cross in front of the sun and the temperature drops, it causes clouds to form. So on top of the partly cloudy sky we already had, we got more haze blocking our view. We did get to experience and see the eclipse, and while it wasn’t nearly as good as some parts of the country, I can’t really fuss because back home in Minnesota, I understand it rained all day and where they were hoping for a partial, they got nothing so I really shouldn’t whine.

The experience – now that was something else. While I can’t say the four of us were moved to tears or were overwhelmed, like some folks seem to have been, it certainly was an awesome and amazing sight. IMG_9633Perhaps if the sky had been clear it would have been different for us, but the sun/moon were periodically disappearing and reappearing behind clouds, so we had less than the 2 min of viewing the corona that a lot of others got. (I want a do-over!) It was beautiful, eerie, and kind of otherworldly. My husband and I took some photos that unfortunately were also a bit on the hazy side. The thing that was weird though, is that it got dark out, but not as dark as I thought it would. IMG_9651The light that remained literally made you feel like you were in the Twilight Zone, and then all of a sudden it was done, the sun peeked out, warmth came back and the haze disappeared.
We also got a few photos on the “exit” side. You’ll note that the sun looks orange, which is more from the color of the filter covering the lens of the camera than anything.

So would I travel again to see an eclipse? You’d better believe it! They happen about every 18 months somewhere in the world. There are total, annular and partial eclipses. I’d never heard of an annular eclipse before and had to look that one up. That’s when there is a ring of the sun that is still visible, where the moon isn’t quite covering all of the sun. In that case you can’t remove the protective glasses at all. It’s like having a “ring of fire” in the sky. I think that would be interesting, but not nearly as much fun as a total eclipse. So who knows, maybe we’ll plan some around the world vacations around the coming total eclipses. There are a couple that go over Australia, and I’ve always wanted to go there. Can you imagine what a trip that would be? Dive the great barrier reef, visit New Zealand AND see a total eclipse? Truly a trip of a lifetime for us. Have you gone anywhere that you considered your “trip of a lifetime”? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

Off to Cayo Hueso

 

Sunsets with entertainment, live music, literary history, pirates, roosters, pie, drag queens, Cuba – what’s the common thread running through all of these things? If you don’t know then you’ve never had the fun of visiting the southernmost point in the United States, located in Key West, Florida. IMG_3429 (1)Settled in the early 1800’s and valued at one time for it’s position on the shipping lane known as the Straights of Florida and as a stronghold during the Civil War, Key West, originally known as Cayo Hueso, is rich in history and culture and is incredibly popular as a tourist destination, particularly in the winter. The island is probably the only place in the US that has somewhat lightheartedly declared itself an independent nation and that has it’s own passport, calling itself the “Conch Republic” (the story is too long for this post, but here is a link). It’s only 90 miles from Cuba, the many refugee boat trips over the years described lightheartedly by Jimmy Buffet in his lyrics to “Everybody’s Got a Cousin in Miami”

It was ninety miles to freedom but they took the risk

Though the ocean was all motion and the wind was brisk

The deadly gunboats never saw them in the pale moonlight

They were off to Cayo Hueso by the dawns early light

The gringo in the garden called the customs man

They answered all his questions, were allowed to land

The ladies shared a hairbrush and their husbands had a coke

Then they were taken up to Krome to meet with their kin folk

In spite of the fact that my fellow Jimmy Buffet friends and I consider Key West our mental mecca, I’ve actually only visited once about 20 years ago on a girls’ trip before I was married, when 4 of us planned a trip inadvertently during Fantasy Fest. Think of this as Key West’s version of Mardi Gras, where virtually anything goes – and I do mean anything! How does one do this inadvertently? Well, you begin by purchasing airline tickets first, THEN reserving your hotel room…or trying to. This was back in the day when I barely had e-mail, and we had no idea Fantasy Fest was planned until we tried to get a hotel room and all we could get was the last suite in Key West (at three times the price!) Anyway, I always wanted to go back and just never did, until last week. Yep, it took me 17 years, but I finally talked my husband into going. And while we had a great time, it wasn’t the same Key West that I remembered.

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The Mallory Square mermaid

We did some of the  ‘must do’ touristy things like  watching the sunset at Mallory Square, seeing Ernest Hemingway’s home, and going to have your photo taken at the southernmost point marker. I wasn’t sure what to expect at Mallory Square, but it sure was fun people watching, and I think the entertainers were as much fun as the tourists! There was a crazy Frenchman with his flying stunt cats, and watching his odd little show as he hollered at the cats’ butts and the tourists with an accent as think as peanut butter was simultaneously creepy and hilarious. Jugglers with fire sticks, accordion players, a guitar playing mermaid, acrobats and all kinds of other stuff was happening all along the waterfront. Just keep walking back and forth. Mike and I just kept looking at each other feeling a little like we’d fallen through the looking glass.  I really can’t make this crap up, Google it. Especially Dominique and his flying cats.

One of the things we did, that almost didn’t turn out well, was an evening sunset sailing cruise. (Note to self, next time check the forecast first.) I love sailing, and have been on 4 Windjammer sailing cruises in the Caribbean (think of 3 and 4 masted pirate ships, and you have the right idea!)

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Me, being Jolly Rover crew

We decided to go for a sail on the Jolly Rover, a 2 masted boat, and with a crew of 3. The guy who sold us our tickets used to sail with Windjammer, so it was fun comparing notes with him. The first part of the cruise was fine, and as we set sail they asked if anyone wanted to help raise the sails. Of course my hand was the first (and only!) one up in the air. I helped haul up the sheets which you see in the picture on the left (pull the rigging on the sails for you landlubbers) which I’ve done on other sailing trips, and think is fun, and off we went – sort of. Unfortunately there wasn’t much wind so while the sails filled, we moved awfully slowly. That’s ok though, I mean come on, I’m on the ocean, it’s warm, I’m on a boat, who cares?

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Mike and I at the helm of the Jolly Rover

We took some photos at the helm (beware of sailing hair!), then our captain checked the radar and noticed that there was a squall line coming in and there were wind warnings issued. Interestingly it still wasn’t particularly windy, but time to get the sails down and get back to harbor, fast. Out of nowhere, it seemed, the clouds came in, and we barely made it just outside the harbor when the winds picked up, and essentially blew us the last couple hundred yards back into the slip. We hustled off the boat and into shelter. Got a little rain for maybe 30 min, and then it was over as quick as it started. But it sure was a bummer to ruin the sail and the sunset!

As a writer, there was no way I was going to miss the chance to go over to Hemingway House and see how dear old Ernie lived on Key West for 8 years while he did some of his best writing. There are still  descendants of his infamous 6-toed cats and the penny his 2nd wife embedded in the concrete by the swimming pool (look up the story about how she got his last cent).

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Hemingway’s writing room

Just for the record, I loved his writing room that overlooked the pool, and I want a sanctuary just like it. Imagine a room to dream, loose yourself in like that, be at your most creative. Sigh. I might have to redo my craft room. (I think I just sensed my husband cringing.)

The thing that surprised us the most was probably the age of the people we saw. During the daytime there were people of all ages but the highest percentage were over 65, which neither of us expected. Because the bars are open until 4 am, we figure most of the younger ‘kids’ were sleeping it off during the daytime, then as sunset drew closer most of the over 65 crowd disappeared and the younger people showed up, filling the bars on Duvall, all of which have their doors open to the street, and many also have windows that are open as well, or have musicians outside on a patio, so no matter where you are you can hear music. Walking back to our hotel after dark was an interesting experience, too. We had to walk past a couple of clubs with drag queens, who would station themselves outside to try to get people to come in and watch the show. So as we would approach, we would hear “Hi there honey, how are you?” or “Hi, having fun tonight?” They were perfectly nice and polite, and the easiest thing to do was to greet them back nicely, and just say “yes”. If they asked if we wanted to come in and see the show, I just smiled and gently said “no thanks” and kept going. It’s really not fair, that they look better in a dress and makeup than I do though.

It was fantastic to get away though, from 35 degrees in Minnesota, to 80 degrees in Key West, even if the ocean water was colder than I would like. I suppose if I were laying on the beach and getting all toasty, the chilly water would feel great, but I’m not much of a sun goddess, so dipping my toes in the water it felt pretty chilly to me, but heck, it was still the ocean, which I love and miss!! I can’t wait to go back and hope I don’t wait so long for the next trip to see it.

Oh yeah, did I mention the Key Lime Pie?

A Moment in Time

Looking back…the moment lost…we forget….

How often do we think back to something and think “I wish I had a picture of that?” Back in the day, we had the convenient excuse of forgetting to bring our camera,  but since most of us now have smart phones, we have a camera all the time . So that old excuse really doesn’t work so much anymore, does it (unless you’re like I was the other day and completely forgot to even bring my phone along)?We have no excuse to miss that moment. So what’s the problem?

I was glancing back through our pictures of our trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota last fall, and a hike we took up to Harney Peak. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s not a hike for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of climbing, some of it over roots, trees, rocks, boulders, sand, and goes from about 6100-7100 feet of elevation. And in the middle, you actually go downhill, just to have to go back uphill again.

At the summit is a stone lookout tower that was used for fires, and the view is incredible. You can see a long distance view of the tower in the photo at the lower right…yep, we had a LONG climb to get there! As you can see, we had cameras along and took pictures. Word to the wise, if you do this hike, do it on a cool day, take snacks and plenty of water, and start early in the day. If you’re in good shape, this is under a 4 hour hike. Shape not so good? Plan on 6 hours. We made it in about 4.5 hours, although I have no idea how. (Sheer stubbornness would be my best guess. )

As we neared the top, we met larger groups of people coming down with what seemed like ridiculously happy grins on their faces – which I would understand a short time later – and they all were saying things like “you can do it” and “you’re almost there”. I can remember I was so tired and feeling like I couldn’t do it, that I wanted to slap that stupid grin right off their faces. Then we started to notice that the boulders were different, more like big smooth slabs, and all of a sudden we were ducking under a big stone archway, before turning and seeing the end, and _MG_3004then there it was, with only about 50 more steps to go. The end. Still steep, but doable.

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I got a lovely little screen shot of my “What’s My Altitude” app too! While it didn’t show the air temperature, I remember it was a bit cooler, and you can see that the boiling point of water was lower.

 

You know, two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to even do an hour of this climb, let alone the whole thing. I remember going to Scottsdale, AZ, and sitting down partway up the “easy side” of Camelback, waiting for my husband while he climbed to the top, because I was so overweight then, and there was no way I could do it. But this trip, being healthier, thinner and in much better shape, I knew I could make it, and was determined to get to the top, stopping periodically for water breaks and snack breaks, but that was it. When we got there, oh, the view.

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Isn’t that amazing? It looks out over 4 states, and if you walk around the station, you can see the backside of Mt Rushmore. We took photos of that, of some great big bird soaring around, all kinds of stuff. You know what view we don’t have? The one of me standing there, tears in my eyes, being completely overwhelmed with elation that I did it! I think hubby was going to and I seem to recall I didn’t want him to but I don’t remember why not. In retrospect, I wish he would have anyway. I would have loved to have captured that moment of energy and triumph shining through. Particularly because when I think back to that moment, that’s the feeling that I remember having…that my best self, right then, was completely and totally shining through. The tears, messy hair, sweaty skin and red face – those were badges of honor to be worn proudly, not hidden away. Silly me. What a missed Kodak moment, but a lesson learned, nonetheless.

So next time you want to push someone away when they want your picture, think twice about it. So what if you’re all sweaty, hair is a mess, face is covered in dirt. Maybe you don’t have on makeup, or your mascara is running down your cheeks…or your eyes are puffy…or your shirt is torn, or whatever. Who cares? Freeze that moment before it’s gone, because remember you can’t capture lightning in a bottle.