Activities, Earth

First blush of green

First blush of green: I suppose that’s a mixed metaphor or something. Surely blushing and the color of green aren’t generally associated together. But this time of year I can think of no better explanation for the very first glimpses of photosynthesis following winter’s dormancy and I get giddy whenever I see it.

I don’t have a good picture of brown grass with just a little green among all the brown so I decided to use this sketch of succulents in their pots instead. Call it artistic license. Or better yet, call it gardener’s license! ūüėÉ

We were out for a drive three days ago and we saw the first honest tinges of green in farmers’ fields and on their wide open lawns. Not much green yet. Just a speck here and a dollop there. But, it’s a start!

I don’t know how you are about colors and Spring, but it’s without a doubt my favorite time of year. It’s God fulfilling his promise of resurrection. No matter how glorious the colors of autumn and the beauty of mature plants, there is nothing as dear to my heart as the re-awakening of that which is to all outward evidence, dead.

I feel sorry for color blind folks. There is a special … almost chartreuse color … that we see here in the Midwest in the beginning of Spring and I never really notice it in plants later in the year. I eagerly await it’s appearance — along with those very first tinges of green — as a sort of the second announcement of Spring’s approach. Nature’s way of saying, “it’s not a joke, all these plants really are coming back to life!”

Some might think that my excitement over Spring is disproportionate. I don’t care. I find life is a lot happier if I’m excited about small things as well as large ones. And I’m happy a lot more because of it. Waiting for only big things to get excited and happy about is a terrible waste of living. Why not be happy when it costs nothing?

We have been in this apartment 2+ years now. When we moved the landlord told us that there are allotments that can be rented for $5.00 per season and because we were new we didn’t want to commit to taking care of a garden during our first summer. Then last year we bought our place at Wisconsin Dells and we didn’t have an “actual” garden, but we did plant some vegetation. It’s likely that our summers will be spent mostly at the Dells so we aren’t planning on acquiring an allotment this year either. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have been thinking a little bit about what we might add to the plant life at our summer place.

Also, last year whilst watching an English gardening show we came across the idea of “bug hotels” and I kind of like the idea. We don’t feed birds where we are — in the woods there’s ample food for the birds and I don’t want to risk attracting too many squirrels or rodents. That said, I’m not bashful about attracting other critters. And a “bug hotel” appeals to me.

We actually have the beginnings of a bug hotel already. Our food pile is the perfect nesting place for a variety of bugs, but I’m thinking about whether or not to go further along that line and be open and above board about the idea. Maybe I can encourage other campers to do likewise!

I wonder how many of you may have special Spring traditions or Spring pleasures?

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Old Diary, Travel

Feels like Spring / Day one of the Natchez Trace

It’s feeling more like Spring!¬† As we move Southward the grass is greening, the evergreens, especially the cedars are losing their winter brown cast and are starting to green up.¬† We even saw some flowering dogwoods, and a Tulip tree

Our overnight stop in Franklin was nice and clean and after several nights of poor sleep I popped a couple Tylenol PM’s hoping to assure a decent night’s sleep.¬† By Monday morning I was in a better mood to drive!

Today was an interesting mixture of activities.2015031610030502 2015031610031303I love talking with people and today was a good example.¬† I don’t always share these little conversations, sometimes I like to keep them to myself, but today we stopped at the Welcome Center in Collinwood TN.Collinwood TN It’s a little place, operated by the county with local volunteers. ¬† As I walked in the door there was an older (than me) gent sitting in a rocking chair, a sweet retired woman sitting behind the counter and a rather more nimble retiree carrying his dulcimer into the back room to practice.¬† I started up a conversation with the two in one room and Peggy started talking with the dulcimer player.

It turns out they have a group of 20 some musicians who play in the Welcome Center regularly, at nursing homes, and around the local area.¬† They play a variety of instruments including dulcimers (played by hand), hammered dulcimers (played with little mallets, and a couple guitars.¬† I’m not certain that they have or do not have a fiddle player or two as well.

While Peggy was gathering that info I talked with Martin and Jewel in the other room.¬† I inquired how Martin happened to be in Tennesee, and his two word response clued me in to an interesting conversation in the waiting:¬† “A Woman.” It seems that Martin lived in Minnesota for 85 years.¬† For the last twenty two years he’s been wintering in Tennessee at his friend’s farm, and he summered in Minnesota on his own 160 acre dairy farm — which he had sold off so that he didn’t have to make twice a day milkings in his old age.

It turns out his ‘Woman’ passed last August and he’s alone, and trying to make friends.¬† He’s German,¬† we talked about the ethnic makeup of his hometown,¬† about how many Lutheran churches there are in Hutchinson, how the services used to be performed in German but when the new pastor came to town his grasp of the language left something to be desired and services switched over to English.¬† We talked about all sorts of things and when we left we left as friends.

THIS is what I love about being free to travel the country.¬† The chance to meet new people who, because you are from ‘outside’, are willing to be open about their situation, their history, their loves and losses — you’re a safe conversation and because so many of these people are older and have outlived many of their friends they are also eager to talk.

I have missed this in Los Fresnos — we have been there for a while but when you hang out in one place for a while you become part of the furniture and it’s not so easy to get people to open up — at least not for me.

The trees (in general) have not yet leafed out.  There are the few exceptions and only some of the flowering trees have given out their Spring bouquets.

The Tennessee River

The Tennessee River

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One of the Tombigbee River Lock & Dam sites

The Corps of Engineers have had a lot to do with the beauty in some of these parts. River projects have changed the Tennesee River, and have provided a waterway to the gulf via the Ten-Tom River project.¬† As we traveled through rolling hills, and through verdant valleys it’s hard to imagine what this world had been like during the days of the pioneers.¬† The Natchez Trace was the commercial route for farmers as far from the Gulf as Ohio to get their products to market and it’s hard to believe the volume of travel, the length of time many of these shipments took to transport from farm to market.¬† 2015031611414812 2015031611555513

As is often the case we got hungry during the day.¬† Tupelo was a good stopping point and we opted for a quick stop at the NEON PIG Cafe.2015031612213918 This is a topnotch joint ina hole-in-the-wall resto.¬† It’s both resto and meat market.¬† They are a local grown, farm to market establishment that believes in Nose-to-Tail utilization of the animal.¬† They have been voted the best burger in MS and I can see why.¬† They rough grind their burgers from the trimmings from their steaks and serve two kinds of burgers:¬† the BASH and the SMASH. One has fresh and smoked beef with a little bacon added.¬† The other has all fresh brisket with a little bacon added.2015031612355219¬† We both ordered the speical of the day, which wasn’t actually a ‘burger’ — but it had some of both meat blends fried up and served on tortillas with coleslaw, pickled onions, and dill pickle slices.¬† It is absolutely Da Bomb!¬† It is NOT a low cal plate.¬† And, no there are no plates — you are served on a piece of butcher paper — and you have to get your own drink from the cooler and pick out your own bag of chips off the rack.¬† But it’s definitely worth the time to stop at what doesn’t even look like a resto from the outside.¬† It’s not¬†much¬†of a resto — there are only about 20 seats, including half a dozen at the grill counter.¬† But — it’s a really nice meal — lots of workingmen lunches and lots of attitude from the staff.¬† If you’re in Tupelo, stop.

Ok — that’s about it for now.¬† Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

 

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Old Diary

Cut & Paste

The surgery went well. ¬†It wasn’t all that much in the first place and she was all done in about 45 minutes. ¬†After the excision the Doctor stitched her up, glued her up (no Elmer’s Glue though), bandaged her up, plastic wrapped her up and she was good to go! ¬†No need to hang around for a follow up — per the Sawbones — so we’re back on our own again.

With Peg still feeling still a little tingly, we went to Balestrieri’s for a Pizza — had to get a pizza ‘fix’ while we were in town. ¬†With Kathryn along it was just like old times; ¬†we were sorry that Mike’s tummy wasn’t up to eating, but it’s nice to have the time alone with our daughter so we all had a chance to laugh and giggle.2015031215534901

We had a quiet evening, thinking we would hang around until about 9 AM and then head East through Chicago. ¬†Alas, I’ve never been good about taming my enthusiasm, and when we both woke up at 4:45 — and heard our daughter getting ready ready for work (she leaves quite early) — before you knew it we were up, dressed, the car packed, and we left, with her following us out of the garage a few seconds later.

With an early start we zipped through Chicago at the leading edge of rush hour.  We stopped at Lake Station for a leisurely breakfast and poked our way Eastward.

As long as we were going past Elkhart we decided to stop at Bradd & Hall to look for ideas for our coach.  We have a recliner now.  There is space to the side of where the recliner lives.  The barrel chair in the bedroom is getting sat out. So a little window shopping was in order.

Peg & Charles

Peg & Charles

It was nice to walk in the door and be recognized — even after 2 years. ¬†Charles, who worked on our Winnebago a full 24 months ago saw us and immediately asked, “Don’t I know you?” ¬†— A couple hints later and it was like old home week.

We want a chair and a table/desk of some sort — if we can find pieces that fit the way we want. ¬†These are ideas we are looking at, but regardless we won’t purchase anything until we get back to Wisconsin this summer, or as we leave in the fall.

2015031311282204One option would be a computer desk with a return. The image here is actually of TWO of these desks, one showing the return on the right, one showing the return on the left.  But the side seen facing the camera is what we would do.

2015031311353410Bradd & Hall also carry chairs made by Lambight and I’d like to get one more chair for the coach. ¬†This one is available in with an optional computer table.

We have to do some measuring, but the fit is right.  If we determine it will fit in the space we have available we may add this to the coach.

Peg has a spot on the curbside of the coach that she uses for next-to-the-sofa storage and 2015031311354611we’ve been debating what we might put there to replace the inexpensive plastic drawers we have there now. I had shown a photo of these small units (only 8″ wide) to Peg but off the photo she didn’t care for them. ¬†Once she saw them it was a whole different story. ¬†So, we may have a possible solution for that need.

2015031311345506The surprise of the morning was discovering a new model in their inventory, ¬†a smaller, more compact computer desk/station. ¬†And we’ll give this some thought. ¬†For less money, and a smaller footprint, this could be a better solution for us.

So, we have a bunch to think about. ¬†But we have a lot of time to think. ¬†No hurry. ¬†And maybe we won’t buy anything at all. ¬†Time will tell.

We’ve been going gung-ho since last Thursday and by the time we pulled into Toledo we were both tuckered. ¬†We’re here for two nights before heading South for the Natchez Trace. ¬†It would be nice to connect with Frank’s girlfriend Phyllis (Peg’s dad) and we have plans to lunch with her and her daughter tomorrow. ¬†There’s a beautiful Museum featuring glass (Toledo is the Glass City) that Peg’s been trying to get me into. ¬†And with what time we have left, we will drive around and see some of the sights of her youth — a little walk down memory lane.

The route we took from Milwaukee brought us through Amish territory and it’s always interesting to see the dedication to ideals that it takes to live a restricted life. ¬†I think we saw more horses in a 50 mile stretch than I’ve seen in a couple years along the highway! There’s a lot of fine craftsmanship to be found in that stretch of the country. ¬†In fact the folks at Bradd & Hall use Amish workers to build their cabinetry.

The skies¬†stayed dry for us — even though there’s a storm just to the¬†South. That was part of the reason for our route — to stay out of the bad weather even if the ‘bad’ weather was nothing more than rain. With a day here in Toledo we think that will give the current front time to pass us bye and leave nice weather behind. ¬†At least we’re hoping that will be the case.

So, with a freshly ‘repaired’ wife and some good weather we’re excited to see if we can find some Spring down the highway in front of us. ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

P.S.: ¬†We already saw Texas Bluebonnets — near Corpus Christi on our way North last Friday. ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā

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Old Diary

Cutting Time

Another productive day on Tuesday. ¬†We had three different appointments at the hospital;¬†we kept arriving early and they kept taking us early for our appointment so before you knew it we were all done before our third appointment was even scheduled. ¬†Medical SymbolThe best news is that even though¬†Peg does require a minor surgical procedure; it¬†is minor,¬†and it will be¬†done on Thursday morning. With luck we’ll be on our way home¬†some time on Friday — Goody, goody, goody!

While we might have blamed the trip on this medical situation the fact of the matter is that we were itching to get out and do something. ¬†It was nice to see the mileposts passing and now that we’ve been here a couple days, gotten our schedule sorted we decided that we’d make a little road trip to Toledo to see her old stomping grounds — her dad’s house, the places she hung out around. ¬†Once we leave Toledo we plan on dropping South to pick up the Natchez Trace Parkway — which route we’ll be able to run its¬†entire distance.

We took time to run down to Illinois to exchange our iPass transponder.s137717855378605979_p26_i9_w1617¬†We could have waited until we headed East, but doing that would mean that our new transponder would not have replicated though the EZ Pass system and we’d show up as toll violations all the way to Ohio. ¬†Not good. ¬†This way we have the transponder. ¬†The ID # will have propagated and we’ll be good to go.

Kathryn took half a day off today and we spent it together.  Partly we needed to get her signature on our Safe Deposit Box papers, and partly we just wanted to have the time together.

So, that’s about it for now. ¬†Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

 return to TX

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Old Diary

The Doctor’s in the House

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Two days after the ice storm in Central Texas the ice was still melting off buildings.

We got a lot done on Monday. The our G.P. was in, saw Peggy, and quickly referred her to a surgeon while also putting her on antibiotics. Luckily the surgeon had an opening for Tuesday, so we make another trip to the office today for blood work, a bone density test and a meeting with the surgeon.

And, being out of the car for a day I had time to upload a few pictures from the quick trip up to WI.

Michael put our car on his computer and found another reason the check engine line was coming on — the local dealer had the part in stock so we’ll have Mike install that in the next day or so.

I got my MacPro out of storage and spent much of the day with the computer downloading software. ¬†I’m going to try taking the tower back to Texas with us and see whether it’s practical to use it in the coach. ¬†If not — we can return it to storage in September when we get back to Wisconsin.

We had time to get some glasses adjusted, and run a few little errands.

The check-engine problems have had me thinking about the life of our CR-V. ¬†I’m NOT in any hurry to replace cars, but needing to get the parts meant that I was going to be at the dealership so we took a look at the new Honda FIT. ¬†It’s a lot smaller than our CR-V and it’s on the list of 2015 Towables — but after talking with the dealer we came away with a recommendation NOT to tow a FIT. ¬†That’s interesting and one of the reasons I get frustrated with dealerships. ¬†I downloaded the FIT owners manual and there it is…. auto transmission — no. ¬†manual transmission — yes. ¬†These guys gotta get their act together.

I think that considering I haven’t thought much about cars in the 10 years we have had it. ¬†So, even though we aren’t going to do anything about replacing the CR-V I think it’s about time that we at least did a little competitive research and checked out some of the other possibilities. ¬†After finding that the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500 both require Premium fuel, that makes it more likely that we’ll look at two Hyundai versions, a model or two of Kia, and the Toyota/Scion/Yaris line where there are three possible models. ¬†At least when we are done there will be some basis upon which to move forward. ¬† I’m still hoping that this last repair is going to put the recent problems to an end but if not I don’t want to be making trips to different auto dealerships all the time; I might talk myself into something.

I-44 runs along the old US-66 route and this rest area in MO decided to do a riff on Hwy 66 in their picnic area.  Cute.

I-44 runs along the old US-66 route and this rest area in MO decided to do a riff on Hwy 66 in their picnic area. Cute.

Even though we probably could have gotten Peg’s health issue taken care of in Texas we have been chomping at the bit to get out and do something or go somewhere — so this has been a good excuse for a roadtrip. ¬†I’m glad we did it. ¬†We still don’t know how long we’ll be gone — Maybe after talking to the surgeon tomorrow we’ll either be recuperating or know how many days before a surgery schedule and then we can make plans for a return trip.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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Peggy in front of some of the small landscape plants at Palmdale.

 

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Old Diary, Travel

Day Two And We’re Getting Itchy

Considering that two days ago they had some pretty rough weather, Saturday it was a glorious day and a great day to drive. ¬†The roads were moderately busy — using my 40 year scale of light to busy for general highway travel.

A nice easy day today

A nice easy day today

Last night we burnt out a headlight and our last ‘job’ for the day was getting a replacement bulb from O’Reilly on Friday night. ¬†Having gotten the bulb installed we could leave before sun-up on Saturday which we did. ¬†And that put us into Rolla about 5 p.m.

With clear skies and decent traffic we enjoyed the drive — watching for snow — which we never saw in any appreciable amounts.

We stopped at Big R’s BBQ for lunch and had a really nice meal — at a place that serves ample portions, of nicely smoked & still moist pork BBQ. The resto is near one of the areas hit by the last big tornado and while there was a lot of rebuilding within 2 miles of the resto — the joint itself seems to have survived without much damage at all and the loyal clientele were out in force on a wonderful Saturday afternoon.

So, we have one more day’s drive remaining. ¬†With luck we’ll be back in Milwaukee by 4:30 on Sunday and sitting down to a turkey dinner with Mike and Katy. ¬†ūüôā

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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Old Diary, Travel

Practicing scriptlessness

Yesterday was spent in the car. ¬†We had howling winds all night before and Peg didn’t sleep much so we got an early start in the morning. That was partly due to the winds, partly due to sounds that sounded like someone’s door being slammed — over and over and over again, and partly because her back has been quite painful. ¬†Which is the reason for our quick trip. ¬†We know we could get medical service in TX but for a variety of reasons we opted to make a quick trip to Wisconsin, see her regular doctor, see our daughter and Son-in-Law, do some business with our safe deposit box, and a few other things we realized could be all done in one fell swoop so we hopped in the car and headed North.

The longest of three days drive

The longest of three days drive

The Plan — such as it is — is to make the 1500 miles in three days while there is a good weather forecast. ¬†Friday was 542 miles from Los Fresnos to Plano TX. ¬†While it was a very manageable distance I was reminded why I don’t like I-35. ¬†It is/was virtually rush hour traffic from San Antonio to Dallas, including at least 40 miles of stop-start bumper-to-bumper going-nowhere-fast. ¬†I really like Los Fresnos, but I really¬†dislike this route and I will do all sorts of things to avoid taking it any more than absolutely necessary. ¬†There ARE other routes out of South Texas.alternates

 

To illustrate, here are two alternate routes:  1.) via I-10 to I-55
2.) via I-30 to Memphis. ¬†Both of them have advantages over the route we picked this time. ¬†This is a route I’ve driven quite often from Dallas North. ¬†What I haven’t driven often is the Dallas-San Antonio section and every time we have done so I-35 has been under major reconstruction with horrendous backups.

Once we pulled into Plano we needed a good meal and we found our way to Paesano’s. ¬†Tripadvisor rates it as #33 out of 233 restos and I can see why. ¬†The prices are reasonable, ¬†the entrees were well done, ample, served quite quickly, and the place is BUSY — in a good way — the sound of people having fun and enjoying life.

Peg has a¬†Dr’s appointment on Monday. ¬†We’ll see what the treatment plan is — can we be in and out of Milwaukee on under 1 week or not? ¬†We’ll see.

Saturday we will head north to Rolla Mo. ¬†I’ll talk with you from there. Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.

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Old Diary

Life Unscripted…. really unscripted….

plans-changeSomething has come up that necessitates a quick trip to WI.   We hope to be back in Los Fresnos in a few days (given the fact that we are taking 3 days to go up and back Рthat really means 2 weeks).

Given the way we travel, I may stay¬†current with my postings but ¬†if I fall behind know that we aren’t dead or dying — we’re just attending to businessok_change_of_plans_sorry_1118385.

Today it will be Los Fresnos to Plano, TX. Let’s see how that goes. ¬†The forecast is dry, but with possible freezing temps overnight so we don’t know how early we’ll leave in the morning. As always avoiding Austin, and Dallas during rush hour are paramount.

By the way… if you don’t use the individual state Department of Transportation websites to keep you up to date on road conditions — its something you should look into.Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.24.39 PM¬† For example, the TXDOT road condition map currently looks like this, with lots of negative road situations SW of Fort Worth and East of Dallas. ¬†In Texas’ case they tell you expected end of situations and road location. ¬†In keeping with the fact that this is NOT the UNITED states of America — each state has their own way of reporting road conditions, so you may need to check each individual state in which you plan to travel.

Thanks for stopping, and I’ll try to talk with you tomorrow.

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