Wednesday, June 10, 2015

On the Road Again!

Well, after returning from Sarasota on Mother's Day and a busy 3 weeks at home getting ready, we're finally back on the road again!   It's been a while since I've blogged, and admittedly I'm a bit rusty, so bear with me as I try to get back into the swing of remembering to take pictures of people and things we see along the way and my rhythm of blogging most every day.  Today we realized that we haven't been taking pictures as often as we usually do while on the road, but we're starting to get back to it!

We left Cherry Log last Monday, June 1 and stopped for the night in Elizabethtown, KY.  We were able to get together with our dear friend, Dale McAbee, one of Trisha's doctoral classmates who is a chaplain at Baptist East Hospital in Louisville.  Dale was kind enough to drive down to Elizabethtown where we found a lovely Thai restaurant, 2 B Thai, for dinner.  The owner was a delightful fellow who has been in the States for over 20 years, but was thrilled to learn that we had been to his country.  It was good to catch up with Dale and all he has going on.  When he and Trisha were working on their doctorate degrees at Columbia Seminary, Dale and two other classmates would always stay at our house when they came for classes, and we all had such a good time.  Lots of lively discussions around the dinner table each night, and occasionally their major professor, Barbara Brown Taylor, would join us.  Alas, we completely forgot to take any pictures.

Tuesday we drove to Lafayette, IN, where we stopped for the night.  While this was about the right distance for the day, when Trisha started looking on the campground app, the best we could find was an RV park with "fishing camp" in the name--should have been a clue!!  It was a good ways off the highway, and though quite a pretty setting, right on the banks of a small lake, it was a bit primitive, to say the least.  Most of the sites were seasonal, where folks just park a trailer for the summer.  The site was a challenge to find a spot where we could level up the RV, and it took several tries to get it level enough to be secure.   Ultimately we did it, but while I was working on that a nice retired fellow in a small trailer behind our site came out to chat with Trisha--quite a pleasant guy, but as he was telling us about how we had to share the water connection with his unit, he also told us that the water there was pretty silty, and he'd heard that some folks had some water heater trouble from using it!  By this time we didn't feel like going through the hassle of finding another place, so fortunately we had enough fresh water in our tank to handle it.  All in all, though, not a bad place to spend the night, and it's all part of the treasure trove of varied experience we've had on the road!

Wednesday we made it to Winnetka, IL, where our campground for the night was the driveway of David and Amanda Lower and their two beautiful children, Matt and Anna Jean.  When David was growing up he lived two doors down from us in Atlanta, his dad was one of my law partners and his mom was one of Trisha's best friends.  Sadly, she died of cancer at age 38, when David was only 8 years old, but we've stayed close to David and his brothers ever since.  David is now a Presbyterian minister, and Trisha was a mentor for him through that process and was in his ordination service.  He has developed into a wonderful minister, and we have heard some brilliant sermons he has preached.     We got there in the afternoon before the kids got home from school, and Amanda videoed the kids when they got off the school bus in front of their house and saw the RV.  It was so much fun to see Matt's and Anna Jean's faces as they jumped off the bus and saw the RV--and they were really strutting in front of the other kids on their street, 'cause THEY had an RV in THEIR driveway!!  Anna Jean, who's just finishing first grade,  initially said she wanted to spend the night in the RV along with Matt, but ultimately, as it started getting dark, she decided sleeping inside in her own bed was a better idea!  Anyway, Matt was fascinated by how everything in the RV works, so we showed him how the slides come in and out.  And so the next morning, as the kids from next door came out to wait on the school bus, Matt wanted to show them, so of course we let him push the buttons to pull the slide in--more than happy to help him with a little street cred in front of his homies!!

On the way to dinner Amanda--a brilliant dancer and choreographer--drove us through the Northwestern campus and showed us the art center where she teaches.  This was the first time we'd ever been to the Northwestern campus and it is really beautiful, right on the shores of Lake Michigan--and her dance studio looks out over the water--just magnificent!  We had a great time at dinner, and when we got home, Trisha and David had a chance to spend some quality "clergy time" together, as David is now in the midst of his DMin program, so he had lots of questions and Trisha of course was so happy to be able to give him the benefit of her experience.  David has such a bright future in ministry ahead of him.  Not only is he brilliant--high school valedictorian, perfect SAT score before heading to Harvard, etc., etc.--but he is one of the most caring and sensitive people you could ever meet, so much like his mother, Jean.  On the way home from the restaurant, he took us by the Baha'i North American Continent main temple in Willamette.  It is a spectacularly beautiful structure and, since David has been active in the Interfaith Community and has been there many times, he took us in for a brief tour, and we were so glad we got to see it.

The next morning, we were able to go to Anna Jean's first grade class where they were having "Writer's Day,"  where the parents could come hear their children read original stories of their own composition.  It's pretty amazing to see what they're teaching in first grade--explaining themes, character development, how to structure a story, with lots of posters describing "twin sentences" and other techniques--we were so impressed, and it reminded me of the sort of stuff my mother used to teach her high school creative writing class!  Anyway, Anna Jean had written several stories and we were so happy we were able to go along with David and Amanda to hear Anna Jean read.  She definitely got the creative genes from both her parents!!

Thursday we made it to Appleton, WI, where Jack Canfield was performing his senior voice recital at Lawrence University.  Unfortunately I was not able to attend myself, as I had to fly to Newport News, VA for the memorial service for a cousin.  So I was there to represent our family, while Trisha was able to represent our family at Jack's recital.  While in Virginia that evening I was able to watch it live streaming on Youtube, but not quite the same as being there.  By all accounts it was an incredible performance, earning Jack kudos and high praise from his professors.  He created a multimedia performance, with videos showing in the background as he sang selections from Faure, Schumann and Stephen Foster.  It was very creative and his voice is remarkable.  He won the prestigious Watson Fellowship for this next year after graduation, where he will visit five continents, studying indigenous music and its place in local cultures.  We're all very proud of this young man, and look forward to seeing just where his talent takes him.  I was able to make it back to Appleton Saturday night, so Trisha and I had brunch with Jack, Ken and Shelley before they flew back to Atlanta and we headed on to Madison.

We spent Sunday night in Madison, so we could visit with Drew and Megan Seman, and precious little 14 month old Harper.  Drew is the son of our dear college friend, Bill, and Trisha performed their wedding a few years ago.  They had been living in D.C., but recently moved to Madison.  They have a wonderful house in a gorgeous neighborhood, and are in the midst of some renovations to the house--it will be quite spectacular when they're finished, but we were so happy to see where they live.  It's a neighborhood that reminded us a lot of Morningside in Atlanta where we lived for so many years.  They have wonderful parks nearby, the elementary school is just around the corner, and they have already met lots of new friends with tons of kids there too.  Harper is so cute, she was just on the verge of walking--indeed, today she actually took her first unassisted steps--and is so expressive.  And she definitely won my heart when she would boom out in her deep voice:  HO!HO!HO!  We went to dinner at a fantastic restaurant, Sardines, overlooking Lake Minona, one of 4 big lakes right in Madison.  The food was super, and we had a table by the water, and there was even a Cypress Gardens-style waterski show on the lake--very cool!

Monday we headed west and spent Monday night in Minnesota, near the South Dakota line.  Today we made it into South Dakota and are spending the night in Murdo.  Earlier this afternoon we stopped in Mitchell to visit "The World's Only Corn Palace."  Some friends had asked us if we had ever seen this and we had not, so, not having any idea what it was, we decided what the heck, might as well stop.  Well, it turns out to be a municipal auditorium of sorts, where the local high school and college--Dakota Wesleyan--play basketball.  The original one was built in 1892, as a place where the early settlers displayed their agricultural bounty on the building's exterior to prove to everyone the fertility of the soil and to entice immigrant farmers to settle in Mitchell.  Each fall a festival was held to celebrate the local agriculture and how productive the local farmers were--the annual festival continues today!  The outside of the building is decorated with murals and other decorations, constructed entirely out of corn, mostly ears of corn, but also some rye and oat heads are also used to flesh out the themes, and a new theme is selected each year.  Over the summer the building's exterior is stripped of the old decorations and a whole new facade is applied, with the ears of corn being sawn lengthwise and nailed to the building according to designs created by local artists.  We talked to a sales clerk, who explained how this process employs lots of local students, who work all summer on the stripping and redecorating, all to get ready for the Corn Festival.  There are also some permanent corn murals on the upper walls of the interior.  And the many billboards along the highway advertising the place are covered in--you guessed it--corny jokes, e.g., "Stop ear" "cornsider" a visit" etc.  For those of you dear readers who knew my Daddy would know that he would have loved all this--he was the master of the pun and he and my brothers all used to have contests to see who could keep the puns going along a particular theme.  My Mom--and now Trisha--would gag at the puns we made, except of course when either of them made or makes a pun, then they thought and think it's the funniest thing ever invented!!  Anyway, it was interesting to see this, and we talked to some of the college students who were working on the new designs.  It was 97 degrees today and this one guy told us that the temp sometimes hits 120 here--and if it gets that hot, they send the workers home, but if it only makes it to 119, they keep on trucking--quite fascinating!

Well, I'm about to take a great leap of faith to see if I can upload some photos here.  Since my last post, a new operating system for our Macbook has eliminated iPhoto and replaced it with just plain Photo, but I've had all kinds of trouble getting it to work.  Spent several hours on the phone with Apple reps, going through all manner of things in a language that's totally foreign to me, so let's hope for the best, that some pics will appear!

HAPPYX2 on the road!
 Our friends, Wendell and Jennifer Fox, loaned us their sign from when they RV'd to Alaska several years ago--it's hard to make out, but if you enlarge this pic you can see a pair of foxes on the sign!--this has been a real conversation starter so far--at campgrounds and rest stops people come up and ask  if we're really going to Alaska!
Above, coming into Chicago; below, at the restaurant where we had dinner with David, Amanda and Anna Jean, as Matt was at Cub Scout after school camp

 The restaurant is down below sidewalk level, so while we were eating, Anna Jean decided to go upstairs to the window to peek in on us!
 The Baha'i Temple

 Amanda and David outside their house
 Writer's Day at Anna Jean's first grade class

 Here she is reading one of the many interesting stories she had written--she even started a series about a little girl and her adventures, with multiple stories

 Teaching tools for young writers

 This is her remarkable creative teacher
 I'm sitting on a bench in their front yard--the bench has a plaque in memory of David's dad
 Here we jump to Appleton, Wisconsin, on the campus of Lawrence University, on Sunday morning--Ken, Jack, Shelley and me.
 Jack gave us a remarkable reflective observation about how he approached the whole creative process of developing the multimedia program he did for his recital--an amazingly talented young man!
 Some Wisconsin countryside on the way to Madison

 We love all these farms!

 Here is a sign, pointing to Portage, WI, home of the famous Judy Weiland!!
 Drew and Megan's house in Madison
 Sweet little Harper!

 Here she is, climbing up to her feet--she actually took her first completely independent steps the day after we left--got a feeling that baby gate is not long for this world!

 Trisha, of course, couldn't wait to get her hands on this sweet baby!
 On the way to the restaurant, here's a shot of the capitol building in downtown Madison
 Lovely flowers lining the outdoor patio of Sardine's, the restaurant where we had supper
   How considerate of Megan and Drew to choose a restaurant with flowers that matched Trisha's top!!
 Looking out over Lake Minona from the restaurant
 Harper was so good during dinner!

 Some of the water skiers from the show--there's an amphitheater just up the street from the restaurant where people gather to watch the show, but we could see part of it from the restaurant

 Driving back to their house through their neighborhood, we saw lots of peonies like these--humongous!  So beautiful!
 Trisha let Harper try on her bracelet and she loved it!
 But, hey, gotta sample these toes!!
 It's so exciting for this young couple to have their new house--they had a condo in DC but now they have this lovely house with a great yard, and a large back yard, too, where Harper will have lots of room to play.  Such a wonderful thing to see this couple who Trisha married as their family grows!

 These shots are at the lovely little campground we found in a county park, right in Madison.  It sits along a little waterway that opens into Lake Waubesa, another one of the lakes right in the town--very peaceful place to spend the night!

 Here's where the little waterway opens into the big lake
 Pretty wildflowers along the path to the lake

 On from Wisconsin into Minnesota!

 While in Wisconsin, Trisha became fond of Spotted Cow, a variety of New Glarus beer--it's sold only in Wisconsin, and we meant to buy some before we left to have on the RV but we forgot--these cows reminded Trisha of the wonderful beer!!
 Huge windmill farms along the way
 Sunset at our campground in Jackson, Minnesota

 On our way to South Dakota
 Lots of these windmills--and well placed, as there were some pretty strong winds whipping around, even keeping me on my toes driving, to hang on to the steering wheel!

 Coming into South Dakota, our eighth state so far on this trip
 Alas, this barn and silo have seen better days, but quite a striking scene
 These are sections of the huge poles that form the base of the windmills--seeing these up close you get a better perspective on just how huge these things are!
 Don't know why this sculpture garden is here, seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, but there are a number of unusual sculptures, just right along the interstate--not sure about their claim that this is the world's largest bull head, but who knows!
 Many, many cornfields, recently planted with new rows among the remains of the stalks from the previous crop

 And here we are at the World's Only Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD--this is one of the murals on the exterior of the building, all made out of different colored ears of corn, split lengthwise and nailed and stapled to the side of the building.  You can see the round turret to the right, that still has to have this year's decorations attached

 One of the turrets with the decorations completed
 Pretty remarkable detail they come up with, to be made just out of ears of corn!
 Sorry that this pic didn't get rotated, but the right hand side is the top of this panel, where they are attaching some greenery
 More murals on the side of the exterior

 Here are some of the permanent murals on the inside walls--the outside decorations are changed each year

All the displays on the floor here are just there during the summer; then they move them all across the street to a gift shop, so the gym floor is available for basketball
 They also have stage shows and other events here

 A "corny" rendition of Mt Rushmore!
 This is a postcard of one of the earlier iterations of the outside decorations
 This is a tractor cab where you can sit in the driver's seat and watch a video of the various operations of planting, weeding, harvesting and cutting down the old stalks--really an interesting way to give you an idea of the operation
 Some of the workers, mostly local college students and recent grads, outside, preparing some of the exterior decorations to install on the panels to go up on the walls

 The Missouri River

                                         North to Alaska
                                         Different shades of crops in their early stages


  1. Jack I am so excited you are on the road again. Make my day, God Bless and be safe.

    1. Rod, you're one of my most faithful followers--always glad to have you along for the ride!