Hours with Logan

Neighbor Logan (9 tomorrow) spent time with us after we got home from our trip. I love his sense of humor. He posed, showing off his muscles, with great help from a tennis ball.

There had been several heavy downpours, so we drove to see how high the creek was.

He reminded us that we didn’t have batteries for the radio controlled cars, and Dollar General was on the way home. The right batteries were not in stock, but Logan showed me where Pokemon cards would be. He explained that with cards costing only $1, the display was always empty. He dropped down flat on the floor and looked under the rack. There was always the chance someone might have dropped a pack out of sight. No luck that day.

When Rose and John $pencer came home, Logan enjoyed playing with Sadie. He loves dogs, so he didn’t mind that Sadie kept licking him.

After Sadie settled down, he had a tug-of-war with her.

We didn’t need a reminder that it was good to be home.

Excitement Continues

In the midst of our homecoming from the trip out West, someone asked a question about schedules. I was enjoying the moment and not ready to look even one minute ahead. I said, “All my planning ended with this trip, so I might as well be dead. Just think, that makes this heaven!”

I’m glad the assembled company laughed instead of going out to dig my grave.

We saw many people on our trip, and finally we had someone come to see us! (Brother of brother-in-law Thom) Russ and Elizabeth met us for lunch at the Jukebox Junction. We love this annual visit, time they carve out of a conference to spend with us. Hours spent with family are priceless!

John, Russ, and Elizabeth

In the middle of the night, I heard someone walking in my room. Being surrounded by family, I assumed the footsteps were friendly. They were. Lightning lit up the room as grandson David stepped in from the deck. He carried my solar stars and walked them into the bathroom. He knew one star had already been damaged by wind and that I often bring the hanging stars inside when it is windy. I was able to get enough words together to thank him before I fell asleep again. John and I were impressed at the debris on the roads this morning, evidence of high winds. Everything was dripping wet, and the creek was high and muddy.

I laughed when I went in the bathroom, seeing where David had hung the wet stars. They were still trying to shine, giving their best effort in the dim light.

Solar stars in the tub

Random Thoughts on our Western Trip

I FORGOT to write the story about Larry, Chicken Grandma’s husband. I heard him mention Minnesota and asked if that is where he came from.

“Oh, naw!” he said. “I grew up about five miles from here, and Faye maybe ten miles.”

I asked, “Did you go to the same schools?”

“Yes,” he replied. “We were in the same room all the way through. Back then she was just another girl in the class.”

I laughed, because I could hear behind those words, the tone a boy would have used. You know a 10-year-old would have said the word GIRL with disgust. He went no further, because it was obvious his view of Faye changed drastically, and they have been happily married many years.

I kept forgetting John and I are years older than Faye and Lar, maybe because they made us feel young. They mentioned the age of their youngest son, and he is only a few years older than our elder grandson.

I REMEMBERED a trick from rehab days. The most slippery tub we had was in a handicapped room, of all places! John warned me before I stepped in. I put a washcloth where my feet would be and did not slip.

I FAILED to write about going to the Lewis and Clark Experience. This non-museum was in Sioux City, near where the members of the expedition camped. I was surprised to learn that only one man from the group died. He died in that area, and the rest of the men went all the way to the west coast and back without further loss of life. Amazing! The facility was geared for school children. We saw youngsters eagerly stamping their cards and rushing to the next exhibit. I felt the display was disjointed, but that’s a small drawback, since it was obviously exciting to the children there.

I WISHED I had asked John to stop the car when we first saw the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies on the horizon. We passed a small windmill near the road, one I could almost have reached out to touch. Water was running out of a small pipe, and it was the only windmill I ever saw accomplishing anything. Then I saw the solar panel. Although the structure looked like a windmill, it was really a solar mill.

I NOTED a regional food item that we had not seen before. We tried to eat in local restaurants most of the time. I ordered a chicken dish with lemon, spinach, and artichokes one day and saw the same item on the menu at a different place the next day. That did not define it as a regional favorite, but it was worth noting.

I WONDERED about fence structures along interstate highways in Colorado and Utah. John slowed down for me to take a picture of one. Does anyone know what this is for? There was an earth ramp up to the fence, and in the middle of the ramp was a divider. I guessed it would guide wild animals off the highway. The drop on the other side would discourage them from going near the road again. I’d love to know if my supposition was near the mark.

I LOVED coming back to my own bathroom. Have you noticed that public toilets and motel fixtures are designed for a short six-year-old?

We had a marvelous trip, but it was time to get home. The official log showed we drove 4,814 miles in two and a half weeks.

Audrey and End of Trip

Our last person to visit on the trip was Audrey. John had been in phone contact with her for the last few years, but this was the first time he had seen her since they graduated from high school 60 years ago. I knew she had been a refugee, but I heard more of the story. She came from Estonia and probably does not remember her father. He was in a war camp and died of TB. She remembers seeing a statue from the ship, which her mother told her was the Statue of Liberty. She was eight years old. Their sponsor did not know they had arrived, so someone took them to the Waldorf Astoria for the night. I cannot imagine life from the mother’s point of view. She must have struggled for many years to care for her daughter. Audrey went to school, not knowing a word of English. She spent half the day in second grade and half the day in third. It seems the language began to click when she took piano lessons. Audrey and John were in the first graduating class of Our Savior, a Christian school in the Bronx. From there she went to two-year Concordia College, eventually married her college sweetheart, got a BS in nursing, and later a master’s degree. She and Frank had two sons. The couple had a good life together, making it to their 50th wedding anniversary before Frank died.

The present-day Audrey smiled a lot and gave us a warm welcome. Several times she said how good this country had been for her. I agreed with someone who said Audrey was a blessing to the United States. She worked in the Veteran’s Hospital, and after retirement, volunteered there.

Audrey, husband Frank in photo, and John

There was one amusing incident. I knew Audrey was not hearing me well, so I said as loudly as I could, “You don’t speak with an accent! How did you do it?”

Audrey replied, “I cooked the pasta and meat together in the oven.”

Imagine a big-eyed cartoon of me, sitting there wondering exactly what she thought I’d said. John picked up on it, and he repeated my conversation for her.

In Kentucky we went through horse country and hilly landscapes before getting to East Tennessee, near home. It was marvelous to drive in and find hugs waiting for us. After other trips, we walked into an empty house, needing to unpack the car and buy groceries before being fully functional. Not this time! Rose made a statement that I ought to work with needlepoint, frame, and put on the wall. She said, “We cleaned so that you wouldn’t have to.”

Son John $pencer said, “We’re going to cook breakfast for you tomorrow. We found vegetarian sausage that Rose can eat, so we’ll have biscuits and sausage, bacon, and eggs.”

What a homecoming! When David came home from work, we had another warm welcome and more visiting. I didn’t know returning from a trip could be so exceptional.

John, Rose and our welcome home breakfast. The bacon is missing. It didn’t want to hog the photo.

One Day in Illinois

We miscalculated the time and were getting to Springfield too early for lunch. Cousin Peter and Debi had the wonderful suggestion of having brunch together instead of lunch. They met us at the restaurant, and we chatted until the hostess seated people at every table around us. We did right well, considering some of us don’t hear well and some don’t talk with booming voices.

While conferring on the phone to make the plans, they mentioned that we would go by a rest stop at mile 30 on the interstate. Debi’s father gave the easement to put that rest stop on his property. My question for Debi was if she remembered the building of the highway. She did, indeed. She remembered a night when she had a slumber party, and she and her friends walked over to the construction site.

I was interested in the health of their church. Some years ago four churches joined together, because none of them were big enough to keep going on their own. Debi was pleased to tell us that the melded church has been held up as an example of a successful integration. She and Peter, along with others, worked hard to make it happen. It’s always great to hear a success story.

The time together was all too short, but we enjoyed it while it lasted.

The Chicken Grandma!!

Friend Faye (https://thechickengrandma.wordpress.com/) in northwest Iowa is the fourth blogging friend John and I have visited. It is the most marvelous thing to meet someone you’ve known only through the computer. Maybe this time I’ll call it instant bonding. Faye and Larry came out to greet us, and there was not a moment of silence after that.

Because of Faye’s blog name, I wanted a photo of her chicken coop. She did a post on the building of it, using reclaimed materials. Farmers are resourceful, and I’m convinced Faye and Lar can fix or recycle almost anything.

As one of her girls wandered by, I asked Faye if she touched them. I should have asked if she petted them. She scooped up a black one and let me pet it. The answer is, she picks them up from time to time to keep them used to human contact. Their grandchildren would be disappointed if they couldn’t get near them.

Faye with a chicken and John and Larry in the background

Faye offered us peach iced tea and pie. When setting up a meeting with a blogger, I suggest we just sit and talk. I don’t want people diverted from conversation, because there is never enough time to say and hear everything. She asked in such a way that I knew the treat had been prepared. Additionally, I had seen photos of some of her creations in a post. Only a fool or someone on a restricted diet would have refused. Both the tea and the pie were superb.

We didn’t talk with our mouths full, but the conversation never flagged. We found out Larry likes motorcycles as much as John likes trains. Faye had photos of some trains on her camera and shared them with us. I wanted to know what crops they grow, and the answer was corn and beans. I thought that’s a little different from where I grew up in Tennessee, where we grew cotton and beans. They live way out in the country, so I asked where they bought groceries. Ten miles in any direction was the reply.

The land in northwest Iowa is beautiful – fairly flat and very green at this time of year. Before we left home, John showed me a Google map of the area. Everything, and I mean everything, is square. The land was laid out in squares when it was settled, so all the roads run in straight lines. What a contrast to the roads in the mountains of NC that go in endless circles!

We laughed a lot as we talked. I can’t remember all that we found amusing, but the conversation was most enjoyable. I wanted a quick refresher on their three sons. One lives nearby, but the other two are further away, meaning they don’t see their children and grandchildren as often as they’d like.

Faye knows birds and mentioned pigeons. I remembered pigeons from the three areas I’ve lived in. When a black and white bird flew over us, I asked her what it was. A pigeon. It’s coloring was not familiar to me, but the flight pattern was. When I described a bird I’d seen on a bridge, she thought it might have been a red-tailed hawk.

Larry and Faye talked about cracklins, if I have the name correct. It’s something he loves and she could happily live without. Pigs are raised in the area, and sometimes they are given one. After the good cuts are taken, they render the lard. It’s a messy job they do in the barn. They heat the bits and pieces. Faye likes to use the lard (fat) for pie crusts, and the meaty bits get crunchy and are frozen for later use.

I loved the story about French toast. When the boys were growing up, Lar occasionally cooked breakfast for them. They were active, always running about the farm, and they were bottomless pits. Four pieces of bread fit in the skillet he used. The boys could eat much faster than he could cook. His solution was brilliant. After every two pieces of toast, they had to drink a glass of milk or water. That no only slowed them down, it filled them up.

This was just a taste of our time together. Faye and Lar are warm and caring, the kind of folks you are instantly drawn to. As we were leaving, I took a quick picture of them with John. This was an event to remember and to share with others. When we were back on the road. I just sat and savored our visit. How blessed we were to have that marvelous time with Faye and Larry!

Faye wrote a lovely post about our visit. Read it here and get a bonus — the recipe for her pie shown above.

Still in Training

John is barely visible in a photo taken in the Milwaukee Shops. Hogging the picture is a Great Northern Steam Engine which ran out of Sioux City, Iowa. John enjoyed talking to two volunteers at the museum.

Great Northern Steam Engine

We went to church in South Dakota. It was a Lutheran Church of the Reformation, and we think it’s an association of Lutheran churches of which we know nothing. They used the hymnal we used to have, and the service was our favorite. The small church had active members, and I could also say the active church had small members – lots of children. The children were well-behaved. How I wish I could have taken a photo of one boy! He was nonchalantly barefooted. I laughed to myself when I saw that, because John was not approving the jeans I was going to wear. My black slacks were missing for several days, and I thought I might have left them in a motel. John found them yesterday, along with his missing socks and underwear, in a bag of laundry. He washed last night, so I was presentable to go to church.

At the church, there was another young boy who was chewing gum. As the teenager passed the offering plate in front of him, he pulled the gum out of his mouth and pretended to put it in the plate! I was glad he didn’t drop it.

Blogger friend Susie asked about the states we have been in. That’s John’s department, so I asked him to rattle them off, which he did – easily. We have one more to go, our 13th. John’s list is North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Indiana.

Somewhere in Nebraska I went to the restroom at a gas station. The stalls all had the same fixtures, but I was in a hurry and did not have time to read instructions.

I’m sure my face registered surprise when the seat was hot. Thankfully, there was a sign right in front of my nose to explain that. The day was hot, so I didn’t find a hot toilet seat to be particularly comforting.

The instructions for using the bidet were on the door. Wouldn’t you love to see the reaction of settlers going across this area in covered wagons if they saw that sign??