Bathroom Chuckles

We stopped for lunch in a pub. David came back from the one restroom in the back, chucking about a sign on the door. Thinking others would enjoy it, I snapped a picture of it.

Looking at it a day later, I wondered if the sign was poking fun at our state. A year or so ago North Carolina passed a law to define which bathroom people should use. We were the laughingstock of the nation, and perhaps the world. The pub had only one public restroom, so obviously everyone would use it. I decided the message of the sign was a good one. It doesn’t matter if you are human or alien, the important thing is to wash your hands before leaving that room.

We went to see the Apple Valley Model Railroad Club, housed in the former train station of Hendersonville. John was impressed with the layouts and the attention to detail in the areas they modeled. There were sections with buildings from Canton, Asheville, Black Mountain, Waynesville, and a few others. I had photos from the sections featuring HO gauge and garden railway size.

There was one engine from the 1/8th scale, which is the size John currently works with at his train club in Tennessee. I need a good picture of him sitting behind his engine as it pulls him around the tracks.

Club members interacted with us as they ran the trains. I laughed when one man told me that I could rest easy if my men were in the hobby. He said, “You know when they aren’t in the house, they are not out somewhere drinking. They are in the garage tinkering with trains.”

On the way home, we stopped at Sunburst Waterfalls, our favorite. I took one photo looking downstream, because the water level was lower than we’ve seen before.

Retirees at Work!

Our little street ends abruptly at the beginning of Dawn’s and Jeff’s driveway. There isn’t much room to maneuver for them or for Shawn and Bob. The men discussed widening the area, and today the gravel was delivered. Neighbor Logan (9) was visiting us when John saw people shoveling. He said he was going out to help, and Logan could go home or help. You’ll see Logan’ choice below.

Shawn texted me, saying, “Should you get some pics of our Tibi Lane workers?? It would make a good blog subject.”

Wow! Does anyone else have a neighbor who promotes your blog in real time?? I would have missed the action entirely, because I was texting with grandson David at the time. The still shot showed the workers. Bob, wearing a red shirt, was almost off camera.

Bob, John, Jeff, Dawn, and Logan

Logan (retired from third grade) was innovative. He tried shoveling gravel into a wheelbarrow, but the equipment was unwieldy for him. He brought out his sled and put it away when it wasn’t efficient. Using a scoop and a bucket was his winning idea. If you can, watch the video clip to see the team in action. Logan moved a LOT of gravel and took in his tools when he was through. What a winner!

When John and I came inside, he showed me the origami frog Logan had made for him. The folds of the paper didn’t show up well in the photo, but the frog was amazing. The card says, “Happy Birthday!! Hope you have a good birthday. Love, Logan”

I say it often, but it bears repeating. We have marvelous neighbors!

Birthday

The only way we could have made John’s birthday more low-key was to ignore it. I wished him a happy day within 15 minutes of waking up, so give me credit for that. There was no discussion of the birthday meal, since it has become our custom to go to the restaurant that grandson Nathaniel worked in for two summers. John called to make sure they would be serving prime rib, his once-a-year favorite. We went to church and took naps, waiting for the place to open. Evidently it was birthday Sunday, because a woman at the next table was celebrating her 95th.

I took a photo of John and grandson David, because it wouldn’t be a proper celebration in our family without pictorial evidence.

For the foodies: David had Chicken Parmesan with pasta, and I chose Bourbon Pecan-Encrusted Chicken over mashed potatoes. I did not stab the potatoes with a knife; it came that way. John’s meal was exciting to the palette and visually boring.

At home we skipped having a candle on the cake, although we sang the birthday ditty as we put the dessert on the table. We had John’s standard angel cake with strawberries, his favorite since childhood.

David added blueberries to the top, and I was amused that it ended up looking like a silly face.

John is now officially 78 years old. However, at some point he began counting his age backward, so he is really 13 years old now. He teases that when he is two years old, the grandsons will have to wheel him about, like he pushed them in their strollers.

Identifying a Wildflower

I wondered aloud about some bright red berries above the road, knowing neighbor Marla might know the answer. She is a waste-no-time problem-solver. John held Albert’s leash while Marla tried to get a phone app identification. The app didn’t perform, so she took a photo of the plants and hoped one of her friends could give us the answer. I admired her steady hand as she zoomed in for a close-up.

Albert wasn’t interested in berries out of his reach.

Meanwhile, out West, son John $pencer and Rose saw snow beginning to blanket a mountain peak in Wyoming. The next day they were hiking in snow! Do you think dog Sadie was making snow angels?

Bargaining for a Recipe

Our outing this week was going to Pisgah Inn where the clouds can sometimes be below the dining room. The day was cloudy, which is often the best time to go there. We didn’t see rain, but we did watch the clouds as we enjoyed good food. Grandson David and I agreed to share a dinner, knowing there is always too much food to eat comfortably at one sitting. We were saving room for a fabulous dessert. John had a light meal by himself and was ready to share a sweet. We had French silk pie and Brownie a la mode. With three of us sharing two desserts, we didn’t have to feel guilty about the cost or the calories.

I should have taken a photo of the chocolate pie, but I was too busy cutting it up. It disappeared in no time, although we continued to talk about it. John wanted to know was it really fudge. No, candy would not have that consistency. Since it was quite firm, did I think it was frozen? No, it was not frozen because it didn’t melt. Finally I said to him, “Bring me here ten times, and I’ll order the pie each time. I’ll figure out what is in it and find a recipe for it.”

John laughed, but he had a quick retort. He said, “I’ll bring grandson Nathaniel here just once, and he’ll know how to make it for me.”

We were cold in the dining room, almost to the point of shivering. David said he was going outside as soon as we got up from the table. I took his picture as he grabbed the railing firmly and said how good it felt to have his hands instantly warmed.

We drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping a couple of times to look at rain in the distance. David was busy getting a panoramic picture with his phone when I aimed at him and the mist in the mountains.

A real photographer urged me to try a panoramic shot, and I looked in the manual to see if there were instructions for my camera. I couldn’t find anything specific. My attempt failed. The camera said it couldn’t save it. David offered to help me do it with my phone, since he had just done it with his. The phone said it wouldn’t save my shot and to shut it down before trying again. I think I have a terrible tech rebellion on my hands. My consolation prize was one photo of the Smokies that I liked.

Minnesota in the Mirror

Part of the pleasure in coming home is remembering a trip. I thought of the odd things I didn’t write about, mostly things that didn’t fit anywhere else. Toothpaste is one of them. Does toothpaste go bad? My dentist gives patients a tiny tube at every six-month visit. I had three of them in my bag. It was late, and I was tired, so I presumed the paste looked gray because I was looking at a bit of gray sealing film. A day or so later I saw the paste itself was not white or blue or striped. I shrugged and used it anyway, figuring if it was lethal, I’d already be dead.

John plays a license plate game when driving. He has done this as long as I can remember. He glances at a vehicle he is passing and notes the state it comes from. When the children were little, he said the name out loud and occasionally had a map for them to color in each state he found. I should ask if it helped them with geography. The game begins when we pull out of the driveway and ends when we come home. He found all but four of the lower 48 states on this trip. We have seen Alaska plates occasionally and one from Hawaii only once. Would it be classified as distracted driving? Maybe not, because John is far-sighted, and he has memorized the distinctive colors. He also knows which states have tags on the back only and those with tags on front and back. When he sees gold and dark blue in the rear mirror, he says, “Here comes a New Yorker.”

The most amazing thing about this game is that he keeps it all in his head! If I were playing, I’d write the list in alphabetical order and wouldn’t know which states were missing. After driving for several hours, I’ll ask what he has found. He’ll say he has all the northern states from Maine to California or all those from New England. On this trip he had everything east of the Mississippi River except three in the northeast. By that, you can tell he has a permanent map in his head. The states he spotted probably glowed in living color. How can one head hold all that information as he drives for thousands of miles?

John sees more while driving than I do while concentrating on looking out of the window. He saw a hearse pulling a boat! Tennesseans take fishing and boating seriously, so I’m wondering if yesterday there was a casket in a boat for one last ride around the lake.

There is always one motel room that was the worst. This trip, it was the last one. The outside looked fine, and the desk clerk seemed normal. We had our suspicions when we got out of the elevator and smelled air freshener. Surely the room would be okay. We opened the door and were hit by the overpowering smell of odd flowers. You know how suspicious people in the movies search for a bug that records their voices? We looked for the air freshener with the same intensity. We think it was in the air conditioner, so we turned it off. Luckily we didn’t bake through the night.

During the last trip, I complained about toilets designed for short six-year-olds. This time we had a bathroom designed for a basketball player, one with six-foot arms. The toilet paper holder was on the opposite wall from the toilet! What was the designer thinking? Walking across the bathroom to get toilet paper is not normal.

The bathroom high point was a newly installed sink. I wash hose every night, and I can tell you that 90% of the time the stopper won’t work in a motel room. I’ve seen a stopper so crooked that it couldn’t fit in the hole. Most lead you to believe you can trust them for five minutes, and they suck the water out in ten seconds. I’m surprised they don’t slurp and burp. Well, this good one was like newer tub stoppers, the kind you step on to close. No, I didn’t use my foot in the sink. I pressed it with my hand, and it would have held water for 24 hours! Stoppers in heaven are going to work like that.

Speaking of heaven, coming home was heavenly. It was way past lunchtime, so John took David and me out to lunch at Bogart’s. David and I flopped in chairs in front of the TV, while John packed for his early-morning departure to the train club. We chatted while watching some show about rehabbing mansions. I walked through our non-mansion house, and I was pleased with the neatness of it (!!!), the height of the ceilings, and the spaciousness and lightness of the rooms. Dark colors are “in” for motel décor, and my reaction was appreciation for light and space to move about. How blessed we are to live here!

Heading Home from Minnesota

The last of the celebrations was a breakfast given by Sid’s parents. The teachers and graduate students were traveling later in the day, and the locals were going to take down the tent and decorations at the farm, so it was not a lengthy meal. We sat at the dining table with Eddie’s mother and sister, Eric, Eric’s daughter, and his father-in-law. The FIL asked about Eric’s dad, so John told the story about Haakon’s boarding the Queen Mary during World War II. It’s an amusing story, which everyone enjoyed.

If you don’t know these people, it won’t help to have their names listed.

We were among the first to leave. Thom and Barbara headed to Maryland, and we were going to see cousin Peter and Debi in Illinois. We drove together for a few hours before they pressed on and we stopped for lunch.

The next day John told Debi and Peter about our going to church on Sunday. John and Peter share the grandfather who was the pastor there 100 years ago. There was only one cousin who was not aware of our going to that church, because he lives in Norway. I’m sure Kirsten and Eric will share with their brother.

Peter, John, and Debi

Since we were in Illinois, we decided to drive through the town where our pastor grew up. He refers to Mulberry Grove in his sermons from time to time, so we knew it was a very small community. It was a little town that time passed by. I thought it was something like Mayberry, NC, a fictional town we knew from television. John pointed out that Mayberry had a barber shop and a police station, which we did not see in Mulberry Grove.

I texted Pastor M before we got to his town, and he replied after we left. I sent a photo of the post office as we rode down the highway. He wrote back, “I grew up one block from the post office right next to the old elementary school.”

I asked, “This one?”

Boarded up school in Mulberry Grove, IL

That was the one. His home was across the street from the school. He went on to say, “On the corner of the street was an old stop sign for 30 or 40 years, and in the back of it was a dime that I lost when I dropped it down the slot as I waited for the ice cream cone truck to stop.”

We felt sorry for the little boy who lost his ice cream money, but we laughed, because it’s the kind of story he tells so well.

We made it to Tennessee and will be home tomorrow.