May 30, 2011

A Celebration and A Rememberance

As usual, time's evaporating, and I'm getting further behind with updates to the blog with every passing day. It's a consistent problem for me when we sit in one place for an extended period and I'm preoccupied with other things. Since the last post is now over a week old, let's bring the record up to date.

Our weekend trip northward for the wedding morphed into a busy week once back to Beaver Dam late Sunday the 22nd. This weeks project was working with Dar's brothers, Dennis and Steve, to remodel the main first floor bathroom in the house here at The Farm. The centerpiece of the project was the replacement of the old tub/shower module with a new walk-in shower -- which involved cutting up the old (wouldn't fit through doors) and installing a cool new three piece unit that assembled like lego blocks. And since things were all torn apart it was decided to retire the old vanity/sink, replacing it with a younger, more attractive unit (the quest for youth and beauty also applies to bathroom fixtures as well as people, doesn't it?).

The brothers, both trained carpenters and skilled in the building arts, did most of the work while I was happily relegated to holding this, running for that, and lugging the other thing. Despite my involvement it's turning out pretty good too. About 90% done, it's fully functional and everyone seems happy with the outcome. As we age it becomes increasingly difficult to step-over a tub to enter the shower... and this change makes it a snap... just negotiate a low step-over lip and you're in. Dar's Mom and Dad, in particular, will enjoy the change.

And speaking of Dar's Mom & Dad, Cal & Marion celebrated their 60th anniversary this week. Congratulations you two. That's quite a milestone... one to be proud of. This past Saturday a small gathering of family and friends came together to help them mark the event... a quasi-family reunion that was a lot of fun. Some hadn't seen others for many years and one thing in particular became very clear -- we're all aging faster than we'd sometimes like to admit.

I also saw a few medical-types this week. The dermatologist is watching a few areas on my exterior but isn't concerned enough yet to cut or biopsy anything. "No cavities" was the word from the dentist... however I think I'm going to go ahead and get a flexible, removable crown to replace the tooth (#19... lower left molar yanked out last year on account of a "resorption" problem -- whatever that is). Chewing with a crater on my left side isn't real productive... so we'll give the crown thing a try. And finally, my regular doc finally tricked me into agreeing to the dreaded "C"-word thing... a colonoscopy... which I've been successful in evading for the past 10 years. I'm not a strong person when it comes to medical procedures and have a whole library of involuntary reactions I can pull off the shelf when confronted by anyone medical wielding sharp objects or probes of any kind. The best thing I can say about this deal is that I've been promised that I'll be completely knocked out and it'll be over before I know it. Hmmm... bet they say that to all who climb the gallows (an inadvertently appropriate analogy since both procedures involve a trap door.) OK, enough of that.

We're experiencing a shockingly warm summer-like day here in Southern Wisconsin today... highs in the mid to upper 80's. Feels good after all the coolness of the past couple months.

OK... that's enough. Consider the record updated.

Remembering our Veterans on this Memorial Day...

May 21, 2011

Weddings and Raptures

Chippewa Falls, WI. is where we find ourselves this morning. We're here for a family wedding... Dar's nephew Joel is tying the knot with his betrothed, Mandy this afternoon. We wish them nothing but the best as they start their life together.

But how did it happen that they're getting married on the very day of the rapture? For the record, a California evangelical broadcaster... one Harold Camping... has predicted the long awaited event will take place at 6pm tonight. (Conveniently, it's going to happen at 6pm local time regardless of where are the planet you live. Wow!) According to the prediction those souls who are going to heaven will be plucked from amidst the rest of us sinners and whisked directly into heaven during the day today. The rest of us will have about 5 more months to suffer (wars, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods... all the bad things you can imagine) until the worlds comes to a complete end in October.

Considering that as I write this, 6pm has already come and gone for Australia and much of Asia, and I'm seeing no reports of missing people or earthquakes yet... I think it's safe to say that old Harold Camping is wrong... once again. Perhaps, as the sun rises on Sunday, we can begin to forget about one more loony-toon wacko and get on with the business of living rational lives again.  (Well, I can dream, can't I.)

I hope it will be a long time before I have to do the motel thing again. Among cranky noisy heaters/air conditioners, too soft mattresses, pillows of odd shapes and fills, light weight blankets that are even shorter than the always too short sheets, schlepping bags, packing... well it all makes me long for the bus-house and our comfortable digs.

May 18, 2011

News from My Hometown

A Raccoon you say?...
Alright all you big city folks out there... here's a slice of small town America for your enjoyment. Over the past couple weeks I've collected a few reports from the Beaver Dam Police Beat in the local newspaper. They're cut and pasted verbatim.

None of these would have gone beyond the dispatcher in any place much larger than Beaver Dam (pop. 15,000)... but here they earn a response from a police officer as well as a line in the paper. You can almost picture Andy and Barney hard at work. There's something attractive about small-town America... the simplicity... the peace... so different from the hubbub of the big city.

Police work at its best?
Harassment - At 1:10 p.m. on Friday, police received a report from a 26-year-old woman in the 600 block of South Spring Street that she was being harassed over the phone by another woman. Police left a voicemail for the suspect asking she cease all contact.

Parenting at its best?
Juvenile - At 7:47 a.m. on Jan. 19 a woman in the 500 Block of East Brown Street called police because her grandson was refusing to get dressed for school.

But they're still looking?
Animal - At 8:33 a.m. on Wednesday, police received a report of a possibly sick raccoon in the 300 block of Seippel Boulevard. Police were unable to locate the raccoon.

Garden of Eden?

Loitering - Police received a report on Saturday at 3 p.m. that there were two people lying on the ground in the community garden, 114 E. Third St. Police made contact with the man and woman and asked them to leave.


May 15, 2011

Celebrations and Milestones

We've been back in Beaver Dam for a week and a half and there's been no moss growing on these rolling stones... that's for sure. May is a busy month for family events... my Mom and Dad's Anniversary (61 years this year), a few birthdays, Mother's Day, a wedding next weekend, then Dar's Mom and Dad's Anniversary (the big 60). June promises to be a little less hectic, but a growing list of bus-house maintenance and repair issues will help set the pace and keep me from getting too sedentary.

Then our son and daughter-in-law (JT and Kaytlyn) are in the process of moving to the Seattle area.  He's been out there for the past few weeks, busy with his new job... finding a place to live, etc. while Kaytlyn completes her Masters Degree at UW Oshkosh and gets ready to move. So JT flew back this past Thursday and we all attended Kaytlyns graduation (hooding ceremony) Friday night... a touching event that is such a mile-stone, not to mention an emotional release for the students who put so much effort into this great achievement. Congratulations Kaytlyn.  But there won't be much time for these two as the movers come in on Monday to pack up their "stuff", which will be loaded onto a truck on Tuesday. The two of them and their two dogs and all the stuff they'll need to survive for the next week or two will then get jammed into a Hyundai Elantra and, after some quick "good byes" here in Wisconsin, they'll be high-tailing it for the West Coast and their new life. We're doing as much as we can to help but it somehow doesn't seem like enough. Having moved numerous times in my career, I know it'll all get done, but that doesn't make the task any less monumental for those going through it. Breathe deeply kids... and exhale slowly. Keep it all in perspective.

May 6, 2011

Catching Up

I've added a small bunch of new posts to the Journal earlier today. They're all back-dated to the appropriate day last week and may require some scrolling to find... lower... lower.

Just for fun, I'll throw up a few more pics from our trip.

May 4, 2011

Tennessee State Capitol

One thing we both grew tired of during this trip was schlepping bags in and out of motel rooms. Another thing was the variation in mattresses, blankets, and pillows in the various motels that made sleep difficult at times. These are little things but they sure made us appreciate the bus-house... and the ability to take our home with us most anywhere we go.  Well, at least most of the time.

Let's see... I guess it's Tuesday now and we were up early once again. The past day or two I came down with a good old fashioned cold and it was a doozie. Added to the motel experience and the cold rainy morning, I would really have preferred to be back at the bus-house, in my own bed, and just left alone to whimper and moan. But reality is what I had to deal with, so off we went to downtown Nashville to visit the Tennessee State Capitol.

The Capitol Building in Nashville is the 18th we've visited. Built before the Civil War, it's one of the oldest Capitols still in daily use. A small structure compared to the many State Capitols built in the late 1800's and early 1900's, it was designed by William Strickland and is considered his crowning achievement. In fact, he died in 1854, five years before the building was completed, and he's buried in the Northeast corner of the building in a tomb of his own design.

The building is constructed of bigby limestone, quarried just a mile or so from the Capitol. The interior walls are marble from other Tennessee quarries. It's one of only a handful of Capitols that have no dome and central rotunda. Much of the interior was restored to it's 19th Century grandeur during the 1980s. Certainly not one of the most decorated or ornate Capitols we've seen, it still had a charm and good feel to it. And it certainly is a worthy structure for the good people of Tennessee.

The building has only three floors. The top floor houses the House of Representatives, the Senate chambers, and the former State Library. The main floor has the Governor's Offices and Reception Room, the former Supreme Court chambers, and other offices. The lower floor, the basement, is off-limits to the public (we found that out for ourselves) and contains mostly offices for legislators.

By about noon we were once again on the road... Dar driving while I tried to sleep off the cold. From Nashville, it will be pretty much a beeline home... a beeline with one overnight stop that is. Crossing the Ohio River we did see a lot of high water -- the result of the record flooding on the Mississippi, Ohio, and it's tributaries this Spring.

We stopped for the night in Mattoon, IL.

May 3, 2011

Daniels and Lewis

Dar, at JD visitors center.
We got an early start Monday morning and continued west on US-64, which runs along with the Interstate System through the Chat. metro area. At Monteagle TN., US-64/I-24 intersects with TN-15, which we took west through Sewanee to Winchester and then took little Lynchburg Road up to the community of Lynchburg... which is home for the Jack Daniels Distillery. I've wanted to visit old Jack and the nation's oldest registered distillery for some time.

Our tour guide was a fella' named "Goose"... the quintessential Jack Daniels employee... exactly what you'd expect a JD tour guide would look like. Goose is so right for the part, he's been in a number of print ads for Jack Daniels. With a booming voice and slow methodical style, he entertained us for almost an hour and a half as we meandered from the rickyard, through the cave spring, original office, the still house, the charcoal mellowing vats, and a barrel house. The business has 1800 acres around Lynchburg and an astounding 77 barrel houses where the whiskey is aged for 4 to 6 years. Each barrel house, four or five stories high, contains about a million gallons of whiskey. All the water used in the production of JD comes from the Cave Spring, naturally pure iron-free water that's been flowing from the hills for longer than anyone can remember. The grains used in the product are primarily corn (80%), barley, and rye... a total of almost 20,000 bu. per day.
Thom, with "Jack on the Rocks"
Lynchburg itself is located in a dry county, so it's illegal to purchase or consume the product that keeps the town on the map. There is one exception to the rule however... the State of Tennessee passed a law not long ago that permits the sale of special limited edition or commemorative bottles of JD whiskey at the White Rabbit Store in the visitor center. Due to the price (high), I didn't see many purchases being made by our group.

Before noon, we were back on the road again, continuing west on US-64. About 15 miles west of Lawrenceburg we hopped on the Natchez Trace Parkway northbound. We've driven about half the Trace, mostly in Mississippi, before this, and thought we'd take advantage of this opportunity to knock out a good chunk of the part in Tennessee. This section includes the Meriwether Lewis National Monument, the place where the leader of the Lewis & Clark expedition died in 1809. Since we explored the L&C route from Astoria OR. to St. Louis, MO. a couple years ago, we've been interested in visiting here... perhaps for some closure.

Dar, at Lewis's grave.
Meriwether Lewis was somewhat of a head-case. He'd suffered from bouts of depression and withdrawal for much of his life. It's suspected that in 1809 he was despondent as a result of his inability to write the final report of the expedition for Thomas Jefferson, who, by this time, had been waiting more than three years for it. In September of 1809, Lewis set off for Washington along the Natchez Trace, stopping at Grinders Stand, an Inn along the Trace. He was reportedly acting in a strange manner at dinner that night and was heard talking loudly to himself in his room later. One theory is that he shot himself later that night; another is that he was shot by an unknown person; neither was ever confirmed. Those that knew him best believed the suicide theory while family stuck with the murder theory. Regardless, Meriwether Lewis, the intelligent, accomplished leader and explorer died the next day and was buried a couple hundred feet away from the Inn and right along the Trace. He was only 34.

We visited the replica of the Grinders Stand Inn built by the CCC during the depression. It's situated just a few feet from the remnants of the original's foundation but now believed to be a different floor plan than the original. A portion of the original Trace runs through the area and a short walk down the trail is an old Pioneer Cemetery where a dominant memorial marker was erected on the confirmed Lewis gravesite by the State of Tennessee.

We finished driving the Trace, arriving in the Nashville metro area late in the afternoon. Braving rush-hour traffic we found a motel just before heavy rain started falling, and hunkered down for the night.

May 2, 2011

Through the Appalachians

Our week with Tim and Chris flew by and on Sunday, May 1, we fired up the little Focus, said our good-byes, and headed for Wisconsin. Our plan was to take a little more time going back... to take a different and more challenging route... and to explore a few places along the way.

We took SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, west from the Gafney area, past Ceasars Head and Table Rock State Parks, to the intersection with US-178 at Mosely Gap, and then north to Rosman, NC. where we picked up US-64 west. Here we start crossing the Appalachians in earnest and for much of the 150 miles (crow distance) between Mosely Gap and Chattanooga TN., the road is twists left, bends right, climbs, drops, hair-pin turns... I swear not a straight section the entire distance. This is not a road that would be fun with the bus-house, but it's wonderful country filled with hills and hollows... and sprinkled with a number of retirement communities, golf courses, and upscale amenities in stark contrast to the poorer legacy communities jammed in the folds and creases of the landscape. It's not a route for making good time. But it's great for seeing a slice of rural Appalachia.

As we closed in on Chattanooga, near Cleveland, we drove through a path of destruction from a tornado that was part of the tornado-est day in US history this past week. A 24 hour period last Wednesday and Thursday saw over 300 tornadoes (a new record), and, sadly, over 300 deaths as well. Most were spawned by just-right conditions that ranged from Mississippi and Alabama, northeastward  into Virginia. The area we came through was mostly rural and what caught our attention was the clear path of stripped trees, downed power lines, debris all over the place, and a few trees that had been ripped by the roots from the ground and dropped here and there.

We found a motel near Chattanooga and bunked down for the night.

Beyond Branson; Pondering Future Travel

This past Tuesday, we moved from Branson to a very nice Corps of Engineer’s Park on Wappapello Lake.  We’re in the Redman Creek CG. This fac...