Thursday, January 18, 2018

Becoming Bionic

 The trip back "home"....and let me explain where that is....when you live in an RV full time, home is usually "where ever we park it" and/or "where ever Bill and I are together" or both.  Despite that, we still consider Northern Illinois, specifically Lake Zurich, "home", even though our old home

 is now occupied by Mandy and her boys, and we couldn't be happier.  But, our new home 

 can be picked up and moved if we were ever to have neighbors who were jerks (long story), but that hasn't happened yet in 5+ years on the road.

So, back to the trip home...our first night out we stayed at 
 near Redding, CA

That is clouds, not smoke:-) At 6000 ft of altitude you're likely to run into just about anything. 
And saw some drama along the way.

The next morning we awoke with anticipation of seeing new friend John Palmer, a campground host volunteer from Yosemite we had become friends with over the summer.  John was easy to like, charming to be with and worth a stop in Dunsmuir, CA for breakfast on day 2.  After following John, he in his little truck, us with the house behind us, weaving in and out of narrow, winding and hilly streets, we arrived at John's recommended restaurant, The Wheelhouse.     A lovely breakfast, in an interesting atmosphere, with good conversation took place before we finally gave in and hit the road again.

  North of Dunsmuir the scenery was awe inspiring.

  My brother-in-law Dave, as a little boy, called these low lying clouds:  "fluff in the dungeons"....
More "fluff in the dungeons".That day we had the joy of being able to help out a trucker, those jockeys of the highway who work so hard to bring us all the goods we find waiting for us in our stores etc.  Cruising in to a parking space at a truck stop, you know, in the back where only the trucks and 55 foot long people like us park, when we saw the trucker next to us acting funny.  He took one look at us and approached me asking if we had a screw driver.  Come to find out, the poor guy had locked himself out of his truck.  Now, this could be a very expensive mistake for a trucker!  Fortunately as we supplied tools and a ladder, another trucker came to assist and in 20 minutes we were all on our way:-)  Love that sort of thing, just goin down the road.
Getting close!
And it was THAT DAY we had been anticipating for months, meeting this little lady:

Eliza (great niece), Jan, Bill

We arrived at our nieces (Stephanie) house in Roy, WA right on time. 

 Dinner was bubbling in the kitchen (homemade tomato soup, YUM), Andrew and Stephanie welcomed us with open arms and a perfect spot to park our home for a couple of nights.

We got all the "meet and greets" out of the way before

Eliza is very used to big dogs
As you can see
  settling in and were well on our way to a wonderful evening and then, more surprises:  nephew Chris and his wife Maddie (BTW who's wedding we had missed last summer when somebody blew his eardrum out diving  into Green Bay) arrived.

 Chris is the oldest son of Bill's sister Jane.  He has been living in Indiana until recently when he took a new job (in Everett, WA) very close to where his cousin Stephanie (Roy, WA) lives with her family.  The cousins have been able to reconnect
Chris takes the pix while Eliza, Stephanie, Maddie and Andrew prepare Thanksgiving dinner
and Eliza has become particularly attached to Maddie 

 The surprises continued when Chris and Maddie announced they are expecting!  We were so honored to be included in this moment.  Thanks guys!

Our 4th day out of Yosemite we didn't have to move the RV, nice little break.  But, we were still on the road as we drove up to  Everett, WA to the Apache Camping Center

to see Chris and check out his new work digs.  We met Chris's work peeps, all of them nice, friendly and open.... we felt very good about him being there.  We roamed the lot while Chris was busy with a customer...dangerous, but it was OK as they had no units there larger than 36'...SAFE!

Having a dinner date to take Andrew, Stephanie and Eliza out as a little token of our appreciation, we had to pass on having lunch with Chris....good thing we did BECAUSE TRAFFIC WAS AWFUL!  (the outskirts of Seattle).

We made it time for our dinner date, bundled little Eliza up and headed out to the only restaurant within any reasonable distance, The General Store Steakhouse.
  In we walked, but when the waitress approached, she had the funniest look on her face. Seems children under the age of 18 are not allowed.  Stephanie took up the cause, explained how "good" Eliza was.  I also responded in the negative, when asked if we were "staying for the band?".  "OK,  sit in the corner, stay quiet and leave before the band starts" says the waitress.  Don't think I've ever eaten at a restaurant with those restrictions before. 😳😳😳😳

 And Andrew the perfect Dad, How do you like the bib we got for her??????
Eliza was a perfect angel.
  It's called "Add a kid"  and I think she liked it:-)

We finally took our leave and headed to Wallace, ID  

 I wasn't really impressed with this RV park in Wallace, but it was only for 1 night.

And, besides, it did have a nice place to take a walk.

 Then it was on to Montana...
The drive thru this state was gorgeous...

Beautiful skies...
Thousands of

"Pronghorns" along the way...

So amazing, sometimes it looked like a painting, living up to its name 'Big Sky Country'!

  After settling in at the Old West RV Park...

  The owners, Brad and Diane were a joy to converse with.  Brad produced a pizza to rival any of our hometown Chicago pizzas.

we walked down the mainstreet (looked like a ghost town) to have dinner at the local wateringhole the "Waterhole Saloon". (appropriate)
By the end of the evening, we were made to feel like "locals", and it made us want to be.  Reed Point, MT is now a destination location for these two travelors.
If you have the opportunity, you gotta stop in....and say "hi" for us.


Our 7th day on the road back home was a long one at 426 miles and 9 hours from putting it into "drive" to putting it into "park".  But we ended up at Wall, SD in the Sleepy Hollow RV Park, and put in a good nights rest.

Being that we took a big bite on Day #7, Day #8 was a  piece of cake and landed us at Checkers Welcome CG, in Welcome, MN,

   where we felt the name of the town was well earned.  Not only was the campsite quite nice and the manager super, the cost was the ridiculously low price of $25.

We settled in quickly (we were starting to wear down) and sought out the nearest (and only reasonably close) restaurant, Kortes Bar.  It turns out the restaurant was/is owned by the same people who own the campground we were currently "jacks down" at.  BONUS.......FRIED PICKLES!!!!!!  And good ones too!

PS:  The restaurant/bar is for sale...the fried pickles would be worth it right there:-)

Day #9:  The one we've been looking for.  219 miles to Viroqua, WI where I was scheduled for pre-surgical training, in preparation for my TKR-R (total knee replacement-right) on October 16th.  
Our friend Skip had told us about RV camping at the Vernon County Fairgrounds in Viroqua.  It is pretty basic camping, but with the place being virtually empty in late September, we did not have trouble getting a water hookup.  

No sewer was not a problem as we were going to be out of there late the next afternoon and making our final destination in New Lisbon, WI at our friends Don and Lisa's house.

This carriage was unrestored except for the mechanical aspects.
  While out walking the fairgrounds that afternoon we came across this unique feature.  The driver offered us a ride, but sadly we had to decline as Tessa was with us and I did not want her spooking these beautiful horses.
2 Morgans and 2 Quarter Horses were the only fuel required. 

Note: this is an original stagecoach, unrestored except for the mechanical parts to keep it running .

Day #10: finally reaching New Lisbon, WI where we were set to hunker down for 3 months during my knee replacement rehab. 
2 days of rest and we headed northeast to Door County and Camp Zion ( where I was registered for my 1st "quilting retreat".  

I was staying in Camp, so Bill brought the "House" along and camped out at Hyland RV Resort (this will come up again later)

You can imagine that by the time I was planted behind my sewing machine with nothing to do but sew for 4 days, a wave of blessed relief wafted over me.

Some of the Quilters were quite prolific, I hope to be that someday!

But I did meet my goals to finish these bags, this one for a Christmas surprise....

And this one was a just because I love you gift.........              
That golden oldie is my BFF Audrey....and she LOVED hers.

  And what was my guy doing all day while I was sewing?????  Why, replacing "Camp Zion" signs.  Apparently they make good souvenirs.

Bill goes way back with Arnie and Dale.
  And this made the trip extra special ..... seeing Dale (Camp Director) and his Dad Arnie!  (you too Carol and Shirley).

I learned ALOT from those quilting ladies, and hope to join them again soon! 

 So, on Bill's birthday (Oct. 4th) we pulled out of Camp Zion heading south toward Lake Zurich, but not without first stopping at Seaquist Orchard  for a few quarts of Door County cherries.  To make a cherry pie with any other kind of cherry is to not make a cherry pie at all.  

Near one of our fav restaurants in Sturgeon Bay, we had the opportunity to see something we had not seen in many years.   Fall color!  

Our arrival at Fish Lake Campground was well after dark, a mistake we will not soon again make.   Not only was it pitch dark out, but Fish Lake is well stocked with VERY large trees.  It was a good thing we were just stopping here for a few days before delivering our RV to Camping World, Saukville, WI for some minor repairs, because in the dark, backing in to a VERY tight space the RV decided to run up against a tree causing some roof damage.  Some people pay taxes, we buy tires and RV repairs:

Still, we made it to our lunch date with Bill's brother Dave the next morning, and it was a joy he brought our nephew JJ along for the ride.  Tessa was especially pleased to see these favorite friends of hers.  

Another great thing about being home is getting to go to grandchildren's events, which we normally have to miss.   The first time I heard Kate sing was the summer before, around the campfire at Camp Zion.  She sang like an angel!  I was compelled to just be quiet and listen.

And it was  our first chance in a long while to see our youngest Grandies Moira and Teagan.  Which both the girls and Papa seemed to relish.

 Kudos for Kate having the guts to get up and let all of us enjoy her sweet voice. 

Shortly before Kate's performance we were compelled to miss our granddaughter Moira's 1st recital.  It was a great disappointment, as we were living so close.  But, being it was just days after my knee replacement surgery, a 3 hour drive was not in my best interests.  Still, her Aunt Megan sent us a video of the event, and a few weeks later, at Moira's 5th birthday party, Megan gave us a blow by blow description.  Apparently this 4 year old drummer took down the house.  

Due to the timing of this visit (1st week of October) we were able to have a family birthday party for Bill.  Something not experienced in 5 years.  
Cyndy was the hostess, Bil, his youngest, brought Teagan and Moira

The kids always like it when Papa gets silly  
Kate, Teagan and Moira enjoy each others company
What party would be complete without a dog, Christine agrees
Reading time with Papa is always a joy whether you're 5 or 15

On the drive to the party we were blessed with this beautiful sight (editors note:  the pix does not do it

 So after a few days of

Me and my BFF Audie
  fun and revelry with family and friends,

Angela and Adrian, our Italian besties

Dave, my B.I.L. with Bill
including a party with our (almost) entire gang (Kathy M. was away at a family function),

   we pulled up stakes and left to bring the RV to Camping World in Saukville, WI who is our chosen repair shop.  They would have our "house" for a little over 3 months.  By the time we got her back after our Christmas visit home and were making a short stop for groceries, we didn't even mind the 50 degree temperature change we experienced that day, driving from Lake Zurich to Saukville to New Lisbon.

       At least it wasn't this! 
2010 at 85 Lnden Rd., Lake Zurich, IL
                                                                                                    Never fear, along the way we bought something we never thought we would need again (gave away about 5 of these).

 Back "home" it was time for my surgery, finally, after all, this entire trip north east was about me getting a 2nd titanium knee: 

 A room with a view???  

  It looks ALOT better 8 weeks later

 Tessa waited patiently, and made many friends while hanging out at the hospital.

 And picking scripts at Walgreens
I was out of there in short order and recouping back at Don and Lisa's. 

  I am, as of this writing almost back to normal:-)

Then it was time for the annual pumpkin carving ceremony, power tools and all.  This historically, was an event shared with the grands and we sure missed them.  
Brett and Natalie circa 2009
Johnny Kate and Christine circa 2009
Still, a long awaited shopping trip to make good on our birthday promise to Christine (waiting since September) afforded Papa some nice alone time with her, as they shopped for a new winter coat.  

I guess it's easy to see which one was the winner.  She has come a long way since the above pumpkin carving picture.

Back in Wisconsin for a few weeks of hanging out at the homestead, quiet nights, days busy with PT and one very special regional event...going to see the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train as it passed through the small towns of Wisconsin on December 4th.  This has been on my bucket list for a long time, but proximity is everything here.  We were now in the right place, at the right time, and I was not going to miss it.  

   The train, fully decked out with Christmas lights and a rail car that turns into a stage, stops at  many small towns, gives a mini concert, and collects goods for their food pantry.  This years headliner was Terri Clark, bonus!  Extra cool that the rail car opens from both sides so that people on both sides of the tracks can see and hear the performers, as they make each, approximately 20 minute, stop.


Tessa made many new friends in the crowd, not the least of which was her first visit with Santa.

Going south thru Wisconsin, the snow making machines at the ski slopes were busy.
 And before you know it, it was time to go south to Lake Zurich again for the Christmas season was upon us.  As we were going to stay a few days with my cousin Lee, at her senior housing facility, it was time to make good on a 3 year old promise to entertain the residents living there with a program on the National Parks.  Marilyn, the manager of the facility in Palatine had been asking us to do this program for awhile, and I had been putting it off, not having had the time to put the slide show together.  But, Marilyn had come up with the idea of doing a "What's My Line" theme show, and I had gotten excited about the idea.  So, on our first afternoon back "home" again, we were ready with a 45 minute slide show and theme music.  We didn't know how many seniors to expect, but when about 25 showed up, we were pleased.  It seems, from all accounts, it was one of the largest turnouts ever for one of their programs!  We began with the guessing aspect, just like the show.  We were surprised when those folks began peppering us with questions, and in about 10 minutes were very close to the answer.  We finally revealed that we were Full Time Volunteers for the National Park Service" and began the slide show.  My one big challenge was Frank.  Frank had arrived early and taken his seat.  It was obvious Frank was blind, and I was worried he would not enjoy the lions share of the program.  My solution was to add verbal descriptions of each slide, as best I could in the 4 seconds each slide was on the screen.  I don't know if this helped, but Frank expressed, to us, his enjoyment as much as the rest of the audience.  An hour and a half later most of the seniors were still there, asking questions.  

Then we were on to family gatherings, and speaking of traditions...the annual Macy's Day (originally Marshall Field's) with the grands was first on the docket.  Papa and I had begun this tradition with Natalie many years ago:  take the train downtown, see Santa and have lunch (though, due to time constraints this year, it was dinner) at the Walnut Room.  We have always allowed the kids to choose 1 ornament to buy for Mom, with the only stipulaton that they all 3 had to agree on which one.
The search begins
  Each one chooses their own entry into the contest, and a vote is taken.  I believe each one of the kids has been successful, with the group choosing their entry at least once.

Christine makes her choice first

Then Johnny comes up with his choice
Finally Kate

 And by the end of the day we all felt this way  I think Cyndy was happy with their choice.
A pix in front of the tree from the viewing floor is a must!


  Christmas Eve dinner was delightful.  At Cyndy's house with her significant other Michael and his kids, Leo and Eden.  We all had a great time, even though Bill and I had to hurry off to church.

This is a family gathering circa 2017:-0

Attending church at Christ Community Church, where Bill has been a member since the day he was born, is always a special treat.  And on Christmas Eve it was made even more special when we ran into these young ladies.  Our nieces from Roy,WA...they should look familiar:-)  

Other longtime friends we ran into that evening at church, we were able to meet for lunch later in the week.  

George (a Vietnam vet) and his wife Linda during a long awaited meal together.

We were also able to catch up with very close friends, Ron and Ellie, from our Lake Zurich church home Alpine Chapel

Now, back to Christmas was, as it has been for many years (when we can get home), at Christy and Jim's house in Cary.  Christy is a fabulous hostess and Jim can cook for me anytime.  He is the grillmaster extraordinaire'.  

The grands all seemed to like the simple gifts we brought them, and that was a gift to us.
Natalie seemed to like her scarf , she wore it for 2 days:-)

I thought Johnny could benefit from the next size, but he refused to give it up.

Christine, the artist in the family, seemed to like her sketching pencils

And I think Kate liked her Dream Catcher
Teagan begins to open our gift...A full set of the Cat In The Hat Learning Series
Since the books were a gift for both Teagan and Moira, I saw it as a good sign that together they hauled the entire crate upstairs to the landing and curled up with them.

That makes this my:
Kid Moment of the Month

And while I am at it, Christmas Day was also good for my
Funniest Moment of the Month

See it live at

                                                The baubles were a gift from Lynda (Bill's 1st wife) who saw and fell in love with them, but quickly realized Ron's (her hubby) beard would not be long enough to support them.  Thus, we became the lucky recipients.  I must say, I love them, and we did and will get many laughs out of them for years to come.  Thanks, Lyn!

On the day after Christmas Bill and I relocated from Palatine to Barrington, where we were committed to "cat sit" for 2 weeks or so while Tami (Bill's oldest) and Brett vacationed in FL.  We left the senior apartment building we had been staying at and drove into the deep freeze, and I mean deep freeze!  We arrived at Tam and Brett's to find the garage door inoperable.  A quick text revealed the location of a hidden key and Bill walked thru the cold and snow to retreave said key.  He found it alright!

 " I think it is going to take awhile before we can get in", Bill says as he holds the key over the truck's defrost vents.
So, cat sit we did, which gave us the opportunity to catch lunch with Bill's son Bil and his family right on Bil's birthday, 1/7, a rare treat.  

Then before we knew, it my time to hang with Audie came to a close once again and we headed back north to that frozen tundra, pulling our home behind us:-)

Her 1st time in snow, I wonder how she feels                                                                                    about it?                                                                                                                                                           

Wonder if she is looking forward to February 22nd 

 when we will pull away from this wonderful gift our friends have so graciously provided us during my time of surgery and rehab.  Don and Lisa have the biggest hearts of anyone I have ever known, and we have known some people with pretty big hearts!  We cannot thank them enough for their kindness!  (You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God)And that exit date of February 22nd???  Where will our wandering hearts take us to next???? the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Georgia.  
We are thrilled to be serving at our first "Civil War" site.  Let the learning begin!

  We will be there March and April before we head back north to Door County for the summer.  And what a GOD thing that turned out to be.....more on that next blog...but for now....A short note about these last 4 months from both Bill and I.....It has been a real revelation to us that we have enjoyed this time of being completely without any duties or responsibilities for the first time in 5+ years.  We thought we would quickly get bored, but that has not been the case......we both have so many interests/hobbies and as far as getting caught up with them, we have not yet made a dent. But back to "work" we will be with some slight changes in the future.It has been suggested Bill's legs would benefit from a few hours up in the air each day.  This would mean his scar tissue would heal better.  So, we will be taking less active posts and maybe more down time:-)  In Door County, Lord willing.  His will be done!
Bible Verse of the Month
2 Corinthians 9:13 NIV Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for yourgenerosityin sharing with them and with everyone else.

Don and Lisa embody the spirit of Christ!

Thank you for your visit!