Thursday, April 12, 2018

Relieving cabin fever.....

January 15-March 15, 2018

Beginning with TESSA Chronicles
because no blog would be complete without out them.....Circa January 15th: New Lisbon, WI

The Tessa Chronicles; uh, Dad? It’s snowing, it’s really really snowing, and it’s just so pretty, and quiet! I think I’m just going to sit here and watch the forest fill up with snow. 
Ok this is pretty boring! Pretty, but boring, get it? Dad? Hey dad, your eyes are closed, and don’t try to tell me that you’re just resting your eyes either! 

Yes, we had a lot of down time this winter, got a lot of naps in and hobbies completed, or new ones started.

Dead of winter and we were still able to have fun:

as it is just to important to miss, January in our world usually means "RV Show" month.  One of the biggest shows, nationwide, is near our old stomping grounds, Chicago.  Being a mere 3 hours away and 7 years since we have gone to one, we decided to hit the show up just for fun.  No, we don't need another unit (very happy with the one we have),  just wanted to see what was new in the world of RV's.  An interesting thing happened:  for many years (pre 1st RV purchase) we attended the Chicagoland RV Show, walked in the front door, wandered all around, looking at EVERYTHING, dragging out of there 6 hours later, exhausted, with sore feet and backs.  THIS year, with a lot more experience under our belts, we entered the front door, grabbed a map of the showroom floor, identified the 4 things we wanted to see, made a beeline for each in succession, and exited 2 hours later with enough of us left to entertain family for dinner that evening.

Tami (Bill's oldest), Bill, Mike (married to Diane), Diane (niece) and Jennifer (niece) 

By the time we got thru the holidays and were back on our own turf, the need to get small was great.  For two weeks we barely left the house.  Then it was the call of the popcorn at the movie theatres near and far which became irresistable. Embark on "Oscar Quest 2018" we did.  "Oscar Quest"????? Glad you asked!  Every year (for 10 years now), after the Oscar nominations come out each February, Bill and I  endeavor to see every movie nominated for "Best Picture", "Best Actor/Actress" and "Best Supporting Actor/Actress".  Some years that means 20 movies, some years it means 12 movies, but every year we have a lot of fun!   One of the early lessons impressed upon us..... "do not rush to judgement".  There are often movies on that list we would not have voluntarily gone to see, that turn out to be REALLY GOOD.  This years surprise, a "horror/suspense" movie amongst the nominees for Best Picture. 
A rare situation indeed for the "Horror" genre.  Keeping in mind we have a policy...avoid seeking out information on any of these movies.  That said, we suspected "Get Out" was going to be a scary movie, just based on the title.  But, on "the list" it was, and though neither on of us cares for the genre, we went.  Scary?  Yup, we both barely held on, but by the time it was over, we (at least one of us) was glad we did.  I got thru it and we both agreed....if there was a Best Picture-Horror,  it would have won, but for this "best picture" category????  NOT so much!  Worthy, no, but is it worth seeing (at Halloween time) sure.

PS.  I called it this year in the Best Picture category: 

The Transition

The time to get ready to head south was upon us....liftoff prep time was here once again...clean, organize and repack the RV.  But first, squeeze in some winter fun (yes, I said winter and fun in the same sentence)....

one lesson learned from this 5 month season of down time:  winter isn't so bad if you dress for it:-)

8 inches of snow, lake frozen solid,  Tessa "catching" the elusive snow balls (yea, I know I'm mean), and a week later the snow was melting away.

I was sure glad we got our winter walk in.  That evening we had our last campfire.  Yep, we are crazy when it comes to campfires!  

Final task to be completed for Bill, was to complete Don and Lisa's Christmas bulb.  If you know Bill's talents, well, the painting of glass Christmas bulbs goes back many years.  Of late though (maybe 8 years now) Bill's hands have been rather unsteady with "Essential Tremor"
"Essential tremor is a nervous system (neurological) disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking. It can affect almost any part of your body, but the trembling occurs most often in your hands — especially when you do simple tasks, such as drinking from a glass or tying shoelaces.  It's usually not a dangerous condition".  
and he had all but retired from painting glass bulbs (a 360 degree scene on the inside of the 3 inch bulbs).  The last one completed for Connie and Jerry out at Joshua Tree, 2 years ago.  So, what adjustments do you make when your body re-sets your paradigm?  As I did when the MS messed with my head, you make adjustments to continue doing that which you love, for the people you love.  In this case Don and Lisa:

Bill and Don

Instead of a 3 inch bulb, I located 4 inch glass Christmas bulbs, Bill made adjustments to his brushes, and he was back in bulb business.

Yes, a bit of brandy also helped with the tremor:-)

The final, final last minute task, reload the refrigerator in the RV,  and we were ready to be off!!!!!

We left New Lisbon,  WI, creeping out on 3 inches of solid ice.

Heading south to Chicago where the 

temperature is up to 40 degrees already, with the promise of even better temps before we reach Murray, Kentucky (our 2nd driving days destination).  I doubt we will have to use the new Yak Trax 

we recently bought, though we made good use of them up north...walking my new knee on the snow and ice, they came in handy.

This 1st leg of our journey to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park took us from the frozen New Lisbon, WI area to our old "home" base and 50 degrees.  Lake Zurich, where, this year,  we stayed at a newly discovered camp.......

Camp Reinberg

This  is a Cook County District camping facility just 5 minutes from my BFF's, Audie's, house.  

Blessed to find this "open year round except Christmas and New Years" campground with 5 RV sites.  We were the only ones in camp.  So quiet, even the nearby Quentin Road, did not break the silence.  Not only quiet, but clean restrooms, showers and a very hospitable campground manager, Bill, who made us feel quite welcome, and went out of his way to make us comfortable.

We had a day and a half to get some loose ends tied up.  See Audie, Bill's doctor appt. hit the

 Home Depot (where  Bill chose his cart carefully), sell the Geocran
Been trying to sell this "clock" of ours for several years
and meet up with Scott and Cheryl of "Free Guitars for Future Stars".  We were meeting John and Cheryl to give them Bill's 10 month old guitar...the long story about that makes it my

God Moment of the Month

Long time readers know Bill bought himself a new guitar  last winter when we were down at Llano Grande RV Resort in Mercedes, TX and has been teaching himself how to play ever since.
The Mitchell

To be honest, he has been practicing for several years) on MY old guitar, and not progressing well, thus, the new guitar.

Struggling with the new guitar as well, Bill was expressing his frustration to his sister Jane
Bill and Jane abt 1976

(now a retired music teacher).  Jane said  "you know what your problem is?, your hands are too large, you need a wider neck guitar".  As it turns out, Bill had recently worked with "Barry" of Barry's guitars in Tomah, WI, putting a guitar strap on his current guitar.

Bill liked Barry's operation, so off he went.  After consulting with Barry, who is very knowledgeable, Bill purchased a new, wider neck guitar and came home anxious to check it out.  For my part, I took one look at those (2) instruments and thought "we barely have room to haul 1 of these down the road, where are we going to put 2?"  With no answer forthcoming, I left the situation behind.  Opening Facebook up to check things out, I saw a link, posted by my friend Linda Jantz, to a newspaper article about Scott of "Free Guitars For Future Stars"

The organization provides guitars and lessons to underpriveledged/at risk youth ages 10-17 in McHenry County, IL.  I was quickly moved to shoot an e-mail to Scott, named in the newspaper article.  2 days later Scott and his lovely wife Cheryl, Bill and I were standing in a Panera Bread parking lot handing over a 10 month old, acoustic Mitchell guitar.

Tessa likes whatever Daddy is playing

During a bit of tea together (Bill being the only coffee drinker in the bunch) we learned a lot more about FG4FS, not the least was the fact that Scott's program has added needy veterans to its slate of people served, and that makes us very happy!  Can't do enough for our Vets as far as I am concerned.  I secured a promise from Scott and Cheryl to let us know what kind of new home the Mitchell finds, and Bill and I were on to our next appointment, HOPEFULLY, complete the sale of our              Geocran clock.
For about 4 years now, Bill and I (sometimes utilizing Bill's daughter Tami)

have attempted to sell our Geocran clock.

This clock is rather unique (and large at 2'X3'), which makes it difficult to unload.  But, we were determined to get it out of storage.  Then, just before Christmas, Tami got a bite on the ad.  Bill hauled that monster all around IL and WI while we waited for an opportunity to meet up with the potential buyer.  Finally, with the clock tuned up and ready to go and it was SOLD!  One less thing left over from 85 Linden Road.  One step closer to an empty storage unit.

Back to The Transition.....  We completed all of our goals in Lake Zurich and pointed the hood south was a short 8 hours jaunt to our next nights stay.  Comfortably backed in to my niece's (Shawna) adorable little house on 3 acres with a VERY long driveway...SWEET!

 and, the best part????  Shawna graciously provided fried tacos to top off our long day!Shawna has grown into such a sweet (don't tell her I said that) and independent young woman.  Working in her dream job at Murray State College, she was off to work early the next morning, leaving us to run to Cracker Barrel and bring breakfast to Rory.   Eating with her at her new apartment beause she did not feel up to going out (she has just had back surgery), Rory, Bill and I had a fine time.   It was nice to see her new apartment, and now that we could see Rory was doing alright, we left for Chickamauga.


Hitting Nashville during the height of rush hour was not such a good plan.  The traffic was UNBELIEVABLE!  The only traffic we have run into over the years worse than Nashville is the Washington DC area, where it took us 4 hours to drive 10 miles at 9:30 PM on a Sunday night.  Nashville was a close second....and YES I have driven in L.A.

As it looked like an 8 PM arrival (Rangers work until 5:00) we decided to stay overnight at a nearby RV park (Holiday RV Park in Chattanooga)

That turned out to be an eye opener...despite the extra cost involved ($40) it was realy nice to have a night of rest prior to introducing ourselves to the Park after a long day of driving.  A very nice Park....I will remember it!

In the category of "if you think our lifestyle is all fun and games"....I illustrate two events which made me hyperventilate (not in a good way):

#1:  there are so many little details to remember when setting up, like, make sure all the faucets are turned off before hooking up to the water source and starting it to flow.  Fortunately, when the kitchen faucet started flowing all over the floor (not clean water), Bill and I were both there and it was clean water...thank the Lord for that!

#2:  a few days later I was in the bedroom  (good thing I was), Bill was  putzing around outside, when the toilet suddenly filled and overflowed.   It took every towel we had (didn't care) before  it was all cleaned up.  

Isn't full-tme RVing glamorous.  Why, after 6 years, are we still making these little mistakes???  Well, in the case of the faucet not being closed, it was MY bad.  Bill got us planted at the RV Park and then had to quickly run off to a doctor appointment.  I was trying to accomplish the "hook-up" on my own, before he got back.  I do not normally do this task, as Bill usually attends to all the outside stuff while I take care of the inside, but I was trying to save him the effort when he returned. It was a minor problem, easily rectified.  Lesson learnd and I will not repeat it.

#3:  The toilet?????  The real culprit here was the winterizing the RV Shop had done on our unit while they had it up in Saukville.  The RV needed to be winterized while they had it, to keep the pipes from freezing.  This was the 1st time our RV had been winterized.  That means it was the first time Bill had to reverse the changes made during the winterizing process ( a LOT of little things: valves etc.)  Miss one little valve and whaaaa laaaaahh....over flowing toilet.

So, if you think the entire RV lifestyle is all glamourous.....think again:-)

After a nice night at Holiday, we drove the last few miles to the Chickamauga Visitor Center, pulled up in front of the building (which turned out to be the side).

 On the outside of the building it looks very old, but the inside is mostly new and well cared for.  It is easy to greet the visitors here, as the lobby is expansive,


well lit and you can see the visitors as they cross the threshhold.

Ranger Chris Young and Volunteer Robert greeted us, then Chris gave us our initial warm-up, showed us around and supplied our uniform shirts.  
This being a Sunday, with a light rain, the Park was very quiet while we drove thru on the way to our campsight: which we are very pleased with.

Our first "real" training day was scheduled for Thursday, so when Bill and I showed up at Kim's (our boss) office early Monday morning she was caught off guard.  Not expecting us (and to her credit), Kim rallied, and 3 hours later our Thursday training was crossed off Kim's "to-do" list.

Event of the Month (they  don't always have to be funny)

Now that we knew what the color of our shirts were and had clarification about what "brown/khaki" pants meant, we headed to the "Hamilton" Mall in Chattanooga for chocolate brown pants....  Seemed to me we would have a better choice/selection/price of those pants at J.C. Penney, so that is where we headed.  On the way there we passed a Cabelas AND a Bass Pro store (our usual go to places), so we knew we had back-up resoures if Penney's didn't work out.  After an hour of hunting Bill had his one pair in hand, as well as, one of mine.  I was in the dressing room ( a quiet, out of the way 2 staller), just getting redressed after deciding I had found my 2nd pair of brown pants (which were perfect!).  Suddenly I heard a voice say "do I have any people in my fitting room?"  I said "yes, I am just about done".  The (obvious employee)  then said "I have been asked by the police to inform everyone that we have an active shooter in the mall and everyone needs to leave thru the front of the mall", and she's gone.  I quickly finished dressing, with my heart racing and trying to outwardly stay calm.  I was not, this day, taking advantage of my concealed carry license.  I finally exited the changing room to find Bill  patiently waiting about 15 feet from the fitting room door.  I speed walked to him and said "did the employee talk to you?" to which Bill responded "no".  I said "follow me" and headed down the deserted aisles for the "front of the mall" with no idea where it was.  I filled Bill in on what was going on as he almost jogged to keep up with me.  Fortunatey, I caught sight of a store employee holding a door for the last few stragglers, and headed his way.  Looking behind to assure Bill was still with me, I noticed he was still hanging on to those, long searched for, pants, I said "just leave those on the counter".  He did just that as I reached the door. 

I now encountered a wheelchair bound lady being pushed by her 3 daughters, and one of them trying to get back into the store to retrieve her drivers license.  The guard at the door was trying to assure her that "it will be mailed to you", to which she began to argue.  All I wanted to do was get out of there, but these women were, at this point so shaken, they could not figure out how to get "momma" out of the door.  A quick side step and I was able to  grab the door handle and hold it open for the ladies, while Bill grabbed the other, allowing passage of the wheelchair.  The group seemed to settle down and passed through the opening we had created, making eye contact with me and expressing their appreciation all the way.  So nice to be able to help, even for just this little thing.

Outside we made a beeline for the truck, while dzens of police cars surrounded the mall, ambulances everywhere.  As we drove up the hill toward the exit I looked back down below and saw a most impressive sight......the entire mall was surrounded by squads, ambulances and flashing light bars.  It was a sight to see, but left us praying for the situation to be resolved with no one hurt.

It was, Thank God.  The next day it was reported that "no" shots had been fired as stated by the witness, but a gun was found on the pavement near the Sears store.
My question is this (keep in mind I have ben retired from LE for a very long time):  IF the RP (reporting person) states they heard "shots fired in the parking lot", then WHY were we, the shoppers inside the mall, not told to "shelter in place" while they put the mall on "lockdown".  Instead, we were all herded out into the parking lot, where the danger had been reported?  I'm just asking.  

As we still needed brown pants, off to Bass Pro we went, even though the heart for shopping had all but gone out of me, and I just wanted to go home and sit by the campfire.  

It was quite nice to have 4 days before we had to report for duty, it gives us the chance to...
#1: completely set up camp 


#2:  explore the Park....this is a real benefit because, having experienced the Park ourselves makes us much better resources for our visitors.

That said, on Monday when we checked out the Visitor Center (VC) we found the bookstore, and as we are both book people, we were sucked in like the center of a tornado grabbed us. We were holed up in there for quite a while and left a bunch of money behind.  We were in book heaven when I spotted "U.S. Grant's Personal Memoirs" and for Bill, there was no question...

This was going home wth us.  I also came across Uncle Tom's Cabin, and never having read it, I figured it was about time.

We are working with a great bunch of people, a very cohesive unit.  For example...
This is Sarah..

And this is the turn out for her going away party...almost every one was there to see her off and wish her the best.

Yep, some of the most knowledgable Rangers we have worked with to date.

 Ranger Chris and I out on the observation deck

 Firing of the canon by "re-enacters"

 Ranger (and author) Lee White during a Ranger talk

 Ranger Chris Barr during a 1/2 hr "ranger talk".  And yes, he did fire it.

                                                 Park Historian Jim Ogden.  I could listen to him for hours!


                                                        Ranger Sarah Robinson, on a typically cloudy morning.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we have encountered a bunch of simpletons prior to this, au contrare, it is just that this ENTIRE group of Rangers  really know their stuff.  From them, we are learning FAST.....necessary as we have only 2 months at this location. (this time)

Our first week at work the days seemed very long.  Thursday and Friday we we're at the Chickamauga Battlefield, Saturday and Sunday at the Lookout Mountain/Point Park location.  The fun began right away, that first Friday:  about 4:40 pm (we close at 5) a family entered the Chickamauga VC, 2 parents, 5 girls and 1 boy.  Well, you know how we love kids?  Several minutes after 5 and Bill was still in conversation with Tim.

  Sarah and I had completed all the closing procedures and stood waiting with Will (boss) and Ranger Chris.  Finally I pulled out the imaginary shephard's hook (our Rangers really wanted to go home, and Bill and I coud have stood talking for another hour, so me, tapping Bill....."sorry for the interruption, but we have to close....we can continue this outside"  ...Outside we all went, where the canons are....they triggered a new and refreshed conversation.  What are we here for after all?  

This was the Van Allen family from TX,

who's company we enjoyed so thoroughly.  I thought "fast friends these could be".  But, eventually we all had to go our seperate ways.

Up early the next morning for our first day at Lookout Mountain, for we knew not the way there.  Good thing we left early, because Bill took a circuitous route, yet we still made it to work on time, an act of grace for sure :-)

Our Ranger Chris began giving us the cook's tour 

we began under the arch, talking,I noted a familiar van approaching.  A couple of the Van Allen kids were waving excitedly thru the windshield, and I, so happy to see them, waved excitedly back, returning the enthusiasm.  The Van Allens drove on looking for a parking space while Bill, Chris and I moved on down the mountain a bit to the Ochs Museum and Observatory to continue our briefing.

Shortly, some bundles of energy ran down the path and there were hugs all around. 

Ranger Chris seemed confused, so I explained how we had met the family the day before.  There we all were, on a cold blustery day at the overlook, for an hour, except for Chris, who disappeared pretty quickly inside to warm up in preparation for his 10 am Ranger talk (which takes place outside right at the edge of the mountain with no wind break).

Can't blame him for needing to shore up some warmth before that.  I, on the other hand, arrived back at the VC a mere 10 minutes before Chris was due to give his program and I hoped to attend.

I did attend, but the over exposure caused me to bail out of his lecture 10 minutes prior to it's completion, finally admitting it was too cold to be out in that wind any longer.  I really wanted  to hear the rest of what Ranger Chris had to say, which means I WAS REALLY COLD!

Our second day at the Mountain was so different from "down the hill".  In what ways?? you might, in no particular order.....

#1:  The Chickamauga Battlefield visitors are generally more knowledgable about the war.
#2:  The Chickamauga visitors almost always come on a mission, wth a specific purpose in mind:
          look up an ancestor and/or see the Fuller gun collection etc.
#3:  Chickamauga has an orientation movie, but the Lookout Mountain VC has the original James Walker painting:

Battle Above the Clouds....The title  is a phenom that still occurs today.....

Pics I took from the observation deck at the top of the mountain...some days it is so thick you feel like you could step right onto it and walk across.

On days like this people complain "we can't see anything".  I tell them...."just think, you are experiencing it the same way it was on the day of the battle.  You're getting the real experience"!

Then on other days, it looks like this.....that is Moccasin Bend down there.

The two sites are about a 25 minute drive distance, but closely connected by their different battles.  The battles main purpose of those battles....."control of Chattanooga".

So far our weekends have consisted of trips down to Marrietta, GA  The first, to accomplish Bill's  little surgery (basal cell skin cancer).  It was removed, but he now has a beauty of a scar on his R temple...

  I was trying to decide if he looks more like a tough guy or offspring of Frankenstein?  Either way, with the great job of the seamstress, in 2 weeks you could barely see it anymore.

On our second Monday (first day of our three day weekend) we were off to Marietta again for removal of stitches.  As long as we are going, why not take advantage of the trip and increase our level of Civil War knowledge by stopping by at the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park.  A notably smaller VC, but with an awesome orientation film.  A trip up the narrow, windy road to the top of the mountain (go slow and watch for pedestrians), and you will be rewaded with FABULOUS views of Atlanta,

and in our case, a phone call from youngest son James, just returning home from Ireland.

With a 6:30 PM dinner date at the Rotisserie Shop in Kennesaw, and one more stop to make picking Rockler Woodworking equipment up, we had to hustle on without seeing the Illinois Monument at Kennesaw.  Gives us a reason to come back.

Onstar took us to the "closest Rockler" (45 minutes away) even though we were currently right by the Rotisserie Shop, where our date with Len and Anne was scheduled.  Later, as we approached the Rotisserie Shop,  just barely on time, when we spotted a Rockler Shop just across the street.  Aggravated we were, but make it on time for our dinner date, we did.

Len and Anne  are old friends from Alpine Chapel who were living in CA when we were last at Joshua Tree, but an 9 hour drive kept us from visiting them.  Now, they're living near Marietta, GA and having dinner with them is no longer a 2 day long event.  The Rotisserie Shop was wonderful, but it does not make my 

                     Restaurant of the Month
That honor goes to Thatchers ( in Chickamauga, GA

I'd say "one word"_________, but I can't, they had so many mouth watering options, it's hard for me to highlight, I'll just start with "fried pickles".  Next to Blakes at the Fireside in Ellison Bay, WI, they rank (nationwide) as #2.  The brisket!!!!  The Ribs! I wanted to leave with 2 LBS of it!  EVERYTHING was fabulous!  You cannot go wrong.   They can also boast a FRIENDLY and COMPETANT wait staff.  Nice atmosphere!  As a matter of fact, Thatcher's is the restaurant we chose for our "going away party".  And speaking of nice moments in time.....

KID MOMENT OF THE MONTH (always an amazing moment in time)

I was working the the Chickamauga VC late one afternoon and began talking to a guy there visiting with his two grands.  The little boy was pretty busy checking out the place while his Papa talked to Bill.  His exploration took him to our area and we did not shag him out of there.  Taking, Talking, Talking, a mile a minute, in and out of our desk he ran.  Eventually big sister corralled the courage to shyly come behind our counter and struck up conversation with me.  Now, she and I had a connection, as the conversation took several turns from her brother to the things she had seen at the VC.

The moment became even more magical when a white haired older woman and her husband entered the VC and approached our desk.  After a few moments I noticed her waiting patiently by the counter and I jumped up saying "OH, I'm sorry, can I help you?"  She laughed and said "no, no, go on as I am really enjoying this".  The joy this child created amongst us "older" folks was contagious.
The funny conclusion to this story:  I was at Lookout Mountain, the next day, when this whte haired woman walked in.  We immediately rekindled our bond born the day before over the voice of a small child.

Moments that make up a life well lived:-)

I mentioned Bill and I were picking "woodworking" materials up in Kennesaw....must be a "project" in the air.  YUP.  We weren't here 2 days when the head of maintenance, Donnie, showed up in the VC with a large round plaque (oak 15"X1.25")

 Donnie to Bill.... "what do you think of these"?  After conversing about the plaques, Donnie says "can you make these?"   Bills response "Yes, I can make these"  Donnie walks away with a dream that Bill will make 10 of these.  
On a mission now, Bill locates cherry planks down in Kennesaw, weeks findng a CNC guy (to do the engraving) and a very long drive finding the stain (Rockler).  Before we leave, Bill will deliver 23 plaques to Donnie (pic of finished product next blog).  Can't wait to see the look on his face.

For us, life is about people/relationships...I hope you can see that in these little stories of mine.

Genesis 20:13
And when God had me wander from my father's household, I said to her "this is how you can show your love to me:  Everywhere we go, say of me "he is my brother!"

Prayer request as I go to print:  my sister Rory 
Rory and Jan circa 1992
has  just been diagnosed with stage IV Colon cancer (terminal).  Your prayers are most appreciated!