Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Road Trip Part I

I'm going to break our trip up into a few blog posts and begin with the drive out to Wisconsin. Starting from our home north of Denver, we drove north up to Wyoming and clipped the southeastern part of the state to drive into the northwest corner of Nebraska. From there we headed north to Mt. Rushmore, but first stopped for lunch at one of my favorite places, Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

When I was growing up, camping was one of my family's favorite pastimes. My parents were history buffs, which landed us in many different places. One of them was Fort Robinson State Park, a 22,000-acre historical site. Fort Robinson was not a physical fortress, but rather a military camp that was established in the 1860s when tensions with native Americans in the west were running high. The site is loaded with history.

 It played a key role in the Sioux Indian Wars and Crazy Horse's surrender. The U.S. Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers trained here, and later it was a breeding and training ground for horses in World War I. It was a training camp for K-9 corps in World War II and also a German POW camp. Lots of history! Many of the buildings are still there, including the brick stables that housed hundreds of horses, officers' and enlisted men's housing, and the outbuildings that the camp required.

 Today it is a beautiful park with lodging provided in the former barracks and officer's quarters.

I have such good memories of visiting the fort with my family, taking horseback rides up on the buttes and exploring the area.

After a picnic lunch, which we ate in the car as it had started to rain, we headed north to Keystone, South Dakota. We stopped briefly at Mt. Rushmore, but it was late in the day, so we went to our hotel, the Roosevelt Inn, a late Victorian-style hotel named for good old Teddy, our 25th president.  It's a quaint, family run place and very nice.  The next day, we went back to Mt. Rushmore and took a hike to the base of the monument.

 Before leaving the area, we stopped at the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is an incredible story about one man's vision -- sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski  -- and his legacy, carried on by his family.

The drive through South Dakota took the rest of the day. Dan and I traded off driving every couple of hours, and listened to a book on tape -- Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. It is an interesting study and memoir, and quite entertaining, too. We both thoroughly enjoyed it.

We stayed in Sioux Falls that night, and the next day skirted the southern edge of Minnesota, before crossing the Mississippi River at Wabash, Wisconsin, which was holding its fall festival. We stopped briefly, visited the National Eagle Center, which is fantastic! Apparently there are about 40 pairs of bald eagles that nest in the area in the Spring. (We didn't see any there, but saw a couple later on in Wisconsin).

By this time, we were eager to get to our destination -- our kids and grandkids in Marion, Wisconsin! So, we hightailed it across Wisconsin with Jason Aldean and Tim McGraw playing on the Ipod!

It was a joyous reunion, when we pulled up to Luke and Miranda's house, and Siefer was waving ecstatically on the front porch.  She was across the lawn and in my arms for a hug before I got out of the car:)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Those flyover states

lyrics by Neil Thrasher, Michael Dulaney

Dan and I arrived home yesterday afternoon. We put 2,900 miles on our Toyota Highlander and traveled through several of those 'flyover states' that Jason Aldean sings about so beautifully. Much of the scenery looked like the picture above -- Nebraska, South Dakota, eastern Colorado. The farmland of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa provided beautiful scenery along the way and the fall colors were stunning.

Today, I am sorting through mail, doing laundry, and I made a quick trip to the grocery store this morning. I'll need to go again tomorrow and stock up, but this morning my niece stopped by for a visit and I was much more interested in picking up a few things for a light breakfast and getting home to spend time with her.

I have lots of photos of our trip and will share them over the next few days.

It's good to be home.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Road Trip

We've been counting the months and then the weeks and the days, and tomorrow it's time.  Time for a road trip to see our Wisconsin crew!

Today I got the car washed and cleaned it inside and out. An oil change, tires checked, and a whole list of other stuff that the guy at Grease Monkey recommended and I said sure. Why not. I think I made his day. (Not so sure I made Dan's day when I showed him the bill.)

I stopped at the library and picked up some books on tape.

I've printed out MapQuest directions, because even with GPS, I like a paper trail to see where I'm going. So, the Road Atlas is going along, too.

The cooler is ready to fill with a few snacks and cold drinks.

I haven't packed a stitch of clothing yet.  That won't take long, because it's all casual where we're going.

Got a couple of books, my journal and my big girl camera packed in a tote bag. These things are more important than what I'm going to wear.

Joe and Sam are in the wings, ready to come over tomorrow -- with George -- and take care of the house and, most importantly, my Lilly.

Not sure if I'll post while I'm away or save it all til I get back. Probably the latter.

Til then,

Monday, October 2, 2017

Hello, October

This picture of Sawyer, taken by Miranda last fall, is one of my all-time favorites. 

Yesterday we welcomed October with a beautiful fall day. It was a bit foggy at daybreak, giving the backyard a mystical, surreal quality to it, like a Secret Garden.

Then, the sun came out, and we had a reprieve from the rain that has been dogging us all week. Dan has been eager to start construction on his workshop in the backyard, and the weather finally cooperated.  Joe and Sam came over and, with a two-person drill, they dug out the holes for the caissons that will be the base of the structure.  I don't have any pictures, but imagine muddy shoes, piles of muddy clay dug up from the earth, and four perfect holes as a result, and you get the idea.

In the meantime, I made a batch of blueberry muffins.  Emily and Marcus and the kids arrived as they were coming out of the oven. My dad stopped by a little later, and we had coffee and muffins on the back porch. It was a gorgeous, perfect day to welcome October.

In the afternoon, I picked the rest of the peppers and squash from the garden, as well as a bunch of Roma tomatoes. And basil. I made a big batch of tomato and basil soup, and Dan and I each had a bowl with muffins while watching the Rockies game.

Another oldie but goody, this photo was taken a year ago -- Joe and Sam checking out the venue for the wedding.  The leaves are changing more slowly this year, with most of the trees still green. In a couple of weeks, it will look more like this burst of color.

I'm ready for a good book with a fall setting! I just finished two books that were both set in winter in mountain wilderness areas.  They were both excellent -- Charles Martin's The Mountain Between Us, (I think the movie is coming out soon, if it's not out already). And Lynn D'Urso's Heartbroke Bay. This is an older book that I came across at the library. It is set in 1898 Alaska Territory, and based on a true story. An Englishwoman and her husband set out with three other men to pan for gold, only to find themselves stranded and fighting for survival. The true nature of each character is revealed and the plot takes an eerie turn. The story is so vivid, and the descriptions so beautiful. You'll need a cup of hot chocolate to stay warm while reading it.

It was a good day all around. Today, the rain is back, but there's plenty of soup left!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Rainy days, movies, flannel and lattes

Is it really Friday already? I'm joining the Friday Fave Five bunch, looking back over my week and counting some blessings.

1. My nephew Tommy is a teenager! Whoa, how did that happen so fast? We celebrated his birthday last night with pizza and cake.

2.  Earlier this week, I spent a rainy afternoon at a movie by myself.  I saw Home Again with Reese Witherspoon. Honestly? It was not one of her best movies and I'm glad I had a coupon so the ticket was free! It was silly and predictable, but the tub of popcorn and box of Milk Duds made it the perfect afternoon.

3. I'm having the best time using my senior discount at the local thrift store. (It's like Kohl's, where they consider you a senior at 55. But that's not really a senior citizen is it? So, it's like we get to ease into being a senior, right?).  Anyhoo, I've been visiting on senior day and buying books for my grandkids, building up a nice little library.

4. On a more serious note, Dan and I have been recording the Ken Burns series on the Vietnam War. We both enjoy history, and Burns is of course the master at telling it. The thing that has struck me the most is the still photos of civilian life at the time -- the school kids and the suburbs, which was my life. It is such a sharp contrast, this fairy tale life I had, and what these young American soldiers were going through. It makes me so ashamed. I guess it seems like an odd thing to list as a blessing for the week. But, I feel blessed that stories like these are told, and that -- please God -- we have the opportunity to learn from them.

5. Hot lattes and plaid flannel shirts. It's been the perfect week for these. I just love fall.

How was your week?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Painted Ladies

As leaves are changing into brilliant fall colors, our yard has been filled with another shade of orange the past few weeks. Hoards of painted lady butterflies are heading through our state on their migration to spend the winter in Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico.  The species likes to move around a lot. They arrive in Colorado (which is one of the top five states for butterfly diversity -- who knew?) in the spring and head out in the late summer, in search of warmer climate.

They are often mistaken for monarch butterflies, but they are a bit smaller and have slightly different markings. Every day we find dozens of painted ladies feasting on our butterfly bush on the side of the house. They also like our yarrow, rosebushes and lavender.

We're happy to provide them with a some meals as they wander on their way!

If you live along the northern Colorado front range and are interested in learning more about the types of butterflies that live in that locale, here is a terrific website to check out:  Colorado Front Range Butterflies

Sunday, September 24, 2017

El Dorado County, California

It's hard to believe that, just a week ago, we were in sunny California. I thought I would share some more pictures from our trip.

We left on a Thursday to attend a birthday party for Dan's sister Carol.  Carol and her wife Sonia live about an hour and a half's drive east of Sacramento in El Dorado County.  The eastern part of the county was the site of the start of the California gold rush in the 1840s, and the western part extends into the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and beautiful Lake Tahoe. There's a lot to explore!

Carol and Sonia, and their friends Paul and Vicki, bought a vineyard a couple of years ago, so we were excited to visit and see it for the first time. While the acreage has been producing grapes for some time, there was lots to be done on the physical structures. They have added a barrel room, are in the process of constructing a tasting room, and they've cleaned up the property and grafted a large portion of the vines with different varietals. For pictures and more info on their progress, here's the website for Bom Vinho Vineyards.

Dan and I stayed at the Seven-Up Guest Ranch in Fair Play. It's a lovely, peaceful spot, off the main road. The only sounds we heard were song birds, a few wild turkeys, and the occasional mooing of a cow. The guest cabins are rustic, but very comfy with quilts on the beds and rocking chairs on the porches. We were served a yummy breakfast each morning in the main cabin.

On Friday, we had the day to ourselves to explore.  We visited a few wineries, of course!

We also drove to Placerville to do a bit of shopping and have lunch.  Then we headed back to Carol and Sonia's in time for the festivities on Friday night, which included a spaghetti dinner and a blue grass band.  That was just the beginning of the party. The real fun was on Saturday, when there were games galore, and a catered barbecue and DJ.

Not only do Carol and Sonia make wine, but they sing, too! and we were treated to some lovely harmonies sung by the two of them and their group -- the Post Minstrels.

The games were such a hoot. We played human foosball . . . (yes, that's a flamingo on my head. Did I mention the dress was Hawaiian garb and/or crazy hats?)

There was beer pong, on a larger scale, too . . .

Joe and Sam were there. We had such a good time with those two!

And a 'selfie scavenger hunt', where we were given 10 things to find on the grounds, and take a selfie  with a partner. Sam and I paired up and won a bottle of champagne:)

In between the fun and games, there was some fun work to do, in stomping grapes, pressing and stemming . . .

There was plenty of time for relaxing. Here we are with Dan's brother Mike, and wife Debbie. . .

. . . taking in the beautiful view.

We're looking forward to going back -- in 2019 if not before. That's when the first batch of Bom Vinho wine will be bottled.