Thursday, September 15, 2016

Natural Bridge, Canyon, Wine and No Peaches

After the first night on the lamb, we had reservations the next two nights.  Except when we arrived at our camp spot at Giant City State Park, we were right in the middle of the campground.  After some negotiations with the camp host, we found a more secluded spot next to the woods.  (Camp hosts are almost always helpful and accommodating).

First thing Sunday morning, we headed to Pomona Natural Bridge.  We were early and enjoyed solitude as we hiked the short trail to the bridge.  This was the overlook down on the bridge.  Everything was dry, but at the top middle, there is a small waterfall in damper times.  The bridge spans 90 feet and was formed by erosion. 

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At this point in our day, we should have headed straight to the wineries.  Instead, we decided to check out the Little Grand Canyon.   However, we failed to read  another site that cautioned this hike when it’s hot. 

We realized we weren’t up for the canyon hike—the one that descends to the bottom, thankfully.  But, we hoped to hike to the “overlook.”  The signage was not clear, so instead of the 3/4 mile to the overlook, we took off for the 4 mile round trip ridge walk hike, which was in the trees without many views.  

It turned hot, we didn’t have water and the mosquitoes were relentless.  Thankfully, we visited with a family who instructed us to step over the chained off area and carefully go out to the edge of the dropoff to see the canyon.  I got this picture by sticking my camera out and blindly snapping a picture.  Later in the day, we were telling the host at a winery about our experience and she said the hike should only be done in the spring and fall. 

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So, with the hikes behind us, it was time to hit the wineries.  We especially enjoyed

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Pomona Winery is unique in that it only uses fruit other than grapes in its wine.  We are especially fond of the Golden wine.  I am sure the sweetness of this wine varies by the sweetness of the apples each year.  We find it just right.

We visited Alto Vineyard and once again had a fun and generous tasting.  All the vineyards in southern Illinois charge for their tastings—I imagine it will become more common, especially if there is entertainment, which there was at Alto.

We decided maybe just making our way back to the campground and kicking back with our wine and the steaks we had marinating would be a fun ending to the day. 

Then there is my lovely box of peaches.

Well, Dan did ask if I was going to bring them inside the camper.  So, this is all on me because I said, “Oh, I think they will be OK here under the camper.”  Not true—each peach had little teeth and claw marks the next morning.  Our little campground raccoon made a visit. This has happened to me before, you would think I would learn.

Monday morning we got our things together but not before enjoying our coffee and breakfast.  Dan & I enjoyed lunch at a small little restaurant in St Genevieve.  Paul and Janice were ahead of us so we didn’t visit the wineries in the area.  We’ve heard they are very good so that will be next time.  I will end this trip with a picture of a little cartoon that was under our tablecloth in the restaurant.  I don’t know why I think this is so funny….

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rocks, Trails and Fruit

We had two days to cover our plans for Southern Illinois. We didn’t tarry too long over morning coffee.

First, Garden of the Gods.

The area in southern Illinois named Garden of the Gods is in Shawnee National Forest.  Although it isn’t a National Park, it is maintained by the National Forest Service.  This 320 million year old area was formed as a result of an inland sea.    The formations are  a result of a great uplift followed by millions of years of weathering.  Even at that, they are still four miles deep.  There is a 1/4 mile well worn trail around and through the formations.  The valley the area overlooks is filled with mostly pine stands and hardwood trees.  We have visited the area in the fall.  The color is stunning.

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From Garden of the Gods, Janice suggested we drop down to the Ohio River for a ferry ride at the Cave in the Rocks port—a great idea.

Cave in the Rocks is an Illinois State Park located along the Ohio River.  There is a big cave along the bluffs that local folk lore says harbored river pirates.  We saved the cave for another visit deciding to get in the queue for a ferry ride. 

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The ride over and back took only about 30 minutes, but everyone was friendly, getting out of their vehicles and enjoying the view. 

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The Captain of the Loni Jo had been on the river for over 30 years.  This is a working ferry with locals using the service to cross the river.  There is an Amish village on the Kentucky side that would be worth a visit another time as well.

From the Ferry, we headed to the central part of the area because…

Finally, I was about to ride on the Tunnel Hill Rail to Trail.  Dan and I have crossed by this R2T on our trips to North Carolina when, much to my consternation,  the timing was always off for a visit. 

This five-star trail was originally built in the 1870s and eventually became a part of the New York Central line that had 11,000 miles of track between small villages but served the large cities of Chicago and St Louis. Tunnel Hill R2T was named after the small town that formed to dig the 800 foot tunnel on the line.  Due to a cave in, the tunnel is now only 500 feet.  As we rode through the tunnel, Paul and Dan were up ahead.  Janice must have thought I was nuts with some general freaking out on my part,  but the time I ran into the side of a tunnel was still fresh in my mind.  I will say this again, even though you can see the end of the tunnel, it is very dark in the middle.  Janice had her head lamp (Dan up ahead had mine) so we got through—here’s proof.

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We rode the trail from the ghost town of Tunnel Hill to Vienna Illinois. It was along this route that we stopped by this store that would only work in the rural midwest.  It was entirely on the honor system.  Not just a water, the selections included pop, Gatorade, and ice cream.  Someone along the trail told us it was owned by a local farmer that only checks it once a day to replenish supplies and pick up the money out of a coffee can.

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Had we rode the entire R2T, we would have passed over 23 trestle bridges.  As it was, there were many and they were high giving impressive valley views.

The story goes that the local farmers were so excited about rail road service that several years before the route was complete, farmers had already planted fruit in anticipation of selling it in the big cities. 

That is why we came upon a fruit farm on our way to the campground after the bicycle ride.  Next will be why these peaches never made it to our table.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Southern Illinois—perfect for a long weekend

Paul and Janice and Dan and I took off for a short road trip over Labor Day weekend.  They have not visited Southern Illinois and we jumped at the chance to return there for a little bicycling, hiking and wine—not necessarily in that order.  The plan came together.

Southern Illinois is well within the “circle.”  I think I’ve mentioned the circle before but just as a refresher, we take a compass and place the point on home and the pencil on Denver Colorado—a known 500 mile, eight hour drive.  In other words, an easy one day drive.  All of southern Illinois falls easily inside the circle. 

At the last minute, we found out a first cousin of Dan and Paul’s died unexpectedly and the family  planned the visitation for her memorial service for Friday night—in Huntingburg, Indiana, which was only about 1 1/2 hour further east of our Shawnee National Forest destination.  We were thankful we happened to be nearby for the sad but enjoyable visit with family that we don’t see often.  

The campground was at the Shawnee National Forest Garden of the Gods which is located on the eastern side of the southern Illinois area.    It was dark when we arrived and my fears were realized when all of the spots in the “no reservation” campground were occupied—not even a place to squeeze in.   Well, not to let a small inconvenience discourage us, we pulled into a picnic area that said

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Well, it was earlier than 10 pm.    So we pulled out four chairs and bowls of hot, chicken soup for supper then slid into bed.  The next morning we were up after 6 am.  So, I guess we slept through the time when the area was closed.  What could we say?  Thankfully, no one asked.

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We took our time cooking breakfast on one of the picnic tables—delicious scrambled eggs in a bag.  All you do is break eggs in a good quality quart bag, add green peppers, onions, mushrooms, salt & pepper.  Then boil the bag till done.  They were so good, we were going to have them again—then I got side tracked with my  outdoor oven.  More on that later.

Next, yes, there is a Garden of the Gods in Illinois AND Colorado.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Just FYI

We tried this out on our way home from a family reunion last Sunday.

Saturday afternoon I went to the Walmart website and picked groceries we need, including milk and ice cream.  I said we would pick it up between 5:00 and 6:00 pm Sunday. 

We pulled up at 5:15pm, called the number that was on the designated parking sign and within five minutes out came two Walmart employees with our groceries and loaded them in the car.   Everything was extremely cold.  Not all stores offer it, the only one in Topeka is on 37th.  As far as I could tell, none in Lawrence.  I am thinking I will be using this once in a while.  It requires signing up and entering a credit card. 

I received $10 off my first order just for signing up.   There is a $50 minimum for the $10 off, but after that there is only a $30 minimum to use the service. 

There you go….

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dog Day

Just looking at the pets posted on Facebook today makes me miss our dogs.  We currently don’t have a dog.  The first time in years, we made the decision not to get one because we are gone too much. 

Early on we had a poodle—this picture was taken in April, 1966, two months before we were married.  Nicky was a mess—always barking.  Never wanted a Poodle again.

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We had another Nicky when the kids were little.  She was a mix breed.  Our neighbor had chickens.  We were warned that she had killed one.  Nicky was impossible to keep penned up.  She disappeared. 

We had an English Pointer hunting dog, Jill.  She had puppies that were precious.  I had a picture, but can’t find it right now.  Might have to add it later.

I can’t remember exactly how it came about, but two different times, we were given a Collie from a local breeder.    They were males and for some reason, they could not be used to breed.  They were the most beautiful dogs.  Here is a picture of one of them.  I think this is Shekel. The other dog was named Ruff.  (These dogs came with names)

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At some point, we got a female collie mix, Lady.  It’s hard to know which picture to post of Lady—I have so many.

Here she is with the kids

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We bred Lady with a full blood Collie and that is why the puppy we kept, Bear, looked so much like a Collie.

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During this time, we were given an English Setter.  She had broken a leg and they set it stiff.  We called her Bobby because that’s the way she got around.  She was a sweetheart.  She disappeared one day and we think she just couldn’t out run a coyote. 

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Then, there was Lucy.  Lucy was a Beagle.  What a case she was.  I remember the day Dan came home and I met him at the door bawling because Lucy had disappeared.  Well, little did I know she would disappear the rest of her long life with us.  She would be gone and pretty soon we would hear that familiar Beagle sound when she had a rabbit on the run.  Toward the end of her life, we think one bunny just sit down there in the woods and played with her.  She got a little fat and couldn’t move too fast.

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Finally, there was Skye.  We still get teary talking about her.   She was Dan’s companion.  We still miss her.  And, despite what our kids said, she was smart.

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Lucy & Skye

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Grand Valley

The Grand Valley is an approximate 30 miles long and five mile wide area along the Colorado River on the western slope.  The area was originally the home of the Ute tribes who called the Colorado River the Grand.

The area is bordered by the Grand Mesa on the south and by large plateau formations, including the Bookcliffs along the north side.  Grand Junction  is the largest city in the valley.

If you Google the region, the result will be locations of wineries and orchards, which is why we made the trip from Vail.

Our first stop was Palisade.  We had our picnic lunch so we just wanted to find a shady location in a peach orchard.  That we did with juicy ripe peaches and cherries.

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From the orchard, we headed to Two Rivers Winery, our kids’ favorite.  We spent a lot of time over our (free) generous tasting.  It is a beautiful venue and exceptional wine.  No one seemed in a hurry and neither were we.  Sometimes a winery visit can be like that—an inviting place where guests are treated as just that.  It probably helped that we did a little Christmas shopping.

Next, we unloaded our bikes at the Botanical Gardens, which to my disappointment was closed on Mondays.  Still it was a good place to park to catch the Colorado Riverfront Trail which follows the river for 22 miles through the Grand Valley.  We didn’t ride the entire trail but enjoyed all that we covered, including interpretative signs about the region and how it was formed.

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No one gets thirsty on the trail!

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We brought home a large box of peaches.  We ate, shared and ate some more of those juicy peaches.  I finally froze three or four to empty the box.  In all of that box, not one spoiled.  Definitely money well spent.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Colorado Copper Triangle & The Grand Valley

The Copper Triangle is a yearly road bike ride: 80 miles and three mountain passes. 

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Doug & Drue left around 6:00 Saturday morning and were back by 1:30 or 2:00 pm.  Actually, Doug has completed this ride two other times.  Marc even rode several years ago.  I can’t get my head around it, but there were many there who looked like they could be our age!

Doug & Drue were tired, but cleaned up and were ready to venture over to Copper Mountain for their post ride food & drink.  We tagged along.

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The family couldn’t leave without little bumper boat action:

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More about the Grand Valley tomorrow.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Colorado mountains are cool

On a lark, and to escape the heat, we decided to head west to the mountains.  At one time, we thought the whole family was going to Vail for our anniversary gathering.  However, that ended up being a bigger trip than our NC family wanted to undertake.  The condo was reserved (Doug’s company’s) so we decided to take advantage.

We have been there before in 2002

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Here is a close up of Trent & Doug during that same trip (Carly was only a wish)

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Here he is with his Dad a week ago

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And, our wish came true:

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So, this is where we were.  More tomorrow.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Caught a cool one

Friday morning the forecast for the Topeka/Kansas City area was almost perfect.  So, when Cheryl called asking if we were up for an impromptu day, we said absolutely.

Dwight and Cheryl were our first neighbors.  They lived across the street from us in a trailer court in Emporia.  We met them only a few weeks after we both were married.  We had some good times those early days—camping, fishing and anything that didn’t cost money.

We both moved to Topeka, had kids and  grandkids all about the same time.  They now live in Kansas City but we still see each other a couple times a year.  They are and will always be a part of our lives. 

We started out the day by having iced tea and catching up at their home.  Then it was off to Joe’s Kansas City BBQ.  We have never eaten at the No. 1 BBQ place in the US* so we stood in line at the filling station.  From there we went to the World War I museum.  What a treasure for Kansas City.  I feel I need to go back in order to fully cover it all.  Then we rode the new trolley that goes from Union Station to City Market where we stopped off for a beer.  Then back to the start on the trolley.  Finally, we went by the new Church of the Resurrection building and stopped by the Scheels store to check out the indoor Farris Wheel. 

Who knew there were so many new things to do in Kansas City.  And, we didn’t even make it to Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  Next time…

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*Well, at least it is in the top five.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

July was a hot month for friends

Well, it was hot.   But I meant, we saw a lot of long-time friends too.  And, I would say they are hot lookingSmile It really didn’t have anything to do with our 50th.  It just happened that July was a good meetup month.

First, our long time friends Kaye and Lynn.  They are our destination in Phoenix for a couple weeks in the winter.  They actually came up to visit their daughter, but we managed to slip in a great day together.  Their 50th Anniversary is coming up this month, so we reminisced about our weddings and dating before that—yes we do go back that far.   I should have got out my good camera because it was getting dark when they left and the cell phone didn’t catch a good light.  Here is the best one:

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Then, Sue Jeanne and I decided we were overdue to celebrate birthdays.  We ate at the Yard House in the Legends (Kansas City).  Good food—even better beer.  Then we went over to Jeanne & Denny’s to ride on their new little toy.  Jeanne has the most beautiful yard.  And, she knows the name of each plant.

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This is an electric boat.  What a nice way to enjoy the water.  Quiet and relaxing!

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Then tomorrow I’ll have a few pictures from the WWI memorial in Kansas City Mo. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

50th Anniversary Celebration

We debated how to celebrate our anniversary.  Here are ideas our friends are doing with their families:  community party, Costa Rica (2 families), Breckinridge CO, resort in Sedona AZ…1966 was a good year. 

We finally settled on a destination celebration, starting right here at home.

First, we were so pleased that all of our nine family members could get off work and celebrate with us.  It is no small task to pack everyone up and drive a little over 500 miles (Colorado family) and 1000 miles (North Carolina family) to our place.  But, what a treat for Dan and me.  We had beds for everyone & I hope plenty of food.

This celebration occurred over the 4th.  As per request from multiple grandkid—and kid--we manage to blow up a lot of fireworks.  It was hot enough that it didn’t take long for everyone to find our swimming hole below the house.  We managed to celebrate Dan’s and Evan’s birthday as well.

Then it was on to Lake of the Ozarks where Drue’s family has a lake house.  We were there for a couple of days, enjoying the water and just hanging out. 

Finally, on to the North Fork of the White River for a day of floating.  It was  beautiful on the river—even had a few sprinkles to cool everyone off. 

As usual, I have a slide show.  Sometimes it is easier to just let the pictures tell the story.   If you have an Apple product click either on this link or click on this picture and it will take you to the pictures.IMG_8810-1

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Prairie Fire Winery

Two weeks ago, Dan’s brother and wife invited us to join them to visit the Prairie Fire Winery in the Flint Hills of Kansas.  I know, Flint Hills and wine? 

Well, according to the owners, the Hills and grape vines are a amazingly well suited.

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The gently sloping hillsides and porous soil provide the needed drainage for the many varieties of plants which  have  been meticulously studied for Kansas climate.  The staff will be happy to share the winery story while providing tastes.  (In the interest of full disclosure, they do charge for sampling, but the pour is generous)

Owners Bob DesRuisseaux and his wife Julie are quick to tell you, as they do on their web site,  their winery also has a commitment to, “to the sustainability and success of family farms and ranches” and will open their operation to those interested to learn.  

The best part of a visit to Prairie Fire is their wine, which we thought was excellent.  They advertise 17 labels and with that there is something for everyone.  I am not sure they have all 17 at once, but the four of us have widely different tastes and we easily found a wine that appealed to all.

We walked to the top of the hill where there is  a 360 view of those lovely flowing green hills.  Then back to the tasting room to determine which wine to enjoy and then settled in to enjoy an easy afternoon of wine, cheese and conversation from this patio.

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Along with the good wine and beautiful location, it’s close.  Only located  few miles off I70 south of Exit 335 or the Snokomo exit, it is about 23 miles from the Sam’s store off I70 on the west side of Topeka. 

We’ll be back!