Saturday, May 19, 2018

It’s all good here

What a a better way to end a busy week than to have our oldest grandson, Aaron, home from North Carolina.

He is here to spend a couple days with friends who are graduating from Shawnee Heights.  We are traveling to North Carolina in June to celebrate his graduation from Green Hope High School in Cary. 


IMG_0411Two recent pictures of Aaron.  We had to get the cup out like we always do when the grandkids come home.  We got this cup when he was a toddler.

Love this prom picture.

This is a bumper year for Carpenter bees.  Carpenter bees might be mistaken for bumble bees only because they are about the same size.  Thankfully, they are not aggressive.  The males don’t have a stinger and the females will only sting if harassed according to internet information.  We’ve harassed them plenty and still never been stung.

We started an all out assault on them about a week ago.  Our main weapon is a fly swatter or a bigger tennis sized paddle.  They have a tendency to hover if you watch them long enough.  We estimate we have killed around 80 to 100 bees this week.  The reason they love us so much is probably because they love redwood, like our redwood decks.  They like to drill holes in the wood to lay their eggs.  The sound of the bees and the drilling drives us both nuts.  Just when we think we have made a dent in the population, there seems to be more.  Dan came up with a effective means to get them by loading small shotgun shells with cuscus (little tiny pasta).  It worked great for the higher reaches in the barn—he is deadly.

I know they are pollinators.  And, that’s good.  But, I wonder if they could do actual harm to a deck or building if left to continually drill holes. 

We are helping take care of our neighbor’s chickens while they are on vacation.  The chicken coop is humming with Carpenter Bees and there is an aggressive attack rooster to boot.  Despite all of that, those pretty hens lay a dozen eggs a day. 

All in all, it’s been a great week.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Good Morning

Just sunning in the front porch. I might not want to sit in this chair for a few hours

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Camp Chippewa

This past weekend we traveled south to Camp Chippewa, a UMC sponsored facility located near Ottawa Kansas,   to help prepare the buildings and grounds for the coming camp season.  We met two other friends from other parts of the state, all of us with RVs.  There were others who stayed in the dorms.  We worked hard but found time to catch up with new and old friends.  We parked our RVs in  temporary sites because the dedicated RV sites the camp provides were filled with UMC Nomads there to put new siding on one of the cottages.  (The Nomads are an interesting concept and one that I could be enthused about)

Camp Chippewa has an interesting history.

In 1837 the Chippewa Tribe along with the Munsee and Sax and Fox tribes from Wisconsin were given an 8280 acre strip of land where the camp is located.  Members of the tribes were given 40 acres of land and after becoming citizens of the United States in 1900, were able to sell the land.  In 1958, 219 acres were given to the United Methodist Conference to be used for camping ministries by Rev and Mrs Charles Funk in memory of their granddaughter who died at the age of 14.  Through careful planning the camp is now 640 acres.

All of this land and the use of its facilities is pretty much run by three hard working, dedicated people.   During the summer there are additional paid employees, but it is with volunteer help that many projects are accomplished within the camps budget.

It was a beautiful weekend and there were people everywhere.  We took our Ranger ATV so it was immediately put to use in a ambitious fencing project.  A  farmer from the Parsons area brought in a semi loaded with large equipment including a posthole digger and brush cutter to clear for the fence.  Dan worked two days on this project, including cutting hedge fence posts for supports.  He took me to see the finished project which this picture is only a short part.  It was exhausting work but he enjoyed his fencing companions.


The fencing is to accommodate and rotate the 40 plus horses into different pastures.  The reason for so many horses is for the popular horse camps each summer where each young person is assigned a horse to take care of and ride for the week.  There are also other animals to teach responsibility of care.


I was on flower and landscape detail most of the weekend.  We cleaned flower beds, replanted annuals, and pruned overgrown plants.  There was an old farmstead on part of the land so we dug up a bunch of Iris and transplanted them around the campus. 


Here is a picture of our transplant detail.  The kids are a part of a UMC youth group.  They were a lot of fun and willing to work.


This is one of the gathering places where we put our transplanted Iris and Day Lilies.   This is a beautiful location as it looks out over a valley.

Somehow I didn’t get in on the best job of the weekend.  That was to catch fish in one pond and transfer them to another.  I know the two ladies in the canoe had worked hard on other projects but the day was perfect,  the fish were biting and they were having fun by this time in the evening.  This is actually what summer camp is about and all of us were encouraged to enjoy the experience of Chippewa while helping out. 


The volunteer weekends are twice a year, before and after scheduled summer camp.  The weekend is filled with eating wonderful food,  working and sweating and Christian fellowship.  We will be back—next time I’m looking into that fishing detail, though.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Don’t Knock It Till You Try It

Asparagus and morels cooked together in butter. Tried it by chance last year. Still delicious with first pickings of both

Monday, April 23, 2018

Who said I40 is Boring?

By the time we get to the I40 stretch in Texas, even I am getting anxious to enter Kansas and on home.

But, then there is Groom Texas.

The town of Groom is out in the middle of Texas nowhere 42 miles east of Amarillo.   Until I40 was built, it sat along side Route 66.  Heading east, the first sight that made me scramble for my camera was this gigantic cross.  This isn’t the first cross we’ve seen, but certainly it is the first sitting out on flat Texas landscape.


It turns out Groom Texas has the seventh largest free standing cross in the world at 190 feet!  To the right of the picture is a grain elevator which puts the structure in perspective although the cross is closer. 

But, wait, there is more!


Back when Route 44 was still a busy road west, Ralph Britton built a truck stop.  He also purchased this water tower from the town of Lefors Texas, 34 miles away.  He managed to drag it here,  wrote his name on it, then bulldozed  it until two of its four legs were off the ground.  According to the web site, his family said this worked in his favor in that people driving by on Route 66 would veer off the road to let Mr Britten know his water tower was tipping over.  He would then invite them to sit down and enjoy a drink or meal.  Unfortunately, his truck stop burned down but the water tower remains for people like me to scramble for a camera to capture something we think has just happened.

As I said in the beginning, we were “headed to the barn” and there was very little stopping.  So, these pictures are not only taken on the run but with a cell phone.  Another time I might have to give Groom Texas a little love.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday, April 13, 2018

Lunch Date

Dan and I had a lunch date today with six friends.  It was cheery, full of conversation and good food.  I should mention  all of us in the lunch group are older than 72 with two in their 80s and Calvin is in his 90s. 

Our friend Irma from Clinton set it up.  We only drove because it was our turn.  Irma, Dan and I often hit some of the local four star eateries:  Poor Farm at Clinton, Conrads at Overbrook, Berryton UMC meal night and of course our Stull UMC meal night. 

This time we picked up our friends and traveled to Pioneer Ridge Retirement Center in Lawrence where Judy resides.  Before we settled in the restaurant, we took a little tour of the facility.  There is a huge meeting room available for residents for no charge, there is a workout center where the machines are electronically matched to each residents arm band, and there is a room with big screen TV, pool table, fireplace  and a nicely stocked bar.  I think owners of these facilities are seeing us baby boomers coming!

Dan and I had the mushroom cheese hamburger sandwich, some of the others had mac and cheese and chicken salad sandwich. The portions were for people who are sedentary, but it was all very good.   They have waitresses and a chef.

Irma, retired BSN,  made an interesting observation.  She said a retirement center like Pioneer Ridge is a community within a community.  Most residents know and watch after each other.   They eat and socialize together, but have their little apartment when they want solitude.   By combining resources, they bring in lecturers, show movies every day and takes trips in their bus. 

One of the residents out and about we instantly recognized.  Judy introduced us to a published author. So, you have people who are well known by their accomplishments, others who are well known because they are good listeners and others who just make people laugh.  Just as it is as we live in our wider communities.

The transition from home to a retirement facility comes more easily for some than others.  It seems to me that the most happy residents today were with a group of friends.  In the end, as we grow old, it might be our friends, not our doctor, who are able to make us feel the best.

Monday, April 09, 2018

White Sands National Monument

First, here is a Smug Mug link to more pictures.

White Sands National Monument is tucked down in southern New Mexico, really not on the direct way to a location we have visited in the past. 

White Sands map 

Maybe that’s why we have not stopped by on our other trips to Phoenix.  Since we were headed south to the Tucson area from Mesa, Kay and Lynn encouraged us to route our return trip by this remarkable site. 

Our government does an outstanding job producing the videos available in every national park/monument that has a visitor’s center.  The White Sands presentation was stunning, especially the drone footage.  The movie is where we learned that the “sand” is really not sand at all, but gypsum particles.  The nearby mountains have large deposits of gypsum that over time have blown off and deposited on the area. 

From the visitor’s center, we entered the monument on a well traveled road between dunes. 

Due to the nature of the shifting sand, visitors are encouraged to stay on the road at all times.  However, there are plenty of opportunities to pull over and hike out over the dunes.  I overheard a young mother ask the park ranger if her daughters could get lost among the dunes and he told her to accompany them but to also orient to high poles located in the area.  That is how much the dunes and valleys are alike, yet shifting. 



This sand is extremely bright and white.  I found it hard to get a good picture.  Thankfully, the few high clouds gave the sand some contrast. 

We spent around three hours here including the visitor’s center.  We could have taken a self guided trail with the flora labeled but opted not to do that.  There were sleds for rent and the kids and adults with them were having a lot of fun sliding and making “snow” angels.

White Sands Missile Range is the next-door neighbor to the Monument.  We went by the impressive Holloman Air Force Base with plenty of signs letting us know we were within the missile range.  The White Sands Missile Range was a key part of the Manhattan Project which developed the first atomic bomb.  The WSMR Museum and Missile Park is open for visitors.  Unfortunately, I did not do my homework and was not aware of the museum that we probably went right by.  Once a year there is a public visit to the Trinity (atom bomb) site as well.  I also learned there are still safety closures of the Hwy 70 and White Sands National Monument due to current rocket launches. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Riding Bikes in the Big City

We haven’t always carried bicycles with us when traveling.  Before the pickup camper, the dog house and our present PW, we had another van conversion, a 170 Roadtrek.  We took some great trips in that little van.  The problem was, it was too little.  Doug warned us we would wish we had a bigger size but I found this one and  thought it was perfect. 

We carried a small Yamaha TW200 motorcycle on the back.  We had some fun rides in Colorado and the Black Hills where this picture is taken.  We gave up the motorcycle for the bikes because we liked being able to ride off road on the non motorized rails to trails. (I know—the bikes—but so far they are welcome on the trails)  This is the only picture I could find of both the RV & cycle.


We almost always take our bikes with us when we travel so we had them with us on our recent Phoenix trip.  I already mentioned how much we enjoy riding the roads and trails at the Lost Dutchman State Park.  We also returned to the Riparian Reserve Water Ranch for the third time.  I previously wrote about here.  It is a fun place with lots of bunnies and birds in the middle of a big city.

This year we ventured out to the city of Tempe and the Salt River trail around Tempe Town Lake. 


By Kansas standards, this is a small lake behind a small dam on a very small river.  However, we learned from the many informational signs that this small river in the desert can become a raging river that took out several bridges before it became apparent that this small little stream needed big concrete bridges.

There are rental bicycles sitting all around the area.  Just parked here and there on grassy areas.  All you have to do to rent one is to log on a site with a smart phone and type in a number on the bike and provide a credit card for the fee and off you go. 

We shouldn’t have been surprised at the large homeless population in the area.  But, we were.

This was a fun big city ride—a long way from the curvy roads in the Black Hills on the motorcycle.

Below is the pedestrian bridge.


paddle boards and paddle boats for rent.


There was a rowing club—there were more modern boats stored nearby


There was even a waterfall!


and a beach


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Favorite Overnight Stops on a Roadtrip

We have traveled the 2,200 miles round trip between here and the “Valley of the Sun” five, maybe six times over the years.  We go there to visit our good friends Kay and Lynn, Terry and Bob and this year my cousin Connie and Jim.   Most go to the Phoenix area to escape the cold and kick back for two to four months.  Our trips are two weeks.  When I was thinking about how to write about a trip that I’ve covered so many times, I thought I would note how our roadtrips seem to  follow a similar pattern in our choices of overnight stops.

We always make our first stop in Monument Colorado.  It is always good to see family and enjoy the hospitality.  Luckily, we’ve never been snowed out driving the PW this first leg of our trip even though we usually go in the winter.  So, there is no better stop on a roadtrip than to “moochdock” in a driveway of family or friends.   We have our own bed, bathroom and coffee but enjoy joining our hosts in conversation and catching up without overstaying our welcome.

Just as with driveways, we find National Parks and other nationally owned locations great places to spend the night.  There are phone apps and reference books (see below) that list Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land or National Forest Service (NFS) locations.  These are sometimes free, always half price if you have a Senior Pass.  I don’t usually make reservations when on the road, so when evening approached after leaving Colorado, I was surprised to find the Cibola NFS area outside of Gallup New Mexico.  Even though the information said the campground was closed, we took our chances and headed the six miles up into the mountains.  We did drive a little too long and it was dark when we pulled into the parking lot for a snowmobile trail head.  We stayed toasty under our good sleeping bag even though our thermometer said 7 degrees out and 17 degrees in when this picture was taken early in the morning.  We have a furnace but prefer not to use it overnight because it is noisy.  Also, note that we had not dewinterized the camper so no fear of freezing water pipes. 


State Parks are our next preference.  As I have mentioned before, there is a reason States set aside certain locations for state parks.  We are seldom disappointed when seeking out a state park.  One of the best kept secrets in Apache Junction, a suburb of Phoenix,  is Lost Dutchman State Park.    The sites are big and few if any directly “look” into another site.  There are bike and hiking trails, clean showers and friendly campers.  It is hard to get the sites with electricity hookups so we don’t even try.  With careful camping, we get along fine with our battery.  The picture below is taken from our eight-night site.  The fog around Superstition Mountain is a first time sight in this desert climate. 


City and county parks are next for a overnight stay.  Many small towns, especially those a little off the beaten path, have lovely places for overnight stays.  San Jon, New Mexico had just such a place on this trip.  Sometimes the RV sites are near city baseball complexes or fair grounds.  Often they just have a drop pipe for payment or there is no charge.  For example the city of Chanute Kansas has a camp ground with electricity and water for no charge. 

I recommend the apps Allstays and Campendium as a help to find these low profile gems.  I joined Harvest Hosts for several years.  It allows overnight stays at wineries around the country.  If we were setting out on a long roadtrip, I would join again because those stays are fun. 

Sometimes when all else fails on a roadtrip, we settle for WalMart or a rest stop.  If you are lucky enough to hit a state welcome center at the right time, they are usually in a nice location.  They are often more off the road than a rest stop and have the benefit of free state maps and information. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Joy of Road Trip Small Pleasures

I’ve been absent from here because we have been on a roadtrip in our little RV.  I have been collecting pictures and thinking about what I will share but until then, I want to comment on a recent post by Ronni Bennett on her blog Time Goes By.

I have followed Ronni’s blog for many years.  She is honest and articulate in her descriptions of life as an elder and life as a survivor of pancreatic cancer.   While many of her essays are about these serious subjects, this linked post is about what she considers her own simple pleasures.  I enjoyed her list as well as watching the little video she has included.

In the end, though, it was the name of her post that caught my eye as I think about our recent road trip. 

We were gone for right at two weeks to the Phoenix area and places between.  All of those nights and a lot of our days were spent in a 20 foot, self contained, converted van.   I have often wondered how many couples could spend that much time together in that small of a space.  It has not been something that we have developed recently.  We started with traveling in small spaces when we had a Venture van—what we called our adVentures.  We like the idea of stopping where ever we like, making up the bed and going to sleep.   I’ll start my list of road trip small pleasures with our Pleasure Way van.

Just because we like to travel small does not mean I will pass on a life time pleasure.  Like Ronni, I love a hot shower.  We may not stay in a formal campground every night, but when we do, I appreciate campgrounds with clean, hot showers.  I commend this Nation’s Federal parks for most often providing these clean facilities with most State Parks not far behind.

Another road trip pleasure are the small town city parks that welcome overnight campers often for free.  We have stayed at these little surprises many times over the years.  Just several nights ago, the sun had gone down and we were on I 40 in that no man’s land in eastern New Mexico approaching Texas.  We jumped off the interstate at very small town.  And, there was a little park that had a camp for free sign.  It’s like a little gift from the friendly people who live in a mostly boarded up town on old Route 66.

We consider it a  small pleasure to get to know the camp hosts that watch over the campgrounds.  They are friendly, helpful and always ready for a conversation.  Linda and her husband at the Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction should win an award for the best camp hosts ever!

Finally, we consider it a small pleasure to find interesting, scenic and sometimes just odd things on the trails we go on with our always present bikes.  It might be a cemetery in an unusual place, a place to buy pop or ice cream with just a box to drop money, an unusual geocache or unusual yard art.  It might not be a National monument or beautiful work of art, but just coming across something unexpected that brings a small pleasure.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Little Cheer on an Icy Day

I say geraniums and most think summer and outside planters.  The thing is, if there is a south window with lots of sun, they will keep blooming all winter.  I get the best results if I cut them back a bit in early fall so they don’t get lanky as they are starting to do in the picture.  There is one drawback as is apparent in the picture, they leave little red peddles all over the floor all winter.  Totally worth it to have these cheery flowers non stop from the time we bring them in. 


In the upper part of the picture there is another plant that isn’t too clear.  Here is another winter surprise.  And, I guess it feels spring in the air because it is now covered with blooms.  It looks like a lime, but it is a lemon.  If I let it turn yellow, it is over ripe. 


Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of my violets blooming.  I’ve given starts to several friends and their plants are blooming like crazy—mine are growing but no blooms.  I repotted them last summer and I think they are still getting used to their new digs.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself because  I’m a little prideful about my violets.