Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016


Dan and I wish a Very Merry Christmas to all family and friends who happen by the Backroads this day.   May you be around those you find special this Christmas season. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Preparations

We were on the road for over three weeks in November.  Our visit to North Carolina and the roadtrips between were fun.  It amazed us that we found it quite comfortable to be gone so long.  Of course, that is with a big thanks to Christi for watering our newly planted landscaping.

A week after we returned, I hosted a bridal shower for our niece.  Entertaining in our home is fun, but putting up Christmas decorations can be tedious.  It helped that Dan pitched in with washing windows and hanging lights.  Actually, it was good to have the deadline.    The cheery, warm feeling of the decorations  makes me feel happy this time of year.

The warm cheery feeling has been welcome the past couple days.  Dan and I decided our Christmas present to each other would be one of those fancy indoor/outdoor temperature gauges.  Once we got it, we couldn’t wait until Christmas so its been a big deal tracking this cold weather.  Here’s what the new gadget says right now.  Notice the minus 3—it’s supposed to drop more tonight.  Looks like we have sun in the forecast, though. 


This week the winter sun will drop to its most southerly point.  Today it streamed in the south windows warming that part of the house to 80 degrees.  The thermostat wouldn’t allow it, but we talked about how funny it would be if the air conditioning would come on when the outdoor temperature barely broke zero.

We spent the day holed up, finally going out around 4:00 pm to clean off snow.  Of course, I had to take some pictures while out there. 


There are lots of visitors to a little area around the pines.  Here’s why


Christmas treats for our birds, bunnies and it looks like deer tracks as well.  Not many goodies have come out of my kitchen for us humans…yet.  This is the week!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

It has been an epic Thanksgiving this year.  It started two weeks ago when we left home for Augusta Georgia.    It can’t be easy to have two retired elders move in for that long, but we’ve had lots of fun and everyone has made us feel as though we are a part of the family.

Kim and Marc are excellent cooks—in fact all our kids are good cooks.  We had turkey, ham, Kim’s special potatoes, sweet potatoes, Dan’s oyster casserole and brussels sprouts.

IMG_9190-1It was Kim’s the chocolate cheesecake that stole the show, though


A few got sleepy after the big meal.



Jojo was sure there was a squirrel for her this Thanksgiving.

IMG_9183-1 Well, here we are getting ready to load up the PW and head west.  We think we will slip through a warm spell so that we won’t need to winterize.  A big thank you to our North Carolina family for making our visit special and to our neighbors for keeping everything watered at home so we didn’t have to worry.

Happy Thanksgiving to family and friends! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Marc and Kim have a new Cary city park just a short walk away from their house.  It has a basketball court, playground and a Pickleball court!  The little park is very popular in the neighborhood.

So, as part of our early Christmas present to the family, we gave them enough equipment to play double Pickleball. 

Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island near Seattle Washington.  Three dads madeup the game to keep their kids occupied during the summer.  It is played with a wiffle ball and wooden paddle. 

I wondered why it is called Pickleball.  There are two theories and both are probably partly correct.  One of the wives of the founders of the game, thinking it was a combination of several sports,  thought it was like a pickleboat in crew where the rowers are drawn from extras from other boats. The other possibility is at some point one of the families got a dog and named it pickles. 

When we bought the equipment in Dicks Sporting Goods, the man at the checkout said it is becoming hugely popular in the Cary area because so many courts are being made available.  It is a fun game because it suits all ages.

Everyone is feeling better about their game.  Somehow Marc and I didn’t get a shot.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Savannah Valley Railroad Trail and Doodle Rail to Trail

We left Petersburg Campground Monday morning.  The rain and cool weather of Sunday cleared.  However, smoke from the Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina mountain wildfires lingered all day.  As we moved north and east from the Augusta area, the smoke was bad enough it made our eyes burn.

Our first stop was the Savannah Valley Trail, McCormick County, South Carolina

IMG_3793 The Savannah Valley Trail, as many of the rails to trails, are on the beds of railroads used in the 1800s and early 1900s to transport passengers and goods.   The Savannah Valley Railroad connected travelers and goods to Anderson and Charleston South Carolina.  At the lower portion of the trail where we started, the ride was rough with a lot of tree roots.  We enjoyed the trip, though.  We did not drive between the lower and upper portion—it will be nice when the trail is connected. 

This is called a Whistle Post.  They are more than 120 years old and their codes told the engineers what whistle warnings to blow and when.


This is an old spring house just off the trail.  I have to admit it was more than a little spooky with the water inside.


The Doodle Trail is a 7 and half mile rails to trail between the cities of Easley and Pickens South Carolina.  It was named “Doodle” because the Freight engine could not be turned around and had to run backwards from Easley to Pickens looking like a doodlebug.


It was built in 1898 and actually ran until 2013, hauling a wide variety of commodities between the cities.  It is a paved, well cared for trail.  Dan didn’t ride this one so he dropped me off and picked me up at the end.  Here is an example of an abandoned mill along the trail—an example of past manufacturing in the area.


One reason we like traveling in the PW is the bathroom we carry with us.  This day, we were particularly glad we didn’t have to use this roadside facility.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

“Head of the South” Augusta Georgia

Regattas are exciting, colorful and fun.  We enjoyed attending Kim and Marc’s meets when they were at KSU.  Now, we have the exciting opportunity to see Aaron and Adam row for Triange Rowing Club based here in the Cary, Raleigh area.
The trip to Augusta was uneventful other than once again encountering a massive traffic jam in Nashville.  (We have bad traffic luck in that city).  I worried about Atlanta, but with seven lanes and hitting it at nonpeak time, we sailed right through.
The regatta was Saturday but we arrived at the site on Friday late afternoon. We rode our bicycles around the area taking in all the activities.  Teams and boats were streaming in.  Amazingly, we found the boys.
The location was not on the Savannah River itself, but a side canel.  
After asking around, no one seemed to care if we just stayed where we were parked behind the dike.  So, we just closed the curtains and spent the night.
Kim, Marc and Evan found us early the next morning and we set up our little part of the hill side for the day.  I’ve posted a slideshow of pictures taken during the day.  As usual, click on this link  then on the upper right hand arrow for a full screen slide show of the pictures. 
By the way, the boys placed fifth out of 15 entries of Novice eight.  Of course, they would of liked to place higher, but felt good about how their race went. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Re-landscaping Phase 3

Actually, there could be a phase 4 because we only completed the painting on the front of the house.  We will need to go back and repaint some that we already completed because we decided to change the color. 


I have always like our house without shutters or trim around the windows.  I think it makes a nice back drop to the landscaping in front.  However, I  think by modern standards, it looks plain here.  And, I’m not crazy about the front door.  For now, it will not be changed. 

It also might look a little more polished without buckets scattered all along the front.  These are five gallon buckets with a tiny hole in the bottom side.  The new plants need water through the winter and these buckets make it easier for Christi, our neighbor, to take care of that chore.  Because…

There will be an interruption in any work done here for a while. We will be attending an event that involves “boats” that require rowing.  And, it will be at a place usually known for golf.  Stay tuned for that.

Happy Birthday, Carly and Kim!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Re-landscaping Phase 2

This summer, we kept looking at the front of our house.  That’s about it, we kept looking and doing nothing.

They were only home from their 4th of July visit a couple weeks when I received a call from Kim.  Kim and Evan were using some airline points and coming home the weekend of October 15th and landscaping our house.  Then, we got a call from Doug, saying he was coming home to help.  So, the crew was set up—Kim, Evan (who is on break from his year-around school year), Doug, Dan and I. 

First, we were able to get a big load of fill dirt from a neighbor.   It was essential to re-slope the dirt away from the house.  Then it was off to the store to buy plants. 


This was only the beginning.  We made two trips—one with a trailer to get the plants home.  Then there was another trip with the dump trailer just for mulch.  

Kim, Evan and Doug are crazy workers and had the metal edging down in no time.



Then digging holes to set the plants.  Once again we were grateful for young hands and muscles because we dug one hole to their three.


This tells the story:

img606 copy-1

Finally, there is what we call Evan’s Rock.  The kids hauled landscaping blocks from in front of the house and arranged them around the big granite rock in our front yard.  We hauled in dirt from our corn field.   It is entirely perennials and Evan planted all the plants.   I don’t have a picture right now but will insert it when I get it from Kim.  What that picture won’t show is that all the plants there are doing great, but there are little corn plants popping up all around the bed!

So, my job now is to keep everything watered.  It’s tedious because I try to let the water slowly flow so it soaks better with less runoff.  We have many (like a dozen) 5 gallon buckets with tiny holes at the very bottom side.  We have used them before to water new plantings.  I think we are going to set them up tomorrow.  It is much easier to fill a bucket then time the water—plus I have a better idea of how much I am putting on. 

There is a phase three.  We’ve been working on it the past two days.  It involves paint!  I won’t post a final picture until that part is done. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Re-landscaping Phase One

There has to be a beginning to this story. And, here it is:
This picture was taken in November, 1978.  We were living in an RV while building most of this house ourselves.  The black dirt in front looks good.  Dan remembers we got it from the pasture where we built a small pond.

A landscaping company in Topeka made a plan for free if we purchased our plants from them.  It wasn't too original, but the price was right.  This picture was taken last year.  Definitely the 37-year-old plants are overgrown.  Obviously the dirt has settled around the house as well.

So, last Christmas, we said goodbye.  Dan said he would not miss treating the cedars for bag worms.  I will not miss pruning.

Monday, October 10, 2016

North Carolina Family OK

Many weather people seemed to be caught off guard when hurricane Matthew dove inland in North Carolina causing severe flooding.  Maybe the coasts where alerted and prepared, but I don’t think the forecasters expected the huge amount of rain accompanying the storm to reach the Raleigh area, which is about 2½ hours inland.

Kim, Marc and family live in Cary, a suburb of Raleigh.  Their eight inch rain gauge ran over.  Most of the homes in their area do not have basements.  Kim said the rain ran off fairly well.  So, they escaped with no damage, including not losing their electricity. 

On Saturday, the Triangle Rowing Club had a regatta at the Head of the James in Virginia. It was not called off.  Kim said it rained the entire time and turned the area into a mud mess.  Still, Adam ends his race with a smile!


Thursday, October 06, 2016

Surprise Visitor!

We were having our usual quiet Sunday when I got a call from our niece, Denise,  in Alabama.  “Hey, she said “I’m thinking about a road trip.  You’all going to be home on Tuesday and Wednesday?” 

Come to find out, she got up on Sunday morning and just took a notion to take off on an over 2,000 mile roadtrip on her motorcycle—by herself.  She starts a new job on Monday and she decided it was now or next year.  I am so glad she decided now.

She arrived yesterday afternoon but not before a small rain storm caught her on I70.  She was just a little damp when she arrived but didn’t want to stop and put on her awesome, made for motorcycles rain gear.  (Amazingly, she hasn’t needed it since she started)

So, after a dinner with Dan’s brother, Paul & Janice, she spent the night and took off mid morning for Abilene to visit more relatives.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  Her free spirit always has been and still is a joy.



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. 



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. 


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


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….


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.




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. 


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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)


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

img603 We let her have a litter of puppies—just once. But, oh my were they cute.


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


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. 


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.


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.



Lucy & Skye