Saturday, April 30, 2011

Happy Anniversary To Us!

One year ago today, Rich and I both retired. The next day I posted this blog entry titled Happy Trails. Today we are nearing the end of our fifth long RV trip since retirement. Here's a look back through our Meanderings of the past year via links to some of our favorite posts.

The August before retirement, we had purchased this Class C motorhome with thoughts of traveling after we retired. A big part of this decision was that RVing would be the only way we could travel and take 'the girls' along. Whether or not this would be our cup 'o tea was a huge unknown.

We traveled to Florida's Key West just days after retiring for a week of sun and a perfect introduction to whiling away the days in total relaxation. On the way to Florida we made the first of many happy accidental discoveries when we meandered away from our first RV Park to check out the little Georgia town of Juliette and had lunch at The Whistle Stop Cafe. Since then we have often left the beaten path and found unpredicted, unplanned jewels.

Another high point of that first trip was experienced on our way home from Key West. By chance we stopped in Panama City Beach, FL. By chance, because we are not particularly "beach people." By chance, we were there when the shallow waters of the beach were being frequented with schools of Bluntnose Stingrays. They swam languorously and very near us in the amazing experience, purely by chance!

That first, month-long trip left us ravenous for more; we were bitten badly by the RVing bug.

Our second major trip was so amazing that there is only one post of it! Our three precious grandkids were here for 2 1/2 weeks in June. We were so busy make beautiful memories together that, out of many different activities and miles traveled and visits with family and more than 2,600 photos, I discovered today that this post of our Trip to Indianapolis is the only one.

After staying home for most of July we headed for the Pacific Northwest on our third trip, returning in early September. What a trip! By then I was in full photo/posting mode so it's difficult to pick just a couple to link. Our week near my beloved Grand Tetons and Yellowstone before heading to Montana was filled with scenery and wildlife. We visited Holland Lake, north of Missoula several years ago and had longed to return. We spent a beautiful and relaxing few days there before heading on to Spokane, WA.

Quite unexpectedly, while in Spokane we found a Class A motorhome that met most of the items on our dream list and traded for it on the spot. We had spent enough time on the road by then to know that our travels would be greatly enhanced with some additional features.
Our original destination for this trip was Seattle where we spent a glorious week. Along the way, we meandered sideways once again to a spot that was special to us Roslyn, WA.

While in Seattle we visited Sandee's high school BFF and her family in addition to soaking in the beautiful scenery and city. I picked this post to represent our time in Seattle. After leaving Seattle, we didn't spend much time in Oregon because we wanted to visit Hell's Canyon in Idaho which was spectacular. Between there and Flaming Gorge in Wyoming I posted these photos of our long driving day through the Three States which included Utah.

After about three weeks at home in September, we headed west to see the kids on our fourth trip. It was their fall break from school so we loaded them into the RV and headed to the Four Corners Monument. Not satisfied with them just standing in those four states on a medallion, we wanted them to actually experience some of New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah as well as the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and Monument Valley in their own state of Arizona. This was a great trip and we all had a blast! I do want to post this one photo of Trout Lake taken on our drive to Telluride, CO. The night before, the Rockies had received this first snowfall of the year. This is my idea of what heaven will look like.

On the way to Arizona we had visited Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, TX; while in Arizona we enjoyed many other activities with our grands; and on the way home from there we enjoyed our stay in Oklahoma City, OK among many other highlights along the way. While in OKC we visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the Museum of Art, and Route 66 Park with it's rendition of The Mother Road. Having grown up in a small midwestern town along old Route 66, I especially enjoyed seeing many of the historic sights along it on this trip.

Early in November we had to winterize the RV and store it for what turned out to be a very long, very cold, very snowy winter. I loved it...I love the cold, I love the snow, I did not love staying home all winter though. I was ready to rock and roll by March 10th when we left on this, our fifth trip. Since you're reading this post, you have likely been following along for these past seven weeks. Therefore, I'm just going to post a few favorite photos...

Remember Roswell, NM with its aliens (see photo above...haha) and its fabulous Museum of Modern Art?

Remember our visit to the White Sands National Monument?

Remember our day with the kids at Amazing Jakes?

Remember our day at the Goldfield Ghost Town?

On our trip to Tucson we visited the Botanical Gardens...

...and the Children's Museum...

...and the Waffle House...

...and the Pima Air and Space Museum! While staying at their house we loved all the time spent together at hockey games, swimming, baseball games, bracelet making, Farkle and Domino games, musical instruments, back to school, homework, and so much snuggling!!!

Before we knew it, we were back on the road again.

The Organ Mountains overlooking Las Cruces and Mesilla, New Mexico.

An incredible eleven days in San Antonio during Fiesta!

Taking "the Girls" for a walk in the surf on Galveston Island.

A few days in Hot Springs, Arkansas where we enjoyed some of its natural beauty before the vast number of tornadoes invaded much of the country.

A quick dinner at our favorite place on Beale Street in Memphis, TN in between huddling in safe rooms due to tornado warnings.

And then driving through storms all day on the final leg into Illinois a couple of days ago.
We are spending a few days visiting my mom and staying at my brother and SIL's before driving on home.

This has been the most incredible year of my life because I never dreamed that we would someday have the opportunity to travel so extensively and be on the road for several weeks each trip. In addition to our travels, there have been many special times shared with family and friends at home this year.

I want to send a special thank you to our next-door BFFs, Vic and Sandee, who have taken care of so many things on the home front for us when we've been gone. Thanks to all of you, too, for following our Meanderings on this blog. I love taking all these photos and writing this blog but it's even more enjoyable knowing that you all are reading it.

Lovin' Life ~~ And Our Amazing First Year of Retirement

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blue Skies...

...smilin' at me
Nothin' but blue skies do I see
~~Lyrics by Irving Berlin                         

Hey Dorothy: We are just now passing the exit to your house! Call me if you think you might come up.

And to all the rest: Just wanted everyone to know that the skies are blue, the clouds are white, and the pavement's dry. We'll be in C'ville today, checking in at our favorite W&M Campground, and taking Mom her Lambert's dinner.
Lovin' Life ~~ Headed Homeward

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Memphis Barbecue

A couple of weeks ago you may recall that we drove to Austin, TX so that Rich could enjoy his favorite beef ribs. Yesterday, in Memphis, we returned to the Rum Boogie Cafe for what he says are the very best pork ribs. Marion, Arkansas is just across the river from Memphis, Tennessee. Since we risked life and limb just to stop in Memphis for a rack of ribs, I'm dedicating an entire post to that meal.

When we were here the first time, last May on our way back from the Florida Keys, I took a photo of Rich in front of a Blue Moon sign in this same spot. That one was much funnier than this. They have repainted this outdoor bar since then. He rarely drinks but when he does it's Blue Moon beer. Here he is Then I'm walking in Memphis/Was walking with my feet, ten feet off of Beale. You didn't really think I'd write this last post today without a poem or song lyrics did you?

We kept walkin' on down Beale Street to the Rum Boogie Cafe...the home of hundreds of signed guitars and some great Memphis cookin'.

As the song says They've got catfish on the table. I do love me some catfish and their kitchen prepares it perfectly.

But wait, we keep going back there because Rich loves their ribs. He would tell you that this what their kitchen does better than any other.

And here is one happy man!

With all the storm warnings and new ones being spawned by the moment, we had gone into Memphis mid-afternoon so we could get back before all hell the storms broke loose. I hear this is one hoppin' bar in the evenings but that's usually not our scene, and we do come for the great food. I'm so glad we got there in time to have dinner and get back before we had to spend the rest of the evening seeking protection from the storms in the shower rooms.

Tonight it is not raining and we are not seeking shelter or even tracking storm cells on the internet. What a relief! After driving all day in rain along with varying degrees of other storm conditions, hopefully MOAO will get some much deserved rest.

Lovin' Life ~~ And Favorite Kitchens

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Yeah, definitely waxing poetic. It is raining too hard to take photos, much to my chagrin. I have seen many waterfalls coursing down and through the blasted rock walls that line the interstate in this area. What a rare sight on the I-55 in Missouri. Flooded ground can be seen in all directions in the low-lying areas. A group of three-wheeled motorcycles just cruised into the rest area where we are waiting out another storm cell. Makes me grateful for the motorhome.

During a lull in the rain, I took this....pretty, huh? I love old barns and other weather-worn buildings.

Within about an hour and a half the temps have dropped a full 20 degrees; still, the storms continue to build. We had been talking with our niece for a couple of days about whether or not to stop at their place on our way home. They live in a rural area of southeast Missouri and this morning I decided that it just wasn't a good idea to test how solid the lane to their house is when the ground is saturated with rain and no let up in sight.

We did stop for a break at the exit we would take if going to their house. The fact that Lambert's - Home of the Throwed Rolls is there had nothing to do with that decision. But, since we were there we might just as well have lunch...right? These were taken near that exit where the driveways at one hotel were underwater.

Who can tell me what's wrong with this pony today? It's always tied up outside the entry to Lambert's?

Some may recall that the last time this pony appeared here, it was ridden by six of the cutest kids in the whole wide world! Or maybe you couldn't even see the pony with six kids on it!

I called Mom from here and we are carrying a Lambert's Pork Chop dinner with all the fixin's to her when we hopefully get to Carlinville tomorrow.

Lovin' Life ~~ And Familiar Places

There's Got To Be A Morning After

 If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let's keep on looking for the light

Obviously I'm feeling quite poetic this week. These are the opening lyrics of the song The Morning After which was the love song from the movie The Poseidon Adventure and they are looping through my head this morning. Again last evening there was a series of vicious, tornado spawning storms near Marion, AR. We spent a chunk of the evening hanging out in the shower rooms with our fellow adventurers at the KOA in, you guessed it, Marion, AR.

The storms, some with hail...all with heavy rain, continued through most of the night but we had returned to the motorhome after the tornado warnings expired.

This morning we are headed north on I-55. Rich is wondering how much you all would pay us to NOT park anywhere near your home since we seem to be a magnet for tornado activity these days!!!

Here are a few views of the KOA as we paddled drove out of there this morning...

This is the exit lane we were paddling through driving on.

This is one of the dog walk areas, complete with a nearly submerged trash can. Someone with a great sense of humor had added a "No Swimming" sign underneath! You may have to enlarge the photo to read it.

Those are the rear ends of RVs you see on the left.
We were parked in an area that was much drier than these folks were.
So much water everywhere.
They have a nice Kamp K-9 but, as you can see, we were certainly not taking the girls to romp there this morning...giggle.
Stay tuned!
Lovin' Life ~~ Still Looking For The Light

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Into each life....

...some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary."

Those are the last two lines of the poem The Rainy Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Yesterday was rainy and dark and dreary until the evening when tornadoes were sighted throughout Arkansas and the rain was joined by its friends hail, lightning, thunder, and variably strong winds.

Many of us gathered in the basement at the KOA where we stayed while in Hot Springs. My heart went out to the four generations of one family who were trying to get to the funeral of a young relative. Another family, with disappointed young kids on spring break, had nearly turned around and returned home the day before due to issues with their RV anyway, then arrived to learn that the amusement park they planned to visit is not opening yet...not the trip they had planned.

Our biggest challenge was just trying to get the girls calmed down with all those people and all that stress around them so we are not complaining. After all, we have been on the road for nearly seven weeks, on this our fifth long trip in the past year, and this is the first extreme weather we have encountered.

The power was still out this morning but we had all services all night in our RV thanks to the house batteries and generator. Thanks to Verizon Mobile Broadband we even had internet connectivity for storm tracking. So we were in great shape throughout the rest of the evening and night.

We left Hot Springs under heavy cloud cover early this morning, as originally planned, continuing our leisurely drive homeward.

That area has strong thunderstorms with the possibility of tornadoes forecast for later today again. We are at Little Rock as I post this, passing lots of raging streams and flooded land.
Lovin' Life ~~ Counting Blessings

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hot Springs ~ Fordyce Bathhouse

Hot Springs, Arkansas is world renowned for its hot springs and the thermal mineral baths available here from the mid 1800s to today.  "About a million gallons of 143-degree water flow from the springs each day. The rate of flow is not affected by fluctuations in the rainfall in the area. Studies by National Park Service scientists have determined through carbon dating that the water that reaches the surface in Hot Springs fell as rainfall in an as-yet undetermined watershed 4,000 years earlier. The water percolates very slowly down through the earth’s surface until it reaches superheated areas deep in the crust and then rushes rapidly to the surface to emerge from the 47 hot springs." Source: Wikipedia

Rich is drinking the 4,000 year old hot mineral water at one of the water stations where anyone can fill containers with water at no cost or limit.

In the historic downtown and on Bathhouse Row there are several hot springs fountains. Here comes a shocker...I love fountains! They fall into that category which includes installation art and know, like my love of bridges too. Digressing again, I know. Here are three of the fountains.

My favorite though is the one in front of the original Hot Springs National Park Visitors' Center. Just look at the fabulous coloration of the mosses and the effects of the minerals over time...magnificent.
Although the bathing industry declined dramatically in the late 1940s. There are still four bathhouses in operation in this picturesque little town. All of the bathhouses are large, architecturally beautiful buildings. Yesterday, we toured the restored Fordyce Bathhouse which currently serves as the Visitors Center for Hot Springs National Park.

As you might guess from the size of this bathhouse, there were treatments available for many maladies such as foot cysts, colonic problems, and others that modern medicine would cringe at today, but the main function was the healing properties of the baths. The mens' and womens' changing stalls and bathing areas were very separate but the design and materials were the same. Here is one of the individual bathing rooms.

There were dramatic differences, however, in the size and features with the women's facilities being very small and utilitarian while the much larger men's facilities are quite grand.

These are doors to two of the seven bathing rooms in the women's area.

There were thirty bathing rooms in the mens' area surrounding a large open area that is lined with marble benches as seen here. In the center of this area is the fountain with a sculpture of DeSoto being offered a drink by an Indian maiden.

This stained glass ceiling is centered above the sculpture/fountain in the mens' opulent bathing facility.

Two other areas that have been restored with their original equipment and furnishings...

The equipment displayed in the men's gymnasium are original pieces.

The large assembly room on the third floor was a gathering place for all guests of the Fordyce. The intricately patterned tile floor gives the impression of a carpet and the curved ceiling has several full-width stained glass panels.
Let's be clear. No doubt this is more information than you ever wanted about hot springs bathing facilities but after Rich and I spent half of our lives an entire morning wandering through these rooms listening to a long winded well-informed tour guide, the least you can do is read this post!!!
Lovin' Life ~~ Even This Tour

Friday, April 22, 2011

Scored Rocks ~ Too Late!

A few weeks ago my mom went to Missouri with my brother and SIL to attend a birthday party for two of her three great-grandsons who live there. My niece and her husband, the boys' folks, made this cake and she posted about it HERE.

Mom raved about this cake, rightfully so because it is AMAZING! But what really amazed her were the rocks. She told me that she thought Amber had picked up rocks from the driveway because they looked so realistic. Finally she put one in her mouth and carefully bit it...OMG, IT WAS CHOCOLATE!

I told her that Dylan had bought some at the Pima Air Museum. Then, she told me that I have to bring her some chocolate rocks when Rich and I return to Illinois. Never one to ignore such a request, I called my niece to find out where she got them...WalMart...slam dunk, right? Not exactly. I searched every Wal-Mart in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as many souvenir shops, before finally scoring them on our last day in San Antonio.  Here are the elusive chocolate rocks...

I gleefully e-mailed my niece about my success only to find out that her mom and dad had found them at the little WalMart store in our small town. And they had already given them to Mom! Foiled again...giggle. Maybe we'll just eat the ones I bought...naw.

Lovin' Life ~~ And Chocolate Rocks