Monday, November 29, 2010

Home by Way of The Golden Lamb

We slept in.   The bed was huge and the comforter was comforting.  I could have stayed there all day, frankly, but Randy was up and ready to get going.  Darn.  We were in the car by 10 AM.

Now, a ride home is probably as exciting to a driver as a plane ride is to a frequent flyer. We drove from LaGrange, Kentucky to Akron, Ohio between the hours of 10 AM and 5 PM.  Obviously we stopped somewhere.

Lebanon, Ohio.  Small town.  But it was a good stop.  For me, it was the third time to have lunch at The Golden Lamb, but Randy's first. He told me he would have remembered it if he had been there before. My first time there, my mother, who was teaching Ohio History for awhile, surprised me with lunch on a trip to Alabama many years ago.

The Golden Lamb is the oldest hotel in Ohio, built in 1803, and actually opened in 1815 to the public.  It has 30 rooms which are still used as hotel rooms, and each one bears the name of a person from history who stayed in the hotel:  Mark Twain,  Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, to name a few.  It also has been the hotel of twelve US Presidents, most recently George W. Bush, in 2004.

There is even a hotel ghost who shows up once in awhile. Her name is Sarah, and her room is closed off except for a glass window that we could look into her room, just in case she showed up while we were there.  She didn't.

The menu shows all twelve of those Presidents, proudly, and tells the history of the hotel.  We ate a lovely lunch of chicken salad sandwich with fruit salad for me, and egg salad and the house soup of potato with ham and mushrooms for Randy.  They served rolls with apple butter that was made right there in Lebanon. (We moaned.)

The rest of the day was really uneventful, but the hour or so we spent at The Golden Lamb was worth mentioning. If you are near Dayton, or north of's off I71 N just a mile or so.  History and charm.  We are talking about going there and staying in a room once used by a President.  You know we will post about it if that happens............!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Greece in Tennessee. Not GREASE, GREECE!

This morning we had a Greek experience in Nashville.  We visited the only full-size replica of The Parthenon of Athens, right in Nashville, Tennessee, in the United States! Who knew?

This structure was actually built as a temporary building to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the USA, back in the 1800's.  It caught on, people liked it, and it was then built as a permanent site and completed around 1930 or so.  It houses an art museum and a 42 foot statue of Athena, which we failed to see since we were there on a Sunday and Athena is inside.   However, The Parthenon was amazingly huge and impressive.  Every tiny detail has been completed to perfection.

We decided to speak with Greek accents while we viewed this enormous building, and took self-timed photos of ourselves to add to Christmas cards, hoping to let you all think we'd been to Athens, Greece. Our Greek accents were not wonderful, either.

We fed some bread that we'd brought from home to some Canadian geese and a few lone ducks in a man-made lake nearby, then told Thelma to "Take us home!" and off we went. Lunch was at a Zaxbe's where we enjoyed chicken tenders and boneless chicken wings, (those poor birds!) then were off and away again.

We did take a side trip to Horse Cave, Kentucky, to revisit the birthplace of Randy's grandfather and the roots of his dad's family.  It hadn't changed much since our last stop, but had added a real motel and some directional signs, so we know there has been growth.

Once back on Rt. 65N, the Home-From-Thanksgiving traffic was hideous and bumper to bumper.  We drove at 3 miles per hour for about forty-five minutes at one point.  We put in our time, even though we may not have made the distance we would have liked to do.  We realize, however, that most of those people have to be back at work tomorrow, while we do not.  It seemed courteous to get off the highway and let them go on by.

Tonight we are in a beautiful Best Western in LaGrange, Kentucky, which is not far from Louisville.  My eyelids have been heavy most of the afternoon (I can't imagine why.......) and we've not stopped many times today.

 We just ordered dinner online from Domino's Pizza. What a hoot that was! I put in the information and they showed me a pizza shell which I decorated on my computer screen with the ingredients we preferred, then clicked in the place to deliver it.  A minute later a meter showed up on my computer screen on which we could know that they had received the order, were constructing the pizzas, baking them, and then they were out for delivery!  In 24 minutes the pizzas were at our hotel room door.  I am impressed with Dominos.

Actually, I would recommend Dominos in a heartbeat over for customer satisfaction.   :)

Nashville, the Music, and the Opry

It is well after 1 AM back home, an hour earlier here in Tennessee, and I just now got out of the shower, and really would love to collapse.  I  told Randy, however, that if I don't sit right down and write about this day, much of it will be "gone" from my memory by morning.  I've got to catch it while it's fresh.

We awoke at 8 AM, and by 9:30 were in the "music district" of Nashville, had parked our car at a meter, and were briskly walking down a hill.  Believe it or not, we still have some of that energy right now.

Nashville's Music District, mainly Broadway, is a busy busy place.  The street is populated with musicians either out of work, working, looking for work, or on their way to work.  Most of them are carrying a guitar case.  I really felt out of place with just a large purse over my shoulder. We each needed a guitar case, too! 

We also didn't have our cowboy hats and boots along, darn it. We did, however, wear our jeans, and I had on my fur vest which seems to fit into any environment I wear it into, so I wore my MSNBC ball cap instead of a cowgirl hat.  A few aspiring musicians seemed to think that I was from the press.  I heard one singer who caught sight of my hat yell out to the rest of her fiddle-playing crew to "give it all you've got!"  I hated to disappoint her, so I nodded appreciatively to their act and waved as I left.  I hope they are not waiting for the phone call from MSNBC.

One street musician into whose hat we'd dropped a bill sang for us (while his dog lay sleeping on top of his car) and then asked timidly if we were actually from MSNBC.  I answered, "You wish! But no, it's  a hat my son gave to me." (Thanks, Stephen! )

First we located the Ryman Auditorium where we had selected tickets for the 7 PM Grand Ol Opry show from    .We wanted to be sure we knew where we were going and how to get there for the show.

Then we walked slowly up and down Broadway for two hours until our parking meter had run down, then moved the car to an all-day lot with a fixed price. The parking attendant assured us that as long as we didn't move our car out of that lot, we wouldn't have to pay for parking again until long after the Opry let out.  A deal!

We looked at fabulously expensive Western boots, souvenirs, CDs of country stars we'd never heard of, postcards, tee shirts, and any other thing that you can imagine in those shops that cater to tourists.  We bought very little, but had a good time looking. We met a young man from Struthers, Ohio, in a boot shop. He knew exactly where I had lived in Poland and knew of our family!

We ate lunch at a place called Rippy's that served me a fried catfish sandwich and Randy a pork loin BBQ sandwich along with some twangy music performed by some of those musicians who have a job. Wonderful catfish!

Back on the street, we bopped in and out of bars and luncheonettes, took  seats, listened to the current performers, dropped them a tip, and wandered on to the next venue.  By the time we'd turned around and headed back up the street the other direction, the musicians had changed and we couldn't tell which bars we had already stopped into.  We continued up and down the street until about 3 o'clock when we went back to the car to freshen up for the Opry. We planned to have dinner after the Opry. 

However, when we checked our printed tickets from, we realized that we had tickets for the 9:30 performance instead of the 7 o'clock one that I had clicked on. I know you're wondering how I did not know this before then.  Here is my excuse:  I printed off the tickets, knew what I had clicked on, saw the bill was correct for the amount I had ordered, and went back to work as a teacher that day.  My own fault, for not checking immediately, but we did have a hotel and tickets for the show. We just didn't have the right hotel or the right showtime.  We also will not be using again, needless to say.  Our method of non-planning seems to work better for us.

Now, please don't call us "cheap," but we didn't want to lose our parking spot and have to repay for it!  So, because both of us are capable of  "winging it," that's what we did.  First we laughed, then we freshened up anyway, and went back down to the music district.

We roamed a little further away, seeing some other lovely buildings, and did the rounds of all the bars again (they all had different musicians by then, after all....) and then discovered Demos Restaurant at 300 Commerce Street. (  We had time to kill, seats at the bar, and a great bartender named Michelle who also was our waitress. We drank good wine, and Randy had a rib eye steak which he said was beyond wonderful, and I had a baked potato stuffed with an entire bowl of chili, cheese, and sour cream that was absolutely delicious.

We also made friends with a couple from San Diego, a group of people from Ann Arbor, Michigan, a young man who eats lunch and dinner at Demos every day since he works nearby in his first job, a man and his partner from Charleston, South Carolina, and were now best friends with Michelle and her co-bartender, Dustin.  The time flew.

By 8:30 PM we were in line at the Ryman Auditorium for the Grand Ol Opry along with busloads of people who had come from the Opryland Hotel that I told you about yesterday.  What we were not totally aware of is that the Opryland Hotel had just opened on November 15th, so it has a few glitches to iron out, we learned.  Too many people, high parking and valet fees, not enough places to eat...........these were what its guests were saying about it.  They all agreed it is beautiful and will probably get its act together shortly, though.

At the Ryman, we met a couple from Toledo and a group of five who had come a two-hour drive in Tennessee to take an older man in their group to see the Opry.  He had been saying for over fifty years that he wanted to see it, but had never gone the two hours to get there until tonight.

I expect that you think I would have slept through the Grand Ol Opry.  WRONG!  I'd had a cup of coffee after dinner, and the auditorium was so cold that NO ONE could go to sleep.  I have seen it all.

The Opry is a two-hour show.  Every half hour they close the curtains and an entirely different group of people take over the stage, except for this man who has a marvelously deep voice and does commercials every few minutes.  When I say "commercials," that is exactly what I mean.  He reads the same ads over and over again into a microphone that goes out to radio land, since this is all a live broadcast. The Opry audience has to listen to this spiel, too.  The only good news about this is that every half hour the sponsor changes along with the stage performers, and at some point the performers started making fun of the advertisements too, so it was tolerable.  Barely.

We saw some wonderful fiddle players, and some tap dancing square dancers.  Little Jimmy Dickens hosted the first segment.  He is nearly ninety years old, but he sang and played a guitar like a much younger man.  He was tiny up there with his bright blue spangly suit on.

Brett Eldredge was a highlight. He is an attractive young man with a great voice and lots of enthusiasm. Then a group called Riders in the Sky performed some country songs and told some jokes.

Crystal Gayle was the headliner.  Her hair is STILL down to her ankles, although it looks as if it could use one good blunt cut across the bottom. She sang two songs, neither of which I could name.  I was too busy watching all that hair swing back and forth as she swayed and moved while she sang.   I kept wondering how long it takes to dry when she washes it, how she can even shampoo it, and if she ever wishes she could have a different hair-do.  And would anybody recognize her without the hair?  I even wondered if she had already cut the hair and this was a long hairpiece that she tied on before the show so the audience would know it was she.

Oh well.

At eleven o'clock (Nashville time) we exited the Ryman Auditorium and drove back to our hotel.  My pedometer says I've walked five miles today. I think it must have gotten reset sometime during the day.  I walked a million miles today, saw a million happy people, and really loved Nashville. There are still a couple of places we want to see before we leave tomorrow.  I'd better hit the sheets so I can get up in the morning and do just that!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Turkey, the History, the Pig, and the Glitz

We arrived on Thanksgiving afternoon at Jerry and Susan Meyer Kornegay's beautiful home at about 3 PM on Thanksgiving, having driven through both rain and sunshine. On arrival, it was 71 degrees in Knoxville !

The Kornegays put on a Top Chef cooking show for us while we nibbled on cheese and pita crackers and sipped good wine from Australia.  Dinner was a traditional Thanksgiving feast with magazine cover turkey, stuffing with gravy, cranberry salad, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes with the most divine maple butter on top.  Yes, of course I got the recipe!

Susan and Jerry live on top of a very high hill with a fantastic view of mountains in the distance.  They also have a koi pond that they put into their back yard.  They have a koi named Tyson and then some other koi and goldfish living in this delightful running pond that makes tinkling sounds of running water. We forced Susan and Jerry to sit on their screened porch late into the night, long after it had gotten chilly outside, partly to listen to the running water in their pond.

We didn't get to bed until nearly midnight, then slept through the night peacefully, and awoke at 6 AM today.  After another culinary fete in the Kornegary kitchen, this time steel-cut oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon bagels,  Randy and I were on the road heading west.

We gained an hour sometime along the way to Nashville, so by the time we arrived at The Hermitage, it was only 10 o'clock. 

The Hermitage was the home of  President Andrew Jackson and his beloved wife, Rachel.  Since my last visit to The Hermitage, a huge visitor center has been added complete with museum, gift shop, and a 22-minute movie during which I took a cat nap.

I've been to The Hermitage several times as my mother used to stop along the way to visit her family in Alabama.  Back then you didn't need a ticket to walk around the grounds and get the feel of the place.  Mom and I took one full tour on an early trip, then sort of just stopped by to check on things, eat a snack, peek into the kitchen and slave cabins, and then we'd be on our way again.  I was there last in 1972 on a trip to Phoenix with my first husband, also.

I have a thing for Andrew and Rachel, actually. I must have read Irving Stone's The President's Lady about four times and seen Charlton Heston's Andrew play to Susan Hayward's Rachel another four or five times. I don 't know what it is about their love story that I found so appealing, especially when I was very young, but I did.

We enjoyed the entire tour. I took a particular fascination with the hand block-printed wallpaper that depicts stories of Homer's classic literature. Randy decided to build a smoke house in our back yard (to go along with the koi pond) that can also smoke roughly 300 pigs per year. It was a good three hours.  It doesn't seem like a real vacation unless we add something historical into it.

We then asked Thelma to take us to the new Opryland Hotel.  We really did not know what to expect, but we've toured large and famous hotels before, so wanted to see it, whatever "it" was.  After charging the $18 parking fee and finding a parking space in a lot filled to the limit, we entered a combination of Disney World and Las Vegas all wrapped up into one enormous building.

Unbelievable is probably the best word for the Opryland Hotel.  The glass structure has several levels with different names.  We walked through somewhat of a rain forest with plants and trees that are gigantic.  Christmas decorations of mammoth size hung from the beams under the glass panels, and on the lowest level the entire Riverwalk of San Antonio seems to have been recreated where poor weather cannot bother the traveler. All of this glory is surrounded by tall inner walls of the hotel itself (yes, they actually have hotel rooms in this hotel....) and cute little balconies with black tables and chairs (all facing the same direction) on each balcony.  We even saw a few people who were staying in this hotel!

It lacked the grandeur of Mackinac's Grand Hotel, and lacked the dignity of Hot Springs and The Greenbriar,  but the clientele of this place is mainly Country Western devotees, after all. 

Forty million people shouldered their way past us, around us, and over us. All of the employees killed us with kindness. Nobody hummed twangy music at us, and two people even volunteered to take photos of us together, without being asked!  (That's usually what I do for others, so today must have been Payback Day.)

We had hoped to find a barbecue place for a late lunch there, but there were too many people and not enough restaurants.  Instead we went to locate the Comfort Inn that had reserved for us.

Now, I am an open-minded consumer, and I have already confessed to you that I used that website to book the hotel and show tickets in Nashville.  Suffice it to say that I have already made one phone call to VME this evening to let them know that the hotel they sent me to is NOT the one I ordered when I chose a Comfort Inn closer to downtown Nashville.  Not a huge issue, as the one we are in seems to be  fine, but it is NOT the one I clicked on during this transaction.  The desk clerk has been more than accommodating, and it is not his fault.  Nevertheless, we are not downtown.

SO, if you have been even considering using their service since I first mentioned it,  hold off.  I could have made these reservations for the same price, or less, frankly, so I am not giving high praise, and actually only warnings about it at this point.  I will let you know if that opinion should change after we get home.

We had dinner at Jack's Barbecue, which has been in Nashville since Jack Cawthon started it in 1976.  We had Texas Brisket, which was delicious.  The hotel desk clerk recommended it, and the pink pig out in the front was the final lure. You can sing the jingle and read all about it at

After our BBQ dinner we took a ride downtown to see the big city lights, locate where everything is, see the state capitol, enjoy the crowds a bit, and then go back to our room.  It's pretty cold out there, the parking spaces were few and far between, and we are tired from our touring.  We've agreed to go back downtown tomorrow morning when the crowds thin out and we can actually see what we're seeing.

More later!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On the Road Again! We've Gone South!

I failed to mention this trip because we planned it so quickly, and really haven't had time to digest the fact that we are out of town!  The plans were all made via computer this time, too.  With a five-day weekend, we had to figure a time-line. I discovered a website called  which seemed to have hotels and sightseeing available with the click of a we are trying that out.  I will let you know how that goes.

Remember that high school reunion that Randy and I helped to plan for this past October?  Well, during the planning process we became "new best friends" with Susan Meyer Kornegay and her husband, Jerry, from Knoxville, Tennessee.  As things turned out for the Thanksgiving holiday, neither of  us had real "family" to share a turkey with.  My kids are with Mike for Turkey Day, and Randy's daughter's family is with her in-laws in Pennsylvania.

So...........where have we NOT been?  Nashville, Tennessee!  We had seen the reopening of the Grand Ol Opry Hall on the Today Show a few weeks ago, said, "Gee, we haven't been there," and the seed had been planted.

Contacting Susan to see what they would be doing this weekend, we were invited almost instantly for Thanksgiving! Their family had other plans this year, too!

So here we are, Wednesday night,  in Walton, Kentucky, a town not terribly far south of Cincinnati, Ohio. We left Akron immediately after I got home from school today, drove 5.5 hours, and landed at a Comfort Inn here.  Rain slowed us down a bit, and the Thanksgiving traffic in Columbus was bumper to bumper and took an hour to get through, but the rest of the driving was a breeze.

We had Thelma along, of course. (You remember Thelma, our GPS unit).  As Randy was driving the last half of the trip, I discovered that I could change Thelma to Theodore.  We didn't like the man's voice, however, and found him a bit intimidating, so we tried out an English-Aussie female voice.  She took on a snooty air, so we brought Thelma back, voice-wise, and have decided we are definitely attached to HER.  Besides, we felt like murderers.

Stay tuned for the next few days to find out what our "plans" include.  I confess that we actually made a reservation for tonight in Walton............I know, I know.......totally out of our normal behavior, but it's Thanksgiving Eve, and we've been to New York State, remember?........we wanted the security of a waiting room.  We also made reservations for the weekend, just to let you know that we are more normal than you had thought.  It doesn't mean that we are not "roaming," just "roaming with reservations" this time!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hello, Columbus !

Randy surprised me by taking me to Columbus, our state capitol, for an overnight "back to school" trip.  We had planned to go a few days earlier, but life got in the way, so we postponed the trip for Sunday, August 21.  We got on the road by about 10:30 and only made one stop on the way south:  The Outlets of Lodi.

Wilson's Leather is one of my favorite outlets, actually of only 2 near-favorites. I was not disappointed, and purchased yet another marvelous purse/bag/sack................We also ate some very greasy and delicious fried chicken en route at Popeye's, and this was the confession.

Then, we arrived at the Columbus Zoo, with Thelma's help, at about 12:30. It was very HOT, and we walked all over the zoo.  We did skip animals that we had just seen at the Akron Zoo, but focused on the manatees and the polar bear, which is a new exhibit, and Akron doesn't have a polar bear or a manatee, alas.

The manatees are so huge that when I first  saw them it took a second or two to realize that I was actually seeing real animals. I had been to this zoo years ago with my children, but had long ago forgotten the manatees.  I had forgotten that they are vegetarians, and watched a diver feeding them whole heads of romaine lettuce from a sack that she was dragging as she was swimming.  The sack was as large as a human being!  The manatees just gobbled the romaine right down.

The gorilla cage has undergone a change since my years-ago visit. Back then it was a huge circular cage with many gorillas inside, and I remember standing there watching them for nearly an hour, it seemed.  The vegetation has grown up around the gorilla compound over the years, and viewing windows have been added. I think the gorillas have more privacy now, but the viewer doesn't get quite as good of a look.  It always amazes me how near-human these marvelous animals are.  I looked deep into one gorilla's eyes as I photographed him, and read "get me outa here" in his eyes.

The polar bear was asleep when we got to his new area.  In the pen next to him, though, was a brown bear. We thought it was a grizzly, it was so enormous.  Randy got a lot of information from a zoo worker that grizzlies are brown bears who just got really big, like 1500 pounds.  This brown bear was pacing back and forth and showing us his claws and teeth.  Having had my acrylic fingernails removed earlier this summer, I was jealous of this guy's nails.  Long and sharp, and very effectively scary. 

The heat was really getting to me, and my pedometer was telling me that we had walked over 13,000 steps, so it was time to hit the road at about 4:30.

Randy selected a Hampton Inn in Dublin for our housing, and it was beautiful. Our car was parked within steps of our room on the first floor.  We drank some wine as we sat by the pool, and Randy took a dip, then we were off for dinner at the Columbus Fish Market in Worthington.

I had a crusted white fish which was gone all too quickly.  The Fish Market was quite upscale, and there were not a lot of people there on a Sunday night.  We were back at our motel by 7:00, and so tired from all the walking and the heat, not to mention the full tummies.  When Randy said, "Let's just get take a nap," I did not  argue a bit, and we fell into the plush bedding of the Hampton Inn and promptly fell asleep.  (If you have never stayed at a Hampton Inn, it is a must...........the bed swallows you up, and it is as if you are floating in total comfort........the best!)

The next thing we knew, it was 7:00 A.M. and we had slept for nearly 12 full hours!!!  Now if this is not what "vacation" is for, I don't know what is...............I must have commented on that 12 hours of sleep all day, amazed that I was that tired. 

We had a really fine breakfast at the motel lobby, then took off for German Village, south of central Columbus.  This area was settled by Germans and other foreigners long ago, and some years back underwent a restoration process that makes it one of the places that visitors to Columbus enjoy. 

Armed with torn-out pages from our Midwest Living Magazine, we walked the uneven brick sidewalks, taking some photos of one particularly lovely garden, noticing that most of this area is residential.  Our magazine mentioned a few shops and eateries, which we did visit, but the $12 price tag on a sandwich at the deli that started with the letter K was prohibitive, we felt.

The Book Loft was the main event of German Village.  THIRTY-TWO ROOMS OF BOOKS.  I was in Reader Heaven!  All the rooms join onto one or another so you can just keep on walking from room to room, shopping.  Each room has a different CD player adding background music to your shopping pleasure (with notes about where to buy that particular CD), and I confess to doing an Irish jig behind one large shelving unit.

Randy bought 2 very large books about woodworking and home repair, I bought a copy of the Tao Te Ching and some hysterical greeting cards, and off we went!

Our next stop, in the near middle of Columbus, was the park at the Deaf School.  Actually, I think the park is called Deaf School Park.  There are topiary trees all over this park, and they are sculpted to look like people in old-timey clothing, enjoying the park.  The women bushes carry umbrellas, and there are some dog-walkers, one monkey on a leash,  men bushes with pipes, and people bushes lounging on the ground.  A small pond has a bush sailboat and some bush people rowing a skiff across the pond.

The gist of this park scene with all of these bush people is that it captures the Impressionist painting called  A Sunday on the Island of la Grande Jatte by George Seurat, in greenery.  There is one spot where you can stand and supposedly see the entire picture.  It is a fairly amazing undertaking to keep all of those trees trimmed and formed! (google "Deaf School Park, Columbus"  for a visual)

North of central Columbus is an area called "Short North."  This has been designated as the "arts district" for this city.  Huge archways with light bulbs cross the streets, and I could only imagine how beautiful this would look had we been there at nighttime. (We have to go back, now!)  Short North goes on for many blocks, and I envisioned crowds of people enjoying the restaurants and galleries on an evening.  Unfortunately, many of the galleries and shops were closed because it was Monday.  So if you go, don't go on a Monday!

We had been told by Sandi Lederman about her favorite eatery, The Happy Greek, which we promptly located.  We had spanokofetta  (and I am sure I misspelled that.....)  for an appetizer, then Chicken Shwarma and Beef Shwarma platters.............wonderful food!!!  We waddled out of The Happy Greek, and entered Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Shop, a block or so away.

Jeni's had not only been mentioned by Sandi, but also by our Midwest Living Magazine, so it was a definite "must."  I only eat about one purchased ice cream treat a year, and Jeni's was this year's supplier.  First we tasted.  The cute little girl behind the counter was only too willing to let us sample everything. (Who needed any more????)  We ended up buying a "small" dish each ($4 apiece) in which you get 2 different kinds of ice cream. 

Randy had some kind of ice cream with beer and coffee beans in it, believe it or not. The beer had been supplied by a brewery right there in Short North, and the coffee beans came from a local coffee shop, also.  One hand washes the other, apparently, and I bet those coffee cookers and brew masters stop by to have ice cream on their way home, too!

My ice cream was a work of art. It was "Pear Riesling."  No kidding.  Apparently it was just Riesling wine, pears, and sugar..............and my little ice cream maker may just have to make a stab at this, sooner or later.

My second flavor was a cherry thing that was so tart my taste buds curled up.  The combo of these two flavors in my little dish was delightful and filling.  I really could have been very happy with half of it.

We visited some galleries and clothing stores. One, whose name I do not recall, bought damaged items that never made it to the mall or major shops. Rejects.  A sewing machine was prominently placed in the front of this store, and the workers (who must know how to sew) use their time to turn these less than perfect clothing items into one-of-a-kind pieces!  Pretty cool recycling, huh?

It was late afternoon when we rolled out of Columbus.  The Final Fling was over.

On the way home, however, we made our first stop at Grandpa's Cheese Factory, somewhere near the Ashland exit on Rt 71.  I cannot begin to imagine how many times we have driven by Grandpa's without stopping, but always reading the sign aloud.  We finally pulled off the road and looked it over.  There is a large building full of candy, 3 or 4 little barns that you can actually sleep in if you want to stay at "Grandpa's B + B,"  and a huge building that houses the food. The lower level is full of (excuse me for saying this) what I call "tacky" gift shop items.  No one seemed to be buying them, or even looking at them. I think Grandpa needs to rethink the lower level, frankly.  The upper level, however, was packed with customers, and all of us were eating.  Lots and lots of free samples. Grandpa has the right idea. If you taste it you will buy it.

We came away with some bacon/horseradish/sharp cheddar  cheese and some smoked blue cheese /smoked cheddar cheese spread to serve at a dinner that we were hosting on Tuesday evening for our neighbors.  We haven't decided if we will pull off at Grandpa's again, but the cheese was a hit, so it's a definite possibility.

We've roamed a little bit more, even though it was only for two days.  Incidentally, you can google Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, The Book Loft, also.

We've heard people say they love Columbus, and here it is a couple of hours from our home, and yet we'd never really LOOKED at it.  We found that it's fun, and we're going back.............on an evening when everything in Short North is OPEN!!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

There's No Place Like Home.....Day 11

I know, from the lack of frantic emails from any of you, that you all know I was in a motel that had poor WiFi service last night.  There were at least 3 people in the lobby with their computers at the Comfort Inn in Portage, Indiana, frantically trying to connect.  I was one of them only for a short time.  I give up more easily than some, I guess.  After 3 calls to the front desk, they wanted me to place a call to Calcutta to find out how to "fix" my problem.  I stopped at that point. (You notice, of course, that I have given you the name of this motel so that it will never happen to YOU!!!)

Yesterday, Sunday, was a lovely day.  We drove the most miles of any day of this trip, going south through Wisconsin.  The big question seemed to be whether to go to Chicago or not.  As a person with "undiagnosed ADD" I dealt with this problem by ignoring it and looking elsewhere on the map.  (We've been to Chicago, and really did not feel like going through that traffic.)

We nearly stumbled over Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  Remember that book I used last summer called 1001 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die, that I carried around like a religious tome?  It was in the back seat, and it helped us to decide to go to Lake Geneva.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, was an early resort area, as far back as the Civil War.  Wealthy people who had lost their homes in the great fire in Chicago also came there to build summer homes to get away from the city during the rebuilding.  One of these was the Wrigley family, but there are many more whose names you would recognize.

It was a summer Sunday, and it was crowded. The lake was busy with thousands of boats and swimmers. The parks were full, all the benches were being sat upon, the restaurants were bustling.  It was, all in all, a fun and exciting place to spend an afternoon.

One really cool feature of Lake Geneva is that the wealthy people who own mansions on the lake more or less "invite" you to walk along the lakefront and look at their homes.  A sign by a narrow walkway tells you to stay on the path, don't litter, and other rules that most of us know and follow, and we viewed the lifestyles of the rich and famous for a short while.  Lake Geneva is called the Newport of the Midwest.

The hugest mansion turned out to be a wedding gift that was turned down by some wealthy daughter.(Poor thing!  I can't help but wonder what she DID want!!!)  The mansion sat empty for many years, then sold to another family.  Since this "home" looks like Buckingham Palace, the upkeep must have been hideous, and we were nearly relieved to find that it is now divided into condominiums.

I took lots of photos, of course. One woman, a realtor who knows that she is fortunate to live in a home so wonderful, had painted motivational sayings all over a fence next to the walkway, I suppose to encourage us to work hard and maybe be so lucky.  A gate leading to her home (locked, of course) said "Expect a Miracle."  We do.

The little town of Lake Geneva is full of antique buildings and some very exciting looking shops.  No time for shopping, though, so we just window-shopped. 

Hunger hit, and we saw a sign that said "Chicago Pizza" on a cute little corner place.  Once inside, we ordered a small Chicago-style pizza, and a Chicago hot dog.  There not being an Akron pizza or an Akron hot dog probably made this all the more exciting.  The hot dog was interesting.........a poppy-seeded hot dog bun (I can't even buy those!) with a big deep red hot dog, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, dill pickle slices, and some hot peppers, all crammed into the bun.  Yum!

While we waited for this feast, we read a newspaper review which was taped into the table top for posterity. It told of "Jackie," one of the 5 children of the pizza parlor owner, who had gone to Italy to compete in the World's Best Pizza competition. (Sort of an Iron Chef type thing.....)  She had made the deep dish Chicago pizza that we had just ordered, and WON the World's BEST Chicago-Style Pizza!

This pizza has TWO crusts! on top and one on the bottom. Our waitress, Jessica, also one of the 5 children raised in the pizza parlor, gave us all the details.  She told us that Jackie now lives in Medina, Ohio (11 miles up the road from our house) and is marrying a fellow who started Romeo's Pizza Parlor in Medina...............they apparently met while attending pizza parlor owner events. (Life is good.) Can you imagine them cooking together?  What do you think they'll make?

The pizza WAS fabulous.  I will be googling this topic later this week, of course.  I also need to find some poppy-seeded hot dog buns.

Thelma took us towards "home."  We hit the "Take us home" button, and Thelma never hesitates to go right for the gusto, so in spite of our wishes, we ended up last night driving through Chicago's network of expressways, seeing downtown up close and personal, before we finally exited Illinois and entered Indiana.

I put a call in to my cousin, Carrie Yarger, and asked if we could visit my other cousin, her dad, Hugh Warren, and his wife Lois.  They are located at an assisted living home outside of South Bend.  We set a date for Monday, checked into yet another Comfort Inn, and after the sad saga of the ineffective internet, went to bed.

This morning we headed out to visit the Warrens, and forgetting that a time change was going to happen to us, we were "late" getting there.  We arrived as Hugh and Lois were having lunch, which looked scrumptious, and we sat and visited with them both in the dining room and then in one of their rooms.  My relatives are truly precious to me, as I do not have a lot of them, so it was a special hour or so, enjoying being with folks who "look like me," and have the same DNA.

We overruled Thelma, and took the roads less traveled by to get home today. We traveled on Rt. 6 across Indiana and into Ohio, then Rt 20 and then Rt. 18.  We toyed with the idea of stopping at Romeo's Pizza Parlor in Medina to give Jackie a hello from her sister back in Lake Geneva, but we had eaten enough pizza, and really wanted to go home.

Here we are!  I've unloaded my teensy tiny suitcase and thrown all the clothes I used down the laundry chute already.  99% of what I packed, I used.  My one and only souvenir, a yellow ball cap that says "Mackinac Island" on it, has been added to my stack of hats.  The little bottles of shampoo and conditioner await your visits.

I always feel sad when we come home. It's over.

To be perfectly truthful, we really did not plan to visit all 5 of the Great Lakes, in one trip.  We always say to each other, "What was your favorite thing?"  then " What was your least favorite thing?" when we rehash our trips.

My favorite: Mackinac Island and the Lucy and Desi Museum.  My least favorite: poor internet service

I've already ordered The Long Long Trailer, starring Lucy and Desi, from 

I received an email from Choice Hotels, asking me to evaluate the hotel near Buffalo where we spent one night.  I have to admit that I don't even REMEMBER the hotel near Buffalo.  I've slept since then.

That's why I write a journal!  Thanks for following along.  I will let you know when we're heading out the next time, so we can travel together again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Going South............ Day 9

We got up this morning and after breakfast we took another walk on the boardwalk of Manistique, this time going in the opposite direction.  The wildflowers were so lovely next to Lake Michigan!  We had to be quick, as rain was trying to start up, and when we later drove out of our motel it was in full-drizzle.

Our first stop was a little town, also on Lake Michigan, called Escanaba.  It also looks to be a place to vacation, and after driving through the town we visited the Sand Point Lighthouse there.  The sad tale told by the sign nearby was of the lighthouse keeper who suddenly died, shortly before the lighthouse was to be lit for the very first time. This left his widow to run it, and she did that for 22 years. Then, in 1886, there was a "mysterious fire" that killed her.

The odd thing is that one other lighthouse we visited had the same sad story about it. The keeper died just before the first lighting, and his widow ran the show until her death.  I know it is presumptuous of us, be we think there was a lighthouse-keeper serial killer running loose on the banks of the Great Lakes back in the 1800's.........and for some reason, he wanted to keep those widows in a tower of sorts......
Perhaps we've been watching too much Law and Order recently.

We took a picnic to the Fish Creek Camp Grounds somewhere along Lake Michigan, and had to eat in the car due to the drizzle, but it was still lovely. There was a very strange man in the campground, however, and we sort of got the creeps from the way he was watching us, so we moved our car to the other end of the park............again.................the Too Much Law and Order Syndrome, probably.

Crossing over from Michigan into Wisconsin involved a stop at the Welcome Center.  The couple running it today wanted us to see EVERYTHING.  We just agreed to do so, then left with our hands full of coupons and brochures.  It's nice to see enthusiastic people at a state line......and not just hitch-hiking.

We did use one of those coupons at the local Cheese Shop.  They had a lot of other things besides cheese, too.  Shoes and moccassins, jewelry, dolls, wine, beer, and stuff for "Yoopers."

 It has taken  us a few days to "get it," with the word "Yooper," and it happened in the Cheese Shop:  A Yooper is a person who lives or loves the U.P.  which means the Upper Peninsula.  Now, if you knew this, Hooray for you, but to us it was a revelation that might not have happened had we not seen "Yooper Lover" on a pair of camouflage boxer shorts at the Cheese Shop. You had to look twice and wonder what a Yooper could possibly be..............

The rest of the day we just drove down the western side of Lake Michigan, listening to our audio book (which is really really really getting exciting......) until it was time to hunker down for the night.  We are at a Holiday Inn Express outside of Racine, Wisconsin. 

I have a call in to a high school friend who lives in Mundelein, Illinois.  If things work out, we might be able to meet up with her and her husband tomorrow, for lunch.  If we don't hear back from them, we will  be heading for Chicago and points east of there in the morning.  We don't know if we will stop there or not yet.  We really haven't decided. 

I am running out of clothes.  I am proud to say that I have worn nearly every item I packed, including the jeans and sweatshirt.  The one thing I have not worn is my "good clothes" for the dressy evening that has not happened.  Maybe tomorrow.  I might just wear them in the car to say I wore it all.

Friday, July 23, 2010

5 Great Ones! Day 8

Today we accomplished a fete that we didn't really plan on doing:  It sort of "evolved." 

As we continued to see one Great Lake after another  (Erie, Ontario....then Huron......and Michigan....) we decided that to complete the entire "tour," it was not only good to, but also necessary to see the 5th Great Lake: Superior! 

This afternoon, we accomplished this goal (which we just decided was a must-do last night.)

This morning we left our lovely motel in St. Ignace, Michigan, with two coupons in our pocket. They were for "gold tokens" at the Kewadin Casino nearby.  Since these were free, we felt compelled to use them.  Thelma graciously rushed us to the casino. Surprisingly, there were not throngs of people there.  Of course, this was in the far north woods, and most of the tourists were probably over at Mackinac.  We got a quick lesson in how to use this casino from a couple in line ahead of us, who had just spent all last night gambling and seemed to be back ,for their vacation, to have another go at it.

We won money at the "gold token" machines!  Then we had to spend our own money, which we were less willing to do.  I broke totally even, winning $10 and spending the same amount, and Randy walked away the big winner with $10.50 !!  Lunch money!!! (Ya gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run...........and we decided to RUN!)

We managed to rip ourselves away from the casino, knowing that our eyes would become lifeless and longing, like the couple we'd met in the line, if we stayed there.  This place really has a good plan, though.  The hotel gives its guests 2 free rolls of "gold tokens."  You get another one just for being a first-time guest there, and for your Mackinac Bridge ticket or your ferry ticket to Mackinanc Island you get another roll for each.  We had left our tickets in the trash can, so didn't claim those last ones, but we would probably still be sitting on a stool pushing a button if we had.  Getting hooked on those machines is very easy. (Right, Alison?)

Our driving goal today was Sault St. Marie, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  At this point, Lake Superior meets Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan, also. Sault St. Marie is the location of the Soo Locks where freighters pass through locks to go from one lake to another.

The word "Sault," according to this reading teacher, SHOULD be pronounced like "salt"....but oh no....up here it is pronounced "soo"..........and as a famous person from this location said in so many words, no wonder the kids in this city cannot spell. (That's not how he said it, but that's what he said.)
So say "Soo Saint Marie," and you've got it.  You also won't make a fool of yourself when you say the name of this city in public.  (I speak from experience.)

The one and only thing we did in Sault St. Marie, besides having a Subway sandwich which we carried off to a green space to eat, was go to the top of the Tower of History.  This is a tall concrete tower that is 21 stories tall that let us look over the entire area where the ships and freighters pass through the locks. We could see all 3 of the Great Lakes that met there, and some lovely "tall ships" that were passing by.

We also saw some of the largest spiders that have ever appeared in North America.  For this I paid money.  Once up, all I wanted to do was come down.   Oh well....................

Once back on ground, we asked Thelma to take us to northern Lake Michigan, so that we could ride down the western side of that lake, going south. Our audio novel is really getting good, so driving was not a problem.

Thelma only tried to lose us in the woods once, and we are "onto her," so got back on the main road quickly again.

After a lovely afternoon of driving west on Rt. 2 that skims the northern shore of Lake Michigan, we came to the small town of Manistique, Michigan.   There are motels here, and we are located at the Comfort Inn tonight.  Across the street is Lake Michigan, lapping the shore. There is a lovely red lighthouse that we walked on a boardwalk to see, a beach where we wet our feet in the water, a Big Boy restaurant  right next door (remember them?) where we ate al fresco.  I had fried shrimp and Randy had pot roast. We watched the waves from our patio dining area, then took our walk.

I love this little place.  There are boats in the lake, and in a river that seems to head into the main part of the town.  We will investigate it in the morning (and get the real estate brochures...................hahah!)

Our northernmost point was Sault St. Marie, Michigan. Our easternmost point was Lily Dale, New York.  Tomorrow we will hit our westernmost point............and obviously, we are headed home.

But it ain't over til it's over!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 7, The Bucket List Shortens

Last night, while still in Gaylord, Michigan, we attended another outdoor concert. This time it was a "community orchestra" concert, where we sat on our beach chairs, and heard both young and old musicians from the city and surrounding areas play lovely music, very professionally.  Marches seemed to be the favored type of music, but we were impressed with the talent in that little town! 

This followed a dinner at the local favorite restaurant,  The Sugar Bowl.  (Randy gagged at the name of the place, but we were assured by our motel clerk that it was THE place to eat.)  The food was good, and my favorite thing was a new discovery:  It was a Greek soup, and apparently is a "traditional" Greek soup.  Its ethnic name is "Avgolomono," but its American name is Greek Lemon Rice Chicken Soup, which pretty much defines it.

I confess that after tasting it, as though it were a fine wine, and analyzing it, I googled its American name, and got a variety of recipes.  The gist of them all seems to be vegetable or chicken broth, rice, garlic, fresh lemon juice, and an egg that is mixed into the hot soup very slowly along with that lemon juice.  I will make it when I get home, just because it is pretty and hot.

This morning we were up very early, ate the hotel breakfast under the direction of the "Motel Breakfast Nazi," and were on our way north on I75.  We were going to Mackinac Island, a place on my mental Bucket List of places that have to be seen in this lifetime.

I need to identify the recommenders (is there such a word?) of the book Innocent as Jeff and Linda Albert.  We listened to the audio book some more on the one hour drive north, and now we think we know "whodunnit."  More on this if we are right.

They, along with Len and Toby Liberman, also told me to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which is currently keeping me awake at night, and weighing down my purse, since I never go anywhere without a book.  Add that to my 'travel gear' and that purse is heavy!

We had actually called ahead and made a motel reservation at a Quality Inn at Saint Ignace, Michigan, for tonight.

 I know, I know.  That's not our style, but we decided to avoid the regular routine in favor of a quick check-in this morning, and no worry about where we'd be tonight. The day itself was to be full.  Sometimes we just have to do things like regular people.

We had to cross the Mackinac Bridge in order to get to St. Ignace. This bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the entire Western Hemisphere.  It is technically 5 miles long, and is beautiful to see stretching across the point where Lake Michigan on the west meets Lake Huron on the east.  The Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse was on the southern end of the bridge. The Upper Peninsula is on the northern side of the bridge.

Thelma decided to give us her version of a misguided tour of the Northern Woods once we got off the bridge. We had told her the motel's address. I am sure it is because we would not let her "speak" for the entire morning's ride.  She took us onto a gravel road on the banks of Lake Michigan, letting us drive slowly behind a woodsman in a pick-up truck who was out to exercise his hunting dogs. The dogs ran along next to the truck as the man ate pork rinds and drove the truck.  This went on for a mile or so, and I know I heard Thelma chuckle evilly.......  Not as bad as when she tried to kill us on a mountain in Virginia, but that is another story.

Once at the motel, things really were wonderful.  The desk clerk called for our complimentary shuttle bus which took us to the ferry, which took us quickly out to Mackinac Island.

We had a lovely day !  Mackinac Island is the only city in the entire country that has no automobiles allowed on its streets.  If you don't walk, you bike or take a horse-drawn buggy.  Even the suitcases of the people who stay in the hotels and inns are delivered either by horse-drawn vehicles or by bicycle. (We saw one man who could not even see over the pile of luggage in his bike basket, and he had other bags strapped to his person.)

Every thing that is needed for restaurants, (except for fish) building, repair, furnishings and such has to be delivered to the island by way of cargo boats, then delivered by bicycle or horse cart.  We saw a floral delivery that was done on foot, up a hill!

The streets are filled with horses and carts and people and bicycles, therefore.  The acrid odor of horse urine and road apples fill the air. (One little child was screaming that the place "smells like a zoo!")  But this is part of the charm, I suppose.

One long street, right off the boat ramp, Historic Market Street, is busy with shops.  Every other shop is selling home-made fudge. We found that they gave free samples, and that kept us from buying a hunk to wear home on our hips.  The gift shops, jewelry stores, tee shirt shops, restaurants, and fudge shops were bustling with many many tourists.

We walked up the road and saw two very old churches, some lovely inns and b+b's,  and Fort Mackinac.  We knew that we did not have the stamina today to climb the hill up to that fort and go through it, with all the other things that seemed to be there to see. (Trust me, we did a fair share of walking without the fort tour.)

It took us awhile to climb up to the Grand Hotel. That's the one you see in all the promos for this place.  And it IS grand.  The garden in the front was in itself awesome.  Unfortunately, the hotel has chosen to eliminate visitors from the hotel unless they are registered guests.  For a ten dollar fee each, we could have wandered through the lobbies of the hotel.  We chose not to do this, so just wandered around in the street and garden a bit before going back down the hill to eat lunch.  There is a restaurant at the Grand Hotel by the gate, where many chose to eat, but we had our eye on a place downtown.

Our choice was called The Pink Pony, and it had a pink toy pony hanging over the front door of this hotel.  No fee to enter here!  We had a lovely lunch on the back patio, under yellow umbrellas.  Randy had a fabulous tomato bisque soup, and I had a Gorgonzola salad with balsamic dressing. We enjoyed a glass of wine, and then took off on foot back down Market Street. 

We continued our walk, taking photos of lovely gardens and inns.  We came to the Mackinac Public Library.  Most people continued to walk right on by this little building, but we decided to go inside.  You can tell a lot about a town by its library, we have found.

The Mackinac Island Public Library is the best well-kept little secret in the entire city, we think.  The lovely large room, which is painted a robin's egg blue with white trim, has a back wall of wide open doors that look out over the  Round Island Lighthouse and the bay.  Six white chairs, Adirondacks and rockers combined, sit on the back deck, inviting the reader to, "Sit. Enjoy. Listen. Read."  And we did.  The waves lapping on the shore and the gulls calling to each other were the only sounds we heard as we sat there enjoying the summer sun, the quiet, the book from my purse,  a little nap for Randy, and the contentment that comes with finding a small piece of Heaven.

We told NO ONE about the Mackinac Public Library.  If we had, it would not be the secret that I am now sharing with you!

We found, by pedometer reading, that we had walked nearly six miles by this time. We dragged ourselves back down Market Street to the only place labelled "BAR" that we could find, and cooled off with a tall Miller Light at the Horn's Gaslight Bar (established in 1933) at the bar.

Thus fortified, we returned to the ferry place, waited for the next one, and returned to land and  St. Ignace and our pre-registered room.

Dinner was at a place recommended by our shuttle driver, called The Galley.  We had fried fish and chips;  nothing extraordinary, but very fresh.

We are now resting, feet up, and have a "sort of plan" for tomorrow morning at least.

I remember when I was a little girl, in about the third grade, and some other little girl came back from a trip to Mackinac Island. I was enormously jealous.  She went on and on and on about the one thing that had impressed her the most: She had eaten a very large amount of fudge there.

It's too bad she didn't know about the library!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Missing in Action

                        "My life is a party to be experienced and shared with everyone I know."
                                              Louise Hay

That is the daily quote for my positive thought tear-off-a-page-calendar from yesterday, the day that I "went missing."  I was not in danger or really missing (and thank you, Alexis, for wondering what happened to me!)  We were just in a cute little cabin on the shore of Lake Huron, and it didn't have any Wi-Fi service!

And when I say "little," believe me I MEAN little!!! If I were a spitter, which I am not, I could have spit across the entire room, and done a really fine job of it.  It had a double bed and a single bed. We used the single to hold our "stuff."

On Tuesday morning, we crossed the border back into the United States. There is something about knowing that we are citizens of the place where we are that gives us a sense of security. We KNOW the laws, the rules, and how to read the signs.  Canada was beautiful, and we are definitely going back, but as I said in my last post,  there is just something weird about not understanding the "rules" of any place. For instance, after Randy turned right on a red light, I asked him if he was sure that it was legal in Canada. His answer was that he surely hoped so, because not knowing the law was not going to be an excuse if it were NOT legal. (The same as how many bottles of wine one may carry in and out of the country...........!)

The first thing we did when we arrived in Michigan is drive 20 miles west, only to decide that we needed to drive those 20 miles back east so we could visit a AAA to get all new maps and tour books. You have to remember that we have our car filled with books for New England, Nova Scotia, etc...........and we have changed what we pass off as "minds" a couple of times in the past week, so those books are of no use to us here.  In Port Huron, Michigan, we loaded up with new books, and then we headed north on Rt. 25.

The new "plan," if you want to call it that, was to drive entirely around the "Thumb" of Michigan. That is the piece of land that sticks up like a thumb into Lake Huron.  It has many lighthouses on the shores and hundreds of shipwrecks out in the lake.

Our first stop was for a picnic lunch in Lexington, Michigan, which had a beautiful harbor and park. We walked wayyyyyyyyy out into the harbor on a walkway that was surrounded by giant rocks. Randy wanted to bring one home, but it was far too large to even discuss further. A very old lady who also was contemplating taking one home made Randy realize the impossibility of it all.

Going north a bit more we came to Harbor Beach, a little town that just had a good feeling about it. The Harbor Beach Lighthouse was in the distance from the shore. We rented our little teensy cabin, ate dinner at the local Ma and Pa restaurant, and then took those very useful beach chairs "downtown" to the town green to enjoy the 26th Michigan National Guard Army Band which just happened to have a gig in this town. 

We sat with several hundred citizens and watched two of the best fiddle players we've ever heard, and then some very patriotic music.  We stood and clapped and cheered for their veterans, just as we would have cheered for our own.  Ice cream followed at the local ice cream parlor (all home-made). 

Back to our teeny tiny cabin, we took a glass of wine down to Lake Huron and sat quietly on a set of steps to watch birds flying in and out of some marshes nearby.  Two very young deer, one with his first fuzzy antlers, came out of the woods. They were more curious about us than we were about them, and since we sat very still, they both came within feet of us to look us over quite well before they wandered back into the wood.

We were asleep within a few minutes in that teensy little cabin.

For those of you watching the map, you can see that we only drove about 66 miles on Tuesday.  No matter.

Today we continued our drive around The Thumb, and found some really great vacation spots up on the top of it.  We stopped at one other lighthouse and went through its little museum.  Only a couple of towns seem to cater to tourists, it seems.  The ones we liked a lot were Port Austin,  Port Crescent, and Caseville.  After that it's just a drive again.

When we finally had completed The Thumb, we had a picnic lunch in a city park in Bay City, Michigan.
This was a very nice city with parks and a beautiful harbor, lovely stores, and we understand that they host a fabulous art show sometime each summer.

We then gave Thelma a thrill by actually following "her" directions, and got onto Interstate 75 going north.

Poor Thelma.  She always wants to take the main highways.  We don't.  No, we do not know how to tell her that, and if we did, we'd forget to reset her, and then when we DO want to go by the quickest route she wouldn't know that.  We have gotten so that the "mute" button on Thelma is usually on, and we just know that if she could, she would be yelling at us all the time. Sometimes we shout at her. "Shut up!" is the most common one, but occasionally we just laugh and say things like, "That's what YOU think, Thelma! We are NOT going that way, so get over yourself!!"  Why do we even have Thelma along, you ask?  We would never travel without her! Thelma knows where parks and hotels and grocery stores are located. She got us to the AAA yesterday.  It's definitely a love/hate relationship, however.

We drove for a couple of hours, listening to Innocent by Scott Turow.  One of you had recommended it, and we made a point of watching the DVD Presumed Innocent before we left Akron (recommended by the same reader,) so the miles went flying by.  The book is getting quite good.

We have landed in  Gaylord, Michigan.  We chose this city because it has a "sister city" in Switzerland, and has many buildings that look Swiss. Chalets are all over the main drag, and the motels have that sort of decor also.  In the winter 173 inches  of snow usually fall here, and there are some ski places which make it like Switzerland.  There are 15 golf courses nearby, they tell us.  We are in a great Quality Inn, and are going to go downtown to find some local food, and then probably take our trusty beach chairs to the 8:00 band concert in the center of the city, on Main Street.

Are we having fun?  You bet!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oh, Canada !

We awoke to rain, which I had not expected. Having to make several trips to the car to choose "cold weather clothing," I had to wear my shower cap outside to keep my hair dry.  My umbrella, of course, was in the car. In and out of the motel, I ran into the same man both going and coming, and he obviously had never seen a woman wearing a shower cap with her clothing on, (or off either, perhaps,)  but I just smiled and kept on walking.  I heard Philip, in my head, saying, "Mom, you will never see these people again!"  (I should hope.)

After we had called every single person we needed to tell goodbye forever to, we left our motel and crossed the Peace Bridge into Canada.  We didn't call them because we were afraid, but because our cell phone charges would be hideous if we use them over here!

We really had not "done our homework" for "international travel," as the cell phone companies call crossing the border into Canada.  We had not looked up the rate of exchange for our money, how to read metric speed limits, or how much wine we were allowed to carry across the border.    We will reserve the details of this particular issue until later, but we have just given a very nice bottle of pinot grigio to the marvelously efficient desk clerk of the Comfort Inn in Point Edward, Ontario, where we very soon will be asleep.

Once into Canada, we kept looking at the map to see "Where are we, anyway?" relation to the United States.  At one point we realized that we were going to completely circle Lake Erie......and that we were directly north of Akron at another point.  Having already been to Toronto together a couple of times, and having been to Niagara Falls several times, we bypassed those locations and headed west instead.  We stopped at one winery only. (Who needed more wine????) 

At some point near Vineland, we saw a huge rusted shipwreck on the shore of Lake Ontario. This required braking quickly and turning off onto a side road.  The ship still had its sails rolled and attached to the masts, but the ship itself was totally rusted and had grass and other greenery growing all over the deck.  The anchor was still pulled up, and the sides were rusted and falling off.  Not one single sign told us any details about this huge ship, so we cannot tell you a name or date for this shipwreck, but it was really quite a relic. A father and his adult son were on their way to the shore as we were leaving, and we asked them if they knew any details. The son told us that he had driven by it every day on his way to work for ten years, and had no information, but he finally decided to go take a closer look at it today. So we know it's at least ten years there.

Very close to this shipwreck was a lovely restaurant on the banks of Lake Ontario, called The Lake House.  We went there for lunch because I could see they had colorful red umbrellas on their back patio, and we always try to eat "al fresco" in the summer if we can.  We were not  disappointed.  While the sun shone on the Lake Ontario, and we could see Toronto directly across it, Randy ate fried calamari, and I had a plate full of steamed Prince Edward Island mussels with tomatoes in garlic sauce with wine.  Beautiful food !

Then we drove west for the rest of the afternoon.  Somewhere directly north of Akron, Ohio, we realized that the scenery looked a whole lot like Akron, Ohio. We would not have known we were in a "foreign country" except for the fact that the speed limit signs say "100"---- which gave us sort of a cheap thrill, until we translated this to 60 MPH.  Thelma's "miles to go" didn't jive with the road signs, either. After we blamed Thelma for awhile, we had to apologize to "her," when we realized that "she" was telling us MILES, and the signs were written in KILOMETERS.  (Duh.....)

We did stop to exchange some cash for Canadian money this morning, and it is very pretty, with silver strips on the bills. I am trying to spend it all, as fast as I can, so I don't have to turn it in when we cross the border tomorrow. Who knew that they have a $2 coin??  I received one in change this afternoon, and was about to tell the clerk that he couldn't possibly have given me enough change, when he gave me the two-dollar coin lesson: it has 2 different metals on it, and it's worth $2.

We refueled somewhere along the way, and a gas station attendant (remember them?) came out to pump the gas into our car, and we took our credit card into the station to sign the bill, just like we used to do back in the day in the states!

Tonight we had a quick dinner at a Tim Horton's, and then sat on a beach on Lake Huron here in Sarnia.  Those beach chairs got used !  We collected some very large round rocks for our yard on that beach, and a big bag of smaller ones, too.

We can't help but notice that we have crossed the River Thames, been to London (and Woodstock!), and driven on the Queen's Highway today. We are in a lovely suburb of Sarnia tonight, which is perched on the western border of Ontario. We will cross over into Michigan in the morning.

Our original intent had been to see a LOT of Canada this summer, but we (wisely, I think) decided to do a smaller portion of this enormous country.  Even though it is our northern neighbor, it still is a foreign country, and this was our "test case."  We still have plenty to see in the good old USA, also!

The cell phones should be back on by noon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 3: I love Lucy : Jamestown, New York

After breakfast, we took a walk in downtown Jamestown, New York.  Two blocks down from our hotel was the Desilu Theatre, and next to that was the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnez Museum. 

Lucille Ball was a native of Jamestown, New York! Her first box of hair dye was actually purchased on the site of the museum, back when it was a drug store. (The site of my first box is still the same drug store it was way back when, in case the biographers ask you later.............)  The YMCA that she held a lifetime membership to is up Main Street, about a block. Her face, which has been determined is THE face that more people in the entire world recognize, is all over town. A portrait of her, which is beautiful, hangs over the main desk in the Clarion Hotel where we stayed. (It used to hang in her home in Hollywood, according to the desk clerk.) Townfolk wear tee shirts that say, "I Love Lucy."  And they do.

The museum was a fun hour of our lives.  We got the AAA discount and the old age one, too, and for one full hour we browsed through the lives of Lucy and Desi, seeing great relics and costumes.  We saw boxed board games that Lucy had "endorsed" with her photo on the boxtop, a film of Lucy's appearance on the Donny and Marie Osmond show, Desi's Mercedes, photographs of their private life, and Lucy's Emmy.  It made us feel very old, but at the same time, we realized that we were witnesses to a marvelous time in the birth of television.

We both laughed aloud hysterically at a short cut of the movie "The Long Long Trailer," made sometime near 1954, in which Lucy and Desi take a vacation in an extremely long travel trailer. Desi drives, and Lucy rides along in the back, dressed as a 50's housewife, preparing a marvelous meal for dinner.  The trailer hits a few bumps along the way, and Desi is singing his Cuban songs as he drives along. Lucy, in the meantime is riding along in the back of the trailer with a full-course meal on the counter top, complete with whipped cream. (No Lucy meal is complete without whipped cream.)  Desi is oblivious to the fact that Lucy has been thrown around a bit while she cooks, and she cannot get his attention. You sort of have to imagine it, if you haven't seen it, as we hadn't. Few comediennes would even attempt this scene today. The movie is on our list of things to rent or buy before we check out: The Bucket List of DVDs.

We left Jamestown after we had paid a visit to Lakewood Cemetery to visit the grave of Lucille Ball, where she has "come home" to be at rest with her entire family.  No huge sign points out how to find her grave, we found, so if you go, you have to look carefully for one arrow that sits next to a paving stone with a heart etched into the center of it.  It points to her very simple and unassuming marker on which are the names of her beloved family members, as well.  She left us all laughing, and keeps us laughing.

We had "the conversation" in the parking lot in front of the museum. Where do we want to go?  We didn't have a coin to flip, and knew we'd drop it under the car seat if we did, so we just draped the map of the United States across the front seat and pointed to places. We both knew where we DIDN'T want to go, and those places were ones we have seen more times than enough, roads we have travelled going and coming, or a couple of places we just were not in love with.  The decision was made:  GO NORTH (even though we have some hesitations about this....)

We drove through some of the same area that we had seen yesterday going and coming to Lily Dale, but continued north to Fredonia, where we had a quick lunch at a McDonald's. We met up with a young man there who we had seen at Lily Dale, and exchanged our impressions of our day there. His were favorable, as well.

As we approached Interstate 90, "Louise," (the car) refused to enter it, and drove right on over it!  Before we could turn around, the map let us know that there is more than one way to skin a cat or get to Buffalo, and we chose the path less travelled by, Route 5.  Instead of rushing cars and an occasional rest stop, we drove along the banks of Lake Erie at a leisurely pace, stopped at one lake overview, took a coffee break, and arrived in Lackawanna, New York at about 3:45 this afternoon.

Lackawanna is the birthplace of Randy's mother, Frances Hope Gracia Gillenwater Lemasters.  We decided to stop there just to check out the little city, and to be able to tell Fran that we had been there on her behalf.  "Thelma," (our GPS unit) took us to the very center of the city, and along the way we noticed signs pointing to the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory. Having visited a "Basilica" in Santa Fe (and Saint Peter's in Rome, myself,) we knew that this was worth a look-see, so we headed towards it, only to find that it IS the center of Lackawanna.

Amazing. That is the best word to describe this marvelous tribute to the Catholic faith.  It seemed to be a small version of St. Peter's, with angels and statues all over the top and surrounding it. ....But the INSIDE was magnificent!  The ceiling is 125 feet high, all painted with glorious scenes of angels. A brochure tells us that there are 2,500 angels at this Basilica. Inside, the stations of the cross surround the main sanctuary, and the man who created them took 14 years to carve them.  A life's work.  We were in awe, to put it mildly. As a builder, Randy commented repeatedly that he had never seen such workmanship.  This was a serendipitous "find" on this trip, and a wonderful one.

We continued north to Buffalo, where we located a Comfort Inn  (another miracle) and had a fast food dinner.  We are sort of tired, but cannot figure out why.  Perhaps it is because we realize we are on our OWN time schedule for a little while, and we are starting to relax.  Tomorrow is another adventure in itself, we think, but "I will worry about that tomorrow." 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lily Dale, New York............

This has been a peculiar and invigorating day. 

We rebooked this hotel room, first off.  It is NOT a deal, but it IS available..........and I have decided, after crossing the state of New York a few times, that if you have a room in New York State, you had pretty much better hang on to it!

There is a vast wasteland across New York.  We remember, some years ago, traveling in the dark and finding NOTHING.  No gas, no motels:  NOTHING.  It's a big state, and I have my own viewpoint on it. (Those of you who live in this state might skip a few paragraphs, as I am going to say what I think.) 

There are some 8 million people living in ONE city in the state of New York.  There are lots of other folks spread around over the state, but EVERYTHING is in New York City, and  ALMOST NOTHING in the way of creature comforts is in the rest of the state, as far as hotels or care for travelers.  (Did I hear a scream?????) 

I didn't say NOTHING is in New York, or we certainly would not be here to see some of it. There are wonderful lakes, wineries, vacation locales, sights to see, and much to enjoy........but you'd better have a helicopter to get you in and out of here, because if you are looking for a (reasonably priced, quick to find) place to stay, forgeddaboudit.

If you are still screaming, then YOU get into YOUR car, and try to enjoy a serendipitous vacation in this state. New York is a gorgeous place, and when the hotel chains start building at every exit area, we will be back. We need some competition.

 Hey!  If you are considering starting a motel or hotel or even a bed and breakfast, I know a good place to build it. (If you build it, they will come.........BUT, actually: If you build it, "they" will already be parked in the front yard waiting for you to open it, in New York State.)
OK.......I just "heard" you....You said, "Why don't they make reservations?"

What fun would THAT be?????  Half the joy in this roaming stuff is the ROAMING!
My theory is that it ought to be ordered that all those people in that one big city need to spread themselves across the rest of this state, build some motels, hotels, and gas stations, and give each other some space, thereby giving those of us, who travel across this state,  places to stay and gas up. 

Yes, I do feel better. I have vented.  If you are yelling and looking for the place to add your rebuttal, forget it. I said "no comments" when I started this blog, and no comments there will be.  If you are irate, it's because you know I am right.  How many travelers have just disappeared into the darkness in New York State?  We will never know.  I just know that I am not going to be one of them, ever again.

Now that I have alienated some of my readers, let me tell you, the faithful readers, about our glorious day, and why we are still here in Jamestown.

We left here at 9 AM and went to visit Lily Dale, New York.  (I have decided to spell it as two words, effective today.........see?  I am able to be flexible!)

Lily Dale is a small gated community on a lake, which is inhabited and owned by a number of spiritualists.  The little cottages are lovely, and the lake is beautiful. Most importantly, the people who inhabit Lily Dale have one main purpose, and that is to prove that life is indeed, eternal.

In other words: This place is run by mediums.

Randy asked, "Why not averages?"

Then he asked, "Do you think they are happy mediums?"

I am not going to go into details here about our full day at Lily Dale, for we were there until 5 PM, but you can google it, if you like.  HBO ran a special on Lily Dale just this morning. The only word I can use to describe it is "awesome."

We left there, emotionally exhausted, but invigorated by the people we had encountered,  and the spirituality that was evident and alive. 

Tonight we are going to find a Bob Evans for a quick supper, then come back to this lovely room, and try to flip a coin to decide which direction we should head tomorrow.  We truly do not know where we want to go.

But we do know that we want to have a plethora of hotels or motels to choose from tomorrow night, so you can probably guess which direction we will NOT be going!   

Day One.............Out of the Driveway and Onto the Highway

This was a day of grueling work.  Randy had to finish a job he was working on, and I was trying frantically to clean the house.  I have this "thing," that I DON'T WANT TO COME HOME TO A MESSY HOUSE!  When I return, whenever that will be, I want to walk into a house that feels the same as the best  hotel I have stayed in on this trip!  I want clean, crisp sheets on the bed, vaccum marks on the carpet, plants that scream, "Welcome home!!! We need a drink!"  when I come into each room, and lights that are still turned off and on by timers so I don't even have to THINK about that.

I found spider egg sacks that are now great-grandparents, in the lower level of my house.  One throw rug begged me to throw it out. There was dust under my mother's mother's chest of horrors that might have belonged to my mother's mother.  I was "cleaning with a purpose," since we anticipate some family company on our return.........and I mean "on our return." That day.  I even made the bed for the company before we left. (I am really good under pressure.)

It was not until 3:17 PM that we got into the car. There was only one trip back into the house (which entailed unlocking the deadbolt only once, and opening the garage door only once) which was pretty good.   I quickly remembered something else, back in the car, but I would NOT admit that a second trip back inside the house was needed.  I won't even tell you what I left behind.  One trip back is pretty good. Two would have qualified me for "dementia." (The D word, as we call it.)

Before we started the car, I announced boldly to Randy, "OK. We are NOT going to argue or bicker on this trip. If we are even tempted to snarl, we will say out loud, "This is not important enough to argue about!" and then you can just say , "Kim, you are right, " and we can go on!"  Randy didn't think this was as funny as I did, but we got out of the driveway laughing, at any rate.

We didn't drive very far before the Wanderlust hit.  Randy said, about 40 miles from home, "Have you ever seen the FALLS in Newton Falls?"

"No," I answered, "but you did drive me through Newton Falls once."

"Do you WANT to see the falls in Newton Falls?" he asked.

"Not particularly, but if you do, then let's go see them, since that's what this is all plans, no expectations."

So we got off of 76E and headed north to Newton Falls, Ohio, a lovely little town with the most enormous hanging baskets of petunias on their street lights that I've ever seen.  The town is full of benches that are dedicated to the  memory of their deceased citizens.  We encountered nice people.

We found a sign directing us to "The Covered Bridge," and not having expected one, we followed the signs to the "oldest covered bridge in the state of Ohio which is still in operation."  It is also the only covered bridge with a pedestrian walkway built onto the side of it. We drove over it, then walked on the pedestrian walk, which crossed the Mahoning River. (This is the infamous river that caught fire back in the 70's, but we didn't even see smoke today.) (Darn!)

"The Falls" was a block or so away, and we walked down to see them, although I believed it was more of a dam than a "falls," but we are not going to argue about that.  We were there long enough to watch a fisherman lose his hook to a snag at the bottom of the river OR the largest fish alive in the Mahoning River. Take your pick.

Since we were there, I asked to find the cemetery, as one of my students from my years at Tod Children's Hospital, in Youngstown,  had been from Newton Falls, and I hoped to "visit" her place on this planet. We trudged through the Newton Falls Cemetery for almost an hour to no avail, looking for Melinda's grave. I knew, somehow, that there would be a Mickey Mouse on her grave or marker, but we did not find Melinda OR Mickey today. They are not there.

We had asked "Thelma," (our trusty GPS unit) how to get to Lily Dale, New York. Lilydale, Lily Dale.......we have seen it spelled both ways, and Thelma seemed to find it, and we headed north and east.  Erie, Pennsylvania, presented challenges with some kind of "Roar on the Shore" event and heavy traffic, but we went on past.  We did wonder what "Roar on the Shore" is all about. I envisioned folks standing on the shores of Presque Isle, roaring like lions, but I pretty much am sure that something else goes on there.

Not terribly long after our departure from home, we started looking for lodging.  Due to the "Roaring"and the other events that we found were happening on the coast of Lake Erie, we realized that either every hotel was booked solid, or the going rate was nearly $190  for a basic room.  We kept on driving.  I did encounter one nearly hysterical woman, when we stopped for gas, who couldn't find a room for the night..........and she was ahead of us, also going east. I controlled the urge to race her out of the gas station and get ahead of her on the freeway, but only because I was not the one driving at that point!

We investigated a number of hotels and motels, and almost got over the threshold of a very unpainted and scary bed and breakfast.........but visions of Psycho prevailed, and we looked at each other and ran back to the car.  One "hotel" HAD no hotel:  It had 7 bikers propped on the front porch, beers in hand, raging tattoos, and  amazing hair colors.  We peeked inside the "hotel" to find the saloon, which resembled a place in which John Wayne has beaten up half a town of ne're-do-wells.  We could not see through the smoke.  However, one girl on the porch, the one with bright yellow hair and black leather clothes, was really nice when I asked her where the hotel was. She pointed down the street to the previously-mentioned bed and breakfast.

We are currently on the 5th floor of a wonderful Clarion Hotel in downtown Jamestown, New York. We've had a carry-out pizza for a late dinner, watched "Medium" on TV, and collapsed. Randy is asleep while Jay Leno does his thing, and I do mine.

 I have asked Randy several times this afternoon, "Are you relaxing yet?"

I think that when he made the choice to turn off to see the falls in Newton Falls, and we did, that he let go and relaxed.  It is nice not to have any agenda, to just make a choice or two as we go along, with no real expectations.  We expect Serendipity.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Packing................

My car is currently in the garage, so I can get in and out of it, undetected. I wouldn't want my neighbors to know that I am obsessive-compulsive about "placement" of items in the car, but I am.

Randy and I have certain spots for certain things, and sometimes one of us gets the idea that one of those spots can be changed...............and sometimes we discuss it before the decision  is made.  Or not.   Ahem.

The case of wine  (not a "crate" as I had miscalled it yesterday) is in the car, and it needs to be covered with the blanket to keep it cool. The used postal box with the AAA maps and books needs to be directly behind the center of the front console. When we cross over a state line, it's important to grab the next travel book and be on the ready, or we might miss something!  (We had to make a trip back to Iowa a few years ago just for this reason. We missed the Field of Dreams, because we didn't have the Iowa book on the navigator's lap.  Once we realized our error, and our loss, it became a prime re-visit location, and we were not satisfied until we had recrossed the Mississippi River and yelled, "If you build it, we will come!" in the center of a ball field, and looked for deceased loved ones in a cornfield.

Next to the box of maps should be my bag of books: In case I need to read, of course.  My habit of letting magazines stack up for months on end, then taking them on a trip is sometimes a game I play.  I read the magazine in the car while Randy drives, then when I finish it I will either leave it in a ladies room, or my favorite: approach someone who is obviously waiting idly, without reading material (God forbid!) and say, "Hi. I am the Queen of Recycling, and I have just finished this magazine. So I don't have to throw it away, could I give it to you to read?"  Actually, I have only done this twice, and the Queen bit only once..........but the expression on that woman's face was startled, and a little bit afraid. I wondered later if she thought I was some kind of criminal magazine attacker.   But she accepted the magazine!! ........and when I looked back, she was reading it. I am definitely going to do that this trip.  Maybe I should pack my tiara, just for fun.

Completed paperback books get left behind in drawers of motel dressers, to encourage the cleaning crew to read them. (Deep in my soul, I truly AM  a language arts teacher.)

The bag of cosmetics sits on the other side of the back seat. This includes shampoo, makeup, and any other item used in restrooms or in front of a mirror. It stays cool there, doesn't spill, and the bag is easy to carry into motels. We never use the shampoo in those motel rooms.  We bring them home to stock our guest bathroom. If you ever stay with us, you get the shower cap, shampoo, and lotion!

A box of bottled water and a cooler full of chilled foods sits on the floor directly behind the navigator. Picnics need to be planned.

In the back of the van should be 2 beach chairs.  You never know if we're going to a beach or a lake. One picnic we had was held in a deserted rowboat because we didn't have chairs along. 2 beach towels, a laundry bag, and 2 suitcases complete the rear cargo area.

In a few minutes I will go to the darkened garage (behind closed doors) and put all this stuff into the van, rearrange it, look it over, and get that great feeling of anticipation that comes with knowing that a trip is about to happen........especially since we don't know where we are going. (And for anyone who does not believe that.......I have 12, count them, 12 tour books in that box........because we truly do NOT know where we are going!)

Today I did a miraculous thing.  I managed to pack in ten minutes (that is not the miracle).  I managed to pack all the clothing I need in one SMALL  (repeat that: small!) suitcase!  I bet I still have some things I don't really need, but if I do spill Kool-Aid all over a tee shirt, I do not need to have a nervous breakdown over it.  (If I spill it several times, however, it could get hairy.......)

The 2 pairs of shoes, you ask? You knew that wasn't going to happen!!! Four. Four pairs, no more!! One will be on my feet. The walking shoes will be in the back with my suitcase, my shower shoes fit into that SMALL suitcase, and I threw in a pair of low heels to go with my "dressy" outfit. 4 pairs total. ( If you've been following the Cathy cartoons, you may see that I learned something from her.) I personally believe that I should win some kind of  Fewest-Number-of-Shoes-Taken-on-a-Vacation-Award, don't you??

We are hoping to leave in the morning, but that all depends on whether Randy finishes the job he is working on today.  He still has to pack his suitcase. I think I will wait until he has packed it, (probably a great big one, with 14 pairs of shoes and sandals),  before I yell ,"Ta-Da!!!" and show off my little teensy itty bitty suitcase.........

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Getting Ready.........not yet in motion

We've been saying that we are leaving on the 15th for about a month, now.  That's the day after tomorrow,.NO, it's TOMORROW !!!... and so far the only thing I have "prepared" is a pile of maps and AAA books showing Canada.

We might not be going to Canada!  We have thrown around the words "South Dakota" a few times in recent days, and I can see that we get excited when we breathe out those words......."Souuuuuth Du Kota" brings back wonderful memories.  We've been there twice during the Sturgis Rallies........800,000 motorcycles, and US IN A CAR.  Such fun! Such beauty.......we'd love to go back.

We've also actually really talked about Canada....hence the maps and stuff.........I think we're afraid to go there........will they have places we're familiar with, like McDonalds and Comfort Inns??? What if they speak French, and we don't?  Ok, Canada IS a possibility.

New York State......there's a place called Lilydale that I want to visit.  It could be "on the way" to anywhere else, and we could just "happen" to go there, maybe.  That might lead us back to Vermont or New Hampshire........or Maine..the ocean........

Randy, my darling husband, says that he gave me "THE LIST" after the last trip, and it has "everything we need to pack" on it...........but I cannot find the list, and I am not motivated to write up another one.

Usually, I just start packing. My suitcase rarely leaves the back end of the van, anyway, so it doesn't matter if it's heavy when it exits the house.  I throw in a number of underwear items, tee shirts, shorts, a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt, one "decent dress" in case we go somewhere really nice for dinner, a swim suit...........and 4 pairs of shoes, even though I will probably only wear a pair of walking shoes and a pair of sandals for the entire trip. This year I resolve to only take those two pairs of shoes.  And my rubber sandals to wear by the pools.  IF there are pools.

The coffee maker, the box of maps (for wherever), my journaling bag (filled with markers, pens, glue, and other good "stuff"), my BAG-O-BOOKS, a box full of food that can be taken out for picnics or eaten in the car.............a crate of wine (yes, a crate),  a heavy old comforter so I don't freeze my rear end off in chilly motels where we keep the air conditioner on HI since we're not paying the electric bill, my camera with a bag of batteries for it, and hey.............I just made a list !

Tomorrow is the day we will start to pack the car, maybe........since I don't really think we're going to get out of here on the 15th.  I believe the 16th will probably be Departure Day. It's just a gut thing.

This is my first "blog experience," and I am not sure if I am going to like it or not.  Just a minute ago, I wanted to use the word "ass" instead of "rear end," and I didn't feel comfortable doing that.  THAT is why I am not sure if I am going to like blogging or not.  But I do believe it would be nice to have my journals all nicely "archived," whatever that means.

I am going to now end this first "post" as they call it. I am going to have to learn the terminology to do this.  IF I like this, then maybe YOU will see it.  But I would have to send you an email, first, I suppose.