Day 3: Return of Hostages

Well, we knew this day would come.  We would be required to return the hostages to their parents.  It has been a fun couple of days though.We started out with breakfast.  We fixed cinnamon rolls.  Cael and Sophia had cereal besides.  Then with the dishes done, the troops headed out to the river for one last fishing trip.  This time, Cael and Sophia opted to stay at the house with me.  That was fine.  I had work to do.  They can occupy themselves.

I turned on the TV, made sure the flyswatters were at hand, and listened for any screaming and crying.  I could hear them talking and playing.  Pretty soon, I heard the sound of flies dying out in the living room.  There was lots of giggles from the next room.

Pretty soon, Sophia came to the door of the office to tell me that Cael wouldn’t let her sit on the couch.  I have a large couch that makes out into a queen bed and a loveseat.  There are plenty of couches for two small children.  Cael is only 3 and not all that tall.  When I walked into the living room, Cael was stretched out on the large couch.  There was a good foot and a half at the end of the couch where he just couldn’t cover.  With that an entire smaller couch left exposed, I just couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I gave Sophia instructions to use the other couch.  A little while later, I stuck my head out and they were sitting side by side again on the larger couch.

Not long afterward, Rich, Rick, and Bel returned from their fishing expedition.  The final report was that Bel had caught a total of 9 fish, including one pretty good sized catfish.  Rick had caught a couple.  Rich had caught a grand total of three carp.  Not bad for the three days of fishing.  Bel was trying to convince Rich that he had plenty of fishing rods and could afford to let her take one home.  She really wanted that pink fishing rod set.

I was still working and need to keep going.  Rich and Rick decided to take the kids to McDonald’s for lunch.  We managed to find socks for everyone.  The troops then left the house again.  I went back to work.  After lunch, everyone returned to the house.  Rich got them in gear to pack up their stuff and start loading the car.  I completed my task and turned over the files.

We loaded up the human cargo, buckled up, and headed out to meet up with Vanessa.  We were on our way to return the hostages to their rightful owners.  I had planned on the ride taking us an hour and a half.  It took a little over an hour.  All of the kids were asleep as soon as we pulled away from the house.  That meant that their nap was for a good long time.

We found the hotel and got into the parking lot.  Rich called Vanessa to let her know we had arrived.  She came out and we swapped keys to vehicles.  Vanessa then shepherded her children and our former hostages to her room.  Chris wouldn’t be getting off work until 5:00.

Since I wasn’t feeling well, we decided to leave and not hang around for dinner.  We gave the kids hugs and kisses.  Vanessa got a big hug.  We talked about the possibility of plans for next summer.  We can plan for what this will be like next year.  It was fun.  Our house will definitely be a lot quieter after this.

On Friday, I caught Sascha going into the guest room a couple of times.  I figured she was looking for the kids.

Rich, Rick, and Bel headed out for one more trip to the river.
Rich, Rick, and Bel headed out for one more trip to the river.
Rick caught a fish all on his own.
Rick caught a fish all on his own.
Yet another fish caught by Bel.
Yet another fish caught by Bel.
Bel seems to be a magician and calls to them. Little fish, little fish.
Bel seems to be a magician and calls to them. Little fish, little fish.
That's a big carp for Rich.
That’s a big carp for Rich.
That's one of Bel's catfish.
That’s one of Bel’s catfish.
Surprise, surprise, Bel caught another fish.
Surprise, surprise, Bel caught another fish.
Rich and another one of his carp.
Rich and another one of his carp.
Rich caught yet another carp.
Rich caught yet another carp.
Bel giving Sascha some much needed attention.
Bel giving Sascha some much needed attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2: Hostage Negotiations Continued

Rick has been really wonderful helping out with the kids.  I really appreciated that.  I had planned to some of the heavy lifting on the trips, but work was going stronger than ever.  Rick stepped up and went along to help herd kids.  Thanks, Rick, for all your hard work.  Dad couldn’t have done it without you.

I had discussed with the kids what they would really like for breakfast.  I had mentioned several options.  They latched on to doughnuts pretty quickly.  So it was settled that we were having mini powdered doughnuts.  I figured cereal was an option also.  I sent Rick off to the store for the gems and some more orange juice.  That golden liquid was flying out of the refrigerator pretty fast.

After eating and cleaning up the kitchen and kids, it was time to hit the bangs.  Rick and Rich gathered the necessary fishing rods, bait, and chairs to head down to the river banks.  Bel was anxious to get started.  She had dreams of catching the biggest fish and the most number of fish.  She is a dedicated fishergirl.  That’s her word and not mine.  Cute, though.

Rich set up the rod holders into the sand for Sophia and Cael.  They would start fishing, but just ended up collecting rocks, digging in the sand, and hanging out in the grass.  Rick was tending the lines, even though he had no license.  Once, Cael’s rod bent down and everyone yelled for him to grab the pole.  But why?  Rick reeled it in and landed the fish.  Cael did get credit.  There were a total of two for him that day.  Sophia caught her two the same way.  Thanks, Rick, for being the hand to bring them in.

Now Bel is a different story.  She is dedicated to her craft.  She casts her line out and carefully plays the line.  She isn’t baiting the hook, but Rich figures she can learn that next year.  She will touch the worm, which is more than most girls will do.  Bel caught four more fish.  One of them turned out to be a good sized catfish.

Rich was able to do a little fishing for himself since Rick was there to help.  He caught a couple of decent sized carp.  By decent, I mean they were probably 10 inches or more.  He said he lost of a lot of bait as they played with the line.  The carp are crafty.  They make you work hard to get and then fight you all the way to shore.  It’s like deep sea fishing, but from the river bank.

Rick brought Sophia and Cael back early.  They had had enough fishing for one day.  Once it gets hard to keep track of them and keep them out of the water, it’s usually a good sign to leave.  It meant I could take them over and Rick was free to go about his business again.

We turned on a show and settled into the couch.  Pretty soon, Sophia comes in to tell me that Cael isn’t sharing the cough.  I have two couches in my living room.  There is a full sized couch that makes a queen-sized bed.  The other couch is simple loveseat.  Cael is stretched out on the full sized couch and is leaving about 2 feet unused at the end.  I’m not sure what the issue really was.  Probably just that he told Sophia she couldn’t sit there.  I pointed out that the loveseat was all hers.  In a few minutes, they were sitting amicably on the big couch again.

Pretty soon, there are swatting noises.  The kids have found the flyswatters and chasing the flies.  For the last week or so, we’ve had this fly infestation.  We’ve looked for all kinds of causes.  We might have it narrowed down to new dirt that was put down over the old driveway and the backyard.  We are assuming the dirt came from local farm area.  This increasing the possibility for eggs and larva.  We’ll see if the infestation goes down as the dirt rests and there is no fertilizer on it.

In the meantime, the kids have learned to correctly swat a fly and chase them around the house.  They stand on my couch and swat them in the front window.  They stand at the doors going to the deck.  They have even been down in the basement trying to become giant slayers.  I have three normal sized flyswatters.  Rick bough an extra large flyswatter at the Dollar Tree the other day.  It works, but it sure can take out a lot of stuff on the way down.  It’s almost bigger than Cael, but he wields it very well.  My giant slayer with a giant swatter.

Yesterday, the kids saw the boxes of Mac n Cheese in the cupboard.  Ever since then, they’ve been planning to have that for lunch today.  I heard it this morning and they reminded me again when they returned from fishing.  I guess I didn’t have think about what to have for lunch.  Rich requested spam to go with it.  Turns out, the kids liked spam too.  Is it in the genes somewhere to like certain things? After eating, I had them scrape their plates and get ready to run the dishwasher.  It’s always easier to get kids to do work for you when you aren’t their parents.

Unfortunately, I still had a lot of work to get done for a delivery.  I was staying behind for the next adventure.  Rick was enlisted again to help Rich take the kids to the Volo Auto Museum.  I made sure the cameras were all empty and they took off.

Everyone came happily tramping back into the house after their adventure.  Bel came to show me the pictures she had taken.  Most of them were of Cael.  He wasn’t smiling in most of the photos.  It liked she had caught Cael talking in most of the photos.  They were cute.  Apparently, Bel was telling him to say things, but then complained because he’s mouth was open.

The girls liked all of the pinks cars.  Sophia liked the pink Mustang and Bel liked the pink and white ’56 Chevy.  Rich says that Cael really liked the hot rods.  Another gene slipping in there?

We had a little bit of time before dinner was scheduled.  The kids and I decided to check out the beach.  I figured the water would be chilly from the colder evenings, but we could use the buckets, shovels, rake, and forms to play in the sand.  The walk down to the beach is a little long.  I thought the kids would make knowing what was at the end.  They did wonderful.  They talked my ear off the whole way.

Sophia asked when they were going to their Mom and Dad.  I explained the plan one more time.  She matter of factly stated that she wasn’t ready to go yet.  Wow, I did a good job.  They like being at my house.  At least for now.  I’m sure that would wear off given time.

At the beach, there was a huge mound of sand that had been dumped at the top of the beach.  Apparently, they were getting ready to replenish the beach.  The girls could start at the top and run down the mound and hit the water.  It looked dangerous for a bad fall, but was really fun for them.  I let them make a couple of runs before stopping the activity.  Cael was too small to enjoy the effect, but he did try once.

The water turned out to be very, very warm.  That meant that the kids just wanted to hang out in the water and not really play on the beach.  I hadn’t planned to be in the water, so I had no water wings or other flotation devices.  They hung out in the shallows and seemed very happy.  We were there swimming around for about half an hour.  I noticed the Bel’s bottom lip was starting to quiver.  It was time to go.  We made the long walk back without incident.

The girls ran most of the way back to the house.  Cael and I brought up the rear.  As we walked by the neighbor’s house, Brad and his friends waved from the front porch.  They were smiling at me for some reason.  It might have been the little guy trailing behind me talking about the beach in a very loud voice.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Rich had dinner underway.  Bel had requested quesadillas for dinner.  We also had the fixings for tacos since Rich and Rick didn’t really want quesadillas.  Sophia and Cael decided on the tacos as well.  It didn’t matter since they generally used the same ingredients.

With dinner cleared away, we settled in for a little bit.  But that set of words kept coming up.  Ice cream.  After half an hour, it was time to pack up the kids and head over to Happy Jack’s for that stuff they kept craving.  Believe it or not, all three of the kids fell asleep on the way over.  With some difficulty, we got them to wake up and go inside for ice cream.  Bel and Cael got Blue Moon.  Sophia went for the Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Yogurt.  Rich got a chocolate malt.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel up to anything.  That’s fine though.

Since the kids had been in the lake, we really had to take baths again.  You can’t leave that stuff on you for too long.  After we turned from Happy Jack’s, Bel got in the shower.  Then I put Cael into the tub.  After that, Sophia took a bath.  It was a lot less frantic than the previous night and I think my bathroom was drier also.  Kids love water.

Once baths were done and jammies were donned, it was time to find a movie.  We began scouring Netflix for something appropriate for little eyes and ears.  Bel wanted movies rated for older kids, but we had to keep this innocent.  We agreed upon 101 Dalmatian (the live version).  Turns out that the kids hadn’t seen this version.  I love Jeff Daniels, Glenn Close, and Hugh Laurie in this one.  Popcorn was offered and accepted, much to Sascha’s happiness.  She loves to hear popcorn in the microwave and waits to catch any that falls or is tossed her way.

Dad and Mom called halfway into the movie.  The kids were filling them in on all the details of the day.  Then it was back to the movie.  The sugar buzz from the ice cream made sure that everyone stayed awake tonight.  Then it finally time to shut out the lights and snuggle down in our beds.  That’s all of us and not just the kids.

Tomorrow would be the final day of hostage negotiations.

Getting the troops ready to leave for fishing.
Getting the troops ready to leave for fishing.

 

The fisherman and fishergirl are back.
The fisherman and fishergirl are back.
Dragonfly on the fishing rod.
Dragonfly on the fishing rod.
Cael caught a couple of fish.
Cael caught a couple of fish.
Sophia caught another small fish.
Sophia caught another small fish.
This is what Cael and  Sophia did while the others fished.
This is what Cael and Sophia did while the others fished.
Cael was the star of Bel and Sophia's pictures at the Auto Museum.
Cael was the star of Bel and Sophia’s pictures at the Auto Museum.
That's a Teenage Ninja Turtle and future teenagers.
That’s a Teenage Ninja Turtle and future teenagers.
Nice BelAir.
Nice BelAir.
Sophia and the fire truck.
Sophia and the fire truck.
Rut roh roh, Scooby Doo.
Rut roh roh, Scooby Doo.
Nah nah nah, Batman!
Nah nah nah, Batman!
Mater is a new exhibit at the museum.
Mater is a new exhibit at the museum.
Now that's a really purple car.
Now that’s a really purple car.
Those kids in their Flintstones mobile.
Those kids in their Flintstones mobile.
Hey, it's the Grinch and his helper, Cael.
Hey, it’s the Grinch and his helper, Cael.
Cael really liked the hot rods. This was a really nice example.
Cael really liked the hot rods. This was a really nice example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1: Hostage Negotiations Begin

When Rich first suggested to me that he ask Vanessa to keep her kids for a week, I had some thoughts about what that meant.  Three kids under the age of 7 for several days.  I hadn’t been had to work with small kids on a voluntary basis in a while.  It was always easier to stand back and let their parents do the heavy lifting.  But then, it might be an opportunity to see if I could still take it.  I would have grandkids one day, if I got lucky.  Why not.  Vanessa deserved a break bigger than overnight.We jokingly referred to this as taking the hostages.  We would treat it as a covert operation to exert our will and influence on Vanessa’s kids.  It didn’t work when we tried it on Alex’s kids.  It might work this time.  Negotiations began between Rich and Vanessa.

Rich extended the offer to his sister, Vanessa.  I think she was hesitant to believe her ears that someone wanted to take her kids off her hands for a few days.  Then, it was her older brother in Illinois.  We thought she could come and hang out with Chris while he was in the Romeoville office for the week.  They could have the week to themselves and it wouldn’t be at home.  When she realized it was a genuine offer, she accepted.  I thought she sounded a little too pleased once the shock wore off.

So on Monday, Vanessa drove to our house.  We went out to dinner and I took advantage of this opportunity to share the Pink Margarita with her.  I think she liked them.  Somehow, they tasted better this time than when we took Rose with us.  The kids did very well at the restaurant. Vanessa then chose to spend the night to ease them over the fact that she was dumping them for a few days.

On Tuesday, we went to breakfast at The Windhill Pancake House and sat at the breakfast bar so the train could deliver our food.  It’s kind of a kitschy sort of thing.  I have had an excuse to do with someone small, so it was a reason.  The troupe dropped me off at home to continue working.  They all headed out to the Illinois Train Museum in Union to explore the train and ride the trolley.  Then it was lunch at Chi Dog, where the kids got chicken fingers.  What?  No hot dogs!  Bel finally lost one of her upper teeth that had been extremely loose.  Guess who gets the tooth fairy to visit tonight?  Hope she got the memo on the change of address.

After lunch, Rich got them back to the house.  Vanessa packed up and slid out the door.  She packed her things into our Honda and headed out to meet with Chris in Romeoville.  I saw that secret smile on her face as she headed down the road.  I think I heard her whisper something about a nap.

Meanwhile, we rounded up the kids and headed down to the river to check out the fishing action.  Rich had managed to get three rod and reel setups for the kids.  That in itself is a good story I’ll have to write up sometime.  With a fresh pack of worms and carp bait, we loaded up the wagon and started the walk to the lake.

Everything was new to them.  They asked questions about the neighborhood, the channel, the birds, the dogs, and finally the road taking them to the fishing hole.  I do believe the entire neighborhood heard that we were going fishing.  We got to the banks of the Fox River, set up our spot, and dropped lines into the water.  Cael didn’t last too long.  A couple of times with worms and he was done.  He was more interested in what he could find in the dirt and the sand.  The sun was warm and he just wanted shade.

Sofia caught the first fish of the day right off the bat.  It was a small bass and not really a keeper.  She was excited to have landed him though.  We took pictures and then threw him back to join his brothers and sisters.  She soon gave up trying and joined Cael in the hunt for rocks and whatever else they could find along the edge of the river.

Now Bel it turns out is an enthusiastic fisherwoman.  She has a very good arm for casting and gets quite a distance out there for such a small person.  She pulled up my chair and got settled in for the long wait as she focused on casting for that big fish.  She sat near Rich and asked a lot of questions.  I think they were amicable fishing pals out there enjoying the late afternoon.

I missed her big haul of the day while I made a trip back to the house with Cael.  Rich managed to get some pictures and Bel took some with her own camera.  It looked like a good sized fish.  Bel was more than happy with the outcome and was busily fishing for more when I returned.

Rich finally got a good sized carp in his attempt of the afternoon.  We cleared the beach as he was expecting the fish to struggle in its fight to stop progress to the sand.  Just as he got to the beach, it slipped the hook and was free.  Rich had to grab it and pick it up to prevent its escape.  We got a picture of everyone standing around the fish before it was allowed to slip back into the river.

Now that just excited Bel to more dreams of bigger fish.  She promptly cast her line into the water and settled in for the wait.  Cael and Sophia had been struggling to stay interested in their surroundings.  I packed up some of the things and we walked the road back to the house.  Cael saw a crane and was very excited to learn about what this bird was. Sascha was glad to see us again.

I was afraid how Sascha might treat the kids.  Would they be playmates or just a nuance?  Turns out, she loves kids.  She was gentle in her own way and liked to hang out wherever they were.  The girls were coloring at the kitchen table and Sascha planted herself next to them.  She seemed to like Cael the best and wanted to try and clean up all the time.

It was getting later and later without Rich and Bel showing up.  Finally, they appeared around 5:30.  There was no further luck with the fishing after we left them.  After getting things settled down, we put in to fix dinner.  Hamburgers straight from the grill were on the menu.  With salads, chips, and all the dressings for the burgers.  Everyone did a good job of finding something they liked.  Conversation flowed pretty well.  Bel was very entertaining with her stories and questions.

After dinner, the kids had a Flavor Ice a piece.  Then we took Sascha for a walk.  Cael was a little bit tired and having trouble keeping up.  That prompted a shoulder ride back to the house.  Sophia came with us.  Bel opted to join Rich and Sascha for a continued walk toward the lake and back around to the house.  I think Bel enjoys talking to Rich.  They seem to be similar in their outlooks on life.

Back at the home place, we put in for baths.  There was enough sand everywhere to warrant this.  Besides, most of the feet had had a lot of river exposure.  Bel took a shower in our bathroom while Sophia and Cael dove into the tub in Rick’s bathroom.  There was some disappointment that the water wasn’t deep enough to require oxygen tanks, but it was enough to take care of business.

After getting dried and dressed, the kids settled down on the living room floor to watch a movie.  I think they picked out something appropriate from the streaming Netflix offerings I showed them.  Cael feel asleep really quick.  Bel enjoyed an orange and wasn’t accosted too much by Sascha wanting her share.  As they wind down to sleep tonight, there is hope they sleep in.  But probably not.  They are just kids after all.

Bel announced early one that we would be fishing right after breakfast.  The mighty and powerful Bel has spoken.

Cael enjoying a romp on the girls' bed.
Cael enjoying a romp on the girls’ bed.
Is this a dining room table or an art center?
Is this a dining room table or an art center?

 

Waving good bye to Mom.
Waving good bye to Mom.

 

Up close and personal with Cael.
Up close and personal with Cael.

 

Cael claimed the big rock as his spot.
Cael claimed the big rock as his spot.

 

Checking all the lines.
Checking all the lines.

 

Sophia with her catch of the day.  This was the first fish.
Sophia with her catch of the day. This was the first fish.

 

Bel showing off the fish she caught.
Bel showing off the fish she caught.

 

True fishermen.  Make that Fisherman and girl
True fishermen. Make that Fisherman and girl

 

This is how the afternoon went for us.
This is how the afternoon went for us.

 

Bel, Rich, Sophia, and Cael with the big catch of the day.
Bel, Rich, Sophia, and Cael with the big catch of the day.
Cael and Sophia were more interested in rock collecting than fishing.
Cael and Sophia were more interested in rock collecting than fishing.

 

 

Evening entertainment on the first night.  We lost one early to exhaustion.
Evening entertainment on the first night. We lost one early to exhaustion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 9 We’re not in Kansas anymore?

We made it home.  We were in no hurry again this morning.  It’s vacation, right?  Our last day of lazy mornings and no need to be anywhere soon.

I started out in the passenger seat.  I wanted one good day to brown my right arm.  Since I do a lot of the driving, my left arm gets pretty brown after a day or so.  It had been too hot from Texas to Iowa to have the windows down.  A/C was a requirement to sustain life.

I got a couple of good hours in before I needed to take my turn at the wheel.  It was also my turn to read one of my books and ignore Rich.  Seemed fair since he was reading his newspaper and playing Sudoku.  By then, we were at the Illinois border.

We noticed right away that it had rained on this side of the river.  And rained a lot by the look of it.  There were flooded fields everywhere.  It had been dry over on the Iowa side.  At least it was sunny now.  We were making good time, until we hit the continuous road construction that occurs on this stretch of 88.  Every time I come this way, there is construction.  I think this is how they occupy those guys in the part of Illinois.

At one point, I thought it was trying to rain on us. I kept hearing what sounded like raindrops hitting the car.  No water though.  Then I realized that I was running into bugs.  As we moved east, the bugs got bigger and there were more of them.  What was that movie some years back about a growing bug population?  Maelstrom I think it was called.  I felt like I was living it.  Once we turned north, the onslaught stopped.

On the road, we had a lot of conversations.  It’s hard to put them down on paper.  It was more than funny billboards and interesting people in the car that we passed.  I like talking to Rich and I think our individual sense of humor plays off the other one.  Probably one of the reasons I like him hang around.  That and he pays his share of the bills.

When we got outside of Dallas, Rich was looking for the Texas roadmap that he had collected when we had entered the state some days ago.  We stopped at just about every Welcome center we hit during the trip.  It was a good place to stop for a break and talk to someone about their state.  Rich would get a roadmap for the state and any brochures that he thought looked interesting.  You never know when you might come back to visit the state.

So when Rich wanted to know something about roads, he would pull out the map of that state and study it for directions.  He was also looking for things we might stop and see.  We like playing tourist.  We will stop for just about anything interesting.

However, on this occasion, Rich just could not find that darn Texas roadmap.  He looked in the glove compartment, the hidey-hole in the console, and in the back seat.  After a while, we started to speculate where that map might have gone.  Did it get thrown out with trash?  Did someone break into the car and take just that map?  Maybe the guys at the repair shop took it.

Then we started getting closer to home.  Maybe Lily was reading it and forgot to put it back.  No, maybe Rose took it because she knew it would drive Rich crazy when he couldn’t find it.  We reached Oklahoma by that time and Rich pulled out that state map.  Our thoughts moved on to other things.

We always have music playing on the radio.  Rich prefers Bluesville to most of the channels we have plugged into the radio using XM.  I didn’t really care.  However, we got the download of the new Trampled Under Foot album.  This meant we had to listen to it on the way back.  We went through that album and several more on Rich’s music player through the Aux input.  It was a change and we got to listen to the TuF album in our own environment.  It was great.

When we first started out on the road, we heard a song called, Butter for My Grits, by Big Bill Morganfield.  Bill is one of Muddy Waters’ sons.  I loved that song.  We decided to make it our theme song for the trip.  I then attempted to get grits for breakfast or other meals just so we could say that.  We heard that song over a dozen times in the course of our driving days.

The song is about a guy who goes to eat his grits and finds that he is out of butter.  He goes to the store, but they are out of butter.  He goes to the neighbor’s house, but they are out of butter.  He just can’t find butter for his grits.  Just not a southern thing to eat grits without butter.

I found out a lot of facts as we traveled also.  Oklahoma raises the most horses and has the most horse related events than any state.  Kansas has a lot of limestone and in the central section where the Tallgrass Prairie is, you can see a lot of stone fences.  We had a couple of people arguing if they were walls or fences.  Apparently in Kansas, they are fences.

OK, I’m winding down here.  We got close enough to home to call Rich and tell him to get the party out of the house.  We do this every time and you would think he would be used to it.  He just gripes at us.  I think I heard something about grow up.  Not sure though.

We came up Oak behind the garage.  Sascha was outside, but couldn’t really see up until we got past the new garage that blocks her view of the road.  She was pretty much just lying next to the house watching the world go by.  Then you could see the thought go across her face, “Daddy and Mommy are home!”  She pushed open the small door as I raised the big door.  She was dancing and barking.

Rich went to get his Husky hug.  I didn’t wait for my hug.  I had some place I had to be and quick.  I got my hug when I came out to help bring in the bags.  She was so excited to see us.  I think she was more excited to see Rich than me.  After we got the stuff all in the house, I brought in.  She attached herself to Rich for the rest of the night.  She was on his feet, touching his foot at dinner with her paw, and leaning against him as he was working on a secret project.

It was nice to be welcomed by one person.  Rick just tells me he liked having the entire house to himself with the dog.  Maybe we could go back out on the road.  However, we did have to pay all of the bills and keep moving money to his account for food and necessitates.

Did you wonder what happened to that Texas roadmap?  I found in with some papers I had stuffed into my backpack.  Oops!

It’s good to be home.

Day 8 : Little house on the prairie

Tuesday morning.  It’s time to drive from just north of Oklahoma City to Des Moines, IA.  Rich wants to pronounce it, Des Moines and not Da Moin.  Boys, what can you do with them.  We grab breakfast and head on down the road.I totally forgot to mention that we drove through Moore, OK.  This is one of the towns that were recently devastated by a tornado.  You could see the path of twister and the wreckage it left behind.  There was nothing standing but twisted and broken pieces of structures.  The path across the interstate wasn’t very wide, but you could see where it went.  The path through the neighborhoods was so evident.

I can assure you that there is nothing much north of Oklahoma City.  Now here, the wind does whistle down the plains.  It was pretty windy on the drive.  I had very little company on the road.  I was counting on a number of semis and locals, but they were few and far between.  That made the drive easier, but also boring.  How am I supposed to play leap frog without any frogs to leap?  Did I mention there were lots of casinos on Indian reservations though?

On our way out of Wichita, Rich found the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve on the map.  It was described as being the last patch of standing tall grass prairie in the U.S.  It wasn’t too far off of the route.  We found the detour well marked and jumped off the tollway.  I had a little trouble at the booth trying to get it to accept my dollar bills.

This exit was in the middle of nowhere and going nowhere.  I had two vehicles behind me waiting to pay their tolls!  How did that happen?  I didn’t see anyone and here I was holding up the line.  I finally gave up and shoved in the old credit card.  No, not mine.  Rich’s card!  Off we went after that.

We drove through some of those little towns that don’t really exist anymore, except for a few houses.  There was no store, gas station, or post office.  The road wound through pastures with cows and horses. It was incredibly green out there.  The best thing I saw was the Bazaar Cemetery.  I loved the name.  Of course, there was Bazaar the town and a church by the cemetery.

We finally got to the preserve.  It turned out to be an original ranch and farm started by Stephen and Louisa Jones in 1878 as a feed station for the family’s larger cattle operation in Colorado.  This was part of that romantic tale where cowboys moved cows from one location to another.  Cows are still moved from Texas, Colorado, and surrounding states to this area during grazing season.  But today, it’s all done with trucks.

Anyway, the ranch is an 11,000 acre spread owned by the Nature Conservancy in conjunction with the National Parks Service.  There is an interpretative building.  The house on the property was completed in 1881 and is quite nice.  It is showing its age.  I loved the walnut woodwork with its raised panels and gilding.  The size of the house is still pretty impressive today.

We walked from the top to the bottom of the house and viewed all of the rooms we were allowed to visit.  The walnut staircase that runs through the middle of the house is very beautiful.  It’s hard to image it being carved for this purpose.  There were storm cellars, root cellars, kitchens, pantries, as well as the normal living rooms.

The outbuildings included an ice house for refrigeration and a curing house where meats were salted and dried for use throughout the year.  The best thing out there was the three-seater outhouse.  There were two adult-sized seats and one child-sized seat for their daughter.

We toured the barn as well.  Who knew how happy I would feel standing in an old barn.  It reminded me of being in the barn at my grandparents’ farm.  This barn was limestone walls with three separate floors for livestock, implements, and feed.

We enjoyed the views and the wind.  It felt great considering that the car said it was 116 degrees outside.  We didn’t do any serious hiking because of the temperatures and our lack of planning.  We just didn’t have the water needed to make the trek around some of the acres.

We called it quits before the heat totally overcame us.  We got back on the road to Kansas City.  Our plan had been to return to Stroud’s for a late lunch, early dinner.  When we had been in the Kansas City area in June, we had dropped by for Sunday dinner.  This was the best chicken I had in a long while.  Now in Rich’s estimation, Gus’ Chicken in Memphis, TN is the best in the world.  I’m not so sure I would say that.  Stroud’s might be the best.

We pulled into an empty parking lot with some confusion.  Darn, they were closed until 5:00.  It was only 4:00 now.  We decided not to wait and went to try and find another destination for dinner.  Can you believe, the other selections were all closed and moved on?  There were other restaurants in their place and nothing we wanted to try.  By now, it was 4:30.  We decided not to waste any more time and returned to Stroud’s.

One gentleman had come in and we found some shade in the lot to park under.  A couple of more cars had parked by the time we decided to go inside.  There was already a waiting crowd of 6 people at this point.  At least it was cool inside.  We finally were shown to our table, which overlooked the lake at the side of the property.  We got to watch the ducks, geese, and swans ambling around.

Yep, the chicken was still excellent.  This time we got our leftovers and the cinnamon rolls into boxes.  Then it was time to head out again.  We got back on the road to Des Moines.  Up the road a ways, we decided we had to stop, but there wasn’t anywhere.  The rest stops were just picnic areas.  We got desperate enough to stop at a convenient mart that looked a little questionable.  The bathroom wasn’t too clean, but it had a toilet.  Just one toilet though.  Rich beat me to it and I was the standing out there dancing for a bit.

After that excitement, the road was pretty boring.  We had expected rain on this part of the drive.  The Weather Channel and Weatherbug were calling for 70 to 80 percent.  There were clouds on the horizon, but nothing was very close.  It made for a very nice sunset on my left.

Finally, we hit Des Moines while there was still some daylight.  We got checked in and set up.  This was the only hotel that didn’t have a frig.  We had to drag out plug in cooler up from the car to keep our goodies.  There was a bar though.  We popped down for a beer and relax.  The bartender was joking around with us as she was going about her work.  There were several people in the bar, but they all seemed to be keeping to themselves.  She actually tried to convince Rich to have one more.  I don’t think she wanted to be alone with just the guys hanging out there.  She did have to tell one gentleman that she couldn’t serve him anymore.  She recommended he go to the bar next door.  I figured he had been there a while and it was policy not to serve more than a certain number of drinks to one customer.  So why was she trying to get Rich drunk?

I was tired by now.  I went up and fell into bed.  Sleep was a while coming on, but it eventually overtook me with a warm and peaceful feeling.  I think Rich went to bed at some time, but I can’t tell you when.

Rich walking at the Flint Hills Scenic Overlook.  It was a beautiful view of the open range.
Rich walking at the Flint Hills Scenic Overlook. It was a beautiful view of the open range.

 

I found out later this is called a Compass flower.
I found out later this is called a Compass flower.

 

Waving prairie grasses along the side of the overlook.
Waving prairie grasses along the side of the overlook.

 

I still need to find out what this beautiful flower is called.  It resembled the milkweed, but with some differences.
I still need to find out what this beautiful flower is called. It resembled the milkweed, but with some differences.

 

Just had to do a selfy showing the spreading range out behind me.
Just had to do a selfy showing the spreading range out behind me.

 

Grasshoppers were plentiful around us.
Grasshoppers were plentiful around us.

 

Walking up to the 3-story barn at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
Walking up to the 3-story barn at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

 

I was amazed by the barn structure and the ramps leading up to the top level.
I was amazed by the barn structure and the ramps leading up to the top level.
The second story was very sun filled and spacious.
The second story was very sun filled and spacious.
A display of some of the implements used in ranch life on the range.
A display of some of the implements used in ranch life on the range.

 

This is the view from the 2nd story of the barn.  The pastures are very green.
This is the view from the 2nd story of the barn. The pastures are very green.

 

This is an example of the tall grasses on the prairie. That's the ice house at the top of the hill.
This is an example of the tall grasses on the prairie. That’s the ice house at the top of the hill.

 

This is the front of the Jones house at the top of the hill at the preserve.
This is the front of the Jones house at the top of the hill at the preserve.

 

Of course, I found a quilt in the working parlor.
Of course, I found a quilt in the working parlor.

 

This is the curing room behind the house.
This is the curing room behind the house.
Rich was walking around the front of the house to get a shot and he looked perfect for this shot.
Rich was walking around the front of the house to get a shot and he looked perfect for this shot.

 

This is the view from the font of the house.  It is prairie for as far as the eye can see.
This is the view from the font of the house. It is prairie for as far as the eye can see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7 Hasta Luego, San Antonio!

Well, that day has come.  It’s time to head back on up north again.  This means my vacation is almost over.  How can that be?  Didn’t I just leave?

As is my usual habit now, I got up early, grabbed my Nook, and headed down to the pool to read until others began to stir in the house.  It was wonderful to sit out there and listen to the birds.  The heat and humidity don’t bother me.  I actually like them.  It reminds me of being at home in the Louisville area.  Rich popped his head out the door and informed me that people were up and moving.  Rose was going to make breakfast.

Rose was the proper domestic goddess.  She made eggs, sausage, and the trimmings for breakfast.  Turned out to be quite a feast.  Rose claims she’s never made sausage before.  Hard to believe.  It was all good.

Rich and I packed up our belongings and cleared out of the guest room in an orderly fashion.  I would be happy to stay and sit by the pool.  It always made for an enjoyable start to my day.  We managed to find everything and pretty much left the room as we found it.  Almost as we found it.  I forgot to make the bed!

I remembered that it was Rick’s birthday today.  That’s their father and not my son.  There are a lot of Richards in this family still.  Rose has a container of his ashes on the mantel.  I made it a point to say Happy Birthday to him.  This Rick would have been 72 years old today.

We couldn’t put it off any longer.  We hugged Rose good bye and thanked her for the warm hospitality during our stay.  We were kept very busy.  So busy that Rich never got around to showing Rose how to trim the many, many rosebushes around the house.  Guess we’ll have to come back again.

We headed back up the interstate in the direction of Dallas.  We discovered that the back hatch was not shut and had to stop off to shut it.  Rich decided he had to have more coffee to get his caffeine levels back up to travel mode.

In Austin, we rain in some pretty bad rain.  The roads are built to drain the water away, so it was like playing mud puddles as a kid.  Water was spraying everywhere when someone passed.  At one point, the rain was coming down so hard, you could barely see up the road.  Gradually, we drove out of the rain up the road and the sun came out.  Good driving weather had found us.

Around Waco, Rich began looking for a Whataburger.  He just had to have a taste of his childhood before he left the area.  We had seen them on every street corner in San Antonio, their corporate headquarter town.  Here on the road, we were having trouble finding one.  Finally, one of the tall signs appeared on the horizon like a beacon to guide to their parking lot.

I ordered the #1 burger with onion rings.  Rich had the #4 burger with apple slices.  It wasn’t bad.  I remembered too late that Rose had said their shakes were excellent.  I’ll have to wait and try that on my return visit.  Rich was happy to have a taste of what he remembered.  I think he remembered it correctly.

Back on the road again.  On the way down to Texas, Rich assured me that he would read his paper and his books and totally ignore me.  He tried his very best, but I can be persistent.  We had a lot of laughs and discussions.  Now he was ready to return to his newspaper and try once again to ignore me.  I can tell you with the utmost confidence that I did get my fair share of attention today.

When we were preparing for our trip, Rick was very concerned about the gas mileage that he had managed to eek out of the Honda while he was driving it to work.  He had gotten the numbers up slowly to something like 24.7 MPG.

During the long distance drives, you can really get the mileage up to a pretty good number.  I think I have up to 25.1 at the moment.  It should a little better by the time we reach home.  I have the satisfaction of seeing Rick’s face and concern as it slowly drops back down to a number that he will have to begin managing all over again.

There were no funny billboards to report.  No one did anything outlandish or significant around us on the drive.  We saw a couple of accidents.  One in Austin on the southbound side with a truck that looks like it did somersaults down the highway and the lanes were closed so they could clear.  That meant everyone on the northbound side was rubbernecking.  There’s my favorite pastime again.

So we made it to north of Oklahoma City for the night.  No, the wind doesn’t come whistling down the plain here.  Heading into Des Moines for the night tomorrow.  Yum, we are stopping for lunch at Stroud’s.  I love that place!

Good night to you all.  For you in Texas and other points in the south, Night, y’all.

Day 6 Butts Up!

Addendum:  I don’t know how, but I forgot to thank Rose for sacrificing her waterproof camera to get the shots in this blogs.  Thanks for showing all the fun.  It was worth the camera getting waterlogged!

Sunday was another slow day.  Rich and I went out to get breakfast burritos from Bill Miller’s BBQ.  Rose swore these were the best burritos around.  They were pretty good.  I felt old while we were there.  Everyone was saying, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am”.  Why can’t my son be this polite?

After breakfast, we made ready to go tubing.  Rose picked out a place where we could get on the river in style and float the afternoon away.  I drove up to Don’ Fish Camp.  Wait, fish camp?  I thought we were going tubing?  Turns out they do their biggest business with tubing.  Driving in, we noticed that we were spelling it wrong all this time.  The correct spelling is apparently toobing.  Who knew?  We got parked, paid for our admission, and boarded the converted school bus for the ride down to the river.

The bus takes you up river a ways and then you float back down to where you left your car.  We got four inner tubes and managed to tie ourselves together.  We only had string to tie ourselves in a row.  It worked pretty well.  Rose had loaded a small cooler with drinks.  There was alcohol for Rose and Rich.  Lily and I made due with some non-alcoholic beverages.

The river here was pretty quiet, but the current was moving pretty well.  We were making good time and getting used to the way we had to navigate to get through the obstacles.  The sun was shining and the day was great.  We meet some interesting people along the way.

At the first set of rapids, we quickly learned to raise our butts out of the water.  This kept us for hitting rocks as we went.  After that, the battle cry was, “Butts up.”  We navigated the calms, the hidden rocks and trees, as well as the banks of the river where you would get thrown into very quickly.

The wildlife wasn’t limited to the turtles on the logs where they sunned themselves.  There were lots of young kids with coolers and loud music.  Why would you play gangsta rap on the river?  It was pretty disgusting lyrics, too.  Rose just told Lily, “Never repeat any of those words where I can hear you.”

We talked to one guy who seemed to have lost his group.  He was a student up in Austin.  He said his major was Therapy.  We were worried about it being psychiatrics and he had heard too much from us.  Turned out, he was going to do his Masters at the University of Washington.  How cool that it was a state where Rose was from.

Turned out, his buddies were on the beach ahead of us.  It was his friend’s, Sam, birthday.  He asked us to yell happy birthday.  We did and pretty loud.  They all stopped to wave.  Then they went right back to doing shotgun with their beers.  Rich is banned from helping anyone do shotgun anymore.  He’s good at it, maybe too good.

We continued on around the river.  At one point, we hit rapids and threw Rich onto a rock.  His tube broken away from the pack.  We had to chase him down and get connected again.  We continued on again and found a place where people were hanging out on some rocks.  We pulled up on the rocks and took a break.  Lily was sliding down the small rapids there.

A guy was training his black labs to fetch.  The dogs were so excited to jump into the water and get the toy.  He was doing it one at time and the poor dog left behind was beside himself for not going after the toy.  At the end, the guy lined them up and threw the toy.  Then he yelled, “Everyone.”  Off they both went to get the toy.

Rose had noticed all of the trash along the river as we went.  She wondered why no one did a clean up day to pick it up.  She has a good idea.  Left people take nets down the river and gather it up as they go.  For every so many bags you bring back, you would get so much off of your next trip.  It would be incentive to pick up and clean up.  We ran into a couple dredging the bottom for cans and bottles and trash.  They had several large construction bags with trash already.  Rose talked to them for a bit about their efforts.

We continued on down the river.  There were more rapids, calms, and fast moving currents as we went.  We ran into all kinds of people.  We had some laughs with some and shook our heads at others.  We finally came to the end and turned out tubes over the guy collecting them.

We decided that Rose needs a MoBag for her tubing trips.  It would have things like a waterproof bag for her camera, large carbines to connect the tubes together without the need for rope, sunscreen, coozies, and maybe some other things.  Maybe a good gift.  Hmmm.

We headed back to the house.  Decided that we were definitely hungry.  We started out for Whattaburger and changed our minds to head to Taco Cabana.  We got a bunch of foods and then to the house for dinner.  We had our fill with what we had gotten.  Unfortunately, we got shorted a couple of tacos.  But we ended up with enough to fill us.

Now I’m getting caught up on my blogs for the last couple of days.  It’s trying its very best to rain outside.  The temperature is coming down a bit.  The car said it was 106, but Rose’s iPhone said it was only 95.  It was definitely hot.

Rich got a little toasty crisp around some of his edges.  The tops of his legs are burnt.  My face is very red, but it doesn’t seem to hurt much.  There will be lots of lotion going on both of us tonight.  Found some stuff with Lidocaine since you can’t get anything very strong without a prescription.  It’ll fade in a couple of days.

Tomorrow, we start the trek back home.  Since our experiences through the OK state weren’t that good, we are opting to head up 35 and into Iowa and then over to home.  We know most of that way and it should be a good trip.  Sorry to go, but it will be good to home again.  I miss my Sascha.  Oh yeah, and Rick, too.

 

All hands in for the toobing adventure.
All hands in for the toobing adventure.
Rich and Joy on the bus to the river.  Don't they look thrilled?
Rich and Joy on the bus to the river. Don’t they look thrilled?
Where you going, Rose?
Where you going, Rose?
Rich is ready to head down the river.
Rich is ready to head down the river.
Rose, Lily, and Rich enjoying the day.
Rose, Lily, and Rich enjoying the day.
The San Marcos River that we were toobing along.
The San Marcos River that we were toobing along.
Rose enjoying her day out on the river.
Rose enjoying her day out on the river.
Joy sunning herself like one of those turtles.
Joy sunning herself like one of those turtles.
Turtles were hanging out along the river.
Turtles were hanging out along the river.
View up ahead on the river watching the other toobers.
View up ahead on the river watching the other toobers.
Rich and Joy at the rocky area during our break.
Rich and Joy at the rocky area during our break.
Rich smiling as he floats along with his beer.
Rich smiling as he floats along with his beer.
Rich and Lily just floating along in life.
Rich and Lily just floating along in life.
More pictures of Rich and Joy?
More pictures of Rich and Joy?

 

Lily taking a Fanta break.
Lily taking a Fanta break.
Joy was just mugging for the camera.
Joy was just mugging for the camera.
Watching the toobers ahead of us.
Watching the toobers ahead of us.
Another shot of Rich and Lily.
Another shot of Rich and Lily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5 Reunion

Today was another slow day.  I started out by trying to get caught up on my blogs.  I took my computer and everything out to the pool area.  So you can image my view now from the last post.  Rich got up and came out to bother me.  Then JP and Stephanie came out to talk.

Today, Stephanie is going home.  I really enjoyed her being here.  I had a good time talking to her while we were hanging out at the pool.  It came time for JP to take her to the airport and we all said good bye.  Hope she had a good flight back to Seattle.

In the afternoon, Rose got everyone together and we took for downtown again.  We down to The Cove for lunch  This is a really interesting little place that is a restaurant, car wash, and dry cleaners built into one.  The decorations are really cool also.  We parked and walked into the restaurant to review the menu.  There were burgers of all kinds, but they are famous for their lamb burger.  That’s what Rich ordered.  The fish tacos are highly recommended.  I wanted the shrimp tacos, but the wasabi sauce scared me off.

The food was excellent.  We found seats at a table in the cabana hut, which has air conditioning.  Rich doesn’t do al fresco unless I force the issue.  There was no point today.  It was a little warm and humid outside.  Rich got a beer from the bar.  We finished up and walked around the compound there.  There was an open air bar out back.  Rich discovered too late that they had a lot of draft beers back there.  Rose, Rich, and Lily posed in the open faces.  I got a picture of the travel trailer sitting out front as well.  It was pretty cool.

We took off again for a little further downtown to see the Buckhorn Saloon.  Rich wanted to say he had a beer while sitting in there.  We found a park garage and walked on over.  There were antlers hanging everywhere!  There were animals everywhere!  I liked the rhino while Rose liked the giraffe.  Rich had his beer.  Lily wanted to play a game in the game room.  Rich took her on in a quick game of air hockey.

Then it was time to head back out.  We got back to Rose and JP’s in time to start getting ready for our dinner with the 6913th guys.  This was our entire reason for making the trip.  We got all dolled up and headed out for New Braunfels and the German restaurant.  There was going to be 5 of us total.  Rich was nervous that none of them would show up.

We arrived at the Freisenhaus restaurant.  It was a cute little place right next to the Farmers’ Market.  We went in and were greeted by a lady with a very distinct German accent.  We were early, but she allowed us to be seated at our table.  Rich started off with a Dunkelweissen.  We got some appetizers to help carry us over the 30 minutes had to wait for everyone else.

Came 6:00, Rich was nervous that no one would show up.  Finally Mac and John arrived with John’s fiancée, Theresa.  John brought photo albums as well as those that Rich had.  Turned out, Mac was John’s supervisor in Germany.  So they knew each other pretty well.  The three of them had been in Germany over roughly the same time period.  They knew a lot of the same people.  Rich had worked for the radio group while Mac and John worked for Operations.

We ordered food and ended up staying for three hours as the guys talked.  Theresa and I were trying to stay caught up with the discussion.  We did manage to talk between ourselves as well.  The guys flipped through pictures and talked about old times and people they knew.  I think they missed Germany still from the sound of them talking.

We finally called it a night and packed up our stuff.  Rich and I made the drive back to Rose’s house.  I think Rich was pretty happy with how things turned out.  I told Rich we should make it a traveling show every year and do a dinner in an area where people say they live.  We could take time out from every location we go for a dinner with people from the group.  We’ll see how it goes.

So another end to another day.  I’m tired.  Good night again.

Rich, Lily, and Rose heading in.
Rich, Lily, and Rose heading in.
Rich and Rose do the pose outside of The Cove.
Rich and Rose do the pose outside of The Cove.

A picture of the patio at The Cove.

Rich, Rose, and Lily in the faces at The Cove.
Rich, Rose, and Lily in the faces at The Cove.
Loved the signs outside of The Cove.  Is it a sign of the times that one is upside down?
Loved the signs outside of The Cove. Is it a sign of the times that one is upside down?

 

Cute little travel trailer parked outside of The Cove.
Cute little travel trailer parked outside of The Cove.
Car wash at The Cove.
Car wash at The Cove.

 

Looking down from the parking garage toward Buckhorn Saloon.  See the very old Walgreen's sign?
Looking down from the parking garage toward Buckhorn Saloon. See the very old Walgreen’s sign?
Rich outside of the Buckhorn Saloon with the antlers over the entrance.
Rich outside of the Buckhorn Saloon with the antlers over the entrance.
You are being watched from all angles.
You are being watched from all angles.
Rich, Mac, and John at the first 6913th reunion.
Rich, Mac, and John at the first 6913th reunion.