I Blame Donald Trump

Earlier this summer when we were in Kansas City getting the house batteries replaced, Wholesale Batteries gave us VIP tickets to an outdoor concert at Sandstone Arena in KCK. We spent that much money. It was three tribute bands, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Eric Clapton and somebody else. Real memorable, right?

We had looked at the website regarding parking, cameras, smoking and food. After we got parked, we found our good seats and settled in. The first band was just OK. We had a $13 margarita (whar VIP?) and enjoyed the people watching during the show.

One thing we noticed and did not enjoy was that the people behind us were smoking. Heavily. There were smoking areas outside the seating they are supposed to use. Silly me, I thought maybe these folks didn’t know. I turned around and politely said to the girl behind me, “Excuse me, but it says No Smoking in the seats. There’s an area just outside. Thank you.”

She looked at me and said, “You better keep your mouth shut or you’re gonna get smacked.” She looked like she would enjoy it too.

What? Who says this? To a perfect stranger? At an entertainment venue? Where the rules are perfectly clear? I turned back around in shock. Such ugly and unpleasant behavior. Where do people get the idea it’s acceptable to act like this? Maybe she just came from a Donald Trump rally where it’s apparently not just OK, but encouraged, to denigrate and mock handicapped people, women and blacks. Not to mention Muslims and immigrants. And probably non-smokers.

Of course, she began smoking more and blowing it directly at us. This is not a nice person. I turned back around and asked her please not to blow the smoke at us. She said, “I told you to shut your fat mouth. I’m warning you.” I told her I was making a simple request and that most people would comply if they knew it was bothering somebody. She continued to smoke and smolder.

I got up and mentioned to one of the staff that people were smoking in the seats, and being extremely rude about it.The staffer immediately responded that they couldn’t possibly enforce that because they were so short staffed. Great.

Naturally our smoking friend saw me do this and when I came back to my seat, she started kicking the back of my seat. Not just a tap or two, but good solid, deliberate and continuous kicks. So I turned back around and asked her to not kick my seat PLEASE. Again, her response was rude and threatening. What to do?

The seat beside me was empty so I just moved over. Well, then she got her friend to kick the back of my seat in the same emphatic manner. I asked that person not to and she continued. By this time, the smoking girl had moved over behind Jim and was kicking his seat. It was like she was itching for a fight. How many times do you have to say PLEASE STOP THAT!?

Jim finally turned around and asked her “Why are you being so obnoxious?” She answered, “I told you to just turn around and shut up.”

They wouldn’t stop kicking so Jim said, “Let’s just stand up.” Ha! So we did. That quieted them down for a while because they couldn’t see anything. It was kind of difficult for us to enjoy the show though. I can’t remember the last time I was exposed to such unpleasant and threatening behavior. From someone I don’t even know…

A woman a few rows back came and asked us to sit down because they couldn’t see. We  apologized and explained the situation, gesturing toward our smoking friend, who glowered at us. What can you do?

Finally we sat back down. I’m not sure if our smoking friend was suffering from tobacco poisoning by that time but at least they quit kicking our seats. The atmosphere was poisoned for us though. We decided to leave before the third band started. The whole encounter made me feel sad, not angry.

On the way back to the bus our conversation focused on the question: Why do people think it is acceptable to act like this? The election, which I have followed closely, and not just on Fox News, has somehow fomented the idea among Trump followers that it is OK to beat up protesters, use the N* word, smear and threaten to jail, even kill his opponent and demean women who hid their shame of sexual abuse for years for not being good looking enough. I understand that Donald Trump’s main line of attack is based on stirring up peoples’ ungrounded fears and he asserts that people are sick of political correctness. What they call political correctness is actually just civilized behavior. Don’t be rude. Don’t be mean. Be thoughtful and kind. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Don’t interrupt. Listen, really listen to others. Be nice.

Anybody who knows me knows my political leanings. But this is about more than politics. This is about basic human decency, compassion and civilized behavior. Understanding others who are not like us and working with them . Realizing that only love will bring us into the light. We really are stronger together.

And in the end, only kindness matters.



When It Rains It Pours!

We’ve had a string of ‘situations’ lately – I’ve been busy!  Where to start? I knew we had a problem with the generator before I knew our house battery bank was shot. We’d been having intermittent problems with the generator since we hit Laramie Wyoming back in July. That brought us to Cheyenne, WY  where we waited for a part that did not fix that problem. Then we needed new house batteries and then start batteries and then engine R&R? However, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the batteries…

We have a 24 volt battery system (in fact we have two separate 24 volt systems) vs. 12 volts like most RV’s, mainly because it is more efficient and the invertor requires 24 volts. Well sometime in early September, probably while we were sitting at the Grandview Elks Lodge I noticed my battery monitor was indicating very low voltage on the house battery bank?   Like below 24 volts! Without going into too much detail, that is very low and especially concerning since we were plugged into 30 amp electric service and the invertor is supposed to keep the batteries fully charged. I spent several hours trying to figure this out including phone calls to the monitor manufacturer, Wholesale Batteries in Kansas City, KS and some internet research. The bottom line seemed to be that our house battery bank was aging out and would no longer hold adequate charge. We got 4 1/2 years out of them so they served us well, but sooner or later they just get worn out or start shorting out inside. Even though they were getting partially charged, most of the amps were just turning into heat and causing the battery cases to get hot and swell!


Troubleshooting in a tight space!


I could have squeezed a few more months out of the set, but probably not another year. So new batteries were needed. The problem isn’t finding the batteries – you can buy them online! The real issue is they weigh 160 lbs a piece and there are six of them in a very tight space. Not to mention they are also very expensive. So I have to find a place that will give me a good price AND remove and replace the set.

I bought this set from Wholesale Batteries in Kansas City, KS while we still lived in the KC area and they were great to work with, gave me a good price and did the original install. So I gave my contact a call and they got the six new batteries on order. It was going to take several days, so we left KC for some more bike riding and a visit to friends at Lake of the Ozarks.

So from Jack and Linda’s place on the lake we headed back to KC for new batteries. We were able to park in their secured lot overnight and first thing in the am they got to work.

As you can see there Ain’t much room to maneuver and Brian is a big guy, but he got those bad boys wrestled out and new ones installed without a hitch. Each one weighs 160 lbs! Brian and Pat (sorry no pic?) were great to work with, worked quickly and efficiently and no smoke was released. Great job guys! Let’s not do this again for awhile.

Cool! We have a new house battery bank, 730 AH! We can run one of our roof top air conditioners all night on those babies and still have power to spare in the morning. We’re headed back out on the road and all is well!

Oops, spoke too soon. We left KC for Fulton, MO to visit long time friends. Our plan was to park at Wal-Mart for a couple of days and then move on. We got parked and called our friends and since it was hot we decided to fire up the generator and run the A/C for a couple of hours. Ugh, no generator! As I mentioned, we’d been having some intermittent problems, but whenever I tried to troubleshoot the problem, it would start running. Well, it finally failed completely. This is a problem, because if we are dry camping (i.e. without an electrical hookup)  we depend on the generator to keep our brand new batteries charged (and run our air conditioners)!

Now, I redesigned and rebuilt this generator and it has been trouble free since. At least I knew the problem was with the Kubota diesel engine. However, the more general problem is that the generator itself is essentially obsolete. I have no manuals, no wiring diagrams and tech support is, let us say ‘difficult’. It is also shoe-horned into a tight space.  I needed some help on this one too. While we were in Fulton, I started doing some research and making some calls. CK Power in St. Louis, MO  was recommended be a local Kubota dealer.  I gave them a call and they sounded competent so I made an appointment.

Curiously, we don’t have any pictures of our time at CK Power, but they quickly diagnosed the problem to be the oil pressure switch on the engine. Of course, they don’t have that in stock so we had to order it from PowerTech (the original mfg. of the genset). A couple of days later, we return to CK Power from Sundermier RV Park and the new switch is installed! Bingo, we have our generator back up and running and we’re headed back out on the road and all is well! Well, not exactly…

Unbeknownst to Wendy, I had noticed in Marthasville, MO  that as we stopped to fill our fresh water tank, the bus left a disturbingly large puddle of oil on the gravel lot. Fast forward to St. Louis, Wendy also noticed a disconcertingly large puddle on the nice clean concrete at Sundermier RV Park on our return from CK Power!  I was fairly certain we had another problem, but we decided to move to the Elks Lodge in Oakville, MO so we were closer to Wendy’s sister Cherie and friends Sandy and Carl. We had a great visit!

I told Wendy I’m afraid I see a re-visit to Chattanooga in our future. So I called Joel at Choo Choo Express Garage and described the oil leak. He immediately diagnosed it as a rear main seal. Great! the engine and trans has to come out!!

We prepare to depart south St. Louis for Chattanooga (Rossville, GA actually), but the Mighty Bus felt otherwise: it won’t start. Our start batteries are dead (that is the other 24 volt battery system I mentioned above)! Fortunately, Sandy and Carl brought us donuts and Carl took me to Advance Auto for four new start batteries.  Whew! I installed the new batteries and we were on our way, again.

Fast forward to arrival at Choo Choo Express Garage in Rossville, GA. We arrive on Sunday October 9. We’re parked on the wash bay and Joel starts the disassembly in the morning before we are even out of bed. It really doesn’t take that long to pull the engine and transmission from one of these busses. In fact, Joel had it out injust a couple of hours!


Draining the fluids.


Out it comes.


Engine and trans are out. Dirty!


Empty engine bay. Wow, dirty!



Engine all clean!


Trans clean and ready for reinstall.


The rear min seal.


The old seal and sleeve.


Wear marks on the old seal.


New sleeve and seal installed.

Detroit Diesels leak oil. That’s just the nature of the beast. Like Joel says, if you fix one leak it just starts leaking somewhere else! So we didn’t try to fix them all. Just the worst and least invasive. I think we got most of the worst. On our test run to Dalton, GA we had a little more unexpected excitement: the low oil pressure light came on in heavy traffic and shut down the engine. We managed to get back to the shop and diagnosed  a – can you believe it – a failed oil pressure switch! If you own an RV you have to learn to appreciate irony. Actually, I think that is a requirement for life as well. We also found a very leaky oil pan gasket on the transmission. So we’re here for a few more days waiting for those parts. In the meantime, we’re comfortable and in good company.


Cracked engine cradle


Previous half-ass weld.

We also discovered a previous weld on the engine cradle that was not correctly done. They tried to weld it without removing the engine. Consequently, there was a large gap in the back (unseen) which left a hole just waiting to fail.

Well, I’ll post later the final results. I have to replace the transmission oil pan gasket and that failed (I hope) oil pressure switch tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.

Home Is Where The Bus Is

We arrived in Chattanooga last Sunday with a rear seal leaking on the engine. Replacing the seal apparently is not a big deal but the engine and transmission had to be removed to get to it. Yikes! We have full confidence in Joel of the Choo Choo Express Garage; he is truly a master at his craft.

We got settled into our spot in the wash bay and plugged in. The work commenced on Monday and by Wednesday they had the engine back in the bus. Jim worked right alongside Joel, who is tireless.

I was able to get some of my magazine work done and all was going well.

The next day Jim spent almost the entire day powerwashing the engine and transmission. It has never been so clean! Except maybe when it was new, back in 1981.


You can actually see the Detroit Diesel now.




Ready to go back in

At least it wasn’t as gunked up as this one in the shop. Joel has to tackle that next.dsc_8587
And he discovered a spot in the support brace that needed to be welded. If that had broken off and given way it could be bad news. Joel is nothing if not succinct; he said “They didn’t know what they were doing.”


Going back in

When they got the bus over the pit on Thursday to fix an airbag that somehow was no longer leaking, they discovered a gasket in the transmission that needed to be replaced. So we planned to spend another day at the garage so they can drop the pan and replace it. Not the most scenic spot we’ve stayed in but easy to close the blinds, mix a cocktail and just be at home in the bus.

Once they got everything back together, Joel suggested we take a test drive about 40 miles to Dalton just to make sure everything shook out OK. We went and had lunch. On the way back, we were in stop-and-go traffic and the Low Oil light came on. When this happens, the engine shuts itself down which can be interesting in traffic. It happened to me once while I was driving and you can’t steer or maneuver well at all. We limped off to the shoulder and Jim checked the oil. It was full. Hmmm.

He got it started back up and all seemed OK until we were  just about a mile or so from the shop and it happened again; Low Oil, engine off. We got it started and went back to talk to Joel. I’m sure this was just what he wanted to hear. The guy is swamped with work.

Joel thought it might be the oil pressure switch, which is ironic since we just had the one on the generator replaced. Jim thinks it may be the way it is wired and not the switch itself.

Jim also noted that he didn’t seem to be getting full throttle. We have had trouble with the throttle before but when Joel took a look he said the mechanism at the back end was put together wrong. Again, somebody didn’t know what they were doing. Joel got it put together right.

The next morning we got to sleep in a bit while waiting for the gasket. Then Joel came over to say they sent the wrong one! Of course it is a Friday so we won’t be able to get another one until Tuesday! Oh well. We thought about going to a state park or someplace with a little more scenic view but decided to just put down the blinds and relax here. We can work, play ukulele, read, watch football and go on our way after the repair is complete. They have lots of Garage kitties and some of them let us pet them. Joel lives behind the shop and they have kitties too. It’s nice here.  We will probably rent a car for the weekend and go explore (translation: eat and drink) around Chattanooga.

Oh yeah. It’s also our anniversary! Happy 26th sweetie!



The Tunnel Hill State Trail

We got the generator fixed in St. Louis but we discovered when we got back to our spot in St. Charles and backing in that the engine was leaking something on their super clean concrete pads. Oops. When we had the bus worked on in Chattanooga in the spring, we thought that problem was resolved with the miter box fix..

Jim called Joel at the Choo Choo Garage and from his description Joel figured it was a rear main seal in the engine that needs to be replaced. We made a plan to have the bus there mid-October so we positioned ourselves to mosey that way. Jim found the Tunnel Hill State Trail in southern Illinois and picked Vienna, Illinois as a good spot to explore it in both directions.

When he called City Hall to see if the city park allowed camping the lady on the other end said, “Well, I can’t tell you that you can park there…but…” Kind of like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We decided to give it a try. We arrived on Sunday after what looked like a big event set up in the park. Good thing we dawdled in St. Louis a day longer.

We found a nice level spot beside the river and kinda behind the recycling bins. You know, to try to fade into the background. The cats have a good, fairly quiet spot to roam around by the water with lots of large trees and shade.  We got in a couple days of riding and planned another couple after a day off. This is a nice trail.

The next morning during breakfast, the police showed up. Busted! The woman officer was nice enough but stated that there was no camping in the park. I asked if we could stay the night and she said no. I mentioned that lots of city parks allow camping but she was resolute. She said that we could call City Hall but it sounded like a no-go. We took to our iPads to see if we could find a park or boondocking spot further up the trail but we really wanted to make sure and ride the section with the tunnel.

While we were preparing to depart Jim decided to go ahead and call City Hall. Never hurts to ask. He got connected with a nice lady, Aletha, and explained that we just wanted to ride the trail and spend some money in the town, not move in. She promised to ask the higher-ups and call him back shortly. She did and we got the go-ahead to stay another couple of nights! Awesome!

What happened next was even better. A couple of hours later, there was a knock on the door. I thought, Oh no, we’re getting kicked out again. I opened the door and a gentleman with the name “Jon” on his shirt was there. I said “Hi Jon!” He laughed and introduced himself as Jon Simmons, the Mayor of Vienna!
He told us that we didn’t have to park back where we were and that we could move anywhere in the park we wanted. Wow! We explained that our spot was good for the cats and thanked him profusely for paying us a personal visit and being so welcoming. He wanted to assure us that we could stay for a couple more nights. We assured him that we wouldn’t be moving in and suggested that the city collect fees for camping. The park is right on the trailhead and they could make some money for the city. We offered to pay and he shrugged that off. What a great turnaround!

Later that afternoon I saw another small Class C drive into the park. I thought they would think it was OK to camp when they saw us there. Pandora’s Box. They parked by the trailhead and a little while later we had a visit from Mike and Nancy, when they wanted to look at the bus.  They happen to live in Chattanooga and we told them we were headed there. They are folks who RV with a cat and they are also Burning Man aficionados so we had a great conversation and even know some of the same people, the Technomads!. We told them we were planning to be in Chattanooga and they will show us the bike trails around town. Super cool! We are looking forward to seeing them again soon.
The next morning there was another knock on the door at about 7:00 AM. Oh no! This time a city worker told us we had to move because they were going to move the recycling bins back into place after the event. We told him we had permission to stay and he was cool with that; we just had to move out of that spot. So we moved the bus about 100 yards to an even more level spot and went back to bed. About an hour later he knocked again and apologized for any inconvenience he had caused. Astrid is still hiding. What a town!

This is another really good trail. We rode to Karnak the first day, about 28 miles. The weather is beautiful,  fall, cooled off and colorful. Today we rode past Tunnel Hill, and we saw the tunnel. It’s not as long, dark or wet as the one on the Elroy-Sparta Trail but it is 572 feet long and you can ride through it. You can see the light at the end too.

The town of Tunnel Hill itself, has not aged well. Many towns along the former railroad simply disappeared after rail traffic slowed down. The automobile really changed a lot of things in America.
Look closely and you will see a formerly splendid building with arched windows and unbroken glass. A real fixer-upper.

Vienna turned out to be a really special place. After not being sure how to handle us, they decided to be warm and welcoming. As Jon said, you just gotta use common sense. Faith in humanity restored. We are so grateful for the goodness of people.

Tomorrow we will have four days to get to Chattanooga and prepare for the engine deal. Gotta find some trails along the way.

A seal, right? It sounds small, but apparently they have to pull the engine and transmission. Whut?! At least it won’t be like the last time we were there.

Meet Me in St. Louis


Once we knew we had a generator problem, Jim found a place in St. Louis to get it fixed, CK Power. We found a park in St. Charles where we could plug in which happened to be conveniently located on the Katy Trail. Bonus!


Whole lotta generators here.

Our appointment was on Monday morning at 7:00 AM so we made the short trip there. The guys identified the problem as the oil pressure switch right away, but naturally they had to order the part, which would arrive on Wednesday. Back to St. Charles and more bike riding. The part arrived and they installed it in no time flat. Time to get back to the fun stuff.

Our plan was to move to the Walmart in South St. Louis for a few days where we could get in a visit with my good friend Sandy and my sister, Cherie, who both live close by. I guess we shoulda checked our Walmart directory since St. Louis County does not allow overnight parking.

Plan B: The Elks Lodge in Oakville. It is farther away but St. Louis is not a real RV friendly town. Good thing we got the generator fixed since they only had 15 amp power. The lodge is right on the Mississippi in a large green area with mature trees and deer. And they just take a donation instead of the $45 as night at the park in St. Charles. We had the place to ourselves.

We made a plan to get together with Sandy and Carl for dinner. About an hour before she arrived, a car pulled up alongside the bus. I figured they were going to take a picture. Sure enough, the window rolled down and WAIT! It’s my sister Cherie! Woo Hoo! When we had to switch to Elks Plan B, I was afraid it would be too far for her to drive since she is scheduled for cataract surgery this month. Her husband brought her out before he headed to a meeting. I knew Sandy was coming so we arranged to take her back home when we went to meet Carl.
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What a nice surprise! We visited and got caught up. I think the last time we saw each other was before my mom died and that was four years ago. Cherie is a proud friend of Bill W and has been for over 36 years! She is very involved with meetings and has given a hand up to many folks in the program. She has a sweet and compassionate nature and is good at putting people at ease. I am proud of her. She was worried that she might interrupt cocktail hour. Ha! She is enjoying her retirement, traveling, walking her little dog and looking forward to getting back to reading after her surgeries. We had a great visit!

When Sandy showed up the party was in full swing. Sandy and I have known each other since sixth grade. I lost track of her until Facebook and we have really enjoyed being reconnected. She has worn many hats in her career, including being a CPA and a real estate agent but she recently retired from her letter carrier job with the Post Office. Since she is used to walking 10 miles a day, she is not inclined to just sit around. She and Carl bought bikes and she has been riding every day! She is now in training for next year’s Bike Across Missouri. With the addition of bicycling to her life, we had more than enough topics to discuss.

One day she rode the 12 miles out to the Elks and we rode back to their house with her to meet Carl for dinner again. This time Pueblo Solis was open. We had to ride about three miles on the roads before we got to the trail at Jefferson Barracks but they have bike lanes. Sandy is a champ urban bike tour guide. I had offered to ride to meet her but would have gotten hopelessly lost.

She lives in a great little neighborhood in south St. Louis and they have done extensive work on their house to make it livable for them, their two dogs, two cats and Peppy the parrot.

We got to her house right before the rain did.

Sandy and Carl and I all went to high school together. They dated once then but didn’t get hooked up again until the 20th, OOPS corrected 40th! annual reunion. The chemistry was right that time.  They got married after Sandy and I reconnected so it was fun to see that develop. And Carl and Jim have the same birthday, same year.

Sandy wanted us to stay for a month but we gotta get to Chattanooga again to have a seal on the engine replaced. As my friend Linda said “The Mighty Bus rules.” She was right.

The morning we decided to leave we packed it all up and got ready to roll. We planned to meet at the nearby casino for brunch and because I left my camera and water bottle at their house the day we biked over. I told Jim I think that is the only time my camera and I have been apart since I’ve had it, over 10 years! Another excuse to get together.

However… Once we got everything ready to go, the bus wouldn’t start. It sorta cranked then nothing. Jim immediately diagnosed the start batteries and tested them. Sandy and I had been messaging and when I told her it wouldn’t start she texted back that they were coming over with doughnuts! I made a pot of coffee and ate the first doughnut I have had in about eleventy years.

We could have started and driven the bus to Advance Auto, where our checkbook got exercised once again, but Carl offered to drive Jim to the store. We now are the proud owners of four new start batteries.  Sandy and I filled the time going over our high school yearbooks where it turns out we were side by side for our senior year.
And my friend Pat who we visited earlier this year. I have known him since fourth grade. And I have known my sister for my entire life.
Sandy took Carmella on a walk while the guys were getting the batteries. She’s a real animal lover and Carmella knew it.
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Jim drew a diagram and we took pics to get new batteries wired correctly.


Finally time to leave. Parting is such sweet sorrow.


So happy to see these guys


Sandy livens things up

We had so much fun with these guys. We have to make sure to see them more often.
This turned out to be a great stop. We got to visit friends and family, ride bikes and get two problems solved, one of which we didn’t know we had. In a few days we will head to Chattanooga to get the engine seal replaced.

But first… Another trail we found in Southern Illinois, the Tunnel Hill Trail. Time for some downtime.


More Katy Trail: Portland, Marthasville & St. Charles


Once we left Fulton, we decided to just hang out for a few days. Jim had been racking his brain, troubleshooting problems and trying to figure out the generator. We made a one night stop in Portland right along the river.


Upstream at Portland




More giant hibiscus

Portland, Rhineland and Bluffton…

Once we discovered we had no phone or internet service, we spent the day riding, then moved down the trail to Marthasville, where we had stopped in the spring. We knew there was a Community Park where we could plug into 30 amps (no generator!) and have internet.

So much for downtime. Our first day there, Jim discovered a radiator hose on the engine that was leaking antifreeze. We could probably drive with it but if it blew, we would be out on the road instead of parked. He decided to fix it.


Old and new radiator hose

Fortunately since we had moved to Marthasville, we were right near an auto repair shop and when he showed them what he needed, they got one in on that day’s parts truck! Good thing we weren’t still in Portland, where there was nothing.


Had to capture the antifreeze as much as possible and add back in

It worked and the repair held. Disaster averted. The next day, however, Jim discovered that the new batteries weren’t charging properly and he began to suspect the power at the park. He spent a lot of time examining the various monitors.

On one of my rides I was amazed to find that the little store/art gallery at Peers was open! In all the years I have ridden the Katy Trail, this has never been the case. Of course I had to stop in. Two guys were out front playing some incredible bluegrass music and I stopped to listen and check out the store. Here’s a video.  I talked to them for a while. When the inevitable “Where are you from?” question came up, I told them about the bus and mentioned that we used to live in Columbia.  When the fiddle player asked me when, his eyes lit up when I gave him the dates. Turns out he was a member of the very popular Hell Band and we knew a lot of the same people from those days. Small world!

The Peers Store:

The fields were full of combines and trucks and the air was hazy with harvest.

I had met this guy in Portland when we were there. He was from California and on a group ride of the Katy. They tent camped in Marthasville. And this lady was riding her bike from Washington state to Florida!
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Along the trail…

The Mercantile and Bank at Treloar.
Beans almost ready to harvest.
By this time Jim had made arrangements to have the generator looked at in St. Louis on the following Monday. Still a few days till then. Since the power was still wonky the only thing we could do was move somewhere where we knew the power was solid and hope the batteries charged. Goodbye Marthasville.

We made it to St. Charles and got settled in at another park right by the trail and a relatively straight shot to the generator place. And the best thing? We plugged in to 50 amp power and the batteries started charging just like they’re supposed to! Marthasville is a great spot but Jim said we are never staying there again! Ha!

Although I have ridden the entire length of the trail a couple of times and many sections more than that, I had not ridden the final eleven mile extension from St. Charles to the eastern terminus in Machens. Got that checked off the list! Fall weather kicked in as soon as we got here; you can feel the change in the air and the color of the sky.

The trail wasn’t really closed, just walk around the barrier and keep riding.

At the eastern end of the Katy Trail. I have now ridden the entire 237 miles of the trail. And back. On to the next adventure. And the generator fix…

Fulton Friends: Part Two

Our second day in Fulton we got together with my longtime friend Linda and her husband John. Linda and I met in 1974 in Columbia while she and her young family lived on a goat farm in the country. I was enamored of the country lifestyle and they were living the life. She was calm and measured and thoughtful and we became good friends. She and her husband had three kids, Heather, Nathan and Llahda. Llahda was the first person I knew from the time they were first born. We have been friends for almost 45 years!

Times changed and we ended up living in the same neighborhood post divorce. We helped each other through some tough times and had fun in the meantime. We became great garage sale partners. She had a little station wagon that we would fill up on a regular basis. She is a master at collecting the good stuff. Her home now testifies to that.

We continued to live just a few houses apart after she and John got married. They were married at the church in Fulton where Winston Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech.

The years went by. Jim and I got married and moved to Washington DC from Columbia but whenever we came back, Linda and I would catch up. When we were getting ready to sell our house in Kansas she came up and helped with the art sale and party, a perfect fit for her skills!

Once she retired, she and John moved to his family home in Fulton where her collecting prowess is on full display. She even has a couple pieces of my art displayed.

We went to lunch at the Playhouse Bistro and caught up on family and friends while we ate. Then we wandered around the Brick District and the nearby gallery, the Art House. It was like old home week! I saw work by friends and people I knew from college, including Lori McFarland, now an accomplished en plein air painter, Frank Stack, Jane Mudd, Ann Grotjan and more.

I also found several lovely and unique glass pendants that I scooped up for gifts. They’re small so we can fit them in the bus.


Linda’s now 43 year old son, Nathan, a successful contractor, met us at the Walmart while Jim was diagnosing the generator problem. They both knew it was fuel starved but not sure of how to fix. Call the experts! In St. Louis. As Linda said when the battery replacement delayed our arrival “The Mighty Bus rules…”


Linda and Nathan


Linda and her 96 year old mom, Rosemary.

More around their house… One of the coolest thing about their house; not only does it have that sprawling second story landing, there is a second rear staircase! That is something you don’t see that often. Plus so much stained glass!

John had to head off to a church event, so Linda drove us around Fulton and we got reacquainted with the town, which is really well kept and charming. We love having folks give us the insider’s look at the places we visit; makes for a much richer experience. When I was in college, I did a book of photos of Fulton’s unique architecture called Historic Fulton. Once I dig through the trailer of stuff we kept, I am sending one to Linda.

At the Churchill Memorial, they have a section of the torn-down Berlin Wall on display, a chilling Cold War reminder. …
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Since the generator wouldn’t run,  John suggested a nearby RV Park and drove us there to check it out. After we said our goodbyes, we moved to get plugged in so our new batteries would stay charged. And it was still very hot out so AC is always nice to have too. We spent an uneventful evening at the park, walking the cats, playing ukulele and making plans to get the generator looked at in St. Louis. More friends and family to visit there. Plus Katy Trail…

Once again, we are so grateful, humbled and blessed for the good friends in our lives and the enrichment, love and gratitude they bring us. It was so good to see Linda and John again, but very sad to say goodbye when it was time to leave. We love these guys.



Fulton Friends: Part One

Once we got done with the battery exchange in Kansas City, we made tracks for Fulton. We knew we could stay at the Walmart there and catch up with two sets of friends from the old days.

Jim is planning to write about the batteries’ demise and successful swap but a couple other issues have arisen and he’s been kinda busy…

Dana and I have been friends for 34 years. We figured it out. She came to Columbia, Missouri right after finishing Chiropractic college at Logan in St. Louis. She opened her own practice and a friend of mine was her office manager. We got to be friends and had many good times together over the years.We were fast friends and could always have a lively and forthright discussion about anything and everything. Love that kinda gal…

She has always been a very good chiropractor but now I categorize her more as a healer. She is adamant about continuing her education and is also an expert acupuncturist, Reichian technician and cranial specialist. And a bunch of other stuff; she has lots of initials after her name. And she insisted I come in to let her work on me. So, of course, I did.

At the office we caught up with Julie, her longtime partner and wife, who handles the front end of the practice with precision and flair. She is an excellent artist and their office is alight with her colorful Georgia O’Keefian work. She is also a very talented photographer.

Dana’s mastery is as amazing as ever, actually far more nuanced and complete due to her long experience, education and natural curiosity. Her confidence, knowledge and ability to pinpoint the problem make her a real gem of a practitioner. Even though I hadn’t seen her or been adjusted by her in several years, again, we just picked up where we left off.

After my adjustment, acupuncture and Reichian therapy I felt like a million bucks! We hopped in the car and went to their country place which is more lush and green than ever. I saw Dory, the 14 year old dog that I remember as a puppy. She would not cooperate for a picture. But she sure loves pets and ear rubbing. Their kitty disappeared as soon as it saw me, á la Astrid. Bye kitty!

We toured their prolific garden at twilight and it was magical. The prayer flags drape over the beds and they have a really good movable, lightweight system to keep rabbits and deer out. Basically a box with PVC pipe covered with chicken wire, open on the bottom and top. Have to file that idea away. Dana comes up with names for her plants and talks to them and they are flourishing. They loaded me up with zucchini, butternut squash, shallots and garlic! They’ve started a small orchard and it is thriving.

They got married in Santa Fe and vacation there often. The outdoor “family picnic table” in the yard was scattered with unusual rocks from their hiking and travels. The cool thing was that each one prompted a story about the time and where they collected it. Like cracking open personal history. And they say the table is going to get painted but I like the patina.

Once the sun set, we petted Dory some more and went to Bek’s for a great dinner. It had been a few years since we’d all seen each other so there were lots of details to discuss. We had a great dinner and a very pleasant evening.

Fulton has lots of interesting Victorian and period homes and The Brick District, named for its streets, is flourishing with restaurants, art galleries and coffee shops. They brought me back to the bus where Jim stayed in while we had Girls Night. It’s wonderful to have that instant reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in a while.

We all had plans for the next day, so the day we left we went back to the office and Dana worked on both of us. They wouldn’t let us pay them so we will be paying it forward. We made a tentative plan to meet at the New Mexico Balloon Festival next year. It will be great to see these girls again; it always is.

Meanwhile…back at the generator…

And coming up: Fulton Friends: Part Two.

Lake Living is the Life For Me!

Our Winter Texan friends Doc and J and  Linda and Jack encouraged us to come to the Lake of the Ozarks. How could we refuse? The lake area can be tricky terrain and we knew we couldn’t get the bus to Doc and J’s place, but Linda and Jack have a good back-in spot that is 10 minutes from Doc and J’s by boat or by road. We made a plan and arrived during a heat wave. What a great place to be hot!



Our parking spot above the house

Linda and Jack built their very comfortable lakeside house by themselves, just the two of them! Wow! Jack is also a classic car restorer extraordinaire. He is a Chevy guy and he has some rare models, including this 1958 Impala convertible. You don’t see many of these. Linda has her 1963 Impala convertible and they have a few assorted others, including a Business Coupe and a 1959 Chevy pickup. And an El Camino.

Linda cooked us all a fabulous chicken dinner with roasted potatoes and bacon wrapped asparagus. The next morning, J brought over her kitchen and we feasted on breakfast waffles, sausage, fruit and eggs.

Linda has six or seven large hummingbird feeders on their lakeside porch and we were swarmed by them at close range. See video here. I immediately put up my feeder at the bus and had hummers within a minute! Really! She also has an amazing magenta butterfly bush that was attracting lots of attention!
The next couple of days we got picked up by Doc and J on the boat and just cruised the lake. Doc knows all the secret coves and anchor/swim spots. We had two totally idyllic days on the lake with very good friends. Engaging, easy conversation, swimming, relaxing and picnic lunches. And margaritas. We have had many very enjoyable days this summer but Jim told Doc that those days stood out as most memorable.  At one point, a bald eagle flew along the bluffs above the boat for quite a distance. What a sight that was!

We saw many Great Blue Herons. They squawk at you as they fly by. They are prehistorically majestic. I like them much better when they’re not eating my fish.

I don’t know why, but I don’t have any pictures of Doc and J’s cozy cabin. They have worked their fingers to the bone upgrading their place and it is a comfy and homey spot on Pine Cove. I guess we will have to go back! I blame the margaritas…


Doc and J and Bob and Carma. Doc is such a jokester…

Then other friends arrived! Bob and Carma are also Winter Texans and from the Kansas City area. And this is one of the ironies of this group of friends. We all lived in the Kansas City area at the same time. They knew each other but we didn’t. We met them all in south Texas. This would have been a great group of friends to have had all those years. We are  just happy to know them now.

Once they arrived, we all ate some more. Doc, Bob and Jim completed a rockfill/landscaping project for Jack. Jack was busy with physical therapy this week and  that can wear you out! Happy to help!
What a great visit! We so enjoyed relaxing with friends, our traditional happy hours, cruising the lake and just being together. And the best part? We get to see them all again soon!

After more delicious meals, including smoked pork tenderloin, green salad and potato salad, and a delicious pizza dinner out at Skipper’s, it was time to pack it up and head back to Kansas City. What?

Yeah, Jim has determined that our six very expensive hAGM glass mat batteries are at the end of their life and need to be replaced. Warming up the checkbook now…



Quick Katy Trail Fix: Windsor, Missouri

We like our spot at the Elks in Grandview but Jim wanted to meet up with his sis and it just happens that there is an extension of the Katy Trail that we hadn’t ridden in Windsor, near where she lives in Clinton. Jim scoped out Farrington City Park, right on the water and we headed there.

We met up with Bill, the part-time caretaker who proceeded to describe all his ailments and diseases and surgeries. At close range. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, he was a close talker. He was a good humored and sweet fellow but I felt especially bad for him when he said he had to work his park maintenance job just so he could pay his medical bills. I would have guessed he was 77 or 78 but it turned out he is just three years older than us! We are indeed BIG BIG Lucky…

But, America has the best health care system in the world, say some who have no idea how untrue that is.

OK… Off soapbox.
They had been having a lot of rain but we got into our spot and explored the trail in both directions. Bike trails are a good way to experience small town America. Since the towns are built along the old railroad lines, it is obvious that some were obviously more populated and prosperous 150 years ago. Some are making a comeback, thanks in part to the trails, but it is a long process.

In  Windsor, Amish buggies of all types, two-horse wagons loaded with mums, the standard closed buggy and a ladies surrey clopped by, all at a good pace. The cats could hear them coming and alerted us. I don’t think any of them have ever seen a horse.

Along the trail. The light was ever-changing.

I put out my rain gauge and it had three inches in it by the time we left just a couple of nights later! No hummingbirds here.

Next stop: Rainy Day Cove at Lake of the Ozarks.