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.

Touchdown Kansas City!

That’s what Len Dawson always says whenever Kansas Chiefs score. In a really excited voice.

Our touchdown in Kansas City was a brief but productive one. Jim wanted to see his 94 year old father, who graciously loans us his car when we are in town. Yes, he still drives. The Labor Day holiday was approaching and we didn’t want to horn in on anybody’s holiday so decided to lay low at the Elks Lodge in Grandview. We stayed here in the spring and it is a really good spot. It’s close to everything but like having your own private country estate. A good 50 amp site.

Besides seeing Dad, we wanted to go to our dentist for a good cleaning. We had them cleaned in Mexico two winters ago but since we knew we were coming to KC, we just wanted to go to our longtime dentist. Only problem, we weren’t sure exactly when we would be there. We framed in a time span and that week they had complete and total computer meltdown. Like for a week. No access to records, schedule. Like Patti said, “It’s great to be a paperless office except when it doesn’t work.” As it turned out, they got us both in and we are grateful for their patience and perseverance. And clean teeth!

We had seen several family members and friends when we visited in the spring, so this time we tried to meet up with ones we missed. We had a fun time at First Friday in the Crossroads District with Michelle and Scott and Jackie and John. We had cocktails at Manifesto, the speakeasy place in the alley behind the Rieger Hotel, then roamed the streets of full of people, art, music and food.


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Michelle and Jackie, cute sisters

One of the exhibits I wanted to make sure and see was the Guatemalan embroidery of Don Antonio R. Sosóf. It was worth it! If you are anywhere near Kansas City before December, this hard-to-find second story small gallery is worth the trek.

And these are paintings!

At First Friday we also ran into Marg and Jay with whom we had planned a Happy Hour the next night. She is a yoga and art buddy and the person responsible for the fabric art in our bus.

The quilt


And this piece, Spinal Tap. Another good yoga friend gave me this at our Goodbye Lunch before we left Kansas City, over two years ago! It was a warm and generous gift at a time when I sometimes felt like  was attending my own funeral. Friends really do help navigate. Thanks, Janice!

AND I got to practice yoga with both Marg and Emily, my longtime teacher and friend. Are you in Kansas City? Go to Darling Yoga. Yoga will change your life.

What else? Jim had a boys breakfast with his dad and brothers. We stocked up on Arthur Bryant’s and Jack Stack barbecue sauce. We hit Costco and Trader Joe’s. We attended a 70th wedding anniversary for friends of Jim’s family that was held at Jack Stack. Ribs, brisket, beams, corn, cake. We got our barbecue fix in. And 70 years married? An inspiration! Happy anniversary Harold and Betty! The cake was really good.
Jim bit the bullet and bought a new barbecue grill; the old one was just plain worn out. Carmella approves.

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From here, we are moving down the Katy Trail to the city park in Windsor, Missouri to ride the trail and to connect with Jim’s sister. Her husband has pancreatic cancer; she has five kids and a full plate. After that, we are off to the Lake of the Ozarks to visit some fellow Winter Texans, Linda and Jack and Doc and J.

We got about three inches of rain in Windsor so it may be a little iffy. We shall see.





Pedaler’s Jamboree on the Wabash Trace

Early in the summer we made plans to attend the Pedaler’s Jamboree. A 35 mile bike ride from Mineola to Shenandoah, Iowa and back with live music, food and drinks along the way. What’s not to like?

We got to Mineola the night before registration and got our packet early the next morning. I took off for Shenandoah on my bike while Jim repositioned the bus. We planned to meet up on the trail later in the day. We parked right in the very small town between the town center and a giant cornfield. Iowa, after all.
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The Hotel
Growing in the ditch of the cornfield!

It had been raining a lot but the trail was hard packed and in good condition with just a few wet spots. The weather was perfect for riding, partly cloudy, no rain, about 75 degrees.Even though there were supposed to be 600 bikes I don’t think there were nearly that many. The trail wasn’t crowded with packs of riders and there were long solo stretches.

The first music was in Malvern. Blackbird Revue, a woman/man folksinger team. They were pretty good and there was an entertaining belly dancing audience member but I wanted to keep riding. Next music was down the road about 10 miles but they weren’t even set up when I got there so I went on to Imogene where we planned to meet up on the bikes and listen to music before heading back to Shenandoah for the night.  It was only 11 miles to the bus from there, making a 42 mile day.
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Jim wasn’t there yet so I sampled the margaritas and waited for the musicians to set up. The bar was the only business in town; most of the buildings were abandoned long ago. But the street was blocked off and once the band started playing, scores of motorcyclists arrived, briefly drowning out the music and providing great people watching contrast with all the bicyclists. We shared our table with some guys from Kansas City no less, Randy and Steve. Randy is a stagehand for theater and concerts. Wish we’d met when we lived there!

The evening music was a little underwhelming. We endured a band with an excellent lead guitarist but every song sounded the same. And they just went on and on so we went back to the bus.

The Wabash Trace is a fine trail and in good condition, especially with all the rain they’ve been getting. We stayed over another day after the Jamboree to ride in the other direction and didn’t turn around quite soon enough. We got about five miles from the bus on the way back and it started raining. Funny how the rain just makes you pedal faster!

And a hot shower followed by a cocktail? Priceless!



The Elroy-Sparta State Trail

This bike trail in central Wisconsin is  complete in itself but it also connects with three other trails, the LaCrosse River Trail, the 400 Trail and the Great River Trail. It stretches out for 101 miles. We didn’t get to ride all of it and concentrated on the Elroy Sparta State Trail and some of the LaCrosse River Trail. We got a good spot in the Village of Norwalk Park right off the trail.
The highlight of this section of trail is the tunnels that remain with their large wooden doors to keep snow out of the tunnel. The first one we came upon on the way to Sparta was three quarters of a mile long and it was dark! You walk your bike through the tunnels and it’s a good thing…it is very dark and a spring in the rock above made for a constant cooling shower during the passage.

The “tunnel watchers” had a small hut outside the tunnel and they had to open and close the doors 50 times a day! Not sure why, if not snowing. There were also man-sized indentations carved into the sides where tunnel workers would sit and monitor the trains. Can you imagaine the soot?  From a coal fired engine? Ugh.

When we entered I thought we could barely see the end of the tunnel but it turned out to be bikers walking toward us with their lights on. Once they passed, it was very dark again with no end in sight. Kind of creepy; just keep moving.

At the other end, the cool mist just pours out of the tunnel. Riding back, we could feel it cool off several hundred feet before we reached the tunnel. The gentleman on the left told us he comes to sit there all the time for the “natural air conditioning.” He lives right up the trail.
Approaching the end…
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This is another highly recommended trail! The surface is hard packed dirt and gravel most of the way, and even with heavy rain in the area before and while we were there, the surface was good and very rideable. Is that a word?

We ate our lunch in Sparta which bills itself as America’s Bicycle Capital. Motorists were very deferential to bicyclists in crosswalks and everywhere. First time since Oregon that we’ve seen that.

Along the trail…
The next day it rained so we took a day off. Then we rode in the other direction toward Elroy. We wanted to eat at the Dorsett Valley School restaurant but they only served till 2:00 PM. After stopping in the town of Wilton and finding out how to get there, we literally sprinted the last three miles so we would make it in time. We did and were hungry by that time. We thought it was good but nothing special; we had the sandwich special of the day. And people raved about the pie on Yelp, so we both got a piece to go. Again, OK but not worth writing on your blog about. Oh wait…

The tunnels on this leg were much shorter, about 1700 feet. And no cooling effect from the overhead spring. You could see to the end of this one.
In Wilton…

And Norwalk…
Taken for my friend, Elsie. Hey Elsie, look! They even have the cow!IMG_1964
A B&B in Norwalk
Not to be outdone by Sparta, Norwalk proclaims itself the Black Squirrel Capital. We didn’t see a single one.

Carmella liked Norwalk and got much exploring in. Astrid continues to be braver and Tikita just wants to eat grass.

From here we will have a night at the Elks Lodge in Iowa City, then another Elks in Council Bluffs. We signed up for the Pedaler’s Jamboree at the end of August. It is a 35 mile ride with lots of live music along the way. You ride from Mineola to Shenandoah, Iowa the first day with music along the way, then more on arrival. The next day we ride back to Mineola with more music. I hope they have food too!




The Lake Wobegon Trail

From Ashby and The Central Lakes Trail, it was just a short hop to the city park in Melrose, Minnesota. This was a really nice spot right on the Sauk River and adjacent to the trail… we are getting spoiled!

The kitties liked it here too. Astrid came out and got more used to being out on the string. She has resisted it forever and would just run in the bus and sulk when we leashed her up. But she was starting to go further afield and rules are rules. Somebody walking a dog made them stick close.
The Lake Wobegon Trail stretches 46 miles from West Vales to St. Joseph, Minnesota. We try to go to the middle of the trail so we can cover both directions.

All the little communities, population about 600-1000 have a great big brick Catholic church, many with a large school and cemetery. The cemetery in Freeport probably had more people in it than live in the town. The martin house matches the church!
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And the cemetery was shady and peaceful. I like cemeteries and wandered around this one. When I saw the smaller section in back I first thought, “Oh that’s where the poor people are.” But it was the children’s section; compelling and sad.

Many of the children didn’t make it but some people lived to be almost 100! Germans are tough.

Between Albany and Sauk Centre, more churches.

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In Albany… And in Freeport there is a cafe where Garrison Keillor came to listen to the locals for material for Tales from Lake Wobegon. Someone in Melrose told me that he also had a restaurant in Avon but we didn’t check that out since it was off the trail.

Sauk Centre was the home of Sinclair Lewis who wrote Main Street about the main street in Sauk Centre. They are understandably proud.
IMG_1876mural-panoWe did stay over an extra day to eat at the highly recommended Mexican restaurant in Melrose, El Portal. It was well worth the extra stay. We got in about 80 miles on this trail; it is a real treasure in central Minnesota. The section between Freeport and Melrose had little encouraging signs like “Exercise can be fun” and Exercise prevents disease.” My favorite; a shout-out to Michelle Obama, “Let’s move!”
And in just the few days we were here, the sumac really started to change colors.

Winter is coming…

The Central Lakes Trail

After we left Sandpipers North, we set out to Ashby, Minnesota where we could ride the Central Lakes Trail in both directions for a few days. Jim found a spot at the Ashby Resort right on the shore of Pelican Lake. We had to jockey around a little to be able to get a satellite signal for watching the Olympics but the third time was a charm and we settled in. And we were right across the street from the Central Lakes Trail which, along with the Lake Wobegon Trail stretches almost 200 miles across Minnesota.

We finally got situated beyond that tree so we could get the satellites. And the Olympics was worth Jim’s extra perseverance.
The kitties loved it here. Tikita actually went out on the dock!

And how is this possible? The trails just keep getting better! The first day we headed toward Fergus Falls by way of Dalton. Hey Randy! They named the Opera House after you. And the town! And the water in the city park was ice cold, perfect for wetting your head during a very hot ride.
The ideal time to ride this trail would be a few weeks from now. The small sumac, the first thing to turn red in the fall, was starting to show color and the huge banks of it will be alight with color in a few weeks. The next time we come back here, it will be in mid-September when it should be spectacular. Some landscape architect did a great job with the plantings on this section of the trail. Sumac interspersed with birch will be a colorful delight of orange, yellow, red and everything in between.

The next day we went a little past Evansville, about 20 miles. A few miles out of town I said, “This is a good place to turn around.” When we pointed the bikes back toward the bus, the skies were ominous. We had a big thunderstorm the night before and it looked like we would get another one.

We beat it back to the bus and hadn’t been inside for five minutes when the sky opened up. It didn’t let up for over an hour so we were happy we turned around when we did.

Next we will move to the city park in Melrose to ride in both directions on the Lake Wobegon Trail. Kitties say they’re ready to roll.


Corn, Cantaloupe and Compadres

We had scoped out the Lake Wobegon Trail and the Central Lakes Trail in Minnesota and planned to head there from South Dakota. We also wanted to go north of Minneapolis to visit some friends from our park in Texas where we spent the winter and planned to do that after riding as much as we could of the 200 miles of the trails.

Frankie and Dick and Cindy and Jim are camp hosts at Avatan but when we heard that Randy and Sue and Gary and Carolyn were there too, along with Debbie and Jack and Judy and Frank, it was a no-brainer.

From the bus: a field of sunflowers on the way to Avatan.

Naturally, we decided to head up there for a mini-reunion before hitting the bike trails. The timing worked out great! We got to spend a few days with our friends, catching up at Happy Hour, swimming laps, practicing yoga and playing water volleyball and relaxing at this beautiful spot in the Minnesota woods.
These hibiscus blooms were as big as my head! Gorgeous!

We have been eating cantaloupe and corn non-stop this summer. Grapefruit are my go-to food for breakfast in Texas but the store-bought kind on the road are not nearly as good. We have been experiencing the best, juiciest, sweetest cantaloupe for weeks now.

And the corn! We were in time for Avatan’s corn extravaganza, which was a giant potluck dinner with corn as the star attraction. They even sold dozens of ears super cheap at the dinner and we are seriously stocked up. Add in a ripe tomato, as Sue pointed out, and we are in summer heaven food-wise.

We were so glad we could easily change our plans and meet up with everybody. There is something to be said for being flexible.

Now… Off to the Central Lakes Trail!