Week 294 November 16, 2019

When Loren and I left our cousins’ farm in Nebraska at the beginning of this week, it was sad to see how much devastation has occurred from the major flooding earlier this year. Route 80 is detoured from roads that are still underwater, as alternative roads are being built.


We drove through Iowa to our destination of Madison, Wisconsin to arrive at what our friend there said was “between record snows and record temperatures.” We checked in at our AirBnB, then headed off for a Friday fish dinner with our friend, before we all attended a performance of University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Wisconsin Singers. The finale piece included an appearance of their Badgers football team’s mascot, the Badger.

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The next day Loren joined our friend for a walk around the Capital Farmer’s Market before they went to a Badgers’ game. Loren was especially impressed with the marching band. Me? I shopped for a warm coat because the zipper on my North-Face knockoff that I had bought in Nepal had opened, then the zipper pull came off in my hand…

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That evening we three attended an Arlo Guthrie concert at the Barrymore Theater. Guthrie’s son and two of his daughters participated with him on-stage. Their last piece comprised lyrics that his father Woody had composed.

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The next morning Loren and I drove to Green Bay, which had been the main reason we visited Wisconsin this time — our friend had sold us two tickets to see the Packers at Lambeau Field. This was on par with our visit to Wrigley Field in Chicago a few years ago, as both are iconic stadiums that Loren has especially wanted to visit. We arrived early enough to take in all of the extensive Packers’ Hall of Fame museum’s displays at the park.

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Our seats were in a great location for the mid-afternoon kickoff against the Carolina Panthers. It seemed that there was not an empty seat to watch this fan-owned community team play — the attendance was recorded to be 78,000 and we were impressed with the devotion of Green Bay’s fans. We remained in our seats through near the end of the 4th quarter for a home team win, despite a consistent flurry of snow that had begun about half way through the game. The announcers at the stadium labeled it “ideal Lambeau conditions.”

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That evening Loren and I traveled an hour further south-eastward to stay overnight at an AirBnB in Manitowoc. We drove through the continued light snow which began to accumulate before we arrived at our destination. I dared to take a photo as I drove but the white that was intensely visible across my windshield was barely caught by my camera. 


The snow stopped overnight though resumed the next morning. That day, it took us 12 hours over what is normally an eight hour distance, in consistent light snow from the “Arctic blast” that then hit the area. Usually on a long drive day we fill the gas tank at half empty. This day it was strange when, based on how long I’d been driving and would want a break, I would expect to find the tank half empty, but each time it was still 3/4 full. We saw many “disabled” cars, most of which had skidded or jackknifed into ditches and guardrails. At one point I too skidded on an on ramp. Thankfully my years driving in winter conditions helped me navigate and we simply came to a standstill in the shoulder, facing backwards. We know we were lucky and in the future would not venture out in such a storm. In the evening we returned from a short break to find our windshield had frosted over.


The entire next day we holed up at another AirBnB in Ohio, that we had reserved for three nights. The sun was shining on the new snow, making for a pleasant view. Early the next morning, we were treated to a moonset view over the white landscape. 

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We spent this last full day here with a lunch date with special friends at a State Park’s welcoming lodge, where we also spent the afternoon thoroughly enjoying catching up over a game of canasta.


Week 276 July 13, 2019

At the start of this week, Loren and I were still in Ipswich, where our AirBnB host – who taught us about microwavable pancakes – took us for a kayak ride in Plum Island Sound. Fortunately she knew the water patterns and it was an enjoyable day, though we could see how easily it could have been grueling if instead we had been fighting the currents. We finished the evening playing a game of Scrabble together. 

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The next morning Loren and I took a stroll around Strawberry Hill. Unlike the trek we took on Poon ‘Hill’ in the Himalaya, this ‘hill’ is a flat walk on a mowed path to the water’s edge. Then we returned to the house for the Women’s Soccer Finals, where we watched the US defeat the Netherlands.

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We also went on an historic town walking tour. Ipswich boasts several homes and buildings still standing from the 1600’s, 1700’s, 1800’s, reminding me how and where parts of early America was settled and claimed its independence. And everywhere tiger lilies are blooming.

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Then we were off to New York. We first stopped in for a final — for now — Bikram yoga class in North Andover.


Once in New York we drove through Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonia neighborhood which we had seen last Thanksgiving, again in appreciation of his unmistakable home designs. Afterwards we read how UNESCO World Heritage thinks his works are extraordinary too, adding these eight of his innovations to their official list:
     . Fallingwater in Pennsylvania
. the Guggenheim Museum in New York
. the Hollyhock House in Los Angeles
. the Jacobs House in Wisconsin
     . the Robie House in Chicago
. Taliesin in Wisconsin
. Taliesin West in Arizona, and
     . the Unity Temple in Illinois
We finished our day with a wonderful evening with my brother, his wife and younger daughter, then spent the night at an AirBnB in the Battle Hill neighborhood of White Plains, named for one of the sites led by George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

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Our connecting flight the next day took us through Detroit, then we were on our way to Omaha. Dear cousins from Denver picked us up, and as we drove south, we were in Iowa for about one mile, which their new car’s navigation system loudly announced upon our brief departure and reentry into Nebraska. Along the drive we stopped for a lovely dinner together. Then we arrived at the precious farm where Loren’s first cousin lives. 


We had a lovely first day at the farm, then while this cousin was attending to the needs opening the County Fair which she oversees, another cousin took us on a tour of rural cemeteries in nearby Rulo and Falls City to find family plots. Here I noticed markers proclaiming certain headstones as “G.A.R.” I came to learn that these denoted the soldiers who served in the “Grand Army of the Republic” during the Civil War. Over dinner with these cousins we toasted with “Bloody Beer,” a drink of tomato juice mixed in with beer. 

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In the morning we helped a cousin with a small part of his home remodel, holding up a mantel piece for him to bolt in place. Then we reminisced about the history of this home, which was beautifully preserved for the ages through paint on an old saw.


This is also where Loren remembers 50 years ago this month watching the old black and white television in this living room when Neil Armstrong said his famous quote heard over the airwaves on being the first person to land on the moon on July 20, 1969:

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

He also proudly showed us the buckets of trophy home run balls his daughter has earned over the last few years, as she approaches her junior year in High School this fall. 


We bade our Denver cousins a safe drive home before we headed off to see the goat showing competition at the County Fair… please read more on this in next week’s post.


Week 165 May 27, 2017

Loren had to remind me a few times this week, “Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather, whether we like it or not.” At the same time, some of the locals we have met advised us that the seasons here are, “Winter, and, construction.” However, we still camped – with the comfort of one AirBnB in between, with cold, clouds, fog, wind, and rain. Despite that, we enjoyed ourselves in seeing more of Iowa. For example, at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and birth home,
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at a Sunday UU Service, and, by visiting the Amana Communities. We also stopped briefly in DeWitt – at the intersection of Lincoln Highway and The Blues Highway. DeWitt actually has loudspeakers set up around downtown to hear some blues tunes. It was all uniquely enjoyable. We camped one night by the shore of the Mississippi River, an attraction too for fishermen and pelicans. When we awoke we saw blue sky and sun! However this lasted mere hours as it rained heavily again at our next camp. We drove along Route 66 to Springfield, Illinois to see Abraham Lincoln’s Museum, which of course included details of the horrors of the Civil War. I wonder if Lincoln himself is included in the casualty tally? We toured his home, which was remodeled from its original one story to two when Mary Lincoln received an inheritance. And, we paid respects at his tomb.
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By visiting the local park in town, we learned that prior to being President, Gerald Ford had served as a National Park Service Park Ranger in what had been Lincoln’s home town. We concluded our time in Springfield by taking a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Dana-Thomas house.
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We found three more Peter “Wolf” Toth Whispering Giants Trail statues, one each in Hopewell, Utica, and Ottawa. I misunderstood a woman giving us directions – she said we could find the statue – in her vernacular, in Ellen Park. I said, “Ellen?” She said more strongly, “Ellen.” I thought to ask, “How do you spell that?” She said, “A-l-l-e-n.” “Oh!” I said, smiling. “Thank you!” We found Allen Park with ease. I so appreciate our national differences, and in finding these Native American remembrances in the various states. Not only did we see these manmade statues, we also saw a bald eagle in flight that day. Then that evening we saw a fox crossing the road, and, we heard owls calling back and forth at our campground. Ahh, to be out in nature is always so fulfilling and inspiring!
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We awoke to overcast skies on our big day with tickets for going to see our SF Giants play at Wrigley Field, a stadium that Loren has wanted to visit for some years now. Luck paid a visit as if to make up for the weather earlier in the week, and we had an absolutely lovely, sunny warm afternoon at the ball park. In an uncanny bit of coincidence, we sat beside four men from our own south San Francisco bay’s Los Gatos, and, one of them named Sanford, was someone Loren remembered meeting through a friend some years ago. A little street art outside the stadium gave me a chuckle, but then I was disappointed to notice that not one roving vendor sold boxes of Cracker Jack in our section. What has America’s favorite past time come to ?
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Now we are in Madison, Wisconsin. We spent a day here with a man about our age who we had met on a canoe trip in the Everglades in 2015. He and Loren have kept in touch. He gave us a wonderful tour around this city of about 250,000 people. We began with the Dane County Farmer’s market around Capitol square – claimed to be the largest Farmer’s market in the world. Then we went on to see the Monona Terrace Concert Hall – coincidentally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and which features a display of some of his works including the original portion of the Unitarian church where Loren and I will visit tomorrow. We also drove along the lakes that make up the isthmus of Madison, and saw the connecting creeks…
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Next was a visit to the Arboretum of University of Wisconsin at Madison – where we saw gorgeous azalea blooming.
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We finished our day with our friend with a visit to the annual Brat Fest – to eat varieties of brat and hear a little music. Another strange coincidence is that the featured brat company – Johnsonville is owned by the family of a friend of ours from California. We took a walk around more of the university campus, and, topped the day off with a snack at popular Union Terrace. A thoroughly delightful time in Madison, despite the clouds.


Week 164 May 20, 2017

This week began with us still visiting dear family on their farm and surrounding community in Nebraska. We first went to a cousin’s baseball tournament – saw him bat, catch, pitch, and, field at 3rd and short stop.
Life on the farm in spring is more physically challenging, time consuming, and requires more varied skills than we had previously been aware – this was our first spring visit to the farm. Last week I neglected to mention the mechanical skills required for such things as flat tires, slipped chains, greasing parts, repairing a ball-bearing socket, and welding a marker device – this list just for that 12 row planter vehicle, which in itself needs knowledge and great skill to manipulate. Nor did I mention diagnosing a shear pin on the seed bin trailer’s auger, as well as belt problems, simply knocking mud chunks off the engine and greasing of one of the small farm vehicles. Our cousins are able to quickly fix such problems, on their own and with each other’s help. We assisted when possible but mainly just observed.
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I also want to mention how the farm work requires such physical strength – for working with cattle, sometimes in deep mud, lifting large feed bags and full 5 gallon buckets, operating heavy equipment and vehicles, carrying heavy duty iron tire jacks – the list goes on. They attend to the needs of nearly a hundred head of cattle – we learned the difference between Black and Red Angus, and Hereford breeds this time, forty-some goats, the hen house, an aged horse, dogs, cats, a number of pastures, several barns, driving a multitude of farm vehicles small and large around the farm and country roads, stocking a machine shop with innumerable various tools and spare parts, among other outbuildings, in an often dusty environment… yet at the end of the day it is rewarding.
I must also mention the efforts of maintaining their houses and homes, raising children of the next generation, caring for their personal autos and a free standing double garage, house gardens, shopping for basic supplies, cooking, canning, crafts, and commitments in the community – for example being on the local Fire board, church council, 3H – and surely I am missing more aspects of farm life. There is so much to know and to do – I realize we have just a limited sense of what being farmers or farm hands is all about.
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What is inspiring is how our cousins also finds time for commitments in community work – like 4H, Fire board, church council, as a few examples, as well as another holding a full time job with benefits in town. There was a soft calming of country western music tunes in the background at times. Occasionally there is time to enjoy a “pop” – what I call soda, maybe to play a game of cards, while enjoying a scrumptious homemade dessert…
What I think makes it all worthwhile is the uplifting presence of the new borns – calves, kids, chicks, kittens, babies, each one unique and amazing.
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I even was privileged to choose the newest born twin kids’ names – please meet – Ta Da: Chocolate and Cinnamon! It was so meaningful to visit the farm again and especially at this time of year. Thank you again dear cousins!
On bidding a fond farewell to our precious farmers, Loren and I were on our way to visit childhood friends of his who now live in Sioux Falls. We noticed a handmade sign on private property once we were in South Dakota:
   Eat steak
   Wear furs
   Keep your guns
   The American way
Before we had left our farming family – who safely employ guns for deer hunting – I was already reflecting on differing needs and interests of country versus city living, and, appreciating a respective need for using versus banning guns. Our friends, too, reminisced about memorable times on pheasant hunts in South Dakota. We learned that the entire South Dakota state population is less than 900,000, a third the size of the state of Nebraska, and less than the population of the entire city of San Jose… There is much to consider when comparing needs and lifestyles.
In Sioux Falls, our friends offered us bicycles to ride to the falls along a beautiful bike path, where we saw more signs of new life. We then went together for a drive around the city to see some of the area sights.
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Our friends’ daughter was also visiting her parents, and we all enjoyed two evenings of wonderful home cooked dinners, with fun conversations catching up on many years of life experiences. We also had a delightful backyard fire that included cooking ‘smores and singing along with our friend on his guitar. Another meaningful and memorable visit with friends who we rarely see…
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Loren and I said another fond farewell this week, then went on to drive along parts of the historic east-to-west or New York-to-San Francisco Lincoln Highway eastward.We stopped to stay with the sister and her husband of a dear friend from California, who live in Colo, Iowa. Colo is also exactly where the historic Jefferson Highway which ran south to north, from New Orleans to Winnipeg, and the Lincoln Highway, meet and cross.
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We enjoyed a memorable visit with these Iowans, learning about their years as former hog farmers. Now retired, they are still active with their family and in their community. Our new friends made sure that we visited the Living History Farms in nearby Des Moines, where we saw a turkey, geese, ducks and hogs in addition to horses, steer – who will soon be called oxen once they are castrated, and chickens. We ambled through the park’s working farms using historical tools and farming methods. We learned here that in 1840, 69% of American workers were farmers, then just 60 years later, in 1900, that number had dropped nearly half – to 38%. Thank you, friends, for your hospitality!
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Now Loren and I have driven further east to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, looking forward to visiting an Amish community in Amana tomorrow, followed by Herbert Hoover’s Presidential Library in West Branch.

REPOSTING in Progress: Weeks 2 to 109

This place holder is for the entries from our original blog to be added, eventually. Please check back – this re-creation is a labor of Love and will take a bit of  t-i-m-e- which, while still traveling, we do not always have a lot available to devote to this.