The Least Favored Soup

The Least Favored Soup

They kept coming, wave after wave of people carrying backpacks, looking a bit dazed, numb. They were hungry and they needed food, warm liquid, salt, calories. They had just skied 29K in below freezing temperatures. This was the Kortelopet and Prince Haakon races of the American Birkebeiner. https://www.birkie.com/ski/events/kortelopet/

Our small town hosts this winter event every year in February, unless there is no snow or the temperatures are deadly, rare situations. The number of people in town goes from the usual 2500 to 40,000 for the two days of races. It’s a pretty big deal for people who like snow. It takes nearly the whole town volunteering to pull it off. This is my second year of helping in the food tent, where all the skiers congregate after crossing the finish line.

The International Bridge which all skiers cross to reach the finish. It is erected over the main highway and covered with snow.

My brother is one of the race chiefs, heading up the serving of food and all the volunteers who help him. The menu is simple – soup, bread, bananas, cookies and drinks. The challenge is doing it in a tent, set up on a vacant lot where everything you need has to be brought in by someone. All the soup arrives frozen in gallon bags and has to be thawed before being warmed to serving temperature. It takes a crew of several men to keep filling the warming tanks, opening the bags and emptying them into the cooking pots, then transferring the hot soup to the serving tables inside the tent. All this is done outside.

“I ski the Birkie every year just for the chicken soup,” one man tells me. I don’t believe him, but the soup is really good. Volunteers inside the tent ladle it into serving cups as fast as they can for hours. Chicken noodle soup is the favorite but there is a choice. The tomato vegetable soup was my station and it is also a good one, perhaps a bit more nutritious too. However the chick/noodle is favored two to one.

I’m guessing that the pots are filled with about seven or eight gallons of soup at a time. I emptied seven of them – I can’t even imagine how many servings that was. It helped that I was tall. Scooping into the pot is easy when it’s full but as the level goes down, it gets more difficult to reach the bottom, and messy, especially when doing it fast.

The (least favored) vegetable soup

It was cold in the tent before we started serving the first finishers. The wind would lift the tarps and blow cups and table coverings off our tables. The ground also is frozen and cold, which is why we stand on rubber mats. After we got really busy I forgot all about my feet feeling like frozen blocks of ice. Watching the people come in, young ones, elder ones, men, women from all over the world, all I could think was “why would they want to be this cold and still call it fun?”

We fed over 3,000 today, and this was the smaller of the races. Tomorrow’s crowd will be twice as many. I hope to be there again, serving up the least favored soup, just sayin’…

Day of the Jaeckel

It’s been years since I walked for a cause – the three day, 60 miles breast cancer walk. Today I joined my brother and his wife and a couple hundred other people from our small community to walk a 5k for ALS.

John Jaekel is a Haywardite, former coach and educator at the high school, and friend and neighbor to most everyone he meets. He is also one of the longest survivors of ALS and a spokesperson for the cause all around the state of Wisconsin. The walk was started by his family and other supporters around four years ago and has become a regular event in Hayward.

We met at the Lutheran Church in town where John is a member, and went inside to look at the silent auction items. There is no fee to join the walk, so the auction is the fund raising portion of the morning. There is an online auction as well as the one we saw, and many Hayward businesses and individuals were represented there. I bid on a small piece of furniture. Lumber from the lumber company, 2 months membership at the local gym, hair cuts and beauty supplies, art and specialty food items, and tickets to Packer games(!!!) as well as other creative and tempting offerings were up for bid.

The walk was leisurely, led by John Jaekel himself in his motorized chair. There were parents with small children in wagons and strollers, elderly people being pushed in wheelchairs, and all ages in between. The weather was cooperative, actually could not have been more perfect. I’m not kidding, there were cheerleaders and encouraging signs along the route.

One family walking close to me came from a city 80 miles away to join the walk. They had lost a brother to ALS the year before and knew John through the support network they had been in together. I didn’t get to talk to John but it was clear that he was a beloved member of the community and had been successful in stirring people to action. One of the signs along the route pointed out that the purpose of the walk was to make sure that someday there wouldn’t have to be any walks. Research toward a cure is the goal.

At the end of the walk, volunteers at the church had breakfast ready for all the walkers. Someone had upped the ante on my table bid, so I pushed it up a little higher. I didn’t get it but it went for a better price and that was good.

This was a day to walk and talk with others, over a common interest – that of helping people like John Jaekel and others who are battling als. I admire his enthusiasm and dedication, and wish him well. I thank him for bringing our community together around a good cause.

Lake Fest

Lake Fest

8-4-2019

Do you have a community? I mean a community where people know one another, speak regularly, wave to each other and know who is in your family? I haven’t often observed that type of neighborhood, even in a place I lived for over 20 years.

But then, along came Lake Fest. I had been hearing about it from day one of our time in North Carolina. “Are you staying for Lake Fest?” “They will be pretty busy getting ready for Lake Fest.” “Leave the slip n slide in the truck – it’s for Lake Fest.” I had originally planned to leave before this event, akin to a national holiday, occurred but my curiosity got the better of me. We stayed.

Lake Fest, as I understand it, is the natural outgrowth of a healthy community. It’s neighbors, friends and family who love where they live, love to celebrate summer, and really like being with each other. And who doesn’t love an outdoor, summer party?

Three neighbors with adjoining properties around a small, private lake took it upon themselves to start this event. It is now well on its way to becoming an annual tradition. A block party, with a lake instead of a block. A Saturday afternoon in August with games, water sports, food (food, lots of food), a pool, live music and so many beautiful spots to sit and watch it all that it was hard to decide where to go.

I didn’t kayak the lake – though I wanted to.

I didn’t do the slip ‘n slide – I really wanted to do that, really!

But I had lots of good conversations, enjoyed some good food, listened to great music and decided (unofficially) to photograph the event in order to share it.

Parking could have been a problem, but many people walked.

This neighbor hosted the children’s games and the slip ‘n slide.

Boat rides, tubing, and a jet ski on the lake.

Furry family members were welcome.

“Santa” (not his real name) putting flames to the hot dogs and hamburgers.

Live music!

Dad’s and kids

Keeping cool in the pool

Sharing a drink?

Lots of good “eats”

No one is too young for this party…

No one is too old for this party…

Wondering where his “mama” went…

Relaxing, just relaxing

At the bottom of the slip’n slide.

Have you had an event in your neighborhood to encourage real community? What good things might come from knowing those physically close to you better?

Take Me Out (to the ball game)

7-27-2019

It’s a beautiful morning in North Carolina.

I’m thinking about the fun time I had last night at the baseball game. Normally, baseball is not one of my passions. As far as watching the game, I put it a notch above golf on the excitement scale, which is why I have only gone maybe three times in my life. However, the whole ambience is interesting and attractive – the crowd, the camaraderie, the food, all that.

I really did not know much about the nuances of play and the organization of the teams and leagues but luckily, daughter Julia’s special friend Kevin, was a baseball player in a semi-pro league. He was the host for this night, and through family connections he had tickets to a box suite. It is a whole different experience to have a choice of air-conditioning, or outside balcony. Add in free popcorn and peanuts and it becomes a place I could take for several hours whether there was a game to watch or not. It was also informative and entertaining because Kevin’s three children were along, getting tutorials from dad on the plays.

I once did a stint working refreshments at several baseball games in Florida. I didn’t get to watch those games but I did learn that people spend way more on refreshments than they do to get into the game, in most cases. I didn’t need a hot dog or other food but I was thirsty enough to order a souvenir cup of Dr. Pepper for $ 6.50. This will help me remember the experience.

Greensboro Grasshoppers souvenir cup

Another reminder will be the picture that the kids and I had taken with the team mascot. You wouldn’t be able to tell, so I will inform you – he’s supposed to be a grasshopper. He wanders about, with an escort to help him see where he’s going, getting pictures taken with youngsters. I kind of snuck in there. It’s not every day I get photographed with an insect.

The Grasshoppers are the local team in Greensboro and, fortunately, they won by a healthy margin. The league is entry level professional and most of the players were right out of college, or even high school. All those long breaks waiting for the pitcher to decide to throw the ball were filled with chants, cheers and commercials over the loud speaker and on the giant screen at the back of the outfield. There was also pure silliness going on from time to time promoting the game sponsors. These cows came out and danced the chicken dance – thank you Chick Fillet.

In this league, occasional heckling and teasing was allowed but kept nicely in line by an announcer who led everything with sound effects and cheers at every opportunity. Nice idea and it worked.

And there were fireworks. Impressive ones.

Great night, beautiful stadium, family friendly atmosphere (including a real live rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” by the announcer and some kids) – all the things baseball has been and should probably be. The one sobering moment was at the gate where, as times require, my purse was searched and we had to go through metal detection. I had to take my jacknife back to the car. Oh well, …

Thirteen Thousand Steps

One day this week I took a longer than usual walk, for training purposes. Since the first day walking at the Grand Canyon will be at least four hours of descent, I’ve been trying to think of places that would be interesting for the longer training walks. The trails around Hospital Lake fit the description.  Hospital Lake, named for the Hayward Area Memorial Hospital which can be seen from nearly every vantage point around the lake, not only has ski and hiking trails but actually has a very cool bike trail designed and maintained by the Chequamagon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA).

ATV trail on old railroad bed

From home, I took the railroad bed ATV trail. Right away I had to take pictures of the fungi and moss. There aren’t a lot of green things growing yet so these plants get top billing. And they are so interesting they deserve it.

Love these colors and textures!
Different!
Mullein
And a bit of color.

A short distance on Hospital Road, and then I ducked into the pine woods where I knew I would intersect with a trail. It’s a small enough area that is fairly familiar to me so I wasn’t concerned about getting lost. My motto is “I’m never lost if I don’t care where I’m going.” So true. And if the goal is to get in as many steps as possible…

All the trails aren’t this wide and smooth. This is one of the ski trails.

In opting for whichever trail looked most interesting, I ended up on some I had not seen before. I discovered that some new trails were being made in the woods by workers with heavy equipment – they weren’t there at the time but there was lots of evidence. Part of this forest is old growth pine – trees which always have me in awe of their size and bearing. Guardians of the forest, who have seen a lot of action.

The guardian and his weapons.
Swans on Hospital Lake

Reaching the lake, I got a glimpse of swans on the far edge, too far for a good picture. I counted five and watched them for a while.  On the way out I did try a couple trails that took me in circles, and again I ended up in places I hadn’t seen before. The area is bigger than I thought. Thirteen thousand steps, for me, is 5.84 miles and I was beginning to feel the strain so I headed home. My sis-in-law met me on the way back and we walked home together.

Hospital Lake – beautiful area for walking, biking or in winter, skiing. Try it if you are ever in Hayward.

Hiking Boots

A number of years ago I trained for and participated in a 60 mile walk over three days.  From the first days of training there was emphasis on what we were to wear on our feet. Your shoes will make or break your walk, they told us.

One of our training meetings was held at a retail outlet for a major athletic shoe company. I won my first pair of expensive, properly fitted hiking shoes. To be honest, I didn’t understand what people were talking about when they said their perfectly good appearing shoes had worn out. I wore all my shoes until the soles came off or holes appeared.

That hike taught me how important foot protection is when walking long distances. I had some major blisters. Some people lost their toenails, and others had to drop out of the walk with other foot problems. I made it to the end, but it was challenging.

I have two pair of hiking shoes now, low ones and ankle high ones. I’ve had them for over a year and both pair are pretty well broken in.  I know how they feel and how they perform. I’m not sure which pair I will take to the Grand Canyon, but it will probably be the ankle boots, both for protection and stability.

Keene and Kuru – I probably should have used these for letter K

The steep grade on the descent requires shoes with plenty of room in the toe. With every step I’ll be sliding forward slightly and I don’t want my toes rubbing against the toe of the shoe. I’ve seen the recommendation of finding a shoe that’s comfortable and then buying one half size larger. I didn’t do that with my ankle boots, but I’m hoping with the extra lacing up over my ankle that my foot won’t slide much, if at all. These boots also have a thick sole, water resistant qualities and some breathability. Sometimes I wear them for everyday wear just because they are very comfortable.

I’ve also invested in thin, wool hiking socks that don’t bag or bunch up. They are padded and wick moisture away from my feet. (Cotton absorbs moisture, stretches out, and can chafe, so no cotton.) Guidelines for the hike suggest a thin, polypropylene sock as a liner underneath the wool sock but I haven’t found those yet. The most irritating sock problem is that pair that slides down, step by step, and disappears into my shoe. I’m testing all socks to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Another foot saving precaution I’m going to take is to carry certain items in my first aid kit. I’m taking moleskin to cover any blister that appears. I’m taking a product called Body Glide which is great to prevent chafing anywhere it occurs.

Good stuff to have on a hike.

The Grocery Walk

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One of the nicest things about living in a small town is how close I am to almost any kind of service I need or want. In the few months I have lived here I have thought on this many times. Take today, for instance. And honestly, you could take today, because it was almost a waste for me, due to a headache that hijacked my afternoon. If it had not been for my evening grocery walk, I wouldn’t have much good to say about this Monday.

I emerged from “headache fog” late in the day to be reminded by the husband that we had no milk. I thought of a few other things that should be on the list and decided to go shopping after supper. Walmart is literally in our backyard, and a second grocery store is about a half mile away, so I took my back pack and walked in search of food.

The store farthest away had one of the items I most wanted to get, so I went there first. The cool air and the act of moving myself rhythmically felt very restoring. It reminded me of the “contemplative walking” I had heard about in doing research for my upcoming Grand Canyon hike. Walking does give me time to think, and thinking makes the distance go so fast. There is also the benefit that I see things with time to look at them, unlike when I’m driving past.

I walked past Lake Hayward where a pair of Canadian geese were already looking for a nesting spot on the small area of open water.  The sidewalks and roadsides were covered with dirt left by the melting snowbanks. I passed numerous office buildings, my favorite clothing store, and Dairy Queen.  I wondered if an ice cream would be good for someone who had just had a headache for hours…

It didn’t take long to make my purchases at Marketplace and load up the coleslaw dressing, the organic bananas and the oatmeal in the backpack. It is a good thing that I’m carrying some weight on my walks because I’m supposed to be training that way – again for the Grand Canyon hike.  (Can you tell that I’m getting a little obsessed with this hike? It’s a bucket list item and I want to do it right.)

Passing Dairy Queen again, I decided to check the DQ app on my phone and, sure enough, I had a coupon for a $.50 cone.  I was feeling kind of guilty for not having change with me and having to use a credit card for that small amount, when I checked in my pocket and realized the credit card was no longer there.  By now I should realize that when I pull one thing out of my pocket, the phone, more than one thing sometimes comes out – it’s not the first time this has happened to me.  I knew it had to be a few yards back, on the sidewalk, but even so I was surprised to find it.  It’s a strange feeling to see something you normally guard with your life, glinting in the sun in the distance on the dirty sidewalk.

I thank God, I did get my $.50 ice cream cone and it was good.

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The last stop, Walmart, added milk, celery, and raspberries to my pack. A short distance later I was home again.

Why am I writing about this? Because it amazes me and makes me feel noticed when God allows a simple thing to come along and brighten my attitude.  Often, he uses a change of scenery, getting outdoors and doing something active to restore and help me feel better when I’ve felt miserable.  There will always be times in my average life that are not so great, but God balances them and somehow leaves me feeling blessed and aware of his kindness towards me. It doesn’t take much.

More “Up North”

My people are making plans to gather for Thanksgiving. They are coming “up north” where we have short, cold days. This gets me started thinking about what there is to do up here when I have visitors.

I’ve gotten suggestions of activities some would like to do, most of which are either out of the question, or I don’t even know what they are.  One of my daughters will be here for most of the week. Thank you, dear, for this list.

Her suggestions were:
Afternoon of frisbee golf       (didn’t I tell you it was snowing up here?)
Visiting a slaughterhouse    (um, no slaughterhouses. A new interest of yours?)
Build a Star Wars AT-AT out of bacon  (you don’t like to touch meat, remember?)
Skunk hunting (for sport)   (oh sure…)
Chapel Hill graffiti tour  (I don’t think we have a Chapel Hill)
Lunch at Chipotle   (no Chipotle… sorry)
Power walking race    (maybe, in Walmart – you ok with that?)
Photo shoot near the big pickle  (no, it’s a Musky and it’s a fish!)
Hip hop dance lessons   (I think we’d have to import a teacher, but yeah…)
Yarn bomb an italian restaurant  (no Italian restaurant, sorry)
Bit torrent party  (what?)
Go caroling outside some night clubs  (we have bars, not night clubs)
Camping!  (didn’t I tell you it was snowing up here?)
Make a turkducken  (you’re kidding… why?)
Night at the ballet   (no ballet, sorry)
Computer day (no one talks to anyone, except chat & email) (already do this, no)
Clean up a mile of I-40   (I think that’s in North Carolina, no)
Dress up Lily fashion show   (what?)
See if an iPad will blend    (what? what?)
Frozen margarita chugging contest    (my head hurts thinking about this…)
Uno    (Now you’re talkin’, yes)
Amish day  (how does one do that?)
Zelda marathon    (?what?)
Arts & crafts table at the flea market  (flea market closed when it started to snow – doubles as a hockey rink, sorry)
Make organic free-range black bean burritos   (maybe, what’s a free range black bean?)
Christmas shopping roulette  (incompatible ideas,  no)
Street racing with test drive cars  (snow, ice, remember? way too exciting)
Plant an acai garden   (the ground is frozen, no)
Afternoon of epic naps  (this will happen without planning, yes)
Record a music video  (we could do this in house, yes)
Visit a winery  (no winery, sorry)
Start a Google group   (you would want to do this? really?)

A couple of weeks ago the talk of the town was the high school play. I wasn’t too excited about a plot that centered around the trial of the wicked witch of the east and featured every fairy tale personage you’ve ever heard of, but mom decided she would go with my nephew. She said it was fun, so, based on her glowing review I decided to go the next night. I was desperate for a theatrical cultural experience and figured this was as close as I was bound to get for a while. I even ended up going ALONE, which takes some courage. I sat in the front row. It’s just what I do.

High school plays have not changed much in the last 50 years. I was so reminded of my first chances to be on stage. There is a lot to appreciate in these simple beginnings that teach poise, presence and test one’s memory of lines, and ability to be someone else. I still have an occasional nightmare where everyone is waiting for my line while I look frantically through the script to find it.  There was some of that this night, but overall the whole play was well rehearsed, and it was fun. I think the actors had fun too.

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The judge and one of the witnesses on the stand, Sleeping Beauty, I think.

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The three little pigs were bailiffs, kind of…

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Hansel and Gretel gave some incriminating testimony.

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The big, bad wolf was epic…

“Up north” activities may lack the variety and sophistication of big city life, but I see a simplicity and wholesomeness in what does take place. People work hard up here and their free time is often spent in community service, activities with their kids, or just being home. There are many choices in those categories. I’m just sayin’ that so far, I have no trouble keeping busy.

Birkie Trail, Next 6 miles

This is the second weekend that we have put on our hiking shoes and taken to the trail. After a week’s work, we really enjoy a good long walk in the woods. We skipped a shorter section in favor of a longer hike than last week. We will go back and pick it up someday when we have less time.

The trees were still more green than colored. There were only a few brilliant ones, but that didn’t keep it from feeling like autumn.

I was a little obsessed with the fungi, but you’ll see why. Strange stuff.

Enough talk. I just want you to see what I saw.

Makwa Trail, here we come.

First spot of color.

The trail skirts this lake except for here, where it gets a little crazy. This is a single track bike trail.

Moss abounds. Lovely, right?

Time for some fungi.

More fungi.

And more…

And this one!

This little guy, about head high on the trunk of a tree, amazing!

Can you spot the camouflaged picnic table?

One more.

No, one more.

Some trail worker forgot their saw.

I spent a lot of time looking at the path because it was always so lovely.

About mile 6 we left the single track trail and did a mile on the larger ski trail. We (the girls) were getting tired and the ski trail was straighter and smoother.