◦ Every time we visit the husband’s family in Pennsylvania, I am so aware of the distinct differences in this part of the country. They are truly fascinating and I can see how growing up here could get in a person’s blood and shape them.
◦ These row mountains are always in view above the planted fields of corn and soybeans. Sometimes they are covered in mist but on clear days we can go up the switchbacks to the top and see far over the agricultural valley to the next mountain. The roads are old and comparatively narrow with no modern attempts to do away with steep grades and sudden drops and turns. Creeks and bridges are everywhere.
◦ There is an intersection typical of these valley roads – a steep climb up to a stop sign on a busy road leaves you hanging, with foot on the brake, while you struggle to see past houses built only a few feet away from the road. A drive almost anywhere is like a custom designed roller coaster ride.
◦ Dennis’s brother still farms in his semi-retirement. I’m up early and walking around the farm looking at the plants and fields. I’ve always thought there was something a little spooky about being surrounded by plants that are taller than I am. I go into a corn field every time I get a chance just to scare myself, and because I like the color green.
◦ I can find all kinds of things to photograph here. It is so beautiful.
Nelson Lake has a large island in the middle. The dam is on the left side of the picture near where the highway jogs.
We went exploring today. It’s becoming necessary to spend as much time as possible away from the house due to what seems to be an electrical sensitivity that Dennis has developed. He wanted to go north. We went to Nelson Lake.
Nelson Lake was formed when the Totogatic River was dammed, way back when my father was a child. He told stories of how he and his dad cut trees and hauled them out of the river valley before it was flooded. When I look at the land around Nelson Lake I realize what the water covered up as it rose – forest, rock, probably a few farmsteads. The hilly terrain formed a lot of inlets and coves, a very irregular coastline, and a lot of places for fish to hide and breed. It is well known for good fishing.
We drove up S.H. 27 to Dam Road (I love that road sign) and turned in to a rather busy boat landing. Trucks and trailers were pulling boats in and out of the water – pontoon boats, jet skis and fishing boats. We spent some time on the dock talking with people then headed back to our truck where Dennis took a nap. Windows were open, soft breeze, and the real surprise, no mosquitoes.
Right in front of the parking area was the dam. A couple families with kids and fishing poles came and went, along with their strings of panfish. The dam itself is old enough to have been at risk a couple of years ago when the lake was extra high and flooding. It was reinforced and held. A lot of people were worried about it then.
Leaving the boat landing we tried to drive around the lake on the north side. Because of the crazy shoreline, there really isn’t a road that follows along the lake. There are quite a few small lodges, resorts and camping places tucked in here and there but every road we tried turned out to be a dead end eventually.
We traced our route back to the other side of the dam where we took County T along the south side of Nelson Lake and the north side of nearby Smith Lake. We stopped at Etcheyson Park, another small picnic area and boat ramp on Smith Lake. A couple teens were actually floating around in the water on tubes. It’s the middle of June here but that doesn’t mean the water is warm in any of these lakes. Last week we had a morning of 36 degrees, and a couple weeks ago there was snow falling. A cold summer so far, but very refreshing, if you’re used to June in Florida, like we are.
I’m impulsive and suddenly pizza sounded like a good supper choice. I thought of it mostly because of the many times I had passed the Outback Bar and Pizza sign on S.H. 77, only a few miles away. I had read in the local newspaper about the new owners keeping a super good and sort of secret recipe for pizza sauce. It was good! The place is small but the bar was lined with four or five couples who were really into some sports event on the tv’s. We opted for a table outside in the quiet where we could watch the trees and birds. The owner and her dog waited on our table. The dog didn’t actually do anything but she was well behaved.
The day had turned cool and cloudy and I thought to myself that it was a typical day “up north” in many ways. It’s hard to say exactly what is different up here, but I think it has to do with the preponderance of cold weather days. It creates a different landscape, with forests of a certain kind, marshes, wild looking rivers, many lakes, and much more untouched nature than in other parts of our country.
Although it seemed to me like I could have been 4 or 5 o’clock, it was actually 7 p.m. when we left. It is now almost 9 and the sun is still not down, another feature of “up north” life. And the sun will be up again tomorrow around 5 a.m. so I’m going to quit now and get some sleep.
Why not? Fun can be found anywhere if you are able to search for it. Yesterday’s excursion was to see a little of the history in the Rochester MN area, and to have a good meal for the day.
It is a challenge to eat well when traveling. Schedules are erratic, fast food is everywhere and may be the only thing we have time for, so we looked at the restaurant recommendations in the motel guide. The Hubbell House in Mantorville looked interesting and fun.
Mantorville is a small, historic town about 20 miles from Rochester. The Hubbell House was the first establishment in the town, way back in 1854.
We were there early, but others were already arriving. The various dining areas can hold over 300 people. We had an efficient, grandmotherly server with the authentic Minnesota accent, and a good knowledge of local history. She assured us that Garrison Keiler had never been there, although they do have record of many other famous guests.
Our meal was good, as was the service. We shared beef tips with wild rice. We took bread pudding with raisins and caramel sauce home with us for dessert. A quiet, reserved atmosphere, surrounded by antique decor, real oil lamps glowing on each table, white cloth napkins, all made the experience special. The familiar, but varied menu choices made it comfortable. The historic details made it interesting.
This country is full of small, interesting places to visit and experience. I’m glad we found this one.
At our recent family reunion I had the happy opportunity to see all of my four brothers. In my “book” each one of them is talented, super relational and fun but each also has one or more claims to fame. Bob is known for his motorcycle rides. People line up for them. There is no better way to see this beautiful country full of lakes and woods than to go with Bob on a motorcycle ride. It was my turn and off we went.
As we got off the main highways, I realized that my knowledge of the area was limited to, well, … the main highways and what was lined up on the sides of them. I have no excuse for this. There are so many otherbeautiful roads and Bob knows them all.
Much of this area “up north” has been affected by glaciers in the past. The way I understand it, the glaciers gouged ravines and as they melted river valleys were formed. Rocks were dropped here and there. Deposits called moraines formed hills. Small lakes are everywhere, along with some of the larger spring fed ones. The trees are awesome and much of the area is National Forest. The economy is based largely on the tourists from the nearby cities who come for fishing, boating, water skiing, hiking, biking and riding their ATVs. There is room for it all.
I love trees and this northwoods is covered with hardwoods and spruce and white pine. The smaller roads are winding and tree covered, perfect for motor biking. I enjoy Bob’s bike rides (and biking in general) because I can feel the air going from warm to cool as the road dips into a hollow. I can smell grass when we pass a field with cut hay. I even appreciate the smell of new asphalt on the road. Everything is experienced differently when I’m not encased in metal and glass. It’s true that there is less protection on a bike, but the roads are not crowded up north and we do what we can to be safe riders.
We took one of Bob’s favorite routes past Spring Lake, and east of Hayward on County Highway B. I’m giving specific directions in case you want to go there some day. We eventually came upon this sign.
Arriving at Moose Lake, I discovered that one of Bob’s favorite places was Louie’s Landing, and that he was in the habit of stopping there for nourishment. We got off the bike and went inside to have lunch.
We were slightly early for lunch so while the grill was heating up we had milkshakes and talked with the waitress and a customer. The hamburger I had was perfect, one of the best I’ve eaten. Sorry, no picture. But I did take a picture of the wall behind the bar and all the entertaining signs, typical of an area where people come to hunt, fish and get back to outdoor living.
For me, the whole experience of getting time with my brother, seeing his favorite places, and having a new perspective on my home area made this a super enjoyable morning. You probably aren’t going to be able to duplicate my experience but if you are ever visiting Hayward, Wisconsin you might want to stop in and have a hamburger at Louie’s Landing. The milkshake was good too.
I have learned so much during this move, and haven’t had time to write about any of it! Stay tuned for a full confession in the next few posts.
Trucks and Trailers
I’ve had enough of them, but I dare not complain because there is more to come and I depend upon them. They are a part of moving. Graceful acceptance is in order.
I’ve totally lost track of how much I’ve recorded in my blog so this is a quick summary of events. I sold my car which reduced us to a one truck family. We traded that truck for a more roadworthy model and it is slightly smaller than the Silverado, but it’s still a truck. I am a truck girl for the time being.
The other truck in my life is the one that brings and takes away my PackRat container. It has been in our yard, struggling to turn around and get in position, four separate times now. The last time was last week when our fully loaded container left on its way to North Carolina. I had been packing it for three days with all those things that will someday go in an unfurnished house or apartment. According to instructions I was not to exceed 6,000 lbs. but it had been a long time since I had weighed any of my furniture or belongings (never). As I shoved the last heavy box of flatware over into a recliner, stuck high on a pile of book boxes and marble slabs, I had a bad feeling about the weight. I shut and bolted the door anyway because the driver had called and was only five minutes away from picking it up.
I innocently asked the driver how they weighed the containers and he pointed to a scale gauge on the lift. His words, “we’ve been taking a lot of overweight loads lately but the limit is 8,000 lbs. because the lift can’t handle more than that.” Honestly, I went inside to pray while he hooked it up and took the container up a few feet. God was listening – it was 8,000 lbs. and he gave me a thumbs up and took it away. I’m still marveling.
Don’t think our house was empty at this point. There were boxes and piles of objects unloaded from the furniture all over the house. All these things were destined for the nice, new 6×12 single axle trailer that we had just purchased to go behind our new used truck. I don’t want anyone to think that I did all this container and trailer loading by myself. I did enough of it but had excellent help from several friends who know how to lift, carry, stack and tie. Because I am not at all superstitious, Friday the 13th, was my departure goal. We had been given some guidelines in gauging the weight on this trailer too which I forgot about until it was too late. I have to say it was another tightly packed box by the time we finished.
We made it to North Carolina! Several large items in the trailer were for my daughter Julie who lives in Greensboro so the day after arriving I unpacked the trailer. With Julie’s help we reorganized and reloaded my trailer – and then unloaded and reorganized her trailer. She is even more of a truck/trailer girl than I am. Her trailer is twice the size of mine, so is her truck.
What remains for us (me, the husband, the truck and trailer) is the 18 hours of driving to our destination in Wisconsin. Gonna be such fun, right? We are going to be very familiar with each other by the time we’re done… just sayin’.
Years ago when I was a teenager my family would take winter trips to Florida. All seven of us would travel in a pick-up camper which made it prime bonding time. I think we usually stayed about two weeks, about as long as we could stand to bond, and in that time, we would park in private and state parks along the way. Myakka was often one of the northern-most state parks we would visit in our search for sunshine and beaches. The Myakka River is one of the national wild, scenic rivers and a small weir widens the waterway out into Myakka Lake.
Two of the memorable things about Myakka that are still going on today are the tram ride to look for wildlife and the airboat ride, also to look for wildlife. I’ve done both. We were always successful seeing the “a” animals, armadillos and alligators, but there are also occasional deer and lots and lots of birds.
This park is always pretty busy in the winter when the weather is cool and conducive to camping and hiking. There are over 39 miles of trail in this park. I’ve hiked there once and you also get a good idea what Florida’s pine flats are like. As the name suggests, very flat, lots of pines and palmetto. The park does a good job of controlled burns and maintenance of the trails.
I mentioned in another post that in the 30 years we’ve lived here, the husband had not been to this park at all. People would visit us and I would take them to Myakka but Dennis would be working. That has been remedied, and none too soon. On the Friday before Memorial Day we visited the park with our good friends who go there quite often. This weekday was a good time to beat the crowds, although there were quite a few there by noon when we left. This was also an unusual time since we had just started having seasonal rains and the river and lake were FULL. Some campsites were underwater and the water level was way above the tree line.
My friends usually take breakfast or a snack to a picnic table close to the lake, but this table had been removed so we chose one of the pavilions for our breakfast spot. I had no idea this was going to be such a feast, but my friend is an excellent host and planner so all the bases were covered. Her husband was soon cooking bacon and eggs over a charcoal fire while the three of us sat watching him with our coffee and homemade biscuits. The picnic area is well appointed and close to parking and restrooms.
While there we watched people arriving for the airboat tour, the first one starting at 10 a.m. We could see the new gift shop and boat dock from our picnic table. I made a quick trip up there (it’s on stilts for obvious reasons) to look for a hiking medallion which I had never gotten before and they had them, along with tons of other interesting stuff. The airboats claim to be the largest of their kind in the world and they do hold a lot of people. The tours are guided by knowledgeable park staff – I have always come away knowing more about the lake and ecosystem.
This park has rustic, old log cabins for rent as well as various types of campsites. The cabins have been refurbished and are very comfortable. You have to rent them well ahead of time because they are very popular.
This park is great for birdwatching and we saw a lot of high tech cameras and tripods being lugged around. There is a long boardwalk out into the marsh, and also a canopy walk high in the trees. We went to the end of the boardwalk, but the water was so high that there were few birds to be seen. It was getting hot and the husband was getting tired so we didn’t go up in the canopy this time.
We rode through the park from the south entrance to the north entrance on this visit. The north entrance is not always open – you can always drive out but can’t always come in – so visitors need to check the schedule. It’s safest to enter via the south. Lots of large oaks shading the road, lots of water views, opportunity for kayaking, canoeing, fishing – it’s a great place to get a feel for central Florida waterways. Pack some food. Go there. Enjoy.
Thinking back over the past few weeks, and the stories I have not told about them, makes me glad to be in my present circumstances where it is actually possible to catch up. I am with Mom, in beautiful northern Wisconsin, in my original hometown. No, there isn’t a medical emergency. No, I’m not escaping from the husband or any peril in Florida. I am here helping Mom battle winter.
Winter is a force to be reckoned with here. This area is a special part of the North American continent where the temperature maps show a peculiar dip in the cold zone. A finger of it comes south from Canada and curls around our river valley, making it slightly less habitable, particularly for anyone who is not fond of winter. The cold comes early and stays for months and leaves late in the spring. Some places much farther north, Anchorage Alaska for instance, have a warmer climate than this part of northwest Wisconsin.
It, winter, is a significant part of everyone’s experience in this small town. They all have wardrobes of jackets, mittens, hats and special suits, special boots, and special underwear – if they go outside at all. Those who don’t have to go outside, pretty much don’t. The weather makes a lot of difference in how they go about their day. Will the car start? Are the roads plowed yet? There are times when workers have to evaluate whether their job is important enough to risk 60 degrees F. below zero wind chill. That’s the cold, but there’s also the darkness. The sun goes down about 4 pm these days in December and it is still dark now at 7 am while I write. All this to say that winter can be tough, especially for our elders.
A lot of my family lives here because this is the land they know best. We started out here, are no longer too surprised by its harshness, and have learned to get along with winter. My Mom’s side of the family can point out the farm where they lived as children and many of her siblings came back after living elsewhere to make their home here. Some never left.
My dad’s side of the family also owned farmland and woodland, which my brothers now own and care for. Mom lives in a fairly new, energy efficient condo, built by my brother on the farm where Dad grew up. My brother’s house is within sight. The property used to be rural but now is on the edge of town. I could throw a rock and hit the local Walmart. We can walk to Pizza Hut in less than 5 minutes. My grandmother, long deceased, would not believe how things have changed outside her now renovated farmhouse. I’m not saying that this is bad. I’m just saying that it’s a lot of change in what seems like a short amount of time – but maybe it’s no so short. Time is funny like that.
So, winter has set in. I was able to fly to Minneapolis and catch the shuttle van going north. It was snowing as we approached Hayward, in the dark, last Wednesday. I was the last passenger to get delivered. The people before me had a home on one of the many local lakes. We tried three times to get up their driveway, but even though the plow had been through, the new dusting of snow made it too slippery to crest the hill. We went to a nearby boat landing that adjoined their property and they hiked/climbed, with their suitcases, in the dark, through the trees and the snow, to their house. They had done it before. I’m just saying, it’s winter and I’m in Hayward.
One day earlier, I had gotten a call from my brother, small business owner of an award company. A shipment had gotten lost and an important account needed to be saved. By making an emergency trip and driving the found shipment to its destination on a tight schedule, I had myself a fun adventure.
On Thursday last week, I took the two hour drive to the economy parking lot of Orlando International Airport. Memorizing my spot under a tree, I took the shuttle to the departure area and found my Frontier flight.
It was only two hours but I got some reading done on the way. We arrived in Memphis earlier than scheduled, around 3 pm, and I walked (fast) to the Alamo car rental desk. In no time at all I was choosing my mini-van, a Dodge Grand Caravan and putting the address of the shipping company into my phone navigation app. It’s a little disconcerting when you get no service when in the parking garage. I had to drive out, not knowing where I was going, and find a street to park on while my directions loaded and I got my bearings.
The van was pretty sweet – leather seats and all the latest gadgets. I love driving and especially love a comfortable car, without a lot of road noise. My payload of 1200 pounds was going to make it a little heavy in the back but it would be driveable.
The shipping company was only a few miles away, in a very secure, fenced yard with a guard. He directed me in, after I gave him my “story”, and told me to go to the dispatch office. I was famous before I even arrived. They all knew about the “Orlando shipment” and told me some workers would be out with the pallet of goods immediately, and would even load it for me.
It was only 4:30 and I was loaded and on the way out of Memphis. Fortunately, the airport was on the outskirts of the city and I had very little rush hour traffic to contend with. I drove for several hours after dark, meaning to get to Birmingham before stopping for some food. I really hadn’t had time to be hungry since breakfast. My brother checked on me by phone, my husband checked on me too, and I had a long conversation with a friend. All that, plus running my GPS, was getting me pretty low on phone battery.
Birmingham was the closest thing to a problem that I had the whole trip. It was foggy. I stopped to figure out the navigation program on the van but I didn’t like the way it looked so I kept the phone on too. For a while I had two different devices telling me directions. which would have been great if they had been on the same route. I also got another phone call and missed an exit I was supposed to take. The good thing was I got some dinner. All this to say that Birmingham is a little confusing and I got on a different road than intended. Since it was an alternate route I decided to take it rather than back track. The new road was going south and that was the right direction.
My travel philosophy is connected to the faith I have in God to handle details – like maybe the route I take? Heading south on I-65 to Montgomery was a lot different than heading east on I-20 to Atlanta but I figured it must be the best route for reasons I didn’t know. Turns out I got to Montgomery at the right time for getting some sleep and was able to find a motel easily. I had six hours to rest up and get ready for the next day.
I was on the road by 6:30 am and although it was still foggy for quite awhile it was the most beautiful drive south I’ve seen in a long time. It was the right route for me. I was across the Alabama/Florida line by 10. The time zone change made it 11 am. I heard from the customer in Orlando and he was really hoping for an earlier ETA than I had told him. I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to hurry, but you can only go so fast and that’s how fast I went.
I-10, I-75, Florida Turnpike. All I can say is that there are too many toll stops on the Turnpike. I used all my cash and there were still more. Sometimes they don’t even tell you how much to pay, there’s no person at the booth, and the only choices are pre-paid tolls (nope, not in a rental car) or exact coins (nope, I’m out). I threw my last 30 cents in one of them and drove through anyway. Ha ha.
The customer was on the phone with me as I neared Orlando, and was actually waiting on the sidewalk to direct me to the loading dock where my cargo was going. It was in the thick of the city and there was a lot of construction. Orlando is a big city, but being at the end of my trip, I didn’t care how it strange and busy it was. I was relieved to be there and get the apples unloaded. The only person more relieved than me was the customer. Diego was a nice young man and I guess he had a lot of work to do getting all those awards ready for the presentation. He said he was going to start putting the labels on them right away so I left and let him get to work.
I drove to the airport, turned in the rental van, found the shuttle to economy parking and my car, under the tree where I left it. A few hours, and a couple of rush hour traffic jams leaving the city, and I was home. The “crazy train”, Apple Award rescue mission was over and it was a success.
I love adventure! And is there any adventure more exciting than getting to rescue someone or something, with deadlines, secret contacts, airports and in great haste? I can hardly believe I get to do this!!
Okay, the contacts aren’t really secret and I’m not rescuing a person, and I’m doing it in a mini van, but everything else is true and I’m doing it tomorrow and Friday! I’m on a mission to deliver a shipment to its destination in Orlando. It was lost over three weeks now, including the long Thanksgiving weekend, and due to the delay the shipper cannot get it to Orlando by the Friday deadline. Panic time for the customer! Fortunately, my brother’s company, Apple Awards, is great on customer service. He was on the phone most of the afternoon arranging alternate delivery by me, Apple Awards business blogger and emergency delivery driver.
I’m putting the “crazy train” details (my brother’s name for the operation, although no train is involved) down here so the husband has something to help him keep it all straight. It’s a little complicated but makes sense when you study it.
Step 1. Drive to airport in Orlando FL and take a flight to Memphis TN (about 6 hours)
Step 2. Pick up rented mini-van and drive to freight warehouse (eh, hopefully 1 hour)
Step 3. Load precious cargo and drive to Orlando to deliver (let’s say 13 hours minimum, and I can add sleep time if I need to)
Step 4. Turn in mini-van at airport in Orlando and drive home. (3 hours at most)
See, it’s only 4 steps and really quite simple. I think it’s the fact that it was all conceived and arranged in a couple of hours that makes it remarkable. Tomorrow I am on my way, and for once all I need is a backpack, because it will all be over in less than two days.
It’s an ideal mission for me since I love to drive, and I actually do like mini-vans for the most part. Stay tuned for my “mission debriefing” post, and if you are one of my praying readers, I’m asking for friendly skies and clear roads please.
It’s a sad way to end a vacation, but I’ve had a headache for over 24 hours now. Nevertheless, today the husband and I are traveling home by air. I have a new phone with a “learning curve” involved. I am flying on an airline with an unfamiliar app. I am set up for disaster at worst, awkwardness and embarrassment at the least.
At the bag drop, I tried to pull up the boarding passes. I hate looking like someone who doesn’t know how to operate my devices when other people are waiting and looking (and my head is pounding) but clearly that was me. The husband and I stepped away to figure it out. Our second pass in front of the same attendant was no better because even though I had found the boarding passes, they didn’t have barcodes on them. “Go print at the kiosk” she ordered.
The first kiosk I stood at for several minutes had an “Out of Order” sign on it that I didn’t notice at first. The second kiosk refused to scan my passport and trapped me in a vicious circular message of how to do what I was already doing without success. The third kiosk also would not scan my passport. The attendant, who had been watching, came over to see what I was doing (to help the elderly, confused woman who obviously was having trouble and about to pound on the machine). She said to type in my name and forget the passport. Out popped the boarding passes, of course. We checked the bag.
Next, we entered the security check area behind an Asian family, non-English speakers, who were having an interesting difficult time understanding what to do. The grandmother left her carry-on bag on the floor in front of me and tried to walk through the metal detector. I called out to her and she grabbed it and tried to pull it through the metal detector with her. Didn’t work. She was sent back to put it on the x-ray belt, along with her coat which the TSA person had to nearly take off her before she understood what to do. On the other side she walked off with her suitcase but I had to chase her down and give her the coat. It was so distracting. I also had to remove my boots with their big zippers before I could go through and retrieve all my stuff.
One of my most important jobs is keeping an eye on the husband as we travel, presumably together, but often yards apart. If he falls too far behind I wait for him so he doesn’t get lost. I am quicker at reading signs and hearing what others are telling me to do, so he naturally lets me do the navigating. Do I always do a good job of this? No.
Next, the husband and I found a seat in the waiting area by the gate. All seemed well until we began to be surrounded by families with babies and toddlers. I counted at least 10. Don’t get me wrong – I love children, but I know how much they don’t like to sit in a plane for three hours. My headache intensified.
Two hours later, somewhere flying south, as the babies began to cry and the parents began to plead I finally decided to take some Migraine Formula Excedrin. I zipped up my down jacket, which had been serving as a pillow, and put it over my head. It was nice in there. Dark, warm, quieter.
After arriving in Tampa, the remaining tasks were getting our checked bag, getting to economy parking, and getting out of economy parking. Nothing went horribly wrong but there were glitches. My whole point is that traveling is an adventure with challenges. From purchasing the right tickets, to finding one’s way through the airport labyrinths, using technology, devices and their apps, keeping track of traveling companions and their needs, managing your own comfort, and ending up in one piece at your final destination – it is a job, on its own right. Do I get paid for this?
Something mildly crazy happens almost every time I fly. How about you?