My 65th Birthday Mini Road Trip

Each year my Sister-In-Law Nicki and I celebrate our birthdays which are on the 11th and 12th of January in Monterey.  You might think that Monterey is cold in January, but it actually offers beautiful days with warm sunshine.  The four of us have our traditional path starting out on the wharf, then getting soups and sandwiches to enjoy at one of the Pacific Grove beach turnouts on Ocean View Boulevard just south of Cannery Row.  Then we would head to a small shopping district on Lighthouse Avenue where Nicki and Sandi visit a yarn shop, while Rich, my brother, and I enjoy a coffee and Diet Coke at a small coffee house.Nicki and I   In recent years we have skipped the lunch on the beach, and have been enjoying lunch at Rosine’s on Alvarado Street Monterey; NOTE lunch is followed by a piece of cake from Rosine’s that takes days to complete (here is a pic from five years ago of Nicki and I enjoying a slice at one of our favorite turnouts on Ocean View Boulevard). 

Guy Fieri visited Rosine’s years ago, I’m sure to try the cakes.  All the food here is GREAT as is the service!!!

In years past we stayed at the Thousand Trails in Morgan Hill, which is about 45 minutes from Monterey.  This year we stayed at the KOA Moss Landing RV Park.  This is a small, very clean and well kept park at the small Moss Landing Marina.  Moss Landing is a great place to stay as it is only minutes from Monterey and Pacific Grove.

IMG_0719Since this year was my 65th Birthday, I asked my entire Family (we are small) to join Nicki and I for our Birthdays!!!  Some of us enjoyed the wharf before lunch, and we all enjoyed the beach turnouts on Ocean View Boulevard; followed by some of us taking in Cannery Row.  We all agreed that we need to include the Monterey Bay Aquarium in our next visit….can’t wait!!!IMG_5307

IMG_0727We’ve been coming to Monterey my entire life, as have our kids….now in their 30’s.  In the early years we spent countless hours at Dennis the Menace Park located within El Estero Park in downtown Monterey.  Dennis the Menace Park is fantastic with jungle gyms, slides, Southern Pacific steam train and more!!!  In those days, and still today, we also enjoyed the tide pools at the beach turnouts along Ocean View Boulevard

After our visit to Monterey we headed approximately hundred miles south to Paso Robles.  We stayed in the Paso Robles RV Ranch, a smaller very clean park.  This is our second time at this park, which is not only clean the staff is extremely friendly.

The Paso Robles, Morro Bay, Cambria and neighboring towns have so much to offer from nature, to art, unique restaurants, wineries, breweries and a lot more.  We had visited the area the week before Thanksgiving as Sandi was attending a fabric art retreat at the Ocean Pines Retreat located along the shore of Cambria.  During our visit in November, we visited the Elephant Seals on the beaches a long the coast just north of San Simeon.   Yes, San Simeon is also home to Hearst Castle State Park…..another trip.

IMG_0244Elephant Seals were fun to watch in November, ok they were pretty neat but boring.  They come on to the beach in November not returning to the water until about March; they live off of their bubbler for all hydration and nutrients.  Adult Elephant Seals range in weight between 1,200 pounds for the average female up to 5,000 for a mature male.  The males actually don’t attempt mating until they are about eight years old and have developed their elephant trunks (hence the name) and a leathery chest to ward off someone that wants to make a move on one of their females.

Gestation takes eleven months, and the birthing occurs in mid January… do the math the beach is FULL of activity mid January through February.  The males were fighting for their females, the females were fighting each other for beach space for them and their pups.  The pups are born at between 60-80 pounds, but wait in just ONE month of nursing their average weight is 300 pounds!!!  

The main lookout just three miles south of San Simeon offers parking, information, docents on weekends, and a board walk for better safe viewing.  Don’t think you’re going to get on the beach, as it is against the law!!!  As you can see we saw many pups, in fact one was birthed down the beach and we got to see it just minutes old.

IMG_0269Beer anyone???  We visited the Firestone Walker Brewery in Paso Robles, which is the home of many popular tables such as “805”.  IMG_0265The air is full of the smell of hops, which I’m sure some don’t like and some enjoy….for me it was ok.   We didn’t take in the tour today saving it for our next visit to Paso Robles area. IMG_0266

This is a modern brewery fully taking advantage of technology… that computer nerd you made fun of might just be assisting the brewing process.  Here is a look into the brewery and computer control room from the Visitor Center.   Down the street from the main brewery is the “Brewery Emporium” filled with wearables, bar and clothing accessories, and of course a beer cooler full of all the Firestone Walker names including their popular “805”.

We enjoyed a great lunch at the brewery’s restaurant “Taproom” to end our Firestone Walker experience.  By the way, the lunch, dinner and dessert menus are full of fun and fantastic tasting entree’s, appetizers and desserts.

IMG_0275If your looking for a unique place to stay, have a meal or get a piece of cake, then San Louis Obispo has the place for you…….The Madonna Inn!!!   The Madonna Inn is just a few years younger than me, it opened in 1958.  My parents always talked about the Inn, as they had visited several times on their little journeys.

The outside is as ornate as the inside….which in some ways is over the top!!!   There are small gardens tucked in all around the buildings, inside and out.  You better like pink, as it is through out the property.

We enjoyed a slice of their famous cakes……Sandi REALLY enjoyed the Pink Champagne.

Needless to say I REALLY enjoyed my 65th Birthday Mini Road Trip!!!    I can’t wait until my “Route 66th Birthday Road Trip” in 2021!!!

5,699 Miles, 32 Days, 18 States…..

The stats for this trip are:

  • 32 Days
  • States Visited: 18 (CA, NV, AZ, NM, TX, OK, AR, TN, MS, KY, MO, IN, IL, IA, NE, CO, WY, UT)
  • Motorhome Miles:  5,699
  • Driven Tow Car Sightseeing Miles:  897
  • Major City Stops: 10
  • Gallons of Motorhome Gas:  731
  • Average Price of Gas:  2.589
  • Lowest Price:  Oklahoma City, OK  $2.129
  • Highest Price:  Lodi, CA  $3.749
  • Total RV Park Costs:   $979.37

There were so many great memories made on this trip.  Our MAIN stop was our visit with our Nephew, JohnE, and his Family in Hobart Indiana.  F7C59716-9A78-4516-B631-8BAF6748AE4BSandi told you in an earlier post about some of the spots that they shared with us and the excitement of seeing my Mother-In-Law’s Great Granddaughters and our Great Nieces….one was only thirteen days old when we arrived!.  One of the sights Sandi forgot to tell you about was a candy factory outlet store, Albanese Confectionery.  We had so much fun, seeing….and smelling…all the candy. IMG_1563 Albanese is famous for their gummy bears….the ones with the “A” on the Gummi Bear’s tummies.  I was amazed by the Chocolate flowing down the pipe in the store that is part of the process to make the chocolate smoother.  Albanese not only sells the chocolates and gummies it produces, but also great favorites and favorites from years gone by.  Albanese normally has a factory tour, but it has been closed for the remaining of the year due to a fire in the factory earlier this summer.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the trip:

My favorite meal with my FAVORITE date!!!
How the puppies travel.








Our Nephew with his newest little girl.






Funniest T-Shirt










Our Indiana Welcome

Fun Facts…..well they are for me!  ;-)’       Did you know that the interstate system we enjoy today was funded by the 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act and is known as The Eisenhower Interstate System.  I-80 is the longest interstate in the system stretching over 2,900 miles as it travels through eleven states.  The interstate freeway system was not only to be a transportation system but also a defense system.  This trip we have been on so many sections of the system (I-5, I-11, I-15, i-25, I-40, I-44, I-65, I-80). 

We generally head east through Reno, but this trip we ended our trip through Reno.  We ALWAYS stop and have breakfast with my Uncle Roy at the Gold n’ Silver Diner (Guy Fieri visited a few years ago); this trip we had our 34th Anniversary Dinner with Uncle Roy and my Cousin Steven dropped by to say hi.  Dinner and the visit were as always amazing!!!   Can’t wait until our next visit!

Hello Campers!  This trip was a whirlwind … not staying many nights at any one destination.  (I did the math … it was an average of 1.65 nights per destination).  Now that I am home … comfy in my heated recliner and mechanical bed …. it is a whirlwind of memories.  The ones that stand out are playing “drive through” with my gr-niece … making pretend smoothies and taco’s, feeding, burping and watching my other gr-niece sleep in my arms.  Being invited to join into the annual de La Mare Yosemite camping trip and sharing a site with Elise and Brad.  Standing before the actual hotel room where Martin Luther King was murdered … so many thoughts on where America has come from … and where we still need to go.  Walking into a McDonald’s in Nashville to see a “retired” country singer on stage entertaining the guests.  Going to “The Gate” church in Franklyn, TN and reconnecting with my “college & career” pastor and his wife.  The AMAZING sun rises in the midwest and Rockies.  Watching a buck elk enter and secure a new “sister wife” into his pack.

Susan and Sandi’s day of Fun (said all nasally like Janice from Friend’s).  Visiting my mom’s home town and childhood home in Denver, CO. and most of all watching the light in my mom’s eyes while we were in Memphis/Graceland.  It was not an easy trip, but most likely will always be one of my favorites.

Because the Business Manger in me has never truly left … I also have to take note of what I learned along the way.  1) Family will always be family; but it is most intimate while in the actual presence of their smiles, jokes and tears. 2)  Never underestimate the little memories you create with your young’s … they likely have greater impact than realized.  (We made a welcome poster every time the O’Brien’s came to visit … JohnE had one waiting for us upon our arrival …. it meant everything to me … especially when he shared what those posters had meant to him as a child).  When the midwest gives out a travel advisory … they are NOT kidding!  3) 5-6 hours is my traveling limit, not 7-10.  4) Going to the effort to have pre-made dinners in the freezer was genius … (as long as we remembered to take one out each night…). 4) I likely have waaaaay to many kitchen accessories and clothes at home.  5) I will never grow weary of freely traveling, adventuring, discovering what lies in this great country we call America.


A rare moment when all 3 of us are together in a photo … mom’s favorite pic and destination … Probably encompasses the joy of our entire trip
This man … my constant … my rock … never wavering in sun or storm … always by my side.
this look … it is the one that told me we had “bonded”. P and I were texting each other words, emoji’s, GIF’s … she found a particularly funny one and couldn’t wait to see my expression.
p.s. – I really, really want this …


Western Wyoming, Utah and the Great Salt Lake

IMG_3205The western part of the Wyoming is unbelievably beautiful.  It is full of hills and valleys.  The clouds from the snow storm east of us and the fluffy clouds in front of us just added to God’s artwork.  I really enjoy going atop of a  hill, to see what is on the other side; on the other side is usually a valley followed by another hill to climb.  IIMG_3012n the “Ole’ Girl” (our 1996 Bounder) on a Ford E350 these hills were a bit of a challenge on the downhill side; our new motorhome (2018 Thor Freedom Elite that we named “66” after Route 66) is also mounted on a Ford E350.  The new motorhome has lots of power with its 6.1L 10 Cylinder Gas Engine and fantastic transmittion; it does all the work, all I need to do is put it in cruise control and it shifts up and down to hold the speed…..even on 6% grades.

IMG_5142Little America is a US40/I-80 tradition in my Family since 1951 and Sandi’s Family 1947; and was founded in 1934.  Little America is an oasis in the middle of the Wyoming Basin. At one time Little America was home to the world’s largest gas station, but has been replaced by the I-80 Travel Center in Walcott Iowa.  Little America is more than a gas station, it has a Hotel, Restaurant, Snack Bar, Gift Shop, Play Ground and its own US Post Office.

Both of our Families have ALWAYS stopped no mater the time of day to get an Ice Cream Cone…..the cone is now 75 Cents!!! Earlier in this trip we stopped at the Little America in Flagstaff Arizona and had our Ice Cream Cone….mine is always the swirl vanilla and chocolate.

We stopped for the night in a small town just 30 miles into Utah named Coalville, just 30 minutes from Park City the home of the 2002 Winter Olympics.  Coalville is one of several small towns along about 10 miles of the old US40 and the current I-80.  We noticed that each town had a population of about 1,000, no other Churches except each one had a fairly good size Mormon Church.   The RV park was clean, quiet and reasonable.

Heading down the balance of the Rockies into Salt Lake City you pass right off the interstate in front of the Olympic Ski Jump and other Ski venues.  We wondered how many accidents occurred from people gawking to get a good look at a jump.  We didn’t get any pictures of the final descent into Salt Lake City, but is it steep, winding, and with tall cliffs on both sides of the freeway…..I was on FULL ALERT!

I don’t know how to say this, but I always get a funny feeling when I’m in Salt Lake City.  I don’t ever get that feeling anywhere else in Utah……just Salt Lake City.  Sandi and I over the years have traveled from the top of Utah down to Ogden on I-84 and across the bottom of Utah visiting Arches, Coral Reef, Bryce and Zion National Parks and towns like St. George and Moab and I NEVER had the feeling I get in Salt Lake City.

IMG_3246Crossing the Salt Lake brings up so many memories, like a trip with my parents in 1964 to Ottawa Canada, the hometown of my Mom and Brother.  Our 1960 Chevrolet Belair was a nice car, but NO AIR….except of course the windows.  My parents always tried to hit the Salt Lake in the very early morning hours, but this trip it was a little later and a LOT HOTTER!!!  In the 60’s once you left Wendover, Nevada it was 100 miles before you saw much more than a small gas station located just 40 miles form Windover.  IMG_1644Today there is a nice rest area on both sides of Salt Lake, and still the gas station which is more modern and a bit larger……oh and we now have AIR!!!  The rest area on the west side of the lake is across from the Bonneville Salt Flats where in 1970 the land record was set at 622 mph.  The heat was not a problem today as it was between 21 and 36 degrees. Sandi did some of our on the road research and found out that the lake covers on the average 1,700 square miles of land, and was at a record low in 1963 of 950 square miles and in 1988 it was at historic high of 3,300 square miles.  The depth on an average years is approximately 16′. IMG_1646Salt Lake is a endorheic (has no outlet) which is what causes the high concentration of salt and other minerals.  Through learning this information we discovered the reason we see salt deposits in the Wyoming Basin and The Great Basin in Nevada is that they are both endorheic basins.


Hello Campers!  The interesting thing about Wyoming is ….. one hill and flat plain looks exactly the same to me as any other … total repeat.  However, this cowboy state also holds many memories for me.
My dad was raised in Cheyenne and our family would spend a week visiting my grandparents before heading over to Denver.  My greatest memories include going to Cheyenne’s Frontier Days (which I am happy to report is still an important event in the town), lunch at the “true” A&W Rootbeer … where my dad, grandpa and I once saw a cow hit by lightening, a bonding relationship over a 5 cent wager with my grandpa concerning the  Giants vs Dodgers final standings (I learned later he didn’t even like baseball … just me …) and always … a road stop at the Hwy 80 Little America.  We never passed by without a stop … once, I was asleep in the car and my mom and sister headed in for the traditional “soft serve ice cream” without me (I think it was 10 cents back then)… I may have eventually been able to “forgive” said moment, but clearly have never forgotten ………Anyway ……… just something special about this cowboy state.  

Utah’s greatest memories do not stem from my childhood … but, my adulthood … road tripping with my hubby (TODAY IS OUR 34TH ANNIVERSARY!!!).  Most include Elise, IMG_0038various sets of puppies dogs, one trip included my in-laws, and one most memorable trip included my niece, Leanne.  We road tripped to New Jersey for her high school graduation and then as Leanne would say … We “fired up the Ole’ Girl” we all jumped inside and drove back to California.  IMG_0041Everyone in the RV got to pick one destination stop which drew our map home.  Leanne chose the Grand Canyon, but of course we doodled through Bryce Canyon & Zion as well.  Love that part of Utah!

Happy Anniversary Mr. Hall!

Estes Park, Rocky Mountain NP and Denver

Our visit to Estes Park was to be the final three night stay of this Road Trip…..well the weather had a different thought.  I knew that an early winter storm could hit the Rockies or Sierras, so I had been watching “The Weather Channel” for weeks.  Well it started to happen while we were still in Indiana, I saw a storm that was potentially hitting the Rockies about the same time as us.  This early storm was to drop the temperatures more than 40 degrees in two days, then have them bounce back up about 30 degrees by the weekend.  

IMG_1622Our time in Estes Park and the in Rocky Mountain Park was short, but so good.  Estes Park is such a cute town with wonderful services (large Safeway with a Gas Station, Starbucks, McD’s, restaurants of all types, every bank you could want and great lodging from tent to luxury suites).  IMG_1623We have previously stayed in a National Park campground which is just four miles from town and the KOA on the north end of town; this trip it was to be Manor RV Park.  This is a great RV park that also offers tent camping and cabins.

Estes Park is not only a town for residents and visitors, but also wild life, … PLEASE don’t get to close.  Everyone has heard of the idiot that attempts to get the perfect picture of a wild animal, to only be nearly trampled or worse.  We definitely saw these idiots in action.  In the National Park the rangers were visibly present to make sure everyone stayed safe, the rangers weren’t in town or the RV Park to do the same.  While enjoying a seven point Elk Buck resting next to a large bush across from our site, we watched people getting in feet of him to get the perfect picture.  

One night a family was setting up their trailer and not watching their two and four year old children heading down the street just two sites from the Elk Buck.  I was sure that the dad didn’t know the buck was there….until I started to tell him and he said “oh yeah isn’t that cool”.   The next afternoon we were watching two young Mule Deer Bucks showing off their dominance to the two Mule Deer Doe; when all of a sudden a man came out of his trailer drinking a beer to watch within six feet of the smaller buck….not even watching the larger buck who wasn’t happy with the younger buck in the first place.   

IMG_1628To top it all off I was heading to Safeway one evening for a dessert and saw a HUGE Elk Buck and his (about) ten doe.  They were walking on McDonald’s lawn grazing and heading towards the main drag….BTW the wild life ALWAYS has the right of way!   As I turned in to Safeway’s parking lot I witnessed people walking on McDonald’s sidewalk within feet of the ladies while taking pictures of the Buck.  I parked, came back within a safe distance and got this picture; its the best I could get of the idiots and a few of the Elk Doe, the Buck wasn’t in my shot and I was NOT taking any chance of being called an idiot.  

Estes Park has all the tourist shops you could want, with everything from Rocky Mountain National Park T-Shirts, Mugs, Key Chains, etc. to the Caramel Corn and Fudge shops.  If your hungry for more than a sweet, there are craft brewers and trendy eateries.  Don’t worry if your short on the bucks, there is always Safeway’s Deli, McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, DQ and more.  Here is the funny thing, gas was actually cheaper in Estes Park than it was in Denver.

Rocky Mountain National Park is a beautiful park with lots of wildlife.  We only saw elk and antelope on this trip in the park.  The leaves on the Aspen are beginning to show off their wonderful fall colors.  One of the jewels of the park is the Beaver Meadows Entrance Visitor’s Center.  IMG_1626The first time we visited the park years ago, I was SURE that the building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as I took a course in college that followed his career.  I was waking around the building convincing myself that it really was a Wright design…..well I was close it was designed by Tom Casey a Frank Lloyd Wright Design Principles.  IMG_1627Frank Lloyd Wrights style was to match the natural surroundings and select material for their weathering over time qualities.

Our time in Denver was to take Betty, my Mother-In-Law, on a walk down memory lane.  Sandi will share more of that experience.  This was actually my first time in Denver outside of the airport.  I’ve been in the surrounding communities several times, but never in the city.  Denver has lots of unique skyscrapers, and sports Arenas hugging the freeways.  Our visit was REAL short, so we’ll need to come back and explore some more of the Denver culture.

Now back to that storm.  We arrived on day one of four in Estes Park to 68 sunny degrees, with the next day not to much different.  It was hard to believe that within 24-36 hours it would be snowing,  Not being dummies, we cut our visit short by one day.  We knew we wanted to continue west on I-80 weather permitting.  The forecast on “The Weather Channel” had the west side of the storm hitting Laramie, so we looked for an RV Park about 100 miles west of Laramie.  We found one in the Green River Valley that fit the bill.  After a beautiful day of travel we arrived and settled in.  Waking up at 1am I checked the weather radar once more and saw it was still east of us, so went back to sleep.  Early this morning (4am…ish) Sandi received several weather advisories on her phone that snow was possible in our area.  It was to dark to see any clouds, but knew it was COLD outside (got down to 16 degrees).  We got up and were planning on a 9ish departure.  I got dressed to take the puppies outside for a short walk (key word short it was 16!), as I opened the door I noticed the ground was white to look up and see huge snow flakes!!!   The puppies did their business, we packed up and were out of there in less than 15 minutes.  The snow let up a little, so I drove with great caution heading for a sunnier west horizon on I-80.   The snow let up, but there was still signs of overnight snow on the ground along the freeway as we headed west to say goodbye to the Rockies.

IMG_0001Hello Campers!  Our time in Denver was very special to both my mom and I.  Denver does not look anything like it did back in the 60’s when our family traveled there every summer to visit my great-grandparents (“GGP”). IMG_0002 2.jpegAs a newborn and young girl, my mom grew up in the house directly next door to her grandparents.  I barely remember that house, but have MANY great memories of my GGP’s house. IMG_0003 2.jpegMy mom and I conferred on memories … and also what we remember the house looking like; a nice size home with a huge front porch done in masonry work from the shop my grandpa worked at.  We remember the house being set up high from the street with many steps taking you to that beautiful porch.  When we arrived, my GGP’s house was MUCH smaller than we remembered … it had been painted a stark red color (really???!!!!) … and had only several small steps taking it to an average size porch.  It is so curious how the child-mind remembers things much larger than they are!  My mom spoke of both her elementary school and the church she was baptized at being right around the corner.

That memory was absolutely accurate!  Her old elementary school was still standing (though undergoing a refurbishment project … I am sure well needed …) and the church … still standing with the same name was also in great condition.  We traveled around the several blocks … more than several times and then headed off to the cemetery where moms grandparents were buried.  (BTW – we checked Zillow on my GGP’s house and were shocked to find that it sold several years back for $400,00!!!!  We guessed it would be $300,000 at the most!).  Off to the cemetery my GGP’s were buried in.

We found the cemetery and “block #” (covering a huge amount of land) with relative ease … Barry saw some workmen on the other side of the block # and crossed to ask them if they recognized my GGP’s name.  The workman pointed to a plot just several feet from where Barry was standing. IMG_2921Mom sat down and at my GGP’s plot and began to share some great memories with me while Barry went off to the administration office to find my mom’s older brothers’ plot who had died several hours after his birth..  The most entertaining memory mom shared was that my GGM had a drawer for mom to keept her coloring books in.  Mom being the curious child she was (and still is!) … decided to check out the other drawers in the china cabinet.  She discovered a piece of paper “bequeathing” their earthly possessions upon their death.  Mom put a big X on the names mentioned and wrote hers in (with a color crayon) ….. I sooooo can picture this!  Barry arrived back and took us to the “baby section” … so sad … that was somewhat randomly within a huger “family section”.  This time we weren’t so lucky and it took a lot of determination and patience to find the plot. IMG_2922Mom of course has no memories of her brother … but, I could tell she felt a connection viewing the reality of his life.  I was never one to visit cemeteries, but have come to understand that some of the strongest and greatest memories can be found there.

This post is a bit longer than usual … but these blog’s are just as much a chronicling of Barry and mine lives’ and journey’s for ourselves as they are to share them with others.



IMG_0002 2.jpeg

Waukee, IA and the American Great Plains

I love the American Great Plains, and some day hope to be able to cross the Canadian Great Plains on a future trip.   I-80 skirts along the bottom of Chicago as you head west from Indiana towards the Great Plains and it is an extremely busy freeway.  Though the official plains don’t start until you cross the Mississippi, western Illinois is very similar terrain with fields of corn and soybeans.

Crossing the Mississippi is something I always enjoy, this is our fourth time crossing it this trip (Arkansas to Tennessee, Tennessee back to Arkansas, Missouri to Kentucky, Illinois to Iowa).  The shoreline of the Mississippi changes drastically as you go down river as the banks of the lower river are more industrial, and the banks of the upper river are more lush with beautiful homes and boat docks.

We always stop at the Mississippi River on the Iowa side of the river to take in it’s beauty.

It is amazing how much corn we have seen on this trip, it is a crop in every state we visited since the Texas Panhandle!  The crops scattered among the corn varies as we’ve seen rice, sorghum, cotton, wheat, and soybeans.

Iowa and Nebraska are two LONG states with fields along I-80 for as far as you can see growing mostly corn and wheat.  The largest cities you go through on the interstate in these two states are Iowa City, Des Moines, Omaha, Lincoln and North Platte……that’s it folks for over 800 miles!  Now the small towns you do go through all have there own story and are an important part of the plains.  The old Lincoln Highway went through these small towns, but the are set back a few miles from the interstate.

In Nebraska I-80 follows the Platte River for nearly 300 miles.  The river is actually a system of canals, ponds and small lakes along the narrow shallow valley that stretches across the state; and has a very sandy shore line.  This valley is also the home to the California and Mormon Trails.  We didn’t stop this trip, but there is a great Rest Area at Nebraska mile marker 180 on east bound I-80.  Here is a picture I took years ago at this great site. cropped-06-07-08_0118_edited-1.jpgThese rings are the metal bands of wagon wheels and mark the trails, which you can still see today going off through the corn; they have actually preserved some of the trail’s grooves below glass.  There is also a great attraction at mile marker 275 near the town of Kearney, Nebraska, named “The Archway”. IMG_1595This arch spans I-80 with a museum of the great expansion of the American West which spans from the California and Mormon Trails to the Lincoln Highway and I-80.  There is a portion of the old brick highway from old Lincoln Highway, gathered and brought to this site by Brian Cassler as part of his Boy Scout Eagle Project.  This old motel sign and Lincoln Highway mile marker are also from Kearney.

The Lincoln Highway Mile Markers (3,400 in total) were placed by Boy Scouts from coast to coast as the Lincoln Highway was the most direct route from New York to San Francisco.   There is so much history on this roadway….we pick up pieces each time we cross and stop at new places, and sometimes our favorites.

Before I hand this post of to Sandi, I must give you one more very important detail of this trip.  We went to McD’s today for a quick mid day bite, and I saw it… we HAD to get it!!!   BRING IT BACK to California!!!!

Hello Campers!  Welcome to Sandi & Susan’s Day of Fun!   Susan is a close friend and my very 1st official prayer-partner.  She moved to Des Moines, Iowa quite a while ago … but, since her property backs onto highway I-80 … we have had the blessing to visit her on most of our cross country trips.  Susan and I have a hard time keeping up via any kind of communication system … but, when we are together, it is “that thing” where it seems no time has passed.  

59197884705__F160676A-DC68-4219-87B8-87609F5F62B3Our Saturday morning started with Susan’s family at what must be Des Moines best breakfast place … Mullets.  Though other things on the menu definitely caught my eye … I determined to try one of the items they are “known for”, “The Morning Mullet” (2 eggs, hash browns served on top of a half order of biscuits and gravy).  I have never had biscuits and gravy … but, needed to give it a whirl.  I learned I am not really a “gravy” fan on my eggs and hashbrowvs (which were EXCEPTIONAL) … and enjoyed my meal anyway.  

After breakfast, Susan and I split off and went to visit her daughter, Jessie, who lives with 4 other gals in a beautiful home not far away.  It was fun to catch up with Jessie.  Such a beautiful woman inside and out.

Next up for Sandi & Susan’s Day of fun was pedicures, shoulder & head massages and a walk around the lake.  It was glorious!  We ended our day by inviting the boys for Thai food and yummy, fresh homemade ice cream.  

Barry’s plan was to leave Sunday morning by 8:00 … … … but, we didn’t quite meet our deadline.  I snuck over to Susan’s house for morning coffee … and Barry had to come retrieve me.  

Again, it is human, person to person, even if time presses on … real, live, I can touch you, hug you, see your smiles and tears, relationships that I prefer. 

Hobart, Indiana

We originally planned this whole trip to take place late last spring after our Daughter’s, Elise, wedding.  Plans changed when our Nephew, JohnE, and our Niece-In-Law, Alisha, called us and asked if we could come in late September instead.  As we’ve mentioned in an earlier post this is my Mother-In-Law’s, Betty, bucket list and Great Grand Daughter Trip.  Alisha and JohnE announced that they were expecting a second child in mid September……so I adjusted the trip I already had planned for May/June and made it a September/October Trip.  We use to plan our trips along with a spreadsheet to guesstimate gas and lodging costs.  I’m SO GLAD that we were able to be in Hobart, Indiana to meet the newest member of our Family!!!   Sandi will share more below.

Hobart is one of many small towns that stretch from the State Line at Gary Indiana across the bottom of Lake Michigan.  These small towns are on the outskirts of corn fields and amongst beautiful small forest.  Some of the business are older, but a lot are new business along the main routes between the towns.

IMG_2618 2One of the many short trips we took around the area, mostly to enjoy food, was to Gary Indiana and the home of the Jackson Five, LaToya and Janet.  Gary Indiana still has a few steel mills, but suffered a big blow many years ago when the American Steel market shrank. B0382D24-E9EC-4F9F-AADA-813CE83EDF6E 2The Jackson’s home has been restored, but the balance of the neighborhood has seen better days.  Some of the homes in the neighborhood have been taken care of with a  majority are in shambles with mold growing on the outside walls.

Now for Sandi’s thoughts on our stay in Hobart!

Hello Campers!  Our time in Hobart with my nephew, niece, and 2 niece-lettes was blessed.  We loved our adventures … but loved spending time with our loved ones more.  

I started writing this huge “blog” thing about our adventures and the great food we had eaten … but, what I really want to share is the meaning of family to me.  I have been blessed to have my husband’s family live in somewhat close proximity to us our entire marriage.  We have always been “there” for each other … the in-laws, the cousins, the nieces, the nephews … there was never a question if we would show up for each other … we just always did.  The show up included times of physical & emotional support, moving days and holiday’s where we talked theology, politics, made great food, laughed and were aware of a bond that would never be broken.  We watched each other grow in both childhood and parenthood. Though it still requires intention; It is easier to establish the bond of family with those who live in closer proximity.  

It is much more difficult with those who live afar … but absolutely not impossible.  

The last time my 6 year old niece, Peighton, was in the same room with me was a bit over 5 years ago on her very 1st birthday.  10351377_10202458138562885_5126903668528148850_n.jpgShe does not remember that day … or even the princess cupcake birthday cake Barry and I made for her.  But when we showed up “curbside” to their Indiana home 5 days ago … IMG_1553-1I saw a huge banner welcoming us in the front yard … and a 6-year-old body jumping up and down announcing “They’re here!  They’re here!”  With full confidence, she ran out to greet us and administered hugs.  My niece-in-love, Alisha, has always been determined in her efforts to share our photos and FaceTiming so Peighton would know who her California family is.  No, Peighton did not always want to participate in all of the face-tivities … but, she heard our words of love, the inflections in our voices.  I am grateful.  IMG_2606I know 3 week old Brooke will know the same.

Though we totally enjoyed our time adventuring out into the surrounding area with them … what we enjoyed more was watching my nephew and niece-in-love parent their 2 children with such love … with a maturity you can’t perceive at age 6 or 12 or 18.  IMG_1554We enjoyed our meals at their favorite spots (Rise & Roll & Portillo’s.  IMG_1555Don’t get me wrong, they were 10 stars out of 10) … but, enjoyed much more having my nephew treat us to his homemade meals of Hamburger Soup and Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells; recipe’s compliments of his “other wife” The Pioneer Woman.

Without a doubt … the most enjoyable moments were spending quality time with the girls.  I am honored to hold the title as the “burp-master” and know that Brooke and I totally bonded in a “newborn” sort of way”.   Beyond precious … was my time with Peighton.  We determined the motorhome’s screen door handle “pass through” was a pretend drive through … she was the window attendant, taking orders and cashiering … and I prepared smoothies and taco’s … complete with sound effects.  Of course an adult conversation was happening all the while we were working our butts off!  Her imagination kept us in stitches.  This morning before we left they came to say good bye and of course we had to take a few last orders.  It was raining outside so instead of a drive thru … she sat in the motorhome drivers seat and we became a working food truck.  I will treasure the time forever.

Texting, Face Timing, Instagram, definitely have their place in keeping us connected … but it is human touch that creates the real bond of memories that makes us intimate family.

Music City & More

Nashville is a town full of music…..mostly Country, but a lot more!  Each trip we have take in something different.  The Grand Ole Opry was in the books for 2012 when we saw Josh Turner, Thomas Rhet and Chris Young all the same night at the Opry.  We both remember the tickets not costing an arm and two legs, boy has that changed!  The two nights we were in town this trip didn’t have any big names, or entertainers we were dying to see…..especially with ticket being from $50 to $90.  Instead we enjoyed the other venues of the Opry, and Music Row in downtown Nashville.

IMG_1525So if you know me or follow me you KNOW I love McD’s!   I really love how some McD’s are themed perfectly for the city they are located.  The McD’s down the block from the Grand Ole Opry has a Music City theme and is setup as WMAC Radio station, with old mics, banjos, guitars, etc.   On Thursdays through Sundays they have LIVE Country Music!!!   The guy was great playing mostly older Country Songs.

IMG_1536On our trips around town we couldn’t help from noticing the many bike busses with young people drinking and having a great time!  Most seemed under control, but there were the few that looked like they better not let their Daddy see them until they sober up.  The lower blocks of Broadway were packed morning, noon and night with lines of people attempting to get in for a bite and a song.  As you drive down the street you hear great music from someone dreaming of break-in to Big Time!IMG_1529

Our Son-In-Law, Brad told me that I really needed to try a “Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich”.  Now he has never had one, but heard that they are amazing.  Sandi and I try to experience a new meal “just as it comes”…, I was a little worried since the name had “HOT” in it!  We asked four different people all over town where we should go to get the best “Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich”, EVERYONE said without a hesitation “Hattie B’s”, so Hattie B’s it was going to be!  We stopped at the first one at 11:30am with a temperature of 90 and saw a line of no less than 40 waiting outside in the hot sun and humidity!!!; so  on to another one a little further out, just to find a line of at least 30, the third one wasn’t much better, so we went on to the Nashville Green Hills Apple store… that is another story which has a guest star our niece Brittany!  Well we did make it to Hattie B’s, fourth store further out of the main Nashville downtown area and at 6:30pm the line was down to 20.  The good news is that the line was in the shade and moved fairly quickly.  Now for the critique……AMAZING!!!  

Hattie B’s serves the sandwich in four heat levels (Southern, Mild/Medium, Hot, Damn Hot) I tried the Mild/Medium with a side of Ranch Dressing to use as a fire extinguisher.  I HIGHLY recommend the sandwich and not to go over Mild/Medium unless you add a side (fries, mac n’ cheese, bbq beans, cole slaw, red potato salad, side salad).  Sandi had the Southern Fried Chicken which was a mild bbq fired chicken with two sides.  Between the two of us we tried the fries, bbq beans and red potato salad……let’s say that we WILL BE BACK!!!   Note there are a few restaurants outside of Nashville…..the closest one to us would be in Vegas…..just one more reason to go to Vegas!

Hello Campers!  I love Nashville … the music … the culture IMG_2517.jpeg … the southern kindness … but, this year we hit Nashville on a Friday & Saturday …. HUGE culture shock for me.  While the music and southern kindness was still there … the town culture turned into that of a huge party … day and night.  I was content, for the most part, touring down Broadway whenever possible in the car.

An unexpected detour was taken to the Green Hills Mall Apple Store.  Sadly, my computer incurred unrepairable fluid damage.  I was devastated.  OVER A COMPUTER!!!!  I worked at getting over it … and to my surprise and self controversy accepted Barry’s gift of a replacement.  My niece Brittany did all the Apple Magic to have one ready for us before we left town.  I am humbled.

IMG_2548.jpegWe headed out of Nashville toward Indianapolis … with a slight detour to Franklin, TN to go to the church service (at The Gate) of my former “college & career” pastor (1972-1985) from my spiritually foundational church in San Jose, Calvary Community.  When guest speakers would come to visit Calvary they always said; “something is different here”.  I never understood what they were talking about until we moved and tried discovering new home churches.  Calvary was definitely a church gifted in prayer.  It birthed my gift of prayer … and their worship was as “pure” as I have known.  It was “different”.  A huge amount of Calvary can be found at The Gate … but, it has its own giftedness in both prayer and the mission field.  The time of musical worship and praise was blessed.  I am so thankful Barry planned a detour … timing it exactly on a Sunday … so I could head back to my spiritual roots.

Moving on to Indianapolis allowed us to have breakfast IMG_2562.jpegwith a friend, Jason Morrissey, from our 1st church in the Delta area … Easthills Christian Church.  What was “different” at Easthills than any other church I have known was the gift of fellowship and family.  Though the families have since gone several different directions in the US … we all still stay in touch … and are going to plan a reunion within the next several years.  

We are excitedly heading towards our next stop … Hobart, Indiana … so Great Grandma can spend quality time with her 2 great granddaughters. (me too!!!!!!)

National Quilt Museum

IMG_2456Our next stop was to be Kentucky…..well that wasIMG_2457 after leaving Tennessee to go back across the Mississippi River heading back into Arkansas; we followed the Mississippi River into Missouri; then went back across the Mississippi (on a NARROW two lane bridge) within a mile we were crossing the Ohio River (on a slightly wider two lane bridge) into Kentucky; and within miles we stopped on the edge of the Ohio River just across the river from Illinois.  Did you follow that, there will be a test.  (This is Sandi … I failed!!!!!)

IMG_1485Why Kentucky?…… it was so we could visit the NationalIMG_1485 Quilt Museum……Sandi will share more on the museum below.  Paducah is another all American Town, built on the edge of a river which provided a trade route when the town was founded back in 1830.

The crops don’t change much from state to state other than we started seeing soybean fields for ever in Missouri.   IMG_2453Heavy wooded Ozark like forest line the fields and the highway; note the Ozark’s officially end about 100 miles west of the intersection of the five states (Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois).  Long hay like grass grows everywhere in these regions; it looks so clean and green along the highways.

Below is one of the pieces that blew me away at this show.  Fabric Art is like a fine painting, you have to back up to see the artists’ complete work.  The 1st picture on the right is a close up of the ear of the dog on the bottom left.  The pictures continue as I moved away and are further back from piece, so the individual fabric becomes a brush stroke of the artist pen.

My last comment is I can’t wait to see one of my Wifey’s Fabric Art pieces in the National Quilt Museum!  You’ll see my favorite piece of her work later in this trip’s blogs.  (This is Sandi ….. God love him!)

Hello Campers!  Paducah  was larger than i expected … and the kindness of the people in the south did not disappoint.  Our soul reason for the detour was to treat me to a view of the National Quilt Museum.  (I have now learned that there is an “International” Quilt Study Center & Museum in Nebraska …. guess where we are going next time we go north?!)

I learned a lot from visiting the museum.  I learned that I definitely enjoy art/landscape quilting over the art of pieced quilting … though much of the museum was pieced quilting and the quilts were made with unbelievable talent.  I seemed to enjoy the mini pieced quilts the best.  I am not even sure why except possibly that I don’t have to focus as much on all the lines, no matter how small or narrow, that need to … and do … match up to their partner.  It is mind boggling!

Moving on to the Landscape quilts … my free spirit was awakened and inspired.  I learned that I spend to much time “over detailing” my pieces … that I love the organic feeling

and view of fabric such as raw edges.  I didn’t realize how much I was drawn to that organic feel until I was disappointed none were featured.  I also learned that I am drawn to taking objects out of their original color form and presenting them in a new one.  Within this last year … I did my first “human” piece.  I made it of a friend … my BFF’s sister who had recently passed.  I decided to do it in orange and purples with a tad bit of a Picasso feel.  Her husband definitely recognized it was “Lisa”, but wondered why their was a “mask” on her face … and the Ode’ to learning continues.  I have only taken 3 classes in any form of quilting … and 2 of the teachers had at least one piece in the museum … Pat Durbin and Melinda Bula.  My class with Melinda really sent me in the direction of thread painting.

Pat Durbin 8 1/2″ x 11″. I kept the Trunk Show info in the picture so it is easier to appreciate the reality of the Landscape “mini” Quilt. I can tell you …. smaller is harder!
Melinda Bula 36″ x 24″. I eventually realized Melinda was in process of making this piece when I took her class. She shared that her only son was heading into the military and she was making a piece to honor him.


Lastly what I learned is that I am now a bit of a fabric art snob … it’s OK … I can own it.  When I heard a docent sharing information to a guided tour group … I wanted to step in and expand on the truth of creativity and freedom … its ease and difficulties.  Instead … Barry and I left that area because it was almost painful for me ….

Below are a few of my favorites …

Memphis – Full of Sole

IMG_1451This is Sandi’s and my second time to Memphis, the first in 2006 was a quick stop as we were recovering from a motorhome issue a few days earlier in Nashville.  That trip we were only able to take in Graceland, and the small Elvis Museum across the street from the Mansion.  That is now all changed, the small Museum is four times larger.  The Graceland Museum has multiple eateries, shops and even an event center.


IMG_1474Graceland has multiple options for lodging right on the property!!!   Everything from Tent Camping to the Graceland Guest House! IMG_1475The Mission, Museum, Eateries and Gift Shops are just steps away.


As we approached Memphis, Sandi commented that what she remembered most about our last visit was how friendly everyone was; well that is still true today.  Sandi and I both are intentional about asking people who serve us in stores, restaurants, etc. how their day is going, today I got more surprised looks than usual….it made me wonder if even though we find the people very friendly that the people who visit aren’t necessarily friendly to the people of Memphis.   

IMG_1472Memphis is a lot more than Elvis; it is a city that is everything from ports (train, plane and ship); home of Beale Street full of Blues, Jazz, and great eateries; and the National Civil Rights Museum.  Memphis is definitely a city that we will be visiting again to really take in its culture, Beale Street, and the National Civil Rights Museum.  IMG_1470An interesting place that Sandi looked up for me was a pyramid that we saw from the Memphis/Mississippi waterfront and turned out to be a “Bass Pro Shop”.  IMG_1466She found out that it was originally meant to be an arena but then Bass Pro Shops bought it, put in a 103 room lodge, eateries, Ducks Unlimited Water Fowling Heritage Center, Aquarium & Fish Feeding Center, and 360 degree views of Memphis from the sky deck.   

We didn’t have time this trip to take in the National Civil Rights Museum, but did pay our respects by visiting the outside which in part is the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered.  It is so sad to realize that anyone would want to end Dr. King’s life and peaceful movement.  I pray people that visit this spot, honor Dr. King’s life and take at least a small step to help continue his peaceful movement.

One last thought for Memphis.  It is right on the Mississippi border to the south.  We needed some RV supplies and Camping World was in Mississippi!!!  So what could we do but go all of two miles into Mississippi and claim another state under our belt.  Ok, it would be the same as saying just because I changed planes in Atlanta that I’ve been to Georgia…..but yes, I’ve now been to Mississippi and paid real sales tax!   


Now for Sandi’s thoughts on Memphis…… 

IMG_2412.jpgHello Campers!  The best part about Memphis was that my IMG_2416.jpgmom kept saying:  “This is a dream come true!”.  That makes a dream come true for me too.  We only had one full day in Memphis but definitely got a lot in.  After our time at Graceland, we traveled only a few blocks down the road to find the home my maternal grandpa was born and partially raised in.  Sadly, the entire block was stripped to the ground from what was likely a fire but, we did see the surrounding houses and got a feel for the area.  It brought up many wonderful memories my mom had of growing up.  


IMG_2426.jpgVisiting the Lorraine Motel was very daunting.  The reality IMG_2423.jpgthat it was one of the only hotels that offered African Americans overnight accommodations in the 60’s took a few minutes to register.  I wished we had time to walk through the Civil Rights Museum but am glad we have it on our “must do” list. 


IMG_2437Beale Street – LOVED IT!  My senses were on overloadIMG_2445.jpg with the sounds of “good” blues & jazz musicians in every nook and cranny …  bright lights announcing eateries that were pushing forth incredible smells of fresh baked bread and BBQ. Sooooo good!  While on Beale Street, I noticed an  unfortunate man with some disabilities smiling at our puppy dogs.  I took Franklyn over to introduce him … and I will never forget the smile he gave from a simple act of kindness and attention.