Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Summer of 2015

finally posted December 9, 2015

Go Blue!

At my cousin Norm's home in Ann Arbor, Michigan prior to our Celebration of Lori's Life Garden Party.   Dad is in front , L-R Linda and Dan, Julie, Shirley, Mary, and Norm's wife Ilene.  Back row L-R Joseph, Norm and Ilene's son, Jim, Norm, Dave and Don.  It was an evening filled with joy, as Lori had wished.

On the road has taken on a different meaning for us this summer. Instead of up and down the mountains, or across the barren desert, or ooing and aahing along the coastline, we have been traveling through what the “Michiganders” call the Irish Hills. Hills? In Michigan? Tall dunes maybe, but no, not hills!
During our first month here we made the trip from southwestern Michigan to Ann Arbor and back at least 12 times, taking care of what needed to be done at Lori's, Julie's sister who passed this spring. Lori was a single lady (with a boyfriend) who lived in a 12 room house full of “stuff”. Lots of clothes, art work everywhere, and furniture (OMG one neighbor told us that he helped her carry a couch to the basement and it was her ninth). Lori liked things! She used to tell stories of her college days when she just loved to go out the night before “trash day” and find all the great stuff (furniture) that people were actually throwing away! She had so many interesting and beautiful things, showing the real artist side of her personality.

Julie, Mary, and Linda spent many tearful days sorting through Lori's things.  It is truly sad discovering how the precious and meaningful items anyone spends a lifetime accumulating and cherishing, that simply devoid of memories, lose their importance to someone else. When someone is single, the significance and meaning behind things is not easy for others to understand. Why was that rock on the shelves in the dining room? What is the meaning of a drawer of buttons, ribbons, and matches? What do you do with the boxes full of awards and certificates she accumulated for doing special things for special people! The last couple of years Lori attempted to identify items she truly treasured and to let it be known who she wished to have these things. However, it just became too much of an emotional task for her, and the division was left to the three sisters. Their brother Don was very grateful that they handled that huge task, as he was, and is, handling the complicated legal sides of everything.

We have been so blessed to have Julie's cousin Norm and his wife Ilene living in Ann Arbor.  They are a very large part of this family.  They were so close to Lori and when they offered to have Lori's wished for Garden Party in their beautiful back gardens, we were so happy.  It was such a special final gift to her

A light moment in downtown Ann Arbor, Julie, Mary and Linda.

Two years ago, following my Father's death, we closed up the house my parents had lived in for 69 years, and attempted to distribute things to those we felt would love and treasure them. Last year we sold our “stick” house and attempted to distribute things to those we felt would love and treasure them. This year we closed Lori's house and attempted to distribute things to those we felt would love and treasure the thought behind them. WE ARE DONE. The last few weeks we have just sorta sat and stared and felt like doing nothing. It is truly amazing the complete exhaustion one feels after such an ordeal.

Lori loved her neighbors and was always doing things for the children. She had recently installed a “Little Free Library” in her front yard, a place that she and they shared books. There was always someone sitting on her log bench reading, often a parent and a child, or choosing and placing books. It was a real gathering place and we were so pleased when her next door neighbors, the Page family, asked to have it placed in their yard to continue in her name.

Lori's gift to her neighborhood children, a Little Free Library.

Our nephew Joshua's daughter Avry, reading a book in Aunt Lori's yard on the reading bench.
We were hoping to sit back and enjoy being in one place for the summer, but as with all great plans, that didn't happen. The campground we had planned to do our 'sitting back in' was full when we got to Michigan. So we opted for a different campground and attempted to settle down, however, that didn't work out. I got to sit back and relax. Julie, however, was gone to Ann Arbor. After we were here in Michigan ending our ninth week, we realized that Julie had spent a total of four days in the campground. Not too much sittin' and laxin' for the “old girl” this year. 

If you remember we had a trailer tire blow-out as we were leaving Montana back in June. While Julie was out doin' and not sittin' I took the trailer to Middlebury, Indiana (40 miles) twice. Once for an estimate, and the second time to have the damage fixed. I also moved the trailer from our original campground to our desired campground in Berrien Springs when a campsite opened up for us.

Julie enjoyed the beach as often as possible.  She says it feeds her soul.

Sunset at St. Joseph's Beach with cars headlights heading home, a children's large play fountain on the left and the Carousel House in the right foreground.   The sun setting over the big Lake is a show you never tire of. 
We have loved being able to visit with family and friends, something that we missed while on the road. Luckily we were able to squeeze in a trip to Ohio/Indiana to see kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and friends. Then after finishing up in Ann Arbor Julie was able to make Doctor and Dentist appointments all packed in one week, so we escaped for lots of poking and prodding by various Doctors of various parts of our anatomies. (fun!) All is well and we can head out on new adventures with confidence that we may be older, but are pretty doggone healthy. 
Great - Grandaughter Kelsey Rae

Great Grandson Lucas and Great Grandaughter Lauren with friends

Dad with Flynn, Avry's little brother.

Grandson Max playing with hats at The Carousel and Children's Curiosity Museum

Dad with Tammy and her two, Grandaughter Alexandra and Grandson Zachary

Nana and Alex

Kara, Max and Jack, playing together

 We took a day to do something fun and drove to Saugatuck, Mi, about an hour north, and went on a Dune Buggy ride. It was a cooler day and we had a great time.

An empty dune buggy in the dunes

The views out over Lake Michigan from the dune tops was just beautiful.

Enjoying the afternoon in the dunes

Some climbing got us to the top of the dunes.

Julie grew up in the St.Joe area, but has not lived here around family since she left in the fall of 1967. She is really enjoying (when she can) being around family for the first time during her adult life. One of our great pleasures has been being able to take her Dad down to the beach and play cards. For those who know us, you know that Julie “always” keeps score and as “always” she wins!!! It isn't that she wins all the time, it's just that “quiet, wicked” laugh she has after winning!  Al loves to play cards, his favorite entertainment.

Al and me having a chat before lunch and cards.

Dad and Julie getting ready for a game of "65".

Lion's Beach, St. Joseph

Leaving Michigan we stopped in Goshen, Indiana for the annual Montana Rally. Always great friends, great food, and great times!!! We spent 10 days there enjoying the surroundings. 

Lined up at the Montana Rally in Goshen, Indiana.

It's Fall in Amish Country, Shipshewana, Indiana.

Shopping in Shipshewana

Sunset over the Montana Rally.
Our first year on the road has been to say the least, fantastic. It has allowed us to check a whole lot of things off our bucket lists. There are still a few things left, so we have decided to soldier on for more! The one big question we had was finances. Could we really live cheaper on the road than we did in our stick house, or at least close to our usual expenditures.

In an effort to enhance the wonderful USA we have found that we eat out more, so +. Whenever we could we stayed longer at a campground for a cheaper per night cost, whether it was a weekly or monthly rate, it helped. Fuel costs - this first year we spent $5400 on fuel, but we traveled 21,000 miles! We have been told that it really is cheaper to live on the road than in a “stick” house but I had my doubts – I hate to say so but as always Jim was right!!! (that note was written by Jim of course!)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Settlin' down

written July 9, 2015
Lolo Peak at sunset

Even though this blog is entitled “On the Road” we haven't been a lot lately. We settled down for a month in Missoula, Mt. at our favorite park, Jim and Mary's. Beautiful park with flowers planted throughout the park each spring. For the summer months starting in June, each Wednesday evening the people of the park are treated to the vocals of LeGrande Harvey and Rod Bod. LeGrande is a singer/songwriter (his brother wrote Delta Dawn for Tanya Tucker, and Ruben James for Kenny Rogers) who shares his love for the beauty of Montana. Rod is a Native American who lends his own style for a most enjoyable evening of entertainment. To round out the evening, Huckleberry ice cream is served following the entertainment. If you have not experienced huckleberry ice cream, then you have not experienced ice cream!!!! However, this year, due to circumstances beyond MY control we departed Missoula on June 2nd. That's right it was Tuesday, no songs and no ice cream for this unhappy camper. So with a face longer than the entire trip so far, we headed east.
Jim and Mary's Campground, Missoula, Mt.

Flower beds were just planted throughout - they will be lush in just a few weeks.

While in Missoula we were just Missoulians, we did none of the touristy things we normally do. Didn't even make it to our favorite place on earth (sorry Mickey) Glacier National Park. However, before leaving Montana we were able to “squeeze” in a little camping trip with Travis, Jill, and Max. We hooked up Monty and headed north to postcard perfect Holland Lake National Forest Campground. OMG times a hundred. We canoed, made s'mores of course, or as Max says “s'nores”. The views just left us breathless.

Holland Lake, Montana

waiting for our evening campfire

Max loved his s'mores!

Snowy peaks surrounded Holland Lake

Travis, Max and Jill, heading out on a canoe trip across Holland Lake

Off across the lake they go

Missoula is a cool town. We fell in love with it the first time we were here fifteen years ago. No matter which direction you look you see mountains looking back at you. This time of year the tops are all snow covered. What beauty. The people are friendly and down to earth. Nothing pretentious, what you see is what you get. The downtown is thriving. You can drive, walk, or ride your bike downtown any evening and you will not be alone. The sunsets are stunning and the skies are usually clear. NO bugs!!! Got bears, deer, elk, prong horn, buffalo (and dung), mountain goats, mountain lions but no bugs!!! Whats not to love – you might be thinking Montana in the winter is not to love – but the winter months in Missoula are more temperate than what we used to experience in Dayton, Ohio!!! 

Double Arrow Lodge, Seeley Lake, Mt

A few from the back of the Lodge over the valley

Jill, Travis and silly 2 1/2 year old Max

Travis and Jill were married in this very spot at Double Arrow 5 years ago.

At The Double Arrow pond

Basically we did what we love best. We visited with family and did projects around the trailer, the park, and Travis and Jill's. Grandson Max, being 2 ½, kept his Nana very busy playing every imaginable thing that came into his mind!! Their tent under the table behind the couch was a secret place known only to the two of them, along with playing trains, riding bikes, and reading books at bedtime. She loved every minute, but also slept extremely well every night!!

A little chocolate on the strawberry, a little in the mouth, repeat!

Our time was up in Missoula so we packed up and headed east. The first night out we slept through a huge hail storm in Big Timber, MT. No damage to Monty or the Ford so we drove around lots of downed trees and piles of hail along the roadsides and hit the highway. 
A beautiful drive into eastern Montana

Spring Creek Campground and Trout Ranch in Big Timber, Mt.

One of the fishing ponds for all to enjoy.

The Beaver River was quite high next to the campground

More beautiful snow capped mountains in eastern Montana

 All went well for 20.2 miles. Then we were the experiencers of the (probably) most common happening for a 5th wheel owner, a blowout. A trucker somewhere ahead of us lost a bungy cord. The metal “S” hook still attached to part of the cord that was stealthily lying on the road, jumped up and found the front right tire on the trailer. The tire did not like this and immediately blew into about a hundred pieces, taking the trailers fender with it!! I walked to pick up the pieces/parts while Julie called AAA. For the first time in a long time (for us this trip) a nice guy came to our rescue and he wasn't driving a tow truck!!

Jim picking up the pieces of the blown tire along with broken pieces of the Montana

Pretty bad!
With spare mounted we proceeded on to Billings, where we purchased a new tire and then spent the night at the very first KOA campground.
With our desire to make it to Michigan as quickly as possible, we travelled as we haven't done in a long while. We took the quickest route with no side trips. We did, however, stop at Wall Drug in Wall, SD for a glass of “ice water” and breakfast after spending the night “camping” in a Cabela's parking lot near Rapid City. That night we stayed at the County Fairgrounds in Sioux Falls, and then in the morning we drove “home” across town. We actually parked our “house” in front of our “residence”, while we went inside and retrieved our mail. The Dakota Post employees are so wonderful and welcoming. (They even acted as if they were interested in our stories!)

Dakota Post Mailing Service in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

There is our address....
Jim flirting at Wall Drug

Arriving in Michigan we went directly to Spaulding Lake Campground in Niles. We had already made plans to spend the summer months here. After setting up and learning a little about our surroundings we were surprised the next morning by #1 daughter Donna, who after a three hour drive, acted as if she had missed us for the past year. The next day the three of us enjoyed walking the beach in St. Joseph, and then walked the downtown shops just like real tourists. We picked up Julie's Dad and took him with us to dinner at one of our favorite St. Joe restaurants, Silver Beach Pizza. The next day Donna headed home and Julie headed to Ann Arbor to spend the next ten days with her sister Lori.

Donna and Dad at St. Joseph's Silver Beach

Lori has been courageously battling cancer for the past five years, after being given an eighteen to twenty four month life expectancy. Julie came home on Friday afternoon, thinking that Lori was doing alright again and expecting to return in 2 weeks to celebrate Lori's birthday with her. Instead, following an urgent phone call the next morning, Saturday, she and her sisters rushed to Ann Arbor to be with Lori as she lost her final battle. Julie, Linda and Mary will forever be grateful that they were able to be there with her at that time, and know that she knew they were there. Lori was an adventurous and fun soul, and the youngest of Julie's 4 siblings. She leaves behind so many wonderful memories and a real empty hole in our hearts. We are so glad to have made it back in time.

miss you Lori....