Life

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Monday, May 30, 2011

Favorite Decorah Places

We spent almost 2 weeks in Decorah before graduation. Over the last 4 years we have been here often and have come to know and appreciate this little town. I thought I would share some of our favorite places here. If you visit Iowa, make time for this beautiful little town as it has much to offer.
I previously talked about Pulpit Rock Campground so I won't say too much here other than it is definitely a favorite campground. If you are a trout fisherman this little trout stream runs right through the campground.


This is a trail that you can use to walk downtown, it is beautiful along the river and cliffs. We rarely drive when we are here choosing instead to walk most places.
If you get an ice cream craving, you can't beat the Whippy Dip, it is always busy on a nice day. 
If you want to know the history of this area then a visit to the Vesterhiem Museum is a must. This is the premier Norwegian American Museum, the King of Norway has made several visits here. My maternal side of the family is very Norwegian and my grandfather, Olaf, would be proud his great grandson attended Luther. Actually several of his grandchildren also attended here.
Need a good cup of Joe, then Java John's is a great place. Good brewed coffee as well as lattes, etc.
The Oneota Co-op Grocery is right downtown and has a wonderful selection of organic foods and vegetables. We frequent it whenever in town. We actually walk down to shop and haul it back in our backpack.

This is our favorite place to eat, T-Bocks. They have a great breakfast as well as burgers, sandwiches. We always eat here multiple times when we are in town.
This shot is from a newer microbrewery in town. Stopping by Toppling Goliath and trying their latest craft beer is a must. They do usually have a couple of their brews on tap at T-Bocks too.

The only eatery I didn't get a photo of is McCaffery's Dolce Vita. It is about a mile outside of town but has great gourmet pizzas. 
If you like to canoe or kayak then the Upper Iowa river is a place for you. This is the River Outfitter than can rent you whatever you need and shuttle you upstream for a great float. The river has beautiful cliffs, a nesting Bald Eagle pair and beautiful scenery. 

So there is a little tour of Decorah, I hope you all get a chance someday to visit this little piece of heaven in Iowa.

Happy Trails..........................

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Graduation

This last week has been a busy one. Started with Mitchell’s graduation, back to CR so I can start work teaching my first class of the semester, John heads back to Decorah to move some of Mitch’s stuff back and it is now the holiday weekend. I haven’t taken the time to post so I think I will do several posts in the next couple of days instead of trying to stuff it all into one post.
Today I’ll just share Mitch’s graduation. He actually isn’t quite finished as he has some language credits to get this summer. He’ll be taking German at the U of Iowa this summer. It is a long story as to why he doesn’t have this done. Partly his own fault but also several snafus by the college. He actually has a semester of Norwegian that he didn’t get credit for because the program didn’t get that part of the curriculum approved as part of his abroad program. So he has to start over with a different language. 
The good part is, Luther allows anyone who will be graduating in 2011 to walk at graduation. They only have one commencement so for those of us that have had our kids here we get that opportunity to see them walk. A private college education is an expensive adventure for both us and Mitch so I feel we deserve that experience. The ceremony is outside at the stadium when the weather permits. The weather was very iffy in the morning but it looked like they could get it in before the rain. Luckily the rain held off, but the wind came up and caps were flying. During the benediction there was lightning in the distance.
The commencement was on Sunday morning but the graduates had been partying all week. The seniors get together and plan what is called Seniors week where there is a traveling party, each day at a different house. Mitch’s house party was Saturday. We headed over there after dinner and here is what my college son looked like. 
Really looks like a grad, don’t you think.
Mitch and his buddies and fellow grads. All having a good time!

Luckily he looked better the next day, though still a little bleary eyed.
To say we are proud parents would be an understatement. Now it is on to finding a job and entering the real world! I think the day he is employed is when we will really celebrate.
Happy Trails.........................

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fuel

Just a quick post. We filled up the truck today with diesel. Just $3.89 a gallon! That is $.15 less than our last fill up and the first time in a month that it was under $4. Starting to celebrate Mitch's graduation tonight. I may have to make a toast to lower fuel prices - even if it is temporary!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Exercise and the RV life

Power Blocks, adjustable 5-50lbs.

This is  topic that I have wanted to write about but have hesitated to do so. Why? Well because sometimes we are very disciplined and sometimes we aren’t and I never want anyone to think since this is the way we do it that everyone else should do the same. However, I do want to share a few things we have found that have helped us along the way. So here goes.

A couple years before we set out on the RV life John and I worked out with a personal trainer for over a year. Sometimes it was 2-3 times a week and later once a week.If you have the money and opportunity to this I highly recommend it. Learning correct form from a trainer is priceless. However, few of us have the money to keep that up indefinitely, so at some point we have to venture out on our own.  The first 6 months out on the road and several of the months ahead of leaving we didn’t do a very good job of keeping up with our training and consequently we both gained weight and lost muscle. At the first of this year we knew this had to change. 

Power Bocks 
When we set out on this journey we did try to prepare with some very basic equipment. We purchased PowerBlocks which are weights that adjust from 5 to 50 lbs, a stability ball, some exercise tubes and a couple yoga mats. So we had the tools just not the drive at the time. Around Christmas John started looking for books to help us actually map out our workouts and he stumbled upon a book You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren. Mark was Special Forces and now trains some of our Special Forces and his philosophy is to work out using only body weight and the tools you have around you. Living in n RV where space is at a premium this really appealed to John. Mark also contends that resistance (weight) workouts and maintaining strong muscles is more important that aerobic workouts. I won’t go into all the reasons, for that you need to read his book. One of the really great things about his book is he outlines a 10 week program for a beginner, intermediate and master class. There are also photos and explanations of all the exercises and how to modify them from easy to difficult.

John has now finished the Basic workouts and is starting the intermediate ones. I am finishing up week 7. We both have definitely seen our strength increase significantly. We did have to modify some things as Mark tends to use door handles and door frames for a couple things so we use conventional weights in the same muscle groups for those. We would highly recommend his program to any RVer who is looking for a workout program. 

I have started running again also. I have always loved to run but have been sporadic about it over the last few years. What did surprise me is that I was able to run about 20 minutes the first time out and now I’m at 24 minutes which is about 2+ miles for me (I am sloooow). When we were in Tucson I ran some but never got over 1-1/2 miles. So I was very surprised to make it 2 miles but it made me believe Mark’s chapter about aerobic fitness in the book.  Running is certainly not for everyone but I think we all can find something we enjoy doing whether it is walking, hiking, biking, anything that gets us moving. 

Our goal is not to be model thin or elite athletes just to be healthy enough to live long full lives. We were older parents and our boys like us will probably wait awhile to have their kids so our goal is to still be around and be healthy enough to enjoy our grandkids.

There is a little more to our story of trying to stay fit and I will tackle it (that dreaded diet part) in another post.

So anyone else out there trying to stay fit and have another idea or program?  We are always open to input on this subject.

Happy Trails.......

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fall and Winter Plans

View from our patio side


We have made a couple decisions this week about our fall/winter plans. John decided we should investigate doing seasonal work for Amazon. Several times the ad has come across our paths through Workamper News and RV friends we met last fall (Eveyln and Kevin of Chronicles of Kevilyn) had signed up to work for them.  He had me email them and ask a few questions. It is a lot of work, 40-50 hour weeks. They pay your campground fees and pay you for the work so with both of us working we could make a good amount in short period of time. So we contacted them, made the application, and had a phone interview. We are now scheduled to start November 6th at their Coffeyville, KS warehouse and will work until December 23rd.
What really prompted this move is John’s desire to do a solar upgrade to our rig. Financially it just made more sense to earn the money for this then to take it out of our savings. It may take a bit to get it done but it would be nice to do this within the next year. John has been doing lots of research and planning. I don’t remember the last time I saw him studying this much. This definitely appeals to the engineer in him, it is fun to see. I watch him read, take measurements, diagram out different possibilities. Go John!
We had also talked about staying on the gulf coast of Texas this winter. I found a place I wanted to try in Port O’Conner TX so I called and made a reservation for the month of January. So November ,December and January are planned out, after that who knows. Next summer we want to be in the Northwest to visit another brother of John’s and see his niece get married. There are lots of places to see between Texas and Washington.
We are still hanging out in Decorah, haven’t done as much as I hoped. John caught a cold and though he is feeling better he isn’t up to a long bike ride yet. Mitch finished up his classes but had some disappointing news today when he didn’t get the job in CR he had hoped for. Once graduation is over he will be spending a lot of time on the job hunt. He does have a couple classes to take this summer so that and the job search should keep him busy.
Happy Trails...................

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Time at Pulpit Rock

Our site at Pulpit Rock
This is a creek that feeds into the river on one side of us

We have been here now the better part of a week. We have been coming to this campground for about 3-4 years, with a tent before we had the 5th wheel. It is a beautiful place with lots of green grass that they are constantly mowing and are very protective of it, no parking on driving on or putting carpet on the grass. That’s ok with us as it is a wonderful carpet to walk on! At the beginning of the week we were the only ones in our loop but had several more rigs this weekend. It hasn’t been as busy as it usually is but I think the weather played a big part in that. Tuesday and Wednesday were very hot and humid and then Thursday the temps went back down and the rain came in. It stayed that way on and off until today. Today it is sunshine and in the 60s, a much better day. The weather this week is suppose to be much better. Yeah!!!!

This is the trout stream to the back of our rig. It
divides the park into two sections.
My youngest will graduated from Luther College next Sunday. His last exam is tomorrow. We have seen him a couple times. The first night here. He and friend Kurt (he is from CR too and we have known him since middle school) biked to the campground and shared a couple hours around the campfire. They both said they just needed a little break. Friday we took him to lunch at our favorite bar restaurant, T-Bocks. 
One of the great things about where this campground is located is that we can walk or bike almost everywhere. We have only used the truck twice. We even went grocery shopping at the Oneota Co-op by walking and taking a backpack to get our groceries home. This is a great place to shop for organic fruits and veggies. We are trying to eat better and make smoothies everyday that have both fruits and veggies in them so we go through a lot of them. We buy organic when we can except for the ones that we peel (oranges, bananas and the like) so the coop is great for what we need.
Our loop when we had it to ourselves.

There is more to do here, we aren’t far from the Root River Bike Trail in southern Minnesota and we love riding that trail. The weather is suppose to be good, but John has caught a cold so our biking will depend on how he is feeling. I may be out doing some solo biking and hiking but that’s ok, I just want him to feel better before graduation and I am trying my best not to catch it from him. So far so good. 





Another view of the trout stream
I hope everyone else had a great week, sumer has been slow to come but I’m sure it will get here soon.
Happy Trails............

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Decorah

Bluebird? 
All the photos today are from last week at Morgan Creek County Park near Cedar Rapids, IA.

Walking trail
We had another busy week in Cedar Rapids. It is really nice being back “home” especially spending time with family and friends but I do miss the slower pace of life out on the road. I think many of the RVers out there will agree that the slower pace is why we chose this lifestyle. We tend to go out more here too which stresses the budget a little. Good thing I will have a small paycheck for part of the summer. 
I am about ready for my class. All the printing is ready and first class day things prepared. I still need to get a grade spread sheet ready and some quizzes rewritten.  My other big project for the summer is rewriting the midterm. This will be the first class I will walk into that I don’t already know the students, that is a little daunting. One of the things I like about that is that I have no preconceived attitude towards the students. As a teacher you always try to stay impartial but it can be a challenge sometimes. I’ve tried in my teaching experience to try to treat each new day as a separate teaching experience, no matter what happened with that student yesterday, today they can excel. A good teaching friend Kathy taught me that and it was one of the most valuable pieces of advice I was ever given. In the clinical setting that is a must and it applies to the classroom as well.
Our rig from the bridge over Morgan Creek
I hope everyone had an enjoyable Mother’s Day. We spent it with family and it was wonderful. We haven’t seen many of them since last summer. Gabe and Melissa were able to join us  and I talked to Mitch on the phone. I am a very lucky mother. Mother’s day is always a little bittersweet for both John and I. I lost my mom when I was 21 years old and John lost his when he was 25. The hardest part about that is loosing them before we were of the age to really appreciate them, to say thank you for putting up with us as teenagers. Until you are parent and go through all those tough moments you just don’t realize all they did for you and all the lessons they were trying to teach you. I miss my mom more than I ever thought possible and I hope she can see her grandkids and what wonderful men they have become.
Morgan Creek 
We have moved up to Decorah and to one of our favorite parks, Pulpit Rock. We will be here 13 days and since they only have electrical hookups we will be on our best water saving behavior. I think we have enough hose to reach the water if we run out of fresh water but we would rather not hook up to dump if we don’t have too. We don’t have a blue boy to dump grey water we don’t feel it is worth the space it takes up for the few times we would need it.
We are here for my son’s graduation from Luther College, although that is not until the 21st. We really like this area and there are lots of things to do. There is some good hiking nearby and about an hour north is our favorite bike trail, the Root River Trail. The upper Iowa River is a great place for kayaking too. We hope to do a little bit of all that if the weather cooperates. It is suppose to rain most of this week but next week looks beautiful. The weather in Iowa has been cold and rainy since we returned until about middle of last week. Yesterday was a game changer, we went from early spring weather to mid summer weather. It was 90 and muggy. What a switch. The leaves are finally on the trees and it is beautifully green.
Praire burn at Morgan Creek 
Happy Trails................................

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reflections on Osama’s demise

For the last two days we have all been reading and reflecting on the death of Osama Bin Ladin. I know we are glad to see the end to someone who had killed so many and affected all our lives directly or indirectly. Here are some things I have pondered.
What do you think Osama’s last thought were when confronted with a very lethal Navy Seal in his face? I truly believe he thought he was untouchable and would never be caught, so was it surprise?
How about the Seal who made the kill? I know they are trained for this but killing anyone is not an ordinary task. Elation that we finally got him? (I am sure this was part of the reaction)  What about looking into the face of the man you are killing. Does that haunt them a little? What a difficult job. 
What about the angst our President must have felt? Not knowing for certain that we had the right target and knowing he would be putting the lives of this Seal team at risk. This is a President who had worked very hard at repairing our image in the world. How difficult it must have been to know if Osama was not in this building our image as a nation would be marred once again. There were so many factors to consider and knowing it is your call, your order that will affect so much. I have a new and profound respect for this man.
I do feel Osama’s ideology has had its moment and is less in favor in the Arab world. The young of the mideast have said enough is enough and we want to govern ourselves and not have autocratic leaders governed only by religious rule. I pray for a more peaceful Middle East, though I may not see it in my lifetime. If there is another side effect of Osama’s death other than justice for those he murdered, I hope it would be that radical ideologies will come to an end and religions and governments will learn to peacefully coexist. I know that is probably an unrealistic hope but it is my prayer none the less.
Lastly, I feel grateful for all the men and woman willingly fighting on behalf of the USA, for putting their lives on the line to make a safer world for us all. I am thankful for Seal team Six that they have trained for the most difficult tasks. I am thankful to President Obama who kept the task at hand and made the difficult call. Finally I am thankful to live in a country that values personal freedom. 
God bless the USA and the world, may someday we find the peace we so long for.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The week that flew by.....

Doesn't seems so long ago this was our view from Zion River Resort.


Another week has gone by and I haven’t had the ambition to write. We still have been busy but not quite as busy as last week. On Monday we moved to Squaw Creek the other county park we stay at. After 8 months on the road I have really come to appreciate these parks. The sites are large, all have a level of privacy and the grounds are well kept. Both parks also have excellent bath houses which is good since we are still without hot water. The RV dealer we are taking it to had to wait on the part so instead of getting it taken care of last Monday we will go get it fixed tomorrow. John even called to make sure the part arrived. We have a 10 o’clock appointment tomorrow morning so we will move again, back to Morgan Creek for about a week and a half until we head to Decorah for Mitch’s graduation. 
There was lots of good news this week. Son, Gabe, got a job at Dublin City (a local bar/restaurant) so is once again employed and Mitch had a great phone interview with a company here in Cedar Rapids and now had a face to face interview here on Tuesday.  It will be a quick down and back trip for him but we hope to maybe have some lunch together after the interview. It would be great to have them both employed.
Janie, Brady & John, together again.
The Roughriders Hockey team advanced to the next round in the playoffs and we got to watch game one and two this week. They are playing the team from Green Bay who finished just a couple points behind them in the regular season so they were hard fought games. We lost the first game 3-2 and won the second game 2-1. Now they head to Green Bay for games 3 & 4. If needed a game 5 will be here on May 10th. This year the playoffs really go late and we just realized if they make it to the finals we will be up in Decorah for graduation so now we aren’t sure how many more games we will get to see. For that reason I am glad we returned early and had the chance to watch Brady play. He will always be one of my kids.
I went into work at Kirkwood Community College one day this week also. We have a nice area where the adjunct instructors share an office and I chose Wednesday because I knew no one else would be in that day. I was able to get  things to the printer and revise my syllabus for the new class. They have changed the computer system and website so I also spent some time with tech support figuring out what I need to do, hopefully when I go in this week I will be up and running. I am really looking forward to my class. I still have lots to do. Power points  to update, new quizzes to write, and I want to revamp the midterm. My class only meets for two hours once a week but there is much more to do outside of classroom time. That is something about teaching that I think many people forget about. Usually there are as many hours of work outside classroom time and sometimes more. Once I started teaching it really made me appreciate all those teachers I had and the ones my children had. There is much more to the job than meets the eye.
This next weekend I will become the student again. The Iowa Dental Association is having its yearly meeting that is filled with continuing education classes. I still have quite a few hours to complete for my license renewal. I am hoping to get about 12-14 hours in. We renew for two years and I’m not ready to retire my license yet. Not being here this last year meant not being around for all the classes offered during that time so I’ll cram it all in this weekend. There are several classes that may update some of my info for my class as well.

Like I said last week, being home is really a different pace. I think I will be ready to move on and go back to the slow road. I am starting to look for places for August and looking for some work-camping gigs for winter. We just placed an application for the Aransas Wildlife Refuge in Texas and I am continuing to look for other opportunities. We would like to try the Gulf coast this winter so I am looking in Texas right now. We will see what comes up.
Can you imagine skating like this?
I’ll leave you with a fun photo. At the hockey games there is always entertainment between periods. This photo isn’t the greatest since I took it with my phone but this guy was skating on stilts. Not walking skating. It was pretty amazing.
Happy Trails...............................