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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

St. Louis and "Doc"

St Louis Arch- Gateway to the West.
Debbie & Kirk, Bob & Sue, & Doc

This past weekend we went on a little vacation. Left the 5th wheel in Cedar Rapids and left for St. Louis. Everyone needs a vacation once in awhile even if its from a life that is a little like a vacation in itself. A very good friend of John’s had a daughter getting married and talked her into inviting their group of friends, many of whom hadn’t seen each other in 20+ (may be closer to 30) years. This group of guys and their wives got to know each other when the fellas first worked at Rockwell in Cedar Rapids about 35 years ago. This is back in their wild and crazy youth and many of us who weren’t there have heard the stories so many times we feel like we were. They had a lot of fun but their lives moved on and many of them moved away to new jobs, careers, kids and life in general. Back in those days John was know as “Doc”. His brother the doctor would  give him scrub shirts as gifts and John always wore them so they knick named him “Doc” and for this group it stuck. So Doc and his friends reconnected and it was a grand old time. Kirk’s wife Debbie and I are the only two that really weren’t part of this group but they included us in all their fun and it was a joy to watch them reminisce  and we even heard a few stories we hadn’t heard yet.
Al & Judi Boldra
Kirk & Debbie Mayberry
St. Louis is a beautiful city and we stayed at the Millennium hotel that overlooks Memorial park and the Arch (officially, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Gateway to the West). If you haven’t seen the arch, make sure to put it on your list along with the visitor center and museum that go with it. I have been here several times in my life and it is still beautiful. We got lucky and it was Marine Week in St. Louis. There were Marines everywhere and in my estimation there is nothing better to look at than a Marine in dress uniform (don’t tell John- oh, wait he knows). They had all kinds of displays and we were sitting in the bar at the Millennium that has a view of the park when they put on an air show. John was amazed when they brought a V-22 Osprey in and hovered over the park, backed up mid-air then started to swing as if it were on a very long pendulum. Then there was a Harrier and a Chinook helicopter that was carrying a bunch of Marines on a rope hanging from it; now that was impressive. There were armored vehicles and Zodiacs (black inflatable boats). It was an impressive display, and guess who didn’t have her camera with her in the bar? Yep, that would be me, so you’ll just have to use your imagination (or Google “Marine Week St. Louis”).
Bob & Sue Rife,  "Hey Bob-over here!"
Friday night as part of the wedding festivities we went to a Cardinal’s game. The tickets were for the Champions Club which is a suite where you have an all you can eat buffet and an open bar. We did pay for these tickets but found out later the wedding couple subsidized part of the cost - thank you Emily and Alex! Well, the Cards lost in the last inning but it was a fine time had by all.
Budweiser Brewry
The wedding wan’t until Saturday evening so that meant there was time for a tour of the Budweiser brewery. Three of the couples went. This is an impressive tour and I would recommend it to anyone. Most of the buildings were built during the 1800s but have been maintained in excellent condition. There is a stable with the Clydesdales and at the end a hospitality room where you get to sample two of the beers. Did I mention that this is a free tour? Free makes it even better.
The bride and groom, Alex and Emily
The wedding was at a restaurant overlooking the arch from the 40th floor. Lots of windows for a great view. The original plan was to have the wedding on a riverboat on the Mississippi but on Tuesday they were informed that the river was two high and the riverboat was now out of the question. Weddings are crazy anyway, can you imagine having to change your venue and caterer in just 3 days? A daunting task but Emily and Alex pulled it off and at the wedding she mentioned that this site was so beautiful that they were fine with the change. Emily made a beautiful bride and along with the groom Alex, looked to be enjoying their wedding day.
Dan & Dixie Schmatz- parents of the bride
We enjoyed the wedding as well and Dan and Dixie (parents of the bride) treated us all to a carriage ride in downtown St. Louis. There were 11 of us in the carriage - a little crazy but it was fun. I hope the poor horse got some extra oats that night.
Janie & "Doc"
We need to thank Dixie and Dan for bringing this group back together, what a special treat. So from Doc and Janie, Judi and Al, Bob and Sue, Kirk and Debbie, a big THANK YOU!  Also a thank you to Emily and Alex who accommodated us all on their special day.

This is for my blogger buddy Judy......THE END!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Computer fixed, Son buys a house, and a Museum makes a move

First off, my computer has been fixed! The magnetic plug where the charger plugs in had to be replaced. Glad to have it back. :)

It has been a big week for us here. On Monday we went with our son Gabe and his girlfriend Melissa to Early, Iowa to look at a  house.  Melissa was hired as the art teacher for the elementary school and middle school in the Schaller-Crestland school district. This is a consolidated school district of 4 towns just south of Storm Lake IA. After visiting they realized there really weren’t any places to rent in these small town so the principal suggested they look at buying.  They found a wonderful little ranch home on a half acre lot in Early, where the middle school is located. 
Gabe and Melissa's first home!

They wanted us to come and look to see if we felt this would be a good move. It is about a 4 hour drive from CR so we set out early and met the realtor at the house. After looking things over we too felt this was a great deal. They had already met with a banker on their last visit who felt they would qualify for a rural loan with a rate below 5%. So we dropped them off at the bank to meet again and do the application for financing. It took a couple days to get everything approved, get the offer in and hear back but this morning the news came back and they are now on their way to home ownership. Congratulations Gabe and Melissa! 

Tuesday morning we were dragging but we got up and moved our rig back to Squaw Creek. We can stay 14 days at these park so when a holiday is close we always try to be in place 14 days ahead, so in case you didn’t realize the Fourth of July is 2 weeks away. We will be gone this weekend to a wedding in St. Louis but feel ok leaving the rig as one of the sheriff deputies is park across the street. Yeah!
A major move
Today we had some errands so we decided to have lunch at Al’s Blue Toad in Cedar Rapids Czech district. We like this little bar and grill and I purchased 2 certificates from Living Social and so it was already paid for and made lunch half off. Cool. If you haven’t discovered Living Social and Groupon, I highly recommend them. It really makes eating out occasionally actually affordable.
While in the Czech Village we were able to check out the progress of a major project. Cedar Rapids is home to the Czech-Slovak museum. This museum is beautiful and at its opening the leaders of Slovakia, the Czech republic and the US were present. It was right on the Cedar River and in 2008 the massive flood took its toll on this building also. The structure remained in tact but most of its contents were lost and the interior would need to be redone. Before restoring it a decision was made to actually move the building and raise it about 8 feet. The move required the building be rotated 90 degrees. The weather has made this difficult but they now have it almost in place but must raise it the 8 feet and place it on its new foundation. I did take a couple photos today but there also is a web feed where you can see this incredible move.
The best view is the south camera but the west camera shows you how much it has to raised. This is an amazing feat that I thought you might find interesting.

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

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

I had a post I wanted to do today on John but my laptop isn't charging and I think we will have to send it in to Apple. Luckily we have the Apple care plan and I think their turn around is pretty quick. We think it is the battery. So all my great photos of John and the boys are on that computer or DVDs and so I don't have acess to them. I am writing this on the iPad. So once I get the computer back I will revisit Dad's day just for him.

To all those Dad's out there, have a wonderful day!

Happy trails..........

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Growing Older

At 28, when my brain and body were the same age!

How old does your brain think you are? John and I talked about this recently. Our bodies often remind us that we are no longer young but for us our brains still think we are. In fact we decided our brains still think we are around 28 years old. Funny, but that is the age I was when I met John. We can’t deny that the years have passed by after all we have sons who are 22 and 25. We have had long careers in our chosen professions and we have had a multitude of different experiences but alas my brain is just not convinced it is older. 

Now, my body on the other hand reminds  me almost daily. You may know what it is like, you get up in the morning and your joints seem to need some warming up before they’re really ready for the day. Then you go to the mirror and this person with wrinkles or as John says, old skin, is looking back at you. Who is that person any way? Certainly not me. Like I said, I’m just 28 years old!?!?

Janie with baby Gabe
I was pondering the saying “older and wiser” too. So I am older, in fact today I am 55 years old (or 55 years young), so am I wiser than I once was? I actually feel like what I do recognize now is how little I really do know, and I’m willing to admit it. When I was 28  (in real years) I really thought I knew how things worked. Over the years of parenting and just living in general I now know it is all a mystery to me, that’s ok because it means everyday is a day to learn something new.

Janie with Baby Mitch
I have had 55 great years, there have been ups and downs but I wouldn’t change a thing.  I look at what I have and am amazed. I’m married to a guy that I’m still in love with after almost 27 years. I have two sons that have grown into men that I am very proud of. I am blessed with brothers, in-laws, friends and former co-workers who have enriched my life though the years. As the beer commercial says, “Does it get any better than this?” I think not, I am a 28 year old brain with all the blessings of a 55 year old!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Thanks for the feedback on the new look. John mentioned that the comments were a bit hard to read so I changed the color and font a little. Hope it helps.

Good news today. My son Gabe's girlfriend Melissa got her first teaching job! It is in a small town in NW Iowa. They are excited and will probably move in August. Now to get Mitch (younger son) employed and then we will rest easier when we leave here this fall.

Happy Trails.........

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Changing it up

Trail at Morgan Creek earlier this spring
Was in the mood to change things up on the blog. Found this template and liked the way it followed a color scheme for a blog named after a flamingo. It has been a very quiet weekend. The weather has been up and down. Stayed relatively cool with some showers but with beautiful weather in between those showers. The weather lately took me to the photo in the header. This is a panoramic shot I put together in Adobe Photoshop Elements ( a really easy thing to do) of a storm we watched from a distance down in Fort Supply, Oklahoma. Ever since that storm we have seen storm clouds about twice a week. This week on Thursday we spent some time at the shower house during a tornado warning. We had quite a bit of hail, man is it loud when hail hits a fiberglass roof. No damage to either the truck or rig. Thankful for that.

I have been spending plenty of time grading case studies and quizzes - just part of the job. I've had a couple lectures and quizzes now so have a better feel for this class. They don't seem to prepare as well as previous classes but they have had some competing tests, hopefully it will get better as we progress.

Tomorrow we move across town, trying to time things out so we are set up somewhere for the 4th about 2 weeks ahead. I don't want to be searching for a campsite that week before the holiday. After the 4th we may try a couple of the COE campgrounds around the Coralville reservoir. It is still close enough to get to my class once a week and puts us a little closer to Iowa City, we always enjoy spending some time there. I feel like summer is already passing quickly. It really is true, the older we get the faster time seems to pass.

Hope everyone had a great weekend.

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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Walking Against Traffic

Birthday party! John, Gabe, Melissa, Larry (my big brother) & Barb  (SIL), Emily,  & Mitch

I was out on my run today and a young family I passed made me decide on todays post.  Many of us are trying to stay healthy and are out there walking and running which is exactly what we should be doing. It is not unusual in the campgrounds and RV parks that we are in that there are no sidewalks or trails so we must share the road with traffic. Luckily most of the areas we are in don’t have heavy traffic but we still need to to be very aware, after all cars and trucks are much bigger than us. I have found that many people don’t realize that pedestrians should walk on the left side facing traffic. For some that seems counter to how we do other things but it is important for our safety. When you walk facing traffic you are able to observe the traffic coming towards you, if you are walking on the right side then the traffic closest to you is all coming up from behind and you are blind to it. We would love to think that cars will watch out for us   but this is often not true, sometimes because they don’t want to (luckily this is a small minority) and others that are just plain distracted. Those drivers when they come up from behind us, we may never realize it until it is too late. Facing traffic gives at least a chance to get out of the way. I try to be very aware of the cars as I run and walk. If it doesn’t look like they are going to give me room I will get as far off the road as I can. The family I watched today was a mom walking the dog with 3 young children, one on a bike with training wheels and the other two walking, and yes they were walking on the right side and it really frightens me. Even trying to be aware I’m not sure she would hear the traffic behind her over the squeaky wheels of the bike and the chatting kids. I think of others doing the same that have their mp3 players going and the music  turned up, again I doubt they will hear the car coming up behind them. So please for your own safety walk on the left and watch those cars and trucks, even then it is not a guarantee but our chances are much better. Happy walking.
Today was a record for me, I made it 40 minutes on my run. It was a good day for a run, overcast and below 70 degrees. I feel like I am making progress. I’m still the turtle out there but that’s ok with me, the only one I ever compete with is myself.
Me, Emily, & Mitch in front and John, Gabe and Melissa 
We had a busy week. My sons birthdays are June 4th and the 6th so Sunday the 5th we all went out for dinner. It was a wonderful dinner, both their girlfriends were able to join us as well as my older brother and his wife. Good to see everyone and we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant.
Wednesday night I went out for dinner with one of my girlfriends, Mary. Some of our other girlfriends weren’t able to make it so we will try again for a girls night out later this sumer. Then Thursday we were off to visit Chad and Jenny and their new little girl, Brenna. There is nothing more beautiful than a baby so I’ll share a couple photos of Brenna. Hope you all had a great week.
Happy Trails.....................

Friday, June 3, 2011

Iowa State Parks and why we won't go there

First, I should say it has been hard to sit down and write lately, I think because we are in old familiar territory with friends and family. Nothing really new or too interesting happening. Yet it seems like we are busier than ever.
The tale to tell today is about the Iowa State Parks and why I don’t think we will be staying in them any time soon or even ever.  This week we decided to try out Pleasant Creek recreational Area, a state park near us in Palo, IA. My nephew is competing in a triathlon there on Saturday so it would be nice to be there.  We got up and out to the park around 11:30 am. Took 2 trips around checking the “non-reservable sites” The Iowa State parks are suppose to have about half of their sites as walk up, non reservable sites. We spotted one that had no ticket on the post so we pulled in set up and paid our fees into the little kiosk. It was a beautiful day, of which we have had very few this summer, so we were set to enjoy it. My son and his girlfriend joined us by bringing some Chinese food out to us. We were having a very enjoyable time. Around 5-5:30 a young ranger shows up and asks if we took the ticket off the post because someone else had already paid for this spot. No sir no ticket and no tent or anything to indicate it was taken. Well, too bad you’ll have to move, the spot next to us was available. I asked why there wasn’t a tent or something indicating it was taken. Well if we didn’t take the ticket then it must have blown away. (Now I am getting a little angry at being accused of taking the ticket, that is something we would never do.) He says they are short staffed so no one realized we had set up in a spot that was already taken. So we got ready to move but after he left we looked more carefully at the site next to us and there is no way we will fit as there was a tree at the back of the site with branches that were way too low. Now I don’t want to go anywhere until we know a site is really available because Lord knows we did everything right on this one and were told to move. Trying to find the ranger was no easy task. I looked up the park number online and of course they are closed for the evening so I left a message but was sure no one would check it so I went to the camp host site and no one answered the door. Then I talked to the guy across from us who I found out was a volunteer and asked him to call the ranger to have him return. Ranger returns about 30 minutes later and agrees to check the other loop for a site, guess what- no site. There probably was a site earlier in the day but now at 6pm there is not one left.  I told him to retrieve our money so we could leave. We did just that and we are back at a Linn county park and glad for it. Hitching up an setting up twice in a day is not fun, especially when I feel it never should have happened. At the Linn county parks if you pay for a site you must occupy that site, some type of camping unit must be on the site and that is the way it should be. So here goes my rant on reservable/nonreservable sites.
Most full timers and many others really hate the reservable sites not only because we feel it keeps many people from being able to use the park but also because most states use Reserve America for their reservations. Extra fees are tacked on and they really know nothing about the park they are just a reservation call center, so there is no way to ask questions about the site. The non reservable sites are good to have, but sometimes the least desirable sites are the ones left as non reservable, which I feel is an absolute disservice to many of us. What really cranks me on the Iowa system is allowing people to come in and pay for a non-reservable site but not actually occupying that site. It really comes down to there are no non reservable but instead two types of reservable sites, the ones you call and reserve and the ones you reserve by driving out and paying for in advance. So here is a campground that wasn’t even half full and there was not a site that we could camp in for 5 nights. Just doesn’t make sense. 
so if you want to go to an Iowa State Park and camp you should make a reservation and pay Reserve America’s extra fees and you should do it 6-12 months in advance or go somewhere else. Otherwise you are at the mercy of a system that is clearly not working. I think this whole system makes it difficult not only for us but for the average family who wants to camp. I know when my kids were young we never would have know that far in advance that it would be a good weekend to camp, so I feel for families who would like to use our state parks but because of the policies of the Iowa DNR their chances at a site on a nice week or weekend are slim or none. 
If you come to Iowa I would check out the many county parks here, Linn County parks are exceptional or go to the Corps of Engineers (COE) parks. These parks in my opinion are run much better and have as nice or in many cases nicer facilities. So that is my rant for the day, good to get it off my chest. I think I will go have a beer and enjoy the rest of the night.