Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Altoona, IA - Around Town

OK, it’s been 2 years as full-timers, we have a pretty good idea of what we need and what we don’t - now it’s time to clean out the stuff in that latter category. Actually, we don’t have much to clean out but there are a few items that we need to find another home for. In a home, you can probably buy forever, there’s always more storage - just put it in the basement. Or, if not, how about the attic? I’ve seen lots of homes like that. Just find another cubby for the old stuff. In an RV, the rule is: one item in, one item out. So, here we go.

Here’s Nancy with one our last Mr Movies sweatshirt, in front of Goodwill. It’s going.


It’s in perfect condition and was of good quality since counter near door and we didn’t want anyone to get cold on the job, although we were moving so fast sometimes, that we were all in t-shirts even on the coldest day. Our counter was up at the front door and, to get around it, customers had to go through a sensor system. Did we have people try to get through our alarm system with movies? Does the sun rise in the East? Unfortunately, we did have people try to get out of our store with movies in their purses, under their jackets, under the vests of their 3-piece suits, in their baseball caps (we had some small merchandise for sale), you name it, they tried it. We always tried to approach it with an ‘oops, could you please walk through our sensor system again? Looks like it went off while you were going through.’ The guy with the 3-piece suit, after being asked to walk through again, whipped the movie out from under his vest, said, ‘Is this what you want?’ and then walked out.

Hmm, I got a bit distracted from the main topic here: the clean out. Short story: we made several trips to Goodwill and a few trips to the trash bin in back of the campground. Hey, LOOK, I’ve got some space for some new things now. Whoo-pee. Let’s go shopping.

Right next to the campground is an unused railroad track which use to run all the way to Kansas City from Chicago. Here’s Nancy standing near a mile marker showing 237 miles still to go to KC.


Two years ago when we were at this campground, the train tracks were rife with weeds and bushes covered much of it. We walked it, sure, but it was not like walking a trail, we strode from tie to tie through the weeds. Last year, they put in part of the trail and we could walk on the trail for part of it. Now, the trail is complete and we’ve used it lots. Perfect way to get in our day’s mileage. And, what a beautiful trail it is. Some of it goes between fields and we get to see the corn turn from green to golden and then get harvested. Much of the trail goes through a tree-lined way, over some of the original rr bridges. The trail gets used well, too. As it was said in ‘Field of Dreams’ ‘If you build it, they will come.’ We haven’t been on the trail even once when we weren’t passed by bikes and other walkers on the trail. A great amenity for the campground.


When we moved from a 1-acre wooded lot in New Hampshire to the Midwest in 1985, the first thing we noticed was that we could see fronts moving in. On our wooded lot, we could only see the sky in the tree-cleared circle that surrounded our house, which was small. In the Midwest, you can see the whole horizon from East to West and North to South. Those fronts extend across the sky from edge to edge. And, the cloud formations you can see in the Midwest - beautiful. Here’s one we saw a few days ago as we were walking out of the campground on our daily walk.



We need to update our passports so, first stop, into Costco to take some new pictures. These two look like criminals. Put the orange jumpsuits on them and haul them off.

150908GaryPassportPhoto-2015-09-30-20-12.jpg 150908NancyPassportPhoto-2015-09-30-20-12.jpg

One of our errands this trip back to Iowa was for me to get some new glasses. The progressive tints on mine had worn out over 2 years (I’m not sure how this happened) and my prescription had changed enough to warrant new glasses. I have vowed not to go back to the company that made our last glasses since they messed up the order so much on both my glasses and Gary’s such that we got them on the day before we left the area for our winter journey. They had been promised 4 weeks earlier. So, I looked for a new company. Target had a 1/2 price lens sale which looked promising.

So, here I am, in Target, perusing all the choices I have for frames.


Speaking about accessories like glasses, here’s a poster of Johnny Depp with a cool turquoise bracelet on - just like my cool as Johnny Depp husband, Gary. They could almost be twins - oops, except for those tattoos.


We were walking out of the local grocery store when a car pulled up and parked in front of us. The driver, a woman, was waving like mad. ‘Do you know who this is?’ both Gary and I asked each other. ‘Nope’ was the answer. We don’t know any one in this town. Then Jolene got out, one of my favorite people from Wells Fargo. Haven’t seen her for a year, the last time I stopped in to see my old friends form Wells. What a great surprise.




Saturday, September 26, 2015

Altoona, IA - The Perfect Place?

Isn’t nature wonderful? What a show it put on the other evening. It gave us a 5 star eclipse of the moon with color, no less. Interesting how few people were out watching it. Gary and I checked it out about 98 times over the 2 hours the earth’s shadow was crossing the moon. We saw several neighbors doing the same thing but we have lots more neighbors than that. My sister and brother-in-law said the same thing about their neighborhood. Several out but not as many as they expected. What a magnificent show they missed.
We used to find ourselves walking through Des Moines quite often when we lived here. We’d drive downtown to the Farmer’s Market (one of the best and biggest in the nation) and, after we had strolled through checking out the veggies and cinnamon rolls, we’d put all our produce in the car and walk along the river, down to the Botanical Center, around the I Cubs (farm team for the Cubs) stadium, and down to Gray’s Lake. Beautiful walk and we saw many others out enjoying it too.

Beautiful day, sunny with white puffy clouds, 80’s with low humidity. Just perfect. We started at the new pedestrian bridge over the Des Moines River. Pretty cool, from every angle. With the beautiful gold dome of the state capitol in the background.
Of course, the kids playground was playfully designed. By the river, a fishing line with a bobber is appropro.
The river was rushing over the small dam.
Then we saw this little guy on a brick wall. He’s just posing beautifully here.
Looks like a festival on the bridges. Here is one of them lined with food tents. The band was playing lively music around the corner.
This mural expresses our thoughts exactly. Maybe we’ve found the ‘perfect’ place that we’ve been looking for. Oh, what about the word ‘winter’ and ‘snow’ and ‘sleet’ do I not understand? I’ve always said the Iowa is in the middle of nowhere and in the center of everything. Easy to get to the whole continent from here.
Maybe this little girl is thinking about those things.
Here’s the Wells Fargo Financial Center, where I worked for 10 years. 40-stories tall. I don’t know if they still do it, but several years after I retired, they had a charity use this building. For a $200 donation, you could rappel down the front of the building. I would have loved to have done that, I could wave at all my friends and co-workers as I dangled in front of their windows.
When we lived in Des Moines, we used to walk around Gray’s Lake every day, on weekdays in the evening after work and dinner and during the day on weekends. Sometimes, on cold winter evenings, we’d be the only ones walking around the lake. The trail was plowed and it was very well lit, enticing for us but not for others - of course, it was 5 degrees above zero sometimes. Our goal was to walk through 100 degrees and we did. We walked at 0 degrees and we walked at 100 degrees and humid. We should have our heads examined. We even bought a plaque for the bridge they built over the lake.
Here’s our view as we walked. At night, with all the lights on the buildings, it was a magical sight.

We then walked through the city where the sculpture garden is. John and Mary Pappajohn donated their own personal collection of garden and lawn sculptures to Des Moines and they are on display in this park for all to see.
Finally back to the Botannical Center to drive home. But we walked by this on our way. So colorful.
We lived in Des Moines for 28 years and saw many changes in the downtown area. The Farmer’s Market has grown exponentially and is certainly one of the largest in the nation. The annual Art Festival is ranked in the top ten. The sculpture garden is a real jewel in the center of Des Moines. The Wells Fargo Arena (Omaha has nothing on us.) Trails along both sides of the river, new pedestrian bridges over the river linking these trails, lots of new plantings lining these trails, a new library, new buildings, lots and lots of old warehouses turned into new trendy condos. They’ve even got a large grocery store abuilding downtown. New restaurants, new art museums, a new science center. Can you tell that I like Des Moines?


Maybe it’s the perfect place
Even Jack Kerouac liked Des Moines
‘I ate apple pie and ice cream—it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer. There were the most beautiful bevies of girls everywhere I looked in Des Moines that afternoon—they were coming home from high school—but I had no time for thoughts like that…So I rushed past the pretty girls, and the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.’

                                                        Jack Kerouac

Friday, September 25, 2015

NIagara, NY - Forward to the Past

Aha, we’ve finally got some pictures back from our trip to Niagara. Remember when you had to send your film in to some developing company someplace and they would send your pictures back several weeks later, several weeks after you remembered what they were all about. Then, some of the pictures were black, some were out of focus, some were of your feet when you accidentally clicked the camera when you were holding it down. Ah, remember the good old days? Nope - as far as photography is concerned - these are the good old days right now. Digital photography: take a picture, review it, delete it, change the focus or the setting or the angle or whatever, snap again. Ah, just perfect - a keeper. No weeks long wait and you can delete the bad ones.

Well, we bought a waterproof camera in Niagara Falls so we could take pictures of the falls up close when we were in one of the tour boats that took you right into the spray. Did we want to buy a $190 water proof camera for just these shots or the $9.00 model? Hmmm. You can judge how good the photos are from the $9.00 model. One more word: we decided that the boat tours were not worth what we paid. We had much better views of the falls from the shore. Too many people on the boats, too much jostling, too much spray - but then that is the idea here. Anyway here are the pictures but, first the camera - clear plastic enclosed.
They pass out these precious little ponchos and doesn’t Gary look cute in his?
Here are the American Falls from the boat with me in front.
Thus you can see the quality of our pictures. Certainly nothing to write home about. Oh, I am already home.
On the other hand, we found this cool building on the American side of the Falls. Note how the bricks change color as they go up the building. The darker bricks are at the bottom with lighter bricks at the top. It’s not just a quirk of lighting, they actually changed the color of the bricks as they built up.
Very cool Art Deco motifs on the top.
There was a display of how much the Canadian Falls have eroded over the years. Because the rocks are not so hard and because the water pouring over the falls is so forceful, the Falls are moving further and further back up the river.
Here’s a picture of the Canadian Falls with the dates on them. You can see where the Falls are now at the bottom of the picture but then you look up and can see where they were when they began to take measurements.
There were several wedding chapels in town for all those who want to get married at the Falls.
And, if you want coffee, here is how this is marked at Starbucks. Pretty elaborate. No wonder I just order a cup of coffee - no fancy stuff for me - it takes too long. Here’s how they mark half-caf, sugar free vanilla, non-fat, light foam, extra hot latte. It would take me too long to say it all and then, I’d probably leave something out.
But, then, it takes too long to decide what kind of sweet treat I want in this bakery. AroundNiagaraFallsonSecondDay-15-2015-09-17-20-16.jpg
And, here I am in the band. Pretty cool sculpture but who is that person who didn’t get the clothing memo? Doesn’t she know what to wear on parade day? But, she is in step.
Our campground was right on Lake Erie and we could look across and see the tallest buildings in Toronto - but not in these pictures since even the tallest buildings are pretty small from this distance.
We had a great time exploring but, my, the mosquitoes were out. Here’s Gary slapping them away.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Altoona, IA - Love is:

Since I have so little of my own to write, I thought I’d include this little tidbit. Maybe you’ve seen it but my aunt Marilyn, who never uses e-mail and certainly not for things like this, sent this to me in her e-mail. Hey, Marilyn, what gives? I’ll have to chide her the next time I see her, in early 1916 when we visit San Diego.

What Love means to 4-8 year old kids ...
A group of professional people posed this question
to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds ,

'What does love mean?'

The answers they got were broader, deeper,
and more profound than anyone could have ever imagined !

See what you think:                           

'When my grandmother
got arthritis , she couldn't bend over and paint
her toenails anymore.. So my
grandfather does it for her all the time , even
when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.'
Rebecca- age 8
'When someone loves you , the
way they say your name is different.
You just know that your name
is safe in their mouth.'

Billy - age 4
'Love is when a girl puts on perfume
and a boy puts on shaving cologne
and they go out and smell each other.'

Karl - age 5
'Love is when you go out to eat
and give somebody most of your French fries
without making them give you any of theirs.'

Chrissy - age 6
'Love is what makes you smile
when you're tired.'

Terri -
age 4 

'Love is when my
mommy makes coffee for my daddy and
she takes a sip before giving it to him , to
make sure the taste is OK.'

Danny - âge 8

'Love is what's in the room with
you at Christmas if you stop opening presents
and just listen.'

Bobby - age 7

'If you want to learn to love better ,
you should start with a friend who you hate. '

Nikka - age 6
(we need a few million more Nikka's on
this planet)

'Love is when
you tell a guy you like his shirt,
then he wears it everyday.'

- age 7

'Love is like a little
old woman and a little old man who are still
friends even after they know each other so

Tommy - age 6

'During my piano recital , I was
on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the
people watching me and saw my daddy waving and

He was the only one doing that.
I wasn't scared anymore.'

Cindy - age 8

'My mommy loves me
more than anybody
You don't see anyone else
kissing me to sleep at night.'

Clare - age 6
'Love is when Mommy
gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.'

Elaine-age 5

'Love is when Mommy
sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and
still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.'

Chris - age 7

'Love is when your puppy licks
your face even after you left him
alone all day.'

Mary Ann - age 4

'I know my older sister loves me
because she gives me all her old clothes
and has to go out and buy new ones.'

Lauren - age 4

'When you love somebody , your
eyelashes go up and down and little
stars come out of you.' (what an image)

Karen - age 7

'Love is when Mommy
sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think
it's gross..'

Mark - age 6

'You really shouldn't say
'I love you' unless you mean it.
But if you mean it,
you should say it a lot. People forget.'

Jessica - age 8

And the final one:

The winner was a four year old child
whose next door neighbor was an
elderly gentleman who had recently lost his

Upon seeing the man cry , the
little boy went into the old
gentleman's yard , climbed onto his
lap , and just sat there.

When his
Mother asked what he had said to the
neighbor , the little boy said ,

                                                  'Nothing , I just helped him cry'

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Altoona, IA - Dull & Duller

My, my, my. I’ll bet that you disappeared or that I’ve run away with that cute guy in the next RV over from ours. Nope and nope. Firstly, we are here in Altoona, IA, which seems to be our home base, to ‘rest and relax’ after a quick trip across the US from Maine to Iowa. Well, at least that seemed to be the plan. But, sometimes plans go awry. And, truthfully, we should never have the preconceived notion that our time in Iowa is rest and relaxation. We have had all of our annual appointments: we have visited the eye doctor, the radiologist for a mammogram, our regular doctor for a ‘wellness’ Medicare exam, then, when the receptionist told us we did not need to fast for this, we had to return for a blood test with our regular doctor. I bought new glasses (at Target where they had a 1/2 price lens sale) and Gary went for his annual appointment with his dermatologist. I also visited the radiologist for a dexa exam for my bones. Finally, we both visited the dentist. I’ll write more about that later. There, doesn’t that sound like and fun? And, why in the world do I need to write a blog on all of that? How about I just write about it in a blog devoted to a summary of our month here in IA? Doesn’t that sound much better?

We were talking with some friends who also RV and land here in Iowa for ‘rest and relaxation’ and they agree: IA is not rest and relaxation. They, like us, always think that the next stop on our journey will be where we will be able to rest and relax. We’re looking to Arizona, our next stop, where we land for 2 1/2 months, for our bit of rest and relaxation. It’s always at the next stop - it’s always over the horizon.

Speaking of doctors, do you call your doctors by their given name, Lisa, or do you say Dr. Klock? I’ve always said Dr. Whatever. My parents, on the other hand, called their doctors by their given name: their dentist was Lloyd, their doctor was Paul. But, they were all the same age, went to the same church and all were members of the local Country Club. Besides, it was a small town. My brother, the mover and the shaker, is of the same school and calls his doctor, Shannon. Me, I live in a bigger city, don’t know my doctor personally and call him or her by their last name.

OK, the dentist story. Last January, I noticed that when I chomped down the wrong way, I felt a shooting pain in one of my teeth. Oh, shucks. Not a dental problem here in New York, hundreds of miles from my dentist. My decision was: wait it our and don’t chew on the left side of my mouth. Got it. Then, glory be, I was eating breakfast one morning and I felt a solid lump in my mouth. I knew immediately what it was - a filling or a tooth. Sure enough, it was a piece of a tooth. And - I had no more pain when I chewed. Hey, it must have fixed itself. Yeah, right. Even I couldn’t believe that. Finally, in June, I went to a dentist in Exeter, NH. She confirmed my plan - I didn’t need to get it fixed right away, I could wait til September to see my regular dentist. Whew. Painfree and no dental appointment in sight.
But, of course, all good things come to an end and here we were in Iowa seeing our regular dentist. I had called ahead and they had made a 2-hr appointment for me. Drill to China, plastic cast, temporary crown. All the good things in life. And, lucky me, I got to go back. Now, I have a new crown. All is well.

So, doctors galore and they all took time. Errands - well, we save up things to do and buy for the RV and our lives until we land somewhere and can take the time to think about them and actually find them. You know errands - 10 items, 18 stops and you come home with 5 items, with 5 still on the list. Maybe you can find your each of your items exactly as you want them on the first shot. But, we’re looking and just can’t always find the exact thing we want. Are we too particular? Hey - don’t answer that.

While we’re out on our errand runs, we like to listed to Sirius. Music, news, politics - we listen to it all. But, how come, every time we get into the car and turn it on - we get commercials? All the way to our next stop. Obviously, they have their regular programming while we’re in some store because when we get back out, we get commercials again. I thought that was why we paid for Sirius - to have commercial-free listening. Silly me. We have some friends who tell us that when we go to Alaska, we will not be able to get Sirius at all- can’t reach the satellite because of the curve of the earth. Oh, shucks, we’ll have to talk, make meaningful conversation. You’ve got to be kidding.

And, hey, about that cute guy in the RV next door - come on, when I’ve got the nicest, sexiest, wittiest guy here in my own RV, you know, I’m not looking abroad.

Marriage is a three ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, suffering.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Altoona, IA - Military Sinkhole?

For Christmas in 1990, my mother gave me a journal. I had never thought of this but took to it right away and began to log what happened to us over the years. At first, I logged how many times I banged my head into the office bathroom wall over my boss, how often the woodpecker banged his beak on our brick chimney and such mundane matters such as what we had for dinner, how many miles I ran in a day, you, know, dumb things. Our life is not exciting, I didn’t have much of note to write. The first major event I recorded was my father’s phone call on the day of the Super Bowl asking what team I wanted to bet on. The next day he had a stroke and died about 2 weeks later - and I have no notes for these two weeks.

For years, I’ve written my journal, all for myself in spiral notebooks. It gave me a quiet time each evening to think back over the day and record what happened and to think about the next day and what I should do. It satisfied my desire to record our ‘exciting’ life and, then, we could refer to it if we ever needed to know when something happened. Big deal. Then we started RV’ing and a colleague of mine at Wells Fargo asked if I was going to do a blog. Huh? Who’d read it? Well, I would, she said. Yeah, but, it will be so boring, boring, boring. Who wants to read about what we do?
Let me first say that I am thrilled that people actually do read my blog. Sometimes I get comments from people about things I have written. (Hi, Sherron.) Sometimes, people recognize Gary and me from our blog and say ‘hi’ as we walk through a campground or museum. And, believe me, it is a blast to get this recognition, a real upper.

As my mother would have said: ‘who’d have thunk it?’ And, how do I know that people read my blog besides the comments and the recognition in museums? Google has a cute section on my blog page called ‘stats’ where I can see how many people read the blog and where they come from. No names, of course, just numbers. Funny, I’ve got readers in Russia, China, Indonesia, and South Africa, among others listed. Right!? I don’t for a minute believe that I have any readers in China and Russia. I think that there are ‘bots’ swarming through the blogosphere clicking on every blog that they find. And, I’ve been hit too.

However, the funniest thing is seeing which of my blogs over the 5 years that I’ve been doing this are the most read. Which of my blogs has the most viewers? Ta Da, Drum Roll, Please. Over the 5 years my most popular blog is one called Bonneville Dam, Bridge of the Gods and Beacon Rock. Huh? Why in the world would that be the most popular? Are there lots of people wanting to read about the Bonneville Dam? Who wants to read about what we saw at the Bonneville Dam? Is that my most interesting blog?

Interestingly, this blog just recently overtook my previous most read blog about the Walt Disney Museum in San Francisco and climbing the Lyon Steps which are nearby. I see that, who doesn’t want to read about Walt Disney?

Now, over the last month, my most popular blog was one that I wrote back on November 7 in 2013 about our hike on the Military Sinkhole in Payson, AZ. You’ve got to be kidding, the Military Sinkhole? Not only that but I looked on Google which organizes search results by ‘hits’ and my blog was the 3rd listing under Military Sinkhole. Look, here it is, 3rd in line. Cool.

LOL. But, again, I am thrilled to know that people actually read what I’ve written.

I think I mentioned that we had our annual eye appointments this week. Our doctor sprung a new test on us old people, one that required that our eyes be dilated. We both passed the test with flying colors and as our prize, she gave us some us some new glasses. Actually, they were dark glasses to protect our eyes while our pupils were so dilated. We got out to the car squinting all the way and then put them on. A selfie was in order. Now, the sun was so bright and the glare on the phone was so great that I really couldn’t see anything. I just pointed the camera where I thought it should be and snapped. Here’s the first take.
Ooh, we need a second take.
Back at the RV park, we took a walk around and I took some pictures. It was a beautiful day with low humidity and the blues in the sky were so vibrant. Everything is so defined when the air is dry.