Grand Rapids, Michigan
Did you know that Michigan has more shoreline than California? We didn’t either-until we visited Michigan.
I have spent the last two days with one of my good friends from Long Beach Memorial….Bev Vanderwal. She is one of our most beloved nurses. She moved to Grand Rapids 5 years ago to be close to her daughter and grandchildren. It seems that every town I visit on this trip is my favorite…..same with Grand Rapids. Almost everyone in this area has a lake cottage. Bev’s “cottage” is only an hour from where she lives. The drive out was beautiful going through farm lands with Amish red barns and white homes. We stopped and picked up fresh eggs, strawberries, and cookies from an Amish farm. It is all done on the honor system, you select what you want, you write your own receipt and put the $ in a box. Nobody was there! Can you imagine doing that in LA?
Her home is modest and decorated in a sweet cottage style and the view of the lake is spectacular. The windows in the back of the house all open on to a beautiful lawn and lake. It was so restful and wonderful there. She thinks it is even more beautiful in the winter. Winter brings ice fishing and snowmobiling on the lake.
I also got to see the home that they completed in February with “grandma quarters”. They live in a forrest complete with dirt road. Being a California girl, Bev had some great stories about learning to navigate in the snow…..maybe I should getting lost!
She fixed my “need to shop” by taking me to a couple of great gift and antique stores. The best was a “junk” store where my total bill was $12 and I got 4 treasures……a candle holder, bookends, a lamp, and a lamb. (Doug here:well done, Bev)
Grand Rapids seems to be a mix of old and new. Fortunately the city has not demolished many of the old building….you will find them right next to brand new construction. Having been involved selling Amway at one time, it was fun to see the Amway headquarters in Grand Rapids employs 13,000 people. I am not a salesperson and my career as an Amway “what ever I was” was dismal. If you have ever used their products…they are great.
Summer Solstice June 21, 2016
One of my “forever” favorite books is Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I have read it many times. It is sort of like the Bible…the message has a different meaning every time you read it. She calls the summer solstice “midsummer eve” and her simple message is….take joy.
We celebrated the longest day of the year at our RV site located on a little lake with a bonfire & BBQ…..you just had to block out the noise from the expressway…..a couple of glasses of wine usually take care of that. It wasn’t twilight until 1015. I think Doug has mastered fire making – finally. A large fire was well established by the time Bev and I returned around 7:30. Doug has cherished these two days to himself as I spent time with Bev. We served our usual mainstay of steak and salad. Summer was officially declared on a beautiful balmy night with a good friend – and Doug.
June 22, 2016 Around Chicago and on to Wahoo
With severe storm warnings being broadcast, Doug was very motivated to out outrun the storms…..and we did. However, the RV park we stayed in for the night in Davenport, Iowa made it very clear where we were to go if the tornado warning sirens alarmed…..to a shelter under the park office. Now, we only had to evacuate if the sirens “stayed on”. If they “go on and off” there was “nothing to worry about”. I have never seen a tornado except on TV. I can’t say I was really scared. Maybe this is the same way midwest folks feel about the possibility of an earthquake while visiting California.
Doug and I have a “go bag” in our RV (just in case the RV catches fire). I guess we can add “tornado watch” to the reasons we have one. It contains an extra set of Jeep keys, cash, meds, a pepper blaster, head lamps, emergency phone #’s (do you even know your own cell #?), copies of our passports and medical cards, and an outdated credit card. It is not big enough for my hair drier and makeup……we would need a suitcase. I am the only one that would consider these items emergency necessities.
“Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt.
We circled Chicago and the Great Lakes and I never saw a single drop of Great Lakes water.
Iowa is an incredibly beautiful state at this time of year…corn or soy beans as far as the eye can see. Did you know that the farmers in these states actually carry hail insurance? It also contains the world’s largest truck stop. I am beginning to think that I am more comfortable at a truck stop than a formal affair.
Wahoo, Nebraska June 23,2016
We arrived to a warm welcome (literally and figuratively) at Lake Wanahoo near Wahoo Nebraska greeted by Nick & Mary Kay. Lake Wanahoo is actually a watershed that was developed and turned into a recreational area. The fishermen were on the lake by 5:30 am and the fireflies stayed up until midnight.
I went to high school with Nick at Long Beach Poly. Nick and Mary Kay live “just over the hill and behind the trees”. They were so gracious to even come out and select an RV site for us before we arrived. We were treated to a wonderful Italian dinner and introduced to a Moscow Mule (drink) that evening. We watched the sunset from their deck. I think that deck is a source of much inspiration for Nick since many of his PostKards (his spelling) from Nebraska originate there.
We had the pleasure of meeting Mary Kay’s dad, Bob Shanahan. At 91, he had spent the day mowing the lawn on their farm. Family ties and this beautiful little town lured Mary Kay and Nick away from Huntington Beach, California. Doug and I were struck by the love they show her dad. The gift they are giving him by their presence is selfless and beautiful.
Nick and Mary Kay gave us such a wonderful look into life in Wahoo. The day started with breakfast at The Stockyard Cafe. This is a gathering place before the work day begins. They even keep their patrons individual coffee cups ready and waiting. Yes, the blueberry pancakes are to die for.
We were shown many country roads labeled with only numbers, a trip to the farm 20 miles away and a great look at Wahoo. We washed the morning down with a tomato beer. Later in the afternoon we were headed to Lincoln’s Haystack District which is really the college town adjacent to the University of Nebraska and the famous Corn Huskers (formerly known…….you are not going to believe this…as the Bug Eaters!). We got to peek at their world class football stadium. They said every square inch of the town is covered with tailgate parties on game day. Nick let me in on a little secret…..the parties are too fun to miss, but they go home and watch the game on TV. He said 9 degrees is a bit too cold for his bones. It was a bit warm on our tour that day so we shared an ice cream with the cement.
On to Omaha June 25, 2016
Today we toured downtown Omaha, starting with Saturday Market & a great lunch with a childhood friend of Mary Kay’s. Doug is normally is reluctant to eat Indian food. Even he had to admit it was delicious. The downtown seemed a bit crowded even for the 1st day of the Market. The College Baseball World Series was being played only a few miles away and the town was busy. Our afternoon ended with stealing a tractor wheel from a local junk yard. After my great finds at the last junk yard, I couldn’t pass one without wanting to stop. The yard was closed as we headed to Omaha and was closed again on our return. Nick suspects that the owner never opened that day. Apparently businesses in Wahoo are loose with their schedules. What else could we do? We were leaving the next morning.
It is said that “envy rots the soul”. I find I am envious of their life style in Wahoo. They are surrounded by family and great folks that work hard and seem to take care of each other. The fields of corn and soy beans as far as the eye can see, four seasons and fireflies. Every cultural, dining, shopping & sports opportunity is 36 miles away.
PS. Nick went back to the junk yard on Monday and paid for the tractor wheel.
PSS New experiences in Wahoo…Russian Mule-a drink served only in a tin cup, tomato beer, Runza (well seasoned meat is a sort of pastry), and Kholrabi ( a green vegetable that looks like a small cabbage and the consistence of a very heavy jicama ).
You thought I was going to comment on my legs again……no….we are on the last leg of our journey and heading west. Now that we are pointed home, we seem to have lost interest in sightseeing other than what we see from the cab of the RV. We are amazed at the vast changes in topography we have witnessed on the trek.
Made it to Cheyenne, Wyoming – June 26, 2016
Got on the road early. We are no longer surrounded by corn fields. Kearney Nebraska is exactly half way between San Francisco and Central Park on the Lincoln Highway…a bit of trivia. We explored downtown Cheyenne late Sunday night…it was still light after we pulled in. Like so many cities, it is completely shut down on a Sunday evening…sort of like a ghost town.
Our stop in Cheyenne was to see Jim Harper and his wife Ingrid. Jim was responsible for bringing Doug to practice at Long Beach Memorial. Doug and Jim were part of a enthusiastic group of cardiac professionals that started the Heart Center at the hospital. Jim was one of the founding members of the TCS Medical group. At one time the group numbered 6 cardio-thoracic surgeons…..today, Doug is the “last man standing”.
Day 100….June 28, 2016
As we were leaving the state of “oil & gas” or “cattle & feed”, Jim, always generous, sent us on our way with a care package of his favorite foods.
Turning the bend from Park City, Utah we came upon Salt Lake City. All I could think is that I have not seen smog for 3 months. Next were the salt flats. I have never seen anything like this….snow except it is 93 degrees outside.
Today in the news Hilary is leading Trump in the poles, the UK has voted to leave the EU, and there was another terrorist attack in Istanbul’s airport.
As we arrived in Elko, Nevada, we realized that we are now back in the pacific time zone. I love heading west…perhaps I will stay in the good habit of getting up at 6am instead of 9 am.
I usually feel depressed when a long awaited trip has come to an end. For years my girlfriends and I have gone to Palm Desert for a long spring weekend. When the kids were at home, getting away was a tremendous undertaking. Sometimes you wondered if all that preparation was really worth it…it always was. To combat the inevitable feeling, I would stay until dark on Sunday (this literally gave us almost a whole other day) missing the traffic, get to bed by midnight, then get up and go to work at 7……avoiding any time to feel sorry for myself. With that in mind, I wonder how I will feel at the conclusion of this 100 day adventure?……I may need an antidepressant. Just kidding……I have not felt depressed since I met Doug.
Nothing chases away the “end of trip blues” like looking forward…and we are. A new precious grand child is due in mid July in Long Beach and a trip to Sun River, Oregon with family and friends will occupy the end of July.
Days on road: 101
Miles traveled: 9,167
Gallons of diesel consumed: 1345
States crossed: 27
Number of states “toured”….. 16 Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Wyoming
Cost of trip……priceless.