Monthly Archives: April 2014

By Dan

We are hanging out in Maxwell Ia with my Mom. It is great to be here. Before getting here, we spent a couple of days in Chicago. The kids loved it, especially standing in the box at the top of he Willis Tower. You could look straight down. It was kind of freaky. We got to ride the el too just like in Divergent. Eliza and Nate really liked that. From there we went to Dubuque to see Jack Wertzberger. A dear friend of ours. He has always  been a great host going back to when we visited him in Iowa City too. We spent 2 nights parked in his driveway, which was better than any campground so far. We went to the 25 year anniversary showing of the Field of Dreams. Really cool. We got introduced to Ray Kinsella’s Dad. Jack took us on a cool tour of Dubuque and told us all about its history. It sounds like a really neat town. It sure is pretty on the Mississippi River and all of the cool churches. Jack was a great host. Hard to say good bye. I am looking forward to the next two weeks here with my Mom. It is pretty here too. Nice to be home. 

Day 125, Dubuque Iowa

Everyone should go to Dubuque, Iowa and meet Jack Wertzberger! That is, for the few people in the world he doesn’t already know.  He’s just like my little sister, Shelby, with friends all over.  Really fun to hang out with him and meet everyone.  He’s charming, beyond intelligent and dashingly urbane. Really, go meet him.

We had a blast with Jack – eating too well, camping in his driveway, and getting the history of Dubuque.  Who knew Dubuque would be so interesting.  Or that we’d experience an international education.  The indi film we previewed at the film fest was “Everything is Forever.”  A story about a musician from Croatia who has been a peace activist for years and was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  Not exactly on our list of things to learn, so that was a pleasure.

The only  thing that got us to leave Dubuque was knowing that Grandma Helen was waiting on the farm.  We high-tailed it down the highway, stopping to run the bases at the Field of Dreams, and into Maxwell with the sun.  Another perfect day.Image

Day 122, Chicago in a day !

Whew , what a blast ! It was a busy day . Left camp at 7:15 am to ride the train into Chicago . Dave had suggested it a few days ago and he was right – much better than driving . The conductor’s wife manages a property in Oregon .


Went to the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) first and up to the 103rd floor. This is Dan bring gutsy sitting on the Skydeck – 1450 feet high ! A little plastic box hanging off the side of the building . Crazy .


I didn’t care for the height ! I’m holding on like that would help! Kids were fine and took tons of cute pictures of each other and their feet through the floor .


This is our reflection in the Bean in Millenium Park – so fun ! The park was packed with tourists and locals because the sun came out finally . They had snow last week .


We stumbled on this Tiffany glass dome inside the old library – gorgeous dark to light green pieces made to look like fish scales . There was a quartet playing under the dome, and we followed the sound up the marble staircases to the 4th floor . Exquisite sound and a feast for our eyes . Eliza and I agreed that it must have been pretty special to check a book out of this library . Now it’s a cultural center with so much going on we didn’t have time to see it all .


These tags were hanging on a newly planted row of trees , and we thought they were funny . Others said “Treemendous”, “Branch out” and “Did you know trees make the air cleaner ?” We know !


View of the city from Navy Pier . The storm was rolling in and we bought tickets for the Wave Swinger only to have the rain start and the ride be closed down . After we had walked all the way there ! The Ferris Wheel was closed for repairs and the whole pier is under construction , so it was a bust . Good views though .

Ready to go home and see what the dogs have been doing , we went to the El station on Grand and rode it until the end . Dan had really researched the lines , so we transferred to the purple line and got off near our train station. Hot footed it off, down through the turnstile, under the bridge and up the stairs … Only to find we were on the wrong side of the tracks and the train was in sight ! Down the stairs we went , under another bridge, and up what I’m sure were more stairs than the other side !

The ride back to Waukegan was relaxing , the old houses and graffiti interesting , and we got home to an RV still intact . Another perfect day !

Day 118, Decatur IN


We went to Ohio today – twice ! It has been a strange day …

5am – up to get rig sliders in and everyone ready to be out of rig all day . Brutal time because we just switched into Eastern time . Started the day worried about getting rig fixed and so tired .

6am- Dan walks over to repair shop , and comes back with Ron . Kids , dogs , cooler and computers loaded into car . Pitch black and cold . Ron and Dan drive away .

630am- kids and I head to a cafe recommended by locals . We walk in , conversation stops and 7 tables stare at us . After sitting down, the waitress tells us we have to move , we’re in a bar, and we have to go to the back of the building to eat . At least she turned the lights on for us . The meal wasn’t worth the price , but the conversation about how it might have felt to be sent to the back of the bus was worth it . Then we tortured Nate about state capitols until we were all laughing .

730am- to McDonalds because it was the only other place open . Used the wifi to order stuff we need on Amazon and sent it to Grandma Helen’s. We cannot wait to get there .

845am- to the Allied Recreational Vehicle plant outside town to take the factory tour. I was going to try to be polite about all the mistakes on our rig . Turns out that you have to be over 16 to take the tour .

In between each stop , we take the dogs out and have to fight with Jessica about who belongs in the drivers seat .

The library doesn’t open until 9, so on a whim we decide to go to Ohio . It’s one of the 5 states I haven’t been to yet and is only 6 miles away . With the music blaring , we find the border and get out for the obligatory pictures with the sign . Nate runs down the highway to get a shot of the Indiana sign .

9am- we spend the next 33 minutes trying to get the wifi working at the library so we can do school . They say they are having problems with it , to be patient . We were .

1230pm- off to Wendy’s for lunch . Afraid to try another local spot , we opt for one we know has good salads .

130pm – took our time because no one wants to do more school . Nate’s eating an apple , so we use that as an excuse to drive around and explore some more . I vote for visiting Ohio twice in one day , so we head east . At an intersection , we hang a right because the sign for Wren was so cute . Turns out the little township was cute , too . Found a park and got out to play . Great new play structure with a fast slide and a low teeter-totter . The old merry-go-round and swings were still better . Finally sunny and 60, we enjoy the warmth . I cherish time with the kids like this – they are such a gift !

230pm- headed back to Decatur because Dan and the rig might be done … We hope . We had 2 pages of items to fix , and they have 2 days to do it, so we were anxious to see how much got done . Only took one small wrong turn and corrected later ; I am Ray’s daughter after all !

330pm – Dan and Ron pull into our camp site in the lot , and we pull in behind them . For an hour we’ve been wasting time and are really quite hysterical . Kids making mustaches with licorice , and anything we say is beyond hilarious . We are loopy .

5pm – all of us testing our new beds . New beds !!! Plus more ! They got the new skylight in and fixed about half of the rest of the problems . Hopefully tomorrow they can finish the rest because we need to get to Chicago and Dubuque before Grandma Helens next Saturday.

9pm – bed. Have to get up and do it all over tomorrow !


By Nate

My favorite part of the trip so far is seeing all the different places and seeing all the different people.  My favorite place so far is probably San Diego or Memphis.  There isn’t always a lot to do but we are usually getting up early and going somewhere.  Today its been raining forever and now its snowing.  

By Dan

We are sitting outside St. Louis. Been here a couple of days. We have seen some great country lately. April 12 was my birthday. It was great as I spent it the entire day with my family. Which is what this trip is about for me. Relationships are what matters. Not career. Not possessions. Not projects. Not accolades nor accomplishments. It’s about family and dear friends. We went to the Arch in St Louis. If you have never been, it really is worth the trip to go see it in person and go up in the Arch. There are better views such as the Space Needle in Seattle, but this building has an aura about it in light of national history. Three sides made of stainless steel makes it blend in with the sky. For lunch, I would say the best buffet I have ever had. The food was great with a large selection. The deserts were amazing. Of course, I ate too much. 

We are at Dr. Edmund Babler Memorial State Park. Nice campground, good bike riding. I hit 45 mph going down one hill and about 5 mph going up the other side. That was fun. Lots and lots of trees and hills. Not much farm land. 

Since my last blog, we went to Nashville. Great city. Vibrant. Lots going on. We went downtown and saw the old Grand Ole Opry. It was closed though. Then we went out and saw the new Grand Ole Opry and Gaylord Hotel. Huge with a building inside of a building. Our campground was Cages Bend which was on a lake. I would say one of the most beautiful lakes with houses around it I have seen. I can see why folks would want to live there. 

We have had spotty weather lately. Not warm, overcast, and rainy. But, I guess that is springtime in the Midwest. It would be too hot for me now in Phoenix. It is cold here tonite. 30 degrees. It snowed on us earlier, which was kind of cool. 

We have been trying to go to church now on Sundays to praise and worship God. It is also cool to see churches around the country. We look for older, churches that are smaller and intimate. We found a good one the other day. Sally and I strongly believe that Eliza and Nate need to have a relationship with God. That is a very important relationship. 

We are off to Decatur, IN tomorrow to the Monaco plant to get some issues worked out. The folks we are dealing with have been great to work with. They are throwing out the red carpet for us. 

I hope all is well for all of you reading. Take care 

By Eliza


This is a picture I took and edited from Natchez, Mississippi on March 20th.

I finished Geometry yesterday, so I’m one step closer to being done with school 🙂 One of my favorite things we have done lately was see Divergent! It was amazing and is basically my favorite movie. I loved the country music in Nashville and the shopping. Daddy’s birthday was a lot fun especially lunch. Going up to in the arch was really cool.  I’m really tired of the rain, thunderstorms, and it even snowed today… I miss the warm weather from California and Arizona. But I’m excited to get to Grandma’s soon.   

Day 113, St. Louis. Missouri

Here’s the arch in all it’s glory!!! Couldn’t believe how beautiful it was as we approached from the parking garage. Tons of construction downtown, we were fortunate Dan found the parking garage. The redbud trees are my favorite – we’ve seen them since Mississippi and just now learned the name. The dogwood trees are at their peak, too.
Here’s another family shot that we bought. (Ouch, $’s.) Eliza liked this one. As we were getting ready to load for the little cars that take you to the top of the arch, we lined up against the wall and bam, they take the picture. You’d think we’d be used to it by now. I need someone like my Dad saying, “move here, take off those glasses, Nate step here…”!
View from the top looking west. There was a Cardinals game set for 130p.m. and the guard had his binoculars ready. We were lucky it was sunny because the last couple days we’ve had huge rain storms and tonight we’re due for snow. SNOW. Ugh.
This is the view looking straight down, on the east side, to the Mississippi. I got the nerve up to look over and then thought I’d take this shot to remember that I briefly had the nerve. You couldn’t feel the arch move as they say it can in the wind, but looking out was nerve wracking. I don’t remember being scared when we took Eliza there in 2000, so it must be age…and the fact that we are 632 feet up. The guys building it didn’t even wear harnesses! And they had no fatalities. In the final shot of the movie we watched a guy was standing on the outside of the little platform at the top, using his foot to guide the last section in. His foot! 632 feet up! No ropes! Sounds like work my brother Jeff could do, only he’s smart enough to be safe.
This is my “art shot” of the arch. After seeing how it was built, we had to look at it closely when we went outside. Then we looked up at the clouds whizzing past and it was fantastic. I took about 10 shots and this is my favorite. The kids have been taking art shots the whole trip and posting on Instagram, so I’m learning from them. Our whole house is going to be covered in pictures when we land again.
This was a surprise. Outside the old courthouse (west, visible from the arch) is this statue of Dred and Harriet Scott. They were the slaves that sued for their freedom and finally, years later, won. They sued because they had been living in free territory, but then when back in Missouri, they weren’t free. Their master died and his wife wasn’t amenable to setting them free. The court decisions against them were a major part of the beginning of the civil war. People either strongly agreed or disagreed. Even the President weighed in. I had forgotten that all this occurred in St. Louis. The courthouse is well preserved and has the original woodwork. I know that I never heard the term, “Dred AND Harriet Scott” in history class – just the Dred Scott case. So she was disregarded twice! Whew, good little lesson for Eliza and a long prayer said by me that Eliza won’t face that kind of discrimination.

Day 111, Trail of Tears State Park, Missouri

I want to write about this park that means so much to me , but it’s hard to put into words . So I’ll start with the picture above and slowly work my way into it .

That’s Dan at the fence , on the edge of our campsite on the muddy Mississippi . He’s watching the train go by , just like he and his brothers used to do in Maxwell . He told the kids they got in trouble for it , but wouldn’t give anymore details. We’ll ask Grandma Helen for her version as soon as we see her .

We’re on the Missouri side , although you can easily get confused by all the parks with similar names . We had been here in 1998, but I was still convinced , and had 2 maps to prove it , that we were on the wrong shore . Luckily, Dan was driving and he was right !

When we visited in 1998, we were so excited to discover the campground right on the Mississippi , and not overcrowded. It’s a little off the
beaten path . We felt the same this time. There were 30 sites, and only 2 reserved . We got the utilities hooked up , the bikes off , and went out to explore .

This was one of our favorite spots in 1998, and I couldn’t wait to show the kids . The first stop was a grave in honor of Nancy Bushyhead Walker Hildebrand . No thanks to president Andrew Jackson, she was one of the more than 16,000 Cherokees forced to leave their land by foot in the winter of 1838-1839. On foot . In the winter . With hardly any clothing or food . Over 4,000 Cherokees died on the march , and Hildebrand was believed to have died within the park and is buried close to the marker .

Part of the reason for this trip is for the kids to learn US history firsthand . To see how incredible our country is . To recognize what it took for us to become independent. To learn that being an American means you have choices, unlike in many other countries .

Building on the injustices that Martin Luther King preached about for one last time in Memphis , we hoped that seeing the Trail of Tears would teach them what other oppressed people had to endure . Mission accomplished .

And as on any other day , we don’t go overboard on the learning . Hopping back on our bikes , we started the first of many climbs . The road is a roller coaster . So steep on a few hills that 3 of us occasionally had to walk and would be screaming at the others if we made it a foot past their stopping point . Yes , slightly competitive .

The visitor center was closed , so we didn’t know how far it was to the bluff overlook . The park is 3400 acres , and it felt like we were riding forever . We had been here in the fall before and the trees were in their full glory . This time it felt like an alien wasteland. Dan was the same though “I think it’s around the next corner .”

The view was worth the ride . High on a bluff over the river with views in all directions . Eljza took a picture of us and couldn’t stop giggling and wouldn’t say why . I realized why later – I left my helmet on and looked like a total dork ! Very funny .

The ride back took less than half the time there , confirming that we’d done more uphill in the 12 mile round trip . It was a blast ! Had to be careful to not to get going too fast .

So why am I so sentimental about this park ? The history ? That there but by the grace of God and marriage to a white man , my ancestor would have been part of the tragedy ? Or is it the sun , great ribs over a fire and the spectacular Mississippi flowing by ? Or the trains and barges going by day and night ?

Probably all of the above and more. Dan and I were really looking forward to revisiting one of our favorite parks , and expectations were high . We also know that we will never be back . So many spots out west we will be able to drive back to , but there’s no way we’ll drive this crazy far again ! Fly maybe , drive , no way ! So it’s been a very special time and I will carry it in my heart and memory as a highlight of this adventure .


Day 109, Fort Massac State Park, Illinois


Another fantastic day ! Woke up to the Ohio River still within its banks; the flood warning was just around the bend down river from us . The old timers we met this morning said not to worry if the snags in the river were floating by so fast – to start worrying when they didn’t because that means they closed the locks and dams and it would all start backing up and overflowing . Noted !

Went to the Paducah library for a long day of school . Looooong day . We’re all excited for the kids to be done . I did read an excellent book – the Gentle Barn . Glad I didn’t read it when we had a barn or I would have filled it up . Dare you to read it and not cry .

Next stop was the National Quilt Museum . When Dan talked to Grandma Helen , she wasn’t sure if her quilt was there , or traveling . We were so lucky – it just came back ! And we got a picture even though there are signs all over stating no pictures . We had been excited to see it , and several people nearby were , too . When the docent went to ask if we could take a picture for Grandma , they all kept coming up “take it now , take it “! Which I couldn’t because what does that teach the kids ?!

Someone decided we could , and we took the above picture . The quilt is called Primrose Lane and is exquisite ! Helen donated it when they asked , and she and it are both featured in the book , “Oh , Wow! The miniature quilts and their makers, at the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society .”

Helen said later that when she read that we were going , she knew the kids would be bored . Dan said “No, Nate went flying through it…” To which Nate said “Yeah , I wanted to get done .” Right again , Helen ! And what is this trip for if not to educate and bore our teens ?! They’ll never forget seeing their Grandma’s quilt in a national museum . Almost as good as the quilts they have from her .

Went to downtown Metropolis next . You know , the home of Superman . Eliza took the picture below , for which Nate will probably never forgive me . The previous pictures I was posing as Superman and he was mortified . Everything Dan and I do in public is embarrassing to them . Nate paid me $10 one night to not be weird/stop acting normal . I should have framed it because it was so funny , but I spent it on him the next day instead .

Another blessed day !