SPRING/SUMMER 2004 MISSOURI/WISCONSIN RV TRIP

"White marks the path," says Sieren.

OVERVIEW (CLICK on any link in the list below to jump to a particular section of the report):

0. FAVORITE CLEVER THINGS FROM TRIP
1. UNCLE CALVIN'S (MOM'S BROTHER), SOUTH OF FRESNO
2. SHARON'S SON MATT'S FAMILY, STARRING NEW BABY KAYLA
3. CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK IN SOUTH CENTRAL UTAH
4. SECOND DAUGHTER SHANDRA'S FAMILY NEAR DENVER
5. COUSIN LORETTA'S IN SOUTH KANSAS
6. SISTER SHIRLEY'S NEAR KANSAS CITY
7. COLLEGE BUDDY AND DENTIST JIM HOBBS NORTH OF KANSAS CITY
8. FIRST GIRLFRIEND JEAN JOHNSON NORTH OF KANSAS CITY
9. FRIENDS AND RELATIVES IN HOMETOWN VERSAILLES, MISSOURI
10. UNCLE PETER HILTY'S IN CAPE GIRARDEAU, MISSOURI
11. MISSOURI TO WISCONSIN
12. SHARON'S FOUR UNCLES IN WEBSTER, NORTHWEST WISCONSIN
13. WISCONSIN TO NEVADA
14. GARDNERVILLE, NEVADA
15. BIRDING HIGHLIGHTS (YES, WE SAW NEW LIFE BIRDS!)

 

0. FAVORITE CLEVER THINGS ON THE TRIP

Sign trying to promote the little town of Escalante, Utah: "Escalante. The Heart of Highway 12."

Granddaughter Sydney, trying to think of reasons NOT to go to sleep, to Sharon, who just finished bringing Sydney a drink of water: "Grandma Sharon, my mouth is making a noise and it won't let me go to sleep. Listen! "Kkkkkkkkkkk (She makes noise like radio static in back of her throat)." Sharon: "Sydney, that's just water in the back of your throat. You are making that noise." Sydney:" No,Grandma Sharon, listen. Kkkkkkkkkkkk."

Sydney, hoping to smack a fly: "Grandma Sharon, where's the flice whopper?"

Cousin Daniel Hilty's little son Eli, after minutes of tummy tickles from his grandpa: "This is FINE livin'."

Four black-leather motorcycle riders taking a break across the border, in Ontario, talking to each other as I'm wondering whether they're American or Canadian. I know the answer as I hear one of them say "...bead and breakfast, ay?"

Cost of free 800 number on RV park pay phone at north end of Mackinack Bridge in Michigan: 35 cents for 15 minutes.

We heard a man call in to try to win a prize on a radio show. The objective was to guess the age of the sound engineer, whose birthday was that day. The caller would give an age, then the radio guy would say higher or lower. He had 30 seconds. Here's the exchange:

27
higher
28
higher
29
higher
30
higher
32 (finally!)
higher
36
higher
42
higher
45
lower
44
lower
43
YES!
Guesser: "Can I play this game or what?"

Sign seen driving past a septic tank emptying company: "We take crap from anyone."

Sign at Webster Cheese Factory parking lot, where the plant manager had a reserved parking spot: "Reserved for Head Cheese, Dale Olson"

We have an electronic compass readout in the upper right corner of our rearview mirror. Usually accurate, one day we noticed that it had the letter 'C'. Sharon looked up this particular problem in the manual, and the solution, it said, was to drive around in a tight circle at less than 5 mph. Well.... it worked. You gotta love a high tech fix like that.

Town with favorite name driven through: Bemidji, Minnesota
Town with second favorite name: Ball Club, Minnesota

Best new dessert discovered: A popsicle called a Root Beer Float. Vanilla ice cream coated with root beer, tasting exactly like a root beer float. Bought at several Walmart Supercenters, in boxes of 20.

Favorite new Canadian expression, used in context: "I voted for him because I like to vote for the down dog."

 

1. UNCLE CALVIN'S (MOM'S BROTHER), SOUTH OF FRESNO

We had fun showing Uncle Cal and Aunt Arline our Australia trip video and our new fifth wheel trailer, catching up on events and talking about the old days. They were my California family when I moved to Palo Alto from Missouri in 1965, to go to Stanford University.

Aunt Arline and Uncle Calvin in our new trailer, overnighted beside their garage

 

2. SHARON'S SON MATT'S FAMILY, STARRING NEW BABY KAYLA

We drove to San Bernardino and stayed near there in an RV park while Matt, Kimberly and their two (Ian and Kayla) drove up from their Orange County home in Fountain Valley, and stayed in a nearby hotel.

Sharon's older son Matt with son Ian and daughter Kayla

Ian bonding with Boomer

We had dinner and breakfast with them, and enjoyed some grandparents time in our trailer.

 

3. CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK IN SOUTH CENTRAL UTAH

After stopping in Las Vegas, we continued on to Capitol Reef National Park. We camped in a private RV park in the area.

We loved this rock beyond a big tree, visible from our campsite

We did a big vertical climb and hike, the target being a natural rock arch.

Gimme Shelter

Sharon doing isometrics

We did make it to the arch

 

4. SECOND DAUGHTER SHANDRA'S FAMILY NEAR DENVER

It was a day and a half drive to Shandra's house, and we backed into their driveway, where we set up for two nights.

Shandra's kids loved our new trailer, parked two nights in their driveway.

The highlight was something like a treasure hunt, in which you go on the internet to www.geocaching.com, input the zip code where you want to go hunting, and pick out a cache location. Shandra found us one hidden in a park near their house, and we went for it. We took all four kids and my GPS, worked our way to the proper longitude and latitude and spotted the hidden tin box. Each of the kids removed a "treasure" from the hidden box, replaced it with one of theirs, and finally we added our names to the list in the small notebook in the box. Then we put the box back where we found it, covered by some rocks

Proving he's a boy, Tommy loves to get into the dirt

Shandra cooked us great meals as usual, and it was fun playing with the grandkids to the tune of Sharon saying, "They'll never get to sleep now. You've got them too wound up."

Jeff, #2 Samantha, #3 Sydney, Shandra, #4 Tommy and #1 Mikayla say goodbye as we head out

 

5. COUSIN LORETTA'S IN SOUTH KANSAS

From Denver, we worked our way to cousin Loretta and husband Dan Baumgartner's, taking a couple of nights and doing some fruitless birding on the way. Loretta and husband Dan moved to Hesston, in south central Kansas, sort of in the Wichita area in the last year or so. Loretta served us a "light" supper Sunday night on their back patio, as I upgraded my opinion of Kansas.

Sharon and Dan

They have a wonderful residence, bright and airy on our warm day. We took a stroll around a small nearby lake and analyzed current events.

I took photos of their many curios for future carving ideas - pigs, cows and other animals.

 

6. SISTER SHIRLEY'S NEAR KANSAS CITY

From Hesston, it's only a half-day drive or so to sister Shirley and husband Jerry Lewis's place in Overland Park.

Set up in their steep driveway

In their Overland Park home, we a) decided to go with them on their annual one-week fishing trip to Canada in the summer of '05, and b) firmed up plans for going to Italy with them in the fall of '06. Our plan is to fly into Rome, do as the Romans do, rent a car and then drive to Venice, ride in a gondola and spend time in the wonderful outdoor cafes, drive to Florence where we plan to "rent a villa in Tuscany," as Sharon loves to say, and do day trips to Florence, Pisa and other fine places.

We went to dinner theater with them one night, where we saw Marion Ross in "Barefoot in the Park."

Shirley's husband Jerry fixed us "shore dinner" one night and their neighbors came over to share and tell lies about fishing in Canada.

They took us to Powell Gardens, an arboretum in western Missouri, and it featured artist Dave Rogers, specializing in creating oversized insects and other bugs.

Ten-foot long Damselfly

25-foot long, 10-foot high Ant

Jerry and Shirley caught in the web of a monster spider

Shirley has done marvelous quilts in her life, winning major awards ("Maybe ... a bowling alley"). She had photos of all the quilts she's done, and as I leafed through them, I realized that there were well over a hundred.

Sister Shirley's Award-winning Quilt

 

7. COLLEGE BUDDY AND DENTIST JIM HOBBS NORTH OF KANSAS CITY

My old Missouri University friend Jim Hobbs married his stunning high school girlfriend Grace, became a dentist, fathered three beautiful daughters, and (with Grace's direction) remodeled an old farmhouse in the countryside near Plattsburg, Missouri, where he practices dentistry. Their two story house (plus attic and basement) looks like the best professionally decorated show home you've ever seen.

What Jim looked like the last time I saw him (about 1963).

I made a great mistake in not bringing Sharon, dangit, who went to several estate sales with sister Shirley. Jim filled in pieces of his life I didn't know anything about, and it became clear after five minutes with them that I need to spend five days there. I'm afraid I talked/listened at about a 70/30 percent ratio, but it should have been the other way round.

Furthermore, I took a grand total of ZERO photos. My bad.

 

8. FIRST GIRLFRIEND JEAN JOHNSON NORTH OF KANSAS CITY

I made connections a year or so ago with my first girlfriend from Missouri University, Jean Turner then, and we agreed to meet for a few hours, swapping life stories. Her husband, Sidney Johnson served two six-year terms in the Missouri Senate, and "graduated" only a year or so ago. She's mother of four and grandmother of 9, I think it is.

I carved a hummingbird for her high school friend Victor, currently winning a tough battle against leukemia, and gave it to her to give to him.

Hummingbird, carved from a South or Central American wood called Padua, also Vermillion.

I came away from our meeting with the following impressions and observations:

- Jean's a lot smarter than I remembered. A LOT.
- She reminds me of my wife Sharon. They both have masters degrees, lead group therapy sessions and are still fascinating. And they both could easily have become PhD's, if they had wanted.
- I can stop having this life-long dream about Jean where I'm about to meet her again after years. I have had this dream about 15-20 times starting in about 1965. In a restaurant, somebody says, "Jean wants to talk to you. She'll be here in just a minute." My heart races, but I never see her before I wake up. The dream was all about wondering what she looks like.
- She's the busiest person I know.


- She didn't have her crystal ball with her - the one she looked into in 1963 that showed we would be incredibly happy in the future (only just not with each other).

First girlfriend Jean Turner Johnson.

 

9. FRIENDS AND RELATIVES IN HOMETOWN VERSAILLES, MISSOURI

We had two Australia video showings in Versailles, one for the Hilty clan and another for the Lutman side.

The Hilty showing was at cousin Twila Garber's house, and thanks to Twila's arranging this, I got to see lots of cousins plus my mom's sister Dorothy, not to mention the great food provided.

Cousins Loretta, Barbara Ann and Twila

The Lutman showing was arranged by second cousin Rachel Boatright, and was at the Versailles county fairgrounds, where we watched a big storm blow by, thankfully not wreaking any havoc.

Cousins Byronita and Rachel admiring sister Shirley's quilt

We visited Aunt Dorothy and cousin Debbie at their house.

Cousin Debbie, sister Shirley, Sharon and Aunt Dorothy, or Dotski as cousin Mel Gerber likes to call her, claiming she is of Russian heritage.

We also stopped in at the Bank of Versailles, where cousin Dave is president. They recently purchased the store space that used to be Bud Walton's Ben Franklin store. It was very interesting walking around in the bank, where I used to stock hardware and toys and clean the floors every night. Thanks to cousin Phil Hilty's wife Brenda, who works at the bank, we walked out with free B of V caps.

Aunt Dotski, cousin Debbie, her brother and my cousin Dave, and sister Shirley

We finally got to eat at the famous Lehman's Restaurant, specializing in hearty midwestern food. It was fantastically delicious, as expected, what there was of it (i.e. all you can eat).

We also visited my high school friend Dennis Van Landuyt and his elegant wife Merritt. They purchased a local landmark in Gravois Mills, about 8 miles south of Versailles, and on a stream that empties into the Lake of the Ozarks. Troutdale Hatchery has a firm place in my memories of growing up, and was originally run by the extremely wealthy (in my mind) Belcher family.

Sharon standing on the walk over a trout raceway

Dennis and Merritt rescued it from years of decline, and I think it's open again now. Go visit. You can buy trout for dinner or you can catch your own. Dennis gave us the tour, plus caught and cleaned four nice trout for us. We gave two to sister Shirley and made a tasty dinner of the other two.

Dennis Van Landuyt and wife Merritt, in our trailer

They also took us out to a fine restaurant in Laurie, after coming to our trailer and watching the Australia video. Great food, great company.

10. UNCLE PETER HILTY'S IN CAPE GIRARDEAU, MISSOURI

From Versailles, we birded our way down to Cape Girardeau in southeastern Missouri to visit Uncle Peter, mom's youngest brother, and his talented wife Nancy. On the way, we stopped to admire this handsome fellow.

Hold him out, away from your body, unless you want to get peed on, that is

One of my favorite all-time activities is playing Scrabble with a worthy opponent, and Nancy provides that function in spades. Well, not spades. It wasn't cards. But she is a fierce competitor, as am I.

We also celebrated the 42nd anniversary of playing dominoes in what Uncle Peter now calls the Renaissance Summer, when the two of us built a barn, to replace the one that burned down from a lightning strike when I was a kid. I think we played dominoes and drank iced tea almost every day that summer.

On a Mississippi River bluff

We drove to Sikeston, down in the Missouri boot heel and went to Lamberts, the home of the throwed roll (also called th'owed roll, as Dizzy Dean or my dad might have said).

Two red arrows point to the thrower and to the airborne roll, in Lamberts Restaurant

Saying goodbye to our last Missouri relatives of the trip. Nancy, Sharon holding Boomer, and Uncle Peter

11. MISSOURI TO WISCONSIN

We drove up through Illinois to near Chicago, where we discovered a tree limb had knocked off the refrigerator roof vent cover that morning. We made arrangements to have it repaired in Kankakee, and were back on the road about noon, heading for Michigan and the only place in the world where the Kirtland's Warbler breeds. OK, so a pair did raise young in Wisconsin once.

The jack pines in northern (southern) Michigan are the home of the endangered Kirtland's Warbler.

These fox kits want us to know that it's not ALL about birds.

Water and bridges are abundant in upper Michigan

12. SHARON'S FOUR BURFORD UNCLES IN WEBSTER, NORTHWEST WISCONSIN

We drove across the upper Michigan peninsula, into Wisconsin and on to Webster.

Sharon's Uncle Terry's house and garage. This is the house Sharon's mom Gretchen grew up in, and the house Gretchen's mom lived in till she was 100.

Spending time with "The Brothers," which is the small town of Webster's name for Sharon's four uncles, is like being in a sports locker room. Everybody is ragging on everybody else. It was great fun, and I tried to do my part.

We had dinner at Yellow Lake Lodge (all the tacos you can eat) the first evening we were there.

The next day, I was invited to join just the brothers for their weekly Tuesday lunch at YLL. I joined in for liars dice to see who bought the beer, and was skillful enough to avoid the bill. Terry told us that Jim won't participate in this action because he gets too mad when he loses, a fact which Jim readily admitted. In addition, somebody else paid for my lunch, I think Bob, but maybe Jim. After lunch and on a tip, Sharon and I drove over to a sawmill a few miles away, and I bought all the basswood and butternut that I could get in the back of our long-bed pickup, for a price about 1/5th of what I would pay in California. I think I'm set for the next five years for carving wood.

Basswood and Butternut fill the pickup truck bed.

The next day we had lunch at Uncle Jim and Elva's summer place by a lake.

This reminds me of that famous Gregory Peck movie, "Hi Loon."

Brothers Bob, Terry and Jim Burford, on Jim's deck.

If you live in Wisconsin, you MUST have a summer home on a lake. This is Jim's view.

After lunch, we visited an old fort in the area, which used the you-are-there-then historical teaching technique, as if it were 200 years ago. Pretty fascinating.

A Native American village, outside the fort.

Our next to last day there, Uncle Terry took us on a tour of the Crex Meadows wildlife area, after which we stopped at a cheese factory, where we loaded up. After eating some cheese, I felt a sudden urge to give a cheer for the Green Bay Packers.

That evening, we went out to Bob's home, also on a lake, for a fish fry.

Bob's dock, behind his lake home

Brothers Terry (cap) and Stub deep fry about 90 sunfish on Jim's deck...

... while Bob fries up some potatoes in what has to be the world's largest frying pan.

13. WISCONSIN TO NEVADA

After Wisconsin, we headed northwest, into Minnesota, then across North Dakota

Who would have guessed that Rugby is at the center of North America.

We made over-and-back trips into three Canadian provinces.

Montana skies were fantastic.

We traveled along the Missouri River and the Lewis-and-Clark Trail. In geologic time, we just missed them, by only exactly 200 years.

14. GARDNERVILLE, NEVADA

We finally made it to Gardnerville, home of Sharon's sister Jeane and husband Wendell ('Red' to us), and her parents Ed and Gretchen Caraway.

Sister Jeane's back deck, Jeane's son Dan, Sharon's younger son Pete (standing), Red, and Pete's second son Sieren, enjoying the Nevada desert.

As Jeane and Red have just sold their Gardnerville home, in preparation for their move to Texas, this is the last time Sharon's grandsons Josh and Sieren (pictured above) will get to do one of their favorite things - ride the go-kart around the sandy track of the property.

15. BIRDING (YES, WE SAW NEW LIFE BIRDS!)

We had the experience of seeing or hearing (in one case) seven new life birds:

6/16 Cerulean Warbler - Sam Baker Park near Poplar Bluff, MO (heard only)
6/18 Kirtland's Warbler - near Grayling, MI (four males and one female, on a tour)

Kirtland's Warbler singing on his territory. From the internet.

6/18 Canada Warbler - Grass River Nat. Area, near Traverse City, MI
6/19 Piping Plover - Bliss Beach area, near Mackinaw City, MI (parent, 4 chicks)

Endangered adult Piping Plover (left) and fuzzball chicks(right). Northern Shores of Lake Michigan.

6/26 Sedge Wren - Crex Meadows near Webster, WI (lots of them)
6/26 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - near Cotton and Hibbing, MN (called him in)
6/29 Baird's Sparrow - Lostwood NWR near Minot, ND (called one in, finally)

The Kirtland's, the Piping Plover and the Baird's Sparrow are all very difficult birds for even a good birder to get, and we were delighted to get these rare birds. I believe this brings our life list to exactly 1,600 (of the approx. 10,000 bird species in the world).

Other nice birds along the trip for us were: Mountain Chickadee, Western Tanager, Chukar (much better view than we'd ever had before), Scissortail Flycatcher, Burrowing Owl, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Mississippi Kite, Northern Parula, Common Nighthawk and Chimney Swifts over my home town of Versailles, MO. Still more were Summer Tanager, Yellow-breasted Chat, Indigo Bunting, Pileated Woodpecker, Worm-eating Warbler, Pine Warbler, American Bittern, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, LeConte's Sparrow and Sora.

Western Tanager. Capitol Reef National Park.

 

Chukar. Capitol Reef National Park.

We saw many other, more common species. Overall, a very pleasant and rewarding trip, from the point of view of

1) birding,
2) camping in the RV,
3) getting away from the things-to-do list at home,
4) visiting relatives, and
5) visiting with old friends, using the word 'old' not with any chronological connotation, of course.

 

FACTUAL, HISTORICAL OBSERVATION: George Washington was a Carver.

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