Friday, March 31, 2017

Day 31: Bucket List

There are places I haven't been that I'd still like to go (my "bucket list").

I want to ride through the Appenines of Italy on a motorcycle with my husband.

I want to go to Comicon and Dragoncon.

I want to go to Angkor Wat, the World Heritage Site.

I want to go to Hawaii and see a volcano and try surfing.

I want to take Caleb to swim with dolphins.

I want to go to New York with Eli again.  The last time we were there, he was 11.  I want to go back with just him and attend theatre.

I want to go to Tennessee and ride the Dragon Tail with my husband on our morotcycle.

I want to go to Busch Gardens and ride the roller coasters there.

I want to take my grandkids to Disney World.

I'd like to go with my brother on a mission trip to Nepal.

I want to go to Australia and see the Great Barrier Reef.

I'd like to go and stand on the Equator and on the Prime Meridian.

Really, my bucket list is kinda endless.  I can see some of my list happening, while other will likely remain forever dreams.  I hope I never lose the love of travel.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day 30: Traveling in a U-Haul Truck

My oldest son, Eli is turning 24 in about a half an hour.  He and his wife, Sarah, are finally moving out into the world on their own.

So far, they've lived in our basement,  temporary base housing in Fort Lee, Virginia, in the barracks at Fort Hunter-Liggit, California (just Eli - Sarah stayed with us during this time), and with his cousin in Savanna, Texas.  Now they are going to move into their very own apartment in Plano, Texas.  They are both excited and terrified.

They came home this past weekend and boxed up all their stuff that's been sitting in our basement for the past couple of years.  Its all now sitting in the garage where my husband's truck normally sits.  Tomorrow, we'll load it all up on a U-Haul truck and Saturday we'll drive it down to them.

We'll meet them at their new place.  Their new lease starts on April 1.  We'll be their first guests.  It'll be a long day in a U-Haul truck, but worth it to help send our children into adulthood.

Day 29: Travel by the Numbers

1- Number of times I've had my luggage lost on an airline flight

2- Number of times I've been to Europe (London & Barcelona)

3- Number of times I've been to a Disney (2x Florida, 1x California)

4- Number of times I've been to Savannah, Georgia (3x in June, 1x over New Year's)

5- Number of major bodies of water I've been in (Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Lake Michigan, Balearic Sea

6- Number of US Mountain Ranges I've visited (Rocky Mountains, Cascade Mountains, Sierra Nevada Mountains. Ozark Mountains, Boston Mountains, Ouachita Mountains

7- Number of states surrounding Missouri I've been to (Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas)

8- Number of states I've been to for gymnastics (Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Washington, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida)

9-Number of US Forts I've been to (Fort Smith, Fort Pulaski, Fort Jackson, Fort Scott, Fort Knox, Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Gibson, Fort Riley, Fort Sill)

10- Number of amusement parks I've been to (Hershey, Silver Dollar City, Six Flags, Frontier City, Bells, Worlds of Fun, Cedar Point, Universal Studios, Disney, Celebration City)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 28: Glamping

Every summer my husband I go camping with our friends.  We go out to a nature retreat in Kansas about three-and-a-half hours from here, usually leaving on Wednesday and coming back on Sunday.

We have a large, orange tent.  There is both a front and side entrance, and a covered porch/entrance area.  It's large enough to house a queen-sized blow up mattress that we put up on camp cots.  Inside is also a five-foot table that we put our camping tubs under, with the table surface for our counter-top. There is room enough beside the bed to set the bedding tub up as a night table.

Outside we have an orange pop-up awning we use as our kitchen area.  We set up two more five-foot tables with our kitchen tubs and ice chests under; on top of the tables we have a small, propane grill. One of the tables is kept strictly for prep space, the other for eating from.  Underneath our entire personal area we put down tarps to protect against potential rain.

Personally, I prefer climate control, room service, and white-sand beaches.  My idea of "roughing it" would be Motel 6.  Sleeping in a tent in the wilds of Kansas is not usually my idea of a good time. But our friends have funny ideas of camping as well, and the experience isn't as bad as it could be.

Deborah is the organizer of our weekend.  Each year she is looking for the "next big thing", the newest way to make our camping trip less like camping.  Last year she really pulled off a doozie.

Outside of her tent (a large, white tent with three rooms) she has a kitchen with running water that is pumped in from storage jugs.  She also set up a jumbo circus-style tent for our group to gather in. She has music piped in by satellite.  There are several box fans and oscillating fans.  Assorted rugs cover the grass and dirt.  For your sitting pleasure there are rocking chairs, bag chairs, and outdoor couches.  This past summer there was even an 80-inch television that she brought out just for "movie night", complete with popcorn.

In front of the "social tent" there will be a volley ball net for afternoon play.  Deborah is a very social person, and she will venture into other camping areas and invite other campers over for a friendly game of beach-ball volley ball.  She keeps an ice chest stocked with water balloons so that we can defend our area should we get attacked with water guns (and yes, it does happen!).

There are tiki-torches marking pathways all around our compound.  We each go out at dusk and light the torches that lead to our personal tents from the social tent.  There are five to eight personal tents that make up our area.  Then we move out to the camp fire to sing songs and make s'mores.

As much as I moan and groan about camping, I wouldn't miss the  "glamping" trip with our friends for anything!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Day 27: Traveling with Mr. Kevin

I was shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected death of our friend, Kevin Owen.  I can't not talk out the heaviness inside my heart.

I have actually known Mr Kevin for a long time.  He was, even when I knew him back when, acting as a father figure to children who needed him.  He was helping parent three sisters on the gymnastics team the Mr G and I coached.  He traveled with our group on these sport trips.  We went to Atchison, McPherson, Salina, and Pittsburg, Kansas as well as in our area of Missouri.

I particularly remember one trip to Salina, Kansas.  He sat with all the parents, cheering loudly for not just his girls, but all the girls on the team.  I don't know why, but I have a very specific memory of him at this meet.  Those girls are all grown now with families of their own.

It was nice getting to know him over again when I came to work at the middle school.  He had to re-introduce himself to me since.  I hadn't recognized him - he was 15 years younger when I knew him before!  He had dark hair and a dark beard!  It was nice to see him in an environment where he had such a positive influence on young people again.

I will miss him much.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Day 26: The Ballet

Today I took a trip to Tulsa to see Swan Lake.  I went with my choir club friends from school.  It would seem we have started a tradition!

Last year we went to Springfield to see Wicked.  It was a wonderful afternoon with a wonderful bunch of girls who enjoy theatre as much as I do!  We had lunch out, a bit a shopping, and a great show.  We had such a great time we decided to do it again.

This year we opted for the ballet.  Tulsa Ballet Company was putting on Swan Lake, so that was our choice.  We left this afternoon from a central location in Joplin and drove to Tulsa.  We got to the PAC in time to attend a pre-show visit with the choreographer.  He talked in heavily Italian-accented English about all the different interpretations of Swan Lake, why there are so many, and which variety he prefers.  He pointed out some things we should look for in the performance.  He was so charming!

My favorite character from the ballet was the Sorcerer.  He was such a talented dancer!  His leaps and jumps exhibited so much more height and control than all the others.  The girl who danced the Swan had beautiful lines and showed her range in both the technical and emotional performance.  The costumes, especially of the Black Swan, were exquisite.  I was even impressed with the control shown by the Corp de Ballet during the long periods they had to pose completely stock-still while others danced.

After the performance we had dinner at an Italian pizzeria that also served gelato before driving home.

I can't wait until next year's day at the theatre!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Day 25: Travel Souvenirs

When I travel, I like to collect mementoes of my travels.  My favorite baubles are collector pins.

I have been collecting pins since I was very small.  My parent's saw this as a good alternative to the teeshirt; teeshirts were pricy and not long-lasting.  

Unfortunately, I lost my original collection to fire.  I had Disney pin, Silver Dollar City pins, Universal City pins, Six Flags pins.  Pins from Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago, St. Louis, Orlando, Barcelona.  Harley Davidson pins from almost every place we'd ridden.

I also had a nice collection of Olympic pins from the 1980 boycotted Moscow Olympics to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.  I had mascot pins, event pins, country pins.  Summer games pins and winter games pins.  Sponsor pins, like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Kellogg's, and Nike.

Restaurant pins, city pins, special event pins;  you name the pin type, and I probably had it from one of my travels.

Its been six years since the fire and I am starting to rebuild my collection.  Friends and family have been helping; they bring me pins from places they visit they know I've been before.  And, of coarse, I am adding new pins from new places I roam.

I've got enough pins again that I'm now looking for a pin collector's book.  I am starting to be excited to play with my pins again. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Day 24: Traveling Down Memory Lane

My baby, my Caleb, my youngest child turns 20 years old today.  He arrived quite by surprise: he was five weeks early.

Due to our time in the hospital after his early birth, I was concerned that we would not bond.  Garold was the first to hold him and feed him.  Both sets of grandparents had held him.  Most of our extended family and friends had held him.  He was four days old before I got to hold him.

We bonded just fine.  In fact, for the first five months of his life, Caleb would barely go to anyone else but me.  When he was five months old I had to go out of town for a conference for four days.  When I came back, he wouldn't come to me except for food for over a week.  He eventually forgave me for my abandonment, but it was a long time before we were close again.

Today we are close again.  I have been fortunate that Caleb and I travel well together.  Our trips together have ranged from a bike ride to the creek to build a dam, to the amusement park to ride roller coasters, and even to London for a week.

I can't wait to see what the next 20 years bring!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 23: A Change in Travel Plans

We had great plans for the day.

Caleb came home last night after bible study so we could get an early start today.  You see, he has Thursday's off at college - no classes!  His 20th birthday is tomorrow, March 24, but he has classes, so we would not be seeing him.

We planned to take him to Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas today to see the Frank Lloyd Wright home they have there, and to tour the museum build to examine the architecture of the structure.  There is also an interesting display of how the structure was planned and built to fit in seamlessly with the natural landscaping of the area.  This was a perfect outing for celebrating his birthday with him.

Caleb is a construction management major.  He is also hoping to add a theatre minor.  His dream job is set design/building for film, television, or broadway.  He is very talented in design and drafting, and often spends his spare time designing things for fun on his computer.  He was very excited to go to such a great facility and explore the architecture.

Let me emphasize the had in the statement "we had great plans for the day".

At 6:20 this morning I got a phone call from a 417 number I did not recognize.  Normally, I do not answer calls from numbers I do not recognize; nine time out of ten they turn out to be somebody trying to sell me something.  But at 6:20 in the morning, I reasoned the might be important.

One of my two elder aunts, Aunt Betty, was on the other end.  She was at Freeman East, and could I please come there immediately and sign a paper so she could have a procedure?  My early-morning foggy-brain replied "What?" while my vocal chords came up with a most intelligent "Ummmm".

Then a nurse came on the line, and told me that the signature was not so that Betty could have the procedure, but that the procedure, a colonoscopy, required anesthesia, and she would not be allowed to drive for 24 hours.  Further conversation revealed that Betty had shown up to the hospital with a pillow, blanket, and the intention of "sleeping it off" in her car for a couple of hours, then driving herself home!  I assured the nurse I would be there as soon as possible.

My Aunt Betty is fiercely independent and set in her ways, but usually in a polite, Southern, lady-like manner.  In the coarse of the day I learned she had told no one of her visit to the hospital for an outpatient procedure, even though she was told when it was scheduled that she would need someone to drive her home and be with her for a few hours at the least.  She didn't think it was anyone's business the doctor was looking in her bum for cancer and she is perfectly capable of looking after herself, thank you very much!

She came out of her procedure arguing loudly with the nurse, the tech, and even the doctor!  The doctor kindly told me that anesthesia sometimes make people more aggressive, especially if they are fixated on something before going under, and that she should return to normal after an afternoon of sleep.  She argued with me about driving her home.  I had to take her keys!  She argued with me about me being at her house "babysitting" her.  She argued with me about laying down to rest.

As soon as she settled she was sound asleep.  She slept until almost three o'clock, and it was a good, restorative sleep.  She woke in a better mood and no memory of being feisty all morning.  She normally is a very sweet person.

Caleb dealt with the change with good grace.  He and Garold picked up my car from the hospital, then picked my up this evening.  We got him birthday ice cream and sent him back to school with a hug.  I hope he is learning that sometime you make sacrifices for the ones you love and that life doesn't always go to plan, but its all okay in the end.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Day 22: Mundane Traveling

Today was filled with chores.  Bleh.

Most of these chores required travel around the area.  As much as we've been gone lately, these were small trips we could not put off any longer!

First stop to check on grandma.  At 85, she is still fiercely independent.  Sometimes I think we check on grandma more for our peace of mind than hers!

Stop two was in Carthage.  We went to the motorcycle shop to pick up a birthday present for my oldest son, Eli.  He wanted a new helmet of the "skid lid' variety.  They are very hard to come by and we were lucky to find one in his size!

Stop three was still in Carthage, at Liberty Tree.  Caleb and Garold had gone to the gun range last Saturday while I was in Kansas City so now we had to replace the ammo they used.  Of coarse, you can;t just go into Liberty Tree and pick up ammo; you have to look at the guns and talk firearms with the staff.  I did pick up a new running shirt, though, bright pink, with built in holsters on either side, just the right size for my LCP!

Last stop was Walmart.  I needed lubricant for my paper shredder.  They make specially oiled sheets of paper to feed through your shredder to keep it running smooth.  I couldn't find the special paper, but just as well as the employee we talked to said they were quite expensive.  He then told us that they used plain, old vegetable oil on the shredder in the back!  Not quite that adventurous with my electronics, I went for a silicon based spray.

Not a very exciting day of travel for me, but still a day of travel.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Day 21: Albuquerque

I spent a few days in Albuquerque, New Mexico about 20 years ago.  I was going out to see a friend from high school get married.  Never having been to Albuquerque, I decided to go early and see the sights.

My work friend, Shawna, took a few days off and went with me as my "plus one".  I am fine to travel alone, but the trip was so much more fun with a playmate!

We had a huge layover in Dallas so we rode around on the monorail in the early dawn waving at flightline workers.  We started touring right away, finding our way into old downtown within an hour of checking into our hotel.  Lunch was on the porch of a big hacienda-style restaurant, with more fried ice-cream than actual food, and exploring the shops and museums there.

That night we found our way to an audience-participation showing of Rocky Horror.  Its fun to throw rice and shoot water guns as part of the movie!

Next day was the wedding.  It was outdoor and on the patio of a local bed & breakfast.  Afterward, we headed out for Sandia Peak and the Sandia Peak Tramway.  Shawna and I hiked all over the top and had a thoroughly wonderful time.  The weather was perfect for hiking, warm and sunny.  We descended the mountain at sunset, then turned in early in anticipation of an early flight home.

Our flight home was a bit of an adventure as well.  On the last leg, from Dallas to Tulsa, we were flying on a rather small plane and open seating was being used.  We went to the back for the bench-style seating.  There were already two gentlemen there, and they both asked if we really wanted to sit there with them.  Shawna made a joke about the movie "Con Air" (which had been out for just that summer) and went ahead and sat.  Then one of those gentlemen rattled his chains at us and we realized that we had just sat next to a convict and a US Marshal!  I do believe that was one of the most unusual plane rides I have ever taken.  Unbelievably, we shared a laughter filled, pleasant afternoon of conversation with people we would not have met otherwise.

Shawna now lives in Florida selling real estate to wealthy retirees.  I think it might be about time for a visit!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Day 20: Evacuation Routes

Today we made the trip home from Mena, Arkansas.  We started out headed east towards Hot Springs, then turned more northeast to travel through the Ouachita forest high in the Ouachita Mountains.  We headed back west at Russellville, then north at Clarksville for a final ride through the Ozark mountains before heading home.  (seeing our day reduced to a paragraph gives no scope of time; this ride took 343 miles and eight solid hours of riding on a motorcycle!)

As we rode west from Russellville to Clarksville, we passed by Arkansas Nuclear One, Arkansas' nuclear power plant.  Highway 64, the road we were on, passes right by the entrance and serves as the official evacuation route should a disaster occur.

It made my husband and I laugh to realize this was the THIRD evacuation route we've been on in our travels together!

The first evac route was in Georgia, on highway 80 from Tybee Island to Savannah.  That one is a hurricane evacuation route.  Our first time there we were chaperoning eight gymnasts from land-locked Missouri for a morning at the beach to see and swim in the ocean.  You can bet they picked up on the evacuation route signs first thing!

Our second evac route was in Washington on highway 410 on the way out of Mount Rainier National Park.  This one was an evacuation route in case of volcano eruption!  To us, the threat of eruption seemed real enough.  You see, we visited the park on a clear, cloudless day, a rarity in the area, we were told.  The park ranger at Sunrise Peak told us the small "clouds" over Mount Rainier were actually volcano puffs, called pyrocumulus clouds, caused from the intense heat of the volcano and the presence of moisture over the volcano.  Moreover, we were told that Mount Rainier is an ACTIVE volcano, currently at rest between eruptions.  The last eruption of this particular volcano was 1894-1895, so I'd say they are probably due!

We are very glad to be home where we do not have to worry about evacuation routes!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Day 19: The Smell of Spring

here on the eve
of the first day of spring
high in the mountains
far from home
I sit on the porch
at the sun country inn
at peace
the end of hard day's ride

I breathe deep
of the fresh mountain air
and close my eyes as I recall the scents of the day

burning wood
fresh mown grass
pine trees

I fall asleep to my
scent-fueled memories

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Day 18: Traveling with Friends

Today I am taking a trip with one of my bestest friends.  Jo and I have been friends for about 15 years now.  We have been taking trips together for about that long as well.

We started out as coaches together and our first trips were either coaching or training trips.  Sometimes we'd travel with gymnasts, but most of the time it was just us traveling together.  We haven't coached together in a very long time, but we've remained besties.

At least twice a year, more if we can manage, we plan a "play date" together.  We've been all over the country.  Today we are going to Kansas City.

We'll drive up and yak all the way.  The drive time is for catching up.  When we get to the city, we'll have lunch then go play.  Sometimes we go to our favorite food and cooking stores.  Other times we might make a tour of museums.  If the weather is good we might visit one of the cities' outdoor shopping centers.

In the evening we'll be heading out for a concert.  Pirate Music!  The Musical Blades have just cut a new album and tonight is the CD release party and concert.  All our favorite pirate people will be there.  We will sing along loudly with our old favorite songs.  I can't wait to hear the new material!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 17: New Year's Eve

Caleb and I took a trip to London over Christmas break 2014-2015.  We were there for sports, of coarse, cheerleading this time.  Caleb had qualified as a high school All-American Cheerleader and as such got to participate in London's New Year's Day Parade.

We left Kansas City the day after Christmas and arrived in London with around 1,000 cheerleaders, dancers, instructors, sponsors, and parents.  We spent each day touring the city and surrounding area, and each evening the cheerleaders would practice their routines and stunts for the parade.

The event sponsors had a New Year's party arranged for the cheerleaders and dancers, which left me with time on my own to ring in the new year.  Earlier in the evening Caleb and I had been to Piccadilly Circus to enjoy a bit of New Year's Eve out with a foreign crowd.  As I sat in our room looking out the window I decided I was not going to sit in one of the world's most famous cities and miss ringing in the New Year.

Our hotel was right next door to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge.  Traffic was closed on our street and there was quite a crowd gathering on the bridge.  I went out and joined the throng!

I had never been in such a large and energized crowd before!  Even though it was quite cold out, I didn't have to worry with a heavy coat since there were so many people squished up on that bridge.  Movement was next to impossible, and yet people managed to move around.  People were so friendly!  You couldn't move around or get passed by without getting a hug, high-five, or friendly back clap from total strangers.

There were also so many languages!  In addition to European-accented English, I was able to identify Russian, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.  There were many slavic and asian languages I heard but could not identify.  The countdown to midnight was enthusiastic from all voices, no matter the language.  Of coarse, language didn't matter at all once the fireworks started, because "oooOOOOooo" and "Ahhhhhhhhh!" sounds the same in all languages!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Day 16: Wandering Around Pitt State

Today we went with my baby on a college visit to Pitt State.  We did the official college tour back in October.  Today's visit had a different purpose.

We had a 9am appointment with the Office of Disabilities and Student Support.  We went in ready with our list of questions.  Unfortunately, the girl we met with didn't have a lot of answers.  We did get many forms filled out and a list of paperwork we need to complete the process of getting Caleb's educational plan in place at his new college.

Unsatisfied, we took our list and started exploring on our own.  One of the skills we've developed as a family of travelers is the ability to wander about and our own and find things for ourselves, so off we went!

We visited the financial aid office and got help accepting a scholarship Caleb was awarded for good grades in junior college.  We visited housing and learned about the different options available and what might be the best fit for Caleb.  We visited admissions and got Caleb signed up for fall enrollment and an appointment with his future department for enrollment advisement.

After lunch we visited the Construction department.  One of the departments teachers sat with us and showed Caleb which of his classes would transfer (all of them!) and what classes he would need to take to complete his degree.  Turns out he'll have about 15 hour a semester to finish in two years.  Caleb is also interested in a minor in theater.  His dream job is set construction for film & television.  The construction department was unsure about this, so we were off again to the theater!

We wandered in to the new theater and asked our question to the box office girl.   She made a quick call and we were led to the "back house" area to meet with instructors there.  They were able to answer all of Caleb's question, gave us a tour of the theater, set building facilities, and prop building areas.  They also recommended Caleb for a job in the department!  Turns out they like to have actual construction majors on hand.

Finally, on the way home around 3:30pm, we drove past what looked like a shrink-wrapped UFO. The news report tonight said it was an X-47-B navy drone on route from Maryland to California.  Still looks like a UFO to me!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Day 15: College Travel

Tomorrow we will be traveling a short distance to take our youngest son for a college visit.

We took the traditional visit last fall with the tour of campus and the hard sell.  Now that he's been accepted, we'll be visiting to make sure his educational plan and other consideration are in place before classes start in the fall.

I've been lucky; neither of my children went very far from home for college.  I went farther away for my first semester of uni.

After being told I was too short (and half blind to boot!) for the Air Force Academy, I set my sights for the University of Denver.  I was young and ready to leave the nest, ready to explore the world.  Before I could leave for college, in fact, before I even graduated high school, I started dating my husband.  Once I had decided that he was IT, Denver seem much too far away for my studies.  I eventually settled on Oklahoma State University.

I made it one semester in the dorm at OSU.  With my husband living in Joplin and working in Carthage, our weekly commute ate up a significant portion of our limited time together.  Phone calls just barely got us through the week, so one of us traveling at the weekend was an inevitability.  I made the drive so ofter I believed I could do it with my eyes closed. (And to the understanding OkHyPo that pulled me over with regularity, I promise my eyes really were open all the time!)

Our original timeline had us getting married after I graduated.  After a couple of weeks, we moved our date up a couple of years.  By the end of September we decided to get married at semester break! College travel for me was at an end.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Day 14: I Have Been to the Top of the Mountain, and it is Good

I have been to the Top of the Mountain.  Several mountains, actually.

One of the first was Pike's Peak in Colorado.  My first time to the top was in the cog train that starts in Colorado Springs.  Next time up was during a college visit to the Air Force Academy.  My daddy took my on this trip.  We had rented a blue Toyota Corolla and he let me drive to the top...brave man! My goal is to next make the trip on a motorcycle.

I've been to Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on a trip to California when I was in Junior high. I remember staying in a tent in Yosemite National Park and the campfire sings around the fire each night led by the park rangers in the shadow of El Capitan.  Unforgettable was the hiking, from the bottom of Tunnel View to the top of Yosemite Falls.

I've been to Sunrise Peak on Mount Rainier, the highest mountain in the Cascades in Washington.   We were able to drive to the top and spend the day hiking around the trails there.  This was one nervous mama running around my ADHD youngster.  I was so scared he'd fall off the mountain!

On a trip with my daddy and oldest son Eli we were able to ascend to the tops of Montserrat, Tibidabo, and Montjuic in and around Barcelona, Spain.  Montserrat boasts a Benedictine monastery with a rare black madonna, and is the region of the world where stories of giants originated.  Tibidabo has an amusement park where we rode in an open-gondola TALL ride that terrified me we went to high!  Montjuic is known for its fountains, so visited at night to see the water and light shows.

I've ridden along the ridge of the Boston Mountains in Arkansas, the Ouchita Mountains in Oklahoma, and the Ozark Mountains in Missouri.  I love motorcycle riding to the tops of mountains with my husband!  If the weather cooperates during spring break, I'll be able to add another mountain peak to my list of motorcycle rides!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Day 13: The Big Easy

One of the most memorable trips I have taken with my family was to New Orleans.  Once again we were on a gymnastics trip for Caleb.  He had qualified to Regionals, the highest level of competition he could attain at his age.  A rarity this time is that we all got to go!

We drove down to the Big Easy on Thursday and got into town in time to explore the city by night. Caleb and his teammates had an open workout session on Friday morning and competition on Saturday around noonish.  That left us with lots of time to explore the city both as a family and together with his gymnastics team. 

Caleb had been competing with the same group of boys for a very long time so we had actually traveled together with some of these families before.  He still remains close these kids, Preston and Jakob, even today.  Eli had even formed a close friendship with Preston's older sister Mary Jean.  These five kiddos were together quite a lot for five or six years and I believe they feel as close as siblings.

We made the most of our time in New Orleans.  We ate beignets at the famed Cafe DuMond, took a ghost tour, ate seafood, and danced and sang in the streets.  The gymnastics meet just happened to fall in the middle of the New Orleans Jazz Fest.  We finished our trip with a trip out to the swamp to ride in an airboat and look for alligators and see the Spanish moss hanging off the Cypress trees.  

One of my favorite pictures from that time is one where Eli was taking the picture of Garold and me, and unbeknownst to any of the three of us was Caleb hiding behind the Cypress tree we were posing in front of.  He manages to poke his goofy, grinning head out from behind the tree at just the perfect moment to be in the picture.  I still smile with fond giggles every time I see this picture.  It brings back such good memories of a good family trip!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Day 12: Concert Travel

My husband and I love live music and have traveled all over for the love of it!  As we added to our family over the years we passed on the same joy to our children.  Some of our exploits to date have included being in a Shinedown video and both boys being singled out for recognition by the band on stage (Eli at an R.E.O. concert and Caleb at Five Finger Death Punch).

One of my most favorite concerts we've traveled to was to see Linkin Park in Kansas City at the end of January 2011.  At the time, it was Caleb's favorite band.  He was in the 8th grade.

Me, my husband, and oldest son Eli all decided it would be fun to surprise Caleb with the concert.  We were luck and the concert just happened to be the same weekend as the Kansas City Co-Ed gymnastics meet, so we had a reason to get Caleb to the city without suspicion.  He competed on Friday, so it was no big deal to tell him I needed to be back there for a Saturday night session.

It was fun on the drive up to the concert.  Caleb heard they were giving away tickets on the radio and said how cool that would be if we would win them.  We were driving right next to the concert venue, with a giant picture of the band on the front marquee and he still didn't have a clue.  It wasn't until we had parked the car and I gave him our tickets that he figured it out!

The outfit he had chosen for the evening was so unique he got his picture snapped and put on the jumbotron of fans during the concert.

The two of us had a fantastic time that night.  That concert trip remains one of the top two trips I have taken with Caleb.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Day 11: Traveling Food

We were traveling through Tulsa today on our way to Shawnee. Travel to Tulsa always means a stop at Coney Island.  The particular store that receives our custom has been in business since my dad was a child.  In fact, he remained friends with the owner until he passed.  My family remains friends with the second-generation owners as well.

One of the joys of travel, for me at least, is eating foods I don't get to have at home.  I have favorite places to go and favorite types of foods to eat base on where I am geographically.

In Dallas I like to eat at down in Deep Ellum, a cultural area just southeast of downtown.  When I cave the opportunity to go there, I like one of two options.  Deep Elum is known for having fantastic soul food, which I particularly like and can't get around Webb City.  Another thing Deep Elum has is Southern Fried foods.  My favorite of this option is Twisted Root, a place known for its homemade root beer.  And the deep fry everything, even the hot dogs!

If I go to Chicago, I want deep dish pizza.  It's best if you get deep into downtown and find a little mom and pop type place in the basement of one of the skyscrapers, just under the "El".  Served steaming hot and up on a little rack so it's up off the red and white checked table cloth.

St Louis has me wanting either White Castle, more affectionately known as "sliders", or toasted ravioli. Did you know the first ravioli was made in St Louis for the World's Fair held there in 1904.  They taste even better if you go get them on "The Hill", St Louis' Italian community. Even though I start wanting sliders in St Louis, I had my first taste of these fast food delacacy in Chicago's famed "projects" area.

The food I miss most from London, well, Windsor actually, is mushy peas.  I can get a close approximation of fish and chips at Long John Silver, but nowhere close to here have I found the mushy peas that make that meal complete.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Day 10: Motorcycle Travel

My husband and I enjoy traveling together.

One of the very first ways we started traveling together was by motorcycle.  When we first started dating way back in 1987, my husband-then-boyfriend had a red Kawasaki KZ-750.  We rode that thing all over northeast Oklahoma!  It was summer and the open road was ours.  We kept that bike until our first son was born; kinda hard to strap a baby seat on the back.

When our youngest son was in high school, my husband got a bike again.  This time he went for a  2009 Yamaha 950 V-Star Tour.  This bike is made for road trips for two.  We took several small rides around the area to get used to the fell of riding together again.

Our first major ride together on this bike was down Oklahoma Highway 10 to Tahlequah and back by way of Silom Springs.  Both roads wind through the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Oklahoma.  This was a good first long ride for us.  And just the first it  was!

Since that first time we've rode the Boston Mountains in Arkansas, the Valley of Fire in New Mexico, and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado just to name a few.  Any time we have temperatures at least in the 70s, we're good to go.  Some times we take afternoon trips that dip down through the southern border of Missouri.  Sometimes we'll take day-long trips where we'll cover 300-400 miles round trip.
My favorite, though, is when we plan out and take a ride that covers multiple days.

We've still got quite a list of places we want to go ride.  Number one on that list is Tail of the Dragon, officially US 129 in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  The ride boasts 318 curves in 11 miles, and is reported to be one of the best motorcycle rides in the country.  A couple of others on our bucket list of rides are out of the country.  We'd like to ride the Pyrenees in Italy, and Highway 1 on the western side of Australia through Perth.

I you have any suggestions for us, we'd certainly like to hear them!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Day 9: Travel Break

We all travel every day.

I travel to work in the morning.  It's not far - just a mile.  I could probably travel to school on foot, but the road is a narrow, two-lane road with no room for pedestrian traffic, and really would be quite dangerous at the time of morning I would be walking to school.

After school I travel around town, running errands before I shut myself in for the night.

I travel to Walmart to pick up items I need.  I travel to the grocery store to pick up ingredients I am missing to complete dinner.  I travel to the gas station to refuel my car so I can keep on traveling.  I travel all around this town.

I travel occasionally outside our  community.  Doctor visits of all varieties to attend: dentist, optometrist, general practitioner.

I travel to visit family.  My mother-in-law over by the high school.  My oldest son in Dallas.  My youngest son in Miami.  My brother in Tulsa.  My aunt in Commerce.

I travel to see my friends.  My friends in Kansas City.  My friends in Florida.  My schoolmates in Tulsa.

Sometimes its nice to just stop traveling for a while, sit in the old rocker on the porch, and enjoy the sunset.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Day 8: Traveling Back in Time

A couple of times a year,  my family likes to travel back in time.  We all dress up and go play middle ages for a day.

Our favorite place to go play is in Kansas City at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival in the early fall.  At this particular event there are things to do and see that would fill many days.  You can try your hand at archery or knife and ax throwing.  Or maybe you want to visit the falconer.  There is a full armored joust.  Our particular favorite is going to listen to the singing groups.

Our favorite of the singing groups are the Jolly Rogers pirates, who's speciality is sea shanties from the Golden Age of Piracy.  There are also the McGuire Brothers, who sing Irish drinking songs. Another favorite is Mick N Mischief and their renditions of military songs of Ireland, Scotland and England.  Caleb has formed a special relationship with one of the Jolly Rogers, dating back to when Caleb was 7 or 8 years old.  Much to his delight, Caleb has even been onstage to sing with them a time or two.

We have made many friends in addition to "Bloodbeard" the pirate.  My friend Trevor does demonstrations of  martial arts from the middle ages.  Friend Max is part of the Yeomen Guard that protects the "Royal Family" at these events.  Several of our friends are in the various musical groups. I even have a former student that is now a roaming minstrel, playing her fiddle at the White Stag eatery and in the enchanted forrest.

Next up for us is the Festival at the Castle of Muskogee in Oklahoma weekends during the month of May.  Most of our musical friends make the trip each weekend, so we will make sure to go there as well.  I usually visit each fair at least once with my girlfriends and once with my family.  Its a different experience for me depending on which group I go with.  Sometimes I will even make the trip with just my husband, or just my children.

Also fun to do in Muskogee is attend banquette with the King of Scotland.  We are served roasted pork and chicken, a vegetable, home baked bread, a potato.  Water is used to cleanse the palate and a very yummy blackberry mead rounds out the meal.  In true royal banquette fashion, magicians, jugglers, musicians and poets are brought in for our entertainment.

If you're the adventurous sort, maybe traveling back in time will be something you want to try!

Day 7: Boy's Gymnastics Camp

When Caleb was younger, we used to load up and go to Norman, Oklahoma for the Bart Connor Boy's Gymnastics Camp.  It was always in June, and lasted for 3-4 days.

We'd go a day early and make a stop in Oklahoma City.  We'd alternate our stop on a three-year rotation cycle.  Year one: Frontier City, year two: White Water, year three: Bricktown.  We'd spend the day having all kinds of fun, then drive on to camp in the early evening.  Stopping for amusement was always a big deal to kids from Webb City!

The camps were limited in the amount of campers so as to keep the training more personal.  With small groups, Bart Conner himself was able to spend a little bit of time with each camper!  At the end of the first night of camp, he always made each camper stand up and introduce himself.  When it was Caleb's turn, he told his name, age, home gym, level, and home town.  When he got to the "Webb City" part, Bart stopped him and got all excited.  Seems both Bart's parents graduated from Webb City.  Turns out his great-grandfather built our then-house and his other grandmother lived just a block over from us.  Caleb found a friend for life!

The second night of camp, Bart brought out his Olympic Rely Torches and Olympic Medals (two gold medal - one for team all around and one individual for parallel bars) and let the kids hold them and pass them around.

Now, whenever we see Bart at a gym meet, he always makes sure to come over and say "Hi!" to Caleb.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Day 6: The Coleman Pop-up Camper

When I was in grade school, my parents bought a Coleman Pop-up Camper.  It was in the mdi-1970's.  We pulled that puppy along behind a red Pontiac with these giant side-mirrors that stuck out like some metal parody of a wing. 

The first trip we took in  the camper was to the Campfire Girls Camp Waluhili Family Weekend on Fort Gibson Lake, near Waggoner, Oklahoma.  I was a Campfire girl, an organization similar to the Girl Scouts, in Oklahoma.  We pulled that camper to the top of the hill overlooking the lake and spent Memorial Day Weekend camping.

Our next grand adventure with the pop-up was to Colorado.  This was around 1975, so the highways you might be familiar with to zip you from one side of the Rocky Mountains to the other didn't exist back then.  Going up and down the two-lane switch-back roads was exciting!  I'm sure my parent got some premature gray hairs hauling that camper up and down the mountains with two energetic kiddos bouncing around the backseat.

Sometimes, when we had family visiting in the summer, my folks would open up that pop-up camper in the back yard and me, my brother, and all my cousins would pile in that camper for a sleepover.   The camper had two large beds on each end, and several seats that made for a descent night's sleep in a pinch.  We'd pile all the girls on one side, boys on the other, the  younger ones would just have to fight it out for those spots in the middle.

No matter where we traveled in the that old pop-up camper, we always had a great time!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Day 5: Traveling to Judge

Earlier today, I traveled to Springfield, Missouri to judge at the Missouri Winter Games Gymnastics Competition.  Its a fairly large meet, the biggest meet in this area.  Its been going on since Friday morning.  This meet is special in that it includes both men's and women's competition. The men's portion of the meet has been happening continually for close to 30 years.

I was judging on the women's side of the meet.  It has been a long time since I've held certification for judging men's gymnastics!  I have been a gymnastics judge for 20 years.  It has been a very enjoyable pastime.

At the start of my judging career, I traveled mostly within the state of Missouri.  I got to know the judges in our state and have formed may lasting friendships.  As my experience and rating increased, so did the distance away from home that I'd go to judge.  During this time I extended my judging radius to include Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.  At the height of my tenure as a judge, I went as far as Florida to judge at the National Judges Cup.  I've even spent some time at college meets.

In the past few years I've cut back on the time I spend judging.  If I wanted, I could judge every weekend from late October to mid-April.  I still get offers, but have decided that that I'd rather be with y family.  When my children were younger, we used my income from judging to pay for the activities our children were involved in.  Eli did sport karate, diving, and acting whereas Caleb did gymnastics, cross country, and cheerleading, all sports requiring a monetary commitment at the higher levels.  Now that my children are grown, I don't feel the need to judge as much.

Now I am able to judge for fun;  I accept offers to judge at meets run by friends and go as much for the social aspect as the gymnastics.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Day 4: Traveling to School

Junior high was the first time I ever rode a bus to school.  For kindergarten through sixth grade I attended our neighborhood school.  Most days I walked or rode my bicycle.  We had a carpool arrangement with other families on our block for inclement weather days.

Starting in seventh grade, I went into Tulsa's magnet school program, a program that put the better schools in the worst neighborhoods, then have students apply for admittance.  There was always a wait list for students wanting into the schools.  Carver Middle School was a 45 min bus ride from my house.

Seventh grade was the first time I came across the concept of "bus buddies": friends you have on the bus you ride.  Our bus serviced several different neighborhoods and transported kids from seventh to twelfth grade, picking up along major artery roads and dropping off at first the middle and continuing on to the magnet high school, which I would eventually attend two years later.

Since the majority of my friends continued on to the neighborhood junior high, I had to make a whole new set of friends.  At least the situation was the same for all the students and we all had to form new friendships.  I quickly settled in and made friends.

I found a picture recently from this time in my life.  The picture is taken in my backyard in early summer, at a birthday party.  What really makes me smile when I found this picture is that I am still friends with over half the kids in the photo.  That's an amazing thing to me considering we all came from different parts of the city and spent our formative years in completely different environments.  For such a diverse group, we really got along quite well!

Teresa and Norine, the twins, were the oldest of 7 children and both now live abroad and have over ten children between them.  Katheryn is a tenured professor at Dartmouth teaching sociology.  James is a communication specialist in Dallas.  JJ, who goes by J Edward these days,  is a preschool art teacher in Nashville with a husband and two kids.  Susan is a zoologist and works at the St. Louis zoo.  Paul is a baptist minister at a small country church in central Oklahoma.  One of our group, unfortunately, got hit by a drunk driver and now resides a long-term care facility on the east coast.

Travel to a new school was what brought us all together, but common interests, quirks, personalities, and love have kept us together all these years.

(Bonus points if you can pick me out of the group!)

Friday, March 3, 2017

Day 3: Over the River and Through The Woods...

Some of my best childhood memories are from going to grandma's house.

My grandma lived in a big, two-story home situated on a big piece of land in Commerce, Oklahoma.  The house was painted white and had green shutters around all the windows. There was a plain, wooden porch swing over the gray front porch.

 Hundred year-old pecan trees dominated the south end of the property, along with other varieties, such as pear, apple, mimosa, and plum sprinkled throughout. The north end housed a chicken coop and a 3/4-acre garden shared with a couple of neighbors.

Downstairs held a living room, sitting room, dining room, large southern-style kitchen, sun porch, bedroom and bathroom.  Upstairs held a bathroom with a cast-iron, claw-footed tub, a small bedroom, and a dormitory-style bedroom left over from an era in which families tended to include large numbers of children.

Commerce was (and still is!) a very small town. Being from the city myself, I loved the freedom a small town afforded a child.  I had several playmates in the area, many of which I am still close with today.  I also had many cousins there. One of my aunts was a grade school teacher, one of uncles was the baptist preacher, and another uncle was the sheriff.   My grandparents owned the town's dry-goods store.

I found it utterly fascinating that milk and eggs were delivered every other morning to the back porch. I loved the tire swing that hung from old pinion oak.  I enjoyed helping grandma light the fires in the ceramic gas wall heaters in the winter.  I am blessed I met my husband on my first trip to grandma's house.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Day 2: Sports Travel

Through the years my husband and I have taken many trips to watch our children participate in various sports activities.  Tonight we are on the road, traveling to Miami, Oklahoma to see our youngest son, Caleb, cheer his last game as a student at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.

The college was founded in 1919 as the Miami School of Mines.  It expanded in 1942 to become a true junior college, fully funded by the state of Oklahoma.  They are known as the Golden Norsemen.

NEO has been a good fit for Caleb.  He lives here on campus in the athlete's dorms.  He has really come into his own during his time here.  He even made the honor roll this year!  If you anything at all about Caleb, you know what a major accomplishment this is for him.

In addition to this being his last game of the season, they are honoring the graduations sophomores at halftime.  It's been hard for this mama to admit her baby is growing up!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2017 SOL: The Travel Edition

Time once again for the Slice of Life Challenge!

This year, I've decided to make a "travel edition".  I'm going to regale you with some of the travels I've had in my lifetime.

I'll start right at the beginning with my earliest travel memory: going to church.

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  For the first three years of my life, we lived in the northeast part of town, then moved to the house my parents shared until the early 2000s, and where my brother Paul still lives today.  There was a small baptist church in the neighborhood where my parents lived that  we attended regularly.  And by regularly, I mean multiple days per week.  Sunday morning: Sunday school and big church, Sunday night: choir and night church. Monday night: visitation. Tuesday night: WMU, deacon's meeting, RAs and GAs.  Wednesday night: potluck dinner and Wednesday service.  Thursday night: off, Friday night: off. Saturday: family activities at the church.

I have memories of this church way back from in the nursery.  I remember playing with the giant blocks.  Newborns, "rollers", "creepers", and "crawlers" were all on one side of the hall, with "toddlers" and preschool age on the other side of the all.  Out of the Nursery and to the left took you to the stairs that led up to the primary classrooms  Church offices were all underneath the primary classrooms. At the end of the  primary hallway and to the right and over the main church entryway was the teen hallway.  Adult rooms were situated over the fellowship hall.

The main sanctuary, in my memory anyway, is large with wood accents and long, stained-glass windows.  The organ sat stage right and the piano sat stage left.  Front and center on the alter-stage was a giant pulpit, behind which lay the choir, and behind that the baptistry.

I remember my first friends were from that church. Lisa, Melinda, Laurie, Angela.  Even though my family moved from that neighborhood when I was three, we still went to that church until I was in the fourth grade.  I kept up with my friend Lisa well into adulthood.  I sang in the primary choir.  My daddy played on the church softball team and was a deacon.  My mother taught sixth grade girl's Sunday School and served on many committees.

I have very warm, fuzzy memories of my first church and all the trips we made there.