Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fort Dodge, Ia to W. Des Moines, IA - The Awning Adventure

First off, anyone who has an ‘Awning Adventure’ must be living a pretty dull life. My brother-in-law, Tom, just got back from a kayaking adventure in the Pacific off the coast of British Columbia. A friend has just spent 2 weeks touring and driving rocky, rutty, bouldery back roads in Colorado and today took a tour of a working gold mine. Now that’s adventuring. Gary and I - we have an awning adventure.

The day began prosaically enough with our breaking camp and getting ready to return to West Des Moines. Not that we wouldn’t like to stay in Fort Dodge, mind you. Actually, I’d love to stay through the weekend since this is the big sky-diving weekend in Fort Dodge. People come in from all over the US to sky dive through the weekend. There are white tents being set up for vendors and food on the airport grounds while there is a bunch of RV’s in a parking lot across from the airport in back of a sign saying ‘RV line-up here.’ We assume that they are waiting for the organizers to open a field near the airport that will be used all weekend as a campground.

Not only that, we’ve had a full working week in Fort Dodge and I’d like to kick back and relax. But, no, we set up 2 dental appointments on Thursday and 2 annual physicals on Friday so we’re on our way. The campground where we are staying is getting almost full for the long weekend and everyone there must be wondering why in the world two people are leaving. To go home for a long weekend? What are they thinking? Oh, well.

We were meeting my brother at Village Inn, a local chain restaurant on the north edge of town close to both the campground and Jack’s house. Good breakfast and ever so much better than the breakfast we had at Perkins several days ago. The omelet was light and fluffy, the country fries were golden brown and not the crispy critters we had last week. AND - Wednesday is PIE DAY at Village Inn. We were finishing up our breakfast and chatting when the hostess came over to ask if we wanted a piece of pie.

        ‘Oh, no, we’re full’, we said.

        ‘But it’s Wednesday and you can get a FREE piece of fruit pie.’

        ‘What kinds do you have?’ I asked. Note how quickly I changed my tune when I heard the word ‘FREE.’

        ‘Cherry, apple, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb,etc.’

        ‘I’ll have cherry’ I said while Gary said he’d have strawberry rhubarb.

My silly brother said he didn’t want any but, when I said I’d then take 2 strawberry rhubarb pieces, he changed HIS tune and said he’d take apple. Hmmm. He doesn’t want one, but doesn’t want me to get it either. I should have reminded him who was paying for breakfast.

Hugs, hand shakes and we were off.

But first two stops to get some refunds. We were over charged at Applebees the other night and Gary had a return for Radio Shack. And, now we’re off.

And, here comes the awning adventure.
IMG_2218-2012-08-29-20-43.JPGWe were 2 mile south of Odgen, Ia, rumbling on down the highway facing a pretty strong typical southwestern Iowa wind off the passenger front. I was a giving Gary a short synopsis of our YTD spending, remarking that we were under last year’s spending, when we head some horrible sounds, a ripping, a flapping in the wind and, sure enough, our awning had come off in the wind.

Gary slowed, pulled over into the shoulder of the highway and we got out to see the damage. Oh, shucks. Maybe we’re not under last year’s spending.
Awning flapping in the wind, metal supports awry on the side and short scratches in the fiberglass side of the RV, the side we’re been so careful to preserve. OK, luckily we’ve got all our tools and our LIttle Giant Ladder in the Jeep since we’ve used them in Fort Dodge. Let’s get to work. Several people stopped to help us. One was actually turning off the highway a mile back, noticed our plight, turned back onto the highway and came to help and offer his tools. Another was going the opposite direction, turned around and came back to help. We must be in Iowa. However, we actually had the situation well in hand, thanked them profusely and went back to work.

Then Chuck, from Michigan stopped and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Luckily, because he was taller and had a pick-up with a strong tailgate that both guys could stand on to reach the awning which was about 12’ up. He was as mechanical as Gary and they figured it all out, got the supports unscrewed, down and on the ground. Then they were able to undo the awning and its housing and get them down. What a guy. We offered to pay him but he just told us to ‘pay it forward’ which we will. Coincidently, several years ago, we stopped one cold winter night on our way back from Fort Dodge on this same stretch of road to help a Hispanic couple who spoke very little English. Their car had broken down but they had relatives in Perry, a town a short ways off the road where they also live. So, we took them to their home.

Afterwards, as we were talking, I noticed a ‘Tea Party’ decal and an ‘NRA’ decal on his truck. Luckily I wasn’t wearing my ‘Obama 2012’ t-shirt. Just kidding, I’m sure he would still have stopped and helped us - he was that kind of guy.

You can tell how windy it was by the death grip Gary has on the awning. I’m waiting for him to sail over the RV in the next gust. Which reminds me: when we got back to Des Moines, we read several stories about others who had awning problems on the highway. In one case, the awning did flip over the RV and ended up flapping into the traffic in the next lane. In another case, the whole awning assembly came off into traffic as the owner was passing another car. We were so lucky: quieter back road where we could pull off safely, little damage to the RV, no other cars involved, a Good Samaritan with a truck who stopped to help. I wish it hadn’t happened, of course, but, if it had to happen, this is the way.
StrongWinds%252526RVAwnings-8-2012-08-29-20-43.jpgAnd, we were off.

Now, don’t feel bad for us. It could have been raining, it could have been 20 degrees, there could have been 2’ of snow. It was just an awning which is replaceable. But, shucks, I was already spending that extra money.

We got home about 4:30 and unloaded the RV. Funny how it takes so much longer to load it that unload it.

It’s evening, we’ve unpacked, eaten dinner, showered and now we’re eating our pie.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fort Dodge, IA - Saved by a Stash

We arrived at Lug’s about 9:00. His first words as he walked down his driveway to greet us were;

        ‘No more work now. I don’t want any more done.’

But, somehow, Gary got him to agree to one more day - with the plumbers, if we will be with them while they worked. Of course, a plumber comes on his or her own schedule and, sure enough, he came about 2:30 with only a small window of time to work before Lug returned.

Meanwhile, I was doing errands: twice to Menards (I’m becomming a regular there), once to Subway for lunch and once to Target to pick up some other little things for the house. Mostly I’ve been bringing lunch with us but today, I decided to hit Subway for lunch. I stood in line, made my order, chose the ingredients and, as they were wrapping it up, I reached for my money and - oops - it’s still at Lugs. Ouch. Well I’ll be back shortly - oh, wait, I’ve got a ’stash’ of laundry quarters in the car. Yep 21 quarters and I had the $5.00 black forest ham sub all paid for. Sheesh.

In between errands, i weeded Lug’s back yard while Gary worked with the plumber. He got several faucets fixed, replaced several turn-off valves and was finishing up when Lug arrived. Later, when Lug knew we would be leaving tomorrow and was feeling pretty mellow, he even made a joke about my cleaning. He told me that he had to wear his dark glasses when he worked in the kitchen since the sink, the floor and the windows were so clean they shone in his eyes. Now, let me tell you how I loved that joke. Praise for me from Lug is like a jewel, very rare and thus very valuable. I can live for years on that joke.

However, we’re finally done with what we think we can get done. We would like to get some other projects done but we’ll save those for another day, another time. We said our good-byes and headed on back to the RV. Barb had given Lug some potato chips for us and what a treat in the evening. I might still be yearning for chocolate but my salty fix has been fixed.
Meanwhile I’ll end with a joke a friend e-mailed me about modern technology:

I was visiting my son and his family some time back and asked if I could borrow a newspaper.
“This is the 21st century, Dad,” he said. “I don't waste money on newspapers. Here, you can borrow my iPad.”
I can tell you this: that fly never knew what hit him

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fort Dodge, IA - Carrying On

Today we showed up at Lug’s at the usual time of 8:30 with several goals: visit the landfill, mow the lawn and Gary was going to do some plumbing. We met Lug, talked a bit and then he was off for the day to Barb’s home.
IMG_2187-2012-08-27-08-44.jpgWe began in the basement in the laundry room. I had cleaned the washer and dryer several days ago but today, Gary moved the dryer out to get to the main water valve for the house and I cleaned behind it.

Here I am, all outfitted for work: a headset to protect my ears from the noise of the shop vac and a light on my head to see into the corners both on the floor and the ceiling. Dust bunnies and cobwebs are my targets.

Meanwhile Gary was examining the main level bathroom faucet and the kitchen sink, both of which leaked and have been leaking long enough to get limed up. Finally finished with my vacuuming, I journeyed up to the local Casey’s for some coffee and some donuts. We can get so much more done with a taste of donut in our mouths. Back at the house, I began mowing. With the drought, I was mowing only short tufts since the grass wasn’t very green.

Gary spent some time cleaning the gutters.
HelpingGary%252527sDad-33-2012-08-27-08-44.jpgYesterday when we arrived, Lug was fretting about the shingles in his garage so we asked Jack to come over with his truck, load them up and take them back to his house overnight. Today, Jack arrived at 10:45 with his truck, already filled with the shingles, and, when he backed into the garage, Gary and he began to fill the remaining space with other things they found in the garage. Lug has been storing lots of old lumber, bricks, pvc piping, rebar, etc. in a back area of his garage and we took the liberty of tossing some of the pieces which could never be used again, like broken bricks and 1’ long pieces of 2”x4”, and other things into the truck. We’re hoping Lug never misses them. Jack and I then took them off to the landfill where I used Lug’s annual one ‘free’ dump - rather than paying $18.00. They took my word for it that I was dumping for him. Whew.

As Gary examined the plumbing he found more leaks than he had anticipated and decided to call a plumber. Now, we had not told Lug about any plumbing problems we had seen because we didn’t want to alarm him. We’re thinking he might have noticed leaks and mineral buildup on some faucets but didn’t want to deal with these problems. Gary had originally planned to handle them himself but realized that there were more than he could handle in the time we had in Fort Dodge and thus the call to a plumber. However, it was Monday, the day after a weekend and all the plumbers were busy. Finally on the 4th call, he found a plumber who could swing by and appraise the situation. We wanted him to come early so he could be gone by the time Lug came home but - you know plumbers, they work on emergencies and can be delayed.

Sure enough, as the plumbers were examining the problems with Gary, Lug drove up. After Gary introduced them all, Lug’s first words were:

         ’No’ and

        ‘Not right now’ and

        ‘Maybe later’ and

        ‘Let me handle this.’ 

Gary began explaining the leaks that he had found in the house but Lug was not ready to deal with leaks. Then the plumber, realizing that he might lose a sale began his pitch. Actually, he had installed a furnace for Lug many years ago, knew all of Lug’s brothers and played the good old boy, small town friend and Lug was mollified.

Then Lug pulled off his dark glasses and - OOPS - his regular glasses were not on his face. He had driven all the way home (3 miles through traffic) without his glasses. OMG. We checked the car, no glasses. So, here was the perfect opportunity: I took him the long way to Barb’s home where he had left them and the really long way back so that Gary could show the plumbers the rest of the problems and straighten up the house before we returned.

The plumbers left, we left and Lug had his home to himself.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fort Dodge, IA - A Rainy Day In the Campground

We’ve been working steadily without much rest and not only exhausting Lug but ourselves as well. it’s time for a rest and today is the day. We began with breakfast out with some Fort Dodge friends. Usually when we come to FD, it’s with an agenda: we first visit Lug where we chat for a while then, when Lug goes over to his girlfriend’s, Barb’s home, we do some weeding and mowing and trimming around his yard. Then we visit my brother Jack and sometimes go walking with him. By this time it’s about 4:00 and time to wend our way back to Des Moines. It ends up being a full day and we seldom have time for anything else.

But, we still have friends in Fort Dodge and like to see them sometimes also.This week, we’re spending some time here in our RV and, because it’s our ‘free’ day, we invited some to breakfast with us. Val is a class mate of ours from the fine graduating class of 1968 while Don, her husband is from the class behind us. Val and I were good friends in high school and had several classes together in college but haven’t had much contact since them. Some other friends in common come to Iowa each Memorial Day and have dinner with Val annually. I just got in on this in the last few years and thoroughly enjoy our Memorial Day trips down memory lane.

We had breakfast at a local restaurant along with great conversation. A fun time. Don is a local real estate agent and told us several stories about some of his experiences with potential clients. In one case a couple had a small home with large red velvet drapes overwhelming a small living room. As he was wondering how to tell them that those beautiful drapes might not show the house at its best, they piped up telling him that they wanted to take the drapes with them. Whew, he thought as he told them that they should take them down right now before any potential buyers came and wanted those beautiful red velvet drapes included in their purchase. Whew. His biggest problem is not the laws and regulations of housing but handling people’s expectations.
Afterwards we made one of our many trips to Menards to buy a new toilet seat and several other items and then toured the town to see what is going on in Fort Dodge.

What do you do in a campground when it raining steadily? We’ve been watching the campground fill up over the last few days, glad that the campground is popular and that others enjoy it as much as we are. However, the forecast is for rain on Saturday and Sunday and what do kids do when it’s raining in the campground: fish, swim, boat, bike? Hmmm. Nope, you go to the faucet on the shower/bathroom, fill a bucket, carry it over to the road and dump it in a low spot so you have a puddle. Then you can stomp in it.

Or else, you stand in the puddle, shift your feet and talk to those who are finding cover under the roof of the shower/bathroom.
Jack came over for dinner bearing gifts: ice cream for all of us and his famous ‘Jack’s Blueberry Surprise’ dessert. But first we headed out to Applebees for dinner. Actually Jack had given us some gift cards for Applebees for Christmas and we could think of no better way to use them than by treating him out to dinner. Afterwards we returned to the RV for some ice cream and the blueberry surprise. Now, Jack begins with a box of blueberry muffins from the store then he begins adding ingredients, like a stick of margarine and some cranberries and - well, here is his recipe.
JacksBlueberrySurprise-2012-08-25-13-15.jpgHe actually wrote it down so we could go online to tell him how many calories were in it. You can see my calorie count off to the left hand side. Jack insisted that the margarine had only 100 calories but then we explained the difference between ‘serving’ and whole stick: that this was probably for a serving and, since a serving was 1 T and that the stick had 8 T’s in it, there was a grand total of 800 calories in one stick. Whoo-eee.

This Blueberry Surprise is RICH to say the least. Jack left shortly after this little math exercise - I think we took second place to the NASCAR race that was on TV.

Hmmm. Lug would rather not have us around since we disturb his patterns and Jack would rather watch a NASCAR race. Luckily we have thick skins.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fort Dodge, IA - Up On the Roof

And, we continue on. Gary has fixed the two back doors, has power washed the house, has worked on some lights and performed some other maintenance while I’ve been cleaning inside.

Yesterday was one of the days when Lug goes to the local grocery store where they have a restaurant with lots of tables. He and chats with all those his age there while eating an apple fritter. (Gary tells me that eating donuts in the morning is an inherited gene and now I see the proof of this. When that rationale fails he tries to tell me that he’s in training for when he is older and wants to go to the local grocery store for a donut. He’ll know where to sit, he’ll know the protocols, he‘ll fit right in because he’s been trained in by one of the best: his father.) Yesterday, Lug brought home some apple fritters (2 for each of us) for us to have. We all ate one and saved the rest for later.

HelpingGary%252527sDad-16-2012-08-24-21-28.jpgAnd today, Gary continued his training by starting with our second apple fritter which we had while we talked over the plan for the day. We’re pretty sure that Lug’s plan would be for us to go home so he could continue with his usual schedule without all the interruptions and chaos that we cause. However, Gary has planned to do the roof, a 10’ x 13’ section which, because it faces the south side has lost lots of the little rock granules on the shingles. These are 20-year-old shingles and have run their course. Gary has known about this problem for a while but until he had a solution and some time, he didn’t want to mention it to his father who would only be anxious until it was fixed. Thus Gary mentioned it yesterday and they shopped for materials so Gary could start the project today, bright and early.

We were happy yesterday when Lug left to have lunch and visit with his ‘girl-friend’ and was gone all afternoon. Unfortunately, today Lug wanted to stay home to ‘help’ him - unfortunately because he’s 90 we’d rather he not help. In fact, before we arrived he had already put out some tarp for the old shingles and had put some bricks on it to hold it down - all before we got there at 7:45. He does get anxious and was probably up all night thinking about this.

Gary had actually put himself through college working for one of his uncles who did roofing so he is an experienced professional - of course that training was 46 years ago. But, never mind, it’s like bike riding, you never forget. And, up he went all dressed for work. Here he is - the chick magnet himself.

Gary took the old shingles off the roof and sent them careening down to the tarp, Lug then gathered them up, put them into his wheelbarrow and took them into the garage.

I then retreated into the house and, if I ever stated that ‘I don’t do windows’, I misspoke. Yes, I do windows, and blinds, and woodwork, and curtains - you name it, I can do it. And, I tackled the kitchen windows. First I pulled down the lace curtains and, while I was at it, I pulled them from 8 other windows in the house and washed them. Of course, you know what’s coming next - I’ve got lots of curtains in a house I don’t live in and now have to put them back - on the right window. Well, I love puzzles and I’ve got one now.

I got done with all this about 12:30 and made the lunch run: to Burger King, Lug’s favorite: 2 Whoppers for $5.00. Me - I got two of their $1.49 side salads. Perfect. By this time, Lug was really tired and, with good reason. He finally decided to take a nap and, while Gary continued with the roof, I ran some errands. Here he is: Up on the Roof, like the old Carol King song:

‘When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it's peaceful as can be
And there the world below can't bother me
Let me tell you now.

(As an aside, I opened the front draperies for probably the first time in 10 years since Darlene, Gary’s mother died, and - oops, broke the very frayed cord that you use to open them. Now what?) Of course, one of my errands was to the local drapery shop to find out about how to fix this.
I returned about 4:30 from my errands and immediately turned around to get Gary some more nails at Menards, where he continued until, finally at 6:15, he came down from the roof, put his equipment away and we left, arriving back at the RV at 7:00.

LivingRoomBlindcordgivesway--2012-08-24-21-28.jpgWe have a group of 4 in 2 RV’s on our campground called ‘Laborers for Christ’ who they take off each morning about 7:30 and don’t return until about 6:30 in the evening or later. Today they got back even later than we did, at 7:30.

My brother Jack has never had an opportunity to invite us over to his home since we live in Des Moines. We usually invite ourselves to his home - whenever, we come up to Fort Dodge, we tell him and ask if he will have time on that day for us to visit and we just pop in. Today, we’re in town and available and Jack called us about 6:30 to come over to have some ice cream. Oops, Gary and I are tired, late with dinner and we turned him down, reluctantly. But, hey - we’ve invited him out to eat on Saturday - if he brings his ice cream.

After dinner and showers, we’re relaxing, looking forward to a relaxing day in the campground tomorrow. We all need a day off. When I was packing the food for the trip, I did not bring along any chocolate. I’m satisfied with a small handful of chocolate cooking bits a day - not too much but it does satisfy my chocolate craving. Well, I deliberately did not bring it - I thought I could buck my chocolate craving. Right. Big Surprise and I’m scraping the ceiling and banging my head on the walls. And, now here I am in the campground, miles from the nearest convenience store, and I want a bit of chocolate. I don’t think a carrot stick will do, and certainly not celery. Just chocolate. But tonight it’s withdrawal symptoms I’ll take with me to bed.

Meanwhile we’re in a county campground and the fires are burning, the kids are yelling and screaming as they romp around while the adults are laughing. Ah, the happy sounds of families camping. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the bug zapper in the campsite next to us, zapping every 10 seconds.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

WDM, IA to Fort Dodge, IA - On the Road Again, Kinda

I say that we’re ‘kinda’ on the road again because all we’re doing is heading up to Fort Dodge which is only 90 miles away. However, because we’re planning on staying for a while we decided to take the RV and stay in one of the local campgrounds, Kennedy Park. We’ve stayed here before and really enjoyed it. It’s a nice woodsy county park with shady grassy sites, trails around a lake, lots of fishing and a golf course. A popular destination for families in the summer.
Our goal is to spend some time in Fort Dodge helping Lug with his house. He’s 90 years old and lives alone. Anyone living alone has to do triple duty: all of the outside chores and all of the inside chores along with all the maintenance involved in home ownership. It’s so much easier with two. Lug’s always taken very good care of his home, his castle, but, these days, he has other priorities: he has a girlfriend named Barb and he’d rather spend his days with her. And, who can blame him?

Here they are standing by the falgpole that Lug has erected in his front yard. Aren’t they a cute couple?
VisitingBarb%252526Milan-12-2012-08-21-12-24.jpgIn the meantime, two back doors are stuck and won’t fully open, a 10’ x 13’ section of his roof need to be reshingled, several faucets are dripping and his home needs a general cleaning. We’re leaving fairly soon for the Southwest and we’d like to ensure that Lug is set until Spring when we return. Driving up to and back from Fort Dodge wastes a lot of time so we decided that our motorhome was the perfect solution.

And, here we are. I’ll have to admit that I’ve got lots of respect for those who use their RV for weekends. There’s lots of planning and packing for just a few days. I wanted to make simple meals because I thought I’d not have to drag lots of stuff up there. Well, even simple meals require lots of things. For example, I planned to have some Morningstar Black Bean burgers which then means I need to take mustard, ketchup (which I forgot), pickles, buns. No meal is simple. A salad means lettuce, tomatoes, cranberries, walnuts, spinach, dressings, carrots, whatever. I think it’s easier to pack for the season which we usually do.

We have extensive lists of things we need to take with us and tasks we need to get done before we leave. It takes us a while to get ready. Because we were going for only a week, we didn’t pack as much and - didn’t use our lists. Did we forget some things? Yeah, hand soap for one. But, we’re in a town of 30,000 and they actually have stores where we can buy whatever we might have missed. So, it’s no big deal.

Lug knows that we’re coming but does he know that we have our RV and plan to stay for a while? Nope. We know he’s not going to be happy having anyone aroung his house for too long. Firstly, all this activity will increase his anxiety level and secondly, our presence will imply that he’s not taking care of house. However, we plan to do most of our work while he is gone at Barb’s. We’re not going to sneak into his house, we’ll check in with him in the mornings but then he can leave and do everything he normally does. We plan to be cleaned up when he returns - and, have will have Barb call us when he leaves her house to return to his own home about 4:00.

Another goal is to spend some quality time with my brother who also lives in Fort Dodge. Usually when we make it a day trip we’ve got 3 1/2 hours of driving which cuts into our visiting time.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fort Dodge, IA - New Computer - Part 3

Thursday we relaxed. The previous three days had been pretty fast and it was time to look around our house and see what we’d been ignoring while we entertaining my brother. Firstly we had a long talk about our departure date for the southwest this year. Both of us have been feeling a bit under pressure knowing that our planned date is only 3 weeks off. Neither of us feels as if we are ready: neither of us has done our ‘honey-do’ lists and Gary is feeling that he’d like to work with his father a bit more on the new computer before we take off and leave him with it.

We looked at the pros and cons and decided that the cons were greater and we’ve decided to leave sometime around September 24th. We also decided that we’d take the RV up to Fort Dodge and stay there in a local campground for a bit to give us some time up there. We are continually driving back and forth and this might be a bit more relaxing. There are some maintenance issues along with the new computer issues at his father’s house that we’d like some time to work on.

I then cancelled all the reservations I had made and, since it was well in advance and I’m confident they didn’t turn anyone down because of our reservation, I felt ok about this. I also began some painting on our window trim. I’ve been putting it off all summer and decided that I’d better get it done before we leave. Nothing like leaving a big task until the very last minute.

Meanwhile, Gary had called his father to see if our driving up on Saturday fit into his schedule and he father told him that he had been looking at new keyboards for his new computer. He also told Gary that he had been showing Barb, his ‘friend’ some of the new photos that Gary had loaded into the new computer. Both of these are good signs that he is getting used to the new computer and not as intimidated by it as he was when Gary first showed it to him.

One of the clues on the NY Times puzzle today was: ‘seat for Webster Co, Ia’. Hey, I know that one: Fort Dodge, where I grew up.

Today, Saturdaty, we drove up to Fort Dodge and Lug told us that the new computer was just too much and he wasn’t interested in learning a new computer. Poor guy, he would have loved the new features, the big letters on the big screen and all the real estate available to him with that big screen. Had we gotten it for him several years ago he might have felt more comfortable learning a new system. Oh, well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WDM, IA - 'Our State Fair is a Great State Fair'


And, today is the day we head off to the Iowa State Fair. Don’t believe the words above in the title for today’s blog? Well, I’m just quoting a line from the Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical: State Fair. But that’s not the only thing proclaiming that the Iowa State Fair is one of the best. Midwest Living magazine named the Fair one of the "Top 30 Things Every Midwesterner Should Experience." The Fair is also included in the New York Times best-selling travel book "1000 Places to See Before You Die" and the subsequent travel book, "1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before you Die."

I’ll have to admit that in 2011, the Iowa State Fair, at 1,080, 959 attendees, ranked 12th in attendance behind the Texas State Fair, the Calgary Stampede, the Minnesota State Fair and the LA County Fair to name a few. However, come on, this is Iowa, with a much smaller population that all those others. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve been to the Minnesota State for at least 8 times and it’s a pretty good fair. But, did it have a play named after it? Did it have a musical named after it? Nope on both accounts.

PastedGraphic-2012-08-15-13-02.jpg‘Our State Fair is a great state fair
Don’t miss it, don’t even be late
It’s dollars to doughnuts that our state fair
Is the best state fair in our state’

We actually go almost every year and invite Jack down. Gives him a chance to get our of Dodge. We arrived at 9:00, parked in the VFW lot as we always do and headed in to join Americana. If you think the fair is about the agriculture in Iowa, you’d have been right - in 1912. However, this is 2012 and it’s all about the food with lots of agriculture thrown in.

There are 12 new foods making their debut this year at the fair. Among these are: double-bacon corn dogs (a hot dog wrapped in bacon, deep fried, dipped in bacon-bit batter and fried again), deep fried pickle ‘dawgs’ (a quarter kosher dill slice, covered in cream cheese, wrapped in ham or pastrami, dipped in batter and deep fried) and fruit on a stick with dipping sauce (I’m not sure how something healthy like fruit sneaked in). 

You can buy 57 different foods on a stick this year. For example:

        deep-fried butter on a stick debuted last year. It’s still around for this year so it must have been a hit. (And, I thought putting butter on a frosted cinnamon roll was sinful. The recipe is simple: take a two ounce stick of butter (a regular stick of butter is four ounces, so this is half a stick), keep it very cold, almost freezing before you take it out to dip, dip it into a batter with lots of cinnamon and honey. Deep fry it for three minutes and pour a glaze over it (in case it's not sweet enough). Then dig in! I hear that the first two bites taste like warm French toast but then the butter begins to melt and drop and squirt out in all directions as you bite into it. Luckily, the concession owner provides you with a fork and a paper tray. 

And, here’s the deep fried butter on a stick.
        deep-fried carrot cake: carrot cake batter with fresh carrots and the traditional spices deep fried and then covered with cream cheese frosting.

        deep-fried German Chocolate: German chocolate cake batter deep-fried with homemade coconut pecan icing covering it.

        deep-fried Twinkies on a stick: I’m sure you’ve heard of it. ‘Nuf said.
Are you seeing the pattern? Deep fried and being on a stick increases sales approx. 30% - 40%.

We’re going to start with the cinnamon rolls which are sticky, gooey, sweet but do not come on a stick. We’ve been to the State Fair enough times to know where the best rolls are and we made a bee-line for them. No time to gawk at the zip line, the new Deere tractors or the chocolate moose. We’ll save those for later but the cinnamon rolls and coffee are calling us.
We passes the 900+ pumpkin as we headed over to the Agricultural Building where the displays of prize winning vegetables and fruits are arrayed on the bottom floor. Table and tables with luscious looking potatoes, tomatoes, corn (natch - this is Iowa) zucchini, broccoli, cabbages, green beans, radishes, onions, etc.
IowaStateFairwithJack-72-2012-08-15-13-02.jpg IowaStateFairwithJack-66-2012-08-15-13-02.jpg
Upstairs are the product booths, every cleaning product known to humans, elk meat, buffalo meat, and the ever popular Vita-mix. Note how entranced I am here. Actually, I was more entranced several years ago when I laid my money down and bought one. This year I was just looking for new techniques.
But, what’s the Iowa State Fair without tractors? We happened to hit the tractor day when the members of all the various groups: Deere, Farm-All, etc parade into town with their tractors and line them up on the Grand Concourse. They were shined to a fare-thee-well and gleamed in the sun.
Hey, we’ve been here for 2 hours and only had cinnamon roll and a coffee. Isn’t it time for more food? How about a pork chop on a stick which is my brother’s favorite and Gary and I headed over to the homemade ice cream booth for the peach.

We wandered around a bit more but Jack’s back was hurting him and every step was a bit painful so we cut the fair short this year. Back at home, we all had a salad, trying to erase the guilty feeling we all had from eating the fair goodies and trying to get some actual food in us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WDM, IA - The High Trestle Trail

And, today, we’ve got the highlight of my bro’s trip to Des Moines, the High Trestle Trail. If you thought that the highlight was to visit me and Gary, you thought wrong. It’s the trail and the Iowa State Fair, where we’ll go on Wednesday.

We got up, had breakfast, put some bread into the bread maker and talked a bit but by then Jack was getting antsy and I knew that I probably couldn’t send him out on his own to walk. Ouch, I’d probably have to take a warm-up walk. Yep, that’s what he wanted to do: walk in the morning so the afternoon was free for the bike ride. He's going to wear me out So, off we went around the area here for about 4.5 miles. If Gary had been here we could have tag-teamed Jack on his routine: I could have walked with him, Gary could have ridden bikes, I could have done sit-ups and Gary could have done push-ups. We would have left Jack on his own for the rest of his regimen. But Gary was long gone in Fort Dodge so it was up to me to entertain Jack and his entertainment of choice is exercise.

When we returned, the bread I had put into the breadmaker was done, it was about noon and we ate out on the deck. Beautiful day. But, I could only delay the inevitable for so long and finally it was time for biking the High Trestle Trail.
First we had to get our bikes into his truck which has a 6’ bed but a 2’ metal box in it which makes the bed actually 4’. Our bikes are about 5’ long so it became a question of fitting them in. Finally, we laid them down on their sides, put padding under and between them and tied them in, leaving the tailgate open. And, we were off.

The High Trestle Trail, opened in 2011, is 10’ wide and stretches 25 miles along the old railroad bed between soybean and corn fields with several forested areas in between. Working agricultural territory, Iowa’s bucolic hallmark. You can see barns, farmsteads, farming machinery, small towns and cattle grazing along its length.
The High Trestle itself is an old Union Pacific railroad bridge which soars 13 stories over the Des Moines River and a large flood plain valley. When the train roadbed was built in 1881, trains had to snake down the cliff side to the valley below with brakes on, then speed up to get enough oomph to get back up the hill. Finally, in 1912, the railroad built a bridge spanning the valley. Here are some pictures showing the process.In the picture above I assume that there are some very strong cables attached to a cliff side on the right (which were not in the original picture so I'm just assuming) holding up the actual road bed. Why they are driving out on it, I haven’t a clue. Doesn’t look like something I'd do.
60 years later, in 1972, the Corp of Engineers built a much stronger bridge further down the river, designed to withstand the periodic river flooding. This new bridge had 22 concrete piers, the largest weighing more than 2 million pounds. In 2002, the railroad disbanded this roadway and took the roadbed off the piers leaving them mired in the mud below. Some farsighted people saw not the ‘Iowa Stonehenge’, as the piers were called, but a bike trail along its length. 10 years later, their dream was realized with much hard work, the trail was opened and we can now travel its length.

The original bridge was near some mining shafts worked by Italian immigrant families in Madrid, Iowa (pronounced Mad’ rid) and the new bridge decking has a decorative structure which is supposed to represent the mining shafts. You can see this design in this picture of my brother.

But the most stunning view of the bridge is at night and that is below. What a signature bridge.

Another neat thing are the history panels which line several areas of the bridge. One is pictured below. The two pictures of the bridge’s construction are from one of these history panels. Other panels talk about the flooding that has periodically covered the valley below, the different types of animals that populate the area and farming in the valley. 


Interpretive-Signage-2012-08-14-22-26.jpg As we were crossing the bridge I saw a doe and her fawn crossing the river below and was able to snap this picture of the fawn.

My brother has wanted to bike the High Trestle Trail since it was built and was in ecstasy as he rode over the valley. Then we rode on between the farm fields and then through this tunnel, called the Tiger Tunnel after the Madrid Tigers, a local team. Is this art or is this graffiti? I's thinking 'folk art' and I enjoyed seeing it on our way.

Finally we turned around, got back to our starting point in Woodward, Ia. and loaded the bikes into the truck. Jack tied them down and we were off.

But we didn’t get too far (about a block) before we spotted the Woodward ‘Mall’ with an ice cream store. Inside the woman at the counter told us that the tanning booths were over there, the bike spot was over there and the coffee shop was right where she was. But, it was all one room about 30’ x 30’. In this room was a gift shop, a card shop, a jewelry shop, a coffee shop, an ice cream shop, a tanning booth, a bike shop, a chair saw shop and - there were several riding lawnmowers, too. They sold everything. WOW. In a small town you’ve got to expand your horizons and think outside the box.
Jack’s choice was Wells Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream and was it ever creamy. My cold soda hit the spot.

Back at home, we showered, got dinner ready and ate when Gary got back.

Fort Dodge, IA - New Computer - Part 2

Meanwhile, up in Fort Dodge, Gary is showing his father his new computer. His father's routine is to go to Hy-Vee for a snack in the morning and Gary's plan was to arrive while he was gone adn set up the new computer, printer and monitor. 

When Lug arrived back home, Gary gave him a gift wrapped package which was the actual computer. Lug couldn’t guess what was in the package since he thought Gary was just going to present him with some ideas. As I mentioned on August 7, Lug has been having trouble seeing the print on his old computer and finding the cursor. What we have learned is that people with glaucoma have blind spots. Thus when they read a line and come to a blind spot, they have to rotate their head a bit so that they can refocus on what had been the blind spot. However, often they lose their place in a sentence and have to start over. Terribly frustrating and that’s Lug’s problem.
He wanted to buy a larger computer with software which can make the cursor larger and, rather than presenting him with some ideas on this visit and buying it the next visit, we took a huge chance and just picked one up for him. Besides, if Gary is going to help him learn a new computer and we are leaving soon, time is of the essence.

DadTestingReadingGlasses--2012-08-14-21-55.jpgAbove is Lug with his present and here is his desk with his new computer set up on it. Doesn't that look spiffy? What a nice office.

While Gary was in Fort Dodge, he also took Lug into see an optometrist who has worked with people with limited vision and she tested him for special glasses designed just for reading.

Gary spent some time with Lug on the new computer but, there is a lot to learn so, when he left, he had set Lug’s old computer back on the desk and the new computer out in the family room.

Monday, August 13, 2012

WDM, IA - 'What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate'

As we were getting ready for bed last night it occurred to us that when we were speaking with Jack on the phone about his visit, we might have miscommunicated the day that he was supposed to come. Since Gary is leaving Monday morning for Fort Dodge to work with Lug on his new computer and not returning until Tuesday evening, we thought Jack could come early Tuesday, we would go bike riding Tuesday afternoon and, after Gary returned, we could go to the Iowa State Fair on Wednesday. Well, anyway, that was the plan. Did we give the wrong days to Jack?

So, early Monday morning, I called Jack to see what his interpretation was - sure enough, he was already packed, gassing up his truck and on his way to Des Moines. Oops. Now, what? How am I going to entertain him for 2 days? O - K now. How about a bike ride?

Let me tell you a bit about Jack. He actually used to be a bit of a hell-raiser. Well, to be more precise, he was a huge hell-raiser. But somehow a few years ago, he saw the light, gave up the drinking, the drugs, and the fried foods and began exercising and eating lots of vegetables. Who knows why? Even he doesn't know how the switch was flipped. Were we excited? We were ecstatic. These days, his drug of choice is exercise: he rides a stationary bike about 110 miles per day, rides about 20 miles per day on a regular Trek bike on trails in Fort Dodge, does countless sit-ups, push-ups and other various exercises all while nibbling on yogurt, broccoli, salads and - ice cream. Well, can’t he still have a vice? Better ice cream than other vices.

Now Gary and I are not regular bike riders, we prefer to walk: load-bearing exercise. But we do have bikes and so Jack and I got them out and headed on down the trails in Des Moines. Marvelous weather, a great trail system and we were having fun. I told Jack that I couldn’t ever ride with him so told him to go ahead of me, circle back, go behind be and circle back up. I figured this way, we’d still be mostly together but I wouldn’t hold him back.

We took the trail to the library to return a book, we headed on down the next trail to bike near the river, then we headed further afield. But, finally my buns and my thighs screamed that it was high time to turn around. In fact, they were probably screaming this several miles ago but I successfully ignored them. But I couldn’t do this any more but I had an ace up my sleeve. I knew where there was a Hy-Vee grocery store, right on the way home, which had those little single serve ice cream containers.

Whew. Just in time. I was falling further and further back of my little brother. Oh, no. I need sugar. Nice treat and we headed on home. I knew there was a hill (in my current condition it was a monster hill but it was really just a slope) and I had been trying to figure out a route to avoid this. However, every other route also involved a ‘hill’ so we continued on. And there it was - insurmountable - almost. Finally, near the top I was in first gear and first gear, the lowest I could go. But, I made it up. Jack, of course, had powered up, coasted back down and was powering up again.

I was happy that I was still on the bike at the top of the ‘hill’.

From them on, it was a downhill coast to home and our friendly garage. Oof-da.

Showers, dinner and a trip out to Costco for his broccoli. Costco has broccoli bags that hold 3, count them - 3 pounds of broccoli. He’ll eat that in a week - it’s his favorite vegetable. So says the guy who used to hide vegetables around the bottom of his plate when he was a boy. When I cleared his plate after dinner, I knew I’d find a perfect ring of vegetables marking the spot. Well, it actually wasn’t that bad but he fought tooth and nail against eating vegetables. My parents would be so proud of him today. 

Back home, some conversation (bonding) and the day was done.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

WDM, IA - 'Honey-Do' Lists

Before we leave for our winter sojourn, we have some tasks that need to be done, well, at least, some tasks we had put on a list. It’s a ‘honey do’ lists with two names on it: Gary’s tasks and Nancy’s tasks. My part of the list is really lots of painting, varnishing and touch-ups around the house. Last year we put some window trim around the 4 new windows we had installed in the lower level, one on the main level and one in the master bedroom. Someone’s got to paint the trim and somehow my name got on this task on the list. I must have been asleep when Gary was making the list assignments or, and this is more likely, he was making the assignments on HIS computer and I was blithely working away on mine. Then the ‘honey-do’ list appeared in front of me and this ‘honey’ has lots of tasks. But, Gary assigned himself many also, I’ll have to admit. And, I’m thinking that his might be harder.

And, have I done any of the tasks on my list? Nope. But, to be fair, let me ask for anyone to answer: has Gary done any of the tasks on his list? And, the answer is NO. Actually, we have been pretty busy what with lots of medical appointments and procedures for Gary, me, Jack and Lug. We’ve been spending lots of time with family over the time we’ve got here this summer and home tasks have been pushed aside.

However, here we are, on the 12th of August and we have nothing done and the time of our departure is looming over us. Time to get crackin’. So, today I got out the paint brushes, the drop cloths, the paint and began with the master bedroom window. I thought I’d start there since it is the most out of the way window and, if I’m going to test paint, I wanted to test it where no one else would notice.
Window trim is pretty futzy, lots of edges where you don’t want any overlap. Outside edges and inside edges. Oh, boy. But, I put my on my Apple Shuffle, started humming ’a song from 1962’ as Bob Segar says and began working on my Day Moves. I spent 4 hours on this one window - at this rate, I”ll be painting until December.
But the kicker is: my bro is coming on Tuesday for a 3 day visit and Gary is up in Fort Dodge with his father working on the new computer for 2 days. Any painting going to get done this week? Nope. And, that’s ok. We’ve got our priorities. We’d love to get the painting done but family comes first. Or is it, painting comes last? Hmmm. No, just kidding, we’ve made choices all summer and they’ve all been family.

I just found a picture that I forgot to include when I was writing about Lug’s 90th birthday. Did I mention that Gary’s sister, Cathy, had ordered 4 large sheet cakes and there was a bit left over. I’m excited.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

WDM, IA - Mastering the K Cups

How many of you have a K-Cup type of coffee maker? Several of you, I’m sure. Well, we have one too. It took us while to find one that would fit in the special corner of the RV that we have use for a coffee maker. Keurig coffee pots go from small to huge. We wanted something ‘just right’ one that would hold about 24 oz of water, enough for both of us to have a large mug. We finally found one and I’ve got to learn all the special techniques needed to use it, like: plugging it in, inserting the coffee, putting a mug under the spout. You know, those little details that make for a great mug of coffee.

Today I forgot to put the coffee K-Cup into the holder and had marvelous hot water. Unfortunately, because I had used my ISU coffee cup which is black inside I didn’t realize it until I was seated at my computer ready to go to work on my journals. I raised the cup to my mouth and didn’t get that aromatic whiff of coffee which enhances the taste. The coffee tasted pretty weak too. Sure enough, no coffee - just water. Shucks, gotta put the coffee in too.

A while back I forgot to put my coffee cup under the spout. When I looked over at the coffee maker I knew something was wrong but not quite what. Then it hit me that the coffee had poured into the base which, because the manufacturers know dolts like me will forget their cup at least once, have made hollow and big enough to hold one cup of coffee. Sure enough, I removed the base which was heavy and sloshy. And there was my coffee, all brewed and ready to drink. Of course, it’s a bit difficult to drink out of this base.

Someday I’ll learn how to use this: to be able to put all the steps together: plugging it in, putting the mug under the spout and putting in the coffee. I’ve already learned how to push the ‘on’ button so I know I can move onto these more difficult steps.

I’m often surprised when someone tells me that they read my blog. Of course, I’m pleased, but it is amazing that anyone else would read this. One day in June I went into the Wells Fargo office where I used to work and saw a nice picture on a friend’s computer. She told me that she had taken it from my blog. I hadn’t remember that particular picture but went back into my previous blogs and saw it there. What a surprise. Another friend told me recently that she uses my blog to take vicarious trips. She hasn’t been to many of the areas that we travel to and she loves to read about something new. A third friend has seen many of these places but loves to see them again though my eyes.

A few days ago I got an e-mail asking about a blog I wrote back in February asking about some pictures I put into a blog about Boulder City, Nevada. I had some old pictures of Cherry Street which is where they live and they wanted to know where I got them. How in the world did they every connect to my blog? And, who are they?

120807NancynewIADriverLicense_2-2012-08-11-10-04.jpgI got my new driver’s license today. When I stood in front of the white screen for my picture, of course I smiled. Oops - no smiles., well, at least no smiles that show teeth. You can smile but you can’t show any teeth. I was also told to take off my glasses. I can’t wait to see what I look like on my driver’s license. I’ll probably look like someone right from Kenny’s Bail Bonds TV ad minus the orange jump suit. And, why do they need 3, count them, 3 pictures on one license: one large and 2 small? As if one isn’t bad enough?

On the other hand, my name if finally correct. For some reason, quite a few years ago, the clerk typed my middle name as Hacek rather than Macek. It’s never seemed to be a problem and I forgot last time I was up for renewal to get this changed. When I went in this time, the first clerk asked if I had my birth certificate to show my correct name. I quickly pointed out that my birth certificate would hardly have my husband’s last name on it for my middle name. Then she told me that if I wanted it changed to bring in my marriage license. Sure, in 5 years when I come in, I’ll have that. Shucks, caught in the paperwork tangle again

However, another clerk quickly asked me how to spell it and she typed it correctly and I am now Nancy Macek Ferguson. She must have thought that I knew my own name and just corrected it without my marriage license.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

WDM, IA - Best Buy and the Library - Does the Excitement Never End?

New day and we begin with a question about a keyboard. Well, Gary also has some questions about some free software updates for Lug’s new computer and we need to solve this keyboard problem so we’re off for Best Buy. And, we thought our errands were through yesterday. Nope, more fun.

But, if we took our old keyboard into Best Buy several weeks ago, maybe someone took their old keyboard into Best Buy recently and maybe we could ‘borrow’ it for a day or so. Well, at least it’s a possibility. At this point, we don’t have any keyboard. And there we were at Best Buy 2 days in a row. Gary is asking about the software and I’m trying to explain to the Service Desk what we need. And, what a guy. He goes to look, finds nothing but returns with a NEW keyboard, tells me that I can buy it for $20 and return it when we’re done, as long as it’s not damged and is within 30 days. Ah, I had thought of that but it seems a bit sleazy. (I guess that I’m admitting that I can think of ‘sleazy’ ways to do things. Hmmm.) Maybe we’ll ask at another Best Buy for any returned ones. However, he talks fast to try to alleviate the ‘sleaze’ factor and we finally buy the new keyboard.

And, here we are in the Library again, using the fast, unlimited download. They’ve got an ethernet connection and Gary has several downloads to go. Ethernet is much faster than our Verizon wifi and we’ll get done so much faster. And, we got an e-mail from Verizon last night that we were at 100% of our 5G months usage with one day to go. Now, it we wanted to spend $10.00, we could get another 1G but, again, the library is so much faster and we’ve got lots of downloads to get this computer ready for his father.

Not only that but the library has so few distractions. There are a million things I can do at home but here in the library, I tend to what I’ve got on my list to do. And, look at the library chair in the picture below - no comfort there - no lounging around here. Sit up straight and tend to your work.

Some people take their laptops into the library to study. This must be the first time someone brought their desk top computer in. But, look, this character also has a laptop. What in the world is this guy thinking? 2 computers?
Gary’s also trying to ‘clean’ up the software, removing those functions that Lug might have trouble with or won’t use. Actually, we wish we had gotten this computer ever so much earlier in the summer so we’d be around with Lug while he learns a new computer and new software. Gary is pretty good with talking his father through some thorny computer problems on the phone but can’t talk him through everything. Last January, Lug did something and all of his photos ‘disappeared.’ Well, they didn’t really disappear but he had pressed some key and they were nowhere to be found on his computer. Gary spent quite a while sitting at his laptop in our RV in Palm Springs talking to Lug sitting at his computer in Fort Dodge but to no avail. The pictures stayed ‘disappeared’ until we got back in May. Meanwhile I was on my laptop trying to find someone in Fort Dodge who dealt with Apples. I had as much luck as Gary did - which is to say, none.

Here’s a picture of Lug’s new computer screen - and look how big that cursor is. It is huge. Easy to see and difficult to lose.
Actually, I’ve got two friends in Fort Dodge who use Apples and, in a pinch, they might go over to Lug's to help him. His problems are really that his fingers are ‘fast’ and that he can’t see that well. He just ‘misplaces’ things on his screen. Of course, with a new computer, he can call the Apple help line also and talk with a ‘genius.’ Of course, both Lug and I think Gary is a genius but …(I had to say that, Gary reads the blog.) Hi, sweetie.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

WDM, IA - New Computer

Nope, we did not get a new computer. We both have Apple laptops and, though I might say that I’m hoping for mine to crash so I’d have to replace it with a new one with a ‘retina display’, I’m perfectly happy with what I’ve got. I’m not actually wishing for it to crash, you know since that would mean that I’d have to spend money, something I do only when pigs fly. Nope, we’re picking up a new one for Gary’s dad, Lug. He’s actually been working on Mac’s for about 10 or 12 years and enjoying it thoroughly. He’s got all his pictures in it and he writes letters all the time. He’s actually trying to keep the Post Office alive - just on his own. But, here’s his current model - and this is pretty old. Remember these? We could probably put Lug’s into an Apple museum.

Unfortunately, as Lug ages, and he’s 90 now, his eyes are slowly deteriorating to the point that he has trouble seeing the 10” screen on this one. He spends countless minutes trying to find the curser. Yes, we know that newer models have the option of making the curser much larger but his is so old that the software won’t work in it. Thus he’s pretty frustrated and cutting down on his letter writing. How is the Post Office ever going to survive? How is he ever going to survive?

In 2009 we took him into the local Apple store and his eyes positively gleamed when he saw the new monitors: large, clear and easy on the eyes.
We almost had him talked into buying one but he backed off. Actually, I’m sure he thinks he’s too old to learn a new computer, too old to be buying something so costly and that his eyes are getting too weak for such an investment. However, his frustration is growing.

Then he had his cataract surgery on both eyes this spring and I think he sees new hope. He’s got a new lease on life. He’s actually sent us some letters in which there are no misspellings, no extra spaces and no extra letters. He must be able to see the screen ever so much better. And, he let drop the idea that he’d really like to get a new computer with a larger display and the ability to make the cursor larger. Of course, Gary was all over that idea and began to put together some prices for it. For about $800 Lug could get a new 21” monitor, a new computer (an Apple Mini) and software to make the cursor much larger. Whoop-de-do.

Thus, today is our shopping trip.

But, first a digression. (And, don’t I have a lot of these?) Last week when I went in for my mammogram, the receptionist noted that my license had expired - on July 2, my birthday. Oops. We had planned to go in right after the exam but it was a Monday and the DOT is closed on Mondays. I’ve got 60 days but I’d rather get it done sooner rather than later and, besides, we leave the Des Moines area in a month. And, I’d rather have a valid driver’s license.

Thus, driver’s license is part of the trip. Now, you’ve got to know that, if the DOT is closed on Mondays, Tuesdays are going to be packed. And, we were not disappointed: it was SRO there. I looked at my number and figured at least an hour. Luckily, the office was not air conditioned. Let me repeat that: NOT air conditioned. At least not until 10:30 when one of the clerks went over to turn it on. 60 people at least, SRO, and they finally turn on the air conditioning.

The guy in front of me had trouble reading the screen. The clerk asked him to read the letters on the line and there was a long, 45 second pregnant pause before he hesitatingly read some letters. He took only 32 seconds on the next line but the silence was deafening. There was another older gentleman who couldn’t read the lines correctly and the clerk sent him home to get a doctor’s note. Sent him home in his car. Oh, boy. Gives me a warm and comfy feeling about getting out on the roads with these two. And I thought texting was a problem.

I was right about the time. We didn’t leave for an hour or so. 2 more errands and we’re heading on our to the Jordan Creek Mall area where we’re going to do some serious shopping - by that, I mean above $50. We tried Costco first to see what they might have but, all they had was - a Very Berry Sundae. Sounds good to me and so we had ‘lunch.’

On to Best Buy to check out printers for Lug. And, here we found a talkative, knowledgeable sales person who gave us all kinds of hints and - VOILA - we picked up the whole she-bang: the computer, the monitor and the printer. What a deal. All Apple products.

I also bought an Apple Shuffle. Not that I’m trying to tune Gary out when we walk but, hey, a nice jivin’ tune keeps my feet moving just that much faster. I had a Dell player but that runs with Microsoft Music and we’ve got Apple ITunes now and I can’t load any new music into it. Somehow I’ve got Lynyrd Skynyrd, Van Halen and Led Zep on the player now - I must have been putting a song list for my brother on it right when we switched to Apple products. I can listen to these three but only for so long. Thus, this is useless for me. So, I’ve got a Shuffle now.

Now over to the Mall where Gary thinks he can walk now. He’s still hurting and gets little twinges but, that’s usually when he moves sideways and bends over. Getting into the car where he has to lift his legs and getting out of bed where he has to raise up and turn are still difficult. He thinks he can walk in a straight line with only a little trouble. Our first pass of the mall took us by the Subway shop in the Food Court. Gee, a $5.00 Black Forest Ham footlong on flat bread sure sounds like it would hit the spot. Big Gar was hungry too, seems like the Very Berry Sundae was more an appetizer than ‘lunch’ after all, and we found ourselves sitting there eating a sub.

Back at home, after a salad for dinner and showers, I was loading some songs into my Shuffle when I heard a low moan and a loud ‘shucks.’ Guess what - we might have bought a monitor, a computer and a printer but what we didn’t have was a keyboard. Well, we’ve got two keyboards, but they are on our laptops and not much use on Lug’s computer.

We used to have a keyboard that we used with our desk top computer but we took all of our computer stuff to Best Buy several weeks ago for recycling. We filled 2 shopping carts as we unloaded the car and rolled them into the store - lots of stuff. Sure enough, there was the a keyboard in that lot. Oops, we need that back now.

Now what? Tune in tomorrow.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

WDM, IA - Up and At 'Em

Today is Saturday, the day after Gary’s hernia surgery and he’s barely walking. At least he’s up but he’s on pain medication, has an ice pack strapped around his waist and is shuffling around. Obviously, he’s not on tap for a 4-mile walk. Thus, I hie myself out to the local mall, park and then decide that it’s nice enough and cool enough to walk outside. I’ve got my music player, there’s a breeze blowing and I’m on my way. However, I’m watching the clouds up in the sky to the west and they are not looking pretty. Well, actually, they are looking really ‘pretty’ for a parched, sere Iowa countryside, just not ‘pretty’ enough for a 4-mile walk.

Luckily, I’ve hedged my bets and am walking on the trail around the mall complex eyeing quick escape routes into the mall. I’ve got my watch on, my phone on my waist and my music player in my hands. I might have hedged my bets in choosing my walking path but I hadn’t brought my emergency plastic baggie. But, I’ve got Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Alterboys playing their blues in my ear and I’m striding out.

Oops, aren’t those rain drops on the trail in front of me - and around me? Sure enough, the rain is coming on strong and I make a beeline for the mall - on the shortest route. Between Best Buy and the Discount Shoe Warehouse, around the pond to the right and through the Panera entrance. Record time. I arrive at the mall, start my walk around the corridors and - whoosh, the downpour begins. Whew. I look out side and the rain gutters are spewing rivers, 4” eddies are circling the drains on the outside sidewalk and I can’t see across the parking lot. Winds are blowing the rain sideways. Me, I’m high and dry and finishing my walk.

I return home where Gary’s recovering when we get a call from Cathy and Tom asking if we’d like to meet at the book store for some coffee. I’m about to say ‘no’ when Gary says ‘sure.’ Huh? He can’t walk but he wants to go to the book store. Just a social guy, that husband of mine.

But Cathy and Tom are great company and we love to be with them. And, of course, we want to see them as much as we can while we’re in Des Moines since we leave fairly shortly for Arizona. Unfortunately, Gary’s staying power is low right now and Tom gets a call from MidAmerican Energy where he works asking him to come in. Given the winds that blew through several hours ago - it make sense. You see, his job at MidAmerican is to ensure that all of the electric lines in the state of Iowa are not impeded by tree branches. What a job. He carries his branch trimmer in his car with him. No, actually, he directs all of the crews, rather than getting out there himself. But he does get a lot of travel in.

So, our foray outside to the book store ends fairly quickly and we are back home by 4:00.

Friday, August 3, 2012

WDM, IA - On With the Saga

And, here it is, early Friday morning which seemed to dawn earlier than usual. Since his appointment was for 7:15, we were up early. I ate a small breakfast while Gary shaved (he was told not to eat after 5:00 pm yesterday so he tried not to watch me eat) and we were off. Knowing that I had lots to do on my computer, I left my IPad at home (big mistake) and just took my computer so I could do some work while I waited. When we got there Gary checked in and I looked around to see where the table was so I could set up. Not a work table to be seen. Lots of chairs, a few corner tables and a TV blaring while others were trying to talk over it.

We sat waiting until they called Gary’s name, he went in to get prepped and I finished reading the newspaper. Then they called me in and I waited with him. Now the prep consists of putting him into his classy, stylish hospital gown, encasing his feet in colorful booties and - shaving. And, they shave the most sensitive areas. Now, this is the part of the story where Gary plaintively looks at me and asks: ‘Is nothing sacred? Do you have to tell it all in the blog? What happened to privacy?” Ha, ha. So, I will protect his privacy and not detail those areas. I do have to live with him, you know.

I will describe the gown however: it had been through many washings since the pattern and color were now a very light blue, one of the ties was just a 1/2” nubbin and the hem was unravelling. Don’t stand up in that gown, Big Gar. Not much longer for the world - but then, I’d have said that several years ago on this gown and it’s still being used.

Finally they called him in and I left to return home and grab my IPad so I’d have something to do. I’ve got crossword puzzles, books, magazines, etc on the IPad so I could be productively employed while he was gone. Others who were waiting moved in and out of the room: it was a pretty busy place that early in the morning. Obviously, they want to be able to get everyone home by 5:00 and, with operation and recovery time, they need to start early. I understand that outpatient surgery saves lots of money but I often wonder if people are sent home before they are ready. A friend of ours had hemorrhoid surgery, was sent home, began bleeding profusely over night and had to be taken back to the hospital into the emergency room at 2:00 am ashen, in great pain and losing blood by the minute. His wife had to sit there anxiously as he turned more ashen and lost more blood before they decided that he was next in the triage echelon about 7 am.

At 12:30, I was called into the recovery room, Gary was barely conscious and slowly coming out of the anesthesia. The nurse moved in and out of the room, checking him and asking him questions to ascertain his readiness to go home. Flat on his back, in pain, full of meds and they think he can go home. Not on my watch. Let’s wait a bit. And, we do.

Finally Big Gar thinks he’s ready, we close the curtain, struggle to get him dressed, he’s pushed out in a wheelchair and we’re on our way. At home, he immediately goes upstairs (slowly and painfully) to bed and I left to get some more meds for him.

He was on oxycordone, or Percocet, which the nurse told us could sell for $100 ‘on the street.’ At that price, I’m thinking that Gary might do with extra strength Tylenol or I’ll need to get a job. No, just kidding here and I lined up at the pharmacy with the presciption. I was getting out my credit card when the clerk told me that it was $14.00. Well, scrape me off the floor with a spatula and I’ll pay with cash. And, I headed home with Gary’s meds.

He slept most of the day. And night.