Tuesday, October 20, 2015

We're home in the sticks and bricks house

Were home in Salt Lake.  Actually, we've been home two weeks as of tomorrow.  Cooper is doing OK.  His nausea and pneumonia seem better, but his mobility is shaky.  He has a good nurse in Jim and they go on short walks every day. It looks like we'll be in SLC until Coop's issues are resolved.

Our daughter and SIL -- who have been living in our home since we hit the road August 2, 2011 -- purchased a house in July.  It's a a fixer upper that will be a lovely home for them and their two kids.  For now, however, we are living together until they get their first floor liveable.  Shad is doing a lot of the work himself, so it may be a little while. But we're all hoping sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, Jim and I are working on our own home.  We ordered six new windows, are doing some reorganizing, cleaning, and all the stuff you can think of if you've essentially been away from a house for over four years. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

St. Louis to almost home

Cooper is doing a little better. Saturday he had another bad spell, so we called my brother; Bob told us to double up on Cooper’s anti-nausea meds and to feed him numerous small meals a day. That seems to be helping. Yesterday Jim didn’t even have to wrestle Cooper into the rig. Instead, Cooper walked up and down the ramp on his own four legs. Not easily, but he did it. He is one tough doggie.

Since we decided to go back to our home in Salt Lake (instead of our original plan of exploring the Ozarks and then heading to Arizona), most of our days have been spent driving and watching over Coop. We've camped one night each in Columbia, Missouri; St. Joseph, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska; Ogallala, Nebraska; and Rawlins, Wyoming. With one short, but lovely exception, all we saw of those places were the RV campgrounds. 

We did, however, get in one short trip to downtown St. Louis before we left Scott Air Force Base. The local light rail has an end-of-the-line stop at Scott, so we drove to a parking lot on base and hopped on a train that took us just a couple of blocks from the Arch. We may have set a record for "shortest visit to the Arch."

The lovely exception after that was in Lincoln, where my brother and SIL Don and Trudy live. We had a great visit and a wonderful home made dinner of chicken pie, salad, apple cake and enough IPA beer to get Jim to Salt Lake and then some. Thanks so much, Don and Trud!
A view of St. Louis from my seat on MetroLink, St. Louis' light rail system. If you look near the center you can see the reflection of someone's ear in the glass. Not sure who that is.
St. Louis' Gateway Arch is 630 feet tall and clad in stainless steel. Built as a monument to the westward expansion of United States, it was completed in 1965.  We watched a movie about how it was built.  None of the construction workers were wearing safety harnesses; some guys weren't even wearing safety helmets.  But according to the movie no one died during construction.  
Construction is everywhere at the Arch. Planned improvements include an amphitheater, biking/walking paths and gardens.  I read that the project is expected to be completed in 2017.  
The St. Louis Arch frames the city's Old County Courthouse, which was completed in 1828.  Slave auctions were held here (the last one in 1861) as were all of the trials for the Dred Scott case.  The courthouse now houses exhibits, movies (we watched one about Dred and Harriet Scott) and is an information/ticket center for the Arch.
We crossed the Mississippi River via the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge in St. Louis as we drove to our campground in Columbia. The bridge opened in February 2014, is named for the former St. Louis Cardinals baseball player, and is known locally as the "Stan Span."

Bev and her baby brother saying hi to Mom in Ohio.
Our spot at the Sleepy Sunflower Campground in Ogallala, Nebraska, complete with sunflowers.  It wasn't fancy, but the owners were helpful and with our Passport America membership we had electric/water/sewer and really fast Internet for $17.50.  Next time I want to visit nearby Lake McConaughy, a reservoir on the North Platte River.
As we drove toward Laramie today, we saw so many "Caution: Fog Ahead" signs we thought maybe the fog had burned off before the signs were turned off.  No such luck.  Wyoming's I-80 reaches an elevation of 8,640 feet, and at that point if it's rainy, you are more or less in the clouds. This is the last photo I took of the fog, because from here until the fog cleared it was very thick and both us us had our eyes on the road.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Change of plans

After what’s happened over the last few days, my last post seems near prophetic.  

In a nutshell, I said that we try to travel without campground reservations, as that allows last-minutes changes if something comes up. And two things have come up.

First, the day I wrote that post our tow car engine noticeable “stuttered.”  Twice.  So instead of driving to our next planned stop -- a campground near a river in the Ozarks -- we looked for a campground near a Honda service center.  A military RV park at Scott Air Force Base was just 8 miles from the closest Honda dealer so we booked a spot for three days. 

About that same time, Cooper’s health took another bad turn, so Jim put Cooper back on his meds and we took him to a vet clinic in Carlyle, IL, for an anti-nausea shot. My brother’s vet clinic in Ohio gave him one when we were in Ohio this summer and it really helped. But Cooper is still up and down with the nausea. Also, he can’t consistently get in and out of our motor home. The same thing happened when we were at Atwood Lake with our friends Sandy and Carl. Once we left Atwood, however, Cooper started going in and out of the rig again, so we thought the issue was resolved. Now he’ll walk in and out of the rig in the morning, and out again later in the day -- but at night he just won’t walk back up either of the two ramps Jim uses to assist him.  His not walking up the ramp is a problem because he won’t let you carry him without a struggle.  

Bottom line: We are on our way home to Salt Lake City where we can eliminate the stairs problem with a little construction job on our home’s steps.  We’ll figure things out from there.
Cooper looking handsome despite feeling under the weather.
While we were figuring things out about the car and Cooper, we stayed at the military RV park at Scott Air Force Base. Just outside the base main gate was an aircraft display. Top to bottom: Boeing Stratotanker; C141B Starlifter; and a C-9A Nightingale.
This is a C-130 Hercules, used to air drop troops, fight fires, and for aerial refueling among other duties.  The military plane that crashed earlier this week in Afghanistan, and in which 11 people died, was a C-130.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Eldon Hazlet State Park, Carlyle, IL

We try to not make campground reservations. That way we can stay a little longer than planned -- like we are doing here at Eldon Hazlet State Park in Carlyle, IL -- or move if the mood (or the weather, or who knows what) strikes us.

But we do call ahead to check on availability. I called the Eldon Hazlet SP early last week to see if it was likely they’d have space for us on Friday. They said chances were good. Then I called again Friday morning; they said there was plenty of space at the moment but that the campground's 350 spots fill up on weekends.  

When we arrived about 2 p.m., we had lots of first-come, first serve spots to choose from, including several great ones right on the lake.  By 6 p.m., however, the campground was close to full.  Now it’s Monday and we almost have the place to ourselves. 

As for activities: Yesterday we took a short hike and kayaked among the water fowl. Today we are going to the vet as Cooper is sick again.  If he perks up, tomorrow we’ll take a side trip to St. Louis.
Our campsite at Eldon Hazlet State Park, about 50 miles due east of St. Louis. That's Carlyle Lake, the largest man-made reservoir in Illinois, behind us.  Over the weekend, there were fishing boats going back and forth behind our rig.  Today it's mostly pelicans.
The only bad thing here at the park are the "midges" that come out at night.Here a few lounge on the front of our RV.  They look like big mosquitos, but don't bite.  One evening we were outside and I felt like Tippi Hedron in a bug version of "The Birds."    
One of the park hiking trails goes to the Burnside family cemetery.  James Burnside -- who moved to America from Ireland -- settled here with his wife, Elizabeth, in 1817 when James was 24.  They had six children and farmed 160 acres purchased for $2 each. James died at age 59 in 1851, but there is no record of Elizabeth's death.  We couldn't read all the inscriptions, but a website said death dates on the 19 graves ranged from 1832 to 1868. It appears that the carved gravestones were later reset in cement in an attempt to help preserve them.
American White Pelicans on Lake Carlyle. They have have black fringed wings, but you can barely see the black unless they are flying.

Jim kayaking among the pelicans.
Also at the lake are double crested cormorants, a blacking fish bird with a hooked beak that was once on the endangered species list in Illinois.
And, my eclipse photo.  It was cloudy and rainy most of the day Sunday.  When the eclipse started, the moon was peaking through the clouds.  Then the sky cleared, the eclipse was in total view, and so were the stars.