Category Archives: Travel

Looking For The Midwest

Husband and I left Brookings, SD yesterday to get back home to Southwest North Dakota. We typically go north from Brookings through Fargo, and then west on I-94, but there was a pesky snow storm in the James River Valley in Jamestown and Vally City that would have been distressing to drive through, so we chose a southern route on Highway 212 to Gettysburg, SD and then north to the Interstate just east of Bismarck.

Husband grew up in Wisconsin. He misses the Midwest with its small farms and rain. He spent our time through South Dakota gauging where the red barns ended and the terrain got flat. There, he declared, was close enough to the 100th Parrellel to say that is where the Great Plains begin, and his Midwest ended. I don’t know where the last of the red barns comes into this. I was just glad to be back home, no matter what colors the barns were.

For where do you yearn? Where do you think the Midwest is? What snowstorms have you driven through?

The Tortoise and the Hare

Husband and I drove to Brookings. SD yesterday. It is a seven hour drive. I was very anxious to get going as early as possible.

Husband and I operate at two different places. He is slow and deliberate. I am quick and speedy. I have no patience. He is very patient. I wanted to leave this morning by 7:30. I knew in my heart it wasn’t going happen, even though I had the car all packed up by 7:00.

At 7:00, we noticed that the cat was almost out of food, so I ran to the farm store to get some when it opened at 8:00. I was gratified to be able to listen to The 1812 Overture, compete with cannons as I drove to the store. It helped my frustration immensely.

I often forget that I can move more quickly than most people, in terms of packing and loading the car, doing chores, etc. Husband is thorough. While I was getting cat food, he carefully emptied the fridge of leftovers, washed the dishes, and cleaned the counters. He made some nice sandwiches for the trip. He started packing on Monday, so that was done. I was ready to go before he was, so I made myself sit quietly in the living room while he carefully cleaned the lenses of his glasses, put on his socks and shoes, and got his coat. I reminded myself that one reason I am able to get going in the morning is that Husband gets up before I do makes coffee for me every day.

I suppose it is anticipation that makes me so irritable and impatient when we are getting ready to go on a trip. I think watching someone who operates so differently just amplifies my anxiety to get going. Slow and steady may win the race but it makes the hare a nervous wreck.

How do you prepare for a trip? Are you a tortoise or a hare?

Don’t Worry. Be Happy

The last five years have been tough on mental health. It seems the predominant diagnosis at my agency these days is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which means that you worry about basically everything.

My mother was a champion worrier. She worried about the weather especially, either blizzard or tornado. Both my children have major anxiety and so do I. I like to think that worriers live longer than non-worriers. It is probably wishful thinking. Last night, I was frantic for Husband to get home from Bismarck in the snow and the wind. He made it safely, but the images of disaster were difficult to deal with. I focused on house cleaning. That helped.

How has your worry increased lately? How do you manage your anxiety? Who were the champion worriers in your family?


The big news around here is all the airline disruption the last couple of weeks.  As if there aren’t enough problems with travel right now, getting stuck for hours (or days!) when you’re just trying to get home to your own bed is no fun at all.  One of my co-workers was on the way home and got stuck in Dallas.  And because so many other folks were likewise waylaid, he couldn’t find a hotel near the airport; getting too far from the airport wasn’t a good idea, as flights and flight times were changing minute by minute.  Two nights sleeping in DFW.  He wasn’t the only one, judging by the news.

I’ve had my fair share.  On my trip to Kenya, the flight from Minneapolis to New York was late; I ran and made the flight to Nairobi, but my bag didn’t.  It didn’t catch up with me until four days later so I was washing clothes out in the sink every night.  I slept in Chicago’s O’Hare once – similar to my co-worker, too far to get to an available hotel and then get back.  Once a flight I was on out of Madrid turned back because the door of the landing gear wouldn’t shut.  (Apparently the drag caused by that open door would have meant we didn’t have enough fuel to get to the U.S.)  The airline eventually put us up in a hotel near the airport.  It was the smallest hotel room I’ve ever been in – not much bigger than a shoebox.  I also got stuck overnight in Costa Rica when a flight cancelled.  That one was actually fun as I was traveling with my client, her husband and the account exec on the program.  We got hotel rooms, ordered pizza, watched some football; the only downside was the horrendous lines at the airport in the morning because the computer system didn’t want to have two flights with the same number on one day. 

Whenever I have issues traveling I think back to Hawaii by James Michener.  He describes in quite a bit of detail the ship that they sailed from Massachusetts, down around South America and on to Hawaii.  If I’m ever tempted to complain, I just compare what I’m going through to spending 2 months onboard a rolling ship with personal space smaller than that small hotel room in Madrid! 

What’s the worst place you’ve ever been stuck in?

Waiting for…..

My annual wine advent calendar adventure was Wednesday morning.  The experience was very similar to last year although I was #4 in line this year – one spot up from last year!  All of us in the first ten were in festive moods, there were multiple conversations about the advent calendars, where we were all from and there was also shared chocolate!

I had only shared with one co-worker what I was up to on my day off but she clearly blabbed because yesterday, when I was in the office, quite a few people asked me about my adventure and wanted to see pictures.  However curious they all were, everybody shook their heads and made comments on the unbelievable-ness/silliness of my endeavor.  There was one lone gal who said it sounded fun and maybe she could join me next year.  All others think I’m nuts.

Clearly there are plenty of folks who don’t think it’s too silly to sit out for 3 hours to get a wine advent calendar (the above photo was taken at 8:20 a.m.) but my co-workers aren’t among them. 

Any looney tune adventures for you lately? 

Hello – Goodbye

I had a hard decision last week.

Even though the last thing I really need in my life is another dessert cookbook, I could not resist Frosted by Bernice Beren.  It presents some more complicated techniques than the usual sweets cookbook but in a way that made it seem like I could take them on. 

But you know my rule.  The cookbook shelves are full – if a new cookbook comes in, something has to go.  This has been easier in the past but it took me a few days to finally choose.  I have a handful of cookbooks that I have never used (not even once) but because they are cookbooks from my travels, they have always been protected by the “something has to go” rule.  For many years I would pick up a cookbook while on trips but most of them have just sat on the shelf for all these years as a testament to where I’ve been.  The Hawaii cookbook is a case in point.  It wasn’t very expensive and had a pretty little cover, but I’ve never made one darn thing out of it.  Hawaiian food isn’t one of my favorites and this particular little cookbook is mostly meat and fish recipes. 

When selecting a “to-go” cookbook in the past I’ve always felt like I shouldn’t oust a travel cookbook.  Having them felt like a statement.  But last week when trying to decide I realized that nobody stands back there in the breakfast room reading through all these titles.  I’m not making a statement to anybody but myself.  And I certainly don’t need an unused cookbook to do that.  Even if I don’t remember where I’ve been, I actually have a world map (in the very same room) with push pins of all the places I’ve visited around the globe!  (This is not the first time I’ve had a revelation about keeping books around for the statement I think they make, but the first time I’ve applied it to my cookbook collection)

So the Hawaii cookbook is going to a new home in my friend’s Little Library.  I expect some of the other travel cookbooks will also make an exit one of these days, although Scandinavian Cooking (from my Baltic cruise) and The Africa Café (from my first trip to Capetown) will stay, since I have used them repeatedly!

Anything you’re hanging onto because of a statement it makes?

Fresh Air

Our son and his family just moved to a town four miles outside Brookings, SD. Brookings is a university town with a population of 22,000 people. The town to which they moved has around 800. They commute to their jobs in Brookings.

Brookings is in the middle of the prairie. It is not industrialized. The nearest larger towns are 50 miles away. Both are pretty modest in size. We are talking sparsely populated. Son and Dil insist that the air in their new little town is noticeably cleaner than in Brookings. They adore the quiet. They love looking outside and seeing the stars. There is very little light pollution. Unless they fence their yard, any gardens they plant will be eaten by deer and raccoons.

We are so happy for them in their new digs. I think their assessment of the air quality may be a little bit exaggerated, but it is nice to see them enjoying their life. They are so proud of their new home. I grew up in a small town downwind from beef and pork processing plant, so I know how important air quality can be to life satisfaction.

What are your favorite indoor and outdoor smells? What are the most polluted and cleanest places you have lived? What constellations and stars can you identify? When are you most likely to kvell?


Canola Conundrum

Husband and I are currently in transit, heading to Brookings to see our son and family. We decided to split the 500 mile trip, and spent last night in Fargo.

We ate out last night after we arrived in town, and went to a favorite Thai restaurant. Everyone was well distanced, and we weren’t that worried about Covid. Our main worry was the type of oil they used to cook with.

We ate restaurant food for the first time in 18 months when we traveled to Denver in September. We hadn’t even ordered take out. We just cooked at home. In Denver we ate in really nice restaurants as well as at a wedding reception and at relative’s homes. The relatives mainly ordered pizza and take out foods for the group. All the foods we ate tasted good, but none of it agreed with us, and we decided the culprit was canola oil.

Canola oil is very hard to digest. It once was used as a machinery lubricant. At home, we cook with olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and an olive oil-sunflower blend imported from Spain. We stopped using canola oil a couple of years ago, and we can tell right away now when we eat food that has canola in it. We really notice the difference in fried foods and salad dressings. It seems like everyone uses canola these days. Road food will never be the same for us, I am afraid.

What is your favorite road food? What foods do to you have to be careful to avoid? What oils do you like to cook with?

The Presidential Suite

Husband works in Bismarck every Wednesday, 90 miles away from our town. He drives there every Tuesday night and stays in a hotel in Mandan, just across the Missouri River from Bismarck, and 15 minutes from his office. He drives home on Wednesday afternoon.

He has a standing reservation every Tuesday night at a fairly inexpensive, sprawling, older hotel that used to be called the Seven Seas Motor Inn. There is a large statue of a pirate in the lobby. The pirate remains although there is no longer any nautical theme in the hotel. They also serve a good, free breakfast every morning, so Husband can get a quick start to his day of work.

For some reason, even though his reservations are for a standard, one person room, the hotel staff puts him in grander rooms at no extra cost. He doesn’t ask them to. Last week he was in the Presidential Suite, which boasts an office, bedroom, living room, and bathroom with a jacuzzi. The hotel is never full. Husband says every Tuesday night he has been there, a local club has had bean bag toss competitions in one of the larger meeting rooms.

When Husband worked on the Three Affiliated Tribes Reservation, he was housed in a double wide trailer that formerly served as the Women’s Sober House. He certainly has had some interesting digs over the past few years. I am glad his commute, which is the same distance from home, is now on interstate highways and not hilly, oilfield roads.

What have your work commutes been like? What is the grandest hotel you ever stayed in? Which was the worst?

Rome, Prague, or Sioux Falls

We are planning a Christmas holiday in Brookings, South Dakota this year. Son and Daughter in Law will host in their new home. We will drive from western North Dakota, and daughter will fly to Sioux Falls from Tacoma.

Daughter texted me in exasperation last week to inform me that she could fly much cheaper to Prague or Rome than she can to Sioux Falls. That is the sad state of airfare costs in the Dakotas. where flights cost an arm and a leg if you fly out of the secondary hubs of Sioux Falls, Bismarck, Fargo, or Rapid City.

Well, I would rather be in Prague, too, but family is in Brookings, and that is where we will be. We will help daughter with her airfare so she won’t be out so much money. This made me think of what Christmas in Rome or Prague would be like, and something for us to think about in the next couple of years.

Where was the farthest from home you ever spent the holidays ? Ever been to Prague or Rome? If you planned a trip over the holidays, where would you go? Got any good stories about Sioux Falls?