Category Archives: Travel

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?

A Change Of Pace

The other day, Fenton commented in the post about retirement that we other Baboons sounded as though we were “highly motivated ” in regard to our activity levels. My first thought about that was “of course we are, we are maniacs here in the US!” My subsequent thoughts were about the culture shock I experienced when I moved to Canada for graduate school in 1980.

It was very disconcerting for me to realize that in Winnipeg, no businesses opened until 10:00 AM. There was no mail service on Saturday, and no Sunday newspaper delivery. The collective good was emphasized over personal ambition. Speed limits were lower. People were very polite. People took lots of coffee breaks. Lots of tea was consumed. Hardly anyone had a firearm. In the summer, it was more important for people to spend time out of doors than to work. There were no drive through coffee shops, only drive through beer stores. No one worried about paying their medical bills. In order to drink in a pub, you had to sit at a table and there was no standing at the bar. There were very few fast food restaurants.

I often found myself frustrated with the slower pace. It seemed nothing got done expediently. Looking back, I sure would welcome that slower pace again. I know workers in the US are far more productive than in Canada, but at what cost to health and sanity?

What trends and customs from other countries would you like to take hold where you live?

Double Take

Last weekend when I was in Madison, my girlfriend and I got a huge cinnamon roll to take back to her place to share.  She cut it in half and put each half on a plate.  Admittedly I don’t think I’ve ever cut a cinnamon roll in half – I’m not much on sharing when it comes to cinnamon rolls.  But since we’d already shared a big doughnut at the market, I was acquiescent. 

When I looked at my half, I saw Stonehenge.  Well, not exactly Stonehenge as it looks now, but the stones that make up the henge.  I mentioned it to my friend, who said she could “kind of” see it.  She thought it looked more like Legos.  Since I’m the traveler and she’s the grandmother, I suppose that makes sense.  We see the world through our own filters.

What filter do you look at the world through?

Setting the Mood

Our daughter was excited to drive us around the Olympic Peninsula when we visited in July. She was equally excited to explore Olympic National Park, not only for the rain forest and the moss, but because of the podcast she chose for us to listen to as we drove.

Daughter thought that a podcast about true stories of people murdered by serial killers in National Parks would be entertaining. It really was, I must admit. There was very little traffic, and we were in pretty remote areas, and it seemed cozy, somehow, like listening to ghost stories in a nice warm room with a fire going and a storm raging outside.

How do you set the mood? What do you like to listen to when you drive or work around the house?

Overcoming Adversity

Early in this blog’s history, we had a contributor who wrote exceedingly well and who was excited about life and his role in the world. His name is Aaron. Aaron was a reader and regular commentator in those early years.

This week, Dale Connelly, the founder of this blog, contacted me and Sherrilee about posting some writing by Aaron’s sister, Jessica. Dale commented:

“Aaron has multiple disabilities and gets around primarily in a powered wheelchair.  You may have seen him at some of the State Fair shows back in the day.  His family is organizing a Zoom event next Saturday, (August 7) to premiere a short (55 minute) documentary about Aaron and the difficult decisions his family faced when he was born.  The event is also a fundraiser to gather money to replace Aaron’s accessible van, his primary form of transportation.” 

We thought this was a great topic for a post. I have communicated with both Aaron and his sister, and this is how Aaron describes himself:

Aaron Westendorp is a musician, online variety music show host, and a self-advocate in Hopkins, Minnesota, who uses a communication device. Aaron has a brain stem lesion which causes spastic quadriparesis, a partial paralysis from the eyes down.  He still has a independent life and a fun personality.

The following is a heartfelt statement from his sister, Jessica Westendorp:

I could have written a different speech every day this year, that’s how many different feelings I have about Aaron and growing up with Aaron. I have humorous, light, jovial speeches, and dark, scary, cynical speeches that underscore Aaron’s evil side. Just kidding. Aaron doesn’t really have an evil side. That Aaron is a bright light, most of you already know. He has always been a calm being, open and waiting for whatever the next step might be. The only time I can remember Aaron loosing his cool was for a brief period in the 5th grade when math and after school studies pushed him to desperation and low lows. He got angry. In that time there was a moment when Aaron looked at me and sighed and it was if he said to me, “so…this is how it is”. And then, he was fine again, calm, collected, open and ready to keep going.

Aaron is disabled. I know this is news to you. It’s hard to see the disability when there is so much AARON to see. But, in case you didn’t get the memo, he is special, differently abled, challenged, a short bus super kid. Other words that were used on him were Duke, Duker, King of Kids, and because there is only so much wonder and excitement I can allow to follow him around, he is also a bratty kid brother.

Aaron’s disability was large. It was another person in the family always taking all of the resources and lightness out of anything. Trips to anywhere were filled with, “but are there curb cutouts? Can he fit through the door? Are there steps inside? Will we need to ask for special help maneuvering or accessing the bathroom?” And then, the weight of carrying all emergency equipment and healthcare needs with him. The backpack needed to be packed and repacked. He needed help with shoes and jacket. He needed to be loaded into the van and tied down. Then Jill and i would translate his finger spelling, “why don’t we go on more family outings?”

I feel heavy and angry re-living that. It was not glamorous. but, the humor helps. One time, when we were all tired and in a long stint of hard times, Mom and Aaron, and Jill went to Burlington Coat Factory. They got out of the van after parking in the handicapped spot. As my mom walked away from the van someone snarked about her use of the handicapped parking spot. Used to public perception often being askew there would usually be a kind reference to my brother or ignoring the problem. On this day my mom said, in her voice we all know as the “mom is not in a great place voice”, “WE ARE HANDICAPPED!”. “we”. “are”. “handicapped”. We are not, and yet, we are and the clashing perceptions combined with the fatigue of it all was the hilarity. And then, there were the helpers. The nurses and PCAs were there ALL THE TIME. Whether they wanted to be or not, they became part of the fabric of our family. They may remember us as a job. I remember them being in my home, sharing a space, and I remember processing my life in front of them. Like any family members some were super duper cool and others, we’ll say, clashed with our brand of special. But, they were there. They helped support the constant needs. Food prep. treatments, mobility, translation. My favorite of these people were those that understood the need to keep the light, the humor, and the irony alive, even and especially when I could not find these.

This all must have been so different for my parents. They had a childhood, a million years before and now they had the weight of this adulthood that they finessed and juggled and braved with faces of intensity and love. But for Jill, Aaron, and I this was our childhood. The pieces of it leave deep impressions. The shiny medical equipment, the smells of medicine, the short quick pace of a nurse who is tasked all become your normal. I will always be a force of quiet, deep love, forever broken by the immensity of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly struggles that are inexplicable in this speech. I am full of gratitude and am privileged to have learned so much, but due to broken perceptions and realities faced and viewed often, I will also carry a force of anger, always, a deep understanding of disparity and injustice.

Thank you for showing up. Thank you for loving the little brother i worked hard to push and challenge. Thank you for loving this guy who I prayed for, who was surrounded by the light of many prayers. Thank you for knowing that there is no clear narrative here, only people with real needs, hopes, and aspirations all in real time. 

Here is the hyperlink to the video regarding Aaron.

Who do you know who has overcome adversity? How did they do it? How have you overcome adversity?

In Memoriam – Our Little Jail Bird

It was this week two years ago that we lost of Little Jail Bird, Edith.  In her memory, I’m running her most iconic posting on the Trail.

Until last fall, I had never been to Banning State Park. I had driven by it dozens of time, because when I head up to my sister’s house, I always turn off 35W and take Highway 23 into town. I didn’t know much about Banning, but when I was looking for a day trip, it seemed to fit my needs perfectly.

First, I wanted a park where I could drive there and back in one day without getting too tired. Second, I wanted a park that didn’t involve driving several back roads, because I knew that I would be driving in the dark due to the shorter fall days and my night vision and sense of direction is bad enough that I would get lost unless I kind of knew where I was going. And third, I wanted a state park because I had a state park sticker and wanted to use it as much as possible to get my money’s worth out of it. Banning fit all of those qualifications. Plus it has a waterfall, which is a big plus in my book.

So, off I went, one sunny morning in October. When I arrived, I stopped at the visitor center to get maps and ask where the best spots were. I was so excited. It seems that often when I go north, I am early for the fall colors and often find myself driving home just a few days before “peak”  and this time I was not too early! I said something about that to the woman at the desk (while trying to not jump and down in excitement) and she shook her head woefully and told me in a discouraging tone, “You’re going to see LOTS of brown out there.” Gee thanks, way to burst my bubble.

Of course, since I drove all the way up there, I figured I better go on the hike anyway even if I would see mostly brown. I drove to the parking area and when I stepped out of the car and looked up, I knew it was going to be a good day (see header photo).

I hiked all the way to the falls and back and shot lots of photos. It was an incredibly beautiful day: that clear, deep blue sky that you only seem to see on autumn days and – surprise! – lots of colorful leaves on the trees. It can be a challenge shooting in bright sunlight, but I was so overcome by the beauty of it all that I just took that in my stride. There was that wonderful northwoods smell in the air – pine trees and dead leaves. Nothing like it! and nothing else invigorates me like that does.

It was getting pretty cool and the sun was going down quickly by the time I was heading back on the trail but the golden evening light only made things more beautiful and the colors more intense. I went home pleasantly tired and very happy and glad that the woman’s prediction of “lots of brown” wasn’t true.

Any comments / reflections welcome!

Good City

Husband and I spent six days in Tacoma last week, with a couple of days on the Olympic Peninsula. The trip to the peninsula was rather more eventful than we wished, with daughter slipping into a deep tidepool and breaking her wrist, but, overall, it was a great trip.

Our Tacoma hotel overlooked Commencement Bay on Puget Sound. The city has made a nice development free and open to the public along the Sound, full of piers, shops, restaurants, running paths, and green space for people, pets, otters, sea birds, and sea lions to coexist. We watched sail boats, container ships, canoeists, and paddle boarders. I saw otters swimming around close to shore.

I took the header photo from our hotel room window. Just below our window we had a lovely view of a large cement area about the size of half of a basketball court that had recessed colored lights and sprays of water shooting out that all members of the public could access. Children, dogs, skate boarders, and adults ran through it. Lots of people sat on benches and talked. We also watched lots of bicyclists of all ages along the path that borders the Sound by the hotel, and families with small children in strollers. There was ample, free public parking. What we most appreciated was the diversity of ages, races, and income groups amongst the revelers. This area was meant for all, and not just for the privileged. On our last evening it looked as though the whole city had come for a visit. Husband commented that this is what a city should be like.

What are your favorite cities to visit?

Committing Thuricide, or, a GARDENer’s Anxiety

Husband and I are traveling to Tacoma, WA on Monday to see our Daughter. We will be gone for a week. This week we are prepping our gardens for our absence, watering like crazy and taking care of any garden pest and disease issues.

Due to the lack of humidity and the isolation on the Northern Great Plains, we have a comforting lack of pests and diseases in our gardens. We rarely need to combat anything, but there are a few persistent garden problems that require action.

We somehow have blight problems in our tomatoes and roses that require an application of fungicide. I sprayed with Daconil last night. Last year, we had flea beetles in our kohlrabies that required insecticide. I applied some Sevin to some chewed up kohlrabi plants last night. The potted tomatoes and peppers in the church garden need something called Rot Stop to combat Blossom End Rot. (Calcium uptake in a pot is difficult at times.) We also have cabbages that need help with cabbage worms with Thuricide, or Bacillus Thuringiensis, which is an organic worm deterrent. No worms in our Savoy cabbages!

How do you deal with life’s pests, garden or otherwise?

Adventures in Pet sitting

We took care of our son’s West Highland Terrier while he and his family took a trip to Alabama to see his wife’s new niece. There was too much kennel cough in the doggy motels in Brookings, so little Baxter had to stay with us in ND.

Baxter is 5 years old, and just getting out of his puppy stage. Terriers are puppies for a long time. He is a very well trained (for a terrier) and on a very regular schedule for eating and eliminating. He loves to play fetch and tug. He is accustomed to being in a crate at night. He is a good traveler.

The visit went well. He didn’t bite the neighbor children. He didn’t get into fights with other dogs. He didn’t get loose or lost. He didn’t chew anything up. We spoiled him by leaving him out of his crate when we weren’t at home, and let him sleep under our bed sometimes.

With a terrier there are untold calamities that can occur. None occurred. We find ourselves missing his tearing around the house and demanding walks and to play with his chew toys.

Tell about your experiences with pet sitting or baby sitting. Any calamities?

Keeping Connections

I am really glad that we were able to get to my cousin’s funeral. She was the daughter of my mom’s youngest brother, Harvey. I was the only (and oldest) cousin there. Two cousins from my Aunt Leona’s family live in Pipestone but didn’t attend, and two other cousins from my Uncle Ronald were too far away to attend. We brought Norma, Uncle Ronald’s widow, to the funeral. She was so happy to get out of Watertown, SD, and get to see nieces and nephews she hadn’t seen for a long time.

We all caught up with eachother’s and our children’s lives at the funeral lunch. Of the four remaining children of my Uncle Harvey, all but one lives within 30 miles of Pipestone. That cousin, Alan, lives in Grand Island, NE. He plans to move closer to the Pipestone/Luverne area near to the others after he retires. Alan said he thought it really important to be closer to his siblings. He and the others were delighted to hear our plans to move to Luverne when I retire. Connections are important.

The Methodist pastor who conducted the funeral was one of my high-school classmates. It was good to catch up with her, too. Despite the sad occasion, it felt so good to be with people who knew me, with whom I had a history, and who appreciate the connection we have.

Who are your important connections? What do you do to keep those connections going?