Happy New Year from Missouri

The last couple of days have been spent exploring central and southeastern Missouri as we slowly meander our way to Florida. We are thankful that the winter storms common in the midwest at this time of the year have not made an appearance, giving us the option of leisurely travel.

New Year’s Eve in Columbia, Missouri, promised to be a warm day and we had a couple of local options for bike riding. It was still quite chilly in the morning so we walked around a local park and public garden.

The city library was an interesting building and we went inside to have a look. We found a marvelous reading room on the top floor where the sunlight streamed in the windows. That gave us a pleasant hour reading and catching up on the newspapers.

We then decided to drive down to Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri. We wanted to explore the sights there and we figured by that time it would be warm enough to ride our bikes. We were impressed with the capitol building and especially liked the fact that all the streets were deserted due to the holidays.

After looking around the capitol area we got on the Jefferson City Greenway and had a nice 12-mile bike ride, skirting the edge of the city.

We finished the day by driving to Rolla, Missouri. No staying up late to ring in the new year for these 2 tired travelers. Fortunately, Rolla was a small enough town that there weren’t local revelers to disturb our sleep.

New Year’s Day started with an inspiring worship service and message from God’s Word at Rolla First Assembly of God church. We got back on the road after church but since it was close to lunch time we didn’t drive too far before we spotted an interesting park and decided to make it our stop to eat the lunch we had packed.

Maramec Springs Park has a waterfall at one end of the pond where the water comes from the spring.
I’d never seen a spring this big before. The brochure says “average daily flow of around a hundred million gallons of water, enough to fill about 26 bathtubs every second.” There are also several trout rearing ponds managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The ponds were filled with rainbow and brown trout, some of them really huge.

The remainder of our New Year’s Day was spent enjoying the scenery as we drove southeast through the Missouri Ozarks, ending in the flat Mississippi delta region at Charleston, Missouri.

Iowa to Missouri

A job that I had a couple of years ago required some business travel to St. Louis, Missouri. On several occasions I combined business travel with a few days of personal leave, driving from St. Louis up to Iowa City to visit the Malloys before driving back to St.Louis to catch my flight home. That drive has very fond memories for me. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone this morning in Iowa City, but I was looking forward to once again being on the stretch of highway I remembered so well. And this time Lee would be along to share it with me.

Well, I thought I knew the stretch of highway, but just when you think you know something, you find out you don’t know as much as you thought you did. We didn’t even make it out of Iowa City before we found ourselves going in circles downtown trying to figure out how to get back on the highway. Lee had wanted to go by the post office to mail a letter before we left town. All the time over the years that I have spent in Iowa City I guess I never had occasion to go by the post office. And after we mailed the letter and turned down a street I was suddenly in a part of town I didn’t recognize. I managed to get a map up on my smart phone but I wasn’t smart enough to realize that we were pointed south, not north. That meant that when I was looking at an upcoming intersection on the map and deciding that the street we wanted was to the right I should have been telling Lee to turn left because the map orientation was pointing north, not south. Oh well, we finally made it back to the highway.

Rather than going on into St. Louis, our plan was to take a slight detour in Missouri and check out the town of Columbia, Missouri, as our overnight stop. We didn’t have a Missouri map, but on my drives from St. Louis to Iowa City my favorite place for a rest stop was the Hannibal, Missouri, Visitor Information Center. I knew they would have maps there, as well as the tourist brochures that Lee likes to collect. I told Lee to just keep straight on the highway all the way through the town of Hannibal and the visitor center was on the south edge of town. Couldn’t miss it.

But miss it we did. Or rather we simply couldn’t find it because we got lost trying to get through town. I wasn’t paying close attention when Lee said he saw a sign that said the visitor center was the next left. “Maybe they decided to make a new route around the main part of the town” was what I thought as he made the left turn. But before we knew it we were on an interstate crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. We knew that couldn’t be right and found the next exit to turn around and go back into Hannibal, where our troubles were just beginning. Nothing looked familiar. This time the smart phone was not getting good coverage or there wasn’t good map data for Hannibal because I couldn’t get any street names to show up. We finally stopped at a gas station and I went inside to ask directions. But I gave up in frustration when I couldn’t get anyone to help me. Just about that time as we drove up the next block I saw a sign that got us back to the highway that we had come into town on. From there I knew I could get us to the visitor center.

After we saw that the visitor center was called the Missouri Welcome Center we realized that the sign for “visitor center” that Lee had seen was the visitor center for all the downtown tourist attractions of Hannibal. There are a lot of those because Hannibal, Missouri, is famous for its part in Mark Twain’s life and stories. So I did get to see a side of Hannibal that I hadn’t seen on any of my previous trips through there. Not to mention, that as we backtracked while still lost along the river, Lee took a notion to follow a sign up a road that promised a viewpoint of the town from the famous “Lover’s Leap”. We joked that Lee was lucky I didn’t shove him over the Lover’s Leap after all the frustrations of getting lost today.

One of the nice things about our casual method of travel is that we don’t have any planes to catch or schedules to meet so the length of time that it takes to get from one place to the next doesn’t really matter. We had some daylight left when we got to Columbia late this afternoon, but will have more time tomorrow to explore. Columbia, Missouri, is home to Missouri State University and has nice parks and bike trails to check out tomorrow, depending on the weather. After checking into our motel we walked through part of downtown before enjoying a delicious dinner at a Thai restaurant.

A nicely decorated tree on a Columbia, Missouri, street corner.

What Is It?

Look closely to see that this was my attempt to capture on film our Christmas Eve crossing of the Mississippi River from Illinois into Iowa. Weeks ago when I thought about all that needed to be done before we would be free to begin our adventure I had a hard time believing that we would be able to make it to Iowa for Christmas. To finally be getting there was a significant event. I also thought the picture had an interesting effect as it shows the shadow of our loaded car with bicycles on back reflected against the bridge’s guardrail.

Mike and I had an app loaded on our phones that allowed him to periodically check our progress as we made the drive from Ohio to Iowa. He had 4 anxious kids constantly asking when Grandma and Grandpa were going to get there.

I would have expected a very early Christmas morning with kids excited to see what Santa had brought them. But they didn’t get up until 7:00am. We enjoyed the exchange of gifts, which Mike tried to manage with some order. Of course, it didn’t take very long before wrapping paper was flying everywhere and joyful voices were shouting in excitement.

After celebrating the reason for the season with worship and the Word at First Assembly church, we enjoyed the unusually warm weather by taking the dogs for a walk on the Sycamore Greenway trail that is near Mike’s house.

The Fun Begins

What a lot of work on Wednesday to get all the last minute moving tasks finished at the house. Not to mention, the work of getting the car loaded with everything we need to begin our travels.

We didn’t leave Oakton as early as we had hoped. It was almost midnight before we got to Kelly’s house in Morgantown, West Virginia. I know Lee must have been exhausted from the days of preparation for the move, but he just kept on driving. I could barely keep my eyes open and dozed on and off most of the way there.

But we arrived safely and, although, it could be buried deeply in the bottom of a container, who knows where, in the car or in the carrier on top of the car we were fairly certain we had managed to remember all the essentials. And we felt that the house had been left in a good condition for the landlord to come in and prepare it for the next tenants. All of our 13 1/2 years of marriage have been spent in that house in Oakton and we will carry many fond memories of our time there.

As you can see, we don’t look too much like vagabonds as we travel the country in our heavily loaded car.

Yesterday, we enjoyed spending time in Morgantown with our 2 grandsons. The weather has been unseasonably warm, and, although there were a few sprinkles of rain, we were able to walk with the kids to a nearby park. Grandpa played “pirates” chasing the boys around the playground while Grandma dozed on a park bench. (Grandma sure does like to doze, doesn’t she? And wait till we get to Florida where I will be able to doze on a bench somewhere in the sun).

Today we will get back on the road and drive up to Ohio, spending the night in Bowling Green with Lee’s brother. There were times when I didn’t think it would happen but it looks like we will make it to Iowa for Christmas!

We Did It!

We finally got the last bit of our “stuff” in the storage container this morning, ready for today’s pickup date that we had arranged 2 weeks ago when it was delivered.

There were times that I had my doubts as I looked at everything that needed to go in there. Lee made trip after trip with piles of boxes from the house to the container and the amount that was left never seemed to diminish.

Lee did most of the heavy lifting and rearranging and planning and measuring. Mostly I tried to stay out of the way and not be too critical. I had laid claim to the packing of the kitchen area, bathrooms, linen closet, and, of course, my clothes and personal belongings. It amazed me how much accumulation a person has after 13 1/2 years in the same house. You think all of the things that you have put away in drawers and closets and cupboards are things that you really need. But then when you get everything out you realize how much of it can be discarded. You get so used to reaching for the same towels or sheet sets or spatulas that you don’t realize how worn out much of the stuff really is. When we do get settled down again I look forward to a fresh start. What a way to clean house.

So, anyway, not knowing exactly when the Pack Rat truck would show up, we made sure that our first task this morning was to get the last of our things in there. Safely locked away and I wonder when we will see in there again.

I spent a good part of the day anxiously waiting by the front window, jumping up whenever I heard a truck coming up the street. I didn’t want to miss out on this interesting operation, since I had been at work the day it was delivered. Finally, late in the afternoon, after Lee got home from a trip to Gaithersburg, Maryland, to donate a car full of books I resigned myself to the possibility of missing out on the pickup. I took the car to run a couple of errands and left Lee in charge of the camera to take pictures if I missed out.

Perfect timing, though, as I arrived home Lee came out of the house to say that Pack Rat had called and would be there momentarily. I had just enough time to get in position for pictures when there came the truck.

It was quite interesting to watch the staging operation. As the driver got to the point of starting the engine that worked the lift on the back of the truck he encountered a temporary snag. The engine had a pull cord like a lawn mower but no matter how many times the driver yanked the cord, the engine wouldn’t start. He finally got assistance from Lee who drove our car to the side of the truck where the driver hooked up jumper cables and got the lift engine running.

Two large metal arms extend out from the truck and are hooked up to levers underneath the storage container. Then the arms lift the container up and over onto the truck bed.

Good-by stuff. See you next year at whatever new place we finally settle!

A Break from the Packing Chores

We took a break today from the moving and packing chores and enjoyed a hike at Sky Meadows State Park with our friends, Joe and Suzanne. Heidi, the dog, was able to come along, too.
We were surprised to see snow on the ground as we climbed up the ridge into the woods.

It was a bright, sunny day, perfect weather for hiking, as long as we kept moving. The lunch stop was a beautiful view but there was a cold wind coming over the ridge so we didn’t sit there for very long.

Over the years, Sky Meadows has been one of our favorite places to hike. The trails are an interesting variety of open meadows and forested ridges with good views and some climbing without being too strenous. It’s an easy drive, less than 50 miles from our house.

We tried not to think about the fact that it may be a very long time before we see Sky Meadows again. We look forward to new and exciting places in the months ahead, but it’s always hard to say goodby to favorite places like Sky Meadows and good friends like Joe and Suzanne.

It’s Beginning!

Today’s big event was the delivery of our portable storage container. Lee has been hard at work for weeks sorting through books and papers, but now comes the real test when we figure out how to get everything out of the house and into the container. After you’ve lived in a house for 13 1/2 years you tend to accumulate way too much “stuff”. And one of us in the family is a bit of a pack rat.

I think Lee is getting tired of hearing me tell people the story of how son Michael and I moved to Virginia from New Mexico in 1993, bringing with us only what we could fit into our 1989 Nissan Sentra. Everything else we owned was either sold, given away or trashed. To me, there is something very refreshing about stripping your possessions down to absolute essentials and then getting to start over again as you figure out what you really do need.

Our goal is to be completely moved out before Christmas. Then, depending on the weather, we hope to drive to Iowa for Christmas. After spending some time with the grandkids we will then head to our Florida destination. If we don’t make the move-out date in time then we will head directly to Florida from here.

My last day of work is Dec. 16 and then I will be able to devote more time to helping Lee. Probably the biggest help to Lee will be for me to stay out of his way! As you can see by the looks of just one corner of one room in the ground floor of our 3-level townhouse it will be a challenge to stuff all the “stuff” into the container.

Most of the rooms don’t look like this, though, so there is hope. Let’s get packing and get this show on the road.