Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011

A good Christmas weekend with the family.

Christmas was always one of Joanne's favorite times of year. She always enjoyed decorating the house and giving gifts to family members. Due to the many variables we have of family we usually started more than a week before Christmas Day so as to be able to have some type of activity with all of them. After her death last month I could not see participating in the holiday festivities and had planned to leave on Christmas Eve morning in the motor home. Just the dogs and me heading south. Family members, specifically my Dad and niece Carrie, talked me into staying.

The Stone family decided to have our gathering on Christmas Eve out in Yukon at my brother Chester's house. We had 27 all total there for a fine meal and fellowship. Included with our immediate family was brother Bill's mother-in-law, Lilas, and my mother-in-law, Mardell. Pictured with me here are my sons, Alex and Alan, along with Alan's family, Cathy, Katlyn, Madison and Cadence. Cathy's sister, Grace, who is visiting from Wisconsin also joined us. Chester had 12 of his family members there, all but one daughter-in-law who had to work. The other two brothers, Bill and David, were there with their wives but neither of their children were able to make it. Very much missing was our Mom, who also passed away this year, and, of course, my Joanne. In the picture to the right are us four boys with our Dad. We are lined up on each side of Dad by age: Bill, Chester, David and me.

Christmas Day was spent with "my other kid", Carrie, and her family. (Anyone who has read the last few entries here know that Carrie is actually Joanne's niece but I count her as my own.) My mother-in-law and I drove out to Carrie's in-laws house in Midwest City to spend the afternoon with them. Mike and Barbara Carpenter have been great about including us in their family activities. We spent Thanksgiving with them and also were out there for Carrie's son, JJ, fifth birthday party. In addition to Carrie's family (husband John and son JJ) we were joined by John's sister Kathy and her two sons. Barbara outdid herself again and put on a great meal. This picture is of Carrie and I that we took just before it was time for Mardell and I to head home.

It has been a good Christmas after all. Joanne would have thoroughly enjoyed it all. I'm glad that I was talked into hanging around.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Final closure

Memorial grave marker finally in place.

Soon after the burial and memorial services for Joanne a headstone was ordered. They usually say it takes about eight weeks to get them completed and set. Since I have been planning to leave in the motor home soon they promised they'd expedite getting it done. Last Friday we were notified that the markers had been set in place. (My brother and sister-in-law, Bill & Nancy, decided to go ahead and buy one and have it set at this time.) This past Saturday I took my mother-in-law and my dad down to the cemetery in Byars to see the marker.

The grave marker is made of polished black granite. The front has both our names and information with the "Stone" name in what is called raised letters. It also shows our wedding date. The back of the marker has a picture of a motor home with the words "on the road again". We always joked that was our theme song since we both enjoyed our travels in our coach. (The picture of the back side came out a bit blurry. Apparently I did not wait until my camera did it's auto focus before snapping this shot. Seems my eyes were filled with water that was blurring my vision.)

The Byars Cemetery has many of our relatives buried there. Where our grave site is located is adjacent to the main road going into the cemetery. In this row are now four sets from our family. First is Bill & Nancy's stone, then my parents, next Joanne and myself and last Aunt Esther and Uncle Joe Riggan (my dad's sister and her husband). This puts my folks between Bill and I, which is appropriate since he is the oldest and I am the youngest. Also, Esther & Joe were pretty much like second parents to us boys as we were growing up so eventually we will all wind up together.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A great evening--for a change

Great company, great entertainment, great evening.

After sitting around, feeling sorry for myself for the past month I decided it was time I got out and did something different. A while back I had purchased tickets to the stage play of "A Christmas Carol" that is currently being performed by Oklahoma City's Lyric Theater. Joanne and I always enjoyed live theater so I had planned to surprise her with the tickets. Tonight was the night we were scheduled to go to the theater. Our wonderful niece, Carrie, was more than happy to go with me. She definitely deserved a night out on the town.

We started off at a little Italian restaurant, Rococo, that was close to the theater. This has been operated by several different names over the years but has always served Italian food. Turns out this was one of Carrie's favorite places to go to eat on her birthday when she was a kid. We had a nice dinner and a good visit. She had a new dress that she had not had an occasion to wear so this gave her an opportunity

After dinner we headed to the theater, Lyric on the Plaza. The main Lyric productions are in the summer and are held downtown at the Civic Center Music Hall. During their off season they do smaller productions at what was a movie theater, called The Plaza, until the 1970's. Lyric has done a fantastic job converting this theater for live productions. The current show, "A Christmas Carol" has my friend, Jonathan Beck Reed, starring as Scrooge. (We have followed Jonathan's career for many years and have always enjoyed his performances.) Carrie had to agree with me about how good Lyric productions are.

Overall it was a very good evening. Had dinner with one of my favorite people, saw a fine show and got to introduce Carrie to something new.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Back to a routine---well kind of

Trying to get back to some semblance of a routine and still cope with everyday life.

Dealing with the aftermath of a death is hard. It is amazing all the details that have to be taken care of, the agencies and organizations that have to be contacted, the people that need to be notified. All that and still trying to cope with the fact that one is now living by themselves again. That last part is especially hard on someone who never really liked living alone to start with.

Fortunately, there has been plenty of help and support or I'm not sure I would ever had gotten through all of this. First there was the outpouring of support from people all over the United States. It has been amazing all the cards, e-mails and phone calls that have come in after word got out about Joanne's death. As has been mentioned before, as avid RVer's we have made friends from one end of the country to the other. Second, and even more important, has been my family members who have rallied around me. From my oldest brother, Bill, who calls and checks on me, even when he is working out of town, to my Dad, who also lost a wife this year, to my youngest granddaughter who likes to grab and hug me. I've always said when everything is going wrong your family is your best resource in dealing with it all.

My kids have been the biggest help of all, all three of them. (Yes, I typed THREE on purpose.) My oldest son, Alex, called almost immediately and offered to come stay with me. He was here the first week after Jo's passing and was a major help. At that point I was pretty much in a fog and he took care of all the little things I kept forgetting. My dogs really appreciated that when it came to their meal times. Alex kind of served as my lifeline that first week and for that I extend my greatest appreciation.

Next is my other son, Alan. He and his lovely lady, Cathy, have been great. They have come by and allowed me to drop in on them at all times. Just knowing they are there anytime I need them has been such a great help. Friday nights were always what Jo and I called 'date night' and we had dinner out. The first Friday after Alex went back to his house I found myself especially lonely and feeling sorry for myself. Called up Alan and Cathy and they dropped any plans they might have had and we all went out to eat dinner, including their three precious little girls. So, thanks Alan for being there when you were needed most.

Now for my 'third' kid. Although Carrie is not my child by birth she definitely is by choice. (Carrie is actually Joanne's niece.) She has always been one of my favorite young people and I was thrilled some years ago when she allowed me to walk her down the aisle and give her away at her wedding. On the day that I took Jo to the hospital and they admitted her to the ICU Carrie was the first person I called. She immediately took off from work and came to the hospital. She stayed with me all evening, even though she had a husband and small child that also needed her attention. The next morning, after Jo had died, Carrie was the first person I called. Since then she has been my rock to lean on. She still checks on me on regular basis and makes sure I'm included in her family activities. (This picture was taken of Carrie and her son, J.J., at Christmas 2010.)

But, now that things have started to settle down some I have tried to get some semblance of order back in my life. I have resumed my 'grave walking' activity out at Chapel Hill Cemetery this week. Taking headstone pictures and getting these graves documented on I'm back into my routine of stopping at Taco Bell for lunch. I've gotten a little better at giving my dogs, Buddy Joe and Bridgit Jeane, the attention they need. And, finally, I've started to plan getting back into the RV and back on the road. This last thing will be a bit strange, especially this first time out, since I've never made an RV trip without Jo by my side. Just another thing I'll have to learn to cope with in this new life.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Being thankful

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day in this country. Needless to say I have not had much to be thankful for the past couple of weeks.

On reflection, even with the loss of my precious Joanne, I do have many things to be glad about. I'm thankful that I made it to the big 65 years of age this month and still be in good health. I'm thankful for the family and friends that have rallied around me during these really trying last two weeks. I'm thankful for all the good memories from the past 23 years that Joanne and I got to spend together. I'm thankful for all the traveling and the sights we were able to see over these years.

Thanksgiving day was spent with our niece, Carrie, and her family at her in-laws house. I picked up the mother-in-law and took her out to their house east of town for a magnificent feast. I am so thankful for having Carrie in my life. She has been my rock during this ordeal and has been right there through the whole thing.

I am thankful for my sons. My oldest, Alex, called almost immediately and volunteered to come stay with me. His being here for the week following Jo's death was tremendous. This house had gotten awfully quite and lonely all of a sudden. Having him here, helping with all the details that had to be attended to was wonderful. My youngest son, Alan, and his lovely lady, Cathy, have also been very supporting. Even though they have three young girls in their household they still made time to spend with the "Old Man".

I'm thankful for all the family members, 31 in all, that came to the cemetery last Saturday to help me say goodbye to Joanne at our private burial service. Also thankful for all the family, friends, former classmates, former co-workers and neighbors who attended the Celebration of Life service we had this past Tuesday. Especially thankful for Ron & Kay Rivoli who drove their motor home all the way from Louisville, Kentucky (800 miles) to sing at the service. (Only to immediately turn around and drive 800 miles back home so as to be with their family on Thanksgiving Day.)

I'm thankful for all the cards, e-mails and phone calls I've received from people all over this great country. This has been a real testament to the number of people who's lives were touched by Joanne over the years.

So, if nothing else comes out of all of this I wish to relay one thing to everyone reading this blog: Live life to the fullest, let your loved ones know that you care and tell them often, hold the ones that matter close to you. We never know what tomorrow will bring.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saying goodbye

This has been the worst week of my life. I had to say goodbye to my partner, my soul mate, my best friend.

Joanne Marie (Priolo) Stone

June 30, 1944-November 16, 2011

We had been told in late September that Joanne had breast cancer. It was determined that she had not had it long but it was a very aggressive form and had the capability of growing fast. We had already scheduled a two week trip to Louisiana for a RV rally and Joanne decided she did not want to cancel. Prior to leaving she had all the necessary test such as biopsy and an MRI exam. It was decided that she would need to start heavy doses of chemotherapy soon after we returned. This was to be done once per week every three week for three sessions and then they would do surgery. The doctors determined that she was in such good health that she could handle this level of treatment. She felt good about fighting this battle and conquering it.

She had her first chemo treatment on Tuesday morning, November 8. It took five hours for the drugs to enter her body through IV tubes. Afterwards she was feeling good and just wanted to go get some lunch. On Wednesday she was again feeling good when she drove back to the cancer center to get a shot of something to help offset the loss of while blood cells from the chemo drugs. By Thursday she said her joints ached, which apparently was a normal reaction. Thursday through Sunday she was very tired but still kept plugging along, going out to eat and going down to visit my Dad on Saturday evening. By Monday she was having extreme back pain and could not get comfortable. By Tuesday morning she was in even more pain as we headed to the cancer center for her scheduled lab test. When we got to the cancer center the nurse immediately brought in the Oncologist and she was moved over to the hospital. By afternoon she was moved to ICU and then placed on a ventilator. By the wee hours of Wednesday morning it was obvious she was failing fast. She passed away around 3:30 AM on Wednesday, November 16.

We were married 23 years this past August. We had celebrated our anniversary while in her native Minnesota. As most people will tell you we were pretty much inseparable, especially since our retirement in July 2006. We had become RVer's in 1997 and after retirement we were able to expand our travels drastically. In recent years we had cut back on traveling due to the need for Joanne to be home to help care for her mother. Our attitude was that our parents were in their 90's and would not always be with us. After that we could continue traveling this great country. Although we did not get to go to all the places we desired, while reviewing our pictures this past week I have been amazed at how many miles we did cover and the things we saw and the places we went.

We held a private burial service at the Stone family plot in the cemetery in Byars, Oklahoma yesterday. We had 31 family members from both sides of the family. A Celebration of Life service will be held on Tuesday, November 22, at Grace United Methodist Church. This is the church where we first met through their singles group. We were married at Grace on August 26, 1988 by our pastor, Burrel McNaught. Although Burrel is now retired and usually declines doing services any longer he will be conducting the service for Joanne. Additionally, two of our dearest friends, Ron & Kay Rivoli, will be here to sing for her one last time. We have enjoyed listening to Ron & Kay as we have crossed paths with them as they travel the country performing professionally at shows and RV rallies. They are driving in from their home base in Louisville, Kentucky just for Joanne.

Based on the calls, cards and e-mails that have been coming in it is very apparent that Joanne was loved by many people throughout the country. Due to the RV lifestyle we have made friends from every corner of the nation. The emotional support that has been offered by both family and friends has been a tremendous help in coping with this sudden and unexpected loss.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Time for a change

Out with the old and in with the new.

After nearly six years of driving/towing the Chevy HHR it was time to make a change. We bought the HHR in March 2006 before we retired. Now, after driving it 69,960 miles and towing it another 55,000 or so, she was starting to show her age. We've had an electrical problem with the transmission that two different Chevy dealers could not diagnose or get repaired. We've pretty much enjoyed this little car and really liked the fact her color matched up well with the coach. But there always comes a time for change.

So, meet the newest member of our clan. A 2012 GMC Terrain. Went down to the dealer in Purcell, Oklahoma, yesterday to see what they had. Was first interested in the Chevy version of this car, the Equinox, but found the Terrain had more standard equipment for basically the same money. The silver color will not match the coach but otherwise she should make a good "towed". She has most of the bells and whistles of the new cars, including a color backup camera, On-Star and satellite radio. If she holds up for over 100,000 driven/towed miles like the HHR we will be very content. Now all we have to do is order the tow package and have it installed on the front.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 14

Actually Cajun Country was left behind and we headed for Paris.

We pulled out of Marksville yesterday morning around 8:30 and headed northwest to the bright lights of Paris, Texas. We are currently at the Spencer RV Park on the north side of town. After a good supper we planned to relax and watch a little TV. No luck, since we have no TV reception where we are located. This is a small RV park behind a RV Sales and Service business. We appear to be the only true campers here. Most of the rigs here are temporary workers in the area living in their rigs during the week.

Our purpose of stopping here is to do some grave hunting. My Dad's parents moved to Oklahoma from Red River County, Texas. They farmed near Detroit, Texas. The picture to the left is of what is left of the main drag through Detroit. (His Dad's family were originally from Georgia and his Mom's family were originally from Mississippi. Both families had moved to Red River County and that is where my paternal grandparents met.) We have genealogy information that shows his paternal grandparents were buried in the city cemetery in Detroit. Our info for his maternal grandparents indicate they were buried in Bluff Cemetery over by Bagwell. We started out this morning for Detroit. All the way over their, about 17 miles, we were driving in a heavy fog with visibility of maybe 50 feet. This was also the weather we had when we started walking the cemetery. There are approximately 2,000 graves in the Detroit Cemetery. When working an old cemetery, with no plot diagram or lot markers, a person just has to start at one end and walk every row looking at headstones. Joanne took the north end, which appears to be a newer section and I headed down to the far south end, where most of the really old graves are located. We spent a couple of hours searching but failed to find any grave markers with the names William Jarret and/or Margaret Edna (Franks) Stone. In the old section there were many markers that were broken and crumbled or missing with only a base left. It also appeared there were many unmarked graves in this section.

After we decided we were not going to find the Stones we headed out to Bluff Cemetery to find the Jones. My grandmother's parents were George Dennis and Georgia Ann (Garrett) Jones. Bluff Cemetery is about five miles north of Detroit. This cemetery was in more need of repair than the one in Detroit. Again we divided up and started looking and again failed to find either grave. What we did find was more sand burrs than either of us has seen in years. When we finally gave up we had to spend several minutes picking the burrs out of our shoes and socks. Those little things really like to cling to shoe laces. (This was Joanne's first time to join me in a grave search and, after today's experience, will probably be her last.) After our searches we headed on east to the town of Clarksville, the County Seat of Red River County, for lunch. Stopped at a little diner in town but found the meal about as disappointing as our grave search this morning. Now we're back in the coach in Paris. We'll head out tomorrow morning for home. It's been a great trip and we have had an enjoyable time.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 12

Some seminars, a little Bingo and then it's goodbye.

We wrapped up the rally last night. We had a couple of good seminars during the day and then had the end of the rally critique session. In this session we discuss the rally, cover any problems and seek input of what the members would like to see in future rallies. A big hit at this rally turned out to be the Poker Run. There was no cost to either the members or the club and got everyone out in the community to do some sightseeing.

We were back in the ball room for our final night. Had a wonderful catered meal served by the casino staff. We've had some logistic problems during this rally but we all agreed that the food has been great. After dinner we had a drawing. During the rally we take paid application for our next rally, which in this occasion will be in Columbus, Indiana, in May 2012. If we get 20 paid applications during this rally then we hold a drawing and the winner gets to go for free. By the time we had our drawing last night we had 41 paid applications. (We don't count the apps from the club Wagon Master or for the Rally Master for the specific rally. The club pays their fee since putting a rally together is a major undertaking and falls directly on these two people.) We draw the name for the free rally and then, since we had so many apps turned in, we drew two more names. Each of these two will get a check for $50.00 to help with fuel cost on their way to Indiana next spring.

We closed out the rally we a spirited game of Bingo. This has become very popular with our crowd. We normally have several prizes either acquired by the Wagon Master or donated by some of our members. Jo and I enjoyed the games but came away empty handed. Just as well since we pretty well have our coach filled with stuff now.

This morning, Saturday, saw many of our members pulling out, either heading home or for other parts of the country. We went over to the Veranda area, by the pool, to have donuts and coffee with the folks who wanted to stop on their way out for that last goodbye. There are several coaches still here who are staying around for the weekend. This evening, after everyone has had a chance at dinner, we'll get together at the President's coach to finish off the left over cake and ice cream from Wednesday nights party.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 10

A day to relax and then a couple of dummies.

Today had very little scheduled in the way of activities. Some of the ladies had a craft class and a bunch of the guys had a big "washer toss" tournament. While we were on the Poker Run yesterday I spotted a small cemetery behind a Lutheran Church building. I looked it up on Find A Grave and found it was not listed. This morning I went over and photographed all the graves that had readable headstones. Wound up with pictures of 63 graves plus some of the church and the signs to the cemetery. This will be my first chance to set up a new cemetery into Find A Grave. Before the afternoon was over I had all the cemetery and the graves entered into the data base. Over the next couple of days, as time allows, I'll get the individual pictures uploaded.

This evening we had our catered dinner over at the casino. We still did not have use of the ballroom so dinner was in the night club area. It was a bit crowded but everyone had a good time. Our entertainment this night was a ventriloquist that Ron and Kay Rivoli had recruited for us. He was very good and did an outstanding show. He is very into audience participation which added to the fun. In this picture is Dennis Kittleson (in the blue shirt). Dennis is one of our officer's and club board members. So far this has been an outstanding rally and we'll hate to see it end tomorrow night.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 9

A poker run followed by a big party.

Today was very different than what we normally expect during our Monaco America rallies. Due to scheduling problems we were not able to have the use of the ball room over at the Casino Resort so we did not have indoor activities. Instead of the normal catered breakfast we each were given tickets to use at the casino buffet breakfast. Instead of RV related seminars or craft classes we went on a Poker Run. Several places, both attended and unattended, were set up for us to stop and see some of the sights here in Central Louisiana. At the five attended stops we got our card stamped to show we made those stops. The first stop was St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Cemetery. The purpose here was to give everyone a look at the above ground burial they use in this area. The first attended spot was at the 4-H Club museum. Other stops included an antique store, a catfish restaurant and a goat farm. After we returned and turned in our stamped cards each person was allowed to draw five cards from a deck of playing cards. The best poker hand won. Joanne drew three Kings and was the winner.

During the evening we threw a big party. Since we did not have access to the ballroom we had our party on the "Veranda", which is an open air area adjacent to the RV Park office, next to the swimming pool. It was a combination of the celebration of the clubs 10th anniversary and Halloween. Before the party everyone was on there own for dinner and we went to Roxy's, the 50's style diner in the casino. During the party we had cake and ice cream for the anniversary festivities. Several of our members had decorated their coaches for Halloween and a bunch of them came to the party in costume. A judging contest was held for the best decorated coach and best costume. Judy and Forrest Wagner (in picture to the left) won for best coach but not costume. (They came as Frankenstein and his bride.) This was a very fun evening but very different from the normal dinner and entertainment we usually experience each night of a rally.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 8

Some great visiting, some great entertainment and actually getting the rally started.

Since the last blog entry a bunch has happened. As we moved through the weekend most of the coaches arrived and got parked. We were notified that a couple had broken down on the road. Once couple blew the engine in their coach and had to have it replaced. After an extra day out and $6,000 they are now here and enjoying the rally. Another couple got as far as Shreveport. They are still there waiting for a part for their electrical system before coming on in. Hopefully they will be here tomorrow. On Saturday our good friends, Ron and Kay Rivoli, made it in. They performed Friday in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and then drove straight through to here in Marksville, a 12 hour drive in their motor home. Sunday morning Ron came out to join our group for coffee. This is Ron with my lovely bride, Joanne. Ron and Kay performed their Gospel Revue for us on Sunday afternoon. They do this show without charge to the club. They do take up a "love offering" that is used in some of their Christian charitable endeavors. We finished off Sunday with a pot luck dinner that evening. By then all but a very few of the coaches had arrived so we had a good crowd at the pot luck with plenty of food to go around.

Monday was the first official day of the rally. We started off with a representative from the Marksville Office of Tourism giving us a history of the area and information on the many things to do and see here. Later, after lunch, Joanne and I went over to the Paragon Casino Resort to view some of the features in the hotel side. The lobby of the hotel has several "ponds" stocked with fish and alligators. This is in an atrium area so there was plenty of sunshine for the "gators" to warm themselves. We checked out the gift shop and the other areas other than the casino itself. Afterward it was time for me to go to the "rally hall" to help set up and man the information booth. We have several logo items that we sell, such as plaques for the back of our coaches, patches for shirts and a cookbook that our ladies put together a few years ago. As the club Treasurer I am responsible for keeping these items between rallies and to sell them via our club website.

Monday evening was the first official meal of the rally. This was catered by the casino banquet staff. They did a great job with the food and the service so we are expecting to really enjoy the service while we are here. After dinner Ron and Kay entertained was with their Rivoli RV Revue. This great couple has performed at several of our rallies over the years and have become a great part of our club. When we first asked them to come they turned us down due to their schedule. The just ended a series of shows in Pigeon Forge on Friday and were to start another series of shows at the same place starting tomorrow. This gave them one day of travel before our show and one day after to return to Tennessee. After thinking it over they relented due to this being Monaco America's 10th Anniversary Celebration, a big milestone for an RV club. We felt very fortunate to have them with us again and hated to see them leave. They pulled out about 10:30 PM last night, headed back to Tennessee. This picture Joanne with the lovely Kay. We did get a quick visit from Kay before they left. As Ron took down and loaded their lights and sound equipment Kay came by our coach to deliver the final invoice/contract of their performance and pick up the check for payment of their service. We always enjoy being with Ron and Kay and hope to cross paths with them again before long.

Today was filled with seminars, dispensing information at the info desk and some craft classes. Jo did one of the crafts and in the afternoon she attended the Ladies Tea. This evening we had another great dinner, served by the Resort staff, we had an auction. Many items had been donated for the auction and a local auction company volunteered their services to conduct the event. All proceeds, which was just over $3800.00, were going to benefit St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. This is shaping up to be a great rally with a bunch still ahead of us.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 5

More coaches, a little work and finished up cemetery duty.

It has actually been pretty quite here in Marksville the past couple of days. We've seen the majority of the rally attendees arrive and get set up. Have gone out to eat in the local area a few times. Mainly have just been helping organize things for the official start of the rally on Monday evening. We did go over to the casino this evening for dinner at Roxy's, a 50's style dinner. Had a good chicken fried steak dinner topped off with a great chocolate milk shake.

Since this rally represents the 10th Anniversary of the Monaco America RV Club we are doing some extra things to celebrate. One of those is we are taking pictures of every attendee and will present them with the photo in a special frame that has our logo along with information about the anniversary rally printed on them. Today we started getting the pictures taken and then I spent a couple of hours this evening printing them out. We have 59 motor coaches scheduled here and we got 18 of the photo's done today. This is the one taken of Joanne and I this afternoon. We'll try to get the rest of the photo's taken this Wednesday.

I did get all the cemetery information, from the old cemetery I came across down here, entered into the Find A Grave database. When I first looked up the St John Cemetery in Find A Grave there had only been nine graves entered. Now there are 207 listings for this cemetery along with pictures of each headstone. There are probably another 50 to 60 graves that I could not document because there either was no headstone or the old headstone was so weathered it was unreadable. I just finished uploading the last of the pictures this afternoon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back in Cajun Country--2011--Day 3

A couple of days driving and now a casino.

We left home last Tuesday morning, heading south. We drove down through Eastern Oklahoma and the northeast corner of Texas just across the state line into Louisiana. Spent the night at a nice little RV park just off Interstate 20. On Wednesday we headed south again and arrived around noon at the Paragon RV Resort in Marksville, Louisiana. This is a part of the Paragon Casino complex which is owned by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe. We are here for the Monaco America Fall 2011 Rally. We are expecting a total of 59 coaches for this rally, which does not actually start until next Monday.

After arriving here yesterday the rest of the day was used setting up the coach, cleaning the bugs off the front and greeting the few others early arrivals. There was five coaches here by the end of the day yesterday. A few of us got together and drove over to another town to an all you can eat catfish restaurant. More coaches came in today. There are about a dozen or so here now, including most of the club officers.

In keeping with my newest adventure of grave hunting I went out this morning to a nearby cemetery. Actually, it is just next door to the Paragon Resort. This is the St John Community Church Cemetery and is connected to a local predominately black church. I checked the Find A Grave website and found only nine graves had been entered into the data base. It appeared to be a small cemetery so I decided I spend this morning photographing the headstones and then get them all entered into the Find A Grave data base. The cemeteries down here are deceiving about their size. Almost all the graves down here are above the ground due to the high water table. Most places in Louisiana it is impossible to dig a normal grave because after a couple of feet they hit water. Before I was done I had taken 203 pictures. There were actually more graves than that because several headstones listed several family members buried in the same tomb. Also, about 50 or 60 of the really old graves did not have any marker or it was so weather worn that it was unreadable. Before these pictures can be entered into the FAG data base they must be reduced in size. My camera does not have a setting to reduce the resolution so I have to go into Photoshop and manually reduce each picture. (I do the same thing with the pictures I post here on the blog.) Anyway, I now have a list of almost every person buried there, have all the pictures reduced in size and have the basic information entered into the FAG data base. Now all I have to do is go back to each individual person's memorial page and upload their headstone picture. Like I've said before this Find A Grave stuff can become very habit forming. Did have one casualty while at the cemetery. While moving some flowers so they would not throw a shadow on the headstone I found there was a nest of yellow jackets in the flower pot. Got stung on the end of a finger. Got to be more careful next time out.

Tonight a few of us, including my brother Bill and his wife Nancy, went to a local restaurant, called Nanny's, for dinner. Most of the folks ordered local specialties but I decided to order a steak. It was a big mistake since it was not one of the better steaks I've had. Of course, coming from Oklahoma beef country it is not hard to be disappointed with steaks in other parts of the country. The restaurant did have one diner that appeared to have been there too long. Were not sure if it was the food or the long wait for service but he was looking pretty worse for wear. We dubbed him Charlie and introduced some of our other rally members that came in to him. More coaches will be arriving tomorrow and through the weekend. If this rally is like most of the ones we've held in the past almost all of the coaches will be here by Saturday. As the club Treasurer I get fairly busy once everyone starts showing up. I spent a big part of this evening making up a couple of Rally Packets for some late applications. Actually, I have not even received the last two applications. They arrived at the UPS store where the club mail box is located after we left home on Tuesday. They were to forward them to me here in Marksville yesterday morning. Hopefully I'll receive the tomorrow. So, more to come as the rally unfolds over the next few days.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Grave hunting--With a helper

Back to the cemetery with a little helper.

Decided not to wait until Monday to go back out and work my list of graves. We have our middle grand daughter, Aurora, with us today. We picked up Joanne's mom and the four of us went to lunch. Afterward we dropped Joanne and her mom off at their respective houses and Aurora, who is five, and I headed to Chapel Hill Cemetery. She had never been to a cemetery and was not really sure what to expect. With the amount of walking that is required I figured she'd tire out pretty quick.

We started in a section that only had a couple of graves on the list, then moved across the road to work a bigger section. That done we took a break back to the car to drink some water and regroup. There were a few in a small section at the front of the cemetery where I could park the car really close. Aurora waited there while I worked those. By then she had her second wind so we moved on. All in all we got about two-thirds of our list done. All but one section and it is the biggest part of the cemetery. I'll work up the ones we got tonight, add some more on and go out and do the rest tomorrow.

This was a new experience for Aurora and she seemed fascinated with the headstones with their bright colored flower displays. She asked many questions about the markers, the new graves that did not have grass growing on them yet and about the many religious statues that adorn this cemetery. About halfway between Chapel Hill and our house is Resurrection Cemetery, where Jo's dad is buried. It is directly across the street from the Wal-Mart store. We stopped at the store and bought some flowers and then went over to Resurrection so she could put flowers on his grave. I previously had placed an America Flag there so we mixed it in with the flowers. Before leaving she wanted to pause and say a prayer for who would have been her great-grandfather who she never got to meet.

All in all a fine day. Got some more grave searches completed and had a good time with one of my favorite people. After we returned to the house Aurora and Grandma are spending time together baking up some Halloween cookies.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Grave hunting--Part Deux

Adding graves to the registry.

What started out to fulfill a few request of folks around the country in getting pictures of their ancestor's grave markers into the Find A Grave data base has morphed into taking on trying to get a whole cemetery entered.

After going to Chapel Hill Cemetery a few days I was able to learn my way around to make it fairly easy to find the graves. The office was very helpful in looking up the locations for me and I learned that, by following their great maps, it was easy to go to the correct location with ease. This cemetery is not only laid out well, each year, they produce a book with the listing of everyone buried there with the section, block and lot numbers. But, after a couple of days I had all the request for pictures from the Find A Grave site completed. Also after a few days of going in with a list of graves for them to look up for me I was able to talk them out of one of their books. Now I don't even have to stop at the office.

Going through their book I learned that there are over 14,000 graves in this cemetery. Looking at the statistics on Find A Grave, less than half of these have been documented on that site. I have now taken on the effort to get as many of the missing one entered and documented. Each evening I take a section of their book and run it against the listing in Find A Grave for Chapel Hill. I make a list of all the ones that are not already on the site. (Both the book and the FAG site are listed alphabetically.) Making a list of the ones not on the FAG site I record about 30 to 40 each evening. The next day, and I've been doing this pretty much everyday for the past two weeks, I go out to the cemetery and locate each grave on my list. I take a picture of the marker and record any information on the marker, including dates of birth and death. That evening I upload the pictures to the appropriate individual memorial page I had entered the previous evening, along with whatever information I've been able to get from the grave marker. Then I take another page or two from the book and do another list for the next day. So far I've been able to add around 300 new entries to the FAG site. What is interesting is that most of the ones I am documenting are older graves. Most of these folks were born in the late 1800's or early 1900's, including several World War I veterans. Most of the newer burials are in that half that have already been entered in FAG data base.

This is being done for several reasons. One, it works with my enjoyment of working on the computer. Another is it gets me out of the house everyday and causes me to do a bunch of walking since this is a very large cemetery. Finally, I feel good about getting these graves listed in the FAG data base so that someone seeking out info on their ancestors may be helped in their search. That last reason has already come to fruition. In the past couple of days I've received messages from a couple of different people about the graves I've documented. One I got yesterday was from a guy from Texas who has been attempting to find his ancestors in a couple of states. One I entered was a distant cousin that his family had been seeking information on. That family finally knows where their cousin wound up and has some information to try to attempt to find out what happened to him and where he had been during the years after he left home. I was warned by some other FAG "Graver's" that this can become addictive when I first started. I'm finding that this is possibly very true. I've already got a list of 41 to go find on Monday.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grave hunting

Nothing like a day in the cemetery.

Over the past couple of years I have been involved in doing genealogy research on both Joanne and my families. It is amazing how much information can be gleaned from the Internet on some family members and, on the other hand, how little can be found about others. Also, some states have done a great job about making their public records available on line while others give very little information. Minnesota, where Jo originates from, is one of those states that makes it easy to find family information. Oklahoma, my home state, has very little information. There is some cemetery information, along with grave listings, on some of the cemeteries in Oklahoma but this has been provided by private individuals or organizations and is not organized by the state.

In conjunction with this research I've gotten involved with a website called Find A Grave. This is a very large data base of grave sites. Each entry is put in by volunteers, often times a family member, and each entry has it's own page. This is a free site and anyone can set up an account to help in expanding the data base. It is fairly easy to search the data to see if your ancestor has been listed. Normally the person who originally enters the page can then add information about the person including pictures. One of the standards entries is a picture of the individuals grave marker. Often times the person doing the data entry is in a different part of the country so they may post a request for a volunteer to take and upload a picture of the marker. I have entered several people, including graves in other areas, and have a few request out there. I've also signed up as a volunteer to take pictures in the local cemeteries for other people. Some volunteers may "adopt" a whole cemetery to get them listed in the data base and get the marker pictures posted. My older brother, Chester, has done this with the cemetery where many of the Stone clan are buried in Byars, Oklahoma. (This is where we buried my mother this past May and where Joanne and I will end up. Our lots are directly between my parents and my favorite Aunt and Uncle.)

Last month, while we were in Duluth, Minnesota, we took a full day and sought out the local cemeteries where Jo's family members were buried. We got pictures of both sets of her grandparents along with some Aunts, Uncles and cousins. To the left is the marker for the graves of her maternal grandparents. Since we returned home I was able to get down to Byars to take some pictures of some family members and also to fulfill some of the request from others that were posted on the Find A Grave website. (Due to the extremely hot weather we've been having my brother had not been able to get all the pictures taken yet.) This past week I've been working a couple of local cemeteries to fulfill some other request from the Find A Grave site. On Tuesday I went to Resurrection Cemetery, where Jo's Dad is buried, with a list of 16 grave sites. On that day the local temperature was 102 degrees. The cemetery office was helpful in looking up the section, block and plot numbers but, unfortunately, their numbering system out in the cemetery is not the greatest. By the time I needed to head home I had found only half of them but was exhausted and soaking wet with sweat. Was able to finish up the next day and then temps were only in the 90's. In addition to the list I was working I also came upon graves of some old friends and some distant relatives that had not yet been put into the Find A Grave data base. That evening I got them added to the data.

Yesterday I went a little further down the road to the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery, this time with a list of 13 grave sites. Again, the cemetery office was very helpful in looking up the locations but also had very detailed maps of the different sections. In about an hour I had 12 of the 13 spaced located and photographed. There was one listing that they could not find in their records and another that did not have a headstone. This info helps in that I could then notify the original poster of this so they can attempt to clarify their records. Fortunately the weather was much better with temps in the high 60's and with a light misty rain. Of course, that is Oklahoma for you. As our favorite son, Will Rogers, once said: "If you don't like the weather in Oklahoma just wait a minute and it will change".

Monday, August 29, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 34--Home

Easy driving but not so easy hot weather.

The last two days of this latest adventure was fairly uneventful. We left Winterset, Iowa, around 9:00 yesterday morning and headed south. Traveling on a Sunday makes for good driving because there is not much traffic on the road. Passed through Kansas City just after noon and again found little traffic. We headed across Kansas and pulled into the Emporia RV Park, in Emporia around 3:00 PM. This is a pretty basic RV park that is good for an overnight stay. Full hookups, including cable TV, for a reasonable price. We were glad to have 50 amp service so we could run both air conditioner units. Somewhere between Kansas City and Emporia it started to get warm. We finally had to pull off at a rest stop to start up the generator and turn on the roof A/C unit. After the 70 and 80 temps we had gotten used to these 100 plus degree temps were a little much.

Got out around 8:30 this morning and back on Interstate 35. We had the coach fairly cool from the previous night so to keep it that way we ran the generator and roof air all the way home. We arrived at our house in Warr Acres around 1:30 this afternoon. It was over 100 here again in the Oklahoma City area. (This year Oklahoma City has had the most days with over 100 degree temps in recorded history. Old record was set in 1950.) The TV weather guessers are predicting it to stay over 100 through this week but to drop by Saturday. Plugged in the coach as soon as we got it parked in the drive and left the A/C running. That made it easier to clean out the coach and get everything carried into the house and put away.

We had a great adventure and saw many sights and did many things. We'll settle in at home for awhile, check on family members and try to spend some time with the grand kids. We'll also start preparing for our next adventure on the road which will be in Louisiana.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 32

Balloons, historic buildings and The Duke all in one day.

This morning we set off to explore the area around Winterset, Iowa. When we were here in 2006 we sought out all the bridges of The Bridges of Madison County fame so we did not do that again. We did take a turn around the town square in downtown to see all the potted plants they have out for the summer. This seems to be big up north since the City of Duluth had similar pots hanging from their light poles in both downtown and in Canal Park. Next we took a drive east, about 30 miles, to the town of Indianola where the National Balloon Museum is located. The big annual Balloon Festival, that is now held each fall in Albuquerque, New Mexico, originated in Indianola. The museum has many displays of balloons including gas filled to hot air balloons. Also the many types of gondolas that are associated with ballooning are shown here.

Our next stop was back in Winterset at the Madison County Historical Society Museum Complex. We first visited this in 2006 and enjoyed it enough to return. The main museum is on two floors of a pretty good size building with a large amount of material depicting the history of Madison County. There are several other buildings on the site, including an 1800's mansion that was original to the property. They have also moved in an old train depot, a one-room school house and a small church building. These are all original buildings to the area. A very large barn has been constructed and it is chock full of farm machinery and vehicles. This is definitely a place that museum and history buffs should stop to see when in the area.

Our last stop for the day was to pay homage to an American icon, one Marion Robert Morrison, or as he is better known The Duke, John Wayne. He was born in a four room house in Winterset on May 26, 1907. We took the tour of the house when we were here in 2006. At that time we were told of plans for a large John Wayne Museum to be built on adjacent property. One of our reasons to stop in Winterset on the way home was to see the progress of the museum. Unfortunately the town has had trouble with the fund raising so ground has not been broken on the museum. They do have a very nice statue of The Duke on the site. We'll have to keep track of this over the next few years and plan a stop here again once the museum gets build, if it ever does.

We drove through some light rain showers yesterday that really made a mess of the car. We finished off the day by taking the car to a car wash to get it ready to put the travel cover on for the rest of our trek toward home. That was followed by a good dinner at a local diner.

Friday, August 26, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 31--A special day

Moving day again plus a special celebration.

We headed out of Prior Lake this morning, going south. After an uneventful drive we are now in the City Park in Winterset, Iowa. The park here has full RV hookups for a modest cost so it makes a good stop over place. Winterset is located in Madison County, the home of some bridges made famous in a Clint Eastwood movie: "The Bridges of Madison County". We were here in 2006 and took the time to drive out and take pictures of all six bridges. We won't do that this time. This is also the birthplace of one of my hero's, Marion Morrison. We'll get around tomorrow to go see what has been added about him since we were last here.

This date also marks a special day in our lives. Twenty-three years ago today I stood and watched my bride walk down the aisle. That was the beginning of The Excellent Adventure of Rick and Joanne. Since we were going to be on the road most of today I gave her an anniversary present yesterday evening. While in Duluth I discovered a jewelry store that sold gold charms of the Aerial Lift Bridge. I had them put this on a gold chain to make a necklace for her. Tonight we went into town for a quiet dinner at a local diner. This adventure just continues on as we explore this great country.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 30

A little driving, a little exploring.

A few years ago a good friend turned me onto a website called Roadside America. This is a listing of tourist places that are odd and unusual and that are not listed in the regular guide books. These places are listed by state and then by city. As we have traveled we have often gone out of our way to see some of these sights. Today we went to three of them. First stop was Faribault, Minnesota to see the Tin Man Family. These are in front of a sheet metal fabrication business. While we were in Faribault Joanne wanted to stop at Faribault Wollen Mills. The GPS took us to a former location of one of their outlet stores. Turns out that company had gone out of business. After returning to the coach and looking on the Internet we learned a couple of guys have bought the assets and are in the process of reopening the company but that has not happened yet.

Our next stops were in the town of Owatonna. First I wanted to go to their Cabela's store. This is one of the best outdoor stores in the country but, unfortunately, they do not have a store in Oklahoma. They usually have great prices on ammunition and I have been purchasing from them online/mail order. Was able to pick up several boxes at a really good price. Also had lunch in their restaurant. All the Cabela's stores have neat nature statues in front of their buildings. Inside they have great displays of stuffed wild game posed in their natural habitat. Always enjoy a stop at Cabela's.

While in Owatonna we headed to two more of the sights from Roadside America. First was The Coming King statue. This is located on the grounds of a large church and is a bronze sculpture standing 18 feet tall and weighs 3600 pounds. It depicts Jesus Christ as a mighty warrior King returning in glory to establish the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God on Earth. This is based on the scripture in Revelations 19:11-16. This sculpture was done by Max Greiner, Jr., and is very well done.

Our next stop was at the Owatonna City Airport. Located there is The Three T-38 Jets Statue. These are former U.S. Air Force jet aircraft that were originally displayed in front of a local air museum. After the museum closed the city had the jets moved to the airport. The planes are now painted in the colors of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird demonstration team. They are placed in the "bomb-burst" formation that is done by the Thunderbirds.

We had an enjoyable time here, on our last full day in Minnesota, and got a few more of the Roadside America sights checked off our list.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 29

Some relaxing, some laundry and a chance for Joanne to see old friends.

Not much happening in the Minneapolis area for us so far. We have kind of settled in for the few days we'll be here at Dakotah Meadows. Yesterday was mostly for housekeeping things that need to be taken care of when out on the road for extended periods. A little maintenance on the coach and then it was off to do laundry. The campground has a coin operated laundry but it was being used all morning by folks that got in ahead of us. So, we took off looking for a laundry. After the wash was done we stopped at a local Dairy Queen for a late lunch and then back to the coach for the evening. Not a very exciting day but got the necessary things taken care of.

Today was a bit different, at least for Joanne. She spent most of the day visiting with old friends from her days when she lived in and attended school in Duluth. First, her friend Marcia, picked her up just before noon to go to lunch. Afterward they came back to the coach and enjoyed the beautiful weather to sit out in the lawn chairs catching up on old times. (Marcia came to Oklahoma in 1988 to serve as Jo's Matron of Honor when we got married.) I used this time to make a trip to Best Buy to pick up some stuff to clean up our computer screens.

Later in the day two other friends, Sharon and Merridy, picked her up to go to dinner. Both of these ladies grew up in the same neighborhood as Jo in Duluth. They went down the street to the Little Six Casino to eat in their restaurant. (These casinos are owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community, a part of the Cheyenne Sioux Tribe.) While they were out I wandered over to the bigger Mystic Lake Casino to grab a sandwich and try my luck a little. Didn't have much luck at finding food or on the casino floor. Due to a big outdoor concert by Stevie Nicks the casinos and restaurants were swamped with people. Finally was able to get into the food court and get a burger and returned to the coach after a couple of hours. Jo and her friends must have been having a good time visiting since they did not return until after I was back. Needless to say, a good day all in all.

Monday, August 22, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 27

Moving day.

We wrapped up our time in Duluth this morning. The owners of the Lakehead Boat Basin, Joel and his daughter Jody, stopped by as we were hooking up to leave. Although not the conventional RV park the Boat Basin is a great place to stay, especially with the way Joel and Jody go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome.

As we rolled south on Interstate 35 we experienced plenty of road construction, eight major sections to be exact. Most just caused everyone to slow down some but the last one pretty much brought traffic to a stop. It was backed up for miles and took close to 30 minutes to go 4.5 miles. We did manage to make what has become a traditional stop at Tobies in Hinkley, Minnesota. We needed to stop for fuel so this was as good a place as any. In years past Tobies had a very large clothing and souvenir store along with their restaurant and service station. The store closed some time back but the restaurant is still a great place to eat. We had lunch and purchased some cinnamon rolls from their bakery for tomorrow morning.

After lunch we moved on south to the Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Minnesota. Well, we are actually at Dakotah Meadows RV Park, which is a part of the Mystic Lake complex, which also has a championship golf course. We have stayed here several times over the years. It is a very nice park with all the bells and whistles. We'll be here the remainder of this week before we start working our way back to hot Oklahoma.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 26

An Arts Festival, a good lunch and then kicked back for the day.

The city was having an Arts Festival over in Bayfront Festival Park, just a short distance from where we are parked. This festival used to be held over in Canal Park, in one of the parking lots, in the years when we were first coming up here. Since then, 1) the festival out grew the parking lot location and 2) Canal Park has grown to the point they cannot afford to give up parking space for a full weekend. We went over to the festival around 10:00 this morning and walked through all the booths. This was made up mostly of local artist and most items pertained to this area. There were several people displaying their photography and we saw some great pictures of places in Northern Minnesota. Didn't see anything that made us want to shell out the cash to take them home.

After the festival we headed east to find some lunch. The first place we headed for, a Perkins Restaurant, was closed so we had to fall back to plan B. Stopped at a longtime local place, the Pickwick Restaurant and Pub, but found the restaurant side was closed on Sundays. We walked next door to the Fitger's Mall, which is in the old Fitger's Brewery, to one of it's restaurants. It is located right on Lake Superior. We picked the Midi Restaurant on the bottom level and got a table by the windows directly overlooking the lake. This was a bit more upscale than the places we normally seek out but the food was good and not too overly priced.

We had talked about going down to Leif Erikson Park for a concert this afternoon but that did not work out. A U.S. Air Force band was playing there today at 3:00. About 2:00 it clouded up and poured down rain for 30 minutes or so. Since this was going to be an outside concert we decided to stay in. We wound up lounging around the coach all afternoon. Since we are leaving Duluth tomorrow morning I did take the time to start getting the coach ready to move, taking the vinyl wheel protectors off, removing the sunscreen off the windshield, putting our lawn chairs and outdoor light away and emptying our waste holding tanks. That will just make it easier in the morning to get hooked up and on our way.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 25

A boat in the canal, shopping at Canal Park and then out visiting.

In all the years we have been visiting Duluth I have taken many pictures of the "world famous" Duluth Lift Bridge. One thing that has eluded me is to get a good picture of a ship, or "ore boat" as they are called up here, coming through the canal under the bridge. This morning we decided to take a walk over across the bridge to Canal Park. As we were going down the street from the RV we noticed the bridge was all the way in the up position. Usually when the local tour boats or a small craft is going in or out of the harbor the bridge only goes up half way. We looked back into the harbor to see one of the ore boats heading out from it's pier. We hurried down to the canal and I was able to get in a good position to snap some pics as she came under the bridge. This vessel was about 550 feet long. After she passed out of the canal and the bridge came back down we proceeded to go up on the bridge to cross over. We did notice another, even larger, ore boat was out in the lake heading in. About half way across the bridge we heard over the PA system to "hurry off the bridge" since it was going up again. We barely stepped off the end and up it went to allow the next ship to enter the harbor. This ore boat was 736 feet long according to the schedule posted in the daily paper of ship arrivals and departures from the harbor. (Later, as we were returning to the RV, we got caught on the bridge again and had to hurry off before it started up to allow a local fishing charter to enter the harbor.)

While over in Canal Park we took the time to do some shopping for our grand daughters. Funny how when they come to visit, after we have returned from our latest adventure, they head straight for the place where Grandma puts the stuff we brought back for them. We also picked up a couple of other gifts for relatives while there. Canal Park has grown a great deal over the years we've been coming up. Now there as several hotels, both in the converted warehouse buildings and new ones built on the lake side. Most all the former warehouse buildings are occupied with shops or eateries. The city has turned this into a really nice tourist/entertainment district. On our way back I could not resist taking a picture of one of the many fire hydrants in the area. It reminds me why I could never live up here year round. I'm not about to live in a place that has to have extension poles on the fire hydrants so the firemen can find them in the snow in the winter.

In the afternoon we drove out to far West Duluth to visit an old friend of Joanne's moms, Vivian Hanson. We have visited Vivian previously when in Duluth. She is soon to be 94 years old and still living at home and still driving. She told us she still has a cabin on one of the local lakes but has turned over the maintenance of it to her sons. Hopefully, we all can be so active and independent when we reach this age. We finished off our day with a fine dinner at the home of Aunt Pat and Uncle Dennis, followed by a game of cards.

Friday, August 19, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 24

A drive up the shore and then dinner with the relatives.

After relaxing around the coach this morning we decided to take a drive up the North Shore of Lake Superior. We took the scenic route right along the lake edge to the town of Two Harbors. This is about 30 miles north of Duluth. This was a really beautiful drive this time of year. On the way back we stopped at a popular local fish market, Kendall's, to pick up some White Fish to take home to Joanne's mother. Personally I really don't care for it but her mother enjoys it. I guess it is an acquired taste. Anyway, we had a really nice leisurely drive. We did stop at a new small protected harbor that has been built for the launching of small boats. This gave us an opportunity to take some pictures of the lake and the shore along the road. After returning to Duluth we met up with Joanne's brother and sister-in-law, Roger and Marilyn, for dinner at Applebee's in the big mall here in town. All in all a relaxing and fun day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 23

A couple of days trekking through cemeteries and then a day of sightseeing.

After getting settled in at the Lakehead Boat Basin here in Duluth on Monday afternoon we called Joanne's Aunt Pat and Uncle Dennis to let them know we were here. We wound up going over to their place after dinner to visit and to meet their three youngest grand kids. In the days before we started this RV thing we would stay at their house when we came up to Duluth for our visits. Even after we purchased our first RV we parked in their yard twice, for a couple of weeks each time. After trading for a coach with slide outs their yard could no longer accommodate us so we started staying down here at the Boat Basin. We met up with them again on Wednesday evening for dinner at the Duluth Grill. (This is one of the places we saw on the Food Channel's show "Diner's, Drive-In's and Dives".)

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent trekking through cemeteries. For the genealogy research we've been doing we've learned that only so much can be accomplished through online searches. Eventually there comes a time that you just have to go to the source. Additionally, thanks to my brother Chester, I have gotten interested in a website called "Find A Grave". This is a place where a person can set up a memorial page for those who have passed on. In addition to the information on the individual this site will also list where the person is buried. One of the entries that is normally posted is a picture of the gravestone, in addition to a photo of the person if available. To get pictures and information on members of Joanne's family up here we went to four different cemeteries and got the information on 18 of her relatives. We took two days because these cemeteries are spread out all over St. Louis County. Now we have been able to update our information in our genealogy pages at but were also able to set up 18 memorial pages on Find A Grave.

With our cemetery stuff taken care of we decided to do some sightseeing today. We wanted to check out some of the other RV parks in the area. We were sure that we'd not find any we liked as well as the Boat Basin and we were correct. The Boat Basin is a very popular place and we cannot always get reservations for the dates we want so we were looking for a backup. So far I have not found one I'd take my coach into. We've found they are pretty old and run down without the services we get here at Lakehead. We also drove up to the top of the hill to Enger Park to see Enger Tower. We've been to Enger Tower many times but we had learned that some major renovations have been done up there. It is also a great place to take pictures of the harbor down below, especially pictures of the "world famous" Aerial Lift Bridge. This morning, before we left the coach, a large ore boat (ship) came through and moved to the piers in the harbor. Would like to be up at Enger Park to get pictures as one of the ships was entering through the canal. We have to cross this bridge to get from town out to Park Point and the Boat Basin. So far the brige has only been up once while we were traveling through.

After Enger Park we drove back down to Canal Park for lunch. We went to a little place we like, right on the water, called Crabby Bill's. This is an old fishing boat that has been drug up on dry ground and converted to an outdoor seafood vendor. This was a change from the past two days. There are two Coney Island hot dog places in downtown, just a few blocks apart. One, the Original Coney Island, has been in continuous business since 1921. The other, Deluxe Coney Island, is relative new, brighter and cleaner. Can't say either one has any better food than the other. (Joanne's Uncle Dennis thinks that the Deluxe is better than the Original.) We ended the day with another sunset over Duluth Harbor.