Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day 2012

Major snowstorm?  White Christmas?  Uh, don't think it happened.

The weather guessers on TV have been predicting for the last week that we would get a major snowstorm come in last night and we would have a very rare White Christmas in our area.  We did get some sleet in the wee hours of the morning that did cause some major accidents on the highways before dawn.  By the time I got out and around the street crews had done their jobs and the roads were fairly clear.

Picked up my mother-in-law around 10:30 this morning and headed east to Midwest City.  We spent Christmas day with my niece, and her granddaughter, Carrie.  Actually it was, like last year, at the home of Carrie's in-laws, Mike and Barbara Carpenter.  Barbara always has a fantastic dinner prepared for all the family and has been very gracious to include my mother-in-law and I in all their holiday activities this past year.
Carrie with her son J.J. and husband John

Before we sat down to a great meal we exchanged gifts.  Carrie gave her grand mother a huge box of chocolate candy (almost five pounds worth).  She gave me a fantastic print of a painting of the ship I spent two and a half years of my life, which included two tours to Vietnam, the USS Newport News.  She had the picture matted and framed.  This is one of the greatest presents I've ever received. 

We headed back to the west side of town in the early evening so we could get back before the wet streets started freezing over.  Once home I made a pot of coffee and built a good fire and am thinking about this holiday season.  This year, without Joanne, has been very hard and each special occasion/holiday has not been easy.  But, now instead of sitting around feeling sorry for myself I'm contemplating how lucky a person I am.  This Christmas season has been good.  Have spent time with all my kids and grand kids along with other members of my family.  I am very blessed to have all of them to love and support me.  Life is good.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve 2012

A evening with granddaughters.

Spent this evening with youngest son, Alan, and his family.  Visited with the girls, who were very excited about Santa coming tonight.  After awhile decided we needed to take a road trip so the parents could prepare the place for Santa.  The three girls and I piled in my car and headed to downtown Oklahoma City to see some Christmas lights.  First stop was at the Devon Tower, the new 50 story building built my Devon Energy Company.  They have some great decorations out on their lawn.  It was extremely cold so we didn't spend much time outside the car.  Otherwise we'd have crossed over the street to the Myriad Gardens to see the lights there and go over by the outdoor ice skating rink.

After leaving downtown we drove over to Heritage Hills to see how the houses were decorated there.  Heritage Hills is an old portion of town just to the north of the downtown area.  This is where the original city founding fathers built their mansions.  The houses in this area are very large and mostly well over 100 years old.  Soon it was time to head back to the kids apartment.  They needed to get ready for bed so Santa could make his appearance later this evening.  Before heading home I had to get a picture of the three in front of their Christmas tree.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas 2012 has began

Good food and plenty of family.

The Stone clan celebrated Christmas a few days early.  Due to family scheduling we decided to have our family Christmas celebration today.  We all trekked up north to Enid, Oklahoma, to the home of middle brother and his wife, David and Elizabeth.  We had a total of 27 family members there today.  My arm of the family consisted of ten of us.

Both of my sons came with me along with their ladies.  Above standing with me is (l to r) Alan and Cathy and Alex and Christi.  Standing in front are Alan's daughters, Aurora and Cadence, on each end and his twin step-daughters, Katlyn and Madison, in the middle.  (My other granddaughter, Emma, was not able to go with us today.)  We were also joined by Cathy's sister, Grace, who is visiting from Wisconsin.  (Grace was taking the picture for us.)

In addition to my group my three brothers were there with various family members.  Oldest brother, Bill, and his wife Nancy; Chester and Susan had eleven members there, all but one granddaughter who was with her boyfriends family down in Texas; David and Elizabeth were joined by their daughter, Lisa.  Of course, our Dad, the Stone family patriarch was with us.  He brought his bag of gifts for the grand kids and great-grand kids.  Here he is with my four granddaughters getting the gifts ready to distribute.

We all shared a great and bountiful meal together and had a good visit.  Nothing like getting together with family.  One thing I have always tried to instill in my children:  "When all fails around you family is always your fall back position."  I am a very fortunate man to be blessed with the family that I have.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Another birthday

A new car and some little cars.

Today we celebrated my great-nephew's birthday.  John Michael Carpenter, Jr., or J.J. as everyone calls him, will turn six this next Monday.  He kept informing everyone he was still only five and would not be six for two more days.  The party was at his grandparents house in Midwest City.

J.J. is the son of my niece, Carrie.  He is definitely into toy cars and just about everything he got for his birthday was in that vein.  At Thanksgiving I had asked him what he wanted this year and he informed me "A 1987 Buick Grand National" just like the one his Dad used to have.  Of couse, he was wanting a diecast model of the original.  Believe it or not there is a site online, out of California, that handles these exact things.  (Here the birthday boy opens his presents while his mom and a couple of cousins look on.)

After the gifts were opened and the eating of some great snacks, provided by Carrie and her mother-in-law, we all went outside to watch the opening of the Batman pinata.  Rather than hitting this pinata with a stick the kids just had to pull the ribbons and out came the candy.  Well actually, the opening in the bottom was rather small so the candy came out with the help of Mom shaking it.  (Assisting J.J. is his cousin Caitlyn with his cousin Alex looking on.)

The top present for J.J. was from his parents, Carrie and John.  This was a self propelled, battery opearated Viper.  J.J. has had a ball cruising around the back yard in his new wheels.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Out and about viewing Christmas lights

Dinner, Christmas Lights and the Park.

Got out to view Christmas Lights with a long time friend.  Have known Jimye Faye since grade school days when our families attended church at Kentucky Avenue Baptist Church.  We decided to catch dinner and then drive around viewing the lights.  Started out a Irma's Burger Shack on the north side of town.  This put us up by the Chesapeake Energy Company campus to start.  This company goes all out in decorating their campus with lights.

Next area was the upscale suburb of Nichols Hills.  This area is considered the "old money" area of the metro area.  This town is made up of very large estates with enormous mansions.  In years past the people living there did a major effort in decorating their houses.  We were a little disappointed this year.  As the residents have gotten up in years they have stopped putting up the lights.  There were several that were very impressive but not near what we would have seen in years past.

After Nichols Hills we headed downtown to the Myriad Gardens.  This is the "Central Park" of Oklahoma City.  This park is directly across the street from the newest structure in Downtown, the Devon Energy Tower, a 50 story skyscraper that recently opened.  In the park Devon Energy has sponsored a large outdoor ice skating rink during the holidays.  The City has offered this rink in years past but it was several blocks away in front of the Civic Center.  By moving it to Myriad Gardens they were able to make it larger.

Devon Energy has also gone all out in decorating the grounds around their new building.  In addition to covering all the trees with lights they have gigantic Christmas tree ornaments displayed on the lawn.  Theae are large replicas of the traditional red balls that people have put on their trees for many years.  This is Jimye Faye standing by the largest of the ornaments.

We both had a good time viewing the lights and reminiscing about life.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A day at the park

Beautiful weather, three beautiful girls, plenty of fun.

The weather here in the Oklahoma City area has been very un-November like.  Today it was in the high 60's - low 70's with plenty of sunshine.  Decided it was time to get out and enjoy it.  With the Thanksgiving holiday this past week most people had a four day weekend.  Additionally, most schools have been out since last Wednesday so the kids had a five day weekend.  That would mean that youngest son, Alan, and his lady, Cathy, have been cooped up in an apartment for five days with three rambunctious little girls.  So, I headed over this afternoon and "kidnapped" the girls and headed out to Stars & Stripes Park on the south side of Lake Hefner.  On the way to the park we stopped at the grocery store and picked up a loaf of bread to use in feeding the birds that inhabit the area.  The picture is of the ten year old twins, Katlyn and Madison, and five year old Cadence.

Usually there would be a large gaggle of Canadian Geese out here.  (These geese have pretty much quit migrating south and seem to live in our area year round.)  But, no geese today.  There were a bunch of ducks and, of course, the enormous number of gulls that hang out around the lake.  The girls had a big time pinching off pieces of bread and tossing it to the birds.  In most cases the gulls will swoop down and catch the bits of bread in midair.

Once the bread was gone it was time to move on to the main part of the park and to the large play equipment.  The girls had a big time climbing on the equipment and using the slides.  This gave Grandpa a chance to sit and relax on the "geezer bench" for awhile.  The play equipment in the park is relative new and can handle several kids at a time.  This was good because due to the great weather the playground was teeming with little ones today.  The girls played until around 5:30 when the sun started going down.  At that point the temperature started to drop pretty fast.

On the east side of the lake is a lighthouse replica that I've been meaning to go photograph.  Since the girls had never seen it this was a good time to go get a picture.  This is located in an area of several upscale restaurants.  We drove around to the restaurant parking area and then walked out to the lighthouse.  The sun was pretty much down by this time so did not get a good sunset picture of it.  We did walk on out behind it to take somewhat of a picture of the sunset.  These pictures also show how low a level the lake is right now.  Our area has been experiencing a real drought for the past couple of years and the lake levels are drastically down.  In the marina just to the south of the lighthouse there is no water and the docks and many sail boats are sitting in mud, with several almost laying on their sides.

The dark area behind the girls (on the right of the picture) is now dry land.  In normal times that area would be completely under water.  Since this is one of the city's main reservoirs (and the one that we receive water at my house) it is really crucial that we get rain in this part of the country.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Lot's to eat and good company.

We celebrated a day of thanksgiving in this country.  This is a day where most people gather together with their families to give thanks for the blessings that have been bestowed on them.  This usually includes a large meal and in most cases the meal is set out around a large roast turkey.

As we did last year, my mother-in-law and I drove out to Midwest City to be with Carrie and her family.  As most folks who follow this blog know Carrie is my niece, by marriage.  She is also my mother-in-law's granddaughter.  Again, the day was spent at Carrie's in-law's house.  Mike and Barbara Carpenter have been very gracious in including us in their family activities this past year.

The meal was fantastic, with both turkey and smoked ham plus all the trimmings.  There was nine of us at the table.  In addition to Mike and Barbara, Carrie and John and their son, JJ, we also were joined by John's sister, Kathy, and her two sons.  After this great meal we all adjourned out to the patio to enjoy the great weather we've been experiencing.  The temps today were up around 75 degrees with a very light breeze.

Here are three of my favorite people: Carrie and her son JJ and my mother-in-law, Mardell Priolo.  This was soon after we all arrived and before we sat down to eat.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Vital memories on a sad day

Today marks one year since my beautiful wife, Joanne, succumbed to breast cancer.  Needless to say, this has been a very hard week.

The week started off with my birthday this past Monday.  Although many friends and relatives, including all my kids, sent birthday wishes I spent the day sitting around the house feeling sorry for myself.  Would have been better off getting out and doing something.

On Tuesday I decided it was time to get out of here and see some people.  Went to youngest son's house to spend some time with them during the evening.  His Cathy and her twin daughters all had birthdays this week so I took them their presents.  Alan and Cathy and their three precious girls can always lift my spirits.

Wednesday I picked up my wonderful niece, Carrie, for lunch.  Went to Romano's Macaroni Grill for a good Italian meal.  Spending time with Carrie is also always a great pick me up.  Afterward I was able to spend the afternoon working on cleaning out more of Joanne's clothing and getting it boxed up to donate to the needy.  (I continue to be amazed at the amount of things we accumulate over the years.  So far I've now donated nine very large boxes of clothing to Goodwill Industries and still have more to go.)  On Thursday I took the latest boxes up to the Goodwill Donation Center.

Now we get to today.  I've known for some time this was going to be a hard day to get through.  I also knew that it was also going to be very hard for Carrie.  (As has been posted here several times, Carrie was actually Joanne's niece.)  Sometime back my friend, Jonathan Beck Reed, had given me a pair of tickets to a play in which he was starring so, after a good dinner at Romano's Macaroni Grill, Carrie and I headed down to the Civic Center.  The play was a very intense drama called The Normal Heart.  This play had recently won Tony Awards on Broadway.  This was the Oklahoma premiere of the play and was being produced by CityRep, one of the many local acting companies here in town.  This evening was a good diversion for Carrie and I both.

This week has given me a chance, again, to reflect on the life that Joanne and I had together.  For over twenty-three years of marriage I really cannot fathom being with anyone else.  I have great memories and, fortunately, loads of pictures that we took all over this great country.  We had debated retiring when we did in 1966.  We were both under "normal" retirement age and could have continued to work.  Now, looking back, I am so grateful for those six years we had to travel and spend that time together.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

A cat in a hat, a pumpkin, a vampire and a cheerleader.

Another Halloween has passed with all the ghost and goblins coming out into the night.  Started off with having lunch with The Cat In The Hat.  Actually, it was my niece Carrie.  Her office had a costume contest today.  Last year she had made a Cat in the Hat costume for her son, J.J.  This year she made one for herself.  This picture was taken in front of her building when I arrived to pick her up.

This evening I set up for the Trick or Treaters but they were slow in coming.  Most years we get a few starting around 6:00 PM and they are usually all gone by 7:30 or so.  Tonight it was not until after 7:00 that the first ones showed up.  There really were not all that many kids coming through the neighborhood at all.  Each year the numbers get less as more and more churches, schools and businesses have activities for the children.  Youngest son, Alan, and his family came over.  While he stayed at the house to give out candy Cathy and I took the girls around my neighborhood.  Only about every third house had their porch light on, indicating they were open to Trick or Treaters.  Tonight Katlyn was a pumpkin, Cadense was a vampire and Madison was a cheerleader.  They had already hit the neighborhood near where they live so by the end of the night they pretty much had their "pumpkins" full of candy.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Baby Girl

Three years or 21 years old?

Today is little Bridgit Jeane's birthday.  In actual years she turned three today.  I've always been told that one dog year equals seven years in human life*.  So, is she three or twenty-one?  For the last year I've said she was either a "terrible two" or a "mouthy teenager".  (She does like to bark, much to the consternation of my next door neighbor.)

She was born in Savannah, Georgia, and adopted by a family there.  After a little less than a year they wound up abandoning her.  At least they did take her to their Vet but never returned to pick her up.  After a month the Vet turned her over to the Chatham County Animal Shelter.  That is where my high school friend came to the rescue.  Diane (Burks) Abolt is the head of the volunteers for the shelter.  Little Bridgit, who then had the name Tru, never saw a cage at the shelter.  Diane immediately took her home with her and then contacted me.  In November, 2010, after a few weeks of trying to get a way to bring her to Oklahoma, with no success, Joanne and I got in the car and drove to Savannah.  We left Oklahoma City area on a Monday morning and were back home by Friday.  Spent two nights in Savannah, with Diane and her husband Russ.  Since then Bridgit Jeane has become a member of the family, even being totally accepted by, her now, older brother Buddy Joe.

When I'm up late, which is most nights, Bridgit lets me know it's time to turn out the lights and go to bed by covering her eyes so she can sleep.  At that point she goes to her kennel box for the night.

*Not sure I buy off on the 7 to 1 ratio for human years to dog years.  Buddy Joe turned 11 this past March.  That would make him 77 years old.  There is no way he acts like a 77 year old.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

California Proposition 8

Another date night with Carrie.

Carrie and I took in another play tonight.  Picked her up at 5:00 PM and headed downtown Oklahoma City.  This time to the Freede Little Theater located inside the Civic Center Music Hall to see a reading of the play "8".  Although the play did not start until 7:00 it was open seating so we needed to be in line early to get decent seats.  Actually, we both prefer to be seated front row center in this theater.  Me because it makes it easier for me to hear and for both of us we have leg room with no row of seats in front of us.  After picking up our tickets we spent a little time in the coffee shop at the Music Hall.

The play chronicles the federal trial over the constitutionality of Proposition 8 that was passed in California in 2008.  This law restricted same sex couples from being able to marry in the state of California.  It was passed in a general election by a majority of the voters in that state.  This play was presented as a "reading" rather than a full blown play.  There was a minimal set, no costumes and the actors were not in stage makeup.  It was presented pretty much in transcript form of the actual trial.  The actors came from most of the different theater companies located in Oklahoma City and each of them provided their talent for free.  My good friend, Jonathan Beck Reed, was one of the principal players.  (After the show Carrie got a chance to meet Jonathan.)

This was a very thought provoking play and presented both sides of the argument about same sex marriage.  Following the actual play they were having a "talk back" session with a couple of moderators, the cast and the audience.  Since Carrie is scheduled to work tomorrow we felt it best to get her home.

Another enjoyable evening with my lovely niece.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Granddaughter fix

A day with middle granddaughter.

Aurora, my middle granddaughter, spent the day with me.  Her mother had to work and asked if I'd keep her.  (As a grandparent I don't consider the time I spend with any of my grandkids as "baby sitting".)  She got here around 9:30 and headed straight to the toy cabinet.  In the past she has enjoyed pulling all the toys out but never seemed to be interested in putting them back when the time came.  Today was not a problem.  She is now six years old and in the first grade in school.

Mid-morning we loaded into the car and headed south.  Aurora was the only one of my kids or grand kids that had not been down to the cemetery in Byars to see Joanne's burial monument.  It's about a 65 mile drive down there and she sang and entertained herself in the back seat most of the way before falling asleep a few miles before we got there.  She was very interested in the names on all the tombstones, especially the many with the name Stone on them.  We had stopped on the way down to pick up some new flowers to place on "Grandma" and "Great-Grandma"'s graves.  (As has been mentioned in previous post my mother's grave is just two spaces over from Joanne's.)

After the cemetery we headed back north.  We stopped in Purcell to have lunch at Braum's and then over to the assisted living center to see "Great-Grandpa".  My dad always enjoys the visits from the little ones.  He always has to find something to give them to take home with them.  He had won a door prize at a recent cookout at the center, a large basket full of different brands of potato chips.  He sent a big bag home with Aurora.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Another night out with my fantastic niece

A road trip, a good dinner and a play...

It was time for us to catch a play again.  Picked Carrie up late this afternoon and we headed up Interstate 35 to the town of Guthrie, the original Oklahoma state capitol.  This is a neat town with many 1890's buildings in their downtown area.  Unfortunately, I misjudged the time we would need to get up there so we arrived in town around 5:30 for an 8:00 PM play.

First stop was at Gage's Steakhouse.  This is located in the basement of one of the old building, in the next block from the theater.  We had plenty of time for a good, leisurely dinner.  As usual, Carrie was all dressed up for a night out and was easily the prettiest lady in the room.

After dinner we still had over an hour before the play so we walked around the old Guthrie downtown.  Unlike many older, small towns Guthrie has maintained their buildings.  Many no longer have the businesses in them that they experienced back around statehood but most are occupied, although by antique stores, small shops and craft stores.  But, like most small towns most businesses close around 5:00 PM, even on Saturday.  Other than the restaurant, the theater and an Irish Pub, everything else was closed while we were there.

Our destination tonight was The Pollard Theatre.  (That is Carrie sitting on the bench in front, waiting for the doors to open.)  The acting company that performs does an exceptional job and produces several plays each season.  Tonight we went to see "Forever Plaid".  This is a fun show and although I've seen it several times in different venues it is always enjoyable to see again.  The music is four part harmony and was mostly from the late 1950's and early 1960's, definitely the music I grew up on.  This play lasted about an hour and a half with no intermission so we were on the road back south, toward the City by 9:30 PM.  I got Carrie home just a little past 10:00 which is fairly early for our nights out.

As it has been in the past, this was a fun night and we both had a good time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Oktoberfest 2012

German food, German music---it must be Oktoberfest!

The Old Germany Restaurant out in Choctaw, Oklahoma, holds an Oktoberfest celebration every September.  They started this several years ago in a tent behind their restaurant but over the years it has grown to the point it had to be moved.  They now hold it in Choctaw Creek Park over in the main part of town.  The celebration, which started this past Friday runs all this next week and through next weekend.  In addition to the food tents, selling authentic German food, several other vendors have set up.  Some were selling conventional "festival/fair" food items and others were inflatable play areas for the younger crowd.

Picked up my niece, Carrie, and her family this afternoon and headed to the park.  Although it was very hot, since the local temperature got up to 102 today, we had a good time.  Got to sample some good food and listen to some good "Oom Paa" bands.  Carrie had said she had never eaten traditional German food before.  She tried the sour kraut and said she liked it.  Her son, J.J., tried it but he did not like it.  Husband John, who is a pretty picky eater, declined to try any of the food.

J.J. was a bit hesitant to try out the inflatable toys but finally got into it and did a couple of the slides.  The first time he convinced his mom to go with him.

The next time he worked up the nerve to go by himself and this one was even a steeper slope.

After awhile the heat was more than we could stand so it was time to pack it in and head back to the air conditioned house.  Had a good afternoon with three of my favorite people.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another milestone

Mixed emotions today.

This has been a day of mixed emotions.  On one hand I remember the 23 plus years that Joanne and I were married.  On the other hand I am very sad that she is not here to celebrate with me.

Twenty four years ago today, on a Friday evening, Joanne and I were married.  What a journey that began that day.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of her and I miss her more than ever.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 20

Almost over and back to where it started.

Well, the  dogs and I are back to where we spent our first night out on this journey.  We are back at the Miller's Kampground in Liberty, Missouri.

We left Prior Lake, Minnesota, around 8:30 this morning and headed for I-35.  Had a pretty uneventful day of driving other than the wind.  Spent the entire day driving into a very heavy wind coming out of the south.  That meant driving directly into the wind the entire day.  I was fairly tired when we arrived at the RV park around 5:00 this evening.  After getting the coach plugged in and set up we have pretty much sent the evening sitting under the air conditioners. 

Tomorrow will be our last day on the road and we should arrive back home sometime tomorrow in the afternoon.  After I get the coach unloaded then will come getting in contact with the insurance company and the glass people.  Thanks to a large hail stone from a storm in Oklahoma City this past June and the "great" roads in our Interstate system we now have some major cracks down the right side of the windshield.  Additionally, it has pulled lose from the coach in a couple of places.  I was able to cover those areas with tape to keep the rain out while we were up in northern Minnesota.  We've experienced a bit of wind noise today but nothing we can't live with.

This has been a good trip, much better than the first two solo excursions I've made this year.  The trip to Florida in January was very sad and lonely for both me and the dogs.  The trip to Indiana in May, for the Monaco America rally, was also very sad in that I was with many of Joanne and my very close friends, many of the same people we were with just three weeks prior to her death.  This trip gave me a good bit of time to spend with Joanne's family members up in Duluth.  Not only with her only Aunt and Uncle but some good quality time with her brother, Roger, and his family.  Attending the Priolo family picnic and seeing several of her cousins was also very good.  While in the Minneapolis area was able to see Roger's children.  This was a more upbeat trip and I feel much better in the return trip home than the prior solo outings.  I can only say "Thank You" to the Duluth branch of the Priolo family for making me feel so welcome.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 19

Casino donation and lunch in a famous diner.

Yesterday was a day for mostly hanging out around the coach and playing with the dogs.  After they had their supper I headed over to the Casino next door to find something to eat and play a little Blackjack.  The food court looked better than the big restaurants or the buffet.  Then spent a couple of hours trying my luck at the Blackjack table.  As is normal, all the luck was on the dealers side.

Today I decided to head over to St. Paul for a late lunch at a famous diner.  Mickey's Diner has been in business since 1939 and is now operated by the third generation of the family.  Joanne and I had visited there a few years ago after we had seen the movie "A Prairie Home Companion".  The cast of the PBS radio show that the movie was based on has been known to gather at Mickey's late at night after the broadcast.  Mickey's has also been featured in several other movies and many television shows.

The radio show is broadcast from the Fitzgerald Theater which is located just a couple of blocks from Mickey's.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 17

Moving day and visiting with more kin folk.

The time in Duluth has come to an end.  Pulled out of the Lakehead Boat Basin about 8:30 this morning and headed south.  First stop was for fuel.  Paid the highest price of the whole trip at $4.26.9 per gallon for #2 Diesel.  Fortunately I only needed just over 22 gallons.  We arrived at the Dakotah Meadows RV Park around 12:30 PM.  We've stayed here many times over the years and enjoy this park.  This is in Prior Lake, Minnesota, down on the southwest side of Minneapolis.  This park is adjacent to the Mystic Lake Casino and golf course.  This is a very large complex operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

After getting the coach all set up for the few days I plan to be here I got in the car and head up to the north side of Minneapolis to meet up with some of Joanne's family members.  Mark and Heather are the children of her brother, Roger.  Tonight was Mark and his wife, Wendy, and their son Zack.  Heather brought along her boyfriend, Tom.  We met at a place called the 5-8 Club, a local hamburger place.  We had a good meal and were able to sit and visit for some time.

LtoR: Tom, Heather, Zack, Wendy, Mark and Me

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 16

Gearing up, getting ready to move.

Just relaxing this morning before getting out and starting to get the coach ready to be back on the road.  This will be the last full day in Duluth.  Need to take down the windshield sun shade, take the tire covers off and dump my holding tanks.  Also need to pick up all of Bridgit Jeane's toys she has scattered all around the inside of the coach.  Hard as I've tried I have not been able to train her to pick them up herself.

Yesterday was mostly a "stay in" day.  We had rain during the afternoon and then again during the evening.  Between rain storms I did walk over the bridge into Canal Park for dinner at the Green Mill restaurant.  Was able to take some really nice pictures around the marina/RV park as the weather cleared.

This is the view I've had for the last two weeks out the front windshield of the coach.

This was last nights sunset over Enger Hill and the harbor.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 14

Slowly winding down our time in the north country.

Not much has been happening the last few days.  Trip up on the hill to Sam's Club and Home Depot for supplies.  A stop for lunch here and there but otherwise just relaxing at the coach.  Just a couple more days here in Duluth and then will slowly start the trek south.

Today it was to another of the places from the TV show "Diner's, Drive-In's and Dives".  Just before heading out on this trip the Food Channel re-ran an episode that had Gordy's Hi-Hat Diner in Cloquet, Minnesota.  This is about 40 miles south of Duluth.  So, today was the right time to head down there for some good burgers.  Gordy's is only open from April to September.  In the winter months Gordy heads south to get out of the cold weather.

For the trip today I picked up Joanne's Aunt Pat and Uncle Dennis.  We were also joined by Roger and Marilyn, Joanne's brother and sister-in-law, and their grandson, Zack.  Marilyn's sister and her husband also joined us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 11

Just relaxing and a couple of strolls.

It has actually been pretty quite since the picnic on Sunday.  Have pretty much just hung around the coach with the dogs.  I've walked over to Canal Park a few times just to get out a little.  Had lunch on Monday at the Canal Park Dairy Queen for a bit of a change.  One of the neat things about Canal Park is the bronze artwork the city has commissioned.  There are several pieces scattered around with a plaque nearby telling who the artist is and what the piece represents.  One of my favorites is "The Determined Mariner". 
Another thing that is nice up here, and something Joanne always enjoyed, is all the flowers that are planted around town.  Due to the mild weather in the summer they are able to keep these looking nice all summer long.  We can do this in the spring down in Oklahoma but by mid summer the heat takes its toll.  In the downtown area and in Canal Park they have some really nice hanging baskets along the street.

Although it is about a half mile walk over to Canal Park walking is better than trying to drive over there.  Parking is at a premium and both in the parking lots and on the street it cost to park a car.  Due to that I've not moved my car from the RV Park much all the time I've been here.  A couple of trips to see relatives and, of course, to the picnic.  Also I've made a couple of trip "up on the hill" to the big box stores for needed items.  (Also, the only Taco Bell I've found in town in up there.)  I did drive over to the West End yesterday evening to cruise around the area where Joanne grew up.  She always liked to drive through the old neighborhoods to see what, if any, changes had been made.  I stopped at the Duluth Grill for an early dinner before returning to the coach.  (I enjoy watching the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Channel and when traveling try to go to some of the places featured.  The Duluth Grill was on there a year or so ago.)  Exactly one year ago was at the Duluth Grill with Joanne and her Aunt Pat and Uncle Dennis.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 9

The family reunion picnic.

Today was the annual family picnic for Joanne's family.  We have made many of these picnics over the years.  It is always held on the Sunday closest to August 15.  When we first started coming to these they were pretty much maintained by the older generation, meaning the siblings of Joanne's dad, Ted.  Now all but one of that generation have passed on so it is up to their kids to keep it up.  In Joanne's dads family there were six kids, four girls and two boys.  The youngest, Pat, is the only one of them left and she was not able to attend today due to a fall she experienced earlier in the week.  The majority of the people there were Uncle Bud's kids.  (Bud was Ted's younger brother who passed away in 2010.)  A hand full of other cousins were there but it was kind of sparse.  The picnic this year was held at one of Bud's sons house.  Of Uncle Bud and Aunt Dorothy's children six of their eight were there.  All five boys and one of the girls.  This picture is of their five sons:  LtoR, youngest to oldest, Jimmy, Alan, Bob, Steve and Richard.

I had a good visit and was glad I made the trip.  I had briefly met some of the people in years past but got a chance to sit and visit more with them today.  Joanne's brother and sister-in-law, Roger and Marilyn, were there and able to clue me in on who was who.  (From the picture Jimmy and Steve, plus Steve's wife Nancy, are "friends" with me on Facebook so I have had some contact with them prior to coming up here.)

After returning to the coach and spending a little time with the dogs I walked over the bridge to Canal Park to get some dinner.  This time I went to a place called the Green Mill.  Had a good Italian meal before heading back to the coach for the evening.  Had very good service at the restaurant and probably left more tip than was necessary.  Always bothers me, especially when the service is very good, to take up a table for four all by myself.  That reduces the amount of money they could make and also cuts down on the wait staffs tips.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 8

Lotta food but not much else.

This has been a fairly slow day.  Spent most of the time today sitting around the coach entering uploading data to the Find A Grave website.  As previously mentioned I went out last Tuesday and photographed the entire Solway Cemetery, where Joanne's uncle and aunt are buried.  I've spent some time this week resizing the photos and uploading them to the website.  This requires setting up a separate page for each person buried there.  (The link attached to the name above in blue is to the Find A Grave section for this cemetery.  Any entry there entered by TheOldChief is my work.)

I did take some time to walk into the downtown area for lunch.  One of the places that Joanne and I always stopped for lunch, at least once, each time we came to Duluth was the Original Coney Island.  This place has been in business since 1921 and has a neat atmosphere.  This is across the bridge, through Canal Park, across I-35 and down to Superior Street, a little over a half mile from where the RV is parked.  On the way back through Canal Park I took some time to do a little shopping.  There is no way I can take a trip of this length and not have some stuff for the grand kids back home.  So, to all those little ones that might be reading this:  "Yes, I got you something."

In the afternoon, after getting the dogs out for some exercise the three of us just relaxed and took a nap.  The RV park is full this weekend due to a huge blues music festival that is going on in town.  Each time the dogs see someone walk by the coach, which is most of the day, they start barking so it was best to take them to the back for nap time.

This evening, after the dogs got fed, I walked back over to Canal Park for dinner.  Went to a national chain place this time, Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que.  This chain is based in Georgia so they have the southern food thing down pretty good.  Also, they serve "sweet tea" which is unusual up north.  (Up here most places think sweet tea is tea mixed with fruit juice.  True southern sweet tea is tea sweetened with sugar and plenty of it.  The sugar must be mixed in while the tea is still hot so it will dissolve.  Sugar will not dissolve once ice has been added and the tea is cold.)  Anyway, had a good bar-b-que dinner and did a little more shopping before coming back to the coach.

Of course, both times I ventured out today the bridge was up, letting one of the Vista Fleet boats (the local tour boats) and small craft either in or out of the harbor.  That backs up traffic, both vehicle and pedestrian.  I did learn about the schedule for the bridge.  Of course it will go up anytime one of the large ships that work the lakes enters or departs the harbor.  Otherwise, the bridge only goes up every half hour.  The Vista Fleet and all small craft must enter or depart at those times only.  This knowledge will assist me in scheduling my departures anytime I need to head into town.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 7

A little maintenance and a brother-in-law visit.

Not much happening yesterday.  Mostly spent the day doing maintenance on the coach.  Due to a hail storm this past June in Oklahoma City the windshield is cracked and has a small gap between the top of the windshield and the front of the coach.  This allows rain water to come in.  Apparently a large hailstone chipped the windshield up high on the passenger side and I did not notice it before leaving on this trip.  On some of the rough roads (I-35) coming up several large cracks appeared and caused part of the windshield to separate from the coach.  Went to Home Depot and got some blue painters tape and covered over the gap.  That should take care of it until I get back to Oklahoma, contact my insurance company and get a new windshield put in.  Also, my outside driver's side rearview mirror had worked lose so I had to disassemble it and tighten it back down.  There always seems to be something that needs to be done to keep these things operating smoothly.

Today was time to go "up on the hill" to visit with Joanne's brother, Roger, and his wife Marilyn.  Duluth is laid out around the tip of Lake Superior and is surrounded by a very steep hill.  The city grew up that hill and the newer areas are on the back side of the hill.  That area is where the large shopping mall, newer chain restaurants, auto dealerships and most businesses that require a lot of room are located.  Roger and Marilyn live up in that area.  Roger has a lawn mower/snow blower repair business he runs out of his backyard and I caught him working on a couple of mowers when I arrived.

It seems like driving almost straight up when going "up on the hill".  This was taken from the top of the hill looking back down toward town and Park Point.  That long island area just past the bridge is Park Point, an upscale part of town.  The area just past the bridge, on the right, is The Lakehead Boat Basin, where my RV is parked. 

This next picture is from the top of the hill looking down Lake Avenue.  This is the street I use coming back down the hill.  This is fun this time of year.  Not sure I'd care to be driving around here in the winter.  This street ends down in Canal Park at the foot of the bridge.