Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Break Time

While there are still a couple of theme in the journey across four states, I thought now would be a good time to take a break.

A new blogger has arrived on the scene. It’s “Believe, Live Well, Laugh Often, & Love Much”. While there is only one post to date, this lady has the making of a great, and enjoyable, blogger. I’m sure she will be posting some good stuff.

So, please stop by and welcome Believe, Live Well, Laugh Often, & Love Much to the world of blogging.

Who knows, she might even attend Blogstock ’08.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Four States of. . . REST AREAS

I have always fancied myself as somewhat of a rest area connoisseur. I have never seen a rest area I didn’t like unless of course, the doors were locked and I real had to go.

Part of my fascination with rest areas is brought on by a medical condition called TTB – Teeny Tiny Bladder.

Most people think if you have been to one rest area you have been to them all – nothing could be further from the truth. Set back, relax and take a tour of four states of rest areas.

Rest areas in Nebraska have always impressed me. This one is located on I-80 just outside of York. Nebraska rest areas are always clean and close to the interstate. Unlike some other states where you have to get off the interstate and drive a mile or more to get to them. One wrong turn and you could have an “accident” – if you know what I mean.

Another nice thing about Nebraska rest areas is they always tell you the mileage to the next one. Some states, like Colorado, never do this. You can either guess how far it is, develop a rapid taste for fast food, or if you’re a forester stop and inspect a tree for insect and disease damage.

This is the Mississippi River rest area right inside the state off I-80. It was a very nice rest area with a great information center and walking paths around the grounds. The only draw back is it’s about half a mile from the interstate.

All the rest areas in Illinois have a lot of trees (but then so does the entire state). The majority of the rest areas also have playgrounds such as this one.

There are two other unique features about Illinois rest areas. All of them have these POW/MIA signs. I thought this was pretty nice. The other unique feature is everyone we were in had a police panic button – it kind of left you wondering just how safe you were.
Okay this where things get interesting. Iowa has two different types of rest areas. One is “Parking Only’ and has no facilities. The other type is described as ‘Modern Facilities’ these are the ones I consider true rest area. Most of them even have wireless internet access.

When in Iowa I have two words of caution. First, pick your rest area carefully as a few are closed between 4 PM and 8 AM. I don’t know why.

Secondly, most of the entrance lanes back on to the highway are short at least by standards set in the other three states. You need to get up to highway speed in a hurry and better be serious about merging into traffic because you don't have long to think about it. The upside to all is you just left a rest area, if getting back on the highway causes you to pee your pants, it’s most likely your own fault.
This rest area is located just off I-76 near Wiggins. Most of our rest areas are not nearly this nice. Be sure you stop here, the next one is on the other side of Denver and may or may not be open.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Four States of. . .FOOD

Hungry? You might be by the time you get to the end of this post.

When Char and I started our trip to the Midwest I had no idea how I was going to write about it. Somewhere in central Nebraska, I started giving it some thought and then I saw a Runza restaurant.

Suddenly I had an idea to develop some themes. The theme method is simple – it has to be something that all four states have in common. What is more universal than food? So, let’s begin.

This sandwich started my quest for four states of food. It’s a Runza. A Runza is an oven stuffed pastry filled with ground beef, onion, and cabbage. The first Runza restaurant opened in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1949. Today they have over seventy locations in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and Iowa. I have to admit I have never seen one in Colorado.

Have you ever thought about how comfortable you are with your friends? Well, Char and I are really comfortable with the Morrow’s. This conversation summarizes just how comfortable:

Campbell’s: Say we are going to be passing through and were wondering if we could spend a couple of nights at your place?
Morrow’s: Well, you know you can. Will you be here for dinner?
Campbell’s: Yeah, we’ll be there for dinner. Say, do you take requests?
Morrow’s: Sure, what would you like?
Campbell’s: Barbequed chicken.
Morrow’s: Well, that’s easy enough.

First, we invited ourselves to their house, and then we are bold enough to tell them what we want for dinner. Why? Well, if you ever had Cliff’s barbecued chicken you would know why. It is absolutely the best chicken I have had anywhere.

I have watched Cliff make it, he has told me how he does it yet, I doubt if mine will ever taste this good. That night we feasted on grill sweet potatoes, homemade onion rings, squash, zucchini bread and . . .yes, barbecued chicken.

I pushed away from the table knowing I had over eaten but wishing I had room for more piece of that chicken.

When we got SOR’s (Son of Ralph) and SORSO’s (Son of Ralph Significant Other) house another feast was awaiting us. Grilled steak with sautéed mushrooms, barbecued cheeseburgers, potato salad and macaroni salad. Of course, I had to try a little (okay, a lot) of everything. It was absolutely delicious.

The next night we feasted on stuffed shells and garlic bread. Another great meal prepared by SORSO.

In Iowa, we were not fortunate enough to get a home cooked meal but ate okay. I called a friend of mine who grew up in Iowa and asked him what a local food was. He responded immediately – Maid-Rite loose meat sandwiches. So, we tracked down a Maid-Rite. The first Maid-Rite sandwich was served in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1926.

A Maid-Rite is ground hamburger (not a patty) cooked with seasoning and put in a bun. Traditionalists eat it with mustard and pickles. They would never go as low as to ruin it with ketchup.

We had ours with mustard, pickles, and a little ketchup. It and a side of mashed potatoes and gravy hit the spot.

The Ox Yoke Restaurant has been an Amana tradition since 1940 when they began serving local residents. Back then, dinners cost 65 cents. Vegetables and produce are purchased locally. Meats come from the Amana Colonies smokehouse.

I like bratwurst and always have. I don’t eat them much any more because of the high fat content. The bratwurst we had at Amana was one of the leanest and tastiest ones I have had in awhile. It’s served with sauerkraut, a side of coleslaw and a mountain of French fries.

Okay, you have just eaten your way across three states – you cannot be hungry. But, if you are drop in - we’ll open a bottle of wine and bust out the cheese and crackers.

Okay here is a question for you. Nebraska is famous for Runza’s, Iowa is known for Maid-Rite loose meat sandwiches, what restaurant or food is your state known for?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fun, Laughter, and Introductions

This picture shows smiles, laughter, and whole lot of fun. It might summarize the trip Char and I just took.

We spent five days traveling 2,220 miles crossing four states. It was a quick trip but a fun one. I am ready to do it again. Neither one of us have laughed that much in a long, long time. I think the people we were with also had a chuckle from time to time.

Our first and last stop were with great friends – Cliff and Marilyn. If you don’t feel comfortable around these two people – you won’t feel comfortable around anyone. They always have a smile and a great story to tell. Plus, the food they feed you is exceptional (to say the least) but more on that later.

We then went to stay with SOR (Son of Ralph). DOR (Daughter of Ralph) and SILOR (Son in Law of Ralph) came down to stay as well. Char and I also spent some “quality” time with. . . . (drum roll please) SORSO (Son of Ralph’s Significant Other). We met her before and have spent time together but on this trip she got to see a whole different “side” of me that most people don’t get to see.

She is a delightful lady. SORSO and SOR go together so well. As does DOR and SILOR. When we left I knew in my heart all four of them were happy – as a parent you cannot ask for anything more.

We jumped on the trampoline and I was fortunate enough not to break anything. We also practiced a little baseball, learned a cheer, and had several great meals – even though one did involve a high-speed chase across town.

Driving across four states you have a lot of time to think – at least I do. I was trying to figure to out the best way to write about this trip. There is always the highlight method – talking about what really stood out. I ruled that out.

Then there is the chronological method. You know – “Day One: The sun rose in the east. . . “ Nah, I’ve done that before.

So, I decided to introduce the theme method. Over the next several weeks, I will be posting stories that start with the theme, “Four states of . . .”
Stay tuned- it was a fun trip for us, hopefully it will be for you as well.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dog Days

It’s been hot and humid here the last few weeks. That’s might be the reason the weeds are still growing like crazy while I can’t keep enough water on the flowers. It’s what is often referred to as the ‘dog days of summer’. Most people associate that saying with hot sultry days. But actually, the dog days of summer have ended. That period is from July 3 through Aug. 11 when the dog star (Sirius) rises with the sun.

Dog days of summer or not – it has been and continues to be hot. So, it’s only fitting that this cup has been getting quite a workout. I’ve had this cup less than and a month but an amazing amount of ice tea has been consumed from it.

Others, like Nora are probably wishing they had one of these beauties. You can read her post about it here. When I read it I’ll admit I thought, “But it’s just a cup.” Once I got one of my own I realized what she was getting at. This is a great cup for the dog days of summer.

Nora, hopefully Cliff has mailed you a new one

Sunday, August 12, 2007

See World

Last night, at about 2:30 AM, I was setting at the counter in the basement having a snack thinking about things, when I had this feeling I was being watched. Nothing bad, just being watched.

I though it might be Char so I glanced in the stairwell. It was not her. I slowly looked across the room and that's when I saw a small pair of eyes staring at me from under the sofa. I froze, they froze. I moved to the left, they didn’t move. I moved to the right, they didn’t move.

I got up and looked under the sofa and that is when I saw this. . .
The thing that struck me funny was I was snacking on fish and crackers at the time.

The shark was being protected by this pirate who was slightly out of sight until I looked under the sofa. I think I know who they belong to and will be returning them later this week.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I get and respond to a lot of e-mails each and everyday. This is complicated by the fact I am not big fan of computers or for that matter e-mails. To me they are just an unnecessary “evil” we have to deal with.

I even get e-mails from my wife. I share a house with this woman. I eat dinner with this woman. I sleep with this woman. We even . . . well, I digress.

This has been a rough week for me. Stop back in oh say. . twenty years and you will know why. However, my wife sent me this e-mail on Friday. I liked it. Hope you do as well.

Blessing Dressed in Crisis
This devotional was written by Jim Liebelt

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.—Romans 8:28

At a summer workcamp, a work crew was making repairs to the interior drywall of the home of two women: an elderly mother on oxygen therapy and her daughter. In the course of the work, the crew had to move the women’s washer and dryer. When the washer was moved away from the wall, one of the incoming water lines broke. Water began to spray everywhere and the floor quickly became flooded. The members of the work crew frantically tried to locate the water shut-off valve, but could not find it. The crew realized that the source of the home’s water was a well, so they turned off the electricity to the home to shut down the pump. The water from the broken pipe stopped spraying.

Unfortunately, the machine that delivered the mother’s oxygen therapy was also powered by electricity and had been shut down when the crew had turned off the home’s electricity. The crew finally located the water shut-off valve, so they were able to promptly turn back on the electricity to the home; however, the oxygen machine would not function. Unable to get the machine working again, the crew summoned the paramedics. When they arrived, they found that the machine had been malfunctioning before the electricity had been turned off, and they were able to provide the mother with a new, reliable oxygen machine.

The work crew was upset, quite understandably, feeling responsible for causing the crisis that had threatened the home, as well as the mother’s health. Slowly, another perspective began to dawn on them. As it turned out, the water pipe that broke had not been installed correctly to begin with. Two pipes had been simply glued together without any sort of connector between them. Any movement of the washer would have easily caused the pipes to come apart. The local co-sponsor of the camp replaced the substandard plumbing later that day. By shutting down the electricity, the mother learned that her oxygen machine wasn’t functioning properly.

In the end, the crew realized that God had used their presence at the house – and what were scary moments of crisis – to provide the real help that the women needed. The problems would almost certainly have occurred anyway. Fortunately, the work crew was present and able to help the women deal with situations that would have been devastating had they been alone. At the end of the day, both the women and the work crew were certain that they had seen God at work, bringing blessing to everyone involved.

Today’s story is just a reminder that our God is big enough to orchestrate blessing out of a crisis. Whatever trials you face today, may this story be a reminder to place your trust in Him!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Stop the Change

For those of you that drop by from time to time, you probably have noticed I am not a big fan of change. You might also remember I have had my fair share of change this year. The week before the wedding there was yet another change in my life.

This intersection use to be a three way stop. Now it is a one-way stop. There use to be a stop sign by that light pole to the far right. There was also one across the street by the fire hydrant.

For ten years, I have stopped at those stop signs almost on a daily basis. Then the week prior to the wedding – they were gone and this intersection became a one-way stop.

Even today, I drove up there and stop. Then slowly cursed under my breath when I realize the stop sign is gone.

The first time Cliff and I came to this intersection I stopped. Cliff just turned and looked at me and said something like, “Do you just like this intersection or what?”

After that, every time I started to slow down Cliff told me to keep going or just waved me through. Well, Cliff is home and I am still stopping.

I guess the moral of all this is sometimes small changes are harder to adapt to than big ones.