Monday, July 27
I left Nikki’s house about 2:00 pm and headed for Alton, Illinois, (near St. Louis,
MO) where my nephew Joel, his wife, Carolyn, and their 9-year-old son, Ben, live. Oh, and their playful puppy, Harriet. Got there about 7:00 pm (didn’t even get lost J!) and we went out for a Mexican dinner. When we got back, we gave the dogs some time to get acquainted. Juliet was pretty good but Maggie seemed to prefer to hide behind the couch in the living room or just stay in the Roadtrek. We went out in their back yard to look at fireflies (I like fireflies --- reminds me of my early childhood in New Jersey.) Later, Ben showed me a very good magic trick he had learned and I shared some pictures of my grandsons.
Tuesday, July 28
Slept late (what else is new?) and when I got up at 1:00, Carolyn had already taken Ben to his tennis lesson and run some errands. Carolyn graciously took me out for a couple of errands (post office, grocery store) after lunch and let me do a load of laundry (Ah, clean clothes again…!). After a rousing game of Clue Jr., I lay down on their comfy couch and before I knew it, I was asleep and napped until Joel got home from work. Carolyn made us a nice baked chicken dinner, we watched some videos, and then I spent 3 hours trying to post an itinerary map on this blog (see last post). I wish I didn’t have “technical problems” every time I try to do something on the computer!
Wednesday, July 29
I got up a little earlier today, and after “brunch,” I got out my metal detector (first time on the trip) and Ben and I set out to find the buried pirate treasure in his yard ---or anything else metal. We got lots of “signals” but no matter how deep we dug (4-6 inches), we never found anything. We tried the back yard, the front yard, and then walked with Carolyn to the local park where I was SURE we would at least find some coins on the playground. Nothing. Not one stinking penny. It was very hot (well, I thought it was hot; they didn’t) and digging in grass & dirt is much harder than the beach sand I am used to. By the time we got back to the house, I was ready for (and took) a nice cool shower. We had a busy evening ahead of us.
When Joel got home, we went out to a neat little Italian restaurant for dinner. Carolyn had to leave early to go to a meeting. After we finished eating, Joel, Ben, and I went to “Lucy Haskell’s birthday party” at the local park. There is a very detailed “playhouse” (Queen Anne style) at the park that was built by a local philanthropist and financier for his 5-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, in 1885. The playhouse was a gift for her 5th birthday. To celebrate the occasion, her mother threw a “lawn party” where all the children had a delightful time romping, playing, riding a pony, and playing in the beautiful playhouse. Unfortunately, Lucy died from diptheria at age 9 (1890). Her mother died in 1932, leaving her house, the playhouse, and 6.4 acres of land to the city of Alton for a park as a memorial to Lucy Haskell. And every year since then, on Lucy’s birthday, (7/29), the city of Alton has a “birthday party” at the park in honor of Lucy, with free pony rides, cake & ice cream, and period games such as jump rope, marbles, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, hoop-toss, etc. We could only stay about 45 minutes, but we had fun. Here is a picture of Lucy’s playhouse: and one of Joel & Ben in front of it:
Next on the evening’s agenda was a rehearsal of the play “Annie” at the local musical theater; Ben and Joel both have small parts in the play. This was a rehearsal for the song “NYC” and it was quite amusing to watch the choreographer try to work out the steps and movements of the 20-30 children and adults in this scene. I videotaped a lot of it and later that night made a DVD of the rehearsal for Carolyn, Joel, and Ben. The rehearsal went from 7:30 until almost 10:00 so we were all quite tired by the time we got back to their house.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
I was planning on leaving Alton this afternoon, but it seems I can be just as late leaving a place as I am arriving at one! After sleeping late (as usual), I cleaned up the Roadtrek in preparation for my departure. Ben helped me fill the water tank. I asked him if he wanted to try metal detecting one more time; this time I suggested he try along the boardwalk grass area. He had much better luck today and managed to find all 37 cents that I think I must have accidentally dropped in the grass when I was walking the dogs J. We watched the DVD I had made of the rehearsal and then Carolyn took me for a brief tour of Alton. I really enjoyed it. It is a very old town with several interesting historical landmarks (like the site of the last Abraham Lincoln – Stephen Douglas Debate) and is known also for being an important site in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War days. It is located where the Missouri and Illinois Rivers join with the Mississippi River and I got to visit the National Great Rivers Confluence Museum for 15 minutes. The Melvin Price Locks & Dam (on the Mississippi) are also located in Alton. I couldn’t get over the fact that just walking down Joel & Carolyn’s street a little ways, you can see the Mighty Mississippi! I enjoyed seeing the old brick streets and sidewalks and the varying styles of architecture (lots of Victorian and Queen Anne). We also toured St. Mary’s Catholic Church where Carolyn teaches and Ben attends school and stopped in to see Carolyn’s dad who lives a few blocks from their house. By the time Joel got home from work (5:30), I was just finishing getting my cords stored, leveling blocks put away, and the dogs taken for their final walk and good-bye to Harriet. And I was able to get a nice family shot of the Simanskys in front of their house in the daylight which I should have done when I first arrived rather than the last thing before I left!
I didn’t mind the evening drive (3 hours) to Clinton, Indiana (very near Terra Haute) but it would have been much easier to find the Thousand Trails campground I was heading for if it hadn’t been pitch black out when I got here. It took over a half-hour of trying different dirt & gravel roads until I finally found the one that led to the campsites. Several nice gentlemen helped me find an empty site and back into it. It was 10:00 pm by then. Actually, I think it might have been 11:00 pm because I believe I just crossed into the Eastern time zone when I got into Indiana. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize that a place called “Horseshoe Lake” Campground would be along the shores of a lake which seems to mean LOTS of mosquitoes and gnats. I was planning on staying here 2 nights but the bugs and the fact that there is no cell phone service here has made me reconsider this. I’ll probably go somewhere else tomorrow.