Friday, January 19, 2007

Family Trip, January, 2007

Jan. 5, 2007

Home from China, out of the snow: time to travel -- again. Our trip plan: fly to Raleigh, NC, for son, Mike's, birthday on 1/8. Then, drive to Burgess, VA, where my brother, Lael, and his wife, Katherine, live on a sailboat -- Painted Skies. After a couple of days there, return to Raleigh for grandson, Jason's, birthday on 1/16. Didn't quite work out that way.

Here's a plug for our chariot of the sky, Southwest Airlines. En route to Raleigh, we changed planes in Nashville and had lunch with Mandi, whose SW passes keep us in the air.

We had a very nice weekend with the kids. Wet weather kept us indoors, but Jason and I played a lot of indoors baseball. That plus NFL playoff games on TV.

Then, Monday it was time to celebrate Mike's birthday. Karen's parents, Kathy and Bob Nauman, came over for dinner, cake, and BCS national championship football. That's an IBC Root Beer bottle in Jason's hands, in case you were wondering.

Here's where the plans changed:

We had also learned, en route to Raleigh, that Susie's cousin, Jane, had just died. From our previous reports you may remember Dick and Jane and their dog, Spot, who live in a beautiful home overlooking spectacular Torch Lake, Michigan.

Just last summer, soon after Jane had buried her mother, Susie's Aunt Adelaide, about whom we reported in September, 2005, I believe, Jane was diagnosed with liver and pancreatic cancer. As you probably know, these tend to be rapidly deadly, but Jane fought bravely with chemo and medication.

She had a good Christmas with all her family -- four kids and numerous grandchildren, but at year's end, took a bad turn. We were told just before we left home that the doctors said she probably only had 1-3 weeks to live. We considered going to Michigan to see her before we went to Raleigh, but it really seemed too late. Her brother, Jim, told Susie that Jane might not recognize her. We had seen Jane in late July and she and Susie had had a chance to cry, and talk, and hug.

After years of being separated by half a continent, Susie and Jane had gotten really close since fall, 2001, when we were in Ann Arbor and got together with them (Dick and Jane Thie) several times. Dick and Jane traveled with us in spring, 2002, on our first major motorhome trip, the one to Arizona that included a stop at Tuzigoot National Monument -- and etched that name into our consciousness. Two of our later Tuzigoot trips included a stop by Torch Lake.

Funeral arrangements were set for Thursday, Jan. 11. We decided to go. We considered driving from Raleigh to Torch Lake, because I had a nonrefundable car rental previously set up through Priceline for the period we would need to drive to MI, but decided it made more sense to fly to Detroit (it's a thousand miles from Raleigh to Torch Lake), then drive to Grand Rapids where son, Matt, lives. From there we could make round trip to Torch Lake on Thursday, then retrace our steps back to Detroit and Raleigh.

Trip up went well. Only light snow as we approached GR on Tuesday evening. Wednesday was an R&R day and gave me a chance to get some Michigan barns in winter pictures.

On Thursday there was a family-only burial ceremony for Jane at a cemetery on the shore of Torch Lake. This was followed by a memorial service in the Thies' church, the Congregational Church in Central Lake. The sanctuary was packed and the service was inspirational. Dick gave the eulogy, very loving, spiritual, moving, with some touches of humor. During an informal period, the kids, several grandkids, friends, and Susie talked about Jane. Susie later posted this note on the CarePage that was established when Jane was diagnosed:

Rob and I cannot tell you how moved we were by the whole experience yesterday as we celebrated Jane's life with you. Dick's words were so inspirational and such a witness to so many. The children and grandchildren's involvements were a real testimony to the legacy that Jane has left. We are so proud to have been a part of this celebration and, more especially, to be a part of this wonderful family. Our memories will be a comfort as we deal with our grief. We will certainly do everything we can to assure Jane that our love for her is steadfast and our commitment to her family will be a "forever" thing.

After the service lunch for the 150+ attendees was served at a restaurant overlooking Torch Lake. Highlight was a slide show that Jane's daughter, Diana, put together with music and snapshots of Jane's life.

After lunch we drove back to Grand Rapids for the night and Friday. Friday's main activity was a tour of the Gerald R. Ford Museum and a visit to his gravesite. At the time of his funeral, I was involved with being towed out of the snow and missed most of the observances, so it was good to have this opportunity to reflect on Ford and his times via his museum.

In a nice turn, in Grand Rapids they refer to him as "Gerald (Our) Ford." The museum has well-done exhibits pertaining to Ford's career, the 70s in general, and to Watergate. What a decade that was! Aptly summarized by the Alka-Seltzer guy: "I can't believe I ate the whole thing." His wife says something like, "Shut up, Ralph. You did."

Lots of good information, too, about Mrs. Ford and their four children, one of whom, daughter Susan, lives in Albuquerque. There was a special exhibit on slavery and the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision.

Here's a U Michigan tribute on the museum grounds:

And here's a picture of Pres. Ford in the back of a campaign train, I think, but it looks like it could be a bus -- reason enough for me to include it.

Judy and I, Mike and Jeff, were in DC from '75 to '77. I was working at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I remember making the smart-aleck comment to someone when we left Albq in '75 that we'd probably be in Washington longer than Pres. Ford would. In hindsight, I think it's too bad he didn't get another term. One personal highlight of our DC time was being on the Mall for the Bicentennial Fireworks show. Another was being downtown for Carter's inauguration and almost getting our little boys crushed by the crowds.

Here's the burial site for the Fords against a backdrop of a corner of the museum. Just a simple wall with their names.

At any rate, if you're ever in this area, we recommend a stop at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.

Grandson, Tony, attends the College of Santa Fe and Friday was his last day at home for the Christmas break. Reason enough to eat out. Matt picked out a nice Italian restaurant located in a converted elegant old house. Here are a couple of pix. A very fine time was had by all.

Saturday, January 13.

We rise early and make the three-hour drive back to the Detroit airport. Some rain along the way, but not so cold as to be creating ice as has been happening in the southwest this weekend. Flights to Raleigh via BWI are not crowded, but the check-in line in BWI was long due to canceled flights in the southwest. Nevertheless, had time for a crabcake lunch in BWI airport.

Raleigh, I should say Cary, weather has been very mild -- around 70 degrees, as it was the previous weekend, and holding. Sunday we attend church with Mike, Karen, and Jason. The church, St. Francis United Methodist Church, Cary, NC, is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and a former minister delivers the sermon. The church's brass band provides special music. We go to brunch and then football games consume most of the rest of the day.

Monday is Martin Luther King Day, no school and Mike and Karen are off work. We go to the Naumans for lunch and fun. The Naumans' house has a large basement and Mike has built a large slot-car track in one room. Here's one of his pictures that I copied:

Has a computer-controlled lap timer and counter and Mike is starting to construct scenery, as well as dreaming about even bigger tracks. He and Bob have bought woodworking equipment and that occupies another room. Boys and their toys. The Nauman house provides ample opportunity.

In China we bought Jason what we call a hacky-bird -- a contraption that functions like a hacky-sack, but this one has feathers, like a badminton birdie. And it has a stack of disks that provide the springiness. In Chinese parks we would often see people in a circle kicking the bird around. Good for developing soccer skills so we bought our soccer-playing grandsons, Jason and Andrew, each one. One of our guides said this "sport" is also popular among retired people. Good for the constitution.

Here, Jason is preparing to kick, then following the hacky-bird's flight. It's hard to make a circle with two people, but we came close to an occasional returnable pass from one of us to the other.

Jason and I also went "exploring" along the creek behind the house and found 10 golf balls. We figure the balls must have washed down the stream during their last big rain -- there is a golf course in the development.

Tuesday was Jason's seventh birthday. He set the menu: Domino's pizza, cookie cake, moose tracks ice cream.

We seriously considered going to Virginia to visit brother, Lael, and Katherine on Wednesday, as we had planned for the previous week, but decided to head on home. We'll catch up with them another time.

[Note added. Weather got nasty Wed. and Thur. in the NC-VA area, so we fortunately missed out on that.]

Southwest Airlines got us home in comfort -- we flew via Phoenix because this route had the most available seats and got us home in early afternoon. Saw lots of ice (apparently) and snow as we flew over Texas.
So, as you realize if you've read this far, this was primarily a family trip -- two birthdays and, sadly, a funeral. I don't know if it's age or maturity, but family gatherings of any type seem to have increasing importance. That makes this a special trip for us.
More family doin's in the future. As Susie says, we need to go to Denver in the next few weeks for a "Malia fix." Then, the first of March it will be back to Grand Rapids. Granddaughter Kaci has the lead in the city theatre's production of "Oklahoma." All the Hinkle kids are coming for the show and a reunion of that side of the family. We'll keep you posted.


Susie and Rob

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Snow Falling on Cedar Crest

We got home from Las Vegas about 1:00 am, Wednesday, 12/27. There was quite a bit of snow in our driveway remaining from the pre-Christmas snow -- our tail of the storm that shut down Denver. Then, about Thursday noon it started snowing again and didn't stop until Saturday pm, at which point we had nearly two feet of snow in the driveway. Thursday night I had planned to go to book club, but a UPS driver who came by in late afternoon advised against it, so I stayed home. We had food enough and other necessities so we just snuggled in. Here are some pix of the accumulated snow.

Sat. afternoon I decided to try the snow blower I had bought from our friends, the Youngs, about two years ago when they moved to Texas. Hadn't used it since, though. Well, it wouldn't start. So, I shoveled snow a while, trying to make a track through our driveway, which is uphill.

(Here's a night picture out the living room window, illuminated by moonlight.)

Continued shoveling, occasionally, on Sunday and Monday, no hurry -- we weren't leaving town until Friday -- and got one track down to gravel. Figured I should be able to put the Explorer in 4wd and back out. Well, it wouldn't go into 4wd. Just requires a button-push on the dash, but it wouldn't shift. Without 4wd it was hard going with much tire-spinning, but after more shoveling and repeated tries, I finally backed up the drive and into our plowed road. Drove up to the gate and got a couple of old newspapers.

Returning home, I decided I should back down the driveway so I could drive out frontwards. Somehow, though, through inept driving, I got off the track and ended up with the rear wheels straddling a RR tie that borders the driveway. @@*&&##@ (Oh, darn!) Only way out now would be a tow truck.

It being New Year's Day, I didn't even try to get a tow truck, but on Tuesday I called AAA. Sorry, they said. Our tow services say they can't get to your place. Try tomorrow. I doubted that claim, but I did know that I-40 remained closed from Albuquerque east, including the road to Cedar Crest.

By this time we were getting a little low on some supplies. Considered calling National Guard and asking them to drop a bale of TP. However, our neighbors across the street were going for groceries and they offered to pick some up for us. Thanks, Anna.

Same AAA story on Wed. morning, so I decided to call a local, non-AAA-affiliated tow service. Finally, a good decision. "Sure, we'll be out in an hour," they said. They were and expertly pulled the Explorer out of its predicament. We went to town on a few errands and somewhere along the line, in a parking lot, thought, Let's try the 4wd. It worked! Apparently requires a lot of warming up, because on subsequent tries cold, or slightly warm, it still won't work.

And that's how 2006 ended and 2007 began. Next up: a family trip to NC for Mike's and Jason's birthdays.

New Year's Resolutions: Get 4wd and snow blower fixed before the next storm of the century.

Rob and Susie