Saturday, May 15, 2010


We left Sioux City about noon on Mother's Day, bound for Denver.  Spent a rainy night at a KOA on the banks of the Platte River, seen here. 

Got to Denver on Monday and headed for Cherry Creek State Park.  As we were setting up at our campsite, Mandi drove up.  She was doing some errands and happened to drive by the park gate and thought, Hmm, wonder if they're here yet.  And we were.

We made a Costco run, had lunch, and then went to the apartment she and Paul have rented in the Lowry area of Denver.  Lowry is an "urban-infill" multi-use development on the site of the former Lowry Air Force Base.  Their apartment is in a building that housed officers quarters.  They're across the street from a nice commercial village with trendy shops and restaurants, plus a chain grocery store.  The apartment has an open floor plan (probably why it's called a "Loft," that plus the exposed heat/AC ducts) and easily holds much of the furnishings from their Nashville house.  Here are a couple of pictures.

Underground parking is another feature of their apartment, particularly appreciated when leaving for work on dark, cold, snowy winter mornings.  They're happy to be in Denver and we're happy for them and glad for another reason to visit Denver.

Next day we worked our way across the metro area to Chatfield State Park, located close to Highlands Ranch where (our other) Jeff and Valerie live, with granddaughter Malia.  Here was the scene Wednesday morning.

The moose wanted to play outside and the bears wanted to hibernate another 30 days.

The snow we got, though, was considerably less than what the forecasters had said was possible.  Nevertheless, and not just because of this Denver snow, the next time we take an April/early-May trip I think we'll stay south of the Mason-Dixon line.  We both took lots of warm-weather clothes and didn't get much chance to wear them the last five weeks. 

We spent all day Wednesday entertaining and being entertained by Malia while Jeff worked from home and attended to the installation of a large tree in their back yard.  Here are some Malia shots.

Tuesday afternoon gymnastics class.


Getting the giggles from Susie during dinner.

We had a fun day.  Without coaching, Malia said, "I love you, Grandpa."  That was a thrill.  Just after we got back to Tuzigoot Wednesday evening, the phone rang.  Jeff said they were watching TV and Malia seemed kind of down.  She said, "I miss Nai-nai and grandpa," So she told us Hi and Bye one more time.  Aahhh.

Drove home on Thursday.  Weather a little messy between Denver and Colorado Springs, ice on the windshield briefly, but otherwise uneventful.  Forgot to take the traditional home-again shot through the windshield.


38 days,  3600 miles in Tuzigoot, 5300 miles on the GPS (Tuzigoot plus Explorer), 950 RT air miles from Louisville to Raleigh.

Saw five out of six kids, four out of five grandkids. (Those "left out:" daughter Heidi, whom we visited in March in Las Vegas; granddaughter Kaci, whom we saw last night and who is en route to Las Vegas to stay with Heidi and work a summer job at the Bellagio.  On the family front I should also add seeing my mother, two sisters, and assorted nephews in OK.)

Lots of quality time in Kentucky.

Susie says it was our most relaxed trip yet.  We had a great time.


Susie and Rob

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sioux City

Sioux City Summary: Sights, Sites, Scenes, Song.  See.

Sioux City Sue, Sioux City Sue,

Your hair is red, your eyes are blue,
I'd swap my horse and dog for you.
Sioux City Sue, Sioux City Sue,
There ain't no gal as true as my sweet Sioux City Sue.

Jeff and Valerie moved last winter from Aberdeen, SD, to Sioux City, IA.  This was our first chance to visit them in their new environs.  They fed, entertained, and educated us royally for several days.

Hinkle Household.  Jeff, Valerie, Sissy, and Bailey

It looks like they live in the country, but Jeff's ShopKo store, located in a busy shopping center, is just over that ridge, five minutes away.

That dot on the ridge is I, picture by Jeff.  Here's the shot of their house I took from over there.  The pink dot on the deck is Susie.

Here's another notable house in the neighborhood.  This old Victorian house was in central Sioux City.  A local oral surgeon had it cut in two and moved to this site, then restored it.

Trinity Heights

A travel review describes the statues at Trinity Heights as "Herculean holies"  These are 33 ft. tall metal sculptures of Mary and Jesus, set in a nice contemplative garden.

Three pilgrims.

In addition to the outdoor sculptures there is a life-size carving of the last supper.

Sergeant Charles Floyd

Floyd was the only member of the Lewis and Clark expedition to die during the journey.  He died, apparently of appendicitis (medical descriptions of the era are not precise), not too long after the expedition left St. Louis, in what was to become the Sioux City area.  He was buried on a high bluff overlooking the river.

Floyd is well-memorialized in SC.  There is the Floyd River, a Floyd Monument at his gravesite (the first registered national historic landmark and second tallest obelisk in the US - below), and a US Corps of Engineers boat named the Sergeant Floyd that is now the Sergeant Floyd Museum.  The drydocked boat, in a park along the riverfront, makes for a very interesting museum describing the history of Sioux City.  (Part of that history, I found when I looked up a local Methodist Church, was the murder of a Methodist minister in 1886.  Sioux City was a center of commerce on the Missouri at the time and rather wild.  The unfortunate Rev. Haddock was a leading crusader for closing Sioux City's 77 saloons and an excuse for more alliteration.)

Here's a picture of a picture of the Sergeant Floyd when it was doing river duty.

Just down the riverfront from the museum is a Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center -- fairly similar to ones we saw on our L and C trek last summer.  Here are the leaders with their faithful sidekick, Seaman.

United 232 Crash Memorial.

You may recall the 1989 airplane crash in Sioux City.  You can find videos on the internet.  Through heroic efforts in the air and on the ground, loss of life was not as bad as it might have been.  This statue, also in the riverfront park, depicts a rescue scene.

Green Gables

We made an afternoon stop at the Green Gables restaurant which, Valerie had read, was a favorite of the Sioux City girl twins who grew up to be Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren.  I had their Famous Hot Fudge Sundae, the highlight of which to me was the fact that the hot fudge came in a pitcher so you could pour it on when and where it was most needed as you worked your way down the bowl.  The waitresses could have been contemporaries of Ann and Abigail, but didn't seem to remember much about them.

Ice Cream Capital of the World

While we're on the topic of ice cream, on another outing we traveled about 25 miles NE of Sioux City to Le Mars, which has this designation because it is home to Blue Bunny Ice Cream company which produces more ice cream than any other single company in any other city of the world.  We toured their museum and finished it off at the ice cream shoppe.

Mother's Day 2010: Smiling Susie and Sioux City Son

Mother and Son a few years earlier:

We left Sunday noon, bound for Denver (2-day trip), then home.


Susie and Spouse

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Friday afternoon we flew to Raleigh to visit Mike, Karen, and Jason.  Airport was full of women wearing large hats or carrying large hat boxes arriving for Derby Day.

Jason got home late from an all-day field trip to the NC Outer Banks.  ("Field trip:"  Two words that arouse fear and loathing in Susie's teacher heart.)  He reported to us on Kitty Hawk, the Bodie Lighthouse, the Lost Colony of Roanoke, and the bus ride. 

Saturday morning we went to visit the newly expanded North Carolina Museum of Art.  From a distance the new complex looks (I said) like a grain storage facility.

When you get up close and at an angle, you see a whole different perspective.

There are narrow, angled mirrors, so here you see three reflections of your photographer.

Inside it is very dramatic and impressive.

This sculpture honors the Tuskegee Airmen.

Outside: Life imitates art.

Instead of Rodin's Thinker, this is "Now what was I thinking about?"  Or, "Senior Moment."

This is an NC artist's whirlygig.

For lunch we found a Raleigh barbecue joint: downhome decor, waitress, food, and clientelle.  Great.

Late in the afternoon Jason and Coach Mike had a soccer game.  We've managed to get to one or two of their games each year and always enjoy seeing his/their games.  Here Jason launches a corner kick, but, alas, the defenders cleared it away.    


Since we had a personal interest in this year's Derby, Mike recorded it while we were at the soccer game and we watched it when we got home - not knowing how it came out.  Pretty exciting to see Calvin Borel win another one on the rail.  As he's said, That's the shortest way.  I'm still convinced that the guy I saw at the Wednesday morning workouts was Calvin.

When we checked the return flights for Sunday and Monday we found that the best option was to leave early Sunday morning.  Arriving back in Louisville around noon, the airport was full of women with large hatboxes trying to get through security and to the gates.  We were fortunate to be goin' when most people were comin' and vice versa.

Previously I mentioned my favorite travel writer, Paul Theroux.  It happened that I bought a used book in the Raleigh airport, One For The Road, by Tony Horwitz, about his adventures hitchhiking the Australia outback.  He quoted Theroux saying that conversing with strangers is a peculiarly American compulsion: "To get an American talking it is only necessary to be within shouting distance and wearing a smile."  That is not my style, but as I settled into my seat and opened my book, right after reading that passage, on the connecting flight from Orlando to Louisville, I heard Susie, a couple of rows away, not for the first time, filling in a seatmate on our recent travels and family news.  She has a great smile.

Louisville had a rainy weekend, not on the scale of Nashville and other locales further south, but still quite a bit of rain.  We had thought that, weather permitting, we might leave Sunday afternoon, but it rained continuously so we stayed put.  Monday dawned foggy, but with a clear day forecast.  

The GPS told us the shortest route to Sioux City would be to go north to Indianapolis, then angle NW across IN and IL.  But, the Weather Channel predicted severe thunderstorms in northern and central IL, so we took I-64 west from Louisville to St. Louis to skirt around that area.  Trip was pretty routine, even though I missed one exit and we went right through downtown St. Louis on I-70.  Susie got some pix through the window.  Here's the arch and the waterfront.  In the background is the bridge I was supposed to be on.


[Update.  As this is written, Wed, May 5, Mandi and Paul have been in Nashville to check on their house.  They've moved to Denver and their Nashville house is on the market.  The garage flooded, the air conditioner was ruined, and insulation in the crawl space beneath the house was ruined.  Damage estimate: $20K.  They're working those problems and feel fortunate it was not worse.  Update.  Here's an awesome video about Nashville Flood.]

This being Monday, we had one and only one criterion for a campground: guaranteed access to ABC-TV for Dancing With Stars.  After several calls, we found that essential characteristic at the Mark Twain Landing RV Resort, not too far from Hannibal.  GPS took us about 20 miles on a narrow, paved country road, so we were getting a little nervous, but we emerged to a large and very nice campground. 

Here's an internet picture of the Cannon Dam and the Mark Twain Lake


Here's a next morning view of the lake from the boat ramp just down the road from our campground.        


Long day, 410 miles, but we successfully avoided the t-storm area (and we did hear that the predicted storms did occur, but nothing severe, like tornadoes, thank goodness), found a nice park, and watched Dancing and, my show, 24.  Between St. Louis and Mark Twain Lake we did drive through the edge of this shower, but it was nothing.


Tomorrow, another 410 miles and we'll get to Sioux City.


Susie and Rob

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Fort Knox

Lots of people are in Louisville for Derby Week.  We're here to see grandson Tony Hinkle's graduation from cavalry scout training at Fort Knox. The festivities started with dinner at the Fort on Wednesday evening.  Matt, Suzy, and Andrew had arrived.  Sister, Kaci, is not too far away in Cleveland, but she had a show opening and couldn't come.

Here's Tony's official picture.

Big crowd at dinner -- soldiers, families, and friends.  Took about three hrs. to get everybody through the serving line, so we had a good visit with Tony. 

Graduation was Thursday morning.  The Cavalry Scout's function is to be the force commander's eyes and ears on the battlefield.  First in, last out is their motto.  Their heritage goes back to the horse cavalry days. They've still got the hats and spurs.

Now they travel by humvee and Bradley fighting vehicle.

A big concern was whether Tony's Drill Sergeant would release the troop after graduation, or continue to work them on barracks clean-up.  Tony got to sleep from 3 to 330 am Wednesday night; the rest of the time was spent on clean-up -- cleaning bathroom tile with toothbrushes, e.g.  Inspection passed and we soon headed back to our KOA campground, with lunch (Tony's first civilian food in 16 weeks) along the way, for some R&R 

In Tuzigoot we watched a video about his training -- obstacle courses, etc.  A lot of this was done in very cold winter weather.  Something like 30% of those who started dropped out along the way.  Tony's rightly proud of what he's accomplished and learned about himself and we're all very proud of him.

From the KOA the Hinkle clan headed to the airport and the flight home.  Tony has 10 days leave, then reports to Fort Hood for further training. 

We're flying to Raleigh on Friday for a visit with Mike, Karen, and Jason.  Back here Sunday and then depart for Sioux City, IA on Monday.


Susie and Rob

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Greetings, All.

Trip from Cincinnati to Louisville on Monday, 4/25, involved a couple of bad choices on roads, so we managed to make a two-hr. trip into four hours, but we were in no hurry.  Got to see the Kentucky River valley up close.

This is being written on Monday, 5/2, so those who care already know how the Kentucky Derby came out.  Last Wednesday I made an early morning trip to Churchill Downs to watch the early morning workouts.  Had a brochure with a pass to the grounds and, as luck would have it, parked just outside the barn area and walked right in.  It reminded me of going to the Albq Balloon Fiesta -- I walked around among the stable crews and horses wherever I wanted, just like walking amongst the balloons and balloon crews.  That was a pleasant surprise. 

As I was wandering around among the barns, which are located along the backstretch of the track, I met a horse with a rider who I'm pretty sure was Calvin Borel, heading for the track.  He wasn't on Super Saver, on which he won the Derby on Saturday, because time was reserved later for Derby horse workouts, but I think it was him because he had that Calvin look and I had read that Calvin doesn't just ride races; he rides early morning workouts for trainers he works for.  I refrained from hollering, Hey, Calvin!  Let me get a picture.  I knew I wasn't going to see Eddie Arcaro, so Borel is the only jockey I could have recognized.  Here he is in his workout ride.

Tuesday had been a rainy day, as you can see.  More to come.  Incidentally, Super Saver is a WinStar Farm (which we visited near Lexington) product, born, bred, and owned.  Kentucky is particularly happy that a local horse and rider won the Derby.

In another stroke of luck, on the way down town I happened to tune to a radio station covering the Derby and they said that the Derby and KY Oaks horses (the latter race is on Friday for fillies), would work out after 8:00 am.  About then, the track was cleared, so I knew to move to a viewing platform.  All around me knowledgeable talk was going on about the Derby.  Made me wish I'd paid more attention to the California horse people on our horse farm tour.

First they had a tractor pull.

Here's one of the Derby horses out for his morning exercise.

As I was heading out, I happened upon this gentleman painting the scene. 

I watched him work and a couple of women came along and struck up a conversation with him.  He's from New Zealand.  Ladies asked what he would be doing with the picture.  Said he would probably sell it to pay for groceries.  A little later, one of the ladies asked him how much it would sell for.  He said he'd probably get around $3000.  Pretty good cart of groceries, I said.  Who are you? they asked.  Peter Williams, he told us.   When I got home I googled him.  He's a famous painter, known for painting on site to capture a track's ambiance. 

Here are some Derby barn scenes.  Hot bath, new shoes, and a snack.

I left feeling like I had gotten a pretty good introduction to the Churchill Downs scene.  Now, if I had just bet on Calvin and Super Saver, I might be shopping for a Peter Williams picture.


Rob and Susie Easterling