Friday, 31 July 2009

Art and Norma's House

[Sorry for the delay -- we just got back from 3 days in Manchester, which I'll tell you about later. For now, on with the US trip!]

If I thought our time in Michigan was full of busy, what we packed into our stay in Minneapolis is almost like the history of the world in the snap of your fingers. I'm sure that's down to Norma; I don't think she ever sat for more than 3 minutes.

The first thing they did was show us around the house. Now, if I was at all surprised to find that my Irish Catholic roots were no longer Catholic, Grandpa's family religion (diluted a bit in our family by Grandma being Lutheran and then sort of Christian Scientist) was alive and thriving at Norma's. Any cathedral should be blessed with half as many religious pictures, statues or rosaries as may be found there. She pointed these out, saying that people kept giving them to her and she felt obligated to display them in case they came over and looked.

One in particular she was pleased to have, and I could understand why. It was needlework, as beautiful and fine as any I saw in the Victoria and Albert museum in London.

We were shown our bedroom in the basement, or rather the ground floor of the property at the rear. The land sloped down from road level to the creek level which put the deck on the same floor as the front door. In fact, there was also another bedroom, our own bath, a living area and a 2nd kitchen downstairs, all waiting for one or more of their 6 children and I've not yet mastered how many further twigs on the family tree to come visit.

Once situated, the next order of the day was food; at least that's the next thing I remember happening. We had sort of put our cameras away at this stage and so this second part of the holiday isn't quite as well documented as the first. We ate out on the screened portion of the deck, which we came to think of as Art's room.

Norma served BBQ ribs from a place called Rudolphs and homemade mashed potatoes. She and Art kept urging us to take more ribs; they didn't want any leftovers. I actually had 3 servings of ribs plus my share of the potatoes. I also took some rhubarb pie which in the end, I simply could not finish. At this point I was considering whether I should have taken up the practice of bulemia in preparation for this holiday.

They both had lots to tell us about: their family, friends and their trip to England some years ago. It was clear that they liked people and it was impossible not to feel very much at home with them.

I was listening hard but didn't really hear a strong regional accent in their voices. I finally realised it was more Art's mannerisms and sayings than any accent that reminded me so much of my Grandpa. It sounds daft to describe someone as having the air and the body language of someone with vast stores of patience, even if they use words and expressions to convey annoyance about things, but that is how Grandpa was and what I felt I saw in Art. Perhaps it's just a long-winded way of saying someone can have opinions and not lose their good nature.

It was lovely that they had such a nice house for us to stay in, but before long I realised I would have happily lived in a tent in the back yard, if necessary, in order to spend time in their company.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Madison to Minneapolis

Actually, we just drove to Madison to spend the night and take off for Minneapolis the next morning. We might have looked around, but Madison didn't work very well for us. It was a lovely college town, but we couldn't seem to get our bearings and Bill was particularly unhappy with that. It was rather an unpleasant part of the trip for me, so we'll just move on now...

After spending something stupid like $125 for a Holiday Inn, we were pleased to have re-discovered Super8 motels. However, the one in Madison didn't allow me to make a long distance phone call to Minneapolis, so we had to hunt down a pay telephone; easier said than done and the one I found had been so mistreated I thought it might fall off its frame. That said, I found I had to hit it to make the coins drop, so it deserved all the abuse it got. Art gave me very lucid instructions and before long we pulled up to their house; Norma was waiting outside for us!

The first thing that struck me, aside from the really nice neighbourhood, was that their house backed onto a creek. There was a deck, with a

and a side room with screened windows, overlooking the creek and the gardens of all the surrounding neighbours. The screened room reminded me so very much of the screened back porch on Grandma and Grandpa's house. It was really lovely and I was amazed to find this deck and water feature so parallel in my mind with the cabin at Torch Lake where we'd just left.

Hey, if you're going to find distant relatives on the internet and get invited to stay, isn't it amazing when in addition to being really nice people they live in really lovely houses?

Monday, 27 July 2009

Muskegon to Milwaukee

We got up and hit the road promptly so as to make the ferry comfortably. It was the first time I've taken a car onto a ferry, having only been a pedestrian between Dover and Calais, North Shields and Amsterdam. It was interesting to watch how it worked.

On our way to putting the car into a queue, our photo IDs were checked twice in the space of about 15 yards. I was going to be annoyed if it continued, but tried to remember making a game of this when we left India (there my passport was checked 12 times in the space of about 300 yards - I counted). Lots of inept -- and ept -- drivers participated in precision parking, helped by ferry staff with busy arms and hands.

Upstairs on deck I found a chair and sat

the whole journey, bar a couple of weaving walks to the loo and back. It was chilly enough in the cabin and very cold outside, so I'd little interest in being out there; there was nought to see anyhow. I had brought along an envelope of receipts to tally, something I do to keep track of my money. Having a good backlog to catch up and doing the math on paper, it occupied the journey nicely; that, and the rocking-induced naps I took. Bill was up most of the journey, taking pictures in every direction, all proving that there was nothing in sight (yes, Bill, Lake

Michigan is really large), fetching me cokes and taking crumpled receipts to the trash bin. To be fair, he did notice some nice houses on the Muskegon side that had their own little marinas, something I completely overlooked.

I got more interested when we approached land. Milwaukee 'by sea' is very attractive and I

didn't remember seeing a city from this sort of vantage point before. Milwaukee was a funny

mixture of old and new and of course they also had a beach.

I hadn't really made any plans for Milwaukee, though I knew Grandma and Grandpa once had a cabin on the lake. I figured it was so small it was likely to have been wrecked and replaced long before now.

Aside from seeing the names of beers I'd not thought of in a long time: Miller, Lone Star, Schlitz (the latter Mom and Dad's favourite), I wasn't sure what to do in Milwaukee, so we continued on to Madison.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Eat and Run

Our plan was to leave Bellaire on Monday after lunch and head down to Muskegon to spend the night. We wanted to position ourselves for smooth sailing -- or rather ferrying -- across Lake Michigan the next day.

We ended up going out to lunch in Charlevoix, a town about 25 miles north, where John admired the flower gardens that lined the streets. We had a scrumptious meal at The Weathervane and returned to the cabin. By that time, John was ready for a nap and I wanted to get out and on the road before he went to sleep so that we could have our good-byes without disturbing him. We were pretty much packed and so it was just about loading the car.

Before we left, John showed me the place he'd picked out to hang his miners' lamp, a prominent position that would do it proud. I was suddenly aware of how fond I had become of this kindly man in the very short time I'd known him. It became a priority at that point to get out on the road before the dam opened (anyone who knows me knows I leak a lot, and easily).
We just about made it, when John trundled out to the car to give us a couple of bottles of water for our journey. See what I mean?

Saturday, 25 July 2009


I went the other day to the photo shop picked up a CD of photos I'd had them convert from some old slides I found last year at Rita's house. When I went to add them to my electronic "Family Picture album" I discovered it was gone. Also all the photos I'd taken since getting any digital camera and pre-digital photos from holidays that I'd scanned.

I had moved these it to a memory stick to save space on the PC. In the rush to get ready for going to Michigan, I copied photos I could use in finishing off my draft blogs (only the stick ran out of space before it got to the useful photos).

I bought another memory stick in the US and used it to store photos my cousin Norma kindly shared of my Dad's ancestors along with her genealogy research notes, but then somehow lost that little black stick. It must have fallen out of my pocket somewhere. Fortunately I'd saved the scanned images on her hard drive.

However my other memory sticks were full. I deleted a folder of pictures thinking it was my copied pictures, not all the others. It did seem strange that they took 12 minutes to delete...

Gone are all the pictures from Prague, from Germany, Bill's Route 66 Birthday Tour, Bill's birthday weekend at Kettlewell. Gone are the holiday snaps of places I scanned and discarded, pictures of Rita's house as it was when she lived there, pictures of all of Grandmother's things that were in Rita's house, pictures of last Christmas and whatever I photographed in January or February of this year. Gone are the silly photos of Mom's and my collection of Christmas tree ornaments, painstakingly named with the year they were purchased, in case they get broken.

On the upside, I still have my family photographs in paper form; I can re-scan and save them. I threw away only pictures of places, not of the people who matter to me. There are huge numbers of photos from previous years still waiting to be scanned. At this writing, none of those Christmas ornaments are broken. I can photograph them and label the pictures again. Jack still lives in Rita's house and, to my knowledge, still has Grandmother's things. I still had the experience of the trips we took and the places we saw. There are a few photos on this weblog. Bill may have some photos somewhere.

No one else has died. I didn't even lose things, only images of things, places and experiences. It will be a relatively small thing once I get it in it's proper perspective. I am largely angry with myself at being so thoughtless and inept. I'm disgusted with all things computer-related.

I found comfort eventually by turning off the computer and doing some housework. How strange is that?

The Birthday Party!

After we got home, John took a nap, I trawled through papers and pictures and others set about creating the birthday feast: kebabs and roast potatoes were the main items, with lots of munchy stuff on the side. I didn't know where I was going to find room for more food, but you know what? I managed just fine.

As excited as Elizabeth was about the 4th of July, I was about 10 times more excited for John to open the gifts we'd brought. We'd thought long and hard about what to buy an 84 year old man we'd never met, with not very many ideas. It was Bill who spotted the miner's lamp at Beamish and later went back to purchase one.

About a week before we were due to leave, inspired by Sharon mentioning a similar project she'd done for another of her family members, I decided to try doing a family history book. Bill says he hardly saw or spoke to me for that week, I was so absorbed in pulling it together. Sharon kindly proofed it and I added pictures from her and from Frank in Scotland (I mean, if you have a picture of a relative in a kilt, you just have to put it in, right?).

After shopping for the just right binder with no luck, Bill pulled one out of his cupboard that was just what I wanted, except that it was black. So, at about the last minute, I made a simple book cover. I included a CD in the back pocket

with an electronic copy of the book's contents for any other family members who were interested. John seemed to like it a lot and I was well pleased with his response.

And then we had the piece de resistance: flag cake. There was a wonderful cake underneath, but with all that luscious whipped cream, and the beautiful strawberries and blueberries, who cares?

Friday, 24 July 2009

Purchasing Fleas

A visit to the fleamarket at Brownville was on the agenda for Saturday. I can't say John was particularly enthusiastic about this and I did remark that on his birthday a guy should get to do what he wanted, but he eventually allowed himself to be persuaded. He rode in our car and on the way told us that he would be visiting his good friend, a lady who makes and sells donuts there. I said I'd noticed most of his friends were women, and he agreed that this was likely so -- some of the best friends, anyhow.

The next I saw him he had a bag of little donuts and insisted I take one (or more). Oh, I can close my eyes now and taste that warm cinammon and sugared heaven.

I was determined not to buy anything -- we have plenty of fleas already, you know. I did take some photos of things that struck me as being unlikely to be found at the Tynemouth fleamarket, plus some ideas I had for my own crafting efforts. Bill, fortunately, took pictures of people.

In the end, I did end up buying a gorgeous apron for $2 and an aged linen table cloth for $5, and I'm not a bit sorry.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Fireworks on the Lake

We loaded up the boat as sunset was nearing. John fretted about the number of people and Colleen did repeated calculations. In the end, Mark, Colleen's husband decided not to go, which I thought was sad. Then again, he had some quiet time and perhaps that was his preference; most mornings he was up and gone fishing on the boat, though I pointed out that as he released his catch, we had only his word for what he caught! Several people brought blankets to bundle up against the chill.

The neighbours were in their boat and together we headed south along with many others. John commented several times on the astonishing
number of boats that had gathered, easily 100 or more; I thought about how much disposable income this represented.

I was busy capturing sunsets and moonlight on the water.
It occurred to me that the advantage of watching fireworks from the boat would be not just a good vantage point, but the added drama of their reflection on the water. It seemed forever until the fireworks started; the lake sheriff nudged a number of us back, saying we wouldn't like it if we were too close and there was a dud. Finally they began and of course Bill and I stook a stupid number of firework pictures, just like we did last year at Lake Ponca. Of course it was all gorgeous and irresistable.

When it was over, everyone raced back home. It was pitch black but for the boat lights, and just a tad bumpy. All of Bill's and my pictures are blurred streaks of coloured lights.

John had worried about us getting home. Some teenagers who came onto the lake some time previously through the public access at the 'bottom' had vandalised the light on his float, normally used to find their pier. I was a bit concerned myself, it seemed we were racing along blind it was so dark, but I shouldn't have worried: Captain Colleen's trusty GPS took us straight into the right dock, no problems.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Our Fourth

Saturday morning Colleen served blueberry pancakes and bacon for breakfast; talk about being spoiled! Elizabeth woke up very excited and reminded everyone that it was the 4th of July -- I'd actually forgotten it. I was looking forward more to the day after, John's birthday.

I spent the day interviewing John and other family members, pen and notebook in hand, and pouring over the memorabilia and John and Colleen thought to pull out and share. John played football for the University of Oklahoma, as did his dad. Out came old yearbooks and photographs. There were also lots of lovely pictures of his late wife and of his mother.

We got so engrossed in what we were reading and discussing that Bill had to go outside to get our picture, snapping it through the window from the deck!
John didn't have a lot of answers to direct questions about specific people, but I soon found that if I just sat with him, he shared memories as they surfaced and it was all good stuff as far as I was concerned. He had stories about his grandfather, his father and his uncles. Unfortunately he didn't remember my grandfather much and he'd never met my mom, but he knew that my uncle Bernard had been a ballroom teacher! That pleased and amused me no end.

Besides getting bits of family history, I enjoyed sitting with John. He was very good company. Although obviously successful and talented, he didn't brag about his achievements so much as express the pleasure he had in looking back at them. Once he figured out that I truly was interested in whatever about his past he wanted to share, he seemed to relish my following him around, scribbling. He told me to be sure to put in my 'book' that he had 8,450 hours of IFR flying time. This is how he managed to cover so much of his sales territory, which he told me at one time was the Western Hemisphere. Whenever a joke came to mind, he passed those along as well.

I forget what we had for lunch, but it seemed to come only about 10 minutes after breakfast. I know we had brat sausages and hamburgers for dinner - about 10 minutes after lunch. Soon after that it was time to get in the boat and go watch fireworks.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Cabin on Torch Lake

We stopped in Cadillac and I wrestled with unfamiliar coinage (when did we get $1 pieces?) and a rare and vanishing breed - the old fashioned pay phone - to get directions to the cabin from Colleen. Turned out we still had a couple of hours to go.

I don't think I had a picture in my mind of what it would look like, but if I did, the reality was about 5 times bigger and 100 times more amazing. There was a gravel path through a wooded area from the main road to the cabin. We arrived slightly ahead of schedule and surprised Mom's cousin, John, and two of his granddaughters, Cheyenne and Elizabeth. Colleen was grocery shopping and arrived about half an hour later. After we unpacked the groceries, she showed us our bedroom upstairs

(we got the luxury treatment, ours was the one with the sitting area and the toilet just outside), the spare fridge with the drinks and the food schedule on the fridge in the kitchen and told us to help ourselves to what ever. I thought the upstairs bedrooms were very European: the sink is very convenient for getting ready in the morning.

Then we had a tour of the cabin. It was the main lodge of what used to be a boy's camp with several other cabins, all but one of which has been taken down. They said the cabin dated back to around the turn of the last century; they had pictures of the boys at the camp wearing shirts adorned with swastikas, well before that symbol became associated with Nazi Germany. Apparently it was previously a good luck symbol.

The cabin was originally one big single story building, to which John and his late wife, Billie, added the second floor with dormers, consisting of 4 bedrooms, 2 baths and a sitting area. The downstairs had two large bedrooms, a bathroom with a sauna, an office, and an open plan kitchen. John told me it was about 4,000 square feet altogether. They'd also added a large deck on the back which overlooks

the lake and their pier and 'float'

(a square thing to sit on when swimming; also has a light for finding the boat dock at night). The cabin was stuffed with beautiful and fun things to look at: family photos, memorabilia of John's college days, metal sculptures and every sort of knick-knack one could imagine.

Torch Lake is glacial, I was told, as in created by glaciers. Though the shore was quite shallow, one could see the colour change (see that dark blue part before you get to the tree line on the opposite side?) indicating the different depth in the middle. John said it was nearly 400 feet deep in

places. The water temperature according to his thermometer was 65 F. and I did intend to go for a swim with the others, but never got around to it, in spite of the fact that John -- who loves to tell jokes -- gave me a wooden disk with 'round tuit' written on it.

Bill had Googled Torch Lake and found a video showing a dock area crammed full of sunburned people drinking and playing 16 different kinds of loud music; he was a bit worried about that. Our experience was the exact opposite: John's section of the water front was his own, there weren't even more than 2 or 3 boats in sight at any one time; we couldn't have asked for a more serene location. It's no wonder John and Billie chose to live here. I was incredibly grateful to have been invited to share in this beautiful place even for a few days.

I had two main goals for this part of the holiday: suck up as much family history (information and pictures) as possible; also, to get to know these new family members -- about 10 of them -- just as well as I could. I had about 3 1/2 days to do this in. My work was cut out for me!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Road to Bellaire, Michigan

We left the Belden Stratford about 9:30 am after I took a million more pictures of the hotel

and of Chicago's skyline.

I even found the old wood frame houses on the

road side to be quite fascinating, a sure sign that I have been away for a long time.

I was much easier with Bill's driving than I have been on past trips. This issue is what makes me dread travel to the US more than any time zone change: his driving usually scares the **** out of me and mine makes him crazy as well. I would estimate that we argue and bicker in the car in the US more than the accumulation of all other such behavior probably for a full year before and after. It was slightly easier this time as Bill had had the experience of driving the huge RV around last year and so he seemed to position the car properly in the lanes much quicker than in the past.

When not required to consult the map for navigation, I busied myself working on a fabric card for one of the sewing group ladies, Emma. Her birthday was on the 14th of July and I figured I could drop it by when we got home, just in time for her birthday. Doing fiddly needlework in a stationary place is sufficient challenge; doing it in the car and later on the train was nigh impossible. Fortunately I find that as I get older I do seem to have more and more patience for this. I keep reminding myself that my Mom had endless patience and tell myself I have inherited it; it seems to work!

Occupying myself allowed me to ignore Bill's driving (except for when he slammed the brakes) which was good; the downside is that I probably missed some photo opps like the signs for entering various states until too late. As I took 1,288 photos as it was, this seems a small price to pay for a little less panic.

I had of course heard of the city named Kalamazoo,

but never realised Michigan had places called Cadillac or Pontiac -- what fun! So, have they ever made cars named Detroit, Lansing or Cheboygan?

I'd not noticed that we'd be taking in a small sliver of Indiana.

You might guess what song Bill couldn't resist singing...sad man.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Chicago - Take One

Our first morning in the US we were of course still on Greenwich Mean Time and therefore awoke quite early; so, we went for a walk in the park across the road.

There were several people out walking their dogs and I stopped to ask a woman how to get to the lake, which was near by (that's Lake Michigan). This annoyed Bill a bit. When I asked why he thought it was cheating to ask directions, he replied that he just preferred to wander and find things out, so I didn't tell him what the woman said and let him get on with wandering. This was particularly fun as we began to hear lions and elephant sounds and he was looking around in amazement. I knew we were nearing a zoo, but he had to see the sign to understand what he was hearing.

One couldn't help admiring the impressive skyline. I've always thought of Chicago as being a dirty, crowded, ugly place full of hard, ugly people; no doubt there are places in the city which would match that description. However, my first visit to Chicago was full of very pleasant surprises.

We did find the lake and of all things, it had a beach. I saw Lake Erie sometime back in the 80s when visiting family who lived in Cleveland, Ohio, but where I saw it wasn't a beach but a park and a concrete wall. Lincoln Park's beach was fabulous with paths full of cyclists,

runners and dog walkers. I was well impressed with the facilities for exercise, which included drinking fountains (I think they call them 'bubblers' up north) and public toilets.

A little bizarrely, there were also people practicing tug of war and

doing tai chi with not much on.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Newcastle to Chicago

It was only about an hour before our flight was due to take off when I realized what I’d forgotten: my driving license. This meant that I wouldn’t be doing any driving of the rental car. What worried me more was that Bill only had the card portion of his license, the paper portion apparently having gone missing. (In the UK there are two parts to a driving licence, but one is not expected to carry their license around all the time, like in the US). Only recently has there been a photograph on the card and DLs are not used for identification very much, as so many people don’t drive over here.

I spent the flight over trying to figure out strategies in case we couldn’t get the rental car at the airport. I came up with four possibilities, none very promising. As it turned out, even though the paper work specified needing both parts of the license, the girl at the desk didn’t know about UK driving licenses and so Bill walked away with the car keys and I felt a huge load lift! Personally, I think it was his snazzy outfit that clinched the deal.

They couldn’t refund the money the 2nd driver, but they let Bill chose an upgraded car and he got a PT Cruiser, something he’s drooled over a long time. We weren’t far out of the car park before he decided this would get that out of his system, particularly ours had no cruise control; how quickly we are spoiled!

The place Bill had us staying in Chicago, the Belden Stratford Hotel,

was fabulous. It was a one bedroom apartment

with views of Lincoln Park (Chicago, like Oklahoma City, has a Lincoln Park Zoo!),

a fully outfitted kitchen and lovely d├ęcor. We were ready to move there – it was 'only' $1,000 a month…

Friday, 17 July 2009

Confession Time

There is something wonderful about the American approach that one might not get to see if not from outside the country. Bill had to apply for a VISA to travel to the US and as part of that was required to answer the following questions:

A) Do you have a communicable disease; physical or mental disorder; or are you a drug abuser or addict?

B) Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or have been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or have been a controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?

C) Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?

D) Are you seeking to work in the U.S.; or have you ever been excluded and deported; or been previously removed form the United States or procured or attempted to procure a visa or entry into the U.S. by fraud or misrepresentation?

E) Have you ever detained, retained or withheld custody of a child from a U.S. citizen granted custody of the child?

F) Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry into the U.S. or had a U.S. visa canceled?

G) Have you ever asserted immunity from prosecution?

The immediate response to this is to crack up laughing at the idea that anyone would ever admit to any of this in writing. I mean, if you could do it, would you be the type of person to come clean about it?

In defense, however, I suppose that if someone is found to have answered falsely this document would potentially be a tool that the system could use to snatch up the person and kick them out or prosecute, etc. Every time we travel to the US, I remind Bill (or anyone else with us) that US immigration has no sense of humour, so don't even think about trying to be funny...

Thursday, 16 July 2009


We've been away -- you may have noticed this blog went quiet. I had a bunch of posts drafted and ready to finish, but I downloaded the wrong pictures and I was quite busy on this holiday any how.

I may have mentioned that I found some family members through my genealogical research and other contacts on the internet. This resulted in our being invited to visit them in Michigan (they formerly lived in Oklahoma). Bill chose the 4th of July for the date. He says he likes to be over for the 4th just to check that they hadn't changed their mind about independence and all. I think he just likes the sense of community, the food and the fireworks!

I met my mother's cousin, John, whom she probably never met, and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know his family as well as staying at the huge cabin he has right on Torch Lake. Although that family has not previously been hugely involved in family history, I did my best to give them the bug and think I may have managed reasonably well.

After that we went to stay with a woman whose grandmother was my grandpa's sister. Norma never met my Grandpa, either, but she remembered her dad talking about Jake. I remember my Dad talking about her parents. Norma and her husband, funny enough, also have a very big house that sits on a creek in a suburb of Minneapolis. There was also a family get together one afternoon and that evening her son, Spike, took us on a major tour of the city.

I now have a far greater appreciation of how wonderful Minneapolis and Minnesota are as well as enjoying the sayings and mannerisms of the northern German culture that I haven't heard since my teenage years.

Norma is the most avid family history researcher I've met other than my cousin in Perth, Sharon. Norma's records are all on paper, as she did her research long before the internet made it so much simpler. She has spiral notebooks for each branch of the family. Although she says she no longer does that research, she put it aside when one of her sons contracted leukemia (and survived, thank goodness!); I did see the note she'd made on Grandma and Grandpa's page of the date I first emailed her and my contact details. She was, like John's family, very generous with all the family information and pictures she had and I came away with a ton of fabulous stuff and quite a few pictures (not to mention taking over a 1000 on my camera alone, with Bill clicking away beside me on his new toy).

I have to say I was well impressed with both sides of my new found family and though it was always unlikely that Mom and Dad would have stayed in touch with their extended families because of distance and divorce, I am sorry that I didn't know I had such amazing family a long time ago. Still, I know it now and look forward to keeping in touch and knowing them better.

I was rather astounded when they invited us to stay at their respective homes, sight unseen (I must write very compelling emails, huh?). Then I was a bit apprehensive about how we would feel staying with strangers. It was a lot of work, but not in the way I'd expected. The main effort was to spend as much quality time and to know them as well as I could for the few days we imposed on their hospitality. I can't remember the last time I paid that close attention for such an extended time and it was rather tiring, but definitely worth while.

The last couple of days (one more than we were supposed to have -- we now have had the experience of showing up 24 hours late for our ticketed plane; I'm placing the blame squarely on Bill, though I should have trusted my own memory or at least checked, but I didn't) we spent in Chicago. I knew there would be plenty to see and do but was a bit intimidated by the place. We wound up staying out in Skokie and taking the train into downtown two days in a row to do 2 hour walking tours of the architectural wonders, first the modern and then the art deco sky scrapers. That would account for about 20% of the pictures, perhaps. Now I just have to find that thingy to download them...

So, I have lots to share -- the posts I drafted before we left and all the stuff we saw! Stay tuned!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Thursday, 2 July 2009

90 - Part IV

I know a lot of runners who don't like the idea of out and back routes; they think that's boring. However, I often find that things look entirely different when approached from a different angle. Also, in the second part of a run I like knowing exactly how far I have to go to get back.

You remember St. Mary's lighthouse?

The wooden walls along the beach are called groynes; they are to keep sand in place. Hard to imagine what the place would look like without the beach -- a bunch of rocks, I suppose. There is a race that takes place along this beach and I'm told that depending upon the tide, it might or might not include climbing over these things. Sounds pretty daft to me, but we did one called Ducks and Drakes in Linconshire one year that was similar. There was a five-mile stretch where you had to climb over stile at every mile, which involved queuing up. It was a crazy, muddy race and we loved it. Mind, stiles don't have barnacles and slimy seaweed all over them.

In the middle of this picture, in the far distance, the line of trees is broken by a brown stone structure. I stopped and asked a man what it was. He was a bit startled, being in the midst of picking up after his dog; however, he told me it was Delaval Hall. I hadn't realised the Hall was visible from the coast. It gave me the idea to show you that place, which is pretty amazing.

I was noticing that rather than the dropped gloves of winter, this is sock season. For some reason I'm not as compelled to pick those up and craft with them, I guess there are limits to my thrift. I also noticed a lot of rabbit holes around, but the bunnies stayed well tucked into the dunes. There is one here if you look for his big round eye.

These grey skies are what my run started with. There is something dramatic about the placement of houses so near the sea, particularly one that is usually so rough as the North Sea.

The larger building on the right is the King's Arms Pub, built in the mid 1800s; the building on the right is across the sluice on Rocky Island.
Seaton Sluice was a welcome sight; almost back to the car!

One of the first places Bill took me years ago was to the Waterford Arms for fish and chips. I was astonished at the size of the fish that hung off both sides of the plate.

There are many pictures on the Internet of this crazy crenellated tower house, but it wasn't until I went looking for information about the King's Arms that I found that it was originally built as the Harbour Office sometime before 1750. It is now a private home.

I just about couldn't stop taking pictures of the water at Collywell Bay....something about the sea being blue and the waves being white. You can tell I grew up in a landlocked state, can't you?

On top of that, the sun was shining and I'd just finished another long run. What contentment!