I woke on Monday morning, started a load of bath towels in the washing machine, unloaded the dishwasher, made a cup of tea, read a few pages in my book and thought--I miss my M. I then grabbed my phone, clicked on my calendar and saw I had a wide open week. Then I set out solo on the open road. I love that my summer hall pass allows me the freedom to be so spontaneous. I also love that M is more available this summer than she has been than in the previous two summers. Last summer she had a full load of summer classes and the Cardinals and the summer before that she was in New York doing an internship. My timing was perfect because the Cardinals home stand wasn't starting till Thursday.
I arrived at M's apartment around 2pm. We chatted about life and such, then headed to the grocery store to stock up. We had plans to grill steaks, but you know Mother Nature this summer, she's just evil. And so it rained. Again. We opted for our Tuesday dinner plan of spaghetti and salad. College kids can have great dinner conversation too: "if you could change one course in history what would it be?" I loved listening to these young adults and how they wished the world wasn't such a place filled with hate. We then gathered in the living room to finish watching the Netflix series Grace and Frankie before setting off to bed.
M and I woke on Tuesday excited to check something off our bucket lists--Laura Ingalls Wilder's house. First, we grabbed a coffee, because every great adventure starts with a dose caffeine and a Snap Chat to the sisters and King Ralph.
Then we headed down a highway we had never traveled before...trail blazers of sort, exploring an unknown section of our state. I loved watching the local Amish riding on the highway's shoulder in horse and buggy. One buggy was even spotted hitched at McDonald's. As my friend told me, "even [they] like french fries." When we finally arrived at our destination we were like giddy school girls. We snapped lots of photos to remember our "Field Trip Tuesday."
(Nice hunk of gum in the mouth Jodi)
(M runs around in the front yard of Laura and Almonzo's Rock House)
We had lunch in the picnic area across the road from the original house
Mother Nature was in our favor so we took to the backyard of M's apartment and transformed into the
Wednesday we woke with a plan for adventure. It was misting a bit, but that didn't stop us from walking to the corner gas station, grabbing a coffee and then strolling around the university campus. It was quiet and peaceful, void of student activity, and I hadn't been to the campus since I took D for a college visit her senior year of high school. It was nice seeing the improvements [my money] is helping to make. (Wink wink)
(bumped into M's sorority little during our stroll)
In mid May a new outdoor restaurant, with a bike theme, opened across from the trails. It was quickly decided we would try our hand at a tandem bike. We rented the bicycle built for two.
What a device and lesson of team work...every work force should have a tandem bike day. It was quite the work out! It had challenges along the way too, but totally fun despite. We ate lunch el fresco on the patio of the Sequiota Bike Shop, had delicious sandwiches and sipped well deserved adult libations.
In the evening we decided on one last escape. Last week the St Louis Post ran an article about fifteen unique attractions in Missouri. Just happens #13 was right there in ole' Springfield, MO--World's Largest Fork. So off we went on a scavenger hunt to find the "absolute must-visit" attraction. It was a bit of a challenge spying it, as it hides on the back side of the building, as did the address placard. M spotted it and we felt like champions! To celebrate having seen such a marvel it was off to Pineapple Whip for a refreshing summer treat.
I woke on Thursday kissed my M goodbye and headed home, but with my heart full. Don't worry middle, I'll be back again soon!
We had planned and plotted the long weekend get away for months: The Cousin Camp -n- Float Trip. Mother Nature thought differently. We, however, refused to be beaten!
Packing the camper was extremely difficult because all it did (or should I say does this summer) is rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. When Wednesday came it was quickly decided that setting up camp in the torrential rain just wasn't going to be any fun. Instead we kicked it at home, trading BBQ and a campfire for an Imo's pizza and our own bed. Thursday morning I starting stuffing gear into the camper in my not-so-usual organized fashion. It was a day that was predicted to have a bit more rain...we gambled with evil Mother Nature and headed southwest to a popular Missouri state park. The entire day was georgous! King Ralph and I biked around the park for over an hour under a canopy of blue skies. The river; however, did not hide the ugliness that Mother Nature has cursed upon it. The river was swelled to the brim thanks to the relentless summer storms. We had hopes that the water levels would drop, along with the swift current, in time for our cousin float trip and the few visible rocky beach banks would multiple or widen.
Then it started. The rain. Again! Five hours of rain over night on Thursday into Friday. The rain beat long and hard on the camper, which I likened to a baby that cries all night. You know the kind of irritation that you must embrace, but cannot ignore. We took a short drive into town to find a Redbox (which turns out was a blue Redbox...still trying to figure out that color pallet) to rent a movie for rain alternative fun. Then we woke on Friday to mini ponds surrounding our campsite and a river that had risen higher and was clearly unsafe for water fun. The river was closed for business. It was swift, but quiet.
Saturday, the day of our planned cousin float still had hope and the makings for family fun.
Friday King Ralph and M went zip lining.
I enjoyed reading outside , as the day was georgous. By evening Princess A, her Prince Charming, D and the dog joined us. We grilled burgers, sipped bourbon limeaide slushies and made a roaring fire. Then we slumbered with our hopes high that old man river would drop.
Saturday, we woke to partly sunny skies and a phone call that the river had rose seven feet over night...no floating, the river was ordered to have yet another quiet day. The cousins began arriving, pitching tents in nearby campsites, unloading coolers and yard games. That is when the alternative cousin plan went into full swing. Princess A and my niece purchased prizes at the nearby dollar store and the "Family Olympics" were born. We stood unified in a family circle, hats were removed while D and I sang the National Anthem. We sang loud and proud, no cares if surrounding campers thought we were nuts. We had events like corn hole, croquet and bocce ball.
We played in pairs, but with an odd number the dog got a spot on the team...and was teamed up with me.
Once the dog forfitted her spot, I was assigned to select a teammate from the losing team when my round came into play. How I came to get my croquet mate felt like a version of Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First." I just quit trying to understand, instead I gave it my all and was the real loser of the "Family Olympics." There was medal preparations...some raised hands in a show of champions, while other sipped a drink from their mini golden chalices.
We broke for lunch, bike rides, beer and booze, a quick dip in the shallow somewhat-still portion of the river,
before the patriarchs of the cousindom took to being the grill masters, while the matriarchs prepared side dishes. It was a good ole' tailgate buffet!
Some cousin engaged in deep conversations, some of us played Yahtzee (where I reined the winner--a loser no more). There was desserts of watermelon and s'mores. There was music and some break out dances. There were men smoking cigars around a campfire...even cigar smoking lessons to the young cigar virgins. Quiet hour struck and cousins scattered to tents, park motel, and to a nearby homestead.
We woke on Sunday, prepared a morning feast, sang a somewhat on key Happy Birthday to one cousin, hugged good-bye with hopes for a float trip one day and a guarantee that the "Family Olympics" will happen again!
For months, I MEAN MONTHS, our street, neighborhood, has looked like this. Uhg. Sigh.
As soon as it appears to be in re-pave state, it looks like this all over again. Except this time around it looks and drives worse. It is almost like off-roading, as you navigate past orange barrel after orange barrel, swerving left, then right to avoid large pot holes and cleanly cut squares of once concrete street surface. The Honda Accord isn't a big fan of off-roading. When leaving the neighborhood, often turning around to detour is the only option, as you are met with construction equipment and blocked street passages. Language skills of sort are heightened! There's a lot of "damn", "son-of-a-bitch" and the more flavored "mother f&@$;##*!" Walking on a beautiful morning outside is squandered by the taste of road dirt and the hum of concrete trucks. The other morning I'd had enough and took my exercise from the treadmill to the nearby nature center
void of orange barrels and chug holes, I pumped my way down the path and through the woods. The hum of road equipment was replaced by the chirps of birds. The outdoor peace fired up a burn in me to escape farther. Soooooo....King Ralph and I woke Thursday morning and decided to head to the burbs of Chicago. We had 36 hours till we had to be at an already calendared affair. We tossed essentials in carry-on bags and headed out on the highway. Then we got stuck, no sitting idle in Springfield for 30 minutes because of road construction, then we continued to creep along. Uhg! No escaping what we longed to escape. And then again as we neared my Grandmother's nursing home--more road construction. Road construction EVERYWHERE!!
After surprising my grandma, after she treated us to her stand-up comedy routine (jokes she learned at the home's beauty shop), I kissed her and promised I'd be back soon.
Then it was off to my bestie's house. Nothing is better than a bestie fix. In a night and day we
Sipped cucumber martinis
Hiked Swallow Staircase and Trails
headed to the southside--for the best ice cream ever!
(Let's see that rainbow up close)
After dinner, and as the sun set, we headed to the backyard for a fire and marshmallow toasting.
Then we all crawled into bed, slumbered, woke, drove home and headed to a Fourth of July party.
(Blue and white clothes in a red chair--makes patriotic attire).
That's how we rock forty-eight hours of mostly spontaneous fun.