Archive for September, 2017

Several items of humor and one new skill

Yes, I will soon crank out all the wonderful vacation blog posts that are swirling around in my head, but as we all know, life does go on, and before I forget them, I do want to document, in no particular order, the following items.

  • In today’s mail, our ministry, Take the Challenge, received a donation receipt from another ministry for a contribution to a young lady who is doing a nine-month, nine-nation mission trip during her gap year. The receipt was addressed to Mr. Scott Challenge. We both got a good laugh out of that, mainly because it was so very apropos.
  • Scott had posted some pictures from our anniversary trip on Facebook, and a number of folks have commented on them. This comment from one friend we haven’t seen since we attended church together some 15+ years ago made us smile. “Y’all are so beautiful! Patty you are one tough cookie. How have u managed all these years. Lol. Always praying for you 2 and your amazing kiddos. Love you all.” I’m encouraged to know I’m a tough cookie!!!
  • Right now half our dining room table is covered with a beach towel of shredded carrots. Explanation: we often have salad for lunch, Scott likes carrots on his, when I opened the bag of carrots that had been purchased some ten days ago the carrots were fine but wet, I needed to dry them so I wouldn’t have to throw them out, and a good airing was the only way I could think of to do it. Hopefully they’ll be dry by the time we need the table for supper.

I’m also pleased to report that since returning home a couple days ago, I’ve been doing well at some goals I’ve unofficially made for myself. I’m scheduling what I do so I don’t get so distracted and waste so much time. I’m letting go of things I don’t want or need. I’m endeavoring to become less busy. I’m trying to learn new skills, including various things about my phone and my computer so I’m not totally dependent on Scott to do all that device stuff for me.  And last night I decided to learn how to grill!

I’m 56, and I don’t think I’ve ever grilled anything in my life. When I was a kid, my dad did the grilling. I didn’t grill in my single years, and since I’ve been married, Scott’s always handled that chore. I always figured it was a guy thing, but sometimes it’s not convenient for him or Andrew to do it, so last night I asked for and was given a grilling lesson. It was fun! We have a nifty gas grill on the porch, and I got Andrew to show me how to turn it on. Pretty simple. You just uncover it, lift the lid, turn on the gas, twist one or more of the burner knobs, and press a button. Then Scott talked me through how to grill the burgers. Of course, our secret recipe homemade burgers truly are a lot better than the frozen patties, but I guess the fact that I hadn’t made them in probably ten years means I’m just too lazy to do that messy bit of work. Then when we got the grill last spring and wanted burgers, I started buying the frozen patties. With the addition of some garlic salt and cheese, I think they turned out really well. And after supper, before covering it all back up, I even cleaned the grill. Which got the wire brush all black and greasy, and when I asked Scott what to do with the messy brush (assuming I’d need to do something to it with hot soapy water), he said, “I hang it up.” So I did.  = )

Down, down, down; it was a long way down.

We do very much enjoy exploring country roads, so as we bid a fond farewell to the Green River ferry, we took a short cut on Joppa Ridge Road. It was dusk, the road was gravel/dirt, and Scott’s estimation from our trusty Mammoth Cave National Park map was that we should hit the highway in about two miles. We wound over and up and around and down, and sure enough, Joppa Ridge Road spit us out by Joppa Church (Baptist, built in 1900) on Highway 70 exactly 2.1 miles later. My Hero is really good with directions and distances.

From there, we once again passed a mysterious sign for “Cedar Sink Road Pig” and continued on to our hotel in Bowling Green. Note to self: Fairfield Inn Bowling Green beats Courtyard in Paducah, hands down. Not only was the carpet dry, the breakfast there definitely was something to write home about. Between the two of us, we feasted on waffles, fresh pineapple, scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and salsa, cantaloupe, sausage, orange and apple juices, and the best poppy seed bread I’ve ever eaten. Truly a breakfast of champions.

Back at Mammoth Cave for our 11:00 AM “Domes and Dripstones” tour, I was a bit troubled when our ranger guide (Ashley, not Holly) informed us that this 3/4 mile tour would involve 500 steps. Wow. The two-mile “Historic” tour the day before had featured an upward set of 155 steps, and while I had been proud to manage those at a slow but steady pace – without even stopping to rest on the landings! – the thought of doing three times as much gave me pause. Had me concerned. Filled me with dread. OK, the truth is that I was really worried.

Needlessly, as it turned out. 500 was the total number of steps, both up and down, and after the first very narrow 288 down, the rest were scattered throughout the tour. I was again amazed at HOW MANY folks they put through on a tour – typically about 100 – and how efficiently it all works. As we had done the day before, we (I) had chosen to be at the front of the pack, one, because our guides had said that slow movers should be at the front and fast walkers at the back, and I’m a slow mover, especially with stairs, and two, because I don’t hear as well as some, I love a good tour guide, I love to ask questions (we know where Josiah gets it!), and I learn the most when I am up close and personal with the guide. Ranger Ashley did not disappoint, and since we had to wait several minutes at each stop for the whole snaking line of folks to make their way to the benches, we got to ask her extra questions and get extra explanations – a real bonus.

Scott and were again amazed and intrigued by the ENORMOUS size of the cave, the amazing stories of early explorers and guides, the “candle-spotted” ceiling autographs of visitors over a hundred years ago, and the absolutely unbelievable work that had been done through the years to engineer and install all the staircases, walkways, railings, benches, and lighting that allowed us to tour the cave. And of course, our wonderful experience at Mammoth Cave just re-kindled Scott’s desire to go spelunking – in the wild, wet, dark, muddy, cramped, slithering, exploring sense of the word. Personally, I am not a wild, wet, dark, muddy, cramped, slithering kind of a girl, although I do love my own style of exploring – in a car or on a trail – but I’ll happily send Scott on a wild cave experience, cheer him on, pray for his safe return, and afterwards do his laundry and tell him how brave he is. = )

In which we cross three bodies of water

I don’t know if we took the most direct route from Walnut Shade to Mammoth Cave, but I’m sure it was the most fun, the most scenic, and for me, the most exciting. Somewhere a few miles east of Wilson City, MO (population 110, area 52 acres), out in the total middle of absolutely nowhere and surrounded by soybean fields, U.S. Highway 62 does a most amazing. As we came around a tight bend with warnings about narrowing lanes, there suddenly rose up in front of us a slim, elegant, arching “Erector Set” (as we called such when I was a child) bridge. Over the Mississippi River!!! Oh my! How glorious! I have since learned that it was completed in 1929, and I can’t imagine what all it took to build it. Here’s the view we had as we approached the bridge, compliments of Wikipedia.

As we crossed the Cairo Mississippi River Bridge, we could actually see the Ohio River emptying into Mississippi. Wow! The far end of the bridge landed us on the very southern tip of Illinois, but only for about a minute, as the road angled right and then crossed the Cairo Ohio River Bridge, a spring chicken of a bridge, completed in 1937. Here’s a Wikipedia photo of that one.

Two incredible bridges over two major rivers, back to back! And none of that boring flat concrete stuff. These huge spans had character. They looked dignified, like any good, self respecting bridges should look. I was just about beside myself with joy. (Well, Scott was beside me and has been for thirty years; an even better reason for joy.) Those two sequential crossings meant that in the space of five minutes, we were in Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. MUCH more exciting than that Four Corners stuff in the American southwest.

I’ve been making a list in my phone of all our great 30th Anniversary Trip experiences I want to blog about. The list is LONG and growing almost hourly. We’re having the time of our lives! So, having written about those two unforgettable crossings, I’ll return to my chronological narrative back where we left off, after our super fun late afternoon ride down and (walk) back up on the Mammoth Cave National Park bike trail.

On Saturday afternoon, as we’d been driving through the park toward the Mammoth Cave visitor center, I had seen a sign about a ferry. Now I do have a special fondness for ferries. Just ask Katie. Ferries are rare birds these days, much like endangered species, and I feel somewhat of an obligation to avail myself of any ferry that presents itself. To this end, I had asked Scott if perhaps we could scope out the ferry on Sunday afternoon after our second cave tour, and he had seemed willing. So after our first cave tour and aforementioned bike ride, with dusk approaching, he turned down the road with the red warning sign: “Ferry closed to all trailers.” A mere half mile later, we were face to face with the Green River, the stream that formed Mammoth Cave either six thousand or six million (depending your age-of-the-earth perspective, but let’s not go there tonight) years ago. Now the Green flows more or less next to Mammoth Cave, and I think the two rivers that flow through the lower levels of the cave, Echo River and the River Styx, ultimately converge with it… ? Anyway, the Green River is not huge and neither is its ferry. In fact, with a maximum capacity of three cars, it’s the smallest ferry I’ve ever seen!

I thought the side-mounted porta-potty was a nice touch, and no, I didn’t try it out! There are two cables strung across the river, and the ferry is pulled across along them, via two cables on each side of the boat. One is visible on the right front corner of ferry at the right end of the yellow bar. And here’s one of the connections to the top cable.

We rode over and turned right around and rode back, just because we could, and it was free. Below Scott’s turning the Durango around at the top of the hill, while I inspect the very long metal “tape measure” mounted in the ground beside the ferry approach. I think it shows the water depth…?

You’ll be pleased to know that The Green River Ferry operates every day except Christmas, weather and water conditions permitting.

This whole experience made me smile big for a very long time!

We should do this every thirty years

Scott and I are having a WONDERFUL vacation in celebration of our 30th anniversary.

Yesterday we drove to Paducah, KY with a stop for a picnic lunch in Mansfield, MO. Scott had told me there were no city parks in Mansfield, but we were getting hungry and I said, “all we need is a picnic table, and a potty with it would be a bonus.” Not two minutes later, we came to the Laura Ingalls Wilder place, and when I saw the word “Restrooms” on a building just across the road from that fair establishment, I hit the brakes and pulled in. And beside it was a lone picnic table in dappled sunlight under a massive post oak tree. Very nice.

Paducah must be a record-setting town. In driving one linear mile from our hotel (Courtyard by Marriott; we were not impressed), I actually counted 31 restaurants. We picked Fazoli’s, and in keeping with my decision to eat something new and different at any restaurant where I have a standard “favorite,” I chose Chicken Carbonara, which was very tasty.

This morning we got McDonald’s on the road as we headed toward Mammoth Cave, where we had tickets for the 3:15 Historic Tour. (Note to self: while the Steak, Egg, and Cheese McMuffin is fine, it really can’t compare with the classic Egg McMuffin.)

The cave was truly awesome. Literally. It’s huge. They’ve mapped 400 miles of it! Our tour group was also huge, but by staying close to Ranger Elaine, we were able to ask questions and hear more details. I always love a good tour guide. Fat Man’s Misery was just as tight and claustrophobic as I remembered it from my childhood, but I was able to hike up the 155 steps at a steady pace and without stopping on the landings. I was so proud of myself. Scott was just amazed by the cave, the geology, and the history, and I’m so glad he suggested we go there. We’re staying at a very nice Fairfield Inn in Bowling Green tonight, and as planned, we’re going back to the cave for the Domes and Dripstones Tour in the morning. It’s a good thing Scott bought our cave tickets in advance online; when we got there, the tours we’d signed up for were all sold out.

Ever since we’d seen a bike trail on our way in to the national park, Scott had been wanting to do a bike ride, so when we got out of the cave – very hot and sweaty, even though it had been 54 degrees down there, we changed into shorts and started off from the visitor center, headed toward a cemetery, where we’d decided we would turn around. With my single speed bike, I have to get off and walk if there’s much of an uphill grade at all, and I did that several times. Light was fading, and when I finished walking it to the top of a small rise, we talked about turning around here and heading back. but we had talked about going all the way to Sloan’s Crossing Pond, which a ranger had said was really neat, or at the very least to Furlong Cemetery, so I said, “well, since we’ve come this far, we might as well go on to the cemetery,” (or something very Roberts-ish like that; I have, after all, been a Roberts for 30 years as of this week), so we pressed on, and it just so happens that that was the very point at which the trail began a l-o-n-g downhill. Which I greatly enjoyed. But being a bear of much more than very little brain, and realizing that that meant I’d be pushing my bike back uphill for approximately 17 times as long as it had taken to coast down, I announced that I was turning around. And we did. We both walked up the hill, laughing sweating.

The next part of this story is truly delightful.

To be continued…

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