Illinois –> Indiana –> Ohio –> Kentucky

When we arrived in Illinois, we thought we’d have some events in Kentucky and West Virginia, then we’d end up in Florida and fly home. Well, we’re learning to be flexible. No events had materialized in Kentucky or West Virginia. The first Florida event wasn’t for a couple of weeks. Then we were asked if we’d be okay with flying west and taking over the other trailer in Las Vegas and doing events in California, Oregon, and Washington. Sure! We had a about a week to get the east coast trailer to Florida, where we’d leave it, and then fly to Nevada.

So we plotted out a route that enabled us to see friends and family and visit a tourist site that Dave had wanted to see the last time we were in Indiana.

Saturday, Oct 12 — Our beautiful granddaughter, Ellinor, turned a year old!

We left Sparta and our smoked pork steak and headed for Evansville, Indiana, our stop for the night.  Next to our hotel was a gas station with a very nice gift shop/tourist souvenirs. I bought socks for all the grandkids there. USC was playing Notre Dame, so our goal was to get checked in, in time to watch the game. We made it, but were unable to root USC on to victory. Dave talked to some of the other hotel guests. There were hunters with teams of dogs they kept outside in trailers. And truck drivers driving modified Midget racing cars to races.

We called Ellinor to tell her happy birthday, but she was asleep and her mommy was sick. She woke up later and they called us back, so we did get to see her on her birthday.

Evansville is also where we began requesting rooms on high floors. I think some of the hunters were right above us and they clomped around getting ready to leave at 4:30 AM. We heard every step, every door slam, until they left.

Sunday, Oct. 13 — We left Evansville and Indiana and headed for Cincinnati. We were IMG_0124actually staying in Bellevue, Kentucky, but were meeting a writer friend of mine, Kimberly Duffy, and her family in Cincinnati at Graeter’s, a local place deservedly famous for their hand-crafted, French-style, ice-cream.

Kimberly and I had a great time catching up, since we’d last seen each in Charleston in May, and the men enjoyed talking about food and drink. The Duffys gave us some suggestions for dinner, but also mentioned a local market we should check out. Jungle Jims.

Oh. my.

Imagine a combination Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods/World Market, the size of one and a half Costcos. And it greets you in the parking lot with jungle noises, like Disney’s Jungle Cruise ride. Inside are restaurants (we had gyros for dinner), and the groceries are arranged by country of origin. So if you were making a Moroccan dish, you’d head to the Morocco aisle. We saw products in the Ireland and England aisles that we hadn’t seen outside of those countries. There’s an olive bar. The cheese department is as big as the Ranchos Market back home. Yes, the cheese department is as big as the whole Ranchos Market store. We spent two hours there and didn’t see it all. The cigar humidor had a sign that read No shopping carts inside, which impressed Dave with both its size and prices. No California tobacco taxes.

Who knew foodie heaven was in Cincinnati?

Monday, Oct. 14

We left the trailer at our hotel and drove half an hour south in Kentucky to the Ark Encounter. It’s a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark, built to the dimensions and details given in the Bible. It’s quite amazing and well worth seeing. It’s huge and visiting it really makes the immensity of Noah’s task come alive. Which is the purpose of the whole encounter.

It’s very well done, if a bit “Disney-esque.” The designers put a lot of thought into crowd control and movement. The displays are well done. They’re upfront about what is true, taken from Scripture, and what they’ve taken license with (clothing, what Noah and his

family looked like), and what they believe is correct even though it’s not found in the Bible (how feeding and watering the animals was handled, as well as dealing with their waste).

IMG_1870 2Wherever you fall on the faith spectrum and on the creation vs. evolution debate, the Ark Encounter is worth a visit. They have their definite views and they aren’t shy about promoting it (or dismissing those who disagree or have a differing view). I’m one who doesn’t share their views on everything, but I still found the experience valuable. I’d take my kids and grandkids, but we’d have lots of discussions before, during, and after our visit.

Five and a half hours (and a buffet lunch) later, we headed the half hour back to our hotel and a quiet evening in with Monday Night Football.

Tuesday, Oct. 15

This was a long day of travel. We wanted to spend a couple of days in North Carolina visiting friends there. In order to make that and the Ark Encounter happen, and get to Orlando on time, we had an eight and half hour drive, according to Google Maps. Which would be closer to ten in reality with the trailer. Maybe longer if we ran into weather. So we got an early start. It was a beautiful drive through Kentucky and West Virginia and Virginia. We stopped for an hour in Beckley, WV for lunch and Dave called his usual Tuesday cigar/accountability friends and they did their thing remotely for a while.

The wind was indeed a factor and it was indeed a long day of driving by the time we pulled into Hillsborough, outside of Raleigh. We were too tired to even go find dinner. I had a bag of microwave popcorn in my suitcase from one of our previous hotels, so I called that dinner, with a few other snacks Dave keeps in his backpack for him.

Wednesday, Oct. 16

I spent a couple of hours working, then we checked out and made our way to our friends’, the Carpenters, home. We had permission to leave the trailer at the hotel which made life much easier for the next couple of days. The weather was gray and rainy and chilly, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time.

IMG_1538 2Dave went to high school with both Mike and Vicky and we went to church with them for years in Fresno, until they moved to North Carolina, in 2011. We had a great time seeing their home and business, having lunch, and catching up. They haven’t changed a bit and we picked up like we’d seen them last week.

After saying goodbye to Mike and Vicky, we made our way to Durham and to Bill and Sheana’s home. We went to church with Bill and Sheana in Southern California back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We’ve known them since our girls were little and before they had kids. This was also a great visit! They’ve recently moved into a new home that they designed and the thought and care they put into it is very obvious. They fed us a delicious dinner of authentic Carolina barbecue and we played CatchPhrase after, guys against the gals. We started out strong, but they made an impressive comeback and we ended up tied.

Thursday Oct. 17

After the rain yesterday, today was clear and sunny. We decided to visit the gardens at Duke University and the chapel. The gardens are amazing and lovely. Parts of them reminded me of the gardens at Kylemore Abbey in Ireland, in their layout and beauty.

The chapel is gothic in design, but was built in the early 20th century, even though it appears much older. Inside, it’s lined with stained glass windows depicting Biblical vignettes. We happened to arrive in time to listen to an organist rehearse for a few minutes. Dave talked to the chapel’s … doorkeeper? docent? (he wasn’t giving tours, although there was a tour going on …). Anyway, Dave said playing the organ is turning into a lost art, since churches are moving away organs. He said actually, the manufacturers and tuners are very busy, because there’s a huge demand for organs in stadiums! Which makes sense. They like something loud, to get the crowd energized.

After the visit and the walk, we were ready for lunch. We headed to a local Mediterranean spot Bill and Sheana like. It was absolutely delicious, and we’re kind of picky about our Mediterranean/Armenian food, coming from an area where much of it is excellent and readily available and it’s not uncommon for our Armenian friends to argue about which place makes the better fatoush or pilaf or lahmajun.

Back at the house, Bill and Dave transplanted a few trees, while I did some work and Sheana played the piano. Then we fixed dinner, fish tacos. Sheana asked me what we wanted for a side dish, black beans or corn on the cob. I said beans, and she asked if Dave was okay with beans, given his dietary restrictions. I said yes. What I didn’t say is that beans are more okay than corn. He can never have corn, but he does have beans occasionally. Of course, when we passed the beans at the table, he said, “No, thanks, those will tear me up!” Sigh.

The next morning we had to hit the road early. We had a trailer to pick up and a niece and her family to visit in South Carolina.

To be continued…

Thanks, as always for reading!

Goodbye, Chicago. Hello, Southern Illinois

Wednesday, Oct 9

We checked out of the hotel and drove about an hour to Sandwich, Illinois where we had IMG_5638an event at the local high school, sponsored by Rep. Tom Demmer. He came by, took a tour and spent more than a few minutes with a constituent who showed up specifically to discuss an issue with him. He gave her his full attention for quite a while.

The chief of police stopped by, as did a canine officer. Dave usually does the tours with peace officers and they all enjoy the experience. The canine officer gave us some restaurant suggestions for when we got to Springfield.

We set up in the parking lot and got to listen to the band practice their half time show.

This wasn’t a large attendance event, but we had a few people come through.

We wrapped it up in the early evening, hugged our photographer, Ty, goodbye since this was his last event with us, and headed for Springfield. We had stayed in Springfield back in July when we moved the trailer from Indiana to Minnesota. We’d planned to visit the Lincoln Museum, but had a problem with the trailer that had to be fixed and didn’t have enough time. I planned to rectify that on this visit.

We drove about three hours from Sandwich to Springfield and stayed in the same Staybridge Suites we’d stayed at before.

Thursday, Oct. 10

Our event today is at a Senior Center in Taylorville, about half an hour from Springfield. We had to be there at 9 am, to get set up for our 10 am start time. The senior center was having a health fair inside, like our event in south Chicago earlier in the week. The people were as interested and engaged. One woman shared that her granddaughter’s mother is an addict and has lost custody of her children.

Several people called other friends to come down to the center to see the trailer and take the tour. Taylorville is a small town, obviously impacted by the economic downturn of the last decade. A few of the woman commented that drug abuse has increased as the community has gotten more depressed.

We were supposed to stay until noon, but the seniors were eating lunch at 11:30 and the health fair inside packed up around 11:40, so we followed suit since no one else was going to come for a tour.

We told Heidi goodbye, as she was headed home to Missouri for her daughters’ volleyball games that afternoon. She’s a great colleague and did a fabulous job coordinating our events and helping us with the set up and tear down.

We got permission to leave the trailer in the senior center parking lot, so we unhooked, and headed back to Springfield. We stopped at a Steak ‘n Shake for a quick lunch (a horseshoe, the Springfield specialty of Texas toast/hamburger/fries/cheese sauce that we shared the last time we were there, though this one was much smaller and we finished it), and then I put Lincoln Museum into Google maps.

It started raining on the way and by the time we found the museum, and found parking several blocks away, it was pouring. But we had umbrellas, and shoes, and we don’t melt, so we headed out. We followed signs and passed the old Springfield Courthouse, and stopped to read some historical signs and markers.

Inside the museum, we stowed our dripping umbrellas in the provided plastic bags, paid our entrance fee, got a map/brochure and headed in. Almost. Dave got called back by security. His umbrella was too long and “dangerous,” so he had to check it. Mine was small and compact and safe, so I was deemed not a threat. Finally, we made it inside. We asked a docent for her recommendations of what to see first. She explained the layout. There’s a “log cabin,” you enter and that has displays about Lincoln’s boyhood and life until he was elected to the White House. Then there’s a “White House,” with exhibits about the Civil War, his presidency, assassination, and family. There are also two movies that play every half hour. The movies use very 21st century theatrics and technology and are worth the price of admission. I won’t say any more because I don’t want to give anything away. But … be prepared to go to the Civil War and be transported.

The whole museum is fantastic! I can’t overstate it. It’s high tech without being cold. It’s low tech without being hokey. It makes clear that much of what we know about President Lincoln is colored by his martyrdom at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. That President Lincoln has become a saint to many, instead of a real man with foibles and faults.

In the exhibit that duplicates Lincoln’s body lying in state in Springfield, I didn’t take a picture of the whole display, but a text arrayed around the top began with, “Washington Our Father” (of our Country) and ended with “Lincoln Our Savior” (also of our Country). It’s very moving. There’s a clock with the hands stopped at 7:22, when he died, the morning after he was shot.

We spent several hours in the museum and feel like we saw most everything. Including a man with a long, pointy umbrella. We’re not sure why he got to bring his in … Anyway,  we then dashed across the street to the Lincoln Library. It’s mostly for researchers and academicians, but there is some artwork on the walls and portraits of recipients of the Lincoln Medal.

We walked back to the truck and plugged in Westwoods Lodge Pub & Grill, one of the recommendations of the Sandwich canine officer. He said they had elk and ‘gator and other game meats on the menu and lots of taxidermied animals as decor. Of course, that has “Dave” written all over it, so there was never any question where we were going for dinner.

It was everything we expected and more. Dave took a menu (styled as a newspaper) for a souvenir. We shared an appetizer of fish cakes, made from a non-native invasive Asian carp (their motto: If you can’t beat it, eat it). I had a normal salad, and Dave had deep fried clams and green beans and coleslaw. Everything was very good. He took lots of pictures, talked to the wait staff as well as other diners nearby. The horseshoe there is called the Yeti and is served in a tackle box.

We finally had to leave. Our next event was in Troy, Illinois, a little over an hour away, but we had to stop and get the trailer in Taylorville, making the whole trip closer to two hours. The rain was continuing and once we left Taylorville, it wasn’t too bad. We were on county roads for the first half hour or so, but after we got on the interstate, the rain poured and the winds started howling. It was not a fun hour into Troy. We were both exhausted by the time we got there, about 9 PM. We unloaded quickly and ran inside, but were still more wet than not. But we were there and safe. Which is really all that mattered.

Friday Oct. 11

Our hotel was in Troy but our event was in Collinsville, at a church and we didn’t have to leave Troy until 2, so after we ate breakfast, Dave went to the front desk to ask for a late check-out. I could hear the exchange. He barely got the words out, and the clerk said, “No, that’s not possible.” “Ummm … we’re … Platinum Members. That’s supposed to be one of our perks.” “Subject to availability. We don’t have the availability.” Case closed, end of discussion.

All right then. We went back to our room and took advantage of every minute until the noon check-out time. At noon, we moved to front lobby. I set up my computer and worked for another hour and a half. Dave read, wandered around, loaded our bags into the truck. People came and checked in. Early. Apparently there was availability for early check-ins but not late check-outs.

Finally at 2:00, we left the hotel and made our way to the church where our new Midwest contact, Tony, was waiting. We set up quickly and got ready. It was bitterly cold. I had on layers and a fake down vest under my warmest jacket and still froze. Tony is from Sioux Falls, SD and had left literal freezing temperatures, so he said he hadn’t even brought his cold weather coat. Show off.

We didn’t have a lot of people come through, but as usual, those who did were very impressed. Our last tour of the day was two couples. One of the women is a local mover and shaker who is interested in having us come back for a larger event in the future.

At the appointed time (not even a minute early, I think, although my brain and fingers were frozen, so I might be mistaken), we packed up and hit the road for Sparta, Illinois. It was about an hour away, maybe a bit more, mostly on county highways.

But what a difference from Troy! The desk clerk in Sparta was … effusive is not over the top. She was welcoming but not cloying. There are a few IHG hotels that stick in our heads. Sparta is one. I don’t remember the name of the gal who worked the front desk, but she was great.

We needed dinner, so I looked online for something walkable. A Chinese restaurant, Rice Fries, popped up. We asked the woman at the front desk about it. She pointed out the door and across the parking lot to a strip mall, checked online quickly (because she wasn’t sure if they’d still be open), and assured us we’d get an adequate meal there.

Well. Again. It was. Amazing. Chinese is not my favorite cuisine. And I like buffets even less. As we walked in, I saw the sign: Take all you can eat, but please, eat all you take. So I knew it was a buffet. I pointed out the sign to David, but we were already inside and more or less committed. So we allowed ourselves to be seated, then agreed to take a look at the buffet. If we didn’t like the looks, we’d leave.

It looked okay, so we stayed. Well. Again. And Again. I posted on Facebook that I’m not a Chinese food fan. I mean, I like it fine, but my preferred go-tos are Mexican or Italian. What can I say? I like cheese and fat. And those are available in abundance in both California-style Mexican and Italian. Not so much in Chinese. But the buffet looked fresh, and we were tired (a resounding recommendation, I know) so we stayed.

Good thing. As I said above. Ah. May. Zing. The best Chinese buffet I’ve ever had. And the best Chinese food I’ve had in a very, very long time. Maybe since we moved away from Pasadena and the original Panda Inn (birthplace of Panda Express). So Illinois blog readers!! Listen up! If you’re ever near Sparta, Illinois, please, please go eat at Rice Fries and support this restaurant and its chef. I don’t know who s/he is, but they are very good and deserve any love you can give them.

Saturday, Oct. 12

Our event is in the morning, at a Housing Authority Office. Like all the best local contacts, Tony has been there early, talking to people and figuring out where we need to be. He texts me about where to pull in. He talked to the CEO of the Housing Authority. It just so happens that her son is Chief of Police. So we have permission to park in the street (blocking the street). Yay!

We arrive in plenty of time, get set up, and are ready. A few Housing Authority people come through. Then a few nursing CEU students. Then some neighborhood kids arrive for the free water bottles Tony is giving out.

Overall, it’s a good day! The Housing Authority staff are very enthusiastic about having us. The local legislator arrived and spends some time. It’s warmer than yesterday in Collinsville, so that’s a plus. We can setup on the street, although people are having to walk over damp grass and track the grass into the trailer. I make a mental note to be sure and sweep really, really well before the next event. There’s going to be dried grass all through the trailer. 

Tony and I have a few minutes to chat. Because this is a family event, we talk about family. He says he has 100 first cousins. Yes. Not a typo. One hundred. First Cousins. He says his parents were 1 of 11 or 12 siblings. I ask the first thing that comes to my mind. “Were they Mormon? Or Catholic?” He chuckles. “Catholic. Irish Catholic.”

We chat some more. He received a Traeger smoker for Father’s Day in June. I asked about favorite things he’s smoked so far. (Meatballs!) Hmmm … [I haven’t talked about the PINK PIG yet, have I?? Or did I? In posts about the Iowa State Fair? Note to self: Look up Iowa State Fair posts and blog about the pink pig ASAP]

After we finished up at the Housing Authority, we headed to lunch at a restaurant Dave had looked up/researched earlier. He also asked a police officer who stopped by, about it. A BBQ place, of course. Not too far out of our way, for heading out of Illinois.

Yes. Southside Ribs. It lived up to its reputation. Down home. Good food. I knew

something was different right away. It didn’t take me long to notice one difference right away. There were monitors along the walls, but most of them were set to a rerun of Barnaby Jones, PI, a series from the 1980s. We shared the entree the restaurant is known for: it’s pork steak. We think it’s a cut from the shoulder. Regardless, it was tender and juicy and thoroughly delicious and we enjoyed every bite.

As we headed out of town, I turned on CoPilot and it promptly took us to a new opportunity to scrap off something (like an AC unit) from the top of the trailer. CoPilot: Strike 3. 

On the way, we passed the World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle. It took me a few minutes of navigating to get around the low bridge, but we did make it out of town and scurrying along county highways. We were done in Illinois, but not quite sure what was next …

Stay tuned for … the rest of the story …

 

 

 

Country in the City

Tuesday Oct 1 – Thursday Oct 3, 2019

The day after our event in Monee was October 1 and we had the day “off.” I did my monthly ag reporting job all morning while Dave did his usual trailer fussing/tweaking. I also blogged and we found the workout room. I walked on the treadmill while he rode a stationary recumbent bike. 

Our hotel was in the town of Countryside. It was fairly centrally located to the event venues I was given ahead of time. And it worked out pretty well for the venues I was given later, too. We were on Joliet Road, which is part of Historic Route 66. We also got curious about Joliet Prison. It was not near us, but we considered going there if it would have been open for a tour, or even if it had a gift shop. Alas, the timing didn’t work out for us while we were there. The jail closed in 2002 and has been used in several movies. It hosted a big music festival last summer.

Wednesday, Oct. 2 was the day making us nervous. It was our big “show.” It was the state PhRMA conference. PhRMA is a trade association for about thirty pharmaceutical companies, and is also one of our sponsors/partners for the trailer. Our bosses from DC were also coming. And it was in downtown Chicago at a hotel. We were not sure about driving the truck and trailer downtown during the morning commute. Our local contact suggested getting there about 6:30 am, to get the trailer into position. We had clearance from the hotel to park under a porte cochére outside the convention center entrance.

Dave had made a friend at our hotel, a truck driver he met while having a cigar outside. Bob was from Texas, but he drives all over. He said the best time to go downtown is 4:30 a.m. Dave and I agreed to leave our hotel at 4:30. It was a good decision. We sailed into town with little traffic, found the hotel with only one wrong turn, but were able to quickly correct since there was no traffic to contend with right there. We parked where instructed. We’d been told the hotel staff had been informed about our dimensions and we were assured we’d fit.

We did. Barely. The trailer has two heating/AC units on the roof. One of the units had inches to spare above it, but, yes, we did fit. 

As soon as we parked, we went into the hotel on a hunt for coffee. It was about 5:15 a.m. and nothing was open yet. Of course. Finally, a little before 6:00, the hotel cafe had coffee ready and our DC consultants arrived. We got all set up and then proceeded to wait.

And wait. And wait. IMG_3330

Our bosses arrived around 8:30. We got caught up and I met the big boss for the first time. We’d only spoken on the phone before. A few PhRMA staff came out about 10 a.m. for a tour. They were definitely impressed and promised to tell attendees about us. 

The bosses went into the conference and gave a presentation, and at lunch time, we finally got busy. So, so, busy. We had groups of 8, 10, and I think even one group of 12. The trailer is big, but it’s not that big. At one point we had three tours inside. One just beginning, one in the middle, and one ending. Everyone, as usual, was quite impressed.

We met the consultants we’d be working with in Florida. By 2:00 the stampede had died down and we got to have lunch. The DC consultants brought in Portillo‘s hotdogs, a Chicago specialty. They were very good, with that “snap,” you’ve heard a good hot dog must have. The rest of the afternoon was fairly steady with ebbs and flows. By 6:30, it had mostly stopped and our bosses hit the road back to DC. The wind had also picked up and it was getting quite chilly. We had to stay until 8 pm, but by 7, I was frozen. I went into the conference center, found a place to sit and warm up, and told Dave to come get me if I was needed. He never came, so at 8, I went back out, we loaded up, said good-bye to our DC consultants, and went in search of dinner.

When we’d wandered around the hotel earlier that morning, (it’s on the river which has some beautiful sights).

We’d seen an Irish pub, so we walked there. We shared a Reuben sandwich which was delicious. Since it was so late by the time we left the city, it was again super easy with little traffic. Thank you, Lord! We were exhausted by the time we got to the hotel and our bed.

Thursday, our event was in the early evening, so we spent the day much like Tuesday. I worked, wrapping up a couple of freelance projects. Our presentation was at a soccer field, home to multi-teams of all ages of kids practicing. Our local contact checked it out ahead of time. It was on the south side of downtown Chicago and there was no way we could get the trailer down those narrow streets, so we compromised and brought a popup tent and some of the props from the trailer. It turned out to be a very windy evening and we had zero interest from the watching parents.

Our local contact walked around, passed out flyers, told parents what we had, but still nothing. We had a photographer who was there specifically to take pictures of the “crowds” at the event. I asked a young woman walking by if I could pretend to talk to her for a photo op, but even that was declined. The photographer ended up calling his wife and she got out of the car with their two-year-old, so we could stage some pictures.

We stuck it out to the bitter, windy, cold end before we packed up. For unloading, Dave had had to park the truck in the middle of a narrow street, then we hustled getting everything out. After that, he moved the truck to a school lot around the block. Now we did the same in reverse, told our photographer, his wife and daughter, our consultant, “Thank you!” and headed out. I’d found a restaurant that looked not too far from our hotel for dinner. It had good reviews, so we unhooked the trailer at the hotel and sallied forth once again.

The food was good, if a bit slow to arrive,  which seemed odd, since they weren’t very busy. It was nearly 9:00 by then. I had a raw veggie and cheese appetizer plate while Dave had chicken wings. The employees next gathered in a room nearby with their own dinner plates. Dave commented that there seemed to be a lot of employees for so few customers. We finished eating, paid the tab, and saw an exit out the back, which was closer to where we parked. That’s when we discovered the crowded and very busy pub in the rear of the building, which explained a lot.

We were still bouncing between Google maps and our trucker app, CoPilot. You may remember Google sent us to a very low bridge in Indianapolis, so we tried to use CoPilot. But CoPilot is a lousy app. It just is. I tried to like it. But half of the addresses I put in, it can’t find, so it chooses a random nearby address, or just gives us, “City Center.” That’s not very helpful. And when my phone is hooked into the truck’s display screen, whenever the CoPilot app wants to tell us a direction, it hijacks the radio and won’t return it. We have to manually return to the radio station. I figured out pretty quickly to mute the directions, but still … Anyway, given that we were going to many suburban locations, we made CoPilot our default map app. But then …  Monday. Going to Monee, it sent us to a dead end street. We were able to turn around and find an alternate route, but … Strike 1.

 

 

Chicago! Chicago!

Our first Chicago event was in a small suburban town called Monee. I asked our hotel desk clerk how to pronounce the name of the town. Money? Moany? Mownae? She wasn’t sure, so that was no help. Our event was early evening so we had most of the day to unpack and settle in to the hotel and get our bearings. We went to Target and stocked up on snacks and water for the truck.

I had a couple of hours to work in the afternoon, then we headed to Money. Moany?

We were still using Google for highways, but using the trucker app for towns and cities. Because remember our “adventure” in Indianapolis and the low bridge?? So I had the trucker app open with the Monee address. We were rolling along, lalalalalala … and it told us to turn on to a road that was barricaded. Permanently. No entrance. This was the Indianapolis low bridge situation, but in reverse.

We were able to go past the blocked off road and turn around (no small feat with a 32′ trailer). I closed the trucker app and turned to Google. We were only a few minutes late. Our consultant, Heidi, was waiting for us at the venue. A community center. We knew Heidi from Iowa so that was a quick “Hi-good-to-see-you,” and we set up quickly.

All of the Illinois events were set up in cooperation with local/state/national legislators. This was our first event in several weeks. But we quickly regained our rhythm. I only forgot one drug hiding place on my first tour. But … as we learned in Indiana and Colorado … the local people don’t know exactly what we offer. They don’t know how to publicize the trailer. We had a fairly low turnout, but those who came through were enthusiastic. I had a village trustee and another local official who took the tour. They stopped after the first five minutes so they could tweet/post on social media in an effort to get more people out.

We were about to pack up as a few more people trickled in. I took a small group through at few minutes before the official end. As I was wrapping up at the end of the trailer, David started a new tour at the front. We have a policy of never turning away anyone, but it was already past our official end time. Oh well. We have a mindset that God knows who needs to see this and it’s not our trailer, it’s His. So if David was giving a tour, then the person on the tour needed to be there.

Heidi and I packed up the outside accoutrements. The sun set. We paced. We chatted. David and the woman were still inside the trailer. Heidi and I talked about the Iowa State Fair, where we’d seen each other last. We caught up on all the personal tidbits we knew about each other (her mom loves the outdoor furniture she bought at the fair, by the way).

The woman Dave was giving the tour to finally poked her head out of the door. Whew! But no. She was just checking on her kids in the car. Because we don’t allow anyone under 21 years old to take the tour, she’d left her kids in the car. With supervision, of course. And she checked on them regularly.

By the time she stalked out of the trailer, David was smothering laughter and she was seething. He told Heidi and I later that she’d opened her home to a couple who needed a place to live. They were drug addicts and homeless, but had promised to stay clean while in her home. They didn’t keep their end of the bargain on several issues so she and her husband were forced to ask them to leave.

After the couple left, as she was cleaning out their room, she saw stuff. She didn’t think much about it. As Dave gave her the tour, she’d see something and say, “No! Are you kidding me?” He’d say, “No. This is real.” She’d respond with a story or anecdote of what similar evidence she found when she cleaned up after this couple moved out of her home. It matched what we were showing nearly exactly. It was comical and sad and all too true.

We finished the close-up quickly, told Heidi good-bye and headed back to Countryside. In the meantime, we’d given tours to the local police chief and two of his officers, a village trustee, one of the village employees (Parks & Rec?), and a few parents. All of them were amazed and impressed at what they learned.

All in all, this first event in Monee (Mawnee!) was (in my opinion) successful, even if we didn’t have a large turnout. And even if the local legislator who helped set it up didn’t show up for the event. We talked to people, we educated people, we connected to people.

And that’s what it’s about.

Thanks for reading!

Iowa –> Nebraska –> Colorado

We left Des Moines around 2:00 Monday afternoon. Dave did some errands for the trailer that morning while I worked and then went for a pedicure. I needed some self-care. 😉 We said a last goodbye to Bryan and Cuda at Farm Boy Garage, also breaking down their booth at the fairgrounds. Then we hooked up the trailer and put Des Moines in our rearview mirror. 

We knew we had an event in Julesburg, Colorado on Wednesday, August 21, but that’s all we knew. I emailed the one contact I had for info, we crossed our fingers and headed out for Lincoln, Nebraska, our stop for the night. We’d planned to stop at a trailer/RV place just outside of town that had exhibited at the fair. For more–you guessed it–trailer supplies. By then it was nearly 4:00 so we looked for a place to eat. Kue'dWe hadn’t had lunch yet, so we called it a late lunch/early dinner. I found a place called Kue’d that looked good. It was a bit out of our way, but we weren’t in a hurry.

We shared a salad with burnt ends and it was amazing! The brisket ends were tender and smoky and the salad was very welcome after the 9 days of fried foods at the fair.

So it was almost 5:00 by the time we were truly on the road and headed for Lincoln, Nebraska. We had about two and a half hours to go. This was our first time pulling this new trailer in a new truck. We weren’t sure what to expect. The new trailer’s hitch seemed to be sitting quite a bit lower than the other trailer.

Well.

This trailer pulls much more smoothly. No major swaying, no being buffeted around by the wind, or by trucks passing. It’s a huge difference. I don’t feel my heart in my throat and grip the armrest whenever a vehicle approaches on the left. Dave’s going to see what adjustments he can make to the other trailer when we take that one over again in September.

IMG_2760We arrived in Lincoln about 8:00 and stopped for runzas at a restaurant called Runza’s. I did a little reading on the way and discovered Nebraska’s claim to culinary fame is the runza, which is very similar to what we in the Central Valley call bierocks. They’re a kind of savory meat pie/turnover. I liked it, but Dave didn’t care for the spices in the meat.

We got checked into our hotel just after 8:00, which was unfortunate, because we discovered we’d missed their complimentary Happy Hour of snacks and wine. Someone took pity on our forlorn and bedraggled appearance and gave us a plastic cup of red wine, but the snacks were gone.

Tuesday morning, we had a bit more information about the Colorado schedule for the week, so I made some hotel reservations in Denver since we finally knew where we needed to be when. There are no hotels in Julesburg to speak of, so I made a reservation in Ogallala, Nebraska. That’s about three hours from Lincoln, but half an hour from Julesburg. We took our time again in Lincoln Tuesday morning before heading to Ogallala.

 

The scenery in Iowa and Nebraska is beautiful. Lots of corn. We crossed the Platte River many times. Several different forks of it, I think. According to our atlas, I-80 roughly follows the Oregon National Historic Trail, the California National Historic Trail, the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, and the Pony Express National Historic Trail. Do you see the theme there?

The details of our event in Julesburg were pretty fuzzy. We were told Colorado’s US Senator Cory Gardner would be visiting the trailer between 1:45 and 3, and the trailer would be open until 5. But we weren’t given a beginning time. When I asked, I was told, “umm, maybe, 11?” So we planned to get there around 10:30. We were given cross streets to set up at, but that was it.

When we arrived, we scoped out where we thought would be a good place of the four corners. Then two men joined us. Whew! Someone who knew what was going on. Except where they wanted us to park, there were vehicles in the way. So we compromised and ended up in front of the town hall, which worked just fine.

We got to work unloading the trailer and setting it up, then I walked to the local diner, had a quick lunch and brought a sandwich back for Dave. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on the menu: A Rocky Mountain Oyster sandwich. I knew he would love it. And he did. I did not take a picture of it. You’re welcome.

Our RALI Cares consultants showed up then and took over the set up of the outside display tables and giveaways. A few people came by and we gave tours. Then the senator and his entourage arrived. I started their tour with my usual intro and showed the first few items. Then I started getting the hurry up signals. What!?!? I just got started. But I talked faster. Then I got another signal. Fine. I talked faster and skipped things. Then someone told the senator he had just a few more minutes. So then I was skipping lots of things and giving the highlights. But whew! I guess I finished in time, because then he stood around outside taking pictures, accepting a plaque, and then they left. On the dot of 3:00.

We gave a few more tours. I think we showed the trailer to about 20-some people total. Julesburg is a very small town of around 1200 people. We stayed until 5:00, then packed up. 

The building across from us is the home of the Sedgwick County Economic Development Agency. Several of us were given a tour by the director who has been restoring the building which used to be a bank. Now it houses his offices, as well as some other businesses and offers meeting spaces to local groups and houses a military collection. It’s a really beautiful and amazing old building.

 

When we were done, we were still three hours from Denver. Our new colleagues were arriving the next day around 11:20. We had reservations at a hotel about an hour and a half away. I thought that was a good compromise, rather than driving three hours after IMG_2771an event, or three hours the next morning. So we drove to Fort Morgan, Colorado, to a Comfort Inn, took a quick dip in their pool, and went to bed.

We were up early Thursday morning, and on the road to Denver. We have an event in Greenwood Village on Sunday and two events at the Capitol Monday and Tuesday, although we’re leaving on Monday. So I wanted a hotel midway between those events, and convenient to the airport, since we were picking up our replacements and leaving ourselves.

We got to the hotel in Thornton about 10:30, found a place in their lot to drop off the trailer and then hurried to the airport. We made it just in time to meet our new colleagues, Jeff and Katia. We’re training them today and tomorrow in the trailer, on setting it up, giving tours, hooking it up and unhooking it, as well as driving it. We’ll do Sunday’s event together, then we’ll set up Monday at the Capitol together. We’ll take a bus and a train to the airport and fly home and the trailer will be all theirs.

The adventure continues! Thank you for reading!!

Iowa! They love Corn, Butter, and the Fair!

Monday, August 12 — Friday, August 16, 2019

I feel like a skipping record. It’s been crazy here.

The weekend was pretty busy. Monday was kind of quiet, as was (in hindsight) Tuesday. Dave and our friend and colleague, Steve, gave me Tuesday morning off, so I didn’t get up with Dave at 6 am. I slept until a little after 7, waved goodbye to him at 7:30, and worked in the hotel room until about noon when I headed to the diner next door for a salad for lunch.

I do like Fair Fare, but it’s mostly all fried and I was craving a salad and vegetables. After a healthy lunch, I Ubered to the fairgrounds, and we worked all afternoon.

Wednesday started normally. It was “Older Iowans Day” at the Fair. Steve, our friend and co-worker, was planning to take a few hours off that afternoon for a break and to do laundry. He’s been at the fair since the beginning. He did get his time off, but …

We drive into the fair, set up the trailer. There’s not a lot of set up since the trailer stays in place, but the awning has to be lifted, (Thanks, YouTube!) the stairs/platform put in IMG_2673place, the stanchions with adjustable entrance barriers placed, the generator hooked up so we have lights and AC inside. Once that’s done, one of the guys drives the pickup to a far, far away parking lot and hikes back. As we drove to the fair Wednesday morning, Dave realized he’d left his phone plugged in and charging at the hotel. So after the setup, he went to get his phone, parked, and hiked in.

It was a warm day. He was walking fast. He has A-Fib, kinda-sorta-not-really controlled by medication. (He and his cardiologist are planning a cardioversion procedure to correct it as soon as we’re off the road.) As he was walking, he felt the A-Fib kick in. His heart started fluttering.

When he got to the trailer, he sat for a few minutes. The fluttering didn’t go away, so while Steve gave a tour, Dave and I walked (slowly) to the First Aid tent for a BP check. (I tell you–it’s always something with us! But spoiler alert–everything is fine!!) The paramedics at the tent did a BP check. It was high. We discussed his options. He decided to go to the ER. Just to be safe. The concern with A-Fib is a stroke. The fluttering and uneven heart beat can make blood clots that travel along and cause strokes.

So he stayed at the First Aid room while a very nice fireman gave me a ride in a golf cart back to the trailer. Steve was in the middle of another tour, so I traded places with him. (Dave needed to talk to him before he left in an ambulance for the ER.) The fireman took Steve back to First Aid. The plan was I’d finish the tour, grab my purse, walk to First Aid and go to the ER with Dave while Steve came back to handle the trailer tours.

Except the ambulance arrived before I finished the tour. (Kudos to Des Moines EMS! They are on it!!) It looked like Dave was going to be long gone before I got back to First Aid.

But … the ambulance personnel, the First Aid paramedics, and Dave (who was an EMT when he was on the job) talked. By then, some time had passed, he’d cooled off (it was another hot and humid day–don’t forget we’re Californians! We’re not used to this humidity!) He felt better. So he decided to skip the hospital. He came back to the trailer. He sat in the shade. Took it easy. Within another hour or so, he felt normal again. Steve took his afternoon off. Whew! So that was our Wednesday. And it was pretty busy. Lots of Older Iowans came to the Fair!

Thursday was our busiest day yet! But when it started, we didn’t know it would be. We knew it was Legislator Day. So we expected a few state politicians and the filming/media crew. Side note: After our first day on Saturday, Dave had me order some counter/clickers so we could track numbers. The people in front of the trailer who are giving away tote bags and drug deactivation/disposal kits were estimating the number of people they contacted. We made hash marks on a note pad. As crew “boss” Dave decided we needed more than estimates, so I ordered clickers on Amazon and had them delivered to us at the hotel. Tuesday and Wednesday we gave tours to between 50 and 60 people. The RALI people contacted several hundred people and gave away that many tote bags and drug neutralizing kits.

The plan for Thursday was that after our morning set up, Dave would leave, come back to the hotel, do laundry and have his morning off. Which is what happened. For him.

For Steve and me … a totally different story.

We worked non-stop. By the end of the day, we’d given tours to double the number of people the other days. 110. Those other days, there were three of us giving tours. The majority of Thursday, it was two of us. It wasn’t Dave’s fault he was gone. We had no idea it would be so busy.

Several state legislators came through. I gave a tour to Ann Meyer. She was very attentive and definitely sees the value and importance of what we’re doing. Once David got there, he was all in. He did a lot of the tours and let me rest.

I’m writing this Friday evening. We thought today would be busy, because the fair ends Sunday. We’re into the final weekend. But today was like Monday or Tuesday. We may not have even reached 50 people touring the trailer. Like I said–Crazy!!

Since I was exhausted last night, Dave let me sleep again this morning. I woke before he left, then worked a few hours. Yesterday was the 15th and I have some mid-month stuff to do, so I took care of that this morning, and summoned an Uber ride. I told my driver

IMG_2680
Cuda, the dog who belongs to the booth across the walkway from us. She’s a sweetheart and when I need a doggie-fix and a break from the drug stuff, I go rub her nose and give her some love. But she gives me back even more.

what I was doing at the fair, and–I heard it in her voice–she connected immediately. She said her mom was always straight edge, a non-drinker, no drugs. Until she had hip surgery and was prescribed OxyContin. She got hooked and now she’s an addict. My driver said because of that she personally won’t take anything stronger than Tylenol.

There’s another drug education trailer at the fair and Dave visited it earlier this week. It’s put on by Iowa narcotics enforcement people. When I arrived this morning, I went to the other trailer for their tour. It’s similar to ours, in that it’s a mock teenager’s bedroom. It’s different from ours in that it’s messy (so more realistic, LOL). It also shows secret “codes” that signal drug use between users. That was interesting to learn. There’s some overlap, for sure. The officer giving me the tour handed me a personal safe, thinking he’d “teach” me something, but I twisted it apart because I knew what it was and showed him what it concealed instead of vice versa.

The rest of the day passed pretty quickly. We traded off giving tours. We’re still astounded how quiet it was for a Friday. But we’re also grateful. We were back in the hotel by 8:00, looking forward to a good night’s sleep so we’re ready for the last two days.

Next up when I have a few minutes: Fair Fare (the food!) and other impressions of Iowa: the fair, the people, the weather, etc. And the people who come through the trailers.

One of the tour “points” we make is that addicts use spoons to heat/liquify their drug. A mom today said she’s missing spoons in her kitchen …

This. Is. Real.