Mike continued his trek across the middle of the continental United States. He stopped in North Platte, NE to visit his cousins. He always enjoys his time on their farm. His weekend visit wasn't nearly long enough.
The next night he stopped in Edina, MO to overnight with a retired Navy cohort. Dudley came into our life via our good friend/best man/former roomie/Navy coworker "Knobs". The two of them use to visit in Neenah, WI, where they would mooch a place to stay and eat our food while attending the EAA Air Show in Oshkosh. All that we got out of it was a week of delightful entertainment, war stories (which improved with each night and/or every sip of Scotch), and an endearing friendship. I promised on their very first visit - they were welcome to stay but be advised - for breakfast I set up the coffee pot - mas nada. We were a Bed-No Breakfast. They've never let us live down leaving them without a place to stay for free... and it was only fair that Mike mooch a meal and a bed of his own on this trek.
The following day Krieg flew out at 7am for Milwaukee via Phoenix. Erin and I flew out at 11am via Chicago for Milwaukee. Matt, Brit and Taten arrived the next day by way of Denver. My sister drove up from Chicago and her family followed. It was so neat to have everyone together at my folks - my mother wouldn't stop grinning!
My parent's 50th wedding anniversary party went very well. We had approximately 100 guests - family & friends. I saw cousins from both sides of the family - some I haven't seen since we left Wisconsin in 2001.
Joe, Lauren, Kevin, Mackenzie & Nicole
My nieces are involved in 4H. They volunteer at a local "farm" working with youth in summer camps, etc. They were hatching duck eggs for a 4H project. This particular weekend the eggs hatched, producing 3 ducklings - Peking, Daphne and Afleck (who wouldn't hush). They were cute. I'm grateful we raised domestic cats and dogs in our household. As you might imagine, ducklings need to eat - and my sister knows how to show me a good time - we drove for chicken mash - finding a feed store, not in a rural suburb where you might expect, but much closer to downtown in a very low rent urban area. Who buys ducklings, chicks and baby bunnies and what are they doing with them? So many different types of feed - right smack in this neighborhood.
Taten meets Peking Duck
Our youngest was only in Wisconsin for the weekend. We took advantage of the trip to Milwaukee for a family tour through the Harley Davidson Museum. What a treat. One of Erin's Neenah High School classmates works for HD and gave us a personal tour. Thank you Eric! Her high school best friend Sarah drove to Milwaukee with her husband to meet us. It was a special reunion for Erin, who hasn't seen any of her classmates since graduation in 2001.
Krieg flew back to Boise, arriving about 11:30pm, repacking and the next morning flew to Sitka, AK for his summer job salmon fishing.
Harley Davidson Museum
Our time in Wisconsin/Illinois included my niece's 8th grade graduation, celebrated by mass and a graduation party to honor Nicole and my nephew Kevin's high school graduation (and two of his cousins). My sister's in-laws are a large group, but when you throw in adult friends, 8th grade friends, high school friends and family you have a crowd!
With grads Kevin & Nicole
Taten slides with "Lola" Lauren
Matthew & Britnee celebrated their 3rd wedding anniversary by staying in my sister & brother-in-law's condo downtown Chicago. It's conveniently located just two blocks from Navy Pier, very close to Lake Shore Drive. The day we took them down, we toured Shedd Aquarium and had lunch at Navy Pier. Matt & Brit took advantage of the location and walked to museums, Navy Pier and Millenium Park and even checked out some art exhibits on the street. At one point on the "EL" train, they found themselves just a bit outside of their comfort level and decided to get off. Matt overhead another passenger saying "that white boy is crazy"... it was then Matt decided they would walk 'til they saw Lake Michigan or another white person' and only then would they stop and check their map. He's not prejudice - just cautious. It was an adventure.
Lunch on Navy Pier
View from the Condo
Not to be outdone by Matt & Brit's "country mouse in the city" tales, I successfully managed to find the alternate route on nearly every trip we took in the car. We traveled 'off the beaten path' more often then I care to think about. Thank goodness for unlimited mileage. Map shmap... we had GPS on Erin's phone... which we learned needed an upgrade to give accurate directions. On the other hand I may have discovered a neighborhood that actually bought those baby chicks to accomodate the general populus who gathered at the multitude of fried chicken eateries.
This was Taten's first airplane trip and he was a trooper. He loved the airplane - I wish I could show you his arms in the air making an imaginary airplane fly across the sky and make a whooshing noise. He endured hundreds of miles in the back of our rental van and kept his complaints to a minimum. Tate did great meeting all of his new family and won over everyone's hearts.
Taten with Denie & Granpas (the Greats)
Sadly our time with my family came to an end after our second weekend. We left my sister's family behind in Chicago and spent one more night in Wisconsin with my folks. Matthew was blessed with the opportunity to learn a few woodworking skills from Granpas - and Taten now has a new wooden plane made especially for him by his daddy's own hands (and Granpas watchful eyes).
Matt gets woodworking lesson
Mike's time in Wisconsin/Illinois wound down earlier in the week. He rode on to Barnesville, OH where he stayed two nights with my former Navy Yeoman Senior Chief Flip Turner. Flip lost his wife a couple of years ago. They did some local bike trips to see the countryside.
Enroute to Pennsylvania Mike gave in to the 'off' feelings he was experiencing and stopped at an hospital ER in Somerset, PA to be checked out. Needless to say he was admitted and spent five days with the hospital staff on the cardiac ward. He again was having the a-fib with his heart. For those who don't want to 'google' a-fib and don't know what it is, the two upper sections of the heart have to work harder to clear the blood - putting him at risk for a stroke. He is once more on cumadin and his heart meds were increased.
Mike insisted it wasn't necessary for us to come to Pennsylvania and didn't tell us the doctor wanted him to fly home until AFTER he was discharged and on his bike again. At that point we just had to know the good Lord was looking out after him.
Mike continued on to Carlisle where he spent two days in the home of our friend Ed, a Navy veteran who had a stroke in November. Ed's not doing well and in a care facility, soon to be transferred five hours from home to a VA hospital. It was important for Mike to stop and spend some time with him.
Unfortunately the time in the hospital put Mike behind his desired schedule. The doctor's wishes for Mike to get home soonest rerouted Mike home instead of Texas through Tennessee and Georgia as he had hoped. I'm sure he'll find a way to get to Tennessee to visit with some of his mom's kin (and do some genealogy research) as well as visit TJ in Georgia. TJ is the gentleman who took Mike to medical care after Mike was in an airplane crash years ago. We still keep in touch.
Mike's return trip was much more direct. He overnighted back in Orland Park, IL with my sister's family and then again in Hershey, NE with his cousins. Last night he arrived on our doorstep about 9:30pm after riding approximately 966 miles in a day. I suggested he make a loop around the county for the extra 44 miles so he could go in the "Iron Butt" record book as having ridden 1000 miles in a 24 hour period but alas, he opted to remain out of the record book this go around.
It's hard to believe all of our planning and our big family trip has come and gone. It was so much fun to spend time with my sister and her family. I see even less of my little brother so I appreciated his time with us too. My parents are healthy and I know there will be more visits but I wish we there were not so many miles between us all.
I'm sad to think how long it may be before we have the opportunity to vacation together again with our own family. It definitely becomes more of a challenge when we all have our own routines.
I will just have to start planning the next big adventure!