“Where do you want to go today?” “I don’t know. I suppose the usual.”

After that in-depth planning session, Ted and I set off on our regular 15-16 mile bike ride that we call “the perimeter route.” We’ve biked this route at least twice weekly all summer, and it gets old. We take the outermost roads of 10 adjoining subdivisions, including ours, plus a few odd streets, just for the fun of it. The arrow points to our driveway, the starting point.

And yet, even on an old, familiar route, new things can happen. For example, one of the homeowners put out a cute display of rubber duckies. The big duck has a minion on its back.

Even better, we met someone. There’s a man along our route who waves at us every time we pass his house. He apparently sits on his front porch as often as we bike that route. The last time we saw him, I told Ted that if he’s outside the next time we ride by, I’m going to introduce myself and ask his name so we’ll both know whom we’re waving to.

The friendly man was outside working in his front yard this afternoon, so we stopped to introduce ourselves. He’s Floyd. Floyd Cline. Shocking! As soon as he said “Floyd” a little bell started going off in my head and when he added “Cline,” I recognized the house. He’s the father of Carrie Cline, one of Kathy’s best friends from her K-12 school years, and of Harvey Cline, who was in Kari’s grade. His response to us was “Are you the Schroeders? Do you still live on the corner in Park Charles?” Yes, and yes. We haven’t seen each other since Carrie and Kathy graduated from high school in 1991, so neither of us recognized the other. We spent some time chatting and catching up on what we and our kids are doing. Then Floyd went back to work in his yard and we continued on our bike ride.

Even when we ride the same old bike route, we have new adventures. The fun never ends.

I enjoyed listening to my favorite playlists on my iPod last April as I sewed face masks for Ted and myself. When I finished sewing, I cleaned up the project room and put everything away. Somewhere between the project room where I was listening to my iPod and the box in the kitchen where we keep our iPods and our device chargers, I lost my iPod.

It was unbelievable! Where could it go between (almost) literally, the top of the stairs and the bottom of the stairs???? Ted and I searched everywhere we could think of that he or I might have set it and then we searched in places that we were unlikely to set it. We looked under and behind furniture, in drawers, and in places I don’t remember throughout the house. No iPod.

When I went back to the project room to sew more masks for the family, I listened to music from Ted’s iPod. It was fine. The world kept turning. The sun kept shining. But it drove me crazy because I knew my iPod had to be somewhere in the house, and I couldn’t find it!

Tonight, I decided to change placemats for dinner because I’m tired of using the ones I’ve had out this week. I usually stack them on the shelf in pairs so I can grab two matching ones for Ted and me, but the blue ones I wanted were separated by several other place mats. I had to take the entire stack of placemats off the top shelf of the pantry so I could re-arrange them in pairs. When I got down to the blue one I wanted, I found my iPod! The battery was dead, but it’s rechargeable.

I was pretty excited about finding my iPod, but now it’s driving me crazy how, on its way from the project room to the charger box, it got stuck between the place mats on the top shelf of the pantry. 2020 is a weird year in so many ways!

Since we’re biking so much this year, Ted and I decided we should set a goal to ride all of the Katy Trail from its beginning to some point westward. We couldn’t ride the last two miles to the beginning of the trail due to trail repair, but we’ve now gone 44 miles from that point westward–and back, of course, for 44 more miles because there is no shuttle service to return us to our car. The entire trail (Machens where the trail is being repaired to Clinton near Kansas City) is 238 miles. There’s an organized 5-day summer bike ride from Clinton to St. Charles every year. Except this year, of course.

Today’s Katy ride was a fill-in to cover the 15 miles between the Busch Greenway and the St. Charles trailheads that Ted and I had not biked. It was another route with variety: river views, limestone river bluffs, farmland, subdivisions, and the big city of St. Charles.

We entered the Katy at the Busch Greenway trailhead and headed east. The first iconic trailhead depot we saw was Greens Bottom Road. I’ve always thought Greens Bottom was an interesting name. A shorter trail leaves the Katy at this point and goes to Greens Bottom Lake. We’ll try that route on another day. This depot is located on a very long, shade-free stretch of the Katy. It was hot today (mid-90s), so Ted and I were glad to get back into the shade of the river bluffs and the trees.

Suddenly, the views became citified. Here’s the St. Charles Family Arena where Ted and I saw performances by B.B. King and Frankie Valli.

It was fun to zip through this little tunnel / underpass. The trail must be more level along this 15-mile stretch than others we’ve biked because our average speed at the end of the ride was 15+ mph and it’s usually closer to 13+. We really moved along today. As Kari once pointed out, the Katy is a fairly easy ride, but you never stop pedaling. There are no steep hills to climb–and, therefore, none to coast down.

Here we are at the entrance to Frontier Park in St. Charles. It’s the Lewis and Clark (and dog) statue.

I’m glad we decided to bike from the Busch Greenway to St. Charles instead of going in the other direction. Frontier Park was a nice place to rest for a little while before we turned around for the second half of our ride. We enjoyed the shade and the peacefulness of the park and the Missouri River view. At the Busch trailhead, there’s nothing but a single park bench alongside the trail.

The river is low because the rain turned off about three weeks ago. After record rainfall all year, the weather has been very dry. The rivers were unusually high all summer until recently. Look at the opposite bank in the photo below. You can see a large log the river deposited at the top of the bank (center), as well as the grooves cut into the bank delineating the recent dropping of the water level to where it is now.

We biked the entire length of Frontier Park to the bandstand, our past starting point for our incompleted ride to the beginning of the trail at Machens. (Two miles to go after that section is re-opened.)

The river is low enough for the breakwaters to be visible. Some people are taking advantage of that to do some fishing.

We turned around and headed back through the park for our return trip.

Here’s the St. Charles trailhead marker for this entrance to the Katy Trail.

Just outside of Frontier Park, it’s a pretty ride between the trees on the riverbank and the original railroad tracks.

We biked past the Creve Couer trailhead that goes up to MO Hwy 364, which crosses the Missouri River. There’s a bike lane on the outside of the bridge that connects the Katy Trail to the Centennial Greenway in St. Louis County. That’s a greenway Ted and I want to ride–hopefully, sometime this fall.

There’s a similar bridge / bike crossing at the I-64 bridge that connects the Katy trail with the Monarch Levee trail in St. Louis County, another place Ted and I want to bike this fall. The Monarch Levee was the most severe of the levee failures during the Great Flood of 1993. That levee failure put the Chesterfield Valley under 20+ feet of water. Some damage to trees is still visible.

Yup. My bike looks like I rode it thirty miles on the Katy Trail. I have a clean-up job on my agenda.

But before we clean the bikes (lower right corner of the photo), Ted and I need to cool off in the pool. It was another great bike ride.

My readers know that Ted and I have been doing a lot of biking this year. We like biking on the greenways and on the bike trails, but most of the time we bike around our neighborhood. People along our most frequent route recognize us and one guy calls us his “neighborhood bikers.” It’s easy to put on 10-20 miles without crossing a major secondary road or a highway, but some variety would be fun. Kari and Dylan agreed, so we decided to bike each other’s routes for a change of scenery.

Last week, I went biking with Dylan. It was nice to ride through McNair Park, go into downtown St. Charles, and ride along the Missouri River instead of seeing the same old, same old on my usual rides. His route has a lot of hills. The original name of St. Charles wasn’t Les Petite CĂ´tes (The Little Hills) for nothing.

In exchange, Kari and Dylan came over to check out our route. It, too, has a lot of hills. That’s why Ted and I like our ebikes so much. Although our route has a limited variety of scenery, it goes through ten subdivisions circling ours and includes a Sikh Temple.

We all agreed that the change of route and scenery was fun. Kari has biked the Dardenne Greenway with us, and she suggested we ride there next time. Dylan hasn’t been on that greenway yet and we all think he’d enjoy it. Until then, here are the happy biking buddies. Notice that Dylan is now taller than I am. That leaves only Teddy and Sefton still shorter than their grandma.

This sad story begins on July 29, 2020–the day I took the picture below.

Ted and I noticed lots of leaves dropping from our sugar maple tree in July. When we looked up, we saw that the leaves on some of the branches were turning brown–not something we expected during mid-summer, especially with all the rain we’ve had this year. If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see some of the leaves turning brown. I took a picture of the tree right away so I’d have a good memory of it before it got worse. So many leaves dropped so quickly (below), Ted had to rake the lawn before mowing it.

We called Russ, an arborist, who diagnosed the tree as fatally ill with a wilt disease and probably some weaknesses resulting from storm damage (ice, wind) several times over the years. While he was talking with us, leaves fell like large brown snowflakes. Russ said he’d never seen a tree deteriorate that fast. Because of all the tree removals he had already scheduled, Russ’s company couldn’t come until yesterday. I guess it isn’t my imagination that wherever I go this year, someone seems to be taking down mature trees.

The tree removal crew showed up right after 6:30 a.m. and got to work. They powered up the cherry-picker and Doug climbed in, took it up, and fastened pulleys in upper branches of the tree. Then he strung rope through the pulleys for the guys below to pull, guiding the branches safely down. (See the guy in the center of the picture.) Sometimes the guy pulling the rope would walk it around the tree’s trunk to wind it tighter and keep it from slipping when a large branch fell. Compare how the tree looks to only 35 days ago in the first picture.

Notice what a pretty color the leaves have turned (below). I called the arborist two days ago to ask if there’s a chance the tree will live because it’s so nicely colored. Unfortunately, he said, that’s a definite sign it’s dying because the other maples in the area are not even beginning to show fall colors. As cut branches fell, the dead leaves created colorful showers.

When the branches from the driveway side of the tree were stripped, one of the guys re-wound the rope in the rope-holder bucket. I wondered why he was doing that. Didn’t they need to use the rope to safely bring down the branches on the other two-thirds of the tree? They picked up some of the larger branches and laid them out as shown below. Ted suggested that maybe they were going to build a little fort. Instead, they sat on the branches and had a smoke break.

When Doug moved the traffic cones to block the street in front of the tree and then cut out a wedge at the base of the tree on the street side, the light dawned on me: they were planning to drop the rest of the tree across the street. They only cut off the other branches to avoid damage to our driveway and other plantings. Notice the split down the trunk where the tree twisted from wind storms and from the weight of ice storms over the years. In the picture below, Doug’s chainsaw is nearly all the way through the base of the trunk. Going . . . going . . . going . . .


And it’s over. The log “fort” was a bridge to cushion the blow of the tree hitting the ground. I have to admit that I got a little bit choked up when the tree fell. This was one of the first of three trees we planted in our yard in 1980. At one point, for some unremembered reason, we talked about removing it, but Jeff pleaded with us to keep it because it was his favorite tree. Doug estimated the height of the tree at 50-55 feet. So sad.

The tree also landed right on the wedge Doug cut. He told me that was unintentional.

The guys got to work, cutting the fallen tree into manageable pieces, then hauling them to the mulcher. Doug, on the left, is the senior member of the team; the guy on the right is the junior member. He wasn’t allowed to use a chainsaw and was limited to picking up branches, feeding them into the mulcher, re-winding the rope, raking leaves, etc. The guy in the middle helped with everything except getting into the cherry picker bucket.

Things were going well until they weren’t. Doug smelled diesel fuel and found a leak in the pump line. The guys shut down the mulcher and had a little conference. Turning off the motor stopped the leak. It also stopped the work. The crew quickly covered the leaked fuel with sawdust and leaves to absorb it. The two junior members of the crew took the mulcher back to home base to exchange it for a working model. That took about 90 minutes. Doug had to stay with the tree because it was still blocking the road and wasn’t completely cleaned up. (Safety and liability, I assume.) You can see the pile of leaves and sawdust in the road. It looks inert, but it’s busily absorbing diesel fuel.

Break time while we wait for a different mulcher.

Our lilac tree also died this year and Ted recently uprooted it. I asked Doug if he’d mind running the lilac tree through his mulcher. He told us to bring it out. It looks so small compared to the sugar maple.

While waiting for the replacement mulcher, Doug got to work on the magnolia tree. Because it grew in the shadow of the sugar maple, the side next to the sugar maple didn’t fill out as well as the side next to the driveway. Doug evened it out. He took the cherry picker up for a bird’s eye view of the tree’s shape and then he went to work.

The tree is smaller now and Doug said it won’t bloom next year, but it should grow faster and more evenly since it now stands alone.

The clean-up work resumed when the guys came back with a working mulcher. They totally cleaned up our lawn and the street and even went across the street to clean up Jim’s lawn and driveway where a lot of leaves had fallen.

When they left, this is all we had of the tree. They told us the crew with the forklift would probably arrive later today, and definitely this week. They were here in less than 30 minutes.

The tree company has a good thing going. Their trucks advertise they they also sell firewood and mulch. They charged us to take down the tree, then they took away a truckload of mulch from shredding all the branches, and now they’re taking away big logs that will make firewood for them to sell. It’s kind of a commercial version of The Giving Tree. Hopefully, this contributes to reducing the cost of tree removal.

Here goes some of the firewood-to-be on the forklift. Up on the fork, then down into the truck.

The guys cut the stump lower for grinding (stump grinder approaching from the left) and that’s when I saw what an interesting shape the tree trunk had.

The stump grinder guy needs lots of patience. The equipment moves very slowly into position. The blade is speedy, but he has to move it slowly over the upper edge of the trunk, then slowly back, then drop it a bit, and then repeat–over and over until he gets all the way through the stump. It took him about 30 minutes to grind our stump. It looked like a boring, but dangerous job. When he finished, he very slowly directed the machine back to his truck.

The forklift returned to the scene of the damage to pick up the piles of mulch created by the stump grinder. From the stump, into the truck, and then for sale as mulch.

The guys raked everything smooth before they left. You can see our neighbor, Jim, watching the fun from his garage.

When the yard, the street, and the neighbors’ yards were clean, the crews left this for us.

Here’s our new look.

While the tree crews were working, Ted and I were sitting in the driveway watching them. Neighbors and strangers stopped to tell us how sorry they were to see this tree go. Several mentioned what a beautiful tree it was and how much they’ve enjoyed it every fall. One lady even said she always thought the fall colors of the tree perfectly complemented our house. After 40 years of watching our sugar maple grow and turn color, we’ll never see it again. I’m glad I took this October picture last year.

Yesterday was Sky’s birthday. He invited us to join him and the family for dinner and the evening. What do you buy a 17-year-old boy? Sky sent us a list of things he likes and–surprise!–that’s what we bought for him.

We had a delicious dinner followed by birthday cake made and frosted by Sky and June. Kari cut a piece of cake to hold the candles so that when Sky blew them out and possibly spread germs and spit on the cake, the rest of us would be COVID-safe. She couldn’t get all the candles on one piece, so she had to cut another.

The closely-spaced candles created quite a blaze of light. The spacing also made it easy to blow them all out on the first try. When Sky took the candles out to eat the cake, it looked like it was perforated to break into small pieces.

The evening included a tour of Sky’s room and his presentation of the new computer he received for his birthday. He says a full PC set-up will make his online school work easier to do than a Chromebook or a laptop. There’s a definite theme to his room. Check out the background picture on the PC monitor and items on the shelves. Sky explained that the bed is messy because the table on which he keeps all those items was pressed into service for dinner.

We finished the evening with two rounds of “Between Two Castles,” a board game of Dylan’s in which players help design castles for Mad King Ludwig. It was fun and easy to learn.

Here’s our almost-all-grown-up grandson. Happy birthday, Sky.

I was looking for a photo and found this while I browsed. It’s from Christmas 2003 and I think all that green stuff was from Kathy and Annette. Go Pack!

My Aunt Ruth spends a lot of time on the internet and finds a lot of funny cartoons. I enjoy seeing and sharing them. Read on, smile, and maybe even laugh out loud.

Here are some COVID-themed smiles.

Correction: That “tiger” is a heifer, not a cow (not fully grown, no udder) but I guess the photographer didn’t know the difference. Here’s some non-COVID humor.

I saved the best for last. This is my favorite.

Kari generously shares the fruits of her garden with us, usually in one of her produce bags. She said she bought the bags at the grocery store and uses them when she buys produce, rather than putting it in a store-provided plastic bag. I thought it would be great to have bags of my own, but I couldn’t find them at the grocery stores. Enter online shopping. The bags just arrived and I’m a happy customer.

USA Today reported that a pilot from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) was using a drone to map shoreline erosion on Lake Michigan when he began having reception problems. He pressed the button to recall the drone and his video feed showed the $950 drone coming back to him when its propeller suddenly came off and the drone dropped from 22 mph to 10 mph before plummeting into the lake.

The pilot spotted the culprit: a bald eagle “flying from the scene of the crime.” The motive for the attack is unknown, but the leading theories are territorial disputes and hunger. EGLE reported there is little that can be done legally about the attack because the Michigan Department of Natural Resources “has no mechanism or authority to issue corrective action notices against wildlife.” The good news is that Michigan has a thriving bald eagle population. There were only 79 nesting sites in the 1970s. That number grew to 849 in 2019.

The pilot was unable to find the fallen drone, and reported it is “resting comfortably” on the bottom of the lake. State Representative Beau LaFave tweeted the following:

Ted and I finally went more than 20 miles from home! Yippie! We drove to Kirksville to spend a day with Kathy and Annette. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we had a nice drive and a wonderful day together.

We had lunch at the house and then headed for Santa Fe Lake and spent the afternoon there. There were a few other people at the lake, but they were all watching their children play in the sandy beach area and on the raft which has a great slide. Splash!

Later in the afternoon, a group came to celebrate a birthday in the pavilion. We saw them cutting and passing the cake around, but they didn’t offer any to us.

Annette and Ted took the first turn paddling the kayak around the lake. It was about a 45-minute circuit, but the timing depends on the paddlers’ moods. Shall we just stop and admire this view for awhile? Shall we follow the shoreline all the way or cut across this little cove?

Luckily, there was a lookout posted to spot Kathy and me when we returned to the pier.

Annette pulled us up on the shore to stabilize the kayak before we climbed out.

The girls packed an ice chest full of snacks. We all agreed that for some unknown reason, being on the water always makes us hungry. There was plenty of food, so no one had to go hungry. Whew!

We had a pizza dinner at the house and some more visiting time, before Ted and I headed home. After being home for six months, it was wonderful to escape for a day!

I thought I was finished with my Family Mask Project, but it returned due to popular demand. Jeff saw my blog post about the masks I’ve made and asked if I’d make some for him, La, and Kyra. Well, of course I will!

I bought some more fabric, got approval from Jeff’s family for six of the seven fabrics I chose, and went to work.

The results? See below.

Today, as Ted and I were biking on the Katy Trail, my bicycle odometer turned to 1,000 miles.

That’s 1,000 miles since I got the bike on August 28, 2019. My next goal: 1,000 miles in 2020. I have only 364 miles to go.

I’ve had bikes on my mind (see previous posts)–probably because Ted and I have been biking so much during the past six months of our COVID-limited activities. Our recent bike activity reminded me that Ted and I have always biked, and I remembered a picture from October 1972. Jeff is eight months old and is already a bicycling veteran. After Kathy was born the following spring and was able to sit, we bought a matching baby bike seat for her and mounted it on my bike.

Compared to today’s baby bike seats and baby bike helmets, this doesn’t look very safe, does it? No helmet for Ted (or me) at that time either.

I made a few face masks for Ted and me and for Kathy, Annette, Kari, and Teddy in early April. In mid-June, when COVID-19 case numbers started spiking following the Memorial Day holiday, it became apparent that we’d be needing face masks for more than a few weeks. I decided to embark on a Family Mask Project as my contribution to fighting COVID-19. My previous recipients were happy to have me make more masks for them so they wouldn’t have to wash theirs so frequently.

Finding fabric was never a problem, but I couldn’t find interfacing, thread, or elastic in April and had to use what I had in stock at home. I had a large box of leftover thread from previous sewing projects, two yards of sheerweight interfacing, and a few yards of elastic on hand. When the elastic ran out, I substituted wide rubber bands for ear bands. The number of masks I made was limited to the yardage of interfacing I had. By late June, the supply chain was catching up to demand. I found elastic and interfacing online, bought some more fabric, and returned to my box of leftover thread.

I love my project room. I extended my table to its full length and spread out my supplies and work area. It was handy to leave everything in place between sewing sessions and not have to pick up the mess because I needed the space.

See how handy the ironing board is to the table? One day, I reached across the ironing board to place an ironed mask on the table and bumped my inner left arm on the iron. Ouch! According to the internet, irons reach 400 degrees. It was a bad burn, but is healing well. After that, every time I picked up the iron–even weeks later–the burned spot actually tingled in fear of repeating that experience.

I bought a variety of fabric patterns, sent photos of swatches, and asked everyone to make their choices.

My total mask output from April through today was 92 masks. Ted’s and mine are already put away and some of Kari’s family supply has been delivered. These additional masks are ready for distribution. Sky and Dylan chose black; Kari and Teddy have the blue piles; and the other two piles are for Kathy and Annette. I’ll deliver those when we visit Kirksville August 22.

I enjoyed having a sewing project and I really got to know my new (?) sewing machine. The machine is three years old, but I’ve used it mostly for minor mending. The Family Mask Project taught me that my sewing machine has some very nice features. I’ll have to think of other things to sew so that I can use it more often.

As Ted and I left for an evening bike ride, we noticed a thundershower (TRW) east of our neighborhood. The anvil cloud was stunning.

Simon Cowell fell off his ebike and made national headlines, including a public warning from the NBC Nightly News anchor. Because “elderly people” (ask people over 60 how they feel about that term) make up a large part of the ebike market, we were warned to “be very careful,” because ebikes go “10-15 mph faster than regular bicycles.”

Say what??!! Ted’s and my ebikes don’t go faster than our regular bikes. They only go as fast as we pedal. The pedal-assist feature on our bikes makes climbing hills easier, but if we don’t pedal, we don’t go.

When I went to the bike shop to pick up my replacement bike bag I asked Brad about the NBC News warning. He pointed out that there’s a difference between a no-pedal throttle-control ebike and our pedal-assist ebikes. Brad said pedal-assist ebikes “require effort to go 20 mph” and I agree. (Not counting downhill.) My research on ebikes revealed that they don’t require an effort great enough to train for extreme bicycling, but they provide a good workout, especially since ebike riders tend to ride farther and more often than regular bicycle riders.

I don’t think Ted and I need to worry about exceeding the legal speed limits on our ebikes.


Author’s note: The “elderly” (age 60) Simon Cowell was riding a throttle-control ebike. On that type of ebike, the rider either twists or squeezes the throttle and the bike takes off. Throttle-control ebikes can go up to 60 mph. No pedaling is required. Cowell might have expected more of a bicycle experience than a motor scooter experience and was caught off-guard. Unfortunately, his injuries were serious and required six hours of surgery and the placement of a rod in his back.

If not, too bad. The worldwide bicycle shortage is apparently a long way from over.

Ted and I went to the bike shop today to have Brad, the owner, look at my bike bag. The lining on the main top pocket regularly gets stuck in the zipper teeth. It was a relatively expensive bag and it looks like I might get a replacement. Brad said he’d get back to me on that by Monday.

While I was waiting for Brad to finish with another customer, I talked with Tony and I asked him how many bikes they have for sale now. Tony pointed to a small collection of bikes in a corner of the showroom–a few e-bikes and a few kids’ bikes–and then waved his arm over the rest of the showroom. “All of these other bikes you see,” he said, “are here for repair.” He told me people are raiding their basements, garages, and attics to find old bikes they can fix because the wait time for a new bike is so long.

These are some of the bikes waiting for repairs. Note that the line of bikes along the window wall is two rows high.

When I asked Tony what the wait time is for a new bike right now, he laughed / snorted and reached for a handful of papers. He had eight sheets of 45 names per page of people who are waiting for a test ride on a bicycle. Each line on the page includes the customer’s name, contact information, and the bicycle model the customer wants to test ride. When that model becomes available, the first customer on the list wanting that bike will be able to test ride it to see if he / she likes it enough to buy it. Wow!

Tony wasn’t finished. He went over to the counter, picked up a copy of the August 1-2, 2020 Wall Street Journal and showed it to me. The article mentions that it can take a bicycle mechanic an entire day to earn the equivalent of the profit on a single high-end bicycle sale. Also, repair shops are running out of parts and there is a weekslong backlog for repairs.

Ted and I are so-o-o-o glad we bought our bicycles last August!

Ted and I rode the Katy twice this week: once to the north from St. Charles and once to the west from Defiance. The Katy Trail follows the railroad track of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, and my always-active mind wondered why it’s called the Katy instead of the MKT. I checked online, where all questions are answered. Yes, it was the MKT Railroad, but the Kansas-Texas division of the railroad used “KT” as its stock exchange symbol, and KT soon evolved into the nickname “the Katy.” Now we know, so back to the bike rides.

Katy to the north

In the past, we’ve only biked a few miles north of St. Charles. Our goal this time was to ride to the beginning of the trail at Machens, 12.6 miles, according to our trail map. We almost made it.

We started at Frontier Park in St. Charles.

Thanks to COVID-19, there was a warning sign at the park. I guess it’s a sign of the times. (I know. Bad pun.)

We continued on our way. The trail wasn’t crowded, but after leaving St. Charles 2-3 miles behind us, we met fewer than a dozen other bicylists the rest of the way.

The river views were scarce, but still beautiful. Since we were biking toward the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and since St. Charles County is very narrow at this point, we wondered if this was the Missouri River or the Mississippi River. How can you tell without a map? Answer: Check the direction of the flow. Even after living here for 47 years, it still seems wrong to me that the Missouri River flows north. The Mississippi River does the “right” thing and flows south. The water in this picture is flowing north.

I love this house, especially the center window wall.

Was this a picture-perfect day for a bike ride? Absolutely!

We biked through lots of heavily shaded areas on the trail. After one such area, the trail curved and had a short rise. Suddenly, we were riding in the open on top of the levee. It was a little bit exciting to find ourselves almost instantly elevated above the corn.

We saw lots of water lilies in a tributary of the river. You can see beds of water lilies all the way to the distant curve of the tributary.

The farther we biked, the less frequently-traveled the trail became. It started to look more like a country driveway than a biking trail.

One family had a raft in their little river tributary. It brought back childhood memories of swimming in Wisconsin’s inland lakes. All the lakes with a public swimming beach had a raft and we always said, “Let’s swim out to the raft.” It was a perfect place to sit, sunbathe, or jump/dive into the water.

When we reached Black Walnut, we knew we were only three miles from our destination of Machens at the beginning of the trail.

And then we were abruptly stopped.

With only a little more than two miles to go, trail maintenance workers had closed the trail. We’ll give them some time to finish their work, but we still want to make it to Machens so we can say we went all the way to the beginning of the Katy Trail. That’s a plan for another day.

Katy to the west

The weather has been cool all week, and definitely unusual for August in Missouri. The normal high temperature is 89 degrees, but we had highs in the upper 70s plus low humidity for several days. We needed another long bike ride.

We enjoyed our recent bike ride from Defiance westward so much that we wanted to do it again. Not to mention that we were disappointed we didn’t make it all the way to Dutzow last time. We thought it was about seven more miles one way, but found out later it was only two miles from where we stopped and turned back. Let’s do it!

It was another pretty day and another pretty bike ride.

We passed Augusta again. All the highlights of the town are listed on the blue sign, but the sign is at the bottom of a steep hill and the crossroad at the top of the hill goes upward even more to the right. We need to check out Augusta a little more before we decide to tour it by bicycle.

Wildflowers were blooming along the trail.

This time, we made it all the way to Dutzow–16.2 miles one way. Mission accomplished!

Next week is expected to be hot and humid again, but Ted and I have several trail rides planned for the next set of cooler days.

We moved into our present house in July 1979. The following spring, we planted three trees in our yard: a sugar maple, a green ash, and a sweet gum. We purposely chose the sweet gum tree for its fall colors, but didn’t give a thought to the @#%&*! gum balls it would drop from late fall to early spring. Fortunately, we planted that tree on the far back corner of our lot where we had the vegetable garden and where we now have Ted’s “brush pile” area, so the gum balls aren’t as much of a problem as they’d be if they fell in a higher traffic area of the lawn.

Here’s a picture of Jeff (8) and Tommy (4) watering the sweet gum tree in October 1980, . . .

. . . and here’s a picture of the sweet gum tree today.

The tree has grown so much that I had to walk all the way to the other side of our neighbor’s back yard to fit the tree in my picture. Good work, boys.

We have an outdoor storage cabinet that holds a variety of pool toys and floats.

The white basket holds balls, snorkels, kickboards, etc.

Guess what Dylan and Teddy always choose to play with.

The bucket used to be bright red and unbroken, but heavy use in the pool took its toll.

The red bucket is the equivalent of the cardboard box on Christmas morning, and the kids have worn it out. In an act of generosity and mercy, Ted went to Home Depot and spent $3.00 on a new bucket. The boys were taking turns with it, so Ted went back and invested in another one. It’s amazing what can be done with a bucket in a pool. The boys have a variety of activities they do underwater with the buckets inverted over their heads, including talking with each other and trying to set underwater endurance records.

The most recent game required two people and two buckets. While Teddy was underwater with an inverted bucket over his head, Dylan (above the surface) prepared the second bucket by inverting it and pushing it underwater to Teddy. When Teddy ran out of air in bucket #1, he held his breath a few seconds and switched to bucket #2, remaining underwater. Then the process was repeated for this endurance test.

Teddy was underwater so long, Kari and I were a bit worried. Kari kept asking Dylan if Teddy was still ok and she eventually suggested it was time for Teddy to re-surface. Teddy’s first words were, “I could’ve stayed under longer.” He was underwater for 13 buckets of air. I have a hunch they’re going to try to break that record next time.

Getting ready to go underwater.
Dylan thought if he stretched the neckline of his shirt around the bucket, it might make a better seal, allowing him to stay underwater longer. It didn’t.
Relaxing before going back to bucket activity. Even with two new buckets, the red one was hauled out for more action.

Although selective information regarding educational budgets at the state and federal levels may indicate increased funding, those figures do not include adjustments for inflation.

Ted and I like having flowers around our patio–especially some marigolds to keep bugs away so we can sit outside and enjoy the summer weather.

We had our landscape mulch replaced with lava rocks and a heavy weed-resistant tarp. We didn’t want to move the rocks aside and cut holes in the tarp to plant flowers (and let the weeds through), so we looked for planters that would be low enough for the irrigation system to do the watering work for Ted. We had no luck, and decided to try storage boxes at the bargain price of two for $4.00 at Wal-Mart. We drilled some drainage holes in the bottoms, added potting soil and plants, and put the box covers underneath to catch excess water and escaping soil. The idea turned out very well. Now that we know it works, we’re going to build or buy more attractive frames next year and we might even drop the storage boxes into the frames.

The flowers are pretty enough that they attracted a butterfly that hovered over them for about 20 minutes while I watched it.

Our weather has been very hot and very humid, so we’re experiencing Ted’s favorite (i.e., easiest) forecast. He used to say he could use it nearly every day in July: highs in the upper 90s and lows in the mid-70s, with a chance of afternoon heat-induced thundershowers. Yesterday we had three thunderstorms–around 2:00, 4:00, and 9:00 p.m.–including some strong winds that left a lot of tree litter around the yard.

We saw some very threatening skies three days ago and had a thundershower that night too. The worst of those storms hit southeast of us. Two buildings were hit by lightning and went up in flames and four people were hit by lightning. They were playing soccer. One took a direct hit and is in critical condition; the other three were thrown to the ground by that strike. The following day, TV weathercasters reminded viewers that if you can hear the thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning. We were lucky to have only rain and thunder, but the skies were scary-looking. The clouds were very black and dark–even darker than the most distant cloud in the lower photo–but my camera self-corrected the lighting.

According to Country Time lemonade, kids’ lemonade stands across the nation are closed “due to social distancing guidelines.” To help the kids, Country Time launched the “Littlest Bailout Relief Fund” to help put a “little juice back into the economy.” It will send stimulus checks to kids who can’t operate their lemonade stands this summer. In a company news release, Country Time said it wants to ensure that even the smallest businesses can keep their dreams alive, “So when life gives you social distancing, make lemonade.”

Through August 12, parents of children 14 years old or younger can apply for a chance to win $100 in Visa gift cards and a commemorative check. (Interested? Go to www.countrytimebailout.com).

In 2018, Country Time had a “Legal Ade” promotion to help kids pay permit fees on their lemonade stands, due to outdated permit laws. This prompted several states to exclude lemonade stands from businesses that require a permit to operate.

Note: I’ve got a title theme going–15! 100! 800!

Since February, Ted and I have biked 436 miles. Tonight’s ride turned my odometer to 800.

It’s officially summer in St. Louis. We’re having daily temperatures in the upper 90s with lots of humidity. Today, we hit 100 for the first time.

A National Weather Service employee posted a suggestion on his Facebook page.

How do my grandchildren age so much faster than I do? We celebrated Dylan’s 15th birthday with him and enjoyed his traditional summer ice cream birthday cake. Dylan opted out of us singing “Happy Birthday” with the excuse that “You never know what to do while everyone is singing to you.”

I received a happy text message from Alex today.

Even better, I might share my birthday with my first great-grandchild.

Just a few months ago, our redbud tree bloomed with a spectacular display. Ted and I both commented on how pretty it looked this year and credited the good spring weather. After the big blossom show, the leaves on one branch began to yellow and die. We had an arborist look at the tree, but he couldn’t see any disease on it and advised us to give it a chance to come back.

Shortly afterward, the leaves on another branch began turning yellow. When they dried to a crispy brown, leaves on another branch started the same routine. We called the arborist to set a date to remove the tree, and today was the day we bid it farewell. Some of the tree is on the ground and the two men are ready to take down the main trunk. Ted planted the tree in 1990.

Note: “K-K-K Katy” was a popular World War I song and made a comeback during World War II. The first line of the song is “K-k-k-Katy, beautiful Katy, you’re the only g-g-g-girl that I adore….” I know all the words because my dad used to sing it at home.

Yesterday was a perfect summer day–not too hot with low humidity. Ted and I thought it was a good day to bike a different section of the Katy Trail. This time, we entered the trail at the Defiance bike stop, less than a half mile from where we ended our July 4 ride, and went 13 miles west toward Augusta and Dutzow. We should have gone on to Dutzow, but we thought it was at least seven more miles (and back); had we known it was only a little over three miles, we’d have done it.

Most of the Katy between St. Charles and Defiance closely follows the Missouri River and is nicely shaded by trees. In other words, the view doesn’t change very much. It’s a beautiful bike ride and it’s very peaceful, but variety in scenery is limited. Our ride today was very different from that. The trail sometimes took us alongside the river and sometimes bordered MO Hwy. 94, which also follows the river. We crossed lots of bridges, and biked through farmland and through Missouri wine country in the Augusta wine district. Local pride note: The Augusta AVA was the first federally approved American Viticultural Area, becoming official eight months before California’s Napa Valley AVA.

The Katy Trail borders the MO River side of Defiance. At the trail entrance, there are restaurants and bars that were really hopping on a Sunday afternoon. One parking lot was filled with motorcycles (a biker bar?) and live music was provided in every venue. The first town we passed west of Defiance was Matson. Matson’s bike rest area looks like a little train depot. The trail is in the center of the picture and that’s Hwy. 94 on the right.

Just a little farther beyond Matson, we entered Augusta. Of course there was a winery right beside the trail. The trail is still following Hwy. 94 (left).

Sometimes the trail was a long way from the Missouri River as we passed through farmland. The trail is somewhere beyond the blue horizon (I couldn’t help it–another song reference). The corn was as high as an elephant’s eye (cf Oklahoma!–I’m apparently feeling musical) and we’re looking forward to fresh local corn in the next week or two.

We crossed lots of trail bridges over creeks that feed that Missouri River.

In many places along the river, we’ve biked beside tall, limestone bluffs. This one was different from the ones that go straight up and are shadowed with vegetation. It also added a new word to our vocabularies when we read the sign that said “Riparian restoration in progress.” Now I know that riparian means “of, on, or relating to the banks of a natural course of water.” Or, in simpler terms, a riverbank. It was a pretty impressive block of stone.

We frequently rode beside Hwy. 94. The portion of trail we rode today crossed the highway several times. In case you’re wondering, the path with the yellow center line is the highway; the other is the bike trail.

Are we still having fun? You bet!

There were lots of visual treats as we biked through the farmland areas. Below are a white stone wall/levee bordering a country road; a white barn set off by the summer green trees; an aluminum silo and granary; and an old Ford tractor parked inside a shed.

There are lots of park benches along the Katy Trail. This one stands out because it looks so lonely. Most of the benches are surrounded by woods and have a scenic view. This one gets a dead tree, a fallen sign, and nothing but flat fields to look at.

The river views are always pretty. I took this picture near a boat launch. There were a lot of cars with boat trailers in the parking lot. It was a good day for boating, too.

As the sun dropped lower in the sky, the clouds began to turn pink.

The Katy Trail is paved with hard-packed gravel. The weather has been dry. As we rode, our back wheels created little plumes of dust behind our bikes. After riding 25+ miles, the bikes were pretty dirty. I ran my finger over a spot on Ted’s navy blue chainstay and over his black tire and rim. You can see how dusty they are. Our bare legs (and feet and shoes) were also coated with a thick layer of white dust. Our clothes had a thinner layer, but felt gritty. When we got home, we washed the bikes, cleaned the chains, and vacuumed our bike bags. Compare the clean bag to the dirty one.

After the bikes were clean, it was our turn: a shower, a change of clothes, and a load of laundry, then dinner. Twenty-five miles of biking is hungry work, but it was fun. When we got back to our car and were loading up our bikes, Ted said, “I’m kind of sorry we’re finished.” I was too. Next time: Dutzow and farther west.

To celebrate Independence Day, Zaque’s group of missionaries decided to re-create photos of family members who had served in the U.S. armed forces. Here’s Zaque, re-creating a picture of his Great-Grandpa Pete. He’s not really a look-alike for my dad, but I think the family genes are visible. (Raised left eyebrow, jaw line.)

If I’d known what Zaque was planning to do when he requested a military photo, I’d have sent this one.

Picture it: It’s the Fourth of July, but Ted and I have no plans to do more than watch the neighborhood fireworks (legal in our jurisdiction). So dull. With fireworks being launched in the streets throughout the nearby subdivisions, taking a walk or a bike ride was out of the question. We’d spend far too much time waiting for a launch before we could pass and dodging falling bottle rockets, etc.

By 5:30 p.m., I was going crazy and wanted to do something. Aha! Brainstorm! I suggested to Ted that we load up our bikes and head for the Katy Trail. I listed reasons this would be a good idea: (1) We’d get out of our yard and the subdivision; (2) it was still several hours until sunset; (3) the trail would probably be deserted because everyone else had most likely already gone home for dinner and fireworks; and (4) the trail is not near subdivisions, so we wouldn’t have to listen to or dodge popping fireworks while we rode.

Ted was an easy sell for the idea. It took us very little time to put on shoes, fill some water bottles, and load the bikes on the car. We headed for the MO Research Park access point to the Katy Trail and found fewer than a half dozen cars in the parking lot. Yes! The last time we biked the Katy was the last beautiful day of October, and every trail was packed.

Everything we hoped for came true: the trail was beautiful, quiet, and deserted. The plan was to bike 20 miles, but we stopped at 18 because just past our nine-mile point, MO Hwy 94 crosses the Katy, and we had less than a mile to go to reach our ten-mile turnaround. After more than an hour-and-a-half of biking, we were filled with endorphins and looking forward to dinner.

We arrived at home around 8:00 p.m. and the locals were already launching their fireworks, even though the sun hadn’t yet set.

Here’s a closer look at our neighbor across the street–Will and Karen. Check out the table beside the driveway. It’s well-stocked with fireworks.

At 8:00 p.m., after biking 18 miles and with the sun still shining, Ted and I were more interested in dinner than fireworks. We cleaned the trail dust off our bikes and put together a quick meal. By the time we finished, the fireworks pops and bangs were so frequent, we decided to go outside to take a look at what was going on. This was not the usual neighborhood fireworks celebration. After standing in awe for about 15 minutes, we pulled up some lawn chairs and watched the show for two hours. It finally wound down after 10:30, and silence reigned by midnight.

From our driveway, with a 180-degree range of vision (the house was behind us), we could see at least ten sites where people were constantly launching fireworks, plus other occasional shots, where the residents had a smaller budget for the event. In our immediate neighborhood, four houses were providing a display for us. The orange arrow is our house; the four green arrows are the active neighbors’ sites. The side street at our house was also parked full of cars.

I can’t imagine how many thousands of dollars went up in smoke within our sight distance alone. There was no such thing as hearing an individual bang for those two hours–the noise was constant, differentiated only by louder bangs for bigger fireworks. Litter and ash fell from the sky and landed on us as we watched. Normally, there are some nice, big fireworks in the neighborhood shows but, as Kari said, you could tell that everyone was at home this year. I think folks spent their unusable travel budgets on fireworks, because there was one big explosion of color after another.

Ted and I have traveled frequently over the Fourth of July holiday because I always had the day off from work. We’ve seen fireworks in many major U.S. cities (Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New Orleans, others), as well as overseas for Bastille Day and Swiss National Day, but none of those places offered a two-hour show with a sky full of color everywhere we looked. This was definitely among the best fireworks displays we’ve ever seen, and Will and Karen might have had the best display in the subdivision–about 150 feet away from our VIP driveway seating. The fireworks in the photos below were launched by Will and Karen. They had two launching sites, so something was always going off, and it was obviously choreographed to present different types of explosions in pleasing series. Will told me they made some notes to improve it next year.

There was no wind, so smoke lingered.

In the morning, even though we hadn’t purchased or launched any fireworks, Ted and I had a clean-up job to do. Our lawn, concrete, and pool were littered with debris. The litter was mostly cardboard-like pieces and doesn’t show well in the picture below, but I don’t think there was a square foot without litter. It looks very bio-degradable, so will probably decompose quickly, but we needed to sweep and use the leaf-blower to clear the concrete and the outdoor furniture. I hosed off the furniture and the concrete to remove the ash. Ted vacuumed the pool twice, but neither of us could keep ahead of the debris. We assumed there was litter in the trees that kept falling on our (we thought) cleaned-up areas.

If Will and Karen’s show is going to be even better next year, you might want to join us July 4, 2021.

I made a Wal-Mart run for some essential items (wire for face mask nose pieces) and saw a robot at work. It was silently cruising up and down the aisles in an orderly manner. I asked a nearby employee what the robot does. He was puzzled and I had to point out the robot to him. He didn’t know what it was doing–or that it was even a few feet away from him–but he guessed it might be scanning for empty shelves that needed re-stocking. Note: I can’t believe his lack of curiosity! If a robot cruised by while I was at work, I’d ask someone what it does, just because it’s interesting.

Ted and I were running some errands (an excuse to get out of home quarantine) and I was driving on I-64 when a white car put itself right on my tail. I mentioned (sarcastically) to Ted that “I wish she’d get a little closer to me.” When we reached our exit, I moved into the exit lane–and so did the white car, still on my tail. I signaled for a right turn onto the cross street, slowed to look for traffic before merging, noticed the light had just changed and I’d have to wait for a break in the traffic, and came to a stop–and so did the white car, when she hit my car.

We both pulled into a parking lot around the corner. We had no injuries and both cars were still drivable, so that’s good. The 20-something driver, however, went into hysterical crying and said this was her first accident. She asked me what the upcoming process would be like. I told her and spent some time calming her down before I thought she’d be safe to re-enter traffic. Her car has the right front corner bashed in, so I assume she made a last-ditch effort to swerve to the left to avoid hitting me, but she had been following me too closely to avoid the accident.

All will be well–in time. Although auto insurance companies are giving refunds to customers because of reduced driving and accident rates during the lockdown, I couldn’t get an appointment for an estimate at the body shop until July 8, ten days after I called. Then I’ll find out how bad my damage is. A previous rear-end collision on my car cost more than $8,000 to repair. There was more damage that time, but the spike in cost was due to the fact that my electronic hardtop convertible top drops into the trunk where there are 32 sensors to guide the action. My parking assist sensor and rear-view camera were both damaged this time and the bumper, trunk cover, tailpipe, and driver’s side rear panel are all visibly out of alignment. I don’t know if any of the convertible top sensors are damaged now, because the hot weather hasn’t tempted me to put the top down since the accident and I don’t want to experiment, in case it goes partially down, then won’t come back up.

Update coming after July 8. Adventures happen, even in COVID times.

I am not a gardener. All the credit for flower care in our yard goes to Ted. The only thing I like about gardening is looking at the flowers.

For the 10 years we’ve had this plant, I thought it was a rhododendron. Thanks to Katie for educating me and pointing out the differences between rhododendrons and hydrangeas. Our hydrangea plant is especially pretty this year.

Yes, twice in one day, we saw double rainbows. This one appeared a half hour before sunset, so it’s not as bright and the double bow is fainter than the earlier rainbow we saw.

Two double rainbows in 90 minutes–it’s almost like being in Hawai’i!

In preparation for the installation of our future hot tub, Ted and I are scheduling contractors and making a final decision about the placement of the hot tub. One of the questions we have is, “How far from the swimming pool does the hot tub have to be to meet the local building code?” I’ve learned that’s a complicated question, and I think I might have stumped the county building department staff.

I called the county government office and spoke with Christina. She told me I need to speak with the Planning and Zoning Department and transferred me to Karen. Karen told me that our property is zoned R1E, so I need to talk with someone in the Building and Codes Department. That person told me it’s not really a building code question; it’s a safety code question. She directed me to Patty, a Plan Reviewer, in the Safety Codes Department. Patty said she’s working from home, and the person to speak with is Todd, who works in the Code Enforcement Department. Todd didn’t answer his phone, so I left a message for him.

It’s been two business days and Todd hasn’t called me back, but I think the question might have become moot. After planting flags at each end of the patio to indicate the hot tub size, we decided to put it at the other end of the patio. In that area, the hot tub will be 11-12 feet from the swimming pool–surely a safe distance from the pool to keep people from climbing on the hot tub to jump over the pool fence so they can get hurt in the process or drown in the pool and and file a claim against our liability insurance.

Update: Now picture the hot tub here instead of there. The tree is saved from becoming mulch, but the bush on the left needs to be moved.