This morning, we transferred from the cruise ship to our hotel. We checked in and checked our luggage because it would be five hours before we’d have access to our room. During those five hours, we walked eight miles carrying our twelve-pound backpacks in the heat (80+ degrees).

After a quick pass through Times Square for lunch (about two blocks from our hotel), we headed in the opposite direction to Central Park, where we spent most of the afternoon. We entered the park at Columbus Circle and walked past a playground on our way to the carousel. I thought I took a picture of the carousel, which is just to the left of this picture, but I guess I didn’t. The park has nice, wide walkways and also bike paths if you want to ride your bike instead of walking it like the couple in the center of the photo. I’m not sure we’d have found our way out of the park without our park map.

This is the Central Park Sheep Meadow where, yes, sheep used to graze. See those rocks sticking up out of the grass? Ted watches a lot of nature shows and told me that NYC used to be part of Pangea, with a mountain range as high as the Alps. Today, 450 million years later, the continents have shifted and the mountain range has been eroded by glaciers, etc. The mountain range now forms the bedrock on which Manhattan is built, and these rocks are the former mountain tops.

We also walked to the strawberry fields (forever), and the volleyball courts. I think we covered at least two-thirds of the park. Walking all those miles with our backpacks was making us hot and tired. so we walked back to the hotel where our room was finally available and we took a nap before going out to dinner: New York-style pizza and New York-style cheesecake.

Times Square was packed with people. It was pretty much “go with the flow or get out of the way.” Look at the photo to see how many people were waiting for a “walk” light at one of the four corners of this intersection.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the top of the hotel with a great view of the city. A 1916 NYC zoning law demanded that architects create setbacks on tall buildings so that skyscrapers could still be tall, but would appear to be less bulky. The Chrysler Building (center, in the photo below) is an example of this. It rises more than 1,000 feet, but thanks to its slender tower (which gets progressively more narrow as it rises), it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Also, a more narrow top contributed to a more stable building. New zoning laws allow for more modern architectural styles, but if you look closely at the buildings in the two photos below and in the city, you’ll see that a many of them have setbacks.

After breakfast, we walked around our hotel area. The hotel is within two blocks of Times Square and the theater district and just a little bit farther from the Empire State Building. We bought some deli food at Whole Foods and ate lunch in Bryant Park while we admired the Empire State Building.

When we finished lunch, it started to rain, so we went back to the hotel and waited out the brief shower. Then it was back to walking around outside. We only walked five miles today instead of eight and we didn’t need to carry our backpacks, which made it more enjoyable. We started in the theater district. This street was a pedestrian steet and had food courts. Times Square and the theater district really give your eyes a workout.

We found a little sidewalk park with a Shake Shack and had dinner there–after we dried the rain-wet table and chairs with napkins.

As we headed back to our hotel, we saw the Empire State Building lighted in the night sky. That’s Bryant Park again in the foreground.

We walked through Times Square to get back to the hotel. Talk about light pollution! Not only are there countless lights, but they’re very bright and most of them include motion and constantly changing colors.

Here’s the icon of Times Square, At the top of the tower in the center, you can see “2022.” Above the numbers is a red ball. That’s the ball that drops on New Year’s Eve. The lights on the ball change color every few seconds, and so do all the pictures and colors on the tower.

There is definitely a unique energy in New York City and it’s an exciting place to be. Like the first time Ted and I were here (October 1971), we decided that, for us, New York City is the premier example of “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” It was fun, but we’re looking forward to going home tomorrow.

Author’s note: Our cruise ship is scheduled to leave New York City tomorrow for its return trip to Montreal. This will put it in Halifax, Gaspé, and Saguenay at the same time that Hurricane Fiona is expected to arrive in those cities. We assume the cruise will be cancelled and passengers will receive refunds. We were fortunate to have beautiful weather for our cruise.

It’s always a thrill for me to come back from an international trip and to hear the U.S. customs agent say, “Welcome home.” I hoped that, sometime, I could sail home through New York Harbor and pass the Statue of Liberty as a “welcome home” sign. Today, it happened. Bucket list check-off. It’s only mid-morning, and look at the line of people already visiting this New York City highlight.

Sailing through the harbor is a pretty approach to New York City. There are interesting buildings, . . .

. . . a variety of watercraft sailing everywhere in the harbor . . .

. . . and of course, the New York City skyline, featuring the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

The cruise-included free tour of the city was a four-hour bus tour called “Manhattan Highlights.” The man who sat across from us on the bus had an interesting shirt, so I asked him if I could take a picture of it. He said “yes” and confessed that he doesn’t read music, so he doesn’t really get it. I do read music, and the shirt is right: those are difficult times.

The tour covered a lot of ground in Manhattan, including Greenwich Village, Wall Street, and Tribeca, as well as stops at Battery Park and the World Trade Center Memorial. Our tour guide was a native New York City resident and told us he has never driven a car. Why should he, he asked us, if he could take the subway anywhere he wants to go? Not to mention (although he mentioned it) that there are only 38 gas stations in all of Manhattan. Public transportation is obviously a hit. Our guide also clued us in to some city abbreviations: Tribeca is the tri-angle be-neath Ca-nal Street. Houston Street (pronounced HOW-ston) is a major east-west thoroughfare that separates NoHo (north of Houston) from SoHo (south of Houston). Broadway is the only straight north-south street that extends the entire 13-mile length of Manhattan Island. As we passed near the High Line Park, our guide mentioned that the High Line and the Staten Island Ferry are both still free.

As the bus drove through the city, I was amazed to see the number of bike lanes and the number of bikers using them. It was also surprising to me to see so many little parks between buildings. I always pictured Manhattan as closely-packed skyscrapers surrounding Central Park. Travel broadens the mind, right?

Like Boston, outdoor dining has continued in New York City since the COVID pandemic, and we saw a lot of little cafes like this one.

At one corner, we saw a pedicab. Our guide gave us a “tourist beware” warning that pedicab operators charge by the minute and that, since they do the pedaling, they control the number of minutes the ride will take.

We went past the original Macy’s store, which is 12 stories high and has a footprint of an entire city block. We also passed the Woolworth Building (below), which has beautiful architectural decorations. The old joke is that the structure was built on nickels and dimes. Ha ha ha!

I love libraries and bookstores, and I wanted to applaud when I saw this sign on The New York City Public Library. A great way to make people want to read a book is to ban it. I would have loved to spend some time inside.

We saw an unusual space-saving parking lot. Our guide said this kind of lot actually gets the cars in and out very quickly.

Of course, the biggest Manhattan Highlight on this tour was the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero and we had a very long stop there so that we could take time to absorb everything. The new World Trade Center Building is 1776 feet tall (104 stories) to signify American independence. It’s a beautiful building.

Ladder and Engine Companies #10–the first company to respond to the attacks on the Twin Towers–are located kitty-corner from the 9/11 Memorial.

343 firemen died attempting to rescue people from the World Trade Center, so there are 343 trees in the memorial park. Each tree has a tag with the name of a fireman on it.

Only one tree survived the attack. It was moved and nurtured until the park was built, then replanted. It’s called the Survivor Tree. It is the first tree in the park to leaf out in the spring and the last tree in the park to lose its leaves in the fall.

One of the highlights of the park is the waterfall. The water flows into the center void as a mataphor of absence made visible. The void–like the absence–is never filled.

The names of the 9/11 casualties are engraved around the waterfall. Many names have flags, photos, flowers, and messages of love and remembrance.

The parkland around the memorial is beautiful and peaceful, making it conducive to reflection.

St. Paul’s Chapel is located directly across the street from the memorial. It is the only building in the devastated area that survived the blast with no damage.

At dinner tonight, we sat at a table with a man who worked six blocks away from the World Trade Center on 9/11. He said he didn’t realize the impact of the attack until he got home from work and saw the television footage.

Today’s bus tour was very interesting and the 9/11 Memorial is a very moving must-see. Tonight we’ll be packing our things to leave the ship and transfer to our Manhattan hotel in the morning.

It’s easy to walk Boston’s Freedom Trail: just follow the red brick line.

I walked the Freedom Trail with three friends when I was in college, but it was better walking with a guide who had stories to tell about everything along the way–for example, the Boston Massacre. The words “Boston Massacre” bring to mind a picture of British soldiers mercilessly slaughtering at least dozens of innocent American revolutionaries for no particular reason. Here’s the marker that indicates where the massacre took place.

Unlike my college friends and me, our guide had a copy of the leaflet printed after the massacre. The guide also knew the truth about the massacre, which my college friends and I did not. Basically, it was a beer brawl between some (mostly drunken) freedom fighters and some (also mostly drunken) British soldiers. Somebody pushed or shoved or said the wrong thing and guns went off. Five freedom fighters died. Tragic, but hardly a massacre.

Samuel Adams liked to incite political action, thrived on pandemonium and controversy, and didn’t mind making up an alternate truth for a more colorful effect. In addition, he especially liked to cast himself in the starring role of that action to advocate for his own political purposes and benefit. It was Samuel Adams who “suggested” that a leaflet about the “massacre” be printed, and he also “suggested” the text to be written on it. According to our guide, good old Sam maneuvered many other political actions in a similar way for his own benefit. Here’s a copy of the leaflet. No wonder people think it was an act of merciless aggression.

Our four-hour walk took us to many of the well-known historical sights in Boston. Here’s Paul Revere’s house; . . .

. . . this is the Old North Church; . . .

. . . and here’s Faneuil Hall. We walked through a cemetery near Faneuil Hall where lots of the famous Revolutionary era Americans are buried. (Check out the guy in the bright blue jacket. ♥)

This is the state capitol building. The dome was originally built of wood. Paul Revere plated it with copper, and later, it was covered in 24-karat gold. Boston has many buildings with gold domes and trim.

It was interesting to see so many Early American-style buildings in Boston and I enjoyed looking at the architecture along the Freedom Trail.

Just for fun, along the Freedom Trail, our guide pointed out two taverns with unique names. The first was called The 21st Amendment (repealed prohibition); the second was named Carrie Nation (a temperance advocate). When the guide asked the significance of the taverns’ names, everyone knew The 21st Amendment, but I was the only one who knew Carrie Nation. It wasn’t like Jeopardy!–there was no cash award–so on with the walk.

It was interesting to note how many Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks shops are in downtown Boston. They seemed to be on every corner and always near each other. On one street, we saw two Starbucks stores within 100 feet of each other! Is there a competition to see who can have the most restaurants?

Speaking of restaurants, like many cities, Boston offered outdoor dining during the COVID pandemic. It was so popular, that many of the restaurants have continued to offer it. Outdoor dining is one of my favorite things about Europe and I’m happy to see more of it at home. Note the Freedom Trail in the left photo below.

We left Boston in the late afternoon and cruised through the Cape Cod Canal. It’s a shortcut from Boston to New York City across the neck of Cape Cod. The homes and greenery were beautiful and there was a walking/biking trail along the shoreline, complete with walkers and bikers. Sometimes, people on the shore would call out a “hello” to us (everyone on the ship standing at their veranda railings) and we’d return their greetings. Maybe our passage through the canal seemed so idyllic because the air was quiet and still and the water was calm as the sun was setting.

In this photo, you can see the walking/biking trail.

We sailed under a railroad draw bridge. I made up that name–it doesn’t really draw apart; it rises. The tracks across the canal are raised for ships to pass and then lowered to the level of the road that crosses the canal.

The houses and their settings are beautiful. The parking lot is at the end of the walking/biking trail.

This was my favorite house. I love all those windows. (If I could afford the house, I could afford to have someone else wash all the windows.)

The canal was a lovely end to a wonderful day. Tomorrow: a bucket list check-off.

Before leaving Halifax, customs agents came on board to verify all of our passports so that we could enter the U.S. again in Boston, our next port stop. On our way to Boston, I saw this pretty lighthouse on an island. I’m not sure where we are, but it’s safe to say it’s the Atlantic coast.

With the Viking cruise line, a city tour at each port of call is included with the cruise fare, so Ted and I usually take the tour. Today, it was an afternoon bus tour called “Panoramic Boston.” The weather was beautiful again, but my pictures are limited because we didn’t get off the bus very often. It’s hard to take pictures out of the bus windows or of things on the other side of the bus, but here goes.

Downtown Boston has a lovely street park called the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. Rose Kennedy is a big name in Boston. The Greenway is 1.5 miles long and runs down the center of the street. It is reminiscent of the Avenue des Champs d’Elysée in Paris. Within the Greenway, there are fountains, playgrounds, flower gardens, and a carousel. One of the flower gardens in the Greenway is a rose garden with 104 rose bushes–one for every year of Rose Kennedy’s life. I wish I could have taken more photos of the Greenway, but the only thing I captured was this piece of street art.

As we were riding through the city, I saw this restaurant and took a picture while the bus was stopped at a red light. Read the sign at the top, then check out the sign at street level. You have arrived at your destination. Cute, huh?

Trinity Episcopal Church, a National Historic Landmark, is the only church included on the American Institute of Architects list of the Ten Most Significant Buildings in the United States.* Like Montreal and Québec City, a significant percentage of Boston is built on land that was originally water. In addition, Boston is built on a swamp. To keep buildings from sinking, pilings are driven 30 feet into the ground below the water level where they stay wet and where bugs and air cannot rot them. Trinity Church is built on 4,500 such pilings. (Query: If cities keep taking dirt from the continents and putting it into the rivers and oceans, will the continents become low enough for the rivers and oceans to relocate inland, thus creating new, smaller continents?)

The church is built on a street corner. The Hancock Building, the tallest building in Boston, is across the street on the right side of the above picture. It reflects Trinity Church to create a metaphor of the old and the new in Boston. (You can see our tour bus in the lower left of the photo.)

Along our bus route, we had a quick stop at the start/finish line of the Boston Marathon where there are bronze sculptures of a hare and a tortoise to honor those who run in the marathon. The pillars, wall, and water feature behind the hare and the tortoise are a memorial to the casualties of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Today, we had an easy bus tour. Tomorrow, we’re going walk.

*The Ten Most Significant Buildings in the United States are: (1) Falling Waters (Allegheny Mtns., Frank Lloyd Wright); (2) the White House; (3) the Lincoln Memorial; (4) the U.S. Capitol; (5) the Guggenheim Museum (NYC, also Frank Lloyd Wright); (6) the Glass House (CT–also called the Johnson House by Philip Johnson); (7) Trinity Episcopal Church (Boston); (8) the Pentagon; (9) the Milwaukee Art Museum; and (10) the Smithsonian.

Yesterday, we had another sea day, cruising from Gaspé to Halifax. There was an unexpected five-hour delay in reaching Halifax because a passenger onboard had a medical emergency and needed to be taken to the nearest hospital along the way.

Today’s seven-hour shore excursion was a trip to Peggy’s Cove. I was unable to go, so Ted took pictures and told me the story. The tour bus passed another colorful Canadian village on the way to the cove.

Peggy’s Cove has the oldest lighthouse in North America. It is set on a scenic, but very rocky, shoreline.

Those rocks are dangerous, and this sign duly warns visitors of that fact. The message is pretty clear when it plainly states that “rescue here is unlikely” and encourages you to “leave here alive.” It reminded me of a danger sign we saw in Iceland.

While walking around on the rocks, Ted took a pretty picture of some Adirondack chairs and he saw a man playing a very low-toned horn of some kind.

Halifax was the nearest port to take the casualties of the 1912 Titanic disaster. The bodies of 250 Titanic passengers are buried here.

The Citadel is the highest point in Halifax, and is the site of Halifax Fort. The city of Halifax literally owes its existence to the Citadel, a large hill overlooking the easily defended harbor. Halifax Fort has defended the city since 1749, and continued to do so through World War I and World War II.

The tour bus continued to the Halifax Botanical Gardens. Sadly, the park was damaged in Spring 2022. Vandals climbed over the six-foot high fence surrounding the park and girdled 29 trees, which are now in danger of dying. Park workers have treated the trees, hoping to help them withstand the coming winter and to perhaps survive. Note that, in my absence on this tour, Ted took a picture of the statue of Diana. I can’t help loving that guy!

Today, we’re docked in the port of Gaspé (GAS-pay), Québec and we were up early for an all-day shore excursion to Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé (PER-see) National Park. (FYI, if your high school French is rusty, rocher-percé means “pierced rock.”)

There are four major cities along the St. Lawrence River: Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Québec City. Our cruise began in Montreal, downstream from Toronto and Ottawa, so after seeing Montreal and Québec City, our remaining ports are small towns. Each small-town port has a claim to fame. Saguenay has a fjord; Gaspé has a rock. Small towns do not, however, have large tour buses, so today’s sightseeing began on a school bus. Our group of retirees made fun of singing “The Wheels on the Bus” and other high school memories we had of riding school buses, but we all agreed that, at our age, a school bus is a hard, cramped, and uncomfortable ride for 90 minutes each way. We were good sports, though, and we had a very nice boat tour of the national park. (The boat was more comfortable than the school bus.)

On our way to the National Park (it’s actually a provincial park), we passed tiny, rural Canadian villages like this one. It looks scenic and peaceful, , doesn’t it?

As we were driving to the national park, our tour guide pointed out this rock formation. I had trouble identifying the facial profile of the First Nation chief until I zoomed in on it.

Percé Rock is at the tip of the Gaspé peninsula. Here’s picture of the Gaspé harbor where we boarded our tour boat to see the national park, which consists of Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock. Percé Rock is 1,400 feet long, 300 feet wide, and 390 feet high. It weighs 5 million tons and is one of the world’s largest natural arches located in water. It loses about 300 tons of rock annually, due to wind and water erosion, and will disappear in approximately 16,000 years, so hurry if you want to see it. The two rock formations on the right are what’s left of Percé Rock.

Only one of Percé Rock’s arches remains. There were at least two arches, and some historical accounts mention three. The second arch collapsed “boisterously” in 1845. At low tide, it’s possible to access Percé Rock on foot for about four hours each day. Caution is advised because the rock has a tendency to collapse, dropping large segments into the water. At high tide, it’s possible for a small boat (e.g., canoe, kayak) to pass through the arch.

As we circled Bonaventure Island, we saw seals at play.

The park is a migratory bird sanctuary, and there are approximately 250,000 wild birds in the park. We saw thousands of these white birds and one bald eagle on Bonaventure Island.

There are about fifty houses on Bonaventure Island within the park, but only ten are inhabited.

Returning to the harbor provided a pretty view of the village. I wonder what it’s like to drive up and down that road (center of photo) from the lower houses to the upper ones during the Canadian winter.

Before leaving Gaspé, we had lunch at a local restaurant. Ted had salmon and I had fettucini. The portions were huge, including the piece of chocolate cake we had for dessert. Then, just because we were here, we did the same thing as everyone else and had our picture taken with Percé Rock in the background.

We’ve had beautiful weather so far on this cruise–sunny and temperatures in the 70s every day. Today was described as a “scenic sailing” day to view the beautiful fall colors along the St. Lawrence River. When we woke up and looked out of our window, this is what we saw. Since the trees aren’t showing much fall color yet, at least we didn’t miss that highlight of the cruise.

There’s no shoreline in sight, . . .

. . . we can barely see the water beneath us, . . .

. . . and it’s chilly outside.

The heavy fog continued all day and into the evening, and the outdoor temperature remained cool. It was a good day to relax onboard with coffee (Ted) and hot chocolate (me). While we were reading in the “living room” of the ship, servers brought champagne for everyone. It’s the first time I’ve enjoyed a glass of champagne while I read a book. Ted went to a lecture titled “Canada: The 51st State.” We tend to think that Canada and the U.S. are very similar to each other, but the speaker talked about the ways in which the two countries are different. Ted said the lecture was interesting and funny. After all the work we’ve been doing at home, it was great to have a day without planned activities, and we topped it off with chateaubriand and cherry strudel for dinner. Mmm, mmm good!

fjord [fee’ ôrd] noun

A long (65 miles), narrow (1.2-2.5 miles), deep (690 feet) inlet of the sea (St. Lawrence River) between high cliffs (490-1,150 feet), typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley.

That describes the Saguenay Fjord in Québec, Canada, one of the most southerly fjords in North America. Ted and I had so much fun on the jet boat tour of the Waimakariri Gorge in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, that we signed up for the three-hour jet boat tour of the Saguenay Fjord without giving it a second thought. The Canadian fjord boat was jet-propelled, but far less exciting than the New Zealand ride. I think that might have been in deference to the marine life in the Saguenay Fjord. Instead of 50 mph, the fjord boat went about 10-20 mph and the pilot didn’t do a single 360-degree spin. Still, it was a very pretty ride.

At the beginning of our fjord tour, we sailed around a high bluff, on which the pilot pointed out a rock climber. This is a popular place for rock climbers, and the pilot told us it usually takes about three days to make the climb. The arrow in the photo below indicates the climber, about halfway up. I guess he has another day-and-a-half to climb before he reaches the top. I took the first picture on the way into the fjord and the second on the way back to the dock. The climber made some progress (check his position relative to the notch in the rock) while we spent our time in the fjord.

Part of the boat tour took us through a relatively open area. The pilot explained that, in this area of Canada, gravity moved the ancient glaciers from west to east toward the Atlantic Ocean. The direction of the glacier’s movement determined the positions of the high and the low bluffs along the fjord, so the east side of the fjord is slope and the west side is steep. It’s interesting that, although the Saguenay fjord flows into the St. Lawrence River, salt water from the St. Lawrence River flows beneath the fresh water of the fjord. Ninety-three percent of the water volume inside the fjord is salt water.

The pilot took us right up to the face of this bluff. The arrow is pointing to a cave at the water line.

It was a pretty boat ride, weaving our way around the bluffs and, eventually, back to the dock at the end of the tour. The fjord is a sanctuary for perigrine falcons. Now we’ve toured a Canadian fjord and a Norwegian fjord. They are equally scenic, but Canada was warmer than Norway.

Author’s note: Saguenay has a population of about 150,000. Ninety-five percent of the population speaks only French.

Québec City is one of only two walled cities in North America; the other is Campeche, Mexico. Although Québec City used to be known for its large number of banks and insurance companies, today there are no banks at all within the walled city–only ATMs. Neither are there any grocery stores within the old city walls–only convenience stores. Québec is the only Canadian province that uses French as its official language. More English is spoken in Montreal than anywhere else in the province, but there are laws in place to protect the French language within the province. Fluency in French is a requirement for getting a job in Québec. Under Bill 96, which becomes effective September 1, 2022, government agencies will have to use French exclusively in their written and oral communications, with few exceptions, and businesses will have to ensure the “net predominance” of French on signs that include more than one language. Ted and I took a four-hour walking tour of the old walled city–Vieux-Québec–and, thankfully, our guide spoke English.

Québec City is very steep. Stairs are everywhere to take pedestrians from one street up–or down–to the next. The shortest stairway in the city is 7 steps; the longest is 368 steps. The funicular provides an alternative to climbing those 368 steps. We started our walking tour by taking the funicular to the top of the bluff. From there, our tour went downhill–literally, not figuratively.

The funicular stops at the boardwalk, near the top of the bluff. Festivals and other events are held on the boardwalk. You can see a Canadian flag over the gazebo in the center of the photo and another higher flag to the right of that one.

From the boardwalk, we went up several short stairways to reach the Château Frontenac, one of the Canada’s grand railway hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway. As we were climbing the stairs, we noticed that the flag was at half-staff. Queen Elizabeth II had just died. I was very young when she became Queen, but I remember watching her coronation on television. My family didn’t have a TV yet, but one of my mom’s friends did. That friend also had a daughter my age, and she and I were friends, just like our mothers. We had a ladies’ day, watching the pomp of the coronation. Like so many people today, Queen Elizabeth II was the only British monarch I remembered, and it was sad to see the flag at half-staff in memory of her.

The Château Frontenac at the top of the bluff is massive. The first photo shows the side of the Château that faces the “new” city; the second photo is a side view of the Château. In the second photo, you can see that the ground slopes upward at least four stories from one end of the Château to the other. Ted and I thought Montreal was hilly, but we hadn’t seen real city hills until we got to Québec! The third photo shows the floral butterflies in front of the Château.

We walked from the Château Frontenac past the Ursuline convent. Actually, we had to take our guide’s word for that. The Ursulines value their privacy and the convent is well-hidden behind other buildings, trees, etc. so we didn’t actually see it. The Ursulines were the first nuns to come to Canada and founded their convent in 1639. The sisters studied the native languages and then taught native children reading and writing as well as needlework. embroidery, drawing, and domestic arts. The Ursuline convent in Québec City is the oldest educational institution for women in North America.

We walked across the top of the bluff to the Citadel fort and arrived at a stone wall that was about three feet high. It didn’t look like much of a defense against enemies unless you looked over the edge. Here’s a photo of an apartment building at the base of the bluff below that low wall. The entrance on the right is at the level of the street on that side of the building; the entrance on the left is at the eighth floor of the building and has a short stairway up to the next street. Access to the inside elevator is for residents only; everyone else has to climb the stairs. The top of the bluff is higher than this building, so the three-foot-high wall at the top was probably sufficient for defense.

Much like our walking tour of Montreal, our Québec tour guide made comparisons between Montreal and Québec, but this time, Québec was always a little bit better than Montreal. I definitely sense some city rivalry going on.

We worked our way down the slope of the bluff and past some shops where I noticed railings along the sidewalk. Our guide told us that in spring and fall (wet, freezing), the sidewalks can be dangerously slippery for walking uphill and downhill, so the railings help prevent falls.

A little farther down this hill, our guide told us about tomorrow’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec–a bicycle race. The race is not point-to-point, but instead, requires 16 laps of 12.6 km (7.8 mi.) each for a total of 201.6 km (124.8 mi.). There are 4 climbs in rapid succession on each lap: the first climb is a distance of 375 m at a 10% average grade; the second is 420 m at a 9% average grade; the third is 190 m at a 7% average grade; and the last is 1,000 m at a 4% average grade. Repeat these 4 climbs 16 times. The finish is uphill. Here’s a view from the corner of one climb. It continues downhill to the right of the photo at an even steeper grade. Approximately 400 (crazy) racers are expected to participate tomorrow.

On our walking tour, we saw some pretty streets and plazas. And lots of stairways.

In the early days of British settlement in Canada, timber was a major export to Europe. It was difficult to sail an empty ship across the Atlantic to Canada, so the Scottish ships used yellow bricks for ballast, dumped them at the port when they arrived, and replaced them with timber for the return voyage. The Canadian settlers called the discarded ballast “Scottish yellow brick” and used it for buildings that still exist today, like the one in the center of the photo below.

When buildings are built of stone rubble, rounded corners add strength to the structure.

For centuries, Québec City residents filled in the St. Lawrence River to make more land. The wavy lines in this plaza and elsewhere in the city indicate areas that used to be river water.

The painting below looks very realistic in person; it has less depth in a photograph. When we saw it across the plaza, it was difficult to believe that the scene was flat. I took a picture of it from the side to prove it. You can tell by the second photo that the sidewalk I stood on to take the second picture was at the third floor of the building where the two men are standing on the balcony in the picture. Yes, steep hills and stairs.

At the end of our tour, there was a group stop at a pub for a much-needed snack. The snack included a glass of wine, sausage, shallots, and mustard caviar on some cracker-like bread. It was all good.

At sunset, our ship left port, heading toward our next stop: Saguenay. The Château Frontenac dominates the Québec City skyline.

Yesterday, we checked out of the hotel and moved into our stateroom on the cruise ship. The hotel lobby was a madhouse and the lines were long, but lunch was ready when we boarded the ship. The best thing about cruising: we unpacked our suitcases, put everything in drawers and on hangers, and won’t have to re-pack until we leave the ship 12 days from now.

We met three other couples at dinner and had a good time. The hostess who seated us asked me, “How are you?” “I’m fine,” I replied. “You look tired,” she said. “I am,” I responded. She smiled at me and said, “Check with me at the end of the cruise.” Her comment might not have been tactful, but it was true. Ted and I have been working 10-12 hours every day for the past three weeks to get ready for the interior house contractors, the exterior door contractor, the landscape designer, and the cruise! Yes, we’re exhausted, and we’re ready to get away and relax. “Respect,” the biopic movie about Aretha Franklin, was playing in the onboard theater after dinner, so we watched that and enjoyed the free popcorn before going to bed.

We slept in this morning and then took a three-hour walking tour of Old Montreal after lunch. The tour guide mentioned a number of things that are similar about Montreal and Quebec City. Not surprisingly, Montreal’s claim to fame was always a little bit better than Quebec City’s. For example, although Quebec’s total provincial population is about 8 million, the city of Montreal within the province has 4 million of those people, compared to Quebec City’s population of just over a half million people. City pride and friendly (I hope) rivalry was hard at work throughout the tour.

Montreal is on an island and, with those millions of people, there’s a scarcity of parking places. To make up for that shortage, the city has great public transportation and 700 km of bike trails. There are lots of underground walking tunnels as well, which I’m sure are a good thing in the winter. Our first stop was Notre Dame, a cathedral that is built entirely of wood (inside and out), but has been painted to look like the stone European cathedrals. It has a pipe organ with 7,000 pipes and 4 keyboards; seating for 3,000 worshippers; and a ceiling painted Virgin Mary Blue with 24k gold stars.

We took an elevator to the observation deck at the top of the Museum of Archeology and History and had a nice overview of the city and of the Crooked Bridge. The bridge’s real name is the Champlain Bridge, but it has three curves, so everyone calls it the Crooked Bridge. Within the museum, I saw an interesting early pencil sharpener. (The overhead light reflections were unavoidable.)

In the summer, pianos are placed in many places around the city. We saw at least a half dozen and there was someone playing every one of them. (The man in the left picture had just finished playing.)

We visited a huge business complex that is built underground and has two levels of multi-story stores and offices as well as three levels of subway tracks. Here’s a reflecting pool and a sculpture within the complex (upper photo, below). The lower photo faces the open (downhill) end of the building. There are subway tracks on each end of the complex and the guide told us the tracks on the other end (uphill) were underground but above this level of the building.

A lot of dirt had to be moved to build this structure and the excess dirt was used to fill the river and create an artificial island. The 1967 Montreal Expo/World’s Fair was built on that island. Most of the buildings were built as temporary structures for use only during the Expo, but the French and U.S. pavilions are still in use. The U.S. pavilion for space exploration now houses agencies focused on green energy and includes a biosphere. On another artificial island (also built with fill dirt), there is a Formula 1 racetrack. When there are no races, the track is used for skating, running, biking, track events, and even cars.

After our walking tour, Ted and I had some time on our own. It was hot, so we grabbed some more Cherry Garcia ice cream at another Ben & Jerry’s shop before re-boarding the ship to leave Montreal. On our way downriver, we saw Habitat 67, or what is called the “Cubes.” They were designed by a young architect in a competition to promote a “new” Montreal. His first model of the structure was built with Lego bricks. In 2012, Habitat 67 won the design competition to be Lego’s architectural set of the year. In general, four cubes make up a living unit. They are luxuriously furnished and can be rented for about $2,900 CD per month or purchased for roughly $1 million CD for a 1,000-1,200 square foot section. I found the first photo on the internet. The second photo is mine, taken as we left Montreal and headed for Quebec City, tomorrow’s destination.

Refreshed from a long night’s sleep, Ted and I explored Montreal today. We spent most of the afternoon walking around the Golden Square Mile–an area of older, elegant homes built at the foot and up the slope of Mount Royal. Today is the Labor Day holiday in Canada as well as in the U.S., so museums and other places were closed, but the weather was beautiful and so was our walk. We quickly discovered that Montreal is all about hills. We started at the foot of Mount Royal, where our hotel was located, looked at the mountain, and said we had no desire to climb to the top. The photo below is a view of Mount Royal from Old Montreal on the opposite side of the city from our hotel.

As we walked, we kept going up a block and over a block and eventually found ourselves at the foot of the final path that led to the park at the top of the mountain. We decided not to go for the summit, because we’d already been walking for about two hours and still had to walk all that way back to the hotel. The hills in Montreal are so steep that the foundation of one house was often higher than the rooftop of the house behind it.

Here are some of the beautiful houses we saw and one of the less steep streets we climbed.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts promotes street art in the city and we saw lots of it.

The colorful three-dimensional construction wall in the background of the left photo above is lighted at night (right photo below).

The artificial trees on the street and the artwork on the building in the photo on the right are tributes to curing breast cancer.

This lady looks like she wants to be an integral part of street art. (Or maybe she’s their mom, waiting to take them home.)

We saw these in an art gallery window. They’re two-dimensional paintings, not three-dimensional bookshelves.

All of our walking (another 5.5 miles) made us hungry, so when we saw a Ben & Jerry’s (it’s not far from Vermont to Montreal), we stopped for some Cherry Garcia ice cream–my favorite flavor. I don’t know if all the Ben & Jerry’s restaurants offer this, but the menu included a “Vermonster”: 4 scoops each of 5 flavors of ice cream with hot fudge, whipped cream, and cherries for $69.95 CD. It serves 4 or more people. With 20 scoops of ice cream, I would guess that more than 4 people usually share this treat. Ted and I each had less ice cream than the Vermonter offered.

We enjoyed spending the afternoon within the Golden Square Mile of “old” Montreal. Tomorrow, we’ll check out of the hotel and into our stateroom on the ship. The day after that, we’re going to take an organized walking tour of “new” Montreal.

The electrical work for our interior house update is finished. There are several large holes in the ceilings and walls for the drywall repair guy to fix, but the wiring is in and we have most of the new light fixtures. The others will arrive during the painting process and will be ready to install when the paint is dry. After the electrical team left the house, we had two full days (insert sarcasm here) to prepare for our 18-day cruise from Montreal Canada, up the St. Lawrence River, down the eastern Canadian/U.S. coastline, and into New York City.

We had an early start for the cruise–we had to be at the airport by 5:00 a.m. for our flight to Charlotte, then to Montreal. That wasn’t the shortest route, but the airlines didn’t ask us for input when they planned their routes.

We were expecting something like the cartoon above, but our STL->CLT flight was called on time. We learned quickly that we shouldn’t be too confident. During the CLT->YUL boarding process, an oxygen mask dropped from its overhead storage for no apparent reason. A mechanic was called, but the mask wouldn’t retract and required a major repair. The plane was only half full, so the solution was to move the passenger from that seat to another seat with a properly working (and retracted) oxygen mask. That was a 30-minute delay and made our flight more typical of air travel these days. With the ArriveCAN app, passing through Canadian customs was a breeze. We collected our baggage and joined the Viking cruise folks, who took our group to our hotel. After checking in, Ted and I immediately took a three-hour nap, then hit the streets to explore Montreal and to look for some dinner.

We didn’t see a lot of restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, and we were only a few blocks from McGill University, so we asked some of the hundreds of always-hungry college students milling around where we could eat. A wonderful couple said they were just heading for the 3 Brasseurs, and invited us to go with them. What a place! In English, that’s the 3 Brewers and it was a brewpub. I think everything on the menu had beer in it somewhere: beer-battered fries, blueberry beer pie, beer buns (made with what’s left of the malt after brewing the beer, etc.). We had such good burgers (“smothered in maple beer sauce”) and such a good dessert (caramel sauce-covered cinnamon rolls made with beer butter in the sauce), that we went back for a lunch pizza the next day. You might drool as you look at the photos of our caramel sauce cinnamon rolls and our pizza.

The Brasseurs also serve beer in a five-liter “Triton,” but only to groups of five or more people.

After dinner, we walked around for awhile (five miles clocked on my pedometer today) and then crashed in our room and slept for more than ten hours. We’ll be more alert tomorrow.

The second monthly lunch in our neighborhood group of ladies was beautiful. Kelly hosted the group and said she enjoys using nice things. How do you spell “understatement”? Here’s a picture of the table we saw when we arrived. Each place setting had a charger, a dinner plate, a salad plate, and a dessert plate. Kelly described her decorating theme as “French country,” and each chair had a little gift for its occupant–a zippered bag with a screenprint of something French. (You can see one of the bags hanging on the center chair.) There were also small bottles of wine and a fruit punch with a bit of a kick for those who wanted something more than water or iced tea to drink.

Like last month, we all brought more than one food item. Each item was large enough to allow everyone to try everything and to take a serving or two home for family members who are not ladies and, therefore, were not invited to the luncheon. The take-aways are great for dinner after we go home. Kelly was prepared and had restaurant take-away boxes for each of us. Main courses are in the first photo, then there’s a quiche, followed by desserts. The oatmeal raisin cookies were Kelly’s contribution. She used brandy-soaked raisins. Guess who brought the scotcheroos. As usual, they all disappeared. They’re simple to make, but everyone loves them.

The lunch gathering is expanding. Last time, we gathered, ate, split the leftovers, and went home after two hours. This time, we did all of the above and then went out on the deck to play games and talk with each other for another two hours. We played a version of dominoes, Catch-Phrase, and St. Louis trivia. A good time was had by all and we now have a tradition that’s been ongoing for two months. It’s been so much fun to get together as a group rather than one-by-one as we see each other, that I have a feeling this will go on for awhile. What a great idea!

P.S. Last month’s lunch was served on paper plates, take-aways left the hostess’ house on paper plates, and there were no adult beverages (or cookies). The rest of us conceded that Kelly wins the hostess prize, but she should expect paper plates again next month! No pressure allowed for the hostesses.

Ted was fertilizing the backyard flowers today and thought they were so pretty, he took some pictures. These firecrackers have bushed out nicely and fill this flower bed.

The hibiscus tree produces fresh blooms every day. They open as the sun rises, close as the sun sets, then drop to the ground overnight. We’ve had as many as ten and as few as one bloom on a single day. Three to five new flowers daily is typical. The marigolds are great for keeping the bugs away while we sit around the pool.

These crepe myrtle bushes used to provide a privacy hedge around one end of the pool. Then we had a hard winter and most of the bushes died. These two survived, but they die back every winter and no longer grow tall enough to provide privacy. Ted didn’t want to throw them away, so he stuck them in the ground behind the storage shed where he keeps his brush pile until he has time to chip the brush into mulch. The bushes bloom every year, but the only way to view them in our yard is to walk behind the storage shed. I’m sure that chipping brush is a nicer task for Ted with some pretty flowers to look at while he works.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Ted and I decided it’s time to give the interior of our house a fresh look. The interior designer we hired gave us some very good ideas, and we’ve been following up on them. If all the stars aligned, we hoped we could have at least 90 percent of the work finished before the kids and grandkids come for a December visit.

My assignment today was to call the carpet lady, the electrician, and the painter to set up appointments for walk-throughs and bids on the work. These are post-pandemic times and contractors have been unusually busy for the past three years, not to mention all the labor shortages we keep hearing about. I crossed my fingers and picked up my phone. Here’s how it went.

The carpet lady. She and her design partner will be here on Friday to get a feel for what kind of designs they should plan for us and to measure all the rooms for carpeting. They can install the master bedroom carpet and all the second floor carpeting next week. Yikes! I wasn’t ready for that. Ted and I are fully booked for the entire month of September and we have plenty to do in the remaining days of August. We scheduled carpet installation for early October.

The electrician. He can do a walk-through tomorrow, submit a bid within 24 hours, and finish the work by the end of next week. Yikes! again. It turns out that I called at a serendipitous time. The company had two electricians assigned to a total house gut and remodel–a job that took a year–and they finished it last week. Four other electricians were working on a huge commercial project which also took a year and also ended last week. This means that six electricians are available for new work. We need the electrical work completed before the painter can start, so Ted and I decided to drop everything we’d planned to do in August that wasn’t necessary to keep the world turning, and we scheduled the electrician for a walk-through and a bid tomorrow, with work to begin ASAP after that.

The painter. No problem. He can fit us in around other jobs and finish ours by next week. Now my jaw is dropping, my head is spinning, and I’m feeling a little giddy. The painter is happy to work with the carpet people so that we only need to move the furniture in and out of each room once while the carpeting and the painting are being done. He’ll be here tomorrow for a walk-through and will give us a bid on the spot. We scheduled him for early October with the carpet crew.

After three years of delays, delays, delays on outdoor house work and yard jobs, if we didn’t already have September completely filled, we could have had the entire interior of our house freshened up with new lighting, new carpeting, and new paint by the end of next week. This time, it’s the customer (us), not the contractor, who is delaying two-thirds of the project until October.

Unbelievably, all the stars aligned. 1-2-3, hat trick!

Today was a perfect day to be outdoors. The temperature was around 90 degrees, but the humidity was low, the sun was bright, and the clouds were pretty. Ted and I picked up Dylan and Theo (Teddy is growing up) and headed for the Boat House in Forest Park. A lot of other people had the same idea, judging by the number of parked cars and the number of people we saw. The Boat House rents paddle boats, canoes, and kayaks. We opted for kayaks and paddled from the dock into Post-Dispatch Lake. Here’s the path we took for our one-hour adventure.

I took a picture of Dylan and Theo as we approached a pedestrian bridge and an oncoming paddle boat. Notice how synchronized their paddles are. What a team!

Here are the boys at the Lagoon Drive end of the Grand Basin.

Facing the opposite direction in the Grand Basin, Dylan took a picture of Ted and me heading back toward Art Hill and the Art Museum. The fountains all around the Grand Basin were really pretty.

This is another of Dylan’s pictures, also facing Art Hill. Theo’s smile shows how much fun we were having.

On our way back to the Boat House, we passed a family of ducks.

At the next bend in the canal, we spotted two herons. The one on the right is harder to see–look at the center right in the water beside the dying weeping willow tree.

This bridge made a pretty reflection in the water.

After an hour of kayaking in the sun, we were all in the mood for ice cream. The Boat House café told us the closest thing they have to ice cream is a vodka smoothie, but we had two underage people in our group, although Theo joked that he might be able to handle a vodka smoothie. We all voted for Dairy Queen instead, and we splurged and ordered medium-sized cones. The dip cone is Dylan’s and my DQ favorite. Theo went for a dip cone too (no vodka) and Ted, the individualist in our group, chose a twist cone. Yummy!

We all had a good time. None of us had kayaked in Forest Park before, but we’d all enjoy doing it again. According to the boys, our next get-together should include swimming in our pool and playing sheephead. That works for Ted and me. Our grandchildren are the greatest. They share their photos, their smiles, and their time with us. ♥♥

It’s been nearly 25 years since Ted and I re-furbed/freshened our house and we’re getting tired of the same old look. It’s time for a change. We both lack decorating skills, so we hired an interior designer to help us make some decisions. I mentioned to the designer that we have very little display space. Her suggestion was to get rid of some of the books and use those shelves as display space. “Gasp!” thought I. “Blasphemy!”

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.

Henry Ward Beecher

I cannot get rid of my books, but if I add up all the empty space on my shelves, I might be able to clear two shelves in the family room for display and still have space to add new books. We’ll see. Or I can forget about displaying things and stick with the books. With that said, when Kari called to ask if I’d like to go to the library book fair with her and Teddy, I immediately said “yes.”

I cannot live without books.

Thomas Jefferson

The library has not had one of its three-day book fairs since 2019 (before COVID), and they had so many books, they had to move the event from the Convention Center to the Family Arena. Professional sporting events and medium-name concerts take place in the arena, so it’s huge. There are four different gates to accommodate four simultaneous indoor events and the library used only one venue space. The parking lot was nearly half-full and it looked like Elvis might be in the building. (Or maybe someone else–Elvis would have filled the entire building.)

I came prepared with my largest carry-all bag, but I saw immediately that I was an amateur. A number of folks brought wagons or rolling file boxes. I might do that next year.

But that was still only medium level prep for book purchasing. These two came with dollies and four large packing cartons each. I won’t do that next year.

The Book Fair opened at 9:00 a.m. for a limited group of library friends and members; after 12:00 p.m., entry was free and open to everyone. Kari, Teddy, and I met at the gate at 12:30 p.m. and were given maps to guide our browsing. Hardbacks were $2.00, over-sized paperbacks were $1.00, and paperbacks were $0.50. What a deal!

The floor space within the outlined area on the map below was large enough for an official indoor soccer, football, hockey, etc. game (audience seating is outside that area) and the entire floor was covered with tables that were, in turn, completely covered with books. Under all the tables were boxes containing just as many more books. Volunteers patrolled the tables, and when the books started to lean over because people had removed some for purchase, the volunteers reached into the boxes below and pulled out more books to fill the empty spaces. Other volunteers continued to bring in boxes of books from the dock area to replace the empty boxes beneath the tables.

We browsed for nearly an hour before Teddy noticed how long the check-out line was. I had another appointment and had to leave in about 40 minutes, and Kari and Teddy were finished browsing, so we got in line. Keep in mind that the oblong outline in the above map is the size of an indoor sports field. The end of the line was at the red arrow and, from that point forward, moved clockwise around the floor. The exit to the cashier was at the green arrow, so we needed to move nearly all the way around the floor. Yikes! The good news was that the line was never stationary. I tried to look through some of the children’s books (green tables) as we passed them because I didn’t get to those tables before we got in line, but when I paused to extract a book, Kari and Teddy moved forward 4-6 feet before I even had a chance to examine the book.

Checking out was fast: Several staff members were available to count books for customers. They did the simple math to calculate the cost, and wrote the total on a piece of paper. Customers then took the piece of paper to the next available cashier and handed her their money–cash only, no tax to calculate. We made it from the back of the line to outside the front door in about 30 minutes. Not bad at all!

For the price of one new book, I now have 15 new-to-me books. There goes some of that display space the designer thinks I have.

I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most.

Margaret Atwood

A week ago, the St. Louis area made the national news for the prodigious amount of rain we had in a 24-hour period. We weren’t really excited about breaking the 24-hour rainfall record by over 2 inches, but it happened. State and federal disaster aid is available to flood victims.

River floods are a result of heavy rain or rapidly melting snow upstream and affect areas along the riverbanks. Rainfall events are different: the rain falls faster than the ground and drainage systems can handle it, forcing it to accumulate in any low-lying area at the bottom of any hill. Unfortunately, we had three heavy rainfalls over short periods of time in fewer than seven days, severely affecting many homes and businesses. The owner of one business said his ground floor was covered by water three times in a week. Countless cars were completely submerged by flood waters. Because of the power of the moving water, rescue teams had to exchange smaller boats for larger ones.

Our rain gauge overflows at 5 inches, but the official reading for our area was 12 inches. Ted and I looked at the TV meteorologist’s map showing contour lines representing rainfall totals on a map of the metro area. We estimated that we fell in the 9-10 inch range. The following two rain events brought lesser amounts–around 2-3 inches each time, according to our rain gauge. After the St. Louis “practice session,” the storms moved into Kentucky and that state had far more flood damage than we did. Ted and I were fortunate. We had nothing worse than a very soggy lawn.

A few days after the last rainfall, Ted and I decided the Katy Trail was probably dry enough to bike. We headed for the Greens Bottom trail head and planned to bike westward to Weldon Spring–about 11 miles one way. We hadn’t thought about the fact that the rail trail on which the Katy is built runs along the Missouri River (low ground) and that it might have flooded, so we were surprised when we entered the trail and saw a sign announcing it was closed for flood damage repair.

The trail looked ok and there was plenty of room to bike past the warning fence, so we decided to try it. If it was washed out or blocked, we could always turn around. The first 2 miles were rough, but the trail rises gently in elevation from its eastern to its western terminus, so all was well after the first two miles.

The trail was badly rutted in several places. Obviously, the water was running from the trail into the creek.

There was a lot of accumulated debris on the upstream side of this bridge. The grader is ready to go.

Our first street crossing required dismounting and walking our bikes across. The ruts were 4-6 inches deep all the way across the trail.

This might have been a huge source of water runoff. The Katy runs along a limestone river bluff at Greens Bottom. The standing water at the bottom of this point of the rock wall led Ted and me to think that the rainfall from the top of the bluff tumbled down these rocks like a giant waterfall, then ran over the trail.

Our assumption about the water running down this bluff was supported by the piles of silt the bobcat piled up when workers cleared the trail. The arrow points to the base of the “waterfall” point in the above photo.

As we biked westward, we noticed a lot of trees that had been washed out by the heavy rain and the powerful flood waters. The Park Service has already been hard at work clearing the trail.

Along the way, we saw a volleyball that apparently floated away from its home and became stuck on a fencepost. Given its beat-up condition and the brand name facing us, we couldn’t help thinking “Castaway” and “Tom Hanks.”

We had to slow our biking speed for the first two miles in order to navigate around the ruts in the road, but the rest of our ride was smooth. It was another good 22-mile ride on the Katy with a flood adventure for added interest.

When I went outside a few days ago, I noticed a mushroom fairy ring growing in our neighbor’s yard. Then I saw another one in a nearby subdivision when I took a bike ride.

Fairy rings are sometimes seen as hazardous or dangerous, linked to witches or the Devil. On the other hand, they are also linked with good fortune. Take your pick. The rings can be 30 or more feet in diameter and can become stable over time as they grow and find food underground. I don’t think that will happen to this one. The lawn service mowers demolished it the following day.

It’s amazing to hear the creative ideas people come up with to pass the time. Guinness World Records was approached by Fire & Smoke, a restaurant sponsor of the Jacksonville Jaguars, to document a world record for throwing a hot dog into a bun. To set the record: (1) the hot dog had to be thrown a minimum of 20 meters (65.62 feet); (2) the hot dog could not be tampered with in any way to aid its projection; and (3) the bun had to be pre-sliced.

The challenge took place on November 27, 2018. (Why didn’t we hear about this sooner?) Mark Brunell, the quarterback for the Jaguars at that time, was the thrower. “Everyone can throw a football,” he said, “and everyone can throw a hot dog.” The catcher was Ryan Moore, a British flat racing jockey. This photo–presumably taken from the catcher’s position–gives some perspective of the throwing distance. Note the cheerleaders and the team mascot on the left.

Here’s the throw . . .

. . . and the catch. Author’s query: There’s a hot dog on the ground. Was a previous throw a miss?

You can see the Guinness World Records stamp of approval in the lower right corner of the photo below. The distance thrown was 20.96 meters (68.76 feet). “It took just about everything I had to throw it that far,” said Brunell. “It’s a pretty big deal and I’m very proud of that.”

According to Guinness World Records, record challengers have the option of adding condiments to the hot dog. Go on, give it a try.

P.S. You can see a video of this awesome event on YouTube.

Peggy, our neighbor, celebrated her 91st birthday this week, so some of the women in our neighborhood decided to give her a party. We all brought some food and had a wonderful time. Here’s Peggy, the birthday girl, still looking great at 91. BTW, on her plate, she has three of the four desserts that were contributed to the party. If that sounds like a lot, you should have seen the rest of the food!

And here’s our neighborhood group (clockwise from the top): Claudia, Maureen, Kelly, Peggy, and me. The party was so much fun, we’re going to turn this into a monthly gathering.

I recently found a bunch of old photos that made me smile.

1965: The first one is the yearbook photo of the girls in my dorm in my sophomore year. I lived in a small scholarship dorm that was much less expensive than the regular dorms. In return for the deep housing discount, each resident was required to contribute about two hours of assigned weekly housekeeping work–assisting the cook (yes, singular) with meal prep, serving, or clean-up; cleaning a hallway or a common area; cleaning a communal bathroom; etc. Most of the chores were done by teams. It was a good deal for us, and this is where I met the friends I still get together with.

2003: Ted and I were scouting out places to take a family photo for the kids’ upcoming visit. Here’s Ted, posing with Lewis and Clark and their dog, Seaman.

2003: One of those fun-loving National Weather Service guys had time to photoshop Ted and Vince at a beach. They’re both wearing NWS shirts, so maybe it was supposed to be a working vacation.

Summer 2003: Ted and I went to Washington, D.C. The breadline memorial is one of the rooms in the FDR Memorial on the Mall. Ted decided to get in line.

Christmas 2004: I think Kathy gave Ted the Packers sweatshirt, cheesehead, and ball cap. I don’t know who gave Sky the baby-size sweatshirt. It looks like Grandpa is trying to mold a future Packers fan.

January 31, 2004: It’s New Year’s Eve, but the Weather Service staff is hard at work. Tom, Ted, and Vince took a midnight break for some New Year’s Eve champagne. Alcohol is not allowed in federal offices, so they made their toast in the middle of the dead-end street in front of the office, off the federal property.

2005: I have no idea what’s going on here or who took the picture, but it looks like Ted and I are having a great time in Florida on our spring break trip.

2007: Ted and I have entered one dance contest in our lifetimes: the twist contest at our niece, Cheryl’s, wedding. You probably think the first place winners are on the left, but you’re wrong; that man and woman are the third place winners. Ted and I won the first place trophies. As long as we never enter another dance contest, we’ll have a perfect winning streak.

2009: The bobcat in this photo was in our yard to dig our swimming pool. Ted’s dream car?

2012: My dream car in Little Rock, AR.

2014: Ted took this picture of me in Mt. Rainier NP on one of our visits with Thom.

According to the news reports, 2.5 million people experienced cancellations and/or delays on 7,800+ flights over the July 4th weekend. Ted and I were two of those people on four of those flights during the holiday week and it’s true: none of the flights left the airport at the originally scheduled time. Our nonstop morning flight from home to Seattle was completely cancelled by the airline, so they assigned us to an evening flight the previous day. The change of flight time gave us a longer layover for our slightly delayed commuter flight to Wenatchee. Coming home from Jeff’s house, we had a 20-minute departure delay on the first leg of our journey and a 2-hour delay on the last leg, bringing us home at 3:00 a.m. (Insert yawn here.) Between the flights, we had a great time.

It was wonderful to see our boys and their families again. Hadley was only two months old the last time we saw her. This time, we celebrated her first birthday with her. Sefton was getting ready to start pre-school last summer and now he’s looking forward to first grade. Here we are with Hadley.

Hadley isn’t quite ready to walk, but she has a unique–and rapid–style of crawling/scooting over the hardwood floors.

Sefton wore a fun NASA T-shirt. A space helmet visor reflects the American flag, which is made of sequins. When Sefton flips the sequins in the opposite direction, the flag becomes a blue sun visor on the space helmet. When Sefton stands in the sunlight, the sequins make him giggle at the sparking reflection on the sink front. Awesome!

Thom and Katie took us to a nearby park on the Columbia River during our visit. There was a salmon ladder, but the salmon weren’t spawning yet, so we didn’t see them jumping up the ladder. Even so, the views were pretty and the playground was fun. There was a slide that gave sliders a little boost on their way down so that they seemed to “shoot” out of the slide. Thom and Sefton had fun trying that. You can tell by Thom’s balancing act that he wasn’t expecting to exit the slide at that speed.

On another day, we took a “secret” hike in the Oglala Gorge. I say “secret” because the trailhead was on a secondary (maybe tertiary) road and the entrance was overgrown, camouflaging it. Katie knew exactly where it was, so we parked and took off with Sefton as our leader, carrying a big stick because–hey!–he’s a kid and he needs a stick.

When we reached the summit of the trail, it was time to rest and to enjoy the view of the Enchantment Range of the Cascades. You can see the stick beside Sefton. He needed it to guide us going up and again coming down the mountain.

Of course there was a birthday party for Hadley. Like most one-year-olds, the cupcake and the special candle meant nothing to her, but the frosting tasted good.

While the adults visited with each other, Sefton took care of Hadley’s car. First, he filled the gas tank; then he took her for a ride.

We enjoyed the beautiful weather by eating most of our meals outside. One evening, we had pizza cooked outdoors in Thom and Katie’s pizza oven. Later, we roasted marshmallows and on another evening, we enjoyed a pan of s’mores.

After spending several days at Thom and Katie’s house, Julian joined us and we all headed for Jeff and La’s house for more fun together. When we arrived, I noticed pretty wildflowers growing along the driveway.

Our first day together was the pick day of the week for water fun. Jeff and La contributed jet skis, kayaks, and paddleboards and we all had a great time.

All that activity made us hungry, so we needed an ice cream snack after dinner. Sefton made a sign with a picture of an ice cream cone and the notice that “Ice cream shop is open.” Then we dug into the ice cream and toppings.

When we were finished eating, it was much later than Sefton’s bedtime, but you wouldn’t know it to look at his pj’s.

In spite of the message on his pj’s, Sefton went to bed and fell asleep. The rest of us settled in for a movie in Jeff and La’s home theater.

Ted and I stayed a few more days after Thom’s family left for home. Jeff took us for a ride around the area. The nearest town is Big Fork, MT so we went to town. Sure enough, there’s a big fork in town.

On another day we hiked a 5-mile trail along the west side of Holland Lake. The views of the lake were beautiful.

In the evening, we enjoyed a pizza dinner on the front porch, overlooking Flathead Lake.

It takes a long time (until after midnight) for the sky to get dark enough to see stars this far north in June, but we were so far from urban lights that the Milky Way was clearly visible. What a treat for city dwellers like Ted and me.

It was finally time for Ted and me to head for the airport to go home. On the way, we stopped at Rosa’s Pizza–Jeff’s favorite local restaurant and the place where he plays mahjong weekly. The pizza was delicious. It’s no wonder he eats it every week.

As we watched the sun set each evening, I understood why Jeff takes so many sunset pictures. It’s a beautiful view every night. My cell phone photos of the sunset aren’t as stunning as this one that Julian shared with me. He took it with a “real” camera. The peace it evokes is a perfect finish for the time we spent with our sons and their families.

I liked the puppy quilt I made for Ollie’s first birthday, so I decided to continue the fun by making a quilt for Hadley’s first birthday too. I searched “baby quilts” and “crib blankets” online, hoping to find an inspiration for “girlie” colors and themes. Eh! There were no “aha!” moments online. Hoping fabric choices would point me toward a design, I went fabric shopping and–unbelievably!–found nothing I liked in fabrics. I saw a lot of fabric, but inspiration continued to elude me, so I went home to mull things over. After a few weeks, I thought the fabric store might have some new fabrics. They did, and I settled on a butterfly print and a complementary fabric for the backing. I felt like my fabric choices were satisfactory, but not thrilling. I liked the puppy fabric and the puppy paw print appliqué idea for Ollie immediately. It wasn’t that way with my Hadley project, but the longer I worked on it, and the more finished it became, the more I liked it.

My next online search was for butterflies to go with my fabric choice. This was my online inspiration. It’s garish, but I liked the idea of butterflies fluttering over the entire surface of the quilt.

After buying fabric, my next step was to draw butterfly patterns. Four of the butterfly appliqués required two layers of fabric; the one in the upper left needed three layers.

I’ve got fabric and I’ve got patterns, but there are more decisions to be made: Which colors shall I use for the butterflies, and in which combinations shall I use them? What kind of lettering design shall I choose? Which colors of threads (matching or contrasting) and which stitching patterns shall I select to attach the butterfly pieces to each other and to the quilt? How will I get the antennas drawn and how can I stitch them? I made lots of samples to help me make these decisions.

I decided to purchase a third fabric (the dark purple) for the butterfly markings; lettering will be Comic Sans (one of my sewing machine choices); thread should match the fabric; zigzag will be best for assembling the butterflies and for attaching them to the top quilt fabric; I’ll use a disappearing marker to draw the antennas and I’ll stitch them with a triple stitch and embroidery thread. I tried sewing a double line to make the antennas bolder, but it was too difficult to keep the two lines of stitching exactly side-by-side, so I went with less visible (but more error-free) antennas. Whew! I’m glad that’s all decided!

The next step was to make the appliqués. First, fuse the Wonder Under (I like it better than HeatnBond) to the fabric; second, mark the patterns on the backing of the fused Wonder Under; . . .

. . . third, cut the pieces along the pattern lines; . . .

. . . fourth, fuse the butterfly pieces together, then zigzag the decorative pieces to the base butterfly; . . .

. . . fifth, attach the butterflies to the top fabric with zigzag stitches; sixth, draw the antennas; . . .

. . . seventh, eighth, and ninth, stitch the antennas, add the embroidery (“Hadley”), and draw the quilting lines; . . .

Those butterfly appliqués were a lot of work! They were fun, so I’m not complaining, but I kept track of my time and they took half the time of the entire project. I sewed Hadley’s name on one butterfly, my initials on another, and the year on a third butterfly.

After the appliqués were finished, it was time to attach the batting to the top fabric and then to attach the backing.

With everything put together into a single piece/quilt, the next step was to sew the quilting lines. I didn’t want to sew lines over the butterflies, but some of the butterflies covered more space than I wanted to leave unquilted. After several days of thought, my solution was to stitch in the ditch around the outlines of the butterfly wings and bodies. On the two largest butterflies, I also stitched around some of the butterfly markings. That stitching made the butterfly outlines visible on the back side of the quilt, which I think adds visual interest.

After the quilting lines were sewn, I finished the quilt by folding over the self-binding and attaching it with a decorative blanket stitch. Then I closed the mitered corners with a featherstitch.

Voilà! A first birthday gift for Hadley.

Here’s Hadley with her new quilt and her new doll. Happy first birthday, sweetheart!

Aunt Ruth gave me some more good laughs.

This one’s for cat lovers.

The perils of technology.

The next theme: airline logic.

For the coffee lovers out there. (Thom? Katie? Have you tried this?)

For gardeners.

Father’s Day is coming up.

And finally . . . this one isn’t funny, but it’s too good not to share.

A recent CNN news article by David Williams had an interesting story with a creative twist.

Zander Moricz, the class president at a Florida high school couldn’t say “gay” in his graduation speech because of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, so he talked about something else that made him different from his classmates:  his curly hair.

Zander began his graduation address by removing his mortarboard and pointing at his head.  “I used to hate my curls,” he said and told the audience how he tried desperately to straighten that part of himself.  He confessed that curly hair is difficult in Florida because of the humidity, so he decided to just be proud of who he was and came to school as his “authentic self.”

There weren’t any other “curly-haired people” to talk to in school, so he went to his teachers for guidance, and their support helped him.  “There are going to be so many kids with curly hair” he said, “who need a (supportive) community and won’t have one.  Instead, they’ll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.”

Zander closed by reminding his fellow students of the times they rallied against anti-Black violence and to draw attention to the climate crisis, and he told them that they have power and they need to use it.  “When you waste your power,” he said in his speech, “what you’re really doing is giving it to whoever has the most already, and right now, those who have the most are coming for those who have the least.”  This is good advice for all of us, whether or not we have curly hair.

June 4 was high school graduation day for Sky, our fifth grandchild. It was a beautiful day, but we weren’t sorry that the ceremony was held in the air-conditioned gym instead of outdoors in the blazing sun. Compared to the graduating classes of our first four grandchildren, this was a small group: 143 graduates. While we were waiting for the graduates to enter the gym and get things going, Dean noticed that Bernie Sanders was in attendance.

There was an empty chair and a wreath in a front corner of the gym in memory of a classmate who died.

The graduates entered the gym right on time. Notice that Sky’s long-legged stride requires the entire width of the hem on his gown.

With only 143 graduates, you’d think the ceremony would be shorter than an event for 500-600 graduates, but that wasn’t the case. There is apparently a requirement that graduation audience members spend a minimum of two hours sitting on backless bleachers waiting for the 15 seconds in which they can watch the one person each of them cares about. To make this happen, there were several musical selections and six speakers, all of whom told the graduates that they are part of an amazing class and that they should aim high because the world is theirs for the taking. Unlike most graduation speeches, I actually remember one of them, but that’s probably because the speaker used props and three of the graduates to help him make his point. (In other words, it was interesting and unique.) His story is too long to tell here, but his final point was that sometimes, when you fail to reach your goal, you discover something even better than what you were striving for.

Finally, after nearly 90 minutes of speeches and musical numbers, it was time to recognize the achievements of the graduates. Sky graduated Magna Cum Laude, which required a GPS of at least 4.0 plus at least four college-level classes. The Magna Cum Laude grads wore gold stoles.

After a variety of honors were recognized, it was finally time for “our” graduate’s 15 seconds of fame. Sky had his official graduation picture taken with the principal. Check out the shortest lady on the platform (second from the right). She’s the president of the Board of Education. Naturally, she stood next to the tallest person on the platform.

Sky received his actual diploma–no need to pick it up at the school office next week or to watch for it in the mail.

After all 143 grads had a diploma, they moved their tassels from right to left. Dean explained that the tassel moves from the passenger side (right) to the driver’s seat (left). Thanks, Dean. I’ll finally be able to remember which way it goes. The last step of the ceremony was the traditional mortarboard toss. The maroon mortarboards don’t show very well against the crowd in my photo, but if you look closely, you’ll see them.

When we got back to the house, it was time for family photos. I think we covered every combination of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, girlfriend, etc. with everyone’s cameras. Here are three: Sky with Mom and Dad; Sky with Grandma and Grandpa (minus his gown); and Sky with the entire group (picture taken by Sky’s girlfriend).

When Sky took off his cap and gown, Teddy decided to practice for his future graduation.

Next step: opening graduation gifts.

To top off the day, Kari and Dean hosted a graduation dinner at Maggiano’s restaurant. Sky chose the restaurant because he likes Italian food and because he liked Maggiano’s when Ted and I chose it for our 50th wedding anniversary. The food was delicious, and we all had a good time.

But wait! The party’s not over! Ted and I hosted lunch for the graduation gang the following day. With shipping costs so high, we took advantage of Kathy and Annette being in town to celebrate several other events after lunch. There were birthday gifts for those who have birthdays in May, an anniversary gift for Ted’s and my anniversary in June, and Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts.

Then there was time to visit with each other and to enjoy the pool and the beautiful weather.

Finally, it was time for Kathy and Annette to head home and for all of us to kick back, relax, and enjoy the memories of a happy weekend together. Congratulations, Sky–#5.

When I biked the Katy Trail in the 1990s, I thought it was boring. It’s a hard-packed fine gravel trail and you can’t “loop” it–you bike in one direction, then turn around and see the same scenery in the other direction. When our ebikes inspired Ted and me to become more dedicated bikers (our pedal-assist ebikes have a serious fun factor), we decided to try as many of the metro area’s bike trails as possible. I somewhat reluctantly included the Katy Trail on our list of trails to ride just because it’s a metro area bike trail. The result: I’ve come to love the Katy. Why? First, it’s a long trail (200+ miles across the state along the Missouri River), so even on busy days, it’s not crowded and you can bike relatively long stretches without seeing another biker (or walker); second, it’s quiet and peaceful; and third, there are pretty views all along the trail.

Ted and I biked 20 miles on the Katy (10 miles in each direction, of course) twice in May and I was reminded of what a nice ride it is. As we headed west from Defiance on the first ride, I noticed that the only sounds were the birds and the crunch of our bicycle wheels on the gravel. In addition, the Katy provides beautiful views of the river, the trees, the river bluffs, wildflowers, farms, small river towns, etc.

Each of our two May rides had an adventure–one less pleasant than the other. On our westward ride, we found a side trail that led to a park and decided to take it. It turned out to be two miles of rough trail to the park. In some places, the trail was very steep with switchback turns that were too sharp to maintain our uphill momentum, so we had to walk our bikes up. When we arrived at the park, it was disappointing: a parking lot and a small lake for fishing. I think there’s more to the park (somewhere), but we didn’t see a good way to search for it, so we started back downhill. I was lucky and made it down; Ted’s bike slipped on the loose gravel and he needed a half dozen Band-Aids on his knee and on his elbow. It’s a good thing we keep a few first aid items in our bike bags so we could clean him up and cover the wounds. That little side trail is permanently off our list.

Our second Katy ride was eastward from the MO Research Park to Frontier Park in St. Charles, a nice turnaround point. We’ve done that stretch before, and it’s very relaxing to sit in the park and watch the people and the river for a little while before turning back. Frontier Park is a nice starting/stopping point for another reason too: it’s right across the street from historic Main Street and its shopping. Two of our favorite snack stops on Main Street are Grandma’s Cookies and Kilwin’s. It was a hot day, so we voted for Kilwin’s. Here’s what you can buy at Kilwin’s.

We got in line and ordered ice cream sundaes.

The sundaes were delicious. Kilwin’s refilled our water bottles for our return trip, and we had another nice afternoon on the Katy.

The Onion is infamous for this headline because the satirical news outlet runs it after nearly every mass shooting. It was the front page headline and story again after the Uvalde, TX school shooting on May 24. The Onion ran the story 21 times that day, referring to a different mass shooting each time. The Onion article continues by saying that, after every mass shooting, someone says, “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them.” The Onion’s story always ends with the same sentence: “At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as ‘helpless.'”

In reaction to the Uvalde school shooting, Golden State Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, banged on the table during an interview and shouted, “When are we going to do something? I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I’m sorry, excuse me, I’m sorry, I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough!” Then he left the interview.

In his address to the nation, President Biden asked, “What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill people? Deer aren’t running through the forests with Kevlar vests.”

Schools that experienced a mass shooting are often closed or entirely renovated to decrease the traumatic reminders they present to their communities. Until last week, I was unaware that federal legislation created a grant funding process for schools to be razed after a mass shooting. After the Uvalde shooting, Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez asked, “What kind of world are we living in that legislation was created for razing these schools?”

In the past week, I’ve learned that the United States is number one in the world for gun ownership. Civilians in the U.S. own 120.50 guns per 100 people, nearly twice as many as the second-ranking nation, the Falkland Islands, at 62.2 guns per 100 people.

I also learned that an assault rifle can fire 45 rounds per minute; however, assault rifles can be modified with a rapid-fire trigger that allows them to fire as many as 950 rounds per minute. I, personally, have never fired a gun and I have no desire to ever do so. That said, I’m confident that I could hold an assault rifle with a 30-round magazine, aim it in the general direction of a target, and hit the target. I can’t call that a “sporting” gun. It’s meant for murder, nothing less.

The Uvalde shooter purchased 1,657 rounds of ammunition with a debit card. U.S. soldiers carry 210 rounds into combat in 7 magazines of 30 rounds each. One magazine is in the soldier’s rifle and each soldier has 6 spare magazines. After the Uvalde shooting, 60 magazines were found–58 on the Uvalde school property and 2 at the shooter’s home. At 30 rounds per magazine, that’s 1,800 rounds of ammunition–8.5 times what a combat soldier carries into battle. 315 cartridges were found inside the school (142 of them were spent cartridges) and 192 were found outside on the school property (22 were spent cartridges). Why do civilians need a weapon that was designed for the military? Why can an individual civilian buy more ammunition than soldiers take into combat?

I understand that the Constitution supports the right of individuals to bear arms. The right to bear arms, however, does not necessarily preclude a need for background checks and a waiting period prior to purchasing a gun, nor does it necessarily mean that military weaponry should be available to civilians. Why are so many gun proponents opposed to a background check? What background check discoveries do they fear? Why is a waiting period an issue of contention? In other words, what are potential gun owners in such a hurry to shoot? Where does the line fall between the second amendment right to own a gun and the right of citizens to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” without fear of becoming a victim of a mass shooting?

Within days of a rare mass shooting that killed 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand (March 15, 2019), the country banned most semi-automatic firearms. Since then, New Zealand has had only 4 mass shootings. In comparison, the U.S. has had 214 mass shootings in the first 5 months of 2022. (New Zealand has 26.3 guns per 100 people-4.5 times fewer than the U.S.) Only a few days ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said, “One Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many.” Canada has banned 1,500 types of military-style assault firearms, and a new bill Trudeau is proposing will prevent people from buying, selling, and transferring handguns within the country. The new bill also stipulates that firearms will be confiscated from those involved in domestic criminal harassment cases. I don’t think those laws are unreasonable. What sane person would want guns in the hands of violent persons? Which gun owner will have to be gun-less if s/he cannot own a military assault rifle?

130 people were killed by guns in the United States over the past weekend. How many gun deaths will be enough to convince our legislators that gun control measures are necessary? How many more innocent school children, church-goers, concert attendees, grocery shoppers, mall walkers, movie-goers, etc., etc. need to die by gunfire before our voters and our legislators recognize the futility of thoughts and prayers and the need for gun control laws? Enough!

Did anyone miss my “best of spring” award this year? I usually post it in April, when lots of trees are blooming and spring color is everywhere. This year, however, warm weather is avoiding us. The entire spring has been unusually cool. We also had not one, but two, hard frosts after the trees began to bloom. The frosts severely affected the profusion and color of the tree blooms. Although the trees were still pretty, I didn’t see anything unusually spectacular to qualify as a recipient of my annual award.

The cool weather continues. For example, the normal high for this time of year is 82 degrees, but I did the laundry today and had to wash several pair of over-the-ankle socks, jeans, and three-quarter sleeved shirts. I’m supposed to be washing shorts and short-sleeved T-shirts and few, if any socks, because it should be sandal weather.

Still, it’s not all bad news. The flowering bushes were barely budding with leaves when the frosts hit, and they have bloomed very nicely. As a result, this year’s Dr. D Spring Award goes to our own mock orange bush. In all the years we’ve had this bush, it has never been so covered with white blooms.

Unfortunately, a few days later, when the wind and rain returned, the flower petals fell like snow.

The anonymously planted iris blooms on the common ground near our house were also very pretty this year. They started blooming around only four rocks in 2018 and they now bloom around eleven rocks. I didn’t get a picture of them, but I did take a picture of the little twig that appeared beside the iris in 2021. It has grown a lot over the past year and is obviously a redbud tree. It will be gorgeous when it blooms if the grounds crew doesn’t cut it down.

Happy (belated) spring!

This spring, it seems like it’s always raining. Fifteen of the 30 days in April included rain, and May isn’t far behind that ratio. The same thing happened last year. Rain, rain, rain until July arrived. Then it seemed like the faucet was turned off until September. Still, I’d rather have too much water than too little like the Southwest is experiencing.

On the light side, severe drought affects certain populations in unusual ways.

We had some exciting weather today. Two waves of severe storms moved through our area–one in the early afternoon and another one a few hours later. The second wave included a tornado warning for us. The storm sirens were wailing, so Ted and I grabbed a few things (car keys, drivers’ licenses, etc.), headed for the basement, and turned on that TV to keep informed.

See the circular storm cell in the upper right TV graphic? That entire cell was rotating. Ted (and the TV weatherman) said it is very unusual for a storm like that to rotate. Usually, strong storms develop in a line, not in a mass. In the large graphic on the left, you can see the white dot and line indicating the NWS radar, just a few miles southwest of our house. The lower right graphic shows the visibility. Or not. We had very heavy rain and winds gusting at about 60 mph. Three EF-0 (winds at 80 mph) tornadoes formed just east of us and there was an EF-1 tornado across the Mississippi River in Illinois.

The metro area had some wind damage (trees down), but the heavy rain was a bigger problem with lots of flooding and water damage. St. Louis County had 3 inches of rain in a little more than an hour. A storm drain on I-55 became clogged, causing the road to flood across all lanes. I-55 was closed for several hours to clear the drain and to allow the water level to drop.

We were lucky. No tornadoes, no roof damage, only small branches and leaves blown off the trees, and only 1.3 inches of rain. Isn’t spring fun in the Midwest?

This was the week for old friends. On Wednesday evening, I received a text from my neighbor, Claudia. She said Gene and Mary contacted her and said they would be in town on Thursday and wanted to meet Claudia, Ted, and me for lunch tomorrow if we were available. We all said “yes” and it was wonderful to see our old neighbors again. I think they said it was 2002 when they moved out of our neighborhood and relocated to a small town about 25 miles north of here. In 2013, they moved to Florida, so it’s been awhile since we’ve seen them. It was so much fun to catch up with them about what we’ve all been doing, what our kids are doing, and how many grandchildren we all have. We exchanged current contact information and will take them up on their offer to visit them the next time we go to Florida.

Thursday’s lunch with Gene and Mary was followed by a Friday evening dinner with a former co-worker of Ted’s. Roy took a little road trip from Green Bay to St. Louis to attend a Cardinals baseball game and wanted to spend some time catching up with Ted. We had a nice restaurant dinner and then spent several hours visiting with Roy at our house. It was just the way I remember NWS gatherings from Ted’s working days. At least ninety percent of the conversation was weather-related. Big storms of the distant and recent past were popular topics and so were changes in forecasting technology. The conclusion of NWS gatherings is almost always that, in the “old days,” most things were better. I’m used to that kind of conversation, so I didn’t mind. It’s always amazing to me, however, that these forecasters can remember the month, day, and year of every major storm. When Ted and Roy were talked out, Roy headed back to his hotel and left us with an invitation to visit him in Green Bay and to give him a chance to show us the area. (I think he momentarily forgot that we both used to live in that area.) It was another good evening with an old friend.

Coming up: A birthday party for Floyd, one of the teachers I used to work with and later supervised. Floyd’s 90th birthday was in 2020, but his daughter told me she couldn’t have the party at that time (thanks, COVID) so she’s having it this year. We’ll be celebrating Floyd’s 90th birthday as well as his 92nd birthday. If some of the other teachers are there, Ted can listen to my friends and me discussing education and how things used to be better in our old days.

I was cleaning out some photo files and found a picture I took from our backyard patio last October. This animal was relaxing on our neighbor’s back lawn. It looked kind of like a cat, but it was really big for a cat. A bobcat? I wondered. But the nose looked kind of pointy. Maybe a fox?

Then the animal turned its head and yes, it was a bobcat.

That was the first (and so far, the only) time I’ve seen a bobcat. It looked pretty laid back, but it didn’t seem like a good idea to get closer to pet it.

Ted and I met Kathy and Annette in Columbia to celebrate Kathy’s birthday. We had a wonderful time together, beginning with a long brunch at Bob Evans, and then heading downtown. We walked around for a little while and browsed in some stores. It was sunny and near 70 degrees, but there was a strong, cold wind, gusting to at least 30 mph, so we soon headed for The Candy Factory–our last downtown stop.

After we were all well-supplied with chocolate, we went to the food court at the Columbia Mall and snagged a table. We bought some refreshing beverages and settled in for a birthday party with presents, cookies, candy, and Mahjong.

The time flew by and, at one point, so did Annette. “Oh, gosh!” she exclaimed as she bolted from her chair and ran out the door. We all thought she’d seen someone who was hurt and we turned to look for the problem. When Annette returned, she was holding a $1 bill that she had seen blowing past the window. That was good for a laugh from the rest of us and it was just enough to cover our parking cost in the downtown garage.

When the food court vendors turned off their lights at 7:00 p.m., we realized we were all hungry for dinner. We unanimously agreed we’d rather have pizza than anything else, so we headed for Kathy’s and my favorite pizza place in Columbia: Shakespeare’s. It was Saturday night and we didn’t want to wait in line to join the noisy college crowd at the downtown restaurant. We decided to live on the edge and try one of Shakespeare’s other locations. Everything was the same, except that the crowd was smaller and less noisy, allowing us to have a dinner conversation without shouting. We noticed that the clocks indicate the time in a variety of Missouri cities, apparently without logic.

Too soon, it was time to go our separate ways and make the 90-minute drives to our homes. We had a wonderful time together and we’re looking forward to our next visit with each other. Happy birthday, Kathy!

Kathy–7 months old

It’s spring, so Ted made his usual appointment to have our air conditioner inspected to make sure we’re ready for the hot July days. Unfortunately, the technician identified a bad leak in the AC unit. The AC is 19 years old and we already repaired a leak in it four years ago, so we bit the bullet and ordered a new one. The furnace was installed at the same time as the air conditioner and is also showing signs of aging, so we ordered a new furnace too. We should be comfortably warm and cool for the next 20 years.

Before the installer arrived, we received a text from the company identifying the technician who would be coming to our house. Other companies have given us the name of the technician we should expect, but this is the first time we’ve received a picture and a brief bio.

Rick brought a helper with him. The helper set up the air conditioner outside while Rick replaced the furnace and all the indoor conduits, wiring, accessories, etc. There were a lot of boxes and pieces.

It took the guys a little more than six hours to complete their work, When they finished, we had a new AC unit, a new furnace, a new humidifier, a new air scrubber, and a new smart thermostat. They’re not glamourous, but we wouldn’t want to be without them.

You’d think the story would end here, but a few days later, we had a surprise package on our front porch. When we opened it up, we found . . . cookies! We received a dozen chocolate chip cookies and a large insulated water bottle from the HVAC company in appreciation of our business.

We weren’t expecting this, but we remembered the cookies we received from the window company in 2021. Those cookies were so good, I saved the recipe that was included with them. Surprise! Both companies sent the same cookies. This cookie company (in Kansas City, MO) must be successfully targeting businesses to promote customer appreciation. It’s that little added touch that makes you want to call the company for service next time, right? Yum.