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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katy to the north

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

We started at Frontier Park in St. Charles.

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

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

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

I love this house, especially the center window wall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then we were abruptly stopped.

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

Katy to the west

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

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

It was another pretty day and another pretty bike ride.

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

Wildflowers were blooming along the trail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guess what Dylan and Teddy always choose to play with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I received a happy text message from Alex today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we still having fun? You bet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was no wind, so smoke lingered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to COVID, I’ve now participated in my first drive-by birthday parade. My friend, Cindy, celebrated her 60th birthday with a parade arranged by her husband. My friend, Liz thought it would be a good idea for us to go together in my convertible–top down, of course. Riding together also gave us an opportunity to see each other in person for the first time since January 30.

The parade went around the block twice, honking horns, blowing noisemakers, etc. to celebrate Cindy’s coming of age. Liz is a very creative person and has what I call a “treasure chest” (i.e., closet) full of creative and playful goodies. She scrounged in the treasure chest and found pinwheels that spun as the car moved, plastic hand clappers that we could shake and rattle, a crown with sparkling cutout stars and streamers for Cindy to wear, and posterboard for a birthday sign. I brought a letter about two of my favorite memories of Cindy. I’m not creative like Liz, but I hunted up clipart and added speech balloons to tell the stories, and I put birthday stickers all over the envelope. Woo-eee!

Here’s the dashcam view of Cindy as Liz and I approached her.
Cindy baked and bagged chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles and gave each attendee a bag of cookies. That’s her husband behind her. He took a picture of the occupants of each car. If you look closely, you can see the crown Liz brought sparkling on Cindy’s head and streaming down her back.
Some of Cindy’s family members went all-out with costumes. The lady in blue is Cindy’s sister. You can tell them apart by their hair. Cindy’s crown is easier to see in this picture.
This is the sign Liz made for Cindy. In the bottom corner, she signed it “Diane & Liz.”

Not long after Ted and I moved to Missouri, we heard about Cuivre (pronounce that quiver) River State Park and its beach. After nearly five years in Washington, D.C. without a nearby lake for swimming, that sounded great. On a warm summer day, we packed up the kids (Jeff and Kathy) and headed for the park. Until we stepped into the water, it never occurred to us that the lake bottom would be anything but sand, like the glaciated lakes in Wisconsin. After being spoiled by growing up surrounded by sand-bottom lakes, walking on rocks and mud was not that much fun, so the Cuivre River beach was erased from our list of enjoyable destinations.

Today was the first time we’ve gone back to Cuivre River S.P. since that beach day–this time to hike. The weather was gorgeous–sunny, light breeze, mid-80s, and very low humidity (dew point of 54). We had a very nice hike and a chance to use our trekking poles, which we haven’t done since 2017. We enjoyed our hike so much, we will definitely go back again. There were probably around 50 people at the beach and swimming in the water, but we liked the hike better.

Today, Ted and I celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary. Last year, we celebrated with all of our children and grandchildren. This year, the celebration was more subdued.

We spent some time looking at our wedding album and enjoying the memories.

Our wedding cake was sour cream chocolate because neither of us likes white cake, the traditional wedding flavor.

Our first dance was awkward. We had never danced together before the wedding, and Ted didn’t know how to lead. We’re better dancers now.

According to one of the four local newspapers that reported our wedding, I was a “Hingham girl” whom Ted “claimed.”

We had a star-studded guest list according to the guest sign-ins.

We started our anniversary celebration by buying a hot tub yesterday afternoon. Picture it here in 2-3 months, after the manufacturer catches up on production. The tree needs to disappear.

This afternoon, we rolled last year’s anniversary gift–our e-bikes–out of the garage and took a 12-mile bike ride in the beautiful weather. We’ve ridden over 300 miles so far this spring. (Plus the 365 miles we rode last year.) After the ride, we needed a dip in the pool to cool down.

And, of course, we burned our anniversary candle. It’s an annual reminder of all the wonderful things we’ve shared since our wedding day.

Ted and I have decided “Backyard.”

Last winter, we started talking about installing a hot tub in the spring. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and we decided that was too many contractors at the house–ground prep, concrete, electric, tub delivery, installation, etc.–so we put it off. Today we ordered our hot tub.

Hot tubs are in high demand, like bicycles and toilet paper, so we have to wait for the manufacturer to build our tub. If all goes well, the installation should be complete by late August or early September–just in time for cooler weather. We’re looking forward to the features we selected: two captain’s chairs (with individualized controls) plus four other seats (room for guests), lots and lots of jets, several motors to enable selection of specific jets, controls to adjust the intensity of the jets, a hydraulic-assisted cover that folds itself over the outer edge of the tub, a waterfall feature (lower corner of the photo) that’s part of the cleaning system, and a rainbow selection of lights that we were told “make the water glow in the dark.”

Fall has always been my least favorite season, but with a hot tub, I might have to adjust my opinion.

In 1992, the United States Postal Service offered Americans the opportunity to vote for the Elvis picture they preferred to see on a new commemorative stamp: “young Elvis” at the age of 19-20, or “old Elvis” as a Las Vegas entertainer. The voters chose “young Elvis” and the stamp was issued January 1, 1993 at Graceland with Priscilla Presley on hand for the unveiling. According to the National Postal Museum, this is the most popular commemorative stamp ever issued.

Another commemorative Elvis stamp was issued in August 2019 as the “Forever Elvis Collection.”

Guess who bought a set. The sheet of stamps is double-sided and printed to look like a 45 rpm record jacket. The front of the sheet represents the album cover and you can see the top of the “record” sticking out above the stamps on the back side of the sheet .

The King lives. And so does the King impersonator. Awhile back, Kari re-texted me this photo of her when she dressed as Elvis for a private party at the skating rink. Maybe someday we’ll see this picture on a stamp.

The article that accompanied this picture reminded readers that lots of people rent their houses to vacationers. It was suggested to readers that, with the contagion threat of COVID-19, people who are hesitant to travel long distances or to stay at resorts might be willing to drive twenty minutes to swim for an hour in your pool. The CDC has stated that the threat of spreading COVID-19 is very low in a properly maintained swimming pool. The news article reminds homeowners that, between guest groups, it will be necessary to clean surfaces like deck chairs, railings, and ladders, as well as any pool toys provided by the owner. It’s also important to verify whether or not your homeowners’ insurance will cover liability for paying guests.

What do you think? Shall we put our pool on the rental market?

Maybe not.

I have always loved to read, and buying books is my guilty pleasure (a figure of speech because it doesn’t make me feel guilty). When I was a child, I saved my meager allowance money to buy books. I still have more than 30 of those childhood purchases–The Bobbsey Twins, Cherry Ames, Trixie Belden, and (my favorite) more–because of course, you never throw books away. (Except once. I had such an awful professor in one of my graduate literature classes that I wanted nothing to remind me of him, so I threw away the books I’d bought for his class. I mentioned that to one of the kids and the message was quickly relayed to the others: “Mom threw out books!”)

The blue book that says “Children’s Classics” is Little Women.

I re-read books–some of them more times than I can count. I still re-read my children’s classics every few years–Little House on the Prairie, Heidi, Little Women–and I still enjoy them. My inventory says I have somewhere around 1,700 books and I keep buying more. Over the past few months, I decided it’s time to cull the herd. Instead of choosing my favorites to read repeatedly, I vowed to choose books I rarely–if ever–select to re-read. If the premise was that all saved books were worth re-reading, I better do it for a change, right? Well, I might have enjoyed them at the time but years later, some of them have become less interesting. I’ve been donating those to Goodwill (because you never throw away books) and last week, James Michener’s The Source became the 164th book I put into the Goodwill box. It showed me how books have changed.

I didn’t have much extra money in college, so I bought thick paperbacks. They were inexpensive and took longer to read than thin books, so my money lasted longer. That spoiled my taste for quick reads and made it essential for my books to have a good plot and strong character development. The Source, like all of Michener’s books, has those qualities. Michener wrote The Source in 1965, it’s 1,088 pages long in paperback, and it only cost $1.65! Those were the days. That one took a long time to read, but I’m not going to do it again. It’s time for someone else to enjoy it.

I don’t like to get too political in this blog, but serious times call for serious thoughts.

As Ted and I were driving to our polling place to vote on Tuesday, SiriusXM observed Blackout Tuesday by halting programming for three minutes of silence. The silence was preceded by a brief statement from SiriusXM CEO, Jim Meyer, who said the programming pause included “one minute to reflect on the terrible history of racism, one minute in observance of this tragic moment in time and one minute to hope for and demand a better future.”

Following the three minutes of silence, three meaningful songs were played on Channel 6–the one we were listening to. The first song was A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke. It includes a repeating chorus with the words “It’s been a long, a long time coming / But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will.” The second song was If I Can Dream by Elvis. The first verse asks “If I can dream of a better land / Where all my brothers walk hand in hand / Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true?” The third song was Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding. The lyrics to this song express a sense of hopelessness, especially in these words: “I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay / Wastin’ time / Looks like nothing’s gonna change / Everything still remains the same / I can’t do what ten people tell me to do / So I guess I’ll remain the same, yes.”

Ted and I were so moved by the silence and the music that we remained silent until the DJ came back on the air in “normal” mode. We later commented that the silence and those selected songs gave us a sense of hope, a belief in the possibility of future change, and a feeling that it’s time and it’s possible for all of us to calm down and work together for the good of all.

We contrasted SiriusXM’s message to the feelings created by the words of our President, who tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” and urged mayors and governors to call for military assistance, to use “overwhelming force,” and to “dominate” in their efforts to bring order to their cities. He warned protesters in Washington, D.C. that they would face “vicious dogs and ominous weapons.” He was immediately contradicted by Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser who replied that there were no vicious dogs or ominous weapons, and was flagged by Twitter for “glorifying violence.”

Maya Angelou felt strongly about the power of words. She said “Words have the power to bring out the best, or the worst in you. To lift you up, or tear you down. With your words, you can either empower or disempower, both yourself and those with whom you share your words. And that is why it is so important to pay close attention to the words you use.”

No one in our country has a platform equal to that of our President. While our population deals with the many stresses caused by COVID-19, by the unconscionable murder of George Floyd by police officers who promised to “protect and serve,” and by the resulting protests in over 400 U.S. cities, it is, at the very least, distressing that our President chooses words to instill anger, divisiveness, and fear, rather than to call for calm, unity, and change.

Today, my gas gauge told me I have a range of 47 miles. It was time to fill the tank. With the COVID-19 lockdowns, I haven’t driven very much, and my last fill-up was on March 9. I don’t think I’ve ever gone that long without refilling my gas tank.

I hear a lot of weird English language errors and mutations when I watch and read news stories. The errors and mutations are so frequent, that I can’t keep track of them all, but a few recent bloopers were especially notable.

(1) There was a special news report on flying safely now that the COVID-19 lockdowns are loosening. To reassure passengers that airplane cabin air is recirculated, the reporter mentioned that “most airplanes that fly in the air now have HEPA* air filters.” Question: What would be the purpose of an airplane that doesn’t fly in the air?

*HEPA: High efficiency particulate air. These filters force air through a fine mesh to trap harmful particles such as pollen and pet dander. The workmen who refurbished our bathrooms in 2017 used a HEPA machine to filter out drywall dust while they were working.

(2) I don’t remember what the news report referred to, but Miss Ditz told us that it moves in an “anticlockwise” direction. Really? Is she too young to know we already have the word “counterclockwise” to describe this?

(3) Finally, with the riots following George Floyd’s death, the leader of our nation expressed his sympathies for “the people of Mindianapolis.” It’s somewhere in the Midwest–Indiana? Minnesota? Geography lessons needed?

I knew a lot of people must be biking when I saw the empty bicycle display at Wal-Mart, but I didn’t realize how widespread the empty bike displays are. Here are some recent headlines.

Bicycle sales in the U.S. are up 56-268 percent this spring, depending on the type of bike. Shops are out of bicycles and pre-orders will require some customers to wait until August or later for their new bikes. According to the news reports I’ve heard and read, people are getting their old bicycles out of the basement or the garage and having them tuned up to be used for exercise and as a safe mode of transportation during the COVID-19 event, so bicycle repair shops are also seeing an increase in business.

Ted and I have been riding bicycles since we were first married (complete with babies in baby seats on them), and we bought what we think is our fourth pair of new bikes last summer. We didn’t hoard toilet paper during the COVID-19 lockdown but, luckily, we’re ahead of the curve on bikes.

For Mother’s Day, Kathy and Annette sent me a Diamond Art kit. I have already admitted to Kathy that I was skeptical when I saw it, but I decided to give it a try. Kathy admitted that it was Annette’s idea and that she (Kathy) was skeptical about sending it too. The happy ending is that it was a lot of fun to do and I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time on a new activity. Annette, you rock!

To do Diamond Art, you use a pen-size tool (in my hand) with a hollow tip to pick up tiny little “gems” from a tray (the gray thing on the countertop) and stick them to the adhesive surface of the fabric to create a sparkling picture. The picture is pre-printed with color-coded symbols to designate which gems to use. Think of paint-by-number, only different. It sounds tedious, but it was challenging enough (this was an intermediate level kit) that I enjoyed watching the picture come to sparkling life for an hour or two at a time. (“I’ll just finish this flower before I quit.”)

When I finished, Ted looked at it and sounded kind of surprised when he said, “It looks pretty nice.” I agreed. I don’t think I’ll hang it, and it won’t become my life’s work, but I had a good time and I think I’d like to try an advanced kit next time. Thank you, Kathy and Annette, for introducing me to a new kind of craft project.

Trevor Noah’s Daily (Social Distancing) Show included a possible upcoming change in education as a result of COVID-19: the Zoomstitute teacher.

He featured six kinds of substitutes students could expect in their Zoom classrooms. There was the “always running 30 minutes late” Zoomstitute. That would be the blank square.

Another Zoomstitute was the substitute who’s always on his/her phone (top square). He ignored the students and when one asked, “Shouldn’t we be doing something?” he replied, “Ah, yeah, sure” and went back to his phone.

The “still living in the past” Zoomstitute talked about how he “almost” made the tennis championships, but got a cramp in his foot and had to stop playing.

Zoomstitute. Coming soon to a classroom near you?

On Mother’s Day, we had video calls with all the kids (it didn’t work for Thom, but we tried). That was fun, and we enjoyed spending at least visual time with them. Today, for the first time in 8+ weeks, we were physically together with Kari’s family. We celebrated Teddy’s and Kari’s birthdays on their new covered porch that Dean built. We sat socially distant from each other–Ted and I on one end of the porch and Kari’s family on the other end–but it was so good to see them in person after such a long time.

Teddy’s birthday came before Kari’s, so he opened his gifts from us first. He started with the small one–two cloth pig-patterned face masks made of leftover fabric from the quilt I made for him. It’s a sign of the times that a gift of face masks wasn’t a disappointment.

The more exciting gift came next–a badminton set that was on his wish list. Teddy kept his face mask on until it was time to eat birthday cake. There was also some chocolate for our choco-holic grandson.

Then it was Kari’s turn. I made face masks for her, knitted some dishcloths (on her lap), and added a few other things, including some chocolate. Dylan is giving his full attention to the note I wrote to Kari.

This was a birthday party, so there was cake. Teddy decorated a chocolate cake to look like a pig. He even molded chocolate pigs and applied them to the frosting. The frosting was very pink, the cake was very chocolate, and it tasted very good. You can see the cake near the top of the first picture in this post.

We had a nice long visit and Dean joined us when he came home from work. The only sad part was when Ted and I were leaving. Teddy came running out of the house to give us good-bye hugs and we had to step back. He stopped and said, “Oh, yeah.” We still can’t do hugs, and that was sad, but it was wonderful to see each other in person again. Happy birthday Dean (it was too soon to meet in person on his birthday), Kari, and Teddy.

Note: The following day, Kari sent me a text with a picture of the badminton set in action.