One of the nice things about being retired is being able to sleep in… that is, unless you’re staying on a military base, when bugles start playing Reveille at 0600 (that’s 6:00 AM for you civvies). We thought we were safe on Air Force bases, since they usually don’t ask airmen to get up (if it’s not inconvenient) until 0800 or 0900. But Scott Air Force Base here in Belleville, Illinois, is a Joint Base, meaning that members of all four of the services are stationed here, and the Army, Navy and Marine Corps are early risers. Anyway, we were awakened from our blissful slumber by a bugle playing on a nearby loudspeaker at 0600. It was still dark outside, for crying out loud, and we are staying in a Family Campground, where most of the transient residents are retirees. I may have to write a letter to a congressman about this…
Since we were up early because of the bugles, we decided to get a weight workout in at the base gym. After working out, we noticed that the basketball courts were filled with people; a Health and Fitness Fair was going on, and many base activities and civilian businesses had tables with information and… freebies! After getting a banana and a couple of mini Twix Bars, we found a table with two nice ladies from TriCare, the military families and retirees health care administrators. Suzanne asked Nicole and Bernadette if she could have one of their cool pocket notepads, complete with pen, Post-It notes and multi-colored tabs… they of course said yes, and My Lovely Bride was a very happy camper.
A few minutes later, we returned in that direction, and she suggested that I get one as well. As I am approaching the table, Nicole, with a devilish grin on her face, scoops up the remaining notepads so that Your Faithful Correspondent couldn’t get one! I had met another Miss Meanie! Fortunately, she was just being playful; a good thing, because otherwise I’d have to tell the whole world that Nicole had crushed my tender feelings, and boy, would she be in trouble then!
On the way to the car, we came across a USO truck and volunteers offering free chili dogs, chips and water or sodas… what, no beer? Oh, I almost forgot, this was a Health and Fitness Fair, so chili dogs are okay but beer is not. My Lovely Bride allows me one chili dog per year, and it’s May 10 and I hadn’t had one yet… so here I am, getting my free chili dog from the wonderful USO folks who do a great job supporting our (hungry and thirsty) troops around the world, even here in Illinois. (I had to eat it right there, because Rudy and Gretchen, our long-haired Dachshunds, might think me insensitive if I ate a hot dog (wiener) at home.
We have had rain almost every day since we left The Villages on May 1. This area has had much more cool weather and rain than normal over the past month or so, and many rivers and lakes are very high. This photo shows flooded fields in southern Illinois, with nary a river in sight.
Here is a photo Suzanne took out of the side window of The Bus, a tug pushing loaded coal barges on the Ohio River, which is not in flood stage at the moment… now this is a river!
Last night we drove to Lebanon, about 15 minutes from our campground, for pizza. It was very good, and we enjoyed walking around the small college town (population 3,523) admiring some well-restored Victorian houses. Lebanon is home to McKendree University, a private university affiliated with the Methodist Church. Like many towns in “Little Egypt” or Southern Illinois, Lebanon is named after the Middle Eastern country… other similar place names in this locale include Cairo, Metropolis, Thebes, Palestine, and Karnak. (No relation to Johnny Carson’s role on The Tonight Show…)
I’m sitting at the Base Exchange food court writing this blog because Suzanne is doing an in-person reading back in The Bus; one of the many people on her waiting list happened to live about 25 miles from Scott AFB, and was able to meet us here. While at the BX, I got a new fishing rod, an ultralight spin outfit for trout and panfish like crappie. My Lovely Bride mentioned that “crappie” wasn’t the most appetizing name for a panfish that was destined for the table… hey, what does she know? I’ll tell you a True Suzanne Fish Story… we were in Hampton, Virginia a few years ago, and I was at work at the Joint Warfighting Center while Suzanne was relaxing on our sailboat, then a 36 foot cutter. She called me and said, “Ty, I just caught two fish on the rod you left me. But I don’t know what they are or if they’re good to eat.” I replied, “Well, what do they look like?” She came back with one of The Great Girl Fish Lines, “Well, they look like fish, and they are making sounds like ‘croak, croak’”. Trying to stifle my laughter, I said, “My Darling, you have just caught two croakers. They are delicious; put them in a bucket with sea water and I’ll clean them when I get to the boat.”
Fish was on the menu Friday evening at Andria’s Steakhouse last night, but we had read that steak and prime rib were their specialties. We had been invited out to join Shelby and Donna Anderson, from Missouri and Florida, for dinner out at this famous restaurant. We had met both of them back in The Villages, but this was our first opportunity to get to know this delightful couple.
They have an 80 acre farm in Missouri where they used to raise Angus cattle, but now stick to less labor-intensive hay. Shelby had us in stitches telling us about running a farm, such as misplacing a hay rake, shown here being pulled by a John Deere tractor, and it’s just a little bit larger than the hand held rake I have in the garage for cleaning up leaves… seems he had taken a trip out of town, and when he returned, looked in his barn, and no hay rake, so he reported it stolen… then Donna reminded him that he had taken it out to get some welding done… “Yessir, sheriff, I just forgot all about where I had left that sucker…”
The steaks (ribeyes for the men, tenderloins for the ladies) were somewhere between fabulous, incredible, unbelievably delicious and to-die-for. These were the best that either of us had ever eaten. They were of course grilled, but had been marinated in Andria’s steak sauce, which we shall look for at the first grocery we pass on our way out of town. Donna and Shelby, thank you for an unforgettable meal and delightful conversation!