My last post had us in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. From there, we traveled to Longmont to visit Army friends nearby. Charles Cunis (also known as “Crusty”; he calls me “Salty”) is a retired Lieutenant Colonel, and bets us every year on the Army-Navy football game. (Sometimes Army even wins… darn the bad luck!)
Crusty’s Lovely Wife Elaine is a long-suffering angel who has to put up with Charlie for decades… Ha! We owed them a dinner, and of course I forgot to memorialize the event with a photo, but we rode our bikes to the Cunis Estate the next day and got our photos…
Next stop, the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where we set up camp among the beautiful Ponderosa pines on base. We hiked on the Falcon Trail with Mickey Gonzalez, a champion mountain biker and motocross racer. (I chose hiking because Mickey’s mountain biking skills are so much above mine that I was afraid I would have cardiac arrest or go off a cliff face trying to keep up with her!)
We also hiked at the stunningly beautiful Garden of the Gods, just outside Colorado Springs. This remarkable 480 acre park, free to the public, was donated by the family of Charles Elliott Perkins, head of the Burlington Railroad.
From Colorado Springs, it was a long drive across Kansas to our next event in St. Louis. On the way, we stopped in Ellis, KS, for the night. While walking around town, I spied this doorway in a dilapidated building; I loved the muted colors and textures , and wondered what stories that door could tell, could it speak…
Next on to Kansas City to have dinner with an anonymous friend who is a philanthropist… that’s about all I can say, because he is… well… famous. Let’s just say that he sets the standard for humility and generosity. It was an honor to spend time with him. While in the area, we also visited Unity Village’s beautiful and spiritual campus in Lee’s Summit. Suzanne got to meet with their event staff to see the spaces for her “W-holy You!” retreat planned for next April 11-14th.
Across Missouri to St. Charles, outside of St. Louis, where Suzanne presented her Serving Spirit course. Immediately afterward, she flew back to Florida to celebrate her mutual birthday with her mom. She flew home a day earlier than expected when Ruthie’s health took a turn for the worse, and Ruthie was admitted to hospice the next day. It was to be a bittersweet visit… shortly after turning 91, Suzanne’s Lovely Mom Ruthie transitioned to the other side, joining her beloved husband Bill, who had passed just across the hall in the same hospice in 2008. For the past ten years, Suzanne and Ruthie have spoken almost every day, even while we were on the road every summer. Suzanne received hundreds of beautiful notes from friends all over the world, and they were all gratefully appreciated. Several friends back in The Villages provided solace and even stayed with Ruthie in shifts during her last days. You are all very special, and much appreciated. Ruthie, you are the best mother-in-law a guy could ever wish for.
Kayaking has been a frequent activity on this blog, but while in St. Charles, I met a guy in our campground who had just completed a 540 mile Missouri River canoe/kayak race. David, shown here with his lightweight Kevlar canoe, paddled with his Marine Corps grandson for five days from Kansas City to St. Charles. (Great choice for a paddling companion… good thing his grandson wasn’t in the Air Force!) This was one of the stops for Lewis and Clark on their historic Voyage of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean, 1804-1806.
Also in this campground was a group of campers who drove Holiday Rambler RVs. This was one of the signs that I know would make English teachers like Brenda Baker cringe… “Please, call the apostrophe police!”
While in St. Charles, I did a six mile hike and a 20 mile mountain bike ride on the same day, maybe not the smartest thing I’ve ever done… but the train station at Black Walnut, Missouri, called me. It’s now just a kiosk with maps and historical info on the Katy Bike Trail. It was a nice ride out and back, but I paid for it a few days later…
This is Your Trusty Correspondent in a Westfield, NY, ER, having gotten a report that he was not permanently crippled… but I had incurred a badly inflamed piriformis muscle from “overdoing it”. (For the uninitiated, that results in a real pain in the butt!) A regimen of prednisone and stretching has helped a lot…
On the positive side, I was still able to appreciate that Westfield has an interesting lighthouse on the shore of Lake Erie, right near my campground…
While Suzanne was back in Florida with her family, I drove from St Louis, Missouri, to Rochester, NY. Fortunately I had good company, in the form of our miniature long-haired Dachshunds, Rudy and Gretchen. I would explain driving techniques to Rudy, but until his legs grow (a lot), he can’t get his driver’s license. Thankfully, Gretchen hasn’t even asked for a license. Rain dogged us during this part of our trip, and we stopped at state parks in Indiana, Ohio and New York, but only for a night at each, until arriving at Letchworth State Park near New York’s Finger Lakes, where we finally had only the occasional shower (rain shower, that is… I try to shower at least weekly.) Several days there gave me a chance to catch my breath and stretch my legs, but without My Lovely Bride, it wasn’t a very pleasant stay.
Suzanne rejoined me in Rochester, and we drove on to Fort Drum, NY, home of the 10th Mountain Division, which has soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, South America, and other garden spots around the globe. (A George Orwell quote is appropriate here: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”) If you don’t believe Orwell, then you are living in a dream world. Stopping at military bases always gives us a morale boost, and the tough soldiers in the gym at Fort Drum were no exception. HOOAH! We hiked and biked several of the Commando trails through the woods, and Suzanne decompressed (a little); it’s amazing how physical exercise can help clear the mind.
A short distance from Fort Drum was our next stop, Wellesley Island State Park, part of the Thousand Islands area along the St. Lawrence River. We got our kayaks wet several times there, and enjoyed the tranquility and beauty of this amazing archipelago between the Canadian and US mainlands. Here is Suzanne making a heart for her mom with her hands – that’s Heart Island in the background, where the six-story, 120 room Boldt Castle attracts thousands of visitors each year. Built by George Boldt, the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for his beloved wife Louise, she died before it was completed, and heartbroken, he never returned to the island.
While at Wellesley Island, we took time for a quiet belated birthday dinner at a waterside restaurant in the village of Alexandria Bay. The location reminded us of our five years cruising aboard our 46 foot sailboat, Liberty. (Although we rarely ate out; we anchored out and ate almost all our meals aboard the boat.)
There were several “rustic island cottages” like this one for sale that we noted as we paddled along, but the winters here are just too brutal, what with lake effect snow and the river freezing over. The deciding factor, though, was that we couldn’t find a sled small enough for Rudy and Gretchen to pull across the ice.
Onward to Vermont and New Hampshire… where we met friends from The Villages, Gayle and Bill Hancock. Bill is a retired Navy 3 star admiral, a destroyerman like me, and we always have a great time swapping sea stories, some of which even have an element of truth to them. Bill and Gayle were staying at a time share near Franconia Notch, and we were in a campground about 20 minutes away. We enjoyed a great dinner at a restaurant in Lisbon, NH, and lunch the next day at the Mount Washington Resort, site of the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference which set the economic stage for the post-World War II world. (Funny, but Germany, Italy and Japan were not invited…)
In closing, readers should be aware that our summer tour is not always glamorous. In an unnamed campground east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon Line which shall remain anonymous, My Lovely Bride found this delightful, well-ventilated pit toilet with a terrific view… but where is the door??? “Suzanne, you’re tough! You don’t need no stinkin’ door!”