The road trip south-Day 1

In a post back in January, I wrote about our upcoming road trip/vacation to New Orleans, followed by our continuing on to Florida for a few weeks, beginning on February 19. (Read it here). We returned home to Illinois on Monday, March 13, after logging over 4,000 miles. The next several posts are highlights and summaries of our adventures and experiences in the Crescent City and in the Sunshine State.

Sunday, February 19

We left Cortland, Illinois, just before 8 a.m. and headed out Rt. 38 to I-39 for the first leg of the journey south. Today’s destination was Dyersburg, Tennessee, where we would meet up with the bus tour group at the Grecian Steakhouse restaurant before checking into the Sleep Inn hotel for the night.

We had lots of fog for quite a while until we got closer to Springfield. Despite the fog, the temperatures were rather mild as we continued on through  St. Louis and down through

Approaching the famous St. Louis Arch

Missouri to Arkansas and then into Tennessee.

There were no issues along the way, and we enjoyed the many rural sights of Arkansas and crossing into Tennessee. We also made a stop at the Tennessee Welcome Center near Reel Foot State Park to pick up some pamphlets and other information about Elvis and Graceland for Grandson Matthew’s school presentation that he’d be doing in a few weeks.

Before long, we arrived at the hotel and checked in. Right about that time, we heard from Scot, the tour company owner who was on the bus, that they would meet us at the Grecian Steakhouse, conveniently located right off the interstate in Dyersburg, within the hour. Good timing!

The restaurant was a large smorgasbord with plenty of choices, which we enjoyed immensely. As such, I found the restaurant’s name quite curious. At any rate, we all had plenty to eat. Then it was back to the hotel for the night.

Up early on Monday, Carolyn and I had the complimentary hotel breakfast and then hit the road once more for New Orleans, another long eight-hour drive. As before, we pulled out before the tour bus did, giving us another head start on the day—another sun-filled one at that! And we both looked forward to enjoying all of the new places along the way we’d pass by on our way down I-55.

Way down yonder…

images-1.jpegNow that January has wound its way down to being nearly finished, we will be eagerly counting the days before we pack up the Equinox and make haste to the south once again on February 19. Our ultimate destination will be Fort Myers to spend some time with our daughter. Before that, though, we’ll spend a week in New Orleans the week before Mardi Gras and then motor on over to Florida and see some friends in various spots as we work our way farther south.

Having never been to New Orleans—not even for spring break all those years ago in college—I’m looking forward to the five days we’ll be spending there. We’re actually going to be part of a bus trip leaving out of Northern Illinois University right next door to us, but we’re not traveling down or back on the bus. Instead, we’ll drive ourselves and hook up with the tour group the first night out at dinner and overnight near Memphis, Tennessee.

We’ll continue on the next morning and meet up with the bus once again for dinner that evening near New Orleans and check into our hotel for the week. We’ll leave our car at the hotel the rest of the time and do all the touring, etc., with the group on the bus. Friday morning, when the bus folks board for the return trip back to Illinois, we’ll point our car toward Florida.

We had a pre-trip meeting last week, and it sounds like a terrific time awaits us. I’m especially looking forward to some wonderful Creole cuisine and authentic Louisiana hospitality. All of the pageantry and pre-Mardi Gras activity will be a pretty good indoctrination for us. Each day there is plenty of “free” time in the French Quarter, and there are also several tours and side events planned. I will have the MacBook Pro along and look forward to chronicling each day’s events on this blog.

As of this writing, we don’t have a “set” itinerary once we leave New Orleans. We know that we want to stop to see one of Carolyn’s cousins in the Clearwater Beach area and some good friends in The Villages. From there, we may be hopscotching here and there en route to Fort Myers.

Plus, Major League Baseball spring training will be in action during this time, so I have a wide array of teams and venues to choose from hither and yon. It’s been a few years since Iimages-2.jpeg took in some spring games, and I’m very much excited to have that opportunity to do so this year. Sarasota, Bradenton, Fort Myers to name but a few from which to pick. Of course, while in Bradenton, we’ll no doubt stop by Mixon’s Fruit Farm and enjoy the gloriously refreshing orange juice samples and orange swirled ice cream cones!

Writing this, I’m beginning to get the “urge” to pull out the suitcases and start with the packing, although there’s still time for all of that. But with the passing of January, February promises to be full of excitement and a time to get away—for a time—from the winter blahs on another fabulous road trip. I love it when the road ahead is calling and the days of warmth in the sun and orange swirled ice cream cones beckon. Time to start packing!



Way down yonder in New Orleans
In the land of the dreamy scenes
There’s a Garden of Eden
You know what I mean

Read more:  Louis Armstrong – Way Down Yonder In New Orleans Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Silent resolutions & good things to come…


Here it is, the last day of 2016. New Year’s Eve morning has slipped right in on us once again. It always seems to do that while we’re still “recovering” from the busy times of Christmas a week ago.

Suddenly, it’s here! We begin to reflect on all that has taken place—good and bad—for the past twelve months and to make resolutions and determinations that we’re certain we’ll take seriously this time, prompting thoughts such as will this, in fact, be the year that we actually stick to our low-carb diet, get more daily exercise, publish the next book, or establish world peace? Well…

I’ve never been too much of a New Years resolution-kind-of-guy, mainly because I know me too well! And I’m not one to make a big deal about what I resolve to do or accomplish in the new year. But as the old year is ending and the new one is waiting in the wings, I always have a few things I tell myself I need to do a better job with or how I can be better in so many ways.  As such, there will never be any fanfare on what I would like to improve upon for the next 365 days. So any resolutions I’m planning will not be published here or anywhere else until after the fact!

Today is also special for another reason. Our daughter’s birthday is today. Born in 1980 (it really can’t be that long ago!) she came into this world on a bitterly cold New Years Day, and life has been an adventure for her ever since. Though we won’t be able to celebrate today with her, we will be going to Florida in February for a week’s stay with her.

New Years Eve plans?

My morning will consist of coffee, early morning reading, and finishing this blog post. Afterwards, it will be time to head outside for my twenty-minute walk and enjoy the 34° morning air and bright sunshine. Most of our snow has diminished during this past week, so the streets and sidewalks are bare and dry.

Next, I will send birthday wishes to daughter Laura and plan to call her later in the day when I know she’ll be available. Then, I’ll drive down to our son’s to watch some hockey and football for a while and, of course, see what the two grandsons are up to. Before I know it, it will be time to head back up home and get ready to go in for our annual New Years Eve gathering with friends at their home. It’s pretty low-key but a good time all the same. Good snacks, laughs, and discussion of various topics will be the order of the evening.

And then we’ll drive back out to our little town here in northern Illinois and watch the last few minutes of 2016 dissolve into 2017. There are so many good things in this world that have happened, and we shouldn’t forget them, even though much tragedy and sadness seemed to be everywhere in the year to which we’re bidding farewell.

I sincerely hope that the new year will bring good things to family and friends, wherever they may be. On this final day of 2016, I will celebrate all that I have and make a few resolutions (that I’ll keep to myself!) and remember all of the good that has come my way.


Happy New Year, all! 

Thanksgiving then and now…

100_5259.jpgFor so many years, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was a very special one for the Andersons here in Illinois, and one which we looked forward to with great anticipation. On that day, we would welcome the arrival of my mom and my two sisters and their families—one from Ohio; one from Nebraska.

Our son and family, who live a short distance from us, and our daughter and husband from Michigan would be here as well. Then, there were the nieces and nephews who would trickle in at various times. Without a doubt, the air of excitement for our traditional Thanksgiving celebration hung all about on Wednesday as those we were thankful for began to come in.

Beginning early that day, final preparations for the “big day” would be in full swing, including my stuffing and cooking of the first of the two big twenty-pound birds on the Weber charcoal kettle. The second one would be done on Thursday morning. Wednesday’s turkey would be for the sandwiches and snacking for the next few days, while the second one would be for the big meal on Thursday.

Once turkey number one was on, I’d have to check the coals every forty minutes or so and add briquettes accordingly to keep the heat up to the appropriate level. This would go on for at least six hours, depending on the weather conditions. During that time, my son and  I would get the garage set up with the tables that would hold the many snacks and other goodies and leftovers for the next few days.

There was also the keg of beer to pick up from the store, and our son was usually in charge of taking care of that important chore. Since there were always many thirsty guests all those years, having plenty of beverages went without saying!

Josh making sure Old #7 (in background) is “safe.”

We couldn’t tap the keg, though, until Uncle Rich arrived from Omaha with “Old #7,” his cold plate beer tapping system he’d built. Imagine our annual “ritual” of tapping the keg soon after Uncle Rich’s arrival. Let Thanksgiving begin!

So many pleasant memories were made in our garage—year after year—before and after the traditional meal in our dining room and the “kids’ table” in the room just next to it. Carolyn always outdid herself, preparing way too much food, but it was delicious all the same. And, of course, my mom’s coffee cakes and pies were standard treats that only added to the goodness of the gathering.

The next two days: Football on the TVs. Kids scooting all about. Women off on shopping missions. Nibbling on leftovers. Cold beer. Nonsense and silliness. The same stories and jokes told before somehow coming to light and being re-told again. Laughter! 100_2023.jpg

And then it’s over.

By Saturday the out-of-town visitors had to pack it up and head back home. And though Carolyn and I were always ready to resume the routine of our lives at that point, there still was a sense of melancholy, knowing that what we’d so looked forward to had come and gone in a flash.

When everyone was younger, it always seemed as though there’d be no doubt that this Thanksgiving thing  would go on and on, year after year, and there would always be a Thanksgiving gathering at our place here in Illinois.

Sadly, We haven’t had that gathering here for the past couple of years, and this year is no different. The reasons why no one comes anymore are many, but the reality is that the youngsters are grown and have their own lives— with their own children—and family traditions to attend to.

Be that as it may, Carolyn and I will spend tomorrow having dinner with very good friends back in our old town of Naperville. We’ll kid and joke and try to avoid political disagreements. It will be fun and good and warm. Once back home that evening, I’ll probably imagine just one more trip to the garage for another snack or to refill my Solo Cup, and the memory will make me smile.

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you may be gathered!

Oh, the places I have been…

I really can’t recall how the topic of being on, or near, the scene of some major


newsworthy event came up the other night at a party we were hosting, but it made for some interesting conversation for a time with a friend over cold drinks. And long after the party had ended, and I was in the midst of my usual cleanup duties, many more thoughts on the topic flitted around in my head.

I’m pretty sure it was my friend who brought the whole thing up with his telling about his being in attendance at a Super Bowl and a Stanley Cup Championship game seven. True, they were important events, but in the large scope of things they really don’t seem as “crucial” as those events in which I found myself involved–purely by accident.

For instance, I couldn’t help but recall being literally “caught up” in the turmoil and fury that was the violence perpetrated by those wonderful, “clean-cut” protestors in downtown Chicago during the 1968 Democrat National Convention.

A high school friend from Ohio had just flown in for a visit, since my family had recently moved to the Chicago area that summer, and we all had enjoyed a wonderful dinner at one of the cool restaurants on Michigan Avenue early that evening.

ac8248ca6f7f8f6e27265332b976fdea.jpgAfterwards, as we began a leisurely stroll along the avenue, things erupted all around us. Suddenly, the police were swarming and moving people from the area. It didn’t take long to realize that they were pretty serious about their efforts! I recall being sort of trapped near one of the famous lions in front of the Art Institute when I was instructed to get moving, which I gladly did. Staring down the barrel of a riot gun is a bit unsettling.

About the same time, another hord of the “clean cuts” decided to battle back and began one of its signature clashes with the Chicago police. My friend and I somehow avoided the confrontation and hurried back across the avenue to find my parents and sister, which wasn’t easy since that area seemed just as wild and manic as the one we’d just vacated.

Fortunately, we managed to hook up with them and make our way the few blocks to the lot where the car was parked. Without further hesitation, we got out of the boiling city as quickly as possible.

Yep, that was the evening that has become infamous over the years—for both cops and the protestors—and one that will always evoke not-so-pleasant feelings whenever I see a picture of those Art Institute lions!

I had just turned eighteen that summer, and I my idealism was still rather lofty. I had plans to take it all with me when I started at Kent State in a few weeks. And, of course, it was at Kent that I would once again witness turmoil and violence during the next few years up close and personal all too often. And my earlier idealism would take off in a much different direction during that time. I’ll write of that period in the next few posts.



Omaha bound for the cure…

I-80_in_western_Iowa.jpgA quick post today as we’re busily packing for our annual October trip out to Omaha to visit Carolyn’s niece and family.

We’ll be hitting the road by 6:30 tomorrow morning for the  420 mile drive. Enroute, we’re planning to meet up for lunch near Iowa City (just off I-80) with Dennis, one of my first students in my first class when I began my teaching career way back in the fall of ’73 in a tiny place called Mulberry Grove, Illinois, fifty miles east of St. Louis. Dennis now lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and it will be good to see him once again.

Dennis was from a family of Holstein dairy farmers, and they (the family not the Holsteins) became good friends with Carolyn and me, taking us under their wing since we were total strangers to the area. We managed to stay in touch through the years, even after I moved on to another teaching position in the Chicago suburbs. Dennis’s mom and dad have since passed away, but the good memories remain.

We haven’t seen Dennis in several years, so it will be good to spend a lunch time with him, catching up on things and doing what we’ve always done best: reminisce and laugh at those times past. After a time that will pass much too quickly, Carolyn and I will bid Dennis farewell and get back on the road and continue on to Omaha.

This time of the year is always a special time for our annual visit there because it’s when images.jpegwe join her niece, Kim, and various other family members and friends on Sunday morning to walk in the Race for the Cure for Breast Cancer.

I don’t know how many consecutive years this has been an October “staple” for Carolyn and me, but it goes without saying that it will always be one.

Kim, herself a breast cancer survivor (twice!), is the daughter of my wife’s older sister, who was taken by the dreaded disease back in 1987. Obviously, it goes without saying that the annual event has great significance and importance for all of us. Afterwards, we’ll enjoy coffee and some other treats, and then it will be on with the rest of the day and week ahead: nephew’s baseball games, visiting their lake house, relaxing, reading, and simply enjoying the fine Nebraska atmosphere.

Yep, the week will fly right on by, and we’ll head back to northern Illinois on Thursday. As the miles click off, we’ll think about—and remember—those who lost out after their gallant battles against the evil foe that is cancer. And we’ll also celebrate those still battling and and winning and surviving!

God bless them all!images-1.jpeg

Autumn down many roads…


When last I wrote here, we had closed the cottage we’ve rented for several years on a lake in Michigan, sold our pontoon and watched it disappear from our lives on a trailer soon after I drove it onto same at the public launch site, and had busied ourselves with the lovely chore of finding places here at home for any “leftover” lake things that we didn’t wish to part with. Glad to report that all of that is finished!

And it was still pretty much summer, with temperatures riding most days in the mid- to high 80s, our air conditioning getting in an extended workout for several days thereafter.

But, as always happens, the calendar rolled around to September 22—the  first day of autumn, (and, by the way, our older grandson’s birthday). The changes—slight as they were—began to appear, showing signs of the new season.


Trees sported various hues of rust and gold. Fields of tall green corn became khaki-clad acres, and the thick bean field (a vibrant green all summer) out beyond our house, now a brown rug. Both patiently await the harvest that is sure to come—soon. And by then, autumn will be full-blown into the most wonderful season that it is!


Pumpkins and apples and doughnuts and cider and corn mazes at the many farms and orchards and roadside stands so plentiful out here away from the big city, will allure folks from near and far during these next wonderful weeks ahead. On those splendid sun-drenched days, with clear blue skies and an air that requires a nice sweatshirt, everyone will feel alive and happy that autumn has arrived.

It’s a time, too, whenever I have to drive someplace, that I insist on avoiding major highways and any other well-traveled roads. I’ve learned that there are more ways to get to a place, even though it might take a bit longer!

The venerable homesteads and farms in this part of Illinois, glorious in their appearance, surrounded by expansive and seemingly endless fields of corn and beans, provide a magnificent spectacle and panorama as I roll by along the sun-dappled country road. This


experience always conjures up thoughts and imaginings about who might have travelled these very roads down through the years, long before my time. What stories they could impart!

Back home, I grab a juicy honey crisp apple and settle into my favorite chair on the deck, enjoying the last of the day’s sunshine, feeling the chill of the coming evening ever so slightly as I take one more look out over the scene that has so quickly been transformed into the glory of autumn.



All done “up there”…

I’ve been away, but I’m back now, all finished at the cottage on the lake in Michigan.

Yep, I’ve managed to “power through” all of the business at hand over the past several weeks and  am settling in once again here at home in northern Illinois.

Back home on the deck, under the stormy skies over northern Illinois farmland.

One week ago, our pontoon was hauled out of the water by some friends who are purchasing her and trailored a couple hundred miles back to a lake here in the western part of Illinois—not too far from our home, by the way. The old girl will be missed, but knowing she’s going to a good place, with good folks to enjoy her, eases the oft-muddled mind of this writer!

We spent the next day finishing up closing out the cottage and filling both of our cars with final loads. There are so many memories we gathered in that place “up there” that it was very hard to pinpoint which one stood out as the greatest or favorite over the several summers we called the place home.

Yes, we have decided to get out of the summer cottage/lake rental game and to pursue other endeavors. An Alaska cruise next August awaits, as does a trip to New Orleans and Florida in late February. And being right here at home more frequently is mighty appealing, too!


this morning, when I finally decided that I’d been away from this blog (and other writing tasks) far too long, I took a deep breath and relished the feeling once more of plopping myself into my comfy desk chair, in front of my MacBook, and knocking the cobwebs off of Scrivener and gleefully letting the fingers do their thing, wandering over the keys to make the words to send along to any reader who’s still along with me. (Now that’s a sentence!)

So a chapter of my life closes and I’m eagerly anticipating what the next one will be about. I’ll look back—from time to time—and recall so many of those wonderful moments and memories made “up there,” and I’ll probably be hit with a touch of melancholy, but I will have moved along into that next chapter that is beginning right now.

Bring it on!
At rest for one last day and night on Magician Lake.


Where’s my phone…?

1b.jpgEver have that sinking feeling when you realize that something is really lost? Well, it’s been a while since I have experienced it, but last week provided the opportunity once again to “enjoy” it all over again.

Yeah, I’ve misplaced things and retraced my steps and eventually caught up to the missing item, but last week’s little episode didn’t go quite that way.

Am I really becoming more forgetful?

Not sure, but I really think it’s my mind beginning to go kaplowy at an ever-increasing degree of speed. At any rate, I certainly don’t want to turn in to the absent-minded goof who’s always in search of lost things! On that, though, time will tell.

What happened, you ask?

While preparing for my drive back up to Michigan, I was scurrying about getting the car packed and trying to do several things at the same time as I’m wont to do (and usually with grim results). As always, I had my iPhone with me so I wouldn’t miss any crucial incoming communiques or other cutting-edge whimsy from Facebook friends.

At the same time, I was running back and forth between the garage and the laundry room finishing up some last-minute “lake” laundry and things I’d need for the upcoming NASCAR Race Weekend over at Michigan International Speedway with my son, who would be driving to the cottage after work the next day.

After a time, I had the laundry completed and the Equinox pretty well loaded. Everything was finally in its place in the “way-back,”  and I decided to take a break and plop down in my garage chair next to the open hatch of the car and sip a beverage and enjoy my wonderful packing accomplishment. After a quick check of my phone, I set it down on the flat rear bumper of my trusty car.

Finishing my “break,” I realized that I still had to make a trip to the store for the items to take to Michigan, and I lost myself in making a list and shortly closed the hatchback and got in and drove off to the store a few miles away.

And perhaps you’re beginning to realize what happened in the next couple of hours. Yes, I got to the store and back and was pretty well set for the next morning’s journey to the lake. I decided I’d better call my son to let him know I’d meet him up there when he arrived late in the evening and we’d go to dinner.

Where’s my phone?

And so the frantic scramble to locate my phone began. At first, I thought it was in the car, having slid from the console where I keep it when out and about. No dice.

A quick search of the shelves in the garage where I sometimes place it when I’m out there also offered no solution. And, of course, there was the searching of parts of the house where I hadn’t even been all day, but it could have somehow gotten put there by some strange power! Still no luck.

Those who have ever misplaced something know how the millions of crazy thoughts begin spiraling through the old noggin the longer the search draws on.

At this point, I quickly got back in the car and beat a hasty retreat to the store and checked with the customer service folks. Nothing. I even made a trip to a local farm stand where I’d been earlier in the morning…just in case. Nope.

Driving back home, I wondered what I was going to do next. I was out of places to check. So back home, I repeated my earlier searches and then fired up the MacBook and sent a couple of messages to my son and wife, who was gone for the day, asking them to call my phone. That’s usually the sure-fire method of locating our phones when we’ve misplaced them—that is, if they’re within hearing distance!

I waited for the familiar tone to signal that all was well and the little devil was only playing hide ’n seek with me.


More silence.

And at this juncture I realized that this wasn’t just a misplaced, out-of-sight cell phone!

With nothing else to do at the moment, and helpless without any other phone in the house (no land line here), I sat back at my computer and sent out another desperate text to my son to update him. Fortunately, he was home from work by this time and had been trying time after time to call my number. He said that it had rung and gone to the usual voice mail message. The thing was obviously “out there” somewhere!

Not long after his latest message, I sat back and thought about having to replace the thing at an expense I wasn’t eager to entail. And then another message from my son popped on my screen: “i found your phone. Some lady answered and found it on the side of the road. Is there any way you can call it? I have an address where she lives.”

Holy smokes! I couldn’t believe it. Was this luck or what! I fired off a quick text to him telling him to call her back because there was no way for me to call her, and that I’d be at her address very shortly.

I think I was out the door before the message crossed the ether and was on my way to a rural address about three or four miles from us. Since we live out in a small town in the country, most addresses are rural, but I was familiar with her location, not too far from the route I drive to the store. images.jpeg

I was there within fifteen minutes and found the house. A very pleasant lady met me when I stepped from the car, and she was waving a familiar black iPhone in my direction. “Is this yours?” she asked, smiling as she noticed the relieved look I was displaying.

It was indeed mine, and, amazingly, it was in perfect condition. How in the heck it ended in this lady’s possession was my next question. She said that a short time ago she had been driving along one of the nearby roads—one that I had driven earlier that day on the way to and from the store—and had spotted the phone lying along the edge.

And then it all became clear: I had left the phone on the rear bumper where I’d placed it during my little break in the garage earlier!

Her keen awareness of spotting it saved me lots of inconveniences and expense. One cannot thank someone enough for their honesty and kindness in something like this.

I told her my name and phone number and asked her for hers and that if she ever needed anything to give me a call. I also asked if she needed anything for her good deed. Smiling, she just shook her head, indicating that nothing was expected.

I appreciated that, but I do have a note with a “thank you” gift enclosed that I’ll be delivering on my way out of town in a while.

This time, however, I’ll make sure my phone isn’t riding along on the rear bumper! Unknown.jpeg


A “genuine” kind of guy!

Unknown.jpegOne of the first things I usually do after waking up, rolling out of bed, and making the morning coffee is to check my e-mail. Most often, I don’t find more than one or two messages that have “come in” during the wee hours sitting in my “In” box.

Every now and then, however, I’m greeted with some note that piques my interest and gets my sleepy brain active.

Just such an item was awaiting me earlier this week, and it was one that not only piqued my interest and perked my brain up, but informed me of something I was never aware of—that I’m a genuine person!

Believe it or not, the writer of this message, sounding almost desperate, stated his/her need of my previously unrealized genuineness! I had to read the thing through more than a few times to make complete sense out of it—what exactly he/she was getting at.

I never really could put the whole thing together, other than I can use my talents to do something for the “less privileged.” That’s a pretty worthwhile and decent thing to do, I would think.

Despite its nebulous and vague content, the message has left me thrilled to be considered  genuine, and one who can be called in, a la Indiana Jones or Sherlock Holmes, to help solve some dilemma or problem.

And the best part of all of this? The sender requests only my genuineness!

And so, at this writing, I haven’t acted upon this rather strange request. Perhaps I’m too busy prancing about, gloating over my new-found image of being a genuine guy.

Because I’m so genuine, I’ll share the e-mail message with you, dear readers, and ask what you would do. In the meantime, I wish you all the best for a wonderful day in your images.jpegendeavors in being genuine, too!



“I am in need of your genuineness in utilising my resources for the less privileged. email back so i could provide you with more details of my intentions. Katy. Ed (Mrs)

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e-mail communication and any attachments may contain proprietary and privileged information for the use of the designated recipients named above. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original message.” (E-mail received from August 18, 2016)