And the road goes on forever...

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Personal Tragedy

On Monday afternoon I got the horrifying phone call from my brother that he had arrived home from work to find my mother sitting in her chair, awake and unaware, and not able to move. I had spoken with her via phone the day before and everything was normal. Of course, we suspected the verdict--stroke--and it was confirmed by the emergency room. My mother still lives alone on her large property in Bend but my brother lives on her property for any oversight and help she needs. At 94 she was still packing wood and building her fire, cooking huge dinners for him and doing all her housework on her own. The only thing she had recently given up last Spring was driving. 

The afternoon and evening were a blur of tests, scans, doctor talks and consultations, but the prognosis was extremely grim. My brother and I knew she had a do not resuscitate order and living will made out but we still had to make the extremely painful decision of whether they should pursue any medical interventions. Following her wishes, we told them to allow nature to take it's course and only provide pain relief and palliative care, but nothing life-prolonging. I felt as though I was signing her death warrant, but it is of some comfort knowing she wouldn't want to live forever hooked up to tubes, unable to speak or move. That's not living.

Many might question my still being in Wisconsin, but all along there has been little indication that she has been capable of knowing, understanding, or even hearing what is being said to her. At first possibly, but since the second day as she sinks deeper and deeper into the morphine sleep, not so much. So little is known about the true conscious thoughts of a heavily damaged brain, excepting that hearing is the last sense to go, so everyone is loving and encouraging that it is now her time to join her dear husband whom she's missed so much.

As of this morning she is still clinging to life in Hospice but is a very wasted shell.  My son and daughter-in-law stand death vigil since I sit with three cats waiting for Marc to arrive with his truck and trailer from New Mexico. Once here, we will pack up the RV and head for Bend, not expecting to be able to do anything beyond take care of the elements of her life in shedding her worldly possessions, her death business details, clean and market her property and get her ashes interred next to my father's at the small pioneer cemetery in Northern California, her final stop on a long, long life. 

We figure we could be there for at least a couple of months so it certainly changes up what we thought would be transpiring with our plans. My heart right now is jagged and raw, but I try and keep the thought that she lived a long life and was healthy, fit and doing it on her terms, with independence--right up until the moment she wasn't. That's something to be thankful for and the kind of old age and death all of us would wish for and crave.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Two Decisions


(My hungry cats!)

It’s been five months with Marc gone and I must say it has not gone well for either one of us. We’re just missing each other too much and missing our “retired” life together. Add in the frustration Marc has experienced with this project and it all came down to figuring out what would make us happiest is to just pull the plug.

Marc’s last day of employment will be the 21st and to that end he is already mostly packed up to leave immediately afterwards. Barring the old Dodge breaking down somewhere along the route, I should see him no later than the 27th I hope.

Once he’s unpacked and has rested, our second decision involves staying relatively close to home for the rest of the year. We had given much thought to heading out west for a family visit in October but have nixed that for now. The journey is just too far and with covid rampant, it didn’t thrill us to be around those not vaccinated, which includes many in my family. 

Instead, we’re still going to try and get out and enjoy Wisconsin’s most beautiful month of the year, hopefully wandering up north and sightseeing regions we’ve never seen before and relaxing next to water. I will plan only a loose itinerary and I’d like to pack light and not take the kayaks so we can easily move along to the next campsite when the urge strikes. Our kayaks are very heavy and not something to easily be loaded and unloaded daily. 

Summer is waning down here locally; I pulled the garden the other day and the shelter’s main fundraising event, the annual rummage sale, was accomplished to a record-breaking amount in late August thanks to all our volunteers’ efforts. 

Coming this weekend is Waupaca’s Fall O’Rama where we have a booth filled with home baked goodies, including my 21 loaves of bread, which I’ve spent the last month baking. They always sell out, at $5/loaf!

As to the future, we’ll be keeping a close eye on building material costs as we plan to build some type of pole barn for storage of our RV, the Chevy and Freightliner, and our future boat. It won’t be as fancy as we initially planned given that Marc’s income was cut short but it will at least finally be somewhere to put the vehicles away out of Wisconsin’s winters and weather. We have plenty of space for it on our other, buildable acre lot. So, watch for that in future updates; maybe we can even get started before snow flies!


Monday, July 26, 2021

Came and Went


Marc’s visit home passed all too quickly as he got caught up in doing all the appointed tasks I had waiting on a list for him. I never understand why it is that things break when he’s not here. 

With our first rain, he tackled our annual rite of burning the junk pile. We have several very old trees on our property which shed twigs and larger branches every time the wind blows hard. I also throw the yard scraps from pruning on the pile and an occasional scrap piece of lumber and most recently, some of the wood guts from the interior of the Travel Supreme have gone on there. Our neighbor also uses it as her pile so it was no surprise to find it quite large by the time he could attend to it.

Marc has wanted to put up a mailbox for quite some time as we’ve never had one here, using a post office box all this time. He was having trouble finding a large mailbox like he wanted locally but when we were in Virginia, he did find one. Another task accomplished finally.

Of course, the riding lawnmower also needed service and he opted for new blades since I am fairly hard on them running over gravel all the time. It’s crucial for that to stay in top shape since I mow once a week or sometimes every five days depending upon how much rain we get. I stopped doing a large portion of our other acre lot which we now allow to grow naturally as our cat Jerry’s “savannah”, where he loves to hunt. 

Marc fixed my recliner easily with a $12 part from Amazon, saving us the $200 charge the furniture store wanted for a service call and he also spent an entire day ridding my computer of a Trojan and getting it back to new condition.

Finally, we invited some good friends here to join us for cold beer outside at the harbor restaurant on one of the Chain of Lakes and then proceeded to stay for dinner. It was a wonderful evening and our first like this since before Covid hit. I sat and ogled the boats which came and went; they tie to the dock, the drink waitress comes and takes their order and they sit there in luxury on the water. 


My flower garden is finally coming into its own this summer, having taken about three to four years for the perennials to really flourish. It gives me a great deal of joy and I spend lots of time tending to it. The vegetable garden has been a failure this year; the cherry tomato plants which are huge have yet to see their green darlings turn orange or red, so are very late.

August will see me fairly busy; I have a craft fair to try and sell some of my wares on August 7th and then mid-month we again will be doing the Humane Society rummage, which is about a nine-day affair of taking in donations, setting up, four sale days, then packing up any leftovers and cleanup.

My life isn’t exciting these days; I live for the time Marc can return and we can get back to better days. 


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

One Seventh of the Way There


Given that Marc’s project in New Mexico will likely take at least 14 months to build, my title refers to how far along on my journey of loneliness I am. After having him here for the past year during Covid, it’s been a jarring anomaly to now have him gone. The cats and I wander the house aimlessly, looking for something to do besides the daily grind. What a wasted year this will be, except for watching the bank account grow. 

His first break home will take place on July 10th late in the evening, if all the flights go well. Before he left, we had thought about planning for a week away at some northern lake in the RV but we are now rethinking that. There always seems to be so much for him to get caught up on or fix when he returns, plus two full days of travel to and fro and it’s wearing. If we do decide to go somewhere it may be for just a handful of days and not too far away. 

It’s certainly not the summer I had hoped for after our year of being cooped up. Summer will be gone by the time he next returns in very late September and it’s far too early to know what may be planned for that break. Then he won’t return again until Christmas.

My main outlet now is gardening and yard work. Things were not off to a good start that way either; the garden seems way behind and we had quite a spell of hot, dry weather which cooked the lawn. Thankfully, this past week has seen over four inches of rain so things are getting better and maybe that will jump start things growing. 

 I can spend hours dreaming of and looking at what type of boat I may want. I jump around to all various kinds, trying to figure out what will fit needs and wants the best within our budget and ongoing maintenance costs of ownership. Obviously, I do a lot of “research” on the internet and it’s certainly nice that many You Tube channels now cover exactly those aspects. It passes (wastes?) many an hour as I porch sit in the sunroom, listening to the rain. 

I sure hope Marc’s project gets done in time next year so we can at least enjoy some summer activity with a boat. In a worst case scenario, I picture losing two entire summers and then being shut in again for a long, cold Wisconsin winter before it would finally be a summer we could enjoy together again. That’s too depressing to even think about. Without leaving the state, we really deal with a window of May-October as months when outdoor activities are comfortable and possible. Neither one of us “does” winter activities outdoors excepting shoveling snow! Skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing—all that freezing stuff holds no allure for us. 

And for now, we’re staying put. June 10th was the red-letter day of paying off our house and in today’s market there is no way to replace what we have for the money we have invested. I’d rather buy a boat and go play before we get too old! 


Monday, May 31, 2021

We Made a Deal


While we were driving some back roads looking at properties in Virginia, Marc was talking with his old project manager from MSL. They were discussing how the Superintendent that was hired for their Farmington, NM job had just been arrested for wife battering and kidnapping and was in jail. I piped up to Marc: “Ask Doug how much he’d pay for an experienced Superintendent in a hurry?”. It started from there. 

From the get go it was about enough money to make it pay for Marc to once again, live out of town for a long period of time. We feel we accomplished that goal and the company was enthusiastic to have him back! In this time of little experienced labor available, knowing they could depend upon Marc and his vast degree of knowledge and gumption to get things done, they knew their new assisted living project would be in good hands. 

A couple weeks later, with his old Dodge and a cargo trailer loaded to the brim with his personal items and tools, Marc headed west. The company is providing him with an included rental condo, per diem pay, and a generous auto allowance for using his own transportation. Farmington, NM is nothing to write home about, stuck out in the middle of the desert, but he says it does have decent shopping. Most of his subs appear to be decent so we’re hopeful he can have this project put to bed within a year to 14 months. The company will fly him home every two months for a week’s stay; his first upcoming visit is the second week of July. 

That’s the background; now for the “deal”. His goal was for enough cash to build a large pole barn—large enough we can fit the RV, the Freightliner, Chevy, and still have work space; oh, and a boat! You see that’s my part of the deal: for the pain of having him gone yet another year, my “price” is that we will (finally) buy a decent boat. 

My fantasies are in high gear as to what kind will be best for us at this stage of life. I like the idea of having something larger, but worry about fuel consumption and maintenance. I like the idea of being able to trailer to various lakes, but on the other hand, I am also mightily attracted to houseboats, where we could lazily cruise and fish the river and Lake Winnebago and have the cats along with adequate space for them. Moored in a slip it could be like a cabin getaway on the water! Could we even entertain the idea of building our own houseboat on used pontoons? It’s an intriguing idea. This beauty is by a master woodworker but could be used as a template for its shape and size. Closer to home with our skills however, the second example is more highly probable! 

Before the boat however, has to come the pole barn, since we won’t want to let the boat sit outside to ruin. All of this will be at least two years in the future but some things are worth waiting for, aren’t they? 

The idea of moving has gone by the wayside in these turbulent times. We’re just too set up here and it should now only get better with Marc having his pole barn. Given today’s high construction and real estate costs, our cost basis in building this home and all the sweat equity we have as a result is at never-to-be-seen again pricing. That’s pretty hard to give up. And we do love Wisconsin life! 

Friday, April 30, 2021

What About Virginia?


Most days and evenings as we sit by the bay, there is a solitary male loon who keeps himself busy with diving and fishing. This must be his home for he rarely strays from in front of us and he doesn’t often call either. 

This place is a bird watchers Mecca, especially the raptors. We daily see numerous osprey dipping, coming up with small bait fish gripped in wicked talons, flapping over our heads and off to the pine treetops. There are other types of hawks and one bald eagle, diver ducks, gulls, terns, and inland, songbirds. They twitter and sing all day long. In between watching all the bird life, we watch the plethora of boats and ships. Container ships, ferries, fishing boats, go-fast pleasure boats, sailboats and very occasionally, a brave kayaker. We are on the open bay side of Gwynn’s Island and with the windy conditions, it often gets rough. We have become used to it booming right beside us at night, lulling us to sleep. 

Every morning at 6 a.m. as we enjoy beautiful sunrises, a couple of fishermen work a gill net line, which is strung parallel to shore for about a half mile length. Twice, we have watched pods of dolphins also swimming along the line to harvest any leftovers. This bay is alive with life but is still in recuperation mode from being highly polluted decades ago. It is well used and well loved by those who live, work, and play here. Me too; I am in love with it and hate to leave. We highly enjoy the seafood we have splurged on: fresh oysters we barbecue accompanied with cold beer, and another meal of delicious grouper. 

It was a long way to get here; many boring freeway miles and ad hoc camping every night. The first two nights were OK at an Illinois state park and the next at an Indiana state park but the third night in West Virginia was nearly a disaster. 

Nothing was yet open in that state despite it being around 70 degrees and we finally found a small camping sign which we followed down a narrow road. Committed, we saw a tunnel up ahead gored out of solid rock with height restrictions of 10 feet along the sides and 14 feet in the middle. The problem was, the tunnel was dark and unlit and it wasn’t apparent until we were in it that along with the roadway, there was also power lines and a creek running through the tunnel! There was a narrow path of paving with a footing wall so people didn’t drive off into the creek which Marc had to crowd within inches. We heard noise at the end and thought for sure we had lost our a/c unit so stopped to check. It turned out to be our jack stand levers which had scraped the knee wall. 

 After two miles of skinny, winding road we came to the dreaded metal arm in down position at the “campground closed” sign. Marc parked and started walking up the continuing road, hopeful for any kind of wide spot. Thankfully, he met some locals who indicated it was national forest land and there was a small parking lot by a creek just up the way. It became camp for the night and we weren’t bothered and were too tired by then to go any farther even if we were. Marc said there was no way he was attempting that tunnel again in the dark! 

This all came on the heels of a miserable day traversing West Virginia. Hoping to avoid the toll freeway, Marc decided on the old Hwy. 60 which for a time paralleled the freeway. The map indicated it was a state route but it looked very curvy to me. Yes indeed. It took hours of twists and turns as we climbed hair-raising cliffsides with thousand-foot drop-offs. It ended up delaying us mightily so my suggestion is to never take an RV over Hwy. 60 in WV! Actually, we have never been impressed with WV and have decided to try and avoid it in the future as much as possible. Camping is impossible there, the roads are miserable, and much of the countryside scenery filled with abject signs of poverty and desolation. Home yards were filled with the detritus of an entire lifetime worth of junk, dead vehicles, trash and peeling paint. It made us so thankful to be living in a clean, relatively prosperous state like WI. Returning home, we do have to route through WV but have done so to avoid having to spend the night there.

Here on Gwynn’s Island our weather has mostly been favorable. Like any marine climate, which we love, it will often be still, sunny, and calm during morning hours, then showery and windy in the afternoon. We enjoyed our new screen tent, which can seal out much of the wind; and especially had a wonderful time visiting with Marc’s sister there as we listened to the waves. It was the first time they have seen each other in ten years and it was her birthday and she loved the cutting board Marc had made for her.

We’ve gotten to know this area fairly well in a short period of time. It’s rural on one hand, yet strangely busy on the other—lots of traffic as compared to WI and the roads are insanely narrow. They believe in saving asphalt here I guess, as there are no shoulders whatsoever on back roads, plus both sides are lined with deep culverts to accommodate the runoff and tidal waters of this low-lying country. There is no where to turn off, no where to pull over in an emergency and with each oncoming car you just hope to hell the driver isn’t texting on his phone. For the amount of traffic, the roads are a total incongruity.

We looked at some interesting property and some losers. My favorite was an acre+ piece near to Gloucester and close to the York River. It had all utilities at the road, including high speed cable (internet access here is very spotty), a must have for us, was level and usable with great soil.

We looked at a four acre wooded piece with huge trees.

We also looked at a couple of two-acre parcels on the island (I could really dig living on the island!) but found the alternative septic system required would be extremely costly at around $30,000, making the low-cost lot not so attractive. We figure out that anything directly waterfront is too expensive for us. The climate and countryside are attractive to me and I could live here, but truth be told, nothing here save having the ocean close, is as good as what we have in Wisconsin. Which presents a conundrum doesn’t it?

 It’s a huge decision and one which may have to wait for a time to percolate. Meantime, when we arrive home, we’re going to be able to pay off our mortgage entirely—a major step we worked hard towards for the past six years since it was built. The relief that comes with having a free and clear new home may just have us remain. 

With each passing day, the pundits seem to express more doom and gloom about the forthcoming economy and the real possibility of runaway inflation, which of course hits retired people very hard. Lumber and building pricing are at an all time high, making building affordably an impossibility; best not even contemplated right now. Times are just too uncertain—take the bird in the hand, the patch of green grass that is already ours and be thankful we have it as a safe haven. Marc will be returning to work out of state on another large assisted living facility; more on that next time. 

Here’s some further pictures of our explorations, including some old-time sea captain homes in the small town of Reedville, where the road ends and the ocean beckons. Gracious volunteers welcomed us at a closed boat museum which wasn’t opening until May 1. They had built a replica of the boat used by John Smith in the Jamestown founding of America, which had later been used in movies, so they were quite proud! (The last pic).

Unknown birds loudly chirped and sang; the water was tranquil and the overall feeling was one of total peace if one lived here.  Virginia sports some magnificent old mansions and housing stock (it’s quite common for homes to date from the early to mid-1800’s, some even the 1700’s), but mixed in are old and abandoned vine covered dilapidated shacks and very rusted out single wide trailers. People are friendly and many speak with a southern accent. Flying the confederate flag here is more than a little popular. 

Finally, our stay at the RV park on Gwynn’s Island was a treat. It is filled with mostly seasonal RVs and park models, whose owners come only on weekends for the most part. During the week it remained quiet, but we had very poor WIFI and cell service, despite the fact there is high speed on the island. Our spot was particularly delightful as it’s on the end and our slide picture windows looked right out at ocean 30 feet away over the rock jetty. We couldn’t have asked for a better site for ocean-lovers. It’s expensive, as all commercial RV parks are now, but for a blowout vacation, well worth it for the location.

(The swing bridge to the island)

We decided upon a different return route, which took us through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in VA, a portion of Maryland (who knew Maryland was mountainous?), just a smidgen of WV (Wheeling), Pennsylvania and Ohio and then back on our original route through Indiana and Illinois. We were totally exhausted by the time we got home (I hate back-to-back long travel days) but it was reassuring to get home and note how happy the cats were to be home; I swear they were all wearing grins.