Sunday, September 30, 2018

Madison, WI

We're in Minnesota these days, and fall has officially arrived. The leaves are beginning to change and it's been positively cold in the mornings; I've decided it's time to stash my flip flops once and for all until next year. 

About three weeks ago, when we were in Wisconsin and it still felt like late summer with the slightest twinge of fall in the air, we spent a Saturday morning at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison. I've carried on at length in previous posts about the arboretum in Dallas, that it is my favorite place in the metroplex and the very best botanical garden we've ever visited, and this is still true. Olbrich, however, has earned second place. It's the sort of place that one could visit over and over and not feel as though she's seen it all before. 

And then just a few pictures of the capitol building: 
One thing we've noticed as we've toured several capitol buildings is this: there are lots of differences in materials and architectural design, but the commonality is all of the care and attention to detail that's been put into each one, and that is a neat thing to see. 

Monday, September 03, 2018

Green Bay in July

Just after the 4th, we tested at a railroad in Green Bay and then had the weekend to run around. We were pleasantly surprised by Green Bay; it's not that we preconceived unpleasant notions about it, but we did expect the usual things that come with bigger cities, namely throngs of people and terrible traffic, but... we found neither! Our hotel was in the very center of the city, and it felt so much like a ghost town the entire time we were there.

Right across the street was the Fox River, which flows through the city and into Lake Michigan. There's a really nice trail system along the river, which I made use of twice - once with Jan Michael and and once by myself. We hadn't been near water for quite awhile, and it was just good for my heart to walk beside it for a few miles, listening to the seagulls squawking and looking at all of the boats that were docked. This particular part of the Fox River Trail is home to CityDeck, which is a large boardwalk with restaurants and neat architecture. I didn't take any pictures there, but it was fun to see people lounging around in the sun, and little ones in their tiny swimsuits playing in the fountain (but not too many people or little ones, because again, no crowds!)

We also visited the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, which has the second largest wildlife rehabilitation program in Wisconsin. It has six miles of trails, lots of animal habitats, a nature education center and admission is free! It's also home to a bazillion ducks and  geese, which means you have to high-step it to avoid the landmines :) 

And then of course we couldn't be in Green Bay without inspecting Lambeau Field. We'd heard it was in the middle of a residential area, and sure enough! We weren't able to go inside, but the outside was quite impressive, even for rabid Seahawks fans :) 

Saint Paul in April

The second the clock ticks from 11:59 pm on August 31st to 12:00 am on September 1st, I celebrate the arrival of fall. This year especially I'm not terribly sad about waving good-bye to summer.  Jan Michael and I have both been tired of being sweaty messes because of humidity for awhile now, and I miss sweatshirts.

What will make this year's transition most memorable is a trip to urgent care for pink eye(s) and an ear infection, wheeeee! But hooray for modern medicine and a long weekend in which to kick this crud out the door. Also, hip hip hooray for a husband who has somehow managed to maintain his health and will run out the door at a moment's notice for Kleenex and iced coffee and anything else I might want.

We've done hardly any sightseeing for ages, but there are lots of things from months past to catch up on, so...

The capitol building in St. Paul, MN is grand and opulent, more so than any other capitol we've visited so far. This first picture, though, makes me laugh because I had to crop a bunch of port-o-pots; there was some kind of rally going on later that morning and based on the long line of them, standing side by each like soldiers ready for action, the organizers were expecting quite a crowd :)
There was a tai chi class being held in the rotunda while we were there; we did not participate but it was fun to watch :) 

There's lots to see on the grounds in terms of statues and memorials, one of which is the Minnesota Military Family Tribute. It's comprised of 87 large rocks, one for each county in the state. The rocks are known as 'story stones' and are inscribed with excerpts of letters between soldiers at war and their families. As you might imagine, it's a very moving and very humbling place. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Blue & green in Minnesota

Once at the end of June and then again at the beginning of July, we were on the outskirts of Minneapolis. In June we were there for a job, and in July, we were passing through, although I can't remember where we came from or where we were going. This is a common occurrence out here on the road :) Anyway, we were in areas with beautiful outdoor spaces; here is the proof:
After some digging, I see that this last picture was taken in Wisconsin, not Minnesota. I'll allow it :) 

Sunday, August 05, 2018

A happy Saturday

Other than a handful of trips to Atlanta, this has been a Midwest spring and summer for us: we've been ping-ponging between Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota since April. Before then, we'd never been to Wisconsin at all, and we'd only driven through a corner of Minnesota. We'd logged a good number of miles driving to and from the home office in Illinois, but usually without any extra time for exploring. So, we've seen lots of new places these last few months, like... St Charles, IL.

This was such a fun city to visit! Our job here spanned a weekend, so we were able to roam around without feeling rushed, although there's lots that we missed and neither of us will be upset if we're ever called back.

Stop 1: Primrose Farm
We began by spending some time with the ladies in the Jersey barn and then witnessed a rumble between two Columbian Wyandottes outside the hen house. We also said good morning to a herd of Shropshire sheep, two Nigerian dwarf goats and a pair on miniature donkeys, none of which were very interested in posing for pictures :) 

Stop 2: Oberweis Ice Cream & Dairy Store
Ice cream for breakfast! That is lemon blackberry and coffee in a waffle cone for me, and a lemon blackberry shake for Jan Michael. We had the whole shop to ourselves, based entirely, I'm sure, on the assumption that the rest of the county was making much wiser food choices :) But! We would do it again in a heartbeat! 

Stop 3: Mt. St. Mary Park
Here we burned off approximately 1/1000th of our breakfast calories by taking a lovely walk in the rain. The park is full of sculptures, some temporary and some permanent; Mr. Eggwards was our favorite of them all :) 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Here we go again

One of my New Year's resolutions was to be a faithful recorder of all we're doing out here on the road.

I have failed!

I'd like to try again.

Also, I need some kind of creative outlet that's cheap and takes up very little room, and this fits the bill. So...

Our job situation has changed slightly in that rather than having a dedicated testing trailer and route of our own, we're now a relief team. This means that we hop around to different trailers, taking over for other tech teams who are on vacation or otherwise absent from work. Theoretically, this also means that we work less and have more free time, which necessitates a home base of sorts. While we would love this to be WA, it's simply not feasible for a variety of reasons. And so, for a variety of other reasons, we find ourselves landing in Atlanta when we have a decent chunk of time off. When we moved to Texas four years ago, I was certain it was the end of the earth and we couldn't possibly live anywhere farther from WA. Ha, ha and ha.

Poor Atlanta, we had preconceived notions of it that were not favorable. We've done that several times, assuming that a city is an armpit and then being pleasantly surprised. There's a wealth of really fun, interesting things to see and do in Atlanta (of which we've only scratched the surface), and there are neighborhoods full of old houses and gigantic trees that charmed us right off the bat. (The traffic situation, however, does fall squarely into the armpit category.)

One of the first things we did was buy an annual membership to the botanical garden; we've visited twice now, once in the spring and once in the summer, and it's been beautiful both times.

And about those delightful neighborhoods I mentioned above: 
I hesitate to run around snapping pictures of other people's houses as that would make me uncomfortable as a homeowner, but I some things are tough to resist. I tried to be very discreet about it, though :) I can't wait for walks here in the fall! 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

In the mix

We tend to share only the sight-seeing part of life on the road, which may give the impression that we spend all of our time sitting in old-fashioned soda fountains and wandering around presidential libraries, but no. We do actual work an awful lot, too.

Last fall, after our very long stint in Memphis at FedEx, we were sent to Arkansas. One of the places we tested at was a cement factory.
This was a particularly pleasant job in that we had a huge break the first afternoon, and we used our free time to sit on the banks of this pond in our camping chairs, playing Phase 10 while the sun set. A handful of alligators live here; it would have made my whole week to see them, but the guys at the plant thought they were probably hunkered down in the mud because of the cold. 
We were also given a tour of the plant once the job was finished. This isn't something that's available very often, and we always take the opportunity when we can. Everything is made somehow, and it's fascinating to watch the process, especially with things we don't really think about (ready-mixed concrete, for example). 

Friday, February 09, 2018

January roundup

January gave us such a nice introduction to the new year. The transition from vacation back to life on the road can throw me for a loop sometimes, but there were so many pleasant things throughout the whole month, and our re-entry felt very easy.

We had jobs in both San Antonio and Austin, two places we always wanted to visit when we actually lived in Texas. Besides exploring, we were able to get together with an old friend of Jan Michael's (who brought us pineapple turnovers!) as well as friends from high school (who cooked us dinner and let us love on their pit bull Daisy!). We are fans of real life, face-to-face connections, homemade dessert, and snuggling sweet dogs - all things we're rarely able to do out here - so both evenings were wonderful treats.

We also spent two weekends in hotels with Targets nearby, and I took full advantage of the proximity. The way I prefer to spend an early Saturday morning is this: rising before the sun, drinking a bunch of coffee, and then going to Target (or Hobby Lobby or Old Navy etc etc) right when it opens and meandering around without having to fight crowds or worrying about where in the world I will park our behemoth of a truck. The Targets I visited each had fully stocked Dollar Spots and I found darling bits and bobs to mail out for Valentine's Day. I also found a fantastic Def Leppard t-shirt and an equally fantastic Montana sweatshirt, neither of which were the correct size, so too bad for me. I will look again at the next Target we come across 😊

What else? We found a few local holes-in-the-wall in several of the towns we stayed in, with really good food (spinach enchiladas! fried pickles! vanilla malts!). And we spent a good bit of time outside on the weekends, which always makes us happy. 

Jan Michael knew some of the story behind the Alamo and the battle that was fought there, while I knew nothing, and our visit was very interesting. I feel like we gained some insight as to why Texans are so enthusiastic about Texas 😊 Admission is also free, which was astonishing, especially considering the $120 we paid across the street for entry into Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium and the Guinness World Record Museum. (What a colossal waste of money; I'm the one who made that decision and I had buyer's remorse two seconds after I handed over the credit card.) 

At the River Walk, so much of the flora and fauna was dead, but there wasn't a horde of people to fight through, either - the pros and cons of visiting in the winter.

The capitol building in Austin is gigantic and stately, and that spindly spiral staircase at the top of the cupola makes me nervous. The figure on top of the dome is the Goddess of Liberty; the original was installed in 1888 and then replaced by a replica in 1986. Evidently lots of men have boasted about their lady loves being the model for the original, although no women have ever made such a claim, at least on the historical record 😊

We also spent part of a Saturday morning at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. There are 15 presidential libraries across the country; they are fascinating and we'd like to visit as many as we can. Besides such a huge amount of information about LBJ and his administration, we were able to see an exhibit called Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole library and I'll add a link so you can read about it yourself. 

As for the outdoors, Barton Springs Pool is filled with water from a nearby spring. It's deep (18 feet at its maximum) and fairly warm (between 68 and 74 degrees), and is used no matter the season - as evidenced by the guy swimming laps at the beginning of January (while we walked around in our winter coats, ha!). It was fun to see Austin's skyline in the distance; I bet the city lights on hot summer nights look really neat.