(Sing it with me…) Reunited and it Feels so Good!!

We're back in Charley!
After a 17-day separation, we’re back in Charley!

Remember that Peaches & Herb song from the late ’70s, Reunited?  Maybe not, but music and lyrics savant that I am, I do, and the tune & lyrics fit.  We Jollys have reunited with Charley today and it feels so good!  Wayne, Chris, and all the guys at Dynamic Truck Repair in Columbia, SC, did a fantastic job installing better shock absorbers and an anti-sway bar, and we’re very happy to report that it was money well spent; Charley rides a lot smoother now!

Country Music Hall of Fame
Old costumes in the Country Music Hall of Fame, including Patsy Cline’s fringy dress and Don Gibson’s guitar-studded suit
Country  Music Hall of Fame
Two of our country music faves, Patsy Cline & Glen Campbell, imortalized in the HOF
Kelly Pickler's costume and the coveted DWTS Mirror Ball Trophy
Kelly Pickler’s costume and the coveted DWTS Mirror Ball Trophy

Let me catch you up on these last two-plus weeks…..

We had a really nice journey back to the Midwest a couple of weeks ago – except for the fact that it got colder & colder as we traveled north.  We stopped in Nashville where I finally had the chance to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame.  It was cool to trip down country music lane and history, especially as that’s my favorite genre of music.  I enjoyed reading nearly every placard, watching nearly every video, and seeing all of the costumes these country music stars wore at one time or another during their careers.  And Fred was thrilled to see his country music fave, Patsy Cline, immortalized in bronze right next to one of my old faves, Glen Campbell.  And true confessions:  Dancing With The Stars is one of my guilty pleasures, and it was a thrill for me to see Kellie Pickler’s costume and the Mirror Ball trophy on display!  :)

Friend Dona rolled out her new hardwood floors for us when we spent a night with her (not on her floor; in her guest bedroom!) en route back up to Chicago.  Then friends Kathy, then Eric, each put up with us and our many bags and suitcases for a few nights while we thoroughly enjoyed our visits with friends and family back in our beloved Windy City.

I purposely haven’t posted any photos from our time in Chicago, in large part to conceal just how much vino was consumed (I’m joking Mom!) as we got together with several sets of friends who very graciously hosted dinner parties for us so we could get together with many of the friends we wanted to see.  Honestly, though, I was also ready for a little break from photographing, writing, and posting as I have been doing regularly for the past six months.

Our Thanksgiving Dinner Table
Our Thanksgiving Dinner table – when all the table confetti was still ON the table –       Eric reports he’s still finding it throughout the house a week later…!

We had a really nice Thanksgiving with Claire and Kyle and Tom and Eric.  It was truly a blessing to be back in Chicago with our family on this, my favorite holiday.  We collaborated on a delicious meal together, and as always, we all laughed and drank and laughed some more.  Eric proclaimed this BTGE – Best Thanksgiving Ever – and indeed, we set the bar very high with this one!

Natalie & Elizabeth decorating Mom/Nana's Christmas tree
Natalie & Elizabeth decorating Mom/Nana’s Christmas tree

Following a week in Chicago, we headed further north – up to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin where it was a bone-chilling 3° on our final of the four nights we spent up there visiting my family.  We had nice visits with Mom and my sister and her family.  Kyle, our 23-year-old nephew was home from Galveston where he’s serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.  And Kelsey (21) and Patrick (18) were both home on break from UW-Madison – my Badger legacies!  Also lots of fun, our two youngest nieces, Elizabeth and Natalie, helped me get Mom’s house decorated for the Christmas holidays.

On our way back down south, we had lunch in Milwaukee with my adopted brother, Will – as in, we met in 1980 when we were 16 years old, and adopted one another as brother and sister sometime when we were in our 20’s.  He is still in disbelief that we are actually living this lifestyle – he asked me what happened to all my shoes and jewelry!?! – but he did acknowledge that we must be doing something right, for according to him we looked well-rested, and as we regaled him with stories from our first six months on the road, he could tell we are having the time of our lives….

Cosell & Ali
The Muhammad Ali Museum in Louisville, Kentucky

We made one more stop – the Muhammad Ali Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.   Non-fan of boxing that I am, I must admit that this was a very well-done museum, and I really enjoyed visiting.

So that brings us up to date.  This afternoon we moved our carload of stuff back into Charley, and as the song goes, we’re reunited once again and it feels so good….

Mammoth Cave NP

Fred & I met daughter Claire at her school in Kentucky for a nice fall weekend, and combined that visit with a couple of days at Mammoth Cave NP.  “Mammoth” is a fitting description for the system of underground caves.  The full extent of this water-formed labyrinth remains unknown, but nearly 400 miles of these underground passages are surveyed, and geologists believe there could be more than 600 miles yet to be discovered.

33 - Nature in the park

We arrived at Mammoth Cave NP on Saturday, October 8th, and after walking around the boardwalk & trails near the Visitor Center, we  joined with our group.  A National Park Service ranger gave an overview of our trip down into the caves which included how the caves formed – millions of years of limestone and sandstone interacting, eroding, and creating underground streams – it was a real lesson in natural history.

We opted for the “strenuous” guided tour, the Grand Avenue Tour, which had the three of us 300 feet underground for 4-1/2 hours; something that is not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic!  We hiked up and down for 4+ miles through many different chambers and narrow passageways.  We had lunch in an underground cafeteria in “The Snowball Room” which was discovered in the early 1840’s by the enslaved Stephen Bishop, who is believed to be the first person to explore the cave system after it was re-discovered in 1798.  Our trip culminated in “Violet City” where we saw impressive dripstone formations that have been forming for millions of years – stalactites and stalagmites everywhere!

On Sunday, October 9th, Fred & I woke early for a short hike down to the Green River, passing by a couple of feeding white-tail deer, the River Styx spring, another entrance to the cave system, and some wild turkeys out in a dewy field.  We had breakfast, drove back to Danville to drop Claire off, then headed back up to Louisville for a late flight back to Chicago; this was a terrific little getaway weekend!

Hover your pointer over the photo, below, then click on the arrows to scroll through our photos from Mammoth Cave.