Hoop Dreams

Monday, April 4th — After another fabulous long weekend in Chicago and lots more celebrating and partying which I’ll write about soon, we are now at Mom’s up here in Appleton where we’ll spend a few days visiting with her and my sister and her family.

It’s basketball weekend, and as I write this post we are watching the NCAA Championship game.  It’s clear who Daddy & Joan are cheering for down in North Carolina.  On the other side of the court and on another coast, nephew Kyle in Galveston is all in with Villanova as he picked them to win it all in his work pool.  Since my Badgers lost in the Sweet 16, I’m not as interested in the outcome as I was last year, but if I’m forced to choose, I’ll side with Fred and go with ‘anyone but NC.’  [I may have just shot myself in the foot as we’re visiting our NC family next week — sorry guys, I really don’t mean it!]

Matthew Wade & the Skills - tournament champions!
Skills First Team — Champions of the NY2LA Swish & Dish 14 & under AAU Bronze Championship.  My nephew, Matthew, is second from the left; the player next to the coach — handsome, smart, and a great baller!

On the subject of basketball, our drive to Wisconsin from Chicago yesterday found us hooking up with one of my best buddies, Will, and his family up in Milwaukee.  Will & Lizzette’s son, Matthew, was playing in an AAU 14 & Under basketball tournament, so we joined them at one of the local high schools to watch Matt and his team make up a 20-point deficit and win by a couple to put them into the finals of their division.  Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the final game as we were due up at Mom’s for dinner, but the team went on to win the championship game by 15 points!  Taking after his dad who was a high school and college basketball stud himself back in his day, Matthew soared with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists.  Way to go Matthew!  And congratulations to your entire team!  It was fun watching you play.  Your Auntie Laura and Uncle Fred look forward to watching you continue to develop your skills and play in high school and then at the college level.

And speaking yet some more of basketball, Villanova just won.  Congrats on winning your pool, Kyle!

O Holy Night

Claire & Kyle hosting their first holiday gathering on Christmas Eve

Fred got an Ansel Adams photography book -- and note the fabulous TV fireplace

Christmas presents!Christmas is now over, but as this blog is also the journal for our life on the road, I wanted to capture and share a few bits of our wonderful Christmas holidays so that friends and family members who check in with us regularly here on our website can see what all we did.

We started our holiday festivities at Claire & Kyle’s on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.  We had a delightful time with them, noshing on their tasty nibbles and washing them down with Claire’s Christmas cocktails made with Prosecco, pomegranate liquor and pom seeds in the glasses — fancy and delicious!

As the pictures show, we had fun exchanging Christmas presents before making our way downtown where Tom joined us for dinner at Beatrix.  We then attended the very beautiful service of Lessons and Carols at Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue.  As always, it was a moving and meaningful service celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

It’s tough having so many family members living in different places, and so while we couldn’t be with all of them, we were sure thinking of them.  This is my family up in Wisconsin on Christmas Eve.  I know we were all together in spirit….

My Wisconsin family on Christmas Eve
Daniel, Mom and Kirsten in the front row; Kyle, Elizabeth, Natalie, Kelsey, and Timmy (Kelsey’s boyfriend) in the back

Where in the world is Laura?

Clearly I’ve been on hiatus, but I honestly hadn’t planned to be away from my keyboard this long!  I hope my readers aren’t thinking I gave up on our travel chronicles — I couldn’t do that!!

Since leaving Texas on December 2nd, I’ve been in Amsterdam and Bruges with our niece Kelsey who just finished up a semester studying abroad in Granada, Spain — we decided to meet in Amsterdam for a little travel fun together before she came back to the United States.  Then it was on to London and Lewes (an hour south of London) to spend a few more days in the U.K. with my dear friend Joanna.  After ten days in Europe I flew back to Chicago and spent a few days catching up with my girlfriends.  In all this time I didn’t have my laptop with me, so I wasn’t really able to blog.

Fred brought my laptop with him and re-joined me following his Toura Obscura; a trip in which he slowly made his way back to the Midwest in Toad, our Subaru [Charley (our RV) is still down in San Antonio], stopping at some really obscure places along the way and thus giving life and a name to his 2,400-mile solo trek back to Chicago.  After an evening together in Chicago, it was up to Appleton (Wisconsin) to visit Mom, sis and family for some pre-holiday cheer.  We spent three days and nights there, then drove down to Madison for a couple of days to be part of Kelsey’s graduation from the University of Wisconsin.  So it’s not like I’ve been loafing around doing nothing….  Now we’re back in Chicago for the Christmas holidays with the Jolly family and a few more days beyond that to continue catching up with friends.

All of this travel has been great and I have so enjoyed being back in Chicago, especially during this holiday season with all of the beautiful white Christmas lights in the downtown area.  And honestly, the break from blogging has been nice, as well.  But we know this is our link to many, many friends and family members, so it’s time for me to get back in the saddle once again and continue to share our unique travel experiences.  So my hiatus is officially over with now and I’m back in the blogging business!

Congratulations Graduate!

She did it - congratulations graduate!
She did it — congratulations Kelsey!

Congratulations to our college graduate, Kelsey Ann Kramer!  After four years at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and then one final semester of study abroad in Granada, Spain, to hone her Spanish-speaking skills, our niece [who’s also my goddaughter] Kelsey graduated yesterday!  

She majored in Spanish as she wants to be bi-lingual, but took a full load of science classes that she will need to get into a graduate program to fulfill her dream of being a Physician Assistant.  She finished strong and was named to the Academic All-Big Ten for her scholastic achievement — translation: she got really good grades and finished up with a nice G.P.A.  All of this while rowing for four years for the UW and twice competing in the NCAA National Championships!  She’s a really impressive young lady who has gracefully balanced doing well in school, the demands of being an athlete and rowing in the Big Ten, keeping in touch with her family, and practicing her faith throughout her college years.

Following the holidays at home with her family, the next step for Kelsey is to move to North Carolina in early January where she’ll live with Grandma and Grandpa [my dad] — a nice place with a very attractive rent-free program! — and look for a couple of jobs.  One will definitely be at a hospital or like place so she can finish up the patient-care hours she needs to have before applying to grad schools, and a second one will likely be waitressing to pay for grad school.

We’ve said it before but we feel it especially now — we’re very proud of you, Kelsey!  Congratulations and welcome to the esteemed club of Badger Alumni!

Kelsey Graduation from UW
As is tradition upon graduation, Kelsey sitting on Abe’s lap at the top of Bascom Hill

When you say WIS-CON-SIN!

Thank goodness for replays on www.ncaa.com!  We were out in Santa Fe last night with our Chicago girlfriends who have flown out here to visit us and spend a long weekend together.  As timing would have it, the Sweet 16 Wisconsin – UNC game started right about the time we were into our second cocktail.  With no television in sight, fellow Badger, Christine, and I had no options for viewing our game.  Some time later, we checked the score and saw it was a 1-point game at the half.  Ugh… nervous! 

As the second half got underway, Christine periodically checked her smart phone, and texted with a few of our Badger friends who we knew would be messaging.  As the game was close, she couldn't resist.  Quietly, politely, she asked our waitress for the restaurant's internet password, then went into end-of-the-game live streaming mode.  Meanwhile, I had told her that I was going to try to avoid the outcome so I could watch the replay.  Bless her, she didn't give anything away with shouts or sighs like she would otherwise be wont to do, and with the game clearly over, she and we carried on with the rest of our lovely evening together.

This is how I watched the Badger game this morning – note the tape on my screen.  The final score was shown across the top so Fred taped over it for me ~

Watching the Badger Gane replay this morning

We got back to Charley after our fine evening, and happily, I had managed to avoid the outcome.  So this morning at 7 o'clock, with the assistance of my dear husband, I logged on to ncaa.com and was able to pick up the game starting with the second half.  Fred, bless him, had to find the game for me so I wouldn't see who won.  But then the final score was revealed across the top of the replay, so he layered two layers of masking tape and then paper across the top of my screen so I would see it.  Finally, after several "don't look; don't look"s, he turned my PC over to me so I could watch.  Clearly I was elated to stream the replay of the second half of the game and see our Badgers move ahead to the Elite 8!

This post, then, is dedicated 1) to our fabulous Wisconsin basketball team, the best team we've had in Badger history; 2) to Christine, who put her best poker face on and didn't let her emotions reveal the outcome of the game to me; and 3) to Fred, who was a wonderful, understanding sport about the whole thing.

I wonder what we'll have to do to see tomorrow's game…?  Let's hope we can watch it live!  


(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….

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Apostle Islands
Cruising the Apostle Islands
Sea caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Sea caves on Devil’s Island in the Apostle Islands

July 24 – We’re on our way east now, making our way ultimately to New England to enjoy the fall colors.  We’ve left the Canadian border where we’ve had difficulty obtaining cell service and/or good internet connection for nearly two weeks, and admittedly we’re happy to have access to GoogleMaps and other modern tools and conveniences of this sort once again.

Now I can certainly read a good old-fashioned map, and in fact, we really enjoy navigating using our Rand McNally 2014 Road Atlas – we’re taking to highlighting every town in which we stay; a fun memento to have when we’re all done with this journey, don’t you think?   But with GoogleMaps functioning once again, I, the self-appointed Chief Logistics Officer [CLO], determined we could make it to this destination – the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Ashland, WI – in 3 hours and 39 minutes; it’s 209.6 miles according to my cell phone – what did we do before these things?

In mid-afternoon we found a great little campground right on Lake Superior in Ashland to pull in for the night, so for $30 (cash only!) we hooked up to electricity and water, then unhooked Toad and left Charley to see if we could grab a sunset tour of the islands.

While we’re not necessarily seeking out every national park area (National Lakeshores, National Memorials, National Historic Parks, etc.) – there are some 400+ throughout the U.S. – if we’re in the vicinity of one, we certainly want to explore it.  The Apostle Islands is comprised of 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland in Bayfield, WI.  It features some stunning natural scenery – windswept beaches, rock formations, sea caves (enjoyed more in winter when they ice up), marine wildlife (we saw two bald eagles), an old fishing camp, and several historic lighthouses.

We made it to the Visitor Center just before they closed, then down to the ticket office and dock just in time (by skipping dinner) for the sunset cruise, only about two hours into our three-and-a-half hour cruise, clouds rolled in and we didn’t get the sunset pictures we were hoping for.  Oh well, it was an enjoyable side-trip we managed to fit in, and we heard fun little anecdotes about this unique place.

We drove the 30-miles back down to Charley in Ashland and made a less-than-gourmet dinner (shame on me!) of Kraft macaroni and cheese with a can of tuna [for protein] added to it.  As the old idiom goes, needs must.  No harm, though – Fred enjoyed a couple of Hamm’s beers and caught up on his emails, I wrote most of these last two blog posts, and we were in bed and reading our new favorite books [Fred: The Boys in the Boat; me: The Kitchen Housethanks, Lisa, for these suggestions as we’re loving them!] shortly after midnight – all in all, a great Out There day!

“Glamping” with Elizabeth & Natalie

Peninsula State Park - site of our "glamping" trip
Peninsula State Park – site of our “glamping” trip

July 8-11 — Per my sister Kirsten we were not allowed to call this a “camping” trip for fear of setting the bar of the girls’ future camping trips too high, so instead we referred to this as our “glamping” trip ~ glamorous camping.  We spent three fantastic days with our nieces Elizabeth & Natalie in Peninsula State Park in Door County doing all the things you do when you’re camping — hiking, biking, relaxing, sitting out by a campfire, making S’mores, enjoying camp meals, and making memories….

Mommy, Daddy & Grandma came to pick the girls up on the final morning and we all enjoyed camp breakfast together before we said our goodbyes.  We are continuing our journey north — next stop, the U.P.

Hover your cursor over the photo, then click on the arrows to scroll through pictures from our “glamping” trip in Peninsula State Park

A Wonderful Week in Northern Wisconsin

June 30-July 6 — Mix all this and what do you get?

  • three BFFs who have turned or are soon turning 50
  • their families & additional family members
  • two lake houses in the north woods of Wisconsin
  • five 4-wheelers and lots of mud
  • party floats for all
  • a jetski & kayaks
  • two pontoon boats
  • a pair of lovely loons on the lake
  • a favorite Wisconsin bar
  • a 4th of July boat parade
  • fishing
  • Cards Against Humanity
  • Nails
  • campfires
  • two refrigerators full of beer
  • one refrigerator full of food (we’ve got our priorities right!)
  • Gin Buckets, red & blue margaritas & loads of other fun cocktails
  • dinner tables full of scrumptious food & lots of laughter

An absolutely fabulous week in the north woods of Wisconsin!  Thanks to our hosts The Zanders and The Zanders, 19 of us spent a week laughing, laking, lushing, and loving every minute of our time together.

Hover your pointer over the photo, then click on the arrows to scroll through photos from our fantastic week in Northern Wisconsin