campfires

Perry & Dee Dee Come Visit

Dinner for four inside Charley - cozy, yet comfortable!
Dinner for four inside Charley – cozy, yet comfortable! [And Chicago friends: note the mini orchid table decor. We saw this little guy and knew he was bred specifically for us!]
You know you have good friends when you tell them you’re a couple of hours away from where they’re heading for the weekend and they detour to come visit you instead.  They’re even better friends when they know they will have to sleep on an air mattress on your floor, take cold showers in the shower house at the campground, coexist together in tight quarters with you, have no space to put their personal items, and endure the chill of the November outdoors, and still agree to come visit you.  Meet our great and wonderful friends, Perry & Dee Dee.

Fred & Laura push what is deemed a 'reasonable' night for a campfire
We pushed what is deemed a ‘reasonable’ night for a campfire, but wanting to enjoy our campsite on the Raven Fork River, we donned hats, scarves, winter coats, blankets, and whatever else we had to stay warm and took our Happy Hours outside

It was another episode in our series, We Couldn’t Have Planned It Better If We Tried.  As we were driving in North Carolina en route to Great Smoky Mountain National Park and our campsite there, we texted Perry & Dee Dee and asked them where their property was.  We knew they had some land around these parts and were planning to build on it soon, and we sensed that we were nearby.  It turns out their little slice of heaven on the Nantahala River is within an hour of where we were, and when we told them how close our campsite was to their property, they turned their car in our direction and joined us the next day before noon.

Perry & Dee Dee enjoying the campfire
Happy Hour with Perry & Dee Dee by the campfire

Their stay with us, while unplanned, was absolutely fantastic!  Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday were filled with lots of spontaneous fun.  We enjoyed happy hour around the campfire both evenings and shared two delicious dinners, if I say so myself.  They showed us their property and the nearby surrounding area  – we can’t wait to come back to visit once their house is built!   In general, we just laughed and joked and ribbed and reminisced as old friends do.

Fred and Perry’s friendship dates back to 1979 – 35 years ago! – when they were stationed on the USS Albany together in Gaeta, Italy, while serving in the U.S. Navy.  On this Veteran’s Day, then, it seems appropriate to thank them both for their service to our country.  And to Perry & Dee Dee, thanks for a fabulous weekend!  We look forward to seeing you again next month in sunny Florida!!

Ohiopyle

Ohiopyle Falls on the Youghiogheny River
Ohiopyle Falls on the Youghiogheny River

August 5-8 – We’re here for a few days in Ohiopyle State Park, which, contrary to the name, is not in Ohio – it’s in southwest Pennsylvania.  We have a few state parks we’ll be staying at now until we get to our next national park, Acadia N.P. in Maine, just after Labor Day.

Ohiopyle – it’s both a State Park and a little borough that uses its old train station as a visitor center.  This area has something like 37 local residents, but it swells in size in summer months through tourism as some two million people come here to hike, bike, kayak, raft, fish, ride horseback, camp, and generally embrace nature.

We did just about all of those things while here – all except for the fishing & horseback riding.  Leaving from the Ohiopyle Falls, we enjoyed a wonderful hike along the Ferncliff Trail in a protected natural area.  Fred took a second, quite difficult hike (and it takes a lot for him to call something ‘difficult’) on a different trail set and reported equally beautiful forested areas, rock formations, and vistas from which to see the winding Youghiogheny River.  We viewed many lovely waterfalls and waded in the pools below them, and watched kids sliding down a natural rock slide.  Incidentally, we had been advised not to do this, as while kids don’t seem to mind bumping and bouncing off rocks (ah, youth!), adults find those rocks far too hard on our aging bodies.  We opted, instead, for a whitewater rafting trip down the Lower Yough that featured 15 Class III/IV rapids – we stayed in the raft most of the time!  And finally, we visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s acclaimed commission, Fallingwater – would love the house; would hate the ongoing maintenance bills!

We stayed in a nice campground and really enjoyed camp life which included grilling out a couple of our meals and enjoying our campfires in the evenings.

For a little known place, this area offered BIG fun!

Hover your cursor over the below photo and click on the arrows to scroll through photos of our time in Ohiopyle:

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

Wisconsin girls at Lake Kegonsa State Park

We arrived at Lake Kegonsa State Park late afternoon and set up camp.  A bit later, we welcomed niece, Kelsey, and beau, Timmy, out for a camp dinner and look around our new digs.  They approved of both, as well as the lifestyle we’re now living.  It was great to see and host the kids while here!

Lake Kegonsa State Park campground
Our campsite at Lake Kegonsa State Park
Keeping our veggies warm while our brats are cooking
Keeping our veggies warm while our brats are cooking
Yet another fine meal from the Jolly grill
Yet another fine meal from the Jolly grill
This lifestyle agrees with Kelsey
This lifestyle agrees with Kelsey

Shabbona Lake State Park

June 21-22 — Claire & Kyle left the big city of Chicago and came out to join us at Shabbona Lake State Park.  It was great fun hosting them, and they now have a day-in-the-life look at how we will be spending our next two years.

Our time together, while brief, was, as always, chock full of love and laughter.  Among the many highlights of our time together, we celebrated a belated Father’s Day, hiked through the tallgrass prairie, waited out a rainstorm, talked about new jobs and a new lifestyle, played Euchre (Claire and Kyle got us 10-9 in a close one), discretely imbibed, got the Coleman lantern working, collaborated on a delicious camp dinner of ribeye steaks and grilled vegetable packs, and whiled away the evening around the campfire under the stars.

Hover your pointer over the photo, then click on the arrows to scroll through some photos of our time at Shabbona Lake State Park

It’s time to hit the road…

Hover your pointer over the photo, then click on the arrows to scroll through some photos of our time here on the homestead.

For the past two weeks we’ve been ‘squatters’ at the Jacobs family homestead in Chenoa, Illinois. This homestead property was originally settled in 1857 by Frederick Jacobs who came over from Germany for the opportunity to farm his own land.  Frederick is the Jolly brothers’ great-great-grandfather.

Now, fifth-generation family members, Tim & Cheryl Jolly, have purchased this homestead from a long-held family trust.  Unfortunately, the home was allowed to fall into disrepair while held in trust, making for a significant restoration project.  There is a lot of work to be done, including tearing out old, overgrown trees and bushes; cleaning out the many rooms; repairing rotted wood; stripping painted-over woodwork; reclaiming covered-over windows; remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms; refinishing all the floors, etc. etc. – this list only scratches the surface. Thankfully, Tim & Cheryl are committed to restoring this fine homestead to its original grandeur and moving in when the project is complete.

Incidentally, the current house was designed by a prominent architect out of nearby Bloomington, George H. Miller, who has several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was built in 1917 for Frank Jacobs, Fred/Jeff/Tim/Tom’s great-grandfather.  Nearly one hundred years of family members have lived in the home and farmed the surrounding land, including Russell & Gwen Jolly.  Here they raised their four raucous boys, including the eldest son, Fred.

We are so grateful that Tim & Cheryl have purchased the homestead and some of the surrounding acreage to farm.  We are happy to have been a small part of the initial clean-up, and we look forward to generations of Jacobs-Jollys enjoying the home once again and continuing the longstanding family legacy here.

And now it’s time to hit the road……..

And meanwhile, down on the farm….

The Jolly brothers
The Jolly boys — Tim, Jeff, Fred and Tom
Strummin' around the campfire
Strummin’ around the campfire last night

Thursday, June 12 — We’ve been working for a couple of days down here at the Jolly homestead in Chenoa.  Actually we’ve been wanting to work more, but the weather hasn’t cooperated all that much since we’ve been back down here, so we’re finding other things to do like cookout with the family and sit around bonfires on the nights it’s not raining.  Fred is particularly having a nice time being back on the farm where he grew up – hanging out with family, seeing old friends in town, hearing the birds chirp, and watching the corn and beans grow.  Ah, to be back home……..

Starved Rock State Park

September 24-27 — We had perfect fall weather the four days/nights we camped in Starved Rock State Park – in fact, we had a perfect camping trip!  Starved Rock is a beautiful state park less than 100 miles south and west of Chicago.  It derives its name from a legend in which, after a battle among two Native American rival tribes, the Illinois tribe took refuge atop this 125′ sandstone butte, but with no way to escape got starved out by the surrounding Ottawa tribe.

Even back in the mid 1700’s when all this took place, the tribes realized the value and beauty of this special place along the Illinois River.  In the 1800’s this site was developed for vacationers with a hotel, dance pavilion, and swimming area.  In 1911, the State of Illinois purchased the site and turned it into the state’s first recreational park.  In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps built the Lodge and trail systems present in the park today – hurray for the CCC and all they did for our state and national parks!!!

Starved Rock boasts a wonderful Visitor Center where we checked in and watched an informative video about the history of the park, as well as the current plant and wildlife in the area.  It features lots of well-marked hiking trails, canyons, sandstone bluffs, seasonal waterfalls, the river, and the beautiful lodge.  The one thing we did miss – perhaps the most unique feature of this park – is the bald eagles; they winter along the river.  We vow to come back to see them.

We are still new at this camping-in-an-RV stuff, so we are still trying out new things.  We had the awning out and nightly fires – I’m still not doing campfire cooking yet, but I’ll get there….