Claire & Kyle

Whitewater Rafting the Colorado River

Rafting the Colorado River
From one adventure to another we continue!  We have been on the go non-stop for over a month now, and our lack of posting regularly clearly shows that.  We finally got caught up on our national park visit posts (we’ve visited 58 of the 59 now!) but then once again we were away from Internet service for ten days, so suddenly we were behind again!  The activities of this post took place September 23 – October 1 — we’re now only a week behind, so that’s not so bad; it’s been a lot worse….

Fred, Claire, Kyle and I getting ready for a day of paddling and whitewater rapids running on the Colorado River
Fred, Claire, Kyle and I getting ready for a day of paddling and whitewater rapids running on the Colorado River

Our most recent trip was conceived sometime around 1977 when Fred and a Navy buddy did a two-day rafting trip on the New River in West Virginia.  Fred absolutely loved that experience and ever since then he has wanted to run the Colorado River.  So the time had come to do it, and well over a year ago he made reservations with Outdoors Unlimited, choosing this company and this time of year very carefully as he had some criteria for his trip: 1) he wanted to do it in a wooden dory like John Wesley Powell and the brave river runners of old (that’s my old school guy, Fred!); 2) he didn’t want any power boats around messing up the quiet beauty of the river trip; 3) he wanted us to be active participants and have the experience of paddling; 4) he didn’t want it to be too hot and sunny as we’re sun avoiders anymore. Continue reading

A Daughter’s Marriage

Claire and Kyle – The Happy Couple

When you’re happy you smile. When you’re really happy, your eyes smile.                                 



October 23, 1954: The wedding service was held at a modest wooden church in the country a few miles outside of Chenoa. It was a simple, tasteful ceremony that was attended by friends of the couple and many family members from the area. There was no elaborate reception at a large hotel or event center, but rather a gathering at the family homestead. After the wedding reception, the young couple said their goodbyes, received a long hug from their parents, and climbed into their car. With one last wave Russell Jolly shifted the car into gear and he and his new wife, Gwendolyn, began to move down the gravel drive toward a new life together. They had their entire lives ahead of them and a little over a year later, their first child, a son they would name Frederick after his Grandfather Jacobs was born. His birth was followed by the birth of three other sons, and their lives would all flow forward, as described by Carl Sandburg, like “a river on which we all drift down, through an unexplored country.”  

February 22, 1990: It is a Thursday afternoon and my wife, Elaine, and I are headed north on US 294 toward Lutheran General Hospital in a driving snowstorm. I try to recall what the weather forecast was for today and hope that whatever is coming holds off just a bit longer. I glance at Elaine and see that she is breathing slowly in and out…in and out…. We pull up to the hospital and direct ourselves to the emergency room entrance, where I drop Elaine off and then look for a parking spot. After parking the car I walk into the emergency room and see that Elaine is sitting in a wheel chair in front of an admission station. A nurse comes up to us and asks why we are there. “My wife is having a baby.” I respond.

The delivery was not a particularly easy one. Pain medication was administered too late, and it became apparent that the baby was in some distress. We both watched as the baby’s heart rate dipped with each contraction. The doctor said that they needed to move the delivery along and asked Elaine to push harder and longer. Finally, our new baby was delivered and we could see the cause of the distress: a knot in the umbilical cord. We did not know the sex of the baby before this moment, but were so pleased to learn from the doctor that it was a girl and that she was in perfect health. We would name her Claire Fleming Jolly and she was absolutely beautiful.    

June 3, 2016: The two of us stand at the end of the aisle and watch as those in attendance rise as one. My daughter, Claire, is holding my left arm and we just pause here a moment as the first notes of Edelweiss begin. Claire has chosen this song for her wedding march as this was a song that I would sing to comfort her when she was a baby. We can see her future husband, Kyle, standing at the informal altar looking very serious and then he smiles. I know that Claire is nervous (glad to have her as part of the club) so I look at her and quote a funny line from one of our favorite films, The Princess Bride: “Mawwiage…ohhh mawwiage, is what brings us together today.” Claire laughs and then I say, “Let’s light this candle.” She smiles and replies, “Let’s do this.” And takes the first steps into her new future.

The planning for this shindig began well in advance of this day. It had been almost 18 months since Claire and Kyle became engaged and started planning for the wedding. Finding just the right venue was the first priority and after much research and many visits to prospective locations, they landed on a very unique place called Salvage One, which is an antique complex in Chicago by day, and a beautiful event setting at night. However, there was a bit of a complication when it came to securing hotel rooms for those traveling from out of town like ourselves, as the wedding was the same weekend as the international oncology conference which filled up almost every hotel in the city. But Claire’s mother and her husband came to the rescue and found rooms out by O’Hare near the CTA Blue Line and arranged to have buses shuttle guests to and from the wedding site.

Since we are on the road, we were not able to participate as much in the planning, but the kids did a great job of fully analyzing each aspect of the wedding, keeping us apprised of their progress, and providing a running tally on the cost. Ouch. Laura volunteered to coordinate one of the most important elements associated with the evening, the bar offerings. She also arranged for us to have 100 tickets at the Cubs game the day after the wedding and a message welcoming the wedding group put up on the scoreboard during the game. I was very proud of how much noise the group made when our greeting flashed up on the board. And to top things off, the Cubs came from behind to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3.


The wonderful rehearsal dinner hosted by Kyle’s parents at a Mexican restaurant really set the tone for the weekend of activities – marguerites and a fun wedding party and family certainly did not hurt any. All of this was preceded by two lovely showers that we were able to attend when we came back for my birthday in March. With every occasion and event I had the same reaction: I could not believe that all of this, everything, was for my daughter and her future husband. It seemed somewhat surreal that they were at the center of this and everything was revolving around them. I know that Claire felt the same way as I asked her many times about it. Not to check her level of gratitude, but rather because all of this was happening to the little girl to whom I had sung Edelweiss so many years ago.

Finally, we come to the wedding celebration and it was everything that we hoped it would be: a beautiful and heartfelt wedding ceremony that was written by Claire and Kyle and officiated by Kyle’s identical twin brother, Andy; a joyous reception party with family and friends dancing until we were kicked out of the place at midnight; plenty of wonderful food and drink; delicious assorted pies instead of the traditional cake because the bride does not like cake; and love, much, much love. My role in all of this was really pretty straight forward: get my daughter safely down the aisle, and later that evening, deliver a father-of-the-bride toast.

The former responsibility was fairly easy as all I had to do was keep us between the pews on either side of the aisle as we made our way to the altar. On the other hand, I did fret a bit about my toast as I wanted to do it as well as I could given the importance of the occasion. I did research on suggested approaches to my comments and toast, and managed to pull together something that did not drone on too long, and conveyed my thanks to all who joined us on the blessed occasion and my heartfelt feelings about the bride and groom. I also thought about how proud my mother and father would have been of the wonderful person that Claire had become. I concluded my toast with a quote I had once heard, “When you’re happy you smile. When you’re really happy, your eyes smile.” And on this day, in this place, both Claire’s and Kyle’s eyes were beaming from ear to ear.

From this day on their lives will flow forward guided by past generations just as they will guide future generations. So it is with families, those who come after us are in many ways simply a collective being of those who came before.

  …To be continued by future generations…

A New Life Together: Russell and Gwendolyn (1954) and Claire and Kyle (2016)

A wedding and an anniversary

Something really big happened to us this past weekend — our daughter got married!  Our hearts were overflowing with pride, joy, and love as Claire married Kyle.  From the moment we met him we could see the sparkle in her eyes and knew that he was special.  He’s truly the man of her dreams.

I’ve elaborated on Facebook for our friends so I’m not going to share much more about this family event here on our travel blog, but suffice it to say that our weekend back in Chicago was dreamy!  The ceremony was short, sweet, funny, and meaningful, and the reception was one for the decades!  And now Kyle and Claire are Mr. & Mrs.!
Claire's Wedding Collage
That shared, we had another big event this past week but our time commitments with the above-mentioned wedding prevented me from posting about it.  But now we are back from the wedding festivities and almost fully recovered from all of the hullabaloo, so now it’s time to go back and mark our big anniversary — WE HAVE BEEN ON THE ROAD FOR TWO YEARS!!  My next post will share some reflections and photos from these past two years….

April Showers

Claire & Kyle
Claire & Kyle… soon to be Mr. & Mrs.

We’ve been in and out of Chicago for the last three weeks to, among other things, attend a couple of showers given for our favorite bride and groom, Claire and Kyle.  With the nuptials just seven weeks away and nearly all of the planning and details taken care of, we are all now just enjoying the countdown.

Don & Tracy M., long-time friends of Claire and her mom Elaine, hosted a couples shower where guests rallied around the Stock the Bar theme and helped the happy couple build out their bar.  Glassware, plenty of liquor and some other fun presents — it was a great shower with a great theme, and a great time was had by all!

Aunt Cathy and Aunt Laura, Elaine’s sister and sister-in-law, and cousin Beth, hosted another shower for the ladies only that included the women in Claire’s big, extended family as well as her seven bridesmaids.  Set at the elegant Omni Hotel in downtown Chicago, we all enjoyed a very nice luncheon during which we pampered Claire with gift certificates and girly girl items to get her ready for her big day.

 If you click on a photo, you can see a larger version of it.  You can also use the arrows at the bottom (click on the photo if they disappear on you) to scroll through all the photos in the photo series.  To close the series, click on the ‘X’ in the top right corner.

There will be one more shower later in the month where Claire, Elaine, and their very artistic friends are going to work on some decor to be featured at the wedding venue on the big day, then it’s just four more weeks until we all shower the happy couple with our love and best wishes on their big day — 06-03-16 — it’s almost here!

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

(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….

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

Our three final days in Chicago

Fred and the guys at Ehrhardt's going over the towing system
Fred and the guys at Ehrhardt’s going over the towing system

Thursday-Saturday, May 29-31 — Wow – we are moved out!  Knowing in advance that we would have some loose ends that needed to be tied up (like returning the cable boxes back to RCN, delivering some of our plants to their new caregivers, etc.) we planned to stick around the area through the end of the week to wrap things up.  This has proved invaluable as there is still some work to be done on the RV, too – matching up the tow plate on the front of the car that was installed by Blue Ox in Nebraska with the tow arm that Tim & Dave and the Ehrhardt’s guys installed on the back of the RV.  We ordered a bike rack that can mount on the back of either the RV or the Subaru, so they are installing that, a mud flap, and a few other small items.

Final night dinner with family & friends
Final night dinner at Anne’s – Fred, Claire & Kyle, Anne, Tom & Eric

We are very much enjoying being Anne’s roommates for these last three days in Chicago. She’s a dear friend who has generously opened her home up completely to us and all of our remaining odds & ends.  She also happens to have an extra car, so an additional set of wheels has been invaluable as once again we’ve had to split up to get things done.  And while we are doing some running around, we are also able to sleep in, relax in the mornings, and enjoy some final dinners with friends and family.  We will miss Chicago and our friends very much, but at this point we are very excited to launch – we will do so in the morning.

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.