Friday, September 25, 2020

All By Myself - Widows Way

When I left you last I was heading to Cedar Falls and I wasn't quite sure any of the folks I know there would be available.

 It turned out, none of them were.  They were all traveling themselves.

I reached out on the Facebook tricycle and recumbent groups to let them know I would be riding the trails and would love a guide or some company.

I got a couple of responses, but the riders weren't available to meet or ride.

I was apprehensive.  Being on my own is not something I have done a lot of this trip.  There is usually someone I am scheduled to meet-up with after one or two days by myself.  I had scheduled three nights in Cedar Falls.

I had a camping spot in the George Wyth State Park.  It has occurred to me that I could probably travel the country visiting all the campgrounds and museums with "George" in the name. 

On the route there was a police road-block.  So I followed the cars in front of me.  They went down a very dusty gravel road that was parallel to the closed highway.  

I had packed my lunch.  I followed signs to a park.  It turned out to be a campground with electric.  I pulled out my phone and used google maps to search for campsites and campgrounds to see if it would show up.  It didn't.

I called Cindy.  She had once told me about an app she uses to find City and County parks that allow camping.  She said it was called Allstays.  I put it on my phone (about $10).  Now I will be able to find places like this.

When I got to George Wyth State Park and set up, I found the inside the camper was covered in a fine layer of dust from that gravel road.  Especially where the wall meets the floor.  I guess I need to do some caulking or filling with some putty stuff that will flex but seal.   

Any suggestions?  Please comment below.

I was pleased with my site.  I had a view of the river through the trees, I was not far from the water supply and the dump.  But far enough I couldn't smell it.  And I had electric and access to the Cedar Falls Trail network right in the park outside the camping area.


That evening the sun was setting as a bright orange ball.  I tried to capture it on my cell phone, but had no luck.  Ok, I told myself, quit trying to capture it, just enjoy it.


The next day I rode my trike on the trail to Gilbertsonville.  The trail markers were pretty clear, I didn't have that many trail crossings.  It was a good ride.

There was a kiosk talking about the diversity of Cedar Falls area.  One also talked about the changes and conflict that occurred during the 40's.  They called in the National Guard.  Gee, sounds like these days, a change is happening... people are demanding change.


When I got to Gilbersonville there was a sign that said the depot was open during the day and the bathrooms were available to use.  Yay!  I tried all the doors.  Locked Locked Locked.  Arg!

I rode around the town looking for a park or a portapotty.  I stopped to tour a lovely veterans memorial.  There were two retired gentlemen doing some cleaning and painting. 
I had a great ride on the trail.  A good day.    The next day was ... frustrating.

I first did some yoga and Qigong by the river, then I rode into downtown Cedar Falls for lunch.  

I was excited to see a Maid Rite shop.  I remember them from my childhood and had not seen one in years.


But I went on to see what else was downtown.  I ended up at Tata Yaya.  What a weird name.  But they had crepes.  Oh my it was so good!  And as I sat there alone, I realized I was ok with being alone.  The lunch place was totally my decision, the route is my decision, every stop and turn-around is my decision.  This is ok.  I am ok... on my own.


Then the frustration in my riding began.  There are lots of trails in Cedar Falls.  That is a GOOD thing, right?  Yes it is, but if you are from out of town visiting, it is impossible to keep on the right route to get you where you want to go.  Even my gps wouldn't help me.  It took me on streets when there was a trail just over there.  I wanted to do the Cedar Prairie Trail that would take me on a loop.  But every few minutes I had to stop and re-consult the map because there was yet another trail intersection, or end of trail.

I was tired and frustrated by the time I got to this adult fitness thing.  I wanted to do it, but I just didn't have the energy or spirit.  That is not normal.


A two or three hour ride was now approaching five hours and I hit a road block.  Sigh.  Yep, it would have been nice to have a local cycling guide with me.


There were some fun things to see as I wound my way through neighborhoods of small little cracker-box houses trying to find the trail again.

Reconnecting Fun

I had contacted my friend Kay that lives in Iowa a while back to arrange a meeting.  I had failed to follow up with her and now it looked like I might not get to meet up with her after all.  But then she called and said she re-arranged her schedule!  It was amazing how that lifted my mood.  I was so happy!  

Being on my own is ok, but I really like to have a meeting to look forward to.  It makes all the difference.  Especially when it is a special friend that I share history with like Kay.

Kay lives in Grinnell, IA, which is a small college town East of Des Moines.  I could swing out that direction before heading East toward my next campground near Peoria, IL.

Kay met me at a park and we went for a leisurely bike ride through town.  Grinnell was one of the towns hit by the Derecho wind storm.  There were lots of tops of trees that had been blown off, whole trees toppled.  Most of the mess has been cleaned up.  She took me by some damaged houses and told me she didn't have power for 10 days after the storm.  The whole town was buzzing with chain saws and back up beeps for weeks after the storm.

She took me by the college where there is a new building that encloses part of an older building in glass.  It was neat to see.


Kay ordered us sandwiches and had her husband Jim deliver them to the park for us.  Thank you Kay and Jim for the wonderful visit!  I was so happy to connect again!


I was impressed by Kay's fun laces.

Jim took our picture before we said goodbye. 

 I learned that I have sold my first book in Australia!  Woohoo!

I am taking a free class on how to write a better blurb by Bryan Cohen.  I have like a million impressions on Amazon, but only a few clicks.  I think my book cover might need redesigning to better match the genre.

I polled the folks on my Susan Straley Writes Facebook Group and they said the books fit in (mostly) the A and B of following Genres.


A. travel biographies and memoirs
B. Women's Memoir
C. Adventure Travel
D. Senior Travel
E. Travel Humor
F. Other (Please specify)
So I need to re-write by blurb and re-design the book cover to be more like the blurbs and book covers in the Travel memoirs and Women's Memoirs.  
What is your vote?  If you read my books, what category/genre do you think they best fit?
 I didn't arrive at Jubilee College State Park near Peoria, IL until after 5 p.m.  I am not meeting up with anyone here.  But I do have a childhood friend that lives a half hour away.  Maybe I will give her a call tomorrow.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Old and New Ground

 Greetings from Iowa!

The ride to Iowa from La Crosse was lovely, the rolling hills here covered in golden soybeans and the occasional Red Maple.  I went through areas with wide shoulders dented in the middle from the hooves of Amish horses pulling buggies.

I was listening to a radio program and the experts were talking about the extra stress of 2020 and how we need to find little pieces of joy to focus on.  I turned off the radio and enjoyed the views.

I am in a small town called Lime Springs, Iowa.  The town has two restaurant bars it appears, and on the outskirts of town where Hwy 63 passes through (from Canada to Texas I am told) there is a Casey's gas station and convenience store. 

Next to Casey's is a meat processing plant, or slaughter house to us vegetarians.  There they had four cases of COVID-19 months ago.   But there has been no news since.  I know these things because Dean told me.  Dean is my neighbor down in Florida.  He recently bought a place here in which to spend his summers.  "Why here," I asked.  It is near where he grew up and knows folks.

Even though this town is very small, they have a lovely mural and artwork at the center of town.  The small triangle park was dedicated by the children of the former owners of the hardware store that once sat on this spot. 

Dean and I and a few others from our neighborhood used to have happy hours or go out to eat on occasion pre-COVID.  He lost his wife to dementia and follows my blog and comments on my Facebook posts.  He is scientifically minded as a former Science Professor, I enjoy talking with him.   

When I mentioned to him via social media I would be heading to Iowa, he informed me of this campground here on the Mill Pond in Lime Springs.  I am only here one night so I didn't unhitch the trailer.  It is a lovely place with electric and water and $25 per night.

Dean and I ordered shared a pizza at my campsite.  His good friends (both former teachers) came with their chairs and we commiserated over the loss of Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  A champion of women's rights and civil rights, she died the day or night before. 

By the time they left I had all my jackets on, including my down puffy jacket and I was still chilled.  My body belongs to the South now.

Thanks for the tour and the pizza and the company, Dean.

Black River Falls State Forest

When I left you last, I was camping at Black River Falls State Forest Campground and loving it.

It kind of amazed me to be camping on my own, feeling content and happy.  I wasn't feeling lonely, anxious or afraid!  I attribute that to all of you sending me good thoughts and prayers.  I am blessed.

Of course I had the comfort of phone calls with my sister and my son.  Mary texted me this picture that Dave took on our last day together.  We had SUCH a wonderful time together!  I am SOOOO glad I got this trailer and spent so much time there.  

One of my very best decisions ever!!! 

I may have also been content at Black River Falls because I also had the comfort and anticipation of knowing I was heading to Sparta where I would meet up with my Waukesha, WI friends, Mark and Jane and Sandy and John. 


One morning the sun rose up as a huge orange ball.  I wondered if the smoke from all the California, Oregon, and Washington and elsewhere out West were reaching Wisconsin and causing the strange but pretty sun.

I spent a day hiking and running errands and cooking my batch of veggies for the week.  This campsite doesn't have a water spigot at the site, so I needed a container to use for washing dishes and hands.  The old Hanks hardware in town (no masks on staff) had only one container that would work.  It was a thermos way up, 10 feet up, on the highest shelf, covered in dust.  I bought it.


When I got back to camp I found that a squirrel left a deposit on my picnic bench.

I learned that someone bought The Journey Continues off Amazon in Australia!  And the sale of the audio version of my books are up due to the Amazon Ads class I took.  

My audio books are also on itunes.  But I think those sales are reported through Audible. 

Catfish Eddy where I wanted to hike didn't have any hiking paths that I could see. So I didn't hike in.  On my ride to the Eddy I had passed a sign for Wazee Lake County Park and rode there. It was a really lovely ride and I found myself smiling a lot.  

My next destination (Sparta, WI) was only two hours away.  I was in no hurry to pack up and leave the morning of departure.  I went for a walk and learned a bit about the geology of that stone ridge I encountered on my first hike here.

I took my exercise bands to the playground for some strength exercises.  Part of the Virtual Wellness Challenge is to do seven strength exercises.  It is not too late for you if you want to join the challenge.  Our team name is Susan Straley's Wellness Trippers.  One point for each item you check off each day.  Last week I got 46 points and my friend Beth got 47.

My last night in the park I remember waking up and hearing water dripping or sloshing.  I peeked out the window but didn't see the thermos leaking.  It didn't make any sense.  I went back to sleep.

While packing up I found the source of that splashing.  A mouse had drowned in the waste water bucket.

When I mapped my route to the Leon Valley Campground near Sparta, Wisconsin, I looked for a place to stop along the way.  Google showed a grotto just off my route.

A couple retired in 1929 and started making this artwork.  The wedding cake they made looks like they used insulin vials?

There are several outdoor art places in Wisconsin as shown on a map in a kiosk at this park.


Elroy Sparta Reunion

What a great time we had on the Elroy Sparta.  

For those of you who don't ride on trails or have not ridden the Elroy Sparta trail, it is in central Wisconsin.  It was one of the first railroad to trail conversions in the United States.  It now connects to the La Crosse River trail which connects to the Great River Trail for over 100 miles of continuous trail riding.  

George and I rode all three trails on our tricycle ride around Wisconsin in 2008.  That was our first tour carrying all our gear in trailers behind us.  It was how we launched into our semi-retirement.  It was incredible fun.  Maybe someday that journal will become a book.

The surface is crushed limestone and because it is so old and shaded the limestone is packed firmly in most places...  Well, except they have not repaired the trail and this year the trail was rough in places and the rides were short because of damage to the trail caused by big rains back in 2018.  Parts of the trail are closed off.  Yes, and parts of it were closed after flooding on our 2008 bike ride too. 

The day I arrived at Leon Valley Campground, Mark and Jane also arrived at their Airbnb in Norwalk (about 9 miles away).  I invited them to come over and I would roast veggies on the fire for our dinner.

I got into my site late because I couldn't check in until the host showed up at the office.  (No masks by the way.)  The campground is wonderful with large sites, hiking trails, and clean bathrooms.  There are a lot of seasonal campsites.

I worked fast to get my site set up and the fire ready to start in time for Mark and Jane's arrival.

Sweet Potatoes


Stuffed Mushrooms

Brussel Sprouts with Apple and Raisins


Marshmallows and cookies

Did I tell you that there are three tunnels on the Elroy Sparta Trail?  The first day of riding we went from Norwalk up to the long tunnel.  It was really dripping.  There are huge doors at either end of the tunnel.  They close the doors in late October because the tunnels are also home to hibernating bats. 

After the tunnel we rode down into Sparta where we dined at Rudy's Drive in.  I was delighted to see they carried the Trempeleau Hotel Walnut Burgers!  I was sooo happy!

That evening Sandy and John arrived.  We again gathered around my fire ring, this time everyone brought their own dinner.  That was much easier.

All of us rode from Norwalk to Wilson the next day.  It was a very short ride for us (about 12 miles round trip) because the trail is closed after Wilson.

I didn't tell you that when I arrived at Leon Valley I noticed that one of the plastic drawers in my dresser had busted and dropped down into the drawer below it.  It was a struggle getting it out!

I now have a gap in my dresser and a busted up recycling bin.

It's all good.

 This morning I head to Cedar Falls.  I have some neighbors there but they have not responded to my request to visit yet.  There are trails in Cedar Falls I want to explore.  Dean's friend told me to keep my eyes open and be careful as there has been crime in the campground there. 

I will keep you posted.  In the meantime here is a great article on the science behind... well the mind is bigger than the brain.

And tomorrow, 9/21/2020 is World Alzheimer's Day in the UK. 

Here are some ways to take care of yourself.  Nine ways to reduce stress for caregivers. 

 The stay connected is so true.  A former US Surgeon General wrote a book on how loneliness causes stress and the longer you are lonely the less likely you are to reach out to others... thinking you are not worthy.  So reach out and connect with someone today.  Even if it is just a phone call.

Thanks for trippin' with me!

A Miracle and a Good Laugh

 Greetings from Inverness, Florida. I have sooo many stories to tell.  So much fun to share.  But I will save you from yawns by telling you ...