We interrupt this roadtrip for... work!
Yes, work. Duty calls, and Richard must return home to the Land Of The Great Dry Heat for several days, as meetings must be attended and projects tweaked on behalf of the road users of our home state. So, this particular morning began with all three of us toodling down US 45 from da U.P. to the city of Appleton and Outagamie County Airport, where a flight awaited to whisk Richard back to a long week back in Arizona. The drive down through the woods and farmland of east-central Wisconsin was quite enjoyable, with a stop just south of Antigo yielding a few amusing and inexpensive items for the home and vehicle, and a lunch break at the Clintonville A&W for some diggety dogs.
Once in Appleton, Richard bade farewell to wife and child (for now) and boarded the regional jet for the first leg of the trip back. Suz then placed Duncan in the full upright and locked position, took the helm of Truckasaurus, and turned northward for the winding drive to Trout Creek and her mom's place in the woods, with them both making it back safely without any untoward meetings with strange occurrences or wild animals.
The plane carrying Richard swooped low over the busy Ohio River and into the Northern Kentucky Regional Airport (aka Cincinnati), where some multi-concourse skedaddling (and some waiting, and waiting, and...) finally saw him on the plane for PHX. The flight back to Zonieland was mostly agreeable, except for some mighty rough ridin' over some really sparky thunderstorms for a spell north of Amarillo. Then out of the sky and on the ground again at Sky Harbor, out onto the Red Line bus to home... only to find out that the delay back near Cincinnati meant that the buses stopped running anywhere near our neighborhood that late at night. So, time to activate Plan B - get off the bus at the office, switch over to the spare bicycle stashed in the storage room, and complete the day's multi-thousand mile trip with 10 more miles on the bike. And as Richard completed his 23+ hour day by pedaling over the last hill back to the house and a familiar (but partly empty) bed, he was glad to be done with the day's traveling - but is very much looking forward to rejoining the family and getting back out on the open road very soon.
So, we end up with:
400 (apx) miles in truck
1800 (apx) miles in the air
8 miles on bus
11 miles on bike
= a long day.
Just plane travel
Did you ever have one of those dreams where you knew you were nestled snugly in a bed next to your wife with the cool Michigan breezes wafting in through the window, but then you felt like you were back in your bed at home, and it was empty except for you, and you were thousands of miles away from where you knew you ought to be - and you were almost late for work, even though you were on a road trip... and it turned out not to be a dream at all?
Well, that's how Richard's day started.
After 3 hours of sleep, Richard did actually make it to his first meeting on time (barely), and muddled his way through a day at the office, strip-mining his IN box and replying to all the stuff what needs replying to. Then back home to begin the taming of the wild back yard, and then to bed early to recover from the previous evening's excitement (and all that wild weedwacking).
Suzanne had a much more enjoyable day back in Michigan, with her sister and nephew dropping by the family house for dinner, to see mom and play with Duncan, or to see mom play with Duncan, or something like that. What made it even better is that they arrived bearing gifts - many sacks of children's books for Duncan's future enjoyment, including some of the very volumes that Suzanne owned when she was a small child. These will be appreciated and treasured for years to come; however, the more immediate concern will be "where will we find room in the truck to get 'em home?" :)
Grandma Carlisle has her way with little Duncan
(or is that the other way around?)
Hey, this is a road trip, right? So, let's hit the road!
Today's destination for Richard was the bustling burg of Flagstaff (hey, weren't we here on Day 1...?) The drive north was quite nice, except for about a half hour waiting for the fine folks from ADOT Cordes Maintenance and DPS District 12 to clear a bit of a mess from an unfortunate SUV-somersaulting a short while earlier. After the car chunks were cleaned off and the helicopter was airborne, they restored the road to proper operation in short order. Then up I-17 northbound the rest of the way, with mountainous vistas filling the windshield as he entered the green north country of our home state.
Once in Flag, Richard attended the traffic engineers' meeting for his region, where exciting topics were discussed such as retroreflective sign sheetings, detectable warnings for curb ramps, and traffic signal budgets. Fun times for all! Then an enjoyable early evening drive back to the Valley, punctuated by dinner in Camp Verde, clearing a screen door out of the middle of the southbound lanes of I-17 at Bloody Basin, and then some more yard work under the lights at home before bed.
Meanwhile, back in Yooperland, Suzanne had, as she put it, "quite the day" doing lotza loadza laundry at her mom's place, while simultaneously dealing with some rather major plumbing issues - some of which resulted in needing outside intervention from some helpful neighbors. Not quite the most enjoyable day for her. However, one good thing was that the weather up in da UP was at least being a bit cooperative, with sunny skies in the afternoon and very nicely cool temperatures in the morning. That at least made a rough day that little bit smoother.
The freeway vistas of Northern Arizona
Suzanne and Duncan went a-explorin' today around and about Trout Creek, taking a walk to the park that surrounds the old mill pond. There used to be a big lumber mill in Trout Creek many years ago back when things were more busy and bustling, but now all that remains is the pond and a giant steam engine once used at the mill, which now stands as a silent monument to an industry, now greatly diminished, that helped shape these north woods. Brought back memories of all the family members who used to work there...
While resting at the park's picnic shelter, Suzanne saw a robin's nest tucked in under the roof - and a rather annoyed mama robin waiting for the two trespassers to move on so she could feed her peeping progeny. So they did, on to a cousin's home down the street, where Duncan just couldn't stop laughing at the antics of their furry black dog. Then back to mom's house for supper and more puttering around - all in all, a fine day.
Meanwhile, back in Phoenix, Richard was having a reasonably tolerable day as he continued to be trapped in the clutches of ADOT. A morning meeting down at headquarters resolved problems with sign specifications with remarkably positive results, then off to the DES cafeteria for a fittingly "road-trippy" lunch - BBQ chicken with down home beans and veggies. Not bad at all - all that was missing from the authentic road experience was a sassy waitress and a much smaller dining area (with, of course, swiveling stools in front of the pie display).
Since the eatery was just across the street from the Arizona State Capitol, Richard decided to keep in the touristy spirit of our big trip and stroll the grounds for a while. Dating from territorial days, the copper-domed Capitol incorporates native stone in its buff-colored walls. The Winged Victory statue is actually a weathervane - she turns as the wind blows (not unlike some of the politicos beneath? ;) Then back to the office for more hours of toil, and thence to home, for a few final generic domestic duties.
Arizona's copper-capped Capitol
Today we bring you a Very Special Episode:
"INVASION OF THE GIANT MUTANT ANTS!"
As the title alludes to, a relentless horde of large black ants has invaded the Carlisle home up in Trout Creek. In the past day or so, these exoskeltetal entities have gotten into and all over our food, the kitchen, the bedrooms, the storage room, our bags, the furniture, Duncan's playmat and car seat, and even Duncan himself (who regards them with some amusement). Given that we'd prefer to keep the neurotoxin quantities in our child's system to their usual Phoenix-based levels, Suzanne and others had to rely on more direct methods in their counteroffensive against the insurgency, including ant traps, preventative storage methods, and the employment of tactics that result in, as Suzanne reports, "a crunchy squishy noise". Although significant progress has been achieved, the battle continues, and reports by the insurgents that a power-sharing agreement has been reached are utterly unfounded.
Taking some R&R from these struggles, Suz & Dunc spent part of the afternoon wandering the piney forest behind the house, enjoying the shady vistas, the bird songs and other forest noises, and trying their best to strategically deter the Mosquito Air Arm (which unnamed sources say may be developing an alliance with the ants). The weather in dis part of da UP the past few days has settled into a pattern - cool mornings, warm early afternoons reaching into the humid high 80s, and then late-day thunderstorms that rattle the roof and bring some small measure of relief from the heat. Repeat every 24 hours.
Meanwhile, for the past few days Phoenix has been in the grip of an unseasonably cold spell, with afternoon temperatures struggling to climb into the low-to-mid 90s, and mornings in the frigid low 70s. Richard took advantage of this odd weather while riding to work on his recumbent, stopping occasionally at some Friday morning yard sales popping up along his route. More toil awaited him at the office, including a dramatic resolution of the retroreflective sign sheeting specification story line, and continuing preparation for the NCUTCD Bicycle Technical Committee meeting he'll be chairing later (we hope) in this saga.
Then an early ride home, where he successfully unloaded one of our collection of vintage pop coolers on his sister and brother-in-law's family, who thought it would be the perfect addition for their back porch get-togethers. Then some bike-prepping for tomorrow's adventures (stay tuned!) and an attempt to get to bed early, which didn't result in much sleep but did result in getting caught up with a lot of reading.
P.S. Since the little critters up there wouldn't sit still long enough for a decent portrait, we're instead including an image of a more peaceful Trout Creek scene.
A more peaceful Trout Creek scene
Today Richard ventured out to the former small town / now big city of Chandler, to go play on the freeway. Really.
In celebration of completing four more miles of the Loop 202 superhighway in the southeast Valley, ADOT invited the public to yes, play on the freeway (before it's open to traffic of course), at the "Surfin' on the Santan" event. No actual waves were seen, unless one counts waves of heat, which did come off the new asphalt rubber pavement surface in spite of the slightly-cooler-than-average temperatures. Tens of thousands of folks took up ADOT on the invitation, thronged the many booths and exhibits, and walked, skated, and rolled to and fro atop the smooth roadway surface (smooth except where the DPS helicopter landed, but I digress).
Richard used his colorful chrome cruiser bicycle as he travelled back and forth along the Santan, inspecting roadway features, checking the traffic control, and meeting and greeting some of the contractors, inspectors, engineers, and the public. Even fixed two bikes! Then to the refreshment booth, where he joined other ADOT staffers in handing out free (donated) pop, water, and snacks to cool off the happy hordes for a few hours. Then a herniating humping of the bike back onto the trunk rack (the chrome cruiser's purty, but it ain't light) and a drive back to the office to catch up on a few loose ends.
After leaving the office, and in keeping with the road-trip mindset of this non-vacation within a vacation, Richard enjoyed a hearty and utterly filling lunch at the Bishop's Cafeteria on 7th Avenue near the office, enjoying meaty meats, lotsa veggies, and even a slice of deelishious chocolate cream pie - all for less than 8 bucks. No need for dinner for him tonight!
Upon returning home, greeting our happy wagging dog (dropped off by our housesitter in preparation for next week), and packing away the bike & stuff, Richard set the hose to water the trees in the backyard and took a shower. Upon waking from his peaceful no-kid-in-the-house afternoon nap, he wondered why he thought he heard water running somewhere. Well, he can now state with some certainty that the trees are indeed properly watered, along with much of the back yard and a few other places. Gotta remember to reset the sprinkler before leaving again!
Meanwhile, back in Trout Creek, the counterinsurgency against the ants continued, with the only acceptable exit strategy being utter annihilation of the invading forces. Also, for the record, allegations by PETA of atrocities against the insurgents are utterly without merit. Duncan denies any involvement, saying through his spokesperson that "he doesn't have the hand-eye coordination to smoosh them quite yet".
The sunny/rainy weather pattern continues in Yooperland, with Suz's sister driving thru the sunny wetness (and reported purple fog?) to the house for a home-cooked dinner and an overnight stay. Not much else exciting going on up there, save for some fun with electricity (the kitchen light chose to malfunct in a rather annoying fashion) and a smoke alarm deciding to practice its melodies for no apparent reason. Both these fixtures were addressed appropriately, and a peaceful night ensued.
Frolicking on the freeway
A very quiet day all around.
Suzanne's sister stayed overnight at the family home, and then made a fishalicious tuna noodle casserole for us to consume. She then departed, leaving her mom, Suzanne, and Duncan to deal with ongoing ant eradication efforts (not so good) and tuna noodle leftovers (good).
Richard led his usual group on the Arizona Bicycle Club's Sunday morning breakfast ride from central Phoenix out to Scottsdale for a good breakfast at Coco's, and back to Granada Park and around to home with a brisk climb up & over 7th Street hill. Then puttering around the house, laundry, plant watering, grocery gathering, and preparation for rejoining the family and gettin' back out on the open road soon.
A few amusing moments from the day:
More excitement later - but for now, we'll take a quiet day when we can. :)
Downtown Trout Creek on a quiet Sunday
Time for Richard to hit the road again - after one more day at the office.
Richard said bye to the dog and the house, loaded up his bicycle, and began a multi-thousand mile trip with a single pedal stroke. Rode down to the office with a side stop at JPMorganHighSpeedChaseValleyNationalBankOne(SM) for some cash to finance the rest of our fun, and then time to stash the bike in storage for the duration. A full shift behind the desk at the office accomplished much, getting last-minute stuff dealt with while also performing some impromptu diplomacy to keep some projects moving smoothly.
Meanwhile, in Trout Creek, Suzanne walked to the park with Duncan, where he got to meet Mr. Deer Fly and get a new hole in his head as he did his part for the local food chain. Fortunately, time heals all head holes, and all was well later on as Suzanne sorted through memorabilia to see what needed to come along with us.
Late in the day, when the last Arizona work was done, a co-worker dumped Richard off at Sky Harbor Airport, where he watched the sun set over the Valley as he waited for his first plane. Although departing a bit tardy, the flight went smoothly right over our house and northward to Utah. A peek out the portside windows showed the glow of Las Vegas lurking menacingly on the western horizon, with the lights of the cities along the I-15 corridor from Mesquite to St. George to Cedar City to Fillmore stringing out below. Then straight down the Salt Lake City runway, through the hatch, and out into the terminal, for the long trudge to the next flight as the last Monday minutes ticked away.
Sky Harbor at sunset
As midnight tolled (MDT) in Concourse B at SLC, the lost souls of Flight 1231 shuffled through the jetway and into their seats for the long night flight eastward. The MD-90 then whizzed above the lights of the sleeping towns of the Great Plains as the occupants within tried to get a few minutes of sleep between the bumps and thumps of the troposphere and the seatmates.
The first light of dawn was just beginning to show above the blue grass of Kentucky as the plane and its tired occupants plopped down at CVG. Richard wandered over to the regional jet area and tried to get a bit more rest, interrupted every few minutes with an announcement for the latest flight to Detroit / Providence / San Antonio / Kalamazoo / wherever. After a couple hours of this inter-nouncement dozing, Appleton finally came up on the list, and Richard hopped on the little jet for the jaunt back to the north country. Over Muncie, South Bend, and a big big lake the plane flew, and then down into Outagamie County Airport to await the arrival of Suzanne and Duncan.
As Richard was stretching out on a comfy couch near the ticket counter, a nice lady stepped over and asked him about the Route 66 shirt he was wearing. It turns out she and a friend were preparing to do a cross-country 66 trip, and so the next hour or so were spent talking about all the places to see and things to do on that historic highway.
Suzanne, after an almost uneventful drive down rainy US 45, finally guided the mighty Truckasaurus up to the airport's entryway and all three of us were reunited for more travel adventures. Since all of us were a bit hungry, we headed over to Kaukauna to chow down at the Cruise In restaurant, where the food was good and the background music brought back a few memories for Suzanne. Then back down to Oshkosh to hunt down a place we'd visited on our 2000 trip - Schettl's Freight Sales. We were headed for their original location, but instead we stumbled upon their new second location right off US 41 in Oshkosh (oh no - they're breeding and spreading! :) Both places, easily distingishable by the giant fiberglass menagerie out front, have a shared motto: "Where do they get all this stuff?" Any written or visual account would fail to do justice to these places - sort of a combination hardware store / closeout emporium / boat sales / household remodeling / trailer sales / "stuff" place. Although the 5 ft tall blackboard-holding elephant or the 2-person flamingo-shaped paddleboat were tempting, we settled for a drawerfull of drawer pulls for our kitchen, plus other easily packable yet useful items for back home.
After recovering from the sensory overload of Schettl's, we doubled back north again past Neanah and Menasha and Kaukauna (who named these towns, anyway?) up to the city of Green Bay, well known for a bunch of guys in yellow and green who beat up on their NFL friends on chilly fall weekends. We circled Lambeau Field and paid homage to ol' Vince and the gang, then grabbed dinner at the Dairy Inn on US 141 on the north side of Green Bay and then headed up through the small towns dotting the northeast corner of Wisconsin.
Darkness fell as we entered Iron Mountain, Michigan, and then much more fell - rain, and lots of it - as we re-entered Wisconsin for a bit on US 2/141 and then stayed in Michigan just south of Crystal Falls. The drive up 141 & M-28 from there to Trout Creek was difficult and treacherous as rain and fog (and the occasional deer) combined to slow our travel considerably - even with Truckasaurus' excellent lighting, we're not the kinds of people to drive into things we cain't see.
And finally, 13 hours after Richard stepped off the plane in Appleton, 16 hours and 494 truck miles after Suzanne left Trout Creek to pick him up, and many thousands of miles and a full 41 hours after Richard pedaled away from the house on Monday morning, we all finally pulled into the driveway at her mom's house 'round midnight EDT after two loooong days of travel and fun.
Today's adventure took us up to the shores of Lake Superior and the town of L'Anse, where we visited Suzanne's sister and her family in their happy home. We were treated to an excellent meal featuring a variety of fish caught just outside their front door, including one late addition which joined the menu just as we drove up.
While there, their son Peter (lil' Pete) was showing the gang his new all-terrain vehicle (with more features than most cars Richard's driven), and allowed Richard to four-wheel it around and over the hills and bogs on the property. It will suffice to say that while Richard survived the incident, he is certainly not thinking of hanging up the traffic business and joining the ATV racing circuit (for now). Richard reciprocated the favor by doing a bit of tune-up work on Peter's bicycle, and the non-gas-powered vehicle seems much happier now.
With our nerves calmed and our bellies full, a nice early evening drive took us back to Trout Creek, and as we braked and swerved around the last deer, we knew we'd miss this place when we leave soon.
These final days for us in Yooperland have been blessed with some excellently enjoyable weather, with clear skies and daytime temperatures in the low 70s. Both of us chose to take full advantage of these conditions by going our separate ways for a few hours, with Suzanne enjoying a wonderful walk with Duncan around the Trout Creek area.
Meanwhile, Richard had saddled up the Bike Friday and pointed it down the Calderwood Road in the direction of Bond Falls, where he stopped for a spell at the falls and took in the inspiring view of the roaring torrent (at least when not doing battle with a few pesky mosquitoes). A short ride took him out on US 45 northbound, where the traffic was light, the truckers were polite, and the headwinds were rather... heady. As he climbed a 5% grade with a 20 MPH breeze square in his face, all he could think was: "hey, this is great - as long as it isn't 110 degrees and wall-to-wall traffic, I'm having a great time (and he was - really!) Then a brief stop for a yummy snack at the Yooperway cafe in Bruce Crossing, and the return trip east on M-28, where he received special bicycle preferential treatment at the flagger station for the milling & paving project, and was requested to "jump the queue" and proceed ahead of everyone else in his own coned-off lane. :)
As soon as we were cleaned up and together again, a happy horde of relatives descended - cousins, aunts, uncles, and all that to say hi to Duncan and to fill up on family stuff. Several hours unwound as we chatted and caught up on things, while Richard excused himself for a few minutes here and there to install a new phone line to make it even easier for Suzanne's mom to stay in touch from the comfort and convenience of her living room chair.
After the last wire was spliced and the last relative departed, we realized it was rather late - and we still had to pack up that evening for the next stage of our trip. Oops. Long into the evening we stuffed and stored, and finally at 1 AM we felt we had it under enough control that we could get a few hours' sleep before cramming the rest of the junk into Truckasaurus' belly in the AM.
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