We didn’t plan it this way. Earlier this year we planned to find a few days to spend together with our girls at the lake. It just so happened that the stars aligned in such a way that we would be driving to the lake during the sun’s total eclipse. The path of totality passed right across Columbia and Jefferson City, Missouri which are on our way to the lake.
So it was that we began our family vacation on Monday by pulling off the road just outside of Jefferson City to experience the eclipse. Taylor had scored some eclipse glasses for us. The process of the eclipse takes over an hour so we spent much of the early stages in our car staring through the sun roof. As totality neared we got out and experienced it together including watching the eery shadow bands on the ground and looking at the corona over the 2-3 minutes you can actually look at the eclipse without searing your eyeballs. It was a blast to experience the rare celestial event together.
Traffic was crazy after the eclipse as we made our way the rest of the way to the lake. It was a fun couple of days together as we haven’t had a family vacation like this for a long time. I kind of laughed as the four of us sat around the dining room in the mornings with our laptops working away. My, how times have changed.
Schools are already back in session, so the lake was blessedly quiet and the weather was picture perfect. We enjoyed grilling out, laying on the chill raft, hanging out at Bear Bottom (we were literally the only ones there), breakfast at Chances R, riding the wave runner, and (of course) watching movies together. You know we ate well. Wendy brought cheesecake!
Unfortunately, it was far too short. We headed back early Thursday and Madison is already on her way home to South Carolina. Nevertheless, we enjoyed making more memories together which will be added to all the special times we’ve been blessed to have at the lake together.
Wendy and I got to spend some time at the lake in late June and early July. We were joined by our friends Kev & Beck and their kids for the weekend before the 4th of July. We enjoyed all of the normal summer fun with trips to Bear Bottom and the Red Head. We also enjoyed visiting friends David and Lola who have a place on the lake, as well. Kev, Beck and the kids had to take off on the afternoon of the 4th, but we were able to enjoy fireworks from Captain Ron’s together on the evening of the 3rd. Always lots of fun with that crew.
Wendy and I worked remotely from the lake that week and then enjoyed a weekend visit from Matthew and Sarah. We packed our two days together with dinner at Captain Ron’s, laying out on the chill raft, steaks on the grill, a trip to Bear Bottom, lots of conversation, and a movie night watching The Shack.
This past weekend Wendy and I were invited to attend our friend, Kennedy’s, dance recital. I’ll admit that I give a good-hearted groan when facing and evening of three hours plus of little girls dancing. The truth is that I really enjoy watching dance done well and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Taylor, Megan, and Kennedy developing their twinkletoes. We had a fun night on Friday attending the recital and then going out for a late bite with her family.
We’ve attended Kennedy’s recitals for a few years now and it’s been so enjoyable watching her grow into a graceful and beautiful young lady. Her folks asked me to bring my camera and take some photos (like they really had to twist my arm!). For an amateur like me these kind of events always pose a fun photography challenge. I’m always praying that I’ll have a handful of photos worth something at the end of the evening. I’ll let you be the judge. Enjoy.
We had a lot of fun yesterday as my siblings gathered to host an open house for our dad who celebrates his 80th birthday this coming Tuesday. Dad’s brother, Bud, traveled to Des Moines with his entire brood. Friends past and present joined us in the community room at the folk’s apartment to enjoy a bite of cake and share in celebrating our dad. Thanks to everyone for coming out and making it a special day.
This party’s this way.
Dad showing mom Madison’s text message with birthday wishes.
Bud and his brood.
Dean and Bud Vander Well
Mom enjoyed seeing lots of old friends.
Bud in his element, regaling people with his jokes and stories.
While in Palms Springs a few weeks ago I spied a pair of shoes tossed over and dangling from a power line. My head was suddenly filled with nostalgic images of years gone by when such iconic pranks were the stuff that childhood was made of.
The shoes and the power lines made an interesting composition against the cloudless blue canvas of California’s desert sky.
“…but abide the change of time, Quake in the present winter’s state, and wish That warmer days would come.”
– Shakespeare (Cymbeline 2.4)
Even casual readers of my blog will know that my posting has been, at best, haphazard of late. For almost 11 years I’ve managed to average close to one post a day, but I found myself in an unintended sabbatical of late. I’m at a loss to easily say why. Let’s chalk it up to a mixed winter’s tempest of draining musical production, nasty virus that won’t go away, longer than average holidays, seemingly endless activity, year-end responsibilities, new-year responsibilities, awful head cold, then topped off by what feels like endless business travel.
In the midst of it, however, Wendy and I sought to escape the depths of Iowa winter to visit our friends Kevin and Linda in Palm Springs. Our dear neighbors undertook their first adventure as “snowbirds.” We have greatly missed their good company. So, we snuck out for a relational “fix” while enjoying a week in the sun.
Neither Wendy nor I have spent any time in Palm Springs. I drove through on a business trip many years ago, but did not stay. Kevin and Linda have a lovely little condo with requisite swimming pool. They also had a cute little deck where the four of us could sit and quaff drinks while attempting to solve the world’s problems into the wee hours of multiple mornings. We didn’t solve the world’s problems, and we argued like the Founding Fathers over several issues which kept the neighbors awake. We also found things on which to agree – and in the end we toasted love in both our unity and our diversity (and then we joyfully did it all again the next day).
Our agenda for the week was very simple. We wanted to enjoy the good company of our good friends over good meals and good drink…and do a little reading for pleasure in the sun by the pool. Mission accomplished. We loved the Tropical where cocktails were accompanied with gorgonzola stuffed, bacon-wrapped plums. We also loved Melvyn’s which doesn’t seem to have changed since the days when Frank Sinatra regularly haunted the corner barstool. We had margaritas and chorizo queso on the patio of Maracas not once, but twice. So many great memories were made.
We also took the Palms Springs Tramway from the desert floor to the top of the mountains that loom like a giant wall on the town’s western border. A little shopping is always in order and we found two hat shops where we each found a new hat for the lake this summer (actually, I found two). There is a Thursday evening market along the main thoroughfare and we enjoyed an after dinner stroll through the endless rows of vendors and listened to the street musicians.
Wendy and I also took the opportunity for a day trip to Arizona where we visited our good friend Ann who has been teaching Theatre there for the past few years. It was a fascinating road trip through the desert for us, along the Salton Sea and through the Sahara-like dunes just west of Yuma. Definitely a departure from cornfields and cattle.
Kevin and I took in a baseball game one gloriously sunny afternoon. The Palm Springs Winter League is for college kids and minor league cast-offs who are are hoping for an invitation to MLB Spring Training. According to the league’s marketing, about half of them will earn one. I was excited to learn that the catcher for one of the teams played for my alma mater, Judson. It was also interesting to watch him catch for a young woman who came into the game to pitch in relief. I can’t wait for baseball season to start.
We returned home having made some great memories, and having enjoyed a nice break to the cold and snow. We are a little less apt to “quake in the present winter’s state.”
Enjoy a few of my photos of the trip.
Drinks at Melvyn’s, where Frank hung out back in the day.
Palm trees. Palm Springs.
This private skywalk is part of a nudist colony that spans both sides of the street. We don’t have one of these in Iowa.
Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.
Baseball, sculpture, sunshine, and a gorgeous mountain landscape.
Mountains loom over Palm Springs like a giant wall.
A British pub is always a good idea.
Spartan street cellists. Who knew?
Love. Love. Love.
Strolling the Thursday evening market.
Even as I watch her standing and staring at some random street art, she makes my heart skip a beat.
Palm Springs Mayor, Sonny Bono. My brush with greatness.
Cheers to Mother England from Palm Springs!
Fear not. I escaped.
Here we go! Hangin’ in the United Club on our layover in Denver.
Palm Springs Tram… taking us to a mountain top experience.
Lunch in the sun!
Bob Ross socks. Awesome.
You have to respect a town with TWO good hat shops!
Cocktails at the Tropicale!
We stopped here…twice.
The chorizo queso was so good at Maracas, that we had to go back for more.
We fought the crowds at the Palm Springs Winter League.
Drinks on the mountain top.
“My, what a big lens you have,” she said to me.
Some people are less impressed with nature than others.
New Years is always a whirlwind and a time of celebration for Wendy and me. This year was no different, and the holidays were stretched out more than normal for us.
New Year’s Eve was our 11th wedding anniversary. Wendy and I gathered here at VW Manor with a small group of friends. Last year was a bit of a blowout as we celebrated our 10th. This year was a low-key affair. We told everyone to wear sweats or pajamas if they wanted to do so. We snacked, we chatted, we played a few rounds of Head’s Up, and we laughed. It was a laid-back way to say good-bye to a very strange 2016 and welcome 2017 with all its possibilities.
Madison could not get home from South Carolina until late last week. So New Year’s Day was the first we got to see her since she joined us at the lake this past summer. Wendy and I drove to Ankeny for a New Year’s Day gathering of the Hall clan. Taylor and Madison drove up from Des Moines to join us. It was a chance to see Becky, Court, and Lydia one more time before they flew back to Colorado and a chance for the girls to hang out with the family.
We returned to Pella in the afternoon and had our Christmas celebration with the four of us. It was fun to sit together in front of the fireplace ad enjoy opening gifts between the four of us. We then settled in for a relaxing evening together on the family room couch. Supper was a hodgepodge of leftovers on the counter to snack on. We watched the recorded Vikings/Bears game and then watched Cinderella together. It was really a lot of fun.
Yesterday was the only full day we had with Maddy Kate. Wendy made a fabulous breakfast for us. The entire morning was spent eating, drinking coffee, and great conversation around the dining room table. The afternoon was an equally laid-back affair. We opted for a Sherlock binge. We watched. Taylor knitted. Madison and I worked on editing a video for a little project she wanted to do together. Wendy scoured Pinterest and we discussed house ideas. And, in true family fashion, we baptized the living room rug with two spills that necessitated moving of the couch and cleaning up.
Wendy made a wonderful evening meal of tilapia, sweet potato wedges, and rice. We then capped our evening by planning our wardrobe for family pictures we’re taking this morning, and watching the newest episode of Sherlock which premiered on New Year’s Day.
It feels like a bit of a stretched out holiday this year. With Christmas and New Year’s on Sundays, it feels like we’ve stretched two two-day holidays into two four-day holidays. Today we take family pictures, say good-bye to Madison, and then settle back into routine.