Category Archives: Wayfarer’s Journal

Another Season Ends

It was a gorgeous autumn weekend in the Ozarks this past weekend. For a decade we have kicked off our annual lake season each spring with friends Kevin and Becky. It’s always such an enjoyable weekend together that a few years ago we decided to add a weekend in October to end each lake season as well.

The weather is unpredictable during Ozark autumns, but more often than not the sun is every bit as warm as it is during the summer during the day. The mornings and evenings, however, are cool enough to require a sweatshirt or jacket. Plus, the autumn colors are starting to come out, adding a whole new layer of beauty to the landscape.

It was a much needed weekend of “R&R” for the four of us. Plenty of laughter, conversation, and camaraderie accompanied with good food and drink. We watched the Cyclone football team win (yay!) and the Cubs lose (boo!). We took a boat ride, grilled some great food, and spent hours on the deck.

Wendy and I will likely be making another trip south to shut things down for the long winter months. The season of sun and fun at the Playhouse is over for 2017. It was a good season of family and friends. This past weekend was the perfect way to bring it to a conclusion.

 

Labor Day Weekend at the Lake 2017

Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of summer at the lake. For the second straight year it was a long adult weekend with the JPs and VLs. They left the kids at home and joined us on Thursday night. We had an absolutely gorgeous weekend to spend together enjoying lots of sun and fun together.

Mornings were quiet and lazy. Everyone generally took their time getting up, having the first cup or two of coffee/tea, and easing into the day. Eventually the six of us ended up chatting around the table over a bite of breakfast. Time typically flew and it was suddenly mid-day.

Friday we took the JPs’ boat to the Red Head and spent the afternoon in the pool there. Lake traffic gets pretty hairy on holiday weekends and makes for unpleasant boat rides. We chose to make the long jaunt to the Red Head on Friday figuring it would be a little less crowded, and we were correct.

On Saturday morning Shay and the ladies coerced the men to join them on the dock for yoga. Shay did a great job leading us rookies. I will say that doing yoga for the first time on a floating dock made balance even more of a challenge. Despite the occasional attack of horse flies, we managed to make it through. I think more yoga may be in the future for Wendy and me.

 

That afternoon we took the much shorter boat ride to our other favorite hang out on the lake, Bear Bottom. We didn’t arrive quite as early as we’d hoped, but were still able to get prime seating at the swim-up bar. We enjoyed a couple of hours of fun and conversation before heading back. We took the boat back to Bear Bottom that evening for their fireworks.

Sunday was a lazy day on the dock. I enjoyed scoring the Cubs game on the deck (despite their loss) while everyone else hung out on the chill raft. I eventually joined them. JP’s sister and family swung by on their boat and hung out in the water with us for a while.

Each evening together was spent enjoying a meal along with good conversation and Wendy’s cheesecake. There was also reading, playing cards, and watching DVDs.

On Monday morning we headed to Chances R for breakfast together before the crew packed up and headed home mid-day. Wendy and I are working remotely this week and welcome some more friends tomorrow.

A Short Family Vaca (Including a Total Eclipse of the Sun)

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.

Catching Good News at the Ballpark

I have been going to baseball games since Grandpa Spec threw me in the passenger seat of his 1972 Volkswagen Beetle (sans seat belt) and hauled me to Sec Taylor stadium to watch the Iowa Oaks. It’s been a lifetime of going to games as a kid, of taking my kids to baseball games, of attending games of the Iowa Cubs, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, San Antonio Missions, and Laredo Lemurs. Somewhere along the way I gave up on the notion that winning the ballpark lottery is in the cards for me.

I’m never the one lucky enough to catch a foul ball or a home run shot. Wendy and I have never been on the “Kiss Cam” even when we’re one of ten couples at Principal Park on an April afternoon. I’ve never caught a hot dog out of the golf cart cannon. The t-shirt cannon never shoots the t-shirt my way. I’ve never won Ballpark Bingo. My row or seat has never been chosen to win the free car wash. Yes, there was that one time that they announced my birthday on the board, but that was because Wendy paid for a suite for a birthday party for me with our friends. It’s not so special when you pay for it. (Anyone who heard my message last Sunday is laughing at the sheer pessimism of this paragraph)

So it was that on this past Tuesday night Wendy and I arrived at Principal Park to watch our Iowa Cubs take on the Sacramento River Cats. It was a gorgeous night for baseball. We had been invited to be guests of our daughter Taylor who had some “Cubbie Dollars” given to her for her birthday in July. She also invited a few of her friends. It was “dollar hot dog” night and also “bring your dog to the ballpark” night so we were eating our hot dogs, drinking our beer, and enjoying all of our canine friends running around the place.

At the bottom of the second inning I suddenly heard Wendy on my left scream at the top of her lungs and I saw her jump up out of her seat in my peripheral vision. I turned to see her hugging Taylor, who was on her left, and screaming with joy and laughter.

What?!”

Didn’t you see it?!”

What!?”

Didn’t you hear her say, ‘Look!‘?”

No. You’re on my left. That’s my really deaf ear.

It was then amid the laughter and celebration that Taylor’s friend Kim showed me the video she was taking with her phone. It showed the big video board at the ball park with the message “Grandma and Grandpa Vander Well IT’S A BOY!”

My turn to scream and shout and laugh and hug our daughter, even if it was a little bit late.

Just my luck. I missed it. I didn’t hear her say, “Look!” I didn’t see it in the moment. But you know what? That’s okay. I am so blessed. I may never catch a foul ball, or a t-shirt, or a stale hot dog shot from a cannon. I don’t care.

My grandson is on the way (and I caught the good news at the ball game).

featured photo courtesy keith allison via Flickr

The Latest 08-07-2017

They typically call August in Iowa the “dog days of summer,” but it definitely as not felt that way this year. We had the 100 degree August heat in July, and now nightly temps in the 50s have us thinking of football weather. And the Iowa State Fair hasn’t even begun.

It’s been terribly dry here in our little neck of the woods. Our lawn is dead. We’ve been watering to keep the landscaping alive, but that’s about the extent of it. It’s a little depressing to see nothing but weed in a sea of brown grass.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Wendy and me. July was full of business travel for me. I returned home to assist Wendy with running the box office for Union Street Players production of The Wizard of Oz and to helm meetings in preparation for our community theatre’s upcoming Board elections and Awards Night. Wendy and I are stepping down from leadership this year. It’s time for a new generation of leadership, and we’re ready for other things.

We also spent some time at the lake together. It was a working getaway. Having home offices, it affords us the opportunity to work from the Ozarks. While it’s hard sometimes to sit inside and work while the lake and sun are just out there waiting of us, it is nice to wake up in the morning and have a cup of coffee on the dock. It’s nice get done with work and enjoy dinner on the deck or go for a boat ride. We managed a few dates out in the boat, which is always a ton of fun.

Wendy’s key lime cheesecake.

Wendy has been busy making cheesecakes (and cupcakes) this summer. Not only has she made them for Grandma Vander Hart’s 90th birthday bash and her upcoming Cabi party, but she also has been getting fairly regular orders from people wanting cheesecake for this or that celebration. She loves baking, and I’m glad that she gets the opportunity to do it so regularly for others. If she satiated her desire to bake exclusively for the two of us I’d weigh 400 pounds.

I’ve also been busy on Sunday mornings. Three weeks straight I’ve been in the pulpit at our church here in Pella. That’s been really enjoyable despite the demands of preparation and delivery.

Taylor officially announced her pregnancy a few weeks ago and it’s been fun celebrating the good news with people. I can’t wait to be grandpa. It’s a fun new stage of the journey for us. Taylor is still in Des Moines and works for a digital marketing firm. Clayton is in Africa working on research for his doctorate degree. He’ll return in November and be with Taylor for the duration with baby’s arrival due mid January.

Wendy and I are pumped to make a fall road trip to see Madison. She’s been in South Carolina for so long and we’ve yet gotten down to see her in her community there. She’s still working for Laura Geller New York and is really enjoying her ever expanding community of friends there. She’s also enjoying being just a couple of hours from the Atlantic coast and the beach.

In a couple of weeks both Taylor and Madison are going to join Wendy and me for a trip to the lake together. It will be the last time that just the four of us will have family vacation time together. January begins a whole new chapter in life. We’re looking forward to marking the time together.

Belated Birthday Boys’ Day Out

My friend, Kevin, and I have April birthdays. His is before mine. This year I told him, “For your birthday I want to treat you to a boys’ night at the Iowa Cubs.” On my birthday he told me, “For your birthday I want to treat you to a boys’ pub crawl in downtown Des Moines.” Why not kill two birthday birds with one stone?

It took three months to arrange, but this past Saturday Wendy and I met Kev and Beck at Exile Brewing in Des Moines for lunch. The ladies then took off to do shopping and other things that ladies do. Kev and I spent the afternoon sampling some of the best craft brews that Iowa has to offer (and Iowa has a lot to offer in this arena), along with a few stand-bys.

After Exile we hit the tap room at Confluence Brewing and then headed to Peace Tree Brewing’s new location in Des Moines’ East Village. It was a tortuously hot summer afternoon, but we persevered as only courageous old men can do in these situations. From Peace Tree we walked the 251′ (thanks Google Maps) to the Iowa Tap room where we found their 160+ taps of exclusively Iowa brews.

After quaffing the best the stylish East Village has to offer, we drove to the ball park and got an early parking spot. We headed north to the High Life Lounge which is a shrine to beer I remember from my youth (you know, the beer my dad and older brothers drinking). I actually talked Kevin into drinking an actual Miller High Life from the tap (he was scared). I felt so nostalgically at home that I could have easily decided to spend the rest of my weekend there. But, there was more to be experienced! We headed next door to El Bait shop where we watched the Chicago Cubs finish off the Cardinals (call it a belated birthday present). We finished our pub crawl with a stogie at 300 Rooftops.

It was a short walk to Principal Park where we grabbed the requisite ball park grub and watched the iCubs take out the Oklahoma City Dodgers. It was a great afternoon. Yes, I remember all of it. (Old dudes learn the value of hydration, moderation!)

July Fun at the Lake

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.