Jan Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
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January 2002
We began the year with friends in the Bay Area first with a New Year's Eve party then a New Year's Day dinner.  Some more visiting with family and friends and we finally departed for a square dance weekend in King City where we enjoyed the dancing and visiting with more folks.  From there we drove to Fresno where we picked up a dolly to tow our car.  Yes, we finally decided to drag a car behind us.  The dolly was attached to our motorhome, the lights were checked, and then I had the fun of driving the car up the ramps onto the dolly.  So with great trepidation, we pulled out of Fresno and hit the road. 

We spent the night at an RV park in Bakersfield where we have stopped multiple times before, and because they have large pull-thru spaces, we didn't have to unhook the car and dolly that first night.  Needless to say, we knew that wouldn't continue, so we have now learned to hook and unhook efficiently and quickly–but not without a couple of minor mishaps.  Hey, it comes with the territory.  When I was bemoaning the fact that we would have to do things a little differently now that we had the mixed advantage/burden of towing a car, my youngest daughter, Bev, mused, “Mom, three years ago you changed your entire life, how much more difficult can this be?” 

We stopped in Quartzsite, AZ for a day at the huge RV Show/Gem Show/swap meet in the desert.  It is an interesting diversion, and even though we didn't buy anything much, it was fun to walk around and peruse all the “stuff.”  We visited Ray’s brother and sister-in-law in Surprise for a couple of days of visiting and playing pinochle, then we drove to Tucson where we spent time with Ray’s mother and sister.

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February 2002
Mesa, Arizona
Early in the month we drove the short distance to Mesa, Arizona where we have been square dancing sometimes two sessions daily.  If we had the stamina, we could dance three times daily, but we haven't done that yet.  With lots of square dance friends here from California and Oregon we have been enjoying not only the dancing but some dining out and one evening of more strenuous dancing--a 50's sock hop--which had me aching in places I had forgotten could ache.  Mesa had some great sculptures on Main Street

The weather is warming up, and my morning walks no longer require turtlenecks and gloves.  Ray is out on his bike while I walk my four miles, then we go to either a morning or afternoon two hour session of dancing.  About three times a week we also attend an evening square dance.  My modem connection is in the main building in the "poker room."  They also have a pinochle/bridge room and other rooms for almost every conceivable activity here--crafts, sewing, an entire woodworking shop, and, of course, two swimming pools and complete exercise rooms.  Back to the modem connection.  There seems to be a lot of static on the line during the day, so I have been stopping on the way back from square dancing at night, which works better.

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March 2002
Scottsdale and Tucson, AZ

Fort Huachuca, AZ

Sierra Vista, AZ

Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine

Bisbee, AZ

Nogales, MX

Silver City, NM

Gila Cliff Dwellings, NM

Catwalk of White-water
Canyon, NM

Las Cruces, NM

The Butterfield Trail

Alamogordo, NM

Space Museum
White Sands Natl Monument, NM

San Antonio, TX


We pulled up stakes from Mesa on the last day of February to go twenty miles to Scottsdale where we met with friends from California.  We enjoyed dinner at the home of the daughter of one of the couples on Thursday evening and caught up on news of their lives in California since we departed.  On Friday night we all enjoyed dinner at L’Ecole, the restaurant run by the Culinary Institute of Scottsdale, and following dinner we drove to the Phoenix airport to greet son, Paul, who flew in for the weekend for a visit with his grandmother in Tucson. 

Following the weekend visit, we stayed on in Tucson for a while.  One of our day trips was to Saguaro National Park which consists of Saguaro East and Saguaro West which are separated by the city of Tucson and, hence, makes them about thirty miles apart.  The park was founded in 1903 and is a preserve for plants of the Sonoran Desert which, “in lushness and variety of life...far surpasses all other North American deserts.”  We learned the Saguaro can live for up to 200 years, be 50 feet tall and weigh 8 tons.  If that is more than you ever wanted to know about cactus, this national park is possibly not your cup of tea, but we enjoyed the variety of plants on the loop drive through the desert landscape. 

Departing Tucson we made a seventy mile southward journey (hey, we don’t like to drive far in just a day) to Huachuca City where we have a camping membership.  Using this as a base, we visited sights in the surrounding area that we missed when there a couple of years ago.  In 2000 we had visited Tombstone and Kartchner Caverns, so we set our 2002 sites first for Fort Huachuca (wha-chew-ka).  What we didn’t know, not having done our homework before going there, was this was not just an historical fort, but an active army base.  So we were stopped at the gate by a double row of guys in fatigues giving us directions to the place to get our base pass, having accomplished that we were totally free to explore the base. 

In 1877 the fort was set up as a temporary camp and became a permanent fort in 1882; by 1886 it was the headquarters for the 4th Cavalry’s pursuit of Geronimo. In 1913 10th United States Cavalry, known as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” arrived, and in 1916 it served as a staging ground for Pershing’s pursuit of Pancho Villa into Mexico, which actually departed from Camp Furlong in Columbus, New Mexico.  The black Buffalo Soldiers participated in Pershing’s campaign and earned him the nickname “Black Jack.”  During World War I the 10th Cavalry guarded the Mexican border.  The museum is housed in one of the original buildings and is a National Historic Landmark Site; it outlines the history of the U.S. Army in the Southwest.

During World War II 30,000 troops, two black infantry divisions, trained at Fort Huachuca.  Following the war the fort changed from a military site to state owned then back to a military base.  It became a training site for engineers, later for testing electronic and communications equipment, and now for all military intelligence training.  The second museum on the fort is the U.S. Army Intelligence Museum with some really cool things in it–the 007 kind.  There was a Mercedes rear view mirror that housed a radio type alert system for use beyond the Berlin wall.  In case someone was in trouble on the Eastern side of Checkpoint Charlie, they could alert those back on the U.S. side.  Lots of other neat stuff, too.

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The fort flanks one side of the city of Sierra Vista, AZ, which was incorporated in 1956 and has a population of over 40,000.  The elevation of 4623 gives the city an ideal temperature range of 50 - 75 year round, and a huge shopping mall, an increasing number of retirement homes, plus various recreational facilities make this city a very attractive place.  It offers all the elements of Arizona’s larger cities but with a more desirable climate–hmmm.

Just outside Sierra Vista is Hereford, AZ where a 75 foot Celtic Cross and a 31 foot Madonna stand high on a hillside.  The shrine is the undertaking of a Medugorje inspired couple who use a digital audio recorder to record the woman’s conversations with the Blessed Mother.  If you aren’t into all of this, the shrine itself is impressive and worth a quick visit anyway. 

Bisbee is the Cochise County seat and is 90 miles southeast of Tucson, and by the early 1900's it was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco.  Copper mining was at the heart of this town’s growth, and as expected, its eventual decline.  Today the town is something of an artist’s colony while it maintains its Old World charm.  Nestled in the hills of the Mule Mountains at 5,300 feet high, Bisbee enjoys the same temperate climate as Sierra Vista.  We did the walking tour  enjoying its numerous restored buildings and landmarks–shops, saloons, and hotels.  The Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum is the only rural Smithsonian affiliate in the nation, and well worth the visit.  The town and its hotels reminded us of the Gold Country towns and hotels of California.  We spent an enjoyable day and had a great soup and homemade bread lunch while there.

The distance to Mexico from our stopping place in Arizona was about 50 miles on one road and 30 on another.  We had never been to either of the town–Naco or Nogales, but since we had heard of Nogales, we opted to cross over there.  No different than any other border town that we visited, Nogales is full of broken sidewalks and streets, overcrowded shops and lots of Americans shopping.  Unlike previous visits before 9/11, on our return across the border someone actually checked passports, which we thoughtfully had with us.  Since we discovered no great bargains, our purchases were limited to one small bag of items which easily passed scrutiny. 

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So, after spending 54 days in various Arizona locations, we finally made it across the border into New Mexico.  We had traveled on I-10 through this portion of New Mexico in March 2000 and had visited various sights then, so we thought we would just sort of breeze through this time.  But, we stopped at the Visitors Center when entering the state and looked at some interesting things, so we decided to make a northerly loop and stop in Silver City to use it as a base to see the sights.  I was particularly interested in the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  The name, Silver City, is pretty descriptive, and this mining town where silver was discovered in 1870 was a boom town until 1893 when the bottom dropped out of the silver market.  Because brick was used in construction in Silver City, it was spared the devastating fires that ended so many boom towns but survived devastating floods instead.  The town became a center for the cattle industry, and its high and dry climate attracted people seeking relief from tuberculosis.  Silver City is now a tourist center.

The trip to get to the cliffs where the dwellings are located is a challenge in itself.  It is a 44 mile drive north of Silver City up two-lane winding roads with switchbacks and no lane markings most of the way.  The 44 miles are about a two hour drive, so that tells you something about it.  But it was worth it.  Twice in Arizona we had stopped to see cliff dwellings near Sedona, called Montezuma’s Castle which were occupied by Sinagua Indians.  The Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico along the Gila River were populated and deserted at almost the same time the ones in Arizona were.  The Mogollon (muggy-own) people lived here from the late 1270s until about 1300, but a very early pit house nearby dates from about 100 to 400 AD. 

The Mogollon people built their dwellings of stone inside five caves in cliffs facing southeast.  They used timbers for framing and quarried the stone they used in building the interior walls.  About ten to fifteen families lived in these dwellings of about 40 rooms.  The cliff dwellers grew squash, corn, and beans along the mesas.  They made baskets and pottery.  But, about 1300 they abandoned their homes and fields.  Why they left is unknown, but historians speculate they just moved on and possibly joined other Pueblo Indians in the area. 

Access to this National Monument is gained by climbing up the side of the cliff, but the trail upwards is only a one-mile loop trail.  The NPS handout cautions you, “The trail is steep in places, so you should walk slowly and watch your step.”  And I say, “Amen,” to that.  I have admit it was pretty interesting to walk though the 700 year old dwellings and see how they were built and how spacious they were.  By building facing southeast, the dwellers got the advantage of the warmth of the sun in the winter, and avoided the hot sun in the summer.  And sometimes I have trouble figuring out which way we should park our home in a new location to get these advantages. 

The Continental Divide runs just northwest of Silver City and on up northeast, so we crossed it twice each day as we went out on our day trips.  I suppose if you worked on one side of it and lived on the other side that you would be very casual about crossing it, but I still think its pretty neat each time I cross it. 

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An article about this catwalk spiked my interest in 2000 when we were in the area, so naturally, it was a must-do this time.  It seems that in 1893 a pipeline for water to operate a mill was suspended in this narrow canyon.  It was originally a wooden catwalk and began attracting tourists.  The current catwalk is a 250 foot long metal one that clings to the cliffs of Whitewater Canyon and is suspended about 20 feet above the stream.  It was built by the Forest Service in 1961 and was made a National Recreation Trail in 1978.  In some places the canyon is 250 feet deep and 20 feet wide.  This again was an uphill stroll, not quite a climb, but “invigorating” definitely invigorating.  The trail up to the catwalk is a mix of rocky steep trails, concrete paved sidewalks, steep climbs with and without handrails, and of course, the catwalk itself, which is a piece of cake.  I can imagine that folks with any kind of height hangups would find it eerie walking on this steel grating and looking through it to the bottom of the canyon.  While it isn’t very high, it is still narrow and springy.  We were definitely ready for the lunch of fruit and cheese we had packed when we finished this climb. 

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Driving back to the RV park on Highway 180 we approached a funny looking mountain.  It looked like it was part of a bad Hollywood set because it looked man-made and slightly square.  Well, we rounded the bend, and sure enough it was man-made.  It was the Chino Mines Open Pit Copper Mine.  It looked like the Grand Canyon but with evenly made ledges and terraces.  There were multiple canyons all neatly terraced for as far as the eye could see.  This mine was worked in 1800 by convict labor from New Spain, and the ore was sent by mule trains to Chihuahua, Mexico.  The raiding Apaches forced the Spanish to abandon the mine, and in 1851 an adobe fort built by the Spaniards was ready made for the military base for the Mexican Boundary Survey.  It later became Fort Webster, and towards the end of the century the mine was reopened, and the town of Santa Rita was reborn.  By 1910 the huge open pit mine consumed Santa Rita.  Still operational, the mine is currently run by Phelps Dodge/Mitsubishi. 

We continued on down the road to Las Cruces where we had stopped briefly before.  We revisited Old Mesilla, the 1850 town that was once the largest town in southern New Mexico Territory, which included what is now Arizona.  It was a stop on the Butterfield Trail, the place where Billy the Kid was put in jail, and is now a tourist stop with shops, restaurants, and a gazebo in the center of the plaza that had live entertainment while we were there. 

The Butterfield Trail was the route of the Overland Mail Company which was awarded a mail contract in 1857 of $600,000 per year for biweekly service to California.  Butterfield had one year to build new roads, repair old ones, construct stations, arrange for water, buy 1800 horses and mules, 250 coaches and employ 1000 people.  Expenses were almost a million dollars and is compared to arranging a modern voyage to the moon.  The company began operation in 1858; the average rate of travel was just under 5 miles per hour and a one-way trip had to be made in not more than 25 days.  The onset of the Civil War brought an untimely end to the Butterfield Trail, and the railroad’s post-war construction terminated the enterprise. 

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On July 16, 1945 the first atomic explosion sent a cloud 40,000 feet into the air near this town.  Trinity Site where it happened is on the White Sands Missile Range adjacent to this New Mexico city, but since it only open the first Saturdays in April and October, we didn’t get to visit.  We did visit the Space Center museum there, which I was sure had that 1959 space ship locked in the basement which we also didn’t get to see.  We did enjoy this NASA museum, which was not quite as impressive as the one in Houston. 

What was really impressive was White Sands National Monument.  These gypsum sand dunes roll and blow over 275 square miles within the boundaries of White Sands Missile Range.  The sand is stark white, finer than table salt and magnificent to behold.  The gypsum dunes are an anomaly in nature.  The gypsum was at the bottom of a shallow sea 250 million years ago.  The deposits were lifted into a giant dome 70 million years ago when the Rockies were formed, then 10 million years ago the center of the dome began to collapse creating the Tularosa Basin where the dunes exist today. 

The dunes are pristine where the wind has formed them into their huge mountains.  The road in the park is plowed by snow plows, piling up the blown sand onto the shoulder of the road.  In a picnic area there were bus loads of school kids climbing the dunes.  They had the saucer sleds which they rode down the steep slopes of the dunes.  And what was really funny, I looked up to the top of one and about 20 kids came from nowhere over the top, just like Arabs appearing over sand dunes in old movies, and they jumped in unison over the edge into the soft gypsum dunes–all yelling like Newman and Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Local families were there with small children who were enjoying sledding down these great dunes enjoying the comfort of seventy degree weather.  And all the footprints we saw were probably covered entirely by the next day because the fine gypsum is constantly moved by the gentle winds in this basin.  The photo ops were tremendous.  I took loads of shots of the formations created by the wind. 

We continued east and spent a couple of nights at another stop on the Butterfield Trail–Van Horn, TX–just a blip on the map.

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On our trek through Texas in 2000, we kept to the northern route until we got to Dallas/Fort Worth, so this time we decided to go south and revisit San Antonio.  The National Square Dance Convention was there in 1996, and we enjoyed the city then, so we returned for another stroll along the Riverwalk and to visit the Franciscan Missions along the Texas portion of the Mission Trail.  The Missions were one of the Spanish means of colonization in the early to mid 18th century.  The natives in this portion of Texas were Coahuitecans who were the typical “hunters and gatherers” of the Southwest.  The missionaries turned these nomadic tribes into farmers and ranchers creating irrigation ditches and herding huge bands of cattle.  European diseases had already decreased the number of these natives, so they were easily recruited for the missions.  Unfortunately, by 1770 Apache raids crippled the mission ranches, and the decline of this way of life began.

What remains in San Antonio are five missions, the Alamo, Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan Capistrano, and Espada.  Each of these is quite different.  The Alamo, of course, has its own notoriety, and some others are still functioning churches.  All of them are part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park since 1978, complete with visitor center and Rangers.  There is no admission charge, but the National Park Service must provide some restoration help, since we visited a completely restored mill at one of the sites and viewed work being done elsewhere.

We were in San Antonio for Easter Sunday and attended services at a neighborhood church that was well attended and whose priest was Russian in this Texas town.  It was a very homey atmosphere where they sang Happy Birthday to parishioners after Mass and congratulated some local kids for their participation in a basketball hoop throwing contest.

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April 2002
Lake Livingston, TX

Huntsville, TX

Fair Park, Dallas, TX

Oklahoma Territory

Oklahoma City, OK

Cushing and Yale, OK
LAKE LIVINGSTON - DALLAS, TX - April 4-21, 2002
We left San Antonio and zipped right around Houston this time to go to Lake Livingston.We stopped enroute in a little town that boasted loads of wildflowers in every conceivable color.  I picked a lovely bouquet which we enjoyed in our little home.  At this picturesque lake, we parked near the shore with tall trees dotted everywhere.  The RV park was virtually empty, and our nearest neighbors were not even in shouting distance.  Morning walks were along the shore and into the community adjacent to the park.  The ducks and birds were abundant, with what looked like small osprey along the shores, and noisy birds chattering each morning were our alarm clock.  The ones that sound like a truck backing up were the ones who always got me sitting up–three beeps, then a pause.  Every morning I swore there was a semi outside my window.

Our stay at the lake was pretty laid back, but we did venture into nearby Huntsville to visit the Sam Houston sites.  He was quite a guy.  The only person ever to be governor of two states (Tennessee and Texas), plus he was president of the Republic of Texas, and served in Congress from both states before becoming their governors.  He had three wives–he separated from the first one in Tennessee after three months and never said why, had an Indian wife in Arkansas whom he up and left when Andrew Jackson wanted him to get back into politics, he then married a third wife when he was 47 and she 21 with whom he had eight children.  He died in a rented house in Huntsville that was designed like a riverboat.

From Lake Livingston we moved to the town of Livingston where we cooled our heels for a week waiting for a part for the car to arrive.  It was a comedy of errors with people saying they sent it, then when it didn’t arrive, they forgot, etc. etc.  Anyway, when we finally got everything done, we went a short distance to the town of Palestine, TX to visit a cousin of Ray’s for a couple of days then went on to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex for the weekend.  We visited the Dallas Fair Park which we missed a couple of years ago.  It is the site of the Texas 1936 Centennial celebration and has Art Deco buildings which are still used for the Texas State Fair every October. 

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Temperatures had been climbing for several days, and the humidity was way up there, too. We spent a night in Thackerville just over the Oklahoma border and the following morning stopped in the town of Davis where one of my uncles lived for years.  I was looking for some information on his wife, on whom I had only her first name.  The library didn’t open until 12:30, so we tried city hall which told us where the newspaper office was.  Nothing on file there, but the funeral home that was the only one in town at the time of her death was very accommodating.  Their file gave me her full first name, her maiden name, her parents names, her birthplace and birthdate, her marriage date and location, and, of course, her death date, cause, location and cemetery where she was buried.  All of this took about twenty minutes.  Everything was within about two square blocks, and had we looked to the left when we parked, we could have gone to the funeral home first.  It was really warm and humid by now as we were approaching noon.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - April 24-30, 2002
We climbed back into our home on wheels and continued north to Oklahoma City, the capitol of Oklahoma.  By the time we arrived in late afternoon it was freezing, and did we have a thunderstorm that night.  The RV park was in the heart of the city, near the Capital, and included in its listing that it had a storm shelter.  The clerk in the office said she kept abreast of the surrounding weather in case she had to go warn people to get to safety.  Nothing like being back in tornado country during tornado season to give you an edge.  We spent time at the State Archives doing some genealogical research on my family, getting some new information. 

A cousin of mine lives in Edmond, just outside Oklahoma City, so we visited with her and her family and caught up on our news.  We went to the very moving Oklahoma City Memorial commemorating the victims of the 1995 bombing.  On the grounds where the building that was destroyed stood are nine rows of brass, glass and stone chairs.  The nine rows are for the nine floors in the Murrah Building, and the number of chairs in each row corresponds to the number of victims on that floor with smaller chairs representing the 19 children who were killed.  The chairs are on a grassy area adjacent to a reflecting pool with an gate on either side.  The time 9:01 is on one gate and 9:03 on the other--the bomb went off at 9:02.  An adjacent building houses a three floor display of the event, including news coverage and stories of the victims.  They have added a small exhibit correlating their bombing with September 11th.   The Memorial is very moving and sobering.

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On a lighter note my cousin and husband accompanied us to the Cowboy Hall of Fame which includes the powerful sculpture End of the Trail.  It literally took my breath away when I first saw it in 1973 and held the same power this time.  An exhausted Indian slumps on his tired horse.  This 18 foot high sculpture sits on a platform giving it even greater height in a glass alcove opposite the entrance to the museum.  It is magnificent.  Equally impressive is the white marble Canyon Princess, a white cougar descending the mountain.  Both of these sculptures are widely copied, so replicas are seen everywhere.  The entire museum is a tribute to the west and includes art and information of the early west, native Americans, rodeo and rodeo riders, and cowboys in Hollywood.  I always enjoy the bronze action statues of Remington and Russell, and there were several to enjoy here.  It was an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable day.

Naturally I had to take Ray to the only Capitol that has oil wells on its grounds.  The building was buzzing with activity since the legislature was in session, school kids were visiting, and all sorts of other activities were taking place.  Add to this the fact that they are adding a dome to the building, and everything is in scaffolding and you have lots going on everywhere.  It seems the Capitol was designed to have a dome, but since World War I began before the building was completed, it was never put on.  Now, the current governor is having the dome added at about 30 times the price it would have originally cost, but by the state’s centennial in 2007, their Capitol will be domed!  The oil wells on the Capitol grounds were not operating, and we weren’t sure if that was permanent or not. 

We spent one day plowing through the genealogical collection in Cushing, which is the town nearest the blip on the map where my father’s family lived.  My grandparents and great-grandparents were in the Oklahoma Land Rush opening the Cherokee Strip on September 16, 1893.  We found the plat books for their homesteads.  I had seen lots of copies, but they were reduced so much that the names were undecipherable; however, once I located their names on the huge plat maps, I could easily see them on the smaller copy I had  my file.  Funny how that works.  Another boon of our visit here was that my cousin had some ancestral family photos that I didn’t have, so I scanned hers and added them to my growing collection.

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May 2002
Guthrie, Cushing, Yale, Stillwater, Perry and Tulsa, OK

Branson, MO

Urich, MO

California, MO

Vienna, MO
Guthrie was the first capital of Oklahoma, and that was our next brief stop.  We used it as our base for a couple of days while we pursued genealogy research.  We visited the cemetery between Cushing and Yale where my grandparents, an aunt, some uncles and two sets of great-grandparents are buried.  The county courthouse in Stillwater provided us with the original documents from my great-grandfather’s probate case of 1911 to 1913.  What a mess that was.  He didn’t leave a will, and the whole mess went on for two years after his death.  My other great-grandfather left a will, of which I already had a copy.  We also stopped at the church where several of the family were baptized before a closer church was founded in about 1903 and hope to get some results on information pre-1903. 

Guthrie is the county seat of Logan County and was for a brief time the first capital of Oklahoma.  The town is a living museum with well preserved buildings and a Territorial Museum which we enjoyed visiting.  In Perry, county seat of Noble County, we stayed at a place called Sooner’s Corner which was an RV park behind a motel/restaurant/gas station  which was a huge truck depot and would also board your horse overnight for one dollar–can’t beat that for all around service.  It was right down the street from the Cherokee Strip Museum which we visited as part of the town’s Heritage Day celebration.  Courthouse square had food booths, 50's music, a few craft booths, and a huge collection of antique cars on display.  The weather was warm and sunny, and we had a great Saturday afternoon.  We attended church that evening at a delightful church with a curlicued white altar reminiscent of many in Chicago that I grew up with. 

Early in the week of the 5th, we did some additional digging through courthouse records in Pawnee, then returned for another day in the Genealogy section of the Cushing Public Library.  Now we are in Tulsa for some sightseeing and visiting with my cousin in Broken Arrow before proceeding north.

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BRANSON, MO - May 14-20, 2002
All the publicity about this little town in the Ozarks persuaded us to follow the road here.  What has amazed me is the diversity of people who visited here and told us what a good time they had, so since we were so close we decided to stop for a while.  Several of our campground resort memberships had places here, so we just chose one and are delighted with our choice.  The town is full of hotels and motels, and the campground choices are almost as numerous.  Our “little” place is off one of the main highways, next to a popular theater.  There is a sign and a driveway leading into it, and then it fans out into the hills.  This place is huge.  Over five hundred RV sites are spread out over several acres.  When I go for my morning walk, it is over a miile up the road just to get to the clubhouse inside the front gate.  It is obviously designed for families, but at this time of the year it may as well be another “over 55" resort, so the playgrounds and miniature golf courses are empty.

We enjoyed a show given by the Oak Ridge Boys and found out that I recognized many of their hit songs, outside of Elvira, to which I have been doing line dances for years.  The show was in the Grand Palace here, which may be the largest theater in town.  The name of the group supposedly has to do with its origin in Oak Ridge, TN, and that was undoubtedly true when it began in 1945, but none of today’s singers is from Tennessee–one is from New Jersey and another from Pennsylvania.. 

The Glen Campbell and Andy Williams Show at Andy’s Moon River Theater was really great.  Glen Campbell is a talented musician who played guitar for many popular singers before becoming a star on his own.  He sang his most popular hits, so I was familiar with many of them.  His daughter, Pam, did a solo song, and then joined her father in a duet.  His musical pieces on the guitar were outstanding entertainment.

Andy Williams emerged onto a stage full of musicians and singers with lights flashing and music playing.  He wore a white suit with bright red shoes and a red shirt, and he looked like a puff of smoke could blow him away.  But his voice–his voice could knock you out of a back row seat in his huge theater.  If anything, his voice has improved with age.  He sang and sang, and the stage looked like a set out of a Busby Berkeley movie, only in color.  Then, when you thought that little guy couldn’t possibly squeeze any more music out of himself, he rested while a screen showed him serenading Sandra Dee in a 1964 movie.  Next they repeated the same clip with the present-day Andy superimposed between himself and Sandra Dee in a comical sequence.  So, rested and with a costume change, Andy emerged dressed in cowboy gear to do several numbers with Glen Campbell.  This show alone was worth a trip to Branson.

The Platters show was more of a low budget production than others, but the singing was excellent.  Their 50's and 60's  hits like, Only You, The Magic Touch, My Prayer, The Great Pretender and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes had me singing (silently of course) along with them.  We had to see one of the country/patriotic shows, so we opted for one called Country Tonite, a toe-tappin’ extravaganza with country singers and dancers who did some clogging, a ten year old and a fourteen year old who belted out songs like the pros, fiddlers who did The Devil went down to Georgia like they knew what they were doing.  It included some gospel music and ended with a red, white and blue flag-waving finale.  An enjoyable time.  If you are planning a trip to Branson, here's a link to their Branson Show Site to help you find out who is in town when you're planning your trip.

The rolling hills and lush greenness of this Ozark town along with the friendly folks take you in.  The standard greeting is, “Hi, how y’all doin?”  Followed almost immediately by, “Where y’all from?”  And the funny thing is wherever we give our Las Vegas address, they are delighted that folks from Vegas have come to Branson.  Its like they’re in competition.  Branson certainly is a smaller, greener, cleaner version of Las Vegas and although the traffic here is horrendous, it is still better than Vegas traffic.  They have one main street, roughly equivalent to Vegas’ Strip, but it is two lanes plus a center turning/emergency lane, and the traffic snakes along at five to ten miles an hour.  We barely made it to Sunday Mass on time because of the traffic, and the priest made a comment about latecomers who got stuck in traffic being an ordinary thing there.

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From Branson we made our way to the county seat of Urich, the little town where Ray’s grandmother was born.  Last year in the Salt Lake City Genealogy Library we unearthed the marriage record of this grandmother’s parents, and subsequently found a website with some info on his great-grandmother’s family, but all we knew of his great-grandfather was his name.  The library had a listing of her birth record which gave us the father’s middle name, but little more.  We went across the street to the county courthouse to see if we could get a copy of the original document.  The county clerk informed us the records were old, so they gave them to the museum.  That was a first for us, so across the street we went and learned there was a genealogy library within the museum, but it was closed.  Well, the next day when we returned, we hit paydirt.  They had probate records, cemetery records, family histories, and more information than we could assimilate.

Next stop was California, Missouri, county seat where the great-grandparents were married and from whence their families came.  Getting old marriage records at the county courthouse used up the greater portion of our first day there, then the following day the Genealogy Library had more info on the families.  And everyone knew everyone else in the town.  There was just one person working there, but four others dropped in and kibitzed.  They asked who we were researching and started pulling books on families they knew were related. 

We made it to Vienna, Missouri, county seat of Maries, on Friday and went through the library’s records, but I already had most of these from other sources.  Sunday afternoon the “Jail Museum” in town was open for two hours, and the librarian suggested we visit there.  She seemed surprised when we actually showed up.  The two room building was once the town jail, with living quarters for the sheriff and his family downstairs and cells upstairs.  An eclectic collection of donated items fills the building, and we perused albums full of old photos, newspaper clippings, and lots of other “stuff.”  I picked up some marriage dates and some obituaries for the family line.  People from town dropped in during the two hours we were there said howdy.  Interesting time.

Monday was Memorial Day, so what better time to visit cemeteries.  There are two Tennison cemeteries listed for the area, and one of them was quite old.  On a gravel road, off a sort-of-paved road we found the owner of the property on which the oldest cemetery exists.  She said you need a “truck” to get to the cemetery, so, unfortunately. we didn’t find the grave of Ray’s oldest known Tennison ancestor.  We finally found the second Tennison cemetery off another gravel road and up a hill.  It is well maintained and looked like folks had visited there earlier that day.  On graves of people who died back in the 1920's there were cemetery plastic/silk flowers and other memorial type items.  No direct ancestors of Ray’s were there, but most were related somehow.  The roads that we took to get to these cemeteries were dotted with mailboxes whose names appear frequently in my research.

We had to be in two places in one day when we discovered the Historical Society in Vienna was open only on Wednesday afternoon from 1-5, and another in Tuscumbia about thirty miles away was open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 - 4.  Since Monday had been Memorial Day, and we were leaving before Friday, that left us with Wednesday.  We managed to get what information we needed from both places by traversing the county roads. 

Over the holiday weekend we drove into town to look for a place for a morning walk and came upon the high school track which suited us just fine.  After returning to the car, we started onto the road when we noticed a funny looking rock in the road.  Ray said it looked like a turtle, and I suggested he had too much sun.  He walked over and picked it up, and sure enough, it was a turtle.  We looked around for some source of water, and deposited him near a sewer drain that had some running water.  Subsequently, on the county roads, especially before noon, we encountered multiple turtles either near or crossing the roads.  I would shout out, “Turtle,” then we would progress around him and wait until the next one.  We saw other drivers doing the same.  There were surprisingly few “roadkill” turtles along the way; the drivers were good turtle dodgers. 

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June 2002
Springfield, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

Detroit/Dearborn, MI

California visit
ILLINOIS IN JUNE                 June 1-12, 2002
We spent a pleasant three days visiting old friends in Springfield, Illinois and went on a Saturday morning “heart walk” with their local cardiac care center.  They weren’t early risers and by the time the group got started it was eleven o’clock with a temperature in the upper eighties and humidity to match.  It’s a good thing we were close to the cardiac care center.  Anyway, we enjoyed the visit–even more so after our showers.

From Springfield we made some stops in towns seeking some more information on my elusive ancestors, but didn’t turn up anything too thrilling.  We reached Chicagoland and stayed at an RV park on the far southwest side in Tinley Park.  We visited cemeteries and got some burial information on some of Ray’s relatives.

My grammar school reunion was held on Saturday night, and we had a great time renewing old–very old–acquaintances.  Most folks hadn’t changed so much that I wouldn’t have recognized them.  It was a most satisfying evening. 

Sunday it was Mass at Holy Name Cathedral followed by an unexpected tour offered following Mass.  Then we took the obligatory boat tour of the lakefront and the river on a beautiful afternoon with the locks filled with private boaters and the lake dotted with sailboats.  I always love the view of my hometown from Lake Michigan, even though so many new buildings that we don’t recognize now fill in the skyline.  We had a delightful dinner with old friends at one of the many great restaurants in Chicagoland.

The Field Museum and Dinosaur Sue were our destination on an overcast day.  Dinosaur Sue, in case you didn’t follow her story in the newspapers a couple of years ago, is the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered.  The exhibit had just opened when we were last here, and there were long waits to enter the museum, but this time we just breezed right in and had all the time we wanted.  And, ironically, all the museums were free to the public during this week, so they didn’t even want my pass from my California museum.  The other exhibit we enjoyed immensely was the Egyptian exhibit.  They have always had a vast collection of Egyptian artifacts, including a tomb which they have had since the 1893 Columbian Exhibition, but they have gathered everything together in an interesting way, and the guide was quite knowledgeable. 

Not to be outdone by museum exhibits, Chicago weather reared its head when we exited the museum.  The skies opened up with a downpour, and the winds threw branches every which way.  We had to wait for the free trolley to take us back to the parking lot, and we were properly drenched by the time we reached our car.  Cars crept through the streets with sewers unable to take the torrent, and the viaducts were flooding.  I really felt like I had come home.

We stopped at the little church Ray used to attend to see if we could garner any family information on his elusive ancestors, but to no avail.  We came away with a confirmation photo of three second cousins.

River Forest, Illinois is where I attended undergraduate school and where I received my master’s degree, but ironically, I had never visited the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio in adjacent Oak Park, so that was on our “to do list.”  His home was the first building he designed and built, so it isn’t pure “prairie style,” but it is easy to see how it evolved from this first building.  He was working for Adler & Sullivan (Carson Pirie Scott building) at the time and built some homes for neighbors after hours, without telling his employer.  He got canned and started his own firm for which he built an addition onto his home.  Subsequently fifteen buildings in the immediate neighborhood were designed by Wright.  We did the walking tour and without the map they would have been easily detected, since his style is so distinctive and the neighborhood had lots of Victorians.  The weather was glorious, and we loved strolling the streets of this old and stately neighborhood. 

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But, all good things must come to an end, and we left town and headed through Indiana and into Michigan to see son, Paul.  But, first we stopped for a couple of days in Kalamazoo where I managed to get a much-needed haircut.  Paul was in Los Angeles and wouldn’t return until Saturday, June 15th, so we timed our arrival for that day.  We were given the driving tour of Detroit’s motor magnate mansions and also of those in suburban areas.  Lots of beautiful homes with expansive lawns and stately trees along the shores of the river and lake here.  Lots of other stuff, too, but we didn’t dwell on that.

We were treated to a day at Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum, which isn’t nearly enough.  We’ll have to return there on another visit here.  Greenfield Village was begun in 1928 by Henry Ford as an educational complex.  He wanted to preserve the history of the area and of the places he knew growing up.  He expanded that somewhat and the village includes homes of historical significance which he had moved from their original locations and reconstructed in the village.  Some of the homes include that of the Wright Brothers, Noah Webster’s home, and even an English stone cottage.  The grounds cover 200 acres, and the steam train ride takes you around the perimeter with on/off privileges for transportation.  It was a bright sunny day, and we enjoyed as much as we could see.  The Henry Ford Museum is devoted to inventions and mechanical items of the late 19th and 20th century, not the least of which is an extensive collection of automobiles, trucks and farm equipment.  This, too, would take more than one day, and we tried doing both in just one day.

Another day we visited the Henry and Clara Ford Estate, the mansion at which they entertained presidents and heads of state.  As mansions go, it is rather modest, but his power plant makes all the difference.  Ford and Thomas Edison were very close friends, and hence Ford was into all kinds of inventions and power.  The estate has a separate building for generating power for the home, 300 yards away.  Two giant turbines are powered by the adjoining river for electrical power, with an alternative of using steam, in case the river level got too low.  They had a central vacuuming system which was strong enough to have the motor in the power house and still clean the house so far away.  They even had a motor which provided hair dryers in all the bathrooms.  A water powered freight elevator that still operates was used for moving heavy objects. Its amazing what a genius with lots of money can accomplish! 

Paul gave us a tour of the research area in which he works, and we saw his diesel vehicles.  The Ford Campus is huge and impressive. 

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We were in desperate need of a grandparent fix, so we left our motorhome in the care of son, Paul, at his new home in Oak Park, Michigan, and flew to California for a visit.  Lloyd picked us up at the Oakland airport.  We stayed at Bev and Rick’s new home in Danville where Ray romped in the yard with Rico and Selina, and I walked the nearby trails.  We went to the community pool so Selina could demonstrate her swimming skills.  We went to Marine World with Bev, Pam, Selina and Rico for rides and animals galore.  Selina fed the giraffes with an expert hand.  Another day we spent a more leisurely time at the Lindsey Museum with the little ones. 

We visited with friends and caught up on the news of everyone’s doings.  It was good to see everyone we could in the short time we were there.  Gail and Monica spent an evening with us, when we had a chance to catch up on Monica's busy teen life. One night we drove to Mark's new home in Fair Oaks and had dinner there and spent the night.  We had lunch one day with Gail  Then all the family attended Selina’s end-of-year show at her tumbling class–Mark came to town for that and spent the following day visiting.  Finally, the day before we left, we all got together for dinner and more visiting.  We had a great time and now may last until our return in the fall.

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July 2002

Bruce County, ON, CN

Stratford, ON, CN

Toronto, ON, CN

Niagara Falls, ON, CN

Ottawa, ON, CN

Montreal, QC, CN

Quebec City, QC, CN

Michigan & Paul
MICHIGAN   July 1-8, 2002
We flew back to Michigan and visited with Paul for the week of Independence Day.  We were invited to a friend’s house for dinner one evening where we met her family, then for the 4th of July we crossed the border into Canada to join their family at a 100 year old cabin on the St. Claire River which separates Canada and the USA.  The weather was very hot, and we visited under the shade of the huge trees on their property.  The next few days we took care of several business items, did some laundry, read some books and readied ourselves for Canadian Customs once again.

ONTARIO, CANADA  July 8-20, 2002
Passage from Port Huron, Michigan into Sarnia, Ontario was accomplished fairly quickly.  We drove along the coast of Lake Huron north to the resort town of Southampton.  This town houses the museum and archives for the county of Bruce, Ontario, and here I hoped to find some information on my Irish ancestors who lived here in the mid 19th century.  Once again I found some smatterings of information.  The Ontario census of 1851 and 1871 confirmed some data, and some land grant records from 1844 and 1845 showed where they lived and how they acquired the land.  But, alas, no breakthroughs on my brick walls, just enrichment of data.  Same thing when we stopped at the Wellington county archives in Fergus, Ontario.

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Time to be entertained by the Bard.  We settled into the campground near Stratford and quickly learned we could get tickets for a performance of Henry VI that evening, so dashed off to the theater still dressed in our casual--not even “smart casual” attire.  We picked up our tickets and didn’t have time for dinner, so a sandwich from the snack bar had to suffice.  The theater going folk in Stratford were mostly dressed for the occasion, but other weary travelers such as we, weren’t decked out nearly so finely.  The performance was outstanding, and we were thoroughly engrossed in 15th century England’s War of the Roses.

The following day we attended a matinee of the follow-up to Henry VI, Richard III.  And, it was great to see Richard evolve from the troublesome person he was in Henry VI to the really evil persona of Richard III.  This was an enjoyable trip into the past, even if it was gory, as Shakespeare intended it to be.  The weather was beautiful, so we dined on the patio of one of the many restaurants in Stratford and then strolled along the Avon with townsfolk and tourists all watching the multiple boats with twenty oars people (there were men and women) in the river.

From the picturesque town of Stratford we went to the metropolis of Toronto.  One of the guidebooks said that one-fourth of Canada’s population lives within 100 miles of Toronto, and I don’t doubt it.  We deliberately chose the weekend for our visit here to avoid the business traffic, but it was still a mass of vehicles and people.  The day was cloudless and bright, so the CN Tower was our destination.  The CN Tower is one of the world’s tallest structures at 1815 feet.  The wait to get into the entrance was 1 ½ hours in the hot sun–other folks had noticed what a clear day it was.  We decided to postpone our visit.

Since we had passed the theater district just before arriving at the tower, we decided to walk over there to see what kind of tickets might be available for The Lion King.  Pretty stupid, huh!  There were two singles left for the 2:00 performance at 1:00 when we checked–one at the wall, stage left, and one way in the back.  We did something we have never done before.  We bought tickets from a scalper.  He let us take the ticket to the ticket counter to verify it, and the ticket agent even knew his name from a distance.  So we went for it.  We paid $100 each for $116 tickets that were seventh row center in the Dress Circle and were thrilled to be there.  The production is outstanding–pure genius of staging.  Disney certainly did it again.  We had seen Beauty and the Beast in New York shortly after it opened there and loved it.  So, in this short period of time we went from Shakespeare to Disney.  I suppose the “culture snobs” would be horrified, but we loved them both.

Back to the CN Tower.  When we got out of the theater, we headed straight for the Tower.  No waiting outside in the sun, but the inside wait was still about an hour what with security checks and elevator congestion.  We went first to the “Skypod” which is the highest observation point.  First you take an elevator up 117 floors to the observation deck, then take a second elevator 38 floors higher to the Skypod.  It was breathtaking with expansive views inland of Toronto and outward onto Lake Ontario.  And directly below the glass floor you can see Toronto’s Sky Dome next door where a baseball game with the Boston Red Sox was taking place.  We could see the field perfectly and all the little tiny people in the stands.  Toronto defeated the Sox for three games, so we could also hear the roar of the crowd. 

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Since we were so close, we decided to backtrack a bit and go to Niagara Falls.  You simply can’t be that close to such a natural wonder and just drive on by.  The last time we visited here was sometime in the mid-70's, and while the falls haven’t changed, the surroundings certainly have.  On our last visit we approached the falls from the American side, but this time we were on the Canadian side.  The Canadian town of Niagara has a strip leading to the falls that is lined with tourist attractions totally unrelated to the phenomenon of the falls–haunted house, arcades, souvenir shops, fast food places–you know the street because you’ve been on a thousand of them.  But fortunately the drive along the Niagara River facing the Falls is still pristine with walks and parks. 

We parked the car just across from Table Rock, one of the oldest buildings at the falls.  It now houses several concessions and a ticket booth for the trip underneath the falls.  The air was filled with a fine mist from Horseshoe Falls, since the wind was blowing our way.  We were gently soaked but didn’t mind at all because it offered respite from the soaring temperatures that day.  Niagara Falls is undoubtedly one of those places that, regardless of how many times you see them, still take your breath away.  We walked along the river opposite the falls and then into the tourist strip in town to see what else we could see.  But, alas, the only worthwhile vista was that of the falls, so we returned along the river and got repeat views of these magnificent falls. 

After leaving Niagara, we stopped at one of the Welland Canal locks and caught a huge freighter going through one of the locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway.  You’d think that with both the Panama Canal cruise and the Russian Cruise in 2001 that we had our fill of locks, but they are still fascinating.  The locks along the St. Lawrence Seaway are older than those on the Panama Canal and very impressive.

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The Canadian Capitol of Ottawa was on our must-see list, and we decided that a weekend would be the best time to visit this capitol city. WRONG!  As we made our way into town early on Saturday morning we saw hundreds of young people (not kids but more college age and beyond) in bright green t-shirts with backpacks making their way into the city.  The lawn where the changing of the guard took place at ten-thirty was packed.  That particular changing of the guard was on the schedule of thousands of youths participating in World Youth Days from all over the world.  The green t-shirts were from Germany, but there were lots of others. 

We got a parking place quite near Parliament Hill and viewed the pagentry of the changing of the guard among all the World Youth Day participants.  Of course their masses filled up the tours of Parliament quickly, but the tours were quite organized.  We got one quickly and were the only Americans in the group, with a large group of Parisians dominating the English speaking tour.  Befitting Parisians, they spoke loudly in French while the bi-lingual tour guide gave her spiel.  The three buildings on Parliament Hill are very impressive.  The center building, which we toured, houses the House of Commons and the Senate.  It was rebuilt after a fire in 1916 following the original plans. The original construction of the buildings was in 1859-66.

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QUEBEC, CN  July 21-27, 2002
During our visit to Montreal the temperature and humidity soared unbearably.  The beauty of the various sights was lost on me for much of the time since I was looking for a cooler place to be.  Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal was an impressive gothic church with an ultra-modern Sacred Heart Chapel behind the altar.  The Anglican Christ Church Cathedral was built in the mid-1800's and is now in the heart of downtown and stands over an underground shopping mall.  Good retreat for a boring sermon?

St. Patrick’s Basilica is known as the “Irish Church.”  Construction on this wooden gothic church was completed in 1847.  In 1985 the church was designated an Historic Monument by the Quebec Ministry of Cultural Affairs, and in 1989 the Vatican raised the church to the status of Basilica.  We were first attracted to the church by the two steeples which were painted a shiny silver color.  We later encountered many churches with this paint.  We’re not sure what the reason for the silver painted roofs and steeples is–it may be for weather protection in the north, but it could just be purely decorative.  After a while seeing so many silver topped churches got to be boring!

A church that I remembered from our visit to Montreal back in 1976 is Mary Queen of the Universe which is a small scale model of St. Peter’s in Rome.  The exterior replication is a stretch with columns and statues crammed next to one another, but the inside high altar is quite good.  This too is a cathedral and a basilica.  I’m not sure how Montreal talked Rome into all these basilicas, but they did.

On the outskirts of Montreal in Mount Royal is a huge church whose dome is 97 meters high and is supposedly second only in height to St. Peter’s in Rome.  St. Joseph’s Oratory was founded by Brother Andre and has multiple shrines .  Construction on this massive structure that sits atop Mount Royal was begun in 1904.  Brother Andre apparently attracts lots of pilgrims, but we never figured out why. 

The morning we left Montreal the temperature had gone down somewhat, and we rolled merrily along with a destination of Quebec City only a short distance down the road.  Then, bang!  There was no doubt it was a blow-out, but we didn’t know where.  There are six tires on the motorhome, two on the tow dolly and two of the cars on the ground.  When we pulled over we discovered it was one of the inside rear dual tires.  We were just a short distance from an exit ramp, so very cautiously we limped off and into a large truck stop.  We called AAA, and the CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) replied quickly but with someone who was unequipped to change a tire on a vehicle of our size, even though the dispatcher knew we were driving a motorhome.  So, we waited for another truck which came fairly quickly, got it changed, and took us across the road to torque everything properly. 

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August - October 2002 BACK TO MICHIGAN
Our visit to Quebec City came to an abrupt end when we received word of our youngest son, Paul’s, water skiing accident.  Paul shattered his T12 vertebrae and needed back surgery.  We returned quickly to Pontiac, Michigan where the surgery was performed.  All went well, and the doctor predicted a full recovery, in due time.  We spent the next two months at his Oak Park, Michigan home during his recovery.   Paul treated us to a performance of West Side Story at a magnificently restored theater, though he wasn’t able to attend. When he was well enough, we ventured to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a weekend to visit a college friend of mine.  Ray performed the homeowner tasks needed, and I cooked and read during our stay.

Late in September as we prepared to depart, Ray received word his mother was in the hospital, so he flew to Tucson for ten days to be with her.

One day after our departure, another bang in the motor, and we were marooned in Peru, Illinois until a new engine block arrived to replace our damaged one.  A week later we were back on the road, it was mid-October, and we were heading west on I80 through ice and snow.  We arrived in California just before Halloween to be with friends and family.

December 2002
During these months we enjoyed activities with friends and family.  Parties, dinners, the ballet, the opera, an ice skating show, evenings of pinochle and even some bridge.  The family was all together before Christmas for an early Christmas celebration.  Life is good.
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