Thursday, December 31, 2015

St. Louis, MO to Russelville, AR

Mom joined us for the rest of the trip. We left Bob and Nan's at 9. It took almost an hour to get out of town. I-44 was closed. So was I-55 and I-270 and a bunch of the usual alternate routes. The flooded Merramac crested last night, but it will take a while for water to go down and roads and bridges be fixed. Steve and Bob studied routes on the internet last night and concluded that Route 100  was the only west-bound route open. At the gas station this morning they met a woman who had had to stay in town last night because she couldn't find an open route home. She hadn't considered Route 100, which seems to have been the only one left. Needless to say, it was heavy traffic despite the holiday. It merged into westbound I-44 where a long string of cars east-bound cars waited to exit and find their way into town on city streets.

Another hour or so down the road gaps began to appear in the clouds and eventually sunlight fell on the fields--the first we had seen in days. Lots of billboards around Branson. They even have their own visitor TV station. Although I would love to see the Shepherd of the Hills outdoor theatre, based on a favorite book of my mother's youth that I embraced in mine, I'm basically not a show person. Branson interested me far less than the surrounding hills.

Once we got into Arkansas, we turned south on Route 7, one of the scenic byways of our National Geographic book. It was "crooked and steep" according to the warning signs. Mostly it followed a ridge top with wonderful views. We kept thinking how spectacular it would be with leaves on the trees. Sigh. We'll have to come back.

Buffalo River from bridge

There was a lot of poverty, uncared for cabins with piles of junk on the porch and in the yard. Some were obviously not lived in (roof fallen in). Others, we weren't so sure. We wondered what people out here did for a living, if anything.

We will see in the new year in Russelville, AR, half way along our mountain route. I guess "See it in" is an exageration since we will see it in with our eyes closed in our beds. But the new year WILL come, and this travel adventure will continue in 2016.

St. Louis, MO

After breakfast with my mother's sister and her two daughters (more gabbing and looking at old pictures) and lunch with our friends the Scotts, we drove to St. Louis on Tuesday through the rain. Lots of rain. We passed places where creeks and rivers had spread out into the fields and woods. At one point the water was only inches below the highway. (We found out later that Interstate 70 had been closed before we got there.)

We spent two nights with Steve's brother Bob in St. Louis. His mother has been here since Thanksgiving, but they still haven't done all the things on their "fun in Saint Louis" list. Wednesday afternoon we went "flood-gawking" as Nan called it. Evidentally this is the second worst flood in recorded history (worst being 1993). Getting out of here tomorrow will be a challenge with so many roads and even the Interstates flooded.

After Bob's fabulous homemade French onion soup we went driving again--this time to see the Christmas lights we had missed in Indy. St. Louis has neighborhoods that certainly do it up right.

Some streets even have themes (Candy Cane Lane, Angel Avenue, Snowflake Road) with lights computer co-ordinated to match music you can tune into on your car radio. Makes the garlands and string of lights I left on our deck at home look pretty pitiful, but it certainly makes up for our disappointment in Indy. Wouldn't the grandkids love this!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Indianapolis, IN

When your father's baby brother turns 90 and his brother and sister are there to help celebrate, it is an event you don't want to miss. We left home Christmas afternoon to get ahead of the predicted snow that my neighbor later told me never materialized. Sigh. We had been disappointed to miss a good storm (from our cozy home with our new extra-efficient fireplace), but we had hoped to return to a nice base for the winter. Not so far.

We went as far as Madison Christmas night and continued Saturday morning in heavy rain. Besides the Smith/Resch clan coming for the birthday party, we crowded in visits with Gail Bennett, Bannons, Scotts, Samples (still here from Christmas), my mom's little sister (also 90) and her two daughters, and both Solid Word Bible Church and Faith Missionary Church. Busy time!

The family gathered at the Holiday Inn on Penn a mile south of my dad's house. We dragged extra chairs into a common area and talked until bedtime both nights. The hotel even brought the birthday boy a slice of chocolate fudge cake which he divided in bite-sized pieces and passed around.

Charles, Marybeth and birthday-boy Bob
Bob and Peg have now moved to a retriement community near their daughter Barb in Detroit, but they spent many years in Indy, so they too had friends to visit while they were in town. Monday we went to a restaurant on the west side where Barb had reserved a party room. Problem: when we arrived we found the electricity had gone out in the whole strip mall. No doubt something related to the rain that had been falling for the last couple days. We stood near the front windows and gabbed while the owner called around and found an alternative place for us--a banquet room at an MCL cafeteria. Not ideal, but what can you expect when thirty-five people need a place at the last minute? We piled into cars and headed for Castleton. Just as we arrived the call came: the electricity was back on; they would love to have us back. We turned around and drove back to George's Neighborhood Grill.

The room was a perfect size for milling and sitting. The food was way better than a cafeteria. The service was excellent. The three siblings were there, all their children (although not all spouses), all but one of Bob's grandchildren, plus representatives of his cousins the Reschs. Barb gave the order that you shouldn't sit at a table with someone you lived with. The conversation was good as always, and the speeches and pictures made us laugh and cry.

Three and a half hours later we adjourned to Dad's house. Between Aunt Peg and us we had plenty of copies of the Hallelujah Chorus for our traditional sing. Dad sold the piano when they downsized, but Kelvin had come up with a karaoke version of the accompaniment that sounded much better than Steve trying to improvise on a keyboard. It came off pretty well despite Jill's laryngitis. Kent brought copies of a carol book they had used at their church, and we ended up singing through it almost cover to cover. There are enough serious musicians that I think next time we should send out music ahead of time to do some interesting choral arrangements.

The singing of the Hallelujah Chorus, a family tradition
More talk until bedtime at the hotel, wondering when we will next be all together. It's a close family despite being physically scattered. Although we don't see each other often, we enjoy each other when we do and support each other in crises.