Monday, June 30, 2014

Home is on the near horizon – a quick trip to Pennsylvania

Fort Chigger

We spent another week in Hillsborough, North Carolina with our daughter Tara and her husband Eric and their family of five children.  

13 year old Grant with his new fort

I spent my time improving the fort, making new trails, making a bonfire,

Girl on Fire - Eliza in front of bonfire

Grant. Eliza's twin, added to big logs to the fire

hosting hot dog roast and Smores feast, and cleaning and reorganizing their garage. 

Angelina and Grant with many two and three wheelers taken out of the garage

Darlene was engaged in sewing and mending projects and a whole lot of child care.
On the road again. After church on Sunday, we took off for Wilkes-Barre, PA and made good time (8 hours driving time). The Blue Ridge Mountains were pretty.

A spot in Virginia
We stopped at near Hersheyland and saw the elaborate amusement park there while eating at a nearby Wendy’s.

Elena, Nonnie, Eliza and Juliana - Angelina is hidden behind Eliza

Pennsylvania has a rural, pastoral look compared to the heavily wooded areas of North Carolina and Virginia we drove through. It is beautiful.

Their parents, Tally and Eric, were glad to see their three children they left in our charge and the children were happy to see them.

I took a few pictures of their new rental home – fancy and very nice.

One room among many

View from the back

I couldn’t resist posing in their new Chevrolet Suburban (new to them).

This vehicle would be everyone’s dream in Mongolia. It is the ultimate status symbol  - a black SUV.

Who is that covert operator?

I had to get in and see what all the fuss was about. Very intimidating from the outside and luxurious on the inside.
Tomorrow we head back to St. Louis. We have Eliza traveling with us. She will be staying with us a few weeks until her family comes to Missouri to visit.
We will be moving in and then celebrating the 4th of July in St. Louis, exactly two years after arriving in Mongolia, July 4, 2012.
I've had my hands full this summer

Monday, June 23, 2014

A week in North Carolina - one more to go - travel

Three darling little pigs and one Big Bad Wolf

Eliza in the character of the Big Bad Wolf
Our 13 year old granddaughter Eliza asked me why would readers of this blog be interested in a bunch of pictures of grandchildren. Good question! I wondered the same thing myself.

I am hoping my readers who are not my friends or relatives stay with the blog long enough until we get situated in our home in July. My wife has suggested a new title, Musings in Missouri, and I will define a focus for the blog that hopefully will keep some of my viewership from Musings in Mongolia.

I had 28 years of experience writing a weekly newspaper column so the challenge of making this interesting is one that I am used to. With modern technology, I can now tell stories with photographs and I have a camera I like to use. It is kind of exciting. Really.

Angelina, age 4, hunting for fireflies
Outdoor fun. This week I include pictures of our daughter and son-in-law's forest which is on their property in Hillsborough, North Carolina. I have been cleaning up the forest of deadwood, wild blackberry bushes and Kudzu.
At the same time, I have renovated a fire pit I built some years earlier

Grant, Eliza's twin, at the fire pit - a path winds to the trampoline area

Grant's Fort

and helped a 13 year old grandson, Grant, build a fort.

The other side of the fort

Grant on the lookout tower

The three grandchildren traveling with us and the five that live in North Carolina are having fun with the campfire meals, bonfires, and marshmellow roasts.

Elena and Juliana with their art teacher, Mrs. Austin

Other neat stuff. The grandchildren attended an art camp, put on a play for us - "The Three Little Pigs" - tried their hand at archery and BB gun shooting at a Cub Scout activity and building puzzles. Here are some pictures from our week.

Elena's tropical fish

Juliana's sand painting

Elena and Juliana try their hand at archery

Peter shooting a BB gun

Add caption

Peter (center) about to go down a water slide


It's all about making memories for them  - and for us.

I have been an advocate of family travel and vacations as special times in childhood. We did as much as we could with our own children under our circumstances.

Our own travels. Indirectly related is our own pleasure in travel in this beautiful country and wonderful world we live in. I am including a column I wrote in 2006 chronicling our own travels in the western part of the United States and then other exciting places.

Notice that Mongolia, Hong Kong, Argentina, and China were on our bucket list at the time - only Lake Baikol remains.

The Ten Most Beautiful Places In America

I have been fortunate. I was born in Montana and lived in the west - Montana, Washington, Utah, California and Arizona - during my childhood and young adult years.

People often ask what my hobbies are. One answer is travel. If I had to pick an occupation for sheer fun, it would be nature photography. Or maybe a combination of nature and cultural photography.

My wife, Darlene has been a willing and occasional reluctant partner is these travel adventures and occasional misadventures. We started off our marriage with a 3 month honeymoon to Mexico, Central America and Lake Tahoe.

The ten most beautiful places. I want to share with you some places I’ve been that are magnificent beyond words. I am going to group ten places in no particular order. Each has a beauty that is unique and incomparable.
- Yosemite Valley, California from above and looking up from below. From any angle.
- Avenue of the Giants - a Redwood forest drive in Northern California. Unbelievable.
- Grand Canyon and, in particular, Havasu Falls in Havasu Canyon found at the bottom after a ten mile hike down into the canyon. Twin waterfalls falling into a pool of turquoise blue water.
- Kalalau Valley along the Na Pali cliffs on the North Coast of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. I hiked in 11 miles and spent a week there looking up at the sheer cliffs and looking out at roiling sea.
- Olympic National Park - a moss covered rain forest in splendorous greens.
- Crater Lake, Oregon. Perfect reflective beauty I have seen once and have never forgotten.
- Bryce and Zion Canyons in Utah. The colors and accessibility of Bryce and the panoramas of Zion are nature’s masterpieces. We spent a week camping in Zion Park.
- Badlands in South Dakota as viewed from Sheep Mountain or from anywhere for that matter. Incredible sight.
- The Black Hills of South Dakota: Spearfish Canyon, Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse mountain, Custer State Park, Sylvan Lake, The Needles - the Black Hills are America’s best kept secret.
- The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Parks. Mountain majesty and expansive and boiling, spewing nature. Yellowstone Falls from any vista.

Honorable mentions. That is my top ten. Now for my honorable mention list, also in no particular order.

Rain forests north of Hilo, Hawaii. Mount Ranier. Mount Shasta. Golden Gate Bridge. Southern Oregon coast. Going up and over the Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming to Montana. Wilderness camping in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Devils Tower, Wyoming. Picturesque Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau, Alaska. Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona - the Arizona desert in bloom after heavy spring rains.

The north shore of Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian border. Camping at Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park. Alpine scenery in Rocky Mountain National Park and near Aspen, Colorado. Hanalei Beach on Kauai. Wisconsin Dells. Louisiana bayous and causeway north of New Orleans. The north shore of Oahu.

Times Square and New York City skyline. Historic sights of Washington DC. Wisconsin farms and countryside.

Mississippi River drives. Lake Powell, Arizona. San Diego Zoo. The San Antonio Riverwalk. Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. Outer Banks, North Carolina. 17 mile drive on Monterey Peninsula, California. Lake Tahoe.

To do list. Admittedly, I haven’t seen Niagra Falls, Carlsbad Caverns, New England in fall colors, Monument Valley, Arizona and Arches National Park in Utah. Isle Royale or Mackinac Island in Michigan. Mesa Verde National Park and Colorado River trip. Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. Florida Keys. Everglades. These places have allure for me and might crack my top ten list.
What did I leave off my top ten list for American travel? What are your favorite places?

International travel. I have done some international travel, not as much as I like but enough to make some observations.

Greece: View of Athens and the Acropolis from Mt. Lycavittos. Greek food. Visiting Crete, Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes - each Greek island is a jewel and a treasure. The rich and famous have discovered Santorini and soon everyone else will.

Turkey: Roman ruins at Ephesus.

Canada: Arctic ocean from Ellesmere Island, Northwest Territories. Canadian Rockies - Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. Quebec countryside. Montmorency Falls outside of Quebec City. Restaurants in Winnipeg. Grain elevators and canola fields in Saskatchewan. The view of Vancouver, B.C. from Grouse mountain. Chinatowns in Montreal and Vancouver. Countryside of Prince Edward Island.

France: Paris, Paris and more Paris. Plenty to do and see - architecture, museums, palaces, cathedrals. French cooking. Town Square in Nancy. World War I history at Verdun. French countryside. Trains. The Alps around Grenoble.

Luxemburg: charming, beautiful and accessible.

Japan: Beauty of temples, shrines and gardens in Kyoto and Kamakura. Festivals. Trains. Unique cultural experience. The size of Tokyo. Vibrant city of Fukuoka.

Mexico: The beaches of Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan. Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and Uxmal. The ruins at Monte Alban and Teotihuacan. The waterfall at Eyipantla.

Guatemala: Lake Atitlan surrounded by cone-shaped volcanoes. Guatemalan highland cities and towns such as Quetzaltenango and Chichicastenango.

Eastern Europe: Castles in Slovakia.. St. Petersburg, Russia - architecture, palaces, museums, and Russian Orthodox churches. Krakow - Polish history and faith. Vienna - great city to visit. Everything about Prague - stunning beauty.

Places we’d like to see. Someday we plan to visit Argentina, China and Mongolia and the Lake Baikol area of Siberia.

I’ve heard that Italy is near the top of everyone’s list travel list: Venice. Almafi coast. Tuscany. Florence. The Austrian or Swiss Alps. Egypt. Croatia. Istanbul. Hong Kong. The Norwegian coast. New Zealand.

What else should be on my travel list?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Our long journey to our home continues

St. Louis - Gateway to the West
Our odyssey continues. We are now in North Carolina visiting our oldest daughter Tara, her husband, Eric, and their family. We journeyed over 800 miles in one day to do this. It was a long drive but the Burdge children were well-behaved troopers. 

We also got a 5:00 am start which helped make it doable.  Pictures to follow in the next blog.
The St. Louis Arch. Before we left, Adam - a 14 year old grandson - and I went to the Arch for a Boy Scout merit badge project. 
Adam is at the lower left hand corner of the Arch
The Arch representing the “Gateway to the West” symbol for St. Louis was finished in 1965. It is as tall as a 27 floor building.
Side view
It is one of the main tourist attractions of St. Louis. Inside the Arch there are small capsule tram cars that take tourists to the top. 
Viewing area at the top of the Arch
Adam went to the top and took some pictures with my camera. I had been to the top before so I declined the $14 ride.
Looking across the Mississippi River into Illinois

Here are some of the pictures Adam took from the top.
View of Busch Stadium - home of the St. Louis Cardinals

Closer view of the ballpark

View of municipal government building

Same building from ground level
Before and after, I had some fun taking pictures on the grounds including one of an Amish family inspecting a horse and buggy ride for tourists. 

The Arch is one of the most distinctive architectural symbols in the United States like the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore.
Depiction of four presidents' faces carved into Mt. Rushmore displayed in Visitor's Center
Grizzly bear inside of visitor's center
Work projects. Adam and I cleaned up some invasive honeysuckle trees on some property owned by the Barneys. 
Adam with the downed honeysuckle trees
Darlene and I also got involved with landscaping and gardening in the Kesners’ backyard. Our grandparenting mission this summer is to be as helpful to our children as we can be while re-involving ourselves with grandchildren.
Aubree is to the left
Aubree on stage. Our 5 year old granddaughter Aubree had a dance performance where, of course, she was the star of the show.
Aubree - fourth on the right - at the dress rehearsal
There was a little drama beforehand as she applied (without permission) lipstick to her face. It resulted in a highly visible clown face quite distinctive from the other dancers. Our daughter Tawny swung into action and cleaned up the mess prior to Aubree’s performance. 

Aubree with her cousins, Annalisa, Juliana, and Elena

All's well that ends well

Monday, June 9, 2014

Reporting our mission - grandparenting activities

Many days in the life of the Farmers in Mongolia
Reporting our mission. The highlight of the week was speaking in church on Sunday about our mission to Mongolia and then presenting a fireside program that evening. It took a lot of concentrated effort on both our parts to figure out what we each wanted to say and on which occasion. 
Mother and daughter share the same missionary badge 

Then we had to sort through our photos (a huge job) from our mission to match the topics we wanted to stress at the evening program. 
A champion of Family History - here and in Mongolia 

We worked it out and felt good about describing our rich experience as missionaries in Mongolia. 

The hat came off for this presentation

About sixty people came including couples contemplating missions during their retirement years. 

Our two daughters (one of which served in Mongolia -1998-2000) prepared a Mongolian snack "khosher" as a refreshment afterward. 
Returned missionaries who served in Mongolia

Our grandchildren who live in St. Louis attended the fireside as well. 

Some of our grandchildren who attended the program

We were overwhelmed with what we had done, the places we'd been and the great people we met and love.  It was definitely much too much to share in one evening - we skimmed the highlights and sang the praises of our mission.  

Elder Neuberger's parents were there. They knew more than anybody about Mongolia because of their son's mission and their journey to Mongolia as well. 

The Goddards. We hosted the Wally and Carol Goddard for an evening BBQ. They had developed a relationship with Tally and Eric (daughter and son-in-law) and were awfully good to our grandchildren. What a blessing!

The Goddards with Juliana, Elena, and Angelina

It turns out that Bro. Goddard is a well know church author on marriage and parenting. You can google him, Wallace Goddard, to find the books and writings he has done. We compared notes on our mutual careers.

He is retiring from his profession this August and will be moving to Logan, Utah where they will be closer to their grandchildren. I think we made new friends during our time in Arkansas.
Last moments in Arkansas. We will be spending the next three weeks with our three grandchildren as we transport them to their new home in Pennsylvania with a stop in North Carolina.

Overlook of the Arkansas River
Here are more pictures of the fun we had paddleboating at Pinnacle Mountain State Park and general horseplay around the home.  
A barge on the Arkansas River
This was the shoreline of the lake we explored
After the paddleboat ride, a little wading for Elena and Juliana