September 7, 2017
Welcome to September! I am not reassessing my goals right now as I said I’d do early this month but rather recapping my latest road trip to Illinois and back, because that’s more fun. I need fun right now because as you have probably heard, the country is variously on fire, damaged by or about to be damaged by major hurricanes, and in the hands of someone who does not seem to have a compassionate bone in his body.
My companion for the first part of this trip was my mother-in-law Joan, who had come out via train to visit us for the family reunion. The first day, we took the more scenic route to the freeway, though wildfire smoke obscured some of the views (the actual fires were not close to our path). The second day, we took the northern route when the time came in order to avoid the traffic and high hotel rates surrounding the motorcycle rally in Sturgis. That meant we were able to stop at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and take in the scenery.
The third day, we arrived at Joan’s house in northern Illinois. Unfortunately, as we were getting ready for bed, we discovered that the icemaker line to the refrigerator was leaking,; it had soaked part of the carpet in the guest room on the other side of the kitchen wall and was also dripping down into the basement. Down there, I found that the drain valve on the water heater was also dripping, possibly left that way by some workers who had been in a couple weeks before to deal with a sump pump failure. In consultation with Mr. Karen by phone, I got the water turned off to the fridge, closed the water heater valve, and got stuff out of the way of the water as best I could. The next day, Joan got a call into the flood remediation guys and I got over to my mom’s house to start on what I hoped would be the final clearing out push. The best part of the day was meeting Scout, a formerly feral kitten my nephew and his girlfriend had coaxed inside, taken to the vet to get checked out, and adopted.
The day after that, the flood guys showed up with loud fans and dehumidifiers and air filters. Once they got everything set up, I returned to my mom’s house for more sorting and purging. As I was heading back that evening, still about 45 minutes away, Joan called to say she’d gone to urgent care because her breathing didn’t feel right and they’d sent her to the emergency room. I swung by the house to pick up some things for Joan and was at the ER before they transferred her to a room and admitted her. The next five days were a blur of spending time in hospital, keeping family updated, coordinating with the flood guys to check the dampness and pull out equipment as things dried, while still trying to get some things done at the house, as my brother had come down from Wisconsin to work with me and couldn’t stay indefinitely. Finally Joan got released and we packed up her flowers and went home with a tweaked medicine regime that we hope will keep her out of the hospital for a long time to come.
The next couple days I pretty much hung out with Joan at home. My sister-in-law Fay arrived to take over hanging out duties from me the same day as the solar eclipse, which was pretty much clouded over where we were (I’m thinking I need to make plans to see the totality somewhere in 2024). I moved out of Joan’s house and into a hotel nearer my mom’s house and then my brother and I cranked on sorting and clearing and cleaning for the rest of the week. We did take an afternoon off to visit his grandkids nearby, which was a fun break. We continued to find surprises in the basement, like my mother’s wedding dress, which she sewed herself from yards and yards of white velvet, and a journal my paternal grandfather wrote in before my mom was born. We also found some dead mice and abandoned mouse nests and other yuck, but pushed on and filled a second dumpster before we were done.At the end of all that work, the real estate agent came back to see our progress and deemed the house ready to list, so I signed the paperwork and breathed a sigh of relief at accomplishing that goal. Yes, it was a bit sad, too, since my mom had had that house built for her and gotten a mortgage for it as a single lady in the 1970s. But as my brother said, we’ve had a good run and it’s time to move on.
After signed the listing contract, I returned to Joan’s for a day or so, running a few errands for her and making sure she had things setup to support her as she adjusted to her new routine and regained her strength after the hospital (Fay had had to return home by this point). Then I headed out for my home, making my traditional stop in Wisconsin for curds (though at a different shop than usual). I made it to Austin, Minnesota, that first night, which seemed to me a sign that I should visit the SPAM museum the next morning.
That same day, I also succumbed to the lure of the Corn Palace, taking my non-human travel companions to see it, too.
My last day, I woke up in smoky Miles City, Montana (I’d seen the far off glow of forest fires driving in the night before) and made the last push toward home. Despite the smoke, it was still beautiful country.
About an hour from home, I saw a forest fire rather closer than I’d like. It wasn’t so close that I had to detour around it but still close enough that I could see the flames flare up on the ridge nearby. I pulled over for a bit to take in how powerful and wild the fire was, and say a prayer for those nearby and those fighting it (a couple fire vehicles had been in front of me for a stretch before they pulled into a fire base/staging area).
A larger selection of photos from the trip, including several of little Scout, is over here on Flickr, which I continue to use due to entropy and having a few friends there that I interact with nowhere else.