The Crapper

In my previous post (Thursday Doors edition), I posted a picture of what I suggested could be a Hobbit Door, and in the comment section, that concept got a lot of traction. It is kinda neat to have a thread of commentary take off on its own. So this morning when I got up and started clearing my email Inbox out, I had a notice of a new comment from Gordon at undiscoverdimagesamongstus . Gordon asked if we had found the Hobbit since we had the door. I said no, but we had found the Crapper… a fair dinkum CRAPPER!! WooHoo!!!

and on that note, Fare thee Well, 2016… Hello 2017!!

Thursday Door – Wyndcliffe, Chepstow

First order of business – Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Visit Norm 2.0 for more doors and details.

Second on the docket – My door this week is from our trip to Wales last year. We had a plan to visit the Gardens at Veddw one afternoon, and have tea with the owners, Charles Hawes and Anne Wareham. The Mrs had discovered a nearby Sculpture Garden during her research phase, so we planned to visit there in the morning. We arrived at Wyndcliffe Court Gardens, near Chepstow, in Monmouthshire, Wales late morning. Clouds were building, and it started to rain so we stayed inside for just a bit waiting for the rain to ease up before we began our tour of the gardens. There is a wonderful little summerhouse, and photo one is of the doorway on the upper level…


On the lower level on the back side of the house is what I surmise to be some sort of Hobbit Door. (The Mrs insists it is a window, but since this is my Thurs DOORS posting, it is a door for today…)


Following our tour of the gardens, we sat on a very comfy sofa next to the fireplace and enjoyed tea and scones while the rain tapped on the windows…


Note #1 – The china pattern of that little teapot is the same pattern as my mother’s china set!!

Note #2 – I just found out today that Wyndcliffe Court Gardens permanently closed their doors on 25 September, 2016…

Note #3 – After enjoying our tea, we went and spent a wonderful afternoon at Veddw!!


My Foto Friday

I blame this posting on Norm…  He sponsors a weekly feature called “Thursday Doors”, which results in lots of pictures of doors being posted by bloggers worldwide every week. I started participating a few weeks ago. So… while sorting through my picture files yesterday for some door pics, I saw a few cool non-door pics that I felt compelled to share. And, not one to let a captive audience go un-awed, I decided to add just a couple more pics & related thoughts…

Sunrise this morning…


Pre-breakfast… (1.5 units of insulin)…


From my photo archives…

Guggenheim Museum, NYC – 2015


Guggenheim #2


I found the architecture and people to be more interesting “art” than the exhibits…

Guggenheim #3


One exhibit I liked…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Grace finds herself in NYC…


Welsh caterpillar


Welsh, ummmm…. whatever…


Me all dressed up going out on the town…



Thursday Doors – Wales

Just over 1 year ago, The Mrs & I took a walking holiday along a portion of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales, UK. At the time, I primarily took pictures of the incredible landscape and scenery, but did actually capture a couple of doors. This first was a gorgeous little house in Marloes.


A couple days later, we walked to St. Bride’s and saw this little archway that faces the bay…


This is the front door to the lovely B&B/pub we stayed at in Solva, The Cambrian Inn.  Our room was on the top (3rd) floor behind the little 6 panel window you can see to the left in the photo…


The last door is actually the gate of the main entry to the Flying Boat Centre Museum in Pembroke. We spent a couple hours in the museum talking to various highly knowledgeable and friendly staff members, and had scones and coffee and tea in their little refreshment area.



Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. It is courtesy of Norm 2.0


Birthdays, Backpacking, & Olympics…

I wonder if I can adequately cover the three topics introduced above in a relatively concise posting…. sure hope so, otherwise I will bore myself!

Last Thursday, August 4th, Billy Bob Thornton, my buddy Garrick, and I all celebrated our birthdays. Billy Bob couldn’t make the party here in Springfield, so Garrick & I had to party on without him! My celebrations lasted for a couple days, which is funny because I really am happy not spending too much energy getting excited about another birthday. Nevertheless, I got a fair pile of loot, including Dr. Who stuff, Deadpool stuff, Archer stuff, socks, boat stuff, camping stuff, and…. a WOOBIE !!! Here are two links that pretty much cover everything there is to know about a Woobie:  Military Perspective   Civilian Perspective  .


My new Woobie!!! It is presented tastefully in USMC Woodland Marpat and  Coyote pattern. And below is my other loot haul!!


Not bad considering all I asked for was a Back-hoe, preferably one with metal tracks… And just for the sake of disclosure, this stuff was all given to a 59 year old guy!

Let’s talk about backpacking for a moment now. I haven’t backpacked seriously since I was in my twenties, the last time probably being when I spent 10 days in the Colorado  Weminuche Wilderness backpacking. I have camped and hiked and traveled a lot since then, but that was the last time I packed everything on my back and took off on foot. Until this weekend. My buddy (and adoptive brother cuz we adopted each other) Garrick & I decided to go backpacking at Ramsey Lake State Park, which is about midway between Pana and Vandalia, Illinois off US Rte 51. We had been preparing for a few weeks, getting gear bought, or found, and organized. Coordinating food and water supplies. And we both decided to try Hammock Camping, which meant we didn’t need a tent, just a couple trees each. And a camping hammock. Garrick bought a hammock and a separate mosquito netting add-on, while I bought a hammock with an attached netting… We did a trial set up in the back yard a week or so ago, which motivated us to change the hanging system to a strap system because it would be less stress on the tree bark. Here we are in our hammocks at Ramsey Lake…


Ramsey Lake !  Saturday morning I drove over to Garrick’s just after 8 am in the TSV (Tactical Scooby Van), we sat and had a cup of coffee. Well 2 or 3, and chatted merrily away and then hit the road at the crack of, hmmmm 10-ish or so… I had already programmed the GPS for Ramsey Lake so we drove merrily along doing whatever the GPS told us to do until we got to Taylorville and stopped for coffee and a quick potty stop. All seemed to be going well until the GPS started taking us on very small and mostly unused little two-lane paths… The ranger at the park later told us that for some reason GPS devices are notorious for adding 6 miles to the trip from Taylorville area to the Park. We finally got to the Ranger station at the park about noon.


We checked in at the Ranger Station, paid for my overnight camping fee (Garrick gets to camp free cuz he is an Army Vet), used the flush toilet, then headed out to park the TSV at the Horse Campground area. In no time at all we had our packs on, and Garrick started to try to figure out the Garmin eTrex GPS. He does like his toys! The Ranger had given us a route suggestion that kept us off the most used horse paths, and would guide us into some quiet wooded areas, so we took his suggestion and between the eTrex, our maps, and my compass … we were golden!


Consulting the eTrex, Garrick is…


Minnows in a small, clear creek in case we run out of food…

004We did encounter a fair bit of mud on the trail from recent rains, but fortunately, very very few mosquitoes!

A couple miles in and we got off the horse path and onto a walking path. We stopped to enjoy the butterflies fluttering among the wildflowers. We walked another 30 minutes and stopped at the top of a hill, in the shade, for a light lunch. We both brought tuna salad snack-boxes (a 3 ounce can of tuna and 6 crackers – 23 grams of carbs) and I brought a couple packages of fig newtons and pureed fruit/veggie pouches. A perfect light and nutritious trail lunch!

According to the GPS, we hiked a bit over 3 1/2 miles, although it was pretty hilly, so we didn’t break any land speed records. We found a nice wooded area a little distance from a fire road and walked into the brambles looking for some trees sturdy enough and spaced just right to hang our hammocks.

So we spent a little time clearing the brambles from under our hammock areas, hung the hammocks, then settled down for a quick cup of coffee.  I could have easily fallen asleep and taken a long nap! But we needed to do some more training with the eTrex. So, leaving everything but water and some snacks, we headed back out onto the trail. We logged a couple more miles on our “training hike”, and found some brackish water along the trail, and some potable water to refill our canteens.


This is NOT the potable water, believe it or not…

By the time we returned to our campsite, we were hungry and tired. Fortunately, supper consisted of a package of dehydrated camping food…. Mexican Style Chicken & Rice. Just needed to add boiling water, which was easy because I brought along my “SoloStove“, a great little stainless steel wood burning base unit with a 60 ounce water pot on top. It is amazing how fast we were able to boil water using just twigs and small sticks for fuel! (This is a wonderful present The Mrs gave me last year, thinking we could take it on our Wales hiking trip. We opted to only take folding Esbit stoves for that trip, because all we needed to heat was water for our trail-side afternoon tea… and 60 ounces was a bit of overkill…)

{UPDATE: 8/13/2016 – Garrick was so impressed with my SoloStove that he just bought a smaller version of mine and is on his back deck right now boiling water for coffee for his bride and himself with it!}

We finished eating and cleaning up by 6:00, and I think I fell asleep around 7. I think it was 7:30 when I awoke enough to zip my mosquito netting closed, tuck my woobie under my head for a pillow, and started snoring. By about 1:30 am it was getting quite cool, so I got up, found my sleeping bag, and crawled back into my hammock cocoon, wrapped warmly up in the SB and my woobie. I lay there listening to the incredible cacophony of the various insects and owls owning the nighttime with their sounds. I slept soundly until about 6:30 am or so.

Sunday morning… quiet, cool, the woods gently brightening with the sunrise. I got out of my hammock, set the billy to boil, made coffee, and we sat in our hammocks just chillin’.


We had a simple breakfast of golden oat biscuits and clover honey sticks, followed by a couple handfuls of trail mix (the kind with cashews, raisins, and chocolate! YUM!) We were in no hurry, so we drank coffee and told stories for a while, then we both decided it was time to break camp. Taking down and packing the hammocks & sleeping bags took all of about 6 minutes…

We eventually got our packs closed up… Oh, the packs! I forgot to mention that we had each weighed our packs before we started this adventure. Garrick’s with water in his camelback and side pocket bottle tipped the scale at just under 30 pounds. When The Mrs & I were walking the Wales Coast Path, my day pack was about 25 pounds, with water. Well, my medium ruck, with water, scaled out around 48 pounds! When we were sitting around in our campsite, I was comparing our respective equipment to see where I carried so much more weight… Food, first aid gear, and diabetic supplies. Don’t want to run out of food on the trail so have lots of quick carb snacks & glucose tablets. And carry two extras of everything for the insulin pump and blood glucose meter. And I want enough emergency first aid stuff to handle anything that we might encounter on the trail… I don’t pack my EMT gear, but I come close to my First Responder kit… I took pictures of my gear for comparison based on used and not used on this trip.  I will discuss that in my next posting.

So I’ll wrap up with a photo of the little path we came to as we walked out of our bramble patch to head back to the horse trail and then back to the TSV… more tomorrow! Olympics get to wait too…


Grace’s Blog about Veddw

I’m guessing only a small handful of people will have any idea what the title means… Charles? Anne? John?  Did anyone make it??

The Mrs posted a blog entry about our visit to what WE consider the coolest and mostest wonderful garden IN THE WORLD…. Veddw, in Wales.

Here is the link to Grace’s blog posting about Veddw

Note: this is her third posting all  about the same day, presented in bite-sized pieces.  So, Charles, make sure you check out Part One…. Grace has gotten into the lavatory pictures groove and has an OUTSTANDING offering!!!!!


Last September after our return from our walking holiday in Wales and Ireland, I had blood vessels rupture in my left eye (diabetic retinopathy related). This caused partial blindness in the eye because of the pooling of blood. I had experienced a similar episode in my right eye with total blindness in July 2013. Since the initial rupture, I have had three opthamologists, several laser surgeries with over a thousand individual laser strikes in my eyes.  And now, I am going to have invasive surgery in the right eye to remove scar-tissue from the retina and replace the vitreous fluid which is still cloudy with pooled blood… My vision right now is correctable to 20/50 in the right eye and 20/20 in the left. Over the past few weeks as my vision has returned in the left eye, I have been able to read printed pages, see clearly at night, and depth perception returned…. Huzzah! I have been able to read using the computer by enlarging the type quite a bit, and started buying/borrowing books in Kindle format for the same reason. So life is good, and the gift of sight is still mine, with hopes for complete or nearly complete recuperation.

What this also means is my trying to return to documenting our holiday trip from my perspective…  The Mrs is way ahead now and has been posting video as well as photos! She recently posted about playing “tourists” in St. David’s, which was the end destination of our walking along the Pembrokeshire Coast.  Our next leg of the journey was to Ireland! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Since I have been waiting for my eyes to heal, I have been entertaining myself by driving The Mrs crazy and building an acoustic dreadnought guitar… Today I am going to mix up some fresh shellac and start shellacking the neck and body. This is quite a project and I am thoroughly enjoying it!!

A couple photos to close this entry…

Sunrise March 1st

Trussrod set

Installing frets
Installing frets

Preparations for Blue Water time…

We are starting to organize our trip logistics including snack items and boredom deflectors.  Amazon has proven to be a really great source for finding packaged food items that we can carry in our packs and/or pockets for a quick carbo boost. And at reasonable cost. This is important as:  1) I am a type 1 diabetic wearing an insulin pump, and 2) our hiking trips will be pretty much done all day in countryside without passing through any towns/villages.

One new item I just tried is an Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze by Munk Pack.  I read about these on another hiking blog and thought they sounded just about perfect. I got Apple Quinoa Cinnamon. Ingredients are pretty simple:  oatmeal, apple, apple juice, flax, quinoa, cinnamon, & citric & ascorbic acids. 19 carbs (3g of that is fiber), 2g protein, 80 mg potassium.  I like the flavor, it is easy to pack, and easy to ingest. These are going in my pack! And I checked the UK regulations to make sure I can bring with me… No Worries!!!

Munk Pack... yum!
Munk Pack… yum!

I have finished the arduous task of selecting reading material for the transatlantic voyage and the down-time during our hiking.  Eight books made the final cut. The toughest part now is not reading them before we travel!!!  The first two at the top of the list were written by Jean Reinhardt, an Irish writer I met through mutual blogging.

Jean's first 2 books
Jean’s first 2 books

These are historical novels set during the time of the Great Hunger in Ireland and afterwards. Some of my Irish ancestors came to the States at this time, so this holds a special fascination for me. I bought these copies on Amazon, and they are also available on AmazonUK. Jean’s 3 other published books are also available, which I intend to purchase after I read these first two.  Our Ireland walks will be a couple hours north of Jean’s location, so I will have to wait for our next trip over to get her to autograph my copies!  🙂

The Bad Tempered Gardener
The Bad Tempered Gardener

This next book is by a Welsh author, Anne Wareham, with photos by her husband, Charles Hawes. I found Charles first as he is an avid hiker and has a great blog about hiking in Wales. He has been my “answer man” throughout our struggles to organize our trip to Wales. Anne is an accomplished author on the subject of gardening, and her gardens (Veddw) are open for tours. We will be visiting their gardens on our trip!!  I am hoping to convince/cajole/bribe Anne into autographing my copy….

Enough about books… I was hoping to take the Hilu out on the lake today, but storms were threatening early this morning, then as the temperature and humidity rose, the wind petered out to a galeforce of 2 mph.  Now it is clouding over again, and the radar is indicating more rain.  I guess I might try to mow the lawn instead…

Watching the skies, and no wind...
Watching the skies, and no wind…

Lost Bridge Trail

We were planning to take this walk yesterday, rain was forecast… but we had thunderstorms and walking with the threat of lightening is not on my fun list. Today, however…. RAIN, but no t-storms….PERFECT. We have wanted to hike in the rain with our Frogg Togg rain suits, our new “waterproof” hiking boots, with our hiking packs encased in their rain suits. All so we could find any weaknesses in our rain preparations before our Wales trip. Our experiences in Great Britain are: if you are there for more than a couple hours, it is going to rain!

So we got geared up as the rain was falling steadily this morning (I slept in – got up at 6 am. The rain started about 6:30.) We drove over to the Lost Bridge Trail behind the DOT complex. And with a very steady and fairly strong rainfall to envelope us, we started walking.

010The LBT is an old rail-2-trail path that runs parallel to IL Rte 29 between Springfield and Rochester. We decided we would walk for an hour south towards Rochester then back because The Mrs had to work in the afternoon. We weren’t that focused on the distance as we were on spending time in the rain. So with 72 degrees F and a constant rain we moved along at The Mrs’ pace. We arrived at the the Tunnel that passes under Hilltop Road and had a water and snack break in the tunnel, out of the rain…

Hilltop Rd Tunnel
Hilltop Rd Tunnel

The Mrs happy and dry!

The Mrs in rain gear
The Mrs in rain gear

and me in my dry wet weather gear…The Mr

The Mr

We made good time as we walked, turning around at our 1 hour mark and headed back. The rain eased up a bit and we dropped our hoods for a while. We stopped at one point to admire how much rain water was flooding fields and what was normally grassy areas…

Lotsa water
Lotsa water

The banks of  Sugar Creek were flooded and the water was moving along rapidly in what is normally a lazy flowing little waterway.

Lost Bridge
Sugar Creek Bridge

We made really good time on return walk, and were back to the van at the 1 hour 44 minute mark. Total distance walked was 6.47 miles.  And best part of all… Boots – DRY inside. Rain suits – Waterproof (although not very breathable, so we did sweat a fair amount). Packs with rain covers -DRY.  We might consider GoreTex rain gear, but then, I don’t believe it will be this warm (mid to upper 70s) in the rain in Wales, so that may not be a major consideration.  (Time to email Yoda… er, I mean Charles!)

We might try this trail again in a few days if we can get a sunny day, and walk the entire 12+ miles just to get the distance under our belts. Our first day hiking the Pembrokeshire Coast Trail will be a 12 mile (or maybe 14?) day. And as our terrain dries up around here, we’ll start adding more hills to the mix.