Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My Hiatus

Hello again. I've been on something of a hiatus the last month (a lot of the usual bloggers have been quiet during this time as well), triggered by the visit of an aunt of mine from England in late July to early August and then having to do some work in Des Moines for my father.

My father lived in Des Moines alone until last March when, because of a back injury on top of his pre-existing early-stage Parkinson's disease, he went to hospital and then to a nursing home. He picked a facility in Bellevue, Iowa, where one of my sisters lives, and I took him there at the end of a tumultuous and unexpected week in mid-March. Happily, he has improved a lot since then, a combination of therapy and probably of having the right medications properly administered, and improved enough to move into an apartment adjacent to the nursing home. He's pretty chipper now.

His sister, Margaret, Auntie Margaret to me all my life and to Karla and the kids, decided to come see him. She fitted this in between her other trips, to Vietnam and Morocco and Italy earlier this year, to Belgium and Costa Rice coming later. Not bad for an 85-year-old retired schoolteacher.

She came right in late July and was here for two weeks, returning right before the latest terrorist airplane bomb scare in London but knocking out three of our weekends from the normal routine. Then, this past weekend, I did the 800-mile loop, here to Des Moines, where I met my sister and loaded her Suburban and my pickup with Dad's furniture and hauled it to Bellevue, then drove home. It'll take another trip to get the rest of what Dad needs, then some work on the house before we sell it. Looking back at the blog last year, it seems I had lots of time to go for rides and take photos; this year, many weekends since March have been taken with Dad-related work.

There wasn't much bike-related during Margaret's visit, but I noted the following:
  • The last entry was about a fire on the Short Line bridge over the Mississippi in Minneapolis. While Margaret was here, we ambled down to Bellevue by way of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona (Twelfth Night) and the American Players Theater (Measure for Measure) in Spring Green, Wisconsin. While in Winona, we popped into the Minnesota Maritime Art Museum which had opened for the first time that day. We were pressed for time; it was 4:30 when we got there and they closed at 5:00, so they let us in for free. They have a lot of gorgeous seascape paintings (weirdly out of place in the middle of the continent, but still lovely), some painted carving folk art display, and a set of photographs taken by Henry Bosse, an Army Corps of Engineers guy in the 1880s. Included in these was a photo of the Short Line Bridge in 1885 or so. It was pretty cool to see a 120-year old photo of the bridge that I had just included a photo of in my blog. I intend to return to the Museum when I have a bit more time.

    One might ask why there's a Maritime Art Museum in Minnesota. The story goes that a local senator built a big new house and had a big wall he needed a picture for and ended up looking at maritime scene paintings, many of which are conveniently large, and fell in love with the genre and started buying them. He is kindly loaning them to the Museum for their displays. Frankly, this all sounds a bit odd to me, but I also like this type of art and am happy it's here and that the Senator didn't fall in love with velvet paintings sold out of Ford Econolines in abandoned gas station parking lots.

  • We'll be appearing in Julius Ceasar at The American Players Theater. We actually went and saw Measure for Measure, but a staff guy came out afterwards and said that they wanted to record the crowd scene audio for Julius Ceasar so anybody who wanted to stick around afterwards could do so. We did. We chanted "Cea-sar, Cea-sar!" and catcalls and cheers and other bits, rehearsed briefly and then done in response to the text read by the Brutus actor or the director. There were about 200 of us in the crowd and it was great fun, the noise echoing off the surrounding hills (this APT is outdoors in the Wisconsin River Valley). If you happen to catch Julius Ceasar, when they play the crowd scene audio, that's me and the family and Auntie Margaret and 200 others!

  • In June I rode to Prescott and back to scout out the way in to the Cities from Wisconsin Highway 35. I wrote about this in Breakfast at Enrique's and noted how I'd seen a big country house called Cedarhurst that did afternoon teas. When Margaret said she was coming, we decided to go. It was excellent! A lot of tea places (Chickadee Tearoom in Lake City on the Three Speed Tour, for instance) are too cute and not all that good. We've seen a number of attempts go under over the years and often rightfully so. Margaret's an actual tea-drinking English person and Karla and I would auction off English teas at the Manor (our house) at church and they were very popular, due mostly to Karla's superb cooking and also the gin and tonics we'd administer later in the afternoon. In other words, we're a jaded audience. We were very impressed with the tea (the actual drink) and the accompanying 9-course food, from a scone to fruit to sandwiches to, at the end, lemon sorbet sitting in champagne in a glass bowl (this is a brilliant dessert, easy to do, you can scoop it ahead of time, showy and tasty). I'd highly recommend this place if you do teas.

  • Speaking of the Three Speed Tour, the 3ST guys held a special meeting at Barley John's to meet Auntie Margaret. She used a bicycle as transportation for a lot of World War II, including a period when she commuted 16 miles each way in and out of Birmingham. Her brother, my Uncle, was actually bike touring in France when the war broke out. She's not a Cyclist, particularly, but is a direct connection to a time when cycling was a common form of transport for a lot of people in the UK.

Now Margaret's gone home, the kids are back from camp, the bulk of Dad's stuff is moved, maybe I can get back to more normal life. It wasn't like I gave up riding during all this. In fact, distressed that most of my miles were accruing on the Big Red Schwinn (8-speed Nexus), I commuted a few times on the Atlantis. Karla and I have done a few rides, and she is getting more comfortable with the bike and with the distances I like to ride and may start commuting to church on the non-rehearsal days pretty shortly. Henry's been riding but somehow managed to bash up his rear derailleur pretty badly and it needs replacing. I've ordered a derailleur and shifters for his bike and will probably do that this weekend.


Karl said...

Welcome back! :)

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