More of the Story: St. Louis, Chicago, Madison, Fountain City, Breckenridge, and Beyond–Traveling the U.S.

From August until the beginning of October last summer, Barry and I drove 7,000+ miles across the U.S.    If you’ve been reading this blog, you know much of what we did. However, I’ve left out important experiences.  Now you can know more of our story.

Our Mercury Grand Marque in the Badlands. Hanging in the back passenger window is the Chinese ornament made by Monica, a ZAFU student, to give us good luck.  It worked; we had a safe and wonderful journey.

We saw loved family members, wonderful friends, and beautiful places.

Our first stop was St. Louis to see family.  My sister, Trish, and her husband, Chuck, let Johnny, Barry, and me stay with them for over two weeks while we visited everyone and searched for a car.

Part of my wonderful family: Barry, Trish, me, Wendy, Paul, Johnny, Jennie, Piper Lynn, Elle, Bryce, and Cole

Great kids: Piper Lynn, Elle, Bryce, & Cole

The visit  included celebrating several birthdays.

Piper Lynn now has a double digit age: 10

Mark's age is also a double digit. We celebrated his birthday at his and Jennie's house.

Celebrating Mark's birthday: Lori, Jennie, & Trish

John turned 21: a champagne breakfast at Aunt Trish & Uncle Chuck's house

For the afternoon, John requested his favorite museum: the St. Louis City Museum, a great interactive place created from recycled materials.   Check it out when you are in St. Louis:

St. Louis City Museum--it is great fun for everyone

The City Museum celebration. Front row: Bella, Leigha, Brianna, Dale; Back row: John, me, Al, & Lori

Bella and Leigha in a St. Louis City Museum tunnel too tight for most adults

Later, John’s celebration with his older cousin’s began.

May I see your I.D.?

Late at night along the St. Charles waterfront: Barry (designated driver), Chris, Val, & John

On another day, music and dancing along St. Charles’ Front Street with family.

Uncle Al & John

Lori & Brianna

Chuck, Trish, John, Coleen, Elaine, Lori, Bri, & Al

Besides having cute kids, our family also has cute dogs.

Rocky & John

From St. Louis,  we traveled  north.

In Springfield, Il. at a great Chinese restaurant with Howard, cousin Elaine, Barry, & John

We also visited friends, old and new.  We spent a couple of weeks in Chicago, one of my favorite places, first with Jeany in her house with wonderful garden on the north edge of the city, and then with Chris in her magnificent loft near Navy Pier.  It’s fantastic to spend time with good friends.

At the Chicago Millennium Park for the symphony with great long-time friends: Marsha, Chris, Jeany, & Jeany's son, Anthony

A walk through Millennium Park

John & Sam at Chicago Navy Pier

Marilyn (and John) on Chicago's Michigan Avenue

The Botanical Garden near Chicago with Jeany

With John and Sam, we experienced a Renaissance Fair in Wisconsin.

Renaissance Fair--fun

Then John flew to Vancouver to see friends and sail.  Barry and I went on to Madison, Wisconsin, to visit friends Patty and Tom.

Barry, Tom, & Patty

Tom served as our guide. We toured the University of Wisconsin campus, rode bikes along the lake, and went to the capital building

And we couldn’t be in Madison without being involved in a protest.

We joined the solidarity singalong -- "We shall overcome someday..."

Inside the capital building, Wisconsin

Next we were off to visit Servas hosts Joan and Jeff in Fountain City, Wisconsin.  The town is small, picturesque, and right on the Mississippi River.  Our hosts were Joan, a retired doctor now rescues injured raptors and is restoring a meadow and Jeff, a teacher who resisted the Vietnam draft.

Their lovely home has a view of the Mississippi River

Red tail hawk with Barry

The hawk had been hit by a car and can’t fly.  Joan trains the hawk, so she can take the him to schools to educate children. Joan and Jeff have built separate muses for their two rescued birds.

Owl with only one eye

Joan and the red tail hawk

Besides getting to learn about the raptors, we got to go kayaking with Joan and Jeff on the Mississippi River!  Ever since I first read about Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, I’ve wanted to paddle down the Mississippi.  I’m used to an out-rigger canoe, so for every stroke that Joan took and went straight, I took about four and zig-zagged.  Mainly we were in the backwaters of the Mississippi, but when we got out into the channel, it felt choppy and much like the ocean can be.  The whole experience was great!

Jeff and Joan in their cabin on the meadow


I got to help Joan weed the meadow that she is working to return to native flowers.

Joan working at the meadow

As is often the case with Servas visits, we met interesting people and got to have interesting experiences.

Next after visiting a few more Servas hosts along the way, we stayed with our long-time  friends Pam and Warren in Evergreen, Colorado.

Warren & Pam

Among other things, Pam is very involved in a no-kill animal shelter.

Take me home, please.

Cats in abundant supply: a new friend and me

Pam and another volunteer

Of course, we hiked.

Pam--& a natural mountain high

Bold mountain goat

Barry and I caught up with other  friends.

Richard and Kearin in Colorado

We stayed with Roy and Fran in Breckenridge; they treated us to yummy vegan food and great hikes.  Elevation does make a difference.

Barry and Fran

Roy and Breck

Then further west, we met our next Servas family in Grand Junction.  Everyone in the family is a scientist, so the house is filled with interesting collections.  Felicie, a mom, geologist, and potter, is rewriting with her sister their mom’s 1990 edition of Geology of Utah.  Amber just graduated with a degree in entomology; her favorite insect is a velvety ant.  Among their many scientific books and magazines, they have a collection of National Geographic magazines dating from the 1940’s!   A recent article on the collective society of weaver ants notes at if an ant dies of old age, it hasn’t been doing its job.  We send our young people to war; they send their old ladies.  Now that’s an idea we should consider.

Cool fossil

Felicie--We sat under huge cottonwood trees to watch the sunset and then talked until long after dark

Our drives through the Rockies were wonderful.

Besides mountains, we saw incredible land formations

Fantastic sights

From the natural splendor of mountains and healthy living, our next unreported stop was  Las Vegas–to visit family.

Cousins Barbara, Gerard, and their lively grandson Jacob

We couldn’t be in Las Vegas and not  enjoy the show–

Music and dance on Fremont Street

Yes, Elvis is alive

There's Michael!

It's a carnival on the street

We survived buffets and poker, had fun, and then headed back east.

Our next previously unreported stop was to visit friends in Sedona.  Kanela was John’s Hawaiian immersion teacher, Tim a writer for The Maui News.  They now own  Sedona Art Supply:  Their two sons are growing.

We stayed there a couple of nights and wondered if, as in A Night in the Museum,  the displays would come alive at night.  However, the paint brushes remained quiet, and everything seemed in its correct place each morning.  Good art pieces and wise sayings decorate the walls.

Kanela, older son Bailey, and his Jackson

At Crescent Moon Ranch, Noah and Bailey keeping cool on a hot Arizona summer day

Barry and Tim tramping about

Then onward to Santa Fe, New Mexico,  another stop with a Servas host.  We arrived at Ken’s 20-year-old intentional community just as the local Sierra Club was meeting to hear guest speaker Ray Powell, Planning Commissioner, speak.

The group impressed us with their activism and involvement.

Strolling through the local farmers’ market, we found treasures of color and smells.

Tasty organic local tomatoes

Roasted & fresh chilies

We took our collections from the market back to Ken’s and had a feast.

Ken & Barry with our farmers' market meal. We have roasted chili in our spaghetti primavera: delicious!

Santa Fe also has a vibrant music scene.  One night we went to the symphony.

Good music in a beautiful setting

The next night we saw Blues great Buddy Guy.

Buddy Guy

While we were in Santa Fe, we realized that we needed to get back to Maui soon.  However, I still wanted to visit Mike and Erika, my brother and his wife, in Florida, so we zipped through Texas (very, very dry), Louisiana,  (cotton growing), Mississippi (a blur), and on to Gainesville, Florida.

Mike, Barry, & Erika looking for alligators

Seeing the beginning of fall colors along the way,  we headed north.  For the first time since he left  Morehead University in 1966 to come to UH Manoa, Barry was back in Kentucky.

Barry back in Kentucky

Although we had seen them in St. Louis, we spent a night during a busy week  in Loveland, Ohio, with my nephew Paul and his great family, Wendy, Piper Lynn, and Cole.  We had a great feast, and then in the morning after the others had left for school or work, Wendy gave us a tour of Loveland before she needed to get to school.

Then it was on to see our cousin Vanessa and her growing family in Bloomington, Indiana, with its great university and love of basketball.

Enthusiastic fans

Ryan, Vanessa, and Carsyn gave us a tour of the campus, where Vanessa works.

University of Indiana campus: Vanessa, Carsyn, Ryan, & Barry

We visited Ashlyn at her school.

Similar to her mother, Elaine, Vanessa is a terrific cook. Vanessa shared family recipes. (I plan to  pass some on to you  in a future  blog).

Vanessa doing what she does so well

We zipped back through Springfield to see Elaine and Howard again and back to St. Louis where we saw all our family there and visited Elle and Bryce’s school to share some of our experiences in China.  Then we  were on the plane to Maui where we have many responsibilities and friends.

In our drive across the U.S., we saw beautiful places and met incredible people, but we saw that something must be done about our roads.

Trucks pack the highways--This was our view all too often

Why don’t we have a well-developed train system that would save gas and free our highways?  These goods could and should be transported other ways.   That was my only complaint.

We hope you too will travel to see family, friends, old and new, and wonderful places.

Bon voyage and  Aloha, Renée


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

2 responses to “More of the Story: St. Louis, Chicago, Madison, Fountain City, Breckenridge, and Beyond–Traveling the U.S.”

  1. Dorothy Craw says :

    It’s fascinating to read all about your adventures across the US. We are to be over at the end of May when Dan gets married to Melissa in New Orleans( she’s from Mississippi). We’re planning our own trip northwards to Chicago via Memphis and St. Louis so we’re hunting out some SERVAS hosts in all these places.

    All our love

    Dorothy & Alasdair, Newcastle upon Tyne

  2. reneeriley says :

    Hi Dorothy: We are leaving China on May 13 and will land in St. Louis where my family lives. We can’t offer you a place to stay there, but maybe we can coordinate our travels so we meet up with you and Alasdair, which would be wonderful. Congratulations to Dan and Melissa. Aloha & zai jian, Renee

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