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In America: Guns & Violence

Barry and I are on the road again.


Barry loading up our bicycles in St. Louis

At the beginning of March, we flew from Maui to St. Louis, MO, where much of my family lives.  My nephew is getting married there in April, so we will join the family celebration.  Before that event, we are taking a road trip to visit friends, family, high school and college friends, Servas hosts, and a newly discovered first cousin who lives in Boyton Beach, Florida.  We are now in Plantation, Florida, visiting dear friends, Fran and Roy, whom we have known for many years.  On our way, we have visited – among others – a Green Party Servas family in Memphis, TN, a Mennonite Servas family in rural Macon, MS, my terrific brother and his wife in Gainesville, and  three of Barry’s high school friends from New York, who now live in Florida. . . .  We have more great encounters ahead.

One of our stops along the way was in Memphis at the Iron Works Museum.  What we learned there in the Guns, Violence, and Justice special exhibit – about guns and violence in the U.S. – shocked us.


Guns and violence

Among many facts, we learned:

Percent of Americans who say they have a gun in their home in 2014:

By race –

White 41%, Hispanic 20%, Black 19%

By environment –

Rural 51%, Urban 36%, Suburban 25%

By ideology –

Conservative 41%, Moderate 36%, Liberal 26%

Number of guns per 100 people by country:

U.S. – 88.8

Yemen – 54.8  [this is a war-torn country so citizens are likely to have guns, but the U.S. has more]

Switzerland – 45.7

Finland 45.3

Serbia 37.8

Mass Shootings – since 1982 in the U.S. [when 4 or more people are killed in one incident]:

Total Mass Shootings – 84      Total Victims – 1,353

Type of Weapons Used in Mass Shootings:

Semi-automatic Handgun – 73

Rifle – 29

Revolver – 24

Shotgun – 23

Top Five Reasons Americans Own Guns:

60% – Personal Safety/Protection

36% – Hunting

13% – Recreation/Sport

8% – Target Practice

5% – Second Amendment rights

When I went to school in Southeast Missouri, a date could involve target practicing.  Now I’ve been in Hawaii for many years.  The low gun violence rate there is another reason to say, “MauiKa ʻOi” – Maui is the best.


“This group exhibition features artists using guns and gun references in their artwork to address issues impacting our lives. The works in Guns, Violence and Justice explore concepts of militia consciousness, individual and national accumulations of weapons, protection and aggression, recreation and justice. Several artists are examining their personal relationships with guns while others are engaging in a cultural critique in response to the increasing gun violence across the country.

Participating artists: Boris Bally | David Hess | Darryl Lauster | Bill Price | Stephen Saracino | Victor Hugo Zayas”

Go to –

Gun Deaths  – “33,636 people died from firearm related causes in the United States [in 2013].  63% of firearm related deaths were suicide [my emphasis]. 33.3% were homicide and 3.7% were unintentional, undetermined, legal interventions or war.

Of those gun deaths in 2013:                                    Male                       Female

Total White 25,044                                                    21,116                       3,928

Total Black  7,797                                                         7,016                          781

Total Hispanic  2,951                                                   2,595                          356

Total Asian or Pacific Islander 469                              381                           88

Total American Indian or Alaskan Native 326          281                           45

Many of these facts (with sources) surprised me by not fitting into  assumptions that I’ve made.


Guns converted into tools.

On the wall behind this artist’s piece of transformed guns: “In 1791, total estimated population of the U.S. – 3,929,214 at the same time total estimated firearms in U.S. – 118,629.  In 2016, total estimated population of the U.S.  325,025,419 and total estimated firearms in U.S. 357,000,000.”

There are more guns in the U.S. than there are people!  That’s ridiculous!  The current administration has passed a bill that allows people who have a history of mental problems to buy guns!!!  What’s wrong with us?

The exhibit presents gun facts and artists creations.


Twisted guns


QUAAK (Quintessential Ugly Amphibious Attack Kraft), 2016 – Steel, pewter, brass, bronze, cherry – by Bill Price


G-11-12GA GooseGun, 2016 – Steel, shotgun, brass, maple, mahogany, bumper guards – by Bill Price


Museum viewers reaction to this exhibit – some more informed than others

Besides the special gun exhibit, the museum also has metal pieces of beauty, humor, and whimsy.


Metal flowers


Beautiful metal gate


Metal bird


Banner image:  Loaded Menorah 2, 2016 – 925 silver, altered handguns, gun barrels and gun components (steel) (weapons courtesy of Goods for Guns Anti-Violence Coalition, City of Pittsburgh, PA – by Boris Bally

P.S.  More information: in  the Columbia, South Carolina April 2, 2017 paper, The State,  p. 9A article by Lisa Marie Pane, “Once-booming gun industry recalibrating under Trump,” notes: “President Donald Trump promised to revive manufacturing in the United States, but there’s one once-burgeoning sector poised to shrink under his watch: the gun industry.

Fears of government limits on guns – some real, some perceived – led to a surge in demand during President Barack Obama’s tenure and manufacturers leaped to keep up.  Over the decade ending in 2015, the number of U.S. companies licensed to make firearms jumped a whopping 362 percent.  But sales are down and the bubble appears to be bursting with a staunch advocate for gun rights in the White House and Republicans ruling Congress.”


In this March 9, 2017, photo, a row of AR-15 style rifles manufactured by Daniel Defense sit in a vault at the company’s headquarters in Black Creek. Ga.

Image from:

May all guns remain in their vaults.

Go to the Metal Museum when you are in Memphis.  And let’s put guns to good use: transform them into art.   Aloha, Renée


Barry’s Gleanings: U.S. 2016 Election – Thoughts

While some people in the U.S. are celebrating the recent presidential election, many are not.  In the most recent edition of Utne magazine, Eric Utne provides good links to a variety of American voices in his article “Now What?”:

American Flag
Photo by Fotolia/photolink

“Let’s start with Ronnie Bennett who puts out a must-read blog on aging called Time Goes By. She writes:

…It is not so long ago that when someone in the family died, people mourned for a long time. Custom dictated that mirrors in the home be covered, social life curtailed and that the mourners wear black (widow’s weeds) for up to a year and even more in certain cases.

Everything is faster now and today that kind of mourning is obsolete, even considered morbid. Not me. Given what has just happened, I do not believe it is unreasonable at all.

Two things for sure. Like some people in the comments on Wednesday’s post told us, I am wearing black. Complete black, even earrings. Maybe not all the time, but a lot of the time to remind me every day what a terrible thing we as a country have done.

My attire will probably lighten up in time but I own a lot of black clothing so I’m giving it all a new kind of symbolism and meaning.

Second, never again will I say or write that man’s name.

Neither of these silly, little protests will change anything. But they will keep what has happened in the forefront of my mind and that will inform choices I make from now on.

Mostly, right now, I want to be quiet and to learn to breathe again. I don’t know when I will be done with that and unlike the go-getters, I think it is a good thing to do – to be quiet and reflect.

The there’s the Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. She writes (

They will blame James Comey and the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame Bernie or bust and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry. But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves: neoliberalism, fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine… Trump’s message was: “All is hell.” Clinton answered: “All is well.” But it’s not well – far from it.

Charles Eisenstein, author of The More Beautiful World We Know in Our Hearts is Possible, ( writes:

For the last eight years it has been possible for most people (at least in the relatively privileged classes) to believe that the system, though creaky, basically works, and that the progressive deterioration of everything from ecology to economy is a temporary deviation from the evolutionary imperative of progress… The prison-industrial complex, the endless wars, the surveillance state, the pipelines, the nuclear weapons expansion were easier for liberals to swallow when they came with a dose of LGBTQ rights under an African-American President… As we enter a period of intensifying disorder, it is important to introduce a different kind of force… I would call it love if it weren’t for the risk of triggering your New Age bullshit detector… So let’s start with empathy. Politically, empathy is akin to solidarity, born of the understanding that we are all in the uncertainty together…

Rebecca Solnit, ( writes:

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.

Ricken Patel, writes:

The darkness of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity and progress the world has EVER seen, with a new, people-centered, high-integrity, inspiring politics that brings massive improvement to the status quo.

Michael Meade, ( writes:

Solstice means “sun stands still.” At mid-winter it means the sun stopping amidst a darkening world. We stop as the sun stops, the way one’s heart can stop in a crucial moment of fear or beauty; then begins again, but in an altered way… There may be no better time than the dark times we find ourselves in to rekindle the instinct for uniting together and expressing love, care and community.

Bill McKibben ( never fails to inform and inspire. He writes:

I wish I had some magic words to make the gobsmacked feeling go away. But I can tell you from experience that taking action, joining with others to protest, heals some of the sting. And throughout history, movements like ours have been the ones to create lasting change—not a single individual or president. That’s the work we’ll get back to, together.

And then there’s Dougald Hine (Crossed Lines,, co-founder of my favorite collapsarian website, Dark Mountain:

It’s not the apocalypse, of course, but if you thought the shape of history was meant to be an upward curve of progress, then this feels like the apocalypse… It reminds me of the conversations that sometimes happen in the last days of life, or on the evening of a funeral… There’s a chance of getting real… Donald Trump is a shadowy parody of a trickster, a toxic mimic of Loki. We don’t know the shape of the war that could be coming, nor how that war will end, and not only because we cannot see the future, but because it hasn’t happened yet: there is still more than one way all this could play out, though the possibilities likely range from bad to worse. Among the things that might be worth doing is to read some books from Germany in the 1920s and 30s, to get a better understanding of what Nazism looked like, before anyone could say for sure how the story would end… If someone were to ask me what kind of cause is sufficient to live for in dark times, the best answer I could give would be: to take responsibility for the survival of something that matters deeply. Whatever that is, your best action might then be to get it out of harm’s way, or to put yourself in harm’s way on its behalf, or anything else your sense of responsibility tells you. Some of those actions will be loud and public, others quiet, invisible, never to be known. They are beginning already. And though it is not the bravest form of action, and often takes place far from the frontline, I believe the work of sense-making is among the actions that are called for… This is where I intend to put a good part of my energy in the next while, to the question of what it means if the future is not coming back. How do we disentangle our thinking and our hopes from the cultural logic of progress? For that logic does not have enough room for loss, nor for the kind of deep rethinking that is called for when a culture is in crisis… I want to say that this is also history, though it doesn’t get written down so much: the small joys and gentlenesses, the fragments of peace, time spent caring for our children, or our parents, or our neighbours. These tasks alone are not enough to hold off the darkness, but they are one of the starting points, one of the models for what it means to take responsibility for the survival of things that matter deeply…. We’ll get through because we have to, the way we always have, one foot in front of another. Hold those you love tight. Be kind to strangers… There is work to be done.

Each of these thinkers and visionaries has a finger on the pulse of our times. If you’re not reading them, I urge you to do so. You won’t regret it.

Eric Utne is the founder of Utne Reader. He is writing a memoir, to be published by Random House.


Eric Utne from –

Image from –

You’ll find interesting readings – and ideas.  Aloha, Barry (and Renée)

Thought for the Day: Our Farmers

Since President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863, those of us in the United States have been celebrating Thanksgiving  Day on the final Thursday in November.   We give thanks and count our many blessings – and usually eat too much with family and friends.


One important blessing is our many farmers who provide the food we eat.

A way to become more conscious and make more informed choices about the food we have offered is to get to know our local farmers and their concerns.


If you live in Hawaii, a great way to do that is to join the Hawaii HFUU 2016 colored w microns Farmers Union United, a vital community group.  Whether you are a family  farmer, an avid backyard gardener, or just like to know where you can get good local produce, HFUU offers wonderful workshops, informative meetings, and works on important agricultural concerns.

For more information and to join, go to:

Current President of Maui Farmers Union United and Vice President of Hawaii State Farmers Union United, Vincent Mina says about the challenges of farming (and everything else),

“If you do anything substantive, it will be hard.  Just get on with it.”


Vincent Mina – from the HFUU home page.

Wherever you are in the world, check out what your farmers are doing.   “Get on with it.”

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family — and all who provide for you.

Aloha, Renée


A Witch? A Relative? Mary (Bliss) Parsons

On our recent trip home to the Midwest, we learned about an early ancestor–a controversial one: Mary (Bliss) Parsons, who went to court twice under suspicion of being a witch – and survived.   Cousin Elaine shared what she had learned from Lin, our Wisconsin cousin who has studied much about our genealogy.  Mary (Bliss) Parsons is our eighth great-grandmother.

Born in Gloucestershire,  England, in 1628, Mary  emigrated from England to Hartford with her family and later married Joseph Parsons.   Mary and Joseph settled near Springfield and later Northampton, Massachusetts. The couple had 11 healthy children (who mainly flourished).  The family joined the church and experienced financial success.  Among other ventures,  they opened the first tavern in Northampton.  Probably as a result of her good fortune, Mary Bliss Parson was suspected of being a witch.

Because neighbor Sarah Bridgman had spread rumors most particularly insinuating that Mary was a witch,  in 1656, Joseph Parsons took Sarah to court.  Joseph charged Sarah Bridgman with slander on behalf of his wife.  Mary Parsons had her name cleared in court, but the suspicions remained.  Eighteen years later, Mary Parsons was charged in court with being a witch.

Mary Bliss Parsons with a baby

Young Mary Bliss Parsons with a baby


According to Wikipedia, Mary Bliss Parson’s Witchcraft trial began in 1674, decades before the infamous Salem Witch Trials.  “She was one of many persecuted in the decades before, illustrative of the mindset common in accusals of witchcraft that targeted the richer members of society rather than the poorer outcasts. . . What sparked the accusations in 1674 was the sudden death of neighbor Sarah Bridgman’s daughter, Mary Bartlett. Mary Parsons’ body was searched for “witch marks” [skin lesions].  In 1675. . . [Mary (Bliss) Parsons] was sent to Boston for the trial but found innocent of witchcraft. . .

According to a blog on “John Bliss – Miner Descent” – “Local tradition has remembered Mary as being ‘possessed of great beauty and talents, but…not very amiable…exclusive in the choice of her associates, and…of haughty manners’” [She also had 11 children in a time before washing machines or electric stoves–and so had no time for idle chatter].


The site also says the following photo although often identified as Mary Bliss Parsons – is NOT her:

Not - Mary Bliss Parsons - this hat would not be the thing to wear to your witchcraft trial

Although not Mary Bliss Parsons, the woman wearing this hat fits our Halloween stereotype of how a witch would look.

Even though Mary Parsons was found not guilty,  rumors did not die down, and Mary and Joseph Parsons eventually moved back to Springfield in 1679-80.

Not guilty

Not guilty

According to Mass Movements:

“Although Mary Parsons occupied a far more secure social position than almost all of the other women charged with witchcraft in early New England — after all, she was the wife of one of the richest, most respected men in western Massachusetts — her experience fit the norm in other ways. Middle-aged women were the most likely to be accused of witchcraft. The issues of jealousy, personal animosity, and family feuds that were so evident in her case would fuel the Salem Witch hysteria  of 1692 as well.

Perhaps Mary (Bliss) Parsons

An image perhaps of  Mary (Bliss) Parsons

The horror that began in Salem Village (present day Danvers) and spread to almost every town in Essex county saw women, children, and men, including the former minister of Salem Village, hauled before magistrates. At one point some 170 accused witches were being held in jails in Ipswich, Salem, Boston, and Cambridge. Between June and September of 1692, authorities hanged 19 people and pressed one to death; four more died in prison, awaiting trial. In 1693 the madness ended [after the wife of a judge was accused of being a witch. No longer was spectral evidence allowed in court — that an accused person’s spirit or spectral shape appeared to the witness in a dream at the time the accused person’s physical body was at another location].  There would be no more convictions and executions for witchcraft in New England, although it would be another century before the belief in witches lost its hold on the people of the region.


A Delusion of Satan, by Frances Hill (Da Capo Press, 1997).

Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, by John Putman Demos (Oxford University Press, 1982).

“The Goody Parsons Witchcraft Case: A Journey to Seventeenth-Century Northampton.”


Mary Parsons lived for thirty years after her husband died in 1683.  She continued to amass fortune and endured rumors of Witchcraft for the rest of her life.  In 1712, Mary (Bliss) Parsons died at the age of 84.

From: <

Mary and her husband had many descendants

Mary and her husband Joseph had many descendants

Our family story is that Mary Parsons was one of the few women charged with witchcraft who was allowed to defend herself in court.  Her arguments were believed, and she was acquitted  of the charge.

Another version, however,  is that her husband paid to have her acquitted.

Two descendants have written books about Mary Bliss Parsons:

1) Kathy-Ann Becker has written SILENCING THE WOMEN: The Witch Trials of Mary Bliss Parsons – “the true story of what happened to a Puritan woman who was too beautiful, too rich, and too outspoken for her times”  – The novel is historical fiction, a love story.  [I’m thinking a life of having and caring for 11 children and her husband in the 1700s – and being accused throughout her life of being a witch – might not be that romantic, but I haven’t read the book.  If you do read it, please let us know how you like it].   Reviewers give it 4.9/5 stars.

“Silencing the Women”

2) In The Strong Witch Society: The Diary of Mary Bliss Parsons, the author D.H. Parsons says Mary has channeled her story through him.  This book is the first of three volumes.  D.H. Parsons notes, “What is not so well known is that Mary was a member of a small but powerful group of witches, The Strong Witch Society. After her death in 1712, it became Mary’s purpose to somehow “awaken” in the mind and spirit of one of her future descendants in order to reinstitute The Strong Witch Society. The author is that grandchild. What unfolds on the pages of this book is a rollercoaster of supernatural events and ‘lessons’ designed with the express purpose of calling together the remaining Strong Witches in order to divert an impending world disaster. This book is about far more than just Witches. It introduces and covers many other subjects including Alien Contact, Inter-Dimensional Travel, the Natural Disasters our world is facing today, political crises, and etc. It offers Simple solutions on how to deal with all of those problems before it is too late”

Reviewers give it 4.6/5 stars.  The author says it is a non-fiction book.  I’ve read the first 40 pages in the first of three volumes.  So  far, I’ve not learned of any “Simple solutions” to any of our modern problems, but I have many pages to go.  If you finish this set of books before I do, let us know what you think.

The Strong Witch Society

The Strong Witch Society

Whatever is true, Mary Bliss Parsons was a strong, resourceful woman, one who had 11 children and lived to be 84 back when there were no antibiotics, many women died during childbirth, and the average longevity rate in the early 1700s in the U.S. was 36 years old!

Perhaps Mary Bliss Parsons was a witch (a good witch).  🙂

What about you?  Do you have any suspected witches or warlocks in your family history?

Happy Halloween.  May all the spirits be good to you.  Aloha, Renée

Bali and Mainland U.S. – our trip continues

Barry and I had a fantastic and varied trip last year.  It took us time to make it back home.  For about two months, we stayed in green and hot Ubud, Bali.

Bali spiders

Bali spiders – even the insects are colorful

Bali - green and lush

Bali – green and lush

Surprising art

Surprising art

And then flew – via Qatar and Philadelphia – on to St. Louis.

We got there at the beginning of April – in time to see –

The last of the snow in my sister's yard.

The last of the snow in my sister’s yard.

And family:

Front row: Brother Mike and his wife Erika came in from Florida, my sister Trish between Barry and me, and cousin Coleen - on the Missouri River

Front row: Brother Mike and his wife Erika came in from Florida, my sister Trish between Barry and me, and cousin Coleen – on the Missouri River

Niece Jennie, nephew Chris' wife Val, and our youngest family member - Cooper :)

Niece Jennie, nephew Chris’ wife Val, and our youngest family member – Cooper 🙂

Nephew Chris with Quinn

Nephew Chris with Quinn

Near where we ate lunch, on this spring day on Main Street, St. Charles, MO, we saw this bush. Can you see what's there?

Near where we ate lunch, on this spring day on Main Street, St. Charles, MO, we saw this bush. Can you see what’s there?

Lots of snakes - big and little sunning themselves. All beings happily greeted the sun1

Lots of snakes – big and little sunning themselves. All beings happily greeted the sun!

Mike, Erika, Barry, and I drove to Effingham, IL to see our cousin Elaine; she knows much about our family history and always has something for us to learn.  She took us to the grave of our Great-Great Grandpa Benjamin Backensto (the grandpa of my Grandma Ola Edith Riley, who made the terrific pineapple-upside-down cake).

Mike, Erika, & Barry listening to Elaine explain our family history. The land for the church and cemetery were donated by an ancestor.

Mike, Erika, & Barry listening to Elaine explain our family history. The land for the church (in the background) and cemetery — in Loudon Township, near Beecher City, IL — was donated by Great-Great Grandpa Backensto.

Now what had been his land – has many producing oil wells!   If only Great – Great Grandpa Backensto had given the land to us!   But he had many of his own children, so that land didn’t go all that far, and he held it generations ago.  😦


Near Beecher City, IL – the cemetery where our great-great grandpa is buried

Benjamin Backensto - died Jan. 12, 1873 - age 63 years and 10 months - a notable age for the time

Benjamin Backensto – died Jan. 12, 1873 – age 63 years and 10 months – a notable age for the time when life expectancy in the U.S. was 45!

We also learned about an even earlier ancestor–a controversial one: Mary (Bliss) Parsons, who was charged with being a witch – twice – and survived.

Besides learning of ancestors, we caught up with young members of our family.

Mike and Kegan searching for treasure under the refrigerator

Mike and Keegan searching for treasure under the refrigerator

We had a wonderful visit with our cousin Elaine.

Elaine's wonderful pineapple upside down cake

Elaine’s delicious pineapple upside down cake – the recipe is in an earlier post.

Back near St. Louis, we had lots of family gatherings at my sister’s house.  We did lots of eating,  talking, and laughing.

Trish, Elaine, and Erika

Trish, Elaine, and Erika

Mike and brother-in-law Chuck - solving world problems

Mike and brother-in-law Chuck – solving world problems

Kegan, brother Al, and nephew Jason - in the foreground

Cousin Keegan, brother Al, and nephew Jason – in the foreground.  We saw lots of other family members: Brianna, Lori, Dale, Fred, soon to be family Amy.

More young Rileys :)

More young Rileys 🙂

Outside - lots of turtles

Outside along the Missouri River bank – lots of turtles – on a walk with Trish and Chuck

Lone biker - out on a spring run

Lone biker – out on a spring ride

The geese were there


Then we headed to the West

Then Barry and I headed West.

We needed to deliver our car

We needed to deliver our car “Russell” to the Seattle docks, and we got one last road trip in this great touring car.

From friends Fran and Roy's deck in Breckenridge, Colorado

From Fran and Roy’s deck in Breckenridge, Colorado

For a day or so in Breckenridge, we thought we were going to be snowed in.  But we were with friends Fran and Roy;  they are good company (and have a fireplace and good food), so we weren’t worried.

Barry staying cozy in Breckenridge

Barry staying cozy in Breckenridge

However, the storm didn’t really hit us.  Instead of huddling inside, we walked beautiful trails through snow covered trees with Fran and Roy and ate wonderful vegan meals and talked and laughed over great dinners.

Then we were on our way to Bountiful, Utah, where we stayed with a lovely Servas family for two days.  We got involved in the annual Bountiful food drive.  Cars, trucks, vans filled with Boy Scouts (sponsored by the Mormans) – and lots of donated food – came to the food bank site in a continuous parade from about 8 – 11:30 a.m.   It was really an impressive event.

Barry and I also wandered around Salt Lake City:

From the Salt Lake City Public Library

From the Salt Lake City Public Library

At the University of Nevada, we got to see the women’s gymnastic championships – awesome.

We saw the PAC - 12 Women's Gymnastic Championships

We saw the PAC – 12 Women’s Gymnastic Championships – the best attended women’s sports event in the U.S.

We always love getting to meet Servas hosts and seeing a glimpse of their lives.  Our Bountiful Servas hosts were great.

Then, if you know Barry, you know he likes to play Texas hold’m poker.  And Reno is between Salt Lake and Seattle.

A magician show with cool dancers

A magician show with cool dancers – Madame Houdini in Reno

I don’t gamble – at all.  I don’t even want to take my chances at the slot machines.  Instead, weird person that I am, I went to a great Pilates studio.

xxx Pilates in Reno

Club Pilates Reno – new facility, great teachers

Lots of food - some of it could be healthy

Lots of food – some of it could be healthy

Barry got his poker fix - and we had fun

Barry got his poker fix – and we had fun

I will leave you here for now.  We had more road ahead of us before making it back home to Maui.

Aloha, Renée

Travel Tip: Park Free with FlightCar

FlightCar isn't in Asia yet, but it could be coming

FlightCar isn’t in Asia yet, but it could be coming

In some ways, traveling gets easier (and sometimes cheaper) all the time.  For instance, according to the June 2015 issue of International Travel News: A Celebration of Travel, you can possibly rent out your car while you are traveling – and not have to pay for airport parking.

So far, FlightCar lots, which offer that service, are  located at several U.S. airports: Boston Logan, Philadelphia, Washington Dulles, Baltimore, Austin, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Seattle-Tacoma, Portland, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Your car must be less than 14 years old, have fewer than 150,000 miles, and have a book value of less than $60,000. Even it your car isn’t rented, parking at the airport will still be free.

“On any car rented, FlightCar carries a $1,000,000 insurance policy covering bodily injury, damage or vandalism to the vehicle, and any third-party property damaged by the car.  FlightCar also reimburses for costs of repairing mechanical damage due to negligence or poor driving by the renter” (62).

Renters must meet specific qualifications such as have no major violations on their driving records and be at least 25 years old.

For more information, to list your car, or rent a car at a reasonable rate, go to  Let me know if you use FlightCar and how you like it.  Maybe, we will have it on Maui in the future.

Happy traveling.

Aloha, Renée

The Great River Road – There and Back Again


Downtown St. Louis art.

You know about our Katy Trail adventures if you’ve been reading our blog, but Barry and I also had great experiences with family, friends, and Servas hosts when we were on the U.S. Mainland in the fall.

My family lives in the suburbs of St. Louis, so if the Cardinals are in town, they like seeing games.  When Barry and I were there, the Cards were playing the Chicago Cubs (my team – although my staunch Cardinal fan family don’t really understand).

Cardinal Fan!

Cardinal Fan! – a bit flamboyant one!


Chuck, Trish, and Jennie, all Cardinal fans!

One of the reasons we went to that particular game is because my great-niece Elle got to sing with her school choir during the seventh-inning stretch.


Elle, in the center, with her classmates.


Elle, left front, singing at the Cardinal stadium.


Cardinal home run!

The Cardinals won the game, but as a true Cub fan, I was pleased that the Cubs had scored (6 to 2).


Jared, a Maui “son,” drove up from Kentucky where he was working until the end of October and then heading off for India and Australia. We were happy to see him.


Val and Jared at Q’s in St. Charles.

We also spent a great afternoon of music in Festus, Missouri: Blue Grass, Cajun, Country, Blues . . .


Festus Music Festival.

Lyrics that stood out for me went something like, “I don’t have to worry about feeding my family tonight/ I just ran over a 10 pound possum in the road, all right!”  🙂

Then Barry and I started our car trip.   Our plan was to follow “The Great River Road”–the Mississippi River north to its source.

But first, we wanted to visit my cousin Elaine who now lives in Effingham, Illinois.  She always suggests surprising and interesting outings.  We went, for instance, to the Boos Butcher Block Factory.


Surrounded by beautiful and useful wood pieces, Norbert, me, and Elaine in the Boos factory showroom.


Barry and Kegan racing outside the Effingham library.


Firefly Grill, a very nice place to eat in Effingham, Illinois.  The restaurant uses Boos butcher blocks as tables too!

We always learn more about Riley family history when we visit Elaine.    She set us up to meet Don Riley, my grandpa’s nephew, and so a cousin to me, and his wife, Wilma.  Among others, he told us about Fern Riley, his big sister by four years.  Don said she could throw a ball further than any of the boys, and once she and friends made themselves very sick smoking something on top of a chicken coop while he stood as decoy if their mom came looking.

After high school, Fern started working at the Catholic hospital in town.  She loved it (and there is something of a family scandal that says she was thinking of becoming a nun–which just isn’t done in proper Protestant families).  She was working in the St. Anthony’s Hospital nursery the night in April 1949 when the fire swept through the building.

St. Anthony Hospital fire.

St. Anthony Hospital fire.


Book about the fire by Donna Riley Gordon, Don’s daughter.


Plaque in the nursery: Fern Riley tried to save nursery infants during the St. Anthony Hospital fire.

She could have saved herself, but instead she tried to rescue the infants.  Life magazine recognized her as a heroine.   She was 22.

As a result of that devastating fire that took the lives of 77 – patients, family members, responders, and staff – in just a few minutes, the fire codes for hospitals in the U.S. changed.  No more open stairways in hospitals, and   since then, hospitals in the U.S. must have electrical wire coating that won’t give off toxic fumes.  See more in Terror to Triumph by Donna Riley Gordon, Don Riley’s daughter.


Cousin Don with Barry and Elaine  explaining Riley history.  Fern, Donna, and many other Rileys are buried here.

Barry says that Don talks and walks like a Riley. 🙂

Then on to Chicago:

There besides the predictable and fun experiences of seeing friends, eating good food, and listening to music in Chicago, Barry and I went with friend Jeany to bicycle around the Chicago Botanical Garden.  We got involved in a Parks event to encourage city-dwellers to try new things.


Barry shot a bulls-eye on his first try!! Jeany and I didn’t do so well.


We saw lots of fish, turtles, and geese.


Blue heron too!

Of course, we spent time eating wonderful meals with great friends.


Chris, Aiden, Allie, me, and Jeany at Sunday brunch.


Kristine, me, Jeany, and Chris.

Chicago lakefront - Lake Michigan, a wonderful place to be.

Chicago lakefront – Lake Michigan, a wonderful place to be.


Chris on a bridge over the Chicago River.


The Chicago Bean at Millenium Park in Chicago.


Chicago school kids.

As part of our trip to visit friends, family, and “The Great River Road,” we also wanted to visit a few Servas hosts.  We picked a family who has for 25 years run an organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm in Wisconsin.  They were willing to host us on short notice, so off we went to Plymouth, Wisconsin.

The family provides fresh, organic vegetables to 800 families in the Milwaukee area!  We arrived on a day a big shipment had just been sent out, but Barry and I  still got to spend  a glorious, sunny day  working on the farm!


Kale and Swiss chard: organic and tasty!

Joanne and Angel in the fields.  Their CSI family spent a few hours working on the farm in exchange for boxes of organic produce!

In the fields, Angel, Joanne, and I crated freshly dug up carrots. Their CSA family spent a few hours working on the farm in exchange for boxes of organic produce!

Angel doesn't look happy, but I promise we were safe although it was my first time driving this farm cart.

I promise we were safe although it was my first time driving this farm cart.

These were the "seconds"; we picked them for the family to use during the winter.  The best ones had already gone off to Milwaukee xx.

These were the “seconds”; we picked them for the family to use during the winter. The best ones had already gone off to CSA families in Milwaukee.


Esther, Anneka, and Barry dicing sweet peppers for the freezer.


Tomatoes ripening on the vine.


The girls: Anneka, Esther, Bernadette, and Emily.


The family took us to the top of a nearby firefighting look-out tower so we could see the spectacular fall colors.


Fall in Wisconsin.


The view from the top of the fire look-out tower.


And the food on the farm? Healthy, delicious, fresh from the fields. Anneka and Peter after eating all their tomato basil soup!

Barry and I had wandered far from the Mississippi River; we were actually on the east side of Wisconsin, so we started heading west with a stop in Eau Claire to see our great family friend, Aunt Kathie.

"Aunt" Kathie

Aunt Kathie – we spent a delightful night and day with her.

We did find “The Great River Road” and got as far north as Duluth, Minnesota, but the weather was too cold and wet for me to ride my bike.

The Duluth Grill, featured in "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives."

The Duluth Grill, featured in “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.”

The bikes stayed on the back of our car the rest of the trip :(

The bikes stayed on the back of our car the rest of the trip 😦

We did hear a “northern tale” when we stopped in a small town Minnesota diner that had been recommended for its pie.  Barry and I were the only outsiders there, and we could easily overhear one table of men telling of  a trap baited with M&M’s for the bears.  Instead of a bear, the trap owner found six wolves caught inside! Was this a tall tale?  Could bear and wolves like M&M’s too?


Are we just gullible tourists?

We wanted to see my brother Mike and his wife Erika who were coming in from Gainesville to St. Louis, so we started south.

Minneapolis xxx Sculpture Garden

Minneapolis  Sculpture Garden – fantastic.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden - some were fun!

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – some of the installations were fun!

Because we now rely on our GPS instead of actually looking at a map, we were quite surprised in our trip south from Minneapolis to find ourselves crossing a bridge into Wisconsin with a sign that said “Fountain City” to our left.  Now we had been in Fountain City to visit Servas hosts Joan and Jeff three summers earlier.  They are the ones who got us to canoe on the backwaters of the Mississippi River, something I’d wanted to do since I’d read of Huckleberry Finn’s adventures.  And they had come to visit us on Maui.  Barry and I couldn’t just drive on by although if we had looked at a map at all, we would have known where we were headed and given them some lead time.  Jeff answered the phone and said to come on over.  And we did, driving as slowly as possible the five miles or so to their house.

In true Servas hospitality, they brought out a great dinner and welcomed us into their home.


Fresh tomatoes from the garden here too and a yummy soup at Joan and Jeff’s.


Joan with her newest rescued raptor, a horned owl.

Joan and Jeff had been invited to a party on the Mississippi River, so Barry and I tagged along.  We liked the people and the home was spectacular, but what surprised me the most were all the roosting pelicans on the Mississippi!

Artist home on the Mississippi

Artist home on the Mississippi.  Going out to see the pelicans.


Joan and I got taken out in a motor boat to see the pelicans at sunset!


Hundreds of pelicans on the Mississippi River.


Pelicans at sunset.



Party on the Mississippi River – nice people, good food.

Also, Joan is now a quite excellent potter, so I got to go to class with her the next day.


Ceramic class


I got to try too. With much assistance, I now have a spoon holder and a small bowl thanks to Joan and Nancy.

Moving on back toward St. Louis, we found Effigy Mound National Park.   Native Americans built these mounds hundreds of years ago.  They are best seen from the air!


Animal and bird-shaped mounds were created by Native Americans.

Through all the colored leave my short hike to reach the mounds was magical.


Trail to the Effigy Mounds.


Effigy Mound Forest.


An effigy mound.


Fall in Wisconsin

SFlakew SFyellowleavesw

The Effigy Mounds Museum records the “discovery” of the mounds and shares wise words from Native Americans.

Black Hawk’s reminder, “I loved my villages, my cornfields, the home of my people, and that’s why I fought so hard for it.  It is yours now. Please take care of it.”


On the road back toward St. Louis, we saw this truck and another reminder.  Do you know how your dinner was treated?


Chickens bound for someone’s table 😦

Back in St. Louis, we found family, soccer games, good people.


Mike (who may never grow up), Erika, and Quinn.


Brianna playing soccer.

Bri and Al at a soccer game

Bri and coach and grandpa, Al, at a soccer game.


Soccer fans: Jennie, Barry, Mike, Erika, and Trish. Elle, Bri, and Bryce all played good games.


Vanessa, Jennie, Trish, and Elle


Carsyn, Ashlyn, Quinn, and Val.


Erika and Ryan


Barry and Chris


Cousins and friends: Elaine and Coleen.


Lori and Quinn


Quinn and friends.


Final St. Louis pizza with family: Al, Bri, Lori, Erika, Mike, and me.

Barry and I had a great Mainland trip and  look forward to our next visit.  There’s much more to see along the Great River Road, more Servas families to know, and always wonderful family and friends to visit.

We did get back to Maui in time for Halloween – and to spend time with friends and these two lovable characters before they left for Seattle, Washington, and we headed off for another adventure too.


Maui Halloween: Clair and John

We hope you get out on the road too.  There’s much to see, to learn, and to enjoy.

Aloha, Renée

The Katy Trail – On Our Bikes Again

SF-KTbikeshadowwHeading out again to enjoy/tackle the Katy Trail after a great weekend in St. Louis with my family, Barry and I  felt better prepared (we carried less weight, had tools accessible, and had experienced biking miles each day), and this time, we drove our bikes to trail heads where we could reach good accommodations.  We did get to Clinton, at the west end of the Katy Trail although we didn’t bike all sections of the trail.  The second part of our trip began in Columbia, Missouri.  Highlights of our next five days on the trail include –



A land turtle sunning itself in the middle of the Katy Trail


A juvenile red-tailed hawk (I think) in a conservation area near Rocheport.


Migrating geese on the Missouri River.

The Katy Trail –

We love the trail, and for much of the time, we were the only people there.


The Katy along the Missouri River, the longest river in the U.S.




Trail head shelters offer information, shade, and in one instance for us, protection from the rain.


Perche Creek Bridge in McBaine


The Katy has one tunnel, the 1893 MK&T Train Tunnel, the  243 feet long, dark tunnel is near Rocheport.


The spur trail between Columbia and the Katy trail head was the most crowded part of the trail for us. Lots of joggers and dog walkers join bike riders on this well-used path.


A bench along the Katy Trail spur from Columbia


Columbia, Missouri, has three major universities. When I popped into this public library, I was so impressed with the collection, I almost wanted to live in Columbia.

Enjoying the college town atmosphere, we slept in Columbia for two nights and spent the days riding the Katy in different directions.

Surprises?  From the Katy in the section between Rocheport and Jefferson City, we could see Native American petroglyphs carved high on the cliffs.


Native American petroglyphs  on Missouri River cliffs.

Problems?  We saw lots of kudzu, the parasitic vine that blankets plants so very little needed light gets through.  I wanted to rip it all out.   Although the vines come out easily, they  grow back quickly and kill the plants they cover.



And we saw evidence of nitrogen runoff from the fields — probably too much chemical fertilizer.


Green scum covered this pond at the edge of soybean fields.

Also, why didn’t we see abundant wildlife?  The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook, 8th edition published in 2005, describes numerous birds on the trail: “St. Louis Audobon Society members had already identified about 12 birds in their first two minutes of being in McBaine: yellow rumped warbler, eastern phoebe, killdeer, grackle and the red-winged blackbird to name a few” (81).

Although we rode through McBaine, which was practically washed away in the 1993 flooding Missouri River, we saw few birds there or anywhere along the trail.  Is it because we are not practiced bird watchers?  Were we there at the wrong time of the year?  Especially in the conservation area where we saw the hawk, we did hear several birds, but I didn’t see even one red-winged blackbird.  Where are the birds?


Barry on the Katy

Entrepreneurial Spirit –   In the small towns along the now defunct rails some small businesses are evident.  Some wonderful old, restored houses are B&B’s catering to the Katy Trail riders.  The towns offer investment opportunities to daring entrepreneurs.


Here’s one house in Boonville that’s for sale: Asking price $9,999!


It does need some work!.


Many other homes have been well restored.


The Missouri headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution.


Boonville has 450 sites on the National Register of Historic Places; many are homes on High Street.


What was once a shoe factory near the train station in Boonville is now a condominium.


Abigails, a restaurant with gourmet, healthy choices in Rocheport – a wonderful find.


Larry, the owner of Trailside Cafe in Rocheport offers good food – and good bicycle help.  With my portobello mushroom, grilled onions and green peppers, and feta sandwich, I had a lovely mound of fried okra – tasty!

History?  According to information on the Katy, we learned much about Missouri.  For instance, we learned that William Becknell and his handful of men left Franklin, Missouri, in 1821 with horses and mules for trade and headed west.  They met Mexican soldiers who said that Mexico had won independence from Spain and that trade with Mexico would be welcomed.  Becknell’s party went on to Santa Fe, traded their goods, and returned to Franklin in January 1822 with tremendous profits in silver.  Becknell made two more successful trading trips to Santa Fe and thus started more than fifty years of trade between the U.S. and Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail.


Commemoration  of the Santa Fe Trail – by artist Harry Weber in Franklin, Missouri

Surprises on the Trail –

A casino where we spent the night


Barry enjoying the Capri Isle Casino buffet in Boonville


Boonville renovated MKT train station


The unique Pearson’s clay tile elevator between New Franklin and Rocheport, at mile 184.5.

We were surprised by the town of Sedalia too.  The Bothwell Hotel, a beautifully renovated 1927 building, is well worth a stop.  Our room was the 1927 size but quite sufficient and lovely.


Hotel Bothwell dining room floor tile in Sedalia.


Dinner at the Hotel Bothwell


Hotel Bothwell in Sedalia, Missouri, has a long history, including being the place where Harry S. Truman found out he was being supported for a U.S. Senate seat.


Hotel Bothwell opened in 1927. The friendly staff stored our bicycles in a ballroom and gave us water and trail mix (and discounted prices) since we were riding the Katy!


Katy Trail humor – one box said “Rattlers” – inside were baby rattles.

Public Art –


Sedalia mural


Calhoun mural


On our final day on the trail, we made sure we were in McKittrich by 6pm so we could have dinner with  Joey and Rich at their Mercantile restaurant  🙂


“Between the idea/And the reality/Between the motion/And the act/Falls the shadow.” T.S. Eliot

We love the Katy Trail and think you will too.  Hop on your bikes and enjoy the Katy Trail.

To listen to Cindy Palos’ Travel Angel radio interview about the Katy Trail experience, go to <;.

And if you want to create some of the great food we had at  Joey’s Birdhouse in McKittrich, go to Joey’s Experimental Kitchen.  The link is for the first part of a series on naturally fermented foods.  We got to taste her sauerkraut, melon kim chi,  pickled red onions, and the berry scrub! :  <;

Aloha, Renée

“Candy” Chocolate Cake: Let’s Get Cooking from Elaine in Effingham, Illinois

Here’s another yummy recipe from my  cousin Elaine, who has won cooking awards at the Illinois State Fair.  It is so good that she has to watch that her son (I won’t say which one) doesn’t sneak the cake into his room to eat the whole thing :).  If you are looking for a new holiday cake recipe that everyone who loves chocolate will want, here it is (and you will have only one pan to clean).


“Candy” Chocolate Cake

Add first three ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil:

– 2 sticks oleo

– 1 c. water

– 3 Tb. cocoa

Turn off the heat.


– 2 c. sugar

– 2 c. flour

– 1/2 tsp. salt

– 1 tsp. soda

– 1 tsp. vanilla

– 2 eggs beaten

– 1/2 c. buttermilk


Put mixture in a 15 x 11 jellyroll pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for about 25 minutes (but start watching after 15 minutes)


In the same pan, boil

– 1 stick oleo

– 3 Tbs. cocoa

– 6 Tbs. milk


– 1 box powdered sugar (about 3 cups)

– 1 tsp. vanilla


When you take the cake out of the oven, poke holes with a fork all over the cake (so the frosting will soak in).

Spread frosting on the warm cake.


Elaine and the “Candy” Chocolate Cake

(Optional – sprinkle chopped nuts on top)



Thor, Kegan, & Elaine – a delicious manicotti dinner–and then our dessert: “Candy Chocolate Cake 🙂

Aloha, Renée

The Katy Trail: Rails-to-Trails – the shakedown trip

The Katy Trail, the longest rails-to-trails project extends across Missouri

The Katy Trail

Barry and I saw deer, big harmless black snakes, small brown ones, lots of squirrels, hawks, crows, geese, . . .; we listened to billions of cicadas, and rode miles and miles under lofty trees as we biked the Katy Trail.


On our first attempt, Barry and I lasted five days (including one rest day because of the threat of rain).  Although some bikers attempt to ride the trail in one day and others walk the Katy, Barry and I wanted to enjoy our experience.


The Missouri River – view from the Katy Trail

The Katy Trail is the longest Rails-to-Trails project in the U.S.  For much of its 256 or so miles across Missouri, the Katy Trail follows the meandering Missouri River, the path of Lewis and Clark, the last home of Daniel Boone (who was sent in his 60s to help the new settlers), and now through small Missouri towns that were once train destinations and hubs of their communities.


The Missouri River

Short for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MK&T), the Katy ended rail service in 1986.  In  The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook–which we highly recommend if you are thinking of doing this trail, author Brett Dufur says that nationwide, about 2,000 miles of rails are being abandoned each year in the U.S.  Those railroad corridors are sometimes converted for recreational use.  Now all 50 states have rail-to-trails projects, some as short as a mile-long; only nine are longer than 100 miles.  The projects are diverse: “some, like Seattle’s Burke-Gilman Trail, hug urban centers and are used by an estimated 1,000,0000 commuters and bikers every year” (16).  The longest is the Katy Trail, and there are plans to extend it to connect Kansas City and the St. Louis metropolitan area!

To order the book, go to <;

This rails-to-trails project started when Edward “Ted” D. Jones Jr., of Edward Jones Investments,  donated 2.2 million dollars for  the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to secure the right-of-way to this relatively flat, well-maintained crushed limestone trail that allows bikers and hikers to travel through fertile agricultural land, beside towering limestone bluffs along the Missouri River, through forests, and small towns.

Limestone cliffs along the Missouri River

Limestone cliffs along the Missouri River

Besides Jones, his wife, and now his son, others too have been generous benefactors in money and effort in creating this wonderful trail.

Barry and I rode  the Katy Trail at the end of  September when the leaves were changing color; during the week, we saw few others on the Trail.  For much of the time, I felt we were doing a “biking meditation.”  The experience was glorious!

Sunrise on the Katy Trail

Sunrise on the Katy Trail

On our first venture, which we came to understand was our shakedown trip, Barry and I did not make it to Clinton or even Columbia as we had planned. We did not go fast; we hadn’t trained; we took too much stuff; we didn’t get bikes until we got to St. Louis; we kept our tool kit at the bottom of our bag, and in general, did not follow good biking advice–yet we still had a good time.

My brother Al with Barry and me at the start of the Katy Trail

My brother Al with Barry and me at the start of the Katy Trail

Helping us get a good start on the Katy Trail,  my brother Al picked  our bikes and us  up in his truck at 6:30am on a Sunday morning to take us from our sister’s house to the St. Charles trail head. The weather was perfect: cool and sunny.  I wore my sweatshirt jacket until about 11am.

For about 90 minutes, Al rode with us to Green’s Bottom trail head and then turned back to coach his granddaughter’s soccer games.

Barry and I were off on our own at a steady pace.  Tunnels of lofty trees, dappled light, fields of corn and soybeans, the Missouri River, wooden bridges, three startled deer (one stopped to stare at me, and I stopped to stare at her until after a minute, she turned and gracefully jumped off the trail on her way to the river). . . : beautiful!  We biked  from about 7:30 a.m.  until almost noon to make it to Augusta.  The 26 miles seemed a long ride to us since we hadn’t been practicing; we were sore.

So I was really happy to lock my bike at the Augusta trail head and walk the steep hill to the Augusta Brewing Company, which also serves food.  Barry was too tired to eat, but eating always makes me feel better.  I had a salad and humus wrap and a nice cold stout.  One of my worries about the trail was that I wouldn’t be able to find good vegetarian food, but my concern proved unfounded.  Barry and I  nursed our beers and watched the parade of other travelers,  many coming for the brewery and winery experiences in Augusta.

Did you know that Missouri has  –


Founded in 1836 by Leonard Harold for its excellent river landing, Augusta is named after Harold’s wife.  Settlers were predominately German.   Although the Missouri River gradually changed its course away from Augusta,  the railroad soon came through.  Now it is a thriving small town with a microbrewery and at least two wineries that have live music even on a Sunday.  In 1980, Augusta, population  210, became the first official U.S. wine district.

Heritage Garden at Lower Main Street B&B in Augusta

Heritage garden at Lower Street Inn B&B in Augusta

Once revived, Barry and I pushed our bikes up to Lower Street Inn B & B, which like all things in Augusta is up a steep hill.  Owners Sally and Don have restored their early 1900 home where they raised their children.  The garden has heritage flowers and vegetables; hummingbirds flit around the flowers on the front porch.

Go to <; for more information.

My trail grit covered bike at the Augusta Lower Main Street B&B

My  grit covered bike at the end of Day 1 on the Katy Trail

We’d had enough of biking for that day, but after a short nap and with our bikes locked behind the B & B, we walked out to explore Augusta.

Augusta, Missouri, house

Augusta, Missouri, house

Old winery building in Augusta

Old winery building in Augusta

Barry at the Augusta Lower Street Inn B&B

Barry at the Augusta Lower Street Inn B&B

Led by the sound of live music, we quickly found the Augusta Winery.

The Augusta Winery

The Augusta Winery

Relaxing and listening to an up-beat guitarist, we bought a bottle of red and sat in the winery garden.

Augusta Winery music

Augusta Winery music

Grape vines kept us shaded

Grape vines kept us shaded

The music stopped at 5 p.m. – everywhere in Augusta on this Sunday in September.  The restaurants closed then too!

We hadn’t brought much besides nuts and a green drink mix with us (more evidence that we hadn’t prepared well).  However, we returned to our B&B where Sally had left us cool drinks  and a cheese, cracker, fruit,  and sausage plate, which is what we had for our dinner.  Barry confirms that the sausage was wonderful (Norv’s summer sausage, Krakow ham, and Genova salami, came from the Wm. Bros. Meat Co. in Washington, MO – just across the Missouri River).  We sat in the garden to eat, and although we felt sore, we counted our Day One a success.  We slept very well that night.

The next morning we awoke to a terrific breakfast.

Lower Street Inn B&B kitchen

Lower Street Inn B&B kitchen

Sally and Don had everything ready for us when we got up: eggs, bagels, cherry danish., O.J., grapes, coffee, and pancakes.



Don let me try his recumbent bicycle- comfortable and fast.  Although our plan had been to get an early start – like real bikers–you won’t be surprised to learn that we didn’t leave until about 10:30 a.m.    Because I was not yet confident on my bike, Barry carried my too heavy pack, and I walked my bike down the steep hill toward the trail.

Barry ahead and down the hill on the way back to the Katy Trail

Barry on the way back to the Katy Trail

Again, we had cool weather and overcast skies, perfect for riding.  I didn’t take off my jacket until about 3:30p.m.  On this Day Two, we went through several small towns including Marthasville, population 674, the oldest town in Warren County.  A French village in 1766, Daniel Boone arrived in 1799.  In 1804, when the Lewis and Clark expedition arrived, the site (then called Charette) was the most western European settlement.

KTMarthasvilleBEach trail head includes a covered shelter and history about the town.


Soybeans to the horizon along the Katy Trail near Treloar, Missouri

After a long stretch, we stopped to eat lunch under lofty limestone cliffs near the Missouri River.  We weren’t far from Treloar.    Not a single fly came to bother us as we were eating – not a grasshopper, not a mosquito, not a bird.  Except for a hawk circling high at the top of the cliffs, we seemed to be the only living beings; I felt we were in a Steven King novel!


Roundup Ready 2 Yield Soybeans – fields near Treloar

The crops–soy and corn everywhere– looked healthy, but had the Roundup killed everything else?  The farmers must appreciate no bugs (and it did make for a comfortable lunch), but I wonder about the long-term consequences.  Monsanto doesn’t tell us.

We didn’t linger.

That day, a Monday, we saw only a local  Missouri man –  bearded, no shirt, jeans; he was walking east as we were riding west on the trail.  We exchanged “Hi’s” and biked on toward  McKittrick, a “new” railroad town in 1893.  Named after Thomas McKittrick, an investor in the railroad, the town is on the Katy Trail, just across the Missouri River from the bigger and more famous Hermann, Missouri.

Founded in 1836, Hermann has bluffs and hills on three sides and the Missouri River on the north.  When the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia members purchased the area to be a self-supporting refuge for German heritage and tradition, its 11,300 acres teemed with wild grapes. Promoted throughout the United States and Germany, the Hermann settlement “quickly attracted a variety of professionals, artisans and laborers, drawn by the idea of a ‘German Athens of the West'” (140).  Today,  according to our Katy Trail Guidebook, Hermann has over 40 B & Bs and several wineries.


Hermann wine cellar

However, we stayed by the trail in McKittrick at Joey’s Birdhouse B &B.  We had biked 34.5 miles!  Again we were sore, but happy to be on the trail.

And what about that local guy we’d seen miles back on the trail?  He came riding up to us on his ATV as we sat drink a beer on our porch.  He’d found my jacket that I’d hooked under a bungee cord on my pack.  It had fallen off; he’d found it and  recognized us as the only people he’d seen on the trail that day.  I hadn’t even missed the jacket, but I was happy to have it back.


Joey’s Birdhouse B&B – just off the Katy Trail in McKitterick

Joey’s partner, Rick, drove across the river for a tour of Hermann, but in trying to find something that would have a good vegetarian choice for me, Rick noted that Joey’s cooking couldn’t be beat.  After a quick call to her, we got invited back to the B&B for dinner at the “Merk.”


The Mercantile in McKittrick, Missouri

Rick and Joey renovated the Mercantile, which had been empty since the 1940s.; it’s now a beautiful building where they have a restaurant that’s open during the summer and an event center that serves the community with tai chi classes, ballroom dancing, movies, weddings, and fundraisers.  Rich is an entrepreneur and developer; Joey is an artist and cook who went to university in Denmark.  Their efforts are reviving McKittrick.

And Joey did cook for us in the big Mercantile kitchen.  Much of what she prepared came from her garden including dandelion, tomatoes, and basil that she included  in a pasta with olives and garlic.  Yummy!  I had three helpings!  Barry said that we are probably the only people to bike the Katy Trail and gain weight!


Joey and Rich, wonderful hosts, delicious food in the Mercantile with Barry

Our room too was renovated and comfortable.  We went to sleep with the sounds of chirping crickets.  Day Two we counted as a complete success: beautiful trail, healthy, fresh, delicious food, and wonderful hosts.

On Day 3, we awoke to the threat of rain and a forecast for thunder and lightening storms.  And then we realized we would have to bike almost 50 miles to Jefferson City to find a comfortable place to stay. Tebbetts, at about 30 miles beyond McKittrick, does have a trail-side very basic hostel, but we had no bedding,  and we aren’t keen on roughing it.


Note our “rain gear”

Instead of trying to bike a record distance for us and to outrace the rain (especially since our rain gear was a white trash bag over our backpacks), we decided  to be reasonable.  Joey said she would again fix us dinner, so we decided to stay a day in McKittrick.   We rode out on the trail toward Jefferson City for a short bike ride; we avoided rain and were back in time for — the ballroom dancing class at the Merk.


Ballroom dance class at the McKittrick Merk

After our class, we got to eat again a wonderful dinner with Joey and Rich.


Joey working her magic in the kitchen

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McKittrick – view toward the Katy Trail

For Day Four, we had the choice of the 50 miles to Jefferson City – or we could bike back to St. Charles where we could put the bikes on our car and pick the portions of the trail  that would have good accommodations. Instead of heading further west, we biked back to Augusta.  There we again stayed at the Lower Street Inn B&B, and had another warm welcome and comfortable, beautiful accommodations.

On Day Five, we biked back toward St. Charles.  Because of all the baggage weight, Barry’s carrier fell apart.  We were helped by a passing biker — who unlike us didn’t keep his tools at the bottom of his pack.  My brother Alan met us at Green Bottom to get our bikes and us.

Barry and I decided that the five days  on the Katy Trail were  our shake-down trip.  We learned what we should and should not do (take less stuff, have more water, have tools handy instead of at the bottom of the pack, leave early, have better rain gear, have an alternate mode of travel). We also realized we should have trained, but, oh well, we were not trying to break records, just getting exercise and having a good time.

In spite of being sore and our various misadventures, we had a great time and planned to pick up the trail again after the weekend party to celebrate the newest Riley– Quinn’s — 1st year birthday and her parents’ house warming.

I feel really lucky to be able to bike the Katy Trail.  I appreciate too that Barry is willing too although I suspect he would rather be playing poker in Las Vegas :).

Get out on the Katy Trail or a Rails-to-Trails project near you.  Happy biking.  You are sure to have a good time.

Aloha, Renée


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