Saturday, July 30, 2011

Here's what it's like watching Cliff work on a tractor

Cliff bought yet another Oliver tractor today.  It looks pretty much like junk, but it runs just fine.  My husband loves a challenge, and he's already on it.  It was really cheap, and he'll no doubt make money on it later on when he sells it.  

As I watch this slideshow, it reminds me of a skilled surgeon at work.  What Cliff is trying to do here is get the choke cable out where he can work on it.  If you watch to the end, you will see him triumphantly displaying said choke cable.  Victory is sweet.  He told me it would have been easier if he had removed the carburetor first.  
"So why didn't you remove the carburetor?" I asked.
"I didn't want to." 
OK, whatever.
So many tractors, so little time.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Old Lady and the Young Doctor

In this post I will be talking about urinary tract infections (UTI's), so if that isn't what you want to read about, just move along.  
Shortly after Cliff and I got married, I began to have strange symptoms:  a burning sensation when urinating, abdominal cramps, etc.  I went to the doctor and found out I had an ailment that is quite common with women: Cystitis, otherwise known as bladder or kidney infection.  In my case, being a newlywed, the doctor informed me it's usually called "honeymoon cystitis".  You can perhaps figure than one out.
Over the next couple of decades, long after the honeymoon was over, I continued to have recurring bouts of bladder infection.  I'd take a round of antibiotics, I'd get over it, and eventually it would recur.  I even went to a specialist about the problem once.  He found no particular cause, so that was money wasted.  
Once I reached my forties, the problem ceased, except for a rare case once every few years.  Usually I could fix it on my own by drinking gallons of water for several days.  
Now, this is where you may want to move on.  But I think this story will give you a chuckle if you stick around.  
A week before my knee surgery was scheduled to take place, I went in for pre-tests.  A couple of days later I received a phone call from my orthopedist's office telling me I had a UTI, and that they would call in a prescription for me.  I couldn't have knee replacement surgery if I had a UTI.  I thought it strange that I didn't have the usual symptoms of a UTI; I know them so well.   
The antibiotic worked and my surgery went on as scheduled.  
Now I'll back up:  For about a year, my urine had a strange smell.  That's all.  I didn't have the discomfort associated with bladder infection.  I went to Google and you can imagine the phrases I typed in; they all led to UTI problems.  Well, with no symptoms I was sure that was not what I had.  I decided the strange smell of my urine must be age-related.  It's amazing the weird things that happen to you as you get older.  
But after taking that round of antibiotics before surgery, my urine started smelling normal again, for the first time in months.  So I made a mental note, and also mentioned to Cliff, that I was going to see a doctor next time my urine smelled funny.  
A few days ago I noticed the smelly urine again and I made an appointment.  Cliff and I are now seeing the new, younger doctor in Dr. G's practice, since Dr. G is our age and won't be there forever.  
I've had lots of experience with UTI's, and I remembered that back in the old days the doctors wanted me to get a urine sample as soon as I got up in the morning.  There were some rules to follow to collect said sample, and I followed them to the letter.  I don't have a lot of small containers around, so I used a pint mason jar.  I'm such a hillbilly.  I sealed it tightly and slipped it into a freezer bag and carefully put it in my purse.  I wasn't about to have another urine spill like the one we had on our camping trip.  By the way, I noticed the urine in the jar looked a little cloudy.  
At the doctor's office, the nurse checked me in and asked why I was there.  I proceeded to tell her about my stinky urine and about my experience before the knee surgery.  No, I told her when asked, I did not have any other symptoms.  
I swear she may as well rolled her eyes; I can tell when somebody thinks I'm a danged fool.  
I told her I had brought a urine sample from home, but that I'd be glad to get a fresh one for her if she'd rather.  She preferred the latter; I collected it and delivered it to her, telling her that it was probably pretty diluted, since I'd been pouring down water all day.  
Pretty soon the doctor came in with a student doctor at his side.  Once again I went through the story of the stinky urine.  
"Well," he said, "the sample we tested shows no sign of a problem, and I wouldn't want to give you antibiotics for it if there's nothing wrong.  I'm curious about this "odor" you're talking about."  
"I can help you out," says I.  "I happen to have some in a mason jar in my purse."  
He backed up, holding his hands out in front of him as though he had been attacked, saying, "Oh no, no!  That might upset my stomach this early in the morning!"  
And he calls himself a doctor?  
Actually, I think he was performing a bit for the student doctor at his side.  
Then he asks, "Has your urine been discolored or strong-looking?"  
At that, without saying a word, I pulled the jar out of my purse and said, "Here, you decide."     
Taken aback, he said, "Well, it does look rather dark-colored."  
He didn't even mention the cloudy appearance.
Finally he said they'd send off the sample I gave at the office and "see if anything grows".  
I joined Cliff in the car.  
"How'd it go?"  
"I don't have bladder infection."
"Just as I figured."  
I pulled the mason jar out of my purse and said, "Does this look cloudy to you?"  
"Yes," he answered.  "It does." 
I worried no more about it and simply resolved to do the two things that will best clear up a UTI:  Drink a lot of water and make sure to empty the bladder completely on every visit to the bathroom.  
Today I got a call from the doctor's office.  The lab results showed that I have a UTI, and they've called in a prescription.  
I certainly hope this humbles the young doctor just a wee bit. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The cabin comes home

Yesterday I went out to Cliff's shop looking for him; he was nowhere around, and the little John Deere was missing.  I figured he was probably mowing pasture, so I came back in the house.  Looking out the window toward the back of the place, I saw something moving and realized he was moving the cabin.  I couldn't let something like that go undocumented, so in spite of the heat I headed back there.

He was re-hooking the chain when I got there; he soon started backing the tractor up the hill toward home.

I was surprised he would try doing this with such a small tractor, but it seemed to be up to the task.

Bonnie did not approve; she loved lying beside the cabin in the shade, and she didn't like being rousted out of her spot.

It reminded me of "the little engine that could".

But as Cliff neared the gate out of the pasture, the cabin got stuck.  He tried and tried, but the John Deere had gone as far as it was going to go with such a load.

It was time to call in the big guns:  The 1655 Oliver, which hardly batted an eye at the task.

The Ollie hauled the cabin the rest of the way to its new location...

 and set it almost in its place.  It took awhile to get it exactly where it ought to be, and it wasn't yet level.  But it was home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Making room where there is none

The horse in the picture is on our property.  The shed in the background is on the property belonging to the horse's owner; he has no pasture on his place.  For a few years now, he has let Cliff use that pole barn for storage in exchange for pasture for his horse, Snickers.  
He'll soon be moving, which means Cliff will need to find a place for all the hay and implements now stored in that barn.  The good side of this is that once that horse is gone August first, Cliff can plant some grass where horses have ruined that part of our pasture with overgrazing.  
Meanwhile, we're using our combined imaginations to carve some storage space out of nothing.  

 That far-right wing of the barn is where I milk my cow.  Cliff built it for me back when I milked four or five cows, and each one had a stanchion in there.  I used an old bucket milking machine back then.  Now I only milk one cow, and I just milk her once or twice a week.  For her, there's one stanchion at the far end of that wing.  I told Cliff to leave me a third of that wing and take two-thirds for himself; so he's going to put a wall in there to keep the cold wind off me and my cow in winter, take out the door and window you see in the picture, and put one opening large enough to drive the John Deere through.  In the open space to the left of that section, we've already taken out the old dog pen.  

Then there's my cabin in the woods.  At one time this was my getaway spot, because I got so fed up with people everywhere, here at the house.  There were four people living in the rental trailer that is now gone, and kids running through the yard day and night.  Every time I stepped out the door I had to report to somebody.  I'm a loner, and when I told Cliff I wanted a cabin where my dog and I could spend an occasional peaceful night, he decided to make one out of somebody's old pool house.  It was 2004.  He and the twins, Travis and Tyler, fixed it up for me and moved it to the woods.    
We moved back here in the pasture over three years ago, and I find I have all the privacy, peace and quiet I need right here.  WITH electricity, running water, a bathroom and air conditioning!  I think I spent one night in the cabin last summer, but I haven't used it at all this year.  
So I offered it to Cliff.  He can take the bed, shelves and table out of it and he'll have a place to put more of his stuff.  I think we've even decided where we'll put it.

Right under that tree near the fence between us and a neighbor.  It's far enough from the house that it won't look too unsightly, and yet close enough to Cliff's shop that it should be fairly handy for him.   

Where Bonnie spends her time

During this awful heat wave we've had for the past couple of weeks, Bonnie spends all day every day beside my cabin in the woods.  It must be the coolest place around.  When the sun gets low in the west, she grazes her way toward the house, and when her belly is full, she lies down to chew her cud near Jody.  
That's where I see her each morning at sunup.  As I write this, it's 6:40 A.M. and Bonnie is headed back toward the cabin again, grabbing a bite of luscious pasture with every step.  
Flies torture cattle and horses this time of year.  Not just ordinary flies, but horseflies and face flies and horn flies that leave blood running where they've bitten.  I can use spray that gives about ten minutes of relief to the poor cows, but nothing really keeps the flies off for very long.  If Bonnie weren't providing us with milk for nine months of the year, we could use cattle ear tags that are effective in keeping flies away for about a month; but as it is, she suffers.  They do get relief during nighttime hours, because the flies go away when it's dark.  
I am so hoping Bonnie has a heifer this time; not just because I want a pet, but because if it's a heifer, it won't be such a big calf.  Also, cows tend not to carry a heifer calf as long, which would help with the size of the calf.  Ten days before her due date I'll be keeping Bonnie closer to the house, not allowing her to go to her daily cool spot by the cabin.  There are huge gullies and canyons back there, and a staggering newborn would likely end up tumbling to the lowest point on our forty-two acres.  
That's what happened with her first calf.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Finding Walmart on the Garmin GPS

Darev2005 commented on my previous post that he was surprised that Walmart would be listed as a "place of interest".  Obviously he hasn't been to the "People of Walmart" website.  
I jest, but for those who don't have GPS, or who only use it for specific addresses, I want to explain.
We had a GPS for three years before we did anything more than type in an address.  After a couple of weeks of getting used to it, we were hooked.  I did have a problem, though, if I wanted to simply type in the name of a town without using an address, because when I went to "where to" and clicked on "address", it demanded a street address; simply putting in the city and state wasn't acceptable.    
Then one day Cliff went into a tool store and I stayed in the car and played with the Garmin.  
I found out there was a "City" heading that did not require an address.  Sweet!
Since Cliff was taking his time in the tool store, I explored further:  I selected "where to" and then chose "Points of Interest".  
Under "Points of Interest", I could choose "food and drink", so I played with that awhile.  Being in Blue Springs, there were a lot of places to choose from, but I selected "Pizza Hut".  By going one step further, I found the phone number of the local Pizza Hut:  Wonderful!  From that time on if we were on the road, I knew we could call ahead and order pizza from our car.  
I returned to "Points of Interest" and saw other options:  Fuel, Transit, Lodging, Shopping, Bank or ATM, Parking, Entertainment, Recreation, Attractions, Hospitals, Community, and Auto Services.  
By exploring all those options that day, I found out you can find the nearest Walmart under the "Shopping" heading, and city parks under the heading of "Attractions" and then "Park or Garden".  
This revolutionized our travel experiences, and we use our Garmin for these things more often nowadays than for simple directions.  It's how we found the Iowa State Parks where we camped last weekend, as well as the city park in Elkhorn where we picnicked.  Not to mention the Walmart in a nearby city.  
Perhaps everybody else knows all this stuff, but since it took me years to figure it out, I'm putting it out there for other slow learners and senior citizens.    

The windmill: Final episode of our road trip

The people in Elkhorn, Iowa, proud of their Danish heritage, have a windmill that was disassembled in Denmark, shipped to them, and reassembled.  You can learn more about it HERE, and even see a couple of videos.  Cliff and I broke up camp Sunday morning and traveled to Elkhorn.  

We had a picnic in the city park.  

I just want to put in a plug for our GPS.  We'd be lost without it (literally) just getting from one place to the other.  But the "places of interest" feature that lets us find the nearest campground, city park, motel, or fast food place is amazing.  When you're traveling by the seat of your pants as we do, it surely makes life easier.  Let's face it, restaurants and city parks aren't listed on maps; and while state parks are listed, they can be hard to locate, not to mention how handy the "places of interest" feature can be when you are looking for Walmart.  We've never yet taken a vacation without visiting Walmart by the second day of the trip.  

 There were no actual plans to go by when the time came to reassemble the windmill; all the people of Elkhorn had to guide them was this miniature model.  

Cliff loves seeing how things work, so he gave the mill a thorough going-over.

Click on the picture to make it easier to read.

 I had to have one silly picture of me with a Dane.  

We also spent some time at the Danish Immigrant Museum in Elkhorn, where I learned that the Danes, who have always been firm believers in human rights, put themselves at risk and helped the Jews in their country escape to Sweden rather than let Hitler exterminate them.  It's nice to learn a little history while you're on vacation.  
I believe I've covered the high spots of our trip.  It was unbelievably hot, but we survived; and we're ready to head out again at the first sign the current heat wave is letting up.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A morning motorcycle ride

We've missed riding our motorcycle lately, but the extreme heat makes it miserable, as you can imagine.  Last night I told Cliff, "What we need to do is head out early in the morning, before it gets so hot."  
These days Cliff is up by six A.M. most days, and he agreed we'd try it.  
"Let's eat breakfast at McDonald's in Blue Springs, and then hit Blue Springs Walmart to get the stuff our usual little Walmart doesn't stock."

  We left before 7 o'clock.
Cliff likes to snack on chocolate animal crackers, and the closest Walmart doesn't stock them.  He also wanted to buy some suspenders, another thing we couldn't find there.  
At 6:45, the temperature was perfect for a ride, and it was great to be on the motorcycle again.    
I've never been a big McDonald's fan, but now that we're on a limited income, I'm learning to appreciate their prices.  You can get two senior coffees, a breakfast burrito, and a sausage McMuffin for $3.  This morning I made the mistake of ordering an orange juice instead of coffee, not knowing it was going to cost almost $2.  That won't happen again.  As we were eating, I looked around and noticed that 80% of the folks in there were our age or older.  And why not?  Two people can have breakfast for the price of a single glass of soda or tea anyplace else, and there's nobody to tip.  I know, the food isn't good for us.  But we don't eat there that often.  
I have badmouthed the Blue Springs Walmart many times; it seems to draw rude people like a magnet, and it's always overcrowded.  But we had never been there at eight o'clock in the morning.  What a treat it was, having the aisles mostly to ourselves!  
My Dave Ramsey envelope system gets a little tricky when I'm shopping at "the Walmarts".  We bought Cliff's suspenders, which took $10 out of the clothing envelope; cat food for a cat that visits our barn often, $3 out of the "critters" envelope; animal crackers and four peaches, $3 from the grocery envelope; the generic equivalent of Tylenol Extra Strength, $8 from the "Drs. and Meds" envelope;  and the cheapest telephone we could find, $6 from the "misc" envelope.  I pay for everything at once at the checkout, so I try to take the money from whatever envelope it's in and add it to the grocery envelope as I put the things in my cart.  Trouble is, sometimes the exact change isn't where it's needed; that's where it gets tricky, and I end up owing an envelope some change when I'm done.  For the most part, it ends well, but Cliff shakes his head a lot when I'm doing all this.  It worked a lot better today, with the store not too crowded to move.  
There's a reason I got a cheap telephone:  When you tell Century Link you don't want a home phone any more, they give you a different number that leaves you with a phone that other people can call.  The only number that works to dial out is 911.  Most people I know who have gone this route remove their home phone entirely, because they have unlimited calling on their cell phones.  Cliff only has 500 minutes.  It helps that he can call anyone on T-mobile without using his minutes, because several of his relatives are on T-mobile.  
Now that I have a prepaid phone, I don't answer my cell when it rings.  I have it in case of emergency, for instance to call Cliff if I had to, or so he can call me in a pinch.  So I've given our home number to people who aren't on T-Mobile who might want to call me.  
However, the fancy-schmancy cordless home phones we bought three years ago have done nothing but confuse us, and lately the one in the living room wouldn't charge enough to talk for more than five minutes.  Today we bought a corded phone that has no answering machine, needs no charging, and has nothing to confuse us. I love it, and buying it didn't break the bank.  I don't mind not being able to carry it from room to room; we don't get that many calls on it.    
We got home from our ride around 9:30; it was already starting to get uncomfortably hot.  Next time we might leave a little earlier. 

What was I thinking?

Perhaps spring fever was the cause, but after successfully dealing with a garden that was small by my old standards for three years, this year I had Cliff plow up another sector in addition to the old plot.  
The weeds, of course, got ahead of me.  The weeds defeated me, and by biting off more than I could chew, I took all the joy out of what had been, for the past three years, a pleasure.  
Next year I'm downsizing.  
Never mind the weeds, I'm also having my usual problems with tomato blight and squash bugs.  
 You can see the blighted plants in this picture.  The melon vines on the right are looking good so far, but they take up so much room!  More room means more places for crabgrass to grow.  

On the left of the tomatoes, I had Cliff plant sweet potatoes the day I got home from the hospital.  I checked to see how much space they should need and instructed Cliff.  I don't know if you can tell it, but they are now growing up the tomato cages, and I can't pick tomatoes without stomping sweet potato vines.  
This is the damage done to my earliest tomatoes by a hailstorm a few weeks ago.  
If you think the weeds and grass in the above garden pictures are bad, it's worse in the other plot.  Yes, I am ashamed and discouraged.  I was so stupid to take on that much.  
Next year will be different, that I will promise.  I want it to be fun again.  I may not even plan on canning or freezing anything, but hopefully I will enjoy my garden and not feel guilt and shame every time I look at it.  
On the plus side, we're having BLT's today.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tractors, tractors, and more tractors: Road trip, Part 6

I was just thinking, if I can do this many entries about a two-day road trip, Lord help my readers if I ever go on a week-long vacation.  
I told Cliff more than once to take as much time as he wanted looking at red tractors.  "Don't worry whether I'm bored," I said, "because I have plenty to read on my Nook if I get tired of tractors."  

So he took me at my word and looked...

and looked....

and looked.  You get the picture.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed some of the signs the owner of the place had on his tractors.  

I stayed with Cliff for awhile, then I took my Nook and went to the Tractor Widow's Lounge.  Yes, there is such a place.
At one point I actually reclined on the couch and fell asleep.  Other ladies came and went while I was there, but I think I stayed the longest.  By the time Cliff was done looking, we'd been there three hours, and I felt quite rested.  As we left Farmall-Land, I suggested to Cliff that he try to call the guy at Griswald, Iowa, who had the "by appointment only" museum.  He did, and the man agreed to meet us there in twenty minutes.  
His name was Dale Rush; that picture caught him with an awkward expression, but he's a quite normal-looking guy.  He wouldn't take any sort of admission; he and his wife are collectors, and I guess they just like seeing somebody else enjoy their loot.

He had a switchboard similar to the ones I grew up with.  

Assorted old milking machines and equipment.  

A couple of nice old vehicles.

A Coke machine like those I remember using as a child.  I hate it that I blurred this picture.

And then we went to the basement, which was sort of a relief, because it was cooler.  Musty-smelling like my grandma's old celler, but cooler.  It was a hundred degrees outside, and the upstairs was really hot.  This isn't a money-making enterprise, so there would be no sense in the man spending money to air-condition it.  He did have fans going to move the air a little.  
In its own way, this place was as enjoyable as Farmall-Land, and we were really glad somebody had given us a heads-up about it.  

Retirement update

Cliff is settling into retirement nicely.  Oh, he still keeps pretty busy all day, even in this heat.  He spent the last two days tearing my old tack room out of the barn, since there are no horses in my future; this frees up some space for hay or for parking tractors.  It wasn't that big a room, but there's now an open corner that wasn't there.  
His current project is disassembling the dog pen he and the twins build for Mandy in 2004.

That's Mandy; she's three dogs ago in my past.  I got her as a puppy, and she happily spent her nights in the pen.  Unfortunately, she had barely made it past a year old when she was struck by a car on the highway and killed.  After her death we got Sadie, and I don't recall using the pen for her much, except for when Cliff had his heart surgery.  I used it a very few times for Iris when I first got her, until I found out she'd do fine in the house in our absence.  I was going to try using the pen for chickens, but the chicks I bought only made it a couple of nights before rats killed them.  

   The twins next door helped Cliff construct the pen; I was at work when all this went on.  
Anyhow, taking out that pen will likely be Cliff's project today.  (Added later:  I walked outside after I made this entry and saw he's about done with the project already.)  This morning he has a date with granddaughter Monica; he's giving her occasional driving lessons. 
There has been one change in Cliff's routine:  He's sleeping eight or nine hours at night.  For years he got by on six or seven hours of sleep because he would wake up knowing his time was limited to do things he needed to do before he went to work at 2:30 P.M.  Try as he might, he couldn't go back to sleep once he was awake.  So he is now sleeping longer, and I'm glad for that; it always worried me that he got by on so little sleep.    
He gets up, takes his time on the laptop checking out Craigslist and other favorite websites (my blog, for instance), goes for a walk around 8 or 8:30 (I'm walking with him every other day now), and then starts working on his projects.  He's mowed most of the pasture until I think he's sick of mowing, but there are still some places to do.  He doesn't always wear his watch now; the only thing he has to be on time for is dinner!
Because he's had heart issues, he isn't supposed to be out in this intense heat we're having, but he isn't about to sit in the house and twiddle his thumbs just to stay cool.  He does move slowly on these hot days, drinks gallons of water, and takes frequent breaks, sitting in his shop listening to Willy's Place on his XM/Sirius radio.  
Cliff has always had back pain, but it seemed to hurt more when he first retired.  He switched recliners for awhile, but that didn't seem to help.  Now he's decided to sit on the couch, and (knock wood), his back has not been bothering him nearly as much.  Perhaps recliners are not the best thing for one's back. Remember when Kennedy was president and his doctor told him to get a big wooden rocking chair to ease his back pain?  Maybe that's what Cliff needs.  
If the weather ever breaks, we'll take a road trip or two on the motorcycle.  But with these temperatures we're having, it would be like riding in a blast furnace.  No thanks.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Our Saturday: Road trip, part 5

On Friday evening, we told the young fellow who came to collect our "rent" of our plan to go to Avoka the next morning, and he told us about a man in a nearby town who had a museum of old implements and other old-timey stuff; this museum was "by appointment only", so Cliff wrote down the phone number.
After the big cleanup I had to do Saturday morning (see preceding entry), I made some pretty decent-tasting coffee on the Coleman stove.  Our plan was to have cereal with banana for breakfast the mornings we were gone, but it was at this point I realized I had neglected to put the milk in the cooler.  There was bread and peanut butter, so we wouldn't have starved; but we decided to find something breakfast-like to eat in Avoka, the town where Farmall-Land was located.  I was actually hoping for a McDonald's, because they have those cheap breakfast burritos.  One thing for sure, the village of Lewis next to the park where we were camping had absolutely nothing to eat.  
We both availed ourselves of the showers, then broke up camp.  One lesson we learned that first day is this:  Break up camp first and load everything, then shower; otherwise, the heat and activity will have you so sweaty you may as well not have taken a shower at all.  That's how we did it the next morning, and it worked well.  
A perennial problem we've had with camping is what to do with wet towels and clothing.  Now, if you're staying at the same spot for awhile, you can string up clotheslines.  But if you are going to fold up the tent and leave right after breakfast, there is no way to get that stuff dry.  We draped our towels and washcloths over stuff in the back seat, but that just created a lot more disorder than we already had.  I don't think there is a solution for this, though; we'll just have to live with it.  

Not far up the road, we started seeing what Cliff said were "wind farms".  

  There were so many of these, covering so many miles, that it was mind-boggling to us.  
Arriving in Avoka, we were getting pretty hungry and not finding any desirable place to eat, so we stopped at a bustling convenience store and paid far too much for a breakfast sandwich that wasn't all that great.  

And then, we went to Farmall-Land.  

We had arrived at our destination!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Road trip, part 4 (hold onto your hats, folks)

In the past we have taken Iris to the Kennel at her veteranarian's office.  There's a nice lady tending the dogs there, and unless it's a busy holiday weekend, she plays with the dogs individually and spends time with them.  Iris loves her and is always glad to see her.  
However, the oldest grandson and his girl friend insisted they would be glad to watch our dog, and wanted no money for doing so.  So we took Iris to their house on Thursday night.  Friday morning after Cliff got up, he said, "It's the weirdest thing:  I can feel that the dog isn't here, and I'm not even a dog person."  
"It's that feeling," I told him, "that makes me go looking for another dog as soon as one dies."  
We had done nothing toward getting ready for our trip, so I got the suitcases and the cooler inside and started getting everything ready to go.  It was probably ten o'clock or later when we left.  But then, it was only a little over two hundred miles to our destination.  
We had our picnic lunch in Clarinda, Iowa, before we went on to Guss.  As we passed through Villisca, we saw a sign advertising the house where a family was brutally slain in 1912.  Although my parents were once the telephone operators in that town, I never heard of the axe murders until recently while doing a Google search for Villisca.  Seems to me like after a hundred years, they could let it go.  
By the time we ate our lunch and then spent time in Guss, it was after 3 P.M., and I suggested we find a place to camp and go to Avoka on Saturday.   Thanks to the GPS, we learned that there were three Iowa state parks within thirty miles of Avoka; one was near the town of Lewis, and only a twenty-minute drive from the tractor museum.  

We had never set up our new tent before, but with me reading instructions and Cliff doing most of the work, it wasn't difficult.  

By the way, we love the tent.  After the first time, we were able to put it up or take it down in about ten minutes.  We can easily stand upright in the middle part of it.  Oh, and here's something:  A thunderstorm came through, leaving about three-quarters of an inch of rain, and NO RAIN GOT IN THE TENT!  The next day we learned that Avoka received four inches of rain from the same storm, and we counted our blessings.  I'm pretty sure the tent wouldn't have been able to stay dry under that kind of deluge.  

Click on the picture to make it readable.  Lewis, Iowa, according to this sign, is where Kool-Aid originated.  I certainly consumed my share of Kool-aid when I was a kid.  It used to come in a double packet:  the outside, which had the picture of a pitcher of Koolaid and the writing; and the inside, which was just a plain brown envelope.  Back then, bread didn't come in plastic, either.  It was wrapped in some kind of cellophane paper.  But I digress.  

We started to realize we were lacking a lot of necessary items, some we had at home and some that would have to be purchased.  Cliff started making a list of those things.  By the time our trip was over, there were two pages of items listed.  

I casually fastened one of the biodegradable bags onto our potty and we were ready for a good nights sleep.  I get up frequently during the night for bathroom trips, and Cliff always gets up at least once.  The whole purpose of this potty chair was to keep us from having to make nocturnal trips to the public toilets.  
This was going to be the maiden voyage for our travel toilet; I was confident it would work just fine.  
We slept like babies on the air mattress; I got up and went to the travel toilet numerous times, and always went straight back to sleep.  
We were awakened by the sound of cows mooing.  Evidently one mama cow had gotten through a fence and was wandering through the campground; her baby was still in the pasture and wanted his mommy.  So the bellowing and bawling was intense.  Oh well, at least the storms of the night were past and we were dry.  Cliff used the travel toilet for the first time, then went back to bed while the coffee was making.  
I was so happy with our travel toilet.  
But of course you know, don't you, that there's more to this story?  
I decided to avoid an early-morning trip to the bathroom and used the potty one more time, and the bag came unfastened.  My "casual" fastening of the bag onto the seat had been a little too quick and casual, and the bag was not well secured on one side.  My final offering of urine was just enough to make it give way, and PLOP, down went the bag and out came the contents.  
Oh, it gets worse.  
The tent wasn't in a perfectly level spot, and the air mattress was downhill from the flow of urine.  Cliff grabbed his discarded T-shirt and tossed it on the impending flood, yelling, "Get a towel!"  
That wasn't an easy task; the car was locked, and then I had to dig around to find the bag containing the towels.    
Folks, take it from me:  mopping up adult urine is not how you want to start your day.  Especially when you haven't even had a drink of coffee yet.  
The only form of soap I had brought along was dish soap.  After getting all the urine soaked up with a towel, I put plenty of Dawn in some water and started mopping the entire floor of the tent.  I wiped off the bottom of the still-inflated air mattress (plastic, thank goodness) and then shoved it out the door for further cleansing.  
We tossed the T-shirt and the towel in the garbage, because who wants to haul something around that's been soaked in urine?  
I really wasn't satisfied that we were rid of the urine smell completely, so when we found a Walmart we bought some Mr. Clean.  That night when we set the tent up once more, I used that on the floor and the bottom of the air mattress, and finally there was a good, clean smell in our home-away-from-home.  
Oh, and the next night?  Not only did we make sure the bag was fastened onto the seat firmly, but I took a container and squeezed it in under the bag, just in case.  And put it in the tent on the downhill side of the bed.    

Next morning things went well, with only one little glitch:  Evidently the "biodegradable" bags start degrading really fast, because a few drops of urine had actually dripped into the container I had put beneath it.  There didn't seem to be a hole, although as you can imagine, I didn't inspect it very closely.  
Our little travel toilet is the right height, it's sturdy, it folds flat and gets tucked away in a bag.  But we will NEVER count on those bags holding up overnight.  
And now you know the rest of the story.