Tag Archives: Walk

England Day 2: Art and Dead People


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Daughter and grandson on our cemetery walk.

After leaving the grandchildren off at school, my daughter suggested a walk through a cemetery.

We’ve been there before, but not this year. It’s a pleasant place to walk, an old cemetery with fading gravestones, at least the part we walked in. I understand it has modern areas, too, but this old part is part burial ground, part urban nature preserve, and it’s a peaceful, interesting place for a stroll.

At one point, my toddler grandson wanted me to pick him up so he could bat his hands at low-hanging leaves on trees. He has an infectious chortle, and we heard it sounding out a bit in the quiet among the dead. It was a good place to be alive.

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Another view of the cemetery.

Following the cemetery stroll, we decided to walk across town. Rain was in the forecast today, but not until later in the afternoon, and we gambled we could cross the distance to the rail station and return before the rain set it. It felt very muggy today, but was a bit cooler than yesterday, so it was a nice day for a walk.

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Art in the church.

Along the way, when we got downtown, an old church used as a civic center was advertising an art exhibit/sale, so we went in. It was nice to see the church, even if it being filled with contemporary art felt a little dissonant. Much of the art was several hundred pounds in price, which was one discouragement—and also was bulky enough that fitting it into a carry-on could be an issue, so we merely viewed the art and church and then moved on.

The walk across town felt like several miles, to me. I’m hoping it was good cross training for RAGBRAI—and being comfortable walking some distance isn’t just cross training, it’s also training, since RAGBRAI can involve a fair amount of walking, too.

We have a bold plan—we are to care for the grandchildren this weekend while our daughter and son-in-law enjoy a weekend alone in London. The walk today was so that our daughter could get her train ticket.

We also stopped at a bike shop downtown where I arranged to rent a bicycle for next week and also purchased a biking map of Norwich.

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One display in the church was a table set as “The Last Brexit Supper,” which was not exactly pro-Brexit.

Lunch was at a falafel eatery downtown—my daughter got us a group platter that could have fed four or five. The three of us, plus the toddler, gave it the old college try, but we ended up with a significant take-home box of leftovers, too. The platter was falafel and pita sandwich veggie fixings, including nice humus. It was filling and delicious.

We arrived still dry back at my daughter’s house about 2 in the afternoon, and I skipped the walk to school to pick up granddaughters so I could nap. I’m struggling a little to say awake right now, but the sunny walk today hopefully helped reset my bio clock, so I may not be blogging at 3:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. Knock on wood.

So today featured a long walk in a pleasant English city, including art and a cemetery stroll, a great lunch and the promise of future adventures—biking in the UK!

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California Day 2: The March for Art and Burritos


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At San Francisco Museum of Modern Art–Andy Warhol flowers and cows.

My feet and legs regretted the second day of our California adventures, but not the rest of me, and the use probably did my feet and legs some good. It was a great day.

Our daughter in law went to work Friday and had an evening engagement, and our son had to work from home on this Friday, so part of the plan for the day was for my wife and I to spend some time away from the apartment on a walk about the neighborhood.

I know from reports online that Friday was a stormy day in Iowa. It wasn’t in San Francisco. The morning was cool, but bright and sunny, blending into an afternoon that was, for an Iowan, still a little chilly at times, but at other times required my jacket to be carried rather than worn. To paraphrase a line from “Miss Congeniality,” in San Francisco, May 24, 2019, was the perfect date because it was not too hot and not too cold, all you needed was a light jacket.

On our late morning stroll, we walked down towards the bay, and instead of walking by the Giants’ ballpark, which we had done the first night, we turned in the opposite direction and strolled towards shipping docks. It was again pleasant to be beside that ocean inlet. We enjoyed the sights and took our time, me stopping to make images of many flowers in bloom.

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Day lily in small park by children’s hospital.

We played a game we sometimes play with grandchildren on a walk. At each intersection, we alternated who got to choose what direction to go in. Turns out, if you want to get lost in San Francisco, it’s a pretty effective strategy.

Not that we ever got all that lost. The big things—a children’s hospital, for instance, or a building I don’t know the purpose of that has what looks like a giant fungus growing on it, the top half being some sort of oval—where there to confirm we hadn’t really wandered out of the neighborhood.

And we enjoyed a quick stroll through an unexpected, small park by the hospital.

After we found the apartment again, we hung out for a while during a work meeting that was still going on in the next room via Jon’s computer. Still, we had timed our reappearance well; it was not long before Jon was done.

Lunch? It was mid afternoon by then, and Jon had made us a filling breakfast, but we were getting a bit hungry. Jon suggested a walk to the SF Museum of Modern Art, partly because he said there was a decent burrito place nearby.

And so, we were off. I am not sure how far it was to the museum—walking distance, but longish walking distance, well over a mile through probably under two. I was ready for the burrito by the time we found the place, and it was good.

Just before 3 p.m., we arrived at the museum, which closes at 5. They have an Andy Warhol exhibit going on, and we got tickets to see that as well as the general museum. Because the Warhol tickets had a time on them, we started there.

I’m no expert on modern art. I was aware of Warhol, in a general way, through a few of his most famous images, such as the Campbell Soup ones, but I was no aware of the range of his work. Although I still would not call myself a Warhol fan boy, I was impressed.

As is normal with modern art, my impression of the rest was a mixed. Sometimes, the oddly monotone rectangles or urinal placed on its side seem to stretch the bounds of what I do think of as art into the ridiculous. Then again, there was plenty to see, all of it interesting, much of it done with some thought and skill.

The San Francisco MOMA is a good place to spend the latter half of an afternoon. Not only was most of the exhibits worth seeing, but the building itself had interesting quirks—I thought the stairways themselves and a few of the halls were almost works of art.

The most interesting exhibit, besides Warhol, was a “Snap and Share” one about how mail was used to share photographs in the era before social media.

The walk back to the apartment felt a bit longish, to me, and as I noted before, my feet and legs were not entirely pleased with the day. But then again, if I can’t bicycle every day, long walks are a kind of RAGBRAI training, and I didn’t come to California to spend my days indoors.

The lunch had been late and filling, so we just snacked in the evening and played games. Jon knows how to make pleasant cocktails.

And now we are off to San Diego today. I may try a few quick blog updates via phone, but I am not planning to take the computer with me to the border, so you’ll just have to be patient, readers, for further California updates from sunny San Diego.

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In Praise of Winter Walks


The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.
“Roads Go Ever On” by J.R.R. Tolkien.

In contrast to earlier the season—when we were blasted with cold in late November, December in Iowa has gifted us with some mild days. And by bike and foot, I have taken some advantage of that.

Monday, I was tied up much of the day with finishing semester grades. At least I did bicycle to campus. But on Tuesday, after some errands, my wife and I took a late afternoon stroll. We only walked maybe a total of two miles or so, but it was a pleasant (by December standards) sunset journey.

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Sun setting along C Avenue in Cedar Rapids on Dec. 18, 2018. During a stroll with my wife as we celebrate being married 36 years. It was warm Dec. 18 36 years ago, too.

On Wednesday, I biked to campus to finish some additional odds and ends, and then met my wife and youngest son. We drove down to the NewBo area for lunch at Parlor City, and then went for a stroll along a part of the Cedar River Trail, including the new Sinclair Levee path.

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Dec. 19, 2018, view during stroll along Sinclair Levee trail.

It was breezy, and sunshine was starting to turn to clouds, but again, with a temperature around 40 or so, quite nice for December. We happily chatted as we strolled, enjoying the companionship, the outdoors and the effort of the walk.

John Green created a recent Vlogbrothers video which was a walk through some Indiana woods in cold, wet weather with some friends. I’m not sure I completely agree with his point that the bad weather helped make it a good walk—I’m more of a fair-weather journeyer—although otherwise I think he’s on to something. We are all on a life journey, and sharing that journey with friends as we make our way is partly what it’s about.

And it is important to just get out there, when you can, whether in Indiana rain or Iowa sunshine. A walk outside is a way of enjoying the world beyond our artificial shelters, when conditions allow. We re creatures of this Earth and should feel our connection with it, now and then. Which is one thing a winter walk is good for.

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A Walk At Dusk On The Penultimate Day


Ben and Audrey on the Lindale Trail.

Ben and Audrey on the Lindale Trail.

Ben said these Christmas lights looked like a Tolkien hidden elven village.

Ben said these Christmas lights looked like a Tolkien hidden elven village.

Well, the Mayans clearly got it wrong, the world continued after their calendar expired even if the fiscal cliff looms.

On the penultimate day of 2012, after an afternoon nap, Audrey suggested we go on a walk. It was cool, but in the upper 20s, and when the wind is not blowing, upper 20s is truly not so bad. We headed up C Avenue with our son Ben, and headed east on the Lindale Trail.

The trail’s west end in Cedar Rapids was not cleared, but once we scrambled past a fallen tree, as we neared Marion, the Marion crew had taken over, and Marion does scrape its trails. The light was fading, so it was good that the trail was more clear. When we got to Lindale Avenue, we decided to walk through the neighborhood to the shorter trail, rather than take the long trail in faded light.

A winter walk makes you appreciate a city that scrapes its trails, and even more homeowners who do a decent job of snow removal. It has been many days since any snow fell, but some walks are clear, some were cleared after the heavy snow a week ago, but not since, and some merely have paths worn by the passage of booted feet.

It felt good to be out. The walk lasted about an hour, and when we were done around 5:30, it was dark, but not yet full night. It’s nice that the evenings are gaining, day by day, a little bit of light, and it was nice to be out for a stroll on a cool winter’s day.

So take that, Mayans. Long after some thought you said the world would end, the world was a nice place for a stroll.

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Some Fun Based on Old Technologies


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They had a book sale this week at the MMU library, and I felt a bit odd because I stopped by after the books and picked up nine movies.

They were all on VHS tapes. Well, just as I sometimes buy an old album at Half Price books because I still have a record player to play vinyl, I still have a VHS tape player. So, what the heck? I got “Oklahoma,” some kids movies I have not seen, including two about dinosaurs, and some more modern movies—the remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” and also “Air Force One.”

Well, Friday we drove to Ames because ISU gets all of Thanksgiving week off, and that night returned to Cedar Rapids. We decided it was family movie night, but we had no microwave popcorn. No matter, we had some “old school” popcorn, so I got out a large pan, nuked some butter in the microwave and, voila, had fresh homemade popcorn. It was better than anything that comes popped in a bag. You kids don’t know what you’re missing.

My dad used to make popcorn often on a Saturday night, but he usually burned it. And since we did not have a microwave, his method of buttering it was to smear some margarine on top.

Well, I think mine turned out a bit better. We watched “Air Force One,” a mediocre action movie with a good cast that was worth every bit of the nothing I had spent on it.

Old technologies had done us well.

Today, we walked on what I’ve usually called “the trail behind Walgreen’s,” but signs have been put up dubbing it the Lindale Trail, so LT it is. The LT is an old rail spur converted to trail use, and we noticed the very old poles in a dip of land beside the trail. I thought they looked a little forlorn and odd—why were the poles in the dip and not along the elevated rail line? And when were they put in and when did they fall into disuse? Were they phone lines? Electric? Telegraph? They had some old glass insulators one them, which were just cool to see.

Well, it was a fine afternoon for a walk, even if I’ll never know what the poles were for.  Old technologies again, this time fallen into disuse.

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A Walk in the Woods


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Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, wrote an amusing book of that title, about his trekking along the Appalachian Trail.

I took my own walk in the woods this morning, although it was only a bit over 30 minutes long and ended due to excessive insect activity.

Anyway, when the kids were younger and at home, once in awhile one of them and I would tromp through the woods south of Dry Creek. I returned to that area this morning, figuring a hike would count instead of gym time this morning—could not bear the thought of being inside, so I went out.

The first obstacle is a widening canyon cut by an ephemeral creek that runs from a street storm drain. Someone at one time actually built a bridge, but the rickety think now lies on the bottom of the creek bed—I’m just glad I was not standing on it when it fell in.

Well, I just paralleled the cut until I came to dry creek. Since no water is running in the ephemeral creed, there was a wide rocky delta that was easy to cross, and then I returned to the woods.

The main route is a deer highway (which, by the way, simply cuts across the canyon—deer can leap more easily than a middle-aged man, apparently). And there was traffic of the Bambi variety this morning.

Two does were on the same path, well ahead of me. Several times, though, they stopped and looked back, as if to say, “well, slowpoke, are you coming?” Eventually, they sped ahead out of sight.

The “woods” are partly settled. By a somewhat iffy looking tree house, someone had abandoned a bike some time ago. As I walked on, I felt a little like I was lost in nature, but in the distance I could often see signs that I was still in my Cedar Rapids neighborhood—yards and houses were never far away.

There were some mysteries along the trail, such as why were the wings of the butterfly there? What ate or otherwise destroyed the body that connected those wings?

Nature is a toothy place. I wrote in my last post about the baby cardinals in the back yard. Sad news today, blog fans. The nest is empty. Something got to the babies the night after the day when I found them—some neighborhood cat or raccoon. Something has been drinking our hummingbird nectar off of our back deck, too. A cat might eat the cardinals, but a cat wouldn’t drink nectar. A raccoon might do both. And Thursday night I saw a giant of a ‘coon cross Brentwood drive and run into my yard—could that be the baby bird killer-nectar drinker?

Oh well. I hope Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal will rebuild and try again, and I hope whatever won’t find the nest this time.

Back to the walk. I don’t know why I’ve never had a poison ivy rash, as much as I tromp through Iowa woods and wouldn’t recognize the nasty stuff if it bit me. Lucky, I guess.

Anyway, after 20 minutes or so the mosquitoes were starting to zero in on their Joe target, so I turned around. As I was walking back, there was a loud crackling crash. A substantial branch broke off a dead tree and went smashing to the ground, not 20 yards from where I stood.

Well. I’m glad to say that the branch was no nearer to me.

It was a fun walk, but I think I’ll reserve most future rambles for when Dry Creek dries up or after a nice cold frost in fall. Either a faster pace in a dry creek bed or some freezing air will reduce the mosquito issues.

By the way, one more update, a happier one, this time. Audrey Skyped today with Jon and Nalena, who are safe and sound, and have a nice host home, in Paraguay. They are undergoing training before deployment, so no final word on where they will be inside Paraguay, but they are doing well so far!

Much more of an adventure than my walk in the woods …

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Flying Frisbees On A Fine Fall Day


Frisbee Golfers

Audrey, Ben and Nicole are ready for some Frisbee Golf at a park in Ames, Iowa.

I’m not sure if Mark Twain really said it—sources vary on the veracity of the quote—but golf has been called “a good walk spoiled.”

No doubt, if Twain did say it, he was not talking about Frisbee Golf. In recent years, we’ve started to enjoy playing that game now and then, and today was one of our finer rounds.

For our one full day “off” during Fall Break, Audrey and I went to Ames today to meet Benjamin for lunch. Ben also introduced us to Nicole, his girlfriend. She is a sweet young lady from Omaha who is majoring in aerospace engineering—they met in a math class. Well, they would. Sounds like a rom-com, no?

Nicole taking a shot.

Nicole puts the Frisbee in the hole as Ben watches.

Anyway, after a find repast of Thai food (Ben correctly forecast not just the eatery, but what his mother would order) we went Frisbee Golfing.

I can’t really compare it to “regular” golf because I’m not a golfer, but I suspect it has more appeal to me for several reasons:

  • It’s not an upscale game. You don’t have to pay fees or belong to a country club to play Frisbee Golf. It’s not something fat white businesspeople do to make deals. People don’t wear ridiculous outfits, drive around in silly carts or hire boys to carry around their Frisbees. It’s just you, your disc, your tennis shoes (or feet, in Nicole’s case) and the thrill of the throw. It’s very Wal-Mart rather than Nordstrom’s, and thought I’m not really a Wal-Mart kind of guy, the egalitarian feel of Frisbee Golf appeals to me, while the snobbery of that other golf does not.
  • It’s a walk through a real park. Not a good walk spoiled, but a nice park stroll enhanced. Nobody grooms and poisons a Frisbee Gold course until it looks like an artificial green carpet. Frisbee Golf is played in areas that are barely mowed. Frequent trees are part of the course. I think I would get nervous being out on a “real” golf course—the saccharine perfection of the greens would disturb me, and calling those regular lawn areas a “rough” is an insult to anything that’s rough. Being on a Frisbee Golf course, on the other hand, is to be out in a fine, slightly wild, real seeming Iowa park.
  • The company is grand. I’ve usually been Frisbee golfing with my kids, who seem to run to rather laid back sorts whose fierce sense of competition is more devoted to who can make the most awful jokes while out on the course. Ben’s gal Nicole seemed to fit right into that mold, chatting and laughing and joking along with us. No doubt, we’re obnoxious to any Frisbee Golfers who care, but fortunately most Frisbee Golf courses aren’t often crowded, so our dawdling, joking, 10-shots-a-hole style of play can’t disturb others too much, and we don’t let the golfing interfere to much with the strolling, the talking, the joking or the laughing. And that’s the way it ought to be.

We played hole 1 and hole 18 and some holes in between in a rather random, rambling fashion. It was a fine, fun, warm fall day to be out, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was a good use of a sunny fall afternoon!

Your's truly

Your correspondent, as Nicole borrows my camera to take this shot of me taking my shot.

Ben and the tree

Ben and the chewing gum tree we found at the park.

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