Lilacs, mushrooms, roadkill, and dandelion wine 

Every year when the lilacs bloom, I think of Darryl.

Darryl is my husband’s step-dad. He is a rugged outdoors man of the wild north woods. He doesn’t even have (gasp) internet. Except for being a non smoker, he is reminiscent of the Marlboro man of old. He is tall, lean, and ruggedly handsome for a man in his early 60’s. He has a head full of thick wavy hair. He works full-time as a forklift driver. He is a hard worker and has many other side jobs such as janitor, chimney sweep, and lumberjack. In the winter, he hooks up a plow to his pick up truck to earn some extra money. In the summer, he works in his massive garden.

Darryl lives off the land. In the fall, he is a deer hunter. He even goes black powder hunting. He processes his own venison. He takes the hides from the deer and sews his own clothing. In the winter, he goes ice fishing. In summer, he fishes from his boat. Life for Darryl is simple yet satisfying.

Darryl also picks up roadkill. One time he picked up a dead raccoon off the side of the road. He threw it into a crock pot and served it to my kids telling them it was chicken. They loved it.

I have learned over the years not to eat any of Darryl’s food. He has been known to leave brats in the fridge for months then serve them. Sometimes his food has a funny taste to it. He seems to have a strong constitution though.

Darryl also makes his own wine. He never follows a recipe when he makes his wine out of unusual ingredients such as potatoes or dandelions. It doesn’t always taste the greatest and sometimes has a high alcohol content. People have been known to spend the evening sick after a few glasses. In fact, a couple of weeks ago Paul and Darryl shared a bottle of wine while out fishing. Darryl lost his balance and fell out of the boat. Then he fell several more times on his walk back home. If Darryl offers me his wine, I tell him that I am strictly a beer drinker which isn’t entirely true.

Darryl says that every year when the lilacs bloom, the morel mushrooms are ready. Morel mushrooms are a very expensive delicacy in these parts. One year, he asked us if we wanted to go mushroom hunting with him. It sounded like an adventure, so we went. We combed the woods and found a few. On the car ride home, my skin was crawling with ticks. Darryl and Paul decided to fry up their mushrooms for supper that night. I don’t like mushrooms and was a tad bit worried when they wanted to eat their find since there is a false morel mushroom which is similar but poisonous. Darryl was fixated on mushrooms for awhile and even started carving a large intricate mushroom out of wood.

By far the most interesting story I heard about Darryl happened the time that he cut his leg open with a chain saw. Now Darryl is the cheapest guy that I know. He has been known to dumpster dive or collect items that others don’t want. In fact, he is a bit of a hoarder. His house is decorated in vintage 1970’s mismatched furniture. He has two refrigerators in his kitchen, one works and the other he uses for storage. After he cut his leg with a chain saw, he was too cheap to go to the doctor to get his leg stitched up. So he did it himself. He took a needle and some fish line and sewed it right up. He could win a survival competition hands down (or even tied behind his back)!

Darryl sure is an eccentric fellow. 



The travel diaries, Nashville

A couple of years back, Paul and I went to Nashville for a business conference. The cost of airline tickets were insane. If I remember right it was around $1400 to $1500 round trip for 2. Remember that I am a cheapskate?? You should see my office equipment. I have a used printer that is probably older than my teenage kids. I have my Aunt Grace’s old desk which is older than me. I have two office chairs from the 70’s or 80’s. I have art work on the wall that was given to me as a kid painted by another deceased relative. Yes, $1400 is a lot of money for a plane ticket, so we drove instead.

On our way down from WI, we took a pit stop in Chicago to visit with some relatives. We walked along Navy Pier, but it was a cold night so we didn’t stay outside long. It cost $30 to park for one hour, if I remember right, which was way too much. We had Chicago style pizza which was absolutely awesome. It was 2 inches thick! Then we stopped to visit some friends in Kentucky. We finally meandered down to Nashville for the conference. Paul did all of the driving while I worked in the car.

The one thing I really liked about Nashville was that it was a good 10 degrees warmer than WI. We stayed at a hotel downtown that had an outside glass elevator that went really fast. Being afraid of heights, it was rather unnerving to ride in. I also asked for a room on the lowest floor. I got over this fear after several more trips with rooms on high floors. It was on this trip that we met Joe. Joe sat across from me at a table and commented that my eyes were the perfect shade of blue. He asked others if they thought that my eyes were beautiful. Now who doesn’t like a guy like that? He has great people skills and a love for adventure. We hang out with him and his coworkers at every conference. We can count on him to plan crazy and unique adventures. I am not quite sure what it is, Paul and I seem to attract eccentric or adventurous friends more often then not.

That night I checked singing in Nashville off my bucket list. Who cares if it was just karaoke? It was awesome feeling like a star for one night. From what I saw of the city, it looked rather clean. Although Joe said that he went for a walk early one morning and ended up by a deserted warehouse full of people that had him fearing for his life, but I think Joe tends to exaggerate at times.

Soon the conference was over and it was time to head back home. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful until we hit Louisville. While we were on the bridge we blew out our tire. We ended up having to pull into the little median between the highway and off ramp while cars went by us at 75 mph to put on the spare. That and having our GPS navigation go out in the middle of Chicago made for an interesting end to our adventure.


The travel diaries

One of the big items on my bucket list is to visit all of the continents in this world with the exception of Antarctica.  I can see myself taking the road less traveled. I have already started treading off the beaten path armed with nothing more than a camera and a story to tell. I decided to start a travel series this month. Who knows, maybe I will talk about your town as an outsider looking in to your world for a brief moment in time.

I always wanted to travel. Growing up the only “vacations” that we ever took with our whole family was going up north to the cabin. There were 3 trips that we took with the partial family. The first trip we drove down to Texas to take my autistic brother to the hospital. We didn’t stop anywhere along the way (except a hotel) or do anything fun so I am not sure that this counts as a “vacation”. The second trip we went to South Dakota to a conference with Aunt Grace. On our way back to WI, we drove 10 hours out of our way to stop in Canada for 20 minutes to get my aunt some tea. I wrote about this trip in one of my first posts. The third was a bus trip to South Dakota with my aunt and uncle’s church when I was in grade schoool. It was hot and stormy, a severe thunderstorm came up while touring the Badlands which was really awesome if you weren’t afraid of storms. The AC ended up going out on the bus and a lot of people felt sick. A teenage boy got upset and ran away. We saw the outdoor passion play. Just before the crucifixion scene another freak storm came up. Everyone went running as the thunder crashed and I got lost. That is my childhood travel experience in one paragraph.

Paul also wanted to travel. You can imagine how much traveling he did growing up with a poor single teen mom. He was 40 the first time he was on an airplane. Last week he asked me if I would be open to sailing around the world. I said that I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea at this time, but lets do the Great Lakes loop first. We both desire to live a life of adventure.

But how are we going to have this lifestyle living on a variable income? The first thing that we did was buy a modest house. The last thing that we wanted was a high mortgage payment that would trap us. We live cheap. Up until last year, both of our vehicles were over 10 years old. We bought our kitchen table at a rummage sale. Our bedroom set is the same one that I had as a kid complete with broken drawers. A majority of our furniture including a TV, couch, love seat, recliners, deck furniture, end tables, and lamps were inherited from deceased relatives. We bought our hutch at a good price when my aunt got a divorce. We bought our entertainment center used from another relative. Oh my gosh, I didn’t even realize what a bunch of cheapskates we really are. Not that I have to justify spending money on a vacation once in awhile to any of you anyway. Geez.

I will be going through one autism diary a month as well. Until then I promise to entertain you with travel stories off the beaten path… 

The cheapskate marathon

I admit, I am a bit of a cheapskate. I signed up for another marathon this week in order to save $10. But I have learned the lesson over time when to be a cheapskate and when not to. So saving $10 forced me to make a decision early, one that I was probably going to make anyway. So I decided to plan my whole race calendar for the year. I am planning on running a marathon in May, a 10k in June, my first tri in July, and ending the season with a half marathon in the fall.

The best thing about running a marathon in May is that I have the whole summer ahead of me to plant my boney carcass on the beach somewhere. Last year I gave up a lot of relaxation time to train for a marathon in the end of August. It will mean more long runs on a treadmill. Maybe I will have to tape pictures of myself bikini clad, beach bound with umbrella drinks to the treadmill for motivation! Hmm. Lol.

Then there was that one time when I learned that being a cheapskate is not the best move. One of the biggest lessons I learned is not to accept items from people who are cheaper than me. Items like an avocado green 1970’s model clothes dryer. When Paul and I got married, we had a little starter house that came without appliances. Paul’s mom and step-dad gave their old gas dryer to us which was very kind of them but didn’t work out too well for us. First of all, we didn’t have the hook ups in the house for a gas dryer. Paul’s step-dad had some old copper pipes that they ended up using to hook up a gas line for the dryer over a weekend.

This is probably the part where you want me to tell you that they screwed up the gas line and blew up that tiny starter house. Sorry, there wasn’t even a gas leak. The dryer itself was not in good working condition. First, I had to put the clothes in the dryer. Then I needed to manually start the dryer by putting my arm inside to get the drum rolling. Some times the process itself would twist my arm. The big kicker was that the darn thing didn’t even dry well. The hardest part of the whole process was that after all of the work that was done to install it, we had to say that we didn’t want it anymore. That was not an easy thing to say to my new in-laws.

So over time, part of the life learning process is when to be cheap and when you have to fork out the dough. I think I made the right decision about the marathon. Bring it on!