Category Archives: Travels with Larry

Travel to Central Italy Economically

My best friend growing up was Adelina Gina Maria Sangineto.  I clearly remember seeing her parents grasping her little hand as she stumbled behind them to register for elementary school. She had sparkling brown eyes, long black hair and an effervescent personality. She soon became my best friend. In high school, we studied geometry together at her house while listening to the background operatic music of Enrico Caruso. Her mother would share a small dish of magnificent food like mostaccioli, ravioli or lasagna—all so different from my bland American diet.  Adelina would brag about her many trips to Italy where flirting included proposals and being pinched numerous times. I knew that someday I would visit this enchanting country of beauty, history, and culture.

That dream became reality a few years ago when Larry and I traveled Space A—retired, military from Baltimore Airport to Aviano, Italy with our Military Living booklets, our Italian phrase book and Rick Steve’s list of recommendations in hand.

We squeezed into a Fait—-a tight squeeze for my husband’s 6’2” frame. The car did not have a GPS system which forced us to study the maps more intensely and to meet more Italians who could help us with directions. The local roads use the rotary system and we ended up embracing them; when we were indecisive, we just went around a couple times before being ejected to the correct town. Our destination was Tuscany, where Camp Darby Army Base is located. For information concerning lodging see Darby Military Community Center Bldg 202/Tel: +39 050-54-7580/ DSN Tel: (314) 633-7580.   There are several reasonable options for housing, a room, a suite or a summer cabin  Our lodging was at the center of our daily excursions in central Italy. I’m sure there will also be wonderful Air B& B’s as well.

We decided beforehand that when we got lost we’d make it an adventure rather than a time for a feud. We looked at it as an opportunity to interact with the locals and to see unexpected cities. Helpful Italians are everywhere. For instance, a father and daughter were washing their store windows when we approached them for directions. “Porfavore, Dove esta Sienna?” I said. The daughter knew English but did not know the directions. The father knew the directions but did not speak English. They became an exciting duo as the father explained with much gusto in Italian and the daughter erect like a soldier translated. The father was so animated that words were not necessary. We often heard easy, straight ahead—but nothing in Italy was straight ahead.

The locals referred to this area as FIPILI which stood for Florence, Pisa, and Livarno. Our first adventure was to Pisa which is like visiting the United Nations. It is one of the seven man-made wonders of the world. The circular stairway was so narrow; Larry’s shoulders touched each side.

Next, we visited Lucas—the birthplace of Puccini, the great composer, whose family member was to perform that evening. Lucas is one of the two cities in Italy with walls totally intake to protect them from neighboring ferocious Florence.

On our way to Sienna in Tuscany, we took the back roads enjoying the country view of olive gardens and abandoned villas. We stopped in Volterra where we drove up a mountainside reaching a town, known for their alabaster wares, that took us back to medieval times.  Our destination for lunch was a restaurant in a cellar resembling a catacomb named (La Vaverna della terra di mezzo/ Via Gramsci 64, 56048 Volterra (Pi)/ 0588-87394) www.dapina.it. We had soup, wine, and delicious bread. Another evening we had tasty ravioli while we sat outside under the star-filled skies.You cannot go wrong even if you are forced to eat at McDonald’s where the spinach bun melted in my mouth and the tiramisu was as smooth as silk.

Next, we visited Cirque terra—-the Italian Rivera with five colorful towns cut into the mountainside.  Soon we had our own hiking group—We were drawn like a magnet to anyone speaking English. We met a couple from New Zealand and another from Florida. While having lunch together we served as our own tour guides by sharing our knowledge of the area with one another.

Our final destination was Florence—a place where fairy tales were created. We saw a cathedral constructed with three distinct colors of marble. But the highlight of the day was seeing the breath-taking statue of David, Michelangelo’s crowning achievement. His majestic height, rippling muscles, and strong expression brought many to tears. On a lighter side, Larry was drawn in by commercialism. He could see no reason why he shouldn’t purchase the pair of swimming trucks or apron featuring a graphic picture of David from the belly button to the knees.

It was sad to say goodbye to Italy. We certainly hope to do another week in the future to Venice, Rome, and Naples. We found October to be a great time to travel to Italy—-tourist season is winding down and the weather is still pleasant.

Be sure to include a trip to Italy on your bucket list, and do it economically by perhaps driving and forming your own tour group. You will meet wonderful people, eat delicious Italian cuisine and see unforgettable sights. Learning some Italian phrases,  and bringing a Garmin and Rick Steve’s travel books will be very helpful.

By the way, despite five proposals, my friend Adelina Gina Maria never married but instead devoted her life to her parents and her teaching career.

Arrividerci/Chow,

Sue and Larry Schuerr

The Solar Eclipse Has New Meaning/See Why!

What is it about weather events that brings us to a screeching halt and makes us aware of our finite being on planet Earth?  Along with thousands, we made our pilgrimage to Marion, IL to see a 2:26 minute total eclipse while the phenomenon crossed the United States bringing glimpses of the moon covering the sun to millions. Tom Skillings, the WGN TV weatherman in Carbondale, was so overwrought with emotions—- he was moved to tears that rendered him speechless.  Surprised by his reaction he said, “This has never happened to me before.”

Larry, my husband, said this is a lifetime event; we must go.  Due to traffic, it was an eight hour trip both ways.  We gathered together at the town square where we met people from as far as England to as close as our neighboring town, Lake in the Hills. Later, we met Dan, a Physics Teacher Assistant at the University of Chicago who had a wealth of cosmic knowledge.   We all shared where we came from and why we traveled to this little town.  Glenn, from Northern England, had the best photo set up having witnessed a complete solar eclipse in the 1960’s; the rest of us, using our solar glasses, were in a state of amazement as the moon ate up the sun causing the crickets to chirp and the street lights to turn on at 1:30 PM. We cheered, clapped, and some of us sobbed as we witnessed for the first time the diamond ring corona.  We thought of ancient people who would sacrifice to a sun god to keep it burning. Someone suggested we sacrifice my 6’2″ Larry.  Yes, as strangers we became instant friends, by teasing one other. But he said, “No, I’m too big. How about my slightly under 5’O” wife.”

On our way home, I thought of another time when night ate up the day. “At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice. ” Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46)?  At that moment, He carried all our sins on the cross and breathed his last while the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

The darkness I experienced in the early afternoon reminded me of the darkness Jesus experienced on the cross as he paid the price for you and me with his own blood. I look at the brightness of the moon and feel the warmth of the sun and wonder why he loves me so much. Like the apostle James, I ponder. “For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

But one day, because of his love, he will come for us; it will be like no other day. “The dead in Christ shall rise to meet him in the air. And then those that remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17).  Now there’s an experience and a reunion I don’t want to miss.

An Unexpected Passenger/Travels with Larry

We were on our way to Livingston, Montana. We were about 45 minutes from the famous Wall Drugs when we saw a young man walking along Rt 90 with a small backpack. We looked at each other and said, “It’s 95 degrees and that young man must be roasting.” We backed up and waited for him to catch up to us. “Do you need a ride?” said Larry. “Yes, ” he said. I’m on my way to Rapid City. We looked at one another. That would be at least two hours by car. Robert sat next to Larry in the front seat enjoying the beverage and fruit I handed him. We found out Robert is a Sioux Indian from Rosebud. He was hanging dry wall in Rosebud but the job ended. He hoped to find work near his aunts in Rapid City.

We asked him if he had ever been to Wall Drugs. He said, “No”. He had never been West of Rosebud. That surprised me since he must have been around 28 years old. “Would you like to go and get ice water and a 5 cent cup of coffee?” “Yes,” said Robert. His eyes were the size of half dollars as he took in the sights at Walls. If you have been there you know it has a circus quality, many mannequins, an assortment of historical pictures, shops and restaurants. He took it all in like a first grader on a field trip to Mars. He especially enjoyed the pictures and articles of Cowboys and Indians displayed throughout the buildings. We found out Robert loves art and is artistic himself. He gave Larry a bracelet with an Indian design on it. He said it was made from porcupine quills from the porcupines his cousin hunts. We did not rush the experience but let him know he might be able to find a job at Walls in his future.

We made our way, which was a bit out of our way,  to Rapid City. He said that his aunt worked at the hospital. We said,”Does your aunt know you are coming?” “No,” he said.  I asked him if there was anything we could pray about. He said, “A job and a chance to work on his art.” So I added Robert, the Sioux Indian,” to my prayer list.

You just never know what adventure one may have while traveling with Larry.

A Cup of Cold Water from a Stranger

 

Willow On Wheels, a bicycle and camping group, was going strong at the church during the 90’s.  We would meet on a Thursday night and ride our bikes anywhere from 10 to 30 miles through Barrington Hills. We made some great friends during the years WOW was active. As a result, we planned a biking tour to Kentucky. My husband and I and our teenage son, Aaron, lagged a bit behind the group after crossing a hazardous metal bridge from Illinois to Kentucky towards our next night’s destination.  Then it happened. Aaron got a flat tire. There were no cell phones then to notify our team that we were stuck in a small town in Kentucky.  A man rolled down his window and asked if we needed help.  “We need to find a bike store,” I said. “My house is up the road,” he pointed. “Just go in and use my phone.” I was surprised at his friendly gesture. “Help yourself to some water, too,” he said. We made a stop at the local bicycle store only to find out that they did not carry the unique bike tube. They advised us to set up our tent in the city park while we tried to figure out our next move.  Up the hill we could hear a party going on. It wasn’t long before they noticed us camped below. “Come on up for a hamburger,” they said.   We filled our plates and found out what it was like to live in a small coal mining town where getting a marriage license came before getting a driver’s license.

A young couple asked us if we would prefer sleeping in their living room rather than in our tent. “Thank you— that’s very kind of you,” I said,” but we’ll be fine here.” “But wouldn’t you like to take a shower?” they replied. “Showers,” said Aaron as the sweat rolled off his brow.  “Mom! You better say yes.”

This kind family opened their home to us. It was indeed a culture shock. As I closed my eyes and settled into my sleeping bag, I looked around the walls where stuffed turkey vultures and an assortment of other prized animals decorated the walls. I had never seen walls like that in the Midwest. The next day after serving us breakfast, they loaded our bikes in the back of their truck and took us to Paducah, Kentucky where we got the tube for my tire and soon joined the rest of our team. We will always remember the kindness of the Kentucky folks who shared the little that they had with us out of the kindness of their hearts.

These strangers have inspired me to reach out to those in need and to remember the words of Jesus.

“Truly I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” Mark 9:4

 

 

 

 

 

Never Never in the Everglades Feb. 2017

We decided to escape our Chicago winter by flying to Miami FL to visit friends and see sites,  but how ironic that winter in Chicago turned into spring with temperatures close to 70. Nevertheless,  here we were in the land of sun, flowers and yes alligators. We took a gorgeous hike through Fairchild Botanical Gardens where streams gleamed and pink, red and purple flowers adorned the paths. But now Larry was ready for something meatier or should I say downright scary—-a hike in the FL Everglades. As we walked along the boardwalk, we were greeting by large, healthy alligators enjoying a sun bathe in the river below. I had never in my life been that close to them.

Everglades in FL Feb. 2017

 

 

Larry soon returned with our hiking information, and a large burly man handed each of us a long thick stick. I wondered why we would need one for the boardwalk hike. But he pointed across the street where our hike was to begin. Just like Ruth and Naomi in the Bible, I followed not Naomi but my man remembering the line—-“Wherever you go; I will go.” But wait— it’s not a boardwalk but the beginning of a narrow path on very soggy mud.  “Yeaks,”  I thought. How am going to keep my tennis shoes clean here? “Where are you taking me?” I shouted as the path got progressively muddier and the stick stuck deeper.  Yellow flowers lifted their ominous heads mocking me. “Come on,” said Larry who was quite a bit ahead of me.  “Quit your whining.” Now I have followed Larry through caves, up mountains and down steep ski hills. But soon the mud turned into a stream and my imagination went viral while slouching through yet deeper, muddier water.  Now those big, huge alligators were napping across the street. What could possibly keep their cousins from habituating here?—-and, how about their relatives the snakes and lizards.  A childhood song came to mind. I’ve been eaten by a boa constrictor, a boa constrictor, a boa constrictor! Oh no, it’s up to my toe; oh geez, it’s up to my knee; oh heck. I wasn’t going to let it get up to my neck. I yelled out. “Larry, I can’t do this. I’m going back.”  I headed toward the sound of the traffic but I  with my sense of direction I was afraid I’d get lost.  I called for Larry again—  now pleading. After sometime, he appeared wet up to his thighs. “If I had followed you, I’d be swimming in the muck with baby reptiles and who knows what else,” I said.  I happily returned my thick muddy stick to the ranger who was impressed that as first timers in the Glades we had even considered this arduous, insane hike. We gave ourselves and our shoes a hosing off and made our way back to civilized Miami. Now Ruth may have followed her Naomi. But I’ll think twice about following Larry and of course–Never, Never in the Everglades

Larry Will Give You a Hand

We were enjoying our late afternoon hike in Frozen Head State Park outside of Oakridge TN, when I came across a solo ranger with a chain saw working on a large logjam. “Hi,” I said. Joe enjoyed the interruption. “Do you have any volunteers to help?” I asked. “No,” he replied. Then I did what I always do best. “Larry will give you a hand; Frozenhere he comes now.” I’m always volunteering my husband of 47 years. He just set the date for what he calls his Darth Vader knee replacement earlier that day. “This logjam is causing water to spill onto the graveled path,” said Joe.  Larry, a former contractor and teacher, looked at the situation and came up with a workable solution. The two entered the stream thigh deep and removed large branches and trees. As their cheerleader, I gladly stood on the sideline taking pictures I would add to my lifewithlarry.org blog.  The ranger, a bit fearful of cutting the large root of the tree, gave it the go. “Boom!” It finally came to rest on the bottom of the stream where it would be much easier to dismantle. Joe beamed from ear to ear, and Larry was thrilled to use his knowledge and muscle as a 69 year old man to help in a random act of kindness.  “It was the best part of the vacation,” he said as he asked the ranger to please hand him his silver cane.

 

An Unusual Fishing Venture

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The crystal clear water of Devil’s Lake is surrounded by high bluffs that are magnets to hikers and rock climbers alike.   It’s an unusual hidden jewel in the Midwest.   We were very fortunate to get a camp site on such a picture perfect weekend.   Luckily we got our tent up in time to watch the birds fly over the breathtaking pink and purple sunset. We looked forward to Lola and Thom’s arrival so that the hiking, biking and most importantly laughing around the campfire could begin.

Then I heard a sound that changed everything, “Bang”.

Larry, my husband, shut the door of our 2000 Windstar Ford Van and I heard him gasp in shock.

“Oh rats,” he said, “I thought I was unlocking it, not locking it. I left the keys in the car.”

Sure enough, there they were laid out between the seats to rest like a silver trout between two pond cup holders.   Our spare key tucked under the right wheel had long since disappeared.

I thought of less technical days when opening a locked vehicle was so much easier. I once taught ESL classes at a synagogue when a student from India came to class frantic because he had locked his keys in his car. I promptly marched into the synagogue kitchen and retrieved a handy black spatula and proceeded to squeeze it through the rubber between the windows. “Voila,” the car opened.

Another time Larry locked the keys in our Ford station wagon, and a group of foster teenagers Larry invited camping with us opened it with a coat hanger.

“We learned this trick in our juvie days,” they laughed.

But with computerization, the days of opening cars with a spatula or coat hanger are over.

Seeing myself as an adequate problem solver, I walked around the van a couple of times and observed one glimmer of hope. The back vent window was opened about two inches. I also noticed a group of male campers toasting their feet around a cozy campfire after a fruitless day of fishing.

Having given up hope, Larry was already planning on borrowing Lola and Thom’s car when they arrived to drive to our home almost three hours away to retrieve our second set of keys. I grimaced at the thought of a six hour unnecessary trip.   What a way to ruin a beautiful weekend!

Boldly walking up to the fishermen, I said, “Do any of you have ideas about how to retrieve our captured keys from a locked van. The back side vent window is open about two inches.”

“Well, we have a fishing pole and lure,” the camper thoughtfully replied. “But the fishing pole is not long enough to reach from the back of the van to the front where your keys are located. Scratching his head, he said, “We could attach it to something, but what?”

“We could duct tape the lure to my fiberglass tent pole,” Larry piped in with renewed hope.

The ideas continued to swirl around from one camper to the next as our plan unfolded. We tied a treble hook to a twelve inch long piece of fishing line which we duct taped to the end of Larry’s tent pole. Then we turned the pole to wind the line around the tent pole. Where would mankind be without duct tape?  “Move over Rover!” Duct tape is now modern man’s best friend.   Larry and the fishermen got more excited by the minute as they continued to pool their ideas together.

“What have we here,” I contemplated. “It’s a near impossible venture, at least a challenge and men with nothing better to do? It’s male bonding at its best. MacGyver would be proud of them.”

Larry, our self-appointed fisherman, assigned us our positions as we prepared to go for the keys. Fishing for car keys—- How absurd was that! My job was to stand by the side of the van with a flashlight while Larry blindly and painstakingly fished his way through the back vent window to the front of the vehicle. He manipulated the fishing rod up and down with help from the campers.

Being the only one who could see clearly, I gave the directions about how to move the pole, “Slightly to the right, Honey.”   “Now move it to the left, and down a bit.”

We were all very tense and focused as we engaged in our most unusual fishing venture. As the typical fishermen’s wife, I really didn’t have much hope for its success.   I’ve heard enough fishing stories in the past. But I watched in wonderment as these men maneuvered the pole until it finally hovered over the steel fish—our keys.

“How far above the keys am I,” Larry asked. “How much line should I unravel?”

I watched the baiting lure make its first downcast attempt about an inch shy of the capture.

“Try again, Lar— this time more to the right,” I nervously stated.

He lowered the hook and unwound the line. After a couple more tries, I watched in disbelief as the magical silver fish flickering in the moonlight was being drawn up into thin air.   My heart raced and my stomach did summersaults as they worked the pole backwards.

The fishermen were delighted at the capture, but they didn’t see what I saw—— the entanglements which included—tossed clothing, camping supplies, and the velour seats that could so easily ensnare our coveted prize. Touch anything and we’re cooked.   I continued directing the blind fishermen to move the pole in such a manner as to avoid entrapment. With a sense of empowerment, I was the Siren commanding my ship of male servants who were painstakingly following my directions. I relished in the fleeting moment.   In sheer delight, I saw the keys within inches of the vent window. We were all breathless with excitement. Handing the flash light to one of the fishermen, I wedged my tiny fist through the vent window capturing our trophy prize.

We jumped up and down in disbelief— and our shouts of triumph could be heard throughout the campground. Where was America’s Funniest Home Videos when we needed them? Did we really fish for keys?? Larry, redeeming himself, proved it be an excellent fisherman, but not without his team and sheer luck.

Lola and Thom pulled up and wondered what was causing all the commotion. They were not surprised to hear that Larry had locked the keys in the van. He is known for creating problems that take fleets of fishermen to solve.   We all huddled around the inviting campfire keeping Larry far away from the keys. Yes, it was going to be a weekend to remember.

Stay tuned in for the following chapter on solving another impossible van situation.

 

 

 

 

Why Visit Brown County State Park in Indiana

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Brown County State Park in Nashville, IN

After we finish the Hilly Hundred Bike Ride near Bloomington, Indiana, we reward ourselves by spending a night or two at Brown County State Park. This nationally known 15,776 acre facility is a jewel in the Midwest. October is one of the best months to visit because of the beautiful foliage color change. The park is open all year round offering an abundance of activities including 18 miles of easy to rugged hiking, 20 miles of mountain biking, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, horse-back riding and the beautiful rustic Abe Martin Lodge which has 84 lodge rooms.

Our first morning, we had breakfast at the lodge which is located in a beautiful rustic setting. It’s a lovely place to have a reasonably priced, excellent buffet while being surrounded by nature at its best—flowers, birds, deer and a variety of colorful trees.

Camping is available year-round, and the lodge is available for all. In the past, we have stayed at one of their family cabins near the lodge which includes sleeping for 8, a complete kitchen equipped with all the cooking utensils and linens.

If you want to feel like you are visiting Appalachia, step into the nearby town of Nashville, IN. It is a shoppers’ delight with a variety of stores and restaurants. Get a carriage ride through town if you prefer.

Then return to Brown County State Park to experience the beauty and solitude of nature. If you live in the Chicago area as we do, the distance from the city to Door County or to Brown County is about the same—5 hours give or take. Of course, it could be up to 10 degrees warmer in Nashville, IN. This has been part of www.lifewithlarry.org/travels for years now.  Take time to enjoy the beauty of God’s wonderful creation.  For more information, see the following:

Brown County State Park Online: dnr.IN.gov or call 812-988-6406.

 

 

 

Travels with Larry/Space A/Fly Like An Eagle

Sometime this year we hope to CIMG4858travel Space A again. We have been on a Lear jet twice from Washington DC to Scott Air Force Base in IL.   I could not travel without him; Larry put in the required time of over 20 years for the privilege.    He spent 4 years in the Marines as an air-controller and in the military police. He then joined the Navy reserves for 18 years and did most of his duties at the former Glenview Naval Air Station where he enjoyed playing many practical jokes on his friends.

We started flying Space A about 6 years ago as part of our retirement travel plan.  It has been the source of many adventures to various places like Germany, Spain, Italy and Hawaii.   We have been on a C5 and a C1-17 cargo medi-vac and twice on a Lear Jet.  But the most exciting was being   on a refueling tanker  We were able to lie on our stomachs and watch while our plane in mid air was being refueled. The pilot was a young woman with a blonde pony tail. We have enjoying getting to know servicemen and women. They tell us about their deployments and say they are glad to serve.

Flying Space A is not for the faint-hearted. You can have very long wait times and it may mean hopping around the US before reaching your destination. But it is a wonderful adventure that I thank God for letting us experience. It reminds me of one of my favorite verses in the Bible. “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:30-

A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine

Washington 2015 060To enhance a relationship, add fun and the unexpected.  Over the years Larry and I have learned to laugh regardless of what is going on in our lives.  We took a vacation to Seattle, Washington and camped for three days at the Olympic National Forest. We hiked and enjoyed the beauty around us. I noticed a cylinder culvert ahead so I scampered ahead and hid on the side of it planning on scaring Larry.  I timed it just right I thought. I jumped out and said BOOO but to my amazement, it wasn’t Larry. It was a tall heavyset Englishman with dark rather spiky hair. “Bloody Hell,” he proclaimed. I quickly apologized saying, “So sorry—I thought you were my husband.” I truly scared him out of his wits. Welcome to America.

But then I situated myself again and jumped out and succeeded in scaring Larry.  Mission Accomplished. Larry calls me Nissa, a troublesome little Norwegian gnome. I’ll continue to live up to my name and watch for his comeback. Feel free to share how you add adventure to your relationship.