Category Archives: Travels with Larry

An Unusual Fishing Venture


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 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: 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.

Calling you to A North American European Experience


Bonjour from Quebec City in 2012!  Going to French Canada is a low cost European experience. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and experience a different culture. Don’t get in a rut and take the same boring vacations—enjoy a new experience. The most fulfilled people know that experiences offer more happiness than things. Make memories with your family and friends. Take your bikes along and camp.

All the signs and free handouts are in both languages. The signs are in French/English. You’ll be using the metric system and shopping at unique stores. It will be a wonderful education for all.

We took off for Canada through Michigan and traveled through Sault Saint Marie toward Sudbury. The currency is close to the same—-97 cents to our dollar with the Canadian advantage. We camped with our small trailer and cooked most of our own meals—eating healthy most of the time.  Taking a tour with others along the French River by boat was exciting. An eccentric older man wearing a beret  was our guide.  He took us on a hike pointing out various plants and then he jumped off a 15 ft. cliff inviting us to join him.

Our goal was to eventually visit Quebec and immerse ourselves in the Canadian-French experience. I saw the St. Laurence River for the first time and got emotional thinking of my grandfather who traveled that route to Wisconsin from Norway as a child.

I purchased a phrase book and began to practice phrases I remembered from college.  It was interesting to listen to the radio playing French tunes and giving the weather reports as 21 and hot today. A local stopped and talked with us about  the Black Hawks and Michael Jordon. He then talked about how he knew important people in the government and how he secretly still hoped Quebec would sucede.

Quebec City was spectacular. It dates back to 1607 when Samuel de Champlain settled the area. Notice the age and quality of the building below.


It was rare to hear English except in  the stores and restaurants.  It’s not uncommon to hear French spoken in Canada; but when you get to Quebec, it’s all in French. So go back in time and get the European experience for a lot less money and time.

We drove home through Montreal and the New York entrance. I have to say as much as I enjoyed being in a European atmosphere, I was ready to be back in the USA where English was spoken. We took the back roads home through the Adirondacks—stopping at Lake Placid, the site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics.  It’s a beautiful city.


Escaping your comfort zone can make you happier, smarter, more confident, and more satisfied with life, while strengthening ties to the people you love. Talk with strangers. Don’t over plan. Leave some room for new experiences and trust that things will work out for you.

And remember when diving  off a 15 ft. cliff on the French River to take your Canadian money out of your pocket. Au revoir

Feeding the Fish in Ottawa Canada

Now that our daughter, Julie, and her family are going to Canada this summer, I thought I’d post our adventure  in 2013. We drove to Ottawa and then to Quebec City. It was a North America European experience. But before we got there, we took a boat ride and a scenic hike which included both of us jumping off a 15 ft. cliff.  Larry jumped off and forgot he had Canadian money in his pockets; so now he is feeding the fish. The rest of this entry is directed towards my grandchildren but gives you some insight into the provinces.

(He forgot about the money in his pocket.)

You’d enjoy seeing the money here especially the $5 bill that has a picture of kids playing hockey. It looks like toy money but it is very much like our $5.00 bill. The exchange rate is close to the same by a few pennies to the Canadian advantage.

Ottawa was our second place to stay. We toured the friendly city by bicycle. Ottawa is the capital of Canada. There are canals running through it with a bicycle path all around it. There are many old picturesque buildings here—the Parliament building is where the government is located. Next to the Parliament is the Supreme Court building. We met a man who spent some time in jail before he turned his life around. Grandma talked to anyone and everyone. She conversed with to a high school student who said he works hard at the grocery store and then spends the rest of his time playing ice hockey. He said people come from all over the world including Russia and the US to play hockey in his town of Prescott/Russell. He hopes to be a professional someday. Ottawa’s border is shared with Quebec. The people in Quebec speak French and have talked about seceding from Canada because the Canadian people are connected with Britain and honor Queen Elizabeth II. Their loyalty is to France. When you study history you will find out that France and England have always been at odds with one another. The man we talked to from Quebec said they were thinking of seceding again since the vote to do so was so close at the last referendum.

I have been studying French while on this trip.  I took two years of high school French and one year of college French. But I haven’t used it in years. Being here in Canada, everything is in English/French. It’s a great opportunity to learn again. In Quebec the signs are only in French. Grandpa is doing fine following the French road signs .  He drove in Italy so he can drive anywhere with attitude.

We love getting a cup of coffee at Tim Horton’s. It’s the Mc Donalds of Canada. Grandma tried ordering in French but Grandpa was impatient for his coffee and there was a line. We finished the order in English.

Ottawa had a free light show on the Parliament building. It was wonderful—I never saw anything like it. They told a story with pictures accompanied with English/French dialogue. It was about the diverse  provinces, the Indians, the various Olympic stars, celebrities and the animals like caribou, seals and whales. We all clapped with enthusiasm and respect for this great country.  Canada claims to have a heart for all people no matter where they come from. It was a wonderful show that gave us a superb education. We talked to a man from Pennsylvania who said he likes the Canadian people because they are not so viciously angry about politics and religion.

We are now on our way to Quebec City. It is like a European city. Tune in next time.

I Have a Bone to Pick with You

CIMG4345Now that fishing season is almost upon us, I’m reminded of a lifewithlarry experience. Our daughter, Deborah, who resides in Bozeman, Montana taught Larry how to fly fish one summer. He took to it like a bee to honey.  He can be see practicing on the road here in Fox River Grove, IL.  People come from all over the world to fish in Yellowstone and pay enormous amounts of money for the adventure. Deb took Larry to a small spring creek near a railroad track and Interstate 90.

“There can’t be anything in here. It’s too small.” Larry reacted. But it turned out to be a fishing supermarket.

He caught 32 fish in a manner of a few hours. They hit any brown fly Larry threw at them. He was bursting with excitement like a kid in a candy store while cleaning and gutting the four he decided to keep.

“It was going to be a great dinner,” he said knowing we were going to have company that night.

When visiting Montana, we often camp at Hyalite National Forest—–one of God’s most magnificent creations. We tow a 19 ft.  trailer and that is our home for 3 weeks. People come and visit us in our beautiful, pristine surroundings. Our daughter-in-law’s parents came up that evening for a fish dinner. By the time the coals were hot and dinner ready to be served, it was dusk. Ravishingly hungry, we devoured our food until we heard Larry gag.

In the darkness of the evening, he had mistaken a bone for fish. Coughing, bread, water—–nothing seemed to dislodge it. So the next morning, we headed down the mountain to the medical center.

“Hi Larry”, the doctor said. You see Larry, from Illinois, had visited the center other times in past years for one malady or another.   He looked down his throat and said, “I haven’t seen anything like this in twenty years.” This was all I needed to hear. My hopes of a problem free vacation were quickly vanishing.

Next he said, “If I cannot dislodge the bone, it will mean surgery.” Surgery——- for a fish bone! Whoever heard of such nonsense? Larry suppressed the cough instinct and allowed the doctor to lunge down his throat with a pair of round pliers with a round tip. After a couple of attempted, he captured his prey.

“In addition to teaching and construction,” Larry said, “I could now have another career as a professional  Sword Swallower.” We all agreed.

Now when eating fish in the dark, I insist that he put on one of his many REI head lamps, or I’ll have a bone to pick with him.

Costa Rica/ A Bit of Paradise

“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25

CR photo

It was with great joy that I connected with Eric and Caroline  and their lovely children, John and Evie. Eric was one of my students at Cary Grove High School where he was the valedictorian of the class. Caroline was Kate, the lead, in our school play,” The Taming of the Shew.” I had heard that they were working in Costa Rica.  My husband and I began supporting them a few years back. So it was interesting for us to visit them in a different relationship. We actually knew little about their ministry and their role in Central America. I emailed Eric and asked if we could visit. He graciously invited us and set up a two-week agenda for us.

Our first morning in Costa Rica, I woke up to the sound of birds, the crowing of roosters and the smoke from the nearby volcano dotting the pink clouded horizon. Eric took us on a tour of the campus which is a taste of paradise. The flowers, palm trees and large pines spoke of God’s presence in nature. We were able to pick oranges, lemons and grapefruits off the trees. I had been transported from below zero temps in Chicago to the warmth of the sun. With tears in his eyes, Eric shared the wonderful story of how God provided this unique campus. The day in CR begins and ends between 6 AM and 6 PM.  A lot is packed into that framework which included joining a visiting Pennsylvania church group in jobs like cutting down trees, varnishing doors and windows and taking down a termite infested building. Serving and eating together helped us develop close relationships.  Our cook, a little size 2 dynamo woman named Marlin,  cooked up a storm for us. It was not all work. We were part of the bus tour to La Paz where we saw waterfalls, animals and tropical plants; we also enjoyed a wonderful buffet. From there, we visited a coffee plantation.

When the Pennsylvania group left, I mentored some of the staff members in English while my husband continued working with the grounds’ team. As a former English teacher and now a writer, the role fit me perfectly. I also loved hanging out with the many children on the campus.  I’m uplifted by their energy, imagination and pure love of God. I encouraged little Evie to speak Spanish with me and she occasionally corrected my pronunciation—nothing like learning from a four-year old, smart cookie.  John runs like the wind just like his father did in high school. They both enjoy playing and watching soccer.

We then rented a car for three days at $50 a day which included a Garmin. We spent our first day at Jaho beach, our second in La Fortuna, home of backpackers and volcanoes. We stayed at the Arsenal Palace, a suggestion by a local, that gave us a great view of the volcano and a  full breakfast—all for $60 a night, no tax.  Our last day, we took a boat trip on the Rio Frio near Nicaragua  to see monkeys, sloughs and birds in their natural habitat.  Larry said he has a muse in the  slough who sleeps in a tree and comes down once every two weeks to relieve himself.

It was inspiring to watch Eric and Caroline follow in the footsteps of Jesus by developing disciples. Eric has a heart for the youth and Caroline is devoted to women’s small groups. This took on the form of stepping into Bible studies with them and taking pictures of their soccer games. God uses so many means to draw people to himself.  We also joined in the evening meetings where the Pennsylvania group processed their working day and shared what they learned in their personal devotions.

After our two weeks in CR, we were convinced that this is a wonderful ministry to support with our work and finances.  We hope to encourage others to be part of a team with us next year.

How to be Safe while Serving in Construction

safety (Click here to see the video)

The house we built in a week with Habitat in Katrina, Bay St. Louis
The house we built in a week with Habitat in Katrina, Bay St. Louis

Larry has been working with my son-in-law on remodeling their house. Yesterday they worked on installing electrical sockets, etc. As a result they both got mild shocks—-they soon discovered the problem. Larry has worked in the construction field as a contractor, a teacher, and now in retirement. Click on the above link to see the Blitz Build safety video he shared with a team at Willow Creek Church before going to help Katrina victims in Bay St. Louis. Not only is it helpful, but quite entertaining. He mentions and shows footage of Mike Breau giving a message and accidentally stapling himself. Enjoy and learn some tips.



Hats the new owner gave us to combat the intense sun.
Hats the new owner gave us to combat the intense sun.

A Cold Get-Away/ And Christmas Past

Gardinerski 005 Merry Christmas Everyone!   It’s Christmas 2014 in Fox River Grove, IL this year. But I remember a  few years back when we traveled to Yellowstone to celebrate.

There’s nothing like seeing a bison come ambling down a hill behind you as you cross-country ski on Tower Falls Trail in Yellowstone at 6278 ft. elevation and – 6 degrees. Yes, Life with Larry has given me another first time experience with extremes. Our son, Aaron Schuerr, is a chip off the old block. He arranged the two night winter get away at the Yellowstone Institute in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. When I heard that it was predicted to be bitterly cold, I assumed we would be canceling.  But the word cancel is not in the Schuerr vocabulary.   I was comforted with the fact that the cabins we would be staying in were heated; nevertheless my bottle of water turned to lumps of ice by the morning. I tried to negotiate with my bladder at 1:10 AM telling it to shut up and let me sleep. But it persisted so I grabbed my fleece coat and gazed at the breath-taking stars that filled the dark sky until I remembered that I had to be on the look out for stray buffalo who often wander into the camp. I heard the sound of a coyote in the distant and hoped it was not hungry for a short squat Norwegian-American. Finally, I made it to the bathhouse 50 ft. away which doesn’t sound like much of a feat, but it was -28 degrees.  “But it’s a dry cold,” they say.

After a hardy breakfast, we covered nearly every inch of skin and donned our cross-country skies to face the -6 degrees. I didn’t want to get out of the truck until August, my 10-year-old grandson said, “Suck it up Grandma,” ——such inspiration.  I shut the door on the van as my thumbs were the first thing to freeze and my toes felt like frozen peas. But soon the constant activity, lack of wind and beautiful sunshine warmed me like slow pouring heavy syrup. “It’s a dry cold,” Larry would remind me. When we got to Calcite Springs, we poured cups of tea and nibbled on Cheesites. A hot toddy was what I had in mind. But that would have to wait.

Montana winters didn’t bother Larry.  He must have been born in a deep freeze.  He even made himself a Frostline tent when the kids were little.  We had a lot of snow that winter so he built an igloo in front of our house on Rt. 31 in Crystal Lake, IL.  It was Larry and our St. Bernard dog.  But he came in at 5 AM in the shape of a cramped pretzel. That night he was testing the quality of his sleeping bag. “My sleeping bag is only rated to -20 degrees.” he said—-his excuse for coming in early. These days we are happy for cabins.

I made it to 2:30 AM before my second trip to the distant bathroom. As it turned out, the temperature improved to a balmy 10 degrees the next morning so we put on snow shoes, a first for us, and became Louis and Clark explorers. By 1 PM Grandpa and Grandma said good-bye to the hardy campers and headed to Chico Natural Hot Springs in Pray, MT to thaw and recuperate knowing that tonight we would sleep in a real bed with real heat.

It was an adventure, I’ll never forget.

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