Category Archives: Travels with Larry

Travel to Italy/A Place where Dreams are Born

The Leaning Tower of PisaMy best friend growing up was Adelina Gina Maria Sangineto… I clearly remember seeing her parents grasping her eight year-old hand as she stumbled behind them to register for school. She had sparkling brown eyes, long black hair and an effervescent personality. She soon became my best friend. When I came over to study geometry with her, I could hear the operatic sounds of Enrico Caruso. Her mother always saved a small dish of whatever they had for dinner—-such as mostaccioli, spaghetti or ravioli. It was like stepping into a scene from Under the Tuscan sky.  Adelina would brag about her many trips to Italy where she had 5 proposals and was pinched many times. I knew that someday, I would have to visit this enchanted land. That dream became reality  when we traveled Space A-retired military along with the deployed military to Aviano. It’s a country full of history, beauty and culture. Hopefully, you’ll learn what to do and what not to do while traveling in Italy. You can travel quite successfully without a tour guide as we did.   A copy of Rick Steve’s book and a GPS system will be your most valuable tools.  Learning Italian phrases also is most valuable. You can watch free classes on the internet to perfect your pronunciation.

We squeezed into a Fiat—-a tight squeeze for my husband Larry’s 6’2” frame. Since the car was not equipped with a GPS system,  we were forced to study the maps more intensely. Their Auto-strata system is different from ours. There are no signs like 90 E or W and no shoulders. The local roads use the rotary system which we embraced. Being indecisive, we could go around like a hamster in a cage before being ejected to the correct town.

If you choose to drive as we did, be sure to have a partner who is a good map reader and remember to refrain from harsh words with one another. When we got lost, we made it an adventure. We looked at it as an opportunity to interact with the locals and to see unexpected towns—It’s all new to us regardless. 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?” The daughter understood 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 solider translated. The father was so animated that words were not necessary. We often heard easy, straight ahead—but nothing in Italy was straight ahead.

We only had a week in Italy; so we decided to stay at Camp Darby, an army camp in central Italy where we took day trips. We were able to use the dollar at the military base which saved us a lot of money. The locals referred to the 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 shoulder’s touched each side.

Next we visited Lucas, the birthplace of Puccini. It’s one of the two cities with walls totally intact. The walls were built to protect them from neighboring  Florence.

On our way to Sienna in Tuscany, we took the back roads enjoying the country view of olive gardens and abandon villas. Rick Steve recommended a stop in Voltaire where we drove up a mountainside reaching a town that took us back to medieval times.  Colorful laundry hung out the windows to dry.  The town is known for alabaster wares.  We stopped for lunch at a restaurant resembling a catacomb. We had soup, wine and delicious bread. We dipped the bread in olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar. I didn’t see a pad of butter all week. Eating in Italy is always a wonderful experience.  We had melt in your mouth ravioli while we sat outside under the star-filled skies. Even at McDonald’s the food was good.The spinach bun melted in my mouth and the tiramisu was as smooth as silk.

Next we visited Cinque Terre—-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.  We had lunch together and  served as our own tour guides by sharing our knowledge of the area. The next day we read that there was a mudslide that destroyed several buildings including the restaurant we had visited. Several people were killed.

Our final destination was Florence—a place where fairy tales were created. We saw a cathedral constructed with three distinct colors of marble. It glowed in the setting sun.

But the highlight of our visit was seeing the breath-taking and massive statue of David, Michelangelo’s crowning achievement.   On a lighter side, Larry was drawn in by commercialism.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 good-bye to Italy. But after a week and the difference between the dollar and the Euro, we thought it was wise. We certainly hope to do another week in the future to Venice, Rome and Naples.

Start now saving for your trip to Italy. Don’t be afraid to drive and go without a tour group. Decide before hand that it will be an adventure you will never forget so keep your cool. Meet wonderful people, eat Italian cuisine and see unforgettable sights. Remember learning some phrases, bringing a Garmin and studying Rick Steve’s travel guide should help you get ready. By the way  despite 5 proposals, my friend Adelina Gina Maria never married but instead devoted her life to her parents, her teaching career and traveling to Italy.

Arrividerci/Chow

Sue Schuerr

Beef Jerky Montana Style

 

We just got back from a family reunion in Glacier Park and it reminded me of a previous summer in the wild West.  Larry bought a kit at Cabellas for making his own beef jerky. He spent an afternoon making some pretty tasty jerky for our hikes out in Montana. We eagerly looked forward to a family reunion. Our son, Aaron, rented a newly built rustic cabin tucked away in the woods and surrounded by rivers, hiking trails, and the Crazy mountain range beckoning us to adventure. The spacious Bennett Cabin outside of Clyde Park in Montana is a work of art. Its sturdy 80 year old logs are accented with green cedar shingles. It’s very reasonable to rent since it’s devoid of plumbing which means a 2 AM run to the outhouse.

Aaron and his wife Lynelle climbed out of their van with our three energetic grandsons August, Jasper, Isaac and their trusty chocolate lab, Gracie. Family fun would now begin. But it didn’t take long for Gracie to discover a strange substance she enjoyed chewing. She also rolled into some foul smelling pond and only a bath in the nearby stream could get rid of the stench.

We shared Larry’s delicious beef jerky with the family while hiking along the stream. But after a half hour or so we were stopped by fallen trees that were the result of a June tornado that swept through the area. That evening, we came across the journal where visitors describe their time at the cabin. We were told to look for a fantastic view of the stars, a visiting owl, and an occasional bear sighting. But what caught our attention the most was an entry from the previous week. It went something like this.

Entry 7/8. We were sitting around enjoying coffee and conversation when a very polite forest service man informed us that our serene time was coming to an end. A downed tree caused by a tornado killed a cow and now they, meaning the forest service, were going to have to deal with it. Yes, they were waiting for an expert to arrive from Bozeman who would help them with the situation as a resident bear had discovered the beast which made it unsafe for cabin residents like us. More trucks began to arrive— some seven or eight of them donned with helmets and chain saws as they cut through the tree. They then covered our cabin windows with plywood and asked us to park the cars behind the cabin suggesting we take a hike. We went toward Target rock over fallen trees not knowing what to expect. Soon an explosion ripped across the mountain—-an earth shattering and auditory resound of military impact. What we were hearing was the sound of an exploding cow. An exploding cow! It took a legend to blow up one single cow. There was enough gusto to take down a herd of cows. Any resident bears must have fled completely out of the Crazies for good——with need of therapy. We went back to our cabin and were greeted by a considerate and good humored forest service employee informing us that the danger was now over. I felt it was my duty to walk to the gate where the deed was done to investigate. The dirt road was strewn with clumps of red meat the size of salmon servings and flies were swarming in mass. The smell was prehistoric. I was witness to something that looks simple, but is complex. Now little critters will nibble the bits. As for bears—the therapy continues.

Now we understood why Gracie was having such a feast. The mysterious substance was nothing other than—Montana beef jerky. Her last treat resembled a cow’s ear—Yuk! Coming from Illinois and chewing our own beef jerky, we knew we were witness to the aftershocks of an event done only Montana style.

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An Unusual Fishing Venture

The crystal clear water of Devil’s Lake, a hidden jewel in Wisconsin, is surrounded by high bluffs which are magnets to hikers, campers and rock climbers alike.   My husband, Larry, and I were fortunate to find an available campsite on a picture perfect weekend. We set up the tent just in time to enjoy watching the birds fly over the breathtaking pink and purple sunset. We eagerly looked forward to our friends, Lola and Thom’s, arrival so the hiking, biking and, most importantly, laughing around the campfire could begin. Then I heard a sound that changed everything, “Bang!”Larry shut the door of our 2000 Windstar Ford van. I heard him gasp in shock, “Oh rats! I thought I was unlocking it, not locking it. I left the keys in the van.” “How could you do such a thing?” I moaned.

Sure enough, there they were, laid out between the seats, resting like a silver trout between two pond cup holders. And, as luck would have it, our spare key – tucked under the right wheel – had long since disappeared.

In less technical days, opening a locked vehicle was so much easier. Back when I taught ESL classes at a synagogue, 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. 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 have ended.

Not accepting defeat, I walked around the van a couple of times, before observing 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 what looked like a fruitful day of fishing.

Normally Larry is a good problem solver, but for some reason this one stumped him. Having given up hope, Larry saw no other solution but to borrow our friend’s car to retrieve another set of keys. I grimaced at the thought of an unnecessary six-hour trip. What a way to ruin a beautiful weekend!

In a frantic state, I walked up to the fishermen and said, “Do you have any ideas how to retrieve our keys from our locked van? The back side vent window is open about two inches.”

“Well, we have a fishing pole and lure,” one camper replied. “But the pole is not long enough to reach from the back of the van to the front. 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 from one camper to the next as our plan unfolded. Eventually we decided to tie a treble hook to a twelve inch long piece of fishing line, which we duct taped to the end of Larry’s tent pole, turning the pole to wind the line around it. Where would mankind be without duct tape?

Move over Rover, duct tape is now modern man’s best friend. Getting more excited by the minute, Larry and the fishermen continued to pool their ideas.

“What we have here,” I said to myself, “is 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 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,” I told him. “Now move it to the left, and down a bit.”

We were all tense and focused as we engaged in our most unusual fishing venture. As the typical fisherman’s wife, I really didn’t have much hope for its success. 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 as the lure made its first scooping attempt, about an inch shy of the capture.

“Try again, Lar. This time more to the right,” I said.

He lowered the hook and unwound the line. After a couple more tense tries, I watched in disbelief as the keys flickered in the moonlight, 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 potential entanglements, including: tossed clothing, camping supplies, and the velour seats, any of which 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 the fleeting moment.

In sheer delight, I saw the keys within inches of the vent window. We were breathless with excitement. Handing the flashlight to one of the fishermen, I wedged my tiny fist through the vent window, capturing our prize.

We all 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, having redeemed himself, proved to be an excellent fisherman, though not without his team and sheer luck.

Lola and Thom pulled up, wondering what was causing all the commotion. They were not surprised to hear Larry had locked the keys in the van. He was known for creating problems that required fleets of fishermen to solve.

Enjoying the beauty of the evening and huddling around the inviting campfire, we laughed about our most unusual fishing venture. We already knewit was going to be a weekend to remember.

 

 

Sunset Beach in Fish Creek/ Peaceful?

The Many Faces of Larry

At Sunset Beach in Fish Creek crowds gather for the big event—watching the glowing sun disappear over the Lake Michigan horizon where earlier we saw pelicans flying like pearls in the sky. Parents and children skip rocks and lovers embrace one another while gazing at the halo of orange and pink. Larry and Sue along with three female friends are ready to join the crowd for applause that begins with the sunset.

Somehow Larry got on the topic of hunting remembering the nightly jaunts of the deer crossing our yard nibbling our flowers and shrubs on their way to a save haven of soft underbrush where they nestle for the night. Our son, Aaron, is a hunter because that is what one does in Montana to get meat for the year. Larry has always longed to join him but the cost of the tags are too expensive. Over the past five years, we have seen the deer population grow exponentially in our suburban neighborhood.

Waiting for the sun to set is a celebration anticipating the guest of honor to arrive. The joyful atmosphere transforms strangers into friends. The picture changed abruptly as Larry explained loudly how he would love to hunt Bambi in his own backyard but he said, “My chances of killing a deer with a single bow would be close to impossible. An arrow would slow it down, but then I’d have to chase it through the neighborhood with a knife and slit its throat. I don’t think the neighbors would appreciate that very much.” The mental shift from a setting sun to a slit throat causes us to cringe. The man on the rock below us was squirming while eavesdropping.

Next, we drove into town to get ice cream when Larry suddenly pulled over to the curve and parked. He then took us to a circle of lilacs and told us to breath deeply. “It’s the most pleasant aromatic smell. Isn’t it wonderful? I just love it and had to share it with you,” said Larry.

Our friend Lu, a counselor, burst out laughing saying to me, “One minute he is slitting Bambi’s throat and the next minute he has us all gathered to smell the lilacs. What’s that all about?”

Yes, Larry hasn’t hunted anything more than a pheasant and cries first at the movies. My former Marine husband will stand up for the needy and oppressed, yet he will stop for a sunset and to smell lilacs—–the many faces of Larry.

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A Motorcycle Trip to Praire Du Chien

When you see signs labeled Bad Ax River and Lone Elm Tree road, it’s a clue you are no longer in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Actually, we were in the outskirts of Prairie Du Chien. It’s where the Mississippi and Wisconsin River meet. Our mode of transportation was a 1981 Honda motorcycle loaded with everything we would need for a two day adventure. You might call it a midlife crisis, but then no one lives over 120 years unless they are eating Dannon yogurt in some remote village in Russia. Yes, after twelve years of begging and the sky high prices for gasoline, I finally gave Larry permission to buy another motorcycle. Permission, you may ask! Well, Larry crashed his first motorcycle on the Ides of March in 1995— when he gazed at a police officer giving a poor soul a ticket. The woman in front of him suddenly put on her brakes and Larry slammed into her trunk resulting in his broken pelvis, a demolished  motorcycle and a lost teacher spring break. Fortunately, no surgery was needed and the wider pelvis would enable Larry to have our next child.

Every time we went through Sturgis on our way to Montana, I would have to wipe off the drool from Larry’s chin as he lusted after another motorcycle. But Larry wanted his wife as a partner, and he waited twelve years for me to finally give consent. Now I have to admit, I love the freedom and fun of a motorcycle myself.

.Over the past twelve years, gravity has played havoc with Larry’s 6’ 2”, 240 lb. frame.  To get on his motorcycle, he grabs his pant leg and throws it over the seat and does a little jig when a cramp sets in. I’ve promised to teach him yoga and stretch moves to remedy his condition but he shows little interest in learning. Getting off the motorcycle is also a trick since the body wants to stay in the bent over position. Other than that, we had a wonderful time enjoying the onset of fall and the flocks of pelicans landing on the Mississippi river.

The first night we camped at Governor Dodge State Park right along the cliffs. It was late September and we had the place to ourselves. We pitched our backpacking tent and made an attempt to sleep well on insulate which is like sleeping on old cardboard boxes. Following tradition, we strained to read before bed with our trusty headlamps and foggy glasses. I dreamed of our first motorcycle trip to Galena twenty years earlier when we traveled with four other couples surrounded by a lightning filled rainstorm. I was young enough not to worry too much about the metal tent poles attached to the back of the motorcycle. There are some advantages to growing old—such as gaining wisdom.

I highly recommend a trip from La Cross to Prairie Du Chien and then over the bridge to see the Indian Mounds in Iowa. From there, continue on to Galena and back to the land of more sophisticated names for rivers and roads. By the way, the lowest gasoline prices were in Dubuque, Iowa —just $3.66. You might also find a deal on a motel, but then you’d miss the beauty of being so close to nature at its best.

Since writing this post, we have a better motorcycle which is much more comfortable for me. We just took a trip up to Delafield through Kettle Moraine and to Lake Geneva WI. It was a beautiful July day and we celebrated our anniversary by walking around part of the lake and going to Tuscany’s for dinner. Life is good and the gas less expensive in Wisconsin.