Hiking the English Cotswolds

I’ve got the bug again. Man, do I want to go on a vacation. One with just me and Ryan, or with us and friends. No kids. No nap times (except for ours) and no curfews.

So because I never officially wrote about our Cotswolds vacation, I’ll relive it now to relieve this urge to explore.

We went to England in April 2011 and I was four months pregnant with Ruth. We first were planning (and had plane tickets bought) to go to Israel and backpack The Jesus Trail with a stop off at the Dead Sea. But then everything blew up politically and we (mostly me) backed out. While we were in England, we heard word that there was a bus bombing. That would’ve been one day after us arriving in Jerusalem. I felt happy with our decision, tucked away next to a pub fireplace. The only bomb near us was Ryan’s bombshell of a wife.


And you may quit reading now after that. Goodbye.

But if you’re still here, let’s talk details! The Cotswolds Trail runs from Chipping Campden to Bath and are foot trails that run through towns, countryside, private farms…everything.  The fact that I had to constantly watch out for sheep poo made me squeal. There are sites that let you pick out B&B’s along the way.

Our trip focused on the northern part of the trail, from Chipping Campden to Winchcombe. I chose this section because of the time it took to get there from London. A quick train ride to a town about 8 miles out of Chipping and then catch a bus to our B&B.

That is, until I realized we arrived on a Sunday. With no bus service. 8 miles from our first destination.


Ryan tried to call in some favors, but apparently the taxis in the area were also taking a break.
IMG_4656Our hiking trip started a bit earlier than thought, was all, however, with all of our baggage. We’d hired a company to pick up our bags from each B&B and deliver it to the next one, so all we’d have to carry is a small backpack. If we’d been in Israel, we would be carrying everything including a tent. We so weren’t ready.

Plus, we got to see this sign which made the whole first leg worth it:
IMG_4657After some miles along cute woodsy areas and curvy roads through one-street towns, we finally saw our destination! But excuse me as I first squeal over the hand built stone walls covered in moss.
IMG_4663We made it to the beginning, woo hoo! Now where’s our lodging, my back hurts.


Found it. It was a home in the newer part of the city. Not gonna lie, my first impressions were “womp womp…”. We’d booked this trip with a week of leaving (holding out til the last moment for Israel) and I never looked at pictures of any place that we were staying. I’m an oldie but goodie type of lodging. It could be a teepee, but if it’s an old teepee, I’m all in. All of those preconceptions of staying in a new building were quickly thrown out the window when the nicest of owners opened the door to us and gave us a skeleton key for our room.



And our cute little room. This is what I want in my house: English Country with a fireplace full of balls of yarn.
IMG_4666Not to mention the breakfasts too! I never took a photo, but the food was perfect as well as the company. We stayed two nights in Chipping and the first morning we walked down to a couple already seated at the table. Some B&B’s have many little tables to eat at, this one had only one big one. They sat at one end, we sat on the other and it didn’t take long before a conversation was started amongst us. They made me daydream hardcore after visiting. Their job? They drive around to the various castles/museums/etc and work with them to create children’s books featuring that particular site. She is the presenter/writer, he is the artist. You know I was in awe and wondered if Ryan and I could do something similar. But what made me love them even more is that when we told them that I was pregnant with our first, she said, “I obviously don’t know you very well, but I can picture you travelling with your child, carrying him or her in a papoose on your back.”

Let’s be frank. They didn’t have kids….and at that time, neither did we. So I really believed her.

I can’t wait to travel with my kids, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t wait to travel without them either. See ya papoose.

That night, we went to our first pub…. as well as the first of Ryan’s week long “Finding the best Fish and Chips in England” mission.

IMG_4668And I got…. lasagna? Don’t ask. But it was good. Next time, I’m taking up Ryan’s challenge.
IMG_4669The following day we went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to visit Shakespeare’s home, but first had to take a shot of the library. Excuse me while I get a library card and never leave again.
IMG_4671I was even enthralled by the dang trash cans. Rotting old wood? Ryan had to continually pull me along.
IMG_4675Outside Shakespeare’s home, two guys were circling one another reenacting scenes.
IMG_4680Okay, admission: things like this make me feel embarrassed. It could be someone playing the guitar for money, it doesn’t matter. But if I don’t have a ticket in hand and a theatre seat, my stomach hurts. I don’t know why. I think it’s their committment to performing with no one around. This is odd coming from a performance-obsessed gal like myself…. but if I’m the only one watching I feel like they’re thinking: Hold up, there’s only one girl here listening to us. And then they make eye contact with their actor-friends, do their secret code (winking twice- I’m sure this is what it is) to let the others know to break character and go out for a drink… because there’s only one girl here listening. So because I know they want to take a break, I go against the weird embarrassed feeling in my stomach and sit front and center to prove that I’m not embarrassed and force them to finish their performance.

Someone help me. Or help them.

Either way, we all made it through this particular Shakespearean scene, but ended up missing the bus for the day, So we had to walk the five miles back, but along the way stumbled upon Anne Hathaway’s house, Shakespeare’s wife. We didn’t really research anything very well, so this was a nice surprise.

IMG_4685And then of course had to get a snack. We’d already walked more than we planned and hadn’t even started our official hiking part!
The next day we woke up ready to get going on our hike. The plan was to walk from Chipping Campden to Stanton on 7-8 miles and Stanton to Winchecombe on Day 2: 7 miles. Not nearly long enough, but we also wanted to stay in Bath and then London for a couple nights.

First up, the weather. Everyone we talked to said that we sneaked in on the most beautiful weather they’d had that year. It’d been cold and raining, but that week it was sunny and cool. It only got really chilly in London.

We walked downstairs to a family staying in the B&B and by the end I was sure they’d invite us to their home for the holidays. But to spare them the awkwardness of having to turn it down, we skipped out of there, I was too excited to walk the countryside! We walked up a big hill and found our first marker of the journey. Beware: lots of “oh another picture of Ryan and Carolyn walking in a pasture” are about to be shown. Deal.
IMG_4710My first encounter with sheep poop and I was excited. Real Cotswolds sheep poop, people! I was here, finally!!
Little itty bitty paths leading up to stone walls to climb over like the one here are basically what we walked on. Other times we crossed huge fields with no indication of where to go.
IMG_4716This is on the way to Stanton: the Broadway Tower. It’s a “folly tower” which means it’s new, made to look old. You can climb to the top and look out, which we debated about doing and decided against it.
IMG_4728Sheep surrounded the tower and Ryan started counting them.
IMG_4730He got to 9 before falling asleep in the field.
IMG_4733We walked into the town of Broadway for lunch.
IMG_4739Then hit the trail again. Seriously, you guys. This trail. You walk the countryside and then it takes you into little passages that open up to thatched roof homes.
IMG_4746We made it to Stanton, probably our favorite little town on the whole trip. It was basically one street long, nothing spectacular. Maybe it was after our first long day of walking and we were just so happy to arrive, but I think it was more than that. This little town was quaint and quiet and old.

Our B&B had a detached building as our room.
IMG_4749Ryan counted sheep again and promptly fell asleep.
IMG_4750That night we went to Stanton’s only pub/restaurant: The Mount Inn.
IMG_4751Don’t ask me about my food choices. A meat platter? I obviously was pregnant.
IMG_4752We carried a pack of cards and played games whenever we didn’t feel like talking. Which is what we did here, sitting on a cushioned bench near the warm fire, alone in the whole place.
IMG_4753Luckily for us, some entertainment in the form of two girlfriends going out for dinner joined us. We four were the only people in the room so everything said could be heard. Their waiter was new, took their order and dropped the ticket off. We were seated closer to the bar and overheard him telling the bartender that he’d forgotten what one of the drinks were. There was a back and forth of who should go back over and ask, and because the new waiter was embarrassed, the bartender walked over instead… and said:

My colleague here has forgotten your order….

The first waiter was watching all of this a few feet away, got embarrassed that he was being called out, and rushed over saying to one of the ladies, “Your first drink. What was your first drink again?”

My first drink?, she asked. My first drink… it was a lager, I was nine.

And with that she had her an American audience for the night, because we laughed deep and loud. She played to us too. Throughout the night, she’d make cracks and then glance over. We had nothing else to do, so we listened and laughed at her and played cards.

It was one of those special evenings that you don’t forget. Ryan still brings up the Mount Inn, sitting up on a hill in sleepy Stanton. I like when he reminisces unprovoked.

The next morning we had our breakfast, alone at a huge table in the old Post Office and went on our way.

By far, this was the best walk we’d done. I won’t forget the sun and the air and open countryside and the tucked away buildings and the horses and the sheep and the quiet.

IMG_4786We’d seen those mushroom-shaped concrete things all over the place, in people’s yards as decor, in homes, etc… And then we came upon a building held up by them.
IMG_4788Way off into the distance, Ryan points to our next destination: Winchecombe. But first we walked through a woods and explored abbey ruins.
IMG_4798Remember the shot of Ryan sleeping at the B&B? Yeah, at some point he took of his glasses and rolled over,  breaking them. As soon as we walked into Winchecombe, we found an eyeglass shop. We thought it was perfect because his exact glass shape were bolted to the side of the building.


Turns out, it wasn’t. It took 30 minutes for them to say nothing could be done, instead gave Ryan some tape to make do. Another highlight for me, watching Ryan trying to be taken seriously with taped up circular glasses. Ah, it’s the little things people.

Afterwards we went out to eat at the White Hart Inn. You had to step down into the restaurant and kind of looked up to the people on the sidewalk. Once again, we groaned our way through the meal. I should probably go walking before every meal. It makes every bite so much better.
…and once again at our B&B:
IMG_4807I instead did this:
IMG_4809Another night, another small pub.
IMG_4810The next morning something Ryan said or did made me laugh really hard, so I made him reenact it. Neither of us can remember now.
IMG_4812But I think it has something to do with this door.
IMG_4813Breakfast was a bit awkward. We sat at a table with a big group traveling together. I asked very bubbly what they were in town for? My father’s funeral. 


It was hard to recover, but somehow we did and ended up having a really good conversation.  We got all packed up, left our bags at the door, and went on a quick jaunt to Sudeley Castle just north of where we were staying.

IMG_4819The tall shrubbed walkways were amazing.
IMG_4820Then we hopped on the bus and headed to Bath. I sat behind Ryan and kept mumbling to the other passengers, “Who’s the tourist? DOWN IN FRONT!! Geez, what a nerd.” And then laughed too loudly.
IMG_4821We made a lunch stop at Bourbon-on-the-Water. Glorious day. Can’t remember the food. Didn’t matter, the weather!!!
IMG_4822We popped into a small scale replica of the town made in the 40s. Nothing had changed much since then and the details were awesome.
IMG_4826I drooled over this house and if we’d had more time, would’ve tried to find it in person. Dirty stone siding? check. Lace curtains? Check. Muddy stone entrance to wood door? Check Check Check. Next time we visit the cotswolds, we’ll just come straight here and never leave.
IMG_4833And in the midst of my la-la-la-ing to the exit, scrreeeeech! Ryan couldn’t get out the door.
IMG_4836No matter how we finagled it, no was our armoire of a backpack getting through there. The ticket guy made a big ordeal of opening the entrance gate so he could get out. People were told to Back up!! Tourist with a Big Backpack Coming Through!! 
IMG_4838Finally we boarded the bus to a connecting town on our way to Bath: Stow-on-the-Wold.

It was announced that no gum shall be chewed on this bus. Ryan told on me.
IMG_4840But oh, Stow! What a pleasant surprise. We had a couple hours to kill before the Bath bus came through, so started walking around. And what do ya know, this town was the stomping grounds of Tolkien. It’s thought that these trees, growing around the door to the town’s church inspired one of the doors in Lord of the Rings.
IMG_4847This one apparently, the West Gate of Moria:


The town square still had its prisoner holding thingamajig. We both had to try it out. Should I have cared that there were a billion people sitting around? Probably. But I didn’t.

IMG_4843Neither did Ryan.
IMG_4855I know there are tons of photos on Ryan’s phone that still haven’t been uploaded, but until I can find them just imagine us hopping onto the bus and finally arriving in Bath. It was the evening, so grabbed a quick dinner and walked (really, too far) to our lodging. I’d gotten lazy and never took photos. It was probably my least favorite, but still clean and good food.

The next morning we woke up early and walked our long walk to the city center to catch a bus for Stonehenge. Along the way, we saw metal circles in the stone walls. Later we asked our tour guide what it was and he said the stone fencing was sawed off to make artillery for the war.

IMG_4856We also passed this sign and if only we’d stayed a couple more nights, I would’ve totally crashed this dance party. A map was provided, it would’ve been their own fault.
IMG_4857We caught our bus to Stonehenge.
IMG_4859Ryan tried to ask a serious question to the guide. We can’t remember what it was, nor what her answer was. This is why you always write blog posts right after a trip, my friends. Pathetic. I’m sure it about some magnetic beam lining up with the rocks to create an alternate universe in which Ryan’s hat is actually cool.
IMG_4861Just kidding. I like his hat. And his old-timey glasses. No one else does, which is why I think I do.

I titled this photo: Sprinkler Stonehenge.

IMG_4864And this one: Stonehenge Selfie
IMG_4869We can’t remember why our hands are on this rock. It was important enough to get a photo though.
IMG_4872Back to the city center. Loved Bath so so much. Next England trip, completely skipping London. We agreed we could’ve stayed there the whole trip.
IMG_4873And not just because they have free walking tours. As they divided up the group into two, I was hoping against hope that this guy would be our guide. In the intro, he was the crowd favorite: funny and knowledgeable. So we scooted further and further until we were on his side of the imaginary line.
IMG_4876Look at that confidence! Anyone else would’ve timidly pointed at the building. Not this guy. Three fingers, yo!
IMG_4881Random tidbit we do remember:

A tax was created based on the number of windows on your house. Most had two windows on each floor:
IMG_4882So people rebuilt their windows so that it was only one. You can see on the left of the windows the outline of where the windows used to be.
IMG_4883Thank you Mr. Guide Friend.

I managed to catch a shot of Ryan gazing at him too. See? I wasn’t alone.
IMG_4886Along the tour, I spotted the Jane Austen Museum with a man all decked out in front.
IMG_4887He never gave me the time of day. Which, if I’m honest, would’ve pretty much been my life in the Regency too.

Luckily, I had this path to fall back on. The one that many people in Bath walked along and where they think Jane Austen referenced in many of her books. Look at me. Regency right there, friends.
IMG_4891The Royal Crescent. I’m sure important things were said about this place, but the only thing that stuck was about the Ha-ha ditch. And only because I want to implement one in my backyard. If you’re standing at the house looking out, the field looks even and flat. But if you walk out, you come upon a little wall that you can hop down off of, it’s a ditch really. And it’s called a Ha-ha because people will walk and fall off it because they don’t realized the ground drops off.
IMG_4896After the tour, we gave our tourist friend a tip and Ryan pulled me away before I started gushing too much. We had Roman baths to hit! My mom always says she has a Roman nose, so I guess this was for her?
IMG_4899It was a long day. Longer still because I think Ryan and I got into an argument that evening and decided to just go see a movie. A teeny movie theatre in one of the old buildings with old fashioned chairs and foyer and everything.
IMG_4910We made up and had a bite to eat before walking back home.

The next day we took the train to London. After checking into our hotel, we asked the concierge where we should head first. He said, Whatever you do, don’t go to near Trafalgar Square. Little did we know that London was having its own political dispute… about government programs getting cut. And it wasn’t just a little dispute. It was a full-on protest. Poor concierge, we just can’t resist a good protest! So off we went, exactly where he told us not to.
IMG_4920The streets were packed and continuously moving. Talk about a great tour guide! Ryan and I just floated along with coffee in hand staring at the buildings as we passed.
199204_10150181831592932_5039112_nAll the while people were throwing paint balls at windows, some were throwing rocks.
IMG_4929But mostly people were acting silly. Like this guy:
Who is he and can we be friends?

Finally we hopped off our protest tour and saw the sites:
IMG_4937It was really cold in London, so we ran into the nearest pub and warmed up.


Because we had the Jack the Ripper tour to do and it was a night tour!
IMG_4944The next day we went to the Changing of the Guards..
IMG_4948I hardly even watched the procession, I was too enthralled with my husband’s glasses.
IMG_4950…and playing the “Where’s Ryan’s glasses” game. There they are!
IMG_4954On our way back, Manchester was playing Scotland and the subway was packed with fans. In Kilts. Singing Sound of Music songs. No joke. Until you’ve heard a bunch of guys singing “Doe A Deer A Female Deer…”, you really haven’t seen anything.
IMG_4959Once again, (both Ryan and I) secretly begged: Can we be friends?

But we had to get off and go to a museum.. Blah blah blah… this is pretty much how I was feeling that day too.
IMG_4965Baby Ruth made an appearance. She was done too.
IMG_4967So was this lady:

Probably because a butt ton of stairs had to be walked to get to that level. I’m with ya girl. Move over, we’re sharing that bench.
And then we rounded up the day with a touristy trip to the Tower of London. I think I have a thing for tour guides.
IMG_4971This was the last photo I took of the entire trip. Ryan, climbing to the top of the tower. Where they kept prisoners.
Poor guy, he knew his fate before we married. We look back so fondly on this trip. It wasn’t the most adventurous or the most relaxing, but it was a good combo of many different elements. I always say it’d be hard to visit the same place twice (at least overseas).. but the english countryside will always my heart after this trip.

Onto our next adventure! You know, cleaning the kitchen.

Spring at the Ranch

By far my most favorite season. It used to be fall, but spring has edged fall out of the way by a hair. Once tailgating weather comes back around, I’ll be singing a different tune, but oh! the joy of a warm sun…on a warm day. Goodbye winter.

Hello Dogwoods.
And grape vines.
And one raised bed with nothing in it yet. Hey, where is Ryan going?
Down the little tick-lined path to our compost pile.
…and two apple trees. This will be the site of our little “orchard”. More fruits to come. You know I’m all hot and heavy in my fruit tree day dreams. Take that as you will.
Stay as long as you like, Spring. You’re always welcome.

Genealogy Tour

We took a trip a couple weeks ago. Down memory lane, that is. Down ancestry lane. Down I wonder what their lives were like lane. Down Oh that’s where I got my big nose thank you great great grandfather lane.

But before we got in the car, we had to do a child swap. Ryan’s parent’s graciously took a day off of work to spend with our little Ruthie. Annie was gonna tag along with the us. One day she’ll be left in their hands too, hopefully so Ryan and I climb to Machu Picchu….. or go to Motel 6. We’ll take what we can get at this point.

An Annie-Grandma sandwich!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHis parents came over in the morning for breakfast and my sisters weren’t expected until 11ish, so we all got a chance to visit. This doesn’t happen often now that we’re all scattered.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMy mom has said often that she’s so happy with the in-laws she has (from all kids.) On our first dinner together before Ryan and I got married, we met up at a restaurant. Both mom and Julie walked up with the exact same outfit on: black pants, black undershirt, fluorescent over shirt. Maybe it’s a teacher thing? It was a good start for sure. Then both dads were seated next to each other with their bad ears facing one another and there was lots of wide eyes and “What was that again?” going on. Score #2. Good times.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBut then my sisters walked in and we all squealed. Ryan’s dad was in the other room when the Hellos were made. He came back in and said, “I thought I maybe heard someone arrive.” We’re squealers and I like that.

The squealing had to stop though because we needed to get on the road!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhich one of us girls looks the oldest?

Whatever. Jerks.

I actually had a dream last night that I colored my hair. When I walked around to show people no one noticed. So because you all ticked me off I’m not going to do it in real life. You know what I want. Squeals, people. Squeals.

Our first stop was Fort Smith, AR to see a few places on my grandpa’s side. On the way we saw another relative.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOh my bad. It was just a dog slobbering out a window. We sped past them (and you know they must have been going slow if our ’81 van zoomed by). Ryan spotted the slobberer, told me about it, and I promptly yelled at him to slow back down so they could catch up to us. I wanted to see.

20 minutes later of annoyingly going 50 in the passing lane, they finally were in sight. I took out the camera and snapped a couple.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRyan asked, “Did ya get?” I said, “yeah, It’ll do. It doesn’t matter.”

“That was a lot of work for just a It’ll do.”

Is it possible to be both high maintenance and apathetic? I knew I was special.

After we all arrived in Fort Smith, we met up at a Walmart to buy some groceries. It was for a surprise the next evening that my dad didn’t know about. While there, we decided to all jump in the paddy wagon for the first bit of touring.

Ryan was once again put in an awkward position with the women in my family while finding the seat belts.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt reminded me of Thanksgiving a few years ago:

Let’s move on.

The first part was hunting down what might have been my grandpa’s childhood house.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI think we all agreed to just pretend this was it even though we weren’t sure. Dad thought it had been torn down and the street listed in the census is no longer on the city map. In fact, I even called the Fort Smith police department to see if they could locate it. I said, “I’m sure you have more important things to do” and he replied, “No, actually I don’t.” Eh, okay. Sorry person getting robbed at gunpoint and calling into a busy signal.

At least he wasn’t hiding behind the bushes with a radar gun and popping out at the last second in front of people’s cars. This happened to me in Kansas City and I nearly crashed to avoid him. I’m sure there’s a better way to do that. Like, why not just dangle from a tree limb hanging over the street and when the perp (cop talk) passes under, fall down on their roof and ride teenwolf style for awhile.

Much better use of my money I’d say.

After driving by several other homes that were promptly dismissed at not being the right ones (despite having sources to back up my research), we spotted a military cemetery and drove through trying to spot the oldest tombstone there.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLastly we drove by the site where my grandpa worked in the mixing room at a saltine-type company. We love our crackers. Thanks Gramps!

Back to walmart we went, got back into our own vehicles and drove to our vacation rental for the weekend. A cute little (old) home on a vineyard owner’s land. Post Familie is the one if you’re wondering. This house looks deceivingly small. But really there are five bedrooms and none of us felt on top of one another at all. His house is the white one far in the background. See it? It’s huge. They have a gaggle of kids, 8 or 9, I think. I’d buy a winery too if I had that many. But wait, maybe that’s why they have so many kids. Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to… ferment grape juice?


Ryan, Annie, and I got there first and were greeted by Joseph, the owner. He made sure the wines in the house were sorted correctly from dry to sweet. Where it would’ve taken me 3 hours to figure out which went where, he moved too fast the bottle shifting so I asked him to pose for me. I’m not ashamed.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen he gave us a quick tour and history of the home. Like the secret door where wine was stored during prohibition.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOur view of Altus. It was cloudy but still pretty.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe hung around the house sampling “the goods”, waiting for my brother and sister in law to arrive.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDad said, “I don’t like wine, but I like that wine!!” Well done, Joseph.

The night went by quickly-

Exploring random window openings:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWinning the mom of the year award by giving my daughter a bath with a firm grip on the wine glass.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESTaking mirror selfies:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLittle did we know that Annie herself would turn into a werewolf later that night.

But before that happened, mom defrosted the taco meat she brought and broke out all the mexican fixings. I think I could eat taco salads every day of my life.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhile she prepared, I went out to see where everyone was. To the left of the carport is a patio with a fireplace.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLater that night we’d all sit around the fire again and guess who drove down in his golf cart to visit? Ah, Joseph. “How’s the wine?” “Great!” we said as we hid the beers in our hands.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe next morning we woke up early for the day. I definitely didn’t expect to see this:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLisa doing her squats outside. She, after laying awake all night in her room listening to Annie cry and cry and cry. She literally cried non-stop until 5am, one of the hardest nights since giving birth, and that’s coming from someone who is semi-used to not a lot of sleep. Lisa is already past those days, so it must have been a shock to her system. Yet, she still did more exercise that morning than I did the whole week.

We got into the van and headed to another part of the area to visit. We crammed into the van, investigated odd trees lines (which Lisa correctly guessed as being hit by a tornado recently), and narrowly avoiding cyclists. My mom used to joke that she wanted to throw marbles under mall walkers’ feet. And that was us on foot. Imagine my nervousness of her driving in a car past mall highway walkers cyclers.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESEveryone arrived to their destination safely. That guy to the winery (no, really. They were hosting a breakfast) and us to not the winery. Nope, we drove straight to a cemetery! That’s what you do on genealogy tours, people.

This one in Morrison’s Bluff housed many of our ancestors, some of which were the first who had arrived from the motherland.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs we walked around trying to find specific names, we noticed a guy mowing the grass. He told us that every weekend there is a group like us roaming the graves. We took this opportunity to ask if the church could be unlocked for us. He quickly got of the mower and went to find the keys. Yay!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter asking him to then unlock the bathrooms in the meeting hall, it was time to move on.

Because we were headed to a special home. It was the home to the first couple who came over from Germany. My great great grandparents, Johan and Crescentia Raible. I had found a 1960s obituary of one of Johan’s sons stating that the family homestead was still standing and was called the “Joe Raible Place”. But after much research, couldn’t find anything to direct me to the exact location. So what does any stalker do? Well, she sends out letters to houses in the surrounding area asking for their help. And three days after the letter was sent, my phone rang and a good ole farmer named John said, “Is this Carolyn? Carolyn? I’m John and I know the Joe Raible Place, it’s just down the street!” He gave me directions and here we are. Thank you John. People are eager to help, I’ve learned.

And here he is: The Joe Raible Place. I immediately fell in love.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDirty wood siding, overgrown bushes, built on rocks, a big back porch. I would live in it as is. I’m sure it looked prettier in it’s heyday. It’s on about 40 acres and the area around the house is a mixture of trees and small paddocks. But then you turn around and walk the path up to the big barn and it opens up into a plot of land. My daydreamer bells were going off like fireworks in my head. I could have wandered around all day.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhen I came-to and made my way back to the car, everyone was standing around watching Matt and Des working at something. In the rubble piled around the house, they found a shovel and decided to dig up some dandelions to replant at home.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhat a great idea! I can’t wait to steal some from them.

Even though the weather was perfect for sleeping on a dilapidated porch, I finally agreed it was time to move on. Goodbye house. I wish you were mine.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNext stop was another cemetery in the little community of Shoal Creek. Everyone hopped out and walked ahead. As mom and I shut the door she said, “Oh my gosh, I locked the keys in the car.” I gasped and made a big to-do.

Then looked up to this:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOh mom. You’ve still got it!

Such a pretty little cemetery with lots of old folks in it.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen we hit the area that dad remembers visiting as a boy. It was his mom’s side of the family, his aunts’ families and grandma living on I don’t even know how many acres of land. A lot. All the cousins would run around the woods and creeks and play ball all day. He loved it.

One spot was the artesian well down the road. My great great grandfather (another immigrant from Germany) built a general store on this spot and part of the services provided was fixing stagecoach wheels. Can you see me grinning? Dad’s cousin said that the old safe that was in the store was placed in the ground and the well’s pipe goes through it.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNear the well was where the family lived. They built a barn that is on the National Register of Historic Places: The Anhalt Barn! Dad said he’s been by this place and never knew it was tied to his family.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe lady that owns the house is a descendant and when we were about to pull out of the drive, she came out to ask if we could look at some family documents and see if we could translate them. I was sent in and was going to take photos of the letters, but she was so nervous about keeping everyone waiting that she couldn’t find them. Writing this has just reminded me that I need to call her.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd the aunts’ homes where dad would stay as a kid.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThere were three homes in a triangle, all having crank phones. Each home had a certain number of cranks. I love little details like that.

On our way back to the vacation home, we drove by my grandma’s childhood home. It’s now a rental house. How I wish we could go through it.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOnce home, some of us napped, others took a shower, Lisa probably did more squats… but mostly, we waited. We waited until it was time to head back to Shoal Creek because we had a surprise for my dad. The bulk of my research was given to me from family members who I connected with along with way. Mostly cousins and second cousins of my dad. When I mentioned we were headed down to their neck of the woods for the weekend, they quickly suggested we get a group together for a meet and greet. And I just as quickly agreed.

So we rushed out an invite for the cousins to pass along and hoped for the best. Even if it were just us and those contacts, we would’ve been thrilled, but about 40 people showed up!

First we visited the church that my grandparents got married in.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd then headed back to the hall to prep for the evening.


Dad was introduced to his last surviving aunt on either side, Aunt Frida. She’s in her 90s and still’s got it!
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA video of the last reunion was brought and played for everyone.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESEveryone brought delicious food.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnnie was tired but hung onto daddy for the night.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI sat with Aunt Frida and asked her ear off. Some of the silliest questions too: about dating, sleeping arrangements, etc. Two kids per bed and they all scrambled every night for the softest one. My sister and I shared a bed and I’ve dabbled with idea of having Ruth and Annie share a bed too. I guess it runs in the blood.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThis is me sneaking my way into strangers’ conversations. When photos are out and people are talked about, I’m there. With pen and paper in hand, writing down everything said.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI love me some old photos.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGrandma and her sister Sophie (aka, her bedmate).
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGrandma’s parents. From what I’ve heard, he was questionable (at the very least, really strict) but she was sweet and hard working and per her daughter, Frida, had a hard life.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe came upon my dad sitting next to his older sister that became a nun. I’d never seen her in full habit before.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHi, there I am. Everyone is sitting down to eat and I have to walk Annie around because she’s sleeping. That wasn’t awkward. So I stood by the food and ate away. Someone said they looked up and thought I’d gotten pregnant since the party started.
My dad gave a toast, my mom whispered things he should say, he made fun of her, and everyone laughed. “I’ve got a wife too” someone yelled. And I realized that people have been people for a very long time. Generation after generation have dealt with the same issues, good and bad. The scales of those issues may be bigger or smaller depending on the decade or circumstance, but we are all going through them. So, for as much as I love digging into my ancestors’ heads, all I really need to do is look around me. Personalities, relationships, work, it’s all here. And will be here for my great great grandchildren. That is just as exciting for me.