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5/18 - 5/25/2014 - Blandings Landing

Look to the right and you'll notice a link to a website featuring some of Marty's fine art photography.  It's pretty cool that we can link it to our blog. 

On Sunday (5/18) we drove about 35 miles north to Plattville, WI to see the world's largest "M".  The M was created by University of Platteville students back in the 1930's out of granite stone.  Every year the incoming freshmen repaint the stones - I wonder if they tell them about this in their acceptance letters?   We climbed the 266 stairs to the top and ran into some Amish young adults having a picnic.  Marty asked them if one of them would take our picture (which I'm pretty sure is verboten in their culture), one young man said no but another (the rebel) said yes. 
266 steps but who's counting?
When we climbed back down the stairs to get back in our truck a man stopped his car and asked if we were from around here.  I told him no and asked him what he was looking for since we have all kinds of GPS and smart phone technology at our fingertips maybe we could help.  Well we weren't able to help him find the "truck/tractor pull" that he was looking for but did find out that he lives in Bellevue, Iowa which is where we are supposed to be camp hosting.  I really believe if you talk to anyone long enough you will find someone or someplace in common - it really is a small world.

Waiting for the tournament to start
Once we left Platteville we headed across the river into Dubuque, Iowa for a short visit to the casino.  We always get the member's card for any new casino and with this one we were entered into the slots tournament.  We went over to take our turns and did terrible so we went off to find a winning machine.   No winning machines were found but I did play enough so that I got a second chance at the tournament and this time I won!!   It was only 25.00 but it was fun and we left happy.

One of Marty's clients called him last week to see if he was available for a job downtown.  Since we aren't working in Iowa yet he said yes and scheduled it for Thursday (5/22).  We drove to Crystal Lake on Wednesday to spend the night at Judy and Don's  house and then drove into Chicago on Thursday morning.  Judy was kind enough to watch Maddie and let us use their car so we didn't have to worry about driving our big dually in the city.

While Marty was working, I met my sister Donna and niece Sarah for lunch.  After lunch Sarah went back to work and Donna and I walked over to the Farmer's Market at Daley Plaza.  We checked out all the stalls and even bought some fudge.  Maybe I didn't quite grasp the concept of a "farmer's" market or maybe I just didn't want to carry a bunch of vegatables around for the rest of the day.  
We then walked over to the Main Public Library so I could find out how to renew my card - it expired in March and I really miss downloading books!  While there we also checked out the storybook dollhouse in the children's library.  It's really fun for kids to look for all the items and characters from different stories that are scattered throughout the dollhouse.  It's been in the library for 30 years and I've taken many kids there to look for the storybook items.  I highly recommend it for anyone with young children.

Cousin Dave
Marty's job was at the Plymouth Restaurant which was right across from the library so we stopped to see him for a minute and then I walked Donna back to Madison Street so she could catch the train home.  Marty took advantage of a break between the lunch and dinner crowd and scheduled a 3:00 appointment with his dentist.  After picking up the key to Sarah's apartment I walked over to meet Marty and then we went a few blocks south to visit my cousin David at his job. I am the oldest Merkes cousin and Dave is the youngest - we are 17 years apart.  He usually works in the southwest suburbs but happened to be downtown for the day and his wife happened to see on Facebook that we were downtown too so we were able to have a short visit.

Marty went back to the restaurant to finish up with some night-time shots and I took the red line over to Sarah's which is where we spent Thursday night.  She lives in the DePaul area of Chicago, it was so strange to be back in the city without a home - thank goodness for family!  I was a city girl for a long time but in the short time we've been gone they've changed things at the CTA.  I felt like a tourist and had to ask for help buying my transit card and they've raised their prices - it cost $3.00 for a one ride ticket!

It was fun spending the afternoon downtown but boy was I tired from all the walking.  I just wanted to get to her apartment and put my feet up.  Which I did for a short while but then Sarah came home and we took a walk around her neighborhood and stopped for a bite to eat.  Then we finally went back to her apartment and that was it for the day.

Sarah lives in a studio apartment in the DePaul area.  The apartment is large for a studio but it doesn't have a kitchen - isn't that strange?   She does fine without one, she has a few small appliances and a small refrigerator but no kitchen sink or stove.  It works for her and it really is a nice apartment. 
Niece Sarah
We left Chicago on Friday morning after a quick stop at Stanley's Fruit and Vegetables - we really
miss that place, they have such good prices and really fresh produce.  We picked up some stuff for us and a few things for Judy and then hit the highway to Crystal Lake to pick up the pooch and our truck and head back to Galena.

My niece, Megan, graduated from Ripon High School on Saturday morning and we wanted to surprise her by going to the 11:00 A.M. ceremony.  We had to leave Galena by 7:00 A.M. which meant we had to get up at 6:00!!   It was 180 miles away and we got there around 10:30 for the 11:00 A.M. graduation, Tom was already there and had saved space for us.  I drove there and it was the first time I've driven since November and the most I've ever driven the truck!  It was an easy drive for the most part and I felt pretty comfortable in the driver's seat (not sure how Marty was feeling in the passenger seat).  I still don't feel ready to drive the truck in Chicago. 

It was about 1 1/2 ceremony sitting in the bleachers in the hot sun but no one was complaining, Wisconsin people seemed to be very happy to be warm again after their miserable winter.  After the ceremony we searched thru the crowd of graduates for Megan.  She saw her dad and started towards him for a hug but then she saw me and she blew right past him for me - I love that girl!

Proud Aunt Mary with Megan
Proud Skinny Papa with all three of his girls - Amanda, Megan, & Liz

We went over to Tom's for a quick visit but Megan needed to leave for her party at her mom's house.  The Merkes party will be next Saturday at Devil's Lake so we'll have some more quality time with the whole family.

Tom has lost 50 pounds since we last saw him in January.  He did it by two full weeks of juicing and then changed his eating habits and also started exercising.  He has inspired more than a few of his siblings and soon there will be a juicer on our counter.   I hope it works as well for me, although I'm still not sure about drinking green juice - it looks gross.

Once back at our campsite, our boss Bret stopped by.  We've talked to him on the phone but had not met him.  He just wanted to check in and make sure we were happy at our site and at the campground.  He doesn't know when we will be able to get to Pleasant Creek but we are quite content staying here and the price is definitely right.