“Staycation” 2020

We had this grand plan in mind for our vacation this year. Reservations were made, days were claimed to be taken off, and tents were being bought in preparation for the journey. The plan was that we would drive out to Yellowstone National Park and camp at one of their campgrounds, then stay at an Airbnb closer to Grand Teton National Park for another few days, then circle down through Colorado and see Brooke’s cousin.

Well, we all know how that turned out, right?

The kids and I still needed to get out of the house though, and Brooke has an innate need to go on a road trip every year, so we decided to knock a few more state parks off our list and head out to Pilot Knob, MO, where we could stay in a motel (with a swimming pool), and hit up 3 state parks while we were in one central area. Pilot Knob is pretty close to Elephant Rocks State Park, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, and Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, so we’d be able to spend part of the day at each one while we went for an extended weekend. We actually drove through Onandoga Cave State Park, but because they weren’t doing cave tours, we figured we should just go back there when all of this is finally over…

So yeah, because we’ve got a whole other thread of posts for state park visits, I’m going to make separate posts about those. Here, I’m going to speak more broadly about the trip.

Pilot Knob is about 4.5 hrs from Marshall, and luckily for us, St. James, MO is on the way, so we stopped off at our favorite winery in the state, Heinrichshaus, to pick up some bottles. While we were there, we had a picnic lunch and enjoyed being out of the car for a bit. It was a pretty short stop, but it had been a few years since we were last there (Meg and I stopped in last Spring on the return trip from an excursion with my Biology students,, but we didn’t exactly “stock up”).

That afternoon, we stopped off at the Huzzah Conservation Area to play in the water for a bit. Really, it was just an excuse for Brooke and I to relax with our feet in the water and let the kids mess around in a fast-moving float trip river.

We only stayed for an hour or so, but the kids could have done that all afternoon. They’d float their bodies while their hands kinda shuffled them along with the current, and then they’d do it again, and again, and again. It was like sledding.

There weren’t many options for where to stay in Pilot Knob or Ironton (which is practically attached…), and we weren’t thrilled with the prospect of camping in late-July humidity, so Brooke booked us a room at the Fort Davidson Hotel. It has an attached restaurant with a nice patio, it had exterior access to the room, and it had an outdoor pool, so we figured it was a relatively safe bet. The place turned out to be pretty nice, all things considered! We had an issue with the toilet constantly running, but the owner of the hotel came right over and took care of it for us. That night, I went out to Casey’s to get pizza, so the kids were more than satisfied.

The next morning, we went to Elephant Rocks (more on that in another post), and thankfully, it wasn’t all that crowded. More folks kept showing up and, as we were being responsible human beings, we tried avoiding others to the best of our ability, so it was good that we went relatively early so we could leave before the crowds got really bad.

That afternoon was mostly spent out by the pool! The kids were pretty proud of themselves swimming in the 11 ft deep end of the pool for much of the time. Meg was able to get diving sticks from the very bottom, though it took her some practice to get there. Calvin touched the bottom a few times, but again, he hadn’t really done that before, so diving from the surface was tough!

That night, we ate at the attached restaurant. We had the option of eating inside or outside, but the patio was nice enough and the weather wasn’t too bad, so we were comfortable. The kids got some Fitz’s soft drinks and their beer selection was surprisingly decent, considering how far Pilot Knob is from….er….anywhere… And my fried catfish was spectacular.

Across the street from the restaurant sits the namesake of the hotel: Fort Davidson. It was my first “earthen fort” that I’d ever visited, so there wasn’t really all that much to see aside from a hill with grass on it in the shape of a square. Apparently, the Union were holding the fort and then lost a battle with the Confederacy, who then subsequently took over.

So yeah, it was a nice evening stroll after eating way too much. An excuse to walk around a bit like normal people for a change. 🙂

The next morning, we went to Taum Sauk Mountain, and that afternoon, we went to Johnson’s Shut-Ins. Again, I’ll have separate posts about those, but here, I’ll point out that Taum Sauk was a nice little hike where we got to sit and enjoy some small waterfalls, but Johnson’s Shut-Ins was a madhouse. We figured on a Sunday afternoon, the “St. Louis Crowd” would have waned a bit as they were all heading back home, but nope…totally wrong on that one… We had to park almost a mile away from the main area of the park, and it was very difficult to maintain any form of social distancing, let alone 6 ft. We only stayed for an hour or so, and while the kids would have liked to have stayed a little more (and seen more of the park), we just didn’t feel comfortable.

So we went back to the hotel and swam there again! 🙂

That evening, we went to a Mexican restaurant in Ironton called Checo’s that was pretty good. Not a lot of good mask-wearing in that building either, but we were seated relatively far from anyone else, so we felt at least okay about it.

In the evenings, we played some games that we brought alone. The first night, we played Skip-Bo, which is a family favorite. The second night, we played a family edition of Trivial Pursuit that actually worked shockingly well. The kids get their own set of cards separate from the adult-level cards, and we think they did a good job of getting that mix right.

Monday morning, we decided to hit up Meremec Caverns on our return trip home, as Onandoga Cave was closed and we had played up how cool caves can be (literally and figuratively).

The kids definitely enjoyed it! I’m not sure I’ve ever been there, though I’ve been to others in the state like Mark Twain Cave, Bridal Cave, and Jacob’s Cave. Like those, this one is definitely a tourist trap, but again, it provided a bit of “spectacle” for the kids to experience. Hopefully they’ll remember it!

We were wearing masks, but very few others in our tour group was. Our tour guide did, but most of the folks with us weren’t doing their part. When we passed other tour groups, it looked like there were others there wearing them, but the majority of the visitors didn’t have them on. Definitely disconcerting.

Again, I think the kids enjoyed it quite a bit, and they did a great job of following directions and listening to the tour guide as he pointed out various aspects of the cave. They also very much enjoyed when they turned all the lights out, just how dark it gets in there. Of course, as we were vacationing in southern Missouri in late-July, we didn’t have jackets with us…..so next time, we should try to remember to bring long sleeves. Calving got a little chilly after being in there for an hour, but overall, they did a good job!

After we finished at Meremec Caverns, we continued home via Highway 50! Mostly, it’s because that was a different route than we took to get home (it also rained quite a bit on our return trip, so that was lovely…..), but the real reason was that we would pass through Jefferson City a little after lunch time:

For the record, Brooke did not eat that entire banana split. Meg did eat the mint chocolate chip sundae in its entirety, though. And she didn’t throw up, for the record.

That’s it! We had a ton of laundry to do after this, but for an extended weekend trip, it was “good enough” to tide us over until next year. We’ll have to double back and get to Yellowstone eventually, but assuming things get better in time, next year’s plan is a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway ending at Disneyland!

The New Bedroom, Part VII

Home stretch!

As I mentioned in the previous post about this, Brooke caulked the corners and the gaps that were created along the top and bottom of the walls. We went with a second coat of primer, and a third in the spots that seemed like it really needed it. And after all that……..

…finally….PAINT!

AND MOAR PAINT!!!

Once the paint went on, we made significant headway, with me painting large swaths during the day and Brooke “cutting in” along the edges at the points where I’m just not all that patient.

Then, when Brooke was at work, I took care of the carpet. And it took me the whole day. And I had a bed frame to work around… Honestly, the carpet removal didn’t take all that long: I had it all off the wood by the time Brooke was home for lunch. It’s the tedious removal of all the staples that takes forever, but I still had that taken care of by the time Brooke got home after work.

At that point, we were so close that we just finished it all off. I’d vacuumed the floor a few times, but Brooke came back through and wiped it all down, vacuumed again, and put the finishing touches on the floor. We brought the new rug in from downstairs, Brooke put in the new Roman shades, she put in the new light fixtures, and….voila!

After we’ve got everything done, I’ll post additional pictures of it. Meg’s room and our room still need some things on the walls, and we’ve got new furniture picked out….just waiting on Ikea to open up to the point where I can actually go get it in KC… So yeah, we’ll have one last post with how everything gets reset.

Hopefully sooner rather than later, but for now, we’re all back where we belong and things are looking good!

The New Bedroom, Part VI

Apparently a lot has been going on these past few weeks…. A lot of work stuff got in the way of posting more on this subject…. Onward!

As we left off in the last post, Brooke ended up spending a lot of time on the southern wall. There were countless evenings of plastering, then sanding, plastering, then sanding, etc. She did her best to make the wall as smooth as possible, but it was hard to secure the new plaster to the lath on the wall. I don’t think she was completely satisfied with it, but it ultimately looked waaaaay better than it did before.

The other walls around the room still needed some TLC as well, but nowhere near what the south wall did. Brooke spent awhile up on the ladder and down along the floorboards to try and clean up the leftovers from the wallpaper, but ultimately, it needed a bit more. After we started priming, Brooke decided that caulking the corners and the edges would be the best solution, so after I put the first coat of primer on, she came back through with caulk, and then I covered up the caulk with the second coat of primer.

I feel like the first round of primer went better in our room than it did in Meg’s room. Yes, it definitely needed another round of primer (as you can see on the south wall in the background, but I still think it took fewer coats to actually be done.

While we waited for the walls to dry after putting more (and more and more…) plaster on, Brooke kept working on the bed frames. As mentioned in the previous post, Brooke refined her process and cut down on the time spent on each part of the frame. In general, she’d work on one at a time, then prime it, and then start stripping the paint off the next frame while the previous one dried.

The primer actually looked alright in its own right. She used spray paint for this, and it took quite a few cans per head/footboard. During the course of the stripping, Brooke noticed that the frames had been a few colors in the past, whether some shade of white or some shade of black. We also considered just painting them some loose approximation of the metal underneath it all, but ultimately, we went with a kind of hammered metal black color.

It turned out really good! It also took multiple cans, but it was really just for full coverage, not because it needed multiple coats. The drying of each board also didn’t take all that long, thankfully, though they did have to be stood up in the garage to let them dry more effectively.

I was letting a set dry outside and a bird pooped on it. This happened on the last of the four, of course…so how the previous three didn’t have that problem is beyond me…

Last, but not least, the welding! It ended up taking a week and a half to get the rails back, and it only cost $40, but it was well worth it. In the picture above, you can see the L-shape of the rail, and then a second, smaller L-shaped portion added as a stabilizer for when the rail is placed upside down. These rails didn’t need as much stripping as the other parts of the frame needed, but Brooke still primed them for paint.

So yeah, that’s how the next few weeks went. Plastering, sanding, stripping, priming, painting…..and so on and so forth……

But finally….eventually….we were “done”…

The New Bedroom, Part V

Ooooooooooh, boy…. We “finished up” Meg’s room on April 11th. We’ve been working on our bedroom basically since then without many breaks except for that first weekend and Mother’s Day. To be fair, a lot of this length of time was working around furniture refinishing and plastering (more on that later), so there have been a lot of moving parts….

…but first, back to the beginning….

So, we originally thought our room may go somewhat quickly because of the vinyl wallpaper that was already peeling in some spots (especially certain corners). As we would eventually discover, nay, it definitely did not “go quickly”… The vinyl layer came off easily, yes, along with a thin, white layer underneath. Yet, underneath that, we found a floral pattern…and underneath that, we found yet another floral pattern.

Those bottom two layers did not go quietly into that good night.

As we were doing this during Coronapocalypse 2020, I was doing scraping on the walls for 3-4 hours a day before or after my “virtual office hours,” while Brooke was at work. So I’d have to take breaks here and there to make sure the kids weren’t burning down the house, but as the weather was finally getting a little warmer, the kids were able to go outside sometimes, so that alleviated some of the constant bickering…

For the most part, I got into a groove and made solid progress. We ran into some issues with the ridiculous amount of wallpaper on the walls though, mostly on the top and bottom of the walls where the moulding was….because they put the moulding on top of the wallpaper!!!

…..sigh…..

I did my best with it, but we ultimately use caulked over it to try and obscure it as much as possible. It definitely isn’t a perfect solution, but the prospect of removing and replacing the moulding again wasn’t exactly at the top of our priority list…

I should also note that there’s a bed frame in this image. I should also I know that yours truly is the one who assembled this bed frame, and it is also yours truly that couldn’t figure out how to take it apart again… I’m assuming there was some special tool that came with it that is buried somewhere on the work bench out in the garage, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find any tool small enough to fit into the hole that held the nut that attached the head- or footboard to the side rails. Sooooo, we just decided to leave it in there and cover the surfaces of the bed with the old curtains that we were going to replace anyway. It got annoying here and there, but for the most part, we were able to work around it and still use the ladder.

The wall between the south window and my closet door was, by far, the worst one. Spoiler alert: Brooke ended up spending quite a bit of time plastering, sanding, plastering, sanding, plastering, and sanding this thing….

But while she was doing all of that, she was also messing with the bed frames, mostly on the weekends.

We got these frames from my parents, who got them from my Uncle, who has had them for a few decades, but he got them from my grandfather. These frames were his and his brother’s growing up, which is really cool! The less cool part is that they needed some TLC.

This involved quite a lot of paint stripper (the stuff in the blue bottle, not the white bottle, because Brooke found that only the stuff in the blue bottle worked well at all….), and plenty of spray painting. And some welding (more on that in a bit).

She’s pretty sure there were 3 layers of paint on one of the beds (two white, one black), and 2 layers of paint on the other bed (both white). There wasn’t a good way to know if it was lead paint or not, but we didn’t want to take the chance, so she used a carpet square from Meg’s room to catch the paper towels she was using to strip the paint. It took awhile to figure out her order of operations, and that first footboard (pictured above) took about 8 hours for her to finish (!!!!!!). By the time she got through to the fourth of these things, she cut that down to only a couple hours, so now she’s a pro!

But there was another issue with the beds. We took various measurements and discovered that one of the beds measured 53″ wide by 57″ long, which is the standard size of a modern full size bed. The other bed, however, measured 53″ wide by 69.5″ long, which is the standard size for literally nothing in 2020. Soooooo, I asked around and talked to a local welding business to see if there was something they could do to modify the off-size bed. I put these things in my Forester on Good Friday, ready to take it all over to the business, but apparently they took off that afternoon and I didn’t think about it, so the frames just sat in my car until after Easter.

Brooke met me there so we could talk to the guy and see what he thought, so everyone would be on the same page. We showed him the stuff while it was still in the car, so I didn’t have to unload it (which is not trivial, by the way….it takes a few people to finagle these into the back of a small SUV). He asked us a few questions about it, we chatted about potential options. And then he asked, “Did you try just flipping them over?”

Brooke and I just looked at each other, then said, “Uh…no?”

But low and behold, it was a great idea! You see, the beds are very similar to each other, but they aren’t quite identical. One bed (the actual full size one) has rails that slide in on their sides, but the one that’s too short has rails that connect on each end to the head- and footboards, which results in extra bits of metal (you can see all this in the image above) that would be in front of and behind the box springs.

If you flip the rail upside down, then instead of resting in the “L” shape of the bracket, that “L” is now upside down, so the box springs just sit on top of it! The problem with that is that the box springs can then slide side-to-side, and potentially off the rails.

So, after we took the pictures above, I took the rails to the welding company and told them we wanted them to just put on some bits of metal on the sides to prevent slipping of the box springs. I suggested 3 or 4 bits of metal would probably do it. Brooke also wrote “top,” “side,” and “head” on them so they would know how to orient the rails to put them in the right place.

And that took 2 weeks to get done……but on the plus side, the head- and footboards were still here, so she could keep stripping those while the rails were getting worked on.

More on that next time!

The New Bedroom, Part IV

That looks better…

As I mentioned in the previous post, it took multiple coats to get through this, likely 2/3 of a gallon of paint. I used the roller twice on it, then Brooke came back through with the same off-white color we used in the other bedroom, so it matched. Then she had to come through again with the “Evergreen fog” paint to cover any extra white she’d gotten on the color of the walls. Just a lot of back and forth, really…

Is this the worst part? It may be the worst part…

I took care of the carpet this morning, cutting it roughly into quarters, then pulled up from the edges. The carpet actually came off relatively easily, but it took awhile to “find my groove,” since it’s been awhile since I did this.

The ongoing coronapocalypse is making trash pick-up difficult, so we’ll try to dispose of the carpet as best we can, but for now, it’s rolled up in those quarters on our back porch. Not ideal, but it is what it is. There’s furniture in our garage awaiting some painting, so it’ll be a bit before we can move the carpet out there. Overall, I think we were able to keep most of the dust from our wallpaper scraping on the carpet so it wouldn’t get all over the floor underneath.

The hardwood looks similar to the other bedroom.

Pulling up the tack board around the edges of the room took forever. I’m pretty sure that was Dad’s job the last time we did this, so I don’t think I’d done much of it before. This was another time it took me a bit to “find my groove” and finally feel like I was making progress. Pretty sure it took me an hour and a half to get just that part done. Brooke came up and joined me for pulling up the staples that was holding down the pad under the carpet, and while that was tedious, it went pretty well.

For now, we went ahead and kept the carpet in the kid’s closet. It will get removed, but we’ve got some time for reasons I’ll get to momentarily…

(Mostly) finished product!

After a round of vacuuming, then wood cleaner, then more vacuuming, we were done!

So, this project began on Saturday, March 28, and we finished it up on Saturday, April 11th. Technically, we still aren’t done, as we’re waiting on Meg’s bed frames to get fixed up. The frames are from my Dad’s father and brother, so they’re very old, but also only kinda fit modern beds. One of them is a full-size bed frame, but the other is about 5″ too short in the length, so it won’t fit a frame properly. We’re going to try and get a welder here in town to try and adapt it so we can have two full beds in the room.

We’re also getting a wardrobe for this room, so the closet will be mostly Calvin’s, though maybe we’ll hang a few things of Meg’s in there, too. We’re also going to move a dresser into Meg’s room, so there’s more furniture to go in, but again, it’ll take awhile for the beds to be done, and it’ll take awhile for a wardrobe to arrive.

Soooooooo, in the meantime, we’re moving on to our bedroom. We’re letting Meg sleep on a sleeping bag in her new room for a few nights, and then we’re going to break down and transfer our bed and furniture into Meg’s room while she moves back in with Calvin. Then, it’ll probably be another two weeks until our room is done, but then we’ll be mostly “project complete” for 2020. That will give us a few weeks to get the furniture situation figured out so Meg can be in her own room long-term!

On to the next project!

The New Bedroom, Part III

The kids got in on the “fun”…

Back in December 2016, we de-wallpapered, de-carpeted, and painted one of the upstairs bedrooms, so the kids could share it with bunk beds, leaving the bedroom next door (connected by a closet) into a “play room,” of sorts.

In the intervening years, Meg would occasionally ask when she was going to get her own room, and our answer became “when you’re 10.”

Guess who’s 10 now? Good work.

We were going to do the work this Summer, but due to the present stay at home order in Missouri, we went ahead and pushed up our schedule a bit.

So…much…wallpaper…

Like the last time, we left the carpet on while we removed the wallpaper. Most of the walls only had a single layer of wallpaper, but the one behind the door had a few layers….and layers of wallpaper on top of joint compound.

Brooke was not pleased.

There had been some…”work”….done to the walls…

Overall, there were relatively large portions of the walls that didn’t need a ton of work, but the portions by the closet (and on the wall with the staircase to the attic on the other side) already had a lot of joint compound on them from the last time wallpaper was applied. Brooke thinks the latest round of wallpaper was probably put on back in the 80s. Under the wallpaper, she found a handwritten note that was difficult to read, but someone wrote their name and what looked like “198-“….so it’s hard to know for sure, but at least it seems like someone tried to fix the room, thankfully, by not just wallpapering over the existing wallpaper.

The primer went on pretty well!

After Brooke was satisfied with the cleaning of the walls, I spent a lot of the week putting up some primer. I had to go with a few coats of it to cover up the wealth of joint compound just spread all over the place, and even had some of it delivered from our local hardware store.

First coat of paint. Definitely need another coat.

The paint Brooke and Meg went with was a color that will go well in our bedroom as well as her bedroom. She originally wanted something more purple-ish, but….we don’t want purple walls in our room, so we won out. This color is called “Evergreen fog.” Granted, I’m partially color blind, but I can’t really tell where the “green” is…

I’ll save the rest for another post. The painting took a few days to finish up, and we still have carpet to pull up!

Only Hope

The almond tree….. “It’s aliiiiiiiiiivvveee!!!”

I’ve got some time on my hands, as as mental health professionals suggest journaling, I may as well keep posting here, right?

Classes “resumed” this week for me, so I’m trying to get in communication with my students. I’ve only heard from a few of them at this point, which isn’t too surprising, but it’s a substantially different dynamic compared with what I’m used to. I’m hosting virtual office hours five times a week now, though I haven’t actually had anyone join yet. I’ve got my first committee meeting today, so it’ll be my first non-email communication with folks at the college in a bit.

The kids, on the other hand, are generally enjoying their new reality. Brooke’s still setting up a checklist for them that gives them something to do everyday, along with a little bit of variety in the daily routine. Animal Crossing came out last Friday, which Meg’s been looking forward to since last Fall, so it’s been a welcome diversion from everything that’s been going on. Thankfully, there’s a co-op mode to it so Calvin can play along simultaneously.

Brooke started her new schedule at work this week. Right now, they’re going to remain open, but have rearranged their consumers for isolation protocols so it’s easier to separate those that may have been exposed, should that happen eventually… As of today, there are no cases in Saline County, but Columbia and Kansas City both have multiple cases. As of yesterday, there were 183 confirmed cases in Missouri, almost half of which were in people under the age of 50.

On Saturday, I took a trip into Columbia to donate blood, as the Red Cross is canceling blood drives all over the place now. I dropped some stuff off at Goodwill to clear out space for the next remodel… We were planning on separating the kids into their own rooms this year anyway, so we’ve just pushed up the schedule on that now that time is seemingly more available… Brooke and Meg spent quite a bit of time this weekend organizing their toys, moving some of it up into the attic and getting rid of other bits. I also brought back some old bed frames from when my grandfather and great-uncle were growing up, so we’re hoping to restore those and put them in Meg’s room, depending on how they fit in the space.

Then again, if Lowes closes and we can’t buy paint for the bed frames, we’ll be slowed down considerably…

Aaaaaaaanyway, I’m catching up on TV, keeping up on school stuff, and otherwise trying to entertain myself. The weather is improving, though it’s been pretty rainy. We’ve had at least 4″ of rain in the last week, kinda spread out over the days. Temperatures should reach into the 60s later this week, so hopefully things dry out a bit! The kids really need to get outside more…

Brooke and I are watching This Old House every night now, trying to watch happy, positive stuff. Also, Jon Foreman is recording and performing a new song every day on YouTube.

At least the trees are getting their leaves back, right?