Day 1 and 2: Chicago to Sikeston to Montgomery, AL

Day 1:  Sikeston, MO

Corey just posted a few minutes ago about tradition and I know she is a little bummed at missing out on spending Christmas day with her mom and Ogrentz family.  Henna and I are too.  But today actually felt like a traditional Christmas day to me.  We had the traveling on Christmas day (which as a kid we did often, it is the best/ cheapest day to travel), the trying to scavenge a meal out of something when all the diners are closed (and even my choice of meal, Dinty Moor stew, reminded me of past childhood meals), and the watching of the local news.  The latter was the funniest part of the day as we watched kids just a few years older than Henna report on the great blizzard of 2012.  That blizzard is why we are here tonight in lovely Sikeston instead of leaving tomorrow morning in the direction of Chattanooga Sikeston is directly south of us and we thought we could outfox Mother Nature.  Not!  The storm actually moved south of its original projected pattern and is now hovering over Memphis.  So we will have some possible rough roads ahead and a lot of miles to make up.  Oh well, such is the making of a new tradition.

Day 2:  Montgomery, AL

Well we finally made it past the Sir Line.  The Sir Line separates the south from the north with everyone south of line a compulsive sir-er and ma’am-er.  You ask someone where the nearest gas station is, and they might reply “Down Jefferson Davis street and across from the gun/ liquor store/ bible store, sir.”  Now, if the person giving the answer is, say, twelve, it seems kind of cute.  But when the responder is an older man walking with a cane, it just seems downright weird.  I of course have no idea how to respond.  Should I sir the person back?  If I did, would that then negate the original sir which would force him to sir me once more?  And am I being rude whenever I fail to use sir when talking to a stranger?  Corey talked to Henna earlier today and made sure she knew to really thank people when they say something nice to her; maybe even throw in a ma’am or sir.

Even with all this sir nonsense, I still love talking to people down here.  Everyone is so very nice and genuine, kind of like Canadians (only with guns).  After awhile we started to treat each pit stop like a social call.  “Hello there sir and by sir I mean wizened old man working the teller.”  I never actually said that, but you get the idea.  The one thing that is really maddening me is all this driving we are doing.   Back to back 400+ mile days really wears one down.  It saddens me to see all these rolling hills and mounds (otherwise known as Alabama) and not be able to take a stroll or even a few pictures.  The 30 something degree day kind of stinks too.  Oh well, tomorrow we plan on making a break for the beach and I think there will be a few less shells by the time we get through.


As we left Chicago this Christmas morning from Mormor’s house, on our first winter road trip, it was with a heavy heart.  Not a sad heavy heart mind you, just heavy. One heavy with memories of past Christmas’s, heavy with thoughts of people no longer with us, and heavy with thoughts of weather patterns south of us.  Without any reservations to speak of, we were able to leave a day early in the hopes that we would stay a day ahead of the blizzard that is going to be plaguing the south eastern portion or our trip to Florida.  But it is not easy leaving tradition, especially when the idea of tradition has weighed heavily on my mind this year.  Traditions are the back bone of our existence.  They hold us sway; they take all the ordinary days of our year and make one moment stand still, and that moment is captured in time.  What was happening in our lives.  Who we are.  Our culture.  Our ties to everything we hold dear.  And as that tradition is replayed year after year we find ourselves. We remember.  We feel.

To new traditions!

To new traditions!

So during these holidays, we try to make sense of what it means for Henna to light candles in our secular home at Hanukkah.  We also make sense of what our own Hennacornoelidays holiday means as we put presents under the table and wait for a half Indian half coyote boy to play some trickes; and what x-mas at Mormor’s means, with our smorgasborg dinner and Santa’s gifts.  I try to find a place to give it all meaning-but I now realize how much the simple tradition means; just by being tradition.  It is so important to Henna, the ritual, the sameness.  She, as we all do, find comfort there.  Traditions’ accomplishment is that it infuses meaning into whatever we choose.

Henna jamming to a book while knitting away at our hotel in MO

Henna jamming to a book while knitting away at our hotel in MO

So, as we head to Florida on X-mas day, leaving our traditions behind I am struck by their importance and their place.   But with all that said, today is a happy day.  We love to travel, as we also find comfort and tradition in looking at a map and heading out into the unknown.  Today Henna hugged family, sad to leave both family and the snow that was falling, but sat back and sighed and was ready for our next adventure.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday, whatever your traditions may be.

Thoughtfully, Corey


The Chicago Tribune is Copying Us!

Once again the Chicago Tribune is printing articles that we at Hennacornoelidays have already done.  

Chicago Tribune:,0,4547397.story


All kidding aside, I know that we are not the first people to discover Smoky Mountain National Park or the joys of camping.  I also liked the Tribune article and wish the author and his wife the best of luck.  But it does seem that the Chicago Tribune is repeatedly talking about things that we here at Hennacornoelidays have already discussed.  Hmmm….  For no particular reason, here are some random trip photos.  Happy Daylight Savings Day and don’t forget to vote!


Logan Square Farmers Market

Before I tell you about the cool farmers market in Logan Square, I want to point out to everyone that for the second week in a row the Chicago Tribune has plagiarized my work.  I know your thinking why, why would the largest newspaper in Chicago bother stealing from our little travel oriented blog.  I will tell you why; the Chicago Tribune is out to get me.  First they bash all Chicago Public Schools teachers and clinicians in an unrelenting campaign to rid the world of public education, and then they carelessly follow my lead in all things Hennacornoelidays.  It started with their three-part article about Charlie Trotter’s (published a couple of days after my blog entry about the same man) and then continued with today’s article concerning Saskatchewan.  Here is what the anti-union/ corporate thugs wrote:   And here is our modest article published one year prior

OK, the Tribune article is little more focused.  But it also misses some of the beauty and grandeur that lies in between Saskatchewan’s middling towns.  To travel on Transcontinental Highway 1 through the Canadian prairie is a lesson in isolation as for long stretches (hours and hours of time) one can drive and not see any chain hotels, few diners, and just the occasional train running parallel to the road.  And we are talking the equivalent to Interstate 80 here. 

But we are not today traveling through the Canadian landscape (although for the last few days I have been looking at ferry and train routes to and through Newfoundland).  Today we are home and spent some the day looking for farm fresh eggs.  While in Yosemite we made the mistake of accepting fresh eggs from our neighbor.  There is no going back.  A month ago our neighbors here brought us to the Iowa City farmers market.  It was enough to make us wish we lived there.  I am happy to say that the Logan Square Farmer’s Market is almost just as cool.  It has snow cones, organic fruit and veggies galore, smoked fish at just $10/pound, cheeses, hard liquors distilled in Ravenswood, food trucks, and a lot of meat.  People were as hip and friendly as they were in Iowa and Logan Boulevard was transformed into something not quite rural, but altogether sustainable.   It felt good to be home.

The Tripsick Blues

We have been home for almost three weeks now and I really do miss our trip.  Not all the time and not because I do not love my home, Edison Park, friends, work, or family.  It is just that there is no freedom quite like the road.  And with freedom comes change that is as hard to hold on to as a good tan. 

These are some of those changes:

My eyes

Nature and other neat stuff does not confine itself to national parks.  Walking in the garden at the school where I work I spied a fossil in the grass.  It was just a small rock but it had definite leaf prints on one side.  It was uncommon to a school garden, but common enough to hand over to my friend Louie.  In fact it was just a few weeks ago that Henna and I skipped dozens of such fossilized rocks into Jackson Lake.  I also have seen and pointed out to others delicate spider webs (on a gritty street corner on the Near Northside), skunks and other urban mammals, and several hawks all without breaking stride.  The kid from the Sixth Sense saw dead people; I see glimpses of our trip.

My points of reference

Corey wore the toe out of her barefoot running shoes (less than one year to do so).  Amazingly REI reimbursed her in full and with that money she bought the same pair of shoes.  In the process of doing this we met an employee who had just returned from Yosemite.  A good five minutes or so were then spent talking camping, hiking, and the lack of both in the flatlands.  We could have been at a campground (and I would have offered him a beer) but we were in the north suburbs and I never missed my trip more.

My weight and overall comfort

I lost close to ten pounds.  I think it was from being active, Corey thinks it was from a lack of snacks.  Either way I feel great.  On the trip I also slept well (something I do not always do so great at home).  Henna sleeps better on the road too and sleeps best in a tent.  Corey only has back and neck pain at home (and never from sleeping on the ground).

I hope this does not come off as whining.  I know how lucky I am to be able to take off for months at a time.  I certainly do not expect any sympathy from those unable to do the same.  But all the same I am spending a lot of time now looking at maps, googling campgrounds, and thinking of the mountains.

Nature vs. Man

Leaving always feels so good.  I mean no disrespect towards our last two days. They were wonderful and restful, and as a result we are starting our trip anew, with clean dishes, clothes and bodies.  But there is a glorious feeling of heading out, leaving town, hitting the road, ready for what await us around the bend.  It’s utterly exhilarating. Right now we are high in the mountains outside of Breckenridge, at almost 11,000 ft. high where the rivers divide and head to their respected oceans.   While in our bubble in Breckenridge, I lost touch with what I love most about being on the road, which is being one with myself and the world.  While Breckenridge is a lovely resort town, it lacks the little and big things that make a town a town.  About 80% of their residents own two homes, and as Noel so eloquently stated “It’s run by hippies for yuppies”.  I don’t think there is a local school, and a book store was not to be found, although we were able to find plenty high scale out-door stores that could outfit your outdoor experience in style.  Ultimately we did not meet one person in two days that we could post about, which doesn’t mean they were not there….it’s just that staying indoors  tends to breed isolation.  I was back into T.V. world (watching way too many cooking shows), checking my emails and losing touch with the outside.  As we gazed upon Breckenridge’s footprint on the land, we talked about how thankful we are for the earlier conservationist who knew it was important to leave some land unspoiled by humans.  During our quick hiatus I became dehydrated and needed an afternoon to heel.  I forgot to drink water. I was subdued in our four walls and stopped paying attention.  So I am excited to head out, connect back with my body and the earth, to give myself to the power of our surroundings because I’m living within the elements 24/7.  I welcome that feeling.


Everybody’s High in Breckenridge

And it’s not just the altitude.  Maybe it was the “Breckenridge Cannabis Association” located on Main Street or the High Times prominently featured at the gas station, but this town feels high.  We go to a crepe stand and watch one worker (the only worker there) get sucked up in conversations while the line stands stills for five minutes.  At the ice cream store Corey starts talking to the hip 20 somethings working while an increasingly annoyed line builds behind her.  And if they are not baked they are interesting to look at.  Take the Safeway in Frisco (just a few miles away); a young guy with dreads and a thick Jamaican accent reprimands me for returning something to the wrong aisle, the cashier from Hawaii tells us the lychee we were going to buy looks bad, a teenager looking dirtier than us (and we were mighty dirty to look at) has a backpack and bed roll, and an older couple pass by dressed to the hilt in cycling garb. A few days ago I felt self-conscience about not fitting in with western Nebraska due to my straw cowboy hat.  Now it’s tats and wool caps that I need.  Always something. Here are some more of the interesting people we have met so far (in Colorado and elsewhere).  I also added two random photos.

Robert:  a psychologist who has been practicing in Honduras over the past seven years.  He previously worked outside of D.C.  Camping with his stepson; partner was unable to get a visa.

Paul: recently retired geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.  He just completed a map of Mesa Verde highlighting geological features.  He has also mapped out Glacier National Park and Dinosaur Monument.  Jobs usually entailed him and one field assistant alone in the backcountry for a few months while he matches air force photos with reality.

The nice teenage girl at Fort Robinson.  First day on job meant she needed a lot of help checking me in.  Stated that her father was a trucker and often took the family along for the ride.  For that reason she knew every road in Nebraska.  She gave more valuable travel tips to us than any other person on the trip so far.

John of Summer Stock (also at Fort Robinson).  He jumped off the pages of Glee, stuck in Nebraska.  His incredible enthusiasm and willingness to talk about anything to anybody won us over immediately.  Cannot wait to meet up with him someday in Chicago (where he will undoubtedly find himself someday trying to break into the theatre scene).

Older and recently widowed man watching Godspell.  Traveling the country solo in a camper he wanted to see as much as he can before he was no longer able to do so.  Did his best to talk us into to taking the Sawtooth Highway (we will see).

Twelve year old boy traveling with grandparents.  Grandparents formerly lived in St. Charles, Il. but retired in their native Nebraska.  Each grandchild is given one special trip with grandparents.  He chose Rocky Mountain National Park.

More grandchildren.  Brother and sister who briefly played with Henna and her incredibly elaborate acorn world.  By the way, there were some workers here in the park who came close to knocking over this village.  Henna wanted me to stop them from doing work but I could not see how.

Peter who drove his family from PA to RMNP in two days.  Peter has done a lot of interesting things in cool places including dog mushing in K-County.  It was fun comparing notes.


This is not a test…..

Greeting Hennacornoelidays Nation,

Well the car is packed, the ladies are still sleeping (for now, I will start the difficulty and often dangerous task of waking them soon), and our route is as clear as it’s going to get.  Last few days have been busy ones for us as Corey and I rushed to tie up loose ends and Henna alternated being very sad that second grade is ending, but also very excited for our trip to start.  I did take the time last night to review an awesome band with an awesome name:  The Flatlanders.  True story, Corey once wanted to create a workout area for the midwest that would duplicate the experience of hiking up a mountain.  Her suggested name…. Flatlanders.  They would have sued us for everything.

Anyways, they rocked.  40 years of sometimes being together and sometimes going their own way on different projects.  And a lot of what they had to sing could only be found with a willingness to wander.  This is what I wrote if anyone is interested:

So off we go on the first leg of our adventure into the corn mazes of Iowa, through the sandhills of Nebraska and down past the wildfires of Colorado to the amazement of Rocky Mountain National Park and the comforts of Breckenridge.  We are glad that you are here for the ride.

Some of My Favorite Things

I set up the tent in the backyard yesterday.  Although we find our summer home quite comfortable, we chose instead to sleep in our beds.  I also heated up some baked beans on our propane stove and later roasted marshmallows with some neighbors and friends.  All of this felt like practice for our coming summer road trip and is helping me  mentally prepare for the adventure.  So on that note, I would like to share with you some of my favorite road trip things (I ain’t Oprah by the way so do not expect me to be giving away any of these treats for free).

  1. The kitchen.  Having a stove, silverware, plates, and a few pots and pans allows us an amazing amount of culinary freedom.  Our plan is always to eat out when we want to and not because we have to.  To accomplish this, we pack wisely and include almost everything but the kitchen sink.  Our propane stove packs into a small, flat rectangle that takes up almost no room.  Everything else is stored in a stackable plastic drawer unit that allows us, in theory, access to what we need without tearing up the vehicle.  For overspill (the contents of our car often swell and compact like an accordion as we grocery shop and consume across the land) we use a small extra cooler.  A larger stainless steel cooler (covered in travel stickers and originally a wedding shower gift) serves as our fridge.  Together it wedges nicely into the back and does not obscure our rear view mirror.
  2. Coffee maker.  This could have been included above but I think it deserves special mention.  Our maker is a simple percolator that I heat up on the stove.  Corey and Henna like to sleep in, so many a morning it is just me and my friend Mr. Joe hanging out by a morning fire.  Sometimes I see really cool stuff that disappears immediately after dragging the two ladies out of the tent (examples include a turkey family, bison, and weird neighbors in odd morning garb walking to the bathroom).  When Corey does finally wake I just place Mr. Joe over the fire to heat up.  Nothing better.
  3. Charcoal.  Again, could be included above but for me charcoal is more than just a grill necessity.  Charcoal is also an excellent fire starter.  This took me a few years to nail down, but this is what you do.  Cook in fire pit over charcoal (easy to do when there is a grill over pit).  After meat or veggies are done, immediately flip-up grill and place wood over coals.  Wood burns quickly and you are good for the night.
  4. Cheap camping chairs.  More freedom.  Pull up to a pretty view; take out chairs, let kid play in nature.  Repeat as often as possible.     
  5. Bathing suit.  This is kind of a no brainer, but keep your suit close by and a quick picnic turns into a road trip highlight.
  6. Small food stands by the side of the road.  Get off the highway and live like a king.  I close my eyes, think of a state, and remember meals gone by.  Washington….. cherries the size of a babies fist.  Michigan, more cherries, strawberries, and blueberries.  Illinois, a lot of corn if you know where to look.   The Maritime Provinces are all about the sea and I love those scallops (to be honest I don’t mind the mussels either).   Honestly, wherever you travel in this good continent, the opportunity to eat well is always a possibility.
  7. Trails that start in a city or town and end up in wilderness.  Juneau has to be the best example of this.  We parked in the city, walked a little bit to get lunch, walked some more to burn off that lunch and ended up on a trail with joggers.  Same trail narrowed a bit and it was not long before we found ourselves almost alone in an alpine meadow with a rougher trail extending further into the horizon.  I was still full from lunch. 
  8. Cool neighbors.  We are lucky that home has plenty of these.  On the road we have had some luck with this too.  Recently in Waterton we met a very cool family that introduced us to ginger wine, collapsible kayaks, and Canadian friendliness (that last one we actually knew well before meeting them).  From new friends, Corey and I have learned no less than three card games (including Cribbage in a hut on top of Mount Jefferson in the White Mountains), supervised several play dates, talked politics and religion, and found out more about the many different ways to live your life than would ever be possible staying at a hotel.  Of course we have also had barking dogs (we have that at home too) and inconsiderate parties nearby.  But those experiences have been much fewer than the good ones.
  9. Good, local wine.  Drink well sleep cheap.  Camping in Humbolt Redwood State Park.  $25.  Blue Jay Pinot Noir, $40.  Much better than a $100+ hotel room and a cheaper bottle of wine. 
  10. My tent.  We have gone through a few tents before our current 4 person backpacking tent.  All the tents have felt like home and all them have allowed us to live, ever so briefly, in some of the most amazingly beautiful places in the world.
  11. This blog.  It was Corey’s idea and I was not immediately thrilled by the idea.  But it has been a lot of fun sharing with you our adventures.  We hope that this site continues to evolve and becomes a true travel resource.

Making Peace with the Box

My lovely wife posted a few days ago about our daughter’s struggle against living in a box.  It was articulate and heartfelt.  But as for myself, I couldn’t fight my way out of a paper bag let alone a box.  From the cradle box we are put in at birth to that box that goes underground at death, it is a box we call home.  And in-between those milestones we take shelter in-house shaped boxes, see all events unfold within the limited frame of our box window, and mostly travel in wheeled boxes.  A few of us think we work outside the box, but I would argue that even park rangers play and work in a box (an open-ended 1000s of acres size one with lots of wild animals one, but still a box). 

For me then travel is making peace with my box.  If I am never to be rid of my box (and to be honest, freedom is often just another word for being irresponsible), the least I can do is take it out for a spin.  We choose to live as much of our lives as possible in motion not to escape life, but to live it more fully.

So off we go on our 14th summer road trip; maybe for just a few weeks, but likely more than a month.  Over this time the mortgage still has to be paid, dogs walked and fed (and for this we thank our very large, former Marine cousin George for watching our house while we are away), and laundry cleaned.  As much as we like to go out for a good meal, hell for us would be trying to find a good meal three times a day.  So we bring a stove, a cooler, and utensils.  Sometimes we eat grand (we have steamed lobsters before), but more times it is a spaghetti and a can of vegetables.  A perfect night is one of tacos, a KOA swimming pool, and a nice fire toasted by a wine pricier than the lodging.

In past trips there has also been homework done (usually done on the interstate with Henna passing it to the front seat for us to go over) and lessons learned.  I would like to say the lessons are the type only gleaned in far off places, but often they are more generic like “don’t give a two-year old a watermelon without expecting a mess.”   

So where are we off to this summer?  Well, no one has ever accused us of over planning, but this summer we hope to do even less than usual.  If it is an itinerary you are looking for you are going to have to look elsewhere.   Instead I offer you possibilities: the Pine Ridge area of Nebraska, Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, central coast of California, up the spine of Idaho, and select parts of Montana.  I doubt we will see all that.  As with every trip, I hope we see many a place not heard of until the moment arrived.   And as always we welcome you along.