A little roadside humor

Outside the Klown Doll Museum in Plainview, Nebraska

How do you know if your fence is goat tight? Throw a bucket of water at it. If a drop slips through then it ain’t goat tight.

That was the joke I overheard while waiting to see Urinetown at the Fort Robinson Post Playhouse. It was told by one rancher to another. Both of them looked like they knew what they were talking about.

The only other conversational tidbit worth sharing was the man who approached me while I was pumping gas in O’Neill, NE. He told me that I must be happy to be anywhere other than Illinois. When I pushed back a bit he laughed and handed me a business card. Only instead of listing a business it showed a picture of a rabbit in distress saying “What a harebrained idea.” I laughed. No one does humor like Nebraska.

Outside Valentine, NE


A Hipster’s Guide to North Central Iowa



A few beers in at Single Speed Brewery (Waterloo, IA)


For the twentieth time Corey and I left Chicago in order to spend a Summer away from home. Henna of course is also with us but this is only her fifteenth time tagging along (16 if you count the time she was in Corey’s womb). And what did I learn from the experience? Well today I learned that Waterloo, Iowa has been taken over by a band of benevolent (we hope) hipsters.



Expect a lot of camping this summer, but tonight we chose AC and a comfortable bed


Maybe a dozen years ago we would have been camping tonight but with this humidity… forget about it. After a brief flirtation with Dubuque we stumbled upon a former John Deere warehouse in Waterloo that has been repurposed quite nicely by Marriott into an affordable Courtyard. Our hotel room ceiling have to be at least 12 feet tall and are supported by the original columns which are almost as wide as they are tall. We could have spent the night wandering the John Deere museum (well, if it was open we might have; this is still Iowa so everything pretty much closes around 5). Instead we checked out Single Speed Brewery which, of course, is also located in a former factory. Over Brussel sprouts roasted in hoisin sauce and flat bread sourced with local goodies we toasted our amazing luck stumbling upon this Pilsen of north central Iowa. Then we stumbled back to our room ready to begin again tomorrow.



Even the Waterloo bathroom stalls are hip!



That time of year as come yet again.   Road trip/adventure time.  We want to thank everyone who follows us and tolerates/enjoys our posts along the way.  This humble blog started as a way to keep the parents/family in tune to our crazy ways, but then became a cool way to chronicle our travels (plus it keeps Noel’s creative juices flowing).  Noel and I have two very different styles of writing, but as our relationship proves these two forces do quite well together.  Some day we are hoping that Henna will contribute her wit and wisdom; I mean this blog is called Henna…Cor…Noeli days.  Feel free to bug her about this and guilt/encourage her to add her voice.  It’s a smart voice; I’d love for you all to hear it more.

This year is crazy significant for so many reasons.  As by our title, it includes two huge numbers that blow me away. The first one, the 20, signifies how long we’ve been doing this together. Yes, this is our 20th summer sojourn together.  Yikes.  The 50 represents the closure of visiting every state together as a family.  Not that Henna remembers all of them (insert cute shocked smiley face), but like we always tell folks who are in awe of all her travels, we didn’t start doing this for her.  She simply has to come along, whether she derives anything from these adventures is her call….half the time her nose is in a book!  Ha!

It also is an emotional trip because Henna graduated 8th grade this year, and will be heading into high school next year.  Holy crimey!  Where has the time gone?  20 years?  High school?  I want to press the stop button right now.  I don’t recognize this young person we will be taking with on vacation this year.  Honestly.  She used to fill up a back pack with all sorts of toys, crayons, paper, small games, binocular, insect cages, you name it!  This year it was like, ok…a small purse, my phone (so many podcasts to catch up with), and some books.  Next year she might be driving a bit on our trip.  gulp.

grad pic

I know as a parent, each year as traditional events occur, we are more aware of the passing of time and it gives us a punch to the stomach as to how fast it goes.  And where does it go…., and how come I don’t notice the changes in everything until it’s too late…, or how come you don’t ever notice the last time you do anything for your kid?  Like when was the last time I read a book to her?  Or the last time I needed to help with homework?  Last time I HAD to tuck her in or she couldn’t sleep?  So as with every summer, and this one more then ever, I will be holding my finger on that pause button (even if just for 6 weeks). I will be take a long look at this smart, beautiful young person and listen to every word she has to say.  I will savor every moment together and bottle it up inside for when I wake up and can’t see her younger self as clearly as I once could.

I mean come on….look at this face?

baby pic

Who is this little girl?

So now you know my style is the super sappy one.  The- this is where my emotions are in the moment one.  The- I remember things based on how I feel one.  The-I love these two people more than life itself one.  The- gonna savor every single moment I can one.

Time is moving way too fast people.  So have an awesome summer!  Please feel free to comment and let us know what your up to this summer.  We love everyone and will miss you all.  But we always come back more humble, better humans, and ready to better friends and family.  Or at least we try.


Corey of HennaCorNoeli days crew.


Athens, OH


It’s been awhile. But it was nice returning to always hilly Athens, Ohio. The place has changed without changing and yes that does make sense. To me anyways. Besides walking aimlessly around campus (where I regaled Corey and Henna about my storied years at Ohio University) we also spent time hiking in nearby Hocking Hills State Park. If only I had spent more of my college years there instead of at The Pub…..


cemetery at OU

A short walk from campus is an early 19th century cemetery where several escaped slaves and Revolutionary War Veterans rest.


OU Graffiti

What is one person’s graffiti is another’s college tradition


Henna in the Tiny House

Our tiny house for two days. Only 3 miles from Court Street it was nonetheless deep in the hills and a fun place to wait out the rain.

Sign at Hocking Hills State Park

Waterfall at Hocking Hills State Park


Narrow Gorge

Early Spring rain made for high waters and running waterfalls. 

OU Green Gate





Detroit, MI


new artist

Where once was a good size home is now a giant artist easel


Detroit is like any other post-apocalyptic city except that instead of zombies they got themselves some hipsters. Across the abandoned landscapes (whole city blocks with nothing more than a bunch of crumbling buildings and maybe one decent brewery) they nest, biding their time before the next art gallery moves in.



Greek Pride parade in downtown Detroit


on the water

Along the waterfront on Detroit’s People Mover



Our digs in Detroit. We were a bit nervous moving in and then quickly fell in love with the artist loft.






Our view off the back deck



Corktown mural done

Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood which at one time was home to thousands of Irish immigrants escaping the potato famine. Today it is home to a distillery, a great Udon noodle place, a used record store, and other similar fun places.


Detroit’s pretty cool. Never thought I would say that. For two nights we crashed in the upstairs of a former bar that has since been converted into an artist’s loft. Our landlord was next door in a former bank with windows only on one side of the building. From the street it all looked just another couple of abandoned buildings sitting in the ruins of a once great city.



The Conservatory located on Belle Isle Park. Belle Isle Park’s main attractions (which include the country’s oldest aquarium, the conservatory and a nature museum) are only open a few days a week. So mostly tourists wander the island to gawk at building they are not allowed to enter.


In 1950 Detroit had approximately 1.8 million citizens. Today there are a little more than 650,000 people remaining in the city. That type of wholescale flight is going to leave a few empty buildings (by most counts at least 70,000). And into this void come the artists, urban planners, chefs, urban farmers and other dreamers all looking to lay claim on a new vision.  

Rise up!

They got tourists too. Some wander off to the obvious sites like the former Motown Studio and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Others roam the hinter land in search of art, food, used records and the other necessities of life. We did a little bit of both and cannot wait to return to take in some more. Long live Detroit.



One of the most impressive museums in the world, the Detroit Institute of Arts houses Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” frescoes as well as collections from both European masters and more contemporary artists. 





All Politics Are Local


Just outside of Redwood National Park I talked to an expat from California now living in Idaho. Redwood National Park, by the way, does not have as many old growth Redwoods as you might think. The area was heavily logged well into the 20th century. Often when hiking through the park the most impressive thing are the massive trunks that line the groves like tombstones. Although this wholesale slaughter of trees certainly created a whole lot of jobs, it also deprived future generations the thrill of walking through an intact forest of towering trees that have stood since before Christianity’s birth.



Fire partially hollowed this Redwood but miraculously it survives. Climate change, however, is beginning to weaken these ancient trees.



Our friend credited Idaho’s low crime rate to it being a “constitutional carry” state. Not directly stated, but certainly implied, was that Chicago would be wise to do the same. This is a definite trend with us as people often feign concern about our safety when told we are from Chicago. Ironically this concern is often expressed to us while we sit around a fire, possibly surrounded by grizzlies, with a coming thunderstorm and wolves howling in the distance. I might tell them that if you measure safety by homicides per one thousand then Chicago is not even the most dangerous city in Illinois (that honor belongs to Rockford.) By that same measure Chicago is much safer than other mid-western cities  including Milwaukee and St. Louis. But still they press on with their Fox News talking points and remain convinced that Chicago’s biggest problem lies with the liberal, politically correct, and mostly left handed establishment. Which makes you wonder how they would respond to me giving answers to problems they did not even know they had.



Feeling small in an ancient forest


A Few of Our Favorite Photos from 2017 (so far)


Park Avenue Hike, Arches National Park


Arches National Park

Been home now more than a week and the trip has pretty much completed its orbit from experience to memory. But if I squint just a bit I can still just see a bit of trip light over the western horizon. Here are a few of our favorite photos from that time still not so long ago.

great basin national park photo

A Bristlecone pine tree at Great Basin National Park- one of the oldest living things on the planet this tree is likely two thousand years old!


Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills of Kansas- Corey and Henna stop to smell the flowers


Somewhere between Durango and Silverton, Colorado. About an hour after taking this photo we were hit by several falling rocks including one that damaged our windshield.


In Naturita, Colorado we do the unthinkable. We spend the night in an RV. Was pretty comfortable actually. 


Morning in Baker, Nevada


Great Sand Dune National Park. As good as it gets.

Back Home


Henna walking toward Moulton’s Barn in Grand Teton National Park which was part of a Mormon settlement that existed into the mid 20th Century.


Chilling after a long day driving from Missoula, MT to Gros Ventre Campground (Grand Teton National Park). We spent one night here then six more at Signal Mountain Campround


After almost 7,800 miles, 48 nights (and 29 spent in a tent), 8 national parks, 3 nifty sand dunes, 3 bear encounters, 1 chipmunk encounter (the sucker ran up the mesh of the tent a few inches from my face), 1 poorly scripted fake gun fight (Dodge City, KS), 6 nights spent on the California/Oregon coast, 1 attack by falling rocks (between Silverton and Ouray, CO), and 1 prophet (outside of Kansas City, he warned of rain on the 4th of July) we are finally home. And by home I mean a place where every short walk results in several long conversations. Our home home. We do though have more stories to tell of our unscripted 2017 Great Summer Trip. Like the former Japanese American Internment Camp in Southeastern Colorado we visited. Or the funky opera house in tiny Eureka, Nevada. And of course more talking politics with strangers. But for now we leave you with a few more photos to look at while we unpack.


The long gravel road leading to the Granite Hot Springs outside of Jackson, WY


In the background is Mount Rainier and in the foreground is the White River which flows down from the glaciers


Sunset at Gros Ventre Campground (Grand Teton National Park)


Moose Falls near the south entrance at Yellowstone National Park


Curious mammals looking out at Hayden Valley (Yellowstone National Park)

Henna Almost Loses a Shoe and Other Good Times in Denver



The treacherous seas that lie within Denver’s City Park. Note Henna’s shoe floating away.



Denver’s City Park is just a short drive away from the capital building. At 330 acres it is an impressive green space and includes a zoo, many trails, and a small lake. If one is foolish enough to do so, you can also rent a paddle boat or, as Henna and I did, a water tricycle. Lighter than the more conventional paddle boat, the water tricycle is a bit difficult to navigate in tricky waters. And the seas were indeed rough the day Henna and I set off to explore the outer watery reaches. So much so that Henna lost her shoes (she set them aside on the boat prior to setting off and then later they fell off the side). Did I mention the tricycle is difficult to steer? We did quickly save one shoe but the other drifted ever so slowly away from us. Try as we could, and believe me we did try, we could not capture the overboard sneaker. Luckily it drifted back to shore where Corey was able to spear it with an oar. Bad shoe.



Corey and Kristine at Mile High Stadium which is home to the Broncos as well as Kristine’s employer

Despite nearly twenty years of travel under our belt, we had never actually spent more than a few minutes in Denver. But lucky for us, our niece/cousin Kristine moved to Denver a few months ago and there was no way we would miss the chance of hanging out with her. Although it is hard to gauge a city after only a few hours, we think we like Denver. Not love, but like. Remove Denver from the mountains and you would have a serviceable enough city but not somewhere people would go out of their way to visit. But so far as we know Denver is not moving further away from the Rockies and for this reason alone it is a pretty cool city.



Several days a week food trucks are allowed to set up near the state capital. Baggo games are also encouraged.



Talking Politics With Strangers


Downtown Books in Craig, CO

After spending much of last summer explaining why there was no way America would ever elect Donald Trump, I was hoping this time around to gain a little insight into how America did just that. Yes, many more Americans did actually vote for Hillary than Donald. But so what. The electoral college ain’t going anywhere and for at least the next four years either is the duck.

But political conversations with strangers are a dicey proposition. The ones I did cajole usually resulted in voiced opinions not too dissimilar from my own. A retired fire fighter from Boise, for example, credits his city’s high quality of life with its progressive values (he called it a shiny blue dot in a sea of red).

Other pleasant surprises included the beat up pick up truck that passed us on Route 50 in Nevada. It had the same Human Rights Campaign sticker that we have. And then last night in Rock Springs, Wyoming there was not one but two gender non-conforming individuals working at our hotel. Parts of red Montana, like Missoula, swing further to the left than Chicago and even in remote Idaho we saw a highway adopted by the local Democrat chapter. People nowhere fit an exact mold.

Maybe the best conversation (political or otherwise) happened today at a lovely coffee/book shop in Craig, Colorado. Seated next to us was the former mayor who explained to us how Craig, principally a ranching and coal mining town, was more politically aligned with Wyoming than it was with nearby Steamboat Springs. The mayor, another blue dot in a sea of red, was as articulate as he was personable. A soothing cup of coffee at the end of a long ride and a reminder of how great conversation can be.

A marker on Route 789 (WY) commemorating the Overland Trail