Travel – Planes (Plains) Trains and Automobiles

R Dub conversing with the Amtrak Empire Builder conductor who ran the Observation Car Diner during a ‘fresh air’ break.

Part one of a multi edition travel series.

We like to travel, we like to travel together. Conversation never lulls and we tend to have similar likes. Bonus: our birthdays are a little over a week apart so we try to plan our travel around that time of year. A gift to each other.

A bucket list item has been an extended trip via railroad. Prior to COVID19 restrictions in larger cities, we loved to take the Amtrak Hiawatha from Milwaukee to Chicago for entertainment and dining. One year between Christmas and New Years we took Amtrak from Milwaukee to Omaha to see R Dubs parents. But never on a long train ride of multiple days…until this year.

There was one concern. Amtrak’s notoriety of always running late. We like to plan out our adventures well in advance. Some of these plans require booking and paying weeks or months before arriving. Much energy and thought went into when and how to travel to our destination.

What was our destination? Great question. The Pacific North West. Specifically Seattle’s Puget Sound area. The initial plan was to spend two days in Seattle and two days in the mountains around Seattle and visit some people while there.

So, as is typical for us. Area attractions, sites, activities, and food were researched and written on individual PostIt notes. Physical locations and hours of operation were added and sorted on a calendar to maximize as much activity into the time allotted. Agreement was met upon what we wanted to do, see and eat. The winning PostIt notes stayed and reservations were made.

Second concern. Parking at our hotel was $50/day. The cost of the rental plus parking hassles in Seattle was more than we wanted to endure. The rental was scrapped for days 1, 2 and 3 for walking and Lyft. Due to a lack of an auto and less time than we thought we needed to ‘see it all’ meant forgoing visits with two couples. (Sorry to Dan & Alice – Jeff & Kelli).

What did we do?

In Seattle: Underground Tour, Lock & Dam Tour, Pike Place Market (of course), Space Needle (of course), Chihuly Garden & Glass, Starbuck’s Roastery, the REI mother-ship location and several food stops. The food in Seattle is good. There will be a Seattle segment in the series.

Outside of Seattle: The Olympic National Park. The park is separated into 4 main areas: the Pacific coastline, the alpine region in the center of the peninsula, the temperate rainforest, and the mountains on the east side of the park. There will be an Olympic National Park segment too.

Ironically, the reason for this trip to Seattle was…well to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Our bucket list item was the train. We’d not seen the Pacific Northwest, the Cascade Mountain range or the upper Rocky Mountains. Amtrak’s Empire Builder covers this area, and the decision was made.

However…cold feet were developed worrying that the reservations made for day one in Seattle would be wasted if the train was too late arriving. So, the decision was made to fly out and rail back. Hence the title: Planes (Plains), Trains & Automobiles!

Why Plains? The train spent most of the last day in the high plains of Montana and North Dakota. Amtrak will be one segment too!

Here is a brief montage of the journey in pictures!

Beth enjoying our first class accommodations on the flight out. Easily the most comfortable and relaxed flight either of us have ever had!
The view of downtown Seattle from our hotel the evening of June 3rd. We could see the Space Needle between buildings.
Seattle as seen from Puget Sound.
Pikes Place Public Market (of course)
Food! We split single servings of food at several stops in order to visit as many spots as possible. This is R Dub with a grilled cheese sammy and Tomato Basil soup at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.
The Hoh rain forest’s Hall of Mosses
Beth smiling for R Dub in the Dining Car for our first meal on Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

Traditions – Lenten Meatless Friday’s: There’s Meat and Then There’s Meat

Blackened catfish fillets. Meat that is lent approved.
Meat that is technically OK for lent, but does not meet the definition of a food representing sacrifice. (Most would strike beer from their Friday lent diet too.)

Sure, there’s only one Friday of fasting left for this Lenten season, but…better late than never. We posted this in 2021 shortly after Fat Tuesday. This year on Maundy Thursday.

Lenten fasting and abstinence. Millions of people will abstain from meat during this the Holiest of seasons for the Christian faith.

My Catholic friends understand the rituals and their meanings better than most Protestants. I mean, really, why isn’t fish defined as meat? This is the question that I asked Beth. Well…maybe not in those exact words.

The answer goes back to 1966 when Pope Paul VI defined meat as “carnis” in regard to abstinence, a word that refers specifically to mammals and birds. So, technically and biologically fish is meat, but not in the way that Pope Paul the 6th defined it.

Beth didn’t use those exact words either. I used The Google for the previous paragraph. However, she described it accurately to the Pope’s definition.

The meat of mammals and fowl were once considered the food of grand celebrations while the eating of fish was associated with the diet of the poor. In the spirit of sacrifice and fasting, not all fish ‘should’ be consumed during lent.

While there is no prohibition to eating lobster or shrimp or any other higher end fish, it misses the point of recognizing Jesus’ suffering and sharing our blessings with the poor.

On a lighter note. The explanation of Lenten meat explains the propensity of some wait staff to recommend fish when a vegetarian or vegan makes their meatless or no animal requests. They are confusing true meatless with Lenten meatless.

Funny for carnivorous folks. For vegans and vegetarians…not so much.

Working – The Year of the Resignation: How’s It Working Out?

Photo by Anna Shvets on

R Dub originally posted this one a few months ago. While enjoying my morning cup of “pick me up” today, a news blurb announces that a full 40% of 2021’s Resignation Nation have left the job that they left their jobs for already. Sigh…

The grass is RARELY greener on the other side of the fence. It is just a different shade of green. Still a full 55% of workers are considering making a job change. Be careful folks. You may lose more than you gain.

Here’s the down side of constant job hopping. Loss of benefits like vacation time. Every time we change jobs we lose vacation days that may be 3, 4, 5 or even 6 weeks just to go back to 2 weeks that we may not be eligible to take until after a probationary period is met.

Plus another loss. Loss of handling the known problems that you probably know how to handle while gaining unknown problems that you may have no idea how to handle…at least for a while.

One of my coworkers turned in his resignation this week and it was not because he already had a new job lined up. As a person who has been ‘down sized’ twice since 2015 and a person of a certain age, I can attest that it is far more difficult to be hired as an unemployed worker than one who is currently employed.

Me? I’m perfectly content to stay here and work through the issues facing us that include salaried position hiring freezes, hourly workforce depletion and few willing to hire on, poor delivery from suppliers and to our customers, low employee morale.

As difficult as 2020 and 2021 have been, quitting a job without acquiring another one seems rash to me.

According to a Harvard Business Review article entitled “Who Is Driving the Great Resignation?”; nearly 11 million US workers quit their jobs between January 1 and July 31, 2021. The biggest group to resign have been the 30- to 45-year-old demographic. Ironically, the 60- to 70-year-old group, that’s my demographic, are resigning slower than at historic rates.

Depending upon which survey you read, so far this year a whopping 26% to 40% of workers have resigned their current position and up to 55% are actively looking to make a job change.

At my employer, many of the hourly employees quit the job due to COVID19 imposed working conditions. As coworkers came in contact with infected people or showed the signs and symptoms of the virus they were forced to stay away from work for as long as 14 days per occurrence. As a result, there were fewer people to do the work of many. Employees were asked to perform work that was not theirs and the pressure and dissatisfaction of doing work that they didn’t want to perform resulted in many resignations.

Bottom line: higher workloads, hiring freezes and the pressures they brought on caused a larger than normal group to give up and quit.

In case you are wondering, yes, it is mainly the Millennial group that leads the way in the grass must be greener on the other side of the fence. This group is changing the way businesses recruit and attempt to retain good workers. They are making managements job difficult due to their constant need for something better, however, they are making our employment environments better with the employee friendly policies created to appease an ever more fickle workforce.

Like everyone else we’ve stepped up to the incentive plate for employees. Thank you for not quitting food catered in. Special parking spots for lucky lottery winners. Higher starting wages and retention bonuses for new hires. Free event tickets. Incentive bonuses for making quarterly shipping quotas. Etc.

Why did my coworker quit this week? Pride mostly. In January our boss announced that he would be retiring in early July. Both Bob and I expressed interest in replacing him. We were both discouraged from getting our hopes up. This would be a succession hire. The successful candidate would be groomed to take over for the Plant Manager when he retires at an unspecified date way down the road.

Bob and I were both in our late 50s at the time. Not prime candidates to take over the reigns when Bill leaves. Whenever that may be. I took the strong hint and didn’t apply for the job when it was posted. However, Bob did. Bob had two strikes against him: his age (the elephant in the room) and a lack of post high school education.

I have a master’s degree in management and would’ve qualified for the job based upon my degree and many years of management experience. But I took the hint. Why go where you are not wanted? At the same time the Customer Service Manager announced her retirement too. That is where I landed. They wanted me and the position is the highest in that department.

Bob was not granted an interview for our retired boss’s empty position. A slight that he took very hard and never really got over. He became disgruntled and it carried over to his attitude on the job.

Enter the new boss. Enter a person trying to establish themselves as the one in charge.

It has been our habit to allow vacation when employees ask for it whenever possible. Making shipping schedules has been difficult lately and the new boss sends out an edict. No vacations granted this week to help make schedule. Bob and one other supervisor go against this wish and grant vacations to employees that were planning to leave regardless of granted vacation. Both supervisors get reprimanded for not obeying the edict.

This is the last straw for Bob, and he turns in his resignation. With no job lined up. I could never do that. I turned 60 this summer and have no intentions to retire any time soon. My goal is 70 years old, with the possibility of perhaps 67 if the finances are in line.

I’m constantly getting email and phone calls from headhunters asking for my interest in open positions elsewhere, but I politely thank them for thinking of me and decline the opportunity to submit a resume or participate in an interview.

I find that the grass is rarely greener on the other side of the fence. The problems that we face here may not be at any new place, but I’m certain that everyone has their own unique problems. I’d rather deal with the monster that I know than adjust to an unknown and new monster somewhere else.

It is still unknown whether staying put while others around me are retiring or moving on to another employer is an act of stupidity or brilliance. Either way, I think it is the right thing for me to do. Come hell or high water. At the moment both hell and high water are plentiful.

Nobody’s Fool

Photo by Harry Cunningham on

This was posted one year ago today. Our thoughts on the subject have not changed…and that’s no joke.

I’ve never been a fan of the practical joke. Needless to say, I’m also not a fan of an entire day set aside for them. There is nothing funny about practical jokes in R Dub’s opinion.

Probably the best known practical joke in recent history was Orson Welles’ live radio broadcast of an adaptation of H G Wells’ 1889 novel “War of the Worlds” on Halloween night in 1938. Well, recent if you are a member of the Greatest Generation anyway.

The broadcast was scripted as normal programing interrupted with frequent breaking news coverage of alien war ships attacking the United States. A New Jersey location was hit with heat rays and New York City was being attacked with poisoned smoke. People were dropping like flies and there was nothing that the armed forces could do to stop it.

There was a disclaimer at the beginning of the broadcast indicating that the show was fiction. However, many who tuned in after the intro were fooled into thinking that Mars was indeed attacking earth and went into wild panic mode.

The origins of April Fools Day dates back to April 1, 1582 when the world switched from the Julian calendar to our present day Gregorian calendar. The new year was changed from April 1st to January 1st.

The news of the calendar switch took some time to reach all citizens. People who mistakenly celebrated the new year on April 1st were said to be “April Fools.” An early form of calendar shaming I guess…

Modern pranksters can’t seem to let go of the tradition, so here we are today.

…and that’s no joke.

March – In Like A Lion…

This is the view of our deck while enjoying my daily cup of “Pick Me Up” this morning. Snow fall in March and April is nothing new or unexpected in Wisconsin, but for this transplant, spring snow is not welcome.

As the saying goes; “March: In like a lion and out like a lamb.”

“If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.” But where does it come from?

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the weather folklore stems from ancestral beliefs in balance, meaning if the weather at the start of March was bad (roaring, like a roaring lion), the month should end with good weather (gentle, like a lamb).

In Wisconsin? Not so fast my friend. The Farmers Almanac and historical data says that the temperatures in our zip code for March should be in the lower 40s on March 1 and the mid 60s on March 31.

This year? March came in like a lamb with high temperatures in the 50s on the first weekend of March. March became a lion in mid March with lows in the single digits during the the second weekend. We awoke to a bone chilling 1 degree on Saturday March the 12th.

Today? Out like a lion. High temp 30 degrees and 3 inches of wet snow.

R Dub has lived in the Mid-west all of his life. Large snowfalls in March and April are not uncommon. However, adjusting to Wisconsin’s non-spring has been difficult. In Nebraska we got occasional snow in March, sometimes large snow falls in the 12″ range. But spring weather was well established in April.

In Wisconsin; spring months tend to be more like winter light until summer suddenly arrives in June. Our coat rack currently has three different levels of warmth represented in the coats hanging from it. All of them have been used the last 31 days. Today? My hooded Carhart winter jacket.

One great thing about living in Wisconsin. Despite the weather, good, bad or somewhere between; the hearty people of this state stay active. Many prefer the winter weather over the warmer weather and do not shy away from the great outdoors ever.

To quote the great Jimmy Buffett; “The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.” Regardless of what mother nature is doing, we have little control over her. So be beautiful no matter what she throws at us.

R Dub out!

A light dusting that will eventually be a wet 3″ this morning.
Driving over fresh snow on the drive is normally not my forte, but this will be gone before we get home after work today.
A fresh layer of slushy snow didn’t slow traffic down too much. This is county road E in Horicon Wisconsin between the two John Deere factories at around 7:30 am. The speed limit is 35 and R Dub is cruising in at 30 mph!

Gardening – A Tool for Our Mental Toolbox – Clyde’s Garden Planner

Clyde’s Garden Planner. Spring planting guide. Hardly and all inclusive list of crops, but it covers all of the crops we wanted to plant except Sunflower.
…and on the flip side, Fall harvest planting guides.
Last and first frost dates for many locations in the USA and Canada. Our last frost is listed between April 30 and May 2nd, but all the “old Timers’ in the area say not until Memorial Day to be safe.

There are several keys or critical tips to growing a good garden. The key for beginning gardeners is to find the critical tips from ‘master’ gardeners. There are plenty of novices like us out there with advice that may of may not be good.

We watch many of the successful YouTube gardeners, take notes and attempt to implement as much as possible. A few of these tips are; Planning, Timing, Logging Progress (and failure), Soil Maintenance, Spacing, Vertical Gardening, Succession Planting, and Compatibility Planting.

While watching a popular Homestead channel we discovered a gardening tool to help plan the timing of our next garden. It’s called “Clyde’s Garden Planner” which is pictured above. We were able to order the planner for $6 online and it was delivered within a few days of placing the order.

As stated in our previous post, we fell victim to the most common new gardener fail: planting too soon…and too late… We put out our tomato plants before the last frost of the season. If we follow the average last frost in the chart above, we run the risk of a repeat performance.

The Spring chart illustrated in our third photo of this post in Clyde’s planner shows an average for several cities in the USA and Canada. Averages are nice, but all of the seasoned gardeners we’ve talked to in Wisconsin tells us not to choose Memorial Day as the definitive last frost date of the year..

However, there were also crops that we planted too late. Like cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, lettuce, spinach and radishes.

So…Memorial Day is the day I set as the last frost for this season and let Clyde help us plan accordingly.

The first photo of this posts is set for a final frost date of May 31. Note that there is a relatively small variety of plants on the planner. However, it covers all of the crops we plan to plant except Pole Beans and Sunflower.

Note too that there are abbreviations. Here’s how to read the planner:

si – Indoor Seeding Dates

LP – last outdoor planting dates

Red Line – Last Spring frost date, First Fall frost date

green check mark – harvest dates

In addition to these planning tools; there are companion plants for each crop listed in blue, spacing recommendation, and sun light needs for each crop.

Clyde’s Garden Planner takes care of timing, succession planting, sunlight needs, spacing and compatible plants. Soil maintenance and vertical gardening will need to be found from other sources.

We think this a great tool to put in our mental gardening tool box!

What’s next? Onions…from seed starting cells to Red Solo Cups!

Gardening: Planning 2022

Walla Walla Onions Thinned to one plant per cell. They will be transferred at least once to larger containers before being planted outside around April 12.

Planning has begun for year two of Operation Green Thumb. The operation has never really stopped; we have been growing micro greens and herbs inside all winter. It is now time to map out what the outdoor garden for 2022 will be and when tasks should be preformed.

The 2021 outdoor garden was in three raised garden beds near the backside of our garage and in several containers on the deck. Two beds were on the patio directly south of our garage and one along the fence line next to our neighbor Carol. We will need to move at least two beds to make room for a new deck going in this spring into summer.

The raised garden beds plus a plethora and wide variety of containers will be utilized as well.

We do not know for sure where the raised garden beds will be located this season, but we do know they will be located further south in the backyard or anywhere in the front yard for more hours of direct sunlight.

Last year’s companion planting can be improved upon and we need more flowering plants to attract pollinators. Plus, like most rookie gardeners we started some crops too early and some crops could’ve been started earlier in the season.

However…thanks to a handy tool called “Clyde’s Garden Planner” we have mapped out when each crop we are hoping to plant will be started from seed (if needed) inside, transferred to the outdoor garden, started from seed outside and when we can hope to harvest.

Here is the time frame that Clyde is recommending based upon an estimated last frost of May 26th and a first frost estimated at October 11th. Harvests will be on a different post.

February 6 – Started walla walla onions from seed indoors.

February 16 – Thinned walla walla onions to two per cell.

February 17 – Started red wethersfield onions from seed indoors.

February 24 – Chitted russet potatoes and stored in basement.

February 26 – Thinned the walla walla onions to 1 seedling per cell.

March 22 – Start cabbage and cauliflower from seed indoors.

April 12 – Transfer onion plants to Bed 3 outdoors.

April 19 – Start lettuce from seed outdoors. Start peas from seed outdoors. Start spinach from seed outdoors.

April 26 – Transfer cabbage and cauliflower outdoors. Start radishes and turnips from seed outdoors.

May 3 – Start pepper and tomatoes from seed indoors. Start beets and potatoes from seed outdoors.

May 17 – Start carrots and chard from seed outdoors.

May 24 – start watermelon from seed indoors.

May 31 – Start squash, cucumbers, beans and sweet corn from seed outdoors.

June 7 – Start pumpkins from seed indoors.

June 14 – Transfer watermelon outdoors.

June 21 – Transfer peppers and tomatoes outdoors.

July 12 – Succession Planting Begins: Start cucumbers, cabbage, cauliflower and winter squash from seed outside. Transfer pumpkins outside.

July 19 – Start peas and chard from seed outdoors.

July 26 – Start beets and and beans from seed outdoors.

August 9 – Start radishes and turnips from seed outdoors.

August 16 – Start spinach from seed outdoors.

Walla Walla onions thinned to 2 seedlings per cell.on February 16.
Seedlings shortly after germination. Grow lights are the only way to make good seedlings and keep the herbs healthy indoors.
Most of the herbs flourished under the grow lights all winter. We lost our cilantro and the basil to the far right which was started from cuttings is not looking good. Come on last frost!

Gardening – Preparing For 2022: First Up Onions From Seed

Walla Walla Onion seedlings started from seeds last Sunday February 6, 2022

After a winter of micro greens and herbs we turn our attention to getting ready for outdoor gardening.

Outdoor gardening in February?! In Wisconsin?! Are we crazy?!


While the soil in the garden beds will not be ready to work for several weeks, there are a few crops that can be started from seed inside.

Which crops? Onion, Kale, Lettuce, and Swiss Chard for a few. We will concentrate on onions. Walla Walla were started from seed last Sunday and peeked out from under the seed starting soil 6 days later. Thank you heating mat.

We have potato seedlings on order and will begin the chitting process next weekend. What is chitting? Wait for it. We will highlight the process in a future post.

After the “Big Game’ is over tonight, we will start a tray of Red Wetherfield Onions. All other cold loving crops will be planted directly in the garden beds when they thaw out. Carrots, Radishes, Beets, Peas, Spinach and Lettuce for us.

Most crops this year will go into the beds on or after Memorial Day weekend. That’s safe haven here in Zone 5A for crops that will fail if planted prior to final frost. Last year we set out the tomatoes and peppers too early. They may have been stunted.

However, we set out cold loving plant’s too late. Our cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and lettuce all suffered through a hotter than normal June. Our spinach and cauliflower bolted making them useless. Only one cabbage plant matured and it was tiny.

Lessons learned…we hope.

What other lessons were learned? We didn’t give plants the correct companions. Spacing was too tight for many crops. We didn’t thin out the carrots, onions and beets correctly.

Year two begins with more knowledge and the same determination to learn the craft of gardening. we will continue to research via the internet and YouTube. Wish us luck!

…and stay tuned!

Most of the herbs fared well this winter under the friendly warmth of these grow lights. Herbs from left to right: parsley, oregano, basil, mint, rosemary, and basil.
R Dub showing off our first batch of micro greens. While these were our first attempt at Micro Greens, we have fallen in love with Mung Beans in a soil free grow method.

Creative Shelving at Walmart: Are Disappearing Shelves Better Than Empty Shelves?

2 Rows of Shelving Removed from the Middle of Our Walmart Grocery Section. The good news? Plenty of toilet paper on the left!
However…there are empty shelves. This is the paper towel isle on the right and cleaning supplies on the left.

We are living in interesting, if not alarming times. Supply chains world wide have been disrupted. At any given time one isle or another is lean of inventory and has been since the middle of 2020. How are retailers dealing with the problem?

I’m offering some anecdotal observations from our last two or three trips to Walmart.

During our last few trips to Walmart we noticed that they were doing less spacing out to hide a lack of inventory. Why? They are now hiding the poor optics of low inventory by removing shelves completely.

A photo that we didn’t take was the Seasonal food isle which has seemingly disappeared. From September until January our Walmart seasonal isle was full of seasonal candies. Halloween goodies from September to the end of October, then Christmas goodies from November until early in January. Now? Completely empty. Why? Not sure, but we will keep an eye on it and report back.

So where are the Valentines Day goodies? Good question. In Point of Sale (POS) displays in the isles and end-caps of shelving. Basically hiding a lack of inventory by placing product in small spaces like POS displays and end-caps.

What I do not see is panic buying at our Walmart. You know, crammed full carts or multiple carts by couples or families filled to the brim. Oddly, I’m more likely to see overstuffed and multiple cart buying at ALDI who, at least in our town, does not seem to be experiencing the same empty shelves.