Vacation Tales

Readers share memories of their favorite trips

Posted on Jun 14 2012 in Features

featuredstoryartReaders of Electric Consumer had plenty of tales to tell about favorite vacations. Some told of bygone days when gas cost two bits a gallon and the two lane was the only way to see the USA. Others noted GPS-technology and state-of-the-art hotels of glass and steel.

Some tales told of personal journeys of discovery — or rediscovery — to far-flung corners of the world. Some highlighted natural wonders right here in Indiana.

In the March and April issues of Electric Consumer, we asked readers to send us their recollections of their favorite or most interesting vacation. Presented here are some of the submissions and photographs we liked best. Those who penned tales we printed will receive $50. From all those who submitted tales, we randomly drew one name for a $100 prize. That lucky reader was Rob Evans, a Jasper County REMC consumer from Francesville.

Thank you to all who sent us stories. Your enthusiasm certainly encourages us to revisit this vacation feature sometime in the future.

Ladies fortnight out:

Eight ‘women’ and a motor home made for an unforgettable road trip

by Pauline Alexander, Tipmont REMC consumer, Waynetown, Ind.

legg1In the summer of 1977 women’s liberation hit the “Legg” girls. That’s when my mother, real first name“Grammy” Legg, decided “we women” were going on a special vacation.

“We women” included the granddaughters, ages 2-10, Debbie, Amy, Marie, Susan and Sherry; my sister-in-law, Eva; myself; and our official tour guide, Grammy. We rented a motor home and set out for Yellowstone National Park. With “shotgun drivers” manning each window, we navigated quite well.

We received many stares of amazement as we filed out of the camper each evening, and even more when we revealed that our “men” were still in Indiana. Since we were not yet seasoned travelers, and still a little nervous about staying overnight in a trailer park by ourselves, we piled all the lawn chairs against the doors so they would fall if anyone tried to break in.

Grammy always found pleasure in business — so our first destination was Denver for a Cowbelles convention. While she attended her meeting, the rest of us went to Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak.

Back on the road after the convention, we went to a Wyoming rodeo, the Snake River Valley (the most beautiful place on earth, by the way), the Bill Cody museum and made a complete tour of Yellowstone … among other places too numerous to mention. We would have our Sunday school sitting around a picnic table out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by God’s beautiful mountains.

legg2On the way home, we visited the Cow Palace and Mount Rushmore. The day we were there, Mount Rushmore was completely fogged in and it was pouring rain. But as we drove into the parking lot, the sun came out, the clouds parted and the face of the mountain was absolutely clear. Moses had nothing on us that day!

What started out to be two weeks became almost three. Our daughters became professionals at Canasta, and Eva and I learned to put together a meal while traveling down the road with one hand in the sink and the other holding the refrigerator door closed. Especially remarkable about this trip is that we made it without a GPS, portable DVD player, or electronic games to keep the young ones occupied. These things did not exist at the time.

My mother passed away in August of 1989. She was at the Indiana State Fair, with other members of the Indiana Cattlewomen, when she had a massive heart attack. We have a new generation of great-grandchildren now, none of whom had the privilege of knowing Grammy. But this trip is still a favorite topic of conversation whenever the cousins get together.

Anyone who knew Grammy knew her independence and her unending love for her granddaughters — both crucial points in this excursion. She fulfilled her dream and left us with a legacy of love we will never forget. We created memories no one can ever take away.

Photos: The “Legg” women, top, at Snake River in the Grand Tetons during their 1977 road trip. “Grammy” is at far left in front; Pauline Alexander, who submitted the story, is the adult on the right. Above left, the family prays during their “Sunday school” amid “God’s beautiful mountains.”

 ‘Ein prosit!’

Trip to Germany was a toast to memories, old and new

by Beth Koeneman, Steuben County REMC consumer, Angola, Ind.


Beth and Terry Koeneman stand on the third floor balcony, just outside their room, at the Gasthof Helmer in Schwangau, Bavaria, Germany, during a family trip in 2008. When Beth was a college exchange student working at the hotel in 1970, a barn where she peeled potatoes stood in this spot.

Forty years ago when I left the tiny Bavarian village of Schwangau, Germany, in the shadows of the German Alps, I could only dream of ever returning.

Each day as a Ball State University summer work-exchange student at Gasthof Helmer, I had gazed out my window toward Neuschwanstein, the famous “Ludwig” castle on the mountain foothills. My housekeeping and kitchen duties at the hotel allowed time for walks to the castles and Tegelberg cable car to the Alps mountain tops. Then, my summer work-exchange ended.


Beth, as a 1970 student at Ball State, poses with the hotel’s owner at the entrance where she swept every day. She noted passers-by thought she was Italian and couldn’t understand why an American student would do such work.

My dream of returning came true in 2008, when my husband and I traveled with my son to Heidelberg to visit my daughter and son-in-law, who were working as Department of Defense civilians.

Schwangau had become their favorite vacation get-away, staying at Helmer. You can only imagine my excitement to visit as a guest in a balcony room almost 40 years after my tiny window view as an employee in 1970.

When we registered at the front desk, I showed Martin Helmer a picture of his father and me at the hotel entrance in 1970. Only a boy of 10 at the time, he was quite astonished as I explained who I was.

Gasthof Helmer had doubled in size, and each room now had its own bath, instead of one per floor.
Our room was in the new part of the hotel and had a beautiful balcony view of the castles on the mountainside. That new part replaced a barn where I peeled potatoes in 1970.

During that long weekend in 2008, we were all able to visit special memories of my summer work experience during college. We toured the castles, biked to glacial lakes, rode the cable car to Tegelberg’s summit overlooking the Austrian Alps, and visited nearby Fussen on the end of the train line.

Only God knew in 1970 that I would be able to thankfully share His Bavarian wonder with my family in 2008.


Grace Lehman is all smiles as she and her family kayak along the shores of Lake Huron last summer. The fun, but unexpected vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the Jay County REMC consumers came about when Hurricane Irene washed out their planned trip to Virginia.


When a hurricane came down, plans looked UP

by Jessica Lehman, Jay County REMC consumer, Berne, Ind.

In August 2011, my family — my parents and three younger sisters — and I were planning a vacation to Virginia. We were going to rent a house while visiting Williamsburg, Jamestown and maybe Washington, D.C., and going swimming at Virginia Beach.

Then, only a couple days before we left, Hurricane Irene swept through Virginia. My dad said everything would be a mess, and my mom decided we would go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for our vacation.
On the Internet she hurriedly searched for and found a suitable house to rent in the UP. Imagine the house owner’s surprise when Mom called and told him we would be arriving the next day!

The house was on Drummond Island, which has many black bears. My family and I took a 10-minute ferry ride from the UP to the island. As we unloaded our things from the truck into the house, I worried that a black bear would jump out from among the trees and attack us.

lehman2Since this was a last-minute vacation, we spent the first day on the island figuring out what we would do that week. Kayaking was the first thing we did. I insisted that kayaks were too tippy and unstable, and I think everyone — except my dad — agreed with me. Surprisingly, kayaking was everyone’s favorite part of the vacation.

We made a seemingly impossible 7-mile round-trip hike out to Marble Head, which is the easternmost part of the island. Upon arriving we could see Canada across the lake. I kept my eyes peeled for black bears, though our guide said the bears would hear us coming and would run in the opposite direction.

By boat we toured Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior. Mackinac Island was also an interesting place; there are no cars there, only bicycles and horses.

Our trip to Drummond Island and the UP was a last minute vacation full of new experiences — though we did not see a single black bear.

Jessica is a home-educated high school sophomore.


Incan ruins stand out against the misty mountains of Peru. While it was scenes like this that attracted Jane Johnson to Peru, she said the indelible memories were created by getting out and immersing herself in the culture and sharing human experiences with the people. Below, she poses with an alpaca and visited a school.

Pursuing the real Peru

South American trip went beyond travel brochures

by Jane Johnson, Bartholomew County REMC consumer, Elizabethtown, Ind.

In 2008, I wanted more than another June beach vacation. I wanted something different. I wanted adventure. So I left Indiana’s summer and flew to Peru’s winter.

Best known for its historic Incan sites, Peru offered much broader opportunity: immersion in a southern hemisphere-culture based on a blend of indigenous and Spanish cultures. What an excellent combination for adventure!

jjohnson1I was able to visit a village elementary school where I saw excellent instruction by a $300 per month government teacher in a mud brick building with few texts and no running water.

I learned not to stand too close to llamas, and how patience is a virtue when weaving fine alpaca wool into rainbow colored scarves. I communed with an angora furred rabbit in the late afternoon shadows of Machu Picchu. I helped cook freeze-dried potatoes in a domed earthen outdoor oven but later turned down the opportunity to dine on roasted guinea pigs.

jjohnson2I drifted on the Urubamba River past villages in low valleys accessible only by rope bridges constructed by hand. I sampled fermented corn beer and played “sapo” [an Incan coin-toss game] at a roadside brewery. On a Sunday afternoon, I watched SUVs being blessed in a town square by a local priest and then by a local shaman. I stood at respectful attention as the Peruvian flag was hoisted during an early morning ceremony conducted by military veterans and a brass band. I experienced the quiet of a spiritual ceremony that connected the elements of the earth to the everyday human needs of the participants.

Visiting historic ruins may have been my first attraction for visiting Peru, but it was the human experiences that made indelible memories. I recommend a similar experience for you to create your own vacation tale.

Took two women on vacation …, and one said ‘yes’

by Jeff Keplar, United REMC consumer, Ossian, Ind.

Jeff Keplar’s girlfriend, Carol (who became his fiancée on this trip and his wife six months later), and mom, Lil, hit it off immediately after meeting in Anchorage at the start of an Alaskan vacation in 2000.

Jeff Keplar’s girlfriend, Carol (who became his fiancée on this trip and his wife six months later), and mom, Lil, hit it off immediately after meeting in Anchorage at the start of an Alaskan vacation in 2000.

Macular degeneration was taking its inevitable march toward blindness. My 79-year-old mother, Lil, confided in me that she had always dreamed of seeing Alaska, but I knew time was short. Her eyesight was failing. If ever I was to take her there, now was the time.

However, another lady had eagerly been sharing my time and my life. Carol was sweet, professional, fun and willing to join me anytime because we were madly in love with one another. We were talking of marriage, but first I wanted to take Mom on that one last vacation.

Then my mind kicked into gear: What if I take both to Alaska? Only one problem: these two precious women in my life had never met. One lived in Indiana, the other in Arizona. But why let a little distance be a problem? So, there I was at the Anchorage Airport introducing my mother to my girlfriend and climbing behind the wheel of a motor home to escort them around the Land of the Last Frontier for 17 days. Was I ready for this? Apparently not — no sooner were we out of the parking lot and headed into the great unknown when they joined in good-naturedly ganging up on me. They hit it off with gusto, even if I was the brunt of their fun.

keplar2We hiked; we explored glaciers; we watched eagles and bears. We visited Denali National Park and camped in settings beautiful beyond belief. And we all fell in love with each other more and more each day.

On day 13, Mom stayed in a lodge at an old mining town, while Carol and I hiked up Root Glacier to explore. We discovered a boulder just large enough for me to sit on while offering Carol a seat on my lap. Surrounded by God’s beauty, I asked her if we could both pray and thank God for all He had given us. I finished with, “And God, please let her say ‘Yes’ to this question, ‘Carol, will you marry me?’”

She did — a most memorable finish to my best vacation ever.

Maggie Ridge’s husband died suddenly a week after the family returned from this 2011 vacation.

Maggie Ridge’s husband died suddenly a week after the family returned from this 2011 vacation.

Photographs and memories

Hired photographer helped preserve fleeting family moments

by Maggie Ridge, Harrison REMC consumer, Floyd Knobs, Ind.

When I look at pictures of our most recent vacation, October 2011 in Florida, I think of how important it is for families to take the time to plan a trip.

ridgeWhen you consider the total cost of airline tickets, resorts, meals and Disney admission, remember to include your memories by hiring a professional photographer. One spends so much time planning; however, pictures will last a lifetime.

With the Internet, you can research photographers in your destination. You can look at Web pages to see their work and get ideas for your vacation pictures. I took the time, and I am so thankful because our photographer was able to capture special moments on the beach, in the water, while collecting shells and in peaceful times.

A week after returning from a wonderful vacation, my husband suffered a heart arrhythmia and died. Not only do we have our memories, we also have over 150 pictures which will last a lifetime. We also have a new best-friend photographer in Clearwater, Fla.!

Pigs in a blanket

by Rob Evans, Jasper County REMC member, Francesville, Ind.

In the summer of 1962, the folks loaded my middle brother and me, both still in elementary school, my pre-school brother, and the family dog into the station wagon and headed from our home in northwest Indiana to Sun City, Ariz., to visit my grandparents.

We were a family of veteran tent campers. So, my dad decided that we would save money on the trip by skipping motels and “sleeping under the stars.” My mother had her reservations but reluctantly agreed.

As evening approached on the first day out, we pulled into a roadside park, and settled down for the night — my youngest brother, Mom and dog sleeping in the station wagon with the windows down, and the rest of us in sleeping bags next to the car.

All went well till dawn approached when we were rudely awakened by a sound not easily recognized by this city-dwelling family.

During the night, a livestock semitruck, loaded to the hilt with pigs, had pulled into the roadside park right next to our car, and something startled the pigs. The entire load of pigs let loose with the loudest, most blood curdling squeal that any of us had every heard! Of course, the pigs’ squealing got the dog barking, and the more the dog barked the louder the pigs squealed.

And did I mention the smell? There was a terrible stench that, now that we were awake, had quickly invaded our nostrils!

Needless to say, sleep was over for the morning, and we quickly loaded up the wagon and, with weary-eyes, got back on the road.

Through the years we often re-told this story and had a good laugh. And my mother always finished the story by reminding us that once on the road, she told my dad in no uncertain terms that the trip to Arizona would no longer include “sleeping under the stars!!”

A break Down Under

by Anita Stevens, Steuben County REMC consumer, Angola, Ind.

operaOne of my favorite vacations occurred in April 2007 many miles from home.

Our daughter, Breanna, who was attending Purdue University, was spending a semester abroad as an exchange student at the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia. It was the perfect opportunity for my husband, Jay, and me to visit her during her “fall break” at Easter.

There were so many things I wanted to see in Australia, but when I began to plan I realized that the continent of Australia is as large as the continental United States and that seeing it all in two weeks would be impossible.

We flew into Sydney and met my daughter at the airport on a Wednesday. We spent the next three days with her in Sydney as she showed us her apartment and her school, her favorite spots and the famous ones too (like the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge) plus a hiking trip along the beaches that she had always wanted to do. At the end of the week, when her school ended, we rented a very small campervan and took off up the east coast of Australia toward the Great Barrier Reef.

roosFor the next several days, we enjoyed seeing the sights and meeting the people of Australia as we worked our way to Bundaberg and Bargara beach at the southern end of the Reef. The campsite was amazing with a beautiful beach and the sky was so dark and immense at night away from all the lights. I saw the Southern Cross for the first time.

The wildlife, especially the birds, and the flowers were beautiful. We made arrangements to fly to Lady Elliott Island and spent the day snorkeling. My favorite memory is when a sea turtle swam by and my daughter reached out to touch him. He spun around and stared her down.

We also took a day trip on my birthday to Woodgate Beach to find kangaroos living in the center of town, wild and free. On our return trip to Sydney we stopped at a National Park near Noosa Beach and found a koala resting in a tree along the path.

Our last stay was at the Gold Coast, enjoying a kayak and scuba trip before returning to the Sydney area and visiting the Blue Mountains.

It was an amazing trip and over much too soon.

DSC04073The ‘fun guy’ we met on our vacation

by Tom Smith, a Tipmont REMC consumer, Lafayette, Ind.

Sharon, my wife of 24 years, and my daughter, Hannah, who was 19, and I embarked last summer on a voyage through the land of the fungi. Antarctica may have its penguins; and Kenya its rhinos; but Smoky Mountain National Park has fungi in great diversity from large day-glow orange mushrooms to delicate pearl gray bells.

trail5With 40-pound backpacks, we trekked 70 miles in seven days in the fungi capital of the world along the Appalachian Trail. For one full week, we walked in beauty, surrounded by misty mountains, following a section of the longest continuous footpath in the world. Without electronic devices of any kind to distract us, we put one foot in front of the other for eight to 10 hours a day.

Since we carried no tent, we stayed in the shelters each night with the other hikers and became social creatures. The talk often circled around two topics — water and bears. We might hear how the water at the Mount Collins shelter was a good ways down a ravine, and you would hear the hidden trickle before you saw it, or how a bear the size of large dog had to be driven away with stones at Cosby Knob. We never saw a single bear unless you count “Chatty Bear” a 14-year old traveling with her dad who certainly lived up to the first part of her nickname.

trail4We did not set out to have a spiritual experience, yet walking into the Fontana Dam visitors lot after hardly seeing, much less using a car for seven days made us melancholy. We were glad to be at the end of it, to take a hot shower and have plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. And we had memories that no photograph could trail3capture of foggy vistas of variegated green, and Turk’s head lilies with four perfectly symmetrical petals. Who would think that blobs of fungi could be so lovely and vibrant? Our senses became revitalized, and we could delight in these small, but exquisite little wonders.

So much of our lives are meant to change the world whether we are planting a flower garden or creating a spreadsheet. For this time period, it was such a pleasure to reverse this process and be affected by the natural world, to be changed by it, to feel the calm of the woods seep into our skin.

A trip into the past

by Lynne Glass, a Clark County REMC consumer, Underwood, Ind.

My favorite vacation was a typical childhood vacation my family and I took to visit my grandparents’ farms in southeastern Kentucky during the 1960s.

Daddy drove our station wagon with one hand on the steering wheel and one on the back of the seat. This, so he could swat at my bouncing, bickering, ever-moving, younger siblings in vain attempts to get them to “settle down.”

Seat belts weren’t worn then. Remarkably, none of us were hurt by Daddy’s fast, one-armed driving or his threats to “stop this car and give us SOMETHING to cry/complain/carry on … about.”

These “three hour tours” (one-way) was no Gilligan’s Island pleasure cruise. But once arrived, it was great.

Mom’s folks enjoyed telling — at the same time — long, convoluted stories of recent events. Each tried talking louder than the other. One could get whiplash listening to both. Grandma, in her aproned house dress, “wore the pants”. I was her favorite, since I’d eat anything. Who wouldn’t love greens with hot bacon grease, onions, soup beans or home-churned cottage cheese. My younger siblings — that’s who! Grandma had little patience for children gagging at the sight of food.

Once, I got on my Grandma’s bad side when a group of us cousins made mud pies to throw at her neat, white house. She chased us with a switch, but we escaped to the barn loft because Grandma wasn’t much of a climber. Cousin Robert (and siblings) would come play with us at Grandma’s. Robert was especially “creative”. I never laughed so hard as when he chased the rest of us kids with “cow patties” on a tobacco stick. I don’t remember getting “slung with dung” myself, but laughed hysterically when my younger siblings did.

Daddy’s parents, in contrast to Grandma T’s “cleanliness is next to godliness” beliefs, enjoyed clutter. Although wealthy, Granny and Grandaddy H. lived frugally. They enjoyed auctions and bought numerous used toys and books, “still good” candy, etc.

What fun playing, eating and reading all weekend. Granny kept the huge skeletal head of her favorite mule in a closet. We enjoyed playing “dentist,” removing and replacing the mule’s teeth. Granny’s house was so unkempt, that when she said, “sleep tight; don’t let the bedbugs bite …,” she wasn’t kidding.

Long gone are my Daddy and grandparents. But what joy it will be to reunite in Heaven, minus the long, “screamin’ kids” car ride, of course.

Shores of Sicily provided simple but beautiful pleasures

by Trish Haines, Harrison REMC consumer, Corydon, Ind.

My husband and I had a trip of our life to Sicily, thanks to our son who is a trauma nurse, serving as a lieutenant in the US Navy. (He was deployed for a tour in Afghanistan and was then stationed on the island of Sicily.)

During our two weeks there, we celebrated Christmas, New ʻYear’s’ Eve AND our anniversary! We visited ancient and spectacular churches, coliseums castles, amphitheaters and walked the same path that the Apostle Paul had walked!

The Italian people treated us with such robust smiles and warmth. “Buon giorno!” they’d say, as we entered the restaurants. Some days we’d order lunch on the pier overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Fish were caught right off the pier as we ate! “Can’t get any fresher than that!” we’d say.

Other days, we enjoyed pizza that was baked in a wood-burning oven. At the open market, we ate fresh olives and Sicilian oranges that melted in your mouth. Only tasting, was believing!

Each morning we enjoyed coffee from our son’s balcony, which overlooked the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. We listened and watched the waves as they gently washed against the lava rocks. The neighbor’s balconies, in the beautiful town of Acitrezza, were dotted with hanging plants and bushes with either pink or purple flowers, that swayed in the breeze. The colors and the sounds are still etched in my mind …

We exchanged laughter and thoughts about all our adventures, as we ate gelato in a quaint, little, lacy-curtained restaurant. We were witness to many spectacular places, but simple pleasures like this, I treasure the most.

We listened to a live concerto in an ancient cathedral atop a 3,000 foot mountain. As the music from the violins and piano played, my mind and body became mesmerized from the awesome beauty of each note. I felt hypnotized by the emotion that I felt as I held hands with my husband, on one side, and my son, on the other.

We were so grateful that our son returned from Afghanistan safely, and that we were able to share and enjoy such a memorable trip with him. It was a memory of peace, beauty and adventure. It was a time for us three together in a far away land. It was a vacation that I will never forget.

Ashes to Alaska

by Laura Meyer, Harrison REMC consumer, Borden, Ind.

arctic circle copyIn August of 2010 we took a 32 day camping trip to Alaska. The oddball thing about this trip was a request by my Pastor to scatter her aunt’s ashes along the way.

Aunt Nancy was a great favorite, taking nieces and nephews on adventures all over the country and stopping at every historic marker and overlook. Alaska and the Alcan highway had always been her dream trip, and this was her chance … better late than never!

We took pictures for a family album of all the places we left her. A lot of our photos show me holding out one arm, which looks odd since you can’t see the ashes dropping.

After Tok and Fairbanks, we headed north into the Arctic Circle. The three-day trip to Prudhoe Bay, through the Brooks range and tundra country, was surreal and beautiful. We saw caribou, arctic foxes, Dahl sheep and tundra swans. Aunt Nancy took a dip in the Bering Sea/Arctic Ocean on our tour. As soon as the picture was made, I hightailed it out of that cold water! Our Aug. 12 campsite saw temps in the low 40s.

Bridge on the alcan Highway copyWe couldn’t go any farther north, so we headed back to Fairbanks with a visit to the University Botanical garden and museum, then Denali for an all-day tour seeing moose, grizzlies, wolves and caribou. At the Eilson Visitor stop, there was an inscription “Keep Exploring”.

Seemed like a good motto for Aunt Nancy and our trip together.

In Anchorage, we had dinner with an old friend from Indiana. She recommended Earthquake Park, the city museum and Lake Hood, billed as the world’s largest float plane base. All were worthwhile stops.

Going south onto the Kenai peninsula we caught some delicious salmon. On the way to Homer, we stopped at two old Russian Orthodox churches with cemetery stones dating to the early 1800s.

Again having come, literally, to the end of the road, we turned around and hit Seward and Valdez to catch both ends of the pipeline.

By this time, I’m channeling Aunt Nancy and conversing with her in my trip diary on a daily basis. We had a great trip and fulfilled a promise made by her nieces that some day Aunt Nancy would get to Alaska.

Tears for the beauty of the Rockies

by Ralph Purkhiser, Orange County REMC consumer, West Baden Springs, Ind.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to have taken some pretty spectacular vacations. However, the one that is the most memorable for me was a Rocky Mountain trip in July 2006. My mother, Helen Purkhiser, and I had made many trips to Colorado over the years. Two of her brothers lived near Denver and other relatives lived in various parts of the state. We usually had some other family members accompanying us, and in 2006, it was Sarah LaMarche, my niece, who was with us.

After stopping in the Denver area to visit relatives, we traveled a scenic route to Pagosa Springs, in the southwest part of Colorado. By crossing the Front Range near Evergreen, we drove most of the day between the mountain ranges, and saw some breath-taking scenery.

From our base at Pagosa Springs, we spent the next week being awed by mountain scenery, hot springs, craft fairs and local shows. We traveled to Four Corners, where we took turns standing in four states at the same time. We visited ancient Indian ruins and took walks to waterfalls. On July 4, we attended the Red Ryder Rodeo, where Red Ryder author Stephen Slesinger was seated only a few seats down from us.

I love trains, and the highlight of the trip was an excursion on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railway. A steam engine pulled the train through miles of high desert, crossing several times between Colorado and New Mexico. Mom rode in a coach, but Sarah and I rode on an open-air car, which was just in front of Mom’s coach. We took turns going in to check on her, and it was on one of those trips that Mom came up to me with tears in her eyes.

“Bubba,” she said, ”I just want to thank you for bringing me on this trip. If it were not for you, I would never have seen such beautiful places.”

That was to be our last trip to Colorado. Finances and Mom’s health confined us to shorter trips for the next four years. She passed away in October 2010. I am comforted by the memory that I was able to bring such joy to her on our mountain vacation.

Pratfall at Pratt Lake

by Caden Tuinstra, Tipmont REMC consumer, West Lafayette, Ind.

Two years ago, I traveled to Martin, Mich., to a place called Pratt Lake. My grandparents own a lot where we swim, fish, go boating, camp, sleep in tents, and eat by the fire.

One day, my brother, cousin, and I paddled out to a raft to catch fish. My aunt was watching me like a hawk, so I was a little uneasy. Fortunately, all that watching paid off.

My sister and grandma were enjoying relaxing time on a paddle boat and decided to pick us up. Luckily, my grandma was wearing a life jacket because my aunt begged her to do so; my grandma never wears life jackets. They paddled to our fishing area and picked us up. My cousin, brother, and I carelessly climbed on, not noticing the label on the boat saying: MAXIMUM: 2 PEOPLE.

My cousin was the last person to step on the boat. As soon as all three of us stood on the boat, it flipped, causing us to fall into the water! As soon as he stepped on, he jumped right back on the raft. I wasn’t thinking about the people under the boat, so my first instinct was to swim to shore. But my grandma, sister, and brother were trapped under the boat!

My grandma, not knowing how to swim, was floating under the boat. My brother swam out from under the boat while my sister leaped onto the nearby raft. She tried to help my grandma with reassuring words. Then, my aunt raced over with the Jet Ski. My grandma would not let go of the boat, so my aunt, still maneuvering the Jet Ski, pulled the paddle boat to shore.

When all of us were safely on shore, everyone was worried about my grandma because of a previous bout with pneumonia. However, she was just a little wet. Her only concern was that her hair was wet.

My cousin said that he lost his fishing pole through all the commotion. After dinner and when we were all dry, my older cousin swam to the bottom of lake and retrieved the lost fishing pole.

As my head touched the pillow that night, I reflected on that day’s events. I was relieved and grateful to God that no one was injured. I fell asleep, knowing that tomorrow would bring another adventure.

Gone fishing

by Grace Biesecker, Frankfort, Ind.

bear2My husband, Ellsworth, liked to fish. My sister, Esther Mae Zollers, and her husband, Myron, liked to fish also. Thus we planned a fishing trip to Minnesota and invited a couple of our friends, Nancy and Don Kinsler, to come with us.

The summer of 1952 the six of us, with our three children, Ronna, Janice and Greg, and Zoller’s son David, headed for a fishing vacation to Jasper Lake near Ely, Minn., the northern state, advertised as being the “Land of a Thousand Lakes”.

We rented a lodge, more like a house, which could accommodate all of us. And fish we did! The fresh crappies, walleye and Northern pike were well worth the work if took to catch, clean and fry them.

Our lodge, while adequate for most of our needs, was somewhat rustic, with no indoor bathroom facilities. As sometimes happens, one night our two daughters needed to go to the toilet. The only solution was for Ellsworth to take the flashlight and accompany them to the outhouse. Just as they returned to the lodge, came inside and shut the door, there was scratching on the door. Knowing this was bear country, we were reasonably sure that what we heard was a bear. By then all of us were awake.

bear1Esther Mae looked out the window and saw a bear looking in. We heard the lodge owner’s dogs barking and raising quite a racket. By the outside lighting we could see two dogs and the lodge owner in his long underwear with a shotgun in his hands. Evidently the dogs had alerted their master that a bear was close by. That was enough excitement for one night.

When morning came we found that the bear had visited the outhouse and torn up the toilet paper, an act which no doubt happened not long after Ellsworth, Ronna and Janice had been there. As we were leaving to start our journey home the next day, we stopped at a service station to fill our car with gas. And what did we see there but a wheel barrow which held a dead black bear that was still dripping blood from its mouth.

We took a picture of the bear along with three of our children who were willing to get that close to the dead bear. However, 4-year-old Greg would have nothing to do with a bear, even a dead one.

Quite an ending to our fishing trip. We were grateful that our scary experience did not turn out to be a tragic one, as we realized just what could have happened that night.