A Brief Respite

A respite is defined as “a short period of relief from something difficult,” which is what we experienced this weekend as we returned to Loyd Park. Next weekend’s trip to Illinois will bookend last weekend’s trip home from visiting Jon’s mom, but this time we’ll be packing up her belongings and moving her to an assisted living facility. It’s a difficult task, to be sure. In between the two weekends, we managed to get ourselves and Cloud 9 ready for the six-day winter excursion, with two nights planned at the North Little Rock KOA and three nights at the Casino Queen RV Park in East St. Louis.

For this weekend, we arrived on Thursday evening and were delighted to find ourselves next door to friends Wendy and Jay, who are preparing to permanently relocate to Florida. Chef Cliff brought a prepared meal of meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, and green beans from our local grocery store, which made setting up camp and getting dinner served less of a stress.

Next day, Jon worked remotely from the rig while Cliff did some chores, watched TV, and napped. He also made a satisfying lunch of chili dogs, in addition to our typical Date Night fare, which including Lemon Drop cocktails, grilled New York strip steaks and veggies, and a fluffy, buttery baked potato. We intended to spend Friday evening watching “The Sound of Music,” which has become a holiday tradition, but instead found ourselves watching “Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter,” a 2021 documentary about the celebrity chef who brought Chicago international acclaim as his two-Michelin-starred restaurant operated from 1987 to 2012. He died in 2014 at age 54, leaving behind a reputation for a fiery temper that complicated his legacy. The film includes interviews with other celebrity chefs, including Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Grant Achatz, and Carrie Nahabedian, who share stories about their complex relationships with Trotter and how he impacted their own careers. We found it to be an unvarnished portrait of someone who was both praised for transforming American cooking and also sued by his staff for abusive labor conditions.

Saturday found us engaged in our typical activities: reading The New York Times, enjoying Bloody Marys and Tequila Sunrises, indulging in a sausage-and-egg scramble brunch, napping, cocktailing, and, finally, supping on pan-seared pork chops, steamed cob corn, and pea salad. We concluded the evening with “The Sound of Music,” initiating a holiday tradition we hope to continue over the coming days as we decorate Hampshire for the season.

On Sunday, as we prepared to leave camp, we did so with an eye toward Thursday, when we’ll hit the road again for Little Rock and the difficult task ahead. But this is one reason we invested in the Airstream—so we could easily pack up ourselves and our dogs and head wherever we needed to go while still maintaining a sense of “home.”