Sit Back, Relax, or Sit Up and Be Tense

I’ve been on my share of flights with funny flight attendants. I can tell you, there’s nothing like a little humor to relax nervous fliers. Plus, it’s nice that they don’t always take themselves so seriously. If I had to repeat the same spiel multiple times a week, I’d try to mix it up too.

Here’s a great example of what it means to fly the friendly skies.

Airports

It’s travel time, once again.

I’m currently sitting in the Central Illinois Regional Airport which is located in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois.  Here in Illinois we seem to like our twin cities.  There are shirts for sale here that say, “Leaving Normal”.  I like them.

I got here way too early.  I’m not used to these small airports.  When I checked my bag I had to ring a bell for service.  There was no one behind the counter and the guys at the TSA screening station looked half asleep and hopeful I might actually be bringing them a bag, and consequently a little something to do.  Both of them helped me when I walked over.  Two guys, one small bag.  Funny.  I got to security and same thing.  No one in line.  Not a single person.  There were three TSA people there to tell me I had pre-screened and so didn’t have to remove my shoes or my jacket.  Sweet.  I did, however, still have to take out my laptop and bottle of nose spray.  No biggie.  I didn’t mind.  I never mind actually, it’s security after all.  I’d rather be safe.  But, back to the lack of patronage at this airport at this time of day.  I got through security in less than two minutes.  Slick.  Next, a sandwich and a bottle of water.  There was, again, no one in line at the counter so I had a nice little chat with the gent who told me there was a less expensive bottle of water around the corner, if that mattered to me.  It did.  I don’t care what kind of bottled water I get, as long as I get something to drink.  The short line didn’t mean the bill was cheap though.  Airports are still airports after all.  Nearly 20 dollars later, with only a sandwich, small bag of chips, a bottled water, and a package of peanut m&m’s for later, I was robbed, but not going to be hungry.  I looked around for somewhere to sit and, I saw three people at the four gates that were up near the snack bar/restaurant.  It’s been an hour and there are still only three of us.

I guess people who fly out of this airport regularly know the secret.  This whole idea of getting to the airport two hours e arly is bunk when you come here.  I could’ve strolled in with 30 minutes to go and been OK.  That would be cutting it close for my timely sensibility, but an hour instead of two, now we’re talking.  Next time I won’t make the same mistake.

This airport is great though.  Good amenities.  Free WiFi, plenty of comfortable seating, areas to charge your electronics, and a nice guy at the snack bar who will give you a money saving tip.  Plus, there are sculptures of horses and nice art, and loads of windows for light.

I fly from here to Dallas.  It’s everything this airport is, and isn’t.  It’s huge, so big it has it’s own train, and it’s usually crowded.  I don’t have to brave security there, as I’m just flying through, but I’ve spent some time there.  Big.  Big with all the things big brings with it.  Lines, hurried people with tired attitudes, rush.  From there I’ll fly to Vegas.  Same thing.  Lots of people, rushing,

Oh, wow, there are now two more people sitting in my area.  Oh, make that four.  The crowd, as it is, is forming.  Hold your hats people.  It’s starting to feel like an actual airport in here.

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Jumping In

Some of you may have noticed a decreased number of posts in the last couple of weeks.  Or, to be clear, basically no posts in the last couple of weeks.  I finally remedied that today, with a 10 Word Review, but otherwise… nada, zip, zilch, zero.  I love Z words.  I have a great explanation and I’ll make it short, I was otherwise occupied.

It’s been cold in East Central Illinois.  Really cold.  We’ve had our share of snow this year, not to mention the whole polar vortex thing, which basically trapped us in our own home for three days.  We love our house, but being forced to stay home, not fun.  Neither of us like being told what to do, even by Mother Nature.  To remedy this situation we’d planned, to be honest it was long before our version of the Day After Tomorrow happened, a family vacation to the much more balmy Florida Keys.  Can we get a hallelujah?  I thick we can.

So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado…

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… this is where I’ve been, and what I was doing while I wasn’t posting on the blog.  Everyone needs a vacation now and then and this was what mine looked like.

Sometimes you just have to let go, and jump in.

Thankful Everyday – Day Twenty-Nine

29.  I’m thankful for travel.  I’m lucky enough to have been a few places.  K and I love to experience a new place; the people, the smells, the tastes, the culture, a window into the way people live their lives.  We love this.  I’ve loved it since I was young and our family headed out on one road trip after another.  I loved it when I went to Europe for the first time when I was 16.  I love it when K and I go on a car trip that can last a day or a couple of weeks.  I love it when we pack and bag and fly off to who knows where or jump on a cruise ship or take a train ride.  Traveling brings a sense of how large the world is, and yet it also brings a feeling of sameness and smallness.  People are people, everywhere.  Loving, searching, laughing, angry, happy, striving, living — the same.  Travel gives you a window to that.  It also gives a sense of wonder about the world. There are amazing things to see and wonderful people to meet.  This world of ours is a fantastic place.  However we travel, being out on the road with a backpack, a camera, and my honey is about the best place to be.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-Sixth

26.  I am thankful for beautiful architecture.  I’m fascinated by building.  Not the building I have done, which is none, or might do, which is also probably none, but by the amazing structures all around me.  Capturing form, light, and harnessing the marriage between use and beauty, I am constantly in awe of form, everywhere.  From amazing mid-century modern homes to the Natural History Museum in London, Tower Bridge to La Sagrada Familia in Spain, I’ve been lucky to see some wonderfully gorgeous buildings and structures.  The minds of humans are fantastic and astounding.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twentieth

20.  I’m thankful for this beautiful place we live.  We’ve traveled a lot and especially love road trips here in the states.  We’ve seen a lot of the country and we’re always amazed by it.  It seems no matter where we go it’s beautiful and unique and pretty fantastic.  We’re lucky to live in the U.S. and we know it.

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Full of Hot Air

Several years ago K and I drove from Portland down to Las Vegas.  You can do that drive in a day, a long one, which I’ve done before (Linda, remember the time we drove into that camp ground in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, looking for a bathroom?), but it’s much nicer to stop for a night along the way.  The most obvious place to stop is Reno, which makes a nice midway point.

K and I pulled into Reno, after driving 10 hours or whatever it was, found a cheap hotel, found some cheap dinner, put our usual $20 into a slot, and were ready to hit the mattress and get a good night’s sleep before our 10 hour or so drive the next day.  Until….

In our hotel room, looking out at the city, we saw a sign for The Great Reno Balloon Race, starting the next morning at like 5:00.  By this point it was one in the morning and we were tired, but as we’re both always up for spontaneous adventure we decided to forgo sleep and see what we could see at the balloon fest the next morning.  We are so glad we did.  It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen and experienced in my life.  We got up at 4:30, got directions from the front desk person, and headed over.  There was a “glow” at 5:00 which was amazing in an of itself.  Several balloons lit up in the dark, anchored, taking turns burning.  Cool.  Later, when the sun just started to come up 75 or so balloons took flight.  It was beautiful, and hilarious, and strangely emotional.  Some of the balloons were different shapes which made it fun spotting them and pointing them out to each other.  We both absolutely loved it.

Since that day we’ve wanted to go to another festival, though we’ve decided it must be a big festival or we’d be sort of disappointed.  The sight of five balloons taking off compared to 75 would be slightly – inadequate.  Then, today, I saw a thing come across my Facebook feed from Roadtrippers.  It’s a road trip website I love.  They have great info about places to see, history, cool stuff wherever you happen to be driving.  I use it sometimes when we travel.  They have an app.

So I was perusing my feed and there it was, a time-lapse video of the recently held International Albuquerque Balloon Festival.  It’s the largest in the world.  500 balloons.  That’s all kinds of awesome if you ask me.  I had to show it to K.  We just, on the spot, decided we must go next year.  I’m excited.

Here’s the video.  I dare you not want to head to Albuquerque for the festival after you see it.  Maybe you shouldn’t watch, it might be too tempting.

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We love car trips.  Load up the dogs, their supplies, the camera gear, the clothes, and make sure the iPod is filled with good tunes to travel by.  We choose to road trip sometimes when flying might be easier, or faster, or even cheaper.  We like the experience of it.  So much better climbing behind the wheel, music on, countryside slipping by.  We’ve seen some amazing things.

It seems no matter which route we take, its the right one.  If you have a spirit of adventure, even those small county highways can be interesting.  Strange, or cute, or decrepit, or gorgeous little hovels with one gas station, a strange restaurant the locals really appreciate, and sometimes even a hotel or even two.  Towns have a feel about them.  Some say welcome, we’re so glad you’re here.  Some say get the hell out.  You can instantly feel which kind of town you’re in.  We like that.

We like old signs and big piles of hay and wrecked cars in lots and shiny new tractors and pretty parks and statues for local heroes and strange historical markers.  We like finding coffee shops in these places and hearing the group of older dudes in the corner talking about farming or the factory or the latest business venture.  Those guys are in every town.  We like friendly people who love dogs and want to pet ours and we even like the people who might not understand or like the gay, but come around to at least liking and feeling comfortable around us.  We like gas stations for bathrooms and bad coffee and the occasional snack.  We like cuddling with the pups at hour 5 when they are sick of laying on their beds and need a little attention.  We like singing along to songs we know and making up words to songs we don’t.  We like telling stories to each other about things we see, making up details to describe things we don’t really know anything about.  We like playing the maybe game.

The maybe game — it goes like this — we see a personalized license plate with the numbers 173 on it and the game is on.  Maybe they have 173 grandchildren.  Maybe this is their 173rd car.  Maybe they’ve had 173 girlfriends.  Maybe it’s their address, their locker combo, the address of their favorite hotel, the number of hickeys they’ve had, the number of Izod shirts they own, etc., etc. ,etc.  We get outlandish.  We make each other laugh.

We love stopping at strange off beat things, like the world’s largest fork, or an enormous statue of a rabbit.  We wonder about these things and marvel at them and appreciate that they are there for us to experience.  We love finding funky coffee shops and taking our photo outside of each one to document our coffee journey.  We love beautiful countryside.

This country is beautiful. Spectacularly so.  It never ceases to amaze us.  I don’t know how many times we’ve said something like wow, look at this, it’s gorgeous.  It happens all the time. To tell you the truth we haven’t really ever been anywhere that wasn’t pretty in its own way.  You have to see it like that, but still, we find places pretty.  Our favorite thing is to take smaller roads and highways, off the interstate, so we actually drive through small towns and interesting topography.  It takes us a tad longer, but we don’t care.  The experience is worth every extra mile and hour spent on the road.

Small day trips or longer trips that take several days, both are good.  Two days ago we decided to head out on what we like to refer to as sightseeing Sunday.  Pick a spot we can drive to and back from in a day and head out.  This time we picked a state park not really that far from us.  A stop for coffee, tunes turned up, pups and cameras in the car, and off we went.  It was amazing.  That park, unexpected — beautiful.  Trees changing color, ponds and lakes, people canoeing and fishing, a big flock of birds making big noise, swans, reflections of gorgeous color in the water, picnic places, music playing, a nearby wind farm, a stop for burgers and shakes, a bit of hiking, and loads of photos.  It was a great little adventure.  So much fun.  We even took a back road to get home and ended up going through some countryside we’d not seen before.  Bonus.

The point is that for us there’s adventure all around.  Everywhere.  Close by in neighborhoods in our own town we haven’t yet explored, and far off, in small burgs and large cities we haven’t yet been to.  All that fun and “new” is as close as jumping in the car and heading out.  It’s all there for the seeing and experiencing.  We can’t get enough of it.  Can’t get enough of experiencing the “new”, together.  We’re already planning our next adventure.  I’m excited.  I bet it’s going to be a good one.

One Month – 6475 Miles

We’ve been home now for a few days.  Getting home after being away for a month is a process.  Check the house, clean up the yard, re-set your air and take the long hose off the de-humidifier in the basement, spend significant time with the kids and the grand boys, do laundry, and settle back into our life.  All of which we’ve done, including re-organizing our garage and buying our second car, a scooter.

Life is beautiful.

The trip was fantastic this time.  We both kept commenting on how relaxed we were.  No house in Oregon to deal with, other than visiting the rentals, no running around like crazy people.  We made the conscious decision to spend most of our time at Mom’s place helping out on the farm and just being there, hanging out with her.  It was lovely.  Dinners on the patio, sleeping in the tent trailer she’d so nicely set up to be “our space” while we were there, helping her do some projects at the house, going to the movies with her and my bro, playing chuck-it with the pups under the walnut trees, and generally just being mellow.  We spent 13 days driving, in total, there and back which was also fun this time.  And we spent a few days at the beach with the kids and the grand boys who’d flown out so Mary could be in a wedding.  The time at the beach was also wonderful.  Sebastian’s first time seeing the ocean and walking on the beach.  Pure magic.  Every little thing a new and exciting adventure for him, and in turn for us, watching it through his experience.  We got to see some of our friends, and help one celebrate turning the big 5-0.  Some even came to visit us at the farm.  I got to spend time with the other six.  So great to see them all.  It’s not often all seven siblings get together.  I love them.

We didn’t see everyone we would’ve liked to, and we didn’t hit all of our favorite restaurants, but what we managed we loved.  Every single minute.  Somehow the time flies by and though a month was a long time to be away from here, it seems as though it’s never enough time there.  It’s amazing how a person can be ready to go home, but not want to leave all at the same time.

Without rambling on and on too much more I’m going to do what I did the last time we took a major road trip… I’m going to list the highlights.  Fun for me, and hopefully fun to read.  Here goes…

  • 6475 miles put on the rental car.  It had 7900 when we picked it up.  We almost doubled what it had.  Nice.
  • Animals spied… Big Horn Sheep, Coyote, Cows, Antelope, Sheep, Cranes, White Pelican, Turkey Vultures, Horses, Buffalo, and your regular dogs and cats.
  • The Boardman Plantation… 24,000 acres of Pacific Albus… wow.
  • Watching Sebastian collect rocks at the beach.
  • Music played on the road… sometimes loud with us singing along.
  • How gorgeous this country is, most particularly Colorado and Western Wyoming… wow.
  • The decision to take the roads less traveled and see places we wouldn’t normally see.  Hwy 20/26 is worth the drive people.  So is Colorado highway 114.  Just gorgeous.
  • Best coffee… Mud House in Springfield, MO and the Coffee Trader in Montrose, CO.
  • The surprising beauty of Northern Nebraska.
  • World’s Largest Fork, Springfield, MO.
  • Huge legs in Amarillo… nowhere to be found.  We looked, but apparently we looked in the wrong place.
  • Walking the fishing docks in old town Newport and hitting the aquarium with the kids, grand boys, and Thomas.  K spending time with both of her kids was a joy to behold.  Amazing what can happen when they both, the kids I mean, are finally living back in the U.S.
  • Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX…. as expected, and not.  Used up spray cans everywhere, people spray painting them as we walked around the big dirt field they were in, big crowds, iconic, cool, strange, a tad zany, and worth it for the photographs.
  • Seeing friends and spending some time.
  • A fun and fine 5oth birthday party.
  • Cake.
  • Sleeping in the tent trailer while it rained.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Strange and beautiful and other worldly.
  • Signs on old bars, restaurants, gas stations, etc. on small highways = awesome.
  • Air conditioning in a car and hotel room when it’s hot as hell outside.
  • How great the dogs were during this trip.  They traveled so well.  The water bowl we were able to have for them in the car helped a lot, as did their comfy beds.
  • Realizing we both like motor lodges better than fancy hotels when traveling across country.  Fancy/expensive definitely isn’t always better.
  • Trailer shopping with Mom and Kev.  We ended up finding the Hood River model of the R-Pod Trailer  we will be purchasing next year.   Whoop!
  • Finally getting to visit Santa Fe, NM.
  • Being able to check off two more to-visit U.S. states on this trip….  New Mexico and Texas.  Had been to airports in Texas before, but I can’t count that as an actual visit to a state.  Leaving only Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.  Next road trip through the southern states perhaps?
  • Selling Dent, the Toyota Tacoma truck I’d had for 15 years.  Sad, but I was ready.  The sale afforded me the ability to buy a scooter here in Illinois.  Moving forward is a good thing.
  • Yelp.  I use it all the time when we travel to find funky coffee shops and restaurants for dinner.  It rocks.  I recommend it.
  • Spending the day with my siblings.  The seven of us rarely get together and it was wonderful hanging out with them for a drizzly day at the beach.  I’m lucky to have them and to be part of such a great group of peeps.
  • Deciding to not stop and sit in the saddle of one of the World’s Largest Jackalopes in Douglas, Wyoming.  We should have gone back and done it.  We did see it however.  It was big.
  • Deciding not to stop at Hell’s Half Acre because the road construction made it slightly difficult and we were only 40 miles from our destination for the night.  Next time.
  • Time spent alone with my honey.  We love being together, all the time.  It was wonderful getting to have yet another adventure with her.  Nothing like traveling with my best friend and the love of my life.
  • Laughing until we cried several times as we both attempted to take photographs from the car going 65 miles an hour.  Sometimes we got what we were after, many times we didn’t.  Either way we had fun.  Getting it was victory and celebrated, not getting it became a recurring joke.  We find fun in the smallest of things.
  • How many times two people can say, “this is beautiful, wow, look at that” in a one month period.
  • Wandering the Portland Saturday Market with our friend Vicki.  It was raining slightly on and off, but it was also loads of fun.  Plus, we bought soap.
  • Ruby Jewel Scoops Ah Joy sundae.  It is the best ice cream sundae I’ve ever had and whenever I’m in Portland it’s a must have.
  • Pasta and dinner with Thomas at Piazza Italia in Portland.  My honey dreams of their lasagna.  It’s perfectly wonderful.  Plus the company of Thomas was so very cool.  What a great kid (sure, he’s 27, but you know… a kid is a kid) he is.  International Patent Law here he comes.
  • Sunshine and no humidity.  The weather was pretty much perfect while we were traveling.  Only too hot and humid a couple of days on our way back to the Midwest.
  • Being so relaxed.  It was awesome.
  • Love of friends and family we got to see, missing the family and friends we didn’t get to see.

It was a wonderful trip this year.  Stupendous.  Terrific.  Really great.  So good we’re already planning our trip out next year.

Oregon Odyssey – Day Seven & Eight

Ah road trips, how I love them.  The sights, the experience, the music played along the way.  They are glorious things.

When I was a kid our family did road trips all the time.  It was sort of our thing.  We mostly stayed in Oregon for these, though we did venture out to Arizona once, exploring different parts of the state.  We always stayed in Mom and Pop motels, which don’t exist as much today.  I loved those.  One time we stayed in a motel with a pool shaped like an airplane.  Very cool.  There were always things to see, places to stop along the way, new adventures to be had.  I grew up taking road trips and they got into my blood.

Luckily I met someone who loves to road trip as much as I do.  When K was young her family hit the road every year from California to Oklahoma.  During our drive out this past week she called her parents to confirm that their main route was route 66.  There wasn’t an interstate the majority of the time her family was doing these trips so route 66 was the main route between Los Angeles and Oklahoma.  Awesome.  As we drove out this last week we basically followed what was the old route 66 highway.  Now not even commissioned as a highway, there are still signs along the way indicting where route 66 was and there are long stretches of road you can still drive.  Those stretches take you past, as we saw, old gas stations and motels and diners that have fallen into disrepair long ago, though there are still some establishments up and running today.  It’s a bygone era, but along that route the feel is still there in some places.  It’s pretty cool.

I digress though and will get back to it by saying that we both love a good road trip.  It’s why we’ve decided on this trip every year.  It serves two purposes… we get to drive back out to Oregon and see everyone we love who lives there and who we miss, and we get to have the experience of traveling different routes out with the pups.  It’s tiring, but oh so much fun.

We finally arrived, day seven, after starting in Burns and driving highway 20 through Bend and Sisters, then highway 22 to Salem and the farm.  It was nice to get here.  Another great thing about road trips is the getting to your destination and getting up the next morning not having to drive anywhere.  It’s a good feeling.

We spent yesterday, our first non-driving day, doing some chores like taking our Toyota Tacoma in for servicing so we can put it up for sale, and helping Mom work on the garage at the farm.  She’s wanted to clean it out, reorganize, and paint for some time so we cleared that puppy out yesterday and went in and got the paint for it.  Today, we paint.

The pups adore Mom and my brother, Kevin.  They were very happy to see them and they also love the farm.  What dog wouldn’t.  They’ve been here many times and they basically get to roam pretty free while they’re here.  They were exhausted last night when we went to bed.  It’s nice for them.

It’s so good to be here and we’re looking forward to seeing friends and family while we’re here.  We love this place and the people in it, and we loved the getting here as well.

Pretty soon we’re going to have to start planning our trip back out to Illinois… wonder which route we’ll decide to take this time?

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Six

Our sixth day on the road took us from Burley, Idaho to Burns, Oregon.  Nearly three hours less time in the car today than yesterday, which was great.  We even took some time to stop for our second cup of coffee at the Flying M Coffeehouse in Boise.  We’d stopped there before and loved the place.  With a more relaxed driving schedule today we even took some time to walk the pups at the Julia Davis Park.  Awesome park in downtown Boise.  A place we’d also been before.  Sometimes it helps to know your way around a little bit.

We ended up in Burns.  It’s a little town in eastern Oregon.  Not much here, but we have a nice room, three channels of HBO, and the air is working.  What more could you ask for?

Today’s drive was pretty uneventful.  My honey took loads of great photos from the passenger seat as the scenery whipped by.  Here are a couple of the shots.

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Five

Today’s word… drive.  Drive and then drive and continue to drive for hours.  It was tiring, but it was also gorgeous.  Colorado and southern Utah are so beautiful.  If you haven’t experienced this part of the country, you should.  Seriously.  Plan your trip immediately.  It will be worth it.

Besides the beautiful landscape there were cows, horses, sheep, some asses, and an antelope.  And there were gas stations, rest stops, one really good coffee shop (Coffee Trader in Montrose, Colorado), one funky but not so good coffee place, a mini hike up a semi-steep hill to give the pups a walk and also to see what was on the other side.  On the other side was an antelope running down the middle of a road and a beautiful view of the nearby colorful striated hillside.  It was worth the little jaunt.  It was also nice to stretch the legs.

Tonight we are languishing in Burley, Idaho on the Snake River.  Tomorrow… Oregon.  Not quite all the way home, but we’re getting there.

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Four

Today we moved from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Montrose, Colorado.  It wasn’t a bad day of driving really, about 6 and a half hours on the road after we checked out and then drove to not one, not two, but three coffee spots in Santa Fe before getting a cup.  Our first choice ended up being downtown, where a huge art festival had streets closed.  We would’ve loved checking it out actually, from what we could see as we drove past a closed off street the art was pretty awesome, but we had places to be and two dogs who don’t love crowds.  We might have braved the crowds with the pups, but time was not on our side.  So, on to the stop two.  We went for the next place on the list, which ended up not being in the downtown area, but was apparently so popular the entire parking lot was full.  On to spot three, which ended up being great.  If we lived in Santa Fe, and after visiting we kinda wish we did, we would go to the Santa Fe Baking Company often for both the coffee and the breakfasts.  The coffee was great and the breakfasts looked amazing as we passed tables of people with spectacular looking plates.  We did manage to get a couple of pastries to go along with the coffees.  Both were wonderful.

We decided we love both New Mexico and Southern Colorado.  We recommend Colorado highway 114 if you ever get the chance to drive it.  It’s not big, and it doesn’t really connect any bigs towns, but it’s worth it for the scenery.  It was amazing.  The photos we took don’t even do it justice.  Just some gorgeous landscape.

Another highlight was the second spot for coffee today, the Milagros Coffeehouse in Alamosa, Colorado.  A spur of the moment second cup craving led us to this cool local spot.  Yes, they had a Starbucks in town, but if you haven’t guessed by now, we prefer to go local and funky if we can.  Milagros was both.  Another place we would totally hang out if we spent any time at all in that town.  The brew from there was the best of the day.  Smooth, strong, and oh so tasty.

The pups are doing so well on this trip.  What great little travelers they are.  Weston gets his herbal car sick meds in the morning before we leave and they pretty much hang out in their area right behind us, what we like to call the pup lounge, while we’re on the road.  They have been rockstars so far.  Right now, after getting to play in the huge lawn at this motel (we brought the chuck it and played catch and chase with them for awhile), they are both crashed out in their little beds.  They’ve had dinner and their leashes are hanging on leash hooks by the door.

Tomorrow is a long one, probably eight hours on the road.  Eight hours with the dogs pushes it, and us, to the limit.  It will be tiring, but it will also be beautiful.  Colorado is a beautiful place.

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Three

Hippie coffee from 806 in Amarillo, no large legs, planted Cadillacs, a decently short drive, wild horses, prairie dogs, southwest food Guatemalan style at the Tune-Up Cafe, head of hope, abandoned route 66, a walk with the dogs along the non-existent Santa Fe River and past two cathedrals, the oldest church in the U.S., and a very hidden Roundhouse State Capital building in Santa Fe.  Pictures were taken of most of it.  It was a great day of traveling, save for the fact that we didn’t get a good second cup of joe today.  Coffee from a quick stop definitely does not count as good coffee.

Our only impressions from the day are these… it’s gorgeous in the part of New Mexico and we love Santa Fe.  The vibe here is awesome.  Mellow, relaxed, artistic, free.  At least that’s what it felt like to us today during our brief visit.

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Oregon Odyssey – Day Two

Today was a long day on the road.  By choice we went an extra bit today so we could have a short day tomorrow.  More time in Santa Fe when we get there.  Because today was so long we didn’t do much stopping.  Gas, food, rest stops, and just two extra little stops.  One at the World’s Largest Fork in Springfield, MO and the other to photograph the Coleman Theater in Miami, OK where Don Hale used to go as a young gent.

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Impressions from the day:

Great coffee this morning from Mudhouse Coffee in Springfield, MO.  I regret not buying a t-shirt.  There was great art on the walls… many black and white photographs of people in white who had mud on them.  Loved it.  Also a great dinner tonight from Tyler’s Barbeque in Amarillo, TX.  The barbecue was Texas sized.  Sadly I think we threw away nearly as much as we ate.  Our room still smells of barbecue.  I think it was the best barbecue I’ve ever had.  All in all a very successful food and beverage day.

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Today was a scorcher … the thermostat in the rig topped out at 106.  It was so hot that when we stopped for our second cup of coffee in Oklahoma City the little girlie started hyperventilating and had to be carried back to the car.  She is a tad bit of a drama queen, but it was also hot hot hot.  A dry heat.

We are now fugitives in Oklahoma.  A tip for anyone driving on the Oklahoma Turnpike… there are not always attendants at the toll plazas meaning you have to have exact change.  We made it all the way to our last booth and then only had a $20.  There was a change machine, but it only took $1 and $5.  We looked at each other, saw the cars behind us lining up, looked at the red light which told us we couldn’t go unless we threw in the change we didn’t have, and we went on through anyway.  As we did the alarms went off at the booth.  I’m sure, if they took our photo as this happened, the people reviewing it will be cracking up.  Our facial expressions were a combo of amusement, consternation, shock, horror, and guilt.  Very funny.  I think we were both gesturing…. arms up in the air as if to say… what are we supposed to do in this situation?

In two days we’ve seen two enormous crosses.  One in Effingham, Illinois, and the other in some un-named little Texas town we passed.  They were pretty much equal in size.

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It rained on us today for awhile.  It was nice and decently cool while it was raining.  Then it got hot (see above).

We waved at Mangum, OK and Pryor, OK as we passed the exits with those names and then chatted about K’s childhood a bit.  She spent a lot of time in Oklahoma as a kid and it’s always fun talking about that.   Someday we need to do more than just drive through.  I’d love to see where she was born and some of the places she’s told me stories about.

We started this morning at 10:00… after getting coffee and photographing the fork, which I know sounds late, and got to Amarillo at 7:30.  Nine and a half hours on the road.  Tomorrow we have a short day, only four hours of driving.  Who knows what adventure we’ll find.  I love road trips.

 

Oregon Odyssey – Day One

Over half way on day one of this year’s road trip to Oregon finds us traveling in Missouri on I-44 West toward our stopping point this evening, Springfield, Missouri.

The rental car: Mazda CX-9 with Texas plates and just about 7900 miles when we started out this morning.

The dogs have some comfy beds and a big area to move around in. They even have a water bowl and bully sticks. Yes, spoiled. What can we say other than we love and adore them.

We just stopped for some to go lunch and more coffee, of course. The iPod is plugged in via USB so we can control it from the car… Sweet. It’s on shuffle and the Gotan Project’s Mi Confesion is blasting from the speakers right now. Love it. This song always makes me want to tango, even though I have no clue how to tango. I can picture K and I doing the tango to this.

So far we’ve passed the huge cross and the Arch. We’re rolling along.

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Notes From The Road

We’ve been back home now for a few days, but before we actually arrived here, on the last day of our anniversary road trip, Karen and I made a little list of stuff as we were driving.  Notes about things we saw, stuff we did, people we met, etc.  So without further ado, here it is… our notes from the road.

Alright, maybe not just yet… before I unleash the rest of this post I just want to say that having Karen in my life has been a miraculous thing.  We are so lucky to have  found each other.  It’s a beautiful thing to have been together for 10 years and still feel, and in fact feel more strongly, such a huge love for each other.  It’s also a lovely thing to be “married” to your best friend.  There’s no one either of us would rather hang out with, and amazingly we both feel that way and want to share everything.  It’s wonderful and amazing.  I am beyond lucky, and I know it.

OK… here we go… some notes from the road…

2795.6 miles travelled.

“I bet this would be really pretty if the trees were leafed out”

Favorite coffee: Comet Coffee in Ann Arbor… Pour over, so good.

Favorite espresso: Jimmy’s, Kensington Market location, in Toronto… Americano… Yum!

Favorite City: Portland, ME with Toronto a close second.

Favorite public transport: the Red Rocket in Toronto.

Favorite fish and chips: Susan’s in Portland.  A place that was once  a gas station.

Favorite beach: Kennebunkport (heart rock beach).

Favorite countryside: Coast of Maine, Vermont‘s Green Mountains, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Favorite meal Tam: Montpelier at the Three Penny Taproom… chicken stew with pastry.

Favorite meal Karen: Hot Suppa! in Portland, Maine… fried chicken and sweet potatoes.

Favorite ice cream: Dot’s Ice cream in Bath, Maine.   Second place, for atmosphere, Jumpin’ Jacks near Schenectady, NY

Favorite little town: Bath, Maine.

Favorite B&B : Mayor Lord’s B&B in Meadville, PA.

Most comfy bed: Marriott in Portland Maine.

Best unexpected stop:  Williamstown, MA and Williams CollegeTunnel City Coffee in the town where Thomas went to school.

Favorite zen moment: marina in Portland, sitting on a bench, chatting, looking at the water, 65 degrees and sunny.

Most interesting historical spot: Fryeburg Academy in Maine and Concord Grape Belt, NY.

Favorite tourist attraction: Herb Brooks Hockey Arena and ski jumping site from 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.

Biggest disappoinent: Niagara Falls… Ghetto. Should’ve gone to the Canadian side.

Most interesting fact: ice wine made from grapes that have gone through first freeze… sold in Canada.

Best breakfast: The Senator in Toronto… both food and atmosphere.

Most authentic eating experience: House of Gourmet in Chinatown, Toronto with it’s all Asian crowd, huge menu in Chinese, and hanging meat.

Bump in the road: rental car malfunction in Albany Ny resulting in car exchange at Albany International Airport.

Best fast food: Eddie’s Footlong Hot Dogs in Meadville, PA.

Noisiest hotel: The Stockdale Inn, Schenectady, NY due to wedding party.

My honey’s big disappointment: not getting a green rock from Vermont.

Interesting natural wonder: rock by lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth, Maine… it looked like wood (we took some).

Life changing moment during trip: sale of Scappoose house.

Personal family moment: driving by the home in Jackson, Michigan where my great grandparents lived when my grandma was born and driving by the memorial site of the hospital where she was born.

Finding great heart rock.

“Pompous grass”

The accent of toll booth guy in N.H.

Coffee at the Bush compound in Kennebunkport (if driving by while drinking coffee counts).

Conversing with people at bed and breakfast who lived in India for a time.

States and Countries visited: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Michigan

Coffee shops visited: 14.

Number of rude people met along the way: 2.  Woman at some gas station in Maine who was terse about bathroom facilities and man at rental car place in Savoy when we picked up the car for the trip.

Favorite souvenirs: raven lunatic t-shirt and huge red lobster.

First drink in three years: strawberry mojito at Hot Suppa! on our anniversary.

Signs for moose, bear, and Amish seen… No actual moose, bear or Amish spotted.

Wildlife spotted: flock of wild turkeys in Maine, sea birds.

Worst weather: Lake Placid… cold and a tad snowy.

“Ride the Red Rocket”

Laughs out loud: too many to count.

Music: 936 songs on shuffle… No repeats… Maine and Back Again Playlist. Awesomeness.

Reminiscing about 10 years together… Priceless.

On routes (Canada’s much nicer version of the rest area).

Nicest person: VIA rail employee in Toronto who walked us a couple of blocks to Union Station and then to where we needed to go inside the station… We told him we wished we could’ve taken him home as souvenir!

Honorable mentions for nicest person: Jimmy’s coffee barista who gave us free croissants, girl at on route stop who talked to us about the toll, red rocket driver, the hotel dude who pointed toward good ice cream in Schenectady, hotel guy in Portland Maine who answered our questions, rental car guy, Steve, at Albany Imternational Airport, also guy in Albany rental car park who let us store our belongings in little locked kiosk while we walked in to get our new rental car.  Lots of nice people along the way.

Best hotel location: tie between Bond Place Hotel, Toronto for great access to transit and downtown, and Portland, Maine Marriott for walking proximity to old port and view of the bay.

Biggest panic moment: when my honey thought she lost her wallet in Lake Placid… It was not lost.

Second biggest panic moment: not having any money for toll to get back into U.S. over Ambassador Bridge and first ATM didn’t work. Thought we might have to learn to speak French.

Frozen Lake Erie was amazing.

Largest Globe we’ve ever seen: Eartha at Delorme.

 

Keyser Soze Has Nothing On Us

Wow.  And wow again.  I think I may have started more than one blog entry with that word and here I am using it once again.  Oh well, I’m getting older and that means repeating myself repeatedly.  I’m OK with that.

I digress…

Wow.  It’s been a whirlwind of activity and adventure since we left our little hovel in Urbana, Illinois for places west on July 5.  Here we are on August 14 and I have no idea where the time has gone.  Day after tomorrow we pack up Thor, our tried and true Volvo, our two pupinos, a bunch of crap, and ourselves for the trek back home.  Six days later, and some 2500 miles we will once again be back in the Midwest.  Where has the time gone?

When we were planning this sojourn we thought, OK, six weeks (including two weeks driving) would be plenty of time, but  then again how can there ever be enough time spent with the people you love.  There are so many people here who are in our lives it’s been tough to see everyone.  We haven’t seen everyone.  That’s a hard one.  To leave without seeing everyone.  Seriously though, how could we?  We’ve been so busy.  Let’s recap…

Six days driving here, get here and have appointment with Oregon oncologist, start treatment in Oregon, see Stan and Connie who drove to Salem just to see us (you guys rock), drive up to Portland to meet my cousin and his family after he finished the STP bike ride, eat pizza, have yogurt, drive up to Burlington, WA (and Marblemount, WA) to participate in the spreading of my grandparents ashes and next day check out the estate sale put on by my Mom and Aunts and Uncles at my grandparents house, from there take off for three days in Long Beach, WA (after a 5 hour drive to get there), enjoy the beach, drive back to Salem, drive back up to Scappoose, dinner with friends who invited us over (thanks SJ and Angela, your house is awesome), trips back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week so I could get my shot in Salem, helping Mom sprinkle some of grandpa and grandmas ashes at Willamette University, work on the yard in Scappoose, and more work on the yard in Scappoose (thanks to Mom and Kev for helping us out with that one of the days… you two are amazing), dinner out with friends (thanks Maggie for taking us to dinner for our birthdays), dinner with friends from Urbana who happened to come to Portland for a wedding while we were here (great dining with you Evelyne and Natalie), showing our friend Jen (who also hails from Urbana) around Portland, and the farm, for three and a half days,  the treat of breakfast out at the Screen Door courtesy of Vicki (thanks girl, the chicken and waffles there can’t be beat!), a few walks in parks both in Portland and Salem with the pupinos, one of which included a piano solo by Karen, a trip on the river with Stan, dinner at Stan and Connie’s place for us with some of our good friends (so great to see you guys), a walk at Cathedral Park with Liz and Jake and Ilsa and Indy followed by a tour of their new house (love it you guys!), a stop by my old office for some chat (Stacia, I love ya girl) and lunch with some of my old work mates (I miss you Josh, Linda, Chris, Liz and Stacia!), packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week (oh, I think I said that already), our annual walk through of one of our rentals with the renters and a drive by of the other, a couple of barbecues thrown for us by POD members, one including splashes in a pool and the other including a tasty salad made with home grown veggies, a couple of trips to the Portland Saturday Market (Sundays too!), a zoo concert (Melissa Etheridge) with some of the POD, dinners out at various places we didn’t want to miss while we were here (Piazza Italia, Little Big Burger, tacos at The Varsity, The Stepping Stone, Ruby Jewel for ice cream, chicken and waffles at The Screen Door, Mississippi Pizza, a food cart or two, Pok Pok, E-San for thai, burritos at Muchas, etc.) all of which made us each gain about 10 pounds, breakfast with my sister Kay, time spent at the farm with Mom and Don, time spent in Scappoose with Kev, packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week like gypsies, sun, fun, and loads of love.

It’s been an amazing time.  We’ve had so much fun.  Though, seriously, I think we’re ready to be home again.  Not that we don’t love it here, and love everyone here, but we’re ready to be home.  Sleep in our own beds, be in our own house, see and spend time with the kids and our little man, who we have missed very much.  I guess that’s what happens when you live in two places.  Live in two places in your heart I mean.  You are always missing something, someone.  That’s the nature of how life works sometimes.  We moved to Illinois to be a part of of the kid’s lives, to be in Sebastian’s life, and we are glad we did.  We wouldn’t change that at all.  It’s just that this is home, and always will be.  The people here and this place make it so.  We are torn, but that doesn’t make us any less happy to be there when we are there, or here when we are here.

That bit there being a few moments of reflection.

So we are heading home on Thursday morning.  Leaving early to get a jump on our longest driving day of the lot.  10 hours the first day.  We’re going to Boise, Idaho by way of Bend and Hwy 20, then Driggs, ID near the Tetons, and from there a drive through the Tetons and Yellowstone and then stays in Sheridan, WY, Chamberlain, SD, La Crosse, Wisconsin, and home.  We’ll get there just in time for the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.  Yum!

We’ll miss you Oregon, and everyone in it.  It’s been a flash, and now we’re almost out of here.  A month, poof, just like that and it’s gone.  Keyser Soze has nothing on us.  We love it here, and we love the people here.  This wonderful adventure has flown by, and been fantastic.  But be rest assured… we will be back.  It’s time for us to go back home, to more people we love, but we will be back.  We will miss you while we’re gone.  But be rest assured… we will be back.

Day Six… And Home

The drive on day six was awesome.  We went to Caffe Mela in Wenatchee before we started, as usual going to a local coffee place we’d found, and fueled up before heading to Leavenworth.  It’s a quick drive over to Leavenworth from Wenatchee and we were there in 30 minutes or so.  Not bad.  The four of us wandered the town, looking in windows, walking in the grass, taking a couple of photos with the phone.  Nice.  Then it was on the road for the drive to Salem, by way of Portland.

We were pretty happy as we entered Oregon near The Dalles.  I tried to take a photo of the entering Oregon sign, but Riley was on my lap and bumped my arm.  I got a fantastic shot of the side of the bridge.  The drive along 84, done so many times by both of us both separately and together, was gorgeous.  We passed Multnomah Falls, Karen driving, and I tried to lean over and take a photo as we whizzed by. I think I got a great photo of the dog bed and a tiny view of the falls.  Hilarious.  My photo taking abilities were definitely lacking yesterday.

We stopped in Portland to pick up a half a tray of lasagna from our favorite Italian place, Piazza Italia.  Yum.  We’d called and ordered in advance because my honey has been craving this lasagna for a year.  We had it for dinner.  It was yummy.

We arrived at Mom and Don’s last night about 6:00.  2584.1 miles, 8 states, 6 days and we finally were able to stop driving.  Yay!  Don’t get us wrong, we love road trips, but being able to stop and not have to drive the next day… lovely.  The dogs are liking it too, though we’re sure they thought they lived in the car after spending so much time there over the last several days.  They thought that was their life.  Good thing they adjust pretty well as long as they’re with us.  Kev was here to greet us, very nice.  Nothing like a Kev hug on arrival.

Next on the agenda… enjoy this fantastic Oregon weather.  It’s supposed to be low to mid 80′s very low humidity the next several days.  Lovely lovely.

Flathead On Day Five

Flathead Lake, gorgeous by the way, entering the Pacific Time Zone, getting back to the Northwest, Coeur D’Alene Idaho, Ponderosa Pines, rain, and ending up in the Travelodge in Wenatchee.

The Travelodge… A dog on the outside with some sketchy looking customers hanging out near the front, but once we got in the room it ended up as our favorite lodging of the road trip. Great layout, outside door, roomy, quiet, a really decent free breakfast, and a really low rate of $68 (which included the extra dough for the pet fees). We liked it a lot. A keeper, as we like to say.

In other not so great news the dogs were sick. Actually the girlie got sick on day four and it continued for her, and then Weston as well, today. Diarrhea and some hurling. It was awful for awhile. We were both really stressed and worried about her as we neared Wenatchee. She was shaking and panting very badly, but once we got to a place to stop (in 105 degree temps I might ad) she was able to go, and then she crashed. We think it was some rogue ham we had. Lesson… Don’t buy or give to your dogs rogue ham you bought at a random store. We had it too and it didn’t make us sick, but the pups weren’t so lucky.

We think, and hope, they are on the mend now. Only a little time will tell.

Tomorrow… Home.

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Glacial Day Four

Day four found us traversing across the hi-line of Montana to Kalispell. Montana is such a huge state we spent the entire day there.

I had a cool thing happen, a cool sighting really. I glanced over, while we were driving along the edge of Glacier National Park, and saw a herd of big horn sheep. Or as my honey likes to call them, big hornies. She makes me laugh. It was an awesome thing.

Otherwise we were just so happy to get into mountainous country. You don’t really realize how much you miss it until you get back to it. The smell of the Ponderosas was spectacular. That slight vanilla scent in the air, magic.

Kalispell is a neat little town. Growing like mad, but still sort of funky. Part western town, part resort town, part funky artsy town. We liked it and the cool little coffee roastery, Colter Coffee, we found. We also had a nice walk through one of the neighborhoods with the pups.

Tomorrow… Idaho, Washington, a return to the Pacific time zone, and a stay in Wenatchee.

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Oily Day Three

Day 3… Gorgeous canola fields, really good coffee from a local shop in Grand Forks called Urban Stampede before we got on the road, lakes and marshes and wild birds aplenty in Eastern North Dakota, big silos on beautiful farms, and then… Da da da dum… Western North Dakota and the smell of money, dirt, oil, and a hundred thousand men living in temporary housing. How depressing… And yes I know we need the oil, use the oil, and we’re currently on a road trip made possible by oil… I’m not an idiot. It’s just so depressing to see the wasteland of what once was beautiful land. It’s been so mismanaged that the growth of the boom is speeding past all possibility of keeping up with the devastating side effects. In typical fashion we jumped in fast and furious for the money before forming a plan to properly handle the process. It’s surreal there. Strange and unsettling.

Luckily we passed through many other amazing and stunning places. It took awhile and a few miles but we put it behind us with only a few comments to the effect of what the frack?!

Tomorrow we head to Glacier and beyond… More beauty to see, more miles to put behind us as we head toward the northwest.

In other news Spam turned 75 today!

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