Best Finds of 2013

I’ve been reading a lot of best of lists in the last several days, everything from albums of 2013 to recipes involving bacon.  Everyone seems to be making a year end list.  I thought, why not jump on the bandwagon.  So here we go.  This isn’t a top ten or even a list with any sort of theme.  These are just things (songs, movie houses, art, tv shows, food, etc.) I discovered in 2013 that will stay with me long into 2014 and beyond.

Let’s get to it….

The Lone Bellow came into my life via iTunes and a free download.  I instantly became obsessed with them.  Great lyrics, excellent harmonies, and catchy tunes that stay in your head for days.

The Cinnamon Crunch Bagel from Panera.  This thing is addicting.  I’m so glad we discovered them, and so sad at the same time.  It’s all kinds of deliciousness in a small round baked good.  Toasted with butter… so damn tasty.

cinnamon

Kickapoo State Park, Illinois.  We’ve lived in Illinois now for nearly two and a half years.  Surprisingly there are many things we’ve come to appreciate and even truly like about living here.  One thing we haven’t is that there isn’t as much water as we were used to living in Oregon.  We’ve done our best to travel to nearby towns with river walks (there aren’t that many) and to find state parks and such that have a decent amount of water, in whatever form we can find it.  One such place, to our delight, is Kickapoo.  First, you have to love the name, c’mon, it’s kind of awesome.  But more importantly, it has water.  All sorts of little lakes and a stream, running through it.  There are canoe rentals in the summer, and loads of trails.  We went in the fall, when the colors of the foliage were stunningly beautiful.  We will definitely be going back.

1534876_10152212584160802_2075198641_o

The Golden Harbor Restaurant.  With a huge menu, free tea by the pot, and a cool old school vibe, this place rocks. Plus, the food is great.  How can you go wrong with spicy green beans, salt and pepper mushrooms, and plates full of sweet and spicy chicken.  The menu on the wall is enormous and all in Chinese.  You can pick up an english language menu from the little table by the front door if you like.  Write down the numbers of the things you’d like to order, take it up to the counter, and moments later your tasty hot food starts coming out as it’s ready.  We love this place.

SliceMenuWall

Season tickets for the University of Illinois women’s volleyball and basketball.  What a great deal.  We’d been to games before, but this all inclusive $35 dollar ticket package gets you into all the home games for both sports.  We’ve had hours of enjoyment at these games.  The atmosphere, the competition, supporting the local university, and eating an occasional stadium dog… all worth it.  Can’t beat it for good sporty entertainment.

1471313_10152118417475802_1262614362_n

Cris Cab.  I can’t even remember how I stumbled on this young gent.  All I know for sure is that his music is catchy and I’m semi-addicted to it.

Dominic Thomas was born.  I don’t know if you can call him a discovery, but as he grows, and has one discovery after another of his own, we have discovered a little more about him, and ourselves.  I think that’s part of the beauty of little people.  As they grow and change and develop we see the world through them, and it is an amazingly wondrous place.

966861_10152212598445802_1963504907_o

The fun of riding steam trains.  Taking a five mile ride on a steam train isn’t exactly something I would choose to do on my own.  Maybe an over night or a several night journey, one with sleeper cars and a nice dining car, but not a shorty ride on a steam train that goes one way forward and then backs up on the return trip.  But, somehow, with the help of the excitement of a three year old, short trip steam trains kinda rock.  We went a couple of different times and I’m sure we’ll be going again this year.  Our mini engineer in training loves it and, consequently, so do we.

1399146_10152032865670802_954895830_o

The Blacklist.  James Spader is just plain awesome.  He’s an amazing actor.  In lessor hands this role, and the tv show connected to it, might not be as riveting and interesting as it is.  But with James Spader at the center, a decent supporting cast, and top notch writing, Blacklist keeps you hooked.

The-Blacklist

Portland, Maine.  We took a little road trip for our 10th anniversary to Portland by way of NY, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, etc.  We loved New England.  It’s beautiful, it’s people are great, and it’s beautiful.  Portland, the destination for this trip, didn’t disappoint.  We met in Portland, Oregon.  It’s our city, as we like to call it.  We love it there.  I had, however, always wanted to go to the other Portland.  To check it out.  To see what it had to offer.  My honey felt the same.  Seemed fitting that on our 10th we would take a trip to that other Portland to see what we could see.  It was great.  Good restaurants, excellent scenery, really nice people, and funky in it’s own way, we enjoyed it very much.

893068_10151671209620802_1987702919_o

Roadtrippers.  I love this website.  We travel quite a bit.  Most especially, in recent years at least, we’ve gone on some major road trips here in the U.S.  This site allows you to plan your route and then see what sorts of places might be along it.  From practical to strange Roadtrippers has them all.   They also have an app, which rocks.  I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

1094041_10151884167640802_293897564_o

Cafe ZoJo.  It’s a local coffee shop that’s fairly new.  I’m not sure if we actually found this in 2013 or the year before, but never the less, I’m including it here.  The staff are friendly, with quick helpful smiles, the atmosphere is eclectic and comfortable, the food is tasty, and the coffee is sublime.  ZoJo is our go to for take away coffee.  I’ve never had better drip coffee in my life.  That’s saying a lot.

zojocovercoffee (1)

Sleepy Creek Vineyards.  We actually discovered this place by way of a thing called the Fork in the Road Tour.  A few local farms, their goods, a nice drive with good friends, and we ended up, last stop on the tour, at Sleepy Creek.  We were given a tour of the vineyard,  an explanation of the bottling process, and then a tasting.  The wine was good, but the people were great, and the atmosphere was awesome.  Later, like a month or so, they hosted the Salk Fork River Art Festival.  Again, great setting, great wine, great people.  We were hooked.  They do several events a month including things like film festivals, live music, art festivals, weenie roasts, and of course wine tastings.  It’s worth the drive east.

1269536_10152006322545802_173713000_o

Cinnebarre in Salem, Oregon.  We live in Illinois now, but we still spend a significant amount of time in Oregon.  It’s where I’m from, and where my honey lived for over 30 years.  It’s home.  My mom lives in Salem, in the same house we lived in when I was in high school.  Salem is the capitol city, and has always been considered, amongst people who live in Portland anyway, a lessor town.  But in the last several years Salem has grown up a little, and funked out a bit as well.  To prove this point they now have a movie place downtown called Cinebarre.  It’s a chain, though there are only about seven or eight locations around the country.  The fact that one of those is in Salem is very cool.  Cinebarre is a movie theater and it’s a restaurant.  You get table service during the movie, which seems like it could distract you, but it doesn’t really.  Walk in, look at the menu before the movie starts, fill out your card, prop it up, and the wait staff comes to take your order via your card and then brings you the food while the movie is going.  You can keep ordering if you want to, they also have beer and wine.  It’s a kick and a unique movie experience.  I like it.

l

Honda PCX 150 Scooter.  We used to own motorcycles.  Big motorcycles.  Hogs.  We had all the gear, went on rides, and thought we were slightly above all those scooter riders out there.  That’s the way it goes.  If you ride motorcycles you think scooter riders, or scooterists as I like to call them, are slightly beneath you.  Not really in an arrogant way, it’s just that as a motorcycle rider you’re cool.  As a scooterist you’re nerdy.  Until, of course, we gave up the motorcycles and bought a Honda scooter in 2013.  It’s beyond awesome.  It hauls buns, can carry both of us, is fun as hell to ride, and seems easier.  Maybe the easier part is just because you don’t have to shift, I don’t know.  But it’s zippy, and it makes a fantastic second car.  I so love to ride it.  Who would’ve thunk, those few short years ago, we would prefer a scooter, but we do.  I guess if that makes us nerds we proudly own it.  I’m a scooterist.  Damn straight I am.

13_Honda_PCX150_1

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.

IMG_5050

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?

IMG_4757 IMG_4777 IMG_4813 IMG_4847

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.

IMG_4605 IMG_4624 IMG_4659

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.

IMG_4066

IMG_4073

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.

Image 1

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.

Image

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.

20130801-132119.jpg

20130801-132157.jpg

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.

20120710-145222.jpg

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.

20120710-073101.jpg

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!

20120710-145749.jpg

Superior Road Trip

Day two found us driving through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and into North Dakota. We got glimpses of Lake Superior, saw the most amazing cloud formations, drove through some big rain, and ended with a really nice, and much cooler, walk along the Grand Forks Greenway.

The day didn’t go without it’s difficulties… We got to our hotel in Grand Forks and found, contrary to it’s website and our reservation, that dogs were only allowed in smoking rooms. This doesn’t work so much or so well for us and so we went across the street to the Econo Lodge where we got a nice clean little room that was non-smoking. Say goodbye to the Ramada, where we will probably never stay in again.

All in all though, besides the little room speed bump, it was a great day of driving, looking at some beautiful scenery, good conversation, and loads of singing to terrific music. The pups are pretty good little travelers as well, especially since we got the herbal stuff from the vet for Weston’s car sickness. It’s working for him, which is wonderful!

Tomorrow… A drive across North Dakota and into Eastern Montana.

20120710-150009.jpg

Oregon Road Trip 2012

A sweltering day one on the Oregon Road Trip Odyssey 2012. We meandered up through Northern Illinois into Wisconsin today in temps ranging from 95-105. Hot… And humid. We’re still in an excessive heat warning up here, haven’t yet been able to escape it. Maybe tomorrow? One can only hope.

It may be hot in Wisconsin, but it’s also beautiful. Definitely deserves our future attention in the way of a trip all about it. Another in a long list of places to visit. We do love our travel.

Now I’m waiting in the car with the pups, air on, for Karen to come back with our take out Chinese food. Then it’s back to the hotel for the evening. We had planned on maybe taking the dogs for a walk, but neither they or us want to do that. One quick trip back out later for their evening constitution, and that will be it. It’s still 100 out there…

Tomorrow… ND.

Hays, Kansas to Champaign/Urbana, Illinois

Kansas… what can I say? It was a L-O-N-G drive through Kansas. Eastern Kansas is beautiful… Western Kansas… not so much. But we were there, and there, and there. That’s how it seemed anyway. Ha! Because we started out a bit further back than originally planned the drive yesterday was the longest of the four driving days. But, we made it. Missouri was beautiful, and Illinois was as well. We were glad to have the driving over. Here are the pictures from that part of our trip… enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Twin Falls to Rifle

Day two found us traveling 559.1 miles through a couple of thunderstorms with a couple of stops for gas and a stop in Fruita for food. Music playing, photos taken, another day of conversation. We are halfway to Champaign/Urbana! Kev is in Colorado for the first time ever, pretty exciting! Tomorrow we go to Kansas… lookout Dorothy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Blade

Blade, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Here it is… the controversial wing/blade. OK, not really controversial, I just made that up. I thought wing, and then heard windmill blade, which makes so much more sense. So here it is… one of many we saw traveling down the road.

Entering Sacramento

Entering Sacramento, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

I actually have more photos to post from our trip than the ones I’m putting up here, but they will have to wait until I upload them from my computer to flickr and then to the ol’ blog. Patience, as my mom likes to say, is a virtue. Meanwhile… these are some I took on our way down to San Jose. Taken with the actual camera and not the iPhone camera. This is the hodge podge form of blogging. Spotty. Non-linear. Yeah… all of that.

Seeing Sacramento

Seeing Sacramento, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

The sun was starting to go down when we reached Sacramento. We kept texting Charles, the nephew, as to our possible time of arrival. We got there just about rush hour time. Not fun, but not too bad. Our only problem was that the GPS kept telling us to turn where we couldn’t onto the campus of the University. Apparently the GPS can’t handle the larger complex of tiny streets within a University setting. It was OK, we managed to maneuver without it. Archaic I know, but using our own brains actually worked. Shocking…

Lunch at In N Out

Lunch at In N Out, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

We stopped in Redding for In N Out burgers. They have their operation down. Only burgers on the menu. Only three options. Double cheese, cheese, or hamburger. Very simple. We opted for the cheese and chocolate shakes. This is one of the great things about road trips… you throw your normal eating habits out the window and stop for burgers. Yeah road trips!!