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 Ninth

Day Nine….

9.  I’m thankful for the visual world.  I am made breathless every day by something I see.  It seems everywhere I look there’s beauty and magnificence. It constantly amazes, enlightens, and nourishes my soul.  Leaves blowing from trees, blue sky, rain drops falling just so, structures made by man, light in all it’s forms.  Everything has history and a story to tell.  All of it inspires awe and is magical.

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Tripping

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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 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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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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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.

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On Toward San Jose

We are on the train, the Saluki Northbound, making our way toward Chicago. The first leg of our journey to San Jose. Train travel rocks. I’m a fan.

The weather turned cold and wet in Illinois today. A 25 degree drop in temperature from where we were at yesterday. That’s Illinois. T-shirts yesterday, fleece jackets today. Too funny. I think it’s raining in San Jose today as well. Hopefully the weather improves in both places so that we can enjoy some nice California weather and Mom and Kev can have the same here as they dog sit/house sit for us and the kids.

Next stop for us… Union Station. Two hours and twenty minutes away. Then… Lunch!

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Chicago to the Carlton Inn Midway Via The L

We checked out of our room this morning, walked the four blocks to the L train station, bought a couple of passes at the nearby currency exchange, climbed the steps up to the platform, jumped on our train when it showed a few minutes later, road out to the second to the last stop on the Orange line, got off the train and walked about six minutes to the Carlton Inn Midway, asked for and received an early check in, arranged for our airport shuttle at seven in the morning, dropped our bags in our room, walked to the corner to have some Greek food at a hotel recommended place (which was great), and then came back to the room so Kev could do laundry and we both could just chill for the rest of the day. We’re tired. So busy, in a great way, the last couple of days, and before that it was drive drive drive. Chillaxing today is awesome!

About the restaurant we went to for lunch… the Greek place. I did something I’ve wanted to for a long long time… when the time was right… and it so was today. This restaurant… The New Pindos was just down the street from our hotel and recommended by the staff as a place that’s “family owned and been there for 30 years”. It was great, but then I love places like that. It had this old vibe, but it was clean. The waitresses all looked like they’d worked there all of those 30 years. Ours was awesome… new her stuff, was funny, nice, so very attentive, all the good things you want in a waitress. I liked her. We both did. So when it came time to leave, Kev picked up the bill and I laid a $20 on the table as the tip. We walked up to the counter so Kev could pay and our waitress, who was such a cutie pie older lady, came up to me and quietly said… I think you made a mistake. I smiled and said no, I didn’t. She then said, in a bewildered voice, I’ve never gotten a $20 tip before… are you sure? I said, yes I was absolutely sure and told her to have a great day. She just smiled and said again… I’ve never gotten a $20 tip before. It was awesome, that look on her face. Money is money, not the end all and be all of happiness, but man… the look on her face. She was shocked, and happy. That’s a little extra happiness out there in the world. Maybe she’ll pay it forward somehow, but even if she doesn’t, she’ll be sweeter than she already was, and I bet she’ll be smiling all day. Which, really, if you think about it, is paying it forward. Smiles pay all kinds of joy forward.

We’ve had a great trip… eventful at times, but great. I think Kev has had a great first Chicago experience. I think he loved it. The architecture alone had his head on a swivel the whole time we were downtown. It was sweet. Great views, fantastic things to do and see, yummy food, great vibe. Chicago is, I will say once again with only a little redundancy, my kinda town. LOVE it. Chi-Town, I will be back… and I think, if I’m not mistaken, Kev may just be back as well.

One more post tomorrow as we travel back to the Northwest. Flight is early… 8:40, but it’s a straight shot. Then… back to my Oregon home, my honey (who I’m missing very very much), and my pups, who I’m also missing very much. My little family… here I come!

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Yolk, Fish, The Lake, The Pier, The River, Willis, and Chicago Dogs

What a full day we’ve had. Started off lounging around the room for a bit to let the major part of the storm pass, then we were off and running.

First stop… Yolk for breakfast. Wow. I had the stuffed french toast. French toast stuffed with raspberry jam and cream cheese topped with bananas and powdered sugar with raspberry syrup on the side. Oh yeah baby! That with a side of bacon and a few cups of coffee gets a girl going in the morning. So awesome.

From Yolk we walked to the museum complex where the Shedd Aquarium happens to be. An hour wait in the queue, but it was worth it. Fish, more fish, more fish, a show, a 3D movie, and a really enjoyable time.

After Shedd we took a water taxi, traveling on Lake Michigan, from the museum complex to the Navy Pier. We enjoyed Chicago dogs, me with sweet potato fries and Kev with curly. What is a Chicago dog you ask? It’s a dog with relish, mustard, tomatoes, peppers, a dill pickle, and onions. That’s how they do them and they are good. We also enjoyed the Smith Museum of Stain Glass Windows at the Navy Pier. So cool… and free. Also good. I’d heard about this from Karen’s brother and sister in law when we were all in Chicago for the wedding last year. They went then and showed us some photos. I had to see these windows… and am glad we did. They were gorgeous.

From the Navy Pier we took another water taxi, this time on the Chicago River, to the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. We took the one minute 1350 foot journey up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor to stand out on the Ledge. Trippy, that’s what it was. It’s a long way down.

We ended with a walk back to our hotel, a bit of a rest, and then some dinner at the restaurant in the lobby… The Thai Spoon. What did I have? Hmmm… maybe some Massaman with chicken and a thai iced tea. Yeah… that’s what was for dinner.

Now here we are, back in our room, both playing around on our computers, TV on, feet sore, and happily tired. What will we do tomorrow? Well that’s the question… we move hotels tomorrow… leaving the good ol’ Travelodge for a hotel out by Midway. Close to the airport for our earlyish flight on Wednesday back to Oregon. I’m sure we will find something to do… there’s so much to do here. I love this city.

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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!

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Rifle, Colorado to Hays, Kansas

It’s day three and here we are, safely ensconced in our hotel room in Hays, Kansas. It’s been a hell of a day. Started off pretty nice up in the Rockies, had a wonderful lunch time visit with a new old friend (Jan, it was lovely to meet you and put a face to all of the correspondence and commenting we’ve been up to for quite awhile now), and then… then… well… thunderstorms. Severe thunderstorms with lightning, pea sized hail coming down so hard it piled up an inch or two high on the highway, rain pounding down with it, cars driving so slow all with hazard lights on, and Kev and I just saying to each other… press on, if we can get ahead of it we are good to go. We pressed on… and we did. Scary moments for sure… not the least of which was when the emergency alert came over the radio that there was a tornado warning for our area. Both Kev and I started scanning like mad and planning where we would park and run if we had to try and get away from one. Like I said… some scary and nerve racking moments.

Then… well… we thought we were in the clear… literally. We made it through that storm and were heading full speed ahead toward what was supposed to be our stop for the night when I checked the weather up ahead. Low and behold there was another group of severe thunderstorms heading straight for Salina. They were bigger and looked much worse than what we’d driven through… so we made the decision. Turn around and head back to Hays, which was about 20 miles behind us, instead of motoring on to Salina, 78 miles ahead. We were done for the day. There was no way we wanted to be heading into all the lightning we say in that direction not being able to see anything else because it was now dark outside. I decided to forgo the reservation we had, forgo the money we’d lose, to keep our nerves better intact. Good decision. Oh, and the photos… I didn’t take any at all during the worst of it. None. I was too busy obsessing about what was going on around us to pick up my camera. I did take a 13 second video with my phone. I’ll try to post that as well.

Tomorrow we read there is the possibility of more severe thunderstorms ahead. Pretty much all the way to Champaign. And, we have further to drive than originally planned. I’m hoping for a more mellow drive… fingers crossed. Lets just get there already! LOL

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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!

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First Stop Hood River

First stop on the Parker sibling great American road trip… Oregon to Illinois… Finds outr intrepid adventurers in Hood River getting gas, a coffee refill, and subway healthy breakfast sandwichs. We are off to a great start folks…. And the sun is starting to peak through!

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