feel how your breathing makes more space around you. Let this darkness be a bell tower and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength. Move back and forth into the change. What is it like, such intensity of pain? If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night, be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses, the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you, say to the silent earth: I flow. To the rushing water, speak: I am.
Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29
Translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. From A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings From the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke (Harper Collins and Harper One, 2009). Posted by kind permission of Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows.
Today K and I made our yearly Christmas trip into Chicago. We usually go to several places on our Christmas trip day, but this time we ended up just staying at the Lincoln Park Zoo all day. We looked at the animals, had several different talks with zoo staff about various animals, ate some lunch, then strolled around the place a couple more times after the zoo lights came on. We had meant to park at the zoo, take a bus downtown and check out the Bean, the Macy’s windows, some other sites we usually see at Christmas time, then get back to the zoo in the evening to see the zoo lights, but it didn’t happen that way. At one point we just looked at each other and both kind of said we were having a great time, a very relaxing time, just wandering around, no rush, nice and mellow. It was awesome. While we were there we also decided to put our money where our mouths are and donate a bit to the conservation and research programs the zoo participates in. Kindness through conservation.
I just realized I never published this post. I’m going to, even after the fact. More a record for us than a post for the masses, but fun stuff either way.
Facts From Trip 2016
Movies watched in trailer: Suspect, Clear and Present Danger, Reservoir Dogs, Paycheck, Fifth Element, Red Planet
Woodchucks in Miller Riverview campground, Iowa
Severe weather first night with lightning, thunder, heavy rain that took a big tree down in our campground.
Pelicans, woodpeckers, chipmunk, golden eagle in MT, buffalo, cows, horses, bunnies, cranes in ND lakes, rubber boa that Riley stepped on at fisherman’s bend, Osprey carrying fish at Minto-brown park
Thunderstorms in ND
Stressful events: thunderstorm in Iowa, Weston nearly fainting from heat, realize running with propane on could cause fire when entering gas station: no longer running on propane, tam burns fingers on bbq lid in ND, tam drives trailer over curb in ND, biting flies in Makoshika State Park MT, Karen dropping 10 pound weight on foot and Tam trying to get ice pack from Walmart ending up buying another whole first aid kit, Tam hurt back helping disabled man getting bike out of his van and got terrible sciatica, Karen tripped over some lids and fell down in Mom’s dining room, bees and dust at Allen Springs though it was nothing eating inside the trailer couldn’t solve, Weston getting a hold of the stick at Fishermen’s bend we thought might have hooks and such on it though we finally got it away from him, using the bite gloves and pulling up on his head so he had to drop it to find the stick had a huge piece of sausage on it.
Playlist with 1194 songs means never having to hear the same song twice on the 8 day trek out, or for most of the entire trip.
Saw worlds largest Sandhill crane in Steele, ND
Saw Salem Sue, worlds largest Holstein, in New Salem, ND
Saw Golden Eagle fly right over our heads in Beavertail Hill State Park, Montana
4 Barn Owls at Mom’s place
Killdeer bird nest on ground at Mom’s
Visits with: Kyra, Syd, Susie, Joan, Coni, Kris, Stan and Connie, Stacia, Liz, Josh, Linda, Parker siblings, Kate & Terri, Vicki & Kathleen, Sandy, Heather, Kristen & Nechelle, Maggie, Steph & Phil, and of course Mom and Kev.
Rode MAX into Portland and went to Little Big Burger and Ruby Jewel and Saturday Market.
Went down the rapids at Fishermens Bend a couple of times and rafted with Karen, Kev tipped over, but made it down safely.
Explored some great hiking trails at Fishermen’s Bend with Mom and the dogs. What a great walking/hiking park that is.
Spent time building a rock wall in the Santiam River at Fishermen’s Bend with Phil and Steph, their kids, Mom and Karen. Just because. We were working on putting together a new swimming area. Fun was had by all even though we weren’t able to completely finish it. Maybe someone else will and by the time we go back next summer it will be a great spot to spend the day floating around and swimming.
Used our new hammock and loved it.
Floyd and Opal, camp hosts at Fishermen’s Bend, were awesome.
Went to see an outdoor documentary movie about Lewis and Clark at the Fishermen’s Bend Campground one night with the gang. It was totally enjoyable. Even when we were totally freaked out as some animal loudly knocked into a metal garbage can very near to us.
Tubed, rafted, with the POD at the Metolius. So so cold. Everyone frozen (except Karen and I who were in a raft) by the end. The Metolius, though fun, is our rafting/floating nemesis.
Camped with the POD at Allen Springs. No better group of people out there to spend time with. We love those ladies.
Fly fished on the Metolius for the first time in years. A total joy, even though I didn’t catch anything, other than maybe the bug to fly fish more often.
Put up directional signs made on paper plates, which none of them saw, along the road to Allen Springs Campground for the POD because we had no phone service at the campground.
The many laughs and hugs and smiles we got as we spent time with so many people we love.
A very fast 6 day trip back to Illinois, driving faster, all the way up to 65, than we ever had pulling the trailer so we could make it back for the Sweet Corn Festival with the kids.
We’re already starting to do tentative planning for next year’s adventure. Life is very very good.
We’ve taken our usual sojourn some 2300 miles from Illinois to Oregon this summer. We do this every year, as you probably know if you’ve been following the blog for some time.
This year our schedule has let us be more relaxed, more able to just enjoy hanging out at the farm and spending time with my mom and my bro.
I’ve seen friends and other family, and hope to see more before we go. We have some things planned, not many, and are looking forward to doing those thing, to seeing those people.
All that aside, the weather this summer in Oregon has been fantastic. It’s been everything we always hope it will be. Most times it doesn’t disappoint, though last year it ended up being hotter here for much of the time we were here than it was in Illinois during that same time. Go figure. We leave to get away from the heat and humidity (OK, also to spend time with friends and family) and it didn’t deliver last year. This year though, it’s been spectacular. Pretty much the best weather we could hope for.
The journey so far hasn’t been without incident. A couple of stressful moments with Weston (he does tend to get himself into trouble now and then) and a bit of a back issue for me, but seriously, it’s been splendid so far.
I turned 49 a few days ago. No, I’m not really 50 something and just using 49 as my sticky-post age. I’m 49.
I’m not fazed. Not being fazed is a good thing.
I have never been a person who was affected by my age. I turned 16, 21, 25, 30, 40, etc. with no real worry or fear about getting older. Time is what it is. It marches, so do we. I feel like I’m becoming a better version of myself, and getting better all the time, as I’ve aged. Wisdom, lessening insecurities, a strong and getting stronger I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-what-anyone-thinks attitude, and a more and more relaxed way of looking at the world.
I feel like I’m better at looking outside of myself, outside of my inner dialogue, to the world beyond. I realize I’m a small drop in a very large bucket. And what’s more, when I fall back to being too much in my head, too much about me, I can snap out of it pretty quickly by reminding myself there’s more to life, so much more, than me. It’s my personal version of a mental slap upside my head. It’s a wisdom thing. Something I’ve gained with age. A certain perspective. I’m grateful for it.
I try not to take myself to seriously, also a wisdom with age thing. It’s the last vestige of big things I’m trying to work on. I think I just wrote that with a serious face. Mental note to relax the face while writing.
So I’m better, like fine wine, aged cheese, a good bourbon. A better and bettering version of myself. Is bettering even a word? I have no idea.
I don’t know why I’m writing all of this. My intention was to make a list of 49 things, of various types and intention, in honor of my 49th. Instead I’ve seemed to wax on about how aged I am.
Let’s take a new tack.
I received a boat load of well wishes and birthday congrats and notes of love on Facebook. I have an amazing group of people in my life, which I’ve mentioned on this blog before, and I’m ever so grateful for their presence, support, love, generosity of spirit, and humor. It’s not so much that I have a quantity of people, I have quality people. There’s a huge distinction in that. They are quality people, and I’m beyond lucky to know them, to have them in my life. I know this. I’m blessed.
Which brings me back to the list. The multitude of wishes made me grateful for the people in my life and that made me think of others things I’m grateful for. I thought, at this juncture, it would be good to write some of those down, so the following is a list of things I’m grateful for. It’s like a master list, though I know it will change, has changed, and morph over the years. Some things though, remain constant. I think it’s so important in life to look at what’s good, what’s working, what’s beautiful in our lives. To actually take the time to acknowledge these things, stop in our crazy day, be still, and reflect on what’s good and important to us. The people in my life would be number one. So let’s start there.
1. Family. Born into a group of beautiful people, on both sides, was like winning the lottery. There are people you choose in life, who I will get to in a moment, but the clan you enter the world belonging to can be a matter of luck. My luck was good. They are, to the last of them, quality, wonderful, and staggeringly spectacular. I can’t even being to express the fortune I feel and how proud I am to belong to the lot of them.
2. Friends. Or a better description might be to say they are the family I’ve chosen. Throughout my life I seem to have chosen well. I also find this lucky as I was not always my better self, yet somehow my center chose wisely, most of the time. I’ve met and made friends with so many shining souls in my life I can’t even count them all. As I sit here I see face after face run through my mind and I’m smiling. Each and every one brought, and continues to bring, something singularly special to my life. Such a unique, varied, luminous group of people. I don’t know how I ended up with the pack of you, but I’m so so glad I did. You are more than friends, you are truly family to me.
3. Pups. I’ve always been a dog person. I love their pack mentality. The group is better than the one. I love their loyalty and sweetness and unconditional love. I love how cuddly they are. I realize not all dogs are like this, but in my experience, this is what I’ve found. Our dogs, Weston and Riley, are the most wonderful of creatures. Both quirky and slightly flawed and neurotic in their own little ways, they bring so much joy and love and happiness to our lives. I can’t believe how much I love them, and how much love they give to us. It’s miraculous, the love of our dogs for us. It’s important to honor that, to cherish it, and to take up the responsibility that having them in our lives brings.
4. Wind in the trees. This is a bit of a crazy one, or might seem crazy anyway, but its going to stay here none the less. I love the sound of the wind in the trees. It’s a reminder of the moving world. The wind blows here, it’s blowing somewhere across the world. It carries life and hazard and is alive in its own way. It reminds me how gentle or ferocious life can be and that I should try to be gentler, quieter, softer in my approach. It reminds me how small I am, how big the world is, and that there are people in other places lifting their faces to the wind, closing their eyes, and sighing, just like I do sometimes.
5. The grand boys. I know they are people too, and yes they are included in what I wrote above, but they are worth their own category. Every day it seems I learn something new from them, something new about them. They have such zest, such emotion, such joy for life. They are amazing little men and the fact that I get to be privy to their growth and exploration of the world is magical. Seeing how they respond to things, how they are effected by their world, how they learn, it all stuns me. I’m so grateful for the experience of knowing them and loving them and having them love me.
6. My honey. Yes, she also deserves her own category. I would’ve put her first, as she deserves to be first, and is, but no matter. It doesn’t matter what number gets put next to her on any list, she’s my number one. My center, my split apart, my soul mate. Two people were never more suited for each other. We are like a hand in a perfectly fit glove. We mesh. We work. We somehow found each other. It’s rare, to have this kind of relationship. I know it is. She knows it too. I can be moody and difficult, we have our issues, like everyone does, but the difference is that we are always moving together in the same direction. We find joy in each other, in our relationship. We look at things the same way, with a sense of adventure and excitement. She has more joy than anyone I’ve ever met. I am amazed by her.
7. The Scooter. It’s fun. It’s fast. It’s zippy. It’s freedom on two wheels. Riding it gives me great joy. What more is there to say?
8. A good book. I’m in a reading phase now. I seem to, over the course of my life, go in and out of reading phases. I’ve always loved it, but sometimes I go off reading. I have no idea why. The times when I’m in a reading phase definitely are better times. I am more relaxed, more at peace, more in touch with things outside myself. It’s a good advertisement, in my life anyway, for me trying to stay in a reading phase. New worlds are always waiting inside the pages of a good book.
9. My kindle, and other electronic devices. Is this cheating to bring up the Kindle right after the above number 8? Nah…. I’m a geek. I love all things techy. I love new technology, what it can do, the places it can take me. I have always loved these things. I have no idea why. I don’t really want to know how they work, I just want to figure out their functions and then use them. Whatever thing; phone, laptop, Kindle, iPod, GPS in the Jeep, new app, etc., I happen to be using at the time. Fabulous.
10. The dictionary. The vehicle of its delivery has changed, moving to an online or let’s make that plural as in multiple online dictionaries, but I love them all the same. Words, meanings of words, other words to use in place of words I think I’ve over used, and on and on. The dictionary and/or a good thesaurus, are wonders of the world. I adore them.
11. Chocolate. In all its forms, covered over the top of things or standing alone on its own, I love me some good chocolate.
12. The ocean. Doesn’t really matter which one, though I’m sort of partial to the Pacific as it’s the one I grew up with. The power, the endless depth, the mysteries living there. Again, it’s one of those things that makes me feel small in a big world. As you can probably tell by now I love that feeling. It helps to put things in perspective. I like most forms of natural water; rivers, oceans, big lakes, streams. Even rain. Rain is amazing. I think my Oregon is showing through.
13. Ceiling fans. Crazy as this may seem. I love our ceiling fan in our bedroom. I don’t know if I could sleep without it. It’s the simple pleasures in life. Besides which, in Scappoose we actually named our ceiling fan The Super-Sky-Diving-Fan-Blade-Lady. Yes, if you looked at it just right, like shapes in clouds, you could see her.
14. Filtered sunlight. I’m looking out into the backyard now. It’s now (a few days have gone by since I started this list) the first day of Autumn (which happens to be my favorite of the seasons) and it’s gorgeous outside. The light is coming down in streaks through the trees and it’s absolutely beautiful. Stunning. Gorgeous. Amazing.
15. Weston’s snoring sound. I know I already talked about the dogs, but seriously, his snore rocks. He’s a small dog, but can snore with the best of them. I love that sound.
16. Finding a new band/music and music in general. I’m an explorer by nature. This applies to music as well. I’m constantly looking for new music. Finding a new group/artist is an amazing thing. It lifts my soul. Just as listening to an old standard lifts my soul. Some people aren’t music people, they could care less. I don’t understand those people. I’m moved, shaped, enlightened, lifted, seared to the core, and effected greatly by the music in my life.
17. Birkenstocks. We are a Birkenstock household. There are so many different kinds of Birkenstocks in our house it’s sort of ridiculous, but they are here for a reason. They are comfortable. The most comfortable shoe ever. My feet sing while wearing them.
18. Walkabouts. I love a good stroll. Going places my feet can take me, anywhere I happen to be, is a great thing. My Mom and I just did a 13 plus mile stroll in Chicago recently. We hadn’t planned on walking that far, we just did. The weather was wonderful, the company stellar, and the sights beautiful. Walking is an experiment in living the slow life. It allows you to drink it what’s around you, be more effected by it, be IN it. I recommend it highly.
19. iPhone camera. I’m a fan. Being somewhat of a photographer (I’ve gotten paid to do it occasionally) I have a lot of equipment. Recently, however, I’ve been using my iPhone camera more and more. I’ve done this for a couple of reasons. One, I don’t have to carry around a ton of stuff, my phone is always in my pocket anyway, and two, not carrying around all that stuff and attending to it, and then using it, I feel like I’m more in the moment. I’m still taking loads of photos, but I seem to be more present in situations just using my phone as opposed to big cameras. And to top it off, the iPhone camera is pretty darn good for a phone camera. I like it. I like it a lot.
20. Eggs on toast. We just spent many days in our travel trailer. An egg on toast was a go to breakfast for us during that time. One egg, one piece of toast. Simple, and warm, and tasty. I enjoyed it. I just thought of it this morning, so guess what we had for breakfast today?
21. Autumn. I mentioned fall in an earlier item. It’s my favorite and deserves its own slot. I love the changing of the leaves, I love the new crispness in the air, I love how we clean up the yard and put stuff away and everything starts to get still, quiet. Strangely I love having to put on my long pants and sweatshirts for the first time in months. I love the holidays during fall and how here in Illinois the trees start to bare themselves as the leaves start to fall. It’s a time of change and quieting and relief from the heat.
22. Old fashioned chocolate sodas. To be honest I just discovered these this last week. I liked it so much I’m including it here. Yum.
23. Travel. As I said earlier, I’m an explorer by nature. New places, new things, new experiences are like mana of the gods to me. I drink them in. Travel, by its nature, feeds that need in me to explore. New sights, sounds, people met, and areas to explore feed my soul. I’m a bit of a nomad and travel, of any kind and distance, fills that part of me.
24. Our new travel trailer. Related, obviously, to the previous item, our travel trailer rocks. We just got it this summer and ended up spending, so far, nearly 50 nights traveling around and sleeping in it. I never got tired of it. It’s small, but feels big for its size. I think, honestly, I could actually live in it. That won’t happen, as having a home base is necessary for my honey, and probably for me as well, but I think I could. It’s perfect for the two of us and our two fur heads. It symbolizes adventure and fun and exploration. I’m ready to take it out again.
25. Tasty vittles. Along with new places to see, I love finding new foods I like. As well, truth be told, as eating standard favorites of mine. A good meal shared with good people and maybe a nice glass of Barbera d’Alba. Yum.
26. Quiet time. I’m a person who enjoys solitude and silence. In fact I don’t just enjoy it, I need it. Sitting alone in a space reading, watching tv, drinking coffee, looking around, or just sitting and thinking, is necessary for me. I call it my recharge time. It’s important for me. And consequently it’s important for those around me. I’m a better me when I get time to myself once in a while. If I don’t I begin to feel overloaded, overwhelmed, and a tad crazy pants. Plus, I just plain enjoy it.
27. The blogs. Creative outlets, period the end. I love writing, I love taking photos, and I love having a place to put that out into the world. Read or not read (though I prefer read) I so enjoy the constant platforms for creativity.
28. Speaking of photography. Photography. I see the world a certain way. I see it in detail. The whole is beautiful, but the real secret beauty lives in the details. A leaf, an arm, a man smoking a cigar, shadows and light. I have always seen this way, though I think using a camera so much has heightened this sense of mine. When I capture what I’ve just seen with my eyes in a photograph it’s an incredible feeling.
29. Words. Written by others, written by myself, lyrics, stanzas, dialogue, conversation, puns, silly phrases, novels, poems, short stories, witty commercials, plays, dictionaries, etc. No matter the vehicle, words mean a lot to me. I’m grateful for their breadth and depth and expanse. I’m grateful to be able to convey and to have things conveyed to me. I’m grateful for the expression of others and my ability to express. They are the bread and fruit of life.
30. A good hug. My brother, Kev, is a fantastic hugger. He’s known for it actually. I think his hugs will go down in song and story. He hugs with the all of himself. It engulfs and warms and conveys so much. There’s nothing like a good hug. We are a hugging family. We are people who hug. There’s a reason for that.
31. Experience. Vague, yes, but not really meant to be. I love new experiences with the people in my life. Fishing on Stan’s boat, disc golf with the Gal Up group, crab feast with the POD, fantasy football, going out for a bite to eat, bike rides, walks, dinners at the houses of great friends, train rides, laughing and laughing, seeing a film, reading a book, walking on a beach, kayaking, exploring cool buildings, seeing great art, and on and on and on. The experiences we have are everything. What we own, nothing. The time we spend with the people we love, doing things we love, that’s where the heart and soul of living is.
32. Bike rides. I have always loved the feeling of being on a bike. It’s always meant freedom and fun to me. When I was a kid a whole gang of us would ride around together, exploring the neighborhood. I bought my first bike, a sweet little green 10 speed, when I was in junior high. I’d had bikes before, but that was the first one I paid for by myself. I saved the money. It was so cool. I rode that bike for years actually. I think it’s even the one I took to college with me. It was, during school days, my main mode of transport. Somehow I let that bike go and didn’t have another one for a long time. In recent years I’ve gotten back into it, not as a major cyclist or anything, just as a day rider, and have loved every moment I’m in the seat. It’s liberating, invigorating, and free. Last year I got a new, slightly better bike, and it’s been heaven. Stepping out to the garage and just hoping on the bike and going out for a spin, so much fun. SO much fun. Makes me feel the same way I did when I was a kid.
33. Life. I’m grateful for it. Four years ago first my honey and then I had brushes with death. Both sicknesses, both life threatening, both terrifying. We each pulled through with flying colors, but at times, for each of us, it was touch and go. I’m grateful we are both here and loving, laughing, experiencing, exploring, and trying to drink in every bit of life. I’m so very grateful.
34. Not taking things for granted. I don’t. I feel an expanding sense of gratitude all the time. I know my life is good, and I don’t take that for granted. I’m glad I don’t. I’m lucky to know not to. I’ve always been this way, but as I get older, and as I’ve experienced more in life, I feel this even more. I wish I could gift it to everyone, this feeling of being so thankful for what I have, and so in tune with that feeling. It changes everything, or can anyway. I know people who struggle with life, always feeling they are owed, or due something, or that they have been robbed of something. I feel so sad for them. Honestly sad. Our lives are a matter of perspective. “Coffey looks and he sees hate and fear, you have to look with better eyes than that”. It’s my favorite line from the move The Abyss. It says everything there is to say. We all have to look with our best eyes. I’m not preaching here, OK, maybe I am just a little, I’m just trying to say that I’m grateful that I don’t take things for granted and I wish everyone could feel what that feels like.
35. Connection. I feel a deep sense of connection. Not just to my family and friends, but to the world at large. I feel a spiritual connection to all living things, and therefore a responsibility to them. I’m grateful for this feeling. It brings a depth to my life, helping me to center myself at times, to know my place. Again, I’m but a drop in the bucket and this larger living world is a huge place filled with wonders.
36. Silliness. I was going to write a good laugh here, but changed my mind and wrote silliness instead. There’s nothing like being silly, being a dork, being unafraid to be ridiculous and not care what anyone thinks. I’m a total dork. I admit it. I embrace it. I say and do things that get me strange looks at times. I’m OK with that. I’m grateful for the quirk in myself, for the quirk in my friends, for the dorkiness of my family, for the natural pratfalls and schtick, and playfulness in myself and the people I love. Everyone should be willing to dance in the rain and do silly stuff just to make the people you love laugh. At least, that’s what I think. Last night I was talking in the most ridiculous southern accent just to make my honey laugh. She did. It was awesome.
37. Film. I adore a good movie. I cry, learn, expand, dream, breathe, laugh, and find so much beauty in movies. I always have. It’s the stories, the hope, the despair, the human commonality, the connection with places and people who I feel I know. Near or far, made in the US or not, these stories grow a world view, empower change, enlighten, and sometimes offer an escape and relief from my daily life. I value them, their contribution, their art. I value their expression and message, even if I don’t always agree with it. Movies enrich my life in a myriad of ways.
38. The Library. I’ve always been a fan of libraries. When I was younger I used to hang out in them a bit to do homework, people watch, enjoy a quiet place. I never took full advantage of one and I’m not sure I even had a library card (other than in college) anywhere I’ve lived, until now. When we moved to C-U we, naturally because it’s why we moved here, started hanging out a lot with our first grandson. The library in our town has a great children’s area and a couple of times we found ourselves there with him exploring the kids area, playing with the train, running up and down the little stairs. I decided to look around a bit and discovered they had a lot to offer and set about getting a library card. I’m so glad I did. Books, movies, music, magazines, and so much are now at my fingertips. I created a hold list and add stuff to it all the time. It’s so much fun. In a time in our lives when we are trying to live smaller, use less, and have less, the library provides a great way for me to still enjoy all those things I love without having to pay out tons of money, or find tons of space in the house. Plus, again, it’s so much fun.
39. The Y. We also joined the Y when we moved here. We’d never been members of a gym together. Not really. Well, OK, we joined another gym the first year we were here, but it was small and in a mall. Neither of those things were necessarily bad, but it was limited. Then the new Y opened up and we went in to check it out. Great facility. Pools, weight rooms, indoor track, rock climbing wall, great locker room facilities, and a great play space for the grand boys. We were hooked and signed up. We go through spurts when using it, like most people with gym memberships, but the diverse class offerings (we’re going to try yoga next week), combined with the facilities themselves and the incredibly nice staff make it a total winner. We absolutely love it, and I’m particularly fond of it now as I’m back in a swimming mode and love being in the water.
40. Our meat man. I get a lot of joy out of this one. When we moved to Illinois from Oregon I did a lot of research on sustainable food sources, organic availability, grocery stores and what they offered, etc. Coming from the Portland area we were used to having locally sourced meat and other foods available to us all the time. What I found in my search here was that we could join a meat club. Yay. Seriously, it’s the coolest thing. We buy our meat directly from a farmer. We can visit the farm, though we haven’t, if we want to. We know his practices, like him and the other people who work the truck when we do our monthly pick up, and totally dig on the superior quality of the meat we are now eating. It tastes better than anything we’ve ever purchased, anywhere. It rocks, and we love that we get the majority of our meat this way. We get an email every month, we use and order form and email back what we want, we show up at the pick up spot and pick it up. It rocks.
41. Quirky art. My honey and I are fans of art. All kinds actually. We’ve purchased sculptures and paintings and photography and funky lamps and stain glass pieces. We’ve even made some of our own, of various kinds. It’s a great thing to go to some art fair and find something we both love. It’s a rule, we don’t buy anything unless we agree on it, which actually isn’t that tough since our tastes are similar. I love the pieces we’ve purchased and so does she. We haven’t regretted a single one and the whole of them makes our house uniquely ours. It’s funky, it’s fun, it’s joyous. And I’m grateful for the funky beautiful things we’ve managed to collect. They represent us well.
42. Coffee. I can’t believe this didn’t occur to me earlier in this list, but no matter. I love a great cup of joe. Love it. We buy our beans from a local roasting company and every morning we grind them fresh and make two french presses full of gorgeous, beautiful, sweet-smelling coffee. There’s nothing like that first cup of the day, except for maybe the third cup… or the second. We’re also fans of going out to a local spot (no Starbucks for us anymore), and enjoying a nice cup of drip coffee. A good cup of coffee can be heaven in a cup.
43. Our DVR. This one is a tad shallow, but who cares. These are the things I’m grateful for and the DVR, and services like Netflix, are on the list. I love not having to watch commercials. I love being able to watch what we want when we want to. I love the ease of it all. I love the technology of it all. We watch only what we want, when we want to, and barely know anything else is on. Lovely.
44. The Up Center. Moving to a new place is tough. Especially when you love where you already live, have a fantastic group of friends, and aren’t over the moon with where you are going. Our transition, those first couple of months, was tough. We cried, we had regrets, we asked ourselves what the hell were we thinking and why did we do it? Of course, we did it for the grand son (there was only the one at the time, not the two and the baby girl on the way we have now) and he was totally worth it. It’s just that we had a big big life in Oregon and at first our move here was difficult. But, we found a little place called the Up Center, went to a group or two, met some people, and started making friends. All the friends we have here we met through that organization. It’s because of that I’m so grateful for it. We have a stellar group of friends here. A truly amazing group. A group we probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.
45. Big Boy Shorts/Pants. I’m a huge fan of cargo shorts. My honey and I call these our big boy shorts. We also have big boy pants. Nothing says convenience more than shorts equipped with pockets. Keys, phone, wallet, etc. They all fit. No purse, no backpack, no anything else to carry. It’s perfect. They are perfect. I really dig them. Grateful for the ease of wearing them.
46. Our bird feeders. I’ve never really been into birds. I mean, they can be lovely and all, but I wasn’t ever a bird watcher or anything. Then we moved to Illinois and my honey wanted bird feeders. She is a bird lover. We tried a few configurations including sitting them up on things or putting them on hooks. We have a lot of trees which means we have a lot of squirrels. Finally it occurred to us that we needed something taller. A long story short, we actually sunk posts in with hooks on each side. We stained them, put copper tops on them, and used nice wrought iron hooks. They’re great. And we get loads of birds. So many types it’s amazing. I’m a bird person now.
47. Our down comforters. We have both a summer and a winter comforter, they’re both down. There’s something extra snuggly about getting into bed with either of these on. They make our life so much more comfortable. They’re awesome.
48. Grateful. I’m grateful for being grateful. I often feel a wave of gratefulness wash over me. Not sure where it comes from all the time, but it happens. I’m grateful for this feeling. For knowing there’s so much to be grateful for.
49. A positive attitude. It’s fitting that I should save this for last. It’s important to me, and a big part of who I am. Don’t get me wrong. I am afraid sometimes, really afraid. I worry. I get really angry sometimes. I’m moody. I’m not always the person who says let’s hold hands and all sing kumbaya. But for the most part, most of the time, I’m pretty upbeat. I tend to look on the bright side. I think it’s a mixture of hope and what I believe to be true all rolled together. I’m genuinely hopeful, most of the time. I also genuinely believe in the overwhelming good of most people. I know there are evil souls out there doing bad things, but I truly believe that for the most part people are good, are trying to do what they think is best, are sincere and giving and gracious and kind. I believe that. I’m glad I do. I believe that things can work out. They don’t always, but they can. I’ve always been this way. Maybe that’s why the teachers at my high school gave me a president’s award my senior year for having the best attitude. I believe we should smile at each other, with our eyes, and say thank you, and that we should be friendly, we should be nice. A positive attitude gives you a lot in return as well. In my opinion it just doesn’t project out toward the world, it gives you a better view of it.
So there it is. My list of 49 things I’m grateful for as I start this year of my life. 50 is just around the corner and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this year, leading up to that milestone, brings to my life. It’s exciting.
Our 2014 trip to Oregon, we’ve now done it for three summers running, was a big one. Gone nearly two full months, we left in the Jeep and returned with the Jeep and an R-pod trailer. There were many highlights from our two months away, these are just some of them. Adventures listed, of course, in totally random order.
And, by the way, looking at the photos from our trip recently I was struck by how wonderful an experience like this is. We love being together, love seeing new places, love the strange and random and cool and gorgeous and amazing sights along the way, love seeing the world and meeting new people. We have the same adventurous and fun and silly spirit, my honey and I. This was an incredible adventure and a gift we were lucky to share with each other. Life, ours, is stunningly beautiful. Both the adventures on the road and also the adventures we have on a daily basis at home. It’s all a miracle to me. Deep and full and filled with so much light, beauty, and love.
OK, OK… enough of me waxing on about life, etc. Here are the details of the trip, as I said, in no particular order.
We love our jeep! Not one problem with it and it pulled like a champion! Man… what a great ride. What a beast. It averaged 30 miles per gallon going out and after we got the trailer we averaged somewhere between 14 or 15. Amazing.
Love LilyPod! It’s what we named the trailer. It has a picture of a frog lounging on a lily pad on the side of it so it seemed fitting to name her LilyPod. Lily for short. She’s an amazing rig and we couldn’t be happier with her.
7190 Miles travelled… whew… that’s a lot of miles.
13 States visited, a couple of them more than once, in order – Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois
Drive to Oregon done over seven days. Six nights of hotels with dogs, lugging in luggage, and ice chests, and electronic equipment and cameras. It was also filled with interesting sights and lovely countryside.
Not long after we got to Oregon, and after our camping trip to Davis where I did use a big camera, I decided I wasn’t going to use the big cameras anymore during the trip. I decided to use only my iPhone, try to be more in the moment and not behind the lens. It was a nice break, and I was still able to capture some pretty cool pics with the iPhone camera.
We met people with Rpods at gas station near Kennewick, on our way to Oregon, who let us look inside their trailers and gave us some tips, including sway bar (which we are so glad we got!). We all talked to each other for a good half and hour or 45 minutes and we exchanged info with them. Very nice people and a great experience.
K’s work computer bag fell out of the back of the Jeep at a gas station after we left Kennewick and we didn’t know it. Some good samaratin saw it happen and turned it in to the gas station attendant who searched the bag, found her number, and called her, thank goodness!
1 night spent at Mom’s before we got the trailer.
We had an 11:00 AM appointment to pick up the trailer the day after we arrived in Oregon. They gave us a tour, quickly showed us the mechanicals, helped to set the brake controller, and took me for a little test drive around the block with Jeep towing trailer before they unleashed us, rookies, on the world. We had a day and a half to get it all outfitted and ready for camping before we left for Davis Lake. In retrospect it was all a bit rush rush, but it worked out OK.
Dry camped for three nights at Davis Lake. It was hot, but cold at night, and we loved every minute of it. The dogs adjusted to the trailer right away. We loved Lily immediately.
Davis Lake was a lot of fun, camping with my bro and Vicki and Mom and all the Hale kids and their families. Once we were there and set up, we got to stop and be mellow and relax for the first time since leaving home. Plus, as a bonus, it’s beautiful there. Central Oregon is amazing. And to me, it smells like vanilla. Always this undertone of it in the air.
Inner tubing at Davis. We bought float tubes and took them to Davis. I went down the creek with K and Vicki and also with Mom. We did it a couple of times. Once K and V and I floated all the way down the creek and out into the Lake. We had to paddle a lot there at the end and then walk back quite a ways, but it was a kick in the butt. Fun times.
No fouling! Meaning, avert your gaze if you don’t want to hear this, we don’t poo in the trailer. It’s a steadfast rule. In England there are signs all around to remind people to clean up after their dogs. These signs have a dog and a pile of poo with a red circle crossed out and they say no fouling. This has always cracked me up, so we incorporated the saying for the trailer. No fouling. Period. It makes us laugh. And, as the person who hooks, unhooks, and is responsible for making sure all the waste, black and gray, gets cleaned out, I appreciate this rule.
Countless high fives. K and I love to high five. Who knows why. She kind of started it, and I once gave her a bad time about it, while chuckling of course, but we do it all the time. Any time any little thing goes well, or is fun, or is cool, we high five. I can’t even count the number of high fives we did during the trip. And that, my friends, deserves a ::: high five :::
Stopping at rest stops for lunch every day. On the drive down the Pacific Coast and then east we would stop at rest stops or truck stops or pull outs on the side of the road, and make sandwiches for lunch every day. It was very relaxing. We didn’t eat restaurant food at all, during travel days, except when we were in the wind delay in Wyoming and then for dinner the last two nights (we were just plain ready to be home, though we still made sandwiches in the trailer for lunch those days). Being able to just pull over, make sandwiches, and relax for lunch was a fantastic bonus that having the trailer gave us.
My honey drove the trailer in Nebraska and did small 1 or 2 hour stints every day from there to home… So proud of her for driving! Driving the trailer, for novices, is/was intimidating. It’s a whole new ballgame to pull something that’s big, bulky, and weighs 3300 pounds. The whole driving experience is different, and it’s at tad scary. My honey was nervous about it so for the most part I drove. By the time we got home, having driven all those miles, I was feeling pretty darn comfortable, though still cautious, about pulling it. But, after our stormy night at the Walmart in Laramie we decided were going to cut a day off our plans and try to make it home early. Longer days driving meant I needed a break. I could do six or even seven hours by myself, with a break for lunch, but driving 8 or 9 hours a day… tiring. Thank goodness for her. She came through in a big way and despite being nervous about it, she drove like a champion.
Antennae television in LilyPod. There are actual cable/satellite hookups on Lily you can use if you have hookups at the parks you stay at. We actually had cable at a couple of RV parks, though we only really watched TV one night. Something that’s totally funny though, kind of like finding strange radio stations when you travel, was turning on the antennae, when we didn’t have cable available at all, and seeing what we could get for channels. Some places, nothing. Others, strange off channels broadcasting weird stuff. Kind of cool. I actually found an episode of Wonder Woman once. Caught the last half of it, then turned it off. We didn’t really watch much TV this trip. It’s more fun to just hang out, make dinner, be together, walk the pups, and read. Which is what we did most nights. But the antennae tv, kind of quirky, and cool.
Speaking of reading. I did lots of it. Loved it. The Kindle, for traveling, is awesome.
Convoyed with Mom, the PodMother, and her Rpod, to Davis lake and the beach. It was so much fun communicating with walkie talkies back and forth. PodMother, come in. Yes, LilyPod? We’re going to stop up ahead, does that work for you? Yes, LilyPod, works for me. We had so much fun with it. And had so much fun camping with Mom both at Davis Lake and at the beach for a week. She in her Rpod, figuring it out, us in ours doing the same. It was great to have that shared experience with her.
Salem, OR for 21 days. Between Davis and Seal Rock we were in Salem for just about three weeks. During that time we mostly worked on getting stuff moved out of our big storage unit in Scappoose. We rented a big ol’ truck, loaded it, took it to Mom’s and unloaded, sorted as we went, sold some stuff on Craigslist, re-boxed some of it, got the rest ready to sell in the big yard sale my Mom was going to have, took what we wanted to keep to a new storage unit we found in Salem, helped set up the sale and run the sale, and then helped load up and take what didn’t sell to the Goodwill. Crazy. It took us what seemed like days and days to get all of that done. It was a lot of work, but worth it. We really pared down what we have there. It was cleansing. And we’re now spending less than half of what we were before on storage. Some day maybe we’ll get all of that here to Illinois. I’d like that since a lot of it is books and records, stuff I just can’t get rid of.
Weenie roast with most of the sibs and aunts. After the big yard sale at Mom’s place we had a weenie roast/s’more making session to celebrate a great sale (all proceeds going to the scholarship fund set up in my grandparents names by Mom and her siblings) and the fact that K and I are now legally married. We keep saying, third times a charm and maybe this time it will take. It was a long day, lots of sales, lots of moving stuff and such, but it was a great one. It was fun, and the celebration at the end capped the day off nicely. Also great to see the aunts (we missed you Barb!)
Lunch with Thomas. We got to have lunch with K’s son while we were in Oregon. He lived and worked in Japan for five years and then was in Portland the last year working at a law firm. We haven’t been able to see him much, given all the distance, but getting to spend at least a little time with him was awesome. He was just about to leave for Austin, where he’s entering law school, so it was great we got to get together with him before he took off. Austin isn’t really that far from where we are in Illinois, in the grand scheme, so we’re hoping we get to see him a bit more after he settles into law school. His words to us were that first year law students don’t have time to do much other than go to school, study, and go to school. We’ll see how it goes. We’re just excited for him, this is a cool phase he’s entering.
Visit from Ann. One of our friends from Illinois came for a visit. K worked a lot of the time we were in Oregon so I got to be Ann’s Portland tour guide, with some help from our friend Vicki. It was awesome showing her Portland and hanging out with her for a few days. Good food, fun Portland sights, great laughs. Fun times had by all.
Dinner with Maggie at her place and getting to meet her new woman, Colleen. So great getting to spend time with them. It was the one day our paths crossed with Maggie as she was in Sweden, visiting family and friends, all the rest of the time we were in the valley (that would be what locals call the Willamette Valley). She’d just flown in the day before and was jet-lagged, but we managed to have a great meal and some wonderful conversation. We so enjoyed the evening.
RV Service – Refrigerator fix. You buy a new trailer, you have a few issues with it. We were told everyone has something, ours had a refrigerator problem. It started beeping and wouldn’t stop, as if the door was open, but it wasn’t. We realized there was a lot of condensation inside. We ended up driving it back to Salem from the beach so it could be repaired. The issue… at the factory they hadn’t attached the drip line to the receptacle it was supposed to drain to which created all sorts of water inside and all kinds of condensation. The condensation messed with the latch making it think it wasn’t fully engaged when it was, hence the beeping. Easy fix and off we went.
Seal Rock RV Cove for 9 nights. We had so much fun there, so much so we reserved two spots next summer for two weeks. It was awesome. Walks on the beach, great dinners made in concert with Mom, visits from Vicki, who stayed a few days, and from Maggie & Colleen who came over to see us for a day because one visit with them hadn’t been enough, whale watching, and some great relaxation time. K worked from there (yeah, it’s cool she can work from our trailer at the beach) so there were early mornings (she worked Central Time) and early evenings to bed, but it was all pretty low key. That part of the Oregon Coast, the central coast, is so mellow and not crowded at all.
Animals spotted at some point during the trip… Whales, seals, sea lions, heron, bald eagles, pelicans, sea gulls, sea life (anemone, muscles, star fish, jelly fish, giant kelp), antelope, deer, turtle, cows, horses, llama, bison, prairie dogs.
Heceta Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse wasn’t all that far from where we were staying so we went there and did the hike up to the lighthouse. Great little walk and a fantastic view once we were up there. The Oregon Coast is spectacular.
Cooking over fire, lots of s’mores. We did a lot of cooking on this trip. Grilling, yes, but also a crock pot meal while camping, awesome by the way, and numerous other things. Here’s a little list… Crock pot chili, skewers, stir fry, hobo meals, skirt steak, steamed veggies, rice, corn on the cob, hamburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, salad, edamame salad, cheesy potatoes, spaghetti, eggs and toast, and more. We ate well. It was great, and oh so tasty. Oh, and my honey, every time we made s’mores, roasted a mallow or two after the s’more eating and called them her closers. I loved that.
Harris Beach State Park – Brookings, OR (2 nights). This place was great. Beautiful. The beach was amazing, the rock formations phenomenal, the campground totally great, and the weather was wonderful. This state park actually has an ice cream truck that comes around nightly. We didn’t partake, but how cool is that? There were also good showers there, which is important when you’re basically living in your trailer for weeks at a time. We liked it, and would recommend it highly. There were also some really cool tent sites. The night before we left we were sitting out by our fire and low and behold another Rpod comes driving by and they end up next to us. We went out to walk the dogs and when we got back we discovered the people in the Rpod had left us a note asking us to come over and have a beer with them. We didn’t, as it was late, but did do a lot of hey, hello, and waving to them on our way out in the morning. We didn’t see a lot of Rpods on the trip and having one pull in and set up right next to us was a novelty.
Richardson Grove State Park, Redwoods, CA (1night). What an amazing part of the coast. This place was gorgeous and right in the midst of the Redwoods. Dry camping, meaning no hookups, and totally cool. We had a huge big daddy redwood right in our campsite. It was an amazing place, all shadows and bits of filtered light.
Mountain of death – Cloverdale road, no trailers advised ( narrow, one Lane, steep up and down, bad road, scary!). Peed on the side of the road in Redwoods. Yes, it’s all true. We, for reasons unknown to us about the GPS and it not knowing we were pulling a trailer, went on a road we never should’ve been on. It was one lane most of the way, very hilly, very steep grades (like 18%), very windy, blind corners, steep cliffs on the sides occasionally. We started out on this road, which at that time was two lane with a large paved shoulder, and thought, this is not bad at all. A bit windy, and bit hilly, but we can handle it. Then we saw the sign, trailers not recommended. We thought, well, there’s not really anywhere to turn around now, we are already on it, and this isn’t that bad. What a mistake. We were scared out of our wits for 50 miles. Who knew. It’s called Scaggs Springs Rd, and takes you from Cloverdale, CA, which is on 101, over the mountain (literally) to Stewart’s Point on Hwy 1. The GPS said it was the fastest route. Maybe if you’re on a motorcycle and like really hilly windy roads. The only thing that saved us was that there was hardly any traffic on it. No wonder, but still, it saved us. We laughed (a bit hysterically) and helped each other through it. Seriously folks, don’t try this at home. And if you ever find yourselves there, don’t go on that road, even in a car. A woman told us, after we got to our campground (Salt Point on Hwy 1), she was the ranger there, that she doesn’t even drive that road in her Prius. ha ha ha! It was insane. But, we survived to tell the tale.
Salt Point State Park, near the Ocean Cove General Store, Hwy 1, CA (1 night). Great place as well. No real beach, but we had a nice hike down to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Really cool topography, similar to Harris Beach (though that was a tad cooler), and pretty empty. We showed up and found there were actually two campgrounds within the State Park. It was a Monday so they told us to just drive around and find the one we wanted and take it. We did. Bit flat spot, the trailer was naturally leveled on it so we didn’t have to level it and stayed hooked up to the Jeep, no hookups so we just filled up the handy bucket my brother had made for us (It’s a food grade five gallon bucket with a hose spicket on it we can fill up at a campground water station. Fill up, carry to our trailer, screw on a piece of cut off hose we have, put the cut off end into the clean water tank receptacle on the trailer, turn on the spicket, and empty the bucket full of water into the tank) so we could flush during the night. A very nice, quiet, place. Someone did end up coming to to the site next to us. K talked to them… a little family, Mom Dad and two girls, camping in their Westfalia, and traveling up the coast. They were out of work drama teachers. Very cool people.
Speaking of the bucket… we bought paraphernalia for the trailer. All sorts of doodads and gadgets and thing to make living it in, and working in it for K, more comfy. It’s now pretty well outfitted and awesome. From silicon muffin tins to sewage hookup equipment to hooks on the walls to the storage hammock to a menagerie of other “stuff”, Lily is now very well equipped and we are set to go.
Weston got stung by a bee on his foot in a parking lot at a Target in California. We were on our way from Salt Point to San Jose to see K’s parents for few days. We stopped at a Target right off the Interstate to use the restroom, make a sandwich, and let the dogs walk around for a few minutes. I went in to use the facilities, came out, and there was K sitting on a curb with Riley right next to her and Weston half in her lap. She was looking at me with a funny expression and waving me over. I was sauntering, not really thinking much about it, when her waving me over got more frantic. I got over there and she told me Weston had been stung by a bee on his foot and wouldn’t let her touch it or look at it. He was in pain, not putting and weight on it so I picked him up and carried him to the trailer where he laid down next to me. It subsided and he recovered, but it wasn’t fun at all there for a little while. Especially for him, poor fella.
San Jose, CA (3 nights in the house). We actually parked the trailer on the street in front of K’s sister’s place, covered the top of it with a tarp (it was under a tree that was dropping seed pods), and stayed inside K’s parent’s house. We did laundry, got lots of great visiting in, relaxed for a couple of days not having to drive anywhere. It was awesome. It was a lovely time and the pups, who had never been there before, were champs and didn’t cause too much of a ruckus.
RV Service – Brake check & brake controller adjustment. While we were in San Jose we took the trailer in again, to a place we’d found there, to have the brakes and brake controller checked. Since the harrowing mountain of death we’d noticed the trailer brakes seemed to be grabbing a bit. We were worried we’d done them in coming down that mountain, even though I was downshifting like a maniac on those hills, so we thought we’d best get them looked at. The guy there, Dan was his name, was such a sweetie. We wished, after we’d left there, that the place was here in Illinois, we’d definitely go there for service. He was so nice to us, answering all of our novice questions, allaying our fears, and he took me for a test drive and reset the brake controller, which was set a tad too high. That did the trick actually and we were well on our way again. He gave us his card and said we could call him and they didn’t charge us anything since the brakes were still great on the trailer and there were no issues he really had to fix. If you are ever in San Jose, California and need trailer service, go to Leale’s and ask for Dan.
RENO, NV, River’s Edge RV Park (1 night) The place is actually in Sparks, which is like a twin city to Reno. The best thing about it was that it was on a river and there was an awesome walking path all along the river way. We were able to take the pups out for a long time, which they needed after being in the car all day. We set up our camp table and cooked on our camp stoves (which we actually did all the time we were away… we only used the stove top in the trailer to make coffee a couple of mornings).
ELKO, NV, Iron Horse RV Resort (1 night) – It’s supposed to be one of those upscale parks. Pool, full hookups, laundry facilities, a club house room, etc., etc. We used none of the amenities and really I think this was our least favorite park over all. It had no trees. The spaces were wide, but open, there were picnic tables at each space, but again, all open. We used the picnic table to set up our camp stoves to cook dinner, but that was about it. Plus a couple across the way from us, in the residential area of the park, had a huge fight and was screaming a lot of the night. It sounded like bad reality TV. It was the most expensive and not what we’d hoped.
EVANSTON, WY, Phillips RV Trailer Park (1 night) – This place was a tad muddy, but the facilities were decent and the spaces were wide with a lot of mature trees. We didn’t have people on either side of us initially and it was quiet there. The shower facilities were also not bad so we took advantage of those. It was cold there, in Wyoming. Very cold. Made for nice cool sleeping in the trailer. We had to put on the heavier comforter, but that was OK with us.
Wind delay for four hours at the Flying J. Hung out in the Rpod, listened to the weather updates on the radio, ended up getting a late to go lunch at the Denny’s that we ate in the trailer, watched the big winds whip around outside and felt them rock the trailer, petted the pups. It was actually kind of fun, and a great part of the adventure.
LARAMIE, WY, Walmart Super Center (1 night) We had to do it. We knew Walmart let trailers stay there for free so we had to try it at least once. We actually liked it. The weather sucked that night, it was stormy, but we bought water and put some in our fresh water tank to use overnight, and hunkered down. It was really windy, rocking the trailer all night, and rainy, which was incredibly loud, but very cool. In the morning we went in, bought cups of coffee and danish, picked up a couple of items we needed for the trailer, and then hit the road quickly, having never unhooked.
Weston sprained his leg jumping into or out of the bed or the dinette. Poor guy. He couldn’t get comfortable and wouldn’t put much pressure on the leg. He’s sprained his leg before (he has long legs for a little dude which sometimes causes him problems) so we knew what was up. It took him a couple of days, once of which we spoiled him and let him sit in our laps all day. Whoever was the passenger held him so he could at least be a tad more comfortable. He was miserable for a time, and is still recovering from it a bit. It’s much better, as he can jump up on the bed or couch or chairs by himself, but you can tell he’s still hesitant.
As of Laramie the weather turned on us. Every day there were predictions of severe weather, 60 mph winds, heavy rain, lightening, etc. We didn’t want to mess with it and were tiring of it pretty quickly so we decided at that point to head home more faster than we’d planned by cutting a day out of our plans, which meant a lot more driving every day. That combined with Weston’s injury that morning in Laramie and our travel tiredness, we did the unthinkable and stayed in hotels the last two nights. Crazy, but true. Our tiredness and the storms won out. So in Kearney, NE (Microtel) and Coralville, IA (Best Western) we parked in the lots, locked up Lily, got to-go food from restaurants, and stayed in hotels. Two months on the road, sleeping 43 nights out of the 52 we were gone (which includes the six nights driving out to Oregon before we had the trailer and a night at Mom’s before we picked it up) isn’t bad. We enjoyed the hell out of it and though we were ready to be home we weren’t tired of Lily, not one bit.
All in all it was so great to see Kev, Mom, all the Hale kids, the K’s sister’s family, K’s parents, most of that set of sibs (no Con or Ken… and I’m making the sad face now), some of the aunts, some of the POD, and Thomas. Sad we didn’t get to see my ex work peeps, who feel more like family than ex-work peeps, the rest of the POD, and more family. Our storage adventures consumed us this time around, but now that it’s done we won’t have to do it again, thank goodness! Next year we hope to just enjoy our time, not work as hard, and see everyone we’d like to see. After all, more hugs are always good.
We’ve had a bit of a disappearing act. I was going along nicely, posting something every day as we travelled across the country and them BAM! no posts. Don’t you hate it when someone uses punctuation in the middle of a sentence. Anyway….
We arrived in Oregon a few days ago, picked up our new trailer the next day, outfitted it and learned how to use it as best we could in one day, then headed out on a dry camping adventure in Central Oregon. Woods, lake, stream, tubing said stream multiple times, and some much needed relaxation. We slowed down. We looked at the water. We stopped moving. We stopped using electronic devices. It was wonderful!
I highly recommend it. Slowing down I mean. It’s amazing.
Today’s drive actually seemed shorter than our drive yesterday. Maybe it had something to do with the scenery or maybe it was the people we met along the way.
The scenery. What can we say, we finally arrived at the place of the Ponderosa Pine, big lakes, mountains, and green. The smell is familiar and brings back thoughts and feelings of home. We’re nearly there.
The people. We were fortunate today to meet not one but two couples, at the same gas station none the less, who had Rpods. Amazing, and fun. We all talked, they answered our myriad of questions, they each gave us tours of their respective Pods, and we all exchanged information. Really nice people out on their own adventures. We can’t wait to start ours!
Tomorrow we will finally, after six days on the road, arrive in Oregon. The dogs will be happy to get to the farm. So will we!
Today, day four of our Illinois to Oregon adventure, found us staying in Montana. It’s an enormous, and enormously beautiful, state.
We crossed the continental divide, which always feels great as we are now officially flowing west.
As we passed through Butte we looked up to see the Our Lady of the Rockies statue that overlooks the town and sits on the Continental Divide. A pretty amazing feat to get it up there. You can read more about her, and see some photos, here. We took photos with the bigger camera and you’ll see one later, when I do our “we finally made it” post.
We also drove through downtown Bozeman, something I’ve never done in my many times through Montana. It’s very cool. Little funky restaurants and shops. Pretty hip looking, but all with a laid back non-hipster vibe.
Animals spotted today…. More antelope, a possible bald eagle, cows, horses, a couple of blue heron, and prairie dogs.
We are back into the lands of rivers and streams and evergreens. So much water near the highway. We passed over the Blackfoot and the Yellowstone rivers and past many smaller streams. Made me long for my fly rod.
We’re tired. We were on the road for 8 1/2 hours today. To long with two dogs who can handle being in the car for about 6 hours. But, we did it and we’re here. Yeah.
Today we passed through the Black Hills of South Dakota, Weston somehow got hold of what looked like an old boca burger and nearly choked on it (damn tall grass near strange little coffee shops!), we sang many songs, went into and out of Wyoming, outran what looked like a nasty storm, passed where Custer had his last stand, and managed to rock out the miles.
We won’t get out of Montana tomorrow. It’s big place with a big sky.
Today’s sites included the National Hobo Museum, hundreds of bikers in their cuts on the road with their MCs, more windmills, more corn, a cool sculpture park along the highway, many more hills, songs sung loudly by each other, many signs for Wall Drug, a far off coffee place that appeared much closer on the GPS, and a gorgeous river walk.
We drove another 7 hours through three states (Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota) and we’re a third of the way through our journey west.
What we didn’t see… The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, hobos near the hobo museum, anything that looks like a normal salad at a deli counter in a grocery store, or anything organically grown.
Tomorrow we head to Montana. More sites, more sounds, more of the unexpected.
Seems as though we’ve planned for this a long time. The minute we decided to buy the trailer and put the down-payment on it we started planning. That was a few months ago. And now, here we are. Time always always goes so much faster than you think it will.
Today we loaded up the Jeep just right so the pups had a really comfy area, grabbed our travel cups filled with coffee, fired up the Oregon 2014 playlist, and off we went. First stop, Peoria, Illinois for a refill, of course.
Our first day’s adventures found us entering Iowa, where it rained and rained. It was nice. I’m not kidding. Much better with a little rain than 100 degree temps and high humidity. Early summer in the Midwest is unpredictable.
After we arrived in Mason City, Iowa, our first night’s stop, we went for a nice little walk along a river to stretch our legs, and the pups legs. It’s our pattern; drive for 6 or 7 hours, get checked in to our room, find a place to walk, find food, sleep, repeat.
The sights today included deer in a field, corn fields, rolling hills, corn fields, windmills, corn fields, huge legos, and deer on the path we walked after we got here. Very cool.
Tomorrow we make our way to Chamberlain, South Dakota. There will be more music, more singing at the top of our lungs into our thumbs, more laughing, more picture-taking, more fun, and more miles checked off on this crazy journey.
We are, once again, ready to embark on another cross-country road trip. Our trip this year has several legs, the first taking us 2233 miles, through 8 states, in six days. We tend to not go more than 6 or 7 hours a day when we have the pups, which we will on this trip. The second leg will take us over 642 miles down the coast of Oregon, through the Redwoods in California, and finally to San José, California. And lastly, we will travel from San José back home, covering 2798 miles with possible visits to Austin, TX and New Castle, OK. The last leg hasn’t been fully formed, or planned, but at this point we’re thinking about it. If that’s the case, by the end of our big road trip this year, we will have traveled well over 5000 miles and covered 14 states. It’s a big one. Our summer road trips usually are.
Since we moved from Oregon in 2011 we’ve made some version of this trip every year since. We always try to vary our routes there and back, see new things, and we’ve always, every time, enjoyed the hell out of ourselves. We love each other’s company, love seeing the country, love listening to music while we do it, love the photos we take, and love the experiences we have along the way. Small towns to big cities, vast areas of gorgeous countryside, conversations with locals in coffee shops, traveling on the road is a fantastic thing. It’s a wonderful adventure.
As we get ready for the trip this year I was making lists of stuff to pack, trying to remember all the things we need to do before we go. It seems like there are always a million little things, and then ultimately there’s really only making sure we have us, the dogs and their supplies, and something to wear as we hit the road. It initially always seems complicated, but at the core it never really is.
Thinking about our trip, planning out and preparing, I wondered if some of what we’ve learned doing these road trips might be helpful, or at least amusing, to other people. So I did what bloggers have been known to do in situations like this, I created a list.
Tips to help make a road trip successful, in random order…
1. Make digital playlists or mix tapes or mix CDs or whatever it is you mix. Make them long and fill them with stuff you like, but also stuff that’s slightly unfamiliar. Make them funky. Include music from your childhood, from different times in your life, use different genres. It’s cool to be driving along and suddenly a song comes on that I used to love as a teen. Next thing you know we’re singing at the top of our lungs, pounding on the steering wheel, seat dancing, and grooving like it’s 1999. Variety is key. The music will become the soundtrack of the trip. And something cool will happen, you will hear a song from the playlist later, after you’re back home, and you’ll think of something that happened during the trip when that song was playing.
2. Bring water, lots of it. For some reason a person gets parched driving across, around, and through the country. I don’t know if it’s the air in the summer and the heat in the winter or it’s just all the talking and singing you do while you’re sitting there, but a person definitely gets thirsty. Having water handily available is something you’ll want, trust me.
3. Use a camera, a lot. It doesn’t matter which kind — high-end, point and shoot, phone. Just use one. Remember not to just take photos of the stuff you’re seeing, take photos of yourselves as well. Take strange and funny photos. Be silly. Make yourselves laugh while you’re taking them. You’ll laugh later when you look at them. Try to think about using photos to “describe” your journey. What would that journey look like. Tell that story. Use those photos as your travelogue. K and I play this game with the camera. Whoever is in the passenger seat takes photos out the window as we’re driving. The rule is we can’t stop for a photo-op (OK, yes, sometimes we actually do stop if it’s something really amazing, but in general, no). Some of the stuff we’ve taken has ended up being amazing. You have to be quick, you fly by the seat of your pants, and you don’t know, half the time, if you get what you’re trying to shoot. But later, when we look at those photos, we remember parts of the trip we wouldn’t have otherwise. We’re reminded of the smaller things along the way. Like that huge wine glass and bottle on the side of that hill made of wire or something. Strange, and cool, and luckily for us, captured.
4. Plan ahead without planning ahead too much. When we travel we pretty much know our route, though we do detour sometimes, on a day-to-day basis. We usually have somewhere we know we’re going to stay that night. We’ve done the fly by the seat of our pants thing, but when we had to drive for 16 hours once because we couldn’t find a room — let’s just say it taught us a tiny lesson about preparedness. However, being ready is one thing, spontaneity is another. You can have your route planned, but don’t be so stuck on it and your timeline that you don’t allow yourself to stop and see something wonderful. It’s possible to stop spontaneously and still make your room that night. We once decided to leave the interstate (we do this often actually as we prefer smaller two lane highways so we can really see the country) and ended up finding the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. It’s an amazing place, and we’d highly recommend it. It wasn’t on the day’s itinerary, but it was totally worth getting to our room a couple of hours later than we’d planned. Surprises are good, and make the trip, you just have to let yourself be open to them.
5. Bring snacks andtry to be healthy-ish with them. It will help to stop the fast food urge. If you’re starving by the time you stop it’s easy to look at the closest burger place and give in. If you have snacks, it will help you to make more considered choices. I only mention this because if you find yourself eating greasy fast food, or heavier food, while you’re on the road you won’t feel as good during the trip. Feeling good allows you to have a better time. We know this, from experience.
6. Stop at roadside attractions to marvel at greatness, and strangeness, and silliness. I use a site called Roadtrippers to help plan our trips. It’s great because it allows you to look for different things along the route you might find interesting, like natural national monuments or the largest fork in the world. The site has great filters and lets you really narrow down things specific to what you like. There are the times, as well, that you just happen to come across these things as you drive. Stop. Check them out. The adventure of a road trip is enhanced 10 fold by these little side trips. We saw the fork, by the way, and it was awesome.
7. Talk to locals when getting coffee or ordering food or just walking about. I’ve found they are pretty friendly and willing to talk about their town and the area that surrounds it. And locals will know the difference between which places are honestly good and which places are good only in guidebooks. Those can be two different things. Talking to locals will also give you the flavor of a place. It’s what helps you realize that really, we are all the same. It’s the part of the trip that broadens your view and expands your horizons. It has expanded ours. It helps if you get off the main road and go into a place, not just through it. We try to find a funky local coffee shop every morning during our trips. We’ve had some great brew, and more importantly, seen some places we wouldn’t have seen and talked to people we wouldn’t have talked to. You get better coffee and better interaction at an actual coffee place than you do a truck stop. Oh, and go in, don’t just use the drive thru.
8. This one is a tad crude, but crucial. Pee when you can. There are surprisingly large stretches of road with nowhere to go. Literally. So when you stop for gas or snacks or to walk the dogs at a park, if there are facilities, and you feel even the slightest inkling, use them. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve not learned this lesson. Leave in the morning after grabbing coffee from a local place, pass by some little part of civilization where accommodations can be found thinking surely there will be something up ahead only to find ourselves in total pain by the time we reach somewhere we can go. If you can avoid the bushes along the road, that’s my recommendation. If not, the bushes, or that small twig, might have to do. It doesn’t hurt to have a roll of toilet paper in the car. Just sayin’.
9. Make the dogs, if you have them, as comfortable as possible. We do this whole layered thing in the back of the Jeep so they can lay down, but still see out. Additionally we give them a couple of toys and a couple of bully sticks to chew. We also figured out a way to have a little bowl of water for them in the back. They use it. We’ve found that by doing all this we make them more calm, and the trip is easier for them, and consequently it’s easier for us. It’s tough, just by their nature, traveling with pets. Our boy dog gets car sick, but we’ve found an herbal remedy for it that makes him much more comfortable. And as I said, when they are more comfortable, we are.
10. Stop often enough. Get off the main drag. Sometimes it’s tempting to put the pedal to the metal and keep it on the road, hour after hour. After all, you want to get there, to that next place. But driving endlessly without stopping is exhausting, and it can become this monotonous thing. Have you ever been on the road, driving straight through to somewhere, and once you get there you don’t really remember anything from the trip. Small details about gas stations and drive thru windows pop into your mind, but nothing about the places you actually drove through. Stopping every two or three hours allows you to recharge, regroup, take a breath, look around, stretch. It makes the trip, as whole, seem more relaxed, easier somehow. Stopping allows you to appreciate what’s there, where you are, the places you’re traveling through. It’s so worth it. After all, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right? The saying is corny, but it’s true none the less.
I’ve been on my share of flights with funny flight attendants. I can tell you, there’s nothing like a little humor to relax nervous fliers. Plus, it’s nice that they don’t always take themselves so seriously. If I had to repeat the same spiel multiple times a week, I’d try to mix it up too.
Here’s a great example of what it means to fly the friendly skies.
I want it to be sunny AND warm. Is that too much to ask? It looks gorgeous outside today. Blue sky, slightly breezy, crisp. Looking out there, it seems as though I could grab my cup of coffee, the book I’m reading, and head out to the chairs we have on our back deck. The chairs that just yesterday were covered in snow. But, no. Uh uh. Ain’t going to happen. Why? It’s damn cold.
It’s not really that bad, being 37 out there right now that is. Not bad considering the winter we’ve had. Not bad considering how much snow and cold and wind we’ve had this year. But, c’mon. 37. It’s spring. I’m ready for spring weather.
Not long ago, November of last year, we had our first snow of the season. We were so excited. Yay, we said. It’s going to snow we exclaimed excitedly. Yay. When we only got a dusting we were upset. We felt robbed. We wanted more. We should’ve kept our gosh darn mouths shut. Be careful what you ask for is right.
Those months ago, when we were entering the cold season and we wanted to experience a real Illinois winter, we didn’t know what we were asking for. The previous two winters we’d lived here were mild, mellow in fact. We were told repeatedly that the warmer weather we were experiencing then wasn’t normal at all. We had no idea.
Now, after a frigid winter and loads of laundry from all the layers we have to constantly wear, we’re ready to pare down. We’re ready to break out only t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops and not have to spend 10 minutes just getting ready, layer by layer, to go out. We’re ready to actually look forward to walking the dogs. We’re ready to be able to sit outside on our deck and watch the birds in the feeders and talk to our neighbors over the fence and grill with ease. We’re more than ready.
Of course, in three months I’ll be complaining about how hot it is, how humid it is, and I will long for the cool breezes of early spring.
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.
I’m married. At least K and I feel we’re married. We’ve already had two marriage “ceremonies”. One on a beach in Maui, just the two of us, words spoken, rings exchanged, sand ceremony, poetry read, and lots of love. We consider that one our real marriage ceremony. It might not, technically, have been legal, but it was sincere, honest, and full of love. It had everything, everything we needed and wanted anyway. It was beautiful, and perfect. The second, not actually a ceremony, was when I walked into the courthouse, paid the filing fee, and left with a domestic partnership certificate for the two of us. We had to certify that we’d lived together for a certain length of time, by then we’d been together for a few years.
Now, nearly 11 years later, we’re living in Illinois, not Oregon, and in June, when the Illinois marriage law takes effect, we can, once again, get married. We find this funny by the way. Not funny that we’ve had to wait for marriage or hope for marriage or long for equality, but funny that this will be our third time. We joke that maybe this time it will stick. One can only hope.
All of this has me thinking. What makes a marriage?
In June we will take our domestic partnership certificate in to the courthouse here in Illinois and exchange it for a marriage license. They will back date our marriage license to the date we got our domestic partnership, which is great. It means we will be considered legally married from that date, which was like, oh, six or seven years ago. I can’t remember. It wasn’t THE marriage so we honestly don’t even know the date we did it. I’m sure it says on the certificate. And, suddenly, miraculously, we will be, after all these years, legally married.
The thing is, we are already married. When we made those vows to each other on that beach in Maui, we meant them. We didn’t need someone else to sanction it, or tell us it was OK. We just needed to hear from each other that we loved and were loved in return.
So what’s the big deal about legal. Well, it is a big deal. Not so much to us, or to our friends and family who I think all consider us already married as well. It’s a big deal because we will be protected under the law. The taxes we pay will, finally, be used to our benefit, and we won’t be paying for other people to enjoy freedoms and benefits that to this point we weren’t allowed. We will be the same.
The same. That’s the thing, really. We are the same as everyone else. I know I’ve said this before. We laugh, we love, we have friends and go to family functions with both sides of our families. We work and do the dishes and go out to dinner and clean our bathrooms and mow our lawn. We vacation, collecting heart rocks on every trip, take our dogs to the groomer, and go to the movies. We babysit our grandchildren and buy organic food and go on bike rides. We live. We live and yet we’ve always felt just a little bit separate. We’ve been made to feel separate. We’ve been told we are less than. We aren’t. But this is why gay groups have sprung up and gay people have banded together and held each others hands and been out and proud to be out. We’ve had to. We’ve had to in order to feel what community feels like, since the larger community has shunned and pushed us away for so long.
And now… now we will be the same. Still ridiculed and feared in same places, by some people, but the same legally. We will, finally, be included, be part of the larger crowd. We will be, honestly, the same. Which is all we’ve ever wanted. To continue to live normal lives and instead of being gay Tam, I’ll be Tam. I’ll be Tam and K will be K and we will be married. Married just like my Mom was married and my grandparents were married and K’s parents are married.
We will be married. A piece of paper does not make a marriage, but it sure makes a marriage a legal, tangible, and a real thing in the eyes of the law. It makes it real in the eyes of the community at large, even those who would still try to deny us. What has, and will always be, real and true to us, will be real and true to our larger community.