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A Trip to Oregon… and Back Again

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.

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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.

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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.

One thing is always certain… we will be back!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

snowI 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.

Thankful Everyday – The Sixteenth

16.  I’m thankful for our furnace and air conditioning.  It’s cold in Illinois in the winter.  Cold.  It’s also hot in the summer.  Humid and hot.  We live in a place of extremes and I’m so very grateful for the warmth and coziness of the heat on those cold winter mornings (like today) and for the cool refreshing air conditioning on those hottest of hot summer days.  They both make our lives so much nicer, so much easier.  And it’s not lost on me that other people in other places don’t have either, which makes me appreciate both all the more.  I’m so thankful for the heat every time the temps get down to 17 and the windchill brings that down even further.  So grateful for the coolness of the air every time humidity is 88 percent and it’s already 100 outside.  For these things I’m thankful, everyday.

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Love

I’m actually sitting here at a loss for words.  Shocking.  Yesterday I was jumping up and down, crying, pumping my fists in the air, and trying to mouth the words, “it passed!” to K who was on the phone in a meeting for work.  It was a comedy of sorts.  She involved in her meeting, me jumping and crying and trying to shout without saying a word.  She mouthed the words, “what’s up?” and I just kept whispering that it passed.  We had a mini failure to communicate until she just asked the person on the phone to wait a second, held her hand over the headset mic, and said, “what’s going on?”.  I could then finally answer aloud.  “It passed!  It passed!”  She got excited, had to tell the person she was on the phone with what I’d just said.  Finally, we could semi celebrate together.  When she got off the phone we hugged each other.  I was still crying.

I spent over two hours yesterday with headphones on, computer tabbed to the state house feed, listening and watching the debate about the Illinois marriage bill.  It was infuriating, enlightening, glorious, encouraging, a tad scary at times, and ultimately wonderful.  Whether people said things I agreed with, or not, it was fascinating to watch and listen to the process.  When the vote finally came it happened so fast it was almost anticlimactic.  They vote electronically so it took less than 10 seconds.  Bam.  Done.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this.  After all, there are many people, who for religious reasons, feel my right to marry who I love is wrong.  And, oh well.  I don’t expect people to agree.  It’s a divisive issue.  Always has been.  I see it as the civil rights issue of our time, and others see it as a religious issue.  I could argue that, as I have in the past on this blog, but today I won’t.  Today I guess maybe I want to write about love.

I am in love.  Since April of 2003, and if I really admit it to myself it was probably a couple of months earlier, I’ve been in love.  In the beginning I was scared as hell.  Me being in love with a woman was not something my family would expect and at that point didn’t know anything about.  So I was scared.  In love, but scared.  Would they accept her, would they cast me out, would they turn their backs or talk behind mine?  One of the reasons I kept being gay a secret for so long was because I didn’t want to go from being Tam to being gay Tam.  Because whether people mean to or not, that’s exactly what happens.  You suddenly become something different from what you were to other people.  Not always in a bad way, but different none the less.  I didn’t want that first perceived difference, until I met her, and then I didn’t want to keep it a secret or hide her from everyone in my life.  I wanted her to be a part of my family.  I wanted to live a whole and authentic life and to do that I had to tell my truth.  So I did.  And yes, I became gay Tam.  But then — then I was just Tam again.

A lot happened right after the coming out thing, as you can imagine, but what mostly happened was a whole bunch of acceptance and love.  Love.  I have friends who are pretty religious people, but they still loved me.  One of them, a super spiritual Christian guy, came to see me in person and ended up telling me he loved me, no matter what, and that it wasn’t his job to judge or condemn me.  You know, the judge not lest ye be judged thing.  I love him for that.   I respect him for that.  And I respect his beliefs.  We differ, but that’s OK.  My grandmother, who my mom elected to tell (with my permission of course) said, and I quote, it was about time I came out.  ha ha ha!  That still makes me smile and laugh.  She’d suspected, she kind of already knew, she was OK with it, and had been impatient for me to just say it already.

Love.

I think I was surprised at how well people just sort of accepted K into our family, into our lives.  Friends I’d had forever accepted her as well.  People treated us as if we were just like every other couple.  Because, you know, we were.  We are.  We’re the same — mortgage, dogs, making dinner, working, pulling weeds in the garden, going for walks, taking vacations, watching dumb television shows, having the occasional argument, babysitting the grand boys, grocery shopping.  Same.  We love.  We are loved.

I’m lucky.  I know this.  When I say it’s not every day people find the kind of relationship we have, I mean anyone.  Gay, straight, somewhere in the middle.  People strive for this, this thing we have.  This absolute certainty that we are.  We are more than just meant for each other or made for each other or any of that.  We are.  Simple.  When I met her it was as if everything snapped into place, an audible click.  Home.  I still feel that way.  Lucky.

Yes, alright — we argue and somehow she puts up with me when I get too emotional.  I put up with her need to do a million things at once which sometimes leads to her not listening as well as I’d like.  We do struggle at times.  Of course we do.  We aren’t perfect.  What’s great is that no matter how much we struggle or how angry we get or how hard things sometimes feel there’s never a feeling of wanting to end it, or go, or take a break, or any of that.  The tough stuff always makes us stronger as a couple if we let it.  We let it.  We can’t imagine our lives without each other in them.

We’re lucky.

Love.

We’ve already been married twice.  To each other.  This makes me smile.  The first time we got married we were alone on a beach in Hawaii.  We’d purchased rings and found our spot and did it ourselves.  Words spoken, rings exchanged, happy tears shed, poetry, and a sand ceremony she’d surprised me with.  We still have that bottle of sand.  We’ve considered ourselves married since then.   I think, really, we’ve considered ourselves married since that first date.  I know I was.  It’s why we count our anniversaries from then.  But the ceremony in Hawaii was a real marriage for us.  Maybe not sanctified or certified or papered in any way, but real none the less.  The second time we got married Oregon had just passed a domestic partnership law.  I worked for a county in Oregon at the time so during a break I walked down to the proper desk, paid the fee, we filled out the paperwork, and a week later there it was, our certificate of domestic partnership.  Not really a marriage, but a legal thing, even if it seemed slightly empty in a way.  We laughed, but at least that, combined with the $1600 in paperwork we’d done with an attorney, sort of protected us as a couple.  Sort of.  I say this because later, when at different times we were each hospitalized, we had to give the hospital with our powers of attorney, etc. so that we could make decisions for each other.  It added a stress regular couples don’t have to deal with.  Nothing like worrying if you’ll be kicked out of your wife’s room because she isn’t legally your wife.  Luckily those strangers were kind and gentle and accepting.  So much so one of the nurses mentioned to us how fantastic our relationship was and that she rarely saw a couple so devoted.  It was a compliment.  It was a commentary.  It spoke directly to the we that is us.

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Love.

We’ve never had an actual ceremony in front of people.  A ceremony the kids and my mom and my brothers and sisters and K’s brother and sister and parents and our friends, etc., etc., could attend.  As a young woman I never thought I’d be able to have a wedding.  It was so far out of the consciousness I literally never even imagined it.  Later, K and I vowed not to do it until/unless it became federally legal.  Our paperwork and our own private marriage were what we’ve had.  And on one hand they’ve been enough.  The hand that says we don’t need anyone telling us our relationship is valid and important and real.  We know it is.  We live it and feel it every day.  On the other hand not being able to legally wed has denied us many rights other couples who can get married enjoy and take for granted every day.  Some of those rights legal, like getting the same rights for the taxes we pay, and some human, like being recognized in the same way as all other couples who love each other and last are when they are married.

And again, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything here.  I’m just speaking to my own personal experience.  Yesterday, when marriage happened for us in Illinois, I cried.  I cried because it’s another step toward being culturally real.  Toward begin a part of something bigger than just us.  It’s being looked at, from the outside, as legit and meaningful in the same ways as other couples who are devoted to each other, who have taken that step.  It means my mom can be at my wedding, the kids can be there, our family and friends can be there.  It means we can celebrate and rejoice and affirm the love we have and have had for each other for over 10 years and our families and friends can hug us and share in that moment.  I means all the same protections and privileges will then apply to us.  It means inclusion, not exclusion.  And it means so much more than I can even put into words.  Which, as I said in the beginning of this, sometimes fail me.

Love.

There is nothing more important in this life than the people we love and who love us.  Period, the end.  Love is beautiful and special and precious and real.  Man, woman, gay or straight.  Ours is.  Our love for each other and our love for the people in our lives.  This latest happening in Illinois is a victory for love.  It’s very existence has advanced us, as a species.  It’s propelled us a bit closer toward a place and time when all people will be loved and accepted and celebrated for who they are.  A time and a place that’s hopefully not too far off in the future.  Love always wins.  Eventually.  Love of our spouses, our children, our families, our friends, our fellow man and woman.  I believe this.

I believe in love.

Fall-ing

Just received a text message from the weather channel… Freeze Warning. I guess fall is coming in like a lion. Does that even apply? I have no idea.

The leaves are coming down now. We had our first city leaf pick up this week. There will be four spread over three months. First round… 18 bags. The sad thing is the bags were filled and put out and then we looked up at the trees and… what? Doesn’t even look like a single leaf had fallen off of them. Sigh.

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I sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I love fall. It’s my favorite time of the year. Sure, summer is nice and all… in Oregon much more than Illinois, I’m adjusting to the humidity (not really). Fall is just… sweet. The air starts to cool, the leaves start to turn, I change from shorts and t-shirts back into jeans and sweatshirts and closed toed shoes. Coffee tastes better when it’s raining or snowing outside. The smells are better in the fall as well… fireplaces and crisper air. I start eating soup again. The outdoor furniture gets put up and the hose covers go on and the yard gets buttoned up. It’s sort of a cleansing feeling.

You could say I’m falling for fall, like I do each year.

Right now it’s raining out. Cold. We just came back from getting new sole inserts for our Keens. The Keens are like eight years old or something. Maybe only seven. Whichever it is, we’ve had them a long time. But they’re good shoes, they just needed a little updating. It’s a good thing we did because, freeze warning. With all this rain and falling temps, maybe there’ll be snow. The forecast said there was a chance. Here we are, October, and it could snow. Oh Illinois.

I feel like I should have a hot toddy or a hot apple cider or something. Maybe I’ll just settle for another cup of coffee. It’s fall, and it’s cold, I can justify that extra cup. Just another reason to love this time of year.

This Is How a Day Goes

Alarm.  Uhg.  We don’t like the alarm, but really, who does.  It actually doesn’t even matter when it’s set for.  It could be 5:30 AM or 10:00 in the morning.  It’s the idea of having to get up.  Being told to so to speak.  If we don’t set the alarm, but wake up at 6:30 that’s fine.  We’re good.  Just don’t tell us what to do.

Wander in to get the water going, the coffee ground, and the french press ready.  This step is vital.  Coffee before almost anything else.  This includes opening the doggie door, poor dogs.  Unless of course we already opened the doggie door some time in the early morning and just left it open.  Our pups are pretty good about sleeping as long as we do, but occasionally they feel the need to get up and go out during the night.  This disturbs and upsets us, but it’s part of the life of being people owned by dogs.  They rule.  Let’s not kid ourselves.

After coffee comes the waking of the computers, the checking of emails, the brief glance at Facebook, etc.  Gearing up for the day by checking into the world outside of our humble abode.  Sometimes things need to be attended to immediately, work to do, bills to pay, important emails to send.  Sometimes there are no things emergent and the coffee, and we, go to the back deck, weather permitting, to enjoy a few sips while looking at and enjoying our garden, as the Brits say.  I like that term, instead of yard.  So much nicer really.  I’m adopting it.

Garden viewing and email sending aside, at some point these girls have to eat.  We are slow to wake, me more than K, so breakfast usually happens first for her, later for me.  She’s an oatmeal girl, I prefer cold cereal.  We’re trying to be healthy, trying to eat well, so the oatmeal works great for her and I’m currently munching on something akin to cardboard in an attempt to find a healthy cereal I actually enjoy.  There have been recent hits, but currently we’re on a miss.  I can’t throw anything out so I’m trying to convince myself it’s not that bad.  Plus I’m only eating 3/4 a cup a day so it’s only a few bites.  At this rate I can move on to a new box in about two weeks.  Yay.

At some point in the day we may actually shower, if it’s a shower day, or not.  We don’t hold to the shower every day principal.  We don’t see the need.  I used to be like that, but now it’s a miracle if I get a shower three or four times a week.  Yes, if I can tell I stink, I shower, but unless we go for a bike ride or a long walk in the humidity, or we’ve made a trip to the gym, showering is unnecessary unless it’s necessary.  This makes perfect sense to me.  Maybe we don’t shower or bathe every day because this is a place in our lives that was better before Illinois.  A few years ago we put a bathroom addition on our Scappoose house.  This addition wasn’t just any addition.  It was 300 square feet of bathroom deliciousness.  A shower fit for a locker room.  Huge, two heads, no door, walk in.  And a pedestal soaking tub set in a bay window looking out at the forest.  We had no window coverings.  We didn’t need them.  It’s really the only thing, other than the setting and the enormous shop, we miss about our former house.  Our washrooms in our Illinois house could both fit inside that longed for Scappoose bathroom, with room to spare.  Taking a shower or a bath here feels a little low rent compared to the bathroom we built there, the washroom we waited for a saved for seven years to build.  We did get to enjoy it for a while though, and enjoy it we did.  Perhaps we don’t shower or bathe here as often because it makes us a tad sad, a little reminder of things left behind.

Walk the dogs.  At some point during the day the dogs get a walk.  Usually.  This is a change from our former life in Oregon.  Where we lived in Oregon was not conducive to going out, directly from our house, for a walk with the pups.  Too dangerous.  Hilly, windy road, no sidewalks, fast-moving cars, etc.  Not safe for the dogs and not safe for their people either.  We had to drive them to walk them.  The consequence of this was that they didn’t get walked all the time.  Sometimes we went for days or weeks without walking them.  Here in Illinois we walk.  A lot.  We would say that their life, because of the move here, has improved tremendously.  They have a better backyard, as they have a larger fenced in area to roam at will, chase squirrels, chase an often thrown ball, lay on the chaise under the umbrellas, and generally bark at any dog that happens to wander by.  They also get walks here, nearly every day.  They get so many walks that if they don’t get one the boy gets antsy.  He sometimes stares at us and barks.  We then obey, we go for a walk.  Again, they rule.

Grandsons on the loose.  Well, to be accurate, I should say currently there’s only one grandson old enough to be on the loose.  The other is still only seven weeks old so he can’t just run around on his own.  That time is coming, and then boy, or should I say boys, are we going to have fun.  We see the grandsons almost every day.  Yes, there are occasional days when we don’t see them, but we see them often.  Yesterday they came over for their Moo Moo’s birthday.  Sebastian wanted to know if they were going to bake Moo Moo a cake for her birthday.  This hadn’t been planned, but since he asked for it he and Mommy went to the store, bought a cake mix, came back here and made it, and then we all enjoyed a piece or two after.  No frosting.  Still good.  I also spent some time reading to him and telling him stories about where he was driving his truck and trailer, with deer of course.  Deer of course meaning there was a little plastic deer on the trailer he was driving around.  He likes to drive it around and have me tell him where he’s going… i.e. the desert where it’s hot and sandy brown and you have to wear shorts and flip-flops, or the arctic where it’s cold and white and snowy and you have to wear your parka.  He says, as he drives to a new area of the rug, “what does Gamma Tam say?”, and I tell him the story.  The grandson rules too.

Realizing we are far down on the totem pole to the dogs and the grandsons we sometimes need time for ourselves.  Yes, the dogs are usually with us, but sometimes we go out.  We run errands, to pick up stuff for the dogs or grandsons or the house, have lunch at our favorite place to get good salads and eggplant fries (try them before you mock, they are damn good), go for a bike ride to the market or a coffee shop, spend some time with friends when we can, or just wander around at a local festival when they happen.

We make dinner instead of eating out most every night.  Sometimes there’s an exception, like last night, K’s birthday, we got wings to go, after having gone to the pet store for stuff for the dogs.  See what I mean.  When we make dinner it’s usually something healthy.  The other night we had stir fry made with chicken from our local farmer/meat guy who we buy all our meat from, sugar snap peas from our mini garden, green onions from our mini garden, mini carrot from our mini garden, and broccoli from a local organic farm that we purchased at the farmer’s market.  It was good.  Really good.  Nothing like noshing on your own veggies.  It’s our first year trying a raised bed garden and so far we are enjoying it.  We’re going to have more tomatoes (two plants mind you) and potatoes than we can use, we think anyway, but it’s all good.  That’s what sharing with your friends and neighbors is all about.

Speaking of neighbors.  We really like our neighbors next door to the east of us.  They are a little family, sort of non traditional in that they have been together for 17 years or something and never got married.  They have two girls.  One is about 11 and she likes to come over and swing on our swing.  We have one of those cool wooden play sets that’s like a fort with a slide and a swing, etc.  It was here when we moved in.  Sebastian calls it Moo Moo’s house.  No worries, I don’t make her sleep out there.  We call it his fort and he loves it.  So, as it turns out, does the neighbor girl and her bestie.  They hop the fence all the time, with permission of course, and spend time both in and around the fort.  The dogs love this as the girls also like to the throw the ball for them and Weston, who is a bit of a ho for attention, also gets loads of pets.  They are sweet, which is why we pretty much let them come over whenever they want to.  We get along great with them.  We can’t say this for all of our neighbors as we also have the evil former librarian behind us who called the police on us a couple of times after we first moved in and wrote a couple of letters, sent in the mail, explaining how she doesn’t like our barky dogs.  One… the police and animal control both said our dogs are totally fine, and two, they don’t bark that much really.  And the barking they do it totally in acceptable limits in their own yard.  Other people have dogs in this neighborhood who bark more.  Is it us?  We don’t know.  We’ve been here for two years now and she seems to either have accepted her fate of living next door to us, our dogs, and our what I’m sure she thinks as noisy grandson.  I wonder if she’ll ever call the police on him, you know, for laughing too much and too loudly in the backyard.  I picture her standing on the other side of the fence, finger to mouth, as she loudly whispers… SHHHHH!

Living in a neighborhood, as opposed to on very private property, is a daily difference for us, but one we’ve found we like.  There are, of course, ups and downs to it.  The downs… no privacy and not as much room to stretch out on the property.  We have a corner lot and neighbors all around.  They know when we come and go, who visits, when we take the dogs out, they say hi to us on the street, or avoid us all together, they know our business.  Not long ago we had friends over for a little chiminea fire and s’mores in the backyard.  We were enjoying good conversation and some wine around the fire when we heard a terrible howling sort of sound.  Which doesn’t describe it at all.  It sounded like an animal in pain.  It was an animal in pain.  We went into the house, grabbed flashlights, and set off in search of the sound.  If we could find the animal or help in any way we were going to do it.  We weren’t the only ones.  Some of our neighbors also came out with flashlights and as a group we wandered the streets searching.  A corner was turned and there was another neighborhood person who said he saw the whole thing.  There were foxes fighting with each other in someone’s garden.  They must’ve come over from the arboretum, which isn’t far, or nearby farmland, also not far.  They had a disagreement and those were the sounds we heard.  After discovering what made the racket we all turned on our heels and walked back toward our respective homes, chatting about this and that as we went.  A neighborhood… this is what it’s like.  That and all the baked goods delivered to us right after we moved in.  Astonishing.

Living sustainably.  We’ve always considered ourselves a pretty green pair.  We recycle, love the land, love to spend time in nature, try to buy local, eat organic as much as possible, etc., etc.  We’ve always espoused this, but honestly we didn’t always live that way before we moved to Illinois.  This is a case of getting a bit of  a reset.  Before we moved I started researching.  We knew the reputation of the midwest.  It’s consumer central.  Or so we thought.  Before getting here I found a co-op not far from our new house.  We joined when we arrived and since then it’s doubled in size.  It’s an awesome place filled with local produce, organics, meats, etc.  We also found our new town had a weekly farmer’s market.  At that farmer’s market we found there were local farmer’s who sold meat they grew, direct farm to table kind of stuff.  We joined a farmer’s meat club and since then have purchased our meat directly from a local farmer.  It’s amazing tasting, high quality, and doesn’t have any crap in it.  We also favor a few vendors at the farmer’s market who now know us and so we have witty repartee with them when we see them.  Same goes for the co-op, where we buy all the produce we don’t buy at the farmer’s market and where we also get breads from a local bakery.  We try to avoid shopping at big box stores and instead opt, when we can, for smaller locally owned shops.  Same goes for restaurants we choose to eat in most of the time.  Yes, these things don’t always hold true, but we do a much better job here than we did in Oregon.  Maybe because we had to look for things and spent the time doing it.  We took things for granted there, and here we don’t.

A little snapshot of our lives.  What a day looks like.  Similar, I’m sure, to the days of people all over the world.  We get up, we love each other, we love our dogs, our grandsons, the kids, our families, our friends.  We try to have fun and joy in most everything we do.  We make little adventures for ourselves, exploring our newish town and surrounding areas.  We did this in Portland too, taking what we called neighborhood walks in neighborhoods we hadn’t explored, taking photos, grabbing a bite to eat somewhere new, seeing what we could find.  We’ve had this attitude, K and I, since we met, and I think separately, even before we met.  Every day, even the most mundane of things, can be made fun or interesting.  We seek it out.  People have said to us that we lead a fun and interesting life, that we are always doing stuff.  When I think about people we know I think they are always doing stuff too.  Going out for coffee or a walk or a hike, cooking a new recipe, playing with their pets or grandchildren or children, looking at sunsets with wonder, and feeling the rain or the wind or the sun on their faces.  Life is rich and layered.  Life is always there, waiting.  It’s waiting for us to notice, to experience, to grab.  It’s waiting for us to pay attention to the details.  It’s the details that matter.  The look from one of our pups, the way our grandson smiled, the smell of some flowers in our backyard, a dance break in our living room, the fun of getting on our bikes and going for a ride, the beauty all around us.  Life is waiting for us to not take ourselves so seriously and to realize what’s always right there.  Life is so very sweet.

This day, today, we did most of this stuff.  Got up, made coffee, pet the dogs, ate breakfast, worked, showered, and looked at our beautiful garden.  Later we’ll go to the store and pick up some stuff for the barbecue we’ll have at the kid’s house tomorrow for the fourth.  We’re also going to try to watch some fireworks tomorrow night with the kid’s and our son in law’s parents who are here visiting from England.  We’ll eat and play and laugh and chat.  We’ll love on the grandsons and I’ll take loads of photos I’m sure.  We don’t always take big trips, though we sometimes do, and we don’t always go to big events, and in fact we mostly don’t.  Usually, like today, we just live our lives.  Most days, like today, I look out this window and try to type some stuff, and K works and has meetings and the dogs bark and interrupt her.  Most days we chat and smile and make food and watch TV.  This is our life.  This is our amazing life.  This is our daily life, and it is beautiful.

Notes From The Road

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

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

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

2795.6 miles travelled.

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

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

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

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

Favorite public transport: the Red Rocket in Toronto.

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

Favorite beach: Kennebunkport (heart rock beach).

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

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

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

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

Favorite little town: Bath, Maine.

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

Most comfy bed: Marriott in Portland Maine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life changing moment during trip: sale of Scappoose house.

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

Finding great heart rock.

“Pompous grass”

The accent of toll booth guy in N.H.

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

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

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

Coffee shops visited: 14.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ride the Red Rocket”

Laughs out loud: too many to count.

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

Reminiscing about 10 years together… Priceless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frozen Lake Erie was amazing.

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

 

Driving Back From O’Hare

I took Martin to the airport on Monday. It’s a long drive, nearly three hours one way. The drive was uneventful and the weather was gorgeous. On the way home I decided to semi-document the drive. I recently found a case with a bunch of old mix CDs I’d made. We’ve been working our way around that case since the find. I had one in on Monday. So here it is… Illinois countryside, in bits, accompanied by the track that happened to be playing at the time. There are a few of these, peruse them at your leisure, or not. I find this amusing… but then I would. It combines music, driving, and a bit of the tech stuff I love. The first video is a tad long. Feel free to skip part of it should you need to move on. This is just one of the quirky things I find myself doing. Enjoy…

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The Bean

Monday I spent the day wandering around downtown Chicago. It’s so gorgeous at night. Wow.

 

Lame Grandmas

Dear Sebastian…

It’s been quite a while since your grandmas wrote anything to you.  So much has happened and we’ve done so much together… including a trip to California to celebrate your Great Grandpa’s 80th birthday and then Thanksgiving back here in Illinois.  We promise to be better and catch you up on all that’s happened.

We love you…

The Grandmas

What a Weekend… I’m Exhausted!

We had such a fantastic weekend.  So great that I’m tired today.  OK, maybe to be more accurate I should say that I’m partially tired from having to get up in the middle of the night to the let the dogs out.  For some reason, and this is a rare event, they both had to go out.  There’s the little girlie getting up for water and then not jumping back in the bed.  Bad sign.  I got up to find her and she was waiting in the hallway for me.  She ran over to the doggie door and then I heard Weston coming along as well.  I opened the door, they go out, and there I am peeking through the curtains over the sliders trying to see them out in the backyard at four in the morning.  Too funny.  So I could be tired from that.  But, the weekend was so busy, so much fun, and tiring in a totally good way as well.

It started Friday night with a Gal Up (a group we’ve found and joined) event at a local bar, the Esquire Lounge in downtown Champaign.  Drink, food, talk, pool playing, and good times had by all.  A great night with cool women.  Saturday we got up early to go watch Sebastian’s first swimming lesson here in the U.S.  He’s somewhat of a swimming lesson expert as he’s been in them since he was like three months old or something in the U.K.  But it’s been a little while since he’s been in the pool, so he was a tad cautious.  He had a big hold on Mary most of the time.  He didn’t cry, but he was unsure.  By the end though he was a champ, showing that now famous smile all over the place.  He’s going to be great and it was such a blast watching him, and watching Mary be such a fantastic Mom with him when he was unsure and scared and such.  Makes a person tear up watching the kid be so good with her kid.  Impressive.  After the swim lesson we took a jaunt over to Einstein Bagels with the kids to have a little bagel breakfast and then went over to their house for a bit to visit with Ashley, one of Mary’s friends and bridesmaids, who was visiting for the weekend from Indianapolis, where she’s living now.  It was really nice to see her.  Ashley recently got married, the wedding the kids went to over the weekend we did our overnight babysitting for the first time.   After we left the kid’s place we came home, picked up the pups, and headed out to Mahomet and a lovely new to us walking trail out there.  A great spot to walk them.  There are numerous trails to hit so it will be fun to go back out there and see what’s what with those.  On Saturday we only walked for about a mile, one way, because it was really sunny, with no shade, and Weston doesn’t much like the heat.  He was panting and kept trying to lay down in close to the tall grass.  We couldn’t keep going so we turned around, but they got a nice walk in anyway.  Afterward we came home and just enjoyed being here.  Watched some of the World Series, ate dinner followed by caramel corn, relaxed.  Nice.

Yesterday we had a nice mellow morning at home.  Brewed and drank some coffee, we each looked at our fantasy football teams and adjusted (we played each other this week), drank more coffee, pet on the pups a lot, and lounged in our living room.  Later we’d finally had enough of that lounging stuff and took the pups for a long walk.  We discovered a great area on campus only about a 15 minute walk from our house.  Fantastic.  It’s near the Arboretum, which includes the Idea Garden, and Japan House.  So great.  There’s an actual hill over there.  You can see out a ways.  We plan on going back to the garden with a camera to get some ideas.  It is the idea garden after all.  We also plan on taking the pups back over there again.  It’s so close to our house.  It’s so cool that we keep finding all these great places to take the dogs for walks.  We’re loving that.  After the walk we met up with Ann, one of our new friends here in Illinois, and drove out to Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch where we met other peeps and then all did the corn maze.  We ended up splitting into two groups and raced each other.  Texting the other group with things like… Number 5!  There were eight punch stations to get in the maze and we were racing to see which group could get them all first.  We were ahead most of the time, until the end, when they managed to squeak by us for the win.  Damn Dracula! Where were you?!?!  We also looked at the reindeer, the pumpkins, and watched the pumpkin cannon shoot a pumpkin out into a field.  The cannon was pretty impressive.  A fun time with great ladies.  After the Reindeer Ranch we headed home again, hung with the pups for a little bit, and then went over to the kid’s place for dinner.  We played with the grandson, ate some food, and watched the beginning of World Series game four with the kids before heading home where we loved on the pups and finished watching the game.

Whew.

A lot of stuff…. a busy weekend.  Fun.  Illinois is growing on us.  We love the adventure of discovering things in a new place.  We are loving… and let me say… L-O-V-I-N-G… the fall weather here.  Beautiful blue skies, gorgeous fall colors, and warmish (enough to be in t-shirts yesterday).  We are loving being close to the kids and getting to see Sebastian all the time, go to his little classes, hang out and play.  And we are finding some friends, getting to know some people, starting to make a life here.  We still miss everyone in Oregon tremendously, but we are starting to really settle in, and excited about all the new things we’ve yet to discover and do.  Everything is an adventure when you live in a new place.  It’s kinda cool….

A Few photos from the ol’ iPhone

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Photo Hunt – High

High up in the rocks at Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois.