Category Archives: Travels

Austin Texas 2014 Part Two

I must admit, when Janet and I went to Austin this time I fully realized everything I missed. I miss the fact it can be 80 degrees in February. I also miss the music, food, our friends and our neighborhood.  I really like what’s happening on the eastside at the moment. Not everyone will agree with me but I like the changes.

It all started with Franklin Barbeque. They moved into the hood and it drew in the barbeque lovin’ crowd. Now, the Quickie Pickie has transformed from a dark scary place into a beer lover’s mecca. A new restaurant has moved in across the street from Quickie and it was packed with people sitting outside eating and enjoying the weather.

The only reason Janet and I left the eastside this trip was because we had to go to Chuy’s, one of our favorite TexMex establishments.  Janet developed a taste for Margarita rocks, I enjoyed a burrito as big as my face and we missed Austin terribly even as we sat surrounded by its glory.

We never made it out to El Sol y La Luna, our favorite spot for migas tacos, but I indulged my need for migas at Kerbey Lane Café. I had never been there before but I will definitely go back (even though they made their migas with tortilla chips). We also stopped by Hula Hut for Margaritas (!) and tres leches cake. It tasted better than it sounds.

I’m sure we did more than eat when we visited, I just can’t think of anything. We did go for a jog along the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake but that was mainly because we needed to burn a few of those margarita and cake calories. I’m glad I’m not tracking my eating habits at the moment.

I miss parts of living in Texas but I love most of living in Seattle. Solution? We talked about keeping the house on the eastside and being snowbirds…living in Austin during the winter and the rest of the time in Seattle/Portland. Yes, we had that much fun.


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Austin Texas Part One

Janet and I noticed, last year, that Jesse had a weird five day weekend in celebration of President’s Day and decided to take advantage by heading over to Austin. What a brilliant idea. I can’t remember enjoying myself that much on another trip in recent memory. It was all about the food. Oh…and we saw friends too, but it was mostly about the food.

It’s quite startling to get on a plane in Seattle and step out into Austin weather. It’s brutal in August but really lovely in February. We landed during the perfect Austin weather weekend: clear skies and highs in the low 80s. I can’t remember when I felt 80 in Seattle. August, maybe?

We dropped Jesse off with her BFF and immediately went to dinner. What can I say about our favorite barbeque place, Rudy’s? DELICIOUS! I swear I want to open up a Rudy’s in the Seattle area but I would not be as small as I am now. Janet ordered her usual moist brisket and I ordered the dry (I have issues with fatty meat). There was a long line and I love the fact they have bottles of beer and sodas lining the Disneyland like barriers.

We sat down like little kids and dug into our brisket, coleslaw, white squishy bread and delicious bbq sause. I hope the noises we were making didn’t go far beyond our table. You try and be discreet but sometimes, especially if it’s been a while, you just can’t contain the noises of joy. We had ordered enough for leftovers and rolled out to our rental Jeep, the sweet smell of brisket leaving a trail of delicious behind.

The next morning, fueled by a breakfast of brisket, we met a group of friends for a hike. We went to one of the gems of Austin: McKinney Falls State Park. I used to live just to the west of McKinney Falls, on William Cannon, and would go there to hike around and relax. I just love it there. The trail we hiked, the Homestead trail, hadn’t been too damaged during the October floods but parts of the park are still closed.

The women we went with, members of TOWN (Texas Outdoor Womens Network), were a joy to be around. I miss these women and their group immensely. I have never met a group of women who were as nice, caring, accepting and full of life as TOWN women. I miss them mostly because they made me realize how important friends can be in life. That’s what life’s all about, friendship; and brisket, of course.


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The Oregon Coast and Our Impending Bike Ride

The family and I just spent a few days in Newport which is located along the coast in the middle of the beautiful state of Oregon. I can honestly say the Oregon coast is much different from the Gulf coast. The major difference being in Oregon it’s freakin’ cold during the summer; the Gulf not so much.

Since we had two kids with us, Jessie and her visiting BFF from Austin, we had to eat more organized meals instead of the normal cereal I like to eat two or three times a day. Here are a couple of pretty good restaurants (and a candy store, of course) we found on our trip, in case you’re ever in the Newport area visiting.

Cosmic Soda Pop and Candy Shop – Okay, this one is actually in downtown Portland, where we made a pit stop on the way to Newport, but it’s worth a look if you’re anywhere near Portland and have a sweet tooth as big as my snarly toothed monster. This shop had a wonderful collection of old school candies and a large selection of soda for the kids and kids at heart.

My mom brought me back, from London, a candy bar I absolutely adored called Crunchie by Cadbury…or something along those lines, I’ve forgotten already, and Cosmic actually carried it! I’ve had a heck of a time trying to find my new favorite candy bar. Especially when I have such a hard time describing it: it’s chocolaty, with a honeycomb thing in the center…I can’t remember what it’s called though…it’s crunchy and airy and delicious…do you have that?

Mo’s – I try not to eat too much fish & chips, I know fish is brain food but I’m pretty sure the grease they fry it in isn’t, but sometimes I just have to have a little F&C. Even better: Mo’s serves their F&C in cahoots with a cup of their world famous clam chowder. Yum. Mo’s clam chowder was delicious: creamy, flavorful with just the right amount of small clam pieces. Just how I like it.

My favorite part of F&C, the fish, didn’t disappoint. It tasted like they had just caught the cod that morning and fried it up before the poor fish knew what hit him. I would have to say Mo’s F&C are my second all time favorite, a distant second to Spud fish & chips mind you, but Janet swears the F&C are better in New England. I’ll be the judge of that!

Savory Café & Pizzeria – I just love pizza. I love cheese, marinara and meats loaded on a giant piece of bread! Janet and I ordered the Mexican pizza and weren’t disappointed. It was just what we needed: pizza and Mexican food wrapped into one tasty, spicy package. The kids had spaghetti with meatballs and a giant chicken and rice burrito which reminded me of Chuy’s (an Austin Tex-mex favorite) big as yo face burritos.

Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life Ride

For those of you super fit people (you know who you are) 35 miles on a bike probably doesn’t concern you much. To an asthmatic 44 year old, fairly out of shape woman who prefers to lift weights than actually move around, it’s a terrifying thought. So, of course, my better half, in a Snapple and chocolate induced haze, signed us up for the “short” route. On the bright side: Janet could have signed us up for the 65 mile route!

She registered us several months ago and you might assume that gave us enough time to actually train for said ride. You would be mistaken. I’m pretty sure we’ll survive the event but just in case we both got all our finances in order. Just in case. I did forget to say a long and emotional goodbye to Jessie, before she left to go camping with her dad, but she knows I love her.

The CF ride sounds like a well run, pain free event, with mechanics, support vehicles and rest stops scattered along the route. To say I’m terrified would be slightly exaggerating my feelings. I’m just downright scared. I’m glad we’re arriving at seven in the morning, for the ride, so I can sleep through the first part. I might just make it that way.


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How Do I Love Thee, Texas Barbeque?

Since Janet and I stayed at the Aloft this past weekend in Portland, we were situated directly across the street from a Famous Dave’s BBQ joint. After living in Texas on and off for about fifteen years, I hesitate to order BBQ in other states, but especially in the Pacific Northwest. We are known for a lot of things but BBQ and Ice Tea (which go hand in hand, really) are not two of those things.

Janet and I decided to try Dave’s because it’s been a really long time since we had our BBQ fix. Eating at Dave’s made me realize just how much I missed Texas BBQ. Famous Dave’s was fine but can’t hold a candle to our favorite Austin BBQ spot: Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q – where you can get BBQ and fill up your other tank with gas!

If you live in Austin Texas, you will have a favorite BBQ spot because I’m pretty sure they have a committee who won’t let you live there if you don’t like BBQ. A lot of folks will join one of three bandwagons: Rudy’s BBQ, the Salt Lick and County Line BBQ, and faithfully eat at their favorite choice. (There are lots of other BBQ joints, lots, but I’m narrowing my choices to these three and Austin only.)

Same thing goes for iced tea. You either like sweet tea or unsweetened tea and you’ll rarely meet anyone who will tolerate one if they prefer the other. Usually you’ll hear, “Oh, you don’t have unsweetened tea? I’ll just drink water,” and it won’t be in the ‘oh, goody, I LOVE water’ tone.

Why do Janet and I worship at the alter of Rudy’s? Let me just tell ya: it’s mostly the brisket, sause and setup. When you first walk in to Rudy’s, they have a large winding area you go through, to get to the counter (kinda like Disneyland), which is lined with glass bottled sodas and beers. Right after the drinks are the usual BBQ sides in a giant refrigerated display case. So, before you even order your meat, the drinks and sides are already in your hot little hands!

You order the most important part of the meal, the meat, at the counter and watch while the professional slicers cut your meat right in front of you. No need to sit down and have a waiter slowly make his way over to take your order, the front counter crew will have loaded up your food and removed a big chunk of change from your pocket in no time!

Since Janet can only eat regular brisket (wet) and I can only tolerate lean (dry) we both get what we like without annoying the other because Rudy’s has them both.  Because, you know, if Jenn ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! And the BBQ sause (not sauce)! It is, without a doubt, one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth (right behind their delicious, melt in your mouth brisket). There are some camps, in the BBQ world, who swear any kind of sauce should be banned from BBQ, but I think a truly great sause only enhances the meat.

I’m sure other states make great BBQ too I just haven’t found it yet. Famous Dave’s must be pretty good because it’s a chain and if it were terrible nobody would eat there, eh? And in defense of Franklin’s on the Eastside of Austin (within walking distance of our house), we haven’t tried it yet. Something about a line 30 or 40 people deep, waiting to get in every single day, lets me know something exceptional is happening there. I just don’t want to stand in line (it’s hot in Texas) because I’m lazy and I’m usually at Rudy’s.

So, if you are anywhere near Austin, please visit each and every BBQ joint in town, and a couple hugging the county line, so you too can jump on a bandwagon. If I’m in town, you might see me at Rudy’s, crying tears of joy, while eating lean brisket on squishy white bread drowning in Rudy’s sause. Either that, or I’ll be at Chuy’s…don’t get me started on Tex-Mex!


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Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting 2013

Janet and I spent this past weekend in Omaha Nebraska at the annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders meeting. We’d talked about going for a few years now and decided to quit talking about it and just go already. We went to see Warren Buffett and, now we realize, Charlie Munger. Not that we’re worried about Warren or Charlie (those two are so sweet, I’m sure they won’t mind me using their first names), but after Boston, you never know when your time is up.

I bought a share of Berkshire B stock (I really, really wish I could say Berkshire A) just to be able to go and it was well worth the money. As a matter of fact, I want to rush out and buy more shares; I was so inspired by the two leaders. For billionaires, they seemed pretty down to earth. Not that I know a lot of billionaires. Janet wishes she were one…does that count?

Janet and I both arrived on Friday night, ready for whatever the meeting may bring. We woke up bright and early Saturday morning at six A.M. (four in the morning to our bodies) and tried to catch a shuttle from the hotel to the meeting. After learning there were roughly forty thousand attendees in town and just two shuttles from our hotel, we decided to drive ourselves to the stadium. Well worth the $8 for parking. I think we’d still be there, waiting for the shuttle, had we not driven ourselves.

We were first shown a movie which was a little long but funny in parts. It ended with a Berkshire rendition of YMCA with Warren leading the cheerleading. He’s pretty spry for eighty-something-or-other. For the bulk of the meeting, Warren and Charlie were alone on their stage with a panel of three people from the media on their right and a panel of three lucky-a$$ people on their left. I’m not sure who they were…I was mostly asleep until after lunch.

From about 9:30 until 3:30 (with an hour for lunch), Warren and Charlie answered questions from the panels and from various attendees from different zones in the crowd. Warren talked first, after each question, with Charlie talking after, if he had anything to add. Sometimes he had nothing to say. I loved the way the two men interacted: like an old married couple who had seen and done a lot together over their fifty years.

They do have their fundamental differences: Warren is a Democrat and Charlie is a Republican but neither is the stick wielding absolutists you usually see when people show their politics. I loved their banter and they were slinging one liners like line cooks at our new favorite breakfast spot: Jimmy’s Egg.

Whenever Warren was talking, Charlie spent his time munching on Peanut Brittle and drinking Coke Zero. When the coin flipped, Warren dug into a box of fudge and drank his beloved Cherry Coke. I can so see sharing a burger and fries with either or both men. I can tell you Janet has a huge crush on Charlie. I’m not sure what that means but I’ll be taking a wait and see attitude with this situation. I don’t think I have anything to worry about: I don’t think Janet can keep up with Charlie!

I have no worries about Warren and Charlie as they were sharp, witty and passionate about Berkshire. I wish I were as sharp as they are at my age let alone when I hit my eighties. They reinvigorated my desires to be a businesswoman, reignited my passions lying dormant and stoked the flames for my vision to get Janet off the road. I would love to limit our travels to fun destinations and shareholder meetings. I think Coke (Atlanta) is coming up soon.


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Officially Without A Home, Again

Last Thursday the movers came and piled up all our stuff into the moving van.  Once again, we are officially without a home.  I learned a lot in Bend; mostly about what not to do on a short move.  But there were some positives that made the whole move worthwhile.

Bend, Oregon is a beautiful place to live.  I wouldn’t want to live there permanently (I am a city girl, after all), but a season or two is worth the time and effort.  I saw the sun a lot during the summer and the hiking and green spaces are impressive.

Some things I would do differently?  I wouldn’t take so many things with us just for the summer.  A fully furnished rental would have been nice and made the move so much easier.  Next time, I’ll research an area and the known allergens.  I think it would have been better for my body, and mind, had I know I was allergic to everything in Bend.

The last thing I would do differently, and most important to Jessie, is I will have to coordinate all future moves with the proximity to malls in mind.  I didn’t realize Bend didn’t have a mall, it didn’t occur to me to give it any thought, but Jessie quickly brought up the fact that Bend is sorely lacking in the mall department.

We did happen to find a Claire’s store, so I spent an awful amount of time sitting in front of the Claire’s store in Bend waiting for Jessie to look at every single thing in the store…twice.  How many fake mustaches and lip gloss does one small girl need?  More than I realized.

So, the movers came and packed us all in and on Friday, Janet and I drove from Bend to the storage facility in Vancouver Washington where the rest of our stuff lives.  It was nice to visit our stuff; it doesn’t look like too many things when it’s squished into a storage bin.  It’ll be weird having everything together again; weird, but nice and comforting at the same time.

Every time I move I lose/break/misplace/destroy something.  When we moved from Austin to Vancouver, it took me a while to realize what was missing.  We’d lost all the tops to our plastic containers.  How on earth does one lose only the lids, you might ask?  I have no idea how we did that trick.

We have yet to unpack every single box from Austin, so we might discover the lids were only misplaced.  Since we’ve already recycled the bottoms, when (and if) we find the lids it will be a seriously annoying thing.  This time, I made sure to pack the lids with their partners that way if I lose one I lose the whole kit and caboodle.

For this move, I’ve already misplaced the bike lock key for Janet’s bike.  So, Janet and I are moving back to Washington and Janet’s bike is still living in Bend.  I guess in the big scheme of things it’s not such a bad thing.  But our budge (Curse you, Budge!) begs to differ.  We already had to replace our plastic containers, now we’ll have to travel to Bend to retrieve Janet’s bike.  And you know how much I hate to travel!  (Budge knows I’m lying.)

Janet and I spent the night, Friday night, at the aLoft hotel near the Portland airport.  What a nice hotel.  I could live there if given the opportunity.  The rooms are laid out well and the bed felt wonderful after a long day of driving and unpacking.

The aLoft rooms reminded me of hanging out in the display rooms in IKEA, one of my favorite places to go and lounge.  (I’m a big fan of IKEA’s Swedish meatballs, too.  Am I the only person who likes to go to IKEA just to eat?)  The aLoft is a very modern and hip place to see and be seen.  I felt a little old and unhip when I walked in but everyone was very nice and accommodating.

Since we couldn’t (or wouldn’t) find a place to stay in the Seattle area, Janet and I are heading down to California to stay until we find a place we can call home.  But before we could do that, we had to make an excursion to North Carolina.

Janet’s cousin died last month and she lived outside of the Raleigh-Durham area.  Her memorial service, her celebration of life, really, was on Sunday and Janet and I wanted to go and celebrate her short but very full life.  It was worth the effort as Janet had the opportunity to see relatives and friends she hadn’t seen in a long time.

I lived briefly in North Carolina, in the High Point area, in another life, and hadn’t been back since the 90’s.  I grew up in Seattle and moving to North Carolina was a serious culture shock to my young system.  It was almost like moving to another country, the southern way of life was completely foreign to me and I didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I should, and could, have.

I swore I wouldn’t go back to the Carolinas and was a little concerned when I realized where Janet’s cousin lived.  I realized, once I’d landed in Raleigh, my concerns were unfounded and we had a short, but very sweet, visit.

Everyone in North Carolina was incredibly nice, especially the gentleman working at the Springhill Suites near the Raleigh-Durham airport, and we enjoyed our trip and the surrounding countryside a great deal.  I had forgotten how friendly and helpful southerners can be, even having lived in Texas for so long.

Tomorrow we’re driving down to California and I’m not looking forward to the ten hour drive.  It’s not a bad drive; I’m just tired of traveling now.  That’ll only last a week or so and then I’ll be ready to travel again.  California and Bend, here we come (again)!


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Discovery Bay, Washington

Yes, we are on vacation yet again.  Our trip to Discovery Bay was, originally, going to be our only true vacation this summer.  We booked it about a year ago.  I don’t include moving to Bend for the summer a vacation, although Budge seems to disagree.  Going to South Dakota was a late addition to our calendar and was time specific or else we probably would have separated the two a little more.

These two vacations, Discovery Bay and South Dakota, couldn’t be more different if I’d tried to write the stories.  Discovery Bay’s temperatures linger around 70 as a high (instead of 100), the views are amazing here (I could sit at the visitor’s center at Hurricane Ridge and breathe in the Cascades for days) and the condo here is large and private.

It’s cold, I’m not going to lie.  I would never leave this place if it was 85 or 90 degrees and sunny, not with the impressive views of the bay and surrounding mountains.  The fact that it’s 65 at noon and the sun has yet to show itself leaves me with a desire to take the ferry over to Seattle to see if it’s any warmer.  I shudder to think what it’s like here in January and February.

The views here are breathtaking.  When we are sitting at the table, eating a meal, and you look out onto the bay, it looks like we’re in the water and not just near it.  The views from the two balconies are unobstructed bay views and I couldn’t be happier with them.  Janet even saw two otters frolicking in the water the other morning.  We keep looking for whales but I don’t think they like coming into the bay much; too much like taking a bath for them.

Jessie’s best friend from Texas, we’ll call her Destiny, came along for this trip and we took them to the Olympic National Forest to check it out.  What a stunning chunk of land.  I think Destiny was impressed with her surroundings since she was born and raised in Texas, a much flatter and sometimes browner place to live.

Janet told me, before we made it to Hurricane Ridge, about the similarities to The Sound of Music I’d notice in the hillsides and I really had the urge to break into song when we stopped at the top.  I actually did break into song at one point until my clearly embarrassed daughter told me to stop.  She said the twirling was too over the top.

Staying in the condo is a much better setup than the hotel room on our first trip.  Not that I didn’t enjoy sharing a room with my mother-in-law and bed with my kicking, hitting, teeth grinder of a daughter, but separate rooms are really nice.  This condo is three floors and the setup is adult friendly.

When you come in through the front door, it’s a split level entrance.  If you go up to the left you come into the main living area: kitchen, dining area and living room with a nice gas fireplace (we use it every day – it’s cold here).  Off the dining area is a patio with a gas grill – Janet’s preferred form of cooking.  We’ve already grilled pork chops, sausage, and chicken; all delicious.

If you keep going up, on the landing between the main floor and the upstairs, the girls’ full bathroom is off to the left.  The girls’ room is up at the top with a beautiful view of the bay and two of the narrowest beds I have ever seen.  Yesterday morning, while Janet and I were up and watching the Olympics, we heard a loud thud followed closely by an ‘owwww’.  Destiny had fallen out of bed and I was surprised that was the only time it had happened.  I would just have to sleep on the floor.

If, after entering the unit, you were to go to the right and down you would find yourself in the master bedroom.  A wonderful, soft, king sized bed (a joy after sleeping on a double futon in Bend), a sitting area with a TV and a VCR (I didn’t know they still had those), a Jacuzzi bathtub, a shower in the bathroom, and our own personal deck.  The condo turned into quite the pleasant surprise, especially after sharing a hotel room for a week.  Not that I didn’t enjoy the perfectly lovely tiny hotel room with my mother-in-law and daughter.

I can’t begin to describe what our budget looks like after two vacation weeks in July.  Well, I could, but I will spare you the gore.  Budge does not look good; she is cowering in the corner, looking weak and anemic.  It helps having a kitchen in this unit, but we still went over (doubled) our budgets for dining out and groceries.  I’m so glad it’s August now and we can try and stop the blood loss.

We flew to the South Dakota trip (expensive) and drove to this one (not quite as expensive with the Prius), but having two weeks of vacation almost back to back:  this will be hard to recover from.  We’d been doing relatively well with Budge up to this point.  We’d been close to our goal amount, and when we did go over it was only by a couple hundred dollars.  But in July we went several hundred dollars over.

It’s a hard thing to justify, spending so much money on travel.  Should we stay at home and deny ourselves one of our true passions: travel?  Or should we ditch our goals (the main one being saving enough money to get Janet off the road) and travel and spend with abandon.  I’m a Libra, so I’m thinking we should try and find a balance somewhere.  That and I should stop getting all those travel deal emails.  Those are killing me.


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South Dakota

We spent last Christmas with Janet’s family in Indiana and had a great time.  We went to the children’s museum in Indianapolis and signed up for a dinosaur dig because the kids thought it would be a lot of fun.  The dino dig was near Faith, South Dakota and it was scheduled for mid July.  I have to be honest, the only reason I was going was because the kids wanted to go and Janet had never spent any time in the Dakotas (one of only three states she hasn’t stepped one of her giant feet in.)

The thought of traveling, in the middle of July, to a state I didn’t really want to visit, made me almost dread going.  I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but what’s there to do in South Dakota? We were planning on spending a whole week there.  We left Bend Saturday morning with the goal of seeing friends and visiting Portland and Vancouver.  Our flight was on Sunday afternoon and we flew to Billings, Montana.

Janet picked Billings because it was the cheapest alternative out there.  We decided against driving because that was too many miles on the Prius.  Billings had the cheapest flights and the cheapest car rental we could find.  It’s only about a 6 hour drive from Billings to Faith, South Dakota.

We spent Sunday night in Billings and left in the morning to head for Faith.  Along the way, we stopped at Custer’s Last Stand a fascinating place for history buffs.  At first Jessie wasn’t interested in stopping to walk around the grounds but we couldn’t drag her out of the museum once she got going.

I’m not sure what Jessie liked more, the feathers, or weapons, or beads in the Native clothing, but whatever it was, she loved the museum. The descriptions in the museum were a bit neutral for Janet and myself, no information on why this battle happened, but the park ranger guided tour was much more informative and we learned about atrocities on both sides.

The closer we got to Faith, the closer we got to an enormous black cloud in the sky.  It didn’t start raining until about 45 minutes outside of the city, but it sure did rain.  It stormed so hard we had to wait for the hail to stop before we made a run for the hotel’s front door.  It rained so hard it washed out our dino dig.

I was pretty disappointed we didn’t get a refund for the “Act of God” storm and when Jessie asked if we were going back next year I honestly told her I didn’t think we would.  I don’t see the point in spending a lot of money for something where, because of a typical summer storm, we got nothing to show for it.  Oh, wait, we did each get a lime green dino dig t-shirt.  And we spent a couple of hours in the museum at the Black Hills Institute looking at dinosaur replications.  That was kind of cool.

Janet’s sister had broken her hip 3 days before they left for the dino dig so she couldn’t get around very well with her walker.  So, we decided to go to Deadwood to see a Wild West town and we were very impressed.  We took a bus tour up to the gravesites of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.  We then went up to Leads and took the kids on a mine tour and panned for a little gold.  It was so funny, it cost $7 to borrow the pan with the rocks and pre-measured gold (worth $4).  The kids carried the gold around like it was worth a fortune!

We spent Wednesday night in Spearfish and left in the morning for our final stop in South Dakota: Keystone.  We went to Mount Rushmore and it’s pretty impressive up there.  I finally found people with heads bigger than mine.  We took pictures, shopped in the gift shop (one of the more popular pastimes with us), and watched the making of Mount Rushmore: the movie.

It might not sound like we did much but everything takes more energy when you’re traveling with an 80+ Mom (Janet’s mom), a woman with a walker, 3 more adults, and 3 kids.  Not to mention the fact it was over 100 degrees every day we were in South Dakota.  I’m just glad the wild fires didn’t hit any of the towns where we stayed.

So, Friday we were pretty tired and mostly just laid around the hotel, walked around Keystone’s little boardwalk, and ate 3 or 4 meals.  We eat a lot, I know.  We all had a really good time, we all got along, and everyone survived.  Good times.

On Saturday Janet, Jessie and I drove back to Billings where we spent the night.  On the way, we stopped by a rock shop and Jessie informed us she wanted to be a mineralogist.  Granted she’s only 11; she might change her mind once or twice between now and then.  We also stopped by the Crazy Horse Memorial.  What an impressive sight.  I loved standing near the artist’s studio, looking at both the small scale version of Crazy Horse with the real monument in the background.  That will be impressive when it’s done.  It’s impressive now.

On Sunday we flew back to Portland where Jessie’s Dad picked her up to spend the week with him.  Janet then flew to California to work and I drove myself home to Bend.  I’ve spent the last few days catching up on emails, doing laundry, and basking in the glorious quiet of being alone with myself.  I have the best conversations with myself.  I’m glad no one is here.

I really didn’t expect much from South Dakota when I went; but I came home having just finished one of the more enjoyable vacations in recent memory.  Janet and I liked it so much we’re talking seriously about going back, just the three of us, to see more of South Dakota.  With our group’s mobility problems, we didn’t get to see as much as I would’ve liked and I barely crossed over 5000 steps each day.  We only stayed in the Black Hills and never even ventured over to the Badlands, a place I’ve always wanted to see.  I just never realized it was in South Dakota.


Ps.  Seriously?!?  Not only did we trade away Ichiro, but we traded him to the Yankees?  I understand the reasoning behind the move, for both the Mariners and Ichiro, but to the Yankees?  I will never understand that.

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The Big Move to Bend

It’s been a really crazy week.  Last Wednesday, 5/23/12, I was in Seattle hanging out with Jessie.  We mostly spent our days together goofing off and reading, when she wasn’t in school; some of our favorite things to do. On Thursday morning, I dropped Jessie off at school and headed to the airport to catch my flight to California.

Janet picked me up at the airport and we drove back to the hotel to pack up.  I had put on jeans in Seattle, it’s not particularly warm in Seattle at the moment, and when I hit Sacramento I was overjoyed with the ability to put on shorts!  In May!  We left around 4pm and headed north towards Klamath Falls, Oregon.  We realized, with such a late start, we would never make it to Bend in one day so we thought Klamath Falls was far enough.

Once we started climbing up out of the lowlands of California, the temperature started dropping enough to scare the bejeezus out of us.  The car thermometer said it was 37 degrees, but I chose to ignore it.  When the sun was but a fond memory, Janet said, “Is that snow I’m seeing in the headlights?”  Being such a level headed, scientifically minded person I said, “Hell no!  I don’t see anything!”

By the time we turned off the car, finally put the Prius to sleep, the temperature in Klamath Falls was 34 degrees.  Fahrenheit.  Janet and I, of the short pants and sleeves fame, looked at each other, put our heads together and debated the best way to get our bags, backpacks, and snack bag out of the car and into the hotel without going outside.

I won’t tell you how long we debated, but it was getting mighty cold in the car when we finally, truly, realized that couldn’t happen without driving through the front door.  So we took a deep breath, flung the doors open, ran to the back, grabbed our stuff and ran, full tilt, to the entrance where we were welcomed into the warm embrace of the Holiday Inn Express.  Power to the points (wink, wink).

So you can imagine our dismay when the nice young man at the front desk informed us we HAD to write down our license plate number on the paperwork.  Like most normal people who move a lot, we have no clue what our license plate number resembles.  So, once again, we both looked at each other.

Janet didn’t say a word, but her eyes said, “please, please!, don’t make me go back out into the cold.  You know how much the cold bothers me and I’m barely wearing any clothes.  Please go look at the plate and tell me what it says.  I’ll do anything you want, just don’t make me go back outside.  Please, I’ll make you brownies when we get settled in Bend.”

Damn, how can I say no to those eyes?  So I ran out and took a picture of the plate and ran back in at lightning speed.  If only we hadn’t packed our long sleeved shirts and jackets in our suitcases before we left California.  It was 90 degrees there, in our defense, and it was hard to imagine we could drive out of 90 and into 34 degrees in the space of six hours.

We woke up Friday morning eager to make our way to Bend, to our new home, when we happened to look out the window and saw all the snow.  Don’t the people in Klamath Falls realize it’s the end of May?  It shouldn’t snow at the end of May!  That’s why we moved to Bend and not Klamath Falls.  Did I live in Texas too long?  Did it mess up my view of climate?

We drove up Highway 97 and it was mostly uneventful; the occasional snow flurries and U- Hauls in the ditch aside.  At one point, Janet turned to me and said, “What have we gotten ourselves into?  Last weekend it was beautiful and now we are ten miles away from Bend and there’s snow everywhere.”

Luckily, in those last ten miles, we dropped down however many feet we needed to be under the snowfall level and we cruised into a snow free, relatively warm 57 degree, beautiful Bend, Oregon.  When we told Joe at our property management company about the snow, he told us it had snowed in Bend a few days earlier.  I chose not to hear that statement.

While still in Vancouver, when we were packing up, we had to make three big piles: things going to Seattle, things we were taking to Bend for the summer, and a small, Prius sized pile of things we were taking to Sacramento.  We planned pretty well, but we forgot one small thing; it’s always the logistics that mess us up.

We forgot about Friday night in Bend, after driving up from California, but before we actually had any of our stuff.  Since we refused to spend another night in a hotel, we slept on the floor with our little blankets and pillows we bought at Target (which is having a terrific sale on pillows) and Costco (where we also had to buy a couple of towels).

I can honestly say at the age of 43, sleeping on the floor is not an easy thing to do.  But I woke up Saturday morning not as sore as I thought I would be.  I thought I would snap, crackle, and pop all the way into the bathroom, but I only crackled a little.  We did wake up early though, before 7, because it wasn’t comfortable enough to lounge around on the floor.

We put ourselves back into the car and headed for Vancouver which is a very nice 3 hour drive from Bend.  An added bonus: no snow anywhere.  We picked up the Budget truck and headed over to the storage unit.  (It was cheaper renting a one-way from Vancouver, WA to Bend, OR than it was a local rental from Bend.  89¢ a mile would have been very expensive.)

We packed up the Budget truck in about ninety minutes and TruckerJenn headed off to Bend with Janet following close on my heels.  We left our Chevy truck in Vancouver, waiting for a friendly face to drive it to Bend.  That little Budget truck did a great job.  I made it up the hills fairly easily.  I even passed a couple of semis and one little old lady driving a car older than I am.

When I got home (yay, Bend!), Janet helped me back the truck into the parking area near our condo without killing anyone or destroying the truck or any parking structures.  That’s always a good day in my book.  I will admit, though, I almost took off a couple of branches from a poor innocent tree when I went to park the truck on a side street for the night.  I’m pretty sure no one saw.

We unloaded in another swift 90 minutes and, after we were done, it looked like the Budget truck had vomited in our living room.  I was so tired after packing the truck, then driving the truck, I had a hard time carrying boxes up the stairs to the bedroom.  Janet and I joked we should be on an episode of the hoarders show because we just had little footpaths to the sink, fridge, and bathroom.

We couldn’t bring our king size bed, it wouldn’t fit in the small bedroom, but we brought Jessie’s futon couch and decided to sleep on that mattress for the night.  When we woke up on Sunday, we really couldn’t decide which night’s sleep was better: the floor night or the hard, unforgiving futon night.  We came up with a verdict of undetermined because we could have been sore from the three hours of moving, but I’m not convinced.

Sunday was spent looking through boxes, determining what went where and trying to unpack as much as we could.  When making our pile to Bend, we were under the assumption we were going to rent a 3/2/2 house with a ton of space and storage.  We ended up with a small condo and now I don’t know where to put some of this stuff.  So we’ll probably end up taking some of it back to the storage unit and pile it with the Seattle stuff.

Another thing we did on Sunday?  Something Janet has dreamed of for a year? That’s right! We bought a cute little travel gas grill; the kind that sits on top of a table or other firm structure.  So, of course, on Monday we spent the morning putting it together and then the rest of the day grilling sausages and pork chops.  Yes, life is good.

How did I respond to moving day and a couple of unpacking days?  In my usual I’m-as-healthy-as-an-ox (if-he-were-dead) way, I became sick.  By noon of Tuesday my stomach didn’t feel well and then, before you knew what happened, I was down for the count.  I spent Wednesday suffering on the couch feeling sorry for myself.  And we only get one channel, but I’ll talk about that later.

As you can imagine, with all the moving and unpacking, we’re creating a lot of dirty clothes.  Just one problem: we don’t have a washer/dryer here, just the hookups.  So, in between being sick and unpacking, we’ve been running through Craigslist looking for stackable washers and dryers because it has to fit in the closet sized condo.  Janet found a set in Portland.  Life would have been easier if it had been in Bend, but it never works like that.

It was such a good deal, of course that’s only if it actually works, we decided to jump back in the car, wicked early this morning, head back to Vancouver, get our Chevy truck, and buy a slightly used stackable washer and dryer.  I left Janet in Portland, she has to work during the day (it’s really only me who goofs off) and I came home to write a blog.

Janet just crawled in from her drive back home and I’m sure she’ll enjoy a little relaxation time this evening; after she grills something, of course.  Me?  I’m kicking back with a big slice of brownie, washing it all down with some sun tea.


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Where Does The Time Go?

I can’t believe its April.  I’m not sure where the time goes.  I had a job in Texas I did not like and that slowed time down a bit.  Now I don’t have that restriction, so time is just flying by.  April is our last month in Vancouver.  I’ll spend May with Janet in California and then all three of us will spend the summer in Central Oregon.  Time will really fly by then.

I envision a summer full of kayaking, swimming, tennis, hiking, and flying kites. I’ll probably end up buying a nice hammock and sleeping most of the summer, but I like to dream big.  Preferably from a hammock.  I have to run our daughter, Jessie, around just to wear her out or else she will be bored silly all summer.  So, I’ll at least drag her out to one of the lakes or rivers and throw her in.  She loves that.

The last couple of days, I was in Walla Walla Washington.  Why might you ask?  Why not?  A friend of Janet’s, we’ll call her Micki, is a TV producer who was going to Walla Walla to shoot some footage.  Micki and Janet were on the phone yacking away when Micki casually told Janet, “Why don’t you ask Jenn if she wants to go to Walla Walla with me?

I’m thinking the idea just popped into Micki’s head and she verbalized it but wasn’t expecting me to say yes.  Of course I said yes!  Who wouldn’t say yes to a driving trip through the gorge to see Walla Walla Washington?  That sure is fun to say.  I must admit, I had a great time.

Micki and Janet have been friends for a long time…way before the Jenn era.   I’d met Micki a few times but couldn’t really say I knew her very well.  I figured an eight-hour round trip drive, with Micki trapped in the car, was the perfect way to get to know her better.  Plus, there’s Walla Walla!

Micki’s job is to get people to open up about their lives and feel comfortable doing it.  She had me talking about things I didn’t even know about myself.  Damn, she’s good at her job.  We talked the whole way through the gorge about life’s challenges and joys, about animals and friends, and about how we feel about different things.  We talked about Janet a lot too (tee-hee).

Downtown Walla Walla is pretty cute with shops, restaurants and numerous wine tasting rooms.  If you are partial to wine, I suggest you head on over to Walla Walla and have at it.  There are so many wineries around that the local bookstore has a coffee table book about various dogs living at the numerous wineries.  Our hotel had it on their coffee table.

Micki and I had dinner, Monday night, at a restaurant called Olives that was pretty good and I had pizza for lunch the next day at a pizzeria called Sweet Basil Pizzeria which was dee-licious.  It helped they had a big screen TV showing the NY Mets and NY Yankees pre-season game.  And the Mets were up 5-1.  I had to leave when those Damn Yankees tied the game.

I was sad when our trip ended.  It was a nice excursion that pulled me out of my ordinary life and plopped me down in Walla Walla Washington.  I was sad it had to end because Micki travels a lot and we don’t get to see my new friend very much.  I hope we can see her soon, but I’m afraid we’ll be gone before it happens.  Where does the time go?


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