Back to the Excellent Adventure

When we came home for the Alaska cruise, we expected to go back to the Code 3 drug education trailer a couple of days after we got home from the cruise, probably September 17. That changed to September 29, which turned out to be God’s plan all along, since we didn’t make it home until September 21.

We’d been home from the cruise two days, just about caught up on laundry, when we got a call Monday afternoon: could we leave Wednesday or Thursday, the 25th or 26th? I drew a big sigh, revised my to-do list and said we could leave Thursday. Which meant actually leaving Wednesday because for this trip we were flying out of San Francisco, which meant renting a car in Fresno and driving to SF, staying in a hotel near the airport the night before.

The cat had just started speaking to us again. I apologized profusely to him and promised him lots of shrimp or chicken or whatever he wanted when we got back in November. He was not impressed.

I changed our rental car reservation and looked for a hotel near the airport. Well. That did not go well. Everything was super expensive. I think because it was last minute. We’ve stayed near the airport before and not paid anything near those rates. I finally got something through Priceline for double our usual budget. Except while we were on our way to pick up the rental car in Fresno Wednesday afternoon, I got an email that the hotel was reneging and would not be able to accommodate us. So back to searching. I finally surrendered and paid triple our usual rate for a Holiday Inn Express with a shuttle that would take us to the airport at 5 am.

We had an uneventful drive into the city, dropped off the rental car, rode the light rail into the airport, caught the shuttle to the hotel, and checked in. We had to leave before breakfast the next morning, so the front desk staff offered to have a breakfast to-go bag ready for us. We accepted, then went to sleep in our very expensive room which was not worth it since the hotel was being renovated and we were in the midst of a construction zone. 

Everything went smoothly the next day, except the to-go breakfast bag was a myth. We left SFO on time and arrived in Newark where we were transferring to a connecting flight to Portland, Maine. We grabbed a quick bite and had just enough time to find the adjunct terminal and our gate with a row of gates for the smaller, commuter flights. We chatted with a young man going to Jacksonville, Florida. He had left Italy and was eager to get home. We were all watching scrolling announcements that due to high winds in Newark, the FAA was restricting arrivals and that was impacting departures. Which didn’t bode well, since we were supposed to be boarding and there was no action at our gate.

Sure enough, the announcement came a few minutes later. Our crew was on a delayed arrival. We’d be delayed at least 45 minutes to an hour. What to do? Find a place to sit and have something to drink. We ended up next to two men who were also on the Portland flight. One was a very loud talker so we had no choice but to eavesdrop. He traveled a lot for business and was headed home to a town outside of Portland. The other man was younger, from Boston, and headed to Portland for a wedding that weekend.

Our Code 3 assignment in Portland was to pick up the trailer where it had been parked a couple of weeks previously, and drive it to the Chicago area. We had an event scheduled for Sunday, September 29th, so we had two days to drive about 1000 miles. Since we had done that a week ago, Bellingham to Fresno, we sort of knew what that was like. But now we’d be pulling a 32′ trailer. Although, we were back to the original trailer that handles so poorly in the wind.

Our personal goal in Portland was to have some lobster. Our flight was scheduled to land at about 7:15 pm, so I’d looked up a couple of restaurants close to the airport that had good reviews and we were ready. But with every announcement, our lobster dinner window was getting smaller.

We finally were called to board. Whew! We got on a bus that carried us out to our plane. David asked another passenger for a dinner recommendation, but he hadn’t lived in Portland for about 30 years, he said, so he was no help. I noticed his luggage tag was his business card and it said Harper Collins. I was just about to ask him what imprint or what he did for them, but didn’t have a chance. The flight was short and we were soon in Portland. The truck had been left for us in the parking garage and the key was taped to the back bumper. It didn’t take us long to find the truck or the key, but the key had been wrapped in 32,000 layers of duct tape (only a very slight exaggeration). It took longer to unwrap the thing than it took to find it. Then, the remote wouldn’t unlock the door. Dave had to open the door with the key, which set off the alarm, until he turned on the ignition. That seems weird to me. If you have the key, why would the alarm go off? Anyway, we were finally in Portland and looking for lobster. I found a restaurant that had great reviews in downtown Portland that was still open, (it was about 9:30 by now) so we headed there. The area was super cute and looked like it would be fun to browse in the daytime.

After wrestling the truck into a parking spot, calling our boss to ask about the key fob (turn the ignition on within 10 seconds of unlocking the door and the alarm won’t go off)  and we were finally ready for our lobster dinner.

IMG_8420Only to find that they sold lobster rolls. Not lobster dinners or lobster tails. Well, beggars and choosiness, yada yada. We had lobster rolls and they were great! The lobster was sweet and tender and delicious. Our personal goal accomplished, we headed to our hotel.

The next morning we drove the twenty minutes to where the trailer had been parked, hooked it up and pulled out. We planned to make it to Buffalo that night, about 8 1/2 hours of driving. We debated trying to fit in a stop at Niagara Falls, but we just had too many miles and not enough hours to get to Chicago. Until Friday afternoon, when we got news that the event in Chicago Sunday had fallen through! All of a sudden, we had an extra day to get to Chicago. Which meant we were going to Niagara Falls! Of course, it’s our nature to never be satisfied, because now we were trying to figure out a way to fit in a visit to Hamilton, NY where Dave’s father was from and where Dave’s cousin lives. But that was too far off our route, by the time we got the news.

Saturday morning, we left the trailer at our hotel and drove to the US side of Niagara Falls, a NY state park. We spent a couple of hours walking through the park, along the river and to the tops of the three main falls, Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridalveil Falls.

It was fabulous, and I’m so glad and grateful we got to do that. I’m just sorry we didn’t have our passports to see the falls from the Canada side. But that seems greedy, since we had no idea we’d even be able to stop.

It was after 1:00 by the time we made it back to Buffalo, hooked up the trailer and hit the road again. We made a quick stop at New Era Field to take a picture in front of the Buffalo Bills field.

Now we were headed to Toledo, Ohio, about four hours away. After the eight hours yesterday, that was pretty easy, and left us with only about four more hours for Sunday to get to Chicago. We don’t get a lot of notice about locations and times for our events, but Friday I’d gotten a loose schedule and was able to find a suburban hotel about half an hour from most of the events. And it had a huge parking lot, which is a plus with the trailer. It worked out great. We stayed there a week and a half total.

Starting tomorrow, our Chicago events! As always, thanks for reading!

 

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Alaska!

Monday, September 9 – Tuesday, September 10, 2019

We woke to beautiful views as we pulled in to the dock in Juneau, Alaska, Monday, September 9th.

We stood on our balcony a few minutes and saw a bald eagle perched on a walkway as we were pulling into the docks.

We used to see bald eagles in Madera County, up by Hensley Dam/Hidden Lake, but not in a few years. (Side note: I’m writing and posting this while we’re on the road with the Code 3/RALI drug education trailer in the Chicago area. Yesterday, we saw a bald eagle circling above us in suburban Chicago. No. Big. Deal. Like, we didn’t travel 1600+ miles to see this one bald eagle in Alaska. Although, I did see one more later, sticking its bald head up from a tree, but this is definitely the best view of the one we both saw.)

Our excursion was to a salmon hatchery, Mendenhall Glacier National Park, and a salmon bake (“all you can eat”). We also had reservations for dinner with my folks for dinner at one of the ships specialty restaurants, one of our perks from our awesome travel agent, Cheryl at Hey Wanna Go. (Thanks, Cheryl!)

All of the “older” generation had decided this excursion involved too much walking, so it was just the four of us. Lee and Karie disembarked a little early to see some of Juneau. Dave and I took our time, then met up with Lee and Karie, boarded a bus and headed to the salmon hatchery.

It was very interesting to learn about the salmon industry in Alaska. We’ve watched Deadliest Catch about crab and some of the other reality fishing shows about tuna and salmon, etc. The salmon industry in Alaska makes sure that it is sustainable for future generations. David bought some salmon jerky to enjoy later.

After the hatchery, we loaded back onto the bus, and headed to Mendenhall Glacier National Park. It’s very well organized, as far as letting off bus passengers. We walked a fair amount (good thing the parents decided to cancel this excursion since it did entail some walking–much of it uphill, too). From the Visitor’s Center, we had a great view of the glacier itself, as well as displays to read. There was a film to watch, also. I was trying to record a wolf’s cry for a certain grand-daughter who is currently enamored with wolves, and I missed the film. Dave, Lee, and Karie were able to see the film though.

We then walked down one of the trails for a slightly closer view of the glacier.

When we hear that the glaciers are receding at so many feet per year, I, absolutely, feel a responsibility about global warming. But then I read a bit more. The glaciers have been receding for hundreds of years. Since long before humankind had anything to do with air pollution, emissions, and so on. Because let’s be real. The Grand Canyon was cut by glaciers. There were very few humans around then. Their effect on the glaciers receding through the Grand Canyon was negligible, at best. The Alaska glaciers have been receding for several hundred years. Since long before we arrived. I don’t minimize the effect we have on our environment, but I also don’t think we humans are to blame for everything the natural world is experiencing. Some of it is just a natural cycle of events.

After Mendenhall Glacier, our bus took us to a salmon feed. But we had dinner reservations at a restaurant on the ship. I had made them for later in the evening, to allow for extra time if we were late returning. Good thing! We got to the salmon bake and were told we could take as long as we wanted there. And there were buses ready to take us back to the docks whenever we were ready.

We stood in line for a portion of salmon each, but we knew we had a full dinner waiting for us back on the ship. ** The salmon at the salmon bake was … mmmm … how to put this?? Ah. May. Zing!! Fresh. Tender. Succulent. There was a buffet with salads and scalloped potatoes, then you went to the grill where the chef gave you a piece of salmon and offered you some glaze. I accepted a small piece of fish and the glaze, which they were selling (of course 😉 ) in their gift shop. But it was delicious! As it cooled, it started to congeal and harden a bit, but it really was amazing. Sweet, but not overpowering. I would have bought some, but I knew we were going to be bumping up against space and weight limits for the flights home. Of course, I didn’t know what awaited us as far as “flights” home. Stay tuned for more about that.

After David and gobbled down a few bites of salmon, we said bye to Lee and Karie and jumped on a bus back to the dock, and got ready for our dinner at the Pinnacle Grill restaurant with my folks.

Another amazing experience! The service was awesome! It was like they wanted to find a reason to shower us with love and attention. They kept asking if there was an occasion to celebrate. A birthday? Anniversary? It finally occurred to me–we had our 42nd anniversary a few days after the end of the cruise. I mentioned that and the staff exhaled a collective sigh of relief. Whew! They had a reason to be extra attentive, I guess?

I ordered the “Clothesline” appetizer. Candied bacon hanging from a line. Mom and I had a tenderloin steak that was wonderful. Even though we said we were too full for dessert, because we were celebrating an “occasion,” we were brought a dessert. It was delicious, but we were truly full, so we asked that it be packaged up and we took it back to our room’s mini-fridge for later.

Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Skagway, Alaska

We had booked an excursion from the docks in Skagway, taking a train into the Yukon, then a bus back into Alaska. Or it might be the opposite. You don’t know until you’re there. It’s at the tour’s discretion which way you go. Up by train and back by bus, or up by bus and back by train. But this was one tour we were assured was very easy and suitable for all ages and abilities.

Lee and Karie disembarked a little early to explore Skagway, then texted me. They heard that a train had broken down on the tracks and all tours for the day were canceled. Could we find out if that included ours?? We zipped up to the Excursions desk, but no one was there. Apparently, on shore days, they’re all on shore, booking tours, guiding people, etc.

As David and I disembarked, we ran into a woman he’d chatted with in his cigar smoking area. She had been in the train that had broken down. Yep. It was our train.

We continued on to where we were supposed to board and got the scoop. Yes. A train had broken an axle on the tracks. We had a couple of options. We could take a bus up and back. And possibly get a partial refund. We decided to go ahead and do that. We waited a little bit and boarded a bus for the ride up to the boarding point for the White Pass Yukon Rail. The driver takes his time. We stop many times for photo ops of glaciers and rugged mountainsides.

As we’re on the bus, we get word that the broken train had been moved off the track and we would be able to ride the train back to Skagway.

Because part of the bus and train route moved from Alaska into the Yukon (Canada), we were required to bring our passports. We had to show them twice. Once in the bus, on the way up. We had to get out the passport, hold it near our face, look straight ahead, “don’t make a joke,” etc. The Canadian Immigration official who boarded the bus to inspect us made a joke about how serious we all were. We had no response. “Ummm … we were told to be boring?”

The train followed a route built in 1898 for the Yukon Gold Rush. I really wanted to see several things while in Alaska. A bear. The Northern Lights. A moose. During the ride, our guide announced that a bear was on the right side of train. We were on the right side of the train and I was on window side, so I leaned over to look and there s/he was! It was very quick, but I saw a brown bear in Alaska! I didn’t see the Northern Lights since it was still bit early. And no moose. But I saw a bear! I think I’m the only one of our group of eight who saw the bear.

Coming back to the US, the immigration process was about the same as going into Canada. “Hold your passport in your left hand, near your face, don’t make jokes.” We were in the train at this point, with a few passengers from other buses, so it took a little bit longer. But we got the same response from the U.S. Customs & Border Protection officer. “Hey, did you all have a good time in the Yukon?” Ummm … no!! We were told we have to tell you we had a horrible time. We hate Canada! We want to come home to the US!! (Which is not true. Canada is lovely.)

Our excursion included a trip to a gold camp with a snack and gold panning. But because of the delays, after we arrived back in Skagway, (after passing through Customs & Immigration twice–once into Canada and once out) we decided to skip the gold camp and head back to the ship for dinner.

IMG_4323One of the fun elements of the cruise was during dinner, our stewards, Hri and/or Sri, would come in and turn down the bed and leave information about the next day’s stops. And there was always a cute towel sculpture on the bed.

We all made it back to the ship and had a lovely dinner in the dining room.

Then we ended the evening in the BB King lounge, listening to some great music, watching passenger’s dancing, talking with friends, and even (a little) dancing.

 

 

 

 

 

Alaska, Ho!

Saturday, Sept. 7 & Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019

Saturday

When we’d checked into our Vancouver hotel, the desk staff had recommended a shuttle to take us to the port for boarding the cruise ship. The driver, Sayeed, assured us he could deliver all 8 of us, and our luggage, right to the curb where we could drop off our bags and be met with the requested wheelchairs for the folks. Well. It turned out Sayeed was working a bait and switch.

He did have an 8 passenger van. But counting him, there were 9 of us. So an extra person was scrunched into one bench seat and seatbelt-less. Then, yes, he delivered us to a curb. Just not the curb at the baggage drop. So it was a looooong walk to the actual baggage drop, where the taxis and buses were delivering other passengers. He did help with the bags, but we still had a lot to wrangle through elevators and walkways, while shepherding the folks who’d been told they would have wheelchairs and wouldn’t have to walk far. So we didn’t start off on a happy note.

 

Once we dropped off the bags, it got a little easier, but it was still a fair distance to the check-in. But once there, and checked-in, we could sit while we waited for the wheelchairs that would take us on board. We waited a loooong time. I guess they had about four chairs for the 400 passengers requesting assistance. I probably exaggerated, but not by much. David accompanied Mom and I walked along with Dad. An attendant pushed the chair, Mom or Dad held a carryon bag on their lap and we zipped past some lines at Customs, showed our passports and then scooted up the gangway and onto the ship. We were on the 8th floor, at the front of the ship. Mom and Dad on the port side, David and I on the starboard side. Our friends and their parents were also being accompanied and using a wheelchair, so it didn’t take long and we were all on board.

We met our room stewards, Hru and Sri. They were all smiles and welcomed us with genuine warmth. We then headed to the dining room for lunch. After lunch, Mom and Dad went to rest in their room, while David and I explored the ship. We sat in on an orientation talk for first time cruisers. We also went up to the shore excursions desk. We had booked our excursions ahead of time, but after seeing how much walking there was on the ship, Mom and Dad were rethinking some of our choices. We decided they should cancel Monday’s excursion to Mendenhall Glacier. We also asked the consultant there about the other two excursions we had booked, but she assured us there was very little walking on both of those. That we’d be met by a bus on the dock and taken to the site. So we left those on the schedule and just canceled the glacier trip.

By then it was time for the muster drill. We hurried back to our cabin and waited to be called to the deck near the life boats. All 8 of us made it to the drill. Whew! Then it was time for sailing!

Although the Pittman’s room was on the port side, the other three rooms in our party were on the starboard side, which was the side facing the dock, so we gathered in our room, on the balcony, for a toast and to wave farewell to Vancouver. And … Sri arrived with a lovely gift from our awesome travel agent, Cheryl, at Hey Wanna Go. She sent us an appetizer sampler that we enjoyed while watching Vancouver slip away. Thank you, Cheryl!

 

Then it was time for dinner! Seafood, steak, pasta, so many choices …

After dinner, we were tuckered out. Lee and Karie explored the nightlife and entertainment options, but we called it a night.

Sunday, Sept 8

 

Sunday was a cruising day. We sailed up the Inland Passage and admired the gorgeous scenery. We saw a pod of dolphins and a few whales. Dave found the smoking area where he could enjoy a cigar. One of the “bargain,” offers on ship, was a “free” bracelet and then the opportunity to buy a charm each day. I was able to use my coupon as well as both folks’ and so assembled three bracelets and gave one each to Amber and Taryn when we got home.

 

After breakfast, we were able to take a tour of the kitchen and meet the chef. He talked about how they prepare, assemble, and serve the meals to the 2000+ passengers and crew, how they plan the menus. He also mentioned that on the second gala night, when lobster is offered, that the numbers are very consistent, for every cruise! Nearly every passenger orders the lobster.

Sunday evening was the first of the two Gala Nights where we dressed up for dinner. It was a fun evening. After dinner we enjoyed some music at the Billboard Lounge then at the B.B. King nightclub.

 

Tomorrow, Mendenhall Glacier National Park!

Vancouver Day 2

Thursday September 5

After breakfast at our hotel, we bought tickets for a hop on/hop off bus, and walked a short distance to their stop. We rode the bus to Granville Island, where we had another short walk to Bridges restaurant for lunch. Dad was intent on having all the seafood he could get, so he often had either salmon or fish and chips.

After lunch, the Pittmans hung out at the restaurant, while the other four of us wandered around Granville Island. We found shops, farmers market stalls, a distillery, postcards, a glassblower, a paper shop, and lots of other fun places.

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed a dinner of antipasto and snacks. We had bought some cheeses and interesting salamis at a charcuterie shop on the island. I bought a gin- and green olive-infused salami. It was good, but I can’t say the olive flavor really came through. We added some other snacks and crackers, and I ordered a small pizza that David and Lee went and picked up. It was a good day, and a fun way to see a part of Vancouver.

Friday September 6

We returned to the hop on/hop off bus tour. The Pittmans decided to stay on the bus for the whole circuit, before returning to the hotel for lunch and to relax. The four of us got off in Stanley Park, where we walked around, saw the totem poles, and had a wonderful lunch at the Stanley Park Tea House. Then we had to head back to the hotel, because Lee’s parents were due into town that afternoon. They were joining us on the cruise, departing the next day. The first bus that came by was full, and we couldn’t get on. So we called a taxi to take us back to the hotel.

We learned a lot about Vancouver from the bus drivers. The movie industry is quite large there. Last year there were about 36,000 jobs available in the movie industry. And about 3500 of those jobs were not filled. (Sidenote: if you work in show business and can’t get a job in LA, consider Vancouver!)

There are some high-rises on the waterfront, with condos, very expensive, and the buildings only have a 10% occupancy rate. Many were bought as “safe houses or bolt holes,” by people from other countries, and are sitting vacant. Local people opened stores and businesses on the ground floors of these buildings, but due to the low occupancy rate, ended up going bankrupt and out of business.

Back at the hotel, Dave and Lee took the rental car to return to the airport, preparing to meet Lee’s parents. They had arranged for a shuttle to drive the four of them, plus the luggage, to the hotel. Meanwhile, the other Karie and I were on a mission of our own. We rode a couple of taxis and did some walking, in a quest for some supplies Karie needed. Unfortunately, Dave and Lee and Lee’s parents somehow missed each other at the airport, and his parents ended up taking a taxi to the hotel while David and Lee waited at the airport. By the time everyone figured out where everyone was, it was late enough that we decided to split up for dinner. Lee and Karie taxied to the Gastown area where they went to the Black Frog Pub, which looked fabulous. The Pittmans and we went to a local pub, which I won’t tag, because it was pretty lame. The food wasn’t great, the service was even less great, and it did not have Guinness.

Then we went back to the hotel and to bed, to prepare for embarking on our Alaska cruise tomorrow!

Thank you for reading!

Back to Work

It’s been over a month since I posted, but what a month it’s been! Pasadena, Vancouver BC, Alaska, Maine …

As I write, we’re in a suburb of Chicago. It will likely take me a few days to catch up to the present (and to get back in the habit of writing every day or every other day).

We got home from Colorado at the end of August and spent a few days catching up on things around the house as well as laundry. Then we drove south to Pasadena to visit our friends and to attend the Fresno State vs. USC football game. It was a long-planned weekend, combining several favorite pastimes.

We left Altadena first thing Sunday, and drove to Amber and Martin’s home in Visalia and visited with them for a couple of hours. Grampy got to wrestle and play with Zach and I think they were both worn out by the time we left.

One of the reasons we got an early start was that we wanted to stop by a memorial open house for a long-time friend that was happening that afternoon. Jerry and Roni were good friends of ours when we were young marrieds. They were a little bit older than us, they already had kids, and they were really great role models to us for marriage and parenting. After Dave started on the Highway Patrol and we moved to Southern California, we drifted apart except for occasional Christmas cards. When we moved back to the Valley, we had dinner a couple of times, then Jerry and I connected again on Facebook, which is how I learned he had passed away and about the memorial open house his family was hosting. Even though we hadn’t spent any significant time with Jerry and Roni in over thirty years, (except for the two dinners), it was such a pleasure to hear others talk about Jerry and to know he was still the man we had known and loved all those years ago: kind, generous, irascible, unable to hold a grudge. His son and daughter and grandkids and wife shared stories. Jerry and Roni have invested themselves into the lives of teens and at-risk kids. They’ve sent kids to camp, helped them get enrolled in college, find housing, buy books. Jerry and Roni are the real deal. They didn’t sit around talk about what programs should be funded or how to fix society. They just went about helping the people God put in their path. It was such a blessing to be there. Jerry will be missed and we promised to get together with Roni when we’re back in town.

Monday (Labor Day) and Tuesday were busy with work and errands and appointments. Monday afternoon I finished my monthly reports for the day job and my computer wanted to install updates so I told it to go ahead while David and I had dinner. I came back a few hours later and the computer was frozen. I could see the welcome screen, sort of. But I couldn’t sign in. It wouldn’t respond to anything. I did a couple of forced reboots. I unplugged the power, let it sit, plugged it back in. Same thing. Argh. Put the thing in the car to take to the Geek Squad Tuesday. Which I did, amongst the other 40 errands I had to do. Along with packing.

Because, dark and early (4:45 am early!) Wednesday morning, we were leaving for Vancouver BC, and our long-awaited Alaska cruise! My kind and gracious brother- and sister-in-law picked up Dave and our friends Lee and Karie, while I drove to pick up my folks and we rendezvoused with both cars at the airport. My sister-in-law took my car to work, then dropped it off at our house later. So we had six people and about 12 bags, totes and backpacks to get through the airport. Everything went fine except I had neglected to remind my folks about TSA’s rule about liquids having to be less than 3.4 ounces in your carryons. They had to throw out toothpaste, hairspray, and shaving cream. But at least it was all things easily replaceable in Vancouver. So we made our 6:40 flight from Fresno to Seattle just fine. We had a long layover in Sea/Tac, where we had requested wheelchairs for my folks, not knowing how far we’d have to walk to our gates.

We had a serendipity in Seattle when we ran into a friend and former co-worker of Dave and Lee’s who was waiting for his connecting flight home to Idaho. That was crazy! From Seattle, we flew into Vancouver. It’s a beautiful airport, and it was our first experience with the mythic super-polite Canadian. We’re a little bewildered about that.

Our wheelchair pushers delivered the folks and their bags to a couple of motorized carts then disappeared. I understood them to say they had to go get two more passengers, but they weren’t clear in their communication. And we waited a looooong time. Just as everyone was confused and irritated, they arrived back. By the time they loaded up the people who needed assistance and their bags, there wasn’t room for the daughter of the third passenger on Mom and Dad’s cart. She walked alongside the cart. As David and I did. Actually, we walked ahead of it and were waiting at Customs. When the cart arrived, the other passenger and her daughter were talking quite loudly, Mom was giving me a LOOK, and the young female driver looked like she wanted to disappear.

I went to help Mom off the back of the cart and to get everyone’s passports. The third passenger mumbled to me an apology for her behavior. I had no idea what she was talking about, so I just shrugged. Well … come to find out, she and her daughter had gotten into a shouting match and had been yelling at the poor driver on the trip from the gate to Customs. As we were gathering ourselves and our passports, the driver went to a supervisor nearby and said she would help our party, but someone else needed to help the other two ladies from her cart. As she was talking us through the Customs kiosk, David asked if she was okay, and she teared up and started to cry. We all apologized for the others’ behavior and tried to help. We tipped her generously. When we observed the daughter talking to a supervisor, we also told a supervisor that nothing was this young woman’s fault. Mom told the daughter that their behavior was inappropriate. The daughter nodded and didn’t disagree. I really don’t know what got into them, except the mother/wheelchair passenger wanted her daughter to ride on the cart too, and there wasn’t room. It was a 4-passenger cart. Two Pittmans, her, and the driver and there was no more room. So that put a dark cloud over our arrival in Vancouver.

The walk from our gate to Customs was beautiful. They have displays about nature and the environment of British Columbia. The rest of Customs was easy and uneventful. Because of the delay, Lee and Karie had collected all our bags, so they were waiting for us.

We then schlepped everything out of the airport and across to the parking garage to the car rentals where Lee had reserved an SUV. It held all six of us and all 28 of our bags (they multiplied on the journey–I shared the far rear seat with some of them). On the walk, there are some really cool sculptures of rocks with handles attached, so they look like luggage, backpacks, briefcases.

We got to our hotel in downtown Vancouver and checked in, and found an Irish pub for dinner, where we had good food, Guinness, and watched one young man wait on all the tables.

It was an early night for us. We were all tired, emotionally and physically.

Tomorrow: Our three days in Vancouver.

Thanks for reading!

Iowa –> Nebraska –> Colorado

We left Des Moines around 2:00 Monday afternoon. Dave did some errands for the trailer that morning while I worked and then went for a pedicure. I needed some self-care. 😉 We said a last goodbye to Bryan and Cuda at Farm Boy Garage, also breaking down their booth at the fairgrounds. Then we hooked up the trailer and put Des Moines in our rearview mirror. 

We knew we had an event in Julesburg, Colorado on Wednesday, August 21, but that’s all we knew. I emailed the one contact I had for info, we crossed our fingers and headed out for Lincoln, Nebraska, our stop for the night. We’d planned to stop at a trailer/RV place just outside of town that had exhibited at the fair. For more–you guessed it–trailer supplies. By then it was nearly 4:00 so we looked for a place to eat. Kue'dWe hadn’t had lunch yet, so we called it a late lunch/early dinner. I found a place called Kue’d that looked good. It was a bit out of our way, but we weren’t in a hurry.

We shared a salad with burnt ends and it was amazing! The brisket ends were tender and smoky and the salad was very welcome after the 9 days of fried foods at the fair.

So it was almost 5:00 by the time we were truly on the road and headed for Lincoln, Nebraska. We had about two and a half hours to go. This was our first time pulling this new trailer in a new truck. We weren’t sure what to expect. The new trailer’s hitch seemed to be sitting quite a bit lower than the other trailer.

Well.

This trailer pulls much more smoothly. No major swaying, no being buffeted around by the wind, or by trucks passing. It’s a huge difference. I don’t feel my heart in my throat and grip the armrest whenever a vehicle approaches on the left. Dave’s going to see what adjustments he can make to the other trailer when we take that one over again in September.

IMG_2760We arrived in Lincoln about 8:00 and stopped for runzas at a restaurant called Runza’s. I did a little reading on the way and discovered Nebraska’s claim to culinary fame is the runza, which is very similar to what we in the Central Valley call bierocks. They’re a kind of savory meat pie/turnover. I liked it, but Dave didn’t care for the spices in the meat.

We got checked into our hotel just after 8:00, which was unfortunate, because we discovered we’d missed their complimentary Happy Hour of snacks and wine. Someone took pity on our forlorn and bedraggled appearance and gave us a plastic cup of red wine, but the snacks were gone.

Tuesday morning, we had a bit more information about the Colorado schedule for the week, so I made some hotel reservations in Denver since we finally knew where we needed to be when. There are no hotels in Julesburg to speak of, so I made a reservation in Ogallala, Nebraska. That’s about three hours from Lincoln, but half an hour from Julesburg. We took our time again in Lincoln Tuesday morning before heading to Ogallala.

 

The scenery in Iowa and Nebraska is beautiful. Lots of corn. We crossed the Platte River many times. Several different forks of it, I think. According to our atlas, I-80 roughly follows the Oregon National Historic Trail, the California National Historic Trail, the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, and the Pony Express National Historic Trail. Do you see the theme there?

The details of our event in Julesburg were pretty fuzzy. We were told Colorado’s US Senator Cory Gardner would be visiting the trailer between 1:45 and 3, and the trailer would be open until 5. But we weren’t given a beginning time. When I asked, I was told, “umm, maybe, 11?” So we planned to get there around 10:30. We were given cross streets to set up at, but that was it.

When we arrived, we scoped out where we thought would be a good place of the four corners. Then two men joined us. Whew! Someone who knew what was going on. Except where they wanted us to park, there were vehicles in the way. So we compromised and ended up in front of the town hall, which worked just fine.

We got to work unloading the trailer and setting it up, then I walked to the local diner, had a quick lunch and brought a sandwich back for Dave. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on the menu: A Rocky Mountain Oyster sandwich. I knew he would love it. And he did. I did not take a picture of it. You’re welcome.

Our RALI Cares consultants showed up then and took over the set up of the outside display tables and giveaways. A few people came by and we gave tours. Then the senator and his entourage arrived. I started their tour with my usual intro and showed the first few items. Then I started getting the hurry up signals. What!?!? I just got started. But I talked faster. Then I got another signal. Fine. I talked faster and skipped things. Then someone told the senator he had just a few more minutes. So then I was skipping lots of things and giving the highlights. But whew! I guess I finished in time, because then he stood around outside taking pictures, accepting a plaque, and then they left. On the dot of 3:00.

We gave a few more tours. I think we showed the trailer to about 20-some people total. Julesburg is a very small town of around 1200 people. We stayed until 5:00, then packed up. 

The building across from us is the home of the Sedgwick County Economic Development Agency. Several of us were given a tour by the director who has been restoring the building which used to be a bank. Now it houses his offices, as well as some other businesses and offers meeting spaces to local groups and houses a military collection. It’s a really beautiful and amazing old building.

 

When we were done, we were still three hours from Denver. Our new colleagues were arriving the next day around 11:20. We had reservations at a hotel about an hour and a half away. I thought that was a good compromise, rather than driving three hours after IMG_2771an event, or three hours the next morning. So we drove to Fort Morgan, Colorado, to a Comfort Inn, took a quick dip in their pool, and went to bed.

We were up early Thursday morning, and on the road to Denver. We have an event in Greenwood Village on Sunday and two events at the Capitol Monday and Tuesday, although we’re leaving on Monday. So I wanted a hotel midway between those events, and convenient to the airport, since we were picking up our replacements and leaving ourselves.

We got to the hotel in Thornton about 10:30, found a place in their lot to drop off the trailer and then hurried to the airport. We made it just in time to meet our new colleagues, Jeff and Katia. We’re training them today and tomorrow in the trailer, on setting it up, giving tours, hooking it up and unhooking it, as well as driving it. We’ll do Sunday’s event together, then we’ll set up Monday at the Capitol together. We’ll take a bus and a train to the airport and fly home and the trailer will be all theirs.

The adventure continues! Thank you for reading!!

Final Thoughts on the Iowa State Fair

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

We were ex.haus.ted by Sunday evening after the Iowa State Fair.

But there are some thoughts/people/experiences I want to share.

The booth across from us. Farm Boy Garage. Super nice people over there. I’ve posted IMG_2680pictures of their dog, Cuda. She was just a love sponge. One day I was giving a tour and she sauntered into the trailer, looking for someone, or wanting some attention. The garage owner, Bryan, is a super-nice guy, as are his employees. He shared some stories with several of us that show his big heart, his work ethic, and his love of muscle cars. I also posted a couple of videos. Every so often Bryan would get into one of the cars he had on display, fire up the ignition and rev the engine. The sound was deafening. I’m not exaggerating. Many of you know I have a severe hearing loss in my right ear and my doctor has cautioned me to protect the hearing I have left in that ear and all my hearing in my left ear. So whenever Bryan fired up an engine, I’d stick my fingers in my ears, apologize to anyone I was giving a tour to, and wait it out. After about a minute, Bryan would turn off the engine. It was interesting to watch though. Whenever he did that, people would flock to his tents from all around us. It was like bugs to a bug light. (Also … Bryan shared with one of our team … a family member is going through a health crisis, and … it’s not going to end well. In fact, the end, is imminent and Bryan can’t bring himself to talk about it. So, my praying readers, please pray for Bryan.)

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Mid-Westerners: I’m a 2nd generation native Californian. Dave’s at least a 3rd generation. We know California missions. Yosemite. Giant Sequoias. The beach. But there’s much in this country we’re clueless about. And we don’t try to hide that. More than once we’ve tilted our heads and said, “Ummm … what?”

 

 

The Butter Cow. And the Sesame Street Characters made of butter. I do love butter. But not enough to sculpt with it. Or craft with it. And apparently they reuse the butter, so the cow is 19 years old.

Humidity. Californians don’t know humidity. Trust me. We only think we do.

Thunder. Until it wakes you from a deep sleep in the middle of the night, you haven’t

IMG_2717heard it. We watched the weather forecast every evening so we’d know how to leave the trailer and its accoutrement. If rain was forecast, everything went inside the trailer. If the forecast was clear, some things could be left outside. That worked well, until our last night … we left some popup shelters out, and some plastic bins and cardboard boxes. The bins and boxes held some of the drug deactivation kits the RALI Cares people give away as well as the tote bags. Well … thunder woke us up about 4:00 Sunday morning. We knew that was not a good thing. When we got to the fair grounds, our co-worker/consultant, Heidi, was already there. One of the popup shelters was a twisted, mangled mess. Several boxes of supplies were soaked. The only good thing was that we weren’t the only ones to suffer losses. Several other exhibitors nearby also had twisted popups. I guess, in addition to the rain, a weird wind swept through our alley of booths, leaving a path of twisted aluminum tents and poles.  

IMG_2696Scooters. We’ve seen lots of electric scooters taking people to see exhibits and booths. And this picture … The man is driving an electric scooter … towing his wife in a wheelchair. He rigged up a tow line with PVC pipe. Talk about ingenuity …

I work in the agriculture industry. But even my eyes widened when I walked past a huge piece of equipment with a sign that proclaimed Fair Special! $10,000 off Regular Price!!  Ummm …. How much is the regular price if the sale price is ten THOUSAND dollars off?? Dave thinks it’s about a half-million dollars piece of equipment and it’s something that contract harvesters buy and use. Not your average farmer/rancher.

Tomorrow … Nebraska and Colorado!