Oregon, Ho!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Since we’d had a couple of long days, and we had another 5 hour drive to Wilsonville, near Portland, we decided to take our time checking out from our hotel in Yreka. We had breakfast, watched our church service online, and then packed up.

The trip to Wilsonville was just the way we like it: uneventful. We found our hotel fine. When I make reservations, I always look at the parking lot via a satellite view to be sure there’s room to maneuver the trailer in and out. This particular hotel had a big enough parking lot, but they were undergoing renovations and a lot of the parking lot was taken up with storage containers and construction vehicles. Checking in took quite a while, too.

Once settled, we called up an Uber for a ride to dinner at the Oswego Grill. We shared the Cabernet Tenderloin Tips and they were fabulous!

Monday, November 4, 2019

My cousin, Lisa, had graciously invited us to stay her a few days while we were in town. I knew she and her husband had recently moved and when she invited us, I assumed they had moved and were settled. Well, they had moved all right. A week before we arrived! Lisa was amazing, hosting us while still getting settled and finding her belongings and unpacking. We ended up spending two nights with Lisa and Tom and had a great time.

Monday we relaxed at their beautiful new home, then went to a great winery for some IMG_5375 copytasting. Domaine Divio‘s motto is Oregon wine by essence, Burgundian wine by style. They have some fabulous Pinot Noirs. Then we headed to a local restaurant for dinner. Rosmarino is authentic and delicious Italian fare. I had the All’Amatriciana pasta (tomato sauce enhanced with homemade pancetta, onions & rosemary). It was so good! I can see why it’s one of Lisa and Tom’s favorites.

After dinner, we went across the street to the coffee/gelato/bookstore where I found some books that I had to have. Since we were driving only on this section of the tour, I didn’t have to worry about space or weight in my suitcase.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

A great day in Hillsboro! I worked while David and Tom and Lisa did things around the house and Lisa also had some work to take care of and an appointment. David and Tom made a great dinner for us.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

We left Lisa and Tom and Oregon and headed north to Seattle. Well, Tacoma was our actual destination, about three and half hours away. We found a great gas station in Washington, next to a casino. But it has lots of room for us and we stopped there several times over the next two weeks as we moved between events in Oregon and Washington.

Both the hotel in Yreka and this hotel in Tacoma, we’d stayed at before when we drove home after our Alaska cruise. So we were familiar with the parking lots and the layouts. We checked in and this hotel has a restaurant, so we had dinner there.

We had a call time of 9:30 AM in downtown Seattle the next morning. Google Maps said to allow two hours and the front desk clerks agreed. So it was an early evening and then an early morning for us.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Our event today was in downtown Seattle at a park/plaza where there were food trucks gathered.

This was a very different sort of event for us. The park was full of homeless people and addicts. Yet as lunchtime approached and the food trucks opened for business, the place filled with business people. Many of them stopped to ask about the trailer, and even started a tour, but since they were on their lunch hour, they didn’t want to take time for the full tour.

After I explained the premise of the trailer to one woman, she expressed support for our overall aim, but said she didn’t think the park was an appropriate venue, since “we’re trying to make it a family-friendly place.” Well … a quick glance at the addicts standing around told me how well that was working out.

As the lines thinned down after lunch, I was able to get us lunch from one of the food trucks. The Fork and Fin Food Truck featured Alaskan Pollock. We shared a salad with the pollock and it was amazing! The fish was fresh and delicious and it had a spicy crema dressing that was zippy without being too hot.

We were supposed to be there until 4:00 but by 2:00, everyone was packed up and gone and the only people left in the park were the homeless and the addicts. So we also called it a day and loaded up the trailer. We’d had to unhook the truck and park it off site, so we hiked back to the parking lot.

Which brought out something interesting. For some reason, David completely lost his bearings in downtown Seattle. In the morning, we’d unhooked and driven to the lot, then walked the three blocks back to the park. I sometimes can’t tell you which direction is west or north, but I can usually retrace my route. As we left the lot to walk back to the plaza, we had an immediate disagreement about which direction to go, so I had open Google Maps to navigate. And when we returned to the lot to pick up the truck, we made it there just fine, but when we pulled out of the lot to drive to plaza, David thought I was sending him the wrong way. I had to insist he follow my instructions, and sure enough, we went right to the park. 🙂

Before we got to Seattle, we’d talked about what we’d like to do in town, if we had time. The two things we settled on were visiting Pike Place Market and the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum/display. As it turned out, we didn’t make it to either, but as I navigated us out of the city, we did drive right by Pike Place Market. So I got to see it, at least.

Since we were two hours from our Tacoma hotel, we knew it was going to be another long day. And it was. And as I said, we’d stayed at the Tacoma hotel before. Our room faced I-5 and there was quite a bit of traffic noise. We were coming back in a week, and when I made the next reservation, I added a note that we wanted a room away from the freeway, and that we wanted a quiet room above all else.

We got to Tacoma, had another dinner at the hotel and went to bed. Tomorrow, back to Oregon.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Our next event was tomorrow, Saturday, in Eugene, Oregon, about a four hour drive. So we took some time this morning to drive to Silverdale, Washington to visit some IMG_3613 copytransplanted Fresno friends. They also opened a trampoline park, like the one we’d visited in North Carolina. It’s such a fun place and we had a great, though brief, time catching up.

We’d left the trailer at the Tacoma hotel, so after our visit, we drove back to Tacoma. I’d had some Amazon purchases sent to the hotel and one of them hadn’t shown up. I’d realized I’d put in the wrong address for the hotel, and unfortunately, the address I put in didn’t exist. But the closest numbers were across the street from us and down a block at a strip mall. So we made a quick stop and I canvassed those stores, popping in and asking if a package addressed to Carrie Padgett had been delivered. I visited a laundromat, a Goodwill store, a cannabis store, and a Hollywood Hustler.

The cannabis store was quite interesting. Inside was a doorman, checking IDs before letting customers enter. I never made it past him, because a) I wasn’t a customer, b) I didn’t have my ID, and c) I didn’t want to buy anything. But because I’m a writer and I believe everything might make an interesting addition to a story, I freely looked around, taking mental snapshots and sniffing. There’s a definite smell to the place. Not strictly like marijuana, but also not unpleasant. Distinctive. The customers were a cross-section. There was a biker in black leather. There was a student with a backpack. While I was waiting for the manager to look in the office for my package, two women came in. Both braless, one was toothless. But one struck a pose and declared, “Officially cancer-free! We’re going to celebrate now!”

The Hollywood Hustler store was also interesting. One section had a sign: 18 and over only. ID required to enter. Ummm … okay. (As noted above, I had no ID on me. David had dropped me off to check the stores and then gone to fill up the truck’s gas tank.) The clerk working the front counter was helping someone exchanging a product that … well, I’m not sure what it was. It was plastic, green, and shaped like a marijuana leaf.

We learned that marijuana is huge in Oregon. And they like it that way! That story will come up in the next post.

None of the stores had my package, so we returned to our hotel, hooked up the trailer and headed to Eugene. My satellite view of the hotel had shown a large vacant lot next to the hotel, with visible tire tracks. So we expected to be able to park there, if the lot itself was too small. We called the hotel on our way, to confirm they had room to accommodate the trailer. When we mentioned the vacant lot, the receptionist said, “There’s a creek in the middle, so no. And there’s construction next door.”

Well. The vacant lot we were referring to was now the construction site of a new hotel. It was a close fit, but we did get the trailer in. Our event the next day was the state cross country championships at a local community college in Eugene. There were several teams staying at our hotel and the parking lot was full of vans.

After checking in, we looked at restaurants, called an Uber and headed out. We’d settled on the Ram, a local chain. But as we talked with the Uber driver, we said we were looking for good barbecue and had considered another place, Bill and Ted’s BBQ. He said it was much better than where we were headed, so we changed our destination. Bill and Ted’s was great! We shared ribs and some sides. David had said he wanted dry ribs, not drowning in sauce. And he got his wish. They were tender and the meat fell off the bone.

After dinner, out next Uber driver took us back to the hotel. We had a good chat with him. His day job is with the local blood bank. Meeting so many people for short times, hearing a portion of their stories … it’s part of why we love this job.

 

 

The Adventure in California

Where I left off … we were in Bakersfield, CA, on our way from Las Vegas to Monterey …

Thursday, October 24, 2019

At breakfast, as I checked email, we got a message that our event in Monterey for tomorrow had fallen through. Which gave us a dilemma … to be continued.

Now we had a week off with no events booked. But our company had purchased some metal ramps and handrails to replace the wooden steps we’d been using to get into the trailer. And the packages were being shipped to our hotel in Monterey. So we had to go to Monterey. I know, tough gig. 🙂 But the prospect of dragging the trailer across the state wasn’t exactly appealing. We decided to detour home, drop the trailer off at our house, then go on to Monterey.

Which we did. We got to town in time to have dinner at a great restaurant I’d saved to my list of prospective restaurants. Hula’s Tiki Grill was outstanding! Dave had the Chimichurri barramundi and I had the Hilo Sliders. One of the two packages was waiting for us at our hotel.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The next day, we met up with long time friends who were passing through town and had lunch at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing. Dave had crab and I had fish and chips. IMG_7155 copyAfter a great visit with Jo and Kevin, we walked on the beach for a bit. Monterey was in the midst of a heat wave and it was really quite warm.

IMG_2423 copyFor dinner, Dave wanted more crab so we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf and the Old Fisherman’s Grotto restaurant. Dave got his crab and I had clam chowder. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Monterey Bay and the wharf. I bought some postcards to send to the grandkids. I try to buy postcards for the grandkids and refrigerator magnets for their families at our various stops.

Saturday October 26 – Thursday October 31, 2019

We drove home on Saturday and spent the next few days doing laundry, letting the cat get reacquainted with us, and taking care of some household chores and maintenance.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Our first and only California event was at a football game in Hollister Friday night, November 1. We planned to leave our home about 11 AM, to arrive and set up at San Benito High around 2 and be ready by the time the Junior Varsity game started at 3. Great plan, and all was going well until we discovered the trailer didn’t have lights.

Remember when we hooked up the trailer to the truck back in Las Vegas, the plug had been dragged along the road and was all eroded on one side? Well, even though our colleague had assured us that the lights still worked, something else had failed or broken since them and we had no lights. David did what he could and tried several fixes but nothing worked. Since it was daylight, we decided to leave and try to repair the issue once we were in Hollister. But it would have to be fixed because our hotel for the night was in Morgan Hill, and we’d be traveling there after the football game, well into the night.

While we were on the road, I posted to Facebook that we were headed to Hollister but we had no lights and were praying for an easy fix. A friend saw my post and tagged her IMG_1114 copybrother Jeremy who lives not far from Hollister. We’ve known their family for years, Jeremy and his siblings grew up with our daughters. Once we got to Hollister and got set up, David looked at the plug more closely and knew he needed help.

Well, Jeremy to the rescue! This amazing young man drove from his home on a Friday evening, looked at the issue, drove to a store, bought supplies, and did enough of a repair job that we could drive to our hotel. We are so grateful! It’s very hard for David to ask others for help and even harder for him to accept it. So we truly did need help that night and God sent Jeremy to us. (Jeremy also happens to be a CHP officer. 😉 )

The event itself in Hollister was quite interesting. Co-sponsored by two California politicians, they both made appearances at the event, which doesn’t always happen. State Senator Anna Caballero and Assemblymember Robert Rivas were very interested in the trailer and the education we’re doing. We also had some educators and administrators from both schools playing in the football game come through, as well as parents and grandparents. Local television news also came by to do stories. There have been several overdoses on the Central Coast in the past few months, so lots of people expressed how needed the education is.

The evening was quite cold and David turned on the heaters in the trailer but after five minutes of blowing cold air, he turned them off again. After the game, we loaded up, told our consultants good-bye, and headed for Morgan Hill. We had to make most of the drive with the emergency flashers going, but at least we had flashers that lit up!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

We had a five and half hour drive planned today, from Morgan Hill to Yreka, on our way to the Portland area.

Dave got up early and drove to the local Camping World store. A mechanic there helped him diagnose the problem (blown fuses), still existing after Josh’s work last night. Dave then went to the auto parts store, picked me up at the hotel since we couldn’t get a late check-out. (Well, they said they’d give us until noon, since check-out was 11. Except everything I had said check-out was noon.)

Anyway, it took three trips to Camping World, two trips to the auto parts store (the mechanic failed to mention that he’d dropped a fuse and couldn’t find it, so we had to go back to replace it) and to the local Ford dealership, because some of the fuses are Ford specific. It was after 3:00 by the time we were on the road.

One thing we did that I’m glad about, even though it added to the length of the day: we took time for a real lunch at Noah’s. It was a great find and if we’re ever back in Morgan Hill, we’ll visit again.

We finally rolled into Yreka about 9:30 PM, ate our lunch leftovers, and dropped into bed.

 

Illinois –> Indiana –> Ohio –> Kentucky

When we arrived in Illinois, we thought we’d have some events in Kentucky and West Virginia, then we’d end up in Florida and fly home. Well, we’re learning to be flexible. No events had materialized in Kentucky or West Virginia. The first Florida event wasn’t for a couple of weeks. Then we were asked if we’d be okay with flying west and taking over the other trailer in Las Vegas and doing events in California, Oregon, and Washington. Sure! We had a about a week to get the east coast trailer to Florida, where we’d leave it, and then fly to Nevada.

So we plotted out a route that enabled us to see friends and family and visit a tourist site that Dave had wanted to see the last time we were in Indiana.

Saturday, Oct 12 — Our beautiful granddaughter, Ellinor, turned a year old!

We left Sparta and our smoked pork steak and headed for Evansville, Indiana, our stop for the night.  Next to our hotel was a gas station with a very nice gift shop/tourist souvenirs. I bought socks for all the grandkids there. USC was playing Notre Dame, so our goal was to get checked in, in time to watch the game. We made it, but were unable to root USC on to victory. Dave talked to some of the other hotel guests. There were hunters with teams of dogs they kept outside in trailers. And truck drivers driving modified Midget racing cars to races.

We called Ellinor to tell her happy birthday, but she was asleep and her mommy was sick. She woke up later and they called us back, so we did get to see her on her birthday.

Evansville is also where we began requesting rooms on high floors. I think some of the hunters were right above us and they clomped around getting ready to leave at 4:30 AM. We heard every step, every door slam, until they left.

Sunday, Oct. 13 — We left Evansville and Indiana and headed for Cincinnati. We were IMG_0124actually staying in Bellevue, Kentucky, but were meeting a writer friend of mine, Kimberly Duffy, and her family in Cincinnati at Graeter’s, a local place deservedly famous for their hand-crafted, French-style, ice-cream.

Kimberly and I had a great time catching up, since we’d last seen each in Charleston in May, and the men enjoyed talking about food and drink. The Duffys gave us some suggestions for dinner, but also mentioned a local market we should check out. Jungle Jims.

Oh. my.

Imagine a combination Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods/World Market, the size of one and a half Costcos. And it greets you in the parking lot with jungle noises, like Disney’s Jungle Cruise ride. Inside are restaurants (we had gyros for dinner), and the groceries are arranged by country of origin. So if you were making a Moroccan dish, you’d head to the Morocco aisle. We saw products in the Ireland and England aisles that we hadn’t seen outside of those countries. There’s an olive bar. The cheese department is as big as the Ranchos Market back home. Yes, the cheese department is as big as the whole Ranchos Market store. We spent two hours there and didn’t see it all. The cigar humidor had a sign that read No shopping carts inside, which impressed Dave with both its size and prices. No California tobacco taxes.

Who knew foodie heaven was in Cincinnati?

Monday, Oct. 14

We left the trailer at our hotel and drove half an hour south in Kentucky to the Ark Encounter. It’s a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark, built to the dimensions and details given in the Bible. It’s quite amazing and well worth seeing. It’s huge and visiting it really makes the immensity of Noah’s task come alive. Which is the purpose of the whole encounter.

It’s very well done, if a bit “Disney-esque.” The designers put a lot of thought into crowd control and movement. The displays are well done. They’re upfront about what is true, taken from Scripture, and what they’ve taken license with (clothing, what Noah and his

family looked like), and what they believe is correct even though it’s not found in the Bible (how feeding and watering the animals was handled, as well as dealing with their waste).

IMG_1870 2Wherever you fall on the faith spectrum and on the creation vs. evolution debate, the Ark Encounter is worth a visit. They have their definite views and they aren’t shy about promoting it (or dismissing those who disagree or have a differing view). I’m one who doesn’t share their views on everything, but I still found the experience valuable. I’d take my kids and grandkids, but we’d have lots of discussions before, during, and after our visit.

Five and a half hours (and a buffet lunch) later, we headed the half hour back to our hotel and a quiet evening in with Monday Night Football.

Tuesday, Oct. 15

This was a long day of travel. We wanted to spend a couple of days in North Carolina visiting friends there. In order to make that and the Ark Encounter happen, and get to Orlando on time, we had an eight and half hour drive, according to Google Maps. Which would be closer to ten in reality with the trailer. Maybe longer if we ran into weather. So we got an early start. It was a beautiful drive through Kentucky and West Virginia and Virginia. We stopped for an hour in Beckley, WV for lunch and Dave called his usual Tuesday cigar/accountability friends and they did their thing remotely for a while.

The wind was indeed a factor and it was indeed a long day of driving by the time we pulled into Hillsborough, outside of Raleigh. We were too tired to even go find dinner. I had a bag of microwave popcorn in my suitcase from one of our previous hotels, so I called that dinner, with a few other snacks Dave keeps in his backpack for him.

Wednesday, Oct. 16

I spent a couple of hours working, then we checked out and made our way to our friends’, the Carpenters, home. We had permission to leave the trailer at the hotel which made life much easier for the next couple of days. The weather was gray and rainy and chilly, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time.

IMG_1538 2Dave went to high school with both Mike and Vicky and we went to church with them for years in Fresno, until they moved to North Carolina, in 2011. We had a great time seeing their home and business, having lunch, and catching up. They haven’t changed a bit and we picked up like we’d seen them last week.

After saying goodbye to Mike and Vicky, we made our way to Durham and to Bill and Sheana’s home. We went to church with Bill and Sheana in Southern California back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We’ve known them since our girls were little and before they had kids. This was also a great visit! They’ve recently moved into a new home that they designed and the thought and care they put into it is very obvious. They fed us a delicious dinner of authentic Carolina barbecue and we played CatchPhrase after, guys against the gals. We started out strong, but they made an impressive comeback and we ended up tied.

Thursday Oct. 17

After the rain yesterday, today was clear and sunny. We decided to visit the gardens at Duke University and the chapel. The gardens are amazing and lovely. Parts of them reminded me of the gardens at Kylemore Abbey in Ireland, in their layout and beauty.

The chapel is gothic in design, but was built in the early 20th century, even though it appears much older. Inside, it’s lined with stained glass windows depicting Biblical vignettes. We happened to arrive in time to listen to an organist rehearse for a few minutes. Dave talked to the chapel’s … doorkeeper? docent? (he wasn’t giving tours, although there was a tour going on …). Anyway, Dave said playing the organ is turning into a lost art, since churches are moving away organs. He said actually, the manufacturers and tuners are very busy, because there’s a huge demand for organs in stadiums! Which makes sense. They like something loud, to get the crowd energized.

After the visit and the walk, we were ready for lunch. We headed to a local Mediterranean spot Bill and Sheana like. It was absolutely delicious, and we’re kind of picky about our Mediterranean/Armenian food, coming from an area where much of it is excellent and readily available and it’s not uncommon for our Armenian friends to argue about which place makes the better fatoush or pilaf or lahmajun.

Back at the house, Bill and Dave transplanted a few trees, while I did some work and Sheana played the piano. Then we fixed dinner, fish tacos. Sheana asked me what we wanted for a side dish, black beans or corn on the cob. I said beans, and she asked if Dave was okay with beans, given his dietary restrictions. I said yes. What I didn’t say is that beans are more okay than corn. He can never have corn, but he does have beans occasionally. Of course, when we passed the beans at the table, he said, “No, thanks, those will tear me up!” Sigh.

The next morning we had to hit the road early. We had a trailer to pick up and a niece and her family to visit in South Carolina.

To be continued…

Thanks, as always for reading!

Goodbye, Chicago. Hello, Southern Illinois

Wednesday, Oct 9

We checked out of the hotel and drove about an hour to Sandwich, Illinois where we had IMG_5638an event at the local high school, sponsored by Rep. Tom Demmer. He came by, took a tour and spent more than a few minutes with a constituent who showed up specifically to discuss an issue with him. He gave her his full attention for quite a while.

The chief of police stopped by, as did a canine officer. Dave usually does the tours with peace officers and they all enjoy the experience. The canine officer gave us some restaurant suggestions for when we got to Springfield.

We set up in the parking lot and got to listen to the band practice their half time show.

This wasn’t a large attendance event, but we had a few people come through.

We wrapped it up in the early evening, hugged our photographer, Ty, goodbye since this was his last event with us, and headed for Springfield. We had stayed in Springfield back in July when we moved the trailer from Indiana to Minnesota. We’d planned to visit the Lincoln Museum, but had a problem with the trailer that had to be fixed and didn’t have enough time. I planned to rectify that on this visit.

We drove about three hours from Sandwich to Springfield and stayed in the same Staybridge Suites we’d stayed at before.

Thursday, Oct. 10

Our event today is at a Senior Center in Taylorville, about half an hour from Springfield. We had to be there at 9 am, to get set up for our 10 am start time. The senior center was having a health fair inside, like our event in south Chicago earlier in the week. The people were as interested and engaged. One woman shared that her granddaughter’s mother is an addict and has lost custody of her children.

Several people called other friends to come down to the center to see the trailer and take the tour. Taylorville is a small town, obviously impacted by the economic downturn of the last decade. A few of the woman commented that drug abuse has increased as the community has gotten more depressed.

We were supposed to stay until noon, but the seniors were eating lunch at 11:30 and the health fair inside packed up around 11:40, so we followed suit since no one else was going to come for a tour.

We told Heidi goodbye, as she was headed home to Missouri for her daughters’ volleyball games that afternoon. She’s a great colleague and did a fabulous job coordinating our events and helping us with the set up and tear down.

We got permission to leave the trailer in the senior center parking lot, so we unhooked, and headed back to Springfield. We stopped at a Steak ‘n Shake for a quick lunch (a horseshoe, the Springfield specialty of Texas toast/hamburger/fries/cheese sauce that we shared the last time we were there, though this one was much smaller and we finished it), and then I put Lincoln Museum into Google maps.

It started raining on the way and by the time we found the museum, and found parking several blocks away, it was pouring. But we had umbrellas, and shoes, and we don’t melt, so we headed out. We followed signs and passed the old Springfield Courthouse, and stopped to read some historical signs and markers.

Inside the museum, we stowed our dripping umbrellas in the provided plastic bags, paid our entrance fee, got a map/brochure and headed in. Almost. Dave got called back by security. His umbrella was too long and “dangerous,” so he had to check it. Mine was small and compact and safe, so I was deemed not a threat. Finally, we made it inside. We asked a docent for her recommendations of what to see first. She explained the layout. There’s a “log cabin,” you enter and that has displays about Lincoln’s boyhood and life until he was elected to the White House. Then there’s a “White House,” with exhibits about the Civil War, his presidency, assassination, and family. There are also two movies that play every half hour. The movies use very 21st century theatrics and technology and are worth the price of admission. I won’t say any more because I don’t want to give anything away. But … be prepared to go to the Civil War and be transported.

The whole museum is fantastic! I can’t overstate it. It’s high tech without being cold. It’s low tech without being hokey. It makes clear that much of what we know about President Lincoln is colored by his martyrdom at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. That President Lincoln has become a saint to many, instead of a real man with foibles and faults.

In the exhibit that duplicates Lincoln’s body lying in state in Springfield, I didn’t take a picture of the whole display, but a text arrayed around the top began with, “Washington Our Father” (of our Country) and ended with “Lincoln Our Savior” (also of our Country). It’s very moving. There’s a clock with the hands stopped at 7:22, when he died, the morning after he was shot.

We spent several hours in the museum and feel like we saw most everything. Including a man with a long, pointy umbrella. We’re not sure why he got to bring his in … Anyway,  we then dashed across the street to the Lincoln Library. It’s mostly for researchers and academicians, but there is some artwork on the walls and portraits of recipients of the Lincoln Medal.

We walked back to the truck and plugged in Westwoods Lodge Pub & Grill, one of the recommendations of the Sandwich canine officer. He said they had elk and ‘gator and other game meats on the menu and lots of taxidermied animals as decor. Of course, that has “Dave” written all over it, so there was never any question where we were going for dinner.

It was everything we expected and more. Dave took a menu (styled as a newspaper) for a souvenir. We shared an appetizer of fish cakes, made from a non-native invasive Asian carp (their motto: If you can’t beat it, eat it). I had a normal salad, and Dave had deep fried clams and green beans and coleslaw. Everything was very good. He took lots of pictures, talked to the wait staff as well as other diners nearby. The horseshoe there is called the Yeti and is served in a tackle box.

We finally had to leave. Our next event was in Troy, Illinois, a little over an hour away, but we had to stop and get the trailer in Taylorville, making the whole trip closer to two hours. The rain was continuing and once we left Taylorville, it wasn’t too bad. We were on county roads for the first half hour or so, but after we got on the interstate, the rain poured and the winds started howling. It was not a fun hour into Troy. We were both exhausted by the time we got there, about 9 PM. We unloaded quickly and ran inside, but were still more wet than not. But we were there and safe. Which is really all that mattered.

Friday Oct. 11

Our hotel was in Troy but our event was in Collinsville, at a church and we didn’t have to leave Troy until 2, so after we ate breakfast, Dave went to the front desk to ask for a late check-out. I could hear the exchange. He barely got the words out, and the clerk said, “No, that’s not possible.” “Ummm … we’re … Platinum Members. That’s supposed to be one of our perks.” “Subject to availability. We don’t have the availability.” Case closed, end of discussion.

All right then. We went back to our room and took advantage of every minute until the noon check-out time. At noon, we moved to front lobby. I set up my computer and worked for another hour and a half. Dave read, wandered around, loaded our bags into the truck. People came and checked in. Early. Apparently there was availability for early check-ins but not late check-outs.

Finally at 2:00, we left the hotel and made our way to the church where our new Midwest contact, Tony, was waiting. We set up quickly and got ready. It was bitterly cold. I had on layers and a fake down vest under my warmest jacket and still froze. Tony is from Sioux Falls, SD and had left literal freezing temperatures, so he said he hadn’t even brought his cold weather coat. Show off.

We didn’t have a lot of people come through, but as usual, those who did were very impressed. Our last tour of the day was two couples. One of the women is a local mover and shaker who is interested in having us come back for a larger event in the future.

At the appointed time (not even a minute early, I think, although my brain and fingers were frozen, so I might be mistaken), we packed up and hit the road for Sparta, Illinois. It was about an hour away, maybe a bit more, mostly on county highways.

But what a difference from Troy! The desk clerk in Sparta was … effusive is not over the top. She was welcoming but not cloying. There are a few IHG hotels that stick in our heads. Sparta is one. I don’t remember the name of the gal who worked the front desk, but she was great.

We needed dinner, so I looked online for something walkable. A Chinese restaurant, Rice Fries, popped up. We asked the woman at the front desk about it. She pointed out the door and across the parking lot to a strip mall, checked online quickly (because she wasn’t sure if they’d still be open), and assured us we’d get an adequate meal there.

Well. Again. It was. Amazing. Chinese is not my favorite cuisine. And I like buffets even less. As we walked in, I saw the sign: Take all you can eat, but please, eat all you take. So I knew it was a buffet. I pointed out the sign to David, but we were already inside and more or less committed. So we allowed ourselves to be seated, then agreed to take a look at the buffet. If we didn’t like the looks, we’d leave.

It looked okay, so we stayed. Well. Again. And Again. I posted on Facebook that I’m not a Chinese food fan. I mean, I like it fine, but my preferred go-tos are Mexican or Italian. What can I say? I like cheese and fat. And those are available in abundance in both California-style Mexican and Italian. Not so much in Chinese. But the buffet looked fresh, and we were tired (a resounding recommendation, I know) so we stayed.

Good thing. As I said above. Ah. May. Zing. The best Chinese buffet I’ve ever had. And the best Chinese food I’ve had in a very, very long time. Maybe since we moved away from Pasadena and the original Panda Inn (birthplace of Panda Express). So Illinois blog readers!! Listen up! If you’re ever near Sparta, Illinois, please, please go eat at Rice Fries and support this restaurant and its chef. I don’t know who s/he is, but they are very good and deserve any love you can give them.

Saturday, Oct. 12

Our event is in the morning, at a Housing Authority Office. Like all the best local contacts, Tony has been there early, talking to people and figuring out where we need to be. He texts me about where to pull in. He talked to the CEO of the Housing Authority. It just so happens that her son is Chief of Police. So we have permission to park in the street (blocking the street). Yay!

We arrive in plenty of time, get set up, and are ready. A few Housing Authority people come through. Then a few nursing CEU students. Then some neighborhood kids arrive for the free water bottles Tony is giving out.

Overall, it’s a good day! The Housing Authority staff are very enthusiastic about having us. The local legislator arrived and spends some time. It’s warmer than yesterday in Collinsville, so that’s a plus. We can setup on the street, although people are having to walk over damp grass and track the grass into the trailer. I make a mental note to be sure and sweep really, really well before the next event. There’s going to be dried grass all through the trailer. 

Tony and I have a few minutes to chat. Because this is a family event, we talk about family. He says he has 100 first cousins. Yes. Not a typo. One hundred. First Cousins. He says his parents were 1 of 11 or 12 siblings. I ask the first thing that comes to my mind. “Were they Mormon? Or Catholic?” He chuckles. “Catholic. Irish Catholic.”

We chat some more. He received a Traeger smoker for Father’s Day in June. I asked about favorite things he’s smoked so far. (Meatballs!) Hmmm … [I haven’t talked about the PINK PIG yet, have I?? Or did I? In posts about the Iowa State Fair? Note to self: Look up Iowa State Fair posts and blog about the pink pig ASAP]

After we finished up at the Housing Authority, we headed to lunch at a restaurant Dave had looked up/researched earlier. He also asked a police officer who stopped by, about it. A BBQ place, of course. Not too far out of our way, for heading out of Illinois.

Yes. Southside Ribs. It lived up to its reputation. Down home. Good food. I knew

something was different right away. It didn’t take me long to notice one difference right away. There were monitors along the walls, but most of them were set to a rerun of Barnaby Jones, PI, a series from the 1980s. We shared the entree the restaurant is known for: it’s pork steak. We think it’s a cut from the shoulder. Regardless, it was tender and juicy and thoroughly delicious and we enjoyed every bite.

As we headed out of town, I turned on CoPilot and it promptly took us to a new opportunity to scrap off something (like an AC unit) from the top of the trailer. CoPilot: Strike 3. 

On the way, we passed the World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle. It took me a few minutes of navigating to get around the low bridge, but we did make it out of town and scurrying along county highways. We were done in Illinois, but not quite sure what was next …

Stay tuned for … the rest of the story …

 

 

 

Country in the City

Tuesday Oct 1 – Thursday Oct 3, 2019

The day after our event in Monee was October 1 and we had the day “off.” I did my monthly ag reporting job all morning while Dave did his usual trailer fussing/tweaking. I also blogged and we found the workout room. I walked on the treadmill while he rode a stationary recumbent bike. 

Our hotel was in the town of Countryside. It was fairly centrally located to the event venues I was given ahead of time. And it worked out pretty well for the venues I was given later, too. We were on Joliet Road, which is part of Historic Route 66. We also got curious about Joliet Prison. It was not near us, but we considered going there if it would have been open for a tour, or even if it had a gift shop. Alas, the timing didn’t work out for us while we were there. The jail closed in 2002 and has been used in several movies. It hosted a big music festival last summer.

Wednesday, Oct. 2 was the day making us nervous. It was our big “show.” It was the state PhRMA conference. PhRMA is a trade association for about thirty pharmaceutical companies, and is also one of our sponsors/partners for the trailer. Our bosses from DC were also coming. And it was in downtown Chicago at a hotel. We were not sure about driving the truck and trailer downtown during the morning commute. Our local contact suggested getting there about 6:30 am, to get the trailer into position. We had clearance from the hotel to park under a porte cochére outside the convention center entrance.

Dave had made a friend at our hotel, a truck driver he met while having a cigar outside. Bob was from Texas, but he drives all over. He said the best time to go downtown is 4:30 a.m. Dave and I agreed to leave our hotel at 4:30. It was a good decision. We sailed into town with little traffic, found the hotel with only one wrong turn, but were able to quickly correct since there was no traffic to contend with right there. We parked where instructed. We’d been told the hotel staff had been informed about our dimensions and we were assured we’d fit.

We did. Barely. The trailer has two heating/AC units on the roof. One of the units had inches to spare above it, but, yes, we did fit. 

As soon as we parked, we went into the hotel on a hunt for coffee. It was about 5:15 a.m. and nothing was open yet. Of course. Finally, a little before 6:00, the hotel cafe had coffee ready and our DC consultants arrived. We got all set up and then proceeded to wait.

And wait. And wait. IMG_3330

Our bosses arrived around 8:30. We got caught up and I met the big boss for the first time. We’d only spoken on the phone before. A few PhRMA staff came out about 10 a.m. for a tour. They were definitely impressed and promised to tell attendees about us. 

The bosses went into the conference and gave a presentation, and at lunch time, we finally got busy. So, so, busy. We had groups of 8, 10, and I think even one group of 12. The trailer is big, but it’s not that big. At one point we had three tours inside. One just beginning, one in the middle, and one ending. Everyone, as usual, was quite impressed.

We met the consultants we’d be working with in Florida. By 2:00 the stampede had died down and we got to have lunch. The DC consultants brought in Portillo‘s hotdogs, a Chicago specialty. They were very good, with that “snap,” you’ve heard a good hot dog must have. The rest of the afternoon was fairly steady with ebbs and flows. By 6:30, it had mostly stopped and our bosses hit the road back to DC. The wind had also picked up and it was getting quite chilly. We had to stay until 8 pm, but by 7, I was frozen. I went into the conference center, found a place to sit and warm up, and told Dave to come get me if I was needed. He never came, so at 8, I went back out, we loaded up, said good-bye to our DC consultants, and went in search of dinner.

When we’d wandered around the hotel earlier that morning, (it’s on the river which has some beautiful sights).

We’d seen an Irish pub, so we walked there. We shared a Reuben sandwich which was delicious. Since it was so late by the time we left the city, it was again super easy with little traffic. Thank you, Lord! We were exhausted by the time we got to the hotel and our bed.

Thursday, our event was in the early evening, so we spent the day much like Tuesday. I worked, wrapping up a couple of freelance projects. Our presentation was at a soccer field, home to multi-teams of all ages of kids practicing. Our local contact checked it out ahead of time. It was on the south side of downtown Chicago and there was no way we could get the trailer down those narrow streets, so we compromised and brought a popup tent and some of the props from the trailer. It turned out to be a very windy evening and we had zero interest from the watching parents.

Our local contact walked around, passed out flyers, told parents what we had, but still nothing. We had a photographer who was there specifically to take pictures of the “crowds” at the event. I asked a young woman walking by if I could pretend to talk to her for a photo op, but even that was declined. The photographer ended up calling his wife and she got out of the car with their two-year-old, so we could stage some pictures.

We stuck it out to the bitter, windy, cold end before we packed up. For unloading, Dave had had to park the truck in the middle of a narrow street, then we hustled getting everything out. After that, he moved the truck to a school lot around the block. Now we did the same in reverse, told our photographer, his wife and daughter, our consultant, “Thank you!” and headed out. I’d found a restaurant that looked not too far from our hotel for dinner. It had good reviews, so we unhooked the trailer at the hotel and sallied forth once again.

The food was good, if a bit slow to arrive,  which seemed odd, since they weren’t very busy. It was nearly 9:00 by then. I had a raw veggie and cheese appetizer plate while Dave had chicken wings. The employees next gathered in a room nearby with their own dinner plates. Dave commented that there seemed to be a lot of employees for so few customers. We finished eating, paid the tab, and saw an exit out the back, which was closer to where we parked. That’s when we discovered the crowded and very busy pub in the rear of the building, which explained a lot.

We were still bouncing between Google maps and our trucker app, CoPilot. You may remember Google sent us to a very low bridge in Indianapolis, so we tried to use CoPilot. But CoPilot is a lousy app. It just is. I tried to like it. But half of the addresses I put in, it can’t find, so it chooses a random nearby address, or just gives us, “City Center.” That’s not very helpful. And when my phone is hooked into the truck’s display screen, whenever the CoPilot app wants to tell us a direction, it hijacks the radio and won’t return it. We have to manually return to the radio station. I figured out pretty quickly to mute the directions, but still … Anyway, given that we were going to many suburban locations, we made CoPilot our default map app. But then …  Monday. Going to Monee, it sent us to a dead end street. We were able to turn around and find an alternate route, but … Strike 1.

 

 

Chicago! Chicago!

Our first Chicago event was in a small suburban town called Monee. I asked our hotel desk clerk how to pronounce the name of the town. Money? Moany? Mownae? She wasn’t sure, so that was no help. Our event was early evening so we had most of the day to unpack and settle in to the hotel and get our bearings. We went to Target and stocked up on snacks and water for the truck.

I had a couple of hours to work in the afternoon, then we headed to Money. Moany?

We were still using Google for highways, but using the trucker app for towns and cities. Because remember our “adventure” in Indianapolis and the low bridge?? So I had the trucker app open with the Monee address. We were rolling along, lalalalalala … and it told us to turn on to a road that was barricaded. Permanently. No entrance. This was the Indianapolis low bridge situation, but in reverse.

We were able to go past the blocked off road and turn around (no small feat with a 32′ trailer). I closed the trucker app and turned to Google. We were only a few minutes late. Our consultant, Heidi, was waiting for us at the venue. A community center. We knew Heidi from Iowa so that was a quick “Hi-good-to-see-you,” and we set up quickly.

All of the Illinois events were set up in cooperation with local/state/national legislators. This was our first event in several weeks. But we quickly regained our rhythm. I only forgot one drug hiding place on my first tour. But … as we learned in Indiana and Colorado … the local people don’t know exactly what we offer. They don’t know how to publicize the trailer. We had a fairly low turnout, but those who came through were enthusiastic. I had a village trustee and another local official who took the tour. They stopped after the first five minutes so they could tweet/post on social media in an effort to get more people out.

We were about to pack up as a few more people trickled in. I took a small group through at few minutes before the official end. As I was wrapping up at the end of the trailer, David started a new tour at the front. We have a policy of never turning away anyone, but it was already past our official end time. Oh well. We have a mindset that God knows who needs to see this and it’s not our trailer, it’s His. So if David was giving a tour, then the person on the tour needed to be there.

Heidi and I packed up the outside accoutrements. The sun set. We paced. We chatted. David and the woman were still inside the trailer. Heidi and I talked about the Iowa State Fair, where we’d seen each other last. We caught up on all the personal tidbits we knew about each other (her mom loves the outdoor furniture she bought at the fair, by the way).

The woman Dave was giving the tour to finally poked her head out of the door. Whew! But no. She was just checking on her kids in the car. Because we don’t allow anyone under 21 years old to take the tour, she’d left her kids in the car. With supervision, of course. And she checked on them regularly.

By the time she stalked out of the trailer, David was smothering laughter and she was seething. He told Heidi and I later that she’d opened her home to a couple who needed a place to live. They were drug addicts and homeless, but had promised to stay clean while in her home. They didn’t keep their end of the bargain on several issues so she and her husband were forced to ask them to leave.

After the couple left, as she was cleaning out their room, she saw stuff. She didn’t think much about it. As Dave gave her the tour, she’d see something and say, “No! Are you kidding me?” He’d say, “No. This is real.” She’d respond with a story or anecdote of what similar evidence she found when she cleaned up after this couple moved out of her home. It matched what we were showing nearly exactly. It was comical and sad and all too true.

We finished the close-up quickly, told Heidi good-bye and headed back to Countryside. In the meantime, we’d given tours to the local police chief and two of his officers, a village trustee, one of the village employees (Parks & Rec?), and a few parents. All of them were amazed and impressed at what they learned.

All in all, this first event in Monee (Mawnee!) was (in my opinion) successful, even if we didn’t have a large turnout. And even if the local legislator who helped set it up didn’t show up for the event. We talked to people, we educated people, we connected to people.

And that’s what it’s about.

Thanks for reading!

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!