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.

 

Nevada -> California

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

We were able to sleep in a little, but because our bodies were still on east coast time, it wasn’t too late when we got up. We were just planning to spend one day in town.

We texted some friends who’d moved to Las Vegas during the summer to see if they were free for lunch. We also wanted to visit the Mob Museum and see a show. I’d been to Vegas back in March with some girlfriends and we’d done the museum and seen the Cirque du Soleil show Love, based on Beatles’ music. It was really good, and I knew David would enjoy it, so I booked the tickets.

IMG_0849I worked for a couple of hours and then we took an Uber to meet Larry and Bertha for lunch. We didn’t want to hassle with parking and the lunch place was walking distance to the Mob Museum. We had a great lunch and a great time catching up with friends. Dave and I shared the Smashed Cubano sandwich at the Smashed Pig GastroPub. I keep a list in my phone of interesting restaurants I hear about, either on TV shows like Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, or in the AAA Via Magazine. I often forget to consult those notes, but that’s a different matter. Occasionally, I find when I go back and read them, that I accidentally visited a place and that’s what happened with the Smashed Pig. A few days later, I opened the Restaurant Notes to add something, glanced through the Vegas list and there was the Smashed Pig! I’m glad someone had recommended it and even gladder Larry suggested it!

We had one moment of panic when Jeff, the other driver/tour guide we’d taken over from called David because the hotel had called him to say, “Hey, you checked out, but your trailer is still here. What’s up?” Long story short, Jeff and Katia had reserved our room. When we checked in, we thought they’d reserved two nights for us, but they hadn’t. And when I called the hotel to say we needed a second night, the clerk said they were full and couldn’t accommodate us. I really did panic. We were twenty minutes away, by Uber. We weren’t packed. I’d left my laptop out. But the clerk was implacable. I asked to speak to someone else. He said they’d tell us the same thing. There was nothing he could do, they were overbooked, and we had to leave. Finally, he put me on hold and someone else picked up. I explained the situation and this guy was all, “Sure, no problem. Yeah, we’re overbooked, but there will be no shows.” Whew! After my heart rate returned to normal, we resumed our lovely visit and lunch.

After lunch, we walked the few blocks to the museum. We spent several hours and didn’t IMG_0681see it all. They have many fascinating displays, starting with a lineup you can go into. There’s a timeline of organized crime in this country, beginning with immigrants who brought it (and feuds) from their countries of origin. The picture to the right is from a flow chart/mind mapping kind of display showing all the “industries” organized crime touches and in what ways. I took this picture of the section showing drugs, since that’s what we’re interested in just now. By 4:45, we knew we’d have to make a second visit some other day to see the rest of the museum.

We took an Uber back to our hotel, had a quick bite at their free Happy Hour of drinks and snacks, then Ubered to the Mirage for our show. It was as great as I remembered, except for the woman sitting to my right. She kept taking her phone out and texting. The light was distracting me and I kept having to put a hand up to my face to block her. Other than that, we had a great time. We Ubered back to the hotel and were able to get to sleep at a decent hour.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

California, here we come! We weren’t in a huge hurry to leave since we were only headed to Bakersfield, about four and a half hours away. We had an event scheduled in Monterey for Friday, so we planned to take two days to get there.

At breakfast at the hotel, there was a women’s sports team also there. Given their ages, and uniforms, I deduced they were the Air Force Academy Women’s Tennis team. Since one of our granddaughters has expressed an interest in attending there, I asked some of the young women if they had any advice I could pass on. They said just to be a well-rounded student. There’s a summer program she can apply to for the summer of her junior year. They were very nice and encouraging.

Then we packed up and prepared to hit the road. As we hooked everything up, David noticed that the plug from the trailer to the truck that connects the lights was all worn away on one side. It had fallen out of the truck and been dragged on the roadway. But he got it to fit back into the receptacle, so we headed out.

Two of the random things we saw: A limo with suitcases bulging from its trunk on the freeway in Vegas and goats in the back of a pick-up, just inside California.

Getting out of Las Vegas itself turned out to be a bit tricky. The streets would merge without warning and we’d find ourself in the wrong lane. We can’t exactly sneak into a small space between cars. At a red light, we were waiting a ways back in our (wrong) lane, with the turning indicator on, when a very sweet woman in a white SUV in the lane next to us motioned us to come ahead. We did and rolled down the window. She said the roads were really confusing and she’d wait for us to go in front of her. Thank God for her, because in another block, she pulled up on the other side, rolled her window down and said if we were wanting the freeway, we’d need to be in the other lane in one more block and she’d hang back for us again. She was a definite answer to a prayer we didn’t know we needed to pray.

The rest of the drive was uneventful. Although it was no fun when we made our first California stop for gas! Ouch!

We made it to Bakersfield at about 5:00. I’d arranged, through the kindness of our niece (picking up the accumulated mail at our house) and Taryn (driving it to Bakersfield) to get our mail and as a bonus we got to see our daughter and granddaughter. We went to dinner at In ‘n Out, had a good visit, and then swapped bags. I took the thirty pounds of mail and gave her the ten pounds of various papers, souvenirs, magnets, and stuff that I didn’t want to cart around the west coast.

All in all, a good day!

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.

 

North Carolina -> South Carolina-> Georgia -> Florida -> Nevada

Friday, Oct. 18, 2019

We got up early and told Sheana goodbye in Durham, then drove to the hotel in Hillsborough, NC, where we’d left the trailer. We had lunch plans in Columbia, South Carolina. Our niece, Betsy, lives there with her husband and their four children. Betsy serves in the US Army and is stationed in Columbia. We hadn’t met her two youngest children, and since Columbia wasn’t too far out of our way to Florida, we were able to meet up.

 

It was wonderful to see Betsy and her family, even if it was only for a short time. Her two older children have grown up a lot since we last saw them, although they said they remembered us.

After lunch, we were back on the road to Savannah, our stop for the night on our way to Orlando, where we’d leave the truck and trailer and fly to Las Vegas.

It about killed me to be in Savannah and not see any of the historic sites there. We didn’t go to any Civil War landmarks. We didn’t visit any architectural buildings of note. We didn’t see any museums. So I was determined that we would at least eat a great dinner. But after a long day of driving, I also knew IMG_0711 2 copyDave wouldn’t be up for going downtown and dealing with traffic in the big Ford truck, and an Uber from our location in the ‘burbs wasn’t feasible. So I found a restaurant on a river, with good reviews, about fifteen minutes from our hotel. We found it fairly easily (only one wrong turn!). Then we were seated at a table without much of a view. We asked to move, telling the waitress we were only there for the one night, we’d likely never be back. She seemed a little put out at the loss of a tip, but said, “Sure.” So we got the last table on the lower level and were able to enjoy the river view and sunset. This was a true low country menu. We shared fried pickles and gator bites for appetizers, then we also shared a low country boil dinner. It had sausage, shrimp, corn, potatoes, and hushpuppies. The seasoning was spicy, but not overwhelming. We had plenty of everything left over for more meals over the next couple of days.

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Even though we didn’t even get a glimpse of historic Savannah, the taste we got makes us want to go back.

Saturday, October 20

Tropical Storm Nestor had come across the south, and lucky us, we got to follow his tail down Georgia and into Florida. It poured on us for the first couple hours of the trip. That along with the strong winds, made for a stressful morning. It rained all the way to IMG_0983 copyJacksonville.

Our destination was Orlando, which we made around 4 pm. Our first stop was a Jiffy Lube. Dave had been tasked with getting the oil changed in both the truck and the generator we use to power the trailer’s lights and air conditioning units.

I’d found two Jiffy Lubes that looked not too far from our hotel. One of them, from the satellite view, we could tell, no way would it accommodate the trailer, so I plugged in the address of the other one. Except, sigh, somehow, I mixed them up, and we arrived at the place with no room to enter or turn around. Which we realized as we approached, so we didn’t bother trying to turn in. All we lost was some time. I don’t make navigating mistakes often, considering I’m plugging in multiple venues and figuring routes all day long.

We made our way to the other location and were able to pull in. But they couldn’t change the oil in the generator. Something about not being able to account for the disposing of it, I think. So we unhooked, they changed the oil in the truck, we hooked back up, and drove to our hotel. Which was fully booked with a couple of conferences for the weekend. We ended up parking along the side of the parking lot, with an assurance from the manager that most of the cars would be gone in the morning and we’d be able to park in front of the office and even be able to leave the truck and trailer there after we left. Our coworkers could fly down and pick it up for the Florida events. Nice! It had been a long day and we were glad to check-in and have our nightly glass of wine before bed.

Sunday, October 21

We had essentially a day and a half in Orlando. My suitcase was literally falling apart. The zippers were no longer … well, let’s say I didn’t feel confident all my belongings wouldn’t be scattered across the runway. So one of our tasks in Orlando was to buy a new suitcase.

We mapped out a route around town and set out. First to a car wash to leave a bright and shiny truck for the next driver/guides. Then to Home Depot for, of course, more trailer and truck supplies. I don’t even know what he bought this time. Then to Target for a suitcase.

We ended up having a quiet afternoon at the hotel. Dave’s stomach was bothering him, so I ordered Door Dash from Cracker Barrel and just got him a baked potato for dinner.

Monday, October 22

We had a mid-afternoon flight, never a good thing, from Orlando to Vegas. The later in the day, the more likely to be delayed. And sure enough, we were. The Orlando airport was wild and loud and crazy with families heading home from the Orlando amusement parks. And we learned we probably won’t fly on Frontier again. The seats were too uncomfortable for Dave and his long legs. And I’m sorry, but paying for water is just wrong.

It turned out to be about a two and a half to three hour delay. At least we were going east to west so even though it would be a long day for us, it would still be fairly early in Nevada. We were supposed to get in at 5 pm. We ended up landing around 8 pm. The couple we were taking the trailer over from had an event until 8, so they got to the hotel before we did.

We had a short debrief meeting with them, then said good-night. This is Jeff and Katia, the couple we trained in Colorado and left there. We took over that same trailer.

And finally, we were in the same time zone as our kids and grandkids and the rest of the family!

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Swans in the lobby of our hotel in Las Vegas. Because, why  not? They were named Elvis and Priscilla.

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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 …

 

 

 

Finishing up in Chicago

After my last post about Chicago, I thought I would be right back to finish up the rest of the Chicago adventure, but life and travel and work conspired to keep me busy. But I’m back.

Friday, Oct. 4

IMG_5369
Senator Kimberly Lightford and our RALICares colleague Jenna

An event in Hillside, Illinois, sponsored by Illinois State Senator Kimberly Lightford. She was a pleasure to meet and her staff were wonderful to work with. It was a small event, in the parking lot of her office. The property manager wouldn’t let us set up where we were visible from the road, so there were few to no walkup visitors. But the visitors we had who sought us out were fabulous. We had an officer who’s the school liaison, and the mayor of a neighboring township, as well as the senator. The officer had a tattoo of his daughter’s name on his arm–Amber. (Some of you know where Dave has his daughters’ names tattooed.)

In personal news from home, we got some great news and some bad. My mom was rear-ended and got stitches on her forehead. The pictures were very bloody and I’ll spare you those. She’s recovered well, though the same can’t be said of the car: it was totaled.

Returning to our hotel, the CoPilot app took us on a crazy route through residential areas that we had no business going in. CoPilot: Strike 2. But on the upside, we passed an Irish

pub that looked good, so once we changed from CoPilot to Google maps and found our hotel, we dropped off the trailer and went to Irish Times for dinner. It was as real an Irish pub as we’ve found in the U.S. It even smelled right, like a peat fire. I don’t know how they did that. Our waitress said the owner is Irish and he and one of the waitresses were in Ireland just then, getting married that weekend. Dave had corned beef and cabbage (which apparently is not actually eaten by the Irish in Ireland, according to our Irish family), and I had fish and chips. Both were excellent. 

Saturday, Oct. 5

Our event today was at the Way Back Inn, a half-way house in Maywood, Illinois, sponsored by State Rep. Emmanuel “Chris” Welch. I was privileged to give him a tour and he was impressed with the trailer and the information he learned. We talked privately for a few minutes after. A friend of his had taken the tour with him, and the young man’s mother is an addict. He said it was good for his friend to see this and be educated about what to watch for. We talked about the toll addiction takes on a family. I got a little teary myself then, knowing the toll my own family has paid and he expressed his condolences.

This event was small in scope, also, but still, those who came through were impacted. One of the men I gave a quick tour to was a resident of the home, a former addict. We educated each other. He gave me an idea for one more item that could be in the trash (he said it was how his parents knew he was dealing), and I showed him a hiding place he’d never used. He was fun to chat with.

After our great Irish pub experience last night, I’d been thinking: what other cuisine is IMG_4035Chicago known for? Duh! Chicago deep-dish pizza! Thanks to my trusty Google, I found a highly rated local chain with a restaurant not far from our hotel. We dropped off the trailer at the hotel as it started to rain. By the time we got to the restaurant, it was pouring. We were there early enough on a Saturday that we didn’t have to wait for a table, though we did have to wait for the deep-dish pizza. It takes about 35-40 minutes to bake. So we started with some deep-fried cheese curds to tide us over while we waited. And it was worth the wait! I don’t know that I’d have it all the time, instead of the pizza I grew up with, but it is definitely worth having occasionally.

Sunday Oct. 6

Today, we were up early for our event at Willow Brook High School in Villa Park. In the elevator as headed out, we saw a groomsman from a wedding at the hotel last night. Dave asked him about the wedding, and he said it was awesome, everyone had a great time, in fact he was just heading to bed. As he got off the elevator, he said, “Go, Bears!” We chuckled, and Dave muttered, “Go, Raiders.” I remarked that he was just going to catch a nap before the Bears’ game. We didn’t realize the Bears and the Raiders were playing that day.

We found out also that our event was scheduled for a Sunday morning (over our local contact’s protest that people would be in church and we’d have a low turnout) because the Bears’ game was in the afternoon and definitely no one would come during the game. So we found the school parking lot and set up. The local legislator, State Rep. Deb Conroy, and one of her staff members came, as well as a few school administrators. I had one woman, probably in her seventies, who told me she left her husband at home getting the grandkids ready for church, but she wanted to take the tour and learn all she could from the trailer.

As great as most everyone is, we do run into an occasional jerk. And we had one today. I think he was on a local council of some sort, and he was eyeing a higher office. He monopolized conversations with the representative. I offered him a tour and he said, “Yeah, I’ll be right with you,” and proceeded to keep talking, sitting on our tables, and taking up everyone’s time and attention. Half an hour later, he joined a tour, then after five minutes, looked at his watch, said, “Oops, I’ve got to go to a meeting.” He left, then stood outside talking for another twenty minutes. It was very obvious why he was there and it had nothing to do with caring about raising awareness about the opioid crisis in America.

The nice thing about an early event is we were done, packed up, and back at the hotel by 12:30. David even got to watch some of the Bears/Raiders game. We stayed at the hotel for the rest of the day, ate some of our leftovers for dinner, and visited the hotel pool for the first time.

Monday, Oct. 7

We had an evening event, so I worked most of the day while Dave did laundry and read. We went to Waukegan High School and set up. We were basically on the sidewalk, next to a door into the school. They were having a workshop on getting financial aid, and how to fill out the FAFSA, sponsored by two legislators. Both of them stopped by and took tours, a very enthusiastic school security officer came through, and several parents as well. State Rep. Rita Mayfield, came through for a tour. Congressman Brad Schneider was a co-sponsor of the event also. Some of his staffers came through, as well.

There is usually a freelance photographer at our events, hired by PhRMA, to take pictures of all the events, of the legislators, of the people on the tours. Sometimes a video team is there as well. For all our Chicago events, we had the same photographer, Ty. He’s the guy who called his wife to come be a person we could talk to at the soccer fields when we got zero people to come to our display. He’s a really nice guy and we enjoyed getting to know him. We had a few more days with him, but now feels like a good time to mention him. Because …

Tuesday, Oct. 8

We were up and out early, by 7 am, and headed to the south side of Chicago, for a health fair at a community park. Inside they offered flu shots, bone density tests, blood pressure readings, and lots of information. Elgie Simms Nick Smith

Getting there at all was a bit of an adventure. I’m now in the habit of mostly using Google Maps, but I cross-check the route with CoPilot. Heidi, our local contact (I call her “local,” but she’s actually from Missouri, so maybe I should say she’s our Midwest contact), Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 3.31.36 PMtexted to say what street we should approach from to get the best angle to bring the trailer into the driveway. I put that into Google, and two blocks from the park, we came to a low train trestle and there was no way we we’d make it under there. Luckily, there was a wide dirt area where we could tell we weren’t the first one to use it to turn around. CoPilot found an alternate route with a higher trestle that we sailed under just fine and then we were back on track. 

South Chicago has a certain reputation, and I don’t know that I’d want to visit after dark, but I felt fine there during the day. There is apparent poverty and crime, but there are also lovely neighborhoods where the residents are obviously working hard to keep their homes safe attractive.

We were fairly busy this day. Everyone who came through the trailer was amazed at what they learned. I remember one woman in particular was blown away by everything I showed her. I realized I had formed an opinion that “everyone” on the south side of Chicago knew all about drug use and would be aware of everything already. No. These were mothers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, fathers, grandfathers who wanted to educate themselves and keep their families safe.

Ty and I chatted about the importance of various health screenings and somehow we got on the subject of colonoscopies. He said his mom had scheduled one because her doctor’s office told her she needed it. Well, English is not her first language, (I think he’s Filipino), so when it came time for the prep, he explained to her what exactly she had to do for the prep and what the test involved. She immediately canceled the procedure. 🙂

Tomorrow, we leave Countryside, Illinois and the hotel that’s been our home for the last ten days.