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!

Homeward Bound

Thursday September 19 – Saturday 21, 2019

Thursday – We had to get from Canada to the US so we could rent a car to drive one-way to California. I found a bus called Bolt that offered service to Bellingham, the first stop inside Washington. It was about a two-hour trip from Vancouver. I booked four tickets for 11:30 Thursday morning. We had breakfast at the hotel, checked out, called a taxi to take us to the terminal.

When I booked the tickets, I requested “Special assistance,” for Mom and Dad, since there was no option for wheelchairs. We got to the terminal in plenty of time. It also serves trains and Greyhound. We found some seats, bought water, waited. Dave found where our bus was going to load, and saw the driver. The driver … hmmm … how to describe the driver?? Driver/standup-comedian? Driver/self-appointed tour guide? Driver/Immigration consultant? Driver/snack taster?

First Dave was watched as the driver wandered through the lineup area and said he’d soon be there to board the passengers, so he and I got in line. Our tickets said we were in Boarding Group “S.” We were scheduled to leave at 11:30, boarding at 11:15. Unlike an airline, although we had a “boarding group,” we didn’t have assigned seats. So we did want to be in line so we could sit together. Mom and Dad came and joined us in line about 11:20. At 11:35, the driver still hadn’t returned and the passengers were looking all around, exchanging glances. Were we in the right area? There were Greyhound buses around, but only one Bolt bus and we were by it. So we had to be in the right place. But where was our driver? Finally, I saw him coming into the terminal from across the street. He’d been buying his lunch.

He came and opened the luggage bays, instructed everyone how he wanted us to stow our luggage, and put his lunch into the bus. We loaded our bags and got back into line. Then the driver announced how we’d be boarding: “In alphabetical order! Beginning with …??” He waited for us to answer. Finally someone said, “Ummm … A?” “Yes! Everyone in Boarding Group A, come on down!”

Dave and I looked at each other. What the heck? We were Group S! And I’d asked for special assistance!! Mom and Dad had been standing for fifteen minutes, at least, by that time. Then he called for … “Group B! Come on down!”

After a few more minutes, he motioned to the rest of us to go ahead, like we were waiting for an invitation. We said, “We’re Group S.” He said, “Oh. Then you were first. S is for Special Assistance. Why didn’t you say something?”

AAARRGH. We smiled. Through bared teeth. “Because you said it was alphabetical order. And S is after A, B, C.”

Mom and Dad were able to sit in the “Special” reserved seats right behind the driver. Dave and I were able to sit together, but in the back of the bus. It was a fairly peaceful drive for the first hour or so. We filled out a US Customs form. I was being super conscientious, listing everything we bought on the cruise, which was mostly shirts and various souvenirs. As we stood in line, it occurred to me: technically we bought those in Alaska, in the US. Not in Canada, so they weren’t foreign purchases after all. Duh. But I’d already filled out the forms. Oh well. And it really was a non-issue. They’re not worried about a couple hundred dollars worth of T-shirts, ball caps, salmon jerky, and a Christmas ornament.

We arrived at the border. The driver pulled into the bus lanes. Because we were in the back, we didn’t hear his instructions clearly, but gathered that we had to all get off, take all our belongings and luggage into the building, go through Customs, then we’d reboard, and continue on into Washington.

As we got off, Mom and Dad were still on the bus, in their seat behind the driver. We told them they had to get off, but they said the driver told them they didn’t have to get off unless they wanted to stretch their legs. We shrugged and said, “Okay.” We went ahead and disembarked, pulled all our bags from the luggage bays, and stood and waited. Apparently the driver did tell the people up front that there was no rush to go inside the Border Protection Building. That they could walk around, stretch their legs, then come and get in line when the line wasn’t so long. Wrong. Because when people disappeared around the corner, agents came out of the building to round them up and get us all in line. The rule is On the Bus or In the Building. There is no Stretch Your Legs. Or Take Your Time.

So we ended up being the very last people in the line. Because of this doofus driver. Obviously it was his first trip across the border. If he’d known what he was doing, because we were Group S with “Special Assistance,” we should have been first in line, instead of last. My folks had to stand in line for an hour. It was so frustrating.

We finally got to Bellingham at about 2:15, only 45 minutes late. We got an Uber to the Bellingham airport, where I’d reserved a car. It didn’t take too long and we were on our way in a Dodge Journey. Except we hadn’t had any lunch. So we found a Subway, grabbed a bite, and headed south.

We had reservations for the night in Tacoma. Which put us in Seattle commute traffic. It took us probably an extra forty-five minutes to an hour to get to Tacoma. But we finally made it. We normally stay in IHG properties. Holiday Inns. Holiday Inn Expresses. Staybridge Suites, etc. In Tacoma, it was a Holiday Inn, with a restaurant so we had a quick dinner and went to our rooms.

Friday – We had breakfast and hit the road. Since we’d be in Oregon at lunchtime, I looked for a McMenamins that wouldn’t be too far off the road at the appropriate time and found one in Eugene. It was ten minutes off I-5, near the University of Oregon. You would have thought it was in China, from all the griping from the driver’s seat. But once we got there, ordered, and ate, everyone was happy. And we got to see the Duck’s stadium being refurbished.

Dave and I had driven to Portland in 2013 and stopped at an amazing rest stop on the Klamath River, just inside the northern border of California, so we wanted to stop there again. Except we weren’t sure if it was in California or Oregon. Okay. I thought it was in Oregon, he was sure it was in California, and he was right. We found it and it was as beautiful as we remembered. We had a nice break, then continued to Yreka, our next stop.

After checking into our Holiday Inn Express, we asked for restaurant recommendations. The clerk gave us a couple of choices. We had seen one of them as we got off the freeway, a Mexican place, so we headed there. It was great! We could see stadium lights across the freeway, so after dinner, Dave decided to go watch the local high school football team play. He enjoyed watching the Yreka High Miners lose to Klamath Falls High.

Saturday – Breakfast in the hotel and we were back on the road. We had a fairly uneventful drive south. We stopped for lunch in Stockton at a Denny’s that must have been uncharacteristically busy, because after we were seated we were ignored, so after ten minutes we left and went to the Jack-in-the-Box next door.

We got to our house in Madera at about 3:00-ish. Moved Mom and Dad’s luggage to my car, and I drove them home. Dave drove the rental car to the Fresno airport and I picked him up there.

Lee and Karie had been able to keep our original reservations so they’d been home since Sunday, almost a week. They’d been busy helping friends with a move, painting, scrapping popcorn ceilings, preparing to host a birthday party, but they’d dropped off some welcome home snacks for us.

So once we were back from returning the rental car, we started a load of laundry, I did a quick shuffle through the mail, and we pretty much collapsed. Which means, we took the Harjo snacks to the back patio along with the cribbage board and a deck of cards. And life was good.

 

More Alaska

Wednesday Sep. 11 – Thursday Sep. 12, 2019

Wednesday we had an excursion planned for our day in Skagway. We got up, had breakfast, and prepared to disembark around noon, or just after. We were supposed to meet the tour at the dock and then either ride a bus or a train to the White Pass summit and then ride the opposite mode of transportation back.

Lee and Karie disembarked before us, to explore Skagway a bit. I got a text from Karie that they heard a rumor that a train had broken down and tours were canceled. So we zipped up to the excursions desk to get the scoop, but it was shut down so all the employees could be on the docks, helping passengers.

We went ahead and disembarked, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

Sure enough. A morning train had broken an axle and was blocking the tracks. Our tracks. We had the choice of skipping the excursion or taking the bus up and back and getting a partial refund. We decided to go ahead and take the bus.

It was a beautiful trip, full of amazing and rugged scenery. We saw more glaciers and glacial lakes and made plenty of stops for pictures. And, to top it off, we got word that the broken train had been moved and we’d be able to ride the train back to Skagway after all!

So it worked out perfectly. And we had a small refund on our cruise tab at the end, too.

Anyway, this trip does go into the Yukon territory (in other words–Canada) so we had to bring passports and Canada Immigration officers boarded our bus to check everyone’s passports and paperwork.

The train ride down was spectacular. There was a narrator/guide who told us over a sound system what to be looking for and historical facts about the railroad. It was built to carry Gold Rush miners into the Yukon. It was built very rapidly, for the time, but even so, the Gold Rush was over by the time it was completed. The engineer behind it had a high regard for the safety of the employees and they had a much smaller loss of life than other railroads constructed during the same time period.

At one point, the guide announced we were coming up on a bear on the right side of the train. Everyone leaned over to look out and I saw it! It was small and standing right next to the tracks. I think I was the only one in our party to see it.

By the time we pulled into the Skagway station, it was nearly dinnertime. Our excursion included a stop at the Liarsville Gold Mine camp, but because of our delays, we decided to skip that portion and head back to the ship for dinner. After dinner, we visited the BBKing Lounge again, then off to bed.

Thursday was cruising Glacier Bay. Talk about amazing views! We spent time in front of Margerie Glacier and saw a couple of calvings. That when chunks of ice break off. We could hear the cracks and pops before the ice fell, as well as the splash when it hit the water.

We spent the day relaxing, watching the scenery, and enjoying the peace.

Glacier Bay is a National Park, and several Park Rangers came aboard to give talks and information to passengers. I happened to be reading in one of the empty bars (empty because it wasn’t open yet) and had a great view of when their boat came to pick them up and return them to shore.

That evening was the second gala evening. We enjoyed lobster for dinner, though I neglected to take a picture.

It was a great day, and one I thoroughly enjoyed!

 

Alaska!

Monday, September 9 – Tuesday, September 10, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Skagway, Alaska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventure Interlude: Home and SF

July 30 – Aug. 7, 2019

We got home on the 30th and kept busy with laundry, my work, and household stuff. We celebrated a family birthday and got to see the grandkidsIMG_2496. We had hired a lawn service and the guy decided we live too far away and quit, so we scrambled to find someone else. Which we did. Whew! My mom and I took in a presentation of Calamity Jane, starring Louise Mandrell. Dave and I hosted a family gathering on IMG_2503Saturday, August 3rd. Our niece, Katie, and her daughters were visiting from Maryland, so we got to see them and get caught up.

Then Sunday August 4th, we left again. This time for a personal vacation in San Francisco with two couples, both longtime friends. Wally and Deb are moving out of state soon, and they generously shared their timeshare points with us so we had very nice accommodations near Union Square.

We went to church Sunday morning, then we had a bit of tidying up to do around the house from the day before, so we didn’t get away as soon as we’d hoped. Let’s just say Dave made up for the late start by driving like he couldn’t with the trailer behind him in Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota. We got to SF about 5, checked in, found our friends, and settled in with drinks and snacks and catching up and stories and laughter.

Monday was a day of fabulous firsts. We went to Sears for breakfast. I’ve already mentioned my issue with eggs. I ordered one egg, over hard. This was the best restaurant cooked egg I’ve ever had. It was perfect! A first! I neglected to get a picture, because the thing with eggs is, they have to be eaten while still hot. There’s a very slim time margin. But trust me. I’m a very picky egg eater. This one was perfect.

After breakfast, we headed to the Ferry Building, then walked to catch a ferry to Alcatraz. Dave and I had never been there. Another first. It’s a fascinating place, with so much IMG_2525history. It was quite breezy out there and Dave’s audio tour/headphones got out of sync, so he missed some parts, but it was still a great experience. We spent a couple of hours wondering the island.

After coming back to the city, Tony researched restaurants. A mention on the tour of spaghetti in the dining hall had several of us wanting pasta for dinner. Tony found a place with great reviews and we headed there. We found it, but there was a problem … they served no alcohol. After walking 10,000 steps, we needed a glass of wine to go with our spaghetti!

The staff there directed us to their second location, which was more of a sit down place, since their’s was more take-out. We conferred. No one wanted to walk the additional half mile. Luckily, we were in North Beach, which is rich with Italian restaurants. I pointed across the street and squinted. The sign said Luisa’s … Something or other. 

We crossed the street. A lit sign in a window said Pizza. Two men sat at a table on the sidewalk. There were lights on inside, but no other indications that they were open. Now we could read the name of the place: Luisa’s Ristorante.

Little did we know the treat awaiting us.

One of the men out front wore an apron so we asked if they were open. He said yes,  stood, and we entered.

A woman was sitting at a table. We asked again if they were open. A waiter said yes,  gestured to us to choose a table, any table. The woman stood, gathered her papers, and shuffled off. The waiter gave us “menus.” Three sheets of 9×12 papers, stapled together.

IMG_2545The woman shuffled back, sat at our table, and introduced herself as Luisa, ninety-one years old, the owner and chef. She proceeded to show us pictures of celebrities who had dined at her restaurant in the past, including Sophia Loren and Guy Fieri. Her accent was thick, her hair very dark (for ninety-one years old), and her attitude presumptuous. I asked what Guy had eaten and she told me he loved her gnocchi.

On the menu, the gnocchi was listed as, “Gnocchi ***** Yelp” followed by a brief description and the choice of sauces. (I figured out that meant the gnocchi has a 5 star rating on Yelp. We also learned later that she’d recently relocated the ristorante to that North Beach location. SF leases and landlords being unreasonable and all that, you know.)

Tony and Dave asked about the wine selection and Luisa reached for a bottle of red, announced it was her own blend and it was an excellent choice, even if the alcohol content was a bit over what was strictly legal-wink, wink. Tony ordered a bottle for the table. Since I stick to white (red gives me leg cramps), Dave ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio for the table as well. It was realllly good. Deb started with a glass of the red, but she switched to the white after she tasted it.

Then. We attempted to order our dinners. As the first person ordered, Luisa not-so-gently corrected their order. “No. You want that with the pappardelle. I make that. I don’t make the spaghetti.” By the end of the ordering, each of us was looking at Luisa for approval. Dave ordered a Napalese pizza. That passed fine. I ordered the gnocchi. Instead of the four or five sauce options on the menu, she gave me a choice of two: the pesto or the vodka sauce. I chose the vodka, a light pink sauce. IMG_2543Wally chose Luisa’s sauce (pancetta, peas, and a few other ingredients) with his pasta and he said it was excellent.

I’ve ordered gnocchi before. I like it. I always think it’s going to be better than it is.

Until Luisa’s.

I will never order gnocchi anywhere else, ever again.

Ah. May. Zing.

Light. Velvety. Delicious! The sauce was perfect with the gnocchi. I don’t care if I ever eat gnocchi again, because I’ve had them as perfectly as they can ever be made. Another first!

Luisa is a true character. While she sat with us, she shared some of her stories. She zeroed in on the men in our party. (Talk about a flirt!) She knew Tony was a salesman. He’s also Italian, so they traded stories about the old country.

While we were eating and chatting, a young woman bounced in, handed Luisa her resume, and bounced out, in about twelve seconds. She wasn’t out the door three seconds before Luisa ripped the resume in half and tossed it aside. Our table hooted. Kim and I exchanged glances and whispered consultations. That was not the way to go about applying for a job with Luisa.

Another customer came into the restaurant. He sat near us. Listened. Ordered. Luisa paid no attention to him. Another young woman came in with a resume. She did sit and chat with Luisa before leaving. Her resume did not get torn up.

Kim and I watched the other customer order and eat. Remember, this was a Monday. And early in the evening. I’m 90% sure he was a chef. He dined alone. He knew who Luisa was. When he was done, he approached her, introduced himself, chatted for a moment. I wasn’t near enough to hear their conversation, but he was invited to sit. They talked for several minutes. I’m quite sure he was either scoping out the competition or applying for a job. And he knew how to go about it, not like the first young woman with the resume that got torn up.

We finally left to catch a cable car back to our hotel. Our whole experience was wonderful. And all because the takeout place across the street didn’t have a liquor license.

I have two more days in San Francisco to talk about and two travel days to Des Moines to catch up on. We are safely in Des Moines. After some delays and excitement in Denver. But this post is already too long. I’ll continue to post and catch up in the next few days. Thank you for reading!!

 

 

 

The Adventure: Day 16

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Happy Birthday, Amber!

We got up early in Minneapolis, and made it to the airport and through security with just about fifteen minutes to spare before our first flight. Our layover in Salt Lake City was just enough time to run from Terminal C to Terminal E and catch our flight to Fresno.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough time for Dave’s suitcase to make the flight. Mine did. We hope his caught the afternoon flight and will be here this evening sometime.

We will spend the next few days catching up on work and house and yard chores and laundry. We’ll see family and friends and celebrate a birthday or two.

We’ll leave again Sunday for a few days in San Francisco with friends. The Great Adventure blog will resume when we fly from San Francisco to Des Moines on Thursday, August 8th. First stop: The Iowa State Fair! Fair fare!

Thank you so much for reading and commenting and being encouraging!