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.

 

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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!

The Adventure: Day 15

Monday, July 29, 2019

Another crazy, exhilarating, exhausting day. We left our hotel in Austin, MN and hightailed it to the SPAM museum ASAP as we could. The museum opened at 9 AM and IMG_2469we got there about 9:30.

True confession: I thought we’d be the only ones there, wandering a cavernous building all alone.

David, of course, thought the opposite. We’d be crowded, shoulder to shoulder, shuffled along, already too late to see anything of interest and having to hurry past the exhibits.

Thankfully, the truth was somewhere in between. There were people in the museum, but it wasn’t crowded. And it was more interesting than I expected.

There was lots of history about the Hormel family, how the patriarch started as a butcher and entrepreneur and meat processor and the “empire” started with the Hormel sealed/packaged ham. And then it expanded to the Dinty Moore canned stews, then Jay Hormel wanted to bring chili to the northern states.

SPAM was actually a late comer to the Hormel family (kinda-sorta). IMG_2472I was really impressed how Hormel is still actively seeking to keep their brand relevant and meaningful.

In the last two weeks we’ve been in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. Dave and I have quizzed each other about what’s unusual in each state. What do we see that’s different? What do we not see that we’re used to seeing at home? One of my comments was the ubiquitous array of trash containers for “Trash,” “Plastic Recyclable,” “Glass Recyclable,” and “Paper/Cardboard Recyclable.” I’ve seen signs reminding me to recycle, but there haven’t been a lot of different containers. Except at the SPAM Museum. They had them all!

Dave had been talking to the staff at the Minnesota Farm Fest about when and where we could drop off the trailer for the event there. While we were wandering the SPAM Museum, he got a call. The woman on the other end of the phone, over 100 miles away, told us we had  to go to the Tendermaid Cafe for lunch and get a hamburger. But it’s not a usual hamburger. It’s a loose meat burger.

Well … when someone, two hours away, calls to make a restaurant recommendation, we listen!

The Tendermaid was less than a block from the SPAM Museum and it opened at 11 AM. We arrived a few minutes after opening and scored a couple of seats at the counter. We IMG_2474had no clue what we were doing or ordering, but we managed to order a “hamburger,” to share and a malt (which we were also told we “had” to order).

When I had researched food in Iowa, the loose meat sandwich popped up, but I didn’t know it was also a thing in Minnesota.  It’s kind of like a Sloppy Joe, but without the sloppy sauce.

The Tendermaid has been serving loose meat burgers for 81 years. Of course Dave wondered why they didn’t have a SPAM burger (insert rolling eye emoji), but I didn’t. They’ve been in business nearly as long as SPAM has been around. Who knew SPAM was going to be a thing 80 years later? The Tendermaid found their wheelhouse and stuck with it.

The diner is super small. The steamer/cooker is the original (i.e. 81 years old!).IMG_2477 The staff  comes in at about 9 am and start cooking/steaming the meat and breaking it up. We ordered a hamburger. Dave watched when an order for a cheeseburger came in. The waitress/cook scraped together a bunch of meat, laid down a slice of cheese, pulled more meat on topIMG_2479 … let it sit a minute, then pulled it all onto a bun.

Made me wish we’d ordered a cheeseburger! Actually, we did. We ordered a Western Bacon Cheeseburger to-go for the guy we were meeting at the Minnesota Farm Fest to drop off the trailer. Someone who called and made the recommendation might have agreed with a question about should we bring a loose meat burger from the Tendermaid.

🙂

IMG_2480By noon-ish, we were headed to the Farm Fest site to drop off the trailer. And, once again, the winds were in full force. If we could just drive a truck and pull a trailer, everything would be great, but the winds! I can’t post videos on this blog (I’m cheap and haven’t upgraded yet), so check out my Facebook page for the 60 second video I took of Dave wrestling with the steering wheel, wind, and drafting vehicles.

We dropped off the trailer (and a gift of SPAM and a loose meat burger) at the Farm Fest venue and headed to our hotel near the Minneapolis-St.Paul airport. Surprisingly, for two Californians, we’ve actually been to this part of Minnesota before. We both came for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in 2009 and I came for a deep/intensive/OMWord-I-can’teven-writers-conference a year or two later. But for both of those events, we/I saw: the Minneapolis-St.Paul Airport/The Mall of America/the venue hotel. And, sadly, this visit to Minneapolis doesn’t seem to be shaping up to be much different. We checked into our hotel a little after 6 pm.

Dave cleaned up the truck. We’re across the street from a strip mall, so he asked the front desk staff for a recommendation. He told them we were Californians, so they steered us away from the Mexican restaurant. We went to the “bar and grill.” While we were there, I researched the parking options at the airport. I’d assumed we’d leave the truck at the Long-term parking for our boss to pick up when he got into town in about a week.

That made sense. Until … the regular “Long Term” parking said the clearance is 6 foot …something. Given our experience last week,  we’re not willing to park there. So we (I) went looking for other options. There is another choice for long-term parking, And! they offer a 7′ clearance … but … you have to use the same credit card for entry and exit. Well  … that won’t work since we’re leaving the truck and someone else is picking it up.. 

Sigh …

We went to front desk and asked if they offered a “Park and Fly” option. They do. With shuttles to and from the airport. For the time we need … $60. The other options at the airport were going to be double that. At least.

We called our boss. He agreed to go with the Park and Fly. So … we’re in our room. We’ve got to get up earlier than we’d expected to get the shuttle to the airport.

We’ll be home around noon tomorrow. Probably stinking. Unshaven (both of us — no judging, okay!?!?).

We have some family and work and medical appointments to take care of the rest of the week. Sunday, we leave for an already planned vacation with friends. We’ll fly out of San Francisco (we think) to Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair (Deep-Fried Butter? More Loose Meat Sandwiches?) on August 8th. After the fair, we’re scheduled to move the trailer to Colorado.

But … as we’ve learned … stay tuned … who knows what’s next?? We don’t … only God …

 

The Adventure: Day 14

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Going to bed early last night helped (as did changing from Eastern to Central time). We woke before 7 AM, and were ready for breakfast when the hotel served it at 7:30. We checked out, hooked up, and hit the road at 8:45 AM.

IMG_2458Our destination was Austin, Minnesota, home of the SPAM Museum. So we could visit Monday morning before we head to Morgan, MN, home of the Farm Fest, to deliver the RALICares Trailer to its next venue.

I know. We were in Springfield, Illinois. Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln for 18 hours and couldn’t fit in a museum or historically significant site. (Although we ate a Horseshoe!) But we made it a point to be in Austin with time to visit the museum that pays homage to pickled/preserved/processed meat products. Believe me, I’m shaking my head in disbelief too.

Anyway … the journey started off easier. There was no cross wind, so we stayed in our lane without much effort.

Illinois is full of corn and soybeans and it’s green and beautiful.

After a few hours, we moved into Iowa.

Iowa is full of corn and soybeans and it’s green and beautiful.

I downloaded a Love’s Travel Center App and a Pilot/Flying J App so we could find gas IMG_2460easily on the road. We stopped for gas at a Flying J that had a Denny’s attached so we had lunch there. We’ve done enough road trips that we know when we need to take a break. We can’t do ten hour days without getting cranky with each other.

After lunch we changed from a generally northerly direction to a generally westerly direction. And the winds picked up. And staying in our own lane got progressively more challenging. I didn’t think of it until it was too late, but I will be taking pictures and video of Dave wrestling with the steering wheel to keep us going straight and in our own lane.

We crossed the Illinois River and the Mississippi River. We crossed several other rivers, many creeks and lakes. There are fewer animals/livestock than we’d expected. We’ve seen a few horses. One or two herds of cows. A few sheep. But honestly, I think I see more livestock between our house in Madera Ranchos and Fresno than I’ve seen here in the last week in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota combined. And I’m not exaggerating.

IMG_2463Last night, Dave looked at my Google maps app route to Austin and decreed it unacceptable. The last hour or so appeared to be on a county highway. He decided he’d rather take a longer route and stick to state highways/freeways. Which is fine. After our experience last Sunday, I get it. 

But … today, as we drove, I continually cross-checked our route with Google maps and the CoPilot app, comparing the times, making sure we were okay with the length and weight of the trailer. And the biggest factor, to me … David’s favored state highway route added an hour to our day. And it was a more westerly route. We’d been fighting those cross-winds for a couple of hours already and we were both exhausted. He felt like he’d been arm-wrestling Lurch and I was the nervous passenger, afraid we were about to be blown off the road and only maimed, not immediately killed. (I’d rather go quickly, not linger.)

I brought up the two different routes on my phone, pointed out the differences to the driver. One was shorter and more northerly (meaning less cross winds). He agreed to IMG_2464change his previously decided route. Whew.

It worked out perfectly. The Google suggested route was definitely more rural, county highway-ish, but it was beautifully scenic, very little wind, and so much easier than the longer route someone wanted to take.

We arrived at our Austin hotel as rain started to fall. We got inside and check in before it turned into a full tornado warning. We ate our leftovers from last night and from lunch, then Dave turned on the television. Yep. A tornado warning for real. He went to the front desk, confessed to being a Californian. “We know what to do in an earthquake. What do we do in a tornado?” The front desk clerk did a good job hiding her grin, but basically said, “You’ll feel it coming. Just go into the center hallway and hunker down. But we don’t expect anything.” Sure. Until you do.

We’re in for the night. The SPAM Museum opens at 9 AM. I guess we’ll be there. Then we’ll head to the venue for the Farm Fest, in Morgan, MN to deliver the trailer. It’s a little over two hours away.

Then Dave and I go on to Minneapolis. We’ll fly home in the next day or two. We’ll be home for a week or so (for a previously scheduled vacation). We’ll be back with the RALICares trailer in Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair on August 9th.

Hmmm … Fair Fare …

Apparently the regional food of Iowa is a Maid Rite sandwich. We’ll definitely look up that one!