Oregon: Farmers, Family, Friends

Friday, November 15, 2019

We had all day to drive from Eugene to the Portland area. We had planned to stay in the same hotel as we had earlier, in Wilsonville. But that one had been undergoing renovations and the parking lot wasn’t as trailer-friendly as we’d hoped, so I found another hotel in Hillsboro, Oregon.

We had an event Saturday (tomorrow) in Beaverton, near Hillsboro and Portland, and an event in Salem on Tuesday. Salem is about an hour south, but we decided to stay in Hillsboro and drive that hour down and back on Tuesday instead of checking out and staying in Salem. Because after Salem, we’d be heading north to Washington. That’s another thing we’re learning on this trip: what is really an “inconvenience.” Is an hour’s drive lesser than, greater than, or equal to the hassle of packing, loading, checking out, checking in, unloading, unpacking? In this case, the drive was less than, because we’d have to backtrack that hour the next day, anyway.

So, we took our time driving from Eugene to Hillsboro. It was only a two hour trip, so we got to town before check-in time. We unhitched, and went looking for lunch. We found a place nearby and settled in. Copper River reminded me a bit of Lazy Dog. I had a green chili chicken enchilada that was delicious.

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After lunch, we decided to find a couple of wineries for some tasting. There were two near each other, and about fifteen minutes away, so we headed first to Blizzard. The gal pouring was very nice, but we thought the wines were just okay. We didn’t buy anything there. Next up was Oak Knoll. We enjoyed these a bit more and bought a couple of bottles, including a pinot rose.

By now we could check-in, so we drove back to Hillsboro and the hotel. We made some phone calls and talked with friends for a bit, then I had a conference call with two of my critique partners. We had lunch leftovers for dinner and then sat in the hotel’s spa for a few minutes before bed.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Today’s event is at the Beaverton Farmer’s Market. We got there plenty early to get situated on the street. We talked to the market “Marshal,” and learned that in the summer, this farmer’s market gets 15,000 visitors on a Saturday! They expected only about 4,000 today.

We were near a couple of food trucks that were starting to make breakfast wraps. Rebecca and Sophie, our Oregon consultants, soon arrived and we got all set up.

This was a really fun event, for lots of reasons.

1) Our long-time friends, Tom and Nancy, have a very good friend who lives in the area.IMG_1251 copy I’d texted Robin and she came by! We’d heard a lot about Robin, had prayed for her and her family, but had never met her until today. It was wonderful to finally meet her in person and she’s just as lovely as I knew she would be. Having Tom and Nancy (not to mention the Lord) in common, enabled us to chat like we’d been friends for years, not meeting for the first time.

2) The people who came through for tours were really interested in the trailer and in what they learned.

3) I learned some things. A recovering addict took a tour with me. She did meth, she said, not heroin. In my spiel, I talk about a myth from the 1960s and 70s, when heroin users would pull liquid heroin into a syringe through cotton, thinking it filtered out impurities in the heroin. It doesn’t. They were just picking up bits of cotton fiber. They’d reuse the cotton and, over time, bacteria builds up and then they’d be injecting themselves with heroin, cotton fiber and bacteria, and getting sick with respiratory infections. This recovering meth addict told me, “Yeah, it’s cotton fever.” So I learned that factoid! Also, several parents of addicts came through and were grateful for the education we’re doing. They talked about signs they’d missed, about how well their kids are doing now (or not). 

4) We got to buy some delicious food, too. David bought some pears and some salmon spread that we had for dinner with crackers and cheese that night. He also bought us some tacos from one of the food trucks for lunch that were fabulous!

At about 2:00 the market officially closed and we packed up and had to get out quickly because there was a funeral scheduled at the church we were parked in front of.

We dropped off the trailer at the hotel and then went shopping. Because there’s no sales tax in Oregon, we had offered to pick up some things for family members. We bought some shot gun shells for a hunter and a birthday present for a grandson.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

We watched our home church service online, then I did my mid-month work. We called and video-chatted with one daughter and grand-daughter, then we went to dinner and a IMG_9751 copymovie. We saw Midway, which was very good, and we talked about what was accurate and what was embellished by Hollywood.

At Stanford’s, we shared one of their specials, salmon with a beurre rouge sauce that was to die for.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Another quiet day. I worked until about 2 PM, then we went to Cooper Mountain winery for a tasting and had a great time. The tasting room manager, Alicia, is from California and had worked in Napa. She and David talked quite a bit about their Napa IMG_9726 copyfavorites. A sweet, but young and rambunctious dog, Webster, was on hand too. We bought some wine for Thanksgiving dinner, then went back to town. We shared a snack in the truck then watched another movie. This time we saw Ford vs Ferrari, another chance to read and see what was accurate and really happened and what was Hollywood taking liberties with in the story.

After the movie, we got to video chat with our other daughter and grandchildren, which is always the highlight of our weeks.

We finished with another soak in the spa and then bed. Tomorrow would be our long day in Salem.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

We left Hillsboro at 7 AM, to get to Salem at 8. Of course, there was traffic, delaying us a bit, but we got there and were set up in front of the Capitol by 9. The truck couldn’t be attached to the trailer in front of the building all day, per the Capitol police, so David unhooked and parked off site, then came back.

This day was definitely focused on getting legislators to come through the trailer and take the tour. I had a woman from the Grange, and a few staffers and one or two legislators. So, overall, I think it was a good day. It was very cold. Definitely a day we’d have enjoyed being able to get in the truck for a few minutes to thaw out, if it had been available.

Walking back from parking, David had passed a sandwich shop, so he backtracked to get us some lunch, which we ate in shifts at the back of the trailer. Eating, drinking, and bathroom use are practicalities that we always have to think about on the job. We have to stay hydrated, so we both always carry a water bottle. But some days bathroom facilities aren’t nearby. But also sometimes the weather is such that no matter how much I drink, it’s fine, I don’t need a bathroom. It’s crazy. And it’s true of cold days, just as much as warm days. I didn’t use the bathroom at all, this day in Salem. In spite of two cups of coffee and two bottles of water. At the Iowa State Fair, when it was super hot and humid, I’d drink 5-6 bottles of water and not need the bathroom until 4:00 in the afternoon. Is that TMI?

Anyway, back to our day.

I have recently reconnected with a high school friend from Castro Valley, California. Heidi now lives in Salem and we had made plans to meet for dinner at 5:00. Because of the cold and because we had no one come by after 3:00, we started packing up at 3:30.

We got permission to leave the trailer in front of the Capitol for a few hours, which was perfect. We’d chosen a restaurant, a local Oregon chain, that we’d started to go to in Eugene, before our Uber driver convinced us to go somewhere else. We still wanted to try the original destination and there was one in Salem. So we’d chosen that place, thinking we could park the trailer there. But since we had permission to leave it, that seemed the better option. And good thing, because the lot at the Ram was not trailer-friendly, at all.

IMG_4352 copyWe got there a good half hour early. I texted Heidi that we were early and she hurried over. I didn’t want her to rush, but I also didn’t want her to think we were bored and waiting for her. We were happy to have a few minutes to decompress and warm up while we waited. I had the blackened chicken mac and cheese and had plenty of leftovers to take home for lunch.

Heidi and I hadn’t seen each other in probably forty years, maybe more. We had a lot to catch up on! She’s still an animal lover and a wonderfully kind person.

After dinner, a panhandler waited outside the restaurant. We don’t often give money, but will usually buy someone a meal. David offered to go back in and buy the man something to eat. He refused, saying he just wanted a beer. To my shock, David gave him $5. David said later, “Yeah, I never do that, but he was upfront about what he wanted, so I figured why not?” As David walked Heidi to her car, the man disappeared into the restaurant. I guess $5 + what he had was enough for his beer. 

We went back to the Capitol, hitched up, and drove the hour back to Hillsboro, our spa, and our bed.

Tomorrow: Off to Washington!

 

Oregon –> California –> Oregon

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Our event this day is at the Oregon State High School Cross Country Championships at a community college in Eugene. We had to be there at 8 AM, to set up by 9. We met our Oregon consultants, Rebecca and Sophie, for the first time. It was really, really cold out that day.

After we were set up and ready, I gave Rebecca and a campus security officer a tour while David went in search of coffee. This turned out to be a fairly slow day. The parents, grandparents, and spectators were there to watch their runners and not really to chat or take tours. The campus security team was very interested though, and I think all their officers on duty that day came through at one time or another.

This was the first day that we took turns sitting in the truck for a few minutes to warm up. I also got a bit of an upset stomach (too much coffee, I think, trying to get warm) and had to find the restroom. It was off a student lounge area, so I took a few extra minutes there.

The RALI consultants had a hard time giving away the tote bags and water bottles. People just didn’t want to stop and chat. It was cold and they had a place to be and things to do and people to watch.

We packed up just before the last race of the day. We know when we’re beat.

RALI usually sends a photographer to each event and today’s photographer gave us some restaurant suggestions for dinner. I also looked around online and found a place that had been on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, that was known for its seafood.

We were planning/hoping to leave the trailer at our Eugene hotel for the next five days, so we unhooked at the hotel and drove ourselves to dinner instead of using Uber. The Fisherman’s Market is indeed a dive, but what a dive! As we walked up, an employee was boiling crab out front. David stopped to talk to him and asked if those would be available to order inside. The answer was an unequivocal, “Maybe.” David also asked how to tell if crab is fresh. The last couple of years, the crab we’ve gotten locally just hasn’t been that good. We had great crab in Alaska and he’d had really good crab in Monterey. I don’t know if he got a clear answer or not, (I think it came down to smell and appearance), but we headed inside and ordered at the counter. The cashier also didn’t know if the crab cooking outside would be available, but the cook stuck his head in and said, yes, David could order one, it would be ready soon. I looked at their specialties and what Guy Fieri had eaten on DDD and I ordered the Cajun Crawdad pie. It was like a chicken pot pie, but with miniature shrimp/crawdads. It was really good, although very rich. I took more than half of it to-go, and ate it for another two meals.

Sunday, November 10 – Thursday, November 14, 2019

We had a week off with no events, so we’d decided to park the trailer and drive to Crescent City, California to visit longtime friends who’d recently moved there. Great plan, but the hotel refused to let us leave the trailer there. We’d never had a problem before, but for some reason … Anyway, we found another hotel in town that had a huge lot, so we canceled our reservation for when we would return to Eugene Thursday, made a new reservation, hooked up again, and drove three miles north.

After unhooking, we headed south again. It’s about a four-hour drive to Crescent City. From Grants Pass, we headed south and west through some beautiful country.

We met up with Steve and Abbie and had dinner at the Good Harvest Cafe. I thought it was good, although Abbie said she’d had better there.

We’d never been to Crescent City before, but since Abbie grew up there, we’d heard a lot about it. How it was always gray and rainy. And far away from shopping and entertainment options.

Well. Monday morning was gorgeous, sunny and clear and bright. In fact, it wasn’t until IMG_2977 copyWednesday that we got a taste of the “normal,” overcast and gray Crescent City weather.

We had a great few days there. Steve and Abbie gave us a tour of IMG_9347 copythe area, including their new home and the area where Abbie grew up. We saw the coastal redwoods, and even got an impromptu tour of the local lighthouse.

 

We walked out to the lighthouse as two men on Gator/golf cart vehicles were moving sacks of concrete up to the lighthouse. The posted “Open” hours for tours were over, so we knew we were just there to look around the outside of the building and read the markers. David stopped to chat and started helping them unload the sacks. I wasthisclose to hollering at him to 1) Stay out of their way, 2) Not IMG_0561 copyinjure himself helping strangers, and 3) Come look at these amazing views. But of course, he (and God) had other plans. After a few minutes talking to the two men, he learned they are both volunteer lighthouse keepers. One was stationed there that month with his wife. Well, sure enough, the keeper invited us in. We got a history of the lighthouse, its lens, its decommissioning and its current status as county property, maintained by volunteers. We also got to climb into the lens “house” at the top. It was a lovely serendipity. We learned that the lighthouse (and its keepers) are cut off from the mainland by the tides for a large portion of every day. Some volunteers find that too isolating and don’t want to return after their first rotation. The keeper that month and his wife don’t mind it, and the tides that day were late enough that they were planning dinner in town and they’d be able to be back to the lighthouse before the tide came back in. It was all fascinating. 

IMG_9493 copyAlso, while in town those few days, we got to meet Abbie’s sister and see her sister’s home and see their brother and his family again. We did some shopping in some really fun and unique gift shops.

We ate in some great restaurants, both in Crescent City and in Brookings, Oregon. The Chart Room had the best fish & chips. Seaquake Brewing had lots of delicious food, including fried cheese curds, burgers, and thick, creamy clam chowder. In Brookings, we had surf and turf at O’Hollerans Steakhouse. And our last evening, we had amazing food at Oxenfre, also in Brookings.

Thursday morning we headed back to Eugene, but we decided to take the more scenic coastal route.

We drove north along the Oregon coast, stopping for lunch in Coos Bay, at the Blue Heron Cafe. The website said they offered “Classic German Cuisine,” and the menu looked interesting. Somehow we both ended up ordering oysters. David got them breaded and pan-fried with mashed potatoes and coleslaw, while I ordered the bacon and oyster sandwich. We’ve never been big oyster fans, so I don’t know why or how we ended up ordering this way. I guess we thought we were in oyster and seafood country and that’s what you should order when you’re there. I’m sure they were good, but it did reinforce that we just don’t really care for oysters that much. Unless they’re small and broiled with lots of cheese. 🙂

From Coos Bay, we continued north to Florence, then turned east to Eugene. We stopped at Sarver Winery for a tasting. The wines were good, the views vast and they even had small plates available, so we didn’t need dinner that night. As we chatted with the young woman pouring the tastes, the winemaker was nearby. David expressed his opinion about California pinot noirs (that they’re too fruit-forward and most wine drinkers think that’s how they’re supposed to be and don’t appreciate the more delicate and true pinot characteristics). The winemaker, also named David, slapped his hand on the bar and exclaimed, “Thank you!” So of course they were off and running. Winemaker David had an accent and it took me a few minutes to place it, but I finally figured out he was a Kiwi from New Zealand. While the two Davids discussed wine, I wandered over to enjoy the views and our snack. It was too damp and chilly to be outside, but it was still a gorgeous vista.

In Eugene, we found our new hotel where we’d left the trailer, and avoided an accident when someone decided to stop in the middle of the street and turn around right in front of us. It was a narrow street and they had to make a nine-point turn. Fun times!

Tomorrow, we head back to the Portland area. Thanks for reading!

 

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.

 

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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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.

 

Canada, O Canada!

Saturday, September 14–Wednesday, September 18, 2019,

SPOILER ALERT: EVERYONE IS FINE!

Our last morning on the ship. We woke early and had a quick breakfast at the buffet. We had requested the latest disembarkation time possible and had also requested wheelchair assistance for our folks. The wait for available wheelchairs was only slightly shorter than when we boarded, but we did eventually disembark, get our luggage, and find our way to the taxi line. This time we did have curb service, unlike when Sayeed dropped us off.

We had a flight out of Vancouver for the next afternoon, so we checked into our hotel near the airport. We had another “learning” experience courtesy of our taxi driver. The fare from the port to the hotel was $37 and change, Canadian dollars. I handed the driver my credit card. He asked for cash. Dad pulled out his wallet and offered a large US bill. The driver said he only had Canadian bills for change. I gave him $45 US for the fare, which included a (I thought a nice) tip, since he’d been helpful with our luggage and had asked questions about the cruise and seemed interested. It only occurred to me later … the fare in US dollars was less than $28. So I gave him a $17 USD tip, equal to $22 in Canadian dollars. Lesson learned.

The Pittmans and Padgetts walked to the nearby McDonalds for lunch while the Harjos went a bit farther away and also did some shopping. After lunch, we relaxed for a while, then walked the opposite direction to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. The hotel was in a very Chinese neighborhood and we passed at least four other restaurants, but hotel staff had suggested this one. It was quite authentic and very good. Dad asked for coffee. The waitress asked if he wanted, “Hot or cold?” He said, “Hot.” She then asked, “Hong Kong or American?” He responded, “Never mind, I’ll have a beer.” We didn’t know coffee could be so fraught with choices outside of Starbucks.

The food was very good. We ordered an assortment of dishes to share. A chow mein, a fried rice, some shrimp and vegetables. We started with three dishes and the waitress said we needed a fourth. So we added something else and, of course (because we didn’t learn our lesson from the taxi driver) we ended up leaving the equivalent of one full order of food as leftovers behind.

Back at the hotel, we turned on the television and some of us watched, some of us read, some of us dozed. Dad still hadn’t been feeling well, but hadn’t said much.

At about 4:20 Sunday morning, he woke us up and said he wanted to go the hospital. David and I jumped out of bed. David got dressed while I (tried) to call the front desk to ask for an ambulance. The phone in our room wouldn’t work. I finally just went downstairs and asked the desk clerk to call an ambulance. He did. He asked what room number. I told him, “823.” He looked at me a moment then said, “We don’t have 8 floors.” Duh. I don’t know where that came from. “Right. 423.”

I hurried back upstairs and got dressed. I could hear the phone in the room ringing, and Mom trying to answer it, but not connecting because the ringing didn’t stop. We decided that I would go to the hospital with Mom and Dad while David would stay at the hotel to tell the Harjos what was going on, contact the airline if we needed to cancel/change flights. Again: Duh.

The fire truck EMTs were first to arrive, but the ambulance/paramedics were right behind them. They took Dad’s vitals and info, loaded him on a gurney and out of the room. Downstairs, I asked the front desk clerk to call a cab for me (knowing I would pay with a credit card, because … NO MORE CASH PAYMENTS FOR TAXIS!!) The fireman in the elevator told me Dad would probably be taken to Vancouver General because they had the cardiac unit and Dad was a cardiac patient.

Dad was loaded into the ambulance. Mom got into the front to ride with him. David and I conferred quickly. I forwarded him the info about our flights and our trip insurance information, so he could cancel our flights. My taxi arrived, and I asked him to wait because I needed to confirm we were going to Vancouver General. After about five to seven minutes, the ambulance pulled away, but I hadn’t been told where to go. The fire truck fired up their engine to pull out. I waved and hollered, “Vancouver General?” The same fireman from the elevator nodded and hollered back, “Yes, Vancouver General.”

I got in the cab, told the driver, “Vancouver General,” and we took off. As we left, I saw that the ambulance had not actually left after all. They were still in the parking lot. But … maybe it was a second ambulance? That I hadn’t seen? I decided to go ahead to Vancouver General. It was early enough that there was very little traffic. So little that at one intersection, the lights wouldn’t change for us to make a left turn. We had a red light. We waited. And waited. There was no traffic coming from either direction. The driver backed up and pulled forward again to try and trip any sensors. Then we waited some more. And waited. He reversed and drove forward. And we waited. He finally put the cab into Park, opened his door, and ran to the curb, pressed the button for the pedestrian crosswalk. The cross traffic green light immediately turned yellow. And also immediately, a car appeared coming from the opposite direction. So even though we finally had a green light for a left turn, we still had to wait. Sigh.

He eventually delivered me to Vancouver General and took my credit card without a murmur. I found my way to the ER, asked for Dad, but they had no record of him. Of course. So he hadn’t arrived yet. Which was odd. But that just meant he probably was in the ambulance I passed in the hotel parking lot. So I sat and waited.

Vancouver General is a typical urban hospital. I saw … patients from all walks of life there while I waited.

After about ten minutes, an officer asked for names, did some radio chatting and told me Dad had been taken to Richmond General. She directed me where to call for another taxi, which I did. The new cab arrived very quickly and took me to the new hospital and that driver also accepted my credit card without asking for cash. I guess it’s just drivers at the docks who use the cash scam. 

Dad had apparently “crashed,” in the ambulance and they spent some time in the hotel parking lot working on him before transporting him to the hospital. I don’t know if his crisis event made the paramedics decide to take him to the closer hospital (Richmond General) instead of Vancouver, or if the fireman gave me wrong info accidentally.

Mom and I spent Sunday at the hospital, most of it in the ER. We finally went to the cafeteria to get something to eat around 10 am. David was at the hotel dealing with the airline, telling the Harjos what was going on, helping them get off okay to the airport for their flight home, asking the hotel for another night or two for us, or at least getting a late check out while he found somewhere else. I called the travel insurance company and was reassured that everything would be taken care of. In the meantime, David texted to say our hotel was booked and couldn’t give us anymore nights. But–they found us a room at a hotel near the hospital! David transferred all our luggage by himself to the new hotel. 

The new place turned out to be perfect. It was expensive, but we shared a large double room with Mom. It was literally next door to the hospital. We could walk there in three minutes. And a huge, gorgeous park was nearby so we’d see rabbits as we walked.

                      

 

It was still near the airport, so there were lots of hotels around. Which helped with finding dinner places when we were dependent on our feet or taxis or DoorDash for meals.

After several hours in Richmond General ER, Dad was transferred to a room. He ended up spending several days there.

In the ER, a fireman sidled up to me. “Please tell me you have insurance,” he said. I nodded. “Yes, we do. They have excellent insurance.” “Good. You wouldn’t believe the number of Americans who say, ‘But it’s Canada, the health care is free.'” He shook his head. “It doesn’t work that way.” He went on to say Dad was really sick when they picked him up. The fireman also questioned me about the cruise, said they were essentially, “petri dishes,” of germs and gave me the impression that Dad’s issues weren’t related to his heart, that he’d picked up a flu bug or something else on the ship. He was wrong.

Dad had another crisis event Monday morning. He had an angiogram Monday, and an  echocardiogram Tuesday.  

Tuesday was our 42nd anniversary. We went to a nearby hotel for dinner. It was lovely, even though it was not how we’d planned to spend our anniversary. Wednesday was David’s birthday, another day spent not as we’d planned. Dad was released Wednesday, but without clearance to fly. 

Overall, Dad got excellent care. We had opportunities to chat with Canadians about their health care system and we got to observe it up close. It some ways it seemed 20 years behind the US. Supply carts were in the halls, unsecured. The rooms were wards, 4 beds to a room.Patients could watch television on a 1990s blocky computer monitor for $7 CAD 😉 a day. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that. It’s just different. The people we talked to admitted they had to wait months for procedures, but you could buy additional insurance that would speed up the process.

Anyway, once Dad was well enough to be discharged, we discussed our options. Wait a week until he could fly. Take a train home. Rent a car and drive. But you can’t rent a car in Canada to drive one-way to the US. We ended up taking a bus to Bellingham, WA (hoo boy–this post is already too long but that bus trip deserves its own post. Customs … !!), then renting a car, and driving the 1000 miles home.

We left Vancouver around 11:30 AM Thursday morning, September 19, and arrived in Bellingham around 2:15 PM.

Next up: The journey home

Alaska, continued.

Thursday, Sept. 12 – Friday, Sept. 13, 2019

Thursday was our last port day, in Ketchikan. We had booked a crab feed and the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.

This time, Dave and I got off the ship a little early with Lee and Karie, to explore Ketchikan a little bit. It’s a fun and rustic town. We visited some souvenir shops and just wandered the downtown area. At the appointed time, we met up with our folks and got on the bus for the half hour ride to the George Inlet Lodge for our crab feast. I do like crab, but the last few years the crab we’ve gotten in California has not been great. Well. The Alaska crab was phenomenal. Sweet and tender and delicious. I ate most of it plain, with very little butter. It was perfect just like that. The crab feast included a salad and cheesecake.

After lunch, we got back on the bus and returned to Skagway where we had a short walk to the lumberjack show. It was a little corny, but very entertaining and those guys are definitely athletes as well as entertainers.

After the show, we wandered back to the ship. I detoured into a Christmas shop and bought an ornament, then it was time for dinner. It was also “Orange Night.” Passengers were encouraged to wear orange and come to a party in the BBKing Lounge. The orange was to celebrate the ship’s Norwegian “heritage,” and Norwegian treats would be served.

Karie and Lee were stunning. I had an orange top and Dave had an orange shirt, but he was tired and opted to go back to our cabin after dinner. Lee, Karie, and I went to the Orange party for a while and had a great time.

Friday

Our last day at sea we cruised the inland passage on our way back to Vancouver. Dad wasn’t feeling well and spent most of the day resting in their cabin. The seas were pretty rough all night. We had a time change, from Alaska time back to Pacific time. David and I slept in and skipped our regular breakfast in the dining room and went to the buffet.

We enjoyed the day, relaxing some more. I did some reading while David had a cigar and watched the scenery. Then we made plans to meet up again where he introduced me to a woman he’d met in one of the observation decks, Edith Wallace. She’s a musician and songwriter and we had a delightful conversation about life and goals and second chances and art and writing and spirituality and trusting.

Then we went to high tea. It’s served every day in the dining room, but this was the only day we made it there. It was very fun to enjoy the tradition. I don’t think I’ve taken tea since our trip to Ireland and the UK in 2017.

 

We had an appointment to look at some photos we’d had taken Wednesday evening. We only bought a couple because they were expensive, but they were also really, really good and we haven’t had pictures taken in a long time.

We ended the day with dinner and some time in the Billboard lounge and BBKing, then we had to pack since our luggage had to be out in the hallway by midnight.

Tomorrow, we disembark and say goodbye. It’s going to be a sad day …