Ramada: you can freeze to death and eat soggy cake!*

*To be fair, the soggy cake was not Ramada’s fault.

Neither of us slept last night, not more than a couple of hours.  The bed was super uncomfortable, the kids didn’t leave the pool for at least an hour after we went to bed, some light (maybe from the A/C unit) was glowing too brightly, and I was fuh-REEZING.  I can’t sleep when I’m shivering, there weren’t any extra blankets, and we were too tired to figure out the A/C plus it was mounted really high on the wall.  We were both awake an hour before the alarm went off, awake enough that we just got up at 3:30 instead of waiting for it, and then our flight to Seattle was too short for napping (only 30 minutes in the air).  We are going to crash so hard tonight.

So with the uncomfortable bed, the mildewy smell in the room, and a couple of other things, I think I have validated my resistance to Ramada hotels over the years.  I mean, last night the price was right and obviously it was okay, but given a choice, I’ll choose something else.

The last time I can remember staying in a Ramada was for our first anniversary, 2001, in San Diego.  John and I had just driven across the country for the first time, moving from Newport, RI to San Diego to get to my first ship.  We didn’t have a place to live yet; the plan was to find an apartment within the first few days and stay in cheap hotels in the meantime.  When we got there, we spent a night or two in a Motel 6 (where one night I got up around 3am and got in the shower because I thought it was morning), and then decided to splurge on the Ramada for our anniversary night.

Mom had packed the top layer of our wedding cake in dry ice for the cross-country trip.  The dry ice lasted until we got to San Diego, and then we replaced it with regular ice for the last day or two.  We realized that might have been a bad idea when we started to unwrap it in the hotel room.  There was some dripping, and we moved to the bathroom sink.

First layer of aluminum foil: water from the ice. No big deal.  Next layer of foil: more water.  Next later of wax paper: water and a few crumbs.  That’s when we started to worry.  Next layer (foil or wax paper – can’t remember): more water, more crumbs.  When we finally got to the actual cake it was pretty water-logged.  The middle was still edible, but I can’t say it was good.  Still – we ate it.  I mean, not the whole thing, but enough to count.

The beginning

Our trip has begun!  Sort of.  Tonight is Erev Trip, or maybe that was last night.  Our flight from Portland to Seattle is at 6am tomorrow, so we’re doing the park-sleep-fly thing in the airport Ramada tonight.  The airport Ramada is…not so great, but it’ll do for a night.  The biggest issue is that it’s 8pm and our shuttle leaves the hotel at 4:20am so we’re getting up before 4am and we need to go to bed but it’s still broad daylight outside and our room overlooks the pool and there are kids playing in it and tomorrow is going to SUCK.  But we’ll be on vacation!  It’ll be a bearable kind of suck.

I think they live in paradise

California is a lovely place, with lovely weather, and lovely friends, and GIANT TREES.

It’s kind of funny – we visited Erik and Margaret (and their two adorable, smart, and funny children) for a little more than three days, but the only pictures I have are from the day we went to see the redwoods.

We followed the creek and found a nice picnic spot, and then the kids (and Margaret) played in the creek.  It was all so wholesome and fun, and I mean that – no sarcasm here.

I made this last one big ’cause otherwise you can barely see us.

It was so good to see them again, and it was such a relaxing weekend.  They did a good job of making California seem like the place we want to be.  It’s not, not long-term, but they did such a good job of showing us all the good parts that we temporarily forgot that, and it was really hard to leave.

Freedom and a lighter bag

I have decided to travel light this weekend.  John and I are in one suitcase, and neither of us is bringing a laptop.  My carry-on is my Paris tote, and John will be walking on to the plane with only his Kindle in his hand.  I’d be able to go lighter if I didn’t have to carry prescription meds everywhere I go.

I always think I’ll use my laptop on trips more than I actually do.  In Seattle, the wi-fi in the hotel was terrible, and I don’t plan to have much free time for laptopping this trip.  I expect we’ll only head to our hotel late at night, tired and ready for sleep.  That is okay with me, so I am bowing to reality and leaving my laptop at home.

You’ll barely know I’m gone.

The earlier the start, the longer the weekend

Friday morning we’re getting up at airport-thirty for an 8am flight.  We’ve considered spending Thursday night in Portland, but we’d still have an early start and what’s a couple of hours when it’s already early to begin with?

That might be stupid.

On the plus side, it’s a short flight because for the first time in a year and a half (a little more for John), we aren’t flying ALL THE WAY across the country.

Now that I think about it, I’m not so sure that’s a plus considering what time we’ll be getting up.  A longer flight means a longer nap.  And I think we’ll need it.

Still!  The weather is supposed to be beautiful (sunny and not too hot), and we’ll have gotten an early start (which I usually enjoy), and we’re off to visit dear friends we haven’t seen in YEARS, and coffee is a thing.

My unsolicited ad for Johnson Berry Farm

The first time I ever went to Seattle was in February 2003, on a 3-day liberty call when my ship was on its way to Alaska.  It was cold, but crystal clear – no rain.  I don’t remember all of the details of that trip (I mean, it was 14 years ago), but I remember going to Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, I remember the crab legs (more on those another day), and I remember Johnson Berry Farm.  They’ve got a table in the market, selling jam and preserves, and they hand out free samples.  I don’t remember exactly what I tried that day, but they had these pepper jellies that were SO GOOD.  So good that when I found out a coworker was going to Seattle for work in 2010, I asked her to find them and bring some back to me.  Of course, I couldn’t remember the name of the farm, but I figured she could find them.  She DID find them, and she didn’t bring me anything, but the name got me to their website and I ordered some.  That was 7 years ago.

This past Saturday morning, John and I wandered the entire multi-story market, sticking our heads in just about every store (and buying books in 3 out of 4 bookstores – I’m almost all set for book club the rest of the summer), and then I stopped dead in front of the Johnson Berry Farm table.  All that build-up and I had COMPLETELY forgotten about them.  At no time while planning this trip or walking through the market did I think to myself, “Hey, remember those pepper jellies you really liked?  They’re here and you should get some.”  Nope.  Didn’t even cross my mind.  I was so surprised and SO HAPPY.  And I gotta tell you – they’re still really really good.  We bought three: two types of blackberry and (this is my favorite one EVER) raspberry habanero jam.  They have all kinds and they have LOTS of spicy ones.  Go!  Order!  Enjoy!

Johnson Berry Farm

The Netherlands have got nothing on Seattle

We’re home and back on wifi, but I don’t have the energy to give you the details of our trip tonight.  However, I will deliver pictures of the belated Mother’s Day tulips* that FILLED the market this weekend.

*I typed “tupils”.  I need to remember that.  Speaking of tupils, there’s a farm in Oregon that has a festival every year, but we missed it.  Christina invited me to go the last weekend, but I already had plans.  Sad me.

Crossing time zones is exhausting

We’re back home from a trip to PA and MD that included a very cool anniversary dinner and quality time with our new nephew, and I will tell you all about those things, but not tonight.

Goal: get back to regular posting

Deadline: ….soon

Right now: sleep

We got up at 4am this morning so we could leave the house at 4:45am so we could be at the Philadelphia airport by 6am so we could get on a plane at 7am.  We landed in Portland (after a stop in Denver) at 1pm, which felt like 4pm, and then we had to drive back to Eugene, where we stopped at the grocery store before finally getting home about 4:30pm, which felt like 7:30pm.  Now it’s 7pm but it feels like 10pm, and I’ve been awake for 18 hours and traveling for 14 of them, and I’m going to stop typing now and go to sleep.

I am VERY happy to be home.  I love our bed.  It’s better than every other bed.  All of them.

Next time won’t you sing with me

In the airport again (LaGuardia this time), same deal with only 30 minutes of free WiFi.  Whatever, airports.

In the same vein, we got here, following the signs to Terminal C to check in for American Airlines.  Got our boarding passes for gate D-something.  The guy who took our bags said we had to go to Terminal B for the D-gates.  Don’t terminals usually have the same letter as the gates?  So we checked in at C and got a shuttle to go to B to get on a plane at D.  I am now reciting my ABCs.

It’s not THAT confusing (we made it to the gate, after all), but I’m cruising on very little sleep over the last few days.  Saturday started early, with a long day of travel and a late night when we arrived.  We didn’t have to get up especially early Sunday, Monday, or today, but I slept pretty badly.  The hotel walls were thin, there was constant activity in the hallways, and the pillows SUCKED.  They looked all fluffy and nice, but they flattened into nothing as soon as you put your head down and the air squeezed out.  My neck hurts.  Plus all the emotions and the public face on the whole time and I’m. So. Tired.

We land in Portland at 7:30pm local, but then we have to get our car and drive home, so it’ll be 10pm at the earliest before we get home.  Probably closer to 11.  And tomorrow morning has to start on time, so there will be no sleeping in until Saturday.  On the plus side, there’s no one to tell me I can’t go to bed at 6pm tomorrow night or every night the rest of this week, and Saturday isn’t that far away.

Eating badly

I don’t think I have ever eaten normally while traveling.  It’s difficult, of course, but I don’t even try.  Yesterday, we got up at 5:30, got to the airport at 6:30, and bad coffee and a stale, crunchy croissant near the gate for breakfast.  Lunch was too much Italian food during our Chicago layover because we knew we’d land in New York too late for dinner so we figured we’d eat a meal and a half mid-afternoon to cover both meals.  Then we snacked because, well, we got hungry again.  But it was all sucky food, pretty much.

We could make the attempt.  I could have had a banana at breakfast.  I could have had a salad at lunch.  I could try harder and do that on our way home in a few days.  Right now, though, I don’t want to do that.  I want to go the other way.  My plan is to have nothing but chocolate (or at least nothing but dessert-type food) when we travel back.  I don’t think it would make me feel worse, and it has a decent chance of making me feel better.

Entitled

Is free WiFi an unreasonable expectation in public places?  I mean, sure, someone is paying for it, so I can see how it’s not reasonable to expect it in a park or pretty much anywhere you can hang out for free.  But most places we spend any period of time are places we go to buy things (food, drinks, coffee) or see things (theaters – why not free WiFi in the lobby?), or wait to go somewhere else (airports, train stations).  Lots of those places DO offer free WiFi, and for the most part, people are buying things so the cost can be covered, and that makes sense.  Even in places where an individual might not buy anything, like, say, an airport, the vast majority of the people around that individual are nearly guaranteed to buy something, so again – cost covered.  So why would O’Hare only offer 30 minutes of free WiFi?  The airport is enormous, they probably make a ton from parking alone, and everyone who walks through here buys snacks, water, magazines, whole meals – the money goes to the stores, sure, but O’Hare didn’t give those stores space for free.

I suppose I should be glad they’re offering any WiFi for free (I wouldn’t be typing this right now if they didn’t), and I know it’s not the airport’s responsibility to make our layovers fun (FOUR HOURS this time) or to make up for the airlines who make us pay for every little thing, but they could help.  If I know I can’t get online at a particular airport, I might choose to fly through a different one next time.  Maybe they should consider THAT.

Aaaaaannnnnddddd #firstworldproblems.

Not ready for it to be over

(Written on the plane, posted later)

At the end of most vacations, while I haven’t been happy for the vacation to end, I’ve been happy to be going home, or at least ready for it. Not so much with this one. I’m not sure what’s different. I’ve hardly thought about work, and I still have days before I have to, so I don’t think it’s work avoidance. I’m not reluctant to go back to Oregon – I like it there, and there are things I’m planning to do once we get home. As much as I love Disney World and I hated to leave it last night (even though it was POURING DOWN RAIN again during the fireworks and as we were leaving), we had done everything there was to do, so I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by leaving it. But after fewer than four hours of sleep, a five-and-a-half hour cross-country flight, and a two-hour layover in LAX, I was fighting this urge to postpone our flight to Oregon for a couple of days and check out LA. Maybe it’s sleep deprivation. I overcame that urge and got on the plane to Portland, and we’re not even going straight home, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about anymore. Maybe it’s sleep deprivation. The plan is to spend the afternoon and night in Portland (bedtime will be SO early), meet up with Will and Christina in the morning, and go to this fairy/fantasy-themed festival thing tomorrow. I’m picturing a renaissance fair with fairies, but I don’t really know what it’ll be like. I’ll let you know how it goes. THEN we go home.

Oh, but now I’m on the plane to Portland, NOT sitting next to John because the airline surprised us with upgrades to first class. I have no idea why we got the upgrades, and I’m not complaining. I can manage being two rows away from him for less than three hours. American is my new favorite airline.

I usually have Disney songs within easy reach in my brain (most of the time it’s “Part of Your World” and “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”), but for the last three days, I’ve been cycling through “Let It Go”, “Be Our Guest”, and “We Can Fly”. Can’t get rid of them. Not sure I want to (although “Let It Go” is free to go away whenever it wants). Maybe it’s sleep deprivation.

I probably won’t have time to write tomorrow, but hopefully I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule by Sunday. With pictures.

I won’t be breaking any records soon

This weekend flew by.  We went to Oak Ridge for a gig yesterday (pretty drive, but it was hot as hell out there), and then I dragged Christina shopping with me today.  I’ve had more successful shopping trips.  Christina was really good about putting up with me in store after store, thank goodness.  I owe her for that.

We’re traveling for a wedding soon, and I’m starting to feel stress about taking off work.  Combine that with making sure I have everything I’ll need for nearly two weeks away from home, and I’m not exactly relaxed.

The running events have started, though, and that helps.  I spent a couple hours this afternoon watching the coverage online (because NBC on TV SUCKS).  Saw some great races.  I should go running, even if it’s just the pseudo-running I can do right now.

Portland!

We had about three hours to kill in Portland before the Night Vale show Thursday night, so we did pretty much what you’d expect of us:

  1. We did a quick tour of the downtown library.
  2. We spent about 45 minutes in Powell’s.
  3. We had dinner.

The library is pretty impressive-looking from the outside, and the lobby is lovely.  It has a big sweeping staircase, and the steps to the second floor are (or at least look like) black marble etched with animals and lots of swirling patterns.  Very cool.

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I think these windows were in non-fiction room.  Huge, lots of light, trees outside – beautiful and peaceful.

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The children’s library is named after Beverly Cleary, who – fun fact I just learned – grew up in Portland.  That tree in there has figures from children’s stories carved into it.
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We didn’t spend too much time there because a) we couldn’t check anything out, and b) WE HAD TO GO TO POWELL’S.

Last time we were there, I mentioned being overwhelmed, but in a good way.  This time, that feeling was tinged with anxiety.  There are SO many books, and SO many books I want to read.  How will I ever find the time to read them all?  That idea, that abundance of books – it should feel wonderful, exciting, comforting maybe.  I’ll never run out of things to read (as if that were possible).  Thursday, though, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.  Maybe I just need a vacation.  Yeah, no, I KNOW I need a vacation.

Anyway, we kept that visit pretty short because we were hungry and we had a show to get to.  Dinner was Japanese, shared, really good.  The theater was on the other side of a park from the restaurant, and as we crossed into the park, we saw this sign:

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Eugene has bike routes everywhere.  Portland has skate routes.  Because Portland.  I think the guy on the right is on rollerblades, but it’s hard to tell.  His other foot might be a giant circular saw.

Our Big Day Out: A Photo Essay

We did make it to the coast, and we did have a wonderfully pleasant day, and with the sun out, temps in the mid-60s felt great.

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We did what usually works out for us: hit the road with a general destination (or at least direction) in mind, and then just see what we see.  You know?  It worked out pretty well.  Our first stop was at the Sea Lion Cave, a place we didn’t know even existed until we noticed it on our handy road atlas.  (Our cell service was pretty much non-existent all day, so we relied on good old-fashioned maps.)

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Apparently, this is where the Stellar sea lions live.  Off to one side was a path to the elevator that takes you down 20 stories to the actual cave (fall and winter home of the sea lions).  Way over in the distance is the Heceta Lighthouse.  We’ll visit that some other trip.

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A similar path in the other direction took us to the lookout where we could see the rocks where about 150 sea lions were sunning or playing in the surf.

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It’s breeding season, and the male sea lions were shouting about it.  Lots of roaring.  They’re a noisy bunch.

We headed further north after that, stopping in Newport for a late lunch and a little browsing.  Newport has a pretty harbor, but it’s a working port and the harborside factories or whatever where they deal with the raw fish and crabs smelled AWFUL.

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Looks nice, smells bad.  But they had a friendly California sea lion willing to pose for his fans.

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After that, we found a mostly empty beach and read for about 3 hours.

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Sunset sent us home.

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Field trip

Today (Saturday), we are off to the coast.  I think.  We’re certainly going to head in that direction, and then we’ll see what we see.  We decided to make a day of it instead of a weekend because it’s not going to get over 60 degrees, and that is not what I consider beach weather.  If we make it to the coast (and I believe we will), maybe we’ll pretend we’re posh New Englanders who roam the beach in oversize cable knit sweaters and Dockers rolled above our ankles. Except for the oversize cable knit sweaters and the Dockers rolled above our ankles.

By the time you read this, we’ll have already gone to wherever we’re going.  How mysterious.  How vague and always true.  Unless you’re standing over my shoulder reading it as I type.  But even then, you’re behind me, I’m ahead of you, you’re in my past, and I’m wherever it is I was going to go.

I’ve been listening to Welcome to Night Vale almost every day.  It may be influencing my thoughts.

Sense is overrated

I can’t decide if 14 states feels like a lot to cross through in five days or not enough, considering we crossed the ENTIRE country. Same with knowing that we’d never been in half of them before. Is that a lot? Not a lot? I have lost all sense of perspective. And all sense. And, since we got here, I’ve been fighting decision fatigue again. It’s kind of scary to waffle between options, knowing the choice you make won’t be wrong (the thing you’re trying to decide on is not that important), but completely unable to choose. I don’t like it. It’s not all the time, and it’s not debilitating. In fact, I think it only happened twice and only Monday morning. It’s still weird, and I don’t have to like it.

Five days in the car. I was ready to give the car a break (my butt was ready to send the seats packing), but at the same time, I wasn’t ready for the trip to be over. It wasn’t restful, and it wasn’t a vacation, but we didn’t have to do anything except drive. Work was a distant memory. It was freeing. We’re still somewhat in limbo, since we don’t have our stuff. I called the moving coordinator Tuesday morning (Day 7 of the 7-14 day window), and she said the driver couldn’t provide an ETA yet, but call again on Friday, and maybe they can provide one. Sigh. No internet yet, either, but the install kit could arrive any day, assuming it has actually shipped. I placed the order Friday night, but I never got a confirmation email. I called them Monday, and they confirmed the order and resent the email. I just realized I never got that email, either. I have to call them again and hope hope HOPE it’s out there and actually on its way. Cross your fingers for us!

Update: the install kit arrived and we have internet!  We still don’t have anything to sit on or at, but we have internet!

Quick stop

Yesterday, as we drove through the mountains in western Montana, we saw a sign advertising more than 100,000 used books at the Montana Valley Book Store.  You know us.  This is not something we could ignore.

It was in a tiny town, in the middle of the mountains (I don’t know which mountains), and the store was in this white house on the main road.

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The entire first floor had ceiling-high shelves, crammed full of books.  The picture I took only shows one side.

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The basement (slightly scary) ran the length of the house and had all the paperbacks in it.

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It was everything you could want in a used bookstore.  I really like the ones in old houses.  We didn’t stay long, but it helped us get through the rest of yesterday’s drive to Spokane.  It reinforced my growing desire to spend all of my free time in the library, if we ever actually get to Eugene.

(I bought a book, even though I’m not supposed to be buying books.  It’s a science fiction anthology edited by (and with commentary from) Isaac Asimov.  I felt the need to support the store.)

Somebody really sculpted faces into a mountain

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Our plan worked!  We have become shadows of our former selves and are drifting aimlessly through life. Or, the early morning snow cleared out and we got a perfect day for Mount Rushmore.  That’s the plan I meant.

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It was surreal and SO weird.  What a strange thing to want to do!  And how VERY strange to be driving along and all of a sudden see these giant faces in the mountainside.  In person, it’s even weirder than just knowing it’s out there.

I learned something about myself yesterday.  As we were driving up to the park, we caught our first glimpse of it, and THAT’S when it sank in to me that this giant sculpture actually existed.  If you had asked me the day before if Mount Rushmore was a real thing, I would have said of course it is, but when I saw it, just that first glimpse from a moving car, it felt almost like learning that Bugs Bunny is a real talking rabbit.  Mount Rushmore is something I’ve only heard about, only seen in movies, and I guess I never really processed it as real.  I don’t do that with other things I haven’t seen for myself, do I?

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We’re being photobombed by stone heads.  Also, I am incapable of looking at the lens.