Monday, August 31, 2009

Mile 782. Seems Elli just needed a good cry. All quiet on the Eastern front. 211 to go.
Mile 780. Taking two Advil for aching back. Anyone know a good masseuse in North Adams?
Mile 775. Elli begins losing her metaphorical shit.
Attempting to push through from St. Louis to New York today. 736 miles down, 257 to go.
In a stunning violation of the no fast food policy, Maria and Jonah have KFC Famous Bowls for dinner.
Ohio, So Much to Discover! Yeah, like how long will it take us to get across it.
Making the final push to the east coast. PA tonight and home tomorrow.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Longest 7/10 of a mile ever.
Beautiful sunset behind us as we approach St. Louis from the west.

Day 67: Denver, CO to St. Louis, MO

We actually both arose promptly at 5 am this morning, threw our remaining few belongings into bags, finished loading the car, ate a small breakfast, and snuggled the kids into the backseat with their pillows and sleeping bags all in 40 minutes. A very efficient start to the day considering the early hour.

A perk of getting on the road so early and driving east was the beautiful sunrise. I honestly don't remember the last time I'd been up for a sunrise (thanks, kids, for being late risers!), so it was actually quite a treat. The sky looked like it was about to burst into flame and then the glowing orange orb of the sun peeked over the horizon. A spectacular sight.

We packed a bunch of snacks for the ride and just let the kids eat whatever their little hearts desired. After about 7-8 hours in the car, we arrived in Manhattan, KS where we had a late lunch with a former student of mine, Maura. Maura is a doctoral candidate in I/O Psychology at Kansas State and was able to take a break from prepping her dissertation proposal orals to have a late lunch with us. It was a short, but fun, visit. Hopefully, it won't be another four years before our next one (but maybe not in Kansas).

It felt like Kansas was never going to end, but after 424 miles, we finally crossed the border into Missouri. Another few hours and we arrived at Dave and Catherine's house. We all went to college together and hadn't seen each other in a LONG time. We were a little bleary eyed and exhausted when we got there (860 mile drives tend to do that to you), but we rallied enough to visit for a couple of hours before collapsing into bed. Only one more marathon drive to go!

Day 66: Denver, CO

Ron really slept in today, so we finally got around to leaving the house around noontime. Cara drove us to Sam's No. 3 in downtown Denver for a fabulous brunch. After stuffing ourselves silly, we waddled back to the car for a shopping trip at REI. I had lost my sunglasses at the park the night before and definitely needed a replacement before the next leg of our journey. We discovered that REI was having a Labor Day sale, so we went a little nuts: camel backs for the kids, biking shorts and sunglasses for me, a new headlamp, a saddle bag for Ron's bike, and a schoolbag for Elli. Saved some money and it all fit easily in the car when we re-packed it!

We then attempted to go to the Denver Botanic Gardens, but were surprised to discover it had closed early for a private event that night. Boo! We were able to smooth things over with ice cream and a stop at a playground for the kids, though. The rest of the day was spent hanging out at Cara's, watching tv, eating pizza, and packing up for the second to last long day of driving on our trip. Four more days and we're home!

Day 65: Corrales, NM to Denver, CO

Our day started out well with another fantastic breakfast by Uncle Kent and Aunt Janet, but took a turn for the worse when we tried to track down Ron's wallet at a gas station on our way out of town. After 30 minutes of tearing apart our car and Janet and Kent searching their house back in Corrales, we had to accept that the wallet was gone. As we re-packed our car at the gas station, a considerate police officer approached to ask if everything was okay. He noticed us pulling everything out of the car and Ron abusing his sleeping bag and just wanted to be sure there wasn't a domestic squabble that needed to be handled. He was re-assured that Ron and I were not about to beat the crap out of each other and commiserated about the frustrations of a lost wallet. Not much more he could do.

There were no other significant mis-adventures on our drive and we still made pretty good time to my friend Cara's house in Denver. We took a short drive to a beautiful park in downtown Denver where we had a picnic dinner and met up with some of Cara's friends. It was fun relaxing and playing some bocce ball with Jonah, but I started to crash. I had driven all day and started to really feel it. I managed to rally, though, after getting the kids to bed and was able to enjoy visiting with Cara over our vacation photos. So glad we don't have to drive anywhere tomorrow!
Currently reaffirming my decision to never move to Kansas.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lost wallet in New Mexico. Pissed.

Day 64: Corrales, NM

We had an excellent blueberry pancake breakfast this morning followed by a trip on the Sandia Peak Tramway. The tram travels 4,000 vertical feet in 15 minutes providing an impressive view of the greater Albuquerque area. At the top of the mountain, we took a 3 mile roundtrip hike to a CCC era stone cabin, then a quick lunch at the restaurant at the top because Ron needed to get to a better cell signal for a work conference call. He was a little late, but it all worked out.

When we got back to my aunt and uncle's house, the kids had their first rides on a horse! My aunt, Janet, saddled up her horse, Sam, and led Jonah and then Elli around their property on him. I was impressed that neither one of them showed any fear about getting up on such a big horse. I freaked out on the back of a horse when I was seven, so I would've understood a little panic. Ron and I are wondering how soon Elli will be asking for a pony...

I had a great time visiting with family here in Corrales, but I'm sorry it was so short. I hadn't seen my cousin Evan since my wedding 12 years ago, so a little family time was definitely warranted. I hope that we'll all get to visit again sometime soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 63: Lake Las Vegas, NV to Corrales, NM

We arose at 7 am this morning for a small room service breakfast and then a relatively quick dip in one of the resort's huge pools. For most of our hour long swim we were the only people in the pool which was a little eerie. I guess mid-week in August is not exactly prime vacation time in Las Vegas. Thankfully, the kids seemed to have their fill of the pool and playground and didn't give us a hard time about hitting the road.

After about 10 minutes of driving, we stopped at Hoover Dam on the NV-AZ border which was one of the first sites Jonah said he wanted to visit when we first started planning this trip. I was amazed at how big of an attraction it had become since my first visit in 1993. There was a huge parking structure (and parking fee) and an exorbitant entrance fee to the visitor center. We passed on the visitor center and chose to just walk across the dam. That was impressive enough, so no one was disappointed with that decision. After much picture taking by all four of us, we got back in the car for our drive across Arizona and into New Mexico to visit my aunt, uncle and cousin in Corrales, NM.

Today's scenery was much prettier, although the drive was longer. I was very frustrated with all the construction in the last 60 miles of our drive. Just when I'd get into a rhythm with the 75 mph speed limit, we'd come to another stretch of single lane, 55 mph speed limit. So we were pretty exhausted by the time we reached Corrales. We went to bed pretty quickly after a delicious dinner, looking forward to a relaxing day out of the car tomorrow.

Day 62: Yosemite to Lake Mead, NV

As if we needed it, we got further evidence that Elli is ready for home. She was very difficult at bedtime and if the campground had been crowded, she probably would've earned us a visit from the park ranger. Thankfully, we all felt better after a pretty good night's sleep. I was pretty surprised that I was the first one up at 8:20. The rest of the family was still dead to the world, so I started breaking camp on my own. I finally roused them at 9 am and we hit the road before 10 am.

Our 39 mile drive through Yosemite to the western entrance was just as incredible as the previous day's tour through Yosemite Valley. We found another spectacular view of Half Dome and took a very short hike to snap some more photos. The drive took us over Tioga Pass which topped out at 9,955 feet, our car's highest elevation of the summer. We then started a gradual descent on Rt. 120 through eastern CA. That portion of the drive had us all pretty giddy as the road had lots of ups and downs and dips that made it feel like a roller coaster. The kids were raving about this being the best drive of the trip!

If only that elation had continued. As we drove through western Nevada, we felt increasingly deflated. The scenery was rocky, gray and desolate with very little vegetation. The most depressing towns I've ever seen cropped up every 30 miles or so dotting the landscape with dilapidated double wides and yards littered with junk and broken down cars. I didn't see a sign of life in any of the towns, so they may have been deserted for all I know. I almost hope they were deserted because it was hard to envision what kind of existence the residents eked out in such a bleak place.

So, maybe we were pre-disposed given our first impressions of Nevada, but we were distinctly underwhelmed by Lake Mead National Recreation Area where we planned to camp for the night. Maybe it was the 100 heat, the dusky lighting, or the poor comparison to Yosemite, but none of us were interested in camping (except for Elli who just really likes her sleeping bag). A web search and a phone call later, we had booked a room at the Loews' Hotel in the Lake Las Vegas resort. It cost about 10 times what camping would have, but the comfy beds and outdoor patio made it worthwhile. Elli gave us trouble again at bedtime, but a couple of beers on the patio helped wipe away that memory.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Angel's Ladies Brothel. All Night Truck Parking! Welcome to Nevada.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 61: Sacramento to Yosemite National Park

Our hotel room was so comfortable, we had a bit of trouble motivating this morning. We weren't too terribly lazy, though, as we made it to Yosemite National Park around lunchtime. After eating lunch and setting up our campsite in Crane Flat, we hit the road to check out the park.

Our first stop was the Tuolomne Giant Sequoia Grove. I think we all agreed that the sequoia grove wasn't as impressive as the redwood groves we visited in Northern CA. We also agreed that the 1+ mile hike back up to the car wasn't terribly fun. My legs were still a bit sore and the 6,500 feet of elevation was more than my lungs could easily handle. Ron definitely worked the most as he was a softy and carried Elli on his shoulders for at least half the climb.

We then headed for a driving tour of Yosemite Valley which did not disappoint in the least. To the contrary, we wished we had spent more time in the Valley and skipped the sequoia grove. The views of El Capitan and Half Dome and all the other granite monoliths were incredibly majestic and breathtaking. As Ron said, it was like seeing one Devil's Tower after another. Simply astounding.

After we finally picked up our jaws from the floor, we drove back to our campground and prepared dinner. We made up for Jonah's backpacking culinary disappointment and roasted hot dogs on the fire and cooked macaroni cheese. Elli abstained from the hot dogs as she was having a vegetarian day (except for the turkey lunch meat she ate earlier in the day). I think the kids favorite part of the evening was lying on their backs looking at all the stars. We have a pretty spectacular night sky in the Berkshires, but it pales in comparison to Yosemite's. Jonah kept pointing out different constellations to Elli which was pretty cute. If I'd paid any attention in my college astronomy course, I could've even told him if he was right.

Day 60: Springfield, OR to Sacramento, CA

As usual, packing the car took longer than anticipated this morning, so we quickly bagged the idea of driving all the way to Yosemite today. Instead, Ron spent about an hour searching for a nice hotel in Stockton, CA. As that proved impossible, he set his sights on Sacramento instead and scored big time. We stayed at Le Rivage right on the Sacramento River. All four of us enjoyed soaking in the outdoor hot tub after a long day in the car (and a very long mountain bike ride the previous day for me and Ron). When we got back to the room, we enjoyed more extravagance by having a room service dinner. The height of decadence, though, was the antique-style claw foot soaking tub in the room's enormous bathroom. All four of us took baths that night. The two soaks, plus a hot shower in the morning did wonders on my sore legs. Thanks, Ron, for ignoring my practical, cheap-motel tendencies. The splurge was 100% worthwhile.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sampled Mucho Gusto in Medford. Every bit as good as Eugene.

Day 59: Springfield

Today was our last day before starting the journey back east. We were lucky that Fred was willing to watch the kids all day so that Ron and I could do a ride on the McKenzie River Trail with our friend, Chris. We got a little more than we bargained for as it turned into a marathon mountain bike ride (literally!). We dropped off Chris' car at the bottom of the trail and drove our car up the road about 20 miles to start the trail. The first three miles of it was smooth and twisty single track. Lots of fun, until the trail started to get really twisty and then really rocky. Not smooth, rounded rocky, either. These were sharp lava rocks piled in all kinds of unpredictable directions. Not very rideable. At all. It took us two hours to complete the first 10 miles of the trail. The next 17 miles was a lot faster--I felt like I was a Jedi on the Forest Moon of Endor--but it still took us 3 more hours. I started getting my post-ride aches and pains about 5 miles before the end of the ride. In spite of the pain I'm going to feel tomorrow, I'm so glad we did this ride. It re-awakened my adventurous side. I think I had assumed that my mountain biking days were behind me, but that ride (and the other few I did this summer) reminded me that I still can and want to ride my mountain bike. I'm looking forward to lots more riding during my sabbatical year.

We got back to Springfield a lot later than expected, but I was relieved that the whole family was there waiting for us. We visited for a couple of hours before stumbling into bed. Packing up the car will have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 58: Portland to Springfield

We arrived in Springfield at lunchtime today and then I started puttering around the house to gather all our belongings to pack. I actually made a lot of progress on that front. Just have laundry and the suitcases to go.

We took a bike ride with Fred and Mimi to Mucho Gusto for another spectacular dinner. Bit of a bonk for Jonah on the way, but he recovered well once he got some food. Elli saved her meltdown for while we were waiting on line in the restaurant which told us we probably should have given both kids a snack before we went on the ride. You'd think we would have learned by now...

Day 57: Portland

Ron needed to do a lot of work today, so the kids and I played in the pool, played with Legos and read a lot of Harry Potter. We actually finished Chamber of Secrets so the kids could watch the movie with Grandma Peg. She hasn't seen any of the movies or read any of the books and the kids were excited to introduce her to Harry Potter.

While Peg babysat, we went to dinner with our friends Dani, Chris, and Mike. We ate a place in SE Portland called Pok Pok. They served authentic Thai food which was excellent, although very meaty, so I had to stifle my re-emerging vegetarian tendencies. It was a good way to spend our last night in Portland!

Day 56: Portland

We did some more swimming today and had a family barbeque at Ron's Aunt Joanne's. It was pretty hot outside, but we all enjoyed getting together with the Crooker side of the family. That's really been the highlight of our trip, I think, visiting with family.

We took the Max into downtown Portland that evening for a Beavers game where we met up with our friends, Chris and Dani. It was a pretty fun game (the Beavers won), although not as cheap as an Ems game in Eugene. Peg had never been to a Beavers game, so she got a kick out of it! Both kids fell asleep on the long train ride back to Gresham and we had a time carrying the two of them to the car!
The bad thing is road work. I5 South backed up from Wilsonville to beyond 205.
Headed south to Springfield. Avoid I5, something bad happened, backed up for miles.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 55: Portland

We had a relaxed morning at the Curry's followed by a tantrum by Elli. Again, she didn't want to leave, so I'm feeling pretty confident that the trip is starting to get to her. It is probably good that we'll have a few days at Grandma Peg's before leaving again. I think we do need to stay put for a little while before we begin the big drive back East. Hope she's not too difficult on the drive home.

Grandma Peg was still working when we arrived at her condo, so we relaxed inside and then took a swim. I made us all dinner and we chilled at the condo with Peg for the rest of the evening. It was nice to just stay put!

Day 54: Bend to Portland

We had another beautiful drive today from Bend to Portland. There were incredible views of the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, and eventually Mt. Hood. We took a detour to see Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood where we had our first solid evidence that Elli is getting a little tired of traveling around. On our drive to Timberline, she kept insisting that she didn't want to go to Mt. Hood. She couldn't give any explanation why, she just wanted to stay in Bend. I don't think it was anything particular about Bend, though. We could have been in the nastiest hotel in the rattiest city slum and she would have wanted to stay.

We made it to the Curry's around 5 pm so the kids had a couple of hours to play before the babysitter arrived. All the grown-ups went out to dinner at John Barleycorn's in Tigard and met up with a couple of Ron's friends from high school. A fun and not very late evening. Since I keep emphasizing having relatively early nights, I think I must be getting tired, too.

Day 53: The mountain house to Bend

We took a wonderful drive on the Cascade Lakes Highway to Bend today. For about five miles, we were bombarded by millions of black and orange butterflies. When we stopped at a lava flow, we saw a Ford pickup with about a hundred butterfly carcasses on the front grill. There were thousands and thousands of butterflies at the lava flow, too, and it was beautiful standing in the middle of a swarm of butterflies. It's funny how a swarm of butterflies isn't irritating at all like a swarm of mosquitoes or a swarm of bumblebees.

When got to Bend, we had a late lunch at the Deschutes Brewery (good food and beer!) and then checked into a hotel before Ben and Jessica's housewarming/birthday party. We had a very nice time at the party and then headed back to our hotel at a reasonable hour.

Day 52: The mountain house

Today was a very lazy day for me and Elli, although that was not entirely our doing. Ron took the car back to Springfield to get some work done and pick up a few things we'd forgotten. He also planned to do a long mountain bike ride, so we were left without a vehicle for the whole day. Elli and I read a couple of more chapters of Harry Potter in the house, on the porch, and in the yard, played some make-believe games, watched the Parent Trap AGAIN and went for a long walk. Ron had been gone for 10 hours at that point and Elli was getting impatient for him to come home (it was kind of sweet, actually). She decided that if we went for a walk, Daddy would be home by the time we got back. When no one was home when we returned to the house (the backpackers were coming home a day early), we kept on going. Luckily, we only walked about 150 feet before Mimi, Fred, and Jonah returned. Ron arrived five minutes later, so everyone was home in time for a big spaghetti supper.

From what I can tell, the backpacking trip was a success. Jonah thought the 4 mile walk was kind of long and tiring and he was disappointed that Mimi and Fred didn't bring hot dogs for dinner OR marshmallows to roast on the fire (I mean, why else do you make a fire when you're camping?), but he declared that he couldn't pick his favorite moment of the trip because it was all fun. I guess all the Monty Python-esque videos he, Liam, and Mimi made at their campsite more than balanced out the little disappointments. I'm sure he'll want to go again!

Day 51: Springfield to the mountain house

Ron and I got an early start this morning to go for a mountain bike ride on the Goodman Trail, although that didn't turn out quite as expected. The trail was a bit slick, so we cut the ride short. My legs were still feeling pretty blown from yesterday's ride, so I wasn't too disappointed by the shorter ride. I could see how the trail would have been a lot of fun if the conditions had been better. Another plus of the shorter ride was we got to the mountain house in plenty of time for the backpackers to head out. Once Ben and Liam arrived, we snapped a few before photos and the five of them piled into their respective cars to drive to the trailhead. Jonah was beside himself with excitement for this trip. Hope it meets his expectations!

Elli, Ron, and I settled in for a relaxing day at the mountain house. Ron attempted to get some work done with spotty internet access while Elli and I watched the new version of The Parent Trap, read a few chapters in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and then watched the original version of The Parent Trap while we ate dinner. After Elli went to bed, Ron and I settled down with our books to cap off a nice relaxing day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 50: Springfield

Today was a day of preparation then fun and relaxation. We're all heading up to the mountain house near Willamette Pass for Jonah to go on his first backpacking trip with Mimi, Fred, Ben and Liam. Ron, Elli, and I will just hang out at the house while they camp. So, there was a lot to pack and get ready, especially since we'll be heading to Portland for 4 days afterwards. It's our last short trip before we start the 11 day journey home.

By mid-afternoon, Fred and Mimi had their car loaded with all the backpacking gear and the kids and left to give us a kid-free evening. We decided to go for a mountain bike ride at Spencer Butte in southern Eugene. The ride was tougher than expected, but some good single track made it worth our while. After quick showers, we had burritos at Mucho Gusto in Eugene. If you ever find yourself in Eugene, OR, you have to try this place. Tons of fresh, local ingredients that you get to pick while they assemble the meal right in front of you. We haven't had burritos that good since Frijoleros in Athens, GA circa 1995. To cap off our little trip down memory lane, we got a couple of beers at the Jackalope Lounge in Eugene. The first Total Domination pint went down nice and smooth, but the second was a bit much on top of the burritos. I felt so bloated, I thought Ron would have to roll me out to the car like an Oompa Loompa.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just got hit in the side of the head by 1994. Good mountain bike ride followed by a huge burrito and beer.

Day 49: Springfield

Not much to report about today. We tried to have a lazy day and recuperate a bit from our California trip. The kids spent a lot of time with their great grandparents next door. Even though the kids play with all the toys and don't really spend too much time talking, I think they enjoy the kids visits. There won't be many more opportunities like this before we drive back East.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 48: Crescent City, CA to Springfield, OR

This morning was very rough. None of us had a good night's sleep in our cheap-ass hotel. The beds were too bouncy, the pillows too lumpy, the room too warm, the plumbing too loud, and the foghorn WAY too loud. We were all able to fall asleep around 10 pm in spite of the foghorn probably because there were enough other night noises to drown it out. No such luck at 2 am when Elli woke us all up because her blanket wasn't lying on her correctly. At that time of night, it sounded like the foghorn was right outside our window. Ron's desperation actually drove him to get fully dressed and start calling other hotels to find a quieter room. No such luck, so he had the brainstorm to play his ipod to help us all sleep. He and Elli fell asleep during the first playing of Death Cab for Cutie, but I had to re-start the album for Jonah and I to get back to sleep. When I woke up, I was feeling very done with our summer travels, but that could just be the exhaustion talking.

We did another hike in the Redwoods before continuing up the coast and that did a nice job of improving my mood. This grove was more expansive than yesterday's so you could really appreciate the sheer magnitude of all the trees. Elli was just as giddy as yesterday which never failed to bring a smile to my face.

My mood continued to lift with a picnic lunch at the beach in OR and walking around Prehistoric Gardens with the kids. Ron wanted to stop at Prehistoric Gardens to see all the lifesize models of dinosaurs at the roadside attraction. It wasn't as cool as Ron remembered, but the kids got a kick out of it.

Our final stop at the Hammonds in Coos Bay, OR brought me back to normal. Relaxing with Shelley and Joe for a few hours while the cousins all played one last time this summer was just what I needed to re-charge my batteries. Leaving their house was definitely sad, though. We've all had so much fun with the Hammonds--we're going to miss them a lot!

Day 47: San Francisco, CA to Crescent City, CA

We were moving a little slowly this morning. The price you pay for too much fun the night before. The kids weren't complaining, though, because it gave them more time to play with each other. Charlie stopped by right before we left, so we squeezed in another short visit. We all really enjoyed getting to spend time with him.

Ron and I were pretty excited about our drive north to the Redwoods, but the kids weren't sharing that excitement. They were pretty nonchalant when we told them we were going to see enormous trees later in the day. I think they just didn't know what to expect because when we got out of the car to hike in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in the Redwoods National Park, they were sprinting on the path shouting about each of the trees. Elli was particularly giddy and could barely contain her enthusiasm with each tree she could climb inside. Seeing the trees through my kids' eyes made the experience even better than my first visit to the Redwoods in 1993.

The downside of our day was the crappy hotel room we had in Crescent City, CA. At least our dinner was pretty good! More about the hotel room in the next entry...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Day 46: San Francisco, CA

We voyaged down to the Waterfront today on San Francisco's mass transit. We were going to take the cable car, but there must have been a 2 hour wait. We opted for another form of transportation to the Ferry Building for lunch.

After our excellent burgers, the Shepards headed back to their house while the four of us and Charlie ventured on to the Jeremiah O'Brien Liberty Ship at Pier 45. It is one of two WWII Liberty Ships still in existence and since Ron's grandfather served on one during WWII, we were particularly interested in touring it. We all enjoyed it very much, even Elli. The ship still sails, so it has an active crew. A couple of the cabins were even equipped with PC's, giving them an authentic WWII-era feel.

We were all pretty tired from our day out, but all the grown ups managed to rally for dinner and drinks once the babysitter arrived. I'm amazed that we actually had the stamina to stay up until almost 2 am. That's what happens when you're having too much fun!

Day 45: San Francisco, CA

Our day began with some high-spirited play between Charlotte and Elli, but we parted ways for Charlotte to go to pre-school while we drove to the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park for a tour with Bart. As Bart is the curator of the Steinhart Aquarium in the Academy of Sciences, our tour was spectacular. We saw all the live animal exhibits, the living roof, the Rain Forest exhibit, and even saw some behind-the-scenes tanks in the Aquarium.

As expected, our meals were excellent. A great lunch at Park Chow (near the museum) and then a fun sushi dinner at Sumi near Bart and Kathy's house. Charlie, Ron's step-brother (aka Ste-puncle C), also joined us for sushi. He is truly a kid-magnet. All the kids were climbing all over him within 5 minutes of his arrival. Jonah enjoyed Charlie's undivided attention during dinner as he regaled Charlie with descriptions of his favorite Monty Python skits. Jonah was feeling adventurous with his appetite and tried a few different types of sushi. He wasn't a fan of the salmon, but he really liked the soft shell crab. I'm sure Grandpa and Aunt Shelley would not agree with his choice.

Day 44: Springfield, OR to San Francisco, CA

As expected, today was quite a long drive, although it was not as dull as I’d been led to believe. On I-5 in very northern California, I was driving while Ron snoozed and the kids watched movies. All of sudden, I look out one of the side windows and I see a huge snow-capped mountain looming ahead of us. When Ron eventually woke up, we figured out that it was Mt. Shasta and we enjoyed glorious mountain views for the next couple of hours. An unexpected and breathtaking treat.

We finally made it to San Francisco and Bart and Kathy’s (friends from college) house around 8 am. Their 4 year old daughter, Charlotte, was waiting up to meet Elli and the two of them were best friends after only a 5 minute warm up period. I’m sure tomorrow is going to be a very fun day!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Day 43: Springfield, OR

After several days without internet access, Ron needed a day to get some work done, so Fred and I took the kids out for the day. Our first stop was the Springfield Public Library to check out the first Harry Potter movie. I just finished reading the first book to Elli, so we had to follow that up with the movie. Then, we had lunch at Cornucopia in downtown Eugene where we had very tasty burgers (locally raised beef) and Fred and I enjoyed a beer courtesy of the all day Happy Hour. I think my beer was a little better than Fred’s, though, because Jonah didn’t drop his pickle in it. Elli was thrilled with lunch, too, because her grilled cheese sandwich was served WITHOUT THE CRUST! Thanks, Cornucopia. I’m going to be forced to cut the crusts off from now on.

We then spent a few hours at the U of O Natural History Museum. We moved pretty quickly through the displays of Oregon’s natural history, but the kids were captivated by the hands-on activity area. Jonah practiced being a geologist and an archaeologist and Elli practiced her drawing skills by copying different bone specimens. Our day ended with a shopping trip to Trader Joe’s. Jonah had seen Food, Incorporated with Fred and Mimi the night before and is now convinced that high fructose corn syrup is as bad as crack (not his words, but I’m allowed a little poetic license, right?). He scoured the ingredient list of almost every item in Trader Joe’s and couldn’t find anything with high fructose corn syrup. Too bad there’s no Trader Joe’s in Northern Berkshire.

Our day ended with another Em’s game with Fred and Mimi. It was just as much fun as the first game, although the beer was more expensive. We have a long drive ahead of us tomorrow with our visit to San Francisco, so we all went to bed as soon as we got home from the game.

Days 38-42: Rogue River Camping Trip

To avoid giving everyone a laundry list of our daily activities during the camping trip, I thought I’d condense it in one blog post. Our first day was marked by river play without the tikis, although Ron and Joe took a short 45 minute run. That first night was a bit uncomfortable since most of Oregon was in the throes of a dreadful heat wave. The weather cooled a bit as our trip progressed and we were all sleeping like logs by the last night.

One highlight of the trip was floating on the Rogue in inflatable tikis. I was feeling a bit gimpy with a sore shoulder and a little nervous about handling even minor rapids, so I did the first couple of runs solo. Elli didn’t seem to mind as she wanted to float with her grandparents and Lindsay much more than me! She screamed in fear for the beginning of the first rapid with Mimi, but those shrieks quickly turned joyous. The rapids raised my heart rate to a comfortable flutter and I built my confidence enough to take Jonah for the last two floats we did. Thankfully, I kept Jonah afloat after he and Ron had a somewhat traumatic dumping at the Galice Chute Riffle, the most difficult rapid on that section of the Rogue. Jonah was a trooper, though, and got right back in the boat (as Ron told me since I wasn’t with them). Ron said they were both pretty tense for the next rapid, but they had no further mishaps. The closest I came to a wipeout was watching Connor take a header out of Shelley’s tiki. Before I even had time to get ready to scoop Connor (and possibly Shelley) out of the water, Shelley had managed to pull him back in and steady the tiki. Connor was a bit wide-eyed for the rest of the float, but he bounced back well enough to float again the next day. The freeze frame image of a spread-eagle Connor in mid-air is permanently seared on my brain. Given the outcome of his spill, it’s an image that brings a smile to my face.

Another highlight was watching all the kids play together. Jonah, Connor, Gage, and Liam rode their bikes through the campground for hours on end and had a grand time roasting marshmallows and just horsing around. Elli got in on the fun a lot, too, but she also spent a lot of time drawing and playing with Lindsay (aka, Ste-paunt). I think all the grown-ups also enjoyed our time hanging out and relaxing together at the campground and at the swimming hole at Grave Creek.

I’m sure there are more stories I should share, but I feel like I’ve already written a short novel. I’ll end this post with the anecdote that is destined to become a staple of Miles’ family folklore. No camping trip is complete without s’mores, so Fred’s parents contributed a couple of graham cracker packages. The second night we were making s’mores, Fred pulls out the package and decides to sample one of the crackers, just in case. He didn’t know how old they were, so testing edibility seemed the prudent course of action. At least until he took that first bite. He immediately groaned and said “Oh, that’s awful! Mimi, try this.” Mimi, being a dutiful wife, takes a bite and starts to gag, declaring the cracker to be the worst thing she’s ever tasted and that it must be a cross between play-do and motor oil. She’s also a bit amazed that Fred actually suggested she sample the cracker. Of course, Gage and Connor pipe up, “Let me try it! Let me try it!” And, just as predictably, they spit the crackers out almost as soon as they’ve passed their lips. The rest of us took their word for it that the crackers were awful and abstained. I don’t need a memory of how play-do and motor oil taste together.