Going home (maybe?)

June 2, 2022

Midnight saw the warm glow that made us feel good turn to a red haze of frustration when our first flight was canceled.  Dave happened to notice his phone blinking from the text from the airline – at midnight! Our first expected flight going from Portland to Newark was canceled. Due to this flight being canceled, they changed all of our flights.  We were now expected to leave at the following midnight instead of at noon and we were not going to get home until June 3rd.  Unfortunately, our rental car needed to be returned at 10 AM on the 2nd, our pet sitter was leaving on the 2nd, and our ride from the Buffalo airport was going to pick us up on the 2nd.

Dave spent the next 2.5 hours on the phone and soon (soon?) we had a new plan: Eugene to San Francisco, then SF to Newark, then Newark to Buffalo (on our original last flight). Heading off and getting to the airport early, we chilled at the airport while waiting for our first flight. Soon enough, the plane took off to San Francisco. Yay!! A disaster was averted……uh, oh, talk about speaking too soon. As we were landing in San Francisco we received notification that our last leg of the journey was canceled, which then meant all our flight arrangements were cancelled.  Heading quickly to customer service we soon became resigned to the fact we would be flying overnight. They rebooked us going from San Francisco to Chicago and then Chicago to Buffalo, arriving the next day.

In order to avoid having to try and sleep on a plane during the red-eye flight, we asked if there was a way to get to Chicago earlier.  The representative graciously gave us standby seats on an earlier flight going from SF to Chicago. This new flight, which was expected to leave at 1 pm, was delayed by three hours and the standby list had grown to 11 people.  Fortunately, Dave’s status as a frequent flier and credit card holder with the airline placed us first on the list. We were told, though, that “only one seat” was available. The flight delay created another opening and we were able to get on board. The plane was filled with a group of medical professionals who were headed to Chicago for a medical conference.

Due to the delayed takeoff, the plane landed late into Chicago and many passengers had a lot of tight connections.  The flight attendants began making announcements of gates for those passengers had tight connections.  First on the list was a flight going from Chicago to Buffalo which was much earlier than our scheduled flight! Dave and Kathy both had the same idea and started texting each other. The passengers on the plane were gracious enough to wait until those who had tight connections got off first.  We rushed to the gate for the flight leaving for Buffalo, but were told, “Sorry, only one seat left.”  As we debated who would go, the guy fiddled with his computer, fiddled some more, and got bugged by the ramp agent who pressed him to get the plane moving. Finally a supervisor came by and asked what was going on.  The representative explained the issue. The supervisor told us to get on the plane while he worked his magic.  We ran – not walked – to get aboard where we found the “one seat available” was actually around 7 or 8 empty seats due to several people missing their connections. We were home only one hour after our originally scheduled arrival time.

So the frustrated 24 hours of red haze previously experienced gave way to the gnawing hunger in our stomachs as we realized we had not eaten for 12 hours.  We were relieved that our biggest problem now was finding a place to grab some food as we headed home.

We want to give a big thank you to all of the staff at United Airlines who worked to help us get home.  We muddled through multiple (six!) iterations of our flight plans, but in the end it all worked out. We got home to our kitties and our bed!!

 

Thirds

May 27-29, 2022

You would think logically that the next thing would be all about happenings in a series of threes, but the title is just in reference to the third posting on our journey to three states:  SLC>Idaho>Oregon but this is the extent of our threes.  We continued our exploration of NPS sites by visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) and explored the miles of lava that provides a eerie moon-like quality to our earth bound hiking. We walked up a trail where we had a 365 view of the area and, except for some sporadic oases that were bright green spots of living plants, was just miles and miles of lava flow. Next, we headed to Hagerman Fossil Beds and, after a bit of back and forth, we finally found the recently moved visitor center. While it was interesting to go to the site, we were underwhelmed by some of the displays. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)  It was still fun to visit and learn about some of the findings in the area, including fossils of ancient zebra-like horses that originated in North America.

 

After a restful night in Boise, Idaho, we headed to Nez Perce National Historic Site where we learned about the local indigenous tribes who brought so much history to the local area. The visit deepened our appreciation for the area and the local history.  Learn About the Park – Nez Perce National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)  We then spent the night near Walla Walla, Washington, where we took time to go to church. The sermon was a little more energetic than we normally expect and the priest “yelled” a lot.   Kathy was grateful that we happened upon a mass that was exclusively in Spanish, so she had not a clue about anything he said. The mass lasted a very long hour and 45 minutes and we felt at the end that we needed some peace and quiet, so after walking the mile back to our motel in the now darkness, off to bed we went. Morning saw us get up bright and early and head to Whitman Mission, which was about a couple of missionaries who came to the area to teach about Christianity and met an untimely end when the local tribes took issue with the mission. The relationship between the Whitmans and the two local tribes started out as an amicable relationship and at some point the relationship soured.  An outbreak of malaria and ever increasing homesteaders certainly did not help relations. The relevance for this mission is how cultural perspective and the interactions can cause miscommunication and “bad blood.” The visit was an interesting viewpoint after visiting the Nez Perce Historical Site. Whitman Mission National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)  The last NPS site we visited was John Day Fossil Beds which was a treat to visit.  The visitor center had so many displays and the science behind the evolution of the dinosaurs was fascinating. We spent quite a bit of time going through each room and learning about the fossils found in the area.  Fossils of ancient rhino-like creatures, saber-toothed cats, and 3-toed horses were Dave’s favorites.  John Day Fossil Beds is one of the largest areas where fossils can be found and it is reflected in the amount of displays. Well worth the visit. John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

 

After a nice evening’s rest, we headed off to Eugene, Oregon, to visit our daughter Jill and her husband, Shea. We got into the area towards evening and checked into the hotel and immediately went over for a visit. We had a wonderful Thai dinner from a food truck that could compete with 5 star          restaurants in how fresh and delicious the meal was. The next day, bright and early (after Kathy had finished working), we headed to Jill and Shea’s again where Kathy made some homemade food. We then took off to visit the Sea Lion Cave where we were able to get up close and personal viewing some Sea Lions.  We didn’t get as close as we were in the Galapagos, but it was still pretty fun. The coastline of Oregon is amazing and we enjoyed the views. It is one of the most beautiful states we have ever visited. Soon we were back to Jill and Shea’s where Kathy resumed cooking some homemade meals. Kathy, ever the critic, found fault with everything except the Key Lime Pie. Soon we headed “home” to rest at the hotel. The next day saw us go over again where we chilled and cooked some more.  Again Kathy was disappointed.  We then headed to visit a national wildlife refuge. Along the drive we did see several bald eagles, but the preserve was missing birds and endothermic animals.  We did get to see a good-sized snake hanging out in the middle of the trail.  Back at Jill and Shea’s we changed things up.  Dave made his famous mac and cheese which Kathy felt was perfect.  Chilling and talking for a while was on the agenda. The time with them was fun, but seemed short and we look forward to going back and seeing all of our family.  The visit ended on a warm glow basking in the love of our family.

Seconds

From a bunch of firsts, we now head off to explore our seconds.  Or in this case, two new parks: City of Rocks National Reserve and Minidoka National Historic Site, both in Idaho.  City of Rocks (City Of Rocks National Reserve (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)) is a geologic wonder that was used by the early pioneers as a landmark along their journey along the California Trail.  It is an area with huge spires of granite that reminded the emigrants of the ancient ruins of Athens or Rome.  Minidoka (Minidoka National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)) was the site of a Japanese Internment Camp during WWII where thousands of American-born citizens of Japanese descent living on the west coast were held for months or years.  They were given 2 weeks to get their affairs in order before being removed from their homes and/or businesses and placed here.

 

Then we had visits with two families we had not seen in years, our niece Kayla and our sister-in-law Misty, and their children. It includes two new family members, a grandniece and grandnephew that we have never met, and Misty’s second daughter which rounds out their family to an even two girls and two boys.

 

No night would be complete without two desserts for Dave, a cookie from Perkins and ice cream from Wendy’s.  (Kathy is too shy to mention the chocolate licorice that she got for herself in addition to the Wendy’s ice cream…)

Firsts

A flurry of firsts:  Our trip to Salt Lake City was our first trip since we came back from Ecuador.  Our first trip in a while that we did not have the initial flight cancelled.  Our first granddaughters, Karli and Asia, graduated from high school.  And the first time we came to Salt Lake City and were not able to see Mom, Frieda, or Doc and Rebecca.  So while some of our firsts made us jubilant and proud, others made us feel a void. All in all, though, it was a great visit to SLC.  We spent time visiting family and friends and did a great hike up American Fork Canyon to Pine Hollow.

 

We now head off to drive to Eugene, Oregon, to visit Jill and Shea.  Along the way, we plan on stopping at multiple national park sites that we have never been to before. It will be fun to add some more firsts to add to our growing list of firsts.

 

Bean there done it!!

As soon as our feet touched the ground of Western NY we started planning our next adventures. The short time from July 20th to September 5th saw us attend a couple of concerts, Chicago and Jay & the Americans. We adopted two lively kittens named Tipsy and Navin who keep us entertained.  And we planned our next trip to visit our grandson, Hunter, who is in the US Navy and stationed in the outskirts of Chicago.  All of this activity meant the trip to Chicago came up pretty quickly, and the next thing we knew, it was time to pack our bags and get on the road to Chicago.

Our first stop on the long drive to Chicago was Put-in Bay, a small island in Ohio, where we visited Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial.  This site commemorates the historic War of 1812 battle which took place in Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. A few short years later…okay, almost 200 years later! Hunter was born on the same day as this historic naval battle. Appropriate that we were heading to visit him at his duty station with the US Navy.  While we just saw a sailor and a ship on a Great Lake, we didn’t say been there, done that. Instead we decided to visit him to and hope that something new would happen.  (Hint: It did!)

The next day saw us head out of Put-in Bay.  Along the way we stopped at Indiana Dunes National Park and did a small hike. The hike along some marshes gave us the delight of seeing a white egret and some sandhill cranes.  The hike left us a bit sandy and our shoes caked with the wet sand, but well worth it to get out in nature. Next stop was a visit with an old friend from Dave’s from his days at Shenandoah NP.  We connected with Ken Mehne who retired from Indiana Dunes and reminisced about old times and discussed new adventures that awaited us all. Finally, knowing that we needed to get on the road to Chicago, we headed out and said our goodbyes to Ken.

We settled into the hotel and got ready to meet with Hunter the next morning. Morning came quickly, and soon, we were at the Great Lakes Naval Station where we waitttttttttttttted for him to finally arrive. Strolling up, he joined us to head out to Chicago to see the sights. First stop, the Navy Pier where we parked in a garage, noted where we were, and set off to explore the area. A sandwich for the starving sailor was one of the first tops. Next we wandered around the pier looking at the activities that abounded. Since we had tickets to a Cubs game at 1:20, we headed back to our car, where we wandered around a bit looking for our car. We tried using the plate reader that helps you locate the care, but no such luck.  We tried several options to find the car before we finally found it, right where we left it! Next stop, the game.  The Chicago Cubs versus the Pittsburg Pirates at Wrigley Stadium, which was built in 1913! Arriving to the parking lot on-time, we hopped on a little yellow shuttle bus and headed to the stadium. The game was entertaining from the start to the video replay end. The energy and enthusiasm of the spectators got us into the spirit of the game and the last minute comeback of the Cubs kept us on our feet and our voices rose in excitement. The Cubs in the last inning went from being down 6-4, to winning 7-6 on a questionable call that saw the hitter safe at 1st base.  Next stop: Millennial Park where we parked, took a picture of our parking spot, memorized our car plate to use the plate reader, and then set off to find the “Bean”, an artwork made out of metal that we did not think it would be interesting, but instead entertained and interested us. We, like the other thousands of tourists, took a variety of selfies and pictures with the “Bean” as the backdrop.  Next stop was dinner at a local pizza shop recommended to us by a group of cops in the park. Soon it was already 8 pm and we knew we had to leave to get back to the car to get Hunter back to base at 10 pm. We walked, and walked, and walked, and walked and could not find our car. We went up and down, asked a few people and could not find where we parked. Finally, in desperation, Kathy asked some random strangers on the street for help, where they promptly told us they were just visiting Chicago.  They did suggest that we ask the hotel clerk. Coming in, we explained we were hopelessly lost, and told her that we were by a “dance” theatre. She directed us to go out, cross the street, turn right, and then we should be there. We were quite skeptical, but to her credit we found the subterranean garage, found the car, got on the road and managed to get Hunter back to base only one minute late. (They didn’t court martial him). As we wandered the streets of Chicago for one hour, up and down several street levels, put ~~6000 steps on our pedometers, when we realized that the city of Chicago was  like a 3D map.  Our best laid plans did not account for multiple street levels that were everywhere in downtown Chicago.  We probably walked over our car multiple times, but on the wrong level of Earth!

Sunday dawned bright and early. After church, we headed out to pick up Hunter where we again waittttttted for him to saunter up to start the next day.  First stop was the Willis Tower or, for us old-timers, the Sears Tower, which was again in the heart of Chicago. This time we were prepared, we took a picture of where we were at, texted the address of the parking garage to ourselves, and then took a picture of the outside of the garage.  We were not going to make the same mistake again. We planned. What we didn’t plan for was it was a holiday weekend and there were no tickets available for Sears Tower. We did, though, find our car the first time.  Next stop was the Chicago Aquarium where we managed to avoid getting towed and parked during the “cheap” time of the day.  Heading over to the aquarium, there was another sign that informed us that they were sold out. Checking on-line Kathy saw that some tickets were available between for an access time of 4 pm. Asking the gate attendants about that, we were told to purchase tickets online and we should be able get into the aquarium.  Apparently,  it was only sold out for those trying to buy tickets at the aquarium.  The visit was fun. We saw a variety of fish, reptiles, and even a few beluga whales. At one point, Hunter and Dave, randomly upon seeing a yellow submarine, broke out into song, “We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine. “  It is a bit of weirdness on how grandfather and grandson think alike to break out in song at the same exact moment with the same exact song.  Soon it was time to head out. We found our car on the first try!!!  (It is much easier when it is not in a garage, but instead in an open-air lot!) Next stop was dinner, which was Greek food, and then back to the base. While we only had a short four days, we packed a lot into that short time. Most importantly, we saw our grandson whom we love very much. Thank you, Hunter, for serving!!!  We are very proud of him and his service to our country.  Tomorrow we start the journey home.  (Our next few trips are already planned)

The journey home started with a pit stop at Pullman National Historic Site Pullman National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) which was appropriate for the Labor Day holiday. The labor strike at the Pullman factory was a contributing factor to the founding of the holiday.  Today was the grand ribbon cutting ceremony to open up the park and visitors center. Lots of cops, NPS law enforcement rangers, and even a smattering of secret service agents couldn’t stop Dave from “sneaking” into the park. We were turned away from entering the park by a NPS LE ranger who said, “Sorry.  It’s closed unless you have a ticket.” Dave confidently responded that he has snuck into places with tighter security, which he has. This park was no match, Dave confidently walked up to the main gate, charmed the interpretive ranger, and was allowed into the park to wander around and look at the sights.

Next stop was to visit the another War of 1812 battlefield, River Raisin National Battlefield.  River Raisin National Battlefield Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)   It was a good ending to the trip, considering we started the trip visiting  Perry’s Victory and International Peace monument,  Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)  another War of 1812 historic park.   Now it was time to just buckle down and hit the road. We had a late night stop for dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  Dave’s dinner came out and Kathy waited and waited for her meal. It arrived after Dave was finished and full. For once, Kathy was eating while Dave was waiting for her.  The next day saw us arrive home and visit with our kittens who didn’t seem to notice that we had been missing. It was still good to be home.

 

Last full day in the USA 01/13/2020

Today was a day for saying goodbyes. A big hug for Jill and Shea, Kathy cried, Jill cried. The apple did not fall far from the tree.

Our next stop after breakfast and a shower is Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery where we honored the soldiers who gave so much. The lines of gravestones were a solemn reminder of how many sacrificed so much so that we can be free to travel the world. https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/ftrosecrans.asp

Next stop was Cabrillo National Monument honoring one of the first Europeans to step foot in California. The views were amazing!! They had a lighthouse!!!! Kathy is a sucker for lighthouses, so this made her day. We hiked around the monument and looked for whales and watched the boats float by below us. We then drove down to the tidepools where we saw an abundance of sea birds dodging the waves that tried to displace them from the rocks. https://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

Last part of the day was spent walking Old Town San Diego where we had a lovely dinner before coming back to get settled in for the night.

We will catch up with y’all when we get settled In New Zealand.