Surviving Slow Travel

Bluebird sitting atop beloved pet’s grave marker

I believe I have endured enough road hazards to my work in my slow-travel, full-time-rv life during the last six weeks. I am ready for some smooth sailing for awhile. My son’s other grandma died (my mom died 2 years ago) just before Easter. I posted on Facebook that I would be taking 2 weeks off to help the family with funeral arrangements and such. 

Quirky quail now populate the old homestead

As I geared up to get hard back to work, my computer crashed. So did my son’s. Then, for 2 weeks at the Northern Arizona homestead, we had no internet or cell phone service. Luckily, the local library (7 miles away from the house, 20 minute drive each way) had their internet up and their computers working. This was good for quick email and Facebook checks, ordering new (used) computers from ebay, and having them sent to our next stop – my dad’s. Not so good for keeping up with writing or posting blogs. Without a computer to get everything ready to post, it takes far longer than the librarians want a single patron to stay on the shared computers. Not to mention, I don’t want my son playing computer games all that time…

Ginormous jack-rabbits forage in front of the old chicken coop

Out here in sunny, warm California (did I mention it is sooo nice to be out of the cold?) we spent our first week getting ready for my son John’s wedding to his long-time sweetheart. Such a beautiful, wonderful time.

Now, having finished setting up, installing programs and testing our new computers, I can get back to work. I can’t wait to tell all about the Alligator Farm in Colorado, finding community on the road, and our visit to some shrines in Chimayo, New Mexico. But first, some much needed California relaxation at the beach


Salvage The Day – What To Do When A Trip Does Not Go As Planned

It began with warm, Southern California sunshine, smoothly moving freeways and hopes of a day spent soaking up healing rays, listening to the soothing sounds of waves lapping the beach and strolling through a little bit of Old Scandinavia just a few hours up the coast. That’s not quite the way it played out.

First, we got started a bit later than planned. Normally, I try not to let this worry me, but I also misjudged the amount of time it would take to drive from Long Beach to Solvang. All was good, though, as the freeways were moving and we didn’t have to sit in traffic. Still, by the time we got to Ventura, we were starving. Promenade Park looked like a nice place to stop for lunch on the beach. With the lunch-hour surfers competing for parking space, it became a matter of ‘wait for someone to pull out and grab their spot quick’. This accomplished, I made sandwiches for the boy and his grandpa (and his mom) and we proceeded to enjoy watching the waves and sunning ourselves. A seagull, perched on a nearby rock, sensed an audience and spread his wings to demonstrate his take-off. Duly appreciated.

Refreshed, we turned inland for Solvang. Second mistake. The once quaint Danish Village of Solvang, is now just another shopping mall. At least in the winter. The worst part was that I had a nagging suspicion that I should have remembered this from another, similar trip two years ago, with my daughter. Note to self: begin a small trip log, noting places not to revisit, and destinations to return to. I probably would have done better to update my pictures and info on Santa Ines and La Purissima Missions instead, but the day was fading. After stretching our legs from one end of Solvang to the other and back again, we decided there was enough time left to visit the Ostrich Farm on the way back to the coast road.

Save! Our misadventures in Solvang were soon forgotten in the quirkiness of feeding the ostriches and emus at the Ostrich Farm. Watching their comical bird faces and gangly legs running around their pens provided us with some much needed belly laughs, though our stop there was less than an hour.

Our final destination before heading home had to be Anderson’s Split Pea Soup Restaurant in Buellton. Not disappointing. Sure I could make a vat of split pea soup with ham bones and carrots and potatoes at home for about a buck, but the satisfaction of hearing my oldest son, when he called in the middle of our dinner, gasping “Anderson’s Split Pea Soup in the bread bowl?! That is sooooo aaawesooome!!” was priceless. Day salvaged.

So what happens when you’re in Brazil and life throws you lemons? Read what Trent did Wander, Seek Find

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Bella – Review

Bella, released in 2006 at the Toronto International Film Festival, is one of those movies that I really meant to see, but never got around to it.  Thanks to Netflix, I finally did, and wow, what a great movie!

The story, which takes place in one day, may get a little confusing as the backstory unfolds in flashbacks.  Jose, a soccer star who has just signed a lucrative contract, accidentally kills a small child and serves time in prison.  After his release, he works in his brother’s restaurant as a chef, where he meets Nina, a waitress who has a brief affair (not with Jose) which ends in an unplanned pregnancy.  Nina’s solution is to end the pregnancy, but Jose has other ideas, and Nina changes her plans (as shown in flash-forwards, confused yet?).  The subtle anti-abortion message is so powerful, that I can see why pro-life groups adopted this movie and helped to heavily promote it.  

I enjoyed the portrayal of Jose’s family and particularly his interaction with his brother Manny, whose compulsive reactions Jose responds to with calm dismissal.  Such as when Manny fires Jose, who simply walks out the back door of the restaurant, then returns the next morning and cooks Manny breakfast as if nothing happened.

My favorite scene has to be Jose, sitting with a rosary in his hand, while Nina is taken into the back of the abortion clinic.  It’s something you might miss, if you weren’t Catholic, but to me, it screamed the power of Our Blessed Mother’s intercession.

Bella is a story about imperfect people, living sometimes difficult lives and facing complicated choices.  It’s about the power of God bringing awesome good out of our human weakness.


U-pick, Seattle EMP and Salty’s

Before leaving Portland, OR, we went in search of chocolate covered bacon.  We had heard that it was unbelievably scrumptious, but had no luck in locating a food stand that was open, serving it.  This, however, was a common sight along Highway 97 in Washington.  Produce stands everywhere!  We finally stopped at a u-pick orchard and scored 35 pounds of the most luscious sun-ripened peaches, nectarines and plums right off the trees!  Total damage was less than 50 cents a pound.  What we didn’t eat, we froze at our next stop, to be enjoyed by our friends long after we are gone;)

The EMP in Seattle, WA is a quirky museum of music, science fiction and pop culture.  Mostly pop culture.  The “gallery companion” is a must.  For $3 you can rent an ipod with earbuds which will block out most of the loud noise (um, music) inside the museum, and give you a self-guided tour, extra stories about the exhibits, and additional music playlists.  We spent much of our time in the Avatar exhibit.  Pulling up the videos we made in the interactive sections was a bit tricky, later, but with a few emails to helpful museum staff we were able to accomplish it.  We passed on the opportunity to perform live onstage; we were far more entranced with the sound labs, where we could go into a soundproof room and jam to our hearts’ content on guitars, keyboards, drums and synthesizers.  There’s even a rec room for the little (and not so little) ones to play with  guitars and bongos, make buttons and color.  Afterwards, it was time for cocktails at the Pop Kitchen and Bar.  A non-drinker, myself, I had a rare craving for a virgin margarita.  This seemed to baffle my friend.  I had to explain to her how they were made, and still she eyed me with incredulity.  This just made me giggle more.  You’d think I was the one drinking…

No sojourn in Washington is complete for me, without a bowl of Salty’s World Famous Seafood Chowder. The hearty mix of potatoes, bacon, clams, shrimp and scallops, with a generous drizzle of sherry at the table, and a healthy sprinkle of pepper is the perfect way to end a day of sightseeing, beachcombing or shopping.  It was the perfect time of day to enjoy our patio table on the water, and linger over a shared mango sorbet.  After that it was back to our friends’ house for a movie, and to rest up for our long journey home.



Pacific Northwest Part 3 – Portland and the Oregon Coast

No luck with any campsites between Vacaville, CA and Portland, OR.  We stayed night 3 of our trip in a motel in Willows, CA and ate a nice dinner at the Black Bear Cafe there.   We stopped for gas just across the Oregon border, and if we thought we were safe from colorful characters, we were immediately proved wrong.  A shirtless young man with shoulder-length dreadlocks came running towards our car with a look of ecstasy on his face.  At the last possible moment he veered off and began singing something incomprehensible at the top of his lungs.  The last we saw of him, he was driving away to parts unknown.

Our first excursion in Portland was to the world famous Rose Garden.  My amateur pictures cannot possibly do justice to the acres and variety of roses there.  The seductive fragrance of thousands of blooms surrounded us and could only have been made more perfect by the addition of a pot of herbal (maybe rose petal?) tea and several squares of dark chocolate.

The Pearl District in downtown Portland, is a must for window shopping, unique souvenirs and artisinal treats.   My friend and I enjoyed the many quirky clothing and jewelry boutiques, stopped in at Lush for a hand treatment and to spy on their all-natural soaps and personal care products, collecting information and ideas for my shop – Mrs. D’s Homestead.  We spent just as much time at the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe, sampling their gourmet cocoas and sinful desserts.

After a day of rest and recovery, we proceeded to take a tour of the Oregon coast, stopping first at the Tillamook Cheese factory for fortification.  Though guided tours are available, we went through the museum on our own.  The high-tech mass production of cheese was interesting to me, however, being a cheesemaker myself, I was more interested in the ancient artifacts of old-fashioned cheese-making science in the display cases.  Somehow 2,000 gallon vats of temperature controlled milk do not seem, to me, like they will ferment and age into the flavorful rounds I enjoy when my cow is lactating.  Although, when she is not, Tillamook is one of my favorite choices, due to its’ simple, natural ingredients list.  Exiting the museum, we sampled several kinds of Tillamook cheeses, my favorite being the simple, white, buttery tasting curds.  Of course, we could not continue our coastal expedition without a generous portion of creamy Tillamook ice cream apiece.

When we finally found a spot where we could enjoy the beach, we stopped and spent an hour strolling, building sandcastles, and soaking up the sun.

Nehalem Bay is the place to go for crabbing, crab boils, and general relaxing and people watching by the water.  The bait shop at Jetty Fishery offers full crabbing packages, with license, bait, nets and boat, or you can catch them off the dock if you prefer.  We weren’t dressed for a day out on the water, so we had our crab boiled for us and gorged ourselves at the picnic tables in front of the campfire.  After cracking, slurping and sipping for what seemed like hours, we were all ready to take a nap.  So we did, while our fearless driver slurped coffee and took a brisk walk to renew his energy.

The final destination on our coastal tour was Astoria, Oregon, where Captain Robert Gray discovered the Columbia River in 1792 and near where Lewis and Clark camped near the end of their expedition.  The location is marked with a 600 foot tall, narrow tower that can be climbed for a fantastic view of the bay.  Or so I’m told.  I preferred to stay on the ground, and decided I had a perfectly lovely view from there.