Year End

Current Location: Rocky Point, Oregon

As I wrote a year ago, this is what I think of as the blogger’s version of the Christmas letter.  I didn’t send a letter out this year, but I did send out one of those fancy little Shutterfly cards with photos and sentiments.  I even managed to sign them and add a note or two.  Seems again that the tradition of Christmas cards is slipping away.  I do love getting them, so am trying to keep up with the sending. 

I almost decided to skip the summaries, but realized as I was watching the Google and Facebook versions roll by, that perhaps I wanted a bit more control over how I remembered my year.  Nothing helps me remember quite as much as my photos.  This time, however, I think I’ll keep the words short and just let the year roll by. 

We began a three month journey through the Southwest and into Florida immediately after Christmas, traveling south to Desert Hot Springs, on to Arizona and into Texas, seeing Big Bend National Park for the first time001 January California to Big Bend

Winter on the Texas Coast was a new experience, and we thrilled at the bird life, the beautiful beaches and meeting some of our favorite people002 January Texas Coast

Taking a break from the MoHo, we cruised the Western Caribbean for some gorgeous water and tropical lands.003 February Caribbean Cruise

Back on the mainland and continuing south into Florida, we enjoyed the beautiful Gulf Coast beaches, meeting more friends along the way.004 February Florida BeachesSomeone once said you come to Florida for the beaches, but you stay for the rivers.  That was true for us, it is the rivers that will call us back to the Sunshine State someday.005 March Florida RiversReturning west through Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Nevada was also filled with amazing new experiences, and more visits with family and friends.006 March Crossing the Country We couldn’t help but linger along the way home in the red soul of the world, the Colorado Plateau, where I at last walked the magnificent corridors of Antelope Canyon.007 March Lingering in the Southwest There is no better place to be in the springtime and summer than right here at home in Rocky Point, with short trips to our little Cottage in Grants Pass, family time with kids and friends, beach getaways, and lots of kayaking.008 Springtime at home Summertime travels took us north to a family reunion in Washington and farther north into Canada to camp and kayak along the gorgeous Kootenay Lake.  Camping trips to Great Basin National Park and beautiful Medicine Lake with lots of hiking and kayaking rounded out the summer.009 Summer Travels and Camping Fall was gorgeous, both in the San Juan Islands of Washington State, at Crater Lake with family for my birthday, and in Vermont celebrating a dear friend’s wedding.  10 Fall Travels Once again we are enjoying the Holidays at home, with a family Thanksgiving and Christmas here in Rocky Point.12 Thanksgiving and Christmas

Of course, our hearts are still missing our animals, Jeremy who left us in September, and Abby who passed peacefully at home just a month later.6-Jeremy the cat

No summary of the year however, would be complete without celebrating the beautiful people who crossed our paths and shared our lives and made everything richer with their friendship and love.

37-12-06-2014 Rocky Point Ladies Luncheon1

08-08-2014 A Day to Celebrate Old Homes and Old Friends

Current Location: home in Rocky Point Oregon

Things get a bit strange for me when I am back home in the Inland Northwest.  I lived there for more than 30 years.  When I moved to Northern Idaho in 1972 the first time I believed it was my spirit soul home and that I would never leave.  I was so incredibly happy to have found the place where I belonged.  It came as a surprise to me that when the time came to leave, in 2002, I was ready to go.  flowers 04

My Hauser Cottage in 2002 I hauled everyone of those rocks from the mountains

It is no longer “home”.  Klamath Falls is now home and I knew it was the moment I arrived 12 years ago.  No clue how that happens, but it does.  Funny though, I grew up in Southern California and it never felt like home, even when I lived there.  As a child I was always dreaming of moving north.  As an adult I started the journey of years, ended it as far north as Prince George BC before finally coming to rest here in Oregon.  North enough.

Homes revisited (8 of 21)The Hauser cottage in 2014 the gardens are gone and so are the rocks

But unlike returning to the San Gabriel Valley in SoCal, when I go back north to the Spokane/Coeur d Alene area I feel the old pull.  I am brought up short over and over with memories of who I was then and who I am now.  I barely recognize myself any more.  There have been too many twists and turns in my life and as I said once before, the sections don’t seem to be all that connected.

08-07-2014 revisiting my old homes

The Hauser cottage in 2014 a lock box on the door but no for sale sign

Collages2My Hauser cottage gardens in 2002

Two of my four children are in Oregon and none are back in Washington or Idaho.  My lifetime soul friend, Maryruth, is in California, and I have other close and wonderful friends all over the US.  Yet there is one friend who shared that life with me who still lives the life we lived back then, right there north of Coeur D Alene in Dalton Gardens.

Friends revisited (3 of 95)My friend Laura in her backyard in Dalton Gardens

She even has the same donkey she had then, who is now 32 years old.  Laura also has chickens, which makes me miss mine, and she has gardens that flourish the way mine used to when I had that great soil and those long days to make things grow.

Friends revisited (22 of 95) I was so happy for a day to spend with Laura on her lush and luscious acre of perfect soil, water, and sunshine and a gardener’s love.  Driving east from Spokane early in the morning, I took a side route through Newman Lake and Hauser Lake, just to see how things had changed, and to see my old homes.

the HauserMy Hauser Farmhouse in 1984 in the first year of gardening there

Especially endearing to see was the old farmhouse where I lived with Lance and my kids for many years.  Melody spent her teenage years here, on her horse most of the time.  My gardens were so magnificent that people would drive by every Sunday to see what was blooming.  It was a lovely life at that time.  The old weeping willow is now so big that I can no longer see the house from the road.  The house itself was the second one built on Hauser Lake, in 1886.  It was tiny, and had only wood heat.  Lots of memories in that place. 

Homes revisited (20 of 21)The old Hauser Farmhouse in 2014 Grandsons birth trees on the right and to the right of the willow

I took photos of my two grandsons’ birth trees which are planted at this old homestead, and they are both thriving.

I then drove by the tiny cottage that belonged to my grandmother, where she died, and where I ended up after becoming almost homeless after my divorce.  For nearly 7 years I worked hard to make this tiny place a home, and the gardens again flourished, although in a much smaller space.  The ceilings were only 6 feet 4 inches high.  Easy to paint, but my son in law used to have trouble walking around inside!

Scan004, October 20, 2001Hauser Cottage in 2002Homes revisited (5 of 21) Hauser Cottage in 2014

The last time I drove by this house I was devastated.  The gardens were gone, most of the huge firs were gone.  The house was abandoned and in shambles.  This time it was a bit different.  Still no gardens, but the house was being loved and repaired.  It was empty, so I walked around and looked inside the windows.  There were new cupboards, new floors, everything remodeled  nicely.  

Homes revisited (15 of 21) The old brick patio I laid was still there, and the wooden bench that Bel made, where I sat for many hours with my cat Caesar, who lived to be 16 years old, was still there.  Someday someone may garden there again, and the huge 100 year old maple and horse chestnut tree still thrive.

Friends revisited (10 of 95)Laura’s gardens

It was a nostalgic drive, and I was very happy to continue east to Laura’s to get some big loving hugs and be treated to my friend’s amazing space. Laura lived that old life with me.  We canned and cooked together, trained our horses together, talked about chickens and eggs and men together.  Raved about “stuff” together, even shared our journals with each other. We understood each other and still do. I am so glad that Laura finally retired from her life of nursing to be home with her gardens and her granddaughters and daughters, and that she had a whole day free to spend with me.

Friends revisited (56 of 95) Laura laughs and calls herself a hoarder, and says her contractor husband is a hoarder as well. 

Friends revisited (81 of 95) Well, she may be right, but Laura is the best kind of hoarder you can imagine.  She hoards “stuff” to make crazy art and it emerges from every nook and cranny in her gardens and her home. 

Friends revisited (74 of 95) Even in early August, her tomatoes were huge, her squashes ripe, beans, fruit, cucumbers, everything you could possibly imagine was huge and lush.  It sure made me miss my old gardens. 

Friends revisited (41 of 95) As hard as I try I can’t make things grow like this in my forest home in the mountains of Oregon.  Laura has flowers everywhere.  She also has a ton of ribbons from the county fair for her flowers from the last few years.  I think I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Friends revisited (15 of 95)Friends revisited (18 of 95)Friends revisited (11 of 95)Friends revisited (20 of 95) I wanted to see another old friend as well, Sandy, but her work schedule made it harder to fit an entire day in. 

Friends revisited (86 of 95)Instead, with Sandy also being a friend of Laura’s, we had a beautiful lunch of fresh picked veggies in Laura’s dining room while we reminisced about old times. 

Friends revisited (88 of 95)Friends revisited (89 of 95) The best kind of day with people I have loved for years from my old life.

Next post: Back to the reunion for fabulous family dinners and floating the Little Spokane River

 

MoHo upgrade and Saving the blog

Home in Rocky Point, Oregon.  Clear and sunny and 37 Degrees F

New Dinette_054 It is a bit amazing to me that after almost six years traveling in the MoHo, we would finally realize that the beautiful leather sofabed was just not to our liking.  When we first bought the rig, it looked oh so luxurious.  We learned how to make down the comfy queen size bed on the first day, and never have used it in the entire six years we have traveled in the rig. 

The sofa was pretty comfortable, or so it seemed, but with use we discovered that the pedestal table was a pain to set up every time we opened the slide, and that our little wooden tables, nice as they are, were susceptible to doggy coffee spills, and didn’t work all that well for computing.  We also discovered that the seat was much too wide for either of us on the ends, and the only really comfortable place to sit was in the middle…for one. 

Looks comfy, but a bit awkward for two to eat, play cards, have company, and the view is the wrong direction Three people lining up on a sofa doesn’t make for good conversation, either, so we would bring in the folding chairs for company.  It all worked just fine until we saw more and more rigs with those big curved dinettes, including Mo’s brother’s Winnebago, and we finally decided to bite the bullet and try to get one.  Calling around, we first discovered that our slide was just two inches too narrow for the standard curved booth, and we also worried about the desire to maybe make out a bed for one reason or another.  The $5,000 price tag helped to nix the idea as well.

Mo started cruising the internet, and found a really nice little FlexSteel dinette booth, with sides that made into a single bed if needed.  A call to Countryside Interiors in Junction City confirmed the unit would fit, and they would install it.  There were some measurements taken, the valance covers were too long, but that was an easy fix according to Steve, the owner of Countryside.  After seven weeks, our unit arrived and we headed over the mountain to spend the night in Eugene before the big installation day.

yes, there was cat hair behind the sofa With a four hour installation time estimated, I have to say they did a great job in just under five hours.  Josh was incredibly professional, doing good solid clean work, and paid attention to all the little details that would make the unit perfect.  Countryside Interiors was a great place to have the work done, and we appreciated the good service.

I do have to include a bit of a rub, however.  When we ordered the dinette, we were told they would sell our sofa on consignment so we could recoup some of the expense of the new one.  Our sofa was in excellent condition, and the bed as I said, had never been used.  But when the whole job was said and done, and I requested information on the consignment, we were told the sofa was no good, that they couldn’t sell it, that it was basically worthless, and she asked me kindly, “Would you like a donation slip for Habitat for Humanity?”

Josh Fishy, fishy, fishy!!  Their used furniture room was full of units not as nice as ours, and while we were waiting for the installation to be completed, a dealer came in to look at their used inventory.  I did ask if I could trade in the sofa on one of their nice Euro Chairs (a recliner on my wish list) and she said again, “No, we don’t do trades”.  I did plan to buy that chair from them eventually, but the more I think about it, I do think they have enough of our money.  The price was reasonable but definitely a high price for a piece of furniture, but maybe their profit margin for something like FlexSteel isn’t very good and they need to make more money selling the used pieces.  Either way, I will not go back to buy my recliner from them. 

As long as you know about the consignment part, it is a great place to have work done.  They were on time, professional, and very careful and thorough.  Don’t hesitate to use them for upgrades, just don’t expect any trade in for your current stuff, unless it has never been used at all.  That was her excuse, at least.  We had sat on the sofa and there was a rub (not scratch, just a dirt spot) on the arm next to the slide wall.  Enough of that.

New Dinette_058The dinette is absolutely perfect for us.  We were able to use our existing table, although it is about 2 inches more narrow than I would like, but the wood is so nice we hated to give it up.  The best part is that the chairs are incredibly comfortable, and wide enough for four people to sit for a meal, and with the wall end arms, perfect for lounging for joint television viewing.  Even more perfect, when we are sitting at the table, we now have a view directly outside, rather than staring at the kitchen wall in front of us from the sofa.  I can type on the computer and we can play dominos again and play a hand of cards without craning our necks sideways and trying to keep our hands hidden.  The bed flips out with just a touch and is also really comfortable.  There are even two nice drawers in the base of the seats.  Somehow, it seems that we have much more room inside the rig, even when the slide is closed.  (Notice that all these photos of the new dinette are with the closed slide)

On to the next subject: Saving the Blog. 

dinner for four at the cottage in the MoHo I do reasonably regular backups of the blog, so that if something happened to the google/blogger servers, I would have a hard copy of the code that I could then use to import into another platform if is wanted.  The photos are also linked, even though blog photos are actually stored on the google server as well.  Hopefully Google won’t die.  But things change, life changes.  Sometimes technology changes.  At the moment I am trying to convert VHS video to DVD and then trying to figure out how to edit the footage.  (Still no progress on that one, but I am working on it)

New Dinette_050Who is to say that sometime in the future there would be another tech change that would make our blogs completely obsolete? Or inaccessible?  We all work so hard on them, and for me it is my journal, the record of my life that is becoming more and more important as the memory card of my brain fills up and overloads.  Voila!  Blog2Print.  Others have talked about doing this, and it has been on the list for a bit of time now, but I couldn’t decide exactly how to go about it.  Of course it isn’t cheap, so I originally thought that maybe I would just do a book on the Alaska Trip, or the Covered Bridges of Oregon, but then I would miss all the rest.

New Dinette_053  Instead, I decided to do a year at a time, starting with the most recent completed year, 2012.  The book arrived yesterday, and I have to say that I really love it.  I chose to let Blog2print arrange photos at the medium size rather than trying to keep everything exactly as I had it on the blog.  After browsing the entire 277 pages of text and photos, I am completely happy with the book.  My middle daughter, Deanna, is the one who kept saying, “Mom, you need to get all this in a book”!”  OK, Deanna, the book is done! My next book will be 2013 when it is completed, and then I’ll have to save up to do a year at a time back to the beginning.  Sure is a lot easier to read than my own handwritten journals. 

One last note here.  My new friend John Parsons asked me to put a FaceBook post that I wrote awhile back on the blog.  He said he wanted to be able to find it again, and that is really hard to do with FaceBook!  Everything there just rolls by so quickly, and I can NEVER find old stuff in there.  So, John, here you go.

GROWING UP IN LA

Me - i rode that bike everywhere I remember chocolate colored water thick with sticks and rocks hurtling down the wash behind our house during the monsoon floods.      Leaping with a thrill from huge boulder to huge boulder they used as fill to try to stem the flow, which for me was a magic wilderness of danger and roaring water.      I remember the soft bellies of horny toads when you caught them, the sharp prick of stickers in your feet from goatheads…who ever wore shoes?          the smell of dust when the first drops of rain hit after all those dry months.      How incredibly green the San Gabriel Mountains looked in April with the tall candles of yucca backlit against a setting sun. The muted happy sound of kids voices on the playground as I lay on my back watching sky so blue it looked very nearly black.      The milky way and pungent pines of Mt. Baldy on a summer night of camping.      I remember the sweet sad feeling of yearning when the winds blew and the smog vanished leaving behind air that was so sharp and clear that you could actually see the sparkles floating around it in…dreaming of a magic place to live where the air was like that all the time. climbing to the top of the hill in Sierra Madre Canyon, among the prickly pear and agave and morning glory and old live oaks to the digger pine that was high enough to let me see Catalina.      I remember how golden a warm apricot tastes when picked from your hiding place in the tree, and how bitter a surprise an unripe olive can be. …Childhood in LA in the 50’s…. …..Warm as an apricot and bitter as an uncured olive.

 

July Fourth

In Rocky Point, Oregon Sunny and Clear Current temperature 70F Hi today family fourth86F Low today 59F

I know I must say this every year, but I LOVE the Fourth of July.  No reason that makes any sense, I love my country, but I don’t get excited just because she is having a birthday.  I just love the day.  I have “issues” around it.  If I am somewhere my family is not, I will get as weepy as a kid at Christmas without Santa.  My kids know this about me and just shake their heads.  Even truck driving daughter Deanna has managed to surprise me with a July Fourth visit now and then from half way across the country.  My kids remember two things, I am sure.  Potato salad and sack races.  They all hated those dang silly yard games that I made them play when we all got together for the holiday picnic. 

Grandpa Lance with Matthew and Steven on the 4th at Tubbs Hill in 1986

Lance with our grandsons, Matthew and Steven in 1986Back when they were younger, and we all lived in or near Coeur d’ Alene, we would pack a picnic and hike around Tubb’s Hill to watch the fireworks over the lake. There are family stories that have grown to mythic proportions about those hikes to the lake, and then the hikes back around in the dark to the car.  Just a couple of miles, with flashlights, and lots of people.  It was fun.  I was insistent that we have a picnic, no matter the weather, and there were some very wet, very rainy picnics on a blanket under the big red wagon in Riverfront Park.  Our favorite family story includes a rainy hike around the hill and a place we dubbed Guacamole Cave, named for our snack entertainment while we waited out the storm on the way to the lake. My husband Lance was alive, my two little grandsons were just 3, and now they are both 30 years old.  It was a different world and a different life, but we still have potato salad!

Guacamole Cave on Tubb’s Hill (our own personal name of course)

Lance, Michael, Sue, Matthew, Steven, Deborah, Melody, and friend in Guacamole CaveIn recent years, since I have been in Klamath Falls, we have trundled ourselves downtown to enjoy the local parade, and then waited for the very late fireworks over Lake Ewauna, with varying degrees of delight.  Sometimes the midges are out, sometimes the wind blows too hard for the big booms to make it high enough over the trees.  Sometimes it is hot.  Sometimes it is wonderful.  This year I didn’t care how wonderful it might be, I just decided that maybe the potato salad and family games on the cool green lawn in the cool Rocky Point shade would be enough.  It was.  In fact, it was very nearly perfect. 

Deb to the cottage-014 Mo and I were recuperating in the quiet house this morning and she said to me, “You know, I think this was the best Fourth of July ever”.  I couldn’t agree more.  Of course, there was an extra little treat that made it even more special.  I got to have TWO daughters here instead of my loyal youngest who lives nearby.  My eldest daughter Deborah has returned to Oregon, and was here for the holiday.  In fact, she is now settled into the cottage for the time being, as she readjusts her life and leaves Texas behind.  She loved some of Texas, in fact she loved most of Texas, but other parts of the situation weren’t acceptable, and she decided the best place to be was home near family.  Mo and I never intended the cottage to be a place to live, but we still have been fixing it up so it was perfect for Deb.  We now have a caretaker, and with the third interview in the works for a local Grants Pass job, Deb may just be settling in to an even better situation in the near future. 

family fourth-001 Of course, with family coming, all the little places we have around for people to stay needed a bit of sprucing up.  We spent several days over at the cottage working on details.  Mo fixed doorknobs, made sure the plumbing was all working properly, made drawings of which plugs were on which circuits, and I raked.  I discovered that those beautiful madrones, evergreen leathery leaves, drop big batches of old yellow leaves as the new leaves emerge, meaning I get to rake that acre in June as well as in the fall!  Oh, wait….Deb is there now!

We also have the little cabin here at Rocky Point, next to the house, and it is a great place for Melody’s family to stay when they visit.  It even has its very own composting toilet, a nice little kitchen and refrigerator, and hot water heater.  We love having people stay there, and it is nice to open it up and freshen the air, and dust the cobwebs away. 

Gardening has taken a big priority this time of year as well, and the flowers are just now coming into full bloom.  The incredibly hot weather we had last week has dissipated and now we are back to cool nights and mornings and days in the low 80’s with bluebird skies.  Ahh….perfect.  Of course, with all these projects going on, quilting has taken a very back back seat in the list of priorities.my favorite columbine

Melody came with her family the night before the 4th and we celebrated the beginning of the holiday morning with a big pancake breakfast.  Even though the heat has lessened a bit, it was still a good idea to get out on the lake before the sun was high and hot, and we were on the water in the 4 kayaks before 9.  It was a perfect morning paddle with me, Melody, Xavier, and Axel while Mo waited back at home for Deb to arrive.

kids at Harriman We paddled south into Pelican Bay from the Rocky Point launch with a plan to continue into the Harriman Spring run and then back out through the marsh into Klamath Lake.  love that osprey

The spring run was gorgeous, and we saw pelicans, cormorants, lots of common terns, several great egrets, a few blue herons, Canada geese, and a beautiful osprey who posed nicely, and a beaver who was too fast for me.  Is he making bird sounds?

Xavier has only paddled once before but by the time we finished our 2.5 hour trip he was leading the pack. 

which way did you say to go? We couldn’t find our way to the lake through the vegetation, even though the water was high enough, but the wocus and rushes and tules were just too thick to paddle through easily so we backtracked to Harriman Spring.I think Deb likes the kayak, and she is wearing Bel's Habitat for Humanity hat.  Nice.

When we returned, Deb was relaxed in the living room, and after putting the final finishes on the potato salad I went out for another 2 hour paddle with a different group.  Melody and I went out with Mo and Deb and went the opposite direction, south into Pelican Bay and through the marsh back to Harriman Spring. 

Mo and Deb led Melody and me into the marsh from Pelican Bay and we found the way through this time on the afternoon trip This time we made it through, but it was interesting to see just how different the trip can be depending on the time of day.  The morning was still and full of reflections and the afternoon had fewer birds and a lot more wind.  Both trips were wonderful and by the time we all got back to the house we were ready to fire up the bbq for burgers and POTATO SALAD!  Yum.

Axel On the previous evening we pulled out the Bocci Ball set and played some good games with Melody and the kids, so we were ready to redeem ourselves again with another round on the grass.  Bocci is so much fun, very little equipment needed, just those balls and a place to throw them.  By the time we finished the last game and Melody and her family departed for Klamath Falls, we all felt perfectly satisfied with our family fourth.

Xavier I didn’t hear a sound out here.  Fireworks aren’t allowed in the forest, and even on the private land I think most folks care about the fire danger and don’t want to jeopardize our beautiful forest home.  I love fireworks, but I surely didn’t miss waiting around until 10:30 at night for them to start, fighting the traffic, and then driving home around the lake near midnight.  Deb spent the night here before going home.  I can’t say just how much I missed her.  Even though we were as close as the phone and email, Texas is still a very long distance and knowing she is just over the mountain is soul satisfying in a deep way.  Two out of four kids close by is a pretty good ratio, I think, in this day of dispersed families.

checking the distance We are now planning for a short trip next week when I will finally get to visit the famous Sisters quilt show.  Roger and Nancy (Mo’s brother and SIL) will be sharing that with us, and after the show we will all go up into the Newberry Crater east of Bend for a couple of days camping at East Paulina Lake.  Excited about that one.  I remember the last time I was there it was raining, but I had a magical kayak trip one evening with fish jumping all around me and practically jumping into my boat.  I also know now where the lakeside hot springs are located and plan to check them out.

family fourth-028 I am still making progress on our plans for next winter, and with the help of some blogger friends have managed to get plans and reservations firmed up as far as the end of January and South Padre Island.  The planning process, especially so far out in time, seems a bit daunting to me, especially with the necessity to know where we will be in February in Florida so I can make reservations there.  We traveled all of Alaska for almost two months without reservations, but I don’t think that would be very smart in Florida that time of year.  Of course, the Military Fam Camp in Key West, our most distant destination, doesn’t take reservations anyway, but I still need to have a general idea of when we will be there.

A couple of weeks ago I was incredibly stressed, going through all sorts of stuff with kids and such, and a friend listened to me saying, “I know it sounds trite, but it will pass”.  You were so right, dear friend, it has passed.  It all worked itself through, the daughter is here, the kids are fine, and I am back to enjoying my lovely little stress free life of retirement!  Good advice!!

 

Finally!

Family - me and my children When I first thought about retiring, I knew that traveling would be one of my priorities.  Years ago, traveling with my kids meant making a big bed in the back of the Volkswagen van and driving all night while they slept, completely unrestrained of course. Later it involved car camping trips and sleeping in tents and sleeping bags on the ground.  We managed a trip to Disneyland once, a bit of cross country car camping as migrant workers in the 70’s, and once my life settled down a bit I did manage to take a kid or two to San Francisco for a big city visit.  We lived in rural Idaho at the time, and “the city” was an exciting destination.

As years passed and I managed to grow from eking out a meager living as a waitress to actually making a real living as a soil scientist, my travel time grew as well.  However, by then, my kids were all grown and in the process of eking out their own modest livings and raising their kids.  We managed a few local family reunions here and there, and in 2006 when Melody got married, we shared a family cruise to the Mexican Riviera. 

Melody bw 07My big goal was to manage at least one “big” trip for each of my children.  I know that some folks do  the big thing with the entire family, paying airfare and hotel for offspring and their spouses and kids and extended families.  I don’t think I could even manage a second mortgage for that much money, so my dreams were a bit more modest.  No spouses, no kids, just me and one child at a time going to the place of their choice, almost anywhere in the world that they would choose to go.  Well, Australia was out since that was just beyond affordable to me, but most other destinations were up for grabs.

Melody bw 08Almost two years ago my oldest daughter claimed her trip and we shared a charter Legendary Blues Cruise to the southern Caribbean. Which brings me to today.  My youngest daughter was the one who chose to go next and eighteen months ago I paid for this trip to Eastern Europe, and Melody and I have been planning and dreaming about it ever since.  It is Melody’s first trip off the continent.  It is mother/daughter time at its best, with no distractions of friends, spouses, children, responsibilities.  To say we are excited is an understatement. 

My first trip to Europe was with Mo, a seasoned traveler who has been to more than 36 countries.  I was as giddy and excited on that trip as I expect Melody will be on this one.  I have traveled with Mo on several cruises, to Thailand, to Turkey, to Malta, across the US and Canada, and as tough and smart as I think I am, I know how much I depend on Mo’s travel skills and take-charge abilities.  I realize that on this trip I will be the experienced one.  I won’t have Mo to fall back on…Melody will expect to be able to fall back on me.  After all, I am ‘Mom”.  I managed a complex life for nearly 60 years before I met Mo so I am sure I should manage just fine!

I have followed Kevin and Ruth across eastern Europe lately, marveling at their resourcefulness, their willingness to search out destinations on their own, to couch-surf and use public transportation, seeing the countries in ways that aren’t limited to the views most tourists get.  I, on the other hand, have chosen the tourist route, decidedly and willingly!  After traveling with Mo using Grand Circle Tours and Go Ahead Tours, I learned my old ideas about tour travel were just plain silly.  It is GREAT not having to worry about all the details.  It is GREAT having my luggage show up at my hotel, getting a quickie tour of the city and then having a couple of days on my own to go back to the places I want to explore more deeply.  goahead trip

I decided on GoAhead Tours, mainly because they seem to cater to a younger clientele.  I would have loved to do an OAT “(Overseas Adventure Travel) tour, but they are a lot more expensive and I decided against it. Go Ahead does a great job for the price, not fancy, but not cut rate either. 

560-1973 I could easily go to Turkey or Thailand again on my own, once I have been there, but for a first time trip to just about anywhere, I really like having the luxury of a tour.  Especially with limited time available, because of course my daughter is still working, I want no hassles.  I want to give my daughter the opportunity to see a different part of the world, to expand her horizons, but to do it with just a bit more safety factor than I would feel out there loose on my own.

The photos on the right and below are of the hike to Vernal Falls in Yosemite that I made with my kids back in the 70’s.  Melody was 4 and as you can see, most of the hike she was on my back.  Hopefully on this trip she will be the one I can lean on instead of the other way around.

Me - and my baby girlToday Melody and I both woke up at 3:30 am, at 4:00 am, all packed and ready with nowhere to go.  We sent each other text messages and emails, and laughed about how silly it was.  We are driving north to Albany today so that we have an easy commute to Portland tomorrow for our 1:30 departure from PDX for the ten hour flight to Amsterdam.  From Amsterdam we will take a short flight to Budapest, spending three days there before traveling the 150 miles to Vienna.  Three days in Vienna, with another day to drive to Prague for three more days and the quick 11 day trip will be over. 

My knee is functioning rather well, and the brace and trekking poles should help with cobblestone streets and lots of stairs that I expect to climb in these beautiful old world cities.  The trekking poles are in checked luggage, in spite of the encouragement of the doctor and the travel agent, too many websites said they could be a problem on the airlines.  I decided not to take the chance and will simply lean on my daughter if i need to!

My little girl and I are off to see the world!