Tag Archive for: #highwaytomore

Following Footsteps

Years ago we traveled as a family to Boston in the heat of August. We were all drenched in sweat as we walked into the cool air-conditioning of the National Park Service building outside of the USS Constitution.

Our daughter Kyle, 11, wiped her brow and announced quite loudly, “I hate history!”

The woman behind the counter shined a big, bright smile at Kyle and said, “Honey, if it weren’t for history, you wouldn’t be here!”

Ever since that exchange, I think about those who walked in the paths I’ve traveled. I think about their lives and their families. And in the case of our first stop on our historical tour through Alabama and Mississippi, I think about how they fought and died for what they believed to be true.

Vicksburg National Military Park

Vicksburg sits on the edge of the great Mississippi River. The city stood at the crossroads of the Civil War. The Union troops, led by Ulysses S. Grant, were on a mission to lay siege to Vicksburg and command control of the Mississippi. The Confederate soldiers reported to John C. Pemberton as they attempted to defend this strategic stronghold.

President Abraham Lincoln said, “Vicksburg is the key…the war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket. Confederate President Jefferson Davis stated that Vicksburg was “the nailhead that holds the South’s two halves together.”

firing of a cannon

For 47 days beginning in May of 1863, the 33,000 Confederate soldiers and 77,000 Union soldiers fought valiantly over that “nailhead” and key. The Confederates built fortifications and rifle pits out of the rich soil. They dug in deep ravines as they fought off the multiple assaults and bombardment of continual cannon fire from the Union troops.

 

Photo credit: Vicksburg National Military Park

Ultimately, lack of food, supplies and sickness took its toll on the Confederates. Grant and Pemberton met to discuss terms of the Confederate surrender. Grant wanted unconditional terms, which Pemberton refused. Grant reconsidered overnight, and on July 4, the Confederate troops laid down their arms and walked away from the battlefield, their white flags of surrender waving in the hot summer air.

The estimated casualties were 37, 273.  Each side lost roughly 800 soldiers to the battle, but more foretelling is that the Confederate troops counted 29,620 as missing or captured.

Art to Honor

The Vicksburg National Military Park was established in 1899, and soon after the country’s top monument architects and engineers were commissioned to create monuments dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the battle.

We marveled at the artistry and were moved by the powerful sentiments. Here are a few of the monuments that correspond with the battlefield positions of the Union and Confederate soldiers.

 

 

This is the memorial to the Wisconsin troops. A bronze statue of “Old Abe” the war eagle mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry sits on top of the memorial. Bronze tablets on the statue reflect the names of the 9,075 Wisconsin troops who fought at Vicksburg.

 

 

 

 

The memorial to the Alabama men who fought features seven soldiers being inspired by a women, who is intended to represent the state itself. This magnificent work was sculpted by German artist Steffen Thomas, who emigrated to the United States and lived in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Here is a link to the museum which was created in his honor. I’ve never been…will have to check it out next time we visit Kyle in Atlanta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The memorial to the Arkansas soldiers was created out of marble from Mount Airy, North Carolina. The inscription reads, “To the Arkansas Confederate Soldiers and Sailors, a part of a nation divided by the sword and reunited at the altar of faith.”

 

 

 

 

 

Unknown Soldiers and Dog Tags

The Vicksburg National Cemetery was established on the site in 1866. It is one of the first national cemeteries in the country and the largest Union cemetery. We discovered that of the 17,000 soldiers buried here, 13,000 of the identities are unknown.

To try and prevent being buried as an unknown soldier, some marked their clothing with pinned-on tags, or with stencils. Others used old coins or even carved their name on a piece of wood their carried. It wasn’t until after the Spanish-American War that official identification, i.e. “dog tags” were required to be worn by soldiers.

Yellow Gingko leaves lay around a soldier's headstone in the national cemetery.

The Vicksburg National Cemetery. Photo Credit: NPS

B.B. King Museum

A young boy was born to sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta in 1925. His parents separated when he was five, and by the age of seven, he was out in the cotton fields working away. His mother died when he was just nine years old, and was sent to live with his grandmother, who passed away just five years later.

The boy, Riley King, befriended the guitar-playing minister at his grandmother’s church.

The rest is history.

Riley played on street corners on Saturday nights, and on Sunday mornings with the St. John’s Gospel Singers. Riley broke away from the group, hitchhiking to Memphis in 1947 to pursue a career in music.

Just a year later, Riley landed on the KWEM radio station out of West Memphis. Riley earned the nickname Beale Street Blues Boy, later shortened to simply B.B. King.

We spent several hours at the museum. learning about B.B. King’s journey from busking on streets to becoming an international icon. The thread of civil rights is woven through his story, and represented quite well throughout the exhibits.

My favorite story from his early days touring involved needing to stop for gas to fuel up “Big Red,” his first tour bus. When B.B. stepped out of the coach to use the restrooms, often the station owner sized B.B. up and told him the restrooms were closed. B.B.  walked over to the bus driver and told him to stop pumping gas. No restrooms, no gas sale.

B.B. King’s personal journal.

Blues legend B.B. King passed away in 2015 at the age of 89.

Here’s a link to one of his top hits, “The Thrill is Gone.”

Southern Homes…from Plantation to Frank Lloyd Wright

Brad discovered the Belmont Plantation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House during our travels.

We were transported back into the antebellum past in the Belmont, resplendent with all the trappings of a southern plantation. Then, we were jettisoned into the simplicity of a Usonian home with it’s simple L-shaped grid, flat roof and efficient use of space in the Rosenbaum home.

The Belmont was built between 1855-1861. It has 9,000 square feet.

The original Rosenbaum House was 1540 square feet and took just nine months to build.

Both Storied Histories

Dr. William Worthington, the original Belmont owner, was both planter and medicine man. He possessed over 80 slaves. According to the Belmont’s current owner, Bradley Hauser, the slaves were taught to read and write and well cared for. Bradley is currently researching the families who lived as slaves at the plantation.

When Stanley Rosenbaum married Mildred, a native New Yorker, Stanley’s parents were worried that the newlyweds would move to New York. So they gifted the young couple with the property right across the street from their home. Wright was commissioned to build the home for the Stanley and Mildred and was completed in 1939.

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The Belmont Plantation and the Rosenbaum House. Photo credit: wrightinalabama.com

Major Restorations to Both

The Belmont Plantation has been through a number of restorations over the years. After a series of families owned the home, by 2014 the bank foreclosed on the property. The front porches were falling down, the plumbing system was a mess, the roof leaked, and worst of all, a number of Delta critters had taken residence in the once stately mansion. Joshua Cain bought the house in 2015 and restored the home to its original glory, including many of the Worthington’s furnishings.

Bradley Hauser continues to preserve the home, which serves as a Bed & Breakfast.

The foyer (l.) and the women’s parlor at the Belmont.

The Rosenbaum home remained a family home until 1999, when Mildred passed away. She attempted to sell the house before she died. After she interviewed a prospective buyer, she refused, as he intended to make too many changes to the beloved Wright-designed home.

The City of Florence and Mildred ultimately came to an agreement for the municipality to purchase and preserve the home. An extensive restoration costing $750,000 began in 1999. Work included replacing the leaking roof, replacing termite damaged walls and updating the antiquated heating and air-conditioning systems.

Across the street from the home is a small museum (tickets for tours can be purchased here) and includes a number of photos of the home during the renovations.

The front living space and the dining room in the Rosenbaum House.

Footsteps.

From the rapid-fire chases in the ditches at Vicksburg, to those of B.B. King as he faced racism on tour. From the pained steps of slaves in the South, to the pitter patter of the Rosenbaum children in their unique home.

We can only begin to imagine their lives by following in their footsteps.

Some day the same will be said about ours.

 

Status Report

Project Name: Arizona Adventures

Project Managers: Brad and Julie Rubini

Project Dates: February 15-March 15

Overall Project Status: Overcoming Challenges 

I’ve struggled with social media for some time…I mean nobody’s life can be that perfect, right?

The same holds true in my own. I mean, I’m living many people’s dream…taking off in a beautiful motorhome, traveling the country with my life partner, experiencing sights and adventures that touch my soul to the core.

I get the fact that any negative experiences, challenges, or struggles can’t even begin to compare with what many people face every day. But then, not everyone has experienced the ultimate loss of a child as we have, so it rather puts my life of extremes into perspective. Life came all too much into perspective after our daughter Claire’s death. Since, Brad and I choose to live, really live…no holds barred.

So on one hand what I’m about to offer to you might be considered whining given our luxurious mode of cross-country travel. On the other, I hope that what you gain from it is how these two “project managers” work together to overcome the challenges. Most of all, that this post reflects our gratitude for our support system to help us through.

Schedule: Progress Halted

First and foremost, Brad suddenly lost his hearing in his left ear several weeks ago. One day here, the next gone. We’re grateful for the access to healthcare while on the road. His hearing is slightly improved after a round of serious steroids, but not completely back. He is following up with his doctor back home for care.

We’ve had a variety of mechanical issues, some avoidable, some, well, not so much. Since being on the road, we’ve had broken slides in the back (repaired in Idaho thanks to Brad’s stepbrother, Michael), replaced in Tucson, then replaced again two days later when the new system didn’t work properly. Our dryer simply stopped. (I know, I know. We have a dryer in this thing?) Our electricity was wonky at our site in Casa Grande. One of the tires on the Jeep has a slow leak. A stone kicked up and cracked our windshield. The same one we replaced last year. And so it goes…

But the real topper was to come back from a full-day visit with our friends Tom and Margo Herman in Phoenix to see a new water feature in our camp site…water was streaming out of the base of the motorhome. Maybe streaming is too gentle a word. More like pouring.

It doesn’t really matter how it happened in this story. What’s important, just like the other challenges, was what happened after. We both jumped into action. We cut off the source of the water, I grabbed all of our extra towels, Brad high-tailed it to the local Home Depot to get some industrial fans. I’m not going to lie…I shed a few tears. I wanted to call someone for empathy, but the best person for the call is no longer of this earth. My friend and “second” mom, Barb Falzone, a bereaved parent as well, would have said (as she did years ago following our basement flood six months after Claire died), “it just doesn’t matter as much now as it would have before, right?”

Exactly.

Forecast: Upward Trend

On the upside, the display of all of our items stored in our bays underneath the coach, encouraged conversations with our neighbors, Lisa and Bruce, from Nova Scotia. We hosted them for margaritas and fajitas one night, they reciprocated by having us over for cocktails another evening. They loved Luna, and Lisa made this adorable blanket for our sweet girl. We have an open invitation to visit them, and I imagine we’ll do just that!

Hanging with Lisa and Bruce. Luna and her blankie.

Through this all, we had wonderful times and heart-felt conversations with Margo and Tom. We hosted them for a day at our campground, playing pickleball and hitting the pool. We traveled up north to their lovely home numerous times, and they were kind to allow us to stay overnight so as not to trek the hour+ drive each way. Our fun adventures included a few dinners out, Margo and I getting pampered with haircuts and pedis, and oh yeah, getting kicked off of a golf course.

Kicked off a golf course? What??? Yep. First time for everything. And we didn’t even do anything wrong, trust me. Brad belongs to a golf program where a member of a private club agrees to host us, as in play with us, not pay for us. A member of Wildfire Golf Club in Scottsdale was to host us…but he didn’t show up. He not only didn’t show up, but he suggested another guest who reached out to him join us. So, the four of us unattended guests played five holes, keeping pace with the group in front of us, fixing our divots (and those of others), and generally behaving ourselves. On the sixth tee, an employee was directed to usher us off of the private Faldo course and on to the semi-private Palmer Course.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy the shirt I admired in the pro shop, and I wouldn’t recommend this course to anyone.

We laughed about the situation after…we laughed a lot with Margo and Tom. Their company helped us tremendously through our trials and tribulations in Phoenix.

Pickleball with Margo and Tom. 

We also managed to find water in the Phoenix area to paddle on. Our outing on beautiful Canyon Lake was restorative. The waterfowl were amazing, and saw a few bass avoiding the fishermen in the coves.

Paddling Canyon Lake.

We hiked South Mountain with Margo and Tom, and hit a few trails nearer our campground in Casa Grande. Luna had a blast as well, and we all managed to avoid snakes.

Mountain near Casa Grande.

One of the highlights of our time in Phoenix was connecting with our dear friends Gretchen and Rick from Toledo. Along with Rick’s daughter, Emily, we took in a Cleveland Guardians spring training game. We also met up with them at the Indian Fair & Market at the Heard Museum. I bought a beautiful bracelet, enchanted by the artist’s stories.

Cleveland Guardians Spring Training Game.

Finally, we took in the Tucson Festival of Books. Brad went to a panel with mystery writer C. J. Box, and I attended a session with my favorite middle-grade author, Kate DiCamillo. I met Kate several years ago at the Cincinnati Books by the Banks, and if the universe has anything to say about it, Kate will come visit Claire’s Day some year.

Mystery writer C. J. Box and Middle-Grade Author Kate DiCamillo.

Status Report Summary:

So, after a series of setbacks, countered with excellent adventures together, and with friends, we are enjoying the last few weeks of our travels. As we make our way back home, we try to relish the moments as our time on the road draws to an end. And pray nothing else happens.

But if it does, we’re ready and able to handle it.

Cheers!

Celebrating meeting 40 years ago on St. Patty’s Day!

Roots

The kayaks are strapped back on to the top of our Jeep. Bikes are in place on the rack attached to the hitch. Knick-knacks are tucked in cupboards. The shoe bin filled with footwear to fit the occasion, whether hiking, kayaking or golfing, is stashed in the closet. The Captain’s chair and co-pilot seat are turned around to the front-facing position. Furniture is secured, cupboards and sliding pocket doors all closed tight.

Everything is ready to roll, on to our next destination.

Everything that is, except my heart.

When we first settled into our rented lot at the Motorcoach Country Club RV Resort in Indio, I noticed the owner had three empty flower pots just waiting to be filled. I visited a local nursery and bought enough annuals to bring life to them. My plan was to buy a pot to transfer them to once we were ready to get back on the road, which I did.

As I gently tugged the flowers out of the planters, I was amazed at how much they grew in the six weeks we’ve been here. I couldn’t get over how deep the roots had dug into the California soil I scrapped together when I first planted them. With just the right amount of water, sun and tender-loving care, the geranium, petunias and snapdragons  flourished. My transplants found a new home.

I feel exactly the same.

Staying here at this little slice of heaven in the California desert for this long has allowed us to grow our own roots. And with the fresh air, sun and the gentle breezes of new friendships, we’ve flourished too. We’ve been blessed to share stories, journeys, and heartbreaks with these new friends. These new friends have hosted us for dinner, golf, and wine tastings. These new friends have taken walks with us, gotten us into the pool for water aerobics, presented us with thoughtful gifts.

Desert Adventures with Chuck and Dyan

Our time here in the desert began with getting together with friends we made last year in Hilton Head. Chuck and Dyan love adventures as much as we do, and loved experiencing the Salton Sea area together. We had a blast exploring Temecula Valley, the wine country just 90 minutes over the San Jacinto Mountains. We especially enjoyed Doffo Wines and the display of over 200 motorcycles and scooters collected by the owner, Marcello. We spent our last evening in town, Valentine’s Day, enjoying dinner with the two of them, bringing our time together full circle.  Life is always fun with a little bit of Chuck and Dyan sprinkled in!

Photo credit: Doffo Wines

Kind neighbors Chris and Alan

Our first clue as to how special the residents at Motorcoach Country Club RV resort was while hosting our Toledo friends Joe and Amy Zavac for a visit. Our neighbors, Chris and Alan, brought over an outdoor lamp to add more light to our patio. How thoughtful is that? This Colorado-based couple also hosted us for a fun, quaint Super Bowl gathering, and even offered to help out with Luna while we were off on a day-long adventure.

Pasta and Game Night with John and Christine

Speaking of thoughtful, when meeting Christine and John McCusker at a dinner at the Motorcoach club house, Christine observed I wasn’t eating bread. When I shared that I was gluten intolerant, several days later, Christine gifted me with two loaves of gluten free bread made at a local bakery. I returned the favor with giving this former private school owner with a copy of my biography of Virginia Hamilton. This lovely couple hosted us for a delicious homemade pasta dinner, Temecula wine and Rumikub. We all walked away as winners, in more ways than one.

Golf with the Ladies

The resort has a fun 18 hole Par 3 course. I had the opportunity to play with the ladies several times, including the first with Nancy Kossman, who hails from Missouri. Nancy and I connected from the start, and enjoyed going out to lunch and walking together.

When I played with the other group of ladies, Betty announced, “I’m not a very good golfer, but I’m a lot of fun.” Fun was definitely had with Kim, Jo, Betty and her sidekick, Betty Boop. It’s always a good thing when you laugh so hard on the course that you find yourself looking for the nearest bathroom.

PGA West friends Renee and Fred

Brad joined a golf program which allows us to play on private courses with members willing to host us. Fred and Renee Dockweiler were incredibly kind to not only host us, but to be willing to reschedule when we came down with a stomach bug. We connected during our first round at the PGA West Weiskopf course. It was a thrill for me to play with all single-digit handicap golfers. I’ve got 9 strokes to join the ranks, but Fred and Renee were both incredibly encouraging. We met up for dinner at Okura Sushi one night, and Renee hosted us several days later (as Fred was out of town) at the PGA West Stadium course, home of the AT&T PGA tournament. We hope to have Renee and Fred visit us in Toledo, as Fred has plans to travel our way on business.

And the list goes on…

I’m not so good with carting my phone with me everywhere, much less taking pictures when I do. I will hold on to the special memories of a Motorcoach CC resident, Swanee, who became my new “publicity rep” after sharing our story and my work with her. Swanee attended a satellite campus of Antioch College, where Virginia Hamilton attended, so I gifted her with my biography of this amazing writer.

We had the pleasure of golfing with several other couples and gentlemen during our stay…including Rob and Margaret and Troy and Sue at Mountain View Country Club. Thank you all for making our time all the more special. Ugh…I could go on and on, from the many people we met on our daily walks with Luna, to folks we visited with on our many adventures.

So yes, we’re packed up and ready to go on to the next chapter, but my heart is a little sad as we leave this desert oasis.

Often friends met on the road remain as such.

But, I have a feeling that with the right amount of time and attention, just like my new flowers, the roots of friendship established here in the California desert will grow deeper.

 

 

Desert Respite

Ahhh….

After being rolling stones since hitting the road in October, it has been amazing to sink our toes in the sand, dig in, and stay put for a month. We are so fortunate to be staying at the Motorcoach Country Club in Indio, CA.

The setting is phenomenal, with the Indio Hills looming in the background, plentiful golf courses, and glorious native and annual flowers everywhere. The RV resort offers on-site 18 hole par-3 course, tennis and pickleball courts and more activities than we have time for.

Our hearts have been warmed by making new friends, and having a visit with our dear friends and neighbors, Joe and Amy. A bonus is being right across the street from the friends and fellow adventurers we made last year in Hilton Head…Dyan and Chuck.

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to during our first few weeks in this desert mecca…

Joshua Tree National Park

Brad and I gassed up the car, packed a lunch and plenty of water to drive up to Joshua Tree National Park.

We should have grabbed an extra jacket too! We knew there would not be any gas, food or water available in the park, but we didn’t realize that we were entering the high desert, with its cold winds. Fortunately the visitor center does sell sweatshirts with an emblem of the unique Yucca trees on the front.

We spent the day driving from the western entrance of the park and all the way around to the Cottonwood southern exit. We took in a number of shorter hikes, including Hidden Valley, Jumbo Rocks, Arch Rock and Split Rock. It was fun to see families with children of all ages…reminded us of when we would hike with our kids when they were little.

We were grateful we took the long route all the way around, as the Cholla Cactus Garden was quite the sight.

The desert isn’t in bloom yet, but here’s a hint of what you might see if you visit later in the spring.

An Adventure in the Desert

We struck out with our friends Chuck and Dyan to visit an area that our friend Eric Davenport from Bend, Oregon told us about…the Salton Sea. What we weren’t aware of was the jaw-dropping Salvation Mountain and the head-scratching settlement of Slab City nearby.

Salton Sea 

One of the lowest spots on earth at -277 feet below sea level (think about that for a minute…a sea below sea level!) is the Salton Sea.  Created when floodwaters from the Colorado River overcame an irrigation canal in 1905, the lake is a terminal lake, meaning there is no natural outlet for the water. As a result of the runoff feeding into the lake, the concentration of salinity in the lake is even greater than the ocean.

We enjoyed our picnic near the lake, but it wasn’t a place one would linger. You don’t dare swim in the lake, and the stench of dying fish was prevalent. Not exactly the seaside resort that Eric and his wife Lyn expected many years ago.

Salvation Mountain

Leonard Knight was truly a rebel without a cause, until he found redemption in the desert. Originally from Vermont, Leonard experienced his religious awakening after a visit with his sister in California. She attempted to share her discovery of spiritualism with Leonard, but her beliefs didn’t resonate until he began to trek back to Vermont.

After discovering his love for Jesus, he was inspired by a hot air balloon. Leonard had a vision of building his own balloon to spread his newfound Christianity. He spent the next 14 years traveling the country and trying to built that darn hot air balloon.

Literally deflated and defeated, he found himself in the desert just east of the Salton Sea. Leonard decided he would stay for a week creating something that would make a “small statement.” This was in 1984. And this is what Leonard created, known as Salvation Mountain.

Leonard died in 2014, but his messages of love live on through a non-profit that maintains his spiritual mountain.

Slab City

Leonard Knight might have been sharing his salvation with the world, but I’m not sure what the residents of the squatter community of Slab City are attempting to.

I think my mouth hung open the whole time we drove through Slab City.

History: The United States Marine Corps had a training camp, known as Camp Dunlap here in the Sonoran Desert.

The Marines abandoned the base in 1956, destroying all the buildings, but leaving the slab foundations behind. You can guess where this is going…

A sign at the entrance noted “Speed limit: two grams a day.”

Man, there are stories to come out of this place. I’m just not sure I’m the one to write them. I’ll let these pictures help guide your imagination. To see more, see here.

There was a sign for the Library, but we never found it. I’m afraid if we did, we’d never check out.

The place is just bizarre.

   

A Taste of Home

Our good friends and neighbors Joe and Amy Zavac took time during their travels to LA and San Diego to come visit us in the desert. We hosted them for dinner at the motorhome on Friday evening, and they marveled at the beautiful sites and rigs in the RV resort.

Brad outdid himself with his smoked and grilled steaks, I made my brother’s yummy “smashed potatoes” recipe and a salad with local dates and goat cheese. Our neighbor gave us an outdoor light to enjoy the dinner on the patio. It was so fun catching up on all that we’ve missed in Toledo since October.

Living Desert

On Saturday morning, we went to Shields Date Garden, celebrating 100 years of both farming dates and serving them up in yummy breakfast and lunch dishes. The gardens and pretty patio are just around the corner from us, so I imagine we’ll even ride our bikes there in the future.

Following breakfast, we drove a short distance to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. As members of the Toledo Zoo, we received a 50% discount on our entry fee…one of the many benefits of Zoo membership!

The Living Desert features animals and plants native to deserts around the world, from California to Australia and Africa. It was fun to walk among the animals in many of the exhibits. Not including the cheetah.

We enjoyed wonderful dinner out at the Lavender Bistro in Old Town La Quinta. Although it was cool and sprinkling, the tree foliage and the outside heaters kept us warm and dry.

Our visit was entirely too quick, filled with great stories, much laughter, and wonderful memories.

We are so grateful for our respite in the desert!

 

“Cause All I Wanna Do is Have Some Fun…”

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind.

Christmas in Marina and Monterey

It was hard to be away from family and friends once again over Christmas, but Brad and I kept ourselves busy taking advantage of all that the area had to offer.

We stayed at the Marina Dunes RV Resort. It was a lovely campground just 500 yards from the ocean. I loved the hues of the native plants along the path on the dunes leading to the ocean. Luna basked in the sunsets!

We golfed at Pacific Grove Golf Links, known as the Poor Man’s Pebble Beach. We were paired with a father and son and just had a blast. We saw surfers along the coast running beside the course. This is me pretending to be one.

Monarchs winter along the California coast too. We took in one of their migratory spots at the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary. I could almost hear the thousands of pairs of wings fluttering in the breeze.

We biked along the coast. It was hard to keep an eye on all the car traffic right along the bike path. The ocean was a bit distracting!

We kayaked at Elkhorn Slough, an awesome estuary featuring these little critters.

I teared up at the sight of the mama otter cradling the cub on her chest. It made me miss my kids all the more so.

I couldn’t wait for our reunion in LA.

Pacific Palisades

We rented a home in the beautiful enclave of Pacific Palisades for the start of our time together. The home was built in 1949 and featured an awesome outdoor firepit and views of the ocean right across the street. A nightly ritual involved walking down to the park just up the way, coffee cups filled with favorite beverages, and toasting the sunset.

Hiking and Beaching

We used to call all of our adventures “Brad’s Boot Camp.” I think the apples haven’t fallen too far from the tree, as we made the most of the area. Our first full day, we hiked at Solstice Canyon. We took both the Solstice Hike and then continued on to the Rising Sun Trail for an awesome two-hour experience.

The hike features the ruins of the Roberts Ranch House, designed by Paul Williams, who was a famous African American architect. Here is a fascinating article about this trailblazer whose hand is prominent in over 2500 buildings and homes, most in LA.

After lunch at Malibu Seafood (“the reason we don’t serve breakfast is because we’re out catching lunch”) and then, after numerous attempts, finally found coastal access to walk along the Malibu Beach.

 

Venice and Santa Monica

We sang Sheryl Crow’s iconic song All I Wanna Do is Have Some Fun while visiting the Santa Monica area. We took in the famed canals of Venice Beach. We walked the Santa Monica Pier. And we made a quick stop at Zibby’s Bookshop. I am inspired by the dedication and passion owner Zibby Owens has for books and sharing authentic stories. I’ve been in touch with Zibby about our story…perhaps her publishing house may be interesting in sharing our journey some day.

Pasadena and New Year’s Eve

We shifted to Pasadena for what will become obvious later in the post. We took full advantage of the area and the beautiful home we stayed in as we brought in the New Year together.

On New Year’s Eve we took a nice 5 mile hike on the Eaton Falls and Henninger Flats trail. Great start to the day!

Later in the day we headed to Griffith Park and the Observatory. We packed a charcuterie board and some bubbly and watched the last sunset of 2023 on a little path down below the iconic Observatory.

I discovered a bit about the park on our drive. At over 3,000 acres, Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with wilderness in the United States. The land was donated in 1896 by Griffith J. Griffith and his wife, Tina. Sounds great, right? Well, as we all know, there’s always a story behind the story.

Let’s just say that Griffith J. Griffith’s life is rather checkered, including accusations of tax evasion and imprisonment for attempting to murder his wife. For the rest of the story, see here

We returned to our beautiful rental home in Altadena and worked together to create a scrumptious NYE dinner featuring grilled steaks (from the grass-fed beef we bought at Rafter W. Ranch in Simla, CO), brussel sprouts and smashed roasted potatoes. Yummy!

Rose Bowl Experience!

Brad booked our tickets to the Rose Bowl parade and game through the Al Brooks Ticketing Agency almost a year ago. The package included awesome seats to the parade and special seating to the game. We had no guarantee that the kids or their partners would be able to join us.

It was a gamble that paid off in spades.

Sadly, our daughter Kyle’s husband, Will, was not able to join us, as his brother is on the coaching staff of Wisconsin. Wisconsin was in Tampa for their bowl game on the same day as the Rose Bowl. We missed Will during the entire trip. But, Kyle, and our son Ian and his partner Adam were with us for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Everything that could have gone right for the day, did. From easy-peasy access to the designated parking area for the parade (although we got up at 5 in order to be at the parade route by 6!), to the incredible weather, everything was perfect.

I got chills (and, okay, a few tears) at the start of the parade as the B-2 Stealth Bomber flew over the parade.

Television coverage doesn’t do the parade justice, as we witnessed all the incredible flowers that decorate the floats.

Then, the piece de la resistance! Game Time! Although our beloved Buckeyes from The Ohio State University didn’t make it into the Bowl as we hoped, Big Ten was represented incredibly well by the University of Michigan. As you likely know, the game went into a thrilling overtime and Michigan claimed the victory.

We scooted out in a flash, catching the drone show as we walked to the parking lot. We went back to our rental home and watched Washington beat Texas together in the cozy family room.

Our time ended all too soon. It’s always so hard to say goodbye to our kids, with Ian and Adam in Denver, and Kyle and Will in Atlanta. But before the final goodbyes, we were already planning our next adventures.

“Cause All I Wanna Do is Have Some Fun…”

It’s coming on Christmas…a message of hope

It’s coming on Christmas

They’re cutting down trees

They’re putting up reindeer 

Singing songs of joy and peace

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on...

So begins “River” written by Joni Mitchell.

It’s a “Christmas song for people who are lonely at Christmas time,” Joni said in an interview in 2021.

I fell in love with Robert Downey Jr’s rendition of this classic on the Ally McBeal: A Very Ally Christmas album, which came out in 1999.

Our daughter Claire LOVED the album’s feature artist, Vonda Shepard. She loved to sing along with many of the artist’s songs, preferring LOUD renditions, and solo. Fun memory of our little reader gone too soon.

“River” takes me back to that first Christmas in 2000 without Claire. So, so hard.

There were many times that all I wanted was to find a river I could skate away on.

Joni Mitchell’s version came on the radio yesterday morning, as I was watching a river of rain flow through our campground outside of Santa Cruz, California.

But it don’t snow here

It stays pretty green

While listening, really listening to the lyrics, the melody had its own meaning in my life. To me, the song didn’t represent loneliness. It reflected my journey through grief.

At some point in those early, hard years, I realized I no longer needed a river to skate away on.

I figured out that no matter how long that river was, I wasn’t going to be able to skate away to escape my pain.

What I really needed was a paddle to navigate the waters of grief, to face all of the emotions I was experiencing.

I wish I had a river so long

I would teach my feet to fly

Through the love and support of Brad, our kids, Kyle and Ian, family, friends, and a whole community, I paddled like hell, to the other side. They all taught my feet to fly, and my broken heart to soar.

As more time passed, I learned to toss the paddle aside and just let go. To let the current and tides take me wherever I was meant to be.

Far from being adrift, I feel as though I’ve let the shore come to me. I feel anchored.

I hope that if you are reading this, and dealing with grief in any form, that my message might offer a bit of hope.

It’s okay if you feel like you need a river to skate away on. I feel you.

It’s okay if you are feeling sad, angry, lonely or really pissed off especially during this time of year. I’ve been there.

I pray that life presents you with the guidance to steer you in the right direction.

And once you get there, that you can just let go.

It’s coming on Christmas

They’re cutting down trees

They’re putting up reindeer 

Singing songs of joy and peace

 

Photo credits: In order; BarbaraALane, Hans, and Starflames, Pixabay

 

 

 

Finding Nature’s Peace in Yosemite

I’m still struggling to come up with the words to describe our experiences in Yosemite National Park.

Perhaps these, from the “Father of the National Parks,” John Muir, say it best.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.”

Yosemite Valley

The view on the left was the first Brad and I witnessed of the Yosemite Valley from Big Oak Flat Road. Tears stung my eyes, taking in the grandeur of it all. The view of the iconic El Capitan and Half Dome in the distance with the Merced River winding along the base of the valley is breathtaking.

As we drove further along the route, Bridalveil Fall looms in the distance, the light winter stream of water originating in Ostrander Lake (ten miles south) cascading down the mountain. In the fall, the winds carry the water sideways, creating a veil-like appearance.

Native Americans call the falls Pohono, meaning “Spirit of the Puffing Wind.”

Tunnel View

My younger brother Gordie (eight-years my junior…this comes into play later in the post) visited Yosemite with his wife Debbie several years ago. Gordie served as tour guide for our initial expeditions, strongly recommending that we take in the Tunnel View, which the photographer Ansel Adams made famous.

The view is spectacular exiting the Wawona Tunnel off State Route 41.

Just as my words could not suffice, neither could any of our pictures. This shot, found on Yosemite.com captures the incredible viewpoint.Tunnel View Yosemite

Photo credit: Yosemite.com

Vernal Fall

So this is where younger brother Gordie comes back into the story. He recommended the Yosemite Falls trail. The hike is the longest and most strenuous in the park…and can take up to eight hours to hike. I think Gordie forgets our age difference sometimes. But, in comparison, the Vernal Fall/Nevada Fall hike seemed like it would be doable.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t research the trail too much before our hike. I discovered after our hike that Backpacker magazine rates the Mist Trail as one of the 10 most dangerous hikes. The trail can be slippery, but that’s not the real issue. Hikers can be idiots sometimes, not paying attention to barriers or understanding the power of the Merced River, which flows below both falls.

Having offered this, I would not discourage anyone from considering hiking the trail. Just be smart. And prepared.

The hike lulls you into a false sense of security with its fairly leisurely .08 mile hike to the footbridge at the base of the falls. Note the chart below. The start of the hike winds you gradually up the trail, then seems to take a vertical leap up to the top of the falls for the the remaining 1.2 miles.

Did I mention there were over 600 steps leading to the top?

I must admit to a bit of whining as we hoisted ourselves up the trail. It took a bunch of hits of water (H2O as Brad kept reminding me) and the site of young whippersnapper kids behind us nearly skipping up the steps to keep me going.

It was all worth it…

The Mist Trail and John Muir Trail overlaid side by side

Nevada Fall

Okay, so look back at that graphic above. Note how much steeper the trail gets to the top of Nevada Fall.

Much steeper.

Brad and I were at an impasse. Despite my Pilates/yoga/walking/biking/kayaking/golfing fitness level, my quads and calves were screaming at me. And they weren’t screaming for more…

Brad, on the other hand, was up for the challenge. More whining ensued. More deals were being made.

Did I mention we were the oldest hikers on the trail?

Thank goodness for a much younger hiker who seemed to be breezing his way back down the Nevada Fall trail.  He informed us that by hiking up a bit we’d find an outcropping that we could get a great view of the falls without hiking to the top. I could have kissed him.

Note my happy face below.

Two days later I’m still sore.

:

Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

The next day we ventured back into the park from our campground about an hour away. We hit Yosemite Village, first stop: the Welcome Center. Probably just as well we didn’t go there the first day, for when I asked the young forester about hikes, he offered the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail and the Cook’s Meadow trail.

When I told the forester that we’d hiked the Vernal Fall trail and to the base of Nevada Falls the day before, he raised his eyebrows in surprise and suggested that we might want to also consider the Valley Loop Trail, which although relatively flat, hikers can go up to 11.5 miles on.

After a stop at the Ansel Adams gallery and the Yosemite Museum, we roamed the Lower Yosemite Falls trail, enjoyed our packed picnic lunch, then ventured on.

 Mirror Lake Trail

This easy trail runs along Tenaya Creek and was quiet and peaceful. Most visitors opt for the paved trail that heads back to the lake (which is more like a pond this time of year), so we were pretty much roaming the woods among the boulders on our own for the two-mile hike.

Our feet and legs had just enough from the two days of hiking, so we didn’t venture further on the Valley Loop Trail.

Next time…

The Ahwahnee Hotel

Our last stop was the beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel built in the 192o’s for wealthy clientele. One look at the room rates and Brad and I observed that not much has changed over the years. It was fun people-watching in the lobby during our brief stop. Little sisters dressed in pajamas in the late afternoon, accompanied by grandfather to the Sweet Shop. Young couples gathered around the huge fireplace. Friends hanging out in the lobby bar, toasting one another.

Brad and I both agreed it would have been fun to grab a glass of wine to toast our visit, but the curvy hour-long road home awaited.

We also both agreed that we were done walking for the day, so caught one of the Yosemite complimentary shuttles back to our car in the Welcome Center parking lot. You can catch shuttles at many different locations at the park.

To wrap, Ansel Adams famously stated, “I knew my destiny when I first experienced Yosemite.”

As Brad and I both have had Yosemite on our bucket lists, it was our destiny to finally visit. Fate would have it that even though we traveled to the national park in December, although the Tioga Pass and the John Muir trail were closed for the winter, the weather was perfect. Snow in the distant mountains, but not on the roads. Cold in the mornings, but warm in the afternoons. Perfect hiking and exploring weather.

We highly encourage you to put it on your bucket list, and let “nature’s peace flow into you.”

 

 

 

 

Eureka! We Found Giants!

We discovered Giants in nature, art, architecture and industry in our adventures through Northern California.

Nature’s Giants

We had a relatively beautiful day weather-wise to venture into the land of the Redwoods. I loved driving the Avenue of the Giants, a tight, slightly 31-mile drive that parallels Highway 101 just south of where we were staying in Fortuna, California.

We hiked the Drury-Chaney Loop trail fairly early on in the drive. At the start of the trail, we met a woman who lost her wallet somewhere on the trail. I tried to keep my eyes on the trail, which helped with the appreciation of the gorgeous sorrel the blanketed the ground. But, when amongst these giants, all you can do is look up. And up.

I told Brad that I kept expecting dinosaurs to come charging through the forests, as they used to do. More than a hundred million years ago, redwood forests redwood forests dominated the Northern Hemisphere.

We were in awe at the fallen giants, their root structures small compared to the massive size of the trees. We were rather curious as to how this was possible. Then lo and behold, we came upon a sign explaining how the redwoods balance themselves out.

Our Jeep duck points the way through the Redwood Forest. Standing next to a fallen giant, and explanation of the science of the root structure.

Our hike was peaceful. We only  saw one other couple during our time on the trail, and a handful of foresters who were reinforcing some of the trails to meet ADA standards.

The floor of the forest was beautiful, with ferns and edible sorrel. Redwoods are resistant to insects, disease and fires. New trees sprout from the roots of old trees. Brad marveled at the massive width of the giants.

This is the Shrine drive-thru tree along the Avenue of the Giants. The height restriction was 7’7″…our kayaks were on top of the Jeep, so we wouldn’t have made it through. As much as I loved the overall drive, I’m not sure I would have come out from under the tree without a few scrapes.

Eureka Architecture

The next day we spent the afternoon in Eureka. As was so much of the west, Eureka (Greek for “I have found it!) was settled by those chasing dreams during the Gold Rush. We loved walking around the downtown area, which has over 20 building in the National Historic Registry.

Driving around Eureka we discovered the amazing diversity of the well-preserved homes in the city, from Tudors, to craftsmen and bungalows.

At the far edge of town is the Carson Mansion, built in 1884 by employees of lumber magnate William Carson. It is considered the most-photographed Victorian mansion in California, possibly the country. It is a private club primarily to preserve the iconic structure.

The Carson mansion

The Artist and the Automotive Enthusiast

While strolling the streets of downtown Eureka, we discovered this beautiful storefront display of the work of Romano Gabriel. To learn more about this Italian artist who made Eureka his home, click here.

Then, we stumbled into Carl’s Car World, a unique collection of automotive memorabilia created by Carl Schneider, a car racer, enthusiast and influencer in the automotive world. We loved learning about early automotive history, even seeing original drawings by Ferdinand Porsche.

#CarlsCarWorld #packard #bugatti #vw #Classiccars #Mercedesbenz #artistoninstagram #classiccar

And of course, a bookstore

I loved finding a perfect gift for a friend amongst the stacks at the adorable Eureka Books.

It was the perfect ending to a week filled with new discoveries.

E

Elemental

The elements come into play on our travels, whether motoring from one locale to another, or while we are camped out for any period of time.

Such has been the case in traversing from Idaho to Oregon, and then from our stop in Bend to our destination along the coast, Coos Bay.

Our timing on both legs couldn’t have been better. We missed storms moving into Idaho after we left, and we jumped ahead of storms moving through the mountains outside of Bend as we made our way to the ocean.

Idaho Ready: What you need to know about the chain up law ...How to put tire chains on a semi-truckO

Photo credit: Idaho Transportation Department and Schneider Truck website

In the mountains, one is always at risk of snow and ice. The signs along the way, noting “Chains Required When Flashing” are a bit disconcerting. Chains help vehicles grab the ice and snow for traction. Kind of like crampons for huge trucks. Fortunately we never had the warning flashing lights, for we didn’t invest in chains.

We would have had to turn back.

On our travels from Bend to Coos Bay, Route 58 between Route 97 and State Highway 5 was an absolutely beautiful trek, with Odell Lake and the Willamette River running alongside. Willamette Pass was a little nerve-wracking, with a decent amount of snow on the ground. But the roads were clear and dry.

Here is a glimpse at how the elements came into play on our adventures in Oregon…

Fire

Any opportunity to jump into our kayaks and paddle is a blessing, and such was the case in Bend. The kind folks at the outfitter, Tumalo Creek, directed us to a nice launching dock on the Deschutes River. They instructed us to paddle our way a couple of miles up river, then enjoy the current on the way back.

So what does a fun paddle on the Deschutes have to do with fire? In 1990, the Awbrey Hall Fire burned along the western flank of the city, jumping three major highways and destroying 22 homes and 3500 acres. Had we been able to continue paddling up river, we would have been near the Deschutes River Woods division that suffered the most damage.

We had a lovely evening catching up with a high school friend of Brad’s, Eric Davenport and his wife, Lynn. We visited them over ten years ago while traveling through Bend with our kids. The years dropped away as we hiked their property with Eric. In the distance, the view was hazy, from prescribed fires set to manage the forests. The photo below is from a Facebook page keeping residents advised of both controlled burns and wildfires.

After the hike we enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared by Eric, then warmed by their Russian fireplace in the center of their beautiful open family room/kitchen. The fireplace is highly efficient and beautiful. I sat on the hearth for a bit…it was quite toasty. The fun evening ended entirely too soon, but we were leaving early the next morning for Coos Bay.

Air

We’ve been blessed to be hunkering down at the Sun Outdoors Campground in Coos Bay. Our site is just 50 yards from the beach and ocean. It has rained the entire time we’ve been here, and the winds have been a gusting! The motorhome is shaking as I’m writing this, the winds howling up to 45 miles an hour.

We haven’t let the stationery front stop our fun…enjoying hikes on the beach in the mornings with Luna, and exploring the towns and coast over the last few days. We even took in a fun “Wine Walk” sponsored by the local Rotary Club in Coos Bay.

But, oh that wind. And Rain! This photo doesn’t nearly capture how angry the elements seem to be…the air howling, the waves crashing, the sand and rain drops pelting our skin. But hey, it could be snowing, right?

Water 

I never tire of being by water. The ocean, especially in storms, takes water to a whole different level. We marveled at a brave paddle boarder navigating the waves in a cove near our campground. The waves crashing against rocks at Cape Arago State Park at the tail-end of Route 540 were mesmerizing.

But, water can be deadly. We learned about King Tides, which occur along the Oregon coast when the Earth, sun, and moon are all aligned. The huge tidal waves occur about once a month…we just missed them when we arrived. A woman we met on the beach intrigued us with stories of people being swept out to sea from king tides. Note to self…don’t turn your back on the water during king tides. Yikes.

Earth

From water to earth…we were fascinated by the huge Bull Kelp that washed up on the beach near the campground. We could see the “holdfasts” that attach to submerged rocks out in the ocean. They reminded me of characters in the Pirates of the Caribbean! The stranded jelly fish always make me a bit sad…and we saw our fair share on the beach as a result of the rollicking tides. Luna was wise to avoid them on our beach hikes.

The last picture, of the Stellar, or Northern Sea Lions hanging out on the rock and in the waters along the coast of Cape Arango State Park, has a story. Or rather, what you don’t see in the picture offers story.

The tide was coming in as we watched the sea lions, captivated by their defiance of the force of water. The sea creatures were barking and crying away…trying to avoid losing their position on the rock to the hundreds waiting in the water. I thought it was a territorial thing, until I looked to where they kept casting their gaze.

There, on a rock below them, still, motionless was another Stellar sea lion. This creature did not move for the fifteen minutes we stood and watched. But the other sea lions did, seemingly agitated, moving back and forth on that rock, looking to the sea, then back to their newly departed friend.

Through my experiences and research in the past, I knew in my heart what was going on.

I looked up at Brad with tears in my eyes and said, “I think they are grieving.”

Brad squeezed my hand and gave me a big hug.

A touching end to adventures that provided us with many goosebump moments among the elements.

 

Homeful

Home*ful: adjective: having a place to live, not homeless. 2. enjoying time together in a home.

This word is not quite an official entry in any dictionary, but it suits our experiences in Salt Lake City as well as our visit with family in Caldwell, Idaho.

I’ll start with the beginnings of our adventures in the Mormon holy land. Brad and I went out to dinner at an awesome restaurant in downtown, just ten minutes from our campground. Zest Kitchen and Bar was an excellent choice, all-organic and gluten free. Yum. The tables were quite close to one another, and Brad and I began a conversation with four ladies sitting next to us. We asked the group what they might recommend to do in the area.

Their response? Go to Park City.

As a former employee of the Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau, it made me sad that a resident of any given city suggests that there was so little to do in their hometown, that they would recommend driving an hour away for entertainment.

It made me reflect on what home really means. And how one should have pride in their hometown.

And it made us bound and determined to discover the best of this city, despite the recommendation to go elsewhere. Here is what we discovered about the area, our home for six days.

The Great Salt Lake

We had an amazing time kayaking on the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere. The air temperature was maybe 50 degrees. I’m not sure what the water temperature was, and glad we didn’t find out. We had the lake to ourselves, as we paddled from the marina at the Great Salt Lake State Park out into the open waters. We noticed that kayaking on the water felt more buoyant due to the lake’s composition.

We saw brine shrimp in the lake, which are harvested from October 1st through January 31st. This harvest industry provides anywhere from ten to fifty million dollars to the area. To learn more about the harvests, look here.

The Tabernacle Choir

I still get chills thinking about our experience in seeing the Tabernacle Choir live, on a chilly, damp Sunday morning. I’d done my research before our visit, and learned that although you can take in organ recital rehearsals and performances throughout the week, the choir concerts are on Sunday mornings. Doors open at 8:30, doors close at 9:15, thirty-minute performance happens at 9:30. Parking is free in downtown on Sundays. Perfect.

When we arrived,  several hospitable young Mormon girls greeted and directed us to the balcony for the best acoustics. A staff photographer approached us during the rehearsal session and informed us that we had chosen the absolutely best seats.

The Tabernacle reminds me of something right out of the Wizard of Oz, expecting the wizard to appear from behind the huge pipe organ at any minute. The chorus of 360 voices was indescribable. All of the songs, and the brief message, were about gratitude. Check out the performance of Music & The Spoken Word.

Family Search

So, while in the Tabernacle, a kind Mormon woman reached out to me and we spoke of our desire to learn more about the city. She didn’t recommend we go to Park City. She suggested we visit the Family Search Library and conduct genealogy research. A young man named Kyle helped me navigate the site, and was incredibly empathetic as I included information on loved ones I’ve lost. Tears came in both our eyes as I included our daughter Claire, my siblings Karen and Kevin, my parents, my beloved Aunt Carol and my special Uncle Leon.

I felt a great sense of home as I discovered relatives I never knew about. I’d highly recommend creating your own account online and learning more about your ancestry.

Ensign Peak 

Two days after arriving in the area, Brigham Young and other leaders hiked up to this peak and envisioned the layout of the city. The drive up steep hills to the peak was a treat, the Capitol Building looming at the top. We timed our visit nearly perfectly, taking in the sunset and afterglow.

We met a young woman, Krista, along with her adorable little husky, Balto at the top. A graduate of The Ohio State University, we learned she moved to California after graduation, working remotely. After sharing common travel experiences, she proclaimed that she felt she should have been born into our family, with our wanderlust.

We’ve since connected on Instagram, and I have a feeling this won’t be the last we see of this young traveler.

Park City

Ok, so we figured we had to check Park City out. Unfortunately, the trail we intended to hike on was closed for the season. The holiday skiers had little snow. And the shops were overpriced, with local stores getting pushed out by chains. But, it was quaint, and the Wasatch Mountains were beautiful.

Still not a highlight I would recommend if I lived in Salt Lake City. Just sayin’.

Jordan River Trail

Okay, so this is where we experienced the polar opposite of Homeful.

The Jordan River Trail apparently offers over 60 miles of paved trails in Salt Lake City and beyond. We only witnessed a mile or so, as we attempted to make our way to a dog park to let Luna off-leashWhere we intended to walk was blocked off, due to a number of homeless people. It broke my heart to see the squalor, the trash, the “homes” made out of tarps, grocery carts, anything to provide shelter. More so, it hurt to see young men, unable to even look me in the face, strung out, just waiting for their next fix. Or the woman, who when we politely excused ourselves to pass her on the sidewalk, called out to us as we passed, “Sorry, you get a little slower after 60.”

If she only knew.

Out of respect, I didn’t take any pictures of those we saw in the parks, the streets. But the memories haunt me.

I can’t even imagine not having a home.

Caldwell, Idaho

So, after feeling a little lost among the homeless, we felt totally embraced by Brad’s stepbrother Michael, and his fiancée, Melissa, at their home in Caldwell, Idaho.

We were blessed to be included in their Friendsgiving celebration. We loved meeting their variety of friends, and enjoyed lively conversations. Michael roasted/smoked the turkey on the outside grill, and we all contributed side dishes to the feast. Their dogs Lucy and McKeever added to the fun throughout the weekend.

We took in a few of the Snake River Valley wineries in the area, including Hat Ranch, Huston, and Koenig.

Friday evening we walked around downtown Caldwell, taking in their wonderful holiday light display along Indian Creek, followed by a wonderful dinner at Grit restaurant.

Our travels in Salt Lake City and Idaho left us feeling grateful…for new adventures, family, new friends and most of all, HOME.