Tag Archives: Family
10 January, 2017

New Year’s in Los Angeles

Nobody goes to Los Angeles. They may say they do, but no. Those friends of yours who vacation in Santa Monica and Hermosa, or  one time partied in Hollywood or Beverly Hills? They probably never went to L.A. either. The closest they likely came to Los Angeles, the city, was a Lakers game. On the eve before New Year’s Eve, coming straight from the airport, we went to L.A. The city. Downtown. The only part of L.A. I’d ever been. The part that continues, to this day, to offer visitors a glimpse of what Manhattan, New York looked like thirty years ago, before Disney and the M&M Store moved in and squeezed the homeless and needle-pushers out.

Our good friends Katrina and Alan return to Los Angeles, the county, most winters to visit Alan’s family who still reside there. For as long as we’ve known them, we’ve been treated to stories of the incredible New Year’s Day feast that Alan’s mother assembles in Japanese tradition. Anyone who has read this blog for long likely knows the attachment I have for Japanese culture and food. So it should come as no surprise when I say that I’ve been angling for us to spend New Year’s in Los Angeles, with Alan’s family, for several years.

But the first stop was downtown.

Come for the Drinks, Skip the Food

There are times to wander around aimlessly, cafe-and-bar-hopping your way through a new place. Then there are times when it pays to have a plan, a local guide, and some friends to share the experience with. Our trip to Los Angeles, a sprawling massive region where it takes no less than 45 minutes to get anywhere, would have, at the least, required a lot more work on our part if not for Katrina’s planning — and their family sedan.

Still, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised — and concerned — when it was revealed that our first stop would be downtown. At a cafeteria, no less.

My prior L.A. experience consisted entirely of visits to the convention center and shuttle-vans to and from my hotel on Grand. I knew enough to know that downtown L.A. was 1) a dump, and 2) not a place anyone ever went. That being said, Clifton’s Cafeteria, the “World’s Largest Cafeteria” from “The Golden Age of Cafeterias” (their words) is a heck of a sight. Massive redwoods and boulders, crystals, and plant life give the towering multi-story cafeteria a mystical outdoorsy feeling while somehow avoiding the cheesiness of Rainforest Cafe. The cafeteria’s Forest Glen setting is said to have inspired Walt Disney.

The Atrium at Clifton’s Cafeteria. Photo from www.discoverlosangeles.com

But while the food itself, bland home-style country staples, could be easily forgotten (if, unlike me, your stomach allows it) the numerous bars occupying the bulk of Clifton’s space in the old rundown theater district on South Broadway, are sure to be remembered. A modest dress code — no sneakers or t-shirts, look spiffy — is enforced for the upper bars where Art Deco decor and period-dressed servers and bartenders await. Drinks are pricey, at $14 each, but the speakeasy-vibe of the “secret” Pacific Seas tiki bar (hidden atop a stairwell behind a mirrored false-wall) adds a sense of intrigue to the night. Unfortunately, the 60s-era Chris-Craft speedboat in the bar offered no additional seating and we retreated to the spacious, yet frigid, Gothic Bar. A fine spot.

Inside The Last Bookstore. Photo from www.welikela.com

From there we walked a few blocks over to The Last Bookstore, a shop I had just heard about that week. The lower floor is like any other indie bookstore, though with an expansive rare books section that, unfortunately for me, was primarily art books (though they did have a 1st edition Catcher in the Rye in not-good condition). But upstairs, they’ve piled their books in such a way as to create several book sculptures and other installations that are truly worth visiting. There are also several art galleries along the walkway and a tunnel of LED-lit books you can walk through which was very neat. I picked up Silence, the book that inspired the upcoming Martin Scorsese film about the Christian Japanese from the early 17th century. It just so happens that one of the characters in my work-in-progress is also from that era.

Pre-Partying Around Hollywood

We were staying at a house we rented on AirBnb, near Alan’s family in Torrance. This location was not only close to his parents, but also right near the King’s Hawaiian restaurant and bakery, an absolutely fantastic place to have breakfast. Nobody bakes a cake like the Hawaiians. A fact we were reminded of later that day, after watching some football, when Alan’s parents surprised Kristin with a guava, passion fruit, and lime birthday cake that was even better than it sounds.

But yes, it was Kristin’s birthday and it was New Year’s Eve, and we had plans. Despite the unseasonable cold and drizzle, we donned our suits and dresses and went out for a night on the town. First stop: a stroll down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. All of the shops were closed, the tourists had mostly gone home, and we were able to enjoy some nice window shopping at our leisure. We have many of the same shops in nearby Bellevue, but luxury retailers aside, Rodeo is just a nice street to go for a walk, especially when everything is lit up for Christmas.

Rodeo Drive. Photo from www.viceroyhotelgroup.com

From there, we cut through a neighborhood of gated, outrageously expensive homes to Sunset Boulevard, and up to Yamashiro, a Japanese restaurant and bar in the style of an Edo-period palace. It’s tremendous looking and offers a fantastic view of greater L.A. from atop its hill in Hollywood Heights. Sadly, only those staying for the New Year’s Eve party (with $50 cover charge) could get in. We merely wanted an early evening pre-dinner drink so had to move along. Definitely a place to return to in the future.

Fortunately, we found a great bar right on Hollywood Boulevard, smack dab between the restaurant we were eating at and the Egyptian Theater, where the party we had tickets for was located. Some drinks and free tequila shots later, we went to The Musso and Frank Grill, an old steakhouse from 1919 that was a frequent haunt of A-listers during Hollywood’s golden age. We spotted no celebrities (nor were we looking for any) but we had a terrific meal. Veal, filet mignon, prime rib, and lamb chops were on order, and each were delicious. I’m still partial to Seattle’s Metropolitan Grill f0r when it comes to high-end steak houses, but Musso and Frank was certainly a cut above Ruth’s Chris and Morton’s, not just in food, but ambiance too.

The four of us at Musso and Frank Grill.

Scamming Like It’s 2017

Our friends have had great luck attending themed NYE parties in L.A. on prior years, usually getting tickets ahead of time through GoldStar, a membership discount site for events and concerts. This year, we settled on a party at the Egyptian Theater. VIP tickets, at a discounted $70 each, were supposed to get us into an extra area or two. In reality, despite arriving by 10:30, the main indoor space was jam packed. The lines for drinks (open bars, included in price) stretched around the block and back to 2012. We waited and pushed, and eventually got in. Only to find the main space packed with hundreds of people, far beyond fire safety codes, and with no chance of getting a drink. I descended the stairs in a search for a restroom and stumbled across the room our yellow wristbands were supposed to get us into.

But instead of going in, we made the mistake of going back outside, convinced the VIP area was somewhere else. It wasn’t.

And then, in those minutes that we were back outside in the frigid outdoor courtyard area, the line to get in had grown so long that it was effectively a mob scene. A stationary stampede of humanity pressing against a single open door. For forty minutes we stood in line trying to get back inside the space we shouldn’t have left. Now and then a staff member would escort a private party of six inside, those who paid thousands of dollars to reserve a table. The “bottle service” option.

It was 11:40. There was no getting inside. For anyone. The wristbands mattered nothing. Everyone had one.

We went back to the bar near the entrance and got another pair of drinks. But first, a trip to the port-a-potties. Formal wear, frigid temps (for L.A.) and five port-a-potties with a line of over 40 people waiting for them. Nevermind.

We were furious. The party was a complete scam. The outdoor music was horrible, they sold too many tickets, had too few bars, too few restrooms. And the inside area was a deathtrap, crammed with far too many people. Everyone we talked with was furious.

Determined to not be in line for a port-a-potty at midnight, or stewing in our fury, we exited the scam of a party and ran back across the street to the hole-in-the-wall bar we were in before. We made our way to the back room (the place was now packed) and quickly made some new friends and toasted and danced in the new year.

Alan graciously stopped drinking at one in the morning and was able to drive the rest of us home at three.

A great night saved from disaster.

The Japanese Feast for 2017

Ignoring the leftover birthday cake I munched down at 3am, we began our 2017 in traditional Japanese style, with ozoni, a brothy soup featuring a big piece of mochi. Ozoni is the obligatory first meal of the new year. Personally, I’m not a fan of mochi unless its got a scoop of ice cream inside it, but the broth was very tasty and well, of course we were going to eat it.

The four of us excused ourselves over to Culver City where, right across from Sony Pictures, is a bar that serves as the homebase for Seahawks fans in southern California. Dee-jays played music and emceed during commercial breaks, free blue and green mystery shots were served at halftime, and dozens of displaced Seahawks fans cheered and jeered the victory over the lowly Forty-Niners.

Back at the family home, a table with tens of dishes awaited us, as did many of Alan’s family members. In addition to comfort food like grilled pork and chicken, BBQ shrimp, char-siu, and gyoza, there were plenty of specific foods and dishes served for their symbolic meaning. Daikon, burdock root, and carrots — all root vegetables — were served to strengthen the family roots. Dried kelp, kombu, was served to inspire joy. Tiny dried fish (which were served fried and really tasty), gomame, are eaten for good health. Lotus Root, renkon, was cut in round slices to symbolize the Buddhist wheel of life. Black beans are also eaten for health while a very tasty chestnut dish signifies mastery of success.

Just some of the food for the New Year’s Day feast!

Kristin and I stayed away from the herring roe which is eaten to increase fertility. We did partake in the carp which is eaten for its indomitable spirit.

And on and on it went. So. Much. Food. Deserving special mention were the caramel macaroons which Alan’s nephew made. Macaroons far lighter and more delectable than any we had in Paris.

New Year’s Day had traditionally been a non-event for us. A day to relax and clean up from the holidays, perhaps. But this year it was so much more. We got to spend it with great friends and their wonderful family. We ate delicious multi-cultural food, learned a bit about its significance, and swapped travel stories and more. It was a fantastic day, I won’t soon forget.

Six Flags and a Beach Cruise

We finished up our time in L.A. with a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain on Monday, but only after a breakfast stop at Gardena Bowl. You read that right, we went to a bowling alley for breakfast. This is where having a local comes in handy, as there’s simply no way we would have known of such a place. In fact, Gardena Bowl was where Alan used to bowl in the 80s and its Hawaiian-Asian cafe is a local hot spot. We had to wait for a table at 9am, but the wait was worth it, for the sausage and egg mix.

Magic Mountain was cold and crowded so after realizing that the lines were over two hours for each ride, we scurried back to the entrance booth and bought the Flash Pass. It ended up nearly tripling the entrance fee per person, but we never had to wait for more than ten minutes, and most times we just walked right on to the rides. Still, because we’re not awful people, we did feel bad about bypassing a three-hour wait to board immediately. Alas, we only attend these amusement parks every few years. It’s worth it.

Tuesday, our last day in Los Angeles, was spent at the beach. We rented bikes in Hermosa and rode north six miles past Manhattan Beach to El Segundo. L.A. County has a paved bike path that stretches from Palos Verde, south of Redondo Beach, thirty miles north to Malibu, rarely crossing any streets and routinely swept free of sand. We didn’t go far on account of the bad cold I had caught over the weekend, but we got a nice taste of the Strand and the hundreds of beach volleyball courts set up near Manhattan Beach, the dozens of surfers braving the cold, and the oodles of jaw-dropping homes perched above the beach.

The Strand bike path going past Manhattan Beach. Photo from www.caskeyandcaskey.com

We didn’t have time to visit Venice Beach, but did have lunch at the famed Santa Monica Pier, the terminus of Route 66. An excellent way to cap off our L.A. trip.

California Kindness

One thing that I would be remiss not to mention is just how friendly everyone in L.A. was. I always noticed this during my many business trip to Southern California, but it bears repeating. I can’t stress how nice it was to spend all that time, often in very crowded places — bars, amusement parks, nightclubs, and restaurants — with so many friendly, polite people. People of all walks of life, of all nationalities. Every one of them, from fast food workers to other club goers, were all so nice and approachable and friendly. No posturing. No distant coldness. No aggression or agitation. Just a polite mellow that made the whole experience so much more enjoyable than if it had been nearly anywhere else I’d ever been or lived.

In some ways, this added an extra layer of Japaneseyness to the weekend. After all Japan and southern California are the only places I’ve ever been where employees and guests alike seem to focus on making sure that everyone’s experience is as great as it can be. There’s a quality of life in SoCal that is hard to replicate anywhere, and it’s not just for those in the multi-million dollar homes on the beach or in the hills. Its ingrained in the people. The people who might be taking your order. The people you might be waiting in line behind. The people you might strike up conversation with at a bar. The people are just friendly.

Such a shame that it’s noteworthy.

Special Thanks: To Alan and Katrina for being such great friends and for inviting us to join you in your family’s New Year’s celebration. To Alan’s parents, Aiko and Sam, for being such gracious hosts. Thank you so much for everything! To the rest of Alan’s family, thank you all for making us feel so welcome. We hope to see you all again soon! And last but not least, thanks to Jeremy and Jessica for watching our beloved Juniper while we were gone. You’re the best!

24 February, 2015

A Winter to Remember

The thermometer read -8.7º F (-22º C) when I came down for coffee this morning. The snow outside, blanketing the field out the window of the bedroom-turned-office I spend my days in, fell over a month ago. It doesn’t melt, it only deepens, compacts, and hardens. I had forgotten what winter felt like. Sure, we’d get occasional snowstorms and a couple days below freezing at our house in western Washington, but winter weather — real winter weather — was something we dealt with only by choice. It was tucked away in the mountains to our east, always there if you wanted to visit, but not something that you had to deal with on a daily basis.

Short-lived snow showers like this one don't add up to much, but sure look pretty coming down.

Short-lived snow showers like this one don’t add up to much, but sure look pretty coming down.

It’s been 17 years since Kristin and I spent a winter in the northeastern United States, and even then it was only to bundle up for the dash across a Pennsylvania college campus. With no shoveling responsibilities of our own back then, it hardly counts. So, in reality, it’s been over two decades since we experienced winter life in New Jersey, dealing with the cold and the snow and wind-chill and the ever-changing road conditions and fretting about the lack of tire-tread on the car we’re driving.

IMG_2776_SoloTreeSnow

One of the many snowy days since our return to NJ.

This much I now know: Sub-freezing temperatures feel a lot warmer when you only experience them while strapped into a snowboard or snowshoeing through knee-deep powder with a pack on your back. Recreation makes everything better. Warmer. Running errands, going for a walk, and taking the garbage out, on the other hand, exposes you to a cold I had long since forgotten existed. We’ve been back in New Jersey for over a month and the daytime temperature has only risen above freezing a half-dozen times in that span. Too many days failed to exceed 26º F (-3º C). The layer of ice on the driveway and front walk has existed for over three weeks. An inch-thick slab with no signs of budging, it has stubbornly ignored the sprinklings of salt and chemical de-icer I apply.

Went for a hike on the mountain bike trails at nearby Chimney Rock Park, one of the first places I ever mountain bikes with my brother.

Went for a hike on the mountain bike trails at nearby Chimney Rock Park, one of the first trails I rode with my brother.

There was a period last summer, during our ride through New England, when we began to think that settling in Vermont might be worth considering in order to be closer to family. As far as New England states go, Vermont’s geography and politics offers a close approximation to western Washington, its landlocked nature aside. But now? Hell no, screw that, not in a million years! The cold and snow we’ve been bemoaning for the past month in New Jersey is but a mere sample of a typical Vermont winter. No thank you. The inevitable drought that will plague the Pacific Northwest  later this year could be severe, but those balmy spring-like conditions Seattle has been enjoying lately sure seem nice from this side of the country.

I wrote most of the preceding paragraphs yesterday morning: then the ambulance came.

Kristin’s father was in terrible pain throughout the weekend, pain that was suddenly manifesting in nausea and trembling. The comforts of home were no longer enough to keep him comfortable. Fortunately, he’s got a great team of doctors and was admitted into the hospital, assigned a cozy single-patient room, and is close enough to home for frequent family visits. It may or may not be directly related to the cancer, we’ll know more soon.

Nothing like a walk through the woods on a freezing cold day.

Nothing like a walk through the woods on a freezing cold day.

Life is a funny thing. We’ve been back in the United States for over six weeks now and, if we’re being honest, we really miss our bikes. We think about them daily, miss being on the move, and have even questioned the length of this unexpected trip home. Sure, we’ve gotten to spend more time visiting family this winter than we have in years, but it’s not our nature to sit idle. We’re restless people.  We just want to get going again. But then something like yesterday happens and we’re so relieved that we happen to be here. Kristin’s mother was glad that Kristin was in the house to call her sisters as she dealt with the EMTs. Kristin, in turn, was happy to hand the phone to me when she began to sob. Our brothers-in-law were both available to accompany Kristin’s sisters to the hospital while we babysat our niece and nephew.  The day went as well as it could, the strength of this family I’m happy to have married into fully on display. Back home after another visit, I cooked dinner so Kristin’s mother could pack a bag and get back to the hospital quickly. Kristin tended to her father’s pertinent email as her sisters called with updates from the hospital. Nobody needed us to be here, but we’re sure glad we were.

Kristin's parents dogs enjoying the snowy weather from the comforts of their chair.

Kristin’s parents dogs enjoying the snowy weather from the comforts of their chair.

Kristin and her dad were supposed to have left for Washington D.C. yesterday morning for a three-night father-daughter getaway. They had even arranged for a tour of the White House with the local Congressman. That trip to D.C., the other Washingtonisn’t going to happen. Or maybe it will. The one thing we’ve learned this past year is to not try and predict the future. We were supposed to be in Greece by now. We’re not. Instead, we’re headed to Japan in two weeks. Or maybe not.  We’re flexible.

Future Travel: When we left Italy last month we did so planning to spend March and April in Japan before heading to Bhutan for an 11-day trek in the Himalaya. That trip was cancelled last week due to a shortage of signups (we declined the option to pay extra for a private tour, as it was already budget-bustingly expensive to begin with). Not wanting to head back to North America or Europe after just going to Japan, we decided to book the entire month of May in Bali, in a small house in Ubud that will serve as a perfect writer’s retreat and basecamp for exploring Bali, Lombok, and Komodo. I miss surfing. Kristin misses yoga.

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Special Thanks: Kristin wanted me to once again thank you all for the wonderful comments and encouragement you left in response to our Detours Ahead post and to make sure we provided you, our faithful readers and friends, a short update. Those wanting a bit more information might be interested in this article about Kristin’s father, Eric, that was recently published in the local paper here in NJ. We’d also like to thank my mother for her generous contribution to our “cherry blossom party” and her sister Susan, my aunt, for a lovely Valentine’s Day gift. And to all of our family and friends who we’ve spent time with this past six weeks, letting us eat your food and drink your beers.

23 January, 2015

Surprises, Ghost Stories, and a Road Trip

“Do you see them? Maybe Dad’s sleeping. Do you see anyone?” I hid in the corner by the front door peppering Doug with questions as he rang the doorbell to my parent’s Florida beach house. I had butterflies in my stomach and couldn’t wait to see the look on their faces. After all, they thought we were cycling somewhere south of Naples, Italy, not driving north from Naples, Florida.

“Shhh, your dad’s coming. Get ready!”

The door opened and Doug and I jumped out. I gave dad a huge hug and kiss and said, “I got your email this morning and came right away.” He went white and looked like he had seen a ghost and didn’t say a word. We’d later realize it was just the shock of seeing us, but he looked deathly ill. I thought he might faint from shock and Doug was ready to catch him.

Email? That was the most amazing part of this surprise. Let me explain.

For the past year, my parents were planning to come meet us somewhere in Turkey in March.  But about a week after Doug and I bought our plane tickets to Miami, dad emailed asking if I would consider taking a few days off while Doug watched the bicycles and gear, so he and I could spend a few days together in Europe alone. He wanted to go in late-January or early-February instead of waiting until March. He said his pain management was getting a bit more difficult and he didn’t want to wait until he was too drugged up to enjoy our time together. I knew that my dad didn’t want to interrupt our trip for his illness; he must have thought long and hard before asking. After rereading it, I smiled, and insisted that I come to the United States so he didn’t have to endure an eight hour flight. He said that he still wanted to come to Europe and suggested meeting up in Athens.

Nearly every tree in Savannah drips with Spanish Moss.

Nearly every tree in Savannah drips with Spanish Moss.

So Doug and I spent the past several weeks being vague about our itinerary for the coming months and evading my dad’s efforts to start making plans. I still questioned whether returning to the U.S. was the right choice: Was I depriving my dad of one more trip overseas or was he was really coming to Europe just because I was there and he was afraid he’d never see me again? It wasn’t long before I knew we had definitely chosen the right time.

After a lovely month in Italy and a visit to Everglades National Park, we were ready to finally surprise my parents. We split the drive from the southern tip of Florida in half and spent that Sunday night in Naples, Florida, camped out at a sports bar watching the NFL playoffs. The next morning, right before we left the hotel, I checked my email one more time and saw that an email from my dad arrived. It was titled, “Our Trip” and detailed some unexpected medical issues he was having that almost cancelled his trip to Florida. He also hesitantly asked if I would still be willing to come to the U.S. and perhaps spend a few days with him at the beach house in Florida. This is the email I referred to above when he opened the front door. Doug and I drove away from the hotel and were giddy with excitement.

And that brings us back to the front step of my dad’s house when we arrived. “We got your email and came as fast as we could,” Doug joked. He had only sent it that morning. Dad eventually found the words to invite us out back to sit on the lanai with him until mom returned from lunch with some friends. When we heard her car drive up, Doug and I hid in the corner. Dad went inside to meet her and ushered her out back insisting that she come see something. We sprung out from our hiding place and tears welled up in my mom’s eyes and she hugged me tightly for a long time. After seeing my parents’ reaction to our arrival, there was no doubt in my mind that we had made the right decision at the right time. My parents believe our arrival was divine intervention.

Doug and I only stayed for three days so my parents could enjoy some time alone before returning to work in New Jersey. Not wanting to miss a chance for a road trip, we drove my father’s gold Cadillac to his house in NJ.

Kristin slept soundly knowing I was on ghost patrol.

I slept soundly knowing Doug was on ghost patrol.

Our first stop was Savannah, Georgia. We never made it there during our five years living in Greenville, NC, and always regretted that. Same for Charleston, South Carolina. We finally did, if only for two nights. We arrived at the 17hundred90 Inn, supposedly one of the haunted hotels in Savannah. While I do believe in ghosts, I’ve never seen one or evidence of one and didn’t expect to see anything unusual. We spent the evening relaxing and after a good night sleep in the cozy, nest-like bed, Doug returned from his shower to let me know that “Anna” was very clearly written in the fog on the mirror. Our scientific minds went to work and quickly wrote it off as one of the staff writing on the mirror with RainX to be revealed only after a steamy shower. After all, the hotel had a reputation to uphold. Neither Doug nor I thought much of this when we mentioned it to the manager and housekeeper while we ate our breakfast. Their reactions told a different story. They both looked quite surprised and the housekeeper said to the owner, “Don’t tell the other girl cleaning the rooms. She won’t go up there if she knows.” These women were either great actors or there was more to this ghost story. The manager asked if it was written in lipstick, as some guests have had that happen to them.

As a former Girl Scout, I couldn't come to Savannah without  stopping by the Juliette Gordon Low house. Anybody want to buy some cookies?

As a former Girl Scout, I couldn’t come to Savannah without stopping by the Juliette Gordon Low house. Wanna buy some cookies?

After a nice breakfast we headed out to wander the streets of Savannah. It was a bit dreary in January, but we enjoyed the day out of the car. We walked around seeing several historical buildings and Forsyth Park where we saw the Confederate Memorial, fountains, and beautiful Spanish moss dripping from the many varieties of trees. We agreed that the gardens and parks must be beautiful in the spring and is probably worth a return trip. After a few hours, the cold temperatures got the better of us and we returned to our room to warm up and enjoy the fire. Doug was stretched out on the sofa and I was on an arm chair a few feet away enjoying our cups of coffee when I got up to grab something from the other room. When I returned, Doug’s laptop bag was on my chair. Neither of us put it there. Then, just a few hours later, Doug called across the room asking why I opened the door to the adjoining room. I didn’t. We both looked at each other and decided that Anna was in fact real and while we didn’t see her, as some other guests mentioned on Trip Advisor, she certainly made herself known.

We rolled out of Savannah the next morning continuing north towards North Carolina. We were fortunate to meet up with one of Doug’s friends from his childhood, Christy, and her family in New Bern, NC. We had a great dinner and lovely evening catching up and playing with their adorable children. As we were wrapping up the evening, Christy mentioned that she always remembered how Doug used to ask all the girls to dance at their 7th and 8th grade dances so that no one felt left out. What a sweet husband I have! But I already knew that!

The next morning, we took a slight detour eastward to the small town of Chocowinity to see the land we own. We bought it on a whim about 15 years ago after seeing an ad in the paper. What had started as a “let’s go take a look” trip ended with a signature and an acre and a half of land about a half mile off the water. As you can see, we have a long history of making impulsive decisions. It looked just as we remembered. We parked in front and walked down to the water remembering the excitement we first felt of walking just 10 minutes to be in the water kayaking or paddle boarding. It still is a great spot. Options…

We might never build a house in NC, but with a bay like this just a short walk from our land, it sure is tempting.

We might never build a house in NC, but with a bay like this just a short walk from our land, it sure is tempting.

We continued north over the 20 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on a beautifully sunny, but frigid day. It is an amazing structure built in 1964 with three elevated spans and two tunnels, each a mile in length. The first and only other time we went this way was the first time we drove to North Carolina to look for apartments before our wedding. I wondered how 18 years had already passed. We stopped for the night in Rehoboth, DE, before getting on the ferry to Cape May, NJ. Never heard of Rehoboth? I hadn’t either, but lucky for me, Doug knew it was where Dogfish Head Brewery was. We had many interesting, and quite strong beers that night. We also made some new friends. The wait for a table was over 30 minutes and when we were finally called we invited a couple we had been chatting with in line to join us. We had a wonderful evening and they were so appreciative that they surprised us with a bottle of Dogfish Head’s Wit Spiced Rum. The kindness of others continues to follow us on our journey.

After many days of sunshine, clouds and rain finally caught up to us as we were boarding the ferry to NJ so there were no views to be had on the boat or the drive. We arrived at Doug’s sister’s house around 1 p.m. on Sunday which allowed for plenty of time to get settled and make final preparations before an afternoon of football. Our beloved Seahawks somehow found a way to beat the Packers in the final minutes of the game. It was an unlikely victory but so much fun to finally be watching football with family instead of alone in the middle of the night in a hotel room. Jessica had Monday off, so we were able to watch movies, catch up, and relax. It was so nice to just be still and lazy for the day.

My niece was so excited to decorate Doug with Disney princess stickers.

My niece was so excited to decorate Doug with Disney princess stickers.

We left Tuesday morning to spend the day with Doug’s mom before driving to my parents’ house where we would finally be able to settle in one spot for several weeks. That is not to say that we will be lazing around doing nothing. We each have some big projects in mind that we’ll talk more about in our next post, but for now, we are both relieved to know that we are in the right place at the right time.

Special Thanks: We want to again say thank you to everyone who has sent well wishes for Kristin’s father and our family. We so appreciate everyone’s thoughts, prayers, and support during this difficult time.

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12 January, 2015

Detours Ahead

“And then, after Italy, we’ll continue east through Greece and Turkey before heading up into Georgia and making our way across Central Asia to China.” I could see the hotel manager’s imagination was running wild, his eyes widened as they panned across the map of our proposed route. He asked how long it would take to reach Vietnam. I told him about a year, Insha‘Allah. “Unless we get bored and sell the bikes halfway across Uzbekistan,” I thought, updating my oft-used, pre-trip disclaimer about North Dakota. I always completed that attempt at downplaying our plans by adding: “And buy a one-way ticket to Tahiti.”

I wasn’t thinking about Tahiti at the moment, but neither Kristin nor I shared the manager’s excitement. We were spent. And it wasn’t all the time spent on the bike either, but just being on the move. No, the number that wore us down wasn’t the 9,000 miles we had pedaled to reach the Sahara, but the 170 different places we had slept in within a span of 8 months. The topic of taking some time off – measured in weeks or months and not days – became part of our nightly dinner conversation.

The conversations continued, even several days later after returning from an overnight camel trek in the Sahara, only then they were peppered with phrases like “bucket list” and “once-in-a-lifetime.” And it got us thinking about our lifelong travel wish-lists: African safaris, cruising to Antarctica, trekking in the Himalaya, and visiting Easter Island were just a few of the dream excursions that were mentioned.

And few of them fell along that line we drew across the map several years ago.

I forget who first mentioned it, but we were soon agreeing that we had lost track of what made us take this trip. Our goal was never to bicycle around the world, our wish was to take a mid-life timeout and travel, uninhibited, for as long as we had the money to do so. The bikes were merely a means of conveyance; the trip around the world, simply a compass bearing. And, frankly, the bikes were starting to get in the way of that. We developed stock, disarming, answers to all of the myriad questions posed to us over the past few years. From the one about North Dakota and Tahiti to our canned response of “when our money or desire runs out” when asked how long the trip would take. It would seem, with 65% of our budget then still intact, that desire was the first to show fatigue.

We spent the day after Christmas boxing up our gear and bicycles.

Giving new meaning to “Boxing Day”, we spent the day after Christmas boxing up our gear and bicycles.

Before we share our plans for the immediate future, we must first address the elephant in the tent: Kristin’s father has an advanced, rare cancer that’s terminal. He was diagnosed two years ago and was able to curtail its spread until this past autumn when the effectiveness of his treatment options met their end; the cancer has begun growing again, albeit slowly. Whereas I have used campground and hotel Wi-Fi to work on the website, upload photos, and play PC games, Kristin has often used it to put her biotech experience and industry contacts to work in researching clinical trials options for her father. Her father’s condition was always in our minds, leading Kristin to bury her tear-streaked face in my shoulder on the side of the road on more than one occasion. As you can imagine, it was a difficult decision to even start this trip. But, as long as he was feeling well – which he fortunately still is, even now – and we were within a flight’s reach of family, we felt that it didn’t matter if we were back home in Snoqualmie or somewhere abroad. Her family kept their protests to a minimum and respected our ability to do the right thing. The only request came from her father: “Just promise me you won’t be halfway around the world when I’m dying,” he asked. We promised.

We spent the night camped out in a cafe at the Dusseldorf airport, waiting for our connecting flight to Miami.

We spent the night camped out in a cafe at the Dusseldorf airport, waiting for our connecting flight to Miami.

One of the things that helped us get through the occasional bouts of homesickness this past year was remembering that everything would still be there when we returned. If we’re lucky.

It’s time to cut to the chase: our bikes, panniers, and camping gear are currently in storage in Rome. We plan to return in early September, after the crowds disperse, and continue our tour through Italy, Greece and Turkey at that time. And after that? Central Asia. The original plan, continued. Or not. Money and desire…

So where are we?

We are here!

There we are!

By the time you read this, we’ll have surprised Kristin’s parents at their beach house in Florida (after a brief trip to Everglades National Park). We were going to spend a month or two in Florence, Italy, but decided that it made more sense for Kristin to spend that time with her father than it did sitting idle in an Italian apartment. This is also a chance to take advantage of a very unique opportunity we have. So often, as we age, and family turns ill, we become so busy with our own responsibilities and obligations that we can’t just drop everything and spend as much time with our loved ones as we might in a perfect world. Kristin and I are in a unique position right now: willingly unemployed, homeless, and without a schedule. All of the same reasons we used to convince ourselves to undertake this journey, we now use to convince ourselves that this temporary pause is the right thing to do. And the thoughts we used to ward off homesickness now remind us that we’re not going to miss anything. Athens and Istanbul will still be there later this year.

Watching the gator swim under our boardwalk.

Watching the gator swim under our boardwalk at Everglades National Park.

Taking some time off the bikes was something we had discussed several times over the last month, but our discussion of “bucket list” items reminded me of two things that I’ve longed to do for many, many years. I got so used to these ideas being out-of-reach that I completely forgot about them. Back when I was a broke graduate student and Kristin and I were routinely juggling our bills to keep the lights on (not always successfully), I used to sit and page through the Mountain Travel Sobek catalog, daydreaming of visiting far-flung exotic locations. The one destination that always stood out was Bhutan, the Buddhist “Land of the Thunder Dragon” in the Himalaya with some of the tightest tourist limits on the planet. I’m ecstatic to report that we’re (tentatively) booked for an 11-day trekking trip to Bhutan at the end of April.

This heron sat completely motionless for a long while.

This heron sat completely motionless for a long while.

And before that? My favorite travel memory was a six-day trip to Japan I did in 2009, stretching a pair of two-hour business meetings with Platinum Games in Osaka into a memory of a lifetime. Japan was, and remains, my absolute favorite destination. And the more I raved about my time in Japan, the more Kristin regretted not being able to come along (we were hosting a Korean exchange student at the time). I always said that when we finally made it back to Japan, I wanted to go for at least a month and follow the cherry blossoms northward as they painted the islands in pink and white petals. And, family concerns permitting, that’s what we’re going to do. The yen has fallen a lot since I was there six years ago (nearing a ten-year low versus the dollar) so there’s no sense in delaying, especially if we need to be in that corner of the world for our trip to Bhutan. So, in March, we’re going to head home to the Seattle area to spend some time with friends and retrieve some items from storage, then continue on to Japan, without our bikes, and follow the sakura northward across Honshu and Hokaido islands. The shutter button on my camera will get a workout, for sure.

A particularly camera-friendly cormorant.

A particularly camera-friendly cormorant.

So, the blog isn’t going to be about bicycle touring for a few months. Nevertheless, we’ll still be posting every one to two weeks and hope you continue to follow along as we document our travels in words and photos. We’ll be back to posting bike-related content once we return to Italy later this year and throw legs back over our trusty Salsa Fargos.

On our way back to the docks after a spontaneous 3-hour canoe trip in the Everglades.

On our way back to the docks after a spontaneous 3-hour canoe trip in the Everglades.

This was a hard choice to make, as we had to beat back the inevitable feelings of our decision signaling a failure or that we were quitting. It isn’t and we’re not. But I’m particularly sensitive to those feelings, given a small list of key regrets I carry through life. Oddly enough, the decision to box up the bikes and take some time off was even harder than pedaling across another mountain range, despite how much our bodies – and our hearts – knew doing so was the right thing to do. It would seem that we had reached a point where continuing to pedal onward, even though we weren’t enjoying it as much and had family concerns on the mind, had somehow become the easy thing to do. Weird, huh?

Part of that is your fault. So many of you have shown such great dedication in reading and commenting on the blog and on Facebook, and in so generously providing support and hospitality, that we simply didn’t want to let you down. We hope our detour isn’t a disappointment and that you understand our need to temporarily change gears, switch to the fast lane, and jump ahead a few dozen degrees of longitude.

Thanks for reading. We hope you continue to do so.

1 August, 2014

Atlantic Crossing

After four wonderful weeks in NJ visiting family and friends, we are back on the road, or more accurately, sailing towards new roads. We boarded the Queen Mary 2 on July 28th to begin the international (sorry Canada) portion of our trip. We’ll land in Southampton, UK on August 5th and the following day board a train for Inverness, Scotland where we will finally start cycling again. We’re eager to be back on the bikes, but for now are enjoying a few days of pampered relaxation reminiscing about our not-so-relaxing time off in NJ.

One last view of NYC -- and America -- as we left the shores of our homeland.

One last view of NYC — and America — as we left the shores of our homeland.

Upon arriving in NJ on June 28th, we spent the next few weeks visiting all of our family, doing chores, talking with reporters from local newspapers, and gladly eating everything that was put in front of us. Our very good friends from Seattle, Alan and Katrina, flew out to spend a week with us touring New York City, the Jersey Shore, and the neighborhoods we grew up in. We had a great week and before we knew it we were all headed to the airport, them to return to Seattle and us to my family’s beach house in Venice Beach, Florida. We spent a lot of time relaxing in the sun and managed to finally even out our biker’s tans, just in time to return to NJ for a day of tubing down the Delaware River with Doug’s sister, Jessica, and her husband. Then, before we knew it, it was time for our East Coast Bon Voyage party. What a great send off!

The only riding we got done in the past month was a 17-mil jaunt on beach cruisers in Florida.

The only riding we got done in the past month was a 17-mile jaunt on beach cruisers in Florida.

Our sisters and parents threw us a really fun going away party before we left.

Our sisters and parents threw us a really fun going away party before we left.

Finally, on Monday afternoon, we arrived in Brooklyn to board the Queen Mary 2. As we rolled our bicycles up the gangway and through the hallways to the ship’s elevator, we attracted quite a crowd. Eventually, after several duplicate conversations, there was a lull in the questions and we were able to sneak onto an elevator to find our cabin. Though it’s technically the smallest aboard the ship, it’s still quite large and we are able to store our bicycles on either side of the king-sized mattress and place all of the panniers into the closets.

Our humble stateroom aboard the QM2 for our 8-night crossing to England.

Our humble stateroom aboard the QM2 for our 8-night crossing to England.

Later that evening, as we pulled away from the dock, we gazed upon the NYC skyline and the USA, unsure of when we would be back. It was bittersweet as we left our friends and family and moved onto the next phase of our adventure. We’re halfway through our crossing and the time spent aboard the Queen Mary 2 has been relaxing. There are plenty of options for entertainment to pass the time including a variety of guest speakers, shows, movies, games, and wonderful food everywhere you look. We’re meeting wonderful people and soaking in the luxury before we return to life on the road next week.

The two of us in our thrift shop formal wear.

The two of us in our thrift shop formal wear.

Doug about to lose in the semifinals of the shuffleboard contest.

Doug about to lose in the semifinals of the shuffleboard contest.

Special Thanks: We want to extend a special thanks to our friends Katrina and Alan for flying out to NJ and spending a week with us. We so enjoyed our visit! Also, thank you to Pamela Mackenzie of the Courier News (and Home News Tribune) for the wonderful article and also to Jake Perry of the Bernardsville News for his equally excellent article about our journey. And last but not least, to our family for putting up with us lingering around for a full month, sleeping in your houses, using your cars, and eating you food. We love you all and will miss you dearly.

18 July, 2014

Manhattanhenge 2014

We interrupt this month off the bikes to share a series of photos I took last weekend in New York City. Our good friends Alan and Katrina traveled east to spend a week with us in New Jersey and that nonstop whirlwind tour of city, beach, and amusement park landed us in Manhattan during the annual “Manhattan Solstice” event. For those who, like me, had never heard of the so-called Manhattanhenge phenomena, twice a year the setting sun aligns perfectly with the grid-shaped orientation of Manhattan’s urban landscape, creating a mesmerizing effect as the glowing ball of light falls perfectly between the buildings of Manhattan’s cross-streets.

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According to Wikipedia, the term was first coined by everybody’s favorite COSMOS celebrity, Neil deGrasse Tyson. The effect is most striking during the days immediately following the alignment. This year, by sheer luck, we were there on July 11th, the day of the full sun alignment. We positioned ourselves on the corner of Madison and 34th (we were told to find one of the wider cross streets, which 34th is) and so, after a few drinks at the Morgan Museum’s happy hour, we joined a crowd of dozens and rushed to the center of the street every time the light turned red to grab our photos and soak in the crimson glow reflecting off the steel and glass canyon.

No filters have been applied to the photos in this post, nor have any lighting or saturation adjustments been applied. Seriously. And to make it a little more unbelievable, I’ll add that I took these shots with Kristin’s waterproof compact camera, the PowerShot D20

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8 July, 2014

Cycling Into New Jersey in July

We rolled up the driveway of Kristin’s parents’ house in Far Hills, New Jersey on Saturday, June 28th, following a trail of red and yellow balloons through the last couple turns of our 4,885 mile journey. Sisters, parents, and our niece and nephew maintained a constant watch for our arrival, ready to provide just the reception we may have imagined if we ever stopped to ponder just how far we’ve come.

Crossing back into our home state.

Crossing back into the state of our youth.

With the obligatory trip to the Atlantic completed, we spent the next nine days riding southwest through the mountains of New England, averaging 63 miles and 3,200 feet of elevation gain per day. Make no mistake, our most physically demanding days took place in the hills of western Maine and New Hampshire, with back-to-back rides over 70 miles in length and containing over 4,000 thigh-burning feet of climbing per day. The lofty mountains of the west bide their time and unleash a single, occasional, haymaker. Absorb that lone, predictable blow and live to fight another day. Those worn down, ancient Appalachians beat you into submission with a flurry of jabs that never ends. It’s death by a thousand tiny hills. And more than a few kicked up to a 19% gradient.

Our WS host in New Hampshire said nobody ever got the bikes up the hill. I pedaled it clean (challenge accepted) and Kristin only had to push the second half.

Our WS host in New Hampshire said nobody ever brought their bikes up the  half mile hill to her house. Doug pedaled it clean (PNW mountain bikers, represent!) and Kristin only had to push the second half. Challenge accepted!

Those nine days of steady riding back through New England landed us at the doorstep of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, where we spent our final rest day touring the museum and walking the steamy streets of this quaint lakeside town. I always knew I’d make it there before a Mariner player.

Continuing south across Sussex County, NJ and through Allamuchy State Park.

The day off the bikes in Cooperstown was bittersweet as we knew three days later, we’d be off them for a month. We made the most of those final miles in New Jersey, slashing a southerly route through the northwest corner of the Garden State on a collection of backroads most would never associate with the state. With neither an exit number nor refinery nor skyline to see for a hundred miles, we turned the bikes onto gravel paths, dirt trails, and even some singletrack. We spent much of our final day on dirt, choosing to enter this most densely populated of states the way I know best: through the woods. Rolling through Stokes State Forest I recalled the hunting trips I took with my father as a young boy; passing Allamuchy State Park reminded me of my brother’s many stories about his mountain bike racing. Crossing the upper branches of the Delaware River reminded me of childhood canoeing trips. No, I’ll probably never end up living in New Jersey again, but I’m sure glad I grew up here and wouldn’t change my memories for anything. It’s great to be back.

Kristin rolling some singletrack in Sussex County, NJ.

New Jersey through the back door, with all due apologies to Rick Steves.

Our nephew Anthony was outside waiting for us when we finally rolled up the driveway.

Our favorite little man was outside waiting for us when we finally rolled into town.

We’ll be spending a full month visiting family and friends in New Jersey, my longest summer visit since I was a teen. Trips to the city, the shore, and Great Adventure are, of course, planned (i.e. New York City, the beach, and Six Flags for those not from NJ). Of course, we have a wealth of chores to tackle before we leave on the Queen Mary 2, bound for the UK, on July 28th. Here are a few tasks you might find of interest.

TwoFarGone Website Updates

I spent the past few mornings working on some updates for the site including a new video slideshow, an update to our Countries Visited page complete with route map and expense data for our North America segment. I also made a few updates to the gear lists. Here’s the new North America video.


Best viewed at 720p (click the gear icon) in full-screen. May not be playable on mobile devices.

Our route across North America.

Matters of Gear

The vast majority of our gear worked out as we had hoped (or better) but a few items did break, some was lost, and one or two items were eventually deemed unnecessary and won’t be continuing with us to Europe. A couple of lowlights:

  • Going TarplessWe’ll be leaving the tarp behind. We only used it once thanks to the immense vestibule of our tent and the Kelty Noah 12 is just too big, heavy, and cumbersome to bother carrying any longer. It’d probably be a good tarp for car camping though I wasn’t very fond of the shape.
  • Odor Proof Food BagsWe bought several very large odor-proof ALokSaks and never ended up using them. In bear country, I just hung the entire pannier. And we never had enough left over to worry about significant odors, as “wet” foods were always eaten the same day they were purchased and carried outside the panniers, under the cargo net.
  • Bike Pump: The biggest disappointment of all was the Crank Brothers Power Pump. I had to use it twice and both times, no matter how careful we were to brace the wheel, to prop the base of the pump, and to be as gentle as possible, the action of the pump caused a slice in the valve stem as it sawed back and forth against the rim. I cut a total of four valve stems while repairing two flat tires. I ordered the Topeak Mini Morph which not only has a foot peg, but a hose connector so we won’t be stressing the valve stem ever again. Considering I once went through three pairs of Crank Brothers “Candy” pedals in one season, I’m forever done with this company’s products.
  • Rain PantsKristin’s Novara rain pants (bought in 2010) started to wear out in the seat after just a few uses. I have the same pair and they’re holding up just fine so we think this may have been a freak occurrence. We already exchanged them at a nearby REI in New Jersey for the new and improved model.
  • ALokSak Troubles: Though we never did use the large odor-proof ALokSak bags, we did use smaller ALokSak multi-pack bags for our toiletries. That is, until both bags split below the ziploc seal, essentially allowing everything to fall out inside our larger toiletry packing cubes. We’ll be replacing these “premium” resealable storage bags with EagleCreek’s spillproof zippered bags that have proved very effective for containing our electronics and bike parts. Stay clear of these bags, as they are completely unreliable.

Other incidentals that need tending to include the broken metal braces on our Planet Bike Cascadia 29er fenders (fixed en-route with a rubber band); one broken spoke on my rear wheel (presumably from the last day of riding); both drivetrains need to be replaced and parts are en-route; Kristin’s front blinky went missing and needed replacing; my rear blinky met an untimely death somewhere in Ontario and also needed replacing. We also lost one of the Ortlieb rack-spacer adapters from Kristin’s front bag and the snaps on our Ortlieb handlebar bags are all being replaced with Velcro, as the snaps proved to stick, hang, and just generally annoy us on a daily basis. Lastly, I’ll be sanding and repainting the Tubus racks and wrapping the mounting rails and rub-spots with thick automotive tape to prevent corrosion and wear as the bags jostle and rub against the racks.

Press and Promotion

We did an interview a reporter from the Courier News the other day so those in central NJ should look for an article about us to appear in the Courier News and their sister-paper the Home News Tribune sometime in the next few days/weeks. We’ll be sure to link to it when it goes live. To that extent, the Snoqualmie Valley Record in Washington ran a story about us in June.

While in New Jersey, we’ll also be giving a presentation to the residents of the retirement community where Kristin’s mother works. We’re going to try and record it and post portions of it to the site.

24 June, 2014

Pedaling Down Memory Lane in Maine

“We’re turning south from Quebec to Vermont and New York and then back to New Jersey to visit family before going to Europe.” This was our plan since we left Seattle over three months ago. Then one morning in Quebec, we woke up and decided to continue east into Maine and Acadia National Park. Doug had never been there and we could dip our wheels in the Atlantic Ocean at Seal Harbor, thus avoiding the traffic on the Jersey Shore. Also, I could take Doug to Jordan Pond House for popovers in Acadia; just like I used to go with my grandfather. The next week had suddenly gotten a lot more exciting.

On June 14th, our 84th day on the road, we reached the Atlantic Ocean. Wow! We stopped at Seal Harbor just outside of Acadia National Park to soak in the moment. It brought tears to our eyes and we could barely believe that we crossed the whole continent. It didn’t seem like we had really pedaled that far, but we had!

We crossed the continent and made it to the Atlantic!

We crossed the continent and made it to the Atlantic!

After commemorating the moment with a few pictures, we pedaled a few miles down the road to our WarmShowers host, Anna’s home. She was generous enough to let us spend an extra day with her to catch up on laundry and chores and relax a bit. She even drove us over to Bar Harbor and joined us at Jordan Pond House, where I used to go every summer with my grandparents and family for afternoon tea and popovers. I remember the view of The Bubble Mountains over Jordan Pond being beautiful and loving the popovers and strawberry jam. After 80 years under the management of the Acadia Corporation, the restaurant was under new management. I was worried that it wouldn’t be the same, but it was; the view, the popovers, and the jam were just as I remembered. It was special to share this experience with Doug.

Photographer Anna Travers took this photo of us in Acadia National Park.

Photographer Anna Travers took this photo of us in Acadia National Park.

Returning to her grandfather's old town.

Returning to her grandfather’s old town.

We left Acadia and rolled into South Brooksville, where my grandparents lived and we spent a week every summer throughout my childhood. On the property, there are two historic houses and a huge barn. Halfway House is the home where my grandparents lived and Kinderhaus is where we used to stay. I’m very fortunate that my Aunt Judy still owns the property, lives in Halfway House, and so graciously welcomes anyone from our family. With just a few days of notice and despite being out for the evening, she opened both houses for us to explore. She had a room made up in Kinderhaus for us and put milk, eggs, and OJ in the refrigerator. The last time I was inside either home or downtown was over 20 years ago. I hoped it was just as I remembered, but after looking at the fancy website for the small, local Bucks Harbor Yacht Club where my sisters and I used to visit and in talking with a few Maine residents along the way, I figured that a lot had probably changed.

Kristin soaking in the view from the yacht club her grandfather used to belong to.

Kristin soaking in the view from the yacht club her grandfather used to belong to.

We finally arrived Monday afternoon. It took a bit longer than we anticipated after pedaling up far more hills than I remember as a kid sitting in the back seat of our station wagon. I immediately walked into the barn and through both houses to show Doug around. I couldn’t wait to see if it was how I remembered it. My aunt had modernized Kinderhaus and the downstairs of Halfway House, but there was a lot that was just as I remembered it, including the upstairs beds we used to sleep in and the life jacket hanging in the barn that smelled like band aids. The front of Halfway House still had hummingbird feeders hanging from the covered porch and beautiful flowers on both sides of the steps. Next we walked down to the yacht club. The tennis courts where my grandfather played, the main hall where my sisters and I used to square dance on Thursday evenings, and even the tetherball pole were just as I remembered them. Amazing. We returned to Kinderhaus to relax for the evening and visit with Aunt Judy. It was great to catch up and hear about the remodeling and her plans for selling the houses later this summer.

Remembering old times with her grandparents at Halfway House.

Remembering old times with her grandparents at Halfway House.

I knew this would be my last visit to Halfway House and Kinderhaus as I remembered them. That evening and the following morning, I found myself wandering through the houses, the barn, and sitting on the deck, wishing for my grandparents (both deceased) to join me and really make things just like they were. At least the memories will be with me forever. It was so special to have one final visit before another family moves in and creates new memories.

Anna pointed us to some quieter, more scenic roads on Mt. Desert Island.

Anna pointed us to some quieter, more scenic roads on Mt. Desert Island.

On a lighter note, a few days later, we did some final route planning and figured out that we’ll be rolling into my parents’ house on the evening of June 28th. We’ll be spending the next month visiting family and friends, doing bike maintenance (Doug’s drive train is hanging on by a thread), cleaning all of our gear, and relaxing before boarding the Queen Mary II on July 28th to Southampton, England.

Special Thanks: We want to extend a special thanks to all of our WarmShowers hosts over the past few weeks. Your hospitality and generosity and lively conversations are a wonderful component of our trip that goes beyond our expectations. Good luck to Ben as he begins his Northern Tier trek across the country; to Chris in finishing the book release of Spokes and Jokes; to Anna in her budding photography career, and to Julie in conquering those back-to-back century rides at age 70!!! You’re an inspiration!

Also a special thank you to my Aunt Judy for making Doug and I feel at home in her homes. Good luck with the sale and enjoy the last summer in Halfway House.