The Next Adventure

 

This will probably be the last post on this blog, but wanted to let those who have been following our journey know where we landed.  Chris’ new job is with Seattle City Light at the Seattle Municipal building in downtown, too far to commute from our home near Tacoma.  We had an interesting journey finding an apartment and some of you have asked for the story, so here it is. If you didn’t know, Seattle is one of the hot real estate markets currently and whenever we told someone we were going to be looking to rent in Seattle their first reaction was a groan. We wanted Chris’ commute to downtown Seattle to be 30 minutes or less. The commute to our house in University Place would be upwards of an hour and a half each way. We returned from our round-the-country road trip on July 1 and my goal was that we would sleep in our new place at least by July 10th, the night before Chris’ first day on the job. Pretty much everyone thought I was crazy. We weren’t sure what neighborhood we wanted, so we looked at apartments and houses in West Seattle, Ballard, Belltown, Capital Hill, Queen Anne, Greenlake…basically anything we thought would be within a reasonable public transportation ride to downtown and was in our price range of $2500 or less. We started looking Saturday, July 2 and looked at 5 or 6 places each day. On Thursday, the 7th, the property manager who was showing us a place in Ballard that we found on Craig’s List, offered another place he managed that hadn’t yet been advertised. It had a washer/dryer in the apartment, which he knew I wanted, but he apologized that it was in Greenlake. We have some good friends coming to Greenlake from Holden this fall, so that was a big PLUS for us, not a negative! We had time before our next appointment and so did he, so we got to look at the apartment right away. The owner of the building had lived in it for a couple years, so the cabinets are all upgraded and the kitchen, dining room and living room are open to each other (which we wanted) and the bus stops are plentiful in the neighborhood. We went to our last appointment – really liked that place as well, but this apartment was $325/month cheaper and included all utilities except electricity with no extra for parking so we emailed our rental application that night. The property manager called us in the morning with our approval, we made arrangements to meet him that afternoon at 1 and by 2:00 we had keys and the apartment was ours. (We also found out the landlord was good friends with Holden friends Lars and Allison Carver. Seemed like a good omen.) We quickly reserved a U-Haul truck for Saturday, and were able to get most of our things moved in on the 9th.   We spent Sunday unpacking enough to be able to sleep there that night and Chris took the bus from our new place to his first day on the job! His commute is typically 30 minutes from door to desk, we are a block from Greenlake, and the rent is $1975/month. God is good!

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Chris is finding his way in the new job. It’s always a challenge to learn how a new place operates but he is making progress.  The kids and I spent the first week after we moved in unpacking and purging. Moving from a 2700 sq ft house with a garage and lots of storage to a 1000 sq ft apartment with only the bedroom closets for storage has been challenging. I think the staff at the local Goodwill may know my car by now. Re-combining all of our stuff from Holden, two storage units, my parents’ house and our trip complicated the process, but we are substantially done and enjoying our new digs. The remaining project is to tackle the closet in the spare bedroom. Right now it is packed from floor to ceiling with all my craft/scrapbook/sewing stuff. I have projects to last me the rest of my life.  I submitted my online application to work at Starbucks today.  I hope to start at one of the four stores either in or across the street from the Seattle Municipal building.  We’ll see how that pans out.  Kasey is on her way to Boston with a visit to a friend in Houston before she starts her senior year in college.  Corey will move into the dorms at UW next week to begin a Freshman early start class on Monday.  Chris and I will be empty nesters and ready to welcome friends and family to our guest room.  We are loving exploring our new city and ready for the adventures to come.

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Mission Accomplished

IMG_2049It’s been two weeks since our return and I’m finally getting the chance to write the last blog.  I’ll start with the details of the last week of our trip and then have a bit of reflection and a By the Numbers, compiled by Kasey and Corey to finish.

We left Grand Teton National Park on June 24 and headed just up the road to Yellowstone.  Our first night was at the Grant Village Campground and after checking in and dropping off Ziggy, we headed to the Visitor Center to plan our time for the following day.

Our first stop on Monday was Old Faithful and we drove up just in time to see it blow.  I was impressed!  My expectations were low as I had heard folks say it wasn’t that great, so that may have been part of it, but I thought it was pretty cool.

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We walked around the extensive boardwalk gawking at the odd formations, weird colors and smells, and steam coming up everywhere you looked.

We found a new volunteer opportunity for park volunteers – it was very windy and people’s hats were blowing off frequently.  We wondered if they do anything to pick them up and later we saw a volunteer going around with a long grabber picking them up!  We walked long enough to see Old Faithful go again before we left the area.  We hung out at the lodge for a bit, enjoying ice cream and the view from the second floor.

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Yellowstone was winning me over.  We continued on the large driving loop through the park, stopping at Upper Geyser Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, and Grand Prismatic & Excelsior. Once again it was quite windy; we found out this was unusual as one volunteer said she had never seen the water in one of the springs before.  We were grateful as the wind blew the steam away so you could see the vibrant colors.  Wow!

We drove around Firehole Lake Drive and explored Lower Geyser Basin with all 4 hydrothermal features – mudpots, geysers, fumaroles, and hot springs.  Our final stop was at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone where we admired the views at overlooks on both sides of the canyon.

The next morning we had to move campsites as I could only get reservations for one night at Grand Village.  We tried for a spot at Tower Fall, and even though we arrived early, we didn’t get a campsite, but we did secure one at Mammoth Hot Spring.  (We decided later that was a better spot anyway as it situated us better for getting to Glacier, our next destination.)  Once again we dropped off Ziggy and headed off to explore the park.  We hiked to Mount Washburn; at 10, 243 feet, the highest I’ve ever climbed!  It was also one of the easier hikes we’ve done.  The hike is only 5 miles round trip and gains 1400 feet in elevation on a trail that is more of a road than a trail with a nice gradual steady climb.  We enjoyed the views at the top as well as a picnic lunch.  We were grateful for the lookout shelter to get in from the cold wind, even though it was very full.  We took a photo with our Seahawks 12 blanket.  The photographer was quite willing to take the photo, until he saw us unfurl the blanket. We were glad he laughed and took the photo anyway.

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We saw bighorn sheep and LOTS of wildflowers.

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With the long daylight savings days, we had plenty of time to explore LaMar Valley, the Petrified Tree, and the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs before dinner.

 

We considered having dinner at the beautiful lodge, but the prices steered us to the grill where we had burgers and chips.  We took a final walk on the boardwalk near the hotel before taking advantage of their showers.  Chris climbed the hill in the middle of the campground to see the sunset before we all headed to bed.  As with so many of the places we visited, we feel we got a good taste of Yellowstone, but have so much more we would like to see and do there.  It is one of the most unusual places I have ever visited.

The next morning we were up and out of the campground at 5:30 so we could make the most of the day.  We stopped in Bozeman to go to church at Hope Lutheran, and then again in Helena so we could check out the church that my mom and dad helped build with Mission Builders, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church.

A helpful church member was there and let us explore inside for which we were grateful.  We especially enjoyed seeing the huge beams we had heard so much about from my dad.

We continued on to Glacier National Park and secured a campsite at Apgar Campground.  We had heard a lot about grizzlies in the park, so Chris rented some bear spray while Kasey, Corey and I got suggestions for what to do at the Visitor Center.  We ended the evening with card games at the picnic table.  I LOVE late sunsets!

On Monday, we took Going to the Sun Road stopping at overlooks and admiring the engineering involved in carving out the road.

We drove the entire length and then turned around to make our way back more leisurely.   At Logan Pass, we saw a Grizzly mom and cub playing on the snow (well actually, the cub was playing and the mom was walking) as we started on a hike to Hidden Lake.

We followed their progress from a safe distance and felt sorry for the park rangers who have to try to wrangle visitors and keep them safe.  The 3 mile hike was over snow for the entire way, so I turned around about halfway there and Chris and the kids hiked the entire way.  They were rewarded with seeing mountain goats at the lake, but I got to enjoy the views and a slow meandering back to the visitor center.

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I was sitting in the van waiting for them to return when I could tell folks were seeing something across the street.  It was the mom and cub again.

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Chris, Corey and Kasey returned about then, so we all enjoyed watching them once more.  We also marveled at what the rangers have to handle.  Traffic on the road stopped, the parking lot was full of gawkers/photographers, and they have to manage it all.

Our next stop was a 3 mile hike to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls.

The hike was crowded, but beautiful.  Hike #3 for the day was to Avalanche Lake, 5 miles round trip.  I especially enjoyed the red and green colors of the stone.

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The lake itself reminded us of Holden Lake, although the hike to get there was much less elevation climb.  The moss covering the rocks on our way back was so unexpected and beautiful.

Our last day in Glacier we drove to the other side of the park and up to the Many Glacier area.  Our 10 mile hike to Iceberg Lake was one of my favorites of the entire trip.  The views along the way were spectacular and the lake itself was stunning and there really was ice floating in the lake.

The shore was  crowded, but we found some empty rocks to sit on and enjoy our lunch along with the view.  The people-watching was pretty good too.  I especially enjoyed two brothers plotting how to get an ice block close to the shore.  The older brother almost had the younger one talked into swimming out to get one.  After a few steps into the icy water, he thought better and turned back.  After the hike we were able to take showers in Many Glacier, and boy did I enjoy that shower after two days of double-digit hiking miles!  We spotted a moose on the side of the road as we left.

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Chris had been looking for one since Maine and all we’d seen were moose marbles, so we had a sense of completion.  We could go home.  We spent our last campground night playing Hand & Foot, a Shultz family favorite.

The next day we were up early so we could get to Wenatchee in time for Corey’s 4:00 appointment at the orthodontist.  We had the advantage of a time change so that gave us enough time for a quick stop to admire Dry Falls State Park.

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Chris’ brother, Eric, met us there so we could give back his Thule car carrier that we borrowed for the trip.

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We had stuff strewn on the lawn, but no one seemed to mind and we made sure we picked everything up.  We packed stuff in the trailer since we wouldn’t be using it to sleep in for the last two nights of the trip.  Corey got a good report at the orthodontist and doesn’t have to go back unless he has issues – good thing since we’ll be on the other side of the mountains now!  Leah Martin, former Program Assistant and good friend met us at Pybus Public Market and we had gelato and a good visit.

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It was surreal to be driving in Wenatchee and then into Chelan, areas we are so familiar with, after so many miles of new territory.  We met Karen and Elli for dinner at Local Myth and then stayed with them in Chelan that night.

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Rolf made his famous pancakes in the morning before we hit the road again.

Our next stop was at Mary Koch’s (former Communications Coordinator at Holden) in Omak.  She fixed us a “just right” brunch which we enjoyed on her porch.

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We had such a great visit with her and enjoyed seeing her lovely home on the river.  I would never want to leave if I lived there!  My grandfather built the Methodist church in town and she shared funny stories about that church and others.

In all our times back and forth across the mountains, we had never driven Highway 20, so we took the opportunity this trip.  We stopped at Diablo Lake and the North Cascades Visitor Center, our final National Park stop.

I bought a National Park Service 100 year anniversary shirt – how could I resist?  It was purple and neon (Seahawks) green.

We spent the last night of the trip at the same location of the first night, the Van Loo’s in Bow, WA.  There was one slight change, though.  Instead of visiting Tara and Brennan, we visited Tara and Brennan and Annabelle!

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We loved getting to see our “grandchild” and hope it is the first of many visits to come.  Thomas and Claire joined us for dinner and we had a wonderful barbequed chicken dinner on the lawn of their farm.

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We couldn’t have asked for a better last night of the trip.

The next day, we headed south, stopping in Arlington to visit the Mission Build site where my parents are working this summer.

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We had lunch with them before encountering the lovely stop and go traffic on our route to Gig Harbor.  The traffic confirmed we would be looking for a place to live much nearer to Seattle than the home we own in University Place.

Some final reflections:

The trip accomplished its purpose.  We needed some transition time after 5+ years of living and working at Holden, carrying a radio 24/7, a 100-year wildfire, and a bit of a bumpy exit.  I’ve been calling the trip our sabbatical lately.  It seems to fit.

I thought 7 months would give us plenty of time to see and do everything we possibly could.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  We have only touched the tip of the iceberg and have ideas for things to see and do for the rest of our lives.

Most everyone asks what was my favorite place.  It is impossible for me to pick a favorite one, but I can say I love mountains and even though I thoroughly enjoy other parts of the country, I am a Pacific Northwest girl.  I can also say my favorite thing about the trip was reconnecting with family and friends.  Five plus years at Holden means we missed a lot of family time.  Five plus years at Holden also means we made a lot of new friends.  It’s nice to know we still love our old friends and to know we can have Holden friends even when we’re not at Holden.

I have a great family.  We worked together to make this trip happen and we did it and we’re still talking to each other.  Pretty cool. Chris is still in shock that we actually pulled it off.

This T.S. Elliot quote seems to sum up my feelings well:

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

Finally a By the Numbers snapshot of the trip:

22: jars of peanut butter consumed

31,343: total miles

32.5: most days in one state – Florida

9: cans of Coleman fuel

3: least time in one state – 3 hours in ND

655: most miles in one day, March 22

117: nights spent in the trailer

94: nights spent with family and friends

1: nights in a hotel (when the trailer bearings went out in Chattanooga)

67: nights at State Park campgrounds

32: nights in National Park campgrounds

9: nights in other National Park Service campgrounds

3: nights in private campgrounds

1: nights sleeping on the street (the Rose Parade route on New Years Eve)

3: nights in Walmart parking lots

2: nights in county park campgrounds

1: nights in rest areas

26: National Parks visited

33: most expensive toll paid (in dollars)

182: friends visited – 18 of whom we didn’t know before the trip began

21: churches visited

44: States visited

5128: photos

innumerable: memories that will last a lifetime

 

Race to the Finish

In one of my favorite workout tapes, Jillian Michaels says, “When you see the finish line, you RACE to the finish line!”  We are taking that mandate to heart.  It’s a mad dash and we are cramming in every experience we can.  We left Minnesota on June 12 after picking up August Carpenter so he could join us in Decorah, Iowa.  We stayed with the Jensen/Sandhorst clan on their farm outside the city.

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They are embarking on a crazy stretch of packing and moving to a new farm before heading to a semester in Tanzania in August so we were grateful they could squeeze us in.  Ruth Huffman and her daughter Elise joined us for dinner (burrito bar, one of my favorites!) and then Corey and August went home with them for a mini Holden school reunion.

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I got to feed the lambs and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening together.

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The next morning we picked up Corey at Ruth and Elise’s home in Decorah and caught a coffee together before hitting the road.  We also made the requisite stop at Whippy Dip for ice cream treats.  The Midwest really knows how to do ice cream.

We drove through Dubuque and stopped at Wartburg Seminary.  Ziggy, meet Luther. Luther meet Ziggy.

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I was in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade while my dad went to seminary there.  We walked around the main building and tried to climb the tower, but it was locked.  We drove by the house where I lived and my mom taught preschool in the basement for my dad’s last year.  We camped at Starved Rock State Park that night and had dinner with Dave Farrell, a friend/adopted family member/friend of my sister and her husband.

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Some day we are going to go to Madagascar together!

The next morning we met former Holden Intern and then Interim Pastor, Bekki Lohrman for breakfast in Joliet where she now serves.

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Her congregation is lucky to have her and we loved hearing about what she is doing in parish ministry.  She’s a Lutheran rock star in my book.  Next stop was Hyde Park Union Church near University of Chicago where her husband Marcus is serving as a short term interim before doing his internship this fall.

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He gave us a tour of the campus of both U-Chicago and the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago and caught us up on the cool things he is doing.  Hyde Park Union is a joint American Baptist and United Church of Christ Church with an amazing legacy and a yet-to-be-decided future.  We are glad they have him for a bit to help see them along their path.  We grabbed a Starbucks together before heading into downtown Chicago.  Having Ziggy in tow limited our parking options, but we managed to see a few sights before heading to our campground in Indiana on the shores of Lake Michigan.

We also stopped to deliver a post card Kasey picked up in the Galapagos.  There is a post office/barrel there which sailors used to send and pick up mail that is still used today. You are supposed to hand deliver any mail you take. She knew we would be going to Chicago so picked up a postcard with a Chicago address.  We had fun dropping it off at a retirement center front desk and imagining the recipient’s smile when she got it.

We had a great visit with Holden-adopted son Tobiah when he joined us for dinner at the campground.

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He still goes back for seconds, thirds and sometimes fourths which made this mom happy.

We explored the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore briefly in the morning where Chris and the kids took a dip after their early morning run.

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A quick stop at Valparaiso University, Corey’s second choice college, had us marveling at the chapel.  What a beautiful space.  It would have been fun to go to a graduation there, but UW will be great too!

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He enjoyed showing us around and we enjoyed seeing the campus which has provided a string of great young engineers at Holden.

Our campsite destination that night was Horseshoe Lake State Park, near St. Louis, but in Illinois.  I was skeptical since we couldn’t make advance reservations and it was only $8/night, but we were pleasantly surprised to find a shady campsite in a nearly empty campground. We dropped Ziggy there and went to Old Chain of Rocks Bridge originally part of Route 66 and now open only for walkers and bikers.

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It’s a beautiful bridge with a 22 degree curve in the middle and we were glad we took the time to see it despite the 90 degree weather and high humidity.  We crossed the river again via our car and after dinner at Jimmy John’s visited the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the Gateway Arch.

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Chris and the kids went up to the top of the arch,

but I stayed at the visitor center and enjoyed the air conditioning and a great movie about the making of the arch.

In the morning we squeezed in a visit to Cahokia State Historic Site where there are earthen mounds which at one time made up the largest city in the world.   We climbed to the top of the largest mound

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and Chris and Kasey frolicked in Woodhenge despite the 90 degree temps.

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Next stop was Arrow Rock State Historic Site in Missouri, recommended by a man we met in the Cahokia parking lot when he admired Ziggy.  The Boone’s Lick Country site is one of the main starting points for folks heading west in pioneer days.

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The sleepy town was fun to walk around and a good stretch break during a long day in the car.  We stayed at the Watkins Mill State Historic Site Campground that night outside of Kansas City.  We arrived after the visitor center closed and left in the morning before it opened, but enjoyed the little bit of history we did learn.  Mr. Watkins had a benevolent fiefdom there and had several ventures including not only a textile mill, but a brickwork, a huge farm and other business ventures.

In the morning we toured Kansas City, which mostly consisted of driving by the next door neighbor football and baseball stadiums and a freeway driveby of downtown.

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It looks like a really cool city and we hope to return for a proper visit.  Our next stop was Topeka, KS and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site located in the school where the students who sued attended.

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We have been astonished to learn something new every time we visit a civil rights-related site.  This time it was to learn of servicemen who were lynched upon their return from fighting in both WWI and WWII.  In the afternoon, we stopped at the Homestead National Monument.  It made me wonder if some of my relative were homesteaders—I know I have Oregon Trail relatives. Were they homesteaders as well?  My favorite part was the state maps on the wall leading up to the building which indicated the percentage of each state which had been available for homesteading.

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I was also fascinated to learn that the last homesteader was in Alaska in the 1970’s.  I had no idea the program extended that long.

We arrived in Fairbury, Nebraska and the home of Brian and Natalie Julin-McCleary in time for dinner. Daughter Sophie is represented in the photo I am holding as she was asleep when we took this photo.

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We hadn’t seen them since they left Holden in 2012 and it was so much fun to catch up and see their family thriving.  The kids have grown, but maintain the same wonderful personalities we remember.  So have the parents (not grown , but maintained their fun personalities) and we hope it’s not 4 years before we see them again!

The next day, June 18, was one of the longest drives of our trip.  it lasted 10 ½ hours, and included four gas station stops, but not all for gas.  One was for ice and another for a bathroom stop.  We frolicked in Carhenge (who knew?),

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marveled at the scenic drive through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska and arrived at Custer State Park in time for a late dinner thanks in part to entering the Mountain Time Zone and gaining an hour.  We took in the Lighting Ceremony at Mount Rushmore that night and were surprised at how moving the video was for Chris and me.

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It felt like a review of many of the sights we have seen and made us grateful again for being able to see so much of our amazing country at one stretch.

We went to church at Custer Lutheran Fellowship in the morning where current Holden pastor and future Seattle resident Kent Narum served before going to Holden.  We enjoyed the hospitality which reminded us of Holden as they welcome so many summer visitors.  Our park of the day was Badlands National Park.  We hiked the Notch Trail and then the Door Trail.

The Badlands are fascinating and we even got to experience some of the harshness of the environment when I got overheated on the Door Trail.  We stuck to the air-conditioned car for the rest of our visit and drove the Badlands Loop Road seeing big horn sheep and adorable prairie dogs along the way.

We stopped at Wall Drug and were highly entertained by the people watching, especially the kids in the jumping fountain.

We were up at dawn on the summer solstice to begin a truly marathon day.  In fact, it didn’t end until sunset…the next day.  Our first stop was Jewel Cave National Monument where we took the Scenic Tour.  Wind Cave National Park was the next stop.  We got our tickets for a 12:30 Fairgrounds tour and then ate our standard peanut butter sandwiches in the car.  The afternoon tour introduced us to two levels of the cave and was a good contrast to the Jewel Cave tour.  Jewel cave is very open and had beautiful layered rock.  Wind Cave was winding and close and had amazing boxwork formations.  The photos don’t do either justice—some things are best seen in person, hence no photos here.   We drove the Needles Highway in the late afternoon before making a daytime stop at Mount Rushmore.  We walked the President’s Trail and got a closer view and got a better view of what we imagine would be James Stutrud’s favorite part, Presidential noses.

We had dinner at Black Hills Burger and Bun in Custer (best hamburger of the trip) before packing up camp and setting out once again.  We left at 9 pm just as the solstice sun was setting and saw the Strawberry moon rise…and then the moon set after crossing Wyoming to Grand Tetons National Park.  Our solstice was so long we stretched it into two days!  We wanted to get to the Colter Bay Campground in time to secure a campsite since they don’t take reservations.  We stopped at Daylight Donuts in Riverton, WY at 5 am – a little sugar shock and some coffee fueled us the rest of the way.  We had a Kasey-recommended podcast, Serial, to listen to and Chris drove the entire way.  Our 8:30 am arrival was in plenty of time and we are in site C56.  We had a driveway moment when we stayed in the van for 15 extra minutes to listen to the end of the last episode of Serial, Season 1.  It’s a 12 installment story following the journey of This American Life journalist Sarah Koenig as she tries to sort out what really happened fifteen years ago in a murder case.  We are looking forward to listening to season 2 on one of the long drives ahead.

We settled in to our campsite and then headed to the visitor center to plan our three days in the park.  We decided a hike was in order to shake off the grogginess and a nearly four mile hike to Taggert Lake fit the bill.

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The park reminds us of in so many ways of Holden – the mountains are just a bit steeper, but the air smells the same and the mountain vistas are stunning in both.

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The hike did its job of waking us up and we wandered through the rest of the day in a semi-sleep deprived state enjoying the Moose Visitor Center and a quick visit to Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve Center (LSR).  The Rockefellers were key players in the preservation and creation of the National Park and the donation of the land at LSR gave the last of their private land to the park.

On Wednesday, we hiked the Two Oceans Lake Loop Trail and took a side trip to Grand View Point.  The hike around the lake was beautiful, but buggy and we were glad to have good non-Deet/natural repellent.

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(We’ve found Coleman’s Botanicals spray to be very effective, if you’re interested.)  The wildflowers were abundant and the sky and lake could not have been more blue.  We were grateful for the breeze at the Point and enjoyed our peanut butter sandwiches along with the amazing 360 view.

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What a place!

Today, we met Laura Brown who is working here this summer before heading off to DC and a job at Sojourner’s magazine.

Chris and the kids hiked with her to Delta Lake while I parked myself at the Jackson Starbucks to post these blogs.  We have 8 days, two more National Parks, and several Washington friends to go.  We see the finish line.  We are racing toward it!

Michigan to Minnesota

We started our Michigan adventure in Detroit.  I found a campground just outside the city, Detroit Lakes State Recreation Area, and we arrived there on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend.  We arrived early in the day so there weren’t many campers, but the sign said they were full for the weekend.  I reserved a spot earlier that week, but I think I probably only got the spot because we were only staying the one night.  We dropped off Ziggy and headed to downtown Detroit.  We stopped at the Heidelberg Project,  community art started in the mid-80’s.

I would have liked to talk to someone from the neighborhood, but all of the folks we saw appeared to be tourists like us.  We continued to downtown and had a lovely afternoon/evening walking the Riverwalk

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and exploring the GM Renaissance Building. We were very impressed with the inner city park and especially enjoyed watching the kids in the fountain.

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Corey picked out the truck he wants – he’ll have to get his license and a job, but dreams are good, right?

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We got back to the campground and even though we didn’t eat dinner till 9 pm it was still light outside!  We enjoyed being in a full campground which brought back great memories of camping at Penrose State Park in WA with Mount Cross friends for so many years.

The next morning we hit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for a brief visit.

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We drove Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and watched people climbing the “big dune.”  Warning signs counseled against the experience – a very costly rescue if you got hurt or couldn’t make it, and an expected 2 hours to make the climb, but I’m pretty sure if we had had the time Chris and the kids would have made the attempt.

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I wasn’t tempted as when I climbed a much smaller dune in White Sands National Park in New Mexico, I barely made it because I was laughing so hard at my struggles.

We crossed the Macinaw Bridge and were finally in the real U.P.

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I have wanted to visit since we moved to University Place (we call it U.P.).  Any time I used the abbreviation with someone outside of the area, they assumed we were referring to the UP of Michigan and now we were there!  We stayed the night with Rachael Button’s parents, Julie and Rich in their cozy cabin in Naubinway.  It sits on the side of a creek and has a wonderful screened in porch which I couldn’t get enough of.

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We loved getting to know Rachael’s real parents (we have Holden-adopted Rachael) and her brother, Keith.  We share a love of adventure and books and of course, Rachael!

Painted Rocks National Lakeshore was our next stop after a leisurely breakfast with the Buttons.  We first explored the western area/entrance with a couple of short hikes to Miner’s Castle, Miner’s Beach and Miner’s Falls.

The colors on the cliffs really do look painted.  After hearing about Julie and Rich’s week-long hike along the Lakeshore, seeing it in person made us want to hike more.  One more example of how even when you have 7 months to explore there is always more to see and do.  We made a quick stop at Munising Falls (another area of Painted Rocks)

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and then it was off to Marv and Lori Franson’s cabin in Hayward, WI.

Not only did we get Marv and Lori, but Ev Lennon was visiting as well.

We spent a lazy day with them, laughing and talking and eating.  We did manage to hike about four miles on Mosquito Brook Trail along the Berkie Trail where Marv has skied the Birkebeiner Race for nearly 40 years.  They were headed to Holden two days later and we were so grateful we were able to see them before they go.

On the last day of May, we entered Minnesota, land of so many of our family and friends.  We talked about how at the beginning of the trip, Minnesota seemed so far away, both in time and distance.  We could hardly believe we had made it to this long-anticipated state.  We made a quick stop at Canal Park, just long enough to snap a photo because of the howling wind and frigid rain.

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The weather had calmed a bit when we stopped at Gooseberry Falls and we enjoyed a leisurely walk around the falls.

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We got permission to eat our lunch of bread and cheese and apples in the visitor center lobby for which we were grateful.  We stopped to get gas in Grand Marais and were overjoyed to meet Steph there!  Steph and Chuck are caretakers for a cabin/house on Seagull Lake in the Boundary Waters at the end of the Gunflint Trail and when we asked them if they would show us the Boundary Waters, they invited us to meet them there.  We were lucky to run into Steph, because our GPS would not have gotten us to the right spot.  We followed her to the cabin and could hardly believe we had pulled off a Carpenter/Shultz reunion.

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Chuck, Steph, Cailan, and August were all able to come and the eight of us enjoyed four relaxing days together.  We hiked to Magnetic Rock, finding a geocache on the way.

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We played with the compass at the rock, which had the dial spinning.

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We had a picnic lunch at the Trails End Campground, site # 18/19, an idyllic spot.

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In the afternoon, we went for a short paddle to Wilderness Canoe Base, where Chuck and Steph were directors when Cailan and August were toddlers.

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That night we had a fiesta, complete with margueritas and Mexican music.  The next day we took a longer paddle to the Palisades, enjoying our lunch on the top of the cliffs.

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The weather held out and no one swamped their canoe, and Cailan walked on water.

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We loved having the Carpenters introduce us to a place they love and has so many memories for them, including their wedding.

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That night we stayed up late reminiscing about our time at Holden and sharing our hopes for the future.  Kasey, Corey, Cailan, and August played games and watched movies and caught up on their post-Holden lives.  The Carpenters had planned to leave the next day, Friday, (we were leaving Saturday morning) but got involved in a project and we got to spend another day together.  We are pretty sure that we spent more time together that week than we had in the entire 5 years we lived and worked together at Holden.  What a blessing.

On Saturday morning we were up at 3 am so we could get to Grand Portage in time to catch the boat to Isle Royale National Park.  The stormy weather made for a rough crossing.  With the boat rocking sideways, it was hard to keep your eyes on the horizon.  None of us fed the fish, but I got pretty queasy and was quite happy when the 2 ½ hour ride was finished.  The ranger met the boat and gave us a quick orientation to the island.  We were relieved to find out the campsites in Windigo where we planned to stay had shelters.  We picked out shelter #8, set up our tents inside, donned our raingear and embarked on a 9.6 mile loop hike to Huganin Cove.

I’m sure a gorgeous sunny day would have been beautiful, but rain and clouds bring their own beauty and keep the bugs away.  We got a taste of the island and it misted more than rained for most of the hike.  Steady rain fell for the last mile or so and we were especially grateful for dry tents and boards to hang our clothes on in shelter #8.

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We cooked dinner and spent the evening playing Five Crowns (I won!).  The next morning our clothes were just as wet as they had been when we hung them the day before, but we all had dry socks and the sun was shining, so we ventured out on a 3.6 mile hike to an overlook on the way to Feldtman Lake.

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Our socks didn’t stay dry long in wet boots, but we enjoyed the hike and were back in plenty of time to catch the boat back to Grand Portage at 12:30.

Our boat ride back was sunny and calm and we sat on the back deck for most of the ride.

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We drove across northern Minnesota on a scenic road…with few and far between gas stations.  Unfortunately, we ran out of gas just one mile from a station, but fortunately we made it to the parking lot of the Timber’s Edge Bar & Grill.  We went inside and ate dinner while we waited for AAA to bring us gas.  Our premium membership has definitely paid off!  Our waitress was super friendly with an accent worthy of Fargo and once we had some food, I wasn’t nearly as grumpy as I had been.  (Recently Chris and the kids decided I have “H” allergies – hunger, headache, heat, and humidity.  I don’t disagree. )  We arrived in Bemidji at the home of Chris’ Aunt Alice and Uncle Gordy on Movil Lake at 10:30.  What a great visit we had with them!

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Chris learned things about Alice’s career and research he had never heard in the chaos and energy of huge family reunions.  The coolest (we thought) was learning that she completed research for NASA in the 60’s in preparation for sending folks to the moon.  Her research focused on potential eye damage and whether or not the eye could heal in zero gravity.  We stayed two nights with them and the day in between was wonderfully unproductive.  The big plan was to go fishing so we went into town for licenses, and ended up shopping at Target, getting a Starbucks, and stopping at the post office.  The rest of the day was spent trying to get the boat ready and waiting for the wind to die down.  It never did, so Chris and the kids got up at 5:30 the next morning and had a productive fishing trip, before we hit the road again.

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Everyone caught at least one fish, but Gordy got the lion’s share.  We stopped for coffee at Cabin Coffee in Bemidji where Holden friend, Chance worked in high school.  We loved it and would recommend it if you’re ever in Bemidji!

We visited lake Itasca State Park and crossed the mighty Mississippi along with a third grade school field trip.  Quite entertaining.

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Our next stop was Pelican Rapids to visit Alice Toso who with her husband Erv had been our surrogate mom the year we lived in Madagascar.

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One of their daughters, Becca, joined us at Alice’s apartment and we had a wonderful visit.  Erv died in January and we won’t be able to come to the memorial service in July, so it was really good to be able to see her.  We were off again headed to Minneapolis…via Fargo.  As we were on our way, I told a friend our route and he said you do realize Fargo is not on the way.  We did, but we also wanted to get to North Dakota and we were close enough in Pelican Rapids, it made sense to go out of our way, so we had dinner there at Kitchen Gremlins on Broadway.

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The food was VERY good and we splurged and shared a dessert.  YUM!

We got to Brooklyn Park and the home of Linda and Jeanne around 10:00 that night.  Linda and Jeanne are two of our closest friends from Holden – they arrived on the same day as us, August 23, 2010, and Linda and Chris were on the Holden management team together for three years.  Jeanne worked in the school with Kasey and Corey.  They attended both Kasey and Corey’s graduation – returning to Holden for Corey’s – so they are family as well as friends.  Jeanne was in her last week at school (she teaches third grade) so on Wednesday, we hung out with Linda and played foot golf at the local course.

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I’m not a fan of golf, but walking on the course, kicking a soccer ball was highly entertaining and great for conversation and laughs.  Linda and I were at a distinct disadvantage, but the two of us against the three of them evened the competition.

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Colleen Foote joined us for dinner and the Holden visiting spree began!

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After dinner, we took in the sunset at Coon Rapids Dam not far from their home.  Clouds are pretty cool here.

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The next morning Chris and Molly Tau joined us for breakfast – eggs to order, a Holden favorite.

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Chris was a fixture in the Holden kitchen for most of our Holden time, although at our giveaway before we left, only a couple people knew the significance of the Chris Tau jacket Chris Shultz was giving up.  Chris T. decided since that was the case, he could now return to Holden!  We loved hearing about the life they have made and Chris’ upcoming student teaching.  He will make a very cool math teacher.

We took off mid-morning to meet Chris’ extended family for a bike ride.

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His Aunt Faith (married to his mom, Julie’s brother, Carl), who missed her calling as a travel planner, provided a two+ page itinerary for our grand tour of Minneapolis by bike.  Various members of her family joined us for the ride around the city.  We thoroughly enjoyed the day and were quite jealous of the quality, variety, and extent of the bike trails in Minneapolis.  The Shultz family bike skills were not as proficient as the Lindell’s but we rode about 25 miles, albeit at a much slower pace than they usually ride.  Faith had also organized a barbeque at Beckettwood, a cooperative community where they live.

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The mini family reunion reminded us of what a great family of origin Chris has.  We don’t see each other nearly as often as we would like.

That night we drove to Melrose for a Shultz/Dennison/McNair sleepover.

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Rob and Hayley and their girls Oakley and Olivia hosted us for the night in their beautiful home… that they just sold!  They will move closer to Hayley’s job in a month or so.  We wish them happy house hunting!   Rob continues to work for Pool, one of the contractors at Holden so we enjoyed hearing how far the project has come already this summer.  It’s definitely at the stage where everyone is ready for it to be finished.  We had a leisurely breakfast with them in the morning and then it was back to Brooklyn Park.  We rejoiced with Jeanne on finishing the school year before heading to Falcon Heights to have dinner with Joel and Suzanne Toso, boarding schoolmates of Chris in Madagascar.

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With temps in the 90’s and that lovely Midwest humidity, Suzanne prepared delicious salads and we had a wonderful visit with them catching up on our family happenings since the last time we were together.

Saturday brought a Holden get-together at Linda and Jeanne’s.  We had waffle bar in the morning and then spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon getting ready.  We had nearly 30 total over the course of the afternoon and evening, which I decided was a perfect number.  There were enough people to feel like we really got to see a lot of folks, but also few enough that I felt like I got to visit with everyone who came.

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We have had the privilege of living with some pretty cool people at Holden and are grateful that just because our time at Holden has ended, the relationships we forged there have not.

The next morning, we attended church at Our Saviour’s with Linda, Jeanne, Kari Alice Olsen and Andrew Kingsrider.  With Chris Scharen preaching, and Tom Witt and Mary Preus leading worship, and Martha Schwehn  Bardwell presiding, it felt like we could have been at Holden!  We had a picnic lunch with Linda, Jeanne, Kari, and Andrew at Nakomis Lake before we reluctantly said goodbye.

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Our Minnesota portion of the trip was finished and what a portion it was!  We did not stay in a campground our entire 12 nights there.  We re-connected with so many different layers of our lives – Chris’ childhood in Madagascar, his family’s Minnesota roots, our time together in Madagascar in the late 80’s and of course the plentiful Holden community.  Life is good.

Note: this is the first of two posts for today.  It’s been nearly a month since I’ve posted and to do an entire month in one post seemed overwhelming both to read and to write.  Read them at your leisure!

Turning the Corner

I can tell the trip has been full the last few weeks because when I checked my blog stats, it had been 17 days since my last post and squeezing in the time to write today was a challenge!  Seventeen days ago there were three of us on the trip, now there are four.  Seventeen days ago we were heading north, now we head nearly always west.  Seventeen days ago Chris was unemployed, now he has a job. Seventeen days ago we had 4592 miles on Elly, now we have nearly 7500.  Seventeen days ago I took photo number 0643 on the camera, today I took number 1214. Seventeen days ago we had been to 23 states, now we’ve been to 30.

Seventeen days ago, we had an early arrival at our campsite in Rock Neck State Park in Connecticut, so I slow-cooked pasta and made chocolate oat bars in the dutch oven.

We ate well that night and enjoyed a beautiful sunset to boot.  We explored the state park and pavilion, the largest depression era WPA project in the state.  We enjoyed imagining what the place looks like in the heat of summer, especially since it was just in our imagination and we had the place to ourselves.

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The next morning we ventured into Rhode Island, a state I knew next to nothing about.  We loved our time in the capital, Providence and I think if I was going to move to the northeast, Providence would be at  the top of my list.  We self-toured the capital building;

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the state senate has 38 members and the 74 representatives each have about 1000 constituents.  I’d like those kind of ratios in politics.  You could really get to know your legislators and they could know you.  Our other stop was at Roger Williams Memorial National Park.

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Talk about progressive!  The town he formed/designed had women landholders and did not allow slavery.  We loved learning about someone we had never heard of and now admire.  We continued our walking tour of Providence with a visit to the first Baptist church in the US, the Atheneum Library, John Brown House, Brown University and an overlook with a great view of the city.

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Our next destination was Cape Cod.  We enjoyed dinner at the Chatham Fish Market

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They are a walk up only eatery – mostly a fresh fish market who also prepares fried seafood, but we enjoyed eating on the overlook nearby.  I especially liked the chowder.  We took in the view and watched a big seal feast on fish.  One he caught looked to be 2 ½ feet long!

The next morning we headed to the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center.  Our typical pattern is to stop at the Park Service visitor center first to scout the best way to explore and we have yet to get bad advice.  We also get stamps for our National Parks Passports.

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We carried out our plan to ride the Cape Cod Rails to Trails via bike the next morning.  We rented bikes from a shop right next to the trail and headed north toward another visitor center.  We drove out to the point past the visitor center and then back to the shop.  We biked about 20 miles total along a beautifully maintained path through neighborhoods and bogs, sleepy tourist towns and open spaces.  It was a lovely day.

Our ultimate destination the following day was Hamilton and the home of Rich and Karyl Hayes, but we ventured to the end of the Cape first.  We had breakfast at PB Boulangerie in Wellfleet, advertised to be as good as Paris.  I haven’t been to Paris, but Chris and Corey have and they said Paris was no better than what we had that morning.

We drove to Provincetown at the tip of the Cape and decided it reminded us of Key West.  There must be something that happens to towns at the end of the road that allow folks to be who they are.

Our three days in the Boston area were filled mostly with boring business things – getting Elly serviced, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, getting a switch installed for the water pump on the trailer, getting the wiring for the hitch fixed and logistics for the rest of the trip.  The most important business item (and not boring) was picking Kasey up at the airport on Monday.  She helped us eat our way through Boston – a lunch of fresh bread and cheese from her favorite bakery and deli in the North end, cannolis at Mike’s Pastries and dinner in Chinatown.  She called in her friend and BU grad Dominique for assistance for the Chinatown portion.  Dominique has lived in Hong Kong and we loved her choices.  Our favorite was Clay Pot Rice; the best part was the crispy rice from the edges, yum!

On Tuesday, we were off to visit Peter and Rachael in Dresden, Maine.  We drove through a bit of New Hampshire so we can say we’ve been there, but we didn’t do anything special.  I guess we’ll have to come back. We enjoyed watching Rachael and Peter’s landlords blow glass in the morning – of course they have artist/landlords!

Rachael and Peter had to work on Wednesday, so we explored the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland which features the art of the Wyeths (only Andrew the day we were there) and specializes in American art.  Rachael met us in the late afternoon and took us to Pemaquid Point and the lighthouse there.  I was fascinated by the rocks and the beauty of their formations and pools.

Peter met us at Red’s  in Wiscasset for lobster rolls for dinner.

The line in the summer extends around the corner and down the street interfering with traffic – we were grateful to get there early, both in the day and in the season.

Thursday morning we were up and out early for one of the best days of the trip.  Peter and Rachael joined us for a pokey, leisurely, day to and in Acadia National Park.  We had breakfast at Chase’s Daily in Belfast.  The smell alone of the bakery is worth the price of admission.  We enjoyed pastries and lattes and best of all great conversation.  Talking with young people like Rachael and Peter (and Kasey and Corey) assure me that the future is bright.  Our next stop was Bagaduce Lunch for purportedly the best fried clams in the country.

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I can’t say I’ve had any better, so they might be right.  Our next stop was in Blue Hill at Black Dinah Chocolatiers.  We each picked out a chocolate and then cut each in quarters so could each try 4 different ones.

I had a cappuccino too so was well fueled for the rest of the day.  We also stopped at Rackliffe Pottery in Blue Hill to admire the pottery in a style that was originally made by family of Karyl and Lori Hayes.  We got a quick tour and I bought a mug.  I hope to get more pieces in the future.  We decided that was enough dallying and we drove to Acadia National Park and hiked the Beehive Trail.

Rachael and Peter accompanied us to our campsite in the Blackwoods Campground and we had dinner together – bread and cheese from Belfast and lentil soup from Costco.  They stayed till after dark – I don’t think any of us wanted the day to end.

But end it did and we still had two more days in Acadia!  We hiked several shorter trails the next day, first to Acadia Mountain

and then two different trails along the water

On Saturday we got up at 3:00 am so we could get to Schoodic Point to see the sunrise.  We didn’t quite make it to the spot we wanted before the sun came up, so we stopped on the side of the road and still got quite a show.

We explored Schoodic for a couple hours, enjoying views of the rocks and ocean and lots of lobster traps.

One artist was out early catching the beautiful light.

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We watched one boat check their traps,

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but for the most point all we saw were the bobbers.

Corey drove over 60 miles, by far his longest stretch of the trip.  He hasn’t driven much, but I think that may change as he wants to get his license before his permit expires in August.

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We continued north to Quoddy Head State Park, the lighthouse there

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and the Eastern-most tip of the United States.

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We had fun making fun of all the eastern-most signs

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and made sure to get a photo of Chris at the eastern-most power pole.

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The next stop was to Roosevelt Campobello International Park in New Brunswick, Canada, our first and potentially only international stop of the trip.

The park is named to honor our president, Theodore, who spent childhood summers on the island and made the pledge to help defend Canada pre WWII.  We had a picnic lunch overlooking the water and then were off to the Western hemisphere’s largest whirlpool in the waters near Eastport.

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The photo doesn’t show as clearly as you could see the two different directions of water flow – you’ll have to use your imagination.  This day marked the fourth and final corner of our trip. As we walked back to the car, Chris and Corey joked that it was about time to head home.  We got back to the campground close to 8 pm, nearly 17 hours after we had left.  Chris joked if we did that every day, we could sure see a lot more.  We agreed, it was worth it for a day, but not a pace we could maintain for very long.

Our final night in Maine, we spent with Karyl and Rich Hayes at their cabin near Harrison.  Karyl was responsible for many of the sights and tastes we had in Maine so it was nice to be able to say thanks in person.  We had a wonderful evening together filled with great food and even better conversation followed by a leisurely breakfast of the same the next morning.

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We had thought we might not be able to connect with them as they were traveling when we stayed at their house outside of Boston, but with some creative planning we were able to pull it off.  I’m so glad we did.

We drove the Kancamagus Highway through New Hampshire, a beautiful scenic highway, and continued on scenic roads through Vermont.  We motored along so we could get to the Crowley Cheese Factory, the oldest continuously operating cheese factory in the US, before it closed. We stopped for dinner in Brattleboro, VT with Holden friend Jericho Westendorf.

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It was quite a treat to catch up with her and find out about the direction her life is taking.  She has a bright interesting future in study abroad administration.  That night we slipped back into Massachusetts to camp at Clarksburg State Park.  The Vermont State Parks don’t open until Memorial Day weekend!

The next day, Tuesday, we drove across the longest section of New York to Four Mile Creek State Park.  We stopped at Fort Stanwix National Monument for lunch, the site of a pivotal revolutionary war siege and battle.  We got to the campground just in time to see the sun set over lake Ontario.

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We had read that the best times to visit Niagara were before 8:30 in the morning or after 5:30 at night so we hit the road before 8 on Wednesday/yesterday.  I wasn’t sure what to expect – one surprise was the beauty of the water leading to the falls.

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We were prepared to have to pay to see the falls, but were able to walk around and see what we had the time to see without paying for any of the tours.

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I did enjoy the view of all the red raincoats lined up to get on the boat tour

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Chris’s favorite, of course was seeing the first hydro power plant site in the nation

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Our only complaint was all of the construction which kept us from seeing much of the horseshoe portion of the falls.

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Kasey enjoyed breaking the law as we walked back to the car.

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We spent the rest of the day driving through Ohio along the Erie Canal with a side trip to a few of the covered Bridges of Ashtabula County.

We are currently camping in Punderson State Park, a nice park except for the mosquitos, and visited Cuyahoga National Park today.  The park is surrounded by suburbs/cities and surrounds the Ohio and Erie Canal.  We walked to Brandywine Falls

and enjoyed the frogs

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turtles

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and fish

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along a boardwalk through a beaver-created marsh

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Before the park and the beavers, it was an auto scrap yard.  Nature is a pretty powerful re-creating force.

So, we have turned the fourth and final corner and are headed home.  The last five weeks of the trip are pretty well mapped out and even though five weeks seems like a long time to be able to go what would take just a few days of driving, we have packed the weeks full of adventures.  We are excited for the places we will see and the friends and family we will visit.  I am also anticipating with joy settling in a new place…in Seattle.  Chris accepted a job with Seattle City Light this week and he will start July 11, as long as he passes a background check.  Anyone think we should be worried?  I am hoping we can find a place to rent at a reasonable price close to downtown.  (If you know of anything, let us know!) Urban should be fun after five years in the wilderness.  I think we really have turned the corner.

Civil Connections

We entered Pennsylvania, state number 21 on April 23.  We tried to stay at Canoga State Park, but it was full so we ended up at Codorus State Park, a great spot from which to embark on our exploration of Gettysburg.  The next day, a Sunday, we started at St. James Lutheran Church, founded in the 1700’s in downtown Gettysburg.  We went out for breakfast after the early service at Lincoln’s Diner.  We shared the restaurant with a women’s Field Hockey team so the place was hoppin’.  Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out, especially when the hash browns are crisp and they were.  We headed to Gettysburg National Military Park with full stomachs.  We first toured the museum enjoying a film about the battle and a painted circular mural originally displayed at the World’s Fair in France.  I could have stayed in the room with the painting examining details for much longer and was tempted to get back in line and see it again.  The next step was to pile back in the car and do an auto tour of the battlefield.  The spring green grass and blue skies were in sharp contrast to imagining the strewn bodies and red mud we would have seen in 1863.

Learning about the battle also made us realize how close we were to becoming two countries.  If the north hadn’t won Gettysburg it is unlikely Lincoln would have been re-elected and his opponent had promised to end the war and settle with the south.  That evening at our campground we streamed St. Olaf radio’s broadcast of a music program that August Carpenter co-host’s.  Our favorite part was their analysis of Freddy Mercury’s voice as similar to Mongolian throat singing followed by an example of Mongolian throat singing.  We all agreed that Chris would be a great Mongolian throat singer. (Don’t you just love the phrase Mongolian throat singing?)

The next morning we made our first foray into Amish country with a visit to Otterbein Acres, a cheese farm, which we found in our “Off the Beaten Path” guide.  The guide recommended we call ahead as they aren’t always open.  I had several conversations with Lena as what we originally thought would be a 30 minute drive became a nearly two hour drive through beautiful farmland.  Not many roads in Pennsylvania are through roads or straight roads.  We were forever going at angles.  We were going to arrive at the farm just as John was going to lunch, so we made arrangements to visit John and Lena’s son’s farm first where the cheese is actually sold.  We weren’t sure we were in the right place at first – we were pulling in to the driveway of a farm, but after we entered, we saw a small sign advertising ice cream and asparagus.  The farmer and his daughter came out, gave us a tasting and we bought just about everything we tasted.  We sat in their driveway and ate our standard lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and apples before heading to John and Lena’s farm.  John was cleaning up, so we didn’t get to see any cheese-making, but he showed us around his operation.  I enjoyed the conversation more than the tour – he and his wife have traveled extensively in the US and we compared notes on where we had been.  He was also quite fascinated with Ziggy so we gave him a tour.

Our next stop was Selinsgrove, PA and the home of Scott and Lori Kershner, good friends from Holden.

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We had three wonderful days with them and finally got to meet their son, Soren (now two years old).  Scott gave us a tour of Susquahana University where he serves as chaplain.  Lori took us to a wonderful Mennonite grocery store and the biggest thrift shop in the United States.  Mostly we just hung out and caught up and got to know Soren. Chris read many books and when Soren got in the car as we were saying goodbye we were tempted to take him with us.

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It is a blessing to know that relationships forged at Holden can continue outside of Railroad Creek Valley.

On Thursday, we headed to Honeybrook, PA to visit more Holden friends, the Zegstroo family.  We detoured through Hershey, PA on the way.  Our factory tour was more like a Disney ride and the displays we saw at the Hershey Museum were geared to a younger set, but we did enjoy the sweets.

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The minimal facts we did see about Mr. and Mrs. Hershey made me want to learn more.  They invested their lives in the town and left their estate to a school that continues to operate.  I hope to find a good biography after we return to Washington.

We loved our visit with Harv, Marty, Wyatt, Addie, Aubrey and Flint.  When we drove in they greeted us Holden style, waving from the front porch of the office and Aubrey flexing her hikies.  Boy did we feel welcomed!

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Harv has his hands full at Tel Hai Retreat Center as the Facilities Manager.  Marty is going to beauty school and we loved hearing about her escapades with students closer to the age of her kids than to her.  Corey reveled in having kids his age to hang out with.  On Friday they took us to Intercourse, PA, an Amish merchant town and we explored a refurbished furniture shop and a quilt shop and had coffee.  We headed back to Tel Hai in time to grab lunch.  Corey and Chris stayed there while Marty and I enjoyed some girl time at a local farm to table restaurant, Wyebrook Farm.  I had an amazing salted honey pie—wow!  After dinner we got custard (soft ice cream) at Rita’s

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and then played two games of bowls laughing hysterically at times.  I realized I had been a hobbit that day and I was so stuffed– five meals – a big breakfast, a dirty chai latte at the coffee shop, lunch, afternoon tea/pie, dinner, and ice cream.  That was a lot of food in one day. That night we again counted it a blessing to make Holden connections after Holden.

On Saturday we piled all the kids in the car and Addie took us to her favorite place in her favorite town, Baldwin’s Book Barn in West Chester.

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The building was a stone dairy farm that has been converted to a used book store.  There are five labyrinth-like stories to get lost in and that’s what we did for two hours.  I wanted to purchase dozens of books, but limited myself to a book on making Amish quilts.  It was published in 1987, about the time I started an Amish quilt, and I hope to use the book to finish the quilt this winter.  We were in the heart of Amish country and loved driving on the roads and looking at the amazing farms.

We made a quick stop at the mall to buy prom shoes for Addie before returning to the camp to pack the van.  We said goodbye and headed to Newtown, PA, near Philadelphia and the home of Valerie and Rick Wigen, friends we made at Mount Cross, our church home in University Place.

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Rick took us to their church in Doylestown the next morning (Valerie was out of town/returning that afternoon) and we enjoyed one of our favorite worship experiences of the trip at St. Paul’s Lutheran.  The music was amazing and the sermon about “where do you live?” was one of the best sermons we’ve heard on the trip.  We returned to Doylestown that afternoon to the Mercer Museum.  The concrete/stone building was constructed by Mr. Mercer to house and display his collection of tools and keep them safe from fire.  The plans were in his head only and the five story building is a testament to his genius and eccentricity.  The tools were organized by use and we spent an enjoyable rainy afternoon admiring the building and its contents.  We found Nonna’s Italian Coffee in town for a latte and treats before heading back to the Wigen’s.  Our meals with them were rich with simple food and stimulating conversation.  We hope to return the favor the next time they come to Tacoma.

For the next two days, we immersed ourselves in downtown Philadelphia.  We visited Independence Center,

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the Liberty Bell,

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Christ Church,

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Independence Hall,

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and the” Rocky steps” at the Art Museum.

We were able to take a train from near the Wigen’s and got off at the Reading Market (pronounced like the color red, not like reading a book) to walk from there.  Philly Cheese Steaks at Carmen’s in the market were amazing

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and we loved our afternoon in the Free Library which felt like visiting a museum.

We were also pleasantly surprised by the self-guided tour at the US Mint.  I had no idea how coins were made.  The educational displays are supplemented with views of the actual process/factory in action.  We decided Hershey’s chocolate should consider a similar display.

On May the 4th (be with you), we drove to Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn and believe it or not, a campground in NYC.  The National Park is on the site of what used to be a commercial airfield and then a naval air station. We were able to catch a bus there which went to the subway which gave us access to any place we wanted to go in NYC.  There were no hook ups and we were parked on a big piece of asphalt, but the staff was super friendly and helpful, the bathrooms were clean and there was an NYPD training facility next door so we felt very safe.

Best of all at $35/night, we didn’t break the bank and could take in other New York offerings.  And we did.  That afternoon, we ventured to the Bronx to visit niece Gwen who is in her first year of a Master’s/Doctoral program at Fordham University.  She gave us a tour of the campus and we had dinner at an Italian deli nearby.

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The next day we headed to Times Square.

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We were looking at options for a Broadway show that evening but we couldn’t buy tickets until 3 pm.  A guy from CBS came up and asked us if we would like to see the Late Show with Stephen Colbert that afternoon and we said sure!  With rain forecast for the next day, we headed to the Highline, a rails to trails park built on what used to be an elevated freight train.  We walked the entire length (one and a half miles) enjoying the unique perspective of being three floors above the street.

The plants and trees were in full spring bloom.  The park seems to have transformed what used to be a mostly industrial area into a destination.  We found a corner pizza stop for lunch and consumed our fill of thin crust New York pizza.  We ate it folded over and felt so smart.  We got in line for the Late Show at 2:15, got let into the theater about 3:30 and were entertained until after 5:30.

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Judge Judy was the main guest, we had seats in the balcony on the side where Colbert’s desk is and the music was top notch.  The Trump jokes were the best and we were glad we had been in Times Square when they were giving out tickets.  After the show we headed back to TKTS to see what we could see on Broadway.  We had hoped that Book of Mormon might be an option, but apparently they don’t sell through TKTS (discount tickets).  We went to the window with Les Miz being our number one option and we got it.

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We grabbed a quick dinner and had a wonderful evening of amazing theater.  If I lived in NYC I would spend all of my disposable income on show tickets.

The next day was raining as predicted so we headed to MOMA, along with seemingly all of the other tourists in New York.  We had a great day exploring the exhibits, but that is the most crowded museum I have ever visited and I would not want to spend many days with that many people.

The next morning we packed up Ziggy and headed out Long Island to Wildwood State Park.  The weather continued rainy so we didn’t explore too much, but a little walk to the beach yielded beautiful beach rocks.  I would have love to take a jar full – they would make an amazing centerpiece on my kitchen island, but I wasn’t sure if that was legal and even if it was, we don’t really want to haul a jar of rocks around the rest of the trip.  We went to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rocky Point the next morning.  The church building was quite unique – it looked like they took a ship bottom, cut it in half and put it back together backwards.  The ceiling inside was beautiful, but made for challenging lighting.  After church we did a restocking trip to Costco in Riverhead and enjoyed a Mother’s Day Starbucks latte complete with the Sunday New York Times.

We continued our drive to the end of Long Island and Orient State Park on the North Fork.

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We caught the Cross Sound Ferry to New London, Connecticut.

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The sun finally came out that afternoon as we rode the hour and 20 minute ferry and we spent much of the ride on the deck.  Ziggy found a friend and we chatted with the owners of another home-made teardrop about the joys of traveling light.

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We reached our campsite at Rocky Neck State Park in time to enjoy a mild evening outdoors.  We are reveling in the later sunsets as we can do things in the day and still get to a campground with plenty of daylight left.

A week from today, we will pick up Kasey at the airport in Boston and she will join us for the last six weeks and three days of the trip.  We are all looking forward to having her join us, no one more than Corey.  It will be nice for him to have someone other than his parents to talk to.  With the end of the trip in sight, I’ve been thinking what a blessing this trip has been.  We have been to some amazing place and gotten a taste of places we would like to explore more.    Hands down, though, the best part of the trip has been the people we have visited.  We are so lucky to have family and friends spread out across the country and can’t wait to have them all visit after we get settled.  We are just hoping they won’t all come at once.  It might be a bit crowded.

Capital Capers

Our week in DC, the other Washington, was full to the brim — full of family, laughter, history, culture and even a good dose of traffic.  We stayed with Chris’ brother Kurt, his wife Tracy and their kids Carmen and Yeison.

We loved having both quality and quantity time with them and laughter-filled meals together were one of the highlights of the week.  We have never lived geographically close and most of the time when we have been together it’s been with lots of other family.  We reveled in having them all to ourselves!

Our first two days included several trips to the airport.  Chris flew to Seattle for an interview with Seattle City Light.  The trip was very quick.  He arrived Thursday evening, had the interview at 2 pm on Friday and was on his way back by midnight that night.  Meanwhile, Corey flew to Chicago to make his final college visit to Valparaiso in Indiana.  Both Chris’ interview and Corey’s visit went well.  He narrowed the field to either Valpo or UW, very different, but great options.  We’ll see what happens with the job — no news yet.  Corey had a great time in Chicago with Holden sister, Kari Alice Olsen, and Holden brother Tobiah, hosted Corey well at Valpo.  (Chris and I hope to see both of them this summer when we travel back across the country.)  Corey won our spot someone you know contest.  We decided early on that whoever spotted someone we knew who we didn’t plan to see on the trip would be the contest winner.  Corey saw Marcus Lohrman when he and Kari were on the U Chicago campus.  We’re  not sure yet what he won, but we have declared him the winner!

Chris arrived at Dulles Airport at 11 am on Saturday after flying overnight, so we grabbed Yeison and went for a walk around a nearby lake to keep Chris energized.

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I had fun playing with the zoom on the new camera and got some turtles from a cliff above the lake.

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Kurt and Tracy treated us to a double date night that night — such a treat!  We had an early fabulous dinner at an Indian restaurant near their home.  We headed into the city to the Reagan building for a Capital Steps “Mock the Vote” performance.  They were hilarious and there were times I was laughing so hard I thought I was going to have an asthma attack.  No one person or party was left out of the fun.  Their tagline is that they put the mock in democracy.  They’ve been entertaining since 1981, but I’ve got to think that they have more material this election than any previous ones!

Sunday morning we went to Kurt and Tracy’s church.  They have found a wonderful welcoming church home and we enjoyed getting to be a part of it for a day.  We grabbed a quick lunch and then headed to the Air and Space museum near their home that has all of the big stuff.  We got to see our second space shuttle of the trip as well as lots of other cool planes.

My favorites were the experimental planes.  One was designed to be a car/plane.  The wings come off so you can drive it down the road and add the wings when you want to fly.  I can’t imagine flying in any of them — they are all one seaters and some were smaller than a golf cart, but it was cool to see them!

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were our city days.  We had been to DC 4 years ago for 10 days and tried to do things this time that we hadn’t done before.  Monday’s agenda was to see oral arguments at the Supreme Court.  We picked a historic day to do it!  The arguments scheduled for that day were US vs. Texas, the DAPA case on Obama’s executive order which stopped the deportation of parents of kids with US citizenship.  There are about 50 spots available in the courtroom for the public and these spots were taken by folks who started lining up Saturday morning.  After those are full, they have chairs behind the curtain with limited visibility and let about 30 people in at once for 3 to 5 minutes.  We had hoped to see the entire session, but when we arrived at 8:00 quickly ascertained we would be lucky to make it into the 3 minute option.  The arguments started at 10 am so from 8 to 10 we stood in line and watched the show outside.

The place was packed with demonstrators and the media covering them and tourists like us.  The line started inching forward after 10 and we got in about 11:30 for our 3 minutes.  It was sort of like a Disney line — wait 3+ hours for 3+ minutes, but still worth it.  We heard both Sotomayor and Kagan ask questions and the back and forth was fascinating.  I would have loved to hear the entire session, but not if I had to camp out for two nights!

We had lunch at Union Station at Shake Shack.  We had heard an NPR interview with the founders of Shake Shack earlier in the trip and I had been wanting to go to one ever since, so it was pretty fun to be in a city that had one and be able to go.  The burgers were every bit as good as advertised and my tummy was quite happy.  We spent the afternoon at the National Gallery of Art — I think I made it through 1 floor in the time we were there.

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We thought of John Sellers, Corey and Kasey’s teacher at Holden, for one of the many times that week when we sought out the narrow corner of the building and again when we visited Ruben’s Daniel in the Lion’s Den painting.

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We hit the sculpture garden before heading back to the car.

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Tuesday’s agenda began at the Smithsonian American Indian Museum.  We had eaten lunch there in 2012, but hadn’t viewed the exhibits so it made the list this trip.  We met Kurt for lunch and got to tour his office and meet his coworkers at the US Grain Council.  There aren’t many restaurants near by so the food trucks line up on the street in front of his office and we had a world of choices.  Chris and Corey had gyros and I had Korean Bibimbap.  Yum!  We headed back to the Indian museum, but detoured to the National Botanical Garden first.

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I loved the colorful displays as well as the abundance of Madagascar plants in the desert section.

We had another hour and a half for the Indian museum and I was able to get to every floor.  I especially enjoyed learning about the sacred practices of nations throughout the Americas.  So many had balance/tension/opposites as an integral concept.  I would like to see more balance in our frequently polarized society.  We stopped at the Washington Monument on our way out of the city.

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Wednesday, our last full day, came all too quickly.  Unfortunately our time in the city was cut short even more when it took us over two hours to drive the 11 miles into the city.  We were very glad to be out of the car and into the beautiful sunshine and headed to the monuments.  The Vietnam Memorial never ceases to move me emotionally, especially when I see people connecting to it.

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Lincoln’ words in his second inaugural also touched me.

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The Korean monument surprised me when I realized nearly as many Americans were killed in three years there as in 15 years in Vietnam.

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The World War II Memorial was impressive, especially in how it represented all the different theaters and participants in the war.  The relief panels leading up to the fountain had scenes of all the different participants including not only the soldiers and all their different activities but also those at home.  FDR’s memorial was like walking through a garden and a good representation of all the things that happened during his 3+ terms in office.

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The MLK memorial made me want to make his words required reading.  I’m not sure if it should be weekly, monthly or yearly, but we should all read MLK.

Our final DC stop was the Renwick and an exhibition that was our favorite of the art we saw.  Each room was an installation — hard to describe, but here are some photos.  Try to see what the skull is made of.

Yesterday we packed up Ziggy, hooked her up to Elly (with her new WA license plate AZB 3100 which we have designated A Ziggy Buddy 3100) and hit the road again.  After a restocking at Costco, we headed to West Virginia and Harper’s Ferry.

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We didn’t have much time to explore since we got there at 3:30, but we made the most of our time.  The history there spans from the Revolutionary War to the Civil Rights Movement with particular importance during the Civil War and John Brown’s attack on the armory to stop slavery.  The visit made for an 8:00 arrival at our campsite at Canaan Valley State Park and a 9 pm dinner, but the longer days of sunlight meant we didn’t arrive after dark!

We slept in this morning and then hiked in Blackwater Falls State Park.

Everyone we asked about West Virginia recommended this park and it didn’t disappoint.  We are grateful this afternoon for the beautiful lobby at Canaan Valley State Park Resort and its free internet while it pours outside.  Oh, I almost forgot!  Corey put down his deposit for UW this week.  It’s official.  He will be a Husky in the fall.  It’s been a full week.