Monday, September 3, 2012

TGJFRT of 2012 - Seattle - Day I've lost count

Well, obviously we are home now. Or else this is the world's longest vacation. I had grand illusions of blogging on the road and memorializing our trip; however, I underestimated the amount of time I would have to blog, and also the tediousness of blogging from my beloved, but not typing and posting-friendly, iPad. And keeping up with that "Day #" thing? Also tedious. But I do want to recap, so I'll plug on so we have this for posterity's sake.

After family reunioning, we spent the next day (#13) with my parents and sister and her family. In my mind (at the risk of sounding like a Debbie Downer), I thought this might be one of the last opportunities we had to go back to Seattle with my folks, so I wanted my kids to see where Grandpa grew up, etc. So we loaded up the vehicles and hit the road...not that there was all that far to go.

My dad grew up in south Seattle. In fact, the house where he spent late elementary through high school is also the house he and mom moved into right after Grandpa Peretti (his dad) died and right before I was born. (Didja get all that?) We saw the little church where mom and dad met - now a Spanish-speaking AG church. Mom had moved to Seattle after high school and was at church one Sunday night. Fun Bob and Geneva fact: Dad arranged for her ride to leave her so he could take her home. Smooth, dad. The house where they lived when they got married is right next door.

From there, it was to the little house where they moved when I was a baby and where my sister was born, also very near Boeing Field where dad worked. (Along with much of Seattle.) (As dad says, "When Boeing catches a cold, Seattle sneezes.") They weren't there for all that long since dad was transferred to Houston when I was two. And the rest....well, history and all that. One thing that struck me was that no matter where they were, they found a church and got plugged in. I'm not so naive as to think that, even then, it was just the culture to do so, but it was certainly their family culture, and became ours. Thank God.

That afternoon, we took the boys on a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island. The heat wave, thankfully, had dissipated, and they were having more typical weather. It was actually very cool on the ferry, as well as cloudy. The Bainbridge Ferry was one of the shorter rides, which was one of the reasons we chose it, and Bainbridge is a quaint little town. We had a pizza picnic, and some ice cream.

That night we met the rest of the family at Ivar's Salmon House for dinner. Ivar's is one of those places that is in my Seattle memories...not because they always went there...since, as dad says, they didn't have two nickels to rub together back then...but we did go on some of our return trips when we were adults. So, to Ivar's we went. It also happened to be mom and dad's anniversary dinner. I know they were delighted to spend it out with 12 other people...eight of whom were age 14 and under.... ;)

Here's where I have to interject that, in my opinion, Seattle is an awful city to drive in. Not necessarily because of traffic...that wasn't too bad...but the roads are hilly, and they don't always go straight, and you exit and then the road divides and they have concrete dividers so it's impossible to get over so you have to find a way to circle around and more hills and curves and blah, blah, blah..... Anyway, it's not straightforward and simple like Houston, which is, well, for one thing, flat, and laid out like a wheel with spokes. Orderly and all that.

So, back to Seattle. On Wednesday morning, Jack got up and headed down to a Russian bakery we found across from Pike's Place market for some pastries, then, because I am a wonderful wife and mother, rather than go to H&M or any of the other great downtown Seattle shopping venues, we went to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field.  Actually, I didn't mind it (too much); it's really well-done and interesting, and one can quite easily spend the whole day there.  My history-buff husband and oldest son especially enjoyed the huge WWI & II wing.  (This was the point where I took the 7yo for a McDonald's run.  His attention span just isn't that long....)

That night we met my sweet friend, Mary; her husband, Brian; and their dog, Timber at Green Lake Park in Seattle for a dinner picnic.  Mary and I were roomates here in Houston years ago, and she's the kind of friend you pick right up with like you'd never been apart.  I really like her hubs too; he's a nice guy.

So, that was Seattle.  Tomorrow, on the road again.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

TGJFRT of 2012 - Days 10, 11 & 12 - The Family Reunions

We spent Saturday and Sunday visiting with the Neals - my mom's side of the family - and kicked off the weekend with our traditional Neal family breakfast of chocolate gravy and biscuits. Hey...if you haven't tried it, don't knock it.... It was great to see so many family - all of my mom's sisters and one lone brother, who also happened to be the one who married Jack and me, and their spouses. There was, of course, a mountain of food. Ironically, the Seattle area was experiencing record heat, and Saturday and Sunday were the hottest days in two years. Oh, joy. Our apologies for bringing the heat with us. I was so looking forward to cooler weather. So lots of sitting in the shade and catching up ensued. A couple moments that stand out in my mind: Listening to my Uncle Dwayne talk and realizing he sounded just how I remember my Grandpa Neal sounding. Sitting around on Sunday morning with my Aunts and Uncles singing old hymns. My goodness, they know some of the old camp meeting songs...some I'd never heard of. We relocated hotels (again) on Sunday and moved downtown. Four adults and eight children traipsed around the streets of downtown Seattle in search of dinner, and naturally ended up right where we started, at the pub smack dab in front of our hotel. On Monday morning, Jack, the boys and I walked down to Pike's Place Market. What a groovy place. My Grandma Peretti used to go shopping down there and my dad has memories of the meat market guy giving him free hot dogs...which after the first few times he no longer cared for, so Grandma let him ditch them. We also found a great Russian bakery across the street from the market for breakfast. The original Starbucks is down there too, but we bypassed that. We also went to see the Peretti side of the family on Monday. Again, more catching up and getting reacquainted with cousins I never had the chance to know, and of course, seeing the aunts and uncles. One of my aunts, baptized as a young teen by Aimee Semple McPherson, is a licensed minister, still studies the Word and teaches weekly. Uncle Gene displayed his shoe repair handiwork. The consensus is that is not the field for him. I so enjoyed seeing them all - Aunt Eva, Uncle Gene & Simone, Aunt Barbara, Uncle Harvey & Aunt Karen, Uncle Roland & Aunt Iola, Uncle Dave & Paula. I am deeply grateful for the faith tradition that has been handed down on both sides of my family. Psalm 61:5b,"You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

TGJFRT of 2012 - Day 9

Friday was the long-awaited river rafting trip.  Months ago dad suggested this; I guess it was on his bucket list. Because of our kids (and my complete lack of adrenaline-junkieness), we opted for the tamer family float option - consisting of Class I and II rapids - as opposed to the whitewater - Class III, IV and V - rapids.  Also, as the likelihood of ending up in the water is less, the family trip did not necessitate wearing neoprene. Imagine my disappointment.

We met in Gold Bar, where we then (after signing the requisite insurance waivers and hearing the first of at least two safety speeches) were trucked to the drop site. Our group consisted of our two guides, mine and part of my sister's brood, for a grand total of 6 adults and 6 kids in two large rafts.

But before launching we heard safety speech number two, which consisted of all the ways we could possibly drown in the river. "Do not swim in shallow water; your foot can get trapped in a rock and the current will push you over and you will drown!" "If you encounter a strainer [a place where a tree or other object protrudes out into the water] you must hoist yourself onto the top of the strainer as it pushes the water through or you will drown!" "If we get stuck on an object, and your guide yells 'high side', everyone must move to the front of the boat in order to dislodge from said object!"

Well, I can tell you, at this point I was about ready to call it a day.  But when we very quickly made it to the first set of rapids, and then proceeded to get lodged on the rocks and had to "high side"', I was contemplating how I was going to get the heck off of that river.  Did I mention I'm not an adrenaline junkie?  I may or may not have glared at Jack with clenched teeth and declared I was never, not ever, doing this again.

But I kept a white-knuckled grip on my paddle (did I mention we had to row?) and kept going...and after I got used to it, it wasn't so bad....  The boys loved it.  On this particular stretch of the Skykomish, where the water is deep enough (you know, so your feet don't get trapped in the rocks and the current doesn't sweep you over and you DROWN), the boys could jump in and swim.  We're talking 20-30 feet deep in some spots.  Oh, and just two days prior this water had been snow and ice up in the mountains, so it was coooold.  Like 45 degrees, take your breath away cold.  But most of the boys got in least until they were numb...which didn't take long.

We had packed a lunch, so stopped along the river to picnic. But not for a drink.  At least not me.  Cause you know what they don't have along the river?  Bathrooms.  If you're a boy, or anyone prepared to get in the 45 degree water, you could remedy the situation, but, alas, for me, it was not to be.

For about the last half of the trip, the current slowed down, and we were met with a pretty decent breeze blowing against us, so we ended up rowing quite a bit. Whew.

It really was a beautiful trip down the river - the water was clear, the sky blue; it was a perfect weather day.  And, now that I've done it once, I guess I'd do it again.

But first, I need to go to the bathroom.

TGJFRT of 2012 - Day 8

On Thursday morning (day 8) we left Kennewick, WA, driving west through Yakima and lots of farm country, heading for the mountain. Mt. Rainer, that is. It rises to over 14,000 feet and its snow-covered peak can be seen from miles around. Produce stands line the roads in that neck of the woods (east of the Cascades); we snagged some delicious peaches and organic cherries...only $2.99/lb!  My mom grew up on a farm northwest of Mt. Ranier.  What a view. 

It was a long drive, but scenic, crossing through Wenatchee National Forest, with pull-outs where we could see Clear Creek Falls and another with a great view of Ranier. Once we actually drove into Mt. Ranier National Park, the view wasn't as good, seeing that we were actually driving up onto the mountain itself.  Along the southern portion of the park, Paradise is the highest point accessible by car; at that level (about 5,000 feet) the wild flowers bloom profusely.  We also found a patch of snow - well, ice mostly - and my Texans had a ball slipping and sliding around.

There was also some road construction going on throughout the park...the kind where the road is completely shut down for chunks of time and you just stop your car and get out and enjoy the view until they let you through again. Not too bad...unless you have to go to the bathroom, of course....

It took the better part of the day on the road, once we got through the park and then winding our way up through the country - actually not too far from where my mom grew up - and to the northern suburbs of Seattle where we were meeting one of my sisters and her family.

Tomorrow, the river. (Cue the music from Deliverance.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

TGJFRTO of 2012 - Day 7

XYZPDQ.  Okay, not that kind of zipper. Jack found a zip line company in Horseshoe Bend, about 40 minutes north of Boise, so in true spontaneous vacation style, he and the two big boys decided to go zip lining.  They had an absolute blast, and even captured it all on video by renting one of those helmets with a camera mounted on top. Since littlest brother didn't meet the weight requirements (and isn't all that wild about heights anyway), I found an indoor trampoline park that was just his speed.  He loved it.

Needless to say, all our morning adventures put us on the road later in the day, but we pushed on through Oregon, especially grateful for the modern transportation and conveniences of today as we sped over the Oregon trail travelled by long ago settlers. We stopped for dinner at an old west steakhouse in Pendleton, OR (home of the Pendleton woolen mills) thar pleasantly surprised us, and then drove another hour into Washington. Yay!

Today we head to Seattle via Mount Ranier National Park. Now to pack up and get on the road. Again. 

TGJFRTO of 2012 - Days 5 and 6

Boy, the days are beginning to run together into one giant vacation blur, and we don't even have a full week under our belt yet....

First thing Monday morning we headed to Arches National Park, just outside of Moab. This was also when a few days on the road caught up with me and vacation expectations clashed with reality. I'm fine now....and all family members are still accounted for.

Arches is amazing. (I'm using that word frequently on this trip....I may need to reference a thesaurus.) It's desert, although when I think of desert I tend to think of flat and sandy, and this is anything but. We drove to the farthest point of the park, climbing and winding most of the way; that probably took 45 minutes. We had a picnic, then set off on one of the easier hikes to Landscape Arch. (Oh, yes...I'm smart enough to avoid any trail that has the word "primitive" in it, thank you very much.) On our way down, we did another "easy" hike to Delicate Arch. I've learned that in park lingo, "easy" is relative. In one place it means longer and flatter (about an hour for the one we did, some inclines, but not too terrible), in another, shorter but significantly steeper (think stair-master). Hiker beware. This park is also home to Balancing Rock, which is just what it sounds like. Oh, and it's plenty hot up there out in the blazing sun. Water consumption is highly recommended and encouraged.

We spent the rest of the day driving along curving mountain roads, where train tracks tunneled through mountains, and rivers traced the road with us...destination Salt Lake City. One eagle-eyed passenger spotted a combined KFC/A&W, necessitating a snack stop. (Apparently someone (not me) hadn't had their fill of KFC.) (Original, please.) Of course, the boys thought A&W Root Beer floats were an awesome road trip treat.

We stayed the night in downtown Salt Lake City. On the way out Tuesday morning we drove by Temple Square for a's really quite beautiful...but didn't stop for the grand tour. (Gee, there's a shocker.) (But still, Go Romney.)

From there it was out to Antelope Island State Park to view the great salt lake, the largest lake West of the Mississippi, and the second saltiest lake in the world. (I think that's right, but don't hold me to can google it if you're interested.)

And then it was on to Idaho. One of the things we've seen a lot on the roads up here are tandem trucks....semis pulling multiple trailers behind them. I don't recall seeing that at home; S says they're not legal in Texas. Don't know....but man, they sure do haul along those long stretches of open road in Northern Utah and Southern Idaho. Also, according to the road signs, those stretches are prone to high winds, severe rain and blinding dust storms (not necessarily at the same time, and which one should not drive into) (really...ya think?), and, last, but not least, wildfires. How's that for pleasant driving conditions?

We stopped in Twin Falls, ID along the Snake River, where I was ever so grateful for the cyclone fence running along the edge of the scenic view, which was a sheer rock canyon, then again at Shoshone Falls. Beautiful. And referred to as the Niagara Falls of the west, should you ever be faced with that question in Trivial Pursuit. On our drive there, we drove through lots of farm land, and as we got closer, drove by one house with apricot trees in front, ladders out and a sign that said "free apricots". Well, of course we stopped. I mean, free....why not? Not that we've ever eaten apricots right off the tree but there's a first time for everything.

Final stop Tuesday...Boise, ID. Stay tuned for more vacation adventures....

Monday, July 30, 2012

TGJFRTO of 2012 - Day 4

Sunday.  After breakfast at the hotel, and a little family church service (with a rather restless congregation), we got on the road.  My goal of minimal technology so we could watch all the lovely scenery has only been partly realized, since I guess even after a while mountains get a little boring.

Of course, we did the requisite family photos (sans me, of course, since I was the photographer) by the "Welcome to **enter name of state here**" signs. And stumbled across a town having a fair so stopped to play at the playground and let the boys do the "bubble" ride, which consists of crawling into giant clear plastic bubbles, which are then inflated, sealed, and rolled into a pool of water where the inhabitant spins, attempts to walk, but mostly flops like a giant human hamster. Good times.

We ate lunch at KFC.  Not that that's particularly exciting, but I happened to receive a text from a friend with a picture with of their KFC, assuming it was her Sunday lunch, and it prompted cravings among some of the passengers in our vehicle. (And maybe the driver too.) Turns out the text was from her trip to Kenya and was weeks old.  Don't know what that has to do with anything, but I thought it was funny.  And I don't need to eat there again anytime soon. 

The drive through Colorado was beautiful and Utah has some amazing rock formations. I totally get why folks in this part of the country are so into all their outdoor activities.  In fact, our waiter tonight (Blue Pig Barbecue, in case you're interested) told us Moab is the mountain biking capital of the world. Good to know. Still not doing it. 

Good night.