Monthly Archives: June 2018

Day 12: The final Day of Our Jaunt in June

It’s a delicate dance each morning when we are traveling; no different for the final day of a trip. We wake; I shower first while my driver checks the news of the day and begins to collect all the cords and tech equipment we travel with. Then we exchange and he showers while I collect the dirty clothes; wash out our thermos cups and fill them with ice; then clean out the mini fridge and pack our little travel cooler with ice for the road. We each pack the final arrangements for our own bags. And then we make the pass through the room; first me; then him; then me again. Just to make sure we didn’t inadvertently leave anything. We didn’t, did we? I guess this morning dance is actually helpful because we haven’t left anything anywhere for a long, long time.

A little weary from this jaunt in June, we were anxious to get on the road, hoping to be ahead of what we knew would be atrocious traffic around Olympia and approaching Seattle. We visited every rest stop along the way, and at one we surmised that Elizabeth and Phillip must have made a stop here along their travels. What we found when we got out of the car was a full, long-haired, auburn lady’s wig laying beside where we pulled into the parking space. It looked a little the worse for wear and we imagined Elizabeth needed to make a quick change before she even left the car, dropping the wig as she made for the restroom to complete her change. I should have taken a picture of it, but I was too shocked to think of it until we were driving away. (Needless to say, we enjoyed “The Americans” . . . and Elizabeth and Phillip made it safely to – spoiler alert – Russia.)

Because it was such a clear and bright- blue day, we were able to get a quick view of Mt. St. Helen’s . . . from the car window; and yes, we were going 65 mph. I did get it, though! Just to compare it with Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen – here’s Mt. St. Helen’s.

We traveled on. The day was getting mighty hot for our beloved Northwest climate. As expected, the traffic was stop and go for miles along the freeway approaching Seattle. We progressed slowly and carefully and were simply grateful to be going home after a lovely little jaunt in early summer.

We arrived around 3:00 and immediately got a call from one of our sons who wanted to take his father to a movie. Perfect timing. Another son and his family joined them and I stayed home to get the unpacking and washing done. I even delighted in my own kitchen again and made a spice raisin cake for my birthday boys and Father’s Day.

That’s why I’m a day late in putting up our exploits for our final day of travel. I was just too busy last night . . . and home . . . so, it didn’t occur to me until after I was in bed that I had not ended our trip.

It’s ended. We arrived safely. We enjoyed our jaunt. And, now the summer can begin. Our wildflowers welcomed us with a rainbow of colors and blooms. All the boys are arriving in mere hours to celebrate their father’s birthday and Father’s Day. The grace continues. May each of your summer days be filled with grace as well.

Day 11: of Our Jaunt in June

We prepared for a day of festivities. This was part of the reason for this whole trip. Our goddaughter graduated from high school on June 1st and was hosting her graduation party/open house today. We dressed for the occasion, left the motel and made a few familiar stops in the Portland area before the party began. A large Michael’s craft store and the ever popular Fabric Depot are two places I always HAVE to visit while in Portland. It seems they have a better selection of craft items and sewing fabric and notions than are available anywhere in Seattle.

Then on to the party. We arrived just as some drops of rain were beginning to fall, but the sun continued to shine. The smell of the rain gave the day a scent of “fresh and clean.” My brother’s house was full of friends and family, with snacks and hor d’oeuvres spread around their huge “knights of the round table” dinning table. Laughter filled all empty spaces and joy settled on every heart. Not only was our goddaughter recently graduated from high school, but her younger sister had just graduated from Eighth grade as well. So, there was double reason to celebrate.

My brother has a lovely family and a community of friends that would rival most people. They have lived in the same house and attended the same church since they were married 21 years ago. There is something to be said for stability. It shows in their friends and the comfort of their children.

Once the party was over we sat for a bit and visited with just my brother and his family. Then we said our good byes and traveled back to our motel. On the way, we were sucked into an Olive Garden, where my driver and I shared one entree of salad and lasanga. It was the perfect ending of a perfect day.

The sky outside our motel window was painted salmon pink and violet once again tonight. I had to take a picture just to remember how God paints the evenings when there is rejoicing over one (or two) graduation(s) in our family.

Day 10: of our Jaunt in June

A blessed 57 degrees met us this morning as we went out to pack the car. Blessed! It was so refreshing, I can’t tell you. Mountain air, sunshine and 57 degrees. Who knew that would be such a grace today? It was a reminder of home as we anticipated being on our way home. But, first, we have commitments in Portland, and Portland awaits. It only took five hours of driving; four comfort stops; three passes through the mountains; two listenings of a two CD set of history and music of African-American lore; crossing one state line; and coffee, sparkling water, and a couple of hand fulls of trail mix, to keep us happy.

Of course, I had to capture one last picture of Mt. Shasta – in the morning light – as we traveled 65 miles an hour up the freeway. From a completely different vantage point, it was still just as beautiful, don’t you agree?

Passing into Oregon, we could see the difference in rainfall immediately – denser trees, more growth on the forest floor, and grasses along the road that are Oregon green, instead of California brown. It’s amazing to think that the mountains and the winds and rains all cooperate with each other to make our regions different and unique. It took us more than two hours to come completely down out of the Siskiyou Mountains. But each mile brought us closer to our desired destination – a meal of German food at a favorite restaurant in Clackamas.

An unfortunate accident along I-205 had Gypsy taking us out and around it on old Highway 99. We did make our destination and thoroughly enjoyed our soup, schnitzel, spaetzle, and pork meatballs. It was the carrot (well, actually it was the soup, schnitzel, spaetzle, and pork meatballs) at the end of a day of nothing but driving. And, it was well worth it.

After dinner we visited the local Costco, which was less than a mile away, for gas and a little walk. We found our motel and and began to relax to the cable news as the sun set with lovely pinks and violets shinning through the thin clouds outside our window.

Day 9: of Our Jaunt in June

A simple day of travel; leaving Red Bluff about 10:00 and taking the eastern road up to the Lassen Volcano National Park site, which was first on the agenda. The day was already hot, although when we increased in altitude the temps dropped slightly into the high 70’s.

At the park visitor center a visitor is actually standing in the bowl of the crater created by the volcano in 1914. What an amazing example of how resilient nature is. If one did not know, there is not even a suggestion of the destruction that happened at the beginning of the 20th century. The trees are straight and tall; deep and healthy green; with wildflowers blooming at their feet. We learned about the geology of the area and how the earth shifts and changes – unpredictably. It is a lesson for us all: we are not in control.

Coming back down the mountain, we traveled on, making tracks toward Yreka. Again, only in reverse, we passed through the mountains with Mt. Shasta looming in the distance until we turned to go around it. Again, it was stunningly beautiful. Traveling north, the sky was filled with filmy, soft-white clouds, but still, the mountain had the perfect opportunity to stand out.

We were able to stop at a lovely rest stop along Lake Shasta, fed by the Sacramento River (as well as three others). We made our comfort stop and I took a few pictures, and we traveled on.

By 4:20 we arrived in Yreka just in time to check into a motel and walk across the street to the Brown Bear Diner for some much needed dinner. It was simple, but tasty and filling and we went back to the welcome of an air conditioned room.

I took my walk out along the highway and found a unique grocery store; a Dollar Tree; a J.C. Penny’s; and a super Walmart. It made for a slower walk, but one that was interesting and entertaining. I usually don’t get to see what Walmart offers as my driver will never go to one! I don’t hold it against him, as he has a valid perspective; but I still like to look.

Since we don’t have cable TV at home, evenings like this are interesting when there are news items of particular interest. So, we are cabling the news tonight.

Day 8: of Our Jaunt in June

Emotions were running high today for so many reasons. Saying “good bye” is difficult; a scheduling  and timing mix up with an appointment at a National Park; the lack of comfort stops along I-5 north; 101 degrees is simply way, way too hot; and short nights causing lack of sleep were all culprits.

I was up for mass at 8:00 a.m. again, only to find my friend was nowhere around. I went over to mass, along with five other daily mass attendees, and we prayed together. Upon returning to the house, we packed up and readied ourselves for departure. We found our friend (who had unexpectedly slept late) and walked over to the little cafe for breakfast together and enjoy our last conversations. We said our “good byes” in the parking lot and drove north out of Oakland.

About an hour later we found the little community of Danville, where the tours start for Eugene O’Neil’s house – only to realize our scheduled tour was for 2:00 p.m. and it was only 10:30. We agonized over the time and if we should stay in Danville until 2:00 p.m. – at which time our tour would take more than hour, and afterwards we would have more than three hours of driving ahead of us. My driver got a coffee and I walked through the length of the town and when we met up again, we got back in the car and traveled on.

And, it’s a good thing we did as we barely made it to our motel as it was. The heat was oppressive – how did it get to be 30 degrees hotter since just LAST WEEK? We were tired and cranky and needed a comfort stop . . . and there were none to be had. Finally, my driver said put “hamburgers” into maps and see what comes up. That was a magic trick I’ll have to remember for future reference. I had been googling “rest stop.” Who knew? Luckily, a Wendy’s was only eight miles away – with nothing else available for miles and miles afterward.

We finished “Team of Rivals” and found our motel in Red Bluff just about the time we couldn’t stand the road, the heat, and the traffic any longer. The most appreciated grace of the day was the air conditioner in our room that allowed us to return to a comfortable 69 degrees. After waiting for what seemed like too long to eat, we decided on Carlitos and enjoyed their excellent cooking again.

Now my computer is getting cranky and I better put it and myself to bed before I lose everything and have to start over.

But first, one last thought. All this reminds me of the man who wanted to become a monk and joined a monastery that required complete silence – except for once a year where he could meet with the Abbot and say one sentence. After his first year in the monastery, when he met with his Abbot he said, “The bed’s hard.” The Abbot nodded and another year of prayer began. After the second year the monk met with his Abbot again and shared, “The food is bad.” The Abbot nodded and the third year of silent prayer began. At the end of three years in the monastery, the monk spoke with his Abbot at the appointed time saying, “I quit.” The Abbot nodded and commented, “Well, it’s about time. All you’ve done is complain since you got here.”

Good night.




Day 7: of Our Jaunt in June

Days of remembering, honoring, recalling and savoring are often hard to come by. For whatever reason, it seems we don’t get many chances to spend such time with loved ones and old friends.

The day began early – with mass in the church at 8 a.m. It was a small group of dedicated parishioners – and me. Afterward, we walked down the street to a cafe for breakfast before readying ourselves for a trip out on San Francisco Bay. But first, a stop at the local Walgreen’s to have them make some VHS transfers to DVD. Fr. Bill had two old VHS tapes from days gone by that I had videoed and given him years ago. One was of his last celebration at our parish in Wallingford; the other of his last Easter Vigil at OLG. He confided that he had never seen either of them and now all the electronics have changed, so the tapes needed to be changed. Thankfully, Walgreen’s provides such a service – for a fee, of course.

Because the Warrior’s victory parade was today through the streets of Oakland, we decided to drive down the road an hour and spend some time in the sun at the coastal community of Tiburon, ultimately taking the ferry from there over to San Francisco. After a little stop at a coffee shop on the shoreline, we did just that. It was a beautiful day and the ferry ride could not have been more restful and invigorating; both at the same time. We sailed past Angel Island, and Alcatraz before docking at the San Francisco Wharf. In an earlier time, we would have all loved to go walking in the streets of San Francisco for an hour or two until the next ferry, but these days we were all happy to simply turn around and get on the very next return ferry. The lovely ride, the beautiful scenery and the brisk ocean air were all the entertainment we needed.

By the time we returned to Oakland, it was 5:30 and we were famished. So we parked at a California Pizza Kitchen and had a most delicious meal, reviving our energy and our spirits. My dear driver received a free dessert to celebrate his birthday and we went back to the Parish House full, happy and satisfied with a day of conversation; coffee; ferries; sun; sights; and sea air.

Every day has it’s grace, but this one was particularly special. Loving and committed husbands are rare and old friends are hard to come by. I got to spend today with both, awash in memories against the backdrop of the San Francisco Bay.

Day 6: of Our Jaunt in June

The morning air from the ocean was brisk and refreshing as we packed out of our Marina hostel to begin our drive north toward San Francisco. It was only a couple of hours drive, but we found the traffic increasing as we progressed.

Stopping just before the city limits at the Junipero Serra rest stop, we took a lovely walk up onto the rise over the freeway to see an over-sized statue of Fr. Serra pointing out toward the sea. The gardens leading up the path were beautiful and so alien-looking to these non-Californian garden eyes. Someone did a masterful job of making a little place look full of bounty and beauty. It was truly a rest stop, in every sense of the word. Now, on to San Francisco.

I had contacted my cousin last night to see if it was possible to meet for a short “hello” just after noon at his bakery: Destination Bakery in San Francisco. We arrived at the prescribed time and no sooner had we purchased a cinnamon roll (absolutely the BEST in the world! Hands down!!) and a ham and cheese croissant, when he and his husband arrived for our reunion. It was delightful to see them again and the conversation flowed. We chatted for about an hour and knew we had to get on the road to be over the Bay Bridge before 3:00. We parted after a few pictures and made our way into Oakland . . . which was the real reason for this whole trip.

My mentor for many years, Fr. Bill, is soon moving from his retirement in Oakland to a “retirement home” in Tewksbury, MA. We knew we wanted to see him one more time before he moved. He has been such an influence in my life and ministry and it’s impossible to measure the impact he has had on me.

It was a delight to see him and we had no trouble in picking up right where we last left off – reminiscing and remembering “the good old days” when we used to work together. We went out to eat at a nearby P.F. Chang’s and filled up on their fine cuisine. He graciously offered us rooms in the rectory during our visit and we are settling in. It was a lovely day, topped by the renewal of friendships that bring such grace to my life.

Day 5: Our Jaunt in June

“From the mountains, to the valleys, to the the ocean, white with foam . . . God bless America, my home sweet home!”

These words tumbled unbidden through my brain as we drove from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, across the broad valley of Central California’s agricultural belt, to the Pacific Ocean beach at  old Ft. Ord. It was a short day of driving, but one that crossed three glorious geographic wonders of our country – and all of them in California.

We had made other plans to stop at various places of interest, but simplified the day by just getting to the coast. We craved the cooler temperatures, the moister air, the ocean breezes that reminded us of home. And, we were not disappointed. We stopped in a lovely corner of Marina at the Comfort Inn and set out to explore. The temps had dropped from 79 this morning in Modesto to 62 this afternoon in Marina, allowing us to gain a little much needed energy. That dry desert heat just takes it out of a body!

My only desire was to go to the beach – well, maybe even just to SEE the beach. And, my driver was happy to comply. After a little rest, we set out to find the old Ft. Ord State Park and Public beach. It was only a matter of miles from our motel. Ft. Ord was a major military installation here until 1994 when the Army gave it back to the state. But the ghosts of its former life are evident everywhere. Old barracks still stand, paint peeling and windows broken out; old roads remain that lead nowhere; and miles and miles of dunes and beach that were used for target practice and tactical maneuver training are still stunningly beautiful, although much of it off limits to the public because of possible unexploded ordnance.

I could not help but think of all the men who trained for battle here on these beaches, who perhaps honed skills that kept them alive during battle. Skills that perhaps helped keep us alive as a free country. The dunes and sands have shifted . . . time has passed . . . and yet the sand, and the sea remain. The Army is gone, but nature survives – even though the Army planted foreign vegetation to stabilize the sand, which the state is now trying to eradicate. It does make a beautiful picture in the late afternoon sun, though, don’t you agree?

From our walk down memory lane on old Ft. Ord, we went to Gusto’s – a hand crafted pizza and pasta establishment. We arrived as they opened their doors for dinner and were treated to fine dining like we only dream about. Going all out, (and because we hadn’t eaten a bite of anything since 9:00 a.m.) we ordered more than we should have. You’ll notice on one of their signs it says “First we eat. Then we do everything else.” We were happy to comply and started our dinner with an appetizer of meatballs; then shared an Italian chop salad with local greens and produce; and a wood fired pizza with prosciutto and Pecorino Romano. My driver had some wine and I drank my favorite beverage these days – ice cold water. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and the attentions of our excellent waiter. Gusto’s definitely earns a spot in the annals of great dining while on a road trip.

For my postprandial walk I traced my way back toward Ft. Ord and walked through a city park that I saw as we drove by. Locke-Padden Park is a wetlands and water fowl sanctuary, right in the middle of town. I walked down into the park and road noise magically disappeared and bird song took over. It was cooler among the reeds and the bugs began to hug me, but I walked swiftly on. Ducks were bathing in the shallows and the evening sun was kissing the tops of the foliage goodnight. It was a delightful spot and I was only one of two other people I saw there. Alone with nature – in the middle of the city. Truly an amazing experience and something to look for in my own city. I’m sure there are similar spots hidden away from the crowds.

I found my way back to the motel grateful for all that we have seen and experienced in these short five days. Yes, God bless America – my home, sweet home.

Day 4 of Our Jaunt in June

Yosemite National Park has been calling to us ever since our first almost failed attempt to visit back in 2005. (We did eventually get there, but in a car for hire, completely at someone else’s timetable.) So today we sprung out of bed at an early hour, gassed up the car and set out . . . all before 7:59. (That’s mighty early for us, folks.)

We took Highway 140 through Mariposa and entered the park through the Portal that was only just large enough for one car to pass through. It was a stunning and impressive entrance. We made our way across the valley floor and began to look for parking, the ever frightful experience in any National Park these days. Finally, finally, (after several passes) we saw someone leaving and snagged their spot. Now, out to see the park.

The very first stop, however, had to be a comfort stop . . . which was more uncomfortable than necessary since we couldn’t find any signage or information as to which direction to go. That dilemma, too, was eventually solved but by that time we were so fraught with anxiety we were tempted to just take a few pictures and get back in the car to return from whence we came.

Thankfully, after a little refreshment, and a lovely conversation with a couple who were kind enough to share their picnic table, we were revived enough to consider a hike. There were so many people milling around Yosemite Village it was difficult to find the trees! We walked up to the Visitor Center, watched the informative film about the park and made the choice to walk the valley floor. Perhaps that would allow us to really see the pristine nature we had come to visit.

And, we are so glad we did. We took a portion of the loop hike and logged about 6 miles around the valley floor among the meadow and trees; across the river and back again. Yet there was never a time when we were alone in the wilderness, as so many of the brochures promise about Yosemite. Granted, we did not go “into” the real heart of the park, but we also did not expect to be sharing every photo opportunity with dozens of others doing exactly the same thing.

The views and the beauty, however, were truly stunning. In every direction there was majesty and grandeur on a scale not matched by many places. This spot is a unique testament to the wonders of creation.

Sharing our search for beauty and respite with so many others – from so many different states and countries – made me wonder why it seems we have so few places to commune with nature. And then I began to wonder why I think my commune with nature has to be only with nature and not with all of God’s created glory – including other humans like myself.

It was a humbling thought. So many times when I take photographs, I struggle to get the shot WITHOUT any people in it. But, we too, are part of the wonder of creation and beloved of our Creator, just as are the rivers, rocks, trees and wildlife. Why then should I care to dismiss humanity and not deem us a part of nature’s profound beauty?

It is a quandary I am trying to resolve and overcome. And, so we did enjoy the park. We shared it with thousands of others today who hopefully enjoyed it as much as we did. It is a stunning place of natural wonders, filled with unparalleled pristine beauty and the fingerprints of God. Everything was beautiful! Not the least of which was humankind.

We returned to the road about 5:00 and made our  way back to civilization as the sun set. Famished from our day’s adventures, we had to stop at a Texas Road House for a fortifying dinner of grand proportions. It was worthy of the day!

Day 3 of Our Jaunt in June

After a restful evening in Red Bluff, we were awakened about 5:30 A.M. by neighboring guests above us running and jumping across their floor and our ceiling. Then we heard their showers and their packing. And, finally, we went back to sleep as they must have left.

After leftovers for breakfast, packing, and stopping for gas, we were on the road toward Stockton by 10:30. Our friendly Gypsy, or GPS as she is more commonly known, alerted us to the fact that our destination, the Stockton Air Museum, was closed on this day! So we made some last minute adjustments and headed for Old Town Sacramento instead.

Old Town Sacramento was as we remembered it . . . only less so. It seems to have lost some of it’s pioneer flair as so many little shops carried wares from elsewhere in the world. Still, we walked the town in the almost 90 degree heat and marveled at the mixture of “old” and “new” that coexists in the same footprint of the city. Expending a little energy with our walk through the heat, we decided to stop at a German Brew Haus for some lunch. We walked down into the rathskeller, truly an underground arrangement, that was surprisingly devoid of people. I was reminded of my friend who will never stop at a restaurant that has no visible patrons. The thought of German food still called to us, however, so we stayed and ordered. The waitress was less than agreeable, making mistakes with our order – when there was NO ONE else in the place – and proceeded to argued with us about it, then charged us in full after it was corrected. Clearly not the best in customer service. And, decidedly not the best in German cuisine, either. But, it was lunch and we were filled up enough to get back in the car and continue on.

The central area of California is largely agricultural, and that’s basically all we saw: orchards; rice, corn, wheat, beans, and hay fields; as well as a lot of old barns and a few cattle.

Traffic from Sacramento to Modesto was heavy, perhaps because it was late on a Friday afternoon, but then Gypsy informed us there was an accident on South 99 that would prolong our trip by 18 minutes. (And, we all know it usually takes longer.)

We were listening to “Team of Rivals” as we drove; keeping us entertained as we slowed, then sped up, then continued to inch along. Gypsy continued to offer us alternative routes and we took one that had us swing out into the valley east of 99, to be connected back in only a mile from our destination. For that little side trip we got to see a little more local color and more of the interior of the agricultural belt of California.

A room in Medesto awaited us and we welcomed with relief the highly air conditioned lobby! As we checked in we realized we had stayed in this very motel three years before, when we were returning home after our son had been in the hospital in LA after an accident. This little place was a welcome refuge then and feels like a welcome refuge tonight as well. What is it that makes one place seem so welcoming and another place of the very same style and usage, seem cold and unfriendly? Perhaps we could all stand to contemplate how we “welcome” others . . . or not. I know there are times when it has nothing to do with the place; it’s simply me. But, certainly there are other times when the place itself has a personality and is either “welcoming” . . . or not. It makes me want to think about how to make sure my place; my home; my garden; my refuge can be a welcoming spot for all who enter.

A short rest; a trip down the road for a new belt for my driver; and a Carl’s Jr. (unavailable in Seattle) for dinner, completed and filled out the day.