September 2020 Road Trip

This is a silly year to be traveling, but we managed it. Now there are other things I need to manage, like remembering to post what I write.

I’m talking about the kind of driving that puts me in front of a steering wheel, looking out a windshield over the hood of a vehicle. The kind of driving that delivers a sense of power and force of will. A big machine goes where I direct it. I get chills thinking about it.

There is really no way to deny that learning to drive a car, or a truck, is a rite of passage for most people. Everyone in my high school looked forward to taking driver’s ed class and getting their license. On the other end of the spectrum, giving up that license, or losing it, is also a rite of passage. I remember my grandfather driving around, half blind, and scaring people. Then I saw my father hold onto the keys as he struggled with everyone’s concern over his driving. Macular degeneration took out his central vision, but as long as there were white lines on the side of the pavement, he knew he was on the road.

It didn’t seem like it was that hard for my husband. He gradually started sitting in the passenger seat and got used to having me drive. He still took himself to work and other familiar places, but he had a tendency to startle and get upset over other driver’s decisions. It was easier to let someone else (me) deal with all that craziness. Mom is also making a more graceful transition. Her driver’s license was up for renewal this November and she decided to let it go.

I’ve always liked driving and have not shied away from the unusual – driving big trucks, driving trailers across country, Ubering people around the city, and venturing into an occasional mud hole. But lately, I’ve become aware of the tedium of long drives. I have fond memories of sitting on the passenger side with my needlework or a book, and being able to look out the window at the passing scenery. That doesn’t happen anymore.

This week the husband and I have taken a two day drive to North Carolina for my daughter’s wedding. Eighteen hours of driving has given me time to think about this process of road tripping, it’s advantages and disadvantages. See, it’s really nice to have the freedom to go or stop at will. And there’s the luxury of taking most anything I want along with me – in contrast to the carry-on suitcase angst of flying. It’s also nice to have that familiar vehicle at my destination without having to rent and return and get a big bill at the end.

BUT there are some slight disadvantages. For instance, I feel the full weight of staying awake and alert. I don’t want to be like the guy who died peacefully in his sleep unlike the screaming passengers in his car (old joke we used to tell). The husband is always chiding me for eating popcorn in the car without realizing that it has kept us alive for numerous trips. I can’t sleep while I’m eating, or at least I haven’t been able to so far. This trip, after I finished the popcorn, I started in on the cheese curds, and then the nuts, and then the carrots/cucumbers/peppers. And then I felt ill, no surprise, but that also kept me awake.

Pandemic driving has some unique features too. For once, we drove through the city of Chicago without a major slow down. I was worried about going there but having no good way to avoid it, we went. There was traffic, and the need for vigilance, but it was surprisingly smooth. And what’s with the toll roads? There were no people in those little booths to collect money! I may have a massive bill lurking somewhere in cyberspace but so far I’ve gotten no notice.

Then there is the mask thing. I can’t remember how many times we were on our way into the rest stop or gas station and had to go back to get a required face covering. It’s not a habit yet. We took food with us, not knowing if there would be the usual restaurants available. Finding a place to sit down and eat was harder, and the experience has changed in so many ways – no uncovered smiles, no condiments on the table, not much merriment.

I knew it was a risk to get new tires right before a trip, but there were reasons why it made sense. I’m talking only hours before the trip, the dealership was able to find tires for my truck. There was no time to test them out. Did you know that pandemic shortages have affected the tire industry? Who would guess that? For this trip I went from worrying about old, misaligned and worn tire noises to worrying about new tire noises. What is that whap, whap, whapping…? Is it lethal? Should we stop? We ignored it. Found out later that gravel and acorns caught in the tread sound just like defects.

Nice loud tires with lots of tread.

All in all, it was not a bad trip, just peculiar like most everything else in 2020 has been. It is my hope that in hearing about this trip, you will find yourself more content, perhaps even happy, to stay at home (like we’re supposed to). I know it did that for me, just sayin’…

Me-Kwa-Mooks Park: West Seattle

It was the last day of my visit to Seattle. Younger daughter and I were walking down Beach Drive SW, on our daily exercise walk, looking for something interesting to see or do. She mentioned a park that we would soon be walking past that had some very nice features, and more of an old growth, untouched atmosphere. We decided to venture into Me-Kwa-Mooks Park.

This saying is credited to Chief Sealth, sometimes called Chief Seattle, for whom the city of Seattle is named. The Duwamish people were the original inhabitants of the park.

Me-Kwa-Mooks is an Indian name meaning “shaped like a bear’s head”. If you use your imagination, you might say that about the West Seattle peninsula, especially if you had a map or a good aerial view. The entrance to the park is on the east side of Beach Drive in a small clearing with several picnic tables. The trailhead is identified by a sign and several plaques that are covered with brush and barely legible. Like most other parts of West Seattle coastline, this park is located on uphill slopes that end with a rather steep climb up a bluff. It’s about 20 acres of heavily wooded, undeveloped land.

The trail is narrow and you have to hunt for it.

Undeveloped, perhaps, but there are trails and some evidence of work having been done on them. Someone had been pulling out piles of English ivy, an invasive plant, and there was an irrigation line visible along the path in places. But there was no signage, and some of the trails ended abruptly. Having been there before, younger daughter knew one trail led to another entrance farther down on Beach Drive. She also knew that there was a trail that led to the top of the bluff. That was the one we wanted.

This was a path that suddenly didn’t go anywhere.

The trail to the top, naturally, was the trail that kept going up in switchbacks, becoming steeper and less easily navigated. It eventually went straight up, a dirt path with no natural hand holds or places for feet to rest. But, lo, there was a hose – the flat, cloth covered kind – and it came from somewhere up above and held our weight, so we grabbed it and climbed. And just when the hose no longer followed the path, we saw a rope that finally helped us to the top.

Don’t know why this hose was there but it came in handy…
We could have used a longer rope.
This was our exit point. Wouldn’t your inner child just love to have a creepy hole like this to dive into?

The Wikipedia article about the park states that in 1994 a bunch of 4th and 5th graders from a local school helped make the park. That’s exactly the feel I got from our experience. It was a mythical, magical forest, perfect place for tree forts, treacherous paths, and dangling ropes leading to “who knows where”, a kid’s dream playground.

We made it to the top, mostly because there was no way we were going back down some of the places we had been. It was clearly not everyone’s “walk in the park” and I was a little surprised that it was accessible in this day of lawsuits and litigation. Risk was involved. We had fun, but I’m thinking most people take the other path. Just sayin’…

A Pretty, Long Walk – West Seattle

We didn’t walk very far on Sunday, but we made up for it today. We took Charlie with us. He is a curly haired Wheaton terrier who generally likes to go out for exercise.

Meet Charlie. Also notice the beautiful flowers.

The first hour was a city walk, past houses that face out to Puget Sound. As you might expect, they were on the expensive and extravagant side, but so interesting to look at. Built on the bluff with creative driveways and staircases, and landscaping that had me taking pictures every few minutes. We walked south from Alki and ended up at Lincoln Park. For us it was around 10,000 steps, for Charlie it was considerably more and he was thirsty. We were looking for a water bowl, which can commonly be found around fountains, since so many people are walking their dogs. Charlie found one.

Small gardens with joyous profusion
Gardens that probably have professional caretakers
Sidewalk gardens, purple lavender abounds…
Gardens with random wildflowers

Next we headed east through the park in the direction of California Avenue. It is the main business street that runs down the middle of the West Seattle peninsula. Our only stop was to buy water at a gas station, again sharing with Charlie who was beginning to act a bit tired. Our walk north toward home ended up going through Schmitz Park. It was like entering a different world.

I’ve written something about Schmitz Park every time I’ve visited Esther in Seattle because it has an access right behind her house. I ALWAYS visit this park. I’ve not been anyplace like it and consider it a magical, singular experience. It’s an old growth forest with trails following a large ravine from the top of the bluff, down to lower elevations near Alki and the beach. The trails are not fancy, not paved. There are no signs directing where to go. No railings on the steep portions. Click this link for more visuals of Schmitz Park.

The Hidden Forest

The forest and the ravine insulated us from the noise and heat from the city street. It was shady and dark, with the sounds of water flowing into the central stream. Many parts of the path were wet with cool mud and took some navigating. It must have felt good on Charlie’s paws. And 20 minutes later we were home, having done nearly 20,000 steps total. A good walk, I’d say.

Home again to Esther’s daisy garden

A Ride in a Truck – Seattle

My people in Seattle have an affinity for vintage things – clothing, furniture, Airstreams, and a truck. Yesterday we took a ride in the vintage truck.

Ryan’s Roaring Ranger

Bench seats are kind of a thing of the past, although I’m not sure why. The fun of searching for seat belts, finding the right spot for sitting in the middle (straddling that big lump on the floor), and the comfy lean off the edge of the passenger seat – I kind of miss all that, and it was fun to be reminded. Come to think of it, any vehicle where I can look to the side and see two people in front with me, instead of just one, is kind of special, don’t you think?

Our outing was to an island, which is also kind of exciting. Southward from West Seattle, right below Lincoln Park, is the Vashon Ferry landing where two large ferries go to and fro on a constant schedule. The distance is short and takes only about half an hour, including the loading and offloading of cars, trucks and buses. It was not a particularly busy day so we did not have to wait in line (that happens, and did happen on the way home).

The truck was the chosen vehicle for this trip because there was a task. Our first stop was to re-position the vintage Airstream that Esther and Ryan have on their property. It didn’t take long and I don’t have pictures of this complex, logistical feat of trucking. Suffice it to say that I heard Ryan lovingly commending his truck for doing a good job.

Next, for the daily walk, we drove down Vashon Island to a connecting island park – Maury Island and Maury Beach. It was a lovely place to get close to the water and I totally satisfied my obsession with rocks and driftwood while there. The walking part was not as horizontal as we would have liked so we didn’t get in lots of steps. The beach was entirely smoothed stones with no sharp edges. It might seem that would make comfortable walking, but no. The stones roll out from under your feet with every step. They are fascinating to look at though, and I kept finding favorites.

The water was beautiful and clear. A few people were boating, tubing, swimming, sailing, and thoroughly enjoying the day.
However I was concerned that this one guy kept stalking this woman…

Before heading back to the mainland we had dinner at Casa Bonita Mexican restaurant. So good! I’m even getting hungry now thinking about my leftover fish taco waiting in the fridg.

It was another fine day in Seattle, spent making memories with people I love. I may even have spoke lovingly to the truck myself, for the nice ride, just sayin’…

Walking on the 4th of July – Seattle

More important than what I saw, was the reality of seeing it with other people. We saw this together, and it was part of our relationship building. I love doing things with Esther and Ryan, on their home turf. We are blessed that we all love to walk, and can still do it.

West Seattle is its own little world, a peninsula really, with Elliot Bay on the west and north sides connecting with the Duwamish River on the east. At the coastline there is a highway around the peninsula, on the level with the beaches. This level holds only the highway and beach sidewalks on one side and a row of high rise buildings and homes on the other side. Behind the row of homes is a steep, tree covered bluff. There are homes built into the bluff and some very steep streets giving access to them. Then there is the top level of the peninsula that is high, with magnificent views in all directions. The main part of the town is on the top level and has some very exclusive residential areas.

Today we walked on the beach level around the west and north sides of West Seattle and then climbed up the bluff on a street called Fairmount. The Pacific Northwest rain forest vibe was strong on this upward climb. I was puffing my way up and using the excuse of taking pictures to rest and catch my breath.

Once on the top level we needed nourishment and stopped in for frozen yogurt. Once the brain freeze was wearing off we walked through some of the residential areas to catch views of the beautiful private gardens and Puget Sound. Here is a small part of our 15,000 steps.

The tide was out, exposing a lot of beach. Lots of people were out there looking for ? Ryan said the clam season had started, or maybe they were just looking for beach glass, or taking in that view.
Historic building at risk as high rise condos surround it. Can you imagine laying all those small stones? The door is only a paper picture – I’m not sure what the intent was.
Our climb up the bluff took us under a main road. I always find it a little scary to see understructure and realize how much we depend on it (and how seldom we think about it).
We earned our treat, and after all, it was a holiday.
Homes on the top of the bluff have views like this. Blackberries and blue sky…
Can you imagine having a redwood (I think that’s what it was) in your front yard?
We also found a “hobbit” tree with a secret door.

Seattle – What I Saw Today

Every time I visit Seattle my photo gallery lights up with this kind of color.

And every time, there is something new to do or see. Today it was Jack Block Park.

Jack Block Park consists of 15 acres, on the northeastern shore of West Seattle. It’s part of the Port of Seattle and gave me a chance to see, up close, some of the workings and machinery that I had only seen from afar.

It has an unusual entry point, one that is easy to pass by and wonder about but doesn’t necessarily beg you to come in and explore. I saw a lot of comments on the website that indicated people being surprised at the treasure they found when finally visiting this park. I had viewed the waterfront many times from the West Seattle bridge (which by the way is now closed to traffic and that’s another story). Colorful shipping containers, huge yellow and orange dinosaur-like cranes, and heavy machinery always gave it such an industrial look. The park softens all that with its walkways, greenery and its beautiful view of the city across the water.

Don’t they look kind of like dinosaurs (brontosaurus type)? Use your imagination.

I looked up the history of the park, which is interesting. It was formerly a wood treatment plant and ship building facility. The land was contaminated with creosote and had to be dredged, capped and restored before the port could open it as a park in 2011. The Port of Seattle maintains several parks besides this one and they have a 100% organic policy – no invasive species, and all trimmings and clippings are composted or used as mulch. For a long time this park was called Terminal 5 Park but is now Jack Block Park, named after a former Port Commissioner. Maps have a section of the park called Joe Block Park, and I haven’t been able to discover why. Who is Joe Block?

There is a gradually climbing path up to an observation point with a great view of downtown Seattle buildings and the Space Needle. Looking down at the shoreline, there were many birds, natural driftwood and rock decor and the beautiful, clean appearing water of Elliot Bay. It’s a great place to watch waterfront activity and ships coming into port. A great find.

View of Downtown Seattle from observation tower

A Night at Intercontinental MSP

Picking up the daughter flying in from Seattle tonight – it only made sense to stay overnight instead of driving home till 4 am. It’s been quite a while since the husband and i had a special night out. This is it.

This is a new hotel, and the only one right at the airport. Two restaurants, beautifully appointed rooms, the feel of luxury. We are enjoying it immensely, although feeling a bit out of place.

There is a wedding party upstairs – and what an easy place to gather for guests flying in just for the celebration.

There is a TSA checkpoint right at the hotel that gets one into the airport via a skybridge. Its only staffed during peak morning hours, but facilitates an easy get away for those early flights.

Very modern, beautiful place with friendly staff. You do pay a price for the convenience but there are times it would be worth it. Just sayin’…

An Old House: If Walls Could Talk

Actually, if walls could talk this house would not have a lot to say. Most of the interior walls are gone

The backstory:

Pennsylvania is a historic state, having been one of the first settled. This means there are a lot of old houses with stories to tell. The valley that the husband’s family lives in is full of old, two story, frame houses. Both in the small villages and the outlying farms, I’ve been seeing these fascinating structures and I love to take pictures of them and wonder what they look like inside. My brother-in-law and his wife have bought a farm that enjoins their property and on it is a collection of farm buildings and an old farmhouse. We went over there to look yesterday. It was a treat for my passion about old buildings.

The outbuildings:

There is a very interesting turkey barn – reminiscent of old covered bridges. I’m not sure why it was built this way, or if it’s original purpose was to raise turkeys, but that is what it was known to have housed last.

There was a barn with a stone foundation. There are lots of them in this valley, probably because there is no shortage of stones for building material. The barn is gone but the foundation remains, begging to be used for something.

There are other sheds to house machinery, and a modern cement block building that was a butcher shop, presumably to process the turkeys raised in the turkey barn. And of course, there was this outbuilding.

Not too many of them still standing, but I always like getting pictures of outhouses when I can. I don’t know why.

The house:

This was my favorite excursion into the past. The house has seen better days but my brother-in-law assured me that the structure was sound and sturdy. It has been completely gutted of its interior walls of plaster and lathe, in hopes of being remodeled at some point.

One feature left intact in the kitchen is a large built in hutch which pretty much makes the house, in my opinion. It should definitely stay and become a focal point.

The shanty:

One of the common practices before air conditioning was to keep the heat of cooking out of the main house. This house has what my brother-in-law calls a shanty added to the side of the kitchen. It’s a fairly large room with a huge hearth where cooking fires could be made, or a cook stove positioned. There are huge doors to close off the hearth and when my sister-in-law opened them there was an ominous noise that sent her and Dennis out of the room. They were thinking “rattlesnake”. I went in later with Ron and we were curious to hear the noise, which turned out to be a baby bird that was dislodged from a nest higher up in the chimney. I don’t know what kind of bird it was, but the sound was bizarre.

Flitching:

The stairs were sturdy enough so we went up to look at the upper story.

There was a large central beam that had marks all over it. Ron told me about flitching, a process of making the cuts on the beam. All the wood is exposed in the house and I could see that some of it was rough lumber, with the bark still on. But no termites (I’m still in Florida thinking…)

I wandered around taking pictures of this interesting place and wondering if I would ever have the energy to renovate an older place like this.

“Up North” at Nelson Lake

6-15-2019

Nelson Lake has a large island in the middle. The dam is on the left side of the picture near where the highway jogs.

We went exploring today. It’s becoming necessary to spend as much time as possible away from the house due to what seems to be an electrical sensitivity that Dennis has developed. He wanted to go north. We went to Nelson Lake.

Nelson Lake was formed when the Totogatic River was dammed, way back when my father was a child. He told stories of how he and his dad cut trees and hauled them out of the river valley before it was flooded. When I look at the land around Nelson Lake I realize what the water covered up as it rose – forest, rock, probably a few farmsteads. The hilly terrain formed a lot of inlets and coves, a very irregular coastline, and a lot of places for fish to hide and breed. It is well known for good fishing.

We drove up S.H. 27 to Dam Road (I love that road sign) and turned in to a rather busy boat landing. Trucks and trailers were pulling boats in and out of the water – pontoon boats, jet skis and fishing boats. We spent some time on the dock talking with people then headed back to our truck where Dennis took a nap. Windows were open, soft breeze, and the real surprise, no mosquitoes.

Right in front of the parking area was the dam. A couple families with kids and fishing poles came and went, along with their strings of panfish. The dam itself is old enough to have been at risk a couple of years ago when the lake was extra high and flooding. It was reinforced and held. A lot of people were worried about it then.

Leaving the boat landing we tried to drive around the lake on the north side. Because of the crazy shoreline, there really isn’t a road that follows along the lake. There are quite a few small lodges, resorts and camping places tucked in here and there but every road we tried turned out to be a dead end eventually.

We traced our route back to the other side of the dam where we took County T along the south side of Nelson Lake and the north side of nearby Smith Lake. We stopped at Etcheyson Park, another small picnic area and boat ramp on Smith Lake. A couple teens were actually floating around in the water on tubes. It’s the middle of June here but that doesn’t mean the water is warm in any of these lakes. Last week we had a morning of 36 degrees, and a couple weeks ago there was snow falling. A cold summer so far, but very refreshing, if you’re used to June in Florida, like we are.

I’m impulsive and suddenly pizza sounded like a good supper choice. I thought of it mostly because of the many times I had passed the Outback Bar and Pizza sign on S.H. 77, only a few miles away. I had read in the local newspaper about the new owners keeping a super good and sort of secret recipe for pizza sauce. It was good! The place is small but the bar was lined with four or five couples who were really into some sports event on the tv’s. We opted for a table outside in the quiet where we could watch the trees and birds. The owner and her dog waited on our table. The dog didn’t actually do anything but she was well behaved.

The day had turned cool and cloudy and I thought to myself that it was a typical day “up north” in many ways. It’s hard to say exactly what is different up here, but I think it has to do with the preponderance of cold weather days. It creates a different landscape, with forests of a certain kind, marshes, wild looking rivers, many lakes, and much more untouched nature than in other parts of our country.

Although it seemed to me like I could have been 4 or 5 o’clock, it was actually 7 p.m. when we left. It is now almost 9 and the sun is still not down, another feature of “up north” life. And the sun will be up again tomorrow around 5 a.m. so I’m going to quit now and get some sleep.

A Much Needed Visit

Friends. Most of the time I am aware that I have some, here and there, people to smile at, speak with, do an occasional lunch or other outing with. But then there are those times when people show up, at great expense to themselves, when I am not at my loveliest or in the greatest of circumstances. They are the truest of friends who show up and do life with us, me and Dennis, when they wouldn’t have to. That is what happened last week.

It surprised me when my invitation to come “up north” was accepted not just with “sure, we’ll come someday”, but with “when is a good time – I’ll buy tickets…” Not many visitors make it up here, although it is a great place and to cool off in the summer. I also was thinking of the perfect time for them to come. My whole local family was taking a two week Alaskan cruise. I couldn’t see how we could go with them since I had just done my Grand Canyon trip. I was fairly content to stay home, watch the animals, water the plants and weed the garden. Having friends come would be the perfect thing to keep me from feeling sorry for myself.

Arlette, a.k.a. “French girl” has been one of my best friends for several years. Her husband, Dwight, and my husband, Dennis, started the American Aldes office in Sarasota way back in the 1980’s. They had heard a lot about our Wisconsin home since helping us move last July. Now I had a chance to show them some of its charms.

It started with the three hour trip from Minneapolis airport to Hayward. Then we rushed them off to eat at The River Deck, a waterfront restaurant where my nephew had just started working. It’s also the location of the National Lumberjack Championships, which had to impress them (I think). And although we didn’t visit it, I did point out the gigantic Musky (at least three stories tall) in the nearby park.

Eating out was one of the easiest things for us all to do together, and I had my list of favorite places. In addition to the River Deck, we were able to go to The Angry Minnow, and Garmisch Resort. Each of these places had its own unique vibe and I think we all enjoyed the differences.

One of our lunches was a bit different. It was on a boat, out on my favorite Round Lake. I had heard of the Jacobson’s project from my brother. Ralph Jacobson and several of his friends built the “Galilee”, designing it to host small groups on the lake, as a ministry opportunity. He and his wife Carrene, served us lunch and spent an hour showing us their part of the lake. It was a beautiful day, weather wise.

Thank you, my friends, for your supportive visit.

Dwight and Arlette, the brave ones.

Slapping mosquitoes on a hike. Photo ops were brief.