As always, it's been ages since I've sat down to catch up... It's not intentional and there are no hard feelings. It's just life and all the many things that fill each and every day to the brim. So let's see if I can gather my thoughts in a somewhat organized manner to catch you up on all that's happened since we last had a chance to visit...
I've been out of town on a long trip. We packed up our camper (a Coachmen Freelander 32-foot bunkhouse model, to be specific if you care about such things) in the middle of August and hit the road on August 19, towing Alvin, Dad's small Chevy Sonic that we joke is powered by chipmunks--thus the name! We drove from Denver to Billings, Montana, that very long day and spent the night in a Walmart parking lot (something Dad had on his bucket list to do). It is quiet and free and what is called "dry camping," which means we use the water in the tank and battery power instead of fresh water and electricity. The next day we got up and drove many more miles to Spokane, Washington, where we checked into a beautiful campground west of town that was filled with tall trees and felt like camping out in the woods. On Sunday, we went to church and out to lunch with a delightful couple we met in Arizona earlier this year. It was fun to catch up with Jerry and Georgia and look ahead to being together next March again. We visited the campus of Whitworth University, my alma mater) and it's as beautiful as I recall though a lot has changed since I graduated in 1993.From Spokane, we drove to Seattle and stayed almost a week in Bothell at a campground on a lake that felt remote despite being in the city and close to all kinds of things. While in Seattle, we took a whale watching tour out of Edmonds and saw humpback and Minke whales (Minke are the smallest of the baleen whales.) We also had dinner with my mom's sister and her husband (we ate delicious halibut that my uncle caught in the Puget Sound.) I don't usually care for any kind of fish, but it was delicious and it was fun to see his pictures of the fishing trip after dinner. I had dinner one night with another aunt and uncle (they are really Toben's aunt and uncle, but I love them dearly and always will!Aunt Susan has assured me that we will continue to be family no matter what and I feel the same!) Another highlight of being in Seattle was meeting my best friend from Whitworth at a park and sharing pizza with her family for a picnic dinner. I was in Seattle for her wedding years ago, but this was the my first time to meet her wonderful children.Her daughter and I bonded over my charm bracelet, which never fails to delight children.
After we left Seattle, we drove up to the Olympic Peninsula and visited Olympic National Park. We took a three-hour rainforest tour at Lake Quinnault and Maddie was able to come with us on the bus since we were the only people on the tour. We drove the 101 down the Washington coast and camped along the way for a night or two at every stop, usually with full hookups though often no wifi or cell service. We unhitched Alvin and drove him around during the day to do our sightseeing. Maddie was able to play on the beach some, and I did a lot of beach walking!
We crossed into Oregon in Astoria and stayed several days at Fort Stevens State Park. (Oregon state parks are fabulous and allowed us to camp for free since Dad is a veteran with some hearing disability related to his service. Yay Oregon!!)While in Astoria, we realized we'd arrived at the height of blackberry season and began our daily routine of picking fresh berries each day to have with ice cream after dinner and on our cereal at breakfast every morning. We took almost three weeks to drive down the Oregon coast on the 101, stopping at state parks and lighthouses and myrtlewood factories and the Tillamook factory too, of course! We saw gray whales from the lookout at Cape Foulweather, harbor seals and sea lions along the coast and loved every mile. Dad mostly drove and Mom and I took turns riding shotgun or on the couch. Maddie rotated between laps and was happy to have so much togetherness!She is happiest when her pack is all together!
We saw more humpback whales up close in Port Orford and ate shrimp and Dungeness crab and clam chowder and fish and chips. We discovered that Tillamook makes fabulous ice cream and that Oregon Hazelnut with Salted Caramel is the best flavor of all! Really, go get some--you'll thank me!
We made it into California and visited the Redwoods before returning to Oregon to visit Crater Lake for a couple of days. We drove home through Nevada and Utah and arrived back home after almost five weeks on the road.
While we had a great time and still like each other after so long in so small a space, we are glad to be home and to know we could go just about anywhere in the country since we had such a successful trip for it being so long. I learned that I packed too many clothes and mostly wore the same few things again and again. I also took along paints and some art supplies that I never unpacked despite great intentions to create a watercolor trip journal...
I loved the Redwoods and especially loved standing inside some of the big trees. I did manage some short hikes in the parks and even conquered the camper shower, which small and quite a challenge to master in the amount of space and hot water available!
That about wraps up our travels... Dad did an amazing job of taking pictures and posting them on Facebook if you'd like to take a peek there. My page is public, so you should be able to see it even if we aren't friends there.
I am learning to drive! I passed the written test at the DMV before we left and my instruction permit arrived at the training office while we were gone. I had my first hour-long lesson on Tuesday. It went really well and I go back for my next lesson tomorrow morning. I don't know how many lessons I will need before taking the driving test, but I am excited and encouraged.
I love Downton Abbey! We watched seasons 1-4 on our trip and I was quickly hooked. We started season 5 when we got home and watch an episode or two every night before bed. If you are one of the many, many people who told me I'd love it despite my pigheaded resistance, feel free to say you told me so! You were so right, and I was stubbornly wrong! We watched some other movies and did a bunch of reading as well as looking out the window to ooh and aah over the incredible scenery.I read some Zane aGray on Dad's recommendation. And though I didn't think I'd like it, I actually did. Riders of the Purple Sage was the one I liked the best.
Mom and I start Bible study next week. Our group is going to do Beth Moore's Esther study. Some of us have done it before, but it's so good that we don't mind a repeat. Instead of doing it at a church, we are meeting in each other's homes. I'm excited about that since I first started doing Beth's studies with friends in a home when I lived in San Diego and still miss those girls a bunch. Hi friends!
I love autumn! Fall is here and I love everything about it except that winter comes next. If I never saw snow again except on television or in pictures, I'd be perfectly happy with that. We will be going to Arizona again next winter. Our plan is to spend January and February in Phoenix/Surprise and then spend March back at Palm Creek in Casa Grande as we have for the past two years.
That's most of the news in my world. I hope you are well!