Slumber Party

 

I love traveling with my husband, but sometimes I need something different. Travel with my women friends feeds a different aspect of my soul. Friday, I drove to Sawyer, Michigan, where three of my friends and I spent a night drinking wine, talking, and creating soul collages. As much as I love Steven, I don’t think he would spend a day losing track of time as he hunted through magazines for the perfect picture to complete his collage (So right on so many levels). In fact, I got the quizzical look I expected when I told him what we had done.

20191109_145315There wasn’t really anything to do: no WiFi, no TV (horrors of horrors! No TV or Internet! – I am so happy I wasn’t invited), no real town to go to. It was fabulous! We were surrounded by woods, apple trees, and quiet. I am blessed with amazing friends around whom I feel both supported and loved. I feel like I can be my true self around them. In fact, I am at an age where if I can’t be my true self around someone, I don’t bother, but these are women I feel at peace around.

As you already know, when I travel, I want to be on the go: doing, seeing, exploring. I didn’t understand the power of stillness. I’m not saying I want to do this every weekend, or even once a month, but the restorative nature of it was amazing. Plus, I got to pretend I can create artwork without words.

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Soul-collage table

We are lucky that one of us has generous friends who lent us their beautiful home. While I don’t want to own a second home, I now understand the appeal.

Update: We have decided to put off our grand adventure to Southeast Asia for a year. We are in the midst of too much uncertainty and upheaval. I am sad, but I am also sure we will not give up on it.

Back to Planning

spreadsheet.pngWhen we talked last time, which was some time ago (oops!), about our desire to go to Southeast Asia. Steven and I talked in circles for a month or so because of all the other upheaval in our lives (trying to sell a house, deciding where to move, trying to develop a freelance writing career) but then we decided to plan in earnest and worry about finances, time, physical fitness⁠—you know, the little stuff⁠—later.

Instead of getting into trip details, I’m going to focus on the how we plan. We’ve only just started this time, but here’s our process:

  1. Get bug about a certain far-flung location. This time Vietnam for the caves and Cambodia for the oldest known zero.
  2. Tell ourselves it’s completely unrealistic.
  3. Admit to each other that we’re still thinking about it even though it’s completely unrealistic.
  4. Decide that maybe it’s not completely unrealistic.
  5. Do some Internet/print (what? a book???) research.
  6. Use up many sticky notes listing places within the country/region we want to visit.
  7. Steven makes a spreadsheet. (I know it’s weird, but this gives him joy.){Happiness is a good spreadsheet – and if I am lucky – a bit of a macro too!}
  8. Realize that this trip will take two months {a minimum of 2 months}  and start scaling back.
  9. Make some hard choices {I hate making hard choices!}.
  10. Mourn the places we won’t be able to see and convince ourselves we will go back.
  11. Figure out how much this will all cost by checking into flights and other transportation, hotels, food, attractions {Wow! that much!}.
  12. Start booking! or not, if we magically become grounded in reality.

We are about to hit Stage 10. Notice that we already have our hearts set on this trip, which is now Cambodia and Vietnam if we do the cave tour, and Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos if we don’t. We’re figuring about three weeks plus a few days. That’s a chunk of time not to be working, especially if you’re trying to build a freelance business. On the other hand, we aint getting any younger or richer, so if not now, when?

Dreaming Again

Southeast Asia.jpgIt seems as though we will be stuck in Chicago for another winter. Not our first choice, to be sure, but given that our desire to move is simply a desire and not a necessity, not the end of the world either. However, since I am now a full-time freelancer and Steven’s job is somewhat flexible, we have begun to dream of far-flung destinations once more.

Southeast Asia fills the top spot at the moment. We can go in semi-shoulder season, maybe February, when there aren’t as many school vacations, and it will be warm! We had been thinking in that direction anyway, but this dream was reinvigorated by Travels with My Father, a show about 28-yar-olds comedian Jack Whitehall’s “gap year” travels with his decidedly stuffy 77-year-old British dad. Guess where they went in season 1? You are so smart! Yes, it was Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Steven has had this notion about seeing the oldest recorded zero in Cambodia, and I am about to disappoint him because I think the real oldest zero is iImage result for son doong caven India. (Hmmm, maybe that’s a way to get him there!) Then he decided we should go on a four-day Vietnamese trip into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave. Hmm, he hates camping, can barely sleep in a comfy bed, and is afraid of heights. There is a 90-meter rope climb to begin the tour. I give him credit for advance bravery, that’s for sure. Image result for son doong cave

Now that I am looking at these pictures, I am thinking this may be totally worth it!

Reality bites, as we all know, because if we spend five days getting to and being on this tour, that takes a real bite out of the rest of our trip. Our style is to get overly grandiose in our vacation dreams and then scale back as we add up the costs in money and time. How can we go to Thailand and not hit the beach and explore Bangkok? How can we fly all the way to Southeast Asia and not see Angkor Wat or the Silver Palace in Phnom Penh? Or go scuba diving? Then, a friend said, “Oh, you have to go to Laos.” Sure, we’ll add that to the list. Why? I’m not sure yet, but it’s right there.

I am so relieved. A few months have gone by without a crazy, exciting trip to plan and now we have one again! Life is much more fun when you don’t have both feet firmly planted in daily reality.

Next Stop: Somewhere Near Baltimore

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A reminder of why we don’t want to stay in Chicago

We didn’t take a big trip this summer for many life reasons. Don’t you hate it when reality gets in the way of travel? We’re dreaming of Vietnam and Cambodia, but our next jaunt is to the Baltimore area to see Steven’s son and daughter-in-law (and my stepson and stepdaughter-in-law). While we’re there, we’re going to look around and think about permanence. This whole time of life is a little bit travel, a little bit leap into the unknown. One thing I know for sure, though, Steven does not want to live through another Chicago winter and if Farmer’s Almanac is right, it’s going to be a bad one.

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Desert beats snowstorm any day

That’s why the trip to Utah; it was a fact-finding mission. Do we want to temporarily live in St. George? Would it be possible? Do we like it? Is the the right semi-long-term trip for us? The jury is out. For sure the winter would be easy. Plus, it is a wonderful vacation spot: Beautiful, warm, sunny, plenty of hiking and we did get in a beautiful hike, so no complaints there. But….vacation! travel! Someplace new and crazy. Not happening.

I wish at least we had time to drive East. The shorter the flight, the less I see the need to get on a plane, but, again, reality. Plane=quicker, at least if there’s a pilot, no weather, no random delays, no mechanical problems, no luggage that doesn’t match a passenger. I love to travel and see planes as a necessary evil. If I am flying over an ocean I can’t think about how I would rather be driving and then I get a free checked bag and maybe some food.

 

 

 

St. George Overview

img_20190820_094404190_burst000_cover_topWe arrived in St. George on Sunday. Hmmm, that’s a problem. Maybe five percent of restaurants (of which there isn’t a great selection) are open. We did find a  good sandwich shop, Even Steven‘s, a chain which we later found out just went bankrupt. Bummer. The sandwiches were good and it had a hipstery vibe. Although I never thought that I would look forward to that, in Utah it’s a good sign.

No doubt, it is hot here, but we don’t care. It’s gorgeous. It’s also growing like crazy. There’s new construction everywhere. Maybe that will lead to better restaurants. We were assuming we would have to do a lot of our own cooking, so that wasn’t a surprise. We were pleasantly surprised by the range of grocery options and the selection. Our real estate agent, the Marvelous Mrs. Megan of Elevated Properties Group, told us about Harmons, a fancy schmancy store that was about akin to Mariano’s (for you Chicago area folks). The produce was expensive, but we breathed a sigh of relief that we could get most of the products we are used to. Steven might have to forgo his favorite sour pickles, but brave man that he is, he seems willing to do so. (I am hoping that I can order them online – or perhaps arrange a business trip to Brooklyn and I will hand carry them back.)

Megan showed us around town and graciously tried to figure out what we were looking for in a house while we changed our minds about priorities. (My priorities never changed, all I want it a perfect house with perfect views and no close neighbors – pretty straight forward!) We saw some potential, but we didn’t fall in love with anything. Luckily, because we still have a house in Skokie.

The highlight of the trip after Megan was our short hike in Snow Canyon State Park. The park has a combination of red rocks, lava, and sandstone. Hiking, biking and rock climbing are all within easy reach. We started out on Hidden Pinyon trail and decided to head up the Petrified Dunes. Someone became a little petrified when the rocks got too steep, so once I investigated and realized that it wasn’t for him, we headed back down. Still, views you can’t believe unless you’ve seen them, perfectly still air, and silence. The comparison to Zion National Park is stark. Zion is crammed full and to see the splendor, you must do some serious, long hiking. Parking is a challenge, too. Snow Canyon is beautiful, empty of visitors and easy to access.  It borders St. George and you can even drive through it and see majestic views.

Steven here – a small extra point.  As many of you know, I lived in Leeds England for a number of years, so when we saw Leeds on the map near St. George, there was no way we were not going for a drive by.  It is a tiny cross roads.

Graduation Trip #2: The Early Stages

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Yes, we will be going somewhere here 🙂

Yesterday was the first day of my niece’s senior year of high school, so we are definitely overdue for planning her graduation trip. There’s something amazingly special about traveling with my niece and nephew. You may remember my trip to London with my nephew for his graduation. It was fabulous, and not just because the weather was great, but also because I get to see the world through the eyes of smart, young people who are grateful and enjoying every minute.

My niece and nephew are very different. He had a definite plan and settled on London rather quickly. My niece has also narrowed down her hot spots … to Europe. To be fair, I think she is mostly talking about Spain, France, Italy, and maybe Croatia. She mentioned Copenhagen, but then decided that it was very expensive, but she’s open to ideas. There’s always Iceland, everybody’s favorite these days it seems. The only thing she knows for sure is that she doesn’t want to go to Greece, with me. She has a Greek friend and they are planning a trip someday.

We have more than enough time, but still, part of the fun is letting your imagination go wild and entertaining all the options. Here are a few of the items we still need to narrow down:

  • Are we going to one place? Two? A sampler plate?
  • If we decide on the sampler, what type of transportation?
  • How about a cruise? Yes, we both get seasick, but we can get patches. (I don’t believe anyone who says I won’t feel the boat; I get seasick looking at boats. I’m still game, though.) (when she refers to “anyone” that means me…I have never felt the boat when I have been on cruises).
  • How long is the trip? (will they even bother to come home?)
  • City? Country? Beach? Mountains? All of the above?
  • On our own or package tour? 
  • Mediterranean? Scandinavian? East? West?

I could go on, and the truth is that it is entirely up to my niece. There are tons of places I want to go and even if we end up somewhere I have already been, it will be a completely different experience with her. Ultimately, I don’t care. You only get one graduation trip with your niece, so wherever we end up, it’ll be the best.

The Utah Desert in August

File:Woodbury Desert Study Area.Par.4030.Image.jpgYes, we are going to the desert … in August. Why? Good question. Here’s the thing: Whenever I go on vacation, I think, “I could live here. It’s so relaxing, beautiful, exciting, peaceful, happening, etc.” You can fill in whatever adjective floats your boat. Then I think, “But of course it’s great. There’s no dog waking me up early. No alarm, no schedule. Vacation money is different and I’m not sitting in traffic.” Reality bites.

The trick, if you’re really exploring places as more than vacation destinations, is to go completely off-season. St. George weather in August: High temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s. I have no problem with that, especially because it cools off into the 70s. My cutoff for feeling comfortable is 75. After that, I need a jacket or pants. But, what’s it like wandering around St. George when it’s 100 degrees? Are the streets deserted? What about the flipside? Is there heating in the houses? I don’t like to be cold.

When I travel, I can pretty much find something great about everywhere, because I am an explorer. Something new is something awesome. It may only be awesome once, but that’s OK because I tend not to go back to places unless friends and family are involved (or it’s Paris). There’s always a new place on the list.

The difference this time is that we are thinking of this as a place to live. Eek! Not, as one of my dear friends would say, “our forever home,” but a home nonetheless. This is a different kind of travel. Somewhere between vacationer and wanderer. Wanderer is appealing, except for the 11-year-old German shepherd, so this is a good compromise. Nevertheless, it’s a grand adventure, and I’m not keen on travel (or life) without adventure. Who knows? We may love it and find our “forever winter home.”

Vegas Is Not My Thing

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada Sign

OK, we’re planning our trip to St. George and you probably know that flying there means flying to Vegas. We’re thinking we’ll travel Saturday evening and spend the night in Tinseltown. We aren’t gamblers, but I thought maybe a show?

The band members seated in a tight circle
I hope I don’t look that foolish at their age. Oh wait, I AM (almost) their age. Also, there are only 2 original members. It’s Def Leppard, in case you didn’t guess.

The first event I noticed was Psycho Las Vegas. Hmmm, had potential until I read that it is a heavy metal festival. No. Def Leppard, really? Mary J. Now, I would see her, but I doubt she’s Steven-the-Dead-Head’s idea of a great night of music. We’re going to miss Cher and Lady Gaga Maybe the Cirque du Souleil Beatles? Penn & Teller? Possibilities.

Next, I got worried. Lavish Vegas was touting the city’s many gun ranges and says, “… if the August heat has you frustrated, blow off some steam during target practice.” Youch. I can think of many ways to blow off steam without pretending to blow off someone’s head. That just feels icky. Call me crazy, but I don’t think guns are toys or entertainment. You are crazy – we both know that.

Wait a minute: Police Chase Las Vegas! Drive the getaway car! Drive the police car! BUT, you only get 5 laps around a track for $199 and I doubt that runs at night when we’ll be there. Still, that sounds like it could be fun or a totally rip off. I need to know how fast the cars go before I’d put any money down. bet we could rent a Ferrari somewhere.

Maybe just a nice dinner.

I am so happy we are only spending one night there. There’s beauty all around Vegas, but the whole over-the-top-fakey-fakey America really doesn’t do it for me. Give me Red Rocks any day.

Wrapping Up the Northwest

Yes, I know it’s late, but I’ve been traveling life’s journey these past few weeks. In that vein, before I get started, check out my new website, especially if you like my writing: Shor Success. So that’s what I’ve been doing instead of wrapping up the trip.

Here are my odds and ends, bits and bobs, remnants (that reminds me of carpet ends), miscellany, and/or loose ends:

  • The algorithm for Oregon driving is SL – 5 where SL stands for speed limit.
  • I had forgotten this little bit of trivia, but was reminded when I had to wait and wait and wait (was it the California plate): Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states where you are not allowed to pump your own gas.
  • For those of us who live in places with weather, the roads can be rather bumpy (yes, it’s a metaphor for life). Apparently, West Coast peeps (of which I was one for some time) have no concept of REAL rough road. We saw construction signs warning motorcyclists to be extra cautious and all of us to take care because the road was VERY rough. Um, it was kind of like the time my sister-in-law told me that the street named Ridge near my house in very flat Skokie was the top of a hill and even after squinting I didn’t see it. It’s all in the perspective. Now I see the hill, but I sure didn’t feel the rough road.
  • Signs seen along the way: Bonk and Bonk Investigations and His Junk, Her Treasures (tee hee).
  • Go to Daiso! It’s a Japanese dollar store. So much fun. See pictures above for examples.
  • The Oakland Fire and Parks departments teamed up to pay for goats to eat the very dry grass (also known as kindling) at the top of a hill that serves as a dog park.
  • Some of the campgrounds (and the marina) had coin showers. Really??? I have to pay 25 cents for three minutes to bathe. AND you don’t mention it when I check in. Who walks around with piles of quarters? Or even cash for that matter.
  • What’s a trip to Washington without a totem pole? The day we arrived in Port Townsend, the town was dedicating a new one. Here it is:

Port Townsend Wrap-up

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The view along the cleverly named Water Street

I am home and it is 90 degrees. We were slightly delayed on the way in because of thunderstorms in Chicago, but the pilot did a great job despite the wind. What a climate shock I had when we landed since our last day in Port Townsend was about 60 degrees and misty, rainy, or what Mahru calls frizzle–foggy drizzle. Yuck. We were so lucky because we didn’t experience that at all before that. We did get a taste of high winds  (sense a weather pattern?) on the marina our last night. Sleeping up in the penthouse, I felt like the little piggy in the straw house when the big, bad wolf came by. I really thought the tent walls were going to cave in or I would fall asleep and wake up in Oz. Fortunately, neither happened. I fell asleep and woke up to calm.

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Circling O’Hare

Sunday night after dinner, we went out for a cocktail, mostly to hang with Bernie’s good friend and housemate, Pinky. We went to a bar with a speakeasy vibe called the In Between, which had really funny cocktail descriptions. Mine, the Wishbone, read: “It’s like a martini & a margarita had a baby and that baby grew up and dropped out of law school.” Tequila, bergamot liqueur. I spent the last day wandering Port Townsend, which didn’t take very long. I did find Steven the perfect souvenir, though: Sasquatch socks!

When I was done exploring, I met up with Mahru and Bijan again. We went to have an afternoon beer at the Old Whiskey Mill, mostly because they have an outdoor patio for Bijan. We didn’t eat there, so I have no comment on the food, but the fish and chips looked good. I feel that there’s a beer theme here, but we really did not do a ton of drinking. In fact, we had one pilsner each and Mahru wanted another. I said I would share some with her. She tried to order one more, but we ended up with two. Ah well. It was vacation so we sat longer and finished another one each (Now that is a crisis!). Here’s what happens when I have two beers:

My curiosity got the better of me (again) and I ended up wandering through the Palace Hotel because there was a sign on the door which said something like “Feel free to wander in and look at our historic rooms.” I left Mahru and the dog outside. I was peeking into all the open rooms and didn’t feel odd about it. There was a group of four people doing the same and they confirmed that the person at the desk had said it was fine. Then I said, “So, people can stay here?” For some reason, I had thought it was just a historical site, like Teddy Roosevelt’s childhood home or something. Perhaps it was the velvet rope at the entrance to one of the roo

A sitting area at the Palace

ms that gave me that impression. They said, “Oh, yes, we are staying here. This is his room.” And they proceeded to enter a very large room complete with kitchen and sitting area (not that I stared too long). OK, but I was allowed to look so I kept going. The rooms are beautifully Victorian with a retrofitted for modern coffee-drinking look. Up to the third floor I went peeking along the way. I poked my head into one room and found, to my chagrin, a couple! They had left their door open as they unpacked. Oops! I apologized, explained that I was one beer over my limit, and ran down a different flight of stairs than the one I had gone up. Mahru and Bijan were two doors down and a little puzzled at my appearance, especially when I busted out laughing. I don’t think there’s a moral to this story, except curiosity can lead to fun stories.

We had pho for dinner and I was excited to find that there was vegetarian pho for me! img_20190701_193537120-1.jpgThe Vietnamese restaurant, PhoFilling, delivers to the Pourhouse (sense a punny pattern here?) bar across the street, so off we went.We almost got blown over getting there, but it was fun hoisting a last beer with Bernie. Life on the road is better when you like the friends of the friend you are traveling with.

Reality hit on our final drive: Two-lane highways that became three-lane highways with lots of traffic. First time  since we left the Bay Area. I flew out of SeaTac, which turns out not to be my favorite. It’s one huge, confusing terminal and the signs for the TSA precheck are not obvious. Come to think of it, neither are the signs for security at all. Once through, the main areas are loud and crowded. I must be getting old, because the buskers (ok, is it me or is there something odd about the buskers being able to get past security?  – Shouldn’t buskers be people who just set up and play music in the subway?) just contributed to the noise bouncing off every surface. Once I headed into the concourse for my gate, it settled down a little. By the way, there is coffee that is not Starbucks there. I thought it would have a monopoly in Seattle, but I was pleasantly surprised.