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?

Cars, Cars, Cars

Today’s post is a homage to my nephew Michael and his severely damaged Subaru—Charles.  Michael, this too shall pass, and I hope Charles gets a new engine and is back on the road soon.

I love to drive. The joy of the open road, especially in a convertible is one of my favorite ford fusionfeelings. My trusty Saab is a 2006, so it lacks many of the toys that newer cars have. So when we travel and rent cars, I really enjoy the modern conveniences. I was in Boston last week for work (I know, way too much business travel) and I rented a Ford Fusion. It was a hybrid with a video screen showing all sorts of interesting stuff (mostly the music I was playing and the navigation). But what I found most interesting was the gear selector. It was a round knob on the console. For some reason, I found that every time I shifted out of reverse, I would accidentally put it inpPark.  No idea why, it just seemed that was the natural movement for my hand.  Anyway, that got me thinking about the various types of gear shifters I have used over the years.

vw1I learned to drive on an old Volkswagen Beetle that had what they called a semi-automatic transmission. It had one of the old style, long-handled, 3-speed stick shifts, but without the clutch. The driver still had to shift the gears, but did not have to deal with the pesky clutch. Good training wheels for when I bought the Duster.


duster1My first car was a 1970 Plymouth Duster. (Boy, I bet that car was a chick magnet.)  I loved that car in part because it was a manual transmission with a three-on-the-tree shifter. I bought it without knowing how to drive a manual transmission. My friend Michael gave me a 30-second lesson, drove the car to my house, and parked it outside.  I spent the next week or so practicing using the clutch and learning how to drive a manual. I was so proud of myself the first time I took it out for a real drive. There was a hill near my house that had a stop light at the top and I would always try to go on that street so that I could practice the rolling start. Scary, but good fun.

Knowing how to drive a manual transmission came in handy when I moved to the U.K. The interesting thing about that is while the steering wheel is on the other (wrong?) side of the car, you still use your left foot to operate the clutch.  The gear pattern is the same as a left-hand drive car, but you use your left hand to manipulate the stick.  I cannot tell you how any times I would put the clutch in, and bang my right arm into the door, forgetting that the gear stick was on the left side. Not the most comforting thing for my passengers, I am sure.

olds 88I have also driven any number of automatic transmission cars with all their various shifting mechanisms. The column shifters (I especially remember the one on my Dad’s Delta 88 which could comfortably sleep the entire population of Boston), the console shifters of various cars (my Saab included) and of course the modern paddle shifters which mimic the semi-automatic from the Volkswagen.

Things come full circle.

One thing that I forgot about driving on the East Coast (especially in New England) is that no road is straight. In the Midwest, there are only three types of streets.  North/South, East/West and a few diagonals, just to keep you on your toes.  The streets in Boston seem to have been designed by a committee of drunken, blind, stock market analysts who believe that the random walk theory of the markets should be extended to the streets.  Straight, at least for roads, seems to be a curse word.

Another funny thing about Boston is that streets are often named for where they take you. For instance, Newton Street in Brookline, takes you to Newton, where it, of course, turns into Brookline Street, so you know how to get to Brookline from Newton.  I remember this same “logic” when I lived in the U.K., but I thought the U.S. had successfully avoided that foolishness.

At some point, I will try to convince Sue to go on a road trip where we rent a super car,  for a week and drive really fast, just for the fun of it. Perhaps something like this. I am thinking that, you my dear readers, should fund this as part of the the Doing It on The Road research plan  😉 (I will definitely get on this bandwagon if I don’t have to pay for it.)

Sorry.  None of the images are our cars, just examples of what we had.




Port Townsend Wrap-up

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.

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.

Final Destination: Port Townsend

At the mouth of the Columbia River

The only slight hitch we had on the trip was a low tire warning, so when we got up and got going, we headed to a gas station. No problem except that, of course, the guy who pumps gas (you aren’t allowed to pump your own in Oregon) thought I was some stupid woman and when I was struggling because the nozzle on the air hose was leaky, he brilliantly asked, “Are you sure the machine is on?” Sigh. No, I am just that stupid.img_20190629_134338000_hdrimg_20190629_133342028_hdr.jpgAnyway, the light went out after I successfully filled the tires despite my being a girl and all and we went to the mouth of the Columbia for a … that’s right … beach walk! On the way to the gas station, we saw a tiny fish-and-chips place called FishMongers that looked locals only and decided to hit it on the way our of town (Hammond). It was well worth it. Not only did we get two combos of tuna, rockfish, and cod, but we had enough food left over to feed three of us for dinner when we got to Port Townsend. Perfect. Then, to top off a beautiful morning, I got to go to a Fred Meyer. Mahru had been raving about them since before we hit Oregon and I finally got to learn why. While she filled up on cheap gas, I wandered what I can only describe as a Target on steroids. That store has everything. No joke. Need some organic blueberries? Check. How about replacement windshield wipers? A new couch? A party dress? Antiseptic? They have it. Wow. It was a little overwhelming on a Saturday, but still amazing.

We got to Washington by crossing the Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia soon thereafter. Here is a quote from Britannica about the bridge: “A two-lane highway steel bridge 28 feet (8.5 meters) wide, it consists of three spans reaching a total length of 21,474 feet (6,545 meters) and including a main span of 1,232 feet (376 meters). It was designed by William A. Bugee and was built to withstand Pacific storms with wind speeds that reach some 150 miles (240 km) per hour and river currents that can hit speeds of 9 miles (14 km) per hour. ” Yes, it was cool. When we got to the official welcome to Washington sign, my camera went a little wonkie and I got this photo:img_20190629_143857038

The Astoria-Megler Bridge

Not sure what that’s about, but, whatever, we were in Washington. From the border to Port Townsend, we still had almost 4 hours of driving on the two-lane 101 through small towns. We started heading east toward Puget Sound and still had remarkable, water views even if they were not of the Pacific.

We made one more quick stop at Potlatch State Park on the Hood Canal. It’s just a little day-use beach area, but the dog could get in a run and we could stretch our legs. Then it was on to Port Townsend to meet Mahru’s friend, Bernadette. She was incredibly hospitable and we had a lovely evening just talking, relaxing, and camping out on the floor of her apartment.

We didn’t really explore Port Townsend until Sunday. It’s a cute, waterfront town with all the requisite touristy stuff: fudge, t-shirts, restaurants, coffee shops, beer, and, if you’re on the West Coast, whale-watching tours. There are also ferries to Whidby Island in the sound. Amazingly, there is great pizza by the slice at Waterfront Pizza and I say this as a New York pizza snob. There was a woman there from Brooklyn and she convinced me to try it. She was right.

Sunday, we spent just wandering around the town, window-shopping. We checked into our campsite at Point Hudson Marina and RV Park and discovered that there are several restaurants down there. We ate at Doc’s Marina Grill. The rockfish tacos were delicious.

Days 3 and 4: Oregon Coast

img_20190627_122321310We made it to Oregon on Thursday. I always forget that even though San Francisco is Northern California, it is the beginning of the top third of the state. It takes a while to get all the way to Oregon, but we made it.

img_20190627_122129158We started the day at Big Lagoon beach in California (but you can almost see Oregon from there). It was a pebbly beach and adults were seemingly looking for buried treasure. We asked an older couple and they told us they were looking for agates. Mahru asked if the tides wash the agates up, but the woman said, “There are lots of theories, but it’s really just luck.” I like that. They were really cute. The man held up one stone and said, “I don’t think this is an agate, but she gave it to me because it’s heart-shaped.” Awwwww.

We stayed in Coos Bay at Sunset Bay State Park on Thursday night, which meant that the facilities were a little lesser and the child factor was high. At the privately run RV parks and campgrounds we had stayed at in California, there were no children. The state parks here are overrun. Not that I don’t like children, but it is a different atmosphere. On our way out, our first full day in Oregon, we stopped at South Jetty Beach near Florence before seriously hitting the road.

img_20190628_152328202img_20190628_160706295_burst000_cover_topimg_20190628_162454902_hdrWe drove on 1 until it ceased to exist and then 101, which mostly hugs the coast, or at least hugs it enough that we were oohing and aahing around every bend. Beach and forest right up against each other makes for spectacular viewing. Friday was our longest driving day, 5.5 hours, but we broke it up with an other beach walk and then fish and chips and a stroll around Newport, a cute little fishing town. How can we be in a fishing town and not eat fish and chips. We ate salmon and rockfish and chips at Ocean Bleu. Yum. The Depoe Bay beer hit the spot, too.

We arrived at Fort Stevens State Park at about 8 that evening. Luckily, check-in was until 8. Not so luckily, we were sandwiched between two huge groups with lots of kids. Oh well, we could handle it for one night.

Day 3: Beach and Trees


Ten Mile Beach in Fort Bragg

Today we had a leisurely morning. It was misty/rainy and Mahru just needed some extra sleep. We hadn’t figured out how to create a real-size bed the first night in the Jucy so she was a little cramped up. We got it now! Every day we learn something new or perfect our packing system.

img_20190626_124044490_burst000_cover_topOnce we hit the road, we went to a dog-friendly beach about 10 miles up the 1 called Ten Mile Beach–hmmm. Really, I think it is a 10-mile beach, but not all of it is dog-friendly. I was afraid it would be cold (I’m always afraid it will be cold) but it was perfect. The dunes blocked any breeze and the sun peeked out a few times. People had made tepees out of driftwood and there were several rock caves. The tide was out so we had plenty of walking room.

img_20190626_152410531img_20190626_152431942_hdrFrom there, we headed up 1. More windy, mountain roads, yay! We hooked up with 101 when 1 petered out, but it was still beautiful. Around 2:30ish we started getting peckish and decided to hit a state park for a picnic. Voila! We weren’t far out from Humbolt Redwoods State Park and the Avenue of the Giants. Perfect. We ate lunch at the visitor center picnic area surrounded by 2,000-year-old trees. Whenever you are feeling full of yourself, I recommend the grandiosity of nature. Old growth redwoods are a fine choice.

We only had about an hour and 20 minutes left to reach our final destination for the day: Patrick’s Point. No problem. We did have to go through Eureka, which we agreed sounded like a really cool place: Eureka! There’s gold in them thar hills, but turned out to be an anywhere USA, rundown, strip mall heaven. The best feature was Costco, where we stopped for much cheaper gas before heading north to Trinidad.


Road Trip Day 2

Crank that penthouse up

Leftover curry with egg scramble. Yum! Once we got the show on the road, we stopped for coffee, because of all the things we could forget, we forget the coffee cone for the pour-over. Not cool! We went to Point Reyes Station for Bovine Bakery, which had really, really good coffee. Mahru said she’s been going there for years and it’s always been that good. We also got to play show-and-tell with the Jucy. It elicits stares and questions and we are happy to chat about it. Maybe we should become brand ambassadors except that the latch on the penthouse opened again and we had to stop to fix it. This time I put a twig in it to create a crossbar. So far, so good. The other little snag with it (aside from having to crank it 54 times to pop it up) is that it doesn’t fall flat when I crank it closed and I have to shove it into alignment and then stuff the tent up under it.


img_20190625_113957733_hdrNext, off to Limantour Beach, which allows dogs. Bijan had a blast and it was incredibly beautiful. The clouds were stringy and wispy (see pic), the air was crisp and salty, and the sand (as always) felt great between my toes. After a couple of hours, we headed back to the Jucy and hit the road for Fort Bragg. We took 101 through Petaluma and Santa Rosa, where you can still see some of the aftermath of the Tubbs Fire in November 2017. We headed west on 128 for my favorite kind of driving: twisty, windy mountain roads (my favorite type too – not!) overlooking the ocean and we got to drive them for miles. For a while, we were driving through redwoods. Sometimes I really miss California. We did encounter a driver who braked about every 5 feet, which mostly made us laugh.

Our campground outside Fort Bragg is very quiet. I think we are the only ones in our area and each spot is surrounded by trees. If I couldn’t hear road noise, I would think Mahru and I were the only people on Earth. I’m not sure how I feel about that (umm…hello….I would hope that if you are one of two people on earth — you might want me to be the other). I’m not into post-apocalypse. Earlier in the evening, we met a couple who gave us some pointers for a good beach walk and wine tasting/picnic area tomorrow.

Quote of the day today is from Mahru: Sweater dogs are useless.”

First Night on the Road

This will all be posted late because connectivity is not happening. So, we picked up the Jucy, threw everything in and took off for Point Reyes. Yes, I know, not a very long trip, but we spent most of the day preparing the house, packing up, and getting ready to leave. We didn’t get the Jucy until 2 either.

img_20190624_140734351_hdrThis thing is bigger than it looks. We packed a ton of stuff in it. Suitcases, food, dog, bedding, pots and pans, beer and wine—all the essentials. So far the only hitch we have had is that one of the latches to the “penthouse” or the pop-up sleeping tent unhooked and the tent crept out and was flapping in the breeze. Luckily, a nice woman on the 580 honked and pointed and we got the idea. For a big, awkward-looking vehicle, the ride is smooth and the handling very manageable.

We arrived at the Olema campground at about 5 p.m., set up camp, went for a walk, and made a delicious curry vegetable dinner, but oops! We forgot a can opener. Luckily, people in RVs seem to have everything you could ever need. Thanks neighbor. Our spot was in a meadow where we had a view of the hills and witnessed a very colorful sunset.

It is a little chilly in the pop-up, so I’m really glad we have a sleeping bag. It didn’t make getting up in the middle of the night to pee any easier, but at least I could crawl back into the warmth quickly except for the weird animal noises. Coyotes? Maybe, but I’m not really sure. I’m glad they were distant.

The Day Before We Hit the Road

img_20190623_115201028-1Sunday was mostly a get ready for the trip day, so we went to two very exciting and exotic places: Trader Joe’s and Target! Gotta stock up for the driving. Did you know that Trader Joe’s now has Takis? The world is complete. One amazing reason people live in the Bay Area is that no matter where you go, the views are spectacular. For instance, above is a picture of the panorama from the dog park. It’s hazy, but that’s San Francisco back there. I’d probably walk my dog more if I were looking at that when I did it.


In the evening, we went for a wine tasting on the Oakland Urban Wine Trail in Jack London Square. Eight wineries have tasting rooms within a few blocks of each other. Mahru is a member of the Brooklyn West Winery so that’s where we headed. The people were friendly, and the business is so new that Mahru knows the wine-maker and some of the staff. That made it feel cozy even though it was crowded, especially for a Sunday night right before closing (at 6 p.m.), and Bijan was allowed to come with us. I am not a wine critic just a wine drinker, but I really enjoyed the cabernet and tempranillo, which is Brooklyn West’s signature wine. I sure liked the sound of the name. Apparently, Brooklyn Basin is a depression of land on the waterfront that used to be industrial and now–you guessed it–is another upscale “urban community.” Yawn. Not only is it a little trite at this point, but when I look around and see all the tent cities and people living under bridges, it’s also just another example of how crazy Bay Area real estate is despite efforts to create “affordable” housing. Define affordable around here.

Anyway, we got some takeout sushi at Sushi Go Go, a small, local chain whose schtick is that all their outlets are in gas stations. We ended the evening chilling in the back yard and are now excited to get our Jucy and hit the road!

P.S.: Connectivity on the coast will be spotty, so I am not sure if and when I will be posting again, but don’t worry, I will make sure you don’t miss a bit of the trip.

Hiking and Wondering

Bear Creek Trail at Point Reyes

Saturday was beautiful and sunny. I loved it. No jacket necessary. Finally. We headed up to Point Reyes National Seashore after dropping the dog at day care. No dogs allowed on national park trails and Bijan has some separation anxiety. I mention this because we had to be back by 7 p.m. to pick him up. We were going to do a trail on a spit of land that pokes into the Pacific on one side and Drake’s Bay on the other, but we were lazy and got a late start and the trailhead is about 30 minutes into the park by car. Instead, we hiked from the Bear Valley Trail from the visitors center. The trail is mostly flat with very gradual incline, nice after Friday for my legs, which are Midwestern (read: flat, Flat, FLAAAAT) acclimated.

Zion shirt, Costa Rica bandana

I am 95 percent sure I have done this trail before, long ago when I lived in the Bay Area, but I don’t ever remember seeing so much water. It’s been raining around here for a couple of winters now, so everything is green and the walk was verdant and smelled of fresh vegetation. Aaah.

As we walked, I thought, as I have done in the past when I hike, that an interesting research project (if it hasn’t already been done) would be to study who says hello to whom on the trail. I’ve noticed that young men tend to ignore us old ladies. (Are they afraid we’ll yell at them because their chores aren’t done?) What about other group, gender, race, and age dynamics? There’s a ton of material there. Hiking is a different social situation and self-selecting and I am really curious about what the norms are. I just handed someone a great sociology project. Go for it and let me know.