We stayed in three different motels on our trip from Rochester, MN to Fortine, MT.
We ate takeout sushi in Fargo (terrible, don’t ever do that). We didn’t get sick, we just found the sushi to be inedibly dry, cold, and hard. We ate leftovers that we had with us for dinner in Williston (after the night of terrible sushi). We bought a rotisserie chicken in the grocery store in Havre.
Fargo, ND: Residence Inn by Marriott Fargo was very clean, as were all the places we stayed. Most people wore masks going in and out, but not everyone. Staff was behind a plexiglass sheet. They were helpful, for example, giving us the extra packet of coffee we requested. Coffee maker was in the room already. There was supposed to be breakfast, but we decided to visit Starbucks instead.
Williston, ND: Winterton Suites. Like most of these motels, Winterton was unprepossesing, painted in an unfortunate shade of slightly mustard-tinted yellow that seems to be popular with motels and rental properties this year. The bathroom was very clean despite decor approximating a gas station restroom. On the bright side, the managers were very cheerful and readily available, and the price was right, $100 a night. This was less than our other stops. We didn’t investigate breakfast options. The motel rooms faced a parking area, and not all rooms were occupied. We wore masks going in and out, but didn’t see other people except from a distance.
Havre, MT: Best Western Plus Great Northern Inn. This motel backs onto a BNSF railyard that emits lots of huffing and puffing, like a very loud AC unit, but inside our room we heard none of it, so I’m not sure it matters. The pool was open here and I couldn’t resist taking a dip–no one else was in it at the moment. The breakfast was limited to non-existent, though there was supposed to be something. I got an apple wrapped in plastic that tasted fine (I washed it again). Most people wore masks in the indoor spaces, but not 100% of people.
Next door to the Best Western was the highlight of our trip in culinary terms. The 406 Coffee Roastery in Havre had good coffee, and exceptional baked goods. The crumb cake was dense and delicious, with lots of crackly topping. The lemon poppyseed muffin was flavorful and large sized. We spent half as much as we had at the Starbucks in Fargo, to boot, including our big coffee drinks. There is a small park next door with a red caboose parked in it, very apropos for this town along the rail lines.
We chose places to stay that had a kitchenette and refrigerator so that we could renew our cooler each night. It proved useful when we found that eating in was preferable to eating out.
The last part of my friends and family tour of the US took me to Los Angeles and Seattle. In Los Angeles, I stayed a couple of nights with daughter Lyra and another few at the home of my daughter Amanda’s future mother-in-law, Connie. Amanda and Jim live there, too, making it an excellent base of operations on this side of Los Angeles. An episode of Homeland had just finished filming a scene at the neighbor’s. Then they filmed a scene inside Connie’s! (I wasn’t there yet.) In Los Angeles, unusual things happen all the time.
The next day I met up with my sister Sheila and her husband. They live in Hesperia, and since I usually stay in Los Angeles we meet at a halfway point, the huge Victoria Gardens mall in Rancho Cucamonga. The drive is opposite traffic and the sky gets deeper and deeper blue as you drive away from the city. The three of us dawdled over lunch and caught up with family news. We headed our opposite directions before rush hour got going, and the drive back was painless.
I was in Los Angeles to see my sister, my daughters and also to attend a wedding. I’ve known Linda since we were both sixteen–and her daughter’s wedding was another milestone in life that needed celebrating. Lyra went with me to all the wedding events (Thanks, Lyra!)
The wedding events were very enjoyable, and the ceremony was lovely, full of heartfelt vows. We were outdoors at Descanso Gardens in Pasadena at sunset, and the weather was perfect. The bride’s dress was a beautiful column of white, her flowers were white, cream, and deep burgundy roses. We had a delicious dinner and chatted with people from all over the country. Ceremonies like these renew my faith in the future.
I did my good deed of the trip the next day and helped Lyra hang paintings in her new apartment. She moved just a few weeks ago, and managed to get move all the furniture and boxes over a weekend, but then work intervened, and she still had art stacked against the walls.
In a hour, we managed to get most things where she wanted them and her place looks much more settled.
After a quick dinner, we walked to the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills to hear Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin speak. What a pair they are! Jane Fonda led with an impassioned plea for action to halt climate change by phasing out fossil fuels and plastic bags, pointing out that oil companies like Exxon knew thirty years ago that their products could irreparably damage the environment. The audience was full of fans who, like us, have watched every episode of Grace and Frankie. We laughed at all their jokes while the moderator tried his best to keep them on topic. It was a lot of fun.
Packing in just a few more activities, I drove to Pasadena on Monday morning and visited the Norton Simon Museum with Amanda. She’s familiar with the exhibits from being at every opening with her fiance Jim, who is a preparator there. We particularly liked the William Crutchfield exhibit, though it was fun to walk around while Amanda showed me her favorite pieces throughout the museum.
In the afternoon, Linda came by and took me to Koi, a boutique in Highland Park. She has gotten to know the owner, another Linda, and the sales manager, Brenda. We chatted about jewelry and looked over some of the necklaces I’ve made, and some gorgeous things that Brenda makes. Everyone had good suggestions. With a few improvements, some of my pieces will be for sale in Koi in the new year. I am delighted.
A last dinner with Amanda, Jim, and Connie, and I was off to Seattle to stay a few days with Larry and Sharon. Larry and I were undergraduates together at Harvard, and see each other every five years at reunions. I have read some of his books, and he has given me some very helpful comments on the mystery I eventually plan to complete. Sharon and I met in Melbourne last year. Their daughters and grandchildren live in Melbourne, so they now spend half the year there.
Seattle was unusually cooperative, providing day after day of sunny weather. We visited Snoqualmie Falls, standing in the mist while the falls thundered into the river below.
We had a great tour of some of the city’s icons. The troll under the bridge is a fanciful landmark that should have everyone who visits rushing home to read a fairy tale.
Just down the street is a huge statue of Lenin leaning into the intersection. The tale of how this huge relic of Soviet history made its way from a scrapyard in Czechoslovakia to a street corner in Seattle is a testament to people’s pig-headed desires to do things that make no sense to anyone but them. How Lenin got to Seattle.
We visited the Chihuly Gardens, a gorgeous display of oversized glass plant life. After seeing the amazing, massive glass structures emerging from the ground, we watched a pair of glass-blowers from the Community Hot Shop (glass blowing furnaces and ovens in a converted Airstream trailer) make a vase. These bowls and vases are sold at the Space Needle gift shop, so we had to go have a look. They are not terribly expensive ($45-$65) and would make a distinctive gift from Seattle.
We rode the monorail from the Space Needle to the Pike Place market. Even mid-afternoon, there were rows of dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, tuna, and more varieties of fish than I could name. Fruit and vegetables, and stalls selling hundreds of things that you need and don’t need. (We failed to locate the wall of chewed gum–I’m not sure I regret missing it.) We returned home after this, and ended the day with dinner at the Carnation Cafe, an excellent restaurant near Larry and Sharon’s. The desserts, all made in-house, were really, really delicious.
Having seen so much in such a short time, I took a day to walk around the local area, making my way down to the bridge across the Snoqualmie and Tolt Rivers. It was a beautiful afternoon, the sun making the trees blaze with color. For about three minutes, though, it rained, and the bouncing raindrops turned out to be hail. I sheltered under a fir tree to avoid the hail and in another five minutes the rain stopped, the sun came out, and I walked home. A beautiful end to this adventure.
This month is full of visits to family and friends. From Charleston, I stopped a few days in Grand Rapids, MI with my sister Catherine. The weather was rainy but we entertained ourselves by getting haircuts. We did a decluttering sweep of a sitting room, cut one huge piece of fabric for curtains, repaired an existing linen duvet cover, and then cut deep green fabric for a new duvet cover.
We managed to sneak in lunch with a few of Catherine’s friends who I met on a trip to Italy several years ago. Another highlight was dinner with an old friend from our hometown of Thornwood, NY. I wouldn’t have recognized Dennis Flint, but Catherine found him through the magic of Facebook and we had dinner with him on his way through Grand Rapids on business. We laughed about growing up in Thornwood, with a lot of what-ever-happened-to, and swapped stories about our kids.
After just a few days enjoying Grand Rapids, I spent a day trying to get to Syracuse to see my mom. It took three flights, but by the end of the day, I made it. As annoying as the trip was, our visit was very low key and relaxing. That’s all to the good considering mom is 94. We took a field trip to Otisco Lake where my brother and sister-in-law live. After admiring their recently renovated lake house, we visited a new farmer’s market/craft sales complex called Willowdale Bend. I carefully toured the barn full of antiques, but didn’t find anything I loved enough to add to my overstuffed suitcase. On the way home we stopped and picked a quart of red raspberries ($4) at Berdock’s berries. They were delicious!
I took a walk in the neighborhood one afternoon and found a long-abandoned road through the trees from the watertower behind my mom’s home down toward the road. I figure it was used long ago before highways connected the towns around Syracuse with the city.
Another evening we had dinner at the Lakeside Vista restaurant overlooking Otisco Lake. The building is unprepossessing but the deck outside is perfect for warm weather and the food was very good. This area is gradually shifting from predominantly summer homes to year-round residences and the success of Lakeside Vista will mean there is a good restaurant in the neighborhood. We hope they’ll stay.
My week in Syracuse ended with a visit to plant a chrysanthemum by my dad’s grave. I have done a spring or fall planting with my mom a few times, as my visits often land in April or September. We admire the graves that have been decorated and planted, chat with my dad, and then head back home.
I flew from Syracuse to Chicago, picked up a car and got to Wheaton before sunset. I stay with my good friend Peggy, who is one of the world’s great hostesses. We saw the new movie Judy, then went to AAUW film night to discuss it, and we had dinner with a different friend every night.
On Sunday, I drove to Champaign, IL to visit my daughter Lillian and son in law Neil. They are settling in to the house they bought in the spring, and I love seeing their progress from visit to visit. We took a walk around the neighborhood enjoying the gorgeous cool, clear day and ran some errands. There was no need to undertake a big event, we just enjoyed being together.
I arrived back in Chicago in time to have dinner with Peggy and one last friend before my trip ended. In the morning, I crept off to the airport, making a stop at the storage unit to toss in a few items that I didn’t want to carry around. I had already picked up a second suitcase to take to Peru. Navigating from Chicago’s car rental center onto the bus and off at the terminal was challenging. I only had to wrangle my two suitcases, carry-on, and handbag as far as the check-in counter. It was a relief to drop them off.
Onward to Portland and my sister Paula, who scooped me up at the airport, saving me hauling my bags more than a few steps. My visit here was perfectly timed to overlap with that of my nephew Brian, his wife Emily, and their darling 13 month-old Eliza, who I had not met in person. She is a charmer, of course, with a huge smile and slightly wobbly legs. She’ll be walking before Christmas. We’ve enjoyed taking Eliza for walks, and catching up on family news. One night I was able to accompany Paula to the rehearsal of the Oregon Repertory Singers. What wonderful music! Their next concert includes a piece where the sound washes over you in undulating waves and makes you close your eyes just to enjoy it.
A big family dinner was the final event of my Portland visit. Eleven of us forgot about the drizzle outside as we dug in to braised beef, roast vegetables, salad, and apple-blueberry crisp, with Oregon wines, of course. After a memorable evening, I packed up and headed for my last stop, Los Angeles.
The goal of our route through Nebraska was to see Carhenge, in Alliance, NE, which we did. We stayed overnight at to Grandma Lala’s B&B, a lot more memorable than the Red Roof Inn we stayed at in Council Bluffs, IA last night. Our room had a cherub theme:
As we drove from Alliance, NE to Denver, we passed beautiful country and even saw an antelope among the cattle.
Driving across Nebraska on this sunny, cool day, we crossed lots and lots of open land, some farm fields, some grazing land with cows everywhere. Our destination was Alliance, NE and CARHENGE!
It looks a bit like Stonehenge from a distance, but from up close it’s a car collection, spray painted gray, welded, wedged and hammered together.
An intriguing fact makes visiting Carhenge in late May an excellent idea. The structures are used by all kinds of birds to build their nests. The metal frames provide shelter and at this time of year, the chicks have hatched and are peeping like crazy and the parents fly back and forth constantly to feed them. Carhenge seems alive with birds among the autos.
Some other sculptures have been donated to the site and this struck me as one of the best–Leaping Salmon.
Here’s our selfie of the day.
We had a good dinner at Ken and Daves’ on 3rd St. It was prime rib night….
After our comfortable time in LaGrange, we packed the car for our trip to California. It was a bit more crowded than we expected.
Even though Jonathan took the car to the Toyota dealership (again) at 7 am, he was able to return home with a new headlight and we were packed and on the road by 11 am.
The midwest is at its greenest right now. We spent the day crossing Illinois and Iowa, arriving in Council Bluffs, IA, (across the river from fabulous Nebraska). We passed this truck–at the time I hoped he had a spigot on the side and some go-cups.
We drove down to the edge of the Missouri River, just to have a look and found that this weekend is LOESSFEST, including the Taste of Omaha.
We may give it a try on our way out of town, but since it was raining and involved a shuttlebus ride across the river to Omaha we passed up tonight’s opportunity. We did see the bridge with four huge spiky sculptures on each corner that goes over Rte 80–that was strange and interesting. We may go have a look at the water tower shaped like a coffee pot before we leave. (Oh yes, you ought to give Iowa a try…).
Do you know what the next line of that song is? A good one for us.