Archive | October 2018

Circus Trip 2018: Blowout

So it happened. Only not specifically to me. After 13,000 miles on the road with no incidents, I am sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.

Only it isn’t my car; I am waiting with my friend and a blown out tire.

Into every life, I guess a few metal brackets that you don’t see lying in the road must fall.

Circus Trip 2018: Down Time

I’m in California; almost at the end of my long road trip.  I have driven over 13,000 miles, and have traveled within 32 states (and Washington, D.C).  10 have been states that are new to me in my adult life, although I didn’t explore a few of them at all; rather just driving through.

Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hamphire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and finally California.  It has been a long, enjoyable drive, and I have seen and done so much along the way.  I still have one more state to pass through before reaching Washington once more.

I’ve been having  some down time, in California, and as often happens with me, once I stop to rest, that is when I get sick.  I have been pretty lucky to have not been sick while on this road trip, but now I’ve gotten a cold, complete with sniffles, sneezes, coughing, and exhaustion.  I’m taking some time to recover, resting and sleeping a lot, with lots and lots of cold medicine.  The cold medicine is accompanied by strange, crazy dreams, but I guess that’s a small price to pay for being able to breathe.

Relaxing with a book on the patio

Fortunately I can take some time to get better.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what my future holds; new opportunities that weren’t clear at the beginning of this trip.  Onward…

London 2018: A Big Bus Tour and Hyde Park

Day 2, Monday, June 25, 2018

We slept in a bit – not that 8:30 is that late, but it is when we were all in bed by 9 the night before.  We got ready and were out the door by 10 am.

We decided to get a lay of the land and try out the Hop On/Hop Off bus tour that was included in our London pass.  We took the tube to the station where the buses pick up, and climbed aboard the Big Bus.  It started out so well…

A street scene from the Big Bus


Taryn’s favorite! Greene King Tavern

Then the bus hit a scooter.  Or perhaps the scooter hit the bus; it was a bit unclear what happened.  At any rate, the scooter driver (rider?) didn’t seem to be injured, because he drove (rode?) off, leaving the bus to sit there, on the side of the street, with the bus driver on the phone with the office, trying to sort out what he was supposed to do.

What he didn’t do was update any of the passengers, so we were just all sitting there wondering how long we would be sitting there.  Finally, after about 10 minutes we decided we would get out and explore on foot for awhile and then find another Big Bus to hop onto later.

We were right near Hyde Park, so we wandered in and explored.  There are all sorts of fountains with algae and pretty scenery.  Hyde Park has been an open park space since it was established as a hunting ground by King Henry VIII in 1536; it has been open to the public since 1637.  The park is also well known as a space where people can express their right to free speech – Speaker’s Corner has been a part of the park where people can debate and protest since 1872.

It was also a well known dueling ground in the 18th century, with 172 duels known to have occurred there, and 63 fatalities.  The military also used Hype Park as a place to conduct military executions.  With all that gore, I wonder how haunted the place is after dark!

In more recent times, Hyde Park has happier events associated with it, including an annual Christmas Market and music concerts.  Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Queen and the Live 8 concert all played in Hyde Park.

We also stopped by the Marble Arch.  It was built beginning in 1827, designed by John Nash after the Arch of Constantine in Rome and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  It was intended to be the state entrance to a ceremonial courtyard at Buckingham Palace, but the palace was enlarged and the arch was moved to its current, rather inconvenient location on a traffic island.

Even though it was not completed with all the fancy friezes and the statue on the top, it is still quite pretty.  The horse head sculpture nearby is really cool too.  You can even play ping pong on the tables in front of it!

Me at the Marble Arch


A horse sculpture at the Marble Arch

After the Marble Arch, we managed to find a spot to get back on the Big Bus tour bus.  We planned to head over to the Tower of London, but once again, our plans went awry.  The bus was so packed and there was no air conditioning, so we were roasting hot as we rolled along.  We only made it as far as Westminster Abbey before we were all sweating to death.  We decided to change our plans and go to Westminster Abbey instead that afternoon – just so we could get off the bus!

Costs: BigBus Hop On/Off Tour – included in London Pass (34 pounds without pass).




Wildside Winery Chambourcin

It’s been a while since I’ve had down time.  Between driving, sightseeing, searching for a place to stay for the night, and trying to keep up on posting photos on Instagram and Facebook, my wine blogging has been neglected…  I have visited some wineries on the trip, and collected some bottles that have been tucked in underneath my car bed for many thousands of miles across the U.S.

I visited Wildside Winery in Kentucky about midway through the trip, on August 15, 2018.  I was on my way into Lexington, and saw the sign on the side of the highway – sometimes you just have to make an impromptu stop.

While I was there, I bought a bottle of the Chambourcin, a grape we don’t see in the Pacific Northwest.  I pulled it out to drink, and was impressed with how well it held up to rattling around in my car for the last month and a half.  Yea, yea, all you purists out there who store all your wine in perfect temperature conditions and without shaking them up as they roll along thousands of miles of bumpy roads are probably cringing as you read this…

It’s a medium bodied red with notes of cherry and a bit of earth, slightly bolder than the Oregon Pinot Noirs I enjoy so much.  Unlike many mid-western wines, this one is bone-dry with almost no residual sugar.  Certainly a great purchase for $15!


London 2018: Housekeeping and Jetlag

Day 1, Sunday, June 24, 2018

We arrived at Heathrow at 10:15 am on Sunday morning, June 24th, customs was non-eventful, although I think our customs agent was skeptical that we were all just friends…  We checked out the tourist kiosk, but they didn’t sell the London Pass that we wanted.  Once we purchased our Oyster cards (the London subway pass), and figured out which subway line we needed to get on, we were on our way!

Our room wasn’t quite ready when we got to the hotel, so we stashed our suitcases in the closet, freshened up a bit, put our suitcases in the room because it was now ready, and then headed out to work off our jet lag.  We couldn’t go to sleep too early or we wouldn’t get onto London time, which is 8 hours ahead of the West Coast!

Me, no makeup, no sleep, not bad…

Lunch was Indian at a restaurant called Masala Zone.  I had the Chicken Tikka with basmati rice – it was soooo good!  We also had naan and popadoms with mango, mint/cilantro and tomato based chutney sauces.  Our lunch was delicious, and we were tired, but we couldn’t rest or else we would all fall asleep!

Our next stop was at the London Pass Office in Leicester Square.  We had priced out the things that we wanted to do and whether it was a good deal to buy the London Pass.  There are several options for the number of days that the pass is good for, and after doing some research, we realized that we wanted the 10-day pass.

We went through the National Portrait Gallery, which is right in the neighborhood, and saw some interesting art.  They have portraits from back through history right up through modern day.

National Portrait Gallery

Next we went to Covent Garden.  We went through the markets, clowned around, bought London Christmas ornaments, and I bought some English tea for people back home.

We saw some buskers, and then went to Mr. Fogg’s Tavern for a mid-day cocktail pick me up – I had hard cider.

We had a beer and cider there

There was so much stuff going on with that ceiling!

The whole day we all alternated between fading and wanting to go to bed, and getting a second wind, each at different times. We got back to the room at about 7:30 and skipped dinner – I went to sleep about 8:45. I managed to stay up late enough to get rid of the jet lag!

Tube Stations: Earl’s Court (hotel), Leicester Square (London Pass office)

Costs: Oyster Card – 50 pounds.  London Pass – 184 pounds for the 10-day pass.  Note: the London Pass is sold at the tourist kiosk at Heathrow Airport, but they don’t sell the 10-day option there.
Other Costs: National Portrait Gallery (free), Lunch, Souvenirs

FitBit Steps: Almost 11,000 (I had to jump around on the room a little bit to get to my goal)


London 2018: The Flights…

Day 0, Saturday, June 23, 2018

My trip to London started early.  I needed to be on the 2:10 am shuttle on Saturday morning, so I woke up at 12:30 am.  That is one of those early wake ups that make you wonder if it is better to just pull the all-nighter, although I never do.  I have been on a lot of these early, early flights and I never know whether sleeping a couple of hours or just staying up is the better option.

My view at the hotel, waiting for the shuttle

Our flight left Seattle at 7:25 am, and we got to JFK in New York at about 4:25 in the afternoon; where we promptly hurried up and waited for hours until our 10:30 pm flight.  When we originally booked the flight, our first leg left Seattle much later in the afternoon; when they moved the first leg earlier we got stuck with a really long layover.

The long layover did give us an opportunity to wander all over our terminal of the airport, and do some excursion planning for our time in London.  We made a big list of the sites we wanted to see, while assessing the value of buying a London Pass, and which duration of pass would work best for us.

On our second flight we were on a 777-300 – it was such a large plane!  I watched a couple of movies; The Post, and Una Mujer Fantastica – both were really good but very different.  I tried to sleep a bit as it was a red-eye flight, but I was largely unsuccessful.

Twelve hours later (a 7 hour flight with 5 hours of time change), we landed at London’s Heathrow airport, ready to start our adventure!


London 2018: Planning

I got a text from a friend early this year asking if I wanted to go to London.  Ummm…  Yeah!  There was lots of talk back and forth about it – who, when, how – and when all was said and done it was going to be four of us along for the ride across the pond – Me, Taryn, Brandon and Brent.  Two girls, two guys, all friends.  What a great trip it would be!

It took a bit of time to get things organized, because we were all busy with work, and other things.  Did we want to stay in London the whole time?  Did we want to rent an apartment or a hotel room?  What side trips did we want to do?  Book a package or things individually?  Travel agent or do it yourself?

In the end we booked a hotel room and flight as a package through Expedia – thanks Taryn for getting the cats herded!  We booked our side excursions separately.

When all was said and done, we had booked two weeks in London, at a small, no frills hotel in the Kensington neighborhood, a few blocks from the Tube station.  We were scheduled to fly out on June 23rd, and be there until July 7th.  It had been a long time since I had traveled internationally; not since a trip to Scotland with my mom in 2006, so I was excited!

Taryn and Me with the Tower Bridge

I was going to London!


Circus Trip 2018: A Tale of Kindness

I was driving through the desert northwest of Las Vegas headed toward Death Valley National Park when I got a text from my aunt in Michigan. She was asking if I knew what I had lost in Salem, Massachusetts and telling me she had it. What?! I was so confused.

I pulled over for a few so I could get the rest of the story. Apparently I had dropped a camera memory card near the lighthouse in Salem and a man from Florida found it. But how did he find my aunt in Michigan?

The camera card had photos of the watertower in Galesburg, Michigan, a Kalamazoo mural, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and my grandparents grave.  There was also a photo of me, my cousin, and our grandma sitting around the table. My grandma passed away in 2016 but my aunt, uncle and cousin still live in Galesburg.

The Galesburg Watertower


Me (hamming it up), my grandma, and my cousin Megan

Somehow, with these photos, the man found my family’s church’s Facebook page and sent the photo of me, my cousin and grandma to them.  A woman at the church recognized my cousin and contacted my aunt, who has been following my road trip and knew it could only be my memory card. The man mailed it to Michigan.

I have now been reunited with my memory card.  From Washington, Massachusetts, Florida, Michigan and now California… It doesn’t contain photos of my epic road trip, as I have been using the same card since Pennsylvania.  All the photos on the card are from 2014, and are safely backed up on my computer and external hard drive at home.

At a minimum though, it reminds me that there are good people in the world who will go out of their way to do something kind for someone they have never even met. And that is pretty incredible.

Circus Trip 2018: Historic Toilet Edition

I have wanted to go to Bodie State Historic Park for such a long time.  It is in mid-eastern California, northeast of Yosemite National Park.  It is pretty remote, and the road closes in winter, so it has been a long time coming.  But, finally, I got to go!!!

Here’s a sneak peak, as a nod to my mom, who celebrated her birthday last week.  She loves historic toilets!

Circus Trip 2018: The Mighty 5

Utah has five National Parks – Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands.  As of this morning I have been to all five!

Yesterday I went to Capitol Reef National Park.  In the rain.  It was muddy – that red clay mud really sticks to everything.  I wasn’t in the mood to hike in the rain, so I did the scenic drive, went to the historic area of Fruita, and bought a personal sized apple pie, made locally.  Capitol Reef maintains and manages the historic orchards that were owned by the Mormon settlers in the region at the turn of the last century.  The pie was amazing!

Mormon Settler Cabin at Capitol Reef

Unfortunately the weather got me a bit down; I headed south on Highway 12 after a grilled cheese sandwich lunch.  Highway 12 is gorgeous!  I did hit snow at the higher elevations of the pass but fortunately it wasn’t sticking to the road.

Today I explored Bryce Canyon National Park.  It was still raining, and even colder than it had been at Capitol Reef.

The misty view at Bryce Canyon

The rain was more a misty rain/snow mix though, and I was determined to hike.  I hiked down into the canyon among the hoodoos and the juniper and pine forest and loved it!  This park is so amazingly beautiful!  Bryce Canyon was really what I needed to get out of my rainy funk.


I spent some time checking out the viewpoints in the afternoon, and the little bit of snow didn’t stop me.  Bryce Canyon is certainly a place I will go back to!

Me at the Natural Bridge Viewpoint