Marathon training

I officially started training for my upcoming marathon* a few weeks ago.

*That’s not a typo. I’m training for a marathon. I signed up for the half but I keep telling myself that I might as well train for the full while I have it in me. I’ve been running double digit weeks for 3 months straight, I’m not injured, I have all the free time in the world, and let’s be honest. I’m not getting any younger. I figure I’ll stick with the marathon training plan as long as I can but I won’t force it. If I feel like my body breaking down or I’m just generally miserable I’ll move back to half marathon training. I’ll admit that running a marathon sounds pretty horrible and I’m mortified that I’ll end up pooping my pants at the finish line.

So yeah. Marathon training. Here’s my training schedule:

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 4.13.39 PMI’ll keep you posted on my status. If I can at least get to (and complete) that 14 miler I’ll count it as a success.


The Boy is in Paris, aka Everything you need to know about financing study abroad

Oh to be young and living abroad. I did it and I highly encourage it. No worries in the world. That is, except for figuring out how to pay for everything.

The Boy is studying at NYU Paris this semester and because we’re on a budget I didn’t want to send him over with any old credit card and a wad of euros but rather research and approach everything as frugally and thoughtfully as possible. This is what I learned (and I’d say that this information would be useful to others but as you’ll see, things change so often that what I learned may no longer apply in 6 months).

1. Avoiding credit card transaction fees
Most credit card companies charge a foreign transaction fee. There are cards that don’t charge a fee but you have to search for them and some of them charge annual fees. I ended up getting the Bank of America Travel Rewards card. No annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, 1.5 points for every dollar spent (points can be used towards any travel expenses), and as a bonus it has the fancy chip and pin technology. The Boy uses this for his Paris Navigo metro pass, his groceries, and pretty much any expenses except for his rent. We’ve already been reimbursed over $400 for travel expenses  using our rewards. Thumbs way up for Bank of America Travel Rewards.

2. Avoiding ATM transaction fees
I’d read on several travel and finance sites that Bank of America was in an alliance with several banks in Europe (including BNP Paribas in France) and if you used any of their ATMs you’d avoid paying a fee. The Boy already had a checking account with a credit union but I figured it couldn’t hurt to set him up with a Bank of America checking account in order to take advantage of the alliance. For students under 23, Bank of America waives their $12/month maintenance fee, so I sent him in to set up an account. He mentioned that he’d be traveling abroad when he set up the account and the account manager even gave him a business card with foreign numbers to call if he had any issues with his debit card. We loaded up his account with enough money to cover a couple months’ rent and security deposit and sent him on his way. After he made a withdrawal for rent money at a BNP Paribas ATM, a 3% charge showed up. It turns out Bank of America started charging a fee for foreign conversions, even when using alliance ATMs*, starting on November 8, 2013. It would have been nice if the account manager had mentioned this to The Boy (perhaps he did; I wasn’t there). So now, after more than $25 in fees incurred, we’re thinking The Boy would be better off using his credit union debit card (which only charges $1.50/transaction). Thumbs way down for Bank of America ATM foreign conversion fees.

*Bank of America does continue to waive their sky-high $5 transaction fee if you use one of their alliance ATMs.

3. Cell phone usage
The Boy is going phone-less while in Paris. We talked to AT&T about getting him on an international plan but it was $60 and he’d still have to keep his domestic plan as well. He also has the option of getting a France phone while he’s there but The Boy isn’t a big time cell phone talker so it doesn’t seem worth it. He has wifi at the school and at his apartment so we text, Skype, and FaceTime quite often. He uses old school maps to find his way around the city (love!). We still need to look into suspending his data plan for the next 4 months (right now we pay about $35 for his monthly unlimited talk/text/data plan so it’s not a big deal to keep it I guess). Thumbs up for FaceTime!

4. Tuition and fees
This is specific to us so not useful information but perhaps of interest. We are saving LOADS of money by having The Boy study abroad. In Manhattan, The Boy lived in the cheapest dorm available (2nd Street, tiny studio w/ bunk beds; 2 students/per room) and it averaged out to around $1200/month. In Paris he’s living solo in a Chambre de bonne and he’s paying 450 euros/month (around $615). In addition, on top of his regular scholarship, NYU gave him an additional $5000 to assist in study/travel abroad. A portion of that was to make up for the loss of his work study money and the remainder was need based and given out to students who applied for it. So in the end we’ve saved about $7500. Super huge thumbs up.

5. Airfare
Have you heard of Student Universe? Neither had I. The Boy purchased a roundtrip ticket from them (IcelandAir) for just over $800. We then got almost $300 reimbursed with our travel rewards so he paid about $500 for his roundtrip ticket. A big thumbs up for Student Universe.

6. Travel Abroad
I’m leaving this to The Boy. He has a bit of money in savings that he can use towards traveling while he’s there. He has a really long spring break (April 12-27) so the bulk of his travels will happen then. The school has given the students a few tips: Easyjet is super cheap; train tickets get more expensive the longer you wait to purchase them; travel in groups to save money on transportation/boarding. I guess we’ll just wait and see where he ends up going. He’s really enjoying Paris and part of me worries that he won’t take advantage of the easy travel opportunities, choosing instead to hang out in museums (the students all have free museum passes) or hide out in his private room to read Star Wars paperbacks. Sigh. Thumbs waiting to see how it all turns out.

7. Learning from our mistakes
The Boy and I have learned quite a bit in this process.

  • The Boy has learned there’s a price to pay for accidentally withdrawing 500 euros from an ATM using his credit card instead of his debit card (um, 24% cash advance fee?!!!).
  • The Boy has also learned to listen better when his mom is “blah blah blahing… make sure they don’t charge a fee… blah blah blah blah blah.”
  • I’ve learned that even if the internet says that something is free, it may no longer be free and you need to verify and verify and verify with the banks to get the real, up-to-date info and keep on top of fee schedules/changes on a monthly basis.
  • I’ve learned that there’s something called popmoney. I used it (after mistakenly trying to do an external transfer that backfired on me and made me cry on the phone with my bank’s customer service) to transfer funds to The Boy’s checking account. Super easy and fast.

Thumbs up for learning.

The Boy's view from his Chambre de bonne in the 16th arrondissment

The Boy’s view from his Chambre de bonne in the 16th arrondissment

National Portfolio Day

A few weekends ago The Dot brought her artwork to be reviewed at National Portfolio Day, sponsored by Cornish College of the Arts.

She brought several pieces she’d painted during her SCCC running start art class last spring.

She also brought a few pieces she created when she attended Gage’s Portfolio Intensive summer workshop.

And finally, she brought her sketchbook, some fan art, and a few random paintings she did for fun.

We all came with her to hold her place in line at the specific schools she’d chosen ahead of time. The expected attendance was 400 and each reviewer spends about 10-15 minutes with each portfolio. Initially, The Dot wanted to show her work to all of the NYC schools that were there (Parsons, SVA, FIT, Cooper Union – Pratt was a no show) and 3 Pacific Northwest schools (Cornish, PNCA, Emily Carr). That turned out to be too many. We’d toured SVA and FIT during our trip to NYC in October so it made sense to have them review her portfolio. She’d also toured Cornish last year and really like it (except for the fact that it is just too close to home) so she definitely wanted to have them review her work. The last school she picked, mainly because I talked her into it, was PNCA. Gee, does it surprise anyone that I’d love for her to go to school in Portland?!

So what did they think?

It turns out each school has a totally different idea about what they want to see in a portfolio. She visited PNCA first and the rep loved her sketchbook work but thought her fan art (which I haven’t included in the samples above because I know she wouldn’t want me to show them) was inappropriate for a portfolio.

FIT just wasn’t a good fit (heh, pun). We kind of knew that going in and during the tour it was only reinforced but it’s the only school in NYC that is affordable (it’s a state school) if she doesn’t get a scholarship and at one point she was determined to live and study in NYC so we’ve talked about it a lot. Now, not so much.

SVA loved her stuff. Even her fan art! This was kind of surprising because she didn’t show very much observational art from the 3rd dimension (like the soda can) and that’s what they want to see in digital portfolio submissions (which are required for scholarship consideration). Anyway, she was happy with the rep’s feedback.

Cornish gave her good feedback about her fairytale series (from the SCCC class). Basically the rep loved the Edward Gorey-ness of them but thought if she wanted to go DARK she should really go DARK. Dark, dark, dark. She loved that. Yikes!

So now it’s time to apply to a few schools and see what happens. A few deadlines are looming and she doesn’t have all her paperwork together and needs to meet with her high school counselor* to make it all work. I’ll just sit back and relax.

*The Dot was supposed to graduate last June but because she’s taking online classes she didn’t finish up a few things in time and is still working on one final Algebra II class. She’s moving at a snail’s pace. I just hope that she gets an offer from one of the schools that’s too good to pass up. That should motivate her to work faster since I can’t seem to get her moving very quickly. 

Shoo shoo, my little Dot. Or not. No rush.

The Dot meeting with the PNCA rep

The Dot (in the background) meeting with the PNCA rep


Numbered items. Because lazy.

1: My blog is nearing its 10th anniversary. I should do a “best of” post.

2: I failed to write about The Dot’s 18th birthday and her amazing art from this year. She is participating in National Portfolio Day at Cornish on January 11th. I’ll put together a post soon after. Really, I’ll try.

3: The Boy is going to Paris in 3 weeks. An entire semester in Paris! To study art history and French and the French Revolution!

4: It’s my and Robert’s 25th anniversary at the end of January. What better way to celebrate than a trip to Paris!!! But we’ll wait until May when The Boy is ready to come home. No solid plans have been made but it’s penciled in my calendar.

5: I have finally signed up for another half marathon. Seattle Rock n Roll in June. I currently manage 10 miles a week at most and move like a snail. I don’t have a training plan and I don’t have a goal for my finish time. I just want to run again.

6: My blog is kind of fizzing out. It’s kind of true. The blog IS dead.

My first 2 hours back in New York City

Let’s just jump into this entry and pretend that I haven’t been neglecting my blog, shall we?

In October The Dot and I flew to NYC to visit art schools and hang out with The Boy. I had kind of convinced myself that I was becoming a New York City expert. I knew all the neighborhoods south of 34th street, for example. I knew how to cross the street properly (no cars = go despite what the crosswalk sign says). I knew how to swipe my metro card correctly on the first try and how to not bump into passengers flowing into the station’s turnstiles. Total expert.

So here’s a little play-by-play of my first 2 hours back in the city that I supposedly know so well.

After an exhausting flight (aren’t they all?) and a long subway ride, we step out into downtown Manhattan with our luggage, just a few blocks from the East Village apartment I’ve booked through Airbnb. The Boy is here to help us and I expect getting to the apartment  will be a cinch. However, as we make our way deeper into the East Village panic starts setting in. I hadn’t realized we’d be arriving around 5:30pm on a Saturday evening. Pulling our luggage through groups of people heading out for a night of fun is NOT FUN. Trying to look casual and not like a tourist is STUPID. Walking into the market on the corner of 1st Avenue and 7th Street to pick up the apartment keys (left there for me by the apartment owner) and being told there are no keys is PANIC INDUCING.

This is the city I’d felt so comfortable with last year and my first 15 minutes back are turning out to be a total fail. I need to chill out. I stand out on the sidewalk and break the news to The Teens. Hey guys, we don’t have keys. They both look at me like small puppies. Mommy? Take care of us. I take a deep breath and scan my surroundings. Oh look. There’s another market across the street from here. (And if I hadn’t been so nervous about looking like a tourist I would have pulled out my phone 10 minutes ago and re-read the email from the owner about a blue awning NOT a green awning). I dodge across 1st Avenue, hop in the correct market, get the keys, hop out, do a little dance (so much for not looking like a tourist) and run back across the street (barely missing getting run over by a cyclist).

Ta-da! Mom saves the day.

The apartment is a walk-up and we are on the 3rd floor. I take stairs all the time so I wasn’t concerned beforehand. However, steep, narrow stairs with luggage is a pain in the ASS! Thankfully The Boy is doing the heavy lifting. It occurs to me as he is lugging up our bags that he won’t be around to help us when we leave later that week. Eek! I kind of just want to be back home. I am a pampered person.

Finally we are in the apartment. We have arrived! Let’s not leave the apartment EVER. The apartment is cute. Tiny but cute. And church bells are ringing right across the street. The main floor of the building is a WINE BAR. The owner of the apartment has recommended we try out South Brooklyn Pizza right around the corner so, being really hungry, that’s what we do. When we arrive at the shop it’s totally empty. Shocking since there are so many people out on the streets and this is supposedly one of the best pizza shops in the country. Oh well. I order a pizza to-go. We casually sit back and wait. I’m too afraid to ask how long the pizza will take so we just sit there making small talk with each other. Pizza after pizza comes out of the oven. I keep thinking this one is ours. No and no and no. It turns out they have a restaurant next door and half of the pizzas are going there and half are going to delivery. I guess some kind of NYC silent bell rang around 6:30pm because suddenly the tiny place is packed with folks ordering pizza by the slice. We’re squished up against a wall and I’m still trying to look casual and non-touristy (which means my eyes are popping out of my head and I’m biting my nails). Finally, our pizza is ready and we dodge out as fast as we can for some fresh air. Only there are so many people and smells and things hitting my senses out on the sidewalk that it’s just as stifling. I realize I need some WINE. I hand our precious pizza to The Teens, along with the apartment keys and tell them I’ll see them in a bit.

You’d think it’d be easy to find wine in a place like the East Village. I totally do it WRONG. First, I go into the market where I’d fetched the apartment keys. They have like 3 bottles stuffed in the back next to some dusty beer. That won’t do. I run across the street to a Walgreens and they have a wine display rack with 5 bottles of blush-y colored wine that looks like it’d been there since 1986. What the hell? I remember I’d seen a real wine shop on our walk from the subway so I head back to it. It’s funny how long it takes to navigate 2 city blocks. Also, it had gotten dark and the wine shop is on a dark street so I start getting paranoid and nervous. I tug my purse up against my body and, again, try to look totally cool and casual. I am sweating. I miss the block where the wine shop is and have to turn around but I finally find it, grab a precious bottle (why, oh why, don’t I grab 4 bottles???) and head back to the apartment. And it only takes me 20 minutes. Just enough time for our precious pizza to get cold so I can’t really tell you if it’s one of the best pizzas in the country. It is decent and the wine is SO GOOD.

Lessons learned:

  • The East Village is kind of a crazy place on a Saturday night. Avoid it as much as possible until you get in your zone, i.e. have a few drinks.
  • Order the pizza online and have it delivered to you while you chill out in your apartment.
  • Buy more than one bottle of wine when you find a nice wine shop. (And research where the wine shops are around your apartment before you go. It turns out there were about 10 very close to me; closer than the one I went to.)
  • That wine bar in your apartment building is a sign. Go to it first thing and then deal with everything else later. (I never did go there. Such a pity.)
  • Relax. The people around you aren’t aliens. They’re just like you (or nearly like you but probably about 20 years younger and much cooler).
  • Don’t try to write a blog entry in present tense. It’s too hard.


Family Road Trip 2013 – part 3

Continued from Family Road Trip 2013 – part 2.  It’s been almost a month since we got back. Pretty lame that it’s taken me this long to finish things up. 

Day 10: Yosemite to Nevada City

We took the historical Golden Chain Highway (California 49) out of Yosemite. The forest fire had left the landscape hazy and red. There were times when we didn’t see a car for more than 30 minutes and it kind of freaked me out. I was worried that we’d end up driving up to a road block due to the fire and be forced to turn back. Fortunately, things eventually cleared up and we had a really enjoyable drive through cute little gold mining towns as we drove north along the Sierra foothills.

Also, I have to pat myself on the back for researching food stops ahead of time. Nothing makes me grumpier than being hungry and having no idea where to get a decent meal. I knew we’d be near Plymouth, CA around lunch time so I did a Yelp search a month before we headed out and found a little Mexican restaurant with good reviews. We drove right up to it and had a quick, yummy lunch. From the outside, I’d never have even noticed this place and there really wasn’t anything else around so, yeah. Yay me.

Eventually we made it to Nevada City where our close friends just moved. We checked into a cute little motel called The Outside Inn, cleaned off our Yosemite soot and dust (The Teens actually made a beeline for the motel’s swimming pool and Robert got in a quick 3 mile run) before meeting up with S&K and kids. As expected, The Teens didn’t want to take part in our get together because they had a lot of tv watching time to make up for after not having access to cable while we were in Yosemite. Those poor kids. We tossed some cash at them and ditched them. Meanwhile, we enjoyed a nice dinner and walk about town with our friends and then fetched a growler of beer and headed up to their cabin to visit for as long as we could manage to stay awake (not really late since we’re old).

The following morning we met up again with S and the kids and sat outside with bagels and coffee before we said our goodbyes. Not a long enough visit. Next time we plan to stay much longer and explore the area. Nevada City is a really cute town. It’s off the beaten path and it has a cool, unique feel.

Day 11: Nevada City to Dunsmuir

We took the long way to get back onto North I-5. Instead of heading west through Chico, we headed east through Reno. We stopped at the Donner Memorial (I expected more; not sure what exactly, maybe something morbid?) and then drove down to Tahoe City to take a quick peek at Lake Tahoe. Next up we hit Reno for lunch before heading towards Susanville, CA. Susanville marks the entrance into Lassen National Forest, a place where the Sierra Nevada ends and the Cascades begin (so really cool). A bonus was we’d be heading towards “the back” of Mount Shasta. I like seeing big things from a different angle because they often look so different (and in this case, Shasta kept oddly disappearing out of view). And indeed, the scenery was really pretty. Rolling forest hills, very little traffic, and as a bonus we got to see the big trestle bridge from the movie Stand By Me* near the town of Burney.

*Funny story. I knew what town the bridge was near and The Boy and I tried to find a bridge on Google maps that matched up; we thought we’d located it and drove up to it and I started taking photos. It was WAY SMALLER than what I expected. After about 5 minutes of photo taking and convincing myself that this was in fact THE BRIDGE, Robert, wise guy that he is, said, “This aint your bridge, woman.” Of course, he was right. The Boy then located the correct bridge and pointed it out to us as we drove next  to it on the highway about 10 minutes outside of Burney.

We arrived in Dunsmuir just in time for dinner. The Dot was having “a moment” so we left her alone at the motel while The Boy, Robert, and I walked down the road to Dunsmuir Brewery Works. The musician was just setting up for a set out on the patio and we grabbed a seat. I love finding little hidden gems like that. Perfect! We enjoyed beer, barleywine (rootbeer for The Boy), a meat & cheese board, a delicious broccoli and goat cheese soup, and took in the somewhat odd local scene.

 Days 12-14: Dunsmuir to Bend

Eager to get to Bend as early as possible, we quickly loaded up the car in the morning and grabbed a quick to-go breakfast in Weed, CA then made our way up highway 97. The drive went quickly and I calculated that we’d get there too early to check into our rental house. I was just figuring out what we might do before check-in when I read an electric road sign that said the highway was closed up ahead. Oh great.  It turned out that there had been an accident several hours earlier and because there were two fatalities, traffic was being rerouted off to the side, only allowing one direction traffic at times, and at other times, no traffic was allowed through. We sat in the car for about 2 hours, only able to move about a mile or so. We were all feeling pretty sad about the circumstances and feeling grateful that our trip had so far been smooth and safe. Fortunately, we had Professor Blastoff to keep us occupied and we eventually arrived in Bend pretty much right in time to check into our house. Such a cute house!!

We quickly unloaded the car and headed straight over to 10 Barrel Brewing, just a quick walk from our rental. Like most beer places in Bend, it was a mad house and we had to wait about 25 minutes to get a table but we were just glad to be out of the car and too hungry to seek out another food location. After delicious pizza (a beer), Robert got in his last 3 mile training run and we dropped The Teens off at the local theater so they could catch a movie.

And then it was Little Woody Time!!! This was our 4th year attending. It seems to get more and more crowded every year. I got to sample a beer fermented in a tree log. It was odd.

The following morning we drove down to Sunriver so Robert could pick up his race bib and technical tee (and we stopped at the market to pick up groceries). We returned to Bend and decided it would be a good idea to walk from our rental house to downtown for lunch. It’s a quick jaunt across the river. The only problem was it was nearly 100 degrees! I guess I’ve never been in Bend when it was that hot. It was uncomfortably hot. We grabbed a quick bite at Deschutes Brewery and then headed back to the house to cool off. It’s kind of sad that we didn’t do more on The Boy’s last day with us. I’d earlier suggested that we tube on the Deschutes or check out the Lava River Cave but in the end we were lazy, hot, and kind of sentimental — and hanging out together at the house seemed like a good way to spend some time together. I cooked up a pot of spaghetti, made sure The Boy was well fed, helped him organize and pack his bag, made him several snack bags that he could bring with him on his long flight (Bend to SFO to Chicago to Newark, 12+ hours of travel time), and drove him to the Redmond airport (totally cute little airport, btw). I gave him a big hug and off he went. I was surprised that it was much easier to say good bye this time around vs. last year when we left him in New York. I think the difference is he’s become a confident traveler and has proven that he can manage things on his own. It also helped that I would be seeing him again in October when I visit.

After dropping The Boy off we pouted a little and headed back for more Little Woody Time before settling in for a quiet evening before THE BIG DAY.


Robert, The Dot, and I drove down to Sunriver around 7am. The marathon was starting at 7:45 and we had no problem finding parking. We had a few minutes to wish a very nervous Robert good luck and he was off (and precisely 2 minutes after he departed I got a text from The Boy that he’d arrived safely in Newark). I had a map of the course and The Dot and I made a mad dash to the market to fetch a drink and then we headed towards the north end of Sunriver to try and catch Robert at mile marker 18. I figured we’d easily see him at some point in time but I soon realized that a lot of the course isn’t on the biking trails where we were walking and if we didn’t time it perfectly we might miss him. After about 45 minutes of walking, and nearing the 18 mile course marker, I figured that we might be able to catch him at the halfway point first, if we scrambled. The Dot wasn’t really happy about this speed walking, back tracking bit (neither was my sore ankle) but we eventually got there, saw runners and after about 5 minutes, I decided they were running too slowly to be ahead of Robert so we ditched them and headed back towards the 18 mile point (The Dot was really grumpy…REALLY GRUMPY). My doofus move of trying to see him at the 13 mile mark made it even harder to get back to the 18 mile point. I took a wrong turn, then we had to dodge through some private property and fortunately, with minutes to spare, we found the course and there he was, looking strong at 2 hours and 20 minutes. It’s a good thing I didn’t hear him telling me he was running out of gas. I wasn’t worried about him at all…

We dashed back to the start line (we ourselves probably walked about 10 miles trying to catch Robert during the race). Based on his 18 mile pace I figured he’d finish up about 3:25 or 3:30 and I was a bit worried we wouldn’t make it. We actually got there at around the 3:20 mark and he was nowhere to be seen. 3:25. No Robert. 3:30. No Robert. The Dot headed into the lodge to wait it out (it was another hot day, already over 75 degrees at 10am). 3:35. No Robert.

3:36:53. There he is!!! He looked great but I figured something had happened to slow him down so much. I ran over to him after he crossed the finish line and he made a pained look and said his legs were cramping. I told him to keep walking (even though he looked like all he wanted to do was lay down and never move again) and we headed over to the shaded snack tent. He grabbed a chocolate milk and I grabbed a few other things for him. He looked desperate to sit down but I told him to keep walking. After a few minutes he did sit down and started stretching. I wasn’t exactly sure that was a good idea but he was in a desperate state. I really started to worry. None of the other marathoners seemed to be in much pain. There was a sports massage table nearby and I suggested he head over to them to have them help him stretch out the cramping. Luckily they got him down on the table right away but the therapist could tell that what Robert needed was electrolytes. After a bit of stretching they sent him off with instructions to hydrate. Robert spent the next 20 or so minutes laying on the grass, having me lift one left and then switching to another up onto a chair while he sucked down frozen orange pops and sports drinks. At one point he tried to lift his own leg instead of having me help him and he let out a string of profanities (major quad cramp). He eventually stood up and I grabbed The Dot and we made a very, very slow trek back to the car.

He came in 18th overall, 1st in his age group, and 6th in the male masters group. Not too shabby despite the cramping.

So what did Robert learn from his first marathon? Hydration is key. He missed one energy drink stop on the route, it was really hot, and before the race he didn’t really drink anything but a coffee. He says the last few miles were brutal. He had to take at least 10 walking breaks due to leg cramps and saw several runners that he’d passed earlier run past him (including the female marathon winner who came in at 3:25:50). If he fixes all those mistakes will he do better next time? He hopes so. He’s already planning on trying again. And bonus, if he waits until he’s 50 (just less than 2 years), he only has to cut off 7 minutes of his time to qualify for Boston. I love that he’s so passionate about running. I never would have predicted it a few years ago.

When we got back into Bend we hung out at the house for a while. Robert wasn’t up for eating yet or really doing anything so The Dot and I grabbed the bikes that came with the house and rode down to the Old Mill shopping mall. We grabbed some ice cream and then I got a call from The Boy. He was nearly in tears. After the long travel time without sleep or food (despite my best efforts to pack him snacks, he was too nervous to eat), the shuttle to Grand Central Station, the subway ride to his new dorm, the checking into his new dorm, and finding out that he had a different roommate than he expected plus the upcoming heavy course schedule and the end of a long relaxing summer and a major roadtrip = mental breakdown. He wanted to come home. He wanted to leave school. New York City was too distracting for him to write and feel inspired. After a little inner freaking out of my own, I calmed him down and reminded him of all the reasons he wanted to go there in the first place an also reminded him that he wasn’t in the right state of mind to see things clearly. He needed sleep and food and time to settle in. We agreed to talk again after he had a chance to just chill out. Deep down, I was pretty distraught. Should I be encouraging him to stay there? That kid is resilient, though. He texted me an hour later and said he’s glad we talked and he was feeling much better. Does he still want to leave New  York after this year? I don’t know about that. After a month of being there he’s back into his routine and seems to be fine. Not loving it but I don’t think The Boy is at a stage in his life where he’s ready to love anything really.

Meanwhile, The Dot was super irritated that he was being so needy. *eyeroll*

Back at the house I convinced Robert to head out with me and eat something. I was kind of freaking out about The Boy’s call and needed to have a long talk about it. We ate at Bend Brew Werks and then checked out Crux Fermentation Project (loved it). It was nice to have one last little outing. We sorted out our feelings about The Boy’s situation and made a plan to keep the dialogue going with him. I’m sure Robert felt a lot better getting some calories and beer in him, too.

So that’s a wrap. The next morning we drove home to Seattle (with the mandatory pitstops at Double Mountain brewing in Hood River and Cascade Barrelhouse in Portland). I don’t know if we’ll do this kind of road trip with The Teens (soon to be Adult Child + Teen) again. I keep thinking that any day now they’re not going to want to hang out with us so much. I mean, we’re kind of boring and all we do is drink a lot of beer.



Family Road Trip 2013 – part 2

Continued from Family Road Trip 2013 – part 1. Originally I was going to write about the remainder of our trip in one entry but Yosemite ended up being really long so part 3 will follow shortly.

Days 7-9: Yosemite

National Parks are notorious for being overly crowded and there’s usually no chance of booking lodging at the last minute so I planned ahead (way ahead, like last April) and booked a site at Housekeeping Camp. Housekeeping Camp is odd. The “rooms” are comprised of 3 concrete walls and the 4th “wall” is a tarp. Inside are twin bunk beds and a double bed (and bedding is available for rent). We also get electricity, a picnic table and a fire pit. Since we were on a long road trip I didn’t want to do full on camping because I didn’t want to carry all the gear with us. I didn’t want to pay a lot of money for hotel style lodging either. We never found time this summer to do any camping and this was really our only chance to sit around the fire and chat as a family (well, except that we have a chimenea at home and we can really do it any time we want but you get my point, right?) Housekeeping Camp seemed like a happy medium. We’d need to bring camp chairs, flashlights, a cooler, and a lantern but we could leave our sleeping bags and bedding at home.

Before heading to Yosemite we had to re-plan our driving route. There was a huge forest fire just west of the park and the entrance we’d plan to take into the park was closed. Fortunately, the alternate route through Merced didn’t add much drive time and we arrived just around check-in.  Yosemite is truly beautiful and every turn we made approaching the valley proved more spectacular BUT I had a hard time enjoying it. You see, I was really distracted due to apprehension about our lodging (will The Teens hate it, will *I* hate it, will there be annoying people everywhere?).

My apprehension about the teens not liking the place was confirmed almost immediately. Our site’s firepit was only about 10 feet from another family’s firepit (and they were happily lighting up stinky charcoal bricks in it when we arrived). The camp site on the other side of us was a huge group with several small energetic and SCREAMING children (children who, after screaming loudly for a few minutes/hours, would get loudly spanked and then cry for several more minutes/hours). We had to store everything (even our bathroom supplies) in big noisy bear-proof bins that were encrusted in debris and dirt. The Dot especially was turned off by the sand (blown in every afternoon from the bank of the Merced river onto every surface of our little tent site) and dirty restrooms. Bleh. This was going to be a long 3 days. I tried to make the most of it by tidying up the campsite, roasting a hot dog, and chugging down several beers.

The following morning we took the shuttle to the Vernal Fall trailhead. I purposefully didn’t tell The Dot that this was going to be a steep 3 mile hike (I originally wanted to do Vernal & Nevada Falls which is a 7 mile hike but I knew she wouldn’t go for that and my ankle was still really painful to walk on). We headed up and found beauty around every corner. At the time, I was reading  John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra and I kept imagining what he might have seen when he first arrived here. It helped distract me from the crowds of people hiking up the trail with us. At one point The Boy exclaimed, “This is the Disneyland of National Parks, aint it!” We arrived at the base of the falls and stopped there (there was a bit more to hike but it was steep and crowded and I could tell that The Dot had had enough). We ate lunch and headed back down. After a really long shuttle ride to get back to our parking area, both of The Teens shuttered. They’d had enough of tourists and shuttles (and foreigners). American kids.

Back in the valley, we ordered soda and beer (um, $17 for 2 beers???), along with pizza-to-go in Camp Curry and then headed back to camp for a while. Our campsite proved to have a few nice things about it after all. First of all, we were really close to the river and second of all, we were near the nicest part of the river bank. Soft and sandy, vs rocky. The Dot and I put on our swimsuits and carried our camp chairs out to the bank while Robert headed out for a 3 mile run (and The Boy defiantly stayed in his bunk reading). The Dot and I took a dip in the river (cold! we only made it in to waist level) and then sat back in the sun, looking up at Half Dome and discussing her future hot Italian boyfriend(s).

After Robert returned, we changed, grabbed our pizzas and jackets, and headed up to Glacier Point. The idea was we’d get there a little early and find parking before everyone else arrived to watch the sun set 3200 feet over the valley. We ate our pizzas on the drive up and had no problem finding parking. The views were breathtaking and we stayed for quite a while but due to my overly cautious planning, we were there a bit too early and didn’t feel like waiting for sunset after all. We headed down and watched the busloads of people heading up. We were pretty glad we’d made it out of there early. One fun thing that happened on the hour drive down: we saw a bear! and right after that we saw a coyote! I tried to take a photo of the coyote (for some reason it wouldn’t focus even though he was right in front of me and not moving). He looked pretty irritated.

The following day we made the 1.5 hour drive to Mariposa Grove to see the giant Sequoias. At Wawona, we stopped and fetched sandwiches ($50 for 4 sandwiches and drinks???!!!) and continued up to the parking area. Again, 100s of people were making their way to the trail. Bleh. This wasn’t a steep hike but it was long. I think it was probably about 6 miles round trip to see all the giant trees. They were really cool and the further we went, the less people were on the trail. Eventually we had the trail to ourselves and got to see a deer and her 2 fawns hanging out really close to us.

Back at camp we tried to decide what to do since it was Robert’s birthday. Since everything cost so much we decided against “going out.” Instead, The Dot and I walked the valley trail to Camp Curry and bought groceries for dinner (more hot dogs, red bull, and beer) and then returned to our secret river bank area to continue discussing her future Italian boyfriend(s). We were the only ones out there until a sexy beast of a man arrived and laid out his towel near us. Soon after, another sexy beast of a man joined him. Sadly, they were speaking French. Also, possibly gay.

We returned to our camp, made dinner, built up a huge fire and sat out until the fire was nearly dead. Then The Boy, The Dot, and I walked back out to the bank of the river and looked at the big old Milky Way in all her purple/green glory.

Birthday campfire

Birthday campfire

So that was Yosemite. Will I go back? Maybe. But I’ll approach it differently. Overnight backpacking in a remote area? Maybe. With more booze and loads of prepared food carried in? Maybe. Without teens? Most likely.


Family Road Trip 2013 – part 1

We did it again. The 4 of us stuffed ourselves into our tiny car and drove 2700 miles over the course of 15 days. Here’s part one. I’ll try to keep it short.

Day 1: Seattle to McMinnville

Upon arrival in McMinnville, Robert headed off for a 5 mile run (he ended up getting chased by a couple of dogs but luckily came out okay). While he ran, I went off on my own for a wine tasting at Willamette Valley Vineyards. The downtown area is pretty tiny and not really teen friendly so the teens opted to stay back in our suite at McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon. Funny thing about that hotel. No television. The teens were pretty bored with day 1. After my wine tasting and dinner with The Teens at a Mexican restaurant, I met up with Robert for drinks on the rooftop bar at the hotel and then we headed over to The Old Oak. I went to bed after a few cocktails but Robert had room for a beer and hung out at the hotel bar for a bit to talk with the bartender about the hotel’s haunted history. Spooky.


Day 2: McMinnville to Crescent City via the Umpqua Valley

Just a lot of driving happened for the most part. We stopped at Langlois Market for world famous hot dogs (they were pretty yummy and the house made honey mustard so also pretty good) and enjoyed gorgeous, clear views of the Pacific Ocean along the southern Oregon, northern California coastline. I think this is the first time I’ve seen it without fog. In Crescent City we stayed at our favorite old time-y motel The Curly Redwood Lodge.


Day 3: Crescent City to Healdsburg

We woke to fog in Crescent City and stopped in at The Chart Room for breakfast (harbor seals entertained us while we ate). We headed south on 101 which veers off of the coast and inland towards eastern Sonoma County. Rather than heading straight into Healdsburg, we took a detour to Boonville (home of the famous Boontling dialect) to check out Anderson Valley Brewing and eat dinner at Lauren’s Good Food. We arrived at Healdsburg just before sunset and settled into our rental cottage. Robert headed off on another 5 mile run (this one was hilly and a bit dangerous, going down and up Fitch Mountain road with no shoulder).


Days 4 through 6: Healdsburg and Santa Rosa

On day one in Sonoma County we immediately headed down to Santa Rosa to eat/drink at Russian River Brewing Co and pick up Chinese take-out for dinner. Later in the afternoon The Teens tubed on the Russian River while Robert and I spent a lazy afternoon drinking beer at Bear Republic Brewing Company. For dinner we warmed up our take-out food and watched Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (per The Boy’s request).

On day two Robert got in another 5 mile run and then we rented bicycles from Wine Country Bikes (where I biffed it inside the bike shop by falling off my bike and twisting my ankle). Halfway through our 3 hour bike tour along Dry Creek Road we stopped for hot sandwiches and beer at the super cute Dry Creek General Store and then Robert and I tasted wine at Quivira Vineyards and Winery. We stopped in town  at Bear Republic Brewing once again for a quick pint/soda before heading back to the house to eat leftovers, play Pit, and sit in the hot tub.

On day three Robert doubled his 5 mile route so that he could get in his last “long” run before his marathon.  While he ran, The Teens and I headed into town (The Dot drove us and managed NOT to hit Robert when he came around a corner towards us) to check out the farmers’ market and fetch breakfast. The Teens returned to the cottage to have a lazy day, hanging out at the river while we headed back down to Russian River Brewing for some delicious sour beers. Back in Healdsburg we stopped at Oakville Grocery for chicken liver pate, goat cheese, salami, pickles, fancy mustard, and baguette to bring back and enjoy on our little back patio. It was a bit of an indulgence. But so good.

Coming soon: part 2 (Yosemite, Nevada City, Dunsmuir, and Bend, plus the big Marathon)

I’m going to eat a world famous hot dog on the Oregon Coast!

“The habits of living day to day dull the senses — the ritual of getting up each morning, brushing your teeth, commuting to work, desk tasks, coming home, preparing for another day and heading to bed — so that I often cannot see the small wonders of the everyday world (grass growing, a cloud fleeting by in the shape of a bra, the child across the street learning to ride her bike; all ordinary miracles).  It is only when I am removed from habit that I can see a work of art that reveals a new mind’s vision, or when I am traveling in a foreign place, or when I fall in love.  And this seems a definition of love: the removal of habit, the ordinary world made foreign and wonderfully strange, life as a great visionary work of art.”
– Brian Bouldrey, Honorable Bandit: A Walk Across Corsica

When asked where I’m vacationing, and receiving the answer “a lot of places here and there,” people will respond with an underwhelmed “oh.” I guess many people don’t understand why I like road tripping so much. Their vacations are about destinations. Mine are about the path to get there. The little towns, the cheese shops, the random pit stops. Every town and city has a different story to tell and each road has a different rhythm. So, yes, we’re heading out soon and I’m very excited.