Sunday, December 14, 2008

We're Back!

(Craig writes) Well after 60 days, 11, 562 miles, 16 states, 2 foreign countries and lots of fun we are home! Wow, the experiences and sights we enjoyed during our travels were truly fascinating. To top off our trip we were able to enjoy a great family time with all 13 of our children & grandchildren when we got back to Columbia, Becky's mom was even able to attend.

Would we do it again? Absolutely! Just not next month. Thanks for reading about our travels and sharing in our fun. More details about whats next for us will follow!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Almost Home

(Becky writes) Today we crossed the Mississippi!!! We are only 603 miles from home. I can not wait for hugs and kisses!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cowtown USA!

(Craig writes) We went over to The Stockyards in Fort Worth today and watched an honest to goodness cattle drive complete with cowboys, cowgirls and Texas long horned cattle! Following the cattle drive action we went to the visitors center to see a video about the history of the cattle industry and how it worked. Interesting stuff! After the Civil War the demand for beef in the East, (due to immigration and rapid industrial growth), grew exponentially. Since there were vast open ranges with huge numbers of cattle available cattle ranchers in Texas and surrounding areas began herding cattle to the East. Half-wild range cattle that could be bought for 4 cents a head were worth $40.00 a head at the other end of the cattle drive! Cattle Barons made huge sums of money and cowboys had all the work they could do for many years. The job of a cattle drive cowboy was a rough one as most worked 18 hours a day 7 days a week!

After a delicious lunch at the 3H Restaurant in the historic section of Fort Worth we drove over to Dallas to sightsee a while. The Farmers Market was busy with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers on display for sale. We were reminded of the exuberant shop owners back in Tijuana as many of the market people coaxed us to sample their produce. On one aisle I ended up tasting samples of watermelon, apple, pineapple and 3 different kinds of coffee!

Most people our age remember the sad day in November 1963 when President John Kennedy was assassinated while driving in a motorcade through Dallas. Being history buffs we decided to drive through some of the areas Kennedy rode through that day and ended up at the infamous "grassy knoll" near the Dallas Schoolbook Depository building. We talked about how sad we felt even as little kids when we heard the news. It was during that same era that the US was fully expecting to be bombed by nuclear weapons by "The Communists". Scary times to be sure that moved "the authorities" to have all school children practice bomb drills. That was when you were instructed to hide under your wooden school desk and put your hands over your face. Thinking back it seems almost laughable that anyone thought that would help if a bomb were to detonate nearby. I guess they figured that doing something would be better than doing nothing.

Our trip has been a wonderful experience with multitudes of great memories but now it is time to go home. The definition of home has taken on new meaning for us in the last several months. Instead of brick, mortar and wood with a mailing address it is now a place where our loved ones are wherever that may be located. Seems like a very fluid way to think, and we love it!

Friday, December 5, 2008


(Becky writes) Yesterday and today we have spent enjoyable days in San Antonio. We arrived here early yesterday afternoon and promptly headed to the El Marcado (the market). I'll have to admit it was a bit of a let down for me. We have heard and read that it is quite similar to the markets in Mexico so that is what we were expecting. It really is not. It is more like any indoor mall that we all have in our cities except that pretty much all the merchandise is of Mexican influence. While on this trip we have visited markets in several cities, Sante Fe, Seattle, and Los Angeles and I must say these markets were all more similar to our experience in Mexico than the one here in San Antonio.

However, from there we traveled to the Riverwalk and it was all I had anticipated and then some. It is beautiful, romantic and just a delightful place to spend time. We had dinner at a steak place last night, sitting outside on the veranda and then a boat ride around the San Antonio River. The boat drivers give a great history of the area and we both really loved it (and learned a lot).

Today we toured the Alamo after seeing the IMAX movie about the same. IMAX is amazing, talk about high def. Unfortunately the movie was so violent and graphic that I had to keep my eyes closed much of the time. After the movie we walked over to the site of the Alamo where they have preserved the longhouse building and much of the church that was actually there is 1836. There are many artifacts displayed and it was quite interesting. One interesting fact that I was reminded of is that the officer in charge of the Texans was from South Carolina. There were actually quite a few South and North Carolinians who fought in that battle.

We decided we had enjoyed the riverwalk so much yesterday that we would walk back over for our lupper (lunch/supper) today. We heard last night on the boat ride that Del Rio was the original business that opened on the riverwalk in 1946. For a while the only businesses on the river were Del Rio and the office of the architect who designed the riverwalk. Del Rio is tex mex at its very best. We had an incredibly yummy lunch - I had the best green tomatillo sauce I have ever tasted. I'm afraid Moe's will never have quite the same appeal.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Life in The Sonora Desert

(Craig writes) We had a ball today at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona. What a great way to learn about the desert, the flora & fauna and the critters that inhabit it. Becky and I kept commenting to each other what a wonderful field trip this would make for our grandchildren, (and our children)! The Docents were very helpful and willing to share insights and practical history information on everything about living in the desert from the cactus tour to the Harris hawk flight demonstration. One of our favorite things was learning about the Saguaro cactus, (pronounced "say-whar-o"). These are the giant ones you usually see on cowboy shows that can have "arms" on their sides, (see our pics). The museum has an interesting website with a digital picture library so if you get a chance check it out.
After spending most of our day at the museum we took a scenic ride up to Sabino Canyon to watch one last beautiful Arizona desert sunset. On the way back down from the canyon we successfully avoided hitting a family of 5 Javelina as they crossed the road, a mommy one, a daddy one and three little baby ones! Javelina, (pronounced "hav-a-lien-a"), or pecari, look like small pigs but are not pigs at all, (if you go to the desert museum website put "javelina" in the search box to see pics). Another great ending to another great day.

During our travels across the country we have been awed by the beauty of God's great creations. At one point, as we were looking at the Pacific Ocean from atop a high cliff, I commented to Becky that "God's creative power is evident on the East Coast but I think when He started work on the West Coast He decided to show off a little!" It is not that the places we have become accustomed to seeing in the East are any less beautiful or breathtaking but seeing what God has done with sand, rock, water and dirt in the Western U.S. has been a new and humbling experience for us. A comment used by one of the Apollo astronauts after landing on the moon is a good way to describe so much of what we see, "magnificient desolation".

On to Southern New Mexico tomorrow as we continue Eastward toward home!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

San Xavier Mission

(Becky writes) We may have left California this morning but we did not leave beautiful skies. Just look at the deep blue sky in our pictures of the mission. After getting settled into our hotel here in Tucson, we decided we had a few hours of daylight left so we headed south on I-19 to find the San Xavier Mission which is located on the San Xavier Indian Reservation. We visited several missions in California and they are always quite beautiful with lovely garden areas but this one is quite exquisite. It was established in 1692 but the present building was built between 1777-1797. It is known as the "White Dove of the Desert" and is the oldest Catholic Church in America still serving parishioners.
The inside of the mission has gorgeous artwork that has been compared to that of the Sistene Chapel. Actually the same group of restorers that worked on the Sistene came to San Xavier in 1999 to restore the inside of this mission. I thought it was really interesting that in restoring the art they were searching for the perfect "wash" and discovered there is nothing better than the original which is derived from the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. A plea was put out to the people of Tucson to donate their prickly pear fruit to be used in the restoration! As you can see the art work is really beautiful.

The "garden" out front is almost completely made up of different types of cactus. There are saguara, prickly pear, and many others. Tomorrow we plan to visit the Desert Museum and I am hoping to learn the names of some of these beautiful plants.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Here's to California!

(Becky writes) From the towering, majestic redwoods to the sparkling shores of San Diego, California is a continual portrait of the great beauty of God's magnificient creation! We spent the past 17 days in this huge state - appx. 800 miles from north to south - and have seen quite a bit of the western half of the state. Unfortunately time and weather have not permitted us to explore the eastern half. We didn't get to do Yellowstone or see the giant sequoias but that just gives us a reason to come back.

We are both homesick and so ready to head back to the Carolinas to see the family we love so much, but we have had a wonderful time here, met so many interesting people and seen so many lovely places. So here's to people and places we will never forget. The Redwood Forest - the quietest place I have ever walked. Rocky cliffs and charming lighthouses. The friendly sound of sea lions barking. Captain Dave and the thrill of being on a catamarran in the Pacific and seeing a whale. Adele and wonderful food and lots of laughs and really good music. Sunshine, glorious sunshine. Cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge and actually driving down Lombard Street. The Pacific moon that seems linger low in the sky well into the morning. Flowering plants and more cactus than I ever knew existed. Spanish missions with their charming architecture and old world charm. Dinner with Sharon and Shou amidst the background of a magnificient sunset. These are some of the memories I will always cherish from my first visit to California!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in San Francisco

(Craig writes) Even though it was raining as we traveled up the California Coast toward San Francisco the scenery continued to be beautiful beyond words. The fog and clouds seemed to play hide and seek with the mountain tops, and at times with the road, as we wound our way up and down the steep hills and occasional valleys through Santa Barbara, Monterey, Big Sur and Carmel. At one point we pulled over at a vista ocean view and saw a large "herd" of elephant seals on the beach. Elephant seals are so named because the adult males grow an elephant trunk looking appendage on their snout and can grow to be 2 1/2 tons in size!

Our hotel in Oakland was across the bay from San Francisco so after we had a good nights rest we drove over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. Driving in San Francisco is a hoot! It seems that the speed limits and red lights are more like suggestions than laws here. After seeing some of the city we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito for lunch.

On Thanksgiving Day we drove back into San Francisco for a closer look at the city. Parking at the Fisherman's Wharf near historic Pier 39 we walked over to Hyde Street and boarded a cable car headed "uptown". The city is very hilly with some very steep streets and we were thankful that the brakes on the 100+ year old cable car were still working okay! Following the fun ride on the cable car we made a sweet stop at Ghirardelli Square for some chocolate then down to "fish alley" for a delicious lunch at one of the restaurants on the pier. After lunch we drove up and down some of the more famous streets including Lombard Street, (the curvy one you've seen in so many TV shows and movies).

This was an unusual Thanksgiving for us in that we had never been 3000 + - miles from our families on the holiday before. We were able to talk to them though and had fun using our niece's recipe to make chicken and dumplings for dinner when we got back to our suite, (thanks again Meredith).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Old and New Friends

(Becky writes) We really enjoyed our time at the San Clemente Inn. The inn is within walking distance to the ocean (always a plus for us) and the town of San Clemente is adorable. San Clemente means "spanish village" and when it was first established there were very strict building codes. All buildings needed to be tan or white adobe with red tile roofing. Over the years that hasn't always been the case but most of the town is adobe with tile. The vibrant accent colors of red, orange, blue, etc. really add a special touch. Really charming!

One of the people who made our stay at the inn particularly enjoyable was Adele. Adele is the owner of Adele's at the San Clemente Inn, a charming restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and manages to make you feel like you are having your meal with family. The food is really good - the homemade soups are over the top - and the prices are very reasonable. Adele is there much of the time and always takes the time to visit with her customers. She hosts different local musicians on some evenings and we felt like we were at a jam session. We heard several different musicians who entertained us with some really good music. Sunday morning (at 7:00am) we were packing our car to leave and out runs Adele to give us a hug and say goodbye. Thanks, Adele!

On Saturday, we visited the Mission at San Juan Capistrano. The grounds of this mission are absolutely gorgeous. I never knew there were so many different types of cactus and the bougainvillea are the size of small trees! We spent a very interesting afternoon here.

From the mission, we drove over to Newport Beach to meet our friends, Sharon & Shou for dinner. We ate on the deck of a quaint little restaurant right on the beach with the backdrop of an amazing sunset. I had tuna that was really good and later we went to Starbucks for after dinner coffee. The food and the coffee were quite good but the very best thing about the evening was visiting with two really special friends.

Sunday morning we started out bright and early from San Clemente to Anaheim to go to Disneyland! I have wanted to go to Disneyland since I was a very little girl so this was a really exciting morning for me. Okay, I know some of you are saying "what in the world is the big deal here - she goes to Disney World ALL the time" and that is true. However, and I know this for sure now, Disney World and Disneyland are not the same. Yes, it is true that the two parks share some of the same attractions but WDW is huge compared to Disneyland. Disneyland is quite compact even to the extent that many "footprints" are layered with several attractions. It is really a very interesting use of land. We also visited California Adventure (also a Disney park). Again, this park shares some attractions with WDW. We had a good time and I'm really glad we came but this could never replace WDW for me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

From Extremes to Excesses

(Craig and Becky write) If Wednesday was a day of extremes, Thursday was most certainly a day of excesses! How much is too much?

Is $18 million too much for a new home in Newport Beach, CA?

Is $250,000 too much for a pop star to receive for making a 30 minute appearance at a club opening?

Does Hollywood, (only Hollywood not all of LA), really need 233 Starbucks?

Is $100,000 too much for the average 30 minute shopping spree on Rodeo Drive?

Should sports stars really earn $87 million per year?

Does Rodeo Drive really need multiple million dollar chandeliers for Christmas decorations?

How much really is too much?

As we toured Hollywood and Beverly Hills yesterday with all their glitz and glamour we kept thinking about that question. Actually, if we changed the locations and the dollar amounts how much excess would we find in our own lives? Not trying to depress anyone, just food for thought!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


(Becky writes) Today was certainly a day of extremes. When we first started planning this trip, we knew we wanted to go into Mexico. We considered several different options for how to accomplish that. One option was to drive in but after a little consideration we decided that wasn't the best plan since we didn't have any clue where to go, the car insurance is an issue and we just weren't sure how smart that option was. The next idea was to take a cruise out of San Diego or LA and cruise down to several locations in Mexico. For several reasons we decided against that option. We finally decided to do a "day tour". This sounded like the most simple and safe solution.

So, today we went to Mexico.

The tour company picked us up here at our resort which is about 75 miles north of the border. We stopped at several other resorts as we traveled south to pick up other travelers and then made a stop in San Diego at the historic Hotel del Coronado. This gorgeous hotel was built in 1888, is all wood construction and is the epitomy of luxury. We had a few minutes to walk around. The grounds are lush and the lobby is plush. It overlooks the Pacific and for me, at least, it is what I envisioned southern California to look like.

We left the hotel and literally in a few miles we crossed the border and we witnessed the other end of the spectrum. As we traveled about 45 miles through the countryside, we saw cardboard and plywood "houses" leaning up against the hillsides. The contrast from southern California to Mexico was really overwhelming to me. It is really hard to believe that just two fences separate these two places.

Our first destination in Mexico was a very small village, Puerta Nuevo, where we were scheduled to eat lunch. Our lunch was very good - a California lobster with tortillas that were incredible. Lunch also included soup or salad, rice, beans, really good coffee and flan. The food was really good but it is also sad that the 21 of us sat there and enjoyed all this food after witnessing such extreme poverty just outside the door. The tour company made the arrangements for lunch and also for a mariache band to come in and serenade us.

After lunch we headed back to Tijuana to do some shopping. Craig and I are not big shoppers but we did purchase some surprises for our grandchildren along with a couple of things for ourselves - a charm for the bracelet I am making of our trip and a lovely miniature paper mache nativity. I was glad Craig was with me to "bargain" on the price because I really don't do well with that at all. My previous experience with this type shopping has been in the Bahamas and I always feel so bad about bargaining with the people. I did feel that the pressure to buy was much more in Mexico today than I have ever experienced in the Bahamas.

It was a very interesting day and we enjoyed meeting the other people on the tour with us. We met a couple from Illinois who just six weeks ago moved to Las Vegas. They are really struggling with being so far away from their children and grandchildren and not at all sure their move will work out for them. It made us very glad we have decided to come back to the southeast.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Thar She Blows"

(Craig writes) With all of the amazing things we have seen on our trip we had hoped to be able to see an elusive whale before turning Eastward to head home. While in Victoria, British Columbia we heard that the whales had already headed South for their migration, so no whales.

We were sure that when we got to the Oregon Coast 2 weeks later we would see some at the famous Depot Bay, but the last sighting there had been a week before we got there, no whales again.

In Crescent City, California a park ranger told us that whales had been sighted 30 miles further South so we traveled up a long, narrow and winding road to the top of a mountain but once again, no whales.

At this point I'm beginning to think that every whale picture I had ever seen had just been computer generated and that Moby Dick was just fiction based upon fiction. Enter Captain Dave Anderson of Dolphin Safari in Dana Harbor, California. Since the weather was gorgeous and the seas were light we signed up to go on a 3 hour tour. Captain Dave uses powered catamaran sailboats for his tours so this morning Becky and I boarded the 35' vessel and headed out a few miles off the Southern California Coast for a last ditch attempt to see aquatic sealife that was larger than the sea lions we had enjoyed seeing so many of before.

The first hour produced nothing more than some kelp patties and a few birds. The second hour followed with a couple of buoys, some more birds and 2 helicopters flying by. As the third, and final, hour began all 19 people aboard were straining to see something when all of a sudden I spotted a large dorsal fin 100 yards off the stern. All of my life I had wondered how it would feel to yell "thar she blows" on a whaling vessel but decided to wait a little longer and just point excitedly and exclaim "there's one!" Sure enough we had found a young minke whale, (prounced mean-key). With cheering and excitment we followed the whale for several minutes as it surfaced several times and even blew out air and water a few times. With the safari over we headed back to port happy, dry and finally fulfilled in our quest to see the elusive whale.

By visiting you can get info about Capt. Dave and how he helps support World Vision through sales of his award winning video "Wild Dolphins & Whales of Southern California."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Having a Big 'Ol Time in Big 'Ol California!

(Craig writes) Today, (Sunday), was a big travel day in that we drove 410 miles from Livermore, CA, (in the San Francisco/Oakland area), to San Clemente, CA, (south of the Los Angeles area). Checking a map will show you that California is a very large state. Driving on Hwy. 101, (the Pacific Coast Hwy.) and I-5 from our entry into CA from Oregon in the North to Mexico across the border from San Diego is apx. 800 miles! In addition to being a very large state CA is also a very interesting state to tour, (and the orange groves go on for miles)! Our first night in CA was in Crescent City where a tsunami struck in March, 1964 demolishing the town and killing several people. Then 9 months later in December, 1964 heavy rains and melting snows caused the Eel River to overflow and flood thousands of acres further South of Crescent City and into the towns around and in the giant redwood forests causing even more loss of life and damage.

As we drove through Los Angeles today we saw the fires that were still burning in several of the canyons in this area. There was one neighborhood of 900 homes where only 120 homes survived so the folks here would appreciate your prayers for their safety and rebuilding of their lives. Although we are several miles away from most of the fires we are watching the news carefully just in case! Throughout our travels in the Northwest we have seen numerous warning signs about volcanoes and tsunamis in highly populated areas. Apparently the reality of these things is a part of life for these hardy souls!

The resort we are staying in at San Clemente is about 3 blocks from the ocean so we plan to spend a little time tomorrow exploring this Pacific beach. We also plan to go to Mexico on Wednesday for a brief tour.

We've passed the mid-point of our trip and have made numerous great memories to hang on to as well as share with family and friends when we get "home". What a privilege to get to see these great places and meet these wonderful people along the way. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us. Thanks to all our family and friends who, in spite of the apparent craziness of what we are doing with our lives, continue to love and encourage us! Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Magical Forests

(Becky writes) Dark forests with filters of glittering sunlight and huge misty ferns overlaid with foggy mist - this must surely be the home of fairies and elfkins. There were no sounds except the raven who followed us for a distance into the forest and then retreated after a while. As the sun peeks through the thick forest, the dew on the redwoods and ferns seems to truly sparkle like priceless gems. The redwood forest is a place that you can imagine time has stopped. Even the road that we drove on through the forest was a paved, stagecoach path from the 1800s.

Today as we hiked through the quiet forest, I knew my granddaugher, Addison, would absolutely love this place. Of all the places we have experienced, this is the one place I would love to be able to share with Addie. She writes wonderful stories about fairies and these forests would, I'm sure, inspire even more writings from this gifted little writer. So Addie, these words and pictures are for you!

To get to the Redwoods we traveled from Newport, Oregon on the Pacific Coast Highway 101, down the Oregon Coast and into California. From Newport to California the views are just incredible. We stopped at a scenic view to take pictures of a lighthouse and as soon as we stepped out the car, we heard the "barks" of the sealions. We walked over to the cliff to look down in the bay and there were thousands of sealions swimming, sunning or playing in the bay below us and on the beach. It was fascinating to see that many at one time.

Crossing into California, the views just continued to be beautiful. Crescent City, California is the first real town after crossing the stateline. This little town suffered almost complete destruction in March, 1964 from a tsunami that resulted from an earthquake in Alaska. The pictures we saw at the National Park office reminded us of post-Katrina New Orleans.

We decided to follow the National Park Ranger suggestion and drive the scenic drive through the redwood forest. We were so glad we did. We came to a meadow, aptly named Elk Valley, and came upon a herd of about 25 Roosevelt elk. Roosevelts are the biggest elk and these were quite the sight! There were small, young ones along with huge bucks with quite the racks of antlers. We pulled onto a small side drive near where they were and they just walked around our car.

We enjoyed the forest so much, we decided to go back to the forest this morning and spend the morning hiking and learning more about these majestic trees.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bye OR, Hi CA!, (or Looking For Sleep in all the Wrong Places)

(Craig writes) With the beautiful Oregon Coast in our rearview mirror we cruised into the sunny state of California. Actually it was very foggy and wet but we didn't mind as this was yet another state we were excited to see! We had decided to try a "mom & pop" type of motel instead of a large chain type as we had seen several of the "mom & pops" advertised online that had a 1950's look to them. Since it was dark and we were hungry we decided to check into the first one we came across. Initially it seemed okay as it was clean and the desk lady was friendly but after getting settled in we discovered that the walls between the rooms were very thin and allowed sounds to pass through easily:( Then there was the big diesel wrecker truck that pulled in front of our unit at 2:00a.m. and idled loudly for a while before the driver got out and went to find the desk lady to check in, (next door to us). So much for our efforts to help support small non-chain hotels. We are resting in a Best Western tonight. Check back tomorrow for our report on sea lions, redwood trees and Bigfoot!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rugged Beauty - The Oregon Coast

(Becky writes)
The past couple of days have been really interesting. When I think of perfection at the beach, I think of bright sunshine, the sparkling ocean, searching for shells, enjoying a good book but that is when I'm at my "home" beaches on the east coast, preferably Hilton Head or Oak Island or maybe Sanibel. This week, however, I've really been mesmerized by the rugged, harsh beauty of the coast here in Oregon.

Going to the "beach" here is very different than back home. Going to the beach here might mean observing the Pacific from cliffs hundreds of feet above the water, it might mean hiking down long steep paths just to be able to observe the rock formations that stand proud and covered in hundreds of sea birds, it might mean looking for agates while walking all the while watching the tide to make sure a "sneaker" doesn't get us, it might mean stopping at a scenic viewing area and being amazed at the water spouts spewing high into the sky and then blowing all the way up to where we are standing. Exploring the coast here in Oregon can challenge me both physically and mentally. Heights are not my favorite thing, but I found this week that the overwhelming desire to see and experience this awesome place has helped me overcome some of those fears.

We have based out of Newport this week which is about 1/3 of the way down the coast from the Oregon/Washington stateline. Monday was the only non-rain day that we have had and we used that day to drive north to see most of the Oregon coastline north of here. Yesterday and today we have explored the area here around Newport. We've braved hard rain (earlier today the report was 4-5 inches) and tremendous winds (40-50 mph) but we have seen so much of this lovely coast.

Here in Oregon we finally got to see elk, not just a couple as we had seen in Arizona, but a huge herd of them. On Monday, as we headed back to Newport from our drive up the coast, we decided to take an inland route through the valley. We were just driving along Highway 101 and there in an open field grazing was a herd of about 75. We stopped and were able to watch them for a while. Thankfully, we had the binoculars with us and it was very exciting to see those beautiful creatures up close.

In conversations with different people this week, they always ask how we like their coast. My response has been "it is beautiful, I love it, but our coast is amazingly beautiful in a completely different way." Tomorrow we leave and head south. We plan to take our time and enjoy the remainder of the Oregon coast as we head into Redwood Country.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

From Sea to Shining Sea and A Thank You to Aunt Louise!

(Craig writes) "Thats one small step for Becky, one giant drive for Craig, (and Becky)!" Becky's first touch in the Atlantic Ocean was at Folly Beach near Charleston, SC when she was 4 years old. Now a few years and 3004 miles West she has touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time! (See pics). A momentous occasion for me as I saw the connection as a kind of milestone linking a lifelong desire she has had to "go West young girl". So here we are enjoying the Oregon coast and are savoring each moment doing it together.

We had a very nice visit with my Aunt Louise today. Aunt Louise did not have any children of her own so she was always a sort of second mother to me, my sisters and my Tinsley cousins. She loved to dote over us and spoiled us at every opportunity. She and Uncle Bill are in a nursing facility near Salem, Oregon. Even though Uncle Bill doesn't remember much these days he still remembers Louise and they seem to connect well in spoken and unspoken ways. Aunt Louise has suffered some strokes and the severe physical problems they cause but is still able to communicate very clearly. Always the gracious hostess, she introduced us to many of the people as they passed by and shared something personal about each one, always expressing loving care and concern for others and their problems. Her attitude continues to be one of thankfulness for what she does have and not bitterness over what she has lost. A great life lesson to learn from one who has always tried to be more of a "giver" than a "taker." Thanks Aunt Louise for your lifelong example of kindness and caring for others.

The coastline here in Oregon is vastly different from what we have back in the Carolinas and the huge waves here make the waves back home seem like ripples. We look forward to exploring this area for a few days and hopefully seeing some migrating whales pass by before moving on again, (of course the whales could be thinking the same thing about me)!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Waterfalls and Views

(Becky writes) Oohs and Aahs were the common sounds from our car again today as we took a leisurely drive out Historic Highway 30 east of Portland. One of the ladies at our hotel suggested this to us as the one "absolutely not to miss" sight around Portland. She did not elaborate on what to expect except that there are "really pretty waterfalls to see." We were not disappointed - pretty is quite the understatement.

The trees are still ablaze with color - lots of bright yellows and reds that are such an interesting shade - Craig says they look pink and I must agree. Highway 30 was first built in 1915 and it is narrow and very winding and up and down and all around but it was definitely worth the drive. We hiked down about 1/2 mile to see the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls. We could hear the falls as soon as we stepped out of the car but had to work to actually have our breath taken away by the beauty and volume of it.

We saw a couple of other falls as well but the vistas at the top of the drive were really the most amazing. It looks like you are up in an airplane, everything is so small as you look down below on the Columbia River, the surrounding tributaries, Interstate 84, the orchards and houses. This morning there were lots of low hanging clouds and they were moving so quickly that the scenery was constantly changing. Once again, we tried clicking away at the camera but really feeling like it is just impossible to truly capture the grandeur of the views. A couple of times Craig asked if I got the shot I was trying for and I said no, there is no way to get it - I just have to file this away and remember it in my mind's eye forever. I hope I can!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Got Fish? or How To See Martha Stewart Without Really Trying

(Craig writes) We traveled from Victoria, British Columbia to Puyallup, Washington on Sunday. As much as we enjoyed beautiful Canada and the wonderful Canadian people last week I have to admit it felt like I was coming home when we crossed the border and were welcomed back by the border officer. Maybe it's that I felt a little closer to the 13 major reasons we are coming back (Laura, Matthew, Ashlea, Tim, Amy, Tom, Addison, Whitman, Natalie, Teddy, Nicole, Tyler and Isaac)!

We drove through Seattle with the idea of stopping off at Pike's Place Market to look around for a bit. After cruising by the Market for the fourth time looking for a parking place in pouring rain, we decided to save the Market experience for another day. Moving on to Gig Harbor, WA we enjoyed the beautiful Fall scenery and then got lunch at Kelly's Diner before driving to Puyallup and the "New Beginnings Ministry". We met Miles and Debi Musick, the directors, and our friends from the Carolinas, Nick and Jessi Connolly and Lauren Hogan. We had contacted them earlier about me helping remodel a bathroom at the home and Becky taking some photos for the ladies there.

Our plan was to visit Seattle on Monday and then begin the construction project on Tuesday. Seattle and especially the Pikes Place Market were a blast! Since our first attempt at parking in Seattle was a bust we decided to take the "Sounder" commuter railway system into Seattle Monday morning to avoid the hassle of having a car in the city. Wow, the commuter system is great. Fast, quiet, comfortable, affordable and safe. Soon we found ourselves at King Street Station in Seattle and had been given the advice to "follow the herd" which we did for several blocks before breaking off on our own. We found the people of Seattle to be very friendly and helpful in getting us headed in the right direction to the Market. Pikes Place Market is an icon of Seattle and a visitors paradise. You can feed all of your senses with great things at the same time! The sights, sounds and smells all added to an already festive feeling that seemed to be reflected by all. Speaking of friendly people, Jon Daniels of the City Fish Company went above and beyond good customer service by answering all of our fish market questions, suggesting some good places to eat lunch, handling our order as if it was the most important thing he was going to do all day and in general treating us like family. All this right after handling an order from Martha Stewart. Thanks again Jon!

(Becky writes) Monday night turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Several months ago, I made contact with my cousin, Will Ridgeway. Will is the youngest son of my uncle, Julian Ridgeway, who passed away about 5 years ago. Will lives in Gig Harbor with his older brother, Marlin and his wife Elizabeth. Will and I have communicated through FaceBook for these past few months and decided to meet in person since we are in the Seattle area. So last night we had the privilege of meeting, Marlin, Elizabeth, Will and his girlfriend Deanna for the first time! We had a wonderful visit, shared a great meal and I hope the beginning of a long time friendship. It truly felt like we had known one another forever and I look forward to the next time!