On the last day of November, we checked into the lovely Comfort Inn overlooking the San Fransico Bay. We splurged a bit and ended up with spectacular views, and a $40 per day parking fee, but oh well. The room was much less expensive than anticipated since everything here is hgher, but off-season rates paid off. We decided to lay low for the night and order in. Happily, we have recently discovered the joys of Grub Hub, and ordered from not one, but two separate restaurants! We got spaghetti and carbonara from one, and a selection of desserts from another. I could get used to this.
Our full day in SF started with a much-deserved sleep-in for me, and an excursion for Ken to find coffee. I rolled out of bed at a lazy 9:30, and we spent the rest of the day exploring this amazing city! I had no idea how beautiful it was, especially from the water. It is built upon a series of hills and my few photos barely capture its grandeur. I did take this picture of the Golden Gate Bridge from below. We cruised for an hour to go beneath it and then around Alcatraz Island Prison.
Lunch today was at the famous Antonio Family restaurant at Fisherman's Wharf. We had crab salad and gulf shrimp salad sandwiches, and 2 very cold and yummy beers. I must say the crab was the best, even though not Maryland Blue Crab. Earlier in the day we stopped by the famous headquarters of Ghiaradelli Chocolates for a delicious mocha latte. By the end of the day we had walked almost 5 miles, bussed for 10 more, and only passed on a cable car adventure because of rain and exhaustion. Some of my miles were hiking up those hills, and I did better than expected!
Friday night we ordered in again, and enjoyed the best Chinese food we have ever eaten: sweet and sour chicken, cashew chicken, and potstickers. Amazing.
We checked out early on Saturday and braved the rain as we drove out of town. Our next stop was the National Historic Site honoring the brave women and men who helped fight WWII from home. In particular, "Rosie the Riveter" was honored in pictures, art, and films, and we met the loveliest woman who was a survivor of that effort. See below for more information on the delightful and informative Mary Torres.
"Rosie the Riveter" was the iconic female builder during World War II, but thousands of women and men of all colors traveled to the shipyards to help the war effort: such hardworking, and little known patriots. While visiting, we learned that a real live Rosie would be presenting in the classroom downstairs! Hearing her talk about firsthand experiences (including almost falling from a ship's scaffolding) was the best part of the day.
Mary Torres left her home in rural Pennsylvania at the age of 18 without her parents' knowledge. She traveled cross country to California to work in any way she could to help the soldiers. We listened to her amazing story for over an hour, and would have spent all day with her if possible. She is an American Legend if there ever was. She is now 95, and one of the last surviving Rosies. She gives talks every other Saturday, and keeps their stories alive.
I was awestruck by Mary's story, and so honored to have my photo taken with her. She helped me pose my arm and fist and what a surreal moment it was. Mary left her position as a highly-skilled welder when the war ended, but she enjoyed her work and was well-known for her talent. She went on to marry her supervisor, Frank, and they enjoyed 65 years together. She credits her skills with seam welding (using precise wrist and hand movements) to her many years of knitting.
Though meeting Mary was the highlight, the little museum offered lots of fascinating insights into the daily lives of those at home. Here is one of several war propaganda ads on display, emphasizing how women at home were vital, even if not Rosies.
In the next photo, the techniques for using propaganda to promote war bond and stamp purchases is neatly outlined. While Mary sorted scraps of rubber and then welded for several years, women in other professions were encouraged to do their parts too.
I loved the strong visual displays used to propel the viewer into the 1940's. Here is a statue made to blend into the photograph behind. Her clothes are like those worn by Mary: overalls, steel-toed boots, and a bandana for protection.
12/2-4: For any number of reasons, not the least of which was to reduce our carbon footprint in the park (but more likely our mutual love of trains) we boarded this beauty today. We splurged on the adults-only fancy dancey dome car and lounge. So worth it. We had the run of 3 cars with only a few other travelers. We were treated to coffee, juice, pastries, etc on the way out (about 2.5 hour ride) and cheese and crackers and sparkling wine on the way back! "Grand Canyon Railway made its first journey to the Grand Canyon on September 17, 1901. And since that time, notable passengers to ride the Grand Canyon Railway include Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, William Howard Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Clark Gable, Jimmy Durante, Doris Day, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates." See their site below for more!
Oh, where to begin? When we were kids, the must-see for any Western trip was ye olde cowboy town and gun fight. I do remember a few, and the cap gun bangs scared me as much this time as then. Before boarding, we were all treated to a show with the Marshall here doling out justice on the train platform. Then, he and his Cataract Creek Gang (named for nearby river) robbed the train on the way back. I never got his real name, but this charming fellow shared some funny and touching stories with us while out of character. That alone was worth the trip. The singing cowboys, however, were a bit twangy on the ears. We decided the railway should have a quiet car, like Amtrak, for those who would just like to watch the desert go by. We would pay extra; really, we would.
Stepping off the train and up to the south rim of the canyon is easier said than done. At this point, one is at about 6800 foot elevation which is higher than Denver. I traditionally don't do so well at this level, but with very, very slow steps I managed to huff and puff to the Visitor's Center. Famished from the effort, we strolled to the world-famous El Tovar and dined on flavorful (read spicy) foods. Luckily, this mild pumpkin cheesecake yumminess smoothed things out.
The beautiful and historic El Tovar overlooks the famous South Rim of the canyon. Because it was snowy, we took a slow and careful walk along the Rim Trail, but were content to sit on one of the benches with our faces to the sun. Like at Old Faithful, we were surrounded by very few other people and felt lucky to have much of the trail to ourselves. I continue to believe whole-heartedly in the value of off-season travel for better prices and a much better experience overall.
We have been to some spectacular places so far! Much of our wandering has been in search of National Parks and Historic Sites which include monuments, sea shores, and other unique offerings. I've been "collecting" cancellation stamps and park stickers for approximately 20 years. Ken gave me my super-exciting Explorer Edition book for my 50th birthday (Ironically, it cost about $50.) At some point, I will count how many parks I've been to, but there are many more left on this journey. Read below for info, and consider Junior Ranger options for your kids!
12/5: Continued east and found 2 more breathtaking parks. They are "bundled" together in notoriety and share the same Visitor's Centers, but they are distinct. The Painted Desert is a long stretch of geological history and display, known for ancient formations and dinosaur relics. It is not unlike the Grand Canyon but vast and mostly flat instead. Regarding my Passport ventures, I cancelled at the north end of this park where we entered, but left the paper there! (Continued on next column)
Luckily, we ended up at the south entrance and I discovered my lost paper before we headed out. They held it for me back north at the top of the park, which added another 1/2 hour to our drive, but I had used the back of my Grand Canyon sheet and so could not have easily replaced it. I will photograph different pages later to explain. Petrified Forest really isn't a forest anymore, but huge chunks of what used to be trees, now turned to stone. To touch something so incredibly old is almost terrifying.
More fun: Geocaching has been a GPS thing since 2000, but finding treasures has been a human thing forever. Searching for Easter eggs set me up for this global game. There is so much to it if you want to go crazy, or just enjoy on a quiet afternoon. I tried taking my grandson, Miles, a while back. We ended up (not on purpose) in a dark woods with sticker bushes and mud puddles. This would be considered a DNF. Did not find. But, in Texas I picked up my first "Travel Bug"! A young lady wished for her grandmother to "see" the places she couldn't before she died. We "dropped" Ormajean's Sunshine near the Gulf Coast. More on this later!
To make things easier, I have copied/pasted their description below, from the Geocaching.com website:
"Trackables are physical game pieces that move from geocache to geocache. Types of trackables include: geocoins, tags, t-shirts, and more!
In most cases, trackables want to travel. Use the tracking code on the trackable to look up its goal. Log trackables in order to move them along."
Here is a link to shopping for Geocache swag and trackables!
Read below for many more details, but in a nutshell, one finds letterboxes much the same way as geocaches. The "hobby" goes way back, however. A requirement is to take a logbook, homemade stamp, a stamp pad, and pen. When you find a box, you stamp their log and you use their stamp to print on yours! So much more to it: take a look! You can buy a stamp, but homemade is preferred.
It seems like these are harder to locate than geocaches, and not many around. Hoping to fine-tune this hobby in 2019. In the meantime, I need to make a cooler stamp. Thanks to Jo for the help!
12/5 continued: Coming out of the desert, we almost zoomed through Texas (hard to do) but made a point to sample the local fare! I'm adding more pictures to the gallery below, but here is an up close of the best bbq I've probably devoured. This is from "JJ's Drive In: Burgers, Bar-B-Q, Shrimp and Catfish" in Childress, TX. I passed on the fish, but appreciated the simplicity of good food. I thought the article below explained Texas sauce pretty well!
12/6: More zooming. We did put a ton of miles on today, hoping to time our arrival to Florida just before Mom's birthday on the 15th. And, it was here that I discovered Boudin. I asked what the Boudin Burger was, and I was told it was Boudin on a roll. I mean, no... what is Boudin?? More on this on my Foods page, but here is a link to the wonderful restaurant where I discovered my new, absolute favorite sausage! And our servers Cassie and Kerry (sp?) were so delightful!
12/7: Technically, we were on the very edge of the Quarter. We only had one day in this historic city and will come back for a richer experience, but we enjoyed a walk around the central business district and met incredibly gracious people. A highlight was popping in to Aunt Sally's Original Creole Pralines. Actually, the "original", harder ones weren't our favorite! They have creamy varieties that are fudge-like with a variety of flavors.
Additionally, we continued our quest for Creole food and grits. Not disappointed!
12/7: Pearl Harbor Day, and here we are ....We can't say enough about this top drawer museum. It is highly interactive with some outstanding features. The informative and creative documentary hosted by Tom Hanks gave us an up close experience (through sight, sound, and dramatic add-ons such as falling snow and rumbling seats) to put us there at the scene. We were also impressed with the re-creation of the last mission of the Tang submarine and the Bob Hope documentary. Well done!
12/8: I was intrigued with the tourist version of N.O., but sensitive to the tragedy that still hangs over the city after Hurricane Katrina. We drove through the 9th Ward with a solemn respect for those who continue to grieve and re-build. Making our way east, we drove through the ruins of Hurricane Michael, specifically near Mexico Beach. At one point we searched Trip Advisor for lunch options and found a wonderful choice! Drove there, and it was shuttered. One of thousands of lives altered. I felt almost guilty for driving through and driving away. But these folks are strong:
12/9-12: Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island, FL. We so needed some down time after careening across the southern parts of the country. Every so often, it is important to add some normalcy to a road trip, or any unusual event, simply to slow down and regroup. Ken finds doing our laundry to be relaxing (yay for me!) and I pick up my writing here and sleep in a bit. We go grocery shopping, clean out the truck, check email, fill prescriptions, etc. We decided 3 days on this quiet barrier island was the ticket. We had the Sunflower Cottage, but it was across the street from the Gulf view cottages. Will book ahead for better options!
12/12: South to Naples. We departed our haven on Anna Maria Island for the maternal haven of Pat Goodyear! Seeing mom in her home is a treat, and this was Ken's first visit. We spent the afternoon catching up and eating yet another home-cooked meal from the expert. I got to dip in her heated!! pool a few times, even though the temp barely grazed 65. We exchanged Christmas presents and continued to watch the current political chaos on TV. Ken hooked up her new Apple controller and now she can channel hop while drinking wine on her lanai. She deserves the best :) Link below to Apple TV for info! I would link to her recipe for this yummy dish, but she mostly makes things up as she goes.
12/13: What can I say about family that hasn't already been said? Over 55 years now, I have had my little brothers, Bernie and Les, somehow intertwined with mine. They each married lovely and perfect-for-them wives, Keels and Monica. My adorable sisters-in-law deserve the best, even though the brothers get on my last nerve at times. Monica is uber creative and artistic, and has already made their home a Pinterest model. I enjoy her laid back approach to problem-solving, and her laughter in the face of some pretty tough medical challenges. Here's to all siblings, for better or worse. And here is a link to kidney transplant info for those who are still searching for hope and answers.
So, along with simply existing, the Jorn clan boasts a lot of curious and bewildering traits, mostly involving the love of macabre. Zombie movies are in the top 10, and head-shaking moments reign high. This is a picture of Frederick, Monica and Les's new baby doll. He was only $15 at a going-out-of-business sale, and now makes his home in unlikely places. Frederick drives, hangs from car windows, and has been lovingly adopted by his aunts and uncles. Grammy, in particular, is enamored with this life-sized goober, and holds him close to her heart. Ken and I have sent Frederick a new outfit for Christmas. Keep track of our nonsense in 2019. I imagine you have your own!
12/14: Speaking of families, today is my Grandma Jorn's 118th birthday. It is also the day we took off for Jacksonville, FL, to get set up for another Jorn festival, Mom's 82nd birthday. Tomorrow is also the day we see our nieces in some awesome programs! And.... it is the day Bernie managed to tip his wheelchair over, go to the ER, and discover a broken arm. I could (and might) write a book on Bernie and his own personal mayhem. For now, it is good we are all converging to check in on him. For further info on issues he faces, check this out! The news is getting better.
12/15: We tried to see our niece, Sarah, on her soccer field, but their game was cancelled. Record rainfalls all along coast these days. But we did get to watch her twin, Becca, dance in several roles at the Jacksonville Nutcracker, a professional event in a huge venue! She was gorgeous, of course, and danced like the snowflake here. I wish I could see all my nieces and nephews more, but I can work on this! We took a few more family photos, and had fun meeting up with the clan at Bernie's house afterwards. Here is link to the story of the Nutcracker ballet! The history is complex and surprising!
12/15, evening: So, along with everything else, it is Mom's birthday! She is 82 and in excellent health. She wanted a picture of all of her kids, but we forgot to do so at the ballet. So... we all climbed in with Bernie for this charming picture. I've had that same feeling of awe when I find myself with just the 3 girls somewhere. The last time this happened was in 2017 when driving them to Jo's wedding venue. I felt how precious the moment was, and then freaked out (as Lis says) that I had all 3 in the car. I found this article (and many more) on what to do/expect/anticipate when your kids are now adults. Agree?
12/16: Nothing much to add here since we breezed by on our way to MD. We did pick up 2 more Passport stamps, one for the Charles Pinckney estate. He was a SC governor, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, but also a slave owner. Hard to wrap our heads around that one, but interesting ideas I have linked the page that, ironically, shows the park closed for current government shutdown. I wonder what Charles would have thought?
12/17: Breezed through Williamsburg toward Roanoke and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a gateway to the lower Eastern Shore. According to their website, "Following its opening on April 15, 1964, the Bridge-Tunnel was selected “One of
the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World” in a worldwide
competition that included more than one hundred major projects. Fun and beautiful, and a little scary if you use your imagination.
12/18: We enjoyed the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean and considered how different it was from the Pacific. We then had a bit of deja vu as we drove back into Maryland. The highlight was meeting up with Ruth C., Ken's buddy and fellow work prankster. She was kind enough to give us a bottle of Zombi Wine and sent us on our way to Denton and drinks with Sara and Jen! Good to see "old" friends in Maryland. Spent two nights in Easton to re-group for next trip to Emmaus.
12/19: Easton, MD, a very old colonial town, receives "BEST" awards every year. Here is a link to USA Today's Culture nod. We used to go to the Avalon Theatre when we were kids in the 70's. A lot has changed since then, but Easton is still charming and the Avalon is a must-see!
12/19-22: Katelyn and family have (finally) found a house north of Baltimore and will close by 1/16/19. We spent a few last days helping out, enjoying the grandkids, and delighting in the determination of all to make this a successful transition. Miles starts his new school, Prettyboy Elementary, on January 1. Here's a cool piece on transitions from a pretty cool playground company, Miracle Re-creation.
12/23-26: So, one more transition as we close out 2018. This is the first year we haven't had all 3 girls together for Christmas Eve. Lis can't fly to MD because of work, Jo is crazy busy, and Katelyn is moving. We decided to fly to WY to share Lis' tree, and we will do a mini-Christmas with the others back in Maryland. We all "survived", and I realized it's ok to try something new, especially as kids grow older with kids of their own. Proud of them: proud of us!
12/26: We spent another wonderful day with Lis and Justin before heading south to Denver. Took my first red-eye flight ever, and did not sleep. We arrived in Baltimore at about 5:30 am on the 27th, which felt like 3:30 to us. We staggered off the plane and felt relieved that we were leaving the airport rather than boarding. Found a Dunkin' Donuts for early morning sustenance, but they messed up our order and the latte was cold. Oh well, on to Christmas #2 with Katelyn, Jo, and families!
12/27-31: We rented an AirBnB in my dear old childhood neighborhood, Mayfield. I lived in a simple, two-story brick home (one of the smallest ) from 1966 until 1985 (except for my 4 years of college, 1977-1981.) Our rental was only blocks away on Pelham Ave near Herring Run Park. I spent hours and hours at the park, picnicking with my family, playing pick-up baseball, sledding, and just growing up. Odd to be on a pre-60 road trip and wind up back in Mayfield after so many years.
12/29-30: Ken needs some dress clothes in case he has an interview! They are all tucked away in Denton. He applied for a job as Executive Director of the Baltimore City Retirement System (or something like that.) The HR director implied she would forward his application to the Board for review, so who knows. We gave the kids a few days to have the Mayfield house to themselves. We are heading back to babysit or to at least spend the final days of 2018 in my home state.
Running a holiday sale or weekly special? Definitely promote it here to get customers excited about getting a sweet deal.
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Becky and Ken Decker