11/7-19: We flew back from Alaska on 11/3, and spent the night in Spokane before heading back to Libby. We took a few days to regroup, and then split up for the first time in months! Since Ken was going to be in hunting camp with his family, I decided a trip home to see the grandkids et al was in order. I had missed them! I flew into Baltimore on the 8th, rented a car and staggered to a hotel at around 2:00 am. I was excited for my first stop to see Jo and Dennis (on her 29th birthday!) and made my way north to their Parkville home. Since they were going out, I babysat their sweet dog, Matilda, and knew peace and quiet for the first time in a while! It got a bit noisy up in PA at Kate and Mike's with grandkids, but so fun to watch them play in their very first snowfall. Miles was an old hand, but the girls wailed when they had to come back inside. Can't wait to go back for Christmas!
11/16-18: Before I flew "home" to Montana to be with Ken again, I headed south from Emmaus toward a fondly remembered town on the Eastern Shore, St. Michael's. When we were kids and had a summer house on Tilghman Island, St. Michael's was a tiny and modest place where we could drive in for groceries and a "fancy" dinner, and not much more. That was in the 1970's. Shortly thereafter, the historic town experienced a significant tourist boom, and is now known as a "must see" in the mid-Atlantic region. It is very popular with the well-heeled folks back in Annapolis, Baltimore, and Washington, and is packed with summer boaters. I was lucky to visit on a quiet, pre-Christmas weekend. I treated myself to a great dinner and tried geocaching again! The Parsonage Inn was fun with gourmet breakfasts but paper-thin walls at night. I was alone the first night, but the inn was at capacity on Saturday. Do the math.
11/9-16: Hunting camp is a yearly tradition for the Decker men (as in many hunting families.) For the 20 years we lived east, I would take Ken to the airport every fall and send him off to Montana with high hopes. Most years he bagged nothing, but celebrated with brothers, dad, and nephews when someone took a successful shot. I did not grown up with hunters, but have come to appreciate the important and critical need for wildlife management through hunting. Feeding a family "off the land" is an honorable pursuit, and I have seen the Deckers grow closer and more committed to family over these decades. This year was different since Ken had his own side-by-side to add to the mix, and was heading out to camp FROM Montana for the first time in forever. His nephew, T.C., brought back an elk, and brother, Steve, a large buck. Mostly, they brought back new stories and plans for next year.
11/22: My brother and sister-in law, Russ and Tonnie, have traditionally hosted Thanksgiving dinner in their lovely home in Kalispell! I have never been, and so this was a fun way to eat well and get to know my Decker family even better. Russ cooked an amazing feast including a full prime rib on his Traeger grill. We had twice-baked potatoes, a green bean casserole served up in a cast iron skillet, Yvonne's rolls with huckleberry and honey butters, something called a Snickers Salad (apples, sweet dressing and Snickers) and many pies. I continued to get to know my nephews (Cody and T.C.) better, as well as T.C's wife, Kali! They are expecting their first (a boy) in March. My father-in-law, a usually gruff kind of sort, opened dinner with a thoughtful prayer, thanking God for the new baby on the way and all of our family blessings. For the first time in 20 plus years, I felt truly part of this wonderful family in my second "home". Found this on the internet.. you'd be surprised at how refreshing!
11/23-25: We left Kalispell, spent one more night in Libby, and started our next western leg toward Spokane and Seattle. We drove through some snow, but ended up safely at my friend's "building project" in Plain, WA. More on Nancy and family in "Friends and Other Heroes".
We had dinner at the Plain Cafe, and then spent a good part of the day in Leavenworth which is dolled up to be a Bavarian village. Even the McDonald's has a facade. Ken and I took Liem Christmas shopping and we likely had more fun than he did! Had lunch here at the Rhine Haus, and we were honored to be in the crowd when the Seahawks beat the Panthers, 30-27 on a last minute field goal. I have decided to adopt all sorts of teams as we wander about. I was also able to do a tiny bit of Christmas shopping. Spoiling Liem a bit (I am his Godmother, after all) was priceless. Take a look at this pretzel!
11/25: I haven't had nearly enough time to catch up with friends along the way, but I have loved seeing them for even a short time. So, we said goodbye to Nancy and headed south and west toward the coast. We drove right next to Mt. Rainier but couldn't see a darn thing due to very thick fog. We wandered over to Mt. St. Helen's, but still couldn't see much. We did, however, take the road up to the blast zone but had to quickly turn back when we found ourselves in deep snow. A bit "harrowing" as they say, but Ken got us down safely. We saw an informative movie at the visitor's center, but I didn't feel sorry for the crazy dude who stayed in his cabin just beyond the volcano because he wasn't going to move out after 50 years. Needless to say, he was blown up. The evening drive to our hotel in Astoria, Oregon was uneventful. Tired, but having a blast. Pun intended. On toward San Francisco!
11/26: Ft. Clatsop (the endpoint of Lewis and Clark Expedition) was a highlight today. I learned so much about how cedar was used by the Clatsop and other tribes for even their clothing! Saw our first big redwoods and the gorgeous Pacific Ocean. This part of the PCH is rocky and grey: very rugged. We stopped at many scenic spots, and I even got a little geocaching in! Inspired by Leavenworth, we dropped in on another German restaurant and had the best spaetzle ever. As always, the little towns and diners are the best choices (usually) for wonderful moments on the road. Here's a spaetzle recipe in case you are in an Oktoberfest mood! You'll have to translate!
11/27: We spent the night in Astoria, Oregon, with a plan to wind our way down the coastal highway into California. We made good progress, making it to Bandon (highly recommended by our gas station attendant; full service is mandatory in Oregon) just south of Coos Bay. We splurged on a "boutique" spa hotel, The Bandon Inn. Any place with an outdoor espresso bar is OK with me. Our room had an electric fireplace and TV over a soaking tub. Felt good to take the chill off after dipping my toes, and socks, and boots into the ocean. I really love the vistas right off the highway. At times you are up above, and soon after right at sea level. Much different than my hometown Atlantic.
11/28: Kept moving down 101, and crossed into California. I can already see why the folks in the northern regions feel disassociated from LA. Very different landscapes and culture. From Bandon, we traveled to Fortuna, California. While grabbing dinner at the Eel River Brewing Company, we stumbled into a launch party for a new beer. We sampled "Wolves at the Door", this year's winter blend, with heavy vanilla and cherry notes. They also announced their upcoming participation in a regional "charity" brew, "Resilience". Breweries are all making the same beer and donating profits to California fire victims. Impressive. Read more below!
11/29: Today, we went to Point Reyes National Seashore. I continue to collect National Park stamps and cancellations for my Passport Book! We barely made it before the visitor's center closed, and then drove quickly toward the ocean itself. Saw the sun set, but decided we needed one last touch of the Pacific. Bravely, we scurried down near Tomales Point onto the darkening beach. So glad I took a chance in the twilight (with a flashlight) to trek the roundtrip mile. It would have been easier to stay in the truck, but that's not how road-tripping works. Tired, but triumphant, we climbed back in the trusty Titan, and sped off to San Francisco, only an hour south. Tonight we are in the Comfort Inn by the Bay!
11/30: San Francisco is one of those rare jewels which is truly better experienced than described. My hometown of Baltimore is textured with overlapping cultures, rhythms, and histories, but San Francisco rivals it for sheer beauty. One can walk down the hill from the maritime areas onto a sandy beach, right in the heart of industry. Cable cars still go up and down prominent streets, and Uber cars weave in and out of the museum areas and historic neighborhoods like Chinatown. I added a section on this lovely city on my December page including a piece on Rosie the Riveter: Live. SF is a city Ken and I will definitely visit again. The food alone is worth every mile back. See more about historic Fisherman's Wharf!
12/1: Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, and more rain. Luckily, we spent many many hours outside yesterday, but today we looked around and decided to check out. We wandered up the hills and to the right, past the windy Lombard Street, and on to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. It is actually a combination bridge-tunnel -bridge that links some tiny islands near the city. See below for a link on this lesser known bridge (for Easterners , that is)
Today has been a major transition day for so many reasons. We are officially heading East, we are starting a holiday month with no fixed plans, and we are just a bit tired. Should we keep going? Take a break? Time will tell!
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Becky and Ken Decker