Friday, August 28, 2015

Road Trip Day 6: Olmsted Falls, OH


Off we go on another all-American family road trip. 

Two parents
Two daughters
A big red dog
And a car full of suitcases, leashes, a cooler, bags of food, blankets, pillows, maps, books, extra sweatshirts, water bottles, bags, backpacks, and a whole slew of electronic devices and their chargers. 

Where are we going and what will we do when we get there? Just wait and see. 

The four - oops, I mean five of us, counting Ranger - have been on the road for almost a week now but we cannot truly get this vacation party started until we are once again a full family of six. I mean seven. (Sorry, Ranger.)

Last night, as I slept in my cozy, white down comforter dream of a hotel bed, my two elder daughters climbed on a plane in Seattle and flew across the country in the deep dark sky. By the time I woke up, they were fast asleep in my room, still dressed in their traveling clothes, empty Starbucks cups littering the side table. 

My husband disappeared early to run errands so it was the five of us womenfolk -- plus our handsome four-legged escort - who headed out together to face the day. An explosion of words, laughter, and inside jokes burst forth. There were intense debates about where to the nearest Starbucks, sharp words to Ranger when he took up more than his share of the back seat, and critical review of each others' outfits and accessories. 

In other words, my life is now totally back to normal and I couldn't be happier that my road-tripping family is once again complete. 

Distance covered today: 0 miles
Total trip so far: 2534

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Road Trip Day 5: Olmsted Falls, OH



Off we go on another all-American family road trip. 

Two parents
Two daughters
A big red dog
And a car full of suitcases, leashes, a cooler, bags of food, blankets, pillows, maps, books, extra sweatshirts, water bottles, bags, backpacks, and a whole slew of electronic devices and their chargers. 

Where are we going and what will we do when we get there? Just wait and see. 

Northern Ohio. The heartland of America, where simple people live solid lives, my husband's home. Nestled at the southern shores of Lake Erie, the small towns and farmlands outside Cleveland are filled with family and the warm memories of those who have gone before us. This is a good place to have roots. 

Ahhhh. That's the sound of us spreading out and settling in to this familiar and comfortable place. For glory be, this is our primary destination and we plan to stay here for a few days. Though all of us are all happy to stretch out and relax, no one could possibly be more content than my hotel-bed-loving dog, Ranger. 

Distance covered today: 0 miles
Total trip so far: 2534

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Road Trip Day 4: Peru, IL To Olmsted Falls, OH



Off we go on another all-American family road trip. 

Two parents
Two daughters
A big red dog
And a car full of suitcases, leashes, a cooler, bags of food, blankets, pillows, maps, books, extra sweatshirts, water bottles, bags, backpacks, and a whole slew of electronic devices and their chargers. 

Where are we going and what will we do when we get there? Just wait and see. 

Chicago was my home for the first years of my adult life and it's always emotional when I get back to visit. The city with big shoulders stops short at Micigan Avenue, and i always thrill to see that front line of skyscrapers waiting for me as I cruise up Lake Shore Drive. Memories wash over me as I join the hustling, bustling crowds on the sidewalks, munch a sandwich in the fresh air of the park, and hear the L trains rattling along the elevated tracks of the Loop. 

Today we explored a part of the city new to us. Cloud Gate has captured my imagination since it was installed in the new Millenium Park over ten years ago, and meeting that gigantic mirrored bean today in person did not disappoint. Lunch at the Shake Shack across the street was also a new treat, and when we drove away from this short visit to my second-favorite city in the world, I was completely and utterly content. 

Distance covered today: 402 miles
Total trip so far: 2534 miles

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Road Trip Day 3: Seward, NE To Peru, IL






Off we go on another all-American family road trip. 

Two parents
Two daughters
A big red dog
And a car full of suitcases, leashes, a cooler, bags of food, blankets, pillows, maps, books, extra sweatshirts, water bottles, bags, backpacks, and a whole slew of electronic devices and their chargers. 

Where are we going and what will we do when we get there? Just wait and see. 

Iowa is a poem of a place. Like a handmade quilt on a rumpled bed, her softly undulating hills and valleys invite me to cozy up and stay awhile. Trim houses sit watch over luxuriant corn and soybean fields in the peak of their summer glory, deer and rabbits roam freely. Anyone who tries to tell you that Iowa is a bore has clearly not taken the time to get to know her. 

After two days of hardcore cross-country driving, we found ourselves way ahead on miles and treated ourselves to several hours off the interstate grid. Exploring small towns on gravel roads, we rode with the windows down and our cameras at the ready. Madison County's famed covered bridges captured our imaginations; we toured four of the six old relics and learned that Ranger will NOT set foot inside of one, though he will happily swim in the waters below. 

Distance covered today: 458 miles
Total trip so far: 2132 miles

Monday, August 24, 2015

Road Trip Day 2: Ogden, UT to Seward, NE


Off we go on another all-American family road trip. 

Two parents
Two daughters
A big red dog
And a car full of suitcases, leashes, a cooler, bags of food, blankets, pillows, maps, books, extra sweatshirts, water bottles, bags, backpacks, and a whole slew of electronic devices and their chargers. 

Where are we going and what will we do when we get there? Just wait and see. 

This is the pivotal day where the wild American west fades into the settled east; we crossed the Continental Divide, where the waters that meets the Pacific Ocean give way to those that flow east to the Atlantic. We hauled ourselves up multiple mountain ranges - the Uintas, the Rockies - and sailed down to the wide-open prairies and bountiful cornfields of Nebraska. 

We picnicked at our favorite Wyoming rest stop on the Lincoln Memorial highway where we were graced with a bracing breeze but no bees. Ranger has totally fallen into the road trip rhythm, finding the perfect balance of napping in the car and leaping out at each stop with boundless excitement. And we are entertaining ourselves with group geography games, interesting conversations and short bursts of staring into our own phones like zombies. So far, I have not had to break up a single fight. 

Distance covered today: 858 miles
Total trip so far: 1674 miles

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Road Trip Day 1: Seattle, WA To Ogden, UT



Off we go on another all-American family road trip. 

Two parents
Two daughters
A big red dog
And a car full of suitcases, leashes, a cooler, bags of food, blankets, pillows, maps, books, extra sweatshirts, water bottles, bags, backpacks, and a whole slew of electronic devices and their chargers. 

Where are we going and what will we do when we get there? Just wait and see. 

Today we plowed through endless miles of smoky scenery, thanks to the massive wildfires burning in northern Washington. We stopped for a picnic lunch at this Oregon Trail site in the Blue Mountains but got chased off by a horde of bees. Lucky to get away with just one sting. 

Everyone took a turn at driving, Ranger flopped around the backseat in a variety of outlandish sleeping poses, and we got a handful of kitty pics from the daughters still at home. In a crazy random turn of events, I turned a quick stop for band aids at a Target store into a golden opportunity to buy a houseplant container I've been dreaming about. We stopped at a truck stop full of cattle carriers and the cows mooed at Ranger and me as we stretched our legs. 

Other than the part where Ranger pranced through a mud puddle, today was a good day. 

Distance covered today: 816 miles 
Total trip so far: 816 miles

Reading Afternoons


The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Capuscinski

Across four decades, this Polish journalist traveled here, there and everywhere around the continent of Africa, rubbing shoulders with the common man and getting himself into more than a few scrapes. While he reveals much about the history, economy and politics of the land, his accounts read not as news articles but as personal and heartfelt stories about individual lives. 

East of the Mountains by David Guterson

A retired heart surgeon with terminal cancer works out a plan to end his life. But don't let the grim plot line put you off; this novel is actually a poetic homage to the open skies, windswept foothills and fragrant orchards of eastern Washington. Also, there are dogs.

A Rat's Tale by Tor Seidler

A meet-cute love story about a young lady of privilege and the working man who adores her. Of course, they are rats. Also revealed is a complex rodent society that prowls across the gutters, sewers and wharves of New York City. Not surprisingly, they manage to outsmart the humans who want them dead. 

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit

What would you say if you were given the chance to live forever? Meet Winnie Foster who is granted a rare opportunity to drink from a hidden fountain of youth, and prepare to be surprised at her choices. This stylistic dream of a book reads like a fairy tale and delivers a meaningful, poignant message to readers of all ages.


* * * * *

Here's a brutally honest breakdown of how I've spent my summer:

57% running around with a paintbrush or electric sander in my hand.
29% watching Netflix with my two youngest.
12% walking my good dog, Ranger.

And with the remaining 2% of my time, I have been reading books.

Actual books. With covers and spines and pages for turning. I'm even using homemade bookmarks from my daughters' vast and highly artistic childhood collections.

At different phases in my life, I'm embraced recreational reading with varying degrees of passion, and the past two or three years have been a bit of a dry spell.

However, I've continued to buy books at my usual enthusiastic pace, and while recently sorting through the bookcases around here, I realized that my collection has gotten a bit ahead of me. As I dusted off one curious title after the next, I decided it was high time to turn over a new leaf. Or page, as the case may be.

In order to be sure I would actually sit down to read for maybe a half-hour each day, experience reminded me that I needed more than wishful thinking. I decided to shoehorn a designated reading time slot into my daily agenda, and chose the quiet time right after Ranger and I return from our daily walk.

Especially during this summer's sizzling heat, my hot dog loves to drop down in the shady grass as soon as he hits the front yard, and lounge - tongue lolling out and panting heavily - until he regains his cool. And of course, the little dumpling wants me to stay close by while he relaxes. Gladly, I've been dropping myself down in a nearby chair and picking up my book; we are both quite happy with our reading afternoons..