Hill (pronounced "Heel") Country

From Ohio, we drifted south through Kentucky and places that felt impoverished and truly foreign. People parked their cars by the side of the highway, selling their personal belongings. I�ve heard of yard sales and garage sales and moving sales, but this was the first I�d seen of car sales. We passed through �hill country,� Tennessee and Virginia and North Carolina, where the accents became thick with twang. Stretches of the highway were named after different country music stars; I�d never heard of most of them.

In eastern South Carolina, we stopped to visit my brother, Steve. We drove his Camry (what a treat, after Peepcar�s miserable suspension) to a huge grocery store, but were appalled at the size of the produce section. When we discovered that the few fruits and vegetables they carried were already shrink-wrapped and packaged in plastic, we walked out in disgust.

Steve took us up into the mountains, stopping along the way to show us the bucolic fishing cabin he�d once lived in on Bush pond. It was a far cry from his current apartment living, where annoying neighbors are offset by a nice jacuzzi and swimming pool. We drove up and up, not as high as even the passes in the Rockies or the Sawtooths, but into country where the hillsides were carpeted with leaves in gold and red and green. From Caesar�s Head, where the fall colors merged into the blue ridges, we clambered down into the rock formation known as the Devil�s Kitchen. Then up to Whitewater Falls, where we picnicked and hiked down to the bottom of the falls. The crashing water over the rocks reminded me of a hike we took in Brazil.

Our time with Stevie was too short, and too soon we were headed across Georgia and Alabama. About once an hour, we passed a pair of derelict vehicles that made Peepcar look shiny and new. They had a rope between them and the second one was always spray-painted �IN TOW.�

The heat was stifling. We switched to shorts, our clammy t-shirts sticking to our backs. After a month of reading out loud while I drove, Barry finished reading �Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix� and took over driving. We were almost there.

Friends, family, food, and fun (plus a little flu)

There were six of us aboard the vessel. A storm blew up, and carried away our mainsail, but we forged on nonetheless. The crew took turns steering, cooking, and finally, sleeping aboard.

This scene was actually a blanket on the floor of the Miller’s house, with Barry’s sister Julie, her husband Cody, and their two little boys, Emanuel and Gabriel. The occasion was our farewell to the Miller family; after almost a week in Columbus, it was time for us to continue on. Someday, we hope Barry’s nephews will visit us aboard our boat, sailing in more exotic places than the living room.

We had other memorable visits in Central Ohio, starting with Linda and Perry’s Wyoming oasis. It was as though they’d picked up a piece of the old West and transported it to West Mansfield. Ruling the living room is a HUGE elk head and shoulders, and there are other heads and pelts, posters and photos and western memorabilia. On the other side of their “pond” (which I call a lake) is a fishin’ cabin where we stayed, surrounded by huge trees and water on three sides.

From there, we went to my brother Hank’s home in the Columbus Colony for the Deaf (he’s actually blind, so go figure). With his cozy apartment as home base, we visited a number of our favorite people — Dave, who introduced me to Barry; Mowgli, who entertained us in his evil lair of computing until 5 am; and Carol and Steve, who performed our wedding ceremony a mere 12 years ago. Despite the fact that Barry and I both came down with the flu, I don’t think we passed it on. Typhoid Meps and Barry foiled again?

We’re currently in Lancaster, Ohio, staying with Terry in his spacious home on Rising Park, surrounded by fall foliage. Yesterday, a doe and two spotted fawns spent most of the afternoon trimming the grass in the background. I can see one of them from where I sit right now.

One or two days is just not enough time for such wonderful friends; what would be nice is if our friends could schedule some vacation time to visit us on the boat and stay a little longer!

Chapter Whatever, in which we do not go to Krotz Springs

It’s been over a week since my last entry, and we have been wonderfully busy. From Nebraska, we headed through Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois, staying mainly on back roads.

Did you know that Nebraska has the largest collection of sand dunes outside the Sahara desert? The climate is currently wet enough that they have grass on them, but if they didn’t, they’d be drifting all over the midwest and causing major havoc. As it was, we drove for hours and hours without seeing a house or a car or even a cow!

Glenn Miller was born in a tiny town called Clarinda, Iowa. We got a picture of his birthplace, since we camped outside of town. In Wyoming, we’d had one state park all to ourselves — no one else in the whole park and it was a bit eerie. In Nebraska and Iowa, though, there were a few other folks in the campground. Still, they’re all in campers, and they simply don’t come out to interact with us weird folks, freezing our butts off in tents.

We were heading east through Iowa when I got confused and made a wrong turn. After a while, I realized we were heading south on US 71 instead of east. I casually asked Barry to get out the map and tell me where this route would take us if we continued on it for a couple of days instead of continuing on to Ohio as planned. There was the sound of flipping pages (our road atlas has a page for each state) and a small “oooooh” from Barry. “Well, from what I can tell, US 71 goes straight to Krotz Springs, Louisiana,” he said, significantly.

In 1993, when we traveled across the country in our car, we had our mail forwarded to us via General Delivery. We would guess about where we’d be in a week and then pick a tiny, tiny town that was guaranteed to have only one post office, so as to avoid confusion. Krotz Springs was one of those towns. It was so small that after we picked up our mail, we asked the postmistress if there was a good restaurant in town. When we arrived at “Suzy’s Diner,” the lady drawled when we walked in, “Y’all the folks that just come from the post office?”

After reminiscing about our Krotz Spring visit and enjoying the Twilight Zone moment, we headed east again. We stopped to visit my two aunts, who live at St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. “The Woods,” as we call it, is a special place that’s been part of my family history for over 60 years — the motherhouse (home base, essentially) for the Sisters of Providence, the order to which Sister Mary Julia and Sister Mary Pat belong. My mother went to school there briefly, thinking of becoming a nun. Lucky for me (and my siblings!), she didn’t!

From Terre Haute, we jumped on various freeways and hightailed it to Ohio. I never thought I’d be driving ol’ Peepcar back in Central Ohio, where it came from. It does make navigation easier, though — the car just knows where to go.

All over Hell's Half Acre

Did you know the original name of the Grand Tetons was the Three Tetons? Given that “teton” means “breast” in French, the guy who named it had quite a sense of humor.

We thought we’d be let down, leaving Yellowstone and the Tetons and heading across Wyoming. But we saw Hell’s Half Acre (looked bigger than that to me, but the consevative Christians probably didn’t want to make it sound bigger) and in a tiny town in Wyoming, I had a “tiger moment.” I pulled a sudden U-turn so Barry could see the ostriches, and I wouldn’t be wondering if I was hallucinating exotic animals again.

Yesterday, after walking the Oregon trail, we went to Carhenge. Imagine, if you can, 30+ cars buried in the earth, with others atop them, in a circle, painted gunmetal gray. It was eerie.

And when we got in the car to leave, I got a chill down my spine. As I placed the key in the ignition, I noticed that the odometer on Peepcar had turned over 217,000 miles — just when we drove into the parking lot at Carhenge.

Greetings from the Baker City library!

Well, we are traveling at the speed of fossilized tortoises, but the process is delightful. We drove over the mountains from Eugene, Oregon, following the Mackenzie river. Santiam Pass was the scene of a bad forest fire this year, but the devastation wasn’t as bad as expected, and you can see how a fire clears out the forest for new growth.

The first night up in the woods, we froze our butts off. Thanks for leaving the rainfly off, Barry, so we could see the stars! He says he’s not gonna do that again.

Then on to John Day and the fossil beds, and the Painted Hills. A couple of short hikes, since my sprained ankle is healing. This morning, after camping along the John Day river, we saw Sumpter and a huge gold dredge that was still operational in 1954.

In Baker City, we stopped for provisions and a picnic in the city park. Lo and behold, a public library right next door, with FREE internet access. OK, that’s enough of this drivel, time to hit the road again. We’re headed across Idaho this afternoon, and we want to get someplace (where?) before dark…

Vamos! (let's go!)

When Barry and I set off on Friday from Camano Island, our infamous “Peepcar” was full to the gills. Thank goodness for side mirrors, for their was no seeing over the top of the stuff we crammed in. Most importantly, we were on our way and healthy, at last.

We made a long, interesting detour to Vashon Island to say farewell to Margaret Willson and see her new vacation property and “cottage.” Along the way, we stopped by K-Jo farms, where we hope to someday build our next boat. If Karen and Joe still need a barn in a few years, we’ll build them one (and borrow it for a little while to construct a boat in it).

When we dropped Margaret off at the bus stop, who should be driving her bus but Metro’s finest, Pat Ingrassia. So three of the four founding board members of Bahia Street had a five-minute reunion before we headed south.

One of my favorite things about Seattle is that it’s so close to my two sisters in Eugene, Oregon. And I have such cooooooool sisters, with great families. We get together to just hang out and talk, and we’re all great talkers. Uh, maybe we should have even stayed home and just talked, because we actually attempted to hike twice this weekend. On Saturday, we got hit by a massive hailstorm on the trail, and on Sunday, I sprained my ankle. Go figure. I think that’s Fate’s way of telling me I should be on a boat, not hiking on land. Or else that I should be wearing my hiking boots instead of my sneakers.

We’ll be back on the road heading east tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, sprain and all. Stay tuned!

Foxes and tigers and bears, oh my!

While waiting for Barry to get over the chicken pox, we took a couple little side trips with Sharon and Dave. It is possible to travel safely with a contagious person, but ordering ice cream for him is a challenge (I used the digital camera to record the flavors, then took it out to the parking lot and played back the photos for him).

On Wednesday, we made a short run up to Anacortes to see the lovely views from Cap Sante and Mount Erie. We’ve been sailing the San Juans out of Anacortes for years, so we know where to find the marinas, grocery stores for provisioning, hardware stores and West Marine. But our perspective is limited to a fish-eye view. Low to the water and slow-moving.

Sharon and Dave showed us Anacortes and the San Juans from a bird’s perspective. High above the water, you can see for miles, dozens of shades of blue. You can look right over the top of the largest island in the US (Whidbey) and see Port Townsend. We’ve seen many orcas, but this was the first time we’d ever seen a fox.

On Friday (Sharon’s birthday!) we headed inland for a visit to Mount Baker. We were driving along a 2-lane country road with Barry and me in the back seat. Dave was driving, Barry and Sharon were chatting, and I was looking out the window, watching the world go by. Cute little farmhouses, barns, horses, green fields. A tiger. A WHAT? I interrupted the conversation.

“Hey! I just saw a, uh, you know, a li– no, a tiger!” Dave didn’t alter speed. Barry and Sharon turned and looked at me. Meanwhile, my nose was glued to the window where my view of the tiger was blocked by a long, low ranch house. At the other end of the house was a driveway, with a sign, “No tiger access.”

The rest of the day, we saw some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Snow-capped mountains, reflected in still lakes surrounded by fall colors. Blue peaks in a blue sky, marching off into the distance. Even ptarmigans. But I was blase. Nothing could top my tiger.

Chicken pox? Aaaauuuugh!

I can’t believe it. Summer was ending and it was time to hit the road for New Orleans. We had argued and debated and discussed, and we were just about done sorting our personal belongings. And then, out of the blue, I got fever, chills, and SPOTS. For about ten days, I was totally miserable, out of commission, and (uh oh) contagious.

I’m all better now. We finished the arguments and discussions, took an entire truckload to the Goodwill, and brought the rest of the stuff here on Camano Island, where it will be packed into the car or stored.

And then, what should happen, but Barry comes down with fever, chills, and SPOTS! He’s parked in the same recliner where I recuperated from my knee surgery earlier this year. I think our insurance company is going to come take that chair away, because whenever one of us sits there, it costs the insurance company money in doctor’s bills and medicines!

We should only be delayed another week or so, but isn’t it funny how life throws these little curve balls at you when you least expect (or need) them?