Wrap Up 2016

I’ve seen so many posts on social media about 2016 being such a horrible year, anxious to move on to 2017. I believe those posts primarily reflect the feelings of loss, especially for the many celebrity deaths and the Presidential election. While I share some of those same feelings, I do not at all think 2016 was a horrible year. Vickie and I carefully planned and executed the road trip adventure of a lifetime! Of course, we were faced with challenges we might not have faced had we not taken this course, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

These last couple of months have gone by so fast. We often get the question, “So, what do you do all day?”. It’s a fair question, and one I would probably ask of someone in our situation. The answer, “We just stay busy.”

In November, we visited our friends, Lori, Ginny, Roger, and Jody at the NASCAR campground. We were supposed to stay 2 nights but ended up only staying one.  I think we have just come to terms with the fact that we’re spoiled humans and prefer modern day conveniences.  The next weekend we stayed at my sister-in-law and niece’s house and took care of their 3 dogs while they were out of town.

All 3 of us spent Thanksgiving with our framily, Baugh/Terrazas/Kaiser. We feel so special to be invited into this family.

Our Christmas weekend was time with Adi and Vickie. Adi’s birthday is the 24th and we did fun things to celebrate her.  She spent two nights with us that weekend and we stuck with tradition staying in our pjs and watching holiday movies. Having all 3 of us together under the same roof for a couple of days was awesome!

We had one of the best New Year’s Eve’s ever! Through a couple of our Hilton memberships we had a room booked at the Elara Hilton Grand Vacations hotel on the Strip. It was an amazing room! We had a 1 bedroom suite on the 51st floor overlooking the Eiffel Tower.  It had floor to ceiling windows in the living room and bedroom.  The window shade in the living room doubled as a large screen that displayed whatever we were watching on the tv as well as a tv in every room, including the bathroom. It was Vickie’s dream come true. We saw Elton John at Caesar’s Palace on NYE after which we enjoyed a delicious 5 course meal at Searsuckers. We left the restaurant at 11:57 and rang in the New Year with the other 500,000 people hanging out on the Strip. The fireworks show was great, but it was chaos. We had to walk back to our hotel because Uber had shut down their app. NOT fun. We saw one other show while in Las Vegas, blew the allowance we had given ourselves, had some good food and hung out in our hotel. We were also hoping to sell our HGVC timeshare while there, but that didn’t work out. We’re going to have to hire a timeshare realtor to help us sell. Spending NYE in Vegas is something we’re glad to have done… ONCE.

Vickie is still meeting with our personal trainer, Lisa, 3 times a week. I suspended my workouts in early December, but look forward to returning to the exercise as soon as I get my body in a better place. We have enjoyed visiting with my Gram on a regular basis and reconnecting with friends.

Adi seems to be on a positive path. She is taking steps toward better health and greater self sufficiency. It’ll be a long journey, but taking steps forward will help achieve success. I feel that this path will allow us to proceed with our plan to travel in 2017.

The pain I’ve experienced with my back and knees resulted in a suspension of my workouts. I was forced to pursue the root cause of my pain. Having no health insurance to speak of made this financially stressful. We want to spend our retirement money on our adventures, but our plan to continue to travel was at risk if I couldn’t get my pain under control. I had MRIs done and learned that bulging discs and degenerative disc disease (arthritis) are the cause for pain in my lower back, and torn meniscus is the cause for pain in both knees. All this said to me was ‘$$$$’. I was mentally preparing myself to return to work so I could have the health benefits to address these issues. Our friend, Lori, recommended we go see the doctors at Arizona Pain. Vickie and I agreed that if my pain could be addressed, without causing additional damage, within a specific dollar amount then we would be willing to spend the money. I was not optimistic. We consulted with the doctor and, much to our surprise, came up with a plan that could remove my pain in my back for (hopefully) 1-2 years and completely fix my knees and…. for LESS than the dollar threshold Vickie and I had set. I have already had the first of two procedures on my back. I am scheduled to receive a Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) on Jan 12. This procedure will focus on the nerves in my lower back. I am scheduled for the first of, most likely, four Plasma Rich Platelets (PRP) procedures for my knees on Jan 26. This procedure will allow my knees to regenerate the necessary tissue to heal the meniscus tears. After talking with the doctors and researching these procedures, my optimism is renewed and I am looking forward to a ‘pain free’ life.

In short, Adi is doing well, and because it looks like we will be able to physically handle the adventure, we have made the decision to proceed with our overseas travel plans. We’ve modified the itinerary by reducing the scope and timeline from an 8 month duration to 5 months. We have provided our revised plans to our travel consultant, Patrick, and will meet with him to discuss the next steps. Our anticipated date of departure is May 2.

Evolution

“There’s no book on parenting.”  Well, that’s not entirely true.  There are thousands of books on parenting.  BUT… there’s no book on parenting my specific child, or your specific child, or your niece or nephew or goddaughter or godson or any other specific child.

“I can’t wait until he/she is 18 and they’re out on their own.”  Another myth.  The older I get and the more I talk to other parents the better I understand that parenting is an evolving process.  What you think works or maybe used to work must evolve with time and growth and knowledge.

Part of the preparation and planning for our OOCLE included Adi being self sufficient, independent, basically just “OK”.  We waited for her to complete cosmetology school, which she did with flying colors and in record time.  We made sure she was in a safe, pet-appropriate living space that we thought was affordable for a young, new cosmetologist just starting out in life.  We gave her all of the furniture she needed for her apartment and we provided the supplemental financial support with what we thought were the necessary boundaries to be self-sufficient within what we thought was a reasonable time frame.  When we felt pretty good about all of what we did for her, we left.

Over the months of our travel there were several “tough love” conversations and she seemed to be growing, maturing, handling the hard adult life circumstances.  Or at least, that’s what we wanted to believe…

Since our return from the road travel in mid-September we have come into a new reality.  We have been forced to take a step back and open our eyes.  As much as all THREE of us wanted her self-sufficient and independent, things were not “ok” with Adi.  I feel like everything I thought I knew about parenting has been taken off the table.  I need to relearn and reset my way of thinking.  We all do, including Adi.  It’s important to us that we accept each other for who we are and I feel I am just now meeting Adi for who she really is.  She isn’t me, or Vickie, nor is she having the same life experiences either of have had so we have to adjust our expectations.

I’ve had to make conscious efforts to NOT parent anything like how I was parented.  Midge was HUGE in helping me see certain situations differently and respond to Adi in a way that was healthy and encouraging.  Most times it felt against my intuition and it wasn’t always successful.  Parenting is trial and error.  But I think, over time, I’ve mostly been able to shake the style used by my parents.  What I know for sure is that my relationship with Adi is intact and healthy and will last the rest of my life.  I count that as a success for sure!  All that aside, I still have only my own life experiences to draw on and I no longer have Midge to lean on and push me away from my instinctive bends.

When I get into stressful situations I become high functioning, very task driven.  It’s not always easy for those around me, but I get shit done.  It makes me very good in my professional life and very ‘difficult’ in my personal life.  Therefore, I have parented toward my style of handling these same stressful situations.  Adi, on the other hand, handles stress much differently.  She and I have called it, “ostrich” for years.  When things get hard, she becomes overwhelmed and eventually immobile.  It’s like she sticks her head in the sand, hence “ostrich”, and tries to ignore the situations is actually happening.  SO opposite of me!  SO maddening!  And it has been a stressor on our relationship for years and years.

Upon our return we immediately found evidence that something was seriously wrong. Adi’s apartment was in poor condition.  Her financial situation was dire and her credit will pay the price for years to come.  Her physical health is showing signs of the natural consequences of the aforementioned.  Initially, I was angry.  How could she let things get so out of control?  I was hurt.  How could she not tell me things were so bad?  I was scared.  What is wrong with her that things are in such a bad state?  Frustrating!  Many months earlier we were forced to come to terms with our threshold of how far we were willing to let her fall.  Eviction was the line in the sand.  We were not willing to allow her to be evicted.  But, as I said earlier, she seemed to be doing better.  Reality was she wasn’t telling us what was happening and how she was feeling.  More importantly… I wasn’t hearing her.

During a conversation with a dear and trusted friend where I was sharing the situation and my frustration and befuddlement, her response to me was, “Nic, maybe she’s not CAPABLE…”. At first, I didn’t realize the importance of that response.  I just kind of nodded and said “mmm” and listened to this sweet person try to explain by sharing a personal experience of her own.  It was later that Vickie and I dissected that conversation when we started to swallow the magnitude of what we had heard.  We must have repeated that sentence a hundred times to each other before we really heard it.  Wait?!  ‘not CAPABLE’?!  Ok…  What does that mean?

Well, first, we came to the conclusion that the expectations we had set were unattainable… at least for now.  So, that means the harsh conversation we had had with Adi a few days prior where we insisted she get a second job to compensate for the financial gap in her monthly expenses, yet no action had been taken, needed to be retracted.  Vickie and I were not yet off the hook financially.  Didn’t know a root cause nor a duration, just that we needed to pull back on insisting she get a second job to cover her expenses until we knew more.  That was the immediate first step we took care of the day before we left for Vermont.  We went to Queen Creek and met with Adi after work so we could tell her we were starting to hear her.  Our announcement was met with confusion and mistrust.  “What’s the catch?”  All we wanted from here on out is transparency, honesty.  There was promise of more discussion and a fluid plan but now we’re listening.  We have been causing damage and we need to stop.  That much was quite apparent.

Since that first conversation, there have been a few others that continue to shed light.  Friends who saw the trouble Adi was in long before we did.  Friends who have dealt with severe anxiety that could articulate exactly what we have experienced with Adi.  I do not have the words to express our gratitude to those who continuously show love, truth, support, and encouragement to us even when it can’t be easy.

Because it is going to take some time to level set in our new reality, Vickie and I have decided to postpone our departure for the overseas travel.  We haven’t yet determined the new departure date.  We want to take the next couple of months to better understand how to support Adi and we want her to be “ok”, for real.  We are seeking professional counsel and Adi is going to see the Naturopath doctor Vickie and I have been seeing to help restore her physical health.  It’s time to dig in and learn and grow.

Thankfully, our friends and ‘landlords’ are willing to allow us to stay in the casita as long as we want.  Our travel consultant, Patrick, is helping us take care of some of the early items that have already been booked.  We believe we will be able to make a determination about our plans in early January.

Vermont

Being a native Phoenician, I’ve only experienced ‘text book’ seasons through travel.  The Valley of the Sun is just that…. SUNNY and clear skies 360 days a year.  The temperature fluctuates so we get a break from the heat between November and March and, of course, there is the monsoon season between June and September where we experience the afternoon thunderstorms and popular haboobs, huge dust storms that take over a city.

I’ve always been enamored with water, primarily the ocean.  There’s something I require, physically, from the air that comes in off the water.  But I have also fallen in love with trees.  It’s not really a shock.  The two things that aren’t native to the desert are the things  with which I’m most fascinated.  There are many regions in our country that have amazing trees and I’ve loved every one of them.  I remember being on a bus in Alaska and recoiling when one of the men on the bus from the cruise said, “I’ve seen enough mountains of trees to last a lifetime.” How could anyone say that?!  The air in the ‘tree regions’ is so fresh and clean.  I could never see enough trees.

As we traveled through New England in June this year and saw the miles and miles of trees, we knew the Fall season had to be remarkable.  We had heard about the “Fall Foliage” in New England and so we booked time to go back and see for ourselves.  Using our Hilton Grand Vacation Club membership, we found the Smugglers’ Notch resort in Northern Vermont.  My sister-in-law, Kris, joined us for the adventure.  We had done some preliminary research and learned that we were getting into the area at the end of the season.  The reports showed we had missed the peak.  Our expectations were low for what to expect for the colors, but it is a beautiful part of the country and we enjoy each other’s company, so we weren’t worried about having fun.

We arrived into Burlington, VT, around 10pm ET and drove 45 minutes to the resort.  The room was a 2 bd/2 ba suite.  Perfect for our 6 day stay.  There aren’t many times I can say our expectations were EXCEEDED in our travels, but when we woke Friday morning…..

Our body clocks were a little off from the travel, so we didn’t get out of the room until close to noon.  The front desk had told us that just south of the resort was a cluster of food-related touring to be done, so that’s where we headed first.  Vermont is known for apples, cheese, and maple (everything).  Ben & Jerry’s also originated in Stowe, VT, and we toured the factory.  We found an Apple Cider Mill, a Cabot Cheese store that had a tasting of about 30 types of cheeses, a chocolate store, and a distillery.  As promised by the resort, we ate our way through this little section of Vermont.  And, of course, everywhere we turned we were surrounded by stunning color.  Reds. Golds. Yellows. Greens. Oranges.  We also learned on our first day that there was a name for the kind of tourists we were: Leaf Peepers.  Before heading back to the hotel that evening, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up breakfast essentials.

There wasn’t much to do in the evenings.  These little small towns shut down around 5-6pm and every road was a pitch black 2-lane road.  It was nerve wracking to drive on the small, narrow, winding roads, especially knowing there was wildlife.  We watched television each evening.  The CUBS are making a run for the World Series against the LA Dodgers.

Day 2 – We followed a highlighted route on the map identified by the resort that took us north to East Berkshire and around to Lone Pond.  We ate lunch at a pizza shop in Morrisville, VT.  To our delight, Vermont is filled with covered bridges, a nice reminder of our day in Madison County, Iowa.  The route didn’t take us as long to drive as expected, so we ventured off into New Hampshire… just so we could say we were in New Hampshire.  It was interesting that right off the bat we noticed the foliage was a little further along in the season and there were many more bare trees.  We entered NH near St. Johnsbury, VT, and exited NH near Bath, NH.  It was a brief visit.  The area of VT we traveled is mostly small farm towns.  It was obvious that our visit was at the end of their Fall season because there was a lot of work being done to prepare for Winter.

Day 3 – Vickie wasn’t feeling 100% so we decided not to do road exploring.  Being a fan of ziplining, I couldn’t ignore all the signs for the nearby Canopy Course so Kris and I went over there and got our dose of adrenaline rush.  It was a great course: 8 lines, 2 repels, and 2 suspension bridges.  It was a blast!  And another great perspective of the breathtaking scenery in the area.  We relaxed around the room the rest of the day.

Day 4 – We took the 2 hour drive north into Canada and spent the day in Montreal.  Kris had never been north of the border and we LOVE Canada.  We couldn’t pass up being so close.  I booked a city tour through Viator, the same app we used throughout our travels.  It was a refreshing reminder from our time there and a nice way for Kris to get an overview of the city.  Montreal is a beautiful city with lots of history.  It was the original capital of the Quebec province before it was moved to Ottawa.  After the city tour we drove over to the Botanical Gardens which was highly touted by our tour guide.  There wasn’t much in bloom in the gardens since we were so close to winter.  The big ‘event’ at the gardens was a Japanese Lantern lighting ceremony that was scheduled to occur that evening.  Unfortunately, with all the driving and walking around we had been doing, my body was really hurting.  It was getting cold as it got later in the day so we decided to call it a day and head back.

Day 5 – We took another of the highlighted routes on the map given to us by the resort and went on a driving tour of the Lake Champlain islands.  The islands were nice, but we didn’t see the same color we saw when we toured around the other parts of the state.  The last couple days of our stay were colder and windy with rain over night, so we were starting to see changes in the scenery.  As we drove through the countryside, it looked like it was raining leaves and trees were beginning to look bare.  It was an interesting contrast to the full plumes of color we saw just 5 days earlier and we felt lucky to have been able to witness the beauty.  We drove through the small town of Jericho, VT, on our way back to the resort and toured an old flour mill.  There was a really cool area behind the mill where we had fun getting some pictures up close with the leaves.

Day 6 – A long travel day back to Phoenix started with a drive back to Swanton to have breakfast at the diner we had lunch the day before.  Vickie had accidentally left her sweater there and we had time.  We had a delicious meal served by a sassy waitress, which was an added bonus to the meal.  The biscuits and gravy were one of the best I’ve ever had and we all enjoyed getting a taste of “REAL” maple syrup.  The journey started with a short flight to Newark, NJ where we had a 3 hr layover.  It just so happened that our flights arrived and departed from the International wing of the airport where I had never been before.  There was an eatery from nearly every area of the world and each place had an elaborate electrical set up for travelers to connect and recharge.  We had a long, 5 hr flight from NJ to Phx but they had television connectivity where we were able to watch the third Presidential Debate and the Cubs baseball game.

 

Southern California (SoCal)

We made the plans to attend Disneyland’s Gay Days close to a year ago. We met up with our friends when we arrived on Friday, 9/30.  I had never stayed at a Disney hotel before.  We got a really good room rate deal because we were registered through the Gay Days event.  Disney’s customer service is like no other and it immediately put us in the spirit of Disney.  We had reservations at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney that evening.  After dinner Vickie and I left to retrieve Adi from the airport.  It had been a long day and we were all anxious to call it a night.

Vickie had made plans with her friend, Susan, to spend the day with us at Disneyland on Saturday.  It was so great to see her and hang out all day.  None of us had ever been to the Gay Days event.  I look forward to the day where same sex couples and families don’t need a designated day to be able to feel comfortable being themselves.  It was a beautiful day.  The Disney team did a great job making us all feel welcome.  In fact, we were told, by the manager of the restaurant where we had dinner, that Gay Days was her favorite weekend event because everyone was always so happy.  She was right!  Everyone was happy.  It was a very warm day and the park was crowded, but not as crowded as it was when we were there last (December 2011).  We were able to ride all the rides we wanted to before dinner.  We had reservations at Cafe Orleans.  I was exhausted and decided to head back to the hotel after dinner.  Vickie, Adi, and Susan stayed in the park for another couple of hours.

We spent most of Sunday at California Adventure.  We took advantage of the “magic hour” of 7-8am, an hour before the park is open to the public.  The “magic hour” was another perk of staying at a Disneyland hotel where we got into the park an hour before it opened to the public.  We were able to get on the Tower of Terror before the crowd.  This was our last time to ride before it closes in January 2017.  Vickie and I had tickets to see Alan Cumming Sunday evening, so we went back to the hotel to rest and clean up mid-afternoon.  Adi stayed in the park with our friends, Robin and Sarah.  The interview event with Alan Cumming was very interesting.  I really only know him from The Good Wife tv show, but he has a wide experience in movies and Broadway, too.  He has also authored a few books.  We had VIP tickets which, I thought, got us a ‘meet and greet’ after the interview.  Not true!  We were able to get into the room first and sit in the first 4 rows of the room, but no ‘meet and greet’.  We were disappointed, but the interview was very good.  He’s a interesting man and was easy to listen to.  After the interview, Vickie and I found Adi and the three of us had a great time back in Disneyland getting a few more hours of fun.

Adi was scheduled to fly back to Phoenix around 1pm on Monday.  Before we checked out, we went down to get breakfast in our hotel.  We knew there was a restaurant that offered a buffet.  We didn’t realize it was a Disney Character breakfast location.  We didn’t have much time to go find another place, so we decided to eat there.  It was an opportunity to get more fun picture memories of our weekend together.  We finished packing and got out of the hotel on our way to take Adi to the airport.  Because we hadn’t managed time very well that morning, things were stressed.  On top of everything, Adi’s flight was cancelled due to plane maintenance issues.  She was able to get on a later flight in the day and finally landed back in Phoenix around 6:30pm.  After we dropped Adi at the airport, we met up with my cousin, Steve.  He’s an avid fisherman and gifted us with some of his stash.  It was great to see him and get a short visit.

We left Orange County and drove to Solana Beach to visit with and enjoy dinner with my friend, Diana Aguirre.  I know Diana from my days at BCBSAZ.  I wish we had had more time to visit with her and Jason.  We did a little catching up and had Thai food take out while we watched the beautiful sun set.  We had made arrangements to meet the owner of the condo where we were staying in Imperial Beach.  Hope to see you again soon, Diana.

The condo we rented was perfect for our stay in Imperial Beach.  A small 2 bd/2ba with a full kitchen and living room.  It even had a balcony that overlooked the beach where we spent hours just watching the ocean and beach go-ers.  We’ve been to Imperial Beach many times before.  We love this little beach town!  It’s quiet and the beach is clean.  It just feels like the SoCal secret beach town that we happened to find several years ago.

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Tuesday evening we drove into downtown San Diego to meet up with Vickie’s friend, Jim, and Jim’s friend, Linda, for dinner.  We didn’t need the car again after Tuesday.  It felt so good to just rest and relax and smell the ocean air.  Everyday was clear and sunny.

Thursday, we noticed some different activity on the beach below.  People were obviously setting up for something to happen there.  Late in the afternoon a stage was built and some tables were set up.  Then, around 6pm the busses arrived and started unloading people.  Lots and lots of busses!  As each bus unloaded, the people picked up tables, chairs, and coolers from the storage beneath the bus and headed for the beach.  We were so confused.  This seemed odd for a wedding, so what could it be???  I had been texting with Adi and was telling her what I was seeing.  She called the hotel next door and found it was a Dinner en Blanc.  Then it all made sense.  We watched them all set up, eat, dance, and party from our balcony.  We could hear the music from the band.  And around 10pm, they all packed up and reloaded their busses and were gone.  By the time we awoke Friday morning, there was barely indication anything had occurred.

Saturday morning we heard rumbling coming from the street below.  We thought maybe a motorcycle group was riding through so we jumped up and ran out the front door to watch.  To our surprise, it wasn’t a motorcycle group but a classic car festival and they were rolling into town.  We showered and packed up to leave and then headed down to have breakfast and walk the festival.  We’re a worried that our “secret” beach town is starting to get noticed and will probably be a little less “little” and a little less “quiet” in the near future.

Return to the Valley of the Sun

We pulled into Phoenix on the evening of Thursday, September 15.  We were very pleased with our hotel choice in South Chandler, a Homewood Suites.  We had a nice one bedroom suite with a small kitchenette.  Since we were planning to be there just over 2 weeks, we wanted something comfortable that allowed us to feel a little more “at home”.  It would fit the bill.  That same night I worked on the laundry while Vickie ran to the grocery for some breakfast essentials.  We were very anxious to settle down.

Our first priorities upon arrival were to visit my Gram, see Adi and get our hair done, all of which we accomplished on Friday.  I’m happy to report that my Gram is doing really well.  She was pleased to see us.  We visited for a couple of hours, including joining her for lunch.  Our hair appointment with Adi was scheduled for the early afternoon, so we left after we walked my Gram back to her apartment.  It was even better to lay eyes on my kid when we arrived at the hair salon.  She is very happy with working at this salon and they all seem very nice.  The owner seems to be a good mentor and offered her advice, even as she was working on my hair.  Adi was happy to receive it, also.  I am growing my hair out, so I had asked her to perm my hair.  Vickie just needed a hair cut.  She did a great job on both of us.  After we were done we treated her to dinner at her favorite nearby taco shack.  It was yummy!  Have I mentioned how great it was to see her face and squeeze her?

Our main goal before beginning our overseas part of the adventure is to work on our health.  The first thing we’ve done to achieve that goal is we’ve hired a personal trainer to help us work on getting stronger and build endurance.  Saturday morning, we drove to Vistancia to meet Lisa.  She has converted half of her garage into a nice gym.  We’ll work out with her at least 3 times a week through the end of January, less our scheduled travel and holidays.  We are confident that we will be in much better shape by the time we leave in February.  The second thing we did was see a doctor.  Through the recommendation of my dear friend and family member, Lisa, we scheduled a consultation with a Naturopathic doctor in Chandler. We both like his holistic approach to health and he started with sending us for lab work and refilling my prescription for my blood pressure medication.  Thankfully, our test results were pretty good.  He’s looking closely at Vickie’s thyroid after some slightly unfavorable results, despite being on medication, but he thinks it will return to normal with some adjustments in dosage.  To rule out anything serious, he sent her for an ultrasound and we hope to have the results before we leave town for CA.  I think we’re on a good path to maximize our experiences and feel good.

We were able to move into the guest house on Saturday, September 24, saving us some major bucks!  It’s a perfect space for us for the next 4+ months.  A one bedroom, one bath apartment space with a full kitchen and even some garage space for our carrier and golf clubs.  We have spent the week settling in, enjoying eating home cooked food, and not living out of a suitcase.  I love being able to reasonably lean over the bathroom sink again.  Why are the bathroom counters so tall in hotel rooms?  We will miss having maid service, but wouldn’t trade having a home for it.  Our friends have a dog, Copper, and it is great having that sweet face greet us when we get home.  No one walking over our heads or thumping on the wall next door.  Ahhhh!  It’s good to be home again.  Thank you Shelley and Cathy!

We have been so busy since being back in the Phoenix area, but it’s been fun reconnecting with friends and seeing my Gram and Adi so often.  The weather is changing so the evenings and mornings are quite pleasant, even with the afternoons still being warm.  In some respects, it feels like we’ve stepped back in time.  When asked to recap the travel, I sometimes feel like it’s someone else’s life I’m talking about, until I see my face in the pictures.  I want to find that feeling I had when on the road again.

Road Travel Recap

*Not including Southern CA road trip from 9/30-10/8

Two days short of 23 weeks.

Approx. 15,800 miles (not counting the miles we put on rental cars in Alaska and Vancouver)

18 city tours

42 hotels (not counting the one we’re in here in Chandler)

2 cabins

1 cruise ship

3 personal homes

Family/friends visited:  Brigitte Berge West (and Scott), Steve Miller, Mike & Susie Miller, Cheri & Scott Johnson, Cindy & Dona Severson-Davis, Ty & Joycelyn Medina, 20+ co-workers (Charlotte, NC), Karen Messana (and Kim), Karishma Kewalramani (and family), Andy & Joyce Miller (and Jenna and Brent), Sherrie Gong Taguchi (and Mark), Angie & Josh Hendrix (and Charlie & Zoe), Sue Pfeifer Fisher (and ‘Bat’), Janice Wierzbowski (and Greg), Judy Mongiello (and Steve), Anna Zizzo, Marianna Zizzo, Katja Lehmann, Gail Costello, Julie Baker, Canada friends of Gail & Julie, Priscilla (Messana) & Manfred Woppel, Vikki Messana Hunt, Julie & Edgardo Esquer, Lisa Bianco Zizzo, Bryan & Jacqui Chaffins (and Alex), Kerry Baugh, Lacey & Mark Slosar (and Jena), Connie Chaffins (and Bob), Barb Boyer, Stella Trinidad, Martin Austria (and Harumi), Mike Busby, Katie Wilson (and Jess), Alys Milner, Sharon Milner, Kira (Wendy) Steinberg, Ron & Joanne Kooyman, Barbara Masters. This list does not include the many friends Vickie spent time with while at the Great America reunion in August.)

Many have asked me to name my favorite place and/or experience.  This is an impossible question.  There are too many to name, including: Snorkeling Islamorada, Ashville (NC), VIP tour of the White House, Night tour of the DC Monuments, being in the audience for Stephen Colbert, Canada, Food tour of Chicago, Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Denali mountain, Mount Rushmore, watching the bear in Yellowstone Park.  BUT, the number 1 favorite experience of all is doing all of this with Vickie.  We have laughed, cried, bickered, made it through stressful times, taken spontaneous adventures, and simply enjoyed so much in the last 6 months.

Also, naming my favorite food is just as difficult.  Things I still dream about include: San Antonio BBQ, deep fried corn on the cob (Charleston), and NC BBQ. I had LOTS of great meals, though, seen by the number of pounds added to my mid-section.

We would not have been able to do this truly amazing road trip experience without the help and support of the following people:  Anna Zizzo, Lori Lamprecht/Ginny Aguilar, Roger/Jody Mentz, Angie Carmichael/Diane Stratton, Brock Somsen, Emily (Ye Mei) Lu, Anne Meidlinger, Andy Thornhill, Maxine Dee, Leslie Saenz, and all of the people listed above.  THANK YOU all for your help in this experience!  In addition to these wonderful friends and family, it has been so fun to stay in touch with so many other friends and family through our online venues.  Keeping in touch has been a blast!

We already have a list of places we will return to and places we weren’t able to see that we are hoping to experience in the future.

Northern CA

We stayed in Milpitas and was conveniently located near several freeways so we could get to the many locations for visits.  Vickie and I both had people to see in the area and, despite an accelerated timeline, we were able to see many friends.

We spent most of Sunday in Santa Cruz with Vickie’s cousin, Kira (Wendy).  We had brunch at the Crow’s Nest and then hung out with her at a beach cafe the rest of the afternoon.   After dropping Kira off at home we headed to San Mateo to meet up with my friend, Stella.  I met Stella at Lash and have kept in touch with her.  She chose a Japanese ramen shop for dinner.  Both visits were fun and we were very glad to see Kira and Stella!

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On Monday we met up with 2 friends of Vickie’s in San Jose for lunch.  Vickie knew Alys and Sharon from jobs she had back in the 80’s.  It was a lovely visit with these two ladies.  Three hours had gone by before we even knew it.  After lunch we drove in to San Francisco to meet up with my work friends, Mike, Martin, and Katie.  They picked a Peruvian restaurant, which neither Vickie nor I had ever had before.  We got into the city a couple hours early so we walked around and people watched.  Martin and Katie both brought their spouses and the 7 of us had a delicious dinner and a very fun visit.

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Tuesday, on our way south to Arcadia, we went to Monterey for lunch with friends, Ron and Joanne.  Long-time friends of Vickie’s, I have met Ron and Joanne several times over the years.  They took us to a restaurant on Cannery Row called, The Fishhopper.  It would’ve been nice to stay and visit longer, but we had a long drive ahead.  We left Monterey between 4:30-5pm and arrived into Arcadia just before 11pm.

Wednesday we spent the day with Vickie’s Aunt Barbara (Kira’s mom).  When Vickie called her Aunt to make plans for our visit a couple weeks ago, we learned that she had just been diagnosed with lung cancer.  We accompanied her to her radiation treatment and then went to lunch.  We had a great visit!  She is such a strong woman and we had lots of good conversation.  I am grateful to Vickie for introducing me to Aunt Barbara.