inter alia: Postcards from the coast…

Well, here I am back safe, and mostly sound from my family trip to Oregon.  This certainly isn’t a travel blog, but every time I travel, it seems relevant (and usually comical) to reflect on the experience.   This was a trip that I was unexpectedly ambivalent about taking.   Usually, I’m counting down the days until these family reunion trips…for the most part, I like my extended family – they are smart, articulate and undeniably quirky (seems to be a genetic marker…)  The lead up to this trip was different somehow…mitigating factors maybe.  Had I not already been committed, I might have simply bowed out and stayed home, but that wouldn’t have made me happy either, so I’m glad I swallowed my misgivings and got on board.

There were a whole lot of firsts on this trip.  While the rest of my family has gathered in the Pacific Northwest previously, I was in Greece on excavation that year and could not attend, so this was my first time visiting that landscape – it did not disappoint.  One thing that did disappoint was that ShowBiz Son wouldn’t be sharing the experience.  For the first time since he’s been on the planet, he did not attend due to prior commitments (which fell through only after we had already booked and he had firmly decided that he was no way going…upside?  Petsitter.)  It’s too bad really – he would love coastal Oregon since the weather, cool and misty, is his favorite forecast.

Mini Me was also a first time air traveler on this trip – we’ve road-tripped them all in the past decade since she arrived on the scene.  (and even before…she was a “stowaway” for the July 2005 assemblage in Dodgeville, WI)

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Apart from a death grip on my hand during takeoff and exasperation that her Kindle was not compatible with the plane’s inflight streaming service, she did great.  (Her airport wandering is another story!)  Truthfully, my mother constantly tapping me from the other side for help with her crossword was far worse…can’t you see I am watching THOR woman!?   Speaking of my mother, this trip also marked the first time that I have recently traveled by air with my approaching elderly parents.  My mom and dad are veteran travelers, but since my mother had both hips replaced five years ago, they have traveled exclusively on the ground…and for good reason.

While she is mostly ambulatory, my mom can’t walk long distances quickly, or without tremendous pain.  It didn’t seem like a major obstacle – I’ve seen wheelchairs and motorized carts buzzing around American airports for decades, but I got my first personal taste of how shockingly able-ist air travel is this trip.  Theoretically, there are accommodations made for passengers needing wheelchair conveyance…and from the check-in counter, we found this to be mostly true.  The airline personnel called for a wheelchair and it arrived within ten or so minutes to pick her up.  We all lined up to follow behind to find that we would get also get the fast track through the TSA Security check…no need to drag out the liquids, etc.  The story was a bit different upon arrival at our destination though.

As it turns out, we didn’t do enough research or apparently ask the right question of the original desk agent in Chicago.  What we were supposed to have done was to arrange this all in advance by calling a airline reservation agent – fair enough.  Our bad.  However, once he learned that we hadn’t done this, given that she needed a chair to get to the gate, and she would certainly need one back from the gate at her destination, would it have killed the guy in Chicago to 1. Call ahead to his colleagues in Portland to arrange this or 2. tell us that we should do it while we waited for our plane?  Evidently the thought did not occur…and so we had significant clusterduckage on our return flight as well.

It certainly didn’t occur to me while I was wrangling my parents and my daughter through security and then several gate changes (weather, weather, weather) and then through the food court, considering that no one had eaten since breakfast and there would be no food service on the flight.  As the recently designated trip coordinator,  two things occurred to me here as well,

  1.  my mother and daughter need to be fed a regular intervals to ensure optimal behavior
    1. a.  I’m going to need to carry snacks!
  2. I may need to start pinning a note on my dad’s shirt…”If found please call 555-555-5555″

Don’t get me wrong – I adore my parents.  They have been a never ending source of love and support for me.  I simply had not recognize that they have definitely slowed down a few steps and we need to leave room for that in the future.  On the plus side, the experience has made me aware of some of the challenges I might face next year as I plan to take an alumni group on a tour of Greece…lead time, lead time, lead time.

After a couple of customary room sharing hiccups and a hearty brunch where my mom kvetched about the prices and my dad eulogized the mustard, we got on the road in the late morning to head to the coast.  Did I mention that I was also the designated driver for the trip?  Indeed.  That was great fun trying to find the hotel the night before.  The narrated navigation wasn’t working on my phone and Oregon has a hands free cell phone law.  Handing it to my mother to read the turn by turn directions was futile as well..”It turned off…how do I turn it back on?!”  *face palm*   Once we purchased a paper map (and a bottle of ibuprofen for me) my mother was an excellent navigator from the back seat…if only she was a less aggressive back seat driver!  The drive was fine until we worked our way into the curvy, sun dappled road over the mountains to the coast.  It was like a scene from a National Lampoon film…MiniMe was getting green from the curves, Grandma needed a restroom, and Obscura needed an espresso because the sunlight through the trees was putting me to sleep at the wheel.  Only Grandpa was stoic – he saves it up.  After a visit to the filthiest McDonald’s in the lower 48 states (they were also out of soft serve which sent my mother back to her seat grumbling like a toddler)  we were on the road again…yours truly considerably revived from sipping on iced coffee  (Say what you will about McDonalds…and this one left a lot to be desired…but they always have a bathroom and some kind of caffeinated beverage on hand.).  

The final leg of journey offered some truly spectacular natural vistas…the coast here abuts almost right up to the mountains so there are incredible views…

Sheer rock faces on one side of the road

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and the Pacific coast on the other

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Gorgeous.  The view from the hotel didn’t disappoint either.  My mom had said that for budget’s sake, she hadn’t reserved a “seaside” suite.

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The view from the balcony disagreed…turns out this is a “seaview” suite as a apposed to a “seaside” suite which is only a few steps down to the actual beach.  Not a problem from where I was standing.  I could hear the surf, and we had an excellent view of Haystack Rock in the distance.  Cannon Beach is a really beautiful place, and the Pacific is just massive.  I’ve been to the Pacific Coast in Southern California, but here it just seemed so much…I don’t know…More.

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From the misty expansiveness of the beach even at high tide,

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to the burst of color in the lush hydrangea bushes that were lovingly tended all over the property.  It was a fantastic setting…I have to tip my hat to my cousin…she picked a great location!

The reunion itself progressed pretty much as they all do…smiling greetings as people trickled in (we arrived a day early, so we were the unofficial welcome wagon)  far too much food…(I think my west coast cousins may not need to buy groceries for awhile thanks to the leftovers) lots of laughter and only a few tears.

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I inadvertently contributed to laughter, and tears from laughter when during a beach side bonfire,  I stood up, promptly tripped over the very same log I’d been sitting on and face planted into the soft sand.  I would like to assure you that alcohol was not involved…I have a certain gift for magnificent falls.  This little ding was the repercussion…that and the fact that this tumble reminded my cousin of the infamous Swing Strip of 1982 and the Otter Slide of 1984…timeless tales of Obscura taking spectacular spills.  I told you it was a gift!

Happy Sunday ArmitageWorld!!

OT: I survived “Car-mageddon 2013”

What the...?!

What the…?!

Well, here I am back from the big family shindig in mostly one piece despite the best attempts of the road signage in northwestern Wisconsin to force me off the road in fits of hysterical laughter!  Ancient Armitage will be back to the regularly scheduled programming this week, but first a few things I learned on this trip:

  • I really like my family…
    • every quirky, perpetually late, impossible to corral into a schedule, indecisive one of them.
  • Two vehicles are better than one on a 500 mile road trip
    • my husband and I found out we actually like driving around when it’s just the two of us…beef jerky and gas station restrooms are soooo romantic!!
  • There are motels that have rooms for six –
    • a pox on them for indulging my mom’s frugal spirit!!
  • There is nowhere to hide from camera phones…
    • or camera phone photographers who instantly publish to Facebook!
  • Upscale and expensive does not necessarily equate to perfection…
    • as proven by the massive flood in my room on night one in our extremely posh log cabin digs.
      • Who knew you needed to seal a basement window well and clear rain gutters of debris prior to torrential rains – evidently everyone but the maintenance staff at this resort!
      •  I think I should have gotten a free pedicure from the spa for having discovered the flood when my bare feet stepped out of bed into a soaking wet carpet – squish!
      • Also, my head is still humming from the sound of the industrial blowers drying out the carpet – very fancy!
  • Fangirling may be hereditary…
    • I bonded with one of my cousins – she is a self-proclaimed Cumberbitch 🙂

Really only two casualties from the trip…a misplaced iPad charger and cable and my sister and I aren’t speaking…that’s not really reunion related, just a sister thing we do every so often.   The 2015 reunion?  We’ll see everyone in Wyoming.  Or Florida…or North Carolina – go figure, we haven’t decided 🙂

Oh!  I almost forgot – pizza is really good cooked on the barbecue grill!  (all those cameras, and not one picture of 30 pizzas cooking on the grill!)

OT: Family vacation here I come…

For the past two decades, since my grandmother’s death, my far flung maternal relatives have assembled for a family reunion every other summer.  We are a good sized group.  My mom is one of ten children.  All but two of her siblings have children of their own, and most of those children now have children too.  At last count, over fifty of us will descend upon a Midwestern lakefront resort for a long weekend of camaraderie, reminiscing and, of course, eating! My maternal family lives in various places all over the US, and we’ve made it a practice to take turns hosting the event.  Every other reunion one of the group who still lives near the “homestead” in Wisconsin hosts, but in other years we’ve travelled to all different locales – Florida, Georgia, West Virginia, Washington State, Colorado.  Travelling to these events has become part of the vacation schedule for my immediate family.  Next week, I will climb into a mini van, loaded with a car top carrier, with my husband, my two children and my parents to make the seven hour road trip to our designated location.

Ready to hit the road...

Ready to hit the road…

As road trips go, this one is pretty short, but I predict it will not go without incident.  In an effort to conserve fuel, we’re all going together in one vehicle – fortunately, my sister was banned from family road trips several years ago (actually, I volunteered to pay for her plane ticket…her + my kids + extended car trip = DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA!)  My husband is a new addition this year – he’s been unable to go along on the past trips – we’ll see if he needs a plane ticket next time too.  Now that the cast of characters has been established, the first thing that will happen is that my dad and my husband will pack the car and say, “It won’t all fit!”  This will require my mother and me to unpack/repack the car…and not say “yes, it will!”

NATIONAL-LAMPOONS-VACATION

So here we are, ready to get underway…well, not quite 🙂  Now comes the people loading…under no circumstances can the two kids sit next to each other, unless we want to have a stop after 15 minutes of driving to pull them apart.  The teenager sits in the very back row…the little one sits immediately in front of him, a cooler under her feet – they have to sit on the same side of the van since that’s where the power outlets are and Lord knows they cannot go without their electronic devices on a car trip.  Actually, experience tells me that it is essential that they, (the teenager especially, since apparently the sound of his sister’s voice provokes him to immediate snark about said voice) be plugged into ear buds and electronic media.

A Griswold sing-a-long

A Griswold sing-a-long

I have ceased pondering this really.  I know that “in the good old days” there were no such things.  My sister and I rode all over the country in the back of a station wagon (not unlike the Griswold’s) with nothing but coloring books and crayons to amuse us.  We counted cows (that gets old FAST in Wisconsin), we “collected” license plates or played alphabet games, and sang road songs (never once questioning if it was appropriate to sing 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall), etc.  Of course, the outboard motor and the tank of gasoline in the back may have had something to do with why we slept a lot along the way!  In lieu of inadvertently anesthetizing them with fumes, I’ll settle for having my kids plug in if it maintains harmony for all passengers.

Ordinarily my parents would insist that we leave at stupid o’clock in the morning to “make the best of the daylight,” but due to extenuating circumstances, we’ll be leaving in the early afternoon and having a stopover by early evening.  This will necessitate another time honored horror – the family hotel room.  Thank heaven for legal requirements that won’t allow a hotel to cram all six of us into one room.  Otherwise my mom would totally argue for this in the spirit of frugality.  In the spirit of at least one person getting some sleep, we  are definitely getting two rooms, and I still predict that someone will end up spending at least part of the night in the van!

No really, I'm fine!

No really, I’m fine!

Now that we’ve gotten ourselves settled, we have to figure out where to have dinner…always a challenge between my son who eats from three food groups:  pizza, chicken tenders, or mac and cheese to my dad who maintains that any and all fast food will make him instantly sick to my daughter who is always a wild card.  This takes at least an hour to plan which will set us up to get back to the motel thirty minutes before the pool closes.  Forgetting that there is a pool at home, this generates a mad dash on the part of the seven year old to get changed and into that over chlorinated human stew for at least 20 minutes before she has to be dragged back to the room and showered before bed.

It's definitely not a waterpark...but...is that a hottub?

It’s definitely not a waterpark…but…is that a hottub?

Bright and early…at stupid o’clock…the next morning, we’ll be underway again.  I imagine we’ll arrive at our destination sometime around midday.  Ahhh, time to relax and let vacation begin right?  Wrong!  We are on for group meal numero uno – fish fry.  Part of the reason we needed the car top carrier was to make room for the giant fryers and coolers we need to bring along to lay out this spread for fifty.  My dad will be like a whirling dervish within minutes of arrival…I predict he’ll have the car unloaded and be breading blue gills in less than 20 minutes – woe onto anyone who gets in his way, or offers advice.

Fish fry...where are the french fries?

Fish fry…where are the french fries?

Doesn’t this sound like fun?!  Actually, I really love these trips.  The small trials along the way are nothing compared to the laughs that we have together, the places we see and the people we meet along the way.  Happy travels Armitageworld!