Saturday, February 16, 2008

For Valentine's Day, Roger took me out to Alchemist, a restaurant neither of us had been to. Their Heart Day dinner was warm camembert crostini with onion marmalade, pan seared veal loin and local prawns with prawn bisque and potato gnocchi, and profiteroles filled with vanilla bean ice cream with warm chocolate sauce and toasted almonds. (I kept the menu.) Roger ordered the french onion soup and the lamb duo (rack of lamb provincale and braised lamb cheeks with caramelized yam) from the regular menu and the sorbet for dessert.

We had fun dressing up and going out for a special occasion, though as we walked to the restaurant, we realized we'd both forgotten to put our wedding rings after our showers. The lights in the dining room were low, the table candlelit. A variety of small gatherings were there--a couple with one of their mothers, several tables hosted pairs of couples, and the last group of the night was a party of eight.

What we liked best was being able to sit across the table from each other. Realizing that we are in the same space (the same time zone!) is one of our recurring delights.

And then, as though it weren't enough that Roger and I got to actually, finally be face-to-face on Valentine's Day, we got a phone call this morning from Overwaitea, our grocery store, telling Roger that he'd won the Valentine's Day gift basket from the deli counter. Woohoo!

I would've taken a picture of it, but before we'd gotten home, we had is dismantled. Bits and pieces had already been shared between us and a friend we stopped to see.

In the basket:
  • Crackers
  • Grueyere and brie
  • Shortbread cookies
  • A jar of chile pepper jelly
  • Ferraro Rocher chocolate hazelnut balls
  • Lindt truffles
  • De-alcoholized champagne
  • Gift certificate for a pedicure
Guess who gets the pedicure. :)

The basket came with a big tacky Valentine's Day balloon, which we thought might make a fun cat distractor. (She was unfazed, for the most part.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Days 5 & 6 (December 12 & 13)
Wedding: December 13, 5:30

We are fortunate that all the nasty weather preceded us on our route. Ice storms rolled across the Midwest just as we were leaving Boise, so the roads were mostly cleaned up by the time we needed them.

I forget where I took this picture; it was at one of the rest stops in... Iowa, maybe? Snow and ice covered everything in the Midwest--except the roads, lucky for us. Radio reports said lots of people in the towns we drove through were still without power.

Our drive across Wyoming was done mostly at night because, even though we were really tired, every time we tried to pull over to sleep, huddling in our bucket seats under whatever makeshift covers we had. But, as you can imagine, it got cold awfully fast, so we only stopped for an hour or so every time we pulled over.

Every five miles or so there were gates and potentially blinking lights announcing roads ahead were closed. Fortunately, we were almost to Laramie, Wyoming before we actually encountered a closed road, and we found out that it wasn't due to weather conditions, but that there had been an accident that made a mess out of the whole road. Now, I hope the damage was all to the vehicle and that the person(s) in the car were okay, but we had more than 1200 miles to drive in under 30 hours with questionable road conditions ahead. We decided not to gamble that the accident would be cleared in less time than it would take us to detour through the corner of Colorado, so we took a U.S. highway to I-76 just fifty miles east of Denver. Snow was blowing across the road in snaky theater-fog fashion the whole detour (but the scenery was very pretty--rocky hills and evergreens covered in snow).

Aside from pulling over every now and then to sleep or to get fuel, food or coffee, the race from Boise to Pemberville was uninterrupted by further delays, but we were still going to be cutting it close. When I called my family Wednesday night with a progress report, we were only just getting to Des Moines. They were all skeptical that we'd make it, and I was having doubts of my own (I didn't need theirs, too). But Roger just kept driving. His fatigue didn't really start to show till we were just outside of Chicago, around 6:30 AM. It was not a good time to encounter rush hour traffic full of people who didn't care to use their signals.

But we pushed through, and then just a little while (and a few confusing traffic signs) later we were in (oh rejoice!) Indiana! Less than four hours to Ohio and it was only 7:30! Ah, but wait... there was a time line somewhere in there. So it was 8:30.

Roger convinced me not to cancel my hair appointment, though we clearly weren't going to make the time. (I hadn't showered in two days and I was certainly going to shower before my hair was done.) After I'd called Mom to let her know where we were and what kind of time we were making, Roger arranged for my hair to be done as soon as we got to the salon and then he called Jim, our officiating pastor, and I forget who else he called, but I felt better when he was done and reassuring me that everything would be fine and be at least close to being on time.

I'd said, "Let's just get out of this state!" so many times by now, but do you know the longest stretch of road was actually the hour from the Indiana/Ohio border to Pemberville?

And then, oh my goodness, there was the Lemoyne exit and there was Pemberville Road and there was Pemberville's water tower and oh, my parents' street! We'd made it! 1:00 and hours to go! (Wedding: 5:30.)

Mom & Katie paused their Christmas decorating to help Roger get our stuff inside and I took a shower, and I was barely dried off before I was being hastened into that car again (which I was really quite sick of after over 30 hours or driving, sleeping & eating in it) to go get my hair done, get the marriage license, pick some things up on the way to Jim's house By the time we got to Jim's house, it was 4:30 and when we left his house, it was 5:00, and Roger still hadn't showered.

This is a picture Roger took at the salon after he finished taking the OPI Ink polish off my toes. Amber, my stylist in Bowling Green, was so wonderful--she was waiting for me when I walked in the door.

Next in the sequence: The Wedding
(but you'll have to wait till I get the picture from my mom, who got the proofs first)
or you can go to here, though we probably won't be there for long--we're near the end of the list now. password: 121307)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Day 2 (December 9)

You know what I liked about driving across Oregon? There were trains everywhere. Across the river from our rest stop, there were train tracks. Just about all our driving the night before had been next to tracks. Mountains were lit up by the trains' lights and it took me forever to realize it was a train, not amazingly bright lights from the truck(s) in front of us.

This was the morning of December 9, 2007, at the rest stop, somewhere near Hood River on I-84. You can't really see it, but there's a train there, really there is. You can see it over the patch of weeds.

So we packed up and headed out and got all of about half a mile before our V-belt broke. We called AAA and the wonderful guy who towed us to The Dalles (everyone pronounced this differently) took us to a parts place to get a new belt and then to a car wash his buddy managed and arranged for us to use a dry bay so Roger could change the belt out of the wind. A few hours later we were on the road again. We stopped by a place called Cousins to eat lunch--they made wonderful french toast out of their huge cinnamon rolls--and then we were on our way again. The rest of the day was uneventful as far as the van went; she worked like she was supposed to. (Well done, Roger.)

View Larger Map

Day 3 (December 10)
An uneventful morning, until about two hours on the road. We got up and were just entering Nampa, Idaho, when we came to some stopped traffic. And the van died as Roger slowed down. Great.

He managed to cold-start it by turning around in one of those emergency vehicle turn-arounds we'd stopped by (which sloped down to the oncoming lanes), and we went back to the last gas station we'd passed--and just as we were pulling into a parking space, it stopped again.

Roger's theory was that it'd been cold enough the night before to make our diesel sludgy, so all we needed was a place to warm it up. We called AAA again and were towed to a VW dealer in Boise. When we were pulled into the service bay, the writers all gathered around and asked, "Umm... what's this?"

None of the employees had seen an old VW van before. And ours, being from Germany (not as an import), was especially strange because the information was in different places. None of their computers could tell them anything about anything on our van. The VIN #
brought up nothing. The engine #, nada. Whatever other various ID #s they tried to use didn't help. They agreed to let us use the bay to warm up the van and see if we could start the van after the diesel had a chance to de-sludge.

It didn't work. They offered several places we could have the van towed to, since no one there had any experience with vans that weren't Eurovans. The first guy Roger called couldn't get anyone else in till the middle of January and the second guy, Phil, said he was pretty busy and probably wouldn't be able to get to it right away, but when Roger told him that we were supposed to be in Ohio on Thursday to get married, he said to have it brought in and he'd take a look at it. So we had it towed to Phil's Wagon Works.

I don't remember everything that was tested, but we took a room in Boise that night, the Ameri-Tel right next to the only major shopping mall in Boise. We walked over and got Roger's hair trimmed (which wasn't necessarily a great idea since we couldn't explain how it usually gets cut) at one of the department stores and got really turned around. The mall there is two stories and has these computerized directories that revert to the basic screen before you can get your bearings. Argh. We finally asked a mall employee how to get to the Olive Garden, which we knew was right outside one of the exits. Yummy dinner (but I miss the old breadsticks).

We looked up flights from Boise to Toledo, Ohio that night. And to Detroit. And to Columbus. And to Las Vegas (because we thought that we might be able to get cheaper flights if we detoured that way). No matter how we routed it, we couldn't fly at the last minute in December for less than $3000 round trip for the two of us, and the better flights for our schedule would've run at least $4000.

We hoped Phil would have good news for us the next day.

Day 4 (December 11, Tuesday)
We weren't going to hear from Phil till noon, so we went over to the mall to check out wedding rings for Roger. I'd gotten mine in June or something, when I found a ring I really liked (and I wanted to have the ring when we were finally able to be reunited). So we went to a few different stores, but only one had a ring that Roger liked (tungsten), that fit him, and that we could buy and take with us that day. (Everyone else had to special order or size the rings and it would've taken weeks for them to get a ring for him.)

So we got his ring while we were waiting for the prognosis for our van, and then we decided to stop waiting for the call--we had to check out of the hotel anyway, so we called a cab and decided to wait in the office for news.

It wasn't good.

They couldn't get the compression up. We might need a new engine. But they definitely weren't going to have the van for us that day. Phil asked if we'd looked into flights, but was appalled at the prices, so he called a couple of rental car places for us. One place wouldn't let their cars be driven more than one state away, and the other place couldn't have a car for us till Wednesday afternoon. Phil hung up from that phone call and handed us the keys to his own car (an '89 Audi--a fabulous executive car in its own time). I suppose he figured it was a good risk because he had our van, a vehicle not easy to find anywhere in North America. He made it very clear that he wouldn't normally be inclined to do it, but he had a very good feeling about us.

At three that afternoon, we were as packed as we could be into Phil's car. (Amazingly spacious, that car.) We had to be in Bowling Green, Ohio by noon on Thursday for me to make my hair appointment. And Roger had to do all the driving because I can't drive stick shift.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I guess I'll have to take this a little bit at a time, or it's going to become one of those things that gets so big you don't even know where to start. (It's a similar feeling to a kid being required to thoroughly clean her very messy room--where do you start?)

As my last post said, Roger and I are back in Powell River, which is surprisingly cold this winter. I've seen very little sun, as I expected--Powell River has precipitous winters--but the sky keeps spitting snow. (one hour it's rain, the next it's snow. If it snows at night, it's been cold enough that the snow actually stays on the ground for hours the next morning.) Long-time residents are shaking their heads, confused and not a little disappointed. People settle here, after all, because they like the temperate, almost snow-free climate.

They've had even more weather similar to the weather we left in, an unusual snow storm in November 2006. These are pictures of our van and the surrounding scenery after our first night of our 2006 trip. We'd gotten stuck in a gas station parking lot the night before (the gas station had been closed due to a power outage). See how you can't even see the cool aerodynamic front piece of our Westy's top? We hope that these winters are just weather anomalies.

Our new road trip plans for 2007 started shortly before American Thanksgiving when Roger called to tell me he'd talked to a lawyer (finally) who would help us at an affordable rate. We went through several drafts of plans, but finally decided that on December 7, I would fly to meet Roger in Seattle. I would accompany Roger on the drive to Ohio, where we would get married on December 13 in my parents' living room.

We stayed in Seattle the first day, just getting used to being around each other again, so I can't count that as the first day of our road trip. I think that day of not being on the road with each other was necessary--we really needed to get to know each other again, and we needed to do it without being encapsulated in our beloved Westy. So we started on December 8 to wend our way to Ohio. We'd decided on roughly this route: southeast through Washington, through the northeast corner of Oregon, the southwest corner of Idaho, pick up I-80 in Utah and take it all the way across that little upper northeast corner of Utah, all the way across southern Wyoming, across Nebraska, Iowa, northern Illinois and Indiana, and (finally) into Ohio.
View Larger Map
(I wanted to go through Yakima, Washington to visit a bookstore I'd read about.)

Day One of our trip, however, proved slightly vexatious. We were halfway to Yakima from I-5 when we realized that the Crystal Mountain Pass was closed, and that we needed to go through the Crystal Mountain Pass to get to Yakima. We had to go all the way back to I-5 to make a detour through Oregon. On this detour we encountered the charming little town of Enumclaw, Washington, and had lunch at a little place called The Kettle. The parking lot was packed, so we figured it was a good place to stop and grab a bite. The service was very friendly, we were the only strangers in the place, and the food was heaped onto the plates.

The other perk of having to turn around is that the new route took us through Vancouver, Washington, where we finally found tire chains (all chain, no cable) for our Go Westy! tires (Michelin HydroEdges).

We got as far as just over the Oregon border, and decided to call it a day.