Wednesday, July 30, 2008

End of Michigan Trip

July 18-20

We left Toronto early in the morning in order to get back in time for the insurance adjuster to inspect Mom's roof.  On the way out of Toronto we almost had goose liver pate.  A Canada Goose stepped off the left shoulder and began walking through traffic...right in front of my car.  I couldn't swerve much because there was a tanker truck on my right.  That goose kept right on walking towards the car in some sort of  suicide mission.  I managed to get past it, but in my rearview mirror I saw it keep going across traffic.  I never saw it fly away, but I also never heard a crash either.

We got home about 2pm.  We had Chicken Coop Chicken for lunch which was nostalgic and met the adjuster.  On Saturday, Mom had a wedding to go to, but I got the chance to meet up with Chris Timmer (a family friend) and Saje (a high school friend).  It was a relaxing day.

Our road trip totals (according to the GPS) are as follows:
1794.5 miles driven
199 hours and 24 minutes total trip time
35 hours and 56 minutes total drive time
50 mph average driving speed

On Sunday, I left to return home to California and get ready for the next trip.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Toronto Tour

July 17, 2008

We started the day with a lovely breakfast out on the back deck and Jeff & Doreen's house and then we took off for a driving tour of downtown Toronto. Doreen was better than Grayline and we still got the little bits of trivia like the fact that her office at the Toronto Star is at 1 Yonge Street and that that street is the longest in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. We saw the University of Toronto and Trinity College.

After the driving tour, we headed to St. Lawrence market and did some touristy shopping. There was a tissue box holder there that hangs on the wall and looks like an island mask. The tissues come out of the statue's nose!! I laughed a lot and decided it would be PERFECT for my middle school classroom.

In the afternoon we went to visit my mom's cousin Henny and her husband John in Toronto. We had a nice afternoon hanging out in and near the pool and chatting. It was a great afternoon. Tomorrow we head back to Kalamazoo.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ithaca and Niagara

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yesterday was a wonderfully restful day in Ithaca with Molly. After a late night talking, we slept in and then Molly and I headed out to pick up Mom at her hotel. We came back to Molly's for a nice lunch and then headed out for some shopping. My mom wanted to go to an antique mall, so found one and spent about an hour wandering through a large 2-story antique store.

I have a store that I like and we don't have near my house, but there is one in Ithaca. I had bought a skirt there last summer when I was visiting Molly and, after wearing it only a few times, the seams fell apart because of the fabric. I was going to see if I could get my mom to fix it, but she suggested that I just bring it back to the store. We went to the store and I explained the story to them and they gave me a store credit for it. This wasn't a problem because there were a few things I wanted to get there anyway. I tried on a bunch of stuff and got feedback on color coordination from Molly and my mom. I ended up with a couple really nice outfits for the fall. As we were walking out of the mall, my mom and I had our pictures taken in one of those mall photo booths.

In the evening, we went to The Boat Yard Grill. It was on the water of the inlet to one of the "finger lakes" in New York. Our table was by the window and we could see boats heading in and out of the marina. After dinner we walked along the path by the lake. We brought Mom back to her hotel by around 8:30 pm and then Molly and I went home and watched Juno. I hadn't seen it and I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes when you hear so much about a movie, it becomes a disappointment just because it doesn't live up to everyone raving about it. Molly and I were up late deep in conversation, which made this morning come really early!!!

I picked Mom up at 8am and we started the 5 hour drive to Toronto. The GPS initially encouraged us to go around the north of Lake Ontario, which we vetoed after looking at a map. It may have been "faster," but we wanted to see the Niagara Falls. The funny thing was that, after we stopped for gas and turned the car back on, Thea GPS re-routed and sent us the way we WANTED to go. Apparently, she was "listening"--isn't technology creepy!!!

We parked on the Canadian side of the falls and walked back toward the falls. We walked by a really nice botanical garden and wandered by the fountains. We then headed over to the falls. I'm always amazed by how much water there is going over the falls. We did watch a couple of the boats approach the bottom of the falls.

We are now enjoying Jeff and Doreen's hospitality in Toronto, Canada:-)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Toilets and Turtles

July 14, 2008
We took off early from the Dagen house after a warm send off and a great much better than homemade jam is there? We were on the road by 7:30am, so it was a our first really early start. Part way there we stopped off at a rest area to stretch our legs. They had handicapped picnic tables that we used. There wasn't really a line for them and I didn't want to hike up through the wet grass to the other ones.

After mom came back from the restroom, she told me that she had a new pet peeve--low toilets! She can't figure out if the toilets are getting LOWER or if she's just getting older. She
has concluded (and I agree) that she is probably not getting
TALLER, so there must be another explanation. I went in and used the restroom and did agree that they were low, but I've been feeling that for some time also.

We arrived in Ithaca at about 12:30, so it was exactly 5 hours. We used the map to override Thea's directions ("Thea" is the GPS) and go more directly, but on less travelled roads. There was some great scenery. We ate lunch with Molly and then headed out to Lower Buttermilk Falls. There was a hike of many steep stairs on the far end of the falls. We went up about 50 steps together and then Mom and Molly stopped while I hiked up 150 more. Apparently, I could have kept going for about a mile, but I turned around because they were waiting.

For dinner, we went to the famous Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca. I had a lentil dish with Mango Chutney and the others had stuffed portobello mushrooms. We walked around the
Ithaca Commons and a group was starting to warm-up for an outdoor contradance. It was nice to hear "Nancy music" with Molly. There was also a store with t-shirts. Many of them were plays on the city phrase, "Ithaca is Gorges." There were 2 shirts that were next to each other and I missed the pun, but my mom got it. Here's the visual:

After our walk, we indulged one more time and went to Purity Ice Cream. We each ordered a sundae: Mom-Chocolate Chip Cookie, Molly-Carmel Overload, and Kimberly-Turtle. We were waiting for our sundaes and they came out 1 at a time, even though we ordered together. When we were just waiting for mine, Mom said, "We're just waiting for the Turtle. I guess it's slow!" We all had a good laugh!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Church and Chocolate

July 13, 2008

I was awakened this morning to a cool breeze and the sound of horse hooves clip-clopping on the pavement outside my window. What a lovely way to wake up!! My mom and I went with the Dagens to Neffsville Mennonite Church. At one point during the sermon my mother leaned over and asked me if the Mennonites believe in predestination, based on something the pastor said. The short answer during the sermon was “no.” A longer explanation followed in the car this afternoon.

After church, the two of us took off to the mall and then to an outlet mall. We found some fun things (like shorts and a hat for my Guatemala trip) and then found Amish Stuff…that was really the name of the store. I had been wanting to see Hershey, PA, so we decided to drive the 20 or so miles and look around. During the trip, 2 fun things happened. First, we drove through an AMAZING thunderstorm. It absolutely poured and the lightning was spectacular. Second, we were listening to some songs on a Christian radio station. (Not the “fun” part yet…) The announcer came on between and said coming up was the Clydesdale…Choir. Both my mom and I thought of Clydesdale HORSES! I was picturing horses singing and she was just picturing the horses.

When we got to Hershey we drove through the campus of the Milton Hershey School. A former co-worker of mine is a house parent there. Her family is on vacation, but I wanted to check out the school. We then drove over to Hershey’s Chocolate Town and had a light dinner. It was crazy busy because of the rain driving everyone indoors, but it was interesting. I did have Hershey Chocolate Milk and Chocolate Barbeque Sauce (not together.). The sauce didn’t taste much different from other BBQ sauce. In the gift shop there was a little boy with his parents. He was about 3 years old. They showed him some stickers that had his name on them and he exclaimed, “They knowed me, Mom!” I just looked at the mom and smiled. (Of course, they got him the stickers!)

Tomorrow we head up to Ithaca to see Molly.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lancaster County-One of the 10,000 villages?

July 12, 2008

Well, after a very late night it was also a late start. We were only about 1 ½ hours from Craig’s parent’s house, though. We stopped for lunch at a Sonic Burgers. Apparently, it has newly opened in the area. My mom really liked the skating car hops and took some pictures. We arrived at the Dagen’s around 2pm and I was greeted by Craig’s dad, Nelson, with a big hug and a punch to my arm. His first words were something like, “I’m just following directions.” My response was, “You talked to Craig, huh?” He said they had just gotten off the phone earlier today. This is often how Craig greets me. The only thing missing was a head-butt. We got some of the luggage in, had a drink, and then we took off to go see the Ten Thousand Villages store. It was beautifully painted outside and HUGE! (I guess it’s one of the first ones.) It had a café and one whole room with handmade rugs from Pakistan. There was one that really intrigued me with a map of Pakistan and Afghanistan on it and then a border of all sorts of flags from different countries. None of these rugs were in my budget (I saw one for $7300), but it was nice to admire them.

My mom and I stopped a couple other places and then headed back to the Dagens’. Barb made a wonderful lentil and barley dish and we had AMAZING fresh corn (some of the first of the season.) It was SO sweet that the four of us finished 10 ears!! After dinner, we went outside and Barb gave us a tour of her herb garden and flowers. Neither my mom nor I can grow or know anything about plants, so it was interesting. Lots of wonderful sights and smells. We all sat out on the porch and watched lightning bugs and some distant personal fireworks as the local church bells rang out an evening tune. There is an Amish neighbor with horses and near sunset there was a colt that came out with its mom behind the white rail fence. We could still see it over the 5-6 foot corn, but the Dagens said it would not be seen when the corn got taller. It was the epitome of a bucolic moment. Definitely worth a contented sign.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friend-ly connections

July 11, 2008

There’s some “guest blogging” that will happen because of stories that happen to my mom when I’m not around. There are 2 such stories today. I’ll paraphrase the stories b/c she isn’t a typist.

1st Mom story (in her voice, sort of): “I went to the lobby to get some breakfast. When I got to the toaster, this woman told me that she had her toast in one side because there was a piece of bread in the bottom of the other side. I tried to get it out, but it wouldn’t come, so I just put my bread on top. I pulled my bread out when it was done enough for me. I went to sit down and the lady in the lobby said, “The toaster’s smoking.” I said, “You’re toaster’s on fire.” The young kid in the lobby said, “Oh, someone open the door so I can throw it out.” I opened the door for the kid and he went and dumped the toasted upside down and shook the burning toast out. When I came back in, the smoke alarm was going off and the hallway door had closed as a safety thing. I thought, “I’m not going to stay here in the lobby, I’ll go back to the room.” I had to put my glass of milk in my mouth so I could get that heavy door open, but I got it and got back to the room.”

Back to Kimberly: We took off around 9am and headed the rest of the way into Philadelphia. I had reserved a hotel room on-line so we knew where we were heading. We stopped for lunch at Ruby Tuesdays b/c I was hoping that they would have good iced tea (I was disappointed:-( ), but they did have a good salad bar with non-iceberg lettuce and spinach (healthy, healthy:-)

We got into our room and ready to head into town around 3pm. We asked how to get there and it was suggested that we take the train into town. The shuttle from the hotel to the airport dropped us off at the train and I asked him if looping back through that station was part of his regular route. He said no, but gave us the number for the hotel to call and request that he come. We got on the train right away. I bought a roundtrip ticket for Mom and a one-way for myself b/c I was meeting up with a high school friend who lives in the city. We went into the Market East station and got off underground in a mall. We got up and out and walked over to the Liberty Bell. Sometimes I wonder why I think I’m smarter than the signs in a city I don’t know. I knew it was 1 block over from the street we were on, but when you turn your map 90 degrees to the left instead of 90 degrees to the right, you turn the wrong way!! We went one block over (the wrong way) and walked near Chinatown, but after a couple blocks, headed back to the main street. I guess my mental GPS is not as refined as it used to be!!

We walked by the outside of the Liberty Bell. You can see it through the glass and that was good enough for me. I couldn’t see the side with the crack, but I’ve seen that in pictures my whole life. I had actually never seen the side WITHOUT the crack!! It was around 4pm and I was meeting up with Julie Vandermay, a good friend from high school, at 5pm. My mom and I walked around and then found a little Italian restaurant for a snack and to wait for Julie. She met up with us around 5 and then we walked my mom back to the mall/train station and then headed over to her house.

I had a wonderful time with Julie. We walked over to her and Tara’s home. It’s a beautiful 4-story, narrow home. There is a kitchen/dining room down one level from the street, up one level is a living room and outdoor patio, up another level is master bedroom and bath, and, on the top floor, are home offices. It is warm, cozy, and beautiful. I also met Lucy the poodle. She’s wonderfully sweet and my favorite trick was the fact that she rolls over to have her paws wiped off when she comes in from walking:-)

After a nice chat in the patio, we went to a fun Italian restaurant on the street by the Italian market. It’s a local place and there was even a picture of Rocky on the wall. Great food and more great conversation. For dessert, we went to a chocolate bar called the Naked Chocolate Café. Drinking chocolate, sipping chocolate, chocolates that would put See’s Candy to shame! Fortunately, one of the things you can order is a glass of cold milk to wash it down. We walked back to Julie’s house and chatted alone and with friends that came over until around 2:30am!! Julie brought me back to the hotel and we were both really glad we had reconnected.

Mom Story #2: When she got back to the station near the hotel she called the hotel for a pick up. After 2 more trains had come and gone, she called a second time. They again said they’d send someone. When no one came again, she called me. We were both having flashbacks of my Paris train experience, however, I knew we could just drive over and take her to the hotel and there were no language difficulties. I called the hotel and told them that my mom was there all by herself and that I needed someone to pick her up IMMEDIATELY. Mom called me a few minutes later and told me she was in the shuttle and on her way to the hotel. She told me later that the driver felt so bad that he gave her a free appetizer in the restaurant. She decided to get dessert instead, but was happy with that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

On the Road Again...

July 10, 2008

We took off at the crack of…noon. Actually, we made it out of Kalamazoo by 10:15am. We drove out (ignoring the GPS) and drove south on US 131 to I-80 E. We enjoyed the scenery in Indiana, Ohio, and, finally, Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, my favorite sign was a yellow warning sign that said, “Buckle Up-Next Million Miles.”

We stopped to stretch our legs at Wendell August Forge in Grove City, PA. Apparently, this is famous. (www. They do metal work and had beautiful platters, plaques, ornaments, etc. There were a few that had a very “mission style” feel to them.

My mom and I are enjoying the same kind of music from my iPod. We also enjoyed a podcast of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” The gas is UNDER $4 a gallon (not by more than 5 cents, but it’s under…) and this is very exciting for someone who paid over $4.70 last week!!

We went to Plyler’s Buffet and Family Restaurant in Brookville, PA (where we’re staying) for dinner. We were going to stay in Dubois (for those of you who watch “Medium,” I’m guessing you already knew that!), but this hotel was listed in the coupon book as cheaper. We’re using the “old school” method of finding hotels with a coupon book from rest areas. It’s working OK so far.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Getting ready to roll

July 9, 2008

Some things I miss about Michigan:

  1. The smell after a summer rain storm.
  2. Fireflies
  3. How long it’s light in the evening.

Today we had lunch with a family friend and then walked around and ran some errands while my mom’s car was in the shop for a quick fix before the trip. Applebee’s is Applebee’s no matter where you are.

One last note: My favorite place to upload my blog in Michigan is the Clean Getaway Laundromat, Car Wash, Dry Cleaner.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Travel Day

July 8, 2008

Well, it was a planes, trains, automobile, and bus sort of day. With the exception of the last 1 hour, it was mass transit. I walked to our local light rail and took the train to downtown LA. One stop before the end, the train came to a complete stop. The conductor got out of the compartment and walked outside the train to the end. She boarded on the other end and walked through the whole train and checked every panel in every car. While she was walking past me, the call came through on her radio that there was a train (ours) stalled on the tracks in Chinatown. It wouldn’t have been very far to walk from there, but we weren’t really AT the station. Fortunately, when she got back to the front, she started it up and we rolled into the final stop.
With the delay, I barely made it to the shuttle in time. I was starting to re-evaluate my decision that I didn’t REALLY need 2 hours at the airport. When I got to the terminal, I was completely disappointed American Airlines. They now charge you $15 for the first bag, $25 for the second bag. I knew this was the case, but you’d think that, if they are making between $15-40 per person, they could actually have humans at the counter. There are now 3 lines you need to stand in before security. The first line is to self check in and you get your boarding pass. Then you stand in line again to check in your bags (the line I chose didn’t move for 25 minutes). The final line is to give your bags to the TSA for them to scan. During the middle line, I was behind a couple with a little boy. As we began to move, an old woman with a walker kept merging into the line between the couple and me. I didn’t really feel it would be appropriate for me to fight her for the space, but then I realized she really was with the couple in front of me. I was glad I hadn’t been completely selfish:-)

I’ve traveled enough to know better than this, but when I got to my gate, there was no one there, even thought the plane was leaving in a ½ hour. I figured I could sit down and charge my iPod. I’m sitting, completely settled in, when the “Final Boarding Call” comes over the speaker for X, Y, and Medendorp. They had changed my gate. Yikes!! I almost missed my plane. I was the last one on and then we took off!!! When I landed, I got my shuttle bus to Michigan City, Indiana, and then I drove home with Mom and Aunt Alice. They had spent the day finding some bargains at the outlet mall.