Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mom's 75th Birthday in Los Angeles

My mom LOVES to throw parties and she is spectacular at it! My dad really wanted to give her one for her 75th but she just wasn't in the mood. She did mention to me, several times, that "all" of her friends were going to see Neil Diamond, but the concert was sold out. My mom LOVES Neil Diamond, I'm sure it has a little bit to do with the fact that her name is Caroline, but that's understandable! Even if I could get tickets I knew that my dad was in no way capable of taking my mom to a concert of this magnitude, but I could, and I knew it would be the most awesome gift for my mom. I spoke to the siblings and everyone was up for making the tickets a group gift so off I went in search of tickets online. WOW - could not believe the fees those ticket resellers charge you! The tickets themselves looked pretty reasonable but after you pay $50 a piece surcharge and then $20 for shipping, forgetaboutit!! I did some browsing on Craigslist and found some good seats from a woman willing to sell them to me at face value. I was pretty nervous paying in advance on Paypal, not really knowing if they were counterfeit or not, but her email signature showed that she was a CPA with an address in L.A. and she told me that if we paid through Paypal they were guaranteed...or some such thing. I knew it was a gamble but I went for it and lucky for us they were the real deal!

When I told my mom that her kids were sending her to the concert and that I, the first-born and favorite (at that moment, anyway!), was going to fly in and take her, I could feel her joy flying through the air waves! My parents have been going through a rough time recently and I knew that my mom really needed this lift. When I purchased the tickets I had no idea where we would actually be (in the U.S.) when the concert came around but I had a free ticket on Southwest and knew it wouldn't be too difficult to change if I needed to. I hoped that we would be in Idaho by then and the Spokane airport was less than an hour away and as luck would have it, that all worked out perfectly.

My parents live in Palm Desert, CA and most of our extended family lives in Los Angeles. My mom is super close with her brother and his wife (Uncle Hal & Aunt Dee) and they had planned a trip to see them in their new home in the valley and to escape the summer heat of the desert. I didn't know that they were going to be in L.A. or I would have gotten us tickets at the Greek Theater (which would have been awesome!) but instead had tickets at the Anaheim arena which was closer to the desert. My mom drove from L.A. to pick me up in Orange County, we went for a nice dinner and then headed to the concert.

I don't think my mother has ever been to a large concert like this and although she is only 75 she quite often walks with a cane and I didn't even think about this when I was trying to get the best seats - on the hindsight she would have had a much easier time had we not had to walk down a pretty steep flight of stairs without a banister. Luckily we got their early and took our time getting down the stairs, we had great seats and it was so much fun watching her take it all in. We both knew we had to leave early in order to be able to get out of their safely but we also wanted to be sure to catch "her song". He put on an amaaaaazing show and played over 90 minutes straight with no opening act! It seemed as if the concert was slowing down so we made our way, ever so slowly, back up the stairs and then perched ourselves at the top just in time to catch "Sweet Caroline" - the usher was awesome and gave us a primo viewing spot. My mom had a blast and will never, ever forget it - and nor will I!

We drove back to Los Angeles where I dropped her off at her brother's house and then I headed over to stay with my cousin Cher. Cher and I are very close - we are three years and one day apart and I hadn't seen her in at least a year. She is recently separated and in a great  condo with a big bed for us to share. It was like a slumber party for three nights! My aunt and uncle had a BBQ with more family and friends and I had such a great time seeing everyone.

Family BBQ

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho...

...posted by Bill

Beautiful view - once we got up the hill!
For the last couple of years, my friend and classmate Bruce Aaron Rasmussen (Raz) has been trying to get us to visit him in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he and his wife Cathy spend their summers. Raz has a small house on a huge piece of property on the lake and a workshop/man cave on top of a hill a few miles away. This year we made getting to see them a priority and tried to schedule our travels to be sure to get to Idaho before Raz left for his place in Oregon, where he teaches high school. As we worked our way across the northern U.S., we decided that we needed to slow down and spend more time exploring the places we were staying, which pushed back our arrival in Idaho so much we thought we might not make it in time for Raz’s going away party, but he extended his stay an extra week and we were able to get there in time to spend about ten days there.

a typical happy hour at the lake
After discussing the possibilities and issues with parking the RV, Raz suggested we park at the workshop. The gravel road up the hill was a bit challenging because it was steep, narrow, and winding and the gravel was a bit loose in places. But Bebe took the hill like a hummer and we were soon settled in behind the workshop with an excellent view of the valley below. Raz has the workshop set up very nicely with a ping pong table, dart board, refrigerator, and an outhouse, so it turned out to be an excellent place to camp. The nights were quiet and peaceful and we both slept well the whole time we were there.

Raz and Cathy were incredible hosts. Not only did Raz have a 50 amp outlet installed on the side of the workshop the day after we arrived, so we could run both of our air conditioners, but he had filler laid down on the gravel road to make it safer for the RV to get up and down the hill. Cathy cooked dinner for us several nights, which we thoroughly enjoyed and we barbequed a dinner for everyone at the workshop one night. We’re definitely looking forward to coming back.

In the middle of our stay, Debby flew down to LA to take her Mom to see Neil Diamond for her birthday and visit relatives. This was a great opportunity for me to get the windshield replaced because we had taken a hit from a rock right in the middle of the driver’s side on the way to Glacier NP. I also wanted to get the brakes checked and we found a great place in Spokane for that. The brakes turned out to be fine and they didn’t charge for the inspection, and I’m thrilled to have the new windshield. Thank God for insurance. The windshield was more than $1,000 to replace but our cost was only $100.
We only got into town once - obviously we must come back!

Raz has a lot of family nearby including several grandkids. His grandkids hung out with him at the lake most days and sometimes came up to the workshop to play. They were all very well behaved and we enjoyed their company, which is pretty unusual for us empty nesters. We even got to witness the two girls riding their bicycles without training wheels for the first time. Way to go girls.
Raz with 2 of his adorable grandaughters
We spent most days out at Raz's dock soaking up the sunshine and floating in the water - it was pretty idyllic. One day I hitched a ride on a boat with one of his friends and we went to a spot where all the Rasmussens jumped off a rock into the lake—a family tradition. Even the kids jumped in from some pretty high rocks. I got in the water to swim a bit and say goodbye to some old beers, but declined the diving—seemed like a good way to hurt myself, which I happen to be very good at. As I recall, there was a bit of whining from those who did jump about aches and pains the next day.   

The "End of Summer" party at the "Shop" & our new summer home!!
One of the things we’d been looking forward to as we worked our way across the country was Raz’s going away party. We were afraid we might miss it because of all the delays we’d had, but Raz put the party off for a week and Debby and I got to help with the preparations. Debby helped with the invitations and I helped Raz set up the workshop for the big event. The evening was a blast, with lots of family and friends and, of course, a ton of kids. We played ping pong and darts and watched the big kids drive a jeep over a junker pickup truck in the driveway. It was a fun time and a great way to wrap up our stay with the Rasmussens.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Glacier National Park!

It was just a short, hop, skip & a jump from Flathead Lake to Glacier and we got last minute reservations at the Glacier Campground, just outside of the park. The woman checking us in, who I think was the owner, wouldn't take any money from me until we decided how long we were going to stay - I don't think that's happened anywhere! She was full of incredible information on the "must-sees" and told us how ever long we were going to stay it wouldn't be long enough, and boy was she right.

We had timed our visit perfectly to coincide with Bill's friend, "Mr. Natural's" (aka Mark) arrival by train from Seattle. He comes every year to Glacier (17 to date!) by train and catches the shuttle and hitch hikes around between campgrounds. We got settled in and set off to try and find him. We knew which campground he was staying at and the only other information we had was that he was at the "hike and bike" site. We had absolutely no idea what that was or if it was even important. But after walking around for over an hour we finally found a ranger who directed us to the proper site and we found his tent...and then we found Mark! The funniest part of the whole thing was that not 10 minutes before Bill went to the bathroom and stood at the urinal shoulder to shoulder with this guy, his friend! When he came out of there all he said to me was, man did that guy stink (no showers at the campground), as he pointed to the guy walking out of the bathroom and guess who that was?! Ha ha had been a long time since he'd seen him, but come on, shoulder to shoulder and he didn't know it was him?!!!

We shared some snacks and beers and made plans for a nice, long hike the next day. We hadn't been hiking in quite a while but the day was beautiful and we started out with plans for a modest 5-6 mile "out & back" hike on the Highline Trail, knowing that if we were up to do it we could do the full loop of 11 miles. So silly us, we did the loop and it was a stupid idea! I had been feeling a bit under the weather and by the time we got home it was clear I shouldn't have pushed myself...oh well, we got to see the chalet in the middle of nowhere where you can overnight or just stop for some snacks & drinks, which was very cool.

On the Highline Trail

The next day we both needed to take it easy so we picked up Mark at his campsite and drove over to the east side of Glacier.  We stopped at Two Sisters for a yummy lunch in Babb, MT and I just HAD to order the avocado ice cream - sounds totally weird, but it was great!

Our last day in Glacier I was still not feeling great so Bill went on a hike with Mark to Avalanche Lake - from the pictures and Bill's description it sounded as if I missed a nice, easy hike but I had to get my strength back for our trip to Idaho :(. On his way back he was running down the trail and did a beautiful face plant right in front of a family he had just stopped to help! It was over a month ago and he's still whining about his knee!

Avalanche Creek

Avalanche Lake

Cascade Falls - these drain several glaciers

Our campground worked out great and they had a really good outdoor cafe there. We were lucky enough to see a few glaciers but the buzz was that by 2020 they'll all be gone...   We'll definitely be back for a longer stay, including some hiking on the east side next time.