Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blogger Toddler

Party down!  I just looked at the calendar and realized that today is my blog's second birthday!
Two years ago today my little blog was born when I wrote my first post, an exciting little tale about my new car, the first red car I'd ever owned. 

Of course, since no one knew I had a blog, no one read it until I sent out announcements a week or two later.  Better late than never...

And now, look how much she's grown!  She's had almost 5,500 visitors in two years, and she's loved entertaining every last one of them!  (I didn't add the counter until a couple of months after I started up, so I'll never know the complete number of visitors.)

Thanks so much for dropping by to see us every now and again.  I hope our blogger friendships will go on for many happy years to come! 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No Place Like Home

The road home through New Mexico, Monday, July 19th

We've been back home for two days now, and we are loving it!  My house has never been so disorganized and in need of intensive attention, but neither has my bed ever felt so comfortable!

That doesn't mean we didn't have an amazing vacation, though.  Let me share the last few days of our trip:

Day Eight, Friday: Family Fun

Ed, Sarah, and Dylan after a rousing game of miniature golf!

Not far from our resort was a place called the Fun Park.  True, it's the kind of thing we could have enjoyed anywhere, even at home, but Dylan really wanted to race Ed on the go-carts and Ed was game for it.  He always is!

Dylan and Ed race around the go-cart track.

Once we were there, the guys had to try everything, of course!  They rode the bumper boats and did major battle spraying each other across the pool.  Both of them were soaked by the time they finished.

Let the soaking begin!

Dylan also wanted to try the big slide and the bungee trampoline.  I'm not sure either of those activities were worth the cost, they were so brief, but at least now he can say he did them.

Dylan reaches the bottom of the slide.

At the end, Ed wanted to do something we girls could join in with, so we played miniature golf.  I was surprised to learn this was the first time Ed has ever played miniature golf.  He's played actual golf in the past, but he thought this was much more fun!  We all agree!

Dylan soars above the trampoline.

Day Nine, Saturday: Wildlife

Rocky Mountain National Park

Actually, our first day in Rocky Mountain National Park was Friday.  We drove halfway through the park and saw about a gazillion elk along the road.  We decided to return on Saturday and make a full day of it.

A herd of elk graze alonside the highway.

With his hunting experience and the fact that he lived in this area of Colorado for about 4 years in the late 1970s, Ed is a knowledgeable guide.  I'm always astounded by the facts he shares about the wildlife, both flora and fauna.  He has an incredible memory and a ton of practical experience.

I know who I'd want with me if I were lost and starving in the wilds.  On the other hand, as Ed would say, if I were with him I'd be neither lost nor starving!

We also saw this buck deer on the side of the road.

Ed promised us plenty of wildlife, and we were not disappointed.  We saw moose, elk, deer, and Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep, as well as several types of fowl, flowers, and plants.  Ed entertained us with facts about each one. 

A young cow moose leaves the river at our approach.

We didn't see as many moose as we'd hoped, but we did see one.  To me, that was good enough, since I had no idea moose were found anywhere besides Alaska or Canada!

A young Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep, also on the side of the road and unperturbed by passers-by

The country was gorgeous, too. We drove home through Cache la Poudre River Canyon, an area where Ed has enjoyed so many years of hunting.

Passing through the Narrows in Poudre River Canyon

It was about 7pm when we returned to Estes Park and went on a search through the downtown tourist area for a half-pound of homemade fudge. At the last minute I'd decided I wanted fudge for my last splurge before returning to home and diet. We concluded this great day by doing laundry and packing for our return.

A rock formation in northwestern New Mexico, called Shiprock

We checked out of our condo at 8:00 Sunday morning and drove back to Ed's mom's house.  We attended church in Cheyenne one last time, then enjoyed spending our final evening with Caryl.  We'll miss her!  (And we hope she'll soon decide to come live near us...) 

On Monday we drove straight home, leaving Caryl's house at 8:00 in the morning, picking up Jacob at Chris and Donna's house in Pine at 10:00, and arriving home at 9:00 that night.  It was a long, tiresome drive, but we were, oh, so happy to be back home! 

It may be trite, but it's true: Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Horses and Ghosts

Sarah (age 20) and Dylan (age 13) at one of the entrances to our resort

Day Six, Wednesday: Around the Resort

Ed didn’t feel very well on Wednesday, so after running a few errands in the morning we elected to stay close to the condo. He slept for most of the afternoon and, I admit, I napped for a few hours myself. I love vacations that have room for flexibility and relaxation!
The bridge over the river near our condo

The Big Thompson River flowing right behind our building.

We rented some movies and games to enjoy while we kicked back all day. Toward dusk, Sarah, Dylan, and I gave Ed some quiet time while we explored the grounds of the resort. One of my favorite things about WorldMark Estes Park is the Big Thompson River flowing directly behind our condo. It’s beautiful. I could easily fall asleep to the sound of its rushing waters every night for the rest of my life!

Mary on the banks of the river

Sarah and Dylan wrestle alongside the Big Thompson.

Sarah and Dylan play a short game of tetherball. That’s our condo on the right behind them.

At the end of our explorations, we were walking back along the river from the other side of the property when we realized there were two large bull elks grazing just across the water from us. I tried and tried, but it was too dark by then to get a good picture of them. Still, we had fun following them along the bank and watching them.

One of the bull elks is barely visible on the right in this night shot.

Day Seven, Thursday: Horses and Ghosts

Thankfully, Ed was feeling much better today so we were able to do some of the activities we’d planned. We began with a horseback ride first thing this morning.

Ed, Mary, Sarah, and Dylan on their trusty steeds!
(Mary rode Bucket, Sarah rode Raymond, and Dylan rode Big Mac. Ed never learned his horse’s name.)

Dylan, ever the athlete, is a natural on horseback.

Our wrangler-guide Amy led us high up into the mountains over some pretty rough terrain. I thought it was exciting. Sarah said it’s her last horse ride. Ever. We actually climbed almost 1,000 feet higher into the mountains, to an altitude of more than 8,000 feet.

The view from 8,000 feet before we headed downward to cook’s camp.

After about an hour and forty-five minutes on horseback, we arrived at the cook’s camp where we feasted on scrambled eggs, sausage, and pancakes. Believe me, we were famished by then!

Dylan, Mary, and Ed have breakfast in the clean mountain air.

We followed a shorter route back to the stables, which led us over gentler hills and took only half an hour. I’m actually not too sore, which surprises me after more than two hours on horseback! Especially since it’s been 2 years since I last rode.

Sarah joins us for breakfast while Dylan takes the picture.

We returned to the condo for a quick nap (since we got up so early for our ride), and then we headed to the HUGE Stanley Hotel to take a “History and Ghosts Tour.” Ed was interested in the history and I was interested in the ghosts—well, I was actually interested in the hotel’s connection to the book and movie versions of The Shining.

The Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s book The Shining, is in Estes Park.

Many of the people on the tour seemed to truly enjoy it. Several obviously believed the hotel is haunted and claimed to experience the presence of something otherworldly. Ed did his best not to scoff openly throughout the tour. He was disappointed with the small amount of history covered in more than an hour and a half. I was disappointed that we weren’t able to enter some of the more famous “haunted” rooms. There was much more tell than show. This was mostly because there was a TV crew at the hotel, filming in those “hot spots.” Overall, neither of us can recommend the tour too highly.

The Stanley Hotel

I was interested to learn that the theatrical version of the book, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, was not filmed at the Stanley. However, Stephen King hated that version and filmed his own miniseries of The Shining at the Stanley, starring Steven Weber and Rebecca de Mornay (I preferred the miniseries myself). I was also surprised to find out that 3 scenes from Dumb and Dumber were filmed at the Stanley. Dumb and Dumber is not one of my favorite movies! (Although my boys do think it’s hilarious.)

Our melodramatic guide in front of Room 217, where Stephen King stayed while working on The Shining.

After the tour, Ed took us to get root beer floats at Hayley’s Ice Cream Parlor. We all agreed that was much more fun than the tour!

Dylan and Ed wait for our floats.

Now we’re back at the condo. Ed is making us his specialty, chicken enchiladas, while I type and the kids watch TV. How can you not love a man who cooks for you?! Once Sarah and Dylan have done dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, we look forward to a quiet evening and a visit to the pool and hot tub. What a lovely vacation this has become!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Our Colorado Vacation

Mary, Ed, Dylan, and Sarah by the water wheel at downtown Estes Park

We’re here! We’ve been in Colorado since Friday evening, of course, but my blog has been plagued by Internet connection problems. Our lodge in South Fork was supposed to have free wi-fi, but the reception in the room was too weak to be of any use. It was better if I stood on the upstairs balcony, but I still couldn’t get my pictures to download. (Flash back to my blogging attempts on the cruise ship...)

Now we’re safely ensconced at the WorldMark resort, where in the past I’ve had great luck blogging. However, it seems that our condo is in the one building where the Internet connection is down. I can get free wi-fi in the guest lobby, but I hate to spend so much time physically separated from my family. It’s so nice to blog in the same room while they’re watching TV or whatever.

Still, here I am in the lobby, attaching photos to the last blog and composing this one!

So, about our family vacation so far:

Day One, Friday: On the Road

Chimney Rock seen in the distance

Our trip out of Arizona, through New Mexico, and into Colorado was a lovely drive through some amazing scenery, especially after we entered the Rocky Mountains.

A bereaved doe on the side of the road

We also experienced some heartbreak when we saw a doe on the side of the road.  She was skittish as cars slowed to look at her, yet she wouldn't run away because she was waiting for her fawn, who had tragically been hit by a car and was never going to follow its mother again.  So sad.

Sarah, age 20, symbolically straddles the Continental Divide

We climbed higher and higher until we reached the Continental Divide, which basically follows the spine of the Rockies across the continent, north to south.

The Continental Divide Trail

Finally, just before dark we reached our lodge in South Fork and settled in for the night.

Day Two, Saturday: Almost There

We woke on Saturday morning to find we had a flat tire, so our first order of business was to find a tire repair business. Then we drove awhile before stopping for brunch.
Jacob (age 19) and Mom wait for the tire to be repaired.

It was 3:30 when we reached our first destination of the day, the home of our friends Chris and Donna in Pine, Colorado. Jacob and their son Adam have been friends since 4th grade. Adam moved to Colorado when the boys were in 8th grade, but they’ve kept in touch over the years. When Jacob told me he wanted to spend a week with Adam after he graduated from high school, we decided to plan our 2010 family vacation in Colorado.

Chris, Adam, Donna, and Jacob see us off.

We enjoyed a nice long visit and a wonderful home-cooked dinner with Chris and Donna before getting back on the road at 7:00. We left Jacob with them for the week, so he isn’t with us for the rest of our vacation.

A deer near Chris and Donna's house
What a beautiful town Pine is!  After we left Chris and Donna's home, we hadn't gone even a mile before we saw 2 does and 2 bucks!

It was 9:30 p.m. when we finally arrived at our second destination, the home of Ed's mom in Carr, Colorado.  We settled in there to spend the night.

Day Three, Sunday: The Arrival

On Sunday we got up and prepared for church.  Along with Ed's mom, Caryl, we attended Ed's old ward in Cheyenne, the Frontier Ward.  After church, we returned to Caryl's house for a pizza lunch before moving on to our final destination, the WorldMark Estes Park resort.

Sarah and Dylan pose on the steps to our upstairs condo.

It was about 6:00 p.m. when we arrived at the resort and checked into our condo.  As usual, we had a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom condo with a full kitchen and laundry room.  It's a bit smaller than the WorldMark condos we've stayed at in the past, but it will be our pleasant little home for the next week.

The living room of our condo

We took a short walk around the grounds as dusk was falling, and then we spent the remainder of the evening relaxing in the condo.

Day Four, Monday: Estes Park

Downtown Estes Park

I loved sleeping in on Monday morning!  We didn't get up until after 9:00.  Other than doing some laundry, we puttered around the condo until almost noon.  Then we did a little bit of shopping at Safeway before going to explore the Estes Park's quaint little downtown area.

Dylan, Sarah, and Ed resting between shops.

Most of the little shops were, of course, gift and souvenir shops.  It was fun to explore many of the unique items for sale there.  We were sure to purchase our usual tee-shirts to help us remember our vacation of summer 2010.  We also enjoyed lunch at Bob and Tony's Pizza, where Ed remembered eating with his mom when he took her there last year for a Meals on Wheels convention (she's a volunteer with the organization).

Sarah meets up with Bob and Tony!

Dylan and Ed play pool at the pizza joint.

The Big Thompson River flows past our condo and also winds through the downtown area.  We paused there for awhile to enjoy the sound of the rushing waters and the cool air.  I would love to have a home located on the banks of a small river like this!

The river flows through downtown.

Dylan and Sarah test the water.

Day Five, Tuesday: Cheyenne

Today we took care of some business.  We drove into Cheyenne (about 2 hours from Estes Park) and finished cleaning Ed's old apartment so his landlords can think about moving someone else in. 

Ed shows Sarah how to tickle the ivories at Kelcey's house.  I didn't know I married a piano man!

Once that task was complete, we stopped by the home of Ed's friends, Kelcey and Cindy, to visit for a couple of hours.  We had a fun visit and then returned to Estes Park around 7:00.  After Ed served us a dinner of tacos and salad, he decided on a quiet evening in the condo while the kids walked to down to the pool and I headed here to the lobby to blog.

Dylan checks his Facebook page at Kelcey's house while we visit.

Can it be?  Am I really, truly, finally caught up on my vacation blogging?!  Yes, I am!  Who knows?  Maybe tomorrow I can actually blog about tomorrow!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Looking Back

Our Colorado vacation has begun! We left home at 11:00 this morning and drove to Gallup, New Mexico; made a left turn and headed north to Durango and Pagosa Springs, Colorado; and then traveled northeast to the small town of South Fork. We arrived at 8:00 and checked into this lodge for the night:
Dylan in front of our room in South Fork, CO

Before we go any further, though, I still have to finish sharing the last two days of our honeymoon trip:

Day Nine, July 5: The Jazz Festival

Chinese food for lunch: Lauralee, Gus, and Ed 

On Monday I got to meet two more of Ed’s friends, Gus and his wife Lauralee. What a fun couple! After seeing Ed and Gus together, I can see where Ed got his sense of humor. Or maybe where Gus got his sense of humor? (The chicken or the egg…?) We ended our visit with a late lunch at one of their favorite Chinese restaurants. It was delicious!

A contact juggler at the Portland Blues Festival

It just so happened that Monday was the final day of the annual blues festival on the Willamette River in Portland. This event was one of the highlights of Ed’s life in Portland. Jerry owned a boat, so some years they would sail to the festival site and live on the boat for 10 days or so, having a front row seat to listen to the bands from the boat.

Huge crowds at the jazz festival (this was less than a quarter of the crowd)

So of course Ed wanted to share the festival with me. We picked up Jerry and drove down to the Willamette River. In particular, both guys wanted to enjoy the band “little feat.” While they performed, we got barbecued sandwiches at a booth and Ed found us seats under a canopy where we could watch the band on TV and on stage at the same time!

The band “little feat” appears onstage and on television at the same time.

The blues festival is a benefit for the Portland Food Bank. This year it raised more than half a million dollars! It was wall to wall people while we were there, but it was a good time.

After the festival, we returned to Jerry’s place, where he dug out some old photos of Ed during his Portland years. I must say, Ed looked pretty hot with facial hair! Jerry promised to email the pictures to me. I can’t wait to get them!

Day Ten, July 6: The Oregon Coast

On Tuesday Ed surprised me with a drive to the Oregon coast. He knows how much I miss the beaches of California. A day on the Pacific coast was perfect!

The front of Camp 18’s restaurant

We began at 8:00 with breakfast in the town of Elsie (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t named after my niece!) at an old logging camp that’s now a nice restaurant called Camp 18. All around the property are huge pieces of logging equipment from the 1920s to the 1940s. As a mechanic, Ed finds all that to be fascinating!

Camp 18’s sign and some of the old logging equipment

Ed gets a kick out of the old tractor

After breakfast, which was mighty tasty, we spent some time checking out the property, which was filled with fun artwork and sculptures as well as the old equipment.

Mary flirts with an old timer at Camp 18

Next we drove up the coast to Astoria, one of the northernmost coastal towns in Oregon. There, we spent a couple of hours at the Maritime Museum Ed had always wanted to tour. It was pretty interesting!

Rescue scene on an actual retired Coast Guard rescue boat at the Maritime Museum in Astoria, OR

At the end of the tour, we were able to go onboard a lightship called the Columbia, which was used in place of a lighthouse in places where it was necessary to warn ships but not feasible to build a lighthouse. I was amazed that a crew of 20 men could live in such a small space!

We got to explore this ship, the Columbia

We accidentally spent a few minutes in the state of Washington when we took a wrong turn and found ourselves on the Astoria Bridge. There was nowhere to turn around until we’d driven all the way across the Columbia River to the Washington coast!

The bridge from Astoria, Oregon, to the Washington coast

From there, we drove down Coast Highway 101, traveling from Astoria to the town of Tillamook. Yes, that’s where they make the cheese! (I always figured Tillamook cheese came from India or someplace exotic like that.)

A view of Cannon Beach, Oregon

Along the way we admired the glittering blue waters of the Pacific, pausing to take pictures and walk along the beach. The water was chilly, even though it’s July!

Mary enjoys walking along Rockaway Beach on the Oregon coast

Ed asked me, “Did you ever think we’d be holding hands and walking on the beach?”

Watching workers "cut the cheese" from the observation deck at Tillamook

Several years ago, Ed took his parents to tour the Tillamook cheese factory. As a former farm kid (born and raised on a dairy farm until he was 16), he really enjoyed the tour and so we did the tour while we were there.

It was very interesting, especially watching the employees hard at work in the factory, weighing, cutting, and packaging the cheese. There was also a cheese sampling room, which was fun.

Mary and Ed enjoy some Tillamook ice cream cones at the end of the tour.

After exploring the gift shops (more fun tee shirts), we splurged on yummy cones stuffed with delicious Tillamook ice cream. I admit, that was my favorite part of the tour!

By the time we returned to our hotel room, it was after 7:00. We packed up and called it an early night. On Wednesday we were up bright and early and on our way back to Seattle to return our rental car and catch our flight to Phoenix.

Ed, Mary, Karla, and my nieces Addison and Mariah enjoy a Mexican dinner out.

My sister Karla picked us up at Sky Harbor Airport. We took care of some banking business before going to Karla's house to visit for a bit. On our way out of town, we all went to enjoy dinner at Mi Amigos. Mmmm!

And there you have it! From here on out I can concentrate on chronicling our Colorado adventures!