Spoiled Rotten

Friday January 25, 2012

Yup, it’s happened already.  Not even 24 hours with my parents and I’ve already been spoiled rotten.  I knew it would happen a little bit.  I expected a few things here and there, a dinner out, a new charger for my Nook, but I was not expecting everything that came my way today.  It started out as a mommy/daughter day where I thought we’d just go out running a few errands.  Stopping at the bank to add my name to a few accounts, we then ran across the street to the salon.  I have not had a hair cut in over six months and my curls were beginning to loose a little of their bounce.  A few snips here and there, and now I can actually be able to wear my hair down again without the need to run to my flat iron.

Mentioning to my mom I needed a new pair of jeans since both of my current pairs keep falling a little lower on the hips, my mom took me to Ross.  Only planning on buying jeans, we walked through the door and my mom mentions “If you see anything else you want, tops or whatever, just throw them in the basket and we can get those too”.  Let’s be fair…you just can’t do that to a girl.  Especially not a girl who’s basically been living out of a suitcase for the past six months and has been rotating out the same five shirts for the past five months.  (I swear, one day we will get to climates where I can wear all of those tank tops I brought)  So after looking through the jeans and fining only one pair in my size that were not skinny leg or bedazzled to hell, I started in on the shirts.  “Ooooh, nautical stripes.  Oh look, this one has an anchor.  The buttons on this top remind me of the brass on the boat.”.  On and on it went, and bigger and bigger the basket grew.  To be fair though, the whole time I was riffling through the new clothes I was also thinking back to what I have on the boat and what can make it’s way to the Bathroom Sailor’s Exchange.  I was still with it enough to realize that there is no new room on the boat and anything new that was purchased would only be replacing something old.  (So you can stop giving me the stink-eye now, Matt)  Being let loose in a clothing store with a command of “Get whatever you want”,  I think I did pretty well as we came up to the checkout counter and I had only picked out two pairs of pants (teal colored skinny jeans for $14.99?  That can’t be passed up!),  and five new tops.

After clothes shopping, as if that wasn’t enough, we went in search for another gift that was desperately needed, and Matt and I have been looking to get (on our own) for quite awhile.  That would be a new laptop for me.  At the moment I have a Gateway that is about eight years old and slowly dying out on me.  It always gets the job done, it just takes it’s damn sweet time doing it, and we both had a feeling it will soon be up and quitting on us, most likely when there is no access to get a new one.  So my parents taking pity on me, and my dad making a comment of “Wasn’t that the computer you were letting me use six years ago while I was visiting from Vietnam?  That’s what you’re still using?”, said that since Matt wasn’t able to make it out on the trip as well, his airfare could be used to go toward a new laptop for me.  And with that, my mom and I went out for a search of what would be my first new laptop, since up until this point I’d always gotten the hand-me-downs from Matt. Searching about three different places we made notes of what we liked best and decided that after doing some reviewing and research later that night, we’d make a decision and go back and purchase tomorrow.

There will still other shops we could have hit up, but it was only my first day there and the sun was finally starting to poke out of the clouds.  Just my luck that I get there and the temps go from the 80’s down to the 60’s.  Today was still hovering in the low 70’s, so while I still had the chance we ran home so I could change into my suit and say I layed out by the pool.  It didn’t last long, less than an hour, and mostly just for photographic evidence that it was done.  I enjoyed a beer, hung out with my dad, and then got changed to get ready to go out to eat.  Some of my parents close friends who lived just down the street from us while I was growing up had just moved into the area and they wanted a chance to see me while I was in town.  Stopping over for a quick drink and catching up, we then all piled into their car and made our way to one of my parents favorite Mexican restaurants in the area.

The place was called Dos Gringos and they described it as having a great outdoor area.  We did end up going pretty early in the evening though, since dark clouds were closing in and we didn’t want to be rained out.  But an early dinner time also meant Happy Hour was still going strong, and $3 margaritas were quickly placed in front of us.  We weren’t even very far into them when the rain did start coming down and we had to run to a sheltered table on the other side of the restaurant.  This did, however, put us right in front of the giant Jenga set my parents had been telling me about.  At the time there were two young boys next to us playing, and although they did get a topple worthy set going, they left before it ever fell to the ground.  After we had satisfied ourselves on some chips, salsa, and ceviche, my dad and I decided to try our hand at the game as well.

We continued where the boys had left off, and after only one or two moves the whole set came tumbling down, to the applause of all the tables surrounding us.  Picking up the pieces to rearrange, and starting from scratch, we played two more rounds of the game, my dad winning each time as I always picked just the wrong piece of wood to slide out, and all the pieces crashed to the ground.  The game was put on hold as our food came, and we enjoyed our tacos and enchiladas as the sky grew dark and the strings of lights hanging over us grew bright.  Finally leaving the table after we’d had more to eat than I think any of us originally planned, we made it back to my parents house for one last nite cap before everyone parted ways.

Only one day into my ‘vacation from my vacation’, and I feel like I’ve done enough where if I had to go home tomorrow, I’d still be satisfied.  I’ve been wined and dined, taken to the salon and and on a shopping spree, and spent the afternoon lounging by the pool.  I think it’s safe to say, I’ve been spoiled rotten.

In St Augustine News:  Serendipity is beginning to get all polished and shiny.  All of the port lights have been cleaned and are sparkling like new.  A good hull polish is also in order, as soon as a buffer is borrowed from Frank. In fiberglassing news, our fiberglasser has not shown up for five days now.  If approved by the insurance company, we’re planning on giving him the boot, doing the work ourselves, and saving ourselves a nice chunk of money in the process.

Moments before it crumbled.

Mama I’m Coming Home….Again.

Thursday January 24, 2012

I knew this was going to be an early morning, and a somewhat rushed one too, they always are when you’re traveling, but I was not expecting the knock that came on hull sharply at 8 am.  The alarm had been set for fifteen minutes after 8 where I had planned on taking a quick shower, shoveling down some breakfast, and making sure all my bags were packed before departing for the airport at 9:30.  My parents ha offered to fly us out for a visit, and I was only more than happy to take them up on it.  So this even earlier wake up call that we were not expecting left us with questions of “Who is it, and what do they want?”.  Opening the door after a few seconds of pounding on the companionway and voices coming from outside saying, “Let me in, it’s cold out here!” we opened the door to find the guy that was going to be taking out the transmission and engine.  Who as far as we knew, wasn’t supposed to show up until 1:00 that afternoon, after Matt had gotten back from bringing me to Jacksonville (he has to stay behind for all the projects to commence this week).  Unbenounced to us, and even though he knew we were leaving that morning, the guy thought he would pop in for an hour or two to get the process started before the big work of actually removing the engine was to come that afternoon.

So before we were even fully awake or had the chance to get out of our pj’s, we were busy moving all the items from the aft cabin up into the v-berth and salon to make room for him to work.  And all of these new items were now being piled on top of everything we’d already moved out of the port side settee.  A project that had been done on Sunday night to make room for another guy that was supposed to come on Monday to repair all our broken tabbing.  To which he never showed up on Monday.  Or Tuesday, or Wednesday.  The boat was now literally a disaster area.  Still having to stick to my morning schedule, after helping Matt remove the bottom two steps for better access to the engine, I grabbed my shower supplies and went to get ready.  The real trick came though after I had gotten back, and needed to get dressed.  I hadn’t been smart enough to bring my change of clothes with me and was now forced to change in the head.  Which was now also full of crap that we were trying to get out of the way.  There were some real acrobatics involved changing in a space that small with no floor room.  Back in the salon   I was maneuvering around the small space, unpacking and then repacking things into my bag until I was finally ready.  We sent the engine/transmission guy packing, I gave Georgie a long hard snuggle for as long as she’d let me hold her, and took one last look at my home that I hadn’t been away from for almost six months.

Waiting outside the boat yard gates for us was Chris, and we started the hour long journey up to the Jacksonville airport.  Matt was along for the ride as Jacksonville has a very large and well stocked West Marine, and there are definitely a few more things we could use.  Getting dropped off I said a quick and hard goodbye to Matt and went to check myself in.  Initially at the wrong counter, too.  Good thing I noticed I was on US Airways and not United before I got up to the counter and made a total fool of myself.  But soon I did have my tickets in hand and a lot of time to kill when I realized I had never eaten that morning because the galley was ‘blocked’.  Having been offered Starbucks on the ride up but originally declining, the one shining in my face at the airport looked too good to pass up, plus it had a seat right next to an electrical outlet, so I rushed up and ordered a venti caramel macchiato and a scone.  It didn’t dawn on me until I was surfing the internet with a large drink in front of me that I remembered I’d probably still want to give myself an hour to get through security and to my gate.  Which left me 30 minutes to chug a piping hot 20 oz coffee.  Tried as I might, there was still a good 1/3rd left when my timer was up.

Quickly getting through security and the new x-ray machines that there is so much conspiracy about (it was my first time using one), I was sitting in front of my gate in a matter of 10 minutes.  After having passed a Starbucks inside security.  Damn.  We just didn’t have perks like that back in Grand Rapids.  Making sure I was one of the last people on the plane, because, who wants to sit on one any longer than they have to?, I was once again lucky enough not to be seated next to an over-talkative cat lady.  (Wait, that’s not going to be me now, is it?)  During the first leg of the journey (there was a layover in Charlotte) I became engrossed in the in-flight magazine and came across a very interesting book review for something I might need to find and check out of the library.  It’s mostly based on sayings parents will tell their children on safety that have rolled down the generations, and if they’re actually true or not.  Kind of a Myth Busters of ‘Don’t run with scissors’.  Before I knew it we were landing and I had to almost run through the terminal to get to my next flight, which was boarding as I got there.

During the next four hours of that flight I read up on Aruba in the same in-flight magazine (can’t wait to get there), edited some photos, and listened to music.  I can’t wait until I can get a new charger for my Nook and having that work on the way back.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the watches in the cockpit or the past six weeks of stuffing myself behind the desk at the nav station with my computer, but the seats on the plane didn’t even feel very small to me.  Bringing on two big bags since I’m not checking luggage, and then having them sit at my feet since the overhead compartment was full cramped my foot space a little, but it really wasn’t a bad ride.  After landing I walked through the Phoenix airport and it’s many levels to find my mom waiting for me at the baggage claim.  A few big hugs and we were on the way to the car where my dad was waiting for us and a cold Pepsi was waiting for me.  My favorite!  Then when I walked into my home away from home and went into the bedroom to drop off my bags there was a jar full of Skittles waiting for me on the nightstand.  Another favorite.  And the cherry on top, after getting to see my parents of course, was my engagement/wedding ring that had been stuffed away in a bank, ready for me to wear during my stay.  Do my parents know how to take care of me, or what?  I may have just walked in the door, but I can already tell this is an amazing week spending some much needed time with family, and possibly, getting spoiled rotten.

In St. Augustine news:  The pulling of the engine/transmission did not go as smooth as we had hoped.  Smooth as in, our companion way is no longer that.  Because of a few cords that should have been disconnected and were not, while the engine was being pulled out of the companionway by the crane, it snapped back and sent the engine flying into the wall.  From what Matt described to me, even with the height of the door handle for the head, there are now 7-8 pencil eraser size dents, and they’re deep.  I haven’t heard if they can be filled, but it sounded like the only way to fully repair this would be completely replace that wall.  Poor Matt.  At least he has chocolate chip cookies to soothe his pain.

Cute couple dancing to Frank Sinatra at the airport.

Comforting to read while you’re flying on a plane.


Same City, Different Address

Monday December 3, 2012

Yesterday we had my grandparents out to visit and could not have asked for a more beautiful day here in St. Augustine.  The sun was out and it was even warm enough for me to wear shorts.  Shorts!!  I haven’t done that since…..Manhattan.  With their visit we were able to spend the day relaxing and forget all about our pending boat problems.  There was only window shopping down cobblestone streets, lunch on an outside patio, and even ended the day with a nice ice cream treat.  We may have also used them to cart us around while we ran the errands that were too hard to do on foot, but hey, what are grandparents for?  There was also an invite extended to stay with them should we need to while repairs are being done on Serendipity, they only live three and a half hours away, but we’re both hoping it won’t come down to that.  Just a day or two (or an hour) out of the water and we’ll be good to go again.

Waking up to clouds and rain today we weren’t worried about missing out on sightseeing the town again since our ever awesome Tow Boat US Captain, Justin, was swinging by to pick us up and deposit us at the St. Augustine Marine Center.  Coming in on Thursday night not under our own power we figured Matt would jump in the water at some point to cut loose the line that was wrapped around the prop and make it so we could move ourselves again, but since we’re now Tow Boat US members and our membership entitles us to free tows we decided to take advantage of that and save Matt the dive into the water.  I wonder if that was wise though, it probably would have forced him to finally get our snorkel gear that we still haven’t bought yet.  Still high on the list of priorities?  I think it counts.

When Justin arrived he was fully prepared for the rain sporting his foul weather gear while I foolishly thought my thin jacket would do the job.  Getting my glasses fogged and covered in rain drops I started cleating the lines Justin threw me until I realized I’d have to undo the line for the mooring to get the tow line underneath it.  This led to a game of tug of war between myself and the mooring line and since it was becoming such a close battle I let Matt tie on the rest of the lines from Justine while I slowly inched my way up to the ball where we were tied on.  I felt like I was winning the battle until it was time to untie ourselves from the mooring and cold and tired I handed the line to Matt while I took refuge under the bimini.  Floating off into the bay Justin put a call into the draw bridge and for once I was happy to not have a care in the world of when it opened because it was neither of us trying to fight the current to keep our boat in place.

The ride was a fairly short one, just over a mile down the Matanzas River and then up a little side creek where we were parallel parked between a couple of catamarans.  The first order of business was to get ourselves checked in and luckily the rain had stopped while we blindly wandered the yard through huge  puddles to find the office.  The yard was huge and there were a variety of buildings and boats sheds and so many boats on the hard with work being done to them.  Spotting what happened to be the back of the office building we snuck in and aimlessly wandered through the halls and to the reception desk where we were helped immediately and with a smile.  Filling out some necessary paperwork we were directed to the service manager that I had been speaking to on the phone Friday and we got to relive our sob story once more as we went over what happened and what we thought the damage might be.  Then with a promise to be hauled out first thing the next morning we were left with the rest of the day to spend at a boat yard.

And what do boatyards have to offer?  HOT SHOWERS!!  Which felt so good on a cold rainy day like this.    And the best part is we don’t even have to dinghy over to them.  We can just step off our boat to hard ground and be on our way.  Pretty nice perk.  After the showers once we were clean and changed into dry clothes the sun made it’s way out again and we took a late afternoon stroll through the yard to check out all the other hundreds of boats sitting there as well.  Hopefully this will only be home for a few days, but we may as well start spying on the neighbors.

Now if only we had that kind of power.

At least some people know how to dress for foul weather.

Sorry kitty, you’ll never wear the pants in this family.

Should the world flood on December 21st, at least we will have this.

Gallery Place

Saturday October 13, 2012

Even though our friends on Rode Trip can’t make a port without running into some kind of family or friend, this was the first time that we were going to see a familiar face of our own. My cousin has been living in the D.C. Area for quite awhile and we couldn’t pass through without giving her a call to meet up. Letting her be the guide of the city we put ourselves in her hands to pick a location to meet for lunch. While getting some quick directions over the phone she had us going to what was called Gallery Place and told us to meet her under the ornate arch by the Metro. The next morning when we looked at our map provided by the yacht club (a very handy tool we used incessantly) we saw that Gallery Place was Chinatown. We always seem to miss going to Chinatown in any big city we visit, so we were quite excited that she chose a place we probably wouldn’t have thought to go on our own. With the Metro being just a half mile from the yacht club we decided to skip it and make our way on foot as it was just over a mile and we love the slow pace and getting to see more of the city. Once we got past the mall the streets became urban and slightly reminded us of New York City, which is always a good thing in my book. We could tell we were getting into Chinatown when all the signs for stores and restaurants were marked in both Engligh and Chinese. The only issue was I had forgotten the street corner we were supposed to meet at and then we were off on a search to find an ornate golden arch. After doing a circle of a city block we found it and waited just a little bit for my cousin to arrive as there was construction on the Metro that delayed her.

 When we all met up and she asked if we were in the mood for Chinese food, which we definitely were over the Fudruckers and Subway also on the block.  She mentioned a place she had been to many times with my Aunt and Uncle while they were in town and walked us down the street toward it.  Walking up the stairs into the restaurant we were greeted with tanks of lobsters and crabs, so large they put our catches to shame and just after I felt proud of them at the fish market.  The menu was pages and pages long and it took us a long time between reading and catching up before any of us were ready to order.  The food was brought out sporadically with my lemon chicken coming out what felt like ten minutes before the other plates of beef and broccoli or general tso chicken.  For the next hour we caught up with my cousin on what she had been up to since the last time we had seen her and also what was going on with the family in general.  She was at a wedding for another cousin of mine just a few weeks after we left and it was nice to trade stories from that time and when we had last seen everyone.

When lunch was over it was later in the afternoon and we didn’t think we’d have time to still make it to a museum since they all close at 5:30 and went to bring our leftovers back to the boat. Feeling bad that it was still somewhat early and we hadn’t done much we started looking through links of things to do in town. There were a lot of interesting things listed but most of them needed a full day dedicated to them or at least an earlier start. When we got to information on the Kennedy Center it gave information on a section that put on free concerts every night, usually just a single artist playing up on stage. Looking to see who was playing that night it was a Bluegrass artist that we had never heard of but we thought it would give us a chance to get off the boat and see some more of the town. Assuming it would be an outdoor concert at an amphitheater, usually where concerts are held, we packed our backpack with a large blanket and some hats and gloves. The nights were getting cold and I almost froze on the way back from the grocery store last night after the sun went down. Giving ourselves an hour to walk the mile and a half we left the yacht club with our noses buried in the map.  Having walked down the mall up to the Washington Memorial a few times now we took some side roads to skip that part but did cut in for the reflecting pool and Lincoln Memorial.  Back when I was in middle school I had come here on spring break with my family and we got up extremely early on Easter Sunday to go to a church service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and watch the sun rise over the reflecting pool.  This was Matt’s first time in DC but the sunset we saw was just as beautiful as the sunrise I remember and I’m glad we got to share in the beauty together.

With time running out and only twenty minutes now to make the start of the concert we cut across a few more side streets in search of the Kennedy Center.  Now we were going back and forth from the paper map in our hands and the map on Matt’s cell phone that pinpointed our location.  As we had the center in our sights we turned down one more road that we thought would lead us right there but only brought us to an expressway entrance.  Becoming a little bit more daring on the roads in our adventures I wasn’t adverse to running across the expressway, but on the other side it appeared as if there were only a tall cement wall with the center sitting on top and no good way to get up it.  Just as we realized we’d have to turn around, now with five minutes left on the clock, a flashy BMW pulled up next to us and asked if we knew how to get to the Kennedy Center.  The man was in a suit and his wife in a cocktail dress with pearls and we started to wonder if they were going to the same event as us.  Were we severely underdressed for this bluegrass concert?  Letting them know we were also in search and also lost they turned back up the road they had come down.  Trying to look for the quickest way possible to the next street over we cut through a covered parking lot and saw a bridge leading across the expressway.

We knew we were on the right track now and hurried as fast as we could.  The Kennedy Center is a very pretty building, but as we were coming up on it we noticed that there did not seem to be any outdoor concert space.  We also noticed as we came up to it that we were the only ones in jeans.  All the men were in nice slacks and all the women in dresses.  This was not looking good for us.  Walking in the door we wondered what would happen to the backpack and thought it might be searched or even held.  No one said a word as we slipped inside and tried to find out where to go.  What we did find out is there are many halls and stages in there and there happened to be three events going on that night.  An opera, a play, and the bluegrass concert we came to see.  After being pointed in the right direction by staff we walked to the back of the building to find the concert had already started all all the seats were full.  Standing in the back we listened to a few songs.  As we listened more and more people came in and pushed their way through in front of us so we could no longer see except for the screen broadcasting above the stage.  Once it got to the point we were squeezed in like sardines we realized it wasn’t worth it and walked out the door.

Heading back to the boat we did stumble upon another concert at a stage just next to the Washington Memorial.  It looked as if it started as a tribute to Indian music but by the time we got there an American cover band had just gotten on stage so we stayed to listen to a few of their songs.  I’m guessing the Indians were not to fond of Country music because after two songs almost the whole crowd had cleared out.  We stayed for a few more but soon the country became too country (a genre we never listen to) and the night became too cold.  Back at the boat we tried to warm up as best as possible, lighting a candle to throw out some heat, but it didn’t do much to raise the fifty-six degree temperature in the cabin.  All I know is that Rode Trip is getting in shortly and I think their heated boat might have a few overnight guests.

Adios, Sayonara, Bon Voyage

Sunday July 29, 2012

Tonight we had the pleasure of going to a going away party thrown by us by Matt’s side of the family, a kind of kick-off for all the good-byes we’ll be saying this week.  Arriving at his grandma’s house we found all the t.v. trays set up in the living room and the seats laid out in a specific order with everyone assigned to the same certain seat, just as they have been since I started coming here 12 years ago.  And I had learned years ago, don’t ever deviate from that seat you’ve been assigned.  Once all the family had arrived it didn’t take long for us to move to the dinning room and fill up our plates going around the table buffet style.  The theme for decorations was tropical and Matt’s mom had even run around town tracking down matching plates, napkins and balloons displaying that theme and dotted with sailboats on the front.  Hanging from the chandelier were cut outs of tropical flowers and placed on top of the soda cans were paper umbrellas.  Back on the dessert table Matt’s cousin had baked and decorated cookies in the shapes of sailboats, seagulls, and mermaids.  In addition to the labor that had gone into the cookies alone there was a beautifully decorated cake showing the globe and a sailboat cookie sailing across it’s horizon.

Although conversation had originally started about the trip and the route it quickly turned toward family stories which I enjoy the most.  Just like every Christmas when we get together everyone went through recounting humorus stories of their childhood, some of which I’d heard before and love to hear again and some that were brand new to me.  We recounted instances of how Matt and his siblings would use inappropriate language as children and I leared that if his mom laughs too hard while eating there’s a chance something may come out her nose.  This is something I really wish I knew in the 13 months we’d been living there, I would have pounced on her with a joke as soon as she took a bite of food.  There were stories of funny things pets would do and our first clunkers of cars.  It was a great way to say good-bye to everyone, not talking about what’s to come but instead reliving the great times from our pasts together.  Thank you to Matt’s family for the wonderful send off.

4th Of July Parade Of Boats

Wednesday July 4, 2012

Midweek holidays are a tricky thing because you con yourself into thinking the whole day will be spent completing projects that need to get done although once the day off is upon you it’s hard to do anything but take the time off from the daily grind to relax.  After spending the night and doing nothing productive except get the dinghy washed we woke up early the next morning to try and give the deck a good scrub down as well before my parents came out to see the boat and us for the last time before we all meet up again in Panama.  I should have started at the cockpit and worked my way forward because by the time the phone rang with ‘We’re here!!!‘ I had barely gotten half way and the cockpit was still a mess of smudges and other things I’d rather not find out what they other.  Nothing a sport-a-seat thrown over the top couldn’t fix though.

On their last Michigan trip my parents were able to enjoy 90 degree heat at 10:30 am on the deck without any shade from the bimini which still wasn’t up yet.  It was nice that we had been able to spend so much time with them while they were in town catching up on everything in life and this last visit was all about us and the trip.  Then came the farewells and a few tears from my mom.  We assured her that Panama was not that far away and after that would be New Zealand.  After tucking them into their rental car that we rented from this site, and waiving goodbye we went back to Serendip for a long three hour nap since low’s in the 80’s and a down blanked piled on top of you at night do not make for good sleeping weather and we were lagging.

Waking up in the mid afternoon with no finished projects to show for the day we pulled out the bars for the bimini again to make final measurements and cut.  Unfortunately the last part could’t be completed because the rivet gun was left at home.  By this time though the afternoon heat was becoming unbearable and a swim in the lake was necessary.  While wading in the water I started to see familiar race boats making their way out on the water.  Crawling back on deck and cracking open a beer I sat tucked under my towel and enjoyed the race from the spectators side.

Having spent most of the day napping or relaxing in the cockpit while watching a regatta we did not get a second wind of energy to do anything productive.  Eating potato chips and crackers for dinner we watched the sky begin to grow dark and the fireworks start to emerge.  Many people around the shore including the Muskegon Yacht Club had some small ones of their own but I was waiting for the big display.  Last year Matt had been out here himself and said there were multiple shows going on every direction you could look.  As the last bits of light were leaving the sky the larger fireworks began to come out.  Turning your head in every direction you’d see some from the country club up the hill from our mooring, others blazing over the dunes of the state park, and the municipal show being put on in town all the way at the other end of the lake.  Swiveling in multiple directions to try and get them all in I finally settled on the ones closest to me at the country club.  It was way after my bedtime by the time we left but completely worth staying since next Fourth of July we might be in the South Pacific.  Sparklers anyone?

Didn’t We Just do This 15 Years Ago?

Monday April 9, 2012

If you caught it in the last post, I had been to Arizona before and on my trip back this year we were going places I’ve never been as well as visiting a few again that I have.  My first time in Arizona was back in 1997 when my family took a vacation here while road tripping through Arizona and California.  While we were in AZ we spent a few days in Tucson doing things like visiting mountains and getting our picture taken in an old time photo shop.  Coming back in 2012 my parents thought it would be fun to recreate those days by going back to Tuscon and doing all those things again.  So only a half a day after we had gotten back from Sedona we piled back into the truck with coolers and snacks loaded up to set off on another two hour ride in the opposite direction from where we had been the day before.

Our first stop of the day once we reached Tucson was Sebino Canyon which has trails to walk and a tram to drive you around when you were tired.  My brother Joe and I did specifically remember this place as it had large rocks over water we had dangled off before,  scaring the hell out of my mom I’m sure.  Changing pace from the cool February weather we had experienced our first time around, this day we were faced with 90 degree heat.  Unloading from the truck we all slathered on sunscreen and had personal water bottles to tote around with us.  We purchased tickets to take the tram to the top where we would then begin our descent on foot, and while waiting for the next tour to leave we took seats under the shade of an arbor while watching little chimpmunk like creatures pop their heads out of little holes and run across the ground almost too quick for you to see them.  By the time our tram rolled up it filled so quickly that we were left with the rows in the second cart, not protected by the sun.  It was already scorching hot and you could tell it by the people who were coming back on foot wearing as little clothing as possible, already drenched in sweat.  Once the tram starting moving though, there was a nice breeze and the friendly tour guide began with an explaination of all the stops along the way where we could get off and get back on with our trusty blue ticket stub and also went into detail about the canyon itself and the flora and fauna around us.  No one in our tour group felt the need  to get off on the way up and we continuted to climb up to the very last stop.  We had passed the infamous rocks along the way and figured we’d ride the tram back down and get off there.

Once we were dropped off at that stop, surprisingly the only ones in the tour group, we filled our water bottles back up at the rest area and made our way down the sandy path to where the rocks met a little pool of water.  After taking the obligatory few photos of the scenery Joe and I started climing the rocks to get back to the same spot for some ‘now and then’ photos.  The first few rocks were small and easy to jump over, but then we came up to one where a minerature stream of water ran between the two rocks to the shallow pool below.  Joe backed up a few steps and took a running leap over to the other side with minimal effort.  I was about to do the same thing when I realized that even tough it was only an 18″ gap, the rock on the other side had a higher elevation than the one I was currently on and I could see myself losing balance and falling 15 feet into 10 inches of water.  So I figured the smartest thing to do would be to take off my Sketchers and wade across the water to step on a slightly level part of the rock on the other side.  Sounded good in theory.  The new issue became, and I realized this as soon as i was in the water, that the water itself made the rocks incredibly slippery and my foot could not get traction while trying to climb up the other side.  Joe, who probably trusts my ‘climbing’ abilities about as much as Matt, instantly thought I was in peril and grabbed my arm to start yanking me up.  I should have just let him pull me all the way up while I dangled limply below and have the ordeal over with, but knowing that I only needed assistance instead of a rescue I started pulling back on my end.  I had only wanted him to steady me while I did get good footing, but each time I would start to slip and then he’d start to yank while I yanked back.  I think at one point I fully twisted around and had to try and twist myself back.  Standing back on the shore my dad knew this wasn’t a serious case of my getting hurt and was just happily snapping pictures of us from the sand, eager to share my embarrassing moment with me which I was probably just as eager to see.  Finally after getting turned back around I told Joe to wait while I put my foot up on a small indent in the rock and then he could yank me up.  This worked and just a few seconds later I was safe and sound again.  To make things worse though, a woman who was on our side of the rock came over to me to show where there was a simple place to hop over on the back side.  Of course there was.

Now that I had made all the effort to get to this particular rock I was ready to sit there in the sun for awhile and relax but everyone else was ready to get moving again.  On the tram ride up we had spotted a nice little sandy beach area next to a bridge we had wanted to see and with all the things on our list to do again, we couldn’t spend too much time in one spot.  Taking the much easier way across the rocks this time I picked up my shoes and we made our way back out to the road and began to make our way down it.  At this point the sky became hazy again which was nice for the heat but terrible for the photos I was trying to take.  Instead of getting beautiful brown and red mountains popping against a blue sky the scenery wasn’t translating through the camera and my pictures were coming out a little dull and uninteresting.  After awhile I gave up and just enjoyed the walk and the chance to be with family.  We were still surrounded by beautiful sights and the memories of when we had done this together 15 years ago.

When we made our way down to the stop that housed the beach it was overcrowed and still overcast.  The little dip in the water we had been looking forward to was no longer needed as much.  We still stopped to rest for a few minutes and made the decision to continue on our way and out of the canyon so we could squeeze in a visit to University of Arizona while we were in the area.  Since we had seen the tram pass us on it’s way up just 10 minutes before and we knew it wouldn’t be back down to pick us up for at least 20 minutes we kept walking down the foothills to meet it at a location closer to the entrance.  When we got to stop 3 we thought we’d stay and wait for the tram since it does not pick up hitchhikers along the road and they are very specific about only picking up and dropping people off at assigned stops.  While waiting to be picked up my mom pointed out where other people who I’m guessing were bored like me started piling up little rocks one on top of the other almost like a marker or memorial.  I figured I had a few minutes to kill and I would make my own art too.  Looking around the area for one of the larger rocks to place on the bottom I found one off to the side and picked it up to move to a flat location.  As soon as I stuck my hand under it a very large brown spider ran out just below my fingertips.  I turned to my dad to asked if there were brown recluse spiders in the area and he replied there were.  No more playing with rocks for me, I did not feel like losing a finger or an arm on this trip.  I was just going to sit my butt on the seat and wait for the tram to pick me up since my scraped up knees already showed that I had enough adventure for the day.

When we got back to the truck Joe took over the GPS and punched in University of Arizona for us to swing by and bascially only visit the bookstore to buy a shirt before leaving.  The monotone voice began directing us out of the park and back on the main road to town.  After traveling a few miles we hit a large traffic jam due to construction and were at a complete standstill.  We could see on the map we’d be taking a left turn a mile up the road so as soon as we got to the next light a few hundred yards ahead we decided to take the turn early.  This did not please GPS lady and she angrily told us she was recalculating.  Taking our new roundabout recalculated way there were plenty of twists and turns as we tried to follow the new directions.  Once it seemed like we were getting into a populated area again the GPS told us to take a right onto a road, and then another right which led us into a housing development.  We were all a little confused wondering if this was campus housing and we were being taken in the back way.  After following the street for a few hundred feet we could tell this definitley wasn’t right but there was no good place to turn around so we kept following the dirctions on the GPS hoping it would lead us back out.  After a few more ‘turn left in 500 feet, turn right in 300 feet’ we were dropped onto a dead end street.  Making our way to the end of the culdesac to turn ourselvles around since we knew it was all wrong the GPS proudly announced to us ‘You have now reached the University of Arizona’.  Apparently classes are now being held at Catalina Foothills Estates 7 in Tucson.  Lesson learned.  Never upset the GPS, it will get back at you.  Choosing a new U of A location on University Drive we made our way to what actually looked like a campus this time.

Finding a 20 minute parking spot by the quad we all hopped out with no real idea of where to go.  Visiting college campuses together before (ASU, Uof NC, and Duke) we knew the bookstore was usually in the center of campus.  We just kept walking to where all the crowds of people seemed to be but still ended up having to ask students for directions.  Walking into the bookstore there were crowds of people seated infront of a large screen with a potium.  It was obvious there was going to be a speaker of some kind but I was too interested in finding who and made my way to the t-shirts to find a new one for Matt.  After browsing the racks and deciding that red was not his color I opted for a dark gray shirt with the wildcat logo.  Forgoing a shirt for myself since the girls collection was pretty dismal I met my parents back at the front where we cashed out and made our way back to the truck before our 20 mintues was up.  All that work just for a shirt.  I was still happy with it though.

The next thing on the agenda for us was to go to Tucson Mountain Park.  This was another place we had visited on our trip out in ’97.  It was filled with steep mountains covered in saguaro cacti with a winding road running through it.  We arrived there in late afternoon and while we didn’t have time to take in a sunset like when we were last here we drove up to a trail head and sat on one of the benches to enjoy the scenery.  This time we were smart and packed beer for the trip so we each pulled out a can while letting the low lying sun wash over us.  (No, alchohol is not permitted in the park, but we’re big time rebels)  When the bottoms of the cans were dry we got back in the truck for our last stop of the day; old time photos and dinner at a steakhouse.  Both were housed together in Trail Dust Town, a cheesey tourist Old Western area.  I personally was excited to play dress up in one of the frilly gowns at watch my dad and Joe get old time mustaches painted on their faces.  Going to reach for the handle on the door we saw a sign with the schedule ‘Closed Mondays’.  I was a little disappointed to say the least and while the four of us were standing there wondering what to do next a couple and their dog came walking up the dirt road to tell us they’re open.  It was the owners and I guess they happened to be out walking their dog at the same time we arrived.  They opened shop and brought all of us inside.

After going through the story that we had been here before and wanted to re-create a memory my mom and I were ushered behind a curtain with all the women’s costume’s while my dad and Joe stayed out in the main area to be fitted for coats and hats – see more at the page.  Behind the curtain were many frilly and lacy dresses, some conservative but also many for ladies of the evening.  This was the route we were taking.  After being shown many options we each picked one out and started changing into our costumes while rolling on fishnet stockings and lacing up black boots.  We were each given a garter, choker necklace and some fancy head gear.  When we stepped out into the shop again we could see the guys were almost fully dressed as well but needed a little extra facial hair drawn on by burning the end of a cork and using the black tip like chalk.  Once we were deemed outlaws and hussies we were let to the set for positioning.  None of us could remember how we were positioned the last time even though we had just looked at the last photo before leaving that morning, so we let the experts put us in a place they thought we’d look best.  They even threw the dog into the mix free of charge.  One of the great things that did change from the last time we were here is they’ve gone digital.  Last time there was only one shot at the photo and if you had your eyes closed or were making a funny face it was too bad for you.  This time they would snap a few pictures, bring us over to the computer where we could see them and then go back to fix things that didn’t look right.  After about eight photos we decided on a winner and went back to change into our 21st century clothes while they boys wiped off their mustaches with baby wipes.

By the time we were presentable to the modern day again they had already printed off our photos and were placing them in cardboard frames for us to take home.  We thanked them for their time and told them hopefully we’d be back in 15 more years, maybe with some little kids in the mix.  The last thing on the agenda for the night was a dinner at a steakhouse right across the dusty trail from the photo studio.  It also had an Old West theme to it and as we were seated at our table I could tell there also must be a theme against wearing a neck tie to the joint because there were cut of ties nailed to all the walls.  Most you could tell were worn by people who knew they would not be leaving the restaurant with it because the ones by our table were some of the tackiest ties I’ve ever seen.  The one by me that took the prize was from the 80’s in an electric blue with hot pink and yellow accents and covered in computers and floppy discs.  Totally radical.  The menu was smaller than I thought it would be, but sticking with the Western theme I ordered a fillet mignon with beans and a glass of red wine.  Ok, the whine should have been whiskey but I didn’t think I could shoot that back.  The food was delicious with a juicy and tender steak and the beans were reminiscent of chili which was even better than the baked beans I was imagining them to be.  It was a great end to a busy day and after spending the last 48 hours of traveling all over the state and taking in so many things I was ready for a more slow paced relaxing day tomorrow.

Sedona….It Used to be Apple Orchards, You Know

Sunday April 8, 2012

It’s a good thing my body was on Michigan time or I would never have been able to force myself out of bed at 6:30 to attend 8:00 Easter mass with my family.  It was supposed to be a really warm day in Mesa, over 90, and by the time we got in the truck at twenty to eight it was already closing in on 70.  Which felt 10 degrees warmer to me and I was immediately loving it there.  The church my parents attend is very large and can get quite crowded between the months of October through April when all the snow birds are in town.  We were put into an overflow chapel and somehow snagged the last four seats together in the back.  I was relieved to see the overflow chapel did not have pews and I wouldn’t have to spend half the service kneeling.  In the seats directly in front of us was a family with an adorable baby girl that had some of the best bedhead I’ve ever seen.  Throughout the service she’d look back at us and giggle and coo.  Just in front of her was a baby boy that was trying to out-cute her, and a battle of the cuteness ensued for about 20 minutes before bedhead girl won with a few sneezes.

When service was let out we all rushed home to change into more comfortable clothes and get ready for a day trip to Sedona.  Packing coolers with pop and water we got back in the truck for the two hour drive north.  My parents had used their timeshare up there the year before and told us there were too many beautiful sights to miss out on while we were so close.  Even though I’d been to Arizona before I’d never been to that area so weeks before I even left I’d Google images and look at the large red rocks that seemed to glow in the sun.  As we were making the drive I kept waiting for us to come up on these large mountainous rocks but all I could see out my window were dirt hills covered with with bushes and a few cacti.  Even without the awe inspiring views out the window we were still enjoying the drive with my dad’s GPS, watching the elevation climb higher and higher until we were in the 4,000 ft range.  I was getting worried as we were taking expressway signs into Sedona and I was still not seeing the red rocks out my window but my dad who seemed to be reading my mind mentioned that you didn’t come upon them until you were just a mile or two away.  Sure enough we turned a corner and all you could see were the giant red rocks I had been waiting for against a blue sky, looking just like a scene from a Western movie.

Our first stop of the day was a hiking trail my parents had found when they were visiting before.  I changed from my comfy Toms into sneakers and put on a hat to protect myself from the desert sun.  Although Sedona is usually 10-15 degrees cooler than Mesa due to the elevation, the 75 degrees that was reading as the outside temperature felt like it was 90 once we stepped out into it.  There was not a breath of wind around.  I had a feeling we wouldn’t be walking around for too long with all the other plans we had for the day and didn’t bother to take a bottle of water with me even though I could tell I would be getting thirsty before too long.  As the four of us crossed the uneven dirt road that brought us here onto the burnt red path of soil and sand beneath us there were instantly rocks and hills to start climbing up and around.  Nothing strenuous but enough to keep a klutz like me eyeing every step of the path ahead.  There were little trail markers of rocks filled inside chicken wire and I could see why because it was not always obvious where the trail was going.  We ventured off it a little bit to climb a large flat rock and get some good pictures of the scenery.  I would have loved to have the whole day to spend on these trails alone walking around and discovering new things.  One of my favorite things to do at home with Matt is just hike through woods and trails for hours with no destination in mind.  Back on the trails in Sedona, with the heat of the day coming upon us now and so many other things to see  we turned back around after making it a half mile into the trail, seeing the gorgeous sights that surrounded us and getting all of our pretty pictures.

Getting back out to civilization there were a few other sights to see before we got into the heart of Sedona.  First we stopped at Bell Rock but just got out in the parking lot to take a few pictures instead of doing any hiking in that area.  When we were driving past the other side though you could see the little white t-shirts of people who were making the climb.  Again I was a little jealous of these people who were able to make the climb up the immense rock,  but I know I have a ton of that coming up in my future in many exotic locations so I can’t complain.  Our last stop before lunch was a Frank Llyod Wright structure called Chapel of the Holy Cross and it’s built right into the rock on a Sedona hill.  As we came up on it from the road I was surprised to see how small it was.  I guess I was expecting some large wandering cathedral, but what I saw was just a small simple structure. As we drove up the winding road through the crowds we found a parking spot near the top and walked the rest of the way up.  I don’t know if it was always busy here or if it was because it was Easter, but most of the crowds were on the outside walkway and we were able to sneak inside to sit on the pews and look around.  The chapel itself, from what I could see, had pews lined against each wall on the inside and then 6-8 rows through the middle with an aisle in between.  At the front was where the priest would stand to give service, and right behind there were the large floor to ceiling windows overlooking the rocks in the background.  Going back outside we squeezed our way into an open spot for some photos of the family and the views surrounding us.  Just below the chapel on the main road to get in was Nicholas Cage’s Sedona home (one of the ones that didn’t foreclose, I think) sticking out like a sore thumb.  It was large and gaudy and didn’t fit into the landscape at all.  Plus there would be absolutely no privacy there at all.  From where we were standing you could see his whole yard plus the pool and decks.  If I had that kind of money it wouldn’t be my first choice of homes, but I guess when you have so many you can give up little luxuries like privacy at one of them.

Getting back in the truck the four of us were starving and ready to get lunch.  Acting as tour guides my parents brought us to a restaurant which I’m assuming is pretty famous in the area, The Coffee Pot.  It’s located near a rock formation shaped like a percolator and has 101 omelettes on their menu.  We walked in about five minutes to two, happy to see it wasn’t overflowing with an Easter brunch crowd.  Sitting down my dad asked the hostess what time they closed and she replied, “2:00.  So don’t worry, you just made it”.  All of us felt terrible for walking in just before close and making a poor server stay about 45 minutes later because of us, but we were all so hungry and the food sounded so good that we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave.  Looking at the menu I knew I couldn’t visit a place like this and not choose one of their 101 omelettes so I started scanning the list as quick as possible so we could get our food order in right away.  There were many appetizing options and part of me was craving just a good old Western or Veggie omelette but at the same time I wanted to choose some crazy combination that I knew they didn’t serve back at home.  With a few really good options narrowed down with choices of crab, avocado, and zucchini among them (not all together), when the server stopped by to take our order I went with number 64, the cream cheese, sliced ham and asparagus omelette.  Since we were practically the only people in the restaurant our food came up within minutes and I started scarfing it down like there was no tomorrow.  In addition to the omelette itself I also had a side of cottage cheese and a biscuit so I didn’t get too far and there were some to-go boxes being passed out at the end of the meal.  While having lunch there I’d totally forgotten that I told my friend back home I’d send her pictures of the mountain views and before I could forget I made sure to snap this photo for her.

I’m such a smart ass

So many omelettes!!

After our delicious lunch we began to head back to town as the next thing on our agenda was to take a Jeep tour through areas not well accessible in regular vehicles.  We had a flyer printed out for Pink Jeep tours and went to look for a parking spot near their shop on the main strip.  It was a popular day to be out there and all the street spots were taken.  Trying the public parking lots there we also had no luck and were forced to park on the street a few blocks away.  Walking back to the main strip we were weaving through little shops trying to find our way to Pink Jeep.  Once spit out on the main street we were directly across from Red Rock Jeep Tours, the people my parents had used when they were here before.  They hadn’t wanted to take the same tour as they did last year which is why we were headed to Pink Jeep, but we decided to walk in and see what else they offered.  While my parents had gone on a very bumpy off road 4×4 kind of trail before we found another one that would bring us through Dry Creek Basin and to and old cabin used to make moonshine in the 1800s.  That tour was leaving within 10 minutes so we all stuck by the door until our guide came to get us.  His name was Larry and he was very friendly and outgoing.  He led us back to their parking lot along with another couple from Pittsburgh.  We climbed in the back and buckled ourselves in as Larry had us all introduce ourselves and he began to describe the areas we were about to see.  Pulling out onto the strip he made his way up some side streets to a residential area and began the tour with a history of the area.  He explained that what was around us were not actually mountains and asked if anyone knew what they were.  I replied ‘rock formations’ which was correct.  Gold star for me!  Then he started speaking about flat topped rock formations called mesas and asked if anyone knew how they got their name.  I answered that mesa was the Spanish word for table.  Right again!  (Thank you, Spanish Behind the Wheel)  Just as I was feeling like I was on a game show where I might win a prize he continued on pointing out different rock formations and how they got their names, usually because of the shapes they formed.  There was ‘Coffee Pot, Elephant, Snoopy’, and many more that I can’t remember.  Larry then began to tell us the history of Sedona, how it was named after the founder’s wife’s middle name and how all this area around us used to be apple orchards.  Leaving the residential area he had brought us to see these rocks formations we drove down the strip to another road and began to go up it while Larry told us he was taking us to an airport on top of a Mesa.  We stayed up there in the Jeep for a minute before heading down again and then going to another street that housed the library so he could show us a statue of Mrs. Sedona Schnebly.

At this point I was beginning to wonder why we had just dropped so much money to travel roads that were open to the public and we’d have no problem getting to when Larry turned to us and said that we were his last tour of the day before his weekend and he was giving us an additional tour on top of what everyone else got to see.  It was at this time we pulled into an area with rocky roads leading back to more rock formations through 4×4 trails.  Finally.  We bumped along the roads and made our way further from civilization.  The sun had ducked behind some clouds which made for  comfortable temperatures but was also hiding some of the brilliant colors of the red rocks.  We came up to an area called Devil’s Bridge which was a little walk from the main trail and sounded very interesting, but we kept plugging along after getting a little narrative on it.  We headed deeper and deeper into the creek, aiming for Van Derin Cabin.  We were told this is a place where moonshine used to be made until the moonshiner was gunned down.  Then it became the residence of the Van Derin’s who expanded to make two rooms under one roof with a breezeway, and raised their five kids.  Even though it is surrounded by private land (and a golf course in the middle of nowhere that I believe went bankrupt), the cabin is now property of the State Forest.  It was used to make a few Western movies, including ‘Blood on the Moon’ back in 1948.  Getting up to the cabin from the trail we did get good use out of the Jeep as it was literally climbing up rocks and not a trail.  Once there we got out to do a little walking around and tour the two room cabin.  It was interesting to see how people used to survive normally back then.   The cabin was two rooms around 10×15 ft and had dirt floors.  That was it.   I’m sure it would have looked slightly different back when it was being lived in, but to me it didn’t look like much of a step up from living in a cave.  Ahhhh, frontier days.  Ignorantly blissful for those who didn’t know any better.

Loading everyone into the Jeep again we began to take the trail back to the main road.  When we were getting to the spot where the knotted and gnarly pine trees were sitting and Larry had described many people believed it was due to a mystical vortex in the area, I received a sudden and sharp shock on my collar bone.  No bug that had pelted me through the lack of windows and nothing touching the area except my shirt.  Guess I was touched by the vortex.  When we were back on pavement Larry took us by the Beverly Hills area of Sedona and showed us the gated communities while rattling off all the celebrities who had homes there and which ones you might find wandering around town.  We were dropped back off in the parking lot around 5:30, making for a two and a half hour tour when it was only supposed to be two.  It wasn’t quite the thrill ride of off roading that my parents experienced on their first tour without us, but that’s not what this one was meant for and I really enjoyed the steady pace through the trails and the history of what was surrounding us.  Not that I would have turned down a few minutes of climbing up more rocks at 60 degree angles or gunning it and flying down 10 foot cliffs though.  I don’t think the tours actually do that second part….but they do have Jeeps to rent out!

With our last hour of sunlight the four of us made our way across the street to sit in an outdoor patio area to enjoy a drink and relax.  While my mom and brother enjoyed beers, my dad and I got a glass of red wine which I didn’t know why I did since we weren’t staying for dinner because I’ve been known to take two hours to drink one glass at home.  Red that is, white and blush go down much quicker.  We reflected on the day and talked a little bit about our plans for the next day, a trip down to Tucson.  This is another place my parents had spent a day or two at visiting in the past few years but more importantly it was a place the four of us had visited back in 1997 on a road trip through the southwest.  We were going to recreate our trip there by visiting Sebino Canyon, Tucson Mountain Park, and even getting our picture taken in an Old West photo shop.  Once our drinks were done (and yes, I did have to chug the last half of my glass) we piled in the truck for the ride home and just like when I was ten years old I layed my head on a pillow while sprawled out in the backseat bundled under a jacket and slept the car ride home.  Some things never change.

Mama I’m Coming Home

Saturday April 7, 2012

Since the only time I get to see my parents is the one time a year they fly into Michigan to visit family and friends, I didn’t want to leave on a four year journey without squeezing in a little quality time with them.  My brother and I made plans to fly out and visit while Matt unfortunately stayed behind to work.  My brother had flown out from Detroit the night before me and I was supposed to arrive the next afternoon around 3:30 with plenty of time in the day to still lounge by the pool with a drink in my hand.

Getting dropped off at the airport by Chris and Jack I was checked in at the counter within 15 minutes and still had over an hour to occupy my time before the flight left.  Knowing I didn’t want to quarantine myself to the terminal just yet I visited the Pizza Hut counter to get a fountain drink and sat among the large array of tables to get some writing done.  30 minutes later I grabbed my purse and carry-on to make my way through security as I spent a few extra dollars on my ticket for an assigned seat and they made sure to tell you that if you’re not to your gate 45 minutes before departure you could forfeit that assigned seat.  As I walked to the end of the terminal I could see our gate was quite crowded and my chances of not having anyone sit next to me were getting slimmer.  Still having those 45 minutes before our plane was supposed to depart I plopped down in an empty seat and pulled out my e-reader to keep myself busy.  Scrolling through all the new books Matt and downloaded I was hoping Tina Fey’s ‘Bossy Pants’ was on there, but it hadn’t made it so I settled on a blog-type book from Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear) and began reading stories about how he dropped a bomb (literally) on North Carolina and how British women don’t fit into the fashion or social scene of the Caribbean.

Before I knew it they were boarding the plane and I took my window seat while wondering what kind of over-talkative cat lady they were going to sit next to me.  When the open seating began I was thankful when a family of four came to my row where the wife and two daughters took the seats across the aisle and the husband took the empty seat next to me where I knew he’d be too preoccupied with his family to talk my ear off the whole flight.  There was however a six year old ginger kid that took a seat in front of me and was so excited to go see his grandma that he couldn’t stop talking about it.  I remember what it’s like to be that young and that excited about something but after the week I’d just had at work I didn’t want to slap on a smile and talk to anyone unless I personally knew them.  I was waiting for the point where we were high enough in the air that electronics were allowed and I could pop in my earbuds and drown out the world for the next four hours.  Just as I thought we were about to start moving since the doors were closed and everyone was seated there was and announcement that came on overhead.  “Ladies and Gentleman, this is your Captain speaking.  We appear to have an issue where our fuel tanks were overfilled and extra fuel has spilled on the tarmac.  We need to have this cleaned before we can start moving, and my previous experience with this has seen it take an hour or two so we’re going to offload you from the plane so you can be more comfortable while we take care of this”.  The attendants instructed us to collect all our belongings, that we couldn’t leave anything behind, and that we also could not go past the security point without having to buy another ticket to get back on the plane.  Everyone deboarded pretty quickly and after checking with an attendant that there would be an overhead announcement when they were reboarding so I wouldn’t have to be glued to our gate I grabbed my bags and started heading down the terminal.  Treating myself to Starbucks was out since that was past the security point but I was able to buy a 20 oz Pepsi for $2.79 and take a seat at an empty gate and start reading more stories from And Another Thing: The World According to Clarkson.

There were a few people I recognized from my flight sitting at this less crowded gate so I wasn’t worried it would leave without me.  One by one they left and went back to the gate our flight was leaving from but there had still not been an overhead announcement.  When they finally did call it over the speakers there was only me and one guy left and as we made our way to the gate we found the area was already empty.  Apparently they had already reloaded everyone that was standing around before calling it on the speakers.  I was glad I would not have to wait in a line again while boarding but was worried people would not have stuck to their original seats and mine would be gone.  Hurrying to the back of the plane where I had originally been sitting I found my seat open and the same family of four sitting next to me.  Phew.  Everything went much quicker this time as they were able to close the doors just after I had gotten on and everyone else was already seated.  I overheard a conversation the man next to me was having with his wife about how scared she is of flying and had her hold her hand out to see how steady it was.  Of course it was not at all steady but he assured her that everything would be fine.  I thought about chirping in with the ‘You’re more likely to get into an accident on the way to the airport’ comment but decided to keep it to myself.  We started rolling backward on the tarmac and ever excited ginger kid started talking non-stop.  “Are we moving yet?  When are we going to take off?  How fast will we be going?  When are we going to get there?”  The poor kid was also only making matters worse for the anxiety ridden woman next to me once we got off the ground by turning to his dad and saying “Are we falling?  It feels like we’re falling.  It feels like the plane is going down”.  We were definitely not going down, but that did not make her feel any better.

We landed at the Phoenix-Mesa airport two hours behind schedule where my family was waiting to pick me up.  There were hugs all around as I hadn’t seen my parents since on the boat Labor Day.  Muscling through the crowds my brother grabbed my bag from the carousel and we were quickly loaded in the truck for the short drive to my parent’s place.  It was a nice sunny evening in the low 80’s, and as soon as I dropped my bags off in my room we all made our way out to the patio to catch up over wine and beer.  I love that with my family we can pick up like it was just yesterday we last saw each other.  We stayed out until the sun started going down about an hour later and my dad realized he needed to get the steaks on the grill before it was too dark to see.  a little later we sat down to a family dinner with just the four of us, which probably hasn’t happened in almost 10 years since if I were there then Matt was always there too.  By the time dinner ended I was already getting a little tired and with the three hour time difference I was still on Michigan time where it was close to 11:00.

We weren’t ready to call it a night yet as my mom had bought an old VHS copy of Captain Ron for all of us to watch together.  After getting into comfy pajama clothes I took a seat next to my brother on the couch.  We laughed at all the classic and hilarious lines from the movie and I took note to try and find out where their starting location of ‘Saint Potato’ was.  When the movie had finished I was more than ready for bed.  I had only been up for 17 hours at this point, but after all the traveling and delays and excited talkative kids it felt like 30.

Whitecaps and White Knuckles

Monday September 5, 2011

Sunday morning we woke up to a tradition we like to call ‘Let’s make at least one day of the holiday weekend (usually Sunday) totally crappy and un-enjoyable’, weather-wise at least’.  Two years ago this resulted with a nice scar above my knee cap from when the tiller on the Hunter had wildly swung across the stern and over my leg.  Someone (um, me) had forgotten to secure it with a bungee cord. This year with the curse we had gone from sunny and 80 with light breezes the day before to 60’s, still sunny, but very windy.  Not that we did have any grand plans for the day, they all involved working on the new dinghy.  Now that we had brought it up on deck we wanted to make sure that all areas were water tight.  This included the area around the drain, and well as the holes we’d be drilling in to attach the wheels from our previous dinghy.  First and foremost we had to drill those holes so they could be epoxied before we could drill them a second time for wheels and screws.  Out came tape measures, straight edges, pens and sharpies.  Surprisingly the movement on deck from the wind wasn’t terrible and didn’t affect our stability.  Wheels were held, lines were drawn, and holes were made.

Ready to get to work

After everything was drawn and drilled came the fun part.  Matt had not informed me that we’d be working with it over the weekend and I had not brought any ‘dirty’ clothes with me, so I tried to assist him while keeping as much distance as possible.  I learned the hard way a few winters ago while we were making our nesting dinghy what happens when epoxy gets on your clothes and I had to say bye bye to one of my favorite fleeces.  Making sure to keep our deck clean above everything else I had gone below to grab a beach towel to put underneath the work to catch any dripping epoxy.  The rest of my job was just doing things like pouring colloidal silica (a kind of thickening powder/dust) to the mix of liquids, or constantly running below deck to dispose of paper towel before it could blow across the deck and ruin the finish.  It ended up being a much quicker project than I expected, and after a thorough cleaning all we could do was wait for it to harden which would take overnight.

Everything’s drilled and filled

She’s so pretty…..and so big!

There wasn’t much else we could do for the rest of the day.  It wasn’t nice enough to want to spend time on deck or in the cockpit so we kept ourselves below, going back and forth from watching movies, reading books, and napping.  Dinner was warmed up hot dog and hamburger that we had swiped the day before and of course more frozen snickers.  Since we already used up the Netflix movies we’d just gotten in I’d started going through our collection of DVDs at home.  Coming up to the end of the book after going ‘meh’ to half the collection I came across a movie that we’ve had for years, is a classic in a lot of people’s eyes, and have gotten a lot of slack over the years for never having watched before, and that was Tommy Boy.  We popped it into the DVD player that night, all snuggled up in bed for the third day in a row, and Matt prematurely belting out a lot of the well known lines.  Maybe it was because I was expecting a lot after all the years of hype or because humor was different in the 90’s than it is now but I didn’t find it as funny as everyone made it out to be.  Kind of a let down in my book.  Sorry to disappoint all of you that have it in your top 5 of all time.  Who knows though, maybe it just takes a few viewings before it starts to grow on you.  I know the same thing happened with me and Anchorman.  And now that I think about it, is probably the Tommy Boy of the 2000’s.

The plan for the next morning was to finish work on the dinghy before my family came out to spend the day with us.  This was after being woken up a few times in the very early morning because of the wind trying to get under it and lift it off the deck even though we though we had it secured.  So after a few times of getting up, rearranging, and trying to go back to sleep we finally got up for good just before 10:00.  Matt had gone above deck to check on the epoxy and when he came back down he said that temperatures must have been too cold through the evening and overnight because the holes were still a little tacky to the touch instead of completely hard as they should have been.  I panicked for a slight second thinking that as soon as it was placed in the water it would start pouring through the holes and we had no way of getting off the boat until it did in fact harden.  Matt assured me that it was still solid enough to keep water out, just not hard enough to be able to finish our intended project.

This gave us an extra hour to clean up before my parents and brother came.  It’s surprising how quickly that space can turn into a disaster.  It doesn’t take much, a pair of pants thrown across the settee, and un-made bed, and a few groceries sitting on the counter for the place to look like a total mess.  The good news is it usually cleans up just as easily.  Since we now had a larger dink to cart everyone around in, I jumped in with Matt to go to shore once my parents called to say they were close.  Again my brother was meeting us out separate but wouldn’t be able to use the excuse of getting lost for coming in much later than everyone else.  Knowing that he was about 20 minutes behind my parents the four of us made the run up to Subway to grab lunch for everyone.  The timing worked out perfect and as soon as we were pulling back into the marina with our food, my brother was just behind us.  Loading everyone into the dink  we brought my family out for their third trip aboard Serendipity.

As we were getting everything loaded our friends Tom and Connie from s/v Andiamo noticed we were out and stopped to talk.  When we were on their boat in July they had gone on about their new RIB and now much they loved it and noticed that we had just gotten one of our own.  While Matt was going over details with them I stocked everything below and dug into my sandwich as soon as I had the green light since I hadn’t eaten anything all day and was starving.  It didn’t take us long to clean our wrappers and go through a bag of chips.  We were ready to unhook our lines and do a little sailing.  Although temperatures had gone up a bit from the previous day to high 60’s there was still a good 20-25 knots blowing across the lake and making it cold enough for everyone but Matt to put on some kind of long sleeves.

Since we didn’t have all day to travel around we decided to stay on the small lake and just ride up and down it a few times.  With winds as strong as they were and not wanting to go through the hassle of uncovering the main we just unfurled the genoa which was more than enough to carry us along that day.  For awhile we had just set the autopilot to start carrying us toward the East (far) end of the lake when my dad decided he’d like a shot at steering.  Disengaging auto we showed him what course to keep and to try not to deviate too far from it so the sails wouldn’t have to be trimmed.  He caught on very quickly and was a pro behind the wheel.

Way to go Dad!!

Even with just the genoa up we were getting a steady 6 knots of speed.  Even my brother, who’s dream it is to own a power boat that he can hit 70 mph in, was surprised at how fast that would feel while on a sailboat.  Headed down to the East side it was a comfortable ride although there would be a wave every now and then which would catch the bow and send a little spray into the cockpit.  After coming about to start our way back to the other end, the wind was hitting us on a close reach and giving the boat a constant heel of about 15 degrees.  I  remember when anything over 10 used to make me uneasy but now 15 is nothing to me.  Matt was completely comfortable with it, and my dad a and brother were wedged into the leeward side enjoying the ride.  Then I look over to see my mom with a white knuckle grasp making sure that she was not going to slide out of her spot and over the railing on the other side.  I had forgotten that she wasn’t much for thrill rides and the heavy winds plus the building waves and spray off the water and now a non fully upright vessel, I had a feeling that she’d enjoy the afternoon much better if we were safely attached to the mooring.  Taking the wheel from Matt I suggested we head back in.

Thinking we could spend the next hour or two slightly out of the wind and enjoying a few cocktails.  Somehow it happened that we went through our last beers while cruising up and down the lake and all that was left on board were two coke zeros.  Not very appetizing.  I suggested we hit up one of the bars on the strip for a quick drink before all of us had to start making our separate ways home.  There had been a place a few miles up the road with a cute outdoor sitting area that I’d always drove past and wanted to check out.  Matt and I hopped in a car with my parents while my brother followed behind.  When the five of us walked in we were a little surprised as the inside was dark and dank and completely different from the sunny yellow exterior.  Luckily directly across the street was another pub that we figured would at least have a decent booth to seat us all in.  Same story when we walked in the door.  Very small with a bar and a few tables.  Not wanting to drive miles to find another place we pushed two small tables together and took a seat while we waited for a server to come by and take our order.  We stayed long enough for two rounds and some delicious onion rings while we enjoyed the five of us being together since it only happens once or twice a year.  In late afternoon when my parents needed to get back to their hotel to start packing and my brother needed to make his way back to the Detroit area we said our goodbyes.

Two years of less than perfect sailing weather while out with my family, but if that means saving it up for one perfect weekend in the Bahamas or Panama or New Zealand when we can all meet up again I think it will be worth it.