Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Inch One Hundred Thirty-Two: The Trip

We have been back from our trip for about a week and a half and I am just now blogging about it.

My difficulty is in finding the words. Not because the trip was so incredible that words fail me, but because I have such mixed feelings that I don't know what to say.

We traveled by car to Colorado and back, a journey of 4261 miles per our odometer. Part of the time we stayed in a condo in the heart of the Rockies, the rest of the time we were either camping or staying in motels or with friends, but always at a different location each night.

The camping, despite that I have not camped since I was in my 20s and Warren does not like camping, was easier and more enjoyable than either of us expected. We camped five of six planned nights, once at 9000 feet, and would have camped the sixth night but for the the torrential rains the night before that left the tent, our air mattress, and everything else, including shoes, wet and muddy.
At 9000 feet

As I noted previously, we took a minimalist approach to packing. We could have packed even lighter, in retrospect. To do minimalist packing for a long trip (anything over a long weekend, as far as I am concerned), you need (a) access to laundry of some sort and (b) a tolerance for wearing the same clothes over and over. Fortunately, we had both.

What can I say about Colorado? We were in the Rockies for over a week and traversed Colorado from north out of Wyoming to south into New Mexico. The Rockies, even in August when the snowpack is light, are everything you would expect: majestic, awe-inspiring, stunning.


They did nothing for me except block the view. It occurred to me many times that had I been a homesteader in Colorado, I'd have spent my days longing for a horizon.  Great Sand Dunes National Park in south central Colorado redeemed the state for me, but I cannot help but rejoice that I never have to go to Colorado again.

Give me Nebraska.

This was Warren's vacation, revisiting places he had last seen when he was 15. We saw a lot of trains (Warren) and a lot of statehouses (both of us).  I was gratified to find in the Nebraska statehouse's Hall of Fame both Red Cloud and Bess Streeter Aldrich. And our guide in the Kansas statehouse was stunned that I knew who William Allen White was. "Are you a librarian? A journalist?" No, just a nerd who discovered White when I was still in junior high.
Lots of trains

 I'm very glad we took the trip, because it is now clear to me that the likelihood of our taking such a lengthy and wearing car trip again is slim. The trip was very hard on me physically and caused havoc with my body's reactions to the new medications I am on. But we made it through with no medical emergencies, not even a stop at an urgent care facility, and that was a victory.

It was a thrifty trip in many ways, with the one special event, a lengthy steam engine ride along, up, and over steep mountains, including a mountain pass at 10,000+ feet, being the big splurge. We spent more on eating out, even at the condo, ($291, with another $110 on groceries) and less on gas ($309) than we had expected. Without the train ride, we'd have done the trip for $1150, only 15% more than we'd hoped for. Even with the train ride ($200), we still came in under our maximum allowance of $1500, and the balance went back in our travel account the Monday we got back.

As much as possible, we traveled not by interstate but by US routes or state highways, so we saw a lot of the country up close. As is often the case when we travel, I was both uplifted and disheartened. Disheartened by how much poverty—tenacious and deep—this nation continues to hold. Uplifted because, in spite of the struggles, there were bright spots everywhere: thriving small businesses in small towns and cities, local-sourced restaurants in the middle of nowhere that the locals were supporting, civic/community developments (parks, concerts, farmers markets, downtown projects) in many communities. It is seeing those little spots that leave with me a sense of hope.

There was one stop we had discussed, but did not make and that was the site of the Sand Creek Massacre, yet another example of the US government committing genocide against Native Americans. I told Warren I didn't think I could begin to atone to the dead. And there was one stop we had not planned to make, but did, and that was Amache, a Colorado relocation center for over 7000 Japanese-American citizens forcibly imprisoned during World War II.

In the Chaim Potok novel In the Beginning, Rav Sharfman tells rabbinical student David that he will ordain him with the ordination that Sharfman's grandfather gave to him. But David must not be neglectful of that honor, as he would be liable to earlier generations. "You will have to go to the graves of those against whom you transgress and ask them to forgive you. But remember, you may be unable to do that. You may not know where the dead are buried."

Potok's words followed me the whole day, past the Sand Creek turnoff and through Amache. Then we came into Kansas, and the horizon opened up.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Inch One Hundred Thirty-One: Update

We are back from vacation, having arrived home Saturday in the early evening.

Sunday was spent in a whirl of laundry, cleaning, unpacking, recycling, sorting, shop work, gardening, and all the other tasks that accompany a homecoming after a lengthy absence. Monday we both jumped back into work: Warren with drumming and a benefit concert at the end of this week, me with the first session of a new court program that my good friend and coworker Cecelia created earlier this year.

Legal Clinic was last night. Clinic was packed with clients and I did not get home until later than I had anticipated (and I ended up leaving before we were all done). We were to have dinner guests tonight, but they had to cancel due to family matters. I regret the loss of the social time, but can make use of the resulting free time. My dear friend Katrina arrives tomorrow for a long weekend; her room is ready.

Chemo resumed yesterday. We (the doctors and I) are trying to get my new treatment regimen (new meds on top of old meds) smoothed out. The vacation, be it the high altitudes or the wear and tear of travel, impacted some of that process in less than wonderful ways and I spent a lot of time on the phone with my personal physician.

It has been raining raining raining here. We have been in and out of rain since Thursday evening of last week. The tomatoes started ripening while we were gone, so we came home to a flood of red. I picked them in some of that rain.

And those are just the headlines, folks.

I will not even begin to write about the vacation until next week. The minimalist packing (room for improvement there), the budget (we did run over the $1000 goal but came in under the $1500 limit), the sights, the impressions: all of that has to wait until later. 

Judy Garland clicked her ruby slippers three times and said "there's no place like home." I know just how she felt.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Inch One Hundred Thirty: Road Trip

We are coming back home tonight after over two weeks on the road.

Remember my post about minimalist packing when I went to Seattle and Portland earlier this summer? Minimalist packing turned out to be a brilliant (and successful) idea.

Well, this trip has combined minimalist packing and minimalist camping (to cut the cost of the trip).  We hope we have done it for under $1000 (subject to one footnote).

Just so you all know, I am writing this post BEFORE we head out, and scheduling it to run just as we return. So all of this is speculative: the camping, the cost, the endurance. But I did spend a fruitful morning the Saturday before we left making camping reservations from here to there and back again.

Once I get unpacked and some laundry done, I will write about what the last two weeks held in store for both of us.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Inch One Hundred Twenty-Nine: End of an Era

The Buick is dead.

The Buick is undeniably and reliably dead.

The Buick is not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

Several weeks ago, after months of a brake warning light being on, the brake lines, which were original (1997), finally gave up the ghost. Yes, I was driving at the time. I was able to coast into and through an intersection, then turn up a small street and come to a safe rolling stop. Warren and I waited for the tow truck, then followed the Buick to my mechanic's shop.

My mechanic is swamped this summer, so it took another three weeks before he and his crew could get the Buick up in the air and look at it. I had already been forewarned by the office staff that I was looking at a major bill.

With 19 years on the car, major terminal rust throughout the body, and a whole host of problems just waiting to bloom, "major bill" meant to me "get ready to give it up."

At the beginning of the fourth week, my mechanic called. Dave and I have done business together for many years, and I appreciate that he wanted to break the news to me gently.

The news was bad. Without even getting into the brake calipers, I was looking at $1200. The underbody rust was so bad that the mechanics had a hard time getting the car hoisted in the air as rusted areas kept giving way.

Then Dave delivered the ultimate words.

"April, I can't advise you put that kind of money into this car. Use the money to get another one."

It was like agreeing to turn off life support. I did so. Dave then put a salvage company in touch with me and we made arrangements to have the remains removed.

Warren and I went out the next evening to clear out the car and remove the license plates. I took photos of the rear bumper, which sported bumper stickers of several kinds:

The BUC-EE'S sticker is from my friend Katrina, who used to live in Texas. We visited the Tennessee Parthenon last fall:

Then there is my favorite presidential sticker ever, right next to the just-went-on-the-bumper Tillamook Cheese sticker from my trip to Oregon this September:

Most of them cannot be replaced. I will miss them all.

For now, we are a one car family, although what with my chemo schedule and Warren's Symphony schedule, we often end up borrowing my dad's truck for a day or two. My office is only a four block walk. Other friends have made generous offers of their vehicles.

I live in a great community.

We are postponing looking for a new car until after mid-August. I will be looking for another older car, albeit now "older" means 21st century. The car may possibly come from the Goodwill auctions in Columbus as I just need reliable wheels. I do not need a car payment, so there will be no new shiny Prius in my future.

It is inconvenient being a one car (and a loaner as needed) family, but this is truly an inconvenience of first-world magnitude. Even within this community, it is a privileged inconvenience at that. Working at the Court and at the Legal Clinic, I know lots of us out there scrape by with no car or no reliable car, which is only marginally better than no car at all. And I know that my inconvenience will be relatively short-lived.

Alas, poor Buick, I knew it well.