Saturday, October 25, 2008


I’m tiptoeing back into the online world. I make no promises about frequency of postings, updates, or any of that. I’m gonna have to relearn how to upload photos. Already had to fuss with gaining access to my postings from three years ago.

I’ve had lots of travels in the last three years. I just haven’t documented them here. No major cross-country trips but plenty of smaller journeys, both physical and metaphysical. I’ll try to make note of some of them here.

For instance, today I drove from Spokane to Wilbur, about 65 miles west along U.S. Highway 2, for the fall harvest and wine-release festival at Whitestone Winery. It was a gorgeous fall day — clear and sunny. I passed dun-colored fields of wheat stubble, a few patches of green winter wheat just beginning to sprout, and shallow rocky draws and coulees. Spending all that time (nearly three hours round trip) alone with my thoughts and feelings in the car was just what I needed after a week that’s seen lots of life and death (more on that later).

Once there, I tasted all four of their wines: cabernet franc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon (all 2005 vintage), and the newly released version of Pieces of Red, winemaker Michael Haig’s Bordeaux-style blend. Of the varietals, I think the merlot was my favorite — a surprise, cuz I’m not a huge merlot fan. The cab sauv was nice, too, but the blend is still the one I like the best. It’s an easy-going, tasty, everyday type of wine.

The other thing I learned is just how tangy and delicious straight-up merlot grape juice is. Michael had a container of some juice that he had crushed from just-picked grapes, so people could experience the wine’s starting point. It was a beautiful ruby-pink and rather sweet. I suggested cutting it with a little club soda for a refreshing cooler…




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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Oh, A-Counting We Shall Go

October 6, 2005

A Few Statistics

As promised -- although a tad behind schedule -- here are some of the numerical measures of the trip. Clearly, the numbers are just one way to size up a journey of this kind, but they make an interesting coda to all the words. I may be missing a few minor items, but all of the major expenses are here. The food expense was lower than it could have been, thanks in large part to the generosity of friends and family who provided many, many meals and snacks and beloved cups of tea. Also, if we had been at home for the same period of time, we would have spent somewhere around $200-$300 in grocery costs, so that must be factored in. Before the trip, I guessed that we would spend $2,000 to $2,500; I can blame some of the difference on the sudden rise in gasoline prices, along with the corresponding increase in the comparative value of the Canadian dollar. Gasoline on the return trip cost about $80 more than the eastward journey. But, all things considered, we didn't do too badly in the budget department.

Total miles driven: 7,017.6
Total Costs: $2,794

Breakdown of miles driven:
Spokane to Derry, NH: 3,165.8
Around New England: 855.6
Derry, NH to Spokane: 2,996.2

Total cost of gasoline: $759 (US)
Cost per mile driven: 10.8 cents

Highest cost per gallon in the US: $3.299 on 9/7/05 in North Reading, Massachusetts.

Highest cost per litre in Canada: $1.259 on 9/17/05 in Nipigon, Ontario (between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay). Converts to approximately $4.00 per gallon US.

Best gasoline bargain: $2.579 for premium on 8/27/05 in Gillette, Wyoming.

Average fuel economy for the trip: 28.9 miles per gallon.
Highest fuel economy achieved: 33.1 MPG on August 28 while driving across Minnesota (all highway, no hills).

Cost Summary:

Lodging $1,104.89
Gasoline 758.99
Food 556.90
Gifts 237.90
Entertainment 64.00
Tolls 39.25
Other 32.05
TOTAL $2,793.98

Most expensive day: September 21 in Saskatchewan and Alberta ($191.87 US)

Most expensive lodging: Comfort Inn, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on September 18 ($131.04 Canadian or about $110 US). But, it had in-room wireless Internet and the friendliest front desk staff we encountered.

Least expensive lodging: Econo Lodge in Maumee, Ohio ($51.69 US). No frills, but clean, basic accommodations.

Total amount spent at Tim Hortons coffee shops: $21.13 Canadian (about $17.75 US). I thought it would be more than that.

Finance charges accrued on Mom's MasterCard account: We don't want to know.

Friday, September 30, 2005

What's Next?

September 30, 2005

Today is deadline day, so I must be brief. I will do one more trip-related post over the weekend – the statistical rundown. For all those curious about the cost of a trip like this, I’ll present the final accounting report, along with mileage (in Canada, would that kilometrage?) and any other numerical curiosities that arise.

After that, I don’t know – what do you think? The trip is over, so the raison d’etre of the blog is gone. The rest of my life really isn’t all that interesting or glamorous. I’ve had fun doing this, even though sometimes I don’t feel like writing – or thinking – at the end of the day, but I don’t think I could maintain the momentum without a focal point like the trip. Are there any topics here that might be food for thought? Or should I just retire to my tent and save my words for print? Whaddaya think?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Bug's Life

Car Front
Originally uploaded by Ann Colford.
No bugs were killed or injured in the making of this road trip. Stunt doubles accomplished the exciting aeronautics.

Settling In, Reflecting Back

Settling In
September 29, 2005

I’m really glad that my computer keeps track of the date for me because after so long on the road and the confusion of picking up my home routine, I’ve lost complete track of what day it is, never mind the date.

Ah, but it is Thursday. This I know because the Weather Channel told me so.

For several days now, as I return to my regular schedule, such as it is, I’ve been answering the question, “So, how was the trip?” And I say, “It was great,” or “It was long,” or “Everything went really well, thanks,” or some combination thereof. Each statement is true, and each is a necessary shorthand during the exchange of niceties. After all, it’s not called “small talk” for nothing – according to the social contract, such answers are supposed to be neat little summaries, not dissertations.

But if I were to attempt an honest answer to the question, where would I begin? I guess this journal itself is a start; it’s as close to immediate impressions as I could get without carrying a voice recorder around with me everywhere.

Here are some highlights from the trip that have stayed with me …

- Driving through Glacier National Park, climbing the Going-to-the-Sun Road as the clouds rose from the valley floor and crossed the face of the mountains.
- Meeting Marty and Chad for lunch at the little café just north of the east entrance to Glacier … homemade bread, soup, pie … and then explaining to my friends and relatives in New England about how my friends in Montana drove 2-1/2 hours to meet me for lunch. (In Massachusetts, 2-1/2 hours will get you from one end of the state to the other.)
- The Morning Light coffee shop in Great Falls where I found my first wireless connection and the mercantile in Judith Gap where we found lunch later that day …
- The friendly ladies who staff the tourist information centers at the rest areas along I-90 in South Dakota …
- The first sight of the Mississippi River as we descended the bluffs on the Minnesota side of the river approaching LaCrosse, Wisconsin, as the sun set …
- Opening my eyes to the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts on the last day of the eastbound journey, as the clouds and rain showers left over from Hurricane Katrina scudded across the sky amid the intimate landscape …
- The giggly, tear-stained hugs as we greeted Dawn and Chris and their boys upon arrival, greetings that continued as we moved from place to place and saw people for the first time …
- Sitting around Bev’s kitchen table and drinking tea until all hours; later, sitting around Joan’s kitchen table and drinking tea, and then sitting at Barb’s kitchen table, drinking tea. (It’s a Bennett thing.)
- Staying up till the wee hours yakking with Bev. (We’re a bad influence on each other.) Later, staying up till the wee hours yakking with Barb. (Guess we’re bad companions, too.)
- Seeing the smile on Joan’s face as her anniversary party unfolded and hearing her toast before their first dance: “To my husband, my love, and my very best friend …”
- Watching the Red Sox games on digital TV with Ted and Mary; having a shot glass of Chippety-Chocolaty ice cream with Ted each evening …
- Having coffee with Diane at the Starbucks in Reading that’s been built at the site of the old town dump …
- Getting to spend three – count ‘em, three – Friday mornings with the Breakfast Club (Joan and Bill, cousins Kathy and Sheila and Bev) at Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. I was there enough that Linda The Waitress remembered me and brought me coffee before I could even ask …
- Returning to Maine for an all-too-brief visit with Marguerite in Orono and Karen in Portland; checking out the bookstores of Bangor and Belfast, shopping at the Sea Witch in Belfast, falling in love with the Midcoast region all over again, walking the rocky path around Fort Williams at Portland Head Light, then watching the sun go down at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth; hanging out at the American and New England Studies office at USM, catching up on news of the faculty and other alums with Madeleine and Kent; having lunch with Nancy and Cynthia and meeting 4-year-old Eliza for the first time.
- Going to the beach at Plum Island with Dawn, wading in the waves, watching Mom make friends with all the gulls, collecting clam shells and other treasures …
- The many wonderful meals and treats that people shared with us so generously …
- Surprising Father Ignas with an unplanned visit in Putney, Vermont, on the first day of our return trip.
- The joy of discovery in the grand Canadian adventure … learning about Tim Horton’s and the plethora of “family restaurants” across Ontario.
- The unexpected wild beauty of the northern shore of Lake Superior; fall colors, rocky headlands, the steel-gray waters, the blustery rain; the road signs warning of moose in the roadway – although I wouldn’t want to run into one, I’m kind of disappointed that we didn’t see one.
- The wide-open skies of Saskatchewan – not to mention that incredible sandwich and pie at the LC Corral in Broadview.
- The drama of the rugged Canadian Rockies, highlighted by the copper-tinged hues of fall …
- Casually pulling up in front of our home, as if we’d only been to the grocery store; Henry’s look of panic and mad dash to hide under the bed when we first came in, followed by his nonstop purring when he finally figured out that it was me; the strangeness and unfamiliarity of the apartment on that first day back …
- The welcome from all of our friends and neighbors in Spokane …

After planning this trip for so long, and then being gone for one day shy of a month, it’s hard to believe that it’s all over and we’re back home again. And yet, life goes on – I’m working on assignments for the Inlander again, I’ve been to meetings already, I’ve got to pay my end-of-month bills this afternoon, and I’ll return to my Thursday night soup group tonight for the first time.

So, did I accomplish my goals that I set for myself? Let’s review. Here’s what I wrote at the beginning of the trip:

“Personal goals: Maintain my patience with my mother during the trip. Try not to gape at how much my cousins’ children have grown. Renew ties with extended family. Look into the eyes of America at cafes, gas stations and grocery stores along the way. Revisit some old favorite places. Remember all the good stuff about my life in Spokane as I wade into a landscape filled with memories.”

Hmm … Well, I can’t say that I maintained my patience with Mom all the time, but I think I did fairly well, considering. The break that I had during my trip to Maine helped.

I did gape at my cousins’ children – it just couldn’t be helped. Some of them I haven’t seen for ten years and they’ve gone from elementary school to college in that time. But at least I was able to form a new image of them as they are now, something I can carry with me until the next time.

I did renew my ties with the extended family – especially with Bev and Barb, since I stayed in their homes. Now the trick will be to keep those relationships going. I know that’s something we all want to do, and I also know it won’t happen without effort, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

I can’t say that I spent a lot of time looking into the eyes of America, although I did give it a few sidelong glances. I found America – and Canada – in the coffee shops and bookstores and gas stations and ice cream stands and even the roadside rest areas. Rural America is still friendly to a stranger; along the turnpikes and in the suburbs of the Northeast, people stay pretty well focused on what they’re doing – they’re generally polite and efficient, although not terribly warm at first. I think it comes from the sheer number of people trying to share the geography. In Canada, ‘most everyone was friendly and happy to see an American taking an interest in their country.

I revisited some favorite places – Glacier, the Black Hills, the Berkshires, Portland and Camden in Maine, Plum Island – and I found some new favorites: Belfast, Maine; western Ontario; Yahk and Creston, BC; the Mass MoCA Museum in North Adams, MA; Putney, Vermont. I spent time at the ocean and confirmed my need for frequent visits to the sea.

The memories that emerged were good ones. I discovered that there’s nothing like sharing stories with people who know my past – and love me anyway. ☺ And yet, I have many memories here, too. The past did not overwhelm the present on this trip, but simply took its rightful place beside it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Velcro Kitty

Velcro Kitty
Originally uploaded by Ann Colford.
I've been getting lots of feline attention since my return home. Here's Henry on Friday evening, trying to make up for his running away from me when I first walked in.

Home Again Jiggety-Jig

Home Again Jiggety-Jig
September 26, 2005

My interpretation of “tomorrow” from Friday’s entry expanded across the traditional boundaries of the word to reach now, Monday evening. But since I feel that I am still adjusting to being back home again, the window of opportunity for a thoughtful conclusion to the trip remains open. At least that’s my argument.

Our final day of travel on Friday went as smoothly as the rest of the trip, other than waking up way too early. We stopped for a leisurely breakfast – the first restaurant breakfast on the road, no less – at Granny’s Place in Creston before starting the final day of driving. Highway 3 crossed the broad valley of the Kootenai River before climbing up and over the pass between Creston and Salmo. A simple sign at the junction of Highway 6 pointed south to the USA border.

After a short wait at the Nelway border crossing, we passed muster and entered both the US and Washington. Within two miles, traffic had stopped for road construction and we had the longest wait at a flagger of the entire trip, about 15 minutes. But the pause gave me time to search the radio dial and I picked up the familiar sounds of KPBX, Spokane Public Radio. Hearing the voices of Steve Jackson and Verne Windham seemed both extraordinary and commonplace at the same time.

The towns of Metaline Falls, Metaline, and Ione seemed smaller than I expected somehow, although Metaline Falls has a great little Main Street just off the highway where I was able to get coffee for the road. The highway followed the Pend Oreille River through Box Canyon and its trees and hills Before long, we crossed the county line into Spokane County near Deer Park; a few minutes later we entered the city itself amid the traffic at the North Division Y.

I’ve been incredibly tired for the last couple of days, something that’s perhaps not surprising but it is somewhat annoying. As I type this, it’s not even 10 p.m. and yet I can't keep my eyes open. Looks like the final review will have to wait yet another day.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Travelers Return

Travelers Return
Originally uploaded by Ann Colford.
We're home! Arrival about 11:45 a.m. PDT, Friday, September 23. More tomorrow ...

Almost Home

Almost Home
September 22, 2005

It’s Thursday night and I’ve made it to within three hours of Spokane. The pull toward home is great, but I opted for one more night in a motel rather than getting home in the dark.

We are in scenic Creston, British Columbia, north of Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint, Idaho, staying in a cabin unit at the Valley View Motel. This is a sweet little family-owned place with only 15 units, all in separate one- or two-unit cabins done up in a vaguely Bavarian theme. We have a fridge, a TV, a coffee maker and even an electric kettle – but no Internet access. Alas, my string has ended. Oh, I could probably work out something with dial-up, but I figure, what the hell, I’ll be home tomorrow – I can upload then.

Today’s route carried us from the prairies to the mountains and into the pine-covered slopes of our own backyard. Along the way we saw plenty of autumn color – just in time for the equinox – and some spectacular alpine views.

Although I didn’t drive nearly as far today as yesterday, I feel just as weary. Mountain driving is more tiring, I find, and when the scenery is as grand as we saw today, I spend much of my time admiring the views – or looking for places to pull over so I can do so safely.

The pleasant surprise of the day came late this afternoon, just a few miles up the road from Creston in the tiny hamlet of Yahk, BC, where we stumbled upon Two Scoop Steve’s Ice Cream and the Goat Mountain Soap Company. Nestled in the trees along the banks of the Moyie River, these businesses are run by the same family. We pulled in as the owner happened to be outside talking to visitors, so she invited us in even though they’re in the midst of closing down the ice cream shop for the season. She still had about 8 or 10 flavors available; the blueberry was a knockout. As we ate, we walked along a trail through the woods a short distance to the river then wandered back to visit the goats and the soap shop. The goats – Minnie, Martha, Annabelle, Antonio and Penelope (hope I’m not forgetting anyone) – scrambled up a gangplank to the roof of the porch to greet us. They all seemed curious, but Minnie was the most vocal.

Tomorrow I plan to drive just a bit further west to the border crossing at Nelway and aim straight south for Spokane via Metaline Falls. We should be home by early afternoon.

So this is the last evening that I’ll sit in a motel room (or a relative’s house) and try to recall the experiences of the day – at least for this trip. Seems like I should have some profound thoughts tonight summing up the trip, but I’m too focused on getting back across the border and safely home to think of much else. From the vantage point of my office at home, I’ll go back over the goals I set at the outset and see if the reality of the trip in any way reflected what I thought might unfold.

As I drove today, I found myself thinking about my life at home and what I might like to change about that life – now that I’ve been away from it for almost a month. Mostly, it’s little stuff, things that need nothing more than either self-discipline or giving myself permission. Now that I’ve reconnected with so many of my east coast relatives, I want to maintain those relationships – and I know it will require effort, as all relationships do. And yet I recognize a need for more quiet time, too, more down time – something that is the first to go when my time gets crunched. It’s the dance of balance faced by so many women I know: meeting the needs of others, like the demands of job, home, and family, while taking care of oneself.

In a way, I’m relieved to not have Internet access tonight. I’ll write my entry here and download the photos of the day, but then I can just crawl into bed and read. There’s no radio to distract me and we turned off the TV after dinner, so there’s nothing else to do. To put it another way, I have no choice but to give myself permission to relax. It’s a good way to spend the final evening of this grand adventure.

Rockies on Horizon

Rockies on Horizon
Originally uploaded by Ann Colford.
The Rockies rise out of the prairie near Pincher Creek, Alberta ... with Mom's favorite road sign in the foreground.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Saskatchewan Sky and Pumpkin Pie

September 21, 2005

After a long day of travel, we’ve made it to the province of Alberta. I can tell that we’re getting closer to home because the cable TV system here carries the stations from Spokane.

The prairies unfurled beneath our wheels today, from the wheat fields near Brandon, Manitoba, across the breadth of Saskatchewan, to the rolling rangeland of eastern Alberta. Hay bales that look like rolls of shredded wheat dominated the eastern landscapes today; later, grain elevators took over the horizon. By evening, I’d spotted sagebrush amid the roadside vegetation. After leaving the lakes and forests of western Ontario yesterday afternoon, we’ve somehow shifted from the east to the west. The landscape tells me, but so does the quality of the air: drier, crisper, tinged with a hint of sage.

Prairie driving is easy for me, with wide-open roadways and minimal traffic. The sky is what holds my attention here, the changing colors and clouds and shadows. Everything else seems small under the immense spacious heavens. And yet odd details grab my eye: a duck in that teardrop of a pond, diving as we pass; the rich copper of the swaying grasses; a lone hawk perched high atop the tree at the edge of the windbreak.

Early autumn has settled gently on the Canadian prairies, although the calendar marks today as the last full day of summer. The grasses and trees glow with the tawny shades of the season to come. Combines gather the last of the wheat harvest and long trains of grain cars haul the bounty to distant markets.

We hit another fun little lunch place today: The LC Corral in Broadview, Saskatchewan. I had missed the turn to a restaurant in the previous town – and I really hate to turn around when I’ve got momentum going. Broadview is not much more than a wide spot in the road, and the place didn’t look like much from the outside, but the parking lot was full – always a good sign. Everything was delicious, down to the homemade pumpkin pie for dessert, and it was a bargain besides. The God of Hungry Travelers smiled on me.

Before stumbling upon the LC, I was pondering what it means to be open to the experience of the road. In order to have the joy of discovering a place like the LC, or like Lorraine’s the other day, I have to remain open to the possibility of a mediocre or even bad experience. There are times when a standard product – like you’d find at a chain restaurant – is comforting, but the most memorable meals are found elsewhere. Buying a standard brand means we never have to have a bad experience, but is that what we really want? By eliminating the risk of the truly bad, aren’t we also eliminating the possibility of true joy?

Of course, there are times when I’ll choose the comfort of the familiar over the risk of the unknown; I’ve had several meals from Subway on this trip, not to mention my newfound fondness for Tim Horton’s coffee. But I hope I choose places like the LC and Lorraine’s more often than not, because I don’t want them to go away. They don’t just feed our bodies; they feed our souls.

Saskatchewan Sky

Saskatchewan Sky
Originally uploaded by Ann Colford.
This is what I saw for most of today. Yes, I took this while driving. (Kids, don't try this at home.)