I want to thank everyone who reached out to me after my last post, both directly and by leaving comments on this blog, Facebook, etc. Initially, I didn’t have time to sit down and respond to the comments because we were so busy with everything, and by the time I did have time, there were so many, I was overwhelmed by the idea of it. I always respond to comments, but this time, it was just more than I could handle. But, rest assured, I read – and very much appreciated – each kind word left for me.
I’m going to be playing a bit of catch up with the blog for a while, and things will be out of order for a couple weeks since I had started some articles and then put them on hold, but we’re not doing NASA level science here, so I’m assuming it’ll be OK.
After Portland, we traveled down the coast of Oregon to the Redwoods in northern California – all of which I’ll talk about in a future post. After leaving the Redwoods, we headed back into Oregon to the little town of Ashland. Though we only got to spend a couple days there, we loved every minute. (Thanks to our friend, Laurel, we knew exactly where to spend what little time we had. Thanks Laurel!)
Ashland is a small town with a bustling downtown area full of independent shops and restaurants, a huge Shakespeare theater scene, a gorgeous downtown park, tree lined residential neighborhoods, and a friendly, welcoming vibe. Walking around, it was immediately apparent that Ashland is like an effortless version of Portland… it’s progressive without being pretentious, outdoorsy without being phony, artsy without being snobby. Basically, if everyone in Portland would stop trying so hard, Portland could be like Ashland. In the meantime, I hope Ashland never changes because it had such an authentic and welcoming feel.
I didn’t take many pictures while we were there, but the ones I did take usually involved the changing leaves. Fall in Ashland is gorgeous and we happened to be there during a particularly beautiful period of weather.
Our too-short visit to this idyllic little town convinced us that we need to come back and explore more. It is, truly, a special place.
While on the east coast, I got to perform an archaeological dig in my old bedroom that unearthed some seriously awesome 80’s paraphernalia….
Along with evidence of my cutting edge music taste, circa 1989….
And pictures from that time I was a Chiquita banana or something for my dance recital.
Speaking of costumes, we donned some new ones when we joined my brother’s family for trick-or-treating on Halloween.
But first, I had to find one that a) would be warm on a chilly New England evening, and b) wasn’t trashy… which is harder than you might think.
I considered going with a law enforcement theme considering it’s a subject near and dear to my heart, but I was afraid some real officer would see me wearing this SWAT costume and arrest me for impersonating a police officer…
Then I went looking for child friendly characters and found that these, too, had been corrupted
Sexy Big Bird? Really?
They’d even managed to corrupt our RV’s namesake purple dinosaur, Barney…..
Though, to be fair, it appears that Barney is eating this young woman’s head.
In the end, I chose a safe, warm, and non-streetwalker-themed Batgirl outfit, to go along with the rest of my family’s crime-fighting crew…
(and my niece who went as a Greek Goddess….)
Anyway, after all the hard work was done (adults chatting with one another and enjoying adult beverages while the the kids acted as the ‘candy retrieval team’), we got to share in the spoils. Good work, kids!
Peace in the Desert
Between September and October, we flew to the east coast 3 times: once from Portland, once from Ashland, and once from Phoenix. Between the last two flights, we drove the RV from Ashland to Phoenix, which is a long haul even without all the flying. By the time we got back after the final trip, all we wanted to do was sit in one place and relax. McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Scottsdale was just what the doctor ordered. The campsites are enormous, the views go on forever, and the weather was perfect. So, we extended our stay by a couple days and made the most of the downtime.
Before we started traveling, I’d read blogs by folks singing the praises of life in the desert, and, honestly, I didn’t get it. I just couldn’t see the appeal of what appeared to me to be a somewhat dull landscape. But now, after having spent a bunch of time in southern Arizona, you can add me to the chorus. I don’t know why, but pictures just don’t seem to capture it.
The air seems cleaner, the sun warmer, the sky bluer than anywhere else, and just about every day ends with an epic sunset…
And, if all that isn’t enough to turn you into a desert convert, just imagine a world where every day is a good hair day.
Magic, I tell you.
Anyway, a couple days in the desert really helped us feel better, and, if all the sunshine wasn’t enough, a visit with some lovely people helped even more. We first met Sue and Dave in February and since then, have followed one another’s blogs and Facebook pages. When I saw they were at another Maricopa County park (Usury), I reached out to see if they had time to meet up. They invited us over for a lovely evening of dinner and conversation, and we were finally able to meet the famous Lewis – a dog who has more personality than most people we know. Luckily, Lewis decided we were A-OK and, unsurprisingly, decided to cozy up to Kevin.
(Don’t worry Pam, Kevin’s not trying to replace you… though, you might want to sneak Lewis some extra treats next time you see him, just to make sure.)
Finally, we made a quick stop in Las Vegas to see our friend, Julie, run her first half marathon. Vegas has long been one of our favorite places. Yes, everything is stupidly overpriced, yes, it is often amateur hour, yes, it can be smoky and dirty, and yes, there are a lot of idiots running around, but… there’s just something about it that we love. The over-the-top everything, the endless one-upmanship of the casino hotels, the massively entertaining people watching, and the endless options for shows and concerts… All have made this city in the middle of nowhere one of our most frequently visited destinations over the years.
I mean, really, where else can you find the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty – wearing a hockey jersey, a little bit of ancient Rome, and some of the most beautiful dancing fountains in the world, all within a 10 minute walk?
The night before the marathon we all visited the Neon Museum, which is an organization that collects and attempts to preserve the old signage from various Las Vegas hotels and casinos. Some of the signs go back to the very beginning of the city’s existence while others arrived in recent years. Interestingly, we learned that hotels and casinos do not own the signs that adorn their properties. Rather, the signs are owned by sign companies that lease them out to the properties. When buildings are torn down or refurbished, the signs are removed and, often, sent to this facility.
Those that arrived decades back were, predictably, in much worse shape than newer ones. Preservation has only recently become a focus in Las Vegas, so many of the signs had been picked apart and allowed to deteriorate.
But others were in excellent condition, looking as impressive as ever.
In order to see the signs, you have to go on a guided tour. It’s pricey, but very worthwhile. We learned a lot about the city’s history, the challenges it faced during different periods, and the figures, both known and unknown, who made the city what it is.
As for the Vegas Marathon, on race day, the city does the unthinkable and shuts down the Vegas strip.
Unlike other marathons, this one is run in the evening, giving the more than 40,000 participants the incredible experience of running along the Vegas strip as the lights come on.
There were a fair number of people in costumes, though not as many as we expected, and a lot of couples getting married at a “run through wedding” at the end of the race.
Altogether, it was quite the sight to see and we’re very proud of Julie for getting it done!
We spent the rest of our quick trip hanging out and catching up with our friends from D.C. It was a short visit, but we had a great time!
Back to the Pacific…
In real time, we’re back on the California coast for a quick visit, after which we’ll return to Arizona to winter in the desert. (Yeah, that’s right.. I just used ‘winter’ as a verb. What are you gonna do about it? Ha!!) Anyway, we’ll be back in the lovely desert before you know it. Can’t wait!
In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to all!