Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Going Postal

We have a great insurance company who sent us this notice this morning:

USAA is a government-friendly organization, providing insurance to people associated with the military. They have a first-class reputation.

It is a sad day when even government-friendly conservative organizations have to take notice of the disgusting failure of our current postal leadership.

As we were growing up, living in Alaska and in foreign countries, we had opportunities to compare our system to others. Americans put a priority on getting the mail delivered in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost. Other nations admired our efficiency, and our emphasis on the public service our postal system provided to the American people.

We need to get back to these very public-service-oriented values. The postal system is worth subsidizing to provide valuable services to citizens of the United States of America.

December 13, 2021 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Out of Control

It gets worse. The flooring people, after one week, still have not arrived. They are in communication with us, and their crew is on another job where they found some problems that need to be fixed before they can complete the work on that job. It is taking time.

Honestly, sometimes all you can do is laugh. We had to move to the Airbnb because with all our bedrooms being re-floored, we have no place to sleep in the house; our beds are all broken down to store in the family room. Our cats are confined to the living room, which, fortunately, they like well enough, as well as cats like changes of any kind, as you who have cats will know.

We are reasonable people. We know that if it were us whose floors were problematic, we would want the company to fix the problem and finish the job, even if it meant taking longer than planned.

As people who are spending time and money to stay in an Airbnb while NOTHING is getting done, it is frustrating and chaotic, and expensive. We were so careful putting things where we could find them, except we can’t always remember those special places where we put the things.

And, of course, the unexpected struck. A funeral, for a good friend and mentor, at which I will be a reader, and for which any appropriate dress is hidden in the far back of my living room, behind bookcases and mattresses and stacked furniture.

After scrambling through different channels, trying to get to my “dressy clothes I won’t need rack” in the way-back, I discovered that I could make do with something on my accessible rack in the living room.

One last little whine. The temperatures have suddenly risen; the temperatures are tropical and laden with moisture. It is hot. It is humid. Our comfortably cool weather has disappeared, reappeared, and then disappeared again as a cold front moves back and forth over Pensacola, shifting our temperatures from cool and dry to hot and humid.

There is a bright silver lining to this cloud of December mishaps – As part of my job in the church, I co-ordinate with a delightful young woman who did the same exact thing, cleared out four bedrooms to have wooden floors put in, but she and her husband did it with children! They ran into the same problem, staying in an Airbnb, the job was delayed, and they ended up staying in a total of three Airbnb’s because the ones they had booked were booked again and there was no room for extensions due to the flooring company mishaps.

“It’s a drag,” she told me, “but you will be so happy with those beautiful floors.”

She is right. She made me laugh. She was exactly the right person in the right place to help me put perspective on all this and to laugh. Her situation was so much worse, and she survived.

The cats have adjusted well to their lives confined to one room in the house. The beta male, Uhtred, who has not realized that he is now bigger (and smarter) than the alpha male, Ragnar, has found a safe place where Ragnar can’t get him and has also figured out how to open the folding door, even with its slider to prevent being opened. He is smart, and persistent, and loves to open doors. so far, we have him contained.

The right dress will show up for the funeral. It’s not about me, anyway. There is a pin I need to wear, and I know exactly where it is, in a box at the bottom of a heap of boxes I can’t access. The hamster brain keeps running on its hamster wheel, and I have to take a breath and realize that most of what I worry about will resolve itself without my getting wrapped up in anxiety.

Limbo is never a fun place to be. We want this to be over, we want to put all our furniture back, to sleep in our own house, to have our things put away in logical places where we can find them when we need them. We trust this company and want to work with them; we believe they are doing the best that they can in troubled times. We are in a good place; no immediate vacation plans, no children, not a lot on our schedule, and our Airbnb has been very gracious about extensions. I’ve given up thinking I’ll be able to have this all done, everything put away, for Christmas.

We are not comfortable being out of control. We are experiencing the discomfort of rolling with the unknown. On some level, I believe it to be a reminder that mostly control is an illusion, and that we are often oblivious to the tumult and chaos all around us, disruption can blindside us at any time. I know there is a lesson in humility involved, and I suspect another lesson in letting go and going with the flow. Like Uhtred, I persist in trying to free myself, I keep pulling at that door.

December 10, 2021 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Aging, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Home Improvements, Hotels, Living Conditions, Moving, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations | Leave a comment

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in the Barrel (3)

It’s such a common expression in our family that when I thought to title this post with this title, I checked, and sure enough, I have used this same title twice before. I didn’t know I was allowed to do that. It’s all about days when you’ve tried to do everything right, you’ve tried to maximize your chances for success, but everything seems to go wrong. We’ve learned, as the monkeys concerned, that it’s all about loss of control, and a smart monkey will just roll with it.

There is a part of me saying “Oh woe is me.” It’s a part of me I hate, the catastrophic thinking, which is not thinking at all, but we feel what we feel.

It will always strike at the worst moment, this monkey getting a turn in the barrel phenomenon. Last time, it was Viking notifying us that a major trip was canceled, a day before we were leaving on another major trip, and big decisions and a lot of telephoning needed to be done. This time, disaster struck an hour before the book club meeting that I was to lead. While my husband worked his end, I walked away. I said I’ll deal with it after book club.

We’re not people who like drama. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family in Panama City. We had a condo on the beach, big enough for the six of us in the nuclear family, with sunsets and wave action and a great gathering with lots of hugs.

Thanksgiving night, we got news that one of those we had hugged tested positive for COVID. All of us are vaccinated, so we weren’t too worried. Then the next night, one of the six of us tested positive, and the next morning, another. Adventure and I tested negative, and immediately went in for our booster shots. This is not a great time to be facing an illness, even a mild one.

We bought a new-old house back early in the COVID epidemic, a smaller house, but a house we have loved for years. It’s in good condition, but we wanted to modernize critical elements, put on a new roof, fix the chimney, install tankless heating, upgrade the electricity, make it safer for aging people and more energy efficient.

The people who built the house decided, at some point, to cover their beautiful parquet floors with wall-to-wall carpeting. When my son and his wife bought the house from us, they lifted the old carpets and loved the parquet. Unfortunately, the floor was spotted with white paint, but little by little, they were working on those spots when they sold the house back to us.

We hired a company to come in and refinish, refurbish and restore the floors in four bedrooms, and scheduled it for the first week in December so we could be all moved back in and settled by Christmas. This is what my house looks like now – we have packed out almost everything from our bedrooms:

Chaos

We have a VRBO scheduled starting Saturday when the movers come to move all the furniture out of the bedrooms.

Yesterday, as careful planners often do, my husband called the flooring company to make sure everything was on track. It wasn’t. They were planning to call us to tell us that the work can’t start until Wednesday, and “likely will finish on Saturday,” which sounds way too iffy for us. AdventureMan got busy calling the movers who cannot shift the first date.

When I got home from a really good book club meeting, a meeting so good I totally stopped spinning around my hamster wheel of anxiety and forgot, for that hour, that we were facing calamity, I was ready to do my part. I got an extension on our VRBO. It’s costly, but it is convenient and will provide us with a calm, serene location while our home is in upheaval. Sigh. It’s an investment in our mental health.

I’m sad about Christmas. I’ve been working on cookies, and I put up outside lights, but inside, Christmas is lacking.

Lights

Rosettes: Swedish Christmas Cookies my mother taught me how to make

I am a woman of faith. I know that somewhere in all this are multiple blessings. When the good God shakes me out of my comfort zone, I am forced to confront my own darkness, my own failings, and sometimes my misplaced priorities.

I know all this will pass, and in the end, we will have floors we love and it will make us happy in small ways for years to come. I know that this Christmas will be very different, and less structured than before – and a part of me believes that this might be a good thing, too. Shaking things up now and then allows for change, and fresh air in stale traditions. Spending ten days in another location will be a sort of enforced retreat. It won’t be without daily obligations, but my routines are seriously disrupted, and I might learn something new.

Rolling around in that barrel from time to time might just be a good thing.

(P.S. The EPIC book club book was Code Girls by Liza Mundy, and was about World War II and its transformational effect on American women’s lives. Once consigned to babies and kitchens, they were sought after and recruited to do the tedious work of code-breaking. Their work with the Army, Navy and intelligence services was exciting, instrumental in the Allied victory over both Japan and Germany. It is an inspirational book.)

December 2, 2021 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Character, Christmas, EPIC Book Club, Family Issues, Home Improvements, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations, Sunsets, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Moonlight Over the Bayou Texar

October 23, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Photos, Quality of Life Issues | Leave a comment

Treasures From the Past: Cookbooks and Salmon Burgers

I used to collect cookbooks, and, at my prime, I probably had close to three hundred. I loved them, some more than others. When it comes to books, I think I may even have hoarder tendencies; it is very hard for me to part with a book.

ThIs is the first cookbook I ever bought for myself. I still love it and can’t part with it. I bought it in Nairobi in 1973. It has some great recipes, but most of all, it has an entire culture full of differences, with a guide to organizing a large camping trip into the wild, foods for invalids, pages of instructions for servants on how to do laundry, clean, etc., and an entire section on asking for what you need in Swahili.

Kenya Cookery, reprinted 1972
Table of Contents
Useful Swahili Terms

Maybe it’s an age thing, but there came a year when I realized that I really only used a few of my books, and it was time to simplify. I am now down to about thirty cookbooks, and each one reflects on stages of my life with which I am not ready to let go. Germany. Tunis. Saudi Arabia. Jordan. The South (you can’t beat the South for desserts.) And Alaska.

Both my Alaska cookbook (1947) and my Pacific Northwest cookbook (1946) are older than I am. The Alaska cookbook is from my Mom; she knew I would treasure it. I love looking through this cookbook and last night I cooked from it.

Out of Alaska’s Kitchens
Game recipes

I can imagine there might be a way to fix moose burgers that would be tasty and delightful. As a child, I remember moose burgers as being tough, always, and chewy, and, well, game-y. Our dads hunted in the Fall. There were big hooks in our basement where they hung the deer or moose when they brought the hunt in, and where they skinned and quartered the meat. The butcher would grind the moose meat and package everything up in white freezer paper. The meat would be stored in the cold storage locker, and Dad would stop by during the winters and bring something home. The only thing worse than moose burgers were bear burgers.

We never killed what we didn’t eat. Nothing was wasted. It was like it would be disrespectful to the creatures we hunted.

Pacific Northwest Cookbook

This book was left to my by my aunt. I use it to make a Pacific Northwest Bouillabaisse, and several fruit desserts made with fruits which were plentiful in season – cherries, blueberries, rhubarb, as well as apples, peaches, apricots, etc. This book is another one I will pass along rather than get rid of.

So last night I wanted to make Salmon burgers. I looked in my Alaska cookbook, and there it was.

Salmon Burger recipe

It made me laugh when I read through it. Canned milk – yes, well there are times in Alaska when fresh milk just isn’t available. Salmon was canned in big cookers in jars, and was an all day task. Corn flakes – we don’t even keep processed cereals in the house anymore. And no egg for binding, but I also remember that in the winters sometimes we didn’t have real eggs, only powdered eggs, which were good for cooking, like pancakes, but really were not at all egg like on their own.

So I used it as a guide, but changed things a little. I did brown the onion and green pepper and add it into the salmon mix. I actually did use milk, not believing it would absorb, but it did. I added an egg, just one. And I used half a cup of plain bread crumbs in place of the corn flakes. Because we like the taste of smoked salmon, I added a couple drops of liquid smoke.

Salmon burgers

BIG hit. These were moist and delicious. I started with a medium high heat, then turned it down when I flipped the burgers.

I served them with snow peas (mange tout) sauteed in garlic and butter.

I love it that salmon is so healthy and so available, and that these old cookbooks still have relevance; sometimes the oldies but goodies make a grand come back. I miss my Mom, and I miss the Aunt that gave me the PNW cookbook, but having their cookbooks keeps them a little closer.

October 5, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Books, Cooking, Cultural, Food, Kenya, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Recipes, Wildlife | | 1 Comment

Leaving Bozeman, Day 14

AdventureMan hates my phone alarm, which is a tune called “Twinkle.” He always says it reminds him of hotel mornings when we have to get up at what he calls “The Cr#p of Dawn.” This was one of those mornings, we need to be up, get to the airport, turn in the car, check in two hours in advance, etc. 

Don’t you love this Mama Bear’s big claws?

It all goes smoothly. We drop our keys in the drop box, still a little nervous that we never received a contract for the upgraded vehicle. By the time we reached Dallas, I had a confirmation of the car rental return and a copy of the contract. Go figure.

The airline people were not at the airport two hours before the flight. Oh well. We checked in and had time for breakfast at the Copper Horse before boarding for our flight. In Dallas, we found a BBQ take-out and ate in the waiting room. 

We arrived safely back in Pensacola, on time, and there were zero taxis and about six sets of people in front of us. We never do this, but we called our son and asked if he would pick us up. He arrived, fully masked, welcomed us back, and drove us home. That night, he texted that he and our grandson both tested positive for COVID and the family would be quarantined, They live just blocks from us, so we were able to see them, to bring groceries or whatever they might need. They were tired and achey, but never got very very sick. 

I just took a break; AdventureMan asked me how the trip report was coming and I said I was finishing up and I was astonished at how much COVID had been an influence on this trip. From the start, when Viking cancelled our planned cruise in May, to the end, with hotels and restaurants struggling to find staffing, COVID had played a major role. We need to be paying attention. Things are changing. We are going to need to do things differently. We need to start figuring out those strategies now.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Climate Change, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 12, Jackson Hole to Bozeman through Idaho

I have a Swedish sausage with my breakfast, because of Swedish descent as I am, I have never had a Swedish sausage. I like the taste, but not the consistency, which is kind of loose and crumbly. Great coffee, great muesli and love those berries. 

Very hazy day, trouble with allergies and breathing due to particulate matter from raging forest fires

Gas leaving Jackson Hole is $3.99 a gallon at the cheapest station.

I take a photo of the motel we stayed more than forty years ago, just outside Jackson Hole, when we were traveling across the USA in our Volkswagon Bus en route to Monterey, CA for grad school and language school and knew we couldn’t afford to stay inside Jackson Hole. We were right across from the Elk reserve, and once we got our little baby to sleep, we sat outside and watched the enormous herd of elk as they munched and wandered. It isn’t so far outside Jackson Hole, now, and I am glad it is still there. 

This is the second day where we experience haze. We drive up over the mountains into Idaho, and spend a couple hours on very rural highways sharing the road with large combines, harvesters and all kinds of farm equipment. 

The scenery starts to change when we near Big Sky and the Gallatin River. Lunch was apples with peanut butter alongside a road with trucks whizzing by.

Marriott Residence Inn

Once again, our hotel room is not ready. As we wait, another man gets the same response and also that he will not be on his requested floor. He is very angry, says he reserved a month ago (!) and wants to be accommodated. Later I ask the desk clerk if they are having problems with finding people to work and she says yes, that it is a problem everywhere in Bozeman. I suspect that they have closed off the top floor and are also limiting the number of people they can serve until they can guarantee the ability to take care of them. 

I am thinking that this has a lot to do with demographics, and problems with finding good, reliable, safe child care, and finding jobs which will protect their workers and also provide benefits. We can see that many of the hotels are now offering health insurance and educational benefits to the people they hire. I am thinking the labor market has a little leverage, and they are using it to better their conditions. 

And yes, that may inconvenience business owners and managers, and inconvenience customers, like us, but for the greater good, perhaps we can find a balance where everyone wins?

Our room is lovely, and quiet, and spacious. 

We have reservations for dinner at Blacksmith Italian, a restaurant we both found intriguing. Bossy Lady totally screwed up getting us there, sometimes she doesn’t really know everything, but she got us close enough and we figured out the rest. 

The minute we walked in, we knew we were in the right place. It was full of local people. The plates coming out looked very fine. The smells were delicious.

We split a platter of meats and cheeses; it was full of delicate tidbits, duck and Italian sausage and tiny pickled peppers filled with ricotta, etc. This came with crispy tasty triangular bread, a little salty, very tasty. AdventureMan had mussels and a side of pasta as his main course, and I had calamari with a Putenesca sauce and a side of pasta. The sauce was fabulous; I didn’t even need the calamari, the sauce was so engaging. The wines were equally good; I had a Barbera and AdventureMan has a Lacryma Cristi white wine which was so good, I ordered it the next night.

Calimari with Puttanesca Sauce
Side order of pasta

Yes. It was so good we reserved for the next night, too. It would be our last night in Bozeman, might as well end on a high note.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Work Related Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open: Day 11, The Tetons, Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole

We are up leisurely, no place we have to be in a hurry, and breakfast is included in our room. We get up, dress, head down to the breakfast room where there is not a buffet, I am guessing a concession to COVID, but a nice menu from which we can order. I order the muesli with a bowl of fresh berries, and AdventureMan orders an omelette. I get a great big pot of coffee, and he has tea. The breakfast room is so like being back in Germany. 

We are headed for Jenny Lake today, and are directed once again to Moose Wilson Road. As we near the middle, we see a car stopped and a lively elderly woman is hanging out of her car gesturing wildly to our side of the road and mouthing “MOOSE! MOOSE!” We drive slowly; I am so close that I have a hard time getting a good shot because the side mirror gets in the way. The moose, a cow, is very thin and enjoying some nice fresh shoots in a freshwater creek. If she is aware of us, she doesn’t let on. She just munches along. 

Although we are early, Jenny Lake is crowded, and there are no parking places. We head up for the overlook, and spend some time on a trail that leads to the Jenny Lake recreation area. The Jenny Lake Lodge is closed except to registered guests, a great disappointment because I love to look at the lodges. 

The view from the overlook is purely awesome. Mountains have that capacity, to awe and make words insufficient. We just filled our eyes. 

Remember that guide back at Yellowstone, as we watched Old Faithful erupt? He had told his group (and us) that one of the best places to eat in Jackson Hole was Teton Thai, in Teton Village, so we thought we would have lunch there. As it turns out, no, at least on Mondays they don’t open until dinner, so we needed to find somewhere else, and were told to try Spur, at the Mountain Lodge. I ordered Salad and a side order of brussel sprouts, which were roasted and crispy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and AdventureMan, who has never had any fondness for brussel sprouts even tried one . . . and then another . . . and another. They were really good. 

AdventureMan had a salmon – avocado toast which was also very satisfying, very tasty.

We spent time just walking around Jackson Hole, exploring, observing and yes, shopping. We are getting close to the end of our trip and we like to have something to bring back for our family. 

Jackson Hole is a lot of fun. It has a very young, energetic vibe. It has a lot of public art, and it seems to have a sense of humor about itself. We found some nice things for the family, and then, we also found an Eddie Bauer where we found some things for ourselves, too. 

This day had one sad event. We had booked a couple months ago for a restaurant in Bozeman that we really love. The day before we were going to arrive we got a call from the owner that his front staff had all quit and he had to close the restaurant. We were shocked, and sad for him; he has a truly distinctive and elegant restaurant, with foods we loved. I have to believe he will find a way to hire new staff, or convince former staff to come back. It would be too sad if such a lovely restaurant disappeared from the Bozeman scene.

At the same time, I am reading the Jackson Hole newspaper and there are nine full pages of help wanted ads. Many of the hotel and restaurants seeking help are offering free room and board in addition to salary and benefits. There are ads all across the spectrum though, librarians, engineers, substitute school teachers, airport security, etc. If we were young people, Jackson Hole would be a wonderful place to work, full of other active young people and world class skiing. 

Dinner that night at the Alpenhof is French Onion Soup and salad. We want to go a little easier on ourselves.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 10, Lamar Valley, Gardiner, Montana and Reflections

We are up at 6:30 without even setting the alarm, and head out to pick up coffee and go directly to Lamar Valley. Once again, no biscotti. AdventureMan buys a muffin, too sweet for me.

Great clouds

There was a heavy rain last night, the day is very clear, partly cloudy, with rays of sun beaming down. It is beautiful. Just past Roosevelt Lodge, and the turn to Lamar Valley, a truck in front of us slows down as a group of bison approach the road, maybe 20 of them, and start a trek across the bridge over the Yellowstone River. Cars start to pile up behind us, but they are all the kinds of early morning people who are respectful, there is no honking or people exiting their cars to take photos, and it is really a delightful experience. 

On the other side of the bridge is a trail the bison are climbing to get wherever bison go. Why shouldn’t they take the easy route, rather than down into the basin, cross the river, struggle up the other side? 

Because it’s so beautiful and I cannot resist . . .

We saw lots of groups looking for wolves in Lamar Valley, and bear, but we saw no wolves or bear. Often they are just little dots, off in the distance. We see many anglers casting their lines in the Soda Butte River, having the time of their life. Maybe they are all catching and releasing; I never see any fish being taken back to the cars. 

Ranger heading down into Slough Creek

When we got to the Soda Butte the light was beautiful. It has been blocked off since the time we walked around it and attracted the attention of a very annoyed bison, probably because people like us were attracting too much negative attention of territorial bison. 

We went into Gardiner for breakfast, eager to get back to Tumbleweeks, a combination book store and cafe we particularly like. I had hot cereal with fruits, and . . . a slice of coffee cake, full of huckleberries and raspberries. One bite and I knew I was in trouble – it was SO sweet. And I ate the whole thing, knowing I would pay the price. (I did. The next morning I had the worst blood sugar reading I’ve had all year. I am usually so careful. I still remember that slice of coffee cake with great fondness.Sometimes we can’t help what we love.)

Tumbleweeds is doing gang-buster business, of course. You have a good product, it attracts business. They also are located next to Flying Pig adventure rafting business, and they have a sign that says “You do not get fast tracked because your rafting trip is about to leave.” I can only imagine the situations that have led to the posting of that sign. We heard one of the guides say to the cashier that they were closing down; “once the rains came the season is over.” People are closing up outside the park, also, clearly, inside. Yesterday, in the coffee line at the Mammoth Springs Hotel, we learned that there is noplace in Mammoth Springs serving breakfast; they tell people to go into Gardiner. 

En route back into the park from Gardiner, there is not even a person at the gate to check our pass. Back in Mammoth Springs, we walk around the village, visit the old Mail Carriers House, and head back to A23, our cabin. We ask the housekeeper about all the empty cabins, and she says “Yes, many cabins have been blocked because we don’t have people to care for them.”

I have a friend, a little younger, who asked me how aging is impacting the way we travel. I remember telling her first, that it hadn’t. Then, as I thought about my answer, I had to go back to her and tell her that we have changed, and because AdventureMan would get sick and tired from so much driving, we had devised a strategy of “shorter days, longer stays.”

On this trip, we discovered we still have the energy, we can do more than 10,000 steps per day, but we have to do it earlier, and later, and we have to have a rest or a nap in the middle of the day. Our transition days are the hardest, when we have driven further and we really need a nap and our room isn’t ready yet. 

In spite of rests we are sleeping very well, mainly due to quiet locales and cooler nights, also good mattresses. We also need our reading glasses more often, for maps, for menus, for directions, for bills and receipts, for fine print in guide books.

So we are packing, tomorrow is another transition day, Mammoth Springs to Teton Village, just outside Jackson Hole, WY.

I like my small suitcase; it is easy to manage, and I have enough clothing because I wear the same things over and over. I only brought the one sweatshirt; sweatshirts take up a lot of room. I brought too many short sleeve shirts. I brought one very casual dress and one dress that works for dinner, and one linen dress I use for travel and for transition days. All three of those items did heavy duty in the two weeks. One skirt got baggy because I wore it so often, it was pure cotton; the skirt that had some spandex in it kept its shape better. 

As we sit outside on our porch, we talk with some people we have talked with before; we were talking with them when I spotted the elk walking by behind our cabins, so they also got some shots. They were up this morning at 3:30 to go out with a Wolf spotting team and they saw lots and lots of wolves in Lamar Valley, and watched two packs of wolves meet up with each other. 

We have never seen wolves in Lamar Valley. We go there a lot, but I guess not early enough and/or not with the right people.

Tonight, we have our last dinner at Wonderland, but this is a valuable and hilarious evening. We know they open at five, so we make it a point to be there at 4:30. 

The word is out. Wonderland already has a line about twenty-five people long when we arrive. We are behind a group that is talking about having been out this morning watching for wolves, and they saw two packs of wolves meeting up, something no-one has seen before.

We can’t even look at each other. We have heard this phrase often, on safari in Africa. The wildlife spotters work together, they contact one another, they do their best to make sure their clients spot the game they want to see. 

So we’ve been looking for wolves and never saw a one. 

Next time, we might have to bite the bullet and hire a game spotter. We kind of prefer being on our own, not being in a group with other people, not being subject to someone else’s agenda, not being a part of those big groups along the side of the road. But this is our last night in Yellowstone, and we are thinking we might need to bend a little if we want to see wolves.

Squash Soup
Grilled Chicken Caesar
Caldera Burger

Dinner at Wonderland is delicious, as always. I have the squash soup and a grilled chicken Caesar, and AdventureMan has the Caldera Burger, which he loves. We love to watch the Wonderland team work together; they are a great team.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out in the Great Wide Open: Montana and Wyoming Day 1

Our first major trip since the beginning of COVID had an ambiguous start. AdventureMan and I over prepare, we always do. So the day before we are scheduled to leave for Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, we are actually pretty relaxed. We are all packed – actually packed, and then re-evaluated when the weather suddenly turned from the high 90’s to much lower, and we scrambled to add some cold weather gear to the mix. We are enjoying some down time when AdventureMan calls from his office to mine – “Hey, we just got a letter from Viking you need to look at.”

AdventureMan is a big picture kind of guy. He gets right away that our trip in May 2022 is being cancelled. I capture the details – that we either apply the money we have paid in full to a future trip or we call immediately to tell them we want a full refund. This is the second time we have had this particular trip cancel and we look at each other and agree that two cancellations are enough.

There is an incentive to putting the money forward – a 10% reduction in the cost of the trip. We already have another trip booked with them, but for less money, so we wanted to keep it clean. We needed to call right away, because the deadline was during the middle of this trip which we are about to take, and our lack of internet connections in the remote locations we seek could prevent us from getting our refund. AdventureMan got right on it, the representative answered, encouraged us to book the trip again (we declined) and worked it out so that our refund will arrive shortly.

Crisis averted. Don’t you hate it when things happen at the last minute?

The following morning we were up at 0345 and Patrick, our taxi driver, arrived exactly on the dot of 4:15. For me, it was a scramble. Morning feeding of the two indoor cats and the one outdoor cat is my responsibility, plus getting dressed. I scrambled. I was finished just in time, we got to the airport, checked in and went through security. No problems, except I forgot I had my Fitbit on and had to be searched. 

One other problem. For this trip I had really tried to manage with a carry on bag, which preparing for two weeks is problematic. I had really thought things through, had clothes with multiple purposes, got it all in the one bag and my purse – and then they wouldn’t let me take the bag on board, they valet’ed it. I have a large handbag, large enough for my computer and meds and rental car paperwork, so all was well, but it was annoying to follow all the rules and then not to be able to take it with me. We call this a first world problem – in the greater scheme of things, it was small stuff. 

Our first flight was to Charlotte, and there was some passenger having a problem about wearing the masks over both mouth and nose, and about whether the female flight attendant had the authority to require full coverage. No problem, they had a big male flight safety monitor who explained his choices to him – cover, or get off the flight. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has had more than 4200 reports of unruly passengers since the beginning of 2021. More than 3000 of these reports were due to refusals to wear masks, in spite of clear guidance from every airline that this is a mandate. 

We were close to where the flight attendants were chatting during take-off, laughing that a man would refuse to believe a woman had the authority to instruct him to wear a mask. Welcome to 2021. 

In Charlotte, we had just enough time to stop at the Farmer’s Market and pick us sandwiches and chips for the next leg of the flight. There were huge lines at all the other places, for Biscuits and Eggs, for McDonalds, for Starbucks. The second flight also departed on time. We don’t take these blessings for granted.

We arrived in Bozeman on time, 50 degrees F. outside and raining. We were delighted. There have been forest fires sending waves of particulate matter towards Bozeman for weeks, and now the winds have shifted, and the rain has helped tamp down the pollution. Again, we feel blessed.

AdventureMan had to wait for his bag so I went to pick up the rental car. Things got weird. Not in a hard way, just in an unusual way. There was no one at my rental agency’s counter, but there was a sign to check in with another rental agency. There was no line, so I checked in. The guy offered me an upgrade for a pittance to a Rav4, a car we really like anyway. Then he handed me the keys and told me how to return it when we were done. 

“Wait!” I said. “Don’t we have to sign a rental contract and talk about filling the tank and stuff?”

“Our printer isn’t working,” he stated, and I didn’t believe him for a heartbeat. “I can send you an e-mail copy if you wish” and yes, I so wished. I had my own copy of the initial agreement, but it was for a different kind of car. I’m glad I had it with me because the entire two weeks we drove this rental car, I never received a copy of the new rental agreement. A couple hours after I returned the car, I received the updated rental agreement. 

But the car was a beautiful turquoise blue, and close enough to the cars we drive to be easy, even better than AdventureMan’s 2010 version. It was an easy drive to our hotel, the Spring Hill Inn, which had our room waiting for us, a large, serene and quiet room, close to everything. Then off to the nearby Walmart, our usual Bozeman outfitter, for what we call car foods, and insect repellant (which we never had to use) and other small items of convenience.

There is a lot of construction going on in Bozeman, and we are told by many we talk with that the problem is trying to find an affordable place to live in Bozeman. Outside our window, we can see new housing going up, and we can also see the solution the construction workers have found to deal with the housing affordability problem.

We parked downtown when we found a place that looked wonderful and had a smoker out front, but it turned out to be a fine food purveyor, not a restaurant. We asked her for a recommendation, and she said ‘You have to go to the Rocking R” so we did. The Rocking R is actually a bar, a great cowboy bar, and the restaurant is called Hail Mary. We both had elk burgers – hey, we’re in Bozeman – and they were delicious. I think mine was called something like the Outlaw, and my beer was a Maverick Mary; it tasted good and because I don’t drink much, half a beer and I was buzzed. I also had roasted shaved brussel sprouts to salve my conscience. We had a great time. We are happy just to be back in Bozeman. 

We had time to take a walk along the main street – woo hooo, lots of fun stores, a rug store for AdventureMan and a book store for me. 

We couldn’t ask for a better first day. No delays, no negative events. Hardest part of the day was trying to keep myself awake until 8 p.m.

September 12, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Financial Issues, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Restaurant, sunrise series, Travel | , | Leave a comment