Moon

Curse of the Full Moon

The end of the Seattle trip has been kind of crazy. It started easy with Isabel for our last day, but things didn't turn out quite as planned with the Eurovan, and circumstances snowballed into one utterly insane day that could only have happened under the full moon.



Huckleberries
Thursday was a nice, quiet day with Isabel. It was beautifully overcast and cool, too, in the high 70's instead of the 80's we'd been having for most of the week. We went to her weight lifting class, cooled off, went out for to a nice little teriyaki place we had never been to, and then went walking at the nearby Redmond Watershed preserve. The woods there were dense, thick with moss, undergrowth, and 100-year-old trees. There were countless stumps from the old growth that had been cut down 100 years ago, and a plethora of things growing from them: huckleberry, mushrooms, mosses, and new trees. We saw mice, rabbits, and real slugs. *laughs*

I had a blast crouching down and really studying a slug with Jet. It was just sliding along the same path we were walking, and it was brown and Jet noted the very textured back end. He thought they were okay. *laughs*

That evening we went to Lombardi's in Issaquah, a long-time Italian standby for John and I when we were living in Redmond and up on the Plateau (which is now its own city!). While we were having dinner, John mentioned that we really haven't been anywhere where the traditional Italian food is done quite as well as it's done at Lombardi's. Thinking a bit more about it, I really did love the Stinking Rose in the Bay Area nearly as much, but for the sheer comfort of excellent Italian food, Lombardi's really does win. Though they no longer make the cannelloni I used to crave. *laughs*

Our salads were good, John and Isabel shared a 'garden salad' that had more than a dozen fresh veggies. Jet and I had a solid Caesar salad that was crisp and lightly dressed, there were plenty of crisp croutons, but the real star was the bread with a dish of olive oil with half a dozen cloves of garlic cooked to the consistency of butter. We polished off the bread and garlic happily with our salads and got more for dinner.

Isabel had the baked penne with tomato sauce, and they had a "small" serving of the big pasta dishes which was very much appreciated. John got the homemade lasagna, with flat fresh noodles and a deep, rich meat filling, a long-cooked tomato sauce, and just enough cheese to hold it together. Jet ordered a pizza and got s beautifully crisp disk laden with tomato, cheese, and basil. He was able to eat half of it that night, and had the rest cold for lunch the next day on the road. I got the Dungeness Crab spaghettini, and it came with sweet lumps of crab meat on a plate of thin spaghetti in a beautifully fresh tomato sauce with browned, thin slices of their spicy house sausage.

I was very happy.

We played some games that night, talked a lot, and while we didn't really need to pack that much, we got things gathered into their carrying enclosures. I drank the last of the white, unfiltered sake I'd gotten, and slept very well. The next morning we had some breakfast (finishing off most of the things we'd bought), packed up the car, and hit the road.

Mt. Si in mist
That's Mt. Si under a blanket of clouds, it's the first mountain I ever tried to "climb" (it's more of a hike) and utterly failed to get even halfway up. At its feet is a huge blueberry farm that has some of the best blueberries I've ever eaten.

We headed East on I-90. The idea was to get to Missoula that night so that there would only be a two hour drive to Butte in the morning, they'd gotten the head gasket, hadn't seen more problems in the engine, and were putting it all back together. So we were just going as fast as we could, without side-tracking or too much exploration. We just stuck to the Interstate, got over the mountains, into sunshine, and just kept going.

Eastern Washington would be desert but for the rivers that run through it. It's on the eastern side of the mountains, so gets very little rainfall and plenty of sunshine, so with the water for irrigation, it grows enormous amounts of fruit. The typical Washington apple comes from Eastern Washington, along with the cherries, peaches, grapes for wine, and lots of other stuff. Idaho and Western Montana are also enormous farm and ranch areas, with miles upon miles of hay (timothy and alphafa), wheat, corn, and legumes.

Fruit!
So once we were well into farm country, we stopped to pick up some fruit and drinks for our running lunch. It was very nice to stretch our legs, and cherries, apricots, nectarines, and peaches were in season. So we picked up some apricots and iced teas and just got back in and kept driving.

One of those strategies we've developed over the years has been to avoid the typical fast food lunch. We mostly pack crackers and cheese and fruit and just eat that, drink what we want, and it's easy enough to eat while driving. It's always interesting to see "590 miles" to the next turn on the GPS and just get into the mood to just run the numbers down. The 75 mph speed limits up there are relatively new, as in some of the states up here hadn't had anything but night time speed limits for quite some time, and they're enforced more for safety than anything else.

So we could just set the cruise control and go.

The Mighty Columbia
This is a river. The Columbia is what makes me look at what's called the St. Vrain River up here and think of it more as a creek. Still... It was fun to cross. Out into Idaho and just forty minutes of the panhandle, and then we were into the rolling fields of Montana.

One of the things we like doing is listening to NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" from one of our various iPod variants. John usually has a thing that translates the output to a radio signal that any car radio can pick up and broadcast. It's a very neat little trick and we left it in the Eurovan while we were picking stuff out of it to go to Seattle, so at Frye's John bought a Bluetooth speaker for it. The sound was very clean, and we spent hours on the road listening, laughing, and call out answers. It's a fun way to keep up with current events, and Jet really enjoys the humor, too.

There Is Fire
A little ways into the state, we came across a sign that said, "Fire Activity for the next ten miles, no stopping." And then we saw the plume of smoke. It was the West Mullan Fire, that's now involving about 6300 acres, and is about 60% contained, and is running right along the freeway. I've never seen a fire that close to the freeway before, and we could see not just the flames and smoke, but also a whole pod of helicopters a few miles east of it right next to the freeway too. There wasn't any franticness to it, just a steady fight and a lot of pine beetle kill to be burned.

It's interesting how a lot of Colorado and the West now has to deal with pine beetle killed pine trees that are as dry as tinder. So long as there aren't structures nearby, or a threat to letting the fire be completely out of control, it's better to let the dead stuff burn and be gone than to lose lives fighting it.

We got past safely and got into Missoula, well before dinner time. The Super 8 was nice enough, and we checked in and headed into town to the Tamarack Brewing Company for a simple pub dinner. Jet and I shared an enormous prime rib wrap with grills onions and mushrooms and a very spicy aioli. The side salad was fresh and bright with colors. John had a half pound burger with onion rings, BBQ sauce, bacon, and cheese along with a salad of his own.

Big Dipper!
beckyb had pointed me at the Big Dipper ice cream stand, which we'd actually visited on a previous trip to Missoula, and we decided that after dinner we were going to walk across the river to the ice cream shop. Unexpectedly, we ran into this van, from the Big Dipper, at a city concert by the river! It was barely a block away from the Tamarack. I think a local band was playing and the crowd was cheerful, friendly, and partying.

We decided to just go for the shop instead of the truck, as I wanted to see the full array of flavors. Besides, I really wanted to see the lady that was serving there last time, who had two enormous angel wings, every feather in ruffled array and detail across her back. I knew it might not be likely, but not going would make it impossible. So we decided to try the walk across the river.

The walkway was narrow, and the edge right over the river. On the way over, staying on the right side, I was half afraid I'd drop something over the edge into the rushing water; but that never happened, and then we saw the party on the islands in the middle of the river.

Fall!
The kayakers had taken the shore, but in the middle were all the surfers.

That's right. Surfers.

People on surf boards who were paddling past the rapids on the right side, and into the center island to catch the wave from the rocks in the middle of the river! That was pretty fun to watch, especially one guy that caught the wave and hung out there for a while.

There were also a lot of people riding inner tubes down the river, though the rapids on either side of the island. Some had coolers with them, some were just in swim suits. Some had double-tubes that had a bridge linking them. It was pretty fun to see the array of people that went by. *laughs* It was really fun to watch for a while, and then we went all the way over, another block along the bridge road and there was The Big Dipper.

Goal in Sight!Really Long LinesOrdering

Worth the Wait
The line was enormous as the day was hot, but the menu was extensive, and it was a hard decision to make. I finally ended up doing the famous Montana huckleberry and my favorite cardamom ice cream. John got his black licorice with a chocolate orange chocolate chip. Jet happily tucked into a mint and lemon sorbet. Wow. I loved the flavors, and with the lady carrying all three in one hand I got a taste of all the flavors the boys had gotten. That was very nice.

The huckleberry was fruity and tart and lovely, and the cardamom was creamy smooth and sweet with the spice. We sat for a while at the picnic tables and just enjoyed our cone before walking back through the concert, the park, and to our car. The night was uneventful and in the morning John called the guys in Butte only to find out that while the Eurovan had started, it wasn't really running right.

The good news was that since it hadn't worked, they weren't charging us for all that they'd done, but the bad news was that things weren't working, yet, and we'd have to figure out what we were going to do because it was likely to take at least a week, if not two, for them to straighten things out. The rental car place we went to wouldn't let us take the car one-way to Denver, so we had to return it to Butte. And it would be another five hundred dollars for us to keep it another week.

With all that information, I finally just said, "Let's go home. We can take the rental car home, get the Passat, and then take the rental car back and drive the Passat back home. Maybe we can find a friend for Jet to stay with for the two nights we're gone, too."

We had breakfast, packed up, and John made some calls while I drove to Butte, MT, because there were a few things we had to take from the Eurovan if we were going to be utterly without it for many weeks. One of the things was a whole box of my watercolor painting gear that I'd brought if we had a few days out in the wilderness, camping, for me to paint what's actually out here under the wide plains' skies. On the way John found that we had one friend that would take Jet for one night, but not both. He also suddenly realized with hotels, car wear, and gas, it might be cheaper for him to just drive the rental to Butte and fly home than for me to take the Passat to go with him. So when we stopped at the shop in Butte, he used their free Wifi to book a ticket home on Sunday afternoon, at 1.

And the race was on. *laughs*

Wyoming
We flew home. Just got into the trance mode of real long-distance driving that can only come from countless times doing the 24 hour run between San Diego and Seattle. The rolling hills of Montana turned into Wyoming, and we had a quick Safeway sandwich lunch, and just kept going. Jet was into his iTouch, his books, and was wonderfully patient. I took more of the turns than John did, just so that he'd be fresh for Saturday. We were all looking forward to sleeping in our own beds.

The friend texted me back to tell me that her plans had changed and if Jet wanted to go to a Weird Al concert on Sunday night, that he was welcome to go with them and then stay the night at their place. Jet was amenable and so we said, "Yes." to her invitation and I was never so thankful as I was on Sunday night when it proved vital to actually getting through that night.

The entire way was dry, clear, sunny and bright. And I took this just before I took my turn for the last leg of the drive, in the dark, to get home a bit after midnight. Jet was able to sleep sometime after dark until we got home.

Wyoming Sunset
We just staggered, with the minimal stuff, into the house, fell into our beds, and John was up at 9 am, doing laundry, checking the time of his flight, and getting packed for the run back up. He left before noon, and Jet and I entertained ourselves for the rest of the night with the HOA's pool party. One of the neighbors served burgers in a downpour in bright sunshine! *laughs* I wonder what fox was getting married then?

It was a beautiful downpour and as it was finishing up the helicopter that usually announces the party came whirling down into the main yard of the neighborhood. What was unusual was that they took people up on rides! After that, Jet and I went swimming for a while, and I got a little alone time while Jet enjoyed the party for an hour or so before coming home. We were both pretty exhausted by then, and he went to sleep at his usual bedtime. We talked with John, in his hotel, before Jet went to sleep and then I did my usual thing when John isn't home, and stayed up until 2 am before I went to bed and fell deep asleep.

We were up at 7:30 because we needed to be at breakfast at 8. We went to Luna's and had enormous, beautiful peach and mango muffins before going to church, where Jet was one of the ushers and I was the lay leader for the day. I pitched in as an usher for a while, and then did the readings. We talked with some people after, but then went home and had some lunch. That's when John txt'ed to say that his flight from Butte to Salt Lake City was delayed because the plane coming in had been delayed that morning. He wasn't too sure if he was going to make it to his connection.

Jet and I just hung out until the friends came to pick Jet up at 5:30 pm. John txt'ed me to tell me that he had, indeed missed his flight to Denver. I got Jet off to his event just before John called to say that he was being offered the choice to go through a one stop to Denver at 1 am or that he might have a chance at Colorado Springs at about 10 pm.

Colorado Springs is about a two hour drive from my house, if the freeways are completely clear. There were all kinds of possible delays as the route goes right through the heart of Denver, and it's the main way between Denver and Colorado Springs, the city. But I said, "Colorado Springs at 10 would be better than DIA at 1 am."

So he went that route.

I tried to take a shower while I still had the time, and the water ran cold. For some reason the water heater was out. Last summer it was because the pilot light had gone out due to all kinds of things, and so I trundled down into the basement and found the pilot light still on. That boded no good for anyone, but I didn't have the emotional resources, anymore, to deal.

Of course then THAT flight was delayed, and since it was going to take him less time to fly from Salt Lake to Colorado Springs than it would take me to drive from Longmont to Colorado Springs, I was stressing about leaving early, until John said, flat out, that I shouldn't leave until he was actually on the plane. He didn't care if I was late picking him up, he didn't want me going out early only to find that his flight was cancelled. During the wait I tried to refuel the Passat, but the usual place I get diesel had shouting, angry people at the booth, so I delayed a bit, and then the whole station closed down, so I had to go elsewhere. "A full moon is tomorrow," John txted... "Maybe that's why..."

Finally, I got the txt from him that he was on the plane. I txted back to tell him that he'd better sleep on the plane because he was going to have to get us home. He said no problem, he hadn't been in a car since 9 am that morning. Oof. So I headed out. And only ten minutes into the drive, two raccoons dove under the tires of my car, and I could hear and feel the crunch. I pulled over, got out, and didn't see a sign of it on the car, so the Passat hadn't taken as much of a hit as I thought.

Good Lord. I was so tired of weird things happening that night... that I had a really hard time, when I got to I-25, of really getting up to my usual speeds on the 75 mph freeway. Unlike Montana and Wyoming, the Denver portion of I-25 is really crowded. It's city drivers, used to the crush and speed, and using it for all their worth. There were, of course, construction areas just south of downtown. One was right in the middle of nowhere, south of Monument, and then another right before Colorado Springs. And then, of course, John had the GPS, so I was going by printed Google maps and instructions, something I haven't done for years, and I realized just how much I depended on various GPS features, like knowing what the speed limit is all the time, seeing just how far I had to go before turns, and getting warnings before I had to turn.

Luckily, Colorado Springs does a great job putting up signs for their airport, and I managed to get there, though it was already midnight when I finally pulled up to see John as the lone figure waiting for me at the passenger pickup area.

He was so happy to see me, he jumped up and down at seeing me. *laughs* I got out to swap places and he squished me happily with a hug, because the flight that went through LA was also badly delayed, and basically by choosing Colorado Springs we'd made it so that he hadn't had to spend a night in LA. AND he could make his morning shift at the day shelter at the OUR center. He drove us home, and I was babbling by the time we pulled into the driveway at 2 am. All the construction had cleared out, we had clear sailing home, and we both attributed it to the fact that the day was officially over at midnight.

I think it was probably the strangest day I've had in a very long time, but we're home and we're safe, and we're very very thankful.
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Definite moon madness.

(hugs) What a stressful way to end the holiday. I'm very glad you're all safely home.
(hugs solidly back) Thank you very very much. It is good to finally be home. *laughs*
(hugs) Thank you! Sorry we missed meeting up with you, though. Next time we'll plan in advanced!
What an eventful trip you had! Glad you're all safe and sound, though, and it does sound like you had a good time despite all the hiccups along the way.

I love the Colorado Springs airport and fly in and out of it exclusively. DIA is a nightmare in comparison. :)
It's a beautiful, little airport! SO much easier.

We had a great time with a lot of good people. I totally thought of you when I heard that Colorado Springs was an option. *laughs* And John and I had even planned to stop at the same Village Inn, if he'd come in at 10 we would have done it, too! Mmm... pie.
Close enough. Close enough. We're both morning the van's damage, and it's painful how much it's going to cost to get it back, but it'll be back, and there might be help in insurance by the people that put the water pump in. They're the ones that failed to clamp the hose that failed... I'm still pretty angry about that, but... we'll see if it can work in our favor in that they might own up to at least part of the costs.

But, yes, we're safe. No one was injured, the costs aren't beyond our means, and we're safe and home for now. *grins*
We were on that stretch of I-90 at about the same time that you were, on the way to a reunion in Yellowstone. We'd wondered about the fire scars. We didn't see any smoke when we were going back on Sunday, so hopefully it's out.

Sorry about the moon madness ending. I enjoyed the moon on the way out and in Yellowstone, but at what cost? For us the only complication was a lost credit card. We got off very lightly in comparison. *hugs*
Ooo... I hope that the reunion went well! Neat that the fire was more out than on when you went by. The helicopters were very busy when we were there. I hope it's out, too!

I'm glad you enjoyed the moon!! *laughs softly* Mmm... yeah, there's always complications of some sort, it's just how one rolls with them. *hugs solidly* I hope that the credit card replacement was easier rather than harder!