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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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*
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.
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.