SPRING IN CALI AND A BIG FALL JOURNEY

IT IS 2014 AND A VERY GOOD YEAR IS UNDERWAY.

ROAD SONGS

One of the BEST things about road trips is that you can PACK AS MUCH AS YOU WANT.

One of the BEST things about road trips is that you can PACK AS MUCH AS YOU WANT.

I need road songs. I didn’t take care of my DVDs and now they are scratched and melted and all used up. But I need road songs because Friday I AM ON MY WAY TO CALIFORNIA. Not so many travels this year but now the urge is getting stronger…I’ll appease it on the 10, 15 and 91 to Teresa’s house and then the 5 down to Scott’s in San Diego. I’m practicing California speak…the 6 to the 3 to the 12 exit at the 86 onto the 17 keep going to the 42 left lane ease onto the 204…  I am excited. Haven’t been out of Albuquerque, New Mexico since sometime last fall. Can cabin fever extend to a town, a state?

Maybe I’ll buy a DVD of “O’Brother” tomorrow because it is not possible to drive out of town without “You are My Sunshine” at full volume, a Starbucks in hand with Albuquerque in my rearview mirror.

Maybe my grandchildren can help me out of the DVD age and I’ll have hundreds of tunes on the way back.

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ROAD FOOD TRIP FOOD CAR FOOD DRIVING FOOD

ROAD TRIPS AND FIG NEWTONS

clean car full gas tank I-25 chili fields Hatch meringue-peaked mountain top kitty corner to I-10 big skies big skies big skies blue relentless skies police thriller DVD oh oh Phoenix ugly chaotic west west west mountains now broad valleys rocky stony mountains to 15 traffic multiplies X 1000 south to the 91 west to Redondo Beach Teresa Steven love California

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HERE I AM…975 miles later…AND ONE EARTHQUAKE LATER

I think I took the long way… Yes, I definitely took the very long way. Drove 15 hours. Which was only possible because of a good night’s sleep, two Starbucks, my loyal Mazda and knowing I would get to one of my very favorite person’s house tonight. She’s out buying cinnamon roll ice cream and coffee as I wind down from the last three-four hours of the day in LA freeway traffic.

California girl

California girl

OH YEAH, AND WE DID JUST HAVE A REALLY NOTICEABLE EARTHQUAKE. Honest.

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VACA

LA is the only major California city I haven’t lived in—and I am actually sorry about that. I like it here, this quiet Redondo Beach neighborhood, the tai chi performance in the park outside Teresa’s window, the mix of families and young professionals and grandparents in the modest but pleasant houses and apartment buildings. Nice lazy Saturday, pajamas, Steven comes over from Irvine and we trip plan, order-in bad pizza, I meet Teresa’s new friend, eat ice cream.

If I were younger I might describe him as an awesome dude, a little younger, I'd say cool guy. Think I'll settle for an age-appropriate (my age not his) label...nice boy.

If I were younger I might describe him as an awesome dude, a little younger, I’d say cool guy. Think I’ll settle for an age-appropriate (my age not his) label…nice boy.

Sunday breakfast at the beach, afternoon at Hula class, leisurely drive down PCH to San Diego—leisurely being a relative term for SoCal traffic.

GIRLS AND MIMOSAS

GIRLS AND MIMOSAS

Aaahhhhh LA!

TERESA WAS BORN IN HAWAII, A NATURAL HULA GIRL

TERESA WAS BORN IN HAWAII, A NATURAL HULA GIRL

 

VACATION IS GOOD. And I appreciated the 5.1 earthquake to begin. Today REI to look for a new backpack and then Scott’s fixing Oxtail stew. Hmmm!  This must be the ‘good life’ in the golden state.

The unrivaled beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway

The unrivaled beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway

CALIFORNIA SPRING 2014 254

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SOCAL

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San Diego, California. Looking out over the harbor, runway, freeway from the elegant little house on Thorn Street. Scott and Sandra go to work early so I have these mornings to think about California and family and my life. You can join me if you like for a few sessions of nostalgic sharing.
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San Diego was home for a while in the 90s. I actually lived up in Escondido, commuting down here to the city for that MSW I used so briefly and for several of my various jobs—the most interesting of the latter as a night supervisor in a halfway house for men getting out of the pen. My security weapon being one of those giant flashlights that could easily render a large meanie unconscious. The residents were an interesting lot, from the OCD bank robber who stayed up scrubbing floors most of the night to a Charles Keating son-in-law caught up in the Arizona Savings and Loan scandal whose perfectly blonde, tan and expensively garbed wife came to pick him up for weekend leave. The work I did here, both the internships and the survival positions, were uniformly interesting: halfway houses and homeless shelters and soup kitchens and they deserve a blog all their own.

The 90s could be characterized as my furlough from Albuquerque, first to San Francisco then Minnesota and back to California, San Diego this time, and finally to Minnesota. It was a time of professional and educational adventures (and misadventures), financial angst, and personal awkwardness. In many ways the most difficult time was the three years here in this idyllic southland of milk and honey or, better yet, sushi and chardonnay
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The California coast in all its perfect foggy rugged beach-rimmed beauty is no place for people in some sort of mid-life crisis to start over. It’s just too pretty and costly and dreamy and fast and self-conscious and self-assured all at once. I couldn’t keep up. I had long passed the blonde beauty on the beach phase of my life (it only lasted a short Florida moment after all) and I had a BS degree in Teaching/Social Studies with experience running small performing arts centers. Not exactly poised for social or economic success in sunny SoCal. I was in this particular place at this particular time to be around my new grandchildren and poor grandmas just aren’t your most desirable immigrants in any location or culture.

Still, there were the good times and even some very good times. The best were with Teresa and Steven. Teresa and dance events and eating out with my friends and both kids and small picnics and a train trip up to Union Station in LA. And for me, driving up to LA land to visit friends and conduct little investigations of that mythical magical place was the best. Kathy and I ate at the pizza place where Nicole had her last meal; and every chance with a visiting friend I drove Sunset Boulevard and up into those famous canyons; and sometimes I just drove up Pacific Coast Highway to feel like an old fashioned pre-freeway Californian.

San Diego doesn’t have that LA magic but I loved a lot of things about it. Downtown, which is now the place to live, was still a bit tattered but Hillcrest was always interesting. Teresa and I roamed about there from time to time looking for book and paper items to which I like to think I addicted her at an early age. San Diego State sat in the hills just northeast of downtown where I dutifully pursued a master’s in Social Work, thinking somehow it would make me financially stable while doing interesting things. Yeah, and how did that work out Marjorie? Well it did in the end I suppose since it’s partly why I have my present generally wonderful job.

There is a magic about this coast. I am forever hooked on the light, which unlike New Mexico’s relentless brightness, is always at least slightly tinged with fog, smog or some kind of cosmic oceanic reverberation. And the built environment is all bright and shiny…at least where we usually view things—from the road. Increasingly all sightlines are filled with red-roofed neat and new and clean malls and the golden hills just behind are increasingly carpeted over with…

Little Boxes Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,1
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.
And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1962 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1990. Malvina and her husband were on their way from where they lived in Berkeley, through San Francisco and down the peninsula to La Honda where she was to sing at a meeting of the Friends’ Committee on Legislation (not the PTA, as Pete Seeger says in the documentary about Malvina, “Love It Like a Fool”). As she drove through Daly City, she said “Bud, take the wheel. I feel a song coming on.”

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GOOD JOBS/BAD JOBS

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Another perfect San Diego morning. Out on the Bay the sailboats are bright white. Too sunny for my taste but I slept through early morning rain so it’s my own fault. People from New Mexico should NEVER sleep through rain—we should be sloshing about the streets shouting with glee.
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But about those San Diego/Escondido educational/professional adventures I had so long ago. Everyone wants degrees in areas where job security will be found, money will made—‘good’ money we say. My degrees haven’t exactly resulted in either but they do indicate an interest in worthy pursuits: BS in Secondary Ed/Social Studies and MSW (Social Work). I’ll use my job years in San Diego as an example of the worthiness of my interests. Besides they have a good story or two attached.

My first ‘job’ was actually a social work internship with an interfaith social services agency. I was just into a new track in my studies, from Augsburg College in Minneapolis and envisioning social work as an advocacy/activist/political crusader/do-gooder quest to realizing that, at SDSU, it was going to be all about becoming a therapist, possibly with an office in La Jolla as the goal. It did not take too long to guess therapy would not be a good fit but as I began the internship and met my first three clients. I was very excited. Client Number One was dealing with persistent depression, the second was an erotomaniac and the third a homeless alcoholic. I. Had. No. Clue. I was three or four weeks into this new vocational track and had just purchased my first DSM-IV.

The story goes like this. The depressive seemed to enjoy coming to our weekly sessions and declared herself better for them! I somehow doubted that but was grasping at any clues that I might eventually be good at this. The very pretty, very flamboyant young erotomaniac came to me for a few sessions but was referred on when I realized all I was doing was gathering ideas for future novels and really couldn’t help her. Although in all fairness to my potential as a therapist, she did like coming to me and sharing her fantasy life with the handsome Escondido nightclub owner. (He was not as into fantasy obviously, having taken out a restraining order against her nightly stalking.)

The third was my favorite. First of all he really did not need help. He was an alcoholic but of such long duration and so efficiently controlled that there was nothing a student reading chapters II and III of the DSM was going to be able to advise him on. Dave (I’ll call him—I don’t remember his name in any case) was a middle-age man with life so carefully and practically structured we might all envy him. There was one major downside to his situation—he was homeless. He lived in a grove of trees in front of the North County Mall between Escondido and San Diego. But he lived well, being very good at being homeless. Dave described his place in the trees as a two room abode, divided into sleeping and living spaces. He possessed a sleeping bag, few dishes, his clothes and most importantly his books. He did love to read. The agency where I was interning was nearby and they provided much of what Dave needed. Hot meals many nights, donated canned food and clothes, showers, and of course my expert counseling!

Dave received $100 plus at the beginning of each month as a social benefit. He spent this with more care and planning than most of us ever manage. First of all there were some items of food, maybe condiments or spices, and fresh fruit/veggies that never showed up among the agency’s donations so he purchased those at the grocery store nearby. Then there was an essential article of clothing, maybe a pair of shoes at a second-hand shop, and razors and shaving soap. After dispensing with those basics, Dave went to the used book store by bus and spent a fair percentage of the rest of his cash on books. Enough, he hoped, to get him through the month. He read much of each day because of course reading was not a pastime to be pursued after dark; had he kept any sort of light on he would have been rousted by the cops (which happened every few months anyway). Finally with his remaining loot, Dave got really drunk. He went to the same local bar where he felt safe or just brought it home to his lair. There was just enough of his favorite cheap booze to stay drunk for three or even four days. Then he was done until the following month. He did get beaten up or jailed once in a while during his drunks so obviously sooner or later something really bad would likely happen. I wonder how his story ended.

My therapy sessions with Dave consisted of some of the best literary discussions I’ve ever had.

That’s my story for today. I am saving tales from homeless women’s shelter where I was the resident supervisor for later.

Now it’s mid-sunny-breezy-lazy-morning, fifth day of my holiday. I am not counting the 15-hour driving day as part of it. Yesterday Scott and I went to the Fashion Valley Mall so I could have a therapeutic hour or so at Nordstrom’s. I shopped just a little but enjoyed every minute. Nordstrom’s is like Whole Foods. Nice stuff, nicely displayed and lots of helpful informed salespeople. Then lunch at the Cheesecake Factory which is the only restaurant chain with food that is better than mediocre. Today maybe IKEA. I really could be quite happy with a little more money—not that I’m not happy now it’s just that a week like this every other month would be good—and my kid won’t take me out to countless lunches, dinners, stores that often, he seems to think major birthday weeks every five years should do it. He seems to forget the countless Kraft Mac and Cheese dinners I slaved over for him.

Dumplings at the Cheesecake Factory.

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OXTAIL STEW AND B & J’S NEW SALTED CARAMEL CORE ICE CREAM AND OTHER GOURMET STUFF.

Like Luxembourg, I never have to experience this again.

Like Luxembourg, I never have to experience this again.

My latest CA foodie adventure began today. We shopped for my birthday present, a new perfectly-sized perfectly-constructed backpack with my final 105 countries in mind, and a ‘messanger bag’ for around town (Dubai, Addis Ababa…just to throw a few names around) big enough for a notebook, lipstick, credit card and phone.

We just made a reservation at a new San Diego restaurant called Juniper and Ivey which seems to be in the fashionable Nordic cuisine model—deliciously eclectic (meaning slightly odd but oh so tasty), esthetically pleasing and very pricey. All because it’s my birthday!  I am so excited, have dreamt of eating at NOMA in Copenhagen; this may be even better because they have less Hay and Greenlandic Weeds (I made that up) on the menu.

But TODAY we had a macaroni and cheese sandwich for lunch. Yup. We did. And an undistinguished eggplant sandwich. It was just okay, but now I can truthfully say I’ve had a macaroni and cheese sandwich—for which I get points in stupid-food heaven.

I do love my San Diego holidays. It’s so much nicer to visit and have my kid take me out to dinner than live here and try to figure out how I can survive for the next week on $20—which describes my life here 18 years or so ago.

CALIFORNIA SPRING 2014 288

Finally, I have tasted and I’m in love.

CALIFORNIA SPRING 2014 293

The dinner table view.

The dinner table view.

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ALL THE PRETTY KIDS.

SATURDAY AND ALL THE PRETTY KIDS.

We baked our Parsley cake this morning. It is possibly the best cake I have ever tasted. All herby and minty and moist and sweet. Favorite new recipe. Favorite old recipe. Scott and I took a drive out to Point Loma for a look out over the bay and the city and the surrounding golden sunny mellow place. How perfect it is.

PARSLEY CAKE... highly recommended.

PARSLEY CAKE… highly recommended.

I have this suspicion that there are poor and sad and dying and sick and corrupt and murderous people here. The thing is…in Southern California that all gets obscured by the mellow environment and Golden State mythology.

LIGHTHOUSE, CABRILLO POINT.

LIGHTHOUSE, CABRILLO POINT.

Forgot to take pictures of today’s lunch. Must be time to go back to New Mexico where my luncheon food is an Activia and gluten-free crackers and the view out the window is … well if it’s my office there is no window, if my apartment it’s the nondescript house across the street.

This is why people love holidays. It is not that our regular lives are awful, in fact I quite like mine. But there needs to be downtime. And, while some holidays are about exploring, some are about just escaping the routine. About naps and craft beer and lamb tacos at lunch under a waving palm frond. Or at least there was that waving palm frond right outside the restaurant but all the tables were occupied. Holidays with family whom you do not see every day are the best because, if you’re a family elder, you get pampered a bit. Having that family living in everybody’s dream destination doesn’t hurt. And I like this grown grandchildren version a lot. Separate time with each…new tales from the young-side of college/job/roommate/boyfriend/girlfriend adventures…no new tales from the older generation, all just lovely idle chat, semi-healthy snacks, walks and naps. Back in the old days we had to go to child-friendly restaurants (never a gourmet experience) and get the kiddies tucked in early. Now we can go to bed even earlier without any prompting!

Saturday evening and the family is out eating…I played my crotchety granny card and refused to go. Couple of beers and meat sandwiches for lunch with Scott is as far as my sociability can stretch today. Teresa and Steven and their friends are down from LA with their personal and work buddies, a lovely bunch of smart, ambitious and awesome kids. I am anxious to hang out with them in the morning but afraid I’ve aged out of spending time in a noisy Mexican restaurant in the Gaslamp District with much beer and raucous chatter. The kids were in a 24 hour relay race starting in LA sometime yesterday; they’ve each had three or four hours of sleep and are planning a night of partying. What a splendid but exhausting condition—to be young.

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BLACK MOUNTAIN

Black Mountain again. So I’m still not old old. It’s been a perfect California holiday. Lots of time with California son, one of my two favorite people in the world–how very nice that he turned out to be fun to hang around with in addition to being a fine human being. And time with these two amazing grandchildren. HOME TOMORROW. About 13 hours only because I don’t have to fight LA traffic the last three hours.

Photos, yesterday and this morning.

See...it is a HUGE mountain. Well at least medium size. Well maybe on the smallish side of medium.

See…it is a HUGE mountain. Well at least medium size. Well maybe on the smallish side of medium.

PROOF! And no I do not have photo shop.

PROOF! And no I do not have photo shop.

More proof. Not that I think you would doubt me.

More proof. Not that I think you would doubt me.

Crazy windsurfing dude. He landed in the brush not far from the top. He was fine but Scott got pretty scratched up helping him back up.

Crazy windsurfing dude. He landed in the brush not far from the top. He was fine but Scott got pretty scratched up helping him back up.

This morning in a little canyon near Scott's.

This morning in a little canyon near Scott’s.

Who knew, when we were eating Ramen noodles because the pack was 25 cents at the grocery store, that they would become a huge fad all over the US.

Who knew, when we were eating Ramen noodles because the pack was 25 cents at the grocery store, that they would become a huge fad all over the US.

I have mixed feelings about Soy eggs. Scott said his are better than the one at the Japanese lunch counter. Odd that I had never tasted them before I guess.

I have mixed feelings about Soy eggs. Scott said his are better than the one at the Japanese lunch counter. Odd that I had never tasted them before I guess.

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END OF A TRIP

Those last road photos. The visual diary of the road home, complete with my usual dead bug enhancement.

Still early in the drive. Met the dust storm in Arizona.

Still early in the drive. Met the dust storm in Arizona.

Hit the 100,000 mark just south of Flagstaff.

Hit the 100,000 mark just south of Flagstaff.

If I weren't so close to home I would follow the sign.

If I weren’t so close to home I would follow the sign.

FINALLY.

FINALLY.

 

PERIPHERIES

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“Your days of lengthy solo road trips are numbered,” I said to myself not so long ago. Which led to the following lively discussion.

“No, that’s not true. I have a good car, I’m a good driver, and besides heading out of town in the dawn light, gas tank full, Starbucks next to me, camera at the ready is one of my favorite things in the world.”

“Do you not remember you are getting old(er). Oh sure, maybe five more years of open road but that’s about it! And how are you going to fit that time in with that every-country-in-the-world thing you keep going on about?

“Yeah, I see what you mean. Okay, guess I’d better decide where and when to finish up the road-tripping part of my life”

I have been doing just that for the last few weeks. Driving from Barrow, Alaska, USA to Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina is finally off the table. I’m sad about that but I have a new plan. Not quite as daring but at least half as interesting.

I will drive the entire periphery of the United States. The outside edges, the borders, the boundaries. How many miles I wonder? From Blaine, Washington to Hodgdon, Maine. From Hodgdon, Maine to Key West, Florida. From Key West, Florida to San Diego, California. From San Diego, California to Blaine, Washington. Always taking the roads the closest to the oceans, Canada and Mexico.

I must do this in five, at the most six, years so the east and west coasts can be done in an annual trip each, but the northern and southern borders will have to be divided into two separate jaunts each. Is this possible? Maybe.

Each segment gets a week. After all how many pictures of winding roads and cows and windmills and abandoned buildings can one take? And I’ll become very ill if I spend more than a week at a time living on Cheetos, caramel malts and fish sandwiches from you know where.

Yes, I have a plan. I think it will go into effect with a drive taking the southernmost off-the-beaten-path roads to my brother’s house in Panacea, Florida next spring. South to Las Cruces, then off the freeways and all around the edges of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, right into the Redneck Riviera of the Florida Panhandle. This may be my toughest stretch of all. Except for getting through NYC.

“Can I make a joke?”

“Sure, will it be any sillier than the idea that you can drive the periphery of America AND go to all the countries in the world before you die?”

“So as we age we keep getting more and more peripheral to other people and events. Why not be exploring geographical peripheries as I peripheralize?”

“Funny. Not. And besides peripheralize isn’t a word.”

“Now it is.”

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O’KEEFFE LAND

Lovely trip with my friend Tom to Ghost Ranch and home the back way. I’m nervous enough about The Big Trip coming up to have to remind myself what a perfect thing a road trip through beautiful land with a good friend is…Fortunately it did not take long for me to remember. More about the trip later, including that interesting little village of Abiquiu.

Meanwhile some teaser photos.An O'Keeffe tree.

An O’Keeffe tree.

This whole area was an endless source of inspiration for O'Keeffe.

This whole area was an endless source of inspiration for O’Keeffe.

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I admit it…it is beautiful.

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THE VERY BIG TRIP OF 2014 IS IN MY HEAD

A globe from Susanna, a tepee from Kristine, and beach person from Jonathan Khumbulani Nkala. All good omens for travelers.

A globe from Susanna, a tepee from Kristine, and beach person from Jonathan Khumbulani Nkala. All good omens for travelers.

A real travel writer is able to describe trip preparations as engagingly as the journey itself. Let me try that.

The Big Trip is a five-week fall adventure with different family members around for each stage of the journey. To reiterate: It begins in LA, on to Dubai, then Addis Ababa and Kigali for the first leg with grandchildren Teresa and Steven. Then sons Scott and Steven join us for two weeks in South Africa, both Johannesburg and Cape Town AND including almost a week in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Finally, just Steven the Younger and I spend a week traversing the Arab Gulf states!

Five weeks of discovery and family fun (especially when we are not bickering or seriously tired of each other—conditions which are fairly rare fortunately). We could have gone on a Disney cruise but it was unanimous that we would all rather eat bat gizzards in a dark damp cave than visit the good ship Disney.

So here I sit…travel stuff piling up around me. Over there confirmations printed from Expedia, Hotels. Com, Emirates Airlines; over here half-finished visa applications, and my new black pants for all occasions when jeans won’t do. There are books and maps all over the house. My mood veers from exhilaration to confusion and we don’t even leave for four months.

The Big Trip can be divided up several ways for planning, spending and writing purposes.

Here’s a rough idea of how it took shape: All very carefully thought out of course.

  1.  Steven the Younger (also known as Steven Y) is graduating from UCIrvine
  2. I take grandchildren on special trips to celebrate educational milestones
  3. They get to choose except for the part where some of the countries visited must be new to me
  4. Steven Y picked South Africa
  5. Teresa decided to come too
  6. I needed at least a few new countries
  7. We could go through Dubai for no additional $
  8. We decided to do that
  9. Teresa’s best friend is from Addis Ababa
  10. We decided to go there too
  11. Steven and Teresa might want to work in an NGO in Africa
  12. We have a friend in a Rwandan NGO
  13. We decided to go there TOO
  14. Scott and Steven the Older (known as Steven O) were going to take me on a trip to Central America for my Big birthday this spring
  15. I didn’t want to go to Central America
  16. They decided to meet us in South Africa instead
  17. I needed more passport stamps for 2014
  18. I decided to go to the Arab Gulf States
  19. Steven Y said he would go with me
  20. AND THAT IS HOW YOU PLAN A BIG TRIP
  21. Then you worry about money for quite awhile

 

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4 Comments on “SPRING IN CALI AND A BIG FALL JOURNEY

  1. Hoping for a new travel posting, and here it is. you are going to so many countries that I forget them in a week or so. This update is very helpful. I will call you soon about my plans to visit Albuquerque. I want to make sure we have a day to visit. But it might be the week before your departure, which I assume will be quite hectic for you. But, it could be a bit earlier. I will have a 2 day train trip and soaking up New Mexico, you will be soaking up other parts of the world, how very fun…

    Like

    • Hey Tom, I’ll reserve all the time you have for your visit…minutes, hours, days, weeks…well maybe not weeks. I leave Sept. 11th for The Big Trip so just be sure you get here before then…

      Like

  2. Crazy travel, so much to see! I hope you all manage with flying oolors but with the MERS warnings all over, do be careful and modify your plans if necessary. Love your blog!
    –Kathy

    Like

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