Visiting our Kids at Camp Sandy Cove

Remember going to camp when you were younger? Warm days spent learning fun things, getting dirty, singing silly ditties and playing pranks. Good times, indeed. Zeb, Hudi, Bri and Mollie still get to experience this annually as they work at Camp Sandy Cove in West Virginia (Mollie grew up attending the camp, which is super-fun). In my opinion, their camp is even cooler than most. Not only do you get to do the normal cabin/hiking/swimming sort of activity, but you also get to learn to shoot rifles, cook outdoors, do some high-flying on a trapeze, mountainboard and skateboard (among other activities).

The kids have been asking us to visit for a few years, and we really wanted to go, but it just didn’t fit in our schedules. We had planned to finally get there on the way back from Utah, but that all fell apart. Then we discovered an unexpected window of opportunity.

On July 3, the kids asked if we were coming the next day. Since we were moving a load of beds from our old house to our new house, and we had plans with friends on July 4 (plans we made last February) I told them we wouldn’t make it. Then the load moved super well, and our friends had to cancel. We realized we could make it. At midnight the kids confirmed it would still work for them, and by 5 am, we were on the road in our reliable new-to-us car.

Wahoo! Since we left at 5 am, and I worked on the road, I was able to put in a full work day by the time we reached the camp so I could immerse myself in enjoying time with the kiddos. We got there right in time for lunch. Sons and dad caught up (it was Hudi’s day off, and he was tired. I didn’t notice he was yawning in the image below until much later, and I didn’t get any other shots with just the three, so this will have to do. It’s real, anyway). We also got to officially meet Oliver, Bri’s hedgehog.

My guys (minus CJ). It was Hudi's day off, and he was tired.

My guys (minus CJ). It was Hudi’s day off, and he was tired.

After lunch, Zeb had some time before his next session so he did some skateboarding with Chris.

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I somehow didn’t get images of Zeb’s rifle-ry session that he taught, although it was fun to watch. After that, we attended Bri’s outdoor living session and made waffle smores and learned to tie different knots.

Mollie, Hudi, Chris and I went into town and perused through a few shops that were open on the holiday while Zeb and Bri finished their sessions for the day. We met up for dinner, and the campers put Zeb on the spot to serenade us all. This was a highlight of my day. They started off with a verse of “Sing us a song, Chief Zeb,” which I did not get on film because it was unexpected. Apparently when this happens, if the person called on does not sing the song, they pay a forfeit. Later Zeb said that he was thinking of not singing until they started in with “for your Mother, Chief Zeb, for your mother.” He said at that point he knew he had to do it. What a guy 🙂

Bri still had activities to cover after dinner so we hung out a bit as we waited for her. Zeb had designed this mountain board course, creating elements out of beds that were getting thrown away. He is so creative with scrap. Just like his dad. Some little children helped with the painting to make it look good. This was Chris’ first time on a mountain board, and he is now addicted.

Finally we were all together, and we decided it was too late for a movie. Instead we went out for ice cream, stopping for gas. As I wrote in a previous post, the kids had persuaded us that the Honda Fit was a great car. This is the first official pic of the Blueberry (as we call Bri’s car) next to our Blackberry.

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Sadly, due to the holiday, our ice cream place was closed, but that did not deter us. We each grabbed some treats from the gas station and had an impromptu night-time picnic that lasted until past midnight. So much fun being with those kiddos. It really cracked me up when they mimicked the person in the ad behind them as I took their pic. And guess what? I found Ring Dings! (which are sadly no longer available in our local store).

We spent the night at the camp instead of the hotel we planned on staying in because it was offered to us, and that allowed us to spend more time with the kids. Before we left, we got to see Hudi in action, doing his job.

Hudi in his element - the kitchen

Hudi in his element – the kitchen

That impromptu visit was a treat that is already a highlight of my summer. Love those young men and women!

Here’s a summary of the day thanks to Google Photos:

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On the Road Again

IMG_3342Northern NY, Connecticut, northern NY, West Virginia, northern NY  (with relatives visiting) then western NY. Those were our past two weeks. Very fun and very full. And I fully intended to write, but somehow when I finished my work each day, I was packing, unpacking or just plain ol’ hesitant to crack a computer. I’m a wee bit fried, but it’s all good. Loose ends are finally getting wrapped up, and our lives on the western front (of NY) now have an expiration date.

I’ll do this in catch-up pieces so it’s not too bulky. Let’s start with the car. Times are changing. My man can fix anything, and we live accordingly. In our now 25+ years of marriage, we get a mini-van every few years. They are rust buckets he fixes up, and once we bought one with less than 100,000 miles on it. It baffled us. We kept thinking something was wrong with the odometer. But you know what? Chris is so swamped with our life changes–adjusting to a new home and weeding through generations of treasures from the family (now that we live in a home once owned by his grandparents), that he just doesn’t have time for the car maintenance. And now we want to spend time we have traveling and visiting our grown kids. This last trip to Utah was an eye-opener. It’s time for things to change in our arena.

So we opened our minds to alternative choices.

CJ has been raving about his car deal and telling us it isn’t a horrible move getting an other-than-rust-bucket. And Zeb and Bri (Zeb’s girlfriend) have been saying the same. Bri has had a Honda Fit for many years, and adores it. The more they talked about it, the more we realized it might be the perfect Fit for us (see what I did there? Haha). The mileage is excellent (42 mpg on highways) and with it’s high roof for a little car, it holds a ton. Depending on how you configure the seats, you can easily fit snowboards or bicycles inside the little thing. And the front seats recline so they are almost completely flat in case you want to sleep in the car (which we do in our minivans when we camp). Aaaand we’ve found quite a few Fits for sale with around 250,000 miles on them. Apparently the engines last forever.

We hit Craigslist and dealer sites and found a dream deal in Ct. It seemed so good. We called in the morning, and they said it was still available so we hopped in our broken minivan and took the 4-hour trip to Ct. Only to find out that it was sold the day prior.

Yeah, you read that right. The day before.

And we are very proud of ourselves. We didn’t let ourselves get too depressed, and we didn’t blow up angrily or lash out — all of which are natural instincts. Instead, we parked at a gas station, pulled out the mi-fi and our computers, and really started researching. Connecticut has a lot more Fit opportunity than northern NY. After a half hour or so of dedicated research, we found a place with a beautiful red Fit. I hit their live chat (which I love to do since I do live chat in my job — it’s fun to be on the other side of it). The car was there, and twenty minutes later we were there.

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What a difference from the first place, which made us feel like we were in a machine (one with false info). This place was down-to-earth and friendly. Yet professional. We drove the vehicle and loved it. We didn’t feel pressure, muss or fuss, even though we were getting close to their closing time. In fact, it was only upon our questioning wherein they let us know of other options. And we fell in love with a black one. With tinted windows so my computer won’t get overheated as I work while traveling. And lots of USB ports and charging areas. As a worker-often-on-the-road I was sold.

Chris was sold after seeing the moon roof.

We drove back the next day to pick it up and had a delightful experience at a local coffee shop as we waited.

So yeah, we have officially entered the world of grown-ups. Thanks to our kids. And now have a reliable car. That had 26,000 miles on its odometer (now it has 28,000). This is perhaps a dangerous thing. But it’s amazingly fun. Thanks for the prodding, kiddos!

PS. Not gonna lie, it was a bit embarrassing to realize that we are so outdated and behind-the-times that when we went to leave the lot, we realized we didn’t know how to start the thing. Had to ask for help. How embarrassing, yet funny. I get that.

 

 

From Snow to the Snows — in June

Our final full day in Utah was spent on the ski/snowboard slopes at Snowbird. Yes, it was June 10. Let me say that again. June 10. And we were at the slopes. Can you feel hear my heart beating faster? Oh the joy of that day!

The altitude got to Chris a bit (on his fourth run of the day), and he was pretty wiped out after a mogul run 🙂

Lauren and I enjoyed the festival below as the guys boarded and skied.

We wrapped up a perfect day by heading back home and having a lovely dinner out. On the way home we saw a mini-cyclone. Since it didn’t seem to hurt anyone, we thought it was pretty cool. Later that evening we were treated to a view of the strawberry moon rising. So beautiful!

Sunday morning was sad. Don’t be fooled by those smiles in the pics. It was super hard saying goodbye to this incredible couple. We miss them so much already. That entire visit was a gift beyond words.

last day together

One last cup of coffee together. Then time to hit the road.

On Sunday, as we drove, I was forced to admit that if I ever do this trip again, I won’t even attempt to work in the car in Wyoming or Nebraska. The Internet was super sketchy–even with Cricket and Verizon hotspots. Thank goodness for good hotel wi-fi’s and a job with flexible work hours!

Sunday night was spent at a hotel in Nebraska — at a hotel that I will be fine never visiting again. Good news though. If you ever forget your key there, you can get into your room in less than half a second with a credit card 🙂

Monday found us spinning the tires towards friends/co-workers in Missouri. While the day started out nice and sunny, it changed. We didn’t experience any of the tornadoes that were appearing around the country that day (for which we were thankful), but driving was a bit tricky at times, and the hail was pretty loud.

bad weather

In the evening we made it to the home of the Jason and Kristen Snow. They are my co-workers, so many of you might have already met them if you have an upgrade and have used the WordPress live chat options. They also have a fabulous blog. They are nomads so we were lucky to catch them home. In fact, they left shortly after we did for their next Grand Adventure. How we love these two and their three dogs!

I’ve been told by many people in my life that they have never seen people like us. We work super hard then we stop on a dime and play hard. It’s all about balance. My co-workers seem to live by this standard as well.

We relaxed for an evening, slept, then all hit our work super hard for a full day. Barely a sound was heard as Chris did his art, I worked on mobile support for WordPress apps, and Jason and Kristen had meetings and worked on live chat and email support. One of their dogs cuddled close to give me moral support, and I loved it.

The company we work for is distributed, so the hundreds of workers at Automattic work all around the world, anywhere there is Internet. That is how I can literally work on the road as Chris drives. As long as I have Internet connection.

We get together with co-workers a few times a year (hence the Lisbon meetup I still haven’t written about, but I will. At least you know I was in Lisbon for that reason by this point if you follow the blog). But it’s a real treat to work alongside co-workers live in a small-group situation. Many peoples’ norm. Our anomaly. And we learn so much from each other. Very fun day.

Once the work time was over, we took the dogs for a walk to a family/dog-friendly brewery in the area. Talk about delightful! It was hard picking the perfect brew so we all got different flavors and shared sips.

I think my favorite story about this place is that they really celebrate mother’s and have a special day for moms every year. But they have that special day after Mother’s Day so there is no conflict with family celebrations. Love that!

One of the Snow’s dogs was interested in watching children play, another was resting, and the third spent its time eeking up on the bench and as close to Jason as possible. This cracked me up so I made an animation (staying away from the word gif on purpose to avoid controversy). Is this the sweetest thing or what?

Dog kiss

Seriously. Just look at the love. Heart melt!

dog love

We spent the evening at a burger joint that still has me salivating. But I forgot to take images. On the walk back home, we humored Chris by going on Rte 66. As the song says:

Well if you ever plan to motor west
Just take my way it’s the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66…

The next morning we rose relatively early and went to a fantastic coffee shop before leaving. This place has bands and church services at times, I hear, and it also has the best muffins I have ever eaten. Can’t believe I didn’t take a pic. I’m seriously slacking on my job.

Our plan was to drive to Columbus and spend the night. We drove through some hairy weather again, saw a massive fire (I’m guessing from some of the super-scary lighting we saw), but pushed on through to get to Houghton because our car was making some interesting noises.

Remember how we were worried about its making it through the trip? Yeah. We remembered that, too. We churned into Houghton at 3 am ET after 16 hrs of driving (Chris totally rocks. I was working about 9 hrs of it. He did all the driving). After sleeping a few hrs, we crept off to our home in northern NY. And made it!!!!

Back to Mom, my lack-of-beach, and local rainbows.

Now we are closing the chapter on the out-west trip for the year and starting to plan our next life adventures. Starting with a new-to-us car hunt. Anyone have a Honda Fit and/or Chrysler Town and Country you are trying to get rid of? You know how to reach me…. 😉

Strong Winds in Utah

This is why we did not go skydiving today. Too windy!!!

This is why we did not go skydiving today. Too windy!!!

So we didn’t go skydiving. But as you can see in this picture, at least it wasn’t a borderline call. It was very clear that it would be a poor choice for the day if we expected to  see a tomorrow (spoiler–we all wanted to see tomorrow). So no go. Now we have something to look forward to again in future visits.

But we got the local tour instead, and  it was fabulous. Ever since CJ was a baby, he was obsessed with trains so he took us to a treasure of a restaurant he found in Heber City. Trains everywhere (and yummy burgers). Even the servers had train hats.

After lunch we went up  Guardsman Pass, which had just opened after being closed all winter. The drive was a bit harrowing for those of us who have a hard time with heights (no guard rails, and lots of twists and turns with huge drop-offs), but CJ drove well, and it was breath-takingly beautiful.

At the top we enjoyed the views then went for a small hike further up and threw a few snowballs. Gotta love doing  that in June!

I think the most humorous part of the day might have been seeing several snowmobiles  hanging out on the side of the road. We wondered – is that in case there is a freak storm? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Snowmobiles in summer. Waiting for a freak storm?

Snowmobiles in summer. Waiting for a freak storm?

The Best Laid Plans

Packing the carReally long post about our Utah adventure with lots of pics starting at the Enjoying the Trip for Real section below (click that link if you want to jump straight to that section).

We had a good plan. A great plan, I dare confess. But you know what they say:

 

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry

Originally our plan was this: Columbus, Ohio, then a hotel as we headed west, wherever we were, then Utah then Vegas, then California, then New Mexico, then a hotel somewhere, then Illinois, then South Carolina, then North Carolina then Maryland, then West Virginia, then back to Houghton, then home.

All in four weeks. This was all part of our Anniversary travel plans.

Now? – Hotel in Iowa, hotel in Wyoming, CJ and Lauren’s in Utah then hopefully a hotel somewhere then Missouri then a hotel somewhere then Houghton then home. Or maybe just a flight home.

It started changing a bit ago. We realized that California and Vegas might be better in a later trip, but we would decide that last minute. Then Ohio and New Mexico friends had some life happenings that made it a less-than-ideal time to visit.

No problem. We re-routed, but that made us hit South Carolina at a bad time for the people we were visiting there. So we shuffled, and all was kind of working out for Plan B, but the trip was getting shorter. Still fun, though.

On Thursday we left our home in northern NY with a carefully loaded vehicle, as we headed to our home in western NY, initiating our Grand Adventure.

We had items from the north house coming to the west house for the annual Memorial Day yard sale. This was carefully separated from items we were going to bring to Hudi and Zeb as we stopped at the camp they were working on at the tail-end of the Grand Adventure. And this was all topped off with items for CJ and Lauren, who we were going to visit near the beginning of the trip.

It was clock-work. From Thursday to Wednesday, we held the yard sale at the western NY home and did a bit of cleaning, and I did a ton of socializing. While I am happy living where I live now, it’s good to see my old friends again. On  Wednesday I drove over to Lauren’s family and picked up the wedding gifts that were set to make a cross-country trip to their owners. The plan was to leave at 4am on Saturday so we could get well beyond Chicago in daylight.

Thursday we continued to clean and socialize, then topped off the day by attending the WordPress meetup in Buffalo — we used to be regulars there before our move so it was nice to be back. Then Friday morning we loaded the car with our gear, the gifts for the Utah folk and with Hudi and Zeb’s belongings. It all went so smoothly I was able to visit more friends in the afternoon, knowing everything was in order.

Since I  had a full load, I drove slowly and smoothy, and all seemed idyllic as I pulled into the driveway and parked. We had a lovely last evening and got to bed early. By 4:10am  (yes, a little late), we closed up the house and headed out to the car, ready for the Grand Adventure. Only to find out that a horrible noise was emanating from under the hood. Chris checked it out and all of our power steering fluid was gone, aside from a few drips.

Nothing we could do about it in the dark so we went back to bed for a few hours. Later Chris checked it out (and those of you who know Chris know that if anyone can fix a car, it is he). No go. The trip was officially getting pushed off. I called a car rental, and they told me they had a car for us and would come pick us up. We planned to leave our own vehicle at a local place to get repaired. Plan C.

Then we got a phone call half an hour later. No rental available until Monday, and we were out of the pick-up zone. We’d have to get ourselves there. No problem, Fortunately the car was not dead in the water. We just had to keep pumping fluid into it. Plan D – Drive to the car rental, making sure we were there  by 8am when they opened to maximize our traveling time for the day, then drive back home, re-load the new car, drop our car at the repair shop so it could be fixed while we were gone then head out (hopefully by noon).

As a weekend worker, it didn’t faze me all that much. I just worked in the house instead of the car as originally planned. And this gave me the chance to see some of my friends one last time in church and on my daily walks. When I came back from Saturday’s  walk, it was only to discover that Chris had driven to the town half an hour away to get some necessary car parts for a patch repair. Things were looking up again. Plan E. We hoped to leave on Sunday. But that was not to be, either.

The patch worked in that the leak stopped, but the pump began having issues. The car was speaking languages I had never heard before. Not ideal.

Plan F – back to the rental option. But now we’re thinking  about it more. How can we make this more cost effective? The first move was obvious. Cut out the second half of the trip. No southern route. But how do we get the gear to Zeb and Hudi? That worked itself out. Friends of theres were driving down in a couple of weeks for a training, and they graciously agreed to take the essentials to our boys.  Then the car itself. We needed to rent an SUV since we were taking a bicycle out to Utah, but we could get a cheaper car on the way back. Or we could fly back to Syracuse then  grab our truck and head back to the western house another time to deal with our car. So many options.

Monday morning hit with questions still on our mind. At 7:10 we prepared to drive out to get the rental. Chris started the car, and it made no noise at all. No leaks, no pump issues. Nada.

Being  the tightwads that we are, we entered Plan F. Pack only our personal essentials in case we had to fly home, grab the kids’ presents and hit the road. After all, Chris pointed out, there isn’t a whole lot of turning between NY and Utah. It’s a pretty straight shot. Still, we planned on coming straight back after Utah since the car would most likely not stand up to the twists, turns and hills of the south.

All was great until Cleveland, OH, where the car began some very loud protests. We needed gas anyway so we limped off the road. When we re-booted the car a bit later, all was fine again. I did have the thought that perhaps the air conditioning we had on put too much stress on the engine. So we kept the air off and put down the window.

Enjoying the Trip for Real

I have to say that Plan F is a winner so far. We had planned to drive 8-10 hrs that day, but felt so energetic we easily hit 13 hrs and settled in a lovely, very affordable hotel for the night (yay, hotels.com!). Same deal the next day (except maybe 11 hrs of driving). Chris met wonderful people in the breakfast room (I was sleeping), and he heard then shared with me some fun travel tales, and we felt the camaraderie unique to road warriors. It makes me look forward to more time traveling by car in my future.

Chris particularly liked celebrating signs of Omaha and listening to the Counting Crows.

And I loved the windmills.

Windmill

We both loved the sculptures we saw  along the way.

The trip was blessed for sure. We were about 20  minutes ahead of the rush-hour traffic in Chicago (we saw it in our rear-view mirrors), had perfect hotels along our path, met friendly people, and dodged flooding (storms on the front and side of us, but not where we were). When the sun could have been pretty intense and challenging, clouds appeared and gave us shade. We even got a rainbow leading us to our hotel on one occasion. Perfection. The hotel doesn’t look like much outside, but it was very  pleasant inside.

Uncle John and CJ would have loved the trains by us.

The scenery was getting more and more incredible, and the queues were under control at work so I asked my team-mates if they minded if I took the day off. They quickly gave me their blessing. (I have the best job on the planet.) So we spent Wednesday gawking out the window, marveling in the beauty of creation from the greens and purples of sagebrush to the browns, whites and reds of the sand on the hills, amidst rock formations that rivaled the work of any sculptor I know. A crowning glory? The snow-capped mountains in the distance, which set my soul free.

Even better, each turn of the wheel was bringing us closer to CJ and Lauren. And the car was making it through the trip!

CJ was at work, and we had to drive right by the work-place on our way to their home so we stopped in only to discover that he was about to sign out  for the day. We were able to grab a bite to eat with him before he headed out to Salt Lake City for a Virtual Reality event, where he was demo-ing the game he has been working on with his co-workers. I was going to take a picture of him, but didn’t want to embarrass him in his work zone. Now Chris and Lauren say I should have.  Oh well, next time 🙂

Chris and I headed to the house to unload the gifts and reunite Lauren with her bicycle and the hatchet that Hudi gave her at CJ and Lauren’s wedding.

bicycle delivery

Yesterday we hiked the Stewart Falls trail with Lauren while CJ worked again. Aunt Anne would have loved the waterfalls.

Here’s a slow-motion view of those glorious falls:

I did a little bit of damage to my knee making going downhill a bit tricky on the way back. It was pretty funny. We were panting along, red as anything, trying to not limp too much (while going downhill, mind you. Not up-hill), and occasionally stepped aside while people grinned a “thank you” and RAN by us going up-hill. Talk about humbling.

My favorite quote of the day was from Chris:

We are cross training. Crossing our fingers and hoping we make it to the car.

After that hike, we walked through town a bit then stopped at this vintage ice cream place that I just loved. The ice cream rivaled European gelato. Not to start a fight. Just subjectively sayin’.

We were a  bit dirty when we got home so we cleaned up and rested (well, Chris and I rested. Lauren went off to choir practice). The kids came home at 9:30 or 10 and we yakked until midnight then I turned into a pumpkin.

Today we were supposed to go sky diving then tonight we were going to go swing dancing with friends. Sadly, the sky-dive place shut down due to high winds, and the swing dance plans fell through (might be a blessing with my knee pain), but you know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s so awesome being with CJ and Lauren it just can’t go wrong. So instead of high-energy adventures, we are yakking, blogging, reading, and finding homes for the wedding gifts within this flat. Very nice.

I realized that since CJ has been working for most of this visit so far, I don’t have pics of him. Here’s one to rectify that (who has morning hair? lol):

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Now we have all taken off work for the rest of the visit so we can enjoy time together. And that, my friends, was the beginning of our Grand Adventure. The big question is — will the car make it home? Time will tell … That adventure begins on Sunday.