Monday, September 4, 2017

Family Reunion

Tom is always on the go being deployed to the Middle East or on TDY a lot.  Every time he thinks he might be able to come home on leave, somehow it never happens.  The last time we saw him was just for one day when he flew up to see Chris graduate from college last year.  One day was all the Air Force would allow him to be gone because of everything he had going on at the time.  The time before that was two years ago at his wedding so we had a lot of catching up to do.

Tom arrived late Tuesday night.  By Saturday, he had recovered from his long hike in the Grand Tetons and he and Bill went to one of their favorite spots-Hamilton Mountain in the Columbia Gorge. This past Friday, they went on another hike in the Gorge at Dog Mountain and then went to Carson Hot Springs for a soak and a massage.  He and Bill enjoyed their hiking time together very much.

They also had some great father-son time flying.  They went up on Wednesday morning after he arrived to fly to Kelso to warm up the engine to prep for an oil change.  While they were up that day, Tom asked if they could do a flight around Mt. St. Helens so they did that the next day.  Chris wasn't able to come down for his birthday weekend so the three of us flew up on Sunday to help Chris celebrate his birthday a few days early in Bellingham.  Bill let Tom do a fair amount of the flying and talking to flight control on all their flights.  It was fun to sit in the back seat and see Bill coaching Tom on what to do and what to say.

Chris picked us up at the airport and we started out our morning with breakfast at our favorite spot in Fairhaven-Skylark's.  I was in heaven.  My whole family was together in one spot!  We didn't have any real plan of what we wanted to do while we were there.  Bill asked if there was a visitor center at Mt. Baker and that led to discussing that Artist Point is only open a couple months of the year and it was prime time to go there.  So off to Mt. Baker we went to see what there was to see.

I love this photo of Chris.  There was still some snow up at Artist Point.  People would take sleds up there to slide down on some of the hills of snow.  Chris climbed up on one of the hills.  It looks like he is so close to Mt. Shuksan from that perspective.

Unfortunately we never got any photos of all four of us together but we took lots of pictures to capture our time in that beautiful spot.

In addition to going up to Artist Point, we stopped at Nooksack Falls and a hiking trail along the highway on the Nooksack River to check those out as well.

After we got back to Bellingham, we went to one of Christopher's favorite breweries, Chuckanut, and had some beer there.  Christopher's first two choices for places to go to dinner that night were closed on Sundays so we ended up going to Boundary Bay for dinner.  Chris had plans with friends that night so he dropped us off at the hotel and we spent a little time in the hot tub there before going to bed.  Monday morning, we headed to Mount Bakery for some breakfast.  Christopher's friend and former roommate, Luke, joined us.  Then it was off to the airport to come back home and more flying time for Tom.

I took as much time off last week as I could to spend with Tom.  On Tuesday, we went with Bill to the Grant House to video the cook for Soup's On then he and I hung out going out to Ilani for the first time to check it out.  Not impressed.  We went hiking around Battle Ground Lake for the first time in I don't know how long.  I can't do those big hikes that he and Bill do.  This was a Shannon-size hike but we did make two loops around the lake.  From there, Tom wanted to see where I work and I introduced him to some of my co-workers. Then we got flowers and went to Grandma Bev's grave site to visit her.  On an interesting side note, there was a new burial site next to her.  It was one of Tom's high school wrestling teammates that died in a car accident back in 2009.  Not sure why he is just getting buried next to Bev now but was certainly an interesting coincidence.

Bill and I had been trying to figure out what we were going to do for our anniversary and decided while we were at the Grant House that we would go back that evening to celebrate.  Tom went to spend time with some of his friends that night.

I had been wanting to go see the Terracotta Warrior exhibit in Seattle ever since I heard it was coming.  Chris had gone to Xi'an when he was in China and saw the Terracotta Warriors archaeological dig there.  I asked Tom if he wanted to go and he was all for it.  Bill stayed home to work and let me and Tom have some one-on-one time.  We drove up to Seattle and were surprised to find that it was raining there.  We got there a little early so we stopped at the Armory to get some lunch before we headed to the museum.

I didn't realize until we got there that it was the last weekend that they would be in Seattle so it was providence that we actually got to see it.  The exhibit is moving to Philadelphia for the next few months before going back to China.  There were 10 actual Terracotta Warriors, some of the weapons buried with them, and some reproductions to give an idea of what some of the other figures looked like.  We enjoyed the exhibit very much.  I was so thrilled to even get a glimpse of what Chris had seen in China.

We checked out some of the other exhibits at the museum but we got done and realized we still had a fair amount of time to kill before we absolutely had to head home.  Tom really wanted to go up into the Space Needle.  We hadn't been up to the top in over 17 years but it was still really cloudy.  With as expensive as it is to go up, it didn't seem like a good idea to go up and not have much of a view.  So we decided to walk and get some more exercise by going to Pike Place Market.  We didn't spend a lot of time there.  Just enough to walk through and take a few photos.  We needed to walk back to the Seattle Center to get back to the car and wanted to try to avoid rush hour traffic.

By the time we got back to the Space Needle, most of the clouds had lifted and we decided to see if we could get some tickets.  It wasn't a super busy day there so we got tickets right away and went up.  We enjoyed catching all the views of the city while we were up there.  The only thing that would have made it better is if the clouds would have lifted enough to see Mt. Rainier.

Bill signed us up to help Gary and Shirley Gross bottle some of their mead Saturday morning.   We were joined by a mother-daughter team for our morning's work.

Bill has done it one other time and Tom has helped some of his friends bottle beer and mead before as well.  This was my first time.

We each had our jobs.  Tom hauled the bottles in off the truck and put them in to be sanitized.

Bill is pretty good at keeping all the bottles moving as they get filled.

Gary was capping the filled bottles.

Grace cut tape and wiped down the bottles.

Shirley and I sealed the bottles with wax.  That was the most time consuming part of the process-waiting for the wax to dry.

We bottled their Ruby Sunset mead which happens to be my favorite.  It is made with blackberry flower honey, cranberries and strawberries and it very yummy.

We enjoyed some mead and good company over lunch.

Sunday was to be Tom's last day in the Pacific Northwest.  His last request was to go to the beach.  We got up early and headed to Cannon Beach.  We lucked out and got a decent parking place downtown and got some breakfast before we headed out onto the beach and walked to see Haystack Rock.  We tried to go to Ecola State Park and Fort Stevens but everything was just crazy busy and crowded everywhere that we went.  We couldn't get in or get parking at most places so we finally just gave up and started for home.  We did stop at Gouger Winery for some wine tasting and to do our quarterly wine pickup on the way home.

It doesn't seem possible that Tom was here for almost two weeks.  We tried to pack as much fun and memories in as we could.  We don't know when we will see him again.  Could be a long wait again.  We enjoyed every minute that he was here with us and already miss him.

A Total Eclipse of the Sun

There was such a stir surrounding the eclipse.  We live only about 60 miles from where totality was expected.  Several days prior to the event we were in McCall, ID which was also very close to 100% totality.  We were seeing news coverage of 30 mile backups on Hwy 26 of people trying to get to Prineville for the Eclipse Festival they were having there on Thursday-5 days before the eclipse.  Unbelievable!  We saw aerial views of Madras that took your breathe away for how many people were in that little town.  Sadly--a plane crashed outside of Madras on Saturday.  There were reports from all the Eastern Oregon airports that you had to make an appointment to land.  That is almost unheard of.

I thought I was getting prepared.  I got online three weeks before the eclipse to order glasses for us, Chris and Tom and Maddy.  Little did I know at the time that there were a lot of glasses out there that weren't certified as being safe to use.  The stories were coming out that Amazon was recalling lots of glasses.  I had tried ordering on Amazon but wasn't guaranteed delivery on time so I tried Wal-Mart instead.  I found some that they claimed would arrive on time.  They cost $50 but I thought I was getting something that was acceptable.  Christopher's and Tom's arrived in time.  Mine were predicted to arrive on the day of the eclipse according to the estimate after they were shipped (several days later than promised when ordering) so I knew they wouldn't arrive in time.  Turned out that they didn't arrive until 4 days after the eclipse.

Chris decided to come down to Vancouver to experience the eclipse.  Bellingham was only going to have 88% totality and he wanted to experience closer to 100%.  Vancouver experienced a 99% total eclipse.  So we asked him to bring all his glasses down so that we could use them since we knew that ours wouldn't arrive in time.  Bill looked at them and thought that they didn't look right so he looked up online and sure enough, Wal-Mart had pulled them for not being safe.  I was so mad.  I got no e-mail to warn us that they weren't safe and that we shouldn't use them.  I called to try to get a refund several times but because it was a third party, they wouldn't honor it.  Just gave me a sketchy cell phone number to call that no one answered.  So mad that I got caught up in the scam that so many others had and no more glasses to purchase anywhere.  Chris was so disappointed.  Chris and Bill did figure out how to make a cereal box pinhole camera though so that is what we ended up using.

In the meantime, Tom was somewhere between Cheyenne and Jackson Hole.  His plan was to watch the eclipse from Grand Teton National Park which was in the line of totality.  We finally got a hold of him while he was driving but he was insisting he was going hiking during the eclipse no matter what.  He had no reservations but managed to get a hotel room for the exorbitant price of almost $1000 for the night.  I about choked when I heard that is how much he had to pay.  It was one of the few rooms left in town though and all the camping spots were taken too so he didn't have anywhere to put of his tent.  I had this total fear of the eclipse and was scared for Tom.  When he let me know that the hotel gave him a pair of glasses that were certified as safe, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

Since Chris was here and there had been such a big deal made of how bad traffic would be, I decided to work from home and watched the coverage on TV.  Here on the home front,  Chris and Bill went out every so often to try to get a look through the cereal box.  I tried a couple of times but couldn't get the hang of it.  Man I would have loved to have glasses that actually were safe!  So afraid of being outside at all, I avoided the front yard as much of possible but went out on the back deck every so often.  It did get darker but being that we were in the 99% range, I thought it would get darker than it actually did.  So partly because of my fear and partly because we didn't have eclipse glasses, it was kind of a non-event for me.  As soon as the eclipse was mostly over, Bill and Chris picked up some lunch for us and then we urged Chris to get moving to head back to Bellingham.  Knowing that there would be lots of people from Seattle area that traveled to areas of totality, he didn't have much of a window before they would all be arriving in Vancouver and tying up our traffic.


Tom managed to snag a parking spot at Grand Teton National Park.  They were expecting to be very crowded and needing to close one side of the highway and have one-way traffic only so that they could parallel park cars on the highway.  Tom was about two hours into his hike when the eclipse hit there.  He laid down on the asphalt trail and enjoyed it.  He called me during totality.  He was so excited.  He took pictures but he also met a lot of people from all over the world on the trail and met a photographer who offered to send him photos.

After the eclipse, Tom continued hiking up to see four of the lakes there.  He thought he was hiking back to the parking lot where his car was but as it turned out, his car was 10 miles away.  Luckily some park rangers picked him up and gave him a ride part of the way.  By this time he had already hiked 20 miles and his feet were not doing very well and it was pretty late at night already.  His original plan was to drive up to Yellowstone the next day and hike some more there but he knew that he wasn't going to be in any shape to enjoy his trip to Yellowstone and got as far as Idaho Falls that night and continued to drive home and arrive here in Vancouver on Tuesday night.  So happy to see my guy.  It had been two years since he had been home and except for one day last June, that was also the last time we had seen him.  

Verdict.  So for Bill and me--kind of a non-event.  Chris--not sure if he was glad he came down to see it or not.  Tom-totally thought it was the coolest thing ever.