Stepping out of the daily

I am behind on the posts of where we’ve gone, but wanted to step out of that timeline a little. We are currently in Greece, which is Jen and Jared’s seventh and last country this trip. It is our eighth, with four countries in two continents still to come.

Today is a lag day. Beautiful, too windy to just sit outside, so we are hanging out in a sunny bedroom in our apartment near Marathon, letting ourselves rest and admiring the countryside. This day of mostly nothing was much needed. Jen and Jared have been traveling for two and a half weeks. We have been traveling for one and a half months, and preparing to move before that, so in transition or chaos for two months or more.

So far we are having a great time, seeing much that is amazing and giving ourselves grace to not see everything. To not start early most days, to not go late most days, so that we don’t make ourselves sick or so exhausted that we lose the joy in where we are. It has worked well.

Tomorrow we move into Athens proper, enjoying our last few days together before half of us go back to the states and half of us fly to Egypt. But right now it is quiet, I am warm, and we are going to recap a little.

Favorite place we’ve stayed:
Fred – Salzburg
Jonelle – Salzburg
Jennifer – Salzburg
Jared – Salzburg or Bratislava (we didn’t stay there, but spent the day and loved it)

Favorite sight we’ve seen:

Fred – Hungarian Parliament, Austrian Alp, Neuchwanstein (he can’t pick)
Jonelle – Hungarian Parliament
Jennifer – The Tower of London
Jared – St Paul’s Cathedral

Favorite land transit:
Fred – Train to Prague
Jonelle – Train to Salzburg or London Metro
Jen – London Metro
Jared – London Metro

Favorite food collectively:

English breakfast at Garfunkel’s in London behind the National Gallery

Slovakian coffee and cake at Kaffee Mayer in Bratislava

Austrian dinner at Zwettler’s in Salzburg (which Jared described as “a religious experience” and then declared that he was going to move into the restaurant)

Greek dinner at the Alexandra Family Tavern in Panteleimon (we aren’t sure it was actually open, but the lights were all on and there was a fire, so we tried going in and they sat us down, gave us great food, all with a view of the Aegean)

States that we (Fred and I) have hit in the last two months:
South Carolina
North Carolina
New York
And the District of Columbia for a bonus

Canadian territories or provinces visited:
Yukon Territory
British Columbia

Countries visited:
Czech Republic

Modes of transit:
Car (our own, rental, Uber, charter)
Our feet!

Philadelphia, PA (Day 2!)

Sunday morning it rained. We went to church with John, then got real Philly cheesesteak at Tony Luke’s. Yum! We still saw neat treasures, too many to explore. But we explored what we could! Again, we walked a lot. Today’s goal was city hall, the Cathedral Basilica Of Saints Peter and Paul, and the Art Museum (whose steps were conquered in Rocky). City Hall had intricate detail that kept us looking closer, and a statue of William Penn on the top, that kept me looking back. It also had a neat spiky rail!

We made it to the cathedral, but couldn’t tour the inside because there was some kind of service or meeting going on.

I got excited by the Free Library of Philadelphia (are we surprised?).

We admired The Thinker.

Lots of beautiful buildings and statues. And finally, the Art Museum!

On the way back, a fight broke out on the sidewalk right in front of us. We escaped across the street, but it looked like it was developing into a group affair pretty quickly. Never a dull moment in the city!We stopped in at Benjamin Franklin’s shop. It was closed, but we could look around the outside. There was too much to show or tell completely, so I’ll wrap up with this. A timeline that we found of William Penn’s life, at the site where his house once stood. There are many reasons that Philadelphia hosted the discussions and signings of Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I would argue that it’s Quaker heritage, and specifically the character of William Penn himself, were major factors.

Philadelphia was founded as a place of religious toleration and mutual respect. And the treaties made here with indigenous peoples were the only ones not to be broken. It was “a holy experiment,” but one designed to bless all who stumbled upon it. The Liberty Bell? It wasn’t a gift to a new nation and it wasn’t named as a battle cry for revolution. But it became a symbol for a new nation, one that is still learning what it means to “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land.”

This city was an emotional place for me. Full of excitement, of giddy laughter, of tears as I soaked in the atmosphere and information, as we pondered and discussed where we have come from. And where we may be going.

Olympic Peninsula

We’ve had about six days on the Olympic Peninsula and they have been full. We moved into a friend’s basement apartment, where we will leave the cats in my family’s care while we are traveling. They have settled in well and it has been really nice to be able to unpack some and settle in somewhere. The cats are so happy to be home, to be done with driving and done with moving around!

We have been enjoying the beloved scenery, the warmer temperatures, the wonderful time with family and friends. Games were played, books read to nieces, baby nephew snuggled, conversations and catching up, errands were run, last vaccinations, establishing the cats at the local veterinarian, so many things to do before we leave again. But they are done now, we are packing up to fly to San Diego and spend some time with family and friends down there.

Road Trip! Beaver Creek to Sequim

Another beautiful day to drive. The moon stayed in the sky all day, was almost full when we started and full by the end of our trip, and the weather was amazing until our last day. Sunshine, moonlight, snow. Lovely. We saw a few foxes, moose, bald eagles, and lots of bison on the side of the road! We drove two hours to Destruction Bay, got a hotel room and slept for a few hours, then drove to Watson Lake.

The cats traveled better than we expected, getting into a routine. Crystal would find a spot in the back and would sleep most of the day. Pepper would make occasional rounds to check on everyone, then sleep in the back. Storm started each day by crying her way around the car for an hour or two, driving everyone crazy, tempting us to leave her behind a few times. Just when our nerves were shot and our patience was at its limit, she’d calm down and sleep on our laps for the rest of the day and into the night.

Fred did most of the driving, I wrangled the cats and read. We ate food that we’d packed in the car, we filled up at every gas station. We didn’t stay anywhere that we had reservations, spending two days longer than expected in transit. Spent the night in Fort Nelson, where we enjoyed a hot tub before bed, had Tim Horton’s in Prince George, and drove to Cache Creek.

We had planned originally to drive all the way to Sequim, but Fred’s mom had the brilliant idea of ending with a ferry. Did I mention it was brilliant? The leg between Cache Creek and Whistler in British Columbia was draining for Fred to drive. A winding road with snow, single lane for construction at one point, it took forever. But we did make it to Vancouver finally, and eventually even made it through town to the ferry terminal.

A break, waiting for the ferry, a very smooth hour and a half ferry ride to Vancouver Island. A half hour rush between ferry terminals to Victoria’s downtown where we barely made the afternoon ferry to Port Angeles. It was a fairly smooth crossing also and it was so good to be back! We settled the cats in, unloaded the car, had dinner with my family at my Dad’s house, and slept. Slept knowing that the next day would be easier.

Stats so far:

2 states (Alaska and Washington)

1 province (British Columbia)

1 territory (Yukon)

Pro tips (for the Alcan and for life):

– The Milepost is your friend if you are driving the Alcan. Especially in winter. You can probably see it reflected in some of the photos I posted.

– Always fill up at every opportunity. You may still get stranded until a station opens, but at least you shouldn’t be stranded in the middle of nowhere!

– Use locals as resources! They know the road, know how the season affects resource availability, and are usually eager to help.

– Even on stressful days, take time to look around. We were constantly amazed at the scenery we were driving through. This trip was so worthwhile!

– Give your traveling companions grace. They are tired too, they will probably get some things mixed up too. Lower the bar and everyone will be happier when you arrive!

– Be flexible. We warned our families to expect our plans to change and to expect us to be later than our “planned” arrival date. Our plans did change and we were later, and we arrived healthy and relatively unstressed as a result.

Road Trip! Kodiak to Beaver Creek

After a long day of the movers loading up most of our stuff, a long day of last minute errands and appointments (doctor, veterinarian, . . .), we reached our last day in Kodiak. Thank God for friends who helped clean and make dump and donation runs. We managed to get the car loaded despite a raging wind storm with 80mph gusts in town and 100mph gusts at the airport. The cats were stressed, we were stressed, but somehow we made it into the car and in line at the ferry on time.

Some of our Kodiak family hung out with us at the terminal while we waited for loading. Despite the wind, the ferry went out on time at 9:45PM. We got the cats settled in the car as best we could, then went upstairs to our cabin. You can’t bring pets upstairs and can rarely go down when the ferry is underway, so we prayed that they’d stay calm (and that the medication we’d given them would help them sleep) and hoped for sleep ourselves. That was a vain hope. The ride was rough. We weren’t actually thrown out of our bunks, but we were tossed around on them all night. But the morning as we pulled up to Homer was beautiful!The cats had survived the night, with only a couple of accidents. Not bad for over 15 hours of being stuck in a car, most of that on a rolling boat. We disembarked at Homer and drove to the Safeway parking lot to regroup. The cats needed a litter box stop, food and water. We needed food too. And we wanted to rework the cat barrier.

We had started the trip with the back of the car loaded up to the front seats, with about 18 inches of clearance on top. There was a pet barrier keeping the cats from joining us in the front. The back had a layer of cloth and blankets so that they could snuggle up and settle down anywhere. It was a great plan, but only in theory. In practice, the cats could wiggle through either side of the barrier and they freaked out when we reinforced the sides to barricade them in better. So we were going to try moving the barricade and having the passenger (usually me), keep the cats out of the driver’s way. This was iteration 2 of our cat management plan.

After spending too much time in the parking lot, in 20 degree weather, with stressed out cats and sleep deprived humans, we gave up. This is a long haul we’re in, not a sprint, and we decided that for the sake of our health and sanity and the cats well being, we needed to get a hotel room, sleep, and regroup later. Such a good decision. We ended up spending that day and night in Homer at the Best Western, where we stayed when we moved up. When we drove out the next day everyone was in a much better place. We had all rested, the car was better arranged, we had eaten well, and it was another beautiful day.

That day we stopped in Anchorage to get Fred’s phone a SIM card that would theoretically let him make calls once we were in Canada, if we needed to. My phone wouldn’t call Canadian numbers so we knew we’d have limited communication once we crossed the border. Limited further by large holes in cell service. The cats did okay though they weren’t excited to be driving. Storm only helped when we weren’t actually moving, in case you were worried!

We made it over the border into Yukon Territory that night, planning to stop inBeaver Creek. It’s a tiny town a few minutes from the Canadian Station. We knew of two hotels, but hadn’t been able to confirm a reservation at either of them by email or phone. When we arrived in the middle of the night, Fred’s phone wouldn’t make calls or texts and mine still wouldn’t call Canadian numbers. One hotel had no vacancies and no backup number to call. The other had a number to call for after hours assistance, but the pay phone wouldn’t work. And the gas stations were closed. We tried for the next gas stop, realized partway that we didn’t have enough to make the next town. So back we went.

After an hour of sleep in the car, Fred decided to try the Canadian border station again. The guys there were amazingly helpful, making phone calls to local contacts and letting us wait inside where it was warm and we could stretch out. One of them called a buddy who was coming on at 7:30 to bring some of his gas stash, which they used to fill our tank so that we could leave before the gas station opened at 10. Such a blessing! After a long, stressful night, we were on our way again!