'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness' - Mark Twain
Logbook: USA and Canada - September 2010 to January 2011
When we decided to come back to the U.S. for an extended visit in late 2010, the driving force was our visa limitations in French Polynesia. Our ninety-day visitor visa was expiring, but we wanted to see more of these beautiful islands. So, we would have to leave for a while (a minimum of three months), and when we came back, we could have more time. Slip Away was welcome to stay, but we had to leave.
The timing for this trip ended up being perfect for a variety of other reasons. Our first granddaughter was born while we were underway to the Galapagos last May, and we were eager to meet her. Additionally, our niece Emily (the daughter of Jan's brother Jeff) was getting married in October. And, finally, it was an opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with our families, something we hadn't done for quite a few years.
On land, we continued to be travelers, visiting and/or passing through twelve states and also making a trip to British Columbia, Canada. We arrived in Los Angeles from Tahiti, where we spent a few days, but then we continued on and spent the next three months mostly in the Midwest, with some time on the East Coast. Our brother-in-law Fred loaned us his pickup truck, and we took it on several road trips, putting close to 4,000 miles on it. (Thank you Fred!) We joked between us about how amazing it was that we could drive 100 miles in less than two hours, while on Slip Away that distance would take us about 18 hours. Fred also loaned us his Garmin GPS. We use a GPS all the time on the water, but we really came to love using it on land, too. What a concept!
We managed to see all of our immediate family members and a good number of friends, some of whom we hadn't seen in years. We were welcomed warmly by everyone - we feel so fortunate to have such wonderful family members and friends. Somehow, in 4½ months, though, we didn't manage to see everyone we would have liked, and we apologize to those we missed.
The weather started out on a good note, with a Fall season that was warmer and drier than usual and lasted through most of November. But, it quickly changed in December, which was colder and snowier than normal. We're not especially fond of cold weather and were glad when we finally left that behind.
Here is how we spent that time away from Slip Away:
Cincinnati, Ohio (October). On a Sunday afternoon, we boarded an Amtrak train in Washington, DC, and we arrived in Cincinnati in the wee hours on Monday morning. Cincinnati is Jan's hometown and would be our base for the next few months. We settled into the home Jan grew up in, even sleeping in her old bedroom. Jan's Mom still lives here, as well as Judy & Fred (Jan's sister and brother-in-law), who help care for Mom and provide her "assisted-living."
We arrived in Cincinnati on Monday, October 4, and the week was busy with preparations for Emily & Jason's wedding, which was set for Saturday, October 9. Their wedding day was a gorgeous one - sunny and unseasonably warm - and the wedding was a beautiful and fun celebration, with lots of family and friends in attendance. We were both really glad that we didn't have to miss out on this special Schwab family event.
Road Trip #1 - Chicago, IL; Carbondale, IL; Kansas City, MO; and Lexington, KY (October 12-21).
A few days after the wedding, we were off on our first road trip.
Chicago (October 12). First on our list was a drive to Chicago (about 5 hours from Cincinnati), to visit the French Consulate and submit our applications for our long-stay visa. Jan had finished gathering and translating all the documents we needed. Our friend Kara reviewed her translations, suggested a couple of small changes, and we were ready to go. We had a noon appointment at the Consulate office in downtown Chicago, and the application process took all of about 15 minutes. The representative took our documents, confirmed that she had everything she needed, took fingerprints and photos, charged a couple hundred dollars to our credit card, kept our passports, and we were done. In early December, we received an email from the Consulate letting us know our visas were approved, and a couple days later, our passports were returned to us (via U.S. Express Mail), with the visas attached to an inside page. Excellent! Now we would have six months to visit French Polynesia when we returned.
It was a beautiful Fall day in Chicago, and after our appointment with the Consulate, we picked up some lunch, ate it by the riverside, and then walked to Millennium Park. In the late afternoon, we drove out to Park Ridge, where we visited our friends Mike Wapner and Lan Eng, and their daughters Julia and Anna.
Carbondale, Illinois (October 13-16). From Chicago, we drove to southern Illinois and the town of Carbondale, which is Rich's home town. We stayed at the home of John & Teresa Mills, one of Rich's best friends from high school and college. We joined John on his daily breakfast outings, visited the campus of Rich's alma mater Southern Illinois University (SIU), had drinks and appetizers with a group of Rich's high school friends at one of the new wineries in the area, and did some other touring and visiting of old friends.
Kansas City, Missouri (October 16-20). From Carbondale, we headed to Kansas City to see Rich's son Andrew and meet his girlfriend Katie and our new granddaughter Peyton. We immediately liked Katie, and we couldn't help but fall in love with Peyton. We did a few outings - the Kansas City Zoo and a pumpkin patch since we were there just before Halloween - and sometimes we just hung out at their apartment, spent time together and played with the baby. Peyton has a great disposition. She's a very happy little girl and very well loved.
Cincinnati, Ohio and Charleston, SC (November). We spent most of the month of November apart, which felt a bit unusual since we are used to being together 24/7, but we were both quite busy and the time passed quickly. Rich was in Charleston helping Steve with a number of projects on his sailboat, Cadre, which is a sister-ship of Slip Away. Since we had already completed a number of these projects on Slip Away, Rich could help Steve with some advice, as well as manual labor.
Road Trip #3 - Bowie, Maryland, and Falls Church, Virginia (November 22-30). The Crowell Clan was gathering at Rich's sister's house in Maryland for Thanksgiving, so the two of us reunited there. We celebrated the holiday with almost all of his immediate family - brother Bob and nephew Austin came from Atlanta; niece Melissa from Boston; brother Ron, wife Kim and nephew Chad from Jacksonville; and niece Brittany from New York City. We were bummed that Rich's sons Andrew and Erik weren't able to make it, but it was a great reunion, and Kathleen and Sean hosted a spectacular Thanksgiving meal.
After the Thanksgiving celebration, before leaving the DC area, we stopped in to see our friends Janet Miles & Chris Miller, who live in Falls Church, Virginia. Janet & Chris are both scuba instructors, and Chris helped Rich with some maintenance on our dive gear. We also checked out a used gear sale at the dive shop where they teach and picked up a spare B.C. for a good price.
Cincinnati, Ohio (December). We drove back to Cincinnati from Virginia in the rain (10 hours), and the next morning, we woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground, a harbinger that our extended Fall weather had ended and Winter had arrived.
We settled into Cincinnati for the month. We had no more road trips planned, which was a good thing, because the weather was pretty lousy. Cincinnati had its 4th snowiest December on record, and temperatures were well below normal. Ugh!
Despite the nasty weather, our family and friends kept us busy, and we enjoyed the month. Jan's birthday is December 3, which was a Friday this year. Her sister Judy took the day off work, and she and Mom joined us for a day at the Newport Aquarium and lunch at Newport on the Levy in Kentucky. That evening Jan's friend Paula Steltenkamp threw a party, and some of the folks who came were friends Jan had not seen in a long, long time - great fun! A couple weeks later, our friends Rick & Bebe Wilker invited us to a dinner party at their home. They invited a group of their friends, most of whom we didn't know, but they were all boaters, and they wanted to see our photos and hear about our experiences. That was a great time too! We had several other invitations for lunches, dinners and other get-togethers, and we enjoyed them all.
This was the first Christmas we had spent with our family in a long time, and we got into the spirit of things. We helped put up the tree and decorate the house, and we baked dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies. Jan's Mom has an established tradition of giving plates of Christmas cookies to numerous friends, but it's difficult for her to do the work now, so we helped her out (and ate a few in the process!). We joined Mom for a couple of her annual Christmas gatherings with friends - a lunch with some folks from the neighborhood and a dinner with some of Mom's elementary school mates - and we delivered a few plates of cookies to friends. Jan's brother Jeff treated his sisters to an evening at Playhouse in the Park, where they saw Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", and on another night both of us joined Jeff and some of his family at the Cincinnati Zoo's Festival of Lights. Christmas Eve is the traditional Schwab get-together, and Jan's immediate family and a few extended members gathered at Mom's house. On Christmas Day, we spent some time with Fred's Mom and then went to dinner at Joyce & Marty's house (Jan's sister and brother-in-law).
We were doing a lot of eating and drinking in December (as well as the previous months). Our clothes were getting pretty tight, and there were some that no longer fit. We had joined a gym shortly after we arrived in the U.S., and we went regularly, but the pounds continued to pack on. (This wasn't such a bad thing for Rich, but it was not a good thing for Jan!)
In early January, the party was over, and it was time for us to move on. Unfortunately, a couple of days before our planned departure, our brother-in-law Fred had a mild heart attack and landed in the hospital. He gave us all a good scare, but he's OK now, and we are all happy that he has a new resolve to quit smoking. Jan and Judy had to say good-bye at the hospital, and there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Jan first moved away from Cincinnati 25 years ago, when Judy was only 19 years old, and these past few months had been a very special opportunity for them to spend time together.
Our flight out of Cincinnati had a departure time of 6 a.m., so rather than ask someone to drive us to the airport at an ungodly hour, we booked a hotel room with an airport shuttle. Our nephew Ethan drove us to the hotel (30-40 minutes from home), and then had to come back a second time because we left our phone charger at Mom's house. Thank you Ethan!
Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada (January 6-12). We left cold and snowy Cincinnati and headed to Canada - what were we thinking? Our friends Neil & Kathy Farley (s.v. Attitude) have a condo in Whistler/Blackcomb, were spending the month of January there skiing, and invited us to join them. Jan used to ski a fair amount when she lived in California, but Rich is not a skier. Jan was excited about skiing in Whistler, and we both like hanging out with Neil & Kathy, so Rich agreed to go.
We flew into Vancouver in the rain, and on the drive up to Whistler, the rain turned to snow. It was a slow and not-so-fun drive up to Whistler, and Jan was thinking "why did I think this was a good idea??" But, after we arrived, parked the car, and had a couple of adult beverages and a nice dinner with Neil & Kathy, we immediately started feeling better.
It had been about 9 years since Jan was last on the slopes, so she was a bit apprehensive, but it all came back - well, sort of. She worked out at the gym faithfully for the past three months, but her muscles still tired out much more quickly than they used to (could it be age??). She started out on the blue slopes and graduated to a few black diamonds in the last couple of days. She "ain't as good as she once was," but she had a great time. Rich spent his days sitting by the fire, reading and worrying (fortunately needlessly) that Jan would hurt herself. Jan took a break from skiing for a day, and the two of us played tourist, taking the gondola to the top of Whistler, and then the "Peak to Peak" gondola from Whistler to Blackcomb and back - beautiful views!
Neil & Kathy were incredible hosts, and we had a fun week with them. They loaned Jan a pair of their skis and a helmet (Jan still had her old boots), and they were very patient with her as she regained her "ski legs." Neil is an excellent cook, and we ate wonderful meals while we were there.
We intended to drive back to Vancouver on a Thursday morning but ended up leaving Whistler the previous afternoon because some stormy weather was headed our way. We did not want to do that drive again in the snow! We had a nice dry drive back to Vancouver, and the scenery along the way was gorgeous.
Vancouver (January 12-15). Neither of us had previously been to Vancouver, so we decided to spend some time seeing the city after Whistler. Our friends Bob & Kay Finlay (s.v. Kay II) live in Mission, (about 1½ hours from Vancouver), and they joined us and showed us around for a couple of days. We visited the Vancouver Aquarium, Stanley Park, Granville Island, Chinatown and Gas Town, and we ate oysters at Rodney's Oyster Bar. We had a great visit with Bob & Kay, and we really enjoyed the sights of Vancouver.
Clarkdale & Phoenix, Arizona (January 15-20). From Vancouver, we flew to Phoenix and finally found some warm weather! We arrived at the Phoenix airport late (about 10 p.m.), but our friends Pat & Carrie Kinnison (s.v. Terra Firma) picked us up, drove us to their home in Clarkdale (almost two hours away), and we sat up until 4 a.m. sipping Flor de Caña rum and catching up. Pat & Carrie recently sold their sailboat and bought a home on "terra firma", and we spent the next few days exploring their corner of northern Arizona. We hiked in Sedona (about 30 minutes from their house), drove up to Flagstaff and visited their friend Bob (whom we met in El Salvador), and spent a day exploring an old mining town called Jerome. We reminisced about sailing together in Central America, talked about their new adventures on land and our new ones at sea, laughed a lot and made plans to get together again.
Pat & Carrie handed us off to our friends Lori & Frank Helton in Gilbert, AZ (near Phoenix). Lori and Jan have known each other for a long time, having worked together at Club Med in 1987. Lori & Frank have two sons, Dustin & Keegan, who are now 10 and 8. The last we saw them five years ago, so they've grown up a bit (and they're much better than Jan at Wii bowling!).
While in Phoenix, we also had the opportunity to have lunch with our friend Jim York (m.v. Antipodes). Jim & his wife Lara crossed the Pacific with us last June, but upon their arrival in the Marquesas, Lara was diagnosed with brain cancer. She passed away in November.
Los Angeles / Hermosa Beach (January 20 - February 1). From Phoenix, we flew back to Los Angeles, the final leg in our journey before heading back to Tahiti. Our friend John was picking us up at the airport but got delayed for a few minutes (caught in traffic - no surprise there!), so we hung out on the curb and people-watched while we waited. There's a lot of interesting material at LAX! We didn't have to wait long, and John was there to pick us up, and a short while later, we were back at Camille & John's home in Hermosa Beach.
We had 12 days until our flight back to Tahiti, but before then we had some errands to run and purchases of boat parts and other stuff to complete. Early the next morning, we went through our list of things to buy and ordered what we could on-line so it would arrive before our departure, and then we visited the West Marine store and got some stuff on order there too.
Later that day, Rich's son Erik and girlfriend Chrissy arrived in L.A. for the weekend. They live in San Francisco, so they enjoyed the sunshine and warm weather we were having in Southern California. We spent some time at the beach with Erik & Chrissy and had a great dinner party with them and a few other friends on Saturday night. They're twisting Jan's arm to come skiing in Tahoe next Spring - it probably won't take much twisting!
Shortly after Erik and Chrissy's departure, Camille's Dad Gene flew into L.A. for visit. Gene restores old cars, specifically 1940's Darrin Packards, and there was a Packard car show in Orange County the coming weekend. We all went to the car show on Saturday - those were some beautiful cars!
That same weekend, our friends Patti & Hank Hansen came down to L.A. from San Francisco for the weekend. Hank's sister lives in Manhattan Beach (right next to Hermosa), so they were able to visit with her and her family, as well as us. We spent Saturday evening with Patti & Hank sharing a couple of bottles of wonderful champagne that they brought with them from Northern California. And then on Sunday, Patti and Jan took Hank and Rich on a stroll down memory lane in Hermosa Beach. They walked by the house where they lived as roommates in 1989, pointed out the location of a couple of party houses and other old haunts in Hermosa, and then stopped in the "Poop Deck" for a beer. The girls weren't sure how much Hank and Rich enjoyed it, but Patti & Jan sure had a good time! And, Patti & Jan were also amazed at how much the area has changed.
We squeezed in a couple other visits with friends in L.A., but we quickly ran out of time to see more than a few people. By the time our departure date arrived (February 1), we had run all of our errands, received all of our on-line purchases except one, and we were busy packing and weighing all of our suitcases, including a couple of extras we had picked up at the Salvation Army. We had a late-night flight, so we had all day to finish this job which we had begun the previous week. When Jan picked Camille up from work that afternoon, Jan was at her wit's end because the last suitcase wasn't quite big enough. Camille took charge, and they stopped at the Goodwill store where they found the perfect bigger bag (for $3.99). When they got home, everything fit in, and the suitcase weighed a few ounces under the 50 lb. limit.
We enjoyed one last dinner with these dear friends, and then Camille & John took us to the airport and bid us farewell. Our check-in with Air Tahiti Nui went smoothly. We had to pay some excess baggage charges, which we expected, but that was cheaper and easier than shipping the stuff to Tahiti. We boarded our plane, it left on time, and we headed "home" to Slip Away.
We thoroughly enjoyed our 4½ month stay on dry land, but that said, we're not yet eager to abandon our life on the sea. There are many aspects about "dirt dwelling" that appeal to us - sleeping through bad weather, long hot showers, the ease of going to the local grocery store in a car. Yet there are other things that aren't so appealing - a faster pace of life, the constant barrage of bad news from the media, and the political polarization and lack of tolerance that we see in our society. People often ask us how much longer we intend to live and travel on Slip Away, and we can only answer "we don't know." Although we really don't like bad weather on the boat, and the never-ending maintenance on Slip Away isn't our favorite part of this lifestyle, we love pulling into new anchorages and going ashore to explore, meeting some of the local people, jumping in the water to check out the underwater life, or getting to know some of our fellow sailors who are also anchored in the bay. There is a wonderful community of people out here doing this, and we've made incredible friendships. We think that some day in the future we would like to live on land again, but we're not sure where - not even sure if it will be in the U.S. or elsewhere - but we'll worry about that later. For now, as long as we're healthy and can do so, living and traveling on the boat is what we really want to do.