Adieu to Ashland

The old adage that times flies when you are having fun is certainly true for folks lucky enough to spend time in the quaint and quirky town of Ashland, Oregon. Our three month house-sit is coming to an end. It’s time to say Adieu Ashland, it’s been great getting to know you.

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland Oregon

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland Oregon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hubs and I adopted the roving house-sitter lifestyle back in November. Our current plan is to explore as many of the cities and towns, historical sites and breath-taking natural beauty of this great country as we can while we’re searching for our next spot to officially call home. For now, home is wherever we unpack our bags and hang up our clothes. House-sitting offers us the opportunity to linger a while and blend in with the locals. So much better than a room at the Holiday Inn.

Ashland consistently ranks as one of the best places to retire in Oregon so when the opportunity presented itself to explore the area we excitedly threw our house-sitter hats into the ring and came up winners. Lucky us!

Our list of criteria for our next hometown is still very much a work in progress. And, it comes as no surprise that our must haves are as opposite as night and day. Hubs – opportunities to fish. Me – not too remote, moderate climate with lots of sun, walk to shops, restaurants, coffee if possible, arts and culture, educational opportunities (i.e. college town), low cost of living, easy airport access, friendly folks, good food/farmers markets, not a big city but near a big city…and the list goes on and on. Dream big and adjust as needed. That is my current motto.

So how does Ashland stack up? From our three months of totally random and non-scientific research here is my completely biased opinion.

What’s to love ~

1. Noble Coffee Roasters for great tea, hot chocolate, coffee and snacks like fresh baked raspberry scones. I will miss every one of the friendly faces behind the counter who greeted me each day with a smile and a chat. You guys are the best! Want to feel like a local right away? Find a great coffee shop and settle in. You’ll soon get the inside scoop on what’s happening all over town. Noble became my morning office, my afternoon break and the place hubs and I walked to on Saturday morning for coffee and a sweet treat (which we picked up up from Deux Chats along the way).

My Girls at Noble Rosters.

My Girls at Noble Rosters.

2. The Ashland Food Co-Op for good healthy food and the absolute best people watching. No day was complete without a stop at the co-op.

3. The Ashland Vibe. Bernie bumper stickers, Buddhas, fading prayer flags and yoga studios will always be top of mind when I recall our time in Ashland. It’s a community that definitely leans a little to the left. In a good way. Here’s how the pot boils – start with a few well-healed retirees, sprinkle with hard-working theater folk, artists and musicians of every ilk. Toss in a heaping handful of college students. Mix well. Flavor with a delicious blend of hippies – young, old and wannabe, local farmers and a few old timers who have seen it all and you brew up the heady sauce of interesting, intelligent, quirky, fun and friendly that is Ashland. It is a sweet elixir indeed. A century ago it was the lithia water that made Ashland unique, but I know for sure it’s the people that make it so today. Ashland Prayer Flags

4. Arts and Culture. It’s the home of the internationally acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival so Ashland has become a tourist town for sure, but the year round residents share a love of art in all its forms. Opportunities to explore your inner artist abound. I took full advantage at the Ashland Art Center’s classes where I played with clay and learned the art of needle felting. I also spent a rainy Sunday afternoon making croissants in a french bakery. Oooh La La! I could have done so much more if it wasn’t for that pesky thing called “working full time”.

Croissant making at Deux Chats Bakery

Croissant making at Deux Chats Bakery

DSC02526

I captured this view on an after dinner photo walk right by our house.

5. Nature and the great outdoors.  Hiking, (you are at an off-ramp of the Pacific Coast Trail), walking (beautiful Lithia Park or the streets of downtown), nature photography, fishing, and skiing can all be found less than 45 minutes from downtown.

6. Food Fabulous Food. There is no shortage of eating establishments in Ashland and hubs and I did our best (for research purposes) to check out as many of them as possible. A few became our go-to favs and we would recommend them highly if you have the chance to visit Ashland. *Standing Stone Brewery has an on-site brewery and outstanding casual food menu. They bake their own breads and many menu items come from their own 1-mile farm (yes it is a mile from downtown Ashland). *Pie and Vine for pizza, pasta and a delicious grilled romaine salad. *Morning Glory serves up an outstanding breakfast (there is always a wait) as does Brothers Restaurant (generally no wait). Hubs gave the hash at both places a big two thumbs up. Amuse, a tiny French bistro was recognized as one of the best restaurants in Oregon. Liquid Assets is a lovely little wine bar that is perfect for a Friday night Happy Hour and Sammich pretty much nails it if you are hankering for a sandwich piled high with house-smoked meat served with a side of Chicago ‘tude and Da Bears.

7. Things to Do. Life slows down in Ashland during the winter but come early spring, the trees start to bloom and The Bard works his magic once again. Restaurants that took winter breaks re-open, shops extend their hours and tour buses dot the once empty streets. Parking spots are nowhere to be found. Winter might be cool, damp and dark, but we had no lack of fun activities to keep us entertained. First Friday Art Walk is a great way to explore Ashland’s many galleries. Rain or shine, the entire town comes out to stroll Main Street on First Friday. How about a Festival or two? March found us indulging at the weekend long Oregon Chocolate Festival right in downtown and our inner cheese nerd led us down the road to Central Point for the Oregon Cheese Festival. Yes, we have both expanded our “love handles”. We are sad that we will miss both the International Film Festival and A Taste of Ashland coming up in April. For a wee bit of old-timey outdoor fun, mosey on over to the Ashland Gun Club for the Cowboy Shoot Out held on the third Saturday of every month. Yeehaw, it was an unexpected good time! Rainy Sunday afternoons are a great excuse to visit the Varsity Theater where you can munch a little popcorn and watch first run movies.

Hubs with his new friend Dakota.

Hubs with his new friend cowboy Dakota.

If you feel like exploring beyond Ashland there is plenty to keep you busy. A short scenic drive will take you to the historic town of Jacksonville, home of the fabulous Britt Music Festival and a great stating point for the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. Medford is 10 miles up I-5 from Ashland and offers big city amenities like a Trader Joes, REI and an indoor mall. It is the home of Harry and David who offer regular tours (we missed this) and has a small historic downtown (we took a self-guided walking tour using a map provided by the Visitor Center). Nearby Mt. Ashland offers skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. From cooking classes, to yoga classes, to wine tasting and lectures of every kind, you can be as busy and entertained and educated as you want to be.

And the Not so Much ~

While hubs and I really enjoyed our time in Ashland, we’re ready to move on. Here’s why.

1. It’s too expensive for us to live here on a small retirement budget. Housing costs, whether renting or buying, are out of our price range.

2. It’s too far from a major city. Five hours to Portland! Four hours across the Siskiyou mountains to Sacramento. I’m hoping for an hour or less.

3.  Flying in and out of Ashland is not easy or cheap. I learned this the hard way when I had to fly to Phoenix for work. I spent more time getting there than I did in the actual meetings.

We still have a few house-sitting gigs on the books (Washington and Mexico) and then in mid-June we’ll be loading up the SUV and heading from Portland to Colorado Springs, across the mid-west to Omaha and down through Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas. We will be checking out the towns and cities along the way. We are open for short term house sits so let us know if you or anyone you know might have a need. We’d love to hang out a while at the local coffee shop and get to know the folks in your town.

Learn more about us and our house-sitting experience at our website GlobalHouseSitPros.com

See you on the road!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

 

House Sitting 101

Notes from the House Sitting 101 file ~ Learning the ropes and getting ready to take off the training wheels.

kalamaview2

Spectacular view from our house-sit high on a bluff above the Colombia River. It changed hourly.

Greetings from high on a bluff over-looking the mighty Columbia River just outside of the (very) tiny town of Kalama Washington.  Hubs and I are on day 9 of a 10 day house sit with Daphne the wonder dog.  She is well loved, well fed and has more toys than most 2 year old kids I know.  Daphne is a cutie and smart as a whip.  She had us trained in no time.

Daphne the wonder dog

Daphne the wonder dog

What the hell are we doing living in a strange house with someone else’s dog in the middle of nowhere?   Good question!  We’re in training.  Last Fall I set a goal to build our resume and our experience by signing on for as many house sits as we could within driving distance of our home.  My vision was to house sit the west coast from Canada to Mexico.  We’ve applied for 6 or 8 and so far we’ve pretty much been the runner-up not the winner.  I honestly had no idea how competitive house sitting is.  For every sitting opportunity there are anywhere from a dozen to 40+ applicants – from single 20-somethings who work remotely and travel the world to retired and semi-retired geezers like hubs and I.   Even a few families.  Apparently the competition wasn’t so tough for Kalama.  Actually, they called us.  We did not apply for this sit.  But after meeting with the nice folks who are Daphne’s humans, we knew it was a good fit and a great place to start.  So here we are.

Nancy and Daphne watching the evening news

Nancy and Daphne watching the evening news

Kalama is not anyone’s idea of a picturesque town.  It’s a run-down port town of about 2500 citizens located 35 miles north of Portland.  If it ever had glory days, they are long since faded.  We are staying out of town way up a windy road in a lovely custom built house with a gorgeous view.  But to tell you the truth, for a city girl like me, it’s more than a little lonely at the top.  And you can only count the trees and the birds and the squirrels for so long before cabin fever sets in and it’s time to come down from the mountain.  Which hubs and I do every day at 11:30 for lunch, a walk and some on-foot exploration.  We’ve covered every inch of Kalama (20 minutes), walked for miles along the river, taken our own walking tour of historic downtown Longview, discovered a couple of decent restaurants (and a whole bunch that were a little scary).   The weather has been in our favor and one day we strolled the 4 mile perimeter of Lake Sacawajea.  It was gorgeous.  We also drove back into Portland to hit up the Farmers Market and Vancouver for a Volkswalk.

Lake Sacajawea in full blossom.  Perfect day for a picnic and a long walk.

Lake Sacajawea in full blossom. Perfect day for a picnic and a long walk.

A few hours in civilization and we’re good to head back up the mountain again.  Daphne is always happy to see us return.  It is amazing how easy it is to settle comfortably into someone else’s space.  We knew this from home exchange, but still our ability to do this was one of the things I wanted to make very sure about before we up-rooted out lives for the road.

My plan is to test the waters, learn as much as we can from each experience and build up our reference bank account.   We haven’t lived with dogs for quite a few years so it was good to know that we’ve still got the touch.  We also learned that even though a rustic house sit in the remote French countryside looks inviting, unless its a week or less, it might not be right for us.  Score two on the things we learned meter.

So, tomorrow we will make sure the house is clean, the bird feeder is full, the plants are watered and the beds are freshly made.  We’ll feed Daphne her dinner and then we will load ourselves into our car and head for home.  Mr. Ricky is waiting.  He had a wonderful house/pet sitter staying with him while we were gone but I know he will be as happy to see us as Daphne will be to see her real people (not the stand-in servants).

While this was definitely not the exotic house sitting adventure we have been dreaming of and planning for, it was a great experience and we’re glad for the opportunity.  Now when we’re driving 70mph up I-5 to Seattle or Port Townsend and we see the signs for Woodland, Kalama, Kelso and Longview, we won’t wonder if we should stop to check them out.  Been there.  Done that.  Keep on driving!

Next up… house sitting in Mexico for 8 (OMG!) cats for a month.  We are definitely open for more west coast house sitting opportunities.  We’ll be available again starting in June.  We’d love to spend a few weeks in Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria area, Phoenix, or San Francisco so if you know anyone invite them to check out our website Global Housesit Pros.

See you on the road.

Nancy

Top Baby Boomer Travel Blog 2015 Awards

And the winners are… pause for breath-holding… pause for envelope opening …

Well, actually there are 20 winners.  But I am beyond excited to be named one of FlipKey’s Top Baby Boomer Travel Blogs to follow in 2015.  There are some well-seasoned travelers and heavy-hitter bloggers in the mix.  And now me and Just a Backpack and a Rollie.

I’ll take it!

And hubs and I will keep on dragging our backpacks and rollies and sharing our adventures with you throughout 2015.  I’ve been busy applying for house sitting gigs all along the west coast from Canada to Mexico.  And we have some very interesting gigs in the works.

So please click on through to the wonderful post on the FlipKey blog and check out our fellow boomer travel bloggers.  They are all truly an inspiration to me.

And here is our little Award.  She’s not a gold statue, but I think she’s pretty cute.

Les & Nancy Global House Sit Pros ~ check out our new profile!

Hello, Hola, Bonjour, Ciao and Hej!

We are Les and Nancy aka the kitty whisperer (Les) and the chicken wrangler (Nancy).

Les & Nancy on the camino de santiago

Walking the Camino de Santiago

Les&Nancy2

We clean up pretty well too.

 

For the past 30+ years we have enjoyed rewarding and successful corporate careers, Les as an electrical engineer turned sales ninja and Nancy as an award-winning corporate meeting, event and travel manager. We’re retiring from the corporate life to focus on our new career as full time global house sitters.

Why House Sitting?

As long time homeowners with beloved pets of our own, we were delighted to find trusted house and pet sitters who cared for our furry family members, our house and our plants with such enthusiasm, respect and considerate care that we (finally!) felt free to go off on a vacation without worrying if a pipe might break or the plants turned brown. On top of that, our kitty (currently Mr. Ricky) could enjoy the comfort of his own home and a friendly snuggle or two.

Win. Win. Win.

It’s not always easy allowing strangers into your home, we know that. But, we also know from experience that once you make that right connection, communicate expectations clearly and develop a level of trust – house sitting will change your life. Whether you are the home owner or the house sitter.

We want to pay it forward and that’s why we started house sitting earlier this year.

Why Choose Us?

~ We are committed to being the absolute best house and pet sitters you will ever have.

~ We have an abundance of life, professional and travel experience and we’re very comfortable and adaptable in new surroundings and cultures.

~ We will confidently handle most emergencies with calm, quick-thinking action. If we can’t handle it ourselves, we’ll know who to call. That’s where our management and leadership experiences come in handy!

~ We will be respectful of your home, your possessions and your privacy. We’re homeowners ourselves and will treat yours as if it were our own.

~ We are excellent communicators. We will keep you updated as often as you like so you know everything is in good hands. We love to send photo updates!

~ We love animals of all kinds (sorry not snakes) and have shared our home with dogs, cats, hamsters, white mice, tropical fish. We’ve also learned the fine (and very fun!) art of chicken keeping through several house sits and home exchanges.

~ We’re fun, friendly, detailed oriented retirees with a zest for life, curious minds and and energetic healthy bodies. We welcome the opportunity to get our hands dirty in your garden, take long walks with your pups and keep your house in tip-top condition.

Our Skills and Experience – here’s why we are such a great team ~

Les was Director of New Business Development for a large exposition and trade show company for many years. He worked with clients from around the world to understand their specific needs and deliver their expectations on time, on budget and make it look easy. This required outstanding listening skills, the ability to communicate ideas and manage large, complicated projects. He has also been the president of our home owners association for the past five years leading our town home community through a major construction project. His vision and ability to lead both the board and the multiple contractors was key to the success of this project.

Skills Les brings ~
• handy/Mr. Fix-it
•enjoys puttering in the garden
•chief trash carrier and mail retriever
•good with a vacuum and a mop
•manager of home security
•family chef
•pooper scooper
•kitty cuddler
•extremely organized

Nancy is currently the Manager of Corporate Travel for a multi-national corporation. She leads a team that supports over 1500 corporate travelers, developing travel policy, negotiating hotel and airline agreements while ensuring the security and safety of every employee while on the road. Prior to becoming travel manager, Nancy managed corporate meetings and events. Her creative vision, team building and leadership skills combined with a focused attention to detail were crucial to her award-winning success in this arena. Nancy is also a published author with essays in two books on retirement. She blogs about retirement, travel and living the good life at www.justabackpackandarollie.com

Skills Nancy brings ~
•communication expert
•loves to garden and has a green thumb
•lead dog walker (Les always seems to tag along) and ball tosser
•keeper of schedules, lists and all other very important details
•chief bottle washer and laundry detail
•chicken wrangler, egg gather and coop scooper
•experienced with giving pet meds and care of aging pets

As a Team we ~

•believe that taking good care of your home is our most important responsibility
•are honest and reliable with local and state background checks
•work well together and with others
•appreciate the importance of maintaining a clean, well-maintained home and garden
•share house sitting responsibilities based on our individual skills and interests
•are grateful for the opportunity to travel and the wonderful new experiences that house sitting around the globe provides.

We are non-smokers who enjoy a great glass of wine and all kinds of food, we have excellent references, a strong sense of adventure and a can-do attitude.  We’re working hard to become the house sitters we’d want to hire!

If you are looking for a fantastic house sitting duo to care for your home and furry family members so you can relax and focus on your time away, please contact us.

A few of our furry and feathered friends stopped by to say Hi! and give us their stamp of approval. Pups on parade

This is the beginning of our new profile which will soon appear on our Global House Sit Pros website (in the works), and several house sitting referral sites including Trusted House Sitters. Housesit Match and Nomador.

I’d love your feedback on our “resume” and if you know anyone on the west coast (U.S. or Canada) who is looking for good house sitters, please let them know about us.  We’d love to connect with them.

This is getting really exciting!

Cheers,

Nancy

Traveling with our Taste buds ~

We love to travel.  We love to eat.  And these days we’re really into walking as a way to discover interesting places to eat. I call it traveling with our taste buds. It’s my theory that if I walk for food, I can pretty much eat whatever I want and not gain (too much) weight.

From farmers markets to cooking classes to sidewalk bistros and street carts, hubs and I have eaten our way across Portland, much of the U.S. and now we’re working on eating our way across the globe.  One tasty bite at a time.

Jamon - a staple in Spain

Jamon – a staple in Spain

A pop-up sidewalk bar just when you need one.

A pop-up sidewalk bar just when you need one.

Learning to cook Oaxacan style.

Learning to cook Oaxacan style.

Walking through a market is a must stop in a new city.

A farmer’s market is a great place to stroll (and sample) in any city.

Always try the local delicacies...at least once.

Always try the local delicacies…at least once.

Buys your tortillas by the kilo - fresh, hot and muy sabrosa

Buy your tortillas by the kilo – fresh, hot and muy sabrosa

Try it...even if you aren't sure what it is.

Be adventurous. Try it…even if you aren’t sure what it is.

We’ve got a lot of traveling ahead of us and a lot of great tastes to explore.  I’m sure some of them will be more interesting than delicious.  Let’s just say that my taste buds have a long way to go before I can truly call myself an adventurous eater.  I’m working on it.  What’s the most interesting food you’ve eaten in your travels?

Bon Appetit!

Nancy

Pack Smart & Travel Light

As my favorite travel guru, Rick Steves says “You’ll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags:  “Every year I pack heavier.  The measure of a good traveler is how light he or she travels.  You can’t travel heavy, happy, and cheap.  Pick two.”

For me, packing light and packing right is still a work in progress.  I haven’t honed the skill of mix and match as much as I’d like.  And shoes – walking shoes, sandals, something dressy, slippers.  I have yet to find footwear that manages to go from trail to fancy night on the town.  At least not for these tired old feet.  We walk a lot so comfortable footwear is number one.

With summer finally upon us, hubs and I are planning as much travel as we can and so I’ve been working of my packing skills and looking for tips to make the job easier.   I keep muttering under my breath …backpack and rollie…backpack and rollie…backpack and rollie. If it doesn’t fit, I don’t need it.

One bag, One carry-on.  And off we go!

Check out these fun travel and packing tips I found on the web ~

1.  Stick a dryer sheet or two in your suitcase with your clothes to keep them smelling fresh and cling free.

2.  Use a 7 day pill container to store your jewelry.  And, really, how much jewelry do your really need?  Try a fun scarf to dress up a top for the evening.

3.  Roll it.  As it turns out, rolling your clothes actually takes up less space – especially if you’re packing T-shirts, which can be rolled together a couple at a time.

4.  No matter how long your trip is, don’t pack more than a week’s worth of clothes.  You can wear most things more than once and then prepare to do laundry.  Bring a travel clothesline for hand wash or find a local laundry. (Hubs and I aired our dirty laundry through the streets of Santiago in search of the tiny lavanderia tucked in the back of a small grocery store.  Later that day we were clean, pressed and back in business)

5.  Store your loose cables and chargers in an old sunglasses case to keep everything in one place.

6.  Don’t forget your phone charger, but if you do, check the back of your hotel TV.  There’s usually a USB port.  (I didn’t know this!)

7.  Scan your passport, ID, and itinerary and email it to yourself so you have a digital copy in the event of theft or loss.

8.  Pack only garments that can be color-coordinated with everything else in your travel wardrobe.  If it doesn’t work with multiple outfits, leave it at home.

9.  Pack your suitcase only two-thirds full.  Leave room for the inevitable souvenirs and treasures you’ll pick up along the way.

10.  When in doubt, leave it out.  (my new favorite)

Happy travels.

Nancy

 

 

 

 

Tales from the Columbia Gorge ~

Last weekend hubs and I met up with 600+ fellow walking enthusiasts and set out to explore some of the most gorgeous trails in the spectacular Columbia River Gorge.  As I was planning today’s blog post thought it might be fun to share few tales from the Columbia Gorge…

The weather gods were on our side.

The clouds parted, the rain stopped and just when we needed it, the sun appeared.  But not too much.  A little light cloud cover kept us from melting as we officially kicked off our walking season and our first multi-day Volksport walking adventure – the Columbia River Gorge Biennial Classic.  And what an event it was!  These folks have their planning honed to a science.  Thirteen walks, one bike ride, lots of great information, a hot dog lunch and a dinner cruise on the Sternwheeler.  There was truly something for everyone and the little town of Cascade Locks was packed to capacity.  We opted for a room at the Skamania Lodge on the Washington side of the river which added daily crossings of the Bridge of the Gods to our weekend adventure.  Hubs and I met up with other walking friends at Skamania on Friday afternoon and set out on our first walk – an easy stroll into the town of Stevenson for a close up look at the wind and kite surfers.  This area of the gorge is the windsurfing capital of the world and when you stand on the end of a pier in 25+ mile an hour winds and watch these dare devils fly across the choppy water, you see why.

There is always something interesting going on at Skamania Lodge and Friday evening we sat out on the lawn in Adirondack chairs, glasses of a tasty chilled Spanish white in hand and enjoyed a fascinating birds of prey show (so up close and personal that one flew over my head and riffled my hair).

Skamania Lodge - always something going on

Skamania Lodge – always something going on

 

Saturday morning was our big walking day and we chose to hike the Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls loop.  Rated a 3B by AVA.  We had no idea what 3B meant but hubs figured it was moderate as the walks range from 1A to 5C.  Let me say right here that moderate has taken on a whole new meaning!  It started innocently enough.  A little uphill climb to the stunning bridge view just below Multnomah Falls.

Looking down on Multnomah Falls

Looking down on Multnomah Falls

Then up, and up some more for 11 marked zig-zags.  Hearts pumping, thighs screaming No! we went up a little more…and then a little more.columbiagorgewalk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we’re on standing on a ledge looking down on the falls.  But wait, there’s more. We left the paved trail and then the packed dirt trail behind and continued up on a very narrow trail composed of tiny jagged granite.  One side dropped 1000 feet and the other side went straight up and I’m clutching ferns for balance.  And stopping to take photos (and catch my breath).  We walked through ancient growth forests, past cascading waterfalls, forded a few streams and were totally awe-struck at the magnificence of Mother Nature.

columbiagorgewalk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we started down.  And down.  And it was just as hard as the up.  I saw my life flash in front of me for a brief moment when my feet lost traction on some slippery rocks and I started to slide, but I clutched a branch and all was saved.

columbiagorgewalk4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost back to civilization.

Almost back to civilization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We slowly wound our way back down to the Old Columbia River Highway where we had started our trek 3 1/2 hours earlier.  It was mid-day at Multnomah Falls, one of the region’s biggest natural attractions and on this beautiful first weekend of summer, the place was packed with tourists so we limped to the car as fast as our wobbly old legs would go and headed back to the hot tubs at Skamania.

Ahhhhhh.

Ahhhhhh.

 

 

 

 

That evening, we celebrated hubs’ birthday one more time with a delicious dinner and some of the tastiest cheap wine I’ve had in a long time at a hidden gem of a restaurant, Henni’s Kitchen and Bar, tucked away about 30 minutes further up the gorge in White Salmon.  We enjoyed a specatular sunset drive along the might Columbia arriving at our “home” in time for a nightcap and an early visit with our comfortable beds.

I’d like to tell you that we hiked again on Sunday, but I can’t.  My butt muscles hurt, my quads hurt, my calves were like two sticks and nothing more than a short stroll to loosen things up was going to happen on the walking front. A rousing game on the hotel’s 18 hold putting course and a leisurely drive home completed our weekend walking adventure in the Columbia Gorge.

We picked up lots of brochures for upcoming Volkswalks all over the world.  We’ll be trying a few up near Port Townsend Washington soon.  We love exploring the world at 3 miles per hour.

See you on the trail.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

House Sitting in The Country ~

I am currently enjoying the best house sitting assignment ever – on a vineyard overlooking a beautiful valley right in the heart of Oregon wine (and farm) country.  On a clear day, you truly can see forever.

For ten days of chicken wrangling, bird feeding, garden watering and loving-up a grey-haired-handsome-boy-kitty named Winston, I am living la pura vida in the hills of Dundee.  I am also learning the ins and outs of rural living.  And, in case you were wondering, life is pretty good out here in the country.  And just a little bit different than this city gal is used to. Not a Starbucks in sight, but the wine is top notch!

The only downside so far?  The Green Acres theme song keeps playing in my head.

And now you are humming it too.  You’re welcome!

I don’t know if the country life is the life for me, but I am savoring every moment of my country adventure.  Here are a few snaps I took the other day.

You know you are in the country when…

Fashion takes on a whole new meaning.

Fashion takes on a whole new meaning.

Maybe they make shoes to go with the outfit?

Maybe they make shoes to go with the outfit?

Making hay while the sun shines.  You've gotta be quick in Oregon

Making hay while the sun shines. You’ve gotta be quick in Oregon

 

So, a gnome wanders into a vineyard...

So, a gnome wanders into a vineyard…

Never seen this in the city.

Never seen this in the city.

farmcountry5

Call now before the sign is covered in weeds.

Yes indeed!

Yes indeed!

And my personal favorite ~

Farmer humor

Farmer humor

Stay tuned for more adventures.

Cheers!

Fabulous and Still Free ~ Attractions to Visit in America

vintage disney Remember the good old days, when people could set aside a few dollars and head out for trips of wonder and excitement?  It didn’t take a small loan or the sale of your firstborn to create memories that lasted a lifetime.  Set the wayback machine for 1971 when a mere $4.50 (adult) or $3.50 (child) bought you entry into the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland where you could wander from dawn to dusk.  It also bought you a book of ride tickets rated from A-E.  The “E” ticket was highly coveted as it took you on the best and biggest rides in the park.  Your $4.50 bought 1A ticket, 1B, 1C, 2D tickets and 2 E tickets.  As kids, we quickly learned about prioritizing and rationing!   One C ticket (or 50 cents if you wanted to go again) got you a ride in one of Davey Crockett’s canoes in Frontierland.  The E ticket took you on a gondola ride through It’s a Small World (don’t start humming the song or it’ll be in your head all day) or bought you a front row seat at The Mickey Mouse Review.

Fast forward to 2014 and What the Heck Happened?

A trip to the Magic Kingdom today will set you back a cool $92.00 (adult) and $86.00 (child).  Yikes!  You can ride any attraction you like as many times as you like, but only if you are willing to stand in line for 45 minutes.   Whoopie!   Universal Studios, another “must see” on so many vacation lists, costs $84.00 in Hollywood and $92.00 in Orlando.

A family of four or two retirees taking the grandkids on a vacation, might have to take out a second mortgage to have this kind of fun.  And pack a lunch.

Which got me thinking:  “Are there any great places to visit or attractions to see that are still free?”  Or at least cheap?

Turns out there are quite a few.  And a lot of folks are making a pilgrimage to these wonderful sites part of their vacation travels.   I’ve been to a few, but not nearly enough.  I see a road trip or two in my future.  What about you?

In order of absolutely no importance, every one of these attractions is worth a visit while the price is still right.

1.  The Smithsoniam Museums, Washington, D.C.  –  The National Zoo, National Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum are the crown jewels of the 18 Smithsonian institutions in Washington D.C.   Where else can you see The Hope Diamond, Dorothy’s Red Slippers and the Spirit of St. Louis all in the same day and all for free?

2.  The National Mall and Washington D.C. Memorials –  The nation’s capital takes it’s “by the people for the people” ethos seriously (at least when it comes to buildings and monuments) and a surfeit of attractions honoring the country’s heritage cost nothing to tour – landmarks along the Mall, the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and the moving memorials to the veterans of WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnman War should be on every American’s must see at least once bucket list.

3.  New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park – While most national parks were established to preserve and share nature, this one celebrates jazz in it’s birthplace, New Orleans.   You’ll enjoy live music in the French Quarter, a music workshop for kids at Preservation Hall every Saturday, free guided walks and video documentaries and a whole lot more.

4.  The Getty Center, Los Angeles – Admission is free.  Parking is $15.00 but it’s still a deal and you can take public transporation.   The Getty is a sprawling art complex that sits high on a hill with jaw dropping views and sunsets.  Browse their impressive collection of European and American art, stroll the fabulous gardens or take the young ones to enjoy the Family Room for interactive exhibits and an art treasure hunt.   I just checked and the cost of admission to our Portland Art Museum is $15.00 for an adult, so the Getty seems like a real deal.

5.  Staten Island Ferry, New York City –  There’s still something free in NYC.  Who would have guessed.  A thrill ride on the Staten Island commuter ferry will take you past the Statue of Liberty with a panoramic view of downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City.  Even better when the city lights up.  It’s free 24/7 so you can ride any time.

6.  Harley-Davidson Factory Tour, Kansas City, MO –  Here’s your chance to go behind the scenes to see how Harley’s are made.  Take the tour to learn how fenders and gas tanks are formed from raw materials, watch live welding, frame bending and sophisticated robot technology at work.  You can even sit on hogs currently in production.  Selfie time!  (Tours are also available in Menomonee Falls, WI and York, PA).  They offer more in-depth tours for a whopping $30.00 so stick with the freebie.

7.  Freedom Trail, Boston, MA –  Walking the red brick path as it winds through metropolitan Boston is a walk through colonial history:  Boston Commons, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s house and Bunker Hill Monument.  You can take this walk at your leisure (for free) or pony up for an official tour with a guide in period costume.

8.  Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota –  It’s free to take in this amazing feat of art and architecture.  Where else but in the good ole USofA would you find 60 foot tall heads of four American presidents (Jefferson, Roosevelt (Theodore), Washington and Lincoln) painstakingly chiseled into granite cliffs?  It does cost to park, but it’s still South Dakota’s most visited attraction.

9.  Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO – The Colorado Springs Center is one of three facilities in the U.S. where Olympic hopefuls put in long hours to prepare for their shot at the gold.  You can tour this facility, which mainly focuses on summer indoor sports like swimming and fencing.  Always wanted to sit in a bobsled?  Here’s your chance.

10.  Royal Hawaiian Center, Honolulu, HI –  Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture and history with a visit to this recently remodeled attraction.  Experiences include everything from traditional Hawaiian massage (lomilomi), lei making, Hawaiian quilting, hula dancing or a crash course in ukulele making.

Been there?  Done that?  Here are ten more.  Get there and enjoy the experience while they are still free.

11.  Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia

12.  Conservatory at Bellagio, Las Vegas

13.  National September 11 Memorial, NYC

14.  Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago

15.  San Francisco Cable Car Museum

16.  Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco – Yes you can walk across, enjoy the spectacular views, eat in the restaurant

17.  Birmingham Botanical Gardens, AL

18.  Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA for some eerie Gothic charm or the Westminister Hall Cemetery in Baltimore, MD, the eternal resting place of Edgar Allen Poe.

19.  Houston Museum District, Houston – 19 museums within a 1.5 mile radius.  12 are free daily.

20.  Allagash Brewery Tour, Portland, ME – Make an advance reservation, wear closed toe shoes and start your tour with free samples.

Got a favorite free attraction that you want to share?  Please leave a comment!

See you on the road!

Two For the Road ~ 5 traits that make a great travel partner

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you ~

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you ~

 Let the Adventure Begin.

The photo above accompanied by the caption “Let the Adventure Begin” was how hubs and I chose to announce our marriage in 2003.  I thought the couple in this photo looked like a perfect team – happy partners in crime and in life.

Whether you are a duo on the Road to Zanzibar or the Road of Life, traveling with a partner can be tricky business.  One of the things I love about my hubby is that we travel well together.  As we get closer to heading out on our own Two For the Road adventures I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what makes a really good team.  For me it comes down to a few very important traits.

Here are the top five on my list ~

Every great team needs…

1.  A Yes Man, a partner who says Hell Yes or Why Not to whatever crazy idea you come up with.  Someone who is all in for a good time or an adventure and doesn’t sweat the details.  When you say “Just shut up and get in the car.”  That’s exactly what they do.  They might even roll down the window and hang their head out to feel the breeze.  Oh, wait.  That’s the dog.

2.  A partner who is calm during your storm.  Like the time a few years ago when Amtrak cancelled our train with no warning – just taped up a hand printed paper sign “No Train Today”.  No train?  Really?  I’m on a five day vacation!  I need the train TODAY!   That’s when you need a partner who stands back calmly while you throw an earth-shattering-all out-but-still-lady-like-bitch fit after the Amtrak service person says, “Ok. So, do you want to cancel now or do you want to come back tomorrow?”  and, then said partner calmly steps up, takes your arm, and says “Let’s go find a Happy Hour and come back in the morning”.  Happy Hour?  Ok.  I love Happy Hour.

3.  The guy in the rose colored glasses.  On those days when one of you is less than your shining best – let’s just call it major-ass cranky-pants and your partner looks over and says  “Have I told you today how crazy I am about you?”  Whoa!  Hello Dolly! Just the right words at the right time.  Well, rightbackattcha Big Boy.

4.  A comedian and a straight man.  You know, like George and Gracie, Lucy and Ricky, Will and Grace.  Every great comedy duo has an instigator, the comedian with the cockeyed point of view and the straight man who makes it all seem funny.  They are a finely oiled machine.  They play off each other.  They give as good as they get.  They make each other laugh.

5.  And, finally, you’ve each gotta be a switch hitter.  A great partnership works when you can switch roles easily and as often as required.  When you’re at the end of your rope – he’s just getting his strength.  When he’s too pooped to participate, you slow your frantic pace and stop to smell the roses.  It’s a balancing act and it works best when each person is tuned in to the other, to the moment, to the goal at hand, and to the bigger picture.

And so, ten years later, I say – Let The Adventure Continue.  We’re two for the road and I cannot wait to see where the road will lead us.

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something we must always remember.  We are braver than we believe, stronger than we seem and smarter than we think.  But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… we’ll always be together.”  Christopher Robin

I originally published a version of this post back in 2012.  It seemed like a perfect post for Valentine’s Day so I dusted it off, prettied it up a bit and thought I’d share it again.

Cheers!

Nancy