winter travels and 2010

2010 is finally here, and based on the hype from the last 20 years – I’m not impressed! tee hee hee … such a cliché really – all the flying cars and space oddities and such. It’s obvious now that things like that are many, many years down the road. We can’t even get education or health care right, much less be that far advanced.

Alas, 2010 has started off great! The end of 2009 was quite a bit of fun as well. I’m hoping to make this update as painless as possible, even though there is a LOT to report. I’ll try to stick to the highlights at the expense of some detail.

Michigan

OK. So my winter travels started off in Michigan at Jenine & Chris’s house. My mom and her husband, Gary had decided to spend xmas in Michigan. I think they were mainly hoping to visit with his family, who all live in Michigan. But they also got a white xmas to boot. Which made things all the more fun. We did quite a bit of sledding! With the kids at Jenine’s in Metamora and then up in Alpena. In Alpena we even had a great sled spot that spit us onto some frozen water! It was pretty cool.

sledding

I had a brief visit with the majority of the Sparks family, Grandma & Grandpa, Uncle Roy & Keith et al, etc. Then my Mom and I headed to Alpena because she had choral performance on Sunday, December 20. Gary stayed in Metamora so he could drive to Alpena with Anna, who was driving to Michigan from Colorado with her two boys Randy and Jake. Once we all made to Alpena, we all (Mom, Gary, Anna, Randy and Jake) had a fun time hanging out, playing cards, building stuff, opening presents, eating, playing music, sledding, etc. It was a fun time!

After xmas we packed up the house in Alpena (which involved loads of chores like draining pipes, emptying and unpluggin appliances, etc.) and we headed back to Metamora to spend a little more time before we headed our separate ways. Mom & Gary got an electronic keyboard for their grandkids. I had a great time going through the piano book with Cassidy. She was like a sponge, soaking up the lessons! We blazed through like 35 pages in no time. If she keeps at it, she’s going to be a great pianist!

Train adventure

I took the train from Michigan to Chicago. And wow was it FUN. I hopped on in Lapeer, Michigan, transferred (barely) in Chicago and hopped off in Seattle 52 hours later. I was aboard the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle. The ride, for all intents and purposes, was pretty much exactly how I imagined: the seats were mildly uncomfortable, I would not be able to sleep, and the food would not be very good. I will say it is way better than traveling on an airplane. The seats are way bigger, you have way more room and there is way more room to walk around. The only really annoying thing about the train was the stinky brake smell. For some reason, whenever the train slows, a horrible electrical fire odor inundates the air inside the cars. It goes away, but it is odd. Overall, I would definitely ride the train across country again. However, unless the two people I met on this trip are with me, I doubt it would be as much fun.

A snowy stop

Although the train from Lapeer to Chicago was almost two hours late, almost missing the connection with the train to Seattle, I’m really glad it was late. I would not have met Lindsey, otherwise! She and I ended up being the only two people on the Michigan to Chicago train that needed to get to the Empire Builder before it took off without us. The conductor announced to the whole train to let the two people up and to the front of the train so we could disembark first. So, while she and I were also on the same exact train for almost 8 hours in Michigan, it wasn’t until we were dangerously close to missing another train that we got to meet. We started chatting while pulling into Chicago’s Union Station and ended up (much to the consternation of the conductors) sitting together for most of the looong ride across the country. One of the best things about meeting her (besides the fact she’s like totally hot and a very fun and interesting person) is that she didn’t mind me sleeping next to and from time-to-time on her and vice versa.

I also met Jason, who was also Portland-bound like Lindsey. I maintain that there were not two other people on the train I would have rather met than these two folks. We spent just about all the travel time together, talking, eating, farting, playing games, drinking whiskey, sleeping … Lindsey taught us how to play Golf. A really fun card game I’ve since also showed Robert and Amy. I think at this point I’ve written too much about the train … so I’ll just say that it was a great ride and I recommend it – as long as you are up for meeting some new people and making some friends. If not, it would just be one long boring ride!!!

Island time

As soon as I arrived in Seattle, I headed for Vashon Island. For those who didn’t know, pretty much the whole reason for this trip was because my friends Shane and Emily invited me to their New Years party! It was sure a great reason to take a trip, and the party was indeed the centerpiece of the trip. It was a blast! I got to make many more friends while having such a good time. Pizza making, music, dancing, poetry … Tom put on an incredible and truly amazing magic show. I just love spending time at the yurt. Such great people! I miss them dearly …

Pizza making

Of course while I was on the island I had to see my friends at Plum Forest Farm and at Sun Island Farm and others in-between. I got to stay in the cabin I helped Rob built, which was quite nice. It was like coming home, really. I slept really well, like I’d just been away from my bed there. I met up with my friends Marcy and Mario for coffee and lunch, respectively. The island was such a good time, as always. On my way there even, on the ferry, I ran into Barbara Wells – who offered me a ride. Then I in-turn offered to help her move the beautiful bamboo bookshelf from the back of her car. We ended up meeting up several times while I was on the island. Such a cool little place. I met up with Dr. Bob Norton for wine tasting and coincidentally ended up back at Barbara’s house because Bob had a meeting with her. I even learned to knit and started learning the banjo! I think I pick up a new skill every time I’m on the island. It is such a rich and inspirational place.

Seattle

Phew! Ok. This is getting long … So while I was in Seattle I mainly stayed at Robert & Amy’s new apartment. I initially wasn’t sure if I’d stay with them at all, being a newly-wed couple and all. I was glad they were glad to have me and I really enjoyed spending time with them. While with them, I popped open a couple more bottles of my cider, which I had transported all the way across the country, just so I could share it with them. They were both delicious! The Cider #1 ended up not carbonating, which is fine, because it is quite a nice white wine-like cider. Joe’s Birthday Cider has carbonated nicely and I’m quite happy with that one overall.

Robert & Amy's place

The morning after I got to Robert and Amy’s they helped me decide to make a last-minute trip to Portland to see Lindsey. I hopped on yet another train and 3.5 hours I was walking through Portland with Lindsey. It was another great adventure within an adventure and I wish I had more time to spend there with her. She’s got some great roommates a cool job and Portland is just a nice place to spend time in.

After my quick jaunt to Portland, my remaining time in Seattle was spend having Sushi at I Love Sushi with my friend Kevin, drinking pints of hard cider at the Hilltop with Jim and Shane and having an extended lunch and visit with my friend Nazma and her husband Suheil. I stayed with Robert & Amy all but one night and am really glad for my time there.

Ok, ok, enough already …

Now that my travels are nearly done, what’s next? I’m heading back to Amesville/Athens, Ohio to pick up where I left off. Part of me sorta wishes I hadn’t bought a return ticket from Seattle. I could have easily spent more time out there. But, I’m really happy with my life so far in Ohio and I’m excited to get back and pursue things further!

Before I headed off for my travels, I started working with Drake, a solar electrician in Amesville. We started on a 2.1 KW grid-tied system and I loved it! We’re hoping to get a lot more work and I hope to be a lot more involved in the business.

I’m still doing some design work and have some people to get back in contact in the new year. I hope to move off the farm soon and move closer town in order to get more involved socially in Athens.

Ok. Enough. If you want more details, give me a call!

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