The Un-Brief

The problem with not posting for so long, when one has so much to write about, is that one doesn't know where to start.

Given the amount of content I have to cover, this briefing is going to be anything but.

We are safe and sound in Peace River, having arrived on Friday. Currently, we are staying with our friends the Gregorys, while Jason and Darryl work like Great White Dustmen to finish taping, mudding, sanding, and painting the Magnussons' basement. Hopefully we will be able to occupy it after this upcoming weekend. For now, we are still living out of a suitcase.

Here is the rundown of what happened on our holiday:

Days 1-4:
We drove for two days along I-40 (through north Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona), finally getting to spend two whole nights in the same place at Flagstaff, Arizona. Along the way, we drove through a nasty blizzard in New Mexico--the most snow we had seen all winter, up to that point. After passing a nasty--and most definitely fatal--accident scene involving an SUV and a semi truck, we had pretty much decided to stop at the next town, but before we got there we drove out of the storm and the roads dried up, so we kept going.

The day in Arizona was spent going up to the Grand Canyon. I have tons of great photos of that day, but I am borrowing a computer, so I may have to photo-blog them a little later. All I can say is, photos don't do it justice, anyway. If you ever get a chance to go there, do it. Nothing comes close to standing in the presence of such awesome terrestrial beauty. We also saw the IMAX film of the Grand Canyon, and that was really cool, too.

The day after we left Flagstaff, we arrived in California at my Uncle Jim and Aunty Julie's house. The last time I was there was in December of 2003--Jude was 13 months old, I was 31 weeks along with Noah, and it was the first year that the big forest fires had swept through southern California, nearly wiping out the mountaintop community my uncle and aunt call "home."

Days 5-8:
We had four wonderful days with them. Jim and Julie are almost like a second set of parents to me, and their daughter, Ashley, like my little sister. She came home from Bible College at Capernwray near London, England, on our second day there. Despite the jet lag, we had a great visit with her, as well. We didn't do anything really "touristy", except visiting the world's most amazing mini-golf course. We also took a wonderful tour of the Mission Inn, with even more great photo ops--which I will have to share with you later!

Days 9 & 10:
After California, it was north on I-5, Seattle-bound. The first night, we drove straight through to Dunsmuir, CA--a really long day, but we were hoping it would buy us enough time the next day to stop in at my uncle and aunt's in Oregon for a quick visit. It did, or at least, we made the time. The visit with Marv and Ruth Anne for supper put us into Seattle at around 1:30 a.m., and unfortunately we missed a lot of pretty scenery by driving through it at night. Oh, well. We didn't allow quite enough time for "rose-smelling" on this trip, apparently.

Days 11 & 12:
Despite my brother having a cold the weekend we were there, Logan was a wonderful host and tour-guide. He only lives about 10 blocks from downtown Seattle, and both the Saturday and the Sunday we walked down to Pike Place Market and enjoyed the sights. On the Saturday, we decided to visit the Space Needle, built for the 1962 World's Fair. That was really really cool, and really gave you a good feel for the landscape thereabouts. There was a bit of coastal haze that day, but we still got a decent view of the Sound.

On the way there, we passed a glass-making shop. They had a class in session when we stopped there, and they let us watch. The artist made an urn-like vase out of clear glass, with two handles on the edge. It was very cool to watch him shape it in the furnace and with a blow torch, and to cut soft glass with a pair of scissors! They had some truly stunning work on display by students, and available to purchase in the store.

We finished our outing by having a snack at what Logan thought might be the "original Starbucks." After placing our order, I asked the barista if it was, indeed, the birthplace of the coffee cult, and she said that no, they had only been open for three and a half weeks! We missed the original by a block and a half. So instead, we ate at the newest Starbucks in Seattle! The next day, we found the original, took a photo of the sign, walked in and saw that it was standing-room-only with Asian tourists; therefore, we decided to go home for supper.

On the Sunday, we ventured out again, this time to the Seattle Aquarium. A very kind lady in line with us at the Space Needle had given us a couple of ticket books they would not finish using, which gave us one adult and one child free admission to the Aquarium. Before we went in, we grabbed a snack from the World's Most Expensive Bakery on the wharf. (Just before this, we had been in a souvenir shop with cute little mugs that looked like they had been sliced in half vertically, bearing the slogan "Seattle was so expensive, I could only afford half a cup." After the bakery, I knew why!) I felt a little more justified in my $2.50 muffins and $1.79 cookies after we actually got down to eating them, though--the muffins were at least twice the normal size, and the cookies were 3-4 times the normal size. Oatmeal-raisin cookies were nearly elevated to "meal" status--it took us ten minutes to eat one! (One each. You got that, right?)

Sadly, there were many things left undone in Seattle. Logan had wanted to take me to the public library, where they have a really cool music room. We didn't see the zoo, and we didn't really eat in any of the restaurants there. Good to know that there is still stuff on the itinerary for next time!

Days 13 & 14:
We got away from Seattle in the early afternoon on Monday, which put us significantly behind schedule for our planned 10-hour drive to Mike's Montana ranch. Since going there would add roughly six hours to our round-trip, we ended up staying at a hotel that night, too, and meeting up with Mike at the border the next afternoon. Apparently, all the snow-birds were making a dash for home before Easter, because the line-up was about two hours long (for those familiar with the Coutts-Sweetgrass border crossing, they were to the top of the hill when you first come in view of the crossing).

The border was relatively painless--they accepted my lists of goods point-blank, without even opening up the shipping container, so that was a blessing. The only hassle came in that I didn't know that I was supposed to fax up paperwork to export my vehicle from the US at least 72 hours in advance. In fact, it hadn't even occurred to me to export it at all! But even in that, we were blessed, because although I had to go back through the U.S. side, then the Canadian side, and wait in line-ups several times, the U.S. Border Guard just processed my export paperwork without complaint, and we eventually got free of the border by about 9 p.m.--only four and a half hours after coming in site of it. (We did stop at the rest stop on the Montana side to eat supper while we waited for the line to go down a little.)

Since we left there so late and I was so tired from a few short nights (including only four hours sleep the night before), I knew I would not make it all the way to Calgary that night, which was another four hour drive. I did not want to call up my husband's uncle and aunt in Lethbridge (only 1 1/2 hours) and impose on them at that late hour on a weeknight, either--while they may have been okay with it, I knew that between getting ready for bed and "catching up", I would not be able to hold out and stay alert, and didn't want to have to zip out the door before they left for work, either. So, we stayed in one final hotel on the trip, and I got a glorious nine hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Days 15-17:
On Wednesday, April 8, I arrived at my Uncle Stan and Aunty Deb's house in Calgary, after a leisurely drive and some time spent playing in the park. We celebrated Passover Seder with them--a day early, but on the day that Messiah celebrated it with his disciples. This was my first Seder, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. While it was not necessarily the traditional version, it was still yummy, with enough tradition to at least understand the significance of the different Passover rituals.

The next day, I went to visit my friend Vicki in Calgary, and we just had so much fun hanging out, I couldn't leave! It just kept getting later and later, then we ended up staying the night. She had the boys make their own pizzas for lunch, and they were so darn proud of those pizzas--it was a big hit! There was time spent in the park, and after the kids were in bed, we enjoyed a glass (or two) of home-made white wine while visiting--and Facebooking. :-)

On the Friday, I finally made it up to my dad's in Sylvan Lake. I was very glad to be able to empty the van thoroughly so I could re-organize and regroup, knowing that I wouldn't have to load it again for at least five days. Little did I know the surprise that awaited me that night...

And it's going to be a surprise for you, too, in my next post. (It's already taken three days for me to get this far on the current post, so I think I'll just publish and finish this story later.)

Happy weekend, friends!