March 15, 2011: Home Tomorrow

As I said on my Facebook status: you know it’s time for the tour to be over when you get excited about your hotel having two luggage racks instead of one.

It’s been an awesome journey with only two “downers”: the second show in Williamsburg and the theft in Winnipeg.

Andraea Sartison is a former student and friend who made all the arrangements for a workshop and show in Winnipeg. She did an awesome job as evidenced by a sold out workshop (19 participants) and about 40 at the evening show. The Manitoba Theatre for Young People (where the events were held) is a large, vibrant, exciting organization with a beautiful building. Andraea teaches classes there and has been involved in some of their productions.

I attended boot camp early in the morning with Andraea at the University of Winnipeg, and she cooked us a great meal of pizza in the evening (a home cooked meal was so very much appreciated). The show and workshop went really well -- Andraea certainly deserved kudos for all the hard work and many hours of time she put into the planning. She didn’t miss a thing, including her warning to us about being sure to lock everything up securely since Winnipeg is well known for its high theft rate.

Although the theft was upsetting and disappointing, it could have been worse. I had been out shopping while Paul did the workshop in the afternoon. As I pulled into the parkade, I noticed a man coming down a ramp. I pulled into the stall, and as I was a little nervous about being in there by myself, I looked around for him after I parked. He was gone! Where? Due to what happened, I believe he was hiding and watching me. I had purchased a small gift to give to Paul at the show that evening since it was our last show on the tour. I pulled out my little gift bag and tissue and assembled the gift in the car. I then got out, opened the trunk, and “hid” the gift in a cloth bag with a zipper that contained the programs, some of Paul’s texts, and a mug he uses in the show. The trunk was very full, so I carefully arranged the laptop on top of the bag, and closed and locked the trunk.
After meeting Paul, we went across the street for a little snack. Upon returning to the car, Paul said “why is this console up?” It hit us immediately; it wasn’t that way when I left the car. We looked around the cab, and although things were strewn around, none of the items seemed to be missing. We started panicking as we got out to check the trunk, as there was so much valuable equipment in there. Right away we saw the show computer and the cloth bag with the gift in it was gone. We thought that was all, but since have discovered that another bag, containing some cords, some expensive ear phones, and a mini-disk recorder, is gone. Luckily the mixer for the sound system and my script for the show -- in another very similar bag -- were left – and they didn’t dig far enough to get the speakers. I laugh when I think about the thief opening that bag to get at the “gift” – it was a jar of anchovies (if you’ve seen the play you’ll understand the significance). 

We were so glad that we had the show backed up on a memory stick and a second computer in our hotel room. The show went on… 

With only 10 days before we are home, 3 and ½ hours of driving in the rain today, a non-smiling and rather grumpy “check-in” guy at the hotel we are staying at, and our less than happy experience with the show at a high school in Williamsburg, I’m starting to feel ready to sleep in my own bed, eat my own cooking, and get back into a healthy routine. 

That said, we have had some great experiences since my last entry. Winston-Salem was nice and relaxed, and we got to spend time with special friends – colleagues of Paul’s -- and I took time to work out several times and even pampered myself with a mani/pedi. The weather was decent and we took some great walks. The daffodils were coming out and I spotted lots of robins. I spent one day with the ten year old daughter of one of the fellows who was involved in the workshops with Paul. We went to a movie, played some board games, and spent at least an hour with bubble wands – I love bubbles!

Clarksville was our stop between W.S. and Williamsburg. We enjoyed one walk downtown and over to the very quiet Marina, and then ventured out of town a couple of miles to the State Park. After parking on the side of the road and heading to a trail marked “birding trail” on the map, we were commenting on a big field of turned over turnips, wondering why they were just lying there, when a couple of park rangers in a “gator” truck came up to us. They asked us if that was our car and informed us we weren’t supposed to park along the road (which we read in the brochure afterwards). They told us the turnips were planted for the deer -- cool, eh? Anyway, after moving the car, we decided that the guys in the “gator” had scared away any birds that might have been on the birding trail as we didn’t see or hear any birds on the mile long path. Maybe they had all flown into the town where we had seen lots on the walk to the marina. We also spotted some very cute purple flowers just coming up in someone’s yard. Spring certainly comes earlier here than at home.

Aunt Birdie and Uncle Preston were the most wonderful hosts. They always make us feel at home from the minute we walk in the door. It is always fun to catch up on the goings on in our respective families. Charlie and Aunt Carolee have a great deal of experience in theatre and are well known and respected in the theatre, arts, and educational systems in Williamsburg. Uncle Charlie set up two shows for us the next day in Williamsburg. You can read more about them on Paul’s blog. 

A very long bike ride on Saturday morning helped cleanse the bad taste in our mouths and our beings from the Friday afternoon show. We both had headaches and were feeling very “under the weather” emotionally. That changed quickly in the afternoon when Preston and Birdie took us out to see Preston Jr. and his wife Kathy in Newport News. They are the most bubbly, happy, friendly people! “Little Preston” had recently had a work related accident where he had crushed his heel. He is going to have surgery this Tuesday, but that didn’t stop us from having a very fun visit at their beautiful home on the river. 

Charlie and Carolee took us out for dinner last night at the Arts Club 26 restaurant. Amazing 5 course meal!! Many of the taste offerings I had never heard of, let alone tasted before. I took pictures of every course.

Feb. 24, 2011: “It’s a Southern Thing”*
*Several years ago when Paul was teaching the summer session at North Carolina School of the Arts, a student was doing some space work. Although Paul didn’t know what she was doing, one of the other girls guessed “cotillion”. Paul says “What’s that?” – The reply: “It’s a Southern thing”. He then learned about this cultural practice in the south.
We’ve experienced many Southern Things in the past week and a half, the best thing being “no snow”:
-I feel sorry for Jen Gibson who is staying at our house – she has shoveling to do. I was, however, happy to hear from her that a bit of the huge piles we left in our yard had melted when Camrose experienced above normal temperatures for a few days. At least it gives Jen somewhere to pile more snow!

-Southern Barbeque: it seems I’m always talking about food! We went out with Marguerite Bennett in Tampa for this deliciously finger-licking good feast. 

-Walt Disney World: For three days in Orlando we didn’t move the car! The shuttle service to the theme parks is efficient, friendly, and quite fast. We spent 1 ½ days at EPCOT where we experienced the culture of many countries, saw some amazing displays, and best of all: took a guided tour of their research greenhouse. We had first gone through the “ride”/attraction called “Living with the Land. While riding in a small boat we learned about the earth’s ecosystems, as well as the efforts man has made to cultivate crops in harsh and unforgiving environments. It also gave us a taste of new and exciting methods of crop production. The “Behinds the Seeds Tour” showed us some amazing crops such as 9 pound lemons, enormous squash, cucumber trees, tomato trees, etc. We learned how to grow things with hydroponics, and saw how they used the water from growing fish and amphibians to help their plants. We even got to hand feed the tilapia fish. 

-Disney’s Animal Kingdom was great fun too. I had a weird episode with my eyes though, as we walked into the park. The mottled light from the big trees combined with the bright sunshine caused me to go sort of blind temporarily. First I could only see these huge white blotches, then when I closed my eyes I just saw one huge white blotch outlined with bright purple. After a few minutes everything went back to normal. I think it scared Paul more than me, he kept saying we should find somewhere to sit down. However, I was never dizzy, just a little disconcerted. We loved the “Safari” ride where we saw elephants, hippos, giraffes, tigers and all kinds of other creatures. Our favorites were the indoor aquarium where a huge hippo swam by only a few inches from our noses(I’ll post a picture), and the baby gorilla who made a brief appearance while her dad stood guard just before going in for the night. Other favorites were the Nemo live theatre show (actors using puppets, but singing live – kind of “Avenue Q-ish – a reference for Kaj and Heidi – I doubt if anyone else we know has seen the Broadway show – neither has Heidi but she heard a lot about it), and the live show featuring Lion King characters.

-Since we were in WDW, we decided we better spend one day in the Magic Kingdom – perhaps a mistake. It’s a very different place when you are not accompanied by children. My favorite ride at Disneyland is Space Mountain – Disneyworld’s Space Mountain was not nearly as good. I love the music that comes out of the speakers in Disneyland, and they don’t have that in Florida. Luckily we used our Fastpass and didn’t have to wait long for the ride. We did, however enjoy just walking around and watching people – Paul spent a bit of time cheering on the race car drivers on the “Tomorrowland Speedway”.

-The reason we felt so disappointed in the Magic Kingdom is because we realized the next day that if we had left a day early we could have had one extra day at St. Mary’s/Cumberland Island. I really should have done more research before we left – I might have discovered how close we had been to this amazing place. It’s a National Preserve Island in Georgia that has been kept almost uninhabited, but a ferry goes over once a day to take campers, day hikers, visitors over. It is a wildlife preserve where one can see many types of animals including wild horses and many species of birds. There is only one place you can stay (except for tenting), and it is “high end” – very costly – it’s where Robert Kennedy Jr. was married. The ferry leaves from St. Mary’s, a historical little town where we stayed, explored, and ate an amazing seafood meal (the waitress even said “It’s a Southern Thing” when describing “hush puppies” – a little fried corn fritter). Also with our meal came green beans, well cooked like Paul remembers his mom cooking them (but hers weren’t spicy like these ones), and baked sweet potatoes with cinnamon spread…mmm. Cumberland Island is definitively on our “things to do the next time” list.

-…fresh pecan from road-side stands in Georgia…mmmmmmm!!!!! So yummy and fresh tasting.

-We were warmly welcomed with Southern hospitality at Paul’s Aunt Margy and Uncle Larry’s place in Beaufort, SC. Lunch at the “club” was followed by a horse drawn carriage ride complete with history lesson around the town of Beaufort. We even had a bit of time to sit on a swing (it held all four of us) overlooking the channel. Paul performed a portion of the show for Marg and Larry and 8 other neighbors and family members prior to dinner (again at the club – we were spoiled). This was definitely the smallest space he has performed in so far, but it was a good challenge. I was so happy to meet cousin Will and his lovely wife Peggy. 

-Paul and I had a great bike ride the next morning/afternoon. There are alligators on the island where Margy and Larry live, so Margy challenged us to take an “alligator census” and report back to her. We did find 6 lazing around the ponds near the golf courses. The island was a great place for a bike ride – lots of paths and interesting things to see – we even had a warm and sunny day! Check out the pictures page for the alligators – for obvious reasons, I didn’t get too close for the picture, but if you look closely, you can see them.

-Chattanooga, TN. – another very welcoming and very hospitable stop. Our hosts Rex and Sherry Knowles were wonderful – set us up in a great theatre space and did a great job promoting the show. Not only that, we got in on a family birthday party and I became good friends with their two year old grand-daughter (Lexi) who lives next door (see picture). My travel weary body was craving some yoga, so Northshore Yoga was recommended by the locals. The hot class was great, as was the warm and welcoming teacher and front desk staff. 

-Next stop:Asheville – another great space for the show, and helpful, supportive, engaged, and appreciative audience and staff. My indulgence here was finding “Mast General Store” where I had learned they carried Red Heeled worksox. I bought four pairs so I can make sock monkeys when I get home. 

-Hickory NC – what a great name for a town, and what a fantastic theatre to perform in! The operation there is an amazing example of community theatre at its best (check Paul’s blog for more). 

-Winston Salem NC – arrived here yesterday and we’re staying in a beautiful historical hotel downtown. Tomorrow we will move into one of the houses provided by the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. We will be here about a week. I used the fitness room last night and tonight I’m taking a yoga class downtown. I was even able to get a massage today – my first one on the trip. The therapist suggested a “deep tissue” massage for next time to work out the “lots and lots” of knots in my neck and upper back. I guess that’s what too much sitting and not enough physical exercise will do to a body!
There have been so many wonderful memories created on this trip, and we are still happy to poke around places 
and make new discoveries. 

Feb.11, 2011: Three and a Half Weeks !!
Hard to believe we are so close to the mid-point in our tour. Today we were musing about doing the same circuit one day, but taking 6 months instead of 8 weeks. There is so much to see and do in all the wonderful places we are just passing by. The gulf coast!! And all we really did on it was drive by. So sad. 
But we aren’t missing everything. New Orleans was amazing. Besides the great show at Dillard University to a super group of students (thanks to Ray who was so helpful, enthusiastic, and hospitable) we took two walking tours: one in the Garden District and the other in The French Quarter. Unfortunately, it was such a cold day that we really got chilled to the bone. We did learn lots of history and saw some very interesting places. The food and restaurants of New Orleans are epic. We had such amazing meals – no holds barred! My favorite was the turtle soup at The Commander’s Palace restaurant. This place is apparently the place where the “blackened” style of spicing food originated. They also tell me that a person can get the recipe for their turtle soup on the internet (including where you can order the turtle from). The Beignet’s (French donuts smothered in icing sugar) from Café Du Monde are wonderful and a “given” on any trip to “the Big Easy”. The restaurant has been operating in the same location for over 100 years and all they really serve are these donuts and coffee (they are famous for their café au lait too – which we had). It was crazy to see people lined up to get in. 
So, my two big worries about this tour were bed bugs and getting out of the fitness routine. So far, no bed bugs (and only one or two hotels that I wasn’t 100% comfortable in), and I’m trying to use the hotel fitness facilities once in awhile. That is much harder than going to “my” gym where I know what to expect. I can’t believe how the equipment is totally different in every hotel! Even so…did my jeans shrink?
The weather is supposed to get warmer this week. Horray!!! I’m tired of shivering!

*The River Walk Barge Ride: What a fun way to see Rio San Antonio, the famous “River Walk” and learn some history of the city. The first day we arrived it wasn’t operating due to the freezing cold temperatures. However, on Saturday it was in full swing – the weather smartened up and we had a wonderful time in downtown San Antonio. We walked to a well known Mexican Restaurant for lunch (Mi Tierra) – busy, colorful, huge, and open 24 hours a day (we thought that was an interesting fact). Following lunch we walked out onto a market – we had no idea this market extended indoors and outdoors for several blocks. We were pleasantly surprised and soon realized it was the “Market Square” that I had read about in my “1000 things to see and do in the U.S. and Canada before you die” book. It was all Mexican – art, jewelry, pottery, etc. A bathroom sink is not the kind of souvenir most people buy, but we did – actually, 2 sinks! They are gorgeous, multi-colored, one-of-a-kind, hand-painted televera pottery sinks. We had been planning to re-do the main bathroom when we get back and these will be awesome and unique pieces on which to base the rest of the plans.
Also downtown is the Alamo, which we visited just before it closed, so will stop by there again today before we leave for Houston. We watched the IMAX show of the movie prior to seeing the historic site. Well done!

*We Finally got our bikes out!: Yesterday was even warmer so we took our bikes out and went for a ride at Brackenridge Park (along the river). Although it was great to get out in the fresh air and get some exercise, the park was not built for bikes – you win some, you lose some. I enjoyed the variety of birds we saw as well as four turtles basking themselves on a log in the river. There were also many families enjoying picnics, feeding the birds, and having celebrations – great to see. 

The hotel we stayed at was in a historical building in St. Paul’s Square. It was the BEST! Upgraded to a huge room, lovely comfy armchair, feather duvets, great shower, nice and clean laundry facilities (which I used while we watched the Superbowl yesterday), large exercise room, very clean, and very nice staff – very happy and comfortable here!

A huge highlight for me was taking two yoga classes – one killer core class on Saturday, and on Sunday, Vinyasa to live Flamenco Guitar music! Two of my favourite things – together – guitar and yoga!!! While I got all stretched out, Sparky spent time on the script – we will have had over a week between shows this time so regular rehearsal is necessary. Tonight or tomorrow night we will do a full rehearsal with sound.

"...a child... knows everything...go there...that's where the spontaneity is...that's where the happiness is...that's where the joy is." FEBRUARY 1, 2011.
I've been reminding Sparky that this entire tour is like this quote from the play. We are finding joy in the experience, everyday! The play and the tour are one big joy-filled encounter - we marvel daily at the people, the places, the goofy, the profound...everything.
We are happy that we won't be driving today and can emerse ourselves in the Grand Canyon experience.
San Francisco was awesome; from coming in on the Golden Gate Bridge to our cool art deco boutique hotel. We had a delicious (if too much) dinner with Marcia at a Japanese restaurant. The next morning we walked to Union Square (Sparky needed a new belt - his pants were starting to fall off - that's what sweating buckets during the show does) where there was an outdoor art exhibit. We had a fascinating visit with one of the local artists. We wished we could have purchased a painting, but space. Shortly after, we walked through the St. Francis Hotel where we stayed way back in 1978. Coincidentally, we are pretty sure we saw a huge painting in one of the lobbies done by the same painter we had just talked to in the square. We can't be sure as we couldn't find a signature, but the style was definitely the same. 
I had an interesting encounter with a homeless man on the way back to the hotel. I was eating an apple - he spotted it and got this big smile on his face as he staggered towards us. I'm not sure if he lost his balance or actually lunged at me, but upon consideration of the event later, I'm sure he was just hungry and wanted my apple. 
We used our sound system for the first time in S.F. It worked great!
We got a hotel only a short distance out of S.F. in Santa Nella - basically a travellers way-station. But we discovered a jem! Next to the hotel was a restaurant called "Andersen's" - a European flavoured establishment that specialized in pea soup. We had it..."it's good"!!!!!!
In Los Angeles, we stayed with our good friend, Amy Pietz. I loved her yurt!!! What a gorgeous haven for the body and soul. A little yoga, a little exercise in there was a lovely way to start the day.
I got up early, today, to see the sunrise on the Grand Canyon. Words can not describe the beauty! I then dragged Sparky out before breakfast and got pictures when the light was a little different. Breakfast in the El Tovar restaurant overlooking the canyon was spectacular. It's now snowing lightly and we are heading out to discover more....

*Sea Lion Caves on the Oregon Coast: down an elevator to 200 feet below the surface; viewing area
 where hundreds of Sea Lions and Seals were playing, nursing, barking, swimming, basking, strutting, etc. Awesome, fun!
*Calling lighting cues to Matt at The Evergreen State College over a head-set - I felt so "official".
*Running the sound cues at same college from atop a catwalk above the theatre. A new perspective.
*The Oregon Coast Highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a beautiful sunny day (20 degrees celcius for some of the day)- what a gift!

NEWPORT, OREGON January 27, 2011
We had a great walk on the beach when we arrived here yesterday. To view a photo, go to Tour Photo Album link. The one of the coast was taken from our balcony this morning on my iphone. I have an app that does photo shop things and was pretty proud of myself for this one!

Travelling creates circumstances that make it difficult to maintain old habits. It wasn't until two nights ago in Seattle that I hauled out my yoga mat - we finally had a room big enough to roll it out and pike a few headstands and stretch a few down dogs. Felt great after a day filled with lots of walking. This morning in Woodburn, OR (a stopover on our way to Newport), I utilized the exercise room at the hotel. I miss my gym, but the wookout was invigorating.
Claudia Finseth put me onto a new tea - my new habit. We found a Fred Myers yesterday and bought four boxes of "Good Earth Sweet and Spicy". If you know I love Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice, this is my new replacement for that. It's flavour is fuller and it steeps way faster. I love it!

The First Five Days... (January 19-24, 2011)
The trip started off magnificently with sun delighting our drive almost all the way from Camrose to Pincher Creek. We hadn't used our sunglasses in weeks and were glad we remembered to bring them along. They're right about the sun and vitamin D and all - I think it makes you happy!

We hadn't visited Paul's sister Mary and her husband John in Pincher Creed for many years, but were warmly welcomed into their home even though they were renovating their bathroom. None of us seemed to mind brushing our teeth in the kitchen sink; the enthusiastic visiting and absolutely delicious 3 course dinner Mary prepared relegated to very minor the slight inconvenience it caused. It was wonderful to see their delight while telling about their brand new grandson, Abel Freedom Fredricksen.

Weather-wise, leaving Pincher Creek the next morning was a very different story from the day before. Just finding Hwy 3 was a challenge due to the blowing snow. Once there, the line up of semi's along the highway indicated that it may not be a good idea to proceed. We joined the waiting que for a short time, but when one truck headed off, we decided to follow him. Within two km of town, we saw three semi's in the ditch - they simply couldn't see the curve in the road and drove off it. We just kept an eagle eye on the "cheeto's" semi and hoped things would improve. They did! And not too far down the line. The conditions improved and we pulled into Spokane in time to pick up cold medication at Fred Myer's, and enjoy a latte at Starbuck's before Judy and Marc got home from work. The sun was setting pink on the mountain we could see from their street when we pulled up. Judy made a chicken curry dish for supper that was served up with a very special bottle of $2.99 wine - us girls are always on the lookout for a deal! ...and it was GOOD! We stayed up later than we should "on a school night" and Judy cooked us up some good old hearty oatmeal for breakfast served with the best latte in Spokane. We needed the fortification for our nerves, as the roads leaving Spokane were akin to skating rinks. But that didn't last long either. The temperature warmed up, and then it just became a very rainy drive to North Bend. North Bend!!! we love you! What a delightful, peaceful, charming, sweet little town - full of wonderful people! We met so many amazing people that I will never forget. Renee, Craig, Fred, Bill, and of course, Tina and Gary. Gary welcomed us to the Centre Valley Stage Theatre (where he produces, directs, acts, teaches, and brings in guest performers). We put on two shows to appreciative but small audiences. The space was perfect and the shows went off without a hitch. One special surprize was that an old school friend of Paul's, RickFinseth, drove up from Tacoma to see the show! It was so much fun getting together with everyone at "Boxley's" (the wonderful restaurant in the same block as the theatre), after the shows for drinks and conversation. The owner's son played Tiny Tim in the theatre's production of A Christmas Carol last December. 

Our accommodations at North Bend (recommended by Gary) were at the Roaring River B&B. If you are ever in North Bend, STAY THERE! It's amazing. Right on the river, we left the window open at night to hear the river and sleep deeply with the cool mountain air. Breakfast were brought to our room in the morning in a basket - hot quiche, scones, baked pears, etc. Yummy. The hosts, Peggy and Herschel Backous were kind and very hospitable (not to mention great cooks).

During the daytime on our second show day, we drove up to Snoqualmie Falls and the Salish Lodge. Spectacular! We poked around the railway museum with our latte's, then spent an hour or so at the Outlet Mall (very funny and out of place to hae this outlet mall on the outskirts of such a small town). Eddie Bauer had some great buys for us. Next stop "George's" Bakery - a famous spot in town where we had super yummy home-made bean soup and pizza bagels. We ran into some of the theatre friends on the street just outside the bakery and mentioned that we wanted to do a hike. Fred recommended "Rattlesnake Lake" - which is where we finished up the afternoon along with all the energy left in our weary feet. It was a long hike but well worth it when we got to the top and the view. We were so fortunate to have a sunny, mostly clear day for our outdoor adventures in this area of the state. By the way, North Bend's claim to fame is that it was the town where "Twin Peaks" was filmed.

Rick invited us to come to Tacoma for lunch the next day (Sunday, Jan. 23). He and Claudia put on a delicious smorgasbord lunch and we had a great time visiting and reminiscing about old times. Rick was in our wedding and although we had had a few visits with them in our young pre and post-married days, we hadn't seen them for 17 years!

Seattle was our next stop. I was a little worried when I saw the outside of where we were staying in the oldest historic district of Seattle- on Pioneer Square. However, once I saw the beautifully appointed room and spoke with the front desk (where I was assured they didn't have bed bugs) I relaxed into the culture and beauty that is downtown Seattle. We ate supper at the Fisherman's Restaurant right on the pier, then came home and crashed at 9 p.m. Today, we did a LOT of walking. The most fun part of the day was taking the Underground Tour. It is a historical tour of the part of Seattle that used to be the main streets. At some point in the late 1800's after a major fire that destroyed 32 square blocks, the first level of buildings was covered up and the streets built up over them. It's an amazing story... very fun and interesting.We highly recommend it to anyone travelling to Seattle.

Another highly recommended stop: The Maharaja Indian Restaurant on Pioneer Square. We stuffed ourselves on the lunch buffet for $6.95!!!!! Delicious!!

Pike Place Market was interesting and we found some delicious fruit, but it is under construction, so a bit disorganized down there. Still worth seeing.

Bed early again tonight - Off to Olympia tomorrow. 

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