Two for the road ~

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

Don’t you love this photo? When we were married nine years ago, it was on the front of our wedding announcement with the heading “Let the Adventure Begin”.

This couple looks like people I’d like to hang out with.  Swap stories and share a laugh or two over a bottle of pretty good wine.  To me, they look like perfect 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.  I’m very grateful for that, but since we’re about to ramp up for our own Two For the Road adventures, I got to thinking about what makes a really good team.    Basically, at least for me, it comes down to just a few very important traits.

Here’s what came out tops on my list ~

Everybody needs 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.   He’s always ready to jump in the car.

Someone 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.

The guy in the rose colored glasses.  On those days when you are 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.

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.

And, finally, you’ve 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, nine 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


When you’ve gotta go ~

Whoever you are, wherever you travel, at some point – everybody’s gotta go.  Although until now my experience has been with western style flush toilets, I’m preparing for the day when nature calls and I am in the middle of a foreign city or driving through the countryside on the other side of the globe.  What the heck do I do then?   Well, like the girl scout I never was, I want to be prepared.  And, wouldn’t you know it, there are a surprising number of websites that come up when you google “toilets around the world” that have some very helpful information.   Here are a few interesting tidbits I found ~

Squat Toilets (also known as Turkish toilets) are pretty much a hole in the ground affair.  They come in varying degrees of sophistication.  Basically there is no sitting here, but there is a raised platform for your feet.  A very good thing if you happen to be wearing sandals!  These squat toilets are found throughout much of the world including China and other countries in Asia.  They are also common in many European countries as well, particularly when you get outside of the big cities where there are upscale hotels and restaurants.  I’m told these squats are actually much more hygienic that our standard American model.  One word of caution (and I read this several times) – be careful when you flush – they spray water all over the place.

Public Toilets – many of which are pay toilets.  In much of Europe these are space age boxes out on the sidewalk.  They have automatic doors which open when you put in the correct change.  Note to Self – Always carry change!   You’ve only got 15 minutes so don’t dilly-dally.  And do not even think about trying to jump in after another paying customer exits.  The toilet folds into the wall and the place is gassed with spray cleaners and deodorizers.  Then there is the hand washing – kind of like going through a car wash.  First water comes out, then soapy water, then more water, and then the dryer – all from the same spout.

Really Public Toilets

Many countries are not as hung up as we Americans on needing privacy while we pee.   It is not uncommon to see unisex toilets, toilets with no doors and toilets that are open to your head and feet.  This will take some getting used to.  I must admit that, except for the cat who always pushes his way through the door when I’m in there, I think of going to the bathroom as a solitary endeavor.

And, finally, because this is a truly crazy world we live in, here are pictures of some most unusual and wonderfully whacky toilets.  Makes you wonder about the minds of the folks who created them…

I’m not sure why all this creative energy seems to be focused on the urinals but that’s the way it was.  If you figure that out, please let me know.  And as my mother always said before we left the house – “Do you have to go?”  “No?  Well, maybe you should just try.”  Thanks mom!

Road Trip ~ three fun reads

I love to read and always have several books going at the same time.  Usually my method of choosing a book is cruising through Powell’s Books and picking up whatever calls out to me in the moment.  I pick by title, cover and sometimes author.  It is usually totally random and not every one is a winner, but so far my system has worked quite well.

Since summer is almost here and some of us are dreaming of the luxury of a lazy afternoon or two stretched out in the lawn chair or on the beach with a book, I thought I would share a few I’ve enjoyed recently on my new favorite topic – Road Trips.  These are easy reads and by no means high literary art.  Beach books all – but with heart and humor.

The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian ~ Ok, I LOVED this book.  I bought it based totally on the title and the short blurb on the cover.  I could not believe it was written by a man.  Someone said “Michael Zadoorian must be a wise old lady.”  Agreed!  This is the story of John and Ella as they take one last road trip.  Ella has cancer and John’s in the grip of Alzheimer’s.  Ella is determined that what they need most is a vacation.  In Ella’s words…”You might ask if this is the best idea?  Two down-on-their-luck geezers, one with more health problems than a third world country, the other so senile that he doesn’t know what day it is – taking a cross country road trip?  Don’t be stupid.  Of course it’s not a good idea.”  But, turns out – it was a perfectly perfect idea!  This is the ultimate road trip, love story and final act of bravery all rolled into one.  I cheered them on until the very last page.  This review in the Route 66 News says it better than I can.

Breakfast With Buddha ~ by Roland Merullo is another delightful read. I think it might appeal to seasoned Buddhists as well as anyone who doesn’t know the first thing about Buddha.  Actually, for me, it was more about contemplating your own life’s journey.

The story centers around Otto Ringling, a middle-aged man who’s dealing with a case of “what’s it all about Alfie?” and a serious gourmet food habit as well.  After the death of his parents, he’s conned into taking a road trip from the suburbs of New York to to the family farm in North Dakota with his sister’s Rinpoche (guru). Along the way Otto and his companion share lots of American misadventures as well as insightful Buddhist teachings.  It’s a fun, quick read, but it also managed to give me pause more than a few times.  And I loved the food descriptions as well.  In short, Breakfast with Buddha is a tasty treat.

Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral ~ by Kris Radish.   Ok, first, let me just say that I am not a huge fan of this author.  I chose this book solely based on the premise.  I love the whole idea of the traveling funeral – so watch out friends of mine – you might get a UPS from me after I move on to the Next Adventure.

For Katherine Givens and the four women about to become her best friends, the adventure begins with a UPS package. Inside is a pair of red sneakers filled with ashes and a note that will forever change their lives. Katherine’s oldest and dearest friend, the irrepressible Annie Freeman, left one final request–a traveling funeral–and she wants the most important women in her life as “pallbearers.”  From Sonoma to Manhattan, Katherine, Laura, Rebecca, Jill, and Marie will carry Annie’s ashes to the special places in her life.  The ultimate final road trip with more than a few interesting and memorable moments.

What’s on your Summer reading list?  I’m always looking for a good read.

A Friend and a Cuppa ~

I come from a family of tea drinkers.  It’s part of my Canadian heritage.   After I outgrew mother’s milk, I’m pretty sure I moved right into tea with milk and sugar.  It was the cure for what ailed you, body or spirit.  My grandmother could read your future in the tea leaves and it was family tradition to slurp up any patch of bubbles in the cup before they broke apart or hit the side to “get the money”.  When I grew older I tried to move on to coffee because, frankly, it was way more cool.  I never acquired the coffee taste.

You’re never to old for a Tea Party!

There are so many lovely rituals around tea – tea parties, tea ceremonies, and afternoon tea time, but my all time very favorite is hunkering down in a cozy corner and spending time with a cup of tea, a sweet treat and  a good friend.  Time slows.  Conversation flows.  And without exception I am renewed and restored at the end of our visit.  I had the pleasure of sharing a cuppa with a truly beautiful and brilliant woman this afternoon.  We get together about once a year for tea and a chat.  We don’t see each other in between or communicate beyond the odd Facebook siting but, like magic, while the tea is steeping in the pot, we begin to chat and it is just so darned comfortable.  I’m convinced that the ritual of sitting and sipping allows each of us to slip into our mental robe and slippers, put our metaphorical feet up and let our worldly mask drop.   Tea conversations always wander all over the map – kids, jobs, parents, successes, failures, upcoming adventures – the list is endless and it is lovely.  Bonds are forged, efforts cheered and sometimes tears  are shed along with the laughter.   I am grateful to have shared so many special moments with dear friends over a cup of tea.

Making Every Step Count ~

In my last post I wrote about walking with my hubby and shared my dream of taking a walking vacation.  I’m picturing this as the travel version of the slow food movement.  Taking our time.  Savoring every step.  Stopping to take photographs. And, the best part- burning enough calories to indulge my desire to sip and sample all of the local delicacies along the way .  That’s my idea of a really good walk.

Not everyone shares my vision of walking as a slow amble to the next food establishment.  There are people out there who walk with purpose – for a cause – and I’m not talking a five mile stroll here either.  These folks walk to raise money, raise awareness, make a statement and make a difference.  They are stepping out in a really big way and I was so struck by what some of these walkers have accomplished, that I wanted to share their stories.  They humble me and their efforts make our world a better place.  There are literally thousands of people who have walked 1,000’s of miles for their cause.  Here are just a few.  You might already know of them.  I did not.

Dorris Haddock – also known as Granny D.

In 1995, Doris became interested in campaign reform and led a petition movement to remove unregulated “soft” money from election campaigns.  On January 1, 1999 – at the age of 89 – she began a 3,200 mile walk across the country to demonstrate her concern for the issue.  Walking ten miles each day for fourteen months, Doris traveled as a pilgrim – walking until given shelter, fasting until given food. With the unflagging generosity of strangers she met along the way, Doris never went without a meal or a bed. She trekked through 1,000 miles of desert, climbed the Appalachian Range in blizzard conditions and even skied 100 miles after a historic snowfall made roadside walking impossible. When she arrived in Washington D.C., Granny D was met by over 2,000 supporters. Several members of Congress walked the final miles with her.   She died at the age of 100 in a head-on car crash on her way to a speaking engagement.

(story and photos from the website GoGrannyGo)

Steve Fugate ~

Steve Fugate, a 65-year-old Florida man, made walking his passion after his son committed suicide in 1999.  Since then, Fugate has walked all over the United States, tallying up 30,000 miles. At each stop, he talks to people, especially children, about learning to love life.  So far, Steve has crossed the U.S. six times.  He says he’s starting to slow down and might like to find an easier form of transportation or a small trailer (he usually sleeps in a small tent he carried) to make life a little easier, but his passion for sharing his LOVE LIFE message still burns bright.  Follow Steve on his blog Trail Therapy.

Polly Letofsky ~

In 1999 Polly went for a walk.  A very long walk.  She traveled across 4 continents, 22 countries, and over 14,000 miles – by foot – to become the first woman to walk around the world as a one woman awareness campaign for breast cancer. Survivors and well-wishers around the world came to walk with her.  Every day strangers welcomed her into their homes and shared meals.   In the middle of Polly’s five year journey, the world suddenly shifted on it’s axis on September 11, 2001 and she suddenly found herself  in a vastly changing world.  Polly kept on walking.  Today, Polly is a motivational speaker with a book, 3mph -The  Adventures of One Woman’s Walk Around the World and a documentary film about her amazing five year walking adventure.

Makes me want to lace up my new shoes, adjust the backpack and hit the road…Starbucks here I come!

These Shoes were made for walking ~

Yesterday, with the promise of food and drinks to follow, I convinced my hubby to accompany me on a hike in the lovely hills of Forest Park.  What a treasure right in the heart of Portland.  We took the easy route, starting on the Lower Macleay Trail and winding our way up, up and up a little more until we found ourselves on the Wildwood Trail not too far below the Pittock Mansion.  The Wildwood Trail (30 miles long) is just one of many trails that wind through the densely wooded 5,000+ acre park.   We’re definitely fair weather walkers, but I try to walk at least a couple of miles every day.  I prefer walking outside.  Hubby has recently joined the ranks of the treadmill zombies at our local gym.  Getting him to walk outside with me is not a task for the feint of heart. Every evening after dinner I say “I’m going to walk, want to go?”  He says (fully reclined in his chair in front of the TV) “No, but thanks for asking.”  My guy is definitely polite, but until recently he has been Mr. Potato Head’s third cousin – Mr. Couch Potato.  Two or three times a year he surprises me and says “yes”, then off we go.  And, guess what.  He always has the best time and wants to do it again…until the next evening when we’re back to “No, but thanks for asking.”

One of the items on my Really Cool Things to Do While I Still Can List is to take a walking vacation.  One that challenges me, but just enough.  I’ve got nothing to prove.  I just want the experience.  Perhaps something like walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  I have been more than a little intrigued by this idea for several years.  A few months ago I saw The Way, a movie staring Martin Sheen about a father who makes the pilgrimage as a tribute to his son.  It’s funny, heartwarming, life affirming and filled with gorgeous scenery and larger than life characters.  The movie started me thinking again about what it would take and what it would mean to have an experience like this.  Well, first and foremost, I’d have to do a lot more walking on a regular basis.  You don’t just get up one day and start a several hundred mile walk across Spain. Second, question.  Could I convince the recently converted walker, Mr. Couch Potato- Head, that something like this could be fun?  An adventure in fact.  I think, just maybe – if   we didn’t need to do the whole route.  Well, a little walking on the internet and I found the perfect option in an article by Alison Gardner, In the Footsteps of a Thousand Years of Pilgrims.  Basically, Alison took a 7 day walking tour on the Camino de Santiago -not the whole route, but about the last 70 miles or so.  Go at your own pace but with two lovely Spanish tour guides, a little van support for the luggage, stops for lunch and refreshments, and overnights in a small inn or home providing the luxury of a quiet, comfortable night sleep and a hot shower for those aching muscles.   Add in the Plan B of being able to ride in the “sag wagon” if sore legs or blisters get the better of you.  Perfect!  Let’s call it adventure light and I like it.  With a plan like this, I think I can convince my walking buddy that it would be worth stepping out together several times a week.  We’re good with 5 or 6 miles these days, so I’m pretty sure we could get to 10-12 with a little steady effort.

So I got me some cute new walking shoes and I’m ready to roll.  Buen Camino!

Here’s Mud in Your Eye ~

I wrote a post a while back about creating community and my desire to do just that when Les and I take our little backpack and rollie traveling show on the road.  Since we both like to have a “wee nip or a sip” with friends (and just by ourselves too – really, I’m open for a sip pretty much any time if the right people offer the invitation) it got me thinking about the special community we create when we break bread and share a glass with others.

The idea of being able to share a glass and a toast with people we meet around the world is very enticing.  I admit I have grand visions of sitting in a vineyard in France, old wooden tables laden with bottles, fresh local food and Les and I laughing and making a toast to our newly found friends.  Sounds just about perfect.   So, we did a practice run last summer when we went to a Plate & Pitchfork dinner at Viridian Farms.  Warm summer evening, delicious food prepared outside, amazing local wine, sharing a table with the wine makers and new friends.  We ate, drank, talked, laughed until the sun faded and we had to walk back to our car in the dark.  I was in heaven, and although I have already made plans to do it again this summer, I can think of nothing better than to spend our tenth anniversary and my 65th birthday next summer in a field in France.  With wine.  And food.  And interesting people.  Cheers to that!

All this talk of drinking and community eventually led me to thinking about drinking toasts.  It seems like every country where alcohol is consumed has a toast to accompany the first sip.  Who came up with that idea you ask?  Well, let me tell you… It’s said that back around 500 B.C. those pesky Greeks often poisoned the wine to get rid of their enemies, nagging wives, political figures and pretty much anyone else they didn’t want around.  To put his guests at ease, the host would pour wine from a common pitcher, toast to health, then drink before everyone proving that the wine wasn’t poisoned.  The Romans loved this custom so much that they adopted it for themselves and added the practice of dipping burnt bread (toast) in the wine to reduce the acidity.   Fortunately, wine making has gotten a lot better and I haven’t had a glass in a very long time that would have been improved with the dipping of burnt bread.  Bread and cheese, however, is another matter entirely.

To me a toast is about savoring the moment and wishing your companions well.  I personally think it’s a lovely idea and one I’d like to take on our travels, so it seems like a pretty good idea to learn a few of the traditional toasts in other countries.  In China they say “gan bei” (Mandarin) or “gom bui” (Cantonese) which means dry your cup.  Many countries still toast “to your health” – In France its “a votre sante“, in Poland  “na zdrowie“,  in the Spanish speaking countries its generally “salud” and next time you’re in Russia try “za vashe zdorovye”.  If you’re in India, lift a glass and say “tulleeho!”.  I’m not sure when the opportunity might arise but if it does, try these two Zulu toasts “ooogy wawa” or “poo-zim-pee”.

Why not open a bottle of your favorite wine or make a shaker of martinis (preferably pear) sometime over the weekend – then raise your glass and toast the favorite people in your world.

So, how did the toast “Here’s mud in your eye” originate?  It’s said that this toast came from World War II as a wish of good fortune to farmers.  Of course, it’s also been said that it came from the kick of mud thrown in your face from a winning horse at the race track.

“I drink Martinis.  Two at the very most.  Three and I’m under the table.  Four and I’m under the host.”        (a great toast credited to Dorothy Parker)

A votre sante!