Gas Station Etiquette

During my trip home on Sunday, I had an experience at a gas station that has been rankling ever since, so naturally I am writing about it. When road tripping by myself, I often stop at Love’s Travel Stops because official “rest stops” often don’t come up when I need them, and at Love’s I can count on clean bathrooms, hot sausages, and petrol if I need it.

So on Sunday, while driving through Arkansas, my gas gauge was very low and I pulled into a Love’s which was very busy. All the pumps were occupied. I lined up behind a car which was empty, leading me to believe that the occupants had filled their tank and gone into the store to buy drinks and snacks.

Boy was I wrong. After I had waited for over fifteen minutes, a couple did return from the store with drinks and snacks. They knew I was waiting because they had to walk right past my car to get to their car. They spent several minutes talking and rearranging stuff in their car. Then the husband turned to the pump and started filling their tank.

I waited patiently, despite the fact that my quick stop for gas had already become much longer. Finally they finished fueling. Another conversation ensued, and then the husband strolled back (right past me) to get the window washer squeegee thing. He leisurely washed all the windows on their car. More talking before he finally got into the car. By the time they pulled away from the pump, I had been waiting for over half an hour (during which time the other pumps were always occupied and with lines behind them too).

Now here’s the thing: I would never make someone else wait like that. If the gas station is busy, I always pump first, then park my car somewhere else before going into the store because I hate to hold anyone up. And that is what I did on Sunday. As soon as I had filled my tank, I re-parked the car before going in to use the facilities and buy a drink. To me, that is only common courtesy. In fact I thought it was one of those unwritten rules of the road. What say you?

Home Again

Yesterday was a long, long day. I woke up at Julie’s house, showered, and finished packing all my stuff. I had tea. I also had severe dizziness which the tea did not cure. At about 10:00 Julie and I set off for the Spokane airport. She helped me get my bags checked (I also checked my carryon in an effort to make my day easier) and then we said goodbye.

After going through security, I still had plenty of time, so I decided to take Julie’s advice and get some protein, even though I don’t normally eat that early in the day. My bunless burger cost $9! And sadly, my dizziness persisted. My next natural step was another big cup of tea, which I drank while sitting at my gate waiting for my flight.

It was there at the airport, having said all my goodbyes, that my worries returned to me like a flock of ravens returning to the blackened branches of a long-dead tree. I was able to suppress all that in order to enjoy the reunion, but now I found myself feeling so daunted by the next few months. Meanwhile, new worries have joined the old ones. A classmate is facing a heartbreaking health challenge. Others like me are concerned about ailing parents and some face difficult situations with their kids or grandkids. At times like this, I feel I have to try even harder to see and appreciate each tiny little ray of sunshine that pierces the gloom.

Once sitting on the plane, I didn’t care if I was dizzy because if I passed out I’d still be sitting in my seat. However, the flight passed without incident and soon I found myself once again in the Denver airport, which is far from being my favorite place. Despite continued dizziness, I scored more tea and then made the long trek down to my new gate, where I settled in to drink tea and read.

By the time the tea was gone, I felt quite a bit better. I followed another friend’s advice and filled my water bottle from the water fountain and drank some water. I think I was certainly somewhat dehydrated.

The flight to Dallas was shorter than it had been going the other way, and I arrived at the airport quite a bit sooner than my husband, who was driving in through Dallas traffic. We reached home right at midnight and I got the dishwasher loaded and running before I went to bed. Both kids were gone—Lucy babysitting and Jasper at an all-night prayer event.

Today my first job was grocery shopping since we have a birthday dinner this weekend. Once home, I did what you’d expect—put away groceries, unpacked my suitcases, and started putting everything back where it belongs. Then I began on my school chores. Why is it that being gone for a week makes me feel like I’m a month behind? I’ll be hard-pressed to do everything that must be done before Walter’s surgery on Friday.

Also, I still have not seen either one of the kids since my return!

The Carryon Conundrum

All my life, I’ve aspired to be one of those savvy travelers who takes only a carryon for overseas adventures—no matter how long. I put forth tremendous effort into figuring out how to do it and what to pack for my UK trip last fall.

This more recent trip I had to also take a larger suitcase because of the bulky winter clothes I needed. And, as I mentioned, my new four-wheeled carryon arrived at the last possible moment. I was so glad to have it, especially in the Denver airport where all three pieces of luggage had to go with me everywhere!

Now here’s where I’ve been rethinking things a bit. Most glowing endorsements of carryon-only travel that I’ve seen make a big point of how you never have to go to baggage claim. You just grab your carryon and stride boldly into the world to have adventures. In fact, this seems to be the primary selling point of this approach to traveling.

Now imagine you’re a lady in the early stages of senectitude, and you also have restrictions against lifting heavy weights. I find it challenging and unenjoyable to drag my tightly-packed carryon down the tiny aisle of the plane, and then have to lift it over my head to get it into the overhead bin. Furthermore, because you’re only allowed one personal item, I have to stuff my much-beloved Sash handbag into my backpack at least until I get settled in my seat.

Thanks to an attack of extreme dizziness yesterday, and to the fact that Southwestern allows you to check two bags for free, I chose to check both my regular suitcase and my carryon for my flights home. My experience was so much easier and less stressful. I still had my backpack for anything I might need during the flight, and my Sash bag too, because my backpack was my official carryon and my Sash bag was my personal item.

As it turns out, I don’t mind at all going to baggage claim and waiting a few minutes for my bags to show up, especially if it makes other aspects of the trip so much easier. Another huge benefit of this approach is that you are not so restricted in liquids. I need a lot of potions just to make myself presentable these days! And if, like me, you think traveling with a pocketknife is necessary, you can safely do so as long as you pack the knife in your carryon and then check it. So in the future, although I still hope and plan to travel carryon only, I will check my carryon and collect it again at my destination.

Some exceptions to this new resolution:

If there is a fee for all checked bags but not for a carryon I will of course carry it on.

If I expect a lengthy layover during which I might need access to items in my carryon, I will carry it on.

But aside from those two exceptions, I think I’ll be checking my carryon bag most of the time. Anyone else have any thoughts or opinions on this?

The End

It’s hard to say goodbye when you’re still having a great time—but also necessary. This morning I was up early to repack all my stuff and still be able to hang out in the main living area so I could visit with the classmates who hadn’t left yet.

As the morning progressed, people sat down and ate breakfast, helped clean the kitchen, and then began leaving. There were many, many hugs. Ken had help loading the pickup truck, which was a pretty big job.

We waved goodbye to the last of our classmates and then Ken and Julie and I set off for Spokane in the rain. For almost the entire four-hour drive, we went through very thick fog, which must have been quite stressful for our driver, Ken. For me it was just a bit disappointing because the fog obscured so much beautiful scenery I would have liked to see. Washington is a stunningly beautiful state.

Although I dozed off often in the truck, I’m afraid I still took a nap when we reached Julie’s house. It’s been a quiet evening as we all recover from the activity of the last few days. Tomorrow I hope and expect to have no delays or cancellations on my trip back to Texas.

Note: you have not heard the last about this reunion. The impact statement is yet to come.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

This morning I was up “early” to shower and then hang out with whomever was around while my hair was drying. Our classmate Joy and her husband John had volunteered to make sweet potato crepes for everyone, and our eleventh-grade English teacher, who is also here, had brought some quiches to heat and share.

Although I wasn’t eating, I enjoyed just being with everyone and enjoying the various conversations. No one was in a hurry to rush off and do anything, so after breakfast we sat around and visited in the big living room until it was time to say goodbye to James and Ruth, who had to leave after grabbing a quick lunch. I was sorry to see them go as I had greatly enjoyed talking to both of them.

After everyone else had lunch, Tamra and I agreed that we would go for a walk after she had time for a quick nap. Meanwhile, Joy and John responded to my plea for a ride to the local yarn store, and volunteered to take me there since they had an errand to run anyway. By then it was raining steadily.

The yarn store had a surprisingly good selection:

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I dithered for quite a while over my souvenir yarn selection. I finally chose a grey bulky weight wool/cotton blend that I hope will make a warm cowl. In case I ever find myself back in the north in winter . . .

We got back to the house just a few minutes later than I had agreed to go for a walk with Tamra—but it was still raining and neither of us could work up any enthusiasm for getting wet. So we stayed in the house and I at least had a couple cups of tea.

Almost imperceptibly, the rain turned to snow and then it was snowing huge heavy wet flakes that were so beautiful to watch. I put on my fabulous new boots, a hat and jacket, and walked out into what appeared to be an animated Christmas card. I had no destination—I just wanted to revel in the falling snow and take a few photos.

After walking down the road a piece, I turned around to retrace my footsteps.

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It was pretty easy to do under the circumstances.

As I walked back to the house, Patti and Beth were waiting for me in the driveway, wanting to know if I was interested in going on a walk in the nearby park. So we piled into a pickup truck with Patti’s husband Jeff and Ken (Julie’s husband) and drove through town to the park.

By now the sun had set and we found ourselves walking through a spectacular snowy and magical woodland, complete with glowing lanterns and even a dragon’s head snow sculpture.

Forty-two years ago, who would have guessed that this far in the future I’d be enjoying a beautiful walk with two of my high school classmates, in the snow in Washington state?

As the twilight deepened, we drove back to the house so we could participate in a video call to another absent classmate while Julie put the finishing touches on the chili and cornbread for dinner.

After dinner we all stayed at the table, knowing it was our last evening together, and we went around the table and listened as each member spoke about his or her future plans. There was a break to chat with Paula, another friend who was unable to come, and it was so good to see her face and hear her voice. Her parents and mine were good friends in Zambia days.

We stayed downstairs talking for a long time before finally ascending to clean up the kitchen and say some goodbyes. Quite a few people again went out to the hot tub. The snow had stopped falling but there was a beautiful fresh layer of it on the ground everywhere.

As usual, the reunion seemed a little too short. Some people will be gone before I even get up in the morning, and the rest of us will all have to leave before 11:00. I will be driving back to Spokane to spend the night with Julie and Ken again before flying home to Texas on Friday.

Parting Shot:

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In the park this evening.

A Two-Horse Open Sleigh

The first order of business today was to cook up a big brunch. Julie had an ambitious menu—pancakes, sausages, bacon, fruit salad, veggie tray, and egg casserole. Her husband Ken cooked all the meat and made pancakes. Others made the fruit salad. My job was the egg casseroles, and they took a little longer than I expected.

However, eventually it was all done and we found ourselves sitting down to a truly magnificent meal, by which time I was on my third cup of tea. Afterward we sat in the living area visiting and watching some snow fall on the beautiful landscape outside, before suiting up to go out.

The weather has not been as cold as I feared it would be, but I still wore my “new” snow pants with leggings underneath, and my big new boots. We drove a couple of miles down the road where two horses were hitched up to a sleigh awaiting us.

After signing a release form, we climbed into the sleigh. There were some who weren’t interested in this activity, so I think only 14 of us were on the sleigh. The ride went through open field and forest, much of it with truly breathtaking views of the mountains. I loved the gliding motion of the sleigh and the jingling of the bells on the horses’ harnesses.

Afterward, a woodstove-heated tent offered hot cider, hot chocolate, and hot coffee. I felt obligated to drink something in order to get the full experience, so I had half a cup of coffee.

Five of our more intrepid members trekked to a fresh patch of snow and made snow angels while the rest of us stood by and took photos.

The couple I had ridden with (my classmate Chuck and his wife Laura) wanted to see more of the views along the road, and so did I, so we drove farther and saw some stunning displays of icicles.

By this time I was a huge fan of my new boots. I haven’t owned a pair of boots for at least 40 years. I couldn’t even remember what it was like to walk around in deep snow with warm dry feet. I loved it!

Then we joined everyone else back at the house to regroup and snack a little before heading to town to look around. The town of Leavenworth is very touristy and modeled on a Bavarian village, which makes it very pretty. The yarn store was too far for me to go on foot but I made it to the tea store! And maybe a cheese shop . . .

At 5:00 we all convened at a German restaurant for an early supper. The food was good but the company was better! And we still had the whole evening ahead of us. We were even able to face time with one of our classmates who was unable to attend.

During the evening I set up a photo studio of sorts in a different room and then took portraits of each attendee so that we can post them on our class page, and everyone who didn’t come can at least see what we all look like now.

The evening ended with quite a few of my brave classmates going to hang out in the (outdoor) hot tub. I just couldn’t see myself walking barefoot over ice and snow to sit in a hot tub. It looked like they had fun though!

Location Change

Sunday morning we had agreed to sleep in. Since I am dealing with a two-hour time change, I figured I’d be the first up so I didn’t even set an alarm. Ha! I slept in till 9:00, which was actually 11:00 Texas time. I guess my travel adventures wore me out more than I realized!

During the day, Julie and I did a lot of cooking and baking for the reunion and also finished the jigsaw puzzle—which unfortunately was missing two pieces. I drank a lot of tea.

This morning, I did set an alarm so I could get up and take a shower and repack all my stuff for the trip to Leavenworth. I felt a little helpless in terms of helping Julie because only she knew everything that had to go. Eventually, everything was hauled downstairs to the garage and from thence to the bed of Ken’s truck. Looking at all the boxes and cases, I did not think that it would all fit into the truck—but it did.

It was a four-and-a-half hour drive to Leavenworth. The first three hours or so the scenery was very flat and only a little snowy. However, once we hit the Columbia River, the landscape became a lot more interesting. Stunningly beautiful, in fact. Snow, mountains, and rivers.

One classmate and his wife had reached the property before us and were here to welcome us. I was given a choice of rooms and picked a cozy little room near the main living area. Soon others started arriving and the rest of the afternoon consisted primarily of happy greetings and conversations with old classmates, some of whom we hadn’t seen in years.

The basement of this lovely house has a long room with a table that can seat all 19 of us! So that’s where we went for supper. There was plenty of the stew that Julie had made and biscuits and salad and lots of conversation. Afterward we migrated back upstairs and Jim made chocolate chip cookies which featured his homegrown Texas pecans. They smelled heavenly, but I did not give in to temptation.

I drank a lot of tea and have enjoyed talking to several of my classmates and/or their spouses. One of the spouses who came was actually in the class above mine and I remember him well because we were in two plays together in high school. So it was good to see him.

Tomorrow I will help Julie put on a big brunch and then we’re off for some adventures. It’s going to be a great day!

Praying All the Way

Well, I am safely in Washington but it has been quite an adventure! On Friday morning I did my grocery shopping as usual and then finished my packing. I was kind of disappointed the my new carryon suitcase hadn’t arrived yet. One thing I learned from my trip to the UK is that a woman of my age and state of decrepitude needs a four-wheeled carryon. My old one has two wheels and I found it became very cumbersome and difficult to pull around when it was fully loaded with another bag strapped on top.

But I waited so long to order a four-wheeled replacement that it didn’t come in time, so I went ahead and packed my old one for this trip. Then, as Walter was taking it out to the car, UPS pulled up and delivered the new carryon! I knew it would take only five minutes or so to transfer everything over, so we quickly opened the package and I got everything transferred in no time. This is easy to do when you use packing cubes.

Even so, we were about 10 minutes later pulling out of the driveway than we had intended to be. We had barely gotten on the road before I got a text from the airline saying that my second flight (from Denver to Spokane) had been canceled. Minutes later a second text arrived saying that my first flight had been delayed, so our late departure was no longer an issue.

This was my first time to fly Southwest and my first time flying out of Love Field, which is a lot less imposing than DFW. My first order of business, of course, was to go to the desk and see if I could sort out how to still get to Spokane. The best solution I was offered was to go ahead and fly to Denver, spend the night, and go to Spokane Saturday morning. I went for it, knowing that I would most likely have to spend the night in the Denver airport.

The flight to Denver was one of the scariest of my life. We flew through some huge severe storms and the “fasten seatbelt” light never went off. During a brief lull, they started serving drinks but had to abort that mission almost immediately. The plane was tossed around like a grain of corn in a popcorn popper. I don’t know about everyone else, but I prayed the whole way! The landing was also scary but such a relief.

When I arrived in Denver the prospect of spending the night in the airport seemed a lot less appealing. I had to pick up my checked suitcase, which meant that everywhere I went I had to take two suitcases and a backpack with me. I was SO grateful to have that new carryon that rolls so effortlessly, because my larger suitcase does not roll very easily at all.

Julie has a friend in Denver that she thought might be willing to host me for the night, and she was, but the challenges of getting there dissuaded me from attempting it. Much as it went against my frugal instincts, I then thought of getting a room at the airport hotel—which was already sold out.

Another friend who saw my post on Facebook went to work trying to find a room for me, but everything was sold out due to the many flight cancellations. I resigned myself to my fate and started looking for a likely spot to hunker down. I found a seat up against a wall where I could lean my head back. Thus began a long, long night.

I hadn’t found anyplace to sit that wasn’t bordering a major walkway. Herds of people stampeded past at regular intervals, exiting the airport after their flights. Many of them had long skinny bags containing skis. I would doze off for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, then wake up due to a new influx of passersby. Every time I had to make the long hike down to the ladies’ room, I of course had to take all three pieces of luggage with me.

There was a lull in airport activity between about 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., but it wasn’t terribly helpful to me because that’s when all the cleaners were busy sweeping, floor polishing, and vacuuming. So I continued with my little cat naps, trying desperately to find a more comfortable position each time.

By 5:30 in the morning the airport was a beehive of activity. I have never been so grateful to be awake at that hour! I realized that even though my flight didn’t leave until 8:45, my best plan was to go through security immediately so I’d be in the part of the airport most likely to offer a cup of hot tea.

Getting through security was an ordeal as always but at the end of it I searched for and found a Starbucks. Normally I make a point of avoiding Starbucks, but on this occasion I happily waited in a long line so I could get a nice big cup of tea. I found a window seat at my departure gate and sat watching the sun rise as I drank my tea.

The flight to Spokane was a lot less scary, and we actually landed 25 minutes early. I texted Julie, only to find out that she was running late. So I collected my checked bag and settled down for another wait as I watched the snow gently falling outside. A cool thing at the Spokane airport is that they have rocking chairs scattered around the airport.

After Julie arrived, we set off to run some errands. Our first stop was a thrift store, where I was able to find a pair of snow pants that will work for me. Apparently the town where we’ll be having the reunion is even snowier than Spokane.

After a couple more stops to buy food for the reunion, we headed north on the 45-minute drive to Julie’s house—and the car died. Julie managed to get it off onto the shoulder, but we were close enough to the right lane on the highway that every passing vehicle rocked the car. Sometimes you get more of an adventure than you bargained for!

After calling her husband and the AAA, it seemed the most likely explanation was that she had run out of gas. So we bundled up a little more and talked while waiting for rescue.

Eventually, a man showed up with a can of gas which he dispensed into Julie’s tank. Sure enough, the engine fired right up! Naturally we made a beeline to a gas station where she could fill the tank before continuing on our way through stunningly beautiful snow-covered woodland.

Julie’s new home is a cottage that she and her husband are still in the process of renovating. It is by a lake that just looks like a snow-covered field at the moment. It was such a relief to arrive and have a cup of tea! After which both of us took naps . . .

In the evening we got to work on kitchen duties for the reunion. I did all the cutting of stew ingredients while Julie coated and browned the meat. We also spent quite a time working on a jigsaw puzzle she had set up. Her husband Ken arrived back from a business trip also.

Before I knew it, it was 11:00, which was 1:00 in the morning Texas time! I don’t know how I managed to keep going that long. But I have to say that after spending a night sleeping in a chair in an airport, getting to take a hot shower and then climb into a warm comfy bed seems like the most luxurious thing in the world.

Teaching and Packing

So, time got away from me yesterday and I didn’t get around to posting. It was another busy day getting ready for and then teaching the blond brothers and preparing for Geography and my trip.

I don’t think I’ve talked all that much about my trip. Tomorrow I leave for Spokane to visit my friend Julie and help her prepare for our high school class reunion which begins on Monday. And before anyone says, “Oh, I didn’t know you went to school in Washington”—I didn’t. Our boarding school was in Kenya, and despite our expectations of being able to go back there for a reunion someday, it hasn’t happened yet. So the class reunions have been at many different locations here in the USA. Julie thought it would be fun to have a reunion in the mountains in winter. I think it will be fun too, but I am scrambling to locate and pack enough layers.

This morning, though, was all about getting ready for Geography. We were doing Russia and the Balkans today. My student chef was bringing borscht and holupki (stuffed cabbage) and Jasper helped me make the salad. I also made a raspberry tart that turned out pretty well for being gluten free.

To my delight, the borscht was a big hit with the boys. Sometimes their lack of culinary open-mindedness frustrates me, so I didn’t have high hopes for today, but it went better than expected.

After class, I took Jasper sock shopping with me. He needed socks and I definitely needed socks that are long enough to wear with my huge new boots. It will take me a while to get used to walking with such huge feet. Right now it seems impossible that I would actually need anything that warm—but I’m pretty sure I will.

I still have some packing to finish up and grocery shopping in the morning, but in the afternoon I’ll be on my way to the airport in Dallas. This is not an ideal time for me to be gone, but my ticket was purchased months ago and obviously I am going to an event that can’t be moved. And I’ll still get back a week before my husband’s surgery. It will be interesting to see how I handle real winter weather!

Closing the Door on 2019

So here it is the last day of the year. I feel like I should post something really profound, as a couple of my offspring have already done, but honestly I’m just not up to it. I apologize for my long silence. I did not have internet access except on my phone during my trip and my days in Tennessee. I arrived home at about 8:00 this evening.

I will try to gather my thoughts and post something about my trip tomorrow—after all, I process things by writing about them! But tonight, I thought I’d just reveal a couple of things I mentioned without telling you what they were.

First, I never showed you the amazing gingerbread mansion that Lucy and Tanner made before Christmas:

Front
Back

Secondly, I never showed you the big project that I poured so much effort into in the days before I left for Colorado. It was a Christmas stocking for Flynn’s wife Tiffany. As I’m sure I have mentioned before, elaborate stockings are a family tradition that I started back when I had a lot more time. Normally making one of our family stockings takes me 2-3 weeks of working a couple hours a day. So having to do almost all the work in three days was very demanding.

The beaded angel. All our girls’ stockings have angels on them.

If you’re not a crafter, no doubt you wonder what could possibly be so time-consuming about making something like this. If you are a crafter, you know exactly how time-consuming it can be!

The final project I mentioned but didn’t show you was a photo book I put together for my parents, celebrating their 65 years of marriage. I included a few wedding photos, some photos of our family over the years, and plenty of photos taken at their anniversary celebration back in June.

Here’s a wedding photo I included:

And here’s a photo of us all at the nursing home yesterday:

In a little while we’ll go outside with sparklers and a sky lantern, and say goodbye to 2019.