Seattle for the Fourth of July

There is so much to say about Seattle. Weather was perfect (Yep not a drop of rain nor a cloud. I got a terrible sunburn.), people are kind and generous and the views are spectacular. Denis, my couch surfing host, picked me up right near the Fish Market and we headed that way. Got to mark that off my bucket list. I thought it was crazy and fun. We saw them slinging fish and invoking the crowd. Cool.

Denis had taken me as a last minute couch surfer so he already had plans for the afternoon. After settling me in at his home and showing me how to use the public transit he was off and I went exploring. The next day he had scored an extra ticket for the beer fest and took me along. Right under the Space Needle. I had a blast.

Denis is a full-time single father and works a full schedule so he doesn’t have a lot of time to work on the garden. So I did some landscaping for him to say thank you for his generosity. I have to say his front yard looked impressive by the time I left. He was happy and so was I.

For the fourth of July we went to his friend’s home. It was incredible to see the fireworks on the bay from their home in the Capitol Hill District. WOW

Next stop California 2011…

The Montana Weber’s….

These are four amazing men. I went to high school with Sam Weber in Bellflower, California. We really didn’t know one another. He was a year between my brother and me. I knew who he was and think he knew my brother, but we really got to know each other through Facebook. Do I hear a collective sigh?

I wanted so much to visit him and to see the Montana he so loves. Because Sam is one of the most kind and generous men I have ever met I should not have been so surprised that he would drive a couple of hundred miles to come get me to take me back to his house in Great Falls.

We, well I, have been out of school 29 years. So it had been awhile. I don’t remember any weirdness between us from the welcoming hug to the sad goodbye hug.

The night before I was to come in Sam asked me if I wanted to join him and his friends and parents for an outdoor concert. I did! We literally drove (talking and laughing the whole way) to Great Falls in time for me to meet the boys and set down my stuff in the basement bedroom they had gotten ready for me and we were off to the concert.

First stop the liquor store. A liquor store in a casino. I was shocked and amused. The concert was so fun. Under the beautiful sky that I will never stop being in awe of. Dancing, drinking, and laughing. I was happy and exhausted.

Back at the house I chatted with the boys for a while before heading to bed.

I will do a separate post about learning to shoot a gun while in Montana with the Weber’s as it was a huge deal for me, but here I will say that this family of hunters went to great lengths to ease me of my fear of guns. There are several guns in the home and all went out of their way to make me feel safe. I will ALWAYS love them for this.

I found out how much I like Kokanne beer. Actually it is my favorite too bad it is Canadian and hard to find everywhere but up there. How much like a hobbit I apparently look like (I had never seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies so I we had a marathon and Garrett pointed out that I did not need to wait till Halloween to be a Hobbit as all I was really missing now is the hair on my feet). How to spot a decoy moose. And to make 3 large boys like me!!

One day we planned a trip to Ft Bennett. Sam, his parents, his son, Jonathan and me. Sam’s dad, Lowen scared the beegeebees out of me with his driving which was culminated when he abruptly pulled to the side of the ridge and pointed out this huge bull moose. Poor Jonathan woke up from his slumber next to me in the part of the truck that was still hanging precariously in the road whilst Sam and Louanne (Sam’s mom) took pictures of it. Everyone was amazed (well I didn’t know enough to be amazed) at the size especially so early in the year. I could not stop laughing when Jonathan quipped, “Really a moose in Montana who the hell could imagine?” he was obviously not at all happy about being the possible target if anyone happened around the corner of this ridge to find the truck just sitting there.

The real amusement came that evening when Sam, Louanne and Lowen as soon as we were home put all the photos they had taken of the bull on Facebook and within seconds one of the comments noted they had also seen the DECOY there!!! AHAHAHAAHA

Then Garrett, who seems always ready with a TOLD YOU SO MOMENT, tells his dad that yeah um there is only three legs and asked if no one noticed that the whole time we were there the bull never ever moved? HA

Ft. Benton itself was cool too. It is known as the Birthplace of Montana: Just a really neat place with tepees and memorabilia everywhere. Especially interesting was the info on outlaws from the area. Cool.

The night before I left for Spokane, Sam and his friend, Kari, took me to the famous Sip and Dip Tiki Lounge. I want so much to take my son here some time. It is a bar that faces a mermaid tank. Mermaids swim while you drink while a 90 year old woman plays the piano and sings. Where else can you have THAT kind of entertainment all in one place???????????????????????

I had some of the best times in Montana with these guys. I hope to go back when I get back to the states. I think Sam will be willing to show me around some more!!!

My Trip to The Gold Mine Areas of Northern California

Salmon Swimming Up Stream

My trip to California was so diverse. I have done everything from Disneyland to marking off seeing salmon swim upstream from my bucketlist. I have worked and played hard and met so many wonderful people. Even though I grew up in California I had never been much past north San Francisco. So it was through new eyes that I went on to Redding below the southern tip of the Cascade Mountain Range. Beautiful.

I was very lucky to have my aunt, Patty, as a tour guide through this gold mining country. We went to French Gulch where we saw all the old mining establishments. My aunt took me to a local bar. This place has been in business since the civil war. The proprietor was so nice and showed us all kinds of stuff including ancient log books with bar tabs dated all the way to the day Lincoln was shot . The bar has been in his wife’s family the entire time and the memorabilia is everywhere and MUCH more extensive than most museums. I took my brother back when he came up a few days later.

We also did the surrounding lakes and trails. It struck me

Redding California

how much it all reminded me of East Tennessee. I wanted to go to Lassen and the hot springs there but didn’t get the chance.

I did get to go with my cousins on a bike ride to the newish Sundial Bridge in Redding. So cool with all kinds of trails around the river. We rode and rode. Stopped to sight see a Bald Eagles nest, watch fly fishermen, and just walk a bit. I took my brother here too when he came over.

Whiskey Town and Bandy Creek
Sundial Bridge with Sean

These pictures are all great memories…

Sundial Bridge and Bike Ride with My Cousins

Next a bit on time with family after a very long time…..

Learning to Surf: Bucketlist item #38 CHECK…

My one and only surfing lesson…

Not often does someone know that the first time they ever try something will probably be their last. But I can assure you I am no surfer in the making. I am very proud of myself for trying and my instructors – Sierra and her boyfriend pro surfer Evan – are both awesome people, but it was a one shot deal. At the very least never to be attempted in the cold pacific ocean. Maybe in a non-wave warm Florida Gulf (hehe).

Anyway I  learned some of the lingo, of course there are many in TN who think I only speak California/surfer lingo, the day before. I learned it when we got to Seal Beach ready to surf and there was a yellow sign with a big black ball in the middle of it which apparently signifies no surfing allowed at that time. We originally were going to surf in Newport Beach, but there was a sewage spill and the waves were way to big for me in Huntington Beach.

I have to be honest I felt relieved. I had made the attempt and couldn’t help that I wasn’t allowed, right? So instead we had the Surfer’s Special at El Burrito Jr #2. It was delicious. Huge burritos and a drink for under $5. Melina was with us on this first day attempt although she was not able to go the following day when we tried again. So we just all sat in the sun with the ocean view and enjoyed our comfort food. Perfect!

The next day the kids came and got me about noon. After all the real surfers were done until evening. I thought this was a very smart idea. And we headed for Huntington Beach. I am actually glad that this is where we were able to get in the water finally because this is where I consider home.

First off learning how to put on a wet suit. Not a comfortable outfit by any means. Especially for someone who can’t even wear turtle necks, because I don’t like anything at all around my neck. It is a chore to get one of these on. But once it was on I think I looked quite cute. I know, I know it is for warmth not fashion! After the suits were put on by the Jeep we grabbed the board and headed to the ocean. Evan brought his dad’s long board. It is massive.

With camera in hand Evan was ready to take pictures of Sierra giving me a lesson on how to surf on the sand. I must admit I am a MUCH better couch and sand surfer than wave surfer. I caught on pretty quick if I do say so myself, which I do. I love the fluid motion of going from paddling to actually getting up on your knees then to your feet. It is so graceful. I love to watch real surfers do this. For me it is like watching poetry of motion. Nature and surfer working in sync.

After a few successful stands on the sand we, Sierra and I, headed into the water. I cannot believe how warm the wet suit kept me. Great! I really loved paddling out. I’m actually quite good at it too. After a few pictures, Evan got into the water too *he left my camera with a very nice family on the beach to watch*. He was behind me, but I was so busy paddling out and being proud of myself and feeling so good out there that I went way to far ahead of him and way to far out. That was my down fall.

Sierra came up behind me treading water. Evan got there too and began treading. He is not used to having to tread water as much and got very tired. Sierra is a swimmer so she was faring a bit better. She held the board while I was getting ready to catch a wave. I couldn’t really tell when a wave was coming so she was watching for me. The first one she said to go on I paddled with the wave then got up on my knees when she told me but was a bit to slow and miss the wave so I just rode that one on my knees.

Then the next one!!!! ACK! She again held the board and told me when to start paddling with the wave (mind you we are out a bit further than I needed to be). I paddled and got up when she told me to. I made it all the way to standing before the board went out from under me –  sideways. The board made it safely to shore within seconds. Me? Not so much.

I was thrown to the ocean bottom with my mouth open. When I finally, it seemed like an eternity, broke the top of the water and saw Sierra I couldn’t get a breath in at all. I kinda panicked. Here I have to say that Evan and Sierra were absolutely amazing. They were both encouraging and calm with me.

Evan later told me he didn’t realize at first how badly I was panicked until he saw my eyes. They swam on either side of me just talking me thru. At one point Evan reminded me that I needed to actually swim and not just tread water. And he demonstrated just to jar me. It was needed.

We laughed a lot about it later, but it seemed like I swam for miles when actually it was nowhere near that dramatic. Evan commented repeatedly how choppy the water was. Ends up there was a 5.4 earthquake in the area as I was “surfing”. Great timing, Stacy!!!

So after I was FINALLY back on land I sat my happy self down for a bit of reflection ( oh and to try to start breathing again ) and decided that I was proud of myself for trying. I have two great death fears in my life, well three cause I don’t much want to be tortured either, and they are fire and drowning. So, even though I have a fear of drowning, I tried to do something I’ve always admired others can do so gracefully….surf! GO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seal Beach the Day Before

My day of surfing (the one and only day)...Huntington Beach

Next my trip up the coast of Cali…