Sunday, September 30, 2012

Nook on the Road: Montana

Hi guys! Welcome to the wonder and excitement that is Nook on the Road, in which the Nook goes, well, on the road, on our move to Maine! I know the marvel factor you are facing in vicariously living this experience with us is almost overwhelming, but just take a deep breath and let the astounding views and charming words wash over you. It's going to be alright. I tell myself that every day and have yet to be proven wrong. It's going to be alright!

We left Sandpoint around 7 last night and made it into Butte, Montana, around 3 a.m. Mountain Time. Kiddos watched Finding Nemo and then fell asleep, so that was pretty painless.

As we pulled into Butte, (for you East Coasterners, it's pronounced "bute" like the first half of the word "butane", not like the anatomical region) we were welcomed by what appeared to be some sort of UFO floating above the city - a bright, bright light hovering high above the ground.

Now, since I grew up in central Montana (betcha didn't know that, did ya! and oh, the stories that I have to tell... growing up in Montana is an adventure in and of itself), I actually knew ahead of time that Butte has a giant statue on a mountain above it, and that the statue turns into a giant glow-in-the-dark figurine in the evening hours. So I reassured everyone that no, we were not in fact actually about to be abducted before we'd even had a chance to see Mount Rushmore. However, I did think it was a statue of Jesus, so I cried, "Look! It's Jesus! There in the sky!"

Needless to say, we had a pretty good laugh about that.

In actuality, the statue is not a statue of Jesus, but of the Virgin Mary. It is called "Our Lady of The Rockies" (click the link to see pics that do not look like UFOs) and was erected in the seventies when a man asked Mary to intercede on behalf of his wife, who was dying of cancer, saying he'd build a five-foot-tall statue of her in his yard if she helped them. The wife was cured, but the man was so grateful that apparently five feet wasn't enough, nor was his yard. The statue stands 90 feet tall and is the second highest statue in the United States, after the Statue of Liberty! Wikipedia says the statue has been "dedicated to all women", which is probably the politically correct way of saying "Mary rocks." Or something like that. Anyway, it was pretty neat-o. (<---Why does no one use this word anymore? I'm going to start using it. All the time. And everyone will think I'm awesome and will be like, "Wow, that Sarah, I want to be just like her, she is so neat-o." Just wait.)

Anyway. We stayed at the Best Western. Expect a lot of that on this trip - I like to think of myself as adventurous, and I get tired of the same things after awhile, but in certain aspects of my life I really appreciate a certain level of consistency and dependability, and BW fulfills both of those for me. That's why chains are so successful, after all - because they're familiar, and familiarity is comforting. But I digress. I totally heart Best Western. (Note: This blog post is not sponsored by Best Western... but it should be. Dear Best Western: If you give me a few free nights I will gladly blog your praises to the end of time!) The rooms are almost always spotless, the amenities are great, they always have fridges and microwaves, the beds and bedding are always super comfy. Plus I have BW Rewards so I get points toward free stays which makes me feel awesome when I spend money there because I'm thinking "Woohoo! I'm not really spending money right now because after I spend $63,456 more dollars I'll get one whole free night at a Best Western! Think of the savings!!" So really, what more do you want from your hotel rooms, people?? Do you really need them to be unique or have history or be mom-and-pop places? The historical ones always feel, well, old, and old is not always good when it comes to where you are sleeping and bathing, and the mom-and-pop ones don't always have desks that are manned at 3 a.m. with a check-in process of approximately 2 minutes, which is important when you have driven through the night with kids, one of whom is small and crying and the other of whom is also small and has wet his pants and has a cold and is sad and miserable. One could argue that mom-and-pop customer service is more apt to be friendly, but that is NOT true. I have had some pretty cold glares from people at independently operated motels at times. And, honestly, I have never, not once, had poor service at a Best Western. Never. I've probably just gotten lucky, since they're all franchises anyway and do vary a little bit from place to place, but they seem to have some great people there. I'll save my experiences of the unique and unexpected for coffee shops and roadside attractions.

But yeah. Best Western rocks.

This morning I was exceptionally pleased to discover that our bikes had not been stolen in the night. Having never traveled anywhere with bikes before, and having heard an onslaught of horror stories on the subject, this is a constant worry for me. I will say that the reason our bicycles were still attached to our car this morning probably has something to do with a) the fact that we are in Middle-of-Nowhere, MT (the entire state of Montana is classified as Middle-of-Nowhere, by the way) where the closest things to criminals are chicken-theiving coyotes, and b) people with the level of security-breaching skill it would take to break through the armor system we've devised around our bikes are generally only found in spy movies. For a small sample of what I mean by that, see below:

Maybe it's hard to see in the pictures, but there are 3 separate cable locks woven all in and around every piece of each bike and attached to not only the bike rack but both roof racks on the van itself. There is a piece of cable woven around each frame at at least two separate points on each bike, through every single tire, and around handlebars. There are also pieces of padding and heavy nylon straps zip-tied on all over the place, transforming two separate bikes into one giant impenetrable mass of nylon, metal, and plastic. The only bike parts that aren't wired to the vehicle are the pedals, but if someone really wants my pedals and only my pedals and thinks they can sell them somewhere and make enough money to make the process of wanting and stealing and selling them even remotely worth it, then God bless 'em.

Also, I'd like to point out that this whole setup is also designed to hold the both bikes up against the car, by the sturdiest parts of the frames, in the event that the bike rack straps break or fail in some way. Can you tell that I'm darned proud of this whole setup? And that I was an engineer in a past life? An engineer that fashioned things by wrapping cable wire and nylon straps around them in a haphazard manner and then padlocking them to a car, that is.

So yeah. Our bike rack is the Alcatraz of bike racks at the moment. However, even Alcatraz had some escapees (very cold and wet and dead/MIA escapees, but escapees nonetheless), and so my paranoia about our bikes being stolen won't rest until they are locked safely to the porch behind our house in the country in relatively-rural Maine, I'm afraid. (The bikes, that is, not the escapees.) (...Although if the escapees were in fact locked to our porch in Maine, at least there would be two or three fewer potential bike theives out there in the world. Because you do go to Alcatraz for stealing bikes, didn't you know?)

Anyway. Every morning that I wake up still being a bicycle owner will count as one small victory, in my book.

I love Montana. I always have. But for now, on to Wyoming!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Idaho State Draft Horse & Mule International Show"

Yesterday we went to the draft horse show that they have here in Sandpoint every year. My mom used to take me when I was little and I have fond memories, so it's fun to do this now with my kids. I will say, though, that they didn't quite seem to have the same experience that I did when I was a kid... Baby C was zonked out the entire time and Max is terrified of any animal that is bigger than a Chihuahua, so needless to say he wasn't exactly thrilled with our dragging him into the midst of a bunch of dinosaur-sized equines. But Todd and I enjoyed ourselves, at least!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Nook Does New York: Days 5-6

On Sunday, the plan was to pack up at the B&B, head to Nora's parents' house in Trumansburg for lunch, and then make the drive back to Rochester, where we'd stay the night and fly out at six a.m. Monday morning. Todd and I were still SO determined to make the hike to Taughannock Falls that we'd been attempting every day for the entire vacation, and so since we had some time to kill before lunch, we packed up Baby C (Max went with Nana and Pippi for the day) and headed out. Of course, by the time we actually had breakfast and finished packing and got the cars loaded and went pee and ran inside several times to grab things we'd forgotten, it was later than we'd anticipated, so we were running short on time. Nonetheless, we were determined to see the falls, and so we headed out.

There is a scenic overlook of the falls that we'd been told existed a short ways before the trailhead, but I'd never paid it much mind because I figured that they'd be far away and hard to see from an overlook. I was wrong! Since we were passing the overlook anyway on the way to the trail, we decided to stop really quickly and take a look. The view was amazing - really, the overlook is quite close the falls, and you can see the trail itself pretty well, down below.

By the time we were done taking pictures, we realized that we didn't really have time to hike the trail all the way to the falls and back. I would have been disappointed, but honestly, the view from the overlook was so great that I felt like my falls-sightseeing-longings had been perfectly satisfied! So, we decided just to head on back to Nora's parents' house for lunch, which we did, and had a great time. When we got to Rochester later that evening, we stayed at Jake and Nora's house there, so we didn't have to pay for a hotel.

In the morning, we awoke at 3:30 a.m. and prepared to leave for the airport. Of course, we discovered then that our first flight had been delayed about 3 hours, which would make us miss all of our connections, and so our entire itinerary had to be revamped. When all was said and done, we ended up not leaving Rochester for another 9 hours. This really wasn't a big deal since we were with Todd's parents and it just meant that we got more time to spend with them; the rest of our flights and connections were all still reasonably spaced. It just meant we got home later, but that was okay. The worst part was waking up so early after a late night and a long trip and being incredibly deprived of sleep.

The very excellent thing about the flight delay was that, since we had so much time to kill, we had time to go to Beers of the World, a store in Rochester I'd been dying to see. As you can probably guess, it's a beer shop, but what you may not immediately guess is that it's the size of a grocery store and filled with every kind of beer you can imagine, both imported and domestic, along with homebrew supplies, a gourmet soda selection, and even an array of brews on tap for samples and growler filling.

Gettin' fancy with Pic Collage
Lambic, anyone?
This is maybe a quarter of the store, if that gives you any perspective as to scale.
For lunch we went to yet another Wegman's. Of course. They just kept getting fancier and fancier every time we went to one.

Here are a few more random photos of the last leg of our journey. Sorry for the boring layout; I have to blog off of the iPad for the next few weeks and it's a bit limiting.

Niagara Falls! ...It doesn't look like much from the air, I've got to say. But I'm sure I'll be more impressed when we see it up close on the road trip to Maine in two weeks!

Finding ways to keep ourselves entertained on layovers

Wildfires in Washington state, as seen from the sky.

Tired boys...

...Tired mama. I'm going strong, though, subsisting solely on peanut m&ms and my magical supermom powers!
By the time we got home, we'd been awake for 26 hours. Whew!! But by George (people don't say that enough... I'm going to resurrect that saying, right here and right now), we did it! We survived a trip across the country with a toddler and a 2 week old! And now we're going to buckle down and start packing for an even bigger trip: our move to Maine in two weeks.

...On to the next adventure!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Nook Does New York: Day 4


We wanted to go back to Taughannock State Park and hike to the waterfalls there before the wedding later in the afternooon, but the forecast was predicting Doom and Terror in the form of Tornadoes and Apocalyptic Hail, so we decided to play it safe and not go. This was a tremendous bummer for me because I really wanted to see the falls and we'd been trying to do so for two days and it just kept not working out.

Dejected, I sat around in the TV room at the inn and played around on facebook for awhile. I decided to post on the wall of one of my best friends from high school, Hope, who I knew lived somewhere in New York State. She'd gone to college at Cornell and so I knew she'd lived in Ithaca at some point, and last I heard she had been working at a farm somewhere upstate, but then she'd gone to India for several months and we'd lost touch. I had no idea if she was even in the country at the moment, let alone in New York, let alone in the region of New York where we were, or if she'd even been on facebook in months, but I nonetheless said:

"Hey! I'm at Cayuta Lake right now! Where are you?"

Magically, she responded within a few minutes: "What? I'm at the Ithaca Farmer's Market! I'll be here until 3 - come visit me!" I later learned that this was indeed exceptionally magical, because she didn't have a cell phone and had randomly borrowed her boss' and checked her facebook right at that exact moment.

Well, going to the Ithaca Farmer's Market and seeing one of my very good friends certainly sounded much better than twiddling our thumbs in a giant storm and mourning the loss of our hike, so we headed out, looking up directions on the way. It started to rain pretty hard as we got there. There were no tornadoes or blizzards or anything in sight, though, and we were feeling adventurous, so we pressed on; traffic was ridiculous, but we finally made it to our destination. We parked in the shallowest mud puddle we could find which was, inevitably, on the absolute opposite end of the parking lot from the market, and started wading toward the building. Occasionally we'd stop and take shelter beneath one of the several ivy-covered archways that led toward the stalls.

I bought this awesome stretchy Columbia rain jacket when I was pregnant. Baby C fits nicely inside of it both in- and ex-utero! (Note: This post is not sponsored by Columbia. But it should be.)
Everything about this picture is made of win.

The farmer's market was extraordinarily awesome. It's in a big covered building - like the Pike Market of the East! - only it has permanent stalls, which is even cooler. Granted, it's much smaller than Pike Place, but much bigger than most farmer's markets and far more rad. Every stall had a wooden sign posted above it, which lent a distinctive old-timey-yay-I'm-a-peasant-here-to-do-some-bartering sort of feel to the whole place. Loved it. The variety was great, too - of course you had your standard produce, crafts, cheese and meat up the ying yang, but there were also unique gourmet goods and agua fresca stands and even hot food stalls with everything ranging from Italian to Japanese to Cambodian cuisine We opted for the latter for lunch, and got some sort of sweet rice, banana and jackfruit concoction wrapped in a banana leaf, a mung-bean-and-carrot fritter with sweet chili sauce that was outrageously satisfying, and some kind of spicy chicken dish with rice. Why have I never had Cambodian food before!?? My life until now has been a complete waste! Dramatic sigh!

Between the Cambodian food, the balmy air, the rain, the green foliage, and the festive market feel, I felt like I was in some tropical Asian country.

We did eventually find the stall of the farm Hope works for - and, with it, Hope! Hooray! She was absolutely astonished to see us - she had not at all expected us to show up despite her invite, and of course it's always strange to see people out of the context in which you're accustomed to seeing them. Our reunion was a very happy one. It's so nice to see old friends! We bought some cherry tomatoes from her which are without question the best, sweetest, most flavorful tomatoes I've ever had in my life. They were as sweet as grapes and the perfect texture and we ate an entire pint of them in one go. If you're ever in upstate New York, I beg you, go find Blue Heron Farm and buy all of the cherry tomatoes you can get your hands on. Your life will never be the same.

Astonishment! Slightly posed! But we'll pretend it's not!

Baby C, meanwhile, had a grand old time. At first she was sleepy:

And then she woke up:

And then she got bored. :-)

"Yawn... Please, I'm such a seasoned world traveler. You can't impress me."

So yes, that was the Ithaca Farmer's Market and our wondrous experience there. :-)

After that, we swam back to the car and returned to the B&B. We had just enough time to relax for a few minutes and then get dressed before it was wedding time! It was still a little drizzly but the rain had for the most part dried up by that point. When the time came, we walked from the inn on a path through the woods to the beautiful old stone chapel where the ceremony took place. The ceremony itself was quite lovely, and just the right length, and afterward we walked on back through the woods to the reception hall at the inn. It was such a perfect wedding and reception, with whimsical but classy decorations, lots of incorporated inside family jokes, hilarious wedding party speeches, great music, and an open bar that served, among a gazillion other things, a pretty decent IPA. It was wonderful chatting with family and friends, eating whoopie pies (the Maine family's dessert) and half-moon cookies (the New York family's dessert) and wedding cake, and dancing into the night. The last dance of the night was Piano Man. The entire assembly of guests spontaneously formed into a ring, swaying together and belting the lyrics at the top of our lungs, while Jake and Nora danced together in the middle. It was classic and the most romantic and heartwarming thing ever, I thought.

Anyway, while this trip was tiring and had many stressful moments, I am so, SO glad we came! It was wonderful to be a part of these family memories, and it would have been so sad to miss out on that.

All dressed up and no where to go. ...Oh wait. I mean, all dressed up and ready to party!

Max looking sharp, and knowing it.
walking to the chapel

Max and his new sort-of-cousin-by-marriage. Max was the assistant ringbearer and did a fantastic job! He made a point of doing a parade wave down the aisle.

She may have spent too much time enjoying the open bar...

Thumbs up!