Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge

Just off Highway Two, between the towns of Troy and Libby Montana, at milepost 21, is a pull off where you will see a LOT of cars/campers/trucks/trailers.  This is because it is the parking lot of Kootenai Swinging Bridge and Falls.

This was an intended destination, and the reason we took Highway 2 instead of the faster Interstate 90.

We didn't know it was going to be almost 100 degrees, either.

There is a lot of information out there on the bridge and the falls and the history.  You can read about those on the Libby Montana attraction website.  This is about the fact that it is WORK to get there!

Maybe it was the fact that it was 100 degrees outside and I hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before.

No, it was because it was 100 degrees out.

It was also almost a mile from the parking lot to the bridge.

Yes, we only went to the bridge.  When we scooted back to the Y where you could go to the falls, I'd had it.  Another reason to come back, I say.  With the temps in the low 60's.

Yes, welcome!
Their idea of moderate is different than mine...
This is what you are hiking on.  In 100 degree heat.

The bridge itself is a piece of cake.  It has a wood base and the railings are chain link.  Here's my thought on all this stuff being scary:  They aren't going to want you to die.  That would mean media.  Bad press.  Lawsuit.  Places like this don't want that so they are going to make it as safe as possible to stay out of the news.

Just a little loose board...  It was actually very safe.

Bottom line:  Stop and see the falls and the bridge.  It is a great view.  Just know that you are going to be hiking!

Read about the first part of our adventure here:  Road Trip - Getting Out the Door.

Monday, August 25, 2014

From-the-Car Photography - 5 Simple Steps

5 Simple Steps to get pictures of your vacation without having to stop. All.  The.  Time. 

*Disclaimer:  This is for the passenger of the car - NOT the driver

Based on our pulling-the-car-over-all-the-time experience, we knew we had to reach Sandpoint, Idaho sometime in the summer of 2014.  That said, I developed an art I'm calling From the Car Photography.

I would have called it Car Photography, but then people would think it was pictures of cars.  Then they'd be mad there were no cars.  Then I would get emails.  Then I wouldn't sleep at night.  Circles - constant circles.

This is the art of sitting in the passenger seat, in a car going 75 miles per hour (this is legal in Idaho and Montana - yes!) and still getting pictures.  Here's what I learned:

1.  Roll the window down.  Dur, but some of the front window shots were NASTY.  Shoot out your passenger window.  Or the backseat windows.

Yeah, big bird dropping edited out.  It's still not working for me.

2.  Use the big camera if you have one.  I tried this with our little Olympus TG-820 but it didn't work as well as our Nikon D300.  I don't own a camera phone any more advanced than my Samsung Brightside so I don't know results from a camera phone.

3.  Snap away.  It's digital.  There's no loss if you take seven pictures of the same thing.  Plus, if you snap away, it means whatever you saw that made you put the camera to your eye will come back into the camera's eye.

I know there's something there...

Yeah, that was it!

4.  Editing is your friend.  The first picture looks really nice.  That's because I cropped out the side of the car.  Also, chances are, you will have to straighten the photos.  My husband is notorius for making the lake tip to the left while standing still.  Now put him in the car with the camera.  

A little copping and, voila!

Nice, but I can see that something is in the frame.

5.  Pull over when a drive-by isn't enough.  Sometimes the brakes just gotta go on and you gotta get outta the car.  It's okay - you didn't break the rule.  You just sidelined it for a moment.

See, I really did take these pictures on the fly.  Er, drive.

To see where we started, go here:  Road Trip - Glacier National Park

If you want to follow us on our Road Trip like our Facebook Page:  Pieces Of The Journey

Follow us on Pinterest:  pinterest.com/piecesofthejour/

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Road Trip - Glacier Peak National Park - Getting Out The Door

Since our last road trip in the Summer of 2013 went so well (read about that adventure lovely trip here), we thought we'd subject ourselves do it again.

This summer was a bit odd in that we didn't have SUMMER until July 28th.  Not summer, like summer weather.  No, we had that.  More so than us rusty Washingtonians are used too.  What I mean is we had to be around every Monday and Tuesday because of drivers ed.  You miss more than three of those suckers and you start over.  I was not about to to do that.

The final test was July 28th at 8 am.  It was scheduled to be over at 9:00.  We figured we would get the car packed and head out to pick our daughter up at 9:00 and we'd go from there.

Until she called us at 8:06 to say she was finished with her test.  Um, what?  A six minute test.  To pass drivers ed?  Well.  Not sure what to say about that.

Regardless, turned the car around after not even taking the keys out of the ignition and drove the six minutes back to get her.

We locked the front door at 9:15 and headed down the driveway.

Onward to Montana.

Well, Sandpoint, Idaho first.

The fifteen year old took the first driving shift.  I was fully prepared with a total lack of sleep the previous night, an ipod shuffle and the backseat.  I closed my eyes and faded out.  Tylenol PM might have helped some, but I did okay (unlike the last trip).  That disaster can be read about here:  Teenage Driving.

As usual, it takes far (far, far, far) longer than google maps or mapquest says it does to get to any of our destinations.  This was no different.  Not because the teenager was driving (hardly), but because we stop EVERYWHERE.

We knew Highway 2 was closed at Coles Corner near Leavenworth for a fire.  This led to a little used back road.  A really windy, curvy, ledgy, backroad.  That the teenager was driving.  35 mph does not mean 35 mph around a hairpin turn, dear.  

The actual map of this little back road that the kid terrorized
us with.

We hit a lakeside park (that happened to have a potty - hmmm, wonder who figured that one out, yeah, me, Miss Little Bladder.

Because EVERYBODY needs a photo like this.

Seeing as how we are in Eastern Washington, it is HOT.
Time to cool off (well, except the metal was hot).

The kid in my teenager (and the total lack of fear) had her catching the wildlife.

She saw something move


He's a wee bit cranky.

See, not kidding about the HOT!  And the fan speed of the A/C!

Onward and upward - er, eastward.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Football....FINALLY!!! And A Survival Tactic

Tomorrow night, August 7th, 2014, 6:00 pm Pacific Standard time the dry spell ends.

Football season is finally back in town.
Yeah, it's a photo of a Sounders soccer game at CenturyLink Field,
but work with me here.

To get where this is coming from:

1)  I'm from Seattle.  Hello, we won the Super Bowl.  'Nuff said.  Well, except for neener neener neener to the Denver Broncos who lost 43-8 and San Fransisco (SF just because).

2)  Football season is when I get a TON of stuff done around the house.  Everything from more writing than any other time of year to the most spotless house you can imagine to the best food we've had since the last Super Bowl Party.

Here's where this starts:  I have to have a diversion to be productive.  I have to be "supposed to be doing something else" to get anything done.  Football season on the flatscreen TV seems to fill that void.  

College, pro, high school (well, high school has to be in person, at the stadium) I'll take it.  It means stuff will get done!

To be fair the World Cup did some of it for me.  The USA-Germany game got my house toothbrush and Q-tip cleaned just anxiously waiting for that 1:00 start time.  I got three blogs written during the Germany Brazil 7-1 slaughter.  It was great and I regret that I don't have that distraction but every four years.  

But football season; the games come fast and furious.  College all day Saturday, Pro on Sunday, Monday night and Thursday night.

Feed the beast.

Something must be said here, though, because this makes it sounds like I sit around ALL FRICKING weekend/some most weekdays and just have a remote in my hand.  Umm, nope, my husband would get highly irritated.  Not because nothing is getting done, but I tend to go deep end compulsive.  We are both all for vegging in front of the "stupid box" but not for hugely extended periods of time.

Naturally I came up with a way to play both sides of the fence.  I came up with a list of things to do during a game that makes it "look" like I'm getting something done.  I figured out a way to keep peace in the house.  And if you are not into football but your significant other is, and you want to pretend interest and still get something done.  Here's a list of things that can be done while watching a football game at home:

1.  Laundry - folding it or getting it started during a time out/injury/replay/replay/replay.

2.  Write actual thank you notes for Christmas gifts or birthday gifts.  Or send out an actual card to someone rather than a birthday e-card.

3.  Transfer all images from every electronic you own - cell phones, ipads, Kindle, ummmm, the camera, etc - onto a laptop or desk top.  Then do something with them!

4.  Make cookies/dinner. The way to most people's heart/football-obsession-forgiveness is through the stomach.

5.  Clean the junk drawer.  Maybe this one is just me, but the TV is right above the junk drawer and it's just a natural occurrence.  That and the fact that we have THREE junk drawers in our kitchen ?????

6.  Change the sheets on all the beds in the house.  Goes back to #1 Do laundry.

7.  Organize the inbox/file drawer.  Pay a few bills.  Toss a few things.  Cleansing all around.

8.  Anything computer.  Seriously.  Run a virus scan.  Delete old emails.  Delete old word documents.  Clean the joint up.  Your computer will thank you.  I also do a lot of writing during football games.  Blogs, reviews, books.  Photo editing from all those photos you dumped from your electronic cache.  Start a scrapbook project.  Like photos from 2007 (Oh, shush up).  I've also been known to create ebay/craigslist ads during the game.  Sold a kitchen table set from and ad written during the Seattle/San Fransisco game.  

This being said, there are a couple things you should NEVER do during a game (unless pissing off the next of kin is on your heart):

1.  Vacuum.  'nuf said.
2.  Dust.  Yeah, it's quiet.  Til you knock over three photo frames on the entertainment center.
3.  Bathe the dog.  Or the cat...
4.  Call your mom/make dr appointments/Dish Network/Verizon from the same room as the game.

So let the season begin.  Bring on the chips and beer (yesss, dinner) and let's get this party started.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What No Other Parent Will Tell You - Teenage Driving

“You can be anything you want when you grow up”, I was told as a child.

Yes, that’s fairly true.  If I really wanted to be a pole dancer, then I’m sure I make myself all stretchy and do that (although, truth be told, it’s genuinely hard).  If I really wanted to be a World Cup soccer player, then I’m sure I could work really (really) hard toward that. 

It all came with one little lie because, there’s just one thing I will NEVER be able to be.

A drivers ed instructor

Why did no one warn me about this aspect of raising a kid?

Nope, I knew all about colic and teething and the terrible twos.  Then I was told about the tears on the first day of kindergarten (that one was a crock, on both my daughter’s and my end).  I was told how fast time would fly from the first day of second grade to the second week of high school (that one wasn’t a crock) and the teenage attitude (the phrase “toddlers in bigger bodies” and “toddlers with hormones” are both incredibly accurate).

No one warned me about having to be the passenger in a two ton SUV with my 15 year old behind the wheel.  Going 60 down the highway.

With other cars on the road.

With no brake on the passenger side floorboard.  
Really, is it so hard to put the middle pedal on the
passenger side of the car, too?

I know she’s going to grow up.  From the day she came out of my body, I knew she was not mine to keep.  She was mine to raise into a productive human being in society (that will one day hopefully care for me in my dotage).  I walked into this parenthood thing fully prepared that things come along daily that work her way toward that independence. 

Driving blindsided me. 

I suck at being the passenger.  I suck even more at being the passenger in the back seat of the SUV.   Learned this the hard way yesterday. 

We had to take our fifteen year old across the state to band camp and thought it would be good practice for her to drive.  It’s a windy two lane highway that has a max speed of 55.  I dibbed backseat thinking I could relax and watch the landscape.  After all, my husband was in the front passenger seat navigating.    

I thought I was going to die – several times over.  I counted the airbags.  The manual says seven.  I can only find six.  WHERE THE HELL IS THE SEVENTH? 

I prayed.  I prayed HARD.  I prayed every time a semi passed us.  On a curve.  Going sixty.  I closed my eyes and waited for death.  Waited for the head on collision or the bump past the barricade into the rushing waters of the Skykomish River

I wondered who would finally discover the dog in crate at home if we were all dead.

I tend to think of myself as a fairly rational person (you wouldn’t think so from reading this, eh?).  I hadn’t heard any stories on the news about new, fifteen year old drivers causing the families demise in a car accident (THAT would have made the news).  I didn’t know anyone who had wrecked the car while driving with a drivers ed teenager (well, until my husband showed us the spot where his learning-permit-in-hand brother took the car too fast around a corner and put the car in a ditch).

Seriously I kept trying to be rational.

I just needed bourbon to help with the process.

Finally, we pulled over at a rest area to stretch.

“Switch drivers,” I announced. 

“Why?” my teenager inquired (picture it with a voice full of scorn and attitude).

“We always switch drivers after an hour of driving,” I replied in a sort of convincing voice, trying to rally backup from my husband, who had been silent and calm in the front seat the whole trip.

“Fine,” she rolled her eyes and handed me the keys.  
Photo taken in the garage because there was no way in hell
I was sane enough to operate a camera while being a

The difference between riding in the back seat of the SUV with your teenager driving and you behind the wheel are two totally different universes. 

The road was do-able at 60 (62, missy).  The semis were farther away than they appeared from the backseat.  The barricade to the river looked more solidly built from the front seat. 

I was much more at ease.

And I realized that she had done just fine.

I have to pick her up in three days and do the reverse trip.  This time it is only me and her in the car so no back seat for me. 

I will try not to do shots before I get in the car.   

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

World Cup 2014 - 7 Fast Facts

For the casual North American this whole World Cup thing can be a mystery.  While soccer or futbol is popular, well, pretty much everywhere else in the world, soccer is just now moving up in the ranks of popularity in the United States, but it has a ways to go.  Here are some quick facts to keep up with a couple billion of your closest friends who are also predicted to watch at least part of the games.  

1.  The World Cup to the world is like the Superbowl is to the United States.  

To put it into perspective, though, 105 million people watched the 2010 Superbowl909 million people watched the final minute of the 2010 Championship game between Netherlands and Spain (Spain won 1-0).

Where kids in Haiti play soccer - inside an unfinished building.

2.  The World Cup, like the Winter and Summer Olympics, are held every four years.  

Host Countries are chosen decades in advance.  In Brazil, there are actually 12 host stadiums where the soccer games are held throughout Brazil.  Brazil has reportedly spent $11 billion to host these games ($270 million alone for a stadium in Manaus that will only be used for four matches – and is so remote it cannot be reached by car).

3.  The US team consists of players from different teams.  

It is not like the San Antonio Spurs or the Miami Heat going to Brazil – it is like the Dream team of the 1992 Olympics in Brazil.  The captain, Clint Dempsey, is from the Seattle Sounders; other players are from Los Angeles Galaxy (Omar Gonzalez) and the Houston Dynamos (Brad Davis) and England’s Everton FC (Tim Howard, Goal Keeper).  The coach of the US team gets to choose players in a try out situation.  Much controversy came from the head coach, JuergenKlinsmann, not choosing Landon Donavan to play for the US World Cup Team. 

4.  Like the playoffs of football, baseball and basketball, there are brackets you have to get out of.  

The US was randomly placed in Group G which was quickly deemed the bracket of death  because the teams are good.  This is putting it mildly as Germany, having won the World Cup three times already, is not only favored to top the group, but advance into the finals.  Ghana knocked out the US’s chances of advancing in the 2010 games and beat the US team in the 2006 games.  The US could have a hard time advancing into the 16, hence the “death” name.

5.  The game has two 45 minute halves

There are no time outs, very few substitutions (if any – once a player is subbed out, they may not come back in), and the clock does not stop for anything.  Well, except snow in a 2013 World Cup qualifying game between Costa Rica and the US Men’s team in Colorado.  Then there’s this thing called stoppage.  If a player is injured (or “flops” – more on that later), or a yellow/red card is called, time is added to the clock.  It could be three minutes, or four minutes, or whatever the ref says.  It seems random.  And the clock on the screen does not always match the refs watch.  More randomness.

6.  It appears there are a lot of injuries.  

The more the merrier.  You would think Oscars are handed out for a performance.  Actually, it is called a “flop” and is one way to slow the game down (since the clock doesn’t stop) or get a yellow/red card called on an opposing player, or get a penalty kick.  Often you will see a player go down that, from their actions, you would think would require an aid car or medivac helicopter.  Then, after the card/penalty is given, they get up and walk to the sidelines.  The player stands on the sideline until the next out, then walks back in the game.  Nobody subs in or out unless and aid car or stretcher really is called in.

7.  After the “Full 90” (meaning the whole 90 minute game) the game can end in a tie.  

Whether 0-0 (or “nil, nil”) or 1-1, the game just ends.  Sort of anticlimactic, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.    

Bonus:  Why the US vs Ghana game was so important on Monday:  Twice Ghana kicked the US out of the World Cup running.  Once in 2010, the other in 2006.  The US’s 2-1 game on Saturday thumbed their noses back at Ghana. 

Another bonus:  Brazil has won 5 World Cups, Italy 4, Germany 3, Argentina and Uruguay 2 and England, France and Spain at 1 each.  

Follow the action at US Soccer Facebook page and FIFA

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Adding On - The Butt of the Family Joke

I've always been a forward thinker; always looked ahead for the next big thing (sometimes to the detriment of the thing I'm in right then).  I'm also not usually satisfied and want more (again, much to the detriment of the here-right-now).  So when we decided to add another bathroom to our house, we went ahead and got it started.

Only here's how THAT went.

"We need another bathroom," I said (we have one - read that one, with a kid)
"Then I want a master bedroom upstairs," my husband declared.  Granted, we have a 1000 square foot one story house.  Just where was this upstairs?
Not skipping a beat: "Then I want a new kitchen under that master bedroom," I remarked, arms crossed in front of my chest.
Nod.  Nod.  Game on.

We now have a 1,200 square foot bathroom addition.

Just kidding.  I managed to basically fit a whole new house next to ours with a kitchen, family room, half bath downstairs, two bedroom and two more bathrooms upstairs.

Great, the design was laid out, concrete was poured, walls were 2x6'd, windows installed (23 - what he hell was I thinking?), doors with locks (again, 5 doors, really?) and the siding was up.  I painted.  Then we ran out of money.

Did I mention we were paying cash for this?

Note how there is no mention of the pretty stuff: drywall, carpet, tile, toilets, wiring, plumbing, lights?  Nope, just the exterior shell was finished.  Wholly finished - looks like we can move right in from the outside.  2x4 studs are in place of the drywall right now.  We are just now working on the electrical and plumbing.

The view from the existing dining room into the "addition"
(boarded up and insulated and I don't have to see it).

Now for the punchline (because it's the part that makes us the joke of the family).

The shell was finished in 2004.

You do the math yet?  If not, I'll make it easy.  It's 2014 right now.  That's a 10 year difference.

See, joke of the family.

The addition done yet?

Hows that addition going?

What color carpet did you put in?

Hardy, har, har.

I mean to finish it.  I really do (damn, I could use that other bathroom with a teenager in the house. and my current kitchen sucks the big one).

But things keep getting in the way.  In 2007, I had the money to get the drywall and tiling.  Then I found out Michael W. Smith was going to do a cruise to Alaska.  Out of Seattle, our hometown (so no airfare).  We spent my drywall money on the cruise.

He (Michael) did another cruise the following year to the Caribbean.  Spent our faucet and lighting money on that one.

Hunkered down the next year and were set to finish the damn addition the next summer (I did mention we are doing most of it ourselves, right?).  Hubby blew out his knee and had to have emergency surgery June 30th.  Summer = gone.

Bottom line, we have spent the kitchen money on the Cook Islands, the carpet money on Hawaii,  I-don't-think-we-delegated-whatever money to another trip to Alaska, and the addition is STILL NOT FINISHED.

I could feel really, really bad that it's not move-in ready, but I don't.  The family can laugh all they want.  The fact that we have an unfinished building next to our house doesn't matter all that much to me because I know we've given our kid (and ourselves) incredible experiences.  Our teenager has more passport stamps then most kids have detention slips.  She can travel the world confidently, adapt to new surroundings, meet new people, take in different cultures and be more accepting of those around her because she's seen first hand what most people only seen on TV.

Just not in a bathroom she doesn't have to share.

As I sit here one week from summer break, I am prepared to buckle down and get this albatross finished.  I have my to-do list in hand:  figure out radiant heating, purchase garbage disposal, design bathtub tile pattern and continue the argument between honeycomb light blocking blinds and roller shades with hubby.

I've already found a two week cruise to Norway that leaves July 19.