Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Snow business

Well, Sun Valley has two new skiers on its hands. The boys are in Day 4 of lessons, and already leaving Dad in the dust (powder?). (Possibly because Dad is out of shape, but a couple weeks of tennis in Phoenix should fix that--see future post). They loved their instructor Jeff, and we loved having some time to get stuff done. Stuff like applying for jobs, last-minute Christmas tasks, cooking, etc. We are beginning the job search in earnest, and have some opportunities percolating. Stay tuned for updates.

Here, the boys head on up the chairlift for their 20th time:

Desi had already flown by before I could fire up the camera, but I caught Emmett cruising into the lift line:

Look up "ready" in the dictionary, and here he is:

He will tell you all about the epic-ness of the shredding
So cool to see! I love how they have taken to it so quickly. And boy, do they sleep well after a day on the slopes.

We have gotten to spend lots of time with grandparents, cousins and aunts/uncles lately. One of our main reasons for spending this year on the road was to reconnect with family, and it has been fun to do. We saw Nutcracker on Ice on Christmas Eve, which involved a cast of dozens, including some excellent skaters, and a golden retriever who only fell once. Here's how we reserved seats the morning of. 

Ahh, duct tape. Is there anything it CAN'T do?

Here's everybody, bundled against the cold, enjoying the free ho-cho:

The random Seahawks fan on the right is not, in fact, a family member.

Time once again for…Random photo montage!

Sweet ice sculpture outside Sun Valley Lodge (note the soul patch)

The view of Dollar Mountain, where the boys skied, from the lodge's patio
At Grumpy's, this size is called a "schooner"

They have a point!

Cool ice sculptures, downtown Ketchum

Man vs. Bird. You know who won that.
The cousins

Where's Waldo? This was what it looked like at pick-up time 

after ski school yesterday. Not to worry--I found them.

To wrap up our final post of 2013, here's a blast from New Year's 2012, in Oz. We hope you keep your expectations low for New Year's Eve, and high for 2014. Cheers to new places and adventures!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to all!

We've been so busy visitin', we haven't had time for blogging!  Merry Christmas, all.  Here's a shout-out to one of the main reasons we're taking a gap year…to visit our beloved family.  We're currently with a good deal of the Larry/Linda Pearmine family in Sun Valley, Idaho, and there's a lull between activities, so it's time to send you our well wishes and catch you up on our shenanigans.  This post is devoted to our family visits, which started in St. Louis over Thanksgiving...

The boys with the Marys
The amazing Grandma Mary Volz had an injury which required some physical therapy time over the holidays.  So the Pearlz family made Thanksgiving dinner, with all the fixins and a pumpkin pie, at the hospital.

We froze some turkey soup for the road, helped Aunt Mary rake leaves, and watched the greatest football game ending…. ever. (Even you non-football fans should see it if you haven't: WOW)

Next up was a stop in Concordia, MO, with our pal Nate's parents. What a great couple they are. I hope when we are (ahem) older, we are as loving and gracious as they are. They put us up in their beautiful home, fed us, and told us stories about teenage Nate.

We blasted through Kansas, making it the first state we have been to but not spent a night in. Yes, Kansas, you earned a place on our No Go List. Here are some of the other states we will avoid: North Dakota, Iowa, Mississippi, West Virginia. Unless you gentle readers have any reason why we 4 should go there…?

Oklahoma was as fun as could be expected. More so, actually, thanks to a day of nice weather, a cool state park we camped in, and some bats in a cave (details in this post from a few weeks ago). Osage Hills had hiking, a lake, and even tennis courts. We had campfires both nights, and only one other person was in the whole campground. Gotta love off-season camping. A big cold front hit on our last day there, so we packed up in 30 degree weather and got as far west as we could. That was Freedom, Oklahoma, where we stayed in a prefab house in the Middle Of Nowhere.

This photo fails to capture the nowhereness fully. 

But don't be fooled! There is ONE thing to do near here: the bat cave

Another longish drive landed us in Amarillo, Texas. I splurged for the Holiday Inn Express, and we enjoyed free Coors Lights at the lobby happy hour. Plus free breakfast including…wait for it…


Ten degree + not much to do = Leave Amarillo ASAP. So we did. Santa Fe was next, and college friends Amy and Evan hosted us. We had fun, including trampolining in nearby Albuquerque (and Yes, I spelled that corruptly on my first try):

Evan emerges from the jump pit

So Fast, no camera can capture his Fast (especially my [now-ancient] iPhone 5)

And No, I was not injued after this Sick Air

We reminisced about fun we had at NU, and looked through photo albums of the evidence. One of the joys of this trip is pausing to reflect, and realizing how many lifetimes ago it feels like Sarah and I met. Over 20 years now!

An epic drive later, and we hit Phoenix. My mom and Steve arrived the next day, and we saw them briefly before hitting Vegas Dec. 12. Here is the #1 thing about Phoenix: the photo below was taken on December 10.

Ma and me

Out for sushi. Gotta love having kids who go for sushi

I am being called to Christmas dinner, so it is time to wrap up. Vegas will be the focus of our next post. Until then, here is a sneak peek at Xmas Sun Valley style:

Christmas Eve, heading to Nutcracker On Ice

Keeping warm before the show

Merry Christmas to all!  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Vegas baby

Wow. Phase one of our Phield Trip is about to end. We rolled into Nevada, the last (new) state on the 2013 leg of our journey. We have spent (at least) a night in 21 states since June!

I missed the Welcome sign, but this does the trick even better.

Excited to see my sister and have some fun. Soon to Portland (by air) and old friends.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ohio is Iroquois for 'Great River'

There! You learned something already.

Sometimes we bloggers lose bits of writing. Occasionally we get lucky and find them. Here's a post about Cincinnati that has been lurking in the laptop. BTW, we are in Phoenix now after an epic drive from Santa Fe yesterday. Big thanks to my ma and Steve for letting us shack up.


We devoted our one full day in Cincinnati to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Except for 2 classes of high schoolers, we had the place to ourselves.  The center overlooks the Ohio River, which once was the border between slave states and free ones. 

View from the museum cafe: You can see Kentucky (a former slave state)

So for runaway slaves, this was the first destination in their journey to freedom. The center has a comprehensive display on the history of slavery itself, and features several stories of amazing and ingenious escapes (like people being shipped to freedom in a crate--see E above). I thought it was a lot of information, so I worried the boys would get overwhelmed.

Here is a sample--just one of many timelines:

But there were just enough activities aimed at people their age. The best was a touch-screen interactive video narrated by an actor dressed as a runaway slave. It posed a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style challenge. Both boys did their best to escape slave catchers and dogs. They took their chances knocking on the door at houses with a candle in the window. That was a signal used by the abolitionists who sheltered runaways along the Underground Railroad. (But also by slave catchers trying to trick runaways.)

One of the most impressive exhibits was a slave house that had been moved (from a farm in rural Kentucky, I believe) and rebuilt inside the museum. The house had been sheltered for the last 100+ years inside a tobacco barn, which kept rain off and cured the wood beams. It was in remarkably good shape for being 150 years old. It had been used to house slaves awaiting sale. It was hard for me to know if boys aged 10 and 7 were getting what this all meant. I'm 40 and I doubt I can I ever really understand slavery in any deep way. The leg irons in the slave house help it hit home.

One other cool experience was a documentary narrated by Oprah that segues into a dramatized movie of a slave escape. The second part is shown in a movie theater with big trees in it and lights to dramatize the characters' crossing of the Ohio River into free territory. It was intense, and ended (mostly) happily. 

That happy ending is one thing I felt torn about. The museum focuses a lot on resilience and the risks people took to have freedom (or to help others get it). That's a good thing. The human spirit is remarkable. I wonder, though, if we end up less outraged than we ought to be. The greatest mass crime in history shouldn't leave us feeling too hopeful, should it? Maybe I will ask the boys in a couple months what they remember learning about slavery. Or maybe they're too young for me to be exposing them to this aspect of American history. But even as I write that, I know it's wishful thinking to attempt to make sense of this country without looking squarely at slavery. So many topics would make no sense without knowing the central role played by slavery and its politics. We just drove through Kansas, and that reminded me that choosing not to teach about a topic doesn't make it go away. (cough cough EVOLUTION).

To wrap up our time in Cincy, we splurged on a great meal at Nada, a fancy Mexican place downtown. Desi ordered a taco of shrimp and greens! So adventurous. He even ate some of it. The next day we were off to Daniel Boone National Forest. Where we luckily missed tornadoes and other disasters that killed 4 people in Illinois. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Santa Fe is real purty

We got our kicks on Route 66, and made a day out of a 4-hour drive from Amarillo to Santa Fe. Saw some rural blight along the way:

You can tell this station died Long Ago

And a drugstore where Woody Guthrie worked:

Had lunch in Tucumcari:

Emmett's first waffle fries

The car (with its sweet new Yokohama Avid EnVigor tires) handled well. We accumulated some dirty ice, which Emmett and I enjoyed kicking off.

Then we hit our second new state in as many days:

For these couple nights, we are being hosted by college friends Amy and Evan. We got to meet their kids for the first time. Our boys are thrilled to have some kid playtime. Desi is the oldest of the group, and he excels with younger kids.

Santa Fe is gorgeous, if a bit chilly.

Soon to Arizona and Vegas. Safe travels to all our Shanghai people leaving for break in a few days!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Into the maw of Winter Itself

We are rolling west this morning. To Amarillo and a decision. North-ish to Santa Fe? Or try to beat Old Man Winter by going south to Carlsbad Caverns?

We will track the storm and make a priority of avoiding ice. In any case, we say goodbye to Oklahoma. Took a great hike, saw some bats, and put many miles behind us.

Yes, that is a bat. About 6 inches from my head. Hibernating, lucky for me.

Pray for warmer weather!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Heading to Alabaster Caverns

Waste no hummus!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Night time visitors

Not sure who had their dirty paws on our food box and table overnight. But they left evidence. 

We heard what may have been coyote pups yipping last night. Let's hope we don't find out the hard way which critters live in OK!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Still here. In our tent.

I feel bad to have kept our loyal readers in the dark. And that is exactly where I am now. In a sleeping bag in the Go, under the stars at Osage Hills State Park. Near Bartlesville OK, home of Phillips 66 by the way.

Been busy in Cincy/Louisville/Mammoth Caves/St. Louis/Concordia, MO. I will post pics now and details later. Hope this tides you over.

At National Underground Railroad freedom center:


Crazy formation in Mammoth Cave (longest cave in world)

Louisville Slugger museum

Louisville waterfront parkour 

And then 4 states in one day!
Woke in KY, drove thru IN and IL, slept in MO.

I swear that one says Missouri.


Love you all. Sleep beckons.