Two Perfect Days

It’s said you can never go back.  But sometimes you can.  It’s just different.  And maybe better.  Where were the two perfect days of the title?   Why in Minnesota of course, home to perfect places.  All of which are on lakes in Northern MN.

On our way to a wedding in Michigan, we met our daughter, her husband and the 5 year old twins for two days at Maddens Lake Resort in Brainerd, home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  Oh how Maddens has changed from the summer I worked there between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college.  It’s much bigger for one thing, and so much to do. They even have pickleball.  But instead of waiting on tables and cleaning cabins, I was now a guest.  Dining, swimming, pontoon boats, flying off rafts, perfect weather and best of all, no mosquitoes! The only thing we didn’t do was golf at one of their several courses.  We would have needed at least 4 days for that.

The old lodge is still there and that is the one in the picture, but there is a bigger and more beautiful one now which is the main lodge.  The first night there we ate at the old lodge which hasn’t changed at all except for paint and the memories flooded back…

There were about 12 of us hired to be waitresses for the summer from all over Minnesota and all attending different colleges. We shared a very rustic cabin dorm, two to a room and one bathroom.  Meals were provided down in the main Lodge where we had our own dining room and the best cook ever.  We called her Aunt Nora and she took care of us like we were her own children.  I still have Aunt Nora’s cookbook, the pages yellowed and stained, with recipes such as:  Pine Edge Famous Orange Rolls, Aunt Nora’s Famous Sour Milk Pancakes, Molded Blueberry Salad, and Lovelle Arnold’s Tangy French Dressing.  We cleaned cabins in the morning and waited tables at lunchtime.

I will never forget the intimidating, scary Mr. Madden.  He was a giant and presided over the restaurant at lunchtime. The dining room was a semi-circle.  It had a main floor and a step down to where all the tables were, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the lake.  There were only a few tables on the main floor for overflow.  But that’s where Mr. Madden’s table was.  At the head of the room where he ate lunch every day, watching us.  Each of us had our one week turn of waiting on him which was the scariest week of the summer.  He was about 6’5″ with a shock of wavy grey hair and blue penetrating eyes.  You had better get his order correct.

Across the lake, which was narrow where we were, was a large house and there were lots of boys there.  They came from surrounding houses and gathered on the point every night.  They would start a bonfire and we would shout across the lake at each other.  We were invited over and of course we went.

He stood out from the start.  Blonde hair, blue eyes, cute and very shy.  I was probably cute and definitely shy. There was an attraction, but what to do about it? Neither of us knew. Noticed by my friends and encouraged to talk, we finally did.  His name was John.  One night they all came to our side of the lake and at the end of the evening, John asked to walk me back to our dorm.  I was thrilled but nervous.  My friends had just gone and when we got to the door I could hear them all inside giggling and talking on the other side of the door. John and I made small talk.

Then he leaned in. And then he kissed me. My first kiss.  I think he kissed me, but it was over so fast I wasn’t sure.  Was it supposed to be that fast?  Was that it?  The romance novels made it seem much more exciting.  Then he turned without saying anything and ran down the hill like he had a pack of girls chasing him.  Maybe it was his first kiss too.  I opened the door to 11 girls on the other side shouting “Did he kiss you?”

All too soon the summer was over.  John and his family left the lake and so did all the other girls.  I was the only one left.  Apparently I was the only one who had signed a contract to stay until the resort closed for the summer.  School was starting and I needed to get back.  I went in to see Mr. Madden.  After I explained why I needed to leave, he just looked at me and said

“You signed a contract, when you sign a contract, you don’t walk out on it.”  I ran out to the dock and, while crying, called my dad begging him to come and get me.  He listened to me and then he said:  “You signed a contract.” Mr. Madden and my dad had a lot in common.  At least I had Aunt Nora’s shoulder to cry on and I learned a big lesson.

Now lots of years later, I’m on the other side and although the sides are different, my feeling for the resort is not.  I loved it then and I love it now.  My California granddaughters think Minnesota is the best place in the world and I couldn’t agree more.

 

Mr. Dreamy

We were having dinner in McMenamin’s newest Hotel and Pub.  A booth overlooking the river on a beautiful evening.  Our waitress had been inanely chatting while we were looking at the menu.  I gave my order and then all of a sudden she stopped in mid-sentence and said

“Oh, he’s dreamy!  Look at how dreamy he is, those eyes!”

I looked all around for the dreamy guy.  Then I realized she was talking about Tom.

“Sister” she said.  “You did good, he’s so dreamy!  I’m not flirting or anything, don’t mistake that, I just think those blue eyes are dreamy.”  She left to put in our order.

Obviously flattered and puffed up, Tom asked if his eyes were indeed dreamy.

“Well, I think the river is reflecting off of your eyes and they’re pretty blue and apparently really dreamy at the moment.”  Usually his eyes are two different colors.

“Paul Newman blue?” he asked.  “No, not even close.  No one’s eyes will ever be that blue.  Sorry.” I said.

We were staying at the Kalama, Washington McMenamin’s and heading up to hike Mt. St. Helen’s the following day.  McMenamin’s is very well known in the Pacific Northwest as they have so many hotels and restaurants.  They usually take an old historic (or not) building and refurbish it into a hotel.  Most of them are very charming and this was no exception.  We had a room on the Columbia River side and it was very dreamy.  That bed was so comfortable and so were the pillows. Don’t you think  pillows can make or break the enjoyment of your stay?

The next morning we had breakfast again in the Pub and were early enough to get a booth on the River.  The food and coffee were great, it was quiet and I think the most enjoyable place to have breakfast ever.  Then we checked out and proceeded up to Mt. St. Helen’s for our next adventure.

We’ve been here four years now and have never been to Mt. St. Helen’s.  That mountain blew up 38 years ago when I was much younger.  I remember it blowing but never experienced the impact of it like we did when we were up there.  The visitor centers have a movie with sound of the blast and it was unbelievable.  The blast sent rock, ash and lava 50,000′ into the air.  It was a lateral blast which is the worst and the entire mountain came down burying everything in it’s path.  Everywhere we were that day on the mountain had been destroyed 38 years ago.

I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t what we saw.  I think a more barren landscape, but  It’s lush and beautiful, with lakes, streams, valleys and wildlife.  There are hiking trails everywhere.  We took two of them for a total of about 8 miles.  One was the picture on the right and one was along a lake.  There is an observatory almost to the top where you can see the snow covered crater of St. Helen’s.  The Mountain used to be more than 10,000′ tall and is now around 8,000′.  To climb to the crater requires a permit which we didn’t have and I didn’t want.  It looked very foreboding and I was more than happy with the hikes we were doing.  The devastation carved out new valleys and lakes and destroyed old ones.  Many people lost their lives that day including the infamous, colorful Harry Truman who owned the St. Helen’s Lodge, had spent 50 years of his life there and refused to leave.

The stories of the survivors, especially the couple who were camping and heard the blast and began to pack up and leave.  While doing so the sound of trees snapping like matchsticks and the roar of the mud flow drowned everything else out.  They looked up and saw a river of mud (pyroclastic material according to the information in the visitor centers) and trees bearing down upon them. One of the trees crushed his leg but he crawled up onto a log and began riding the log while trying to grab his wife.  He grasped her twice but each time she was pulled under the mud.  But he didn’t give up and with his last attempt was able to grab her long hair and hang on.  He was able to pull her to the surface and they rode the logs until the flow slowed such that they could stop.  Now that is one dreamy guy!

 

The $1000 Round of Golf

I started playing golf because I got a great deal on golf clubs.  When I asked Tom if $220 for an entire set of clubs including the bag was a good deal, he said “Why are you asking me that?  You don’t even play golf.”  So I replied “Well maybe I’ll start if that’s a good deal on clubs.”  He rolled his eyes and said “Why don’t you just get me a set, I actually play golf and need new clubs.”  So I got us both a set.  That was 16 years ago and I’m still playing with those clubs.

Although I like the game of golf I am really just a hacker and even though Tom has been playing his entire life, he is too.  So when we were recently in St. Andrews, Scotland, of course we had to play a round of golf.  We weren’t good enough to get on the Old Course at St. Andrews, you need a handicap that I will never see, but we were good enough to play at Kingsbarns where they don’t check your handicap.  It turns out that Kingsbarns is where the Women’s British Open will be held this year in August, so I was really excited.  When you’re watching that tournament, just think that I actually played the course.

The day of the game arrived. It was cloudy and cold but not raining.  On the way to the course at 6 AM with no breakfast or coffee I sunk into my thoughts for the upcoming day.  “Why am I even playing here? I’m not good enough to justify all this money for one golf game, my handicap is so high, my game is so inconsistent that if I play well one round, I’ll be terrible the next.  Wait, did I play well my last round of golf?  Oh no, I did! That means I’ll be terrible today. I’ve never had a caddie before, he or she will be so depressed. I’m playing with three men, one of whom I’ve not met and is a high school golf coach.  I’m playing with rented clubs. The day has already become a disaster!”  Of course I was expressing these thoughts to Tom who counseled me that we were paying the caddy so he’d be nice and that I needed to think POSITIVE swing thoughts not negative.

We got to the course and Kevin and Tommy were already there.  I gave Kevin a hug as I know him and Tommy seemed like a nice guy.  So we got our clubs and our bucket of balls and went to the practice range where I tried to hit my rented clubs.  Every one I pulled out I couldn’t hit.  Because the first shot I was going to hit would be with a driver my last practice shot was with a driver.  Naturally it dribbled off the tee to about 50 yards.  It was time to go.  When I met my caddie he was not the friendliest so I am sure he drew the short straw among our caddies and got the girl.  In the picture, the guy in the background is my caddie.  Note the folded arms.  Not good body language.

Standing at the first tee, with 3 men and 3 caddies watching, my heart pounding, I closed my eyes and swung the club. It landed in the fairway and went over 100 yards! None of the men had hit into the fairway and I could see my caddie breathe a sigh of relief. There were pot bunkers everywhere and Tom was in most of them all day. To the point where his caddie started complaining about having to rake so much and muttering about charging extra for it. On hole #7, I passed by Tom’s caddie raking the 8th pot bunker Tom had hit into.  He looked up at me longingly, wishing I’m sure, he had drawn the short straw and gotten the girl as I was playing the best round I’d had in years.

I found myself walking next to Tom going to hole #9 and said “Why aren’t you hitting any of your long clubs, the woods?”

“My caddie won’t give me one” he said, pouting.

Laughing, I said “See, negative thoughts do work!”

There were three of us in the same bunker at one point and Tom said “closest to the pin getting out wins and the other two buy the beer.”  Tom’s caddie looked at the other caddies and said” closest to the pin rakes” betting against Tom.  Tom won and his caddie had to rake, much to the delight of us all.  Do any of you readers remember seeing Robin Williams and his take on golf in Scotland?  If you’d like to refresh, here is the link but beware there is profanity:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcnFbCCgTo4

We celebrated our day with dinner at a restaurant where the food turned out to be fabulous.  We were even inspired to try the national dish, haggis. Haggis is everywhere.  You can get a burger with haggis, chicken stuffed with it, appetizers of haggis which ours was.  There are haggis and whiskey bars, odes and monuments to haggis.  Ours came with neeps and tatties.  I recommend that you google haggis.  It was actually pretty good. Skip the neeps.

Does anyone out there have a golf story they’d like to share?

 

What Happened in Scotland is NOT Staying in Scotland

Midnight in Cupar, Scotland. The street lamps are the only lights in the Village.  Everyone was asleep as it should be at midnight.  After renting a car we were on our way to St. Andrews after being up for 34 hours.  Portland to San Francisco to London to Edinburgh  We were two hours on the road when we got lost in Cupar.  Tom rounded a corner on what we thought was the way to the main road when it happened. The worst sound in the world at midnight in a foreign Country. The crunch,  the curb and the tire blew.

It turns out not everyone in Cupar was asleep.

As we got out of the car, a woman walked by with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth.  “That’s bad, you can’t drive on that” she said.  “You’re gonna havta move that car, this road is really busy in the morning and you’ll get a ticket.”

 

In the morning?!   How would we make it til morning?  At that point our marriage seemed really rocky.  We moved the car down the street and lo and behold there was a light.  We bolted out of the car and went into a take out pizza place that was just closing.  The proprietor took pity on us.  Tom tried to call Hertz.  His phone message was “no carrier.”  Same with mine.  The extra money we had given Verizon to have our phones work in Scotland really paid off.  The pizza guy pulled out his phone, dialed the number we gave him for Hertz and handed the phone to Tom.  They were not happy.  The Hertz person said they’d call a tow truck which would be there by 2 AM and that we’d have to come to Edinburgh Airport the next day to get a new car.  The marriage got rockier.

Paul, the cheerful tow truck driver, showed up at 1:30 AM.    He had a big flat bed tow truck which he winched the car up onto.  We got in the cab with Paul who talked all the way to St. Andrews in his Scottish accent which was difficult to understand.

One thing he did say was “Going back to the airport tomorrow is dumb. The Hertz people are nasty there and it’ll take 5 hours.  I’ll drop the car at the Kwik Fit Tire place in St. Andrews,  and you call them in the morning to see if they can either fix the tire or give (i.e. sell) you a new one.”  So he did.  Then telling us that St. Andrews was one of his favorite places he proceeded to give us a tour at 2 AM in the morning.  We saw the Castle, the University, some ruins, his favorite coffee shop and then took us to our hotel at 2:30 where we checked in exhausted.

At 8:30 AM Tom was up calling Kwik Fit.  Because it’s Scotland, it was pouring rain, cold and windy.  At Kwik Fit they told us it would be a few hours so we walked into old St. Andrews, took a tour of the Castle and perused some shops.  It was still raining and cold, and we were soaked so a cafe sounded like the perfect answer.  After Tom decided we should split a panini of tuna, tomato and mozzarella cheese, it arrived at our table.  The mozzarella was not melted on warm tuna with tomatoes, instead it looked like they had dumped a can of tuna between two slices of bread, plopped a few (3) tiny mozzarella balls on top with two tiny slices of tomato. Things were not looking good.  At this point I was very unhappy with Tom’s overall decision-making AND, especially, his driving.  He chose to go to Scotland, he was an inept driver and now he’d selected a bad cafe and a really bad sandwich.  How could I have married this guy?  How can we make it to our next anniversary?  Our future together looked as dark as the weather outside.

Back to Kwik Fit where they hadn’t even looked at the car yet. Finally someone took pity on us. They couldn’t fix the tire but they were able to sell us a brand new one which set us back about $320. At this point my T-Chart evaluation of our marriage showed a long list of negatives and zero positives.

After a few days in St . Andrews we drove on to Inverness.  I was on the edge of my seat, extremely nervous, as the roads were really narrow, mostly curbed or with rocks right up to the edge or hedge rows covering stone walls and we were driving on the left.  “Tom, watch out, you’re going to hit the curb, or a rock or something!”  After about a day of this Tom turned to me and said  “If you know what’s good for you, don’t say another word about my driving or about anything I may be about to hit.”  “Don’t you even want me to warn you if you’re going to hit something?” I asked.  “No.”  After that I tried to focus on the scenery which was wonderful but it was hard.

My favorite Inn was the Corregior overlooking a Loch in Fort William.  It was an old fashioned Inn, full of antiques, wonderful people, cozy, great food and a bar where Tom tasted whiskey with the proprietor. She’s looking a little crazy in the photo so I must have caught her at an awkward moment.  I could have spent hours in their dining room alone which is on the left.

We also saw our first Hairy Coo (Cow) there. Scotland has unusual cows which are celebrated but we hadn’t seen one until we were on the road and coming back to the Inn when we saw them. Luckily there was a place to pull over so we did. I couldn’t get closer but they have long hair and the hair completely covers their eyes. There was a blonde Coo there also.

With memories of the Corregior Inn fresh in our heads, our next stop was Drymen (say Drimmen like the locals do) where we had the worst hotel room so far.  Walking around the small but very picturesque town, we saw a hiking path we followed which we found out later would have led to a Castle had we kept going.  We stopped in a little cafe called Skoosh ( the only one in town), had afternoon tea and crumpets. The most wonderful couple, Denise and Robert, owned the cafe and took us under their wing.  They gave us all sorts of advice, conversation and steered us to a restaurant for dinner that we loved. We would have eaten at the hotel but this place was less money and the food was great!  Proof is in the picture which is pork with Yorkshire pudding on top of it.  Delicious!

Meanwhile the tire light had gone on in the car.  Left front tire, the brand new one.  We were losing air. After Drymen we were headed back to Edinburgh Airport where we were returning the car.  It was about 50 miles away. Between Drymen and Edinburgh is the town of Sterling and 8 miles from Sterling, we stopped in a small gas station to put air in the tire. It was raining of course.  The really nice gas station man looked at our tire and said “You’ll never make it to Edinburgh on this tire.  It has a slit in it and is bubbling.  You might make it to Sterling and there’s a Kwik Fit there where you can  get a new tire.”  You know the rest of this story.  With about 15 miles to Edinburgh, we once again had to buy a new tire.  This time we got a discount.  It was only $270.  Both of us remembered hitting a pothole which must have torn the tire. If you ever see Kwik Fit in Scotland on the stock exchange, buy stock, it’s a sure winner!  Especially if Tom is headed to Scotland.

The end of the trip was the Lake Country in England where the scenery was spectacular.  We took a train from Edinburgh to Penrith where we were renting another car. As Tom got off the train in Penrith, he hustled to get his coat and our bags but I thought he was being hasty so I took my time.  Big mistake.  Who knew I had only 30 seconds to get off the train?  Tom was on the platform with me still on the train when the door locked and we were about to leave the station. Tom was frantically waving to the conductor and with the help of a train attendant on the platform, got the conductor to stop. They let me off but were not happy.  If I had not gotten off that train the next stop was at least 70 miles away…

We had a great time in England’s Lake Country where the weather was great, the B&B’s were fabulous and we had no more drama.

I’m glad to be home!

Can anyone out there top our mishaps with your own travel mishaps?

Stay tuned for our St. Andrews $1000 round of golf.  Will the fun never end?

Cannon Beach

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We couldn’t wait to go.  We’d been looking forward to this two day get away for months.

Cannon Beach.  An idyllic coastal village an hour and a half from Portland.  big empty beach

It has a spectacular beach, a cute village, good restaurants and we had it all to ourselves.  A week before Memorial Day weekend which brings the crazy crowds of summer.  The weather left a lot to be desired.  Fog, clouds and mist.  Did we care?  Not a single bit.  We were at the Coast!  Astoria beer

cafe cannon beach hotel

This cute café is in the Cannon Beach Hotel where we stayed.

Not even a hike through mud, water and fallen trees could dampen our spirits.  tree on trail C Beachmuddy hikeThe first mud we encountered I tried to go around.  Then you reach the point where you don’t even care.  Maybe it’s good for you, maybe you should just sit in it and smear it all over your exposed parts.  Nature’s mud.

If you go to Google images and put in Cannon Beach, Oregon, you will  see a picture of Haystack Rock.  It’s famous.  Do I have a picture to share?  No.  I took several but did I mention that it was cloudy and foggy.  Even though I took an iPhone photography class, it didn’t help me with that picture.  In fact, if you Google it you will see lots of gorgeous pictures of Cannon Beach, so you will find it worth doing.

One you won’t see is me at the top of the Astoria Column in Astoria, OR which is about a half hour from Cannon Beach and has a famous bridge crossing the mouth of the Columbia River, an incredible expanse of water, connecting Oregon with Washington.

looking down astoria towerWe climbed to the top.  400 steps, after a few beers in a brewpub.  Something we hadn’t planned to do, but upon leaving the brewpub we saw a small road sign that read “Astoria Column”.  Of course we had to follow those signs and all of a sudden found ourselves at the Astoria Column which we didn’t know existed. Astoria towerThere are scenes from Oregon painted (actually Sgrafitto, a technique of wall décor produced by applying layers of plaster tinted in contrasting colors) all the way up the tower.  Amazing.   The views from up there are incredible.  Even with the clouds.  More pictures I don’t have.

Oh sad, sad, we had to leave after two very short days, shorter than normal everyday days.  I filled my pockets with salt water taffy from the candy dish at the hotel and off we went for the short trip back to Portland.

This is completely off the topic of Cannon Beach, but I have to show you the great picture I took of Multnomah Falls last week.  It’s about 30 miles out of Portland, with great hiking and wonderful vistas.  I went there with my photography class (everyone has fancy cameras with big lenses).  I only have my trusty iPhone.

multnomah falls

It’s sunny!

Be sure to check out my website at:  http://www.lips2love.com

pink plumeria

 

New Places, New People: One Way to do it

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Have you heard of “Meetup” groups?  If you google meetup in your area, you will come up with a mind numbing number of groups people have started to meet other people.  A friend of mine started a “Couples Happy Hour meetup group” for empty nesters between the ages of 50 and 70.  What?!  She asked us to join, so I went onto the meetup site: http://www.meetup.org

This is what I found:

Portland Weekly Nude, Erotic and Fetish Photography Meetup, Portland Reiki Tummo (whatever that is), Fun, Fabulous & Flourishing For the next Fifty, Willamette Hurling Club, Puppy Play Dates, Portland Fat Mingle, you get the picture!  Of course there are very normal things there, but those aren’t as fun to post about.  It’s entertainment!

I found my friend’s meetup and joined.  Then I joined a hiking meetup and a walking tour meetup.  This is what happens when you move to a completely new place.  You become different than you were before and revert into total idiocy.  We went to one of the happy hour meetups at a bar in Beaverton we  had never been to.  At first, I wasn’t sure, but it was one of the most fun nights we’ve had in awhile.  There were only six of us there (my kind of group), and we got along and laughed all night.  Will we ever see these people again?  Of course not! It’s called a one night meetup stand.

David and Carol live across the hall from us.  They’re around our age.  David is an actor and if you ask him a question about his work, he will look down his imperial nose at you for your ignorant, idiotic question.  David also does Portland walking tours with a company that comes up when you google that very thing.   We had friends in to visit and thought a downtown walking tour would be fun.  Well, lucky us, the fates gave us David as our tour guide.

“Stevie and Tom! How great to see you!” sayith David.  Those are the most words he has ever spoken to us.  The tour starts and ends on the dot.  At the end, David walks away with his little pockets stuffed with tips.

That brings me to the meetup walking tours and Eric Wheeler.  He and his partner do independent tours for only $15 and no tips.  They are two hours but the ones we’ve been on are at least three hours and counting.  He is an architectural historian and very enthusiastic.  We were just on the Historic Sellwood Tour.  Sellwood is an area across the river in SE Portland.  Portland has hundreds of neighborhoods and different areas with individual personalities.  Since we are on a quest to find our next move-to place, this is a great way to check out areas.  We would never move to SE Portland.  It’s hip, young and crowded.  But it’s also a very cool area.  Eric also conducts exciting tours.  On ours, two women got into a heated argument about the right to have a garage.  Eric was looking from one to the other and said “Oh, isn’t it wonderful that everyone has an opinion, sometimes different, but moving right along…”

puppet store  Sellwood Puppet Museum.  World famous, these people make puppets for Disney movies, have puppets from China, Japan, Burma, Java and Thailand.  They do puppet shows, film screenings, have workshops, etc.

Sellwood church  This church founded by Reverend Sellwood was located up river and was floated down the Willamette River to be relocated in Sellwood which was named for the Reverend though he never lived there.  Great place for weddings and funerals.  There were people there about to have a funeral.  We apologized for interrupting, but the woman said “Oh, no problem, it’s just my mother and a very happy occasion!”  Interpret it how you wish!

Sellwood homeSellwood Craftsman   Sometimes Eric stops in front of innocuous homes and then points out all the wonderful architectural details

If you’re coming to Portland, look up Eric’s tours! http://www.meetup.com/Positively-Portland-Walking-Tours/

Would someone please tell me what Reiki Tummo is?!

March Madness is coming!  I couldn’t be happier.  If you want to get in on my contest which I will be posting next week for my wonderful Lipstick Customers, email me at sserleth@gmail.com.  I will send you the contest!

http://www.lips2love.com