My sister and I spent the better part of this week traversing the western United States on our drive home from a family reunion in Oregon. The timing of the reunion coincided with my mom’s 90th birthday. We all gathered outside of Bend, the city where she grew up.
My mom (aka Gracie) was born in Westbrook, MN in 1927. In 1931, when she was just four years old, she and her 3 siblings and her parents climbed into a Model A and headed west. Their destination was Bend, Oregon, where her father had accepted a call to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church.
Even though she was very young when she made the trip, she still has quite a few memories of the drive. One story she told us was of stopping at a “town” in the Oregon desert, east of Bend called Millican. “There was just one building,” she told us. “I remember it because we all thought it was so funny that a town would only have one building.”
On Monday, as my sister and I were driving across the Oregon desert (my mom and brother-in-law having left by plane earlier in the day), we were on the look-out for the one-building “town” of Millican. Sure enough, it was there, only the establishment that may or may not have been there in 1931 was definitely closed! Why it is listed on the map is a mystery.
And if you ever have the chance to drive across the desert of eastern Oregon, do it! It’s gorgeous!
We are back home now, and declare the two weeks of birthday celebrations officially over!
We may be snowless this winter here in the Twin Cities, but there was snow in the mountains outside of Beijing earlier this month. Dutch photographer Tom van Dillen captured the beauty of the Great Wall under a blanket of snow with his drone:
The Great Wall by Drone
A Miniature Great Wall
The Great Wall: Fact or Fantasy
No Great Wall from Space
Port-a-Potties at the Wall
Snapped one afternoon during a stroll through one of Beijing’s remaining hutong (lane) neighborhoods. So much going on: the man delivering coal briquettes; the fresh fruit; the umbrellas. the sign for donkey meat hot pot; the “family style restaurant;” the white sky.
Sigh. I do miss Beijing!
We returned safe and sound from our annual epic road trip on Monday. Here is how the trip unfolded, by the numbers….
Miles driven: 5390.7. We thought about driving around for 10 more miles, but that would have been cheating.
States/provinces traversed: 8. In case you’re wondering which ones: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland.
Beds slept in: 13. Hotel beds, blow-up mattresses, sofa beds, and ferry bunk beds. You name it, I slept on it!
Ferry crossings: 4. We were on a huge ferry between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (16 hours), and a smaller one between Newfoundland mainland and Fogo Island (45 minutes).
Hikes on Fogo Island: 5
Stuffed animal trip mascots that my mom bought: 3. 2 puffins she named “Chip” and “Dip,” and Sable, a Newfoundland dog.
Books read (by all of us): 11.
Stops at Tim Hortons for coffee and donuts: no comment.
Fish and chips meals consumed: no comment.
Fleece jackets purchased: no comment.
Photos taken: thousands.
Fun memories: countless! (I broke my selfie ban to take this one.)
Sunrise and Ferries
A Pittman Drinking Song
Halfway to Ireland
A Night Crossing
On Thursday morning, we were up before the sun to catch an early morning ferry from Fogo Island back over to “mainland” Newfoundland. Even though getting in line for the ferry at 5:15AM wasn’t the most fun thing we did all week, it did give us the chance to see this gorgeous sunrise:
After a 45 minute ride on that ferry, we drove 5 hours to the southern side of Newfoundland to catch the overnight ferry back to Nova Scotia. For some reason, I woke up early on Friday morning, and decided to head to the outside deck for some fresh air. This is what greeted me:
The four of us (my, my sister, brother-in-law, and mom) once again shared a lovely stateroom. As we were settling in, we got to chuckling about this classic scene from the Marx Brother’s movie “A Night at the Opera:” (email readers, go here to see the video)
Of course it wasn’t like that; everything about the ferry was great; the room, the service, the friendly staff, and the delicious food.
We are on the marathon drive home now (4 days — 500 miles each day), and already missing Newfoundland.
As we discovered on our visit to Newfoundland last year, there are quite a few Pittmans on the island. On this trip, we learned that a popular Newfoundland drinking song is about a certain Bob Pittman who seems to have a girlfriend in every outport in Placentia Bay. The title of the song is The Ryans and the Pittmans, although we’re not sure why since there is no mention of a Ryan anywhere in the song.
Maybe that’s why it is also know by the title We’ll Rant and We’ll Roar (the first line of the chorus. In this version, sung by Great Big Sea, the first verse where the singer identifies himself as Bob Pittman is curiously omitted (maybe because it is a bit “salty”). (email readers, go here to see the video)
If you’re curious, you can read all the lyrics here.
Truth be told, if there were really a drinking song about this Pittman, it would have to feature Pepsi!
The Newfoundland Pittmans
We are using a large, old-fashioned fold-out map to make our way from place to place here in Newfoundland (I’m anti-GPS). Long hours in the car means plenty of time to study the map. One fun thing up here is noticing the unique and quirky place names.
Here are some of the more interesting ones we’ve spotted:
Come by Chance
Hole in the Wall
Jerry’s Nose (we drove through that one)
Cut Throat Island
Welcome Come By
God Almighty Cove
Blow Me Down
Joe Batts Arm
On Friday morning we visited Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America (never mind that it’s on an island). This map I spotted at the site will give you an idea of just how far east we are.
We are only 916 miles from Greenland and around 1500 miles from Reykjavik, Iceland. In other words, closer to those two places than to Minnesota.
Oh, and we’re halfway to Ireland!
Too bad we can’t just keep on driving….