A Year Ago Today We Left Roseville California

A year ago today we left Roseville California to head to Montreal. It’s been quite a year. We’ve driven through a lot of states and stayed with lots of interesting people.

What have we learned? For one thing, I don’t want to live in a big city ever again. I don’t want to move back to California. I am drawn to small towns and a slower pace of life. We can do just about anything, anywhere!

Are we ready to settle? I think some sort of travel will always be in our plans. Maybe house sit for a month here, 3 weeks there, several months in another place. But for a year or so I think we may just settle in a little town somewhere. Not sure where yet or exactly when.

We’ve been talking a lot about what comes next. We have a few months in New Jersey where we’re going to be staying. The book release party is coming up in November in Philadelphia. There are places and people we want to see while we’re out on the East coast for the winter. Then….

We’ll let you know!


Montreal 10th (and Final) Leg: Ottawa to Montreal

Note to self (#61)—Two weeks is not nearly enough time to cross two countries.

Note to self (#62)—When you’re rushing across two countries in only two weeks you have, like, zero time to get to know the amazing, generous, wonderful people who’ve made it possible; not just possible, but heart-filling good.

The drive through Montreal was a lot like driving through a big city, even though we only skirted the south side. I lost track of miles and time and finally just couldn’t wait, so we stopped at an information center to use the bathroom. Nicole was extremely friendly and helpful. We helped ourselves to the basket of free local apples.

As we walked out I asked Sue how much further it was; it seemed like we should have less than an hour. She said “The last two measurements just say ‘m’ instead of a distance; like, we go up here 40m, then up another 120m and we’re there.”

Um, that’s like, we could probably see their house from where we were standing. I coulda waited.

We arrived just as Cristina’s oldest was getting home from school so they were standing outside as we drove by. They were still standing outside as we turned around and actually pulled into the driveway.

And so, we’re here. As soon as I resurface from the mountain of work that’s built up, I promise we’ll share more about the tactics and strategies that made the trip work (and the ones we’re bagging because they were hopeless) and tell you all about how to make it work when 8 people (half of them young children) share a single bathroom.

Montreal 8th Leg: Fremont to Toronto

For some reason the short-ish drive completely wore me out.

Crossing into Canada was uneventful. Spectacular scenery continues. Weather is cooling, some (why is it still 80 degrees F this far into October, this far north? I’m confused.)

Toronto has a freeway system that makes sense: every so often a set of collector lanes turn off from the express lanes, and then the on/off ramps access the collector lanes instead of just dumping straight onto the freeway. Takes up more space, the the traffic, even at 5:00, was moving briskly.

Debs lives in a corner apartment over a beauty salon. She is just marvelous, just marvelous. A songwriting friend from February Album Writing Month, we’d never even spoken on the phone, let alone met. That’s always a little nervy, meeting someone for the first time like that, but once again it was even better than expected.

We had an excellent dinner of lentils and brown rice with a super salad with homemade dressing (I’m looking forward to eating at Debs’ again!) While Sue and I showered and puttered and got settled, Fiona terrorised Debs with talk and music and playing and it was wonderful. Debs clearly loves children; you can’t ‘put on’ the kind of fun they were having, the genuine interaction and interest. (The shortest route to our hearts is to be kind to our little girl; Debs went straight to the head of the class.)

We played music. We played a card game called Mille Bornes which I haven’t played in 20 years, and ended in a perfect tie which was fluky and fun. Debs gave up her bed for Sue and I, and she and Fiona slept on couches in the living room.

After scrumptious oatmeal in the morning we had to leave. Fiona always cries when we leave (another reason for spacing out our driving; it’s hard on us seeing her so sad five days in a row) but this time she was more distressed than she’d been since she said goodbye to her older sister in Roseville.

We’ve made some special friends this trip. There’s still a world of difference between chatting online and watching someone have a silly conversation with your daughter.

Just before we left, as Fiona was playing with the little green ukulele she hadn’t put down since we arrived, Debs said “Fiona, would you like to take that with you?” So guess who has their very own ukulele now? (Tip to parents: the ukulele is a very pleasant delicate sound; infinitely more fun coming from the back seat for the 5-hour drive from Toronto to Ottawa than, say, a recorder flute, harmonica, or other portable instrument.)

Leaving now for our last stop on the road, another online associate I finally get to meet in person.

Montreal 7th Leg: Rice Lake to Fremont (Part 2)

Our second-longest drive (after the Roseville-Phoenix jaunt) went well, overall. We kept hoping we’d arrive early, and it looked like we would until the left headlamp went black an hour from Fremont.

I assumed we’d just soldier on and fix it in the morning at Charlie’s, but Sue called Google-411 to see if there was an auto parts place open, and the AutoZone in Holland, Michigan answered on the first ring. They gave us excellent directions from where we were by the highway and when we got there, Royce Demaray III installed our $15 headlamp, no charge, as if that was just what you did. When’s the last time you got that kind of service from an auto parts store?

Made it to Charlie’s at 11:10 which ain’t bad for a 10-hour drive. Comfy bed in the basement (which is so much more than a basement, so we weren’t exactly living like moles.)

Charlie drove us around on Sunday. We went to his garden down the road and then through Camp Echo where he held this year’s Charlie Fest which I hope to attend next year. He gave me a tour of the not-yet-released newest version of Indie Band Manager which has some seriously cool features (I say this as both a web developer and a musician.)

Charlie’s going to be on tour during our return trip from Montreal so we won’t see him in November which makes us all sad. Last night before we went to bed, he sang two of Fiona’s favorites of his songs for her; a personal concert right there in the living room.

Another marvelous family making us feel right at home. I’m really starting to like this . . .

Montreal 6th Leg: Sioux Falls to Rice Lake

Another short driving day, but boy we could stand to get out early.

We woke up at 7 despite the 4 days of driving and the time change. Bedrooms are downstairs, kitchen et al up, so we went upstairs and watched Mimi make bread. Whole wheat with other grains, honey instead of sugar, specially shaped loaves for my dining fun. It’s good stuff.

I asked about a tire pressure gauge, and one of her sons found the gauge, checked the tires, aired up the rear tires, and reported his findings to me. I love it when people teach their kids to be good citizens; tells you a lot about their parents.

Sue drove, because I woke up with a headache. After a hot shower, coffee (which I only drink for headaches) and a nap, I felt pretty good, but weak and shaky. We ate two whole loaves of bread as we crossed Minnesota, then stopped in St. Paul to mail a card to a friend who grew up there but lives in Roseville now.

Before we left the grocery store I called my Mom and asked “How long does it take to get to Rice Lake from St. Paul?” and when she said 3 hours I said “So, we’ll be there about 7:30” and she said “Tonight?!?! Do you have money for a hotel?” I laughed. She didn’t.

Minnesota in the fall is glorious. We stopped to let Fiona look at the river and trees, and drove on into the darkening forest and lake lands toward the place of my birth.

WIsconsin is also beautiful, even if nobody can pronounce it unless they’re from there. We rolled into Rice Lake about 9:00, and for the first time in her life, Fiona met her Gramma Mumsie.

We’ll be here two days, but it’s clear we’ll need to come back and stay longer to enjoy the beautiful lake and city and to spend time listening to Mom’s stories and watching movies and helping her find a little joy in life. I’d forgotten how good it feels to be with one of the few people who knows exactly who and what I am and loves me unconditionally, just as I am.

Montreal 5th Leg: Rapid City to Sioux Falls

Denver and Diane both had to be in Rapid early, so they took off before we were up and asked us to meet them in town for breakfast. When we got there Diane’s appointment had been postponed a bit so we went to Starbucks and got some work done, including Phase I of a client job Sue really needed to wrap up that day, while we were traveling.

When Diane was delayed for the third time she asked us to go eat without her, so we ate chicken fried steak and omelets with Denver and talked ’til noon. Not exactly an early start, but we only had 6 hours to Sioux Falls.

Except, we weren’t going to Sioux Falls, we were going an hour north of Sioux Falls. Oh, and then, the time changes halfway across the state. Then we had to stop multiple times trying to find wireless access in the tiny towns crossing the plains.

But we did it.

Sue finished the client job, as she always does, to shouts of praise and thanks from her client, and her client’s client. We crept into Arlington, South Dakota late in the dark, and, for a second time, missed meeting Mimi’s husband. We did meet her kids, who, like all the kids we’ve met on this trip, were smart, polite, fun, and helpful.

We talked about baking bread in the morning and crashed on couches.

Montreal 3rd Leg: Albuquerque to Denver

Ah, I sure hope all our couch surfing experiences are like staying with Sonja last night. Sonja is an artist, a foodie, a teacher, and adventurer, and her kids are that rare blend of open childlike enthusiasm and well-mannered carefully cultivated maturity and kindness. It’s obvious where they get their people-skills from.

We talked about Sonja’s art and the business she’s building around it until nearly midnight. She already thinks differently about business; she’s a natural counterintuitive. I’d recommend paying attention to her, whether you’re an artist or an entrepreneur, but especially if you’re both. She’s going to be successful, because she’s got the talent both artistically and practically.

Fiona was so sad to leave in the morning. She’d made a great friend, building sofa-cushion forts in the living room, playing dress-up, doing art. She had a ball.

Interesting; two stops, two keyboards. Wonder if I’m going to continue traveling with a keyboard I only brought for noodling and practice?

Montreal 2nd Leg: Phoenix to Albuquerque

Tonight is our first couch surfing experience. Hoping it works out to drop in on a total stranger with all our stuff and not totally freak out on both sides.

One of the many funny things: driving south through California’s central valley, it was brown and dead. On one side of the freeway, dead brown grass. On the other side, just for variety, brown dead grass. For 7 solid hours.

Driving through the desert from Phoenix to Albuquerque, Fiona kept saying “Look! It’s all green! Why is the whole desert green?” And it was. Green cactus. Green trees. Green shrubs. Put that in the red sand under the blue sky filled with crisp white clouds, and I kept saying “This is why I love the desert.”

We keep leaving later than intended and arriving in the dark. I’d like to get to new places in late afternoon so we can see where we’re going. I’d also love to see more of the spectacular scenery.

Montreal Itinerary

Looks like it’s going to take 2 full weeks, 14 days, to make Montreal. Guess I’m not the road warrior I thought I was, but I just can’t imagine pushing that hard for that long. Also, I guess I can’t just drop in on my Mom, who I haven’t seen in nearly 10 years, for a single night. (We’ll be back later to spend a couple weeks with her.)

I’ll be reconnecting with an uncle and aunt I haven’t seen in nearly 30 years, staying with a musical buddy who’s slept on my couch, staying with a friend who just moved from here a few weeks ago, and meeting a couple folks who’ve become incredibly close online but whom I’ve not yet hugged in real life.

Update 1:Thanks to Jerry Kennedy‘s reminder nudge, we checked out Couchsurfing.org and found a place in Albuquerque.

Update 2:I didn’t check with enough people in Toronto, so one of them checked with me. H’ray for Debs, my musical friend in Toronto!

Thursday 30 Sep Home Phoenix Terry
Friday 1 Oct Phoenix Phoenix
Saturday 2 Oct Phoenix Albuquerque Sonja
Sunday 3 Oct Albuquerque Denver Jason
Monday 4 Oct Denver Rapid City Denny
Tuesday 5 Oct Rapid City Arlington Mimi
Wednesday 6 Oct Arlington Rice Lake Mom
Thursday 7 Oct Rice Lake Rice Lake
Friday 8 Oct Rice Lake Rice Lake
Saturday 9 Oct Rice Lake Fremont Charlie
Sunday 10 Oct Fremont Fremont
Monday 11 Oct Fremont Toronto Debs
Tuesday 12 Oct Toronto Ottawa Shawn
Wednesday 13 Oct Ottawa Granby Cristina

Fiona Wants to Keep Traveling

We didn’t get to sleep till after midnight last night and then I woke Fiona up at 8 am to start the long drive back to home base. Her words as we started to drive away were, “I don’t want to be home tonight. I want to keep traveling.”

What a trooper! A vagabond already at six. We explained that we needed to go back to home base and regroup and prepare for the next big trip (Montreal end of September and into October – details to come). Sunday she’ll get to see her friends and let the see her first lost tooth. I’m sure she’ll be happy to see her big sister Rachelle.

Pretty soon I think Fiona is going to be letting us know where it is she’d like to travel.