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Logbook:       USA (Part 1) - May to September 2012

With Slip Away safely tucked away in Norsand Boatyard in Whangarei, New Zealand, in mid-May we flew back to the USA for an extended visit.  We would be away from the boat for 5 months - the longest we'd ever been away from Slip Away, which has been our home for over 10 years now.  Since we do not own a house or condo in the USA, we would be depending on the hospitality of family and friends on this trip.  It had been well over a year since our last visit, and we were looking forward to seeing everyone.

The fastest way to get to the USA from New Zealand is a non-stop flight from Auckland to Los Angeles, however those flights cost a few hundred dollars more than flights which connect through Australia.  Since we have more time than money, we chose the more economical route.  We found the best deal on Virgin Australia, an airline which came highly recommended to us.  The flight from Auckland to Sydney (4 hours) was nothing to write home about, but our flight from Sydney to LAX was pretty luxurious, with ample leg room; individual video screens with plenty of movies, games and other programming; good food; free beer and wine; and two free checked bags per person.  Rich didn't sleep the entire flight (14 hours) because he watched several movies. 

Hermosa Beach, CA (May 17-22).  We arrived LAX on a Thursday with plans to spend a long weekend with our friends John & Camille in Hermosa Beach.  Since our flight arrived mid-morning and our friends were at work, we needed to find our own way to their house.  A few years ago, we figured out how to take the bus from Hermosa Beach to LAX, but we haven't used that option often because we usually have a lot of luggage.  However, on this trip, we each had a bag on wheels and a backpack, so we felt we could manage it and save the money.  The only negative was dragging our bags up the steep hill from the bus stop to their house, but the physical exertion was well worth the savings.  A taxi for the six-mile trip from LAX to Hermosa runs about $30-35; the bus cost us $1.75 - Rich qualified for the senior rate of 25 cents and Jan paid full fare of $1.50.

We recovered from our jet lag pretty quickly and enjoyed a nice, low-key weekend.  Camille & John hosted a dinner party with some friends on Saturday night, but other than that, we just hung out.  Jan attended a couple of yoga classes with Camille, and our friends Russ & Anne (s.v. Mohini) drove up from San Diego for a visit. 


Solar eclipse which occurred while
we were in Hermosa Beach

San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, El Sobrante, CA (May 22 to June 5).  From L.A., we headed up to San Francisco to visit Rich's son Erik and his girlfriend Chrissy.  Erik & Chrissy live in the city, so we took BART from the Oakland Airport to meet Chrissy at the San Francisco Ferry Building.  San Francisco's BART is a bit more expensive than L.A.'s busses, but it's still a good way to get around the city. 

We spent ten days with Erik & Chrissy.  While they were at work, we took walks in Golden Gate park, which was close to their apartment, and found several good cafes where we could enjoy a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.  The four of us spent one evening touring the Academy of Science Museum in Golden Gate Park, and on another Erik & Chrissy treated us to a San Francisco Giants baseball game.  For the Memorial Day weekend, we drove up to South Lake Tahoe to meet Chrissy's family.  On the drive over the Echo Summit pass, it was snowing - yikes!!!  Fortunately, the weather cleared up shortly after our arrival in Tahoe, and it was a fun weekend of family gatherings, good food, beautiful scenery and a little bit of gambling.  Erik, Chrissy and the two of us also did a hike one afternoon, and it was a real treat to hike with Chrissy because she is very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of this area.  We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent with Erik & Chrissy, especially because it gave us an opportunity to get better acquainted with Chrissy.  Erik & Chrissy have since gotten engaged, and we are thrilled to have her as part of the family. 

Rich gets acquainted with Chester, Erik & Chrissy's 20 lb. cat
Erik is a lighting engineer and designed
this LED sign for Ghirardelli
Snow on Echo Summit on our way to South Lake Tahoe


Rich, Erik & Chrissy at Lily Lake
Pretty snow plants which come up in the Spring in the Sierra Mountains

The weekend after Memorial Day, Erik & Chrissy were running in a long-distance relay race, so we wished them well and headed to the East Bay to visit with our friends Patti & Hank Hansen.  We spent a long weekend with Patti & Hank - shared some delicious meals (Hank makes a fabulous smoked pork!), drank excellent wines and took a few walks in the park near their home.  On our last day with them, Patti & Hank both took the day off work, and we drove up to Healdsburg, CA, where we visited a couple of wineries.  Patti & Hank are members of the wine clubs of the vineyards we visited, so we got the deluxe tasting tours - very nice!

Healdsburg, CA, Vineyards
Two of us with Patti & Hank touring Bella Vineyards

Cincinnati (June to September).  From California, we headed to Cincinnati, Ohio, which is Jan's hometown and the location from which we would base ourselves for the next few months.  We stayed at the home of Jan's mother, sister Judy and brother-in-law Fred.  Fred volunteered to drive his pickup truck to work and generously loaned us his car for a few months.  From Cincinnati, we could use the car for road trips to visit most of the rest of Rich's family. 

We settled in fairly quickly - Rich purchased a membership at the local gym, and Jan joined classes at a nearby yoga studio.  Rich also found a few household projects and chores to keep himself busy - cutting the grass, organizing the garage, and some varnish and finish work on a backyard/patio addition.  On one weekend, he also helped our nephew Chad build a loft bed in his fraternity house at Miami University of Oxford, Ohio (about 40 minutes away).  Jan kept busy with her Mom (lots of card games and a few luncheons) and also enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with not only her family but also good friends she still has in the area.  We received invitations to a number of parties and gatherings - some big, some small, all good times.  We also spent a few weekends at the Schwab family river camp near Warsaw, KY.  It was a hot summer, and floating around on and in the river helped beat the heat. 

We celebrated Rich's birthday in June and our 13th wedding anniversary on July 3.  We were married at Ault Park in Cincinnati, and Rich planned a wonderful celebration - an afternoon visit to the park, lunch at a nearby cafe and a night at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Covington, Kentucky, where we spent our wedding night.  He even splurged on a room with a view of the Ohio river and downtown Cincinnati. 

Rich and Chad in front of his fraternity house at Miami University in Oxford, OH

Our nephew Kyle is attending the University of Cincinnati, which is also Jan's alma mater. 
He took us for a tour of campus, and Jan was amazed at the changes. 
Pictured (L to R):  Nephews Ethan and Kyle, Niece Taylor, Jan's sister Judy, and us.


Ault Park Pavilion in Cincinnati - our wedding venue 13 years ago
Barge heading upriver on a foggy morning at the Schwab river camp

Kansas City Roadtrip (June 17 to 21).  Our first road trip from Cincinnati was to Kansas City to visit Rich's son Andrew and our granddaughter Peyton.  We arrived in Kansas City the evening of Father's Day, and Erik & Chrissy happened to be in town for the weekend.  What a nice bonus for Rich to see both of his sons on Father's Day! 

We last saw Peyton when she was five months old, and she was now two years old, and full of personality.  Over the next few days, we went to the pool and the Kansas City Zoo, and we had an opportunity to baby-sit one evening while Andrew was at work.  Peyton was affectionate to both of us, but she especially loved her Grandpa!

Rich with sons Andrew & Erik
Peyton wanted Grandpa to help her put on her shoes
Peyton liked doing yoga with Jan - no problem with downward-facing dog!

On our way home from Kansas City, we stopped in St. Louis and met our friends Herman & Vicki Rapert for lunch.  Rich and Herman have been friends for many years, and Herman also serves as our accountant.  Although we had seen Herman a time or two, we hadn't seen Vicki since our wedding in 1999.  Herman & Vicki treated us to an outstanding lunch at McCormick & Schmick's, and we had a really nice visit with the two of them. 

Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC, Philadelphia Roadtrip (July 11 to 23).  We have family and friends in the Washington DC area, and headed in that direction in July.  Our first stop was Falls Church, Virginia, where we visited our friends Janet & Chris and celebrated Chris's birthday at one of our favorite spots for blue crabs - Cantler's Riverside Inn.  Yum!

Our next stop was Bowie, Maryland, for a visit with the Donohue's - Rich's sister Kathleen, brother-in-law Sean and their family.  We had a busy weekend with them - on Saturday, they hosted a barbeque and introduced us to their friends Grace & Harry, a couple of sailors who met in the Panama Canal.  Our sailing friends Tom & Kathy (s.v. Jumbie) were in the area at the time and joined us too.  The following day, Kathleen, Sean, Tom, Kathy and the two of us went wine tasting at Felix Vineyards near Baltimore - very nice!

On a weekday when Kathleen & Sean were both working, the two of us decided to go sightseeing in Washington, DC.  We've both been to DC a number of times, but we never grow tired of it.  We re-visited a number of sights and monuments we've seen before but also took in a few new ones.  It was a sweltering day in DC, and in the early afternoon, we decided to cool off in the air conditioned Smithsonian American History Museum.  It seemed like every other tourist in DC had that same idea - it was packed!  The crowds were a bit more than we could handle, so we called it a day and headed back to Bowie.

Celebrating Chris' Birthday at Cantler's
Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC
Wine tasting at Felix Vineyards
with Tom & Kathy (s.v. Jumbie) and Kathleen & Sean

The following weekend, we had plans to join some Crowell family members in New Hope, Pennsylvania (about an hour from Philadelphia), where our niece Brittany was working for the summer.  Jan had never been to Philadelphia and Rich was only about ten years old when he was last there, so we decided to stop and do some sightseeing on our way to New Hope.  Kathleen arranged for us to stay at the home of her friends Judy & Tom Wagner while we were visiting Philadelphia.  Judy & Tom spend most of their time at their home in New Hampshire, and generously invite family and friends to use their beautifully remodeled "carriage house" in Chestnut Hill, a very nice suburb of Philly.  We arrived at the carriage house late in the afternoon, and were surprised to find some other folks also staying for a few days - Judy's friend Vivian and two of her friends, visiting from Sweden.  Apparently one party had confirmed with Tom and one party had confirmed with Judy - oops!  But, no worries - the house was plenty big for all of us, and we enjoyed each other's company - kind of like staying at an international guest house!  Vivian lives in Philadelphia and knows the area well, so she helped us with directions and train schedules into the city (the train station was walking distance from the house).

We spent a full day sightseeing in Philadelphia - Independence Hall, Betsy Ross' house, the Liberty Bell. We especially enjoyed the "Once Upon a Nation" storytellers, who were situated on several park benches throughout the historic district.  After our day in the city, we caught the train back to Chestnut Hill.   

Tom & Judy's carriage house in Chestnut Hill
An American icon - the Liberty Bell
Rich ready for a story at one of the "Once Upon A Nation" benches

The fridge in Judy & Tom's house was stocked with beer, and Vivian told us to help ourselves, which we did the previous evening, but we wanted to replenish what we took and maybe leave a few extra behind.  We never imagined that buying beer in Pennsylvania would be so difficult; their liquor laws are rather restrictive!  We were not able to find a nearby store where we could buy some bottled beer to take back to the house.  We did, however, find a nice microbrewery right in the heart of Chestnut Hill, so we stopped in for a couple of local brews from the tap.

The next morning dawned rainy, and from the large windows in one of the sitting rooms, we looked out on a misty woods - beautiful!  The five of us staying in the house had breakfast together, and we learned a bit more about these amazing ladies, originally from Iran, but who escaped the oppression there and made new lives for themselves.  They shared with us a number of traditional Iranian dishes, some of which were made by Vivian's mother, who also lives in Philly.

After breakfast, we headed out to New Hope.  We would be meeting up with Rich's brother Ron and wife Kim (Brittany's parents), and Kathleen and Sean were driving up from Maryland for the weekend too.  They were all arriving later in the afternoon, but we arrived early enough to meet Brittany for lunch, which was a treat because we don't often get much solo time with our nieces and nephews.  Brittany recently graduated from New York University's Tisch Theater School, and she was working for the summer at the recently reopened Bucks County Playhouse.  Over lunch, we talked about her job as Assistant to the Producing Director at the Playhouse, as well as her adjustment to life in rural Pennsylvania after four years of school in New York City.  We also reminisced a bit about when we stopped in the Big Apple on Slip Away when she was a new freshman at NYU.  How quickly those four years had passed!

We had a great couple of days with the Crowell Clan - meandering through the streets of New Hope, sharing libations and meals and celebrating Ron's birthday.  On Friday night, we attended the Bucks County Playhouse and enjoyed their production of "A Grand Night for Singing", a musical revue featuring hit songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein's productions.  On Saturday, we had intended to go tubing on the Delaware River, which forms the border between New Hope and Lambertville, New Jersey, but our timing was off.  Although we had just been through several weeks of scorching heat, on Friday, a cold front had come through, and we were all wearing sweatshirts - definitely not tubing weather!  We went wine tasting instead.

Upon our return from this road trip, Judy & Fred went on vacation to Florida for a week, and we were charged with looking after Mom, the cats and the garden.  Mom and the cats were the easy part of the job.  Fred is famous for his tomato garden, following in the footsteps of Jan's Dad who also loved to grow tomatoes.  When Fred & Judy left, there were lots of green tomatoes hanging on the stalks, and a few days later, they started to ripen.  Since Rich was busy with finishing the patio project, Jan took charge of picking tomatoes.  On her first day, she picked 75 tomatoes - red and yellow of various shapes and sizes - as well as probably a couple hundred cherry and grape tomatoes.  A few days later, she had another harvest of almost as many - what are we going to do with all these tomatoes?  We quickly learned where all those tomatoes go every summer.  Jan's Mom got on the phone and called all her friends to let them know the tomatoes were coming in, and we had lots of visitors showing up over the next few days.  It reminded Jan of when we were home at Christmas a couple of years ago and baked dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies, and Jan's Mom gave them away to all her friends!  Nevertheless, it made folks happy, and several of them brought gifts in trade - cucumber and zucchini from their gardens, fish caught on a recent fishing trip, pies and cakes - all good! 


Bumper crop of tomatoes

Asheville, NC, and Atlanta, GA roadtrip (August 14 to 20).  In mid-August we had a wedding to attend - our niece Melissa (daughter of Rich's brother Bob) was getting married in Pine Mountain, GA (south of Atlanta).  On our way to the wedding, we made a stop in Asheville, NC.  Although we have no plans to quit cruising in the immediate future, we often talk about where we might want to live when we're ready to move back ashore.  Asheville came recommended to us from a few people, and it was a short detour off the route to Atlanta, so we decided to check it out.  We spent a few hours on the local Trolley tour, which gave us a good overview of the area, as well as some time walking around their downtown area and sampling a couple of recommended restaurants.  Asheville is in the Appalachian mountains, so while the rest of the country was baking in heat, the temperatures here were very pleasant.  However, the absence of and distance to a significant body of water (the ocean, a lake or substantial river) made it difficult for us to picture ourselves living there. 

When we left Asheville, we drove along a portion of the Blue Ridge National Parkway, which runs through Virginia and North Carolina and links the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains.  We stopped several times to enjoy the vistas and hiked a short trail.  It's a beautiful area and we could definitely spend more time exploring it.   

The Blue Ridge National Parkway travels through some gorgeous scenery
Jan enjoying the views

After Asheville, we headed to Pine Mountain, GA, for Melissa & Andre's wedding.  The wedding was a lovely ceremony in the Mountaintop Chapel, and the Crowell Clan danced and celebrated at the reception.  All of Rich's siblings and their families attended, Erik & Chrissy flew in from San Francisco, and three of Rich's four cousins came with some of their kids.  The whole weekend was great fun. 

Cousins enjoying some pool time before the wedding
Mr. & Mrs. Hansel and their wedding party


Rich with his siblings and cousins
The Crowell Clan - the day after the wedding

Carbondale, IL (August 25 to 27).  The weekend after Melissa & Andre's wedding, Rich had one more road trip on the calendar and headed to Carbondale, IL, to visit with some of his friends from high school.  Jan had a prior commitment that weekend, so she was unable to join him, but he managed to find his way even without his co-pilot.  Rich stayed with friends John & Teresa Mills, and Larry & Marlene Dietz hosted a get-together of a few friends during his visit.

Labor Day weekend was our final weekend in Cincinnati, and it's a big event at the Schwab family river camp.  In addition to boating, beer drinking and corn hole tournaments, the weekend included a first-ever chili cook-off with entries in Hot, Mild and Texas-style categories - diverse tastes and all quite good. 

There was one Schwab family member we hadn't seen yet - our niece Erica, who lives in Raleigh, NC - and she and her boyfriend Robert drove in for the weekend.  It was the first time we had met Robert, and we liked him right away.  We were thrilled when he proposed to her that weekend!

Jan's Mom was one of the Chili Cook-Off judges
Enjoying a pontoon boat ride on the river

We headed home from the river camp gathering a day early so we could get a jump start on our packing.  Our visit to the Eastern half of the U.S. and our stay with the Schwab family was coming to a close.  Earlier in the summer, our friends Pat & Carrie Kinnison (formerly of s.v. Terra Firma and now living near Sedona, AZ) invited us to join them on a camping trip to visit several of the Western U.S. National Parks.  Since there would be four of us traveling in the Kinnison's car (a Subaru station wagon), we needed to limit our luggage.  We boxed up any non-essential items and sent them off to Camille & John's in Hermosa Beach, which would be our final stop before heading back to New Zealand. 

The following Wednesday morning, we said good-bye to Mom and Fred, and Judy dropped the two of us off at the Cincinnati airport on her way to work.  It had been a very busy summer, but a good one, and it was great to have had the opportunity to spend so much time with our families and friends.  We are always amazed at the hospitality extended to us when we visit, and we are grateful that we are so warmly welcomed.  That said, by this time, we were getting pretty homesick for Slip Away, so we were happy to move on to a new adventure and diversion.  We knew we were in store for a good time on this trip with the Kinnison's, and we were looking forward to it!