This year's travel was built around three special events in our kids' lives. The Midwest Meander Bike Trip (as we've officially named it) brings us mid-trip to Chicago, where Louise's son Brian is working on a new play by David Henry Hwang, Chinglish (that's the Goodman Theatre's graphic for the play on the right).
The trip through China was inspired by the fact that Jeff's son Matt has been assigned for a year to work in Dalian, a city on the coast of China about 175 miles west of North Korea and about 300 miles ESE of Beijing.
The return to Santa Monica is another chance to see Brian and his family when they've returned home from his gig in Chicago, but also a special opportunity to spend time with Louise's daughter Lisa and family. Lisa just received tenure at Cornell University, and is spending her sabbatical year doing research at USC and UCLA. We'll return to the same apartment we rented last December, and Lisa has found a place near UCLA that will be twenty minutes away from our place by bus or by bike.
Our fourth child, Jeff's daughter Rebecca, is also part of the plan. She's coming to Chicago right when we're there and will go see Chinglish with us. She's also working on plans to bring husband Sean stepdaughters Ivy and Zoe to Santa Monica for Christmas vacation week. Matt may also come from Dalian that week. If it all comes together, it will actually be the first time we've had all four kids and their spouses and kids together in the same place at the same time. We're keeping the fingers crossed!
Rebecca and Sean actually made it to Seattle this past March, followed by a trip together with us down to LA on the Coast Starlight that coincided with Spring Break. Rebecca picked up Jeff's love of trains a long time ago -- she, her brother Matt and Jeff did an 8,000-mile trip from Seattle to Boston to DC to Albuquerque to Seattle when they were 8 and 5 years old, respectively -- but Sean has not been on a long-distance Amtrak train before, and quite enjoyed the experience. While in LA the four of us visited of course with Brian, Ardy and grandson Cedro and enjoyed a nice sidewalk mezza at a Mediterranean restaurant in Marina del Rey.
We also enjoyed a family visit from Louise's brother David and his charming sons Charlie and Christian. We visited Pike Place Market and this life-sized picture of a guy who makes 6'4" Jeff seem pretty tiny. We hope to find the life-sized statue of Robert Wadlow in Alton Illinois two weeks from now, on our bike trip. Jeff likes to find folks he can look up to. Christian used some allowance money at Pike Place Market to buy his first gyroscope, which you can see him trying out on his brother's knee.
When it warmed up above 70° for the second time this year last week -- that's right, in June! -- we decided to warm up for our Midwest Meander by taking a 5-day spin around parts of Puget Sound. Here are some highlights starting with the Seattle skyline as seen from the Washington State Ferry when we arrived at Bainbridge Island:
The next day we crossed the 2-mile-long Hood Canal Floating Bridge for the 20th or 30th time, but for the first time since it was recently rebuilt. It was always an intimidating obstacle to travel on the Olympic Peninsula due to its narrow shoulders, but no more!
As we approached Port Townsend on the Larry Scott Trail, we stopped for a photo of town. Wait, over there, to the side, that's Mount Rainier, 97 miles away as the crow flies according to our map! Whew, scenery all over the place!
To get ready for summer, we tried out 3 beds in 3 motels, but our best night was visiting Jim and Anita in Port Townsend, who provided us a most comfortable guest room and a great cook-out supper. We met them multiple times coming up the East Coast in 2008, us on our tandem and them in their cabin cruiser making its way up the Intracoastal Waterway -- check out our blog entries from February through May. They have a newer, bigger boat now, and have designs to head north from Port Townsend this summer. Anita had to take off after dinner when her daughter thought that it was time for baby #2, but in the morning we found out that it was a false alarm (as it turns out, four days early). So only Jim was there to send us off, wearing his alma mater t-shirt from the best-named state college in America.
Taking the ferry across Puget Sound to Whidbey Island we got great views of the mill outside Port Townsend with the Olympic Mountain Range behind, and of lots of boaters out for some Sunday morning exercise in front of downtown. The third photo is of Fort Worden, on the edge of Port Townsend. The business end of the fort -- the guns -- were hidden in that woodsy hillside, behind massive stone walls. Fortunately, never used. The guns are now gone and the fort is a state park with a youth hostel that presents a series of slide lectures every January and February called "Winter Wanderlust." We'll be there next February to give our slide talk on "Hiking and Biking New Zealand."
Later that day we crossed the dramatic Deception Pass Bridge, actually two bridges, with the south span in the distance crossing Deception Pass to Pass Island, and the closer one spanning Canoe Pass. The shot of Louise on the south span shows some little ants on the beach below. Those are people 180 feet below us, and the tide looks like it's ripping. It gets as high as 9-10 knots when there's a good tide differential, one of the most exciting tidal passages in the U.S., in fact!
Our last excitement for the warm-up trip was crossing this old railroad trestle near Anacortes, now part of the 3½-mile long Tommy Thompson Trail. While stopped to enjoy the ocean air and look at Mt. Constitution 20 miles away in the center of the photo, we suddently realized that there was something out of the ordinary in the water -- several harbor seals! They're elusive little buggers. They stay on top long enough for you to see them and turn your camera toward them, then poof! before you've focused they're out of sight in the deep water, who knows where, not surfacing for ages (15 minutes is not at all unusual). But one paused just long enough for his portrait to get taken, just for you.
Finally the trip through China. For that one, the cruise to China via Vladivostok Russia and Busan South Korea is blue, train travel is green, flights are lavendar (just two, from Dalian to Beijing and from Shanghai to Hong Kong), and then that light blue line is for a 3-day cruise down the Yangtze through the famous Three Gorges. All of the cities we have overnights in are underlined in red.
Come back often -- we'll be at this 'til the end of the year! And now for the real "warming up." Seattle is set to have its fourth and fifth days over 70° next weekend. This time of year, temperatures like that are considered a cold spell where we climb off Amtrak next week. St. Louis, here we come!