Footloose 2-Year Anniversary Recap, Part 1

Footloose 2-Year Anniversary Recap

Alan’s post began with more mundane details about our location, like population and elevation. So, to be consistent, I’m starting with numbers from the beginning of our adventure on October 21, 2015.  Some might make you laugh while others should earn a cringe.

24 x 365 x 2 = 17,520   NUMBER OF HOURS together, except for bathroom breaks and an occasional solitary walk or drive to the store.  This leads to one of the top questions we hear:  “How are you still getting along after spending so much time together?!”

HOW ARE WE GETTING ALONG?  FINE, JUST FINE!

36,910   NUMBER OF MILES DRIVEN.  For hours and hours.  Together……..

LOOKING BACK
MOVING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK

Over 135   NUMBER OF DIFFERENT BEDS WE’VE SLEPT IN.

OLD FARMHOUSE “COMFORT”.  We’re pretty sure the mice stayed downstairs.

230 +++  NUMBER OF BREWERIES VISITED.  The nationwide craft beer expansion has expanded our waistlines!  We stopped counting.  That will surely help with the pants sizes, right?

Galveston Beer Scene

37 STATES VISITED, plus parts of Canada and Mexico.

1   VACATION FROM TRAVELS!  A Caribbean cruise.

10,000+++   NUMBER OR COMBINED PHOTOS. Don’t worry, they won’t all be included here!  That leads to the second most frequently asked question: “What were your favorite spots?

Some of mine include places you might expect:  Niagara Falls and Quebec,

Our beautiful State and National parks –

Boston, Gettysburg, Charleston, and New Orleans –

Boston
Charleston View of Fort Sumter
Battlefield at Gettysburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louisiana – We Still Talk About The Crawfish Boil With New Friends

And, small towns not so familiar.

Fairfield, Arkansas – very scenic!  It is a small town hidden in the hills, near a lake, and two golf courses.  Great a week for golf and exploring.

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Fairfield, Arkansas- Wonderfully scenic – but not ideal for night driving.

Lake Lure and Asheville, North Carolina.  Alan enjoyed it except for the traffic and the potential for snow.  Many breweries!

Gautier, Mississippi.  “Why?” you ask.  Well, we found a really good deal on a rental property and thought, why not!  Great food, good golf, close to Biloxi, and lots of history.

Along with the fun, our travels have many reminders of US history.

Madisonville and Abita Springs, Louisiana.  Live there? No, too much weather going on.

CO, Durango   Scenic, touristy, mountain town. It was a  good place to recover from the flu; not too many distractions.

The 3rd most asked question:  “Any regrets?”  Mine – not really, it’s been a wonderful experience.  I do miss family and friends. Fortunately, technology has advanced enough to keep us connected.

I could go on and on but “enough already”! Alan says.

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Oceanside, California   10/7 – 10/29 (Part 2)

Oceanside, California   10/7 – 10/29  (Part 2)

After San Diego, it is a relief to get back to Oceanside.  Here we have all that perfect Southern California climate without the massive traffic and crowds that infest the big cities.  True, Oceanside is still part of the supercity that extends from Tijuana to Los Angeles, but over here there is still some open space.

Oceanside is a multi-layer cake of a city.  The first layer is the beach and the downtown area between Interstate 5 (AKA “The 5”) and the ocean.  This is where California Dreaming takes place.  The beach is sprinkled with deeply tanned young (and a few old) surfers and beach denizens.  Close to the beach is a nice variety of food and drink, hotels and motels, beach gear shops, and lots of little “Quickie Mart” stores for overpriced liquor and beer.  Pretty much any day of the week there is live music someplace.  On Thursday and Saturdays, they have a Farmer’s Market.  On Thursday night they have a “Sunset Market” with an amazing variety of food tents, arts, crafts, produce, and music.  On weekends, the long-haired locals and the buzz-cut Marines mix together (mostly) without incident.

The sun sets on another relentlessly beautiful day
You can almost smell the coconut suntan lotion
You can never tell who is going to be on the Pier
Ocean Highway follows the coast for miles and miles
Get your tacos, BBQ, lumpia, pad thai, roasted corn, or ice cream at the Sunset Market

The next layer of the city starts North of The 5.  This area is a little more spread out, a little warmer and drier.  The hills get bigger and housing developments, all sporting red brick roofed faux haciendas, spread like melted ice cream.  Industries, big box stores, breweries, and strip malls start out here in the “inland”.  Freeways run like rivers to the ocean.

On The 5
East of the 5, North of the 78, heading for the burbs
Abbey style ale, that is
Happy hour at the Works
Another happy hour with some great beers.

The last layer of the city lies even deeper inland.  Tendrils of suburbs wend through valleys, following veins of freeway.  The hills have turned into low mountains, fringed with garlands of large homes, gloating over what must be a great view.  The open spaces become agriculture or golf courses.  The dense multiverse of greenery that thrives on the coast gives way to the high chaparral.

OK, but think of the view

This is also the area where the Missions were built, three centuries ago.  The Spanish clergy came to convert the local people, the Conquistadores came with them to make sure it stuck.  Or something like that.  Check your history books for a long and twisted history with the lands and people changing hands frequently.  We visited the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia and found a beautiful old building that has been lovingly restored.

Founded in 1798

A very rare wooden octagonal cupola

As you may recall, we have been looking for a place to settle down.  Using our lavish beachside rental as a home base, we scoured the area for a new home.  The more we saw, the more we knew what we wanted.  Finally, we found a bargain with everything on our list.  After two years of traveling around the country, we are going to be rooted again.  At least for                 the seven months of the lease.  After that…?

The view from our deck. I am going to miss the sound of the waves, the smell of the salt air.

Next up:  Some thoughts from Marylu

San Diego  9/21 – 10/7  (Part 2 – dentist)

San Diego, California: Population = 1,406,630 (San Diego – Tijuana metro area = 4,922,723), elevation = 62 feet, Average January low temp = 49º, Average July high temp = 74.6º, Average precipitation = 10.34”, average annual rainy days = 41.5

We are staying in San Diego for a couple of extra weeks after Brother Father Bill’s retirement.  On the way here, I broke a chunk of tooth off, so I need some dentistry and, reportedly, Mexico is a great place to get it.  My vague memories of a ragged, sketchy Tijuana back in the 1970s are, I hope, obsolete.

Past the McDonalds, around the corner and onto the Path
Welcome to Mexico

I am hoping I can get everything done within the two weeks in San Diego we have booked so far.  My first appointment is on Tuesday.  The light rail takes us to the border  and a taxi drops us at a modern high-rise office building.  The exam is thorough, and includes a complete set of X-rays.  The technology is new and impressive.  A small, minimally intrusive probe is placed, I hear a little buzz, and up there on the flat screen, an X-ray appears.  The verdict is root canal, post, temporary crown today, a permanent crown next week. (Total: $800) They use a team approach.  Each member of the team is specialized on part of the treatment and they all perform their tasks together with careful precision.  About two hours later, I am tired but not really too sore.

A little ways away from the border, the buildings area tall and modern. Up on the hills, homes cluster together to share the view
Whatever you need done to your teeth, these guys can do it

Back across the border.  The worst part of the whole day was not the dentist, but the interminable trek across the maze that is the border crossing.  At least we did not drive.  The line for cars entering the States is long and wide.  The train whisks us back to the park-n-ride.  We find a brewery nearby to relax in for a while.  Mexico is a strong influence here in the Barrio, and I have a Horchata stout for starters and a michelada for dessert.  It is taco Tuesday but, even though they look and smell muy delicioso, I am going to have to wait for soft pasta later.

Driving into the USA takes a while
Interesting beers and great tacos

The rest of our time in San Diego is pretty low key.  We get caught up on a few things, we have lots of great food and beer, we visit some local attractions.  Our rental is just a few blocks from Balboa Park, home to 17 museums, lots of performing arts venues, gardens, trails, and an enormous zoo.  On this visit, we see the Natural History Museum.  Southern California is home to an incredibly diverse population of plants and animals.  Used to be lots of dinosaurs too.

Cali critters
Gotta really love birds to love a condor
A very large frog
A dire wolf and a saber-toothed tiger
Giant sloth

Way, way back in my youth, I decided that I wanted to join the Navy and see the World.  A few signatures and a physical and I was on my way to San Diego.  Boot camp was mostly a huge expanse of asphalt that we were constantly marching on.  Along the sides, in neat, military order were rows of barracks and a big mess hall.  Some time after my Naval Adventure — saw the world, mostly water — the whole boot camp was taken over by San Diego and converted to shopping, restaurants, museums, and so on.  It became a Destination.  Out of curiosity, and with Brother Father Bill as our guide, we stopped by to see what they have done with the place.  Big improvement!

Sounds a lot better then “Boot Camp”
The food got a lot better too
A tall glass of Arrogant Bastard and some tuna poke after a hard day of marching around the mall

Back when I was in the Navy, I loved San Diego for the climate and for being so green and exotic, compared to Minnesota.  This time around I am not impressed.  San Diego has grown huge, overcrowded, and clogged by freeway after freeway criss-crossing the city.  Off the freeways, the city streets are narrow and crowded and lack parking even in the residential neighborhoods.  The homeless are camped everywhere.  The airport is right downtown, with the flight path and noise right overhead.  We will be glad to get out of San Diego.

Next up: Oceanside again

San Diego  9/21 – 10/7  (Part 1, Bill Retires)

San Diego, California: Population = 1,406,630 (San Diego – Tijuana metro area = 4,922,723), elevation = 62 feet, Average January low temp = 49º, Average July high temp = 74.6º, Average precipitation = 10.34”, average annual rainy days = 41.5

San Diego is just a short hop down the coast from Oceanside.  The several cities along the way blend into one another like scoops of ice cream on a warm day.  By the time we reach the city limits, the mega-city is huge and densely populated, swarming with aggressive traffic.  Freeways criss-cross everywhere in every direction.  Once again, we thank the inventors of GPS for finding our path through the labyrinth.

Freeways are woven into San Diego like vines in a fence
Just follow the blue line

Our mission here is all about family.  Marylu comes from a family of 8 siblings who (generally) get along famously.  As I quickly found out when I married into this family, the wits are quick and the cracks are wise, so try to keep up.  We are gathered here to celebrate Brother Father Bill’s retirement from the Navy.  Bill is a Catholic chaplain who has had an extraordinary life of adventure and service to God and Country.

The whole Dorwart gang, from 2014

The ceremony takes place aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.  She is currently tied up in San Diego in preparation for her next deployment, the Persian Gulf.  The many workers and sailors scurry about the pier, dwarfed by this gigantic mountain of steel.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt, or as the crew calls it, “The Big Stick”

Inside the Roosevelt, our party is led through grey passageways, up and down ladders, and through cavernous compartments.  The ceremony is taking place on the hanger deck, which has been draped with an American flag the size of the one in “Patton”.  The Boatswain’s whistle announces the arrival of the officers.  Stern looking men in crisp white uniforms speak in glowing tribute to Bill (aka Lieutenant Commander Dorwart).  Memorabilia is presented.  A solemn flag ceremony is performed.  More than a few proud tears leak from the watching eyes of friends and family.

The officers honor one of their shipmates
Brother Father Lieutenant Commander Bill addresses the gathering

Later on, the friends and family gather on the beach for a picnic and some informal time together.  Later still, we gather for a sunset cruise around the San Diego Bay.  This is a very loving family and goodbyes take a really long time.  Smooth sailing everyone.  Good luck on your next mission, Bill.

Party on the Coronado Beach
San Diego at night

Next up:  San Diego (still)

Oceanside, California  9/15 – 9/21

Oceanside, California: Population = 167,086, elevation = 66 feet, Average January low temp = 45º, Average July high temp = 73.9º, Average precipitation = 11.3

From Penngrove, our plans lead us South along the coast.  After just a few miles of scenic grassy hills, Highway 101 plummets down to the sea.  Tourists that we are, we MUST see the Golden Gate Bridge.  Up close, the bridge is staggeringly huge, long, and tall.  My photos do not do it justice.  I was looking down the center of it.  The best view would be from the side, showing the whole length.  Unfortunately, to get that angle, one has to be somewhere in San Francisco.  In the midst of this gigantic, frantic, anthill of people and cars, our main impulse was to get the hell out town of and back to sanity.

The Golden Gate Bridge looms large over us as we enter San Francisco
The view from the Presidio

After many slow miles of stoplights and city traffic, the political entity that is Highway 101 turns back into a freeway and, relieved, we speed happily along our way, following the Bay.  Until everything slows down again and traffic slows to a crawl for miles and miles.  The 60th annual Monterey Jazz Festival starts today, so we are alongside the many, many fans headed toward Monterey.  Much later than expected, we arrived at our dingy little hotel in dingy little Soledad.

That water tower says Soledad

The next day we set off through California’s “Salad Bowl of the Country” region.  We see fruits, vegetables, and nuts of every kind, growing in precise rows, stretching out to the horizons.  Eventually we turn East toward Highway 5, California’s “backbone” highway.  Along the way we  spot another big product California produces: oil.  Our stop for the night is a hotel in Lebec.  This is, apparently a popular stop for truckers on the way to LA. and our hotel has several acres of asphalt to park the big rigs on.

Rows and rows of vegetables
Where the veggies end, the oil wells start
Park your rig in Lebec, tomorrow is L.A.

The next day we climb to the top of the coastal mountains then plunge down into the human swarm that is Los Angeles.  We timed our journey to cross through LA on a Sunday, when traffic would be light.  After slogging along with 6 lanes of slow moving vehicles, we shudder to think of what it must be like during a weekday rush hour.

Passing over the coastal mountains
A very quick look at Los Angeles

At long last, we come to our destination, Oceanside.  This city is a contender for our new home town.  It is about the right size, even if it does sprawl a bit.  It has the Great Climate All Year thing going for it.  The town is full of interesting shops, restaurants, and breweries.  And right there, mighty Mother Pacific Ocean!

Toys at rest in the Oceanside Marina
Endless beaches and a very long pier
One of our favorite names for a brewery

Family calls.  We are on the way to attend the Navy retirement ceremony for Marylu’s brother Bill, in San Diego.  We will be back in Oceanside for a better look later.

Next up: San Diego

Penngrove, California  8/25 – 9/15 (part 2)

To the South of Penngrove lies Petaluma, a city of about 60,000.  The freeway cuts it into two portions; the quiet bedroom community, and the compact historical downtown.  It is a town of great restaurants, nice city parks, and lots of community activities.  So far Petaluma is my favorite potential settling place.  I like the size, the amenities, the geography and climate.  The freeway is a nuisance, but at least it is built up high so city streets pass under it and, barring rush hours, offers a quick shot to Santa Rosa or San Francisco.

The Historic downtown in Petaluma features a Seed Bank
The Wednesday Farmers Market has produce, food, arts and crafts, and music. The Saturday market is larger.
The patio at Dempsey’s overlooks the boardwalk along the Petaluma River.
Good beer, a lively patio, and fun food with these guys.
Up until 2001, Petaluma was the home of World Championship Wrist Wrestling

Driving North from Penngrove, you find Cotati, Rohnert Park, and Santa Rosa.  Cotati is a sprawling bedroom community with a cute little downtown square and some nice restaurants and bars.  Rohnert Park blends into Cotati seamlessly, but features more big box stores and malls near its freeway centered downtown.  Rohnert Park is also home to Sonoma State University.

Stroll past the sidewalk cafes to get to the bandstand in the park in Cotati
Going to SSU for a major in Pinot

Santa Rosa is a city of about 175,000, with a mix of all kinds of neighborhoods, a somewhat gentrified downtown, and a good selection of breweries and wineries.  Downtown there is a big public square where we had great fun joining in a political rally.  We also found a huge enclosed mall downtown, just a block away from the Sonoma County History Museum.  A little further North is the Charles M. Schulz Museum, for all of us Peanuts fans.  And, of course, it is home to many fine breweries and wineries.  Highway 12 exits the city to wander Eastward through over a hundred wineries.

Fourth Street in Santa Rosa is nicely landscaped, gentrified, and populated with shops and restaurants
These guys are world class brewers with several gold medals awarded to their beers
The Sonoma County museum has trophy Seabiscuit won at Santa Anita
The typewriter that was used by Luther Burbank’s secretary
The WW1 flying ace saves the day.

We spent a lot of our time here searching for a new place to live.  It is one thing to pull up stakes and set off; it is another thing entirely to stop and set up a new home.  There are very few furnished rentals available long term, so we have to consider re-investing in furniture, plates, kitchenware, towels, cutlery, sheets, etc., etc.  All of that drives a stake into the ground that may or not have to be pulled up again later.

Maybe…

Next time: San Diego

Penngrove, California  8/25 – 9/15

Penngrove, California: Population = 2,522, elevation = 85 feet, Average January low temp = 39.2º, Average July high temp = 78.6º, Average precipitation = 26.65

From Eureka, we got onto Highway 101 again and continued our run down the West Coast.  The road passes through spectacular mountain passes and next to expansive ocean vistas.  It varies from freeway to two lanes to flagmen controlled, one lane construction sites.  It is a beautiful drive, but if you are in a hurry, take a different highway.

On the descent from the coastal mountains, we learned about micro-climate.  There is a layer of cold air that the ocean creates that chills the coast.  The first of the coastal mountains scrapes off some that layer so more hot air from the inland mixes in.  The higher mountains stop what is left of the cool air and the temperatures climb.  Penngrove lies in the Petaluma Gap, a break in the coastal mountains that allows the cold air in.  In a week of record-setting heat, our garden-level rental in Penngrove was cool and comfortable when nearby cities were scorching hot.

California microclimates
After escaping the heat at a movie, this is what we found on our dash thermometer.

Our stay in Penngrove is not the same routine that we have been going through for these (almost) two years.  We are starting to look for a place to settle.  We know what we like as far as city size, climate, geography, infrastructure, and so on.  Now we are going to visit cities that fit our criteria and see how good a fit they are.  Rural Penngrove is located in an area where several of the nearby cites look like good candidates.

A rural scene in Penngrove
A few of our neighbors
More neighbors. We love the roosters crowing and the occasional, hilarious BAAA from the sheep.

Sebastopol is a small city to the Northwest of Penngrove.  We did a quick tour of the town and found a nice shopping area, some parks, a couple of breweries, some great food, and some fun street art.  In a good news / bad news way Sebastopol is only 20 minutes from the ocean at Bodega Bay.  Good news because it is so close and bad news because the traffic going to the ocean often clogs the town to a near standstill.

The used car salesman
Happy campers
A fine ale for a warm day, cold and not too hoppy.
Playing on the wind in Bodega Bay

East of Penngrove is wine country.  This is the heart of Sonoma County and home to hundreds  of vineyards.  We picked a Saturday to drive out to the town of Sonoma.  Our route took us over the high hills that parallel the coast, past hundreds of acres of vineyards, along narrow twisty roads, and finally to Highway 12, the Wine Highway.  Saturday was probably not a great choice, as the Highway was solid traffic for miles.  The town itself was busy, but not jammed.  It seems a nice little town, with a big town square and lots of quaint, touristy shops.  There were even a couple of breweries amidst all that wine.

Vineyards along the Wine Highway
Wine shops are everywhere in Sonoma.
Historic old buildings line the streets around the town square in Sonoma.

There is too much to see and do around here for just one blog entry, so I will add another chapter later.  To be continued…