Thursday, November 30, 2006

The stars@ night are big & bright...

We hit Texas but not before stopping in Deming, NM for a scorpion in lucite, a belt buckle with two rattle snake heads in profile (so maybe one head?) in lucite, a cactus egg (a little egg with a cactus seed in it that you water and hopefully get a cactus) for my sister, and a giant dice (di?) piggy bank for Oliver’s future nursery. Since everything is bigger in TX, we weren’t able to drive the whole way to San Antonio so we first stopped in Fort Stockton for dinner at Pizza Hut since everything else seemed even unhealthier.
Ever have one of those surreal “And then…and then…and then” experiences? Here’s my letter to Pizza Hut, I think it sums it up:

November 21, 2006

Pizza Hut
Fort Stockton, TX

To Whom It May Concern:

This evening my husband and I were driving through Ft. Stockton, TX on our way to San Antonio and chose to eat at Pizza Hut over other options. I thought it best to report to you the condition of this establishment.

When we walked in, all 22+ tables were dirty and only 5 still had customers at them. After a brief wait, a waitress cleaned off a table and we placed our order. I was disappointed to discover that the salad bar was also quite dirty – several containers were empty, the carrots were overly dry, and there was barely enough Ranch dressing to accommodate my salad.

We were pleasantly surprised with the quality and flavor of our pizza and how quickly we received it, but were shocked at the NINE napkins we received for the two of us. Then when my husband asked for silverware, we received SIX more napkins – a total of FIFTEEN large napkins for the two of us. Upon looking around at the dirty tables, all of which had yet to get bussed, I noticed that just about all of them also had an excessively wasteful number of napkins left unused.

By the end of our meal, only one table had been bussed and I noticed that its rather large stack of unused napkins went into the trash.

To add to this, my husband and I counted TEN employees working at this time. Only three were on the floor but none attempted to clean off a table unless someone came in to sit at one, preferring to sit and chat with customers or other staff members. The others seemed milled about behind the counter doing some work but overall just chatting with one another or yelling at the waiters on the floor to come back to the kitchen.

Pizza Hut seemed like the safest bet for our dinner on this road trip. As I said, we were pleased with the flavor and speed of our order but the lack of cleanliness worried us to some degree. I could only imagine how disgusting the restrooms were so neither of us approached that general direction.

Even though the pizza was good, I thought you should know that we are less likely to have a sit-down dinner at another Pizza Hut for quite some time due to the condition of this branch.

And now back to my blog, already in progress…..

After our dining experience (boy, was it!), we drove to Ozona, TX. I highly recommend the Super 8 Motel there even though there rates were higher than those posted in the Super 8 International Guide* and on the back of our room door. The room was the nicest we’ve been in of the chain and I’d even have a party in their indoor pool area because it’s so cool and jungle-like…if my travels ever took me (and a necessary quantity of friends for a party) back there. Not that it ever would, but I’m just sayin’…

*I hope I don’t sound too white trash or un-sophisticated with my name dropping of the Super 8 franchise but money is tight right now and I signed up for their Trip Rewards and they are everywhere hence the INTERNATIONAL Guide. So hopefully you know I’ve stayed at fancier or cooler places in the past and will do so in the future, too.

Anyhoo, that night we called Mom with an estimated ETA to San Antone (that’s what they call it) and asked her at what age do babies start smiling on there own – she thought it was older than Oliver is. Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s around 7 weeks when you’re about to meet Grandma. We pulled into her driveway, I unbuckled Oliver and handed him off and it was like a firework display of smiles directed at Mom. Not prior or since have I seen so much beaming…and I’m his mother!!!

Now, my mother and I have had our moments…in fact I feel we have about a 4-day visitation rule (my wise grandmother said, “Company is like fish, after a few days, it starts to stink”) but I’m hear to tell you that I started crying the day before we left about leaving and needless to say, I was a mess the day of. I remember thinking decades ago (seriously, decades) that I looked forward to bringing my child to show my mother mainly to show that I’m competent I guess but also to make her oh-so happy and let me just say, my mother was oh-so happy til the day we left, Oliver is just that wonderful… but I digress.

When we first got there, we hung out at her house and had H.E.B. brisket (yum!!!) sandwiches while she gushed over Oliver. Later we went to my cousin Anna’s house for my Aunt Tella’s DELICIOUS caldo (that’s “soup” to non-Spanish speakers) then apple pie and this shockingly good dessert my mom made that was basically like a really moist date bar called Dessert of the Gods or something like that. After that we played Texas Hold ‘Em (woo-hoo!).

The next day was Thanksgiving and I awoke to my older brother and family arriving at my mom’s. Anna, Aunt Tella, and Joey came over for The Feast of H.E.B. ham (yum!!!) and turkey (little too overly marinated/dry but still good), mashed potatoes, my Aunt’s rockin’ dressing, green beans, sweet potatoes…you get the drift. And since I haven’t blogged in the last couple of days, my fingers are tired from typing so this shall continue later.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Monday was spent mostly just driving. We did stop at a huge indoor outlet mall in Tempe, AZ. Note about outlet malls: if they are indoors, the bargains are not as abundant. Still though, Tommy bought some jeans & I bought a pleather purse that has a really cool sacred heart stitched onto it...not that I have much use for purses that are too small to hold the Diapees & Wipees pack, a changing pad, and a bottle (not to mention the formula, change of clothes, extra pair of socks, a small blanket and whatever else goes into our unisex Gap messenger bag that we use as a diaper bag that somehow ends up weighing 30+ pounds), but we're headed towards grandparents and the chance of possibly slipping off to a movie at an actual movie theatre as an actual couple so I may actually get to use my rockin' new purse that I only spent $17!!! on.

So far, the drive has been great. Tommy & I have "only" had one little blowout. I quote "only" because ANY size tiff tends to level me and since this one was mostly due to my frayed nerves due to the sleep deprivation mixed with my bossiness that I need to curb, a long discussion was had and this too did pass. The restaurant playing Love Hurts followed by I Can't Live (If Living is Without You) in the middle of said discussion was a nice touch though. Overall, I can't believe how hard marriage can turn over something little then it thankfully turns back to sweet wonderfulness where you appreciate each other even more...still though, tiffs suck. I don't see how so many couples have so many (we see a lot being in the Navy) and stay together.

Oliver too is a great travel companion. There were those that said there is no way we can drive cross-country with a baby but so far, we've proven them wrong. He is at his peak of portability and we are taking full advantage. As an added bonus, he's sleeping for longer stretches at night (and waking up seemingly a pound bigger and a couple inches longer - they're puppies, I tell ya!). Oh sure, it's 4:30 in the a.m. as I type this, but you just need to trust me on this.

And now I must go to the car and get a bottle of water that I forgot to restock in the previously mentioned corpulent diaper bag. Normally I'm not such a stickler but the tap water here tastes HORRIBLE.

Tomorrow we head to Texas after a brief stop at this nearby ghost town and any snake farm, tacky gift shop, and possible outlet mall along the way.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Truly Grand

We saw the Grand Canyon today. It was truly amazing. I wish my pics captured it in all its red glory but at least you get the general idea.

I think I may be a bit scared of heights...or the infinite drops you can stand right next to are just plain mortalizing because when I would join Tommy "out there," my visits wouldn't last too long before my legs leaned towards safety. I'm telling myself it's because I have a baby not because I AM a baby.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

San Francisco

We left the Bay Area this morning after having a lovely, if not rather rushed time. After more crappy weather, we arrived in Berkeley Thursday night and were able to have a decent Indian meal with my nephew John. The next day we started the day at the Bread Workshop with a damn fine pumkin muffin for me, cream cheese apricot danish for Tommy, and fruit-yogurt-granola and delightfully strong Uncommon Grounds coffee for both. After bumming around Berkeley for a bit, John and Mike, the guy he works for, joined us and we went to the Golden Gate Bridge & Fisherman’s Wharf to go to Musee Mechanique.

Now, I would give out government secrets at the slightest threat of foot pain and the morning hinted in that general direction. So a visit to Walgreens for Cars tattoo bandaids (it’s the little things that get you by) and socks (that threw my outfit off making me look REALLY touristy but I thought would prevent further pain.

I thought wrong. The socks, though thin, pushed my feet into a different “level” of my so-called comfy pleather Mary Janes. What I learned: Sorry PETA but pleather makes for an uncomfortable walking shoe because if your foot disagrees with it, your foot suffers and the shoe continues on. And yet, it was too late and I hobbled around the Golden Gate Bridge chanting in my head the mantra my friend Brooke (RIP) taught me decades ago when he sold me a pair of really great black patent cowboy boots (cut me a break, it was the 80’s!): “Beauty knows no pain. Beauty knows no pain. Beauty knows no pain.”

The cowboy boots back then and the Mary Janes now were in cahoots and by the time we left Musee Mechanique, my dogs were barking, if not howling, and I practically cried with thanks as I snapped at my companions, “I’m going to that Payless and see if I can get some shoes! I’ll meet you at the restaurant!”

What I didn’t think about is I had a cranky-getting-crankier Oliver strapped onto me and only about a quarter of a bottle of formula on me…and yet, the dogs barked.

Now, I have a big foot. BIG. As in a size 12. Payless Shoes can be a benefit for the disposably trendy shoes but not all stores have a selection catering to My People. Fortunately, the shoe gods cut me a break and even though this store only offered a row of options, a pair of black Basic spin-offs and $20 would buy me some time to enjoy the rest of the evening.

It’s important to note that I was enjoying myself prior to this. The Bridge was gorgeous as usual and Musee Mechanique is always a great place to take people who’ve never been, but every now and then, the pain got to me and I was a little snappy in turn making Tommy snappy but I think we apologized enough to each other, understood and forgave. Praise little baby Jesus.

What makes this rambling story even worse was the condition of Mike who was born with cerebral palsy. Here I was practically leveled by probably an inch square total of skin and then there’s Mike putzing around hill and dale with a smile on his face with John taking care of him with the same smile like the superior human he has become. (“If John doesn’t get into Heaven for doing what he’s doing, then that’s a god I don’t want ti be a part of.” – weird all the religious references in this entry and yet, not so much.)

But once I got the new pair of shoes while doing my best to tame sporadic O fussing, the skies parted and I too perked up. They threatened to cloud over when I went to pay for the shoes and the guy at the register said he had to take the sensor off the left shoe before I could walk out with them – “How in the hell was I going to put it back on with O now full-tilt cranked and a bottle now empty?” I worried but the clouds stayed clear if not stellar and the register guy came around on his invisible white horse and got on his knee putting the shoe back on like a modern Prince Charming.

This friendliness and going the extra step was felt all day, when on the subway or bus, MANY people offered to let me sit because of the baby and bus drivers quickly jumped up to help Mike and his chair onto the many buses we took.

Even though I was beat from walking so much, I felt good from what we saw and the company we kept. “We made a day trip in half a day” Mike typed on the computer lap-thing he uses to communicate. Amen to that!

Friday, November 17, 2006


Remember when car lighters just lit cigarettes? Okay, so I never smoked much but I knew people...

Anyhoo, now cars don't even come with lighters but the adapters remain and my, how I have taken advantage! In the front seat adapter, we have the iPod and it's HUGE library mocking the lack of radio stations on the road. In the backseat, which I have deemed "my office," if my cell phone isn't charging, I've got the inverter (thanks for the suggestion Mike!) plugged in and the laptop plugged into that. I even pumped yesterday and Oliver was quite pleased with the hooch that was in that bottle!

Speaking of O, he's doing great. He's been sleeping a lot and wakes up alert and relatively pleasant.

We're in Berkeley now. About to go to Bread Workshop for breakfast then head to San Francisco with my nephew John. I'll update more later.

YESTERDAY'S LITTLE PERK: Homemade patty sausage at the Black Bear Diner in Mt. Shasta, CA.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I already miss you

Today starts The Big Roadtrip (TBR). Goodbyes suck.

They started a couple of weeks ago when we went up to Sedro-Woolley to see Tommy’s relatives. I have so enjoyed getting to know these people especially his grandmother who just plain rocks. Needless to say, the tears started a’flowin’ before I left our house, continued when I got to theirs when I saw her, stopped clean shortly thereafter then recommenced when she told Tommy how amazing it’s been seeing him grow from a boy to a man and that his greatness was due in part to me.

As you probably know, there’s quite an age difference between Tommy and I and not once did I ever feel judged by any of Tommy’s family over this – and I’m older than a couple (few?) of Tommy’s uncles. For that and for getting to know all his great relatives, I am very thankful.

I also got a visit with Amy and with Stef & Mike. Good food was had at both. We ate at Pies and Pints with Amy – I sampled the spinach feta & the classic chicken and was chapped to discover they were sold out of the chocolate-peanut butter one. Oh well, next visit.

Mike once again made STELLAR biscuits and gravy. I hope this road trip guides us to some good plates of the stuff but I truly don’t think they will be able to compare to Mike’s. He was also OH-so helpful in tutoring me on our new macbook so I am now typing this entry with confidence as we drive south on Hwy 5 headed for Portland.

Thanks so much for being there, our Seattle friends! You will be missed but know you have a place to stay…once we find one.

Back on our side of the Sound, we've been staying at Linda’s house after the movers packed up our stuff. I should have taken a picture of our digs on the water and right next door to Rick, Karry, and the kids. I could think of know better place to end our stay in Washington then with them, our adopted family. And my heart aches knowing that I won’t be 10 minutes away from each other for quite some time.

As I finish typing this entry, we’re at a Super 8 in Roseberg, OR. The weather for today’s drive has SUCKED and we got a much later start than planned, but we got to stop in Portland to see my friend Alissa so it’s all worth it.

Tomorrow the adventure continues…..

TODAY’S LITTLE PERK: A pumpkin shake from Jack in the Box. I highly recommend them and my waistline in thankful they are seasonal.