This morning we woke up at 3:45 a.m., packed up the car with binoculars, cameras, sandwiches, and coffee, and drove two hours in the dark. According to our guidebook and a few websites, we were heading towards an opportunity to see dozens of bald eagles on their migratory path.
Short version: we drove a lot and saw very little.
The scenery was lovely, and we did see many birds in a wetlands area, including one young bald eagle for a moment or two. But the "50 to 100" bald eagles dining on a "smorgasbord of small animal life" - so said the guidebook - did not materialize. Ah well. Nature sightings are like that.
We had breakfast at a classic roadside joint, and on the way back.... In-N-Out!! My B+SIL didn't know what the fuss was about, and probably still don't, but Allan and I were in food bliss.
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B+SIL's new life is amazing. They've got 45 acres of land, on which they plan to grow grapes, raise bees, and possibly graze goats (with the help of local experts in each of those areas). The house itself is a knockout, with a huge open kitchen and stone hearth, four bedroom suites, each with a full bath, plus a full gym, and an enormous deck. They've worked hard all their lives, and I'm so happy they can enjoy this reward.
Our nephew and niece-in-law's house and the office where they practice is also amazing. Everyone seems to have great kitchens and fireplaces. When we visited the apartment where my mother will live, we were three-for-three on beautiful kitchens, and I had major kitchen envy. I like our new apartment a lot, but the kitchen is its least attractive feature.
Longtime wmtc readers may remember that the whole happy-family thing is a more recent development for me. I grew up in a family where love was mixed with heaping doses of fear and abuse. We all acquired a lot of scars, but almost everyone has been determined to heal and reconnect. Now there's a tremendous amount of love, respect, and friendship among us all. This week - and especially last weekend, when more family members were here - we've had so much fun talking, cooking, drinking, eating, and laughing together.
And there is nothing like a happy baby to turn a group of adults into a gaggle of idiots! We are all so in love with Sophia, and ooh and aah at her every move and facial expression. I've always loved being an aunt, and now seeing my nephew step into fatherhood, and B+SIL enjoy grandparenthood is very special.
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D&E (nephew and niece-in-law) live in Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a year-round crunchy, hippie vibe. Oregon wine is a burgeoning new part of the scene, too. It's similar to Ontario's wine region, in that most wineries are small, unpretentious, family-run concerns, except the scenery is way more beautiful. I like the Niagara Region, but it doesn't compare.
Another thing that's different here: legal marijuana. On our way down, we passed highway billboards advertising suppliers. In every strip mall, there are "wellness centers" and "green houses". More and more farms are converting to this new crop. Although I stopped smoking weed many years ago, I love that this state is willing to be a pioneer, and I love how it resonates through the local economy.
Oregon is a mixed bag of new-age hippies and anti-government rednecks, but that's not unusual in many US states. Everyone is super friendly, a bit too friendly for my tastes.
Some years back, Allan and I drove the whole Oregon coast, which I highly recommend, but we had not seen this area at all. On future trips, we'll go to Crater Lake National Park and to Portland.
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As I mentioned, we visited the retirement complex where mom will live, beginning this summer. Her apartment is huge - two bedrooms and two full baths, tons of closet space, all the comforts - with a view of rolling hills, grazing cows, and mountains. There's a gym, a pool, a dining room and bar, even a library run by retired librarians. She has a certain number of meals included in her rent, which is important, since she won't be driving, and could miss the sociability she enjoys now. But she has her own full kitchen, which is also very important.
If I live to be 84 years old, I hope I have the spirit and courage to move to the other side of the country if I want to!
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The only negative part of this trip is the upcoming US election. Although we are all on the same side politically, some of our family members have, like us, lost all belief in the system and regard it as a sham and a sad joke, and others still take it seriously. I practice being quiet and patient during daily updates on the various circus performers.