Friday, December 28, 2012

8 states by car in 1 day!

 ...and not the upper NE, but Real-Sized states!

We made it through Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.

I awoke at 4:30 AM, but didn't get up til 5:30, as planned. We were on the road by 6:30, and pulled into Raleigh between 12-1:00 AM. It was a long haul, but not terrible. I drove the first 12 hours.

The morning started out like heaven. Quiet muted baby colors. Snow and sunrise, surely the most beautiful sight. For hours, I watched out the window while Justin slept beside me.

 {IOWA, god's country}

The route:

View Larger Map

It's interesting to make a journey over and over again. Knowing the towns along the way, where to stop for coffee in Charleston is a good sort of familiarity. I've enjoyed learning these roads.

Thirty-seven degrees this morning felt balmy when I took Bailey out to go potty. Justin's happy to be home out east. Today after one night's reprieve in Raleigh, we'll return to the OBX.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Glühwein von Sara Schultz

I was thinking about what made Christmas feel like Christmas. It's quiet this year, three of us and the dog holding down the house in Iowa. Ice packed snow hides the grass and street.
We slip around town and back home again.

Two years in Germany imprinted Glühwein (Glow-wine) into my idea of holiday tradition, so I scoured the internet for a suitable recipe. They were not overly specific, and so I modified one hoping it would not taste horrid.

Surprisingly I think it may have turned out better than any I have tasted. This is a heavily modified recipe from Jamie Oliver.

Glühwein von Sara Schultz

·       2 clementines
·       100g  (½ cup) brown sugar
·       3 whole cloves
·       1 stick cinnamon
·       3 whole allspice
·       Grated nutmeg- about 5-6 shakes- whatever you feel like (can grate fresh also) - I like nutmeg, so I used more
·       1 bottle Merlot  (I used Left Coast Merlot- you don't need a fancy wine)

Peel clementines into large sections. Pour sugar into large saucepan over medium heat, add the pieces of peel and squeeze the clementine juice over top. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, allspice and about 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg. Stir in just enough red wine to cover the sugar.

Let this simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved into the red wine and then bring to the boil. Keep on a rolling boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until you've got a beautiful thick syrup. This will create a wonderful flavor base by really getting the sugar and spices to infuse and blend well with the wine. It's important to do make a syrup base first because it needs to be quite hot, and if you do this with the whole bottle of wine in there you'll burn off the alcohol.

When your syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low and add the rest of the wine. Gently heat the wine and after around 5 minutes, when it's warm and delicious, ladle it into glasses and serve.

Try not to get too hammered! It's hard to stop at one cup! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Wish upon a scar"

I fell last night. My mom spilled her tea on the carpet and her shoes. It was in slow motion and at first I thought I wouldn't get up. But in a fit of conscience I jumped up with my computer cord wrapped around my tennis shoe and caught on the leg of the footstool. I crashed into the hardwood floor, like an elephant falling down. 

"Jeez, you two are a spectacle!"  He said.

I said I was ok. No pain. Just embarrassment at my continual accident-prone, eternally dorky nature. I would never be graceful.

I pulled up my fleece pants and saw that my knee was damaged. Somehow a carpet nail had caught my knee and ripped through it straight down, revealing my inner flesh. Just a hint of red seeped out. I expected it would bleed much more.

They fussed about looking for something to hold it together. "It'll scar." I said, remembering my chin scar. Burning with embarrassment and regret at a bike accident which took place over eight years ago now. I was trying to protect my sister. I failed and ripped myself open in the process.

I rip myself over and over again. Trying to protect myself from the outside world. Trying to pretend that I am easy going and graceful and caring. Trying so hard to be good enough.

I wish I could be good enough as I am. Not as people want me to be. Or who I think I should be. Just as me.

Friday, December 14, 2012

"Is this heaven?"

"No, it's Iowa." That's what we think the dog's thinking since coming on this holiday to the Midwest. He has the run of the yard and the house. Kathy mothering him like he's an extra grandchild. I imagine the day we're to leave, he's going to wave goodbye to us at the door and stay with the lady who makes him organic scrambled eggs when we run out of dog food.

Rain is falling outside, strange for December in the Midwest. Of course I can't help but think of global warming when we have this weather, especially with the temperatures passing the seventy degree mark in the last couple of weeks. Balmy is not a word for Iowa in December.

Iowa folks are funny. They all think you know every tiny town in the state. The other night we were at a second hand store in Iowa City, and the girl told me she grew up in some little town that I didn't recognize, and then mentioned another tiny town I didn't know. I'd said already that I wasn't from Iowa and then said, "I could name hundreds of towns in North Dakota but I'm not that good at Iowa." She just went silent.

People are funny. Iowans are from Iowa for the most part and they are sort of dumb-founded when you don't know every street corner in the state. Not that they are not nice, but it is a funny thing. My mom told me that before about Iowans. I could pinpoint quite a lot of little towns in Iowa on a map, which I think is decent considering my feeble relationship with the state.

Still I am enjoying my time here. It took a while to slow down after the two hectic months of working and running around out east, but I've finally settled down and had time to mentally relax. It's a difficult thing, half-living out of your car for years at a time, living one place, working another, wondering where you belong, trying to make your life fit into another's, hoping everything makes sense.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Newbo Neighborhood

Yesterday I spent the afternoon wandering around a neighborhood of Cedar Rapids called "Newbo" for "New Bohemia"- an area which was heavily damaged during the 2008 flood. It was home to many of the oldest homes and buildings and to the Czech Village area, which has also since been somewhat rebuilt. In the two years that I've visited the area, the last six month interval has created the greatest expanse of cultural growth. Gorgeous restorations of old buildings preserving historic details create a naturally artistic atmosphere to house the new shops which have sprung up or relocated.

It's the buildings that frame the art, but it's the folks inside who make the place welcoming. Door after door, I wandered into another person who made the afternoon an experience rather than an observation. To describe Iowa: comfortable, simple, meandering and welcome.

Third Street Resale, a shop which has been around 10 years, but relocated from the CSPS building recently into this new updated old space. I found an old Viewmaster in here with slides of Chicago.
Third Street Resale
Best use of a chainring and crank!
You can work on your own bicycle for $5 an hour or have someone else do it for $100 per hour. I'm guessing they are trying to encourage bike self empowerment.
They have community action meetings in the neighborhood at a number of the stores in the neighborhood.
Metalworks in the Cherry Building
Kilns in the Cherry Building
Restored elevator in the Cherry Building
Cool old ceiling in this second hand shoppe
Inside the CSPS building
Beautiful artist Pieta Brown from Iowa City was on the over head speaker. She's playing at CSPS on January 18. "The world left me on my own. Not the first or the last."
View from the CSPS
House Rules
CSPS upstairs bar with view
Massive affinity for this view I had
Attention to detail
Art in the CSPS
I think little kids would love this. I did.
"The morning's sermon is ten millions raindrops falling on ten million leaves- the messages goes straight to the heart though not one word has been spoken."
Brewed Cafe makes a mean cappuccino
Brewed Cafe with Newbo Farmer's Market in the background
Craig Volesky, a Cedar Rapids artist on display at Brewed Cafe

A magical candy house from North Liberty:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Where is winter?

We're in Iowa. All that snow up north and none for us. What a damn shame. I go to bed hoping for white stuff to come overnight and wake up to grass in the backyard. Tragic. Sixteen inches in Minneapolis- only four hours north!

This morning at the community center (where we go to exercise), I was lamenting the lack of snow with a fellow gym-goer. He'd asked where I was from and thought my affinity for the white stuff was due to my North Dakota roots. I told him Iowa was like Florida in comparison. I am kind of not kidding. For sure my snow-love is related to my childhood in the Midwest. Having four seasons is just natural. But Justin is relieved. However, he's never been sledding or skiing so maybe he's missing out.

Bailey has adapted to Iowa, and loves being spoiled by Grandma Kathy. She has taken a love to the pup. He comes in from outside frisky with energy from the cool, crisp weather. Today he even tried to sit on my lap. I've never seen him so happy.

We've been trying to decide when to return to the east coast, and the date is not set. The road is still not rebuilt to arrive on the island. They're hoping to reconstruct it by Christmas. Every few days I check the update on the NCDOT website to see how highway 12 is coming along. Weather problems have affected the rebuilding effort.

What 2013 holds is yet to be known. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Taking the sandy Sandy road home

Hovering in Norfolk for a night, we're sitting in a coffee shop near my temporary home in Ghent. We'd decided to leave this evening at low tide, which was at 5:06PM. The road home is still washed out but they allow 4x4 access intermittently. The alternative is a 2-2.5 hour ferry ride, which is in addition to the regular drive to Norfolk, more than doubling the usual travel time.

The weather's been bad. Wind and rain. The road keeps getting overwash. All day today the road was closed, but opened just a few minutes before 5:00, and we took off, following the lead car through the sand road, next to the road which was buckled by Sandy a few weeks ago.

Justin said, "It's always an adventure with me!"

I could have passed on this sort of adventure, but what do you do once you're in the situation? You go along for the ride.

Right now I have nowhere else to be. No man's land between jobs, licenses, lives. Trying to start something new. Trying to find the path. I'm trying to live day by day, and not stress excessively about what the future holds.

So we navigated the sand road, arriving safely at the end. We'd caught end of the train of cars following the lead vehicle by less than a minute. Our Trailblazer was the caboose.

Driving through the wreckage of the hurricane was rather sobering. Sand piles, garbage, ocean water in the road. I tried to make a video but dusk acted as a wall of its own, dimming out the images. We gawked. But made it through.

Stopping in Kitty Hawk, we sprayed off the truck, pulling sand out of the wheel wells with our fingers, leaving black fingers.

In the morning we head to Ohio to visit my brother before continuing on to Iowa where we'll have the first Thanksgiving with our whole family since 2000. It's Justin's first meeting of my family, and his introduction to the Midwest.

Hoping the road leads us home safely.

Kinda bad dusk pictures of sandy Sandy road:
(well pretty bad dusk pictures) 

Garbage on the side of the road waiting to be collected by the state of NC. 
Just like North Dakota after a blizzard only with snow instead.
This house is leaning and missing its stairs.
Those last 2 houses are leaning and probably condemned, as well you can see the road or lack thereof in the foreground.
The usual road.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

--Traveling back to the OBX--

Reporting from Kitty Hawk Starbucks

While in Hampton Roads this time, I stayed in Norfolk, near Ghent, which is that area that reminds me of Portland. Old houses. Small, tree-lined streets. Local businesses. Thrift stores. Universities. A coffee shop ran by an Eastern European man and his Asian wife. It's strange how much environment makes a difference. It really does.

I'd posted an ad on Craig's List looking for someone who had a spare room for me to rent when I was in town working. The woman who I'm renting from works in Ghent three days a week and spends the rest of her time in Raleigh with her girlfriend and her son. So the house is mostly empty. She told me to keep a key and use her house whenever I wanted. I just leave a little cash in the drawer when I leave. It's delightful. 

I noticed that all the leaves have changed or fell off since my last drive through. Or last time I came through it was in the dark, so that may not be entirely true. The road is still washed out but they are repairing it. 4X4s are allowed go to through. Some of it is still sand. A 37YO highway worker was killed this week fixing the road. He had three kids and a wife. I am sick for them. What price we pay for roads.

For Veteran's day, I climbed aboard the USS Wisconsin to participate in a Hampton Roads Community Band concert honoring our vets. We were graced with clear blue skies, sunshine and 70 degree weather. Two days of sunshine over the weekend in the midst of grey and cold weather. Today we are back to the 50s and dropping.

We're scheduled to return home to the Midwest next week. Hurricane Sandy disrupted our original plans- we were supposed to hop the train today. Instead we are going to hop in the car with the dog in tow. This will allow for extreme flexibility, and we'll be able to come back whenever we want.

So I am a couple hours into my trip, and now have to drive to Stumpy Point to catch the 2-2.5 hour ferry across the sound to Rodanthe, where it's another thirty minutes to drive home, or so. I'm trying to enjoy the trip. Even if it's rote by now. I stopped at for a soy latte, and I'm on my way.

Crappy Android picture of my home away from home

Friday, November 2, 2012

[Voting, Ferries, Sandy, Confusion]

 In mild depression and scatteredness, I write this blog.

The ferries are allowing non-residents back on Hatteras Island. I thought about returning today, but investigated the situation and discovered the normally 2-3 hour trip was taking 8-10 hours. And this was before they lifted the restrictions, when they were only allowing certain people back. So today it will be even worse.

Instead of an arduous journey at the end of an an arduous month, I've decided to rest in Virginia Beach for a few more days. I'm going to volunteer with the Obama campaign, since it's the end of the election and Virginia is a swing state. I stopped at the headquarters yesterday and the girl in charge told me that they have a hard time getting people to knock on doors. They are only visiting prior supporters, but people who vote sporadically. I've done this before and it was fine. I enjoy taking part in the political process rather than standing back and seeing what happens.

Being in New Zealand during the last presidential election was much less stressful and I didn't miss being subjected to the political ads. However, since I don't watch TV, and only listen to the radio in the car, it is pretty easy to avoid them here, but the climate of polarity and venomous hatred toward people who think differently permeates the air anyway, and I feel bodily ill at moments. What has our country turned into?

Sometimes I daydream of living somewhere else, to escape the insanity that is America. Hoards of uneducated uncaring citizens. Shooting each other for stepping on property. Hate based on race or sex or gender choices.

But then I meet people who really care. People who are passionate about things like I am. I think maybe it's ok. I've never been one to abandon my American-ness, even when I felt we were doing stupid things. When God gives you a difficult kid, you don't leave 'em on the side of the road. I don't want to do that with my country either.

Also I'm concerned that I might not get to vote. The only way I can vote is to make the 10 hour trip to the Outer Banks. I could have registered to vote in VA or in NC based on my residency but I chose NC since I was going to be there this week during elections. I could've requested an absentee ballot but the deadline for that was last week during the Sandy Hurricane. So I missed everything. I'd read all about the voter laws in both states and still got confused. This coming from a highly motivated, educated person. If I'm this confused, I can only imagine that there's millions of others in my shoes. So many new voting laws present a massive wall to voting.

But I am making my own personal effort today and for the next few days, to impact the election.

Last of all, today is the day my dad died. Twenty-nine years ago. It still bothers me. It always will. So I decided I would keep my dad in my mind as I go door-to-door, interacting with strangers. I'll make this effort in his memory. I know he would be proud.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We Got Lucky: Sandy Recap & Photos

 [Just up the road from us in Mirlo Beach.]

October 1st was when we last saw each other. Justin stayed in Buxton to work on our house this month. I was originially supposed to go home today or yesterday. It looks like I'll be able to go home later this week by ferry, depending on access and road conditions.

Tracking Sandy has been a learning experience. My first inkling of what was to come was an off-hand comment from one of my friends, "There's a hurricane headed toward the Outer Banks." Which I shared with Justin. He was not concerned, so I was not concerned. Until a day or two later when he sent me a panicked text that he was going to get hit by a hurricane. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, after all I've been through a lot of things. And my other friends seemed nonchalant when they mentioned it.

Justin initially planned to evacuate and I'd meet him somewhere after I finished working. He was concerned that if I left too late there'd be too much water and I wouldn't be able to get out. But as the days passed, it appeared that Sandy would miss us. So he decided to stay and wanted me to come to Buxton to stay with him.

I was too scared to go to the Outer Banks. The road floods even in heavy rain and I drive a low level car. Twice this summer I was caught in high water on that road. I wasn't taking chances. I stayed with friends.

As the storm progressed and I read more and more on hurricanes, I became quite aware of our vulnerable state living on the coast in the possible path of a hurricane. Though the forecasters may have predicted that we'd be spared, you never know until it has passed.

I figured out where to go for weather news: Wunderground. They had the best tracking and up-to-date information. As well, the city websites, especially Virginia Beach & Hatteras Island provided frequent updates and information for citizens. 

From the high point in a large house where I sat with my friend Rob (an optometrist who I met on a humanitarian trip to India in 2005) and his wife Iris, I watched as Hatteras took the initial blow from the hurricane, bracing, strong, with heads high in calmness. They've been hit over and over and know how to keep going. Justin's cousin lives with her three kids in a house in Hatteras, which appeared that it'd take on water the first day. They waded across the street to an aunt's house and waited out the storm. Justin said matter-of-factly, "We'll just have to squeegee her house, bleach the floors, and haul the furniture on the lawn."  He's done it before.

The Outer Banks was not in the direct path. Yet nearly the entire place was severely damaged, a combination of high tide, a full moon, and the timing and force of Sandy. Our friends and family suffered damage and the road was ripped up in several places. A temporary bridge built last year after Hurricane Irene withstood the hurricane but may be damaged.

Remarkably, our house stayed dry as a bone, and from the videos Justin was posting of our house, you wouldn't know that we were even having a hurricane. He put them up for my benefit, so I wouldn't worry. His house has not once taken on water since 1937. It's still hard to believe, but after this, I believe it. And I understand. Also remarkable was that he retained power and cell phone coverage the entire time. Which made it much easier on both of us. (Remarkably, his cousin's house also stayed dry.)

Virginia Beach had localised flooding, in lower areas, as well as a large portion of Norfolk. One island was completely submerged in at least three feet of water. It was serious. But nothing like the upper east coast.

At my Rob and Iris' house, they had the news on continuously. Yet I had no idea what was really going on. Even from right where Sandy was coming inland, watching the news didn't help much. There's so much sensationalism that it's hard to know what is going on and what to expect. They repeat stories without giving useful information. It's as good as having no information at all. Without the internet city and state websites and contact with locals on the ground, I would have had no idea what was going on.

I am relieved it's over. But it was a great learning experience.

The waves persisted after the storm.
 Our new backyard lake.
Mirlo Beach (I think).
 Highway 12. The road to Buxton from Virginia Beach.
 More highway 12.

A few photos from Highway 12 which is the road I take home to Buxton and the Outer Banks: (from the NCDOT, if you click on the photos, they will take you to their stream.) Hurricane Sandy - Pea Island Hurricane Sandy Hurricane Sandy - Pea Island Hurricane Sandy - Temporary Bridge on NC12 Flooding on N.C. 12 on Pea Island in Dare County