Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Well, that storm came through last night. There was quite a bit of thunder and lightning, some of it really close. We, except for Liam, also got woken up in the middle of the night by another storm that passed over us. It came from the west, again getting real close and then passing over. But even after it passed us by, we could see lots of lightning north of us. It was too far away for us to hear the thunder but the lightning was plenty strong coming in through the windows.

It was much cooler this morning as we sat on the back porch drinking coffee. The rain cooled things down nicely.

We had definitely decided to go to the fair tonight, so we didn't plan to do much today except to relax and swim. We all had breakfast and just took it easy in the morning. We drank coffee and talked for some time on the porch. We talked school and education with my aunt, and my uncle and I had a good talk about family.

Right around noon, my uncle pulled the cover off the pool. We checked the water level on the pool. The patch seems to have held, and the amount of water in the pool seems to have gone up as much as the rain gauge showed, three-quarters of an inch.

We swam for a while with t-shirts on because the boys and I got sunburnt yesterday. We took a break from swimming and had a late lunch, and then got back in the pool. We showered and got dressed.

Aidan was really cranky this afternoon. We haven’t asked him to nap at all this vacation. While Liam was playing Rayman: Raving Rabbids which I had bought at Wal-Mart when we discovered my aunt and uncle had a Wii, I sat on the couch with Aidan. He snuggled up to me and within five minutes had fallen asleep. I nodded off myself for a while. Eventually, I extracted myself from underneath him, my arm asleep, so I could eat a little something before we left for the fair.

My aunt got back from the tennis clinic she's been teaching this week. After she unwound for a bit, we all got ready to go to the Rush County Fair.

My uncle had gotten ahead of us after we parked the cars and had started toward the fair entrance. My best moment of the day came shortly after that. Aidan and I caught up with my uncle. Aidan grabbed his right hand and then I grabbed Aidan’s right hand. The three of us just walked together like that for a short while, three generations together. It was a perfect moment. It made me truly appreciate my uncle Holly, and it made me miss my dad so much my eyes filled with tears. (And my eyes welled up again writing this in my journal, and again when I typed it up for the blog.)

The boys had a great time. My uncle bought them wristbands that let them ride the carnival rides all evening long. They had a blast. You can see how much fun Aidan had on the motorcycle ride.

They rode the bumper cars three times in a row.

We all rode the big ferris wheel together. Finally, we all got something to eat or snack on: hot dogs, ice cream, funnel cake, popcorn, and lemonade. Finally, around 10:30, we headed for my uncle's house.

It was both a relaxing and busy day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Slept in until about 7:30 a.m. It's already warm; it must be in the 70s. Got some coffee and sat outside on the screened-in porch out back. Liam was playing Wii and Aidan was around front with my uncle. Kelley remarked that this was what she was looking forward to, sipping coffee and watching the corn grow. An altogether pleasant way to start the morning.

Spent quite a while in the pool with the boys. Seeing the boys swim here really shows how far they've come with their swimming lessons. They love being in the water and are absolutely fearless; it's great to see. They spent a lot of time just jumping in from the wood deck.

Helped my uncle put a patch on a hole in the bottom of the pool. Now we have to wait 24 hours for the epoxy to set. We'll swim again tomorrow afternoon.

The boys stayed home with my uncle, while Kelley and I went to pick up some things at Wal-Mart. We wanted to get some new swimming trunks for Aidan and a couple of tank tops. We also picked up some food, soymilk and such so that I'd have something to drink and eat. We also had a late lunch at Chili's.

We were thinking of going to the Rush County Fair tonight, but a thunderstorm passed through while we were out shopping. It didn't rain on us out at Greensburg, but a couple of the roads near my uncle's house still had puddles in them as we got back. Don't really want to get caught outside in the rain at the fair. Maybe we'll go tomorrow night.

We sat outside until about 10 p.m. just chewing the fat, as the number of fireflies waxed and waned. We could see a storm system coming in from the east. We couldn't hear any thunder, but we could see some lightning.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Got up at three in the morning. Our taxi was late. Apparently, when Kelley called last night they didn't record our reservation. It didn't matter, because we were in line at Southwest at SFO before they were even open. Kiosks started turning on and a few people got out of line to get their boarding passes. We moved up and soon the agents were there and we checked in our bags. The agents don't do much because Kelley punched all our info into the electronic kiosk. All they do is put the tags on our luggage. So much for customer service; I guess that's the part of the price you pay for cheap fares.

The flight to Denver was great. The plane was only half full. There was hardly anyone around us. Aidan took a window seat next to Kelley while Liam took a window seat across the aisle and I sat with him. Both boys colored in their Cars coloring books. Before we knew it, we were in Denver.

We grabbed something to eat at the Denver airport and then boarded our flight to Indianapolis. The boys were a little more antsy at that point, so we broke out the laptop and a DVD. But again, the flight seemed really quick. Liam wasn't even able to finish watching Bolt. Aidan, meanwhile, had fallen asleep.

They've got a nice new terminal at the Indianapolis airport. We found the rental car desk, walked across to the garage, found our car, and then drove right out on the highway. Last time, we had to take a shuttle to the rental car parking lot. I had a hard time getting out of the airport to the highway, and then ended up going the wrong way on the highway to get to my uncle's house. This time, it couldn't have been smoother.

Of course, we stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Shelbyville. We were all starving at that point. I had the beginnings of a headache. We were all less crabby after eating.

When we got to my uncle's house, they were all in the pool. We quickly unloaded the car, put on our swimming suits, and joined them in the water.

Both my cousins were there. Rebekah's home from college, and Michael was there with his wife, Brooke, and their three daughters. My uncle's first wife, Marcela, also stopped by. It was good to see so much of my extended family. We sat around and just talked until it started getting dark and the lightning bugs came out. Then it was time for sleep.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 (The Day Before)

Finished getting the boys and myself packed for the trip. Just have the usual last-minute things that we'll take care of in the morning. Otherwise, we're ready to go, and eager too.

Liam and I got our haircuts today. Short hair will be nice in the hot and humid midwest. The less to deal with, the better.

I don't know if we'll have time or not, but I would like to see the Serpent Mound. Our Ohio guidebook describes it as "in northern Adams County, 19 miles south of Hillsboro on Rte. 73." I've seen pictures of it in history books, but would like to see it for myself. I did find one website for the Great Serpent Mound of Southern Ohio. For some reason, I couldn't access the site.

I wouldn't mind seeing some nice covered bridges. Apparently, there are some in Greene County, and the "Greene County Convention and Visitors' Bureau has produced a brochure detailing a way to take in the bridges by traveling about 50 miles. The route starts in Yellow Springs and ends south of Xenia."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Before the Trip (2009)

This time I'm thinking about some of the things we didn't do last time, such as the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indiana State Museum, and the Indianapolis Zoo. All three of which are in the White River State Park.

Not in the White River State Park, but also sounding really interesting is the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, which has an on-going exhibit of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, as well as a new exhibit on King Tut that is opening on June 27.

One thing that interests me over in Ohio is Fort Ancient State Memorial. As the Moon Handbook for Ohio describes it: "The artifact-rich displays cover 15,000 years of American Indian heritage."

I want to see what else we might do in Ohio, between Cincinnati and Wilmington. I'm interested in seeing some of the mounds built by Native Americans in the Ohio Valley.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

We finished packing and got on the road back to the airport. We couldn’t find Aidan’s last “binky,” his pacifier. We had managed to lose two or three of them on this trip already. But we didn’t have time to buy a new one for the trip home. We thought he’d be okay on the flight back; boy, were we wrong.

It was an awful flight. Aidan got fussy and was inconsolable without his binky. We tried distracting him and trying to get him to sleep, but nothing would work. Everyone around us was annoyed, and I don’t blame them one bit. Kelley sat with him first, while I sat with Liam, and then we traded off. The woman sitting in the window seat next to Aidan tried to help by talking to him, but the novelty of that soon wore off and he just cried and cried. Probably the worst part was the elderly man who sat in the aisle seat behind us who kept offering “advice” on child rearing. He was really insulting, basically letting us know in his passive-aggressive manner that we were bad parents and had done a horrible job raising Aidan. It’s the worst flight I’ve ever been on.

We were so frazzled getting off that flight at our layover in Las Vegas that we forgot the portable DVD player. I went back to the plane to look for it when we realized it was missing, but passengers were already boarding it for its next flight. No one had turned in the player, so somebody got a nice, free gift at our expense.

The short flight back to Oakland was uneventful. Aidan, by now, was cried out. And it was over so quick; no sooner are you up at cruising altitude then you’re descending for the landing. Kelley, thank goodness, had already arranged for a car service to get us home.

Addendum: My aunt called us about a week later and told us where she found his last binky. It was in the freezer. She has one of those side-by-side refrigerators. Aidan, apparently, had opened the freezer and put his binky in there. That particular binky, by the way, is still there.

The good news was that was the last of the binkies. He never got another pacificer after that one.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Our last full day in Indiana; we fly home tomorrow. We talked about seeing some more covered bridges. My uncle said he knew of five in Rush County. Here’s one that we drove through and then took pictures of on the far side.

It was a lazy morning, but by noon we were actually heading out the door with a box full of stuff that we were going to mail home. We stopped at the post office in Milroy and bought some tea for us and some apple juice for the boys; it was hot.

When we got back to my uncle’s house, Liam was taking a nap. He had told my uncle he hadn’t slept much the night before and was tired. We then got Aidan down for a nap and used my uncle’s computer to print out our boarding passes. Well, sort of.

I had no problem printing them out for Kelley and the boys, but mine would not print out. I got a message that said I had to get my boarding pass from a skycap, the check-in desk, or one of those self-help electronic ticket kiosks.

A call to the airline confirmed that I in fact had to drive all the way to the Indianapolis airport to get my boarding pass. Apparently, my name had been flagged on a “do not fly” list and I had to confirm who I was. We drove to the airport, showed them my driver’s license, and the agent printed out my boarding pass. A huge waste of my valuable time. There are too many Richard Walkers out there, and apparently one of them is some kind of security risk.

We had dinner at a Golden Corral, but it was not as nice as the one we ate at in Ohio. We should have listened to my cousin and eaten at the buffet restaurant she worked at.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Woke up, had some coffee then started scouring the house, looking for toys, stray socks, and anything else we need to pack. Our vacation is winding down. We’re starting to think about getting everything packed for the flight back to California. We all have things we bought or were given that we need to find room for.

The boys have little remote-controlled Zip Zap cars, Lightning McQueen and Sally from Cars, cars from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a Gameboy, a portable DVD player, and two dogs from Build-a-Bear Workshop, Rascal and Scrappy. Luckily, we just need to pack for the road trip back to my uncle’s house, but we’re already discussing mailing some things home to ourselves.

The boys each took last rides with Grandpa Jack on his mower, and I pushed them on the swing set down by the lake.

We said our good-byes and got on the road around 2:30 p.m. It was a quick drive – and a quiet one too – both boys fell asleep in the car.

Back at my uncle’s we just relaxed, telling my aunt and uncle about our trips to Ohio and Maryland. Liam, of course, was playing Crash Bandicoot on my cousin’s PlayStation.

As the sun set, we sat in the backyard and watched as the lightning bugs came out. Liam finally joined the rest of us outside, and the two boys chased and caught some lightning bugs.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Today is our last full day in Ohio. We drive back to my uncle’s in Indiana tomorrow.

We went for a drive to see an old covered bridge outside of Wilmington. Even falling into disrepair as it is, it was still worthwhile to see. And it ended up being a good place to take pictures.

We drove around the countryside for a bit, then headed back to Grandma Carole’s. After naps and dinner, we went back to Peggy and Don’s again. The boys loved riding in Don’s John Deere Gator. And he took us back into the woods again to play on the rope swing.

We also went next door to Peggy’s son’s house. Laurie and Randy have a beautiful home. Randy is a carpenter and he built the house with help from family members. As Laurie described it, it’s her dream house, where she’ll grow old and die in.

They were excellent hosts, and served us ice cream. Laurie provided me with lots of fresh fruit, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, and cantaloupe. We were there until 10 p.m., then decided it was time for us to head home and get some sleep.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Before our long drive back to Ohio, Kelley wanted to go to the Fractured Prune. It’s a donut shop where they make your donuts fresh to order. They start with a basic cake donut, which the proprietor said was just flour and water, but I’m sure there’s egg in there somewhere, so I’m pretty sure they’re not vegan. You tell them what glaze you want, like maple or mocha, and then what toppings you want, like coconut or chopped peanuts. They are delicious – and yes, I’ll do some kind of vegan penance.

We did take I-83 north from Baltimore toward Harrisburg, then we got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike heading west. It was a beautiful day. We drove with the windows down, enjoying the fresh air. The sky was blue and filled with white, puffy clouds. The drive back was far more enjoyable than the drive out just because of the weather.

We probably looked foolish to anyone who noticed us taking pictures out the open car windows as we made our way on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but we were determined to try to capture how beautiful the landscape was. We even mentioned how photos don’t do justice to the real thing, but we snapped away anyway.

We stopped at what will probably be our last Cracker Barrel this trip, in New Stanton, Pennsylvania. I brought my journal in to fully record something I’d noticed earlier on their menu: turnip greens, green beans, corn muffins, hashbrown casserole, and pinto beans are made with meat as a seasoning and “are not strictly vegetarian.” This appears next to their description of their Country Vegetable Plate. I think I’ve had my fill of Cracker Barrel.

The rest of our trip back to Ohio was uneventful. It was good to get back to Grandma Carole’s and see our children again.

Addendum: While we were in Baltimore, Grandma Carole had taken the boys to Paramount’s Kings Island, an amusement park not too far outside of Cincinnati, and to Build-a-Bear Workshop. Both boys got dogs instead of bears.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

We slept in after our busy day yesterday. We wanted to go to the One World Café, after our disappointing breakfast yesterday. We had been there before, the one time I came with Kelley to Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was a bit of a drive as it’s near Johns Hopkins University, which is not near the hospital, but well worth it.

One World Café is not strictly vegetarian, but menu items are marked with a “V” if they are vegan. I ordered the Vegan Pancakes. You have a choice of fruit as well, blueberries, bananas, or strawberries. I ordered bananas. To drink, I ordered the Organic Peanut Butter Smoothie. It was all delicious. And such a pleasure. Having a decent vegan breakfast can be quite a challenge when you’re traveling. I was ready to order more pancakes just on general principle, but they were so filling. It was a most satisfying meal.

We then headed over to Jen’s apartment. We hung out there a while, drinking coffee and talking about movies and books.

We had discussed taking a Duck Tour. These are tours in those amphibious vehicles they used on D-Day. But a friend of Jen’s cautioned us not to, so we skipped it. We were just going to walk around Fell’s Point and the Inner Harbor. And before too long, a Duck Tour came by. The people onboard waved at us and quacked at us with their little duck kazoos. We busted up laughing. In the right frame of mind, I’m sure it would be fun, but not for us that day. Later in the day we saw a Duck Tour in the water. Again, they waved at us and we could hear the music they were playing, the Village People’s “In the Navy” and “Rubber Duckie” from Sesame Street. We didn’t need to take the Duck Tour to be amused by it.

Before we got out of Fell’s Point, Joe took me to Sound Garden, a music shop. Kelley and Jen looked at clothes and jewelry while Joe and I browsed music. I ended up buying the latest CDs by the Barenaked Ladies and Diana Krall.

When I mentioned wanting a little something sweet to eat, we stopped at Whole Foods, where I found a couple of vegan chocolate chip cookies. I also got an Odwalla Soy Smart Chai. In fact, we all picked up some sweet treats at Whole Foods, which we ate there. I’m spoiled by the Whole Foods in the San Francisco Bay Area, which offer a number of vegan sweets, but it was slim pickings in Baltimore. Still, it was just what I wanted at the time.

From there we strolled around, just taking in the sights. A couple walking by offered to take a picture of all four of us, so here we are.

Kelley and I are always impressed with the architecture of Baltimore. One, the amount of brick is astounding. You almost never see brick used in earthquake-prone California. And the number of old, classy-looking buildings is just impressive. Baltimore is a great looking city. We saw an old all-brick power plant which now houses ESPN Zone and Barnes & Noble, among other shops. For us, it was just so unusual to see such old buildings used that way. In California, I suspect the developer would have knocked down the power plant and put up something modern.

As the afternoon wore on, we made our way back to Jen’s place. Again, we relaxed a bit then went out for dinner. There is a really excellent sushi restaurant in Towson, Sushi Hana. There was plenty of vegetarian sushi, so I had no problem having a delicious, delightful, and satisfying meal.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Friday, July 20, 2007

We slept in at the Ramada. It was nice to have a king size bed and have the air conditioning running all night. It was still 85° at 10:00 at night in Baltimore.

We drove over to Jen’s place near Fell’s Point, and then walked down to a local hangout, the Sip & Bite Restaurant. It’s really a small diner. It has a lot of character, but the food was just okay. I had a salad, a lettuce and tomato sandwich, and French fries. There were not a lot of options for vegetarians, let alone vegans. I suspect it’s one of those places that locals love more because of its funky charm than its food.

Jen then went with her boyfriend, Joe, to see his son’s play. But first, she dropped us off at Johns Hopkins Hospital. We went to say hello to Dr. Nguyen, who essentially saved the vision in my wife’s right eye. He got her into a study where she could get Avastin, a drug approved for colorectal cancer, but which shows great promise for treating conditions like “wet” macular degeneration. I won’t go into details here, because that’s not the point. The one time I went with my wife to Johns Hopkins for one of her treatments, Dr. Nguyen was back in San Francisco, where his wife is from. Ironic, isn’t it? I usually stayed at home with our children, while a friend of my wife’s would accompany her across the country for her hospital visits. So, while she spoke extensively about Dr. Nguyen I had never met him. Well, now I have. We stopped in the Wilmer Eye Institute, and Dr. Nguyen made time for us in his very busy schedule. By all accounts, he is a brilliant doctor and researcher, but my impression of him was that he is one of the warmest, kindest, most sincerely compassionate doctors I have ever met. He spoke with the two of us for quite some time, asking about my wife’s condition, updating us on some current research, and even sharing a recommendation or two for eating and sightseeing in Baltimore. I was glad to have met him finally and to share my gratitude for all that he has done for Kelley. He will always be an exceptional doctor and great man in my book.

We walked back from Johns Hopkins to Fell’s Point, which we walked around for a bit, then down to the harbor where we caught a water taxi over to Fort McHenry. We considered going to the National Aquarium, but it was such a beautiful day, sunny and warm without too much humidity that we decided to go to Fort McHenry. We ended up spending quite a while there. We went on a walk with one of the National Park Service rangers who gave a fascinating talk on the history of the fort. I knew it was famous for the flag still flying that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the “Star Spangled Banner,” but was unaware of the rest of its history, including during the Civil War and as a hospital around the time of the First World War

As a teacher and as someone who loves history, I learned a great deal, including details about the Battle of Baltimore and the War of 1812 with which I was mostly unfamiliar. But I think just about anyone would find a visit to Fort McHenry worthwhile. You can take a water taxi there, as we did, or you can drive because it’s on a peninsula.

Once we got back to Fell’s Point, I wanted a snack. I was going to need something to tide me over until we went out to dinner for tapas. We found Liquid Earth, which I had looked up on Happy Cow and VegGuide.

It is described in the Moon Handbook for Maryland and Delaware as “a deluxe juice bar that serves vegetarian and vegan sandwiches for lunch and dinner daily.” It is vegetarian and the menu includes a handful of vegan sandwiches. I ordered the T.L.T., which was vegetarian “bacon,” baby greens, tomato, and Nayonnaise on whole grain bread. It was quite good and such a delight after the dearth of vegetarian options so far on our trip.

I also had a smoothie, the Oxymoron, which was strawberries, bananas, two shots of chilled espresso and milk blended with chocolate syrup and ice. Of course, I got it with soymilk, and it was delicious!

My sandwich and smoothie hit the spot and I was all set until our late dinner.

After we hung out at Jen’s place for a while, we drove back to the hotel to freshen up. Then we piled into Jen’s car to head out for dinner. It took us forever to find a parking place. Apparently, there was some event called ArtScape going on and parking was at a premium. The lot and garage across from Tapas Teatro were both full. It must have been forty-five minutes to find street parking.

The tapas were worth the wait. There were a small number of vegetarian options, but they were all excellent. They had a Mediterranean mix of green olives, which were exceptional, asparagus, artichoke hearts, and tomatoes. They had a special that night of mushrooms, which also were delicious. I also ordered gazpacho; it was good but not remarkable.

We were going to go dancing at The Depot, a club across the street near the end of the block. The play 80s music on Friday nights, but we were disappointed to find they were having a couple of live bands play that night, so no dancing for us.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We didn’t leave Wilmington until 10:30, getting a later start than I would have liked.

We stopped in Zanesville, Ohio at a Cracker Barrel. Unfortunately, they stop serving oatmeal at 10:00 so I had lunch, the usual Vegetable Plate. The sweet potato casserole was really good, basically mashed sweet potatoes with some orange juice and pecans.

We then continued east through Ohio, crossing a little splinter of West Virginia, and then into Pennsylvania. Before long we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Very strange concept that: paying to drive on a road. You enter through a toll booth, picking up a ticket, and when you exit the turnpike, you go through another tollbooth and pay for the privilege of having driven on it. There are no toll roads that I know of in California. We’re used to paying tolls for crossing bridges, but you pay $4 or 5 before you cross the bridge.

In Ohio, there were rest stops off the interstate. Once on the Pennsylvania Turnpike there are no rest stops. They have service plazas, where you can find restaurants and gas stations. Luckily, they also had Starbucks. Venti iced chai lattes with soymilk were a godsend to us on the road.

I had originally planned staying on the turnpike all the way to Harrisburg, then heading south on 83 into Baltimore, but we turned south sooner, following 70 into Maryland, which brought us into Baltimore from the west.

We found our hotel in Towson, a suburb north of Baltimore without any problem, then drove into the city proper to see our friend, Jen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Today my mother-in-law had plans to take the boys to a park in the town of Wilmington.

I was feeling pretty awful and stayed home to rest. The boys had a great time swinging on the swings and feeding the ducks at the park.

My allergies are really bad here in Ohio. I think it must be all the trees. My allergies were slightly worse in Indiana than at home. I’d get stuffy overnight, but didn’t really have any problems during the day. But now in Ohio I feel like a mucus factory. And I have a sinus infection which finally caught up with me today.

I felt much better after my rest, including a nap. Of course, I’ve been taking generic Benadryl every four hours. It helps relieve some of the symptoms without too much drowsiness if I take just one pill. If I take two, the regular dosage, it really dries me out and makes me sleepy and sluggish.

For dinner we drove northeast from Wilmington to eat at the Golden Corral. It was a decent buffet and I found plenty to eat. Of course, they had a salad bar. One nice touch was the pine nuts; you don’t often see those at a salad bar. They also had vegetables like baby carrots, steamed cauliflower, green beans, and corn. Their steak fries weren’t too bad either.

Earlier in the day I caught last week’s episode of Top Chef which I missed because that was the day we flew in to Indiana. I also made myself stay up to watch today’s new episode.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

We took it easy again in the morning, and then did a little shopping so I’d have something to grill for dinner.

In the early afternoon, we headed over to my mother-in-law’s husband’s sister’s house. They’ve beautifully restored the house on their property. They own several acres, some of which is currently corn fields and quite a bit of woods.

We rode back toward the woods in a trailer hooked up to a John Deere Gator. We got a tour of some of the woods, stopping at one point to swing on a rope swing hanging from a tree over the trail. The boys had a good time; my youngest asked for another turn every time someone got off.

Then we unpacked the truck and set up the propane gas grill to cook some burgers and dogs. I ate a Boca burger and two Smart Dogs, as well as a lot of fruit: watermelon, cantaloupe, red grapes, and strawberries.

When it seemed that the rain was not going to let up, we headed for home. In fact, we hit some really heavy rain on the way back to my mother-in-law’s house, as well as some lightning and thunder.

Monday, July 16, 2007

We drove over to Waynesville, a small town like Metamora with antique shops and such without the canal and railroad tracks. Many stores were closed because it was Monday, and the Celtic store we were going to had gone out of business. Very disappointing.

After that we stopped at Caesar Creek State Park. We hadn't planned a picnic lunch for that day, but we should have. Many people had brought picnic lunches and many more were playing and swimming in the lake.

Addendum: Grandpa Jack wasted no time in getting Aidan to ride with him on his lawnmower.

As much as Aidan loves to be outdoors, Liam loves to be indoors. Especially since Grandma and Grandpa bought him a GameBoy. We could barely tear him away from it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Today was another travel/transition day. We spent the morning at my uncle's, relaxing, talking, and packing. We hoped to be on the road to my mother-in-law's in Ohio by 11:30, but it was more like 1:30

It was a quick, pleasant drive southeast from Rushville towards Cincinnati, then northeast from there to Wilmington.

We arrived safe and sound, though we got a little lost. The directions we got from Google were not helpful. We missed a turn and ended up seeing far more of Wilmington than we needed to. I'd be curious to see if Mapquest would give us a similar route. The way I originally mapped getting to Wilmington would have worked better, but I still needed directions on how to get to their street address, which Google adequately provided.

We were greeted warmly and introduced to my mother-in-law's husband's youngest brother and a sister and their respective spouses. We sat around snacking, and then had a delicious spaghetti dinner. My mother-in-law cooks up a mean spaghetti sauce which I have only adequately been able to duplicate. She also found me some vegan Italian sausages and some meatless meatballs, so my meal looked just like what everyone else was eating.

Addendum: It didn't take Aidan long to go exploring. He loves to be outdoors. My mother-in-law's property extends quite a ways back from their house. They live in a community of houses that share a man-made lake behind all their properties. There was also a swing set back there for all to use. Here's Aidan on that swing set. You can see their house in the background.

I missed Wednesday’s new episode of Top Chef, but tonight I made sure I caught the most recent episode of Next Food Network Star.

My mother-in-law doesn’t have a computer, so I won’t be voting this time around. I’d be happy with either Amy or Rory. I think both will have an interesting show.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Kelley, my wife, went with my aunt into Rushville this morning to shop rummage sales. Luckily, she didn't buy much, and what she did was definitely a bargain.

After that, we headed to Metamora. It's a small town southeast of Rushville. It has a number of antique and gift shops. My cousin knew of a good fudge shop, so we went there. Kelley bought fudge, the boys got ice cream, and I had popcorn. I also bought a small jar of strawberry rhubarb jam, which I'm eager to try.

They've restored part of a canal in Metamoa. You can ride in a boat pulled along the canal by horses. We went on a train ride; part of the railroad there has also been restored and volunteers run the whole operation. Stephen, our conductor, who hails from Cincinnati, Ohio, volunteers there a couple days a week. His talk was very informative. The boys enjoyed the ride in the caboose and climbing into the engine after our thirty minute trip.

Here's Aidan with one of the horses that pulls the canal boats.

We also spent time feeding the ducks in the canal. You can see the watermill in the background, which we also checked out.

We dropped the boys off back at my uncle's house, and Kelley and I drove into Morristown. This is the town I lived in before my family moved to California in 1976. We parked just down from the last house we lived in; we lived in three different houses in Morristown. From there we walked around town a bit and I took pictures. It's remarkably unchanged, as I remember it. It has been thirty-one years, so my memory may be a little hazy, but the town has changed little in that time. Shops have changed, of course, and there was a few new homes, but much of the town looks much as I remember it.

We walked down main street, Highway 52, to where the school is. Here's a picture of the Kopper Kettle. A friend's mom worked there. I remember stopping there once on the walk home from school. We walked down an alley that ran behind the restaurant, and she gave us some fried chicken that we ate as we walked the rest of the way home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Friday, July 13, 2007

Slept in again this morning. Just relaxed. Finally, near noon, we headed into Indianapolis.

We stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Shelbyville and had lunch. It's one of my wife's favorite places to go. They have a Vegetable Plate where you can pick four of any of several vegetable and side dishes. Many are vegetarian, but some are not; their green beans and greens (I don't recall if they're turnip or collard) are cooked with bacon. I usually get the corn, baby carrots, fried apples, and okra. I hope the breading on the okra is vegan, though I doubt it.

They did have a vegetable soup which was one of the soups of the day. I asked if it was made with chicken stock or vegetable stock, and the waitress said it was made with beef stock. But the wife and kids like to eat there, so I make do.

We then drove through downtown Indianapolis on our way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. My uncle gave us directions which took us by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indiana State Museum, and the Indianapolis Zoo. All three of which are in the White River State Park. We want to go to the Eiteljorg as well as the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, but I don't think we'll manage either of them this trip.

We went to the Hall of Fame Museum at the speedway, which has an impressive number of race cars and other vehicles on display. They also offer a grounds tour, and weather and use permitting, a track tour. We were really looking forward to the track tour; my uncle said repeatedly how good it was. The track tour wasn't available because some NASCAR drivers were taking some practice laps on the track.

We did watch the 20 minute video presentation which included footage and history of the speedway as well as the Indy 500. I learned a lot that I didn't know, and it put some of the cars on display into perspective.

For example, the yellow car in the middle is the Belond Special, which was driven to victory in the Indy 500 twice, by two different drivers.

We bought the boys a couple of toy cars in the gift shop, then drove back to Rushville. We went for an early evening swim, then off to bed.

Addendum: Took a lot of pictures trying to capture what the Midwest looks like. Most of then just don't do it justice. But I like this one.

We live in the very urban San Francisco Bay Area. Even though we live in the suburbs south of the city, where there are no skyscrapers or many tall buildings at all, there is nothing rural about where we live. It was refreshing to be surrounded by so much farmland. And the sky in the Midwest...! The sky where we live isn't gray or depressing, but it is like a blanket that mutes everything. And then there's the famous fog. Even though we live just a handful of miles from the Pacific Ocean and you'd think we'd always have these fabulous views of the sun setting over the water, we don't. Between the clouds and the fog, we really don't get sunsets like we saw while we were in Indiana and Ohio.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We took it easy today. Slept in. Started to get used to the three hour time difference.

Went to Wal-Mart in Shelbyville and bought a new digital camera. Our old one, an Olympus, finally gave out on us. I bought a Samsung S850 for half the price of that old one with twice as many features. Yeah, that's how quickly the technology changes and becomes less expensive.

By the way, I know Wal-Mart is supposed to be evil and all, but it was a pleasant shopping experience. I didn't expect to find much in the way of vegan foods, but had no problem finding Boca burgers, chocolate soymilk, and veggie meats from Yves there.

We swam in my uncle's backyard swimming pool. The boys had a great time. Here's a picture my aunt took of the four of us.

One of the first things we've noticed is the quiet. When we woke up this morning, my aunt was surprised that we hadn't heard the small airplane that was circling a nearby field. My wife reminded her how close we live to SFO, not to mention the train tracks not too far from our front door.

It is amazingly quiet here. There is the breeze going through the ash and maple trees in my uncle's backyard. And from time to time, you can hear the cicadas buzzing. Walking down the street at sunset, we could heart the power lines vibrating in the breeze. You can't see them moving, but you can hear them.

And not long after sunset, you can see lightning bugs. I'd forgotten about them. I told my wife that as a boy I'd caught them in my backyard and put them in a glass jar. She thought that was just something from the movies.

The second thing is the sky. It's a big sky, unmarred by mountains and smog. You can watch the sun set on the horizon. Before the sun had completely set, I could find Venus and Mars in the sky, and a short while later some of the brightest stars were also visible.

And the air is clean. You can see for miles through air that's transparent instead of tinted yellow. We live not too far from the Pacific Ocean with pretty much constant onshore breezes, but our air quality is no match for what I've found here in rural Indiana.

Addendum: Obviously we talked to my uncle about things we might do while we're visiting. The next page in my journal is the address and directions for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He recommends it to visitors regularly and said they always have a good time.

My aunt and uncle's back yard has no fence. Right now rows of corn surround their yard on three sides, forming a natural fence. Here's a picture I took; this is the view from their back yard, looking out over the corn.

I took a lot of pictures that first day, experimenting with the new camera. Here's another one in that dusky light, my boys, already in their pajamas, against the back drop of the cornfield "fence."

My uncle has a dog, Maddie, that the boys love. She is the friendliest, gentlest dog. Her size intimidated my youngest at first. He kept saying, “She’s going to eat me,” when she’d come toward him. But she loves nothing better than to be petted as you can see here.

He quickly got over his fear. He wakes up in the morning and asks, “Where’s Maddie?” And he makes sure that her water bowl is constantly filled.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

This was our travel day. Up at 3:30 a.m. to get ready and to get to the Oakland airport in time for an 8:30 a.m. flight.

The flight to Phoenix was relatively quick. Our boys, ages 3 and 5, were both so excited with the airplane itself that we didn't need to break out any of our secret weapons on this flight.

We had about an hour in the Phoenix airport before our flight to Indianapolis. That was more boring for the boys so we did get out the Video Now for our youngest and the V-Smile portable video game player for our oldest.

Those helped them to pass the time on the flight to Indiana as well. Our three-year-old also colored in one of his Sesame Street coloring books. He also found the sticker page and proceeded to put every single sticker on a picture of Bert.

Overall, they were well-behaved and things went more smoothly than I expected. We even got compliments on how good their behavior was.

I think with all the safety regulations they have to tell you on flights these days, including how you cannot line up for the lavatory in the front of the plane, they should instruct passengers on how to use the lavatories, or, at least, the doors and locks. I had to use the bathroom. The rear lavatory was occupied and the front one was clear; they have lights that let you know whether the lavatory is vacant or occupied. Anyway, I made my way to the front lavatory and it was not vacant. An elderly woman was in there. She had closed the door but had not locked it, so the light showed it as vacant. I waited a moment, and then a flight steward came up and I tried to tell her why I was in the forward galley. She gave me a strange look, so I went back to my seat before she started to say something to me.

I waited back at my seat and kept checking the rear lavatory. Finally, it was clear, so I headed back. And some guy was in it. He had locked the door that it read as occupied on the outside of the door, but hadn't pulled the door all the way closed, so it still showed as vacant on the light above the aisle.

What are the odds that this would happen, that two different people on the same flight within minutes of each other would make two different mistakes that had the same result? I don't know either, but it happened. You can't make this stuff up.

Of course, with the prevailing winds blowing west to east, our flight got in half an hour before scheduled. That was great. But the flight steward joked over the intercom that we should all turn our cell phones on and call someone to share the good news, because she knew we did that with the bad news. I'm not sure they should get credit for something that happens naturally, but it was still nice getting in to Indianapolis early.

Addendum: we went to the rental place where we had a reservation, but they didn't have the size car that we reserved. This seems to be a common practice nowadays, though not a good one. What's the point of making a reservation, but not actually having a car reserved for you? Of course, they offer you a bigger car, but it costs more. I think it's all a scam.

I followed my uncle's directions to his house an did pretty well until we got really close to his house, when I turned left too soon. I found the street he lived on and turned right, but we had to drive a lot further than expected on a narrow road past cornfield after cornfield. And it had gotten dark. At one point, my oldest son said it was too dark and we should turn around. We're used to urban living where there are so many streetlamps that even at night it doesn't really get that dark. But out here in the middle of nowhere, it was dark and he got a little scared. But soon enough we were there and everything was okay again.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Before the Trip

We were not off to a good start. On July 11th, we're flying to Indianapolis, and then renting a car to see relatives near Rushville. I had no problem finding a guidebook to Ohio. After a few days in Indiana, we're driving to Wilmington, Ohio, where my mother-in-law lives. I even found a road map for Ohio at Barnes & Noble, but no book on Indiana, not even a map.

I did find some information online, but it was time-consuming and not so easy. Even the Indiana state website was not the most informative.

When I told my relatives I couldn't find a guidebook for Indiana, my aunt, who lives there, joked that it was because there's nothing to see.

Thank goodness for AAA. I went to my local office, and because I'm a member, they handed me one of their Tour Books that covered Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. That took care of travel tips and places to visit, but nothing about food.

Since I'm vegan, I wanted to find as many options for myself as I could. I wanted to find vegetarian restaurants, as well as markets where I could buy food that I could cook for myself. Since we're staying with family, and not in a hotel, I'll have access to a kitchen.

The first place I turned to was Happy Cow. I also checked out two other websites just to find vegetarian restaurants. I figure any place that's mentioned on two, or all, of those websites is probably a safe bet. I also found the website for the Indianapolis Vegetarian Society helpful with its link to CHACE (Connecting Hoosiers for Animal Concerns & Education), which had a list of restaurants in Indianapolis.

I also put a request for more input on restaurants in Indianapolis and Cincinnati with both Vegan Represent and VeggieBoards, but had no helpful responses before we left. Maybe when we get back I'll have some feedback on where we ate. (Since we never actually ate in either of those cities, I didn't have anything to contribute).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summer Vacation 2007

In the summer of 2007, we made a trip to Indiana and Ohio. We planned to fly from Oakland, California to Indianapolis on July 11. We were going to drive from there to my uncle's in Rushville, stay a few days, then drive to Ohio to visit my in-laws. We would visit with them a while, then leave our boys with Grandma Carole and Grandpa Jack and drive to visit friends in Baltimore for a long weekend. We were going to spend one day in Washington, D.C., it being so close to Baltimore, but we ended up not going. From there, we planned to go back to Ohio for a couple more days, then back to Indiana for a day or two, and then fly back to California on July 26.

Getting ready for the trip, I did some research on things we might like to do. I found some info on three museums in Indianapolis, the Indiana State Museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, none of which we ended up going to on this trip. I also looked up every Cracker Barrel that we might encounter between Indianapolis and Baltimore. My wife, Kelley, loves eating at Cracker Barrel and there are none in California. We knew they would be a reliable source of food along the way.

I also did a little research on Morristown, Indiana, were I grew up before moving to California. The population hasn't changed much, at only 1,133 people in 2000, 98.5% of them white. The people there very much reflect my own ancestry. 25% of the people are of German descent, 14% Irish, 12% English, 3% Scottish, and 3% Scotch-Irish. It's a small town, just one square mile in size.

The biggest news event connected with Morristown was the mention of a category 4 tornado that passed 6.2 miles away on April 3, 1974. It injured seventeen people and caused between $5 million and $50 million in damages. I recall that storm. We had a tornado warning while we were in school. And I remember seeing some of the damage it caused to an outdoor movie screen just a few miles outside of town.

I jotted all these notes down in the journal I bought for the trip. Of course, I made a list of all the things we would take on the trip, planning for myself, my wife, and our two boys. But I also wrote down a few favorite vegan recipes. I picked ones that I could make with ingredients that I thought I could find anywhere, nothing exotic. For breakfast, I copied Claire's Couscous Porridge from one of Sarah Kramer's cookbooks and a peanut butter banana pancake recipe. Other favorites are the Spicy Black Bean Burgers, Chickpea Toss, and Megadarra, all from one of Sarah Kramer's three vegan cookbooks.

Blog Reopened

I have decided to blog, at least for the summer. I find that while I'm working I just don't have the time to spend online.

Since I've discontinued my classroom blog, I'm less concerned about my students or their parents seeing what I'm writing. My students and their parents gets referred to my classroom website on wikidot at this point anyway.

And I want to be able to write about my personal life without worrying about it impacting my professional life. I'll deal with any problems that come up, if they come up at all.

To get started again, I'm going to post my diary from our summer vacation two years ago. We're planning another trip to Indiana and Ohio this summer, and posting what I wrote two years ago seems like a good way to get started again.

I may discontinue blogging again when school starts up again, but then I may not. We'll see.