Posts filed in: Travel

Vacation, Part 3: And Back Again

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The trip back home is always a little different than the trip out. Tired, bored, ready for familiar food, ready for familiar scenery, and very ready for familiar beds (and showers), I try not to wish for the train to go faster, because once we are home, vacation is officially over. But it was a great trip, and an awesome adventure, and I'm so glad we got to go. Thank you so much for following along! I hope you might be inspired to ride the rails and see this magnificent country of ours for yourself.

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Vacation4Our sleeping car attendant, Stephanie, bringing Amelia a present. (She was our attendant on the way out, and she was amazing.)

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VAcation23Two Medicine River just outside Glacier National Park, Montana

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VAcation25Glacier National Park

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Vacation35Eastern Washington

Vacation36Columbia River Gorge (almost home)

Vacation, Part 2: Door County

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Door County, Wisconsin, is a peninsula in eastern Wisconsin that sits between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. It is a very popular vacation destination for Chicagoans, and, as children and young adults, Andy and I both came here with our families in the summer (and both of our mothers grew up vacationing here, as well). There are charming little towns scattered up and down the peninsula, and a beautiful island, called Washington Island, at the northern tip that can only be reached by ferry boat. The area has a strong Scandinavian heritage, and wildflowers, fish boils, and lovely farms seem to be around every bend.

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Vacation, Part 1: Getting There

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Almost two weeks ago (we're home now), Andy, Amelia, and I left for our vacation to visit Andy's family for his parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. We took the train from Portland, Oregon, to Chicago, Illinois, then drove up all together (with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) to Door County, Wisconsin, to spend a few days in the places of so many of both of our family vacations in the past. We left Portland on a Saturday afternoon at 4:45 p.m. and arrived in Chicago on Monday afternoon, around 2:15 p.m. (So, that's two nights on the train.) We had a wonderful time. Amelia did amazingly well. On the train, I took all of my photos with my iPhone. (If you follow me on Instagram, you saw some of these in real time.) The train, called the Empire Builder, follows a route from Portland (or Seattle — two parts of the train meet up in Spokane, Washington, and go the rest of the way across the country together) through Washington, Idaho, Montana (right through Glacier National Park), North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Illinois to Chicago. (And to those who have asked, we had two Superliner Roomettes, right across from each other.) Here's a chronological photo-log of the first part of our vacation, the train trip from Portland to Chicago.

Would you like to join us?

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Vacation2aPortland, Oregon

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Vacation7Columbia River Gorge

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Vacation42Stanley, North Dakota

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Vacation50aSt. Cloud, Minnesota

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Vacation65Union Station, Chicago, Illinois

Thanks for riding the rails with us. I'll be back soon with Part 2. :)

Morning Light

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Snow2Near Sandhills Road, Towner, North Dakota; 8:14 a.m., November 17, 2011.

I honestly don't have words to thank every single one of you who has left the sound of your voice (and a piece of your heart) here the past two days (and the past few months, and always). Thank you for your encouragement, your generosity, your frustration, your tears, your prayers for everyone, your endless kindness, and your love. Andy says thank you for telling us not to give up. We both read every single word you shared, and with each one we felt lighter and stronger and more free; we talked about it several times throughout the day, and stayed up in bed late last night talking. Thank you for being here, in this very moment. It is so good to be part of the world all together. Look how beautiful it is!

I have a lot of thoughts about everything but they are all tangled and jumbled around today. It is storming something fierce outside! I have a new coat. My neighbor's awnings are about to blow off. We need candles, and mushrooms, and black elderberry syrup. We have firewood. We have animals sitting on top of us every minute. The leaves will all come off the trees today. I'm back in my window seat by the fireplace, watching winter roll in, making some plans. I have coffee, I have people, I have love, and things to give. This ain't my first rodeo! Back on the horse.

Walk on, girl!

Day at Brookfield Zoo

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Our childhood zoo. My first time back in twenty years! The same and different, like everything. I miss our animals so, so much.

Day in Downers Grove

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On Friday we went to Downers Grove to buy some yarn so I wouldn't go cray-cray when I run out of what I brought.

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'Burb Days Daze

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There's an incredible storm going on outside. Rain and wind are whipping the trees in every direction. I'm inside, next to the fireplace, listening to the clock, to the mad wind, to the rain whooshing through and rapping the windows like a gravel shower. It's the strangest thing, to have these strange, quiet days, so far from our usual places, people, pets, work, and activities. Part of me is kind of enjoying it, part of me is seriously antsy. Thank goodness we're with family. When Andy's parents are at work, we don't know quite what to do with ourselves, and yet, we don't really want to do much. Yesterday we had the laziest day we've probably ever spent in our entire lives. We're car-less, far from anything we can walk or bike to, and have no wish to roam, anyway. I'd shipped all the baby stuff ahead of time, so we didn't take much with us when we left Portland — a bit of knitting, a couple of books. Yesterday afternoon we took a walk around the neighborhood here. This is a gated 55-and-older community neighborhood, very nice; we get stares and howdies when we go out. I saw a guy riding a Hoveround with a little white dog sitting at his feet on it, nice as pie. (I just asked Andy how to spell Hoveround and he cracked up.) Around three or four o'clock we were sitting in the grass by the lake and a string of cars began driving away from the clubhouse. Andy: "Bingo must have just let out!" I say I love Bingo, and wonder if they'll let me play. Andy amuses me constantly by doing spot-on impressions of his parents' cat. I made dinner for everyone — pastitsio and salad; I dragged the cooking out all day. The stove was a gas stove, and awesome (ours in Portland is electric). We wrote letters. We put fake UFOs into our iPhone photos. (There's an app.) We texted people. We watched TV. We watched Happy Feet. We played Wii. We each spent about an hour designing our Miis, changing face shapes, eyebrows, glasses, noses. An hour! hee hee :-) It might have been longer than that. My sense of time is inaccurate. I'm not totally sure what day of the week it is, either.

I have my big black camera with me but I forgot the USB cable that connects it to the computer. I spent an hour figuring out how to pop out the memory card and put it into the computer so I could get the old pictures off, which is how I found the picture of the house that I had taken and forgotten. It looks different than it did when we lived there. The new owners have made some unfortunate changes, in my opinion. I don't know what's going on with the windows, for instance. I don't understand why the window trim is brown. It should be white. They took out all of the original leaded windows and replaced them with what looks like vinyl or fiberglass. They also paved the driveway, which was always gravel with a path of dandelions and grass down the center, I think. In some ways, though, it's exactly the same. That's probably why it's confusing.

Today we're going to Menard's with Andy's dad to get rock salt for the water softener. Field trip!!!!!

Hurry Up and Wait

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Here we are, in Chicago, waiting for the arrival of a very special baby girl. The phone rang last Tuesday afternoon, prompting a flurry of suitcases, phone calls, housesitter arrivals, ticket purchases, last-minute instructions, and general running around the house in small excited circles, like side-by-side triple axels with barely stuck landings. But we somehow managed to make it out of there just fine. Zing!

Arriving, we found that baby had decided to wait after all — very good baby!!! Once again we are waiting for a phone to ring, letting us know that she is here! It's Monday morning at Andy's parents' house. The house is incredibly quiet. Andy's parents both left for work early this morning and now Andy and I are here alone, goofing off and passing the time, fussing with the temporary mini-nursery, folding baby clothes, playing with the kitty, walking around the lake, bouncing on the yoga ball, daring each other to see what baby formula actually tastes like, setting up baby monitors and bottle sterilizers, knitting tiny heartwarmers, trying to figure out how the baby sling works, trying to figure out how the baby carrier works, trying to figure out how the television works, checking the phone again, talking about our hopes and dreams, sitting on the back deck watching geese fly overhead through the cold, crisp air. It was not too long ago that this subdivision was a farmer's field.

On the verge of motherhood, in some ways I feel like I am suddenly, ironically, back in my own childhood. The sky looks the same as it did then, and also like nowhere else I've lived. The leaves look the same, the bare trees look the same, the leaves smell the same. The color of the light from the streetlights is the same. Passing through Oak Park on the expressway the other night I cried in the car, thinking of my dad and missing him more than I could say, thinking of how he was always here, always, always at home. Before this past summer, the last time I had been in Chicago was ten years ago, shortly after he passed away. He died in Oregon, but that never seemed right. One afternoon during our visit here last month, I sat in the park across from my old house for several hours and stared at it, and it looked just like my dad to me, and it looked like me, and it looked like my family. I felt like I was looking at people. Our life was so thoroughly there, in that place. My parents lived on Forest Avenue for almost thirty years until they moved to Oregon in late 1998 to be nearer to my sister and me (we were already there). For several reasons, I wasn't able to come back then, that autumn when they were moving. The house is in a cul-de-sac. It was strange to have to sit like a stranger, across the street in the park where the swings used to be; it was the same point from which I had looked at my house a thousand times before, pumping my legs back and forth on the swings: house closer, now farther, now closer, now farther away. I didn't dare get too close this time. I felt like I could walk off the sidewalk and right up the front stairs into the past. But I didn't want that. I could hear acorns falling from the hundred-foot-tall trees. I walked a few blocks down Linden to Thatcher and the edge of the woods, my first woods, and looked in at them. My dad had dragged us there to go walking around all the time when we were growing up, and we had mostly hated it. Go figure. I was told never, ever to go into them alone. And so I didn't this time, either. But I missed him, and wished he were here now, for all of this.

Andy's parents live farther out of town now. The suburbs stretch farther than they did when we were kids, the neighborhoods out this way a strange mix of farm fields and gated communities. I love the prairie grasses and the cornfields and the cattails that line the sides of the road. I love the the bare, black oak tree branches against the blue sky, the way the downtown skyscrapers rise like mountains. I love the rusty El tracks overhead, the busty pigeons, the wide, wide sidewalks downtown and all of the people and buses and taxis. I love the museums, the planetarium, the Art Institute where my parents met, the fancy old apartment and office buildings. I used to work in one of them, on the corner of Michigan and Madison, but that was a long time ago; I'm a tourist now. I'm absolutely amazed at and intimidated by how many expressways there are, how many lanes of whooshing traffic, how many people and malls and stores, how many things to eat. Andy is sitting in his dad's recliner at this moment, reading a book about hot dogs and eating from a gigantic wax-paper bag of cheese-and-carmel popcorn from Garrett's, which he walked into the room carrying on one arm, like a baby.

We wait, and dink around the house, and pray, and wait.

Snow Day

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As you head away from the city, it may be warm and raining.

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But at the mountain, the world (and time) has frozen.

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We went to Timberline Lodge with our friends Keely and Josh like we did for my birthday last year. It's become a sort of unexpected tradition I am happy to continue, as I honestly cannot imagine a better or more beautiful place for a new year's birthday.

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Andy gave me an iPhone for my birthday. I wasn't that interested in the iPhone until I got one and started playing with it and now I love it. I took all of these pictues with the phone. I love taking pictures with the phone! (Which is good, since I left my huge bag of knitting [I think I had four WIPs, a brand new book, all of my tools like tape measure and yarn needles and stitch markers in there] and my big black camera [also in the bag] at the hotel. But we won't talk about that. It was supposed to be overnighted to me but has yet to arrive; hopefully the camera will survive the trip.)

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I had thought I wanted it to snow until I saw that we were going to get a sunset, and then I didn't mind at all that it didn't snow.

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This sunset was magical.

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Hipstamatically enhanced, but that only makes it look how it felt, I think.

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I really had no idea how to control this camera so I just let it do whatever it wanted. It was like a corgi in that way.

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Thank you so much for your birthday wishes last week! I hope someday you go to Timberline Lodge and you are there sitting next to the huge fireplace as the sun is setting. That's my birthday wish for you.

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We had dinner in the restaurant and then sat in the hot tub outside, under the stars. I didn't really sleep the whole night, though I tried (hotel pillow too squishy: "What is this? A bag of frosting?"). The next morning, though:

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Holy.

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Taken from the window of our room. Seriously.

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J+ K adorableness.

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Too soon it was time to go home.

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It was such a great day. I even got to walk around in the snow with my special traction chains. That was just amazing.

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Double rainbow, all the way.

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.