The next day was our planned tourist day. Remember earlier in the report when I mentioned our friend that used to live in Manchester? Well her daughter still lived in the UK (Reading, I believe).
The last time either of us had seen Jodie she was a sassy 13 year old. She was now a sassy full grown adult. We’ve been friends on facebook for years though we hadn’t really kept in touch so it was nice that when we reached out about seeing her that she was all for it.
She and her wife Claire met us at the King’s Cross Station and we were off on the tube for adventures.
We hit Camden Market and had a Yorkshire Burrito which I had seen online and had to try.
Where Rob and I each picked up a pair of Docs.
Before heading out to find the aforementioned Yorkshire Burrito.
Then it was on to Borough Market, where we all regretted filling up on the burritos because there were so many yummy food options.
And then on to London Bridge.
And then even more walking until …
It was time to take an Uber boat up the Thames!
They also took us to Harrods which was impressive but depressing if you aren’t rich.
At that point the Yorkshire Burrito had worn off with all our travels and we were feeling pretty hungry. Jodie remembered a little Italian place nearby that she had eaten at once that had carbonara that brought tears to her eyes it was so good. She could not undersell this point. She wanted that carbonara again, very badly. We were agreeable so we set off in search of this restaurant that she couldn’t remember the name of nor the coordinates.
We walked and talked and walked and walked some more. It was not unenjoyable because Jodie and Claire were really great people and I’m so glad that we were able to reconnect with Jodes and meet her lovely wife. If they lived closer we would definitely hang out on a regular basis and have already started making plans for their visit to the US (they want to visit San Fran and Vegas for sure). However, as we walked on, it became dark and when we hit a part of town that didn’t appear to have any kind of restaurants at all I started to get a bit cranky.
It was getting late and we had tickets for the London Zoo at ten the next morning that would no doubt involve a lot more walking. My watch told me that we had already walked almost nine miles that day so I was feeling like we were never going to find food or be able to go home.
After another half an hour or so we finally hit another patch of civilization and low and behold the Italian place was just there up ahead like a shining beacon of light. In case anyone is interested and doesn’t want to spend all night searching for a nameless restaurant like we did, it was called Foubert’s. You’re welcome.
Given her recommendation, I’m not sure why I didn’t get the carbonara, but I opted for tortellini instead, but I did try Jodes’ and it was pretty delicious. Rob got Lasagna and Claire got the carbonara as well. No pics because we were absolutely famished and inhaled everything (also my phone was at about 10% due to all the tourist pics I had taken over the course of the day so I was using it as little as possible in case we needed it on the way home).
Fat and happy, we paid the bill and headed back out to find that there was an underground entrance right around the corner. Huzzah!
We rode the tube as far as we could together and then bid them ado with promises to stay in touch and plan their US outing and then Rob and I hopped on our train back to the hotel.
It was a wonderful but absolutely exhausting day and we were so glad to get to the hotel to out our pjs on and get some sleep.
We intended to be up and running by ten the next morning but we ended up sleeping til eleven. Guess we needed it.
Once we both showered it was unbearably hot and humid in the room and we still couldn’t seem to get the air conditioning to work. It was all made worse by the fact that the temperature control on the shower was broken and seemed to be stuck on “fiery pits of hell”. It was the kind of hot and humid that even after you towel off you are immediately drenched again by your own sweat. Not fun.
We decided to buy a fan in our day’s explorations.
We had no real plans on this day by design. It was Saturday and we didn’t want to have to deal with a lot of tourists or crowds. Our thoughts were to just sort of walk up and down the street that we were staying on, grab some lunch and do a little shopping for stuff for the room.
We headed out and walked quite a distance up and down Kilburn St. finally stopping at an adorable pink themed cafe and had a late lunch before heading back in the direction of the hotel.
Since we had been unable to find a fan, I sent Rob back to the room and tried a couple more places to no avail.
Thankfully by the time I got back to the room Rob had gotten the window open and talked to the staff who said they would send a fan up.
The fan never came but Rob “figured out” the air conditioning (I’m not so certain they didn’t just flip a switch downstairs after he complained) and all was well with the world.
I got my clothing more organized and got my bag partially packed for the next day as we were taking the train up to Manchester for the first Europe concert.
Once we felt more squared away and a bit more rested, we headed out to the opposite direction of Kiburn St, looking for dinner options.
We didn’t see a whole lot on that end of the road but there was a cute little Asian place just a few steps from our hotel where we got some Chinese for dinner that night and then I ate waaaaay too many Cadbury chocolates before bed and my heart rate skyrocketed for like two hours (I’m not used to eating sugar like I used to, but damn they were good!).
The next day (Sunday) we were out of the hotel and on the underground a bit earlier than we anticipated thus making us super early for our train to Manchester and I was okay with that. I would rather be early than late.
It was the only full day of sunshine forecasted for our trip and ironically it was the coldest due to the humidity dropping off.
We waited for about an hour and then finally boarded the train where we dozed off and on for about three hours with very little actual sleep.
Upon arriving in Manchester it took us a few moments to figure out the Uber situation but once we got it sorted it was a quick ten minute ride to our hotel for the night.
We checked in and I slapped some make up on my face and straightened my hair before we headed out to the venue area to see if we could grab food before the soundcheck. We found a little pizza place and got some very thin crust Burnt Ends pizza. It worked out to be the perfect amount of food. Not too stuffed, but satisfied, we made our way to The Lowry and settled in to wait for the soundcheck.
There was a total of about 25 or so people at the soundcheck so it was very intimate.
The band came out and played four songs. Very low key as they were saving their voices and energy for the concert. They had some light banter with us all and Joey (the lead singer) warned us that he might make us sing.
Sure enough during “More Than Meets The Eye” he made the rounds and would drop down to someone during the chorus and have that person sing two lines.
I started videoing on my phone when I saw him first do this. He stopped in front of this shy girl and she quietly sang her part. I thought it was great fun and he went back to sing another verse. When it came time for the second chorus I saw Joey coming my direction but he has only briefly made eye contact with me so I thought for sure he was going to pass me. In fact he did a sort of fake out move to pass me and then dropped down to one knee directly in front of me and pointed the mic in my face.
I’m not sure how I was able to breathe, let alone sing but I kinda went on auto pilot (thank you community theater training!) and belted my two lines.
He pounded me on the shoulder, smiling, and then he was up and off singing another verse.
I was in shock and trying to act very nonchalant but the reality of it was that a 35 year old dream of mine had just come true. However short of a duration, I had just sung with my favorite band in the world of the last 35+ years!
Joey had looked at me, smiling and encouraging the whole time (all five seconds if it) and I sang to him (at least I think, I pretty much blacked out and don’t remember a thing)!
I realized that I had been videoing the whole time but had dropped my hand when he approached me so all the footage was of his crotch.
Rob managed to grab a pic at the very end so there is blurry photographic evidence of Joey smiling at me with the mic in my face.
You guys, I cannot express enough how much this meant to me. This may have been the best moment of my life (Just don’t tell my husband, because he thinks that was the day I married him). Like, my inner 14 year old was dying and could never have fathomed that this would ever take place in all her wildest dreams, though she hoped desperately for it. This moment alone made the trip all worthwhile. If we had left right after soundcheck and never even seen the concert or anything else on the trip, I still would have been amazingly happy.
At any rate, Joey did the singing thing for two more people before the song was done and they did one or two more songs after that but I was lost in adrenaline land. I also grabbed a pic that John Norum (guitarist) tossed in my direction when they were all done.
When they were done we were ushered out and told to come back in a a couple hours for the show.
In the lobby one of the other people that sang with the band approached us and he was just as jacked on adrenaline as I was. He caught me dabbing at my eyes with a napkin (which I saved, because shut up!) as I had dissolved into a teary shaking mess as soon as we got out of there.
He told me that I had done a great job and we told him the same. We chatted for a minute and Rob snapped a pic of us together before we headed back to the hotel.
Once there I just kind of sat around in a daze, smiling and laughing randomly as I thought of what had just taken place until it was time to head back to the arena.
The concert was amazing but I knew it would be. I had the best time and our seats were amazing.
Two and a half hours of pure joy and then it was back to the hotel room where I had a very hard time getting to sleep.
I’m going to put the concert pics in the next post as this is getting too long.
A bit of background on this trip:
In January of this year my favorite band of the last 35+ years (Europe) put tickets on sale for their latest tour. They were calling it the Time Capsule tour and it was celebrating the 40 year anniversary of the release of their first album. It was promised to be a deep dive into all of their hits but also some of the fan favorites that were never released as singles. Billed as an intimate night with the band it was for smaller venues with a much more up close and personal style.
The unfortunate part of all of this was that, as usual, they would not be touring the US. I was really bummed because this was the tour I really wanted to see.
I had seen them twice in 2005 in Anaheim and San Diego when they reunited and again in 2016 when they came to San Jose but that was the extent of the US tours since they got back together (I was just shy of being old enough to be allowed to go to rock concerts when they first toured the US in 1986 and 87).
In 2020 they were going to tour in the states as an opening act for Kansas and Foreigner. We had tickets and even passes for the meet and greet (It was a part of our 4 part 20 year anniversary present to ourselves–Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Europe Concert, 20 year vow renewal in Vegas and Harry Potter Play in San Francisco) and while I was excited about that, it wasn’t the tour I wanted. I didn’t want to see them as an opening act. They have 11 albums worth of songs and to see that smushed into a 30-45 minute set, while worth it, would just leave me wanting more.
At any rate, it never happened because COVID did. The shows were cancelled and Europe never rescheduled any dates in the US.
Feeling super sorry for myself for not being able to see the Time Capsule tour, the date that the tickets went on sale for the UK shows I was popping on the website and seeing how quickly the tickets were going. I put in VIP tickets for two and was able to get really good seats. I played around with all the different venues (they played a lot of UK shows) and then I decided fuck it, I’m doing this.
I was willing to waste money that I shouldn’t just to have an off chance that all the stars in the universe might align and I would be able to see this show.
My husband and I have a friend that lived near Manchester. We had visited her right after 9/11 (we were scheduled to fly out the day after but it was delayed by two weeks understandably, but that is a story for a different time) and hadn’t seen her since. I figured it was a wonderful opportunity to visit with her again and give me more of an excuse to sell this to the husband when I told him I bought the tickets. Oh, did I mention I spent this money on the tickets without discussing it with my long suffering husband first? Yeah, that happened.
So I picked the Manchester show and bought the tickets. Second row, dead center with the VIP package that included access to the soundcheck before the show, signed posters and a VIP lanyard.
I got the insurance on the tickets but it said that you could only basically get your money back if you got COVID or had some sort of natural disaster prevent you from getting there. No matter, I’d figure it out.
Two weeks later I found the right time to mention it to the husband who was, understandably, less than thrilled.
He enjoys the band and knew straight away when he first met me 24 years ago that I was (unhealthily?) obsessed with them. Over the years he has bought me all kinds of memorabilia that hang on our walls to this day, but while he “gets it” I’m not sure he fully understands my infatuation and that’s okay.
When I was a kid I didn’t have the best childhood (I know, who did right? Boo hoo). But when I discovered this band at age 13 or 14, it gave me an escape. Listening to their music was the one thing I could do that would transport me to another place, if only in my head, for a few hours and get me out of the hell I was living in. I’ve never forgotten that and I never will.
Over the years I feel that the music has just gotten better. I’m so grateful to still have that escape, even though my life has improved vastly, and I will always be thankful to them and never be able to repay them for the good they have provided in my life.
Having said all that, my husband is a reasonable man, but also very frugal and did not see the benefit of buying tickets to a concert in a foreign country that we would now have to plan a trip to.
But he loves me and asked that I let him digest the information.
When we reconvened on it some weeks later, he had warmed to the idea a bit but was disappointed to find out that our friend that lived in Manchester had moved. To Spain.
So now we had tickets to a show in a place we had no real interest in going.
I asked him if he wanted to see if I could sell the Manchester tickets and get some for one of the two London shows they were doing. He was agreeable to that, if they seats would be comparable to the ones that we already had.
I looked it up and I could still get second row, but off to the left side, which I was fine with so we agreed that was better and I bought them.
Once the location was in a more touristy area with more things to do, I could see him get much more excited about the trip. He also told me that he had thought about it and he realized that the Europe concert from 2020 was the one thing from our 20 year anniversary that we had not been able to complete and this would bring it around full circle. Also, he said that I rarely asked to go anywhere vacation wise unless it was Vegas or Maine and that once he put that in perspective, he was much more amenable to the idea.
He then asked me if I would like to keep the tickets to the Manchester show and see both shows (Instant regret showed on his face as soon as he asked this ).
Ummmm…who are you asking? OF COURSE I WOULD!!! I’d see every single show on this tour if I could!
And so it was to be. We planned a trip to England, staying in London with a one night side visit to Manchester.
With 9 months to plan it, I think it worked out pretty well with a good amount of touristy stuff and rest all wrapped up together.
Woke up on Thursday morning around 4:30 or so to get an hour long workout in. I’ve recently lost 135 pounds and exercise has been a major part of that. An hour is less than I do on a normal day but on this day it was more about calming my anxiety and less about burning calories, though I knew I was going to be eating plenty of those as the day wore on. I’m not a good flier. I am afraid of heights and have pretty bad anxiety on a good day. The last two years of working out have done wonders for my fears and phobias, but when it comes to a biggie like flying, I still get really anxious.
We had packed the night before other than the essential last minute morning things so there was little else to do but shower, load up the van and get the dogs off to the vet to be boarded. We knew we would be in a hurry so we pre filled out all the paperwork the day before so drop off only took a minute or two.
Then it was off to Rob’s dads house where he was waiting and ready to take us to the Marina drop off for the airplane shuttle bus.
We had to go early because my father in law was expecting workers to come replace some windows at his house. We didn’t mind, because he was doing us a favor and it worked out well as we had time while waiting for the shuttle to call AT&T and get our international plan activated on our phones.
We also had a lovely chat with an older woman named Candy who was going to the San Jose airport to head off to Vegas for the PBR event. When Vegas is a common bond, there is always plenty to talk about.
The shuttle was thankfully uneventful (did I mention I have a fear of freeways as well?) and we got to the San Francisco airport about four hours early for our flight.
We just basically hung out near our gate and chatted until it was time to board.
Last month I had a sedation dentistry appointment (another fear) to get my two front teeth replaced (crowns). I mention this because they had given me two Valium pills to take the night before in case I had trouble sleeping. I had been able to get to sleep just fine that night so with no use for the prescribed use of those pills, I had a little friend in my pocket.
I took half of one and holy crap that was a Godsend. Didn’t make me loopy but really made the take off (the worst part for me) painless and almost enjoyable. Rob was like: “Who are you???” because I was laughing and joking the whole time when I’d normally be cutting off the circulation in his hand for the first half hour of the flight.
The flight was nine and a half hours but it really passed quickly for me. We got lucky and there was no other person in our three seat row so we were able to spread out and relax. There was also no turbulence to speak of and lots of movies available to watch. I finally got to see Are You There God? It’s me Margaret.” (a book I read multiple times as a child) and also a couple stand up comedy specials.
Unfortunately, sleep eluded me.
As we got close to landing they rushed everyone into clean up mode and the flight staff took their seats stating we were heading into bad weather and it was going to get really bumpy.
I braced myself for an anxiety filled hour but other than a couple of bumps right after the announcement it was smooth sailing. Thank goodness!
Once we landed we had to clear this automated passport check thingie. That took quite a while simply because there were soooo many people in line, but after that we got our bags and away we went.
I thought customs would take forever but I guess the passport thing was all we needed to do as we breezed right through the exit with no questions asked of us.
Once we were out we bought an Oyster card for the underground and traveled the hour by Subway to get to our hotel. I have to go on record as saying that I really, REALLY appreciate the transit system in England, just as I did the one in Korea when we went a few years ago. It simplifies things so very much and really keeps the spending down on having to take Ubers or cabs.
Once off the tube it was a short walk to the hotel. We were early but they said our room should be ready in a few minutes. They also waived to early check in fee, so that was nice.
We went into a corner of the lobby and about ten minutes later we were told our room was ready and up we went.
The room was small but not horribly cramped. It was stuffy though and the window didn’t appear to open, nor did the air conditioning appear to work. I was pretty sure it was going to be one of those situations like we had had at the Four Queens one winter in Vegas where they just shut off the air conditioning to a whole tower and when we complained we were told to basically suck it up. It wasn’t horribly warm, but I could tell it would get bad when we used the shower given how small the room was, but that was a problem for later.
(Full disclosure, these pics were taken a couple days after we arrived because I forgot to take any when we first got there, too tired.)
We settled in and unpacked the best we could with no drawer space and then Rob caught a nap.
I decided to go explore the neighborhood while he slept, so I went on a walkabout to check out the shopping and restaurants nearby.
I also picked up dinner from the place downstairs and by the time I got back it was time to eat and hit the sack, having been up for over 24 hours.
Wednesday, the only thing we had on our agenda was to drive up to Bangor to visit my best friend in the hospital. She had finally been moved out of ICU and we were excited to go see her.
While eating breakfast and getting ready we discussed the logistics of getting my mothers ashes home. We knew that we didn’t have the proper documentation to get her on the JetBlue flight with us so we had looked into mailing her back when we were still in Cali and it seemed the only viable option. We looked up the info again and it appeared to be a bit more complicated than I remembered. We decided that since only one person could visit Kimmy at a time that I would go first and he would run to the post office and talk to a real person to find out just what we needed to do.
We packed up mom on the off chance that they would be able to ship her out that day or us and headed up to Bangor.
We got there a little early for visiting hours so we decided to just go to the post office then since it was nearby. As fate would have it, they could in fact, ship mom out right then and there so we had her put into a box and shipped off to Rob’s dad’s house back in California. We had originally planned to spread some of her ashes over her grandparents grave here in Maine, but the convenience of getting her on the move as easily as possible won out.
I couldn’t believe the comfort that I felt once she was packaged up and ready to head home. I didn’t realize how much anxiety I was carrying with me over it until it was taken care of and then it was like a giant sigh of relief.
With her safely on her way to Salinas (she was delivered 10/8/21 so she made it!), we headed out to the car and got a message from Kim that she was going in for a procedure so wouldn’t be available for visiting yet.
With nothing else to do, we mapped the Hollywood casino and found it was just up the street so we tooled on over and killed about an hour. They ID you at the door and there was an elderly gentleman in front of us. The guy manning the door was joking with him, telling him he was supposed to ID anyone that looked younger than 30 so he needed to see his drivers license. We all had a laugh and then when it was my turn, I gave him my ID. He looked at it and said: “I didn’t expect that!” before running it through a machine to make sure it was real (probably because it was an out of state ID). He then told me that he had ID’d me for real because he didn’t think I looked over 30. Now, granted I had a face mask on, but I’ll take a compliment where I can get it. When he told me to have a nice day, I said: “I will now!” 🤣🤣
We decided to head to the car after losing $40 dollars. We still hadn’t heard from Kimmy but we knew we would lose more money if we stayed so we sat in the car and watched an episode of Bob’s Burgers on Rob’s Ipad. Just as it ended we got the word that Kimmy was back in her room so we mosied on over.
We had brought Red Barn with us for lunch and while it was cold, it was still pretty yummy. I brought it up and Kimmy and I ate while Rob serenaded us on the guitar via Facetime.
We got back to the hotel around eight or so and didn’t do much else. We ate some more cold leftover Red Barn and went to bed.
On Thursday Rob let me sleep in a bit while he went down and got some breakfast from the lobby. The rest of the trip was mostly about visiting with Kim so we didn’t much else on the agenda. We picked up Big G’s sandwiches in Winslow and then it was up to Clinton to get Kim’s daughter Emily and then back on the road to Bangor.
We got there just as they were trying to put in her picc line (unsuccessfully) so there was a bit of a wait but then Emily and I were able to visit with her. Rob had been able to at least peek in and say hi right before they started the picc line.
We dropped Em off and were back to the hotel by seven I think. We ate leftover Big G’s for dinner and hit the hay.
I think Friday morning was the first morning we left the hotel before nine the whole trip.
My cousin Tammy typically runs in to visit us right before we leave on the last day of our trip. However, this time we had plans for the last full day so we had to make other arrangements. She knew of this place in Vassalboro that makes fresh donuts so she got us some apple cider sugared ones from there and we all met at her house for coffee and donuts.
It was a really good visit. I hadn’t seen her husband in at least 20 years I think, so it was good to sit down and have a nice chat with them both. So much so that we ended up staying later than intended. Thankfully though, she saved us a trip to a store by letting us have an old box she had down in the basement so we could pack up the artwork and pictures that my brother had given us of Mom’s and get them shipped back to California.
So then it was back to the hotel to get the pictures and stuff packed up and Rob getting it squared away with a UPS label and pick up. By that time it was getting pretty late and though Kim had been told she was going home that day, she was still in the hospital awaiting another try at the picc line before she could be released. We decided that the long drive to Bangor was a bit too much for us, especially not knowing if we would have to turn around and come back in case she got discharged while we were on our way. We messaged Kimmy about it and decided we would scrap our plans for the next day and go visit her then instead.
We were a little bummed about having to nix our plans for Saturday because they were literally the very first thing we had planned for the trip. We were going to go get a one weekend only special at my mom’s favorite ice cream place (we were still going to be able to do that part) and then we were going to go to a “Bean Suppah” and follow that up with a trip to LL Bean.
So a little background on the bean supper. They are a long standing Maine tradition. It is usually put on in church basements or some sort of American Legion hall. It consists of a bunch of different meals and sides put together (obviously beans are the focus) and the money they charge usually goes to the church or a charity/non profit. You get a bunch of food, usually desert and you sit around and all eat cafeteria style like around a bunch of long tables.
When Rob and I first came back to Maine to visit after getting married, he said he wanted to do the most authentic Maine thing I could think of. I immediately thought of a bean supper but there weren’t any going on nearby at the time of that visit. Every single visit after that he asked about a bean supper and we were never able to find one going on during our visit that wasn’t at least a two hour drive.
He began to tell me he thought I was lying and there was no such thing as a bean supper. He thought it was Maine folklore or that I was just making it up. So I was very excited when I found one about 40 minutes south of our hotel happening in Durham that Saturday. And since it was only about 15 minutes away from Freeport and he had never been to LL Bean, we decided to take a side trip over there and get our picture taken with the big boot.
However, this trip was much more prioritized to seeing Kimmy than it was about touristy things so we both agreed that scrapping it going back up to the hospital and see Kim was a better idea than to not see her one more time that trip so that we could eat beans and see a giant boot. That didn’t mean we weren’t sad about missing it though.
That night we made a quick trip to the grocery store and were tucked into bed early. Kimmy sent us a message that evening that she had gotten her line in and they were going to send her home the next morning.
This was great news, because not only would Kim be out of that horrible hospital, but because she would be closer than Bangor and because we didn’t have to work around the late visiting hours, we could go spend time with her at her house and possibly still keep our other plans for that evening.
Of course, we knew how this hospital liked to dick around with her schedule and wait til the last possible moment to do anything, we weren’t holding our breath that she would get out at a decent hour.
TO BE CONTINUED.
DAY TWO (First FULL day in Maine):
Woke up on Sunday after passing out for at least 12 hours still feeling tired but no longer feeling that weird hallucinogen/drunk tired.
Called my cousin Dottie and let her know I was in town. For those that don’t know, my cousin Dottie is 96 years old and is one of my favorite humans on the planet. She had a very large hand in raising me when I was a kid and my parents were going through their fighting/separation/get back together/eventually divorce phase. When I was young, being able to spend the night at Dot’s house was the BEST treat you could ask for and if there was anything lucky that came out of my parents not getting along, it was that they shipped me and my brother off to Dot’s house A LOT so they could fight in private.
She may be 96 years old but she does not act it. She is sharp as a tack, funny as heck and before COVID, had a busier social calendar than most people I know.
So we called her and as luck would have it she was going to be home all day so we got ready and headed out. Our first order of business was to pop over to Belgrade and pick up a cheap acoustic guitar for Rob to noodle around on while he is here. It was a pretty easy drive to a local gas station/market in Belgrade to meet the owner of the guitar and after it passed inspection, we were off.
We headed into Waterville to grab some lunch from Governor’s, swung to pick up her sister Helen at her house and then tooled on over to Dot’s house.
It was a wonderful visit full of great food (oh Haddock Chowder, how I’ve missed you!) and even better conversation. I am sad that I forgot to take any pictures but I guess that is just a testament to the fact that I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
Several hours later I was getting sleepy so we called it and headed back to Augusta. Our original plan was to hit the Walmart for all the essentials we didn’t want to pay Target prices for earlier in the trip, but I was running out of steam and really didn’t want to deal with a large store with large crowds so we hit Hannaford’s again to grab some dinner we could just heat up in the room (shepherd’s pie in case you were wondering) and came back to the hotel.
We ate and watched some TV and I think I was in bed by nine or so reading before I dropped off to dreamland.
Monday we were up and taking advantage of the free breakfast the hotel offers before nine.
Then we took showers and were ready to face the day by 11:00. We grabbed some sandwiches from Damon’s again and headed to Waterville.
After a quick stop for the first Dunkin’ of the trip we were off to visit a friend. Our first non-relative visit of the trip. 🤣🤣
We had a really good visit but they were on a limited time frame so soon we were making our way back to Augusta. On our way to get on the interstate, we passed by the store that my best friends daughter worked at so we had to stop in and surprise her. It was very cool, she was happy to see us and she and I chatted for quite a while, while Rob grabbed a basket and went shopping.
After that we hit Walmart in Augusta for whatever we didn’t want to buy/couldn’t find at Target the day before and quickly dropped everything back at the hotel before turning around and going back to downtown to meet a school chum for dinner at Cushnoc Brewery.
I don’t think I had seen her in something like 10 years so it was nice to sit and get caught up with her. We got the Crab Rangoon pizza and it was every bit as amazing as it sounds. Soooooo gooooooood!!!!
It was a great dinner with fantastic company and I’m glad we were able to see her (look, I remembered to get a picture!!).
We had forgotten to pick up some more water at Walmart but we were just too tired once dinner was done so we headed straight back to the hotel where we relaxed for a bit and then hit the sack.
Tuesday it was up for the free hotel breakfast again and then we putted around the room before getting ready and heading out to Bolley’s Hot Dogs to meet up with my friend Naomi and two of her kids – who are no longer kids. It was packed because it is a very popular spot for lunchtime but the girls snagged us a table and we had a pretty nice visit.
We bid the girls ado and headed a bit further into Hallowell to see if a local ice cream shop I wanted to try was open but they weren’t so we turned around and tooled over to downtown to see about the Farmers Market that was going on there that day.
We got a goat cheese spread for our English Muffin in the morning, some olive oil and some local honey.
Once we were done we decided to FINALLY get an ATM card for the credit union account I have had for decades. I started it when I was in my early 20’s. At the time it was for government workers only and I got in on a technicality because my mother worked for the State and we lived at the same address. We stopped at the hotel quickly (it’s right along the way) to pee and found out that my brother had dropped of “the goods”. In other words, he had left my mothers ashes at the front desk for us along with some pictures from her house that he had been holding onto for me.
I wasn’t prepared for one of the items he included, and that was her purse. The raggedy light blue thing that I have watched her carry around for so many years. I had to go to the car and compose myself while Rob put “the goods” into our hotel room.
Off to the credit union, we were able to draw out some spending cash, get my ATM card and finally add my husband to the account. Satisfied, we hopped back in the car and made a stop for the second Dunkin’ of the trip and then to Hannaford’s to pick up the water we kept forgetting to get.
Finally done for the day, we got back to the hotel and I looked through all the things my brother dropped off.
Inside my mothers purse was her phone and charger, several wads of tissues (like mother, like daughter 🤣🤣) and her ID card. I got a little emotional but managed to keep it kinda reigned in. There were all the postcards that Rob had sent her through the years from an app on his phone. Lots of Sears portraits of me when I was a kid and some of the pictures that used to hang on her walls.
I guess I didn’t expect the box that her ashes were in to be so big and heavy. I mean, I have nothing to really compare it to but I guess I thought they would take up less space. She was a little bitty thing – couldn’t have been more than 4’6″ in the end, if that. Anyway, it surprised me.
We didn’t do a whole lot with the rest of the night. This was our one night we chose to stay in and relax a bit early. Our dinner was part of the hotel’s “Evening Social” that they do Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It was chili with corn muffins. Not too bad.
To Be Continued…
Okay, so I know that I always start trip reports and never finish them, but I’m hoping this time will be different. 🤣🤣
We are in Maine. We finally got here yesterday around 11 AM EST. You’ll see why I say finally in just a minute.
Our journey began after work on Friday afternoon. I got out of work early and we were able to tool down to Rob’s dad’s house by 2:15ish PM PST. We were scheduled to catch the Airbus up to the San Jose airport at 5:35 but since we were early we decided to catch the 3:00 bus. Our flight wasn’t until 9:00 that night but I get nervous when taking a shuttle that traffic and all that good stuff might make us miss our flight. We both agreed that it was better safe than sorry and since we had the time, there was no harm in getting there super early.
Jetblue had cancelled our Friday night flight on the last two trips that we took to Boston, so we had been cautious at best all week that were would even get out that night. However according to their app, the flight from Boston to San Jose had already taken off so the likelihood that we would have a plane to take us to our destination was good (the lack of a plane due to a cancelled Boston to San Jose flight was the cancellation issue the two previous trips).
The shuttle was uneventful (though nerve wracking if you hate freeway traffic like I do) and we got to the airport around 4:30 or 5 — bear with me as the details are already getting fuzzy — and we settled in for a long night.
The first area of business was to change my shirt. You see, I had a mishap on the shuttle bus. Remember the part about me being a nervous freeway traveler? Well, as soon as we were on the bus I pulled out my CBD oil to take a dose. I put the dropper of liquid under my tongue and in my already frazzled state of mind, I was in a rush to put my mask back on my face and proceeded to do so–with the hand that had the bottle of CBD oil in it–the bottle that I hadn’t put the cap back on yet. Um, yeah. So I basically just dumped CBD oil all over my shoulder, my hair and down the front of my left boob. Smooth. I – and presumably the whole bus – reeked of weed. Also, I have probably ruined my Ashley McBryde T Shirt. Ace move, Kel!
So when we got to the airport we pulled a spare shirt out of my suitcase and I changed in the bathroom, washing that section of hair as best I could with hand soap in the the sink. I still stunk, but less. Especially after scraping my hair up into a bun.
The Jetblue desk had a note stating they wouldn’t be back until 6:30 so we hunkered down outside on a deserted set of steps so we could take our masks off. After an uncomfortable (concrete doesn’t give) couple of hours we were able to check in, ditch our rolling luggage and make our way through security.
After another couple of uncomfortable hours (those chairs at the gate don’t have much more give than the concrete) we boarded our mostly full flight to Boston for a blessedly smooth flight. If you know me (and if you don’t, what the hell are you doing reading my blog for anyway??), than you know that I don’t like flying. It petrifies me to no end and I cannot relax at all from several days before the flight until the time we actually touch down. Having said that, this was probably one of the smoothest flights I’ve been on (the smoothest were the flights to and from Korea – I don’t remember feeling even one little bump on those) and I am super grateful for that.
We arrived in Boston on time if not a little early, around five thirty AM EST. We were both sore and cranky, not having gotten any sleep in the cramped quarters of our airline seats but glad to at least be most of the way through our journey to Maine. We grabbed our luggage from the baggage carousal and settle into another pair of uncomfortable seats to wait the two hours for our bus.
Why a bus, you ask? Well, normally we would – and have for many years – taken a small plane (puddle jumper) to Augusta, Maine from Boston. Augusta has a TINY little airport but we started flying into there many years ago because that was where my mom lived and when she stopped driving, it was just easier to fly directly in and either get a cab to her place (when she still had her car that we then used for the trip) or rent a car for the week. The problem with that plan is that the plane from Boston to Augusta has about a five hour layover.
On our last trip, that small plane was cancelled due to fog and we had to take a bus. What we discovered is that even though the bus takes us a bit over three hours to get to Augusta on two separate buses, it was actually quicker than taking the small plane due to that layover. When we booked this year, we didn’t even hesitate, because we found the bus so much more comfortable by comparison to the puddle jumper seats, not to mention the whole getting there faster thing.
By the time we got on the bus, Rob and I were both dehydrated and starved for actual food (all we had eaten in the last almost 24 hours was a 7/11 sandwich when we got to San Jose and a bunch of little snacky type foods that we had brought for the plane). Rob was able to catch a couple hours of choppy sleep on the first bus while I watched the movie they were running (Cathryn – if you are reading this, they were playing “A Dog’s Purpose”!!) and then I think I got about 15 minutes of sleep on the second bus.
We finally arrived in Augusta around 11:00 AM EST on Saturday and grabbed an Uber to get our rental car.
Side note – if you ever have to deal with Hertz rental car at the Augusta airport, make sure you ask for Michelle. She has saved our butts on a couple of trips out here and always goes above and beyond to help us, even giving us a ride to the bus station on our last trip when we returned the car. She’s an angel and we LOVE HER!!!
As promised, she had the rental car waiting and the paperwork left for us at the Cape Air desk even though Hertz isn’t open on the weekends. We grabbed the keys from a kind of surly desk clerk and off we went.
First stop was our hotel but it was too early to check in. The desk clerk told us it would be another hour or two so after grabbing some complimentary coffee, we headed over to our usual first meal stop of the trip: Damon’s for some delicious sandwiches. We got them to go to eat when we got back to the hotel because we had peopled enough in the last 24 hours, and made off to our second stop, Target. I would have preferred Walmart but I wasn’t about to hike my dehydrated, starving and sleep deprived self back across town so Target it was! We got a couple of things we were needing but either forgot or didn’t want to pack because we knew we could get them cheaply once we arrived and then it was off to Hannford’s for some groceries for the room.
Once all that was completed we headed back to the hotel and the room was blessedly ready. I was showered, fed and tucked into bed by five that evening.
So I’ve been putting off writing up my trip report because a few different factors.
The biggest is: we didn’t have a great time.
We weren’t sure what we were getting into, going to Vegas in the middle of a pandemic, but we knew that we wanted to renew our vows in Vegas in the year that would have been our 20th year anniversary, so we just went for it.
We booked a executive suite at Harrah’s. We had never stayed there before and we knew that we would want a large room, since we would be hanging out in it a lot of the time. We are both still scared of COVID and so our goal for Vegas was to renew our vows, meet up with a couple ppl and then mostly hang out in the room. The room we booked was a two room suite that promised enough room between us while being stuck together for an entire week. That is important. 😀
We packed up and hit the road Saturday morning (10/3/20). We made good time but the traffic was heavier that we expected. We arrived in Vegas around five PM if I remember right.
This is where the first monkey wrench found its way into our plans. So we parked in the parking garage and made our way down to the check in desk. For whatever reason, Harrah’s has a floor that is one floor above the check in desk and that is where the parking garage elevator spits out.
At this point we are both toting two suitcases each and a backpack. We spy an escalator but not much else. There are elevator places but they seem to be reserved for the hotel rooms.
So here’s the thing…I’m afraid of heights. Like SUPER afraid of heights. Looking up at a tall building while on the ground scares me.
Stairs without a railing are just NOT an option and escalators…well, they are the bane of my existence. I have to hold on to both railings and if we are going down I have to have Rob in front of me in case I fall. It had never happened but my worst nightmare was not getting my foot flat on the step and getting that one rising step push me off balance.
I think you know where this is going.
I was tired and I thought for whatever reason in my stupid little head that I would be able to handle this escalator with a suitcase in each hand and not being able to hold the railings. I made Rob go in front and attempted to get on the stupid stairs. Basically my worst nightmare came true. I wobbled as the stair expanded below my foot and down I went.
I can’t even describe it to you right now because it was pure panic. I felt myself hit the stairs on my left hip and all I could do was hold a death grip on the luggage and blink stupidly as I laid there.
Rob was telling me to let go of the first suitcase so he could help me up and I couldn’t comprehend. A wonderful older man saw me fall and ran down behind me on the escalator grabbing the other suitcase and telling me to let go. It felt like it spanned about a half an hour but eventually I let go of both suitcases and pulled myself up just as we were nearing the end of it.
I don’t really want to go into more detail as this was a horrific experience, but basically we thanked the man behind me and I sat down for a minute to get my bearings.
Eventually we found the check in and my Total Rewards credit card (the one we use to get reward points for all Caesar’s properties) was declined. We tried Robs and that was denied. Finally we put the charge on a debit card and the front desk lady told me that she wouldn’t charge me a deposit fee since we were Diamond. I said no worries because we weren’t going to charge anything to the room.
Up to the room we disinfected the hell out of it and got unpacked. We were still shaken by my most stupid of falls and just sort of putted around.
Eventually I took a shower to kind of wash off the day and started icing my hip. My legs were pretty torn up by the escalator stairs but they didn’t hurt and there was not blood. My hip was swollen and sore, but I hoped that was the worst of it.
Rob went downstairs to see about getting more stuff out of the car and when he came back up he said that the mask wearing that night appeared to be at a minimum and we should stay up here in the room.
Fine by me.
We were both wondering if the trip was already ruined before it got started.
Sunday was super chill. We woke up and snacked on the food we brought with us, played with our Lego kit and watched TV. Doesn’t sound like much but it was a little bit of heaven to not be able to sleep in and just hang out with my husband.
I was super sore this day but I knew that I would be. The worst was getting out of bed in the morning. It got really stiff over night and every step hurt on the way to the bathroom. After, it was sore when I got up from sitting but the first couple of steps it felt better. I was just hoping it would get better fast, or I might not be able to wear the cute chunky heels I wanted to for the renewal the next day. Oh well.
Game plan for the rest of the day was to go get our renewal duds out of the car and get something to eat.
Either way, I wanted to be in bed really early as we had to be at the Las Vegas sign by 6:30 the next morning. Ug…thankfully this is the only part of this trip where we have to get up early.
I applied some horrible fake nails that would prove to be a horrible idea, but look really good in our wedding pics.
Later in the afternoon I took a bath in the wonderful tub and then we headed down for food. Just some pizza slices from the food court but we didn’t need a lot.
We went to bed early.
Monday we woke up super crazy early as we were supposed to renew our vows at the Las Vegas Sign at sunrise.
So the alarm went off at four that morning and I was up by 4:30. Wasn’t feeling great but not horrible either. My hip felt VERY MUCH improved from the previous day. Still hurt like heck to the touch but walking was no longer an issue and that has been by biggest worry.
Got up, showered and applied make up. I am NOT a girly girl and since I haven’t had to apply make up for the last seven months, it was iffy at best. I wanted to wear false eyelashes but I neglected to think of that detail when I put on the gigantic claws on my fingertips the previous night. I tried and I tried and each time I looked like small spider was crawling across my eyelid so I said Eff It and did eyeliner and mascara instead. I was super pissed when I found out I didn’t pack my eyelash curler and would have to suffer with subpar lashes even further. For not being a girly girl I was damn sure high maintenance.
I had a little panic attack after Rob zipped me into my dress but he reminded me that this was supposed to fun…and just for us and no one else so I sucked it up and off we went.
We got there super early and so we hung out in the car for a bit.
We eventually saw our Elvis and some of guests starting to arrive so Rob ventured over. I was still in a bit of an anxious state so I stayed in the car.
Finally around 6:40, I looked up and saw our buddy from the Vegas newsgroup Mike over talking to The Hubs and other guests so I strapped on my mask and headed over. Mike had met us several years ago at a slot pull and then just last year at a meet up and I absolutely adore him. He is one of the most genuine people I have ever met and just makes me so happy to be around.
He and I talked for a bit and he had a gift for us and then he wanted to take my pic over by the sign so we headed over there. While there, I met the photographer and our Elvis for the first time in person and then we headed back to the car to get my flowers and mask that matched my dress.
At that point we met up with several other newsgroup peeps and local friends. I was overwhelmed by the people that showed up for the renewal. We had more ppl there for this mostly unplanned ceremony than we had for our very planned out ten year renewal. I felt blessed.
The ceremony was very cool in my opinion. It wasn’t perfect at all, but we didn’t want it to be. This was a very loose and free thing that we wanted to reflect our need to make fun of ourselves.
Counterfeit Elvis sang us in with “I want you, I need you, I love you” as our guests walked up to the sign and got their pics taken and then he did some hokey Elvis vows that I had sent him.
He then sang us OUR SONG “Fools Rush In” while we danced a bit.
Then we did our own vow exchange and I was floored. I did mine first. Rob and I had kind of agreed that we would just do them as funny take away vows with a Rick-Roll so that is what I did. What he read back to me was funny yes, but also beautiful and made me tear up a bit. As a theater kid I felt very outdone…but in a good way.
Once we were done Elvis sang us out to “Do The Clam”. This song is a favorite of Rob and I’s and has been for many, many years. We specifically asked Elvis to learn it as he had not had experience with it and he was able to find a track to sing to but it was not one he was used to. So when he didn’t perform it perfectly, we were totally cool with it. It was something for Rob and I and we were fine with it.
Before we knew it the ceremony was done and I could breathe again. We thanked our local friends and our newsgroup buds for coming out and then headed back to the hotel.
Once we were back up in the room and changed out of our fancy duds, I got super tired. I laid down for a few hours but could never quite get to sleep.
Eventually Rob and I traded places and he was able to take a nap while I colored in a coloring book.
That night we needed to get new diamond cards and get some food so we headed downstairs and after the cards headed to the LINQ promenade to see what was out and about. We wound up at the Tilted Kilt for a couple sandwiches and some loaded tots.
While we were waiting we hit the LINQ and played some slots but nothing was really happening.
Back at the hotel I trimmed and filed the nasty nails that were preventing me from doing any typing since I put them on.
This day felt like a giant blur. I was an anxiety case most of the morning and then felt like a blob the rest of the day.
The good news is that my hip injury doesn’t appear to be effecting my walking any longer and that was a HUGE worry of mine for this trip.
Where do I begin?
It’s been a rough couple of weeks.
It started with a heatwave. The biggest one we have had this summer and possibly prior. It got up into the 100’s here in the valley and that is pretty much unheard of. We get a couple of weeks of good heat each summer. Never enough to actually get air conditioning installed, but enough to make it fairly uncomfortable unless you are laying perfectly still in front of a fan going full blast.
We also live out in a wooded area and it is California. If you know much about California, you probably know that we are tinderbox of a state every summer. One false move and the whole place could go up in smoke. It’s even more dangerous when there is excessive heat. I think you can see where this is going…
The Saturday night before last, we had thunderstorms. Not the kind we used to get back home with downpours and wind and all that jazz. In fact, we got no rain at all where I live, but lots of lightning…that is what is referred to as Dry Lightning and it is dangerous AF when you are in the middle of a bone-dry summer.
This lightning storm sparked all kinds of fires around the state and one of them was fairly close to where we live. Not anything we had to really worry about, but it made everything extremely smokey and ash rained down all over a ten mile radius of the fire.
The following Tuesday, I was on my way home from work early. My stomach hadn’t felt good all day and all I wanted to do was come home and lie down. I got about two miles from my house and was passed by a fire engine heading in the direction I was already going. I knew that wasn’t a good sign, but there is an assisted living home that is a quarter mile from our house and sometimes the fire trucks come out there on medical calls.
A couple of minutes later I was passed by a Cal Fire pickup truck. Now I KNEW it wasn’t good.
As I crested the last hill towards my house I saw the smoke in the sky and the panic I had been trying to suppress hit full swing. I pulled into our driveway and Rob met me out by the car. I asked how far away it was and he said the nearest he could tell it was bout three miles or so up the hill.
The rest of the afternoon was spent monitoring Facebook community groups and the Cal Fire page trying to find any information on the spread of the fire.
Rob was quite confident that we would be fine for the night as it would take at least a day or so for the fire to travel the terrain it would need to go to get near us. I was not so sure and told him I would feel much safer if we voluntarily evacuated to his dad’s house. He begrudgingly agreed and we packed up the pooches, a few important items and left.
The next day I headed to work and Rob headed back to our house. The smoke was thick and the fire was raging but he was very insistent that we weren’t in any danger, after all they were evacuating people to a place less than a mile down from our house so we must be fine.
When I got home from work, I reluctantly agreed to spend the night if he was SURE that we would be fine and then we settled in for the evening.
Around seven that night we were watching the Cal Fire press conference on the fire when they announced that they were evacuating up to a quarter mile above our house. We were alarmed and talked about evacuating. A few minutes later, Rob was outside and happened to see our neighbor who is a firefighter. He told Rob that he had been pulled off the line fighting the other fire near us and told by his bosses to go home and prepare his home for evacuation.
The fact that this fireman was pulled from active duty to go evacuate his house by people who SHOULD KNOW gave us a good scare and we spent the next two to three hours packing up everything we deemed important and loading up our cars. We showered and then headed over to his dad’s house to stay for a few days or more.
That was on Wednesday.
On Thursday I called my ailing Mom and she expressed concern over what was going on. I didn’t really let her know the severity of the situation, just that we were hanging out at my father in laws to be extra safe.
Mom hadn’t been doing so well over the last year.
A few months back she finally admitted to her legs swelling…she has apparently been hiding it for quite some time. From myself, my brother and the CNA’s at her assisted living home. When they got too big for her to function very well, she finally fessed up. With some convincing from the staff at her apartment and my brother and I, she finally went to the hospital.
She was in there for quite some time. In addition to the largely swollen legs, they found fluid in her lungs and around her heart. They said it was a form of CHF brought on by the fact that she never used the CPAP machine she was prescribed 10 to 15 years ago because it was uncomfortable. Welp, uncomfortable as it was, she needed it for a reason and now her heart was struggling so hard each night that it couldn’t keep up the battle with her lungs…or something like that.
The end result was CHF and some blood clots in her legs because she had let them get so big and was so sedentary. At least that is how I remember hearing about it…it’s been a while now.
She was put on blood thinners and stayed in the hospital for a couple weeks before being transferred to a rehab where they were trying to build her strength back up.
She walked a slippery slope with diuretics. They pumped her full of them to help get the fluid out and then her kidneys would show some damage from it. They would back off of the diuretics and she would fill right back up with fluid.
Long story short, she was in and out of the hospital a couple of times and eventually wound up back in rehab this month. It a facility that has a rehab, a nursing home and a hospice all in the same large building. Her first visit there was in the rehab. On this visit she was in the nursing home facility because she needed extra care but she was still receiving PT and OT.
They just couldn’t keep the fluid from invading her body and in the end, she was given the choice of going back to the hospital or being transferred to the hospice unit in the facility. She chose hospice.
Less than two days later, she was gone.
The day she was transferred to hospice, I had gone off to work. We were still evacuated from our house due to the fires and Rob had gone home to see if he could pick up some more stuff we forgot to get before the evacuation became mandatory. My brother called him that morning and let him know what was going on.
I got a text from Rob saying to call him, it was about my mom and it was important.
The short of it is that she was being moved to hospice and I should call her ASAP because it didn’t sound good.
I went into the conference room at work and called. While they didn’t have a phone in her room, a nurse brought her cell phone down to mom. Mom of course couldn’t hear me because she was over half deaf and the nurse went to fetch a portable phone. Mom could hear me on that but then my cell dropped the call.
I called back and didn’t get an answer. It was like the worst possible comedy of errors I’ve ever experienced. I was frantic at that point. I ran outside to get a better signal and finally got a nurse on the phone. I was crying and explained what was going on.
She said: “Baby, you can’t talk to your mom sounding like this, she’s going to get upset…” and tried to calm me down. She told me that I was lucky that my mom was still coherent and talking and I would be able to come visit her before she passed. I told her no, I wouldn’t. I lived in California.
She got real quiet and then asked if I had any video chatting on my phone. I told her I had facetime. She told me to take down her cell number and facetime her, she would bring me into my mothers room.
An that is just what I did. She was an angel. By that time my brother was there so essentially, my mother got to have her two kids “in the room with her” one last time. We didn’t talk for long because she was tired from whatever drug they had given her. That was the last time I talked to her.
I tried to call her again the next day (Saturday) but she wouldn’t wake up for the nurse to get the call. The nurse even put the phone by her ear and asked me to talk hoping it would wake her but that didn’t happen. All I heard was this horrible rattling from her lungs.
She passed that evening.
Since then, I’ve been shifting from numb to sad to angry to everything in between. All of which while wondering if we were going to have a house to come home to.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast. She was only 75 years old. Her mind was all there right up until the end, but her body was tired. She complained one day to me that she was the youngest of her sisters and she didn’t understand how she was the one that was so sick. I told her that she was the one that worked 60 hours a week for the better part of 20 years. Her body was worn out…but her mind was strong.
The mandatory evacuation for our house was lifted today and we were able to come home.
The fires are not over by any stretch of the imagination, but at least they are starting to get contained and the air quality is so much better right now. *knocks wood*
I don’t have a clever way to end this and I apologize that it was pretty all over the place. I had to get up and walk away from it several times to collect myself.
Miss you Mom.