Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vacation Wrap-up

IMG_4530smWe are back home again in Indiana! This was an epic vacation, but I think we’re both happy to get back to Nutwood and stop living out of suitcases. To paraphrase Sting, why must I be a woman in a suitcase? I think I was as happy to see Sheeba as he was to see us. I missed our kitty! He was well taken care of by Uncle Shane and Uncle Matt and his Grandma A. Thanks to all for taking such good care of our small furry black child!

After eighteen straight days of posting about our travels on Route 66, most entries with a lot of pictures, I was about burned out on blog entries, so please forgive my week-long absence. We were also pretty busy with getting place to place and meeting up with various friends and family. So I’m going to backtrack a bit and get you caught up on the last week of our trip.

As I wrote in the last entry, Monday afternoon was a visit to both the official and unofficial end of Route 66. We took it easy that night (don’t ask me where we ate, because everything ran together after a while!), and then went back to the Pier the following day to check things out a little more. We made sure to pay a visit to the End of the Road kiosk to see Dan Rice (on the advice of several people along the way), but he wasn’t there that day. Instead, we got to talk to his nephew (or was it his cousin?) Matt, who was just a super nice guy. He was kind enough to take our picture by the “End” sign at the kiosk. We bought a couple of doo-dads for the shadow box I’ll be making of our trip, and we both got shirts. (I’m really pleased with the one I got, one that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. I’ll post a picture at some point.)

We spent a little time walking around the Pier, and found something called Rusty’s Surf Shack where we had some beverages and chatted up the guy standing next to us as well as an Occupier and his girlfriend. Then it was time to meet our friend Marty of Heard At Starbucks. Marty is the very first blogger we ever met (back in 2009 in Vegas)! It was great to see him again, and we had a wonderful time talking and getting caught up. Thank you for a lovely dinner, Marty!

We weren’t done with Marty, though, because the next morning, we met him at 7th and Montana, the location of the (in)famous Starbucks from his blog. He was hoping we’d get to meet some of the rather loony characters that visit often, or maybe a celebrity, but it was a loon and celebrity-free day. It was still very enjoyable, because we got to meet some of Marty’s friends and neighbors...some of whom even recognized us from Marty’s blog! Marty is just a great guy, and it was a real pleasure to see him again. We look forward to our next visit!

After two days in Santa Monica, we paid a visit to Ken’s cousin Ros. It was wonderful to see her again, as well as her husband Glen and daughter Kristi. They had a cookout that evening, and we got to visit with other cousins. Ros and Glen and Kristi are always very welcoming and hospitable, and open their home to us. We hope we can return the favor and will be happy to do so anytime they make their way out east! The next day, we met Ros at the house where her Mom, Ken’s Aunt Bea, is staying, under 24-hour care. It was a tough visit, because Aunt Bea is a victim of Alzheimer’s. We were both very glad we went, because although it was hard, I think Aunt Bea recognized Ken...or at least remembered that he is her brother Bill’s son. It’s been incredibly hard on Ros, as well as her family, but I think she has handled it in the best way she could, and has done it with incredible grace and strength. I admire her very much.

Then we were off to Pasadena, where we stayed at our “splurge” hotel of this vacation, the Langham Spa and Resort. Wow, was it ever nice! Beautiful grounds, and I loved lounging around in that big cushy robe that was hanging in the closet! The bath towels were the size of beach towels for me, and about a foot taller than I am. Haha! We were there to celebrate our friend Andy’s graduation from Cal Tech with his PhD in Chemical Engineering, and he met us in the bar area that first evening. It was great to see him, and he looks tanned and healthy and happy. We had a good time getting caught up on stuff until he had to get back to his apartment for an early start the next day.

The graduation was the following day at 10 am, and we got there in plenty of time. It was an overcast day (our nieces call it the June Gloom), but that burned off by about noon. Cal Tech’s campus is gorgeous! The commencement speaker was Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla (and the creator of PayPal). It was kind of fascinating, because the guy is obviously brilliant, but came across as rather unprepared. I was inspired by what he said, and so was Andy (He said, “I LOVED it. That was exactly what I needed to hear!”), but others said that he was terrible. [laughing] A polished speaker? Perhaps not, but I liked what he had to say. He talked about how 300 years ago, things that we take for granted today would have been considered ‘magic.’ After riffing on that for a bit, he told the graduates, “You are our 21st century magicians. So go out and make some magic.” I just loved that! As we watched all these young people getting their Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate degrees (LOTS of PhDs in the group!), I couldn’t help but think that these are the best and brightest, and the ones that will be shaping our future. It was impressive and sobering, and I was so proud that we were able to be there for Andy.

After the ceremony, we went to a place on campus called the Athenaeum, a hotel and restaurant. We were joined by Andy’s colleague Linda, originally from Greece, getting her Doctorate from University of Frankfurt, and currently engaged in projects at CERN. She is visiting Cal Tech for a month. She was a very smart and sweet person, and we had a great time getting to know her! It was her first time in the States, and I hope she enjoys it thoroughly. (She’s planning on traveling the Pacific Coast Highway with a friend, so that’s a very good start!) Andy told us that the Athenaeum has a suite where they put up Albert Einstein when he would visit Cal Tech. At one point, he excused himself for a moment, and when he came back, he had the key to the suite! AGGHHH!

We all left the table immediately and headed up to the Einstein Suite. We soaked up a little of the brilliance that still seemed to linger in the room; Andy seemed to be coming up with a world-changing idea out on the balcony, and he and Linda seemed to be thinking awfully hard (although Ken and I agreed that there was a bit of a smirk on her face as she considered whatever Andy was saying!). It wasn’t a crazily extravagant room, but it was comfortable and homey. Did Einstein smoke a pipe? I could just imagine him sitting in one of the chairs by the fire, smoking his pipe and thinking incredible thoughts. It was a great experience, and thank you Andy and thank you Margaret at the front desk for giving Andy the key!

After we finished our lunch, Andy took us to his lab and told us a little about his thesis. It involved separation of particles smaller than 10 nanometers, something that could be applied to the research they’re doing at CERN, or more practically, to individual monitors or dosimeters. Although it’s been many years since I took a Chemistry class, I’m happy to say that I grasped the concepts and was able to understand what he was saying. Very interesting, and super cool to see one of the research labs at Cal Tech!

After a visit to the bookstore (I got myself a Cal Tech Beavers T-shirt), we parted ways for a bit so that Andy and Linda could meet up with some people she’ll be working with while at Cal Tech. Ken and I enjoyed a bottle of champagne back in our room to celebrate three things: traveling all of Route 66; Andy’s graduation; and no longer having to deal with a very negative person in our lives (there will be more soon). We met Andy and Linda in the lobby later, and after a stroll through the beautiful grounds, we had a nice dinner outside on the terrace at their restaurant called...The Terrace. Clever! As we parted ways later, we both gave Andy big hugs, and when I hugged Linda, she gave me the European double kiss...that was so cool! Chances are that we’ll never see her again, but I wish her nothing but the best, and I really enjoyed talking with her. I hope she enjoyed talking with us, too!
The next day, we headed over to the Huntington Library, where we met our nieces Heather and Jennifer, Heather’s husband Rey, and Heather and Rey’s son Liam (who were kind enough to drive up from San Diego to see us), as well as our good friends Kim and Steve, who came down to spend the weekend with us before they flew out to Hawaii on Tuesday. The Huntington has an amazing collection of paintings, books, and manuscripts. Their most famous paintings are The Blue Boy and Pinkie. The grounds are gorgeous, especially the Japanese garden, and Liam particularly enjoyed the Desert Garden, with its many cacti (a word which he had just learned). In the picture of the Japanese bridge, that’s Ken and Liam behind a willow branch. We briefly split off so that Heather and the others could visit the Children’s Garden (which Liam said was “pretty good”) while Ken and I and Steve and Kim visited the History of Science exhibit. I loved it—manuscripts dating from the 1400s from people like Newton, Pasteur, and Jenner! (Amazing to see handwritten notes in the margin by some of these great scientists!) They had a really neat display about evolution that included copies of The Origin of Species dating from original publication to current editions. Very cool!
We all met for dinner afterwards at a place in Pasadena called Green Street Restaurant, which was really REALLY good! As someone who has to sit indoors much of the year, it is such a pleasure to eat outside and not be plagued by mosquitoes, bees, and other beasties. Great times with family and friends! It was sad to say goodbye to the San Diego crew, but we know that we’ll be seeing them this September when they all come out for the Bruce Springsteen concert at Wrigley Field. It’s going to be a blast! Oh, and please note: without planning it beforehand, we all match. Color coordination for the win!

On Sunday, the last day of our vacation, we headed out to Getty Center with Kim and Steve. I really enjoyed this’s an amazing collection of art, and the setting is breathtaking. It’s up on a hill, and you can look down at the LA basin and see the mountains in the distance. I loved this one painting, and a detail is included…what amazing colors! The architecture of the Getty is as much a work of art as as the collection. We all got a kick out of a sculpture that we happened across outside. From the back, I loved the happiness and exuberance of of this little guy on his horse...then we walked around front and saw that he was even happier than we realized! I’m still cracking up over this, and this is my new happy stance. :D That is sheer JOY!

After the Getty, we headed back to the hotel for a bite to eat, and then joined Kim and Steve in their suite for drinks and discussion. We talked about past associations and future plans, including a possible vacation together in Albuquerque. Turns out that they have never been there, and I think we’d find plenty to enjoy, including museums and desert adventures.

After another farewell and wishes for safe travels all around, Ken and I headed back to our room to get packed up and ready to go. Things went pretty well until we hit O’Hare, where there was a delay due to high winds, but we eventually made it home. It was great to get back and see Sheeba and feel settled again! Now it’s a matter of getting back to what passes for normal here at Nutwood, but we’re on our way.

Coming soon to a blog near you: final thoughts on what Route 66 means to me and to America (and maybe even to the world), as well as an explanation of that countdown clock and Item #3 of why we had a champagne toast. I’m looking forward to writing frankly about something that I’ve mentioned very rarely here. Catharsis!


  1. i loved being able to travel vicariously along with you and ken on this journey. i've only been out west once and never to cali,so you've planted a travel bug here in eastpointe!


  2. I am envious of your trip! This is something I have wanted to do for as long as I have wanted to live in Omaha (or at least nearly as long!!), so it has been a pleasure being able to share your journey with Ken out west!

    One of the things that was sparked by this entry in my mind was the recollection of how I used to think about the EXCLUSIVE exclusive colleges, like Cal Tech, Oberlin, et. al, as a child, and how I wondered how it was that I would ever get there. I mean, it is fine to go to schools like Michigan or ND, and the Ivy League schools, but I am talking about schools that the 1% are only 1% of! How precocious of a child Andy must have been and how good of stewards of that precociousness his parents must have been!

    KT has her sights set on UNC-Chapel Hill. Anywho, just a ramble and I love the photos, especially of the Getty. I think that he proves the case that there is a madness in great wealth and that it is dangerous as it is seductive!

  3. Welcome home, and thanks to you and Ken for taking us along!!

  4. Two great vacations in one, the Mother Road and the Family/Friend load. I am near speechless...


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