Road Trip Retrospective: 2012 Was All About the Colors

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Welcome back to NOT-Road Trip I, a wistful review of the past 10 years of criss-crossing this great continent in Feb-March. Looking back at photos from 2012 is like seeing broad stripes of color on a blanket.

BLUE and WHITE. We started in Yellowstone as a special Valentine’s Day gift to ourselves. Thanks to a kind of bus on skis, and our own snowshoes, we penetrated deep into a park otherwise closed to traffic…the human kind.

But plenty of the bison kind!

You can bet this has become one of our favorite photos of ourselves.

The Mate wondering where he put his hat & gloves.

BROWN and OLIVE. Needing some warmth, we headed straight down through Utah to Arizona.

Ahhhh….yes. We felt just like that flower.

One of the most accessible national parks is Petrified Forest–right off I-40. Since winter storms were threatening, we opted for the ease of a ride-through, and kept on our way.

What, you assumed “forest” meant vertical? Show some respect for your elders!

RED. After holing up in Albuquerque for a bit, we headed sadly for Texas, knowing that the Panhandle is one of the dullest parts of a state which guards its scenery pretty closely. But following our noses to a small green blob on our map, we discovered Palo Duro State Park–amazingly, the second-largest canyon in the US, and one that we nor anyone we knew had heard of.

We became huge fans.

WHITE and BLUE again (warm shades). Another brand-new discovery for us (though much better-known): Florida’s National Seashore, where we camped and rode our bikes, in awe of the ivory sand.

I used to think these kinds of photos were doctored.
This might even be whiter than ivory. More like snow, I think.

Having crossed the country at top speed, outrunning storms, we found ourselves with a full extra week in Florida, which we spent bopping from one gorgeous state park to another.

Can’t remember which one this is. We visited several springs, equally bewitching.

We did also ride our bikes through the Everglades and visited friends in the Keys, but frankly, I found the environmental degradation there more depressing than inspiring, so I won’t revisit those places here.

BROWN & GREEN (wet version). Okeefenokee! Need I say more?

We took a boat tour with a very knowledgable young park ranger.

Since Georgia’s wild places have such great names, we also joined some friends in paddling the Ogeechee River.

“And there’s something ’bout the Southland in the springtime…” –Indigo Girls

Back at my parents’ farm once more–don’t forget, dear readers, that NC in March is always the apex of our Road Trips–Son Two joined us again from college, for Tarheel basketball, great BBQ, and cuddles with Stevie, World’s Cutest Ass.

The goat’s pretty cute too, but she’s no Stevie.

SILVER. Unlike the previous year, winter weather precluded heading very far north, so we made the Big Left Turn and headed west through the middle of the country, taking one touristy, cultural stop–unusual for us.

…because the bike path through St. Louis SUCKED.
Up at the top of the Arch. The Mate refused to join me, and when the tiny elevator got briefly stuck, I understood his claustrophobia.

BROWN & BLACK. Astonishingly, while Flagstaff got a foot of snow, just north of there, we found Estes Park, Colorado, on the edge of Rocky Mountain N.P., nearly snow-free.

You would not believe how many rocks there look like Jabba the Hutt.

The “Black” comes from another new find (to us): Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was too snowy to hike down, so we snowshoed along the rim.

Closest thing to Mordor I’ve seen in the States.

RED again. First, we camped in the lovely & accessible Colorado National Monument outside Grand Junction.

Another one of those, “Why haven’t we heard of this place?” places.

To this day, this remains our only sighting of desert bighorns–right across the road!

You guys aren’t even trying to act rare.

Of course the ultimate RED is found in Moab, UT, jumping-off spot for three major national parks.

This one names itself: Arches.

There, we began what has remained a tradition of joining our Adventure Buddies Tom & Kate for, well…

…adventure. (Canyonlands NP, where we actually took a jeep tour. The guide assured us this photo was a requirement.)

COLOR US HAPPY. Back home in Washington, we managed to meet both our sons on break from college, and celebrated with sushi at Fujiya, our favorite restaurant in the world.

So that’s Road Trip II–colorful, warm, and now folded in the closet of memory. Catch you next time for RT III–thanks for traveling with me!

Home Is Where The Maki Is: When Sushi = Family

The Mate and I love sushi. Whenever we’re in our former city of Tacoma, we look forward to visiting our favorite restaurant, Fujiya, owned by Masahiro Endo. The food is close-your-eyes-in-ecstasy wonderful. But truthfully, we’re there for the people.

The first thing we see when we walk into Fujiya is our family holiday picture on the wall, along with a select few others. We know we’re home. It’s been home for 26 years.

We first met Endo-san back in 1990 when we first moved to Washington. Our new house had been built on an unstable slope, and that rainy autumn, some of that slope slid down to the yard of the neighbor at the bottom, breaking through his retaining wall. Endo-san is so proper and polite, he probably never would have complained, but his next-door neighbor intervened on his behalf, demanding that we fix the situation.

Of course we did. The Mate took Endo-san out to lunch at his own restaurant, where they agreed on a plan to pay for repairs. We had already discovered the restaurant, but that day we also discovered a friend.

Sushi is an expensive habit. We rationalized our frequent visits this way: ounce for ounce, it’s about the healthiest protein-fix you can get, especially when supplemented with the veggies that Endo-san would inevitably include in the free dishes he sent to our table. We always left not only full, but carrying leftovers (best breakfast ever!).

Thanks to Fujiya, it’s safe to say we raised our kids on sushi. You’re welcome, boys.

Open you mouth and your eyes...(courtesy Fujiya)

Open you mouth and your eyes…(courtesy Fujiya)

Over the years, we got pretty close to the staff and they to us–after all, they were helping to raise our children. We went to the ballet to see our favorite waitress, Izumi, perform. We attended the wedding of Endo-san’s amazing sous-chef, Juan. (Yes, some of the best sushi in the west is now made by Mexicans. I love it.) And when sweet, funny Annie was tragically killed, we all went to her funeral. (That was when I got my first hug from Endo-san, who in his grief finally got past his Japanese reserve. I’ve been hugging him ever since.)

It’s hard to describe sushi as soul food, pricey¬†and not-for-everyone as it is. But Fujiya feeds our souls as much as our bellies. It’s our Soul Restaurant.

What’s yours? Can you share the story?

Thanks, Endo-san.

Thanks, Endo-san.