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Posts Tagged ‘traveling’

Okay, where were we when we were so rudely interrupted?

Or, more to the point, why were we so rudely interrupted?

Well, let me tell you!

First, my apologies. I promised a lot and haven’t delivered, and I hate it when that happens. But I have been taking lots of notes, and have several interesting stories to tell, so perhaps that will make up for the lack of news recently.

Now, as to the why …

While we were in Banff, because of the complicated logistics of traveling with two people with special diets, plus a large dog and 2 cats, I had to start planning the next stages of the journey right away. My daughter Julia and I were looking forward particularly to seeing the part of Canada surrounding the Great Lakes, places like Thunder Bay. But it was like beating my head against a wall.

There was a three day stretch of look-at-the-scenery driving where I simply could not find any pet friendly hotels or places to get the food we needed … and at that point I had literally run out of protein I could eat without uncomfortable backlash. And I wasn’t having any luck figuring out where to get it before Ottawa or Montreal.

Then, to cap it all off, we realized that my prescriptions (and our elderly dog’s) would run out in a little over a week.

And, finally, three mornings in a row, I was awakened with a phrase running through my head which seemed relevant … especially since most of the really important personal input I receive from my guidance comes that way.

What was the phrase?

Well, if you’ve read Tolkein’s The Hobbit, or seen a cartoon version, you probably remember that the wizard Gandalf showed up at Bilbo Baggins’ house one evening out of the blue with a bunch of rowdy dwarves intent on dragging Bilbo off on an adventure. When asked if he’d like to join them, Bilbo said something like:

“Oh, dear me, no! Adventures make one late for dinner.”

That’s the phrase that was waking me up at 3 am. To me it meant, essentially, that timing was getting important, and that it was time to quit fooling around and get where we were going, or we’d miss our “dinner.” It seemed to me that it meant that housing opportunities, and job opportunities, would be missed if we didn’t get our respective rear ends in gear. We’ll see if my interpretation is correct … I certainly am not up for anything like Bilbo’s adventure at this point in my life!

Yeah, yeah, I know Bilbo’s adventure rocked all of Middle Earth … but, when you think about it, things would have been easier -at least in the short term – if he had stayed home, though of course we would have missed out on one of the great stories of our time. Tough choice.

Anyway, I shifted planning gears … and, amazingly, as soon as I started looking at a route through the US to Maine, it was simple to find housing and the food we needed. Plus the journey would be a week shorter. So, okay, that door opened when the other stubbornly remained closed, so we headed for the US border with all speed.

(And crossing the border will be featured in a future post … “Being Different – the Good, the Bad & the Ugly.” A tale full of sound & fury, I promise!)

We raced at an angle from Banff through Alberta and western Saskatchewan, crossed into the US in North Dakota, and sped through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire in 9 days … and we finally arrived in Maine yesterday. A blur of cheesy hotels and occasional gorgeous scenery highlighted by periodic philosophical spinoffs, some worth telling (at least I think so!)

During that whole drive I kept wondering why I wasn’t excited. I mean, I was about to achieve a 40-year dream, so why was I feeling so grim? The grimness must have been the result of grinding through 8-hour driving days and marginal accommodations with reluctant pets … and because of lingering feelings about our border-crossing experience …

… because it lasted until about 5 minutes after we crossed the border into Maine, at which point I felt such a lift that I thought I might end up with permanent goosebumps, I was so flooded with energy and emotion. And the first couple of stops we made for prescriptions and other necessaries, when people found out I was from California, they said things like, “Huh! Well, you look like you belong here.” Music to my ears!!!

Julia isn’t quite as excited, because getting her settled is going to be far more complicated and time-consuming, and frankly she isn’t looking forward to the amount of hard work she has facing her to prepare for the GRE and start pitching herself to the research programs where she wants to study … but she’s rolling her sleeves up and getting to work tomorrow, right after we scope out currently available housing.

That brings you up to date. Next blog posts will be about some highlight experiences, and a couple of fun and silly philosophical rants about things like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. And a bit more about some things we really liked about Canada.

Thanks for bearing with me! I hope you’re well, and that your life is giving you clear signals.

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On Wednesday my daughter Julia and I left the cats snoozing in the condo, loaded the dog Sheba in the car and took a day-long trek through the Canadian Rockies, specifically the Banff and Jasper National Parks.

Once Sheba figured out that not only were we NOT going to the vet, but that she was also actually able to stick her nose out the window (didn’t have to worry about cats escaping) and revel in the aromas of the Rockies, she had a blast. We all three did, actually.

Since I expended my vocabulary describing my first encounter with these incredible mountains (see “Squandered Superlatives”), I’m going to let pictures do most of the telling … but first some geologic commentary.

Julia was able to add a lot of interest to this journey because of her degree in Environmental Science, and because she’s always loved geology. Since she doesn’t read the blog, she didn’t know about what I’d said about mountains shoving fists or elbows up from the earth, so when she quoted her favorite geology professor, saying that the mountains looked like the result of a “continental fender-bender,” and (after I stopped laughing), I felt more confident of my impressions.

The Great Divide scenic stop was a further hint, as was a déjà vu moment as we were headed up into glacier country. Looking back over our route from a pullout close to the top of the pass, I could see the river winding through steep mountains, everything telescoping down to tiny cars in the distance, and I remembered vaguely seeing something almost identical at Estes Park in Colorado. When we got home that evening I hauled out my map and confirmed that, indeed, as most of the world probably already knows, the Rockies extend at an angle along the continental divide from New Mexico through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta and British Columbia.

To me the Canadian Rockies look bolder, harder edged, more muscular, but it’s easy to see that they’re part of the same family as the Colorado Rockies.

And now, without further adieu, here is our quickie tour of a park that would undoubtedly richly reward years of exploration. Don’t forget to click on any photo you want to see clearly …

It isn’t hard to guess that this first amazing sight is called … Castle Mountain!

My friend Daina was really excited about my first glimpse of Lake Louise, and it was as incredible as she intimated.

And, a little further down the side of the lake, here’s Julia.

And here’s a hotel near the lake which has the riot of English cottage garden-style flowers which you find everywhere in Banff, Harvie Heights (where we’re staying) and Canmore (a great little town full of hotels and lovely shops also near Banff).

We were amazed at our first glacier – Crowfoot Glacier – spilling over the edge of the mountain at the speed of geologic time, but we soon found out we hadn’t seen nuttin’ yet!

Athabasca Glacier, at the southern end of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper Park, is so huge that the tour busses buzzing around the crevasses look like insects and you’d really have to squint at the enlarged version of this photo to see the people trekking up a winding dirt road to the glacier.

But, as awe-inspiring as the glacier was, for me the most unforgettable part of the day were the blue, blue lakes we saw on the way back. Somehow the brilliantly clear blue sky, the mountains and the lakes themselves combined with the angle of the sun to produce truly extraordinary colors.

Today we hiked around a fen (wetland) which coexists beautifully with downtown Banff, which I’ll report on next … and, I am aghast to realize that tomorrow is not only my birthday, it’s our last day here (sniff!). But there’s plenty more excitement to come, including a major change in plans for the journey, so stay tuned.

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Ever since we left Abbottsford at the Washington/British Columbia border I’ve bounced wildly back and forth between delight and frustration … delight at the absolutely magnificent scenery, and frustration over the fact that Canadian highways don’t seem to have view points, so I couldn’t take pictures of all that magnificence. So I worked on composing descriptions for the blog.

For example, there was an extended drive between Abbottsford and Kamloops along Trans Canada Highway 1 that was bounded by steep, heavily forested cliffs with craggy granite faces snugged against one side of the highway, with a shallow, rocky river on the other, and a mountain, dancing in the distance, towering above a sky full of snow-white, wooly clouds.

Then, further on that day, the landscape softened and opened out, still running next to a river, but dryer and riddled with patches of what appeared to be diseased trees. Next, Kamloops was in a wide, dry beautifully shaped bowl in the mountains, a very prosperous, modern town (touted as the food processing and commercial hub of the region). Everything was brand new, with lots of chain stores you also find in the US, like Toys R Us, McDonalds, Bed & Bath & Beyond and so on. Our hotel was a very pleasant overnight stay although for some reason the critters didn’t like it much.

Revelstoke, our next overnight stay, was scruffy, full of mountaineers, bicyclers and hikers, with the loveliest mountain I could see out the hotel room window, flirting with me behind gauzy wisps of cloud that would come and go.

But when we got to Banff I felt like the breath had been kicked out of me. My mind went blank and then the weirdest thought crept in … that I’d squandered all my superlatives on the way here, and had nothing left to say in the face of such (literally) breathtaking scenery!

As we drove through on the way to the Banff Boundary Lodge I kept flipping through my vocabulary and discarding words … magnificent (not quite right), awe inspiring (certainly, but not good enough), spectacular (well, yeah, but … missing something), dramatic, splendid, rugged (pallid), and so on. Nothing satisfied me, so I took pictures and instructed my subconscious to get to work on what to say (my Inner Writer is a diligent and wonderful partner).

The next day (yesterday) I just sat around adjusting to the altitude (about 4500 feet above sea level), flipping through guidebooks for good hikes and car trips, and letting my impressions simmer. This morning I could walk up the stairs in our condo without pausing for breath, and when I was gazing at the mountains through the shower window, the concepts I needed bubbled to the surface.

The mountains around Banff, bare of all but glaciers in early September, are powerful, muscular, with knife-like ridges and striations of glaciers which show very clearly the tremendous force these mountains exerted as they emerged … sometimes the striations are as steep as 45 degrees, giving the impression of a powerful elbow or fist that had smashed through the earth’s crust, giants exploding from deep underground to stand sentinel over this wild, green land.

The only things I’ve ever seen that can hold a candle to these mountains for sheer, raw energy and power are a series of sculptures by Michelangelo called “Slaves,” sculptures which many people call “unfinished.”

I first saw them in my teens during a tour of Europe (see “Coming Home with a Thump”), and found them absolutely staggering even then. Our tour guide, an art history professor at San Francisco State, told me that, rather than being unfinished, he felt Michelangelo intended to show the figures as fighting their way free of the stone encasing them. And you can see below their indomitable will and the powerful struggle of bulging muscle and straining sinews.

One of the sculptures is the focus of the World card (XXI) of James Wanless’ Voyager Tarot deck, probably a big reason I first bought that deck, and why I still use it professionally.

More on the area after we’ve done some hiking and driving and watching for wildlife … originally we’d planned to leave Wednesday, but there are so many tempting activities, and our condo is so lovely and handy with a real kitchen and 2 bedrooms upstairs (and the critters are SO blissfully happy to be staying in one place!) that we’ve extended our stay.

Since we’re going to remain until the day after my birthday, September 10, I will have plenty of time to map out the next stage of our journey, start the process of house-hunting in Maine, and polish some of the articles I’ve promised … including a discussion of Runes for the next stage of our journey, the pros and cons of being different, helpful hints for traveling with 2 cats and an 80 lb dog, Google maps versus paper maps and what they reveal about one’s approach to life, and memories of traveling with my mother’s parents.

May what you see out your window be a feast for your eyes and heart!

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We saw some truly spectacular scenery today, mountain vistas to take your breath away, and magical patches of wildflowers. Since I’m sharing those, I thought I’d first also share why I’ve been muttering about Forks as the Twilight zone.

First, Forks, Washington. You may know (I didn’t) that the Twilight series of vampire books are set in the Olympic Peninsula, and particularly in Forks. Under the Twilight mania which has developed, Forks is still a pretty funky old logging town, and I got some photos to document the interesting, sometimes silly, and sometimes uncomfortable juxtaposition of the two.

Remember, if you want to really see any of these photos, click on ’em!

First, here’s the Twilight tour center and bus:


Next, we have a really nice Native Art gallery which has jumped on the bandwagon …

And I guess this hotel owner decided not to jump on the bandwagon …

Now, on to the magnificence of the Olympic Peninsula mountains, as seen from Hurricane Ridge.

Here is our first glimpse.

Then, here are some views from the top.

Then, on the way back down we saw some wonderful patches of wildflowers:

And here are views from the other direction, on the way back down the mountain.

And here’s Miss Sneakers, completely worn out from all that sightseeing … and, make no mistake, she watches out the windows as avidly as our dog Sheba.

We’ll be plowing through urban areas tomorrow, so probably no pix or deep thoughts. But the next night we’re in Kamloops, British Columbia, then Revelstoke, then Banff, and one of the three women mentioned in the “Walking the Dog” post from earlier today told me we would probably hear the wolves singing at night in Banff. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Till later, then …

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You know the old saying that one of the best ways to meet people is by walking your dog? Well, I have an even better suggestion!

If you want to meet people, especially studly guys, all you have to do is drive around towing a PulMor trailer, and park it occasionally. For those of you just tuning in, here is a picture of our trailer … (click on the image for better resolution)

These days, all I have to do is park the car, zip in for something quick like coffee, and when I return there is at least one, and sometimes as many as 3 or 4 hunky guys standing around wanting to discuss the specs and any and all technical details. The other day there were 2 fly fishermen still in their waders, a Sam Elliott kind of a guy leaning on a truly gorgeous Harley motorcycle, and a lean and lanky bicycler, all in the same parking lot.

I even had a great conversation with a 3-generation family of women at our hotel in Forks, all of whom are sports enthusiasts of one sort or another and knew just how to put a PulMor to work! Honestly, it’s gotten so prevalent that Julia is constantly rolling her eyes, and may soon resort to swatting them away like gnats, just so we can get back on the road with less delay.

My big comedown, however, came this afternoon on Hurricane Ridge, when I walked by a couple of motorcycle guys who’d had an in depth conversation earlier at our hotel with me and our dog Sheba … when I walked by and commented on our earlier conversation, they just looked blank. Guess without my PulMor and wolf dog I’m not *quite* as sexy!

If you want to try this fabulous new way to meet guys, you should know that  this magical effect may only last as long as the trailer is fairly new on the market, so I recommend you get yours soon, because I’m really spreading the word!

Got some great photos today … if I get a chance I’ll upload them later tonight.

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When I realized that towing a trailer behind the car meant driving 55 or less for the whole trip, I thought I’d be constantly frustrated.

Maybe it’s because my Dad was a Marine fighter pilot, and he’s the one who taught me to drive … perhaps it rubbed off … but, for whatever reason, I’ve always driven right up to the edge of the speed limit – and my reflexes – and a little beyond. I’m one of those who always sets my cruise control at 7 miles over the posted limit. One traffic cop (years ago, before I was a mom driving my daughter around) told me that I’d been passing other cars like they were nailed to the ground.

So I was amazed to discover that being the slowest on the road and not being able to do a darned thing about it is actually quite wonderful. Restful, freeing, conducive to deep thinking, and – best of all – just slow enough that I could really look at the changing scenery, and even notice view points soon enough to take advantage of them.

I mean, think of it! No embarrassment, because people couldn’t think I was an idiot (well, not fairly, anyway) since I was towing a trailer, and everybody knows vehicles with trailers have to poke along. No physical tension as I geared up to control the car when taking a mountain turn well above the speed limit. (At least, since the advent of cruise control, I don’t have to watch for cops … often.) No strained watching the road beyond my current slow-moving vehicular obstacle to find enough running room to pass in relative safety, and then tensing up and metaphorically pushing with all my might until the pass was safely concluded.

Instead, I had time to see new things on frequently traveled roads, time to just set my dreaming mind free to wander, and time to remember happy moments from past journeys.

Cultural ecologist and magician David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal, tells the story of traveling by Jeep with an aboriginal shaman in the Australian outback. The shaman wanted to share his myths, but they discovered that the stories did not unfold properly at jeep speeds; they were meant to be shared in walkabout. In my case, the stories arise at 55 mph.

One of my favorites, one I hadn’t thought of in years, was the time my first husband drove us from Highway 101 at Paso Robles west toward the Pacific Coast Highway, and Cambria, Carmel and Monterey. I’d driven the Big Sur route before, it’s one of the most gorgeous and treacherous drives I’ve encountered (especially headed south in dense fog), but Ernie’s route was new to me. He got a big grin and started fiddling with the tape deck (yeah, it was quite some time ago), popped in some rich and fabulous symphony, and then drove along, looking smug for a few minutes. Then, just as the music crested, so did the road, and I was treated to the juxtaposition of a perfect musical moment and mythically beautiful, rolling hills softened further by oaks clustered in their feminine creases!

Another sight took me back to the first World Healing Day on December 31, 1986. The Healix Center in Orange County, CA, where I worked and taught at the time, hosted an all night event – because for this event there was no convenient “rolling” coordination of noon in each time zone. That time, everyone joined in prayer and visualization at the very same moment – which meant 3 pm Moscow time, and 3 am in California.

Amazingly, when dawn broke there were still nearly a 100 people there, and we were led in a closing ceremony by a young shaman woman from one of the Pacific Northwest tribes. The two things which stuck with me were her getting a good laugh when she referred to her “sacred Bic” (Harry Dresden, anyone?) while lighting her pipe, and her initiating us all into the Fireweed Clan.

Fireweed is known as a pioneer species because it can thrive in areas which have been devastated by things like forest fires. Years after the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption I visited, and fireweed was everywhere.

Since that morning in 1986, fireweed has become a messenger for me. When it appears, it comes to tell me “yes, here is the place,” or “yes, this is the right direction,” or “yes, all will be well.” Fireweed doesn’t promise ease and grace, but it promises not only survival, but a thriving future.

When we got to the state of Washington, in spite of the fact that I’d seen it before, I was shocked again to see the trashed and brutalized areas of clearcutting on either side of the highway. Honestly, they look like bones and bodies strewn around a war zone. Not that California and Oregon don’t clearcut, but usually it’s done offroad, and behind a polite curtain of trees and hills.

My mind automatically spiralled off into adjectives like “barren,” “devastation,” and “desolation” … until I saw the tall, fuchsia spikes of fireweed. They lined the road and appeared here and there around the pitiful stumps of ancient trees. And then I noticed all the other new plant life, even in clearcut areas only a few years old, and I was reminded that life goes on.

That doesn’t excuse slaughtering elder members of one of earth’s species, but it reminds me that even after the most terrible human acts, toward our own or other species, life somehow finds a way to continue.

By the way, the most powerful and touching case I’ve ever read for why ancient trees should be allowed to stand together in healthy ecosystems is in Joan Dunning and Doug Thron’s From the Redwood Forest: Ancient Trees and the Bottom Line: A Headwaters Journey. There is a chapter which traces human history as it paralleled the life of a redwood. Read it, and you’ll never be the same.

Today we’re visiting Hurricane Ridge, and tomorrow Lake Quinault, so I’ll entertain you tomorrow one of my favorite stories about my Dad, and report our travels later. My Mom and Dad are much on my mind because they made this trip possible, and it’s dedicated to their memory.

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Yesterday morning I awoke to the sound of rain. Not the pitiful sprinkle that used to send Sunnyvale, CA sissies screaming for cover, but the kind of steady, friendly soaker that I’ve missed sorely since we left Humboldt County just over a year ago.

I lay there quietly, aware of my daughter Julia and the critters snoozing deeply and peacefully, and felt my spirit begin to expand, refreshed by the steady patter and fragrance and soft air.

And then my reverie was shattered by a horrifyingly familiar sound – a screaming, grinding skill saw, behind the hotel! Rather than leaping around like a madwoman on the bed, shrieking and tearing my hair out, and scaring everyone out of their wits, I calmly followed the noise, and found it loudest next to the bathroom. Climbing up on the toilet, I opened the window and saw –  ohmygod, ohmygod – a huge construction project just across the road, and a big guy sawing through the sidewalk directly in front of me.

By the time I closed the window, of course everyone else was awake, and Julia and I tried to decide whether we wanted to laugh or cry about it. Then I had an encouraging thought. If life really is an oracle, then the fact that this was new construction rather than renovation might be a sign that we’re making progress. (Esoteric, I know … but bear with me, here.)

Heartened by that thought, I called the front desk of our motel to find out if, since this was Monday morning, the excruciating noise was going to go on all week … because, of course, if it was, we were going to have to move on. Happily, the owner had already built a relationship with the construction foreman, and he learned that the rumpus would be continuing for only another few minutes, but would we rather move to another part of the hotel? He would be happy to help us carry our stuff. We waited an hour, and when all remained quiet, we thanked him for his gracious offer and decided to stay put. Which so far has worked out just fine.

To bring you up to date:

Since my last post we have traveled up the west coast on highway 101, through the rest of California, through Oregon (more about this later; we stayed one night in Coos Bay and one in Tillamook), and reached our destination in the Olympic Peninsula, Forks, Washington, Sunday late afternoon.

As far as I knew, Forks was just an old logging town. Little did I know (until my youngest sister Anne informed me) that we’d wandered into teenaged vampire territory. Turns out we’re in the land of Twilight, and, at Annie’s request, I got to enjoy myself sorting through mountains of really tacky souvenirs to find a couple of the worst to send her.

We’re staying at the Forks Hotel, a slightly funky but (obviously) customer-oriented place full of fishermen and hikers. We’re on the edge of the Olympic National Park, within an hour and a half of Lake Quinault (140+ inches of rain a year), the Hoh Rain Forest, the reservation home of the Makah whaling tribe, as well as Port Angeles and Port Townsend, which is one of my favorite towns in the whole world. We even got glimpses of the rugged, snow-capped peaks of Hurricane Ridge, up on the northern edge of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, on the way.

As you’ll see, we seem destined to linger here, spending a couple of days planning and booking hotels and ferries (Labor Day weekend coming up!), and a couple of days meandering through the sights before we head into Canada.

Now, about the Runes.

As I’ve mentioned, neither Julia nor I have felt well for quite some time, and it begins to appear that at least Sheba, our dog, was also affected by whatever it was back in Sunnyvale. Up to now we haven’t been able to do much more than content ourselves with just putting one foot in front of the other, heading north, planning travel times, booking hotels, plodding along.

Then, a few days ago, somewhere in Oregon, probably Coos Bay, an odd thing started happening. Even though I don’t use oracles much in my personal life, I can’t resist collecting Tarot cards and iPod oracle apps. In addition to weather, shopping lists, to do lists, great games, and all the other app-paraphenalia it’s so easy to collect, I have the Voyger Tarot, Mayan Astrology, I Ching, the Creative Whack Pack, and Runes. My app uses Elder Futhark Rune interpretations, which is somewhat different than what I’m used to, but Runes are great for answering quick questions, so I use it occasionally.

However, back around Coos Bay, the Rune program started popping on every time I turned on my iPod, something that has never happened before, with any of my apps. I even tried leaving the iPod on email or weather when I turned it off … but, nope, there was the Rune screen again, every time I turned it on.

Not being a big believer in coincidence, I decided it was time to ask the Runes what they wanted, so I did a quick reading … and wished I hadn’t. The first reading was generally ominous, so I asked specifically about the next stages of the trip. Ominous. Full of hail storms and dragons. S**T!

I decided to ignore this, but it obviously festered beneath consciousness for a while, because as we drove that day and day after I started remembering some of my other niggling feelings about the next stage of our journey. Every plan I’d made just didn’t feel “right.” I talked in the first post about my internal guidance system, and I guess I just couldn’t get my compass needle to steady itself on a particular plan. No sense of disaster … just “not right,” and “not the right time.” Booking ferries across Puget Sound? Not the right time. Not the right ferry. Go into Canada Monday? Not the right time. Wednesday? Mercury’s retrograde till the 27th. Not the right time, etc etc etc

Then, on the way out of Tillamook, it came to me to just quit struggling to be wholly rational, because that’s not who I am (you’d think I’d have figured this out by now). I asked Julia how she’d feel about lingering in the rainforest area until Monday the 29th, resting, hiking, doing laundry, letting the pets (who had been rioting for 2 days!) settle, and she was delighted.

So, here we are, in God/dess’ country, with time to rest and think and explore some extraordinary natural wonders.

Oh, and by the way? I did another Rune reading about how the trip would fare if we paused in Forks (teeny-bopper vampires notwithstanding) and what did I get for the final, outcome Rune? The empty-headed (excuse me, empty HANDED) leap into the void. Guess this (and the new construction?) means we’re finally on the right track!

You should probably hear from me more often this week, too. I have two other blogs roughed out already, so until next time …hope you’re well and that life’s interesting.

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