Portland

Yep, it’s still weird. And wonderful.

The thing to understand about Portland, our nephew Connor explained at our first dinner together, is that it’s all about the neighborhoods. We were dining at Hat Yai, a highly rated Thai restaurant in the Vernon neighborhood, part of Portland’s Alberta Arts District. Highly walkable and filled with restaurants, bars, and interesting shops (tattoos! bars with psychics! cannabis shops with funny names!), it was a fun area to explore. Our home for the month is in downtown, more specifically the Portland State University neighborhood. It’s a lovely area, with a food truck pod just around the corner offering a world culinary tour–Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Italian, Asian, and more–and lots of shops and restaurants. On the other hand, and I don’t know how to write about this, homelessness here is ubiquitous, with more uban campers than we’ve ever seen anywhere else. Evidence of the early 2021 riots is prominent, with many boarded-up buildings, along with businesses that were forced to close due to the pandemic. It’s hard to walk the city without feeling a mix of heartbreak and hope, grief and joy.

We face east but still get a reflected sunset view

Carry-out Thai from Chef Q

Portland is an interesting city. Oregon is known for its natural beauty, and Portland for its parks, yet the city has been battered. Most of the parks are still open, but many beautiful buildings await major repairs, and the city struggles to keep up with the trash load. The International Rose Test Garden is in full glorious bloom (and very crowded during our visit!), and on a Sunday the line to enter Powell’s was a full block long. The hilltop views are stunning, shops with boarded-up windows have reopened, and restaurants seem to be flourishing at last.

Mount Hood as seen from the Portland rose gardens

We’ve been walking a lot. There is always something interesting to see on our treks–graduates’ photo shoots in the parks, traditional Portland fashion (think Doc Martens with short black skirts, fishnet tights, bright green hair, black lipstick, plenty of tattoos, and gauged ears), food trucks of every ilk, and tiny-home villages. And when we’ve done a long walk, maybe 5-7 miles, we reward ourselves with a cocktail. And possibly mini corn dogs.

This gorgeous purple cocktail at The Pharmacy goes great with corn dogs!

Our walk to and from the Rose Garden was one of our favorites. We walked almost eight miles that day. The worst part was when people ran past us as we huffed and panted up the steep hills. Undaunted, we took frequent rests and finally made it. The roses were spectacular, and so worth the climb. 

Roses!

We’ve also enjoyed the Saturday farmers’ market nearby. With tons of happy people (masks required) and everything from saffron to gorgeous fresh produce to prepared foods, the only problem was deciding what to buy. On our first trip we splurged on fresh morels. Morels have a special meaning in our family, aside from being delicious. Phil’s dad used to forage for them in a special place in Oklahoma. One of my favorite memories is going out with him and hunting for these unique wild mushrooms. Well, not the poison ivy part, but finding them was like winning the Easter egg hunt. Fresh ones are only available in the springtime, and foragers fiercely guard their secret locations. With our treasure, I tried to recreate a dish we had on our first trip to France–morilles a la creme, or morels in cream on brioche. Delicious!

Morilles a la creme on the terrace

A very special highlight of our time in Portland was celebrating 40 years of marriage! Since we’ll be spending a week in France next month (our gift to each other; more on that later), we decided that a meal at a nice restaurant would be the right celebration for June 6. I found a highly rated tapas restaurant, Urdaneta, and we took the 5:15 pm reservation, the only time available. We arrived and were seated outside under an open-sided shelter, where we ordered cocktails and pintxos. And then. . .down came the rain. The wind was so strong it blew my fork across the table, sent the menu flying down the street, and quickly soaked the back of Phil’s shirt. We were laughing so hard we almost didn’t hear when the server came out to move us inside! Once inside and cozy, we gradually dried out while enjoying a wonderful meal. 

Rain-soaked anniversary Phil

Another fun adventure was lunch at the Topaz Farm on Sauvie Island. We’d heard about it from nephew Connor and his partner April, and since we love seeing where our food comes from, we jumped at the first opportunity to visit. Sauvie Island, about the size of Manhattan, is about ten miles north of Portland and sits at the confluence of the Willammette and Columbia Rivers. It’s beautiful, a mix of agricultural and wildlife areas, with nary a gas station on the entire island. We bought sandwiches and wine and proceeded to the picnic area, followed by a visit to the farm animals–chickens, a giant turkey, ducks, a calf, donkeys, and our favorite, goats! After chatting with the critters we walked around the farm and came upon an educational garden sponsored by non-profit Sauvie Island Center, where volunteers were hard at work. We learned about their methods and were invited to help ourselves to flowers and fruit. 

A friendly Topaz farm goat!

We have been so very fortunate. All our travels so far have been educational, safe, and fun. This life suits us to a tee, and we feel grateful each day to be living it. We have about a week and a half left in Portland before we head to Seattle. Stay tuned!

Flowers from the farmers’ market

 

 

Santa Rosa, part two

Do we really have to leave?

Wow, how we have loved our time in Santa Rosa! During our month there we fell more deeply in love with the climate, the geography, our apartment–and, ok, the wine. Since I was working (and we were spending all our money on wine), we didn’t dine out much, but the restaurants we did visit were quaint, locally owned, and fun.

The decor at the Omelette Express was fascinating.

A neighbor’s artichokes growing by the sidewalk: tempting!

Sonoma County is wine heaven. One could spend a lifetime there and not get around to all the wineries–but in our month we did our best!

One of many beautiful wineries in the area

We had a lot of fun exploring some of the towns in the valley. Healdsburg was our favorite, but we also loved Sebastopol and Sonoma. And of course, we walked most days. I’ll never tire of seeing so many flowers, many of which I don’t recognize.

This flower was about six inches in diameter; any idea what it is?

In Sonoma we walked the town, had a wonderful lunch at The Girl and the Fig, and visited a couple of tasting rooms. Those visits only added to the challenge of packing up the car–we bought way too much wine!

Jeff Cohn self-serve wine tasting with marble stoppers; Girl & the Fig menu (and bread!); fish at Sinskey Winery

Finally, our time in Santa Rosa was over, so we packed up the car (with great difficulty, but we got all the wine in!) and headed out. We took a few days to get to Portland, and it was a magical trip. Just outside of Brentwood, we started seeing pick-your-own cherry orchards, so of course we had to stop. The orchard was beautiful, with lots of children playing among the trees while the adults competed with birds for the best cherries. We harvested two pounds in about ten minutes!

Cherry picking

Munching cherries along the way, we proceeded to Yosemite, which I’d never visited before. The traffic on the winding road was a bit daunting, and the line to enter the park (with a required reservation) was long. After a 45 minute wait, we were granted entry, and off we went to explore. My first view of the Half Dome was astonishing–people actually climb that! We saw huge, gorgeous waterfalls, and we hiked some of the easier trails. It was all beautiful, although crowded, and we left in plenty of time to get to our destination for the night, Sacramento, before dark. 

Half Dome at Yosemite

The next morning we got an early start, as we’d be driving through the Redwood Forests en route to Medford, Oregon, where I had a business meeting the next morning. Deep into the no-internet and no-cell service zone, a park ranger informed us that the road south of Crescent City, at the Last Chance Grade,  was closed until 5pm. So we decided to make the most of it and spend more time among the redwoods. We hiked the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, which was indescribably beautiful. We learned that these redwoods are the tallest living things on earth, and without the efforts of conservationists they would have been destroyed by logging. 

Giant redwoods make Phil look tiny

The road opened up at 5pm, and after an hour traffic delay we were back on the road. On a particularly winding part of the road, where I was driving very slowly, a bear ambled out in front of us! We mutually evaluated each other before the bear decided we were not to be friends and ambled off into the woods. Phil was able to get one decent picture despite some excited fumbling.

This bear was MUCH closer than it appears in the picture!

After my meeting in Medford we hit the road, heading up the Oregon coast to Gold Beach, our stop for the night. And what a stop it was! I’d booked us in the Borghese Garden Room atEndicott Gardens, which exceeded all our expectations. A B&B resembling a boutique hotel, Endicott is a working farm raising flowers and herbs for hosts Kim and Wes Cherie’s skin care line, herbal teas, and food products. Kim operates the on-site spa, while Wes tends the beautiful gardens, and together they prepare and serve their luscious breakfasts. Wes and Kim were superb hosts, and we hated to leave after just one night.

One of the many gardens at Endicott

But we had more miles to travel, so off we went. The drive up the Oregon coast is beautiful, and there are so many quaint beach towns to visit! We took advantage of the many pull-off spots to get pictures and to soak up the beauty of the place.

Just one of many gorgeous views on the Oregon coast

Bandon was our favorite stop, with a candy factory, multiple galleries, and a creamery. There we learned the legend of Face Rock, as we gazed at Ewauna looking up at the moon. We spent an hour there before continuing up the coast to Lincoln City.

Can you see the maiden’s face looking up to the right?

Our hotel in Lincoln City was a delightful surprise, with a fireplace, a huge soaking tub in the bedroom (!), and a gorgeous view of the ocean. We had an excellent dinner at Kyllo’s Seafood and Grill (try the basil martini!) and decided to watch the sun set by the firepit outside our room.

Fire pit! Ocean view!

I looked over at Phil to find he was looking at his phone. “Why aren’t you enjoying this view?” I exclaimed, ready to chastise him. It turned out that his Oklahoma-based sister Pam had just texted him a photo that looked very much like what we were seeing, and he was trying to find out where she and her husband Roger were. They were in a hotel just half a mile up the road from us! We rushed over to see them for the first time in over a year, and since we’re all fully vaccinated, there were plenty of hugs to make up for lost time.

Happy reunion!

The next morning was packed with business calls, but when I finished my work we met up for one last visit before we headed over to Portland. We settled into our home for the next month and grabbed Chinese carry-out, which we enjoyed on the balcony. We’re happy, content, and ready for this next adventure!

First meal in our Portland home

Santa rosa

City of Roses

After bidding farewell to Hawaii we landed at LAX around 9pm, collected our luggage, and took the shuttle to our airport hotel. Even at 10:00 there was a line to check in! We finally got to our room and slept fast, waking early for the trip to Santa Rosa. We grabbed coffee and walked to the nearby parking garage where Phil was relieved to find our car safe and sound. We had saved hundreds of dollars in parking costs throughNeighbor, which works like an Airbnb for storage, for $172 for a full month! After loading the car, off we went to discover our next adventure. We had a quick lunch stop in San Luis Obispo (super cute town we want to explore!) before arriving at our new home for the next month.

Welcome wine and chocolate from our hosts!

The living room of our home in Santa Rosa

To say we were delighted is an understatement–this place is perfect! On the fifth floor of a 5-story building, our condo has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a beautifully designed kitchen. Oh, and a fireplace! And a balcony! The closest wine tasting room is 150 steps from our building’s front door (yep, I measured), and we can walk downtown to the many restaurants and shops in five minutes.

Sunrise, solitude, and coffee on the balcony make for a blissful morning.

The neighborhood is gorgeous–so many cute homes–and the most flowers I’ve ever seen! “I can’t believe how many roses there are!” I remarked to Phil. Then it dawned on me–duh, we’re in Santa ROSA!

Santa Rosa rose on my morning walk

We’ve tried to take advantage of the beautiful weather and gorgeous area by walking almost every day. One day we took a long hike around a lake and came upon a field full of goats! Our family loves goats (our tradition is to yell “Yo, Goats!” whenever we see one), and they were very kind to pose for me. Also, there was a lot of quite loud farting. By the goats, Phil would like me to clarify.

Things we see on our walks–yard signs, roses, goats (yo!), and cute houses

By far the best part of our time here has been the visit from cousins Karyl and Matt. We always have so much fun with them, and the bond of family is very precious. Determined to cram as much fun as possible into our limited time together, we may have overdone it the first day with three winery visits.

Beautiful cousins!

Phil and I had visited the northern California wine country 13 years ago, and while some things were familiar, a lot has changed. Most wineries now require reservations, and the cost of tastings has gone up! We shared a $55 tasting in Napa and accidentally bought a $75 bottle of wine (we thought we were buying the $30 one, which is still far more expensive than our customary Two Buck Chuck), so after that we stuck to Sonoma County, which is less expensive and less crowded. Our first tasting with Karyl and Matt was at Breathless, which was founded by three sisters and specializes in sparkling wines. 

Breathless tasting with vintage glasses the owners have collected

Vintage Vespa at Breathless Winery

On Mothers’ Day we celebrated together with an early lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Healdsburg, followed by a stroll in the park and, yes, more wine tasting. It was a wonderful long weekend, over far too soon. And now, with only a week left in Santa Rosa, we are already feeling sad about leaving this magical place.

Children in the park chasing giant bubbles on Mothers’ Day: magical!

 

 

 

 

hawaii, part two

Packing in all of the fun

Our time in Hawaii continued to deliver. We settled in to a relaxed routine, with me rising early (for 4 or 5 am calls!) and Phil sleeping in. While I worked at the desk in the living room, he painted at the dining table. I’ve been asked whether we tire of each other’s constant company, and I think the reasons we don’t are (a) we really love being together and (b) we are like toddlers in parallel play–we can be in the same room but engaged in completely separate activities. We often went for walks or drives after I finished work, to catch up on each other’s day and see the sights. Did I mention that Hawaii is beautiful?

These cattle egrets were ubiquitous–on beaches, in towns, and especially perched atop cattle!

Wild chickens abound in Hawaii. We almost stumbled over this mama and her chicks!

And no, we didn’t spend all of our time on Oahu! On consecutive weekends we visited the Big Island (Hawaii) and Kauai. We had to get negative COVID tests before entering Hawaii, and again before visiting each island. Fortunately, Walgreen’s had good availability, and we got our results on time. On the Big Island we used Marriott points to stay at a Courtyard, securing a lovely ocean-view suite via upgrade certificate. But before checking in we headed out for brunch at Island Lava Java Bistro, where our outdoor table afforded a splendid view of the ocean. 

Phil skipped the Java for the adult beverage!

We saw the Big Island the next day via a commercial tour. Along with two other parties (all of us masked, of course!), we boarded a van and proceeded on a Circle Island tour, with stops at a coffee farm, active volcano, waterfall, candy factory, parks, and much more.

A rainbow of flavors from a Big Island shaved ice shop

We were astonished at the microclimates–sunny and hot on the south shore, pouring rain on the north. It made for a long day, but when we boarded our flight that evening we felt we’d truly experienced the island.

The Roamers on the Big Island

We loved the Big Island trip, but our favorite place was Kauai, known as the Garden Island for a reason! Kauai is GORGEOUS! It has everything–mountains, ocean, gardens, beautiful resorts, hidden beaches, and great food. We landed, picked up our Turo rental (the ONLY vehicle available on the island, a Ford F1 pickup!), and after a quick breakfast headed out on our audio-guided tour. For a tiny fraction of what we paid for our Big Island tour, we got four GPS-enabled audio tours that included turn-by-turn directions. We could set our own pace, linger where we wanted to, and explore places a large van would never be able to access.

Beautiful Kauai

After a wonderful day touring the island, we checked in to the Kaloa Landing Resort. WOW! I had booked on points and used an upgrade certificate, but we were blown away by our two-bedroom villa overlooking the ocean. I’ve traveled for business for many years and have stayed in a lot of gorgeous properties, but this might be the best of them all! We enjoyed a lovely evening, slept like babies, and the next morning after a quick breakfast were out exploring. 

Welcome gifts at our villa!

We grabbed coffee at a local truck (stood in line for 30 minutes!), then headed to the beach. There we spied what appeared to be a dead seal–but then it started wiggling, rolling around in the sand. It completely ignored the few people gathered to watch, burying its head in the sand and going back to sleep.

Our new seal friend

With our audio guide in hand, we proceeded to explore Waimea Canyon, aka the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” It was breathtaking, in more ways than one–I was terrified at the sharp drops just inches from our truck’s tires! We stopped halfway up at a lodge for a much-needed break (yes, there was a calming adult beverage for me).

The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

Just before heading to the airport we had the best meal of our entire Hawaii adventure. The Hukilau Lanai offers a 5pm Sunday tasting menu, including wine pairings, for $50, and I had made reservations weeks in advance. This made our top 20 list of the best meals of our lives! 

Corn risotto cake topped with a perfectly cooked Fresh Catch at Hukilau Lanai

The day after our return from Kauai, our dear friend Patricia arrived. Visiting Hawaii has been a dream of hers, and she would be spending a week there, split between her son and family, who were visiting Maui, and us. We had a glorious time enjoying adult beverages in beachside bars, sunning and beaching in Waikiki, and exploring the island together.

Patricia enjoying a local specialty, loco moco. And, yes, a mojito. For breakfast.

 We were on the fence about attending a luau, and Patricia decided to skip it. My FOMO eventually won out, and Phil and I thoroughly enjoyed the Paradise Cove Luau. We learned about the culture while enjoying dinner and entertainment in a gorgeous setting. 

Official Luau shot

By far the most astonishing thing we saw was the Banzai Pipeline. One of the most dangerous surfing spots on earth, the waves average 9 feet but can be as high as 20 feet! Standing at a safe distance on the beach, we were mesmerized by the force of these walls of water–and shocked that surfers can actually navigate them!

Patricia at the Banzai Pipeline

On Patricia’s last day we visited Pearl Harbor. I can’t find the words to describe the experience. I especially appreciated all the people who were there during the attack and its aftermath, sharing their memories via video.

Approaching the Arizona memorial, everyone on the boat was respectfully silent.

Our final week flew by. Patricia departed, and the next day was devoted to organizing and packing. We bid a fond farewell to our host Kai, who promised to visit us when we move to France, and boarded the flight to the mainland. We loved Hawaii and will never forget this time, but now we’re ready for our next adventure, in northern California’s Sonoma Valley!

Last glimpse of Oahu

aloha!

The Shroyers have invaded Oahu

I have to confess, we’ve been so busy having fun that I’m a bit late posting a Hawaii update. This place is magical! 

One of the gorgeous scenes from our first island drive

It felt a bit strange boarding a flight–after flying several times a week for many years, I hadn’t set foot on a plane in 13 months–but we felt very comfortable, especially since Delta was still blocking middle seats. The flight from LAX was about six hours, and we arrived eager to explore this new wonderland. We picked up our Turo car (saved at least $500 over the rental agencies’ offerings) and headed straight for Waikiki Beach.

Cocktails at Waikiki

After sipping our first Hawaiian mai tai (Phil) and pina colada (me), we tore ourselves away from Waikiki to discover our home for the next month. On a dead-end street across from a stream, our third-floor apartment offers a view of the mountains, the sounds of birds and roosters, and a lovely breeze that enables us to keep the windows open all the time. With three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a wonderful kitchen, it’s our favorite temporary home so far! We book at least a month in each Airbnb to get a significant long-term stay discount, so while this was a bit of a splurge we’ve stayed within our budget for the first six months of Roaming.


Malasada, the Portugese donut

The unexpected and delightful bonus of this home is our neighbor, Kai, who owns the building and lives below us. On our first full day here I ran into him and invited him up for cocktails–and he arrived with a bottle of homemade limoncello! Kai has been the most wonderful host, friend, and advisor. For example: he has gifted us with warm malasadas from his favorite bakery, homemade chocolate banana bread warm from his oven, and a slice of mixed berry pie from his favorite pie shop; he’s joined us for several dinners, including carryout from his favorite Chinese and traditional Hawaiian restaurants; at his recommendation we have visited a breathtaking botanical garden, a tropical tree farm that sells its fruit (including our new favorite, mangosteen, and also durian, which we didn’t buy; so, so stinky!), and a beautiful waterfall. Roaming sometimes doesn’t allow for much of a social life, and Kai’s friendship and generosity have been a highlight of our time here.

Plumeria at Koko Crater Botanical Garden, one of Kai’s recommendations

While working from Hawaii means that I have frequent 4am or 5am video calls (UGH!), it also means that my work day ends early, providing the opportunity for afternoon outings. We have taken advantage of those to visit farmers’ markets, enjoy beaches, and take drives around this beautiful island.

Phil enjoying our first beach picnic

The beaches are spectacular and photos don’t do them justice. I’m fascinated by the color of the ocean, ranging from bright green to turquoise, to blue, to purple. And the flowers! And the trees! And the mountains! This is called paradise for a reason.

These leaves look like they’ve had paint splashed on them.

We’ve also enjoyed long walks–on the beach, in downtown Honolulu, in parks and botanical gardens, in Chinatown–always marveling at the sights and sounds (and the people). Sometimes the things we see crack us up, like the faux police car that pulled up beside us.

This caused a double-take!

Can you believe this tree?!

There is so much more to share–weekend trips to the Big Island and to Kauai, more beaches with HUGE waves, a visit from dear friend Patricia, and amazing water athletics (none of which were performed by us). I’ll get to that, but now it’s time for a quick stroll before cocktail hour!

 

 

Time to say goodbye

You know it’s been good when it’s hard to leave.

Our time in Sunny California is coming to an end, and we are SAD! This has been a wonderful month, filled with family, friends, gorgeous scenery, great food and wine, and beautiful weather. We leave tomorrow, and while no one will feel sorry for us (after all, we’re heading to Hawaii next!), we’re a bit sad and nostalgic. We’ll be taking the sense memory of this magical place with us, along with even deeper connections to people we love. We’ve spent time in San Diego in the past and thought we knew the area, but our time here in North County has expanded our appreciation of just how special this place is.

At the San Diego Botanical Garden we met this beautiful topiary woman.

We’ve spent lots of time with our cousins–wineries, picnics, dinners–Karyl even took me to get my first pedicure in 13 months! We had a lovely Ocean Beach lunch with “friend who is family” Travis and met his three-year-old son Forest for the first time. We met dear friends Gracelyn and Ralph for a 56 degree outdoor dinner at Dana Point (brr!), and spent the next morning with them on a long walk and lovely (warm) outdoor lunch.

Visiting wineries with Karyl and Matt!

We’ve spent quite a bit of time just driving around, soaking up the beauty, and walking in some gorgeous parks and gardens. We even took a hike one day, something we’ve been meaning to do more of! Everywhere we go, there is something beautiful to look at.

Topiary dancer. Isn’t she beautiful?

A special highlight of our time here was when Beth and Wade visited. They spent six days with us, but it seemed like six hours. Beth and I have been besties for 50 years and hadn’t been together in a year and a half, so we had lots of catching up to do. And–bonus!–we got to celebrate our birthdays, which are four days apart, together, along with Beth’s friend Susan, whose birthday is between ours. On St. Patrick’s Day. along with Karyl and Matt, we celebrated with green beer (green wine for non-beer-drinking me) at local landmark Prohibition Brewery, followed by a surprise birthday cake at our Airbnb. We’re all vaccinated, but for extra safety we “blew” out our candles by fanning them with our plates.

Birthday Birthday Birthday!

One challenge of the Roaming lifestyle that I haven’t yet mastered is using up all the food. Despite some actual planning (I don’t normally plan meals at all), we always end up with uneaten food. For our last dinner at our Airbnb I did my best, making mashed sweet potatoes topped with frizzled lunchmeat turkey, plain yogurt, cheese, and toasted pecans–accompanied by roasted cauliflower with leftover homemade tomato sauce, and a side of roasted beets. I had leftover homemade shortcakes and whipping cream, but only three strawberries, so I added some supremed orange segments for strawberry-orange shortcake. Surprise! Everything was yummy. Alas, we still ended up with lots of cheese, brussels sprouts, and oranges that we couldn’t use.

It may not be pretty, but it tasted pretty great!

On our last day here, at our Airbnb host’s recommendation, we visited the Grand Tradition Estate and Gardens, one of the most beautiful venues we’ve ever seen. We had a wonderful brunch, followed by a stroll on the grounds. Boasting a large pond, two waterfalls, and breathtaking flowers, this place proved to be a highlight of our time here, and a wonderful place to spend part of our last day.

Just one of the waterfalls at Grand Tradition

The Veranda restaurant on the grounds was a treat, with exceptional service, delicious food, and reasonable prices. I had the Wellington Benedict (unusual, delicous, and rich!), Phil had a great omelet, and we shared a lemon berry mascarpone cake that was outstanding. If we were getting married, that would be our wedding cake.

Antici………….pation!

Second waterfall!

We are spending the rest of our last day doing laundry, pre-packing organizing, and cleaning. This afternoon we’ll virtually attend the wedding of Kristin, daughter of our dear friends Cara and Steve, followed by a last dinner with the cousins. Tomorrow morning, after a birthday video call with our kids, we’ll head out to the LAX area, where we’ll have dinner with Kuzin Dafid, and Monday morning we’ll be off to Hawaii for our next adventure. We will leave California with hearts full of gratitude for wonderful family and friends, good health that allows us to travel, and beautiful places to go, but we’ll also leave a bit of our hearts here.

 

 

sunny california!

The Shroyers finally get warm.

Our drive from Phoenix to San Diego was fascinating. Who knew we’d drive through mountains, deserts, green farmland, a whole town based on dates (aptly named Dateland), almost-Mexico–complete with border patrol checkpoints–and more mountains? We experienced an hour delay in the mountains caused by a wreck (an RV jacknifed and caught on fire, but we believe and hope that everyone escaped safely), and we finally arrived unscathed at our cousins’ house in San Diego. True to form, cousins Karyl and Matt had margaritas ready! We enjoyed a catch-up visit and poolside dinner before heading to our new home for the next month.

Desert! Sand dunes!

And a lovely home it turned out to be! A small family farm-in-progress in Vista, this AirBnb is the upstairs apartment in the former barn. With two bedrooms, a spacious bathroom, well-equipped kitchen, and cozy living room, we quickly expanded into the space, relieved after a month in our tiny Santa Fe home. Our hosts are gracious and helpful, and the resident chickens supplied beautiful eggs.

Love makes the eggs taste better.

The next day was Monday, so we didn’t get a chance to do much exploring until the weekend, but we did manage lunch at the Yellow Deli in downtown Vista, followed by a stroll. Vista turned out to be much larger than we’d imagined, with cool art, nice parks, and plenty of restaurants to sample. In California there are lots of outdoor dining options, so we’re taking advantage of that (and exceeding our restaurant dining budget!).

Alley Art Woman in Vista

Our first weekend in California was wonderful! We met Karyl and Matt for a picnic by the water, where Phil and Matt enjoyed a quick game of bocce ball and I got to ride Karyl’s pride and joy–her electric bike! The picnic was beautiful (have I mentioned that Karyl is the incarnation of Pearl Mesta?), a gorgeous and delicious spread into which we dug with such gusto that I forgot to photograph it.

Bocce ball and bikes

We also spent a day simply exploring our surroundings. We walked the beach at Carlsbad, sampled a couple of restaurants, drove around the hills, bought flowers and fruit at nearby farms, and visited a winery. We enjoyed an outdoor, socially distanced tasting  with live music, where we met the most stylish dog I’ve ever seen.

I felt underdressed next to her!

The next week Karyl sent us her CSA farm share. What a bounty! Gorgeous, locally-raised fruits and vegetables became a lovely dinner that evening: steamed veggies with aioli, zucchini in a homemade chunky tomato sauce, and Phil’s specialty, cheesy toast. Did I mention that the oven in our AirBnb is broken? Our lifestyle includes a lot of “figure-it-out, make-do, find-a-creative-solution” challenges. I’ve cooked most of our meals for two weeks without an oven. It’s supposed to be repaired soon, and that will be great–but making things work is a valuable learning process and part of the fun of being Roamers.

Dinner from our CSA box, courtesy of Kuzin Karyl

So far in our second weekend here we’ve explored the  Alta Vista Botanical Gardens, had lunch with dear friend Jeanne in her gorgeous backyard, and watched the sun set on the Del Mar Civic Center Plaza patio. There we enjoyed a whimsical charcuterie platter courtesy of Karyl, who knows how to make everything special. She is my role model for how to live graciously, with gratitude, generosity, and charm.

“Culinary art” at Alta Vista Botanical Gardens

“Boat-cuterie” a la Karyl

We are so very grateful to be here in this beautiful setting, with perfect weather, lemons and oranges growing outside our window, and the ability to spend time with wonderful cousins and friends. After five months of Roaming, we have no regrets.

 

 

Buh-bye, santa fe!

On the road again

The second half of our time in Santa Fe was filled with long walks, some gallery visits, a couple more day trips, and lots of cozy time in our casita. We got a lot (well, for us at least) of snow, so it was tempting to just stay in.

The view from our casita’s front door

One of the things I find fascinating about long walks is the interesting (strange) sights we see. One day while walking back to the casita, I came upon this notebook. I wonder what the words mean? Was it a game?

Was this a word game?

And on a day trip to Madrid (pronounced with a short a and emphasis on the first syllable, unlike the Madrid in Spain), we saw this:

Wait, Heaven is going out of business?

 

By the end of our sojourn in Santa Fe, we’d seen some fabulous art, met some very nice gallery owners, and even got to dine outdoors a couple of times at restaurants with patio heaters (still chilly!). Our favorite gallery experience was at Jones Walker Gallery in Taos, where we chatted with one of the owners. I love those brief encounters where despite the brevity of the connection, there is a true friendship that forms before you say goodbye. Jones Walker might be my favorite art gallery ever. And speaking of art, while I am not and will never be artistic, I’ve always wanted to try throwing pots. In Santa Fe I got my chance, at a delightful pottery co-op across from our casita, Paseo Pottery. Chris, our instructor, was taking a break from his doctoral studies in art history, and he proved to be very patient and a great teacher. Throwing pots is a workout!

This is not an artist.

By the end of the class (socially distanced, with four students) I’d managed to make a little family of imperfect pots. The best two will be shipped to me in a few weeks–if they survive the firing and glazing processes!

I made these!

Finally it was time to say goodbye to Santa Fe. The night before we left I peeked out onto the patio and saw our parting gift: the biggest icicle I’ve ever seen!

Santa Fe icicle

The next morning we headed out early, grabbed coffee, and drove to the Grand Canyon. I’d only seen it from the air, and being there on the ground was awe-inspiring. We walked the paths for a while, took way too many pictures, and then drove on to Sedona for the night.

GRAND Canyon!

Sedona was magical! We had very little time there (definitely planning to return!), so after checking in to our hotel, we walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. The dinner was forgettable, but the area was so cool! Imagine an ice cream shop with art!

Can you tell the lights are “ice cream cone” art?

The next morning we got up early and headed to the Airport Vortex to watch the sunrise. As the sun illuminated the famous red rocks, we were again dazzled.

Sunrise illuminating the red rocks, with the town of Sedona below.

And then it was off to Phoenix, to visit  dear friends in their new home. We packed a lot of fun into less than 24 hours, with a group lunch on a farm, tours of model homes in their beautiful brand-new development at the foot of the mountains, and a special dinner with friends at the Arboretum. And we got our fur baby fix with their dog and two cats!

Unforgettable friendships, memorable dinner

And then it was off to our next adventure. We’re so excited to begin our stay in Sunny California!

winter doldrums

We’re in Santa Fe, but. . .

Well, we’re halfway through our time in Santa Fe, and honestly, we’d be happy to leave now. It’s not that we don’t like the area; it’s stunningly beautiful. But it’s cold! And all the museums and restaurants in New Mexico are closed due to the pandemic! The few restaurants that are open offer only carry-out or outdoor dining, and who wants to dine on the patio when it’s 30 degrees? I’m not very inspired to cook in this tiny kitchen with only 1 saucepan, 1 dutch oven, and 1 skillet (a stainless steel one to which everything sticks). First world problems, indeed. We realize how privileged we are to be healthy, happy, and experiencing this great Roaming life. But we still occasionally get a tiny bit whiny.

Phil waiting for our Farmers’ Market coffee. Why yes, that is a giant beet over his head!

On our first Saturday here we walked to the Farmer’s Market at the Railyard, just a couple of blocks from our casita. We’d just made a grocery run, so we didn’t need anything, but we managed to grab excellent coffee and pastries.  From there we headed out to the Chama Wilderness, a favorite place Phil wanted me to see. My favorite sight was when we got down close to the Chama River, but the whole thing was thrilling (and scary, on some of the S-curves where our car tires were inches from a deadly dropoff!). On the way we stopped at a general store for burritos, and on the way back I got a glimpse of Georgia O’Keefe’s house; it was closed, but we could peek over the wall to see the rooftop.

A scene from our first day trip, to the Chama Wilderness

Like everyone else of a “certain age,” we have been trying to get COVID vaccinations. The over-65 group is not yet eligible in New Mexico, so on Thursday afternoon I decided to check in Texas. And voila! Amarillo had plenty of availability on a first come, first served basis. So 30 minutes after my last call that day, we drove four hours to Amarillo, spent the night in a hotel, and were in line at 7:15 the next morning. Everything went extraordinarily well, and we received our first shots at 9:02. We headed back to Santa Fe, with Phil driving so I could do my video conference calls. We’ll be in California when it’s time for the second shot, and we’re checking that website daily for appointment availability.

Kudos to Amarillo’s public health department!

 

One of the things I love about Santa Fe is that art is everywhere. Even the bus stops and overpasses are beautiful! It’s easy to see why artists want to live here. I especially like unexpected art that startles, in an otherwise mundane setting.

At a coffee shop, the television wears a beautiful silver frame. Art!

One of the few recreation opportunities we have here is walking, and we’ve done a lot of it. The architecture here is beautiful, so different from other parts of the country. And the random art on walls is amazing!

On a walk this week I encountered a thoughtful swinging elephant.

This trompe d’oeil is startling!

Interestingly, the galleries and shops are mostly open. We can’t really shop (as Phil likes to say, “That’s great, honey, but we’re all out of wall space in the car!”) but we love wandering through galleries. And we truly are enjoying our cozy casita. We’ve also been able to see a few friends, which has been wonderful (socially distanced, but still fun!). But honestly? We’re looking forward to heading out to sunny California. Our plan is to leave here a couple of days early, visit the Grand Canyon, make a quick stop in Sedona, spend a night with friends in Phoenix, then start our sojourn in the San Diego area. 

How are you handling the winter doldrums?

 

 

 

on to santa fe!

The Shroyers hit the road

Our time in Savannah came to a too-quick end. We loved our time there and hope to return. If you’ve never been there, I hope you get a chance to visit! We had to leave a day earlier than planned in order to make annual dental exams that our Texas dentist had worked in. We bade a sad farewell to Savannah and headed to Mobile. En route, we noticed a sign for “FDR’s Little White House.” We googled it and learned that this was the location of the famed Warms Springs where Franklin Roosevelt found relief from his paralysis and pain due to polio. We decided it was worth the detour, and we were right! Even though it ended up being a three-hour detour (making it a 10-hour travel day), we thoroughly enjoyed our visit and were glad we went. My favorite part was chatting with a guide who explained that her parents met there when her mother, a polio patient, was wheeled around by her father, a “push boy.” They fell in love, married, and CarolAnn considers that she owes her existence to FDR!

FDR’s “Little White House”

The next morning we were off to Beaumont, Texas. Although we tried walking through the historic downtown, we found the city to be run down and a bit depressing. We were glad to head out early the next morning, meeting our friend Patricia in Houston at House of Pies for a quick breakfast catch-up chat. Then it was off to our Dripping Springs dentist, followed by a happy reunion with out son, who greeted us at the door with adult beverages! We caught up, headed to Torchy’s Tacos for carry-out dinner (If you go, check out the secret menu!), and when our daughter-in-law got home from work we all dug in. We spent a wonderful six days with our kids and loved every minute of it. The strangest and most exciting (scary) thing for me was a trip to the shooting range. Our son, a gun afficionado, had wanted to introduce me to shooting for a long time, and I finally acquiesced. The drive out to the Marble Falls shooting range was lovely, and he secured a tactical bay for us–a very private area that faced into a large, built-up berm. He started me out with a .22 pistol, from which I eventually progressed to an AR15. I went from shaking hands to relative calm, due to our son’s gentle instructions and focus on safety. I’m glad I did it, and it’s a memory I’ll cherish. Oh, and Phil beat me on the clay shooting!

“Sandy Oakley”

On Inauguration Day we bade a fond farewell to our kids and headed out to Roswell, New Mexico. We listened to the inauguration, sang the last verse of Amazing Grace with Garth Brooks, and wept listening to Amanda Gorman’s beautiful poem. With a new President and our first woman Vice President–!!!–safely installed, we breathed a sigh of relief and checked into our hotel before heading out for a stroll. We happened upon the International UFO Museum and Research Center a half-hour before closing, and the gracious owner refused to let us pay. We skimmed through the exhibits, marvelling at the old newspaper stories and claims of over 300 witnesses, finding the museum to be a mix of facts, speculation, and kitsch. It was fun!

One of the exhibits at the museum

 

The next morning we had only a three-hour drive to our destination for the next month, Santa Fe. We had some trepidation about our AirBnb, having been so impressed with the lovely bedroom that we’d failed to notice that the place is a studio casita! We wondered how we’d adjust to living in a single room with a tiny kitchen and bathroom.

Looks big, right? Then you realize it’s the only room!

We checked into our casita (incidentally, our AirBnbs all have contactless checkin) and schlepped everything once again from the car. And guess what? We found that while it is VERY cozy, it’s going to work out just fine! I was thrilled to discover that the desk is big enough for my giant monitor. We even found a spot for our Breville espresso machine. Did I mention that we’re traveling with that monster? 

Can’t travel without it!

Sure, we have to make toast in the living/bed/dining/office room–insufficient counter space and plugs in the kitchen–and we now have to go to bed and get up at the same time, but we’re cool with that. A big part of this adventure is learning, problem-solving, and adapting. Case in point, I’ve already managed to prepare a few tasty meals in that tiny kitchen!

Salmon, brown rice, and haricots verts, prepared in the casita kitchen

So now we’re happily ensconsed in our cozy casita, taking long walks through downtown Santa Fe, visiting the farmers’ market, enjoying the fabulous scenery (and snow!), and feeling thankful for this new life we’ve carved out despite the pandemic. We are a couple of lucky Shroyers!