Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

As many of you already know, I have been having some car problems lately. And with Ryan giving his car away, I felt it was time to find a new and improved car. This has been a lot of work. First of all because I work and the nature of my work is that I am not home every afternoon, this has made looking at cars a real burden. I don't have that many days off anymore and to have to spend my precious days off driving all over Seattle looking at used cars was not fun.

I did some research and I decided that I wanted a Subaru Wagon. This narrowed the playing field. I went to all the Subaru dealers in the Seattle area looking at their used cars, this took two days. They were all too expensive. Only 2-5 years old and very very nice cars. I wish I could have afforded one. But not with my current budget. So I started with internet resources. Craigslist, Ebay and Autotrader.com. Here were tons of cars within my budget, but now to see them in person with all their flaws. Several times I would drive out to look at a car and find that it had already been sold. So many of the cars had outlandish mileage on them! What are these people doing?? Driving to Alaska twice a year? With a cross-country trip thrown in! Wow, I had no idea that Soccer Moms could put so much mileage on a car. I found one car that I was positive would work for me, the only thing wrong with it was it was white. I hate white cars. I was ready to forget my hatred of white paint and went to give the car a test drive. I walk up and the hood and rear hatch are open, so that I can see how gorgeous the car is inside! It looks lovely. Everything is in such great condition. I think I am ready to drive it. The owner is closing the hood and I close the rear hatch and that is when I see it. A HUGE dent in the rear hatch of the car, with cracks in the plastic of the light covers. Yuck. You know, I don't even want to drive it now. I don' t want to have to make that repair, possibly having to replace the entire rear hatch. Who knows. Sorry.

There were other cars that were gorgeous inside and outside but one smelled so badly of cigarettes that I could not stand to sit in it. There was another car that I looked at at a dealership. It had dog and/or cat hair all over the inside. I have to think that the dealer detailed the car. That hair was woven into the carpet and upholstery. It was impossible to get out. I tried to pull a piece out myself. It would have taken hours and hours to sit and pick out all the animal hair from the rear compartment walls. What a nightmare. In another car, the dog (or whatever, could've been a child) had chewed the plastic sides of the car in the rear compartment-- any kind of handle or plastic edging looked like it had been gnawed on by rats. Amazing! Some of these things could be overlooked, but often there was more wrong with the car than right.

It was a huge decision to even look at Subarus. I have always been a Volkswagen girl. I learned to drive on Volkswagens and I have driven Volkswagens all my life. I had a Sirocco in High School and a Rabbit in College, a convertible Rabbit when I first started working and when I bought my first car all by myself, it was a Golf/GTI. That car has been with me for the past 18 years. I drove it when I lived in Florida and I drove it across country when I moved to Seattle. I really hate to give it up. It is a member of the family. There are so many memories contained in that car. So many good times. But then there are the bad times, the overheating, the flat tires, the broken clutch cables and the thousands of dollars spent on repairs. Time for a change.

So I finally found a 2000 Outback Wagon. Low mileage, no crazy damage inside or out. A nice Green color. The only thing a little hinky was that it has tinted windows. Not a big fan of tinted windows, but I am willing to overlook that. I am buying this car. I drive it around a little bit. Everything is cool. I am buying this car. I can't believe it. I have bought this car. I have to change my car insurance. I need to sell my VW. I take all the stuff out of the VW. My sunglasses and my maps and my CD's and I put them in the Subaru. Oh my gosh, I have bought a car! So I drive it around on errands today. It is HUGE. I can't get used to how big it is, it is certainly going to make me a more cautious driver for a while. I have so much car behind me now. People who have ridden with me know that I could take off a curb with the back of the little VW. Now I really have to swing out wide to get this behemoth into the street!

It will take some getting used to, but I have a new car. Wow.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Antiquing in North Carolina

This month, I went to visit my mother in North Carolina and I visited the Metrolina Antique Show. This is a huge Antique and Collectibles show at the Fairgrounds near Charlotte, NC. There was quite a long line to get into the fairgrounds even though it was a chilly November day.

I have to explain that when I was a child, I was dragged to every antique shop and antique show in the North Carolina and South Carolina area. Any kind of car trip often involved stops at antique shops. Hours and hours of my life, my formative years, were spent wandering around dusty old antique shops, looking at furniture and doodads. I was not alone, my sister and my cousins all suffered the same fate.

The highlights of many of these trips were the shop cats. Most antique shops had a resident cat who would let bored young girls pet and play with them while their mothers were shopping. We didn't see a cat on this outing, but there was one Antique Dog on display! So now that I am an adult, I too think that going around looking at antiques is a form of recreation.

My mom and I arrived at the Metrolina Antique Show at 9am when they opened and we did not leave until around 3 pm that afternoon! And wonder of wonders, we did not buy much. I bought a couple of antique postcards and she bought some plants. But we saw so many wonderful things (and some not so wonderful things...check out the ugly snake lamp picture)

We had a steak sandwich for lunch. They have a lot of state fair type food pavilions with hotdogs and hamburgers, BBQ, and yummy funnel cakes. We had the steak sandwich with fried onions and peppers.

There were prom dresses and jewelry and christmas ornaments, linens and dishes and crystal. There were farm implements and old political prints and old wooden and block printing STAMPS! Just about everything imaginable.

The next day, after the antique show, we went to the Farmers Market at Yorkmont Road near the Airport. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, many from North and South Carolina Farmers were available in addition to other crafts, bakery items and wood crafts!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Iron Goat Trail

Ryan and I were reading a wonderful book last month called "The White Cascade" by Gary Krist.

It contains the history of the building of the railroad through Stevens Pass and the 1910 avalanches that stranded two trains for more than 7 days and ultimately destroyed them. I had also read several years ago, a young adult book called, "Washington Avalanche, 1910" by Cameron Dokey which is a Historical romance and a fictionalized account of the disaster.

In 1910, snowslides delayed two trains at the town of Wellington, in the Cascades just west of Stevens Pass. After more than 7 days, a vast section of snow broke loose and crashed down, sweeping both trains off the tracks and into the Tye Creek below. Rescue efforts were quickly organized, but 96 people died in the disaster.
This tragedy made Wellington the site of one of the worst railroad disasters in the nation's history and also the most tragic snow avalanche. This prompted improvements to avoid such tragedy striking again and many snowsheds were built over the railroad line to protect it from avalanche damage. The name of the station at Wellington was even renamed Tye Depot so passengers would not associate it with the rail disaster. As rail traffic increased, a "new" Cascade Tunnel was completed in 1929. This eight-mile tunnel is still in use today by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and Ryan has even traveled through it on one of his many Amtrak adventures. The opening of the new tunnel in 1929, made the old grade obsolete and it was abandoned completely. It is this abandoned stretch that makes up the Iron Goat Trail today. The town of Wellington was abandoned in 1929 when the new tunnel was completed.

Ever since we read " The White Cascade", Ryan and I had been wanting to drive out to Stevens Pass and hike along the Iron Goat Trail to where the disaster took place. There are three trailheads currently along the Iron Goat Trail and they are continuing to convert the old railway to hiking trail further to the west. We decided to start at the Scenic Trailhead, because it was the easiest to access from the highway. Also Scenic has an interpretive center of sorts. A bright red Great Northern Caboose is on display and there are information boards with photos of the building of the railroad, the disaster and the building of the current hiking trail.

Yesterday, Ryan and I retraced the steps of the survivors of the Wellington Disaster. Several people from the train hiked out in drifts of snow and in danger of avalanches from Wellington, where the train was stopped to Scenic 3 miles away. We started at Scenic and followed the Iron Goat Trail back to the site of the avalanche. A boardwalk goes out to an observation platform there now. Along the trail are many concrete walls, all that remain of the snowsheds that were built to protect the railroad line in the years following the disaster. At one spot, there is a pile of broken timbers. This is the remains of one of the wooden snowsheds that collapsed and was not scavenged for the lumber (as happened with most of the wooden structures after this section of track was abandoned.)

Also along the trail was one of the most scenic outdoor toilets that I have ever encountered. With Ryan's experiences on the AT, he has seen many scenic outdoor privies, but I don't encounter them that often and this one had a spectacular view! The black corner at the bottom of the photo is the seat of the toilet.

I added Pictures of the Concrete Snowshed for Ryan!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Hardy Boys are #2000 for this Nancy Drew

I spent a lovely day on Tuesday with my friend, Princess Lea, letterboxing in the Sonoma and Napa Valley areas of California. We found a total of 15 letterboxes! There were some really great ones too! The California Hummingbird Series and the Wineries Series by Traveln Turtle, The Sweet Dreams Series by Moon Rabbit, and Walk 4 Marfan 2 by Bonedoc. But the biggie, the number 2000 in my book was The Hardy Boys Napa Neighborhood Zig-Zag Mystery, by Painted Lady and Panther.

It has a really great clue with Hardy Boys trivia (that Lea and I were surprised that we knew so much about! We didn't google before we started out on our quest that day. But I guess some of it rubs off when you go to Children's Series conventions year after year). The stamp is a wonderful depiction of the boys. The only thing better might have been an 8x10 glossy of Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy :-) --Just Kidding!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

2000 Letterbox finds!

I am starting the month of September only 5 letterboxes away from 2000! Wow, what a milestone. I thought to myself, I really should make the 2000th box a really neat one. It should be very special....So I have a little while to think this over and I am going to ask for advice from all of you. What letterbox do you think should be my 2000th find?

I don't plan to make any special trips out of Washington State for the next 5 letterboxes, but I will entertain the idea of letterboxes as far away as Portland, OR or Vancouver, BC, Canada, maybe even Spokane, WA.

One box that I have thought of doing for 2000, is the Mailbox Ho! letterbox --it is on Mailbox Peak outside of Seattle and this is a very challenging hike. I know that Ryan would want to come with me to do it. And it would be very challenging for me.


but I am looking forward to what letterboxes you folks think would be worthy of find Number 2000!

Amanda from Seattle

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Last Mile

I woke up Tuesday with only one more mile to hike to make my goal of 50 miles for hike-a-thon. I had thought of going over towards the East of Seattle to hike a really interesting trail, Snoqualmie Falls, or Rattlesnake Ledge maybe. Or perhaps North up to Whidbey Island and hike something at Ebey's Landing or Deception Pass. Well, I got up late because I had flown in from Philly the day before and we were late as usual. And I made the mistake of getting on the computer to take care of some things that needed to be done. Paying Bills and Listing things to sell on Ebay and answering Emails from the past week...etc etc

And the day just slipped away from me. Now it was too late to drive across to Snoqualmie Falls or up to Whidbey Island. I would have to think of a mile close to home that I could quickly get to and hike. Of course, there is always the Alki Beach trail! The trail along the beach here in West Seattle. It is always interesting. It has wonderful signs and images in the pavement and on posts all along the trail. For example, this photo is of an image of a black bear on the pavement and the writing reads:
"The black bear, smallest of the three north american bears, measures only 3 feet high and 5 feet long but weighs 200 to 500 lbs. Bears eat fish, rodents and plants. Outside Alaska, the Pacific Northwest has the largest population of black bears in the U.S."

You can get lots of interesting information from walking around Alki! Maybe that is why Ryan is so smart, he reads the plaques along Alki Beach.
So I quickly walked my mile and came back to write up this blog and then it is off to work (Madrid tomorrow).
Miles Hiked: 50
Pledges: $1105
Pounds Lost: 7
Don't forget to get your pledge in to me by September 3rd!
Thanks so much

Monday, August 27, 2007

More Car Troubles...

But before I get to the car issues....after criss-crossing the country a few times, it was time to go across the ocean again. I was supposed to go to Glasgow, but I traded at the last minute for Munich. Gotta love the flexiblity of the Flight Attendant lifestyle.

Once in Munich, the weather was cloudy and dreary, not unlike what it had been like in Seattle. So what to do on a dreary day in Munich? Take the train to Dachau. Now, I was surprised that more people don't know about the WWII Concentration Camp at Dachau, Germany. I thought that when I said I was going to Dachau, that people would automatically know that I was going there to see the Concentration Camp Memorial. But that was not the case, so I am going to give you guys a little history lesson for a moment.

Dachau was the first Concentration Camp to open for business in March 1933 and it operated as a prison, work camp, extermination center and training camp for the SS Guards until it was liberated by U.S. Troops on April 29, 1945. It was actually the model for all the Nazi concentration camps that would come after it. The ironwork on the gate when you enter the camp says Arbeit Macht Frei, "Work will make you Free." At this camp the prisoners were exterminated through work. They were slaves for Hitler's war effort. I was amazed by the size of the facility. It was on the grounds of a abandoned munitions factory from the First World War. It served as a refugee camp after the war and until the 1960's when Holocaust survivers initiated the drive to make the site a memorial. The entire place has been turned into a museum and memorial to the people who died there. It is free to enter the memoria and a lot of new exhibits opened in 2003 with everything labeled in German and English. Except for this stone located by the crematoriums it says in German: "Think about how we died here"

Back in the USA, I had a day off and hiked the Lake to Lake Trail for hike-a-thon. This trail is located over in Bellevue, WA. It was a dreary day here in Seattle. It just would never stop raining, so I decided not to let a few raindrops stop me from getting in some mileage. The thing about a rainy day in Seattle, you generally get the trails and playgrounds to yourself. I hiked from Robinswood Park all the way to the Lake Hills King County Library. The Library is a great place to stop and turn around. I got to check out the books for sale to support the library and they have nice clean bathrooms. It had been about a year since I had last hiked along the Lake to Lake trail and there was a new Farm Stand near the P-Patch Garden just past Phantom Lake. On my return, I had to stop and buy some flowers for my apartment.

This week, I decided to go down to check out Point Defiance Park in Tacoma. Since my car had been having trouble, I decided to give it a break and I drove Ryan's car down to Point Defiance. I parked at the Rustic Picnic Area and decided to hike the Outer Perimeter Loop Trail. It is marked by squares on the tiny little trail signs. And it can get kind of confusing in the interior areas of the park when the Outer Trail merges with the Inner Trail and crosses and joins the Spine Trail! All are represented by symbols on these tiny little trail signs, as you can see in this photo. If you are walking at a quick pace, you can sometimes miss a trail intersection. The trail meanders along the cliffs above Puget Sound and there are great views of the Tacoma Narrows Bridges. These Bridges are at the site of the famous Galloping Gertie Bridge that collasped in 1940 after being in service for only 4 months! The newer bridges are nicknamed Sturdy Gertie. The newest bridge opened this summer and I believe it is a toll bridge, but I don't know for sure because I have not been over it yet.

I also saw some wildlife while I was hiking around Point Defiance Park. A mama raccoon and her 3 babies were trying to cross the road. I caught this photo of Mama and one of her babies!
So I know you are wondering about the car troubles that I alluded to in the title of this post. Well, I'm out at Point Defiance Park and I had driven Ryan's car, which I don't do that often. Ryan's car has automatic locks. My car is older and has manual locks, plus my Volkswagen won't let you lock the driver's door from inside, you have to lock it with the key from the outside. Can you see where this is heading?
I was out on the trail when I first noticed that I was missing the car keys. I was frantic. I thought I had dropped them somewhere along the way. I backtracked for quite a while. I didn't see anything. I was convinced it was hopeless and the keys were lost in the woods. But wait, maybe the keys fell when I got out of the car and are lying in the parking lot beside the car. So I hike back to the car and look all around the driver's door. No keys on the ground. I am really frantic now. I look inside the car and there are the keys hanging from the ignition. Boy, do I feel like a dummy. I'm gonna have to put AAA on speed dial. Well, all's well that ends well. The AAA locksmith was out there in less than 30 minutes and I was able to drive back to Seattle without any further incident.
I have 49 miles under my belt for hike-a-thon. Only one mile to go. And pledges are up to $1105. Thanks so much to everyone who pledged this year! Don't forget, I need your money (checks made out to WTA) by September 3rd. If you want to paypal me, just drop me an email and I can give you the info for that.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hike-a-thon 2007 stats so far!

Here are the latest stats from my Hike-a-thon 2007. The month is more than half over and I have already hiked 43 miles on 31 different trails. I have pledges for $855 dollars from 25 different people! And I have collected over $500 so far. I have lost 5 pounds! Only 7 more miles and $145 dollars more to go, another 15 pounds wouldn't hurt either. Thanks so much for everyone's support. I still have lots of books left for pledges:

All my John Sandford books are from the Prey series:http://www.johnsandford.org/index-books.htmlThe titles that I have available are: Night Prey, Mind Prey, Secret Prey, Certain Prey, Easy Prey, Chosen Prey, Naked Prey, Hidden Prey, and Broken Prey.

All of my Nevada Barr books are from her Anna Pigeon series:http://www.nevadabarr.com/The titles I have available are: Ill Wind, Superior Death, Firestorm, Blind Descent, Blood Lure, Flashback, and High Country.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Kudzu and Beer and Cornfields Oh My!

I traveled from Seattle to Philadelphia to attend a letterboxing gathering on Saturday the 11th. (and to go to work flying to Brussels) It started out not so good when I did not get a seat on the redeye flight from Seattle to Philly. As a flight attendant, I travel stand-by and if there is not a seat available, then I can't go. But the airlines have cut back on service and they do not fully staff the airplanes anymore, so there is always a flight attendant jumpseat that is available for qualified crewmembers to sit on. The downside of the jumpseat is that you are no longer a passenger, you are now an auxiliary member of the crew, so you can't drink and you can't sleep. But when no other seat is available, it is still a way to get where you are going and so that is where I was seated Friday night on my way to Pennsylvania.

When I arrived in PA, I immediately jumped into the rental car and made my way down to Ridley Creek State Park.
The gathering was not going to start until about 10am and I was early, so I started my day hiking the Multi-Use trail that circles the park for 5 miles. It is a broad paved path and actually utilizes roadways that were there when this area was a village in the 18th century. Some portions run along the creek and there were some flyfishermen out this morning. When I completed the Multi-Use Trail, I still had some time to kill and I found a couple of letterboxes along the Yellow Trail. It was now 10 am so I made my way to the picnic area for the Letterboxing Gathering.

I got to see a lot of letterboxers who I had not met before and I also got to see some old friends who I had met at previous Gatherings in Pennsylvania. My sister and I had been to Ridley Creek State Park a couple of years ago to find letterboxes, but there were a lot of new ones planted recently for this gathering, so I hiked the Blue Trail and the White Trail looking for more boxes, some of the trails were almost overgrown with Kudzu! In many areas, I thought the vines were reaching out to grab me. It reminded me of that Scott Smith book, The Ruins, creepy. I returned to the picnic area for lunch.

I should note that I had not had any sleep for at least 24 hours and I was pretty much running out of steam. As long as I kept moving, walking and hiking I was okay, but once I stopped to sit down I would feel like I was going to drop. I left the park early, with letterboxes still to be found! Maybe another day. Back at the airport I was able to get in a little nap before my Brussels flight. All in all, I hiked 8 miles at Ridley Creek State Park and found 10 letterboxes.

The flight to Brussels was a long 7 hours from Philadelphia and I was operating on only a few hours of rest. I had huge plans to get to a park in the southern part of the city and hike some more miles for hike-a-thon, but I was just too tired to attempt it! I slept most of my layover away. I did get out of the room to explore the Central part of the city. I had never been to Brussels before! It was a Sunday and the Grand Plaza was crowded with tourists. I really wanted to find the manneken pis. This is the symbol of Brussels.

It was only a few paces off the main square and was surrounded by tourists trying to take pictures! There were a lot of street performers all along the cobblestone streets leading up to the Grand Plaza. I was especially fascinated by a man creating silhouettes. I even had him make one of me! I had to stop for a beer at one of the cafes along the way. You are supposed to eat Mussels and Fries with your beer. I love mussels, but I didn't have enough money for the full meal deal, so a beer would have to do it. The Belgian beer is amazing. I had no idea it was so extensive and diverse! Here in the states, I always think of Fat Tire Beer and that's it. I bought a couple of bottles of different beers to bring home and try later. I will be reviewing them for the Atlas Quest website later this week.

I walked around a lot, but none of it counted for hike-a-thon.
Monday, we worked back to the USA and I flew down to Charlotte to stay at my mom's house. I got in just in time to take a walk on the Davidson Greenway for 2 miles for hike-a-thon. This is a brand new hiking and biking trail, but it already gets a lot of use from the folks who live around here. It runs along cornfields for the first 1/2 mile. This corn is not for eating, it is drying on the stalks, and I think they use it for feed. Then the trail meanders through some woods in a really nice housing development. The sun was setting as I finished my hike and returned to the house. Next stop is Las Vegas, but if you think I'm going hiking in 105 degree heat, you obviously don't know me very well!