Thursday, July 18, 2019

Santa Barbara -> Walla Walla

With our flight at 2:30pm and Emily working in the lab this morning, we only met briefly at her apartment to say goodbye to the bunnies:

We then had lunch with her at the UCSB student center and then headed to the airport. We turned in the rental car, checked our bags, and passed through airport security for what hopefully is the last time for a while. The leg from Santa Barbara to Seattle was a bit late so we had a rushed connection for our flight to Walla Walla.

We made it to Walla Walla on time:

Mick and Lynette picked us up and took us home. We chatted for a while and they left us their car and walked home. Turns out you can't rent a car in Walla Walla at 6:30pm anywhere, small town. We have their car until we can pick up a rental tomorrow morning.

Walla Walla is mostly the same with some small changes that keep catching our attention.

Halley and Aidan left the house in immaculate condition and we are so grateful for their care and attention this whole year. Even my favorite houseplant is thriving:

We went to the grocery store for just a few items for breakfast and lunch tomorrow. We then unpacked our suitcases and are now watching the coverage of Stage 12 of the Tour de France before hitting the sack.

This is the final entry of the WallaVilla blog. It's been quite a year plus and this blog will stand as an imperfect record of our time away from Walla Walla and living in Sevilla, Spain from June 11, 2018 to July 18, 2019.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Old King's Road

Emily, Laura and I hiked up to Inspiration Point this morning. This hike is an out and back totaling about 7 miles. It gains about 1500' on the out part ending at the point. It was a moderately difficult hike and we definitely worked hard. It took us about 2 hrs to get to the top and about 1 hour and 20 mins to come back. There was a bit of a marine layer, so the views were not spectacular, but beautiful enough. The greenery was lovely and the stream was still running:

After the hike we went to Dave' Dogs for lunch. They make "gourmet" hot dogs both regular and vegetarian. I can vouch that the sauerkraut dog was excellent.

Emily worked this afternoon while Laura and I ran some errands getting things for Emily's new apartment. I fixed her bike seat and hung a paper towel holder while Laura fixed some of the rabbit-proof flooring around the front door. We also found a small table and chairs at a thrift store and put that in her kitchen.

Emily, in addition to doing work, organized a trivia team for a competition at the Old King's Road, a bar in downtown Santa Barbara. We got to meet some of Emily's friends from the lab. This trivia contest is weekly and there are some regular teams that are impossible to beat. We did fairly well though for newcomers.  After trivia, we took them all out for a late dinner at the Fox Tail, a bar with Mediterranean food. The food was really good. I had a falafel wrap.

A busy day, but a fun day.

(still no pictures of Emily, tomorrow)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Jet Lag

Seems like the 3hr time change to the west coast is hitting us harder than the 6hr time change from Spain to the east coast of the US. We both had a hard time getting going and keeping going today. We made a quick run to Costco to get some fruit. Our Spanish Costco card was accepted here with no issues. Emily worked in the lab this morning and then met us at her place for lunch. We ate the leftover burritos from the night before and played with the bunnies.

Laura shared some strawberries with the bunnies:

They seemed to enjoy them.

After lunch break, Emily went back to work and Laura and I took a nap at the hotel. Through an immense effort of will, we got ourselves up and went for a walk along Goleta Beach Park--just down from UCSB. The ocean was beautiful:

We continued our walk onto campus and wound our way back to Emily's office. She joined us there and we headed to Masala Spice Indian Cuisine for dinner. The food was fabulous. Highly recommend. The fig walnut kofta was amazing.

(still no pictures of Emily, tomorrow)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Miami -> Santa Barbara

After carefully repacking our suitcases, we met Rachel on campus and took her friend Anthony's dog Olive for a walk. We walked all around campus and met the folks Rachel works with in the student center.

After a quick lunch, we headed off to the airport for our flight to Santa Barbara. Other than a bit of a delay at our layover in Phoenix, things went smoothly. After getting our rental car and hotel, we met Emily a local Mexican restaurant for dinner. Then we headed back to her apartment to meet her bunnies, Benji and Apricot:

(Notice no pictures of Emily.) We're back in our home timezone now (and tired). Going to bed now.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Bill Baggs

We spent a little time with Rachel this morning at Penny's house watching the Wimbledon Men's Singles Final. Eventually, Djokovic defeated Federer in a 5th set tie breaker. We didn't hang around to see that though as we decided to go to Bill Baggs State Park on Key Biscayne to swim and snorkel off of the beach there. I had a chance to test the under water capabilities of my GoPro. Here's Rachel throwing an underwater "U":

Laura and Rachel in the shallows putting on their flippers:

A nearby lighthouse:

Some of the fish around the rocks near the lighthouse:

The lighthouse from the ocean:

The beach from the top of the lighthouse:

After the beach, we had pizza for dinner and then hung out at the hotel pool for a while. Rachel did a little preparation for the math tutoring she does with a middle school student on Mondays.

We drove Rachel home and met Shubham and Max for dessert at Whip 'n' Dip. Oddly, instead of saying goodbye to them when we were done, we said, "See you next weekend." They'll be visiting Walla Walla next weekend.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


We spent a nice day with Rachel today. We met her at the house where she is dog/house sitting this morning and met her charge, Penny. Penny is a low-key, mid-sized dog that is pretty friendly:

This is her watching the Wimbledon men's doubles final with us after we took her for a walk. These folks also have a few turtles:

They don't have nearly the same personality as Penny. We also visited Olive, another dog that Rachel takes care of on occasion. She's a puppy with a lot of energy. I think she met her match with Laura though:

After lunch, we went to the Miami Zoo:

The animals were pretty active today. As zoos go, this one is pretty good. The enclosures were large and beautiful. The animals seemed relatively content. There weren't too many people for a Saturday afternoon.

On the way home, we went to ChilliN for some nitrogen-cooled ice-cream.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Villages -> Indiantown -> Miami

We bade farewell to Tom and Sharron and headed to Indiantown, FL to visit Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Lew:

 They live in a secluded home that they built themselves some 20 years ago and now share with a very strange cat. We had lunch with them at the local golf course and had some good conversation before saying goodbye and continuing south to see Rachel in Miami.

It turned out to be "convenient" to meet Rachel at the "wet lab", a bar that is situated in one of the academic buildings of the University of Miami that is located on Virginia Key. We met Rachel, Shubham and Max and a few other friends on the patio and had a couple of beers and eventually dinner:

I have to say, an on-campus bar is a great idea. Whitman needs to consider this option carefully.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Salted caramel martinis

This morning Laura and I sorted through all of the camping gear and other miscellany we'd left here last summer on our cross-country drive to Miami. We tossed a few things and packed the rest into an old Amazon box and shipped it back to Walla Walla via UPS. It wasn't cheap. The 53lb box cost $115 to ship, but replacing all of that gear would've cost more, so....

We all went out to lunch at one of the many restaurants here in The Villages. It was pretty crowded, but we found a table outside:

Eating outside in Spain was tough because folks were only allowed to smoke outside. Here in the US, you can't smoke anywhere, so eating outside is not a smoke-filled hellscape. The food was good.

After lunch, Laura, Sharron and Tom went to a doctor's appt for Tom. I went to the gym. After the gym, we went to dinner at Roger & Donna's house (good friends of Sharron & Tom). Roger is an impressive cook. We had some of the best salmon I've ever consumed. Also, some grilled asparagus:

After dinner, Donna was kind enough to take a picture of the four of us:

while Roger broke out his bartending skills and made some awesome salted caramel martinis:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Village People

Our first full day in The Villages was enjoyable. We went to the pool this morning while the weather was good (and hot). We noticed this little yard sign while walking:

I thought it was pretty clear, and cute too.

While at the pool, I called Lynette and got caught up on the Walla Walla news. She's also willing to pick us up at the airport next Thursday. Turns out, even arriving at the airport at 6pm, all of the rental car agencies will be closed (small town). Lynette will pick us up and take us home and either lend us one of her cars, or we'll pick up a rental in the morning.

Laura got her haircut today. I think it looks really good:

Sharron organized Tom's pills and vitamins for the coming week:

The sheer quantity of pills is really daunting.

I started writing the text of my convocation talk. I'll feel better once I have about 1500 words that I can start hacking away at.

We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I finally feel like I'm meeting my Mexican food quota again after a year of very little in Spain.

After dinner, Laura, Sharron and Tom went down to one of the town squares to see some musicians play. I went to the gym.

This evening Laura and I watched Stage 5 of the Tour de France.


Walla Walla and the Whitman community continue to reel at the murder of Kyle Martz on Monday. Martz worked in student services at Whitman for about 7 years supporting international students. Though I didn't know him, he was universally liked. Apparently the murder, committed by a homeless man, was random, though clearly a lot remains to be disclosed. The perpetrator was captured in Baker City and has admitted to the crime.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Atlanta -> The Villages

We had an early start this morning to coordinate with our hosts, Scott and Shelley, as they got up and got out for work (I guess some people still have to go to work every day). We played with Bean a bit:

chatted a bit with Shelley and even managed to get up early enough to see Scott off.

While there was a bit of traffic in downtown Atlanta as we left, the rest of the trip went smoothly and we made good time (except for me having to go to the bathroom about every hour, just one of those days I guess).

We made it to The Villages at around 3pm and found Sharron and Tom home and Sharron preparing dinner for us. Part of the excellent meal was some wonderful corn on the cob. We didn't have any in Spain and this was a great re-introduction to the food.

After dinner I went to one of the local gyms to get a good cardio workout:

I watched an episode of Stranger Things while on the stationary bike. I'm pretty tired now and looking forward to a good night's rest.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Virginia Beach -> Atlanta

We bade farewell to Kathy (and Ric last night) and drove to Atlanta. The drive down, while long at 9 hours, was relatively easy--not much traffic. We made it to Scott and Shelley's house around 5pm. We had a nice time catching up with them and then went to a local Mexican restaurant for our first real Mexican food in a loooonnngggg time. It was really good. Also, Scott got a pitcher of margaritas, so there's that.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

World Cup

A kind of overcast day here today. After a morning walk, we mostly we stayed inside. We watched the US win the world cup final. We ate leftovers for lunch. I talked to Rachel and them Emily on the phone. I wrote one letter of recommendation that had been sitting in my inbox for a while (Whitman slowly creeps back).

This evening we went to the Mojito Cafe for dinner. Good food, small place, seemed like mostly locals.

Kathy and Laura hit the margarita's on the deck to finish off the evening:

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Beach Day

We had a nice day as tourists in Virginia Beach today. Kathy bought some scrapple in case I wanted some for breakfast:

The trick to cooking scrapple is patience. You have to let it fry hard for about 8 or 9 mins on medium heat to get that nice thick crust.

Laura and I went to the beach for a few hours this afternoon. The sun was hot and the water was cold.

Ric and Kathy cooked an amazing dinner, cous-cous, asparagus and marinated flank steak on the grill. For dessert, soft serve at Kohr's (again):

Friday, July 5, 2019

La Plata -> Virginia Beach

We both slept until 8:30 this morning. I'm feeling like I'm getting close to being fully adjusted to the new timezone. In no rush to get on the road, I hit the hotel gym for an hour, not sure when I'd have another opportunity to workout. We checked out of the hotel just shy of the 11am deadline. Unfortunately, while I was packing the rental car, I locked the key in the trunk. After a bit of annoyance at myself, I called a locksmith and we waited about 45 mins for him to show up. While I was disgusted at my error, I was also curious about how this person would get into the car. Turns out it was remarkably low tech:

The black canvas bladder in his hand slips in between the door and the frame of the car. Then, with a bulb akin to a blood pressure pump, the bladder is inflated and an opening is created by pushing the top of the door away from the frame. In the gap, he inserted a long metal pole and simply pressed the unlock button on the driver's side door. Once inside, he popped the trunk and there was the car key. Grrr.

We drove from La Plata to Virginia Beach. The traffic was pretty manageable, especially in light of the fact that it was the 4th of July weekend. The only real issue was the torrential downpour we hit just a few miles from Kathy's house. It slowed everything down and made for tense driving. We kept heading towards Kathy and eventually drove out of the storm. We parked the car and walked down to the beach. A lot of the beach is closed off for a beach restoration project where sand is pulled off of the bottom of the ocean by a ship, seen below, and pumped onto the beach where heavy equipment spreads it around:

We met Laura's dad and brother at Bubba's Seafood restaurant up the road a bit. It was good to see them again. It's been a while. When we got back to Kathy's house, we walked up to the boardwalk and I had a soft ice cream cone for dessert from Kohr's. On the way back, I noticed this abandoned t-shirt on a shrub. Coincidentally it bore the name of the tiny town in Maryland where we spent the night last night:

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Philadelphia -> La Plata

We left Jim's around 9am and headed to La Plata, MD to visit with our niece, Megan, and nephew, Kris. They're rising high school senior and we had a chance to talk a bit about the college application process. They have a lot of ideas and we hope to help them organize and strategize over the next couple of months.

Meredith got us tickets to a minor league baseball game featuring the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs against the York Revolutionaries. The game was delayed due to heavy rain. We headed over and ate at the concessions while the rain tapered off. We found our seats:

We watched the grounds crew clear the tarp and clean up the infield. Opening festivities occurred. Anthems were sung, players introduced and even a pitch was thrown. Then, it started pouring again. The tarp came out and players started doing the slip 'n' slide while we waited. Eventually, the game was postponed, so we headed home. Kris got some good hazardous driving practice on the way home through the rainy night. He did a good job.

We chatted briefly about how to move forward with the college application process and bade our farewells. It was great to spend some time with them, even though it wasn't much.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Osceola -> Philadelphia

It was raining this morning as we prepared to leave the hill. I perched my phone precariously on a table in the living to get this photo:

The drive down to Philadelphia was surprisingly smooth, especially since the news media were predicting traffic Armageddon because of 4th of July traffic. Since it was on the way, Laura and I stopped by Penn State Abington campus (formerly Ogontz). I spent the Fall '87 semester there and met Laura there in a differential equations class. We both transferred to Penn State main campus for Spring '88 semester and neither of us had returned to Abington since (31 years now). It's actually a beautiful campus:

They now have a Nittany Lion statue, just like main campus:

As we walked around and inside the buildings we were able to identify the classroom where we met and some of the common areas where we hung out with friends. We also were reminded of the hilly geography of the campus. A lot had changed, but there was a lot that was still recognizable:

We got to Jim's and chatted a while, then went for a walk down to the river (Delaware):

We went out to eat (pizza) and then dessert (Rita's):

Bearing up

We're slowly getting onto the new time zone. I slept from about 10pm to 6am last night, which is my usual non-Spain pattern. In Spain it was more like 11pm-7am (or 8am, haha). It was cloudy today and threatened rain, but non appeared. What did appear was a pair of bears:

This one and another, clearly unhealthy, frailer one came to the property several times. Betty puts out feed corn for them and the deer. I think she just likes to see the animals. I find it interesting to see how the two seem to travel everywhere together. The sickly one is missing 90% of its fur, is significantly thinner and is clearly not long for this world. The healthy one seems to tolerate its presence. Similarly, there are three healthy deer that visit--two males and a female. They have visited the property as a trio each of the days we've been here.


Laura and I took a bit of a hike in the woods. We walked along the ridge behind the property and then down to Red House Hollow about 1 mile above Betty's driveway:

Then we walked the length of the road down to the paved road, Holden Creek Rd. This is a photo of Holden Creek:

This is the Freeland's house near the intersection of Red House Hollow and Holden Creek Rd:

The Freelands live locally and have visited this, their "cabin", on the weekends for many years. It's a lovely home and property.