Having the wurst time ever.

Dateline: Central Europe. On the road, literally, and going on a solid week of intractable jet lag. And though I am apparently constitutionally unsuited to travel, I couldn’t be happier! We’re seeing lots of new sights but the schedule and the Internet are not cooperating today (and next week may not look good either.) So the best of Vienna will have to wait but here’s proof positive of the wurst (from the famous Café Sacher):

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Oldsters In Seattle: The Artful Codgers

Hey, if we were young we would be out in kayaks or hiking Mt. Rainier. But we’re old and, um, truth be told, a little decrepit. But – we’re not dead. (yet). So we wanted to have some fun in Seattle and we found it times three

Nestled just next to the Space Needle is Chihuly Gardens and Glass. I wasn’t expecting to be wowed since just last summer we saw a great Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. But this was something special. I would fly to Seattle again just to walk through this visual feast. I think my favorite was the “Persian Ceiling” But the Glass House was also spectacular.

The Nordic Museum was a very “chill” surprise. It’s located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, which attracted Nordic immigrants in the late 1800’s, when a whopping one third of the population of these countries emigrated. The museum’s design is a celebration of clean lines and the exhibits range from folky to whimsical to avant garde. Definitely worth an hour of your time. And I seriously now want a pair of reindeer slippers.

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A bonus add-on is that you are just a few blocks away from the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and fish ladder and the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Gardens. So fun to watch the boats large and small navigate through the locks, then wander over to see the salmon manage their own navigation through the fish ladder, which Chittenden thoughtfully designed concurrently with the locks between 1911-1916.  Thanks a lox!

Later that day we slipped into the Seattle Art Museum just before closing time. It’s a manageable size with an interesting focus on Native American art, a few classical jewels (notably Childe Hassam, Albert Bierstadt) and a penchant for a little shock value here and there. All in all, a very satisfying almost hour before we were shooed out the door.

I gotta say, though, I’ve had some mouse-induced nightmares since that day. Entitled Mann and Maus by Katharina Fitsch, whose quote may explain a lot: “I am concerned with the point where you start to wonder about the existence of things.” A paean to phenomenology, perhaps?

Vermin visions aside, Seattle was great fun, even for oldsters like us. Art, coffee, food, flowers, sunshine and water, water everywhere. So much to love.  I hope we’ll be back sometime soon.

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Sleeveless in Seattle

I dunno. Someone told me it rains there but they must have been mistaken. We spent four spectacular days bathed in sunshine and warm temperatures. No sleeves required. It was my first visit, so we worked hard to put the T in Tourist there – strayed not one inch off the beaten path.

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And wasted no time discovering our new favorite brand of coffee. Move over, Starbucks, Fonté is sooo much better!

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Yes, of course, we went straight to the Pike Place Market. The CE spent so much time over there I thought he might become a professional fish thrower.

Next order of business was the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Blue sky and sunshine all the way.

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Didn’t get far, though. Attractive nuisance hazard almost as soon as we stepped off the ferry.  Just my luck to be married to a rug collector…

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We went totally tourist for dining, too. First evening we walked over to Place Pigalle:

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Next evening, the popular Matt’s in the Market:

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Great meal, and an amazing crème brûlée for dessert. Those cherries! That sauterne!

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My favorite dining experience was The Pink Door, where we sat on the terrace under an impossibly blue early evening sky. The restaurant is purposely a little hard to find. No sign, but if you pay attention you’ll find it:

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Salad, pasta and a lovely pavlova. Perfect meal!

Inside the restaurant is a wonderful succession of dining rooms large and small. I loved the bar art:

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When we weren’t eating, we worked hard to earn our Seattle tourist badge. We dutifully walked over to Nordstrom. And yes, of course we went to the Space Needle. We grumbled  a little about the long line but it was absolutely worth it! Great fun and yes, more blue skies.

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But that’s not all – there’s more! Watch for Seattle, part two next week…

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The Many Charms of Many Glacier.

Kind of hard to get back to the travelogue given the dog-goned sadness of this summer, but grateful to have our Montana memories to buoy us. Better there than here; let’s go back.

We last left off with fond memories of Babb. Next day, we found the road to Many Glacier open and the usual ridiculously spectacular scenery. Oh, to be a cow in Montana!

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Wildflowers galore:

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You don’t even have to get out of the car to enjoy the incredible views.

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And speaking of accessibility, we found another splendid hike that almost anyone could enjoy. Not sure if it is wheelchair friendly, as I do recall a few unwieldy steps up and down to a bridge, but otherwise, the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail was perfection for those of us who live life on the flat.

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The view of Many Glacier Lodge from the trail:

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We saw lots and lots of Indian Paintbrush:

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It was breathtaking from start to finish, but never more so than when we encountered a very large and VERY fresh pile of bear scat on the path. Can’t say we weren’t warned:

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Luckily, Gail was prepared. When we were texting about preparations on the front end of the trip, she casually mentioned that she would bring the bear spray.

BEAR SPRAY? I asked, with multiple horrified emojis trailing behind…

“This isn’t Disneyland,” she responded, sans any cute emojis. She’s lived in Montana a long time.

Gail hesitated for just an instant as she surveyed the scat, wondering aloud if we should turn back. The CE and I, of course, were hoping to see a bear – Disneyland-style, that is. We were less enthusiastic about the recommendation we’d seen advising that one should assume the fetal position during a bear encounter in hopes the bear would not find you worth mauling. “They mostly false-charge”, the literature cheerily suggested. “Mostly”.

Anyway, Gail had her trusty bear spray so we charged ahead.

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The bear had apparently moved on, and so did we, ending up back at Many Glacier Lodge just in time for lunch overlooking the lake in the Ptarmigan Dining Room.

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As we drove back toward our own lodge, we saw several vehicles stopped along a turnout. Something moved in the brush above us across the road and there it was – a bear! Just as we hit the brakes to watch it amble along, another vehicle arrived with lights flashing. A park ranger leaped out brandishing a GUN and began yelling at the bear in a most unfriendly tone. Maybe this was a known bear who had been getting too close to tourists but I gotta say, for those of us who had just arrived at the scene, our sympathies were definitely with the bear. The bear at a safe distance, that is, with no bear spray or fetal position required. As sightings go, I guess ours was the bear minimum – back at our lodge everyone was reporting bear encounters that day. If you go, remember the bear spray!

Visiting Glacier was a long-held hope of mine. I wondered if I would ever make it to that little dot just shy of the Canadian border. It was even better than I’d imagined. So nice to steal away to those memories in these dog-less days of summer…

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Farewell to our party girl.

I always get a catch in my throat when I see an old person with an old dog. Always walking slowly, giving each other time, honoring long years together.

You know what’s sadder than old people with their old dogs? Old people without their dogs.

We lost Soho last week. And as much as we should have known it was coming – almost a year of congestive heart failure, hearing and vision deficits, confusion, weight loss, etc etc. – we were completely unready. She had stopped eating days before. Oh but the vet prescribed an appetite stimulant – maybe that will help. Every walk was a walk too far, so the CE was carrying her up and down the stairs. Oh but maybe next week will be better. Her little body finally gave out as we rushed her to the vet one last time. His eyes filled with tears as he told us it was time to let her go. We carried her home wrapped in a blanket and when we opened it we found that they had covered her with flowers. And oh how we cried.

Fourteen years ago we brought her home. Cute as the proverbial button.

She was adorable. She was feisty and stubborn and yappy and hilarious. She did “zoomies”, racing around in zany circles.

When Chloe joined us a year later, Soho showed her who was boss and that never really changed. Did I mention she was feisty and stubborn?

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chloe soho tug of war by Lori

They were Mutt and Jeff, the unlikeliest of best friends.

Soho also loved her humans, family and friends, especially the ones like Dave and Karen and Lori (who took most of the better photos here) and Pamela and Kirk and Christi and Kim and Tammy and Tom who carried her around like the royalty she knew she was.

She loved Kirstie, who kept her dazzling white and festooned with a new bow every week of her life.

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She especially loved her overnights with Granny.

And oh, how she loved the CE, who chauffeured her to all the best restaurants in town and who valiantly kept her going with four or five medications a day for the past year.

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And then there were the parties.

I’m not sure when or how they began. The first one might have been back in 2005 with a handful of friends goofily celebrating Soho’s birthday.

Soho party 2007 Chadd and Kirk

Somehow the idea caught on and it became an every-other-year event. The guest list grew. And Tammy, caterer extraordinaire and confidante of Soho, made sure each party was more memorable than the last.

I had already started thinking about the next party. It would have been a quinceanera for Soho’s fifteenth. But her little heart gave out and now she lies under the oaks, right next to her beloved sister, Chloe.

It has been the saddest season. Cody, Chloe and now our little pop tart party girl, Soho. The end of an era. Someday perhaps there will be another dog. But for now, at least, the party’s over. We are just old people, without a dog.

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Detour to Babb.

Honestly, it sounded almost biblical. “And on the second day, we wandered the wilderness until we came to Babb.”

Our plan was to explore Many Glacier, but the road was temporarily closed for repairs. We waited and waited and waited, alternately giving plaintive looks to the road crew and scanning the landscape for wildflowers and bears, but our morning was unspooling and finally, we reluctantly turned back. And that took us back to Babb. Population: 174.

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Gail and I combed through the little vintage shop and Thronson’s General Store in search of souvenirs – Glacier-themed caps and tees are less expensive here than inside the park, so that right there was a reason to be in Babb.

Another reason is Two Sisters Café where there was a line outside the door twenty minutes before opening time. Where you can order “Trout and Waffles” (we didn’t) or a Huckleberry Shake (we did). Where one of the owners stopped by our booth to chat and told us about the time a bear wandered in the back door. She said she threw an avocado at the bear, which the bear picked up and took along with him as he ambled away.

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It’s not fancy but it’s fun, and judging from the way the place filled up, it might be the best (or only) bet near Babb. And if you’re looking for huckleberries, you’ve come to the right place.

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After lunch, we turned back toward St. Mary and headed for the boat launch. We had a reservation with Glacier Park Boat Company for a tour of St. Mary Lake. If you’re staying in East Glacier, this is a must-do!

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We got a coveted up-close view of Wild Goose Island,

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If it looks familiar, it’s because you may remember it from Stanley Kubrick’s opening scene in “The Shining”:

Our experience was far more placid than Jack Nicholson’s. Our guide gave us a historical and geological primer and explained the concept of “glacial flour”  that gives the lake its aquamarine hue.

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We moored up the lake a ways and took a brief hike in to see a lovely waterfall.

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Then it was time to head back to our little boat.

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The CE struck up a conversation with the boat concession operator about the maintenance of the boats, some of which date back to the 1920’s! (Glad we didn’t know that before we boarded…) He explained that they work on the boats all winter “back in town”. Town, I wondered? “You mean in Babb?” I asked, trying to imagine spending the winter in Babb. He shook his head. “Kalispell”, he explained. “Oh no, he said, definitively, “Not Babb.” And then, because he couldn’t resist “as we say here, from Babb to worse.” Maybe he doesn’t know about Two Sisters Café and all those huckleberry desserts.

I don’t know if we’ll ever make it back to Babb and I do kind of regret not having a taste of “trout and waffles” – served, by the way, with bacon and – wait for it – house-made huckleberry syrup. But our consolation prize was this bison stroganoff back at The Snowgoose Grille. No Babb to worse for us!

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Getting to Glacier.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve been to Yellowstone. I’ve been to Yosemite. But, like all the northwest, Glacier National Park had eluded me. From time to time I would trace it on a map but always it seemed too far off our beaten path.  So when we began planning the family visits to Sun Valley and Missoula  it came into clear focus – we would be in striking distance!

We headed north from Missoula, driving through the Flathead Indian Reservation and skirting the west edge of magnificent Flathead Lake. Passed through Kalispell, then stopped for lunch at the Buffalo Café in Whitefish, but couldn’t persuade my fellow travelers to dally in the cute shops there. Maybe next time…

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I started planning our visit back in November, but it wasn’t soon enough. No lodging available in West Glacier, which seemed the most popular place to stay. So we would arrive on the park’s west side but would then drive across its expanse along the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road to reach our lodgings in St. Mary on Glacier’s eastern edge.

It was a thrill to see this sign! We were there!

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I’d been told that Glacier is surprisingly accessible – much of it can even be seen out of a car window for us unfortunates who can’t do the vertical hikes. It was even better than I’d hoped – many, many places to pull off the road and gape at the views.

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Lovely Lake McDonald:

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I could have stood here all day:

We’d been told that the park would be crowded and that traffic could be bumper-to-bumper. Luckily, this turned out not to be the case, but there was a little gridlock around one of the park’s most popular hikes, Trail of the Cedars. It’s just a one-mile loop and it’s even wheelchair accessible, so anyone and everyone can enjoy it.

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We were grateful to have that leafy interlude, because soon we were creeping along Going-to-the-Sun Road with sheer rock face on one side and sheer drop off on the other. And yes, it was crowded. Going-to-the-Slow Road might have been a better name, but I’m not sure anyone would drive over twenty miles an hour on those steep curves anyway. A once-in-a-lifetime experience, and for us, probably only once. Amazing. And a little terrifying…

Going-to-the-Sun Road

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We even saw a mountain goat, but too far away to get a good photo. Luckily, we found a willing stand-in:

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We were dusty, dizzy, tired and hungry by the time we arrived at the cheerful St. Mary Lodge late that afternoon and so relieved to find that our accommodations there were top notch.

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Loved the hanging flower baskets :

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Loved our cozy room:

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Loved the view of the stream from our balcony:

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And loved our dinners at the Lodge’s Snowgoose Grill:

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With the heavenly but harrowing Going-to-the-Sun Road in the rear view mirror, we quickly decided that “roughing it” wasn’t all that tough. We slept very, very well that night, looking forward to discovering Glacier on the morrow. So excited to have finally made it here!

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