Road Trip Across the US

I just did something I never thought I’d do and never wanted to do. I drove to Oregon and back. To some of you this might sound like a fun trip, but it was never on my bucket list.

My brother called us after New Year’s to say that after the tumor was evaluated from his brain surgery in December his doctor recommended radiation and chemotherapy. My sister-in-law and nephew were scheduled to have a vacation in March. My brother didn’t want them to miss their trip, but he was concerned that navigating the last weeks of radiation therapy might be challenging by himself. He asked if we would come to Oregon. Yes, of course we would, but there is a pandemic and his immune system is compromised. Flying didn’t seem like a good idea so, Andreas and I decided that the safest way across the country Covid wise was to drive.

Andreas thought a drive across the country would be really fun and dove right into planning. He had maps and books open the day we said yes. He chose the route, booked the hotels and planned the food we would take in our cooler. We ate what we brought with us only getting take-out twice.

We bought a new hybrid car before the pandemic and put so few miles on it that we were still getting used to driving it during our trip. It was really nice to have a vehicle we didn’t have to worry about that also got decent gas mileage. Andreas and I have very different driving styles and the first few days were challenging. I scared him, he terrified me, but we didn’t die or wreck the car. The new car also had some new to us safety features which were super helpful.

We chose rt. 80 because it seemed the most snow free in the middle of March. It wasn’t quite; we drove through a few snow storms, but none too serious. Just enough snow and rain to add to driving stress. I admit, the scenery was beautiful in the snow. On the first night we met my cousins in Mishawaka Indiana. A few of them I had only seen on Facebook. Even though we were all masked and keeping our distance we had a nice visit. I hope to have another opportunity to visit them after the pandemic.

Our cousins were so nice to meet us in our hotel lobby in Mishawaka Indiana.
We were so tired after the first night of driving. Ha ha, we had no idea how tired we would be.

On the second day we drove through Des Moines, Iowa. A stained glass artist I admire from Philadelphia had a showing at the Des Moines Art Center. It was a wonderful show and the Art Center turned out to be much more than we expected. Since we were able to visit in the middle of a weekday, we didn’t have to worry about bumping into other people.

Here are some photos from the east to west part of the drive. Click on the photos to see them full size.

My brother was in good spirits when we arrived in Oregon and we were able to spend some time with my sister-in law and nephew before they left on their trip. We worked or went to school on separate computers throughout the house during the weekdays. On the weekend Andreas and nephew hiked and geocached in the Oregon forests. My brother, Andreas, and nephew played cards at night and my sister-in-law and I knitted, fed the pet rats Cheerios and grapes and caught up on things. We also watched movies as brother has a TV. The photo below shows my brother’s latest paint by number masterpiece in front of his little gallery.

My brother and I drove to Seal Rock beach on the Pacific coast during a rainy, windy Wednesday for a change of scenery and some fresh air. The weather was so cold we didn’t stay long.

His west coast town has lower Covid numbers than ours on the east coast and everyone but the college students seem to be pretty careful. We felt that we could venture out and shop a little bit. I met a former art student who I haven’t seen in fifteen years for dinner. She recently moved to Oregon from Alaska. We were able to eat safely outside and had a nice evening catching up. I also visited my parents a few times masked up sitting in their garage or driveway. That was strange, but it was nice to see them after a few years.

The week my nephew and sister-in-law traveled to visit nephew’s older brother at college, Andreas was a guest in our German friend Stefanie’s eighth grade English classroom in Bonn via a Zoom like program. Andreas was featured as a German immigrant to America and the students could ask him any question they liked. Even though the class was voluntary and met in the evening German time, most of the class showed up and they spoke for over an hour. I know Andreas had fun and I think the kids did too.

The photos below show nephews in California during spring break, Andreas speaking with the German students over the computer, the hospital where my brother had his daily radiation treatments, the radiation mask gallery and my brother waiting for train bringing my sister-in-law and nephew home.

Our weeks together went quickly and soon it was time to pack up the car and drive home. We changed route on the first day to avoid snow in the Cascade Mountains and ended up driving through some snow anyway. We weren’t quite as worried about Covid since we didn’t need to protect my brother any longer. We did notice on the way home, however, that fewer people were wearing masks.

Andreas booked a hotel that was established in 1911 in Cheyenne, Wyoming on our second night. A sign near the mirrored elevator stated that in the old days, cowboys would try to sneak their horses into their rooms by using the elevators to save money. We believed it. What we didn’t know until I wrote this and looked up the hotel is that it’s haunted. Which floor is haunted? the one we stayed on, of course. The room was tiny and the heater too loud to use. Andreas made the night better by picking up take-out so we had a warm meal. Cheyenne is an interesting town with not many masks in sight. The hotel, charming in some respects with stained glass and some interesting artwork was too serious about cowboys and Indians memorabilia.

We noticed that a storm front was coming in near the east coast and changed routes for the more southern rt. 70. The change of course gave us new views and we were able to avoid Chicago and travel through some different cities like Indianapolis and Columbus.

Even though we enjoyed watching spring progress through the car windows, after five days driving, home was a welcome sight. We were so happy to be back we couldn’t stop smiling through the first evening.

Now I can say I have driven across the US and back. I don’t need to do it again. It looks pretty from an airplane too.

Snow and Show and Tell

Snowy night in Nottingham Forest. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Snowy night in Nottingham Forest. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

My calendar this month contains Zoom meetings, art show set up, and a car mechanic. Our life this February differs dramatically from that of last year. Our car will have its first oil change in a year. We do not drive anywhere.

Clown car in an ice storm. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Just chillin’ letting the icicles grow. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I appreciate the gift of time and the blank days on the calendar. I am able to be home, to work from home, and to not feel guilty about it. I take the time to walk around in the snow and take a dozen photos to capture the one good shot. I am grateful to pass time by gazing out of the window to watch the snow fall, the birds nest, and plants grow while I wait for paint to dry in my art studio.

My view from the sofa. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Above: snow photos from our garden and local park.

A month ago, I was asked to show my portraits in a local café. I had to rush to have the paintings framed, and was given an hour to hang 22 works. Andreas was a big help. It feels good to exhibit in an accessible space where people will spend a little bit of time with my paintings. I would love to meet friends there, hang out, enjoy lunch, coffee, and conversations, but that is not yet possible.

Stained glass was the art medium of the month in the studio: In my first project, I recreated a stained glass tree that reflects human’s disconnect to the earth. It’s titled Plant Trees Not Houses. The first version was created in 1998 and it hangs in our living room. The 2021 version was shipped to our sister-in-law in Oregon.  In my second project, I built three-dimensional sculptures of stained glass cacti that sit in containers filled with marble chips. The containers I made out of four tape cassettes super glued together on a base of either music CDs or stained glass. The cacti are being marketed to old school, music loving, houseplant killers. I feel these people exist and need art ha ha. These pieces will be included in a Trashy Women show in April. And lastly, Special Olympics ordered an unexpected additional four Polar Bears. Glass kept me busy.

Work in progress. The grey glass is mirror. Stained glass and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Plant Trees Not Houses, original on the left created in 1998, new and improved 2021 on right. Stained glass and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Plant Trees Not Houses, original on the left created in 1998, new and improved 2021 on right. Stained glass and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Next month will be different: I am watching daily weather patterns across the north American continent in the New York Times and Andreas is creating a new website which is sort of a hint of plans. Stay tuned blog fans……

Proof that spring is coming. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Proof that spring is coming. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Thanks to Andreas for editing the first version. It was as flat as my mood. As much as I LOVE snow, I’m ready for winter to be over. 🙂