May 26 – June 13
We finished our last shift at Cottage Hospital on the 25th, and had only a moment to let that sink in. We’d pack up our duffels that night, drop off Charley at the dog-sitter in Ventura, and catch an early morning flight back home to visit family and friends.
First up: New York.
Late May is simply stunning in Upstate. Coming from southern California, where the green has come and gone already, made us appreciate the vibrance even more. Everything was busting- sugar maples and oaks of all varieties were hitting stride, grasses were tall and lush, wildflowers popped along the backcountry roadsides.
We took advantage of the weather and foliage, getting out to golf with Mom and Dad and going for some trademark Upstate NY woodland hikes.
In addition to getting outside, we had some things planned. Saturday evening we made the trek through farm-dotted hillsides to Cooperstown and Brewery Ommegang, and chanced the dicey weather forecast. The Avett Brothers were playing a long-awaited show, as it had been cancelled the past two years. As you can tell from the photos, we lucked out. When it calls for rain, go prepared, but still go.
We had a little Whalen family get-together the following day at my cousin Katie and Brian’s cottage on Stanley Lake, just south of the PA border. It was great to see family and catch up on the latest goings-on. We puttered around the lake on the pontoon boat and enjoyed some quintessential MDW foods.
We toured Western and Central NY on Tuesday, visiting friends and family in various municipalities along the way.
Grammy was awaiting our arrival Tuesday morning in Buffalo. We hadn’t seen her since before Covid, around Oct 2019. We caught up, trading stories of our travels and Grammy sharing some anecdotes of Jamie’s dad from years ago.
We had lunch with some of the Buffalo Neureuters- Jamie’s Aunt Jeanne and two of her boys Gunar and Tucker and his partner Katie. We were only there for a few hours but we’re so glad we could make it work. Grammy gave us a book, “Spectacular Alaska”, before we left, packed with epic photos of our next destination.
Next up was Rochester, on our way back eastward on I-90. Our friends (and our wedding minister) Dave and Cait had just welcomed their first child a month prior to our arrival. Eleanor was a little ball of love, and unlike every other baby I’ve held, she did not cry. Bonus points.
We had an early dinner with them and set our bearings east again, for Lafayette, outside Syracuse.
Our friends Erinn and Sean had recently moved to Syracuse, and had (even more recently) gotten married. We reached out to them to see if they’d want to join us for a concert at an apple orchard. The Head and the Heart, one of our favorite bands, was making an east coast swing, and Jamie happened to notice they were playing that evening.
We met up at Beak & Skiff Orchard and enjoyed great company, tunes, and good cider and beer. The show rocked. I’d need a couple days to regain my voice.
If it feels like this blog post is all over the place, it’s because it is. As is tradition, we packed a whole lot into a little bit of time.
We made the drive to Massachusetts on Wednesday after lunch with my parents and a stop-off to see Aunt Sharon one more time before leaving. We loved the time spent in NY- it’s always filled with love, laughs, and new memories.
I said we were going to Massachusetts next, but in reality our plans changed, and we were headed to Rhode Island to stay with Abbey and Ethan for a couple days. All good- we got to spend even more time with our baby nephew Elliott and his doting parents.
That boy has grown since we last saw him! 10 months old, “Eli” motors around the living room, practicing standing and rehearsing syllables.
The Neureuter kids and their partners took Thursday off from work, and we all (minus Jocelyn) got together for lunch and and afternoon at a vineyard sampling some local wines. I had no idea Rhode Island had vineyards, but I also don’t really know what constitutes a good wine other than “this tastes good.” So, the wines were excellent.
I went for a long run along the spectacular East Bay bike path Friday morning, down to Colt State Park along the water. I really love the area Abbey and Ethan have settled down. It’s clean, quaint, and full of outdoor opportunities, despite being without mountains or wilderness.
That evening we made our way up to Mansfield for our third concert in less than a week. TWO of our favorite bands were playing at the Xfinity Center that night. Caamp, a big act in their own rite, were opening for the Lumineers. The house was packed for the show, and they lit up the night with their energy and singalongs.
One of the reasons we came back east when we did, was for Billy and Laura’s wedding. Good friends of Jamie’s from her days at UMass, I’ve been fortunate to befriend them as well. They even came out to visit us in Seattle back in 2019.
The Pierce House is an historic mansion in Lincoln, MA, and a wonderful setting for a wonderful evening. We embraced the opportunity to gather with our friends and celebrate the Sterritts.
The night flew by, as those things always seem to. After the festivities were wrapped up the following morning, Jamie and I made our way back to Mansfield.
We settled in for some relaxing days by the pool at Jed and Moe’s at Baybrook Farms. The time snuck away from us, and we weren’t as good about snapping photos. Elliott came over for an afternoon splash and swim. We got together with friends up in Somerville at Matt and Becca’s on Monday night, meeting Tommy and Ali’s (UMass people, of course), baby girl, Georgia.
When it was time to head back West, there was the usual sadness to leave home, accompanied by excitement for our upcoming ventures.
We woke up at 330am Wednesday morning, caught the 6:10 flight to SF and subsequent puddle jump to SB- back before noon.
Scooping up Charley from Ventura, we relaxed for the afternoon.
That’s all the rest we’d get, as the following morning, we piled into Archie with our go-bags and scooted down to San Diego for my college roommate and teammate Jake and Ashlyn’s wedding. The drive reminded Jamie and I how much we loathe LA and its traffic.
Thursday evening I went for a run, and Jamie and I got dinner, just the two of us. Charley LOVES San Diego, from her two prior times this way. So she got out quite a bit and waded in the Bay by the ocean.
Jake and Ashlyn’s wedding was an awesome time, with lots of dancing and drinking. It was great to see my other teammates Joe (and wife Olivia) and Jay and laugh about all the things we used to get into back in the day.
We made it back to SB the next afternoon, after battling SoCal traffic again, and took the rest of the day to recoup.
Sunday and Monday were packing days, with all of the stresses that accompany that. We broke the days up with exercise and hanging out with our friends Loran and Rebecca and Maggie and Brandon. It kept us sane to not be in our apartment packing through the entire day.
Check out our friends, Rebecca and Loran’s travel blog!
Charley helped us pack, the best way she knows: sitting on all our clothes.
The time has come to hit the road.
Out of curiosity, I punched in San Diego –> Homer, Alaska. Over 3,000 miles. We’ll be essentially driving from Mexico to Alaska, and I’m budgeting about 6,000 miles for the entirety of the trip (we’ll be ferrying back from southern Alaska to Washington).
We’ll do our best to update the blog through the trip, knowing that much of the journey will have us off the grid and out of cell service.
Until then, be good and stay curious!