Heading to the Hills

We are in a busy flurry over here as we prepare to have son #3’s wedding at our house in less than two weeks. You don’t realize how slowly things deteriorate in your home until you look at it through someone else’s eyes. Like when you are going to have over 100 people at your house for a wedding. Gulp. Well, technically, hopefully, God willing, it will be in the yard. Maybe it is just me, but when I live in a house for a while, I seem to quit seeing it objectively and do not notice that the trim around the doors is starting to peel, or the front door mat needs to be replaced. So, we have been busy pressure washing the house, painting door trim, laying new bark dust, resurfacing the front walk, putting a fresh coat of paint on the front door, etc. But amidst the preparations, life still goes on and my dad hit his 96th birthday. Now that is something to take time out to celebrate! So, my wonderful sister and I decided to whisk him away for a night to one of my favorite places on earth.

Just a two-hour drive north from us is a rustic resort, nestled in the pine trees at Priest Lake. Close enough to go for a night, but far enough that you feel like you get away. Hill’s Resort has a long stretch of beach with calming views of the water and Selkirk mountains. Exhale. We rented one of their rustic cabins for the night. The above feature photo was taken outside our cabin door just after the sun came up. (Photo credit to my brother-in-law, Craig.) The smoke hanging over the mountains was from a wildfire up north in Canada. Below is a picture of our cozy cabin and the beach in front of it. The water is still pretty high from the springtime mountain run off.

George William Hill grew up in the 1920’s and 1930’s and spent his summers at a family cabin on Priest Lake. He loved the area and eventually returned with his wife in the 1950’s and began building their dream of a rustic summer resort on the edge of the lake. The resort is now open year-round and is still owned and operated by the Hill family. All of the cabins are equipped with a small kitchen, or you can have a more formal dinner at their award-winning restaurant with stunning lake views. There are several stacks of chopped firewood on the property ready for use inside your cabin’s fireplace or down at the beach in the evening. We have made a lot of memories at this old resort. We have celebrated anniversaries and birthdays and my dear friend and I come up every year for a girl’s trip.

When you decide you need more exercise than watching the waves lap up on shore and the tall pines sway, you can go out on the dock and cast a fishing pole, take a walk along the well-maintained path next to the water, or rent a kayak or canoe for a few hours out on the lake.

No trip up north to the resort is complete without a stop at The Falls Inn, which isn’t really an inn at all. It is a quirky little sandwich & pizza place. This old watering hole is known for a couple of things. First, they serve HUGE sandwiches that are packed with meat. The guys love them. Secondly, the restaurant/bar is built over a waterfall, which is a little unnerving. It has been uncharacteristically warm in our neck of the woods, so we stopped there to have a cold brew outside.

If you are ever in the PNW, I would highly recommend you take the time for a night or two at Hill’s Resort. It is difficult to get in during their busy season, but you can usually get a reservation, at a much cheaper rate, during the off season.

Well, writing this blog post has been a nice reprieve from house maintenance chores, but I had better get back at it. Wish me luck that we get everything done in time. Happy 96th birthday dad!


We just returned from a sunny week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  We had this trip planned for several months so it was just coincidence that it landed the week after we returned from our last trip to help son#1 and DIL move.  Life is full of unexpected turns.  So glad we are retired and can take those turn and see where they lead us. We got home from our Texas to Omaha trip early last Friday afternoon and turned around to leave for Cabo the following day.  Just enough time to do a few loads of wash, connect briefly with family members and water the plants.   It was a quick turnaround. 

We had been to Cabo several years ago for a brief six hour stop on a cruise ship, so this was basically new territory.   Fortunately, we had friends and family that had been there quite a few times and made some great recommendations.  We did not plan a lot of activities for this trip.  We just wanted to relax, enjoy the beaches, sunshine, and some really good street tacos.  We booked a condo through Airbnb at the Marina Cabo Plaza, where everything is within walking distance or taxi (water or ground).   We decided we did not want to rent a car.  Think relaxation, not stress over traffic, parking and trying to figure out directions in a different country.  (Even with a GPS, this is really hard on a marriage.) The Airbnb was small but had everything we needed.  I particularly enjoyed the patio overlooking the harbor.  We spent mornings having coffee and watching the fishing boats roll out.  Like I said, not a big agenda.  Happy sigh. 

Here are a few of my favorite recommendations if you stay right down in the heart of Cabo. 

Taco Mania

I looove a good street taco and Cabo obviously has no shortage of them.  Our first night we were tired and just picked a place close by that overlooked the marina.  I believe that a good restaurant should have great atmosphere and great food.  Surprisingly, this did not disappoint.  With every meal, they make salsa at your table, seasoned to your preferance.  I appreciated the roasted tomatoes and fresh ingredients.  When my “make your own taco” meal came, it was in a bubbling bowl of sauce with steak and green peppers dripping out of a bowl and slabs of fresh mozzarella on top.  Excellent with an ice cold margarita. 

For lunches, we researched the best street tacos.  “Cabo Mike,” the owner of our condo kindly made some recommendations, one of which was a hole in the wall taco joint called Guss Tacos.  Not a lot for atmosphere but the tacos were excellent, and they served a salsa bar and fresh condiment tray with them.  I also had a great fish taco at Tacos Gardenias.   I would have liked to try this little taco stand off the beaten path that several locals were lined up at, but we were reluctant to try it as we were not sure about the water used, so we went with the side of caution.  Boring, but safer. 

We usually had a little breakfast in our room, but one morning we stepped out to a place just below our condo that “Cabo Mike” recommended. The view of the marina was lovely, the food was fresh and delicious, and the presentation was a pleasant surprise.

Things To Do Without a Car

“Cabo Mike” had beach chairs, an umbrella and beach towels for guest use, so one afternoon we loaded up and walked around the corner to Medano Beach.  Medano Beach is a sandy stretch with beach bars and dining.  One of my favorite activities is “wave bobbing.”  That is my name for floating along in the waves.  However, the surf was a little rough for wave bobbing that day and it threw me up on shore a couple times.  I am still trying to remove sand from my swimsuit.  Speaking of swimsuits, I have seen more women’s butt cheeks than I ever care to.  Whoever decided a thong was appropriate to wear in public?   (Do I sound old or what?)   

Medano Beach toward evening.

One day we took the water taxi over to see the famous Arch, a beautiful rock formation.  It was a great deal at just $15.00/person round trip.   It included a pause at Pelican Rock to watch the fish through a glass bottom viewing spot in the center of the boat.  He had to chum for the fish to show up.  A little cheesy, but there were some colorful tropical fish.  You can also snorkel there, but we decided not to this trip.  Then they motor you over to see the beautiful rock Arch.  Next stop was Lovers beach, which you can only get to by water. The surf is a little rough there, so they pull the small motorboat up as close as they can to the shore and throw down the ladder.  You wait for the wave to be slack and quickly climb down the ladder as the assistant yells, “hurry, hurry.”  Then you hope you hit the next wave just right so you can wade onto shore.  We observed several people fall into the water and one lady lost her shoe in the process.  I really doubt you could legally do this in the states.  I am relieved to say that we made it both off and back on the boat without incident. 

There seem to be a few stories on how Lovers Beach got its unique name.  The most plausible is that it is located where the Gulf and Pacific seas meet.  You can walk a short distance on Lovers Beach between rock formations and arrive at Divorce Beach.  Divorce Beach is on the rougher Pacific Ocean side.  Divorce beach has much more turbulent water and surf than Lovers Beach, hence the name. 

If you want an evening of dinner and entertainment, I recommend booking a table to “The Office.”  It is right on Medano Beach with tables in the sand.  As evening envelopes the sky they light the candles and torches, which creates a lovely atmosphere as you watch the waves roll in.  On Thursday night, they also put on a fun Mexican music show.  The food was just average, but the experience was worth it. 

Our last night we booked a Sunset Dinner Cruise.  Our friends recommended going on the Rissalena.  It is family owned and is a more relaxed, chill cruise than some of the party boats.  One of the crew members’ mother even makes the delicious dinner for it, every single night.   

We tried making a reservation for the Rissalena online one morning via email, then headed out for the day.  When we were by the dock gate for the dinner cruise boats, we thought we would just ask where it was and make sure our reservation came through.  The Rissalena staff were not there but vendors from other cruises were all over it and offered to call them for us.  The two men talked in Spanish (your first clue) and then made a phone call in Spanish.  When he got off the phone he told us the Rissalena was already booked tonight.  We said that was O.K. because we wanted to go on Friday night, to which he promptly replied they were booked…10 days out.  However, he had another great boat we could reserve. We were disappointed but decided to wait and do a little online research.  As we walked away, I told Mr. U that I thought they made that all up.  He laughed with me.  Lo and behold, we got back to our room and an email was waiting from the Rissalena letting us know they had availability for several nights this week.  Hummm…apparently the guys at the dock thought we looked like stupid American tourists.  Out fooled them, barely. 

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Traveling to a different county, even Mexico where most people that work in the tourist industry speak English, is not without its challenges.  Here are a few of my observations while we there:

  • You always have to be a little cautious and aware, even for something as simple as booking a sunset dinner cruise.
  • The poverty and disparity in wealth is painful to witness.  You see the beautiful private ships with helicopters on them anchored in the bay and then you walk the street and see the old lady swathed in cloths, perched on the curb selling bracelets or little children begging you to buy Chiclets.  How do you buy from one and not all of them?   How do you reconcile the disparity?
  • The number of street vendors that approach you as you walk down the sidewalk is overwhelming.  After the 10th approach within one block, you start to sound rude.  I DO NOT want to be a rude American tourist. We found the best response was a firm, “no, gracias” with a smile and keep moving. 

It is an odd conundrum, this travel thing.  I love to see new sights, experience different cultures, and taste all of the unique flavors of food, but I also find great comfort in being home, tucked in close to family and friends.  I am torn.  

“Maybe that is the best part of going away for a vacation – coming home again.”

Madeleine L’Engle

Speaking of home, we will be very busy for the month of May as we prepare to have son #3’s wedding at our place.  There is lots to do before June 3rd so posts will be more sporadic and minimal, at best, for the month of May. 

Adios for now amigo!

Travel Time Across the Midwest

One of the many things I appreciate about retirement is the ability to switch gears at the last minute.  No need to put in a request for time off.  No scrambling to get a report done ahead of time or delegate tasks that have to be tended to while you are gone.   You can just turn off the lights, lock the door and go.  This comes in handy when you want to help a family member move across several states, as we did this past week.

Son #4 and his lovely wife decided to follow career opportunities that took them from Texas to Omaha.  Within two weeks we were able to book our flights and be in Texas to help them pack up and drive the U-Haul up north.  Matter of fact, I am writing this post as we travel.  (Do not recommend trying to type on your laptop while riding shot gun in a 26-foot U-Haul.)  I blame all errors in this post on a bumpy keyboard. 

One of the benefits of working is feeling that you are needed and have something to contribute to others that is valued.  Work fulfils several basic needs in our lives, as I have addressed in a previous post, Have I Failed Retirement? It is important to find ways to fill those gaps once you retire.  One way to do that is by helping others.  So, Mr. U and I were happy to jump in a plane and fly to Texas to help with the move. Bonus that we got to spend time with our son and DIL.  They lived in New Braunfels, Texas, which is between San Antonio and Austin.  Needless to say, there is plenty to see in the area.  I have several favorites that I would recommend from previous visits there:

  • If you are in the area, of course you must do the San Antonio River Walk.  Duh.
  • The Alamo is also a must see, particularly for history buffs.
  • It is just a short two-hour drive south of San Antonio to the Gulf Coast.  We stayed a night in Corpus Christi and enjoyed a delicious dinner down on the pier.
  • I would recommend taking a late afternoon or early evening walk down 6th street in Austin.  It is a fun, historic district with lots of street music, entertainment, restaurants, and pubs.  Leave the later evening for the younger people though.
  • Take a day drive through the green rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country.  Beeeautiful! Who knew that Luckenbach, Texas, the legendary country music mecca, wasn’t really a city?   Luckenbach was founded in the 1840’s by two German farming families, one of which was the Luckenbach family.   In 1970 the town of Luckenbach went up for sale and John “Hondo” Crouch bought it as a venue for country music.  Famous names, such as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett performed there.  The day we stopped by there were some local country musicians jamming.   

While this trip was devoted to helping them move, we wanted to have a little fun too.  Because all work and no play smells suspiciously like real “work.”   So, after packing boxes all day, we took the evening off and went to Gruene Historic District in New Braunfels.  It is an eclectic area with antique stores, shops, restaurants, and entertainment, all tucked into the beauty of Texas. Gruene was founded in the mid-1840’s by German immigrant, Ernst Gruene.  He and his two sons planted cotton which became a big cash crop.  The cotton business brought 20 – 30 new families to the area and around 1878 a cotton gin, powered by the Guadalupe River, was added.   During this profitable time a dance hall and saloon, Gruene Hall, was built, which still stands today.  We had dinner at the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar.  It is built into the ruins of the old grist mill and has terraced seating with tables overlooking the Guadalupe River.  A truly unique and beautiful atmosphere.

One morning we stumbled on The Pastry Corner, a lovely little bakery with outdoor seating.  This bakery has taken the pop tart to a whole new level.  As a matter of fact, it seems that adult pop tarts are popping up all over (I know, bad pun).   Once we got to Omaha we had breakfast at Good Evans and they also served up a fresh, homemade pop tart that was to die for.  Get there early because once they run out, that is it for the day.  You might want to share this sweet juicy goodness because it is LARGE. 

Picked up some goodies from the bakery.

Enough about pastries; back to the task at hand.  After the U-Haul was packed to the gills, Mr. U and I headed north.  We took time to make a few fun stops along the way.  One of which HAD to be Magnolia Market.  I am a fangirl of Joanna Gaines and her market did not disappoint. 

If you need gas and a bathroom break, you have to stop at a Buc-ee’s.  They boast that they have the “cleanest restrooms in America!”  But even more importantly, they have a very large unique store.  Think Circle K on steroids.   Don’t worry, you won’t miss one of these stops because they have hundreds of billboards along the freeway, which have entertaining advertising.  Be sure to have one of their Texas sausage kolaches; a fluffy sweet breading wrapped around a sausage with cheese.  Tell ‘em Marian sent you. 

So grateful to not be tied to a job, and at a point in life where we can drop everything and take a little micro trip to get to see our son and DIL and help them move.  It was a win for us.  We got to help them out and get a little vacation too.  Retirement life is good!

This Week in Retirement…a Micro Trip & a Win

Our retirement plans included a variety of travel, but less than a year after I retired, COVID hit. And we all know how that went. Like most people, we are finally feeling comfortable to travel again. When Mr. U and I were planning our retirement and how we wanted to travel, we found it helpful to think about trips in three categories:

  • Micro Trips: Short 1-2 day trips that are close to home. These are typically quick getaways to a fun place for a night or two or taking our camper to one of the many nearby campgrounds. These are inexpensive trips that we fit in whenever the urge strikes. No limits.
  • Mini Trips: These trips are 3-7 days and are a further drive or require flying. Our goal is to do at least two of these a year.
  • Macro Trips: These are the big hairy trips that are more than a week and require a long distance to travel. For us, that would be the East Coast or out of the country. We hope to do one or two of these a year.
Micro trip west through the Cascade Mountains.

This week I had an appointment in Seattle. Instead of making it a utilitarian, ho-hum trip and staying at a Comfort Inn, we decided to make it a little “micro” trip. We splurged on a room with a lovely view of Lake Washington. The hotel is located at Carillon Point, which was once a busy hub for ship building and is now a marina. That evening we watched a moody sunset as we enjoyed seeing the city lights come on across the bay. In the morning we walked across the courtyard to the Carillon Kitchen for a light breakfast made with fresh, local ingredients. Travel, even micro trips, gives me a fresh view of life again.

March Madness Update

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have made it to the “Elite 8!” Despite all of the upsets, my bracket is holding strong. Or maybe that is because of all of the upsets. Either way, I have a shot at winning the family bracket. It is about time my children gave me money! You can guess where I will be tonight at 6:00. Go Zags!

Some of my sibs & their spouses celebrating with us after a win. We are sporting our temporary Zag tattoos. Picture is a little blurry, but it was hard to get this crazy group to sit still. Gotta make life fun along the way.

This week in retirement…stepping back in time.

Last weekend Mr. U and I made the short drive east over the 4th of July Pass to take a step back in time for an evening. Our destination was Enaville, Idaho. Enaville is home to the self-proclaimed oldest restaurant in Idaho: The Snake Pit. Established in 1880, The Snake Pit is located in the Silver Valley. The valley was a bustling mining and logging area in the late 1800’s and well into the mid 1900’s. Because of this, the area was also well known for its brothels. The Snake Pit strives to maintain the rich history of the area with its eclectic, and often bizarre, memorabilia that decorates the inside of the restaurant and bar. The restaurant is famous for its BBQ and Rocky Mountain Oysters, which are still on the menu. Can’t say as I have tried them. We played it safe and went with the prime rib.

The Snake Pit is located at the hub of an outdoor recreation area. In the winter months there is snowmobiling and cross-country skiing, as well as two down-hill ski resorts close by. It is situated at the fork of the Coeur d’Alene River, which is an outdoor summer paradise, known for great camping, fishing, rafting and kayaking. One of the trail heads to the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is just down from the restaurant. This well maintained 73.2 mile rail-trail is popular for walking and bike riding. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by and see the old Cataldo Mission too.

Four Piece Live

One night a week, the Snake Pit has their prime rib dinner (until it sells out) and some live music. While we were there we were treated to some great blue grass music by a local string band, Four Peace Live. They started at 5:30 and played for 2 1/2 hours straight! Their lively music even coaxed a few dancers out on the dance floor. You feel like you have stepped back in time with the atmosphere, music and down-home cooking. Not a bad way to spend a winter evening.

I hope you are taking the time to do something out of the ordinary this week!