2013 Christmas Letter

Deep Creek Road on the Continental Divide, Montana

Deep Creek Road on the Continental Divide, Montana

Another year, another (probably too-long) letter from me. I love doing these things because it feels like I’m able to “wrap up” the year in a tidy package made from photos and written highlights of our lives. Of course, real life is nowhere near as well-ordered as this letter, but we’ll sweep the cat fur and chaos under the rug for awhile and put on our holiday best, okay?

Hot air balloon over Mt. Jefferson

Hot air balloon over Mt. Jefferson

Tajah and Sabrina

Tajah and Sabrina

Three Sisters at Sunset

Three Sisters at Sunset

All is good around the Falcioni hacienda, Mike is still grinding away delivering packages for UPS, a couple more years to retirement, but he’s definitely not slowing down and still doing twelve hour days on average. He has an amazing ability to just put his head down and get the job done. I’m essentially job-less, although the cats most likely believe I’m their hired help. I do try to add to our travel fund by eBaying anything that’s not nailed down or actively in use, and I make minor pocket change writing travel e-booklets and selling them on Amazon.

January this year rang in my 50th birthday, which felt a little strange. Not that I mind the wrinkles and weird hair that much, it’s just that I think we’re finally forced to admit we are “Middle Aged”. Sigh. Still, I refuse to go there without a fight, so my response to hitting the half century mark was “to heck with getting old, we’re going to Disney World!” This time Mike gave the go-ahead for two weeks of fun that included Disney World, Key West, St. Augustine, Universal Studios (for me), antique store scrounging (for Mike), and Busch Gardens. We had such a fun time, and saw some amazing places that we can’t wait to explore further. We also found a new mode of exploration when we took a Segway tour in St. Augustine. Those things are almost as much fun as riding motorcycles…almost! We also discovered that Mike is about as bored at the Universal parks as I am in our 5th Antique store of the day.

Hemingway Home, Key West

Hemingway Home, Key West

Fountain of Youth (didn’t work),  St. Augustine

Fountain of Youth (didn’t work),
St. Augustine

Cat friend & Mike  Hemingway Home, Key West

Cat friend & Mike
Hemingway Home, Key West

St. Augustine Lighthouse

St. Augustine Lighthouse

We had a wonderfully mild winter which allowed us to get out on the bikes early in the season. Memorial weekend even cooperated enough to give us 3 days of nearly rain-free riding to Deer Lodge Montana and back. Deer Lodge is home to a very cool prison museum, and the loop also let us get a closer look at the imposing 600-foot-tall Anaconda smelter stack, along with riding some really beautiful and lonely roads we’d never had a chance to explore before. It really is amazing what a wide variety of roads there are in these lightly traveled parts of the country.

Willow Creek, Idaho

Willow Creek, Idaho

A few weeks later, Mike mentioned that we’d never been to the Steens, I said I had, but it’s been awhile. How long? I think I was 3. Yep, definitely time to check it out. We ended up doing it in one long 625-mile day which included a side trip to Diamond (population 5), and the Peter French Round Barn (very cool). The views from the top are breathtaking, and it’s very impressive to see the results of “rain shadow” with the green valley on the west side, and the Alvord desert to the east. Kiger Gorge is this huge near-perfectly u-shaped green valley that is so vast it was tough to get my brain around. The play of cloud shadows on the slopes was beautiful to watch.

Kiger Gorge

Kiger Gorge

Steens Mountain Loop

Steens Mountain Loop

We spent most summer weekends riding all sorts of long loops throughout Oregon, some to places we’ve been before, and others to areas we were exploring for the first time. We added a bunch of favorites to our list of great roads, including beautiful single-lane trails that mosey next to creeks or swoop between rock formations.

Placer Creek Road, Idaho

Placer Creek Road, Idaho

Lolo Pass Road, Mt. Hood Oregon

Lolo Pass Road, Mt. Hood Oregon

Upper Middle Fork Rd. Eastern Oregon

Upper Middle Fork Rd. Eastern Oregon

You’d think by this time we’d be masters of the GPS, but we actually use a map almost exclusively. Although I do have a cheater Garmin in my tank bag in case we get truly lost (or want to find the closest place with good coffee). Because of this, Mike spends lots of time staring at maps. Between that and folding them small enough to fit in his tang bag, we end up ruining at least five AAA Oregon/Washington maps every summer. I’m sure our local AAA office thinks I’m selling them for profit on eBay, or using them to line the litter box.
The result of this that at the end of the season we have a plentiful assortment of really ratty maps showing where we’ve been, along photos of Mike looking at maps in a wide variety of locations.

Where in the heck...

Where in the heck…

...Are we?

…Are we?

When the summer got too hot for riding (I draw the line when temps reach the century mark), we decided to do a few weekends with museums and antique stores. We did the big three air museums in Oregon: Tillamook, WAAM, and Evergreen. The Tillamook collection, currently housed in that incredible WWII blimp hangar, is supposed to be moving to Madras in a few years, so we wanted to catch it before things changed. We’re so glad we did. That structure is simply astonishing — a really awful place to store rare antiques since it sort of makes its own rain — but an awe-inspiring building nonetheless.

We didn’t neglect hiking or house-improvement either. We had fun exploring some new (to us) trails in our area, and not so much fun staining our shop, doing some minor landscaping projects around the place, and building rock walls.

Whychus Creek

Whychus Creek

Rock scrambling at Alder Springs

Rock scrambling at Alder Springs

Rock wall construction in front of the shop

Rock wall construction in front of the shop

On the home front, the rest of the family is doing well. Mom is relatively happy with her apartment, it’s definitely different than living in a house, but it’s so nice to not worry about upkeep! She’s always busy doing something or driving somewhere.

We’ve been able to spend a bit more time with Dave, Sue and the nephews this year, which is good because Kevin is a senior in high school (What! When the heck did that happen? Last time I looked he still had training wheels on his bike)…and we realize that soon the boys aren’t always going to be around the house when we’re there. We had a really fun family weekend at the coast in August, hanging out together, walking on the beach and watching stupid movies until way too late every night.

I look at photos from a few years ago, and the boys are still kids, now they’re young adults. All my friends’ kids are nearly grown and mostly gone living their own lives. I know it’s a time of transition for many families. Thank goodness for holidays when we can all get together and keep up traditions we remember from when we were kids, make a few new ones of our own, and see the kids making their own memories to carry them forward. What is here today may be gone tomorrow, but I’ll be darned if I miss out on the love, joy, and happiness I feel right now worrying about what might be. So grab a drink and make a toast. Here’s to a very Merry Christmas filled with plenty of love, some quiet time to yourself, a few good meals, and maybe a chocolate or two (or three, or four). Prost!

Near Diamond, Oregon

Near Diamond, Oregon

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