FishDreamer scribbles: Seeking Serenity Online

Monday, 18 October 2004

Trip Recap

I have many things I want to say and little time for saying them. I am just going to go and see how far I get, and hope I get some more time to say more. It's nice to actually have things I want to write about for a change!

First, political stuff. Links for you. Like Sars' plea for us to vote. It really does matter. And like this potentially offensive poster clearly showing how at least some Germans view the current American administration. (Too true!) I also want to state that something Kerry said during the last debate cemented my choice for me. Not that I've been particularly doubtful, but I'm still angry at the DNC about what they did to Dean in the primaries, and I really want our system to include third parties. But Kerry stated that he is a man of faith, but he would not legislate his faith on others, and that was what I needed.

Get your religion out of my government. Stop legislating morality and start governing the country. That's what I want.

That would mean no more science legislation based on religious beliefs.
No more anti-women legislation.
No more anti-choice legislation.
No more acceptance of a refusal to treat patients based on moral grounds.
No more anti-gay legislation.
No more religious art funded by the public in government spaces.
No more insistence on religion in education.
No more faith-based education, legislation, initiatives, funding.
No more suppression of sex education.
No more insistence on the inclusion of god in everything.
No more oppression and persecution of people because of their religion.
No more.

It wasn't until I sat down and started to list the things that were being done in the name of faith and god that I realized how completely pervasive this has become. It's not that I decry religion or think people shouldn't be allowed to have one. It's that I don't think they have a right to force me to live by their moral code when I don't agree with it. I have my own, thank you. I understand this is a problem for, say, Catholics who think abortion is murder and therefore it is their duty to stop it. But I also think we all need to let people burn in hell if they don't agree with us. Judge not, lest ye be judged. Stop trying to turn the law into an enforcer for your own morals, and stop shoving christianity down the throats of every American. We are not all christian, we are not going to be all christian, and we are getting unbelievably tired of this dance.

Religion has NO PLACE in government. (End political segment.)

So we just got back from our trip to Iowa. This trip was not the fun and relaxation we were both looking forward to. We're tired. I'm cranky. We had one good day, and a couple of okay days, and at least five miserable days. Here's the story, I'll try to keep it chronological.

Our Vacation

The ill omens appeared on Wednesday, when we took our poor kitty to the vet. I'd been a bit worried about her weight loss and lethargy and crankiness. As it turns out, I had good reason. She's got a kidney infection that will require antibiotics for a couple of months, and an ear infection that requires the deposit deep into her ear of some goo. We had to hold off on ear goo, but our kind and wonderful cat-sitter agreed to administer the antibiotics (liquid rather than pill form). I was not happy about leaving her like that, but at least we knew she was going to get better.

Next adventure came when we went to pick up the rental van we'd reserved. Due to scheduling error or incompetence (or maybe even both!), there were no rental vans to be had. We ended up with just about the very biggest SUV on the market, which was an enormous boat and something I was really uncomfortable with. To make matters better, it had less cargo space than the mini-van we'd rented the year before. Bah. But having no real choice, we took it. Went and got the fish boxes, packed, loaded it up Thursday night, and went to bed round about 2 a.m.

Work sucked. I had to compile and copy reams of documentation for a secret project, and it turned out the computer with the multi-DVD burner attached doesn't have access to our file server. After several fruitless attempts, we had to break out the external hard drive, copy everything over, and do it that way. I was done by noon, but Mr D had to work until about 3. So much for my dreams of making it to Missoula by dinner time! We eventually got there, to the house of one of my high school classmates, and stayed up talking until 3 a.m. She had to take off in the morning and deliver a lecture to a bunch of lawyers, while we overslept the alarm and got out of town at around 10:30.

Next stop: Rapid City, South Dakota. Montana was fine, although behemoth vehicles are not so much fun in mountain passes and we were burning up the gas unbelievably. It was dusk to night in Wyoming where we got really tense. There were deer everywhere, including more dead ones in the road than I could count. It was horrible. I eventually stopped looking and focused on keeping Mr D entertained while he drove because somewhere in there, the laptop died. We'd put music on the computer for the trip, and now all of a sudden we had the one CD I had in my bag (the new Corrs) and the two that had come in the mail on Friday (Melanie C and Chris de Burgh). Not fun, and Wyoming is not exactly known for its great radio stations.

We made it, eventually, and hustled off to the bookstore where we'd gotten great Native American stuff the year before for his step-dad. Also grabbed some more CDs, because we had nothing to listen to! And thence to dinner, and back to the hotel, and not enough sleep but a nice quiet room and no deer to deal with.

Sunday we were headed for Des Moines, with a short stop in eastern South Dakota to see one of my high school friends. I hadn't seen her since 1989 when I stopped in on my way out here after college. We were planning to have a late lunch with her, but halfway through the state I saw a sign announcing we'd gotten to the next time zone and all of a sudden it was 12:30 already. So I called her, and she said she'd have dinner instead. We got there right around 5:30 and stayed for three hours, having a grand old time all around and an amazing dinner. Baked potato soup, fresh bread, and pecan pie. She wasn't satisfied with any of it, but I was! Eventually we had to head off, with promises to meet up next year and maybe go hang out in Colorado with them during hunting season.

We got to Mr D's cousin's house in Des Moines with little fanfare. It was late, and they were asleep, so we just crept in and crashed. Monday was fairly uneventful. Mr D ended up shipping his laptop off for repairs, we hit another bookstore for books on CD and some more music, and had an interesting dinner at a new Mongolian barbecue chain. This is also the day when he called his step mom to get his grandmother's phone number so we could see if she had time to see us, and found out things were not so good health-wise with the step-family. Step mom had breast cancer last year (when we saw her!) and hadn't been able to tell him. Her brother's bone marrow cancer was back and imminently fatal. And Mr D's dad had been sick too. Mr D called step-uncle and talked to him for a while, which I think was good for both of them. We made plans for lunch with Grandma the next day. And then it was off to his uncle's house near Cedar Rapids.

This is Uncle Rex and Aunt Sue, who made our New Jersey vacation so interesting this past summer. Aunt Sue was away, because there was an imminent grandchild and she was off to take care of the current grandchild while his parents were birthing the new one. We knew she might be gone, and of course took no offense at that. I'm sorry we missed her, but she had more important things to do.

Tuesday was really the worst day of the trip. We got up to Grandma's a little later than anticipated, to find Mr D's dad was on time this year (last year he was nearly three hours late). Grandma's vision is failing, she's 93 now, and she had prepared a box of stuff she wanted Mr D to have because she "probably won't be around next time we're there." Bah! Nice of her to want him to have something, but what do you say to a statement like that? We went out for lunch, during the course of which we found out exactly what his dad's illness had been. Heart valve failure.

I think that is something you'd want to make sure your genetic successors knew about. Don't you? He had to have a heart valve replaced. We never would have heard what it was if his own mother hadn't forced him to talk about it.

Eventually, it was over and we had to go. We had a dinner date with Mr D's other grandparents, who have recently moved into a retirement and nursing home in Uncle Rex's town. Grandpa has leukemia and parkinsons and has not been doing very well. This grandma has something wrong with her hip that causes great pain in her legs. They're both on anti-depressants. Grandpa asked Uncle Rex for a gun to shoot himself the day before we got there. These are the people who rescued Mr D from his careless and abusive father several times during his childhood, and who he adores. At least, he adores his grandfather. It was really hard for both of us to see him like that, in a wheel chair, listless and cranky by turns. He was wishing he'd managed to kill himself those several years ago when he intended to, because he doesn't like life like this. I can't really blame him, but he is getting better with all the physical therapy and he's clearly still there mentally.

We had a fairly bleh dinner with them, and then sat for a while in the apartment. (Grandma is in an appartment where she can cook for herself or go down for meals, Grandpa is in the nursing side of the building because he can't take care of himself and she can't take care of him either.) Mr D got his grandfather out of the chair and into his recliner, and then he went across the street to Dairy Queen because Grandpa wanted a milkshake. We couldn't get Grandpa out, and he's diabetic so maybe shouldn't have had it, but he got a small chocolate shake and was really, really happy about it.

And then we had to go, so we took him back down to his hospital room and visited for a while. Then we went and listened to Grandma complain about everything for a while (her favorite thing to do, and probably one of the reasons why no one has much sympathy for her). Mr D couldn't leave town without seeing them again, so we told them we'd be back the next day.

And we were. Wednesday morning we stopped by for an hour or two, and got to see some more lively Grandpa. He was walking! Cranky still, but they'd increased his anti-depressants and apparently he's feeling better. I have some small hope he'll recover. We had to go eventually, because we had to pick up the meat (our reason for the trip in the first place) by a certain time. With tears in our eyes, we said good-bye.

First stop was the Amana colonies, where we acquired a case of beer, tablecloths, sweaters, and various little things. I got mittens for my sister (who loved the ones I'd gotten myself the year before). We didn't have a lot of time there, but it was well-spent. Had lunch at the Brick Haus, where we'd eaten the year before. Yum.

Made it to the meat place, started rearranging the contents of the vehicle, and somehow Mr D smashed two bottles of sarsparilla we'd just gotten in Amana. He took the truck off to vacuum it out while I continued packing meat in the fish boxes. We filled ten of them (they each hold about 70 pounds). This is half a cow (split between us and my brother) and two hogs, one for us and the other split between my brother and my sister. We got it done, eventually, and took off for northwest Iowa where we were to visit Uncle Hunter.

Not too bad a drive, although after our experience in Wyoming I was having much anxiety about the wildlife. But we made it, and we got the meat out of the beast and into the cooler, and then went off for dinner. Had a good time. I always like staying with Uncle Hunter, he's very easy to relax around. No expectations, no difficult social interaction. Just relaxing and talking. He and Mr D get along pretty well, and I think we're the main people who come visit him. It's too far out of the way for everyone else, apparently. (No judgement there, it just is. Not everyone likes to drive 2,000 miles to visit their relatives.)

We went fishing. The men were up probably around 9, but they let me sleep until I felt like getting up, which was 11. I needed that! I haven't really talked about it, but for most of the trip we were significantly short on sleep. And I had high levels of anxiety that wouldn't let me stay asleep for long, so I've been fairly well worn out. Anyway, up I got. Dressed, coffee drunk, and off we went for lunch and fishing licenses. It was good. Uncle Hunter took us out on a river for catfish, and it was calm and peaceful and satisfying. We each eventually caught one, all of which are now in my freezer. We saw a deer swim the river. I met Grandpa's smelly famous catfish bait. It was chilly, but in a good way. I found my running gloves in the pocket of the jacket I brought, so my hands were warm. After fishing, we went off for dinner at the pizza place we went to last year and had the most amazing pizza. The people who run it are from California and Oregon and couldn't believe where we were from. She lived in the town next to where I lived in Oregon. We sat and talked with them until well after 10, and then headed back home.

Mr D and Uncle Hunter went to get the boxes back together, because we were leaving in the morning. My back and neck prevented me from helping any, so I got in my pyjamas and read for a while. I think I went to bed around 11:30, and Mr D was up a bit later. We tried to get up and on the road by 7, but it was after 8 by the time we'd had breakfast. And then began the long stretch home.

Friday was driving from Iowa to Billings, Montana. Mr D was more tired than I, so I got my first taste of driving the beast. Didn't like it, but South Dakota is pretty mellow for driving. I just kept going, and sang along to the CDs while Mr D slept. We made it earlier than we'd thought (miscalculation of the good kind), and found a really good barbecue place for dinner. They had good beer! It was great. Hotel wasn't so great, but it was a place to sleep. Which we did.

We got on the road around 9, I think. Drive drive drive. Rain through western montana, a bit of sun near Missoula, mostly clear in Idaho, and then torrents of rain and many asshole drivers on the road through Washington. We got home around 8, both of us absolutely thrilled to be here. Got the meat out of the boxes and into our freezer, only to find we didn't have enough space. My sister came over the next day to get hers and took some of our brother's too, because we didn't have anywhere to put it. I have been coated in cats, except when we give the girl kitty her meds (she really doesn't like the ear goo). Sunday was a day to sleep in, return the rental (10 per cent discount because of how much more gas it required than what we'd reserved, which was nice), and just relax.

So that was the trip. Gauging the mood of the country by the political signs in evidence in Iowa and South Dakota was interesting. It made me feel a little better. I am really glad to be home, and now I have been typing for an hour and I want to go to bed. Anyone who makes it to the end of this deserves a prize. I have some great South Dakota postcards I never sent, so if you want one send me your address and I'll get it to you. I got none out this trip, and I failed to buy the usual magnet for Nan (she'll get a shot glass instead) and some presents I'd intended to get. Oh well. I'm home!

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