expectations

A fortunate trip

by Steve Brock on July 17, 2014

Deschutes at NightWhen our sons were small, they loved the book, Fortunately by Remy Charlip. I pay homage to that book using his format here to tell you of a trip that didn’t go exactly as planned…

Fortunately, I had another chance just six months after my last trip down there, to visit Redmond and Bend, Oregon.

Unfortunately, my wife and youngest son couldn’t get away from school to join me.

Fortunately, my oldest son met me and my parents (who were fortunately able to get a timeshare condo in Redmond) on his drive home from college.

Unfortunately, as I was packing up my parents’ van to drive down to Oregon, my enthusiastic Labrador Retriever knocked my mom over.

Fortunately, my mom was sore but able to continue on the trip.

Unfortunately, she had a hard time getting around the whole time we were in Oregon.

Fortunately, she didn’t mind. She was happy to have all of us together. While she rested, my son and I took advantage of the luscious mountain biking trails in Bend and we went fishing several times with my dad as well.

Unfortunately, when fishing with my dad, we never caught anything.

Fortunately, it didn’t matter. Three generations together on rivers and lakes was reward enough.

Unfortunately, even though she took it easy, my mom’s pain got worse.

Fortunately, she was able to schedule an appointment that week with her doctor back home.

Unfortunately, her appointment meant leaving earlier than planned, but we all agreed that was for the best.

Fortunately, the night before we were to leave, there was a gorgeous full moon out. So after a late dinner, I grabbed my camera and tripod and drove down to the river to get some nighttime photos of the moon (see above and yes, that is the moon, not the sun).

Unfortunately, when I returned around 10:30 p.m. there was an ambulance in front of our condo. My mom had fallen when opening a window. She broke her arm and had to be taken to the emergency room.

Fortunately, they were wonderful there at the hospital. They took x-rays and ran tests.

Unfortunately, her arm was broken in three places.

Fortunately, the x-rays also showed no broken bones in her hips or back from the encounter with my dog Ginger. In fact, the pain she’d had before that in her right leg was now gone. Ginger had healed her!

Unfortunately, my mom passed out twice in the ER. More tests revealed a critical heart issue.

Fortunately, they moved her to a larger hospital in Bend (the ER was in Redmond, 2o minutes north of Bend) and were able to get her into surgery for a pacemaker that evening.

Unfortunately, the pacemaker surgery was on the same side as her broken arm (near the shoulder) and the doctors all agreed the arm needed surgery as well.

Fortunately, they were able to do the arm surgery the next day.

Unfortunately, all of this took longer than we had planned for our trip. We had to check out of the condo, find a hotel and move our stuff not knowing when we’d be able to go home.

Fortunately, the arm surgery went well and they released my mom the next day. We drove home exhausted from four days in the ER and hospital, but otherwise grateful to be home.

Unfortunately, this “vacation” became a bit of a nightmare. Trips don’t always go as planned and some are so far outside your realm of expectations as to be almost unreal.

Fortunately, had my mom not fallen (caused, apparently by passing out due to her heart), we’d never have known about her heart condition. The doctor told us that without the immediate surgery, she could be dead by now.

Funny how God uses our “unfortunatelys” for reasons that end up being fortunate indeed…

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Waiting, waiting, waiting…

by Steve Brock on April 15, 2014

Delft CafeI’m normally about as excited by the prospect of waiting as I am of going to the dentist, seeing the friendly neighborhood-roaming Jehovah’s Witnesses approach my front door or having a water pipe – upstairs – burst.

I change lines at the store and lanes on the freeway at least twice (usually ending up worse off) and I will enter 1:11 on the microwave instead of 1:00 (alas, our microwave doesn’t offer the coveted “1 min.” button) just to save a few milliseconds required to move my finger the 2 inches to the other keys. Getting someplace too early is, to me, a greater violation than paying retail. Delayed flights? Don’t ask.

It’s not that I am inherently impatient. Okay, I am. But I like to think that I’m optimizing life: I’d rather be spending time on all those wonderful things that delight rather than standing in some line somewhere for longer than I should because someone in front of me isn’t, well, optimizing life.

So imagine my reaction last summer when faced with the prospect of waiting seven hours for my oldest son to attend a concert. Not any concert. The North Sea Jazz Festival (one of the jazz world’s top gatherings each year in Rotterdam, Netherlands). He had been looking forward to this as the highlight of our European trip. Which was great for him but left my wife, younger son and me…waiting.

Actually, we used the time well by driving out to see a jam-packed Dutch beach and the major sites of The Hague before stopping in the quaint town of Delft.

This beautiful old city – home of the famous blue and white china that bears its name – was a joy to explore: the main square, churches, canals and windy streets. All of these made for a great way to spend our time as we waited for my oldest son.

Most of the shops and points of interest closed by 6 PM and we still had over three hours to wait. So we found a small tree-lined square several blocks from the more touristy main square, selected a restaurant both by sight and due to a guidebook recommendation and sat down at an outdoor table for dinner.

For three hours.

Yes, I know the Europeans do this all the time. But me? Three hours just sitting there?

Sure, the meal was extremely good: salad leisurely followed by the main course (barbecued pork something: our waiter’s excellent English failed to find the word for this part of the pig put he reassured me it was a noble – and tasty – section. He was right.) Eventually, dessert and coffee, all spread out over three hours. Three hours just waiting.

The funny part? When it was finally time to go, we were not ready.

We’d had great conversations among ourselves, with our waiter, with another waitress who was delighted when we gave her the page from the guidebook with the restaurant’s write up, and even nearby couples were also enjoying their leisurely meals.

By the time we picked up our son at the jazz festival, the three of us who had “endured” the lengthy wait all wondered the same thing: Why don’t we do that more often?

I can still be impatient. But I realize that waiting isn’t the issue. It’s how you do it that can make it feel like a curse…or an amazing blessing.

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Traveling hungry – Part 1

by Steve Brock on June 7, 2013

Several weeks ago, I’m traveling with my youngest son, Connor, 15. We’re driving several hours from home to meet my wife and other son for an event.

Connor has assembled his road-trip collection of snacks, so he fends off the need for lunch for most of our journey. Eventually, however, we decide we’ll stop in this one particular town on the way and grab some food. Should be simple.

Or so you’d think.

Have you ever noticed that food doesn’t always obey the same rules on a trip as it does at home? On the one hand, you can go almost anywhere in the world and find a McDonald’s or Starbucks, same as at home. But sometimes, less than 100 miles from your house, you can’t find anything you want to eat in a place that looks just like home, but clearly isn’t.

I’m in a “let’s eat semi-healthy” mode, so this day, we stop at a grocery chain store that, around where I live, tends to have a really nice deli section and a variety of soups and salads available. In this store, however, there’s a single canister of what the sign says is chicken noodle soup. I lift the lid and detect a faint sheen on the bottom of the cylinder and a few dried noodles on the side.

“Any other soup?” I ask the woman behind the counter.

“Oh no, hon. That’s it until tomorrow,” she tells me.

I inspect the other options. They have a rubbery looking chicken breast or a burrito in the display next to the remains of some pasta and bean salads. I point to the burrito.

“Is there a way to heat that up?” I ask thinking that while pizza and certain other foods are fine cold, a cold burrito sounds as appetizing as well, a cold burrito.

“Oh no, hon. We ain’t got a microwave. They tell us we’re getting one in the remodel next year.”

I decide not to wait till then.

I pick up some green salads for my wife and oldest son. There aren’t enough for all three of us so I give up on finding anything for me to eat that appeals here. Later, when I finally get to our destination and my wife and son open the sealed salad containers, they both scrunch up their faces when they take a whiff and say almost simultaneously, “Ewwww! Salad isn’t supposed to smell like chlorine!”

Thankfully, I’d picked up some fruit and chips at the store, so they dined on those and a couple of granola bars from my younger son’s travel stash.

Back at the store, while I’m having my delightful conversation about microwaves and burritos, Connor has given up on finding anything that sounds palatable here. He strolls over to the neighboring Burger King and gets some French fries. He meets me as I reach the car.

“There has to be someplace around here to get something other than fast food,” I say.

“Whaz wong wiff fassfood?” he mumbles through a mouthful of fries.

We start to drive back toward the freeway. And that’s when I see it: A sign for a Teriyaki restaurant. It’s one of those folded signs like a temporary road sign you see on the sidewalk when people have businesses that they know no one will ever find based on the proper signage of the establishment. It may not be elegant but it works. It got us to pull into the parking lot.

I wouldn’t call the location a strip mall. That has too much of a consumer shopping connotation to it. This is more like a business park with some retail spaces, most of which are empty or closed. That should have been a clue as to what is to come, but sometimes you let hunger do your thinking.

Not a good strategy: Hunger doesn’t have a brain…

 

To be continued…

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Judging ourselves

by Steve Brock March 7, 2013

“We judge ourselves by our intentions. We judge others by their actions.” Great reminder on why things don’t always go as we think they should on trips or at home.

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Soap and change

by Steve Brock June 27, 2012

When hotels introduce new products like body wash dispensers, even hardened travelers find that the change may be clean, but it isn’t easy.

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The reluctant pilgrim – Part 2: Green Gables

by Steve Brock August 12, 2011

A “pilgrimage” to Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, Canada reveals the joys and challenges of traveling to fictional places made real.

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You have no idea

by Steve Brock December 28, 2010

In travel and in life, you have no idea how things will turn out. Appreciating this – and resting in it rather than resisting it – can dramatically alter how you travel and live.

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