Summer Travels and a New Home

I don’t normally do personal updates on this blog, but then, this hasn’t been a “normal” summer by any account!  Normal summers are lemonade and beach chairs, long books, solitary hikes, brunch with teacher friends, and maybe a professional conference.

This summer was an ending, a beginning, and a LOT of car time inbetween.

grad 1

Tim (right) and his good friend, Wes. Wes and his wife Julia were some of our best friends in SoCal. Without Julia as my friend at work, I wouldn’t have survived.

In June, Tim finished seminary and I finished teaching, a season best described by Dickens’s “best of times/worst of times.”  Those of you who’ve been to seminary (or have spouses who’ve attended) know that it is all-consuming.  It squeezes 50 classes, 3 new languages, 110 credits, and 1,000 hours of internship into three short years.

Those kids and their sweetness.  Gets me every time.

Those kids and their sweetness. Gets me every time.

Yet I know that Tim will always see seminary years as some of the best of his life.  He flourished intellectually and spiritually and made lifelong friendships.  I worked far fewer hours than he did but struggled emotionally in a work environment where I was bullied by a few of my coworkers.  Nevertheless, there were always the kids, perennially surprising, fantastic, and beautiful.  I was so happy to leave, and at the same time, so sad.

We had a long list of places we wanted to visit while we were in California but never got around to seeing, thanks to crazy schedules during the school year and summer internships in Colorado.  So we decided to go for the whole bucket list in a single trip!  There’s something cleansing as well as restorative about a road trip; it can help put you back together when you’re in pieces.

travels 13

Being beach bums. We’ve probably just eaten something here, but that wouldn’t have stopped us from eating something else really soon.

We started out with a couple of relaxing days in a tiny coastal town called Avila Beach.  We spent the mornings whale watching in a tiny coffee shop and then spent the whole day on the beach, having dinner at one of the seaside restaurants in the evening.  Our hotel, just a block from the ocean, had chocolate croissants in the morning, nachos and beer at noon, wine and apps at five o’clock, and pie and ice cream at night.  (Apparently, they had previously sent someone to follow me around and record my eating habits.)

travels 12

Near Big Sur!

We then took a long drive up the Coastal Highway–perhaps the most beautiful road I’d ever traveled.  Steep cliffs drop precipitously to the water, and the sharply winding road is cut into the hillside.  With morning mist rolling around the hills and off the water, it’s about the most exciting, adventurous drive you could imagine.  With the music turned up, the sunroof opened, and my feet on the dashboard, I was in West Coast heaven!

Our home in the city.  Totes adorbs.

Our home in the city. Totes adorbs.

We arrived in San Francisco and stayed at a little Airbnb place in the city.  It was a gorgeous Victorian row house built in 1888, fully restored and renovated, and the family rents out the entire ground floor.  We had our very own bedroom, kitchen, and living room for a fraction of the price of a hotel room.  That evening, we enjoyed our one ‘splurge’ meal at 1300 on Fillmore, a place with upscale, modernized Southern cuisine.  The next day, we took a biking tour of the city, which I HIGHLY recommend.  We learned a lot of the city’s historical background and got a good overview of the major sites with the help of our awesome tour guide, Earl.  The tour ended at a park with about 40 food trucks, and of course, I went to the one that simply said “Bacon.”

The mother ship is calling.

The mother ship is calling.

Inside a cell at Alcatraz.

Inside a cell at Alcatraz.

We took the ferry to Alcatraz and toured the old prison, a haunting and eye-opening experience.  Hawthorne says, at the beginning of The Scarlet Letter, that prisons and cemeteries are two of the earliest ‘black flowers’ of a civilization, the markers of human evil and human mortality, respectively.  Cemeteries are rarely seen in California (they aren’t people who like to think about death), and this was my first time in a prison.  I think the scariest thing about it was seeing the echoes of my own humanity and realizing that I was not as comfortably distant from these men as I would like to think I am.  Joseph Conrad, blind racist though he was, captured this feeling when he wrote, “the men were–no, they were not inhuman.  That was the worst of it–this suspicion of their not being inhuman…what thrilled you was the thought of their humanity–like yours–the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar.”

Also, I ate a garlicky, buttery Blue Dungeness crab by myself at Fisherman’s Wharf.

travels 7

They are SO. TALL.

We saw the redwoods, which is an otherworldly experience.  There is no picture I’ve yet seen that begins to do justice to the soaring, ethereal majesty of these trees.  You just need to go see them yourself.  Go in the morning, when the sun is slanting through the treetops and lighting up the dark emerald foliage on the forest floor.  You’ll feel like you’re walking through an outdoor cathedral built by giants.  Those trees alone were worth the trip to Northern California.


travels 8

Artesa winery. Not ugly.

We toured the southern end of Napa Valley and tasted some delicious wines.  One of my favorite moments of the whole trip was at Artesa, which sat high on a hill and was part winery, part modern art museum.  Sipping wine and looking out over the vine-covered Napa hills while surrounded by beautiful artwork (Artesa keeps an artist in residence) is just about the most fabulous feeling in the world.

travels 4

A possible contender for World’s Best Picnic Spot.

From there, we visited Yosemite, a first time for me.  We checked into our adorable BnB (Blackberry Inn-seriously one of the best places I’ve ever stayed in my life–can’t recommend it highly enough) and did a driving tour of the valley floor.  That day was hot, and ridiculously crowded.  We were smooshed into the stinky shuttle, poked by selfie sticks, and run off the trail by tourist hordes that swarmed off of massive buses.  I almost didn’t want to go back the next day.  But we arrived in the morning and quickly took a trail that rose steeply off the valley floor, which meant we left 90% of the tourists behind.  We hiked up to Upper Yosemite Falls, and gained a breathtaking view of Half Dome.  Our lunch on a fallen tree branch near the top of the hike profited from having one of the most spectacular views on the planet.  We drove to a magnificent overlook on Glacier Point and visited the gigantic sequoias in Mariposa Grove.

Tim and some ginormous roots.

Tim and some ginormous roots.

Unfortunately, we had to spend our last night at the Quality Inn in Bakersfield, where we endured roaches skittering on the walkway, the motion-detecting light in the bathroom coming on *inexplicably* in the middle of the night, and the next morning, bleary-eyed, eating what I hope will be the worst breakfast of my life.  We knew it wouldn’t be stellar, so we declared “end of vacation” as we were driving out of Yosemite.

Ugh.  Moving sucks.

Ugh. Moving sucks.

The next two weeks were a blur of cardboard, bubble wrap, and packing tape as we boxed up all our household goods and loaded them into pods for their trip across the country.  After all that packing, we were ready for another vacation, so we headed to a timeshare in Vail, Colorado.  Whereas our California vacation had been a packed schedule with lots of touring, Vail was pure R&R.  We spent long hours by the pool, listened to our book on tape during thunderstorms, took naps, watched Food

Yay Vail!  Yay high altitude!

Yay Vail! Yay high altitude!

Network shows, went for an occasional hike, and made time for wine and cheese on the balcony every single evening.

We enjoyed a visit with Tim’s family and our friends in Colorado for a few days, and then made the long drive through fields of cows and corn and skies full of billowing thunderheads to Ann Arbor, Michigan.  We’re set up now in graduate student housing, and I can hardly believe it’s real.  I can hardly believe that in a few short weeks, I’ll begin five years of intensive study, teaching, and research that will culminate in a Ph.D.  Right now, I’m cramming for my French language test on September 4th and getting my syllabus and materials ready for the freshman composition class I’ll be teaching.  I’m overawed by the campus every time I set foot on it.  I’ve never attended a massive, sprawling public university before, and I’m definitely starting to feel how much bigger this pond is than the smaller ones in which I’m used to swimming.  Tim will be doing web consulting for about 25 hours a week while he pursues licensure and ordination, works with our local church, keeps up his languages, and reapplies to U of M.

Home sweet new home.

Home sweet new home.

Already, Tim and I both love Ann Arbor.  This morning as we were walking through the local botanical gardens, we were talking about how much we love every place we live.  We plan to ride bikes when it’s warm and take the bus when it’s not, so our car will go largely unused.  There are a ton of parks and trails and wildflowers everywhere.  The grocery store is in walking distance.  The university’s library is cool and cavernous and piled with mountains of books that I can check out a whole semester at a time.  The local restaurants are hip and quirky, with lots of local beer and vegan options.  A nearby coffee shop serves a drink called the French Vietnamese Au Lait, a chicory coffee made with sweetened condensed milk.  Fall is coming.  Followed by winter.  And then spring.

Here’s to longed-for endings, new beginnings, and blissful summer travels.  Happy July, readers!


15 thoughts on “Summer Travels and a New Home

  1. I love that you love your new life. Keep writing and telling us about it. Makes me miss you a teeny bit less, just being so happy for you.

    • Thank you so much, Rhonda! You are so sweet. I hope to keep writing regularly on this blog. Love and miss you!

  2. I just love you, Emily. And I love your writing.
    Wishing you both God’s sweet and continued blessings as you get settled in!

    • Thank you, Kathy! I love you too! Praying for you as you get ready to send your sweet girl off to college.

    • Thank you so much, Abby! I love the life God chose for us, even though it’s had many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. Much love to you and Ben and your sweet pups!

  3. So glad you had such a grand tour of my home state, and my city, San Francisco! I hope you were treated well while you were here. I’ve done that drive up Highway 1, and have plans to visit the Redwoods—we’re driving up next Saturday. I also—and this is the weirdest part—have stayed in a Quality Inn in Bakersfield. It was right off the highway; I wonder if it was the same one. I, too, emerged bleary eyed, and fled to the Sierras. Welcome to your new home. It sounds wonderful.

    • I LOVED every minute of that trip!!! San Francisco is a fabulous city that I wouldn’t mind calling home someday. Have fun visiting the redwoods; they are SPECTACULAR! And how funny that you’ve stayed in a Quality Inn in Bakersfield! It was probably the same one. Yeah, it was right off the freeway, but it we had to take this really convoluted route to get to it. In fact, we got turned around and had to get back on the freeway, exit, get back on going the other direction, and try it again.

      • I don’t remember having trouble getting to the inn, but it was really late, and I was really tired, and it was ten years ago, so anything could be the truth. The redwoods are going to be great. We have a friend who lives in Humboldt that we’ll stay with for a few days, and then we’ll do some camping. I.can’t.wait.

      • Thanks for letting me know. I was planning more of a blogging break, so I’m not sure if it’ll make it here or not. But I’d also planned to do a few fast, spontaneous posts from the road, so we’ll see what happens. (:

    • Thank you so much, Norma! It’s so good to hear from you!! Sorry, I’m not checking this blog often enough now that the school year is underway. 🙂

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