Sunday, March 29

Days with Sarah!

I've been in Phoenix with The Sarah Rupke. We've been falling back into the old swing of things, rockin' just like back at Western. Sarah, queen of society that she is, has a regular sitcom just outside her door. She lives in a wonderful house with a bunch of neighbors, just steps away. In the afternoons, they sometimes gather, drinks in hand, and retell the days events. It's great. We hung out with neighbor Greg and neighbor Jason at the Kozy Cactus, watched some basketball, headed over to the other neighborhood bar, the Paradise, then slept in nice and long the next day. I think there was a confrontation with the door, but I don't really remember. It ended well. I woke up in bed and not outside.

We went to the zoo! There was a tortus that had hydrolics!

The Lion!

The flamingos!
At the zoo!

Sarah then did all sorts of sleuthy work to get us tickets to a Spring training game between the White Sox and the Dodgers. We had awesome seats (see below), and thankfully didn't have to sit in the sun. The walk from the car to the stadium gave us tan lines, I would have been a lobster if it were any different. We were surrounded by Dodger fans, and thus were obnoxious as possible whenever the Sox did well. They won 6-1. Woo hoo!

Kodak and Baxter found Sarah's porch especially delightful. I couldn't get them off of it! Naps outside, walking about, chasing bugs and dust, more naps outside. They will miss the porch.

And the ending adventure today was the tip to IKEA. The object sticking out of the Honda below is an awesome black and white with spot color scene of downtown New York. No one loves New York more than Sarah, and we would not be defeated by the size of that print. I mean c'mon. There was rope, we would not be stopped!
There were power tools and a little bit of "to the left!" and then it was done. There was an ice cream run to Cold Stone, lots of Gilmore Girls, grilled cheese for dinner, and lots of wonderful Ariel Sarah time.

I'm off tomorrow morning on my way to Portland, Oregon to see Ciara and Adam.

This is all going so fast.

Wednesday, March 25

Monett to Tucumcari/ Tucumcari to Phoenix

Start: Monett, MO
End: Tucumcari, NM

Miles: 622

Start: Tucumcari, NM
End: Phoenix, AZ

Miles: 640

This was the first half of Oklahoma. Add some cows on the side of the road, and that just about does it. I drove through a huge storm (the same one that dumped tons of snow on the Dakotas) where the lightning was magical. My windshield wipers are toast, but they were troopers. Got me through when it mattered.

This was Baxter's reaction to the rain. He morphed into Vampire Cat and threatened to take me out.

Besides the rain, the other exciting thing about Oklahoma was this:

I don't know what the difference between red dyed diesel and non-red dyed diesel is, but who cares. There are ostriches for sale! I didn't see a pen or anything, and I know they are huge, so I feel like this is misleading. Is the sale anywhere near the gas station? Why is it on the sign? I actually stood there and starred at it for a bit before I realized I should move on, or spit, or something. I bet Vampire Baxter would have been appeased with an ostrich.

My impression of Texas was that they have very nice rest stations, and have a little too much time on their hands. The building below is the rest station. There is groundskeeper mowing the roof.

The view of Texas, 70 some odd miles east of Amarillo. Sit and enjoy it while you grill a steak (what else would you eat in Texas at a BBQ?) on one of the very handsome grills outside the lawn-rest area. It's too bad there weren't a whole bunch of little Texas shapes that could be grilled into the meat. That would really make the whole thing special.
I stayed the night in Tucumcari, NM. A strip of road that in it's glory must have been something, but now is eeking along on its oasis nature and its reputation associated with being on Route 66. I ate at Del's, a fun restaurant owned by two sisters in town, that have a friendly menu of burgers and Mexican food. I liked the cow on their sign.

Today I was happily in the land of mountains and evergreen trees. The first glimps of snow still resting on the tops of - well, I don't know the name of the mountain- I squeeled a little. I hadn't realized how much mountains represent. How much has happened since last being intimate with them. How much more rooted in myself I feel just being closer to them.

What shocked me was how beautiful I found Arizona to be. It is unlike any place I've ever been. The reds and oranges that seemed to paint everything, the vegetation, the smoothness that comes from thousands of years of patient sandblasting. And then the view changed as I passed between Flagstaff to Phoenix, and weaved up and down, between and over the hilly passes. The views were awesome. This one doesn't do it justice. I made it to Sarah's house at 5:30 and got the cats settled. They are going to be so bored when I stop moving them around. They have really gotten the hang of it - they sleep for most of it now. I met the neighbors, had a chat, then we went for dinner - the whole time never stopping the stream of conversation that will undoubtedly continue for the next four days straight. Sarah and I are going to have so much fun!

Monday, March 23

Carbondale, IL to Monett, MO

Start: Carbondale, IL. 1pm
End: Monett, MO. 9pm ish

I had a teary farewell with Dan, and got going with the kitties. I have lots of time to enjoy my trip to Arizona, so I started off heading farther south on 51 then took lots of loopy roads through the Ozark mountains. I never imagined Missouri being so beautiful. The sun was setting and the wind was blowing. The cats were so good, sleeping for most of it.

I listened to a book on CD that Trish was nice enough to give me and took lots of stops to enjoy the views.

Got up to speed with Sarah, and of course, she is super accommodating, and excited I'm just 15 driving hours away from her. Yay! I get to see my Sarah soon! It has been far too long.

Sunday, March 22

Light bulbs, sewing patches, and a nervous wreck

A week. It went so fast. I'm now a fan of Battlestar Galactica, a place in Illinois called Giant City Park, and curry chicken salad. Well, I already knew I loved Dan's curry chicken salad, but I don't mind being reminded a bit. Dan has also loaded me up with a, hopefully, sufficient amount of media to keep me occupied in the hours I'm not driving a bus around Juneau. And if not, it won't be because he didn't try.

I've repacked my car for optimal kitty comfort, and have my path to Sarah all planned out. I was sitting down at the Longbranch Coffeehouse with my maps spread about me and several locals stopped by my table to offer their prefered paths through or around the country. It was great. I met a grad student that was developing a concervation program for the grasslands in Illinois, and a couple that just started retirement.

The other gem that was discovered here in Carbondale, is for the wildlife lovers out there. After our trip to the laundromat, Dan and I ate at the Mississippi Flyaway. Decoration medium: taxidermy. Turkey, geese, ducks, and the occasional deer head, just to spice it up. It led to an important discussion and decision for decorating in the future - "no dead things on the walls."

Here we go. Off to Arizona.

Sunday, March 15

Bloomington to Carbondale

Start: Bloomington, IL 1:15pm Central Time
End: Carbondale, IL 5:55pm Central Time

Miles: 202

This is Kodak. Finally tucked in and accepting of the fact that meowing constantly will not make the car stop moving. I left Bloomington this afternoon, and for the first 2 hours, both Kodak and Baxter were having a serious problem adjusting to life in a car. They were panting and pacing (as best they can in a sedan), and for a bit, I had several back up plans ready to go in affect if they could not take the stress of being cooped. I stopped twice to rearrange stuff, making more nooks to hide in, and once to get their heart rates down. Once they could hide in small dark spaces, they both zonked out and napped the rest of the way. Whew!

It seems it was a combination of "look out post" and "contained safe space" that got them to simmer. Only one such place existed in the car to begin with.

It's official. They crazy cat lady is dragging her beasts around, down, up and through the country. First, we'll be keeping Dan company for a week. A wonderful, glorious week.

Thursday, March 12

Ron, the house dude.

Ron is in Phoenix right now. Soon he'll be in Juneau getting his basement room for me ready. We had an interesting conversation on the phone about cat dander, heated bathroom floors, and waterfalls. There is a possibility I'll be room neighbors with a ex-Wimbledon player, who for unknown reasons will be driving tour bus this summer. Some of you have told me that only crazy people would do this bus driving thing, and the more drivers I meet and get to know, the more I agree with that.

Just got a phone call from Ron. He wanted to discuss a report in the USA Today about the emotional states of people working in their prime.

Tuesday, March 10

Some bird analogies for you.

Days, really a collection of moments, until I embark on my trip, and I get another email from my renter's company saying there are more forms to fill out before I can be paid. I'm getting impatient and frustrated at the amount of geese I'm being made to chase for this. The idea for me to work with her company was to alleviate these types of frustrations, but no, it has been a big mess so far. Thankfully Dan's house is equipped with the necessary technology to squelch their vicious thirst for documentation, and I can hope that soon the necessary funds will be dropped electronically into my world.

I also had a conversation with a home-owner in Juneau that is looking to rent out rooms for drivers. He wasn't opposed to having cats, but said that can be discussed in a later conversation. He was currently occupied in a meeting, but perhaps later tonight or tomorrow I can go to Juneau knowing I have a place to stay once I get there! With how things have been going, I'm not counting any eggs before they've hatched.

Sunday, March 8


Today is the final round of the United States Barista Championship. Cara, Joe, and I were watching it in the shop in between tornado warnings and picking up pieces of the building that were flying about. Ya' know. Just another day in Illinois.

I just finished watching the last performer, Mike Phillips, a Intelly member from Chicago, and he put together an awesome routine, again. There are two people from the Great Lakes Region, Mike P. and Scott Lucey.

20 minutes until the winner is announced!

Look! I'm excited!

Wednesday, March 4

Back on.

I spoke with my bro. Alaska is back on! He reassured me that I would be of much help to him, Jessie, and in general, whenever I was available to give it. He told me the schedule for all of the family to visit, both pre- and postpartum. Seems like they will be fully staffed for quite sometime. Baby days are in my future!

I'll probably come back to IL earlier than I had planned to help relieve stress and do what I can to keep Ben occupied. I offered to be hands too, for walking Payton, grocery shopping, whatever. He said that was awesome. I'm still thinking seriously about moving to Champaign when I get back. But who knows what will be going on in the coffee world, the economic world, my world, Dan's world, etc. One big mystery!

Tonight I said goodbye to some familiar faces at Medici's Wednesday Warrior night. Had dinner with Kristy and Ashley (who took this picture, one silly one of many, I assure you.), then did the rounds with the usual folks. Chris Longton made me feel like a princess at the end, charging down the back run of the bar and swooping me up to give me a giant hug. I don't know when I'll ever see him again. He and Amanda are moving to either Oregon or Arizona before I get back, and that is both exciting and sad. He wrote to me while he was in Alaska last year, and I don't see any reason why I won't write him, but no more "Miss Ariel's" in person, or silly jokes with my beer. He made my time with Medici a little easier, and I'm glad he's my friend.

But, the adventure is on again, and that means no more pussy-footing around some stuff. I have just a few details to align before being set for launch, and beginning my trek on March 15th. Yay!

Here's another silly picture, just for good measure.

Tuesday, March 3

Auntie Ariel x2

Miah and Jessie are having their second baby, sometime in the beginning of September!

This makes me want to hang around and be here for the delivery. Things change so fast. So fast! One second I want to be three thousand miles away, and the next I want to stay put.

I got to be in the room when Jessie was in labor with Benjamin, and then stayed in the room in the hospital those first days to help, run for needed things, and help entertain Jessie's mom. I was honored to be allowed to witness those first parenting moments. It made me love my brother, be so proud of him, knowing that he was going to be an amazing father. And he is! And Jessie is so good with Ben. Consistent, encouraging, and loving. That kid is lucky to have them. Now someone else will grow with that warm love and environment!

I've been a far too distant auntie for Ben. Of all the people that want to be around them, I'm the closest and I've been occupied for most of it with time consuming jobs and excuses. I don't want that anymore. Maybe I should move to Champaigne now that I have the chance and be there to help. Maybe this won't be a blog about going to Alaska.

Life can be however I want it. Right now. I get to choose.

This is me holding Ben a few hours after he was born.

And again last fall.

Decaf coffee is like kissing your sister.

The USBC is this weekend in Portland. The list of competitors is awesome. I want to go so bad! I'm excited to see the growth of the competition, even in just the last two years. I can't help but wonder what they'll be like when I get back into competing.

I just took a turn through all of the job postings on and got ancy. I could move to Oregon, Edmondton, or where ever else! I want to get back in a shop where the owners and baristas have something to teach, and are passionate about teaching. Or at least are curious and experimental. For me, like with playing the guitar, being around baristas that are better than I am makes it interesting, helps me retain information. I feel like I can get my foot in the door at any of these places, but it's not quite right. The idea of me starting something new to take into the long-term without Dan seems hollow. It's good then that I don't have to.

Monday, March 2

Getting organized

Yeah, until I actually do something exciting, this blog is going to have a lot of cat pictures in it.

Went to the Hyundai dealership this morning to have my passenger airbag replaced. They were nice enough to send a purple post card informing me of the recall. I will sleep soundly tonight knowing that my future passengers will be protected. Sorry to all you who rode with me and unknowingly risked your life. See I'm an adventure! Just riding in my car was risking your life!

Hyundai was also nice enough to tell me my car needs attention. One thing on the list sounded legit, and I'll go to my guy/call my dad to get the scoop on tie rods, but the other stuff is all suspicious.

I was sitting in the waiting room writing in my journal, making lists, listening to the Today show. There was a Mom and son throwing toys into the toy chest, dumping them out and doing it all again. A dude was reading the newspaper. A woman in beige pumps was glaring at a spot on the carpet. Ms. Beige Pumps was there just after I sat down, just getting an oil change. Renee, the brain of the shop reception desk, came in and listed off some technical jargon that Ms. Beige frowned to, which boiled down to the transmission fluid was old and too acidic, and it should be changed - flushed rather (because I found out that is $90 dollars more to clean the lines too). It would take about 30 minutes. Beige agreed to it reluctantly.

I would hate to be Renee. Everyone skeptical of what she says. Trying to help, trying to make money for the shop, trying to sound unbiased. Renee didn't come to talk to me about my list of "needed attention." A man named John did. John must be new. John gave me all the prices for the service (which they've never done for me before, even when I ask) and when I looked at him and said everything seemed more expensive than it should, he agreed. I said I would take his quote with me, thank you, and I'll be on my way.

Tomorrow will be car repair day, part 2, in which I get my oil changed, tires rotated and aligned. Exciting!

Like I said, the most interesting thing about this blog will be cat pictures for a little while.

Sunday, March 1

March 1st. The above picture is my life now: two duffel bags, a guitar (that my good friend Chuck agreed to take care of for me), two cats, and a bag of maps.

The cats have taken to Alex's house quite well. Baxter was fully settled about 14 minutes after walking into the house, while Kodak is still anxious about almost everything. The happy moment was when they discovered stairs for the first time. I swear I could see their little kitty lips smiling every time they ran up and down and up, and down, and up and down, and up. Alex also has many more areas for napping and perching, like this one,

<------- And this one.

I'm pretty sure B and K would stay with Alex forever this place is so great. I'm going to Chicago for a few days next week, and I'm sure Alex is going to use the four days to cement his spot as King of their universe.

Tonight is L Word with the ladies. I hear pizza and beer are offered. As if being annoyed with the amount of Jenny shenanigans the show cooks up isn't enough to go! Plus, I am hoping Kristy will be up for recounting her side of the Drag Show. Her last number was Mr. Roboto, full out with silver paint from head to toe.

14 Days and counting!
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