May 24, 2016

April Travels – Part Two – Washington DC

Filed under: Family,Interesting Things,Outside AK — Susan Stevenson @ 12:09 pm

In my last trip post, I wrote about the time that Steve and I spent in Philadelphia with my siblings and their families.  We visited from April 1st until the morning of April 12th. On that Tuesday morning, my SIL Diane took Steve and I to the Cornwell Heights Station near their home, where we took the SEPTA train to 30th Street Station in downtown Philly, and boarded Amtrak for Washington DC. We were looking forward to spending time in our nation’s capital with Mike, Patti, Steve & Dee.

I found a wonderful condo rental (using the VRBO website) in Arlington, VA –  which is a short metro commute from the National Mall and in a much less congested area. The condo was in walking distance to restaurants, taverns, and small convenience stores. Watching the sun set from the balcony was gorgeous every night. With 3BR/2BA, living room/dining area, full kitchen, fireplace, laundry facilities, and all the comforts of home, the cost to rent this unit was much less than booking three hotel rooms in DC.

Unfortunately, my brother Marc and his wife Denise couldn’t accompany the rest of us to Washington. The other four couldn’t join us until the next evening due to work schedules, so they all drove down in Mike’s SUV.


View from CondoView from CondoGetting from Washington DC’s Union Station to Arlington wasn’t as difficult as we worried, especially once we figured out the metro card machine. We were only carrying backpacks and small rolling suitcases, as my brothers were bringing our large bags with them, thank goodness. Especially as we arrived in Union Station in the middle of rush hour and faced very crowded (standing room only) trains.

After checking into the condo, we took a walk down the street looking for a quick bite to eat. When we came upon an iHop, the “breakfast for dinner” craving came upon me, so there we stopped.  We arrived back at our unit just before sunset. It was beautiful.


(Wednesday) After enjoying a breakfast burrito from the first floor cafe, Steve and I walked a couple of blocks to the train station, and hopped on the metro to the Smithsonian Castle, which is about the halfway point of the National Mall and Memorials area. Our visit to Washington was too late for the cherry blossoms, even though the Cherry Blossom Festival took place on our final day, but the tulips were absolutely stunning.  We picked up a map of all the Smithsonian museums so we could plan our days. We love that the museums are free!

We visited the  National Museum of the American Indian, which I found quite fascinating. I didn’t take many photos in there as it was quite dark, and it’s difficult to photograph through glass with lights reflecting on the display cases. There was also quite a bit of information to read along with the exhibits. We spent more than an hour there. My favorite part of the museum was the “Our Universes” gallery (level 4) which focuses on Native American beliefs and creation stories.

The Capitol is undergoing renovations, so there was scaffolding surrounding the lower part of the dome. We didn’t try to tour the Capitol, but we did walk as far as the reflecting pool in front of it before crossing the mall and starting down the other side toward the Washington Monument. It was a beautiful spring day with temps in the low 60s. The sun felt deliciously warm without being too hot. Steve and I occasionally stopped  to rest our legs in a shady spot under a tree or next to a fountain or garden. It was nice not to feel rushed or to have a strict itinerary. I was thankful for comfortable shoes though! We walked more than 5 miles that day – and that’s not including the miles we walked inside the buildings and at the monuments.

From the greenbelt at the National Mall, we walked all the way to the WW II Veterans Memorial, and then onward to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. We stopped at the Lincoln Memorial, and climbed the many steps to see Lincoln perched in his marble chair. Our last stop was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I’ve visited the memorial a handful of times in my life and every single time I do, I cry. Seeing so many names on the wall, and all the messages and cards and flowers that are placed there regularly really touches me.
James Seals WW II Veteran, 100 yrs old, Survived Pearl HarborWhile we were at the World War II Memorial, we noticed that there were quite a few WW II veterans in attendance. With pride they wore their dress uniforms, meticulously decorated with the medals and ribbons earned for their military service. As we walked past them, we thanked them for their service.

We came upon a news crew interviewing 100 year old WW II veteran Colonel James Seals, who came to Washington DC on an Honor Flight. Colonel Seals is one of the last living survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when more than 2,400 Americans were killed. At the time, Col. Seals was a Marine Corps private and had just arrived in HI a week earlier. He was on his way to breakfast when the attack happened. If he’d have been a few minutes earlier, he would have been killed too. Colonel Seals lives with his daughter in TN.


May 9, 2016

April Travels – Part One – Philadelphia

Filed under: Family,Outside AK — Susan Stevenson @ 6:17 am


Happy Retirement to my husband!

There have been some big changes in our life over the last few weeks. We have now entered the next chapter. Steve is officially retired from work! We have been discussing retirement quite a bit over the last year especially. Our original plan was to wait until Steve turns 62 (December) so that he could start collecting Social Security. But the more we talked about it, the more we decided that there really wasn’t a reason to wait until December.

Once plans were finalized for our month-long trip “outside” or to the “lower 48”, the more we wanted to just move on with our lives. For insurance purposes, Steve went back to work for one day this month so that we could carry our insurance another month and take care of last minute exams, etc. But now he is done. I have a “honey do” list in my head that needs to be put to paper, but I want him to just focus on relaxing right now. He deserves a little down time before we both get to work tending to the house.

As for me, I am not retiring. Fortunately, I set my own hours so I will still be able to focus on us and our growing family. And I could never give up photography! But I suspect I won’t be working as many hours as I do now – especially when we get our new camper and begin traveling the road for longer periods of time.  More about that to come.


We spent the entire month of April traveling. The first 11 days were spent in Philadelphia with family and friends. My sons and their gals also visited Philly while we were there, so it was a true family reunion. The kids were only able to stay for a long weekend, but it was wonderful to have them for even that short a time. They really enjoyed seeing their aunts and uncles and their cousins, as it had been more than 5 years. And everyone was thrilled to see Brandon and Chris, to see Becky’s growing belly, and to finally meet Chris’ fiancee, Kimberly.

We then traveled to Washington DC (Arlington) for 5 days. Steve and I took Amtrak, and two of my brothers and their wife/gf drove down a day later. We all enjoyed the Smithsonian Museums, the Veteran Memorial Parks, and visiting Arlington National Cemetery.

Steve and I then boarded Amtrak for the first leg of our trip across the country. We rode the rails from DC to South Bend, IN, where we stopped for a few days to look at travel trailers and do some RV factory tours (this is where the new camper comes in). We then got back on Amtrak and rode it all the way to Portland, OR.

When we arrived in Portland, we immediately picked up a rental car and made our way to Moses Lake, WA to spend a few days with our friends Randy and Celeste (who used to live in AK). It was a lovely drive along the Columbia River Gorge and through so many beautiful agricultural areas. Spending time with dear friends was also very special and I’m so glad we were able to get together.

Steve and I returned to Portland for a few more days. We did several scenic drives, some hiking, and thoroughly enjoyed exploring that part of the state. We have visited OR two other times, and still we look forward to returning and seeing even more. It is such a beautiful place!

We flew back to Fairbanks from Portland – nearly a month after our travels began. Of all that we missed, Raven was the most important. She was being cared for by a friend, but a month is the longest we’ve ever left her with someone else. Things went well, and there was a lot of tail wagging and kisses for both of us. It’s so nice to have our family all together again.

A month of traveling means a lot of photos. I’m slowly making my way through the images I snapped and will be blogging about our travels over the course of several entries. This first entry is about our time in Philadelphia.


Alaska Airlines jet in SeattleSeattle Airport and Mt RainierOur trip got off to a rocky start, when the flight we were scheduled to fly on was cancelled the day before we were to fly. We were originally flying First Class too, so we spent not only more money on the tickets, but also spent some miles to upgrade. The only flight we could get on didn’t have any seats in First Class available, nor did they have seats that were next to each other! Fortunately, we were able to be seated together after boarding. The airline refunded us some airline miles back, but we’re not entirely satisfied with that and will be pursuing it further. Fortunately, the leg between Seattle and Philadelphia was unchanged and we were able to have our First Class seats.


We touched down in Philadelphia before 5pm. Brandon and Becky arrived at around the same time, but in a different terminal. My brother Mike, who works nearby, stopped for them first, before coming for us. At about the same time, I received a text from Chris (who was driving from Madison to Philadelphia) that he was only about an hour outside of Philadelphia. Perfect timing! A call was placed to my sister in law, Diane, to order the cheesesteaks we were having for our first dinner in Philly. There is nothing like an authentic Philly Cheesesteak! They were so delicious!

These photos were taken our first night in town. It was so wonderful to see my brother Steve, my SIL Diane and my niece Rachel, as well as all my kids (Brandon and wife Becky, and Chris and fiancee Kimmie).

Brother Steve Brandon, Becky and Chris in Philly Chris and Kimmie
Pregnant Becky Me and the Kids Diane and my Steve


January 13, 2016

Happy 2016!

Filed under: Travel — Susan Stevenson @ 4:35 pm


I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and started the new year off well. Today, I finally packed away my Christmas decorations. I usually take care of “de-Christmasing” my house the first week of the year, but this year, I just haven’t been feeling very motivated. Plus, the boxes are stored under the house, so I rely on Steve to go down into the crawlspace and hand them up to me. He’s been working so a lot depended on his schedule.  But it’s done – and I’m happy to have my house back to normal. I deal with the cleaning aspect tomorrow.

It’s been a rather laid back year so far. Here we are, nearly halfway through January, and I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished a thing. At the start of each new year, I make a list of things I’d like to do, or complete, or start, or update, and I’ve been making a little bit of progress. But the motivation factor is a real issue. I’m still feeling the winter doldrums, despite the ever increasing minutes of daylight. It’s not as bad as it was back in December, but we still have a long way to go until spring – and normal daylight.

Fortunately, we haven’t had the extremely cold temperatures that we usually get in January. I’ve probably jinxed us, by writing about it. I’m OK with that, as it makes going out at night to view the aurora much more enjoyable.


As I have each year for the last few years, I created desktop calendars that you are free to download to your computer and use as your desktop wallpaper. This year, I made the calendars widescreen, as the average computer/laptop tends to have a wide screen now. Even if you don’t have a widescreen device, by choosing “fit” or “fill” or “stretch”, you should be able to use these images.

I usually create quarterly calendars, but decided to create calendars that could be swapped out every two months this year.

To download these to your computer, instead of clicking on them (which makes them open up to full size), RIGHT CLICK on the thumbnail and choose “OPEN LINK IN NEW TAB”. Then, go to that tab, where you’ll find the full size image. From there you can RIGHT CLICK and choose “SAVE IMAGE AS”. Remember where you save them to, so you can find them when it’s time to apply them to your desktop.

Here’s a description of the images:

Jan-Feb: Tanana River at Sunset, south of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway
Mar-Apr: Aurora Borealis corona over my house
May-Jun: Sandhill Cranes at Creamers Field in Fairbanks
Jul-Aug: Denali National Park, Park Road in summer
Sept-Oct: Autumn in Alaska, Parks Hwy, Broad Pass area, south of Denali Park.
Nov-Dec: Resting cow moose in my back yard

Enjoy them!

Desktop Calendar January and February Desktop Calendar March and April Desktop Calendar May and June
Desktop Calendar July and August Desktop Calendar September and October Desktop Calendar November and December