Our most essential piece of travel gear is our contact list. It includes family (yup, Sue’s cousins are half of it…), friends and other people we’ve met over the years or along the way who meet stringent criteria – fun, stay in touch, we’d rather hug than shake hands. We love stopping by to visit people, becoming temporary neighbors while keeping in touch when we travel.
Although we had to narrow the range a bit during the sprint (remember when we visited Howard because he was only 4 days away?), and shorten the visits, we did manage four totally awesome stops.
Marilyn and I worked together 30 years ago and have reconnected live several times while in Buffalo. Our last visit was during our Great Lakes trip in 2016 where Marilyn was an exceptional tour guide of the greater Buffalo and Niagara Falls area. Although we didn’t have much time for exploration on this visit, Marilyn and Jerry took us out to a fabulous dinner at Mulberry Italian Ristorante, made famous by Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. Wonderful to catch up with Marilyn, and meet Jerry. We’ll be back!
Kalamazoo is the center of the universe, or at least the Michigan blues universe. We’ve known Tom, one of Doug’s fellow on-line guitar lessons friends for about five years. Tom and Laurel have hosted us, including music jams, two times (2016 and 2018) in the past three years. We packed everything into this year’s short visit – catch up, see a live jazz band, enjoy dinner on the town, jam, sleep (just a little), jam, pack up, giant hugs and head out. The on-line group has a national gathering next year, so we’re already looking forward to seeing Tom and Laurel again soon.
I have 30 first cousins just on my father’s side (more on my mom’s, but that’s for a different story). I’d met all but two until we connected with Kelly in Minneapolis. (Just one more – her sister Lisa near San Francisco.) They grew up in California while the rest of the family lived in New England. Our timing was fortuitous. We met up with Kelly, her wife Rhonda and their about-to-graduate-from-high-school-and-head-to-college teen Jasper, on a free Saturday evening. How do you start the conversation with a cousin you’ve never met? Same as the others: ‘Hi, I’m Sue!’ And give ’em a hug! The conversation just happens…
Sunday was the legendary South Minneapolis May Day Parade. Kelly invited us to join in the extended festivities. We staked our claim for the preferred primo parade watching grass patch just a few blocks from the house. We had more quality get to know each other time as we munched on bagels while watching the parade crowd build, including the group of friends joining us. The parade was an outrageously fun, urban affair celebrating a most diverse community. The group of friends expanded at the after-party in Kelly and Rhonda’s ultimate urban backyard. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting and getting to know Kelly, Rhonda and Jasper, and to know we’ll be staying in touch. We need to introduce them to 28 more cousins!
Rod and Tanya are like soul mates with different instruments and a bigger RV. They, too, tour in an RV six months at a time in search of adventures, music events and opportunities to play. We were introduced to them in 2016, met up in their home town of Egan, SD (population 280, or 282 in the summer when they’re back from their adventures) and we became fast friends. Tanya sings and plays keys while Rod sings and plays guitar. We love becoming their temporary rhythm section with Doug on bass and me on drums. Yet another jam-packed (pun intended) visit – catch up, jam, eat, sleep (just a little), trade a few more stories, music and RV tips, reminisce on our favorite meet up spot in Colorado, hugs, until next time.
We’ve been gone less than a week and we’re in Wyoming. How did that happen? (Hmmm, reread part 1.)