America: Summer 2018 Part 2

America: Summer 2018 Part 2

Colorado to Chicago

Welcome to Part 2 of the journey from Latvia to Ireland, America, London and back to Latvia. This post starts in Granby, Colorado a tiny mountain town. Quite frankly, I just need to publish this. There may be mistakes and not all the photos are perfect.

June 5-7: Granby

Instead of taking the train all the way to Omaha, I discovered that it stopped in Granby, Colorado. We had our last Grinvalds’ family vacation in Granby, and it was a really neat spot, so I thought this would be a great chance for Rita to see the Rockies. We rented a car from a local service, so we could drive around in the mountains.

Oddly enough, I found out by chance that Ween was playing in Red Rocks one of the nights were would be there. I was able to get tickets, so we drove down to Red Rocks during a storm to see one of my favorite bands. I could hardly ask for more. But I got more…a rainbow over the mountains!

Rita also got to see the inside of a Colorado dispensary which was quite a unique experience for my Latvian līgava.

The mountains were really neat too!

 

Granby Photos

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June 7-8: Denver

I wanted to rent a car for the drive through Nebraska, but since Granby doesn’t rent cars from there to Omaha, we had to make a stop in Denver. We caught the California Zephyr out of Granby (it was not on time) and spent the next night and day in the Mile High City. Not much to tell, but the city is really nice. I love how connected everything is. Rita had a walk in the Platte river. We rented an SUV or Crossover or something the next day and started our drive to Omaha. We stopped at a mall on the way home and did some good old fashioned American shopping!

 

 

 

Denver Photos

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June 8-9: Nebraska

We drove the rental car through Colorado, off the interstate, which took much longer than expected. The usual four hours from Denver to North Platte took more like seven, so we spent the night at a hotel just off the interstate. The big bonus was seeing parts of eastern Colorado that I had never seen before including an incredible sunset over the plains.

It was neat to be back in Nebraska after some nine months. It felt familiar and there is always something nice about familiar. I just regretted that I didn’t have enough time to show Rita all that I wanted to. I was hoping to at least see the bison and elk at Cody Park… if they still are still there. I wanted to stop in Paxton to see Ole’s Big Game bar and Gothenburg to see the church Vitauts used to preach at.

The more I travel, the more I realize that you will never see everything you want to see, but you have to be open to seeing what you do see. Expectations are the ruiner of everything.

Photos

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June 9-12: Omaha

Party

The highlight of the trip for me was getting to see my family and friends again. Everyone was so friendly, helpful and incredible that it is hard to capture everything in a simple, succinct writing.

My friend Dan let us crash at his Airbnb spot for the first night, and then my brother Al hooked us up with rooms at a casino in Council Bluffs. After some weird car mishaps, we were able to drive dad’s Cadillac around. I like to think that Liesma is laughing somewhere with more car stories to tell about her wayward son.

I took Rita to see Westside where I ran into a few old friends and colleagues. It was nice to see the old Humanities classroom and catch up on some of the goings on there.

The best night was Sunday when Al, Chris, and Vitauts hosted a party at the old house. So many people came, and I felt bad for not being able to tell everyone everything I wanted to tell them, but I invite emails and WhatsApp conversations to fill in the gaps. Rita’s friend Krišs Salmanis, a Latvian artist, just happened to be in Omaha as an artist in residence at the Bemis center, and he joined the party as well. I was blessed with friends from my scattered past coming all the way from Kansas and Missouri to share stories, eat food, and drink together. Kyle showed up with his girlfriend and her daughter which was absolutely amazing! Thank you so much to everyone for making our time there so wonderfully warm and joyful!

It was especially nice to see Vitauts again and to introduce him to Rita in person. Along with John Grinberg, they all sang Latvian folksongs together. Dad has a tough time remember what day it is or where he is living, but he could remember every word of these songs that he grew up with. And the look of joy on his face as he sang was simply something you can’t put into words. One could almost see all the warm memories those songs must hold for him in his heart. On a little downer, I tried to speak the little Latvian I have learned so far, but he was not impressed. I must keep learning!

Again, we had plans to visit the zoo and some other places around Omaha, but time is an angry beast. We ended up doing some sightseeing, celebrating Glen’s birthday with siblings and Kyle at the Upstream. We were treated to two phenomenal rain storms, so Rita got to see what Midwest weather is all about.

Before we left, we got to see the Joslyn Art Museum which really is a gem. Then we rented a car at the airport, and headed for our next stop: Iowa!

Omaha Photos

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June 12-13: Iowa

As I said before, Rita has a fascination with the American Amish community. We saw some Amish families on the train, and she couldn’t resist the urge to find out more about them. I had heard of the Amana Colonies in Iowa, and, like many people, assumed these were Amish people only to find out that they weren’t quite the same thing. I booked a room in one of the colonies, and did a little research to find out there was a real Amish community in the nearby town of Kalona.

We stayed in one of the smaller Amana colony towns called Homestead at the Die Heimat Country Inn. It was a unique stay in an old house run by a married couple who had left the colonies and then decided to return to run this place. They had a breakfast for us in the morning and shared their story with us and even offered to take a photo and pose with us. It was really heartwarming.

Upon arriving in Homestead, however, after a long drive across Iowa, I was a bit disappointed that there really wasn’t anything there. The map had said there was at least one restaurant, a museum and some other things, but they were all closed. After walking all through the one-road town, we decided to try driving to the main colony, Amana, to see if we could get some food. We luckily found one place that was just about to close, but they took us in and fed us in the most friendly manner possible. The fun part of the story was that the owner of the restaurant lived in Homestead, and she had seen us walking by her house just a couple of hours earlier. You have to love small towns!

The next day, I took some paper directions from the hotel manager, and we headed for Kalona, where the real Amish people lived. We took curving Iowa roads this way and that in a generally south-eastern direction. I knew we were close when we saw the classic horse and buggy father and son combo driving slowly on the shoulder of a dirt road. Rita was thrilled. We drove around until we found the town, which was much larger than I had expected. It was much more than just an Amish community, and there were lots of tourists there.

Rita took lots of photos as the local Amish residents visited the bank and various shops in town. We went to a quaint little market that had lots of Amish-themed products. Overall, it was an enlightening and interesting experience.

Iowa Photos

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June 13-14: Chicago

The final stop in America was Chicago. Rita had always want to  see Chicago, and flights from O’Hare were a good price, so why not?

We only had a day there, so we arrived again at night, but of all the cities we went to, we felt most at home walking the streets of Chicago. We were in a nice neighborhood, and all I wanted was “real” Chicago pizza. I asked a couple of locals for a nearby place, and we ended up getting lost on the way, so we had some normalish pizza at a cool joint not too far from our hotel. It was fine.

Then, the next day, Rita was not feeling very well, so we stayed in the hotel for awhile before driving around and seeing the big city. We drove downtown to see the skyscrapers and walked around a bit having lunch at a sandwich shop.

Then, on the way to the airport, I found Frank Lloyd Wright’s house in Oak Park. Rita was thrilled. She loves architecture. We parked and walked around one of the most beautiful neighborhoods I have ever seen. One guy walking his dog came to talk to us. I think he was French. He had a lot to say about the neighborhood.

After our short walking tour of Oak Park, we drove to O’Hare which is impossibly big. I finally found where to drop the car off. Then we got on a shuttle, and I think it took about 45 minutes for us to get to the international terminal. How can an airport be so big that it takes 45 minutes to get from one part to the other? I could drive all the way from one end of Omaha to the other in the same time.

Then we got on our plan and scooted across the ocean. This flight was way faster and less joyless than the previous one, but they did manage to lose our luggage.

 

 

Chicago Photos

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June 15-17: London

Navigating London without luggage wasn’t a bad thing. It was much easier to take public transportation from the airport and walk the twenty or so blocks to our Airbnb house without dragging huge suitcases.

We ended up staying in a small flat with four Romanians who were hoping to open a vegan restaurant once they could save up money. Their story sounded so familiar… ever city seems to have this issue with high rent prices, low wages, and people struggling to just maintain a living space. They had given up their entire living room for an Airbnb space confining themselves to their tiny bedrooms while we had this huge room to ourselves.

London is huge and busy. That is my takeaway. I found it too crowded for my tastes. We didn’t do many touristy things, but we did see some Bauhaus architecture museums which was lovely. I really like how Rita manages to find these interesting spots that I would never think of!

We did take in some nightlife by going to the Piccadilly Circus on a crowded Saturday night. We also walked through Soho. It was incredible, but I would rather not deal with that many people. Either I am getting old or sensible.

Most of the last day we spent navigating to the airport, and then we were off, in the sky again, ready to be back in Latvia.

Sidenote: One of my favorite things in England were the signs. I have some photos below.

 

 

 

 

 

London Photos

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June 17: Riga

Landing in Riga was one of the most joyful moments of the past few years for me. After leaving crowded London, it felt so good to be back in a place where the air was open and I could breathe! We landed at 10:30 p.m., and it was still light out. The sun was up, and the weather was gorgeous. Apparently, it was the best week of June weather that anyone could remember. Lucky us!

Oh, and our luggage was waiting for us in Riga! Not only that, but the airline paid us some money back for stuff we bought in London. So losing the luggage was a win-win!

 

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