Saturday, July 30, 2011

North to Alaska

 Next stop: Alaska! Our good friend Suel lives in Da Nang in the winter and in Alaska in the summer. Anh and I decided to give him a visit while we were in the neighborhood. This part of our adventure was all a spur of the moment decision. This wasn't in our plan but since we were held up getting Anh's visa at the beginning of the trip, we really have no plan. I figured that if we were ever going to see Alaska together, this was the time to do it. We are so glad we did. The weather was perfect, mid 80's during midday and cooling off to mid 60's at night (what little night there was). It didn't get dark until after midnight.

Suel has a little cabin on the Matanuska Glacier, about a hundred miles outside of Anchorage. He has no running water but does have electricity and had set up a cozy little loft for us that looks out over some of the most beautiful country in the world. We spent most of our time just sitting on the porch talking and laughing and eating. Anh kicked Suel out of his kitchen while she tried her hand at cooking like a mountain woman. She can whip up a mean moose goulash.

We had a great time driving around to meet Suel's neighbors and see how the 'real people' in Alaska live. It was really fun getting to meet some of his friends and visit their homes. Everyone in his neck of the woods has built their own house and some of them are very unique.

 Anh was anxious to see some bear and moose. We didn't see any bear but we did find some moose! We were given some moose and bear sausage to take back to Vietnam with us.


Next on our agenda was to visit Anh's daughter and niece in Phoenix. Our flight from Wichita to Phoenix was canceled and we were re-routed on a later flight with a layover in Chicago. Don't ask why we had to go to Chicago to get to Phoenix. It's another example of logic in flying. But it did give Anh one more state to add to her list of places visited. Arizona was even hotter than Kansas (115) but it wasn't humid so it was almost bearable.

Just seeing Anh and her daughter Na get together for the first time in nearly three years was enough to make the trip a success. It was well after midnight before our plane landed and we were all exhausted but we stayed up and chatted until the wee hours.

Though our stay in Phoenix was short, we did have a great time there. It was especially fun to get to know Anh's neice's daughter, Ashlinn, who liked to dance for us and try to teach me Vietnamese.

After two nights in Phoenix, we hit the road and drove out to El Monte, California to visit Anh's sister and her family. El Monte has a large Vietnamese population and is called "Little Saigon". It was almost like driving in downtown Saigon with all the Vietnamese shops and restaurants on the streets. I was amazed by how patriotic the Vietnamese living there are. Everywhere you looked, there were American flags flying, even inside homes and on automobiles. There is a memorial in El Monte that the Viet community erected to honor both the American and South Vietnamese soldiers.
 We took advantage of our time in Southern California to do a bit of touristy stuff. Anh's daughter and boyfriend drove us to Hollywood so we could walk on the stars of Hollywood Blvd. and then go to Santa Monica to visit the pier.

Anh has some friends in San Diego who she has worked with as a guide. They invited us to spend a few nights with them in their lovely home. KV and her husband Hung both worked for the Southern government during the war and were able to evacuate to the US during the fall of Saigon. They were quite interesting to talk with and I wish we would have had more time together but after three days, it was time to move on.

Friday, July 29, 2011


We've been here in the States together for over a month now and have covered a lot of ground. Since we were delayed in our start, nothing is really being planned and we are winging it. That leads to some complications in logistics but nothing we haven't been able to overcome. So far, it's been a great trip.

It was hot as blazes in Kansas while we were there, officially 112 degrees but the thermometer on the parking lot at the car show we attended read 134. That's hot! It was fun showing Anh the old 'muscle cars' of the sixties in spite of the heat. We also visited Cow Town, a heritage center in Wichita where they have moved many of the old homes and businesses that were in use in the late 1800's to create an authentic look at what the west was like in the old days. They even put on a gunfight on Main Street. Of course, Anh had to share a sasparilla with the gunfighters.

The best part of our time in Kansas was spending time with my mother. Even though mom has been having some health problems, we were still able to have some wonderful times together. Anh really enjoyed working in mom's flower garden and puttering around the house. As an added bonus my sister was able to fly in from North Carolina to spend a few days with us and get to meet Anh.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Back in the USA

After over a month of waiting, we finally made it. I had to return to the States a couple of weeks before Anh's visa came through but she finally got and was able to get to Colorado without any problems. When I saw her coming up the stairway at the airport, the smile on her face made all the waiting worthwhile.I met her with flowers, an American flag, and a big kiss. She looked great in her red top and red hat.

Our first stop was to head to Boulder and drive by my house. We couldn't go inside since I have someone renting the place right now but we were able to see it from the outside. We drove up into the foothills behind my house so that she could see the open space at the base of the Flatirons and look down upon the city. Boulder is beautiful this time of year. They had a lot of snow during the winter and quite a bit of rain in the spring so everything was green and fresh.

The Pearl Street Mall in Boulder is one of my favorite places to hang out. There are plenty of good restaurants and places to have a beer while people watching. We met my good friend Chris and his daughter who had come to Vietnam over Christmas. It kind of felt like old home week to see a lot of the people I haven't seen in over a year. Everyone seemed to like Anh, but why wouldn't they?

We got up early the next day and headed up into the Mountains. There was still a lot of snow in the high country and Anh had never seen snow before. It was a beautiful, sunny day with puffy white clouds and, once we had gotten up into the high country, enough snow to play around in it. We drove over Loveland Pass, the highest all-year road in the US and stood on the Continental divide before driving down the other side to the ski area of Arapahoe Basin. The ski area was still open even though it was late June. We didn't try skiing ourselves because I didn't want any broken legs this early in our trip. 

My son and his family invited us over to their house for a homemade Mexican dinner. It was outstanding. I had forgotten how good real Mexican food can taste. It was also fun to play with my two granddaughters, Cody and Alex. 

Four days after Anh's arrival, we boarded a plane again and flew to Kansas to see my mother. Anh had not met my mother yet and was really looking forward to getting together with her. I think the two of them are going to hit it off great together. It's hotter than hell here, 105 degrees. Much hotter than Vietnam so we are spending most of our time indoors.