Holy cow, what a trip this has been. Join me as Older Daughter and I make our way to Ohio.
We started by renting a car in Coeur d'Alene and driving to Seattle. It was far cheaper (as well as a direct flight) to fly from Seattle to Cleveland than it would be flying from Spokane (which, we learned, would have necessitated two or three layovers). So drive we did.
Notice the dry, desert-y landscape. Most people don't realize how much of central Washington features this kind of terrain.
We saw lots and lots of enormous dust devils, hundreds of feet high.
We stopped at a dramatic overlook on the Columbia River. It was bakingly hot, dismally hot.
You see that distant bridge across the river?
Well, we crossed it next.
No problems going across -- for US. But traffic in the opposite direction? Oh my goodness. Road work on the bridge reduced traffic down to one lane, and it was backed up for MILES. How many vehicles were overheating in that hot sun? I can't even begin to guess.
I didn't keep exact tabs, but I'm guess it was eight or nine miles of backed-up traffic -- enough that, on my way home, I'm going to avoid this particular route.
Eventually we made it over Snoqualmie Pass and dropped down the western slope of the Cascades, where things were much greener and more dramatic. Oh, and a bit cooler too.
And of course, I hit Seattle just at the end of rush hour traffic.
Then after waiting a couple of hours for the ticket counter to open at the airport, we hit rush hour traffic for checking in as well. Oh, and then security.
By this point we were pretty wiped, having been traveling (which included waiting time) for eleven hours. It was nice to see some homey rocking chairs in the airport, looking over a massive glass wall to the tarmac.
The flight was a red-eye departing at 11:30 p.m. (understand I'd been awake since 3:30 a.m. -- I'm naturally an early riser). It was interesting to see the city lights from above.
Needless to say, neither of us slept worth beans on the flight beyond fitful dozes. The flight was uneventful, but it landed around 7 a.m. at an amazingly disorganized airport, since Cleveland was apparently undergoing a great deal of renovation work and had poor signage. After a half-hour search for the rental car desk, we learned we had to take a shuttle several miles off-site to rent a car. Are we having fun yet?
Unlike the dry hot climate we just left, apparently Ohio is experiencing one of the wettest summers on record. We rented a car and I fetched it in a torrential downpour. We drove the twenty-odd miles to Chagrin Falls in absolute sheets of rain, hydroplaning through standing water and avoiding the side lanes where the rain had overwhelmed the drainage system. One road even had this "Road Under Water" sign because, get this, the road was under water. (Blurry photo, sorry.)
Chagrin Falls was disappointingly blah, particularly after hearing everyone praise its beauty. Naively thinking there wouldn't be a problem to find lodging, I hadn't booked a hotel in advance and quickly learned my mistake. After attempting five hotels (starting at the cheapest and working my way up), I finally found a room for a staggering $150 for a single night. By now desperate for anywhere to rest, I took the door card and we stumbled upstairs, tired beyond thought. Older Daughter took a shower and then crashed on the bed and slept for awhile.
We couldn't check her into her dorm until 3 p.m., so we finally wound our way through several miles of verdant hilly highway toward the school, and made an important discovery. The hotel wasn't in Chagrin Falls -- it was (I think) either Beachwood or Woodmere (signage isn't always clear). The town of Chagrin Falls was several miles away, and oh my goodness, it was gorgeous.
We had half an hour to kill, so we decided to explore the town a bit. It just happened to be the half hour when the rain ceased (notice the ominous clouds overhead).
Chagrin Falls is the location -- no surprise -- of the waterfall that bears its name. It was massively full enough to attract even the locals to gape.
It was muddy from the onslaught of rain, and we thought it looked like the waterfall in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- chocolate churned by waterfall. The noise was thunderous, particularly on the observation platform that was practically in the water.
The falls have two tiers, and we agreed we wouldn't want to be on this porch hanging precariously over the upper tier.
We enjoyed ourselves very much as we walked around the small enclave and admired the sights.
The school is two buildings (converted houses) and a sign welcomed incoming students.
Then it was time to go check Older Daughter into the dorm -- just as the rains moved back in and it poured once more.
We got to the dorm a few minutes early. A fast dash to confirm the doors were locked left us as drenched as if we'd stepped into a shower. So we sat in the car, mopped our head and faces, and watched the staggering downpour.
Just when I commented that it couldn't possibly rain any harder -- well, it rained harder.
At last the rain eased up about the time the administrator unlocked the dorm, so nobody's belongings got soaked.
The dorm is very basic and very clean.
Older Daughter is sharing a room with a 26-year-old woman who was also homeschooled. There are only seven students this term, and all seem very kind, cheerful, and grounded.
There are two small kitchens, a common room, several bathrooms, etc.
Older Daughter made up her bed, put her clothes away, and set up a corner of the dresser with her favorite tea cups and Terry Pratchett books. The administrator also had a meeting with all the new students (non-students were asked not to attend), so I went back to the hotel and allowed our daughter the dignity of entering her new life without mommy tagging along.
In the evening I picked her up for dinner and we shopped for the toiletries we didn't want to bother shipping. She was getting acquainted with her new housemates and liked everyone -- as I said, they seemed like a solid, grounded group of young women -- and she was optimistic. The only cloud hanging over both of us is our upcoming parting.
More later -- still tired from the trip -- but it seems Older Daughter is launching into a very nice life.