Winter Break

By Georgie Bright Kunkel

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could order the earth to turn toward the sun any time we wanted? Well, it isn’t going to happen so if we choose to live in a temperate climate without freezing cold in winter or sweltering heat in summer, we must put up with the cloudy skies in Seattle during the winter months. That is, unless we plan a winter break. My friend and I did just that, traveling by train all the way down to San Diego watching the scenery change from Puget Sound to the vast fields of agribusiness in California. I felt like a little kid when the waiter in the dining car jokingly chided me when I asked for dessert, “You need to clean your plate first.”

Changing trains in Los Angeles gave us the opportunity to experience the wonderful train depot there which puts our Seattle station to shame. But on leaving Seattle there were signs of a much needed upgrade taking place. Taking a taxi in San Diego tested my senses as a loud perfume odor permeated my nostrils. I complained so loudly that the driver remarked, “That smell is air freshener.” I blurted out, “I don’t need air freshener. I just need real honest-to-goodness fresh air.” There was plenty of that on a side trip to La Jolla (you need to look up how to pronounce this). The travel information stated that the rocky beach may be smelly because of all the seals congregating there. We chose to visit the beach that is washed clean by the tide.
We ate out with my granddaughter, her husband and three active boys at Joe’s Crab House where bibs were passed out and cracking crab became the activity of the evening. One day we visited an old friend of mine who suggested that we visit historic El Coronado Hotel with its two-story Christmas tree decorated with timepieces, the theme for this season. “Thrift shop ahead,” was my cry whenever I spied a sign for one. It was interesting to comb through what people in southern California have cast off—scanty chemises, sun dresses and last year’s swim suits.

Then on to Mesa, Arizona where we visited friends who shared their swimming pool and hot tub and played pinochle with us with our laughter filling the air every evening. That’s why I like pinochle. You don’t have to be as quiet as you do playing bridge. (Oh, oh. I was reminded again of my loud voice which I honed all the years I was caring for my hard-of-hearing husband).

Flying home was a breeze after train travel and driving almost 400 miles by rent-a-car. By the way the car had an interesting feature. It reported how many miles we could drive on the gas we had left. We had gas enough to visit Taliesin West, the Frank Lloyd Wright center which is still a working center for architects. The guide talked continuously on our tour, stopping here and there for a sit-down in one of Wright’s special rooms. Evidently he owned eighteen pianos one of which was in the sitting room we rested in. Our guide asked, “Who plays piano?” My friend pointed to me and said, “She does.” I then played my special version of Deep Purple and to my surprise I got a big round of applause.

Believe it or not, I spent two weeks away from home with only a small over the shoulder bag. Check with me on how to pack light. And I didn’t learn it from Rick Steves either. My friend wintering in Arizona helped swell my scant travel wardrobe by giving me a sparkling top to wear to the dance, saying, “You can loan it back to me when we return to Seattle.” Now that’s friendship.

Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at or 206-935-8663.

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.