Maren

Arriving in Portland, by train

9/17/22

I’m back. I’m back in Portland. Wow.

Yesterday actually didn’t feel as weird to me as I had thought it might. I think I’m really getting the hang of this “living in the moment” thing, and that meant that yesterday on the train I just kind of thought, “Oh yeah, I’ve taken this trip many times. There’s that place… there’s that place…” And when we pulled into Portland, everything just looked familiar, in an everyday kind of way.

I liked it.

Meanwhile, I had struck up a conversation with an interesting elder English fellow, Tony, at the Seattle train station. We talked about my rig, and about travel in general, the UK, the US, etc.

When we arrived in Portland, I encouraged him to save some money on cab fare by taking the MAX light rail, since his hotel was a quick and easy jaunt across the river. I walked him over to the light rail station, showed him how to get a ticket (and when he had trouble with his credit card in the machine, a fellow passenger standing nearby pointed out a free one in the machine that somehow someone had left—talk about magic!) and watched him board the yellow line train. He was very appreciative, and I felt really great about having helped a Portland visitor with my local transit knowledge that had remained intact for the previous year.

UNTIL!

I biked over to the nearby REI to replace the now-disgusting bite valve on my hydration pack, then biked back to that MAX stop to catch my own yellow line train. It was only after the train crossed the bridge that I suddenly remembered that the yellow line veers north one stop before the Convention Center, which is where Tony had needed to disembark.

Yikes!!

(Tony, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry, and I hope you, um, enjoyed your Portland transit adventure! Guess my memory wasn’t as watertight as I had thought…)

I grimaced a moment, then chose to trust that Tony would be fine, and allowed myself to focus on arriving at my friend Sandi’s house.

That had been a last-minute plot twist: about halfway through my train ride, my friend Sarah, who was to have hosted me with her husband for my first night or two in outer SE Portland, messaged me to let me know she had the flu, so they wouldn’t be able to have me after all.

Wow. Last-minute pivot! But I was very glad she had protected her own health as well as mine by letting me know. (Sarah, if you’re reading this, I hope you heal up soon, and I hope to see you and Frank while I’m here!)

But Sandi, whose cat I will be caring for while she’s gone for a little while, was gracious in allowing me to stay at her place last night, even though she was scrambling to clean and do various urgent tasks before leaving for her own travels. (Thank you again, Sandi!)

We got an early dinner at the nearby New Seasons, and then turned in early last night, since we were both a bit short on sleep.

For the next few nights I’ll be staying with my friend Greg in SE, back near my own place. (I’m not sure if I’ll go by my place—it might feel weird to see it when I don’t live there, and someone else does!) Then I’ll be back with Sandi and her cat for a couple of weeks.

I’ve got lots of people to see, several new restaurants to try and old favorites to revisit, a few parks to hang out in, and hopefully some just plain downtime, some Zoom time with people all over who I haven’t been able to schedule time with yet… and various other things to fill my time here in Portland. I probably won’t be blogging every day here, but I’ll plan to check in every few days.

Please enjoy these pics of Seattle transit infrastructure, my Amtrak journey, and the iconic Portland Union Station once again.

I’m glad to be here.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Whidbey Island to Seattle

9/16/22

Well, as it turned out, I only biked 14 miles today—not the 27 I had thought—although there were definitely some challenging hills in there, especially on the two-mile stretch coming off the ferry into Mukilteo.

This morning, I said farewell to my Whidbey Island Warmshowers hosts Michael and Debbie (hi, you two, if you’re reading!) and glided down the quarter-mile or so to the ferry dock beneath their living room window. As the ferry set sail, I got a text from them that they could see me with my bright trailer on the dock!

The sailing was brief, and then I began my ascent, with several stops to rest.

Today’s cycling was much less visually pleasant than that of the past week or so. I was on a busy highway for about the first ten miles. I stopped for lunch in Lynnwood at a Taco Del Mar, much to my delight since the Seattle-based chain closed all their Portland-area locations some years ago. I had almost forgotten that the place existed, but I used to eat there at least once a week for probably at least ten years, maybe more like twenty! It was fun to reminisce over my spinach-tortilla-wrapped burrito.

Afterward, I got back out onto the busy thoroughfare filled with construction, inwardly groaning that this was the condition of my ride today. Luckily, within a few blocks, I reached the Interurban Trail, a car-free bike-and-ped path that leads much of the way into Seattle. Finally, a pleasant off-road trail!

Sadly, my relief was quickly foiled: after crossing a single overpass, I was met with detour signs pointing me back into unpleasant traffic conditions on surface streets. I wasn’t exactly sure how to navigate the signs, and I wondered when—or even if—I would be able to rejoin the trail. I was already tired of this kind of cycling, and feeling cranky.

But then I looked up, and what should my weary eyes behold but the Lynnwood Transit Center! I wondered if I could hop a bus to take me closer to town.

But then I quickly remembered that I generally cannot fit my rig onto city buses, especially in the afternoon (it was about 3:00) when they might be filling for rush hour. Furthermore, I thought I remembered that in Portland you can’t pay bus fare by cash. Might that be the case here as well? How could I buy a ticket?

However, the situation seemed worth investigating.

Lo and behold, upon closer inspection I found schedules for three express buses bound for Northgate Center, just a bit more than three miles away from my destination!

One of those buses pulled up just then. I asked the driver if I could board with my rig. He looked at it and frowned, and said no.

Argh.

But I had pretty much expected that; I knew it was a long shot.

Time to rethink. I was sure there must be a bikeable way to get the 13 remaining miles to my sister and her partner’s house.

But then I changed my mind again: why not try again for a bus? There were three heading my direction. I took apart my rig, turning the trailer into a pushcart like I do to board Amtrak trains, and folding the bike into its neat, small package.

Then I asked the people standing at the bus stop what the fare was, and how to pay it. They told me it was about $3, and that I could pay by cash.

Wow!

Luckily, I had recently replenished my (very lean) cash stock just a day or two ago, so I had three ones on me.

And just then, another bus pulled up. This driver replied that it would be OK! (I was so glad I had transformed the rig into its transit-ready form, before giving up on this possibility.)

The fare turned out to be $3.25, so I dug out an extra quarter, and after I maneuvered everything through the door and around the corner, we were off!

This express bus ride—only one stop between Lynnwood and Northgate—saved me ten miles, and about 250 feet of climbing.

I appreciated that very much as I disembarked and reassembled everything, because I knew that those last three miles would include about another 200 feet of hills. (This is Seattle, after all.)

After huffing my way up those hills, I enjoyed a nice home-cooked dinner with my hosts, followed by more conversation.

And… wow. This is the last night of my geographic loop. Tomorrow, I will board the train back to Portland. I haven’t set foot in that city—my home from September1990 through September 2021—for a year now. I’m curious how I’ll feel re-entering it, even though I’ll only be staying for about three weeks before heading south again to continue my adventures.

I guess I’ll take it all a day at a time, just like the past year.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Whidbey Island

9/15/22

Today was magical!

It started with a string of coincidences that led me to meeting up with my friend Denise at the Port Townsend ferry to Whidbey Island. It was amazing enough that we were both visiting Port Townsend at the same time… but then we ended up getting on the same ferry, despite her being told when she drove up that it would be a four-to-five-hour wait until she could board a ferry!

We chatted a bit on the 30-minute boat ride, and then afterward we scrunched around the many items in her car so that she could give me and my rig a ride, about seven miles and 250 feet of elevation into the island! I was very grateful, despite my sardine-like riding conditions.

We stopped in the small town of Greenbank for lunch, catching up on our lives and reminiscing about mutual friends. She was heading north to Orcas Island afterward, and I was able to give her the name of the Indralaya camp that my seatmate on the Seattle-to-Bellingham bus had told me about a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, I contacted our mutual friends Frank and Sarah to see about staying with them for a couple of days upon my arrival in Portland. It was a perfect situation, because Denise has been living with them, and told me I could stay in her room!

I love all these serendipities.

After we parted ways, I continued by bike down the island’s main road, with about 17 miles left to reach my Warmshowers hosts in Clinton, right near the dock where I will catch the ferry tomorrow morning on my way to Seattle. (Their backyard literally overlooks the ferry dock.)

On my way, I made a point to stop at two parks, including a privately maintained one ($7 admission) called Earth Sanctuary. If you ever find yourself on Whidbey Island, I recommend visiting this place. There were many more wooded trails than I had time to explore, but I spent about an hour hiking the “Celestial trail” and it was just beautiful. And I didn’t see another bike, car, nor person during my entire time there.

On the way from the parking area to the wooded trails, I found many patches of this region’s ubiquitous blackberries, bursting with the bounty of the season. I feasted.

There were also several artistic touches on the way to the trails, including two large bells. I realized, with a slow smile, that I must have been gone from my party-store job for long enough now—more than a year—to have been able to react to seeing these by thinking, “Wow, look at that beautiful bell. I’m going to take the mallet and play some tones.” During my 18-year tenure at that job (part of which involved my maintaining the store’s extensive rental helium-tank inventory, some of which occasionally got stolen or lost) my first thought would have been, “That better not be one of our tanks!!”

In all, I probably biked about twenty miles today, including close to a thousand feet of climbing. I’m out of practice with hills, having been in the Midwest so long. I was definitely ready for a rest by the time I arrived at Debbie and Michael’s place.

We sat and enjoyed a long chat over dinner and snacks, while watching the sun set over the water, and the ferries come and go at half-hour intervals.

Tomorrow, on my way to Seattle, I’ll bike about 27 more miles, and climb at least another 1000 feet, if Google Maps is to be believed.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Beautiful day with lots of hills

9/14/22

Wow, it’s been a while since I did so much climbing! And I feel silly saying so, because it was only a total of 20 miles of riding, with 554 feet of elevation gain! Tomorrow I’ve got 27 miles to do, with twice that much elevation. Then a similar day the next day. Oof… at least the scenery is beautiful.

I said goodbye to my host Lillian and her cat George this morning, and pedaled down the hill to the Olympic Discovery Trail, heading east toward Sequim. (If you’re not from this region, you may not have known that the E is silent in that town’s name; if so, now you do!)

The trail was beautiful, along the ocean, for the first few miles.

Then it turned inland, and was beautiful in a more wooded way. Such gorgeous forests in this part of the world.

Some of those inclines on either side of various creeks, though, were pretty brutal with 16” wheels and a 72-pound trailer. I walked up a couple of hills today.

Sadly, the rail bridge along the trail was closed for repairs. Finding signage for a detour was pretty much impossible, but I used Google Maps and asked a local, and made my way. One unexpected bonus from the detour: encountering a pair of emus in someone’s yard! I was definitely not expecting that. I spent some time chatting with them, and admiring their amazing plumage.

Then I got onto Highway 101, which was pretty unpleasant. I had to wait about five minutes at the intersection (with a car behind me) to make the left turn onto the busy thoroughfare, and then riding on the (thankfully wide) shoulder was not very pleasant, especially after all the quiet scenery earlier in the ride.

Eventually I made it to Sequim, and stopped for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Then I made my way over to the cute little transit center, and waited to board my bus to Port Townsend. The bus saved me an additional 31 miles and 1,263 more feet of climbing, and amazingly, it was a fare-free bus! The downside was that the driver seemed rather grumpy about my bringing my rig on board. He did not say a word to me, but glared and sighed several times as I cheerfully said I was hoping I could get it all on board, and asked him to extend the ramp for me on the kneeling bus. (When I thanked him for his help at the end of the ride, he still did not offer a single word of acknowledgment.) He did take the time to secure the trailer, which was good because we went around a number of turns that could have otherwise been unsafe.

After I disembarked, I made my way to the wonderful co-op near my Warmshowers hosts’ place, to pick up some dinner. As I parked the bike, another co-op patron remarked on the Brompton, saying that she had had one years ago, and remembered it fondly.

There was one more steep hill to scale after that, in the final mile to my destination. I trudged most of it.

To my extreme surprise, shortly after my arrival I got a comment on a Facebook post from my friend Denise, whom I had known for years in Portland, and then stayed with in Arizona back in October of last year. (She even drove me a long and very mountainous distance then, from just south of Sedona to her then-home in Chino Valley, north of Prescott.) It turns out she is in Port Townsend right now, too! If our sleeping and traveling schedules line up in the morning, we will meet for a breakfast chat tomorrow, before I board the ferry to Whidbey Island.

What a small world.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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The Olympic Discovery Trail

9/13/22

I’m back in the US!

I had a lovely sailing this morning on the Coho Ferry, from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington. Cousin Betty dropped me off, and I soon got to chatting with the many other cyclists on board, all bound for various adventures.

The ferry itself was beautiful; I loved the midcentury industrial vibe (including those windows, and that green!) on the 1959 vessel.

It was a bit chilly and windy to stand outside, but the scenery was beautiful during the sailing.

Upon arrival, I dropped off my trailer at the home of my Warmshowers host Lillian, and took off to explore the fabled Olympic Discovery Trail. I only managed to see about six miles of it—I headed west, whereas tomorrow I’ll take it east, on the way to Port Townsend via Sequim—but the scenery did not disappoint. Autumn has begun peeking out from my forest photos these days, and it’s very photogenic.

After stopping at the natural food store deli for dinner, I returned to the house and met Lillian and her cuddly cat George. We chatted about bicycling and traveling (she has traveled half the 750-mile distance from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska in a rowboat by herself!!) before turning in for the evening.

Tomorrow I will ride the Discovery Trail to Sequim, where I will catch a bus to my next destination of Port Townsend. I’m looking forward to a beautiful journey.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

Exploring Victoria with Cousin Betty

9/12/22

I have had a wonderful visit for the past two days with my cousin Betty here in Esquimalt, just west of Victoria. On a couple of occasions, we headed into that beautiful city for meals and sightseeing.

When I first arrived in Victoria on my bike from just up the island in Central Saanich, I was chagrined to notice the heavy smoke from forest fires to the east, on the mainland. (And I worried a bit about how those particulates might be affecting my lungs as I cycled, although I also saw many other cyclists out, taking advantage of the wonderful local bike infrastructure.) I had been seeing posts from Facebook friends in Oregon and Washington about all the forest-fire smoke there, and had been counting myself lucky that we didn’t have it here on Vancouver Island. But as I rode that roughly 12-kilometer (8-mile) stretch, there it was.

Fortunately, it cleared up substantially by the following day (yesterday) and by today it was almost gone.

On my way in, I stopped briefly in Victoria to get a treat at the Cinnaholic bakery, then headed across the bridge to Esquimalt to meet Betty.

When I arrived at her charming house, I felt sure I was in the right place when I saw the wonderful sign on her gate.

The next day, we went into Victoria to meander about. Once again, I marveled at all the beautiful hanging flower baskets that epitomize the city to me. We also saw a sidewalk artist who was making a beautiful temporary design on the brickwork.

Soon afterward, Betty took me down an alleyway paved with 100+ year-old wooden bricks! I had never seen nor heard of such a thing. They seem to have held up very well, although a sign warned that they do get slippery when wet.

We passed the provincial (British Columbia) parliament building, whose architecture always wows me. I learned that the architect who designed it, Francis Rattenbury, was in his early 20s at the time!

Next we visited the fabled Empress Hotel, another of Rattenbury’s creations (at age 25). We walked throughout, admiring the famous “high tea” room (cost per person $89; we did not partake) as well as the beautiful, recently restored glass ceiling in an adjoining room.

Afterward, she took me to a local Japanese garden with a tragic history of WWII-era racism. It was heartbreaking to read the placards and see the original 1907 photos, knowing that the family’s pride and joy was later destroyed. It was somewhat heartening, though, that the community did later rebuild the garden, and it was lovely to tour it.

Then today, we went to another beautiful local garden with a fascinating story (again involving WWII-era internment, although this time in Europe) and gorgeous landscaping. I especially enjoyed the beautiful oaks and huge rhododendrons.

Finally, we went to pick up some specialty grocery items at a shop, The Market Garden, unlike any I have seen. I felt as if I had been transported to an opulent European market, with floor-to-ceiling displays of colorful and delicious-looking wares, as well as interior design flourishes such as chandeliers.

As a bonus, I even found one of my favorite chocolate bars (the vegan and fair-trade coconut-milk chocolate Camino bars in Canada, known by the brand name Equal Exchange in the US) on clearance—they were just at the expiration date—for 50% off! (If you haven’t tried these bars, make a point to do so. Wow.)

All in all, it has been a wonderful time with wonderful company here in Victoria and Esquimalt. Tomorrow, I will board the ferry to Port Angeles, Washington, where new adventures await!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

Two beautiful Japanese gardens

9/11/22

I have now visited three Japanese gardens in three days. (Yay, back on the West Coast!)

The last one was a part of my excursions in this area with cousin Betty today, so I’ll include a couple photos tomorrow when I report on today’s activities. But I can’t not spend today’s post sharing the photos from the two beautiful gardens from the previous two days.

The first was at the Butchart. After soaking in the magic in the sunken garden, I meandered over to the other edge of the property to explore the Japanese garden.

I have visited probably at least three dozen Japanese gardens, all around the US and Canada, and I would rank this one in the top five. (It nearly rivals Portland’s.) Just an incredible place.

Then yesterday, on my bike ride down to Esquimalt from Central Saanich, at my hosts’ suggestion I stopped at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, which contains a lovely Japanese garden tucked away in the back. If you ever find yourself in the Victoria area, I recommend stopping to visit.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Sunken garden at the Butchart

9/10/22

First, let me briefly acknowledge something: as of today, I have been on the road for exactly one year! I am so excited to celebrate this milestone. As many of you know, the end of my geographic loop will happen when I arrive in Portland roughly a week from now, but my journey will not end there; I plan to continue traveling for as long as I can find a way to do so.

I’ll write more about the year ahead later—probably when I’m Portland and have (hopefully) a bit of breathing room—but I wanted to at least acknowledge this date today. Thank you to every one of you reading this. I appreciate every one of you who has followed my travels and my blog; every one of you who has supported me emotionally and celebrated my travels with me; every one of you who has supported me financially; every one of you who has fed me and/or invited me to stay in your home; every one of you who has put me in touch with others you know, to stay with or to just connect… and every one of you who may have supported me in any other way that I’m not thinking of right now. You all make up the network that has allowed me to live this incredibly rich adventure so far. I hope that my journey has inspired you in some way, and will continue to do so.

OK, back to blog mode:

Today I bicycled from my Warmshowers hosts in Central Saanich to my second (third?) cousin once removed, the wonderful Cousin Betty, here in Esquimalt, just west of Victoria. Despite being a generation apart (she is my mother’s second cousin) and having only met once before, very briefly, 30+ years ago, we have talked for hours already, and I look forward to more over the next two days!

The ride here was mostly pleasant, and I visited yet another beautiful garden.

Pictures from there will have to wait, though, because I need to share yesterday’s photos from the sunken garden at the Butchart Gardens!

I had last visited these gardens as a teenager, more than 30 years ago, but the sunken garden was the one that really stood out to me at the time. (I wasn’t a garden aficionado back then, if you can believe it.)

Visiting again yesterday—at goldenhour, no less—did not disappoint. It is still the same enchanted place it was then.

Please enjoy.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Vancouver to Vancouver Island on the ferry

9/9/22

I took so many unbelievable photos at the Butchart Gardens today. I will need a separate post (maybe two!) for them.

But I didn’t want to skip over sharing the few other nice photos I had of the city of Vancouver, as well as my multimodal journey today. (I traveled by bicycle, coach bus, and ferry.)

The ride to the bus at the train station in downtown Vancouver was lovely in the morning light.

I stopped for a quick breakfast, then made my way along the waterfront bike path to the BC Connector coach that picks you up in Vancouver, drives you onto the ferry, and deposits you on the other side. Most of the passengers were taking the bus all the way to downtown Victoria. Since I wanted to visit the Butchart Gardens, though, I disembarked on the ferry, just in time to ride off at the terminal in Swartz Bay.

The sailing was smooth, and the weather was perfect to stand out on the deck. It was cool to pass through the Gulf Islands on the way. My family had taken this ferry a few times in my youth, when we visited my great-aunt who lived in Sidney, north of Victoria. (My grandparents lived up the island in Comox, so we would make a whole trip of it from Virginia every few years.)

After taking my disassembled rig out of the bus’s cargo bay, I put it together and rolled it over to the edge of the bus-and-truck deck to where other passengers’ bikes were. There were quite a few (maybe 10 of us in all?) including a couple with a trailer containing their dog—so cute!

Much of the roughly hour-long ride to my Warmshowers hosts’ house near the gardens was on dedicated bikeways, so it was a pretty pleasant ride.

When I arrived at their house, it was about 5:00 and I knew the light was fading fast, so I dropped off the trailer in their garage and then took off for the 20-minute ride to the gardens.

The light was beautiful when I got there. In a subsequent post (or two) I will share photos from the breathtaking sunken and Japanese gardens, but there were some other lovely garden views that I’ll amalgamate here tonight.

When I left and returned to the house, I caught a lovely glimpse of sunset.

What a beautiful place Vancouver Island is.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

Enchanted woods in Lynn Valley

9/8/22

Wowww… I am so glad I switched my travel plans to allow myself to stay one more day in Vancouver. My time here has been short, and I was tired upon arrival and behind on administrative tasks, so I hadn’t really gotten out and explored much at all.

But today I took a city bus up to Lynn Valley for a hike. It was so incredibly worth it.

Not much else to say; I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

Tomorrow I’m going to take a ferry over to Swartz Bay, on Vancouver Island just north of Victoria, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll be visiting the famed Butchart Gardens!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)