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Lewis and Clark - Road trip - May 2013

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." ― Hellen Keller

Well...Maybe it's really not that daring to take another road trip with the kids in Big Blue, but it feels daring to me... paralyzingly unplanned... last minuteish... and given my track record with vehicles and mishaps it does seem to us to be a risky venture, but in my opinion, one that must be taken.

Encinitas, California, United States

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Living in San Diego area means that in order to get most anywhere we have to go through LA...and we've done it so many times it is tedious and hectic and boring and frustrating all at the same time...and necessary.

So, we made it through and on through Ventura, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo and to San Simeon State Park. We set up the van and still had plenty of sunlight to walk down the the beach.

(Somehow the blog entry I wrote late last night got erased and I'm not up to the task of a witty rewrite this morning, so suffice to say, we slept, we repacked and we headed to Big Sur...)

Los Altos, California, United States

Sunday, May 12, 2013

We left San Simeon this morning and boy-man-child was absolutely certain that no, NO civilized area would be without a Starbucks. However, it was very clear that civilized, artistic, cultured people live all over Big Sur and manage without Starbucks (or Peet's) We stopped at Whale Watcher's Cafe (blah..$$$...terrible $4.50 cup of coffee...) for breakfast and motored on. The view was spotty through the fog but I insisted that electronics be off. They, the kids (the "enemy") insisted that "We've seen Big Sur...the next 10 minutes are just like that last 10 minutes….”. We stopped at Sand Dollar beach and the fog...well, it didn't lift but maybe it thinned a bit...and we did find several unbroken sand dollars and the kids did try to act with some decency towards me on behalf of Mother's Day.

We finally met up with the "civilized world" in Carmel and the biggest Starbucks the kids have ever seen. Hallelujah! Having never been to Carmel....and, as it's Steve's high school home town, I really wanted to try to See it...but I hadn't done my home work. I saw the 17 mile drive, and had heard something about that, so we entered the gate ($9.00) and drove the curvy roads...and apparently exited without having driven the most spectacular portion of the drive! Oh, well....

So, we end up in Monterey and the kids are needing a break so Nate has located the skate park. Chum decided it was looking a bit seedy for her liking...maybe because there was a guy in an orange prison jumpsuit who was skating...

As usual, Nate, in no time, had made "friends" with the locals and is had a great time. I thought we should at least go to get a bite at Fisherman's Wharf or Cannery Row, but was Sunday...Mother's Day...and I couldn't even handle the traffic in...Monterey! We're OUT!

...On to Santa Cruz...and CA-17 through Los Gatos where we spent a good deal of time at almost a stand still in traffic. Our end location today was our friends, the Martin's house in Los Altos. The Martin's are a family we met at our kid's school and bonded with before they moved away to a lovely neighborhood in Los Altos. We continue to build our friendship via text, email and this wonderful, yet short visit to their home. Thank you for your warm hospitality!

(Yesterday we saw quail, zebras, elephant seals and otters (from a far)

Redding, California, United States

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Martin's took us over to Half Moon Bay where we tide-pooled, lunched and acted like vacationers. It was slow paced and really nice. Mid day we went our separate ways and we headed north over the Golden Gate. Just those few blocks in San Fran were enough for me. I’m not a city girl! Very hectic driving and navigating thanks. On through Vallejo. Fairfield, Vacaville.... nothingness...cows, lambs, wild turkey, deer....

Our goal for the night was Crystal Crags State Park, north of Redding, however, the extended drive time has cut us short. Not wanting to pull in after dark and set up camp, we decided on a Motel 6 in Redding. Tomorrow we hit Oregon, where I feel like the real adventure begins.

Ashland, Oregon, United States

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

We left Redding excited about finally making it out of California and into Oregon. It was a beautiful drive with Mt. Shasta covered with snow...seeing rivers and all the evergreens...breath taking! I made sure to pull off the 5 and onto some remote country roads to get down the the river and take a look around. We also pulled off and did quick detours through several of the little old towns long the road. No matter how remote the roads along the river were, there was someone fishing on almost everyone we took.

When looking at the map and charting our course, silly as it sounds now, I hadn't realized that we'd be going over some pretty serious mountains... everything was so flat on the map..(duh) I was quite surprised that we went over the highest elevation on the entire I-5, Siskiyou Summit, at 4,310 feet. It was quite spectacular and I was glad to give Big Blue a break and let off the gas to cruise down the other side.

We pulled off into the town of Weed...because, well, I thought it would be funny. The first thing we came to was a little souvenir shop with a large assortment of shirts and gifts with the expected plays on the name of the town. A really nice hippie gave us some tips on the area and directions to the skate park. It was a beautifully situated park and the kids enjoyed in all alone until they were done and we continued our way down toward Ashland. I called Momentum River Rafting to set up a rafting trip for the next day and had to let them know where we'd be staying, so I quickly committed to two nights at a little RV park near town. We arrived to find that the photos we far better than reality but decided that it met our needs even though it was, well a little creepy. We wandered into town and found their skate park and the kids had a wonderful time with the skaters they met. There was a dad we met there with his 11 year old son. They have a business together making skateboards in Talent, Oregon. Neat guys. Nate really liked skating with the son...and of course, referred to him as his "friend" by the time we left. I spent a delightful afternoon speaking with an 87 year old, pretty hip, great-grandmother of a boy Chum's age who was skating with her. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed her wisdom and insight. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Standing Stone in downtown Ashland and tucked in for the night back at the trailer park. The air has a chill at night here in Oregon...but the people are quite warm.

We woke up and tried to pull things together quickly in order to be ready to be picked up by the rafting co. at 8:40. Arden, our guide and van driver met us out front of the rv park and after picking up another couple in town we headed north to the set in point on the Rogue River. It was a great first experience for the kids. Arden explained how to handle everything from getting stuck in eddys to what to do if we flipped...and took us from smooth water all the way up to a couple of class 4 rapids. It was a lot of fun and I'm sure they will want to do it again.

Nate and Chum did some homework while I made lunch back at the campsite then we packed everything up in the van to go back to the skatepark and met the "friends'' again. By 5:00 it started to rain and the word was that there would be thunder showers so we decided that the answer to the question (to stay or not to stay) another night in Ashland, was "no" and we set out for Roseburg for the night and then go west, toward the coast in the morning.

Ashland, Oregon, United States

Thursday, May 16, 2013

After deciding to leave Ashland a day earlier than planned we motored through some really beautiful country...quite frankly, we've been without wifi for so many days and have seen so much since the 16th (it's the 18th as I write this) I can't really remember all we saw...I'm glad I had the opportunity to see a couple of the covered bridges. That was a treat.

We were looking for a diner or cafe to have some dinner and Roseburg had the Del Rey Cafe. A burger, a corn dog and a dinner salad, two chocolate milkshakes with the metal mixing cup...the kids loved that... It was nothing great, but met the requirement of dinner. I was looking online for a hotel in the area and Priceline showed me what was around. I turned to ask the two women sitting at the next table (the only other people in the diner) if they knew anything about the motel I was thinking about. They recommended it and made many other recommendations for the area. (We've found everyone-without exception, everyone we've met in Oregon to be friendly and helpful) In fact...a few minutes after they left, one of the women returned with her name (Verna) and her number written down, in case we "ran into any trouble in Oregon" and needed some help. Amazing. Verna, If you're out there...Thanks!

We had a shower and a great sleep at the Shady Oaks Motel and started out toward Florence, Oregon....on the Awesome Oregon Coast!

Roseburg, Oregon, United States

Friday, May 17, 2013

Left Shady Oaks in Roseburg to drive to Florence, OR

We took a side road off the main country highway from Roseburg to the coast. There have been little signs for wineries all throughout the valleys and since we had time I thought it would be fun to take any detours that may have some little stops along the road...and at 9am, I didn’t think I would get any wine tasting in...which is the only driver.

Our side road took us through some beautiful countryside, and if you are tired of hearing me say “beautiful”, put yourself in my kid’s place...really sick and tired of it! But it is really beautiful. I can’t drink enough of it in! I love brooks, streams, creeks, rivers of all sizes, and they’re everywhere. And, here in Oregon, they are outlined with these bright yellow flowers (pause, while I google what kind of flowers they are so I sound like I’m far brighter and informed than I actually am...)

...which at my best guess is Scotch Broom...and is everywhere. With the deep green evergreen background and the bright yellow flowers, it is easy to see where the colors for Oregon State originated.

Eventually, we came to the coast. The houses looked different. The air smelled different. I had tried to get online and reserve a Yurt at the State Parks but that has to be done two nights in advance, so instead we prayed for aa available yurt. We made it to the Jessie Honeyman State Park and found the Campground Hosts (among the massive, blooming Rhododendrons) who told us that there were some yurts still available! Yes! I love camping in the van...but we are bigger than we were on last year’s trip, and it appears we brought more stuff and we could use some more room to move about. These yurts are amazing! It’s 39.00 for the night. A tent site is about 25.00. The yurt has a twin over a full bunkbed (no linens) and a full size futon type couch, 3 chairs and a table as well as a lamp and coffee table. The center of the yurt has a plexiglass dome so that the natural light fills the room until just after sunset. The yurt also has electricity and heat! So, we quickly paid the 39.00, emptied the contents of the van and drove into Florence to have a skate at the local park and a walk about the 2012 Florence Rhody festival and carnival celebrating the prolific Rhododendrons of the area.

Florence is such a cute little, almost east coastish seaside town...and as we were to find out, our first of many cute seaside towns on the Oregon coast.

We had a quick snack at Mo’s on the river and headed back to the yurt (!) for dinner (microwaved potato and ham soup with crostini’s, carrots, and apricots) We fell asleep to the sound of rain falling on our plexiglass dome...warm...dry...with plenty of room to move about.

Florence, Oregon, United States

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I think this has to have been my favorite day of driving, but, I reserve the right to say that again, as many times as I want. Today we drove from Florence up to Tillamook...cow stank and cheese country.

But, before we got to Tillamook we drove through some great little seaside fishing different from home. I loved the old, weather beaten homes and stores. Antique shops were everywhere.There were kids riding their bikes with their fishing poles down to the water. It was quaint, as if from another time. I loved the drive. I emphasize “I loved”...the kids interest perks every so often, but it becomes more clear, this is for me. We’ve had the discussion again that One day...”you’ll remember having seen these things...and me telling you to look up at them...and you’ll NEVER remember the game or video that you were watching while driving through Oregon...”

However, whether it’s for me or for’s Beautiful! and they’ll remember it one day...and if they remember it because it was glorious or because it was painful... doesn’t really matter that much to me.

A stop in Lincoln City at their skate park gave a nice break along the way. It was a really big park built into a hill. As usual, right away Nate made a friend and had a great time. Chum grumbled for a while and finally got her board and took a few runs too.

Also, today I resurrected a word game my mom used to occupy our minds on road trips when my brother and I were kids...Hink Pink... The kids are still refining their Hink Pink skills, but they’ve enjoyed it. So have I.

The day ended with a bit of a challenge at the Cape Lookout State Park outside of Tillamook. We had hoped for a Yurt, but someone had reserved all 10 of them (most stood empty the whole night) and the electric hook up sites were all booked. We chose a tent site and then drove back to Tillamook for a hot meal and came back “home” afterward for a game of cards and cold water face washing and sleeping in our clothes. It rained all night. I slipped while getting out of the van and fell like an old woman. It’s a good thing I didn’t break a hip!

Tillamook, Oregon, United States

Sunday, May 19, 2013

This was a long day and we are showing the wear and tear of it at as we stop in The Dalles on the Hood River for a hotel night...and a shower...

We got the van packed up in the rain and started the day at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Nate doesn't like the smell of cheese, but the smell of cows and, fish and salt air that was outside made the idea of going into the factory more palatable. Thankfully the smell they were met with inside was that of the creamery ice cream. There was a self guided tour where you look down upon the machines, conveyors and cheese workers and follow the progress from milk to packaged cheese. Did you know it takes 10 pounds of milk to make a pound of cheese? You do now. Chum can tell you that a 1 day old cow weighs about 96 pounds. Nate can tell you that the Tillamook cookies and cream ice cream is good and a Jr. cone is too small.

Our last day of pushing north takes us through more little towns...many on rivers, and sloughs, some quaint, some a little sad and empty. We took a stop in Seaside for a skate and bathroom break. Chum and I walked down to the river (always searching for a look at an otter-no luck yet), however, we met an interesting old lady who pointed out an Osprey nest that has an Osprey cam hooked up that you can check out at We've seen several Osprey on this trip.

Finally we made it to Ft. Clatsop to see where Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery spent the winter before returning to Missouri. The fact that it was raining made it "feel" the way I imagined they must have felt. The Visitor Center has a couple of films and displays and the replica fort is damp and cold and bare and it is hard to wrap my brain around how tough that bunch was...both physically and mentally. And, if we have to choose up sides, I want Sacagawea on my team. She was as tough as they come.

Leaving Ft. Clatsop we drove further north and across a big bridge into Washington and to Cape Disappointment and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center with an extensive interactive exhibit. I wanted to walk out to the lighthouse, but by that point it was raining pretty hard so we opted not to.

Back across the bridge to Oregon and east toward Portland, then into Washington again...then Oregon again on US 30, The Lower Columbia River Highway, finally to the 5 and into Portland. Nate was disappointed when I told him we probably wouldn't have time to stop at a park in Portland because there are several good ones. I told him that if he could find an indoor place that wasn't too far out of the way we could go for an hour. He did, and it looked easy enough to get to, but the one way streets and cable car tracks and google maps had me pretty spun. Eventually we made it to Commonwealth skate park a small, inside park that smelled like sweaty men...but as usual, everyone was nice and Nate earned their respect and we booked out of there and headed up the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge.

Again, the kids keep telling me that they're looking around, but everything looks the same. I heartily disagree! Thankfully the rain slowed and the view with the late afternoon / evening lighting was spectacular.

The day ended with a late dinner of chicken fried rice, tangerine juice and some carrots in the room at the Oregon Motor Motel in The Dalles on Hood river. I'm finally caught up with posts! Today we'll head down through Bend in what is shaping up to be a sprint toward home.

The Dalles, Oregon, United States

Monday, May 20, 2013

We started the morning with coffee and hot chocolates made in the comfort of our own Room #110 Cafe, followed by some yogurts and got on the road around 9am. The look of the surroundings changed significantly since leaving the coast, and it changed about every 45 minutes throughout the whole day. It was spectacular! I let the kids listen to their music with their headphones as long as they kept looking out the windows. From the east side, without the fog and clouds, Mt. Hood stood bright white against the bluebird sky. We tried to take pictures, but truthfully, no shot we took came even close to capturing the majesty of it. We went from big, patchwork, rolling, farmed fields, to dry grassy lands, to high desert. Unfortunately, I passed by a All Indian Rodeo and in that flicker of a moment of choice, I didn’t stop. I regretted it but had missed the window of opportunity. Even throughout the high desert the road would dip through river valleys with tiny...and I mean Tiny little towns...with tiny little downtowns. It was Sunday and there were people out and about , going to the cafes in town. I loved thinking about how life in Tiny Town looked so different than life at home.

We stopped in Bend for lunch at a little diner and visited the Boot Barn of Bend which makes the Boot Barn of Oceanside look like a mini mart. This place is huge! Chum was able to find the boots that she’ll need for her upcoming horse camp this summer. She has barely taken them off! We spent an hour at the Bend skate park and then continued south toward Collier State Park.

Collier is a pristine campground set amongst large pines with a small river (complete with beavers) running to the south. There were a few big rvs there but it was very quiet. We picked a campsite and got set up. A few sites over, a newly retired couple and their dog were watching us, so we went over to say hello. As we were finishing dinner, the woman brought over some icecream bars for our dessert. Nice people.

The three of us cuddled up and watched We Bought A Zoo on the computer and decided that Nate would sleep “downstairs” with us...surprisingly it wasn’t too crowded and I liked having both little birds cuddled in my nest.

Klamath Falls, Oregon, United States

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We slept in until about 8:00 and although it was a chilly morning, it started to warm up quickly. As I was making coffee I noticed a little chipmunk coming toward me. I figured that soon enough it would stop, but it continued coming until it was about 2 feet from me. So cute! It’s little friend came to and chattered at me. I gave them some crackers and woke up the kids so they could watch. They came back over and over and ate right out of my hand. The neighbors said there was a warning sign about bears, but there were no bear boxes on the premises. I guess the chippies are the main wildlife here.

We were packed and ready to go by 9:30 and on our way to Truckee, through the little town of Adin, and Susanville and deer country on the 395. We stopped in Adin at a really old country store to get some ice. I was getting tired so I mixed up an iced hazelnut latte out of the back of the van (and it was good...not just “pretty good for a van latte”, but a really good latte!)

We made it through Reno and up and over the hill to Truckee and Aunt Daphne’s house. After grabbing dinner in town, we found our way through the woods and let ourselves in. Daphne was working down in Berkeley for the day and got home around 10pm, which was nice as we were able to have a shower and make ourselves a bit more presentable!

Truckee, California, United States

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It was nice to be somewhere where we weren’t in the mode of packing up and moving on...and I came down at my leisure and made some an actual kitchen and sat down to drink it. The kids came down when they were each ready and Aunt Daphne made us breakfast. Aunt Daphne is connected with so many people. She made a couple of calls and in a few minutes had us set up with a trail ride.

Our ride last year in Durango, Colorado was epic, ranking at the top of the list of activities on the whole trip. I had hoped to recapture the glory on this trail ride. It was still a nice time but fell a little flat. You can’t beat the scenery of Durango. Regardless, aside from my incredibly sore saddle parts, we had a nice time and were thankful for the opportunity. God’s country.

We came home for lunch and a clean up and headed down to Reno to skateboard at their big park.

It was a really nice visit with Aunt Daphne and we enjoyed it a lot.

Encinitas, California, United States

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I tried to gather as much as possible to pack in the van before the kids woke up. I knew they wanted to make it home from Truckee to Encinitas today, so I figured it would take an early departure and a lot of road time, punctuated with a rest / skate stop in Mammoth. However, we were open to the idea that we’d have to stop to sleep, as I have been exhausted....and according to Murphy’s Law...with a really long driving day ahead, I woke up at 3:00am...and fretted that I was awake and dreading the long drive.

When I went out to put the first load in the van, I found that about 1/2 of the 2 gallon bottle of water had leaked out, soaking one of our comforters and bed mat. That pretty much solidified the need to bee-line home. We couldn’t camp in 30-40 degree temps with wet bedding and I wasn’t going to pull into a hotel with ONLY 9 hours until home.

Several hugs and goodbyes and we were on our way. Driving around Lake Tahoe was spectacular. That water looks a lot like coves in any of the fabulous vacation brochures I’ve seen. Mono Lake...Plenty of small old motels...”towns” that are made up of not much more than some old trailers and the next thing I knew we were beginning the ascent into the mountains again up toward Mammoth. We made a nice stop by the river for a look see and my eyes were really droopy and starting to play tricks on me.

We made it into Mammoth, had lunch and I figured the kids could skate at the Volcom Brother’s park while I tried to nap for an hour or so. The wind was howling and it was about 45 degrees. There was a pack of 12ish year olds, so Nate was in his element, and actually knew at least one of them. Chum wasn’t “feelin” it so she came into the van while I laid in a weird, not really sleeping, limbo-rest. At 4:00 I realized that if we didn’t get a move on, we were going to be on that awful, middle of nothingness road at dark. We peeled out of there quickly and headed down hill. By Bishop the temperature had gone from 45 to 82 degrees. I pulled off the road and reached into the cooler to make some drinks and realized that my 1/2 and 1/2 had spilled in the cooler and now everything in there was “milkish”. We surely need to get home tonight!

10:40pm - May 22 - Home

2907.2 Miles

Including 587.8 miles from Truckee to Encinitas...(bleh!)

quail, zebra, deer, elk, elephant seals, otters (from a far), 2 whales, beavers, chipmunks, bald eagle, osprey

Countless really nice people, including Verna (of Roseburg, OR) and Dagmar (of Jacksonville) and the father and son skateboard makers from Talent, Oregon...

Good people...Strong fiber...Great trip

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