Thursday, June 24, 2021

A New State!

((Folks, I know these posts are not necessarily in chronological order but I'm trying my best to get as many things up as I have time to do - thanks for your understanding!))

After 2.5 weeks, we *finally* made it to another state - California was great to us, but it felt really good to move on to Oregon, where I lived on and off for 7 years, and where Ben lived for 3. The air just smelled different once we crossed the border.

But alas, it was raining, so we opted for a drive-by picture instead of a family photo op.

We arrived at our campsite in Eugene late on Tuesday night. We spent all of Wednesday moseying around town - beginning with the Owen Rose Garden, Sweet Life Patisserie (with GF, DF, and vegan options!), the 5th Street Market, Hot Mama's Wings (also entirely GF menu!), another shot at the Owen Rose Garden, and finally meeting up with my brother Andy at his place of employment, Hop Valley Brewing and Restaurant. He made the soup of the day with us in mind and really knocked it out of the park (so much so that I ordered two cups because I just wanted more!)!

We spent one more night at the campsite and then packed up the camper and made our quickest departure yet - we were on the road less than an hour from wake up time! Onward we drove to Bend, Oregon, where we are currently staying at some friends' house until first thing Sunday morning, where we'll head up to Idaho.

Bend will be experiencing record highs this weekend of 111 degrees, so I envision some floating-the-Deschutes-River and staying cool with local microbrews!

Father's Day Surprise!

We spent a lot of time planning surprises for Mom (some unintended!) for when she joined us for vacation from 6/16 to 6/22, but I had something special up my sleeve for Ben, and it just happened to coincide perfectly for Father's Day!

I surprised Ben with a 2-hour excursion on a 38' sailboat captained by an experienced sailor. Ben got to be the skipper and stood at the helm for our adventure!

Captain Doby ran the sheets for the sails and the rest of us got to be passive participants in the adventure. We had the perfect amount of wind for the day and got a good bit of tacking in, and a fair bit of an ab workout for when the boat switch positions based on the sails (come on out with us sometime in our boat on Lake Sakakawea and we'll show you what we mean :)).

And after the fact, it was a trifecta of perfection - not only was it Father's Day, the readings at Mass had everything to do with boats on the water, AND the sailboat we sailed on was named the Obsession (which is the same name as our boat in ND! {only because we haven't renamed it yet; it came to us that way}).

I let Ben in on his gift after Mass and a quick run to Costco - I asked for the keys so I could drive to the marina, where I read him a simple haiku about sailing and then informed him of our trip slated for 90 minutes from then. Mom got the whole thing on video (which the girls have asked to view about two dozen times). He was truly, greatly surprised and had a blast of a time!

Happy Father's Day, Ben!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Giant Trees

One of the great benefits of making this trip and driving along the coast is that we get to see so many varied ecosystems - and one of the most impressive is the Redwood trees in northern California. 

Ginny, learning how to be a tree hugger:

The tree below had a 6' clearance on that door, and inside the base of the tree, it was hollow up to probably 15' or so. And it's still alive.

The girls wanted to make it their tree house home and were deciding where the kitchen and bedrooms would be :).

I'll add some more pictures once I get them from Mom's/Andy's phones!

The Elephant Seals of San Simeon + PCH pics

 As we continued to work our way up the coast, we left our campsite near Cambria onward to Big Sur and were delighted to see this small colony of elephant seals just off of the Pacific Coast Highway!

We could smell them before we could see them - they are a stinky bunch! 

Most of them were just beached out like this - there were a few we saw coming in from the water, or fighting with each other, or pup looking for mama, but most were just chillin' in the sun as you see here. 

It was a great sight to see before we got to the really curvy, hair-pin turns that the highway is known for - with great vistas, of course!

This was the view to the west - the Pacific Ocean.

And this was the view to the east - immediate, tall, rocky mountains.

And this was the view from the backseat:

The views were pretty astounding!

We spent two nights at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park before heading up toward the San Francisco Bay area.

Adventures along the way: the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

The Safari Park

 We took a whole day to enjoy the sights of kangaroos, wallabies, platypi, lions, tigers, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, flamingos, get the point.

We went to the Safari Park near San Diego. It is an 1800 acre zoo housing over 2600 animals representing more than 300 species.

The girls' cameras must have all the good animal pictures on them :). Honestly, it was hard to even stop to take pictures because there was so much to see and do!

I could have sat and watched the flamingos all day long. Edith loved the gorilla. Ginny was feeling a little under the weather and just hung out in the oversized stroller most of the day. Ben fell asleep sitting up while watching a demonstration of a small, lemur-like animal. 

If you are ever in the area, I would highly, highly recommend taking a day to visit this place. It is worth it!!

Friday, June 18, 2021

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

On one of our "rest days" while in Orange County, we went to Laguna Beach to get knocked down by the waves, play in the sand, and check out the baby crabs in the tide pools.

The water was chilled, but not uncomfortable. The waves were strong, and it was a bit unnerving to feel the sand give way beneath you when another wave was about to take you on. 

And the sand - oh my - there was so much sand! It's been a loooong while since I've been in water like this that I had forgotten how the water leaves you with the wave but the sand stays. We all were "leaking" sand the rest of the day!

We went exploring in the tide pools to look for baby crabs - once you knew what to spot they were everywhere! Edith loved every moment of "I found another one!" but Ginny was very content to stay on the "clean sand". Walking by the washed-up kelp yielded many "yuck" comments and she avoided them like the plague. While she tans up easy, she is definitely not a beach girl!

As we prepared to leave, Edith found great delight in scattering the pigeons who were nearing the beach:

All in all, a great rest day! We followed our beach adventure with some really great gelato, just a few blocks inland. Our next adventure was the Mission San Juan Capistrano!

The Getty and the La Brea Tar Pits

I feel so satisfied.

Ben and I have a number of favorite movies that we like to watch probably once a year, and The Hammer is one of them. It is a total B-movie but has great one-liners and a lot of witty sarcasm (featuring Adam Carrolla from The Man Show). In the movie, the main character takes his love interest on a day date to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. When we decided to make plans for this vacation, I asked our hosts if going to the Tar Pits could be on our agenda and they were only too happy to oblige my request.

It was like I was there with Adam Carrolla as we felt what it was like to be trapped in tar, as we side-stepped the small patches of tar coming up from the ground in the middle of the grassy area, and as we viewed the replicas of wooly mammoths and wolves (so.many.wolves) getting stuck in the tar and their ultimate demise.

I highly recommend 1) watching the movie The Hammer, and 2) going to the La Brea Tar Pits if you're ever in LA!

Our first stop of the day, however, was The Getty. The Getty is an incredible art museum with groomed grounds tended by over 200 gardeners. Apparently, I didn't take any pictures of our time there, but our friend snapped this photo of us as we left (Edith didn't want to be in the picture, and yes, that is a sculpture of a naked boy holding a frog in the background). 

It was such a peaceful setting and had so many beautiful exhibits and plants (and later on our friends - and us! - would get some clips of one of the plants we saw on the grounds, called a "wandering Jew").

We went to an Ethiopian restaurant for supper that evening and ate to our heart's content on this giant platter with veggies, steak bites, and potatoes. You tear off some of the starchy base on the platter and use that to grip the food and eat it. The steak bites and seasonings on everything were sooooo good. After full tummies and a full first day in LA, we headed back to OC in prep for a simple, leisurely Sunday.

A Horizontal Tornado

We began our departure from the LA area and southern California on Friday, June 11. Our destination was a mere 3-hour drive from our host's home in Orange County, hugging the Pacific Ocean and offering us beautiful views of beaches along the way.

About 10 minutes from our campground, we noticed sustained winds picking up, with strong gusts accompanying them. Initially, we thought it was just due to the terrain funnelling the winds and once we got to our spot (which was just 20 yards from the ocean), things would be calmer.

How wrong we were!

The winds only picked up in intensity and there was no respite - it was just windy. We live in North Dakota and we are not strangers to wind but HOLY BUCKETS (as we say up there) this was intense.

We attempted to position the camper so that it was in line with the direction the wind was blowing, and then popped it up, but we were so concerned that the wind would bend the frame and we wouldn't be able to put it back down. The thought also crossed my mind that we could turn into Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and not know where we would wake up!

Our camper neighbor John came over to introduce himself, "Welcome to California. I'm sorry!" and offer to help, but we thought it would be best to button the camper back up and head for calmer lands. His lovely wife Lisa sent us off with some freshly made guac and chips though, so it made for a nice welcoming/parting gift.

We made it to Lompoc and got a hotel room for the night - which was admittedly better than sleeping in a windstorm, but not by much (not a room or hotel of great quality - I'll leave it at that).

The next morning was a great first day into this part of our vacation outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. Ben got a barbershop haircut and beard trim from a man named Carlos who had tattoos on every square inch of his face (and most of the rest of his body) while the girls and I walked down an historic street flanked by nearly 100-year old Italian pine trees which created a lovely canopy over the homes. After his haircut, we met up for a very relaxed morning in a local coffee shop where the girls sat on an old van bench as their seats at the table and buckled up to drink their hot chocolate.

Onward to our next stop: Cambria!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Vacation Days 3-5

We have been enjoying southern California since we visited with an advisor friend of Ben's in Los Angeles Friday afternoon, and since then, at our friend's and host's house (we'll be here until Friday morning).

A few pics to share of our travels thus far (and some are out of order, unfortunately, but you'll get the gist!):

We decided to stop at every state line and take a picture!

Edith and Ginny enjoyed "toeing the line" being half in Idaho and half in Montana at this border - they had concrete markers to indicate the line.

Sunny, dry, and HOT HOT HOT California. It was 94 degrees at 8:30am.

When we initially drove across the border in northern Utah, we forgot to stop at the state line, so we decided to take its picture when in southern Utah - so, we drove to Arizona and took that sign's picture, then turned around on an exit pass to head back north and cross Utah's state line and take a picture, and then finally got back on the road to drive through that short 25-mile stretch of northwestern AZ until we hit the California border.

Ben broke in our campfire dutch oven at our campsite in Utah - but we had to use our small grill as the head source instead of a campfire because they didn't have any campfire rings! Ben made a delicious Julia Child-inspired braised beef roast while the girls and I rode bikes around the campground and made some new friends (Don & Kellie from NC and Bill & Debbie from CA).

Sweet, blessed fun. They've napped virtually every day we've been on vacation - signs of a good time :)

The 25-mile stretch in Arizona. Breathtaking at every turn!

Making some coffee for our early morning rise near St. George, UT.

Views from the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, NV (we opted to stay in a hotel versus camping as it was 110 out. We definitely made the right choice!

Before the girls woke up - at our campsite near St. George.

Proof of the awesome roast!!

I'll get another post up here soon with details of all of our happenings in the last few days. We've been busy and having a blast!!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

So far so awesome!

As we sit in the air conditioned hotel room we splurged on tonight on account of the 110 degree heat, I am so grateful for an awesome start to our road trip adventure!

We left Monday morning at 7am bright-eyed and ready for fun! 

(imagine a selfie shot of our family, taken from the front seat of our Suburban....I will add the actual photo when my computer cooperates; right now I’m posting with my thumbs from Ben’s phone and uploading photos isn’t so easy! Yes, I know there’s social media for that... ;-))

We decided to take pictures of each “Welcome to {insert state}” sign as we crossed the border so Montana was first up. It reminded me of when my Grandpa, Aunt Esther, and Uncle Herb came out to visit us almost 6 years ago - we got a great shot of the MT sign then too!

Driving through MT was fairly uneventful and we got settled in nicely at the Bozeman Hot Springs Campground. Folks, this place was one of the highest priced campgrounds in our whole trip but worth every penny! I’d give our whole stay a 10/10. The campground adjoins the hot springs, where they have 4 outdoor pools, and multi-separated pools on the inside, the hottest of which was 106! Ben had read that going from the hot pool to a colder pool (65 degrees) acts as a great detoxifier for the body, so we both took the plunge. WOW was it a shock to the body and a literal take-your-breath-away experience. Once was enough for me :-)

We all slept great and enjoyed a brown bag breakfast offered by the campground, then got everything packed up for our next drive of the trip, to Tremonton, UT. We’ve learned pretty quickly what all needs to go where in the camper and in the truck so everything can go as smoothly as possible and it only takes 40 mins or so to break down and button up so we can be on our way. 

The next leg brought us through a tiny slice of Wyoming (but no “welcome to WY” sign) and then Idaho, on a stretch of interstate Ben and I have actually never driven before, which was fun to experience some “new road”! When we crossed into Utah, it was getting late so we opted not to take the picture of the sign (but don’t worry! We rectified that today in a UT to AZ back to UT and back to AZ again) so we could just get set up at our campsite - we wanted to break in our campfire Dutch oven and cook up a rump roast we dug out of the freezer before we left! Pictures to come soon- it was fantastic, even if we did eat at 9:30pm!

The chilly night woke us up early where Ben and I enjoyed some French press coffee while watching the sun rise over the mountains. What a beautiful country we live in!!

I’ll leave it at that for now - I’ll post soon about the rest of our UT drive and hanging out with my cousin Isaac in St. George for a few hours!

Mileage to date: approximately 1400 miles