Monday, January 7, 2013

Missing the Road and Ready to Dream

Several years ago, my two little girls and I hit the road for a wonderful spring and summer wandering through the western U.S. We came back when we did because my darling 5 year old was getting increasingly homesick, and I decided she needed to come home and get into kindergarten. I can't believe that she's in 5th grade now, and I'm really missing the road again.

It's not that we haven't traveled. We spent a long summer trip circling the Florida coast and visited every national park site in the state, include Dry Tortugas. There was the whirlwind Arizona spring break trip and the early summer tour of West Texas (I could happily go back to Terligua for an extended stay). But I haven't been a committed "full-timer" for a long time, and I miss it.

I want to recreate some of the magic that I experience with my daughters when we were really cocooned in our little trailer Rosie. I don't see us going back on the road full time, but most families can't. I had questions from followers on how I was able to take the trip that I did, and I had the advantage of a large severance package at the time. Now, I have to be more careful, more creative, and a lot more thoughtful.

That just makes me like all the rest of those Mamas who want to hit the road on an adventure with their kids. The blog is becoming my place to dream, brainstorm, and plan for the adventures that could still be part of my family's time together.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What Happened Next

From Bend, I thought about where to go next--more mountains, more coast or more desert? We spent some very happy time at a quiet lake where Gloria loved playing with the other kids, and I knew most of them would be going home soon. She got more homesick rather than less. She began asking about starting school.

I suddenly decided we were done--for now. It was time to go back to Texas and let Gloria try kindergarten and be with family. We could travel in the summers and see if that was enough.

We drove through to Utah, stopping for some very hot hikes in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. We sledded at White Sands in Alamogordo and watched the bats flow out of Carlsbad Caverns.

And we were home in very early August signing up for school and setting up playdates. It was strange, but good, for quite a while. We moved into a smaller home, and I dreamed of the next time we would be ready to travel for long, slow, uninterrupted spells.

We went skiing in Durango at Christmas, toured nine National Parks over our first spring break, including a lovely couple of days at the Grand Canyon. I personally was blown away by Montezuma Well, a large sinkhole surrounded by puebloan ruins that was so peaceful, the bird calls you heard along the rim disappeared as you walked along the water's edge.

Last summer, we traveled to Clearwater for the Fourth of July and took a summer trip to Estes Park. Now, just back from our second spring break trip (skiing without frostbite warnings this time and some time travel along Route 66), I'm desperate to hit the road for another lengthy stretch.

So this summer, unless work conditions make it impossible, the girls and I will love back into our beloved Rosie, the 16 foot Taylor Coach that was our home in the spring and summer of 2007.

I'm sorry that I let the blog lapse for so long, but I'm back and really longing for something new to write about.

I'll come back to put up reports on our more recent trips--along with pictures--in the next week or two.

Keep studying the atlases!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bend, Oregon: The Beginning of the High Desert

We came on to Bend to see Papa and Grandma, who are attending The Rally--a gathering of 6000+ rv enthusiasts. We got a day pass into The Rally today, and Gloria had a ball shopping and gathering freebies from the vendors with Grandma. Dad, Noni and I toured new motorhomes and trailers. It was fun, but I just don't think that many people should be in one place together. Noni's favorite thing was the free watermelon.

We visited the High Desert Museum. They have animal exhibits as well as cultural exhibits. We saw otters, raptors, a bobcat and a lynx, as well as fish, bugs, spiders, reptiles, etc. Gloria and Leona made spider bracelets and egg crate bugs and caterpillars. They scrubbed floors, carried water, and stacked wood at a living settlers exhibit. Gloria made rope inside a teepee. And they climbed around a giant spider web, dug up fossils, and crawled around tunnels. Gloria said the spider web was her home. They would be happy to come back here everyday.

We also went to Lava Lands National Monument. We took a short walk that gave us a chance to talk about the things we learned a Craters of the Moon, but rain and a tired two year old cut short our visit.

Then we visited a small nature center in Sunriver. The girls looks through microscopes at various samples of things from the woods, they studied reptiles and rocks, and then we took a nature walk. The biggested adventure there was the toad migration. The baby toads, only about an inch long, are leaving the pond and going to the woods. They were everywhere. Volunteers were clearing them from the roadway as we tried to enter the nature center area. Gloria caught and cleared dozens from the path during our walk, and we stopped so I could gather more off the road on our way out. We also saw a bald eagle that lives on a small island in the lake that borders the path, and we came across a bunny just beside the path. It sat quietly and watched us and we stared right back at it.

Bend has been much more fun that I expected, but we are going to leave in the morning to start making our way back to Texas. This leg of the trip will teach us about deserts and will require us to detour around wildlifes. It will be much different from the lush green landscape we spent the last month in.

See you soon!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Big Decision

Well, I don't know how this works for the betting pool on the length of our time on the road, but I've decided we're coming home. The girls are saturated with new things, I think. And Gloria is so painfully homesick for her family and friends. And if she is starting school this year, we need to get home in time for her to do that with everyone else.

I am glad we took the trip together. The break in routine and completely concentrated time with the girls was wonderful. We saw amazing places, and if I were alone and still in my twenties, I would almost certainly be staying up here! But I'm not. And I've discovered that, at this point in my life, I need family, friends, my people around more than I need beautiful scenery or the coolest crowd. (Not that my Dallas friends aren't incredibly cool, of course!)

I'm keeping the trailer. I want to be able to travel with them in the summers. Every year, there will be more they can understand. And I don't think my itch to travel is about to disappear for good.

I don't know how the timing works for those betters among you--whether the length of the trip is measured by when we decide to go home or when we actually get there. We still have a lot of cool stuff to see over the 2000+ miles between here and there, but I expect to be home by or about the beginning of August.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Oregon Coast

On our way to Tillamook, Oregon (yes, like the cheese), we visited two more lighthouses: Yaquina Head and Yaquina Bay. Yaquina Bay was only in operation for three years in the 1870s because it couldn't be seen well enough and had to be replaced by the Yaquina Head lighthouse a few miles north. But we loved that one because the lighthouse is incorporated into the keeper's house, which is open and decorated as it would have been at the time of its operation. It is a great way to talk about how life was different. Noni especially has grown to love the lighthouses. She asks to see them wherever we go--whether we are near the coast or not!

Once we got to Tillamook, we visited two cheese factories and a sausage company. Such tours are big hits with kids. One of the cheese companies (Blue Heron French Cheese Co.) even has a petting zoo outside the store. We also discovered that Gloria likes brie (and summer sausage!). We visited Cape Meares Lighthouse--the shortest lighthouse in Oregon--and the kids got to climb to the top, right up beside the cut-glass fresnel light. Cape Meares State Park is also home to the Octopus Tree, a sitka spruce that has six trucks spreading from its roots.

We moved on to Ada, Oregon, a tiny town on Siltcoos Lake outside Florence. Siltcoos Lake is the largest lake along the Oregon Coast, and just about all of the shoreline is privately owned, so it is very quiet. We stayed at a fishing camp. The girls got to play with a lot of kids here. They loved catching and playing with salamanders along the dock. Gloria said this was her favorite place on the whole trip--because she had kids to play with.

While we were in Ada, we visited Sea Lion Caves and Heceta Head Lighthouse. We took an elevator down in the large sea cave and saw dozens of sea lions playing, swimming, and calling to one another. Gloria had been warned by her grandfather that it would smell bad in the cave, and she had been very concerned about--even practiced holding her nose. She said it wasn't as bad as she thought it would be. Of course, we weren't there for the largest concentration of sea lions inside the cave. We were told that sometimes hundreds will be in the cave together. Heceta Head Lighthouse is only four miles from the cave and there are nice views of it from there. But we drove on up the road and hiked up to the lighthouse itself. The keepers house is now a bed and breakfast, but it is also open for tours in the afternoons.

From here we head inland to Bend.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Long Beach Peninsula

We left Whidbey Island and drove south toward Seattle, stopping off to see a lighthouse in Mukilteo. The lighthouse was closed, but we met a volunteer coming out, and when she heard we were from Texas, she took the girls passport books to have them stamped and gave them shells, stickers, and postcards. Most of the people we meet are so nice and so willing to go out of their way for us--or at least for my cute girls!

From Seattle, we headed back toward the coast at the far southwest point of Washington. We stayed in Long Beach and drove up and down this great, homey peninsula that looks like a 1960s beach resort. Carousel, museum of curiosities, the whole bit. The free museum's main attraction is Jake, the Alligator Boy. I didn't take the girls, but I bet it's something a 10-year-old would love.

We hiked to the lighthouses at North Head and Cape Disappointment. North Head Lighthouse is taller and had a beautiful view, but we liked the black and white stripes on Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. On the way to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, we passed Dead Man's Cove. It was a lovely cove with a beautiful sheltered beach, but the beach was closed because the paths down were too treacherous. Gloria did not accept that story easily, but she smiled for a picture at the overlook. At the end of the hike, the girls were tired and happy to find a bench to stretch out on.

We also visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center. When I talked to Gloria later about where the expedition camped and how they hiked from Station Camp to Cape Disappointment, she said, "But I didn't see them there." History is a little abstract for a 5 year old, I guess.

Her favorite thing, as always, was walking on the beach and watching the animals. There are a lot of shore birds at the Willapa Wildlife Refuge at the tip of Long Beach Peninsula, and we hiked out a little way along the beach there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Our Favorite Honda Dealership!

We decided to stay on Whidbey Island to have the van's air conditioner fixed. I liked the dealership and looked at the weather report inland, so it was easy to decide we didn't want to go far without fixing it. Now I'm so glad we did. The work was all done by lunchtime, and the service manager called Honda and got it covered as warranty work even though I was well outside the warranty. Sims Honda in Burlington, Washington is officially my favorite dealership ever.

We're enjoyed our time on the island, but we were ready to start moving again. On our way off the island, we stopped at the Deception Pass Bridge. The water under the bridge is so strange and turbulent--the source of the pass's name--and the bridge is so high, that walking across it is very disconcerting. But the area is remarkably beautiful. There's a landing half way across the pass where we parked and looked around. Gloria would have been happy to climb right over the railing and hike down to the shore at the bottom of the cliff! It heard that it is the most photographed landmark in Washington, and that makes sense.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Whidbey Island

We were happy to be headed toward the coast again because it can get warm, even in Washington, with the van's air conditioner out, and it's been out for a couple of weeks now. The days on Whidbey Island are in the low to mid 60s, sunny and breezy. We got here on the July 4th and wandered through the Fourth of July Extravaganza in Oak Harbor. The girls got temporary tatoos. Gloria loved her Tinker Bell tatoo and wanted her friends and family to see it. They sampled playground equipment until Noni fell in the sand and filled her eyes, nose and mouth with it. She was a good sport about getting it washed off (and out), but she was also ready to go back to Rosie. Fireworks don't start up here until 10:30, and the girls were asleep long before that, but I could hear occasional booms deep into the night.

We found a dealership that can fix the van's air conditioner, but the part won't be here until Monday. So we'll be staying on Whidbey Island until Tuesday. It's no hardship given the weather and the views and the Mexican Restaurant I found in Oak Harbor! It's really good and is helping with some of my homesickness. It you can't be with the ones you love, eat as if you are.

Continuing on the lighthouse hunt, we visited Admiralty Head Lighthouse and the eagles that nest there. Being a lighthouse keeper was a very solitary and remote life, and they had an example of the traveling bookshelves that would be passed from lighthouse to lighthouse by the inspectors so the keepers would have something to read. There were at least 700 of these bookshelves with solid doors that were in circulation. Within sight of the lighthouse, we climbed around in the old fortifications from Fort Casey--built to protect Puget Sound from the Canadians, British and Spanish. Given that the perceived risk has fallen, the fort is now part of a state park and a national historic reserve. There seem to be deer here all the time, very at peace with the tourist all around them.

We even went to a mall. It's amazing how much fun a mall can be when you spend enough time in the woods. The girls had a ball at the play area with their instant friends. Then we saw Ratatouille. Gloria loved it, and Leona liked it well enough to not scream. It really wasn't very stressful because some loud, obnoxious little boys sat behind us. It's not something I ever thought I would be happy to see happen, but it does decrease the pressure of seeing a movie with a wiggly two-year-old who can't always remember to whisper.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

North Cascades National Park

When we left Papa and Grandma, the girls and I continued around the Cascade Loop. We stopped at the Rocky Reach Dam on the Columbia River north of Wenatchee and learned about the use of fish ladders to provide a route up the river for spawning salmon and trout, and we visited a museum inside the dam about the Columbia River. The girls also enjoyed a playground there provided by the public utility department--a really cool one that had a hand pedal trolley and a climbing wall with a rope.

We stayed overnight in Carlton, Washington in the Methow Valley. It's a tiny town, but we had a fantastic dinner at the only restaurant there: hamburger steak with mushrooms and onions, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables, real downhome cooking that tasted as good as anything I've ever had. We walked by the river and had a quiet night.

The next morning, we continued up the Methow Valley and onto the North Cascades Highway. This may be the most beautiful stretch of road I've ever been on. The mountains are steep and rugged, glaciers cover much of the high ground, and streams, waterfalls, and cascades run down between the peaks. Ross Lake, in the middle of the Cascades, is deep blue but nearby Diablo Lake is dark green.

We stayed at Newhalen Creek Campground near the North Cascades NP Visitor Center. There were a number of short nature trails near our camp, and we did the Ladder Creek Falls Trail, the Trail of the Cedars, and the River Loop Trail--all beautiful and the longest only a mile long. Gloria especially liked the rainbow that appeared over the bottom of Ladder Creek Falls.

Gloria became a junior ranger. We also attended Ranger Programs both nights we were at the park, and Gloria, as an official junior ranger, was asked to help out by counting the attendants and to answer a few special questions about the park. We had to drop back by the visitors center on our way out this morning so Gloria could say goodbye to her favorite park ranger.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Papa, Grandma and a Bavarian Village

After stopping to replace our camera, we traveled east to the center of Washington and joined Papa and Grandma at a campground outside Leavenworth. Leavenworth was a town abandoned by the railroad and then by its sawmill early in the century. The town refused to die, though, and in the 1960s, it made itself over as a charmingly decorated Bavarian tourist trap. It's cute, and the town seems to be doing well. The 59 Diner sold over 4000 milkshakes last August, for example.

This is also where we began to encounter mosquitos. Ick.

We found out about the 59 Diner from another camper, and Gloria decided it was the best place to eat EVER because she could dance to 50s music on the jukebox while she waited for her food. So we also took his suggestion to drive up to White River Falls in Snoqualmie National Forest. We drove along to the end of the paved road; we kept driving when it became a gravel road; we got a little nervous, but we kept going when it became a simple dirt road. But finally, there is was: White River Falls campground. We pulled in to a beautiful, small campground and could hear the roar of the falls. It was hard to get a good view of the falls, although we could see tantalizing portions of it as it dropped in a curve away and then back toward us, but that was almost more fun. It felt private and discovered.

In Cashmere, we toured Aplets and Cotlets, a candy company that makes a version of turkish delight with fruit and nuts in it. I liked the Cotlets best: apricots and walnuts. On the way back, we visited a farm with a petting zoo outside Peshastin. Gloria pulled Leona around and around in the wagon: we find heavy work for her wherever we can!

The best part of the week, though, was getting to be with Papa and Grandma again. We're leaving in the morning, but we'll see them again later this month!