Posts Tagged With: America

Whales & A Sandy Sunset

After a full day of sand in our shorts, sun on our backs, and a simple dinner we returned to the beach like nesting turtles to watch the sunset. As we stepped out onto the and we saw the unmistakable spray of a whale’s spout on the horizon not far from the shore.

We believed them to be either grey or humpback whales very close to the shore. Whales are common in this area but not usually at this time of the year. Many locals were noting how unusually close to shore they were. Some saying they could actually hear the whales song.

While the whales were spouting in the evening light we decided to hike once again up the Giant Sand Dune of Pacific City and watch the sun set from that impressive vantage.

While I retraced my steps from earlier in the day Clara and Morgayne decided to take on the steep sand-walled ascent. The views on the way were similar to those earlier in the day, but bathed in magic-hour light. As I walked through a small wooded area towards the top of the dune I encountered a deer making its way home for the evening.

As the girls reached the top we all spotted the deer again, running across the steep west facing slope off-limits as far too dangerous for us.

In the warm bath of sun-set light the girls finally let me take some pictures of them before running off to film their own set of Instagrams, and Snapchat stories to share with their friends.

As the last rays dwindled across the sky we made our way down the great dune and in for the evening. Campfires were set along the beach with families cooking late dinners, playing games, and listening to music. It was a near perfect day. But we could just make out the encroaching cloud of a front on the horizon. There was a storm coming as we lay heads down securely in our trailer for the night.

Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Edgefield Anniversary

We stopped at Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon for lunch at the tail end of our Great American Road Trip in 2013. Tawny and I had been to McMenamins Edgefield 22 years ago when we were first dating. We stayed in the historic hotel, ate at the fancy Black Rabbit Restaurant, and drank beers in their movie theater. This year, on our anniversary of 17 years, we decided to head back on our way to the Oregon coast.


We arrived early to navigate the narrow driveways and parking lots of Edgefield with our travel trailer in tow. Last time we were here we nearly got trapped in a narrow driveway with another car coming our way. The other driver had to edge her Prius into the bushes so we could squeeze past. As we slowly rolled by her I apologized for thinking I could bring this rig into this lot. She was very gracious about the whole thing, apologizing that she couldn’t pull her car over any further. It was just after we passed her that we realized the other driver was Zooey Deschanel. Star struck, I secretly hoped we might have another chance sighting of her on this stay. No such luck.

We were too early to check into our room so we headed to the 102 degree spa pool on a hot day. It was a sweatbox but relaxing all the same. Afterwards we got to our room, changed and spent our afternoon and evening exploring the many side attractions of the quirky resort: glass blowing, ceramics studio, gift shops, the winery & distillery, many gardens, blackberries, fire pits, and finally took in a movie (Finding Dory) and dinner at the Power Station theater and restaurant during the movie.

It was nice and relaxing day to celebrate our anniversary. There were several weddings that were happening on the estate that same evening. It gave us pause to reflect on the our 22 years together and the similar adventures that await those young couples.

Somehow during the day we had made reservations for a morning tee time at the chip & putt golf course. We rousted the girls out of bed and headed to the course. Morgayne had never held a golf club before and Clara had only hit at a driving range. Both were surprising naturals and held their own against Tawny and I (who are a couple of hacks). My only redeeming moment of triumph was an impressive birdy on hole 4 of the East course on a 30 foot chip onto the green that luckily rolled into the cup.


Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Mount St. Helens & Silver Lake

Having planned our summer road trip during winter we found ourselves in June – just a few weeks prior to leaving – having to make adjustments to shift our trip forward a few days. We called around, adjusted reservations, and were lucky enough to find a place on short notice just a few hours outside of Seattle.

On Friday July 1st we rolled our R-Pod into Silver Cove Resort to a warm, partly shaded campsite along the canals connecting to Silver Lake. We found the resort friendly, clean, and they gave us a great spot with a few trees from which we could hang our hammock in the late afternoon sun.

Saturday we headed into Castle Rock to find a pharmacy for Tawny. She’s had perhaps one of the worst colds ever and hadn’t been able to shake it. Castle Rock is a tiny little town with a disproportionate number of antique and second-hand stores. We made the rounds and found ourselves a dozen new vinyls as well as some other gems and trinkets.

From Castle Rock we headed back up Spirit Lake Highway, past our campsite, and on towards Mt. St. Helens. It’s been just over 36 years since the volcano erupted on May 18th, 1980. I remember it well. I was about 10 years old and on a field trip on North Vancouver Island with my mother who was pursuing a Masters Degree in marine biology at the time. We were out collecting varied specimens of Chlorophyta, Phaeophyceae Ochrophyta, and Rhodophyte (or green, brown, and red algae. We were more than 600 miles away that day and at about 8:35 AM we heard a huge explosion. Some thought it may be military exercises nearby. Somebody else joked about it being Mt St. Helens since it had been in the news so much lately and it was just a matter of time. Nobody took it seriously, but somebody – perhaps my mother – said, “Take note of the time, it just may be St. Helens!” Indeed, it was. After returning home to Anacortes we learned that my father and sister said our dogs had gone crazy at the explosion (250 miles away) and that they hadn’t head the explosion. Apparently the sound wave traveled up and over major metropolitan areas such as Seattle. Days later we got a phone call from my grandmother in Tulsa, Oklahoma telling us their cars were dusted in ash from the explosion. That awesome power left a lasting impression on my 10 year old psyche. One I’ve never forgotten.

Even so, I’d never been to Mt. St. Helens and yet today I find myself unscripted and unplanned within a 45 minute drive to the Johnston Ridge Observatory (so named after volcanologist David Johnston, who was at the researching the mountain when it erupted).  Memorized there are his last words “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!”. It must have been a spectacular way to go. Unfortunately, he remains were never found.

The devastation of the area is still evident and stark, but softened by a colorful blanket of new life flourishing in the form mountain lupine, paintbrushes, lupines, and mountain daisies.

We arrived just in time to listen to a forest service ranger give a synopsis of the events of May, 18th, 1980. The power and devastation of this mountain was awe-inspiring. Many observed in silence while trying to wrap their heads around the statistics the ranger rattled off; “Spirit Lake was swept away like a squeegee up the side of the mountain, and then dropped back to its current location 200 feet higher and twice the size than it was before”, or “They measured the mountain in the days before the eruption using state of the art equipment and over the course of 60 days it grew at a rate of 5 feet a day, one day adding over 17 feet!; they initially thought the equipment was faulty.”, or “The mountain lost nearly 1,200 feet in altitude that day i.”

We hiked a nearby trail, took in the panoramas, watched a short movie, and read the placards at the interpretive center before heading back down the valley to Silver Lake and our campsite. We built a fire and grilled our dinner over the open coals before finally making the last glow of the day, and the last glow of the coals toast our marshmallows, into to tortured dreams of impending lahars (rhymes w/s’mores).

Categories: Camping, Great American Roadtrip, Oregon, Washington | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

GART: Day 16 – The Needles, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Horseback Riding

We started our day with a broken silverware drawer and leaky sink (leaking into the silverware drawer). We tried to call an RV repair person but they were booked until Saturday. Not wanted to waste our one full day in the Black Hills of South Dakota we decided to deal with it later and start our day by driving to The Needles of Custer State Park. How could I not know of this place. Nestled in the Black Hills its one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. Granite spires, narrow roads, mini-tunnels, one lane roads, expansive vistas. It was beautiful and stunning and very curvy.
After the Needles Highway we stared up the Iron Mountain Highway which was similar with narrow roads, one lane bridges, tunnels, and pig tail loops. Through the last one you can see the first glimpse of Mt Rushmore in the distance.
We drove on to Mt Rushmore amidst the hoards of patriotic Americans that made this seem more a pilgrimage to Mecca than a National Monument. I was skeptical about these carved white guys. But I have to say the did a very nice job managing the untamed hoards, and the sculptures are extremely well done. The vistas are thoughtful as is the presidential walking trails closer to the monument. It was actually very well done and impressive.

After Mt Rushmore we went on to Crazy Horse. We’d heard mixed reviews about this place. Its it more about the Native Americans or the Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski? ? We paid far to much money to get in, but after watching the film, viewing the museum and site and seeing the vision I’m still on the fence if this is a good thing for the Native Americans or not. Apparently the Native community is also divided on the subject. Its not an easy position to take as I can see both sides of the debate. In the end, I’m glad we went so we can make up our own minds about it.20130723-225517.jpg20130723-225559.jpg20130723-225628.jpg20130723-225640.jpg20130723-225709.jpg20130723-225733.jpg20130723-225801.jpg20130723-225829.jpg
After Crazy Horse we drove to Jewel Cave National Monument. But they had sold out all tour tickets for the day. We wondered how to bide our time as it was 3:45 and driving to another attraction might mean arriving after closing or after tickets had sold out. But we had passed a horse stable a few miles back. We doubled back to the Spirit Horse Escape and asked if they had rides available. They did. So we sent the kids (and Tawny) out for an hour long ride. All the while I had a beer with the owner and talked about the best routes for tomorrow en route to Devil’s Tower and Cody, Wyoming. 20130723-231200.jpg20130723-231243.jpg








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Celebrating ‘Merika!


This Fourth we decided to brave the crowds and head to Lake Union to watch the Independence Day fireworks from roof of my mother’s houseboat. Its been several years since we’ve enjoyed the fireworks from the houseboat. In recent years we’ve avoided it because the traffic in and out of the area can take hours and the chaos of fireworks in the neighborhood can be unnerving. However, as we are about to embark the next phase of my sabbatical (a near month long National Park and Western United States road trip), it seemed proper that we’d kick off that phase with a celebration of America before we hit the open road.

We started our day with a little swimming to stay cool and to work up our appetite.

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Soon after we moved into the gorging our gullets phase of the holiday tradition. I had made pulled pork and our friend Julie made bacon and onion jam to put on it. Mmmmmmm….so good…

Cumin chipotle pulled pork with bourbon bbq sauce and srirasha sambal ketchup and bacon jam on brioche.

Cumin chipotle pulled pork with bourbon bbq sauce and srirasha sambal ketchup and bacon jam on brioche.

We bided our time with views of the action from the roof. Hordes of humanity covered every inch of Gasworks Park. South Lake Union was bow-to-stern and boat-bumper-to-boat-bumper. Meanwhile, the black smoke of an uncontrolled fire wafting through the neighborhood behind the houseboats (affectionately called “Little Beirut” each 4th) didn’t curtail the ignition of reservation fireworks punctuated by yelps of “‘Merika!” “Whoot!” and “Fuck yeah, dude! That was fuckin’ awesome!” Uh…merica, you are beautiful. Happy Birthday. The fire was apparently a boat storage facility that caught fire. $1.5M in damages. 

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We enjoyed the sunset and the clearing of the skies just in time for the main event – the Lake Union fireworks. They lit up the skies over Seattle like stars and nebulas.

The experience of being sprinkled by ashes and soot, the smell of sulfer and smoke, the music from Gasworks Park and the views of downtown Seattle makes this a great experience and one we won’t soon forget. Also, the traffic this year was lighter than I remember…perhaps light enough we may do it again next year.

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