Port Townsend

At five weeks post partum, with Kevin’s 8-week paternity leave more than half over, we felt up for an adventure and decided to try an overnight – our first family vacation! The goals were somewhere pretty, not too far away, not too long of stretches in the car, with somewhere we could walk around and see sights or shops and get a latte and some food. Ferry rides prefered. We debated briefly between the Olympic Peninsula, Victoria, and the San Juans. Victoria got nixed due to the international issue – I don’t think infants need a passport, but crossing the border still seemed like added complexity. Then I found Port Townsend which seemed made-to-order, and a B&B that was so well reviewed, only had two rooms (neither of which was booked yet), and claimed to welcome children. So off we went!!

We were aiming to leave at noonish, but due to a very late night were pleased to be out the door and on our way by 3 pm. In the vacation splurge mentality , we stopped at Starbucks for some coffee to begin the trip – here’s a parking lot view of my knitting (a baby pumpkin hat)! Advantage of the carseat: hands free time for me!

We caught the ferry at Edmonds, and I nursed in the car while we waited for the next boat. The ride across was so warm and beautiful, with the Olympics peeping through the afternoon haze and an amazing Rainier view behind Seattle’s skyline. I was proud of getting the Moby wrap on without drooping it across any Ferry surfaces. H snoozed happily while we went up to the top deck to enjoy the crossing.

The drive was a lot of fun – long enough to feel like we were seeing the sights, but short enough to be sane with a baby in the back and semi-sleep deprived parents in the front. We were particularly delighted to see a herd of (captive) buffalo – I was desperate to see some on our cross-country drive out to Seattle in 2004, and since then the dearth of buffalo has become a standard roadtrip joke. We also enjoyed more of the pioneer location names on the atlas, especially Point No Point and Useless Bay.

The B&B was so much more perfect than I was anticipating. I knew that it was a Victorian full of antiques, but wasn’t expecting all of the renovations – the owner said that the previous owners had brought in shipwrights to do all of the cabinetry and detailing. Very Not-So-Big-House, and we had the top floor all to ourselves which worked beautifully. A lovely view of the water and the little Whidbey Island ferries from high up on the hill – such a picturesque nursing spot.

We went out to dinner for the first time with Henry after admiring the Olympics at sunset from the wharf. Our initial choice was a seafood place on the water but after peeking in the door we didn’t even bother going in – too quiet and full of older couples. We next tried the Public House across the street and were delighted with it. White table cloths and candles, but they also had a cup of crayons on the table. Lots of local beers on tap, but the table next to us had a toddler crumbling his dinner onto the floor (his dad got down on hands and knees to clean it all up at the end of the meal). Perfect for this new stage of life. I wore Henry in the Moby wrap and he was perfect – slept all through dinner (we even stayed for dessert and coffee!) and the walk home, and then woke up to eat again as soon as we were back. He slept as well as he ever does through the night, then Kevin moby-wrapped him for breakfast. (Go us, only a few minutes late for the 9 am serving time!)

We explored the town (including its two yarn shops!) then had lunch at one of the cafes. Henry woke up shortly after we arrived, and I was so proud to actually discretely breastfeed in public – a major obstacle to have conquered.

The sandwiches were great and we enjoyed our coffee before taking dessert on the road. Before we left the area, we drove up to the Fort Worden State Park and walked a bit around the beaches at the northern tip. Pretty views of the fog over the water, tankers and tugboats, dunes, red-roofed lighthouse, and the Whidbey Island cliffs.

The wind was cold but the beach was lovely. I didn’t envy all of the kayakers gathering for their convention, though – while the skies were sunny, I bet that water was freezing.

Such a wonderful overnight trip. 🙂

Whistler Weekend

Friends that ski frequently were heading up to British Columbia for a three day ski weekend, so we jumped at the chance to join them. It ended up being quite a crowd (11 of us in the condo – I was very grateful that pregnancy apparently guarantees a bed instead of floor space) and enormous fun. I decided ahead of time that I’d skip the downhill on this trip (fortuitous, since my ski pants have ceased to button), but Kevin and I both brought our cross country skis.

We skipped out of work a little bit early on Friday to beat traffic, and even with a fair amount of rush hour made great time. We’d both had a long week on not enough sleep and were a bit punchy, but the sunset was gorgeous, lighting up the clouds over the Cascades, and all of Vancouvers lights were beautiful as we passed in the dark. On Saturday, the rest of the crowd went skiing, and I found a spot in the village with great french toast and a view of the skiers coming down the mountain. The surrounding mountains were all completely clear, and the prettiest texture of blue-gray with all of the snow on the trees. Gorgeous.

There was already lots of activity in preparation for next year’s Olympics. Right in front on the flags in this photo was a bobsled painted with Olympic rings, and there was a steady stream of people climbing in for photos. Also, you might be able to make out the new Peak-to-Peak gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb (click for big, and look right above the flags):

I thought it looked terrifying – so high up.

Sunday night was lots of fun, as one couple made dinner in the condo and we all hung out, relaxed, and enjoy some apres ski time. It snowed overnight, which made everyone happy. Kevin took the day off downhill and we went cross country skiing around Lost Lake. Skiing on groomed and tracked trails was a novel experience for me (I’m a huge fan), and the views of the lakes, woods and mountains were gorgeous. I was exhausted and starving by the time we got back, but it was a great few hours. We found a creperie (yum) for a late lunch, then I deeply enjoyed a nap. Our room was barely bigger than the bed, but the window had a great view of all of the trees (lacy with the new snow) and the snow cascading off of the roof across the way. Pretty.

We woke up to deep clouds and lots of rain on Monday morning, and the skiing crowd all opted for a leisurely breakfast and ride home over chancing new snow higher up the mountain. We went back to the creperie with Graham, Andi and Adeeb – just as good the second time round.

I was pretty pleased with myself early on for remembering to bring up all of my Canadian change ($25 worth, plus a $20 bill) from ski trips in 2003 and 2005. After carefully spending it all weekend, including one final stop at Tim Hortons for apple fritters right before the border, I was left with a $5 bill, 3 twonies, two nickels and two pennies. Good work, me. 🙂

The drive back along the Sea to Sky highway north of Vancouver was spectacular. Amazing mountains, roadside waterfalls, and views into deep valleys.

The colors were spectacular greens and blues – I love that Pacific Northwest palette.

As we got further south the road curved along the mountains that rise out of Howe Sound, so we had gorgeous water and island views as well as the Vancouver Island and Olympic mountains in the distance. I’m so glad that we made the drive in the daylight.

Road trip: Home again!!

We’re home!!

We checked out of our hotel at the last minute again, checked our bags, and went to the French bakery down the street for a satisfying breakfast. Our plan for the day was vague, but I had a knitting store that I was interested in checking out and Kevin professed not to mind, so we reclaimed the car and headed for the suburbs (following the directions from Microsoft on Kevin’s phone). It was a complete failure. The directions were pretty over the river and through the woods, including turns down unpaved back alleys, and then the address that we were directed to didn’t seem to exist, and we were left on a residential street in the middle of south-east portland. Not meant to be. The neighbourhood was pretty, at least, and we drove by Reed College, which was interesting.

We’d contemplated stopping to see Mount St. Helens on the ride home (I still haven’t visited it), but the skies were low and deeply gray, so we decided to save it for a day with views. We cruised up I-5. The only real slow point was a mental one, where we drove past the junction with 101 just before Olympia. Call into work and tell them that we’d see them in a week because we decided to do the loop a second time?? How tempting…

According to my car’s trip counter, we went 1951.6 miles in eight days. Three states, a mix of old and new. I love car trips and this one was even better for the amount of time we spent on tiny roads where the speed limit dropped to 35 when we went through towns. This was a trip of little tastes of places – each morning when we got back in the car we wished we could stay at least another night. Wouldn’t it be neat to do a week-long vacation on the ocean in Oregon? Or a full weekend in Napa? Or a longer stay at the Tu Tu Tun Lodge…? Kevin wanted to bike lots of portions on our route – I’m not sure that a fully loaded bike on those hills sounds appealing, but I bet he could find biking partners and maybe I’d be the car support crew? In any case, the goal this time was to learn more about this coast, to see it in person, and I feel like that was well accomplished. We live in a beautiful place, and it’s amazing to see the variation down the coast and then back up inland.

Here’s the full album of trip photos. Yay. 🙂 Feel free to contact me if you want recommendations for places to stay or eat along the route – we found several great spots.

Road trip: Bend, OR to Portland

Checkout at McMenamins was at 11, but Kevin went to the corner bakery to pick up treats and coffee for breakfast, and then we enjoyed the tubs, and took turns reading sections of the impressively local paper (favourite story: the full page on the guys who set up with beach chairs and coolers of beer in their driveways to watch the forest fires, after agitating for brush clearing for a few years…). And we ended up suddenly realizing we were five minutes late for checkout and hustling away – luckily, they didn’t seem fazed.

We decided to have lunch there, since it was a short driving day and we’d both wavered between options on the menu the night before. My onion soup and Kevin’s rueben were yummy, and it was fun people watching since the Bed Fourth of July Pet Parade had just broken up. Lots of red, white and blue costumes on pets, kids and adults. And as we drove out of town, there were several classic cars in show condition on the road, so that was a treat, too.

I’d just called my parents to wish them a happy anniversary when we came around a corner and saw this out the driver side window. Woah!

Sorry, Mom and Dad, for getting completely distracted mid-call. It turns out they were the Three Sisters – three huge cojoined volcanic peaks (Kevin turned out at a scenic pullout with a sign that explained the view – thank you, Oregon). If you click through to the bigger photo, you can see all of the big, blue, mounded hills in the foreground.

Pretty spectacular. The clouds (and what turned out to be the last blue sky of the trip) were pretty sensational too:

The road took us across the Cascades, along a tiny brook that grew larger by the mile. More elk signs (but still, no elk: sigh). The landscape grew increasingly distressed, and we’d finally figured out that what we were seeing must have been an enormous forest fire when we came across yet another scenic/educational pullout.

Apparently, this is a corner of the B&B complex – a forest fire set by lightnight in 2003. The hills and hills of dead black trees were sobering, and put a lot our last few days of driving in perspective.The pullout was interesting, as it explained how better husbandry could prevent fires. Certainly not new news, but I was impressed that state funds had been dedicated to education.

We took Rt 22, which followed the north fork of the Santiam River, which continued to be pretty. We switched drivers in Marion Forks so that Kevin could call his family before it got too late in the afternoon Eastern Time. The river continued to get bigger until all of a sudden the road went by the Detroit Lake and Detroit Dam – sort of amazing in a flyby way – the more I thought about it and the depp dropoff down the road, the more impressive it seemed.

Kevin fell asleep just before we picked up 15 south of Salem. For the most part the passenger time on this trip was attentive and active – we spent more time talking to our families on the phone on the off shifts than we did sleeping. I wouldn’t say that he missed much in this stretch though. It rained a little, and there was just general sprawl along the highways (lots of big box stores and billboards). You couldn’t see the mountains, so I was mostly just making haste for Portland.

Last time we were in Portland we got seriously lost, but I blamed us for inattentiveness. This time I just blame the city. Portland pretends to be a nice, grid-based western city, but in reality it’s a mess of one way streets, bridges, misleading highway exits, and you-can’t-get-there-from here. A little Boston wannabe. We missed our I-5 exit heading north, got off the highway to turn around, missed it again going south, and then got on a different highway and finally managed to find the hotel via surface streets. Stressful! 🙂 Crazy Portland. Our hotel had mandatory valet and they were amused to see all of our roadtrip baggage (cooler, lifejackets, sleeping bags, yoga mats, etc). Apparently we weren’t the first car they’d seen en route. We managed to leave the camera in the hotel room which was a pity because Portland was awesome and now we have no visual proof. We walked over to an Andean Tapas place in the Pearl district for dinner. Wow. They had really unusual and yummy drinks (though we recognized some ingredients like tamarind from the Sengalese restaurant in San Francisco), I had oysters for the first time (interesting, but not a new favourite), and we had a great selection of small plates. I can’t remember all of them, but here are ones I remember from the online menu:

• TORTILLA DE PATATA Y ALIOLI DE AJI AMARILLO Spanish-style potato fritatta with ají Amarillo aioli
• CHORIZO Rioja’s dry-cured sausage
• AHUMADOS DE MAR Y RÍO assorted smoked fish from the river and the sea
• ANTICUCHO DE PULPO grilled octopus kebob with rocoto and caper chimichurri
• CAUSA a traditional preparation of freshly mashed potatoes, infused with key lime juice and pressed into a cake filled with spicy tuna, crab salad, and crispy shrimp

After dinner, we went down to the riverfront to watch the fireworks. I haven’t see a major city display in several years (the Seattle fireworks we’ve watched have been from across the lake), and Portland’s was spectacular. Happy Fourth!