Normal is a four letter word. Extraordinary is the new black.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Twice the Awesome" and other adventures...

This is post three in a series of four posts about our trip to Oregon. For the other three posts, click herehere, and also here.

After a day of mellow beachiness, yesterday was about exploring. We knew we were heading south. We knew that there were sand dunes, lighthouses and sea lions along the way. However, we didn't know exactly what shape the day would take. 

This makes for an interesting day when you have a little man who craves an itinerary, but he knows that the rule is, if you ask to go home, we add fifteen minutes to the time that we are gone. It's a rule, and he loves rules, so it works. 

Driving down highway 101 we came across Yaquina Head Lighthouse, and decided no time like the present for a little adventure. A friend told me about Cobble Beach, which is right below Yaquina Head lighthouse. She mentioned something about a smell, and flies, but all I really registered was her words, “It’s like nothing you have ever seen or heard before….” Sold!

Before climbing the lighthouse, we decided to head down to the beach for lunch. She wasn’t kidding. The entire beach is covered in these dark cobblestones. The sound as you walked on them, is abosolutely musical and unreal. We were enchanted immediately. Add to that, the amazing rocks in the ocean, the seals in the water and the view of the lighthouse above, and we figured this was paradise to eat lunch at.

We sat down, noticing a fly or two, but brushed them away and started eating. Slowly, we came to the realization that my friend's mention of flies on the beach was not to be taken as a passing comment. If you were still for a moment, 20-50 flies would land on you. No joke! As long as we were moving, it wasn't bad. However, staying still for even a moment to take photos, meant becoming a rest stop for a large gang of kelp flies. It wasn't long before we were laughing hysterically and dancing on the beach to keep them at bay. 

They weren't really horrible, and they weren't your average housefly, so we dealt and ate lunch standing and checking out the seals playing in the water only a few feet off shore. 

Wiggly lunch and seal sighting complete, we headed up the stairs to the lighthouse. Walking around the back side, there was a lookout, that was a perfect spot to see grey whales swimming in the ocean. We spent a little time watching a few whales play and blow water from their spout. Getting a photo of them proved to be difficult and sometimes you just have to experience a moment and forget about the camera. 

The lighthouse was built in 1873 by Henry Roberts, who also happened to be the same Henry Roberts that wrote Robert's Rules of Order. The light house is beautiful and still operates today, however, instead of a flame fuelled by pig oil, it is simply a 1000 watt lightbulb. 

We had to sit outside and wait our turn to be let in. As you can imagine, they only want so many people climbing the stairs at one time. So waiting meant sitting still on the front steps, which meant, you guessed it, kelp flies. Graysen, funny enough didn't mind them landing on him at all, and quite happily kept catching and petting them. 

Once inside, it was time to climb the 93 feet to the top of the light house. The stairs were gorgeous and winding, and just see through enough, that we were all reminding each other not to look down.
As we came to the top of the stairs, I suddenly felt the lighthouse move. Unexpected! I stood in the top of the lighthouse with my family, trying to listen to the man tell us all about the prisms that made the light so focused out to sea and all I could think of was Austin Powers saying, "Moley Mole, don't mention the mole." because all I wanted to SWAY errrr say was, "Is this thing moving??"

We all got a turn to climb the last few stairs to look out of the top where the light was. Totally worth the whole stairs, vertigo, moley mole sway stuff.

Our day's, lighthouse needs met, we headed the mile down the road to Yaquina Beach, which happens to have some small sand dunes. 

 Watching the kids run for miles, playing on the dunes was a total heartburst moment. I giggled to myself, because these are the baby dunes, and I can not wait to see their faces when we get to the big fellas tomorrow.

Graysen, our resident beach/water hater, of course went straight into the ocean. Did I mention that he left his bathing suit in the car? I should probably mention that it didn't really matter. What's a little wet underwear between family when there is this awesomeness to take in.

After some time at the beach and a vow to come back for a beach day before we leave, we headed into Newport to see if we could spot some sea lions. We heard a rumor that they liked to hang out on the dock. The first few docks we checked out, were sea lion free. However, Lorelei, out fearless adventurer, did spot some men fishing off the dock. The one gentleman was reeling fish in by the minute, all small, all being thrown back but Lorelei thought this was all kinds of awesome.
She walked right up to them and said, "Can I watch you fish?" 
Within seconds, she had positioned herself between two of the guys and was watching the show. A minute later, one of the men told her to start reeling in the line. She pulled in a little baby fish, which was so awesome but, "No thank you, I don't want to touch it." Another moment, where enjoying it was more important than the photos. 

 Carrying on down the road, we managed to find this twice the awesome. Not just a unicorn, but a unicorn with two horns. Score. Not really sure what it meant, but apparently Oregon graffiti is unicorn inspired because that was the only tag I saw yesterday, which is by very definition, "Twice the awesome."

We heard the sea lions before we saw them. Soon enough, we found the dock and there they were, on a rock in the harbour, sleeping and fighting with each other. Their barking sounds and protests were hysterical to the kids. We stood for a good hour letting the kids marvel at how they looked and sounded a little like dogs, but also like bears and a bit like cats. They looked so sweet while they slept, but when they woke up and started yelling at each other, they actually reminded me a little of our kids. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

A day to breathe out...

This is post two in a series of four posts about our trip to Oregon. For the other three posts, click herehere, and also here.

When I woke up this morning (at 6:30-Oy!!), the sun was shining and the kids were still asleep. In the summer all three of them like to have summer sleepovers together. They choose this, and while I know that this will not always be the case, I won't pretend I don't love it like crazy that at this point in time, they still happily do.

This was the view from the deck this morning. There were people already out, walking on the beach, and while I wanted to join them, I decided to try for just five more minutes of sleep.

By 8:30, we were all up and ready to explore the beach before breakfast.

Our hotel was built in the 1930's and was originally built as apartments. It has a pretty awesome history and the new owners have been doing a ton of work to restore it.

I showed Graysen and Lorelei that you could play jump rope with a piece of kelp, but they couldn't find anyone willing to skip. They were a little off in their timing, which might have been part of the problem.

Lorelei decided that this piece of kelp was her puppy, and she dragged it down the beach. Every so often, she would turn and whistle at it to be sure it continued following.

After breakfast, we did a little exploring in the city, but the beach was calling us, and so we answered.

Graysen will tell you that he doesn't like the beach and that the sand feels yucky. I'm sure that if you were here, his disgust would be obvious, by the way he skips happily into the waves, dancing and laughing. His constant rolling in the sand, and requests to be buried in it are also clear indicators of his discontent.

Today Caylen taught me how to throw a football properly. That was all kids of awesome.

Somewhere between football on the beach and momma burying two kids in the sand, the clouds rolled in. It stayed warm though, and daddy was happy flying a kite, so no rush to leave. Besides, I had two kids happily immobilized in the sand.

Lorelei made a few sand angels, and insisted on drawing in the halos. Finally, once everyone had their fill, we headed in for a swim in the pool.
In the court yard by our room, there are four fire bowls, and we decided to roast hot dogs tonight for dinner, followed by a movie in our room.

Lorelei ended the night with S'mores and while the kids fell asleep, hubby and I sat on the deck and enjoyed the angry ocean. Tomorrow, a search for sand dunes, or perhaps sea lions, or maybe a lighthouse or two.

One last kick at the (summer) ostrich...

This is post one in a series of four posts about our trip to Oregon. For the other three posts, click here, here, and also here.

Growing up, my sisters and I had parents that loved a good road trip. Three summers in a row, we packed up our family trailer, left our home in the southern interior of British Columbia and headed for a one month adventure in a US state. The first year, we explored Washington, the next Oregon, and finally, on that third summer, California, and all the Disney-riffic splendor that comes with.

Maybe surprisingly, it was the summer in Oregon that held my heart the tightest. Something about the coast, with it's giant intertidal rocks, and it's untamed beauty, called me.

A little nostalgia at the beginning of the summer, and a desire to pass on road trip memories to our own kids, landed us here, in Lincoln City. The room is quiet. The sliding door is cracked open, just enough to let in the sound of the ocean, and as I sit here typing, the roar of those waves takes all the rough edges and softens them right down.

At 3:30am this morning, I was wide awake, trying to snuggle Lorelei, and will myself to sleep for just one more hour. By 4am, it was clear that getting up was my best option. By 5:15 am, we were heading down the road, and by 5:45 am we were talking to a lovely US Border Guard who wanted to know, "Why so early?" and that told us, we had "the perkiest kids [she's] seen at 5:45 am in a while."

A gorgeous sunrise is a great reward for getting up early, and this morning's fire in the sky didn't disappoint.

By 6:30 we were rolling South down the I5, and I may have geektastically waved at some fellow Canadians as we passed them. Their Alberta plates tipped us off, along with their slightly confused, but friendly smiles. I'm sure the reason for my excitement was clear once we pulled in front and they saw our BC plates. At least that's what I told hubby.

Dear Seattle, We love you, we really do. So sorry we didn't have time to stop in for a visit today. 
Daddy made the kids little map packs so they could follow along as we went, but poor kids have never road tripped with mom and dad. Those map packs we made a couple of days earlier and the driving plan had changed a few times since then. Can you imagine the torture we subject our little order oriented man too?

He's telling us how far off course we are.

To distract him from the inaccurate map and all it's very bad, badness, we started playing the license plate game. Momma spotted a plate from Hawaii. You would think, that's gotta be an automatic win, but apparently not, and so game on.

 Oh and that Hawaii plate, was spotted at Johnson Observatory at Mount St. Helens.

Plate edited for privacy reasons.
Nothing like ripping that fear band-aid off. Graysen got a full education on volcanoes and early warning signs. What was once a fear, is now possibly morphing into an obsession. Driving all the way in to the mountain was about a three hour detour, but it's all part of the adventure.

We first went to the Observatory, which felt solemn. I'm not sure if it was the knowledge that 32 years ago, a scientist stood on that same ground and lost his life to an unpredictable mountain, or the fact that the mountain itself seemed to bare the scars of it's explosive past. Maybe both. We didn't stay long, as the Forest Learning Center, held stories of getting to pretend to fly a helicopter, and a "Hands On" exhibit. This little detour, fuelled conversation in the car for hours. Lorelei decided that when Volcanoes erupt, they are just burping. Graysen wanted to, "Google all the things volcano NOW!"

Mt St. Helens

It seems you can still hike around the outside of the crater. After some research, this is perhaps something best done with much older kids. If you are interested there are permits required as they limit the number of people per day.
This is behind the parking lot at the Observatory. These mountains, still bear the scars of the 1980 eruption.

The Forest Discovery Center, needs no explanation. Maybe a simple, "Copters, and puppets and textures, Oh My!" is enough.

Daddy and Caylen took off with the camera. This is what I found on the card when I was editing tonight. 

Lots of different textures to explore.

Found the puppets, naturally.

Lorelei loved how the pumice stone floated.
So, then, the not having cell service and the awesome Google maps happened.  We decided to rock the good old, "Fly by the seat of your pants." To be clear, there was a planned route, but sometimes when hubby and I travel, we decide to have an adventure. We headed East toward Highway 101 which is the coast highway, but weren't really sure which route we were going to take. We had planned to cross at the big bridge over the Columbia Gorge, but on the way, we saw this other little bridge and thought, "Hey, that looks fun." Wham! Bam! Ferry Ma'am! and a pretty little detour popped us into Oregon the back way.

A few miles into Oregon, it started to rain. No problem, let's turn on those handy dandy windshield wipers. Oh wait! No, sorry, the driver's side wiper hates us and has gone on strike. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean. After pulling over, and inspecting it with hubby, he declared it broken and we attempt to stand outside appearing to share a joke and a laugh for the benefit of the three little humans in the car. This is the part of the vacation where hubby drives down the highway looking through my side of the windshield and mommy attempts to act like that is all completely normal. 

Dear Griswold family, thank you for joining our holiday. You are awesome. Love, Me!

Okay, so that worked for about 20 minutes and we declared it silly, which is of course parent-speak for, "Oh crap, we are going to drive into someone." Hubby pulled into a nursery and this time we both stood outside laughing probably insanely, and formulating a plan, for windshield wiper domination, at 5:30pm...on  a a small county. This was about the time that I noticed that the motor was still turning, and perhaps the bolt was just loose. Excellent. Enter friendly Lisa, who is not afraid to ask for help. 

I walked into the Nursery, and found a lovely lady. I said, "Hello, we are a long way from home, we left our tools there and our windshield wiper needs to be tightened." While she did not have tools there, she made a quick phone call to her mechanic in Cannon Beach, to make sure he didn't close before we arrived. Ten minutes later, we were pulling into, Gary's Garage, "the only garage in the county" where, John, took a couple minutes to pop off and adjust our wipers and told us to have a nice day. And that is how we ended up getting a glimpse of Haystack Rock, five days sooner than planned. I'm a firm believer in pay it forward, and we will, but on the way home, we are soooooo stopping in to that nursery with a muffin basket, or a litter of puppies and a unicorn for that dear lady.

Haystack rock! Goonies! Awesomeness! I totally asked this rock out and it's free Friday. We will be back,

Almost at the hotel, but not too busy to let momma and her babies cross. It's blurry but a magical memory. Lorelei cried from excitement. 
We pulled into the hotel tonight at 10pm. The kids were excited, they oooooed and ahhhhhed at the ocean. Hubby fell over, onto the bed and hasn't moved since. Two, adventurous little humans joined me for a little run on the beach, and now I sit, reviewing this very full day, and looking forward to tomorrow.

I know there will be coffee on the deck, kite flying, and at least a couple of us will be combing the parking lot in search of some rare license plates. Mostly though, it's the impression and the memories that I look forward to. My parents gave me a gift of rich childhood adventures, and it's a legacy we hope to pass on to our kids.