Saturday, July 28, 2012

Off Road and Off the Grid

Part of the reason why we decided to do a road trip this year was because Jason's family's reunion was going to be held in Northern California in July and we thought it'd be a nice "loop" to visit my family in Canada, and then head to the reunion on our way back.  The Penner reunion was held at a group camp near Castella, which is south of Mount Shasta. 
Jason's family looked for a place that would allow families to have their own sleeping cabins but a joint area to hang out, to eat together, and a kitchen in which they could prepare their own meals. Those types of places are hard to find!  We had no idea how remote we were going to be.  Even the GPS had trouble locating roads for us to travel on.  From the highway, we had to travel up a windy road for about a half hour before we reached the camp.  It was my very least favorite thing to do- I dreaded it and we ended up having to drive it quite a few times. I get carsick very easily so I felt nauseous pretty much every day this past week.

Being so remote made me realize how dependent I've become on technology!  We had no cell phone/internet service, which was very weird to me.  I commented that something significant could happen in the world and we'd never know since we were out in the middle of nowhere.  I didn't take as many pictures as I wanted to throughout the week, so I'm going to wait until the whole family shares their pictures before I blog about the family reunion. Stay tuned! :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Life's a Beach!

After a cold evening, we were thrilled to wake up to a beautiful and sunny day!  Some people had mentioned that Newport's Farmer's Market was worth visiting, so we headed there first.  In addition to getting some berries, we couldn't help but check this out:
After getting the ingredients together, Jason was given the chance to blend his own drink- using a bike!  Hahaha, we got a kick out of that. Jason and I joked that he could do that as a part-time job at some local farmer's markets.

Point Yaquina Lighthouse was our next stop.  We were able to tour the lighthouse, climbing 111 steps up to the top.  The tour guides were dressed in costume and shared what life would've been like for a lighthouse keeper many decades ago.

A highlight during our lighthouse visit was seeing the wildlife!  We saw a bald eagle and harbor seals soaking in the sun.  Can you see them in this picture?
We packed a lunch and headed to Agate Beach to enjoy the afternoon.  It was super windy and a little chilly, but the kids loved playing in the sand so much that we ended up spending almost 4 hours there.  We were amazed to see the number of people who braved the cold water and splashed around in the ocean!

After getting cleaned up, we drove down to Newport's Waterfront.  I love how it hasn't been entirely overtaken by tourism.  It is very clear by the number of fishing boats in the harbor that this is still a livelihood for many people.  We walked around while waiting for a table for dinner at Local Ocean.  It was definitely worth the wait- delicious, fresh seafood!

Even though it was late when we finished dinner, we decided to go check out the Public Pier.  We walked partway out and almost turned around because we were so cold.  However, there were tons of people on the pier and we wanted to know why.  I'm so glad we continued on- the people were crabbing!  We got to watch people throw crab nets into the water and then retrieve them. 

If we had known this sooner, we would've tried to find a place that rented out crab nets and tried it ourselves.  That would've been the coolest experience!  Maybe next time!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Before continuing on our way to Portland, we stopped near Olympia where we were able to connect with a very good friend of Jason's from college.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to see Steve, Jason's roommate, but we were able to visit with Sarah and their kids.  We haven't seen them in 7 years so it was great to catch up and meet each other's kids. 

Next up was Portland.  We didn't plan to visit here for very long because we know that it's a city that we hope to revisit and spend a good amount of time in.  There were only a few things that were on top of our list for this visit.  The first thing we did was head towards Pioneer Square to see our friends' son's memorial brick.  I think that on an ordinary day, it wouldn't have taken us very long to locate Caleb's brick.  However, there was a Sand in the City competition going on while we were there and TONS of people were milling around. 
We spent almost 45 mins. looking for Caleb's brick!  Christa and I texted back and forth and we just couldn't find it! Well, here's why:
Caleb's brick was under the face painting booth!  We asked the people there if we could move the table just a little bit so we could at least see the brick.  They were not very nice about it, even after I explained that we were driving through from California and it was really important to us to see the brick.  This was as close as they let us get:
Like I said, at least we know we'll be able to see it at a later date... 

While in the square, Jason got an apple fritter from the Voodoo Donut truck. We've heard about these donuts and were so glad we got to sample one at their truck. The line at their actual store was really long! Along the way to get lunch, we saw a Moonstruck Cafe and Jason and I stopped to get some treats for ourselves. 

Portland is well-known for their food trucks/carts, and there were plenty to choose from.  However, we saw The Brunch Box featured on the Food Network's Eat St., so that's where we headed.  It was very good- Jason custom ordered his burger, and I got their Black and Blue Burger, which was oozing with blue cheese.  I wish we could have tried some other food carts, too!   

I don't know why we didn't think of it, but we left Portland to head to the coast right before rush hour on a Friday.  Basically, our trip shouldn't have taken as long as it did, however, the drive was picturesque and dotted with wineries.  Another reason for us to come back and visit! Our destination was Newport.  Jason and I had decided early in our trip that we'd make a stop along the coast just to say that we included all kinds of nature on our trip.  Well, we were somewhat disappointed that it was cold and drizzly.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Our border crossing through Peace Arch was as easy as it could possibly be.  Aside from a short wait, we had no troubles at all.  On my to-do list is getting Grace a new passport!!!  I am so thankful that everything fell into place!
Next on our roadtrip was a stop in Seattle.  We decided to visit the Museum of Flight, mostly because we know Jeremy loves airplanes.  We ended up spending over 4 hours in this fantastic museum.  It was very informational and really large- we didn't get to see everything this museum had on display. I found it fascinating to read about space exploration and they had a wonderful exhibit I wish I could take my 5th graders to.  We even got to walk through a Concorde plane and a retired Air Force One plane.  The kids had a great time and Jason loved reading up on all the planes.  I'll be honest- I left feeling a little overwhelmed by everything.  It was brain overload!

After our visit, we headed to Pike Place Market and wandered around.  FUN!  It was neat to see all of the vendors, particularly the seafood places selling their catches of the day.  We ate delicious clam chowder for dinner before heading to our hotel for the night.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

British Columbia, Part 2

We didn't have a whole lot of time to spend in Vancouver, but I knew without a doubt that I wanted to visit the Vancouver Aquarium.  It's located in Vancouver's famous Stanley Park, which was another area we were planning to spend time exploring.  I was just as excited as the kids to get to go to the aquarium.  It certainly didn't disappoint!  We had an awesome time attending the presentations, seeing the different sea animals and exhibits, and even watching a 4D movie.  What I really appreciated about this place is that everything from the exhibits to the shows is very informative and focused on raising awareness (like the Monterey Bay Aquarium) as opposed to just providing entertainment (like Seaworld).  Our favorite presentation was the beluga show, mostly because it was so fascinating to learn about these animals.  I couldn't get the settings on my camera to cooperate with such a stark white animal, so these pictures just don't do it justice!
 Get ready to get wet! (we sat in the Splash Zone)
Always a fave- the sea otters!

Dolphin presentation 

 We see plenty of sea lions in California, but they're still so interesting to watch!

We spent a majority of our day roaming around.  After we left the aquarium, we took a nice long walk along the seawall (path along the waters).  We also stopped along some beaches before getting back in the car to drive to dinner.
Tomorrow, we'll head back to the US!  Here's hoping that our border crossing back into the US will be as easy as it was to enter Canada!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

British Columbia, Part 1

We left Edmonton early on Monday morning after a very tearful goodbye to my sister and mom...  It had been raining all night, overall making the parting of ways even more somber.  I was a little concerned about driving the windy roads in the rain.  Our goal was to be in Kamloops by evening and that meant around 9-10 hours of driving.  It ended up being a pretty drive- the route we took was through Jasper National Park.  There were lots of green trees, wildflowers, mountains, and billowy clouds.  We stopped by Meadow Creek to stretch our legs, eat lunch, and take in the beauty.

I could've had a not-so-great story to share about our drive, but I'm ever so grateful that I don't.... Imagine being stuck in the car on the side of the road with 2 kids while a certain someone has to hitchhike to the nearest gas station some 30 miles away due to running out of gas.  Hopefully, that tells you a little bit about the anxiety I felt for a portion of our drive...  I'll leave it at that...

We arrived in Kamloops around dinner time and after checking in to our hotel, we went downtown to grab some dinner.  I have to admit that Kamloops was a nice surprise- we walked from the restaurant to Riverside Park and were impressed to find a great park with lots of green space right beside Thompson River, a playground next to a water spray park, and to top it off, there are free concerts every night during the summer in the park's bandstand.

The next morning, we continued on our way to Vancouver.  The last time we were here was during Olympics 2010, and this is our kids' first time here.  We went straight to the Capilano Salmon Hatchery in North Vancouver.  We were fascinated to learn about the salmon run.   Our whole family LOVED watching the salmon jumping up the fish ladders.  It's really quite amazing how these fish will continue to jump upstream despite all the obstacles they have to face.  We'd watch a fish get totally knocked down mid-air by the water currents as it attempted to jump up to the next level of a fish ladder, and yet these fish don't give up.  Quite an analogy...

Next, we headed to Granville Island.  This is such a cool and unique area.  In addition to the many shops, there is a 2-level Kids Market full of shops specifically geared towards kids. 

After exploring some of the toy shops in there, we went outside to the spray park.  Jason signed up to go on a brewery tour of the Granville Island Brewing Company, so I found a shady spot to read my Kindle while the kids splashed around in the spray park, went down the waterslide, and played on the merry-go-round.

After Jason returned, we headed to the Public Market, one of my very favorite places to visit in Vancouver.  We meandered throughout and stopped in the food court for dinner.  Afterwards, we headed to our timeshare and Jason tired our kids even more by taking them swimming before they went to bed.  This gave me some time to truly relax in our gorgeous 20th floor condo.  Out of all the timeshare properties that we have stayed in, this is definitely one of our favorites. For one night, I was able to live out the dream of living in a "big city!"  Tomorrow, we will be visiting Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium- can't wait!