After being out of the rig for eleven nights, I found myself feeling kind of bummed about being back in the camper. As we drove south on the highway, I couldn't help but wonder why I was feeling this way. I had never not wanted to be in the rig before. Maybe it was because we had been out of the rig for eleven nights, maybe it was because we had been on the road for over four months, maybe it was because the camper was still seeming damp and dirty, maybe it was a combo of all three, or something completely different. Regardless of what it was, I knew I needed to shift my mindset.
Our travel time from Seattle to Astoria, OR was much longer then the actual drive time because we needed to stop several times to restock the camper with groceries, water, and propane (not to mention the pee breaks, the snack breaks, lunch, etc.). Arriving in the late afternoon, we walked around and stretched our legs while we looked at the historic paddle wheels (boats) docked outside the Maritime Museum. We hadn’t planned on spending much time in Astoria, but with sunset quickly approaching I suggested we drive to the Astoria Column to watch it. The Astoria Column is a 125 foot column that was built in 1926 honoring the people who settled in the Pacific Northwest. The column is beautifully adorned with hand painted scenes from historic events that took place in the area. From the top of the column one can see Young’s Bay, the Coast Range, the Columbia River and, in the far distance, the Pacific Ocean. We shared the small platform at the top, with several other people who had had the same idea, but it didn’t take away from the moment. In fact, it added to our experience, as we talked with these “strangers” about various things and shared a beautiful sunset together.
Throughout our trip we have been pulled in different directions by each of our BT Wish Lists and/or desires to see and do different things. This is how we found ourselves at Fort Clatsop just outside of Astoria, OR. Earlier in our trip, John had read the book “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose. The book provides a detailed account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition and America in the early 1800’s. Coincidently, our trip continually crossed paths with the Lewis & Clark Expedition. As a result, John’s interest, and possibly his fascination, with Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery kept growing. As a family, we spent time talking about Lewis & Clark, reading plaques and historical markers, and visiting landmarks associated with the Lewis & Clark Trail, all the way from South Dakota to the Oregon Coast. Because John read the book, and knew about Fort Clatsop, we stopped to check it out. Fort Clatsop was built by Lewis & Clark and The Corps as a place to winter over after successfully completling their mission of finding the Pacific Ocean. They spent several months there before starting the journey back east. Visiting Fort Clatsop would be the last time we would cross paths with Lewis & Clark on our trip, and for John, it really felt like he was completing a small piece of their journey.
From Fort Clatsop we drove south, along the coast, to the “resort city” of Seaside. Once there, we parked the car and walked to the beach to get our first taste of the “Oregon Coast”. We were not disappointed! Seaside’s beach is one of those endless white sandy beaches that seems to stretch for miles and miles. The beach is also wide, and as it rolls up and away from the water, it blends into a sea of grasses in various shades of yellow and green. The contrasting colors were gorgeous! As soon as a I saw the beach, I felt compelled to go for a run. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run on a perfectly flat, endless beach, on such a warm sunny day! With no deadline to be anywhere, we went back to the rig to change. John and the girls didn’t share my same desire to run, but they wanted to explore the beach by bike. We set off on our various adventures and met up when we were finished. With several hours left in the day and with the sun feeling warm and inviting, we stayed on the beach and played for a couple hours. We dug for sand crabs, drew in the sand, hunted for shells and sand dollars, and of course splashed around in the (COLD) water. When we were finished we drove to Cannon Beach to camp.
We spent two nights in the quaint town of Cannon Beach, and it was here that I fell back in love with being in the rig and camping again! My emotional stance had been slowly shifting, in a positive direction, over the last couple days, but the scales tipped when we finally set up our full outdoor living space and took some time to clean the inside of the camper. Things just felt like home again, and I was happy! The unseasonably warm and sunny weather, which provided us with warm evenings and mornings, was also a great boost! While we were in Cannon Beach we took long walks on the beach, and like always, we searched for sand crabs, splashed in the water, played with seaweed, and collected shells to be used for craft projects. Cannon Beach is uniquely beautiful. With a white sand beach, adorned with enormous rocks, windswept cedars, and sweeping views of the ocean, its a place worth visiting. One of my favorite things to look at from the beach was the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Built in 1880, this lighthouse was constructed on top of an enormous and majestic rock about a mile off shore. Its hard to see it in detail from the beach, but with binoculars or a telephoto lense you can see it quite well! With waves crashing and pounding on the rock constantly I wondered how they were able to unload supplies to build it?
As we drove down Interstate 101, we gazed out over the ocean and took in the breathtaking views, as the road made it’s twists and turns along the coastline. With a plan to do a hike before finding a campsite, we pulled over at an overlook to have lunch near the trailhead. While we were there we were approached by a couple who was traveling and homeschooling their son. It was so much fun to talk to another family that was doing what we were doing! Two of the first things they asked us about were “homeschooling” and “routine”. John and I kind of chuckled, looked at each other, and then politely said we probably weren’t the best people to ask! We told them that we weren’t doing school on a consistent basis and we did not have a routine! It turned out we were not alone! Both our families were struggling with keeping a consistent routine and getting school done. Being new to this “way of life”, it was validating to hear that others were faced with the same challenges. Each of our families were trying to maintain the day to day (laundry, cooking, etc) and teach school, while being travelers who wanted to get out and explore. Finding the balance of it all is difficult!!! After our conversation, we said goodbye and then hiked down a little trail from the overlook . Afterwards, we started up the Neahkahnie Trail.
Somewhere along the way I had read about a small, funky, family-run campground called “The Jetty” and thought it might be a great place to camp. It turned out it wasn’t far from where we were, so we decided to check it out. At first glance it was truly funky, but in a fun, rustic and “down to earth” sort of way. As we drove down the driveway to the office, we could see that there was much more to The Jetty then just camping. There was a cafe, clearly marked by people sitting at tables with their sleeves up hovered over mounds of Dungeness Crab, a boat rental business. a fish shop, and cabins for rent. The guy in the office was super friendly and relaxed. We took a campsite along the water and settled in for the night. I later learned that The Jetty has been written up in several well-known travel magazines!
The next morning, the girls and I drove to the Tillamook Creamery and John went by bike and met us there. I can’t say that visiting the Tillamook Creamery was on my BT Wish List, but after someone told me about it I really wanted to go. Visiting the creamery is a great experience, not only for the ice cream and other delicious edibles made with cheese, but because you get to see Tillamook cheese made from start to finish. Once inside, visitors can follow a self-guided tour of the cheese making process, for free. Massive windows let you look down into the actual cheese making facility where the cheese is made, checked, and then packaged by machines and real people! Each step of the process is explained along the way and you can read as much or as little as you want. It was so much fun to watch! The girls and I loved it! We’re now Tillamook converts!
That afternoon we landed in the beachfront town of Pacific City. We pulled into the beach parking lot and walked out onto the beach to watch the surfers. With the wind blowing and grey skies above, it was definitely a wear-your-down-jacket kind of beach day! Bundled up, we breathed in the fresh sea air and enjoyed the beauty of another beach. Every beach we had been to on the Oregon coast has had some sort of unique feature or view that has made it memorable, and Pacific City was no different. Resting at the north end of this beach is a 200-foot-high sand dune. Hiking sand dunes has become a part of the BT, so of course we had to climb it! Once we were at the top we were blown away by the views that look down over Pacific City, the ocean, and another beach to the north. We stayed on the dunes for a while romping around. When we were done playing, we ran down the dunes (which is always so much fun) and ate dinner at the Pelican Pub and Brewery, which is nestled right on the beach.
We stayed at an in-town campground in Pacific City, so it was easy to walk to the beach, the market, and restaurants. So when we woke up the next morning, we walked to the local bakery for breakfast and to do some schoolwork. Once we ate and plugged the girls into school, John and I dove into talking about and researching our trip to Spain. The long and short of our Spain trip, at this point, was we had recently found out that Spain was part of an area called the “Schengen Area”. This “area” is comprised of 26 European countries. As a US citizen, we were allowed to enter the Schengen Area with a Schengen Visa for only 90 days. This didn’t exactly work with our desire to be stationed in Spain for the next eight months! We made calls to the consulate, researched online, looked into other visa options for Spain, but couldn't seem to find a solution. Feeling a bit discouraged we packed up from the bakery and set out on an adventure hike.
We spent our last night on the Oregon coast camped at Tillicum Beach Campground, which was my favorite campsite on the coast. When we arrived the beach was completely socked in, making it feel mystical and unknown. Needing to move our bodies, we bundled up and brought our bikes down the the beach. Our plan? To ride the beach to the town of Yachats. Due to nature of the coastline, we couldn’t ride the beach the whole way. However, we read that we could pick up a section of the Oregon Coast Trail and that would take us the rest of the way. We had sort of planned on getting a cocktail in town and possibly eating dinner as well, but when the sun started to come out from the clouds, we were all drawn to going back to camp to hang out and make dinner. We grabbed a few items from the local market and started the ride back.
The next morning we turned east and left the Oregon Coast, heading for Corvallis to stay the night with a friend from Durango. On the way we stopped at the Newport Aquarium, which was good, and had a funny experience in the hurricane machine, which simulated 78 mph winds.
We arrived in Corvallis with a little time to spare before meeting our friends so we biked around Oregon State University. Something we’ve done for fun along our trip, and other times we’ve traveled, is to ride around various college campuses. Campuses are a fun place to ride down stairs, hop curbs, play Bike Sumo, and just goof around on our bikes without lots of traffic.
When we arrived at my friend Eilleen’s house we were greeted with her warm smile and bubbly energy. Although we hadn’t been in touch much since she moved from Durango, as soon as I saw her, it felt like no time had passed. With a full house already, Eilleen’s Son, Colten, and daughter, Katie, were visiting from out of town, I felt really touched that she welcomed the entire Shaw family for the night. After settling in, and getting clean, we hung out, caught up, and got to know everyone over cocktails. The girls hit it off right away with Ruby, Eilleen’s new Golden Retriever puppy, and loved hanging out with Eilleen’s Children (who are in their twenties). John and I enjoyed chatting, getting to know everyone, and getting a chance to catch up with Eilleen and her husband Joe. It was fun to hear about their new life In Corvallis and how they had become such diehard OSU fans! Living in a town with a big university sounds really fun! Our time in Corvallis was short, but I laughed a lot and I left with a warm feeling in my heart.
From Corvalis we drove to Sisters, OR to camp for the night. The next morning we went for a 17 mile mountain bike ride on the Peterson Ridge Trail System with the girls. It was the first time we had been on a MTB ride together since Vancouver Island and when John and I pulled out our mountain bike gloves, they were covered in mold! Yes, mold! It was just another reminder of the wet, damp climate we had come from. The ride was awesome and I was briefly overcome with emotion. Being out in the woods, and on bikes again, reminded me of just how much I love riding with my family. It also made me think about how lucky I was to do this trip and to share these experiences with the girls! My heart was singing!
Our last stop in Oregon was the city of Bend. We had heard so many great things about Bend, that we were really looking forward to it. However, after three days there, I wasn’t totally impressed, sorry Bend lovers! Perhaps, unfairly, we had put it on a pedestal because so many people had said Bend was going to be like Durango. I guess I was expecting more of a small town “feel” and not so much a city vibe. Nevertheless, because it was a “city” it allowed us to do things like get the tires rotated on the truck, have a crack in the trailer hitch welded, shop for Halloween costumes, do laundry, get our haircut, and do several days of school in a row! We also rode our bikes and decided that “Lower Whoops” in the Phil’s Trails area was our favorite trail of the ENITRE trip! Okay, so, maybe I liked it more then I thought, because we also enjoyed a great evening out in the downtown area. While we were downtown, we walked through McMenamins Old St. Francis school, which was a Catholic schoolhouse that was transformed into a hotel and restaurant in 2004. The owners later completed two additional buildings, The Art House and the Ed House, which we also walked through. One of the fun things about the Art House is that is has hidden rooms on every floor! And, on the top floor, when we went into the “broom closet” (which is literally lined with “Harry Potter” type brooms), we found another hidden door which lead to a bar! It was a pretty fun an unique experience that we all enjoyed. Of course, once we found the bar, we had to stay for a drink! Afterwards we had a great dinner at Deuschutes Brewery.
While we were in Bend we got a lot “done” and with our departure for Spain coming up quickly it felt good. However, our Spain plans were far from good, and far from solid. At this point, we had figured out which visa we needed to apply for and had reserved four appointments at the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles, CA. Unfortunately, the first appointments we could get were in December, which meant we probably wouldn’t get to Spain until the beginning of February. So, with our plans changing before our eyes, we started talking about going back to our original plan of studying Spanish in Oaxaca, Mexico.