2014 FIFA World Cup Champions!
To all of our friends in Germany, congratulations! Your team played a good game. Well done!
When we are in Germany next time, we can celebrate together. I will buy the first pint! Take care.
4th of July at the Space Needle!
Summer always kicks-off with the annual 4th of July fireworks show from the Space Needle. They actually launch them from the top of the structure to synchronized music. The Seattle Center Park gets VERY crowded, but it is a blast! Excuse the pun, haha
Happy Birthday America! 238 years young!
People in Seattle really love their dogs!
We are finally back home after our too short family vacation in Oregon. This is the time of year we long for and why we put up with miserable weather for six months of the year. Everything is green, the birds have returned, and people slowly emerge from hibernation.
Spring in the Northwest typically means warmer weather and rain, compared to winter which is cold and rain. This March is a particularly wet month, with over 9 inches of rain. Our yearly rain fall in Seattle is 37 inches, however, much of it is in the form of drizzle. March marks the return of a Northwest phenomenon known as a sun break. Sun breaks are when the sun appears for a few minutes before disappearing behind the clouds. As a Northwestern, I often plan my day around potential sun breaks. When someone asks me how I am, I tend to report the weather as a reply:
“How are you, Mishele?”
“Great, I was outside during a 4 minute sun break!”
Last Friday, we experienced a rare treat of a sun break during a rain storm producing a brilliant double rainbow. As a science teacher, I know how rainbows are formed, but I am still in awe when I see one.
Today, we had a few hours of sunshine with 50 degree weather to enjoy. Aaron and I along with Albie, our Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier, headed out to enjoy the sun. Not far from our house is Marymoor Park, a nature reserve and a very large dog park along the river. From the 60+ dogs there, many people had the same idea. The 40 acre dog park is the largest I have been to and a favorite of Albie’s. There is a path along the river with access to the water for those adventurous dogs that actually fetch tennis balls in the water. Albie has the philosophy of not fetching the ball because I clearly threw it away because I didn’t want it. He does, however, enjoy watching those other silly dogs who do fetch.
Tip: Always carry extra doggie bags as the park tends to run out of bags quickly.
As a dog lover, I enjoy watching and meeting dogs of all different sizes and shapes. There were two mastiffs and a sheepdog along with a teacup Chihuahua, who seemed to get lost in the grass. The park has multiple fields for those silly dogs that fetch items their owners throw away. Albie was so overwhelmed by the number of dogs who came up to play that we decided to take a walk in the bird sanctuary, where dogs are welcomed on leash. This trail was peaceful and informative with many educational markers about the wet lands and local plants. We walked out on the dock to enjoy the view of Lake Sammamish and Tiger Mountain. In the trees, Great Blue Herons were tending their nest. How many Great Blue Herons can you spot in the tree below? Marymoor Park is a great place to bird watch as well as dog and people watch.
Tip: Check your pockets before you leave to make sure that you have thrown away all used doggie bags. This one is from experience. There are not always trash bins close by on the trail.
Albie and I met up with Aaron, who decided to go running. Instead of running on the trails outside of the dog park, Aaron ran with all of the dogs. He said he was chased a few times and even was nipped on the bottom, which is amazing because he is pretty fast. After romping in the water and mud, the dog wash station is a welcome sight before heading home. Albie enjoyed a warm bath and is now sound asleep on the couch dreaming of his next adventure. Family traveling just wears him out!
Tip: Bring a towel for the back seat of the car if you skip the Doggies Wash. The trail is very muddy for most of the year.
There is always time for wine!
When someone mentions visiting a winery, I usually think of Europe. Having lived in Spain for four years, I have visited many bodegas and wineries; however, I did not know how extensive the growers in southern Oregon and Washington state have become. The first commercial planting of fine wine grapes in the Umpqua Valley was in 1961. Due to the convergence of three mountain ranges, the region offers a variety of sub-climates to produce a wide range of grape varieties. I am not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but am always willing to learn a new skill. So equipped with my new iPhone app Vivino, Curtis and I headed out to explore. The boys decided they were very happy to stay at the campsite to fish and explore the neighboring park.
Tip: The wineries are spread out over a large valley bisecting with multiple rivers. There is no direct route, so instead we just meandered. I suggest that you pick an area and plan your route. We found some of the wineries were not open.
Our first stop was Henry Estate Winery, which set the standard by which all others were measured. The tasting room and gift shop is surrounded by a beautiful garden that was in full bloom when we were there. We were immediately greeted by a family member. We explained that we were new to this experience and needed guidance. She explained the process of sampling different wines, where to pour out the ones we didn’t care for and how to pace ourselves. Curtis and I are fairly lightweights when it comes to alcohol consumption. All of the wine samples throughout the valley were free.
Our host was very delightful and shared family stories and educated us on the different types of wine. Curtis and I have very different taste in wines, so we decided to divide and conquer. I tried all of the white wines and Curtis tried the reds. Our host allowed me to take pictures of all of the wine bottles using my new app so I could review them as we sampled. I highly recommend the 2013 Veraison, Muller Thurgau and 2012 White Riesling. You can find Henry Estate wines in Costco and Safeway in the Northwest. Thank goodness, because I have already drunk the bottles I bought.
Tips: All of the wine samples were free and most places offered a small snack to accompany the wine.
Our next stop was Reustle Prayer Rock Winery by far the prettiest place to hang out and enjoy a glass of wine. The winery is set on top of a hill with a pond and amphitheater for concerts. Curtis and I spent 30 minutes walking the grounds before sitting down to enjoy the view and a glass of wine. Reustle Prayer Rock only had two types of wines for us to try, but served them with artisan pizza samples that were delicious. We decided to order a pizza while we planned the rest of our afternoon. Curtis bought a bottle of 2012 Tempranillo to remember our visit.
Our third stop was Becker Winery, a small winery founded by Charlie and Peggy Becker. We were greeted by the owner Peggy and her faithful dog Mueller, a Newfoundland/St. Barnard mix, and welcomed to sample a variety of wines. Charlie and Peggy have accomplished all of the work around the winery by themselves, including building the tasting room. We tried their Cabernet Sauvignon, Muller Thurgau and Pinot Noir. They were out of their Dog Drool wine, which sounded very interesting.
Tip: Pacing is the key to enjoying multiple wineries. I recommend only taking small sips and snacking along the way.
Glaser Winery and Distillery was our fourth stop of the day. Located on the river, Glaser Winery is the perfect place to bring a picnic and sit on the large back porch with a glass of wine. We met with Leon Glaser who shared his passion for creating unique blends of wines, liquors and liqueurs. The site is filled with wind chimes and yard art creating a charming and welcoming place to rest and relax. We tried a number of their wines, but settled on two bottles of Limoncello and Coffee Liqueur that won the Washington Cup in 2013.
Our fifth and final stop was TesoAria Winery. We were smart and planned our last stop close to the RV Park. TesoAria offered the biggest selection of wines to sample. When I said I would not be able to sample all 16 bottles, our hostess said that I needed to make it to Bull’s Blood so that I could hear the legend. Not one to pass up a good story, I persevered… at least until halfway through the line up to the bottle of Bull’s Blood. If you visit, stay for the story…the story is worth hearing!
Tip: At each winery have your map/wine passport stamped to earn a free gift after 5 wineries. Each winery offers a unique gift. At TesoAria we received a black and white photo perfect for framing.
Curtis and I returned to the RV Park relaxed with a few bottles of wine to remind us of our day out. In the 16 years since we had our first son we have rarely taken the day to spend together…just the two of us. As we get ready to send the first one off to university next year, I think we will plan on making time for just the two of us a priority.
Few things are as American as the family road-trip. Since the invention of the automobile in the early 1900’s and the subsequent expansion of the interstate road system in the 1930’s, thousands of family travelers have set out each year on the open road seeking new and exciting places to visit. Not long after people flocked to the new roads, road-side attractions popped up along them as eager entrepreneurs looked for ways to separate passing motorists with some of their money. Hence, a new American cultural institution was born.
Some of these road-side attractions are educational, some are interesting, some are bewildering, and some are just bizarre. No matter what, they are usually worth a quick stop while you stretch your legs and get something to eat or drink before you head back on the road. If nothing else, they make for some humorous stories when you get back. Oregon has many! One of the best is the Oregon Vortex in Gold Hill, Oregon.
The Oregon Vortex is billed as “a glimpse of a strange world where the improbable is the commonplace and everyday physical facts are reversed.” Hmm, sounds intriguing! But, what is it really? This is one of those things that are best seen for yourself than explained. Essentially, it is a small area about 2 acres in size with a steam running through it and an old partially collapsed miner’s cabin (and obligatory gift shop). OK, big deal. What makes it worth a stop and $12.50 for adults and $9.00 for children under 12?
Tip: The Vortex takes about 1 hour to fully see, so plan another event for the day too, like Ashland or covered bridge spotting.
According to the expert docents, the site is the center of a spherical gravitational anomaly where light is warped inside the vortex so that normal visual perceptions are skewed. People appear to shrink and grow in height relative to each other and their surroundings depending on where they stand in the vortex. This phenomenon is very pronounced in some of the demonstrations by the docents. Balls roll uphill and brooms balance on their ends. The affects really mess with your mind!
“The House of Mystery itself was originally an assay office and later used for tool storage, built by the Old Grey Eagle Mining Company in 1904. But the history of the surrounding area, The Oregon Vortex, goes way back to the time of the Native Americans. Their horses would not come into the affected area, so they wouldn’t. The Native Americans called the area the “”Forbidden Ground””, a place to be shunned. Many years before The House of Mystery was built it was noted that unusual conditions existed there. But it was not until well into the 20th century that any effort was made toward a scientific analysis of the disturbance. John Litster was a geologist, mining engineer, and physicist. He developed the area in the early 1920′s and opened it to the public in 1930. He conducted thousands of experiments within the Vortex until his death in 1959. He was born in Alva, Scotland on April 30, 1886, son of a British Foreign Diplomat.” -The Oregon Vortex
Tip: There is no food or drink for sale at or near the Vortex, so plan on bringing your own.
My wife and I being science people, tried to find the magician’s trick to all of these crazy happenings. I think we had more fun trying to figure things out then actually being awed by the attractions. Both of our boys were pretty skeptical too. I guess we have influenced them a little. Despite our combined efforts, we were unable to debunk some of the events we saw. So, the Oregon Vortex still holds some of its mysteries! Maybe you can help us solve them?
Next week in our family travels, we will tell you all about winery hoping in Oregon!
Liebster Award Winners!!
The Wild Smithberrys was nominated by Clay and Kim of Weir’s World for the Liebster Award and we are very honored. With so much competition in the travel blogging world, we are excited to receive some recognition. We have been traveling for the past 6 years and love to share our experience and hard earned learning lessons. We thank you very much, Weir’s World!
So, what is the Liebster Award and how does it work?
It’s an award given from one blogger to another, designed to recognize new blogs and welcome them to the world of blogging! Basically a nice gesture of appreciation! Once nominated, you thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their site. Then you answer the 10 questions they created for you. And finally, nominate your favorite blogs for the award and come up with 10 questions for them to answer! Simple!
1. Where is at the top of your travel bucket list?
- Curtis: Africa Savannah because growing up I saw many pictures of animals and the landscape but have never been. It represents one of the most exotic areas of the world.
- Mishele: I will have to agree with Curtis, Africa! I guess we are going soon!
- Aaron: Scotland
- Elijah: Himalayan foothills in Nepal.
2. If you could have a super power, what would it be?
- Curtis: Fly, because I am scared to death of hitting air turbulence when flying.
- Mishele: The ability to convince the world to take positive action against pollution, inequality of education and survival of ALL species.
- Aaron: The power to be invisible when no one is looking at you.
- Elijah: Indestructibility
3. If you could only travel by one means of transport for all your journeys, which would it be?
- Curtis: BMW GS 1200 Adventure motorcycle
- Mishele: A good pair of running shoes so I don’t miss a thing.
- Aaron: Sketchers with wheels
- Elijah: Batmobile
4. You are talking with someone who has never traveled, where is the first place you tell them to go and why?
- Curtis: Washington DC because it showcases not only the American government but also the culture and history of the birthplace of modern democracy.
- Mishele: Rome to see the history and beauty of the ancient culture.
- Aaron: Germany to see the vast changes of a culture and to understand how changes affect the citizens. It is the perfect place to break preconceived notions with its warm people and amazing places to visit.
- Elijah: Costa Rica because it shows a different and friendly culture with exotic animals.
5. Which is your preference: Guide books, lonely planet, the internet or asking locals and other travelers?
- Curtis: Internet and other travelers
- Mishele: Internet and other travelers
- Aaron: Internet and guidebooks
- Elijah: Internet and other travelers
6. Describe your most embarrassing travel experience…
- Curtis: Hitting my head on the low door frame on the first day of our first adventure and having to ask the father of the pub owner where we were staying to take me to the ER. I ended up with a concussion.
- Mishele: Traveling by ferry to England and being called over loud speaker to return to my car only to find the car covered with police tape surrounded by police and my dog sitting in the back seat. The ferry personal had forgotten to tag the dog and he was aboard ‘illegally’.
- Aaron: Arriving in England by ferry and the only way to get off the ferry without our car was in the back of a police car. (Read here!)
- Elijah: When we were lost in Venice and we past the same shop over and over with the locals just shaking their heads.
7. Give your ‘past tense self’ one piece of advice about starting and writing a travel blog
- Curtis: Just do it!
- Mishele: Work on it every day!
- Aaron: Take the initiative.
- Elijah: Offer readers something they can’t get anywhere else.
8. Which country has the friendliest people?
- Curtis: Ireland
- Mishele: Costa Rica
- Aaron: Costa Rica
- Elijah: Ireland
9. Describe the weirdest animal or creature you have seen on your travels?
- Curtis: JaJa Binks steers (See here!)
- Mishele: Shaggy cows in England
- Aaron: Soft coated Wheaton Terrier (Albie, our dog)
- Elijah: Vampire bats in Costa Rica
10. Where will your next trip take you?
- Curtis: Scotland/Ireland
- Mishele: Scotland/Ireland
- Aaron: Scotland/Ireland
- Elijah: Scotland/Ireland
- If you were reborn as an animal, what animal would you be?
- If you had a million dollars, what would you spend your money on?
- How far out of your way are you willing to go to see a unique place?
- When were you the most awe struck while traveling?
- Would you rather return to your favorite location or travel to somewhere new?
- Are you a planner or a spontaneous traveler?
- What type of accommodations to you use while traveling? (Hostels, local B & B, upscale hotels)
- Share a story about a time you got lost in a foreign country.
- What is your favorite souvenir from your travels?
- Where are you traveling to next?
Still day two of our family travels in southern Oregon. We left majestic Crater Lake and started to head back to base camp in Roseburg, Oregon. With the beautiful lake behind us, we decided to see how many waterfalls we could visit before we got back and darkness came. Along Route 138 there are more than a dozen stunning waterfalls flowing into the mighty Umpqua River to stop and see right off the road. Some require a short walk while others are within sight of your car. Each one is unique and impressive. Learn more here!
Tip: Plan a whole day for this and bring snacks and a pick-nick lunch! There are no restaurants or gas stations, but the park restrooms are very well kept.
Our first waterfall was Clearwater Falls. This smaller falls cascades over, thru, and under emerald green moss covered rocks and tree roots. The water looks like it is gushing out of the ground instead of over it. A short walk up the 29 foot slope brings you to the top of the falls where you can see the calm, clear spring-fed pool that is the source of the falls. Aaron and I both braved a crossing of the water by using a downed tree as a tight-rope. We really wanted to stay and enjoy the scenic meadow and spring, but we had more to see!
Tip: Bring sturdy walking shoes and a water-proof jacket for the spray (or get wet!).
Next up was Whitehorse Falls. This is another small falls, but still impressive. A well-maintained wood walk-way allows you to easily get in front of the falls for a grand view. Thousands of gallons a minute of pure snow-melt water roared over the short drop. Aaron and Elijah made Mish and I a little nervous by inching out on a log that straddled the top of the falls. Great picture, but nerve-racking.
We headed for our next waterfall, Watson Falls. Watson Falls was by far the most impressive of the cascades. The falls hurtle over a cathedral amphitheater wall of basalt 293 feet high, crashing into a long talus slope with a deafening roar. The cold spray from the falls mists everything around, including us. We had another scare form our other furry four-footed son, Albie. He decided he was done with sightseeing and headed back to the car without us. We spent a frantic 10 minutes yelling and looking for him. Mish ran back to the car to find Albie patiently waiting to go.
Hint: Walk all the way past the small wooden foot bridge to the base of the falls, it is worth the extra exertion!
At our next waterfall, we left Albie in the car (he preferred it). Fall Creek Falls is actually a series of 4 falls that drop a total of about 120 feet. Even if it is not a single plunge, they were still amazing. Luckily we had no scares this time. We simply enjoyed Mother Nature’s impressive show.
Last up was Susan Falls. This is the only one that you will have to hike in a mile to see, but it is well worth it. Your reward is an up-close and personal encounter with a 35 foot veil of water. I liked this falls not because of its size, but for its simple beauty. The way the water spread out along the rock face made for a perfect picture of natural beauty.
By the time we left Susan Fall, the light was getting very dim. Even though there were more falls to spot, we decided that we had a grand experience and would save the others for another time. Some things just should not be rushed. Plus, we had a busy day planned for tomorrow and wanted to get some food and rest. So, off we went feeling very inspired and looked for a late dinner.
Final Tip: Relax, slow down, enjoy the simple pleasure of being with your family.
Next week: The Oregon Vortex!
Day 2 of Our Oregon Experience!
We decided that on the second full day of our vacation in southern Oregon to visit Crater Lake National Park. This amazing place has been on both Mishele’s and my must see list since we were children. It is page 696 of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Probably most people have seen pictures of Crater Lake somewhere. It is one of the most photographed national parks in the world. However, despite being iconic and very recognizable most people we know have never visited it. Why?
Well, the answer has to do with Crater Lake’s location. The park is not on the way to anywhere. You have to make it a destination. It is isolated in the south east corner of the state of Oregon. There are no major cities near it. From Portland to the north, the drive is about six hours and from Sacramento in the south, the drive is about six hours also. So, you need to plan a specific trip there, not just a quick detour on your way to somewhere else.
Tip: Make sure you have a full tank of gas, extra food and water, and warm clothing before you head out. There is no cell phone coverage once you enter the park. Weather changes quickly and drastically.
Aside from being off the beaten path, the location poses another obstacle to visiting the park, snow. Crater Lake gets more snow than anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, almost 1,000 inches a year (23 meters)! Winter typically starts in September and goes all the way to June. Year round snow is common. Therefore, the roads into the park remain closed for much of the year. Route 62 is the only access in winter. Even during the summer, there is only a 60% chance that you will see the lake due to cloud cover and fog. But when it is a clear sunny day, wow! Crater Lake will take your breath away with its surreal beauty and majesty.
Fun Fact: The “Old Man” of Crater Lake is a mountain hemlock log that has been floating upright in the lake for more than 100 years! Wind currents enable the Old Man to travel to different locations around the lake.
The lake is 1,943 feet (592 meters) deep, making it the deepest lake in America and 7th in the world. The surface of the lake sits at 6,178 feet above sea level and is six miles in diameter. The surrounding caldera ranges from 7,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level. The caldera is the tattered remains of a long ago collapsed mountain, Mount Mazama. Approximately 7,700 years ago this large 11,000 foot tall volcanic mountain toppled inward leaving a giant ring and exposing the deep magma chamber. Over the centuries, the enormous hole filled with water creating Crater Lake.
Today, the lake is a natural wonder. Its deep blue waters are almost hypnotic. The aptly named Wizard Island mysteriously protrudes from the lake. We really wanted to go out onto the island and explore. Unfortunately, the season was not on our side. There was still 10 feet or more of snow at the park headquarters and most of the park was still closed. From June to September, you can take a boat tour of the lake. I think that would be both really cool and really eerie at the same time!
We had lunch at the only open restaurant at the park, the lodge. We enjoyed gazing at the lake from the warm comfort of the lodge. The snow was still so deep that the park had tunnels under the snow to the doors of the lodge. Only the upper half of the building peaked out of the thick white blanket. They boys had a lot of fun trying to walk on top of it. Albie had a blast!
Tip: The food is very over priced and mediocre. Bring a pick-nick lunch instead.
We finally had to leave and start the 1. 5 hour drive back to our campsite. Along the way, we decided to see how many waterfalls we could visit. That was enormously fun! Read next week about that adventure.
Walk on the Wild Side!
We love animals! Our youngest son, Elijah, is the biggest animal lover of all. He will go to any zoo, aquarium, animal shelter, or pet store any time just to visit them. He already knows that he wants to work in a zoo someday, and he will. He even knows at 12 years old what college he wants to go to so he can prepare for zoo work. So, when we get a chance to stop in to visit his scaly, fury, feathery friends, we try to. We joke around that we should write the definitive guide to zoos around the world. Check out our Top 10 family travel! Each one has a zoo!
So, when we stayed in southern Oregon we had to stop at the Wildlife Safari in Winston. For those of you that may have a reluctance to visit zoos for moral or ethical reasons, please understand the role of the 21st century zoo. Zoos today are modern arks. They help conserve wild animals and their habitats. Animals in zoos now fulfil a number of roles, from education to breeding to ambassadors for their species. Some of the species they keep are now extinct in the wild and would have disappeared completely without zoos. My wife, Mish, worked for about 4 years and I worked for one summer in the San Diego Zoological Society and can tell you first-hand what goes on behind the scenes. The care, dedication, and passion that zoo workers have for their roles are inspiring. They are leading the fight for species conservation. The Oregon Safari was not an exception.
The Wildlife Safari is one of the leading cheetah breeding programs in the United States. They boast 171 cheetah cub births and counting! For an animal on the verge of extinction, this is a miracle. We were very impressed with the park. It is not some road-side attraction for tourists, but a fully functioning top notch animal care and breeding facility.
The park is divided into two parts, a large drive through safari and a small walk around zoo. Inside the zoo there is a small train ride, restaurant, pick-nick area, gift shop, and viewing areas. It is open 9:00am to 5:00pm every day year round except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission: Adult (13 to 59 years) $17.99 per person, Child (3 to 12 years) $11.99 per person, Seniors (60+) $14.99 per person, and under 2 years free. You can drive through twice if you want! The entire drive takes about 1 ½ hours, but if you are like us, plan on longer.
Before the drive, we decided to take an excursion (at an additional cost). The first one was an Elephant encounter! We loaded onto a safari truck and drove out into the park to the elephant enclosure. Once there, we got to pet and feed a large female African elephant! The experience was amazing! Elijah’s eyes were as bright as spot lights. The look of awe on his face was priceless. Mish was looking pretty excited too. She took at least a hundred pictures.
After visiting with the elephants we decided to take the drive. The picturesque valley where the park lies is beautiful. Some of the vistas are fantastic. There are over 600 hundred animals roaming freely in the park too. We opened the sun roof so Elijah and my wife could pop up to get a full 360 degree view of the animals. We had a large giraffe stroll right by us and emus come up to our car. Safely kept behind fences were cheetahs, tigers, lions, and bears (Oh my!). Up on a hill were two sleeping rhinoceros basking in the sun while two hippopotamuses rolled in the mud down at the water hole. Grazing on the new grass were several zebras. Everywhere we looked we saw exotic animals leisurely going about their business.
There is also a section where you can feed some of the animals. You can by a small cup of pellet feed and hand it out as you drive. The animals are well aware of the procedure and come waddling over to get their free lunch. Elijah was giddily eager to feed his new furry friends. Our oldest son, Aaron, was more content to sit back and look on while his younger brother got pecked and slobbered by the hungry critters.
Next, we walked around the zoo. There was an adorable tree porcupine that maybe everyone go, “Aahhh.” He was very adorable curled up sleeping in his tree. I liked the bald eagles (even though we see them all the time here in Seattle, they are still cool). There was also a chance to see cheetahs up close. Aaron ran back and forth in front of the pair of fast cats. One of them sprang up and chased him along the fence, which lucky for him separated them. Being a runner, he was very impressed by their speed. I think, however, that the cheetahs would win a sprinting competition with him. They did not seem impressed by him.
Afterwards, Mish, Elijah, and Aaron decided to go on a second excursion. This time they went to feed tigers and cheetahs! I decided to sit and relax in the shade instead. They went off with a keeper and a bucket of raw meat. They got to throw large chunks of fresh meat over the fence to the anxiously waiting big cats. Elijah had no problem picking up the dead gutted and bloody rabbit carcass and feeding it to the hungry carnivores. Aaron, on the hand, I heard was less eager.
Elijah would have stayed all night, but the park was closing, so we had to leave. They are building a new elephant swimming pool, so we want to go back sometime and see it. So many zoos, so little time! Such is family traveling!
Family travel on the open road again
We decided to hit the open road in our RV while the boys were on spring break from school. All of us much needed a break from the daily routine. Like many families, we have a bad habit of falling into a rut and need a vacation now and then to pull out of it. For us, our RV is a great solution to being able to quickly and easily escape. The quintessential family road trip is a truly unique American experience. There is something very relaxing about just taking off with no real set agenda or even destination in mind. With an RV, we can meander our way around until we unfortunately need to head home.
With all of the great roads, parks, and destinations, North America is the perfect place for taking out the RV. Since I am a disabled veteran, I get us free entrance and camping in state and national parks, which is a bonus too. Luckily, our boys are both at the age where taking off in the RV with the family is still exciting and cool. They have many fond memories of family camping. Board games, camp fires with smores, grilling outside, and exploring new areas are all regular parts of the experience. Plus, they are experts now at setting up and taking down the RV. They have done it in all weather and in the dark!
For this excursion, we decided to seek warmer, sunnier weather by going south. Southern Oregon sounded like the perfect spot. We fueled up with gasoline and Starbucks coffee, hopped on Interstate 5, and headed south. We decided to make our first stop in Roseburg, Oregon. From Seattle, it is approximately six hours away. The drive is smooth and easy, which makes towing an RV very simple.
Roseburg is a small city in the middle of the Umpqua River Valley. This region is home to numerous award winning wineries (watch for a post dedicated to them). It is also the turn-off to Crater Lake National Park, one of the most majestic sights in the world. Just 15 miles south is the very cool Wildlife Safari (watch for an article and video about it). Another 40 miles south is the mysterious Oregon Vortex. Just 25 miles south of that is the Shakespearean town of Ashland. A beautiful two hour drive east of Roseburg is the fabulous Oregon coast. I will try to hit the highlights of our trip in this post, but keep coming back for future posts that discuss some of these amazing places in detail.
Since Roseburg is in the middle of many exciting things to see, we decided to make this our base camp. We set up our temporary home in Twin Rivers RV Park. This lovely place was a hidden gem! Vickie, the owner and host keeps a very well-maintained park with many amenities, like a small camp store, propane filling, grassy playground areas, and full hook-ups. It is located right on the Umpqua River and borders River Forks County Park, where Umpqua and North Umpqua Rivers collide. The park also is walking distance to two wineries, a Southern Oregon University Exhibition Garden, and great fishing!
Our first day, we decided to stay at the park and relax after the long drive. The boys wanted to make straight for the park and river. The dog was really ready to sniff some new trees. My wife wanted to take a walk to stretch. So, I was left alone in a quiet RV to meditate (with my eyes closed flat on my back on the couch, after all I did all of the driving).
The next morning, we got up early (by vacation time) so we could go to the Wildlife Safari. If you have been a loyal follower of TWS, then you know we are all animal lovers. We hit every zoo in every area we go. The Wildlife Safari did not disappoint. Next week we will post all about the fun we had and feeding a tiger and cheetah! Gotta love family traveling!!!