The next stop on our road trip was Florence, Oregon. The journey offered some particularly impressive coastal views, so we’d stop every now and then to take a photo.
We made our way to the Sea Lion Cave, a coastal tourist attraction where you take a lift down into a cave where scores of sea lions can often be seen. During our visit, we only saw one solitary sea lion riding the waves as they crashed into the cave, but the visit was still worthwhile for the dramatic views of the coast.
The visit also yielded what is probably my favorite photograph from the road trip; a cute moment between Heather and a bobble-hatted Olive:
Next was a dune buggy ride. The Oregon Dunes is a 40 mile-long stretch of sand dunes along the coast – the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America (thanks Wikipedia). We all went for an hour-long ride on a large dune buggy that took us on a bumpy journey over and through the dunes, down onto the beach (which can only really be accessed in this way), then back again.
Despite the very bumpy ride, Olive fell asleep halfway through.
As the ride was coming to an end, it started to rain, then hail. There was nowhere to shelter, so we just put our hoods up and dealt with it. The kids were all good sports and for the most part, kept smiling. When we arrived back at the car, we were drenched and freezing and grateful to take off our coats and put the heating on.
After the buggy ride, we completed the last stretch of the journey to Portland, arriving at our friends’ house in the evening. It was great to see the Thatchers again, catch up with them and see how their kids had grown. The next day, the Thatchers took us out to visit Multnomah Falls, a huge waterfall just outside of Portland. We got some great views of Mount Hood and other scenery on the way…
Multnomah Falls is a 189 meter year-round waterfall. We took some photos at the bottom, then made our way up the path to the bridge. The older kids (Eve Lucy and Josh) went with me, Jared and his boys to the very top, while Charlotte and Olive waited half-way up with Heather and Anna. There were some spectacular views on the way up the narrow, steep path. I was really proud of the kids for getting as far as they did, as it was hard work.
We stayed the first night in Fort Bragg, where we attended Church in a small local congregation the following morning. We then headed to ‘Glass Beach’, where the sand is mixed with sea glass – a result of glass being dumped into the ocean many years ago. Today, the beach is covered with small smooth pieces of glass in whites, greens, red and blue.
The kids loved collecting pieces of sea glass, putting it into a bag to take homes a reminder of the trip.
We climbed over some rocks and discovered a neighbouring beach that didn’t have any sea glass, but looked amazing with cool rock formations and fog, so we explored and took a few shots there.
The next morning, we set off on the road and saw a sign for a ‘prehistoric garden in Oregon’s rain forest’ with full size dinosaur models. We decided to make a stop and have a look around.
It was cool to see so much greenery, moss and moisture, having been in California where the drought continues and areas that once were green are brown. We enjoyed finding the dinosaurs and learning about them as we walked around the trail.
Here’s Lucy giving a little video tour of the gardens:
Next up was the West Coast Game Park in Bandon, where we were able to stroke goats, llamas and even a Lynx. The kids absolutely loved it here – especially playing with their ‘friends’, the young goats.
The kids each had an ice cream cornet filled with animal feed and as we arrived, the older children went on ahead while we got through the gate with Olive. As we entered the farmyard, we saw Charlotte running, holding her ice cream cone out in front of her, squealing, as she was chased by around 10 goats, 4 deer and 2 llamas!
Here, ‘Charlotte News’ gives a report on the incident:
Here’s Olive with her cornet:
Having worked up an appetite, we headed for Bandon old town/seafront for fish and chips. While not authentically British in style, we weren’t complaining and all enjoyed the meal.
Afterwards, we went over the road to a fudge shop. The kids were full and happy and a little bit hyper (as can be seen in the group picture above) and crossed the road in the style of the congo:
A good night’s rest at the Motel and we were ready for another day.
Some good friends from our Edinburgh days kindly invites us to spend Thanksgiving with them in their home near Portland, Oregon. We decided to make a road trip out of the occasion, taking a couple of days to travel, seeing some sights and staying in Motels along the way.
Having 5 young children sit in a small confined space, such as a car for any length of time can be pretty challenging – in anticipation of such challenges and for the sake of our own sanity, we invested in some DVD players for the back of the car seats so that the time on the road (around 35 hours over 9 days) would be entertaining for the children and tolerable for us!
Our first stop was Napa, which for those who haven’t visited the area, is part of California’s ‘wine country’; miles and miles of vineyards, wineries and Italian-inspired landscapes and architecture.
We stopped at a winery where we had lunch followed by some gelato.
Our next stop was another winery, this one was designed to look like an old castle (the closest we’re likely to get to a real castle over here in the U S of A!). We had a walk around, stretched our legs and enjoyed the surroundings.
Next, we visited Old Faithful, a famous geyser in the area. The geyser was going off every 20 minutes, so we didn’t have long to wait.
On the site of the geyser, there were a few animals to feed and the children enjoyed looking at the goats, especially the newborn kids.
As we were leaving, Old Faithful blew again so we had a few final photos and headed up the road.
During the Summer, Heather has made sure that along with all of the fun and freedom, the children have been involved in positive and productive things daily. She came up with a Summer 2015 board that hangs in our dining room and includes a ‘bucket list’ of things that we wanted to do in the Summer, ‘Chef of the week'(the kids take turns in preparing meals), scriptures/articles of faith to learn and a daily checklist. Each day, the children are invited to read, write, do a chore, do some exercise and carry out an act of kindness. They record their progress by ticking boxes. For every day that they complete their tasks, they earn a little bit of pocket money. It’s been a really great way to help the kids learn to manage their time, teach the value of work and keep their skills sharp. Heather is amazing.
We wanted to give the kids an opportunity to spend some their pocket money and reap the rewards of their hard work, so we took them to $1 night at Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Founded in 1907, the Boardwalk is California’s oldest surviving amusement park (thankyou Wikipedia) and it has a good old-fashioned vibe. The Big Dipper roller-Coaster, air lift, log flume, fairground-stye games. What’s nice about it is that it is full of families, even into the evening and on a Monday and Tuesday night, all rides, hot dogs and candy floss are only $1!
Heather and I had our first Californian date at the Boardwalk around a year ago and loved it, so we were excited to take the kids.
It was a great night – the older kids rode on flying cars, while Charlotte and Olive went on the more tame equivalent. Swing rides, shooting baskets, root beer, candy floss. Olive won a Hello Kitty-in-a-leopardprint-onesie toy (what more could any child want?) in a water-squirting game with a little bit of help from Dad. Good old-fashioned, not-so-healthy, well-deserved fun.
The photograph from the plunge at the end of the log flume is a keeper.
The beautiful Heather Burdon celebrated her birthday last week and her birthday wish was a trip to Point Lobos. It’s a State Park, near Carmel, about 1hr 40 mins South from where we are. We had never been that far South and were excited to explore.
At the start of the trail, we saw some sea Lions lying on the rocks down below.
We walked a little further along the coast and came to an area with interesting rock formations with rock pools that were great for climbing on and exploring.
We went a little further along the coast, looking for China Cove, a beautiful cove that we had seen images of online before we even moved to California. We found it and it was suitably breathtaking.
Sadly, China Cove is inaccessible, as restoration is taking place. It’s also fenced off because seals are on the beach and are birthing!
We walked around China Cove and came out on the other side to more breathtaking views.
Happily, just around the corner was Gibson Beach – and we were able to go down there and splash in the ocean for a while before heading home feeling more than content.
Heather’s Mother’s Day wish this year was for “some nice family photos, with no moaning”! After Church, camera in hand, we headed to the San Jose Rose Garden, a place we had yet to visit. It’s a really lovely park with green spaces, a fountain and of course, lots of roses of every colour. We took some bubbles to keep the kids occupied and got some great shots. The kids enjoyed using the camera too and *almost* didn’t moan about having photos taken of them! I’m glad we were able to give this amazing mother what she hoped for.
It all started a few weeks ago. We have a large, 4ft bin, known locally as “garbage can”, though it’s not really a can at all. Either way, we woke up one morning and discovered it had been knocked over and the contents were spilled in the back yard. Although puzzled, we didn’t think much of it and the incident was soon forgotten in the hustle and bustle of the day. However, the very next morning, what did we discover to our great surprise and bewilderment? The bin was once again, knocked to the ground.
Perhaps it had been the wind?
The weather has been mild, so that conclusion felt unlikely.
That was the question that was becoming more and more pronounced in our minds.
Now, Heather and I are members of our ‘Nextdoor’ online community. It’s essentially a community discussion board for people living in our neighbourhood. The message boards contain fascinating discussion topics from recommended plumbers, to reminders that dogs ought not to foul the neighborhood. Items for sale, services offered and requested, security issues etc. For me, the community was at the height of its brilliance last Halloween, when an interactive map of the neighborhood was made available and members were able to indicate on the map whether sweets would be distributed from their house. Welcome to Silicon Valley.
Anyway, on the day of the second bin incident, while at work, a message was posted by our neighbor, Jim, on the Nextdoor message board that began to unfold the mystery. I’ve pasted the message below:
Early yesterday morning I heard something splashing around in my back yard fountain: it was the biggest raccoon I’ve ever seen. It didn’t scare away either. I have emptied the water out to eliminate that attraction for the wildlife. If people have animals they leave outside overnight, be warned.
As I read this message, the full gravity of its implications began to unravel in my mind.
Could it be?
Given the evidence, there was no denying it. Our bin-pusher was in fact, the giant raccoon.
Over the coming days, further evidence came to light. Take, for instance, this paw print, captured in pavement chalk and discovered in our back yard. Heather’s Preschool class had been drawing with chalk on the ground and the GR (Giant Raccoon) had seen fit to trample over their artwork.
Of course, we took evasive action, keeping the rubbish in the larger, more secure wheelie bins and moving the location of the said bins in an attempt to disorient the raccoon.
One day, we set a trap for the raccoon. Joshua and I set up a cardboard box, with a plastic cup on top. On top of the cup was a cherry tomato. “This ought to teach him”, we thought. The next morning, the cherry tomato was gone, but the raccoon was not caught in the box. I felt like he was taunting us.
Things took another turn for the worse when on one particular night, a few days after Joshua’s birthday, we made the mistake of leaving his brand new inflatable ‘wall ball’ outside overnight. Surely this would be a step too far, though?
Does the raccoon care that this ball was a little boy’s special birthday gift? That means nothing to him. He couldn’t care less. Not bothered. Out with the claws. Then off he schnuffles, into the night.
I wish I could tell you that there’s some sort of happy ending to this story, that on a second attempt, the box, cup and cherry tomato trap worked, but the truth is, we still live in fear of this giant nocturnal mammal.
I think the next step is to set up a hidden camera using my phone and lure the beast in with some tasty morsels. When he takes the bait, Josh and I will emerge from the shadows, armed with Joshua’s Nerf crossbow and deliver some foam-dart justice.
Other suggestions welcome in the comments below.