Lucy Turns Six!

Our little Lucy is six already! It seems like only yesterday that she turned five.

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We had her birthday dinner a few days early. She chose sushi.

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We have a tradition of making a fancy breakfast on birthday mornings. Lucy loves dutch babies, so we made one with cherries in, and strawberry sauce on.

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Flashback: about a week before, Will went to a really great toy store to pick a gift for Lucy. Here he is working really hard to find just the right thing. Or playing with the demo toys, whatever.

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He finally decided on a jump rope, and a Mancala set. She also got a bajillion tiny wooden widgets to paint and glue together, and a set of pastel nail polish.

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Here she is with her watermelon-coconut-cream-berry “cake”.

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After seeing her fall in love with the costumes at the End of the Oregon Trail Center, Grandma Dorothy went and found a way to make Lucy a bonnet (which Lucy loves)! She also made this dress:

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The Birthday Interview

What is the meaning of life?

To go on adventures.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A doctor.

What brings you the most happiness?

When I can buy whatever I want.

When do you feel the most loved?

When I get what I want.

What are you afraid of?

Monsters, and ghosts, and goblins; like all the scary stuff.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

My birthday to be close together, my birthday now, my birthday now, my birthday now.

What is the funniest word?

boogaloo

What is the hardest thing to do?

My homework.

What is the easiest thing to do?

Sit. Heh heh.

What is the best thing in the world?

That we get money.

What is the worst thing in the world?

That I don’t always get what I want.

What makes you mad?

When somebody calls me a name and when somebody is hitting me or something. Like when somebody’s mean to me.

What is the meaning of love?

You marry.

If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?

I would buy some things that I wanted and then the rest of it I would give to people who are sick. I would give it to the Health Care so that they could make the people better.

Gymnastics Party!

Mia, one of Lucy’s classmates, was turning six. And what better way to celebrate such an important milestone than by throwing a party at a gymnasium, and invite all your friends and their siblings?

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This is a great idea for a kid’s birthday party. Will and Lucy both had an absolute blast, as you can see.

#29: Go Canoeing or Kayaking

This is part of our 100 Things in 2014 challenge. Here’s the full list.

The house we rented on Lake Sammamish came equipped with several different kinds of boats, including a two-seat kayak!

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We decided to take this opportunity to knock a thing off our list. To start, Ben took Will out and taught him how to paddle.

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Next it was Lucy’s turn. She had a bit more trouble with the paddle, but still did well enough to make it out to the buoy and back.

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Ben also took Ryan and Max out for a bit. They were old hands; Tony’s taken them kayaking before.

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The next day, Vanessa took Will and Lucy out too!

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Ben decided he wanted to catch them.

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BONUS ROUND: the house also had a stand-up paddle board. Ben couldn’t help himself, but it being his first time ever standing on one of these (and it being the end of a day on a lake that’s great for waterskiing), he didn’t have it very easy.

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That’s all you get. There’s no photo of him falling in. Because he totally didn’t. I SO would have taken a picture of that.

Lake Sammamish Weekend

Last year, we rented this amazing house on Lake Sammamish. We loved it so much, we reserved it for this year as soon as we got home. This image pretty much sums up why:

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The next morning, while waiting for some family to visit, we lazed about with our books.

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And here they are! Tony and Debbie, along with their cadre of short people (Max, Ryan, Jase, and teensy Evelyn) submitted themselves to Becky’s photographic prowess for a few minutes, then jumped directly into the lake.

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The house comes with a flotilla of floaty boats.

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Not the big one, though. That’s the neighbors’.

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This family of ducks patrolled up and down our shore of the lake, passing us multiple times each day. You could almost set your watch by them.

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Learning how to skip rocks is a big moment in any kid’s life.

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The lake wasnot too warm, though, so after a while we dried the munchkins off and had some landlubber fun.

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Once the relatives had gone to their softball game, Will and Lucy wanted to go back in.

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Becky took the kids on a photo walk, so I could get a bit of work done on my book.

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The next day, Vanessa and Tim came over for brunch and more fun on the lake.

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Then they left, and the kids could focus on the water again. They practiced being brave when they couldn’t reach the bottom.

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…eventually making friends with the girl next door.

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We finished our last evening here with cold beverages on the dock.

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The next morning, it was time to say goodbye once again.

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Pretty sure we’ll be back here next year.

Spring Performance 2014

At the end of every year, the kids at CLASS Academy organize and put on a musical play for their parents. We’ve written about this before.

This year the theme was American history, focusing on the presidents that appear on money.

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Lucy’s class (the Kangaroos) sang a number called One for All and All for One. The stage was filled with singing, dancing Lady Libertys.

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Will’s class dressed up as G.I.s, and performed Ol’ Hickory (that’s Andrew Jackson, for the less-well-read among you).

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The kids all had a grand time putting on the show, and were very proud of themselves afterward. We’re looking forward to next year’s show!

Guy W. Talbot State Park & George W. Joseph State Natural Area

This is part of our Oregon State Park challenge! Check out our progress here.

One of the parks on our list doesn’t appear to have its own parking lot. We checked the map, and we couldn’t find one, so we did the only logical thing: we hiked in from another state park.

Guy W. Talbot State Park is a not-very-long drive up the gorge, and reaching the parking lot requires that you drive through the scenic little hamlet of Latourell (which unfortunately doesn’t appear to have its own website).

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After not too long, the trail passes under the old Columbia River Highway.

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This is the lower of the two Latourell fallses, and it was quite popular. We managed to take a quick snap without anyone else in the frame, but it took some doing.

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Legend tells of another Latourell falls, but reaching it means walking. Needless to say, we were nearly alone for the rest of this trail.

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Our picnic log:

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At long last, we reached the upper Latourell falls, which was no less scenic than the lower one, and actually lies within the boundaries of an entirely different state park!

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Lately, no hiking journey is quite complete without some Geocaching. We had to do a quick grab-sign-and-replace with the cache itself (because Muggles), but here’s a shot of the loot the kids traded for:

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Two state parks in one hike! Will wonders never cease!

May Misc. Round-Up

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The kids ran in the Awesome 3000, and they were really proud of their medals.

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For Mum’s Day, we built the local mothers edible bouquets from our farmer’s market – flowering chives, rainbow chard, and french radishes.

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OMSI had an exhibit about skateboarding.

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And we built electronic gadgets out of building blocks. Ben loved it; the kids were bore-fused.

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Fish heads. Fish heads. Roly-poly fish heads.

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Lucy

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We found Lucy’s dollhouse family watching a movie on a computer. (They’re due for an upgrade.)

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Lucy loves going to the salon. This time, our friend Melissa (who is fabulous to Becky’s hair too) gave her the works – shampoo, cut, and style.

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Journaling is easier with friends.

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She’s really getting into this pampering thing.

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Will

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Reference material is required for some birthday cards.

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Becky

…went on a super-epic hike at Eagle Creek with some super-cool people.

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Cute Things

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CrossFit HEL (RIP)

Our awesome gym, which is just around the corner and has been really good to us, is closing its doors at the end of July. Here are some photos of us being totally badass while there.

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Willamette Stone State Heritage Site

This is part of our Oregon State Park challenge! Check out our progress here.

This state park was a bit tricky to find. The maps show exactly where the stone is, but not where to park. We walked almost entirely around that little green triangle before finally giving up, only to spot the trailhead as we drove away.

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There’s a ¼-mile downhill trail to the stone itself – one of the references for the national survey grid system. Everything in Oregon and Washington is located with a reference to this point, since it was laid in 1851.

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We also sometimes Geocache. This one was hidden not very far from the stone, and the kids loved how big it was.

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One of the things cachers do is to trade a small toy or token inside the cache, and help one of the ones found inside travel around. The kids rooted through their treasure buckets of tiny toys, and contributed a generous number to our stash of Geocaching trinkets. Our non-hoarder instincts were very proud.

Gridium: Denver

Through a tumultuous series of events, I changed jobs twice this summer, eventually landing at Gridium (where I’ll be building tools to help large buildings use less energy). Whenever you’re starting a job where you’re not actually in the same place as any of your coworkers, it makes a lot of sense to spend your first week (the “onboarding” week) actually with one of them. In meatspace.

So it was that at the end of May, I spent my first week at Gridium in downtown Denver. My coworker Nick lives here, and it was his misfortune to help me get started.

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While I was working furiously to get my laptop set up and start being productive, the rest of the family was… well, it was the usual.

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By the second day I felt like a Denver native. I went to high school in Littleton, and visited downtown maybe three times. Plus, I was a stupid teenager; I don’t remember much about it, so it was a lot like visiting a new city.

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Nick’s “office” is at a shared working space in lower downtown. It actually felt a lot like Portland – you know, cool.

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No visit to the Denver Metro Area would be complete without a dinner with the Aurora Straubs (complete with the matriarch and patriarch of the entire clan, who were in the process of moving nearby).

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In response to that photo, I was informed that it was dinnertime in Portland, too.

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While I was there, I rented an apartment from Airbnb, and the host kindly lent me her bike to get to work. I looked super manly.

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One of my dinner plans fell through, so I was stuck eating at this dump. J/K, it was super amazing and yummy.

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My flight home was early on a Friday; my plane was boarding just as Becky and the kids were headed off to school.

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I liked this trip. I got to see a side of Denver I’ve never seen before, and I got to know my new company.

#7: Road Trip with NO Destination

This is part of our 100 Things in 2014 challenge. Here’s the full list.

This is one Becky was dreading. Normally, she pours many hours of effort and thought into making sure our trips are successful – deciding where to go, arranging for lodging and food and comfort and entertainment, and making sure everything that can be known up front is.

But this was an exercise in restraint. Here are our rules (you knew we’d have some):

  1. The direction of travel will be decided at random, by pulling it out of a hat.
  2. Once the first draw is made, we travel two hours in that direction, to get out of our “zone of familiarity.” Subsequent draws are not subject to this rule; we were allowed to choose a reasonable place to draw again.
  3. No freeways allowed after the first leg.
  4. The first draw can’t be west. We know the coast pretty well, and the point is to go somewhere new.
  5. Stop at every historical marker, interpretive trail, general roadside point of interest, or place that Becky wants to stop.
  6. Paper maps only for planning. We use Urban Spoon and Yelp pretty extensively to find places to eat, and our car’s GPS so we don’t miss a turn, but ye olde atlas is the only tool for deciding on a destination.
  7. No eating at chain restaurants. Be as local as possible.
  8. No timetables allowed. When lunchtime arrives, we could start looking for food. We can’t plan our lodgings until we know the city/town/village/cave we’re going to stop in. (This caused problems, see below.)

SNEAK PEEK: I recorded our trip on Google Maps. Unfortunately I can’t embed it here, but you can click this link right here or this screenshot to see it:

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Day 1

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We dropped the kids with their grandparents, gathered everything we thought we’d need (including our passports — Canada isn’t that far away), and set out. The first draw: EAST. We thought Hermiston would be far enough out to satisfy the Unfamiliarity Principle, but we decided to stop in The Dalles at this adorable little Australian tea shop, which you should totally stop at if you’re ever in the area.

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Hermiston turned out to be super boring, and didn’t have a cool downtown that we could find. So we stopped at a park for the restrooms and to replace our water (Portland had a tap-water advisory that weekend), and to draw our next stone: SOUTH. We looked at the map, and decided that Heppner would be our next stop.

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Somewhere on the way, we spotted these roadside dragons, and had to stop.

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Here’s the dragons’ view, and what most of our roads looked like. Seems like almost nobody does road trips like this anymore – this was Memorial Day weekend.

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Pretty sure there’s a law about having to kiss blarney stones.

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Unfortunately all the restaurants were closed for the weekend, so we made a picnic from the grocery store, and “enjoyed” it in the rain at a little park, under the eave of the bathroom. Second. Saddest. Picnic. Ever.

We scrambled back to our car, and drew again: EAST, to Ukiah. Our car’s GPS took us on a rather interesting road.

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In fact, Google won’t even route you on that road. If you click through to the map up above, I had to draw our actual route in by hand. It was nerve-wracking and slow (neither of us has ever really driven off-road), but our standard-Portland-issue Subaru was up to the task.

It was pouring when we got to Ukiah, so we don’t have any photos. It was getting late, but there was nowhere to stay, so we continued eastward, choosing La Grande as our destination. But lo: an interpretive trail! The rules say we have to put on our rain gear and walk it.

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Upon reaching La Grande, we realized what weekend it was. Most of the motels only had suites left, so we ended up in a room at the Super 8 that had at least seven different kinds of chair.

Day 2

The next morning, we sought out the best breakfast we could find: The Dusty Spur, which is very Cowboy, and very good.

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On our way out of town, we noticed the farmer’s market! We bought strawberries and vanilla-fig balsamic vinegar.

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Our first draw of the day: EAST, to Union, which is as charming a town as you’ll find in Oregon. When people talk about small-town sensibilities, this is the place they’re referring to.

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Our next draw: SOUTH, towards Baker City, but as per the rules we avoided I-84.

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When you travel the smaller highways, you run the very serious risk of finding a historical marker…

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…or getting trapped behind a cattle drive trying to reach a wildlife viewpoint. We followed this parade for 20 minutes before giving up and turning back towards our destination.

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Or maybe you’ll find Haines, a once-important railroad stop that now has a fascinating collection of 1800’s cabins and huts.

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We finally reached Baker City, and found a nice cafe with grass-fed beef for lunch. Afterward, we wandered around the downtown for a bit, poking around in antique shops.

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With the lesson of the night before, we decided to break one of our rules and plan our stop for the evening. We even skipped the randomization step – it was time to start heading back towards our neck of the woods. We spent a good 45 minutes calling every motel and Airbnb we could find that was in the right area, and we finally got one locked down and hit the road.

But it’s never simple with us. We found an interpretive trail, and discovered where the term “switchback” comes from.

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We had quite a ways to go still, so there weren’t many stops this afternoon. But you can’t not stop at a ginormous covered wagon with a gorgeous valley in the background. It’s in the rules.

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We finally reached John Day, a visit we did not enjoy. Our lodgings were the worst room either of us had ever stayed in, no contest. We went for a giant walk until dark to avoid hanging out in it. The restaurant we went to for dinner was devoid of character, and served bland food. Maybe it’s just our bad luck, but this was the least-enchanting town of our trip.

Day 3

This was to be the last full day of our road trip. The time for randomness had passed; we had to be ready to pick the kids up and head home the following morning, so we chose WEST for our final direction, pre-arranged lodgings in Eugene, and started our day.

Now, with most of our lodgings, we like to relax in the morning. Sleep in. Get a cup of coffee. Take a shower. Bring breakfast back. Hit the road around 10.

Not here. We were out of there by 7 am. Nothing in town was open, so we just drove, hoping for something better a ways on.

We found it, in the form of a lovely diner in Dayville, which despite also being named after John Day, was much nicer. Why, just look at all the heads mounted in this gas station!

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Seriously, though – this town was gorgeous and friendly. Right up there with Union.

Not too much further on, we saw a sign for a geological marker! It only took us 10 minutes to find it on the far side of this unmarked rock.

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Then we reached the first of the gorgeous geological wonders of the day: the John Day Fossil Beds.

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There was also a shoe tree. For no apparent reason.

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We stretched our legs and wandered through some antique shops in Mitchell.

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And no visit to this part of the state is complete without a stop at the Painted Hills. This is where we started seeing the holiday-weekend crowds again, even though it was barely 10am.

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We plowed onward, passing through Prineville, and back onto familiar roads. We stopped just past Redmond at Cline Falls State Park for a picnic lunch and duck viewing.

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We also stopped in Sisters, which (believe it or not) has a community labyrinth.

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Then onward to Eugene. We found our lodgings, grabbed some dinner, then met up with some old friends and their twins for an evening of cuteness (and ice cream) downtown.

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Day 4

That’s pretty much the end. After a long walk to breakfast, we jumped on I-5 and headed home. Not much scenery to show off.

Conclusions

This was quite an experience. Here are a few things we learned:

  1. It’s hard not to plan. We have to plan to not have a plan.
  2. There’s way more variability in Oregon towns than we had thought. We saw the best and (we hope) the worst.
  3. Despite the anxiety leading up to this, it was really relaxing. You spend the day just driving until you see something interesting. No timetables or deadlines, nowhere in particular to be.

We’re still going to plan most of our trips like we usually do, but we came away from this appreciating how our parents and their parents traveled. And this might make it on to our list for next year. And the next year. It’s hard to get across how much we loved this.

Total miles driven: 740. (Plus the off-road detour, which felt like 50, but was probably only about 5).