Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2013 Road Trip Adventure: Hitting the Road, and Camping

Departing on the road trip
Nick and Chris getting ready to leave
I haven't blogged for quite some time, but I'm back! I had the bright crazy idea to take my family on a road trip to the Bay Area this summer...and initially we were going to stay in hotels, until I decided we should camp. That night when I arrived home from work, my kids put up a major fuss, especially Kieran (the 10-year-old). The oldest, Chris, announced, "What do you think I am? A mountain man?" But so many of my favorite child memories were from road trips and camping...and my kids don't get out into nature enough...and we live in such a beautiful part of the camping it was to be! 

All I can say is: thank God for the minivan (and the built-in DVD player)!

The drivers
The first day we veered off course halfway through the drive to make a quick stop at one of Oregon's covered bridges. So exciting! This is the best part of road trips: unexpected detours!

Photo ops!
Kieran (along with all the other incoming fifth graders) was given one small piece of homework for the summer: to color and cut out "Flat Stanley" and take him places during the summer. Even associating this small task only slightly with homework made Kieran complain about it. This was the ONLY photo of Flat Stanley, who was somehow "lost" during our second day in San Francisco, at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.
"Now let's see: can I ditch him in the lake?"
Then it was onto brilliantly blue, amazing Crater Lake! Mike and I hadn't been there since he first visited Oregon in 1988, when we met my college friend Christine there (who lived in Sacramento at the time). It's simply stunning and I felt that we really didn't get enough time staring at the lake!

No Flat Stanley! ;)

Nicholas insisted we kiss for this photo...

Goofing off in the lodge

This tree was actually safe to climb in--
even though it looks like it looms right over the lake!

We didn't have time to linger long after eating our picnic lunch and watching a recently released film about Crater Lake in the lodge. Next we drove about an hour south to our campground in Joseph Stewart State Park, which was a nice, quiet, and pleasant campground: a great first "proper" camping experience for the kids. (The last time we camped was in 2009, before going to Holden Village, and it was in a really noisy, crowded campground, and we didn't cook at all...not pleasant. Before that, Kieran was a baby!)
I knew Kieran would enjoy the whole camping experience--
cooking over a fire, etc.!
The campsite
Dinner: Sausages and hot dogs, chips, and garlic-stir-fried zucchini

Sunset (over a lake) from our campsite

I took my mandolin along on the trip,
but I played it only that first night!
The next day we hit the road again and stopped for lunch in Redding, California, at a great hot dog place called Wilda's Grill. The kids had hot dogs, but Mike and I had the fantastic Buddha's Bowl, which is brown rice, red beans, chicken or tofu, avocado, shredded cabbage, jalapenos, cilantro, and two sauces. It was delicious!

After leaving Redding, we had the most upsetting incident of our road trip: we got in an accident. Fortunately, no one was hurt! It was south of Redding on I-5, and I was driving in the middle lane. A large semi truck in the right lane pulled into our lane and was going to crash right into us, so I swerved into the left lane and unfortunately hit another car. Both cars sustained relatively minor damage (even though it will probably be expensive to fix!), and I'm just so grateful no one was hurt! The semi roared on, but Mike swiftly and brilliantly wrote down the license plate. Our insurance claims person tells us it's called a "phantom vehicle," and we are hoping they can get the trucking company to take some responsibility. I've never been the driver in an accident before (not counting inanimate objects like garage doors and mailboxes!), so it shook me up for at least an hour before I was able to drive again. The incident scared the kids, and it certainly made us more alert as drivers than ever before...especially around large trucks!

We drove on some wicked winding roads (again probably making Mike regret the road trip, as he gets motion sickness!) to get to our campsite that evening near Napa, in a place called Sugarloaf Ridge. It's a state park, but the state can't afford to run it any more so now it's operated by volunteers. When we arrived, they assigned us a campsite...and it was VERY exposed and pretty noisy (lots of loud babies and kids nearby). Some of the campsites were actually nice, but ours was less than desirable. The one advantage was that it was close to the porta-potties, which I appreciated when I had to get up in the middle of the night!

Kieran and Nick exploring the creek 

Campground in the morning

Our exposed campsite
On the trip home after our week in the Bay Area, we made our first stop in Santa Rosa (bio break), where we discovered it was the hometown of Charles Schulz. Kieran enjoyed getting his photo taken with the Peanuts characters. I just discovered that Santa Rosa has a great Charles Schulz museum--we'll have to stop there if we take another trip in that area.

Then it was on to the glorious Redwoods! I had visited the Redwoods on one of our childhood road trips, and I remembered how beautiful and enormous they are. Even though they are a bit off the beaten track, a trip on the Avenue of the Giants is so worth it!
Our minivan gives perspective on the height of the trees

First time out of the car--looks like he is teaching a class!

Chris giving his "awe-filled" look!

An enormous fallen log we could climb into!


Of course, we had to drive through a tree. I didn't remember it costing anything when I was a kid (it does now--$6/car), and I certainly didn't remember how nerve-wracking it is!! At the Shrine Drive-Through Tree, they have a sign before you go through that says the tree is 7 feet by 7 feet wide, but I didn't really think through how wide our minivan was! We pulled in our rear-view mirrors and barely made it through. Yikes! Don't think I'll be doing that again!

Mike waving through the sunroof

Kieran's artistic diagonal photo of Nick
Apparently the Redwoods have a bunch of tourist trap drive-through trees, so this probably wasn't the one we drove through when I was a kid. The kids enjoyed it anyway--with all the various kid activities there:

Walking through this time!
 They had some cute little houses carved out of redwood logs...just exactly Nicholas' thing!

Well, we all got into the act--except for the cool teenager, who stayed in the car and listened to music!

The last night of our trip we camped in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park in the middle of the Avenue of the Giants. It was perhaps the most spectacular setting for camping I've ever seen. I never got tired of looking up at those trees!

Logs to climb on right next to our campsite!

The kids, even the 17-year-old, gave camping a thumbs up!

Kieran, of course, enjoyed helping with the fire and cooking!

Listening to a ranger program that night in the park

Kieran got to participate in a dance, too!

So many fun places to climb!

Our tent towered by redwoods

My camping buddy
That last night it rained in the Redwoods, for the first time since June...just our luck. Mike and I didn't sleep very well because of the noise, even though we both wore ear plugs. In fact, neither of us slept very well at any time during camping. That was the only downside! I think it might be awhile before I can convince Mike to go camping again. Maybe his memories of poor sleep just have to fade for awhile! Next time we will go to a campsite where we can stay for awhile.

Next up: our adventures in the Bay Area!