As our road trip drew closer to home, we packed the last of our vacation with Griswoldian adventure. Which is to say, we pretty much covered every tourist possibility we could think of. Started Wednesday with a calorie-filled tour of Eugene’s 5th Street Public Market, then waddled to the car to continue homeward. Pulled off I-5 long enough for a 10-minute tour of my hometown, Corvallis (“Look, there’s the house I grew up in!” “Oh. Can we listen to the rest of Hank the Cowdog now?”), then kept rolling North.
Cruised into Woodburn for a look at the tulip fields, and got sucked into an hour of bouncy-house-and-bungie-jump carnival games at the farm. The fields there are gorgeous, the kids had fun, and I was a little grumpy. Right up until I discovered the local vendor selling homemade bratwurst. Instant attitude adjustment. Great stop. Who knew a tulip farm would feature a carnival midway? Or, more importantly, homemade bratwurst. Perhaps something to consider as income generating strategy for the blueberry farm…
Finally, we pulled into a downtown Portland hotel, our ratty duffel bags overflowing with dirty laundry and sacks full of groceries and farm supplies filling the trunk. The bellman, observing the 50 pounds of fish meal and organic fertilizer blocking access to our bags, said “First time I’ve ever seen that.” Welcome to the city, Jed Clampett. Main, thing, though, is that we were fully prepped for some urban foraging.
Next day we sandwiched a trip to OMSI in between a thorough tour of the food truck scene (Me, carnitas tacos and Spam musubi. Stacy, chicken enchiladas. Kids, chicken katsu and mac salad. All unbelievably good. And cheap.) and a long walk in the rain to the infamous–and excellent–Voodoo Donuts. As if we needed dessert.
Then it was on to the TV studio to shoot the little interview with Comcast Sportsnet, a fast stop at the Burrito House in North Portland, and a late-night drive in torrential rain all the way to the Island. Stacy and the kids slept while I squinted through the blurry windshield (California car…still had the original wiper blades) listening to our only non-Hank-the-Cowdog CD, Paul Simon’s classic Graceland. I just kept thinking what an awesome trip it had been, and of course, about all the work that piled up while we were away. When we pulled into our driveway, it felt good to be home.
After the caverns, we rolled north through the Siskiyous under gorgeous spring sunshine, listening to the adventures of Hank the Cowdog. Made a brief stop in Ashland for lunch but didn’t linger–Stacy was already feeling the pull of her personal Mecca: The Territorial Seed Company store in Cottage Grove, Oregon. (If you haven’t experienced their catalog, it’s probably the finest entertainment value for twenty-five cents anywhere in the world.)
We pulled in around 6:00pm and Stacy went to work, diving into the aisles and combing the seed packet bins. After reading and ordering from the catalog for years, it was great to make the pilgrimage. And the retail store did not disappoint. They had everything Stacy was looking for, and the people working there were even more knowledgeable and nicer than we ever could have expected.
The kids and I took advantage of the big parking lot and warm, evening sun for a little shirtsleeve frisbee session, and when Stacy was finally done, we packed 50 pounds of organic fertilizer and a shopping bag full of seeds into our already-stuffed car. I have no idea how it all fit, but it felt great to stock up on our summer provisions right from the source. And then…on the road again, headed north.
I have to admit, I was a little worried. Traveling 900 miles in a tiny car with two young kids sounded like a recipe for further hair loss, or at least a thousand rounds of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. Both of which, in my mind, are to be avoided at all costs. But we had to get the car home, and since it was spring break, we decided to take our time, and try to have some fun along the way. In other words, the full Clark Griswold.
First stop was the “Bates Motel” (names have been changed to protect the guilty) on Lake Shasta, which is best described by saying we were all afraid to use the shower and the lingering smell of propane kept us from firing up the stove. In retrospect, the extreme lack of interior lighting was probably a blessing. So…we kept our shoes on inside and spent as much time as we could outside.
And outside was awesome. The area is incredibly beautiful and different enough from where we live to keep us fascinated. Weston looked at the manzanitas, pines and oaks and said “Dad, they have really weird trees here.” We took a great tour of Shasta Caverns which included a boat ride across the lake and an hour underground checking out stalactites, stalagmites, crystals, “cave bacon” and breathing the dank, humid cave air–which, incidentally, smelled significantly better than our hotel room. I’m not usually much of a tourist, but the cave gig was really cool. And I retract all negative statements about it I may have made in the hours leading up to the tour. Next up: The Griswolds continue north…
This little beauty is a 2004 Honda Civic hybrid, which we picked up in California last week and drove home for our Spring Break vacation. I have to admit, I had reservations about a 900 mile road trip with two adults, two kids and all our gear squeezed into a subcompact, but it was awesome. Completely comfortable, roomy and fun to drive. And compared to the ol’ Montero (22 years young!), this felt like pure luxury. What? A CD player in a car? Awesome!
We flew to Sacramento on Friday and spent a wonderful Easter weekend visiting with the grandparents, then hit the road pointing north on Monday. And the mileage was mind blowing. Even loaded down with four bodies and luggage (not to mention the 50 pounds of organic fertilizer Stacy bought for the farm at Territorial Seed in Cottage Grove, Oregon) we made it all the way home on less than 20 gallons of gas. Of course, the Montero still lives for camping, fishing, boat hauling…but we can now zip around the Island with a much smaller impact on planet and wallet.
More from the road coming soon. In the mean time, I think I’m going to go sit in the car and listen to the CD player…
Here I am trying to not look as stupid as I feel…and from what I can see in this photo, doing a pretty lousy job of it. This was last night’s Outdoor GPS show on Comcast Sportsnet, shot live in Portland. It was actually pretty fun, and the host, Cody Herman, is a great guy–very knowledgeable, patient and enthusiastic. It was also a good opportunity to talk about Closer to the Ground with a new audience. I think they rebroadcast the show through the weekend, so check it out if you have a chance. And no making fun of me! They’ll post the “web extra” interview we shot on the Comcast Sportsnet website, but it’s not up yet. In any event, thanks a ton to Cody for having me on, and to anyone who happened to watch it.
The TV show capped off a fantastic family road trip through Northern California and Oregon to pick up our brand-new used car. More on the car and trip in upcoming posts, but right now I have to prep for the Poulsbo Library event tomorrow afternoon. Come on out if you can, it would be great to meet you in person.