Sunday, July 31, 2011

Calling Miss Manners!

Jill's Journal: We moved today to the wonderful small town of Pendleton, Oregon, and for the first time, we’re staying on an Indian reservation. After we got all set up, we suddenly began to wonder…is it proper etiquette to fly an American flag on a reservation? Seriously.

Obviously, we’re all Americans, but there may be some sensitivities there and we want to be respectful. Do you know?

Travel = Education

Jill's Journal: We’re feeling pretty secure in our traveling skin lately and know this lifestyle is the right fit for our family right now. But we always love hearing about other people who have been there and agree. I recently came across 21 Reasons to Travel Around the World with Kids…From Those Who Have Done it.

One of the big points is education for the kids, which began (and remains) as one of the most important reasons we’re on this journey. From the article, “Traveling the world provides children of all ages an education that simply can’t be matched.”

Lately I’m realizing there’s a lot of families out there traveling just like we are, although so far we’ve just stayed in the relative safety net of our own country. Many out there are traipsing around the world, literally, and are far more bold than we are. I so enjoy reading their blogs.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Watermelon Festival…Sort Of

Jill's Journal: Sometimes the reality isn’t quite as good as the expectation. The “Watermelon Festival” today in the tiny, desolate, nearby town of Irrigon was a bit of a bust. Even the sign above was better than the real thing. Oh well, we tried!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hermiston Highlights

Jill's Journal: I loved, loved, loved this deserted, broken-down old ranch on the side of the road. The girls and I were singing along to Toby Keith’s “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” when we drove by this place. It just seemed to fit and I quickly pulled over for a photo (or 12, as Rob teased me later when he saw the series of pictures).

We’ve learned a little about Hermiston’s history. In the 1860s and 1870s, it was known as Six Mile House. The only thing here was an old West hotel, a saloon, and a feed barn for horses and mules. It was simply a stopping point for weary travelers on their way elsewhere.

Hermiston didn’t become an official town until 1907. It got its name from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, “The Weir of Hermiston.”

“Hermiston…is no place to visit for fun and relaxation. Getting to it entails a six-mile drive from Interstate 84 through potato, watermelon, and wheat fields, only to find a city center replete with stacks of hogwire, Powder River fences, creosote-covered corner posts, and livestock chutes in a farm equipment lot.

“This is a working town,” said longtime Hermiston City Manager Ed Brookshier. “Most people come here to work.” –The Oregonian
We see this a lot in Northeastern Oregon. Major love. I’ve yet to see any place that can’t be improved by horses.

We also see cattle, lots of cattle. I briefly thought these were Dutch Belts until I saw the ranch sign…they’re BueLingos! My Dad probably knows exactly what they are, but I’d never heard of them so I had to look them up. Interestingly, they’re actually a beef breed derived from (dairy) Dutch Belts and developed in North Dakota. I realize I just lost all but about two people who read this blog in the second sentence of this paragraph, but I can’t help it. Toby Keith should’ve been a cowboy; I should’ve majored in animal husbandry instead of business. :)

Hermiston Melons…they’re here! They’re everywhere. Tomorrow we will attend our first-ever “Watermelon Fest.”

Three little girls paying rapt attention to their Daddy’s instruction in an impromptu game of mini-golf after dinner. It was adorable while it lasted. Within minutes, we heard three voices in chorus, “I can do it myself.” And we had to duck while golf clubs swung. There will be no golfing pros coming out of this family.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hat Rock State Park

Jill's Journal: The girls have probably exceeded their Lewis and Clark quota for U.S. history by this point, but I figure a little bit more never hurts. Today we visited Hat Rock State Park, site of the first landform in Oregon named by Lewis and Clark in their journals. They noted it on October 19, 1805 and labeled it on their map as “a rock in a Lar.d (larboard or left side) resembling a hat.”

They saw it as they paddled down, in their words, “the great Columbia River.” The river may look calm here, but they somehow navigated the Columbia’s Class V whitewater rapids in dugout canoes.

“The landscape has changed since Lewis and Clark explored it: rivers have been dammed, forests cut over, prairies plowed under, and roads built to the horizon. Although remnants of wilderness still exist, imagine this land as Lewis and Clark first saw it two centuries ago.” –Oregon State Park literature

Hat Rock is one of the few landmarks noted by Lewis and Clark that remains today. Most of the rest are now underwater due to dams on the Columbia. Sad.

Here’s the distinctive rock, a little closer. The monolith rises 70 feet above its base. Around 50 years after Lewis and Clark first noted it, wagon trails followed routes near the landmark.

The girls and I hiked up to the fence at Hat Rock’s base. They were more than a little disappointed they couldn’t climb the rock itself.

“President Thomas Jefferson had instructed Lewis and Clark to observe and describe ‘with great pains and accuracy’ all they could about the West. At that time, this land was still a mystery to the new Americans. Some even speculated that elephants or mammoths lived here.

“Lewis was a skilled naturalist. He spent many hours wandering with his dog, Seaman, observing and collecting plants he had never seen before. Lewis’ journals refer several times to sagebrush, describing it as an ‘aromatic shrub.’ In those days, this landscape was dominated by vast sagebrush shrub-steppe.

“Captain Clark was skilled in geography, and he was mainly in charge of navigation, mapmaking, and illustration. The sextant and the compass were his tools, and even today, historians marvel at the accuracy of his work.” –Oregon State Park literature

Now seriously, does this look like Oregon? It’s our second day in Hermiston and we still don’t quite believe this “sagebrush desert” is the same lush state we’ve been in for nearly two months!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hermiston, Oregon

Jill's Journal: We’ve gotten a good taste of Southern Oregon, Central Oregon, Northern Oregon, and Coastal Oregon. While we’re here, we might as well add Eastern Oregon to the mix. Why not, right?

Today we drove another 100 miles to the east, parallel along the magnificent Columbia River, before dipping just a little south to a small agricultural town named Hermiston. It is a stunning change from the rest of Oregon we’ve experienced. It’s not lush and green. Trees are few and far between. It’s not mountainous. It feels more like New Mexico than it does the Oregon we’d gotten to know. Hermiston appears to be some sort of a mild desert, bordering Oregon’s high desert (which encompasses almost all of the southeastern quarter of the state), and agricultural to the core. Hermiston is exactly halfway between Seattle and Boise.

Watermelon seems to be king here and we enjoyed our first Hermiston-grown watermelon for dessert tonight. As an aside, we are so impressed by the great variety of food and fresh fruits and vegetables in Oregon. We’ve never seen so many farm stands along roads as we have in Oregon. We even did part of the “Fruit Loop” the other day, a 35-mile loop in the Hood River area that features dozens of orchards and farms (all with their own stands, of course). It is said Oregon grows enough food to feed the entire nation all on its own. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to learn a little more about that in the coming days.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Dalles, Oregon

Jill's Journal: Mt. Hood was looking particularly lovely this morning on our drive across the border.

The girls and I spent the entire day in the lovely town of The Dalles (in Oregon). If you think that sounds like an unusual name, you’re not alone. It turns out it means either “flagstone” or “sluice” in French and refers to the basalt rocks carved by the river in the area. The Dalles pretty much rhymes with “the bells.”

Lewis and Clark camped here, as did many fur traders in the years after. In the thousands of years before Lewis and Clark, Native Americans extensively used the area as well. The banks of the Columbia River are steep and unforgiving for miles on end, but The Dalles has easy natural access to the river. The town is set back from the banks and has a population today of around 12,000.

The Dalles is known as the “End of the Oregon Trail,” although it technically wasn’t the very end. However, it did mark a decision point for weary travelers. After traveling by wagon for around 2,000 miles from Independence, Missouri, the 500,000 brave pioneers had about 100 miles to go to get to their destinations in the Willamette Valley. At The Dalles, they could either build a raft and load their wagon and animals on it in an attempt to navigate the treacherous Columbia River or they could go an additional 150 miles around the south side of Mt. Hood on a toll road (built around 1850) that featured unpredictable weather and dangerous terrain. There was no good choice. Either way, they risked their lives. After coming all that way, many died. Others made it but lost all their belongings. And the really lucky ones made it with life, limb, and possessions intact.

These pictures, by the way, are of some of the 12 gorgeous murals in downtown The Dalles. Each of the murals features a proud moment in the town’s history. They’re actually called the “Talking Murals” since several have audio narration.

Look at the size! They’re larger than life.

We stopped in at Klindt’s Booksellers, which was established in 1870 and is Oregon’s oldest bookstore (and actually the oldest bookstore in the Pacific Northwest).

It still has its original wood floors (they’re creaky and wonderful!) and also its original oak and plate glass display cases. The ladies who worked here were delightful and assured me the cool weather we’ve seen in Oregon is far from normal. Sunday was warm, but most days we struggle to even hit 70-75 degrees. They say it’s usually between 90 and 100 degrees in July and August. I don’t believe them.

The girls and I also stopped by “Pulpit Rock.” It’s been preserved in the middle of a street between a residential neighborhood and a high school, but between 1838 and 1848, it was the site of many a sermon. There was a Wascopam Methodist mission here and this was the chosen pulpit. A man could comfortably stand in the “v” at the top/middle of the large rock. One of the regular preachers, Rev. Jason Lee, made several trips between the East Coast and the Oregon Territory. It is believed his fervor for Oregon (which he spoke of in many public speeches on the East Coast) put a great deal of attention on the area and fueled the mass emigration on the Oregon Trail.

We visited The Dalles Lock and Dam, one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in the country. The dam is 260 feet tall, 8,875 feet long, and drastically altered the Columbia River when it was completed in the 1950s. Celilo Falls, once the hub of all Native American activity in the area and the oldest continuously-inhabited settlement in North America, was sadly submerged by the lake created behind the dam.

The girls enjoyed the Visitor Center at the dam and learned the Columbia/Snake River system is the second-largest water highway in the United States. Erika must have paid particular attention because she took an exit quiz for adults and got nine out of 10 correct. She was pretty pleased with herself!

The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum was last on our agenda for the day. We got up close and personal with a great horned owl and the girls got to feed a raven.

Then it was off to learn even more about Lewis and Clark, particularly about the equipment and supplies they hauled along with them on their travels. This is a replica of their medicine chest. Would you believe they brought 30 tons of crates, barrels, and boxes along with them on their unbelievable journey? Some was to be used as they went along, some was for gifts, and some was for trade. Thomas Jefferson funded their trip from the government’s coffers and they went 200% over budget, a number Jefferson kept under wraps. Like the president, the American public was behind the journey and eagerly waited to hear their tales. Many believed the explorers would find living Mammoths and blue-eyed Indians who spoke Celtic languages.

The girls most enjoyed the “Explorer Room,” where the two oldest were indefatigable on an “archaeological dig”…

…while Victoria preferred to dress up like Lewis and Clark and captain a keelboat.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Children Make Politics So Simple

The City Hall in White Salmon after the wind dried the rain
Jill's Journal: Apparently there’s some teeth to the stereotype that it does nothing but rain in Washington. I checked the weather before bed last night and saw a 20% chance of showers. Somehow that turned into an epic rain and wind storm that started long before dawn, lasted until late morning, and woke all of the girls up way earlier than usual.

Our two little ones don’t do well if they miss an hour or two of sleep, so the girls and I canceled our sightseeing plans and hit a playground this afternoon instead. That helped temper the crabbiness to some degree.

The playground we found in this tiny town is right next to the police station and Officer Tony came out to give the girls stickers shaped like police badges. After a brief conversation with Madelyn, he told her she should stay up as late as she wanted tonight. I don’t think I’ve ever leaped up so quickly. I threw Officer Tony to the ground, twisted his arms behind his back, and made him cry “Uncle.” Not really, but I did make him retract his statement. :)

My favorite moment of the day came while Erika was helping me make pizza for dinner. It’s not often we have t.v. service, but we have five stations here (yes, a whole five…this harkens back to the old days!) and Rob was watching President Obama speak from the White House about the debt crisis. Erika thought it was pretty neat to be watching the president talking and she asked me how much longer he would be in office. I said we’d be voting next year for a new president and she said, I kid you not, “If he wants to get reelected, shouldn’t he be worrying about doing a good job now? He should stop spending so much of the country’s money and stop charging people so much in taxes.” Out of the mouths of babes!

But it gets better. She asked what Republicans verses Democrats are and how to tell the difference. Since we had pepperonis in our hands (and she loves pepperonis), I laid 12 out on the counter. I told her to pretend she’d done all her chores, plus extra things like vacuuming and mopping and dishes. She had worked really hard. Her sisters had done nothing but made their beds and then played. To reward her for her hard work, I hypothetically gave her 10 of the 12 pepperonis with her sisters getting one each for the little bit of work they’d done.

Then I told her if she was a Republican, she would think that distribution of pepperonis was fair because she’d worked hard and earned it. If she was a Democrat, she would feel it better to share the wealth by giving each of her sisters three of her pepperonis so they could all have the same amount of four.

I asked her which one she’d rather be.

Her laughing response? “Republican, of course!” while she gave me the “Duh, Mom” look.

But oh dear. Guess what Madelyn is?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Brief Foray into Washington

Jill's Journal: We didn’t intend to go to Washington on this particular trip north, but that just happens to be where our latest campground is located for the next few days. We’d hoped to be somewhere between Hood River and The Dalles in Oregon, which is about a 20-mile stretch on the Columbia River, but campground pickings were slim. So, we bit the bullet and crossed a ridiculously-narrow-and-not-fit-for-large-vehicles bridge into Washington. Our campground in Washington's tiny town of White Salmon is just across the river from the bustling town of Hood River in Oregon. We poked around White Salmon a little bit today, but it’s a very quiet place. The most interesting things we found were cute crosswalks of…white salmon.

White Salmon does have some lovely views of Mt. Hood in the distance. Washington is the brown foreground of this picture and Oregon is the green background. From the little bit we've seen so far, we’re thinking Oregon got the better end of the deal when the stateline was decided. :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Automobiles and Art

Jill's Journal: Our last full day in Portland went out with a bang. Rob had been itching to visit the Portland Art Museum, not because it’s the seventh-oldest museum in the United States, but because it had a special exhibit this summer called “The Allure of the Automobile.”

Rob was in a state of man happiness as we oohed and aahed over the world’s rarest and most exotic cars worth millions of dollars. These particular vehicles, some of which are the only ones of their kind, were shipped from all over the world for this exhibit. Rob could tell you what each one is named and about 5,000 intimate details about each one we saw, but since I do most of the blogging and not him, I’ll just say they were really fancy and incredibly luxurious. I do remember names like Corvette Sting Ray, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Duesenberg, Bentley, Ferrari, Pierce-Arrow, Tucker, and Jaguar. And there were more, with names I’ve never heard of, but my female brain hit man-domain overload before I could record them in my personal memory bank.

Rob’s favorite was the Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, shown immediately above. In fact, this particular car was the number one reason we went to the Portland Art Museum. He had been hoping to see this car since he was a teenager.

Suffice it to say that it was a fantastic exhibit, made all the more fun by Rob’s excitement to be there. I loved it and the girls had fun too.

We waited until today to go because the streets immediately around the museum were closed for a special Mercedes and BMW car show. Rob’s Dad had some really amazing old Mercedes once upon a time (including a Gullwing!) and it was a huge treat to see some of those identical cars.

The girls got rewarded for behaving so well by doing the one thing they’ve been requesting to do again and again in Portland: a return visit to the Children’s Healing Art Project. They got to do more art and the two little ones made sure to add their handprints to the window near Erika’s. It was a super day and a grand finale to our wonderful time in the city of Portland.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Snow in July

Jill's Journal: I almost hate to admit it, but while the East Coast and Midwest are sweltering in record-breaking heat, we had to don our winter jackets today for a visit to the magnificent Mt. Hood.

Are there many sights more majestic?
Almost there! The snow level started at around 5,200 feet.
Mt. Hood is a snow-capped volcano which is considered dormant for all intents and purposes. It’s estimated there’s only a three- to seven-percent chance of it erupting in the next three decades. It’s a staggering 11,249 feet high and has 12 glaciers. This means there is snow all year long.

It also means Mt. Hood is the only place in North America that has a year-round ski season served by a ski lift. The skiing happens on a massive glacier, or permanent snow field, called Palmer Glacier. Several international ski teams train here during the summer. We watched dozens upon dozens of skiers and snowboarders do their thing today. I’ve never seen skiers or snowboarders up close before, so I was riveted, but the girls were far more interested in actually playing in the snow.

Madelyn with her mini snowman
At the 6,000-foot mark on the south side of Mt. Hood is Timberline Lodge. If this National Historical Landmark and Oregon icon looks familiar to you, you've likely seen the Stephen King/Stanley Kubrick film The Shining. The exterior scenes of that sinister hotel were actually of Timberline. One of my favorite moments of the day involved a man in a wheelchair repeatedly answering his phone (while doing his best Jack Nicholson impersonation), “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” It’s been years since I’ve seen that movie, but now I’ll probably have nightmares tonight. Thanks, buddy.

However, it's not the movie, but the Lodge's history that makes it unique. In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave hundreds of craftsmen a job building Timberline Lodge during the Great Depression. It was part of his Works Progress Administration and New Deal policies. Roosevelt himself came to the Lodge to dedicate it in 1937. The intricate craftsmanship and rustic artwork in this ski lodge remain a tribute to the hard work ethic and skill of the time.

Unique features are found all over the Lodge...

We got some fantastic views of the north side of Mt. Hood as well and also made a little stop in the adorable town of Hood River. No pictures to speak of, but goodness, Oregon has some awfully cute little towns away from the hubbub of the larger cities.