Saturday, August 27, 2011

Our trip through the Columbia River Gorge.

About once a year (usually for our Anniversary), Dusty and I find our happy place at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washinton. Although it is much different than our honeymoon location in Mexico, we feel as if we are reliving those days anytime we take one of these getaways. It's good for the soul, right?

Since I've been loving following Groupon lately, we got to take a ride on the Columbia River Sternwheeler. The sternwheeler is one of those things I've always wanted to try, but have never done. Here was my chance. I was a little nervous, due to a habit of feeling as if I'm going to lose my lunch when on boats. When I booked the trip I honestly never considered the fact that I'd be ON the boat. Days later, when telling someone about it, I had one of those "oh cr*p" moments that clue you in to the fact that you may have done something really stupid.

A few short tips about the Sternwheeler: If you wear a dress, try for something tighter fitting than an A-line. As famous as that picture of Marilyn Monroe is, I personally find that having your dress fly up around you in public is just NOT that glamorous. Also, if you DO get seasick, stay on the top deck. Unless you get blisters from the sun, in which case you're up a creek. Should THAT happen, stay outside on the lower decks and find a spot of paint to stare at with all your might, as if that blue paint drop is heaven and you are on your deathbed. Another tip: look for the smiley face. It's on the wheel of the stern wheeler, and it smiles when it's out of the water. Then it turns to a frown face right before plunging into the depths again. Honestly, it didn't matter how many times I saw it, I laughed every. single. time.

Dusty assumed this position about thirty seconds into the ride:

My haircut is not meant for windy areas. Within 5 minutes of this picture, my shaggy 'do had transformed into something resembling a bird's nest in a hurricane.

This is the wheel, though I was unable to get a shot of the smiley. You'll have to find it on your own! Standing by the wheel got you sprayed in a mist that was lovely on a hot day.

This is a shot of the bridge used in one of the first scenes in Twilight. Probably I would have realized LONG ago that it was actually the Bridge Of The Gods, if I didn't have a habit of squeezing my eyes shut and focusing on breathing any time I go over a bridge. I've never really LOOKED at it before.

After the Sternwheeler, Dusty and I crossed over to the Washington side and checked in to heaven on earth. This is the view from our room's window. I offer it as proof of the property's magnificence.

Within 15 minutes we were golfing. We have decided that golfing together is great for our marriage. This is how we golf together.

(What you can't see in this picture is a beer in my left hand and a good book in the right, but I assure you they are there.)

After golfing we headed to dinner, where Dusty had set up a special anniversary dessert- ice cream, caramel sauce, berries and hardened chocolate that spelled out "Happy Anniversary!" and tasted fantastic. After dinner, we hit the hot tub where a very drunk guy insisted that the whale in Free Willy wasn't real (which was funny, considering I actually saw Keiko with my own eyes- and who on earth didn't know the whale was real?).

I woke up at 5:30 the next morning, which ONLY happens (without me cursing it) at Skamania Lodge. I was so excited to see the sunrise. The sky out our window began to turn pink, no children were around to say "Mommy? I had a leak.", and it generally seemed that the morning couldn't get better. Until I noticed a flashing on the glass of a picture in our room, and realized that lightening was lighting up the sky above the ridge of the gorge on the Oregon side. It was an amazing sight- to see a pink sky on one side of the window with dark clouds and white-hot streaks on the right. Once this excitement was over I settled in for breakfast and reading in bed.

After Dusty golfed again (an activity I didn't join him at, because reading about Jamie and Claire Fraser's adventures sounded WAY better than being anywhere but bed at 7am) we set off to explore the area. And by that, I mean find the field where the baseball scene in Twilight was filmed. I mean, we were RIGHT THERE- it is only 15-20 minutes away from Stevenson.

On our search for the baseball field, I realized three things:
1) Dusty is a really good sport when it comes to vampires.
2) I am not cut out for criminal activity.
3) We don't have very good luck.

The field is on private property. It isn't a house, and seems to rarely be used- so basically we decided against our better judgement to check it out anyway and hope for the best. By the time we were at the edge of the field I was both excited to see it and on the verge of a panic attack. We stood there, about to see IT, when we spotted a truck. Then Dusty looked at the grass pattern at realized that the field was being mowed. Right at that moment. I have never been so scared in my whole life. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but still. This foray into the world of trespassing officially ends my criminal career. I'm out.

So, feeling a bit bummed that we came so close and didn't actually see the field (at this point even Dusty was bummed), we headed back over the Bridge Of The Gods and into Oregon.

While we were pretending to be tourists in a place where we aren't really tourists, we decided to check out the Bonneville Dam and fish hatchery. I find Dusty's fascination with fish to be a bit morbid, seeing as it stems from his love of pulling them out of the water on a string and eating them- but whatever. He lets me seach out movie spots, so fish watching is the least I can do.

After Bonneville Dam, I needed nourishment STAT. We had been so busy exploring that I didn't think about food until my stomach threatened to eat itself. We hopped on the scenic highway and stopped at Multnomah Falls. While we were enjoying a mediocre lunch at tourist trap prices (though the setting WAS lovely), Dusty mentioned he hadn't ever BEEN to Multnomah Falls. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I devised a plan to get him to the top of the falls. It began with "Well, you HAVE to see the bridge", then continued to "Well we're already at the bridge, may as well go to the top"...How many times during my childhood did my parents play this trick on me? Now I know why- it works perfectly.

Sometimes things just work out. As we paused on the trail at a lookout point, I realized something: we were looking across the river at the field. We may not have seen it up close, but we DID get to see it from afar (and didn't even have to worry about being arrested in the process). This made me unreasonably happy.

Hlaf way up my trickery backfired. Dusty was ambling along, determined to reach the top, and I was positive that either my legs would fall off or my lungs would burst. But Dusty, realizing he'd been tricked into a hike, was determined to pay me back and drug my little butt up the trail. Finally we made it- right before I faced certain death due to dehydration, I'm sure.

Dusty, feeling triumphant at having reached the top:

Me, feeling thankful that I didn't pass out along the way because that required much more effort than I remembered:

On the way home, we learned an important lesson: if you are almost out of gas, take I-84, not the scenic highway. We DIDN'T run out of gas, but we both let out a long sigh of relief when we hit a gas station 20 miles and many hills after were seemed to be on empty.

So here we are- back home and resuming normal life. My vacation is over- starting today, it's back to cooking and laundry and preparing for the work week. It was fun while it lasted, though!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Our day as movie geeks!

Ahh, vacation- a time to kick back, relax...and be bored?

I am super happy I chose to take vacation before the kids go back to school. I needed some time with the family. That said, I'm not too good at sitting around. It just isn't in me, unless I am child free and have a good book (which, I admit, I've managed to accomplish a bit on this vacation). So when Wednesday looked to be a day with nothing on the schedule I thought- why not drive to the coast?

When I first roped my sister in to a day trip with 2 kids in a Honda Civic, I promised her salt water taffy and Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Then I remembered that we were at Cannon Beach in July, and though I love it with all my heart- I get bored easily. So I decided to head to Astoria, because we've never been there and I felt that I could turn in into the kind of educational experience that I rolled my eyes at as a kid but feel compelled to share as an adult. Plus, we've recently been introducing the kids to movies from the 80's (you know, BEFORE children's movies started to suck?), and I thought they'd enjoy checking out some of the sights related to Short Circuit, The Goonies and Free Willy. Well, ok- technically the Free Willy stuff was for Ashley and I. We LOVED that movie!

Wednesday morning came, and off we headed to the mouth of the Columbia River via Highway 30. In St. Helen's we had a hankering for ice cream. Stopping to grab some high calorie heaven gave me time to goof around on my phone, which gave me a chance to realize that we weren't that far from Twilight filming sights. Naturally with my less than stellar sense of navigation, this meant going the wrong way and misreading addresses and generally driving around for WAY too long. But we saw it. We saw the house used as Bella Swan's house in Twilight. I get that being excited about this (and even doing it in the first place) makes me a nerd. At least I own it.

By the time we found Bella's house, the kids were about to come to blows in the back seat over which Adele song we should listen to (Skyler likes "Rollin' In The Deep" and Alex likes "Someone Like You", and they have both decided that they must hate the song the other likes, just to make life fun). Since leaving them on the roadside would most likely be frowned upon, we decided to distract them by moving on.

The drive to Astoria was beautiful. I found that I MUCH prefer it to driving over the huge mountains with sharp curves, cliffs and steep enough hills to make my car whine for an hour straight. The drive in itself was worth the trip! When we pulled in to Astoria, we found a public restroom and made what we thought would be a quick pitstop. We could hear seal-like barking in the distance, but didn't think much of it until a family came by and asked if we'd seen the seals (or sea lions? I'm still not sure what they were). So off we went, Alex jumping with excitment to see his first ever non-zoo seals (or sea lions).

I told Alex when we were camping that this shirt is my favorite shirt of his. That was one week ago. Alex has worn it four days since camping.

Skyler has a 'fro. He is very proud of his hair. I figure an afro is better than tattoos and facial piercings in terms of self expression.

The family who had brought our attention to the sea creatures was also kind enough to point out the Goonies house. This was a REALLY cool thing, because it was about the one time during the whole trip that we wouldn't get lost. The Goonies house was super cool. Though they have a sign asking people not to drive up the private drive, they welcome visitors on foot. When a young man (I say young, but he was likely a year or three younger than me...the kids just have me feeling old) saw us looking, he asked if we'd like to come inside. He gave us a tour and showed us the window that the zipline to the front foor was attached to, explaining that the scene actually ruined the door frame. He showed us the changes to the house since the movie. And THEN, he let us climb up into the attic that is a central part of the movie. As we looked out the skylight to an amazing view, it became clear why this beautiful house was chosen as a filming location. The family does ask for donations towards upkeep on the house via sign, and I felt that throwing a few bucks in was the least we could do to repay them for the excitement on Sky's face.

After the Goonies house we were off to find lunch. We went to Charlie's Chowder House- a bright blue, eclectic and thankfully inexpensive but delicious little establishment in what appears to be an old auto garage. Ashley and I had great chowder, Skyler got a Bison burger (can I just say THANK YOU to Udi's for making gluten free hamburger buns? We travel with them.) and Alex got a bowl of steamer clams. Alex loves seafood.

After lunch we set out to find the Free Willy house (where Jesse lives- remember, fellow 80's/90's children?). Ashley and I were determined, and if you know the women in my family, you know that determination turns to complete and utter stubornness really quick. Which is why I am kind of shocked that despite who knows how long of driving around Astoria, we were unable to find the house. We have an idea where it may be- on a recessed drive at the end of a dead end- but we didn't actually see it. Bummer. Big Bummer.

In an effort to make this educational as well as nerdy and slightly insane, we made our way to the Astoria Column. It provided an amazing view, a sense of Oregon's history, and a chance to test wether or not we were really claustrphoic and/or scared of heights. The answer? Yes, we are. But it was worth it in terms of experience and beauty. Just a note: To walk up the column will cost you no more than a pair of really sore legs the next day, but you do have to pay $1 to park.

With legs shaking so bad it was hard to press the gas pedal, we set off again towards movie locations. At this point we realized that the film obsession would cost us a chance to head to any actual beach, but we were determined/stubborn/whatever you call it. Here are the results of that search:

The house used in Short Circuit:

This school used in Kindergarten Cop. The kids have never seen Kindergarten Cop, and probably never will. But we came across the school while searching (again) for the Free Willy house (nope...still no luck), so I figured it was worth a snap shot.

By the time we found these last few places, we thought it best to leave. We came to this decision with 2 primary motives: Get back to St. Helen's in time to search out more Twilight spots, and get out of Astoria before a neighborhood watch was issued for a white Honda Civic Hybrid seen roaming the neighborhoods for hours. And so we said a temorary goodbye to Astoria (we'll be back to vacation if we can't convince Dusty to move there!) and headed East. Or South. Or both? (Whatever. I'm not too great at geography.)

By the time we were back in St. Helen's, the boys were fully into finding Twilight locations because they had begun to get the concept of "this place was in that movie". So we had less arguing- assuming we played a constant rotation of Adele songs.

Here is the alley where Bella is followed/approached by the creepy guys in Twilight. I have to say that it looked eerily familiar- of all the places we saw, this was the most movie-feeling site for me.

And the parking lot where a beautiful mythical character whips his gorgeous car around to save Bella Swan:

And the restaurant Bella and Edward go to after the encounter with the creepy dudes.

We didn't get a picture of Bella's house because it was our first stop and, truthfully? I hadn't thought to take pictures at that point. And while we did see the dress shop Bella, Jessica and Angela went to, I didn't really bother with a picture of that either. Also, we found the bookstore used in the movie...but didn't realize that was IT until we drove away. Oops!

All in all, it was a really fun day. The boys had fun, Ashley and I had fun, and we all hit our pillows as if reuniting with a long lost friend.

If you have any questions about how to find these places, you can ask! Also, here are the primary websites we used to find 'em all. And for the love of pete, if anyone figures out how to see Jesse's house, PLEASE tell!

Now Dusty and I are off for some grown up time at our happy place- Skamania Lodge. Sweet!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Well, at least he has priorities!

Alex and I had a Big Exciting Trip To Target For A Bookbag today while Skyler is staying a couple days with his dad. On the way home, Alex was in good spirits. But he was wishing he could show off his new bag to his brother. The feeling of missing his best friend brought on this conversation, that I just had to get out!

Alex: Brother gets to go to his dad's house ALL THE TIME, and I hardly get to go there ever.

Me: Well, you live with your Dad and brother doesn't get that.

Alex: Well YEAH, but brother gets to live with a X-Box.

Me: I suppose an X-Box is pretty cool.

Alex: Yeah, but I guess it's more expensive.

Me: Oh I don't know. Daddies are pretty expensive, too.

Alex: But you don't have to BUY a Daddy. You just marry one.

Me: Uh huh. Good point. Someday you'll get married.

Alex: Yeah. I don't really know what that is yet. Will I know when I'm 13?

Me: I suppose you will know what it means to be married by 13.

Alex: Good, because some people get married at 13.

Me: No, honey. Not really.

Alex: Yes they do.

Me: Maybe a really long time ago.

Alex: Yeah. Maybe like in the 80's.

Oh my gosh. When they aren't driving me crazy, my kids sure crack me up!