Spring Break 2013 – Oregon Coast – Camper Style

dsc_1167Now that we have the camper we have been making a point to use it.  A lot of people say they know people that have campers or RVs but they never get used. Well, we are not going to be those people, yes it does get me a little exhausted getting ready to head out for the trip, but once we are on the road, I never really want to go back to our stable home, I really prefer our mobile home! 

For Spring Break this year we decided that since we have spent the majority of the winter in the snow, it was time to play in water and try some surfing, so we headed down the Oregon Coast. This was going to be our first chance to explore the state beaches and see what they had to offer so we can decide where to go back.dsc_1245

Our first stop was Cape Look Out State Park. It is a just South of Tillamook, Oregon. It is a really big area with lots of hiking trails, plenty of hook ups, and a lovely beach. One of the (small) drawbacks was that you had to cross the main road (where traffic comes to the different camping areas) to get to the beach. Which made me a tiny bit nervous so I wouldn’t let the girls head to the beach alone. But again, it was only about a minute walk to the beach, we had hook ups and were very close to the bathroom.

dsc_0050We did not surf at this beach but we did take a long walk in the misty rain. We had the beach to ourselves and found a number of treasures, including shells, sand dollars, kelp jump ropes and a swing made out rope and driftwood. The lovely thing about the camper is that after this long walk in the rain, we have a nice, warm place to change clothes, eat lunch and regroup, so that when the sun came out we were all ready for more beach time and sand castle building. We also love being able to bring our own food and make our own fresh dinners.

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After two nights it was time to head south for our next destination, Beachside State Park – just South of Newport, Oregon.  One thing I loved during this trip was my morning walk on the beach, just a short outing, a little me time to say hello to the beach and the waves. When I got back from my walk, we started out mornings like we do at home: a little coffee, breakfast and reading the news, etc. Since it was Monday, we knew we might have some work emails to tend to, this Monday, Tax Day, Boston Marathon Day, I was checking the news/Facebook and was excited to hear about the US runners that had finished in record time. But sadly, shortly after hearing that news, the tragic news of two bombs exploding at the finish also came in.  My feelings for this could go on and on – my shock and confusion of why someone would do something like this to such a strong willed, amazing community still gives me chills. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families.  But this is about our trip, so I will continue. After Andrew and I tried to comprehend the news, we squeezed and hugged our girls a little tighter and we got ready to enjoy our beautiful day with our family. We had lovely weather and took our time heading down the coast, stopping at multiple waysides/rest stops to take in the views.  We arrived in the afternoon at Beachside State Park, a camping spot right on the beach! Our spot was literally next to the beach access walkway, which for some might be a draw back, in the height of the summer I imagine there would be a lot of foot traffic but for us in April it was not a problem. The highlight for me was again the proximity of the beach. We could hear the waves when we went to sleep, we could see the beach from our bed and the girls could happily run to the beach to build castles while we made lunch or got dinner ready.  The first night we had an amazing dinner, fresh caught salmon, veggies and rice. Not too fancy, but delicious. A lot of times I get ideas in my head and it’s hard for me to get them out until I act on it. One of my fantasies for the trip was to find a local fish market where we could get fresh caught fish to bring back to camp and grill. It’s not a lot to ask, but what we found was so great, a little fish market in Newport, right off the docks on the Bayfront, called Local Ocean Seafoods. It was a fresh fish market and restaurant. The first night we picked up salmon and the next day we headed back for lunch for more fresh caught fish.

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Since Beachside had such a great proximity to the beach, this is where we did most our surfing/playing in the water. Once we were all suited up in our wet suits we headed out! The sun was shining and it was warm, we played in the waves and in the surf and wore ourselves out. None of us really stood up on the board and the waves were not very big, but we were playing in the water and we were warm and it was April!

After two nights here we had to say good-bye, for this trip we decided two nights at each spot would be enough. I could have stayed at Beachside longer, but there was more to see and of course, we don’t have unlimited time. The next destination was Nehalem State Park, just outside of Manzanita, OR. This park is also amazing and gigantic. It wasn’t packed in April, but you can imagine the place filling up throughout the summer. There was a playground next to our site and we were just steps away from the beach access, again a little too far for the girls to go alone, but the park wasn’t and they enjoyed playing there, even in the rain! The first night we got there we took a nice long walk on the beach into Manzanita for dinner and a few groceries and then the next day we took the camper to Seaside where we did a little surfing at The Cove. Thanks to our friend and surf coach Lexie, we knew when and where the waves would be best for the family. Another perk of the camper was when we parked for surfing – we had ALL our stuff with us, we could have lunch, change, etc and then just step out the door and surf. I’m telling you, taking your house everywhere you go is really convenient!  Although it was a bit cloudy, we were still able to catch some fun waves and play in the water.

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After a couple nights in Nehalem we pack up and headed north for the trip back to Washington. On our way home, we planned some crazy fun for the girls, gave ourselves a little extra space and clean showers by booking one night at the Great Wolf Lodge. We had a great day and night playing at GWL, we had friends meet us there and that was especially fun and a great change of pace after being just the four of us for the week.  It was also a bit of a culture shock after 6 days of quiet beach time, we jumped into pretend waves and tons of people, but it was still fun. The Howling Tornado got us screaming and the girls loved playing in the arcade. And the next day we were all ready to get home, which was perfect, we had a short drive back to Seattle and had the rest of the day and weekend to clean up and get ready to transition into reality.

dsc_1283Although the camper is going to stay parked for a few weeks now, we are always thinking about our next trip and when we can get back on the road. It’s too bad that work and school thing gets in the way of all our fun plans! Until Next Time! – kg

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Surf Weekend: Feeding My Soul

Traveling and experiencing new things this is what my heart yearns to do. This weekend was one that I will never forget and that filled my heart to the brim!

This weekend myself and four amazing, lovely, wonderful ladies and mom friends headed down the Oregon Coast Friday morning in a quest for fun, relaxation, challenge and time away. We had all signed up for the NW Women’s Surf Camp and it was everything and more than we expected. It might sound cheesy and a little over the top, but our weekend was EPIC!  When we arrived at our rental home it was beautiful, with an amazing view overlooking the Manzanita beach. We could hear the quiet sound of the waves on the beach and nothing else. Which to me is my most favorite thing.

Our surf team (the 5 of us = Team Ballard) were all on the same page which makes travel and trips like this ever more amazing, no quarrels, no fighting, no judgment, just us being us and enjoying each moment. Our first night we headed out for dinner in Manzanita, which was great because we were able to walk to and from the restaurant on the beach – a little warm up for the next day’s surfing adventures. Dinner was simple and easy and then we had some dessert on the beach. We needed to turn in early for our big day. Saturday at 9am we started our lessons, first thing was the hike carrying our boards down the mile trail at Oswald West State Park (not an easy feat) then we learned about tides, did some yoga on the beach, practiced our moves and had an amazing lunch. The second part of the day was in the water, putting it all together.

I did not leave this weekend as an expert surfer – not in any way, shape or form. But what I did become was a surfer. I got the bug, I am now trying to figure out the next time I can rent a wetsuit and get back in that water. Every day, every wave is different and all I wanted to do was keep trying. Keep trying to get up, keep trying to plant my feet correctly, put my butt down the right way and keep my eyes on the beach. There is so much still to learn, which makes this sport so amazing.

After the first day of surfing, Team Ballard was beat, but us moms put together an AMAZING dinner, sat on our beautiful deck and took in the spectacular view, food, conversations and friendship. Sharing all the stories from the day, laughed at our epic crashes, praised each other for getting out there and doing it and got psyched for the next day of surfing.

The next day for me, started like a dream. Slowly getting up early (before the others) getting a cup of coffee and sitting on our deck enjoying my book and the sound of the waves. Why can’t I do this EVERY SINGLE DAY? There must be a way to fit that in somehow! As the ladies woke up, we all enjoyed the slow morning on the deck, then as moms do, we organized and motivated, got our boards and suits and headed to the beach for another day of playing in the water.

Day two was a lot tougher for me, my body was sore, the waves were bigger and I think maybe my mind was a little too relaxed. Surfing is about repetition and doing the same moves on the board every time, no matter what the wave is doing.  But it is also about getting out to the waves, which takes up a lot of energy; needless to say, I was beat by the end. And yet, I still wanted to keep going out (that is power of the ocean). But I felt I made a good choice after about 2 hours, it was time for me to realize that my body was done and no matter how much more I wanted to fight those waves, for my own safety it was time to come in for the day. Just for the day though, now it’s time to plan the next trip. Maybe a trip to Hawaii (with no wet suits – heavenly!) or possibly just another visit to the Oregon coast, which is probably more realistic and also amazing.

Bottom line: these types of trips, traveling, trying new things, getting out of your comfort zone a little bit to challenge your body, hanging out with amazing people and surrounding yourself with the beautiful nature that is right outside our door is what I need to do more of, it feeds my soul and helps me grow and become more in tune with what’s really important. Thank you to my friends for helping make this one of my best experiences, I will never forget! Until Next Time – Surf’s Up! 

Holiday On the Road

As we settle into the new year, I wanted to jot down some of the highlights of the holidays. This year for Christmas my family hit the road and headed South to California. The idea was a fun, family vacation with my parents, my sisters, their families and my little brother. We planned to start the holidays at my aunts in Camarillo, CA and spend the rest of the trip in the quaint beach town, Huntington Beach, CA. My husband and I decided to mix up the trip (and save some money) by driving down. I think this was one of our best choices of the trip. It was very relaxing driving down the 101 through the Redwood Forest, along the Pacific Coast, seeing all the beauty that is out there. During the trip through the Red Woods we discovered another traveling company, 7cees.org (looks like a very cool organizaiton). We made a detour into San Francisco so our girls could see the Golden Gate Bridge and met a friend in Palo Alto (thanks for the cookies April!). We took our time and enjoyed the ride. And of course, as I promised my girls we made sure to drive through a tree!

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On Christmas Eve, we started our day by watching the surfers and playing at Pismo Beach. Then we arrived at our hotel to swim and freshen up before we enjoyed the Seven Fishes Dinner with my extended Sicilian Family. There was plenty to eat and drink and lots of songs sung and laughs had. It is always a treat to meet new cousins and connect with the ones we don’t see very often.

Christmas in a hotel room is an interesting adventure, with 2 little girls that still believe, the story of how Santa finds us in our hotel room, gets in and puts out presents is actually a little creepy. I am pretty sure my 8 year old knows whats going on but she doesn’t want to let on. On Christmas morning the presents appeared and we tore them apart and then enjoyed some complimentary breakfast at the hotel! Christmas in California is another interesting experience, the sun was shining, it was warm and I was able to take a walk with no coat – what a concept. I do enjoy the snow on Christmas, but if there is no snow, I will take the sun!

The next day we headed South again, on to Huntington with a stop in LA to visit with the cousins. We visited Kermit the Frog’s house (a neighbor of cousin S & H), the Hollywood walk of Stars, met Shrek and ton of other crazy characters, we took an awesome walk in the hills and had some delicious Mexican food on Hollywood Blvd. When we arrived in Huntington Beach, we were the last ones, which means we got last pick on the rooms. Of course, I don’t like to complain but unfortunately our room had 2 doors and was basically a breezeway to both sides of the house. Needless to say, not much privacy. But of course that didn’t stop us from having fun. We completely enjoyed the Beach, we took runs & walks on the beach trail, Andrew and I ran almost 7 miles barefoot on the beach. The girls had a fun day splashing in the water. I spent that afternoon paranoid they were going to get pulled into the riptide. I figure if I lived in CA near a beach, that is something I would have to get over.

Of course when in So Cal, you can’t miss Disneyland! We started by fueling up at IHOP, which included another cousin visit! Then we hit the park. My sister Chrissy took charge and we all followed. I tried to make sure all kids were accounted for and then just followed along. Even though the park reached maximum capacity (80,000 people) at 10:30am, we still got on all the great rides, we learned the 5 year old twin cousins both love roller coasters and we had a super, fun time.

During the entire trip we had tons of amazing dinners and lots of lively conversations. And still fit in plenty of downtime. We did smores on the beach with our big bon fire which is so cool in December. And we watched lots of surfers catch some amazing waves. It is such an amazing culture – the Beach Life – get up, go surfing, head to work. Or take a run on the beach, pop into the ocean, then on to real life. I definitely think I could get used to it. To finish the year and the end of our trip, we spent New Year’s Eve day exploring Marina Del Ray by sailboat, another side trip to visit cousins S&H. The evening of NYE was mellow as we had to pack up and travel home the next day.

Overall the week was great. I was happy to spend time with my family that I don’t see very often. Since my sister and her family live in Virgina and my brother is in Montana, these vacations are the only chance we get to spend time together. I am grateful we had the opportunity to have this trip. I had some great talks and walks with my family and I am happy for that. As for the romantic, quiet vacation with my husband, well, that we will have to plan another time. This was not that trip. This was about the larger family, cousins hanging out together, family dinners and tons of chaos. After this trip, I am ready for another, the trip down the coast is a fun adventure that I hope we get to try again. Maybe another trip to Disneyland or just a week to hang out on a new beach! We will just have to wait and see, until next time. — kg