Tuesday, June 28, 2016

25th Anniversary Trip to WA State: Leg 2

We got up and got moving pretty quickly on the first morning of our Adventure. We knew there were a few places we wanted to see on Bainbridge Island, plus we had a 3 hour drive to Olympia and it was a scenic drive so we didn’t want to be in a rush.
We got up and headed to the nearest coffee place. (Priorities, ya know.) Once we were fueled up we headed up to the Bloedel Reserve. This is a place everyone told us we could not miss. We got there about an hour before it opened so we drove around a bit while we were waiting. During that drive we happened upon this cute little park called Fay Bainbridge Park. It was amazing! What a find. We wandered out to the water and I stuck my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time ever…well the Puget Sound part anyway. Have Mercy that was COLD water!

This was the sweetest little beach area. There were lots of giant tree trunk drift wood logs you could climb on and lots of shells and really cool rocks to collect. By the way, real love is having a husband who is willing to put rocks in his suitcase because his wife thinks they’re pretty.

 We found this cool fort someone had made out of the driftwood and I so wished our kids were there. Okay, maybe our kids of about 10 years ago. Those kids and their cousins would have thought they’d died and gone to heaven if they could have camped at this park and played on that beach and in that little fort!

Once we’d collect all the rocks and seashells we wanted, or rather all that someone was willing to carry in their luggage, we went back to the Bloedel Reserve.

This place was incredible. Absolutely amazing. It’s a botanical garden on steroids. This is how I imagine the Garden of Eden. Instead of trying to describe it I’m just going to show you the pictures. They really don’t do the place justice.

(These leaves were about 20" in diameter. Larger than dinner plates!)

(Can't you just imagine Adam and Eve strolling down this path?)

While we were on the path we suddenly heard all the squirrels and birds screeching and tweeting loudly. We stopped and listened because Dave said, “Something nearby is bothering them.” Sure enough, we spotted a Barred Owl! It was just sitting there pretty as you please looking right at us. Before I could get a good photo he flew over to another tree that was back-lit by the sun.

Here is a photo of him. He’s right in the center. You can kinda see his tail off to the left of the trunk of the tree.

In this video you can see him fly off.

It was really cool!! I LOVE owls. We have a pair of Great Horned Owls that occasionally land on our tree in front of our house. I love hearing them, and they way they fly is so majestic!

Once we were done we went back through the main house and I mentioned to the curator that I had seen an owl. She said I was probably mistaken. “You never see the owls here.”  She said.  I showed her that video and she was amazed. She said she’d worked there for 10 years, even gone on some owl walks they put on, and she’d never seen one. They know they are there, but no one ever sees them. Apparently I’m the owl whisperer!

Once we were done there we grabbed some food and headed down the 101 to Olympia. The drive, with the top down and the sun shining and the temps hovering in the 70’s, was the absolute perfect way to spend an afternoon!

We got to Olympia in the early evening, checked into our hotel, and went looking for a place to eat. We found a cute little restaurant with an outdoor patio that served some amazing fish and chips. We sat out there for a while, leisurely enjoying both our food, the weather, and people watching.

At one point Dave said that he was looking at the quintessential Pacific Northwest male getting out of his car. I could not see him, but I described him to a T! Mid-length hair, beanie, dark-rimmed glasses, flannel over a T-Shirt, skinny pants, not denim but some other material like khaki or corduroy (they were corduroy) a messenger or cross-body bag of some sort, and sandals. The shoes were the only thing I got wrong. He was wearing sneakers.  We had a good laugh at this. Every area has a type. We all know what the typical Texan looks like!

We ended the day sitting out on the patio of our hotel watching the sun set reflect off of Mt. Rainier.

When we checked out the next day I asked the lady behind the counter what Mountain I had seen the night before and she told me it was Mt. Rainier and that I was very lucky to have seen it. It’s pretty rare to be able to see it from the hotel. Usually it’s socked in behind clouds and fog.

It was a red letter day for me! An owl AND a mountain! 

Snaps Day 2

Monday, June 27, 2016

25th Anniversary Trip to WA State: Leg 1

As mentioned in my earlier post, Dave and I went to the Olympic Peninsula a couple of weeks ago to celebrate our 25th anniversary.  We had such an amazing time.

(There were poppies everywhere. They're such a pretty little flower.)

I’ve decided there are several kinds of ‘trips’; there are work trips, family trips, vacations, and adventures, just to name a few. Most people go on Vacations. Vacations are relaxing trips where you go to a place and rest and relax and recharge; like a beach, or resort, or a mountain cabin.

We Staalsens do not vacation. We adventure.  We had a lot to see and do in a short time so we kept moving. We were in a different hotel every night as we made our way, counter clock wise, around the Olympic Peninsula.

We landed in Seattle and quickly hopped the ferry and got out of the city and onto Bainbridge Island spending our first night there.  From there we drove to Olympia, but instead of taking the quick way we went up and around the 101 driving alongside a fork of Puget Sound to our east and Olympic National Park to our west.  It was worth it. It was such a beautiful drive.

(View of Seattle from the ferry across Puget Sound)

From there we drove to Ocean Shores, my first time to see the Pacific Ocean!! From Ocean Shores we drove up to Forks where we stayed in a Bed and Breakfast. From there we drove up to Neah Bay for the day, (I wish we’d stayed a night here, it was unbelievably beautiful!) and then went to our hotel at Port Angeles. Next we hoped over to Port Townsend, then from Port Townsend we took a ferry to Whidbey Island and stayed with some friends who recently moved up there, and from Whidbey Island we drove to Seattle and flew home.

(Our very conspicuous rental) 

You guys. I people watched the heck out of Washington State. It was so interesting! Let’s start with Settle. Oh boy. Seattle is a typical American city in most ways.  Everyone’s in a hurry and there are a LOT of people. There is a great deal of pedestrians in Seattle. I’m guessing the not 100° temps encourage that.

(Bainbridge Island Marina selfie. Yes, we were those obnoxious tourists.)

One odd thing about Seattle in particular, and Washington State in general  that we noticed is that they honk, a LOT, but they are fairly friendly drivers and don’t seem to exceeded the speed limit. This was quite a conundrum for Dave. He kept looking around for traffic cops because everyone was going at or under the speed limit. That was very strange for these Texas drivers. Here you go 80 or you get run over, but rarely will anyone ever honk at you.

(Bainbridge Island Marian. This was the view from our table.)

The first day of our adventure was filled with transportation; lots of different kinds of transportation. We flew into SeaTac, walked quite a distance to the light rail, took the light rail downtown. (Thanks for the tip, WA friends, to rent the car away from the airport. That saved us a lot of money and the hassle was minimal.) Walked 3 or 4 city blocks to our rental car place, drove the rental car to the ferry, crossed Puget Sound from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, and finally drove around Bainbridge Island until we found a place to eat and our hotel. Let me tell you, that’s a lot of traveling for this homebody!

(Dinner on Bainbridge Island.)

We ate dinner in a cute little restaurant bar that had a patio overlooking the marina. We were dumbstruck at the beauty at this point so we took several photos of the water, the cute little sailboats, the huge trees (turns out, these things were nothing compared to what we would see later in the week).  We were such tourists, y’all. While people were kind, I’m pretty sure they were inwardly rolling their eyes at our touristy obnoxiousness.

(This tree was so HUGE.)

We were pretty tired at this point so we headed to our hotel thinking we’d watch some tv until bedtime and then go to bed early. We had a big day the next day. Funny thing was, after we watched tv for a bit we were both super tired but the sun was still up. Finally I glanced at the time and it was 10pm and the sun was finally going down. I didn’t realize how light it stayed in WA! That first night, we slept like the dead.

(It went up for miles.)

Here are a few of my general observations from Leg 1 of our trip….

1. Make sure your suitcase’s wheels work properly or you will be that crazy tourist lady who is dragging an unwieldy suitcase all over the city. I was quite a spectacle trying to get that dumb thing through the less than even city streets, up and down escalators, and in and out of planes, trains and automobiles. It was lovely.

2.  WA is lacking in good BBQ. Our rental car guy told us this. He’s from Tennessee. He said, “Here is some advice from one southerner to another. There is no good BBQ here. You may see a sign for BBQ, but trust me, it’s not BBQ. Do not eat it. If you want good BBQ wait until you get home.” We took his advice.

3. While WA is lacking in BBQ, they are flush with Asian food. We had some of the BEST Thai and Indian food on our trip, and we also got to have some actual Indian, as in Native American food!

4. While having a cool convertible was fun, I would have chosen a less flashy one had we been given a choice. We’re already tourists who have no idea where we’re going or what we’re doing, getting a canary yellow Camaro convertible is just overkill. There was no being stealthy. You were not going to miss us coming or going.

5. Some states seem annoyed by tourists (I’m talking to you Colorado), the people of WA seem to enjoy them. We met some really friendly locals along our journey. They would ask where we were from and give us advice about what to skip or what we should not miss while in the area.

(Snapchats from Leg 1)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Come Fly With Me...At Your Own Risk

As many of you know, my family travels a lot. We love to go to new places and see new things, but we usually drive. We have an RV and all the kids are good travelers.  (and one of the dogs, don’t ask about the other).

(Note the smile. Clearly this was BEFORE we took off.)

The problem with driving is that it takes time. Normally the getting there is part of the vacation so it’s okay, but this trip was different. This trip was Dave and my 25th Anniversary trip and I wanted to go to Washington State, specifically the Olympic Peninsula. I have wanted to go there since I was a little girl. Growing up in Ks and Tx, the thought of huge trees and ferns the size of small cars and all that lush greenery was just something I had to see.  So, we booked the flights, booked the hotels, and rented the car.

Here’s the thing. Turns out, I’m not the best flyer. I’d only done 3 short round trip flights before our WA trip and the latest one was pre 9-11. Things have changed a wee little bit since then.

My first problem was that I didn’t prepare properly.  We were sitting in seats that had a bit more leg room which was nice, but I didn’t realize that meant that there was no room for anything under our seats so my carry-on bag had to go in an overhead bin making it essentially unavailable for the 4 hour flight. My book, extra phone battery, and headphones were in there. So I had nothing at all to do for 4 hours but worry and feel every little shutter and bump of that plane.

I have never enjoyed the take-off and landing parts. I pretty much gripped the plane seat arm rests like my life depended on it and tried to remember to breathe. Once we were level, the turbulence started. Dave says these were nothing.  No big deal at all. I beg to differ. I’m pretty sure we almost fell out of the sky several times. Each time I would gasp and grab Dave’s arm and dig in my nails. You can imagine how enjoyable this was for my neighbors and especially Dave. 

I tried so hard to talk myself out of it. I was looking around at all the other passengers and no one else was freaking out. Heck, there was a kid behind me having a jolly old time! “Lots of these people look like frequent fliers and they don’t seem worried so I should just calm down.” I told myself. This line of reasoning did not work so I moved on to a new line of thinking.

I know where I am going when I die, and my kids are all almost adults and would do okay without parents, plus they have awesome aunties and uncles who would take care of them so it’d be okay. Now this may seem morbid, but sometimes when my brain decides to do a little freak-out it helps me to play the ‘what is the worst thing that could happen’ game. That way, I’ve considered what is the worst possible outcome and dealt with it. But then I realized that just dying in a plane crash and leaving the kids behind was not really the worst thing that could happen. We could crash over the ocean and I could slowly die of dehydration and exposure, all alone, and finally get eaten by sharks. Forget the fact that our journey did not take us over the ocean. Sometimes the ‘what is the worst thing that could happen’ game backfires.  

Once we landed, I was okay. All was fine. My brain went back to its normal, rational state and we had a wonderful vacation (more posts about the actual vacation coming later).

I did make a few mental notes for the plane ride home to make it a little more tolerable. Apparently, so did Dave.

We got to the airport a little early for the flight home and Dave took me into the Chili’s near our gate and ordered me a glass of wine. I think he might have been okay with getting me pass out drunk so he could just carry me on the plane and strap me in my seat, but he settled for the 1 glass I was willing to drink.

Also, this time I had my book, headphones, and extra iPhone battery in my hands instead of my bag and I’d also put my credit card information in my phone so I could buy wifi. This was a good tactic. I still gripped my seat like it was my job on the way up and down, and I did still occasionally gasp and grab Dave’s arm, but the ability to surf the internet, watch a movie, and perhaps the wine, helped me relax so I did not spend the entire flight acting like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

One of the things I do when I’m a bit fearful is to sing hymns or worship songs in my head. On the first flight I tried this while we were taking off and I could not remember a single song. NOT ONE SONG. I must have a million hymns and worship songs memorized that I could sing at the drop of a hat, but apparently they all fled my brain once we began to fly down the runway.

On the trip home I was prepared for this eventuality. I had my phone all keyed up and ready with my Spotify Worship Music station up. As soon as we started to take off I hit play.


The song Oceans is what played. Let’s ponder those lyrics, while considering I was in the process of being hurtled trough the sky in a metal can at ridiculous speeds and altitudes.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

So, as I’m being catapulted through the sky, I am listening to this song and arguing with it! I’m all, “NO! Lord, don’t call me out on the waters! Just get me out of this plane!”

“Also, I don’t want my feet, or more importantly THIS PLANE to fail!”

“Um, and could I go ahead and find you here in this plane and not on the rising ocean waves? I don’t want to go in the ocean!”

“And, can your grace abound in cramped airplanes instead of deepest waters, cuz remember, I don’t want to go in the water!”

“And can we just forget that whole refrain? Because I don’t want any of that! I don’t want trust without borders because that sounds scary! And I really don’t want to walk on the waters and listen, I don’t want to go deeper, I just want to get off this plane! And as much as I love you, Lord, I kinda want to go home and not into your presence at the moment.”

You guys, I am a joy to fly with.