You don’t have to travel far or spend a lot of money to have a good time. When I was in the military, I learned to make the most of where I was stationed - even out of the way, small towns have much to offer.
A great way of doing that is to buy a book with “day trips” for an area. I try and get one for each place I live, and then work my way through the book. Our family has been using one called “Exploring Washington’s Backroads: Highways and Hometowns of the Evergreen State” (you can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Exploring-Washingtons-Backroads-Hometowns-Evergreen/dp/1591520177 ) and it’s a great little reference. t’s not heavy on details, but has numbered trips you can take, all more or less centered around Seattle.
The great thing about car trips is that even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can still get out for the weekend. So, we packed up and headed out on trip number two – “Looping the Black Hills”
The trip took us down below the main inlet of Seattle, and south of Olympia. The forests there are different…
And the moss seems almost luminescent. Some of these trees look like they exploded their branches….
The book said to make sure and roam around the back streets of a place called “Porter”. There are no real “back streets”, but we did end up on a logging trail for about an hour – and I’m glad the car is 4WD.
We also saw the “Mima Mounds” area, where something – no one knows what – has pushed up thousands of mounds of earth. They were here when the Native Americans came to this area, and everything from glaciers to earthquakes have been proposed as a possible cause.
If you haven’t gotten out in a while with your family, look for one of these types of books, and let me know what you come up with – we’re always looking for places to see.
One thing about living in the Seattle area is that you can almost guarantee that you’ll have a “wet” Christmas. But the best thing about that is you can always make it a white Christmas with a quick drive to the mountains.
We normally get up Christmas morning and have a big breakfast, and then open gifts.
From there, it’s a quick ride to the mountains for a long hike in the snow – and this time we got to bring the pup. We went to the “John Wayne Trail” near Iron Horse Mountain. The snow was coming down hard (and horizontal) for a while, but eventually it let up a bit. The snow formations were amazing…
Once home, it’s a ham dinner with all the trimmings for the humans, and a long nap for the dog.
I really miss Florida – the beach, the palm trees, the happy people. But I have to say that there is beauty here in the Pacific Northwest that is amazing.
While the mountains are gorgeous, the waterfalls are beautiful, and the cities have amazing architectures, it’s the green – everywhere – that is truly astounding. Recently we took a quick hike next to where my daughter goes to college, and I just snapped away at the various shades of green. After a while, I gave up – there are so many shades of green it’s impossible to capture them all.
Take a look at the range of a 30-minute walk. How many shades of green can you find? And remember, it’s December….
When my mom comes to visit, we normally do a bit of traveling to show her around Seattle. This time, however, we decided to show her not only the sights in and around Seattle that she hasn’t been to before, but also the entire state of Washington and a bit of Oregon as well.
We started in a central location – “The center of the known universe”, which is apparently located in Fremont, Washington. It’s a very cool little part of Seattle (don’t ever tell them that) filled with artwork, great food, and even a troll that lives under the bridge…
Of course, no visit to Washington is complete without a trip to Seattle, so we stopped by for donuts, coffee, and we picked up some spices and teas from World of Spice near the Public Market. We also stopped by a food-truck shaped like, well, food.
And then on to the Columbia River Gorge – a landscape VERY different than Seattle. The Cascade range of mountains separates the two parts of Washington, and on the eastern side of the state it is drier, warmer and colder, and the gorge that the Columbia river carved out is simply breathtaking.
And then we headed out to another of my favorite cities – Portland, Oregon. We walked for miles, stopping for the Blues Festival along the waterway, Chinatown and old Portland, the Saturday street market, Pioneer Square, and of course Voodoo donuts – which of course would destroy any diet known to mankind. Happily, there was some coffee nearby to go with them.
After showing mom around the Nike buildings and campus in Beaverton, we decided to make an impromptu trip to the Oregon coast. I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, and I have to say that this place took my breath away. So incredibly beautiful near Oceanside.
On our way back, we took the back roads to cross my mom’s favorite mountain – Mt. Rainier. Even though it’s July, there’s still snow up high. We chatted with some German folks who were traveling across the Pacific Northwest.
We have so much more to see and do, but we’ll have to wait for her next trip to continue the journey.
daughter and I tease Marjorie that she should buy the truck – and of course we need no such thing, but she pushes back that one day she just might. So, for mother’s day….
I left her an orange card on the table. It read: “You never ask for much, but I know you’ve always wanted something – so go take a look in the driveway.”
Yup. Orange Crush. She was a bit….surprised. Maybe she had her hopes up, who knows. Just to put a fine point on the injury, I got her an orange shirt reminding her that I took her away from Florida and the sunshine…
Anyway, while she was out getting her “surprise”, Christina decorated the table for a wonderful Mother’s day breakfast…in all orange. You know, to rub it in a little.
As you can imagine, I had some bridges to mend after that little stunt. So I did buy her something she could use for transportation – a scooter!
Not to be outdone, Christina was interested in getting her motorcycle endorsement, so of course she needs a scoot….
Now they both terrorize the neighborhood – “ten inch wheels in three in heels” is the motto of one scooter club (yes they have those) in Seattle.
And now, I get a little “me” time while they are out riding….
Many of us lead very full lives, and it’s easy to let all of the activity crowd out peace. Even though it’s Winter – in fact, because it’s Winter – I wanted to check out the Kubota Garden here in Seattle. It’s been quite gray for a long time, and I wondered if the garden would look nice without it’s foliage.
It’s a quick drive from where we live to the quiet neighborhood near South Lake Union in Seattle and the Kubota Garden. It’s a Japanese-American garden – a mixture of the Pacific Northwest and the East.
This is an amazing space – purchased in the early 1900’s, and worked by the family for decades after.
It’s surprisingly green and verdant, even at this time of year. And yet you can still see the intricate trained growth of the trees, twisting and bending, that you might not see as well with all of their leaves.
There are paths everywhere – little grottos, windows of trees and bamboo, curtains of moss.
And along with all of the natural beauty, there is water, and architectural elements.
I’ll be back. This garden instantly transports your mind to a peaceful place – surprises you and gives you your thoughts back.
We lead really busy lives. Marjorie and I both work, and the hours can be really long. Christina is in college now, and it’s just too easy to work all the time on home, church and job to the exclusion of everything else. But we try very hard to make time to spend with each other – and it doesn’t have to be a big deal, or cost a lot of money to take little trips here and there.
To be sure, we’ve had some really nice times away – London, Alaska, Portland, San Francisco, the list goes on. But every other weekend we try to get away for a day – sometimes a walk in the mountains, sometimes a visit to a museum. We’ve had great times all around this area. But every so often, we do something simple.
We like cheese. Sure, lots of folks do, but I’ll wear a cheaper set of clothes or drive an older car to spend money on cheese or books. The wonderful thing is that good cheese isn’t that expensive, especially if you only buy a little. So I asked Christina to pop open Bing and check on Cheese shops in Seattle. To our delight, several came up. We decided to create a “Cheese-Crawl” – a walk to each of the shops, with a 5-6$ purchase at each one.
With the route mapped out, we took off on a cold grey morning to Seattle. Of course, no trip in Seattle is complete without a stop at Post Alley for a cup of Seattle’s Best Coffee. Christina always gets a “Raspberry Mocha Kiss”.
Fortified thusly against the cold, we made the first stop – Beecher’s Cheese, just across from the Public Market on Pike Street.
Purchased: Market Herb Fresh Cheese Curd
Yes, it’s a tourist spot, but I like it. We got there early – I love to watch them make the cheese we eat. I love these Curds – I’ve had some from Wisconsin that were different, but these were excellent as well.
Next on the route was Mt. Townsend Creamery. It’s right inside the Public Market, just across from where they throw the fish theatrically.
Purchased: Truffle-Fromage Blanc
This is a small shop, but they have lots of local offerings. We wanted a creamy cheese to spread on some crackers, and the counter-person said this was one of his favorites. There were samples out to try, and I didn’t ask a lot of questions at this shop, since the crowds were starting to pile up next door.
The next stop was just at the end of the Public Market next to 2nd Avenue – Delaurenti.
Purchased: Tarentaise (Raw Cow’s Milk)
This shop is amazing. To be in a tourist location, they have a fantastic range of cheeses – whole shelves of blues, awesome amounts of raw cow’s milk cheeses and more. The young lady at the counter was incredibly helpful, very knowledgeable, and offered samples of everything. We were looking for a firmer eating cheese, and after a taste this was the one we settled on. Highly recommended.
From there we hiked north on 5th Avenue towards the Space Needle. Just before you cross Denny Way to get there, and on the right, is The Cheese Cellar.
Purchased: Idiazabal (Sheep’s Cheese)
This was my favorite shop. Theresa Simpson, who assisted us there, was the most knowledgeable of all of the folks I chatted with. They don’t have a huge range of cheeses – but they don’t need them. They have a perfect variety, and are so helpful that you get everything you need in one place. They also sell meats to go with the cheese. Amazing place.
Our final stop in Seattle was the Calf and Kid – just up the street a few blocks north of the Convention Center.
Purchased: Cave Man Blue (Aged Blue Cheese)
Another favorite. There are an amazing range of cheeses here, and the staff is helpful and knowledgeable. They have a small basket of “odd cuts” – smaller portions of cheese, wrapped and ready to go. The shop is within a market of sorts – there is a bakery, a meat shop, even a full restaurant, all of them awesome enough to stand on their own. Also highly recommended.
Although not technically a “Crawl” – since we had to drive a bit to the north, we stopped at the Resident Cheese Monger in Edmonds, Washington.
Purchased: Capri di Buffalo (Buffalo soft cheese), Chili-Chive Gouda, and a Reserve Sharp White Cheese
A good-sixed shop, this location had a great array of local cheeses – from Washington and Oregon. The salesfolks were helpful and offered samples.
A quick stop at the deli to pick up some cold meats, olives, bread and crackers, another stop on the way home to pick up some grapes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and dinner was served.
So if you haven’t gone out as a family in a while, jump on the web, find some food, show, toys or whatever you like, and visit every store that has one. Set a low budget, and have a great time.