One thing you should know about me is that I am a planner. I have tried oh-so-hard to embrace my carefree, go with the flow, Bob Marley grooving self, yet somehow I end up clutching my to-do-lists and going over the daily plan with my five-year-old and husband each morning. I think that my sanity depends on attempting to control my uncontrollable life even if it is a mere false perception.
The few weeks before we embarked on our great family excursion was a whirlwind of planning and preparing. I gradually worked my way down the list of loose ends that needed tying up. We decided that we would rent out our home, take Georgi out of preschool, and find a loyal friend to care for our cat. Alex would drive the car across country and I would fly with the girls and meet him a week later. Fool proof!
We wanted to get out west a few weeks before Alex started his nursing contract to allow ourselves a little exploration time. He set off with our overpacked car and our German Shepherd as a copilot, then I busied myself making our house rental-ready. This tedious task made me feel as I can only imagine a dog chasing his tail feels. My toy picking up skills are not nearly as good as my baby's toy knocking down skills, the laundry was on continuous cycle, and I had to block off all of the rooms that were declared clean days prior to our leave date. Let's just say, by the end of the week I was more then ready to bid that house a temporary goodbye.
The day of the big departure came and I was a nervous wreck. I had strategically bought flights from Charleston to Portland that had a layover in Dallas so that we would have a nice, mid-way stopping point to regroup. I had packed up an airplane-baby-survival-bag, and I had withheld nursing Margo her morning meal so that she would have an ear-popping snack upon take off. Genius mom planning right? A couple hours before the plane's departure I received a phone call from United Airways notifying me that my flight was delayed an hour. Okay, cool, more time to let the kids run/crawl around and blow off some energy. I get to the airport and start checking in but something is wrong, my flight was showing up as already departed. Realization struck, I had missed my flight. The United Airline clerk explained that my flight was in fact delayed... but then it arrived on schedule... some people got the follow-up message... but others did not... you must have been one of those people... so sorry... here is a $24 voucher to spend on snacks. I was put on a flight with a layover in Charlotte, NC that would board in one hour. Margo was understandably hungry and fussy so I strapped her into the carrier on my back so that I would be hands-free to check the bags and go through security. I was mourning the loss of my perfect layover plan when a woman taps me on the shoulder, "excuse me but your baby's head is not supported". I was taken aback by her imposing accusation but calmly, and gently informed her that my baby was well-supported and bid her a good day. The lady gave me a look of grave disapproval and preceded to linger and stare. In my head I was screaming "your head will be unsupported when I bite it off!" but instead I walked into a corner, dialed Alex's number, and burst into tears.
Passengers buckle your seat-belts and get ready for take off.
We arrived in Portland, OR around 9PM western time and midnight eastern time. My "plan" had anticipated Alex getting into Portland a few hours before our arrival, finding us a hotel to stay that night, and then picking us up from the airport. Guess what, life didn't go as planned, shocking! Instead Alex rolled into Portland just in the nick of time to pick us up, smelling and looking like he had lived in his car for a week, and donning facial hair that vaguely resembled a beard.
We were exhausted. Except for the girls, they were hyped up on that kid energy that kicks into gear when the bedtime hour has long since passed, complete with wild eyes and delirious giggles. We went searching for a pet-friendly hotel that would take in some stragglers with a large, shedding dog and loud, squealing children.
The next morning we woke up in the big Oregon city with no idea where the day, or even week would take us. In fact, I was completely plan-less in a place that I was only vaguely familiar with, and that familiarity happened to have come from a television sitcom so I doubt it was a very reliable source. My comfort zone was zooming away into the distance and I did what any normal person would do; panic on the inside, feign chill personality on the outside, and begin a mental prayer chant.
In circumstances like these it is only natural that the weather would be downpour rain. This was the one thing that actually fit into my expectations. It is the Pacific Northwest, of course it is rainy and wet! Unfortunately, that didn't make it any more enjoyable though, so we checked out some of the city all while double fisting espresso and bickering about what our next step should be.
I want to take a sentence out of my narrative to reflect on how amazing the coffee is on this side of the hemisphere, I mean coffee is serious business over here. Who knew a latte could be a drinkable work of art as well as have the super power to keep me alive and somewhat functioning!
Any-who... Portland is amazing, we love it, but we are not city people and we were ready to see some sights, explore, be adventurous! After all, that is the reason we signed up for all of this. So I formulated a plan (yep) to drive along the Oregon coast on the scenic byway 101, camping along the way, visiting northern Cali and the Redwood National Park, then looping around to the mid-state mountain towns, and circling back to Portland. The rain was very persistent so heading south seemed like common sense, California is sunny all year round right? Plus I had been telling Georgi about the "big trees" for awhile now so a visit to the Redwoods was mandatory.
When we found out we were going to be placed in Washington our heads overflowed with all the things we wanted to do; Olympic National Forest, Mount Ranier, Redwood Forest, Seattle, Vancouver Islands, San Juan islands, or even venture beyond and do Canada, Yellowstone, heck maybe even Alaska! It was clear that we needed an affordable, flexible way to travel with kids. Our go-to has always been tent camping, but let's face it, setting up tents with little children isn't anybody's idea of fun (sorry Boy Scouts). So we decided to add the cozy, red, teardrop camper into our lives, and man am I glad we did!
The weather proved to be more than just a little Pacific Northwest rain storm, I would go so far as to explain it as a pseudo-hurricane. The high speed winds and gusty rain pounded into our little teardrop. Even though the landscape wasn't picture-perfect and all our socks were dripping wet, we still really enjoyed the ride. Looking to one side of the car we could see the piney mountains and rolling hills decorated with cows, and looking to the other side we would see the white-tipped waves speckled with sea lions. We made some memorable stops along the way including the Oregon Coast Aquarium and a few deserted beach towns, making sure to keep their breweries and coffee shops in business. And we had sunny California in the distance so life was good!
When there was a break in the rain we would pull the car over and hit the beach! Not necessarily sunbathing weather but the view was outstanding and we got to see a few seals up close and personal rocking in the waves.
Sure enough, as we crossed the border into California the clouds miraculously parted and the sun shone through! We praised the sun gods and I became overly excited about the thought of not having to stick tiny, rebellious arms into rain jackets anymore. The sunny skies were short-lived though and the blanket of rain and clouds descended upon us once more. Nevertheless, we parked our camper in Prairie Creek State Park adjacent to the giant Redwoods and enjoyed some smores and scootering.
In hindsight the Redwoods were probably not the best choice, ginormous tress and hurricane strength wind does not make a good combination. We hiked a quick, wet path amongst the giant reds and then booked it out of California back toward the land of the green.
Even though the trip down the coast was not at all what I had expected, I learned that I can't put my life on a list of things to do. Once I stopped wishing the rain away, and began accepting that the weather was dreary was the moment I started really enjoying myself and embracing the scenery and the time with my family. The best things in my life have been the unplanned and the unexpected. I need to stop resisting the changes in my plan, dance in the rain, throw my list in the puddles, and let it go.
(cue Frozen song now).