Camping in Sooke

Rusty made several business calls but was able to wrap up by 10am (good thing about the west coast). We all went for a swim in the pool — which is a fantastic indoor-outdoor pool with a hot tub.

We left the Coast Harbor Hotel and headed 45 minutes up the west coast to a remote area called Sooke. We checked out a few campgrounds and eventually settled at Frend Provencial Park. It’s very rustic (no running water or showers) but on a beautiful part of the shore.

We beachcombed for a bit — picking up rocks and chasing very small salmon as they swam in the waves near shore. In the early evening we went up to the “Sooke Potholes” and went swimming. The potholes are really just a river in a deep ravine with lots of pools, ledges and falls. It was cold but we all swam before going back to the campsite.

We had a fire just to take the chill off. It was nice to fall asleep listening to the wind and waves.

Victoria – whale watching and Biking

We split up for the first time. Sue and Roby went on a whale watch and Rusty, Ryan and Cal rented bikes.

Sue and Roby saw lots of Orcas (Killer Whales) and a few Minkes. Ryan and Cal had a blast riding a tandem bike.

In the early evening we visited Butchard Gardens about 10 miles north of Victoria.

Our plan for tomorrow is to travel up the coast to Sooke to camp one more time.

The weather is great and this town is incredible.

Vancouver to Victoria

Visited a park just north of Vancouver with a suspension bridge. We then headed to catch the ferry to Victoria from Tsawassen. Our first night in Victoria was fantastic. Once again we got a hotel right on the water (this time with the whole family in one room).

Victoria is an amazingly beautiful place.

Vancouver

We biked most of the afternoon around Stanley Park in Vancouver. Saw the aquarium. We had dinner (not a very good one) on Granville Island.

Seattle to Vancouver

We’re way behind on the journal. We hope to have new entries written soon, but until then we’re going to post just a few quick placeholders so we don’t look like we’ve stopped in our tracks.

July 9th we travelled up over the Canadian border to Vancouver. We ended up on a great hotel on the waterfront. Had dinner in the “gastown” district.

Seattle Day 2

Another lazy morning. The whole family, well actually the kids, have now gotten into the habit of staying up late and sleeping late. It doesn’t seem to get dark until about 9:30 or so which has thrown us all off. In addition, the Marriott has a great pool so the kids are as excited about just playing around the hotel as they are about seeing Seattle. After swimming and working out for a bit in the hotel fitness room we walked up to Pike Place Market again for something to eat. This time we picked up some local produce — fresh cherries and peaches. Ryan had a fancy crepe with nutella, strawberries and whip cream and Roby got an enormous cinnamon pretzel doughnut.

After strolling through the market, Rusty ventured off to get a haircut (a close summer buzz with a #2) and then travelled down to Renton for a business meeting at Classmates.com.

Meanwhile, Ryan, Cal, Roby and Sue walked to Pioneer Square for to catch a tour of the underground city. Along the way, Roby shopped for a
Seattle T-shirt and immediately wore it proudly. We had about 45 minutes to kill before the tour started so we played a few games of pool. Ryan and Cal played on one table, Roby and I played on another. Unfortunately we ran out of time for the championship game, but it was fun. Ryan is quite the pool shark now.

The tour started with a twenty minute briefing session that described the city’s history and its first settlers. Roby said, “this is going to be so boring…twenty minutes?” But…it actually was hilarious, right up the boys’ alley: full of bathroom humor and corny jokes (the invention of “the crapper,” sewage issues, etc.). The mood quickly changed and they couldn’t wait for the next leg of the tour. Our guide, Bruce, was very funny throughout the tour. I watched the boys wriggle their way to the front so as to not miss any good jokes. The tour was cool: we walked below the city streets, able to look up every now and then through skylights but mostly wandering through narrow passages that showed us old storefronts that had been burned down by a fire in 1889. There were also some old sidewalks and historical artifacts. Bruce kept joking about rats and Ryan was disappointed didn’t really see one. There were a lot of interesting things we learned about the history of Seattle. For example, for a few years after the fire they raised the street up but left the sidewalks and stores at the same level. People and horses were falling off the sidewalks and dying (Cal loved that part). They later added stairs to go down (Roby said, “duh!”), and eventually just filled in everything and rebuilt the city where it is today. We also learned about the corruption of Henry Yestler, the city’s mayor. All these interesting sights, good jokes, and historical tidbits made the time fly. The tour ended about 3:45 pm. Naturally we were forced to exit through the gift shop. In a silly mood we couldn’t resist the pig catapult (it was between that and the chicken chucker). It was $3.95 well spent.

We strolled from Pioneer Square down to the waterfront and stopped for a bite to eat along the pier. We dropped in the Aquarium but given the expense, decided to wait and see the one in Vancouver, as a family. It was a pleasant walk back to the hotel, where the boys immediately headed for the pool. It was so convenient being right across the hall. They played around, diving for coins, racing, doing handstands and other stuff until Rusty returned. Shortly after we met friends for dinner. An old college friend of ours, Laura Midgley, and her family live in Seattle. They suggested a restaurant called Chinook’s, located at Fisherman’s Terminal. We met there at 6:30, put our name in for a table, and walked the docks while we waited. It was a great setting to look out on all the fishing boats while we ate. As expected, it was delicious food and a part of town we hadn’t yet explored.

After dinner we rushed to see the boat locks nearby where there was also a place to watch the salmon spawning. We felt lucky to see so many jump. We also watched them go up a ladder from an underground observatory. It was amazing and we made it just in time. It was a fun way to end the evening and a great place for the kids to run around. Laura, Dave and Katrina (age 10) certainly showed us something special.

Seattle – Day 1

Given our success getting a good hotel cheap in San Francisco we decided to test our luck again by using Priceline to book rooms in Seattle. Priceline is an internet service that you can use to name the price you want to pay, the area where you want to stay and the star rating of the hotel. You put in this info and then it searches for a while and tells you whether your offer has been accepted or not. In San Francisco we got great rooms at the Hyatt. This time we were lucky again. Our price was accepted for two nights at the new Marriott right on the water (Alaskan Way).

After getting excited about our new accommodations we packed up quickly in Kelso and drove the 100 or so miles to Seattle. We arrived mid-day and the room wasn’t quite ready. We got to see the hotel and Roby said “Dad, this hotel is too nice for us”. We left our bags with the porter (one of about 10 people milling about to help fragile travellers). We headed up the stairs behind the hotel and within a few blocks we were at Pikes Place market. The market was in full swing with hundreds of vendors. There were beautiful flowers, fruit, clothes, and of course fish mongers. The kids enjoyed seeing the huge salmon, shrimp, hallibut, and even a monk fish. Everything is huge in the pacific northwest. One fish market puts on a show for the crowd by throwing salmon and crabs across the counter (about 20 feet) as people order them.

We had lunch and then tried to take the monorail over to the space needle. There had been some kind of fire on the monorail so we ended taking a bus (which was fine). We decided to visit the “Experience Music Project” which is right next to the space needle. This is a new museum that has exhibits for all types of music and musicians and interactive kiosks where you play various instruments. The kids like the contemporary room that had music and outfits by Eminem, G Unit, and Michelle Branch. They even had the candy-apple read outfit worn by Brittney Spears in her “oops I did it again” video (which, when you see it in person, is hard to imagine any grown person fitting into it).

The other feature exhibits were on the Beattles and Jimi Hendrix. The kids were less interested in these old timers but didn’t complain. The final part of the tour was a hands-on area. Were were lucky to get 10 minutes in a “recording studio” in which we all could play an electric guitar, electric bass, electric drums, and an acoustic guitar. It was a lot of fun to jam together.

Next we rode up the elevator to the top of the space needle and saw a reasonably good view of Seattle but it wasn’t clear enough to see Mount Rainier.

By that time we were tired from walking and went back to the hotel for a swim. The Marriott has a nice indoor/outdoor pool that the kids loved.

We finished up the night with another sushi dinner just up the street from Pike Place market.

Riding the Dunes

This is the big day. The kids had been talking riding dune buggies — or better yet, ATVs if they could. We decided to go to the rental place sooner rather than later because we figured the demand might be lower and the wind wasn’t quite as strong as the day before. We arrived around 11 and Ryan and Cal were thrilled to learn that they were old enough and tall enough to ride in their own 250 cc buggy. Sue and Roby rented a 500cc two-seat buggy. And dad, being over the 170 pound limit for the single buggy, had to rent and ATV. The kids thought this was very cool because an ATVs is basically a four wheel motorcycle and they have a PS2 game that they love called “ATV Off Road Fury”.

As a group we had to read several panels of saftey and operation rules and then listen to a instructional tape. One of the employees then got us lined up in the parking lot and we headed off onto the dune access trail. It was quickly apparent that driving in the dunes was a bit trickier than we imagined. Just slogging up the hill was hard as the wheels spun or fishtailed in the deep sand. Unfortunately it also became apparent that Cal’s car had some mechanical problem. It would sputter and lurch and actually stalled on the way out.

We lined up on the top of a dune for our last bit of orientation from the guide. The key was to stay within a defined area — which wasn’t too hard given the size of the dunes. After the quick talk we were off! It was an amazing feeling to zip across the dunes. We quickly headed for a flat area that was basically a dried up pond which still had some puddles in it. The benefit of this area was a smooth ride plus good traction. As we ventured up and down the dunes we learned that the deep sand was tricky to drive through and the smaller cars (Ryan and Cal) easily got stuck. Cal got stuck once or twice, but part of his problem was his car was still sputtering and having problems. After all the build up, he was nearly in tears to have a bum buggy. Luckily the guide saw him having trouble and offered to excort him and dad back to the rental place to swap out his car. This took about 20 minutes to ride back up the hill, get a new car and then rejoin the group. But it was well worth it. Cal’s new car ran well and he was finally ready to keep up with Ryan and mom. When dad and cal rejoined the group, they were zipping up and down the dunes after getting used to navigating in the deep sand. Cal followed Ryan through the good routes and we all criss crossed primarily in the area of the hard flat area. We ventured out as we got to know the terrain but there was always a greater risk of getting stuck. At one point Sue and Roby got stuck in the deep sand and we had to lug the front of their car from side to side for several minutes until the back wheels came free.

Because of Cal’s mechanical problems, Cal and dad got an extra 15 minutes of driving time which they used zipping around in the same general area but expanding to a few different “bowls” as they made they way back out.

The overall assessment of the experience from each kid was “that was awesome!”. So, despite mechanical problems, and some time spend extracting the cars from the sand, driving dune buggies now ranks near the top of list of our vacation activities. Note to parents or others who may consider this on future vacations: this experience wasn’t cheap. Each car costs $45 per hour to rent. It’s basically the equivalent of a whole day of skiiing for one hour!

After leaving the dune buggy place we then discovered a small place just up the road which had go-carts. The kids were still jazzed up about their new-found driving skills so we stopped for a quick race around the track. This time it was a lot cheaper but still fun. We challenged each other around the curving (paved) track and jousted for postition around each turn. Some other, older, more aggressive kids bumped and pushed their way through to eventually take the lead, but we had a lot of fun.

We had lunch in Florence and browsed the shops for a while. The next new activity the kids wanted to try was sand boarding. Sue and cal rented a boat on the pond and Roby and Ryan rented boards to test out on the dunes. Sand boards are almost exactly like snowboards, but they don’t turn or “carve” as you can in snow. On Roby’s first attempt he achieved a lot of speed, but hadn’t figured out how to stop gracefully so he “beefed it” hard into the sand in front of a lot of people at the park. Being a bit more self conscious Ryan suggested that we walk to a distant dune to test them out with more privacy. We eventually ended up across the pond on a dune that lead to the pond’s edge. We groomed a ‘”trail” for the boards and after a few tries they were zipping down the dune and into the water. By this time Sue and Cal had joined up with us. Cal had several good rides down into the water. Mom and dad got to be the “pit crew” — drying off the boards after they went into the water and then waxing the bottom for the next run.

We finished up around five and then made the decision to do some driving at night rather that wait for tomorrow. We packed up all of our camping stuff, headed up 101, then over to Route 5 and north through Oregon, eventually through Portland, and then settled into a Comfort Inn in Kelso Washington about 11pm.