(You've been warned)
Over these last couple of months previous to this posting and the last posting I made, we experienced our own little personal tornado of life happenings: many many visitors came to Alaska, we birthed our second child, celebrated Elyse's second birthday, enjoyed our last Alaskan fall and Halloween of the three years up here, had a great thanksgiving (got to watch the parade this year and run a 10k-- two traditions I have been missing very much for the last three years), and then came Christmas.... And good thing we don't have that many traditions etched into our family celebrations because this year, it was too much of a whirlwind to enjoy any of them!
Here we are at the end of our FL hang out with our close friends, the Smiths-- and where I left off on the blog:
To help you understand a bit of how our “living” looked like during these last months, here is an email I wrote to my college roommates as to fill them in on what was happening in our lives during my non-blogging stage:
As the email stated starting at the beginning of December, we shipped our Honda Pilot and shared one vehicle for the next 20 some days before leaving Alaska. We were able to enjoy some Christmas family time together and Alaska for the last time, thanks to some awesome friends that made it possible for us to have the best December ever! Then shortly after, we set out on our west coast adventure, making the long journey to our new home base, Columbus MS.
Here are some pictures we got from a good friend Marie over Christmas break, just to remind us of the winter beauty we would probably miss in the winters to come....
When I had started writing this, we had completed three full days of adventure. Then came day four as we left for Roseburg and Redding, Ca. Mom and I trained as much as possible through the traveling chaos and caring for two children, so we learned where the best places to run were through the city of Seattle and Portland: In Seattle, we of course visited the infamous 1912, first ever Starbucks in the Pikes Place market (but no, we did not get a coffee there due to the very VERY long line!). Then we went searching for a good place to stride with a stroller. With all the construction going on near the waterfront, it made running consistently quite difficult, but once we got our bearings, we headed north on the boardwalk and ended up running into a beautiful little waterfront park called Centennial Park. It was a bike path and a running path! Very nice, green, spacious and refreshing as I am NOT a city dweller. It was a rough run for me as we all experienced a bit of jet lag and extreme tiredness: the kids slept through dinner that night previous and then were up all night long. Ugh! Made a note to self NOT to let them do that again…
Staying in a convenient, and decently priced, hotel was also helpful. We chose the Paramount hotel and it was very nice! Parking was another issue though... We tried to save a couple of bucks, but ended up with. Lot of unneeded stress and expenses as we had to move it from one lot to another when we could have just parked at the hotel and used the valet service for just the same amount of money: lesson learned (sometimes going 'cheap' is just not worth the pain).
After wrapping up Seattle, and of course visiting Whole foods on the way back, and a city target (craziest things I have ever seen), we loaded up the cars and drove towards Portland. Well, Vancouver WA really...
In Vancouver, we ate at Goldie's BBQ (little hole in the wall, but it was great!) then drove to the hotel we booked... And it is awesome! Very rustic and log cabin like, you would think amongst all the busyness you had escaped into the wild west, and middle of nowhere. The Heathman Lodge is just that place. We have really enjoyed the free laundry facility, the rooms, the atmosphere and the coffee! Best part is you are only 15 minutes away from the city of Portland, but far enough away to not have to scrounge for good parking places and worry about meter expirations! Note to those wanting to travel to Seattle soon: parking is tricky and get expensive if you are not careful to look into the prices ahead of time. However, if you need to buy something at Target for over $20, parking is “free”.
Ok, so the best place to run so far was Washington City Park. With miles of trail running and LOTS of hills, it was a great place to get 45 minutes of hard running in. Mom graciously stayed with the kids while I went running and, if time had allowed, she would have taken them to the Oregon zoo right in the park! There was a train too, but it was not running at the time. For some more good fun, look into the 4T's in Washington city park. Seemed like something really fun to do with the kids (on the right days) if time allows you!
From Portland, we pushed on to California (Woop Woop!). We took some breaks along the way (one for formula and others for fuel), but my favorite stop yet was at a place called Creswell coffee. The barista was awesome, but she was more awesome when she said they made orange mochas! Ever since I had left college in middle Tennessee, I have been on the hunt for the infamous orange mocha. The last place i had it was at the little Starbucks in Murfreesboro. I can still remember sipping it as I sat outside on the porch of Starbucks, summer at its end but still hot as Hades, plucking away at the keyboard as I wrote papers for my classes. It was such a treat to finally get to enjoy one again. There isn't much more to report as far as food went from there, but I can tell you the drive was magnificent. When you got out of the car, you could just inhale the freshness that you admired from your car window. It was so lush and green... I am in love with Oregon.
After that point, the roads became very mountainous and uncertain as we climbed elevations. After a bit ways in and a low gar scare, we stopped in Mt.Shasta for fuel and a meal (The dancing Goat Tavern) then stayed in a town called Redding for the night. Some cool things you don't want to miss in Redding were the Sundial Bridge and Turtle Bay! Great place for a walk and picnic, and again, if time allowed, we would have run miles and miles on the Headlands Trails. GORGEOUS day for it! Oh well... Can't do it all, right? Or can you? ..... ;)
We pushed on from there to Ft. Bragg/Mendocino, Coastal Cali. As we winded through the redwoods into the night, we told wild animal terror stories, imagining what would happen to us if we broke down in the middle of redwood city with very little traffic passing by us. It was all good fun as we were more than fine (especially since I filled up pretty good before we left our last fuel station!) and it was fun to pop some marshmallows I brought along to complete the campfire ghost story feel!
We arrived at the Holiday Express in Ft.Bragg after some dinner at a diner called Stars and got up the next morning to enjoy the pool for a bit. It was a pretty good little place to stay after such a long windy drive! After packing up the car, we left for a little town called Mendocino.... And it was little. And very.... Umm.. Green? Hippie? But mostly historic. Both of our phones we're very hesitant to work there as technology was very rarely seen—and to give you an idea of how rarely seen technology was, they had a wifi cafe next to the organic coffee shop that you could go pay $2.00 for a connection! The experience was kind of fun, but annoying since we didn't know where we were going really and needed the use of our GPS systems. After some yummy coffee, we decided to take a run along the coastal drive and MAN was it gorgeous! Once we got back to the visitor center, mom let me take off for a trail run near the cliffs. Summary: Breathtaking views. It started to sprinkle a little bit so the views became a bit less blue and a lot more gray. Gorgeous in all its shades, but also signs that it was time to find shelter for the kid’s sake and a place to eat.
We ended up at the Mendocino Cafe (great place to grab some butternut squash soup and salad with lime vinegar dressing! Yum yum!) then went to the chocolate shop afterwards to get Elyse a delicacy of her own: a chocolate moose on a stick! From there, we piled up in the car once again and left for our hotel: the Little River Inn. Oh my goodness, did we have a view! It was magical to hear the ocean waves crash along the shore while you slept and then open the blinds in the morning to an ocean view. Absolutely refreshing! Speaking of refreshing, the soaps they used were pretty great too...BeeKind. I'm kind of in love with the shampoo and conditioner now.... Might have to order some more! During breakfast, we watched a seagull land on the railing of our porch and wait for elyse to drop him a bite of her poptart.... Ok, more like put it in his mouth! He was definitely more refined than that, don't you know. It was so fun to see elyse squeal with delight as the seagull plucked her little crumb offering from her hand and caw for more!
We packed up and planned on going on a hike in a great little park called Van Deem (right across from some beach picnic tables and great scenery!), but the kids fell asleep so we vouched for a good drive instead. We went to get fuel and make a pit stop at the light house on point cabrillo. It was really pretty! However, our hike was ruined as I spotted a sign on the way back to hike for mountain lions. Ok people, I know I have lived in the wilds of Alaska, teeming with bears and moose, but wild CATS are a different story.... I don't do small cats as it is, and big ones are just not even acceptable... Plus check out that sign: small children at their favorite meal! gracious!!
After ditching the hike, we pushed on to Sonoma. One thing I forgot to elaborate more on above are the roads on Highway 1: they are NOT a good idea for a truck and trailer (side note for husband) but a great place to take a sports vehicle or motorcycle (side-note for dad and brothers). The whole drive was a two hander as we twisted and curved through the hill sides of wine country. Stopping for a bathroom break and to stretch the legs, we ended up at a place called Moss cafe. The specialty coffee was a bit over priced, but wow, was it a great cappuccino... And the design on the top of my foam was so pretty! However, seemed the town in general was a bit overpriced as it is in the middle of nowhere... And they know it. Gas in this town called Boonville was $4.59!! A whole dollar and dime more expensive than it should be... They were, as the saying goes, dollar and diming you to death from the time you entered to the time you left. Goodbye Boonville. Hello Sonoma.
You could tell you we were getting close to Sonoma as the vineyards became more plentiful and the hills became valleys filled with olive trees and wineries. It was gorgeous. Arriving at our hotel, we quickly unpacked and did a quick load of laundry before going out to explore the town on foot. Downtown was just around the corner and in the square plaza, there's was a perfect little duck pond and playground for elyse to release her energy at. From there, it was dinner time. We went to the red grape for dinner since it beckoned us there with its pizza cooking aroma. Splitting made price actually doable as well.
We hit the AM a bit earlier than usual and made way for a run. Intending to do mostly greenways and trails, we were a bit discouraged st the beginning of our run to be on the roads (all in which were getting a bit busy and the cars were not driving the slowest). But keep on running and you will always find something worth enduring for....and we did! We found some pretty gorgeous greenways to run down and the scenery in the parks were unbeatable! I loved taking in the hills and just breathing in the fresh air as we tackled the miles.
However, it was not all that warm. Given, we couldn't have had better weather (thank you Jesus for that blessing), but it was a bit chilly once we cooled down. Once Elyse got her fill of the playground, it was time to find some good coffee. So, we headed to the infamous Pete's. Best mochas ever... Hands down. It was really refreshing after exercising!
Yet, the inevitable came: mom injured her calf. I felt responsible as I had her push the kid rig... She swore she would be fine, but she was definitely injured. We took easy runs after that, but she did awesome tackling them all regardless of her injury.
We got a late check out from our Sonoma hotel, packed up the car and headed over to Whole Foods for a yummy filling lunch! Mom shared some of her green smoothie with elyse and got some nutrients into her! Plus, whole foods provided us with a hours of fun when they gave us stickers and free clementines! Yum.
After lunch, we piled into the car for our small haul to San Fran. We checked into the Coventry Motor Inn and let elyse finish her nap. Mom and I took a breather, played with Jackson and ate some yummy cookies before tackling the big city! Hilly city too! We DEFINITELY got our exercise in for that day... And worked up an appetite for some bread bowls at Boudin Sourdough Bread Factory. It hit the spot! after seeing some sights at the fishermans wharf, we ended with ghiradelli square.... Yum! Chocolates galore! Elyse was definitely buzzing from there on out! Haha.
Day 9 it was time to start wrapping up our four-some adventures and join up with the rest of the incoming gang (the poppops, Didi and daddy!). We took a short jog through Crissy Field and fed the ducks at the Palace of Fine Arts before searching out a Starbucks for a recovery drink ;) We ended up at the Presidio oddly enough and grabbed a quick bite to eat before walking back on Lombard to our hotel.
We packed up (once again) and left for the airport to pick up poppop! Oh the excitement! We joined up and left for San Mateo, found a Peets (to let mike taste it's gloriousness) and then left again to see the sights in San Fran while the kids got a nap in. We did Boudins sourdough bread factory again, saw coit tower and took a windy drive down the famous Hyde street.