Many people are hesitant to travel with children at all, much less undertake slow travel with children. I confess that with my grown children I attempted to undertake a slow travel lifestyle, but chickened out after 6 months. It wasn’t the cost, which was far less than what it was costing us to live in California. Nor was it the stress. I think we all enjoyed the adventure and the closeness. It was simply ignorance. It made my parents uncomfortable and I worried that my ex, the children’s father, would object. In typical me fashion, I let my fears override my feelings and decided we had to put down roots. But I always look back on that time fondly. Great memories.
With my youngest, now 14, we began a full-time rving lifestyle when my mom was dying of leukemia in 2012. We packed up and moved in with my mom and dad for 6 months as she went through the dying process. I helped Dad with the funeral and all the stuff that came after, then we went back to our home base for about a year.
Next, the boy’s dad had to move in with his parents, to provide end-of-life care. The next three years saw the boy and me traveling between grandparents and our home base in 3 states. In the mean time, my older children married and one moved to Colorado. We averaged about 4-6 weeks each stop in California or Colorado, with varying stays at points in between, including our home-base in Arizona and even the odd vacation to Texas, Oregon, Florida, or elsewhere. As homeschoolers (road-schoolers now) this worked for us. As a location independent crafter and writer, it also worked for me.
Although organized sports was out for us (praise be!), the boy had played ice hockey for a year, non-stop, before we started out and decided that kind of rigor was not for him. Nor for me, as it turns out. Not to mention the expense. That has not prevented us from trying new things. In Colorado, we did Tae-Kwon-Do for 6 weeks. We go shooting (guns) when we visit my daughter and her hubby. We also ride horses with them. We love fishing and hiking. We have a pool in my dad’s backyard (above ground). The boy has a new interest in archery and we have found a couple of great places for drop-in lessons, one for $15, the other $5. Wow. There are several archery ranges we can go to, to practice for free. I have decided to love this sport. And it is another one we can take with us wherever we go. I have transitioned from downhill to cross-country skiing. I much prefer the pace and the cost – free in most areas, if you have your equipment. We also keep our bikes handy, for exercise and transportation.
The boy and I have taken trains since he was an infant. He can probably navigate the Metro better than I can. He keeps in touch with friends online and we try to meet up with friends in whatever area we find ourselves.
Although taking short trips with children can get expensive and tedious, I have to say slow travel is fantastic and no more expensive than staying “home”. Whether you take your home with you, as in rving or living on a boat, or get long-term rentals, as in several weeks at a time, slow travel with children is a great life!
We took the rv for a test drive to Creekside City Park, Sisters, OR after it came back from having the transmission repaired. We wanted to give it a good distance test with some mountain climbing. It did just great and we had a nice day trip.
We meandered through the mountains and stopped here for a bit of exploring. At Sisters, we found Creekside City Park, where we pulled in for lunch. There is also a campground there. Creekside is nice and green (like most of Oregon) and has lots of shady trees. There are picnic tables but no barbeques and there seems to be a lack of trash cans. I ended up putting our trash in the dumpsters, inconveniently fenced off. At least they had doggie doo bags and scoopers. Of course, Mrs. Susie was on her own doggie dude ranch vacation back in Colorado.
From the picnic area you cross the covered bridge to get to the bathrooms in the camping area. The bridge is an impressive work of art, sturdily built and beautiful to look at. We trekked down to the creek and dipped our toes. I found it very relaxing to close my eyes and listen to the gentle burble of the stream which seemed to wash away all my cares. Wanting to share this experience with my companions, I dragged them down to the creek and made them sit and listen with closed eyes, also. They giggled and squirmed and didn’t get it. I guess you just have to mentally be in a certain place to appreciate it. I tried.
At a stretch stop on the way back to Portland, we found this pretty critter stuck to our front grill. He was still barely alive when we peeled him off, but didn’t survive long.
Every big city that I have visited has its hidden escapes. Portland, OR is no exception. One such delight is the Chinese Garden, in the heart of downtown. Surrounded by high rises and parking meters, one does not expect to be swept away to a natural sanctuary, but procure your ticket and enter the garden gate.
Everything about the Chinese Garden is intentional. It is designed to transport you from everyday life. Step into the Courtyard of Tranquility and shed the cares of the world. Fill your eyes with the wonders of rock formations and waterfalls. Breathe in the heady scents of multitudes of flowers. Let the soothing sounds of the water and the birds and the breeze melt away your anxieties. Feel the warm sun on your shoulders (okay, so the sun does, indeed, come out in Portland) and the cool tiles under your feet.
There is an order and a flow to the garden. Windows and doorways frame views, guiding the eye from one peaceful scene to the next. Enter the Hall of Brocade Clouds and admire the wealth of your hosts. Carved ginko wood panels, ornate furniture and food offerings to the ancestors fill the hall. Proceed to the Terrace and take in an overview of the garden, patterned after the city compounds of wealthy Chinese families who wanted to live with the comforts of the city, but also wanted to surround themselves with the beauty of nature.
Knowing the Fish Pavilion has lots of shade and seating for gazing at the koi which populate the lake. Many of the fascinating and unique rock formations and most of the garden’s building materials came from China. Reflections in Clear Ripples is the name of the lounge house, or game room. Visitors can try out a game of Chinese Fortune Sticks and keep their fortune. Yet another pavilion, Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain, offers sweeping views of the lake and garden.
I sat in the Scholar’s Courtyard and soaked up the sun while I ate my lunch. Inhaling deeply of the spring blossoms, I listened to the water falling gently down the rocks across the lake. I listened to birds singing and arguing. I pondered human nature as I observed 2 women, frowning and gossiping about my friend, who took a phone call from her brother inside the Scholar’s Study, discussing our trip here with their dad, my son’s 91 year old abuelo. Such is the nature of the Chinese Garden. It is a place to think deeply and also a place to let your thoughts take flight. The Scholar’s Study is interesting. Writing implements and accessories are on display along with several piles of scrolls. Buddha boards are set up with water and brushes for visitors to practice Chinese characters.
The Moon Locking Pavilion would be the place to stand on a clear, moonlit night. The reflection of the moon is said to be locked in by the pavilion’s shadow. Relax with a steaming cup of tea, served in traditional Chinese cups from delicate porcelain teapots, in The Tower of Cosmic Reflections. The Rock Mountain and Waterfall crown the tour of the Chinese garden, followed by Painted Boat in Misty Rain, the final pavilion. Inside its boat shape you are meant to feel like you’re being gently rocked on the water.
Rather than proceed out through the gate, we decided to wander leisurely back through the gardens. Stopping and enjoying each view once again and drinking in the tranquility before returning to the craziness of the city.
We drove through Astoria, Oregon, but having already visited the famous column on a previous trip, we decided the rest of the town was too busy for the relaxation we craved, and we drove back to Fort Stevens State Park, where we grabbed a great campsite for a few nights. We went to see the shipwreck before setting up camp and parked abuelo in the front seat where he could enjoy the view, while we went exploring. Apparently, the rusty skeleton of the ship Peter Iredale is quite popular, so we only got a few pictures before abandoning our treasure to the next group.
The campsites at Fort Stevens are large and sheltered by big trees. The rv loops have water and electric hookups (good, because our solar panels don’t seem to like to charge in Oregon). There is a community dump site, community trash/recycle area, hot showers, handicap accessible spaces and clean bathrooms. Several tent loops give tent campers ample space from the rvers (read that “generators”). Fire rings and picnic tables seem to be available at all sites.
We made good use of the hiking and biking trails, spending most of our second day wandering through big trees, meadows, past streams and a lake, and viewing wildlife. Thankfully, lots of signs point lost hikers in the direction of the campgrounds. The boy and I took a trail from the back of our campsite up to the bike path and all the way to Battery Russell, on the Fort Stevens Ridge Trail, where there was a civil war reenactment going on. This was a nice distraction, as we had already walked much further than we had anticipated. We took our rest in the museum and watched a video that informed us that Fort Stevens had also been attacked by the Japanese during WWII. We refilled our water bottles and began the trek back to the campsite, grateful that 7 mile hikes did not come around every day.
Oregon state parks has a 3 level Jr. Ranger Program. The 1st level award is a badge; 2nd level, a pencil and decal; 3rd level, a certificate and patch. Ranger programs are available on wildlife, shipwrecks and more. Kayak and hiking programs are also popular offerings. Lewis and Clark National Park is also nearby. The entire area is steeped in history, with reenactments taking place all summer. The town of Hammond offers several restaurants, a laundromat, and St. Francis de Sales Catholic Mission for Saturday 4pm Mass.
We left Portland for a weekend in Astoria and decided to take the coastal route. Our first night was spent at the Big Spruce RV Park in Netarts Bay. This is definitely worth a return trip. The park is small, but quiet (at least when we were there) and we took a pull through spot near the entrance. Right across the street was the marina, so we walked over and enjoyed some climbing around on the boulders. There were lots of empty crab shells and a pair of seagulls seemed to enjoy watching the few people from their roost on a log.
The sights and sounds of the bay were soothing, as the ocean usually is to me, and we walked up the beach, past beachfront homes and back down to the water. A handy piece of driftwood made for convenient seating for abuelo and some of our party continued even farther up the beach, hoping to see some whales. No such luck, but they did get a tip for whale viewing the following morning.
In spite of being well stocked with provisions in the rv, we couldn’t resist the lure of The Schooner. The covered and wind screened patio offers spectacular views of the bay and the gas fire pit in the center of the table gave us all the atmosphere we required. Fresh caught clam chowder provided the perfect meal to end the day, and relaxing in front of the fire with warm drinks, taking in the sunset over the bay, we barely made it back to camp in time to drift off to sleep.
In the morning, we checked out and drove into town to find the recommended spot for whale watching. Though we were there with plenty of time to spare, the whales did not indulge us, so we continued on up the coast, stopping briefly at Neahkahnie to stretch our legs and observe distant seals diving and swimming in the waters below. A caterpillar was rescued from the sidewalk and deposited on a branch.
Our lunch stop was at Cullaby Lake. The park has nice trails, an old log cabin (unfortunately not open when we were there) and a nice children’s playground.
We drove through Astoria, but having already visited the famous column on a previous trip, we decided the rest of the town was too busy for the relaxation we craved, and we drove back to Fort Stevens State Park, where we grabbed a great campsite for a few nights.