Sometimes I think I like the idea of things more than actually doing them. Like an 11-day road trip to three locations. It’s not that it was bad, it was fun. But it was too much—and too long—for this homebody. About three to four nights seems to be the maximum amount of time I’m good with being away from home. I know this. I don’t always abide by this.
Like our summer road trip. Planned back in January. Maybe even last December?! Another thing I’m guilty of doing—filling the calendar far in advance with a ridiculous amount of plans and then questioning said plans as the dates approach. And subconsciously looking for ways to get out of said plans. I’m a creature of habit. And yet I don’t know how to break the cycle. Something I’m working on. Poorly, haha.
The trip! It really was fun. And I’m glad we went. Even during those moments I wanted to be home.
The trip kicked off on a Wednesday morning, the day after Laine’s birthday. We left mid-morning for Lincoln City on the Oregon Coast. We usually stay in Cannon Beach but switched it up this time, opting to go a bit further south to check out Lincoln City. We had been there once before, back in 2017 to see the solar eclipse. We were staying in—shocker—Cannon Beach, at the same hotel we always stay, and made the drive south the morning of the eclipse. Cannon Beach was just outside of the path of totality; Lincoln City was just inside the path of totality. Our time in Lincoln City was short and we didn’t explore. It was time to change this.
It was late afternoon when we arrived in Lincoln City after a pretty tension-filled drive. Not at first. All was going well. We were on the 5 South with the plan to cut over like we usually do for Cannon Beach. Through Kelso, across the Columbia River to Oregon, through Astoria, and then down the Oregon Coast. It’s about an hour longer to Lincoln City going along the coast but I was really wanting to drive the entire Oregon Coast since we would be heading south to California after our stay in Lincoln City. We go to Cannon Beach often enough, there was no need to punch in directions. About 10 minutes before Kelso, I reminded Brian—who was driving—that the exit was coming up. And then five minutes before, the exit was coming up. And then reminding Brian, it’s the next exit, as we approached the turn off. What does Brian do? He stays in the left lane and passes the damn exit. This is not like Brian. I was mad. Then about 10 minutes up the road, he exited to get gas and lunch. I was livid at this point.
By the time we ate and got gas, if we turned back north to get the right exit, it would have added an additional hour onto the already hour-longer drive. He was all about turning back around and going for it but I dug my stubborn heels in and said no, go the faster way. Which was through Portland. Traffic galore. And then after making it through all the traffic, we were on a highway with stoplights. I swear we hit every freaking single stoplight red. It. Took. Forever. I was in no mood. Even thinking about it now, I should be laughing but I’m getting annoyed.
Forever later, we made it to Pelican Shores in Lincoln City. A sister hotel to the Wayside Inn, the hotel we stay at in Cannon Beach every time. We checked in and then drove around town to explore. Lincoln City is a great little town. We were impressed. After grabbing dinner at a great Mexican restaurant, we hit the store to grab supplies for the coming days. Back to the hotel we went, to check out the beach and then swim in the hotel pool. The hotel is right on the beach, with private beach access. What an absolutely beautiful beach. I mean, most are. But some are less beautiful, looking at you Twin Harbors—still beautiful but not the best. It was getting late and the hotel pool was set to close in about an hour. Time for the kids to get their swim on.
The view from our hotel room. And pictures from my solo evening beach walk.
The hotel pool is really nice. And heated properly. Not a single complaint from Brian about the water, haha. The kids rarely complain. They all hit the water and swam out any energy they had left from the day. Everyone lasted maybe an hour? It was time to call it a night, 9pm and all. Back to the hotel suite we went.
Unlike the hotel in Cannon Beach which is a two-bedroom, almost apartment-like suite, the Lincoln City hotel’s largest room is basically a one-bedroom suite. The one bedroom has two queen beds; the living area has a couch with a pull-out queen bed. We made the call to put all the kiddos in the bedroom and Brian and I took the pull-out bed. Not the most comfortable but it worked out. And bonus, Maive slept all night in the bed with her siblings. A rarity. We all went to bed, me still holding a grudge from the route we drove down.
Lincoln City kiddos!
The plan Thursday was loose. On tap was Pic ‘N Pancake, this prehistoric place with dinosaur bones, the beach (of course), a pizza joint we spotted driving around the night before, some pool time… a decent amount of things to do but not on any time schedule. I’m a schedule freak so to wing things is a nice change when we’re on vacation.
Blaise’s goal is to hit every Pig ‘N Pancake. We’re close. Especially after this trip. Our standard routine in Cannon Beach is to eat breakfast in Seaside at the Pig ‘N Pancake. There is one in Cannon Beach but we’ve never been to that one. Weirdly. On our way into Lincoln City, we spotted the Pig ‘N Pancake. Nobody even had to say anything; we all knew that was what was for breakfast. It was a long wait but we managed. It was a nice enough morning that we found a bench to wait on outside of the restaurant.
Forever later, like 30 minutes, we had a nice table for the seven of us. We ate our usual breakfasts and left for downtown Lincoln City. First on tap was the Prehistoric place. My friend’s grandparents, and aunt and uncle live in Lincoln City and she gave me some suggestions of things to do with the kiddos. Prehistoric being one of them.
Prehistoric on the main drag.
It’s not what I envisioned but no complaints. It’s a store with some fossils and delicate items on display, along with tons of things to buy. Like rocks galore. And a toy section, of course. My friend had suggested having the kiddos break open geodes in the store, which they have a station just for this. But at $20 a pop, I wasn’t up for paying for five kiddos. Instead, we let each kiddo select a charm from their massive selection, to make into a necklace. And by charm, I mean shark teeth, rocks, fossils, and whatnot. All the gals chose different charms for necklaces; Blaise opted for three palm-sized rocks.
Next up, a surf shop. Brian decided he wanted to buy a skimboard for the beach—and for future beach trips. We drove south a bit on the main drag, and found a surf shop not far from Prehistoric. Brian went in the store with Blaise and Laine, and about 10 minutes later they were back with two skimboards. One for Brian and one for the kiddos. It was time to hit the beach. Back to the hotel we went.
Brian and the kiddos suited up for the beach in our hotel room before we made our way down to the water. It was a quiet afternoon on the beach. For a sunny summer day, it was dead. Not that I’m complaining. Brian and Laine quickly got to skimboarding. Blaise and the younger gals started in on sand play. I remember reading a Reddit post about things all men do and one of the comments was how all men—no matter the age—dig holes on the beach. Haha. Yep. Brian and Blaise both do this. Blaise started digging right away.
The next few hours were spent on the beach. It was approaching dinnertime. Driving around the evening before, we saw a pizza joint on the main drag. Dinner. Everyone cleaned up from the beach and we loaded back in the car for Gallucci’s. Talk about a time warp. It was like going back to the ’80s walking inside. Oak everywhere. It felt oddly comforting, like going back to my childhood. Brian ordered while the kiddos and I found a booth to settle in for dinner. The pizza was great. We have awful pizza selections around us here at home, so anything different is welcomed.
Dinner, check. It was pool time before calling it a day. The hotel pool was relatively quiet. Another dad with his three kiddos were swimming but they left not long after we got there. The kiddos must have swam for over an hour before it was time to call it a day. It was approaching 9pm and we had a tired crew. Brian and myself included. The younger gals passed out right away after readying for bed. Blaise and Laine looked like zombies but both stayed up a bit longer, playing on their iPads in bed. We had them shut things down at 10pm. Brian and I called it a night not long after.
Friday we were up and ready to roll. The plan was to stop at the outlet mall on our way out of town. Maive had grown and I needed bigger clothes for her. Carter’s always delivers. And shopping in Oregon, it’s all sales tax-free, so why not take advantage of that when possible?! Laine wanted new Nikes so she scored also. And we found a store called Pepper Palace for Brian. He and Laine were shopping together in the Nike store, and they are the two who take FOREVER to do anything. The other kids and I managed to shop in a few stores—and find Pepper Palace—all while Brian and Laine were at the Nike Store. And we still made it back to Nike to find them still shopping. I have no idea what takes them so long. But Laine found two pairs of shoes, sales tax-free. So, score.
Shoppers and another Pig ‘N Pancake checked off the list.
It was time to leave Lincoln City for the Redwood Forest. I quite like Lincoln City. It’s a cute little town and the beaches are really beautiful. And I liked the sister hotel. It’s definitely a place to add to our getaway rotation.
Heading south on the 101, we found the southern most Pig ‘N Pancake in Newport. Of course we had to stop. There was no wait. We lunched with our usual orders, before loading back in the car for the Redwoods. The drive south on the 101 is absolutely beautiful. I cannot believe all the pristine beaches we saw out the window. And all dead. We kept looking for surfers but nope. I realize the water is cold but wetsuits. I often think about living on the Central Coast and how I’d see the ocean almost daily. I don’t know if I ever took it for granted but I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I should have. The Pacific Ocean is gorgeous.
The drive was long. Six hours or so. Which isn’t long in our book but it felt like it took forever as we slowed down through all small towns on the coast. We eventually made it out of Oregon into California, just north of Crescent City. Crescent City is kind of a… well that’s not appropriate. It’s pretty much a prison town. Pelican Bay State Prison is there. I knew this already because my parents went up to check it out, to potentially move there when I was in elementary school. My dad worked as a correctional officer—never call them prison guards, haha—and was offered a job at Pelican Bay. He and my mom went, and thankfully decided against moving up there.
The hotel we booked was in Klamath, about 25 minutes south of Crescent City. I had looked for hotels in Crescent City but wasn’t impressed. And a friend who grew up around there told me do not to stay in Crescent City. Noted. And it was very apparent why once we pulled into town. Not our scene.
We stopped in downtown Crescent City for dinner—with a waitress named Sage—before we left for our hotel in Klamath. It was after 8pm when we checked in and unloaded all of our luggage. The hotel was nice and clean, and our room was large enough for all seven of us. Apparently the hotel is only a year or two old, and is on an Indian Reservation so it has a small casino attached. It was perfect for what we needed. All we did Friday night was go to sleep. Saturday was all about the Redwoods.
Standard sign photo.
The blue ox. Hahahaha. I remember stopping at this place back when I was 13 or 14, and I went on a family vacation to Crescent City with a friend. They had family up there and I tagged along to keep my friend company. I don’t remember much about that trip; my memory is shot. But I do clearly remember stopping at Trees of Mystery and my friend stood under the blue ox, pretending to lick its balls. And her mom died laughing. Which makes me wonder why the blue ox needs balls?! Eh, perhaps the artist had my friend in mind when they sculpted the sucker.
Anyway, Trees of Mystery. There are so many trails in the Redwood Forest that it was overwhelming to pick any. And there are several large trees as landmarks to check out. I wanted simple. Five kids and all. Trees of Mystery was perfect. It’s an attraction place, but also has trails and large trees. All in one place. And it was perfect! I don’t remember all the attractions back when we stopped. Like 30 years ago, haha! Maybe they didn’t have all the attractions back then?! If they did, we didn’t do any of them.
Saturdays are busy. I tend to avoid going anywhere on weekends. Crowds and all. But it was all good. We arrived just after they opened. Not many people were there… yet. Of course we took pictures of Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox with the balls. There’s a guy on a microphone out of sight who talks to anyone on or around Paul and Babe. I think Saige enjoyed this, taking her time hanging around the base of the sculptures. After pictures, we paid the entrance fee to the attractions.
There are trails and trees galore, a platform trail, gondola ride, massive trees, random sculptures, and more. It was absolutely perfect for our gang. Instead of rambling on about the place, pictures.
Trees of Mystery, Paul and Babe.
Platform trail. I don’t like heights.
The Brotherhood Tree. This thing is impressive! It’s HUGE. Pictures don’t do it justice.
Olden day tools used on the massive trees. Kind of sad thinking about them being cut down.
Gondola ride. Darn, it’s six people maximum. I had to sit this one out. That whole not liking heights thing. Bonus, I had about 20 minutes to myself sitting on a bench.
Cathedral trees. I guess one can reserve this area for weddings. And a smaller bunch on cathedral trees. The sign says it’s taking reservations for 600 years from now.
This was cool, a tree struck by lightening all burnt inside.
Tall Tales trail. Laine, haha!
A Redwood from the Crusades to after American Independence. These suckers live loooooong lives.
We must have spent about three hours at Trees of Mystery. It was time for lunch. Not before a stop in the gift shop on our way out. Of course all the kiddos wanted something to remember our visit. Yeah, sure. Eh, we caved and the younger gals all selected something. Our only rule is it has to be something that can only be bought at [insert tourist location]. Baby selected a carved redwood catch-all box; Saige a Trees of Mystery journal with a wood-carved cover; and Maive a Native American wooden toy (that could be bought anywhere but she’s two). Blaise and Laine didn’t find anything that interested them, that couldn’t be bought elsewhere.
It was time for lunch. The hotel in Klamath has next to nothing nearby. It’s literally one side street off the 101 with the hotel, gas station, dive bar, and a few other random buildings. We decided to head north back into Crescent City for lunch. Driving into town, there is a restaurant called The Apple Peddler. Sold. We stopped and it was also like going back into the ’80s. Like The Golden Girls style. It was all good. They had a table ready large enough for our family within a few minutes. And we had a really sweet waitress. We ordered and ate, and the food was good. Granted, I’m not a foodie—food is purely for body fuel. And The Apple Peddler delivered fuel.
Next to The Apple Peddler is Ocean World, an aquarium. Of course we had to go. It’s your standard small town aquarium. Enough to entertain the kiddos but nothing to write home about. They did have shark petting, I suppose this is kind of uncommon. Although I sure hope they switch out the sharks because they were in a shallow tank with no windows.
It’s a tour-based aquarium, where one employee leads groups through the small building. The tour starts with a touch tank, then down below to see several creatures in large tanks, then up to pet the sharks, and the grand finale is a seal show before they lead you through the exit to the gift shop. The seal was adorable. She had tricks. But she wasn’t about to give them up without getting encouragement from fish snacks. The aquarium visit lasted about an hour. It was a perfect after lunch thing to do. Back to Klamath we went.
Looking back, we probably should have just loaded up Saturday afternoon and made the drive south. We realized this later Saturday. Sure, there are plenty of things to do in the Redwood Forest. Trails and giant trees galore. But we have five kiddos, all of whom were tired from the excitment of the day. And from traveling since Wednesday. Brian and I were also tired. We were kind of done with this part of our trip and ready to move on. But we didn’t.
We had late Saturday afternoon and evening to kill in Klamath. First we drove around. I wanted to check out a viewpoint I found online. It’s a slow, curvy drive up to view where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. It was cloudy. We saw nothing. But going back down, we could see the water meeting through the clouds. It was so cool! I don’t think I’ve ever seen any freshwater meet the ocean like that?! It was clearly, here’s a river and here’s the ocean.
A picture from online I found, because I didn’t have an opportunity to take a photo.
Klamath River meets Pacific Ocean.
Viewpoint fail, now what? Drive-thru tree. Haha. Because, why not?! There is a drive-thru tree not even five minutes from the hotel. We made our way over there and paid the measly entrance fee to the woman who said she’s been running the booth for over 20 years. We pulled up to the tree and there was one group there, finishing up. They eventually left. We drove through the tree as a family first. Then Brian and the kiddos got out and I drove back through the tree, for photos. Brian is funny, he’s not the most comfortable with the Suburban. Driving, he’s fine. But maneuvering the Suburban, he’s overly cautious. Unlike me. I have that sucker down, for good and bad. Haha.
Drive-thru tree! (I put the car in park before the kiddos stood in front. Safety first.)
We considered leaving late Saturday but it would have put us in Sacramento close to 1am. Instead, we decided we’d get up early Sunday to kick off the drive first thing. All we had to kill were a few hours before bed. Hotel pool it was. The water wasn’t heated but that didn’t stop the kiddos. Or the other kiddos who were swimming. There were too many people in the pool for the size; the posted maximum occupancy sign was completely ignored. Even by us. I noticed it after the kiddos had been swimming a bit. We probably should have called it the moment I saw the sign but we didn’t. The kids swam a bit longer before they were all too cold. More families came into the pool area making it obvious our turn was up. Unspoken social etiquette.
It felt like the last few hours of Saturday dragged on. We had to eat dinner. Brian walked up to the gas station with a few of the kids to see if they had anything. Nope. The only restaurant close by was attached to our hotel and it was all heavy foods. Nobody was that hungry. Nor did we feel up for sitting in a restaurant. We had eaten out every meal since Wednesday. It gets old quickly. Thankfully we had leftover pizza from Lincoln City in our hotel room refrigerator. Easy. It was FINALLY bedtime. We all went to sleep knowing we were waking up early to skedaddle out of Klamath.
Ever since Laine was four or five, she’s wanted to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco is close to Sacramento. It’s an easy drive. We have no legitimate excuse for not doing this in all the years we’ve been down to California. We figured this would be the trip it happens. Even though driving to Sacramento from Klamath would be shorter to cut across over to the 5, we opted to drive south on the 101 through San Francisco, and then across the 80 over the Bay Bridge to Sacramento. It was a long drive. But it’s all good.
The fog was strong in San Francisco. We could see it hanging around from Santa Rosa. We stopped at a random mall in Santa Rosa for a restroom break, Jamba Juice, Starbucks, and Target for more bandages, Maive’s current obsession. The mall also felt ’80s. But slightly updated. It was one of our better road trip stops. We grabbed gas on our way back to the 101. It was time for Laine to finally check off driving across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Golden Gate and the newer span of the Bay Bridge.
If not for the fog, we were going to stop at a lookout point. But with the fog almost blocking the tops of the bridge, the lookout would have been pointless. Instead, we went for it and drove across. And then through the streets of San Francisco. I had considered adding a stop in San Francisco to explore all the areas Brian and I did back in the day, but Tara had warned us about all the smash-and-grabs. Since our car was loaded with all of our luggage and whatnot, we opted to take her advice and only drive through. Maybe next year we’ll make a trip to San Francisco for a day or two. The kiddos should have a proper San Francisco experience.
Weaving through San Francisco looking at all the things, we eventually made our way onto the Bay Bridge and out of the city. I hadn’t been on the new Bay Bridge since they replaced the one span. I still remember the 1989 earthquake. We had aftershocks at home in Rancho Murieta, and our pool water made them obvious. I can still see the waves. It happened on my parent’s anniversary, October 17. That was a day. Anyway, we left the Bay Area and crossed over the other bridge there in Vallejo, before stopping in Fairfield at the Jelly Belly Factory.
It was something to do. A place to stop and stretch the legs. We did the self-tour through the factory and then hit the gift shop. They have an unusually odd obsession with Ronald Regan. I guess he liked Jelly Bellies an had a standing order for the Oval Office. There’s an official letter from him while in the White House framed on the wall of the tour, in addition to several other Regan memorabilia items. The kiddos seemed to enjoy themselves. Especially in the gift shop. They each selected two items before we called it a stop.
Jelly Belly factory.
An hour to go. We made it to Sacramento in great time. Traffic was minimal for a Sunday afternoon. It was just after 5pm when we pulled up to Bob and Tara’s. We had six nights to recover from our busy road trip. Little did we know, it would continue to be busy. Of course it would. I should know better.
Sacramento is home. Even though it’s no longer home. Nor does it feel like home. But it’ll always be home. Our families are there—most of them—and we know the area even though it’s changed quite a bit since we left. And with each added year I haven’t lived there, my desire to ever go back wanes. If not for family, I would never go back. It’s a [censored]. Personal opinion, haha. It’s hot, flat, brown, crowded, and just blah. The best thing about living there when I was a kid is that it’s half-way between Lake Tahoe and San Francisco. This still stands in my book. My love for the area grew that much more while we were down. And by love, I mean dislike.
The week was great. Exhausting and not restful as planned, but no complaints. There was swimming, some more swimming, a bit more swimming, and then some more swimming. That’s the one great thing about Sacramento (seriously). Everyone has pools. Growing up, if we weren’t swimming at home, we were at a friend’s house swimming. It’s kind of a necessity given the summer heat. I love that the kiddos get a taste of my childhood summers.
When not swimming, there was visiting cousins, hanging with aunts and uncles, visiting local attractions, and more swimming. Haha. Let’s just go with pictures for all the things. Except no pictures of swimming. Honest, it happened.
Family! There were a ton of sweets! Ice cream sundaes nightly, cookie decorating… a kiddo’s dream.
A visit to the Sacramento Museum of Science and Curiosity.
And a visit to the World of Wonders Museum in Lodi with my sister and her kiddos. With a random kid in the wind machine. Followed by lunch at Black Bear Diner, for Baby. She’s been wanting to go back since we went in Oregon with my sister and her family.
It was a fun week. Busy week. It was time to head back home to Washington. I may or may not have bought a bit more than we had space for at a store called That’s Cheap. They have a ton of extra Target inventory, like stuff we have. Not damaged, just extra. And discounted prices. Like a basketball hoop. Hahaha. I had bought one for the kiddos last Christmas, for $300, but it arrived damaged. I never bought another one. Good thing I didn’t, That’s Cheap had the same basketball hoop for $75. We have a Suburban, anything can fit. Right?! I bought a bunch of other things also, smaller stuff. But still things that take up space. Brian was not amused but I managed to get everything to fit in the car Friday night.
Brian and I got up about 4am Saturday with the goal of hitting the road by 5am. We pulled out just after 5am—not too shabby. We drove straight. The kiddos are awesome road trippers. We stopped only three times in the 12-hour drive, which is a record traveling with kiddos. Our last stop was at a Denny’s in Kelso, for an hour. But even with the hour stop, we still made it home in just over 12 hours. A major record with kids! For comparison, our longest drive home from Sacramento was 16 hours.
Sunrise east of the 5 between Sacramento and Redding.
It felt SO good to be home. We have road tripping down. Brian had the car unloaded in no time. And the kiddos and I had our luggage unpacked before bed. We were set up for a day of nothing Sunday. Before life started back up. That whole work thing Brian does, and the kiddos and I had more summer plans the following week.
Next year is looking a bit different. I’m not sure we’ll head down in summer. Courtney is getting married in late September and we’ll go down for the wedding. Brian and I are undecided if we’ll go twice. He already has a wedding to attend in Hawaii next summer. And we have a weeklong trip booked to Glacier. December is usually when I plan summer. I have time to think things through. Until then, another summer trip down!