Pacific Northwest – Installment 1

16 Sep

I was really bad and didn’t so a single blog post while on vacation. Not because I didn’t want to. It’s just that long days and limited Internet accessibility made it challenging. I chose to use the down time we had in the evenings relaxing and enjoying the company of my traveling companions. Now that we’re home, I’ll be playing catch-up.

So, from the beginning…

Hubby and I have two very special friends, Annelies Van Damme and Yves Carlier, who we only get to see once a year. Why only once? Because they live in Belgium. Several years ago, 2009, to be exact, we started the tradition of alternating continents for annual visits. That year, they visited us at our old house in Maryland.

In 2010, Hubby and I traveled to Europe. Hubby and I did a motorcycle tour of Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, then spent some time with Annelies and Yves touring in Belgium and Luxembourg.

In 2011, they traveled to the US and we spent two weeks touring Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana.

Last year (2012), Hubby and I did a motorcycle tour of the Alps in Italy and Switzerland, then spent just over a week with Annelies and Yves touring Northern Italy, with a brief stop in Switzerland to visit our mutual friends Tammi and Martin near Lausanne, Switzerland.

This year, our friends traveled to the US for a tour of the Pacific Northwest. They stopped in Virginia, first, to see our new hometown, and then together we flew west to see Washington, Oregon, and a small piece of British Columbia (Vancouver Island).

We would have liked to see more, but, it terms of scale, the states in the Pacific Northwest are HUGE when compared to similar land area in the Northeast US and Europe. Shile it may sound like we didn’t see much, trust me when I say we covered a LOT of ground.

There’s no way I can cover the entire vacation in one post, so I’ll be doing a series of posts as a re-cap. Beginning here…

Annelies and Yves arrived in Virginia during the late afternoon on Friday, August 30. I was beyond excited to see them. Mike was, too.

Me and Annelies

Me and Annelies

Shortly after they arrived, we were off to El Toro, our favorite local Mexican restaurant.

El Toro's infamous Sangria Margaritas

El Toro’s infamous Sangria Margaritas

Serving sizes in the US are far larger than in Europe. Both were stunned at the size of the “small” Sangria Margaritas, which Annelies was not able to finish.

Yves lends a helping hand.

Yves lends a helping hand.

The meal was delicious, as usual.

It was an early night since they had spent the whole day traveling. Not to mention the fact that 9:00 PM in Virginia is equivalent to 3:00 AM in Belgium.

On Saturday morning, I took the girls up to Baltimore (my mother-in-law dog sat for us) while Hubby took our friends to visit the Udvar-Hazy Center, a companion facility to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. While in Baltimore, my Dad hooked me up with a couple dozen Maryland steamed crabs. So we got to introduce the Belgians to a Maryland summer tradition… crabs, beer, and corn-on-the-cob.

We had been planning to serve crabs for a while. But plans had changed several times. In the end, we were glad to be able to introduce these two seafood lovers to this new-to-them treat.

Hmmm...

Hmmm…

Yves sampled the seasoning while Hubby explained how to open the crabs.

Maryland Steamed Crabs

Maryland Steamed Crabs

They both learned very quickly and, before long at all, we got down to the business of eating and thoroughly enjoying our crabs.

Digging In

Digging In

We had planned to walk around town on Sunday, but it was in the 90s and extremely humid. So we just hung out inside until it was time to head for the airport.

Pre-flight Relaxation

Pre-flight Relaxation

We arrived in Seattle just before sunset, picked up our rental car, and headed south to Buckley, Washington. After checking in, we walked to the nearby Mariachi Alegre restaurant for some more delicious Mexican food.

Mariachi Alegre Restaurant in Buckley, Washington

Mariachi Alegre Restaurant in Buckley, Washington

The next morning (Monday, September 2) we headed off to Oregon by way of Mount Rainier National Park. The weather looked very promising.

Econo Lodge (Buckley, WA)

Econo Lodge (Buckley, WA)

 

Our First Glimpse of Mount Rainier

Our First Glimpse of Mount Rainier

 

First Stop in the Park

First Stop in the Park

Our first stop in the national park was the Grove of the Patriarchs, where we walked through a forest of old growth trees, across a suspension bridge onto an island in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River that houses a grove of giant trees. Many of the trees are more than 25 ft (7.6 m) in circumference with at least one that’s close to 50 ft (15 m) around. Some of the trees are around 1,000 years old.

Mike on the Suspension Bridge

Mike on the Suspension Bridge

 

Yves enjoying the forest stroll.

Yves enjoying the forest stroll.

 

Ohanapecosh River

Ohanapecosh River

 

Really Big Trees

Really Big Trees

 

Photo Op

Photo Op

While there, we captured one of many silly group photos.

Group Photo

Group Photo

 

Me in front of a huge tree.

Me in front of a huge tree.

Then we made our way deeper into the park for a stop at the Paradise Visitor’s Center.

Mount Rainier

Approaching Mount Rainier

 

Behold, the mountain.

Behold, the mountain.

 

At the Visitor's Center

At the Visitor’s Center

 

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You can really appreciate the size of the mountain up close.

 

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Mount Rainier

 

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Wildflowers

 

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Me and Hubby

 

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Annelies and Yves

After stopping at the Paradise Visitor Center, we continued on to Portland. We stopped for one last look at the mountain.

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Mountain shrouded in clouds.

It was a LONG day. While to route didn’t seem too intimidating on the map, that was the day we learned that drives through the Washington back country can seem VERY long. The roads were paved, but extremely curevy and rough. And all we could see in the way of scenery for hours on end was trees.

Entering Oregon

Entering Oregon via the Bridge of the Gods

We crossed the Columbia River into Oregon not long before sunset. Because we were all exhausted, completely tired of being in the car, and anxious to reach our destination, we headed west without stopping. We did make a brief stop at the Cascade Hatchery…

Salmon

Salmon

… then continued into Portland.

It was dark by the time we reached our rental house. We did go out for dinner, but didn’t take any pictures of our lackluster, sports bar meal.

Thus, this post ends at the conclusion of our first full day in the Pacific Northwest.

More to come later. I have to get to work. Sigh…

13 Replies to “Pacific Northwest – Installment 1

  1. Kathy:

    One thing that I still can’t get over is how crowded the Eastern States are and how close everything is. You are able to travel through many States in one day.

    You should try riding over the “Bridge of the Gods” on a Motorcycle. You can see through the grating to the water below, and also you tires have a mind of their own.

    You took NF25 the Windy River route. I have ridden that on my motorcycle and you can access the backside of Mt St Helens from NF99. I rode that section alone, which is not recommended.

    I wonder if you had a chance to ride the Rowena Loops road ?
    http://www.motowhere.com/maps/route/Rowena-Curves-Loop

    anyway, hope you managed to have a good time and good weather too

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

  2. Kelly Ann, it was an exhausting day. Those forest roads in a car are like driving through tunnels. But the tree walk was awesome. And I could sit and stare at Mt. Rainier from that vantage point all day long.

  3. Bob, Mike and I both agreed the road would have been much better on bikes. We did not ride the Rowena Loops road, but will when we go back. Hopefully we’ll get to rent bikes for our next visit to Oregon.

  4. I am soooo looking forward to your write ups on your trip. I enjoyed being able to see some of the pics on facebook.

    In these parts it seems to take forever to get from place to place but at least the back roads and twisties are fun even on four wheels, well, provided you don’t get car sick.

    And I don’t usually blog from the road either, but wait until I get home. Nothing says ‘rob me’ like telling the world you are away for two weeks.

  5. Pingback: Pacific Northwest – Installment 2 | ToadMama.com

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  7. Sonja,

    I thought of you several times while we were there. It’s such a lovely area. We were only on Vancouver Island for a day, but got to see Victoria and Sidney. Lovely! I remember all your waterfront pics fondly. A little different I’m Germany, eh?

  8. Pingback: Pacific Northwest – Installment 5 | ToadMama.com

  9. The crabs really were delicious; so glad we got to savour them in the end. Yay for silly group photos! 🙂 That truly was one of the most tedious drives ever; I guess we got spoilt in Utah…. But hey, we really did get an idea of just how many trees are out there!

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