Los Angeles

Leaving the beautiful, wild and remote Joshua Tree behind, we headed to the beautiful, eventful and populated Los Angeles.  Our budget didn’t allow us to stay too close to the city so we spent our nights nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains, about a forty miles northeast of the city.  Our two weeks in the area was a pleasant mix of city life, outdoor activity and relaxing.

Lucy and a sunrise

While in the typically sunny southern California, our bad luck with weather continued.  Los Angeles frequently nears the top of best climate lists, but we had cloudy, windy, rainy and foggy weather.  I’m not complaining because most of the people reading this are wintering in Ohio and I believe in making the best of what you’re given.  But it is causing me to reflect on the great weather we had all last year and hoping for sunnier times ahead.

Foggy Los Angeles

We took a few trips into the city but the infamous traffic deterred us from too many visits.  The Getty Center overwhelmed us with their immense art collection.  Griffith Observatory provided great views of downtown and the Hollywood sign.  Santa Monica was great people watching but the two hour, forty mile drive home put a damper on the night.

Santa Monica Pier

Just because we live on the road doesn’t mean we don’t have to deal with the typical day-to-day responsibilities.   Most time consuming, obviously, is working 40 hours a week.  But there’s also the mundane – dishes, laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping.  There’s the self-care – visiting the eye doctor and dentist.  And there’s the trip related – finding and reserving campgrounds, applying for hiking permits, figuring out where we want to go. We used our two weeks in Los Angeles to get caught up on these.

Hollywood

Channel Islands National Park protects a collection of islands off the coast of southern California.  Overnight and day trips to the islands are available, but a whale watching tour fit our  schedule best.  As stated earlier, we encountered some rainy and cool weather; luckily the morning of our tour was cloudy but dry.  We happily spent our time on the top deck, while the unlucky were getting sea sick below.

Whale watching!

According to the captain, grey whales are usually quite predictable, so once one is spotted, you should be able to follow along and watch it breath and spout.  We saw nearly ten whales during the trip but were unable to spot each more than once or twice.   The highlight was a whale breaching we witnessed just before the trip ended.   Although from a distance, it was breathtaking to see the giant creature leap from the water.  Zach valiantly attempted but failed to get a good picture of a whale.

A whale’s tail

The dolphins on the other hand were plentiful and photogenic.  Twice, our boat was surrounding by a pod of dolphins, some following along very close to the bow.   They appeared so happy and playful and it was a majestic experience.  

Up close and personal with a dolphin

We had a busy, eventful two weeks in Los Angeles, but by the end of our time, we were ready to move on. Next stop, Death Valley National Park!

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Westbound!

Last winter we followed I-10 across the southern United States, from Tallahassee to Tucson.  This year we took the more northerly route of I-40 and paid the price. Living in a trailer is great until it isn’t.  As we travelled from Memphis through Oklahoma City to Petrified Forest and beyond, we faced nights below freezing and days not much warmer.  The nine days brought us six states, two national parks, two ice storms and over 1600 miles of driving.

Lucy doesn’t like the cold

The first stop on our 1-40 journey was Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.  Frequently topping the list of least exciting parks, we weren’t expecting much.   The smallest park*, it is also the oldest in the National Park System.  In 1832, forty years before Yellowstone became the first National Park, Hot Springs Reservation was the first land to be designated for federal government protection.  The park is more historical than natural and, although I love history, I don’t care much about where rich people bathed in the nineteenth century.

Not your typical National Park

The highlight of our time in the park was Superior Bathhouse Brewery.  You may be able to guess from its name that it’s a former bathhouse converted into a brewery.  We also went on a hike that was on par with most in Ohio.  If you ever find yourself in Hot Springs, Arkansas you might as well visit the park. Otherwise, I would not recommend it.

From Hot Springs, we worked our way back to I-40 and continued on to Oklahoma City.  This was our first campground to have storm shelters but luckily our visit preceded peak tornado season.  Even so, there were some windy nights that left me worried Lucy was going to tip over.  In OKC, we also encountered two ice storms that caused many accidents on the highways.  For all the miles we’ve driven in the past year, we have been very lucky that two flat tires and a few blown fuses is the worst we’ve experienced.

Oklahomans don’t need much snow to sled

We didn’t let the cold and ice keep us from exploring the city.  We played a game of Frisbee Golf – our new favorite free way to spend an afternoon.   We tested our regular golf skills at Top Golf. The employees were surprised anyone wanted to play in the cold and we had the place to ourselves.  I’m looking forward to playing again in warmer weather once the Cleveland location opens.

We hopped back on I-40 and spent a night in Amarillo, TX and Albuquerque, NM before arriving in Petrified Forest National Park.   Nestled in the Painted Desert, the park is filled with petrified logs.  Two hundred million years ago, a nearby volcano erupted, covering the surroundings in silica based ash.  The silica seeped into the logs and thanks to some permineralization magic, the wood was turned to quartz. Pretty crazy world we live in.

Looks like wood, feels like stone!

We drove the 27-mile road through the park and hiked every maintained trail!  That sounds more impressive than it was – there are only five trails in the park for a total of six miles.  In addition to the petrified wood, the views are quite spectacular.  Even though they’re over a thousand miles apart, Petrified Forest reminded me a lot of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Quite a view!

With only 250 miles to drive on Sunday, we stopped at Walnut Canyon National Monument, a few miles outside Flagstaff.  It was a nice place to spend a few hours before continuing on our quest to California, where we’ll be spending the next 11 (!!) weeks. Our trek across the country was pleasant but I’m looking forward to doing more exploring and less driving in the coming months.

Walnut Canyon

And now a rant:

*When we visited Hot Springs, it was the smallest National Park.  As I was verifying that fact for the blog, I stumbled upon the news that last week we gained a new National Park.  For some unfathomable reason, Congress passed and President Trump signed a bill to designate and rename Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to Gateway Arch National Park. That’s right – the Gateway Arch in St. Louis is now a National Park – on the same level as Yellowstone and Yosemite.

I clearly am a fan of National Parks and think that the Gateway Arch makes a great National Monument or Memorial.  But it should NOT be a capital NP National Park.  At only 192 acres, Gateway Arch is nearly thirty times smaller than Hot Springs.  National Parks should be big, natural, and wild.  There should be hiking and biking, flora and fauna, mountains and oceans, deserts and forests. One could spend weeks exploring a park like Glacier and not see it all.  I haven’t been to the Arch, but I think it would be a stretch to spend a whole day there.  This change dilutes the title of National Park from something reserved for the best land America has to offer to a label given to any old man-made structure.

There has been a surprising lack of news on the topic and no official announcement from the National Park Service.  I’m hoping this is some sort of miscommunication and the park gets changed back to a more appropriate name.  Until then, I’m keeping the Gateway Arch out of my quest to visit all the National Parks.

On The Road Again

After spending most of the past few months in Ohio visiting family and celebrating holidays, the time finally came to hit the road again. As you might expect, February isn’t the most amenable time to live out of a travel trailer. So we headed south, looking for warmer climates. What we found instead was rain. Lots and lots of rain. For all the good fortune we had last year with weather, this year seems determined to change that.

We didn’t let a little water deter us from our planned stops though. First up was Lincoln’s birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky. Since Liz kinda has a thing for Lincoln, there was no way we were going to avoid this detour. This certainly wasn’t the first time we found ourselves near attractions capitalizing on the late presidents fame. In Illinois, we passed a town boasting to be where Lincoln got his start – the old Illinois capitol where he practiced law. In Washington DC, we walked past the Ford Theater where Lincoln was shot, and up to the Lincoln memorial where his larger-than-life figure now looks out over the capitol. In Kentucky though, the president is memorialized with a peculiar stone mausoleum that protects an era-appropriate log cabin – once thought to have been his childhood home.

Lincoln’s Symbolic Birthplace Cabin

Further south, we met our first national park of the year – Mammoth Cave. This was my third time to the park and our third cave in the past year. Still, a visit wouldn’t have been complete without a cave tour. Opting for Frozen Niagara – an early tour that explored less than half a mile of the world’s largest cave – left us with enough time for a short hike and a long drive to Memphis.

A picture from the hike because caves are difficult to photograph

While we spent most of our time in Memphis sipping on Pike Place roasts in various Starbucks, we also hit up a few local joints including Memphis Made for a flight of beer and The Dirty Crow for a round of dive bar trivia. Since Memphis is best known for its blues music, we visited the old Sun Studios building, a small recording studio where world-famous names like B.B. King, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley got their start.

A picture of the Million Dollar Quartet hanging where they stood

Saturday, before packing up the trailer and continuing on to Arkansas, we headed back to Shelby Farms Park, where we played a round of frisbee golf earlier in the week, for a 5k race. While rain most likely deterred many from competing, it certainly didn’t stop Liz, who placed 1st of all female runners and around 5th overall.

Need to make an award corner in Lucy

Best of 2017!

All year I had been excited to write a Best of 2017 post, but when the time came I was burnt out and lacking the motivation.  After essentialy two months away from blogging, I’m ready to get back at it.  So, without further ado, our favorites from 2017:

 

Favorite Brewery

Liz & Zach: Tradesmen Brewery, Charleston, SC

The two story bar, built in an old house and managed by a husband and wife brewmaster/bartender duo offered the best beer flights we had all year. At $5 a platter, not only were they cheap, they contained several of the best beers we had all year.

 

Favorite Campground

Liz: Langhor Campground, Bozeman, MT

In order to have a reasonable commute time to a place with internet, we usually have to stay in cramped, noisy, developed campgrounds often lacking trees.  While they do have nice things like electricity, showers, and cell phone service, it’s nice to get away every now and then.  Nestled outside of Bozeman, Langhor Campground allowed us to do just that.  Our campsite bordered Hyalite Creek and we spent hours eating, reading, and relaxing near it’s shore.

 

Zach: Cave Spring Campground, Sedona, AZ

There have been a lot of great campgrounds this year but I think this one edges out the competition simply because it was the first with our trailer. After a few questionable AirBnb stints we decided to buy the trailer in Phoenix, AZ and immediately parked it in the Grand Canyon parking lot while we lodged with Liz’s family. Instead of heading on to spend the week in Las Vegas, like planned, we took a detour to Sedona. The campground – nestled in a unique canyon valley –  was fairly empty throughout the week and had a few nice hikes nearby.

 

Favorite Campsite

Liz: Robbers Roost, Big Bend National Park, TX

I think the picture below explains itself.  We were the only people for miles, the view was amazing and the stars were extraordinary.

 

Zach: Agnes Lake, Voyageurs National Park, MN

Like Liz’s favorite campsite, Agnes Lake offered immense solitude. Situated on a large lake on a larger island accessible by canoe, we only had to share the view with a mother deer and her doe (and a million mosquitoes).

 

 

Favorite Meal

Liz: Sakari Sushi, Des Moines, Iowa

You wouldn’t think that Des Moines would have some of the best food of our trip, but it’s been eight months and I’m still dreaming of Sakari’s shrimp tempura.

Zach: Red Curry Mac & Cheese, Jack of Cups, Charleston, SC

I’m no chef, but this one was so good I tried recreating it on my own (not nearly as good). The red curry sauce complimented the relish in a very unexpected and satisfying way.

 

Favorite Drive

Liz: Road to Hana, Maui, HI

We started the day in a genuine rainforest and ended in a certifiable desert.  Along the way we saw countless waterfalls, discovered my new favorite plant – the rainbow eucalyptus,  visited the largest temple in Hawaii, and watched waves violently crash on lava rock cliffs.  It’s crazy that people live here and drive this route daily on their way to work or school.

 

Zach: White Rim Road, Canyonlands, UT

The 100 mile drive was the perfect level of off-roading excitement I was looking for with our 4Runner. Liz and I took hour long shifts at the wheel avoiding rocks, climbing canyon switchbacks, and doing our best to share the trail with mountain bikers. Then, in our shift as a passenger, we were able to focus less on the obstacles ahead and more at the grand beauty of Canyonlands.

 

Favorite Concert

Liz: The Decemberists

2017 was a great year for live music! I went to two music festivals, Laurelive in June with Megan and Traveler’s Rest in Missoula with Zach, and saw some other amazing shows – Bon Iver, Garth Brooks, and the xx (my second favorite concert of the year).  But when it came down to it, the most memorable performance was the Decemberists headlining both nights of their music festival.  A live show should grow your appreciation for the band and, while I liked the Decemberists before, my admiration for their artistry increased and listening to The Mariner’s Revenge Song will always take me back to that concert. 

Zach: War On Drugs

Liz and I listen to a lot of music. According to Spotify’s 2017 ‘Year In Review’ we each logged well over 50,000 minutes of listing time. And, for me, it was the year of the War On Drugs. Not only did they top my chart for both most listened to artist and album, they also held 4 of the top 5 song positions (with one spot going to The Growlers). And, after seeing them in concert, they also hold the top slot for concert and live song. Watching them play Under the Pressure with a glitter snowstorm raining down on the crowd was surreal.

 

Favorite Run

Liz: LaPine State Park, Bend, OR

Having run 1,000 miles last year, I had a lot of options to chose from.  But LaPine State Park checked all the boxes for a great run route.  It was scenic – you can’t beat running through the ponderosas along the Deschutes river. It was peaceful – each run I saw, at most, one group of runners. And most importantly, it was flat.

Zach: Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC

Since we spent two weeks in Charleston, I had the chance to run across the bridge a few times. The best part of the five mile round-trip was the last mile – all downhill.

 

Favorite Hikes

I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

  1. Subway, Zion National Park, UT
  2. Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, TX
  3. Rim-to-River-to-Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
  4. Muir Snowfield, Mount Rainer National Park, WA
  5. Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, MT

2017 Stats

Miles Driven: 26,785
States: 34
National Parks: 25
Flights: 10
Flat Tires: 2
Emergency Appendectomies: 1

There were so many great experiences last year that didn’t get mentioned. We travelled more in one year than most people do in their lifetime.  And we get to do it again this year!

DC, NYC, and the Holidays

I took a few weeks off from working on the blog to relax and enjoy the holidays and a lot has happened in that time.  We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving with family, spent a week in Washington DC, returned to Columbus for a fun work holiday party, traveled to New York City, went to Indianapolis for a concert and are currently recovering from a great Christmas season.  Rather than write full posts on each city we visited, here’s a few paragraphs on each:

Washington DC

We left for DC the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  Lucy remained at Zach’s parents and we stayed at an Airbnb two miles north of the National Mall.   We had both been to the city before but not as adults.  Between the museums and memorials, we filled our schedule with free, educating activities.

Washington Monument

Being on the east coast and near the winter solstice, it was dark by the time we finished working.   Many museums closed around 5, so we had to get creative with our after-work activities.  We spent one evening walking around the monuments and memorials; they all looked spectacular lit up.  The Smithsonian art museums – the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum – were open until 7pm, so we spent a night at each.  Obviously, my favorite part was the America’s Presidents collection.

Jefferson Memorial

With our weekend, we took advantage of more free museums and activities.  Again, my favorites of the American History Museum were president related – the top hat Lincoln wore when assassinated and the desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.   The Holocaust Memorial Museum was difficult but important.   We toured the NPR headquarters where we saw Korva Coleman, Sam Sanders and the actual Tiny Desk they use for concerts.

We only took pictures of memorials

Columbus

On our way back to Columbus, we stopped by Canton.  Zach’s aunt Susan was in from the Upper Peninsula.  Although we were only there for less than 24 hours, it was nice to catch up.   We spent the work week in Columbus – as much as I love life on the road, I enjoy working from the office.  Along with my coworkers and seeing old friends, the free lunch, snacks, coffee and beer are a big reason.   The week ended with our holiday work party.  I had a great time at the official party, the official after-party, and the unofficial after-after-party.

The after-party at Pins

New York City

We booked a direct flight to New York, but the morning of we were informed the original flight had been cancelled and we had been rebooked with two layovers.  We considered trying to cancel the flights and just drive, but decided against it and suffered through eight hours of travel instead of what should have been a 90 minute flight.  We arrived late Sunday night at our Airbnb, the only place within our budget which was on the far side of Queens, about a 45-minute (on a good day) subway ride from Times Square.

Rockefeller Center

Like DC, it was dark by the time we finished working, but we still managed to fill up our nights with the best the city has to offer.  We attended two standup comedy shows and an improv show.  Zach bought me tickets to the Waitress (a Broadway musical written by one of my favorite musicians – Sara Bareilles) for Christmas and they put on a great show.  We went to an Italian restaurant a block from our Airbnb four times (if you ever find yourself in Jamaica, Queens, check out Paul Michaels Brick Oven Café!)

Great seats at the Waitress

On Saturday, we took a blistery ferry ride to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty.   Although the crown was sold out, we obtained tickets to go up to the pedestal which gave us an interesting perspective of Lady Liberty.  On Sunday, we braved the cold and rode bikes around Central Park.  Before we knew it, our time in the Big Apple was done.

View from the pedestal

Indianapolis

We spent two nights at home before it was time to head back out.  This time to Indianapolis, to see Zach’s favorite band – The War on Drugs.  Four of his five most listened to songs on Spotify this year were by The War on Drugs.  They had played in Columbus while we were Hawaii so to Indianapolis we went.  The was concert great; I’m not a huge fan of their music but they put on a fantastic show. We left Indianapolis early on Friday and worked from the office Columbus before driving home in the evening.

We took zero pictures in Indy so here’s another of NYC

Christmas

Christmas is far and away my favorite time of year. Unlike most, I delight in snow and we were blessed with a white Christmas this year.  I love spending time with family, especially now that I’m not home often.   Zach and I are typically together 24/7 so we were happy to split up and spend time with our own families, but we also found time to see each other’s families.  The Christmas season seems to keep getting better and better as I get older.  I hope everyone had a great holiday season and New Year’s!  2017 was a great year and I look forward t0 what 2018 will bring!

Christmas with the Cymanskis

New Years with the Serafinis

Salt Lake City: A Day in the Life

Bring! Bring! Bring! I roll over and unlock my phone, turning the alarm off.  Groaning, I pull the covers over my head, not ready to get out of the toasty bed.  After nearly falling back asleep, I start scrolling through Twitter, hoping the brightness of my screen will get my brain synapses firing.  In the meantime, Zach is up and nearly ready to leave.  He puts on his shoes which is my cue to stop grumbling and start getting ready to face the day ahead. I throw on my jeans, the first shirt I grab and then a few more layers – these late October mornings are getting chilly.  After brushing my teeth, Zach, who’s been patiently waiting for the last ten minutes, and I say goodbye to Lucy and head out to work.

Salt Lake City morning

Since we’re staying near downtown, in the factory district, the drive to Starbucks is short.  We place our usual order, two everything bagels, toasted with cream cheese, a grande black coffee for me, and a venti coffee for Zach.  We head to separate tables and get to work.  I spend the morning chugging along on my assigned issue.  I’m working on switching over some queries to a read-only database.  In laymen’s terms, I’m trying to make our system able to handle more people using it.  As usual, Zach’s morning contains more meetings than mine;  I only have my team’s daily scrum (our everyday check-in to ask for and offer help).

Hard at work (or hardly working?)

This rarely happens, but our Salt Lake City campground has a good enough internet connection to work from their lobby for the afternoon.  We head back during a break in Zach’s meetings for soup and salad in the camper.  It’s a nice change of pace from our typical lunch of sandwiches in the car.  I spend the rest of the workday in the lobby, which is conveniently located next to the laundry room.  I knock out a load while struggling to test my code changes.  I’m unable to accomplish much workwise but at least I now have clean clothes!

We took very few pictures in SLC

After work, I lay in bed for a short time, allowing my brain to recover from the day, and then change into running clothes.  I fell behind on my goal of 1,000 miles when I sprained my ankle in August, but I am working hard on catching up.  The past few days I’ve run from the campground, but today we drive up to Antelope Island, a state park 30 miles north of downtown.  The island, occasionally a peninsula (the lake is so shallow that its area fluctuates from less than 1,000 to over 3,000 square miles), is located on the Great Salt Lake.  A buffalo on the side of the road greets us– the park is home to one of the two herds in the state.  The mid-fifty temperature combined with great views of the lake and a 538 politics podcast make for a great workout.  I still feel good when I get back to the car; if it wasn’t for the grumbling in my stomach, I would have added on another mile or two.

The Great Salt Lake

On the way home, we pick up a pizza – black olives and pineapple, my favorite.  We eat and listen to the latest Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! laughing at all of Paula Poundstone’s jokes.  In addition to running 1,000 miles, I have quite a few other goals for the year – read 50 books, finish a third of my giant cross-stich project, keep this blog semi-up-to-date.  Tonight, I read 25 pages of my current book, The Happy Traveler, while Zach plays Roller Coaster Tycoon on the tablet.  Once he beats the level he’s working on, I work on my cross stich while we watch Band of Brothers.  Not quite ready to go to bed, we watch an Office episode and then another because they’re too darn funny to just watch one.  I remember that I haven’t brushed my teeth so I begrudgingly walk the six feet to the bathroom and do so.  I crawl under the covers, cuddle with Delilah – my zebra pillow pet, and try not to think about work as I drift into a deep sleep.

Tahoe

After a few great weeks in Hawaii, it was time to head back to our car and trailer in San Francisco. So, for the third time this year we found ourselves spending the night in an airport parking lot. And, since we’re pretty sure spending the night in an airport parking lot is frowned upon, we found ourselves again trying to inconspicuously disembark the shuttle and sneak into the trailer. 100% success so far (knock on wood).

Hawaiian Airlines has the best in-flight meal (free wine!)

The next day we headed northeast to Lake Tahoe – starting our long journey back toward Ohio for the holidays. While we were too late for swimming in the lake, and too early for skiing, we were still able to find plenty to do. Wednesday, we went on a short hike, passing the hordes of salmon that had made their way up the stream to lay eggs. Then, tried out a new disk golf set at Bijou Park. Thursday, we went on another hike, climbing Maggies Peak and finally spotting a bear at a reasonable distance for the first time this trip.

Question, which kind of bear is best?

After rounding out the work week, it was back on the road, driving East into Nevada. On our way to Great Basin National Park, we stopped in Ely, a small town along “Americas Loneliest Road” to watch Ohio State come back to beat Penn State while playing video poker and drinking a beer or two.

Liz won $20 playing Keno!

While we didn’t spend long in Great Basin, we made time to hike through a bristlecone pine grove, seeing some of the oldest living organisms on the planet. The trees can live thousands of years and stand strong hundreds of years after dying due to the fact that their wood grows slowly and tightly enough to prevent rot. Beyond the bristlecone pine grove, we hiked to a glacier before turning around and hitting the road again, destination Salt Lake City.

This tree is older than the city of Rome

Hawaii Part III: Oahu

In high school, I was part of a group called the Shady Ladies.  What may sound like a shifty organization, was just a self-given nickname to my group of running friends.  Sammi, Jessica, Caitlin and I all ran cross country and track and were recognizable by our matching red sunglasses.  We liked to use words like druthers and behoove and frequented Buffalo Wild Wings.  Sammi and Caitlin were significantly faster than me, both went on to run in college, but Jessica and I spent hours each week, fall and spring, running together and chatting about life.

The least awkward picture I could find of us

The four of us stayed in touch throughout college, reuniting at BDubs a few times a year.  Last year, Jessica moved to Hawaii when her then fiancé, now husband, got a job in Oahu as a contractor for the Marines.  I hadn’t seen her since she left Ohio so it only made sense to swing by for a visit while we were in the area.

Jess and I in Hawaii!

Unfortunately, we were out of vacation days which meant back to work.  Zach has a daily meeting at 10 am eastern time so he was up by 4 am Hawaiian time.  I usually slept in until 5 am.  I’ve never used ‘slept in’ and ‘5 am’ in the same sentence before.  On one hand, starting work so early allowed us to have the whole afternoon for activities, but it also meant being very sleepy and going to bed by 8 pm.

The view during my daily run

With our free afternoons, we took in some of the best Oahu has to offer.  A somber visit to Pearl Harbor, a windy afternoon watching kitesurfers at Lanikai Beach, a rainy hike, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, and dinner at a fabulous farmers’ market with Jess, Ben, and their adorable dog Koa.

Rainy + windy hike

On Saturday, Zach, Jessica, and I took a day trip to the north shore.  We started the day at the Dole Plantation.  It is incredibly touristy but the Dole Whip alone makes its worth the stop.   For those of you, like myself before visiting, who have never heard of Dole Whip, it’s pineapple ice cream that’s only sold at Disneyland, Disney World and the Dole Plantation.  It has a huge cult following, and after eating some I can understand why.  In addition to delicious Dole Whip, the plantation also had the largest gift shop I’ve ever seen.  Who knew there could be so many pineapple related objects?

The best looking pineapple around

Our next stop was Waimea Bay, birthplace of big wave surfing.  They hold surfing competitions here in the winter and in October, the waves were starting to grow but were still a manageable size. Zach and Jessica jumped off the famous Waimea Rock while I bobbed in the waves.  I went cliff-jumping once and that was enough to last a lifetime for me.

Zach mid-jump

After working up an appetite from swimming, we got lunch at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.  Their world famous shrimp scampi was worth the long line.  We also stopped at a fruit stand where I tried, for the first time, fresh coconut, rambutan, and dragon fruit.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Scampi

Before we knew it, our twenty days in Hawaii had come to an end. On our last night, Jessica, Ben, Zach and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings, just like old times.  Although sad to leave the Aloha State, I was ready to get back to Lucy and our regular day-to-day life.  Thank you so much to Jessica and Ben for having us and hopefully it’s less than a year and a half until we see each other again!

Medford and More!

Leaving Crater Lake, we headed south to meet up with the rest of Tyler’s family.  While in Medford we repeated some of our favorite activities from our last visit.  Watching Zach’s nieces at their swim lessons, walking down to Roxyann Winery and staying up late every night playing board games and Super Smash Brothers.

Uncle Zach and June

Unfortunately, we also experienced some unwanted activities.  I came down with a bad cold in the beginning and by the end of the week, all of the Oregon Serafinis had caught a stomach bug.  There were a lot of sick people in the house but still managed to enjoy our time together.

Common Block Brewing Company

The six of us headed down to Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. The titular Lassen Peak is the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the park is home to all four types of volcano (plug dome, shield, cinder cone, and strato).  I had not heard of Lassen before we started out on our National Park quest so I was surprised to learn it was created in 1916, making it the 11th oldest park.

Selfie with Lassen’s Seismograph Station

We started with the best named trail in the entire park system –  Bumpass Hell.  The hike takes you down into a geothermal area nicknamed ‘Little Yellowstone’.  Having not previously seen anything like it, I was fascinated by the way the ground bubbled, steamed, gurgled, and churned.  The sulfuric acid created fascinating color patterns surrounding the scalding mud pots.

Bumpass Hell from above

Planning on eating out for dinner, we had not gone grocery shopping in preparation for the weekend.  It turned out, our only options less than a ninety-minute drive closed before 5pm. Between a can of clam chowder, some pasta, and a pouch of tuna, we managed to scrounge together a meal for six from our trailer’s limited pantry.  Tyler, Whitney and family slept in the trailer.  After first getting used last week by Tyler, our convertible table bed had its second customer in Sage.  This gave Zach and I an excuse to break out our neglected tent and cuddle under the chilly stars.

Artsy filler picture 

The following morning, after a delicious breakfast at JJ’s Café which would have made Leslie Knope envious, we headed to the north side of the park for another hike.  Cinder Cone Volcano was created by an eruption around 1650 which is recent enough essentially no plants have started growing on it.  The hike to the crater is two miles each way, meandering gently up to the base and ending with a challenging climb (about 700ft in a third of a mile).

Cinder Cone Volcano – they must have used all of their creativity naming Bumpass Hell

The hike out took longer than expected due to a slow moving four-year-old.  Zach and I had more than a five-hour drive ahead of us so we said our goodbyes at the bottom of the volcano and high-tailed it back to our car.  As always, it was great to see Tyler, Whitney, Sage and June.  I’m looking forward to seeing them at Christmas and hoping our next reunion will be healthier and equally as adventurous.

Beautiful sunset driving though California

I forgot that I was planning on including our time in San Fransisco in this blog which is why the previous paragraph sounds like a conclusion.  We were flying out to Hawaii on Wednesday, so in the meantime, we spent three nights at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, about an hour north of the city.  All in all, it wasn’t a great experience – we were worried about catching the stomach bug going around, I always get anxious before big trips and none of the Starbucks in the Bay Area have outlets which makes working from them nearly impossible.  The highlight of the stay was our visit to Point Reyes National Seashore.   One concluding paragraph is difficult enough to write, let alone two, so I’ll just end things here.

We’ll be seeing a lot more of the Pacific in the coming weeks

Ohio / Rainier

It’s interesting how our perception of time is always changing. Sometimes the last half mile of a difficult hike can seem to last forever. Yet, the whole weekend seems over as soon as it starts. I have been very fortunate (or maybe unfortunate) in the past nine months. Nearly everything has flown by. To help keep things in perspective and not lose sight of the amazing adventures we’ve had while experiencing new ones, Liz and I often ask each other “What were we doing a month ago today?” and “Where will we be in a month from now?”. Perhaps the most interesting part of the time change phenomenon is that while the days seem to speed by, I’m always shocked at how long ago the things we did just a few weeks before seem.

It’s already been 3 weeks since Rainer!

Perhaps the fastest time yet this trip was the whirlwind week we spent in Ohio. We had planned on spending two weeks in the Seattle area, but CoverMyMeds offered to fly us in for the work week, so we jumped on the opportunity to catch up with friends and family (and work).

Cymanski Family Reunion 

On Sunday night, Liz and I took a red-eye from Seattle to Columbus and headed straight into work. After work, Liz picked up her sister, Megan, and drove up to Ashland to get dinner with her parents and grandparents. Meanwhile, I took a series of Ubers from work to our AirBnB and back to work again to find a charger for my dying phone before seeing Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats at the LC. Tuesday, we caught up with a group of friends from work for volleyball and trivia. Then, on Wednesday, I managed to stay upright on my first Segway tour. And in the evening Liz and I headed our separate way to grab a few drinks with coworkers. Thursday, we drove up to Canton to see my family and hiked the beautiful new Fry Family park with baby Zion in tow. Then, Friday morning we drove back to C-bus, put in a day’s work, and flew back to Seattle. By the end of the week Liz and I were exhausted. Although, we still had a full weekend ahead of us.

Uncle Zach and Baby Zion

Due to our late arrival in Seattle, we opted to sleep in the airport parking lot (which I’m sure is against some sort of rule). Then, the next morning, we met up with Mark and Ben, my friends from college,  and headed to Mount Rainier. While Ben has twice summited the 14er, it was the first time in the park for the rest of us. Even though we didn’t attempt the technical summit, we did make it up to the Muir basecamp – one of my new favorite hikes. To get to the basecamp, we hiked up about 5,000 feet and across the Muir snowfield. Although going up rewarded us with some spectacular views, it was going down that made the hike.

Camp Muir

The heavily packed snowfield not only allowed us to hike to Muir basecamp without sinking in knee-deep every-other step (like we would the next weekend hiking the South Sister near Bend) it also allowed us to glacade down. For those who don’t know, glacading is just a fancy word for sledding without a sled. Enough hikers had gone before us that nice slick chutes ran down the snowfield, adding a new dynamic to hiking I had never considered. Pro tip: bring a heavy-duty trash bag to act as your sled.

Glasading!

The next morning, before driving Ben and Mark back to Seattle, we hiked up to the nearby Eagle Point to get a panoramic view of Mt Rainier. I hope that someday I can head back to make it all the way up to the summit, although going it to the basecamp is a worthwhile hike in of itself.

Drinking our summit beers!