Finding snow in a heat wave… RoadTrip Parenting goes to Oregon

Thursday June 14 – Day 7 of our Epic Pacific Northwest RoadTrip

We were up early… wanted to see the sunrise light on those Lassen mountain peaks.

The SE view at the Top of Lassen Volcanic NP

Found the views equally as pristine in the am as they had been in pm. The trail we chose to hike (bumpass hell – 3 mile hike…no joke that’s the trails official name) was closed due to snow ( still about 4-5 feet still on the ground)As were most of the trails in the upper park… June 14th is still late winter…maybe early spring here. Drove on to see Mt Shasta via hwy 89 and it was amazing to see the glacial peaks reflecting the sunshine from over 75 miles away. It’s a biggen for sure at over 14k feet! Awesome to watch it get bigger and BIGGER… and BIGGER in the windshield as we drove over an hour straight at it.

Due to time…we jumped on the I-5 northbound for the 100 miles left to reach southern Oregon and a delightful lunch in Ashland, at the standing stone brewery ( patio soup, sweet – sweet potato fries & salads) sat out back on their deck… in the perfect sunshine – a cool 72F for the afternoon high…overlooks a super cute college town with an amazing historic and artsy downtown district of upscale shops and eateries and galleries. 

Mt Shasta from 30 miles away…

Home to Southern Oregon University it has great green spaces and river walk – lots to do for sure. Jessica decided to transfer from Tennessee Tech to SOU pretty fast… 🙂 Just kidding Tyler !

 We drove onto Crater Lake National park after about 2.5 hours of two lane mountain roads the temps had dropped 20 degrees but the sun was still high and bright when we arrived at 4pm. The visitors center on the lake rim was still partially covered in 15-20 feet of snow pack as we’re the sidewalks and parking areas ! Crazy deep snow still for mid-June ! Avg snowfall is over 570 inches a year and the blue color of the lake is the deepest and brightest I’ve ever seen!

 The deepest freshwater lake in America(1800 +feet) this unique natural wonder is a “must see” for southern Oregon RoadTrips! Take the road west and east on the rim if they are open… ( the east rim was still closed when we were there due to snow) the elevated 7500-8100 feet views of the surrounding lakes and volcanic peaks of the southern Oregon Cascades are epic in their beauty and panoramic vistas. 

Crater Lake NP with Jessica in June !

I think we could actually see Mt Shasta in Northern CA from there. The camera was out and going most of the 3 hours we spent there. Great trails and drives for all ages and stages to enjoy! Would have loved to take a boat tour but they were not running yet due to snow.

 Continued on North to Eugene OR and took Hwy 97 up to Hwy 58 – which wound its way down and across some beautiful valleys and peaks and raging river towns. Slow and winding the road is a perfect way to unwind and open the windows for some fresh air and plenty of pull offs for pictures of the cascades and their treasures of beauty and timeless views.

Eugene was a rest stop for the evening and our Shiloh Inn ( pacific northwest hotel chain) off of I-5 was a great and affordable place to crash and grab some dinner. At $69 per night their rates were excellent as was the clean rooms, free wi-fi and excellent attached local food / diner. Things were quiet and I was fine with that… long day, long drive.

I was amazed at how cold the peaks and passes remained… the lodge at Crater Lake NP was still drifted with 20 feet of snow, roads were still closed and at Lassen Volcanic NP, the two road side lakes were frozen solid in mid-June. Meanwhile… Nashville was melting under 108F heat… I think I like the cold better 🙂

We crashed in our comfy little room and Jessica and Tyler had their evening Skype session and as they giggled and laughed and generally caught up… well that’s… all I can remember, or will write down here…  🙂

Seattle part 2 tomorrow !

RoadTripping in Paradise – Yosemite!

Tuesday June 12… time for Yosemite!

We were up at 5am to drive the remaining 2 hours on Hwy 120 to the North West entrance of Yosemite NP !  Arrived at the famous valley floor by 8:30am to beat the crowds & packed buses! (by noon it’s a zoo – especially on weekends) Jessica loved the art and images in their extensive gift shops and we bought a couple of great pictures as life-long mementos from the Ansel Adams gallery & we were off to take some pics for ourselves. The valley & sheer waterfalls were hanging off the amazing granite cliffs ( El Capitan & Half Dome etc) rising like the arching walls of a prehistoric and sacred cathedral! 

Yosemite Valley

  The feelings they inspired… were good and resolute, severe and serene as they allowed us to gaze up into their presence and soak in their timeless strength. It felt like we were being granted a special gift to see this place... like GOD himself was inviting us to taste and see that he was GOOD. Felt like we were standing in a scene out of Genesis. This was my third visit, and Jessica’s first. It still makes my pulse quicken and my “little-boy” heart explode inside me…

If you have not been to Yosemite…it’s not a cliche’ to say it is truly awe-inspiring ! The jaw dropping vertical view of all it is and holds and hides…comes dangerously close to hypnotizing for any who get the privilege to visit… the unique walls of raw stone are just pressing in, towering down at you from all sides of the valley and it’s mammoth grace crammed into this relatively tiny area in which a  peaceful river road winds among the trees and flowers. Pictures DO NOT capture a fraction of its power and impact.

Jessica in Yosemite Valley!

 Driving it with the tourist’s and their kids combined with the world class- heart stopping views and photo-op’s at every turn is like an ultimate obstacle course for navigation. There are literally thousands of visual distractions and dozens of steel roadblocks… mini-vans or campers suddenly stopped in the road… with open-mouthed drivers who all  just saw the “perfect” shot and are literally “stopping” where they are…to get it!

 They do so regardless of the traffic or the presence of vehicles around or more importantly…behind them. Part of you get’s seriously torqued off at their stupidity and part of you totally understands… the views above and around Yosemite  just overwhelm your senses and suddenly it can seem a secondary matter to be careful or “safe” in the presence of such beauty.

We avoided plowing into or being plowed into by any other drivers as we kept stopping ourselves for pictures. We were heading south to the famous Glacier Point, following the winding 25 mph roads, patiently believing that the coming vista’s would be worth the extra effort!  It was. We saw the 5000+ foot cliff faces from above & the unparalleled views of the valley and high sierras! WITHOUT A DOUBT…One the best mountain views and vista’s in the world 🙂

The view from Glacier Point

 Finished the day driving North out of the park via the Tioga pass.. A beautiful & less trafficked road of high alpine vistas & serious layers of rock & stone. Late Late Lunch (4:30pm)  at the Tolume meadows as we drove south out of the park into the beautiful eastern edge of the Sierras ! Stayed at a great little Travel Lodge hotel in Mammoth Lake CA ! (cheap & old, but super friendly – and a great basement with FREE foosball & coin laundry on site – met a hilarious chihuahua named “cheech” who lives with the owner & tried to join us in,our room ) 

Beautiful lakes & snow-capped peaks of the high Sierra’s surround the town at over 8,000 feet – cool crisp air 50F and high desert pink sunset capped off another “perfect” day on this Epic Roadtrip!

 After pizza and diet cokes we drove up to the twin lakes vista parking area to watch the stars at 9500 feet and no city or artificial lights at all. The glory of the sky at night is a lost treasure for our modern time… But the reward is well worth the effort ! Amazing to see the diversity and panorama of a clear alpine sky in the pitch black of a natures night. Dazzling…and almost impossible to see near any city.

Mammoth Lakes Sunrise

 Wednesday June 13

 Woke up to 45F and a cool but sunny dawn. The road north was Hwy 395 and just north of the Yosemite Tioga pass road we saw a sign for a California State Historical marker… An old mining Ghost town named Bodie. If you have the time ( 2.5 hours minimum) I highly recommend the 16 mile one way drive off the Hwy. 

Bodie, CA – Gold Mining Ghostown

The last 3 miles get rough and have rutted dirt & rock instead of pavement, but remain passable at very low-speed.

The State has an amazing historic site set up around this abandoned 1880’s era Gold rush town. Dozens of old saloons, schools, churches, houses and mining stores, motels and mine buildings and machinery are preserved in their “arrested state” of decay. For history buffs this is a “must” to visit. High plains desert with amazing views of the snow-capped eastern Sierra’s frame the setting for this once booming town of 10k. Jessica loved it and at over 8500 feet in elevation walking its old streets can literally take your breath if you’re not acclimated and well hydrated ! Fascinating morning “surprise” for us as we had only made the trip on a  last minute “whim”. ( $10 to get in) If you go… be sure to bring your camera, jacket and a hat -sunscreen 🙂 SUNNY is the word.

 After taking pictures and exploring the sights we drove on north to see the famous Lake Tahoe ! Beautiful and crystal clear… It’s borders surrounded by breathtaking mountain peaks that carry a snow pack year around. Downside is the thousands do tourists and locals who flock to its shores in all 4 seasons.

Jessica and Lake Tahoe !

Very commercial on the Nevada side with casinos and condos built on top of each other blocking the views. Best bet is to hit the visitor centers and North shore beaches if you can for unobstructed views and a chance to climb some rocks on the lovely shoreline !We took the scenic route north of Tahoe to Lassen National park in the wilderness of north east California… about the only route was via Hwy 89, a very excellent drive. Almost no traffic on its winding path as it crosses mountain streams and massive mountain valleys filled with horse and cattle ranches. Full of dense pine forests and peaks for over a 100 miles, remote and rugged…but beautiful. We decided to crash on the North shore of Lake Almanor near Chester, CA. when we saw the sun starting to dip.

 A quick drive north (25 miles on Hwy 89 ) after checking into our hotel would put us in the Lassen Volcanic park in time for sunset and then give us the option for more sunrise pictures..if we wanted?  I wasn’t prepared for the rugged beauty that awaited and the complete absence of people or traffic. If you are a high mountain and snow year around kind of guy ( like I am) this is the place for you! We drove up after dinner to catch some sunset views and lingered long enough to see the 15 foot snow banks and frozen alpine lakes at 9000 + on its north facing ridges! Wow !

Lassen Volcanic National Park – June 2012

Take your camera and be prepared for rapidly changing weather year around. We were there in mid- June and was cold after the sun dipped below the peaks. Already in the 40’s by 8pm and freezing by dark for sure. The temperatures at the base were in the low 70s and had been in the low 90s that same day. A place of contrasts and extremes including active thermal geography and a deeply rugged landscape that will evoke memories of Yosemite and Yellowstone tied into one unique locale. I loved it ! Had a snowball fight with Jessica before reluctantly heading back to Chester and our stay at the Best Western…. tired. 🙂

Tomorrow… fun at Crater Lake and southern Oregon!

Day 4-5; RoadTripping as we go California Dreaming !

Sunday June 10th

Driving at dawn out of Lincoln City, OR; we drove due south along the winding & picturesque shoreline of Hwy 101  through harbor towns & distant beaches sprinkled every 5-10 miles along our path. Coffee is indeed king in WA & Oregon…so we enjoyed the unique & excellent drive up, micro sized coffee huts that each little town supported. From espresso to coffee shakes & “cheetah beans” ( white chocolate & Carmel covered coffee beans) we “zipped” our way through the morning haze of sleepy forests  & foggy curves. 

Southern Oregon Coastline

Southern Oregon has some amazing beaches and we stopped at several as we drove! Very very very windy (45-60 mph) gusts on some of the beaches made the experience even more memorable as we would bundle up with our hats and jackets and glasses before venturing out into the windblown sandy beaches snapping pictures as we went . One of my favorites was the abundance of great old art deco iron bridges that stretched out over the rivers & bays.

As we left Oregon, we were determined to go find the iconic redwoods of  Northern CA ! We did. Not a problem if you stay on Hwy 101… We found several massive groves of trees and even stopped at one of my childhood favorites… a drive through an actual super huge living redwood tree ( Chandelier tree in Leggett CA )

Further south into California we saw some of the beautiful vineyards along the famous Sonoma & Napa valleys – as the sun started to set we found the heat we had left behind… so at a dry 98F we stopped at a place I had to take Jessica to try. An In-N- Out Burger we found with our GPS about an hour north of San Francisco … Man I miss those in Nashville…YUM!

As the dusky night slowly stole the day we finally arrived at our destination for the night and slowly drove over the Golden Gate Bridge with a beautiful view of the beautiful city skyline.

Our hotel ( Sheraton on Fishermans Wharf ) featured a very modern nautical themed hotel and multi-striped spacious room! Unfortunately we arrived just in time to be caught up in a fire alarm /evacuation of all the guests and huge San Francisco fire trucks and firemen wandering the grounds everywhere looking for whatever sparked the smoke someone smelled! (seemed ironic that a city known for its famous fires would welcome us in such a similar fashion)  

Monday June 11th

Discovering San Francisco : After the super helpful allowed us to grab a 4+ star hotel on Fishermans Wharf for $99.00 ( Sheraton Fishermans Wharf) Jessica & I had found the perfect spot to begin our exploration of the iconic sights & sounds of America’s “Paris”!

San Francisco on the Trolley !

Up early, we grabbed a taxi to Dottie’s True Blue cafe ( a diners drive-ins & dives pick) and enjoyed our best breakfast of the trip by far! French toast two inches thick & a serving of their famous whiskey fennel ham – cheese & spinach omelet with chili-cheese cornbread toast & jalapeño jelly! Yum!

Took the trolley from downtown back to the Wharf & discovered China town – Lombard street & Nob Hill along the way. Fun Fact… The San Fran Trolley is a National Historic Register vehicle & managed by the US Park Service! Very cool going up & down the streets on super steep hills & all of the amazing sights, sounds and of course…views. We were blessed with perfect weather – 75F with blue skies & cool breezes, no fog, no clouds…a rare event here we were told!

So we did the typical touristy thing and booked an hour cruise in the San Francisco Bay with the blue & gold cruise line – went chugging under the Golden Gate Bridge & around the island prison Alcatraz with 200 other paying customers crammed into the almost big enough boat! Despite the crowds it was Very Cool – Figuratively and literally – it was a chill 45F with a stiff breeze & some begining-to-get- rough seas.   Did I mention it was a BEAUTIFUL day for pics & the sapphire sky above was almost the exact same shade of blue as the sea below… we LOVED it, soaking up the fresh air and views of the city the entire time. Jessica really liked the views of famous Alcatraz Island as we motored by. EPIC and ICONIC and AMAZING come to mind… but words fail me. Suffice it say we had a really good time 🙂

Took another taxi to Union Square & Chinatown for some trinket shopping & snacks. Had a fish taco lunch on Pier 23 ( another D DIN & Dives pick) before we drove north across the Golden Gate Bridge again & walked from Vista Point to the pedestrian bridge on the massive red bridge! Decided to go see  Hwy 1 & a genuine California beach while we were here.

After Jessica almost fried her bare feet on the gray-black sand of the beachfront California seashore, we decided to find a small town south of Sacramento ( Winters, CA)  for dinner at a special Diners-Drive in’s & Dives cafe. ( puntah creek cafe) It was kind of… on the way to Yosemite, but after two hours of driving we found out it was unfortunately not open… Jessica was bummed. But all was not lost…we were starving so went across the street to a superb steakhouse instead. ( we found out later, both were owned by the same people!)

So after filling up on genuine California Angus and Fresh veggies / bread and copious amounts of butter we drove another two hours before we crashed in Stockton CA at a local Best Western. We were pushing hard today to get close enough to mighty Yosemite to beat the –sure – to- be -there- waiting– afternoon summer crowds… whew!

California… loud, fast, full of traffic, electric cars and $5.20 a gallon gas… beautiful and crowded and iconic it was hardly a dream, but for sure we had a whole lotta fun. Tomorrow… one of the greatest National Parks in the world was waiting to be introduced to my Jessica ! I could hardly wait to have the honor 🙂

Peace out RTP!

Ruby Beach… An Olympic Paradise

Jessica’s Roadtrip… Day 3 – Saturday June 9th

 Woke up to a beautiful sunrise & a full breakfast at the 100-year-old lodge on Lake Crescent ! 45F crisp & cool for June for sure… The Hurricane Ridge portion of Olympic  (click the link webcam) had 5 inches of fresh snow – an area about 25 miles from where we were. The weather in Olympic National Park was definitely less predictable than we had thought. I was intrigued to see if the rental Camry we had could make it up the snow packed roads to the ridge…but Jessica had other ideas. So we left our lakeside retreat and resumed our Hwy 101 trek around the northern tip of the peninsula.

Of “Twilight” Fame

 It wasn’t long until we returned to the now familiar clouds & fog  as we cruised into the blue-collar lumber town of Forks WA. ( of the wildly popular Twilight book & movie fame) Jessica was thrilled to see it all for “real” and we stopped for pictures, and as we drove deeper into the HoH rainforest… it well… “rained”!

Now we were about as far west as you can get in the lower 48, and soon encountered the Olympic National park beaches…on a whim we pulled off to discover a hidden drive barely visible from the highway!

After a short hike thru dense forest & massive tree sized rhododendrons crowding the small trail… (blooming for spring with multiple pinks, reds & purples)  We stepped out onto a driftwood and stone covered beach… “Ruby” Beach! Fantastic numbers of smooth gray rocks & small separated tree tipped islands rose out of the fog & mist of the early morning. We were greeted by a wall of sound as we rounded the trail’s edge and emerged from the forest to be greeted by the roiling water & waves & wind all conspiring to create a wonderful North Pacific masterpiece! WOW 🙂

The massive beach spread out as far as the eye could see & we walked for half mile to inspect the rare sites that can only be discovered during a low tide. Small salt water pools of crab & starfish & anemone were guarded by SUV sized rocks &  stone reefs scattered among the dark grey sand & millions of perfectly smooth stones of every size… Each rock was similar, but not identical and all were nearly flat & oval & smooth as glass.

Ruby Beach Stones

The beach was fronted by perfectly straight rows of 100 foot tall pines stubbornly guarding the dense foliage which had carpeted the cliff faces on both sides of our hidden beach. It felt & smelt & sounded like we were walking into a post card of “The” quintessential Pacific Northwest beach scene… It was huge highlight for us both & Jessica took pictures as fast as she could get the lighting & angles “just” right!

The air was cold in the morning dull light and the sea spray and strong ocean breeze kept the air temperatures in the mid to lower 40’s F as we explored this wild and wet world. The driftwood and stones had replaced the traditional sands and seashells, but in its place was something so rugged and untamed, that we didn’t want to leave. Jessica’s only experience with beaches was limited to the serene waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic surges of the sandy Outerbanks in North Carolina. This was very different, this was well off the tourist pathways and world of condo’s and go-cart tracks… this was the way nature was intended to express herself and we were awed by her power and her serenity.

An iconic beach for an iconic road trip… I was so grateful for the time to share with my oldest daughter and for the chance to see and hear and experience such amazing sights with her. Something I will cherish forever… I was thanking my Father in Heaven for this blessing, and my earthly father in Spring Hill TN for his wisdom to share this roadtripping passion with me when I was Jessica’s age.

 After the awe-inspiring beauty of the beach we claimed back into our wheels and continued on our quest down the epic path of  HWY 101 south into Oregon.

Oregon Beach – Roadside Vista

 The rolling mountains became hills covered by dense forest which slowly gave way to a coastal ridge with soaring valley vistas of rolling meadows and ocean front covered with mist & low hanging clouds of perfect white. The crowds thinned to nothing as we went further south & we eagerly pressed on into Northern Oregon using Hwy 101.

We crossed dozens of beautiful art-deco bridges & countless inlets, rivers & small harbors with regularity. The sun continued to stay elusive until late afternoon & as we drove by the beaches of Canon City & Ecola State park we had enjoyed little in the way of sunshine! In Oregon…we began to enjoy beautiful blue vista’s of sky and sea over miles of beach and surf and sand. GORGEOUS!

The increasing frequency of the roadside overlooks gave us dozens of chances to stretch our legs & photograph the cliffs & shoreline from above & than below as we continued our adventure southward. Clam chowder & grilled cheese, refueled us as we wound our way into the touristy little town of Lincoln City in time for a closing stroll on the beach there… Kites & sand castles dotted the round & sky as the calm seascape sunset shifted from blues to pinks & then into oranges & purples as the sky’s dimmed & the ocean kept its relentless background chorus alive.

Dinner was at a little place Jessica picked… Vivian’s restaurant. As one of the few tourists in town ( summer season in Oregon starts in late June) we enjoyed their large steaks & homemade Mac & cheese by ourselves as the owners themselves served us fresh bread & salad & chowder!

Daddy Daughter Sunset in Oregon

 The scarce crowds allowed us the luxury of a beach front stay at a local Inn for less than $80.00! ( dozens of motels and hotels were here at this price and time of year) We drifted off to sleep full & contended after a long day of exploring the amazing glory of Gods artistic masterpiece that is the Pacific Northwest!

Day 4 and California… tomorrow.

Peace out RTP !

Jessica’s Favorite… exploring the Olympic Penisula !

Road Trip Blog:  Jessica’s Graduation trip to the North Pacific Coast in June 2012;

Day 2 continued

“We hunkered down for some serious rain showers as we drove west out of Seattle & found it was indeed an accurate stereotype to expect showers and clouds if you visit the North Pacific coastline… as the iconic fog settled in, we slowly worked our way up the east edge of the Olympic Peninsula. We drove over huge bridges and back roads as we passed islands of green forests & soaring mountains on one side & the dark blue water of the pacific on the other!

Crescent Lake Lodge – View at Sunset

We arrived at a secluded lakeside lodge ( in Olympic National Park) on a drizzly afternoon stop. We had picked a great place to take a break from the road & Jessica immediately fell in love with solitude and beauty of the turn of the century building…nestled in a rainforest overlooking a glacial lake. It’s two-sided covered porch was mirrored on three sides by the Olympic mountains & layers of slowly floating wispy clouds. It was like we had stepped out of our rental car into some magical time warp, emerging on the other side of the road to find a simpler and calmer life that could only be found a 100 years ago.

We reserved one of the last available spaces at the lodge with a second floor room & balcony overlooking the ancient pines & birch which silently bordered our lakeside meadow view. With no television, phone or wi-fi services…this was truly “un-plugging” from our fast paced world.

We took a 90 minute soggy hike from the lodge up to Marymere falls across and into a “moss-covered landscape” that reminded us of a classic movie set from the planet Pandora! We wore our rain coats and snapped pictures as we crossed a couple of rushing streams & walked under the protection of the massive 150 year old trees that lined the trails edge. As we walked and talked, we both started to “decompress” as we absorbed more and more of the beauty & calm this rainforest inspired.

Olympic Rainforest

It was wonderful & it was wild at the same time! Jessica was excitedly snapping pictures of the hundreds of shades of purple, yellow and white wildflowers and the multitude of moss-covered trees, as we wound our way up the fern filled valleys to the almost hidden waterfall ! Arcing over a rock  forested edge, the clear water plunged 90 ft and yet managed to feel gentle as it fell softly to the valley below…its entire length framed by massive old growth trees & lush moss. Deeply recessed in the side of a mountain the waterfall and green on green background made it feel like we had stumbled into some North Pacific… Shangra La!

Dinner was shared lakeside in the glass & wood-paneled lodge dining hall… followed by a gentle dusk stroll along the silent shoreline of Lake Crescent. We paused to admire the sunset’s purple and gold glow as the mountains shadow slowly consumed the dim light. The air was cooling fast and we could see our breath as we sat on the sodden old wooden pier that stuck out into the crystal clear & green waters. I could tell that Jessica was soaking up the beauty like a human sponge… recording the colors and smells and sounds safely forever in her mind.

Not to be cliche’ but we were enjoying what was truly one of those rare life experiences where the imagination, the hope of what Olympic would be like was exceeded only by the actual reality of what it was. God had reserved for us a perfect moment to enjoy… arranging for the right combination of light and air,weather and water to blend into a brilliant tapestry of life that met and exceeded our highest hopes. Aaahhh it was heavenly to be here, to share the beauty of this wilderness sunset with my daughter and know she was more excited than I to see what our Road Trip would reveal next…. If I was a cat…I would have purred 🙂 ”

Sunset on Crescent Lake

 Day 3 and our visit to Forks WA (of Twilight Fame) and of starting to look for the perfect North Pacific Beach, which we found! …But that’s for Tomorrow.

Due West Please… Day 1 in Seattle WA

Thursday June 7th: Flew from Nashville to Denver – late after layover with weather delays & we didn’t arrive in Seattle until 12:45 am local time ( 2:45 am cst ) – exhausted & worn out . Starting getting sort of “goofy” with the fatigue… and laughing at the ridiculous pattern of Rental Car companies and Hotel’s trying to talk us into buying “more” or  “up selling” us everything they could along the way… felt like a consumer epidemic as we stumbled from the sleek Avis Seattle Airport counter into the local airport Hilton – terrible & funny all at the same time… after 23 hours on your feet, it was a bit aggravating to say the least. Thank God for the black out curtains on the windows of our room. I noticed Jessica was giddy and excited. Texting each step of the way. But we were in Seattle !

Top Pot Donuts ! Oh My

Friday June 8th: Tried to sleep in… but too excited. We were up by 8am pacific time – headed out for downtown Seattle & some sight-seeing. Jessica had some plans for us to find local eateries from her Diners – Drive In’s and Dive’s research 🙂

Surprised by the shift in weather, we had to grab some light jackets… it was a typical Seattle morning…partly cloudy & cool (55F) After a cow attacked our GPS (ask Jessica) we were finally able to figure a way north to the city and grabbed our cameras as we drove down into the bay of Seattle, gray clouds parting briefly so we could snap some pics of its famous skyline and the space needle. Magnificent ! After a few minutes of one-way navigating, we found and visited the original Top Pot Donuts ! Beautiful, deliciousness  with an extra heap of Awesome thrown on top! We gorged on donuts, coffee, milk and a Ovaltine Latte (house special) combined with several huge donuts ranging from a cinnamon & sugar to an old-fashioned chocolate and raspberry icing cake ! Supercool and eclectic modern vibe that felt authentic and perfectly preserved from the 50’s until today – ( A MUST VISIT if you go) WE LOVED IT 🙂

 Buzzing from the sugar and caffeine we decided to go a few blocks to the west and slowly zigged our way to the waterfront & the famous Pikes Place Market : full of beautiful and iconic flowers & thrown fish & hundreds of super fun and artistic Seattle trinket shops sprinkled along the crest of the hill near the bay. Smells and sights were terrific, but lots of tourists and lots of stuff all at once… we liked it, but moved on.

We saw lots and lots of great artists paintings, photographs,  eateries and of course the original Starbucks Coffee was right on Pike Street…itty bitty in size, but what a huge impact its flavor and style of coffee had made on the world! remarkable to consider…

We decided we were ready for some out of the city adventures, it was time to head for our car and the Olympic Peninsula. So we caught the Washington State ferry  (a version of a water bus that carries cars and people) to cross the bay to the west and save us hundreds of miles of driving. After sampling some local waterfront cuisine ( fish & chips from local chain of “Ivars”) at the ferry terminal, we walked the downtown waterfront and enjoyed the blend of building styles…the old and the modern, stone and glass and steel. A mixture of western and asian and classic architectures all in one unique location that we call Seattle!

We were soooo excited to be here.  (Somewhere between eating Fish and Chips and boarding the Ferry…it seems that Jessica ‘accidently” took someone’s RayBan sunglasses from the eatery we enjoyed, thinking they were her own…At least, that’s what she claims…?  🙂

After we ate…the ferry left with us on it and the grey skies started to lift as the  sun slowly came out. We were treated to a spectacular golden view of the Seattle skyline as we slowly chugged across Puget Sound to Bainbridge island! The sun stayed out for five or six minutes and then quietly left as quickly as it had appeared.

Our View of Seattle on the Ferry

Perfect and Surreal at the same time, it was clear we had arrived in another world. 24 hours ago we were in Nashville TN, 97F and not a cloud in the sky… but today we were on the Pacific ocean, shivering in our light jackets as the sea spray blew across the ferry deck…Crazy Cool !

This epic Road Trip had really begun… and we were stoked to find out where it would lead…. WoooHooo!

I’ll post our second and third days full adventure and how we found the perfect Lodge on the perfect lake…a gift from God just for Jessica; Tomorrow…

Peace out RTP !

Tears and Fears…as Graduation time approaches

Our firstborn is graduating High School in a week.

My mom and my wife, my in-laws and my college twin nieces are all going to lose it.

I will stay strong… (not)

Inside, I will be a pile of mush… Jessica is my eighteen year old graduating from a time-honored institution of learning known as High School…she cruised through it. Graduating with straight A’s, NHS Honors, scholarships and awards, I’m really proud of her. REALLY PROUD. But not just because of what’s she’s accomplished or that she’s smart. 

I’m proud because of who she has become! Jessica is a strong, hard-working and resourceful young woman. Her head sits mostly straight on her shoulders 🙂 She is ready for the next stage of her life. She is ready to launch out into the deep and swim on her own. I have no fear about her being ready for college.

I’m proud because she has learned to work when no one notices, to be diligent when she didn’t feel like it…to listen,trust and follow God when her emotions told her to take charge herself and hurry things up. I have no fear about her faith.

I’m proud because she has a solid and beautiful understanding of how unique and irreplaceable she is as a woman, from her appearance to her purpose, she has accepted and even learned to love herself…just as she was created. I have no fear about her perspective on life and God’s plan for her in it.

I am terrified that she is leaving home… and will never need us again. I am scared to death that she has grown up so much that her parents will be a historical reference she uses only in past tense conversations with her new-found intellectual friends.  

But I am so grateful for the chance we had to be in her life… to love her and guide her and encourage her along the last eighteen years. I am so excited to watch now from a distance as she learns to not only walk into her life, but to RUN into the future. Nothing could be more twisted up inside of me as to accept that it’s her time to grow a bit more, move a bit further and become a whole bunch more than ever before…and that it will likely all occur somewhere far away from our home.

I guess that’s the pride and the pain of parenting… the reason parents have lots of tears and fears for their kids on graduation day.

So glad we learned to trust God for her as little one…

So glad her mom and I can trust Him all over again today…

We Love you Jessica Elaine… (sniff), going to miss seeing you everyday. But we are so excited to find out what comes next…. from your  “can’t be prouder and happier”  Padre and Mother 🙂

Parents… as I consider how it’s going to feel sitting next to my tear soaked and eye dabbing family members at graduation… I’m urging you, please – please – please – make the time, live well and wisely with your young ones!

Above all…take time to listen to God as He nudges you to be careful, go slow, speed up, stay firm, relax, or use a more gentle touch from time to time with your kids. There is NO formula, only your heart and theirs. Ask  and Listen often for God to show you and your spouse the best way to parent YOUR kids.

Psalm 16: 5- 11 (ESV) Bible

5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

In the end I choose to cling to the Word of God, Psalm 16 is one my favorite parenting passages in the entire biblefrom diapers to diploma’s, rest assured…God’s got your back and a whole lot more!

Peace Out on Graduation Week from RTP !


PS – Jessica… I’m super-stoked to start our June RoadTrip from Seattle WA to San Fransico CA ! WooooHOOO 🙂

Carpe’ Sneezum

Strange weather in Tennessee this year… and I’m not just talking about the outside kind… With winter really just a week long cold snap followed up by a very short spring and then wham…It’s Summertime! Heat and humidity and flowers blooming at least two months ahead of schedule… and the allergies are everywhere ! WOW. Everyone in my house has itchy eyes, scratchy morning throats and sneezing ! No one worse than my oldest… Jessica.

She sneezes dozens of times a day, and that’s with medication. She’s NEVER had allergies to speak of before. I’m guessing it has something to do with me, or my wife or the fact that she’s now eighteen or maybe her pending graduation.It’s like life and our un-expected spring-summer- sneezing allergy season has taken us all by surprise.

We all knew spring was coming after winter, but it was just SOOO fast this year and we’re all caught a bit off guard by it. I know Jessica was a junior last year..but It’s really weird when reality kicks you in the gut. I’m watching as her life seems to be speeding up as it’s flying by me… I hardly noticed until now, but the spring calendar is ticking off dates like the odometer in my SUV. Faster and faster, it seems like we’re burning through the hours and days like a fuel injected hemi on a deserted two lane desert highway… (whoa) Sorry – Roadtrip adrenaline kicking in 🙂

Seriously, I’m watching my daughter have some of her last sneezing fits of a fading childhood in my house…  those kleenex, like gas money are some of the last things she’ll be able to “borrow” from me for a while and it’s painful to think…next spring she will be in college and sneezing through it all on her own. No dad, no mom and no daughter in the house. Now I’m having an itchy nose and watery eyes… but not from the allergies, it’s a daddy’s tears.

I’m so proud of her.

Can’t really describe all of the amazing qualities that make up my daughter… but if you have ever met her you know. She’s shy and outspoken, strong and fragile, beautiful but uses no makeup, classic but not boring, witty but not irritating, sassy but not rude (usually)… she’s smart but hard-working, she’s disorganized but always on time. She doesn’t fit any profiles or stereotypes… way to complex for that. But one thing for sure… she’s honest and true and faithful and loyal. No stronger friendship can be found. She is Jessica Elaine and I can’t wait to see what she’s about to become.

In high school she’s a 4.0+ GPA student and in May she will be graduating with all kinds of academic honors.  She’s worked hard and long and sacrificed much to do it, keeping up with a part-time job at Windfarm cafe’ as she cracked her academic books late into the night…. I’m seriously proud of her. She’s grown up even better, stronger, purer than I could have ever – possibly – dared to hope 🙂 I have God and an amazing wife to thank for that… but in the end, I’m trusting that same God to carry her fully into adulthood, once step at a time, praying all the way. I’m trusting my little girl to her heavenly father, something I knew I would have to do eventually…

But for now, I’m aware…very aware that she’s going away this August and when she does, I’m afraid I’m going to have allergies ALL the TIME. In the meantime, I’ll hold her, and hug her and tell her how much I love her, and when I get the chance… (June 2012) I’m taking her on an epic – end of her high school years – west coast roadtrip ! An amazing, –I’m not gonna let you ever forget me – kind of week exploring in the beauty and sophistication that is the Pacific Northwest.

I’m gonna Carpe’ Sneezum with my oldest this spring. What will you do to preserve and celebrate and honor your kids ? It doesn’t matter what it is…or why,  just do something.

Do something really special, something unique and something they love to do… make the effort, take the time off and invest one more time into your “little” one’s ! I’ll bet you it will become a life- long memory that you will share and keep forever. Not many opportunities like that still remain….

For Jessica… it was her dream west-coast roadtrip, for some it maybe a Washington DC discovery weekend, for others a return visit to a favorite beach… find your way to “that place” however you can. Senior years of high school only come once and then they are gone…. better sieze the day while it’s still shining !

Peace out,