Friday, May 15, 2009

Finishing the Olympic Peninsula

We went to some more of the beaches in the area just south of Forks but the kids had seen enough of the ocean to not be too excited. Nearly 8 hours in the car over the two day trip was beginning to fray some nerves. We took a little side trip to see the big cedar.

The big cedar had been cited in several sources as a must see if you're in the area. We turned off highway 101 at a marker directing us to the tree. The pavement ran short quickly and turned over to a gravel logging road. The signs were all tree stumps with arrows pointing toward the big tree at various splits in the road. We bounced down the poorly maintained gravel path, scraping the sides of the car on trees, nearly hitting our heads on the roof of the car. A testament to the true hypnotic properties of television was the children's complete and total ignorance of our surroundings. The kids never asked once where we were. The road was terrible to drive on, no longer a smooth swift black top highway with cars buzzing by. There were holes we had to either slow down to 5 mph to navigate or drive around. The kids said nothing until the car stopped. They looked up, the car in the middle of the forest and began asking where we were. They were less than thrilled to find out we had driven into the unknown to look at a tree, the largest western red cedar in the world.

We got out walked around the massive trunk and journeyed back to the highway, slowly bouncing along without a word from the children. Until we stopped again at Ruby Beach. Savannah protested, "Haven't we seen enough of the ocean? All of the beaches look the same, let's just go home!"

So we did. Only there was one more big tree along the way.

We looked at the second big cedar and then travelled home. We had dinner at a place called Billy's in Aberdeen, Washington. They served up some good fried seafood. It was really good. Then we saddled up, drove through Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle and arrived home safely ready for another week of school and work.

Monday went by fast. Tuesday was P.E. day for the Miller Academy. Savannah, Shane and I spent a few hours in a climbing gym in Everett while Sophia and Traci explored the Everett Children's Museum. The museum reminded me a little of the Magic House in Kirkwood, Missouri. The main floor had a little main street, a farm, an airplane and bus, and several other interactive play areas. The roof had a playground. We were able to join Sophia and Traci at the end of the day as the last half hour of business was a free admission time. Shane and Savannah were a little jealous of Sophia, the museum was full of things to do.

We plan on a trip to Deception Pass this weekend. The sun has been scheduled to make a glorious appearance all weekend.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Forks Washington

We arrived at Forks close to 7:30 and quickly dispatched a series of "must sees" including Bella's truck, the Forks sign, the home of the Spartans and ate at the burger joint in town. The kids took turns trying out the vampire look by leaving ketchup on the corner of their mouths. The food was fried, fast and friendly and we noticed the sun easing itself down toward the horizon. We decided we might have enough time to make it to La Push for the sunset, as Savannah says, "It's La Push baby!"

We drove down highway 110 past third beach, second beach until we ran into the tribal community of La Push and the Pacific Ocean. The cloud shrouded the setting sun while several juvenile and adult bald eagles frolicked overhead. The ocean stacks silhouetted by the setting sun made for a dramatic scene. It was getting cold so we walk for only a short time and headed back to Forks and our Twilight themed motel room.

Pictures of the cast hung on black and red walls. The beds were made in black and red. The light switches had Twilight pictures on them. A lone apple sat on the nightstand. Traci almost couldn't hold back a squeal of delight at the decorations. Savannah had no restraint and jumped and danced around the room grinning uncontrollably. It was nice to see her so happy but a little weird at the same time. I am not ready for her adolescence.

The night passed without interruption. No bloodsucking monsters visited at midnight. No wolf people emerged from the local wood. The only break in the calm came from Traci getting up to use the bathroom. Traci offers a different version of the night explaining Savannah and I had taken turns moaning and talking in our sleep. Maybe some malfeasance was in the air.

The next morning we went to a local restaurant for breakfast. Traci ordered the number six but the waitress cautioned her and changed it to a number four stating she would explain why later. She returned fifteen minutes later with a large plate completely covered by a single pancake and squeezed along the sides of the plate were eggs and bacon. The waitress set the plate down and explained the number six was two of everything on the plate. There was enough food for a lumberjack.

We had enough fuel to get us through the rest of the day from eating breakfasts made for loggers. We headed out to second beach which was more sandy than first beach and featured an arch in the ocean stacks. The tide was low exposing starfish and other marine life. Sophia and I explored some of the tide pools and found fascinating colorful starfish and anemone. The tide started coming in so I told Sophia to go further up the beach while I explored a little further out. I watched as Sophie ran from the rocks to the sandy part of the beach. She loves playing in the sand so I turned back to the tide pools. I was being drawn further out on to the rock by the multitude of starfish huddled together on the rock. I turned back to see where Sophie had gotten to and noticed Traci walking across the sand. She shouted had I seen Sophie recently. I said no and turned back toward the sand while Shane and Savannah met up with Traci.

We all began calling out Sophia's name, over the rush of the surf it was difficult to tell if our voices carried. As I walked closer to the sand and realized no one knew where Sophie was I started running and slipped on the rocks crashing my left shoulder into the rock wall. I couldn't feel anything beyond the panic, fear and desperation quickly consuming my every thought. I shouted louder in hopes by my sheer effort Sophie would materialize and be fine. She didn't show. She was no where, the tide was coming in and the last sight I had had of her was her running inland from the incoming surf. Had she slipped and hit her head and now was drowning in the water? Had she gotten turned around and is lost in the woods or another part of the beach? Had some malicious figure grabbed her and run away with her? Would we ever see her again, feel her sweet hugs, laugh at her little smile?

I reached the sandy beach as another mom approached mother and engaged in the search. A moment later Sophia emerged from behind a pile of driftwood. Relief, joy, release. She was not gone forever she was only playing just out of sight from us. Further investigation revealed Sophie had heard our frantic calls and chose to ignore them. My relief in just knowing she was still with us overshadowed any frustration or anger over her disregard for our calls. We spent several minutes explaining she needs to answer us when we call and she stated it wouldn't happen again. I hope we never have one of those situations again. Ironically Traci told me moments before the incident she had thought she was having one of her best Mother's Days ever.

We hiked back to the car, drove back to Forks and stopped at a couple more of the town landmarks popularized by the book. We saw the Cullen's house, the Swan's house, Dr Cullen's parking spot at the hospital, and the police department where Bella's father worked. We left Forks for the long drive home via more beaches.

Monday, May 11, 2009

To Forks and Beyond...

Some days Traci and I look at each other and one of us will say something to question the belief of our current situation, " can you really believe we have left 'home' and are looking at the Olympic Mountains?" It brings home the extent of our journey, the work we have had to do to get where we are, the heavily solicited help from all of our friends and family. We realize in these brief moments how fortunate, how blessed, and how strange our lives have turned.

There are days when we look at each other and say something to question the sanity of our decision to make this journey, "what are we doing leaving our family so we can look at the Olympic Mountains?" The reality of the many risks we have taken to make this 'big trip' happen will overwhelm our initial purpose for making this decision. We have taken our kids' education into our own hands, we have removed them from their friends and family, from the places they have known and feel comfortable in, we have jeopardized our illusion of financial stability. From these planted seeds of risk we have gained countless memories with our children uninterrupted by the steady run a muck scheduling nightmare we had been chasing in Illinois.

This one brief collection of time, one year, will give us an opportunity to be together as a family searching whatever lands we end up in for new sights. We only ever get to look into our children's lives briefly. We have made this decision to take these risks, to go in to a life we did not believe we could experience in the hope we could be with our children for this brief time and learn who they are, giving them a chance to learn who we are as people.

The one thing I've learned about Traci is she really enjoys being a girl with Savannah. They have discovered a common interest in the Twilight books. Their shared interest led to a trip to Forks, Washington, the town Stephanie Meyer chose to set the story. Traci was sharing her Mother's Day celebration with Savannah. We tracked down as many of the sites as possible.

Tracking the sites was the easy part. The trip west from the Kitsap Peninsula to the Olympic Peninsula was the long challenging leg. The Hood canal bridge offers a quick connection from one area to the next. This bridge is being worked on for the next month. The state of Washington is replacing one half of the bridge, I think the east side. The other side had been replaced in 1979 after a storm destroyed that section of the bridge. The state of Washington has provided a ferry for foot traffic across the canal but there is no secondary provisions for automobile traffic directly across the Hood canal. We were able to drive around the Hood canal adding another three hours to our trip. Three more hours stuffed in the car on mostly two lane roads following the curves along the shore of the canal. It was a beautiful drive, surrounded by the hood canal on one side and the Olympic mountains on the other for at least half of the drive.

The long drive was pushing our arrival time in Forks later in to the evening as we had already gotten off to a late start. Leaving the house was held up by a parade in Edmonds, the Fairy and Elf Parade celebrating spring. The parade featured Sophia, our own little fairy. We had found out about the parade two weeks earlier and Sophia had mentioned it daily for those two weeks. She was very excited. All of the fairies gathered at the Edmonds library donned musical bells and streamers and marched down to the weekend open air market. There they were introduced to the crowd as the Edmonds fairies, performed their signature fairy and elf jingle, bowed and dispersed in parents' hands and arms. The parade only had one malady, the little fairy following the librarian stepped too close to someone near her and was bumped to the ground. She cried a fairy's cry and was scooped up by her father and carried through the rest of the parade. We finished the morning at the flower stand where the kids decorated a bucket and planted flowers for mom for Mother's Day.

Traci was spending most of her Mother's Day in the car, driving. She chose to drive and this gave me an opportunity to enjoy the scenery along the way. We stopped at a rest stop offering free coffee and found Paul Bunyan lying on a trailer behind a pickup truck. The statue was a 1950's gas station relic restored for parades. He was currently on his way home from a parade. Paul had at one time been the mascot for a local high school where he suffered having his axe stolen and being spray painted by a rival school. When we saw him he looked relaxed in his well earned retirement.

We were enjoying our drive across the Olympic Peninsula. The kids were entertained watching movies they had never seen that they had checked out from the library earlier. We made our way into Port Angeles, another town appearing in the Twilight books. We stopped at the restaurant where two characters had their first date. Savannah jumped out of the car then quickly jumped back in. She expressed disappointment when she found the restaurant wasn't the building from the movie. Traci explained the sights in these towns were not from the movie but the book and it would take some imagination to see them as being where the characters actually spent time instead of where the movie had been filmed. Savannah bent her mind around this and accepted it, eventually. Forks was now only an hour away.