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California’s a Big State (final post):: The Redwoods

North we go and once again find the coast.  At first site of the ocean (around Eureka, CA), the kids were so excited (and it was so beautiful) that we pulled the whole rig over for an ocean play break.  Chilly but awesome!
Hello again, Pacific!!!

Klamath, CA – right smack dab in the middle of Redwood State and National Parks.  State and National?  We’d never heard of this kind of park collaboration before so I was concerned our National Parks Pass wouldn’t get us in to the park or that there would be extra day use fees.  Turns out that we were not charged a fee (and I didn’t even need to present the pass) though there were fees posted.  The Junior Ranger Program was quite similar to the others the kids have done at other national parks except the lack of a present ranger at the visitors’ center prompted the gift shop attendant to leave me in charge of swearing in my rangers when their work was complete.  OK.  I guess this would have been a bother for the kids had they not done so many previously but they liked completing their activities at home and having the badge to add to their collection right away.  I did a little research after the fact to look into this ‘state and national parks’ thing.
Jurassic Elijah

The Redwoods comprises such a big area of the coast that the Highway 101 runs right through it.  The scenic highway (parallel) takes the traveler west just a bit to drive among the towering redwood trees.  It’s really a breathtaking drive all the way up to Crescent City.  There are hiking trails at turnouts all along the scenic highway poriton so there really is no need to hit the visitor center unless additional information is required.  The park host at the RV park where we stayed gave us a great regional map and a finger-walking map-tour of the highpoints of the area so we were ready!  While Chris worked one day, the kids and I went off a'The Farm'nd found The Farm – Radar Station B-71 tucked in and overgrown overlooking the Pacific.  It is two buildings that were built in 1942 to look like an operating farm post-Pearl Harbor and equipped to monitor for Japanese coastal threats.  We felt like explorers and detectives and the like as we waded through tall grass to get down to the buildings and peered in the barred windows.  It sparked an in-depth conversation and some Google research (on the phone in the car) about WWII, Pearl Harbor, and the bombing of Hiroshima.  The historical perspective our kids have is so objective and impartial.  It is not based on some agenda-laden history text or a particular teacher’s biases or…. fear.  The discussions we have about human behavior and historical happenings are fascinating.  When we brought Chris back to check it out, it had been mowed.  So it did not seem as laden with ghosts and mystery but it was still cool.

We took a couple of hikes during our week in the Redwoods.  The kids immediately commented oGnome kidsn how they felt like gnomes in a giant world.  (We have a GREAT and heavily read book on gnomes so we’re up on our gnome knowledge.)  I couldn’t stop an internal giggle after that.  I did, too!  Then I read that the woodsy portions of The Lost World: Jurassic Park were filmed there and we imagine dinosaurs ambling, scurrying, and rumbling through the humongous ferns and collossal plants.  Then Chris remembered that the Endor scenes of Return of the Jedi were filmed among the redwoods and we were giddy with talk of ewoks.  Yes, these trees (and, for that matter, all of the giant plants and thick greenery) evoke a feeling of being small, childlike, vulnerable, inquistive, wild, and adventurous. 

We also spent a cloudy day at the beach before being warned by a passerby about sleeper waves.  Eek!  With all of the signs about being in a ‘tsunami hazard zone’, we didn’t know about these rogue waves.  Apparently it’s a pretty regular hazard.  Glad we had a lovely rogue-wave-free day before scurrying back to the car and home for dinner!
Kids in the distance

There are several Roosevelt elk viewing hotspots in the Redwoods as well.  Once nearly extinct, presElk at Prairie Creek Visitor Centerervation practices have helped increase their numbers to over 1,000.  We got a great roadside view of a small herd grazing across from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. 

The night we arrived at our RV park in Klamath was the first Celtics NBA playoff game.  And we arrived to find that in my web surfing of the various local RV parks, I had inadvertently chosen one without cable hookup.  Chris was freaking out quietly when we got there (I had prepaid over the phone) but the host hooked us up immediately with a satellite box he had on hand.  Sweet.  We noticed chickens roaming the park near the office and were given 2 dozen free-range chicken eggs during our week-long stay!  I’m really glad we chose Kamp Klamath RV Park after driving around the area.  It was convenient to the highway but not right on it like most of the other parks.  They were a bit overgrown on the other side and sprucing up for the true beginning of their season (as fulltimers, we’re noticing we’re not always in parks in their on-season).  The cafe had burned down last year.  The playground was a small backyard type and grown up with grass.  But there was plenty to do in the redwoods.  The park host was on par with the sweetest, most helpful people we’ve met on the road.  That makes all the difference.  Sadie and I made him a flourless chocolate cake with some of the eggs.  🙂

Lots more photos of our time in northern California on Flickr!

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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in California, RV, Travel log

 

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California’s a Big State (Part 4) – Oregon House Farm & High Sierra Beef

We continued to head north from the RV docking point we used for San Francisco.  We’d been so busy with national parks and city touring that we were looking forward to some downtime.  Our first stop was two weeks at a campground/RV park on our Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass in Oregon House, CA- about 1 hour south of Chico.  This is rural America.  The drive in was absolutely beautiful and the country began to remind us distinctly of New England.

Wherever we are, I always check localharvest.org for local farms, farmstands, and farmers’ markets.  Since we eat paleo, fresh meats, eggs, vegetables, and fruits are our staples.  As you can imagine, this can get tricky.  No rice to fill a 3rd of the plate.  No beans to bulk up a meal.  No potatoes in the storage bin (anymore) to tide us over until we find a decent farmstand or market.  It takes some diligence and planning to ensure that our food supply is plentiful and sustained but it’s something we enjoy (the philosophy and the flavors) and believe in so it’s well worth the effort.  And there is less guilt when I buy those inorganic strawberries because I know our bodies are strong and healthy and can tolerate the occasional insult.
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We’re arriving in the north country a little early for the beginning of the farmers’ markets season so I was hoping I might find a local farm for meat, eggs, and seasonal produce.  My freezer stock of grassfed ground beef and cuts that I loaded up on in Tucson from the University of Arizona was waning.and eating grocery store meat is really a last resort.  We lucked out!  I found Oregon House Farm owned and operated by Jenny Cavaliere just 2 miles away – a cooperative member of High Sierra Beef who also operates a weekend farm store out of her 100 year old barn.  My e-mail inquiry to Jenny resulted not only in stocking our freezer but also a personal tour of her farm – 5 separate pieces of land – which included bee hives, calving cows (and calves!), chickens, sheep, and a peek into the life of a sustainable farmer.  Jenny also invited Sadie to sell her handmade felted pins, hair ties, beaded earrings, and flaxseed packs at the farm store the following weekend.
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Talk about knowing where your food comes from…  Jenny names all of her cows, walks among them in the fields, and they come down to greet her when she calls.  We talked freely about the processes and logistics of sustainable and humane breeding, feeding, and, yes, even slaughtering.  We even walked through the metal corral and down the ‘hall’ used to keep the cows still and safe for procedures and onto trailers for travel.
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You know, traveling is only partly about the places.  That’s how it starts.  The reason it continues and is fueled is the people.  Jenny is one of those people- who would take an entire afternoon to hang around in pastures sharing her passion with a family just traveling through.  Chris and I have been tossing around the idea of farming.  Jenny’s honesty about it’s 24/7 tether has put our dreamy prospect in check.  But this close connection has made us even more dedicated to knowing our farmer and their practices as much as possible.  Truth be told, there are a lot of different phrases used on packaging that are used to airbrush dirty or unhealthy practices.  My decoder ring can’t keep up with the myriad of ways that these practices get off on technicalities or fuzzy language and into the market.

Here are a couple of articles I like about grass-fed vs. grain fed beef:

Health Benefits of Grass Farming

The Differences Between Grass-Fed Beef and Grain-Fed Beef

And one to ponder about the ethics of eating meat:

Is Eating Meat Ethical?

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in California, Food, Travel log

 

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California’s a Big State- Part 3 (San Francisco!)

Where to park the RV when visiting San Francisco?  No where near the city, that’s for sure.  We planned to really immerse ourselves rather than driving to and fro so we knew we’d be Priceline- ing a hotel room.  But there is the matter of the rig.  We parked her at an RV park several hours outside of Dodge – er- San Francisco, locked her up, and headed to the Bay for a couple of days in our little VW Rabbit tow car.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Our first afternoon in town, we discovered the perils of having a car in San Francisco.  Parking is t_MG_1848ough to find and very expensive.  We paid $3.50/hour at a parking garage downtown (which was actually pretty reasonable comparably) and walked to Chinatown for lunch.  It is wild to walk the steep hills covered in city.  Sitting in the Capitol Restaurant was neat- we were flat and the world outside was at a very steep slant! And, as you can imagine, the food was delicious.  Then we walked to the California line of the Trolley.  And we found a fantastic playground in Chinatown on the way!  For $6/person, we hung off the side of the trolley all the way through the city just like the Rice-A-Roni commercials of my childhood.  What a thrill!  And the driver actually encourages you to hang off the side poles if you want.

Some friends we met in Tucson are originally from S.F. and gave us a recommendation for great ice cream – Mitchell’s ice cream served up at St. Francis Fountain.  It sure was – rich and creamy in a little diner that I’m sure hasn’t changed since the woman who recommended it was there as a child.  Old school charm.  And right down the street from Vermont Street – SO twisty! – and the up-and-down, steep neighborhoods that you think of when you think of San Francisco.  What the movies can’t show?  When you go up one side of these streets lined with tall, skinny, prettily painted, side-by-side homes, you may get to the stop sign at the top and not be able to see the road in front of you, the stop signs of the cross streets…  Really, you won’t be able to see anything but the sky.  Yeah, they’re that steep.  The up feels like a roller coaster.  Had Chris let off the break, the down would’ve, too.  Whoa!  There was lots of disbelief and giggling in our car.  We also stopped at McKinley Park for a walk on the trails- all on the side of a hill!  We settled in for the evening at a Red Roof Inn (they allow dogs and even had a discount for pet month in April because we brought Skooter) by the S.F. airport.  Cheap, cozy, and on the bay.  Skooter and I had a beautiful sunset stroll and even happened upon a dog park on the way back.

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The next morning we were up and out early to make our reservation for the 9:30 AM Alcatraz Cruises ferry to Alcatraz Island.  Although the island is a national park, the ferry that gets you there is an independent company so you have to pay.  No way around it.  It cost us $28 per adult and $17 per child (age 5-11).  There is no extra national park entry fee.  The cost of the ferry covers it and includes the headset audio tour.  The audio tour came highly recommended on the review sites and it was fascinating, riveting, and a little frightening.  We’re glad we went early because as people linger throughout the day (you take a scheduled ferry to the island but any ferry thereafter to return), it’s easy to see how the island gets congested with people and the audio tour could get dangerous.  We were already doing a little bumping as everyone was attentively following the directions in their ears.  The movie was also really interesting and told, not only of the time period when Alcatraz was a prison and of the families that lived there during that time (wow!) but also about its history before and after as the first U.S. built fort on the west coast and the occupancy of Native Americans in the late 1960s for 18 months to call attention to Native American rights initiatives.
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We got off the boat back on the mainland around 12:30 and hungry.  I had done some online research looking for little known, great places to eat on a budget.  Voila!  I turned up Tanguito from this Food Dude video– an Argentine food truck on Fisherman’s’ Wharf.  We walked the 2+ blocks and ate utter deliciousness- empanadas, short ribs, and garlic fries- handmade and delivered to our sidewalk table by the owners.  Feeling utterly satisfied, we wandered back the way the tourists do- down a boardwalk lined with gaudy beach shops, chocolatiers, stores with guys out front telling me I need a new lens for my camera, wax museums, etc.  The few street performers that were out were nothing too exciting so we kept walking to the historic carousel of Pier 39.

Tanguito short ribs
Pier 39 is a hopping place.  On this Friday, it was crawling with people.  The Pier 39 carousel was also brought to my attention by our S.F. native friend.  It was crafted and hand painted in Italy and is the only carousel in the country that sports murals of its home city.  It is gorgeous!  The kids liked the out of the ordinary animals to ride.  Sadie rode a dolphin and Elijah rode a sea lion.

Pier 39 Carousel 1
Speaking of sea lions….  There were a whole big bunch of sea lions down at the end of Pier 39.  Noisy and funny- we had a great time watching them.  Skooter was a little freaked out by them, though.
Pier 39 Sea Lions

We weren’t feeling like doing the tourist shopping thing but Elijah was very excited that there was a store for left-handers – Lefty’s–  there.  Turns out, they were also having a giveaway to left-handed shoppers.  He came away with a much-prized left handed pen.  It has improved his penmanship tremendously.  He loves it so!

After packing up the car on Saturday morning and checking out of the hotel, we headed for the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market at the Ferry Building. It was as big as I expected but much more expensive.  I guess in an area where everything is high priced, the farmers’ prices are up there, too.  We loaded up on produce, eggs, and a bit of meat – not knowing when our next good opportunity would be in our travels – and headed back to the car.  We stopped to eat some strawberries on a bench and then stopped again at a very cool fountain across the street that you could walk up on!  We also loved this cool sculpture:
When in San Franciso...

We all had a great time in San Francisco.  It ranks as one of those must-visits.  It is beautiful with lots of museums and interesting things to do and great eats.From what I experienced, I wouldn’t want to live there.  We didn’t find the vibe very friendly.  Skooter was one of few dogs we saw out on the three beautiful days we were there and was not very well regarded by passersby.  It was very expensive and parking was obscene.  I guess, being such a small city, bikes or mass transit would be a much better scenario for residents.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in California, RV, Travel log

 

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California’s a Big State! (Part 1)

So now I’m back-blogging (as in- still behind where we are right now…).  Right now we’re in northern California but we started down at the ‘bottom.’  As you can imagine, there’s a lot to catch up on.  But I would feel remiss if I didn’t try.  There has already been so much that I didn’t record here of our east cost travels that I’ve got to catch up on these last few months since Tucson.

We’ve been in California since March 16th (my birthday).  The stars (or logistics) aligned for us to travel on my birthday.  Ah, well.  The night before we left I made a coconut flour, double-decker death by chocolate paleo cake.  It was freakin’ fabulous.  We made our way to Jamul, CA – just outside of San Diego.  Our drive took us from sunny, dry, hot Tucson where the vegetation makes every attempt to spear you to the rainy, lush, green countryside of southern California and let me tell you how great it is to end a rainy travel day with a huge chocolate cake topped with fresh strawberries (and candles)…

Elijah (and more recently Sadie) had been waiting for this stop for a long time.  Legoland!  We were situated in a rainy, woodsy campground.  The lush green, mountainous area made for beautiful driving to and from our temporary home.  We spent two days in Legoland.  It was- eh.  My theme park bar is set high by Disney World.  Say what you will, Disney is a plugged in, full on enjoyable experience.  I thought Legoland was seriously overpriced.  Disney ticket prices for a Lego Six Flagesque experience.  We were delighted to get the hook-up with information about homeschool day prices.  We ended up saving more than half and that made it all better for me.  The kids LOVED it.  It’s a theme park.  And there are Legos.  Elijah participated in the Lego Mindstorms (robotics) class and (despite not being overly thrilled about taking time away from his theme park experience) thought it was awesome and was glad he went.  It entailed programming robots to navigate a course and perform varied functions to complete an assignment.  The best part of Legoland for everyone was the gift shop.  Holy moly, that is a seriously comprehensive gift shop.

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My oldest brother lives in California.  We stopped through for a delicious dinner and renewed connection and ended up spending the night and making another date for our families to spend more time together.  We are 7 years apart and were always in very different parts of our lives.  It seems we’ve found common ground now as adults with young children pursuing our personal and familial passions with vigor.  Man, that was fun.  It warms my heart to hear my kids talk about their cool aunt and uncle and their super-fun ‘new’ cousins.  My favorite memory?  Hiking in the Cleveland (not in Ohio) National Forest with my brother in his family.  I feel closer to him now than ever.  I’ve committed myself to giving more attention to family connections.  I’ve made this (private) commitment before but this time feels different- it’s out of excitement rather than obligation.  But it’s tricky with poor cell signals and sketchy internet so the blog is my love letter to y’all until we hear each other’s voices again.

Speaking of brothers, Chris has one in California, too!  Jeesh – for east coast kids, we’ve got a lot of family on the west coast.  Back to one of my favorite RV park/campgrounds situated on a horse ranch in the Padre National Park mountains to the east of Santa Barbara (with the Pacific Ocean to the west).  Here we spent two weeks with Chris’ brother and 4 year-old niece.  There’s just something about cousins.  I’m so happy that our kids get to see theirs more regularly than they would if we were living in a stationary home.  The cost of four plane tickets, west and east coast family, and time off from a facetime job made it very difficult.  One of the biggest reasons our kids like to travel is that they get to see family much more frequently.  Park play, delicious restaurants that could accomodate our paleo nutritional choices, an afternoon at the Ty Warner Sea Center with Emma, a hike with spectacular views of Santa Barbara, a hike to another waterfall right from the door of our RV, a horseback trail ride for Sadie and I, and precious time just ‘being’ with family.  Well, we didn’t spend much time in the RV park but we did love our time in Santa Barbara.

OK- well that gets us to central California.  I’m out of breath and will catch up on the rest soon!  One of my toughest parts of blogging is calling a post ‘done’ and pressing ‘publish’ so I must type and publish all in one hit!

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in California, Family, Travel log

 

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