Well, good morning kids!  It’s Monday morning (don’t ask me the date), and I’m huddled in my Marmot tent at a campground in Newport, Oregon, just over the hill from the ocean.  (For those of you who placed your bets, the winner was…C: None Of The Above). Large drops of condensation are thumping down on my tent, as the fog is quite thick.  I almost thought it rain…almost.  But knowing how coastal fog looms heavy during the summer months, the panic session was over as soon as it began.  Unfortunately, I had to retrieve some gear that Terry had left on his bike.  Let’s just say his nickname for today is Ol’ Soggy Britches.  I know I’ve only written one entry but you must remember in order to write about our experiences we have to actually live them.  It’s now 5:30AM, perfect time to sit quietly and tap out our life the past couple of days.

In Pepperwood, after a breakfast of eggs and homemade bisquits ala Nette, Jack promptly asked when it was time for him to take a spin on the tractor.  Not to worry, love, the time is now.  As I finished the morning dishes, Nette was giving Jack the final instructions on how to not run anything over.  She was sure to not give the tractor full power.  Smart woman.  Driving a tractor is Jack’s version of heaven.  As Jack drove down the road, we slowly followed him along, still catching up on old times and getting the lowdown on the plans for the farm.  Nette and Jay have taken on quite a job and they’ve done so much.  I know they will succeed.  We pushed off around noon with promises that our visits would be sooner than every 20 years.

Our original plan was to stay in Brookings for one night, but exhaustion can quickly take over and alter your plans without your permission.  You know how you feel when you race, race, RACE to get ready for a trip only to find yourself completely useless by the time you get there?  Now imagine that you have to be fully interactive and coherent while underway, your brain constantly engaged.  No chance of a nap on a motorcycle, unless you’re Jack.  Lucky kid.  We pulled up to the Best Western that sits right on the beach in Brookings and Jack was instantly recognized by Monica, a lovely woman who was working the front desk on our trip 2 years previous.  Funny!  She went on and on about “the kid who talked to me about his own website and his own page and everything.”  It was so cool!  She marveled at how big Jack had gotten and how at Best Western they’re not just employees, that they remember their patrons and do actually care.  Monica, you have proven that to be true.  After unpacking our bags, hitting the beach and having a crappy meal at the restaurant across the street, Terry and I decided to call it and hang another day.  Hmmmm, another day on the beach with my family with a view of the ocean from my room?  Yes, please!

Ah, the beach.  Can I tell you how much I miss being only 30 minutes away?  Living in Sonoma County for so many years, one tends to take advantage of such a luxury.  Being able to walk the coastline with my family is something I covet all too often.  And here I am with not a lick of fog and no crowds, strolling the northwest shores of the Pacific Ocean with my husband and son as the sun slowly disappears over the town.  Bliss.  After Terry and I shared bottle of cabernet on the balcony and some uninterrupted conversation, we slipped into what I can only describe as a near coma, the haste of days previous taking their toll on our bodies.  We slept in, taking advantage of not having to actually be anywhere.  That’s a nice feeling.  Between the pool, the beach and the hot tub, Jack was pretty much in 9-year-old heaven.  Throw in the tractor and I think the poor thing would’ve exploded from sheer glee.  I could’ve done without the couple of loads of laundry, but I really don’t have any room to complain.  We did venture out around lunchtime to hit up The Hungry Clam, a favorite local restaurant that was not much bigger than my tent.  Not to worry though as the fresh, hand-cut halibut was gently deep-fried and served up with fries complete with plastic basket.  I highly recommend The Hungry Clam.  And if you don’t make it there for grub, at least be sure to come in and check out the king crab on display on the wall.  It’s one of the last crabs caught by Captain Phil from “The Deadliest Catch”.  That was kind of cool and eerie at the same time.  If you’re a fan of the show, you know exactly whom I’m talking about.

We did make time to take a lap through the local outdoor market down by the harbor, AKA “The place to buy knives, old dental tools and fresh strawberries.”  Veterans lined either side all ready to discuss the wars, new and old, giving their reasons as to why we should or should not be involved.  Listening to their stories was not a choice.  Once you stopped for a bit, you heard it all.  But that’s okay.  When I’m older, I’ll appreciate someone half my age stopping to listen to what I have to say no matter how much I ramble on.  Terry had singles at the ready to stuff into each veteran’s Kerr jar.

While the boys headed back to camp, it was time for me to head to the store for bonfire food fixin’s.  Sorry, but if we’re near a beach and ‘dinner-on-a-stick’ is an option, I’m diggin’ in!  Tonight’s menu?  Scorched polish dogs and a large salad.  The trick to having a good salad on the road is to always carry your own olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  You get the spring greens in the hard plastic container, take out the things that look like weeds, add plenty of cut peppers, tomatoes and other veggies, and you’ve now balanced your menu.  It took all 3 of us to get a large enough pile of wood together to sustain a fire for what we thought would be a couple of hours.  There were at least 2 other families collecting their wood for the night, so we had to be stealth and swoop in under the radar.  It worked.  We relished in the fact that we had the largest pile and quickly abandoned that thought as 1/3 of it disappeared as we tried to just get the damn thing going!  It finally took off and soon we had perfectly charred dogs and a sunset for a view.  Dessert?  Why yes, a melted marshmallow will round out the evening just fine.  Another shared bottle of wine on the balcony with my husband and more uninterrupted conversation.   I could get used to this!  But alas, our eyelids began to weigh heavy so we charted our course for the next day.

I both dread and relish the thought of rolling back on the throttle in search of whatever the road brings.  It’s a mixed bag.  Convincing Jack that it’s a good idea to leave such a beautiful locale is a job in and of itself.  But again, I’m not complaining.  A girl just needs to vent every so often lest she blows.  We had slowly talked about leaving the night before only to be met with a big bottom lip and a low level, “Okay.”  Poor little dude.   Jack does know that with every departure comes the chance to make a new friend and create new memories.  And having to convince him of this each time has taught Terry and I a lesson on how best to talk with Jack about the power of change, how each new place brings a new chapter for him to fill.  So onward we roll.

We had every great intention of making at least Portland if not Seattle.  My money, as well as several peoples, was on Seattle.  Lordy knows that if I set my mind on something, there’s a 99% chance it’s going to happen.  This time, fortunately, the 1% won over.  It was Father’s Day and none of us wanted to rush the day and head inland, also known as 4 lanes of Highway 5.  Yuck.  We loathe the freeway.  And why should we rush just to make time when there’s this bounty of lush green that envelopes you as you glide through every turn.  The thought just seemed silly and we voted to camp for the night in Newport.  As the boys set up camp, I set into town in search of a meal fit for my better half.  Freshly cooked crab?  I’ll take one please.  And you have large scallops?  Four of those.  Oh, and can you point me to the nearest market so I can pick up some fresh greens?  Thanks, love.  By the time I made it back to camp, the tents were up, the bags unpacked and I was ready to do some damage in the kitchen.  By now, Jack had played several renditions of ‘Summer of ’69’ for some kids in the next camp and became the new friend in the group.  Perfect.  Told ya, buddy.  There are new friends to be made at every stop.  While Jack played, Terry and I caught up with each other, prepared dinner and enjoyed a bottle of Oregon cabernet.  More butter, olive oil and garlic and our meal was complete.  Take that restaurant food!  Not you, Tony!  But I think you know that already.

The parents of Jack’s new buddies came over to check out our setup, convinced that there was NO WAY we could’ve gotten all the gear on just two bikes.  Trust me, after so many years of doing this, I even have room to bring a ‘cute’ outfit!  You never know when that time may arise that I actually get to dress like a girl.  One must be prepared like a good scout.  We eventually ventured over to their campsite so Jack could get in some more kid time and we could get to know them better.  By 10:30, it was time to head back and crash.  Little did we know what the sky had in store.  No worries.  We don’t melt.

To truly enjoy each other, you have to put away the calendars, do away with the timetables and just go with it.  I’ve tried the whole “We HAVE to stick to the schedule!” routine.  Ugh.  It just causes anxiety and unnecessary arguing.  Could you imagine if I had insisted on pressing on to Portland or even Seattle?  Jack wouldn’t have made new friends, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon fresh crab and scallops and Terry would’ve had to have an overpriced restaurant meal for Father’s Day.  When people ask us what our plan is, we just tell them that the plan is to have no plan.  And it works for us.  So your challenge today, kids, is learn to just relax and let the road take you.  There is no destination; there is no schedule; there is no need to be anywhere.  The only thing there is is your family and your willingness to take the road less travelled.  It doesn’t have any McDonald’s or Taco Bell’s, but it does have locally made cheeses and fresh cut flowers.  It also gives you the tools to make your own memories, original memories, not those formed by the opinions of others.  And that is your challenge.  Dare to turn left instead of right.  Try the local fruit stand instead of heading to the grocery store.  Engage a ‘local’ in conversation.  You’d be amazed at some of the people you’ll meet.  And they are the ones that help you create your original memories.  Cheers.