Wednesday, August 21, 2019

If We Handed Out Awards for Our Washington State Vacation

When my son's cub scout pack holds their Pinewood Derby, every car receives an award. Fastest car, most colorful, most aerodynamic... everyone's a winner.

Well, vacations are kind of like that. Even the bad ones deserve their own award. So I present to you, in no particular order, the awards I'd give to all the moments of the week we took to drive all around Washington state as a family at the end of the Evans reunion in Oregon.

Funniest Moment

We had to wake up every one of the 8 kids at 8:30 AM to get going on Day 1, they were that tired from the reunion. My 3-year-old had been napless for a week and was sleeping like he was in a medically-induced coma.

We eventually roused the troops and got going, and a few hours into our scenic drive up the Washington coast, we made a pit stop in the tiny town of Humptuplips.

Yes, Humptulips.

The Humptulips Grocery was the only gas station in town, with exactly one ancient-looking pump out front.

Did it even work?

Had this place been in operation since 1957?

More importantly, were we really in the middle of nowhere in Humptulips?

I've only seen pumps like this in pictures.

But the pump did work, and their port-a-potties were very clean. I guess you've got a reputation to maintain when you're the only gas station in Humptulips.

And you know you're going to Google it so here. I saved you some work.

Most Ironic Moment

At the beach, my 3-year-old hurled a big rock at a teepee someone had built out of driftwood. I ran over and told him no, and after he walked away I looked down at the rock he'd thrown.

I'm not even kidding but it said "plz respect the fort."

I don't mean to brag, but my kid can disobey written instructions without even knowing how to read.

We hadn't planned to visit this beach (it was simply one of many emergency pee stops,) but it ended up being one of our favorite beaches.

There was driftwood piled so high on the beach it was hard to even get to the water, which you can see  in the background of the teepee picture below.

We'd also randomly showed up at low tide, so we could walk all around and through some amazing sea stacks out in the water:

Rainiest Moment

The day we'd planned to visit Rialto Beach was exceptionally cold and rainy. We debated just hiding in the hotel but decided we didn't have the luxury of sitting around waiting for nice weather, so we went anyway.

My nose was freezing and my toes were turning blue, but there was a wedding party taking pictures behind us so I guess it could've been worse.

At least I got to wear a waterproof fleece-lined jacket instead of something off-the-shoulder and dry-clean only.

When I took a kid to the bathroom I heard the bridesmaids complaining about how wet and cold they were, so I hope they got extra cake at the reception. They deserved it.

Once I (sort of) got over being cold, I looked down and realized that this beach had possibly the coolest eclectic assortment of rocks ever. We'd visited rocky beaches before but the rocks had all been uniformly smooth and gray. These were amazing.

I found these all in a 20-foot radius of each other. I don't understand how they all came to be at the same beach.

My favorite.

And once he saw me setting up a collection, the 5-year-old got obsessed.

Meanwhile, the 15-year-old kept herself busy building a shelter out of driftwood with her dad. (Please note that one side is propped up on a single log of driftwood that had to be 5 feet in diameter.)

I'm behind the camera hoping none of that driftwood falls on anyone's head before we can get out of there.

Most Taken-for-Granted Moment

Looking back at pictures now that we're home, I can't believe we weren't just standing in awe of the  rainforest the whole time.

I mean, look at these trees! They're so huge and yet they look like they could pick up their roots and start walking around the forest floor at any second.

But humans are human, I guess, and we can take anything for granted.

By the time we went on this quarter-mile hike through the Quinault Rainforest, we'd all had a long day and the kids were kind of over it.

They were loud, rowdy, wouldn't stop singing "Old Town Road," and couldn't care less about the informational plaques along the way.

Although they did like the hollowed-out logs I'm not 100% sure it was okay to crawl around in.

Tallest Moment

On a whim we decided to stop by Deception Pass, which our brother-in-law told us about the week before at the reunion. It's a state park, but also has a very high bridge you can walk across if you dare.

One of the older kids refused to cross it on sight.

Phillip started, but he was carrying the 3-year-old who started whimpering he was scared so he turned around, not wanting him to freak out in the middle of the bridge 180 feet in the air.

So the remaining four kids and I crossed the bridge, then rejoined the rest of the family and walked down to the beach where the kids threw rocks and Phillip accidentally left his wallet behind.

Luckily the wallet was still there when we realized it and went back; I don't even know what you do when you have to get on a plane to fly home but your only form of I.D. has been stolen.

Most Vampiric Moment

If you have no reaction to hearing we stayed a few nights in Forks, WA, then good for you.

I, unfortunately, know it's the setting for an early 2000s young adult vampire romance trilogy and that's all I want to say about that.

Phillip was in charge of choosing our accommodations and had no idea, although I guess Twilight tourism is a thing. When the guy at the gas station in Humptulips heard we were headed to Forks, he nodded sagely and said "Looking for vampires, eh?"

Forks quickly won me over, though. It was a charming town in its own tiny way. We ate at a cute 1950s-era diner with this rusted-out antique truck in the back.

Our 8-person suite at the Forks Motel was the nicest place we stayed on this whole trip. We cooked real food in our full kitchen and forced each child to take a turn on dish duty. (We even attempted to enforce naptime, although I have no idea how an exhausted person can lie in a bed for 40 minutes without falling asleep.)

So basically, I loved Forks. Even the staff at the Forks Community Hospital was super-nice.

Most Terrifying Moment

Which brings me to the part of this post I really did not want to write, but it happened and that's what this blog post is so here goes.

We had a near-drowning scare with my 5-year-old at the motel pool.

I'd sent Phillip back to the room to get the camera, and my eyes were on the 3-year-old. When I turned around my 5-year-old was floating face-down in the water, in that awful way you never want to see a human being floating.

I pulled him out of the water and he was completely unresponsive. I was calling his name and put his little body on the deck of the pool; probably only a few seconds had gone by but it felt like hours. I was just about to start mouth-to-mouth when he spit up water and started screaming.

I can't tell you how good it felt to hear that scream, because screaming means you're alive.

After that, I was so freaked out over the dry drowning articles that go around Facebook every summer, we ended up canceling our morning plan and getting a chest X-ray at the emergency room instead just to be sure there wasn't still water in his lungs.

FYI, he was absolutely fine, and the only lasting damage was me having a panic attack every time I look at his swimsuit and have flashbacks to seeing him in the water.

Most Awkward Moment

While we were hiking through the Hoh Rainforest, a woman ran up to us on the trail and frantically asked if we had any water. We gave her what we had and she stammered "Thanks... my fiancé had some bear spray... and it went off..." and then she jogged away. We were like, "Okaaay, that was weird."

We forgot about it until we finished hiking the trail and went to the restrooms by the trailhead and there she was, using her body to awkwardly shield her fiancé from my kids as he stood hunched over the drinking fountain like he was peeing in it.

Upon seeing him, it all instantly made sense: the bear spray had gone off in his pants pocket.

Of course, my completely oblivious kids kept craning their necks to get a better view and were practically yelling, "What's that guy doing? Mom? Hey, what's that guy doing?"

Meanwhile, I'm shushing them and literally shoving them into the bathroom, because what am I supposed to say? "Oh, that man? He's just experiencing the most painful and embarrassing moment of his life washing off his genitals in a public fountain with a pack of children staring at him, but I don't really want to answer a hundred questions about it right now so GO TO THE BATHROOM!"

(While they were in the restroom I asked the couple if they wanted me to find a ranger or get them medical attention but they said no.)

Aside from that exciting episode, the Hoh Rainforest was pretty awesome. This part was called The Hall of the Mosses:

Funny story: as we were driving to the Hoh Rainforest the weather wasn't that good and Phillip said, "It looks like we'll have the whole rainforest to ourselves!"

"Ha, ha. The 'Hoh'  Rainforest!" someone laughed.

Then my 15-year-old chimed in with, "Hoh, hoh, hoh! This is going to be a pun-filled trip!" (instead of a 'fun-filled' trip, get it? I don't mean to brag, but my 15-year-old can tell dad jokes at a 35-year-old-man level.)

This went on for a really long time, with hoh-ribble puns that were incredibly hoh-riginal. I swear my daughter would straight-up win the National Pun Off, if only we lived closer to Texas.

Most Nervewracking Moment

As you drive up the mountains in North Cascades National Park, you can stop at a waterfall that is pretty to look at but really stressful when you're responsible for the safety of several small, top-heavy people who keep forgetting to use WALKING FEET.

The signage was honestly more anxiety-provoking than helpful, but thanks for trying, National Park Service.

To my great relief, all 8 of us made it alive back into the car, only to drive up some pretty scary winding mountain roads with no guardrails whatsoever to prevent us from going over a cliff.

I was so scared I didn't even take a picture until we were on the way back down, when our lane was on the far side of the cliff and didn't look nearly as scary.

Phillip asked if I wanted him to turn around so I could get a batter photo, but I thought that sounded like a really dumb way to die so I said no.

Even with the scariness of it, the drive up was worth it. The kids were thrilled to see snow in July and there were lots of cool volcanic rock formations to look at.

At the visitor's center, my 7-year-old tried to talk us into buying her every stuffed animal in the gift shop, and when we finally told her 'no toys,' she tried to convince us they'd make good decorations for the mantel.

My kids then wandered over to a 3-D topographical map of the area, where a friendly guy pointed to the plastic representation of Mt. Shucksan and said, "Did you know I've climbed this one?"

Unimpressed, my 5-year-old just stuck his thumb out in the direction of Mt. Baker and said "That one's higher."

"This one's harder to climb," the guy retorted, probably unable to believe he was getting owned by a 5-year-old in an argument about rock climbing.

Although I don't rock climb, it's a feeling I can actually relate to quite a bit as a parent.

Weirdest Moment

We stayed at a variety of places, including the most rundown Days Inn I've ever seen.

Both the phone and the clock on the bedside table were broken, and the ceiling tiles in the faded hallway were sagging. We'd grabbed take-out food before checking in to the hotel, but the room was sort of dark so we looked for a place to eat outside.

There was no grass, just a courtyard that looked like someone had started to landscape it and then given up in the middle, but the kids ate their pizza and played tag and were generally having fun.

So there we were, making the best of it, when I turned my head and found myself staring directly at THIS:

Sinister-looking voodoo potato skewered on a pole? Yes, that comes standard with the room.

A few days later we stayed at another mildly sketchy Days Inn, and when we were doing a final sweep of the room before check-out in the morning Phillip found something disgusting and unmentionable left by a previous guest under the bed where my children had been sleeping, so long story short, he washed his hands about 12 times and we're done with Days Inn for the rest of our lives now.

Most Nostalgic Moment

Phillip used to live in Washington as a kid, so we visited his old town where he gave us a tour of his neighborhood and all the places he regularly used to go.

The kids even got their first taste of Jack in the Box. They messed up our order, but they were very fast and gave us nicer food than what we'd ordered so we didn't exactly mind.

We drove by Phillip's old school are were all laughing because the building was now condemned (just kidding, it was being renovated.)

After driving along the paper route he had in middle school, Phillip showed us the corner store where he used to ride his bike to buy candy with his earnings.

Amazingly, the little convenience store was still there, and since it was a hot day, we took the kids inside to pick out an ice cream treat.

The ciiiiircle of liiiiife...

BFF Reunion Moment

Even though we met in college in Minnesota, my best friend Kim now lives in Washington and we couldn't not stop by to see her.

Let me tell you that Kim is pretty amazing. Even though we haven't seen each other in 13 years, she immediately nailed the names and ages of all my kids. (I have friends I see once a week who still don't know exactly how many kids I have, letalone which one is which.)

Funny story: since Kim and I both have light hair and similar body types, and were even dressed a little alike that day, the older kids insisted we looked alike. As if I wasn't convinced, two of my younger kids on separate occasions ran up to Kim and started pulling on her, thinking she was me.

We met up with Kim (and her husband and baby who I was meeting for the first time) at a park, and here's a life tip: when trying to make a good first impression, tell people you're always 30 minutes late to everything, so when you show up only 15 minutes late everyone feels like you're early and you might even be the first one there!

Eventually the baby got tired and went home for a nap (my 7-year-old daughter was unsuccessful in figuring out how to kidnap her and sneak her back home in her suitcase,) and Kim and I went out for lunch while Phillip took the kids to a scenic overlook.

Kim works in records at the police station and got permission to give us a tour, so that was cool. We regrouped with Phillip and the kids after lunch, and she showed us around. An officer even took us out to see her squad car.

That evening we left the kids at the hotel with a pizza and told them they could watch TV while we went on a double date with Kim and her husband.

One of our kids was mad because "you can't pick what to watch on TV and there's tons of ads," and did not appreciate when Phillip and I started laughing at that 21st century problem.

Most Metropolitan Moment

We spent the last day of our trip in Seattle, seeing the sights. Since we'd rather see nature than city, one day was plenty for us.

Phillip and the big kids took a Boeing factory tour (no photos allowed since I might share their secrets and next thing we know, you're building a 747 in your backyard) while I took the little kids to the park and the library.

Then we headed to downtown Seattle where the kids played at a park with the Space Needle in the background, rode the monorail, and ate overpriced street food in a plaza downtown.

I can't believe they walked across this walkway to get to the slide.

In the plaza, there were games and a cart full of picture books, and my 13-year-old and I both spied this story that looked extremely sad until we picked up the book in front of it and saw that the full title was There's No One I Love Like You.

There's No One I Love: voted most depressing children's book of 2013!

Stinkiest Moment

One problem I didn't anticipate about the constantly overcast and drizzly weather is wet shoes that never dry out. At home we throw them on the back porch in the sun for a few hours, but what do people who live in the Northwest do?

By the end of the trip we were dealing with a serious stink problem. We even tried Gold Bond powder but it just added menthol to the nasty foot smell, which was not much of an improvement.

When I saw that a sunny day was finally forecasted when we went to the mountains, I got a brilliant idea. If I lined up the shoes on the dashboard, they'd dry in the sun while we were out enjoying nature. It was a perfect plan, really.

Except it didn't work. They totally stunk, even after they were dry, and every time we got in the car we had to drive with the windows down in order to stay conscious.

We left for home with a ton of dirty laundry, 8 very tired people, and a major appreciation for the beauty of the Northwest. We loved the mountains, the beaches, the rainforests  all of it.

Well, everything except for the voodoo potato. That thing still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

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Ann-Marie Ulczynski said...

That was quite a trip! The pool scenario sounds terrifying. I just took a CPR class, it I hope I never, ever have to use it.

Caitlin Spearson said...

So happy your 5 year old was okay. That sounds terrifying. And I totally would have gone for the chest x-ray too. Even though I know it's rare, those articles scare me too!

Kassie said...

I grew up in the PNW, too. Your pictures are gorgeous and making me a little homesick (I live in Missouri right now) and nostalgic: Quinault, Deception Pass, the rocky beaches, the hanging lichen, the wet shoes (I always put mine upside down in a heater vent in the house)... thank you for sharing your adventure!