Saturday, August 6, 2016

Journey On

We took a slow time getting ready, not really sure what to expect for the day.

By the time we were prepared to do anything, the clock had already struck noon. We made the decision to follow my father's path of excitement, which led us on a journey for miles to come.

After a few long days of traveling and driving, we didn't want to venture anywhere to far. But venture we did.

Once again, my eyes were glued to the pages of The Scorch Trials. Shortly after I began my reading for the day, I realized that I was going to finish it today. I kept telling myself that I should have known and brought another book, because my track record for finishing a book is three days. I even did that with the first of this series.

In the midst of reading, though, my eyes fluttered about. I was worried that I would finish the book too soon, so I occupied myself in other ways.

At first, I looked out to the scenery, which turned out to be a lot more green. I played with Lacey a bit, and, eventually, wrapped my headband around her. It was as if she was sporting a patriotic scarf; she looked better in it than I do.

Lacey  wore her patriotic scarf - aka my headband/wristband - with pride.
I had to stop myself from touching the book again; I just had to. Thankfully, we landed in Canyonville for lunch before I found the temptation to crack out the pages. Our stop was at Ken's Sidewalk Cafe.

We dove into a meal of burgers and sandwiches but found ourselves just as enamored with ice cream. While Kyle and my dad had shakes with their meals, my mom and I went for the classic cone once we finished. Those things were pretty big and most definitely good!

Ken's Sidewalk Cafe in Canyonville, Oregon, served
as a delicious stop for burgers and ice cream.
Although we were still unsure of what was ahead, my father had high hopes for a museum out in Pottsville. A few miles further down the road, we finally met it. And we discovered that we were the only ones there.

It was this outside museum that almost served as a park. While the rest of the family ventured out to its different locations, my mom and I wandered for a bit, only to play around Lacey.

At first, though, I tried to become intrigued. There was an uneven track that stretched around the museum and a variety of bleachers at where I only assumed would have been the start. Upon more observation, I found an announcer's booth up ahead. Clearly, there must've been races there.

I let that linger in my mind for a bit but quickly dismissed it, once again enamored by the cute, young pup looking into my eyes.

My mom pulled out her playball and we took her leash off. I threw it for her quite a few times until she eventually herself out, prancing at it every time it left my hand. For twenty minutes, it was as if we had wandered into a park.

Eventually, my mom and I made it back inside the car. I was a bit worn out myself, for I rested in the backseat with both doors open. The wind hit me, offering the perfect temperature to fall under the spell of sleep. I ended up resisting.

Once the rest of the family made it back, we traveled back to the trailer.

I allowed myself to return to the fantasy world of The Maze Runner series, entranced by every flip of the page. It wasn't long until I finished the book in its entirety, closing it and trying to recollect my thoughts. Ironically, I instantly wanted to jump into the next book!

By the time we made it back, it had already been past nine at night. We had a late dinner and fried chicken and potato salad, which significantly filled up my stomach.

After some writing, I decided I should end the day. My head lied on the pillow and I dried Friday away.

The Florence Out of Italy

The time I most realize we’re on vacation is when our bodies wake up at nine in the morning without any need or purpose to rise out of bed.

I enjoy that feeling thoroughly. If I hadn’t become a cumbersome obstacle for people to get their breakfast, I could have lied in bed just a bit longer. That was a good reminder, however, that life could by so quickly without you ever realizing you need to get up and do something about it.

We weren’t entirely sure of what plans were in front of us, but two things were on our mind: Florence, Oregon, and visiting a lighthouse.

Our lazy start got us ready to leave around eleven. Still, there was much of the day to come.

My eyes returned to the pages of The Scorch Trials, still succumb to the overarching story that keeps on giving. I kept glued to the book before me, not allowing much to get in my way except for an occasional comment or glance toward the scenery.

However, I looked up from the pages momentarily to find myself starved for a meal. As if on cue, dad rolled up to the tiny town of Reedsport, Oregon. It housed a quaint yet packed restaurant, which offered up more of its charm by calling itself Harbor Light.

The family stopped for a meal at The Harbor Light Restaurant
in the small town of Reedsport, Oregon.
There, I had the best clam chowder on the West Coast that I have ever tasted! The only thing I think it is still in competition with is among those cities and towns of the East Coast we have traveled to. Boston and New Jersey are homes to delicious chowder, but, now I know that the Oregon Coast is as well!

I kept this restaurant in mind as a place to journey to again in the future, whether it be with my family or someone new.

Our family kept down the trail with a mission in mind to explore one of the many lighthouses along the coast. After a bit further of a drive, the Heceta Head Lighthouse became our first official stop of the day.

A small, half mile hike led us to the top of a cliff that held the lighthouse. The chilly breeze offered a bit of a challenge, but the view beat it all.

Once or twice, we paused on our way up to look out at the scenery below us. The beach showed itself to us in a beautiful way. I watched the waves turn to white before my eyes, exploring every crevice of the waters and surveying its depths.

When we made it to the top, a park ranger offered a tour of the lighthouse. Kyle, Sam, and my dad took to it while my mom and stayed behind, leaving us outside instead.

While it would’ve been enjoyable, I knew I’d find my pleasure the same place my mother found hers. My eyes drew toward the scenery as more waters lied before me. Deep waters surrounded what looked to be a giant rock, splashing into it every so now and then and making a perfect wave of overpowering whiteness. Not much can beat this view.

About twenty minutes of this view was etched into my mind, hoping to never separate. I was sure to catch plenty of pictures and a hyper lapse video the keep the memory.

A view of the water and the greenery captured my attention
as we headed up to the Heceta Head Lighthouse.
I also noticed a cold, young pup and my heart reached out to her. I snuggled Lacey against my chest. When it was time to go back, I ran my way down with her to get her feet moving again. Soon, I noticed, she had that usual jaunt in her step which went warmness had kicked back in.

Next, the family ventured to a sea lion cave. My mom waited back for us in the truck with Lacey while the remainder examined the sights. It was another nice location and an enjoyable view, but, very quickly, the freezing air hit me hard and I remembered that I had a leather jacket back home waiting for me. Before the rest of them, I made my way back up to the truck.

Not too long after, though, the rest followed behind. And our next journey was to find a coffee shop.
Florence housed a small café that caught our attention. As usual, I ordered myself a white mocha, which always pleases my taste buds. The whole family got coffee to warm us right back up.
I took Lacey outside the taffy shop while I enjoyed my coffee, mom and dad both perusing around their selection. They came bag out with a random assortment of taffy I began to pick out. I quickly discovered banana is a favorite.

Our exploration of Florence continued, as we walked into a few random shops. While Sam and Kyle explored an overpriced shoe store, my mom and I looked around a t-shirt shop. While at the register, I convened with the cashier who also sang the words to Mr. Brightside by the Killers.

Noting her taste in music was similar to mind, my mother and I had a brief conversation with her. It excited the musician in me to talk about our taste in artists. Green Day, My Chemical Romance, and, my two favorites, Twenty One Pilots and Paramore were mentioned. Needless to say, I ended up liking that girl.

Once we all convened again, we passed a variety of restaurants before we hit an antique shop. Sam and I agreed that this was a noteworthy place to pick out for future items. While I wouldn’t have a good place for their furnishings now, it was a great place to remember for potential decorations.

Right next to it lie a small bookstore. As soon as I entered, I saw what I was looking for: the next book to the Maze Runner series. I picked that and the next one up as well, with the realization that I’ll most likely finish The Scorch Trials soon. (My track record for finishing books is three days.)

The further I went into the bookstore, though, the more I wanted to purchase. I had to stop before I went broke, so my mother and I got what we wanted and headed toward the pizza restaurant we walked by. Kyle and Sam stayed behind.

The lingering smell of pizza wafted in the air, leading us to Rest-o-bar. For someone who isn’t hung up on pizza that much, it was a delicious meal! Service turned out to be just as friendly, as we had a jokester of a waiter that left behind a humorous picture for us.

After our dinner, home is where we arrived, tired from an extremely eventful day that I’d love to live through again sometime in the future.

Finding A New (Temporary) Home

Almost immediately, our morning began with intent.

It took some dedicated effort from each of us, but we managed to reach our objective of packing everything up, cleaning the trailer, and getting ready for the day ahead of us by ten in the morning.
We shuffled into our seats as comfortably as possible for the long ride ahead of us. Trailer towed behind, we had another objective in mind: making it to our next destination.

I was thoroughly excited for this one. While I enjoy several elements the forest has to offer, I would trade its larger than normal bug sizes, its shade from the sun under the trees, and its greenery for sand and water. Finally, we were headed to the beach.

The ride began with furious writing on my part; because of my exhaustion the other night, I fell asleep before I could write a single word about the day. I recollected all I could on yesterday’s adventures before I could fall short of the memories.

As I typed, a tiny presence founds its way to my lap. Lacey couldn’t resist cuddling against me, her body resting against me and her head resting on my hand. For a moment in time, I was disabled by her cuteness. Eventually, though, she rose from my lap and returned to her usual spot between me and Sam.

In the middle of typing, Lacey found a comfortable spot
on my lap to lie her head and rest while in the car.
Once I finished the blog, I attempted to open up The Scorch Trials for the first time. I’ve read the first in the series – the Maze Runner – twice, yet I hadn’t ventured into the rest of series until now, well, later. Because as soon as I opened the book, I closed it.

Only on rare occurrences do I put a book down. For some reason, I hadn’t found myself in the mood to read quite yet.

Maybe I needed some food.

Shortly after that, we found a Denny’s in Woodburn, Oregon, a familiar chain to our family since my dad loves it. I almost never have breakfast for dinner there, but, for some reason, that sounded perfect. The five of us settled on breakfast meals that filled our stomachs fast so we could prepare for the journey ahead.

As the drive continued, I slowly cracked into the novel. And, in an instant, I was glued. For me, this is a usual task. I have one of those addictive personalities that clings onto something and makes it part of my existence, if even for a little bit. It’s a good thing I’ve turned to books and movies as my addiction, at least.

I quickly became part of the story, engulfed in the ideas of James Dashner that quickly entertained my mind. Every chapter ended with a cliffhanger, a very similar style to Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. That may be a part of the reason my eyes are glued to the pages, waiting to capture the next moment of suspense or thrill that The Scorch Trials has to offer.

My mind was focused on the story until our car pulled closer to a stop. There it was, the beach ahead of us. Waves of excitement ran through me, itching to jump out of the car and run toward the water. It was like it was calling me. However, I contained my excitement and waited as patiently as possible.
Soon, after a little bit of a challenge of finding our spot, we parked the trailer in its proper location.

Things slowly but surely were set up after our arrival. Sam and I accomplished the goal of putting up my mom’s solar lights in an aesthetically pleasing fashion, even after the tip of one managed to break off.

While we were there, we discovered that the public restrooms would have to be our source. I took a look at how to get there, but, shortly after, Sam and Kyle revealed a short cut to us. A small, somewhat open space between the bushes and layers of green invited down a short pathway that led to the restrooms, sitting right beside our site.

A small pathway of dirt and grass was discovered by our campsite,
which leads us down to the restroom and showers.
It wasn’t too long after our arrival that dinner was made to be ready: a simple yet delicious meal of spaghetti and salad sat before us, thanks to the contributing efforts of both mom and Sam. I enjoyed it with delight.

Before we knew it, our beds were made. It’s a wonder how sitting in a car for a long time can exhaust someone, but, somehow, it’s possible.

We slept the night away, sure of only one thing in our minds: there’s something new to come tomorrow.

Rafting Redemption

Sam, Kyle, dad, and I had another adventure today.

In order for it to happen, our day began at 6:30 in the morning. Once we showered, gathered our clothes, and took our breakfast on the road, we found ourselves in Maupin, Oregon, after an hour and a half of driving.

At ten, we boarded a bus with a dozen other people, wearing ‘splash jackets’ under our life jackets. The bus took us down to the Deschutes River, where we took hold of our paddles and found our spot in the boats. If you haven’t figured it out already, we went white water river rafting.

This might’ve been my fifth time in the water but my first on this new river. The four of us had taken our turns on both the Middle and Lower forks of the American River not too long ago. Each time, we had taken to the river with the rafting company of Tributary. While we gladly would’ve gone with them again, their company doesn’t travel into Oregon. But All Star Rafting does.

The four of us took into a raft with our guide, another guide in training, and a family of three. This was another first. We never had to go in a raft that sat eight people.

It was much tighter than usual. Since my dad sat right in front of me, I’m sure I bumped him quite a few times when trying to avoid getting hit by the guy behind me.

This river housed many class three rapids, one four, and another six. While classes three and four are doable, with four being rougher than the other, class six cannot be done. In fact, if one were to make it out alive after doing that, our guide, Christina, informed us that there would be a $7,000 dollar fine. Needless to say, we pulled out the rafts and drove around the rapid.

Preceding the class six, we encountered a variety of rapids. Dad took to the bow of the raft for one of them, sitting himself at the very front as waves splashed before him and taking the brunt of the action.

Half way through the trip, we stopped for lunch. Our group of seven, excluding our guides, enjoyed hamburgers together.

When we got back on the water, we encountered a few small rapids until we hit the class four. The four of us were pretty excited about this, because, until then, the ride was fairly calm. I think we’re just used to the American River, which houses quite a few class fours.

Conquering that class four gave us – or, at least me – an adrenaline rush! I was ready for the more exciting things to come.

Shortly after, there was a chance to jump off a cliff. I was ready to go until we approached it closer, examining the thirty foot drop. I would’ve gone. I really wanted to go. However, there was something missing, so Sam and I returned to the rafts without jumping into the water.

I immediately felt the need to redeem myself, a little bit of regret looming over me for not going with the jump. As a principle, I try never to act on fear; I feel that’s when people regret stuff the most. A little bit of shame tore through me.

I found my redemption shortly after, though. It was our last rapid of the day, and our guide asked if anyone wanted to ride the bull.

There was a bit of hesitation, mostly because I was giving anyone else the chance to go before me. But, when the raft fell silent, I took to the front.

My grip on the rope was tight, although I could’ve gone tighter. I leaned close to the boat, so, if I fall, it will be back into the raft. And the waters came upon me shortly after.

As soon as the first big wave hit, I tumbled back in, soaking wet. I must’ve lost my grip. But that was the biggest rush of the day. As I tumbled onto my back, I couldn’t help to break into a laugh as I tried to get back on. But by the time I found my way to the top, the waves ceased. Instead of assuming my previous position, I momentarily sat there facing the paddlers.

I looked toward the waters, a smile filling my cheeks. Redemption.

Eventually, we paddled our raft back to shore. Feeling a bit of discomfort, I was glad to get out of the waters and get a chance to change into normal clothes.

We thanked our guide, Christina, for leading the way. Her determination and wisdom were a great part of the trip! The four of us echoed the fact that she could handle much tougher rapids than that.
Usually, after rafting, we stop by McDonalds and get McFlurry’s to cool us down and celebrate. But The Oasis’s milkshakes were a great alternative! It was this little shop that was recommended by Christina; we found ourselves at The Oasis at five o' clock (Gilmore Girls reference?).

The Oasis is a little restaurant in Maupin, Oregon, that serves
burgers, french fries, and delicious milkshakes.
Soon, we found ourselves back at the trailer. I took a nap on the way back and almost immediately fell back asleep once we returned. Instead, though, I got to have a barbecue chicken dinner that my mom made perfectly.

I couldn’t stay up much longer, though, so I cuddled on the couch earlier and took a nap. My eyes didn’t flutter open until it was already ten at night.

Quickly, I made my bed and fell into another slumber, waiting for the next day of adventure to come. 

Oregon Likes Waterfalls (And I Do, Too)

I was reminded today that waking up and getting up are two completely different things.
Around seven in the morning, my eyes opened and I became aware of reality again. I stared directly at the doors for a moment before my eyes shut again, forgetting the world. Eventually, though, after mindlessly tossing around on this memory foam, I got up half past nine.

Sam (my brother’s girlfriend that I’ve previously mentioned) and I took to the campsite showers. It was my first time visiting those since we first arrived. I investigated them only to see large mosquitos hanging on the walls, but, this time, everything seemed fine.

We took off on our adventure for today, with a plan in mind to see as many as Oregon’s waterfalls as we could. Our first stop, however, was at a gas station.

While there, we witnessed a bizarre sight. Out of the two pumps, one was previously being occupied while the other was being pulled into. However, the driver decided to back into his spot, only to park himself closer to the building than the pump. It’s hard to explain, really, but I thought I’d try. Just visualize it as best as possible, will you?

A man at the gas station told my father of an alternative route, so we proceeded down the way that was instructed. There, we met dirt roads and people applying pavement and even a helicopter right above our heads. It was quite a bumpy ride, and one we learned to avoid for the remainder of our stay.

That eventually led us to Vista House, which turned out to be an extremely beautiful location.
A short distance away from the actual Vista House was a grassy area holding a singular table, just waiting for our arrival. We enjoyed our lunch there as we got to look out at the scenery.

The beautiful blues and greens of Oregon were displayed in
the scenery beside Vista House.
Once we finished, our journey with waterfalls officially began! In total, we explored five different locations that housed exceptional views.

First, we stopped by Latourell Falls. As streams of water fell through the cracks high above our heads, a young boy attempted to make friends with Lacey. However, Lacey is extremely shy, so this made for a difficult task. She huddled in the corner as he pet her.

Kyle, Sam, and I decided to travel a little farther, looking to get a closer view of the waterfall. We ended up going further than originally intended, due to the lack of directional signs to lead us through the way. However, we were able to stop and enjoy the falls one by time before trekking back down.
Our second stop was at Bridal Veil Falls, which turned out to be just as pretty. It took a small hike to find the falls themselves, but it was worth it.

Next, we arrived at Wakheena Falls. After hiking at two separate locations, it was nice to have a spot where we didn’t have to go too far. We sat still beside the end of the waterfall, embracing the cool air that had sprouted from it. And, shocker, it was a very pretty sight.

Multnomah Falls was the next destination, which turned out to be the most popular. There, Kyle, Sam, and I climbed up a short trail to find ourselves on a bridge closer to the falls. It was refreshing to see.

The last of the falls was Horsetail Falls. We didn’t exit the car to see this one, but we did stop by so I could take another beautiful picture!

The Latourell Falls (top left), Bridal Veil Falls (top right), Multnomah Falls (bottom left), and Wakheena Falls
 (bottom right) are just a small part of the variety of falls you can see in Oregon.
After our stops, we traveled a little bit further down. We crossed the Bridge of the Gods, which had another fantastic looking view. Even better, though, we found ourselves in Washington. I couldn’t help but stare in awe at the greenery and the waters of the river.

If it wasn’t for our stomachs, I would’ve stayed there the rest of the night. My father wanted to see if a specific barbecue restaurant closer to our campsite was open, and, as it turned out, it’s closed on Mondays! Suffice to say, there was no barbecue for us tonight.

As we wandered into another small town, we had learned that most there were limited potions. Soon, we found ourselves at a grocery store where we finally came to a conclusion: specials.
While this a simple Myres’ family dish, it is one of my favorites! We got back to the trailer and enjoyed this special dinner.

Shortly after, everyone found themselves exhausted enough to pass out for the night.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Portland or Bust

I must have forgotten what it’s like to feel cold.

My morning began at six, when the sun had yet to return. For the first time on this trip, I was begging for its arrival as I shivered in this newly fifty-degree weather.

Now, why was I up at such an unearthly hour? (That might sound dramatic, but the writing night-owl in me despises using any of my energy before nine.) It was because the three of us made a plan to leave for Portland before my brother and his girlfriend’s arrival.

Our first delay was found in the form of coffee. Shortly after we had left the campsite, my mother noticed a Starbucks. I couldn’t refuse such an offer, so I followed her inside and ordered the best thing possible: a white chocolate mocha and a croissant.

Our Starbucks stop in Mount Hood resulted in the purchase
of some delicious delicacies for breakfast.
While mom and I made breakfast out of Starbucks, my dad acquired a different taste down the road. Eventually, we stopped by a McDonalds.

Finally, after the three of us filled up on various meals, we arrived at the Portland International Airport. Immediately, I affectionally referred to this cozy and quite airport PAX or Pax, due to its similarity of name to the Los Angeles International Airport.

Since their flight had been delayed for half an hour, the three of us, along with Lacey, had arrived soon before them. During this time, we stopped by a small kiosk area that housed many brochures for Oregon. I scanned through them, hoping to find a destination to settle on in the city of Portland.
Shortly after, my brother and his girlfriend arrived. The five of us exited the airport together and made our way around the city of Portland.

I must admit, from what we saw, Portland was underwhelming. I was hopeful for a bit more of a bustling city but not many people had walked the streets. A park sat in the middle where many homeless people found their stay.

In the back of my mind, I was hoping for a New York City style trip. But this certainly wasn’t it.
We tried to get around and find something that potentially piqued our interest.

At one point, we thought the best place to go was Washington Park. While we drove by it, we didn’t stay, but mostly due to the fact that lunch became necessary.

We then went to Goose Island Inn, a brewery and pub that seemed up to the task of filling our stomachs. The menu insisted that their Reuben sandwiches were the best on the planet, so my brother, his girlfriend, and dad decided to test them out on their theory. While I didn’t try it myself, I’m almost positive that Katella Deli or any other Jewish Delicatessen has them beat!

While there, I couldn’t help but notice a chalkboard that piqued my interest. It wasn’t too hard to decide what I wanted to put up there: ‘Let’s Go Ducks!’ (and ‘Anaheim’ added shortly after because I know the Oregon Ducks exist) and a shameless plug to the blog. I’m thinking, maybe - just maybe - someone will be curious enough to take a look.

After our lunch, we attempted to explore more of Portland. The Portland Mansion and Tom McCall Waterfront Park were added to our list, but, on the drive by, it was decided that nothing in Portland was up to the task to entertaining us. I think a bit of tiredness settled in over us as well, causing some disinterest in anything that wasn’t sleep.

On the way back to the trailer, I lost myself in thought. I wasn’t too aware of my surrounds, but I had noticed the green forests and blue water we passed by.

When we made it back, I decided to be lost in thought a bit more. I explored the camp ground by myself, returning to this first place we had looked at when we got here.

A little creek lies behind the campground, housing flowing water and a few fallen branches. While it might not be the most gorgeous sight, it was a good place to collect some more of my thoughts. I allowed myself to think about anything I wanted to for a while.

A creek in the back of our campground made for a peaceful and quiet spot.
I returned to the campsite and found myself in conversation with the family. That was until I got a phone call. During that time, I settled in the truck for an hour and a half to talk with a certain someone that always knows how to put a wide smile on my face.

 ...I’ve said too much already.

Hamburgers became the next thing on the list, which turned out to be another great meal off of that new grill.

Shortly after, the fire was made. And I was ready to make my ‘perfect’ s’mores!

See, at least with my family, I’m a professional s’more maker. I take the time to make sure that they’re completely melted on the inside and unscathed on the outside. That way, when the marshmallows slide between the two graham crackers, they’re soft and squishy. In my mind, that makes for the perfect s’more! I’m not afraid to admit that I had two; they’re delicious.

It didn’t take long for us to settle for bed after that. We were all pretty tired, mostly because we all woke up earlier than usual today.

Tomorrow, though, is another day. At least I get to sleep in this time!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Twists & Turns & Loops

Today was day four of waking up on the floor.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is much better than waking up to intense heat radiating onto my skin. At least, now I know how Katniss felt that same morning her hair got singed with fire. Or, I’d like to think so.

As previously mentioned, nothing was specifically set for today. But there was one thing I needed to check off of my list of things to do: the dreaded financial aid scramble.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, I decided to attend a private, costly university. In that case, financial aid is necessary. However, there have been a few challenges - I have lacked to find some clarity with the office until the final week everything is due.

Since our campsite does not house internet connection, my mother and I went exploring for such a thing in order to complete this task. Soon, we found ourselves in the little town of Odell. While I was able to connect and offer up yesterday’s blog, I was unable to do anything about financial aid. Stuff still needed to be done on the other side before I could touch those payments.

Despite our failure, we made good use out of this trip.

We stopped by a grocery store in town that lacked many materials; however, we did acquire the jugs of water my mother was looking for. While checking out, we had a short conversation with our cashier about water. Apparently, she thought that Californian tap water is dirty. This made me question if that’s what people think in general about our state – dirty tap water? I hope not.

From what I know, our tap water isn’t dirty. Maybe she was just insane.

After our purchase, we took a trip to two locations on the ‘fruit loop’ that we had missed.

The first was Cody Orchard’s Farm Stand, which had to be the best stop yet. They housed some beautiful looking fruits. My mom picked out some peaches and nectarines while there, and the owner let us sample their ‘donut peach’. Its sweet taste surely lives up to its name! While we didn’t get any of those kind, I’m highly considering returning at some point to get a batch of those.
During part of that stop, we marveled at a highly accurate sign (pictured below).

Cody Orchard's Farm Stand had a perfectly accurate sign on boys.
Since we didn’t have time to stop by a cider shop the other day, my mother and I walked into Draper Girls Cider Company. I’m looking forward to trying that apple pear cider!

A small lunch of crackers and hummus filled my stomach when we got back to the trailer. I played more of that game that I keep talking about. I won’t get into that again.

Eventually, I grew tired and my eyes shut for about an hour. I made my way to my parents’ bed to snooze for a bit until the scent of steak wafted into my nose.

Dinner was delicious, as expected. My dad fired up the new grill for the first time and was successful at produce a juicy, delicious steak. Along with white rice and salad, I filled my stomach up – but not before I could munch on more peanut m&m’s!

It was soon discovered that we would have to get up at six in the morning to head to Portland in time. Apparently, my brother and his girlfriend arrive at nine.

Wanting to play a game, my mother and I broke out Mancala as we enjoyed some ice cream. (Did I mention earlier that the pint I got was called ‘empower mint’?) We played two quick rounds of the game, resulting in a tie. I have a funny feeling we’ll want to break that tie eventually. Or, at least, I will.

My mother and I played two late night games on Mancala.

Soon after, I brought out the memory foam and prepared myself for the next night of sleeping on the floor. As it turns out, it requires a lot less work and offers less chaos in the morning. The best part is that I don’t have to get out of my bed so people can eat.

I guess this is my permanent position now. But, like I said earlier, it’s better than burning.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Taking on the Loop

There’s something about waking up to the excitement of a young pup.

Even though I’m not a morning person and don’t feel like ‘me’ until I’ve taken a shower and eaten something, Lacey’s tiny little body in front of my face, tail-wagging and licking my cheek, gave me a reason to smile.

Although our day began around seven in the morning, we had a slow start to the day. No plans had been made yet so it gave us a good excuse to relax.

In that time, I was inspired to carve out a plan of action for the next few days. It’s good to know we have something to do in the time we’re here – expect for tomorrow.

My mother pulled out some brochures she gathered from the entrance of the campsite. The two of us began to scan through the options until she settled on what was called the ‘fruit loop’. And, no, we’re not talking cereal.

Around the Columbia River, thirty-one designated stops made a ‘loop’ in which we could drive around. Fruit stands, shops, a bakery, and even a place for cider were on that list. Thus, a plan for today was born.

By the time noon came, we headed out for our adventure.

We only explored three of the different stops: Lavender Valley, The Old Trunk, and Apple Valley Country Store & Bakery.

Lavender Valley (top left), The Old Trunk (top right), and Apple Valley
Country Store & Bakery (bottom left) are all part of the 'Fruit Loop'
located near Mount Hood, Oregon (bottom right).
The smell of lavender wafted through the air as we entered Lavender Valley. It’s not a scent I’m particularly fond of, but the plants were pretty. The lady at the store would’ve given us a machete for four dollars to cut some lavender plants that had already blossomed (pictured above), but we had to pass up on that offer. It might’ve been worth it just to hold that machete, although I got to do that without paying anyway.

We traveled a bit further down the look and came upon The Old Trunk. This antique store housed a variety of interesting items. I perused through the vinyl records when my dad pointed out a record player, asking me if I knew what it was. Clearly, I did.

While there was an arrangement of both strange and intriguing items, the most interesting thing I noticed in the store were figurines – paper mache, I believe – of John F. Kennedy. I wish I would’ve taken a picture of that; it was the most bizarre thing. I wonder whether they were made for his campaign or funeral.

Lastly, we took a peek inside the Apple Valley Country Store & Bakery. I didn’t get to see much of it, however, because I stayed outside with Lacey. And, when I got the chance to look inside, I had just enough time to notice the wall of jam in the back of the store. It was intriguing yet enticing at the same time.

Once again, lunch became a challenge for us. This time, though, it wasn’t much because of our stomachs. It was due to the lack of dog-friendly restaurants in Hood River.

The Big Horse Brewing Company solved our case, allowing us to bring Lacey out on the deck. Immediately, as we approached our table outside, another dog on the deck came running toward me and Lacey. It was about the same size as Lacey, but, because Lacey isn’t too keen on others of her kind, she automatically started barking. We pulled her way and the owners did as well, grabbing the leash they clearly had forgotten about.

Despite the shade under the trees, the heat still greeted us. Thankfully, the breeze made it feel a little better than it actually was.

Since it was a pub, I had to order a hamburger. There’s no better way to go about it! However, it did take half an hour for our orders to come in – I’d say it was almost worth it, but, at that point, I was starving.

Shortly after, we arrived back to the trailer. Gradually, as I played through more of my game, my eyes got increasingly heavier. Eventually, I passed out on the couch.

An hour later, some more gaming began. But, this time, it was with the family. My mother and I tried out her recent purchase, Rummikub. It’s kind of like jinn and Phase 10 combined, so I thought I’d nail it! However, I lost to my mother in the first round and my father in the second.

Next, I tried out Parcheesi. My parents had played this one before, so it was only new for me. I picked up on it fairly well, but, in the end, came out in second place. This one was more like Sorry, as we got to knock each other’s pawns out and back to the start. Needless to say, my competitive side kicked right in and way too easily!

Too quickly had it become almost eleven at night. That’s when the three of us decided that we should rest for the next day, no matter what may come.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Road Trip Recap, Part 2

Thursday was introduced to me in strange fashion. Half past midnight, I woke up to skin irritation that ran across my sides, back, and stomach.

“What is this?” I murmured to myself as I attempted to gain some semblance of reality.
Every time I turned, I felt an uncomfortable heat come from below. It was like my insides were slowly burning whenever I touched this particular spot.

Eventually, I grew tired of this irritation and relocated myself to the floor. I dragged the memory foam, my blankets, and my pillow to the floor beside my former resting spot. Still, I felt as if I was burning, so I felt the need to calm myself down with music. Soon enough, I fell back asleep.

When I awoke in the morning, my parents asked me why I was lying there, so I explained the story to them. Apparently, that’s where a flat tire and some wiring problems were. Needless to say, I’m skeptical of resting my head at the same location until the issue (at least, in my mind) gets resolved.

The day then resumed. Shockingly, we were up and ready by eight in the morning. Usually, my body refuses to wake up until then.

Our road trip continued, bidding an ‘adieu’ to Mountain Range and looking forward to our next home in Mount Hood, Oregon.

There was beauty to behold at Blue Shasta Lake, so much so that it had to be captured. I got a picture of the sun overlooking the water as we drove right past it; those are always my favorites. Through the sun’s reflection, the waters’ deep ripples and shades are shown. This is just one of the many ways God reflects His beauty.

The sun overlooks the waters of Blue Shasta Lake in the early morning,
casting a reflection that shows every layer of the lakes' beauty.

Only a few moments later, breakfast was found in Weed, California. The local motel housed the Hi-Lo café, which served us delicious plates of ham and pancakes. We were filled to the max with their large proportions.

After a quick hunt for a few extra supplies, our journey down the road (or, freeway) continued. Our next stop was at Khlamoth Falls to fill the tank back up. Then we continued on.

In the meantime, I was glued to the screen of my DS. In the back of my mind, I equated myself with the stigma of today’s generation – we just can’t avoid our screens. At the same time, I excused myself because of my obsessive tendencies as I remained focused on completing the main story of the game.

As lunch rolled around, our stomachs struggled to focus. We passed by a few options that were unnerving or unsettling.

To be honest, I wasn’t a part of this conversation very much. Instead, I focused my attention on one of my best friends, who made a phone call to me earlier. I returned the call and we talked through my parents’ decision making process.

Richmond, Oregon, served us Subway sandwiches that we swallowed down in the car. For dessert, I rewarded myself with peanut m&m’s – too much goodness!

After lunch, I enjoyed the view. We saw many fascinating cities full of lights and colors. The glowing sands of the dessert shone right in my eyes. At one point, we drove underwater and –

Yes, I’m kidding. Because, instead of living in the moment and enjoying the view outside, I was attached to the screen yet again.

In Madras, we found a Safeway that would keep our stomachs full. We stocked up on all the necessary items for our next three days in Mount Hood. The whole pack of us – my mother, my father, and me – scanned through the aisles together. It was there that I learned why my father doesn’t normally go to the grocery store with us.

A hundred or so miles later, we landed in Mount Hood, pulling our trailer into a beautiful spot located at one of the county trailer parks.

The trailer was pulled into a shady spot in a county
 campground located near Mount Hood, Oregon.

After we had fried chicken for dinner, we took Lacey for a walk and explored the camp. A very peaceful river sat comfortably behind the camp. I envisioned myself traveling to this location on my own to clear my mind. We also walked the aisles of campsites, where very few trailers found their spots.

Thankfully, the many trees that surround us offer a shade from the heat. It feels thirty degrees cooler than last night’s location.

Under the shade, we were able to dream of the next five days to come.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Road Trip Recap, Part 1

I remember what it felt like to wake up early when I was a child: exciting.

Those were always the nights where I couldn't sleep in anticipation for what was to come. The following day would either be a holiday or the first day of vacation. Usually, I had motivation due to my sense of adventure.

So when the clock struck three in the morning, I would hop out of bed and finish packing my suitcase with the remainder of items. Braid swung to the side, hat on backwards, I jumped into the car once everything was loaded. And I would look behind my shoulder to say 'goodbye' to the home we left behind.

Now that I'm twenty-two and live life as an adult with two jobs and my final year of college to look forward to, my view is a little different.

I look forward to the travel. But I value sleep so much more.

When the clock struck three in the morning, I hit snooze. I didn't want to get up right away.

Before I knew it, though, I was ready. I guess things haven't changed too much. I tucked my hair into the same braid I have since I was thirteen. As usual, it only took me about twenty minutes to pack the rest of my things because I had it all laid out and ready. And, as expected, my passion for travel overcame any desire to go straight back to bed.

Lacey - the lovable yet stubborn two-year-old pup - and I shared the back seat of my father's black Toyota Tundra, the same one we've used to tow our twenty nine foot trailer behind us since its purchase in 2010. My father was at the wheel, and my mother sat beside him in the passenger's seat.

Back at home, Lacey and I get ready for our upcoming adventures around four in the morning.

Immediately, I returned to rest, cuddling with my Anaheim Ducks blanket and lying my head on my pillow. Lacey sat on my side half of the time as we made it to our first stop: Wheeler Ridge.

In true road trip fashion, we stopped for McDonald's around seven in the morning. The usual "Sausage Egg McMuffin" was purchased for me and my mother, while my father had the "Big Breakfast". It tasted like the regular McDonald's meal we normally get.

Already, it was getting warm in the midst of this nasty heat wave, but we traveled on.

On the way to our next location, I brought back another childhood love of mine. Anyone remember the Nintendo DS? Anyone remember Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team? Just me? If so, that's okay.

 I was thoroughly entertained with how I swept through three dungeons in a row, since, when I was twelve, that was an impossible task for me. Flashbacks of constantly getting kicked back to the beginnings of the dungeon because I couldn't defeat the boss ran through my mind. Due to my extra ten years of knowledge, though, this task was a piece of cake.

Between the previous location and the one to come, gas and a delicious ice cream cookie sandwich were found at Chevron.

The next place we found ourselves was at Williams,  about 150 miles further north. For about twenty miles, the pack tried to settle on a place to eat lunch. We passed a few fast food restaurants that our stomachs were not fond of, such as Wendy's and Jack in the Box. But Williams had what we all craved: Taco Bell.

The heat... The further we went up the 5, the warmer it got. It probably was around 90 degrees at that stop. Our Southern California bones couldn't take it.

After Williams, I slept most of the heat off in the air-conditioned car. Another chance at reliving my childhood occurred when I pulled out a portable CD player. It was my brother's, but I remember the memories well. My own CD player, which is either lost or broken, used to play the Jonas Brothers or High School Musical.

With a more refined musical palette, however, still obsessive, I instead played the Twenty One Pilots' album, Vessels. I murmured the lyrics until I couldn't, eventually falling asleep to the soothing sounds that come after Migraine.

I was out. At one moment, I heard some car doors open and felt Lacey jump on top of me. My parents were getting gas. But I didn't move a muscle. I continued sleeping until we approached Redding.

My mother and I found an escape from the heat in the local Safeway - or, for Southern Californians, Vons. We were relieved to discover a Starbucks could quench our thirst and cool our bodies. As mom proceeded to shop for tonight's meal, I entertained myself with Snapchat. I discovered that Redding has some cool looking Geotags.

The Starbucks in Safeway is where I discovered that this
town, Redding, CA, has amazing Geotags on Snapchat.

Once we finished, we walked back into the 110-degree heat. Unfortunately, for us, this Safeway had those carts that can't go past a certain point. There was a little bit of a struggle to carry all we had, but we successfully lugged our items to the trailer.

Eventually, we found solace in the car yet again, blasting the air. A few more miles down, and we found our nest for the night: Mountain Gate.

With five hundred and eighty-one miles down, we have 350 to go until we reach our first official destination of the trip: Mount Hood, Oregon. (I have to admit, the emo part of me loves that name.) The rest of our night is spent in an attempt to rest and refuel for that last stretch.

Each of us created our own dinner of a simple sandwich, or, attempted to. After I made mine, I took a few bites until I realized the mustard that I put on was spicy. My mouth couldn't handle that, so, instead of finishing my sandwich, I made do with crackers and cheese.

By nine at night, beds were made. There's something rewarding about putting all that effort into making my bed, because, in the end, I'm exhausted enough to sleep right away.

In an attempt to cool off before I made my final adieu to the night, the television remained on HGTV and my tongue was soothed with half-melted mint ice cream. That was the most important purchase of the night.

Finally, my head fell onto the pillow once more, in hopes of eight hours of sleep. Vessels playing in my ears, my mind finally drifted off, looking forward to the adventures ahead.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Real Christian in a Real World

Approximately three years ago, I hunted down a few websites to figure out where I should begin my first blog. After some research, I began my journalistic adventures on Google’s blogspot with an entry based on a true story in my life. However, because of school, homework, and life in general, I shut this blog down before it ever officially began.

Thankfully, though, my heart never gave up on this idea. Ever since my initial desire to establish a name for myself in the blogosphere, this same passion to write for the people of the internet has always remained.

That’s why, last summer, I created this new blog with the intent to make more content not only pleasing to the eye but as a source of experience and knowledge I’ve gained from my life.
Naturally, most of my experience and knowledge is attributed to God. 

Because of this reason, I decided my focus should be on what challenges and lessons God has used to teach me throughout my life.

However, while the idea was good in theory, it was fairly difficult. I was challenging myself too much to produce content that my readers could learn from.

Last week, I wanted to write a blog on the trials of faith. I poured out 434 words of what was on my heart when it came to this topic. While I read it over, though, it didn’t make much sense. I was trying too hard to turn it into a lesson, and it skewed the subject to an overbearing level of illegible nonsense.

If I learned one lesson from this failed endeavor, it would have to be summed up in this short, four-word sentence: I’m not a pastor.

God didn’t give me the gifting of a pastor and advice lender, as much as I may try to be. However, while I don’t have those strengths, I know that He has given me others.

Instead of trying too hard to be what God hasn’t called me to be, I should use those strengths that He has given me. In that case, I should sing, show compassion to my friends and family, and write. This setback will not drive me away from the fact that God has called me to speak to my readers. But I’m not going to do it by trying to be someone else.

I’m going to be me.

I’m going to document my life as it is, as a real Christian in a real world.

With this new goal in mind, I wish to deliver content every week about my life. From now on, you’ll get to witness the ups and downs and what goes on in my mind throughout the week. Sometimes, God will reveal something special to me. Other times, I might be in the midst of a trial and lose sight of what God’s doing in my life. Most likely, though, my blogs may fail to deliver intriguing or entertaining content week by week.

But that’s the life of a real college-aged, career-driven, and confused Christian.

Welcome to the summer of 2016 and welcome to the rest of life.