14 July 2009

A Week with the Cousins in Beautiful Washington

Neo 2-1/2 and Eve 1-1/2

"The Cousins" range in age from age 12 years to 18 months

The goal of our road trip through California and Oregon was to spend time with "the cousins". They live on the side of a mountain on the outskirts of beautiful Belfair, Washington with their mom and dad - Aunt Ranae and Uncle Paul. It was the first time they got to meet Neo. It was our first meeting of their youngest too.

Aunt Ranae at Olympia State Park

We arrived about 4pm on Sunday, July 5. We departed on Sunday, July 12 about 10:30am. During our visit, we went on several natural outings - to the beach of Puget Sound, the river, and state parks. We also visited the zoo in Tacoma and went to Chuckie Cheese to celebrate Isaac's birthday. But mostly we talked and the children played.

Zoe and Eve at the Zoo

Ranae made some delicious meals. Everyone ate a lot. The eight children made a lot of noise at times. They all got to stay up past their usual bedtimes. I was limping around on a painful knee.

Enjoying icecream and a video in the living area

Their very large dog, Teddy, frightened Neo a little at first because of his size. Clara was delighted to have a dog to walk. She didn't appreciate his early morning barking spree.

Clara with Teddy, Ian following

Everyone had a fantastic time! It's a visit my children will not soon forget. My three oldest were ready to remain on so they could continue to play and have fun.

On a hike

05 July 2009

CA to WA Road Trip - Part 2

On July 4, we left Eureka, CA for the 5 hour drive to Eugene, OR - 294 miles (474 km). We had the pleasure of driving in Redwoods National and State Parks. The first sights were the ocean with Black Sand beaches.

We liked the Smith State Park

The surprise of the day came when we took Hwy 199 from CA 101 toward Interstate Hwy 5. This road is a two lane hwy right through the heart of redwood forests. The trees are amazing....and the forests are magical and peaceful. With the fog hanging in the upper branches, and the sunlight streaming through, it was mystical.

The curves on Hwy 199 are sharp, and the speeds drop to 30mph in some places. There are lovely streams running through deep gorges. The natural beauty is amazing.

I was surprised to see the traffic from Oregon into California being diverted for inspections. There was a sign on our side of the road talking about fruit quarantine. Perhaps that is what they were looking for? But a state inspection?

Through the windscreen.

The vistas on Interstate Hwy 5 were of the majestic mountains. This road had some nice easy curves, and steep grades....both up and down.

Golden bears on either side and either end of this bridge.

Whale sighting! This one was in Crescent City, CA

Dave went to University of Oregon, Eugene years ago. He recommended we get New York style pizza from Sy's. We were a little concerned as we walked to the restaurant that it might be closed on July 4 - many were. We enjoyed our pizza supper then walked to the University to look around. Everyone enjoyed seeing a squirrel. We haven't seen one for months!

Neo and Zoe outside of Sy's Pizza - Neo pushed the stroller all the way

Zoe in front of the University of Oregon sign

The 4th of July fireworks were visible from just outside our hotel room. It was a nice treat for the entire family. It was fun to watch Neo so excited about them. He and Zoe were jumping up and down with delight.

We arrived in Belfair, WA a little before 4pm on Sunday. I was surprised how far off "the beaten path" the house is. As is the norm, we brought rain overnight to this area that hasn't seen it for months.

04 July 2009

California to Washington Road Trip - Part 1

The kids on Pier 39 with San Francisco in the background

On July 2, we began our long drive from Grover Beach to Belfair, WA via California Hwy 101. We decided to break it up into 4 days of driving with 3 overnights at hotels. Our first destination was San Francisco. The drive is 258 miles (416 km) or 4 hours and 20 minutes according to Google maps.

We drove through downtown San Francisco. Walked around Pier 39 for a while, taking in the sights. Then drove across the Golden Gate bridge to our hotel in Sausalito, CA.

Clara, Zoe and Neo with Golden Gate Bridge

The destination of our 2nd day, Friday July 3, was Eureka, CA - 278 miles (448 km), approx. 5 hours. Our going was slow due to traffic bottlenecks near SF and in other places further up the road. I suspect traffic was heavy due to the July 4th holiday weekend. I've heard that Hwy 101 is full of curves and hilly. We found that the curves are gentle and the hills provide an awesome view.

Zoe, Tristan and Neo on the stump of a Redwood tree.

Chandler, CA - Drive thru Tree Park

We loved the majestic redwood trees. We stopped at "The Drive thru Tree" Park. The tree is over 2000 years old. It's still living - even though cars drive through it daily.

Tristan in front of a redwood that splits

Santa Barbara Zoo

Clara on a lion statue at the Santa Barbara zoo

We arrived in Los Angeles from Brisbane, Australia on Saturday, June 27....4 hours before we left! The flight was just under 14 hours. After making our way through customs, and discovering that Neo's car seat and stroller were on a later flight, we took a taxi to Union Station. We took the train to Santa Barbara....Clara was the only one awake. Grandma and Grandpa Smith greeted us at the Amtrak Station and took us to get our rental car, then our hotel. We met later for pizza then off to bed for us.

Neo in the egg.

Sunday was a beautiful sunny day....perfect for going to the Santa Barbara zoo. It's a wonderful zoo - great size for visiting in one day. Grandma and Grandpa, Elena and Carmelo joined us.

Neo sliding down "the ant hill"

Zoe designed her own button at the zoo

We ate lunch at a new tex-mex restaurant. Delicious chicken tacos!! I haven't had tacos in a long time.

Neo, Tristan and Carmelo peering through the windows at the California Condors

01 July 2009

Brisbane Encore

Zoe and Tristan in front of a fountain in the Southbank Parklands (Brisbane river in background)

On Friday, June 26, we drove from our home in Macmasters Beach to New Castle airport. We left at 5am to catch a 7:50am flight. I had driven the route provided by "Where Is" a week ago and almost gave up finding the airport on several occasions. I drove back from the airport following the signs set up for new arrivals and found that much easier. We made it to the airport without incident!

Brisbane CBD, as seen across the Brisbane river

We arrived in Brisbane at 9am, collected our luggage, dropped it off at the hotel, and took the train to Southbank Parklands. What a different place in winter! It's lovely! Not steaming like we had experienced when we visited in November. We walked along the Brisbane riverwalk then got some lunch. We had intended to find a ferry that would take us to the Lone Pines Koala sanctuary, but found that it can't be done. We caught a cab.

This koala is in Kindy

The Lone Pines Koala sanctuary is fairly small, but nice. There were many internationals visiting.

Clara holding a chick

There was a small farm with sheep, goats, guinea pigs, and small horses. It was really raining when we were in the barn. There were demonstrations by sheep dogs in the paddock. We each cuddled a koala. Each of the older children had the opportunity to hold the koala and have their picture taken with it.

Zoe and Tristan at the Lone Pines sign.

We bought food for the kangaroos and wallabies. One kangaroo was forward enough to rip Tristan's food bag open.

The red kangaroos had recently been included in the enclosure and were still wary.

The emu was happy to eat out of my hand.

Here's a joey in his mother's pouch. Funny, with his hind leg sticking out too!

We really enjoyed the rainbow lorikeet feeding. The Lorikeets began gathering at 2pm for the 3pm feeding time. These lorikeets are WILD! But they come right up and are happy to sit on your arms, shoulder, or head!

Neo with with Wild Rainbow Lorikeet perched on his head!

The food was in a milk - and the Lorikeets used their tongues to lap it up!

We took the bus back to the Queen Street mall, this was a new experience. We grabbed a couple of sushi rolls, then went out onto Queen Street to make our way to Central Train station. We arrived back at our hotel a little before 6pm. We had a full apartment - two bedrooms upstairs, a living room and kitchenette. For the price of a standard hotel room. It was really wonderful.

Jo Laws, Oliver, Zoe, Clara, Tristan, Zoe, Neo and Me.

Jo Laws (from British Expats - they were also April applicants) and her family (Jon, Zoe, and Oliver) arrived a little while later with pizza. We chatted while the kids played. Zoe and Clara became friends in that short time. Amazing the wonderful people we have met on this journey.