Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Day On The Rails…


On another gorgeous Sunday, we decided to take the car on another practice trip for the big road trip coming up at the end of July. We didn’t have a particular destination this time, so we just hopped on Highway 2 and started heading east. As we drove, we passed the small towns of Sultan and Gold Bar before ending up in the little town of Index for a quick snack stop. After checking out the little town, which is obviously a favorite for the outdoors-type (think rafting, fishing and hiking,) we moved onward to the east to find our next stop.


After cruising through Index, we came up on Skykomish, and the Great Northern Railroad Museum. This once thriving railroad town is now a shell of what it once was. That said, the people of Skykomish are doing a magnificent job of bringing people back to their little town. The defunct rail station is now a museum. They run small model trains, and when I say small, I mean big enough for people to ride on, but not be in. They have a great candy store, a few places to grab lunch and some of the most picturesque views around.


Of course, even with all the amazing photo opportunities around Skykomish, the biggest attraction for the little ones is the train museum. Today, we were even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the steam engine they had in for a visit. We had the chance to ride the diesel/electric that had been up previously, but never the steam engine. Of course, there’s something special about this little guy…


It’s only about 6 feet long. Yes, this is a real steam engine with a ton of power. It’s also baby sized. The engine runs off a small, yet very hot fire, just like a real steam engine would. I tried to sneak around back while he was stoking the fire for an image, but there was just no real chance to get in tight to see it.


As you can see in the image above, the tiny locomotive really is a miniature version of a real steam powered train. The part I found amazing about it was the amount of force it generated. The straight away speeds and the acceleration was almost double that of the other engine.


We finished up at the Rail Road Museum with another ride and decided it was a good time to head where ever we were heading. What ensued was a road trip of epic food, gorgeous weather, and strangely stopped traffic…. Of course, our ultimate destination was the candy shop just shy of Leavenworth, so we just powered through the short jaunt over and stopped in for some taffy and general fun. After that, it was time for some lunch, so we back tracked to the 59er Diner.


About the time we reached the 59er Diner, it was definitely lunch time. They advertised their shakes on the wall, so of course I had to snag one. I also grabbed their twist on the Philly Cheesesteak. I’ll start with this – yes, the shakes are worth the wait. Next up, the food was amazingly delicious and not what I expected from a road side diner in the middle of virtually no where. After watching the kiddo hula-hoop for a bit, jamming out to the oldies on their sound system and enjoying a perfect afternoon in the North West sun, we realized how late it had become and we started for home.


The drive was insanely gorgeous. The majestic trees, rapid filled river and sunshine just made for a perfect scenic drive. I can see why so many trip guides recommend this drive to people from out of state. Then, just about back to Index is where the traffic got nasty. With a need for a potty break, we pulled in to another popular roadside attraction – Zeke’s Drive-In.


Zeke’s was a rather quick stop for us before getting back on the road and heading back to Monroe, but they had some good shakes – I splurged on the Green River one. Not as good as the 59er Diner, but pretty decent none the less. After a cool down and a snack, we jumped back in the car to wait out the traffic mess that was headed west back to our home. Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a much better road trip.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Our Father’s Day Weekend Road Trip: Day 2


Day two of our little adventure was hardly as exciting as day one. First off, we were all pretty tired from all the running around on day one. Second, there is only so much one can see while driving. Of course, that didn’t stop us from getting off the highway in a few spots to check out the local sights. One such stop was Greenbank Farm.

We actually stopped to check out the cheese shop, but since it was closed, we ventured in to a few of the art galleries and the little restaurant before jumping back on the road. From there, Ara only had one thing on her mind – Coffee in Langley and ice cream for the kids.


Our first stop after arriving in Langley was Sweet Mona’s Chocolate Boutique. They have amazing gelato and truffles. It’s a bit pricey, but a little bit goes a long way.


We sat down to enjoy a bit of a frozen treat for the kids, and a free Father’s Day truffle for me. Then it was a quick walk up the road to hit Useless Bay Coffee for that cup that dreams are made of.

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Yes, here is the perfect cup of coffee. Twice we have been there and twice they have delivered on every food and coffee dream we have had. After filling up the kids on quesedillas and fries, along with ourselves on that perfect cup of coffee, we headed down to Clinton to catch the ferry back to Mukilteo and finish the last leg of our weekend.


The ferry line looked quite a bit worse than it was. We actually stopped at the 90 minute wait marker first, but then rolled forward quickly. We only waited about an hour total for the boat, which for a holiday weekend was pretty good. Once on board, the girls wanted to see the boat, for about 5 minutes before they  got cold and became too windy for them.


Even with the cold and wind, I did manage to demand a ‘groupie’ with them before we went inside and got back in the car for the drive home. Overall, it was a fantastic weekend and a great practice trip for the Redwoods this summer! Scary to think that we are only 6 weeks away from hitting the road for that trip!

Our Father’s Day Weekend Road Trip: Day 1


With our new car ready to take a few trips this summer, we decided that Father’s Day weekend would be a good test drive to see how well the kiddo could handle life in the new car – and how much we could fit in the trunk. We were lucky enough to have a second little guest along for this ride, so we kept it a bit on the shorter side – Anacortes, Oak Harbor and back home. A two day, one night adventure to Whidbey Island.


Our first stop in Anacortes was Guemes Island. It’s a smaller island about a 5 minute “ferry” ride from the town. We managed to time things about as perfect as possible, which meant we were on the first boat over and had almost no wait to get on. After we arrived, on the island, we stopped at the General Store, which was really nothing more than a 7-11 with a restaurant attached to it.


After settling in, we checked out the menu. It was pricey, but the food was good and the place was warm and dry. That was about all we needed before setting out on our little island adventure.

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A quick drive around the island (it’s only about 10 miles to do the entire loop) revealed some serious elevation changes and some gorgeous scenery.


Even the wildlife was well represented on our little voyage, although I still don’t know how they got to the island to start with? The mystery’s never end at Guemes Island.


After the drive around the island, we stopped at the beach near the ferry dock to see the sights there. The kids took the time to write their names in the sand, run wild and get the boogie on before we jumped back in the car again.


Another great thing about the beach, especially on a day where the tide was at record lows, was seeing things like the purple starfish on the beach. The kids were able to get up close and personal with them and see quite a few things that normally would have been underwater.


From there, we caught the ferry back across and headed down Highway 20 to Deception Pass. Deception Pass has an amazing park and bridge setup. I totally recommend the Highway 20 drive for anyone coming to the northwest, and Deception Pass is one of the amazing photo opportunities on the route.


After a quick run through the woods, we were ready to head to our final destination – Oak Harbor. A word to the wise as far as the woods go, the trails in the park are pretty steep, so if you aren’t a hiker, take it slow.


We arrived in Oak Harbor about 30 minutes later and checked right in to our hotel. We decided on the Best Western Harbor Plaza due to the fact that it had a pool and a free hot breakfast. About the only bummer deal on the accommodations was that the pool was not heated and since it was so cool the day of our trip, it really wasn’t usable. Other than that, the staff was amazing, the rooms were nice and they had kid friendly services like a DVD lending library and cookies in the evening.


As the evening settled in, we decided we were hungry enough to head out for some food. Using our combined searching powers, we discovered that the Chinese restaurant in the parking lot was one of the three highest rated places in town, so we went to check it out. We were not disappointed. China City delivered an amazing dinner that even the kids devoured. After dinner was when the real treat happened though…


We found a DRIVE IN! Now for those of you that don’t know me, the Drive In is where I used to spend many a night catching a double feature in Everett. Even dating back to elementary school, the Valley 6 was a regular hangout for us. I absolutely love the Drive In and still can’t believe they are all gone. Fortunately, the Blue Fox in Oak Harbor ponied up the cash to switch to a digital projection system instead of shutting their doors and I couldn’t have been happier.


The Blue Fox takes the Drive In experience to an all new level from the Drive In’s in my past. They are equipped with a full video arcade – though many of the games were broken or had some kind of issues – and a GoKart track. They also have very reasonably priced concessions and good deals for locals to get refills on soda and party packages.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

It was just our luck that How To Train Your Dragon 2 was playing for the kiddos. It was about the most perfect ending to a great day that I could have hoped for. The night ended with two very tired girls and two very happy adults making the 10 minute drive back to the hotel and passing out. It was a good day.