Summer 2018 Vacation Roadtrip to the PNW: Heading North to Washington State (Part one)
It had been about six years since Drew and I had taken a proper road trip to the Pacific Northwest. My family lives in Washington State, and he has a sister who lives in Portland. Every time we make the trek we always make time to see both. But because we had more time for this vacation we wanted to add something new into the mix: head even further north to Canada!
In our planning phase we were initially torn between going to Vancouver or Victoria. Drew thought it might be easier just to drive north into Vancouver. But I really wanted to us to experience the ferry, and I wanted to revisit Victoria. I had been there a couple times as a kid, and I wanted to go back and share that with Drew. Additionally one other place we knew we wanted to visit, that was new to the both of us, was Butchart Gardens. I have several family members who have gone there who said it was breathtaking, and sure enough, it lived up to the hype. But more on that in a minute.
So, in the waning days of August, we got our wonderful dog-sitter Lisa to come stay with Alton, packed up the mini-van, and not-quite-Griswold-Style, headed out. First stop: Oroville!?!
Oroville is located off of Highway 70 and is in close proximity to Highway 99, which connects Butte County with Interstate 5, which travels the length of California. Several years ago this small city of 20,000 (55,000 including unincorporated area) people made the news when the spillway to the Oroville Dam gave way. Drew started to follow the story and became very interested in the details of the engineering required to get it fixed, and it’s impact on the local geography. Because we were heading north anyway, and we had the time, we decided to designate the first couple days to exploring Oroville, and getting to see the dam situation up close and personal.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to see. While the city itself was quaint, seeing the dam was difficult because it is still an active construction zone. All of the normal tourist access points were closed off. Additionally, because it is an earthen dam, at one point, we were kind of looking at it without even knowing it. I was expecting something massive and concrete, like I’ve seen in pictures of the Hoover Dam. That is not what the Oroville Dam is. When seeing and exploring the dam was a bust, we decided to try to go explore Lake Oroville. There too, things didn’t pan out like we hoped. The water level of the reservoir was very low making accessing launch points practically impossible. In fact, at some locations around Lake Oroville, the water level was so low that a number of the boat launches were completely closed. So much for that idea.
All was not lost though. It was still a fun adventure. The weather was gorgeous, the people were friendly, the food and hotel accommodations were better than expected. It was a great way to kick off what turned out to be one of the best road trip vacations ever.
The Adventure Continues to Washington State
I still have family and friend connections in Washington. I grew up in Tacoma, where my dad, step-mom, my sister and her family still live. I have friends as well, including my best friend from high school, Michelle.
Because I grew up there and Drew and I have visited many times, I wanted to try to give the Washington portion of our trip an aspect of “newness.” To do this we made goals like trying to only eat at local restaurants. And going to parts of the city we had never seen before or I hadn’t been back to for years. One stop on the itinerary was taking a stroll through my old neighborhood. I even mustered the courage to stop by the home I grew up in. I hadn’t been back since my mom passed away more than 10 years ago. (Turns out with a little internet sleuthing I learned that it is on it’s third home owner, the most recent buyer was actually home when I visited.) The house was abuzz with construction noises and I could tell he was in the midst of some home renovations. “I’m knocking out some walls making the rooms bigger,” he explained. Makes sense. I always hated how small and segmented parts of that house were. But overall it was a good house, and I’m glad that it’s living on with love for a new family.
One other reason I was so excited to go to Washington this trip was because our stay overlapped with the Washington State Fair, or, as the locals call it, The Puyallup Fair. I hadn’t been to the Fair in like 20 years, and we used to go all the time when I was a kid. I wanted to see if it was as I remembered, and more especially, to share it with Drew.
It was so much fun! And very much like I remembered. A bonus was that despite Washington’s reputation for rain, there wasn’t a drop in sight. It was the first day of the Fair, so some of the most popular 4-H exhibits weren’t open, but there were still enough animals on site to see and pet. I got to indulge in typical fair food, stroll the midway, and visit all of the specialty craft and hobby exhibits. All in all it was a really great time and what I was most hoping for happened when, as we were heading back to our car at the end of the day, Drew said this: “Yes, it was better than I expected, and I had a fun time.” Yay!!
And of course no Washington recap would be complete without saying how wonderful it was to see family and friends. I loved reconnecting and reminiscing on shared experiences. I’m so thankful for everyone making the time to see us, and that we have loved ones who, despite the miles, feel as close as if they lived next door.
Part Two of our PNW Roadtrip Adventure: Canada, Portland and the headline making trek back to California can be found HERE.
To all photos from our epic roadtrip, check out my digital album at: https://jodyyarborough.smugmug.com/