Monday, November 3, 2014

2015 Calendars Are Here - Cook Islands!

The South Pacific beckons with a soft whisper of the ocean rolling over the empty, sandy beach.

Sound like some sappy commercial and then the reality is anything but.

Cook Islands really does have those empty sandy beaches.  I'm not talking about beaches you have to hike four hours through jungle terrain to get too.  I'm talking the beach outside the Palm Grove Resort, or the Black Rock Beach.

For 2015 you can enjoy the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki without ever leaving your office.

Cook Islands Calendar 2015

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge

Just off Highway Two, between the towns of Troy and Libby Montana, at milepost 21, is a pull off where you will see a LOT of cars/campers/trucks/trailers.  This is because it is the parking lot of Kootenai Swinging Bridge and Falls.

This was an intended destination, and the reason we took Highway 2 instead of the faster Interstate 90.

We didn't know it was going to be almost 100 degrees, either.

There is a lot of information out there on the bridge and the falls and the history.  You can read about those on the Libby Montana attraction website.  This is about the fact that it is WORK to get there!

Maybe it was the fact that it was 100 degrees outside and I hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before.

No, it was because it was 100 degrees out.

It was also almost a mile from the parking lot to the bridge.

Yes, we only went to the bridge.  When we scooted back to the Y where you could go to the falls, I'd had it.  Another reason to come back, I say.  With the temps in the low 60's.

Yes, welcome!

Monday, August 25, 2014

From-the-Car Photography - 5 Simple Steps

5 Simple Steps to get pictures of your vacation without having to stop. All.  The.  Time. 

*Disclaimer:  This is for the passenger of the car - NOT the driver

Based on our pulling-the-car-over-all-the-time experience, we knew we had to reach Sandpoint, Idaho sometime in the summer of 2014.  That said, I developed an art I'm calling From the Car Photography.

I would have called it Car Photography, but then people would think it was pictures of cars.  Then they'd be mad there were no cars.  Then I would get emails.  Then I wouldn't sleep at night.  Circles - constant circles.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Road Trip - Glacier Peak National Park - Getting Out The Door

Since our last road trip in the Summer of 2013 went so well (read about that adventure lovely trip here), we thought we'd subject ourselves do it again.

This summer was a bit odd in that we didn't have SUMMER until July 28th.  Not summer, like summer weather.  No, we had that.  More so than us rusty Washingtonians are used too.  What I mean is we had to be around every Monday and Tuesday because of drivers ed.  You miss more than three of those suckers and you start over.  I was not about to to do that.

The final test was July 28th at 8 am.  It was scheduled to be over at 9:00.  We figured we would get the car packed and head out to pick our daughter up at 9:00 and we'd go from there.

Until she called us at 8:06 to say she was finished with her test.  Um, what?  A six minute test.  To pass drivers ed?  Well.  Not sure what to say about that.

Regardless, turned the car around after not even taking the keys out of the ignition and drove the six minutes back to get her.

We locked the front door at 9:15 and headed down the driveway.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Football....FINALLY!!! And A Survival Tactic

Tomorrow night, August 7th, 2014, 6:00 pm Pacific Standard time the dry spell ends.

Football season is finally back in town.
Yeah, it's a photo of a Sounders soccer game at CenturyLink Field,
but work with me here.

To get where this is coming from:

1)  I'm from Seattle.  Hello, we won the Super Bowl.  'Nuff said.  Well, except for neener neener neener to the Denver Broncos who lost 43-8 and San Fransisco (SF just because).

2)  Football season is when I get a TON of stuff done around the house.  Everything from more writing than any other time of year to the most spotless house you can imagine to the best food we've had since the last Super Bowl Party.

Here's where this starts:  I have to have a diversion to be productive.  I have to be "supposed to be doing something else" to get anything done.  Football season on the flatscreen TV seems to fill that void.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

World Cup 2014 - 7 Fast Facts

For the casual North American this whole World Cup thing can be a mystery.  While soccer or futbol is popular, well, pretty much everywhere else in the world, soccer is just now moving up in the ranks of popularity in the United States, but it has a ways to go.  Here are some quick facts to keep up with a couple billion of your closest friends who are also predicted to watch at least part of the games.  

1.  The World Cup to the world is like the Superbowl is to the United States.  

To put it into perspective, though, 105 million people watched the 2010 Superbowl909 million people watched the final minute of the 2010 Championship game between Netherlands and Spain (Spain won 1-0).

Where kids in Haiti play soccer - inside an unfinished building.

2.  The World Cup, like the Winter and Summer Olympics, are held every four years.  

Host Countries are chosen decades in advance.  In Brazil, there are actually 12 host stadiums where the soccer games are held throughout Brazil.  Brazil has reportedly spent $11 billion to host these games ($270 million alone for a stadium in Manaus that will only be used for four matches – and is so remote it cannot be reached by car).

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Adding On - The Butt of the Family Joke

I've always been a forward thinker; always looked ahead for the next big thing (sometimes to the detriment of the thing I'm in right then).  I'm also not usually satisfied and want more (again, much to the detriment of the here-right-now).  So when we decided to add another bathroom to our house, we went ahead and got it started.

Only here's how THAT went.

"We need another bathroom," I said (we have one - read that one, with a kid)
"Then I want a master bedroom upstairs," my husband declared.  Granted, we have a 1000 square foot one story house.  Just where was this upstairs?
Not skipping a beat: "Then I want a new kitchen under that master bedroom," I remarked, arms crossed in front of my chest.
Nod.  Nod.  Game on.

We now have a 1,200 square foot bathroom addition.

The view from the existing dining room into the "addition"
(boarded up and insulated and I don't have to see it).

Monday, May 12, 2014

8 Things To Do With Your Vacation Photos

It's pretty rare for me to NOT have a camera strapped around my neck.  On vacations, I travel with my husband and fifteen year old daughter who also have cameras strapped around their neck.  This means memory cards and thumb drives galore filled with photos.  4,156 to be exact from a recent trip to the Cook Islands in the South Pacific.  But what in the tar can I do with all those pictures?

1.  Get them off your camera

Whether it is a DSLR or point and shoot or iPhone, the first job is to get them onto a laptop or computer.  This does a couple things.  First off, it is a backup.  If the iPhone gets lost or stolen, the images are gone.  If the DSLR gets left on an airplane, the images are gone.  Second off, you can do a whole lot more than swipe your finger across the screen occasionally to remember your trip.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sending Your Kid on a Mission Trip

We have been getting a lot of flack ever since we started answering the question: "So where is your daughter".

"Haiti", we've been answering this week.


"Without you?"  They ask.

"Yes,"  we answer.


"Oh."  Followed by a long pause, then, "are you crazy?"

About her being in a third world country with high temperatures, higher humidity, lack of running water, malaria, cholera, goat meat and incredible government corruption?


They shake their heads, "Well I wouldn't let my kid go there."

So don't. I could be flippant and say "Keep your kid in a bubble.  They can see the world through the news because we all know how accurate that is."  Okay, yeah,Ireallydidsaythatacoupletimes.

Really, though, that would be hypocritical of me because I didn't go with my fifteen year old daughter to Haiti.  I am in the four walled insulated house with a light over my head, power cord hooked to the laptop, sipping my coffee and watching the outdoor temperature inch up from 42 degrees under partly cloudy skies.  In about five minutes I will navigate my sheepskined slippers to the fridge for a roll of Crescent Cinnamon Rolls and pop those in my convection oven.  After that I might mosey on into the bathroom where I will flush the toilet without even thinking.

So why send her?

Because she wanted to go.

All the stars aligned:

  • Two of her classmates/friends were also going
  • Their mothers were going
  • I can afford to send her
  • I trust the organization she's going with: Hope in Haiti
  • It is timed during Spring Break
  • She is covered in prayer

Who am I to tell her "no"?  Well, I do a lot, but on this?

She's traveled since she was nine months old.  She has been to a tiny remote island in the South Pacific so she knows what the tropics, the heat and humidity and tiny island life, is all about.  She has been to week long overnight camps since she was seven (she was one month shy of the age 8 cut off date, but they let her in anyways).  Last year, between grades eight and nine, she was home a total of three weeks during summer break because she was in Washington DC and New York (without us), band camp at a university across the state (without us), the interior part of Washington State (without us) with relatives and several little romps in between.  She barely waves goodbye to us, let alone hugs us goodbye!

She comes home tonight.  Tomorrow I will hear all about her trials and tribulations.  I will hear about the heat and the goat meat and the little girl she wants to bring home for us to adopt.  I don't know what else I will hear about because, honestly, I only know those little pieces.

And that's okay.  For now.

I am sure in the next week she will hit me up about going to Tennessee with some relatives to visit some relatives.  If it times out right, I will say yes.

Because, someday, she will move out of my house and on her own.  I'd rather it not be a big surprise (for either one of us) come that day.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Guess I Miss Her - Empty Nest Spring Break

The kitchen is spotless - even the junk drawer.

I have decontaminated the laundry room floor and cleaned around the cupboard handles.

I stapled the sagging wire in the chicken coop (this even required me finding the - working - stapler.  and the staples).

I have been a flurry of activity since Monday morning.  Because Monday night I sent my fifteen year old daughter on an airplane to Haiti.  Without me.

The Haiti Team from Hope In Haiti

Talk about a leap off the cliff into empty nest syndrome.

Don't get me wrong; I am that parent who sent my seven year old to a week long overnight Christian camp, and have done so ever since.  Music camp.  Basketball camp.  Soccer camp.  Last year I sent her off to New York and Washington DC.

So I didn't think twice when she mentioned going to Haiti on a mission trip with two friends - and their mothers.  See that part - and their mothers.  I am not a total parent failure (well, not in this scenario; others, we're not talking about those).  I knew trusting adults from my own sphere of life were going to be with my kid.

Which led me to dinner last night with my husband in our operating-room-sterile dining room when it dawned on me that we both were exhausted from mundane activity.  Little projects that hadn't been done in years yet had to be accomplished in the ten minutes before we drove her to the airport or cleaning the grout lines in the bathroom because it was a chore where I could have my phone nearby in case it rang.

We subconsciously had to stay busy to not feel anything.  Sure, I was worried she packed too many skirts and too few t-shirts or that two camera batteries would not be enough or two rolls of toilet paper would be sorely insufficient (for the week!?).  All that was surface stuff.  On some subterranean level, I was worried about my kid flying thousands of miles away to a third world country - without air conditioning.  Worrying about stuff like her growing up.  

Proverbs 3:5  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding."

I am not expecting a phone call today.  I know her plane landed in Port au Prince and she went swimming at the host families house with a bunch of Haitian kids (none of them speaking the other's language).  I know today they are trekking four hours north to a tiny town with an orphanage and a school.  I know she is fine and in, not only a whole bunch of mother's hands, but in the hands of the Ultimate Father.  He's in charge.  Not me.

Which is really good.

Please pray for the group in Haiti this week, putting on a Vacation Bible School for 300 kids.

Monday, March 24, 2014

One Year Ago - Cook Islands

One year ago, at 7 in the morning local time, we landed on a tiny island in the South Pacific called Rarotonga, one of the 15 Cook Islands.  After a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles aboard Air New Zealand, we were ready for some solid ground (although Air New Zealand does offer free dinner AND breakfast AND free wine).

We found solid ground and the humidity.  We welcomed both!


Welcome To Paradise

Photo Courtesy of JC Imagery

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

10 Ways to Find Writing Motivation

Some days I can sit down at a computer and the words come flying out of my fingers, onto the keyboard displayed on the screen like lightning .  They are perfection exceeded and there is no stopping the flow.  Until I realize that I should have left for work/practice/dinner/picking-up-the-kid-at-school ten minutes earlier.    

Other days (usually when I have all the time in the world to write) I wander around the house with my brain filled with - - nothing.  Bone jarring, air sucking nothing.   

Writers know those days.  Those days when getting our thoughts down for prosperity just seems like a hurdle to the moon.  Nothing seems to be happening in the lobe above my shoulders and precious uninterrupted times a-wasting.

You can jump this hurdle with an array of odd-ball things to get the juices flowing.

1.  Take a walk.  Nothing says “turn on the brain” by turning it off.  I wrote three blogs last week just by taking the dog out to do his business.

2.  Take a shower.  Again, no distractions.  You can’t see the dishes aren’t done, the bed is unmade, or the pile of laundry waiting for detergent and water and agitation.  This blog got “written” while the conditioner set and I lathered up the armpits. 

3.  Know your carrot.  Or chocolate.  Or music.  Have one thing that you only do while sitting down writing.  Mine is the ipod.  It is filled only with music I listen to while writing (ironically the song right now is Matthew West’s “Do Something” “If not now, then when?”)

4.  Write during a certain show/game.  Wait, what?  Hear me out.  During football season, I am a writing fiend.  This is because I can write in spurts while they: line up, replay the play (over and over and over) and have commercials.  I am completely unproductive during the month of February after the Super Bowl on into mid-March when soccer season starts.  Right now I am waiting for the Sounders game to start in an hour and a half.    

5.  Pick a dreaded chore.  Then you have to chose whether to do that chore or write.  Mine is washing the dog.  Which means I have to actually catch the dog to get him in the sink. This means the kitchen sink has to be clean.  Which means unloading the dishwasher.  See, I’ll take writing over washing the dog any day.  And if I do go through the dog-washing motions, at least the dog smells better.

6.  Get a job.  Or volunteer.  No seriously, if my day is wide open with NOTHING, it is so much easier to procrastinate.  I teach which means I don’t have to be anywhere 8-4 in July and August.  September through June all I can think of is uninterrupted days of writing.  During those two summer months, I get the least amount of anything creative done.  Go figure.

7.  Read a book.  Or a blog.  Or the news.  Especially if it’s crappy.  Nothing like the competitive I-can-do-this-better motivation.

8.  Steal time.  My husband is, right now, three hours away at a wholesale tree sale (don’t even ask) and my teenager should be up doing her own chores.  Instead, I let the ducks and chickens out four hours ago and I’m “letting” her sleep in.  It’s 11:00 am.  I figure I have another two hours before she wakes up.  I have had this plan in the works for four days now.

I had to put up with THIS to be able to carve out writing time.

9.  Look at your notebook/lists/scraps of paper (everywhere).  As a writer I come up with a lot of my ideas in the car on the drive to work (dammit) so I write those down on any piece of paper I can find (receipt anyone?).  Consult these.  It was a good idea once; it probably still is.

10.  Set the timer.  Once I have an idea ready to go, I set the timer.  One hour is my max attention limit.  Again, that competitive streak kicks in as I try to race the clock.

Bottom line, find what works for you.  It doesn’t have to make sense - sense is overrated anyway.  Then don’t bother defending it – just do it.

Or you can dream about this and know that the only way to get there is to get off your butt and earn money!
Or maybe that's just me!
Photo credit:  JC Imagery

Monday, March 17, 2014

Do You Know Me...Or No? - Knowing When To Be The Unacknowledged Parent

I was in the car driving my teenage daughter to golf practice.  I was on my way to work.

"So, are you going to know me, or not?" I asked.

"I don't know yet," my fifteen year old freshman replied.

She wouldn't know until she got to golf practice.

Where my job was taking the golf team photo for her school yearbook.

Photo Courtesy of JC Imagery

Our lives often go like this.  As photographers, we take pictures at our local school(s).  In the past two years we have been the team and individual photographers for her middle school and, now, to her chagrin/delight, her high school.  This means we are smack in the middle of her "peeps", usually telling players how to stand, what to do, etc.  Sometimes pretty bossily (ever tried to get the attention of 35 high schoolers?  - you've kind of got to turn on the "eyes-on-me" loud teacher voice).  This can be mortifying for your own teenage kid.

Hence, the "so are you going to know me or not?" question.

In Middle School, a lot of the kids knew we were her parents.  By the time we started taking the team photos, she was an 8th grader and we had been around for two years at sporting events.  She kind of ran with the fact that, yes, her parents were the photographers.

Then came high school; a whole different animal.

She is a freshman, which means she's already at the bottom of the totem pole and didn't want anything that would make her different.  And now her parents were going to be, not only with her peers, but telling them what to do.  Her anonymity was either going to be abolished or maintained depending on her actions that day.

The pressure.

I get the pressure.  As the daughter of two teachers, when someone learns my last name, I always wait patiently (yeah, not) for their reaction.  Was this a student who loved my teacher parents or hated my teacher parents?

While we only see these players for 10 minutes a year, the human race is fast to form opinions.  If I come across too bossy/firm, players could look to my daughter with pity or scorn.  If I am not bossy/firm enough, I run the risk of ending up with a crummy photo.

Rock and a hard place.  Total balancing act.

It was her choice and I would respect her decision either way.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Readjusting to the Real World

"She just called a rope on me at tetherball and I didn't do it," the 3rd grader tattled to me at recess.

I could only stare.

"Is this going to matter to you tomorrow?" I asked.

"YES," replied the 3rd grader, body language demanding that I DO SOMETHING - like throw her opponent in jail or off a cliff or at least send her to the principal in handcuffs.

Seriously?  I walked away knowing these kids had no idea how good they had it.

This is what I got for coming home from a vacation on a tiny island miles from any mainland with no Wal-Mart.

The Cook Islands are a long way from Washington State in the United States.

Photo courtesy of

In Rarotonga we watched an entire school of kids play soccer with TWO soccer balls (and they were far from new).  We watched another school play with one volleyball and the net.  There was one rugby ball (well, until it got stuck in the tree...).  That was it.

These boys kept running past us and falling down by us.  It took a while, but we realized they
were trying to get my teenager's attention.
Photo courtesy of

Volleyball.  Notice how some of them have shed their uniforms.  They were very cautious
about even THINKING of getting them dirty.  The braids were also a mandatory part
of their uniform.
Photo courtesy of

You'd think the competition would be fierce and the short recess time-demanded with the desire to must-touch-the-ball.  You'd think if a ball got kicked/hit astray war would break out: "you're wasting our recess!"

Nope.  I've never seen such giggling and laughing and genuine fun.  There was no handheld electronic device in hand ANYWHERE.  There was one boom box in the college in Titikeveka, but that was it for anything requiring a battery or outlet.  Kids were hanging out and talking with each other (or vying for my blond American daughter's attention in a land of Pacific Islanders).  They were helping carry the water for their teeth-brushing after lunch (yes, seriously, this was part of their day).

I saw a game of marbles in a park in Avarua.  Marbles?  I almost didn't recognize them.

Photo courtesy of

So when I came home to tattling about the unfairness of life's little details, I could not help but be gobsmacked with the idea of how I needed to readjust my attitude - and NOT in a good way.  In order to survive the US attitude I needed to get more competitive, want more, demand my rights, want what my neighbor has (only bigger) and require that it gets done MY WAY.

Photo courtesy of

That part sucked about coming home.  Not the fact that I was leaving a tropical paradise with crystal clear waters and the biggest avocados you've ever seen, but the laid back lifestyle of not needing my stuff, your stuff, my way in my time and everyone else be damned.        

Photo courtesy of

Naaaa, I'm going to bring home the best souvenir - a better attitude about what I already have and the knowledge that I don't HAVE to need everything else no matter what the consequence.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Pinterest Pins Made Easy

Pinterest is a great way to see something you like, but aren't ready for it now, and save it for later.

For example we are doing some remodeling to our house.  I know I am going to need lights in my daughter's bathroom, but I don't know what I want yet.  The problem is, the lights need to be wired NOW.  So, two on the side, one on the top, what?  Pinterest to the rescue.  I can see images of what I like, get it wired, then, when I'm ready to order the light (because who has an extra 1000 square feet for storing for this stuff?), I'll know what I had in mind.  (Ever had three bathrooms all being gutted and then having to go back and wonder what you're thoughts were at the time?  Not easy.)

Another great purpose:  Recipes.  I always have certain ingredients and no clue what to make.  Ground beef, peppers and tomato sauce.  Keyword those and I've got 100 recipes.  And now I'm hungry.

Need motivation?  There's a pin for that.  I am always looking at the next big thing (it's not a gift - I often wish I could be content where I am, but I'm not wired that way).  Where in the world are we going to go this time? (literally).  If I make a board of tropical islands, that is going to motivate me to get off the computer and make money to get there.

On the flip side, Pinterest can suck up a lot of time.  A.L.O.T. of time.  I've had to set the timer to make sure I only have a partial allowance rather than an open afternoon (because then it's dinnertime and the fam is clamoring for something to eat - hence the rush for a recipe most evenings).  

We've made it easy to pin to pinterest.  If you hover over every image, you will see the "circle P".  Simply click on the image and you've saved it to your board.  Easy, peasy, dream away.

See the "Circle P"?  That means one click and that image is pinned on your board.

We are always finding new stuff so pop on over to our Pinterest and have a look around:

Yup, piecesofthejour because there wasn't enough space for piecesofthejourney.  Go figure.  I probably could have looked up character numbers when I came up with the name, but I was too busy on Pinterest.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Save the Best For Last - Choosing Your Road Trip Accomodations

When I started out my road trip career (around age 3 months), chances are, you didn't book motels/hotels ahead of time.  You just sort of drove along, figured you were tired, stopped and checked in.  Either that or you stopped the truck in the middle of the night and realized you were parked on the Continental Divide the next morning.  Or the parked Starfire next to the railroad tracks in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Because there was no internet, no travel guides, maybe a Frommers book, you simply followed a map and took what you got when you got there.

Man, it was simpler back then.

In 1991 I planned our first road trip that was mine and mine alone - well, and my brand new husbands.  I was a grown up (stoplaughing).  We knew we were going to Disneyland (which sort of smacks the previous "grown up" phrase to bits).  That was pretty much all we knew.  We would drive until it got sorta dark and then start checking out motels.

By this I mean we would literally walk into the office (no reservations), ask to see the room, check the bed, check the shower and decide then and there if we wanted to stay.  Price was a huge factor.  It had to be cheap.

By cheap, I mean poverty cheap.

In Tillamook we started at one end of town, checked three motels along the way and ended up backtracking to the first one.

This was just how it was done.

Photo courtesy of JC Imagery

Now we have the internet, TripAdvisor, reviews, Google, Bing, streetside views, Groupon, everything except virtual holograms that put you in the room.

When we started planning our Washington/Oregon trip we started out with a map and mapquest.  (Actually, the map was from Mapquest).  We plugged in our destination and then figured on the halfway points based on how many miles were in between.  We picked a town and started our hunt.

Five things had to be on the motel-menu:

  • Two queen size beds
  • Breakfast
  • Pool
  • Air Conditioning
  • Value - not necessarily cheap, but a good value

For the most part we got all five.  One didn't have a pool, one didn't have breakfast included (click here for my rant on that bit of trickery) and, once, value got tossed in lieu of comfort.

We found out that the pool wasn't that important, that breakfast was and ending the trip with the nicest motel really rounded out the trip.

When we walked into Pelican Shores in Lincoln City, Oregon, we didn't want to leave.  It was a good thing we didn't book this place first then have to follow it up the remainder of the trip.

This was the view.
Photo courtesy of JC Imagery

Walking in, we were awestruck with the view (helllloooo, did you see that sunset?), but only saw one bed.  I knew what to expect, but the rest of the fam didn't.  In a huge state of panic (finally getting past the view), my daughter walked stormed past the kitchen, crabbily checked out the bathroom then walked stalked  past it.

Into the second bedroom.

Baaaoooom, baby! 

The mood changing capabilities of a teenager is something scientists should look into.  Someone could make a bucket-load of money if they could capitalize on this phenomenon.

Our photo, not the one from the website.
Photo courtesy of JC Imagery

The beach was literally out our door, to the left, and down the motel stairs.

Photo courtesy of JC Imagery

The fact that it had that second bedroom meant that, after being stuck in at Toyota Higlander for three days, meant we could spread out.  (Read: the teenager could veg in peace.)

This place rejuvenated us enough that the next morning we were able to drive six hours home in peace.

To see more of Pelican Shores or any of their other Westover properties, click here:  Pelican Shores.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Breakfast Rip Off - Check Your Information

For a good many years, it has been tradition that breakfast is included in your motel stay.  Frankly, I budget for this.  I will pay a tad more (a tad) for a motel/hotel that provides breakfast.  I've gotten so fastidious about this that "continental breakfast" doesn't even hold up the bar.  It needs to include eggs, bacon, waffles, the whole gamut.  Again, I have it factored in that I'm paying for this.

After all, if a hotel costs me $20 more a night than it's neighbor, but involves a full buffet, that's $20 I don't have to spend in a restaurant.  Actually, it's more that I don't have to spend the challenge/time/fight to locate said restaurant.

For years this has been the norm.  Until our last road trip.  I got side-blinded by the Best Western in Bandon, Oregon.  I have stayed at my share of Best Westerns across the United States from Pullman, Washington to Miami, Florida.  They have always included breakfast.  I didn't think twice when I stepped out of my box and picked a chain over a quaint motel that was local to the area (which I usually prefer to do, only going with the big chain out of necessity) because the quaint motel didn't serve breakfast.

We checked in, vegged out, slept, in the morning went swimming and, on the way back from the pool enquired where the breakfast buffet was.

"Next door at Bandon Bill's Grill.  It's $6 per person."

WHAT?!!  My swimming-pool-dripping-self said.  I stood there, towel wrapped around my bikini swathed body, and had this conversation:

Me:  "What do you mean $6?  It's always included."
Her:  "Did you purchase the breakfast package when you booked?"
Me:  "Yes, I booked with you."
Her:  "There is a breakfast package you can option.  Let me check if you did that."  tap, tap, tap "No, it says you only booked the room."
Me:  "Yes, I booked a room.  That includes breakfast."
Her:  "Best Western has been trying something new since May.  The room rate has been lowered and doesn't include breakfast.  If you want breakfast, then click on that option and the rate increases.  Would you like breakfast?"

I walked off, thoroughly pissed.  Not pissed because I thought I was getting ripped off.  Pissed because the standard had changed and I was about to get charged for it.

Had I known to purchase this option at the time of booking, I don't know that I would have paid it then, either.  Adding on to what I thought was already the total?  It didn't make sense.  Yes, I got a lower rate.  In June.  It was now August and I had no idea what I paid back then, but now they were asking for more.

That was the part that ticked me off.

Note:  I just checked the website.  They are now back to the "full breakfast" added in the total for your room.  Guess I wasn't the only one with an attitude problem.

What nickle and dime things drive you nuts?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Road Side Attractions

In 1991 my three-days-new husband and I took a rented Chevy Corsica down Highway 101 with $1,000 to our name.  It took months to save that grand but that was our Disneyland-or-Bust budget.  So when we stopped at this wildlife park off 101 and the admission said $5 each, we scoffed and walked away.

Then we paid $50 each to get into Disneyland.

Crimany now that $5 each didn't sound so bad.  On the drive back home, we decided to, again, take Highway 101 and stop at the Wildlife Park.

Forking over our $10 we had no idea what to expect.

It certainly wasn't getting to hold baby snow leopards.  And baby Bengal tigers.  And baby Russian Lynx's.

Me in 1991 holding the Baby Lynx.
Also circa 1991, with the baby tiger.

We went back in 1992 and then there was a 21 year gap between visits.  On our Highway 101 Road trip the Wildlife Park was our destination from the beginning.  We wanted to share our experience with our 14 year old.  

She didn't believe any of it even with proof of pictures.

The parked still looked the same, but had some updates.  This time we went armed with three cameras, knowing what to expect.  It didn't disappoint.

Bobcat playing with a straw.
photos courtesy JC Imagery

photos courtesy JC Imagery

photos courtesy JC Imagery

This guy loved Kira and climbed all over courtesy JC Imagery

Seriously, rubbing a baby bear's courtesy JC Imagery

Who knew that you could scratch a bear's tummy and it's hind leg would
air-scratch just like a dogs?
photos courtesy JC Imagery

photos courtesy JC Imagery

Bottom line:  sometimes handing over a few dollars for a dorky roadside attraction can be the best part of your trip.  Sure, we loved Disneyland, but that was expected.  It wasn't Disneyland that was our destination 21 years later.  

Go figure.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

10 Tips To Photographing the Pacific Coast

One of the reasons to take a road trip is to take pictures to remind yourself about your trip.  You might be tempted to blow through to make sure you get to where you're going, but don't.  Stop.  There are a ton of sites to see.

Photo Courtesy JC Imagery

Photo Courtesy JC Imagery

Photo Courtesy JC Imagery

Photo Courtesy JC Imagery

Photo Courtesy JC Imagery

Photo Courtesy JC Imagery

Photo Courtesy JC Imagery

Photo Courtesy JC Imagery

10 Tips for taking photos during a road trip
  1. Schedule a lot of time to get to your destination.  Coastal highways are usually two lane, windy, and go through LOTS of little towns.
  2. Don't take EVERY SINGLE PHOTO with your cell phone.  A good number of people have DSLRs tucked away and rely on their cell phone.  This is the time to dig out the "big camera" if you have one.
  3. On the flip side of this, photos of the beach make cool wallpapers on your cell phone.
  4. Know what side of the road the ocean is on.  In the case of the Oregon/Washington Highway 101, your best chances at ocean view photos are going south on the Highway.  Sure, if you are going north on 101, you can pull over to photograph the left hand side ocean view, but going south is so much easier to make snap pull-off decisions without crossing the opposing lane of traffic.
  5. Pull off safely.  There are a ton of pull out areas.  Don't be like me; see something (maybe) worth photographing and pull into this tiny spot, scaring the crap out of your family because that hill came up at 40 miles per hour.
  6. Have the camera ready.  Duhr, but for the first day of our trip, we kept the camera in the back hatch of the car.  Yes, it took us a whole day (andahalfofthenextone) to figure this one out.
  7. Write down where you are when you are taking pictures.  See those images above.  Couldn't tell you where we were when we took them.  And I'm a professional.
  8. Don't stop shooting when the fog rolls in (and it will).  Sometimes it can wash the photo out; other times it adds a layer of mystery.
  9. Shoot both horizontal and vertical.  Most people don't flip their camera sideways.  Do it.  If you shoot all horizontal, it gets a tad boring.  
  10. Get pictures with YOUR WHOLE FAMILY in it.  Set the timer (yes, you might have to read the manual), hand the camera to another tourist, anything, just make sure all the people in your car are in the photo at least three times during the trip.  Remind them that you might accept it as the Christmas photo as bribery motivation.  Your lying of course every.single.time.  Oh well.
More of our images are viewable on our website:  JC

Monday, January 13, 2014

An Unexpected Stop - Tillamook Air Museum

Yes, I really made her get in this half bug and take her picture!

I usually have an itinerary when we travel.  Sometimes it's pretty loose; sometimes it's pretty airtight (and there's never any middle ground, there).  When it's airtight, any changes are going to throw me for a loop and knock me off my center for at least three hours.  And they are three brutal hours (askmyhusband).

On this Pacific Coast trip we had determined that pretty much everything was going to take longer to get to/do than we thought (see the post here:  The Slowest Drive Ever).

Despite this, after having stuffed ourselves on penny sized cubes of cheese and ice cream/root beer floats and made the obligatory purchase of a Tillamook mug, we were on our way, once again headed south on 101.

photo courtesy of JC Imagery 

We saw this and made a pitstop.  The Tillamook Air Museum 

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Slowest Drive Ever

My brother can make it from his house in Bellevue, Washington to his mother-in-laws in Reno, Nevada in 12 hours, driving 753 miles.

I did not inherit this gene.

We drove from Seaside, Oregon to Tillamook, Oregon, 48 miles, in a little over 4 hours.

In my defense (and, yes, I need one), he is going 70 mph on I-5.  I'm going an average 35 miles on a windy, two lane coastal highway.  And making lots of photo/tourist spot stops.

(And he's the one with little kids - go figure.)

But we didn't take this trip just to get to a destination.  The destination was there, and we had hotel reservations, but, really, we were living large.  Feeling the wind in our hair (just kidding, we had air conditioning) and playing the tourists, because, really, we were tourists.

How could you whiz past sights like these...

photo courtesy of JC Imagery

photo courtesy of JC Imagery

photo courtesy of JC Imagery

And I'm supposed to just keep going 55 miles per hour past this???
photo courtesy of JC Imagery

photo courtesy of JC Imagery

Smoke Stack in Giribaldi, Oregon
photo courtesy of JC Imagery

Seriously, how could I have driven past THIS?
photo courtesy of JC Imagery

photo courtesy of JC Imagery
It's worth it, I promise.  There's ice cream....