The End of the Road

We have finally arrived at our lake cabin. It feels good to be able to relax but I miss seeing all of the new things. Throughout our trip we saw much of the western United States. I enjoyed seeing the desert because before this I had never really seen the desert. From the flat nothingness of West Texas to the palm trees of Southern California to the mountains of Washington and Wyoming we were able to see all kinds of biomes and almost every natural oddity west of the Mississippi.

We were also able to see a ton of human history along the way. My favorite parts of history we saw were Lewis & Clark National Historical Park and Hot Springs National Park. We were also able to tour a missile silo on Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City. I enjoyed seeing all of the Atomic Era technology inside of the missile launch tube.

We went crabbing off the coast in Oregon and caught a bunch of Red Rock crab and one Dungeness crab. It was very cool to be able to eat them. I also went tide pooling and saw starfish, sea urchins, anemones, chitons, hermit crabs, and giant gooseneck barnacles.

My favorite thing to do on this trip was to visit all kinds of air museums. My favorite air museum was Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson because they had the largest variety of planes. I like the Palm Springs Air Museum because we got to see a RCAF F/A-18 with red and white paint fly in. I liked the Evergreen air and space museum in McMinnville Oregon because it contained the Spruce Goose which was the largest airplane at its time and it was made all out of balsa wood. My favorite planes were the Ov-10 Bronco and the P-38 Lightning.

The past 6 months went by quick. My mom went out of her way to make the trip as enjoyable and educational as possible. My dad was an excellent driver and I learned a lot from him and enjoyed being with both of them every day. My brother was my best friend. I will never ever forget the time we had together. (AT)

Boeing Museum of Flight

Today Woody and I got to go to the Boeing Museum of Flight at Boeing Field with my Great Uncle Rollie. The first thing that we saw when we were driving in was the brand new KC-10 refueled that looked like they were ready to be shipped out. When we went inside we saw tons of planes in the main area. My favorite ones were the Beech 45, the Aerocar, and the F-4 Phantom. Next, we walked into the WW2 exhibit where we saw about 10 more planes. I learned about the American Volunteer Group that helped defend the Chinese from the Japanese during World War Two. There was also a case full of almost every airplane from World War Two. My favorite places from in there were the Heinkel He 111 Z-1 Zwilling, the off centered Blohm & Voss Bv-141, and the North America F-82 Twin Mustang which looked like two P-51 Mustangs attached.

Next, we went to the World War One exhibit where we learned about fighters during World War One and some of the things they did. For example, if a pilot shot down another plane they would try to land and get to the crash site quickly so they could take any memorabilia they could. After that, we went to the aircraft pavilion where we saw most of the bigger planes including the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-29 Super Fortress, the 787 Dreamliner, the 747, the F/A-18 Superhornet, the F-14 Tomcat, Air Force One, and the Concorde.

My Great Uncle Rollie retired from Boeing a couple years ago, so it was fun talking with him about airplanes and stuff.

Olympic National Park

Today we went to Olympic National Park in Northwestern Washington. My Nana Marilee and Great Aunt Kristi went with us, Kristi and her family lives in the nearby city of Poulsbo. We drove up to Hurricane Ridge where we saw a ton of peaks that make up the National Park. I thought it was cool seeing McCartney Peak! My brother and I also had a snowball fight with the few feet of snow that was still there.

Later on we went to the Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge. After a short walk to the shore we came to a lookout where we saw the lighthouse almost 6 miles out on the spot. A spit is a long narrow peninsula made up of primarily sand. When we walked out onto the spit we could smell the saltwater and we saw some seals swimming not too far from the shore. There was a ton of driftwood also lining the shore so we played on that also. On our way back to the parking lot we came upon a deer that was standing in the middle of the trail. The deer stared at us for about a minute before it decided to run away. I really liked going to the wildlife refuge and I found out that North Dakota has by far the most national wildlife refuges. (AT)

Evergreen Air & Space Museum

Today we got to go to the Evergreen Air Museum in McMinnville, home of the Spruce Goose. The “Spruce Goose,” also known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules is a massive wooden floatplane from World War Two. It only flew once for about thirty seconds but it’s pilot and designer Howard Hughes kept it in a climate controlled hanger for about 1 million dollars a year. It was large enough to carry 750 soldiers across the Atlantic.

Also in the museum we got to see an A-10 Warthog, A ME-262 jet fighter, and a SR-71 Blackbird. My brother and I got to fly some planes on a full motion simulator. I flew a P-51 mustang and my brother flew a red bull plane. Later, we got to listen to the checklists and radio chatter that precede a Titan missile launch.

Lastly we got to watch a video about a week multinational training exercise at Elgin Air Force Base. It depicted fighter pilots, Air battle managers, A-10 pilots, mechanics, and Pararescuemen. It started out with air to air battles. I really liked seeing how the ABM directed all of the airplanes from the fuselage of his. Then there were A-10s and bombers that took our targets on the ground. Next, there was a downed fighter pilot who had to evade enemy forces who were searching for him. Eventually a team of PJs were able to come in and rescue him. The last day was the culmination of exercise and they all trained with live munitions.

Overall I just had a really good day and I am happy that I visited this air museum. (AT)

Maureen’s edit: I don’t mind going to air museums with the boys, but once I found out we were in the Willamette Wine Valley I was on a day date with Gunner! We checked out Domain Drouhin in Dundee(my ddd!) and Duck Pond and Stoller near McMinville. It was a beautiful afternoon with lots of flowers and beautiful scenery and tasty pinots! (MT)

Redwoods National Park

Today we spent a very small amount of time at the Redwoods National and State Parks. Most of the area around there is a rainforest with a very thick floor. The trees were very tall and thick. Many of the large trees started as one tree on the ground but split into two trees. On the dirt road that we drove down we saw many banana slugs. These yellow slugs were very large and super sticky. We also saw some snails along the roads.

After our short time in California we went to Brookings, Oregon. A forest a few miles east of Brookings was the only place on the US mainland to be bombed by Japan during World War Two. The bombing was meant to start a large forest fire but it was put out a few hours after the bombing. 20 year later the pilot returned to Brookings with a 400 year old samurai sword that he presented to the city. We were able to see that sword in the library. (AT)

Jesse edit: We were led to believe (by a park volunteer) that we could take our tuck and camper to a particular view point. We turned onto the road only to discover no parking lot big enough for the camper. We made the assumption it must be further down the road!!! A couple miles later down a logging road, avoiding some majorly muddy areas and some “fun” maneuvering of the truck and camper finally got us turned around!!! I was a little nervous I was really going to get practice in with my backing skills!! (JGT)

Arches National Park

We went to Arches NP today in Moab, Utah. In the visitor center I learned all about the 2000 arches in this park. Many are unnamed but some have funny names like Donut or Bacon Arch. On our drive through the park we saw a rock formation that looked just like a popsicle. We also saw the famous delicate arch from a distance.

My favorite part of the day was when we got to go climbing on some big rock formations. Our climb was tiered with about 5 small steep bursts. My brother and I really like climbing. When we came home my brother and I set up a tent on the top of a hill and camped there for the night. (AT)

Zion National Park

Today we went to Zion National Park in Utah. It was super packed the whole time we were there. The line to get in was long and so was the line to get on one of the shuttles. Our first hike was to the emerald pools where we saw some pools and little waterfalls.

Next, we saw a ranger who talked to us about how water is passed through the giant rocks. The water takes almost 2000 years to come out. Later on we walked to the Narrows where we saw many people with waders walking down the path.

At the end of our time in Zion when we met the artist in residence and he was fun to talk to. He is this month’s photographer. He gets to stay in the oldest building in the park.

There was a look out in the park called Big Bend that was neat. I had a lot of fun at the park because it was like we got to see two in one:Zion and Big Bend!(AT)

Yosemite

Today we went to Yosemite National Park, one of the first national parks in our nation. As we entered the park we saw spruce, pine, and sequoia trees all around. There were rolling hills all around and some snow scattered on the ground. Our first stop was Bridalveil falls. This giant waterfall was like one long line of water.

By the road we had a great view of El Capitan, one of the well known points in the park. Next, we went to a bridge where we had a great view of the Yosemite Falls where we would hike to later that day. In Yosemite Valley we learned about the park and it’s history. More than 100 years ago naturalist John Muir invited Theodore Roosevelt to the park to inspire him to make it a national park.

We also took a hike to mirror lake and on the way we saw some rangers working. They were cutting down dead trees and when one got cut down it was so big you could feel it hit the ground. Once we got to mirror lake my brother and I got in the chilly water along with our dog, Gunner.

On our way back home we got to see the sights again, from the half-dome to the crystal clear rivers. We also saw a turn off for a helipad. I wonder what they might be doing with that. I suspected they may use it as a base for search and rescue operations.(AT)

Pinnacles NP and the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Today we went to Pinnacles National Park. We went on a hike through tight crevices in a cave with beautiful views. Pinnacles is also home to the California Condor. It is the newest national park, the 57th one. President Obama turned it from a national monument to a national park in 2012.

After that, we drove by all kinds of Dole fields where they were growing lettuce and many other kinds of plants like cauliflower, broccoli, pimentos and grapes. We also drove by a couple of factories where they cut up those plants to turn them into prepackaged salad. I thought that was cool because we don’t really see those types of crops being grown very often. The nickname for this area is the “Salad Bowl of the World”!

After that we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium which is the second largest aquarium in the United States. The first thing we saw was the kelp forest which looked just like a forest except there were tons of fish swimming around. My favorite part of the aquarium was when we got to touch animals in the touch pool. My favorite touch pool animal was the decorator crab which covered itself in plants for camouflage.

After the aquarium we went on a walk to the Coast Guard Station nearby. They had a large complex that was all fenced in but we got to go on the pier where they had 2 47′ Motor Lifeboats. These are deemed basically unsinkable and they can withstand waves of 20 feet, winds of 85 mph, and they can self-right themselves in less than 10 seconds if they are tipped over. That was pretty cool to see. (AT)

Hearst Castle

Today we ventured up the coast on Hwy 1 to Hearst Castle, a former getaway residence of William Hearst, a newspaper mogul. It was very overcast and rainy which made things seem extra spooky.

The first thing we saw was the giant Neptune pool that was being renovated outside. It was being tiled with a mix of white and blue tiles. We then went into a large sitting room in the main building. The sitting room had priceless sculptures and tapestries from centuries ago. Next, we went to the dining room which had a very long table and Italian horse racing flags to give the room some color. Some of the guests to his lavish parties were Woodrow Wilson, Charles Lindbergh, and FDR.

Later we went to an elephant seal rookery where we saw hundreds of seals. Most were sleeping but some were very active. One made it up the ridge and onto grass very close to us. We saw males roaring and scaring off other males.

We checked out the tiny fishing village of Morro Bay. It was very foggy and overcast, much different the yesterday when my parents visited and it was sunny! We went into a fish market and I bought some Thresher Shark. I ended up pan frying it at home and it was fantastic!

Later tonight we went to a local brewery for trivia where we ended up finishing in the middle. The toughest round for us was one with Irish related action films. Everything else we did great with, it was a good team effort for the game and the day.((AT)