Learning to Roll With It

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It was 95 degrees when we pulled into Sisters, Ore., after a six-hour drive from Mount Rainier, and the traffic was backed up for blocks.

We hadn’t realized this was the weekend of Sisters’ annual Outdoor Quilt Show, a feel-good event that draws thousands to displays throughout town.

Hmmm. After selling our house in Seattle and moving out, we had hit the road for our first adventure. Was this going to derail our plans to stay near this pretty central Oregon mountain town?

We provisioned at the excellent Rays Food Place — including grabbing a thick New York steak — and headed toward Three Creeks Lake Campground, 16 miles south of town. Surely, there would be a site at the first-come, first-served campground.

Well, no. There were dozens of cars lining the dirt road, and when we finally got to the campground, everything had been snagged.

Shut out on a busy weekend. We were tired of being in the car, hot, and hangry, so naturally we jumped in the lake. Ahhh, yes –much better. We drove back to Sisters, discussing how to learn from our mistakes.

Next time, when you face a long drive, rule No.1 is: Make sure you have a reserved campsite waiting for you.

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Fortunately, we grabbed one of the last spots at Creekside Campground, a 10-minute walk from downtown. It was packed with RVs and trailers of every shape — which ended up being interesting for two people shopping for a vehicle.

Our neighbor, Petra Hegger from Moab, Utah, had an adorable Casita travel trailer, small enough to pull with her six-cylinder Kia. Hegger has been solo traveling for the past year and a half, and had lots of suggestions for places to visit. It’s so cool to connect with this adventurous community.

Staying in a small-town campground wasn’t how we thought this would go, but it’s a good lesson in the importance in being flexible. We are learning to roll with the challenges of the road.

Now, if we could only remember where we put everything. Next challenge: Getting organized!

Wanna connect? Please check out Our Grand Tour on Instagram.

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Destinations: Wonderland Trail

John says: As we prepare to leave Seattle, we’re trying to revisit some of our favorite places. For me, that means hitting the trail at Mount Rainier while I still can.

This week I hiked to Summerland on the Wonderland Trail, set up camp and then day-hiked to Panhandle Gap, one of the most scenic places on the 93-mile trail. It’s a gorgeous place.

I love this high-alpine basin, and I’ll miss it.

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The hike up to Summerland on the Wonderland Trail passes through some sub-alpine meadows.
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The climb to Panhandle Gap.
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The lakes are still snow-covered in the high alpine.
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Panhandle Gap offers expansive views.
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Waterfalls are everywhere in the alpine basin above Summerland.

 

Some of Our Fave Photos from Maui

We’re still feeling the aloha vibe, weeks later. Already talking about the next trip. That’s because Hawai’i is totally addictive. That’s not a bad thing.

Here are a few of our most memorable moments. Aloha!

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1. The Road to Hana

The famously winding roads were extra thrilling in our VW camper van rental. Once we arrived, we did not want to leave this special place.

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2. Tropical Fruit Stands

They’re everywhere! Some are unattended, with a cash box to leave payment. This stand featured mountain apples, which were compared to a pear. Small, tart, crunchy good.

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3. Sasquatch Catches Some Sun

Our sorta silly mascot loved riding in the 1975 VW camper.

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4. Hawaiian Rainbows

The islands are famous for ’em, especially on the rainy side.

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5. Stunning Sunsets

This vibrant pic doesn’t truly even capture how amazing this day ender was, but it’s PRETTY close.

Dreamy Destination: Ka’anapali Beach

We’ve spent the weekend on the water off the shores of Maui’s gorgeous Ka’anapali Beach, paddling, swimming, wishing we knew how to surf because those masters of the waves make it look like so much fun. Here are a few photos from the 14th annual Wa’a Kiakahi Canoe Festival and Maui Jim Ocean Shootout.

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The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel canoe arrives for the Wa’a Kiakahi festival.
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Opening welcome is offered for the Wa’a Kiakahi festival.
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Athletes prepare for the Maui Jim Ocean Shootout at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel.
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John tries his hand at paddling in an outrigger canoe during a trip with Maui Paddle Sports.
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Leslie paddles during a stint in the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel sailing canoe.
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What’s SUP? John heads out with a group on a SUP session.

 

 

 

Tiny Kitchen Challenge: Making Pizza

Leslie says: I’m kinda shocked to discover I really love the challenge of cooking in a tiny kitchen. On a recent hot springs tour around British Columbia, I used the excellent setup in our  CanaDream Class C RV to grill steak, stir smoked salmon into risotto, and, my biggest triumph yet, making pizza!

cast iron skillet pizza

Prepping is Key

Before we hit the road, I spent a few hours in my home kitchen, getting some dishes dialed in. Even when you’re traveling, though, that’s such an essential part of putting together meals in a flash. Plastic containers and ziplock baggies are perfect for keeping ingredients sorted. Even if it seems obvi, label and date everything. A little trick I picked up years ago, working as an apprentice in Tom Douglas restaurants.

Making Some Dough

Adapted from my favorite pizza dough recipe from the awesome Sara Moulton, I added the dry ingredients to a plastic bag and planned on finishing the dough on Pizza Day. That special dinner came at the end of a long day on the road and a relaxing soak at Fairmont Hot Springs, with the Rocky Mountains in the background. The kind of breathtaking, Instagram-worthy setting that reinforces this kinda crazy journey we’re taking. Before hitting the pool, I added water and some olive oil and put the wet dough in a sealed container, covered in the filtered afternoon sun. Two hours later, it had doubled, and was ready to go.

Crank Up The Heat

A blazing fire is best for creating the pleasantly blistered on the bottom, yet still soft inside crust and we had hoped to try this over bunch of crackling wood, but the weather turned drizzly. So, I tried the next best thing and heat my Lodge Cast Iron grill pan in the teeny oven. Ten minutes in, the smoke detector started shrieking. Not an uncommon experience when I’m in the kitchen. Johnny removed the battery — temporarily — and we were back in business.

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Charcuterie from the exceptional Oyama Sausage Co., on Vancouver’s Granville Island made this pizza extra special.

Getting the Dough in the Red Hot Pan

This took some team work, and while my first attempt to fill up the skillet wasn’t spot on, it convinced me to go smaller on the second round. While Johnny propped open the oven door, I transferred the dough from one of those floppy cutting boards. There were many ways it could have gone wrong, but it worked. I added the toppings — fresh mozzarella, pesto, chopped cherry tomatoes — after about 10 minutes, and let it cook another five. Probably could have gone a little longer.

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Arugula on top this caprese pie means you can skip the salad course.

The Take Aways

Our Grand Tour has been evolving towards a pretty low key approach to breakfast and lunch, while dinner is a big deal. It’s the evening’s entertainment — followed by a round of cribbage (we’re all tied up in this epic battle!) — so, I put a lot of thought into meal planning. Going forward, I’m going to focus on recipes from some of my fave cookbooks. First up, next trip: PNW Veg by my friend, Kim O’Donnel.

Wine Pairing

You think reds when it comes to pizza, but instead I poured my current obsession, an Oregon Pinot blanc from Elk Cove Vineyards. I love how this crisp, fruity white has the backbone to stand up to strong flavors like the pesto. It balanced the richness of the creamy cheese and brightened up the dreary spring evening in beautiful Canadian mountains. Of course, because we’re in British Columbia, we followed that up with a glass of merlot from Tinhorn Creek.

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Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot blanc is perfect with pizza.

We Hit 5 Awesome Hot Springs in Canada

Do we look relaxed? Because we just spent a week exploring the hot springs of British Columbia, a trip that included five long soaks, 500 miles in a Class C RV, gobs of eye-dropping views and one surprising conclusion: It is possible to overdo it on the hot springs circuit. Here’s how to pace yourself.

 

Come Hungry

Don’t dip your toe in the hot springs after a big meal. The experience is all about slowing down and speeding up your blood flow, so adding digestion to the picture complicates the healthy effects. It’s much better to have a meal, post soak. We loved lunch at Kingfisher, the impressive restaurant at Halcyon Hot Springs Resort.

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The cold plunge at Halcyon Hot Springs Resort was an eye-opener.

Get Hot, Then Plunge

Again, the idea is to get the blood pumping while chilling in those mineral infused waters coming from deep in the earth. We follow a routine prescribed by those in the know at the awesome Scandinave Spa near Whistler: 20 minutes in the hot pool, followed by a cold plunge, followed by a break in the warm pool or, as we saw many doing, a snooze in the lounge chair.

Drink Lots of Water

Bring a bottle of cold H20 with you to sip at a steady pace, pool side. It’s essential. We add a packet of Emergen-C to boost the healthy effects. We actually witnessed at least one person who didn’t hydrate practically pass out after too much time soaking and not enough water. Be safe out there!

Be Prepared to Chat

One of the best parts of visiting hot springs is that you meet all sorts of interesting people from around the world. We heard intriguing restaurant recommendations, tips for avoiding traffic and suggestions about off-the-grid hot springs to discover. The group dynamic was also fun when the fearless cold plungers took the frigid challenge. Everyone cheered.

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Relaxing in the waters of Fairmont Hot Springs, near Invermere, B.C.

Chill Out Afterwards

We had to jump in our big rig and drive to a destination a couple of times, and the stress of being on the road wiped out the good we did in the pool. If possible, stay put and mellow out in place. Fairmont Hot Springs’ nearby RV campground made that mission possible.

More hot springs intel coming soon.

7 Fun Things to Do in Vancouver, B.C.

We’ve been on an epic road trip around British Columbia, starting with a couple days in Vancouver. This gorgeous city is so much fun to explore, whether it’s on foot, or an itty-bitty ferry. Here’s some of our favorite fun things to do.

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Leave the car and take the False Creek Ferry to get around.

Jump on Board a Water Taxi

These small boats stop at spots along False Creek, the main waterway on the south side of town. Ride it the full length for about $3, an incredible deal, before getting out at Granville Island. There, walk through the bustling marketplace. There are loads of cafes to get a meal, drink or coffee. Or, go DIY and score some outstanding charcuterie at Oyama Sausage Company before heading outside for a picnic. Talented buskers entertain the crowds on sunny days.

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The Sea Wall has some exceptional viewpoints around the perimeter of Stanley Park.

Walk the Sea Wall at Stanley Park

Take the roughly 4-mile perimeter trail around the premier park that helps define the urban area’s embrace of natural beauty. You’ll see snow-capped mountains in the distance and lots of ship traffic on the busy commercial gateway to the Pacific, all while sharing the path with runners, cyclists and skaters. Plan on spending some time in the English Beach area on the end of your hike. The Sylvia Hotel‘s bar is excellent for happy hour or a casual meal. Try the fried squid and the signature cocktail, a delicious gin-based drink called The Vancouver.

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Wet your whistle at the Sylvia Bar on English Bay.

Eat Southern Fried Chicken in Chinatown

Juke nails the crunchy, seasoned just right bird at spot on the edge of Chinatown. The vibe is fast food, order at the counter, but the results are shockingly sophisticated. Definitely drizzle some housemade hot honey over the golden pieces of perfect poultry.

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Juke fries up some outstanding chicken on the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Drink a Toast to Gassy Jack

Head upstairs to The Diamond, a retro cool bar with a view of Gastown’s heart, Maple Tree Square. The soaring windows look down and a statute of one of the city’s founders, John Deighton, aka Gassy Jack. Trust the friendly staff to make suggestions on beverage and food, but, if you’re adventurous, order the brandade. This sassy dip is made with potatoes and salt cod, which might sound strange, but it’s wonderful.

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The Vancouver at The Diamond in Gastown. Via Facebook
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Walk around Canada Place for a great view of the downtown Vancouver waterfront.

Go Downtown and Get a View

Canada Place, the iconic sailing-ship-themed convention center and gathering place on the downtown Vancouver waterfront, is as striking up close as it is from afar. Take a walk around it. While you’re there, consider going on the Fly Over Canada ride. It’s a bit cheesy, but undeniably fun. You’ll watch a beautiful big-screen view of the Canada’s beauty while hanging over a dark abyss. For another nice city view, ascend Vancouver Lookout at nearby Harbour Centre.

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Take in the city views from Vancouver Lookout downtown.

Eat a Boatload of Sushi

There are about a million sushi options in the city, which means the competition’s stiff. We checked in with the super helpful concierge at the swank hotel where we were staying — The Douglas — and he recommended a few spots within walking distance. We were so impressed by the depth of fish selection and pristine quality at Bistro Sakana in the buzzy Yaletown neighborhood, and its gracious staff. It was also pretty darned affordable, with dinner for two ringing up at under $70, Canadian.

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Photo via Bistro Sakana’s Facebook.

Start the Day Brunching

Medina Cafe is crazy popular for the morning/midday meal, so if you don’t arrive early, you’re going to have to wait. But you’ll be in good company. Your patience will be rewarded by inventive global twists on brunch like the egg-topped paella, cassoulet and spicy Moroccan lamb meatballs. The legendary Belgian-style waffles are a fine way to start a meal, or end it.

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Brunch at Cafe Medina might require waiting, but it’s worth it, especially if you like Eggs Benedict.

 

 

Cape Crusaders in Oregon

The Three Capes Scenic Drive takes in one of the nicest sections of the Oregon Coast.

Our #Vanlife experiment led us to Cape Lookout State Park in a rented VW EuroVan from Road Trip Oregon. From there we explored the other capes in this northern section of the coast: Cape Meares and Cape Kiwanda.

It was a fantastic two-day trip. The highlight was a five-mile hike to the tip of Cape Lookout, which juts out into the Pacific, offering great views for miles.

When we weren’t exploring the capes, we shucked fresh oysters from Netarts Bay, hiked along mostly empty beaches and had roaring fires at night. April proved to be a great time to visit.

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Leslie on the Cape Lookout trail, with great views of the north coast of Oregon.
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Lunch break on the Cape Lookout hike.
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The view of the cliffs at Cape Meares.
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The lighthouse at Cape Meares.
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A blue jay visited camp at Cape Lookout.
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Sasquatch sighting on the beach at Cape Lookout.
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Sunset along Cape Lookout.