Shit Happens

We made it to Wisconsin on Labor Day ready for our tiny home travel trailer r-pod adventure to begin. We exchanged a quick hello with my parents and immediately began our r-pod lessons with my dad. We had two days to learn all we needed on its operations before our 2,500 mile trip back to Oregon. We knew we had a long journey ahead of us.

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Beaver Dam, WI

While at my parents we slept in the r-pod to help learn as much as possible and to become comfortable navigating the small space with two humans and a small dog. It was a humid week which guided our first lesson, how to run the AC. We plugged into the garage electrical to power the AC. Next we learned about filling the water tanks and how to care for the toilet. An important note about the toilet, always remember to use the fancy pills and special TP in your travel trailer.

The second night we switched the r-pod to run on propane. The refrigerator is able to run on electric or propane. We made the switch to the propane tank no sweat. We were nervous about the battery holding charge since the r-pod had been sitting for four years, but no problems thus far.

Mike took the 4Runner to the dealer for an oil change and assistance hooking up the electrical cabling for the trailer’s lights and brakes. It was a much harder task than we expected, which required removing paneling to expose the hidden the wires.

One of my favorite memories was jamming four of us into the trailer, including Wiley, for our nightly happy hours. The second day through the night we were greeted with pouring rain and very active thunder showers. We were able to really test the r-pod’s window seals. The morning after the storms checked the rain gauge and it had recorded 7.5” of rain!

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Happy hour in the r-pod

It took two hours to prepare for departure and for us to learn the final steps of how to hook the trailer to the 4Runner and setup of the sway bar. Easy peezy. Mike tested our successful connection by circling through the driveway to quickly find the trailer brake sensitivity was to high and were locking hard anytime he braked. Thank god for my parents experiences navigating trailer issues and their support. We had to turn down the setting so the trailer brakes wasn’t so sensitive. We were on the road by noon with a full charge, full water tank and packed optimally for no spills.

The r-pod definitely brings a different dynamic to our adventuring lifestyle. For long road trips it was beautiful pulling into a rest stop to sleep for free in a real bed. Our lunch stops were delicious and typically consisted of a variety of cheeses, salami and hummus with carrots. It was also convenient and pleasant being able to stop anywhere for bathroom relief in a clean toilet.

The not so attractive aspects was the slower highway speeds and decreased mpg, which was expected. Gas stops became much much more frequent, which Wiley didn’t complain. Our feel economy went from 18 to 12 mpg. Any mountain pass were painfully slow but allowed for scenic daydreaming for longer periods than usual.

After a few days we arrived in Utah for a longer stay. We found a great spot off of the Columbia River were backing up the r-pod wasn’t to stressful. I would have never guessed temps would be in the high 90s in the middle of September. Luckily at night it cooled down to a comfortable temperature for comfortable open window sleeps. We used the day hours for exploring back roads of the surrounding area and soaked up the 4Runner AC.

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Fisher Tower, Utah

The sunrise and sunsets across the red rock left me speechless. It was like watching a painting transform before your eyes. The fine red dust was left everywhere in the 4runner and even stained our feet red. One of my fondest memories was taking a shower in the open air lite by the full moon. The water was cool but the air was refreshingly warm. Any water temp would have felt amazing after four days with no shower.

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Watching the sunset at our campsite

Our last full day in Utah we traveled the Shafer Canyon Road, which had two hours of incredible views that no camera could capture it’s true beauty. The next morning we packed up and hit the road. We were chasing storms for miles and watched the dark rainy skies closing in on either side of us. As we hit western Utah the angry skies greeted us with a hail storm that pelted our left side. The sound was so loud it felt as if the r-pod windows would break at any moment. We pulled over to wait it out. The site of hail was much more beautiful at a stand still.

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Shafer Canyon Road, Utah

We made it to Great Basin National Park that same day. Where the desert meets the mountains. We started the morning with 90’s and pulled into our campsite with temps in the low 30’s. I looked out of place, running around in flip flops and a sundress as we passed campers wearing winter coats, mittens and hats. Wiley preferred the comfort of the r-pod to outdoors. We made a hot meal on the gas stove and snuggled up for the cold evening.

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Great Basin National Park – elevation 10,000 ft

We pushed hard the following day to find a great stay at Crystal Creek Hot Springs in southeast Oregon. We rolled in barely making it in time before they closed. We were able to hook up electrical for a comfortable evening with heat. At 10pm we took an evening soak in the 101 degree pond. The skies were clear, the stars bright and the swim felt so good. With a center of 7 feet deep swimming laps gave a good workout. We also took a morning dip, followed that up with a hot shower.

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Crystal Creek Hot Spring, Oregon

We finished our road trip at one of our favorite campground, Trillium Lake. This is where the journey went quickly from easy to stressful. Before bed I used the toilet and noticed the water had difficulty draining. I mentioned this to Mike and he thought nothing of it other than maybe try to use more water. The following morning the water wouldn’t go down at all. Rather it seemed to fill the bowl the more water we used. And we learned quickly concluded, the shitter must be clogged. Our brilliant next idea was to find a long stick and push the backed up toilet paper down the hole. Well that severely backfired, literally with a bowl full of brown poop water. This is where the panic set in and our minds raced. To stop our near freak out, we took a walk around Trillium Lake to think. Two miles later our solution emerged, cling wrap the pot and seal with painters tape.

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Trillim Lake and Mt. Hood

One of Mike’s many hidden talents is his ability to have an instant gag reflex when smelling vomit or poop. So, that left it up to me… rolled up my sleeves, held my breath and wrapped the pot as quickly as possible. Of course the bathroom fan had to stop working at this very minute even though it worked the whole trip up until this point.

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The calm before the storm

Fun fact, the majority of RV repair shops will not work on toilets. The one place that did in the area had a 6 days wait. We quickly switched gears and focused on our necessary DMV trip to Sandy to register the trailer. Another fun fact, no storage facility will accept your trailer unless it is registered in Oregon.

As I waited the hour and a half for my turn at the DMV, Mike gave the toilet another attempt in the Safeway parking lot two blocks away. He sacrificed a set of tongs, a few sticks and a waste bucket for our new trailer. I questioned nothing. My number was finally called and was thankful to be greeted by a bubbly smiling lady. We completed the necessary paperwork and then the nice lady requests to see the trailer for VIN validation to complete my registration. I give an awkward smile since this should be an easy ask but little does she know of my poopy toilet problem.

I call Mike, “Babe you need to drive over to the DMV now.” Mike replies, “Umm yeah the toilet is full of brown poop water and uncover.” At this moment I am walking outside with the DMV lady listening to her rave about how she can’t wait to get her own travel trailer someday. I giggle and quietly reply, “Prepare for some adventures with the toilet.” Mike rolls up with a very uneasy face and makes small talk with the nice DMV lady as she gushes about our cute trailer. A few minutes later we’re verified and Oregon registered. I meet Mike in the Safeway parking lot and go full action with rubber gloves and cleaning supplies on the toilet. I lysol every inch of that  trailer as quickly as possible and cling wrap the pot secured with painters tape for no spillage, maybe?

We needed to find a dump station and the closest was 30 minutes the opposite direction toward Mt Hood. It was a fancy camping resort that charged $12.50 for a dump. At this point all that mattered was figuring out how to unclog the loo. We pulled up and found this magical 3ft long rebar sitting next to the dump. With rubber gloves, shirt covering his face, Mike bravely went into the bathroom and forcefully shoved the rebar down the shoot. It takes a few attempts and finally I hear that sweet chucky sound of bile flowing through the poop shoot. We both cheered loudly at our accomplishment. We flushed a few gallons of water through the tank and thoroughly wiped down every inch of that bathroom.

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Hello Portland!

Next we dropped the trailer at our storage and cleaned out all used items like dishes and bedsheets. That last 30 minutes home never felt so good. We both were exhausted and smelled like shit.

We have a bitter sweet feeling toward the r-pod. My first thought was thank god this happened our last night of vacation instead of in the middle or in Utah with those hot temps. We would have both been throwing up from the smell. We’re looking forward to getting our r-pod again sometime soon. Cheers to whatever our next adventure throws at us. It can’t be worse than a clogged toilet I hope. Shit happens but it’s all apart of the adventure.

Where it all began

We had a rough start to 2014 having to return early from our around the world trip for Mike to recover from dengue and typhoid. The silver lining is this setback provided time for us to discover a new found passion which ignited our adventurous spirit and love for the outdoors.

In late January, four months into our international travel, we flew back to the states. We opted for Arizona’s sunny skies rather than Minnesota’s frigid below zero temps. We had our 60 liter backpacks, holes in our cloths, we were sun-kissed, exhausted but happy.

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Oro Valley, AZ visiting Mike’s mom

We had no official home or even a vehicle to get around. Mike found a great deal on a Mazda hatchback in Minneapolis, so we flew back to buy the car. We exchanged cloths, visited family and friends and were reunited with Wiley, our amazing pup. We grabbed what little camping gear we had left which comprised of sleeping bags, pillows and a coleman stove. Next we hit the road to Colorado to see my brother and their new baby girl, Kadence Lillian. Luckily for us Travis wasn’t planning on camping anytime soon so he borrowed us his tent and headlamps.

A week later we were on the road again, headed southwest toward Moab. Utah instantly captured my heart as we drove south on Hwy 128 surrounded by the massive red rock walls and the babbling Colorado River. We saw campsites available as we drove closer to town.

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Hwy 128 heading toward Moab, UT

We rolled in Moab for gas, looked at each other and agreed immediately we should stay a few days. Our most affordable option was to camp. Moab was smaller than we expected and fortunately for us we were able to find everything we needed at the True Value Hardware. The essentials included a blow up mattress, two spoons, two bowls, canned soup, triscuits, firewood, an axe and of course, our camping staple, hot sauce.

Camping in Utah during March was colder than expected. You know it’s cold when Wiley paws you awake in the middle of the night to crawl into your sleeping bag. In the morning, Wiley was shaking from the chilly morning air. We boiled water for our coffees and cranked the heat in the Mazda for Wiley to warm up. We headed into town and found the best breakfast burritos.

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Big Bend Campground, Utah

We spent the week exploring Utah’s five National Parks and camped our way back to Arizona. We kept our camping momentum for the next several months as we road tripped around the western states exploring the national parks.

It’s been two years since this trip and last summer alone we camped almost every weekend, started in April and ended in October. On a rare occasion we were in town we would get the itch and need to, at a bare minimum, take a day trip to a national forest or the coast.

We closed out this summer with a 5000 mile road trip to Wisconsin and back. We picked up a cute little travel trailer, the r-pod, from my parents. Thanks mom and dad!

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Leaving Beaver Dam, WI

We found it only fitting to repeat our Utah adventure on the journey back to Portland, OR. I was beyond excited to cross off another bucket list item – driving the 37 miles of the Shafer Canyon Road in Canyonland National Park.

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Top of Shafer Canyon Road

I am humbled and honored by what nature provides us. It surrounds us everyday, from the smallest of creatures to breathtaking views. Appreciate your surroundings no matter the scale. It can be as simple as a snail crossing or a waterfall pouring down from a giant mountain. Seriously, where does all that water come from? Find a tree wider than your arm span or wake before the sun to watch it rise.

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Natures beauty

Find that sense of wonder and appreciate all life has to offer. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Love hard and do things that make you happy. Get out there and keep discovering!

What floats your boat?

This thing we call life, it’s hard. I mean really hard.

During our travels I met a beautiful charismatic woman who gave me a different perspective on life. Her analogy resinates with me to this day. It brought clarity and the previous negativity was replaced with positive feelings of those lost friendships or the longing for the past.

So here it is… We each have our own boat. People come aboard as you need them. A select few are the anchor and stay for life. Others may visit every few months or years. Some may come aboard during a rough storm and throw you a life vest. It could be just a dinner or long weekend, never to be seen again. Whoever they may be, the universe brought you together for a reason.

Maybe it was a moment that made you laugh so hard you cried. Or possibly a piece of advice that stuck with you. It could have even been a conversation that challenged your personal belief. No matter the scale of these interactions, they are what help shape us into the people we are today.

I challenge you to take a look at your boat and its current occupants. Are they bringing you strength or should they walk the plank? Is it time for a party to invite in new perspectives? Is there someone needing your devoted energy to rekindle a friendship?

Put yourself out there. I get it, it’s scary but you know we only have this one life to live. Experiences and memories make this all worth it.

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Finding Comfort in the Discomfort

By my very nature I am a planner. In my work life I am a project manager and in my personal life I create spreadsheets to plan for every trip or major life event. 

There is something exhilarating and terrifying  about traveling with no plan in place. The stress of where will I sleep tonight or where is my next bathroom option are top of mind. This past weekend we did just that, left the city with a general goal of seeing the Painted Hills but nothing concrete was planned. 

As the sky grew dark and the long day fell upon us we started the hunt for a campsite. We passed by a KOA which gave me comfort there was a backup plan a few miles away. Our first stop was Haystack Reservoir Campground and to our surprise it had a few sites still available. We setup camp on top of the hill facing the lake. As the yellow morning glow grew across the hilltops we were greeted with the site of Mt Jefferson in the distance.

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The Ochoco National Forest provided a maze of exciting and scenic gravel roads for Clifford, our loyal 4Runner enjoyment. Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument was a heavenly site of magical rainbow ribbons paired perfectly with the bright blue sky backdrop.

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Cutting it Close

It was a proud moment checking Crater Lake off my bucket list. The experience was more incredible than I had imagined. My first glimpse seeing the giant bowl filled with fog so thick you could barely see across the lake was majestic. Love at first site!

Foggy Crater Lake view from the rim

Fog covered Crater Lake

Part of my desire to keep discovering and exploring is that giddy feeling you get experiencing a place for the first time. It’s like Christmas morning growing up feeling intoxicated with excitement and anticipation. Those feelings continually building while you patiently wait for others to wake before the celebration and gift exchange begins. For me, experiencing Crater Lake was exactly this!

The best part, hands down, of our Crater Lake visit was the day trip to Wizard Island. We booked a three hour trip that included a guided boat tour to the island, a few hours exploring the island and ends with 45 min guided tour on the way back. A geologist’s dream come true. It was fascinating learning about the rock wall formations, even thought I didn’t quite understand the depth of what we were looking at. Photos of Crater Lake cannot do justice to the magnitude of the deep crater walls or having a taste of the purest of waters.

Crater Lake View

Hiking down the Cleetwood Trail

This trip was more physically challenging than I had expected, but definitely worth the pain that followed days after. Our day began with a hot camp breakfast and packed lunches for the trip. We thought we nailed our arrive time until we hit the construction. We were only 2 miles from the parking lot but had to wait 20 mins for the road construction pilot car in order to cross. Let me tell you the added stress hearing twin 10 year old boys complaining every minute that we will miss the boat. Honestly I didn’t think we’d make it in time either.

We parked, bolted for the trail and literally ran the 1.1 mile, 700 feet steep descent to the dock on the Cleetwood Trail. We made it to the boat landing at the very minute the boat was scheduled to leave. We were greeted by seated passenger glaring at us as we boarded. I sat down exhausted with shaking legs and fogged over glasses that were so bad I couldn’t see. I was panting like a dog and dripping in sweat. Yes, I was quite the hot mess. I commented how intense the run was and received no sympathy from the other passengers. Instead I was greeted with snarky comments, ‘We drove through the same construction and still managed to arrive on time’. I thought we should have at least gotten a high five for making it down to the dock in 15 mins. Come on people. :)

Wizard Island and Phantom Ship

Wizard Island and Phantom Ship

Once we docked on Wizard Island the Ranger went through protocol and explained if we hear a blow horn to return immediately back to the dock. The sounds horn means we need to depart the island as soon as possible which typically happens when there is a rapid change in weather. Lucky us we were able to experience first hand later that afternoon.

There are two hikes on the Wizard Island, one with intense switchbacks to the crater summit of 6,933 feet while the other trail meanders from the dock and is great for swimming. If you rush you could do both. We opted to hike to the summit. The terrain starts with a sharp spiky rock trail and slowly changes to small narrow rocks with a steep drop. Did you know, Wizard Island is a volcanic cinder cone that could erupt any day!

Views from Wizard Island Summit

Views from Wizard Island Summit

As the day went on, the weather started to quickly shift. Clouds rolled in a matter of minutes. The boat arrived and we piled in for the second half of the tour. As we listened to the ranger describe further the wall formations, a crack of thunder and bolt of lightening struck overhead. Immediately we raced back to the dock and the tour was abruptly over. Once we pulled up to the dock the sky poured buckets of water. The 700 foot accent to the rim got a lot more interesting. Then the hail started. It’s so strange only an hour before the sun was shining bright that I was starting to burn from sweating all the sunscreen off.

Hooray for Crater Lake

Hooray for Crater Lake

When we arrive at the top of the rim the giant crater was filled with fog like the day we arrived.

We experienced full circle the wonders of Crater Lake. Till next time!

The island is calling

Many years ago Mike and I discovered our perfect slice of paradise, Little Corn Island (LCI), Nicaragua. This past trip was even more incredible having shared the experience with our dearest Minneapolis friends.

The journey of getting there is all apart of the adventure. We’ve found island life be much simpler, light beers taste better and swimming in the warm gulf waters pulls the heartstrings to keep coming back for more.

PDX meets MSP in Atlanta

PDX meets MSP in Atlanta

If you crave adventure and enjoy a relaxing beach escape then LCI may be your dream come true. A few fond memories of our beautiful island experience list below.

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  • swimming randomly throughout the day
  • sand everywhere
  • snorkeling and / or diving to see the largest antler coral
  • tasty fish tacos
  • coconut bread
  • fresh fruit juices
  • cold Toña beer
  • bottles of Flor De Caña rum
  • piña colada with toasted coconut
  • dim evening light
  • millions of stars so bright
  • gorgeous sunsets
  • hammock lounging with a book
  • afternoon naps
  • yoga on the beach

You may want to reconsider if your ideal vacation includes hot showers, 24hr electricity, consistent wifi and short restaurant waits –  then this place is definitely not for you.

This last trip I documented the journey to the island and wanted to share our experience.

Below is my recommended booking steps for the trip:
1. Book accommodations on Little Corn Island
* Recommendations Little Corn Beach & Bungalow or Derek’s Place
2. Purchase the commercial flight to Managua
* Skyscanner is a great place to start looking for flights
3. Purchase domestic flight on La Costeña from Managua to Corn Islands from their site
4. If needed, book Managua accommodations. This is only needed if you are unable to make connects work with flights and panga times.
* Recommendation Camino Real

The Journey
• Once you arrive in Managua Augusto C. Sandino International Airport there will be a $10 entry fee per person in immigrations. The officer will give you a small piece of paper that you need to keep throughout your stay in Nicaragua. I typically leave the slip in my passport.

• If staying at Camino Real a free shuttle service will pick you up at the airport upon arrival. The hotel is 1 mile away.

• La Costeña has three flights to Corn Island (Big Corn Island), 6:15am, 11am and 2:30pm.

• When departing on La Costeña airlines from Managua to the Corn Islands they recommend arriving 1.5 hours ahead of time, but the reality is arriving 45mins early is even better. The check-in process can be long and exhausting. The ticketing area is tiny, hot and packed with people and baggage piled on the floor. If there are more people than the plane can hold, another plane is called and leaves a bit later.
I highly recommend to check your baggage. The planes are small and only a handbag or small bag fits under or above the seat. This space is much smaller than on a commercial flight. When checking baggage, you are given a small piece of paper with your baggage number. It is important to keep it. When arriving in Big Corn Island you’ll need to present the slip to the person with the luggage cart to receive your baggage.

• Once checked in you are given a laminated boarding pass with your location name, Corn Island. Next, stop by the window before security and pay the tax of $2 per person. Security is the usual, taking off the belt, empty the pockets and pass your bags through the belt where items are scanned.

La Costeña Borading Pass
• The flight from Managua to Big Corn is about 1.5 hours. There are times, depending on where passengers are flying to, the flight may stop in Bluefields to drop off passengers. Also depending on the amount of passengers flying, La Costeña may have more than one flight to Big Corn  accommodate the number of passengers.

• When arriving at Big Corn Island the group is herded into another small terminal to wait for baggage. Each individual is required to present their passport and the officer writes the details in his book by hand. If more than one flight was needed to accommodate passengers, your baggage might be on the next flight. Bags will arrive on a wheeled cart and the baggage number is given to the guy.

• There are two airport restrooms, mens and womens. Typically only one is working and usually there is no towelette paper. Pro tip; carry a small pack of kleenex when traveling to be safe.

• Next you’ll need a ride to the wharf to get on the panga. When walking out of the airport there will be 20+ taxi drivers waiting to take passages to the wharf or hotels. Flag down a guy for a ride. Rides are $1 per person. Some drivers might sell a tour of the island for a couple extra bucks. There typically is enough time before the panga arrives to do so. But if you need food, skip the tour and go straight to the wharf.

• There is a decent small restaurant close to the wharf to grab a bit and beer before the panga arrives. Pay in cash and keep the córdoba for the wharf tax.

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Big Corn Island Wharf

• Head to the wharf about 20-30 mins before it departs. The panga fills up fast and depending on the driver sometimes will leave before the scheduled time.

• You enter the wharf through a chainlinked fence and will be approached by a guy to way the whaft tax of about 6 córd or .20 US dollars. Once paid, the guy will give you a slip of paper as receipt. If you leave the fenced in area you will need to present that receipt to re-enter.

• There are two different ways to pay for the panga, depending on how it’s setup for the day. There is a building to the right that has a covered patio. Find the person with the tickets and money. The trip is typically $6 US per person. Once paid you will receive a laminated ticket for the ride.
If the panga is present, head to the pier and place your bags in the front. The seats closest to the front of the boat will be more bumpy. I highly recommend applying sunscreen before they take off. The sun can get pretty intense and if you are like me will burn quickly.

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Panga’s packed and ready to go

Sit back and enjoy the ride! 30 minutes later you will have arrived in paradise!

Little Corn Island

North end of LCI

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Perfect temp for a swim

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Sunrise on LCI


Living for the Adventure

A solid staple in our relationship has been our combined passion for adventure. This was apparent in a recent camping trip to the coast. In Mike’s true adventurous spirit, one of the many reason he stole my heart, called me Friday afternoon asking if I would be willing to go camping that night.
Cape Lookout State Park

Cape Lookout State Park

My day had already been exhausting on top of being tired and crappy. The thought of racing home to frantically pack up the camping gear was daunting. Mike assured me to not worry he’s got this. And sure enough, an hour later Mike and Wiley picked me up from work with the car fully loaded and we headed straight to the coast.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

There is something magical about living in Portland and being able to drive less than 2 hours to discover the many diverse types of beauty. Waterfalls, to hot springs, lush green hikes with babbling creeks or to explore the many sites the ocean offers. Having lived most our lives in the Midwest it still is mind blowing having all these options. We have a common goal to leave every weekend possible and surround ourselves Oregon’s beauty.
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Driving the Coast