Oregon Coast – February 2017

It had been several months since we’d taken a trip in RC, so in early February, we hit the road for one last test run before the big journey. We figured two weeks on the Oregon Coast at this time of year would be a pretty good test. It was rainy, windy and fairly cold most of the time, with a couple of beautiful sunny days thrown in. We weathered an amazing thunderstorm one night in the Westy, and plenty of rain, but RC did great. I don’t think we will spend that long in the rain in the future, so it was a successful test all around.

We wanted to drive the *entire* Oregon coast, so that meant starting at the northwestern tip of the state: Clatsop Spit. We spent the night at Fort Stevens State Park, where we hiked to to the wreck of the Peter Iredale, the remains of shipwreck that occurred in 1906. The next morning, we walked to Fort Stevens itself, which is an abandoned military installation that once guarded the mouth of the Columbia River. Before heading south, we drove as far out on the spit as you can drive, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Columbia River. Then, we officially started making our way south down the coast to our eventual goal about 363 miles from this point, the California border.

We made our next stop Seaside, one of the biggest tourist towns on the coast. We usually don’t spend time here, but I’d been wanting to visit since we found out Seaside has one of the last Fascination parlors in the U.S! Sure enough, we visited the Funland Arcade and you can play Fascination just like in the old days at Elitch Gardens in Denver. I even won a game of Blackout, scoring me ten coupons that I traded for a Trail Blazers keychain lanyard. Not a bad haul.

We thought about pulling into Cannon Beach to take a walk on the beach at Haystack Rock, but since we been there recently on a weekend hiking trip, we continued down Highway 101 to Nehalem Bay State Park. After a rainy night in the Westy, we headed into Tillamook for a stop at the cheese factories, and then on to Cape Lookout State Park for another evening of camping. The next day, it was on to Lincoln City, where we did a lunch/work/shopping stop and then on down the coast to our first hotel stop in Otter Rock.

The Inn at Otter Crest was a perfect place for a hotel stopover, since it was more like an apartment with a full kitchen and tons of room (not to mention a fantastic ocean view from the balcony). We stayed for three very rainy days and nights, so we got some extra work done and made meals to take with for the next stretch of camping. We also did a little hiking, visiting Devil’s Punchbowl and walking along the beach. We even had time to squeeze in a trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, before heading further south to for a stop at Seal Rock and then on to Washburne Memorial State Park. We stayed for two nights so we would have time to hike over Heceta Head to the lighthouse on the opposite side. We also took a side trail (known as the “Hobbit Trail” because it is like a tunnel through the brush) down to the amazing beach. It was a tough, muddy hike but totally worth it. The view of the lighthouse and the ocean beaches from the trail were amazing. That night, we were treated to a massive thunderstorm, our first major storm in RC (not counting a few brief hailstorms in Yellowstone last summer).

After a little trouble with a low battery, we took off the next morning heading for the Oregon Dunes, and a quick hike. The wind was pretty bad, but we made it far enough to climb a large dune and get a taste of the area. After the hike, we headed on to North Bend for food and some work time, and then settled in for a night at Sunset Bay State Park. Next, we headed for Bandon, where we had a nice lunch right on the beach and then on to Humbug State Park for yet another rainy night.

We caught a little better weather as moved on to Gold Beach for some hiking and working, and then made it almost to the California border before stopping at Harris Beach State Park in Brookings for one more night in RC. The campground was probably the nicest of the entire trip, with great facilities and a beautiful view of the ocean from our site. After starting the day with a work session, we traveled the final ten miles to the border, completing our journey down the entire coast. Saving California for another day, we turned around and began our much quicker journey north back to Portland.

Munich – December 2016

The final leg of our journey took us from Innsbruck to Munich. Once again, we chose an amazing scenic route, this time through the Alps over Fernpass to two castles, Hohenschwangau castle and Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the most famous castles in Europe and the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disney Resorts (and many other fictional castles since). From there, we drove the “Romantic Road” to Landsberg am Lech, a small town on the Lech River, where we had a quick lunch before heading to our final destination, Munich. Once there, we explored the central city and Old Town, including our last Christmas market and a huge Winter Festival, held on the same festival grounds as the famous Oktoberfest, and had our last authentic German meals (one more schnitzel and bratwurst!).
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Innsbruck – December 2016

We left Zürich and drove the A3 motorway to Innsbruck, Austria. We chose the scenic route, but we had no idea just how scenic it would end up being. It was probably the most beautiful drive we’ve ever done, it seemed like another picture postcard view was around every corner…at least when we weren’t in a tunnel. We stopped for pictures at Sargans, Switzerland, where the Schloss Sargans (Sargans Castle) has a commanding view of the Alps the entire valley. From there, we continued on to Innsbruck, which is tucked into a valley surrounded on all sides by towering peaks. We were able to board a funicular directly across the street from our hotel, ride up to the Hungerberg neighborhood, catch a cable car up to Seegrube and then another up to Hafelekar, which is almost 8,000 feet above the city. In all, it took less than 30 minutes and virtually no hiking to be on top of a mountain peak with a panoramic view. We also explored the city, especially the Old Town and, of course, the Christmas market. We were even able to see the ski jump hill from the 1964 and 1976 Olympics, which was just barely on the edge of town. We both fell in love with Innsbruck, without a doubt one of the most scenic cities we’ve ever visited.
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Zürich – December 2016

After our trip through Germany, we drove to Switzerland for a two-day stay in Zürich. We got lucky on our first day, as we arrived just before sunset on a very clear day, so we were able to enjoy a beautiful view of the Alps from the shores of Lake Zürich, just two blocks from our hotel. We visited yet another Christmas market, before retiring for the night. The next day, we weren’t quite so lucky with the weather, but we explored the city center and the Old Town across the river. This definitely wasn’t Tracey’s favorite city, and it was by far the most expensive place we visited since leaving Iceland, but we still had a great time, especially since we had two free nights in a five-star hotel that would have cost us about $1200 if we actually paid for it (when we tell you guys to take advantage of credit card bonuses, this is what we are talking about!).
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Germany – November/December 2016

We left Brussels on another high-speed train to Cologne, Germany, where we made a quick stop to visit the awesome Cologne Cathedral and the surrounding Christmas market. In Cologne, we picked up our rental car so we could explore Germany at our own speed. We followed the Rhine River through the middle Rhine valley, where we saw one amazing castle after another, some over a thousand years old. In fact, we even spent the night in one! We also saw more vineyards than you can imagine, it seemed like every hillside was covered in grapevines.
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Brussels/Bruges – November 2016

After three days in Amsterdam, we took a high-speed train to Brussels, where we stayed downtown near a huge Christmas market (the first of several on our trip). Brussels is not quite as charming as Amsterdam, but there are a lot of beautiful buildings and the market was fantastic. There were also two different light shows that totally made the trip worth it (we’ll post some videos of those later). We also took a day trip to Bruges, a smaller city about an hour away from Brussels. Bruges has a well-preserved town center that was really fun to explore, and we bought some of the best chocolate we’ve ever had.
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Amsterdam – November 2016

Our first stop in mainland Europe (after an incredible four days in Iceland) was Amsterdam. Without a doubt, it is one of the most charming and beautiful cities in the world. We walked all over the city, logging over 30 miles during our time there. We spent most of our time wandering around and exploring the streets, but we had time to do visit some of the attractions. One of the highlights was visiting the Rijksmuseum, one of the best collections of art in all of Europe, and getting to see paintings by artists like Rembrandt and Van Gogh. On our last night, we took a cold but very interesting boat tour of the canals, a great way to say good-bye to one of our new favorite cities in the world. We will definitely be back some day!
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Iceland – November 2016

The first stop on our honeymoon was Iceland, and it was unforgettable. The weather was beautiful and not nearly as cold as we thought it would be. We flew into Keflavik around 7am, rented a car and drove into Reykjavik. After a quick nap, we explored the city and enjoyed an excellent dinner. The next day, we drove the Golden Circle tour route on the way to our cottage in Vik, visiting Gullfoss (huge waterfall) and Geysir, the first geyser discovered by Europeans and the origin of the English word “geyser”. We also visited the wreckage of a Navy airplane from 1973 on the coast. After a good night’s sleep, we drove on to Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon on the southern coast. It was absolutely amazing, but the best was yet to come. After returning to our cottage, we saw that the Aurora forecast was the highest it had been since our arrival. We stepped outside and, sure enough, we were treated to nature’s most incredible light show. Finally, we headed back to Keflavik for our next flight, but not before enjoying a long swim at the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal seawater pool. Our time in Iceland was fantastic, and would have been a perfect honeymoon all by itself. But we still had over 2 weeks to go, so we hopped on a plane and headed to Amsterdam.
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Bogotà, Colombia – September/October 2016

It had been over six months since Tracey’s last work trip, but in September she was asked to visit Bogotà, Colombia to help with an audit. I was able to tag along, and we spent two weeks working and exploring the city. Bogotà is a wonderful city, with excellent restaurants and tons of history. We stayed in the Usaquén neighborhood, but we also had some time on the weekends to visit La Candelaria, Monserratte and Parqué 93. It was a great visit and I have a whole new appreciation for Colombia.
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Mt. Rainier National Park – August 2016

With the wedding approaching fast, we realized we could only squeeze in one more camping trip before the big day. We wanted to continue our impromptu 2016 National Park tour, so we headed to Mt. Rainier. It was too late find reservations for a camping spot in the park, but we found a nice place about an hour south of the mountain next to Riffe Lake in Taidnapam Park. Saturday morning, we drove up to Sunrise Visitor Center and did the Burroughs Mountain Hike, visiting the highest point in the park that you can reach on a maintained trail. The views of the mountain’s glaciers and the White River Valley were unbelievable. (The pictures don’t do justice to just how huge the mountain is. We hiked to around 7460 feet and the summit was still about 7000 feet over our heads.)
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