Bend was pretty much a bust. The smoke from nearby fires was visible in the air, and made being outside unpleasant. We ventured into town a few times, but didn’t do much of what we intended. It was a good time to get started with our homeschooling, though, and that we did! There are a few things that we do together, including reading a bit from a children’s Bible, and then Benjamin helps Mabry with her studies while I work with Hayes. We realized that consistency is important insomuch as not switching which parent helps with which kid, so that we know where they have left off, and their strengths and weaknesses. We are now two weeks in and things are going pretty well. Hayes had a rough couple of days and I wondered if we would even continue with him, but his attitude has improved a lot since then, thank goodness.
We moved on from Bend to the capitol of Oregon, Salem. The air quality was so much better there, and Benjamin’s bronchitis finally began to improve. We visited the capitol, which is something we’ve enjoyed seeing when we are in a capitol city. This building is not as showy as some, built in the art deco style in the 1930’s (two previous capitol buildings had burned down). We wandered around for a bit and the kids got flat pennies (one of the few souvenirs I encourage as they don’t take up much space/weight or get tossed aside in favor of the next new toy!). We also visited the Willamette Heritage Center, which was a really neat collection of historic buildings around a woolen mill. The mill was a very important part of the Salem economy in the late 1800’s through the early 1960’s, at one point employing a big percentage of the local population. When the mill closed, most of the equipment remained, and some time later the museum was formed and we were able to learn about how wool fabric was produced and see a lot of original equipment. The tour was really interesting to me, and Benjamin and the kids were happy to tag along without complaint. While at the Heritage Center, we were surprised to learn that Methodist Missionaries formed an early community in this area, which later became the city of Salem. We also visited three structures from the 1840’s including the oldest single family house still standing in Salem.
The Oregon State Fair happened to be in town while we were there, and of course we had to go! This definitely felt like a fair (vs the Livestock Show and Rodeo we are used to) in that there were many awards given for baked goods, produce, and even lego creations (Hayes’ favorite). The kids each picked out an autographed book by an Oregon author (another area the fair offered), watched an acrobatic show, and we watched a front end loader competition. That was fitting because I was woken each morning around 6 by the heavy equipment company very near our in-town campground. Grr. Mabry had a blast riding a rollercoaster, and then she rode the kiddy version with Hayes and he did not have such a good time. He had a worried expression on his face the entire time which B and I thought was hilarious. They won a few small stuffed animals doing the typical carnival games and we ended the night at MOD Pizza which was yummy. A good day!
For as long as I can remember, Benjamin and I have enjoyed Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and have wanted to visit the area and sample the wines. So here we were, finally in this area, and we planned to visit a few wineries on our last full day in Salem. Then I realized we also needed to do real life stuff, specifically laundry and grocery shopping before we traveled to Mt Rainier where we would have no hookups. Between those tasks and school work, we had no time to visit a winery. This reminded us that though we are on an adventure, there are regular life chores that must be done!
Most recently, we have spent a few days near Mt Rainier, Washington. The weather has been wonderful and the mountain is stunning. Although we’ve had no hookups (electrical, water or sewer) our solar panels have been keeping us 100% charged and the fridge is running off of propane. This campsite has been one of our favorites. Lots of space, huge trees, moss covered rocks everywhere… Mabry thinks it is magical. She and Hayes found a ‘hidden’ fire pit and have been playing for hours on their own which is magical to me and Benjamin :). We’ve enjoyed digging in the sand and rocks of the White River which is near our campground. The weather is cool so we aren’t missing a/c, and we’ve had a couple of nights with campfires and s’mores. Mt Rainier is still an active volcano, and at 14,410 ft, the tallest in the Cascade Mountain Range. It is the nation’s fifth national park and you can see the construction techniques of the time (100 years old), using river boulders and massive logs to form the buildings. We enjoyed a hike with many waterfalls, and no complaining from Hayes— I bribed him with a lollipop and trail mix with chocolate chunks. This was a major difference from the constant whining at Crater Lake. I am not above a bribe!