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Bend, Oregon

This time, I’m taking a break from National Parks for a blog post about another city. During our time in Bend, it didn’t snow (but there was snow on the ground). We had fun throwing snowballs, at least, until the wetness finally hit us and we scurried into the warmth of the camper. We parked at the beginning of a trail called Oregon Bad Lands for 2 nights, but we didn’t go on the trail since it was too cold and too full of snow. Bend was a nice little town, but it was too cold for my mom. We only have about 6-7 places left, so we’ll be finishing this crazy journey soon. 🥳🥳🥳

We were slipping and sliding the whole way on snow-covered roads.

We had a good time in Bend, and we were back to the crazy life of the camper van since we had been staying in a house for a while. It was soooooo cold in the camper at night, I went to sleep cold with two fleece blankets, two shirts, a sweatshirt with a hood and a hat (plus fleece pants). Cocoa had such a good time in the snow. It was like that was where she felt at home. We took off from Bend on Monday, and we took a quick stop after 2 hours in the car. We found an IPad and found out who it belonged to. We also found another thing that reminded us of Spain. Madrone trees! The symbol of Madrid is a bear and a madrone tree. Madrones are strawberry trees, though they don’t grow strawberries (strange, am I right?). We went back on the road driving the final 3 hours to the Redwood Forest.

Madrone tree.
Madrone tree berries look like little tiny oranges.
Precarious icy turns were a big worry in this part of the journey.

Where would you go?!

Well, we’ve seen a lot of places in these two months, and we thought we’d do a reflection on all of the cities we’ve been to. Each city has either one word or a phrase or sentence of some kind. Try to think about what place you would live in based on these words. Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you enjoyed it, and also, a late Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all. Here are the cities.

Asheville, North Carolina

Dad: Moist. Mom: Green. Me: Sooooooo happy. Brother: Stink. Sister: Very fun

Austin, Texas

Dad: Funky with friends. Mom: All America. Me: It’s… not a desert? Brother: Awesome. Sister: Fun Service.

El Paso, Texas

Dad: Viva Mexico. Mom: Border town. Me: I can see Mexico?!?! Brother: Crazy. Sister: Fun camping.

Las Cruzes, New Mexico

Dad: A little sleepy. Mom: Doable. Me: Big lunch. Brother: Nice. Sister: White sand.

Flagstaff, Arizona

This picture is from Wikipedia, we did not take it.

Dad: Awesome downtown. Mom: Snow. Me: Drove right through without looking up. Brother: Freezing. Sister: Don’t remember.

Bizbee, Arizona

Dad: Three hours about covered it. Mom: Hippie. Me: “Best weather in the US”. Brother: Tiny. Sister: Deep mines.

Boise, Idaho

Dad: Who’d have thought they’d be so hip? Goose poooooop… Mom: Outdoors. Me: Not just potatoes. Brother: Good. Sister: Fun places to go.

Yakima, Washington (ack, we didn’t take any pictures!!)

Dad: Oh, but that canyon and river are so beautiful. Mom: Agriculture. Me: Average. Brother: Cold. Sister: Libraries.

Bend, Oregon

Dad: Pristine. Mom: COLD! Me: Snowy. Brother: Freezing. Sister: Fun snow.

Sacramento, California

Dad: Good depth. Mom: Diversity. Me: Interesting. Brother: Too many people. Sister: Christmas fun.

Carson City, Nevada

Dad: Nevada. Mom: Gorgeous. Me: Warm weather. Brother: Cold. Sister: Beautiful lakes.

Prescott, Arizona

Dad: Evolving. Mom: Old people. Me: Lots of hiking trails. Brother: Awesome. Sister: Has fun playgrounds.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Dad: Shouldn’t it be pronounced Albuquirky? Because it’s quirky. Mom: Southwest. Me: Big city. Brother: Warm. Sister: I don’t know.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dad: The amber-yellow glow of the homes at night and the crystal clear skies will always be unforgettable. Mom: Artsy history. Me: I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Brother: Colder than most places. Sister: Too cold.

Well, that’s all of the cities we’ve visited. I would really like if you would send me a comment saying which place you would pick based on these words. Thanks so much for sticking with me through this amazing journey. Until next time, goodbye.

The most confusing months of my life! (A summary through the eyes of Cocoa)

This blog post is our dog’s (Cocoa) most likely summary of the places she’s been. This will include National Parks as well as cities. -Oskar.

CITIES

Asheville, North Carolina: I hope I don’t meet any black panthers!!

Austin, Texas: New people!

Cocoa poses with us for a picture

El Paso, Texas: No Chick-Fil-A for me? Come on!!!

Somewhere in Texas.
Cocoa looks into the bushes to see what she heard. Then, she starts off running.

Las Cruzes, New Mexico: Free quesadillas!

Flagstaff, Arizona: Why is daddy not getting out? I want his seat.

Cocoa decided the seats would be more comfortable than a cushioned seat. She was mistaken. It was funny, though.

Bizbee, Arizona: Up and down and up and down and up and down…

Provo, Utah: There’s two other dogs and they’re taking up my people’s attention! Don’t they love me?

Utah
Cocoa is held still by my brother as most of the cousins pose for a goodbye photo. We’re still missing two.

Boise, Idaho: My own island! Awesome!

Yakima, Washington: I was in the car the whole time.

Bend, Oregon: Snow, more snow, snow everywhere! (And it tastes good)

Sacramento, California: Seriously? Every day, on a leash!?!

Sacramento, California
Cocoa barking at the fake man in front of a store. She was really weirded out by it.

Carson City, Nevada: Something’s not right. I can see through the water.

Carson City, Nevada
Dad is sitting on a rock. Cocoa is nearby, staring into the water.

Prescott, Arizona: From rock to rock to rock to rock.

Prescott, Arizona
Cocoa stares longingly at the ducks in the pond just out of her reach.
Prescott,AZ
Cocoa trudging along with dad at the Courthouse Plaza. We went to see the lit up trees. Cocoa was antsy.

Albuquerque, New Mexico: No freedom!!!

Santa Fe, New Mexico: Are we staying here forever, or is is just a few days.

NATIONAL PARKS

White Sands: Yum! Snow! Wait, this isn’t snow!…. 30 seconds later. Yum! Snow! Wait, this isn’t snow!….. 30 seconds later. Yum! Snow! Wait, this isn’t snow! What is it?

White Sands/Las Cruzes
Cocoa about to go into psycho dog mode where she runs around, tearing up the ground. It’s extremely funny to see, especially back in Spain, when all she could do was run in circles.

Grand Canyon: I’m going to fly off the edge after a bird! Wait, I’m stuck with my people. Why????

Grand Canyon
Cocoa has tried to pull dad off the cliff several times.

Petrified forest: It looks like wood, but it smells not like wood, more like stone. It’s also everywhere around me!

Petrified Forest/Arizona
Cocoa once again is not facing the camera, she is staring down the hill.

Bryce Canyon: Down, down, down, down we go, then, suddenly, up, up, up, up we go.

Arches: Booooooooooring. So there’s some arch things in the ground. Big deal. Why don’t you take me with you atleast?

Zion: *Sigh* I’m left in the car again.

Cocoa in the one part of Zions National Park that she was allowed to visit.

Redwoods: The birds are so much higher than me! Why can’t I be big and the trees be small?

Redwoods
Cocoa anticipates the throw of a stick at the river in the Redwoods. She anticipated wrong.

Gold Bluff’s Beach: Winner, winner, elk dinner!!!!

Cocoa was very interested in all the elk!

Death Valley: The air feels different. Oh well, it feels different every time.

This is my best guess at what Cocoa would describe each place. I hope you enjoyed her summary. Also, I couldn’t find pictures for some of the places, sorry.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

So, for whatever reason, we’re here in Santa Fe for a month. This was the first pick (of the parents, not the kids), so we’ve got a month here. Christmas and New Year’s were celebrated here.

On Christmas Eve, it was obvious we were going to have a snowy Christmas. We woke up to snow. It snowed all day long, and we went caroling in the snow. It was fun.

Something special to Santa Fe around Christmas time is the luminarias. These are real candles inside of brown bags, and the streets are usually lined with them at Christmastime.

There are so many other things to tell, you, so I guess I’ll start with the history of Santa Fe.

Santa Fe, New Mexico was founded in 1610 by Pedro de Peralta. The full name of Santa Fe is La Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís, which in English means The Royal Village of Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi. Santa Fe became the capital of New Mexico in 1851, 3 years after New Mexico became a state. Since Santa Fe was built in 1610, that makes it the oldest state capital in the US, and the third oldest city in the US, after St. Augustine, Florida, and Jamestown, Virginia with now 410 years as a city. Santa Fe had a population of 83,776 as of 2017, making it the fourth largest city in New Mexico. It covers 37.41 square miles, and is 7,199 feet (2194 meters) above sea level, making it also the highest capital in the US. In 1680, 70 years after the founding of Santa Fe, the Pueblo people organized a revolt that put them in control of what would become New Mexico for 12 years. 400 people were killed in the revolt, including 21 priests. In 1692, Don Pedro De Vargas re-conquered the New Mexico area. In 1846, the US declared war on Mexico. Two years later, the US officially gained New Mexico. Santa Fe overtook Española as the capital of New Mexico in 1851, and has been the capital ever since.

Now, enough with the history. Some fun things we did were go to the public library. It has quite a bit of books, and I would be happy with it.

Another thing we did was go to this huge dog park (Frank S. Ortiz dog park) that used to be a Japanese internment camp.

Here’s the plaque explaining the internment camp.

We also hiked to the memorial for the 21 priests that died in the Pueblo Revolt. It was sad, but also interesting.

This is the start of the hike to the memorial. It was a nice, short one.
You can see the cross in the background.

A few other interesting facts are that Santa Fe is surrounded by mountains. I think they’re called the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (which means blood of Christ). Here’s a picture on our back porch.

There are mountains like this all around us.

We saw a few places that were cool also, like the old cathedral and the governor’s house that got turned into a museum and a marketplace for Native American crafts. Here are some pictures of them.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed reading about Santa Fe. Here are some extra pictures.

Gingerbread house making! They all broke the day after.

Well, that’s all for now. Until next time, goodbye.

Albuquerque, NM

This is one of the last few posts; this one is about Albuquerque. Albuquerque is a pretty large city; about 1 million people live in it. We stayed at a hotel for a night to see how good it is. We went downtown, drove around and saw that it was a normal big city; with beggars and everything. We were here because mom and dad visited it back in September – before this whole crazy thing started – and they liked it, but this time they felt it was a bit blah. The downtown was pretty boring, and we didn’t think we wanted to live in such a big city. We were originally going to stay for like 5 days, but after the first day, we were bored, so we moved on to the last city, which is Santa Fe.

Here are some of the things that were interesting. We got to see the Historical Route 66. This highway was one of the first highways built, made in November of 1926, and ran 2448 miles (about 4000 km), from Chicago, Il all the way through 8 states (Starting in Illinois, then Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and finally, ending in California)! It ended in Santa Monica, CA. Route 66 was a very popular highway, so lots of businesses started building their businesses nearby it. In June, 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway act, which was the first act of the decline of the Route 66. The first major bypassing of Route 66 was in 1953 in Oklahoma with the opening of the Turner Turnpike, which connected Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Another major bypassing was in 1957 when they opened the Will Rogers Turnpike, which connected Tulsa to the Oklahoma-Missouri border. Other states soon built other bypasses as the time went by. In New Mexico, however, lots of business owners refused to build bypasses, since it would put them out of business. In 1963, the New Mexico Legislature banned the building of interstates and bypasses. This ban was short-lived because the government threatened to remove federal highway funds. In 1964, Tucumcari and San Jon gave way and tried to work out a way to still keep the traffic near the businesses, while complying to the will of the government also. By the late 1960s, most of the Route 66 had been replaced with interstates, the rest soon to follow. Finally, in 1984, the Route 66 highway was no longer a road. A few parts still remain as historic places. The one that we saw was the longest urban strip of Route 66. It is called Central Avenue and runs for 17.4 miles (28 km).

Here’s a picture of a segment of the Route 66
Here’s another section of the historic Route 66

We drove around the city and looked at some neighborhoods. It’s funny because they’re a mix of rural, city and urban, it’s funny and strange. We ate at a Mexican restaurant. We also went to the Christmas market. Other than that, we were just driving around. We saw a few funny things. Here they are.

There was a Wells Fargo bank building that was glowing completely green. It was a nice change to just normal buildings and cars.
The other thing was when we were driving down a road, and there was a sign saying “When flooded, turn around, don’t drown.” It was funny because it was kind of stating the obvious, who would drive into a flood?

Anyway, that’s it about Albuquerque. Until next time, goodbye.

The lowest we’ve ever been.

This blog post is about Death Valley. It is about 5 hours from Carson City, and 5 hours from Prescott. We stayed here for a night. An interesting fact is that Death Valley is below sea level, so we camped at about 200 feet below sea level, though the lowest we went was 266 feet below sea level. That’s really deep. I’m glad there’s not an ocean in it!

You can see in the bottom left of the middle that it was indeed -266 feet above sea level, or 266 feet below sea level.

Another cool thing that happened is that we hit 9000 miles! For the first time ever, we actually took a picture at 9000 instead of after that.

See? 9000, wow, that’s a lot of miles!

The road was really bumpy, and our stomachs flipped several times during the trip. My sister begged for my dad to do it again, but she didn’t understand that he didn’t choose to do it, it just happened.

The crazy road.

Death Valley was named this because some pioneers entered this valley, and they got lost. They were all convinced they were going to die, but only one person did. Cocoa had lots of fun, and so did we. The view was pretty cool from the top, and cool from the bottom also. We slept in the camper van for the first time in a while. We found out that there was a golf course in the valley built in the 1930s as well as some bird sanctuaries. We saw the sunset as we drove in and it was beautiful. After that, we drove 5 hours to Prescott.

Sunset
This is the view on the way down, unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture from the bottom.

Until next time, goodbye.

P.S. This is not a place we wanted to live, just so you know.

Arizona’s Christmas City

Guest Post by Mom

Christmas in Prescott

If cactuses, red rocks, and HOT come to mind when you hear the word Arizona, this area in the northern part of the state will surprise you.At an elevation over 5000 feet, Yavapai County and its county seat Prescott occupy a very different climate than Phoenix or Tucson. Prescott is known for mild four-season weather and is an attractive retirement destination. It is also surprisingly green!

Coming in to town

The Prescott National Forest surrounds the city and a number of small lakes are just outside the city limits.

Cocoa hoping for some Christmas duck.
A great place for rock climbing!

It has a historic downtown area and an overall “small town” feel with access to tons of hiking and biking trails. If you are looking for a place to grow strong lungs, here’s your place!

Is that Santa’s reindeer?
Around town

Prescott is also known as Arizona’s Christmas City and goes all out on Christmas lights, parades and activities. The downtown courthouse is decorated in thousands of colorful lights that look even more spectacular against Mother Nature’s own light display.

One thing we found funny is an outcropping that pokes out above the city. It is called Thumb Butte and it kind of looks like the mountains giving Prescott a “thumbs up”!

Thumb Butte giving Prescott a thumbs up.

We all enjoyed the beautiful weather, greenery and hiking trails around Prescott. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to drop into Marino’s Mob for yummy hamburgers and ice cream.

Carson City (the capital of where?) and one of the most beautiful places on earth.

This blog post is about Carson City, our next stop, as well as a lake that we visited nearby called Lake Tahoe. First, about Carson City.

Downtown Carson City

Carson City is the capital of, oh, wait, I’ll keep you guessing. Anyway, it was a bit too small for our likings, and a few too many casinos. It was really pretty though, and we had a good time. We stopped to fix something that would help us with Wi-Fi, and we went up the mountains to Lake Tahoe. After, we came back and had dinner at the Olive Garden which got the stamp of kid approval. Then we slept at a hotel.

This is a neighborhood in Carson City.
Downtown Carson City

Lake Tahoe was an awesome lake. We climbed rocks and touched the water. Cocoa rolled around in the snow. We were all in t-shirts (besides mom, but she’s never been in a t-shirt) and sweating at the end of the climb. We kept our eyes open, but there was no sign of Tahoe Tessie today! We all had fun, though we still didn’t want to live here because it was a bit too small. It was really pretty and we all enjoyed it.

Pretty, huh?

We read that wild horses live in the mountains around Carson City but sadly, we didn’t see any this time. On our way out of town we passed several more lakes and stopped at Mono Lake for a lunch break. The islands and some of the nearby mountains are the remains of volcanoes! There were a few snowbanks nearby and we enjoyed playing in them.

Mono Lake. You can see parts of the snow also.

If you’re looking for small town living surrounded by beautiful scenery and quick access to one of the most beautiful spots on earth, Carson City might be for you. For us, we decided it is a little too small. Until next time, goodbye.

P.S. The state was Nevada.

Topaz Lake, another nearby lake.
The rounded mountains in the distance are old volcanoes!

Really? It’s against the law to back into a parking space here?!!

After the Redwoods we headed south to Sacramento. Along the way we saw a sign that reminded us of home:

Sacramento was a neat place. We wandered around the historic part of the city that still looks like an old western town.

Old Town

Dad made a new friend that weirded Cocoa out:

Pioneer Square was a pretty place to stop for an afternoon merienda.

Danny’s Mini Donuts lived up to their advertising – hot and delicious!

While we were eating our donuts we could look down into a sunken patio area. The whole city used to be at the level of the patio, which made for a lot of flooding! Over time, the city was built up to the present street level.

At the old train station, Juliett found a train with a surprising destination! We didn’t get to ride on it but Juliett did get to sit on Santa’s lap.

Polar Express

This statue of a rider on a horse marks something you may have heard of before – the Pony Express! It was a system of mail delivery in the 1800s. A series of riders on horses carried mail back and forth between the western U.S. and the eastern U.S. The first letter left Sacramento on April 3, 1860 and arrived in St. Joseph, Missouri ten days later! In the whole time of its operation, one rider was killed by Indians and only one shipment was lost! We’re glad we can communicate faster than that today!

Pony Express

Downtown Sacramento is a fun place to walk around. The state government buildings are pretty and there is a park behind the state Capitol that has trees from all over the country! One of our favorite things about Sacramento is the number of foreign languages we heard while walking around and playing on the playground. Sacramento is one of the most diverse cities in the country.

Bridge

Another favorite part was the number of bike trails in the city. It would be easy to move all over the city on two wheels and there are miles of trails along beautiful scenery such as this spot on the American River.

River

So if you’re thinking about living in California, Sacramento might be a good choice. But…. just remember there are a lot of rules and you never know when they might be enforced. Thankfully, we didn’t get a ticket for violating the no backwards parking rule at the park but we did learn that you should read the tiny writing on all the signs!!

These trees are so tall, you can’t see the tops!

This isn’t even half of the trees! They’re super tall.

This is a giant National Park filled with giant trees! It’s called the Redwood National Park and it stretches very far (although it’s mostly all in California). This National Park is so big that we spent two days touring it. On the first day, we stayed at a campsite in the woods. There were so many little clearings for me and my siblings to explore. We found some cool stuff like a giant mushroom. It looked like a sculpture of a woman with a red cloak but no head.

Weird, right?

We were all amazed by the size of the trees. We all had sore necks the next day from looking up at the trees.

Some interesting information about the Redwood trees are that Redwood seeds are about the size of a tomato seed! To think that something so big grew from something as small as that! The redwoods are part of the same family as the giant sequoias. The scientific name for the coastal redwoods (which are the ones we saw) is sequoia sempervirens. Redwoods grow taller than giant sequoias, but the giants sequoias grow thicker. The reason the redwoods grow so tall is because they have good defenses and are perfectly suited to the cool, damp weather of the Northwest coast. They have about a foot thick bark so no animals can hurt them and produce a lot of tannin which discourages bugs from nibbling them. The redwoods are one of the plants that have been alive for a very long time, about 240 million years, way back to the time of the dinosaurs! The coastal redwoods can live to about 2000 years! The redwoods are very cool trees that can show us a lot about history

The second day, we slept at a campsite on Gold Bluffs Beach, where gold was found in the 1850s. We saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. We dug a big hole at Gold Bluffs and also made friends with another family in a camper like us. We even saw some seals on one of our drives! Actually, we’re still debating whether they were seals or sea lions, but either way, they were cool!

Nope, not gold, just rocks.

We also went to a canyon called Fern Canyon. It was pretty cool since we were walking on logs most of the times to avoid getting wet.

Treacherous crossings, but fun.

Did you know, parts of Jurassic Park were filmed in Fern Canyon? You can Click Here to see a scene from the movie that shows Fern Canyon (it is a dinosaur attack, so it might be a little scary for little kids). Another cool thing is that some parts of Star Wars were also filmed in the Redwood National Park.

More Fern Canyon
Redwoods in the background!

There was a funny sign at the trailhead. It read Caution. Aggressive elk. And it showed a man getting hit by an elk. The real elks we saw later seemed pretty tame in comparison!

Mom made us take a picture of us looking scared.
Those aggressive elks!

We had a really good time in the Redwoods. It was a really cool National Park with lots of things to explore. Until later, goodbye.

From sea to shining sea

We made it to the West Coast! All the way from the East Coast to the West Coast in less than 6 months! We are now driving through California as I write, with three spots left to check out! After that, it’s just the elimination process to determine where we’re going! A bonus fact is we just hit 8,000 miles on this trip! As of today, right now, it’s about 8,300 miles.

Here’s proof! This is one hour into our five hour trip to a hotel near Sacramento yesterday.

We went through several places in Washington and Oregon (they are Kennewick and Yakima in Washington and Bend in Oregon). Kennewick was a no-no because it was really small and you already heard about Bend being too cold in my previous blog post. Yakima seemed good, though my mom thought it was a bit cold. We are now headed towards Sacramento, after that, we will head to San Diego and Carson City, which will be our last two spots.

Anyway, this blog post is gonna be mostly about Yakima, but I wanted to add the part above because it’s exciting. So, here’s about Yakima.

Yakima was a city in Washington. An interesting fact is that at some point, it almost became the capitol of Washington! The land around Yakima produces tons of delicious produce and most of the nation’s hops. What are hops you ask? Hops are the seed pods of a vine plant and are used to produce beer. We sadly don’t have any pictures of it, so I’ll just have to explain it with words. Yakima was a nice place, and I’m pretty sure my dad liked it. Although, even my dad admitted it was cold and the sun goes down at 4pm. Yakima was a lot of crops, and not much else. So, really, it was produce city. It was kind of big though.

The only other thing we saw was a river in a beautiful canyon. We got out and got in quickly since it was cold. Other than that, we just drove around and then continued because it was calling for lots of snow and my parents were worried about some of the mountain passes we had to drive through. We drove through the first mountain pass and then slept at a rest area. When we woke up there was snow all over the place!

We decided to go into a town and have breakfast at a cafe so the snow plows could clear the snow.

The roads were pretty bad when we got off the highway and my dad had to put chains on our tires! All the trucks on the highway had chains on their tires too. In fact, it’s the law on some of these roads that you have to carry chains all winter and then there are signs that light up when you have to use them. When we got back on the highway, the roads were pretty good and we got safely back to Boise.

Waiting in the cafe!