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On Saturday, we went out for the first time to Little Buffalo State Park to have a picnic lunch and swim at the pool we’d heard good things about. The pool was great for kids. There is a large spray area, zero-depth entry, and it never gets deeper than 5 feet. There are two waterslides in the deep end. The water was a little chilly for the time we were there, but once we got used to it, it was fine. About 10 minutes after we got out and changed, it started sprinkling. Our time there ended with a bit of time in the nearby playground. We’re definitely going to be visiting that park more next summer.

On Sunday I rode 50km with my mom in Lancaster Bike Club’s Covered Bridge ride. I hadn’t been riding enough to attempt the full 100km, but my dad and his friend Jack did that ride. It was fun to ride with my mom; something we hadn’t done together in years. The more relaxed pace was well-suited for all the gorgeous scenery we got to soak in: farms, fields, and, of course, bridges! Being in Lancaster county with a few thousand cyclists, friends of Floyd Landis were there showing their support. Yellow Floyd “TDF Champ” t-shirts were available for a donation to Floyd’s favorite charity (which I didn’t get the name of). It was a well-organized ride, but after Bike Virginia and the Tour de Cure I wasn’t expecting water-only rest stops. Good thing I brought some goodies with me. 😉

Melissa and I took the day off together today. Once we got Ryan to camp and my car dropped off for maintenance (and a successful diagnosis/recharge of its A/C) we headed down to the shop in Lancaster where Melissa purchases her bulk oils for Manolas. I don’t get down to the Lancaster area very often, and I’d never been to downtown Lancaster. Since we’d planned nothing but the oil-shopping trip, we headed over there.

Downtown Lancaster was informative to tourists without being overly gaudy. After getting our bearings, we found a lot to park at (Queen and Chestnut) and headed to the center of town. We thought the Central Market was great; certainly the place I’d go to buy fresh food if I lived in the area. We also checked out the Cultural History Museum, which had a number of artifacts of the area from the past 150 years. It also shared info about Pennsylvania’s German settlers, which includes the Amish and the Mennonites. We had lunch over at the Lancaster Dispensing Company; I had the chicken corn noodle soup and tacos and Melissa had the turkey/bacon/cheese croissant. All the food was tasty and relatively cheap.

We explored a number of shops, especially taking notice of all the PA-based handcrafted soaps. There’s a lot of people doing that. There was also a good amount of handcrafted wood products and artwork. In just our few gorgeous morning/afternoon hours there, Lancaster seemed like a nice, quiet place to live and work.

Well, we’re not really on the left coast any more, but I wanted to close out this series (at least before enhancing the original entries) by talking about the place we stayed while out there.

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We had the priviledge of staying at the Smuggler’s Cove Roost, a very nice cottage in Greenbank, WA on Whidbey Island. The owners, Dick and Dee Fulcher, were excellent hosts and our stay exceeded our expectations. Not only did we have a quiet place to stay each evening, but we had a great view of the Puget Sound as well! The Roost was well-furnished with furniture, pots, pans, utensils, and even DirecTV. The Fulchers stocked the kitchen with a variety of breakfast foods, including fresh orange juice and literally farm-fresh eggs from their henhouse! (Ryan loved the rooster!) Each day our hosts replenished the kitchen, put away our washed dishes, and gave us fresh towels. Their service was great.

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We were away from the cottage quite a bit, but did get a few chances to converse with the Fulchers and meet their friendly dog, Sedona. They are very pleasant people providing an excellent lodging experience in a beautiful location. If you’re considering visiting the Seattle area, I definitely recommend a stay at Smuggler’s Cove B&B.

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Well, we’re packing up now and getting ready to leave tomorrow morning for the long trip back home. Yesterday we went on the “Mt. Rainier Loop“, and today we visited Port Townsend and Fort Casey State Park.

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The Mt. Rainier Loop involves driving south towards the Nisqually entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park. Along the way is Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, which we stopped at after an early lunch. We took the park’s hour-long tram ride through their open-range area and saw bison, elk, mountain goats, moose, and deer, among other animals. It was pretty cool, and definitely worth the diversion on the long ride to Mt. Rainier. We quickly headed around to about half of the rest of the park before getting back on the road.

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The Mt. Rainier loop directions recommend heading in to the southwest corner of the park, stopping at various sites while passing through the Paradise and Sunrise areas, and leaving the park via the northeast corner. One could spend days exploring the park’s many trails and activities; we only had a few hours. We stopped at the Trail Of The Shadows for a quick hike, then visited the Jackson Visitor Center. There we went on the Nisqually loop, which offered great views of one of the larger glaciers of the mountain. Unfortunately, around this time, the summit of the mountain was obscured by clouds. After that we realized it was getting to be late (5-ish), we strove to drive straight to the Sunrise Visitor Center. Unfortunately, we got there after 7pm, finding that the snack bar and visitor center were closed. We didn’t have much food with us and wanted to get some dinner, so we took in the sight of a now-uncloaked Mt. Rainier summit and headed out of the park.

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The drive up SR410 proved to be relatively void of eating establishments. For the first hour of the drive, we were driving through national forest/logging country, with very little infrastructure along the way. Finally we got to Enumclaw and found a local pizzaria that was open, so we ate some pizza and wings there. Then we found our way back via SR192, I-405, and I-5. We didn’t get to the Mulkiteo ferry terminal until after 11pm, and caught the midnight ship back. Ryan got plenty of sleep in the car, so he was OK this morning.

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We did get up a bit later this morning as a result, and decided to have a “lighter” day. We took the ferry from Keystone to Port Townsend and spent lunchtime and afternoon there. It’s a town that boasts a huge number of artisans. We had a great time looking at a lot of wares, and Melissa bought a very unique ceramic bowl. I bought Ryan a new wooden yo-yo to replace one that he had received for his birthday but broke.

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After the ferry ride back to Whidbey Island, we checked out Fort Casey. It’s one of several old armaments built in the 1940s to protect the inlet of Puget Sound, and because it was made out of concrete set into the earth, much of it still stands today. It was neat to walk around an on the different areas of the fort and try to imagine the military operations there when it was active. It was pretty large; Ryan was definitely impressed by the size of it all.

We’ve had a great week here and definitely recommend vacationing here. I’ll wrap this series up after we get back, adding links, details, and photos. I’ll also review this great place we’re staying at. (Yes, I intentionally left it a mystery… did anyone care? 😉 )

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Yesterday we ended up staying in until Ryan was feeling better in the early afternoon. We went to Deception Pass State Park on the north end of Whidbey Island and hiked around. We walked the Deception Pass bridge, which was impressive, but after being on the Royal Gorge bridge, it isn’t as big. 😉 We hiked up to the summit of Goose Rock and got a great view of the island from there. On our way back, we parked in Oak Harbor to check out the merchants on Main Street. Like our trip to Coupeville, there wasn’t a whole lot of activity. We ate dinner at Dave’s Bistro, where we received excellent service from Dave himself. I had a nice, smooth clam chowder and fetuccini alfredo with shrimp. Melissa and Ryan shared homemade cheese ravioli. All dishes were superb.

We were able to get back to the cottage and settled in time to watch Rock Star, and were pleased with Dilana, Jill, and Toby’s performances. I liked Storm’s as well. We didn’t see the results show today, but were both surprised by them. We think Zayra should have been let go.

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Anyways, today we went back to downtown Seattle and checked out the Pike Place Market area (huge and varied!). After eating lunch there, we walked south on 1st Ave to get down to the Pioneer Square area. The Underground Tour was my favorite activity of the day. I never knew that the city of Seattle built up 25 blocks worth of underground to solve their flooding and sewage problems. Wild. After the tour we took a bus back up 1st Ave to re-visit a Market vendor and then went to the Pike Pub and Brewery for dinner. Pike’s Pale Ale compared favorably to ABC’s.

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We’re having a bit of downtime this morning; Ryan is a little under the weather and is catching up on rest right now. So I’ll catch up on what we’ve done the past two days.

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Sunday, we stayed on Whidbey Island, exploring the city of Langley in the morning and early afternoon. Langley is home to many quaint shops; in particular, there was a nice soap shop that we spent a little time in. We ate at the local Village Pizzaria. The service was a little slow, but the pizza was great. Later on, we went to Coupeville, supposedly the oldest settlement on the island. For some reason it seemed like a ghost town on that Sunday afternoon, especially when compared to Langley. Melissa wanted to go out to lavender farm a bit north of Coupeville. It was interesting to see (and smell) so much lavender in growth; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many bees so focused on pollenation in one place at one time. The farm also had a great view of the west shore of the island. After a little rest and relaxation, we went over to the Beachfront Grill at the Holmes Harbor for dinner. The service was great there; I got an alder-plank roasted salmon that was delicious.

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Yesterday we spent the day at Seattle Center, visiting the Space Needle, eating lunch at the Revolution Bar & Grill, and then enjoying the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Hall of Fame and Museum. The Space Needle offered fine views of the Seattle area and had lots of construction-related information. It also had good info about the views themselves, pointing out local landmarks. It was neat to see seaplanes flying into the area and landing in Lake Union. The Revolution seemed like a new establishment; the food was OK but the service was slow. The Experience Music Project had an excellent combination of exhibits and interactivity surrounding American music. There was a neat new exhibit about the origins of hip-hop. Ryan had fun playing with a mock turntable setup; he got the hang of (digitally-assisted) scratching relatively quickly. There was a rock/metal area that had a focus on Seattle’s own Heart and Queensryche, and an area dedicated to native son Jimi Hendrix. My favorite Hendrix-related items on display was Jimi’s outfit from his Isle of Wight performance, the original mixing console from Electric Ladyland studios, and an interactive exhibit that let you work Jimi’s favorite effects pedals (such as wah-wah and fuzz) in real-time over recordings of some of his famous licks. The EMP also had a free “On Stage” interactive exhibit that was like karaoke with instruments; it was recorded for a DVD and/or poster we could optionally buy. We chose to cover “I Love Rock and Roll”, although my decision to play guitar unassisted made the final mix less than stellar. If I had let the bed guitars play through and just sang, the DVD might have been worth buying. 😉 Ryan had a great time playing the drums, and Melissa hammed it up on keyboards. There was also a Sound Check area that gave interactive tutorials on different instruments and had practice rooms with different instruments. It also had an area that let you record songs, but we didn’t get that far. As we were leaving the EMP, there was a display of music-related costumes; my favorites were an Ace Frehley “Spaceman” costume (a Paul Stanley costume was also there) and outfits worn by Sonny & Cher.

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My favorite stop of the day was definitely the recently-opened (2004) Science Fiction Museum, which had a ton of actual props and information about both visual- and printed-medium sci-fi adventures. It definitely reminded me that I’m such a sci-fi nut; I dug the whole thing. When I was browsing the Hall Of Fame, I noticed a number of authors I’d never heard of. I have a feeling I’ll be hitting the library for some titles new to me once we get back. I also have a few DVDs I haven’t watched in a while that will see some activity. I’m glad the SFM was more than just a Star Wars/Star Trek lovefest, although there were plenty of props from both franchises present. My favorites were a captain’s chair from ST:TOS, as well as a scale model of the sets used for ST:TOS. You’d be surprised how much mileage they got out of just a few sets: the bridge, engineering, sick bay (with the highly-used outside circular hall) and the transporter room. They also had a full-size R2-D2 model (he’s still my favorite robot) and a neat detail model of the Death Star that was used during the filming of the original Star Wars movie.

After all that, we played a few games in the arcade together then ate a quick hot-dog/corn-dog dinner before heading out of downtown. We stopped by the excellently-appointed Northgate Mall on the way back to get a travel iron to replace Melissa’s old one that she found had broken. Brookstone to the rescue; they had a nice little model that fit the bill.

The ferry rides back and forth to Whidbey Island are definitely not something I’d want to do every day. The overhead associated with waiting, combined with the distance between the island and Seattle doesn’t make for a timely commute. So far we’ve only made the trip a few times, but currently we’re planning another downtown Seattle day as well as a trip to Mt. Rainier (which was what we were going to be doing today) that’ll require crossings, as well as our trip out on Saturday morning. Definitely a place I like visiting, but don’t want to live in, at least not until retirement. 😉

Yesterday we spent the day traveling to the Seattle, WA area. We’re staying in a cottage on Whidbey Island, which is a little farther north from Seattle area than you might think looking at a map. The ferry ride from the mainland to the island added a bit of a delay, but once we were over here and settled in, I finally started to relax. I’m probably still 2 hours ahead of local time, but that will probably fix itself tonight. It certainly can’t hurt to retire and rise early; it’ll make our adjustment when we get back next Saturday that much easier.

There’s quite a bit to do here, and we’re right around the corner from a state park, so we may decide to stay on the island another day longer than we thought coming here. I have to speak to the trip coordinator. 😉 That’s the good thing about coming on a trip where we haven’t pre-paid for a lot of activities; it makes things a lot more flexible.

I’m slumming it occasionally on 56k, so I’ll probably check in another time or two over the course of the week.

Phil (“Xerxes Rens”) sent this one along. Classic:

Spock and the President administering neck pinches

Today marks my fourth blogiversary.

This Saturday, Melissa and I returned to Downtown Chambersburg‘s “Old Market Day” and sold some soaps. We didn’t do as well as last year, although from what we’re hearing from the other crafters it seems to be a down year. I suspect some of last year’s disposable income has been sucked into the more expensive gasoline we’re buying these days. It was nice to get out there, and aside from a 10-minute downpour the weather was great.

After dinner, we took in the Harrison Ford thriller, Firewall. It was OK, but it was light on the tech, heavy on the action. It had a few plot holes, but overall fit the bill.

It was pretty hot today, even this morning. My dad and I took a two-hour bike ride through Hummelstown and Middletown and back. My dad spied the historic St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Middletown, built in the 1700’s; we stopped by there and took a look in its cemetary, spying some original gravestones from the 1800’s. Neat. I haven’t been able to get out riding as much as I’d like, usually just Saturday or Sunday morning, so I think I might be taking the medium (32-mile) version of the Covered Bridge ride in August. We’ll see. I definitely don’t think I’ll have the same issues I had on the Tour de Cure, but I don’t want completely zonk out after the ride.

After the bike ride, we cleaned up and took in a nice lunch over at Duke’s Riverside (formerly the Wormleysburg Gingerbread Man). That’s a nice place to go for lunch on a weekend, that’s for sure. Not crowded at all.

@aharden

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