We began our farewell tour with a two day drive down the northwest coastline, heading for San Francisco. It’s a big drive, so we broke it up over two and a half days, with two nights camping out. We haven’t done a lot of camping as a family, but will spend quite a few nights on this road trip under canvas. I have to say that we got off to a pretty good start.
There were endless beautiful vistas and sights as we made our way to our first destination, Sunset Bay State Park…
The girls took the business of setting up camp very seriously, each taking on specifically assigned duties. Olive was Richard’s trusty tent setting up assistant, whilst Edie ably got all the camp mattresses inflated and installed inside the tent. I was relegated to assembling a couple of camp beds, which even I, with my thorough lack of camping nous, was able to pull off.
Once camp Croad was up and running we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the delights of Sunset Bay.
Despite being awoken in the early hours by our nearest neighbor’s crying infant, we all managed to get a decent night’s sleep and were quickly up and back on the road for the next leg of the journey. Before continuing south, we made a quick detour to check out the seal colony you can find just north of the park. We weren’t quite sure how many seals to expect, but as soon as we opened the car doors we were hit with an overwhelming cacophony of bellows and brays…let’s just say there were quite a few seals!
We were all very excited about our next stop – a chance to sleep amongst the giant redwoods in California’s Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It didn’t disappoint. Because the night was so warm, we were able to leave the fly off the tent and sleep looking up at a canopy of intertwining branches…magic.
I’m writing this from the beach front in Tulum, Mexico. We are coming to the end of a very special week here, about which I’ll blog next. Tomorrow it’s back to San Francisco and then on to Yosemite…the adventure continues!
In the United States, fifth grade officially marks the end of elementary school or primary school, as we would know it in New Zealand. If we had been staying in Portland, Olive would have moved onto Middle School after the summer break. Middle schools are a bit like New Zealand intermediate schools although students attend them for three years as opposed to two.
Reaching the end of fifth grade brought with it a flurry of activities, trips and special studies for Olive. First up was marching with the Bridlemile band in the Junior Rose Parade. You might remember from my last post that one of Portland’s nicknames is the City of Roses and every year the city hosts a festival of roses, with parades, dragon boats, floral displays and the crowning of the rose queen. The junior rose parade is the country’s oldest and largest children’s parade, and marching bands from various local schools are the major attraction.
My Dad is a very talented trumpet player. He used to play in the dance halls in his native Edinburgh and when he had a young family, he’d do a full days work then head out at night to play in Wellington clubs like the Majestic Cabaret, to bring in extra money. Jonny Gilbertson even appears in the liner notes of an early recording by none other than Kiwi opera legend Kiri Te Kanawa. Whilst his children have dabbled with various musical instruments over the years, none picked up the trumpet, and none of his grandchildren have either…until now…
We suspect that Olive’s decision to ditch orchestra and join band was the lure of marching in the parade but she surprised us by not only choosing the trumpet for her instrument but also, by actually being quite good at it!
I have to admit to feeling very emotional as we watched her marching through the streets of the Hollywood district and did wish my Dad could have been there. We don’t have the school marching band tradition in New Zealand but Olive has assured us she wants to keep up playing the horn.
Since then there has been a jet boat trip on the Willamette, a pool party, a quick Shakespeare study – Olive was chosen to read Juliet’s part…swoon – and a little bit of FLASH education. Despite the interesting acronym, flash is nothing to do with men in long raincoats – it’s the good old puberty education unit and Olive told me exactly nothing about it! “So what did you talk about?”“Mum! Nothing! I’m not telling you!” “Anything you want to ask me or share?” “I’ve already told you Mum…nothing!”“Who’s giggling and being inappropriate? Tell me about the questions from the anonymous box!” “For God’s sake Mum!!” She didn’t actually say that last bit but I suspect she really wanted to!
Today was the last day of school and it began with the Fifth Grade promotion ceremony. Each fifth grade teacher made a little speech about their class and then each child marched across the stage to receive a certificate.
The day ends with the fifth grade clap out. As the bell rings, the graduating class emerge from a certain door and walk along a path lined with parents clapping and high five-ing…
It’s been a hugely emotional week…lots of grieving for what we are leaving behind…but also excitement at what lies ahead. For now I just want to thank the wonderful Bridlemile Elementary community. Our girls have been so happy here and whilst they are both very sad to leave, their tears just reinforce what a great place it is…
We sold our house in three days. To say I was in a tiny bit of shock is something of an understatement. We knew that the market in Portland was “hot” but after our experience selling our house in Virginia – over two years and counting! – I was very much sitting in the pessimistic camp. A quick and painless sale necessitated the finding of a temporary home. We’d made the commitment to the girls that they could finish out the school year before we hit the cRoad for our last big travel adventure. Thanks to Craig’s List we found a renovated apartment in a gracious old home in the Richmond neighborhood on the east side of Portland.
We Westies were not unfamiliar with life across the river. There’s much to love about crossing one of the twelve bridges that span the Willamette, and give Portland one of its nicknames – Bridgetown. More often than not, our bridge crossings were motivated by food. There is no denying that Portland is a food lover’s paradise and the east side is where it’s all happening. We follow a Portland eating guide which routinely publishes a list of what they deem “essential” Portland restaurants. A quick glance at the April list highlights eight restaurants in the west and thirty on the east side. So a move to the east has put us right in the center of foodie heaven.
One of the foodie trends that Portland is known for is donuts. There are many places to find donuts in Portland – even vegan ones. Probably the two key players in the donut game here are Voodoo and Blue Star. Voodoo donuts are quirky, fun and even a little risqué – fancy a cock-n-balls donut? They are a big hit with tourists and you’ll often see people in line at the airport clutching the distinctive pink and black Voodoo box. Gourmet is the word most often used to describe Blue Star donuts and they are the donut of choice for the Croads. Fortuitously, our move has put us within walking distance of our doughnut fix.
Last Friday was national donut day – yes, that is a thing – so what could we do but wander down the road and honor the Salvation Army “lassies” who served donuts to soldiers during World War One.
And that is where I will leave it, for my first post in close to two years!! Nice to know I haven’t forgotten how this blogging business works…until next time…
In my last post I talked about reading the Wildwood Chronicles as a way to get a feel for Portland – the place, the people and the culture. Another great research tool that I should have spent more time with, and which inevitably came up in conversation when we told people that we were moving to Portland, is the satirical comedy sketch series filmed in and around Portland. It goes by the name of Portlandia…
Portland has a reputation for…well…hipness – a reputation that I was even aware of back in New Zealand. When Olive and Edie were very little I began my foray into the world of crafting and the common denominator connecting many blogs I read, magazine articles I flipped through, and handmade objects I drooled over on Etsy, was…Portland. A quick rummage around the internet offers many reasons as to why Portland has the hip tag – hipsters like bikes apparently (which must make my husband the hippest guy around!) and Portland is known as a big cycling city; hipsters also apparently like good food and Portland is known as a foodie town; hipsters enjoy indie music and lo and behold there is a big indie music scene in Portland; hipsters like to be on the outside of traditional culture and in Portland they find that “alternative modes of thinking and doing” are welcomed. (Thanks to this site for the quote and many more musings on the origins of Portland’s hipness.)
Conceived by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, a couple of very hip writers, actors and musicians, Portlandia pokes fun at all the hipness through a range of characters like hip cyclist guy above; Toni and Candace, the rude owners of a feminist bookstore; stereotypical couple Lance played by Brownstein and Nina played by Armisen – she’s very girly, he’s very strong and tough; and by many situations involving Armisen and Brownstein as themselves. Their onscreen relationship was inspired by two very famous television pals – Bert and Ernie.
Carrie and Fred are often seen with the Mayor of Portland, hilariously played by Kyle MacLachlan, working on ways to preserve Portland’s hip culture. Mayor is worried that Seattle is going to steal Portland’s thunder as a hipper, greener, cooler place to live and so he enlists Carrie and Fred’s help as Portland ambassadors. (You’ll find a range of well-known guest stars appearing on Portlandia…people like Roseanne Barr, Selma Blair, Tim Robbins, Heather Graham, Kirsten Dunst…and of course Colin Meloy who wrote The Wildwood Chronicles. These guest stars are all a bit hip wouldn’t you say?!)
Full disclosure…I have watched a grand total of two episodes of Portlandia but as I’ve been writing this today I have sat through many more youTube clips….and I have laughed a lot. In one of the very first episodes we are introduced to characters Bryce Shivers and Lisa Eversman…what do they do you ask? Well…they put birds on things!
Put a bird on it has become something of a slogan for Portlandia…and you’ll even find an entry for it in Urban Dictionary. I found this great Salon article which goes a long way towards explaining Portlandia…its cultural impact and its, for want of a better word, philosophy. It was written in response to the put a bird on it phenomenon and is well worth a read.
So I can highly recommend Portlandia…New Zealand friends I’m keen to know if you’ve seen it over there…you can find it on Netflix or youTube. I believe they are working on the 6th season of the show and it was nominated for an Emmy in the recent awards.
As for me, I’m pretty pleased to discover that, as defined by Portlandia, I must be hip. Below is a picture of my collection of Moleskin notebooks…actually there are more…I just couldn’t find them all…I suspect the sketch below the picture was written with me in my mind…
Once we’d made the decision to move to Portland I set about doing some research. I flicked through some city guides and cycling guides, but the bulk of my research into our new home consisted of reading the Wildwood Chronicles – a children’s fantasy series which is set in Portland.
The Wildwood Chronicles are written and illustrated by a husband and wife team who live in Portland. Colin Meloy is the lead vocalist of Portland indie folk band The Decemberists and his wife, Carson Ellis, is an award winning children’s book illustrator. It’s got elements of fairy tale, Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Tolkien and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth; talking animals; evil industrialist tycoons and, to me anyway, a very strong plug for the power and benefits of meditation. Truth be told the reviews of this series are very mixed – it seems to be a love it or hate it kind of book. I’d seen it back in the library at John Kerr elementary – what attracted me to it is the illustrations – but I doubt I would have made time for it had it not been set in Portland. Having said that, I did enjoy all three of the chronicles. Possibly much of that was to do with the fact that I was reading about an environment that was soon to be my home. I read the books whilst still in Bend…they got me quite excited about the move!
In one of those lovely twists of fate, we have ended up living not far from Forest Park, the Wildwood which is the key setting of the stories. The Wildwood area is also home to Pittock Mansion, an historic home that was built in 1914 for one of Portland’s founding families. Pittock Mansion features in the Wildwood Chronicles – it is the seat of Government for South Wood. (In the Wildwood Chronicles, Forest Park is divided into North Wood which is pastoral and rural, whereas the South is industrialized and urban.)
Today we took a wee stroll through some of the Wildwood trails and had a quick look at the exterior of Pittock Mansion.
We are loving all the trees in Portland. We’ve nicknamed our house the tree house as that’s pretty much all you see from any of our windows, and luckily, we have a lot of them!
Much of our time since arriving in Portland has been focussed on the new house and the new school, but we did find some time last weekend to get away to the coast. One of the attractions of Portland – apart from all the trees – is it’s proximity to the sea, something us island dwellers sorely missed whilst in VA where it was a good three hour drive to get to the closest beach.
So twenty four days after arriving in Portland we are doing well. The girls and I even survived a whole week by ourselves when Richard was taking in the delights of Cincinnati and Boston last week.
I hope to be back soon with more about our new home. We hope that all our friends and family are well and happy and that you enjoy the beginnings of our Portlandia adventure!
As I’ve said before, our experience of public school thus far in the US has been, on the whole positive – so much so that we’re about to send the girls back to a public school in a couple of weeks. There is one area, however, where I do think New Zealand is doing a far superior job, and that’s education outside the classroom – and by that I don’t mean taking your maths books outside to sit under a tree whilst you do your sums.
The rationale for EOTC in New Zealand is outlined below:
“Students need to learn in a variety of contexts in order to gain the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values required to enjoy a healthy lifestyle; take responsibility for their own safety; form positive and respectful relationships with their peers, their teachers, and the environment; and participate in the creation of safer communities.”
EOTC can take many forms, some of which the girls have experienced here in the United States – trips to the library, the fire station, local museums etc. But as yet I have seen no evidence of our wonderful programmes which get kids, even those in a big city, right out into nature, those wonderful school camps which I remember fondly both as a student and a teacher.
When we went back to NZ in June, Olive and Edie’s cousin was off on a three night camp with his class. I camped overnight at school as an eight year old, had a week long camp at intermediate (6th and 7th grade), and there were numerous other camps of varying lengths whilst I was at high school. As a teacher I was involved in some sort of camp, school or marae sleepover, every year that I taught. Admittedly there was a huge amount of work involved in the planning and preparation of these activities, and they require a high level of parental support and involvement, but they were so good for building a real sense of community among the children and parents. And, most importantly, for those children who would never get the opportunity to go camping, they still had the chance to experience the great outdoors with all its fun and challenges.
My observation is that, here in the States, this type of education is something that you choose to do, usually in the summer and you have to pay to do it. A quick Google search tells me that at the top end, you can expect to pay around $7,000 for a four week sleep away camp. That’s not to say that camp at school in NZ is free. There is usually a cost involved but there is a real effort to ensure that noone misses out and fundraising to cover costs is one of the learning experiences that becomes part of the process. And it costs nothing to go and hike a local trail!
Right…I shall now climb down off my soapbox!
Mindful of the fact that the girls might not get exposed to much camping/hiking style education at school, and also wanting it to be part of our family routine, we took the girls out for their first night under canvas a couple of weeks ago.
We stayed in a campground at Three Creeks Lake near Sisters. We’d heard there was a good walk to do which started near the campground, but we didn’t want to jeopardize the good camping vibes we’d created by suggesting a five mile hike after packing up all the gear, so we made a visit to the Sisters Coffee Company instead!
Last Sunday we headed back to Three Creeks Lake to revisit the hike that had been abandoned in favour of caffeine. It’s called the Tam McArthur Rim and it promised spectacular views of many central Oregon mountains. The day, unfortunately, wasn’t particularly clear, but the temperature was cool – good conditions for an upward hike.
We’re off to Portland on Friday to hand in all our paperwork and have a tour round the girl’s new school – apparently there is an Australian family starting too, so we won’t be the only ones with funny accents! The school registration person I spoke to was super warm and welcoming so am already feeling good about it.
Take care everyone. Thanks for all the supportive and encouraging words regarding our next adventure. It really means a huge amount to all of us to know that we have so much positive energy directed our way…please keep it coming!!
Once again it’s been weeks between posts. The days are bulleting past with so much happening in our lives – this is the third time I’ve sat down to write this and I fear it’s going to be short on words but heavy on pictures..a roundup of sorts…things we’ve been up to. Stick with me though and I promise the closing paragraph will provide the big info…what next for the Croads!
Thanks for sticking with me. Whilst all the above activity was going on, we were navigating the changes taking place because of the sale of Taura Natural Ingredients, the company Richard works for. Many of you know that the whole reason we came to Bend is because of the impending sale of the company. As our VISA’s are tied specifically to Richard’s job with Taura we weren’t sure if we’d be staying or leaving when the company sold, so we came out West to see some more of the USA just in case it was our last chance to. Shortly before the girls and I headed to NZ, we found out that a large Israeli company had bought Taura and they were very keen for Richard to stay on in his role and they were happy for him to base himself wherever in the US he liked.
Whilst we have absolutely loved Bend, travel in and out of here is tricky and as Richard is on the road a lot we needed to be somewhere that didn’t add an extra day or two in travel time to every trip. We seriously considered San Francisco, but at the end of the day we have been won over by Oregon. In many ways it reminds us a lot of New Zealand, it’s less formal and conservative than where we were on the East Coast, the people are laid back and friendly and being on the West Coast puts us much closer to home – good for us travelling back to NZ and good for visitors too…hint hint!
So the big city of Portland is to be our new home. Our focus for the last few weeks has been house hunting and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we have bought a new home. It’s in what is known as the Southwest Hills area, about five miles from the centre of Portland.
So in just over two weeks we will be in our new – hopefully for longer than two years – home. Olive and Edie start school the day after we move in. It’s a public school which has an excellent reputation so we are all excited about it. There are a few nerves too – on all our parts. Just because we’ve done it so often doesn’t make it any easier and in some ways moving state is a bit like moving country – new driver’s license, new taxes, new insurance – but I shall refrain from moaning!
Our other big news is that we have invested in an organic candy bar company – American friends if you see OCHO on the shelves, give it a try.
So that is all the news from us. Next couple of weeks will no doubt be a blur of packing and organizing as well as trying to make the most of beautiful Bend before we leave. It’s been a wonderful experience and we feel pretty proud of the fact that we’ve been living in each other’s pockets, with few breaks, for nearly five months and we still like each other! Please send us lots of love and positive thoughts as we embark on another big adventure!! On the Croad again!!!