Excellent Adventure, days 3-5

countrycousinsSo the Great Wolf Lodge not only wears kids out by getting them wet, it also gets them RUNNING. Yes, running 10 miles, and loving it. No kidding.

They have this game called “MagicQuest.” It’s basically a scavenger hunt. Kids get an electronic “wand” encoded with their name. My son was Jengo Fett (from Star Wars). My daughter was Kitty. This game is confusing at first, and it took about an hour to get the hang of it.

Basically, you check in at a computer terminal. These are scattered throughout the humongous lobby/hallway space. Wave your wand, and you’re set.  A little booklet guides you to find five treasure chests, in sequence. They’re scattered in hallways, lobbies, and stair wells, throughout the main part of the building. The book offers clues to find the next treasure chest. Find it, wave your wand, and the top opens, and the treasure lights up. A computer voice tells you you’ve made it. Find all five, and you’re ready for your next journey… finding 5 plants (or whatever).

You have to find them in sequence. This is key to the 10 mile run.

Our kids were CRAZY about this game, and of course, we had to follow them around. I still gained a couple of pounds on the trip… don’t know how that happened!

The computer keeps track of progress. The goals speak their names, and tell them if they’ve followed the right sequence, and offer clues to the next goal. It’s very cool.  Except…

For the breakdown. The computers malfunctioned from 6pm Tues to 3pm Wed. This was the bulk of our trip!!!! Fortunately, they gave us a refund (it costs about $10 per kid to play). That’s okay, because our kids did enough to love it. The nice thing is that you didn’t have to scramble to keep the kids occupied… there was always something to do.

That included a massive video game room, where my son played Wii for a while.

We ate at Country Cousin’s restaurant. Ambiance: Great. Food: Pretty good.  We’d go back.

I got my blended coffee drink at Cuppa Joe’s, a little drive through that made the best sugar-free blended mocha’s I’d had in a long time.  Plus, they didn’t even blink when I said: sugar-free, blended, mocha, triple-shot, decaf, add one sweet and low.  No problem. Five stars for quality, price, and service.

GreatWolf09_6Check out time was Thursday at 10:00 a.m. We had enough time two swim, and my son FINALLY went down the “red” slide. We were as proud of him, as he was of himself. We scrambled to get packed and get out, and began our trip to the most excellent Aloft hotel in Portland.

I hate big scary bridges, and Portland has plenty, so we stopped and switched drivers. “Honey,” I said. “If you love me, you’ll stay in the center and go slow.” Margi, who has the gift of mercy, laughed. We liked the hotel so much (it’s cheap, contemporary, and VERY COOL), we stayed an extra night, and then blasted home in 1 day….

Portland09_8In Portland, we did the Portland Zoo. Fun times. We’ve been to bigger, better zoos, but this one was nice. They had an excellent “Birds of Prey” show, and you haven’t lived till you’ve seen a massive eagle swoop over an audience for a piece of meat.

I gotta confess: we got horribly lost in Portland several times. Google maps (iPhone) led us to non-existent locations Portland09_6twice. And I just read the map wrong a couple of times. The upside is that it added $$$ to my Bite Me Bank.

We went to Ikea!!! Margi’s first time, my second. Wow! That’s all I can say.

We went for Pizza at one place, but the wait was 45 minutes, and that doesn’t work jakesgrillwith kids. So we looked for another place, and ended up at a super-classy place, dressed like… uh… travelers.  It’s called Jake’s Grill.  Beautiful, old world ambiance. Dark, wood-paneled walls. Domed ceiling w/beautiful art. Expensive menu. Oops!  How did we end up here? We were hungry and desperate, so we stayed. Margi ordered filet mignon. I got penne pasta with sausage and chicken marinara. Kids got chicken strips (amazingly good, I know becuase I ate them) and pasta.

Fun part: a sleight-of-hand magician did some tableside magic, which we all loved.  How do they make that $5 bill float?  I mean, float away? Very cool.

After that: ice-skating at a mall. The kids were hooked on this. I had some so-so coffee at two different places. This was a bummer, because I thought Portland would offer awesome, strong, dark roast. I picked out two 5-star places on Yelp! and neither one offered dark roast!!!!!! Oh well.

Spent our final nite and the peaceful, clean, contemporary, cool, hip Aloft hotel. Loaded up the car.

Portland09_5Drove home, pausing in Medford at ScienceWorks Children’s museum. We enjoy the bubble room, where you can make soap bubbles as big as you are! The cool thing is that our Turtle Bay membership gets us in FREE!

Then the final push home.  Home is where the toilet seat fits just right.

An excellent trip, and we’ll do it again!

Bill & Family’s Excellent Adventure

FAMVAC1_1Day 1: Cram the compact car (Scion “It’s Hip to Be Square” xB) with suitcases, and stuff to keep the kids occupied. Outfit car w/special hanging stuff holders for each kid. Electronics ready to go.

For all grown ups who think… “When I was a kid, we didn’t have dvd players and we had to make our own fun..” I would like to respectfully point out that when you were a kid, you didn’t wear seat belts.  You got to move around the back of the car, burn off energy, goof off in the back of the station wagon, lay down and sleep.  Kids today are locked into place for hours on end in the car. The NEED SOMETHING to keep them from going loony.  Let’s belt you into a seat for four hours and see how you do.

Day 1: continued… drive 2.5 hours to Medford, OR.  Eat at Kaleidoscope… great pizza! I had sausage and pepperoni (avoiding the crust to be lo-carb), kids had pepperoni, Margi had (and loved) the Roxy Ann Pizza (chicken, portabello mushroom, roasted garlic, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and marinara… “Yummo!” she said).

Next, play at Rogue Family Fun Center… climbing structure, kid-sized go carts, arcade, bumper boats, and mini-golf. This worked great for us, as it broke the 4.5 hour drive into 2 manageable chunks, and let the kids burn off energy.  IT WAS HOT, triple digits. But we’re used to that…

FAMVAC1I have to say I LOVE MY iPHONE!

  • The maps feature is amazing.  I pre-programmed all our stops (bookmarked) into google maps.  Whenever we wanted to go somewhere, the GPS found our location, and plotted a map to our next destination.
  • PLUS… I found an adaptor that made my iPhone work as an iPod with my car-radio. That meant I could play my own music and podcasts thru the car stereo.
    • Margi and I fell in love with the STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.  So entertaining, informative, funny… We probably listened to 50 podcasts on the journey… everything from Alien Hand Syndrome to Habeas Corpus. The kids had their own videos, books, workbooks, and Nintendo-DS’s to keep them going.
  • I also came to love YELP (free)… it helps you find local restaurants and coffee shops, complete with ratings.
  • AROUND ME, is another free app to quickly find places on your iPhone.

Day 1: continued… back into the car… Drive 2 hours north to Eugene, OR. We checked into the Holiday Inn Express. We both liked this hotel.  Clean and spacious rooms. Went swimming. Had dinner, but I forget where.  Margi reminded me… we tried Outback (my daughter’s fav), but couldn’t get in. We went to an okay steak place nearby, but forgot the name.  Then… off the the Lane Ice Skating Arena, where our kids strapped on skates for the first time.

THEY WERE AMAZING!  Our daughter was instantly hooked… The place was almost empty… maybe 8 people on the ice. A very nice kid named Alex (13 years old, and a FANTASTIC skater) helped them out, and gave our son a real hockey puck!!! By the end of the night, the only person on the big ice-arena was our daughter.  She wouldn’t quit (she got her mom’s stubbornness tenacity).

FAMVAC1_2Margi was also amazing on the ice, but wouldn’t let me take pictures… Then off for GELATO, at a great place called Lago Blu Gelato.  One chocolate, one vanilla (kids), one dark chocolate hazelnut for Margi.  I was still, at this point, being lo-carb, so nothing for me.  The Gelato was wonderful… and back to the hotel where we put four very tired people to bed.

Next morning… I found some of the best coffee in my whole life at a little coffee shop near the university.  It’s called Espresso Roma.  Great, full, rich dark roast coffee. Yeah. Excellent, hip place.

More tomorrow…