Perfect PDX Surf Weekend

A few months ago we were searching for a couple to join us at the coast for a weekend of yurting and surfing. After texting and emailing everyone we knew, it was my parents that ended up coming with us and it was a lot of fun. The practice of reaching out generated a lot of fun conversations through, and sparked my friend Emily and her husband Ryan to say “we can’t go, but let’s get something on the calendar!” and we did! We set aside a late July weekend and before we knew it, it was here. We made plans to do a quick weekend trip to Portland and tacked on a surf day in Manzanita. Result: seriously one of the best trips ever!

Now, let’s backtrack a bit. Emily and I had actually only ever met 3 times prior, but had always instantly hit it off. Matt and Ryan were added to the mix last time we hung out, at a mutual friend’s wedding over two years ago (!) but we all clicked so well that it was not had to imagine that this trip would be awesome.

Matt and I woke up early, strapped our surf board to the roof of the car and hopped on a 7:30 ferry to Southworth (super sneaky bonus of living on Vashon…no I-5 to get to the coast!) and were walking down the trail to Short Sands by noon. We love this beach and had surfed on a prior trip, but this time the conditions were perfect. No current at all. Great clean sets of gentle but largeish waves. We both caught some amazing rides. We rented 1 board (we are in the market for a second for us) and switched back and forth with ours. The water was clear and warm (for PNW standards) and we were in the water until after 5PM surfing until we could surf no more.

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A week prior we snagged an opening at Nehalem Bay State Park campground (super crowded campsite, but free hot showers and easy access to the beach) and set up camp. We got a pizza and salad to go at Marzanos and ate it on the beach while watching the sun go down. Then we slept; exhausted from a full day in the water.

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By 7:30 the next morning we had packed up and left with the rest of the campground still asleep. Breakfast was coffee and chocolate chip zucchini bread on the beach, we checked out Indian Beach at Ecola State Park to kill 20 minutes while the surf shop opened, returned out board and hit the road to Portland.

Emily and Ryan welcomed us to their sweet new house in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, and then we headed out for a full day of adventure, food and good conversation. As I mentioned, we really do not know each other that well, and it was so refreshing to have a full day to learn more about each other! We hit up all four quadrants of Portland and so much good food.

Stop 1: ¿Por Que No? for tacos. This hole in the wall gem was awesome. Matt and I shared 5 different tacos and ate them like wine tasting…lightest to darkest starting with the pescado and ending with smoky barbacoa. My favorite? Carnitas. So good!

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Stop 2: Saturday Market. What is there to say about the Saturday Market? Art vendors, food trucks, promenade along the river? Great time to just be outdoors in Portland. Emily and I both picked up some local art and the husbands talked about beer…which took us to our next stop…

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Stop 3: Bridgeport Brewery for some summertime refreshment. Let’s just say 20oz glasses of IPA in the summer made us all a little extra happy and it was nice that Emily is pregnant and happy to be our DD. Lots and lots of laughter and stories over beers drummed up conversation about dinner (aka more food!) and the idea of sushi. Emily got a glint in her eye and hatched a plan to take us to another neighborhood.

Stop 4: Saburo’s Sushi. Hole in the wall, nothing fancy from the outside…except that usually it has at least a 90 minute wait. We lucked out with a 20 minute wait. BEST SUSHI EVER! Huge rolls, super fresh, reasonably priced. We tried 5 or 6 different rolls and had leftovers. Leftovers from sushi? That NEVER happens! Real crab in the California roll even. We will be back.

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Stop 5: game shop #1 and #2 to buy Settlers of Catan.

Stop 6: attempted Salt and Straw ice cream but saw the line and just went home to play games!

After an evening of games we crashed, and the next morning went for breakfast and then parted ways. It was so much fun to catch up with Ryan and Emily and see their beautiful city.

Matt and I had a few more to-dos in town…unfortunately checking out the surf shops for used boards was out since they are closed Sunday (boo!). What was a success was revisiting Sat and Straw. Ice cream right after breakfast? Why not! That is what road trips are for right?!

We waltzed in at 11:08am (no line!) and tried ~10 different flavors. I settled on VEGAN mint coconut chocolate whoopee pie. Seriously amazing and possibly some of the best ice cream I have ever had…and totally vegan/dairy free! We were impressed. Matt had excellent bourbon coffee and salted caramel swirl. We sat in the sunshine and enjoyed our ice cream. Perfect end to a weekend.

The drive back to Vashon was pretty painless. Sneaking up to Southworth and skipping I-5 is the way to go. Pulled up just in time for a boat and was home by 4:00. Awesome weekend…and cannot wait to go back to Portland!

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October Surf

After months of prep and painting we finally gave ourselves permission to pause on the house and go for a much anticipated surf vacation. A mini trip to the Washington coast was exactly what we needed. We had roughly scouted out where to go, and decided on Grayland Beach state park…just south of where we would surf in Westport.

Friday afternoon Matt picked me up from work in a SUPER full car and we headed to the coast with no visibility out out windows. Camping in a mini cooper is quite a feat. But hey, when you only have one vehicle you work with what you have!

A mere 2.5 hours later and we were in Westport! First stop: a surf shop to get the lay of the land. We inquired about boards and surf breaks and then went to check out the jetty.

What a great spot! It was cloudy and foggy that afternoon but the weekend forecast was for warm, sunny weather. And SO MANY sand dollars! You could not go more than a few steps without reaching for another one!

Our campsite was great and had easy access to the beach. Next time we may try out one of the yurts.

Day one of surfing was fun, but hard. The current was pushing pretty hard south and the surf was really mushy and fast. It was exhausting to get yourself out far enough to catch a cleaner wave. We both had a great time though and were totally wiped and sporting sunburned faces out when we headed to dinner.

Sunset from our campground. We drank tea and watched it go down…and saw A GREEN FLASH! This elusive phenomenon has been on my family’s hit list for YEARS and we finally saw one!!! So cool!

Sunday was a down day and thank goodness…we were exhausted! We decided to explore the area and took a drive up to Moclips and the other seaside towns to the North. We stopped for clam chowder and ice cream in Ocean Shores before heading back to Grayland for a long beach walk.

Monday was the highlight though. After an ok breakfast at the Blue Bouy we stopped by the surf shop for boards. We grabbed two long boards and hit the road.

We got to the beach and saw exactly what we were hoping for: clean, easy, long breaks with no current. Beautiful!

I spent the morning catching wave after wave while Matt struggled with the other board. At lunch we swapped and then he was having all the success! Eventually even getting out to the “real” lineup at the back and catching big green waves like a pro! It was incredible to see how far we have come! Unfortunately I did not have better luck with the second board either. For some reason neither of us could catch a wave on it even though it was a bigger, longer board. The balance we could just not get down. Goes to show that we need to try out boards before we buy as they are NOT equal!

We surfed until nearly 5, showered and headed back to camp for the sunset and dinner. What a sunset it was! Probably one of the top 5 of my life. Seriously, how spectacular is this?!:

What a wonderful getaway. No cell service, awesome waves and only a few hours from home. We are already itching to go back!

Travel Essentials

We love to travel, particularly to places with beaches, good food, fun activities and sunshine. Since Matt and I met, we have crammed in a massive amount of travel and gotten good at streamlining our essentials. Yes, I still overpack EVERY time…but am getting better I swear!

This past weekend I finally finished unpacking from our winter trip to Belize. The dirty laundry had been done, so this was truly a good look at the unused (ie: overpacked!) list of items we hauled with us. I have been meaning to do this post for awhile since a few people ask me what my favorite travel items are. We leave for Todos Santos (our favorite secret getaway in Baja!) for surf trip in a few weeks so packing is on my mind! I also just got two new things that I had to share. So here goes:

1. A good swimsuit (or two!) I used to pack 8+ suits for a beach vacation. I loved the fun prints and mixing and matching and all the variety. However, this all changed when we started surfing. Function, or ability to stay on quickly became top priority so I have been on the search for the perfect suit. Goodbye cute VS suits. My favorite surf suit top was this cross back bikini top from Rip Curl but it came in limited colors and I wanted more than just black. Then recently I stumbled upon a women owned (!) made in the USA (!) competition brand (ie: stays put!) swim suit company called Jolyn…and am in LOVE with their cross back tops! Designed for beach volleyball you know these things stay put, and are made very well with high quality materials. Two will be coming to Todos Santos with me, and the rest of my swimsuits are getting donated. There is no going back.

PRINTED TRIANGLE TOPS

2. Sunscreen: We love the mineral sunscreens by Alba Botanical. They stay put, work well and are not overly scented. SPF 45+ please!

Kids  Mineral  Broad Spectrum SPF 30

3. Nalgene bottles are always in tow.

4. Small coin purse. I always end up with a TON of loose coins so this guy is a lifesaver.

5. Camera(s). Right now we are borrowing my parent’s Panasonic Lumix underwater camera. They have the TS4 model and it has been awesome. Great underwater pictures, and the ability to WASH it after a day getting salty/sunscreeny/dirty etc…so valuable. I love my DSLR but at the beach the salt spray is too much. I usually bring it on the trip too, but it is taken out less regularly than the Lumix. Finally, the trusty iPhone5. This little camera is great for quick shots, particularly in low light or those cool panoramic shots.

6. Coconut Oil. Now this may sounds weird but hear me out on this one. Packing/traveling light is all about multipurpose essentials and coconut oil is the ultimate multitasker. We usually pick up a jar at the grocery store when we land and use up the whole thing in a week. (or bring one with us if we are checking a bag…but that is rare these days). What do we use it for? After sun lotion, hair conditioner, shaving cream, cooking (great for fish, plantains, pork, chicken etc!), baking (instead of vegetable oil)…the list goes on. Seriously a great staple.

7. iPad and card reader. As much as I love taking photos when I travel I am always aware of how quickly they could disappear. Theft (of a camera or memory cards), loss, water damage, husband accidentally deleting photos on the camera…not worth the risk. We back up ALL our photos daily by downloading them onto our iPad with a card reader. Then we have duplicates on cards.

8. Bandanna. Another multitasker. Head sun protection (really critical now that I have bangs), washcloth, ice pack, napkin…

9. Rainbow flip flops. 4 years in and still going strong. Matt and I wear them all summer long and LIVE in them on vacation.

Single Layer Premier Leather with Arch Support

10. Smart bags: daypack, beach bag, cooler bag. The beach bag must be easy to pack, fold, wash etc. An insulated cooler bag is great for getting groceries home in hot weather. And good for keeping beers cold at the beach. We use one from Trader Joe’s.

Summer Finale: Surfing with Seals

Leaves are starting to turn. That was the first observation we made as the pack mini cooper zipped down the Washington coast. Fall is in the air. This was definitely an end of summer trip.

Matt and I took five glorious days to adventure the Oregon Coast. Camping, road tripping and most of all: surfing! After two great trips to Todos Santos we were ready to legitimize ourselves as surfers and tackle local, cold water.

Months ago we picked the week, and then managed to snag 4 nights at Nehalem Bay State park for camping. Those reservations fill up WAY in advance! We loaded the car, crossed our fingers for good weather and waves and set off.

Our campsite was good. What you would expect from an RV filled state park, but it did have hot showers, running water and was a quick 5 minute walk to the beach. We were blessed with dry weather, and even two days of sunshine.

The beach walk from our site was beautiful. Miles of fine grained sand, waves and treasures to find. We had fun running from the tide changes, taking photos and dipping our toes in the freezing cold Pacific. We were planning to surf in this? Are you nuts?!

Surfing was spectacular. The first day we rented two beginner boards like what we were familiar with from Mexico. We hiked in to Short Sands beach at Oswald West State Park and bundled up in our wet suits. Fully covered except for our faces, we were totally comfortable in the water. Not even a goose bump! We tackled the waves on our beginner boards and by the second day had leveled up to a REAL epoxy hard top board. Surfers we can legitimately say we are!

There were even seals playing in the surf with us. It was incredible. We are totally hooked.

Dinners were grilled melts with tomato soup. Smore’s for dinner. We hiked out to the beach for breakfast picnics on a sand dune.

On our surf recovery day we ventured along the coast to find a lighthouse, some new beaches, more supplies and ice cream at the Tillamook factory.

Oregon, you are a stunner. We will be back for more surf soon.

Details:

Camped at: Nehalem Bay State Park

Surf rentals: Cleanline Surf (Cannon Beach)

Surf beach: Short Sands

Persistence Pays Off!

It pays to check back!

Last spring we decided to do a surf/road/camping trip to the Oregon cost. On recommendations from some local surfing friends (thanks Anna and Heather!) we selected Manzanita, OR as our destination with the intent of trying out our cold water surf skills at Short Sands. Dates were picked, vacation applied for at work, and….well, there were no camp spots available. NONE. Zero. Apparently this place is in demand.

I decided to sit on it and see if we can up with a good backup. Hotels are great but add up quickly and we really wanted to camp.

Well today, on a whim, I rechecked the reservation website. ONE. SITE. AVAILABLE! Woohoo!! I snatched it up and am happy to report that we are camping at Nehalem Bay State Park in September!

It pays to be persistent! And after scouting out photos from Todos Santos last night to frame and hang up, I am really itching for some surf!

Vashon Island’s Baja Twin: Todos Santos

While the PNW is our true home, and Vashon Island our specific perfect “place”, we have found our sunnier, tropical “place twin” in the Baja town of Todos Santos. Last year Matt and I ventured down to Baja on a last minute trip with the goal of learning to surf. What we found was a place that we immediately knew we needed to come back to. This year (for my FINAL spring break EVER!) we trekked back, this time for a 10 day stay in our artsy, foodieetreat.

We left Seattle on a Friday morning, and by 4:30 had picked up our first rental car. Our first turn out of the lot revealed a broken turn signal so back again for a new car. New car? Yep, as in NEW car. Eek! Not ideal for rough Baja dirt roads! It ended up working out really well, and we actually appreciated the good shocks. We pulled out of the airport and cruised (ahem…perhaps a bit over the speed limit) across the peninsula to Cabo San Lucas to our first stop: MEGA supermercado. This place is our first point of call to stock up on groceries for the week. A highlight: the massive bakery. Since this was our second trip we were much quicker at navigating the isles, and picked up a tray and tongs for bakery goodies like old pros. Oh it feels good to be back! Sun was not on our side, so most of the drive was spent in the dark. Thank goodness we knew where we were going! We navigated across dirt roads and back alleys to arrive at Casa Rancho…our home for the next nine nights.

Dinner was yummy dishes from the MEGA hot line…some of the best chille rellenos I have ever had. It is so fun to try all the local food! We slept well that first night, especially since the next day was surfing!

We decided to alternate days of surfing and down time/adventures to other beaches. The approach saved our hands/knees/bodies from the wreckage of being beginner surf bums. Our first day at Cerritos we grabbed a board, two wet suits and hit the water. Matt had a good long session and then I went out. And lasted a whole 20 mins. Remember when I fell down the stairs carrying wine a few weeks back? Well that bruised?/sore? tailbone hit the sand once and I was out. Ouch. Not fun for surfing. I spent the rest of the day watching the waves and soaking up sun.

The rest of the trip was full of sun, sand and new adventures. Since this was our second trip, and longer than the first, we were a little worried that this small town would become too boring. How wrong we were! We discovered new beaches, new places to eat (La Casita, Café El Triunfo), world’s best flan, jugo de naranja, amazing refried beans from the tortilla lady’s husband, a new side town to visit and totally fell in love with the place all over again. There were old favorites too: the ice cream place, day trip to La Paz (more about that coming) and of course cooking and hanging out at the Casa.

 

One of our favorite day trips was a drive to La Paz. About 40 minutes across Baja we shot down on Hwy 1 to an old mostly abandoned silver mining town called El Triunfo that was recommended as a good place to stop. We wandered the cute streets, took photos of brightly blighted buildings and stumbled upon the place we were looking for (and apparently the only place in town!): Café El Triunfo! In the center of town is a beautifully restored brick building that has a stunning garden seating patio area for the café. We ordered a pizza and some fresh squeezed orange juice and escaped the hot morning sun under a big umbrella. The pizza was good, but the JUICE! Oh my that jugo de naranja! I was in heaven! It was hand pressed from fresh oranges and I had to order two. I must have drunk nearly a half gallon that morning. Such a great morning side trip. In the afternoon we headed to La Paz to visit some beaches. We started with one we went to last year, ___ and then found the real gem: _____. This beach had crystal clear water that was just over knee deep all the way across the bay. We walked in the warm, calm water (Sea of Cortez is MUCH warmer than the Pacific in Todos Santos where you surf) and just soaked in the beautiful scenery. It was truly one of the most stunning and enjoyable beaches I have ever been too. Great day crossing Baja!

We found three more new beaches in Todos Santos…one for buying fish off the boat (100 pesos for a whole tuna! That is like $8!), one for big waves and a cool hilltop hike, and the surf break further North up the coast. It was fun exploring new places, and these were great rest day adventures when we did not surf.

But surf we did! Four days at Cerritos was not enough…especially since the tides were not being cooperative. The tide was WAY WAY out for most of the day meaning if you wipe out (very likely) you do it in about 6-12 inches of water. Sand + wipeout = not fun…so we walked the beach instead. And ate ice cream bars. And flan. And found sand dollars. And got sun. And swam. So clearly it was not a real loss, but we would have like more time in the waves on a surfboard. The final day waves picked up late afternoon and we surfed until the board shop guys called us in. We could have kept going for hours though. The waves were perfect, the water crystal clear, and the sun was stunning in the evening beach glow.

 

Summary: great trip. We are going back. We have found our sunny warm twin to Vashon island. As Matt put it, Vashon and Todos Santos are twins that were separated at birth and grew up with different parents but share the same spirit. Both our totally our kind of place.

 

Surfers

part 5 of our trip to Todos Santos, part one starts HERE

Matt and I are proud to say that we are surfers. Maybe we are still only on the inner break, and maybe we don’t have the board skills to hang ten, but we can paddle out, pick a wave, catch it, and ride it all the way in. And come up grinning.

After the big surf the day before, we were concerned that we may have missed our opportunity to surf again, but we rolled into the sand parking lot at Cerritos early again the next morning and found nothing but constant, medium surf and the fog rolling out. It was going to be a beautiful day.

We each got a shortie wetsuit and rented one board to share. We figured that taking turns was the smartest way to go, and it turned out to be a great option. We took turns in the waves working on our form. When in the waves I made friends with another surfer gal that had been taking lessons the same day we did. She and I started talking and became surf buddies. Turns out that she and her husband were on their honeymoon, loved learning to surf, and had a ton in common with us! A vacation friendship was born.

For lunch we bought a sopa from a guy with a cooler under the lifeguard stand. After a long day of surfing, we reluctantly turned in our gear (our bodies were just too shot to keep going…surfing is hard work!) and treated ourselves to a post-beach drink with our honeymooning friends at their hacienda. Margaritas by the pool were a great treat.

Just as the sun was dipping down, we said goodbye and drove back to Todos Santos in search of dinner. By this time we realized how hungry we were, and the massive burros (that is right, these are big enough that they are not even called burritos) we heard about earlier sounded like they would hit the spot. I ordered a chicken one and Matt had beef. The oozy cheese and grilled char on the chicken gave that same satisfying feeling of tucking into a massive burger after a long day of skiing.