Posted: April 17, 2014 in California
The Chandelier Tree

The Chandelier Tree

Back to California. Well, I’m not really back in California … but blogging wise I am.

We headed away from the coast and inland through the town of Leggett and then north toward Humboldt State Park.

“You want to go there?” C. asks me, pointing toward a sign for the Chandelier Tree.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” I say. I do not care that we will see many other big trees. I do not care that it will take time away from getting to the park. I do not care that it costs $5.00 … because this … this very tree … is the site of a Weddle Family Adventure.

When our kids were young we went a lot of places on very little money. One of the ways we saved money was buying a box of donuts for breakfast. A couple dollars for a dozen donuts certainly was less expensive than $20.00 to buy four people breakfast at a restaurant. (Ok, nutritionists – we usually ate healthy breakfasts – just not on trips.)

On one of our many journeys, we drove through Washington and then headed south through Oregon and northern California on Highway 101.

C. driving through the tree.

C. driving through the tree.

We had stayed in Redcrest the night before in a quaint little cabin, surrounded by redwoods. I remember the cabin being cozy with patchwork quilts on the beds and …  I digress.  The next morning we started on down the highway and broke open the very nourishing breakfast of chocolate donuts. I had one. Kelli had one. Ken had one (maybe two) and Jeff … well, let’s say he sat in back of our station wagon in chocolate donut glory as he finished off the rest of the box.

Several more miles down the windy, bendy, slightly hilly road – the donuts once again made an appearance – this time rather forcefully. You have never (well, if you have kids, you probably have) seen such a mess – all in the back seat of the car.

We pulled over by the South Fork Eel River. And Jeff did what he could to get cleaned up. Didn’t help. We wiped and scrubbed and wiped and scrubbed the car. Didn’t help.

No way were we going to get this mess cleaned up without a for-real bathroom with for-real soap … and yet there we were out in the middle of miles and miles of California redwoods.  The nearby outhouses didn’t really provide any kind of solution.

We decided to continue down the road and look for a place to do the job.

And that’s when we found the Chandelier Tree. And paid the money. And used their restroom. And we’ve always teased Jeff about having to pay to drive through a tree to clean up the chocolate donut mess. (We had already driven through a tree for free further up the road.)

Us on a long ago summer vacation driving through the Chandelier Tree with a (once again) clean son and a fairly clean car.

Us on a long ago summer vacation driving through the Chandelier Tree with a (once again) clean son and a fairly clean car.

So how could I miss the opportunity to drive through it again?

The Chandelier Tree is called that because supposedly the branches look like a chandelier, but I didn’t really notice that (either time) and didn’t know that’s why it was called that until I got home and Wikipedia clued me in.

The place consists of the tree, a picnic area and a gift shop.

C. and I were there on a March morning and we had to wait for one other car. I’m guessing summer Sunday afternoons there would be quite a long wait. Because you just don’t wait for the cars to go through the tree, but for the passenger to take a picture of the car while the driver drives through and then for the driver to trade places and the other person drives and the …  You get the picture (no pun intended).

But wow – what a nostalgic memory …



Posted: April 7, 2014 in CHICAGO

The 10-year-old munchkin asked if I would take him to the Lego Discovery Center for his birthday (which was actually back in February). I said, “yes.”

I had checked it out before and most reviews talked about it being overpriced, but if you went later in the day you saved $2.00 per ticket. So – the dilemma – go early and pay more or go later and experience rush hour. I’ve been in the area for rush hour before and know you often have to wait bumper to bumper to get back on the highway.

So we went early – on a Saturday.

And it is expensive – $18.00 a piece no matter if you’re 3 or 103. They also had an activity pack for sell which we didn’t get – for $5.00 a piece. (Later I checked on their website and read that it’s simply a couple puzzles.)

You gotta figure – How great could this place be when it’s stuck between two other stores in a strip mall?

The first area we went into was the Lego Chicago which was my favorite display of the entire place. From there, we went through a jungle area and then a Star Wars area. We also went on two rides – the first where you go through a tunnel and shoot at displays and another ride that goes round a center pole and the harder you pedal, the higher you go. Maybe or maybe you just go high and low no matter what you do.

We skipped the 10-minute 4D movie since the munchkin doesn’t like 4D and I’m not all that crazy about them myself.  The “factory” tour was sort of pathetic and took about three minutes.

Next we stood in a line waiting to go into a room and get a lesson in Lego building. We were all given a little bag filled with about 12 pieces and learned how to make a giraffe. That was all well and good and cute – but to actually KEEP them, we had to pay $5.00 for each bag. If we didn’t want to keep them, we had to take them apart and stick the pieces back in the bag for the next group. (Don’t even think about the germs.)

We wandered through the gift shop which is not as big as the downtown Lego store or the Disney Lego stores either.

But it wasn’t really a negative experience. The munchkin had fun and I had fun with the munchkin and liked seeing him having fun, so I was ok with it all.

We then went across the parking lot to the Rainforest Cafe – which was also fun.

The end.

Chicago - in Legos

Chicago – in Legos

The lights went dim to give an appearance of night ... which was very cool.

The lights went dim to give an appearance of night … which was very cool.


The picture and the letter was part of a scavenger hunt which wasn't very hard to scavenger.

The picture and the letter was part of a scavenger hunt which wasn’t very hard to scavenger.


The Jungle Room.

The Jungle Room.


A scary spider/black light

A scary spider/black light

Star Wars

Star Wars




Silvers at the Wharf

Posted: March 31, 2014 in California

We had had a busy day – all in the blustery wind. We had done the Skunk Train, walked around Mendicino, visited Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and climbed the rocks at Glass Beach. Now we were hungry. The first night in town we had eaten at an Italian Restaurant which wasn’t bad, but we wanted something “oceany.”

We asked at the desk and they told us to go the wharf where there was a lot of restaurants – but where was the wharf? We had seen trains and gift shops and the ocean … but no wharf. Turns out the wharf was tucked into a small bay, surrounded by hills – hidden away from the main thoroughfare.

The wharf looked exactly like you would expect a wharf to look – no tourism here, just some fishing companies and a few restaurants. We headed for Silvers and asked for a seat overlooking the water.


This is the view from our table - the flowers were on the table.

This is the view from our table – the flowers were on the table.

We did have an Olallieberry cobbler. What's an Olallieberry, you ask? An Olallieberry is a cross between a loganberry and a young berry which are crosses between blackberries and in the case of the loganberry - a raspberry - and in the case of the young berry - a dewberry. Very berryish no matter how you look at it.

We did have an Olallieberry cobbler. What’s an Olallieberry, you ask? An Olallieberry is a cross between a loganberry and a young berry which are crosses between blackberries and in the case of the loganberry – a raspberry – and in the case of the young berry – a dewberry. Very berryish no matter how you look at it.

After dinner I took a picture of the bay from the road.

After dinner I took a picture of the bay from the road.


Posted: March 28, 2014 in California

DSC03353When Cindy asked if I wanted to put Glass Beach on our itinerary, I immediately said, “yes.”

When we first moved to Wisconsin, we used to spend hours walking along the Lake Michigan beach, picking up glass.  We’d fill up jars and put it on our windowsills and the sunlight sparkled in beautiful colors. However, the last few times we were in Wisconsin, we looked but couldn’t find any glass. I guess when they turned North Beach into one of the best beaches in the country, that included cleaning up the sea glass.

So seeing the Fort Bragg Glass Beach seemed like the thing to do.

Although I think the Wisconsin glass was mostly from people having picnics and late night campfires on the beach (illegal or not), but the Fort Bragg Glass Beach is a result of people back in the beginning of the 20th century actually throwing garbage over the cliffs into the water.  In fact, at that time it was called “The Dumps.” Every once in a while, fires would be set to burn the trash. However, as the beach was cleaned up, the waves would bring in the broken glass, rounding out the sharp edges to smooth pieces.

They even have a Glass Festival. (And are thinking about replenishing the glass.)

But even though they make it known that you are not supposed to take glass from the beach, many people do. Reading the Trip Advisor reviews, many said they didn’t see a single piece of glass left.

So don’t get too excited.

The wind was extremely chilly on the day we went and walking on the high bluffs of course, made it even more windy and chilly, but we made our way across the bluff and then had to climb down some rocks. They weren’t too treacherous, but it wasn’t a well laid-out path either. I’m guessing many would choose not to climb down.

The part of the beach we headed for was small and in between some rocks (that you couldn’t get over), but there was at least some glass there.  And the ocean view through the rocks was pretty.


Point Cabrillo

Posted: March 24, 2014 in California, Uncategorized

Once we got off the Skunk Train and back on land, we headed to Mendocino and walked around town.

Ok, this is weird. I took a couple books with me to enjoy during the vacation days. And the one I chose to read was, coincidentally about Mendocino. As we were walking around town I saw a store called Corners of the Mouth. The name stuck out with me because I wondered how mouths could have corners.

But one of the people in the fiction story worked at Corners of the Mouth.

We passed a small Baptist church.

The girl in the story talked about attending her “small Baptist church.”

Kind of interesting.



We then started back to Fort Bragg with a stop at the Point Cabrillo lighthouse. Actually it was when an opium brig wrecked off Point Cabrillo back in 1870 that led to the exploration of the area and the discovery of the nearby redwood forests and thus the beginning of the lumber camps in the area.

The lighthouse was built in the early 1900s and started service in 1908.

The parking lot is about a 1/2 mile from the light itself – so first you walk to get to where you’re going. The wind was still whipping around and the closer we got to the point, the whippier it got.

I have seen beautiful lighthouses  (the one we lived by in Racine is one of the best) – this lighthouse was more on the “cute” side (if lighthouses can be cute).  However, the point itself was beyond compare. Standing on the edge of the bluff overlooking the Pacific and listening to the waves splash against the rock was beyond compare. I think heaven will have some scenes like that.

I wish I could have put it all in a box and brought it home. Pictures don’t begin to tell the story.

DSC03343 DSC03350 DSC03349 DSC03348


The Skunk Train

Posted: March 22, 2014 in California


DSC03337Outside of the coastal town of Fort Bragg, California, train tracks head through the redwood forest (but new growth redwoods, not as magnificent as the trees in other areas), along Pudding Creek and then along the banks of the the Noyo River into the town of Willits, forty miles away.

The track, part of the California Western Railroad,  was originally laid in 1885 to carry redwood logs to and from the lumber camps. The approximate halfway mark is a stop called Northspur.

Originally the trains were powered by steam but were then replaced by gas-power. People said you could smell them before you saw them, so the name “Skunk Train” became popular.

Now the Skunk Train mostly carries tourists, although some of the people who live in isolated houses on isolated land along the isolated route, still depend on the train to bring needed supplies. I think (not positive) the conductor also said that some of the kids from the few camps along the route get to ride to camp on the train. (Again, not sure, but that’s what I understood.)

Because of the season – the train (on the day we rode) only ran from Fort Bragg to Northspur where we had lunch and then returned to Fort Bragg. We went through a deep and VERY DARK tunnel (which collapsed last year and almost closed down the railroad. Enough donations were given to fix it and last August, the train again began to run). The tunnel was dug by hand back in the day.

From what I’ve read, the second half of the ride between Northspur and Willits might be the more exciting – the train travels up the mountain until it reaches a tunnel at the top. (The train actually travels 8.5 miles of switchbacks to go less than a straight-line mile.)  The first half (from Fort Bragg to Northspur) was pretty, but to be honest, not spectacular.   Don’t get me wrong. I truly enjoyed it and would do it again, but it did not have spectacular scenery such as, for instance, the Georgetown Loop Train out in Colorado.

But I’m thinkin’ that second half might have had some spectacularity to it.

The ride did a lot to simply help me relax, however, after going nonstop the past couple months.  I needed that and that made it all worthwhile. We passed some interesting mining camp remains, had good narration by the conductor and were serenaded by a young man who specialized in train songs. (I’ll see if I can post a video.)

After about an hour and a half or so we arrived in Northspur and had a 45 minute break. You could purchase hotdogs, brats and hamburgers and fortunately, hot chocolate, since it was a just a little cold. The food was grilled right there in front of a miniature train set.  The place smelled like camp … which is a good thing. Picnic tables were set up – but it was damp and cold so we didn’t sit very long.

Then we got back on the train and returned to Fort Bragg.

Up the Coast

Posted: March 18, 2014 in California

After checking out what the Golden Gate Bridge looks like under the clouds, we headed up the coast on the windy Route #1.  We passed miles of beautiful shoreline – and headed for Bodega Bay. We had heard there was a great little restaurant there – a great place to get fish and chips.

And we found the restaurant, but both got the clam chowder bread bowl. Wow! Very, big-chunks-of-vegetables delicious. Even though it was a little chilly and cloudy, we ate outside on the patio.

A great Pacific Coast meal.