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Introduction

This is a rather disjointed summary of our trip to Amsterdam, Cologne, Bavaria, and Paris this summer. We traveled from July 1st to July 15th and spent most of the trip (except flying) with my sister. She lives in Cologne. The post is mostly about capturing things that will hopefully trigger our imagination later in conjunction with the images we captured. There are oh so many images. I may never sort through them. Heck, I don’t think I even finished the posts about Yellowstone or South Africa yet. Thus, these will be fairly succinct.

back to day one

Day one was travel. To save money on airfare, we flew out of Seattle and landed in Amsterdam (and left from Paris). Even though we’ve known we were going for months, there was still a last minute rush to organize and thin our carry-on bags. Then, we loaded up the cars and made great time getting to Tacoma, where we stashed the cars with a friend. We dropped off the luggage and grabbed some horrible food from a dumpy teriyaki place. To wear out the kids before the long flight, we went to Kadel Park, where there’s a wave pool. Even though the skys were cloudy and the weather rather cool, we spent nearly 2 hours in the water playing and swimming. Everyone agreed that it was a blast. We took an Uber to SeaTac (there were no Lyft drivers) and our driver was a lifetime welder from Vietnam. Really cool guy who got us there in no time. We also raced through security and had to find ways to occupy ourselves while waiting for the flight. That included multiple trips to the bathroom, random wandering, and trying to watch a Timbers game on my phone. Eventually we boarded and hunkered down for the long red-eye flight.

Amsterdam 2017 (66)
Amsterdam 2017 (64)

Amsterdam 2017 (17)

Thanks to the modern entertainment systems, it was easy for the kids (and adults) to entertain themselves. Michelle and the girls all managed to get some sleep, but I wasn’t able to get more than maybe 30 minutes (thanks, Melatonin). But we’ll pretend that day one ended with everyone asleep in the air flying over Hudson Bay and Greenland.
Amsterdam 2017 (60)

So, I bought a drift boat

I was trying to price pressure cookers on Craigslist so I could find how much I should sell the ones I had for. While looking, there was a post for a moving sale that listed pressure cookers and fishing gear. But one of the images was of an aluminum drift boat. I clicked on it, inspected the picture of the boat, and decided that I should write the owner. What shape it was in, price, etc. He wrote back with a price and few other details. After several back and forth messages (in which he answered roughly a third of my questions), I asked to come take a look that evening. He said sure.

Michelle and I drove up to Camas to check out the boat because the girls were at the pool watching a movie (hedonism!). It was old, but in relatively good shape, and the owner was a nice enough guy. We agreed to buy it, but had to settle on payment arrangements first.

the front of an old aluminum drift boat

Well, two weeks later, payment was made, and we picked up the boat on a Friday evening. There was a hornet’s nest in the tongue of the trailer, but he didn’t seem too concerned. He was wearing pants though. We towed it home, chatted with the neighbors who all thought it was cool, then started to prioritize the weekend.

Saturday I picked up a second seat for the front and a not-so universal swivel mount. It took a while to install it, but we got the boat ready and took it out to Henry Hagg Lake for a pleasure cruise (and to confirm that it would float.) The lake was way down, and the trailer was squirrelly to back down the ramp. Immediately as we launched, MG got stung on the ear by a bee or something. The wind and wake made for chaos, along with an amped up dog and MG wailing in pain.

We rowed across the lake and beached on a mud slope so we could run the dog and swim. The girls immediately dove in, and I discovered that there was a second hornet’s nest under the anchor mount. I smashed it out and covered it in mud and we kept playing. We then rowed up the lake arm to the shallower part where there were fewer people (and less wind) and anchored and played for a bit. We ran the dog, swam in the lake, and took turns in the float tube until it was time to head back to town.

family eating snacks on the boat

MG swimming in the lake next to the boat with Andy and Kona in the boat
We rowed back to the launch, slowly, because of the wind and wake, and hooked up to the dock while I ran up to get the car and trailer. When I got there, I found a third wasp nest in the spare tire. No time, I left it and rolled down pass the tournament bass boats to pick up our new (old) boat. We got the boat on the trailer despite some chaos and pulled up to pick up the mess so we could drive. I think we all agree that we need to work on launch and landing protocol so that we’re not all yelling at each other, but no one (except MG with the sting) got hurt.

The day after, Chris, Michelle and I took it down the Kalama River in Washington to try out my rowing skills. The water was low, the fishing bad, and we had to portage a few times. But we made it, and there was only one harrowing part. Well, except for the launch.

We launched at Slab Hole and there was a large sand bar at the bottom of the ramp that prevented us from backing the boat in to the water. Instead, we tied a rope to the bow (and trailer) and had to push it off the trailer, where it dropped down in to the water. My ring got caught on the bow, and as the boat fell, I was pulled with it. Fortunately, my ring popped off before I went over, though it hurt quite a bit. A week later and my entire hand is still sore.
Shiny boat sitting on the bank of the Kalama river near Beginner hole
The one harrowing part was the approach to the tree hole and bend below Mahaffrey’s. The river is so low that the current puts you in a chute right up against the steep rock bank. The chute was a little wider than the boat, and it was difficult to row since the oars were on the bank. I was able to turn sideways to pull away, but right as a mid-current rock arrived. I asked the passengers to leave left to help slide over the rock, and they both leaned right, making sure we got a solid chine-to-rock collision. Nice work team.

We survived though, and subsequently survived the experience of having to do a 23 point turn because some jackass parked in the boat turn around.

All in all, it was a great first weekend with the boat. We have a better understanding of the needs, the boat (which rides quite high, I’m happy to report). We did a few portages, but it was great and I’m excited to row again.

Christmas 2016

2016 is drawing to a close, and in more recent fashion, I’ve waited until the last minute to pen a Christmas card. In fact, let’s just call it a holiday card in hopes that it skates by as “on time.”

The Freed family had a good year punctuated by the noise of the rest of the world. We welcome the opportunity to come together with family at Christmas and relax, revel, and eat well. There’s also some satisfaction in watching the kids vibrate with excitement about all the happenings of the season. One thing they didn’t anticipate and were therefore unable to count down to (though Michelle and I were) was a surprise trip to Disneyland at the end of November. Michelle made the plans back in May and has been struggling with the excitement of the surprise since. When the day finally came, we sent the kids to school as usual, but then picked them up an hour later with no explanation and went to the airport. On the way, they started some custom word searches with clues and when they figured it out, the confusion and excitement was infectious. We had a great several days enjoying the rides and attractions between Universal/Hollywood, Disney California Adventure and Disneyland over the course of 5 days. The kids loved the rides, with Tower of Terror being Maddie’s favorite, and the Harry Potter ride probably being Michelle and Ella’s favorite. I get motion sick, but I think California Screamin’ rollercoaster was my favorite.

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Madeline is nearly eight and continues to develop her personality. She loves gymnastics, singing, and as she often calls it, “drama”. And while she is outgoing generally, she is still somewhat reserved around strangers. She excels in school and is a voracious reader. Her teacher insists that she’s reading at nearly a 5th grade level. She’s also a caring and nurturing person; she looks after her fellow students and kids in the neighborhood. Maddie also picked up the Ukulele and is enjoying playing, singing, and writing songs for us. When asked, her favorite memory for the year was emphatically “Disneyland.” She enjoyed the heck out of the thrill rides and really got in to the screaming aspect of the California Screamin’ roller coaster.

Ella turned ten in August and continues to be a quiet and helpful compatriot around the house. She is growing up quickly, developing a desire to bake, paint and sew. This year she got a larger bedroom to herself. It has been fun watching her grow into it, decorating, organizing and sorting things to be just how she wants them to be. She played soccer in the spring, and showed marked improvement, but due to a sign-up snafu, she missed out on the fall league (and her team of 4 years disbanded!). Hopefully we’ll get back in touch with them in the spring. Ella also excels in school, being given special research, writing and math exercises to keep her challenged. Ella’s favorite memory for the year is a tie between a cruise she went on in June with G&G Freed and the trip to Disneyland. The cruise was a gift for her tenth birthday, and she, my mom and dad sailed from Seattle up to Juneau and back to Vancouver, seeing glaciers, bears, raptors, and more.

Michelle continues to be awesome. She orchestrated the whole Disney surprise, after all. She also tends to plan and prepare for many (ok, most) of the camping trips and other adventures – thus keeping us active. She’s entered her 6th year of practice with her own firm and hosted her annual work holiday party just 2 days after we got back from California. The party was somewhat dampened by a winter storm, that dropped the attendance from an expected 150+ to around 40. The icy roads and Portland’s general incompetence meant that most could not travel. Michelle didn’t want to pick a single favorite event, so she split between a week of camping at Simtustus with Kona and I (in other words, no kids!) and the trip to Disneyland.

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I’ve had a good year as well. It’s my 15th year “with the company,” and work keeps me busy and satisfied. We added a developer to the department this year and I’m excited to see all the cool stuff we can do to support our students and faculty. In November, I attended another social justice workshop which cemented for me that equity is something that we cannot wait for and need to work for in our daily lives. On another front, and despite tendonitis issues, I’ve managed to get out an fish quite a bit all over Washington and Oregon and even caught a fish or two. I also want to pick two favorite activities of the year: First was getting to spend a week with just my wife in Kona, HI for our 15th anniversary (20 together). We ate well, explored, relaxed, and were able to snorkel at the same time without worrying about kids. I face-planted in to the surf while body surfing and was in pain for part of the trip, but it was still a wonderful experience. Secondly, the girls kept asking for me to take them backpacking and we finally did in August right before Ella’s birthday. We did a simple overnight trip to Fish Lake in the Ollalie Lakes Scenic Area and had a blast swimming, playing on logs, eating camping food, and not sleeping. The place was beautiful and the kids did amazingly on their first trip so we’ll be going out again.

First Backpacking Trip: Olallie Lakes Scenic Area

Overall, the year was pretty good on a familial level. While the noise of the rest of the world rattles against the peace we’d like, it forces us to face the world and work for the place we’d like our kids to live in.