Road Trip with Jess’ Family | Omaha, NE to Portland, OR | June 2021
As of this summer, I have two siblings living in the Pacific Northwest. Back when Curtis and I moved to Omaha, I told my parents that if they were ever planning a vacation to visit them, that I would be interested in joining if the timing worked out. Their plans for a possible road trip started to solidify in April, and as it turned out, the day they were planning to leave and come to Omaha happened to be the same day that Curtis would be leaving for a work trip. Not only that, but they were also going to be bringing their 11 month old dog Archie with them, so their plans would already be dog-friendly and I could bring Charlotte. I was so excited to join, and I started helping with the itinerary, and planning way too many things to do.
After things started to come together, Curtis got permission to take leave right after his trip so that he could join us at the end of our time in Washington and for the drive back home. Only my youngest sister living at home was able to take time off work, but she wanted to fly back a week earlier than we planned to return, so my parents gave Curtis and I a lot of liberty in planning the drive back and even agreed to camping with us.
On June 18, Curtis left for his work trip in the morning, and that evening my parents and youngest sister arrived to spend the night. We had dinner, added my luggage and camping gear to their packed car, and walked the dogs before going to bed.
The next morning we all rose before 6 and got on the road by 6:15. We were starting off the trip with the longest amount of driving that we’d be doing for the entire trip, a whole 13.5 hours from Omaha to Ogden, Utah. This isn’t super unusual for our family vacations, I remember most having at least one day with over 10 hours of driving. But I’d say having this length of drive is much easier now than when my siblings and I were younger — even with 2 dogs. We were okay with having a couple of long days of driving if it meant spending more time with siblings in Oregon and Washington! I personally was very excited about this drive, because everything from Cheyenne to Ogden was completely new to me. New roads, new sites, and NEW COUNTIES! Everyone send your condolences to Curtis who now has to see so much more pink on our joint county map.
Nebraska took up about half of our drive time that day. We stopped about once every three hours for gas and to let the dogs walk around. For the most part they behaved very well, but about a half-hour before each of these stops they would start getting antsy. Archie would start looking for things with which to entertain himself, and Charlotte would growl anytime he came within her personal bubble or looked at her in a certain way. So basically it was like traveling with young children.
We got lunch in Cheyenne, and continued on our way across Wyoming. The part I remember most is the rocky terrain, though that describes much of the views. Other highlights included crossing the continental divide twice, and possibly seeing King’s Peak, the highest point in Utah, in the distance. The scenery I enjoyed the most was after exiting I-80 and driving I-84 to Ogden. We finally rolled into Ogden, got In-N-Out to go and enjoyed it at our hotel. It is also important to note that this was Charlotte’s first time in Utah, making this the 43rd state she has visited!
The next day, our drive was 11 hours, but it would end with seeing Grant in Portland so we were excited and motivated to push through. We entered Idaho, which was a first for Mom, Dad, and Gina. I had heard that this stretch of I-84 was boring, but I didn’t think it was — there were farms and fields in the foreground, and mountains off in the distance, what could be boring about that? But things got more exciting as we entered Oregon and saw the snow-capped Wallowa mountains. I was also very excited about driving through the Columbia River Gorge — Curtis and I had done a small part on the Washington side last summer, but I hadn’t seen it from Oregon’s side. We enjoyed glimpses of Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Multnomah Falls while driving through — my family had already seen the falls last time they visited Oregon, and I know I have to come back here with Curtis someday so I’m ok with waiting until then to stop.
We finally made it to our hotel in Portland, and happily reunited with Grant there. We then drove to Cathedral Park in St. John’s to walk around, enjoy the bridge and Williamette River views, and have pizza in the park. We were thrilled that our longest days of driving were over, and had a wonderful evening catching up.
We discussed plans for the next day — both my parents and sister and I had all been to Portland, but had done different things on our visits. We wanted to go somewhere dog-friendly and scenic so that we could take some pre-senior pictures for Gina. We thought about the International Rose Garden, but Grant suggested another park that would be dog friendly, free, and less crowded. So the next morning, we drove over to Peninsula Park. It turned out to be perfect, not crowded at all and all the roses were in full bloom. I hadn’t ever taken portraits like this before, but it was easy to do with my gorgeous sister in a beautiful setting. My parents walked the dogs while we wandered around the large park, taking pictures all over.
After that, it was time to complete our travels with the relatively short drive up to Tacoma, Washington. We had a rental house there where we would be spending the rest of the week, near where my brother Joel is interning for the summer. We said goodbye to Oregon and hopped on the I-5 headed North. It was a nice short stay in Portland, despite it being over 90 degrees and the air conditioning in the hotel not working. Thankfully the rest of the week in Washington looked to be a little cooler!