Tag Archives: The Texan

Swellyroo Clothing Goes Live

Finally after months and months of sewing, then taking and editing over a 1000 photos, and basically learning CSS to get online, Swellyroo Clothing finally went live August 25th, 2013.

Swellyroo.com Goes Live!

After moving to Texas last November 2012, The Texan and I decided that I would officially start to look for work right after the holidays. Since we were financially stable, we could afford this. Between getting all of my stuff here, unpacked, and getting emotionally settled in to a whole new life, looking for a new job was a little daunting. Okay, really though, looking for a new job is probably always daunting. For the next few months, I started sewing anytime I wasn’t applying for mental health jobs.

[I will discuss the state that Texas “mental health” is in at a later time…please view this video in the meantime that talks about how Texas is LAST in Mental Health Funding.]

To make a long story shorter, I received so much positive feedback about the items I had sewn for my niece Esmé, I decided that I would try my hand at sewing a line of creative and unique baby clothes. Designed to be colorful, unique, and different-than-what-comes-in-a-three-pack at the store, Swellyroo clothing provides the basics in a beautiful way. If all you pair the items with is a white tee, or some moccasins, your baby will still be fashion forward in a fun way.

Swellyroo Zebra Pinafore and matching Bloomer

Swellyroo Zebra Pinafore and matching Bloomer

Privilege Creek Ranch: A Southern Thanksgiving

Babette and I arrived in Austin just in the nick of time for Thanksgiving. During the last portion of our trip I continued to quote the great John Hughes film Plans, Trains, & Automobiles as it seemed fitting. We had been invited to spend Thanksgiving with my Texan and his family out on the family ranch near Bandera, Texas. Privilege Creek Ranch has been a beloved family destination for multiple generations. I had heard so many wonderful things about the ranch and its splendor.  The Texan told me stories about how he had spent summers out there with his granddad fishing on the lake and hunting on the acreage.  I had built up the ranch in my mind to be this absolutely astounding and beautiful piece of Texas land where the family would gather and share  many wonderful moments.

We made our way down the unpaved winding road, my Texan driving, Babette in the back, while I rode shotgun. I was still in awe that it was some 70 degrees on Thanksgiving. The sun was shining and we wound around until we arrived at the ranch gate. I was so excited! We continued on and finally arrived at the house. Such a warm and loving welcome. We were with our southern family at last.

Final preparations were made, and we gathered to give a prayer of thanks. All were in joyous spirits, and we laughed as each person squeezed around the large dinning room table that wasn’t quite large enough for elbow room. Everyone accepted this humorous eating challenge with excitement. It was a wonderful feast with plenty of left overs. After dinner, many retreated to watch football, some to walk the grounds, with others preparing for pie, coffee, and other goodies. This dessert portion of the afternoon was actually doubling as a wedding shower for a pair that had eloped within the previous month. Laughter and love filled the room as each person shared advice and warm words for the newlywed couple.

After copious amounts of cake, pie, and sweet treats were consumed, it would be assumed that all would return to football or a nearby couch. Not the case. This would be the first round of Thanksgiving hunting. Prior to my departure, my grandpa had gifted me his Winchester 30-30 from the 1920’s. The Texan rounded up the rest of the gear including shells, targets, ear plugs, a 10-20 rifle, and his 30-06. We took the ranch SUV out to the shooting range and set up. After a thorough course on gun safety and operations by my love, Babette and I were ready. AMAZING! What power!? Not too bad of a kick, and I at least hit the target (that was 100 yards away) at least once with the 30-30 and once with the 10-20. Loved it. Of course the Texan was an amazing shot, but he was very supportive of Babette and I spreading our gun wings…..

While we were on the shooting range, we could hear shots in the distance, which we assumed to be the rest of the family who had headed out to the dear blinds. We didn’t return to the house until dusk and when we did, we discovered that 15 year old Zachery had got a buck. While he and some of the other men were bringing it in, we had some bits of delicious leftovers, and plopped down to watch the Cowboys play the Redskins. Apparently, there was a secret cellar in the “Trophy Room” where we were lounging. The Texan took us down there and we discovered a treasure trove of collected items from the ranch including fossils, arrowheads, old bottles, horns, and other dusty items. After we emerged, the Texan disappeared. I didn’t find him until I ventured outside, where he and Zachery, along with two of the other cousins, were beginning to skin the deer. Oh Boy. This is not for the faint of heart. Nor are my photos (you have been warned). I watched (and documented) the entire process and can now say that I know what it sounds like when a severed deer hoof is thrown into a bloody bucket of its insides. Yep.

That night Babette, the Texan, and I stayed awake laughing until the wee hours of the morning. I’m not sure about what exactly, but I remember commenting on the dried deer blood on the Texan’s shirt as he went to hug me… I laughed and accepted my southern fate, and gave him a big hug right back, deer blood and all.

There had been discussion about getting up at 5:30am to go hunting during round 2–this time actually going out to a deer blind and not just the shooting range–however we were simply too tired when the alarm went off. Around 9am, I strolled out to the kitchen for a hot cup of coffee and yummy breakfast of bacon, eggs, and fresh fruit. The hunters returned around 9:45am with 3 more deer who had not been so fortunate. All of the deer made there way into the walk-in cooler, right in between the left over turkey and pies.

For our final ranch activity, the Texan took Babette and I, with several other family members, on a drive around the land. It was a beautiful, warm, and sunny day. It was a perfect way to end our first southern Thanksgiving at Privilege Creek Ranch.

The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon You

As the sun was beginning to set, we neared the border between New Mexico and Texas. Of course I had my heart set on a picture of the ‘Welcome to Texas’ sign that I assumed was going to be larger than life. Everything is bigger in Texas right?! Well apparently not if you cross over in Farwell, Texas on I-84.

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You can imagine my disappointment.

Just as I was about to have a major rant, Texas pulled through in all of its glory.

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Hallelujah!

4284061We had finally made it! Captain didn’t quite understand why I had woken him up for this photo op but he obliged. Holden just sat in the cat tent/cage meowing uncomfortably as he had done for the majority of the trip. A sense of great accomplishment came over Babette and I which solidified our plan to drive straight through to Austin without stopping in Lubbock. We had just about 8 hours of driving left. Babette was finishing one of her shifts, I would drive another three hours, and she would bring us into Austin.

I sent the Texan a screen shot of us, finally in the same state.  I was overjoyed to have made it to my new home state safely and with no major barriers.

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The west Texas sunset was gorgeous that night.

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Babette and I made it to my new Austin home at about 1:30am Wednesday (or very very late Tuesday night) just in time to prepare for Thanksgiving, Texas style! Our road trip was epic. There are so many details that I can’t possibly cover, as I still feel as though I’m recovering from this move half-way across the country. Suffice it to say, she and I are closer than ever and we have perfected the southern accent 😉

I am finally at home with my Texan.

Sigh.

The Hoover Dam and Albuquerque, New Mexico

After leaving Vegas, we made a quick stop at the Hoover Dam. Too bad this was when I was able to get the ‘Welcome to Nevada’ sign…

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

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Made our way through Arizona with a brief stop to visit some of Babette’s family, and finally made it to Albuquerque, New Mexico late that night.  It was so late and we were staaaarving. Rough because we had quite the hankering for this “New Mexican” food we kept reading about, but all of the restaurants were closed! We finally found Frontier Restaurant and had some enchiladas that were meh. By the time we made it to our lovely Econolodge in Old Town Albuquerque (total amount paid for hotel rooms during entire trip was $135) the town appeared deserted. I’m pretty sure it was only about midnight but there wasn’t a soul in sight. Very odd…of course I checked the Life360 when we arrived in our room and decided to turn off the “unsafe” alerts about chi-mos because it was just getting to me. At that point, I called the Texan to check in and wished we were there already. The next debate was whether we would wake up early and plow through the next 12.5 hours to Austin or if we would stop in Lubbock. I had previously checked the Life360 about Lubbock and it was no bueno. Babette and I compromised and decided that if we slept in until 9am, and were well rested, we could push through and get to Austin by midnight or 1am the next day.

The following morning Albuquerque was more alive and we walked around Old Town and looked at some turquoise, silver, and native art. Having a leisurely morning, we were prepared to make the final trek.

Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico

Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico

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It was pretty funny because Babette and I finally set our pride aside on this last day and decided to drive in 3 hour shifts, trading even if we felt we were awake enough to continue. The previous days, either she or I would drive the 10 or so hours…no real reason other than stubbornness. We decided that if we had been rotating like this for the duration of the trip, we could have made it in one sitting…probably.

Now we just had to make it into Texas.

Busy Falling in Love & Moving to Texas

August 8th I was thinking it was about time to get off the OKCupid online dating scene. I had gone on a string of okay dates but nothing that was really life changing or anything. I was near the point of being resolved that I wasn’t going to find my “ideal match,” and I was especially sure I wasn’t going to find anyone in Portland. Part of me felt that it would just be easier to accept this and to stop looking—just to spend my time working, paying off my debt, and hanging out with friends. Originally I had started a blog because of all the “free time” I had at my new job. I started by making a spreadsheet that ranked the OKCupid dates according to several key characteristics such as coziness factor, humor, and several other elements of what a good match might be for me. However, simultaneously several friends warned me about becoming a crazy cat lady since becoming divorced and receiving “full custody” of two felines. Mostly it was a joke, but it was concerning because more than one person made this joke. This topic—my potential journey towards cat ladydom—made for several good blog entries, some even featuring cartoons of what that life transition might look like. The threat of potential lifestyle change prompted me to revisit the idea of the OKCupid spreadsheet, and eventually I added Captain Burrows and Holden Caulfield to the scales…just to see how they would compare. Sadly, the aforementioned cat companions outranked 66% of the men I went on dates with. There was part of me that thought this was absolutely hilarious, and another part of me that was terrified. I decided not to include the spreadsheet on the blog.

I talked with my co-worker friend and brought her in on the issue at hand. I gave her a run down on the types of people I had gone on dates with and how they matched up with my idea of “the perfect man.” “You’re never going to find all of those things in one person,” she said. Was it really going to be impossible to find this dream man? I then began to mull over the list of “ifeverythingwasperfecthewouldhavethesetraits” traits. Taller than me—preferably in the 6ft range, dark hair with maybe a scruffy beard, a little bit bigger so I can feel cozy and protected, absolutely funny, understanding of mental health and what it is I actually do, enjoys a little friendly competition here and there, good family relationships, solid long-term goals, values academia and has a least completed 4years of college, smarter than me or at least my intellectual equal, able to hang out with my brother and parents, love of traveling, camping, and the water, added bonus if he’s sailed previously, financially responsible with the ability to look ahead and delay gratification, ability to drink responsibly or not at all, has understanding of christian values and how growing up in the church has shaped who I am, affectionate and sweet, soft at times and nurturing but also able to take the lead and be the alpha, witty and able to engage in friendly banter, knowledge of Simpsons quotes, content being with friends or just relaxing at home, able to love and support me when I’m happy or sad, understands that relationships take work sometimes and that love means making sacrifices for your partner and the well-being of the relationship, and finally someone who is going to love me just as much as I love them.

Warped by Disney

I was told this was not going to happen. It’s like people want you to settle for the bare minimum and the idea of waiting for the man of your dreams is long gone. But I had been through the wringer. My ex-husband maybe had one or two of those traits by the end of our marriage and there was no way that I was just going to be with someone for the sake of being with someone. I was happy being single. Happy to be out of a toxic marriage, and to be working in a fulfilling career, and spending my free time doing whatever it was that made me happy. Art, swimming, sewing, watching I love Lucy, having drinks with friends, dinner with my parents, or just simply being content—something that I had not been for a long time. I was also hopeful for the first time in years. Not even hopeful for something in particular, but just hopeful about the future. I devised a strict plan to pay off my debt within three years so that I could be ready for anything. I had dreams of moving to Europe to be a full-time artist. Dreams of buying a boat and living on it, or even fixing up an old RV and just traveling across the states. Things that I could do on my own and that would make me happy. Very deep down however, I still had dreams of finding my true love—my sweetheart and perfect match that would have every single one of those traits that were (according to my peers) impossible to find in one single person. I was resolved to continue on this path towards a life of solo adventures. That is until August 9th.

Message sequence on OKCupid: August 9th:

Aug 9, 2012 – 6:03pm

Hello! After reading your profile, I have to admit that I think you, as a person, sound quite awesome. And I’m a little bummed that you live so very far away, which makes it really tough to ask you to tell me your story over coffee sometime. I would still like to hear it though if you are interested in sharing. I’m an ENTP, so I can identify with that iNtuitive/Thinking combination. For me this manifests as a constant curiosity about the world and what makes people tick.
Leaving a long relationship an knowing that it’s best for everyone takes guts and I commend you. I was engaged last year and had to break it off for similar reasons to those you mentioned. C’est la vie!
Anyway, just saying ‘hello.’ I’m here to meet people and make connections and not looking for one-nighters or quick hookups. I’m more interested in getting to know smart interesting people and you seem like one of those. And for the record, I would toss out a blanket and stare at the stars any time.
– The Texan”

Aug 9, 2012 – 6:17pm

Wow, we are quite the match aren’t we! 😉 I’m on my phone right now so it’s not as easy to message, but how did you come across my profile? It’s weird that when I read your profile I gasped at how much in common we have
-Kelly”

Aug 9, 2012 – 6:27pm

You actually popped up on the side-bar under “you might like” =) I’m up for some friendly conversation about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if you are!

-The Texan”

Aug 9, 2012 – 6:28pm

Call me 971-***-**** 🙂

-Kelly”

That afternoon I was spending time on the Tolman down at the sailing club. It was absolutely gorgeous out and a perfect day to be on the water. I was still finishing up somethings for work, attempting to prepare for my upcoming week long vacation. The 9th was a Thursday and I planned to just relax on the water and work from the boat. Since I had previously resolved to take a break from dating for an undetermined amount of time, I had signed on to OKCupid to disable my account. That’s when I read the message from the Texan. Like I told him, I gasped quite a few time while reading over his profile and looking at his pictures. I may have also thought “oh boy, a Texan. I’m in for it now,” but it just made sense to respond and chat this boy up. He still had a couple hours to go at work so we just texted a while. We talked about sailing, how we spent our free time, ideas about psychology, and how we came to be on an online dating site. It just kept going like that. You’re a Linux admin? My dad did that. You’re a Texan? My dad’s a Texan. You love camping? I’m going camping on an island next week. You sailed in college? I grew up sailing. You have a bachelors in psychology? So do I. You have a younger sister? I have an older brother. We just kept going like that. The amounting similarities seemed unreal. Finally he was off work and he called me. I laid there in the v-berth looking up at the blue sky without any nerves. You’d think that striking up a conversation with a perfect stranger would be awkward and sort of like a fixed script when asking all of the usual “get to know you” questions. Except it wasn’t awkward at all. The Texan and I had perfect ebb and flow. He immediately picked up on my humor and I laughed with his. We started sharing the details of our life, childhoods, families, and dreams. Our disappointments in past relationships and lessons learned about life. We spoke for several hours that night. And then we planned to talk the next night.

After work on Friday the 10th , I was officially on vacation. I packed a bag and headed back down to the Tolman. Again it was a perfect day on the river, a perfect way to start my vacation. My brother and his wife were planned to fly into town that night from NYC, but unfortunately their flight had problems and they were delayed until the next evening. They had planned to go camping with my bro’s HS friends and their girls so I didn’t really have plans until they arrived at home on Sunday. That morning the Texan had texted me and we continued to banter throughout the day. He kept setting me up for these perfect opportunities to say something like “come join me on the boat,” or “the only way to cool off is to take out a truck and sleep under the stars,” which of course I said. His responses were perfect, always indicating that he would love to go on whatever adventure I had joked about, but that he was in fact in Austin Texas and I was 2000 miles away in Portland Oregon. For some reason, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. I mean it was, but it most certainly wasn’t going to deter us from having some enjoyable conversation with a person with whom we were “a great match.” He called me when he was off work around 10pm pacific and I was cozy in the boat. I planned to sleep there, so what better way to spend my evening than talking to a charming Texan? We talked about visiting each other and planned our hypothetical dates in our respective cities, outlining what romantic activities and adventures we would plan for each other. I felt connected to him, and it was clear that he felt it too. Sometimes I don’t know why I say the things I do, but I impulsively asked him whether or not he thought he might kiss me if we had been talking in person on this “second date.” He laughed and said “Absolutely!” I think we spoke for 5 hours that night.

The next day, I woke up the the sounds of the sailing students rigging their boats. I got up, walked to Starbucks for an iced coffee, and returned to the boat. I gave him a quick call because I knew he wasn’t yet on his way to work. Again, it just seemed so comfortable. I had plans to take my friend out on the river, so we planned to talk again later in the evening. I spent the whole day texting him and telling my friend every little detail about our conversations and how they were so incredibly perfect. I went home that evening, showered and again we had a long phone date, talking late into the wee morning hours. It was never dull. We never missed a beat, and the more and more we learned about each other, the more it seemed as if we were, excuse the cliché, made for each other. I was giddy. I told him on Sunday the 12th that if he kept saying such sweet things to me, I was going to become twitterpated. Truth is, I was already twitterpated. The Texan said everything that my heart needed to hear. He spoke about his love language, and about how he already felt drawn to me, and that he wanted to protect my heart. That day he asked me “If we were dating and you had a migraine, how would you like to be taken care of?” What a drastic difference from the wusband! The ex always behaved as if me not feeling well was some big inconvenience for him, as if I was purposely having a migraine to slight him in some way. And here I am with this sweet southern man asking me future oriented questions about how he might support me?! I told him I loved how sweet he was. His response was to tell me that he was in fact a bit smitten himself and that he refused to ignore how much he liked me. Understandably we both had some emotional armor up due to our previously broken hearts. It was easy for us to communicate though, and we would share how our excitement came with some trepidation mixed in. We validated our fears and affirmed our excitement and moved forward. We had our traditional phone date that night after my family had dinner and watched a movie. It was hard to hang up the phone at 4am and to make sure he knew it, I sent him a goodnight text of “xo.”

Monday August 13th brought the first mention of wanting to meet. We had lightly mentioned it earlier but the Texan announced officially that he had “decided” that we “had to meet.” “35 hours and 2000 miles to drive” he wrote. My immediate thought was “that’s not bad.” I’m convinced that anything can be put in the right perspective if one has the appropriate motivation. We traded ideas about a road trip between Portland and Austin, and how we might be able to bring the idea into fruition. Then he asked “what does your October look like?” I’m sure I giggled. I called him my sweetheart.

That afternoon my family took the Tolman out on the Willamette to lounge on the boat, have a picnic lunch, and swim behind Ross Island. The Texan and I could not go for more than 5 minutes without some text message being sent. Needless to say, our phone date that night lasted hours. We were becoming more comfortable with each other. There was an undeniable connection between us. Sweet statements about kisses and being cozy together crept into the conversation. By that phone date, I was most certainly hooked and wanted to know everything about this southern character that I could. I wanted to meet him. I wanted to give him a big hug and kiss. I wanted to fly to Austin. I was excited that he had just popped into my life, and I couldn’t quite (and didn’t want to) recall how I had gone on for so long without knowing him.

Tuesday August 14th was going to be spent shopping and packing for the annual trip to Sand Island. I came upstairs in the morning to get some iced coffee and decided to look at flights, just to see. It was the kind of crazy impulsive thing that you hear about people doing when they’re in love. A ticket to Austin in September was $250. I asked the Texan for final booking approval and just like that, I was on my way to the south in exactly one month. Immediately after receiving the confirmation, I thought I was going to be flooded with anxiety. Except, there was none. Only excitement and anticipation. “This is really happening,” I thought to myself. I was smitten as a kitten with a man who was 2000 miles away. Tuesday night we had our first facetime date. I couldn’t stop thinking about how he was sooo handsome! I just wanted to hug and kiss him. He told me I was more beautiful than ever. I wanted to be next to him, cozy in his arms. He kept looking at my lips and I knew he wanted to kiss me too. All I could think was how the next month was going to be the longest month of my life.

I was up bright and early the next morning (August 15th) excited about this boy and excited to be headed off to the island. We mutually agreed to close our OKCupid profiles, which implied that neither one of us was interested in browsing through the sea of other potentials. The night before, the Texan had told me that he had gone on several dates with another girl right before we started talking, but that he was going to let her know he was “off the market.” It was happening. We were somehow becoming exclusive long-distance sweethearts and we were both excited to do it. We arrived on the island and set up camp. I couldn’t stop thinking about how the Texan would love it. Love camping there, swimming with me, and playing cards with my family. I wanted to lay in the hammock with him and look at the stars. I thought about him constantly. He sent me a message in the late afternoon, asking about the infamous Facebook status change. I had been keeping my brother and sister-in-law abreast of all my heart flutters and about how I may have met the man of my dreams. I had also informed my mother a few days earlier that a Texan had somehow managed to sneak into my life and into my heart. My dad, however, had not been involved in these discussions. Initially I wanted to wait to make the elusive status change until I had gone to Austin. The Texan pointed out that there really wasn’t an appropriate status description because we were technically not “in a relationship,” but “it’s complicated,” didn’t really apply either. “The only thing that’s complicated is the fact that you are 2000 miles away,” he said. I agreed. If this boy was down the street, we would be inseparable. We had already declared our “like” and admiration for each other, the only thing getting in the way of this amazing relationship was a pesky 2000 miles. “In a relationship with The Texan.” It was confirmed. Silly as it is, but for our generation, the Facebook status update is pretty intense. This is announcing to several hundred people that you are linked to another person. Screaming it from the virtual mountain top.

I had started writing him a letter while on the island, adding bits and pieces after swimming and while lying on the beach. I thought about the Texan constantly. I was so happy and it was just bubbling out. I was so excited to fly to Austin in September. I’d never felt this way before. I started trying to remember when I had been so happy in all of my life. The only brief moment that came to mind was when my ex had proposed, and still yet, simply thinking about the Texan evoked even stronger feelings. All day on the 16th I swam and relaxed on the island. I just wished the Texan could be with me. My heart would race when I thought about him and especially when I thought of us doing things together. Not even special things. But instead, things like lounging on a couch talking, or walking with my arm hooked through his. How on earth was I going to to keep this man forever? The question was real and I realized that somehow I had managed to fall in love with someone 2000 miles away in a matter of 7 days. That night, as I laid there in my tent, the Texan and I were talking. “Texan?” “Yes Kelly?” “I like you.” His laugh was so cute. As if he was just taken aback with my 6th grader-esque declaration. “Kelly I really like you too.” The words I love you continued to flash through my mind. It was really hard to focus as we continued to talk into the night. Then all of a sudden the Texan said “Kelly?” I took a breath. “Yes Texan?” My heart was racing. “I think I love you.” It stopped beating right then, or at least it skipped a couple beats and I had to remind myself to breathe. I’m sure he could hear my smile. “Texan, I know I love you!” I broke into giggles and he laughed. I had never been so happy, and I made sure to tell him that. He told me that he knew I loved him, and that it had seemed like I had wanted to say it for the past few days. I guess when it’s so real and deep, and you are just filled with love and admiration for someone, it apparently seeps out without your knowledge. My heart still pounds when I think about it.

The Texan and I continued to talk for hours every night leading up to my trip to Austin. The airport moment was just as romantic and perfect one might imagine, with the first kiss and all. I’m blushing right now.

Two trips to Austin, one trip to Portland, family meet ‘n’ greets in both states, and it was official. This Texan and I decided we needed to be together for the long haul. After I make my final payment on my car in two weeks, I will have eliminated all of my debt outside of my student loans. This was my plan, such that I would be ready for my next adventure, whatever it would be.

I’m going on the biggest adventure! I’m moving to Texas to be with the love of my life!

Ahead of Schedule

Slowly yet surely my debt is dwindling away. It feels so good to see the numbers drop at the end of the month and know that very soon I will be free. As of today, I have successfully paid off my credit card and my hospital bill from my appendectomy. The payments that were allotted to those debts are now being applied to my car loan. With only $3,600.49 to go, I will have this paid off at the very latest, by November 1st (which is a whole month and 19 days ahead of schedule!!) I continue to direct all of my mileage reimbursement checks into my savings account and it has been steadily growing.
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All in all, I am making progress towards my next big adventure!
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Sand Island: Swept Away By Summer Love

This past week I took my summer vacation. It was absolutely wonderful. It started off by spending some quality time down on the Willamette River by myself on the boat, and with a friend out on the river. There is no way I have time to detail all of the adventures that ensued that weekend, but basically it consisted of sleeping on the family boat–a Tolman Skiff, cruising the Willamette with a good friend, being boarded by the Coast Guard (yes I’m aware of how that sounds), seeing some horses running and swimming on Sauvie Island, enjoying Jimmy Johns on the deck of the boat, swimming off Kelly Point, and alas spending hours talking to a boy. A southern boy–a Texan more specifically. More on that small (read huge) detail later.

My brother and his wife flew in from NYC eventually and we crammed in some Portland musts including dinner with grandpa, a trip to Powell’s Books, and of course, our family breakfast at Bertie Lou’s Cafe in Sellwood. Breakfast filled with eggs, home fries, bacon, and of course biscuits and gravy marked the beginning of our annual voyage to Sand Island. I’ll probably be harassed if not killed by my family and our extended non-related relatives for divulging the existence of said island, but the fact is, there is no place quite like it, and it must be celebrated.

Looking south on Sand Island State Marine Park

Sand Island is located on the Columbia River right across from the small town of St. Helens, Oregon. One of the state’s beautiful marine parks, it was created to serve as a sand bar to protect the riverfront town from the wake of passing freighters. Over the years, tall cottonwood trees and an unknown number of wild animals such as racoons and deer have made this small oasis home. The Columbia River surrounding the island (as we refer to it) gives the much needed sanctuary from the hot summer sun, and has provided years of memories filled with swimming, sailing, and amazing river sunsets. My family has gone camping on the island every year of my life. We spend 51 weeks waiting to be reunited with its beauty–with daydreams of the sand between our to toes, and the cool evening breeze rocking the hammock as we gaze at the stars. Surely there could be no better place in the great northwest to spend one’s summer.

Looking north on Sand Island State Marine Park

Growing up, our family would camp anywhere from a weekend to several weeks on the island. No electricity, no running water, and no plumbing. Our non-relative relatives also camped with us. They had 5 kids. One couldn’t possibly fathom the amount of stuff they would cart across the river, then again, there were 5 kids. The oldest sibling was a boy my brother’s age, to this day they are still best friends. The second of the five was a girl–my best friend and kindred spirit–Babette.

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The final three siblings were all boys, so I really lucked out with Babette. The 7 of us were wild on the island. Swimsuits were the only clothing item worn from dawn to dusk. It was common to not even bring shoes to the island. Most days, the 7 of us could be found down at the beach creating the most elaborate mud pit you’ve ever seen. After all, it needed to fit all of us.

From left to right: Michael, Babette, Stephen, Sammy, Jeremiah, Me, Christopher

Luckily our parents documented these events. It would take hours of swimming and pretending to be mermaids (for Babette and I at least) to wash the evidence of earlier mud fights away. Our parents would force us to bathe in the river, which as we became older, was quite the tradition. My mother always said that there was “nothing sexier than a woman keeping up her appearance while camping.” So Babette and I would (and still do) suds up in our suits and wash our hair as the sun set over the hills.

Several summers, we made treasure maps and wrote notes claiming the island as our own, and sealed them in empty bottles. After adding several layers of duct tape, we would fasten a rope to the bottle and then swim it out to the old wooden pilings off the north end of the island.

The north end of Sand Island, standing on top of the dunes

Once used in the logging industry, lthe decaying logs now jet out of the water like totem poles. Hoisting each other up onto the wooden crossbeam, we would tie the rope off and hide the bottle inside of the metal cables binding the logs. The bottle never did make it until the following summer as we had hoped, but we all liked to imagine that some other kids found it and followed our treasure map to nothing–our punishment to them for thinking it was acceptable for them to spend time on our island. Who did they think they were anyway?!

When night fell more adventures ensued. Capture the flag would span across the entire island, with our little shadows darting around trees and the sand dunes, scaring each other and then shrieking with shear terror/joy. Our dad’s would tell ghost stories around the campfire about graveyard rats, and about “Herman,” the scary man who lived below the glorified outhouse. Strange as it sounds (because how on earth did he live under the outhouse?) we believed that one for years.

When Babette and I had enough with the boys, and were tired of waiting for our turn with the BB guns, we would spend hours painting rocks and driftwood, trying our best to capture the beauty of the island.

Nighttime on the river, circa 1998

This past week we sat together at the picnic table once again, listening to music, drinking iced coffee from the cooler, arguing and laughing over whose depiction was better. We laughed about how we used to argue about who’s tent was cozier, and whether or not straight hair was better than curly. These are the moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I look forward to many more summers to come on Sand Island. Laughing, swimming, and being with the closest of friends and family.

;

Below are some more photos of the journey to the island.

Docked at the Willamette Sailing Club

Behind Ross Island, stopping for a dip and some relaxing in the sun

It really is a must to by smutty celebrity magazines while on vacation…

Lusting after the floating homes near Sellwood

On our way to the island, under all the Portland bridges, including the St. John’s Bridge

Close to the island at last!!!!
Warrior Rock Light, Sauvie Island, Oregon

Sand Island. In all of its glory

Sunrise on the island

Sleeping on the hammock might be the best part

It’s an island, so we obviously have to be well prepared…

And by being prepared I obviously mean being well-stocked with coffee options

Painting driftwood

Sailing at sunset