How my family vacation was like one big ultramarathon


We’ve been looking forward to a “real” vacation for awhile.  Not being a family that goes on cruises or fancy resorts, and definitely being a family that travels together, we focused on Bend, OR for just the right mix.

After seemingly weeks of research, we targeted Sunriver–a family resort just 15 minutes south– as a great place for all of us.  Bike trails, singletrack, a huge water facility for the kids (2.5 and 5yo), restaurants, a store, and we get a condo with a kitchen for a pretty decent rate.  We booked it, saw the week block on the calendar, and gulped.

Whoa, five days is  big commitment, it’s a lot of money, and this is unchartered territory for us.

Hope it goes well. Time to prepare!

First few miles

Snacks and gear were packed, car was cleaned and loaded down with seemingly every item from our house, and we got out of town on time!  The trip started out great. We had a four and a half hour drive to Klamath Falls, putting us there Sunday late morning.

The plan from Klamath Falls was for me to head to Crater Lake (about an hour away), where I’d hit the trails in an area I’ve wanted to run for a long time. I was itching to get up there, but IMG_1625somehow found myself using the free bowling coupons the hotel provided us.  A little diversion never hurt, and I figured I’d make up for it in the trail mecca that is Bend.  I believe “saving my legs” was  rationalization for eating burgers and bowling.

The next morning was great. We got out on time without any hitches and hopped on the freeway for a short two hour jaunt to Bend! Yahoo!

As were driving past Klamath Lake, we were amazed at the amount of bugs swirling in the field, along the shore, and pummeling our car.  A quick google search determined these to be midges…little mouthless bugs that live for one day and swirl by the trillions.  Get us the heck out of here.

Controlling speed

Our next goal was to get to Bend early in the day so we could enjoy activities before we got the condo keys at 4pm.  The plan went perfectly as we headed up Hwy 97 for the 2+ hour drive.

As a native Californian, I’m used to driving as fast as possible. If traffic is 80, I’m going 85. If the sign says 65, that really means 80, right?  So the 55mph speed limit that’s strictly enforced in Oregon had me itching to speed up. I knew that getting a ticket this early in this trip would cause hardship later on, but I still took the chance and drove fast–and careful. I knew I shouldn’t have been doing that, but I felt great and was anxious to get to the finish.

We pulled into Bend and were feeling great! Let’s grab a bite to eat, we’ll hit the museum, let the kids spaz out, AND find a grocery store so we can show up at the condo ready to settle in.

The plan was working! The museum was a hit (except for the creepy employee who refused to break character and answer my questions), we got lunch, hit the market, and headed to the condo. Awesome! As we drove around Sunriver, we knew we’d made the right choice. Bike paths, kids laughing, a great aquatic center, signs to trailheads…

We’re lost and off schedule!

Only one issue once we arrived at Sunriver: We couldn’t find the condo. We had directions from the management company, googlemaps, an area map, and a pretty decent idea from the phone conversations, but the proverbial trail markers had gone dry. My wife was panicking, now with a car full of tired kids and expensive groceries and the realization I was one of those males who refused to ask for help.

After awhile, we finally found the place, but about a half hour after we’d wanted to, which meant we were off schedule and definitely off-mood. We needed to pick up the pace to salvage the afternoon and attitude of the whole family.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the Village, letting the kids make friends, going on a bike ride, and visiting the Sunriver Brewery, which was conveniently about 100 yards away from the condo. All was good again.

Settled in to a decent pace

Aquatic Center was perfect!
Aquatic Center was perfect!

We spent all of Tuesday at the SHARC aquatic center, floating around in inner tubes, down waters slides, enjoying some adult beverages, and getting some sun therapy. Tons of fun, and perfect for a family vacation. Life is good! I could do this all day, every day.

That night, we walked approximately 30 seconds to the Sunriver Brewery where they had–guess what–a kids play area in the brewery! Brilliant!  Good food, decent beer, but all in all, a place where we were able to relax while the kids were kept busy.

Play area in the brewery!
Play area in the brewery!


Later Tuesday night, Sunny started to not feel well, and that’s not good. This is a girl who we joke “doesn’t go to the doctor, she just goes to the ER.” She had a broken leg and four sets of stitches by the time she was 3 1/2, and the chick loves to watch the doc give her shots.  If she’s showing pain or illness, it’s for real, and within a few hours, she was barfing up a storm for the first time in her five years on earth. Tons of barf. In bed, in the bathroom, on herself, on her mom, in buckets, on the fancy rug…
Sam stayed up with her all night helping, while I slept through most of it, only really stirring when the vomiting was so loud I was forced to address it or when Sam woke me up, moaning from a different room “Eric, can you pleeeaaase bring me a new barf bucket? This one’s full of dirty diapers.”

This was not going as planned.

Looking up!

So we all woke up Wednesday morning hopefully feeling better. Hopefully. Hopefully.

Deep underground in the lava tubes.
Deep underground in the lava tubes.

Sunny was rallying, squeezing out a “I’m fine” through a fake smile on her little green face. Still, she insisted, let’s go to the lava tubes and on a hike! We tried to determine if she were capable of going on, but she refused to quit and we made the way to a really cool (and cheap!) 1.5 mile underground lava tube where I horrified her with a hauntingly poor version of “Let it Go” from Frozen.
We came out of the tubes OK, and my wife–who hadn’t gone all the way in–asked if we should move on to Bend. Sunny said yep, let’s do it, and we hopped in the car for 10 minutes.

We were now looking at this as simply getting to the next place. We can make it to Bend, right? Ok, if that works, we can get lunch.  If that works, we can get to the river…

Back to ugly

I’d promised to get Sunny new running shoes, as she’s burned through per pair of little pink Minimus’, and we quickly found FootZone, where we ran into guess who…Max King. Ah, Bend. I could have stayed and chatted (thanks for the trail tip, Max), but was quickly and unceremoniously dragged out by Sam who told me we needed to get moving.

Next stop was a candy store a few doors down where we bought some candy for the kids to eat after dinner. There’s no greater “carrot on a stick” than a big old candy store, and we use it to our advantage.

All was still good until Sunny shouted “I’m gonna barf!” and Sam picked her up and RAN for the door, making it just outside to the sidewalk before she spewed all over the sidewalk directly next door to a patio full of Starbucks customers drinking their mochfrappucino lattes thingamajigs.

Well, shit. This is not good.

Back to the condo to reevaluate. Sunny was feeling awful, apologizing for ruining the trip and promising not to barf again. Sam and I went over everything she’d eaten, trying to determine if it had been some kind of food poisoning–while secretly hoping that it was, for that would mean it wasn’t a stomach bug that she could pass on to us.

Finally! Trails!

Panorama shot along the Deschuttes River.

I had to be selfish for a few hours and get out on the trails. Max had recommended the trail to Benham Falls that, should I care to, runs all the way to Bend. I knew I didn’t have the time for that, but got out the door early and hit some great single track along the river, past the falls, and near the lava beds.  My legs felt OK, but my mind felt great! I tried out some new shoes for review, chatted with a few mountain bikers, then headed back to the condo where god knows what I’d find…

Karma came calling and that night Sam was up all night getting sick out of both ends.  The only time I’ve seen someone that sick is when she battled morning sickness to the point that she puked herself into labor (and a needle in the arm to stop it.)  This trip was not going as planned, but it was my responsibility to keep my head on straight and see the finish line.  We were still all here, the weather was great, we had two days left, and hey, I wasn’t sick!

Downhill (and not in a good way)

Thursday was spent largely taking care of the injured and infirm.  Sam was exhausted from throwing up all night, Sunny had nothing left in her, Van kept having diarrhea, and I was now getting concerned that I’d be hit next.  I felt OK, but definitely nowhere near 100%, but I kept that information to myself, as there’d be no point freaking out the rest of the clan.

That all went well until Thursday night when I lost somewhere north of 6 pounds on the toilet.

Just get me to the finish!

I didn’t sleep at all that night, instead trying to figure out in my head (and online) if it would make sense to get a hotel for the next day, as we had to be out by 11am and our place wasn’t available for another night.  One problem was that I’d have to find a place bathroom to stay between 11 and hotel check-in at 4.

Sam finished cleaning up, checking on me constantly, while she and Sunny seemed to be rallying and recovered from the previous few days.  Most of that time was a haze for me, blasting from boiling hot to freezing cold shivers, and just hoping to survive enough to get us out the door, and gulp, into the car.

We were close to the finish line.  It was a mere 7 hour drive home, but there was no possible way, absolutely no way, that I was going to make the journey with a raging case of diarrhea. I was exhausted, dehydrated, sore, pretty upset, and not looking forward to pulling over on the side of the road every five minutes to defile our lovely highway system.

I opted for a handful of Aleve for my headache and a double dose of Imodium for the bottom end and crawled into the passenger seat.  This was going to be a tough few hours, but by this point I had no choice. I just wanted it to be over, I wanted to get in my bed, and I wanted to stop worrying about the “oh god what ifs.”

Final few hours

Where I’ve got a lead foot in the car, Sam’s is more like a feather, driving within the speed limit and staying safe.

Except for this trip. She knew that the guy seated next to her (that’s me, with the towel under me and the bucket and roll of TP on my lap) was in bad shape and we somehow made it home in less than 6 and half hours.  I didn’t have to stop once, as the cocktail of drugs I’d ingested seemed to be doing the trick.

We made it home in one piece.  I got out of the car, staggered across the lawn, in through the front door, and passed out on my bed with the ceiling fan on high.

Looking back

Despite most of the family having the flu for the majority of the trip–and me having it on the drive–we’d absolutely do it again and are already planning a winter trip. We’d love to see the area in the snow, and we’d really like to do it all without being sick.

So what did I learn? It can’t always get worse, right?  Well…even if it does, there comes a point where you’ve got no choice but to keep moving forward, adapting the awfulness, and striving for the finish line.

I know I’ll use this experience not only during our next family vacation (well, at least we’re not all barfing!), but during my next run as well.  If I survived that car trip, I can survive anything.



Beer reviews from the trip

First, I gotta admit, I was unfortunately underwhelmed by the breweries we visited and beers I tasted from Central Oregon.  The beer culture was great (play areas in breweries! growler shops!), but the quality and diversity was a bit lacking.  Each brewery seemed to have an amber, an IPA, hoppier IPA, a red, a stout, and a lager of some sort, and don’t get me wrong, all were pretty good, but nothing blew me away and none of the breweries (with the exception of one) had anything innovative or the slightest bit interesting.


 10 Barrel Brewing Sinistor Black Ale

Dark ale, had it both on tap at brewery and a bottle that I brought home. Slightly smoky and pretty thin. It was pretty good but didn’t stand out.




IMG_1679Ninkasi Oatis Oatmeal Vanilla Stout

Less vanilla-y than I expected, and more oaty, which was fine. Pretty good dark beer, nice big head.





IMG_1740Ten Barrell Brewing Big Ol’ Pumpkin Imperial Ale

Now this was pretty good stuff, and without a doubt the most innovative take I could find on a traditional style.

Hoppy and maltiness were balanced well, and the pumpkin scent/taste was well subdued.  For a 9.3% ABV, it was pretty mild.




Hop Valley Alphadelic IPA

For such a name, this was surprisingly the less hopnoxious (just made up that word) IPA I tried. Citrus and pine were there, but it was light, slightly bitter, refreshing, and pretty drinkable.  6.7% ABV, 90 IBU.





Oakshire Amber Ale

I didn’t take notes on this, and don’t even remember it. Either it was crazy ABV and I passed out, or it was simply forgettable.





Sunriver Brewery Vicious Mosquito IPA

Described by our server as a nicely balanced IPA, he couldn’t have been further from accurate. The happiest hop-bomb I’ve had–but sadly, didn’t even use Cascade hops.  Hard to believe it’s only 70 IBUs.  I drank it, but only because the ambience was spot-on and the kids were occupied in the play area.



IMG_1675Worthy Brewing Eruption Imperial Red Ale

Pretty decent red.  Almost spritzy with the right bitterness, bready maltiness, and citrusy florals.  Better smell than taste, but not taking anything away from the taste…it just didn’t follow the nose as much as I’d like.  I’d drink this again.



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