Stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites Tacoma-Mall

So, I’m heading down I-5 on my way, once again, to Portland, and decide to take a day of my trip to spend in and around Tacoma. I love hunting down ghost signs, and Tacoma is a great source. Tacoma also has a very underrated waterfront too.

Hampton Inn and Suites Tacoma Mall

My motel of choice this night was the Hampton Inn & Suites Tacoma-Mall. This was convenient because it was right off the freeway and also because I thought I’d hit the mall before moving on too.

I’ve never gone wrong with a Hampton Inn before and this one right at the mall proved that track record correct. This was a very clean one too, both in the room as well as in the hallways and lobby areas. I’m not sure what kind of training they go through but I’ve always found Hampton Inn employees to be very well trained and extremely helpful. One young gentleman even steered me in the direction of an exceptional little place for dinner, that experience will have to wait for another post though.

The Hampton Inn & Suites Tacoma-Mall worked out perfectly for me. I can see it not only being useful to a road tripper like me who is just passing through the area, but also to someone going to Tacoma for a longer stay.

I’m not going to lie either, I made VERY good use of their free breakfast too!

The Hampton Inn & Suites Tacoma-Mall is an easy recommendation from NWRoadtrips.

The Chalet Motel in Cle Elum

The small town of Cle Elum sits just off of busy Interstate 90 on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Cle Elum has a rich mining history and surprises people with how much there is to do both in it and around it. Most road trippers drive right by this dot on the map and that is a huge mistake to make.


One of the things I’ve always loved about Cle Elum is its history. There is a very cool railroad related attraction, the nationally recognized South Cle Elum Rail Yard National Historic District, located there that is a very fun way to spend an hour or two. You can also check out some of the historical buildings in town, many dating back a century or more, that still house the locally owned businesses. Nearby Roslyn is home to a historic cemetery that is famous as a tourist attraction (hard to believe, I know). Roslyn also offers up their unique movie theatre, complete with huge Marlon Brando mural on the back. Other local historical attractions in the area include the Thorp Mill, Telephone Museum, Roslyn Museum, Carpenter House Museum & Art Gallery, Kittitas County Genealogical Society, and the Kittitas County Historical Museum. I can be a bit of a sucker for a historical attraction and the Cle Elum – Roslyn area is really good at taking advantage of that.

One place that I like to stay when popping in overnight in Cle Elum is the Chalet Motel. The main reason for this is not the luxury accommodations or five star restaurant on the premesis. No, the Chalet Motel doesn’t offer any of that. What they do offer though is a nostalgic looking building that calls back to the days of the motor lodge. The rooms are very clean and modern and staying there is a very warm and welcoming experience. Plus, you’re right downtown which means going for a walk through the heart of Cle Elum is easy and convenient.

There are a lot of reasons to stop and spend some time in Cle Elum during a road trip. But when it is time to stay the night there, the place to go is the Chalet Motel.

Whale Research EcoExcursions in Depoe Bay

There are a few things every vacationer going to the ocean wants to do. Some want to lay on the beach and soad up the sun. Some want to get out in the water and go swimming, snorkeling, or surfing. Plus, there are a lot of other things to do in the better ocean centered vacation destinations.

One of the things I love to do, especially if I have the kids along, is to go out and go whale watching. Whale watching is a great activity, it’s thrilling and educational at the same time. Plus, you get a good amount of time out on the open ocean and that is a lot of fun too.

Depoe Bay sits just south of Lincoln City and just north of Newport on the central Oregon Coast. One of the best whale watching excursions I ever had was when I went out with the folks of Whale Research EcoExcursions. I’d been out on the standard whale watching boats a number of times, but what attracted my attention here was that they offered a more intimate tour that takes place on a Zodiac boat. A Zodiac boat is the same type of boat that the Coast Guard uses for search and rescue type maneuvers.

We were lucky to see several whales surface and give the classic tail flip. Going out on the ocean in the Zodiac was nice because we could get so much closer to the whales than I’d ever been before. I could have literally reached out and touched two different ones that surfaced right next to the boat. The Zodiac also made it a fun ride on the ocean too as we skipped across the surface at high speed.

My time out on the ocean with Whale Research EcoExcursions was something I’ll never forget.

Once back on shore, these same great people, most of them actual marine biologists I learned later, operate the Whale Museum which was also very nice to spend some time in.

Check out Whale Research EcoExcursions yourself!

Odyssey I Fun Center in Tacoma

On the constant look out for fun things for the kids to do during a road trip, we stumbled upon the Odyssey I, a fun center for Tacoma children when got off of I-5 on a recent road trip. After checking into our motel, we headed right over and the kids had an awesome time.

There is something there for kids of all ages. The Game Center is home to a lot of great video games and ticket dispensing games. They also offer a Jungle Gym Soft Play area for kids 10 years old and younger. Here they will be allowed to play by themselves or in groups on all the apparatuses that are there. They can climb through mazes bounce, swing, and jump to their heart’s content. Laser tag is also available at Odyssey I and the older kids really get a kick out of it. When you’ve exhausted all of those options, you can pick up a pizza, eat it there or take it with you, and call it a day (or night).

Odyssey I was the perfect stop for us. A fun way to get some wiggles out and burn some energy. Back in the truck tomorrow, we’ve got some miles to put on!

5 Fun Facts: Washington – The John Wayne Trail

Carved out of the former railway roadbed of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad that ran across the state of Washington, the John Wayne Trail is today a very valuable resource for those who like to hike or mountain bike. Here are five fun facts about the John Wayne Trail.

How Long?
The John Wayne Trail measures in at approximately 300 miles.

Not What You Think
Though named the John Wayne Trail, it is not technically named after the legendary movie actor, John Wayne. It is actually named in honor of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association for their assistance and participation in the creation of the trail.

Forever? Maybe.
The entire length of the John Wayne Trail, approximately 300 miles, is operated by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, along with the Department of Natural Resources. The legislation that created the trail also included a provision that would allow for it to refert back to railroad usage in the future if needed.

You’re in the Army Now
Part of the John Wayne Trail passes through the United States Army’s Yakima Training Center.

Largest in the World
A planned John Wayne Trail trailhead is set for the Malden, Washington location. On that site was once the largest railroad turntable in the entire world.

Oregon’s Crater Lake

The Pacific Northwest has a wealth of incredible scenic sites. From north to south and east to west, it really is not that hard to find an incredibly beautiful place to visit or experience. One of the top ones to see first hand, and one that is entirely unique, is Crater Lake in southern Oregon.

Crater Lake is basically a water filled dorman volcanic crater at the top of a mountain. This doesn’t explain the beauty that you will find there though. As road trippers, we get used to driving through the mountains here in the Pacific Northwest. But here, as you ascend up the side of the mountain, you have something waiting for you that you don’t usually encounter at the top. A full alpine lake just waiting to be enjoyed.

I have two favorite parts about Crater Lake. First, the historic lodge that sits on the rim and overlooks this natural beauty. There is a beauty in some of these older forest service buildings that still stand in our region. I like having the opportunity to enjoy a meal there while looking at the history represented not only by the building itself, but also the photographs on the walls. Once outside, there are some viewing areas and picnic tables that allow you to enjoy the scenery, but I always take some time to enjoy the inside of the historic lodge first.

The other thing I truly enjoy at Crater Lake is called Rim Drive. This is the name of the road that winds completely around the lake at the top of the mountain. This road gets a lot of snow, naturally, so it is closed during the winter and quite late into the spring. My recommendation is that if this sounds like something you want to do, call ahead and find out if that road is open. There are several great vantage points along this road to get out, stretch your legs, and take pictures from. Rim Drive is a true treat that should be experienced at least once.

One thing that I’ve never done, but should, when at Crater Lake is get down and take a cruise on the water from the tour boat that operates there. How cool would that be?

Anyway, I cannot recommend Crater Lake more highly as a place to go when going on a road trip through southern Oregon. You are sure to want to go back again and again.

Have Dinner Aboard Accent Cruises in Vancouver, British Columbia

Loving road trips, I know there are few things that can measure up to just getting in the car and going for a drive. Seeing the region out the window of my vehicle has always been a highlight. Once you arrive at a destination though, there are other great ways to see the world around you.

I love boat tours for a number of reasons, but the main reason is that it allows you to see a location from a completely different perspective. On a recent visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, I was lucky enough to go on a boat tour put on by the incredible Accent Cruises.


Accent Cruises offers a number of different types of cruises that either have different themes or go along different routes. Their headquarters is located in Historic Granville Island, right in the middle of beautiful Vancouver. They are open all year long and have very modern ships and provide excellent service.

I chose to go on a dinner cruise with Accent Cruises and it was a real treat. I was welcomed warmly, had a fun time exploring the ship, and settled in for what was promised to be a great meal. That promise was well founded too as the grilled salmon and garlic teriyaki chicken were both excellent.
Just as excellent were the views of Vancouver’s skyline and the natural areas surrounding the city. At various points during our time on the ship, we would move around to get different perspectives. We saw houses built high on the cliff wall, marine life swimming by us, tanker ships entering the harbor, and historic sites that the ship’s staff helpfully pointed out to us. Between the meal and the views, this was almost the perfect dinner cruise.

Next time I’m back in Vancouver, I may just have to book a cruise with Accent Cruises all over again.

Seattle’s Space Needle

The most famous attraction in Seattle, and possibly in the entire Pacific Northwest, is the Space Needle. This amazing structure stands 605 feet tall and dominates the city’s skyline. When you go to Seattle as a vacationer, there are a few things that you seriously just must do, and one of them is go to the top of the Space Needle.

The needle is located at Seattle Center, adjacent to the city’s downtown section, and as part of a larger complex of attractions it is very easy to find parking. When you approach it, you can’t help but start to photograph it. It appeals to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. I like the Space Needle because of the angles of it and how it contrasts with the straight edges of the rest of the buildings that make up Seattle’s skyline. The needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and I guess I also like it for the sense of nostalgia that surround it.

The ride up to the top in one of the elevators can be a lot of fun. You will usually be accompanied by a guide who will tell you some details about the Space Needle and about Seattle. Feel free to ask questions, anything you’re curious about, these are very well trained and well informed people. Enjoy the view as you rise up. Keep taking photos too out the glass elevator windows because the scenery changes the higher you get.

Up at the top you will get the big payoff as you get to take your time to walk around the entire circular observation deck and enjoy the entire view that includes the city of Seattle, the mountains off in the distance, and the water of Puget Sound.

While the main purpose of the Space Needle is that of an observation tower, if you have the time, make use of the other purpose it has. At the top of this landmark is SkyCity, a revolving restaurant. Dining out at the top of the Space Needle is a special treat. One touch that I really appreciated was that the specialty at SkyCity is food of the Pacific Northwest. This adds to the experience of being in Seattle and dining high in the sky with the city far under your feet.

Our visit to the Space Needle was a hit, not just with me, but with the adults and kids I was with. Everybody had a good time, going up and down, and dining at the top. One of the nice things was as our visit to Seattle continued, every once in awhile each of us would look up at the Space Needle from different points in the city below and recall our visit up to the top.

Space Needle