Like most families, when school lets out for summer, that’s when the Tako family does most of our traveling. This year the world had other plans for us. COVID-19 happened, and our summer travel plans were canceled.
Instead of visiting the national parks of the American Southwest (like we planned), we settled for a quiet summer at home. It was a bit of a bummer to be honest… but we tried to make the best of it.
The boys and I ended-up doing a lot of walking, biking, and hiking to stay active. We had a good summer, but when the heat of August finally hit, I was ready to go somewhere cooler…
Keeping Cool In The PNW
The Pacific Northwest isn’t really known for hot weather. For the most part, our summer temperatures fluctuate between 70°F – 80°F (21°C – 27°C). It’s perfect summer weather.
This probably sounds entirely foreign to all the folks living in AC in the southern half of the United States, but we don’t even have air-conditioning here!
Unfortunately, (probably because of climate change) we get about one week a year that’s just too damn hot. Temperatures exceed 90°F, and we sweat our asses off. It’s uncomfortable, but it only lasts about a week.
During this heat-wave, sales of AC units skyrocket as Joe Normal and Jane Common spend big money to get cooled off. Box fans and portable AC units always sell-out at the local big-box stores. Last year, my neighbor even spent thousands of dollars installing a full-house AC system. All for one week per year.
This behavior just boggles my mind. Yes, it can be a bit uncomfortable, but it’s only one week a year. Why waste money on something you’ll only use (at best) a couple days a year? It’s completely useless the other 360 days a year.
It’s a perfect illustration of why I believe most people will never achieve financial independence — They’d rather spend endless amounts of money making themselves comfortable, rather than finding creative (and cheap) solutions to infrequent problems like this.
My solution to the heat is actually an old solution. I can’t take credit for originality. It hearkens back to the days of yesteryear, when fancy businessmen packed-up their families and headed to the beach house for the summer.
I don’t own a beach house, but the idea is good one — Take advantage of nature’s air conditioning and enjoy a family vacation on the coast!
The Pacific Coast (Part 1)
Every year, the Tako family likes to take a beach vacation to play in the sand, fly some kites, and cool-off. Last year we went camping at Deception Pass State Park and had a great time.
This year we decided to head south to try out a few different beaches in Washington State. The first stop on our list was Grayland Beach State Park.
It’s a long, grey sand beach that stretches for miles down the Washington coast…
If you’re worried about crowded beaches and COVID-19, I took this little video to give you an idea of just how crowded the beaches get here:
Then, we took a quick drive up to Westport to check out the town and eat lunch. Westport is a port-town on the southern end of Grays Harbor. We took advantage of a free observation tower to check out the area. From the tower, we enjoyed the cool ocean breezes and got a great view of the bay.
The rest of the afternoon was spent cooling our heels in the water at Westport Light State Park. We goofed around, played in the waves, and enjoyed the sand and the sun. Westport beach was a little more crowded, but it was easy enough to keep socially distanced.
Check out this little time lapse I took:
Island Time (Part 2)
After taking a one-day pit-stop back home to do laundry and to restock our cooler, we headed out to the Islands for some fun. Washington’s State’s San Juan Islands (and other islands) are absolute hidden gems . In my opinion they’re the best part of Washington State, and only a short ferry ride away from the mainland.
The climate is cooler on Washington’s islands, and they’re absolutely gorgeous — filled with beautiful landscapes, and cute small towns. The pace of life just seems a little slower there, away from the hustle and bustle of big city life.
This year we went back to Whidbey Island to see all the bits we missed last year. It’s only a short ferry ride from home, and last year we missed the entire southern half. Better late than never!
The first stop was Langley Washington. Langley is a beautiful small town that’s something of an artist haven. It’s a gorgeous town, but it was practically deserted. Half of the shops and restaurants were closed! Maybe because of COVID-19? I’m not sure why.
Most of the local art galleries were closed (probably due to the pandemic), but we enjoyed the many outdoor art installations.
Oddly enough, we found a fantastic ramen restaurant in the town, called Ultra House. It’s hard to find good ramen shops in the United States, but strangely this tiny town had a great ramen!
I ate a delicious and spicy Tan Tan Shrimp ramen:
Mrs. Tako also ordered a more traditional Tonkotsu Ramen:
What a wonderful treat! Usually we skip the restaurants and just eat food from our cooler on road trips… but this time around we couldn’t resist the siren song of a proper Japanese ramen restaurant!
After that delectable meal, it was off to Fort Casey State Park to explore the ruins of the old military fort (and to burn off some of those extra ramen calories).
The kids had a blast checking out the old fort, along with its many pop-up guns, ladders, and underground concrete bunkers.
We finished off the day back at the beach, this time at a beach called Windjammer Park. The boys had fun exploring the many driftwood “forts” here, and Mrs. Tako and I enjoyed the cool ocean breezes.
It was a perfect end to a not-so-perfect summer.
The Final Tally
While it’s entirely possible to spend big money on a family beach vacation (renting a beach house, ordering takeout meals, etc), we try to keep things affordable. In total we spent about $80 for this beach vacation. It was a great way to escape the summer heat, and only for the cost of a tank of gas, and a couple bowls of ramen.
Could we have just stayed home and purchased a small AC unit for $80? Probably, but I doubt we’d have had nearly as much fun!
This to me is one of the great secrets of life… getting the most “bang” for your buck. It’s not how much you spend, but how much you squeeze out of each and every dollar.
[Image Credit: Flickr]