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Travels with the grandson:

By on November 24, 2020 in Travel with 0 Comments

Spring break in the COVID fall

Jimmy McGregor and Bentley walk through the animal park: “Spending time with my grandson is sometimes as simple as walking with him and talking about what we see and hear,” said Jimmy. “I love being one of his guides through life.”

By James McGregor

For a few decades now, my wife Julene and I have taken a “Spring Break” trip. 

Sometimes it was just our kids and sometimes we would take the kids and a friend or two. Our kids are now grown, so when we go on a trip in the spring, we will sometimes take our grandson Bentley. 

2020 was very different from other years. With the pandemic, a Spring Break trip was out of the question. 

It was tough news for Bentley. He was looking forward to the trip since we talked about it around Christmas 2019. 

Our family trips are usually full of unexpected issues. Having three daughters, crazy things tended to happen at times. It would not be unusual for us to be seen with a daughter wearing a fake mustache on vacation or even having a daughter get into poison ivy and a few minutes later, fall into the mud. 

Taking a car caravan Northwest Trek, one of the first animals encountered was this white goat.

We even had a daughter needing one last bowl of clam chowder, after a full meal, “Just to fill in the cracks,” and ended up with a tummy ache. 

All of these issues fail to compare to COVID-19 and what it did to our plans.

Months went by and as the world started to settle into the norms of COVID-19, we started to think about the “Spring Break” trip — only to be taken in the fall.

First, we had to find an activity that was open. The list was very short. Normally, I try to plan our trips near bookstores, unfortunately at this point bookstores were closed. 

After some careful thought and some research, we found that Northwest Trek Wildlife Park — a 723-acre wildlife park located in the town of Eatonville — was open and that there were changes in place that would make the adventure safe.

A bison showed up to say hello.

Hotel selection changed. Gone were the amenities criteria, replaced with the COVID-19 safety requirements. We let Bentley make the final decision. If I had known the decision-making process, I might have spoken up before we made the reservations; however, I didn’t know until we had arrived. 

While an adult’s hotel choices are usually based on how clean it is or the extras that might be included, the mind of an 8-year-old is very different. It came down to an orange chair. That is right, the lobby had an orange couch/chair and that is how Bentley chose our hotel. 

Bentley and his prize, the orange couch that he dreamed of sitting on.

Upon hearing this, a cringe grew that soon turned into anxiety. I pictured us sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a cockroach-infested hotel because an 8-year-old wanted a hotel with an orange chair. This was not a comforting thought at the time, and would only be relieved after arriving at the very nice hotel, that also had orange furniture. 

One of the major changes in the Northwest Trek tour is that the train tour was no longer taking place because of COVID-19. Instead of the buses, we would be driving our car in a caravan tour with a guide leading the way. 

In addition, there was limited space in the park and reservations had to be made. 

We ended up splitting our tour. We did the driving portion of the tour on Friday and the walking part of the tour on Saturday.

The car portion of the tour was very comforting. We were able to stay in the safety of our vehicle and view many different animals. 

Many of the animals were very close to the road, and we were told that every drive is slightly different. Our unique experience included hearing elk calls and seeing caribou. We also had a mountain goat walk right beside our car.

By the end of his adventure, Bentley was very tired and happy.

After a long day driving to and through Northwest Trek, it was time to get something to eat. 

It is sometimes difficult to find a great place to eat under normal circumstances, and COVID-19 made this process even more complicated. We used our phones to not only find restaurants that were open but to also decide on what we were going to eat. We decided on a restaurant; however, upon arriving, there was an extremely long line. This is normal in our current world. We ended up at an Ivar’s Seafood Bar. 

When we go on trips with Bentley, we encourage him to try new foods. As he was starting to eat the chicken he ordered, he decided to try a clam strip. 

The last trip we were on, he tried calamari and ended up eating a large portion. There was no difference with the clam strips. He ended up eating more of Julene’s clam strips and shrimp than she did. The chicken was barely touched. Lesson learned: Order his meal after he tries everyone else’s food. 

It was a nice end to our first day. 

The next day we did the walking tour, which had changed because of COVID-19. Freely walking around the park had been replaced with a one-way walk. Other changes included the gift shop being outside, and many barricades that prevented meandering. 

I have to say that the walk was still nice and peaceful. We had to keep masks on all of the time we were in the park and it was not a big deal. We were able to see most, if not all, of the animals. 

Both the driving and walking tours were different from our previous tours but they were also very similar to other tours at the park we had taken and I believe we saw just as many animals.

In the end the adventure was very different from our previous adventures but just as entertaining. It is possible to have a successful vacation even in this new environment with a few minor adjustments.

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