Monday, July 2, 2007

Our Pacific Northwest Vacation

From Dan: Millie, Abby, Riley, Duncan and I recently returned from a 3 1/2 week vacation to the Pacific Northwest. We've been trying to make time to take a long vacation once a year as a way to renew ourselves, reconnect with each other, and get some perspective. We camped in our pop-up camper the whole way--we only spent three nights in motels.

Aside from the trip itself, we learned that a lot of people don't embark on this kind of family oddysey anymore. We got many strange reactions from the people we met when we told them that we were visiting for no real reason other than to see what their town was like. Do people not do this anymore? We learned that the pacific coast is A LONG way from Minnesota. We learned once more how important our employees are, including Kenda, Greta, and Sara, and Emma, who all worked extra shifts to make our trip possible. And, Millie's Mom Jule, of course, who truly holds our store together whether we're here or not. We learned that after a 3 1/2 week vacation, you will not recognize your house. And, we learned that if you camp in a rain forest, you will get wet.

We did lots of fun stuff on our trip like climb trees, see some whales, and chase the surf on the beach. Being who we are, we also saw lots of toy and baby stores. A few that we thought were cool and had a similar approach to our store were Nature Boy / Walking Stick Toys in Missoula, MT; The Mothering Touch Centre in Victoria, BC; Bambini of Bend in Bend, OR; and Clover Toys in Seattle, WA. Each had its own personality and approach which we found interesting. Each store had some similar products to ours, but each was completely different and unique.

We also toured the Robeez shoe factory in Burnaby, BC (near Vancouver). That was pretty cool. It was a very clean, efficient, and (on a hot day) cool factory. We got to see how the shoes begin as tanned leather skins and are cut, sewn, assembled, stocked and shipped. Robeez are one of only a few baby shoes made in North America. Seeing how efficient they were helped us to understand how they can keep their prices low and compete with so many imported shoes. Their workers use computer-controlled sewing machines and the entire production line is synchronized to minimize changing thread or wasting leather. We were impressed.

So there are a few highlights of our odyssey. Not sure yet where we'll go next year. We'll keep you posted...
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