Pacific City

For our last day we headed to the coast again.  This time we went to Pacific City, the same place George and Stacie got engaged.  We wanted to climb the giant Sand Dune at Cape Kiwanda.

Cape Kiwanda Sand Dune

When we arrived there was a truck stuck in the sand on the beach.  The idiot had gotten stuck trying to pull in a Truck and Trailer stuck on the beachboat larger than the truck itself just as the tide was coming in.  We stood and watched for a few minutes while a cop showed up, and a few people tried to help, and we moved on.

View from the Sand DuneWe started climbing the sand dune and quickly learned it was a lot higher than it looked!  After getting to the top, the view was well worth it.  Rachel ran down but I had to keep the flying sand to a minimum, protecting my camera.  On the way down we noticed they’d gotten the truck out but only with the assistance of a full size tow truck (who was smart enough not to pull onto the sand, and used their winch).

We spent a great day at a beautiful place.  An absolutely perfect place to end a fantastic vacation.

Around Portland and Brewersfest

International Rose Test GardenWe slept in a bit on Thursday since we didn’t have anything planned until 2pm and we were driving all day Wednesday.  We started off the day by visiting the Portland Rose Test Garden.  I had no idea there were so many roses, wierd ones too.  They were all in full Bloom and so gorgeous!  Rachel got a few ideas and we found our Portland Magnet.  It was then time to head into the city to grab a bite to eat before our Portland Underground Tour.

After spending a fortune for parking ($12, there are much cheaper places but we didn’t find any right away) we headed to the Old Town Pizza, the first stop on the Underground Tour, to grab lunch and get tickets for the tour.  While I placed our order (a thin house special) Rachel called Portland Walking Tours to book it.  Unfortunately the Underground Portland tour was booked, something we hadn’t planned for.  Because we had plans for tomorrow we decided to take the Beyond Bizarre tour instead.

Portland Brewers FestSince we didn’t have anything to do for about 5 hours we decided to walk around and see a few things, the first being the Tom McCall Waterfront ParkAs we were walking along Rachel said something, my eyes glazed over, the skies opened and it seemed like there was a chorus of angels.  We walked right onto Portland’s Brewers Fest.

Mills End ParkAdmission was free so we went in (we would have anyway).  You pay for a mug with a bunch of chips, each chip is worth a tasting, 4 is worth a pint, but their tastings turned out to be much bigger than 1/4th of a pint.  They have a $10 mug which comes with 4 chips or a $20 mug which comes with 14 chips.  We each got 14 chips, what’s the point in only tasting 4 beers? After all, we had 5 hours.

Most of the beers were delicious, but we didn’t realize until the end that the beers were all west coast, not necessarily Oregon like we had originally thought.  Ahh well, still tasty.  We took a short break in between our 14 beers to wander around, and find the worlds smallest park which was neat.

Afterwards we met George and Stacie for Happy hour at Three Degrees where we enjoyed some great deals and good food (thanks Stacie!).  After that we took the MAX back to Old Town Pizza to catch our Beyond Bizzarre Tour.

EMFOriginally we thought the Beyond Bizarre tour was just the Underground Tour with some ghost stories and an EMF detector thrown in.  We were horribly wrong, and the tour sucked.  They hand out the EMF devices and it was mostly a ghost hunting exercise where they take you to these different locations and tell you why people think it’s ‘haunted’.  It was incredibly lame and we don’t suggest anyone do it.  I’m not sure if I would trust their Underground Tour either…  Perhaps If we had a coupon.

Back to George and Stacies, a glance at some pictures and bed… Another good day, despite the Tour Failure, mostly due to all the drinking.

Back to Portland

The DesertOur trek from Glacier National Park back to Portland was rather uneventful, and yet satisfying.  We drove all the way through, only stopping in Coeur D’Alene for lunch (which was a completely unexpected yet beautiful city in Idaho).  Again, somewhere in Montana we hit a giant hailstorm of bugs.  We seemed to literally drive through a wall of them with some as big as your fist.

As we drove through the dry areas, we watched the outside temperature gauge in the car reach as high as 106ºF.  Rachel wanted to know what that feels like, so at 70Mph we opened the windows and stuck our arms out.  It felt just like a blow dryer, and closed went the windows.

Dust DevilAlong the way we saw a ton of dust devils, which is kind of neat as I don’t remember ever seeing them this large before.  They look like mini tornadoes, and they seemed to tear across the skyline with a fury.

After crossing into Oregon we followed the Columbia River along I84, a large section of which we had taken before.  As the sun set, we were provided beautiful views of Mt Hood clear as day right over the river.  The most beautiful sight however was as we were passing Multnomah Falls and the sunlight was peaking through some clouds so only the falls were lit up.  It almost made us turn around, but we pushed on.

Mt Hood over the Columbia River

We arrived at George and Stacie’s with just enough time to show them some pictures and then head to bed.

Even just driving through, the scenery out here is beautiful and fulfilling.

Oregon Coast to Seaside

Tuesday was relaxing.  We got up and had the continental breakfast (we made it a point to eat itevery day, no sense spending money on a meal that was included with your hotel).  We took our time checking out and headed to do laundry.  Since we’re here for 3 weeks we intentionally only packed enough for 1 to lighten the load. This only took us a little over an hour (thank you 45lb dryers!) which was just about perfect since right then we got a call to meet at Fudruckers for lunch.  “Sounds good!” we said and headed over.

ecola-state-parkAfter lunch (Michael at a 1lb burger…) with the family (George, Stacie, Mom, Dad, Michael, Michelle, Rachel and myself) everyone took a leisurely drive through the countryside to get a good view of Mt hood.  We stopped outside a ranch of some sort where we could see it pretty clearly.

Here, we said our goodbyes (I think Rachel and Michelle were the most saddened) and struck out for the coast.  We had already been to Cannon beach and south to Tullamook but we hadn’t made it to Ecola State Park and we figured, since we had the time, what better way to get to Seattle than to take the coast the whole way.

Sunset at Ecola was amazing.  However; since we started out so late we only made it as far as Seaside, which turned out to be a very cute town but extremely touristy.  There we stayed at the Sandy Cove Inn which was adorable.  It was family owned and apparently had been purchased and renovated by the current owners about 2 years ago.  It was one of those theme places, where every room has a theme.

Thus ended our first real night on the road.

Crater Lake National Park

deerWe headed to Crater Lake National Park early Monday morning from Bend Oregon.  To get there we took the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway which circles Mount Bachelor along alpine lakes and meadows.  It took longer than necessary, but we’re out here for the scenery right?  We saw great views of snow capped mountains, Deer (likely Blacktail, a sub-species of Mule Deer), old lava flows and beautiful lakes and meadows. If you’ve got the time it has to be the best way to get to Crater Lake.

Once we were through the byway, Crater was only about another hour or so.  Knowing that we’d be facing hefty prices for food and drinks once in the park (which were certainly confirmed, $9 for a cold 6 inch ham & swiss sandwich!?), we stopped at a convenience store and grabbed some snakes and liquid.

craterOnce you enter the park, the first view of the actual lake is about 9 miles in past a pumice desert and some beautiful scenes of snow capped mountains.  I knew to expect beautiful blue water, but I was still shocked when we finally walked to the rim and looked in for the first time.  The landscape in Crater Lake National Park is quite possibly the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.  This is very cliche of scenic landscapes, but honestly pictures cannot do it justice, it’s just something you have to see to appreciate.

We drove the rim road stopping at several scenic overlooks, took a quick break at the visitors center, and took a short hike which we thought was going to lead us to a lookout tower.  Unfortunately, we missed a turn due to some snow on the trail and ended up hiking along the rim trail for a ways until we reached a beautiful overlook and realized we were on the wrong trail.  We spent about 4 hours in the park and then headed back to Portland.  I could have spent all day there (all week!) but Tess and Roger had to fly out in the morning so we had to get back to Portland so they could catch their flight.

On the way back we took the Rogue Umqua Scenic Byway.  Another absolutely gorgeous drive, although I was the only one awake to enjoy it.  We took no fewer than 3 different Scenic Byways on our short trip to Crater Lake, and we could have taken more had we really tried.  Oregon truly is a beautiful state everywhere you look.

Columbia River Gorge (east end)

Our original plan for Sunday morning was to head to the west side of Mount St Helens.  However; after checking the weather report, it seemed like it might be a bit useless.  Overcast throughout the entire region for the whole day.  No matter, one of the greatest things about this area of the country is if you head an hour in any direction you’ll hit a different climate zone.  So that’s exactly what we did.  When we went out to the Columbia Gorge last we were a bit rushed and didn’t get a chance to check everything out that we wanted to.   This time we took I84 straight out the gorge and didn’t take any detours until we passed route 35 (the farthest out we made it last time).

Rowena Crest Panorama

We happened upon a few good viewpoints along the way (such as those at Ruthton Park) but our luck severely turned when we chatted briefly with a Ranger at the Twin Tunnels Trail.  She told us a little history about the road we were on and how the rest of it was closed to all but bikers and hikers (with a permit).  She then told us about an excellent viewpoint, called the Rowena Crest, coming up along the Historic Columbia River Highway and gave us directions.

Rowena CrestThe Rowena Crest is one of the best overlooks of the Gorge that we’ve seen.  To get there you start heading east and it gets drier and drier the farther out you go.  This makes for some dramatically different scenery.  This was perfect for today as it was overcast and damp in Portland.  Once we reached the Rowena crest, we spent a little while walking around the trails and getting shots of the curvy roads we’d have to take.  Then we headed back to Portland to visit with the Hamalainens and the new Heath family for one last get together before everyone headed home.  We only stayed for a short while before heading on to our next stop, Bend Oregon.

What little we saw of Bend was very pretty.  However; Bend was really only a halfway point for us to make the drive to Crater Lake tomorrow shorter.

Downtown Portland and 3 Things Everyone Should Know

From a bicyclist somewhere along the Tom McCall Waterfront Park:

There are 3 things you need to tell everyone about Portland when you get back home

  1. Portland Sucks
  2. The Weather is Horrible
  3. The People are @$$ holes

Keller-FountainI don’t think I can agree with the 3rd one. We met several different people today and all of them were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met anywhere.

The Bicyclist – What he said was all in good fun, but it stems from a reality. Portland is a victim of huge population growth. It’s probably one of the reasons Oregon has one of the worst unemployment rates in the country right now. From what I understand, people from southern california and other places with high taxes (*cough* NY *cough*) are flocking to Oregon in droves. People who live in Oregon now like it the way it is, and don’t want it to change. Naturally, the more people Oregon gets the less like the current wilderness it will become.

Keller-BikerThe Trick-Biker – We wandered the city a while until we happened upon the Ira Keller Fountain. It’s probably one of the coolest fountains I’ve ver seen. It’s very abstract and modern, with many different levels and cascades, as well as many different viewing platforms of various sizes, orientations and locations. Just as we were about to leave 2 kids showed up on trick bikes and started jumping from platform to platform while doing tricks. After chatting for a bit we learned that they like to come down at least once a week by bus just to ride around the city. Keller Fountain is one of their favorite spots. I asked if I could take their picture and they were ecstatic, especially after I showed them the result. I got their e-mail address and told them I’d send them copies.

Zweigles man – Zweigles hot dogs are definitely a local Rochester NY thing. I didn’t even think anyone outside of our area had heard of them, or would even care. However; for some reason SuperDog in downtown Potland OR carries them, claiming in their menu: “Zweigles white hot – direct from Rochester.” When we saw that it floored us, and naturally we had to eat there. While doing so I struck up a conversation with the cook who was just as shocked as we were to find out we were from Rochester NY.

mills-endWe struck out with the goal of seeing Mills End Park, the worlds smallest park and we saw it (don’t blink, seriously, one square foot of park is easy to miss) however we saw and learned much more along the way. Just the way we like it.

Cannon Beach and Sand Castles

Since we had the whole day to ourselves on Friday we headed to the coast.  We weren’t the only ones in the group with the same idea so we traveled out there with Roger, Tess, Heather, Liam and Jill.

flowersThere’s another observation we made almost immediately upon arriving in Portland which we’ve failed to mention thus far.  There are beautiful wild flowers absolutely everywhere.  They grow in fields, by the road and between the sidewalk cracks, literally everywhere!  On the way to the coast we found this really neat little fruit and flower stand where you could pick your own flower bouqette (as many as you could fit between your pointer finger and your thumb) for $5.  Rachel says this is a fantastic deal and I tend to agree (since I know what it costs to buy her a dozen roses…).  They had some good deals on Raspberries and Blackberries also so we picked up a quart of each for $3 a piece. Rachel says there were shasta daisies, spray roses , hydrangeas, lavender, fox glove and many more, although I only know them as the purple, red and yellow ones.

sand-castle-buildingFrom there it was on to the coast.  We arrived at Cannon Beach starving so we stopped at the Ecola Seafood Restaurant & Market and had our first Seafood of the trip.  It was delicious!

We had Liam with us and this was his first trip to the Pacific Ocean (I think it was his first trip to any ocean but I’m not sure).  His goal? to build the greatest Sand Castle the world had ever known.  We didn’t exactly fly to Portland with sand castle construction on the mind so we didnt’ have any tools with us and neither did he.  Fortunately, Roger came up with the idea of using the ice bucket & cups from the hotel so we snuck them along.  When Liam found out what we had, he was ecstatic.

coastWe ended up spending so much time at Cannon Beach building sand castles and exploring Haystack Rock we didn’t make it any further.  We had to head back for George & Stacie’s BBQ.  Since it wasn’t really that far out of the way, we headed south along the coast to Tillamook and then took route 6 back into Portland.  This is a beautiful drive so if you get the chance be sure to take it.  Some of the best Scenery we’d seen so far.

That night George and Stacie hosted a great BBQ with friends and family where everyone got to relax, have some good food, good drinks, enjoy great company and play some beanbags and wiffle ball.  An enjoyable and relaxing way to prepare for the wedding on Saturday.

George & Stacies Bachelor(ette) Parties

A while back while the best man was throwing together ideas for the Bachelor party I read an article from the New York Times about this sweet little par 3 golf course with several bars on site which seemed ideal for the type of shenanigans we’d be up to.  I forwarded the information about McMenamins Edgefield that I had, and to my surprise George (the Bachelor) had not only already heard of it, but really wanted to go.

This was my first experience golfing (probably Rob’s too as can be seen in the video above), and holy crap did I suck to start out with.  My skill level essentially fit perfectly to a bell curve over time.  I got steadily better (thanks to Newman and Andy’s coaching!) and then I sucked hard core (thanks to the alcohol).

From there it was on to some bars with a quick stop to take care of the Portland UprITe Battle of 2009.

The girls spent the majority of their time at Dukes which, if the pictures and videos are any indication, is a lot of fun.  It seems that almost everybody rode the bull with the exception of my wife who is the only one who foresaw the bull riding plot and wore a skirt to stop it in it’s tracks.

A great night for all involved!