Tag Archives: Portland

Our Big Northwest Adventure

22 Jul

We just returned from a trip to Washington and Oregon that I affectionately call the Big Northwest Adventure. It was an awesome excursion that took us to some places that I had never been and to a lot of places that my wife had never been. Each day was filled with adventures that could expand into several long blog posts. Instead of doing that, I decided to provide a brief description of the days along with my favorite picture from each.

Day 1 – Mount Rainier

Although the hotel bartender told us not to go because of the traffic, we had to see Mount Rainier. We had to wait a bit at the entrance, the traffic was not that bad. We made our way to Longmire, where we hiked a trail to nowhere. We saw some poop along the path that my wife Necole worried belonged to a bear. Unbeknownst to me, she was planning our escape from the bear for the rest of the hike.

After that hike, we walked across a river of snowmelt that led to my favorite picture from that day.

On the way back from Mount Rainier, we stopped at Chipotle. That meal made us feel like the fictional bear must have felt on the side of the trail.

Day 2 – Seattle

On vacation, I would rather see small towns that big cities. However, we were staying in downtown Seattle, a city that we had never visited. That meant that we needed to spend some time there. We checked out the University of Washington because my stepdaughter has shown interest in going to school there.

We also went to Pike Place Market, a famous landmark where people can buy fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, cheeses, flowers and trinkets. I took a photograph on one colorful stand.

We had a great meal but missed out on getting coffee at the original Starbucks because the line was a little long.

Oh yeah, we also had dinner at Aqua, a place the concierge recommended. When we saw one entrée for $142, we lost our appetite.

Day 3 – Olympic National Park

We got up early to begin the road trip portion of the adventure and immediately grew concerned. GPS was taking us to the ferry, which is not what I had planned. It was not what Necole had planned, either. She was not sure about getting on a three-hour boat ride. After all, we had seen Gilligan’s Island. We reconfigured the GPS and made it on dry land.

After some hits and misses on my part, we finally made it to Hurricane Ridge outside the town of Port Angeles, Washington. The ridge has the best hike in the park. On a clear day, you can see forever. Yes, I stole that line. Anyway, it was not clear on the day we hike, which may have been a good thing.

Remember when I wrote that my wife worried about seeing a bear after we saw poop on the trail? Well, we saw a huge bear along this hike. It was playing around in a foggy meadow. If the sky had been clear, then we could have seen its true size. At that point, we may have frozen in place rather than casually sauntering back the way we came. I did not get a picture of the bear, but I got a picture of this.

We spent that night at Lake Crescent Lodge in another part of the park. I think we could have spent a few days in that peace and tranquility.

Day 4 – Olympic National Park

This day was a continuation of our visit to the park. Yeah, it is that big. We hiked to a waterfall. We had lunch in Forks, Washington. Necole said that this town was the setting of the Twilight series. I have never read those books or seen those movies, but I know that is cool.

After lunch, we headed to the beach. Do not let Necole tell you that I never want to go to the beach. I have always wanted to go to this beach, and it was my highlight of the trip. Ruby Beach was everything that I expected.

It was certainly better than the meal we had that night. We stopped at an interstate hotel and asked for a good place to eat. The restaurant they recommended certainly did not have a $142 entrée.

Day 5 – Mount St. Helens

From childhood, I can remember the coverage of Mount St. Helens. The weeks of rumblings. Harry Truman, who would not leave his home. The eruption. The aftermath. It is something that I will never forget. It is also a place that I wanted Necole to see.

Several years ago, I visited Mount St. Helens with my dad, my brother and my nephews, and it was stunning to see what was left of a mountain that was once covered with snow and dense forest. It is truly a place where the destructive force of nature can be visualized.

From there, we drove through Portland and made our way to Oregon Wine Country in the Willamette Valley. We also made it to The Allison Inn, our lodging for the next couple of nights. It was amazing.

Day 6 – Vineyards

We hired a driver to take us to a few wineries. The first, Archery Summit, was recommended by a friend. The second winery is where I took my favorite picture of the entire trip.

The third was Utopia, a small family owned operation. We had a great conversation with the owner and his daughter, who is a History major. They told us about how they got into this business at that location. We also talked about music. It was good to see that the growing of grapes is not just done my wealthy investment bankers and corporations.

Necole chose The Painted Lady, a famous local restaurant, for dinner. I can only describe it by saying that it is similar to The Catbird Seat in Nashville. Unfortunately, my wife is not a fan of The Catbird Seat. It is a long and winding story that I will not get into. Just know that she likes to bring up the night that I took her there when we were dating. That will probably stop because I can now bring up the night that she took me to The Painted Lady. If you want to know about The Catbird Seat experience, then you can click here.

Day 7 – More Vineyards

We visited more vineyards, but I did not take good photographs. I should have because they were beautiful settings. However, this was the day that our adventure started to wind down. After a few stops, we drove back to Seattle for a night near the airport. You know things are becoming more normal when you have dinner at Jack in the Box. The next day would be a flight home

The Big Northwest Adventure was great, but the real world was waiting. Here is the thing. The real world is pretty great, too.


Northwest Trek – I Wonder If Howard Hughes Liked Pie, Too

14 Aug

Our journey into the Great Northwest began with a pleasant flight. Well, it was pleasant except for the woman two rows in front of us who lives in San Diego, where her husband is based in the Marines. They just finished a two-week vacation visiting family. The first week was with her family in Oklahoma, and the second week was with his family in Kentucky. They like San Diego, but it was better being based in Texas because it was closer to all of those people. Also, they have a six-month old child who never misses a meal.

How do I know all of this? She spent the entire flight craning her neck and talking to the people behind her. I have a message for her. We all appreciate the sacrifice your husband makes for our country. However, there is an issue. When people tell you that you have a cute baby, they are not asking for your life story. There is no reason to broadcast it to the back of the plane.

With that rant behind me, let us get on with the story. We landed in Portland in plenty of time to make it to the hotel. We knew that we wanted to be out of the city and thought 50 miles would be a good distance. I randomly chose McMinnville, Oregon because it fit that distance and was in the direction we wanted to drive. That decision paid off for a couple of reasons.

First, we found out that McMinnville, Oregon is named after McMinnville, Tennessee. Apparently, a man from here traveled on the Oregon Trail and named his new town after his old one. Second, the Evergreen Aviation Museum was across the street from the hotel. One of my nephews said that we should go. The other nephew looked it up on the internet and discovered that it is the home of the Spruce Goose, the gigantic plane build and flown by Howard Hughes. that is something that we had to see.DSC00262

The next morning, we went to the museum and saw the big plane along with a bunch of other cool planes. At one time, it was the largest plane ever flown. It still holds the record for longest wingspan. This was the plane that Hughes built to transport troops and supplies during World War II. It was not finished in time, and he ended up being called in front of Congress to testify. The day he flew the plane is one of the last times Hughes was seen in public.

We got to go into the plane and took turns sitting at the controls.IMG_2132

Now, all I have to do is lock myself in a room; take my clothes off; watch the same movie over and over; and grow out my hair and nails. Then, I will have had the complete Howard Hughes experience.

After the museum, we drove down the coast on Highway 101. Honestly, we were disappointed with this part of the trip. The land between the road and the ocean was developed more than we realized, and the views were not what we had anticipated. Still, we saw some pretty scenery along the way.DSC00280

The highlight was stopping in Newport, Oregon for lunch. My oldest nephew broke out his GPS to find something good and led us to Local Ocean Seafoods, which sits along the harbor.DSC00274

When I picture a seafood restaurant, I think of something made of wood with fishing nets hanging from the ceiling. It may have that fish smell and saltine crackers on the table. This place was different. It had a sleek, modern motif and great food. In my mind, it was the best meal of the entire trip.

We continued along the coast and turned inland toward Eugene, Oregon. My youngest nephew wanted to see the University of Oregon football stadium and buy a shirt. We also took some time to walk around campus. We saw a lot of students, but I was interested in a couple of faculty members. As we passed, they were having a lively debate, the higher education way of saying that they were arguing.

We could have gotten a room in Eugene but decided to drive down the interstate to have a better set up for the next day. That took us to Roseburg, Oregon, which was low on hotels and places to eat. We slept at the Best Western and dined a Shari’s, which is similar to a place around here called Shoney’s. It turns out that they are famous for their pies, and that those pies were free that night.

The pie was awesome. I got a piece of Marionberry Pie. Yep, I some pie that has the same name as a Washington, D.C. mayor who got caught smoking crack in a hotel room.

As we walked out of Shari’s, we had no idea that we would hit that franchise again and again and again.