Klementine’s Kitchen

If you ever find yourself in Lincoln City, on the Oregon coast, on any day except Monday and Tuesday, you HAVE TO stop by Klementine’s Kitchen for dinner. You’ll be so glad you did.

We were casting about for a unique dining experience, and reading reviews on Yelp, and came across Cajun/Creole food. Cajun food? In Oregon? It had 4 ½ stars and rave reviews, so we were sold.

And I must say, thank God for Yelp, because it would be really easy to just drive by this place without giving it a second thought. You can tell that once upon a time, it was a private house, and not the nicest one, either. So much so that you kind of feel like you’re intruding to enter. Especially since you have to drive through a gas station parking lot to get to its parking lot, and when we first got there, the place was empty.

We stood there in the lot for a second, thinking, “Um… should we?” But Yelp. So in we went.

And the minute we opened the door, the magic began. Anna, the wife of the chef, greeted us at the door. She was warm and welcoming, and clearly proud of what she had done with the place. And she should be. Inside, it was absolutely delightful. Her taste in décor made me pea green with envy. I wish I could let her loose in my house.

The beautiful hardwood floors and the cozy fireplace may have already been there, but her way of decorating, with air plants in creative pots and distressed wood windows suspended on wires to separate the various rooms, was really inspired. A marriage of simplicity and creativity.

The choice of music was lovely and calming, too. Billie Holiday always makes me want to wrap myself in a threadbare quilt and relax on a chaise longue.

And the food. The food! We started off with the spinach and artichoke dip, and I could easily have ordered seconds and would have been satisfied with just that. But the adventure was just beginning.

I had the Oregon dirty rice, which the menu describes as “Oregon mushrooms, peppers, onions, and rice sautéed in olive oil, hazelnut garnish.” And I added Dungeness crab. Oh. My. God. I wanted to pitch a tent in the dining room and never leave.

Dear husband had the etouffee, which was a “bowl full of Dungeness crab and shrimp, in a flavorful creole sauce, smothering white rice.” I’m telling you, the look of pure ecstasy on his face as he ate only rendered him even more good looking than the already is.

I only wish we had room for dessert, because the raspberry and lemon custard pie was very tempting indeed.

So, seriously, if you are ever in Lincoln City for dinner (they don’t do lunch), stop by and say hello to Anna, and enjoy this restaurant’s unique Cajun food with its Oregonian spin. It’s always wonderful to support small businesses, but even more so when they make it so memorable and delicious to do so.

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Stuckie

True confession: I’m equally drawn to, and repulsed by, the macabre. It has always been thus. I think it’s because when the disgusting exists in the world, I want to find out why and how.

Because of this, if I ever find myself in the vicinity of Waycross, Georgia again (please, God, no…) I will have to stop in to see the Southern Forest World Museum. I do love a good Environmental Center, and from the looks of it, this is a good one, indeed. It seems to get universally fantastic reviews, and the images on the website are intriguing.

But I’d go there mainly to see Stuckie. Poor, poor Stuckie. What a story.

Back in 1980, a chestnut oak was chopped down and sawed into logs, and then placed on a lumber truck. That’s when Stuckie was first discovered. He was a hound dog, and he was mummified in the hollow of the tree.

It’s estimated he had been trapped in that tree for at least 20 years when he was found. And he’s still in that tree to this day. He’s on display in the museum. (I first learned of him by reading the amazing book Lab Girl, which I highly recommend.)

We’ll probably never know how Stuckie got in that tree. The most plausible theory is that he chased a racoon and got stuck. I hope he didn’t suffer much. After that, it was perfect conditions, wind that blew away the smell of his dying body, which meant that destructive bugs weren’t attracted to the site, and dry conditions within the stump, that caused Stuckie to arrive at his present state. It sure makes me wonder what is inside the trees that I pass by every day.

I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the 50’s, some poor family lost a beloved member, and never knew why. They probably searched and searched, and maybe even came heartbreakingly close to finding him. That makes me very sad, indeed.

RIP Stuckie, if you can, with so many people staring at you.

Stuckie

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Spork

A horrible thing happened to me recently. I discovered the best restaurant I’ve ever eaten in in my entire life.

The reason this is horrible is that it’s located in Bend, Oregon. Bend is a delightful, quirky little city in the high desert region of Oregon. Sadly, I can think of no really plausible scenario that will find me back in that neck of the woods. Which means I’m destined to go through Spork withdrawal.

Spork is a fascinating restaurant that serves a fusion of cuisine from Latin America, Africa and Asia. Just as a spork is a combination of a spoon and a fork (and no, there are none of these handy utensils to be had in this place), Spork combines food in ways most people would never think to combine them, and the results are absolutely delicious.

Even better, these meals are extremely affordable, incredibly plentiful, and come from locally sourced, seasonal, humanely raised ingredients.

I had the Lomo Saltado, which the menu describes as “Peruvian stir-fry with wok-seared bavette steak, red potatoes, sweet peppers, onion, grilled tomato, soy, crema, radish, fried egg, green onion and jasmine rice.” My mouth waters just describing it to you.

Dear husband had the Thai Steak Salad. “Grilled bavette steak, greens, cabbage, beansprouts, herbs, fried shallot, toasted coconut, and nam jim sweet-spicy tart tamarind dressing.”

The casual atmosphere was amazing, too. It features international décor that, just like the food, manages to blend together perfectly in unexpected ways. We sat in an elongated wine barrel, near African wood carvings interspersed with Mexican tapestries. And the international music fit the restaurant as if it were composed for it.

Woe is me. I found an amazing place and will most likely never get to return to it. But I’m telling you, folks, if you are ever within 300 miles of Bend, Oregon, make it a point to go to Spork, even if the line is stretching out the door, as it often is.

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Deepest, Tallest, Longest, Highest

What is this fascination that we have with record-breaking things? The tallest building. The deepest ocean, the longest bridge, the highest mountain. We often visit these things when we travel. It’s like we can then claim them. By being there, we win some sort of psychological prize.

When I see the pictures of the crowds of people trying to summit Mount Everest, they make me cringe. You’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to risk your life. You’ve given up weeks of time to acclimate to high altitudes. And there you are, scuttling amongst a bunch of other people in crowds that are better suited to Times Square during a New Year’s celebration. It defies logic.

We may think we are some higher form of animal, but what we seem to be doing is marking our territory like the average stray dog. I don’t really understand the instinct. It’s exceedingly strange.

But I can’t say I’m immune to it. I recently gazed upon the largest Ponderosa pine in the state of Oregon, and crossed over the longest continuous truss bridge in North America (the Astoria-Megler Bridge). While we didn’t go out of our way to cross this particular bridge (it was on our route), it was beautiful. We did go out of our way to see the tree, which was also pretty amazing. If I had seen a tree that was six inches shorter, though, I’m sure it would have been equally amazing.

You know what? I didn’t feel like a different person after either experience. Neither one was transformative.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from traveling. It’s my reason for being, so who am I to judge? But I think this instinct to see the biggest and the best often makes for a letdown.

This… thing that many of us seem to be searching for is elusive at best, and profoundly disappointing at worst. Nothing tops our imaginations.

Everest

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The Crooked Story of the Crooked River Bridge

On the way home from our travels in Central Oregon, we were driving up highway 97, admiring the views of the many snow-capped dormant volcanoes visible in the distance. The area we were in was relatively flat, and had been for some time, but then, about 9 miles north of Redmond, Oregon, the scenery changed in a startling way. This deep, deep canyon opened up, just like that. This merited further investigation.

Fortunately, the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint is right by the highway, on the south rim of the canyon. And from there, you can also walk out on the Crooked River Bridge, which is 295 feet above the canyon floor. It’s a beautiful area. I was really glad we stopped. Check out this video about it.

Despite the beautiful surroundings, I got this odd vibe from the place from the very start. Perhaps it had something to do with this weird little sign in the parking lot.

Crooked Sign

I mean, yes, it’s a deep, deep canyon, and one should be careful. But this sign seems to indicate that a) dogs are more valuable than children, b) there isn’t a waist-high wall protecting you from the drop off, when in fact there is one, and c) an awful lot of Oregonians must be “helping” their valuable dogs over that wall to plunge to their deaths.

And then, to add to the strange atmosphere, there seemed to be more cars in the parking lot than people in the park. Where had all these folks gone? I shuddered to think.

But we did encounter two people. Along the path that leads to the cliff, there were a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses, armed with their ubiquitous pamphlets. This struck me as a rather odd place to stand if your goal is to increase your flock. We probably were the first people they had encountered in hours, and they could tell just by looking at us that they would be wasting their time even trying to talk to us, so they didn’t.

I don’t know. Maybe a lot of people go there who are in despair. It kind of bugged me to think that this duo was attempting to proselytize to people who are vulnerable. But I suppose any help is better than none. Perhaps their intentions were good. (I do tend to forget that, when crossing paths with people who are trying to convert me, because I would never presume to do that to someone else. I believe everyone should choose their own spiritual path.)

Anyway, then we approached the cliff. I was almost afraid to look down. I half expected to see a bunch of dogs along with the owners of the parked cars, all in a grisly, twisted heap. But no. Nothing but the beautiful river below.

After enjoying this view, we then walked out onto the Crooked River Bridge. This two lane bridge used to be highway 97’s bridge across the canyon, but traffic has since increased, and Oregon’s Department of Transportation began constructing the current highway bridge in 1990. I could imagine Model A Fords puttering across this old one, and it made me smile.

After we left, I still couldn’t shake the eerie feeling about the place, though. And then I started doing research for this post, and here’s what I discovered.

According to this article, in 1961, Jeannance Freeman and Gertrude Jackson decided that Jackson’s children were interfering with their love affair. So they took the children to this park. Jackson left the vehicle, and came back to discover that Freeman had stripped her son of all of his clothing and then beat him unconscious with a tire iron. Jackson then took off her daughter’s shirt. The couple then threw both children, still alive, off the bridge. (Fair warning about that article, though. There’s a rather disgusting image of what one assumes is the son, now inexplicably clothed, dead on the floor of the canyon.)

Jackson later turned state’s evidence and was sentenced to life in prison, while Freeman was sentenced to death. She was the first woman ever sentenced to death in Oregon. The sentence was later commuted to life. Jackson only served time for seven years, and Freeman was released on parole after 20 years, but violated that parole by threatening a new lover with a knife because she refused to go to the store to buy cigarettes. She died in prison in 2003.

So, yeah, that’s the crooked story of the Crooked River Bridge. Needless to say, none of that information was put on a cheerful little information placard in the park. It’s a place well worth visiting, but don’t be surprised if it feels a little bit off to you, for a variety of reasons.

Crooked River and its Bridge

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The Adventures of Travel Dog

Many moons ago, my late boyfriend Chuck was about to drive from Florida to Arkansas to help a friend remodel her home. This was all well and good, except that the old pickup truck he was planning to go in was held together with baling wire, duct tape, and good intentions. I couldn’t imagine how he was going to make it all the way out there, let alone come back in one piece. Half the time it barely made it across town.

To say I was worried was putting it mildly. But Chuck always made his own choices. Sometimes those choices made me feel helpless. So in this instance, all I could do was buy him a guardian angel. I got him Travel Dog, a stuffed animal that looked sort of like my dog Devo. From then on, Chuck kept Travel Dog in his truck, through good times and bad.

He’d often send me pictures of Travel Dog on the road, in various places, like the laundromat where Chuck was hanging out while his clothes were drying. I think it was his way of saying that he was okay, and thinking of me, and that Travel Dog was keeping him safe.

I’m not going to say our relationship was a bed of roses. Chuck had a traumatic brain injury, so sometimes his wiring would go a little haywire and he would be, shall we say, less than rational. During those times, he felt it was best to be on his own, and he’d make himself homeless. He’d live out of his truck, and Travel Dog would watch over him as he slept in the Walmart parking lot. Eventually he’d come back home to me. We just couldn’t seem to quit each other.

One time he posted a picture on Facebook, late at night, of Travel Dog sitting on his dashboard, and he wrote about his despair about starting over at age 58. He also said that Travel Dog was such a ham that he had to get in every picture. He went on to say, “He keeps losing the garlic press. How is a body supposed to make scampi? I ask you!” Chuck had a great sense of humor.

Travel Dog Chuck

About a month after that Facebook post, Chuck died in his truck, clutching his asthma inhaler, and Travel Dog bore witness. It breaks my heart knowing he died alone. I’m glad Travel Dog was there, at least. But that’s extremely cold comfort, indeed.

After Chuck died, I inherited Travel Dog. He now lives in my car, and watches over me. I haven’t had a single accident in all the years he has been there. He even rode across the continent with me, when I basically fled Florida after Chuck’s death. I was terrified to start over at 49, and Travel Dog had seen that all before. But it turns out Seattle was exactly where I needed to be.

Recently I decided that Travel Dog deserved a vacation. It takes energy to bear witness. It takes strength to watch over someone. And he’s done an excellent job. So I took him with me on my trip to Oregon, and decided to take pictures of him in various places, just as Chuck had. I plan to continue doing this on all future trips, so you never know where Travel Dog might show up next.

So without further ado, here are some pictures of Travel Dog at Crater Lake, Haystack Rock, Sea Lion Cave, and Tillamook Creamery. I may have gotten some funny looks from bystanders while I took these pictures, but it was the least I could do for a dog that has seen so much. I think Chuck would be proud of his adventures.

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Flygskam

A friend of mine loves to travel, but vows never to fly anywhere ever again. This is not because of a fear of flying or a desire to avoid the dreaded TSA indignities, but because of the carbon footprint it leaves on the planet. According to this article in the Seattle Times, one roundtrip flight from Seattle to Rome emits the same amount of carbon per person as 9 months of driving in the average American car.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a horrifying statistic. I struggle with this concept every day. In Sweden the term for this type of flight shame is “flygskam”.

While I admire my friend’s commitment to the planet, I have mixed emotions about how small her world has become. In this era when nationalism is on the rise, bringing with it an increase in hate crimes, we need to broaden our horizons, not shrink them.

Perhaps if Trump had studied abroad in Mexico as I did, he wouldn’t have said, that “they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

I genuinely believe that it’s a great deal harder to demonize people when you’ve broken bread with them. I have no desire to wall a child off from safety when I’ve held one just like her in my arms. And I can’t close my mind and pretend that my way of living is the only right way since I’ve witnessed so many other people living differently and thriving in their own ways. I also truly believe that when I travel to other countries, I am helping those economies, and I am also acting as an ambassador to demonstrate that some Americans are good people, too. I think travel is essential.

So what to do to mitigate this flygskam?

In that same Seattle Times article, it mentions that Rick Steves is donating a million dollars a year to groups that help people who are negatively impacted by drought and famine. This will sort of offset the carbon footprint of the large number of people who fly with his tour groups to Europe each year. It’s a start.

But Should You Buy Carbon Offsets? That link suggests that this type of financial salve on your environmental guilt is akin to paying people to do the right thing so you don’t have to. Well, as with all things regarding this issue, it’s not quite that black and white. If you find a legitimate carbon offset, then you’re actually paying someone to do the right thing who couldn’t or wouldn’t have done so in the first place. That, to me, is a good thing. Because of this, I vow to pay 50 dollars in carbon offsets for every roundtrip international flight I take, and 25 dollars for every domestic one. But I can’t stop there.

The best way to reduce your carbon footprint in this world is to do it yourself. I’m committed to recycling, composting, threadcycling, getting energy efficient appliances, turning off lights, reducing my heating and cooling, buying locally, and eating less meat. I’m building a bug house. I’ve got a bat house. I’m also looking into wind turbines. The state of Washington is on the forefront of green burials, so I will have one when the time comes.

I also think that corporate travel needs to be drastically reduced. In this age of video conferencing and virtual reality, there’s no reason for the vast majority of it. And telecommuting needs to be considered for more jobs.

I think carbon neutral perfection is unobtainable. I have feet. I’m going to leave a footprint. But if I can do something, I will, and I must.

Takeoff

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