West Coast Wander, Day 13: Northern California to Seattle by Train

A great way to end a road trip.

We had a two-week vacation, and decided that it would be fun to drive down the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California and then drop off our rental car and take a train back home. I’m calling this journey the West Coast Wander, and plan to blog about it every other day so as not to totally alienate those who have no interest in travel, and yet allow those who do to travel vicariously with us. Here’s the first in the series, if you want to start at the beginning.  I hope you enjoy it, dear reader.

Considering I was on a train, I slept rather well. The converted bed with its thin mattress was surprisingly comfortable, and being rocked all night long was kind of primal. (I will say that the pillow was the size of a postage stamp, however.) I do vaguely remember a few stops during the night, which put me into more of a twilight sleep, but I soon resumed my normal patterns. I’m sure taking melatonin didn’t hurt, either.

At one point we diverted to a side track to let another train pass. This required us to move backward briefly. That confused my foggy brain a bit, but again, I drifted right back to dreamland.

When I woke with the rising sun, I looked out the window and beheld a forest primeval in Northern California. Lush evergreens, rocky outcroppings, rivers and streams, and very little sign of human habitation. It was like waking up in the middle of a Pacific Northwest Eden. It made me smile.

And then, holy smokes! Mount Shasta. I don’t even know how I knew it was Mount Shasta. I’d never seen Mount Shasta. But Mount Shasta it was. I knocked excitedly on the bottom of the upper bunk to wake up dear husband. We stopped at the dining car for breakfast omelets, then moved to the sightseer lounge for more stunning views.

After all but circling Mount Shasta, we headed into Oregon for more awe-inspiring sights, including a drawbridge near Portland. (I do love my drawbridges.) After that, we skirted Puget Sound, so we switched to the ocean side of the lounge to enjoy the water views. Interspersed with the gazing was much reading of books.

In the midst of all this, and since our ETA to Seattle wasn’t until nearly 8 pm, we had lunch and dinner in the dining car. I had pasta and meatballs for lunch, and for dinner I had the shrimp and lobster sauce again because it was so darned good the day before. Incidentally, here’s the menu.

We also saw quite a bit of cool art and architecture at the various train stations we passed.

Our train passed right through the town in which we live, but didn’t stop. I thought quite a bit about how close we came to seeing our dogs. But jumping off a moving train only works in the movies. We did get some friends to come out on their porch and wave at us, which was fun.

I did learn a lot during this train trip. For example, according to this interesting article in the Smithsonian Magazine, the reason so many train stations are called Union Station is that the stations in question are transportation hubs that serve multiple train companies. I had no idea.

Some tips for those who book sleepers on trains: First of all, check as much baggage as you possibly can. It’s no fun climbing over luggage in a tiny little room. Next, bring a sleep aid in case you don’t sleep as soundly in strange environments. Go to the observation car with a book as early and as often as possible to avoid claustrophobia. Bring an extension cord if you plan to do more than charge your phone. (Our roomette had one outlet.) Also bring some duct tape. The swaying train means that your electronics will unplug themselves with annoying frequency. It’s also handy to tape your extension cords up and out of your way while you sleep.

And then, just like that, we were in Seattle. Pulling into King Street Station was a huge relief, especially since we knew a reliable friend would be there to pick us up. I couldn’t wait to see the dogs back at home. But it was also bittersweet, because our amazing vacation had come to an end. Meanwhile, we were treated to many more beautiful sights in and around the station.

I wrote about the trip’s aftermath two days later. There was still so much to say! Check it out here!

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West Coast Wander, Day 3: Newport, Oregon to Eureka, California

The Day of the Tree.

We had a two-week vacation, and decided that it would be fun to drive down the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California and then drop off our rental car and take a train back home. I’m calling this journey the West Coast Wander, and plan to blog about it every other day so as not to totally alienate those who have no interest in travel, and yet allow those who do to travel vicariously with us. Here’s the first in the series, if you want to start at the beginning.  I hope you enjoy it, dear reader.

I woke up hearing the sea lions barking at Newport’s waterfront. That made me smile. I wonder if I’d be equally enamored of them if I lived here and contended with that sound on a daily basis. No matter. I enjoyed it.

Once again we got a late start as errands had to be run first. Then we drove down the coast, enjoying Oregon’s gigantic rhododendrons and its equally impressive sand dunes. And more invasive Scotch Broom.

We happened upon a little free library covered with hand prints in North Bend (which, as I mentioned yesterday, is south of South Bend). Naturally we left some books behind. Then we stopped at the Port Orford rest area to enjoy the huge rocks in the ocean.

We passed Bruce’s Bones Creek, and I knew there had to be a story behind that name. Sure enough. A lazy Google search yielded this information: “In 1950 a crew was surveying for the new alignment of US 101. Bruce Schilling got lost and his buddies said they would find his parched bones next spring. Bruce did find his way back without mishap, however.”

I’m affectionately calling this “The Day of the Tree” because I would be seeing my very first redwood trees, ever. These trees are the tallest living things on earth. Pictures can never do them justice.

Once upon a time, there were about 2 million acres of old-growth redwoods on coastal mountains of California, but thanks to European immigrant expansion in the mid1800’s, these trees were viewed as dollar signs. Now only 5 percent of those redwoods still stand. Of those remaining trees, 35 percent are protected by Redwood National and State Parks, and I was to have the great privilege of visiting them.

Our first stop on our arboreal journey was to the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, about 15 miles south of the Oregon border. Some consider this to be the most perfect of all the remaining redwood forests. I will definitely concede that it was the best one I was to see on this trip, bar none. I wish I could have seen them all.

We were gratified to discover that we’d have these trees mostly to ourselves. I have no idea why that was the case on that lovely spring day, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.

When you stand and look up, up, up, your jaw tends to drop. That’s a function of our anatomy. But in this case, the reaction wasn’t purely anatomical.

We were standing amongst the largest trees we would ever see in our lives. The tallest redwood is 370 feet. That’s 5 stories taller than the Statue of Liberty. You could stack up the three largest whales in the world, nose to tail, and they’d still fall short of that height by about 50 feet. These monster trees can be 30 feet wide at their bases, and they have a circumference of more than 94 feet. That means it would take about 17 people, arms outstretched, to envelop a full-sized redwood in an all-encompassing hug. Imagine.

I’m telling you to imagine this, but I have been imagining it for my whole life, and yet nothing prepared me for the reality of these things. Each tree can weigh more than 50,000 pounds, and could crush you like a bug without thinking twice. And that’s what I felt like. A bug. An ant. If trees have even the slightest bit of sentience, they probably don’t notice us at all. Some of these trees have been around for 3,000 years. To them, we’re gone in an instant.

It’s a humbling feeling. It puts things into perspective. I mean, in the overall scheme of things, who cares if your partner leaves the cap off the toothpaste all the time? These trees sure don’t. I mean, I’m sure they’d prefer it if we’d stop chopping them down and they’d really rather avoid all this global warming we’re causing, but other than that, we don’t even amount to a tick on a dog’s behind to them.

It’s actually liberating, standing in a forest that is so completely quiet that you can hear the trunks creaking and groaning when the wind blows. It makes you realize what a tiny speck you actually are in the universe. I have to stop taking myself so seriously.

It was kind of weird not seeing any squirrels. They’re not very common on the West coast. Lord knows why. But if I were a squirrel and I saw these gigantic things, I’d be in instant party mode. These groves ought to be squirrel heaven. Go figure.

We briefly considered visiting the Trees of Mystery, an attraction that would have allowed us to get up into the canopy of this forest, but the huge Paul Bunyan statue, complete with his blue ox Babe, was a bit of a turn off after gazing at natural beauty all morning. Besides, we had 313 miles to cover on this day, the longest drive of the entire trip, and time was sifting through the hour glass.

We enjoyed much more of Redwoods National Park as we drove, but we did not see the world’s tallest tree there, as it requires a hike and time was limited. Besides, we were suitably impressed with the trees we were seeing. We also stopped briefly at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, where we saw 18 Roosevelt elk calmly grazing by the roadside.

Speaking of grazing, it was getting dark and the sandwiches we had made for lunch were long gone. We were still in the middle of nowhere. Finally we came upon the small town of Trinidad, and had one dining option: Headies Pizza and Pour. It was too close to closing time to order a pizza, so we settled for their leftover pizza by the slice, and sat in the car to eat it. It actually wasn’t half bad. It sure beat starvation.

We had hoped to explore the town of Arcata, which has gorgeous Victorian houses and craft shops, and we did enjoy driving through it. It’s a pretty town, worth more time than we had. We also enjoyed driving around the campus of Humboldt State University.

When we finally rolled into Eureka, California to stay at the Carter House Inn, we understood why the town got its name. We were really glad to finally be there. We dragged all our stuff inside as quietly as we could, so as not to disturb the other guests, and then we almost instantly went to sleep.


Check out Day 4 here.

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West Coast Wander, Day 2: Ocean Shores, Washington to Newport, Oregon

We had a two-week vacation, and decided that it would be fun to drive down the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California and then drop off our rental car and take a train back home. I’m calling this journey the West Coast Wander, and plan to blog about it every other day so as not to totally alienate those who have no interest in travel, and yet allow those who do to travel vicariously with us. Here’s the first in the series, if you want to start at the beginning.  I hope you enjoy it, dear reader.

On this morning, we woke up to find deer right outside our window. After having a light breakfast, we actually managed to make it out the door by 10:15, which for us was progress. I was really looking forward to this day, because even though I was familiar with much of this stretch of the coast, that only meant that I already knew I’d love it.

That, and different adventures awaited. First on the agenda was tracking down the world’s largest frying pan in Long Beach, Washington. I was unusually excited about the prospect. I love that stuff. Seeing the largest ball of twine and the largest ball of paint are still on my bucket list.

But before we could get our fry on, we were delayed by a drawbridge opening in Hoquiam. The irony. Damned drawbridge. Don’t they know we have places to go? I mean… sheesh.

Before Long Beach, though, we saw several hillsides that were covered with stumps after being logged. That sight always makes me sad. But not sad enough avoid living in a wooden house.

And then we passed “Streets Road” which must cause all manner of confusion when calling for pizza delivery. I wish we had slowed down to take a picture. Onward.

Quite unexpectedly we came upon the delightful little town of Raymond on the Willapa. That is a town with a sense of humor. It was full of cool metal sculptures and hilarious looking shrubs. South of there is the town of South Bend, which, oddly enough, is north of the town of North Bend on the same highway. The pizza deliverers around here must have grey hair.

Then we came upon a big muddy bay full of oyster fields. Not being big oyster fans, we didn’t stop. Other than that bay, most of the coastal road in Washington is composed of lush forests with only glimpses of the ocean. But we knew there would be other days to gaze upon the Pacific during this trip.

Finally we made it to Long Beach, and drove right past the frying pan without seeing it. This beach town is full of touristy shops, one right after the other, and the frying pan is tucked in amongst them. We would have to turn around.

But first, dear husband had a wonderful surprise for me. We went to the beach, and he pulled out our kite, which I didn’t even know he had packed. What fun!

We had bought this kite a while back on another trip to the coast, and we had never quite gotten around to using it. It’s the kind of kite with two strings that does wild tricks if you know what you’re doing. Which I didn’t, at first. But I really started to figure it out toward the end there, between crashes. It’s a lovely feeling, controlling something that is so wild and free and far above you. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip, and I didn’t even know it was going to happen.

Apparently flying kites is the thing to do in Long Beach. There’s even a festival. And there were a few other amazing kites out there with us on that stretch of sand. They looked like sea creatures from outer space. It made me smile.

After that, we went back and found the frying pan. And it was, indeed, huge. But finding out that it was made of fiberglass was a bit of a disappointment. Apparently the original one, which was actually used for cooking, rusted away long ago. Mark that off the old bucket list.

Right beside it was an equally huge sculpture of an oyster. If you dropped a quarter in the slot, the oyster would spit, as oysters tend to do. I do love art with a sense of humor. This also made me realize how rarely we carry coins these days. We had to go get change in order to be spat upon.

Next we went to the wonderful city of Astoria, Oregon, which is now on my ever-growing list of places to retire. We stopped at a little free library there that was shaped like a lighthouse, and left several books behind. Then we climbed to the towns highest point and visited the amazing Astoria column, with its beautiful carvings, and we got postcards and the required fridge magnet, of course.

There were lots of shut down shops in Astoria. That was sad to see. The pandemic sure has taken its toll.

We then continued down Oregon’s amazing, rocky, rugged, beautiful coast, passing yet more invasive Scotch Broom, and the occasional and equally invasive Trump flag. I was heartbroken to discover that Channel Bookstore, Oregon’s largest secondhand bookstore, in Depoe Bay, is permanently closed. I was really looking forward to visiting there to stock up on books for my little free library. It wasn’t the first pandemically closed thing we’d see on this trip, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

We finally reached Newport, the place where we originally bought the kite, where we would spend the night in the very same room we stayed in last time we were there. But first we had dinner at the Noodle Café on a little tiny side street. I bet this place is frequently overlooked by tourists, but it was a lovely place to eat Asian fusion, and I highly recommend it. We then stopped at two other little free libraries in town, and then headed back to the room, with its glorious bridge and water view.

Check out Day 3 here. Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures below.

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The Invasion of the Ghost Forests

You’ve most likely been haunted by one without even realizing it.

You’ve most likely been haunted by a ghost forest without even realizing it. According to an article entitled, “More Ghost Forests Are Rising Up, and That’s Not Good News”, due to sea level rise, and in some cases, land sinking or erosion, ghost forests are on the increase. Thanks, climate change.

When healthy forests are flooded with saltwater, the trees no longer have access to the fresh water they need to survive. These trees often remain standing, in whole or in part, long after they’re dead. They can occur along any coastline, but they’re particularly multiplying along the American Atlantic coast. It’s almost like a slow moving zombie invasion.

There was an earthquake on the West coast in the year 1700 that was 9.0 on the Richter scale, and it dropped an Oregon spruce forest into the flood plain. The saltwater rushed in and destroyed this forest, which had trees 150-200 feet high. You can still see their stumps, many of which are 2000 years old, during low tide near the town of Neskowin. Can’t get there yourself? Check out this gorgeous, haunting video. That same earthquake dropped the land down 6 feet near the Copalis River in Washington, causing another ghost forest.

When I traveled through Alaska, I saw groves of ghost forests, especially along the Seward Highway. That ground sank as much as 9 feet, after an earthquake in 1965, and the sea rushed in. Dams can cause ghost forests, too. But mostly it’s rising sea levels and eroding coastline that’s causing this destruction. Check out the video of this ghost forest on Boneyard Beach, Bulls Island, South Carolina.

I’ve seen several ghost forests. They are eerie places. I always feel overwhelmed by the feeling of death. Once there were thriving forests, teeming with wildlife, and now, only bleached out, twisted trunks remain. It’s really sad. It brings you face to face with your own impermanence.

Boneyard Beach is the perfect name for this place.

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Home, via the Columbia River

I always have mixed emotions at the end of a trip.

It was the last day of my vacation, and as per usual in these situations, I had very mixed emotions about it. I love to travel. I enjoy going places I’ve never been. It’s an opportunity to set aside the stress of everyday life.

On the other hand, I was missing my dogs so much that it was killing me. And packing and unpacking suitcases and schlepping them from pillar to post can get very tedious. I missed my bed. I missed my little free library. I missed blogging. 13 days is pushing the outer envelope. It was time to go home.

If I was at all hesitant to leave Sunriver, the two 5-year-old girls, screaming and giggling in the room next door, was enough to make me beat a hasty retreat. If I had wanted to deal with noisy children, I’d have had some of my own.

Sunriver is a beautiful place, especially in the autumn when the leaves are turning to gold on all but the many evergreens. I decided that I’d enjoy the area a bit more by making a stop in the delightful city of Bend, Oregon. One of my favorite restaurants on earth is there. I’ve blogged about Spork before. If you’re ever anywhere near Bend, this place should not be missed. The ambience isn’t what it used to be now that they only do takeout, but the food still does not disappoint.

From there I drove off into a dense fog, with a light dusting of snow here and there. I was definitely leaving the sun behind me, and returning to the crappy weather of a late autumn in the Pacific Northwest. At least I got to delay that for a few weeks.

I passed an alpaca farm. I didn’t learn until much later that you are allowed to pet the alpacas. Had I known, I’d have stopped.

Prolonging the inevitable ever so slightly, I decided to take the scenic route home, along the banks of the mighty Columbia River. Avoiding the highway, I went through The Dalles and skirted the Northern and/or Western bank of the river as long as I could. That allowed me to go through some delightful little one horse towns, full of quaint little museums and courthouses. This area is definitely retirement-worthy, if you are so fortunate.

I also got to see a dam, but damned if I know what it was called. (Sorry. Had to.) And I stopped for pictures of the Bridge of the Gods, because how can you not take a picture of a bridge that’s arrogant enough to have that name? I mean, bow down, people. Pay homage.

I also passed Drano Lake. I don’t think I’ll be drinking out of that one anytime soon. You first. I’ll expect a full report.

And just outside of Stevenson, an otter ran across the road in front of the car. That’s a new one. I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.

The rest of the drive kind of passed by in a fog, literally and figuratively. It was good to get home and hug my fur babies, and finally break free of the albatross of suitcases that had been hanging on me for the entire journey. It made me feel like I’d lost 150 pounds.

13 Days. 4200 miles. From 9995 feet above sea level to 282 feet below sea level. From 98 degrees to 35 degrees. In and out of national parks. It was an amazing vacation. One that I’ll never forget. And here’s what I love the most about travel: it reminds you that there’s no place like home.

And as it turns out, it’s a good thing I traveled while I could. Now California, Oregon and Washington want you to quarantine for two weeks before crossing their borders. If that had been imposed while I was still in Nevada, it could have taken me 6 weeks to get home, if those rules were being strictly enforced. We are living in very strange times.

Enjoy some of the pictures from the day! And here’s a link to the first post in this adventure.

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More Sun, Another Crater

A day to celebrate symmetry.

On the next to last day of my road trip, I was celebrating the fact that the trip as a whole had a certain symmetry to it. At the beginning, I went to Sun Valley, Idaho and then to Craters of the Moon. I visited Meteor Crater somewhere in the middle, too. And on this day, I was leaving Lake Tahoe, and heading to Crater Lake, and then would spend the night in Sunriver, Oregon. I had been calling this trip “The Great Western Ramble” in my mind, but perhaps “The Trek of Sun and Craters” is equally appropriate.

After gassing up the rental car and doing the daily ritual of debugging the windshield for better photo opportunities, I set out. Passing through valleys and past lakes, I reflected on just how vast and varied and majestic this country is. And then I passed the high school in Tule Lake. “Home of the Honkers.” That gave me a bit of a giggle. I didn’t  realize at the time that Tule Lake was also the home of another Japanese Internment Camp. That’s not the least bit giggle-worthy.

I also went through Klamath Falls, and stopped at their visitor’s center. When you enter this town, you quickly discover that the area is known for bird watching. There are birds everywhere. They’re on murals and sculptures and street signs and bill boards and they’re incorporated in business names. This place has embraced a natural asset, and more power to them, I say, especially if it motivates them to preserve said asset.

I then headed up to Crater Lake. I had been there before (and blogged about it here), but last time the rim road was closed due to snow. This time it was open, and I took full advantage of that. The views, as you’ll see below, were stunning.

I have to admit, though, that I felt a certain un-vacation-like sense of urgency while there. The dark clouds were rolling in. It was cold and rainy and the sun was going down. I even saw a few dustings of snow. I strongly suspect that the rim road was closed within a week of my visit. But the weather added to the photographs, I think.

North of Crater Lake makes you feel as though you’re slightly south of the middle of nowhere. That made me nervous, because it was getting late and dark and bitterly cold, and I was starving. Then, like an oasis magically appearing in the desert, I came upon a restaurant called Loree’s Chalet in Chemult, Oregon. It was a quaint, homey little place, and the waiter was charming.

He was also not wearing a mask. None of the staff were wearing masks. None of the patrons in the bar in the next room were wearing masks, either. This made me kind of uncomfortable, but I was ravenous, had the dining room all to myself, and my options were limited.

I have to say, the bacon wrapped steak was delicious. They boast the best ranch dressing in the entire world. I have to agree.

After that, it was just a matter of getting to Sunriver Resort. I got there in pitch darkness (more symmetry from the beginning of the trip) so there are no Sunriver photos below. You’ll have to wait until the final post of my journey for those.

I ended the night luxuriating in the bathtub. I have to tell you that if you prize a good bathtub as much as I do, Sunriver Resort is the place to go. It was by far my favorite place to stay on the entire trip. Nothing like a nice hot bath after a cold, raw day!

There will be one more blog post about this trip that will be posted the day after tomorrow, so watch this space! I’ll try to link all the posts about this trip together, so that you can start at the beginning if you find yourself in the middle and want to read the whole saga. Here’s a link to the first post in the series. And here’s a link to the last day of our trip.

The Great Western Ramble

What a beautiful country we live in.

I had two weeks of vacation to use or lose. But what to do, where to go, in the time of COVID-19? Our trip to Italy got cancelled in May, and this country is handling this pandemic so irresponsibly that most countries don’t welcome Americans anymore. Heck, you can’t even go to Hawaii unless you quarantine for two weeks first. And I certainly don’t want to marinate in a flying metal tube of contaminated air for hours, even for a domestic flight. This narrowed down our choices immensely.

But in truth, I have long believed that those of us infected with the travel bug have a tendency to neglect our own countries. Why is that? If you’re going to see someplace new, why is it somehow less desirable if it doesn’t require a passport?

With this in mind, my husband and I set about exploring this amazing country of ours by car. We were gone for 13 days, visited five states besides our own, and, when all was said and done, we put 4,200 miles on the rental car. I am fairly certain that this was the longest road trip I’ve ever taken.

What an adventure!

We chose to rent a car rather than use our own because we consulted a wear and tear calculator on the web, and determined that we’d actually save about a thousand bucks by renting. I’m so glad we did. We put some hard miles on that car. During the course of the journey, we went from almost 10,000 feet of altitude to 280 feet below sea level, and that was by no means a smooth incline or decline. I would hazard a guess that we went around at least 1,000 hairpin turns. We avoided interstates as much as we could. Thank goodness my husband likes to drive.

I’m also grateful that our friend Herb likes to dog and house sit, and actually enjoys the company of my cranky dachshund. Apparently they had quite the bromance going on, to the point where Quagmire bit me when we came back home. I’ll try not to take it personally, because I love the little sh**, but jeez.

So away we go!

On day one, we drove 11 hours from just outside Seattle, Washington via the Northeastern corner of Oregon to Sun Valley, Idaho. What a beautiful country we live in. I said that pretty much daily on this journey. You don’t realize how massive it is, and how much of it is devoid of humans, and how much of it is farm and ranch land, until you drive around the West. It’s stunning.

We passed numerous solar and wind farms along the way. Given the vast open country, and our need to stop being slaves to fossil fuel if we want our children to have any decent quality of life at all, I was kind of shocked we didn’t see more of these farms. We’ve got the room. We’ve got the knowhow. And people certainly could use the work.

We also enjoyed the fall colors. It’s not like the gorgeous autumn one experiences on much of the East coast, with its oranges and maroons and reds. But it’ll do nicely. The golds and yellows reminded me why this is my favorite season. And it was awesome to put off experiencing the crappy, rainy winter weather that besets Seattle in October. We got two weeks less of that, and it was a treat.

We listened to a lot of podcasts along the way. I got to introduce my husband to Welcome to Night Vale, and now he’s as hooked as I am. We also listened to the Moth Radio Hour, which is a storytelling podcast, as well as NPR’s Radiolab, and two podcasts from the History Channel that were a lot more fascinating than I expected. The first one was Blind Spot: The road to 9/11. The second was Timber Wars. Those podcasts made the miles pass by quickly.

Our goal was to reduce human contact as much as we could, due to the pandemic. We tried to only eat restaurant food once a day, if that. We brought a lot of picnic food along. (More about that in a future post.)

We passed the nerve gas dump in Umatilla, which was kind of creepy and deserves a post all its own. (Bear with me!) And I also got to see Boise for the first time. Let’s just say that that box is officially ticked. But we did have some amazing Chinese takeout there, so there’s that.

We were shocked by the major differences in gas prices along our route. Anywhere from $2.10 at a Costco somewhere or other, to $4.50 a gallon in California. Yikes. And I’ll never get used to the fact that you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon. What is this, 1950?

We also saw a lot of fire devastation on the entire trip. On this day, it was the Evans Creek Fire in Ellensburg, and the mountains were all charred near Yakima. It was heartbreaking to witness.

On every day of the trip, my husband, who is a realtor, worked anywhere from 1 to 4 hours. Isn’t technology awesome? I think he was surprised that this didn’t irritate me. But it’s nice to see someone doing something that they absolutely love, and I might seem biased, but I truly believe he’s really good at it, too, in case you’re ever looking to buy or sell a home in Western Washington. It was impressive to witness.

We drove up something called the Pendleton Grade, where the mountains looked like they were covered in greenish brown felt and seemed like they would be soft, even though you knew instinctively that they weren’t, really. We also went through the Blue Mountains.

We reached Sun Valley well after dark, so I had no real idea how gorgeous it is until the next day, but I had to wait for the next “episode”, and so will you. I will say, though, that just as we were about to put the key in the lock of our first timeshare, all the lights went out in the entire valley, and were not to turn back on again until 6 a.m. This is not typical. We just were lucky enough to be there on the day they were doing some sort of trunk line repairs.

I’ve never gone to sleep in a place without having any idea of what it looked like before. We used our cell phones as flashlights, but that doesn’t give you a true sense of place. It’s rather surreal. But all that darkness meant we got to stand outside and see about a million stars, including the Milky Way, so every power outage has its silver lining, and all’s well that ends well.

What follows are some of the pictures we took on this day’s journey. Enjoy!

There are a lot more tales to tell about this trip, but I’ll try not to post them daily, so as not to put off those who aren’t interested in travel blogs. So brace yourself for a good month of every other day adventures! I’ll try to link them together, so that you can start at the beginning (this one) if you find yourself in the middle and want to read the whole saga. And here’s a link to the next day’s adventure!

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Klementine’s Kitchen

It’s always wonderful to support small businesses, but even more so when they make it so delicious to do so.

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

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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The Crooked Story of the Crooked River Bridge

I got an odd vibe from the place from the very start.

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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