Vacation 2014: Oregon

Well, we spent the last business week (M-F) in Oregon.

Below is an overview of what we saw/ate/drank there.

NOTE: Filling in the blanks; updates as needed.

Beginning to fill out the Oregon 2014 gallery, slow process….

Update: 11/16/2014: Last the Oregon 2014 gallery picture posted. Whew! That only took a couple of months..more may be added, but I’ve finished the first “hard” pass.

Paramount Hotel
Rogue Stout
Rogue Brewery, Shakespeare Oatmeal Ale
Powell's Bookstore
Powell’s – a book-lovers love
Zeus CafeBest breakfast in the Pearl District.
Prius - it's the lawPortland, OR: Drive a Prius. It’s the law.
Keep Portland WeirdKeep Oregon/Portland Weird. Done.
Food TrucksFood trucks, Pearl District, Portland, OR.

Portland, OR

Yes, we used Portland as our launching pad for day trips around Portland.

And we spent a fair amount of time walking around Portland (esp. north of Taylor).

  • Our hotel – the Paramount (on Taylor between 9th and 10th) seemed blah at first, but – ultimately – a good choice. Suicide balcony (only a couple of feet deep) enuf to view stuff. No Mt. Hoot view, but a good view to the (newish) park across the street.
  • The unofficial motto of Portland is “Keep Portland Weird.” Portland has succeeded. City that is very hipster, brew-pubed, bike-laned and so on.
  • Portland = Prius. I’m sorry, but it must be a law: Live/drive in Portland, you must have a Toyota Prius. Yes, I’m being factitious, but I’ve never seen so many Prius vehicles – taxi, delivery, personal – in such a small place. Not a complaint; just an observation (Prius vehicles were everywhere).
  • In the Pearl District (north of Burnside?), lots of brew pubs. Not a bad thing.
  • Powell’s Book Store – Best bookstore ever??? Book lover’s delight; trust me. And it seemed to be a fair mix of locals and tourists.
  • While the seafood was excellent – especially compared to Chicago – it wasn’t as plentiful as I expected. I.e. I expected a broader range of seafood. Seattle, in my mind, had much more seafood to chose from: steamer clams, fish, crab, and so on.
  • That said (re: seafood), I ate quite of bit of the meats of the waters out in Portland and on daily trips. Had oysters twice – once fried in a breakfast, and a half-dozen raw. Probably the first time I’ve had oysters since we were in DC, in 2010.
  • Speaking of food, Portland has a plethora of food trucks/trailers, at least in the Pearl District (older part of town, near Powell’s). One empty half-block was completely surrounded on its perimeter by food trucks, and they grouped in other areas, as well. And the variety! Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern…you name it, they pretty much had it (I don’t think I saw a hot dog truck…hmm…). The one downside – for me – is that they all sold meals, not snacks. In Seattle’s Pike Place Market, there were small food stalls where you just get an oyster or two, one chicken satay, a couple of steamed pot-stickers or what-have-you. That was nice. In Portland, it was all meals as best as I could tell. Good for the workers there, however: You could eat lunch and/or dinner for months without repeating a meal.
  • Overall, I liked Portland a lot – Romy, not as much. So your mileage may vary….
  • Speaking of “mileage” – one of the reasons I liked Portland better than Romy was that she did the driving. And Portland is a bad city to drive/get out of. Narrow streets (reminiscent of Boston – North Side [Italian] and Southie [Irish]), a cluster of one-way streets, and – mainly – virtually no signage. Getting OUT of Portland was a challenge. Yes, river city, but – not until you’re on the bridge (point of no return) is there a sign that says “yeah, you’re on 5/405…”. Yikes.
  • From the little we observed, Portland seems like a pretty tolerant city, at least in the parts of the city we walked. Gay couples holding hand, goths with half-shaved heads (hair blue), older 1960-refuguees, bike riders, Prius drivers, recyclers…all seem welcome in Portland. That’s a good thing. We ran across few African-Americans or Hispanics, but – again – it may be the part of the city we we in. Kinda striking, however. Not a family area, either – the young kids we saw appeared to be, for the most part, tourists.
Astoria BreakfastBreakfast in Astoria
Astoria Coffeehouse & Bistro
Astoria Column
Astoria Column

From the base, looking up
Haystack Rock
Haystack Rock

Cannon Beach, OR

NW Coast, OR
For our first full day in Oregon, we headed west to the town of Astoria – ostensibly an artsy tourist town on the mouth of the Columbia River – and then to the Pacific Coast. Our longest day on the road mileage-wise.

  • Astoria, our first stop, was kind of a bust. Maybe we missed something, but it was not what we were expecting. While it had some interesting old structures – and is perched on the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean – it just seemed like a tired, sad town. We were expecting Saugatuck or St. Joseph, MI. Weird. Had a great breakfast there at what appeared to be somewhat of a locals’ hangout (we always aim for these for breakfasts): eggs benedict with fried oysters. Yum.
  • The one bright point of Astoria the the Astoria Column. Perched on the top of a hill overlooking Astoria is the 125-ft-tall column. It was build in 1926, and the exterior frieze, covering the entire height of the column (minus base and top) depicts historical Oregon events. We were able to climb up the tower, and the view was great. A little early in the morning, so the hills to the east were indistinct, but very pretty. Recommended.
  • After Astoria, we headed out to Pacific coast. We saw Haystack Rocks – pretty, but not all that was advertised (“one of the most photographed areas on the Pacific coast” or something like that) – and a little further south down the coast, toured a small, decommissioned lighthouse – the Cape Meares Lighthouse. That was interesting. The views around the lighthouse were impressive, as the area is not beach-coastal, it’s a cliff area. Lots of birds around, but they are too far away to see with a normal camera.
  • We drove back to Portland by cutting through Tillamook State Forest (along the Wilson River). Went through a couple of tunnels, which for us Midwesterners, was different, but nothing remarkable otherwise.
Columbia River Gorge

On Day Two (Wednesday, 9/10), we headed east along the Columbia River into the Columbia River Gorge.

Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s a beautiful area, and the Columbia River is a muscular band of water snaking through hills, cliffs and past multitudes of waterfalls.

But it’s just not striking in the way Mount Rainier, Glacier National Park or the Badlands were. Nothing about it really takes you breath away like the Going Into the Sun Road in Glacier, or any of the hundreds of just unworldly formations in the Badlands. Even the buttes and weathered sandstone hills in Santa Fe were, to me, more interesting than the Columbia River Gorge, overall.

That said….

  • On the east side of the river – the path we took – there are heavily forested hills that rapidly rise to almost 1,000 feet above the Columbia. Waterfalls abound. Many are quite close to the riverside drive (Rt. 30) – Horsetail, Multnomah – and some are quite a hike into the hills (see Triple Falls, below).
  • Triple Falls – The sign said 1.8 miles to Triple Falls. I don’t know. It took us an hour to descend from the falls back to the trail head. It was, in places, a fairly rough trail, but still, it seemed like a lot further than 1.8 miles. Ah, we are just lazy suburbanites… The fall was nice, but not worth that much effort. Oh well, we climbed, we saw, we descended. And we never have to to to that again.
  • Vista House – On the top of a bluff overlooking the river/gorge is a odd structure called Vista House, replete with stained glass, marble interior and brass rails. Completed in 1918, the building is basically just an empty shell that affords view in every direction. Actually, the more impressive view is when you head a little further west, and – in the town of Corbett – you look back and view the Vista House on its rocky bluff, with the mighty river and hills behind it. That would be a nice shot at sunrise or sunset.
  • We drove as far east as Hood River (the town, approximately 60 miles east of Portland), and we tried out a brew-pub there, Full Sail Brewing Company. Good beer and good burgers on an outdoor deck. Oregon seems serious about their beer! Nothing else exceptional about the town.
  • On our way back to Portland, we stopped at the Bonneville Dam, because, why not? Kind of a letdown, in that we couldn’t really get close to the dam, much less on it. (Hungry Horse Dam in Montana was fun for that reason – we couldn’t go into the dam, but we could walk across it.) There were fish ladders for the salmon, however, and inside the visitor center there was a wall of windows looking at the submerged fish working their way upstream. Kind of fun. But that was about it.

Again – very pretty area, but just not as impressive as other geography/structures we’ve seen. I guess we’re getting picky….

Willamette Valley

On Day Three, we headed south to Dundee, OR – the heart of the Willamette Valley wine country. It’s amazingly close to Portland, less than 30 miles.

It was a bit different than I expected. I expected rolling hill covered by grapevines as far as the eye could see, but it was a little different than that. It seems like the valley is more agriculturally oriented, and the vineyards are on the hills. It was actually a kinda run-down looking town: Something you’d see tooling down the blue highways (secondary roads) in the Midwest, not the hub of one of the country’s premier wine centers. Huh.

  • We headed out to Dundee early in the morning, and even after having breakfast at a local eatery, we still had time to kill before the tasting rooms opened (11am). On our way down, Romy had noticed a sign for something called the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. So we backtracked a dozen or so miles to check it out. Now, the west has had a real drought recently, and while I’m sure the refuge would be flush with wildlife in wetter weather (see this Google Map view), the wetlands and river in it were almost bone dry. We did see a couple of blue herors (one it a puddle; one in flight) and some muskrats, but not much else. Couldn’t even see any turtles in the river, and I would expect them there. Was nice to wander around in, but – given the drought – nothing special. Oh well, at least we didn’t pass it up and then later kick ourselves for that choice.
  • Erath Winery – We decided on visiting this winery for three reasons: 1) The Willamette Valley is famous for their Pinot Noirs; 2) We’ve had one of their Pinot Noirs, and it was quite good; 3) A review online made it sound like a good fit. So we headed there. We got a “wine flight” – a $10 tasting of four or five wines (which we split), one white (Pinot grigio). Very good stuff. We purchased a half case of assorted wines ($5 delivery!), and I had a full glass of the best-of-the-bunch pinot noirs. The winery was nice – I had expected it to more rustic, but at least here, up in the hills, surrounded by grape arbors, it was more like what I was expecting from wine country.
  • ArgyleAfter Erath, we headed back into town (Dundee) to hit the Argyle Winery’s tasting room – it was recommended by an Erath “barista” (what do you call the person who pours the wine for taste tests??). We had another flight there, including a great sparkling wine (a white). Argyle has one of the best labels – in a graphics sense – out there, simple but elegant.

We could have hit more wineries, but still have to drive back and all that, so after Argyle we called it a day.

We drove back to Portland and just walked around – hitting by the river and bridges and so on.


Tinker Taylor Feline Died


Pensive Cat
Taylor attempting to look thoughtful

One Happy Kitty
Taylor, lounging in her bed

Cat Napping (trying to)
Taylor finding the sun

Taylor checking out the camera…

Taylor Yawns
Big cat yawn!

Shy Taylor
Taylor all racked out

Just file under “c” for cat/crazy
Taylor just climbs in empty file cabinet.

Taylor Controls the Window
Taylor in bed

Taylor and Mouse
Ah, her current hot toy…

Taylor – happy kitty
We survived the blizzard of 2/2011 – Happy Kat!

You lookin’ at me?
Taylor chilling in her bed; rough being a cat

Sure, “only the good die young.”


We had to put down our 15-year-old cat today. (14 years old? Hard to say, we adopted her – and our other cat – when they were no longer kittens.) Not an easy decision, not made any easier when her last day was “a good day.”

Sparing the details, it got to the point where Taylor was not herself – and not like an average cat. Something serious was amiss. Hate doing it, but it had to be done.

For a cat, 14-15 years – that’s a long existence – and we can spin all the good but still…

Sucks. We do and will miss Taylor. She had a plethora of, well, idiosyncrasies – good and bad – that gave her quite the personality.

Our other cat – Koko – is more your typical “Kat”: Yeah, leave a message and I’ll get back to you whenever. Or mebbe never…

But Taylor was more social, more in-your-face, more demanding of attention/food/treats. Again, good and bad – but after she’s gone, even the “bad” (mainly “annoying”) are remembered fondly. That’s human nature.

And, for your viewing pleasure, some pics of Taylor over the years (the one on the top is the oldest, shortly after we got her). Click for larger images.