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Great Western Road Trip, Day 13

Current Location: Crescent City, CA

Today’s Song: Colin Hay – I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You

Portland, Oregon was such a wonderful town I hated to leave it, but the road trip must go on! And so I jumped in the car bright and early, hit the road, and…sat in traffic.

Portland is connected to Vancouver, Washington (a large suburb) and many other suburbs by only two bridges, Interstate 5 and Interstate 205. The next closest bridges over the Columbia River are an hour in either direction. This produces traffic chaos like clockwork, unfortunately (and that doesn’t even take into account that I-5 is also an active drawbridge!).

After a pit stop in Salem, Oregon, for gas and a small bite for breakfast (and coffee, of course), it was onward to the coast.

Well, almost. 5 minutes from the coast I stopped in the tiny town of Toledo, Oregon, for an early lunch. I didn’t realize the name of the place until I saw the sign on the door, but it seemed simply perfect for me! I ordered the “Working Man’s Breakfast” which was potatoes, onions, green peppers, and scrambled eggs, covered in sausage gravy. It tasted a lot better than it looked!

Then it was back on the road, and the Pacific Ocean quickly put in its appearance.

(The pedants of Twitter immediately chimed in with all of the locations in the US that are further west than where I was. I ignored them. Protip: If you are about to tweet something that could easily be prefaced with, “Well, actually…” delete it and sit on your hands until the urge to post passes.)

Then it was the long down the coast on US Highway 101, which will eventually carry me to San Francisco. I stopped at numerous beautiful locations along the way, including the spectacular Cape Perpetua, waaaaay up over the shoreline.

Oh, and there were other sights too!]

South of Florence, Oregon I decided it was time to make up some time so no more stops after that. I rolled in to The Lighthouse Inn in Crescent City, California, at a little after 7 PM. With stops, that was about 12 hours of travel and pretty exhausting! I decided to reward myself with a tasty dinner:

Then it was back to my hotel room, which despite its questionable design choices was clean, comfortable, and quiet. I’m glad I sleep with a white noise generator though because there was a lot of incidental noise from the hallway and upstairs.

I drove a lot in silence down the coast, doing some of that Deep Thinking I knew was part of this trip. I got pretty down because I kept thinking that, despite all of the hours in the car, Dan would have loved this trip – seeing old friends, visiting beautiful locations, and just experiencing the adventure of it all. His smile and laughter are with me always. I’ll need to think more about how how all of this makes me feel beyond “sad”, because it is of course it’s much more complex than that.

One good cry and a sound night’s sleep later, I am up and ready to hit the road. Today will take me down US 101 through Redwood Country and then to Sunnyvale, California, where I’m staying with my old friend Ford Shepherd. I’m looking forward to seeing him again!

Miles Driven Today: 384 miles

Time Driving Today: 8:52

Total Miles Driven: 2,419 miles

Total Time Driving: 54:50

Great Western Road Trip, Day 12

Current Location: Vancouver, Washington

Today’s Song: John Powell – Test Drive (How To Train Your Dragon Soundtrack)

Today’s song is a sweeping, exciting piece that reminds me of my experiences and landscapes so far in this trip, and the excitement still to come. It was also one of Dan’s favorite soundtracks and is one of mine as well, so it provides a touchstone for the journey.

Portland was on the agenda for today, and I had a great time exploring  the downtown and surroundings. The weather was amazing if almost a little chilly to start the day.

Knowing traffic was going to be terrible (lots of traffic + only 2 bridges across the Columbia River = so many traffic jams!), I stayed on the northern side of the river and went to downtown Vancouver for some coffee and a small bite to eat. I tried a couple of places and got my first taste of the ethos of the area.

This was to become a running theme, I found. So many rainbow flags everywhere (which, granted, were probably left over from Pride but the fact they were still flying is appreciated)!

Once I decided to brave the traffic, I took a jaunt out of the way, up to Sauvie Island. I wanted to check out Collins Beach there and wasted an enjoyable hour and a half or so there. By lunchtime it was time to head downtown. Thumper had given me some good pointers on where to park and places to check out, which I made use of. After stopping for a cup of coffee because Portland) I struck out for Powell’s City of Books. I had hoped to wander around a bit and maybe get a nice sweeping picture of a ton of books, but it turns out the place is a rabbit warren of interconnecting rooms, each one stuffed to the gills with new and used books. I did find some amusing signage and fun stuff to look at though.

Next it was off to The Brewery District, because Portland has a Brewery District and how could I not go there? I first stopped by Fat Head’s Brewery but didn’t buy anythign because their menu boasted 6-8 different kinds of India Pale Ales and a few boring, less-hoppy beers. Pass.

10 Barrel Brewery was my next stop. I had lunch, which was a BLTAE (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado, and Egg) sandwich, which was surprisingly quite good. They also had a better beer selection, and true to their name their beer flight consisted of ten different beers.

And what is this I see across the street? The Rogue Distillery and Public House! I’ve been wanting to try their spirits without buying an entire bottle, so…

I took my time walking back to my car so I was good to go when I got there! After a short stop back at Thumper and Kalypso’s to do some laundry, it was back into Portland to meet Drake and Hegdish for dinner. We met at a crazy place called McMenamin’s Kennedy School. They have taken an old elementary school and converted it into an entire entertainment complex, with meeting rooms, a pool, hotel rooms, several different bars, a restaurant, and heaven knows what else! We had a leisurely dinner on the patio and had a great time catching up and chatting. They’re both great guys and it was a real delight to see them again!

Tomorrow has me back on the road again, this time driving to the Oregon coast and heading south into northern California. It’ll be an early start once again, because this could be a long day of driving!

Miles Driven Today: 90 miles

Time Driving Today: 3:34

Total Miles Driven: 2,035 miles

Total Time Driving: 45:58

 

Great Western Road Trip, Day 11

Current Location: Vancouver, Washington

Today’s Song: Explosions in the Sky – Your Hand in Mine

This song captures more of a feeling for me than anything else – the feeling of driving out across the rolling desert hills of eastern Washington, then the grandeur of the Columbia River Gorge.

I slept in a little late this morning, then met up with (carazy Canadian birder friend) Tina for coffee, a pastry, and some more pleasant conversation. I could talk with her for hours, and she is simply delightful company! All too soon, though, it was time to hit the road.

Granted, I didn’t go all that far! Less than an hour down the road I decided to stop at Hermiston Brewing Company for a quick lunch and a beer from a local brewery. On the way I stopped by McNary Dam, which was scenic in an arid kind of way.

Then it was on for lunch! I had a halibut wrap with a salad, which was immediately offset by all of the beer.

The beer was…whelming. Ah well, you can’t win them all. In the interest of speed I then took to Interstate 84 and headed west along the Columbia River.

The scenery started to pick up as I approached the Columbia River Gorge, and the landscape become more and more beautiful.

One nifty random thing along the trip: I popped to the northern side of the river into Washington because gas is substantially cheaper there. After I filled up I chatted with the cashier, who was curious about my Illinois license plates. I explained that I was on an extended road trip looking for cool things, and she directed me a short ways back the way I came to check out Schreiner Farms, a free exotic animal farm where you can drive in and see then animals (from your car). This was a fun, random break in the trip!

After that it was back over to the Oregon side and I received a lovely welcome as I headed west.

Based on Thumper’s recommendation, I stopped at Multnomah Falls and hiked up to the top. It’s a 1.25 mile hike with an elevation rise of about 700-800 feet. A moderate workout, but welcome all the same after sitting in the car all day!

After that invigorating hike, I fought my way through rush hour traffic to Thumper and Kalypso’s place. They are kind enough to put me up while I am in town and I am incredibly appreciative! We got a good dinner at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. Great cider, and decent beer too.

Tomorrow I plan to dive into downtown Portland and wander around and find neat things, which is my general approach to new cities. I expect lots of coffee, beer, cider, and who knows what else?

Miles Driven Today: 227 miles

Time Driving Today: 5:09

Total Miles Driven: 1,945 miles

Total Time Driving: 42:24

Great Western Road Trip, Day 10

Current Location: Richland, Washington

Today’s Song: Nickel Creek – Where Is Love Now?

If I could wait here for you
Without hope or knowing what to do
Watch the light fade away
Without fear or knowing what to say
Cry the tears from my eyes
Leave me here long enough to realize
Where is love now?
Where is love now
Out here in the dark?
Yeah. This covers a lot of my feelings over the last few months.
Day 10 found me driving from Kalispell, Montana to Richland, Washington (part of the Tri-Cities, with Pasco and Kennewick. Paging Mercy Thompson…). It brought quite an interesting range of terrain. I got an early start to the day; the drive through the Flathead River Valley along Flathead Lake was absolutely beautiful.
I stopped for lunch in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I’d had a hankering for grilled cheese so I decided it was time to indulge.
I’ve been having problems with my phone’s battery reading fluctuating wildly and randomly shutting down. In the morning I backed up my computer to my laptop and after lunch I found a spot in a coffee shop and sat down to do a full restore. That whole process took almost 90 minutes, much to my chagrin. Still, it was nice to sit and relax for a bit too.
I got into Richland at around 4 PM, and met up with Tina (aka “crazy Canadian birder friend Tina” for those who follow Ursula Vernon). We had a great time chatting and finally adjourned to a local winery/restaurant that was really, really good.
I had the wild mushroom and herb risotto with grilled chicken and it was very well-done – nice creaminess, and the mushrooms were so meaty and flavorful that the chicken was an unnecessary addition on my part. We each ordered a flight of reds and while some were so-so, we found a couple that were quite good, to Tina picked up a few bottles.
After dinner we retired back to Tina’s hotel room and spent the rest of the evening chatting, catching up, and generally having a nice, low-key time. I enjoyed it immensely.
Today, after I meet Tina for breakfast, I will be making the relatively short (~4 hours) drive to Vancouver, Washington, which is right across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. I look forward to taking my time and finding cool stuff along the way!

Miles Driven Today: 386 miles

Time Driving Today: 6:58

Total Miles Driven: 2,104 miles

Total Time Driving: 44:13