Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Portland Trip . . . a long read

Hey all,
I have finally gotten around to getting home, doing laundry, knocking down the spider webs, and FINALLY to catch up my blog.

As you know, I couldn't run the Portland Marathon. Tendonitis. Bummer. However, I decided to go ahead and make the trip just to get out of town. Susan went with me. I had invited her to go with me for the marathon . . . no reason to uninvite her, just because I was not running. Besides, we have too much fun together.

We flew out Friday mid-morning. The flight was uneventful . . . everything was on schedule and went surprisingly smooth. We pretty much sat on the plane, read and did Sudoku. I did, however, get sneezed on by an Asian man who didn't know how to cover his face. YUCK. Thank goodness I always load up on Vitamin C and Airborne before I get on a flight.

We arrived in Portland, picked up the luggage and rental car. Mustang convertible. SWEET. I asked Susan if she wanted the top up or down. The vote was a resounding DOWN. Nothing like topless motoring on a beautiful 70 degree day.

Made it into town and to the hotel with no problems. We decided to attack town for the few hours of daylight we had left. We were located in the Pioneer Courthouse Square area. In case you're not familiar, that is where Saks, Tiffany, and at least 10 other stores (whose names I couldn't pronounce) reside. We walked around a while then hopped the free train (fare less square-neat idea. Socialism at its best) and went to a place called Hubers http://www.hubers.com/. This is the oldest restaurant and bar in Portland. A neat place that specializes in Spanish coffee. We met my former B.I.L. Cary and his wife Loretta for dinner at a nice place called Henry's Tavern. I had Sushi and fish & chips-strange combination. Susan had a sandwich and salad. Loretta had already met Susan and they got along great. This was Cary's first meeting with Susan. I could tell he wasn't exactly comfortable but he was friendly and we all enjoyed dinner.

Saturday morning we got up, had b'fast in the hotel. Not smart. Something magical about hotel restaurants-everything on the menu costs 10.99. Coffee . . . . 10.99. Bagel . . . . 10.99. Cup of fruit . . . . 10.99. You get the idea. I also bothered me a little bit hanging around the lobby seeing all the runners the day before the race. After b'fast, we headed out 26 west to the beach.

Cannon beach is where all the locals go and we decided we wanted to see the Pacific. Once there, Susan stated her opinion that you can't count it as going to the beach unless you stick your feet in the water. Hmmmm . . . . it was in the high 50s that morning at the beach. NW Pacific Ocean . . . melted ice from Canada and Alaska.

Let's kick off the shoes and try it.
Yep . . . the water is about 40 freaking degrees!!! Thanks, Susan, for freezing my a$$ off.

We picked up a couple of stones for E and MA and walked down the beach a mile or so and found a place to eat lunch. After lunch we walked back into town and hit the shops. We stopped mid-afternoon and started heading toward Tillamook.

Tillamook is a town about 35 miles or so to the south. We drove along the beach road with the top down. It was chilly but we enjoyed it. The scenery along the highway is spectacular! See below!

We were quickly running out of time and stopped in the dairy/cheese factory in Tillamook. Did a quick look around, sampled some cheese (I love Tillamook cheese), and got a small ice cream cone before we blasted off back to Portland. We were in a bit of a rush because Susan had made reservations for dinner that evening. You see, Sunday was my birthday and we already had plans to have dinner with Cary and Loretta, so Susan was treating me on Saturday night. We made it back to Portland, did a quick spit-shine to clean up and headed to the bus stop. Susan had spoken with the Concierge at the hotel to determine which bus, what time, etc. would get us to the restaurant. All I can say it that if you’re not used to buses and schedules, do not attempt this on your own. Evidently, what the Concierge told Susan and what the bus lines actually did were two different things. The bottom line is that we’re standing at the stop, dressed for dinner, waiting for bus #17. Waiting. Frustrated. Waiting. Irate. Waiting. Panicked. We finally said screw it and we caught a cab to dinner.

Dinner Saturday night was very nice. Susan did a good job in finding a local restaurant. It was small and cozy. The name of the restaurant is Filberts http://www.filbertscafe.com/. They gave us some champagne for my birthday and the staff was very cordial and welcoming. Susan had risotto and crab and I had pork chop. I know, I’m in the northwest and I didn’t get salmon. The chef and owner, Bill Sutherland, came out and chatted with us since we were Alabama. His wife was there and we chatted for a bit. Found out that they were originally from Washington DC. They asked what were doing for the rest of the trip and we told him we were going to wine country (Willamette Valley) Sunday. He suggested a small private winery that he was going to called Natalie’s Estate Winery http://www.nataliesestatewinery.com/. We finished dinner, said goodbye to our new found friends and caught a cab back to the hotel. We decided to go to the restaurant on the roof of the hotel for nightcaps and listen to the jazz trio. All in all, a very nice evening. Thank you Susan for a very nice birthday evening.

Sunday morning was as I expected. It was the day of the race that I could not run in. My body clock woke me up several times around 3:00. The time I normally get up for morning races. Also the fact that all those RUDE RUNNERS were nervously wandering the hotel hallway and getting on the elevator starting around 3:00 may have had something to do with my light sleeping. God I wish I had been one of them! It’s sort of like putting a dozen Krispy Kremes in front of a fat man and keeping his hands tied. Know what I mean? We wanted to get an early start since we planned on going to wine country so we thought we had better start early. We threw on some running clothes and headed out for a run. We had decided to run from the hotel down to the river (about 6 blocks) and then run along the Willamette River since they have a nice path on both sides of the river. We had to cross the marathon course to accomplish this. Again, my heart sank a little seeing all the people out there running but I picked up my chin and decided to enjoy what I had. Susan and I headed north along the west back, running parallel to the marathon. We then crossed one of the many bridges to the east back and headed south and then crossed back over on another bridge to the west bank. We then decided to head south and discovered a very nice area along the river. There was a nice park, shops, restaurants, condos, hotels, and marina all connected by the trail. VERY NICE. We decided that we should try one of the restaurants on Monday night. We then ran back to the north along the river and then back into the city. We stopped at a McDonalds about a block from the hotel and had breakfast, sitting there in our nasty sweaty running clothes. I guessed about 3 1/2 to 4 mile run with some beautiful scenery to boot.

Headed back to hotel, showered up and hit the road to wine country. This is about a 45 minute drive to the southwest of the city. The area is rather large and spreads all over the county but we had selected wineries all in the Dundee area and all within about 5 or 6 miles of each other. Susan called Natalie’s Estate Winery which is by appointment only and they were very nice and said to come on. Nothing like a wine tasting at 10:30 in the morning! We made our way up their private road to the house. However, the road became big, loose gravel on an uphill driveway to the winery. The mustang did not like the big, loose gravel and no matter how lightly I touched the gas or brakes, the car just wanted to sink. We almost got stuck and a man that was there told us park in a lower lot. Tragedy avoided. We walked up the hill and into the winery and guess who is there . . . Bill, the cook and owner from Filbert’s! He, his wife, and two friends of theirs from Washington DC. We all laughed about the chance meeting and chatted while tasting some very nice Pinot Noirs. I highly recommend that if you get a chance to visit the area, go to this very small but accommodating winery. We spent a little time talking to Cassandra, the wife and owner of Natalie’s. We found out that the winery is named after their daughter and she made several suggestions for dinners, etc. We said goodbye and headed out. So much wine, so little time. On the way out, Susan HAD TO STEAL an apple off an apple tree for a snack. I admit that I had a couple of bites so I am just as guilty.

We traveled around Dundee hitting several wineries. I won’t bore you with all the details. We finished our winery visit later in the afternoon with a visit to a place called The Pinot Station. Susan was hungry and in need of food but we had enough time for one more stop before we headed to Cary and Loretta’s so we stopped. This was a pretty good deal we got to try 5 Pinots and 3 whites for $5. Additionally, there was a limo there when we got there . . . it was a rolling party. Susan noticed a plate of fruit, cheese, crackers and started nonchalantly sneaking over to grab some bites. The girl behind the counter said the food was for the folks in the limo but they were done with so we could help ourselves. I have never seen such a small woman gobble down so many dates, grapes, and cheese bites as Susan did when we were told to help ourselves! Some pictures of Oregon Wine country-

Here's Susan negotiating stairs after a day full of winetasting. Notice the use of the handrail!

Anyway, after about 30 or 40 minutes there, we had to head north for dinner with Cary and Loretta.

We made it to Cary and Retta’s in about 30 minutes . . . not a bad drive from Dundee up to Beaverton. Everyone met us at the front door and everyone was welcoming of Susan. It’s interesting that Retta and I have the same birthday, Oct. 1. I brought several bottles of wine from our day in Willamette Valley and a loaf of bread from Cannon beach. They had gotten me a nice box of chocolate and dinner. Cary had gone crabbing that day. When we got there, crabs were boiling, oysters were cooking, and food was in abundance. Let me see if I can tell you everything that was served us . . . . Dungeness crab, fresh oysters, fresh shrimp, potatoes and corn on the cob. We had tons of food and wine. We also had dessert and ice cream. Quite a stuff fest! Afterwards, we decided that we’d head out and not overstay our welcome. We headed back into town . . . took about 15 minutes to get back to the hotel. We decided to have birthday nightcap. It was around 8:30.

Susan had been wanting to try the Portland City Grill. This is a happening place in the Yamhill district. It is a nice restaurant and bar in the 30th floor of a bank building. We took the train from the hotel to what was the stop nearest the bank. I’m not going to say that this was a mistake, but this was not the best place to get off a train. There were a gaggle of youths hanging out at the street corner. Don’t get me wrong. . . . I am not that much of old fart, but we’re talking probably 30-40 youths that were pushing, shouting, and acting a fool. Too bad I was in Oregon. In Alabama I would have my pistol with me. Susan and I quickly grabbed each other’s hands and moved down the street as fast as possible. The whole time I was looking for weapons at hand . . . garbage cans, newspaper stands. You get the idea. We cleared the area and sort of sighed. Only 4 blocks to go. Guess what we ran into next? A full fledged crazy man. Nothing against insanity . . . I’ve touched that place before in my life but this guy was a real nut job. He was yelling and screaming at somebody who was not there. I glanced up and saw us but didn’t approach us, thank goodness. Okay, just a couple of blocks. We can see the bank building the lights of the main boulevard just a block ahead. Being neurotic, I noticed the guy who was shadowing us on the opposite side of the street and the van filled with youths parked on the side of the street. All I could think was . . . thanks goodness I am faster than Susan! We made it to the building with no incident. We jumped on the elevator and made it upstairs. This place was packed. It wasn’t a loud obnoxious place but it was busy. We went into the bar and circled several times. Every table, chair and stool was occupied. We thought we’d have to skip it but we circled one more time and found and table and two chairs in the window-perfect. We sat down and enjoyed the view out the window, overlooking the city at night and watching the boats on the river. We had a couple of cocktails, held hands and watched the young couple across from us choke down a hamburger. There were a little on the strange side . . . tattoos and piercings but they seemed nice enough. The best part of the whole evening was when we got up to leave the youngster across the table from us said (and I quote) “ma’am, you dropped something”. What a hoot! Susan had dropped a scarf. The funny part is that I am the old person in our relationship . . . she’s the youngster, but somebody called her “ma’am”. I busted a gut on the spot and Susan also laughed . . . I guess she had to. We left the bank, walked down two block and over to the next train station and had no problems at all. I guess the youths just hung out on the one block. Took the train back to the hotel and hit the hay-we have a busy day on Monday, our last day there.

Monday arrived, sadly. I always hate the last day of a trip. We had decided that we were going to the Columbia River gorge to see waterfalls and do some hiking and anything else we could get into. While Susan was in the shower, I ran down the block to McDonalds and got our breakfast . . . not healthy but good and quick. We grabbed our maps, notes and camera and out the door we went. After about 45 minutes of driving, we were in the gorge and heading to our first location-Vista House. Pretty neat if you ever get the chance to go there-a marble house on top of a mountain with a killer view of the gorge looking east. We spent a little time at Vista House, bought some coffee and a souvenir coffee cup for each of us.

This is Columbia River Gorge looking east. Oregon on the right and Washington on the left. This is the Grand Canyon (sorry Phil) of the northwest.

We hit several waterfalls and did a little hiking. We just didn’t have time to do the gorge justice. You definitely need several days to do it right. I’m not going to give too many details but here’s a quick list of places we enjoyed and hiked-Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Mutlnomah Falls, and Wahkeenah Falls. We hiked at every water fall and I figured we got in somewhere around 10-12 miles for the day. Here are just a couple of pictures of what we saw while hiking.

Yes, that is Susan standing next to the waterfall in the picture on the right.

Don't you think that she has a great smile?

Multnomah falls in the middle.

This is the view from the top of Multnomah falls. The picture above center is what most people see. Susan and I decided we wanted a different view!

This was taken later in the afternoon after several nice little hikes. This was the last waterfall we visited. I was cool and shady most of the day but all our hiking was a lot of climbing. The mist of the falls felt so good and helped to keep us cool.

There are so many other pictures I have but I don't want to overload this blog. The best part is the scenery was beautiful and we had SO MUCH FUN!

About 3:30 we decided to high tail it back into Portland to beat the rush hour traffic and to have dinner at a decent time so we could have one more nightcap and pack before bedtime. We got into town quickly so we walked around downtown a little. Of course we had to go into Tiffany’s just to look at all the sparkling stuff. No, I didn’t don anything like that so stop thinking that. We walked down to the riverfront area we discovered while running on Sunday. We went to one restaurant right on the river, overlooking the marina. This was going to be good. However, after waiting for a wait person for 6 minutes, we decided to blow the joint and move on. We told the hostess and she was very nice and was wanting us to stay but we hit the door running. We went to another restaurant just a block up and one of the places we had wanted to go to while doing our homework back in B’ham. The restaurant was called Stanfords and the meal was good. We decided to end our trip the way we started . . . . at Hubers. We hopped the train and headed north into town to go to Hubers. We headed inside and the barkeep that helped us on Friday afternoon was working. He recognized us and asked us about our trip. We ordered a couple of Spanish coffees, chatted with the barkeep a little, made eyes at each other and decided to call it an evening. Took the train back to hotel and packed for our morning departure. Goodbye to Portland . . . we’ll have to come back.


Anonymous said...

What a trip, doing so much in so little time but sounds like you guys had a wonderful trip. Enjoyed pictures and reading every word, going right along with you and all that wine tasting and cheese(yummy)
we will probably have to hold to the hand rail for awhile.. was worth the wait...
Love Ashville

Phil said...

Sounds like a great trip Jim. And thanks for all the pictures. I especially liked the picture of the Columbia River (although the waterfall shots where nice also). But the best shot of all was the shoes on the beach. It spoke volumes.

Glad you and Susan got to rent a Mustang Convertable. I wouldn't trade in mine for anything (well almost anything). It's just a fun little car.

Thanks for sharing.

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