Favorite Roads

Do you have a favorite highway or road?  One of my favorites (and conveniently close to home) is Highway 6, also known as the Wilson River Highway, that traverses the Oregon Coast Range from the Portland metro area out to Tillamook and the beautiful central Oregon Coast.  A gorgeous section of the Pacific Northwest that includes Cape Kiwanda and Pacific City, the Three Capes scenic bike route, Rockaway to the north and Neskowin to the south.

I love how the road twists and turns around huge Douglas Firs dripping with rain.  And to my right a river runs.  Trucks are parked at every wide spot in the road – it’s fishing season in the Oregon Coast Range.  I briefly think of one of my favorite books, “The River Why” by David James Duncan – the title river is based on this exact area.

The rainforest here is lush and green but fall colors still shine now and then where a vine maple or alder has found its ground among the evergreens. If you want to experience western Oregon – logging, history, fishing, homesteading, and our famous rain – Highway 6 from Banks to Tillamook is a great way to experience our state.  Pull over at the Smith Homestead park where history and hiking come together, learn about the history of highway building at the Charles Straub Wayside.

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I am startled out of my fly fishing day dream – coming around a curve in the road to enter the vast expanse of the huge Wilson River and Trask River flood plains.  Mountain river dreams are replaced with the visions of baby loafs of Tillamook cheddar cheese. Pastures spread out far and wide – in Oregon we are very proud of our cheese making legacy.  Born from these farms that lie before me.

One other note about Tillamook – it is home to one of the largest wooden structures in the world – a former WW II blimp hangar.  There were once two of these beauties that you could see from miles away – sadly a fire destroyed one of the hangar twins and only one remains.  The remaining structure is now an Air Museum.   The hangar encompasses an area of 7 acres!

And no road trip in Oregon is complete without beer.

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Time for a Road Trip

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Two days and counting… and I just can’t stay in a bad mood about this election.  I am concerned, I am worried, I am thinking about ways I can make a difference – and make this country better in the face of our challenges and our divisiveness.

My favorite quote of all time… “If you don’t think one person can make a difference, you have never been in a tent with one mosquito.”

But before I make like a mosquito – time to hit the road and head to the Oregon Coast.  What a beautiful part of the world this is and each part of the coast, north, middle and south has its own personality.

More on the northern and southern coastal areas to come – but this weekend I will be visiting the middle coast.  There is no geographic definition of where Oregon’s middle coast lies – but my definition (and I am an amateur geographer) would be from Tillamook south to Florence.

Areas we will be visiting on this trip – Pacific City and Newport and all parts in between.  Depoe Bay, Cape Foulweather, Devil’s Punchbowl and maybe as far south as Cape Perpetua and Heceta Head.  Those geographic names are enough to incite adventure and excitement.

No better way to overcome this election than with a bowl of chowder and some Dungeness Crab, a little adventure and a beer from Pelican Pub!

What is Eugene Levy doing in Portugal?

After three days in Lisbon it was time to explore the Portugal countryside.  Our plan was to hike as much as possible and get to know the country.  I usually like to settle in one place for a few days – but sometimes that first time visit to a country requires a bit more movement and exploration.  And with the promise to come back.

We headed to the coast and hiked from Praia de Maças south.  Our hope was to see if we could find the dinosaur tracks on the wall near Praia Grande as recommended by our friend and co-worker Andy Mason and his wife Kelly.

Praia de Maças is really cute and I only wish we had stayed long enough to have a cold beer in a chair on the beach.  On our way out of town we passed the little tram that goes from Sintra (inland about 10 miles) to the beach.  Next time.  Odd side note – in Praia de Macas – the main street through town is called Avenida Eugene Levy.  If anyone can explain this to me – I would love to know. (Yes yes I know a simple Google search would explain this but what fun is that?)

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We hiked south up and over the cliffs that separate the beaches here – in Praia Grande – the biggest hotel pool I have ever seen and a lot of surfers.

At the end of the beach was a lengthy (and new) staircase right next to a cliff face.  Thankfully Andy and Kel had informed us otherwise we might have missed the fact that the dinosaur tracks are on this vertical cliff face.  It seems that millions of years ago this cliff was a flat muddy plain.

At the bottom of the staircase was a warning – only 6 people are allowed to lean on the railing at a time.  Hmmm – sure enough as we discovered – to get a good view of the footprints – you do find yourself leaning out as far as possible on this railing.   The three of us were alone so no fear of breaking a railing – we hope.

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Impressive sight and so glad Andy and Kel had tipped us on this once in a lifetime experience.  We hiked a bit further down the coast – discovering one secluded beach after another.  Portugal is a great place to hide!

And looking out at the Atlantic – imagining Magellan or Vasco de Gama heading into the expanse of water – not knowing where they were going or what they would discover – sea monsters, mysterious islands, the edge?

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Portugal. Go. Now.

You know that feeling when you are first falling in love?  The giddiness?  How the whole world looks better because you have this awesome warm glow all the time?  That may be how I feel about Portugal.  And this guy below – St. Jorge.

This was my first long trip in over 10 years – when I say long – I mean a trip over two weeks.  Investing in the time and money to get to Europe from the west coast of the U.S. is substantial and I have made several trips over the past 10 years – they have been at most 11 days.  Which just isn’t long enough.  Two and a half weeks isn’t long enough.

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But it was long enough to fall in love with Portugal.  The people, the natural sights, the beaches, the churches, the food…. if you only go to Portugal to eat Nata’s it will be worth it.

Our first night in Lisbon we walked through the lovely Alfama neighborhood up to the Caste of St. Jorge (I love the Portuguese spelling by the way).  And that’s where this guy hangs out.  He is the king of his castle and master of his domain.

The castle is impressive and always brings out the 13 year old make believe child in me.  But the views are better.  You can see across the huge estuary of the Tejo River – ferry boats criss crossing and Lisbon has several impressive bridges – including a Golden Gate look a like suspension bridge.  Red roofs as far as the eye can see, which at sunset glows like no other city I have been to.  We watched the sun say goodbye to Lisbon from the castle walls – our faces smiling and glowing with the magical color of the Portuguese sun.

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A great moment but the walk down after sunset was even more memorable.  Tiny curvy streets with cute little hole in the wall restaurants and bars.  Laughing Portuguese families and couples – I want to move here.  We had a great meal in one of these that caught our eye – great wine, olives, cheese, bacalao (Portugese national dish), a little more wine.

Then a long saunter down through the neighborhood.  We stopped to listen to a Fado singer – and peered into numerous lively restaurants – “we have to come back here…” we exclaimed.  Happy Lisboetas wandered with us as we got lost and found again on our way back to our apartment.  Is this really Sunday night in Lisbon?

 

McMenamin’s Passport

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For those of you who don’t live in the Pacific NW of the US, we have a mini-empire in our little corner of the world called McMenamin’s.  Named after two brothers who started with a small beer and sandwich spot in the produce district of Portland in the late 1970’s – and from that grew an empire of over 50 restaurants, hotels and brewpubs throughout Oregon and Washington.

McMenamin’s have their critics but I encourage you to check out their website – because they have done some amazing and creative things – all in the pursuit of good beer, good food and community.  They support artists, history, restoration, they introduced the concept of brewpub movie houses – they have taken some abandoned schools and hospitals and restored them into hotels, restaurants, golf courses, what I like to call amusement parks for adults.

And I credit the brothers for bringing good beer to the northwest.  It is easy to stand in today’s Portland, which overflows with creative brewers and amazing food and scoff at McMenamin’s but 40 years ago it was Coors Light and Bud.  And Mike McMenamin helped change that (along with the Widmer Brothers and many others).

The clever folks at McMenamin’s have created the concept of the McMenamin’s Passport (see below) listing all their properties.  You get a passport stamp every time you visit a new pub or property and you win prizes along the way.  And when you fill your passport completely (which would be pretty hard to do) you become one of the legendary “Cosmic Travelers”.  Brilliant!

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West with the Night

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Last night – we said a sad but so-happy-for-you goodbye to our friends Steve and Stacie as they headed west into the night from Portland to Yangon, Myanmar.

Staring down at our feet without words…(oh look PDX carpet!) – knowing that for this one sad moment, there will be many stories and adventures that make the teary moments worth enduring.  And we count the days until we are sharing a beer and laughing over stories and memories.  Our very own Ithaka…

“Hope the voyage is a long one.

May there be many a summer morning when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you come into harbors seen for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you are old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.”

(excerpt from Ithaka  by C.P. Cavafy)

“Love the Journey” my friend Kathy tells me – and I shall.

Steve and Stac – please love your journey.  Our hugs and tears a launching point to adventure…

Deep Thoughts on the side of the highway

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I was sitting by the highway yesterday thinking about this…

On July 22nd – my dear life friends Steve and Stacie will get on a flight to Burma, not looking back and starting their adventure of living and teaching overseas.  TWO YEARS!  A year ago I couldn’t imagine any of my friends doing it but when I did – I kind of figured (and hoped) it would be me.  Damn they beat me to it.  Along with that – two acquaintances are walking the Camino de Santiago this year.  A dream I have had for about 15 years.

Flashback to being a Powell’s employee and being able to “borrow” any book on their shelves as long as it was returned in the condition it was when I took it off the shelf – significantly augmenting the paltry hourly wage made there.  But has been one of the best jobs I have ever had – I basically bought books for people – while running all over the three story store.  I lost weight even though the new and now wildly popular Pearl Bakery had just opened a block away.  I could eat all the croissants I wanted and still lose weight!

Flashback II – the book was “Off the Road”  by Jack Hitt – go “borrow” it – it will get you pumped to walk somewhere for three or four months. Or pine about it for years and never go.

Simultaneous to this, after much reading and contemplation of my current state and under the influence of many espresso’s and a few IPA’s – I have decided to embark on my own state-side adventure, since I clearly have been too lame to actually quit my job and embark on my own adventure. I keep watching others do it.  Lame.

Walk with me won’t you as I attempt to un-lame my life.  One day at a time.