Category Archives: Oregon

Oregon coast: the downside of comfort

We are so cozy up here in our tree house near the beach in Manzanita that it’s tempting to just stay put.  The bed here is as snug as a nest — a wooden nook built into the rear wall of our room, with a low slanted wood ceiling that has a sky light and windows at eye level that look out onto the main street from top-of-the-tree level. I slept through the night for the first time during our trip.

Manzanita by night – at least last night, a Thursday in March just before the spring tourist season – was very quiet. At sunset, the few people around started migrating towards the beach and we joined the flow. Scattered up and down the beach, people stood quietly watching the fierce yellow sun sink slowly into the ocean, leaving behind bands of orange and pink. A couple of dogs leapt around near the water.

We found lots of people inside the San Dune Pub – most appeared to be locals. Good burger, local beer, fish and chips. Back to our tree house, where I tried out the whirlpool in our room and D caught up with some of his beloved basketball,sitting on a couch near the burning embers (not)  of our electric fireplace (the one goofy touch in this room.) Go Jayhawks!

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North from Newport to Manzanita Ore.

Greetings from our little treehouse high above the ocean in the small coastal town of Manzanita where we’re staying in the third floor “Starseeker suite,” of the Inn at Manzanita, all light wood, cedar shingles and windows – plus a balcony looking out over the treetops and roofs at the Pacific.

Yesterday afternoon at the Sylvia Beach Hotel was very relaxing. After several walks along the beach, we gave in to the comforts of the hotel’s third floor living room/library, curled up in worn arm chairs  in front of windows  with unfettered ocean views and read and fell asleep.

The hotel’s infamous dining experience – where you sit at communal tables and play a get-the-conversation-going game called “two truths and a lie” – turned out to be a lot of fun, in part because we were seated with a very nice group of people – a young guy celebrating his 38th birthday with his girlfriend and parents. The young folks from Portland, the parents from Eugene – and all interesting.  The game is a good icebreaker – you tell two truths and a lie and everyone else gets three questions then guesses which is the lie. Food was served family style and also was very good – more crab cakes but these were different from the previous night’s, a good salmon mousse, homemade bread and a green leaf salad with citrus and avocado, fancy mashed potatoes, berry cobbler.

We drove this morning north from Newport on our best weather day yet – sunny, even warm, with less wind than past days – stopping briefly to gawk at the Salishan Lodge, which did live up to its billing as the coast’s most elegant resort (my parents stayed there 30 years ago when, I’m told, it was a little humbler.) Then on to Three Capes loop, a spectacular 35-mile drive to Tillamook. Just before town, we found – thanks to our Fodor’s – a beautiful and empty beach, walking through waist high green brambles and vegetation atop sand dunes over a crest and onto a wide open white sand beach, all to ourselves. That was nice. You can find it about 9 miles w of Tillamook – Bay Point Split is the name on the turnoff, I think. Named after a town that fell into the Ocean during a fierce storm.

We skipped the huge cheese factory in Tillamook but did stop at the smaller Blue Heron French Cheese factory – and got some good brie and a baguette fresh out of the oven for a light picnic in a county park a little north in Garibaldi (where we watched a coast guard helicopter hovering over a cutter in what appeared to be a practice mission.)

The drive north to Manzanita and then Cannon Beach offered perhaps the most spectacular from-the-road views we’ve had, as we drove high along a mountain road with the blue ocean just below and large rocks jutting up from the water. Cannon Beach was, as advertised, a bit too much like Carmel – tasteful but still touristy. Glad we stayed here instead. We also drove quickly into and out of seaside, which had an old Jersey Shore feel to it.

In Cannon Beach, we parked near the elegant Stephanie Inn (which looked smaller and quainter in real than on its website) and walked on the beach by the classic  Haystack Rock in the late afternoon. Stunning.

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To the Oregon Coast

On a spectacular morning, we drove north from Medford on Highway 5 to Sutherlin where we picked up 138 and then 38 west to Reedsport on the Oregon Coast. Beautiful scenery the entire way – through mountain valleys shrouded in fog and cloud, around mountains covered with evergreens (we saw our first logging trucks and clear-cut here) and along wide fast-moving river. The Coast from Reedsport to Florence was almost nowhere to be seen – thanks to a thick section of high sand dunes but by Florence we started to see wild waves lapping onto the shore and crashing into rocks as we drove on a curving road – highway 101 – way above the shore.

Mediocre food at Mo’s in Florence (we decided not to picnic because of intermittent rain) then great scenery en route to Newport – the whole drive took about 5 hours. We walked along the Historic Bayfront in Newport which turned out to be grittier than expected – kind of a mix between a real place (with fishing boats in the marina and big seafood-type warehouses with cool murals painted on the side) and tacky tourist stuff (a wax museum etc.)

We never would have found the restaurant we ate at down there had it not come recommended by some in-laws of my sister in Portland. Saffron Salmon – the restaurant – had superb food: calamari served unbattered with cabbage salad in a lemony sauce, Dungeness crab salad, a fantastic crab and shrimp cake served on wasabi-seasoned coleslaw, with thin, thin frites and Hebi, a fish we’d never heard of. Lovely place, great location with big picture windows looking out onto the bay.

The famous Sylvia Beach Hotel   was as charming as expected. A five or so story green wood frame historic building perched above the beach with individually decorated rooms, each honoring a writer (we’re in Emily Dickenson – small but sweet and reasonable – $97 – and an ocean view.) It’s a conspicuously bookish place – no tv, wi-fi (I’m the wonderful Newport Public Library right now), telephones. Just books, games, a third floor library-den with cozy worn chairs in front of big picture windows with full frontal ocean views. Feel a little sneaky using a Kindle there. Fantastic breakfast this morning – all kinds of fresh baked goods, fresh fruit, cereals, juices, granola – and a cooked entree of bacon frittata and grilled bread.  We shared a table with a guy from Portland and his sister and her companion from Texas.

Drove a little north to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse – well worth a visit. Climbed on a short trail cut into the green leafy vegetation on a mountain side for a superb view, then walked along a tidal pool laden, oddly, with black cobbles that became smaller stones and then gritty black and white sand resembling fresh ground pepper. I got nabbed by a “sneaker wave” – and left with soggy jeans and soaked sneakers. But the water wasn’t that cold, even though the wind was at times. Great view from atop the lighthouse where we got St. Patricks-day Green buttons announcing our successful climb up the spiral metal staircase.

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Oregon vino

On our prettiest weather day yet of this trip (at last!) we loaded up on goodies from Medford’s Harry and David store (kind of charmless but found some good satsumas) and Central Point’s Rogue Creamery (full of charm and pricey locally made cheese – we got the Crater Lake Blue) and drive a few miles away to the small historic town of Jacksonville, which has a two-or-three block main drag lined with old western brick and wood frame buildings that are all on the National Register of Historic Places. Also walked up a hill to the old cemetery which was worth a wonder, with its unapologetic segregation. At one point D and I found an area with one sign “Jewish” with an arrow pointing one direction and the another sign “Catholic” with an arrow pointing the opposite direction. (Maybe he and I could have been buried side by side on the border between. Does Make one wonder if, with all the cremation, there will be graveyards for our generation that serve – as these old ones do – as a historical record of sorts.

We had a picnic in the tiny city park, fell asleep on the thick green grass in the sun (yes!) and set off w/D’s sister on highway 238 into a green valley with vineyards and trees blooming with pink, white and fuscia blossoms, surrounded by blue-grey mountains  – this is the Applegate Valley wine trail and folks say it’s what Sonoma used to be 30-40 years ago, with about 18 wineries. We stopped at three that had very different characters (and probably wine although I’m no expert.) Fiasco Winery (upscale; we bought a bottle of fig balsamic vinegar and learned that to use it with salad, skip the oil), Devitt winery (not upscale but this is where we bought our wine – called Precipice.) and Troon Vineyard, with very elegant tasting room and grounds filled with perfectly placed picnic tables. Definitely worth of visit, even if – like me – you’re not a wine drinker.

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Crater Lake and hip-hop Hamlet

I didn’t think we’d be able to visit Crater Lake  – which graces the cover of many an Oregon tourism brochure – because it’s snow season but we made it there, about 1.5 hours north of Medford, with no problem. The last half hour or so of the trip was like riding through a bobsled run – with 10 to 15 feet walls of snow lining the two-lane road, but the road itself was largely clear of snow and ice. Crater Lake was, as expected, stunning – very still and quiet in the winter sun and just a handful of visitors braving the thick snow. We walked for a little bit on a trail blazed by cross-country skiers – which in addition to snow shoes is the way to go there this time of year. Every few footsteps one of us would suddenly sink a foot or so into the deep, deep snow.  There are daily free ranger-led snow shoe tours (snow shoes provided) – next time!

On the way back, we stopped in a little town near the Rogue River Gorge (which is more like the Ithaca gorges than the Columbia River Gorge) for a late lunch at Beckies’ – an old dark wood roadside place that is the only restaurant or biz for miles, or so it seemed. Good hearty fare – beef stew, blt, very berry homemade pie.

At night, we went to see a modern-day version of Hamlet performed by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – some definitely strange elements: The King communicated with Hamlet in sign language, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were women, the players (“the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch  the conscience of the king” or some such) were hip hop performers. But I thought it worked and the actor playing Hamlet managed to make some of his almost-too-famous lines sound fresh, which is quite a feat. Very nice theater – very intimate, sort of theater in the round and we were in the third row for $36 per tix bought at the last minute. Place was packed too.

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In and around: Ashland, Ore

We awoke for the first time of our trip to sunshine – and took full advantage of it, driving first to Central Point to sample some of the local food delights – cheese at Rogue Creamery and chocolate Lillie Belle Farms. Yum. Then onto the pretty tourist town of Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (where we picked up tix for tonight’s performance of Hamlet.) Charming town with lots of small Victorian houses lining hilly side streets and a healthy main drag with lots of nice shops and restaurants, some surprisingly affordable. Stopped for coffee at an alternative hang out – Eco. Then had very good very light Asian food at Sesame, eating outside in the sunshine. Life is good.

At night, we went to a slide show/lecture in a local high school given by a photo journalist who specializes in Afghanistan and Pakistan – pretty sobering sights of demolished villages, American soldiers, local children but also of the promising schools opened by the Three Cups of Tea guy (the book is Jackson County’s community read book.)

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Oregon is gorge-ous

I’m a bit of a gorge snob after all the time I’ve spent in New York State’s Finger Lakes but the Columbia River Gorge, just east of Portland is nothing to sneeze at. The waterfalls are very different from the ones around Ithaca (see the photo above) but just as spectacular in a different way. I think it may have to do with the scale. The waterfalls we saw yesterday during our drive along the old scenic highway30 were very high and a straight shot down, unlike the Ithaca waterfalls which meander, with the water spreading out across a wide rock face. The Oregon falls were very powerful, thanks to the snow melt and spring rain, kind of the effect you’d get draping a hose over a high mountain and turning the water on full force.  At Multnomah Falls and several smaller falls en route, the water came crashing directly downward with furious force, hitting the rocks and pool below with a steady crash that caused water and mist to shoot up.

It’s a sight I wasn’t sure we’d have time to see but I’m glad that rainy weather forced us to take to the car sooner than expected so we had some time to travel along that charming old highway, past heavily moss-coated trees – kind of looked like a green version of andora, or whatever that mythical land is in Avatar. There were surprises along the way including an old observatory with gorgeous marbled stain glass windows and a glorious view of the Columbia River gorge. We ate mediocre – as expected – food at the charming Multnomah Falls Lodge, in a high-ceilinged dining room with walls made of giant rough-hewn grey stones. We made it as far as Stevenson, Wash., crossing over the very cool steel Bridge of Gods spanning the river, and  had hot chocolate at a funky little coffee shop – Bahma Coffee Bar.

Our four-and-a-half hour drive south on Highway 5 to Medford turned into a white-knuckle journey about midway when we hit rain and then, all of a sudden, snow flurries as we drove through high curving mountain passes – we for some reason didn’t realize we’d be driving through mountains. Googlemaps doesn’t really fill you in on the topography – or maybe it does and we didn’t think to ask. But during our trip west to the coast, we’ll definitely have to take the mountains into account. And travel by day not eve.

Dirck’s sister D. lives in a lovely 1920’s bungalow on a quiet residential street – with hammocks on the front porch and a beautiful red-and-white camellia tree (bush?) in the yard. The sky is a flawless blue for the first time during our trip and the grass is so green it looks like the set of the movie “Blue Velvet.” A sight for sore eyes coming from grey snowy/muddy Iowa!

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Portland: in the rain

W e shouldn’t be surprised that it’s raining here but what is surprising is that people seemed so pleased about it. As one young hip saleswoman at one of the endless young hip design stores in this southwest Portland neighborhood told me, they need rain after a long stretch of surprisingly sunny weather. (Just our luck.) We’d be better equipped to take the rain in stride if we both didn’t have bad colds that we’re still trying to get over. Walking in cold rain probably isn’t the way to do that.

But we did some walking yesterday because this city is irresistable and we found the Pearl District only a short walk away and, as advertised, full of interesting shops, architecture, restaurants, brewpubs, coffee houses and people.

We dutifully stopped at Powell’s Books which was so  big it was overwhelming. The cashier pointed us to a good brewpub nearby, Deschutes which was packed with a happy Happy Hour crowd – a big open place with lots of wood and woodcut landscapes. Later we had dinner at Clyde Common in the trendy Ace Hotel, sharing a table – as is the custom there – with what turned out to be a friendly group of 7 people. I sat next to Mike, originally from Vancouver but now living in Bend, who appeared to be a successful, albeit modest, graphic designer with accounts like Nike.  We got friendly enough that he dunked his bread in the broth of my main course to give it a try – although I didn’t dare stick my fork in his bowl of lamb and some sort of grain. The food was good – very one-of-a-kind (ex: olive-oil marinated octopus with frisee, fingerlings potatoes, chorizo in a “squid ink vinaigrette” Yum) and the place had a not-irritating alternative vibe.

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Portland at last

We managed to leave foggy,rainy  Des Moines on time and arrived in rainy but not foggy Portland a little early. And there are blossoms here – pink, white, purple branches on the trees and green grass. So nice to see.  The light rail – as advertised – was easy to find and use and took us within blocks of our hotel, a little boutique place called Hotel DeLuxe that has an old hollywood theme with black and white photos of old movie stars (Rita hayworth in the lobby; Marlene Dietrich, we think, above our bed. Our Emma, a movie buff,,  would love this place.,) Hotel staff couldn’t be friendlier and upgraded us to a suite that’s most comfortable, with plush mustard and green colored art deco-ish couch and arm chair.  So after a short rest,we’ll don our raincoats and hit the town. Yipee!

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Portland dining indecision

Two days until we leave for Portland and I still have settled on where to eat – there are just too many options. And I just read about yet another one in the Sunday NYT travel section – a Thai restaurant and bar with the unlikely name of Whiskey Soda Lounge (doesn’t that just scream “THAI FOOD”?) that is a spin-off another Thai restaurant across the street that was on my list: Pok Pok. The Lounge serves something I don’t believe I’ve eaten – “Thai pub snacks” which are basically small plates of  things like garlicky frogs legs (no thank you) and dried shrimp salad on a betel leaf (maybe). Since drinks appear to be as important as the food here I may skip – since I”m not much of a drinker (let alone a drinker of anything made with “honey-flavored drinking vinegar.” One thing I have noticed is that few of the restaurants I’m interested in seem to take reservations – don’t know what this means for a Thursday night dinner, not to mention a Friday or Saturday night.

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