Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Experiencing the Four Seasons in One Week - Days 5 & 6

Day 5 - Sunday, October 21st
Mount St. Helens was on the top of everyone's wish list of places to visit while Greg's parents were here. You can see the mountain from downtown Portland on a clear day so it's always there, tempting us with it's flattened summit to come see close-up the devastation wrought by the eruption in 1980.
I took this photo at Hoyt Arboretum when my mom & step-dad visited in June. Mt Rainier is on the left (150 miles away) and Mt St Helens is in the foreground (50 miles away).
The day we had set aside for the 2+ hour drive to the mountain started out cold & gray. There was even snow in the forecast for the national monument, which had just gotten it's first dusting of the season on October 18th.
We chose to drive to the north (far) side of the mountain because it has the closest visitor center to the crater that you can reach by car, the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Due to the heavy snow it receives, this area is only open seasonally, typically from Memorial Day to late October.
we've reached the snow line on SR504
The landscape changed significantly after we got off the interstate and approached the volcano on Washington State Route 504. While much of the timber land has been replanted, there is still plenty of evidence of the eruption in the form of the scarred hillsides and mostly barren Toutle River valley.
Toutle River Valley
the scarred ridge to the north of Mt St Helens
It was snowing lightly as we climbed higher up the ridge toward the visitor center. We stopped a few times to take photos but didn't get a real glimpse of the mountain because of the low cloud cover.
It's snowing! And Mt St Helens is in the background somewhere!
Luckily, shortly after we reached Johnston Ridge, the clouds parted briefly and we were able to see the most of the mountain, although we never did get a full view of the horseshoe-shaped crater.
Mt St Helens peeks through the clouds
Johnston Ridge
At the observatory we toured the exhibits then watched two films, one about the eruption and another about the natural rejuvenation that has taken place in the 32 years since the eruption. Both feature a nice surprise after the credits roll.
checking out the lay of the land
Linda & Dave take advantage of the indoor viewing area after the film is over and the curtain rises
It was too cold and slippery from the fresh snow to go hiking so we started heading back towards home. We did pull off at a scenic overlook that marks the edge of the blast zone where we read about the timber company's efforts to salvage their trees after the eruption. A bit later we stopped at Patty's Place for a late lunch (Greg & I had elk burgers!).
it was a bit cold for a hike
this is at the western edge of the blast zone

Day 6 - Monday, October 22nd
After the previous long day of driving, the LaRowe's opted for a leisurely morning exploration of the area around their hotel before they came over to our house around noon. Greg was back at work at his downtown office and we were all generally worn out from our busy weekend. Wanting to show them a bit more of our neighborhood, I took Linda on a Hawthorne Boulevard stroll, dropping in or window shopping at some of my favorite places (New Seasons, Pastaworks, Powell's, Crossroads Trading, Presents of Mind, Memento, House of Vintage) while Dave napped on our sofa. After Greg got home from work I cooked dinner with some of our New Seasons provisions: bacon-wrapped blue cheese-stuffed dates, salmon, kale, butternut squash; which all went very nicely with the David Hill Pinot Gris that Linda had purchased at the winery on Saturday.
Linda checks out the assortment of locally-roasted coffee beans at New Seasons Market
I'll wrap up the LaRowe's visit in my next post. In the meantime, the link to all of the photos I took during that week is embedded in this post's title.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Experiencing the Four Seasons in One Week - Days 3 & 4

Continuing where I left off in my previous post about the LaRowe's visit...

Day 3 - Friday, October 19th
Dave & Linda picked us up at our house in SE Portland around 9am. Today's destination - the Pacific coast, about a two hour drive to the west. Our first stop was Astoria, the historic port & trading center at the mouth of the Columbia River. We walked out on Pier 39 to see the sea lions and cargo ships, then headed up to Coxcomb Hill to climb the 125-foot-tall Astoria Column. I stayed on the ground as I've done the climb a couple of times and the spiral staircase makes me dizzy! As we came off the hill we drove around some of the historic captain's houses. By then we were all getting hungry so, wanting to save time, we ate at a simple fish & chips shop in downtown Astoria.

Linda, Dave & Greg atop the Astoria Column
While there are many things to see along the coast, the weather wasn't cooperating, so we didn't stop as often as I would normally recommend. From Astoria, we continued south on Hwy 101 towards Seaside. As it was pouring rain when we arrived, we just did a quick drive through the city center so the LaRowe's could get a glimpse of the boardwalk and the carnivalesque atmosphere of the entertainment district (which is pretty much nonexistent this late in the year).

raindrops on fuschias
A few miles to the south is lovely Cannon Beach, which is a bit less enjoyable when it's raining. Actually, it's a great place to watch the winter storms roll in, IF you are curled up in a B&B next to a warm fireplace! Since that wasn't an option, we stopped at a local brewery for some liquid courage before we hit the beach, umbrellas in hand.

As it continued to rain steadily all afternoon, we decided to cancel our plans to drive all the way to Tillamook (where I intended to stop for the free tour of the cheese factory). Instead we drove to one of the scenic overlooks on Hwy 101 then turned east towards home.

there are thousands of acres of commercial timber land in northwestern Oregon
Of course, Greg & I had plotted to have dinner at a new brewery on the outskirts of Portland. Finding it via GPS was a bit tricky, but I thought the food & beers were delicious and well worth the effort!
Greg's Red Electric & my Bertha's Brown Ale (on nitro)
the seasonal burger at Sasquatch Brewery
Day 4 - Saturday, October 20th
The main thing we originally had planned for today was a trip to the Portland Farmers Market at PSU. The rain had subsided by mid-morning so we hopped in the car and headed downtown. Of course, Greg & I are unaccustomed to having to find parking so we didn't notice the pay station farther down the block. We were also distracted by some pretty roses and a Teddy Roosevelt statue in the South Park Blocks next to our parking spot. Thus the LaRowe's rental car received the gift of a $45 parking ticket while we were perusing the stalls at the market!

But at least the rain stayed away for an over an hour so we all had a chance to enjoy sampling the locally-made foods and shopping for edible souvenirs.

Linda couldn't resist the roasted Oregon hazelnuts
Wanting to take advantage of having a car, I suggested that we make the short drive to the northern tip of Oregon's wine country. It only takes about 30 minutes to get to Forest Grove and my friend Cindy Anderson, author of the Portland Happy Hour Guidebook and Oregon Wine Country Guidebook, helpfully suggested some of her favorite places in the area.
farmland and blue sky(!) in Forest Grove
Our first stop was David Hill Winery where each couple selected five wines to sample. Greg & I particularly liked the 2011 Pinot Gris, the 2009 Reserve Chardonnay, and the 2009 Winemaker Cuvee Pinot Noir.
It was well into mid-afternoon when we made our way to Urban Decanter in downtown Forest Grove. We enjoyed some nice sandwiches & salads before continuing on to the next winery.
The scenery around Montinore Estate was so beautiful, I had a tough time going inside for the wine tasting! But I was glad I did, because Greg & I picked five more wines to sample and discovered some more favorites: the 2009 Reserve Pinot Gris and the 2011 Borealis. Linda & Dave decided to sit this one out and relaxed in some cozy chairs by the fireplace.

Our final stop for the day was McMenamins Grand Lodge where the LaRowe's could watch UT football (Go Vols! Well, maybe next year!) and I could drink some good beer.
That's the end of this post. I will cover the remaining days soon... Again, the link to all of my photos from the LaRowe's visit is embedded in the title of this post.

Experiencing the Four Seasons in One Week - Days 1 & 2

The title of this post is a bit on an exaggeration, but only slightly. Greg's parents, Linda & Dave LaRowe, flew into Portland on Wednesday, October 17th for a week-long visit. We had encouraged them to come in September to take advantage of the nicer weather, but this was the week that worked best with their schedules. I made sure to send them several emails emphasizing that it would be rainy & cool while they were here, telling them to dress in layers, bring rain gear, and wear comfortable shoes.

They had requested in advance that I be their tour guide and had provided a list of things they wanted to see or do while they were here. There are so many things to do in Portland, I could easily keep visitors busy for a whole week just in our metro area. But anyone who has never been here before always wants to see the mountains, the Columbia River Gorge, and usually the coast, too. When you factor in that two of the days are travel days (cross-country flights and no non-stops from Nashville), that means they were going to have to hit the ground running if they wanted to get a taste of everything our hometown has to offer. So that's just what we did!

As only one day of their visit was forecast to be warm & sunny, I had to consider that when I plotted out their itinerary. Also, Greg took Friday off work and he wanted to go with us on the days we visited Mount St. Helens and the coast. Because each of those days involves many hours of driving, I then alternated those trips as well as the excursion to the Gorge & Mt. Hood with days where we would stay closer to home. Thus there wasn't much discussion about what to do when.

On Wednesday afternoon, I took the MAX to the airport to greet Linda & Dave and help them navigate to their hotel (which was in Troutdale; a cost-saving measure that added 20-30 minutes on both ends to their daily commute). Then we met up with Greg at our house and ate dinner together at a local Lebanese restaurant. From there we split up, with the men taking the bus & streetcar to the Rose Garden for a Trailblazers pre-season game and Linda & I taking a bus downtown for the White Bird performance of Vertical Road by Akram Khan Dance Company. We all met back up at our house but by then it was late and time for the LaRowe's to head back to their hotel for the night.
Did they really bring this much stuff??? Yes, but half of it was for me!
Thursday was the one day predicted to be sunny and dry so I knew we had to take advantage of what might be the only opportunity to get a nice view of the mountains around Portland. My favorite way to introduce visitors to our city is with a self-guided streetcar tour. So we parked the rental car in Northwest Portland and hopped on the streetcar, riding all the way to South Waterfront.
map reading & sightseeing on the Portland Streetcar
Then we boarded the aerial tram at OHSU for the scenic ride up to Marquam Hill with excellent views of downtown Portland and Mt. Hood. It was actually clear enough that we could see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Rainier!
view of Mt. Hood & the Aerial Tram from Marquam Hill
We returned to the waterfront and boarded another streetcar back to Northwest. There we walked around the neighborhood awhile, enjoying the architecturally diverse homes and fall greenery, before going to a local brewery for lunch.
Linda was willing to try several of the beers at Pyramid Breweries/MacTarnahan's Taproom
Our next stop was Pittock Mansion, where we didn't pay for the interior tour but took advantage of the free public access to the gardens for more excellent views of Portland and the mountains.
From there it was a short drive to the International Rose Test Gardens at Washington Park. While certainly past their peak, there were still many colorful roses in bloom for us to photograph and sniff.
Continuing with the garden theme, we hiked up to the Portland Japanese Garden where we enjoyed the quiet walking paths and fall colors.
As it was finally time for Greg to get off work we picked him up from his downtown office and headed to his choice of dinner spot, Hopworks Urban Brewery. Wow, that's two breweries in one day (certainly not a record for Greg & I but possibly one for the LaRowe's)!
I can't believe they're making us drink all of this beer!
I will close this post here and continue our adventures in my next two posts. If you just want to look at all of the pictures I took during their visit, the link is embedded in this post's title. Just click on it!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Celebrating Greg's 39th Birthday

Yesterday was my husband Greg's 39th birthday. We had discussed many options for how he'd like to enjoy his special day and ultimately he decided to do something similar to what I did on my birthday in July this year. Considering that the past three years he has spent his birthday in some pretty exotic places (2009 - Honolulu, Hawaii; 2010 - Wadi Rum, Jordan; 2011 - in the middle of the ocean on a transatlantic cruise), this was a decidedly local way of celebrating!
this was taken a few days before Greg's 36th birthday in Hawaii
we spent the night in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan on Greg's 37th birthday
enjoying a multi-course meal for his 38th birthday aboard Holland America's MS Rotterdam
Greg started his birthday by sleeping in, a luxury he only has on weekends since he gets up to exercise & work at 5am Monday through Friday. After eating a light breakfast and drinking some coffee, he opened his presents: a few greeting cards from family members plus a nice check from his parents. I gave him some of his favorite things: 6 bottles of seasonal craft beers, a couple of bags of his favorite beef jerky, an Oregon-made organic chocolate bar, and a customizable bike license plate.
Greg is pretty easy to please; just buy him beer & jerky!
We then walked a block from our house to eat lunch at locally-owned Vege Thai. We've gotten takeout from them before and it was very good. The main reason we chose to eat at this restaurant is that on your birthday you get a free entree as long as you bring a friend who purchases an entree. Total cost for a delicious, filling meal for two people: $13 including tip.
I had the daily special (pumpkin curry) and Greg ordered soy-chicken & garlic stir fry
We came back home for about an hour then headed out to catch a bus to northeast Portland. Our next stop was the not-for-profit, historic Hollywood Theatre. I had submitted my name for free tickets to see Chasing Ice and had received confirmation that two tickets would be waiting for us at will call. Greg & I knew we would be depressed by the subject matter of the film (climate change/global warming) but wanted to see it anyway. Plus the theater serves yummy popcorn and local draft beer at reasonable prices! The film was excellent, by the way, and I hope everyone reading this will watch it. Total cost for popcorn & two beers: $12.

We had to wait awhile for the bus heading west to the vicinity of our next destination, Pastini Pasteria. At this northwest-based chain with an emphasis on locally-sourced food, you get a free entree on your birthday (or the day before or after). What's great about this offer is that you're not required to purchase anything and you can choose from the entire menu. Greg ended up ordering the most expensive dish, a seasonal special of three-cheese ravioli topped with a wild mushroom ragu. He even got to add Italian sausage for no extra charge! I ordered the five cheese lasagna with meat sauce. Total cost for our meal: $14 including tip.
The next part of our plan was to stop at Northwest Public House for a beer as yesterday was their last day of business. We've enjoyed eating and drinking there multiple times and even took Greg's brother Brian and his girlfriend Colleen there when they visited us a few months ago. But the business has been sold and will reopen in 2013 under new ownership. Unfortunately, the lights were already off when we dropped by at 7pm.
this was taken on the porch at Northwest Public House in late September; we'll miss this place!
So we hopped on a streetcar and went to our next destination, Rogue Brewery. Greg & I are members of Rogue Nation and on your birthday you get a free mug of beer plus a free t-shirt. Obviously this is a great deal, again requiring no purchase, but since Greg wasn't about to share his beer I had to order one for myself! Total cost for this stop: $6.75 including tip.
Greg's mug is filled with 1/2 Chocolate Stout & 1/2 Hazelnut Brown Nectar (called Snickers); my chalice is filled with Double Chocolate Stout
Since Greg had to get up as usual at 5am this morning, we decided to head home before it got any later. Plus we still had to take the streetcar then transfer to a bus, which typically ends up taking 45 minutes to an hour of total transit time. All in all we had a nice day and it was very inexpensive considering everything we did. We only spent $50.75 including $5 for Greg's all-day transit pass (we have one monthly pass that is subsidized by Greg's employer). Happy Birthday, Greg!!!