Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My article in the September issue of the Oregon Beer Growler

As the month comes to a close, I thought I would share this story that was published in the September issue of the Oregon Beer Growler magazine. Look for more of my writing in the October issue, available tomorrow!

A Community Gathering Spot with a Focus on Great Beer

The eclectic sounds of Polecat, a band from Bellingham, WA, drift throughout the multi-use space that is Crow’s Feet Commons. It is a beautiful, sunny spring morning and anyone who’s not working is headed out to ski Mount Bachelor or is gearing up for a bike ride. Even owner David Marchi isn’t going to miss out on this perfect day. He’s taking his four-year-old son, Talus, along for a backcountry skiing excursion.

Patrons who are less able-bodied or have other priorities are enjoying the relative peace and quiet in the cafe. Two people use the free wifi to conduct business on their laptops over steaming cups of Stumptown coffee and freshly made Sparrow Bakery pastries. Another gentleman bobs his head to the music while reading the paper. Regulars chat with the one staff member who is manning the bar. A couple of tourists come in looking to purchase a Crow’s Feet Commons logo hat they saw someone wearing around town.

At this mid-morning hour, most people are coming into the shop with a purpose, to rent gear for the day’s adventures or to use the space as a mobile office. The scene becomes much livelier in the late afternoon, as the skiers return from the mountain and the bicyclists return from the hills. If the weather is anything but rainy or snowy, the outdoor tables quickly fill with friends enjoying a pint from one of the 16 taps of craft beer, including kombucha and cider. Others grab a bottle from one of the coolers or order wine by the glass. During the summer months, live music in the adjacent plaza entertains not only the shop’s patrons but also anyone who is strolling the path by Mirror Pond or shopping the stores along Brooks Street.

This is all what David Marchi envisioned when he took over the historic Goodwillie-Allen-Rademacher house in the fall of 2012. A lifelong thrill seeker and outdoors lover, he is a professional ski, mountaineering and cycling guide. A native of Mount Shasta, Calif., he moved to Bend from Colorado in late 2010 with the intent of starting his own business. His previous experience working at gear shops and a coffee shop gave him the idea to combine these interests into a community gathering spot that would offer something for everyone.

David came up with the name for his new business after reading a poem “that resonated with me and my lifestyle at the time. The essence was ‘success should be measured in laugh lines.’” David says his mentors are all “people who are weather-beaten by the sun, always having a good time and enjoying life,” thus they develop crow’s feet from all the smiling and squinting. The commons part of the name “reflects the space, which I wanted to be as community-driven as possible.”

Besides the cafe/bar and gear shop, the National Register-listed home built in 1904 also includes a small kitchen and retail space, plus offices and a kid-friendly lounge area upstairs. According to David, the city of Bend leased him the adjacent courtyard with the hope that he would be able to change its troubled reputation. After almost two years in business, he now sees himself as a community creator. “I am most proud of how we have turned the place around and of my work with the youth who were committing crimes. It is very satisfying to see people out in the plaza, happy and listening to live music, in a space that is now a gathering spot for everyone.”

Bar manager Jared Smith agrees, saying that “originally, the concept was to feature locally-made beers, but I realized that market here in Bend is pretty well covered.” The tap list has evolved to include world class beer from other areas (for example, Pfriem from Hood River, Ore.), as well as some international options. The diverse selection of styles is designed to appeal to all types of beer drinkers, just like the mission of Crow’s Feet Commons is to be welcoming to everyone. “We try to bring the best to people who wouldn’t necessarily seek out this level of quality and craftsmanship. This applies to bikes, skis and beer,” says Jared.

Crow’s Feet Commons is at 875 NW Brooks St, Bend.

Click on this post's title to read the magazine in its entirety.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The LaRowe's Second Visit to Portland, OR

The first time Greg's parents, David & Linda LaRowe, came to visit us in Portland it was well into the third week of October, 2012. We had warned them about the strong possibility of inclement weather and, while they were making their travel plans, had encouraged them to visit closer to our summer months (July-September). Despite our best efforts, they stuck to their plan, and ultimately paid the price for it in terms of their overall experience.

I wrote a series of blog posts about our adventures that week, which make for a quite enjoyable bit of reading if I do say so myself! Just click the five links below and each post should open in a separate tab/window in your browser:

If you read the above posts, you'll understand why the LaRowe's chose August 20-28, 2014 for their second visit. Their flight arrived very late on the 20th and was scheduled to leave mid-morning on the 28th so ultimately they had seven full days to explore. They also chose to stay closer to our current residence in Irvington, spending a couple of nights near Lloyd Center, a couple of nights here with us in the garden unit at Irvington House, followed by two nights at Crater Lake in southern Oregon.

Thankfully, the weather was pretty much perfect! Daytime temperatures here in Portland ranged from the low to upper 80's and it cooled down to the upper 50's at night. It was sunny with a few clouds and a nice breeze was blowing most days. Since we had done "The Grand Tour" during their previous visit, we decided to see some different, lesser known places this time around.

Thursday, August 21st
Greg took today and tomorrow off work to spend more time with his parents. Since they had gotten in around midnight on Wednesday, we didn't want to be too aggressive with our sightseeing plan for their first day here. We decided to start out in Canby, about 30 miles south of Portland, at Swan Island Dahlias. The peak blooming season is August and September, and the grounds are free to stroll around and take pictures. We even lucked out and caught a glimpse of Mt Hood from the fields!

From there we headed north to Oregon City, the first incorporated U.S. city west of the Rocky Mountains (1844). After a quick stop at the Willamette Falls viewpoint, we left the car in the upper town, had lunch, then took a nice walk through historic lower town via the iconic Municipal Elevator. We also visited the free Museum of the Oregon Territory, then walked back to the car via the McLoughlin Promenade. After a quick stop for a beer at Breakside Brewery in Milwaukie, we arrived back in Portland for dinner at Milo's City Cafe.

Friday, August 22nd
We left the house around 9:30am as we were heading to the coast for the day. Our first stop was for brunch at Crescent Cafe in McMinnville. We all enjoyed our "scramble special" then burned a few calories by exploring the small town on foot. Of course, I couldn't resist a quick stop at Grain Station Brew Works, where we all shared a sampler tray of the 10 beers they had on tap.

We arrived at the coast, specifically Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City, around 2pm. Dave wanted to try his luck at poker, so we killed about an hour there (final outcome: Dave won over $100, Greg lost $10 at video poker, Linda lost about $5 at the nickel slots, I just watched) before driving to Cape Kiwanda. The minute we parked the car I saw whales spouting in front of Haystack Rock! We spent the next hour watching the dories come in, dogs playing in the surf, and looking for whales. Then we had beer and onion rings at Pelican Brewing Company before continuing north.

We stopped at several viewpoints along the Three Capes Scenic Drive, ultimately terminating at Cape Meares. We hiked around the lighthouse, marveled at all of the Common Murres, enjoyed the view of Three Arch Rocks, and debated the origins of the Octopus Tree. By then it was already 6:30pm, so we headed inland and stopped in Tillamook for dinner. I believe we got home around 9:30pm, tired, but I think we all had a wonderful day!

Saturday, August 23rd
Greg had a long training run this morning in preparation for the Portland Marathon so I cooked us all a hearty breakfast and then Linda & I cleaned the garden unit so they could move in for the next couple of nights. I worked on an Oregon Beer Growler assignment while everyone took a siesta, then we headed out by mid-afternoon to do some local exploring.

When the LaRowe's visited us previously, the flowers in the International Rose Test Garden at Washington Park were way past peak. Since it was a beautiful day, we decided to head up there again so they could see and smell them in full bloom. After an hour or so of oohing and aahing over the multitude of colors and styles, we were ready for a snack at one of Greg's favorite spots - Fire on the Mountain. We shared a basket of wings along with pints of beer, then walked up the street a block to another favorite hangout - The EastBurn. There we all split an uber sondwich & fries and, of course, had another pint of beer. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing on the back patio at Irvington House, enjoying the lovely weather.

Sunday, August 24th
I cooked us another yummy breakfast before we headed out for the day's explorations. We started with a walk in Laurelhurst Park, one of our favorite Portland parks as well as one of the main locations for today's Sunday Parkways activities. Dave & Linda got to sit in a Smart car (care of Car2Go) for the first time and even got free sunglasses! Then we headed out to Sauvie Island to check out the farmland even though we were kind of in between harvest seasons. We still saw plenty of greenery and I enjoyed visiting with the sheep and goats at Bella Organic Farm.

We crossed the St John's bridge and had lunch while watching a bit of the Timbers soccer match. It was too nice to sit inside for long, and I needed to rendezvous with a friend who did me a favor. So we met Rachel at the local McMenamins and had a quick pint, then went for a nice walk in Cathedral Park. Greg couldn't pass up the opportunity to share a taster tray at Occidental Brewing Co. before we headed back down to Irvington to prepare for the week ahead.

Monday-Tuesday, August 25th-26th
I fixed Dave & Linda a light breakfast before they started their drive to Crater Lake. It was a bucket list destination for them, which Greg & I visited a few years ago and agreed it was well-worth the trip. The weather was perfect and they got some wonderful pictures. They even hiked down into the crater for a Volcano Boat Cruise.

Wednesday, August 27th
The LaRowe's returned to Portland around 4pm this afternoon. Since they were scheduled to fly home mid-morning on Thursday, they opted to have one last meal with us and then spend the night at a hotel near the airport. We chose Podnah's Pit for some delicious barbecue, although Greg actually ordered the fried chicken special. We said our goodbyes back at the house, and this time, I think that Dave & Linda truly meant it when they said they had a great trip!

If you'd like to see all of the photos I took during the LaRowe's visit, please click here.
If you just want to see my highlights album, click here.