Thursday, February 23, 2017

Our First Visitors of 2017

This past weekend, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law flew up from Los Angeles for a visit. Their first visit was exactly two years ago, so they knew what to expect in terms of typical Portland winter weather. Mother Nature didn't disappoint, with constant rain all day Thursday (arrival day), some sunshine and a break from the rain on Friday, rain and fog all day Saturday (plus snow on Mt Hood), and rain on Sunday. It was also raining when I dropped Doug & Alexis at the airport Monday morning! In fact, as of the 21st, we have already broken the record for most precipitation in February.
a selfie at Bridal Veil Falls
In spite of the unforgiving dampness, we still made the most of their visit. After spending Thursday evening catching up over dinner and beers at home, Greg headed into the office Friday morning while our guests slept in and I went to a doctor's appointment. By the time I returned home, Doug & Alexis were ready to get some fresh air, so we hiked to the top of Mt Tabor. Thankfully the weather was cooperating and they were able to see the beautiful downtown skyline, Mt Hood and Mount St Helens.
Doug counting rings on Mt Tabor
We had worked up an appetite so we drove to one of my favorite Asian lunch spots Ha VL. Friday's soup options were Phnom Penh seafood or chicken pho; all three of us ordered the Phnom Penh. It was so delicious; we slurped away to our heart's content. Afterward, we took a short walk to the Fubonn Shopping Center to look for a specialty Korean seasoning that Doug needed for his spice cabinet back home.
Phnom Penh soup at Ha VL
Mission accomplished, we drove to the SE Hawthorne business district for some strolling, shopping, and people-watching. Soon enough it was time to make our way down to the vicinity of Greg's office to meet him for a few post-work beers. We decided to try the new Iron Tap Station at Brooklyn Yard, which turned out to be an excellent choice for their well-curated tap list, complimentary peanuts and pretzels, and the added bonus of being next door to Coco Donuts when an employee brought over a few bags of doughnut holes that were shared with all the Iron Tap customers.

Since we were in the neighborhood, I also insisted that we stop by the new Ross Island Brewing to visit my friends, the owners Carston & Maude Haney, and beer slinger extraordinaire Abbey Bowman. After a round of some fantastic collaboration brews, the gang was hungry so we doubled back toward our house and grabbed a table at East Glisan Pizza Lounge. We shared a bacon and a capicola pizza, washed down with more locally brewed beer, of course, and then headed home for a nightcap.

Our alarms went off fairly early Saturday morning as we had planned a day trip along the Columbia River Gorge and up to Mt Hood and I wanted to do the bulk of the driving (and sightseeing) in daylight. It was pouring rain as we left Portland but tapered off a bit when we stopped for breakfast at Shirley's Tippy Canoe just outside Troutdale at the west end of the historic highway. While it wasn't that busy when we arrived at 9:30 a.m., there was a group of a dozen people that was seated just ahead of us. We were given no warning that our food would take additional time to arrive, and we ended up waiting more than 30 minutes for our orders. By the time we ate as much as we could of the massive portions, it was already 11:00. Not the best way to start our day in terms of wasting valuable time!
chicken-fried steak at Shirley's
I have driven the scenic route many times now as it is a favorite destination of visiting family and friends. With limited time (and crappy weather), I have a rough itinerary of all the easiest stops for views of the gorge and waterfalls. We all donned full waterproof gear and made the most of our day, in awe of the tremendous amount of water in the falls, the result of all the heavy rain we've had this winter.
Doug & Alexis at Horsetail Falls
We also made a brief stop at Bonneville Dam, but sadly didn't have time to go inside the visitor center or to see Herman the sturgeon. We continued on to Hood River, where we planned to have drinks and snacks at Pfriem Family Brewers, but our plans were thwarted by an hour-long wait for a table and, due to the crowds, no place to even stand to enjoy a beer. As it was already 3:00 p.m., we decided to turn south toward the mountain, knowing we would likely encounter snow and unpredictable road conditions.
cherry trees in the snow on Hwy 35
Sure enough, it started snowing before we made the loop around to Hwy 26. Thankfully, the roads we in great shape, and it only took about 45 minutes to reach the turnoff to Timberline Lodge. It was snowing hard enough that the road to the lodge was getting some accumulation, but plows were actively doing their best to keep the path clear and we didn't have any trouble in either direction, thanks in part to my friends loaning me their 4WD Ford Expedition.
We spent about an hour on the mountain admiring the lodge's architecture, historical exhibits, and the intrepid skiers and snowboarders in almost white-out conditions. By then everyone was ready for food and beer, so we drove down to Mt Hood Brewing Co. in Government Camp where we ate burgers and drank happy hour ($3.00 pints!) beer.
The snow changed back to rain pretty quickly as we drove east in the darkness, and I was thankful to arrive safe and sound back in our neighborhood at 7:00 p.m. The guys wanted to stop for a beer at Montavilla Brew Works, a participant in Zwicklemania earlier in the day, so I indulged them even though I was ready to be home.

After a good night's sleep, I cooked breakfast for everyone Sunday morning then had to leave the house before noon to return the borrowed Expedition and meet up with my friend Cindy to take her to the airport. She had generously offered to loan me her car while she was out of town for the week, and it made sense to take her up on her offer to continue to be able to chauffeur our guests around for another day. I dropped Greg, Doug and Alexis at the Gateway Transit Center and they took the MAX all the way to Sellwood. I met up with them a couple of hours later at Laurelwood brewpub then we walked around (in the rain) and browsed at an antique shop before settling in at Lompoc's Oaks Bottom Public House for more beer and some happy hour totchos.
Alexis's parents gave them fifty $2 bills - Doug enjoys paying bar tabs with them
I already had plans to attend a memorial service that evening, so the gang tagged along to Ecliptic Brewing and enjoyed beers at the bar while I celebrated the life of Teresa Culp with her friends and family in the brewery. After an emotional but heartwarming couple of hours, I said my goodbyes and rejoined Greg and our visitors so we could get dinner at Fire on the Mountain, Greg's favorite wing spot.
We returned home to relax in front of the fireplace and get ready for the week ahead, and went to bed fairly early. I took Doug and Alexis to the airport on Monday morning, marking the end of hosting our first visitors of 2017.