Portland: Brews, Blooms and Bare Butts Jul25


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Portland: Brews, Blooms and Bare Butts

Most of you probably wouldn’t call me a country mouse. Although a few of you might, knowing that I grew up in a town with a whopping population of 6,000. As an adult, I spent 10+ years between SF and Boston and loved every minute of metropolis living. In fact, I thought that moving from SF to Santa Cruz 7+ years ago might be too big of an adjustment. Turns out that having a new love & home together was a great distraction from the downsides of ‘rural life’. But in the end, it was no sacrifice at all, in fact Santa Cruz captured me in a way I hadn’t expected. It wasn’t so rural and even those parts that were, suited me. Besides, a city fix was only 90 minutes away.

IMG_1742Officially it’s been 14 weeks since we became vagabonds, or in rig lingo: full timers. It’s safe, very safe, to say that I’ve become reacquainted with my country roots. I’m most enjoying the big open spaces and uncrowded trails. Showers and napkins are not always necessary and as I’ve said before, clean clothes are simply those without visible stains. After many years of city living, I’ve given up the glitz and glamor for this simple life. Wide open spaces call to me in a new way and I envision how I will create and nurture a space that provides for us. A place more in line with our new love of nature, green spaces, tall trees, running rivers, birds & creatures (but without skeeters or bugs, please). Ideas about what we want in a place we call home are taking shape, and it feels good.

IMG_1617 We made our way from Bend, OR to Hayden Island, just north of Portland. This leg included a steady climb over Mt Hood and a quick skirt through the bottom of Washington state. The campground was another mini city, 100+ sites with a lot of permanent residents. Temperatures were not typical for this time of year, although it was only 88 it felt like 108. Despite the crowds, our immediate goal was a dip in the pool. It cooled us off and rattled our senses a little as screaming kids crawled under our country skin. Back in the rig we found peace over a bowl of yogurt for dinner – it was still too darn hot to cook – anything.

The following day was Lin’s premier opportunity to experience Portland since she was flying to D.C. the following morning. Having carefully calculated the optimal departure time to avoid rush hour traffic, sadly not more than 5 minutes into driving, we experienced post-rush hour traffic (the after math of). What are all these people doing? Is someone giving away free cheese? There was an unimaginable amount of traffic! Inching along, we comforted ourselves with distant memories of congested freeways while we counted our blessings that nowadays we are uniquely free of that time sucker.



Alas we had made our way to both the Rose Garden & Japanese Gardens.

One of Portland’s nicknames is the City of Roses, and this town has long been an incubator for the scented beauties. Nearly a century ago, a farsighted citizen convinced the local government to set up a rose test garden during World War I to preserve the species of European roses that might be decimated by the bombings. Thus, in 1917, the International Rose Test Garden was born, and lives on as the oldest official, continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. Walk among 7,000 luscious rose bushes; free.

To read more about this – click here.

Unlike so many trails recently where we’d had the path to ourselves, this was not the case on this particular day. Once again we joined the masses as we queued up to take a photo and waited in line for a potty, and tried desperately to avoid the high pitched screams from the elementary kids on a field trip. Despite that, what most captured my attention was the sheer volume of several thousands of roses. It was amazing, so many different colors and varieties. I knew once the photo snapping started, it would be hard for me to stop. I think I have more than 60 photos, I couldn’t help myself.

When we decided to head toward a long awaited lunch, it was late and we were really hungry. Food trucks on Alder Street here we come. You may have read recently that I had a revitalized interest in food trucks while in Pocatello, Idaho. Let not Lin fool you for her own creative writing purposes – my love of food (& food trucks) goes way back and doesn’t discriminate regardless of where or how it’s served.

The entire block was surrounded by trucks.

The entire block was surrounded by trucks, literally all four sides.

This is where it all started

This is where it all started

Nutella, caramel, banana, pecan.  Heaven

Nutella, caramel, banana, pecan. Heaven

Needless to say I’d done my homework on where to find the best concentration & most desirable food trucks. We agreed that we’d loop around once to assess the offerings before committing to anything. It was a perfect strategy until we hit the waffle truck & I caught one whiff of the Nutella. We joyfully and shamefully agreed to start the “meal” with dessert. At least we shared it. How would we decide what to eat for our entree? Although we’ve gotten pretty good at sharing, there were so many choices that sounded good, we couldn’t settle on just one. My second course was a Thai chicken over cilantro rice with peanut sauce – simply amazing. The kind of yummy good that could cause me to dream up reasons to drive an extra 40 miles out of my way just to get this stuff. Lin chose a mix of pot stickers with accompanying sauces. It was good, not great, only one of the sauces was remarkable. I’m a firm believer that sauce makes all the difference in a dish: a good sauce can elevate average to amazing.

Didn't even know there was a need for this until a couple of nights later...

Didn’t even know there was a need for this until a couple of nights later…

We had time on the meter and needed to shake off some of our lunch and Powell’s Book store was only 4 blocks away. It’s mentioned often as a top 10 thing to do in Portland, so off we went. Powell’s took up the entire block and stood 6 stories tall. Inside it was color coded and had an information desk on each level. We joyfully lost a couple of hours browsing. It was quirky and delightful at the same time. If I lived in the area, I’m sure I’d visit often and then have good reason to hit the food trucks down the street.

Random cute notes found inside various books

Random cute notes found inside various books

Another fabulous family gathering offered more good food and fodder. Homemade Kung Pow Chicken was delicious as was the conversation that lasted long into the evening. There was immense comfort in the company of my older cousin Robert, his wife Tori, daughter Hannah and Tori’s family: mother, sister, and brother in-law. This same crowd even braved a get-to -now-you-game a few nights prior. As I set up the table, I think most were probably sharing my trepidations, but after a couple rounds of laughter, we all settled in – into three hours of gaming! I love games and the experience created by playing games with others.

The next day began at 5:00 AM driving Lin to the airport and returning hours later to pick up Ann, Jen & Ken. The rig was to be parked at a temporary storage facility during the time my family had rented a house. This would later change when my paranoia got the best of me and I drove back to retrieve it and park it at the rental house. I would describe the storage lot as a candidate for the show Hoarders and not a suitable place for our Lucy.


The family (Ken, Ann, Jen and I) had rented a bungalow, not far from Robert & Tori. It was a nice place, plenty roomy, but a little short on seating in the front room – oh well. As a family we have rented a lot of houses, so we have well informed opinions (critical). But most importantly, the beds were comfy, the eat in kitchen had the basics for breakfast every day, and overall it proved to be a really good home-base for our stay. The closets offered a few board games so we felt invited to add a Foosball table we passed alongside the road with a ‘free’ sign on it. We stopped, hummed & hawed a bit, then found room in the SUV to take it to the rental. It was definitely a value add, which we soon passed along to Robert & Tori. Fortunately it was a hit and not a hindrance as I’ve later been told that Hannah and her friends were recently spinning up some fun.

The impetus for our Portland family gathering was cousin Hannah graduating from high school – as the top valedictorian. Celebration was abundant with a number of gatherings and opportunities to connect with familiar family as well as those just newly met. I hadn’t realized just how overdue that connection was.

Proud parents!

Proud parents!

During our visit, Ken, Ann, Jen & I feasted on a number of Portland highlights. Farmers market, Voodoo donuts, hiking, more food trucks, two parades (one naked and on bikes), dragon boat racing, the Grotto, and a LOT of beer. Hannah is a dragon boat racer, so we had behind the scenes commentary during the race. Total bonus!



We also had a good mix of extended family connections and if ever there was extra time in between this or that, we found a brewery. I’m delighted to have been introduced to Deschutes Brewery, I feel compelled to say I’ve not been an active beer drinker for years, but I’ve been drinking Deschutes since introduced. YUM! Hype got the best of us and yes, we stood in line for over an hour for donuts, which turned out IMHO to be not be all that. Not a repeatable experience, but nonetheless, we did get to spend more time together and share in a Portland experience.

Now back to that naked bike riding thing. This was casually mentioned to us the day the family arrived as a festivity we might enjoy. It started around 10 PM, required a fair amount of driving, lucky parking, navigating crowds of thousands, and a whole lot of stamina. Although we’d all been up since 5 AM, we rallied, bounced and fist pumped our way into the sidelines of the crowds and watched hundreds of naked people riding in merriment. Like us, I’m sure the tens of thousands of people lining the streets cheering were supporting the vulnerability of cyclists everywhere and decries society‚Äôs dependence on pollution-based transport. Portland had welcomed us. Hooray for progressive cities that make a statement.

For more information and a much better video, this link offers a bit of history and some testimonials. http://vimeo.com/65591403

Sadly one morning Ken suffered a back ache, so Ann, Jen and I left him supplied with remedies and set out to explore the Columbia Gorge. Green, lush, and damp is how I’d describe the area in 3 words. The trail we choose to Latourell Falls exemplified that, along with being mostly remote and mildly challenging. My perfect combination. This hike provided a wonderful setting to reconnect as we swapped stories and took another zillion photos. After trekking a couple of hours, we only mustered up a drive by of Oneonta, Multonomah, and Triple Falls before heading back to pick up Ken for lunner (lunch/dinner). So many breweries, so little time.

Ready, Set, Hike

Ready, Set, Hike

Just crazy cool Hiking efforts rewarded


The final morning of Ann, Jen & Ken’s departure was soggy by my standards, yet PDX locals would probably call it a shower. We spent it back in the Rose Gardens until the skies opened up and we had to seek cover. Shortly thereafter, Ken was due at the airport. Unfortunately, I think he was still damp when we dropped him off. Hugs & kisses, thanks for the memories.


Breakside Brewery was our final stop before the girls were to fly home & Lin was to arrive back from D.C.. Conveniently located in between the rig campground and the airport, it was the perfect hooray to conclude our time together. Topped off by the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Aztec – so delicious I got one to go so Lin could have a taste when she returned.

Too soon the family reunion was over and we were all heading our different directions. But connections were solidified and a lot of love was shared. Love that will fill the gaps until our hearts meet again.