Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Portland, Oregon in 24 hours.

Over the last few months we visited our old stomping grounds twice - independently, and for work reasons. Conferences always seem to be hectic and stressful, and while we did see some friends and have some fun while we were in town, these were definitely not slow visits.

So when I saw that the Decemberists' Friday night Edgefield show hadn't sold out a few weeks ago, I immediately bought tickets. YAY! A whole weekend of fun!

Then I checked the calendar and realized we would be leaving Thursday late morning and returning early Saturday afternoon. YAY! A whole 50 hours of fun!

Of which nine would be spent driving and at least 14 would be spent sleeping... YAY! A whole ~24 hours of fun!

You can actually pack a lot of Rose City fun into 24 hours, especially during the summer months where festivals abound. Just ask our kind hosts for the weekend who recently published a compilation of 365 weird things to do in Portland, Oregon.

Or you can do what we did, and not do very much at all.

first stop: beer not made by 7 Devils Brewing Co...

Short visits are always a challenge because there are so many people we would love to see (and so many places where we would love to eat). That always ends up hectic and stressful too, so over the past few visits we've switched to quality over quantity. This time we were able to pull off a ¿Por Qué No? dinner reunion with Patrick's former co-workers, a true miracle!

last seen together: 2012(?)

About halfway through dinner I realized that Governor Brown was sitting two tables away. We see our US Senators and Representative fairly regularly around Coos Bay, but we don't see the governor often (or ever, ahem, Kate) and I was a bit star-struck. I resisted taking an awkward photo, but as we were leaving I leaned over and said "Coos Bay says thank you!" I felt like a total hick saying it, but I said it anyway, and the big smile I got in return made me feel... well, even more like a hick.

Otherwise, the only other familiar faces we saw all weekend were those of our hosts. There was travel talk. There was laughter. There was life talk. There was beer. There was beer talk. There was a really nice breakfast sendoff on Saturday. It was good.

When we weren't doing that stuff, we kept it simple.

We drove through some of the neighborhoods where we used to spend time. The phrases "WOW that's weird," "WOW that's new," and "WOW that's cool" were uttered quite a bit. 




We did "big city" stuff like buy new running shoes and visit independent record stores. We enjoyed the diversity and all the progressive political signs around town.

We met one of our hosts for lunch at the PSU food cart pod Friday afternoon. Indian next to Mexican next to Thai next to Turkish next to sushi next to noodles? Heaven.

decisions, decisions...

decision: veggie Turkish pide from Turkish Voodough and
chicken tikki masala/pakoras from New Taste of India

We had a few hours to kill after lunch before meeting our other host for a pre-show beer. There were many, many hour-killing options available so we did what any former SE'ers would do - we avoided any further decision-making and wandered around Laurelhurst Park.

respite for the urban-weary

Laurelhurst Park was the spot of our second date; it's where we ran trails in prep for half-marathons; it was 3 blocks from our old apartment so it's where we headed whenever we needed a little nature. Nice to know that some things about Portland haven't changed.

Speaking of change, we knew the beer scene had multiplied like a wet mogwai since our last extended stay, but holy crap! We further avoided any decision-making and deferred to our host to choose. His recommendation was quick and wise: Ex Novo, where all profits go to charities, where the motto is "We gather, we volunteer, we drink beer! Drink Beer. Do Good. Be Awesome!"

photo courtesy pdx.eater.com
(was so excited to help local charities that I forgot to take a picture)

Pretty awesome.

And still speaking of change - holy crap, Edgefield! Stopping shows by 10pm? Metal detectors? Ninkasi beer? Oh my.

The band was great, scratchy lead voice notwithstanding...

approximately the 14th time I've heard that song live

upping the whale game this year

But in keeping with the catchiest tune off their latest album, the crowd was (mostly) awful. Walking to the "restrooms" I followed a drunk man weaving on the path, passed a drunk woman who fell while leaning against a tree, and waded twice through a lawn of drunk people talking through the entire show. We also sat behind a drunk guy wearing the shirt pictured below (I'm pretty sure Colin Meloy would've refunded this man's ticket price and - politely - asked him to leave if he'd seen that shirt).

what is this, the Coos??

When did you become a frat party, Edgefield? I got so annoyed that I went to the front to stand with the people who actually cared that there was a band on stage, and as we were leaving we decided that would be our last show there. At least we went out on a low note (Colin can't hit the high notes right now).

All in all, though, it was a great 24 hours. We were happy to visit, and we've already decided to return for several days this fall without any plans.

But we were also happy to get back to little old Coos Bay. We have our challenges here, but we're definitely more comfortable in this rural coastal town than any big city. We're grateful for our experiences over the years that got us here, and we're looking forward to what's next.

Whatever that is...

paying attention to signs

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday five: County Fair season!

Five reasons to visit a local county fair this summer, whether you're home or traveling, in no particular order...

every year when summer comes around
they stretch a banner 'cross the main street in town
you can feel somethin's happenin' in the air

The animals! Sadly, we missed the pig races (which always amuses me to no end) and we didn't get to visit the chicken and rabbit room, but we spent some time with the other barnyard animals.


For some reason, we only took photos of the llamas - maybe we have enough pictures of close personal goat, cow, sheep, and pig friends already?

baby llama

mama llama

The rides! Okay, so maybe the rides aren't a great reason to visit a fair. This year, our visit coincided with the recent tragedy at the Ohio State Fair. We skipped the extremely pricey death traps, which in all honesty we would've done regardless, but we did watch another form of ride which seemed equally dangerous - small children on bucking baby broncos.

this kid lasted 2 seconds

so did this kid

I was pretty impressed with all the cowgirls who entered the contest, though.

anything you can do,
I can do better...

The juxtaposition! Trump hats and purple hair, Trump hats and tye-dye, Trump hats and Worthy IPA, Trump hats and environmental nonprofit booths...

Trump hats and Coos County Democrats 
(why yes,that is our picture of us with Rep DeFazio)...

Trump hats and Trump-hat-wearing douchebags selling racist flags
(oh, wait, that's to be expected)

A Trump-hat-wearing douchebag actually jumped into the picture above right before I took it. He was smiling and waving his arms around and yee-haw-ing. I begrudgingly held my tongue, but I did put my camera down until he walked away. (Did I mention the Trump hats?)

This was perhaps our favorite juxtaposition of the night...

the latest in reality TV: cake top wars!

The food! To counteract the Trump-hat-wearing douchebags, we partook in a delicious burrito made by our friend Roberta and her friends at Miguel's.

best Mexican food cart in town!
(only Mexican food cart in town?)

And of course there was a deep fried purchase.

it's called a "scone" -
we aren't sure why and we don't care

But I don't just mean the food you can eat. I mean the food that's submitted for competition. This was the first fair I've ever attended where I could've sworn that Oprah was a judge.

"you get a ribbon! and you get a ribbon! ..."

"... and you get a ribbon!"

"... and you, and you, and you..."

"... EVERYBODY gets a ribbon!!"

And speaking of food, the food art always cracks me up. This kid got first place but I was kind of bummed that he didn't also get a ribbon.

guess even Oprah has her limits

The gems! So, so many to choose from this year... First up, as featured in our Facebook photo album, the Unicorn Sandwich.

ingredients: "unicorn horn, hoagy bun (w/sesime seeds), olive, relish, chedar cheese, tomato slices, lettuce, pickle slices, mayo, katchup, mustard, berger patty, egg, swiss cheese, bacon, portabella mushroom, peparoni pizza, steak, ice cream cone, cookie, pancake (w/syrup), cake, chillie, penut butter, black forest ham, jelly, and 1... no, 2 cherrys on top"

Next up: foam core. I haven't seen a lot of science fair exhibits at county fairs...

(middle school flashbacks)

... but there were some gems among those as well.

if I had a cube, this photo would be posted there

apropos of nothing, 
and sandwiched between "sore mouth in goats"
and "it's not just poop!"

The photography exhibits are always a favorite. We spent a while wandering through the aisles, and as usual, I kicked myself for not submitting something. (Next year!) We weren't supposed to take pictures in this exhibit but someone who shall remain nameless was quite enamored with a certain cat photo and couldn't help himself...

(the actual caption)

And I was quite enamored with this true gem...

<3 OR

Three hours at the county fair is about our max, so perhaps the best part of the night was walking away. We've already decided that we don't need to go back to the Coos County Fair ever again but we're already looking forward to next season - wherever we may be!

the end

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Grants Pass, revisited.

My first text to Patrick when I arrived in Grants Pass for a recent work trip: "Man, I do not miss this area of the world..."

Grants Pass is just up the highway from our short-lived 2016 farm internship, the experience that kind of ruined Southern Oregon for us. We didn't spend much time in Grants Pass last year but we liked what it had to offer - cool food co-ops, decent venues for bands, a small but thriving farmer's market... stores other than Ray's and Dollar General. You know, all the important stuff.

That was still true last week when I visited. Unlike last year, this time I also saw meth addicts, independent-to-the-point-of-obnoxious-obstructionist characters, Trump fanatics... and occasional rays of hope.

the only place I saw one of these

For those reasons, it reminded me a lot of Coos Bay.

But Coos Bay doesn't have bears.

My second text to Patrick that afternoon included the picture below and the message, "I kinda forgot about (blocked out??) the GP bears."

Rockabilly Bear and Margie

He didn't seem to remember them either. It seemed odd that we would've not remembered such a quirky feature of the city.

I had a few hours between appointments Thursday afternoon so I paid a visit to the visitor's center, where a young woman sat behind the desk engrossed in her laptop. "Hi," I said. "I have a question. What's the deal with the bears?" She handed me a "Bear Fest 2017" map showing the locations of all 53 bears around town. "Okay, thanks, but what's the deal? Are they new?" Five cub statues were new, the rest were here last year. "Okay, thanks, but what's up with them? I spent some time here last spring and I don't remember bears." They bring them out on Memorial Day and they're displayed until Labor Day. "Ohhhh, okay thanks, that makes sense, we didn't visit after Memorial Day. But... why are they here?" She gave me a blank stare.

So I did my own research. The story goes that in 2003, either former mayor/senator Brady Adams or Evergreen Federal Bank (depending on whose interview you read) asked a local artist to produce 20 bear sculptures to stimulate tourism. Since then over 180 bear sculptures have been produced, half of which have been auctioned off to raise over $250K for local nonprofits, the rest of which are now part of the sponsor's permanent art collection. They're displayed around town during the summer and they "hibernate" at Evergreen's Bear Hotel for the winter. Visitors can tour the Bear Hotel for free (reservation required).

That afternoon I played tourist, map in hand, taking photos of every bear I encountered during my 30 minute walk. I didn't get to all 53 of them, obviously, but I managed to collect quite a few photos. Some, like "Carmen Bearanda," were a little offensive and others, like "Circus Performer" and "Circus Ringmaster," were in poor taste (in my opinion). Others, like "Root Bearly-A-Float" and "Beary Potter," were just silly.

Here are my five favorites, in no particular order... except for maybe the first and the last:

Captain "Rogue" and "Applegate" the Cub-a-Neer
(aye, matey!)

Makah Wanji - "One Earth"
(lots of bears with Native American symbolism)

Vincent Barbera Merlot
(not silly - **absolutely ridiculous**)

"Beary Serenade" Jazzy
(I didn't say the names weren't silly)

Chinook (I think that was the name of this one -
I just liked that there was an antelope on his butt)

Supporting local artists and supporting local nonprofits in this unique approach to promoting tourism - other coastal towns in Oregon could learn a lot from this approach, instead of just aiming for straight tourist dollars via pricey waterfront hotels, restaurants, and events. (Ahem, Coos Bay.)

Thanks for the fun walk down memory lane, Grants Pass! See you in August for the Decemberists show...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Cape Blanco, revisited.

Our first camping road trip in 2012 included a stop at Cape Blanco State Park. We loved it so much we ended up staying an extra night. Even with the massive winds famous in that the area, it was beautiful and well worth the time we spent.

So when various factors including the purchase of a new tent, Free Camping Day in Oregon state parks, Cape Blanco being just an hour from our Coos Bay housesit, Patrick's birthday, and a desperate need to get into the woods for a little while all collided a few weeks ago, we headed back for another visit.

Let the record show that Patrick, who often cannot remember conversations we had 30 minutes ago, recognized our campsite from 2012 immediately. He even remembered the campsite on the other side of the road that was our first choice, before we found lucky campsite #44. Seriously, how many dozens of campgrounds have we visited over the last five years? I actually broke character for a few minutes to look up the blog post from our 2012 trip - and then I promptly turned off data like a good camper - but holy crap, he was right. (Seriously?)

Let the record also show that Patrick, who always has to drive around the entire campground at least once (if I'm lucky - usually there are multiple loops) to find just the right campsite, went no farther than campsite #44 before declaring #43 next door this trip's winner. Seriously, I think the only times he hasn't explored every single option have been when the campground only had one vacancy or when we were assigned campsites. Although in those cases, we still had to drive through the campground to see what spot we could have had. (Seriously?)

Finally, let the record show that we are sooooo out of practice with this camping thing. Seriously! One headlamp crapped out on us that night, plus we forgot pillows, utensils, spices, salt and pepper, aluminum foil, the wool blanket we always put over our thermarests for added warmth... Even BP was a very last minute grab on our way out the door. And, horror of horrors, I forgot to take a picture of dinner. (It was tofu and veggies via campfire. Looked a lot like every other picture I've taken of tofu and veggies via campfire. Seriously.)

Anyway - yay, camping!

After a late start out of Coos Bay Saturday morning, we were pretty worried that the campsite would be full when we arrived - free camping, why wouldn't it be? - but there were just a couple dozen sites taken and the park never did fill up that night. Even the camp host was surprised.

BP wants more sunlight
but the tent ignores his pleas

We set up camp and made a quick trip to Port Orford for supplies, then we were off on an afternoon adventure. We only had about 24 hours door-to-door this time so we had to make the most of it.

the not-so-long, not-so-winding road

clouds to the left of us...

... boulders to the right,
here we are, struck by the glorious view

The path was lined with tiny wildflowers and the lilies were out in full force. Such a change from our first visit in the fall!

sail away, kill off the hours
you belong somewhere you feel free


... my one and only...

... I can hardly wait till I see her

when the lilies grow wild they will always survive -
wild lilies don't care where they grow

The path takes you along the western coastline to the northern tip of the park by the lighthouse, which was a windstorm just like last time. The clouds were amazing, though.

hold on to the thread...

... the currents will shift

From the northern tip you can meander through the trees on trails and horse paths. The difference in scenery can be quite stark with just a few turns.

come closer and see, see into the trees
(4:17:03 pm)

come closer and see, see into the dark
(4:18:22 pm)

Like last time, the lighthouse was closed so we didn't get a tour. Also like last time, we skipped the Hughes House. That's our reason to go back again. (It will probably always be our reason to go back again, because neither of us is very interested in seeing it.)

Tent test successful, hearty breakfast complete, we took a quick stroll on the beach Sunday morning before heading out of town.

you don't have to stray the oceans away...

... the sea will rise - please stand by the shore

There was definitely a strange feeling in the air. We were both ready to move on to the next campsite, to see what was next. Alas, real life called. (I don't even usually work on Mondays and I had a serious case of the pre-Mondays that Sunday morning.)

Nothing like a World Famous Hot Dog from World Famous Langlois's market on the way home to cure those back-to-work blues...

are you feeling better now?

Yeah... Didn't really help. Adulting is HARD, people.