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Oregon Travel - After the Sun Came Back
August 21-26, 2017Dear Friends, Family, and Diary,
Written August 23+
This is the diary of what we did in Oregon AFTER seeing the Great American Eclipse. When I started this diary, I was not sure we had much planned, probably in reaction to needing so much preparation for the day of the eclipse. Nonetheless, we had a few days and will make use of them, for sure.
I suppose "post-eclipse" started when we got to Connie's house and had a chance to sit and relax. Her house, our home for a few days, sits in the woods, overlooking the Deschutes River and across to the Deschutes National Forest. The site is a mix of bare volcanic rock and pine trees, sprinkled with birds of all sorts. This little Blue Jay is just representative. I would have liked to get pictures of the eagles and more dramatic birds flying by too, but I am just too slow.
As usual in our travels, meals are important and our first was a tasty sweet potato soup Connie had prepared in advance, so our return from camping would be easy. Dinner on the veranda was as good as any five-star restaurant. Of course, we spent most of the time talking about our eclipse experience, still dazzled by it all and appreciative of our opportunity.
We were exhausted and no one made it past about 8:30 before going to bed. We all slept soundly for at least eight hours!
Breakfast was back out on the veranda, a great setting to slowly figure out the day's activities. My first job was clear: review eclipse photos and add the best to the thousands already showing up on Facebook. I am certain that this was the most-photographed eclipse in history, and probably the first to be so heavily "shared" in the world of social media.
In our case, I also had to create a diary page with both the eclipse pictures and our own back story. Normally, I do try to draft diaries soon after the experience, so that details are properly remembered. In this case, that meant several hours of photo review and story writing. Crafting an online diary after interesting days, I appreciate even more our 18-year-old practice. The immediate sharing of today's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on has a news-like role, but diaries, online or on paper, have staying power. My view, anyway.
While I was writing and arranging, Marianne and Connie went into Bend to look at art galleries and stores. They came back with reports of a successful day wandering town, chatting with store folks, and picking up these souvenir shirts. Now we can say we were at the eclipse and have the t-shirt.
By the time they got back, the air had started showing more effect from the Milli Fire in nearby Sisters. This was no small deal, as I had noticed during my afternoon walk. Reportedly, air quality had deteriorated to the "hazardous" range, pushing us inside for dinner and threatening the rest of our stay. Bend is an outdoorsy place and, in hazardous air, outdoor activities become limited. We had to consider heading early to Portland.
At least the smoke gave us an interesting sunset. After eclipse pictures, I felt comfortable pointing my camera directly at the sun. My 18-stop solar filter had been replaced by fire smoke.
On Wednesday morning the smoke was still surrounding us, so any extensive outdoor activities were again ruled out. Breakfast moved from the deck to the dining room, still a wonderful view of pine trees, but the forest hills had faded.
I still wanted to try some "wildlife" photography, even if it was just from the deck. The little birds cooperated, even if the bigger Golden and Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, and Osprey stayed away. I'll need to come back.
In late morning, two young male deer wandered up through the yard and hung around for pictures. They were not afraid of the photographer, since this was THEIR place as much as Connie's. She explained that the neighborhood has several herds happily feeding on whatever flowers and gardens people are foolish enough to plant.
By mid-morning the air was not improving, and we made the final decision to leave Bend in favor of Portland, on the other side of the mountains. Further exploration of the Bend area would have to wait for another visit.
As we drove north from Bend, we wondered when the air might clear. We drove past the rugged hills near where we had enjoyed the eclipse and thought how lucky we had been that Monday's smoke-filled wind currents had not drifted east, in our direction.
The haze stayed with us until we had turned west, into the Mt Hood National Forest. Connie pointed out the abrupt shift from grasslands and pine forest to the lush growths of fir trees Oregon is famous for. For me, this is the Western Oregon I grew up in, although my earlier Eastern Washington years had also given me a sense of the dry inland of the Pacific Northwest. It's all nice, but on this day we were glad to leave the smoke behind.
The highway from Bend to Portland passes by the road up to Mt Hood's Timberline Lodge and Marianne had earlier suggested a stop by what may be our favorite mountain lodge. The mountain itself was partially hidden in haze - clouds, not smoke this time - but the miracle of Photoshop made most of it go away in the pictures. Some people object to "artificial" changes like this, but this is really how my mind's eye sees this mountain.
Inside the lodge, everything was as we had remembered from our stay a couple of years ago, that is to say just wonderful. The main entrance was grand, the lobby a unique combination of grand and comfy, with furniture and decorations in the same style as has been used since the 1930s. The Depression-era art work was as vibrant as we remembered.
By now, it was dinner time, so Marianne and I ordered an appropriate meal: Marionberry cobbler, with whipped cream. We are in the eat-desert-first stage of life, but also diet-aware enough that we made desert our whole meal. Connie was more into traditional comfort food and chose a toasted cheese sandwich. None of us left hungry.
With one more glimpse out over the Mt. Hood ski slopes and the hills of the Wilamette Valley, we started the last third of our drive home. I have to admit I enjoyed leaving all the driving to our hostess and she seemed OK with it as well. While she said she had not been to Timberline in decades, she must have covered the rest of the Bend-Portland route hundreds of times.
On the last leg of the drive we were treated to a wonderful setting sun. Viewing the eclipse had made me more inclined to take sun pictures. I am not sure these are postcard-worthy, but they will remind us of our drive, and that's the whole point of a diary.
By the time the sun was down completely, we had settled into Connie's lovely Portland home, finishing the day with wine glasses and conversation, the way all days should end.
Thursday morning started, as usual, with no real plans. I sat at the kitchen table and wrote the Wednesday diary. We had breakfast. We chatted. A very nice slow start. Marianne and Connie decided in favor of visiting galleries, but I was not enthused, so I opted for a take-pictures-of-what-I-can day.
My first photo subject was the wonderful 1910 house we were being hosted in, a combination of old world charm and comfort. Connie has presided over the place for decades, including years as a working mother of two boys and now as a retired doctor, comfortable in a less hectic life. That is what retirement should be!
Here are a few views of the house, inside and out:
From this old house, I walked down into the old industrial part of downtown Portland, an area I remember from grade school days fifty-plus years ago!
The first part of the walk passed some of the grand old homes of NW Portland where one could imagine the industrial chieftains built homes to literally oversee their factories. Below that, were blocks of upper-middle and then middle-class homes, now being restored by Portland's new prosperity. Finally, mixed in with industrial properties, were simple houses that were threatened with tear-down in this new prosperity. I ended the walk with relatively few photos, but I did gain impressions I hope to remember, even without my normal graphic reminders.
Down in the "flatlands", some old small industries still seem to thrive, with everything from original manufacturing to specialized shops. One could by Ural side-car motorcycles from Ukraine or Motocorsa speeders from Italy. It seemed very Portland.
I had a goal in the NW Portland industrial area: FINEX Cast Iron Cookware Co. About the time we moved back to the States, I became interested in the Kickstarter "crowd funding" process, including in the start of a new Portland company that promised to produce the best cast iron cookware ever. I put my money down, ordering an as-yet-unbuilt 12" frying pan. I waited for over a year as the fledgling company learned the difficulty of new production. In tune with the Kickstarter mantra of information exchange between company and sponsors, Finex kept us sponsors informed as one thing or another would push back delivery bit by bit. It did seem like a partnership where I contributed a little money and a lot of patience.
I searched out the real, brick-and-mortar, Finex shop. In an old industrial space, with a small retail showroom, sales manager Aaron White greeted me with typical Portland friendliness. I explained my interest and asked if I could take pictures. He volunteered me a full tour and explained each of the steps needed to turn iron castings into boxed products ready for shipping.
From Finex, I wandered down to the riverfront, where traditional marine industry now mixes with high-end condos that capitalize on the river bridge views. Marianne and I have visited here before, and considered perhaps settling, but I am afraid the prices in Portland have risen outside our reach. Too bad.
From the river, I had a half-mile, uphill, return walk facing me. This definitely wasn't like my flat-as-a-table Fresno neighborhood walks. Fortunately, I ran across Cedar Creek Distillery, another new growth tree in this industrial forest. They distill close to two-dozen different potions, mostly from Pacific Northwest fruits. At one dollar per sample, I managed only three tries before I added a bottle of Muscat wine grappa to my load and headed back up to Connie's house.
Once home, we all sipped grappa and shared our day's stories, theirs of galleries and a Lebanese lunch spot (which we revisited for dinner!), mine of the industrial world. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed their day.
Friday started even slower than earlier days. Ron and Nancy were scheduled to pick Marianne and me up around 12:30, so we followed our leisure breakfast with an hour walk through the hillside neighborhood. I could not resist flower pictures!
We crossed under the 1905 Balch Gulch Bridge and climbed the stairs back to the top. Good exercise!
We barely made it back to Connie's house in time for the agreed-to 12:30 appointment for Ron and Nancy to pick us up, but meanwhile they had run into car troubles, just blocks away. Nancy's new car, and a new car tire, had managed to pick up a big chunk of metal on the way over. Bummer! Since Connie had also had flat tires on her trip to pick us up in Bend, we felt somehow responsible!
However, with just an hour delay, they arrived and we said goodbye to Connie, our Chief Eclipse Sherpa and Bend-to-Portland hostess. Thanks for everything!!
From Portland, we headed back over the Columbia River. We took the long way around to avoid the Interstate 5 bridge since it is usually a mess on Friday afternoon. As it turned out, both bridges were a mess, so we just got a longer tour. (I have to admit I was continuing to enjoy NOT driving.)
We started our Vancouver tour with drinks and snacks at the Eatery at Grant House on the grounds of old Fort Vancouver. The drinks were welcome and the snacks tasty. The house really had been used by Grant in the early 1850s, when he was starting his officer career out west. The building and many others from the Army days have been beautifully restored.
Rested and fed, we drove east to Camas via some of the river-front condo communities. Marianne and I are always in the market for a post-Fresno place to settle and we saw plenty of candidate communities, if we win a small lottery. Maybe.
The day ended on Nancy and Ron's back patio, discussing the vagaries of flat tires, condos, family photos, and politics. We will not go into politics HERE, because this is a family-friendly site. (We were all in violent agreement, by the way.)
Saturday was go-home day. As nice as everything had been in our week-long trip, we were definitely ready to be home. We packed up our bags and filled Ron's little white car.
For breakfast, we went for brunch at one of Nancy and Ron's Vancouver favorites, Tommy O's. Two days later, I can't remember what we had at the surfer-themed spot, except that it was different and excellent.
We arrived at the Portland Airport in plenty of time for some shopping, including at the highly-touted Blue Star donut restaurant. Marianne's selection came with its own tiny cognac bottle. Cute. We spent a bit more of our waiting time at the Oregon-themed shops, but managed to escape without more baggage.
Killing more time staring out the waiting room window, I saw my bag go up into our plane. Always a good sign. So far, the logistics of the trip had been remarkably flawless. All flights had been on time. All carry-on bags had fit in overhead bins. All checked-bags had showed up at the end of the flight. Friends-with-cars had driven us everywhere, without incident (once they picked us up anyway.)
For this last flight, I had discovered a good deal on Alaska Airlines: buying an upgrade to First Class. The $100 cost (both of us) was balanced by avoiding $50 in bag check charges. The net was that we boarded first, had bigger and more comfortable seats, and enjoyed real service, including a little snack.
Back at FAT, aka Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, bags arrived and we caught a cab for the short ride home. Fresno may not have many direct-flight destinations, but when it does, it is a very convenient travel base. Given the luck we had this week, I may even worry less about our next flights. Maybe, maybe not. I am a worrier, I'm afraid.
Back home, everything was in order. (Thanks, Ruben.) We were unpacked in an hour, and on to our next appointment: dinner with Marianne's mom at Wayside Noodle. Mamo asked us all kinds of questions about our eclipse trip and later, at her house, we could show her a whole week of pictures. It was good for her and great for reminding us of just how special the Great American Eclipse had turned out.
Now, back home, no plans until a Bay Area trip in ten days.
John and Marianne
ps: Our weather forecast is oppressive. Welcome home.
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