Portland and home

Still drizzling as we return to the trail this morning, don’t see the long haired assailant but do encounter another forest person, this one less threatening.

By the time we leave to spend the day touring Portland the rain has ceased and the sun slowly coming out. We park in one of the city parks and walk some of the blocks looking for touristy things to do, we even stop locals and ask them, not much apparently goes on in Portland. In 2009 38,000 new people moved to the city because they thought that it was cool, unfortunately the economy was also cool so jobs non existent, the Governor had to issue a statement pleading with people not to come. The remnants of this influx can still be seen on the streets and evidently on the trail that we used last night. It is though a pleasant city centre to walk around, not subsumed by traffic noise, or any noise for that matter. We get the feeling that like their former home of Toronto it is a city of neighbourhoods and that life occurs in the burbs rather than the centre.

We sit outside and have lunch at Fish, a nice restaurant on SW Park Avenue, before heading to the Rose and Japanese Gardens, I am allowed in the former but not the latter so we tour a few home shops before departing the city and heading homeward, aiming to beat the Friday rush hours in Portland and Seattle.

We cross the river into Vancouver Washington with 260 miles to go to home. The sun has now come out and the scenery of southern Washington is reminiscent of parts of England, rolling mixed wooded hills and rivers.

Apart from a quick therapy stop at the outlet mall we are in the fast lane, with other cars that should really move over, the entIre way interrupted only briefly by traffic delays around Seattle.

We arrive home at 8pm in daylight and I am glad to be reunited with my toys in the garden, still off my food though and I haven’t eaten a proper meal for four days. Perhaps familiar surroundings will settle me down. My car towels are the first things to be washed, even I thought that things were becoming a bit pongy towards the end.

It’s been a fun trip covering over 3,000 miles, taking in 5 states experiencing different geographies, micro climates and varied cultures. We seem to have been constantly on the move and doing different things for the entire time, whether it be wine tasting, hiking, racing, eating, visiting national and state parks.

Of course the highlight, and main purpose, of the trip was to hook up with old friend. However it was also nice to experience new places and visit landmarks like Crater Lake that we didn’t see the first time around. Although the desert landscape of the interior can be stunning you cannot beat the greenery of the coastal hills and mountains, so it was nice to at last head home.

We thank our generous hosts Rex, Janie and Salsa in Vegas for inviting us to their lovely home.

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How much is that kitty in the window?

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Farewell from Portland

Bend, Oregon – a message to Bellingham with love

Given that first impressions are everything Bend probably deserves a few lines for itself. Why are we impressed with it? Why does it appear to be thriving and successful?

Bend promotes itself as the outdoor capital of Oregon and there is plenty of evidence to support this claim. Driving into Bend from the Mt Bachelor ski area you notice that you are on a well maintained 4 lane highway that takes urbanites to the base of the mountain from downtown in 15 minutes. The ski area promotes itself as the biggest in the NW and just by looking at it from the road there are a multitude of runs to choose from. Even though the ski lifts are closed for the season we see downhill skiers hiking along the road to access some of remaining white stuff. Trail running and biking is legendary here and the well presented city marketing literature focuses on the accessibility of outdoor pursuits.

Downtown Bend is laid out in the normal grid pattern but the ubiquitous retail Americana stores seem to have been banished from the centre, no Big Macs and KFC’s here, didn’t even see a Starbucks. Instead there is a focus and promotion of local. Being local extends to the beer industry, there are 14 craft breweries.

The outdoorsy nature of the city is also evident in the restaurant business and tables line the sidewalks. We have dinner at 900 Wall sitting outside on white tablecloths on one of the main intersections, not busy with traffic just pleasant.

The business (office) district is modern, separate from, but easily accessible to downtown. This would be a great place to live and work in. The message to businesses is, come here and you will attract employees who also enjoy life, be prepared for that.

Unlike many other American towns that we have visited they have made great use of their waterfront, in this case a bend in the river. It is a well laid out public park, a lung of greenery and water in the centre of the downtown area.

People here not only acknowledge you they actually stop to have a conversation – perhaps something to do with being a Dalmatian helps! However, we think it’s more than that, a nice town attracts nice people. Even the groups of young and restless, and probably homeless, are engaging but not threatening. We observe a Police Officer having a ‘chat’ with one particularly vocal group obviously giving them some ‘advice’ and the peace soon resumes.

For me in addition to the 7 dog parks there are trails everywhere and easily accessible from town.

In short, Bend appears to be a great place not only to work but to live. Perhaps if our original travels had crossed this bend in the river things would be different today. Our adopted home of Bellingham could learn a lot from to this tidy town. Please do something with the waterfront at least!

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Crater Lake and Bend

We leave our resort at Klamath Falls after an early morning run through the golf course, no time to play unfortunately. Skirting Klamath lake we take the back roads to Crater Lake, the rim road has still not been cleared of snow so we just go to see the magnificent view of the deepest lake in the US and the 9th deepest in the world. So quiet up here.

Back tracking to the south to join the road north to Bend we of course detour around a scenic drive and circumnavigate Bachelor mountain, the local ski area for Bend, the destination of the day. We stop briefly for a paddle in one of the many lakes that dot the route.

We arrive in Bend, Oregon (perhaps our new favorite town). It has a laid back quality feel and is the outdoor capital of the State. Lisa enthuses about the shops while we head off to the park by the river, where luckily there is a cafe selling local beer, and so we sit.

We sit having dinner on the street, good food, happy hour prices and water for me, what more could we want?

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Crater Lake

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Paddling at Elk Lake

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Bachelor Mt

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Wigwam in the forest

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Beautiful Bend

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Beer in Bend

Cutting the California corner

We leave Reno and the state of Nevada and go diagonally across the NE corner of California, today’s journey thankfully much less than yesterday’s marathon, which was like driving south-north through the length of England. Today we merely do three states.

We leave Nevada and cross into California through the originally named Bordertown. At Susanville we detour via the back roads and leave the trucks behind climbing into the the Californian Sierras. We stop at the small town of Adin for lunch at a local but very nice deli with views of the distant Mt Shasta to the west – we decided not to make that side trip due to the extra distance. The country roads today are single lane and windy so the speed is reduced by nearly 20 miles from yesterday. Lisa insists on having the windows down so I am able to pick up the scents of horses. Much to their annoyance, I bark my ‘I want to be with my soul mate’ barks. I stick my nose out to sniff a different scent and have yet to figure out the many herds of cows. Perhaps they can stop the car tomorrow so I can get closer to them.

We finally arrive in Klamath Falls and following advice from fellow dog lover Erin at the visitor centre, we go for a walk along the river to see the falls, in reality a series of rapids. Never mind at least it’s a walk. We then head off to the brewery restaurant and I am forced to watch them eat from outside the patio area, silly Oregon health rules.

We retire to the Running Ranch hotel, in fact a very up market Holiday Inn with a great golf course. What a surprise that I am allowed. Also had a rare play with a yellow lab of all dogs.

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Oregon to Boise and potato country

He’s done it, I have aircon – my master, my hero. An early morning visit to Homedepot and we have 8 feet of flexi piping from the front aircon vent to my area, the car now looks like something from Dr Who but at least we are prepared for the desert. No more panting in the back. The girl who helps Mark used to go out with a guy from Peckham in London and is one of the few Americans who understands and appreciates ‘Only fools and horses’, has a pop at his accent too!

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We head south from Kennewick, across the Snake river onto the plains of Oregon before climbing to over 4,000ft on Deadmans pass in the Blue Mountains. The climb is a series of sweeping switchbacks and forms part of the Oregon trail which the first settlers traversed in covered wagons wiping out the locals as they went. Oregon is also a bit of a nanny state, lower speed limit, motorcyclists need helmets etc etc, however they do have the best system of highway rest stops.

And so to Boise Idaho (pronounced Boi-se), one of those place names that you always wonder about but never think that you will actually visit. It reminds us of Austin, Texas in that it has an impressive parliament building with a backdrop of arid hills. ‘Buckingham’ time is spent in Ann Morrison park where I get up close and personal with a family of deer.

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Someone recommended Cinder tasting room outside of historic downtown Boise and so we go. Mark and Lisa both think the wines are good so they buy 2 bottles for the ‘Taiwan’ dinners in Vegas. Meanwhile, the ultra dog friendly city of Boise refrains me from entering the the tasting room let alone sampling any so I’m stuck in the back of the car. Again, they get the heads up on a dinner spot so we head back downtown to 8th street which is lined with outdoor restaurants. This time, I’m allowed to sit with them outside Cazba, a Mediterranean restaurant and I smell that the food is gorgeous. Some strange Mexican event is taking place with a ton of non-Mexicans cycling around town dressed as Mexicans shouting, so I of course join in. We never do find out why.

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Indecision desolation

Buckingham – great run on the beach before dawn this morning, we get wet running through the river and see an owl – the first of the trip.

It is hard but we feel that we must keep moving on, it would be nice to stay in Yachats but given the isolated location, as a potential place to live it just doesn’t work for us (for now).   We know that Lydia and Volker might love this place because of the rugged landscape and the roaring waves;  there is even a bay by the name of ‘Devil’s Churn’.   We leave the great view of the wild Pacific and head north on 101.  We stop to tank up before we set off on our 270 mile journey in Oregon State as their tax rate is lower.  Unfortunately our fuel gauge seems to be malfunctioning so it seems that we are still running on empty.  Something in the gauge must be clogged but the reading eventually adjusts after about 20 minutes.

Oregon appears to be a nanny state – not allowed to pump your own gas (one of only two states that don’t trust their people to pour liquid) and the speed limits are ridiculously low, some towns as slow as 20 miles  – haven’t they heard of bypasses?  And the thing is people always obey them!

Lunch stop is Tillamook, the home of the best cheddar cheese in the US and a museum for the airship U-boat hunters of WW2. A difficult choice so we choose cheese.

We cross the wide Columbia river and enter Washington state bypassing the historic town of Astoria, the oldest in the western US  – something to do with Lewis and Clark apparently.   As we move further north the skies become lower and greyer, Mark is getting unhappy as Washington is a potential place to live and he hates grey weather.

All in all a dreary boring driving day of nearly 7 hours – maybe we are all getting down because we realise that we are getting closer to the end of our odyssey.

We finally arrive at Ocean Shores, a town that was in its heyday during the 1960’s, we have chosen it because it is on the coast – not that we have seen enough of the coast recently.  We check into the condo and leave immediately for my beach run while there is still light.   We drive directly on to the sand and it is massive, shame about the cars driving up and down the beach.