Day 9 of our Northwestern excursion: Portland to Twin Falls, Idaho

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Multnomah Falls in Oregon, just off the Columbia River Highway, is definitely worth getting out of your car and walking up to. There’s a pedestrian underpass that allows people to cross to the other side of the road, where there’s the stunning sight of the waterfall and the Multnomah Falls Historic Lodge. I could go on and on about how majestic Multnomah Falls is, or I could just let these photos speak for themselves:

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The Lodge doesn’t offer overnight stays, but they do have a restaurant, visitor center, and gift shop. You can get maps for the trails here and stop in for Eggs Benedict after your hike. They even host weddings there at the Falls.

Columbia River

It was nice to see the Columbia River at sunset when we first arrived at Portland, and then to be able to see it illuminated in a slightly different way on the morning we took off. We were sad saying goodbye to the river, to the green forests, and even to the humidity. Leaving the river meant we were officially heading out of Oregon. From the point that one leave the river until reaching the border of Idaho, the scenery rapidly become more and more similar to Idaho’s farmland. We said our goodbyes to Oregon as we passed the “Come Back Soon” sign. We will, Oregon. We will.

Leaving Oregon sign Welcome to Idaho sign

Just crossing over the Oregon-Idaho border, I mentioned to Chris how it smelled so much like cooking french fries. And then we noticed the Ore-Ida factory just out our window. Can you imagine working there? You would come home from work smelling like fries everyday. Until this trip, I didn’t realize the name “Ore-Ida” had to do with the fact that they are located between the two states. That is a giant steam cloud of french fry emissions coming from the factory:

Ore-Ida

We passed through a lot of different small towns in Idaho along the highway. One of them – Bliss, Idaho – was the least blissful town we encountered. A place that looked all but abandoned, so we were glad we had no plans to stay there. There were hotels that looked dilapidated, but were still offering rooms for $48 a night. Their convenience store was even called “Stinker.”

Stinker Bliss Idaho

Our destination for the day was Twin Falls. The city boasts several major waterfalls, but Idaho is so flat that we started to wonder where in the state these “waterfalls” could even be falling from. Then, just as we were entering Twin Falls, it was as though the Earth around us completely fell away, and there was a canyon on each side of us. The Snake River Canyon is wild! It was already sunset as we were coming in, so I was racing against time to get any photos of the impressive canyon. I did manage to capture the sunset over the canyon:

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While we were in Oregon, we had booked our hotel for the one night we planned to spend in Twin Falls. We were a little worried that the motel might really just be a dump or a scam. The photos looked way too nice and polished, like they were stock images. When we arrived, I waited in the car while Chris investigated. Going inside, he told me, it felt more like a slick doctor’s office than a hotel/motel lobby. They had a big glass tray of chocolate chip cookies for each guest who signed in to take. The lady at the counter was the same one in the photos online.

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She was there, just like in the picture, smiling at the counter and offering cookies to everyone who was checking in! Blue_Lakes_Inn_Twin_Falls_ID_Hotel_Slideshow_01

This was our room for the night. You can see the bedroom reflected in the mirror. The room was exactly like the photos, too! Unbelievably clean and with really chic decorations. They called it a “boutique” style motel and I can understand why. We felt as though we were in an upscale apartment with all the trendy boutique furniture. Blue Lakes Inn is the place to stay in Twin Falls. It is everything one could want in a motel room and it is extremely affordable. They did a brilliant job in fixing this place up!

Blue Lakes Inn 1

It was already late so we grabbed a bite a Chick-fil-A. Neither of us had ever eaten at one and we weren’t impressed. What a boring menu to pick from! The sandwiches were mediocre at best and the sauces were extremely sweet and artificial tasting. The guy at the counter was frighteningly chipper and insisted on giving us way more sauces than we wanted. More than once, he exclaimed, “I love my job!” When we asked about the taste of the sauces, he began waxing poetic about each of them as though they were beyond human description. He might have been butt-kissing his manager, he was new on the job, or we just stepped into the Twilight Zone somewhere in Idaho. I appreciate friendly service, but there is a fine line between friendly and Woah! Take it down a few notches, you psychopath!

After that, we returned to our picture-perfect room and went to bed.

Day 8 of our Northwestern excursion: Vintage shopping and Cartopia

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Before heading to downtown Portland for a Friday of antique and vintage shopping, we stopped into Baker and Spice on Capitol Highway, which was just down the road from our guest house. We sat in a cozy corner with café au laits, a chocolate croissant, and a savory scone. It was pretty well packed inside, with the friendly feel of a local community hub. This was the one day we had encountered all week in Portland where the sky was overcast and threatening lots of rain, so it made for the perfect time to explore more indoor shops.

We had a list of recommended vintage ones to check out. We didn’t make it to all of them, but of the handful we did check out, our favorites were Vintage Vendors (2800 NE Sandy Blvd) and House of Vintage (3315 SE Hawthorne Blvd).

House of Vintage Portland

House of Vintage is huge and they have a ton of clothing and kitschy retro goods to rifle through. It really started to pour down while we were inside, so we took our time and waited out the rain by searching for treasures. Somehow, we managed not to find anything that we absolutely had to take home with us. I think that on this vintage shopping trip, we were both looking for very particular pieces.

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Vintage Vendors had more actual antiques in their shop. The store is divided up into individual vendors’ sections, so the prices vary from one area to another. One booth had a vintage banana crate with bold graphics, something that would have made an awesome coffee table (we have a banana crate in our bathroom at home, which we turned into a stand for towels and toiletries).

In total, we made a pretty full morning and afternoon by stopping into about five different shops. We didn’t make it to Antique Alley, Red Light Clothing, or Naked City. Those will have to wait until the next time we are back in Portland. Another one we stopped into, Hollywood Vintage, really had more costumes than vintage, but their selection of eyeglasses was impressive. I saw Sarah admiring a few pairs of 1920s spectacles. Suddenly, she is very interested in getting herself some reading glasses!

Cartopia

In our minds, there was only one place to go to for lunch on our last day in Portland: the legendary Cartopia! Throughout this entire trip, I was guilty of taking every opportunity I had to stop at any food cart that caught my eye. I especially wasn’t going to miss out on eating here since this particular lot’s days are numbered (at least for the time being; hopefully, things work out). It was early afternoon and only half of the Cartopia food trucks were open; still, they were exactly the ones we had been craving. First, we ordered a crepe with plantains, dulce de leche, rum, and butter from Perierra Crêperie. They made it fresh right when we ordered, and it was delicious!

Perierra Crêperie Portland

Creperie Portland Our second course was an amped-up peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich from PBJ’s Grilled. The Hot Hood sammies have peanut butter, bacon, jalapeños, and cherries, all between two buttery, grilled slices of challah bread. It shouldn’t have been that good, but it was. It was incredible. The photos are making us hungry even as we write this:

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After lunch, Sarah and I made a pilgrimage to Fred Meyer, which turned out to be more of a mall-sized Walmart than a regular grocery store. We picked up some road trip food, Tillamook yogurts, a variety of chocolate bars, and salmon chowder for dinner. We were both starting to feel melancholy about leaving in the morning.

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The rest of the evening we packed everything, washed our stinky beach finds, and took a fairly long, peaceful walk around our immediate neighborhood and the surrounding ones. People always talk about how a long trip makes one eager to get back home to a normal routine. But this trip had the complete opposite effect. Both of us were still eager to explore more of Oregon and we felt bummed that we had run out of days. The only consolation we had was that we were taking three days to get home instead of two, which meant that we could have longer, more interesting stops.

Day 7 of our Northwestern excursion: Travelers never say die!

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US 26 west The forecast looked bleak as we headed to Cannon Beach on Thursday morning. We were running out of days to spend in Oregon and neither of us wanted to miss out on seeing the Pacific Ocean, so we were going to the beach even with the risk of rain pouring on us the entire time! The highway was cloaked in a heavy fog and there was a steady drizzle. Not exactly sunny beach weather, but still beautiful in its own way. Sunset Coffee OregonSomewhere in the middle, we made a quick stop at Sunset Coffee, a little roadside coffee shack. The daily specials happened to be Almond Joy and Macadamia Nut. Sarah went with Macadamia and I had the Almond Joy; just the caffeine buzz we needed! foggy oregon Did I mention that it was foggy? Because it was really foggy! We kept saying it looked like the Misty Mountains of middle-earth. The visibility wasn’t really that bad; everything just looked mystical. green moss oregon And very green — intensely green! There was moss growing even on top of the moss here. As we were driving through the woods, Sarah kept looking at the road map and exclaiming that we were almost to the ocean. There was a big build up, as if we were about to meet a famous celebrity. There really is something both terrifying and awe-inspiring about the ocean. It’s gorgeous, but it might devour you if you ever turn your back. The rain was gone before we reached Cannon Beach, leaving the sky a light gray that nearly matched the color of the ocean. DSCN0824 We had brought along a couple of plastic baskets to use for holding beach-combed treasures. Some of the things we were looking for with the most intent were Japanese glass floats and uniquely twisted pieces of driftwood. Cannon Beach wasn’t overly crowded. The weather was nice and cool, with a slight mist blowing from the water as we walked along the shoreline. We made sure to arrive early so we could be there while the tide was at its lowest point. DSCN0826 DSCN0850 DSCN0856 When we got to Haystack Rock, we encountered a vast assortment of sea-life. I tickled some anemone by mistake, thinking it was just some bright green plant. There was also a man who was pulling mussel shells off a rock and eating the mussels alive that were inside, straight out of them. We saw three different colors of starfish along the way, each of them in various tidal pools. On top of Haystack Rock, too, there was an enormous flock of pigeon guillemots, some seagulls, and a small band of puffins who were strutting their stuff. In the air, the puffins looked like little black footballs. And then we stumbled across this particular rock, all covered in barnacles and a swarm of other creatures: DSCN0870 While combing the beach, there were a couple of instances when we nearly mistook a jellyfish for some kind of shiny glass. Glad we tried tapping them with our shoes first! It just so happened that all of these ended up being long dead anyway. DSCN0910 We continued to meander around the beach for a few more hours. The incredible thing was that once we turned around and returned to the starting point, the rocks we had been walking on before were all completely covered with water. That’s why you always want to get there early on a shoreline like Cannon Beach. The ocean can sneak up on you a lot more quickly than you might think! DSCN0929 We left the beach happy, complete with soggy shoes and salty ocean hair. It would be difficult to leave the ocean that morning, especially knowing that we would be returning later on that week to a completely landlocked state. The only thing that convinced us to drive away for a bit was the lure of freshly-caught fish and chips at Bowpicker, the legendary food boat up the coastline in Astoria. Bowpickers Expect a line when you arrive at Bowpicker, and show up early if you actually want to eat any fish! Once they run out, they close up for the day. Their albacore tuna, freshly battered and served with a side of chips, is more than worth the wait. The ladies running the kitchen are friendly and genial. They only accept cash and the menu is simple: full or half order with a side of fries. The full order is $10. We asked for two full orders and neither of us had any trouble devouring every last piece. The tuna is thicker and meatier than most fish, closer to chicken in texture. Bowpicker must switch out their oil frequently, because everything tasted so fresh. There are a few picnic tables to sit at while you eat. There, you can watch the ever-growing line and gloat, knowing that you already have your food!

Bowpickers Astoria Bowpickers fishYum. What more do I need to say?

The Goonies House

After lunch, we explored the shops and neighborhoods in Astoria. There were a few eye-catching antique shops and a Bosnian restaurant that looked interesting.

Of course, we also had to visit the Goonies house! It would be amazing to visit Astoria for the 25th anniversary Goonies Fest next year. The house, of course, has changed a bit since the movie. Notice that they have removed the impractical fence and they replaced the screen door since the last time Data smashed through the mesh.

Goonie House

Crazy as it may seem, we were not the only people posing in front of the house. Several other carloads of people stopped for pictures. One mom was there with her own mother and kids, all of whom were clueless as to who the Goonies were, but she was still ecstatically taking selfies in front of the house. We left Astoria and headed back to Portland our shoes still slightly damp from the beach. Sarah said that her sloshing wet sneakers made her feel like a kid. On the way back, we stopped in Beaverton to check out the smaller Powell’s location. This one is part of a mall and the atmosphere is very different. Still, we both left with books. For dinner (a rather late one at 10:30, but our stomachs still fared well) we swung by the other Bollywood Theater location and picked up some terrific paneer Kati rolls and papadums with a few chutney varieties.

Day 6 of our Northwestern excursion: Powell’s Books and food carts

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Since the plan for this leg of our trip was to spend the entire day downtown, we parked in the food cart lot at 10th and Alder for $11, which covered the whole day.

It was only a quick stroll around the corner to Powell’s City of Books. We were hungry and knew we were going to need some caffeine to fuel our book hunting. The cafe inside Powell’s is cozy and inviting. They allow customers to bring a stack of five books into the cafe, so anyone can pour over the pages while drinking World Cup Coffee and eating a scone or two. The baristas were down to earth and, like everywhere else, the price was amazingly low for a cup of joe. Woo! No sales tax!

I happened to be wearing my 1920s wave clips because my hair takes longer to dry in humid climates. Interestingly enough, the lady behind us in line complimented me on my hairstyle; aluminum clips and all! After that, we picked a seat next to the window and drank two cafés au lait with some very good, hot scones.

Powell's city of books

Chris and I are book fiends. He likes the classics, political commentaries, religious expositions, and history books. My heart belongs to adventure novels, women’s travel writing, natural history, and decorating books. The Powell’s store on Burnside has five floors and counting with abundantly more than enough books to satisfy any literary appetite. We each went our respective way and ate up the hours searching the shelves and adding to our piles. They sell both used and new books at competitive prices, so it is dangerous if someone has no willpower. Those rare volumes will call to you from the shelf!

I filled a basket in the traveling section and then moved to the next building, where I filled a basket with natural history books. Chris didn’t have a huge pile, mostly because the books he was looking for were either at the other location or in one of their warehouses.

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All in a day’s find at Powell’s City of Books! We spent a total of four hours there, and we probably could have stayed longer if the food carts weren’t beckoning us from across the street! With more than 60 trucks to chose from, it took us a few laps around the block to decide where to start. I really wanted Korean tacos, so we jumped in the line for Korean Twist.

Korean Twist Portland sign

Korean twist portland

Korean Twist is everything you could love about Korean food, but with the added bonus of being wrapped up neatly in a flour or corn tortilla. We had a taco each; mine was beef bulgolgi with kimchi and Chris had spicy pork with kimchi. It was as incredible as we imagined it might be! We both inhaled our tacos and began hunting down the next truck to sample. The smell drifting from Emame’s Ethiopian truck lured us in and we ordered a plate of Siga Watt (a beef version of Chicken Doro Wat) and Gomen Wat cabbage.

Emame's Portland

One might assume that Ethiopian from a truck might be inferior, but it was as good as any that we’ve had in restaurants. The injera bread was fresh-tasting and they didn’t skimp on how much they gave us. The Siga Watt was spicy and we could taste the slow-cooked onions and complex layers of spice. If you love Ethiopian, or if you’ve never tried it before, this food truck is well worth the stop. The plate was only $8.00!

Emame's Portland

Look at that deliciously intense color. Lots of turmeric and Berber spice mix give the dish its signature color and kick!

Magpies Portland

After lunch, we stopped into a few nearby shops. Magpie Vintage had a collection of Edwardian and 1920s dresses that made my heart flutter. I was forced to resist the urge to try them all on, or to just rob a bank so I could afford to own them all. There was a black, Edwardian hat with an ostrich plume that I was certain belonged on my head. I waited a moment, hoping a kindly stranger would walk in and offer to buy it for me. Sadly that never happened.

Of all the vintage shops we perused, Magpie’s had the most authentically vintage pieces. Most of the other “vintage” shops we browsed through were more like musty basements filled with hideous nineties clothing.

If you are reading this, Magpie Vintage, send me that hat and I will “review” it for you ;)

Korean twist burrito bulgolgi

We thought ahead and picked up a giant burrito from Korean Twist to have for dinner. This time, I paused to take a photo just before devouring. Layers of veggies, cilantro, bulgolgi beef, kimchi, and rice; oh my! We both hunkered down with our books and spent the rest of the evening reading.

Korean twist burrito

Day 5 of our Northwestern excursion: Tasty brunch, tall trees, and sushi on a train

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Tasty n Sons

At the recommendation of our hostess, we took a drive over to Tasty n Sons on Williams Street for an incredible brunch. They encourage sharing, with a practice of bringing out their dishes one-at-a-time. First, Sarah and I ordered two of the Chocolate Potato Doughnuts with créme anglaise. They’re so moist and decadent, not to be missed by chocolate lovers. Next came the Moroccan Chicken Hash, which we split. The hash consisted of a mix of greens, veggies, potatoes, and chunks of shredded chicken topped with an egg. This is a dish that’s served with harissa cream, to boot, so I simply can’t imagine anyone not enjoying it. Even after that, the menu was still calling to us and we still had room to spare, so we ordered the North African Sausage with an over-easy egg, couscous, and cauliflower. The sausage consisted of lamb and the dish was a mix of sweet and spicy, incorporating cherries and apricots with traditional north African spices. We both love Moroccan cuisine and this brunch tantalized all the right taste buds!

Our next stop for the day was the Hoyt Arboretum, which is located across town near the Zoo. Out of all the places we visited in Oregon, the Arboretum was one of the most awe inspiring. There is something magical about the meandering trails, the gargantuan trees, and the overgrown appearance of everything swathed in moss and ferns.

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The Hoyt Arboretum was founded in 1928 and there are more than 6,000 plant specimens living there. Hoyt Arboretum 3

Sarah and I took several trails and spent a few good hours exploring the grounds. It was a cool morning, so the complimentary tea inside the visitor’s center was a welcome treat.

Hoyt Arboretum

The forest smelled like cedar and damp soil. The first loop we took was the Redwood Trail, one which was supposed to take an hour. It didn’t take quite that long.

Everything was overwhelmingly green and we felt so incredibly small compared to the fortress of trees lining the path. The redwoods were as impressive as one might imagine! I highly recommend taking that particular trail, at least, if you don’t have time for more.

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We started on the Redwood, but no matter how we tried, we couldn’t seem to stay on one trail. We didn’t care, though, because this is a place one would be happy to get lost in. We saw wildflowers, bunnies, a variety of birds, and a handful of other hikers along the paths. We also ventured onto the Fir Trail after coming back to the entrance. The map said the Fir Trail would take about 30 minutes, but just as before, we took the loop in far less time even without having to rush.

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We hardly put a dent in the map of trails and both of us felt like we could stay there the rest of the day. If it hadn’t rained over those next few days, we probably would have come back for another reflective hike in the woods.

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We were starting to work up an appetite, so we thought it would be fun to check out a local sushi place. We chose Sushi Ichiban because it was affordable; plus, the sushi comes out on a toy train!

sushi ichiban outside

The plates of sushi come speeding past you on a Southern Pacific model train. We were newbies at this, so I was always nabbing the sushi of our choice just as it rounded the corner. There, the price of the sushi works on a plate color system. The tan was $1 and the red flower plates were the most expensive, closer to $3. At the end, the waitress simply tallied up our plates and wrote up a bill.

sushi ichiban portland

The sushi was good; not amazing or world-class, but better than one might expect for the price. We didn’t put in any requests, but simply chose from what was already being put onto the train. The avocado, asparagus, and cream cheese roll was great, as was the Eliza Roll, which had a piece of tempura sweet potato in it.

sushi ichiban portland

The wait staff was friendly and personable. In the end, we ate a very affordable, fun lunch, around $16 in total for about a couple dozen pieces.

On the way back to our place, we swung by the Food Front Cooperative Grocery. We picked up a half dozen duck eggs, Portuguese sausage, and local clam chowder.

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Sarah managed to whip up dinner on the tiny stove. Even before leaving on vacation, Sarah had made a mini spice kit to bring along with us. She simply used a stack-able pill container set and chose her most essential spices.
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Eating dinner on the patio. The duck eggs were enormous and the Portuguese sausage tasted just like the type we have had in musubi before. The clam chowder was definitely superior to the kind we tend to get further inland. We used leftover chutney from Bollywood Theater, too, just to jazz up the duck eggs.

Day 4 of our Northwestern excursion: The Oregon Zoo

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Anytime we visit a new city, I make a point of adding its zoo to our trip itinerary. I’m a volunteer docent at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, so I am always eager to see how other cities maintain their zoos. I would have loved to have visited the Woodland Park Zoo on this trip (in addition to the Oregon Zoo), but we couldn’t fit it all in this time.

Our garden cottage was only about 15 minutes away from the Oregon Zoo. We thought we would head out early and catch breakfast there. I wish we had grabbed something at a local cafe instead, because the zoo’s menu was a little lacking. Microwaved Jimmy Dean biscuits for $3.50 or so was not exactly filling or appetizing. To be sure, we are a little spoiled in Colorado Springs because we have actual chefs who cook at our zoo and the food is pretty fantastic (it’s rare that you actually smell something good at a zoo, but CMZ has accomplished this feat!). Sea lion at Oregon Zoo We headed for the Pacific Shores first, in search of the stellar sea lion. I have a soft spot for marine mammals and he did not disappoint! Compared to their Californian cousins, stellars are massive. Despite this one’s oversized-looking flippers, he moved gracefully through his pool. The zoo did a nice job with this enclosure, as there were many windows to view him from both on the inside and outside. His pool extended a great distance, giving him plenty of room to swim. He was even carrying around what looked like a chunk of salmon in his jaws. In the same Pacific Shores area, we also saw a sleepy polar bear and a couple of sea otters interacting with their keepers and floating around on their backs. Mandrill at the Oregon Zoo In the Fragile Forests, we saw a small troupe of critically-endangered mandrills. This handsome devil made all the small females look blasé. His vibrant muzzle almost looked rubbery and painted on. I was a little disappointed, though, that the chimpanzees were nowhere to be seen. Giraffe at the Oregon Zoo The giraffe exhibit was attractive, but I couldn’t help but feel smug knowing that we have 22 reticulated giraffes that you can feed and get up close and personal with at the CMZ. Our mountain zoo boasts 200 healthy births and counting! The altitude of our zoo is similar to that of Crater Valley, so it makes the perfect home for these gentle giants. But I’ll quit bragging and get back to the actual zoo at hand… Hippos at the Oregon Zoo Similarly to the giraffe enclosure, the hippo yard is beautiful with an ample-sized pool to wade in. I’m rather fond of these big, pink giants. Did you know that they acquire their pink hue from their sweat, which works as a waterproof sunscreen?  I wish Chris could secrete his own sunscreen; he’s constantly reapplying it throughout the day to keep from burning. Lion at Oregon Zoo We spent a lot of the afternoon watching their lion pride. There were three lovely female lion cubs, two adult females, and one magnificent king. One of the female cubs hung close to her father’s side, mimicking his behavior and tackling him. An older lady was standing next to me and, at one point, she exclaimed, “If I was a lioness, he’d have to watch out! wowza!” I couldn’t deny that I wasn’t thinking the same thing; no lady can resist that long dark mane. Lioness statue Oregon Zoo Nearby, parents made their children pose on these metal lions, which had been absorbing the sunshine and felt like molten lava. I watched as a mother forced her son to “hug the lion” while he cried. The look of guilt was obvious as she touched the lion and realized it was searing hot! Chris made me pose with a lioness and he posed with the male (notice we are hovering above the surface of the statues rather precariously). Lion statue Oregon Zoo Cheetah at the Oregon Zoo The Cheetahs were breathtaking and I had never been this up-close to one before. This was truly a thrill for me! I was called “The Cheetah Girl” in grade school because of my obsession over these beautiful cats. I drew my family as cheetahs in the second grade and did a presentation on cheetahs for the talent show. Apparently, not all children share my passion for cheetahs; as we were watching them, we overheard a conversation between a 5 year old and his dad:

“Dad, Uncle Mike has Mario Party on his phone. Can I play it?”

“No. Are you kidding me? You’re at the zoo. Look at the cheetah.”

“I don’t want to. I want to play Mario Party!”

“Not right now, we are at the zoo! You don’t need to play on someone’s phone.”

“But you always let me play on your phone!”

This is what it happening to kids these days. They’d rather play a game on a cell phone than enjoy an afternoon at the zoo. Maybe if they come out with “Wii Conservation: Save the Animals,” the kids will care about animals again. Or at least the ones that they can save with a game controller. baby elephant at the Oregon Zoo It was pretty warm by the time we made it to the Asian elephants, but this smiling baby elephant made it all worth while. There was a lot of construction still going on with the exhibit, and it was clear that they are very focused on providing an ideal home for their herd. They had a large bull elephant in a separate area off to the side. Babirusa at the Oregon Zoo The first time we walked through Island Pigs of Asia, the babirusas were fast asleep in the shade. On the way back, through, they were both up and meandering around. It isn’t often that you see them in zoos. Check out his wild tusks! Only the males have them. I suppose the only way they would win a beauty contest is if they were up against the naked mole rat. DSCN0612 Our final stop at the zoo was the Great Northwest, where the black bears melted our hearts with cuteness and bear cuddles. This portion of the zoo is nicely forested and shady. The Condors of the Columbia showcased a handful of rare Andean condors, some of which are still contributing to the breeding program.

After the zoo, we picked up dinner: more Indian Street food from Bollywood Theater (because once is just not enough). This time, we had a Mumbai sandwich and egg masala to go. We sat outside of our place on the patio and enjoyed another great meal while listening to bumblebees buzz from flower to flower in the garden.

Day 3 of our Northwestern excursion: March Violets at the Star Theater

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We’ve long considered ourselves to be “concert pros.” We always try to show up at a venue well before the rest of the crowd does. Once inside, we make a bolt toward the front of the stage, waiting even through terrible opening acts so we can maintain our place at the front and center. Before you think we’re completely crazy, we have plenty of proof to back up our method. We’ve had the Cult’s tour bus pull up right in front of us, with Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy walking up to us for a chat. We’ve handed an album to one of the Psychedelic Furs’ members in good confidence and had it returned with every member’s signature. We met the entire Alice Cooper gang and watched the show from the front row: loving every minute, every blood spray, every song. Sarah even bit someone’s arm over a drumstick. But that story’s for another blog post — you’d better just click that subscribe button to the left!

March violets into the sun tour

So what happened in Portland when we tried our method? Well, we showed up early and there was no one else there. Chinatown was completely dead; just us, a handful of hobos, and rarely a car in sight. Apparently, Portland doesn’t always show up early for shows?

March Violets star theater

We started deliberating long and hard about dinner, figuring that we could walk down some nearby blocks and possibly come across some food truck haven. No luck: just gyro carts galore. Neither of us were really in the mood for a gyro and fries.

To make a long story short, we spent a couple hours wandering the streets and were still able to return to the venue with no sign of anyone else. Just before the doors opened, a few people began to appear and a polite little line formed. Once inside, we were overjoyed to discover that they serve real food at the Star Theater. The fellow who took our order even used to work in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. We ate our macaroni and cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach on the outside patio. We weren’t the only ones grabbing a bite. Not but a few feet away, the March Violets were having their dinner as well! I first noticed them only when Si, their lead singer, asked me if I thought the food was any good.

After eating, we joined Si and Tom Ashton (the guitarist) around a gas fire pit and chatted a bit. At some point, Rosie Garland came out and we had a lovely conversation about traveling to Portland and the various things one could see and do in Oregon. She has such a natural charisma about her. Sarah says she’s a beautiful mix of David Bowie and Katherine Hepburn. It is always nice to find a band you enjoy is fronted by extremely genial individuals. Everyone willingly signed our Natural History LP that we’d brought along with us. One thing we had all been talking about was people who download music rather than buying. Our album was proof positive that we were not of the free-downloading variety of fans.

March Violets Natural History signed

Inside the venue, we claimed our places at the front as the venue started to fill up. Portland seems to have a healthy goth scene that’s actually centered around goth music. This particular night was miraculously free of EBM, industrial, or whatever you want to call it. One of the opening acts, Dead Cvlt (Dead Cult), seemed to be taking a lot of cues from Skeletal Family. We both said to ourselves, “They should consider a new name,” as it’s certainly a little too close to Death Cult (the second incarnation of the Cult).

The March Violets hit the stage full force. Their newest tracks were interwoven perfectly with all of the older material. Rosie and Simon both sounded fantastic together on vocals. The band was in good form and once they fiddled with a few minor sound issues, they had everyone who was on the floor dancing and singing along with an incredible catalog of songs. Unlike some of their contemporaries (Sisters of Mercy, anyone?) the March Violets aren’t hiding behind a cloud of purple smoke and songs they wrote ages ago. The Violets have returned to the stage with confidence and swagger. Their new material is brilliant (buy it here), with poignant lyrics and those same electric drumbeats that had you grooving in green, back when people actually bought albums.

Take a listen:

Day 3 of our Northwestern excursion: Alberta Street

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The next day, we were up surprisingly early, and we started out by eating the last of the road trip food for breakfast: Galet de Quimper biscuits (some caramel and some apple), a can of peaches, and some coffee. The caramel shortbread cookies tasted like they had bits of Werther’s candy inside!

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After getting everything unpacked and exploring our accommodations a little more, we decided to check out The Bollywood Theatre on Alberta Street for some lunch. From where we were staying, Alberta Street was about 20 minutes away, in NE Portland. This area turned out to be our favorite on this trip. So many interesting shops and restaurants to pick through.

The Bollywood Theater was decorated with an array of antiques, objects inscribed in Hindi, Bollywood posters, and mismatched antique chairs. Combine that atmosphere with the incredible aroma of Indian street food and you can understand why both of their locations stay busy. We both ordered Chicken Kati rolls.

Kati Roll: Found throughout the street stalls of Kolkata, kati rolls are meat or paneer, egg, pickled onion and green chutney rolled in paratha, indian flatbread.

Image: Serious Eats

Image: Serious Eats

All the utensils, condiments, and water are self-serve and at the end, each party buses their own table. If you sit there looking bewildered long enough, of course, they’ll assist you and inform you that the next time, you can do it yourself.

The food at Bollywood was amazing and they provided an assortment of spicy chutneys to enhance the heat. The peppers they include with the plate pack a kick too. Bollywood Theater does have some offerings for those who fear heat; but really, what are you doing eating at an Indian restaurant if you fear spice?

Next door to Bollywood is Salt and Straw, where we finished off lunch with some unique flavored ice cream. They get a little flack from critics who say their odd flavors are pretentious. But, really, aren’t the critics just being pretentious?

Contrary to what they had said, we found that even Salt and Straw’s strangest flavors had a pretty amazing taste and the portions were plentiful. The shop is generous about letting customers try the flavors before settling on a favorite. This helps a little in the decision process, because who would blindly order olive oil-flavored ice cream? After sampling it, though, it was one of the flavors we ended up ordering. We also chose the Rhubarb and Saffron in Champagne. These flavors are already gone from the menu, as they keep it fresh and are always inventing new ones. So don’t get too attached to a single variety!

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With our ice creams in hand, we took a stroll around the area and stopped into a few shops. My heart fluttered a little when we came across Bolt, a fabric store full of fun prints and patterns. The designer cottons were more expensive than the typical mass-produced selection at a fabric and craft store. The variety and quality of the fabrics were definitely superior. Many of the cottons were organic. I also happened to find a great Folkwear pattern that I had been on the hunt for.

When we were planning our trip, Chris had bought a pair of tickets for the March Violets concert that night. We weren’t sure how the Portland scene would be in the way of concerts, so we went back to our place to get ready, arriving at the show well before the doors opened.

Day 2 of our Northwestern excursion: Arrival in Portland

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Before we would actually reach the Columbia River, we stopped at exit 228, Deadman Pass, to stretch our legs again and take in the incredibly green surroundings. This rest stop is nestled on the outskirts of the Umatilla National Forest, surrounded by giant cedars and ferns. Oregon is several shades greener and far lusher than Colorado. They are truly on par with each other, though, when it comes to beauty.

In only a short amount of time, we would find ourselves cruising with the river out to our right, a tremendous body of water glistening from the sun that had just begun to set. Our last rest stop before Portland was in Boardman exit 165. There, you can take in the river from a scenic view point (and re-apply sunscreen if you are a vampire like both of us; that sun was baking me on the passenger side). We hoped we would be arriving earlier in the day, but as luck would have it, sunset was the best time to drive this stretch of highway. Just look at how the sun lit the scenery perfectly!

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The John Day dam

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There were train tracks running across and beside the river. I would love to see the views the conductors have; I wonder if passenger lines ever take these rails.

When Beatrice (our GPS) suggested we jump over onto the Washington side of the river to speed up our time, we ended up on a winding cliff side drive that was both beautiful and exhilarating. Zipping around cliff sides with the river to your left, and faster speed limits than you maybe thought wise — amazing!

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Lots of steep grade increases and decreases along the Washington side. At times, we kept the car in low gear like in Colorado. We were both dragging by this point, honestly, so it helped that this stretch was exciting! We eventually crossed a bridge and were back on the Oregon side of the river.

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There’s Mount Hood off in the distance, looking snowy and regal. The texture of this bridge was odd, so there was a brief moment where Chris turned to me and said, “Wait… is this thing a conveyor belt? Oh, wait, never mind.” He quickly realized that 1. Conveyor belts don’t have speed limits, and 2. He had been driving nearly 26 hours in the span of two days and really needed to go to bed. So, no, Oregon has not invented amazing conveyor belt bridges. But just give them time; I’m sure they’ll have these someday.

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Just as we were leaving the river, we caught the sunset, which left us oohing and aahing. The forest lined the roads and extended throughout the city. Our first chance to navigate Portland was done in the dark, but we made it safely to our place without too much trouble.

Our Airbnb rental was located in the Hayhurst area, tucked into a neighborhood spilling over with gardens full of ivy, flowers, and ferns. So late in the evening, it was easy to miss our turns, as these gardens nearly hid entrances to streets! We arrived at our sweet little garden cottage around 9:30. Inside, sitting on the table to greet us, was a vase of fresh flowers from the owner’s garden. After unloading the car and piling everything inside the front door, we crashed for the night.

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Day 2 of our Northwestern excursion: Utah-Idaho border to Baker City, Oregon

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The rest of the drive through the northern part of Utah was some of the least exciting, but the billboards were pretty entertaining. The state has quite a penchant for zany advertisements. Fortunately, just when we couldn’t take the lack of variety in scenery anymore, the speed limit was increased to 80, and we zipped right up to the Utah-Idaho border.

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Idaho did not embrace the speed and they promptly lowered us back down to 75 mph, slowed down further by road work every once in awhile. Then we lost all the time we had gained, but that’s life on the road for you. We couldn’t escape those orange cones our entire trip. Everyone seemed to be in the mood for tinkering with the roads. DSCN0258

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Most of the Idaho drive along I-84 consisted of green, rolling hills and a few interesting points along the way, landmarks like Snake River and small towns with unique storefronts to see. We would spend more time in Idaho on the way back, since Twin Falls ended up being a hotel destination for us. The entire time, we were just counting down the exits until we would reach the border of Oregon. DSCN0278

Getting just into Ontario (exit 324), we decided to break our vow of fidelity against fast food and drove through a McDonald’s for Dollar Menu fare. Maybe it’s been a long time since we last ate there, but there were some odd varieties on the menu. Sarah ordered an onion and white cheddar burger, and I ordered what was supposed to be a barbecue ranch burger. To wash it down, we ordered a couple of iced coffees. Neither deserve any accolades; we promptly decided after that to go back to our original agreement concerning food.

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After that, we had the first taste of Oregon’s famed gas stations, where the attendants are the ones who fill up your tank. Two things to know: You can’t fill it up yourself, unless you want to pay a $500 fine, and you also can’t tip the attendants. It caught me off guard for a second when the attendant raced over to our car and started unscrewing the gas cap. All throughout the trip, I would keep forgetting to tell them what grade of gas I wanted. “Fill it up please… oh, with what? Just regular.”

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Baker City was the first Oregon town that we really ventured into. The historic side of the town was full of intriguing shops and the old Victorian houses looked pristine. Since it was Sarah’s birthday we decided to stop into some antique stores so she could hunt for treasures (this appeases the pirate side of her personality and her avid love of all things old and dusty).

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Windfall Antiques was a top-notch antique shop packed with lots of old books and a plethora of genuine antiques. We could have spent an entire afternoon scouring this place! Sarah found a 1915 candy scale and I unearthed a stereoviewer card of a lion in a zoo. There is an upstairs and a downstairs and the prices are very fair. Leo, the shop’s owner, even threw the stereoviewer card in with the scale and we celebrated when we realized we were now shopping in the land of no sales tax: another Oregon quirk we could start to get used to.

Visit Windfall Antiques on 2306 Broadway, Baker City, Oregon 97814

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This is the candy scale that Sarah found; the base looks like walrus fins. She’s still considering what to display on top of it. Possibly candy, fake fruit, or—knowing her—something dead. Right now, it’s taken up residence on the dresser and holds vintage hair clips. That’s her birthday hat sitting there. It came in the mail just in time for the trip. The hat was something she found here in this Etsy shop.

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