Bacheloring it Up

It’s been a pretty full weekend so far. I’m trying to downshift today, but still have some errands to run. Which is fine, because I get antsy just sitting around the apartment anyway.

Tara is in Nevada for a visit with friends and family, so I’ve been “bacheloring it up,” you might say. In my case, this means three things:

  1. Eating all the foods my wife does not like. (It’s a long list, FYI).
  2. Hiking.
  3. Listening to lots of rock ‘n roll.

She swung by my office on her way out of town around 2:00 on Thursday afternoon to say goodbye. It was a super warm and humid day, the likes of which I have never seen here; just stepping outside felt downright tropical. The sun was blazing, and then it started raining, big heavy drops that just sort of sank to the earth beneath their own weight. Thunder rumbled. We kissed, and she was on her way.

I’d bought a ticket to see a local band called Eyelids play at Mississippi Studios, and it’s a good thing I did that in advance, because I’m sure I would have talked myself out of going otherwise. One of my biggest regrets from when I was single was the fact that I never stepped outside of my comfort zone. I never once set foot in a bar or went out to catch a concert by myself, things that I really enjoy doing nowadays, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could.

So. Damn. Good!

So I did. Thursday after work I drove into Portland and got to Bar Bar (the appropriately-if-unoriginally-named bar adjacent to the club), ordered a burger/fries and a cocktail, and snagged a spot outside on their patio, where I buried myself in a copy of  Portland Mercury while stealthily people-watching. My cocktail hit the spot, and the food was fantastic. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ordered a burger and fries, so it felt like a great splurge. I got another drink before the doors opened at 8:00. The air-conditioning was running full blast and it was cold AF in there, making me glad I’d grabbed that flannel shirt at the last minute even though the idea seemed ridiculous at the time (when it was 82 degrees with 1000% humidity).

The bands were good, really good. All three of them. We’d just seen Jackson Boone five days earlier at the Doug Fir, which was kind of funny. Point Juncture, WA was up next, and they have an interesting dynamic: two women and three guys. The female drummer also traded lead vocals with the male keyboard player, alternating between songs, which always makes for a good, varied sound. The main act, Eyelids, was having a record release show, so they played their new album in full as well as a bunch of their older stuff. These guys are really good; they’re considered a sort-of indie “supergroup” with former members of The Decemberists, Guided By Voices, and the Jicks, and they had great stage presence: lots of witty banter. It’s clear they’re very comfortable playing together. I decided to ditch my cozy seat in the balcony and made my way down to a spot right in front of the stage. Screw sitting, I texted Tara. I mean, normally we do, but occasionally a guy’s gotta get up on his feet and rock out to the music. Which is exactly what I did. The show didn’t end until well past midnight, making me glad I took Friday off. I walked to my car while lightning flashed overhead. It started pouring rain around the time I got home, and the temperature dropped down to the 50s. Just like that, our first heatwave of the year came to an end. 

Despite the late night, I was up early Friday morning, as usual. I just can’t seem to sleep in anymore these days, especially when it’s bright by 6:00 this time of year. My destination was the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia Gorge. Specifically, I wanted to hike to Tunnel Falls and back. It’s a 12-mile round trip; I had never hiked more than 9 miles before, but was pretty confident in my abilities as I’ve done a lot of hiking the past couple of years and am definitely in shape for it. I got to the trailhead at 10 a.m. and set out, thanking my lucky stars that it was only overcast and misty. Well, those stars turned unlucky, because just a few minutes into my hike it started raining…and continued the whole time. Fortunately I have a rain cover for my camera and backpack, but the jacket I had grabbed to wear was not waterproof, and I got thoroughly soaked, so much that I had to wring out my flannel shirt afterwards. So much for that forecast of “rain ending by noon.”

Beautiful views, even with the clouds and rain.

The hike itself was fantastic, though. The first five miles were fine; the trail runs parallel to Eagle Creek on a high rocky ledge smack dab in the middle of a heavily forested canyon, with abundant waterfalls and tons of pink and yellow wildflowers this time of year. Even with the steady rain, it was breathtaking.

The best hikes come with cables.

And then I hit that last mile…

I’d read trail reports ahead of time and knew the going would be rough, but I didn’t know it would be that rough. There were lots of downed trees that were tricky to navigate, a swollen stream with nothing but a narrow log and slippery rocks to help you  across. In one section, a small landslide had turned the trail into what can only be described as a giant mud pit. It was pretty challenging, and I was half tempted to turn around, but I’d already invested three hours and knew the falls were close by, so I pushed on.

One of the many obstacles in my path.

And I’m glad I did. Tunnel Falls was totally worth the effort. It’s a dramatic waterfall tumbling 175 feet down the side of a basalt cliff. Here’s the description from a hiking website:

As the name implies, your path will pass through a tunnel behind the falls about midway up the span. Consider as you enter the tunnel, that work to build this was done in the 1910s and has been virtually unchanged since! The falls drop from the bluffs above to the creek bed below then downstream into the main Eagle Creek run. The years have carved out a striking amphitheater here. It is a breathtaking area, and easily the climax of your trip.

Tunnel Falls. You literally walk through a tunnel behind the falls.

As if that wasn’t dramatic enough, and because I’m nuts, I didn’t stop there. I took the website’s advice and did this, too:

The stretch just beyond the falls is another very exposed cliff-side pathway etched into the gorge wall. Again, a cable line is there to steady you. But nowhere has the traverse been quite so dizzying! If you still feel like you have some energy, continue less than a half-mile ahead to the two-tiered, 200 foot tall Twister Falls. It is well worth the minimal additional effort if time affords.

It was totally worth the effort. Definitely a very unique waterfall that, sure enough, resembles a twister. I posted a video to Instagram if you follow me there (adios.ghost).

I appreciated the falls as much as I could, but I was drenched and knew I had a long return trip to make, so I did not linger. It took another couple of hours to get back to my car, which I reached at 3:30 just as the freaking sun decided to show its face. Screw you, Mother Nature. By then I was sore all over; every step of those final couple of miles was a struggle. According to my Fitbit, I logged 13.23 miles and over 30,000 steps! Both are new records for me. When I got home I listened to records, drank some well-deserved tequila sodas, and ate the pork and pigeon pea stew that I’d had cooking in the crockpot all day. Tried to watch Braveheart but fell asleep probably a third of the way through. I was exhausted!

Saturday I stayed closer to home. Drove into Portland, walked around East Burnside. Grabbed a Bloody Mary at Eastburn, ramen for lunch at Marukin, and bought a bottle of pear vodka from the Wild Roots tasting room on Distillery Row. My final stop was Music Millennium for some record shopping. Scored a great copy of Wooden Shjips on green vinyl and some other stuff. Came home, listened to all my new purchases plus some old stuff, drank more tequila (it’s what I do, apparently) and made chicken mole. Watched a lame Netflix movie called The Shallows.

Today I have some errands to run – my car is long-overdue for an oil change, and I should probably run it through the carwash since the birds have been treating it like their own personal empty canvas in which to decorate lately. I should probably start editing my book, too. Writing it was the easy part.

Back to work tomorrow, and then Tara will be home late on Tuesday.

An Umbrella Reversal

I have famously gone on record as being anti-umbrella. Living in the Pacific Northwest, using an umbrella is frowned upon by the locals. It’s just not “cool.” One of the surest ways Portlanders can identify people from out of town is when they’re walking in the rain carrying an umbrella. We even have a term we use for these folks.

We call them “Californians.”

Tara was confused by this umbrella revulsion when she first moved out here. “Without an umbrella, you get wet,” she said.

“That we do!” I replied. “It’s like a badge of honor.”

At that point, she just shook her head at me sadly and walked away. Into the rain. Carrying an umbrella (and in the process proving that she is the smart one in this relationship, I suppose – or at least the one with dry hair).

Despite this well-known statue in Pioneer Square, no self-respecting Portlander carries an umbrella.
Despite this well-known statue in Pioneer Square, no self-respecting Portlander carries an umbrella.

I never really felt the need for an umbrella, having become quite nimble at making mad dashes across the parking lot whenever the heavens opened up. For years, I didn’t even own an umbrella. But that all changed two weeks ago, when I picked one up in a gift shop in Long Beach, Washington.

And I’ve actually been using it, too.

Why the sudden change of heart after so many years of denial? I blame the roughest winter we’ve had in my 20+ years of living here. It’s been raining, which of course is nothing new in the PNW, but the amount and intensity of the rain has been staggering. We’ve already had over 10″ of rain in February alone, blowing past our average monthly rainfall (just over 3″) in the first few days. It’s actually now officially the wettest February in Portland history. After a wet January, and a wet December, and a wet November, and…well…you get the picture.

And when it hasn’t been raining, it’s been snowing. Lots of that, too. The winter of ’16-’17 is one for the ages, no doubt.

So I finally broke down and bought that umbrella. I had to. I like to walk 3-4 miles a day, and too often found myself stuck inside because of yet another torrential downpour. Or soaked, because I stubbornly clung to my no-umbrella policy and insisted on braving the elements. And then one day recently I went out walking during lunch and came back to the office drenched. I had to peel off my shoes and socks and aim a portable heater in my direction while suffering through wet jeans the rest of the afternoon. It was in that moment that I finally saw the light. Now, I’m carrying around an umbrella. I still feel a little weird doing so, but I am also experiencing another sensation – dryness – and that’s kind of a novelty to me.

Just don’t call me a Californian.


This weekend has been damn near perfect.

Friday, we ventured out for a night on the town. Our first stop was a great little tapas place called Navarre for dinner. Unfortunately, when we were seated and began looking over the menu, we discovered that most of our favorite dishes were no longer on there. RIP, crab cakes. So we were faced with a dilemma: should we stay and order a bunch of things we didn’t really feel like eating, or bolt instead for greener pastures? In the end, we chose Option B. I mumbled some excuse about “a family emergency” to our server as we hastily beat a retreat. Awkward moment, but we don’t get out as often as we used to, and I really wanted to enjoy it! We ended up at Eastburn instead, where I had a fantastic steelhead filet over barley risotto, and Tara enjoyed a wild boar ragu. Leaving, in this case, was the best thing we could do.

We then headed over to Mississippi Studios for a Neil Young tribute. Three local bands were performing three of Neil’s albums in their entirety (“Comes A Time,” “Harvest,” and “Rust Never Sleeps”). The music was great and the cocktails were stellar. We didn’t get home until well past midnight, but it was a lot of fun.

Saturday we had a rare break in the weather, so I left the umbrella at home and we drove out to Lyle, in the Columbia Gorge, for a 4-mile hike along the Klickitat River. We stopped in Stevenson for a drink and a quick bite to eat before heading home. Gorgeous views and, though the trail was mostly snow-covered, it was pretty easy to navigate.

Today we are meeting my parents for lunch at Rusty Grape Vineyards. They do a mean wood-fired pizza and, of course, there will be wine.

Have a great week!

Rubber On Wood

The low growl of a diesel engine rumbles to life and then idles, the steady deep-throated purr of a cat. Footsteps echo across a dock, rubber on wood, followed by the metallic clang of cargo being loaded. The plaintive cry of a gull fills the air.

Astoria is waking up.

We pull back the blinds to reveal a fog bank drifting down the Columbia River. Green bleeds to gray as the fog blots out the Astoria-Megler Bridge, turning it into a smudge that disappears into the ether. We wander down to the hotel lobby, bringing back steaming hot cups of a locally roasted coffee. Ray LaMontagne is playing on Spotify.

We are waking up, too.

The day is full of promise.


Astoria has long been a favorite spot of ours, but we’d never actually stayed there. When we decided it was high time for a weekend getaway to the coast, our first inclination was to head down to Newport or Lincoln City as we usually do, but we found a good deal in Astoria and figured, why not? We’d originally planned on going last weekend, but the weather looked dicey – this is the winter where anything goes in Portland – so we ended up delaying our trip a week.

Friday we worked a half-day, then hit the road around 1:00. The drive to Astoria was rainy, and the Columbia River was really high; some of the small towns we drove through on Highway 30 were practically flooded. Luckily, just as we pulled into town, the rain stopped and the clouds broke. Our hotel, situated right on the water, did not disappoint.

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I’d have loved to have taken advantage of the deck, but it’s just too cold in February to sit outside. So we drove into downtown Astoria and wandered around. Checked out a couple of stores, bought some fancy vinegars, nuts, and mustard from a Fancy Vinegar, Nuts, and Mustard store, and then ducked into Inferno, an upscale bar overlooking the river, for cocktails. The place was very Rat Pack-y, dark and clubby with Sinatra playing over the loudspeakers, and specializes in infused liquors. I tried a Manhattan with cherry vanilla whiskey, and followed that up with a pineapple tequila soda. Both drinks were smooth and delicious, as was Tara’s pear vodka press. We had a nice, relaxing time watching the cargo ships pass and the full moon rise.

We were tempted to stay at Inferno, but there was a dive bar within walking distance of our hotel, and we didn’t want to worry about driving after we’d been drinking, so we headed over there for the rest of the evening. The Portway Tavern was everything a dive bar should be, and a few things it shouldn’t be (karaoke), but we had a great time. The drinks no-nonsense and got the job done, the food was pretty good – especially the chowder – and while we didn’t have a view of the river, we did get to hang out with the locals, which is always fun.

Saturday was a lot of fun, too. After a lazy morning lounging around the room with Bloody Marys, we headed over to Pig ‘n Pancake for breakfast. We drove up to Long Beach, Washington next, and ended up walking six miles along the paved Discovery Trail that parallels the beach. We grabbed a late lunch at Castaway’s – chowder, steamer clams, and oyster shooters – as well as a couple of cocktails. It was getting late now and we wanted to catch the sunset over by the Peter Iredale shipwreck in Fort Stevens, Oregon, so we drove over there next. Unfortunately, the sky was mostly overcast and there were quite a few people with the same idea, but despite the clouds I got a couple of pretty good shots. 16711680_10211878220779864_2617787077505098621_n

By now we were pretty exhausted. We’d been on the go all day, as evidenced by the 18,661 steps my Fitbit told me I took, so instead of a dinner out at a nice restaurant as originally planned, we kicked back in the room and ordered a pizza. We had a very chill evening listening to music, drinking, and reading. Who says you need to go out to have fun?

Today we’re going to grab breakfast somewhere and then head home. We should be back by mid-afternoon.

Call Me Lazarus

My ongoing battle with telemarketers continues.

I don’t know why they love to bother me so much. It’s as though I won some sort of lottery where the grand prize is daily harassment instead of a few million dollars. I have tried every trick in the book to shake them, but nothing has ever worked. A few months ago I even died, but I must have risen, Lazarus-like, because after a one-week reprieve they were hounding me as if resurrection were a perfectly normal and acceptable thing, no more unusual than ants invading a picnic or politicians bending the truth or [insert cliche of choice], trying to sell me Viagra.

That’s another thing. It’s always Viagra or Cialis they are pushing. Maybe Levitra on occasion. Talk about rising again! I’m trying not to take this personally, but it would be nice if just once they offered me pills that weren’t blue, you know what I mean? Maybe a medication designed to decrease my studliness or something. My ego can only take so much bruising.

Earlier this week, after yet another phone call in which I toyed with them a while before growing bored and hanging up, my coworker suggested the next time they call, I tell them I have a terminal illness. “Maybe that will be enough to convince them to stop bothering you,” she said. I had my doubts. After all, if dying didn’t do the trick, would dying in the near future work? Still, it was worth a shot.

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I didn’t have long to wait. I never do, unfortunately. The next morning, there they were, calling me like clockwork. This is how the conversation went.

Them: Are you currently taking any medications, sir?
Me: Yes. About 57 pills a day.
Them: That’s a lot of pills. Can we interest you in some Viagra or Cialis?
Me: I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass. I’ve just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. My doctor has given me three months to live.
Them: No problem.

This pissed me off. What nerve, right?! I was legitimately angry over this guy’s blase attitude about my impending death and got so caught up in my own sob story, I forgot that my illness was fake and I wasn’t actually dying. This caused me to go off on him a bit.

Me: “No problem“?! Maybe not for you, but you’re not the one dying. I am! It’s a big problem for me!
Them: I understand, sir. When would be a good time be to call you back?
Me: I don’t think you understand at all. Given that I will be dead and buried in less than ninety days, I’m thinking a good time to call back would be NEVER. Unless, of course, you can sell me a pill that will cure death!

I seriously cannot believe this guy was trying to sell boner pills to a person staring down his own mortality. I mean, I essentially told him I’m going to be dead before Christmas, and he’s still hawking those little blue pills. I dunno. Maybe he thinks I want to go out with a bang?

At least my coworkers found the whole scene entertaining. Nothing like a little bit of levity to break up the monotony of the day, I s’pose.


Yesterday was our 3rd wedding anniversary. It was pretty much just an ordinary day for us – work, grocery shopping, etc. It’s tough to celebrate when it lands in the middle of the week like that, though we did go out to dinner here. Great meal, by the way.

We actually celebrated last weekend with a three-night getaway to the Oregon coast. Ended up renting a house in Yachats, an area we had never been to before, and had a wonderful time. This home was situated on a bluff with a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean and downtown Yachats (pronounced Ya-hots) and was gorgeous – hardwood floors, fully appointed kitchen with modern appliances, gas fireplace, clawfoot tub, slate shower, large deck. The works. All for only $125 a night, which isn’t much more than you’d spend on a motel room. We spent one day exploring the area and hiking, and another day relaxing and reading. Turned out to be the perfect little retreat. We definitely plan to go back. Feel free to check out my pics on Instagram if you are interested (adios.ghost).

Until next time…

Wait. I’ll be dead soon. I keep forgetting!

Lobsters, Not Hipsters

A few days ago, a Groupon offer popped up on my phone that was too irresistible to pass up. Portland Magazine was offering a great deal – two years for the price of one. Since my current subscription was about to expire, I was more than happy to shell out $24 for a brand new, two-year subscription to my favorite Rose City periodical.

Two days later, I received an email from the Controller at Portland Magazine. Wow, I thought. Such personal customer service! I was impressed. Until I read what he wrote.

I believe you may wish to ask Groupon for a refund, as you may have reached a different Portland magazine than the one you were looking for, based upon your address.

And that’s when I realized hadn’t renewed my subscription to Portland Monthly, as I’d believed I was doing, but rather to Portland Magazine. It’s amazing what a difference one little word can make. Instead of a subscription to a magazine detailing life in Oregon’s largest city, I had inadvertently subscribed to a magazine detailing life in Maine’s largest city. Maine, not Oregon. The Pine Tree State, not the Beaver State. Lobsters, not hipsters.

hello lobster isolated on white background

This kind of pissed me off. Why was Groupon advertising a deal for a magazine 3,000 miles away? It seemed to me like they were trying to capitalize on the confusion the name “Portland” would create around these parts. We already suffer from an identity crisis thanks to that name (though not so much since Fred Armisen’s Portlandia turned our weirdness into a national craze). This faux pas does not help matters.

Thankfully, the staff at (the other) Portland magazine was friendly and gracious, and Groupon issued me a refund almost immediately. The issue was all tidied up and resolved in record time.

But then, I actually started to regret my hasty decision to demand my money back. Because I’ve long had a fondness for the other Portland, and even voiced out loud the idea that it might not be a terrible place to live, at least as far as the East Coast goes. True, it’s more Gorton’s fisherman than Paul Bunyan, but it does possess a certain allure. Like Oregon, Maine’s got a lot of trees. And counties named after Native American tribes (just substitute Penobscot for Multnomah and you’re golden). It’s isolated from the hustle and bustle of places like Philly, Boston, and New York. Based on photos, the scenery is downright beautiful. Plus, Stephen King would be my neighbor! (Seriously. Maine isn’t exactly overrun with people. Wikipedia tells me it’s the 8th least populous state. I feel like you’re neighbors, at least in spirit, with everybody else who calls Maine home.) I was all set to log back onto Groupon and buy another subscription to this far-away Portland magazine, but then my uncle informed me that Maine’s governor is a real prick so I put a pin in that idea, at least until after the next election.

Typical other Portlander?
Typical other Portlander?

Portland people are steadied by the vistas that play a large part in their lives–vistas of sea and sky, of islands in the bay, of coves, of lighthouses outlined against craggy rocks. (Philip Hamburger)


Today is my Friday! It’s actually the third consecutive short work week for me. I could get used to this lifestyle. My brother and SIL are driving up from California for a visit – this will be the first time we’ve seen them since our wedding in 2013 – and we are meeting at Beverly Beach on the Maine, I mean Oregon, coast for two days of camping. Sort-of camping, to be honest, since Tara and I will be staying in a yurt. Yes, the place is heated and has a skylight and front door, but we’ll still have our sleeping bags. When we planned this trip months ago we had no idea what the weather would be like in Newport this time of year, and decided not to risk a tent since memories of our 2012 camping washout are still all too fresh.

Turns out the weather is going to be fantastic, but hey, better safe than sorry!

Grape Juice With a Kick

Originally posted on October 21, 2014 – exactly 1.5 years ago. RIP, Prince Rogers Nelson. 

Tara and I met up with a friend to go wine tasting over the weekend. This was a new experience for us, and I gotta say, it made me feel like…

fish_out_of_water

I like wine, but I’m hardly a connoisseur. Hell, it took me several tries just to spell the word connoisseur. And I’m a professional writer! The whole experience is rather intimidating if you’re a wine novice like me. The person pouring the wine is talking about “oakiness” and “tannins” and “a nice finish” and I’m thinking ooh, what a pretty shade of purple. 

And then there’s the tasting menu. How are you supposed to pluck out “notes of grapefruit and lavender with a butterscotch finish”? All I taste is grape juice with a kick.

I think I was thrown off by the town itself. When we made plans to go wine tasting, I was picturing stops like this…

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Instead, we apparently wandered into that creepy town where the children of the corn resided.

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That would be Carlton, Oregon. I’d never even heard of the place before Saturday. Is it any wonder? Apparently those who wander into town never leave. Was this my payback for flirting with a nun, I wondered?

Creepy signs aside, at least the wine tasting in Carlton was convenient. The main street looked like this: wine shop, wine shop, cafe, wine shop, wine shop, cafe, wine shop, jam shop, wine shop, wine shop. We got buzzed without walking more than half a block. And then after leaving town, we did stop at the nicer-looking winery pictured above. There, we got into a heated debate that did not involve pinot noir vs. syrah, but rather, Prince vs. Michael Jackson.

OK, maybe we were really buzzed at that point.

But I loudly contended that Prince was a far better music artist than the vastly overrated Gloved One. Our friend Chris, on the other hand, thought I had lost my marbles.

“Billie Jean!” she declared.
“Purple Rain!” I countered.
“Thriller. Zombies.”
“‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.'”
“Your guy changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol,” she said.
“Your guy dangled a baby over a ledge and bought the Elephant Man’s bones,” I responded.

We were both rallying the people tasting wine around us to our side. Chris got some random woman to agree with her, but then her husband sided with me. I think the whole thing ended in a draw, but c’mon…

…I’ll take Prince over Michael Jackson any day.

How ’bout you?

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The Psychology of Being “Liked”

One of the fundamental traits of humanity is the need to be liked. We crave acceptance from our friends, peers, and loved ones. This isn’t egotism talking; it’s built into our DNA. For our long-ago ancestors, survival was a group effort – if you were banished from your tribe, you were pretty much issued a death sentence, left to fend for yourself in a world where saber toothed tigers and woolly mammoths ran amok. Being liked was the key to survival.

Even today, being liked is a necessity if you want to accomplish a goal that requires teamwork. Remember Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman? To him, being liked was the entire philosophy on which his career hinged, the only way he would ever succeed in the business world.

Being liked is an affirmation of our self-worth. It’s proof that we are “on the right track,” that our very existence is meaningful.

You could even argue that being liked is the key to happiness.

Sure, there are people who claim, “I don’t need to be liked.” I don’t buy it for a second. Everybody wants to be liked, whether they admit it or not.

I’ve noticed that this desire to be liked has extended into the realm of social media, where a “like” is the ultimate measure of acceptance. Think of Facebook or Instagram, how happy you are when somebody “likes” your post or photo. The more hearts you receive or thumbs-up you garner, the better you feel.

Or maybe that’s just me. After all, I’m the one who recently lamented the lack of a viral post – the ultimate sign of being liked. By a whole bunch of people, no less.

All I know is, I am addicted to the positive affirmation that accompanies being liked. It’s the reason why I feel compelled to update my blog on a regular basis, even when I have nothing to say. And why, if a couple of days pass and I don’t upload a photo to Instagram, I start to go a little nuts. Attention feels good. It’s like a drug. Get a little and you start to crave a lot.

It also explains why I like to be unique and always strive for creativity. I hate following the pack. A perfect example of this is Rowena Crest.

Rowena Crest is an overlook in the Columbia River Gorge and site of a well-known looping highway that resembles a horseshoe and has been featured in magazines and automobile commercials. It’s one of the most commonly photographed spots in the Pacific Northwest. The problem is, every picture ends up looking exactly the same – some subtle variation of this.

rowena

Naturally, I wanted to do something different. So I wracked my brain for awhile, and came up with my own (hopefully original) take.

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Found a great new racetrack for my Hot Wheels!

Because sometimes, getting those “likes” requires a little outside-the-box thinking. Or in this case, outside-the-Hot-Wheels-box.

Muddy and Bloody

Last week, I told Tara, “Hey! We should drive to the Oregon coast for the day!” It had been awhile, and she was down. But somehow that turned into, “Hey! We should drive to the Oregon coast, get shitty drunk in a dive bar, and stay the night!”

Priorities, man.

This was not a decisive plan from the start, but it morphed into one thanks to beautiful springlike weather and some rather tasty Bloody Marys at a sports bar in Garibaldi called the Hook, Line ‘n Sinker.

But first we had about five miles of mud to slog through.

The warmer weather and bountiful sunshine convinced us to go hiking. After some deliberation, we settled on Cape Falcon, a coastal hike just north of Manzanita, Oregon. A friend recommended it to me last year, but I had not yet been. It sounded like a decent enough hike; about 4.5 miles round trip with a fairly level trail, only 160’ of elevation gain, and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Somehow, I overlooked the part in the online trail description warning of muddy conditions in the springtime.

In any case, we left home early, and were on the road by 8:30 AM. Arrived at the trailhead shortly after 11:00, after killing some time watching the waves at Hug Point. It didn’t take us long to encounter the aforementioned mud; what started out as occasional puddles soon turned into a swamp. Gamely though, we pushed on.

Muddy Shoes

The mud that coated our shoes and covered our pants? Totally worth it for the killer view at the end.

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That’s Neahkanie Mountain, which I hiked to the top of back in October. Tara and I took a respite at the end of the trail, marveling over the magnificent beauty and stunning fury of the Pacific Ocean.

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End of the Cape Falcon trail.

And then we turned around and retraced our muddy steps. Our destination? Garibaldi, a charming little coastal town 10 miles north of Tillamook. I like Garibaldi because it’s small and quaint and not exactly a mecca for tourists, but it’s got the essentials. By that, I mean decent accommodations and not one, but two, dive bars.

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Smokestack in Garibaldi, the last remnant of the long-gone Whitney mill.

We whiled away the hours chatting and drinking at the Hook, Line ‘n Sinker. I even indulged in some less-than-healthy food, including fried mushrooms, a bacon cheeseburger, and sweet potato fries.

And of course, a few of these.

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Afterwards we hit the sauna and hot tub. The next morning we took advantage of the hotel’s free breakfast, which was a step up in quality from most, before hitting the road for the two-hour drive home. It rained the entire way and low clouds obscured the peaks of the Coast Range. It was a different sort of beauty, but no less stunning. We got home and binge-watched eight episodes of The Walking Dead.

All in all, a brief but fun weekend getaway.

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Pepper Blizzard

I had a spice crisis a couple of days ago and am just barely starting to feel comfortable in the kitchen again. Friday morning I was making myself a breakfast sandwich before work and needed a little black pepper for the coup de grace. I reached for a canister we had just bought from the store but it still had the plastic “tamper-proof” strip around the top. After attempting to pry that off with a knife, the whole thing exploded in a fine black powdery blizzard that settled softly over everything. The stove. The kitchen floor. The feta cheese I was about to add to my sandwich. And me. I looked like I had a raging case of black dandruff. So I cleaned everything up and, stubborn guy that I am, ate the sandwich anyway. Feta and all. An hour later my mouth was still burning, but by god I hadn’t had to throw the feta away, saving myself $1.98.mccormick-pepper

Classic case of it-could-only-happen-to-me.

And you know, the next day I did toss the feta in the trash after all, because that pepper was potent. Now I’m being careful with the caraway, gentle with the ginger, deliberate with the dill, mindful with the marjoram, and precise with the paprika. I have no desire to deal with another spice emergency quite so soon.

Then Friday night we met up with our friend Kara for drinks and dinner at a bar in Portland. This place has a great vibe, good food, very reasonable prices, and heavy-handed bartenders. Every time. I knew this going in, but my Bloody Marys were tasting really good so I kept ’em coming, forgetting the fact that I am considerably smaller than before. Suddenly it was four hours later and weird things were happening. Like, apparently I drunk-Facebooked a status update that was riddled with errors and then later deleted it out of embarrassment, but not before a bunch of people had seen it and commented. Oops. The next morning I awoke with a hangover, which is pretty significant because I famously never get hangovers. Tara felt bad for me, but also, she gloated a little. A couple of Excedrin took care of the headache, but I felt kind of “swimmy” for much of the day.

Fortunately, we were going to the beach, so that turned out to be rather apropos.

It wasn’t the best day to head to the Oregon coast for several reasons, the biggest being the thick layer of smoke and haze that drifted over Portland when the wind shifted direction and blew all the smoke from wildfires in Oregon and Washington our way. It was really bad all over, and our air quality rating dropped to “unhealthy” for the first time in forever. We were hoping Cannon Beach would be clear, but nope. The usual ocean breezes were not blowing this time around. On top of that, we ran into a 45-minute delay on the way over due to an accident. “This has never happened before!” I told my wife as we inched forward excruciatingly slowly. (Little did I know that coming home 10 hours later we would run into another costly delay because the whole freakin’ highway was closed due to a fire. Seriously, what are the odds? And also, is anything not burning out there?!).

But, there’s no such thing as a bad day at the beach. I call it ocean therapy. We took a long walk down the sand past Haystack Rock, caught up on some reading, people-watched, grabbed dinner at a seafood market in town, and caught the sunset. Great day. Take that, smoky air!

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Smoky air over the Columbia River.

I really wish it would clear up, though. It’s weird to walk outside and have it smell like a campfire everywhere you go. The wind is supposed to shift back this evening and blow the smoke back east, away from us. Can’t wait. I swear, this has been the worst summer in ages. So hot and dry. And yet, there are signs of change in the air. Like this tree in our apartment complex.

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Now that’s a sight for sore eyes!

Fresh Fish? Touché!

About six months ago, Tara told me her dad wanted to drive out to The Dalles for a little walleye fishing and asked if I’d be interested in going.

“Sure,” I said, thinking we’d bait a hook, toss a line in the water, sit back, and wait. All from the comfort of the shore, because that’s what fishing is. Right?

Turns out Randy takes fishing a tad more seriously than I do.

“Seriously” meant chartering a boat for 8 hours and plying miles and miles of the Columbia River in search of walleye, and then hopping into his boat the next day for a few more hours of the same. Which, to me, was a helluva lot of fishing. But we had a great time.

Friday evening after work, Tara and I drove out to Rufus. This small town (pop.: 210) in Oregon is about two hours east of us, and I’d never heard of it before. My first impression was…well, I’ll let Facebook do the talking.

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No offense to banjo players, of course.

Actually, Rufus wasn’t that bad. It had one restaurant/bar. We ended up eating there four times. And the motel bed was really comfortable.

We were there for the fishing, though. Saturday morning we met up with our guide, Touché – that’s a nickname, but he never divulged his real one, so that’s what we called him. And it fit. He’s this white haired guy of 75 who has been fishing the Columbia River for 30+ years, so he knows his way around. Real nice dude, too. Very affable. We were on the water by 7 AM, and immediately got down to the important business at hand.

Fishing the Columbia River.
Fishing the Columbia River.

Drinking Bloody Marys.

After that, we got down to the other important business at hand, which would be the fishing. It didn’t take long before we reeled in a couple. Tara hooked a bass and I caught the first walleye (not bad for a landlubber like me). We spent the next eight hours going up and down a good portion of the river while Touché regaled us with humorous stories. The weather was damn near perfect – sunny, not too warm, very little wind. And sadly, very little fish, I guess. We ended up with six total, which was a disappointment to the others. I, on the other hand, was like, “Hey! I caught a fish! I rock!!”

A fish. Oh, I amuse myself sometimes…

Our guide's boat was pretty slick!
Our guide’s boat was pretty slick!
The important business at hand.
The important business at hand.
This is the life!
This is the life!
Touche!
Touche!

We ate dinner and then crashed early, since we’d been up since 5 AM. Fishing wears you out, even if you’re just sitting on a boat for most of the day.

Sunday we ditched Touché and went out on Randy’s boat – it was me, Tara, him and Cynthia, his girlfriend. We didn’t catch a damn thing.

Well, that’s not exactly true…

Say cheese!
Say cheese!

Before we headed home, there was one more place to visit. Stonehenge. No, we didn’t hop on a plane and fly to England. There is a full-size replica of the ancient monument in Maryhill, Washington. And this one is better than that stupid one on the Salisbury Plain, because none of the stones have fallen over. Take that, Great Britain!

Think of it as Stonehenge West.
Think of it as Stonehenge West.

 

Stonehenge in the Columbia Gorge.

We were back home by 2 PM.

And if you’re wondering about the walleye? It was delicious, sauteed in a little olive oil and butter and lightly seasoned with garlic pepper and salt.

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