Keep Portland Weird

Memorial Day ended with a wonderful visit from two friends we met in Alaska, Sue and Jonathon.  They were 6 months into their tour of the U.S. when we met, and I was fascinated because they were full timing with a car and a tent.  We became Facebook friends and I loved watching their travels (her pictures are amazing) and enjoyed seeing their adventures, so when Sue reached out and said they were close I jumped at the chance to see them.  Now they are 1-1/2 years into their tour of the U.S. and almost finished.  They still are in their car, but also stay at Air BnB’s every third day or so to give themselves a break.  Jonathon is from Wyoming, but Sue is from South Korea, and her story is fascinating.  She grew up on a remote farm on a mountain top, and was either going to or in school from 5am – 11pm, six days a week.  Her parents went against the societal norms and sent all four of their daughters, as well as their son, to college.  Sue initially wanted to work for the UN so she focused on her English skills which eventually led her to teaching, and that is where she met Jonathon who was in Korea teaching English.  They still go back to Korea at least once a year for medical care because the cost is so much cheaper than in the U.S. We spent quite a bit of time talking about that subject!  And since my  youngest daughter will be stationed in Jorea for a year or so, I was very interested in getting their take on the recent North Korea news.  Talking to them made me feel quite a bit better and I was excited that Sue has a sister who lives close to where Kay will be stationed.

We had a campfire and a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant, the Cazedero Inn.  Despite having not seen each other in almost a year the conversation picked up right where we left off and reminded me why I love friendships in this lifestyle.  One of the most interesting topics was what was next on their agenda, and they think they will spend a year teaching English in Vietnam.  Asian countries have a high demand for English teachers and since the courses are mostly immersion, often no foreign language skills are required.  They also don’t require a teaching degree, just a bachelors, and since I have my MBA, Jonathon felt my skills would be in high demand.  The entire opportunity sounded very interesting to me, as I have always wanted to travel internationally and it was of particular interest since our daughter will be stationed there.   The only downside for me was the length of the contracts which often are for one year.  It’s possible with my background I could get a shorter assignment and it is definitely something I want to look into further next year.

That’s another wonderful thing I have found about this life.  You have a somewhat random encounter, which turns into a real friendship.  Social media allows us to stay in touch until the next time our paths cross each other.  It was really wonderful, and I was so happy to spend time with them. Lee was a little bummed because he enjoyed their company so much and since they are leaving the country soon won’t get to see them again, but I think you never how these things are going to work out and with certain people it just works out.  I think with Sue it will be like that.

Lee, Sue, and Jonathon at the campfire

Me and Sue

Tuesday we followed our plan to take the day off and we both needed it.  Also it rained all day, so it wasn’t a hardship, although I did get a little restless in the afternoon and we took a drive and explored the area a bit.  More clouds were forecast on Wednesday as well, so we planned a day in Portland. I had a list of places I wanted to see (many recommended by friends and blog readers) and a rainy Wednesday seemed a good day to do it.  We discussed taking public transportation, but it really isn’t that cheap, and besides Lee wanted the flexibility of driving our own vehicle. Turns out early morning mid-week was a good time to go, and we easily found parking spots.  It got tougher as the day went on, but early morning it was mostly no problem.  The good thing we discovered about the parking tickets was we could use them at multiple locations (as long as we stayed in the same district) and that was nice because it was $1.50 an hour to park and paying that every time we moved spots would have really added up.

Parking meter printed a ticket you left inside your window.  Credit card or coins, but no bills

These bike racks were pretty cool

The annual pass price was really interesting.  $12 per month and 90 minutes per day.

I loved that the bus had “Honored  Citizens” instead of senior citizens.  #2.50 for Adults, $1.25 for others

Our first stop didn’t open until 10:00 am so we headed down to VooDoo Donuts.  This is THE place everyone says you have to visit, but I think that is mainly because they have a bacon donut. As an added bonus the Keep Portland Weird sign is right across the street and we had our donut and took the sign picture.




$130 for a custom made coffin filled with donuts. This was actually pretty cool and pretty large

The first of the many similar signs we saw throughout the city, which was interesting given recent events.

We didn’t really understand how it worked, but the donuts were rotating in a glass case so you picked one and paid for it

I liked the ones topped with cereal

Lee pondered the bacon donut

But we both ended up with a $3 voodoo donut which was had a raspberry cream filling

It was a good donut and when you bit into it the filling made it look like blood. Was actually pretty fun.  What wasn’t as fun was seeing the first of many homeless people with signs (behind Lee).  There were homeless people pretty much everywhere there was open space.

I definitely think they have accomplished that. It is a weird town.

Next up was the Lan Su Chinese Garden. This garden takes up a city block in the Old Town Chinatown District.  I had read that it was free and it may have been at one time, but now it is staffed, and costs $10 per person.  It was really pretty inside and they had a nice flower display, but it was just too small to warrant the $10 fee, unless like me you really like Chinese gardens. If I lived nearby I could see being a member, because they have lots of activities and events scheduled throughout the year.  It is small though, and even though we took our time we saw everything in less than an hour. Fair warning.

There was a small crowd waiting at 10:00 am when it opened

The architecture was amazing

And despite the fact the city buildings were in the background you honestly didn’t notice it when you were in there. It was a nice little oasis

They had a beautiful flower display

I also liked the large stone sculptures, which turned out to be Lake Tai rocks which are formed underwater by the lake’s acidic and active waters.

Each building had a different theme. This one housed an an area to honor ancestors, which I thought was really neat since it was the grandparents of one of the staff members.

I also enjoyed the poems carved into wood and displayed on hangers throughout the gardens. If you go take the time to read the translations

This was my favorite


I also enjoyed this cabinet which held fortunes

You picked your favorite number and opened the drawer

Then saw your fortune. Really neat

Glad we did it, but we still had lots of time, so it was on to Powell’s Bookstore. This is the world’s largest independent bookstore and I have to admit it was huge.  It was multiple floors with multiple sections and had hands down the best fantasy/science fiction selection I have seen anywhere.

A standard shelf which was amazing, but the top two rows were always overstocks and only available for staff.

Seven different rooms which was nice because the layout was pretty confusing

The science fiction and fantasy room was so big I couldn’t take a picture of it all. It had 7 long rows of books. I liked how the new and used books were shelved together so you could decide which one you wanted if they had both.

Lee was really excited about this “book on demand” machine.

You all know we love books, and you know our budget often takes a hit from spending too much on them.  So I think it’s interesting that despite the amazing selection neither one of us bought a book. Yep, it’s true.  I am not sure if we were overwhelmed by choice or it was a price issue, but we didn’t buy anything.  Personally every book I saw that I wanted was more than I wanted to pay, and because there was so much choice it was hard for any one thing to grab my attention.  I did like the fact that they had staff picks signs throughout the store that said why the staff member liked the book, but I looked at almost every one of those and nothing struck my fancy.  With Lee it was also about price, but really knowing him it was more about there was nothing he REALLY wanted.  And I have to say it might have been a different story if it wasn’t for the Book Nook here in Estacada.  That store is the nonprofit here in town and no book is over $2.  Since their cookbook selection is amazing and their prices are incredibly low it’s tough to compete with that. No disrespect to Powell’s at all. It’s an amazing store and you absolutely should see it.

That section of town was also the only place where we didn’t see homeless people.  I know I keep mentioning that, but there were people living in almost every available green public space we saw.  Culverts, strips of land next to freeways, under overpasses, lots and lots of homeless people and this is despite the fact that we saw at least 5 shelters downtown and lots of assistance programs.

Shelters in what seemed like every stretch of grass between the roads and private property

This was one of the “nicer” spots

This young woman was sleeping right on the street around 11am, with open businesses on either side

I certainly don’t know what the solution is and I am not making any sort of political statement, but it is so prevalent, that I want you to be aware of it before going into town. Personally I was pretty surprised.  Like I said though, the area Powell’s books is in was an upscale neighborhood, and there weren’t people living near those stores.

The Whole Foods was interesting and took up a whole block

Whole foods from the street

Finally, we went back to our original stop and went to Smith Tea. We have seen their tea in our travels and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to go see their warehouse.  Plus they have a tasting room and offer a “flight” of 4 kinds of tea for $10.  The warehouse is definitely in a rougher neighborhood, but they have parking right in front and the experience inside was great.  Smith’s is really serious about their tea, and go into great detail about where it comes from and the flavors that go into the different kinds.  It reminded me more of a fancy wine tasting than a beer flight tasting, but I loved the experience and am glad I did it.  Lee humored me 🙂

Another sign

The tea “bar”

Awesome selection

My flight

My four choices

And the winner is!!

So our trip to Portland was a mixed bag.  I am happy we saw most of the places we wanted to see there because I am not in any big hurry to go back into the city again.  There is so much wonderful nature to see outside of the city, that for me at least, it really can’t compare.  My take is if you only have a day to spend in Portland, skip the city and go see the waterfalls 🙂


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In Waterfall Heaven Part II

This post is a companion piece to In Waterfall Heaven, and between the two of them it covers the main waterfalls available for view along Historic Highway 30.  You can definitely see all of the roadside waterfalls on a weekday if you start early, but parking can be a problem on the weekends.  It’s also important to note that you can see just Multnomah Falls (the largest of the falls along the route) if you stop at the rest area along Interstate 84.  It’s a nice rest area that can accommodate bigger rigs and it is an easy walk over to a very nice gift shop and the falls.  We chose to start our day at Multnomah because that is where the largest crowds are and at 9am on a Tuesday were able to get some nice pictures with no people in them.

The gift shop also has a restaurant inside. We skipped it because it was a bit pricey, but might be a nice travel day lunch break

The falls in all their glory

For scale look for a tiny person on the left side of the bridge

We walked up to the bridge which was a somewhat steep trail but well paved and maintained. These metal nets were to control rock slides

The red cedars were huge and beautiful along the trail

The path continues on and you can walk to the top of the falls. Since we were pretty tired from working hard all week, we stopped at this point.

The spray was intense totally covering the bridge and making picture taking tough but I managed to get a few

Closeup with the long lens of the top

View from the bridge to the base which is a great viewpoint and easily accessible from the rest area

Next up was Horsetail Falls.  This was nice because you could walk right down to the water and the sun was shining in beautifully on the glade


Next we walked down to Oneonta Gorge, but it was closed because of trail damage.  It turned out to be a good thing it was closed because the Newbies we work with told us later that in order to reach the waterfall you had to swim through a narrow gorge.  We definitely weren’t prepared for that and it stressed to us again in this area you really need to research your trails.  The signage really isn’t that good and even the detailed map we got from the visitors center doesn’t give that level of detail.  I think they assume up here folks know what they are doing when they go on a hike, but that certainly isn’t the case for us.

We did see a couple people walking down there but since the trail was blocked with yellow tape and a sign was posted we followed the recommendation

The cars used to come through this tunnel but now you can walk through it

Next we went to Wahkeena Falls where we saw a photo shoot taking place.

We saw this “fairy” putting on her makeup in the parking lot

This is the view at the base of the trail which isn’t spectacular but you might want to stop there. The trail to the falls is only .2 miles and paved but it is very steep

The views are awesome though at the top of the trail

You can see the fairy in the right of my picture. They were shooting the same time we were there which made it tough to get all the shots I wanted

I was huffing and puffing just carrying my camera and a water bottle. The photographer did it carrying a laundry basket lol so it can’t be that bad!

I am sure they got some neat shots of her

There are several additional trails uphill from Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls and in particular I really wanted to see Fairy Falls, which a friend had told me about.  Unfortunately the trail to that fall was called Perdition Trail and was another .4 miles straight up.  Since we hadn’t researched it and were both pretty tired from the work week we decided to give it a pass until we could do more research.  Thankfully these falls are less than 1 hour from where we are staying so there will be more opportunities to do some hiking when we have a day we are more rested.  After Wahkeena though we were done walking and decided to take a drive up to Vista House.  That parking lot was totally full the last time we came here, but this time there were lots of available spots.

The house was designed as a rest area for travelers and is a hug oval room with restrooms downstairs. They have added a gift shop and bookstore, but mostly it is still the way it was originally

The ceiling in the main room

I loved the stain glass windows which were protected behind thick plastic

It was a bit hazy but the views were still pretty and you could walk out on the balcony which was nice

Loved the bathroom

They had a little photo gallery and one of the coolest things they talked about was how Historic 30 was designed for car trips. There are no grades over 5% and it had these little auto camps along the road for people to spend the night. This was in the 1930’s and if these aren’t the precursor to the RV parks we use today I don’t know what is 🙂

Near the Vista House there is a 14 mile dirt road that has a view of 5 different mountains but after talking to the women in the visitors center we decided to skip it.  They got 20 inches of snow just a couple weeks before and they weren’t 100% sure the road was open to the top.  That coupled with the fact that it was kind of hazy we decided to save that trip for another day. Since it was 12:30pm by this time we decided to head back and stopped at Shirley’s Tippy Canoe for lunch.  I saw this place the last time we drove by and the sign made me want to stop.

Really nice fireside area once we walked inside

Cool vibe and decor

We decided to eat outside because it was such a nice day

Loved, loved these tables but Lee needed more back support so we sat in pretty comfy lawn furniture

I ordered the special which was clam chowder with shrimp and sour dough bread baked in a casserole with cheese and green onions

Lee got a triple decker Ruben

Everything should have been perfect, but unfortunately it was not.  The lunch meals were VERY pricey with almost everything (including burgers) on the menu being $17.99.  Still I thought it must be good at those prices, so we went ahead and took a chance.  My meal was extremely mediocre and Lee’s Reuben had way more turkey and very little corned beef.  The service was also pretty mediocre and all in all I was very disappointed.  If the prices would have been reasonable I would have shrugged it off but for $35 for lunch before tip I expect better.  I actually went out on Yelp and gave it 2 stars, which is something I rarely do. Just to be clear for me there are three main parts to a restaurant review.  They are food quality, service, and ambiance/cleanliness.  The higher the price point the more I expect in each category.  This restaurant was great in ambiance but not good in service or food.  For me that’s a fail.  Part of that is Lee and I have a restaurant background.  We met working in a restaurant and both of us spent many of our younger years working in them so we know how things should be.  Even when we had plenty of money we would get upset when a restaurant experience failed to meet expectations and for several years rarely ate out for just that reason.  Now that we have $150 a month dining out budget it’s even more important to me at least.  Eating in restaurants is a real treat and when things are expensive and the experience is sub par I am never going to be ok with that.  Well that’s not 100% true, if we are hanging out with friends sometimes nothing else matters.  Sometimes though, as I am sure they would tell you, I do get pretty annoyed.  That’s one of the reasons we like to hang out at our rigs and cook together when we are with friends.  We know the food and service will be excellent and the ambiance can’t be beat!

Anyways, it was still a good day  with all those waterfalls, but we decided to take Wednesday completely off.  Hopefully the job will be less physically demanding once we finish the initial cleanup, but in the meantime we may need to only sight see on Wednesdays.  We are both just too physically tired from our work week. Will see how it goes.

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