It was a pretty crappy travel day that in the end was not as bad as it could’ve been. Having to drive nearly an hour to get to Newark Airport is annoying, but we arrived at our usual satellite parking spot without an issue. However, timing was bad thanks to a police chase that ended on the road used by the shuttle service to get to the airport. 45 minutes later (normally a 5 minute ride), we got to terminal A, already travel weary from the start and stops. We still had time at the gate, only to see the plane delayed 45 minutes. This left us just about 35 minutes to make the transfer in Phoenix to Portland. It drives me nuts how I live near one of the biggest airports in the world, yet the amount of direct flights are limited and reduced thanks to cost and odd times. Anyway, we get on the plane ready to go, only to be stopped due to weather and nearby storms. All planes stop at EWR. When we’re ready to go again, we have to go back to the gate, to re-fuel and find another pilot (FAA 12hr regulations). At 5 PM, over 3 hours late, we finally take off, in what would be a long flight as my legs and rear end were already crampy. Thankfully, the plane we were on would be used for the transfer to Portland, so we didn’t miss the connection. At 10:30 PM (1:30 Eastern), we landed at PDX. That’s almost 16 hours since we left the house. Certainly no complaining as I know there are far worse situations (cancelled flights, lost luggage, missed connections, longer delays, etc), but man I don’t know how travelers frequently go back and forth between coasts. I am beat! Two groups that deserve applauding. Southwest was great the whole time and their on-air staff was upbeat, apologetic and helpful. Also, kudos to Enterprise, who made quickly got this weary traveler on the road and had plenty of car options late at night. I’d rather spend 16 hours by car than dealing with the stresses of air travel, but glad to be in Oregon. A short hotel stay in Portland, then on to Eugene Saturday!
And we’re off! Somehow we got up early and arrived in Eugene by mid-morning to do a decent amount for the day. This certainly is an interesting place with some unique characters and people on the street. Before cruising through the hokey Lane County Historical Museum, we stopped at crumbling Civic Stadium for a look at the venerable old home of the Emeralds. Really hope the efforts of Save Civic Stadium work as it is sad to see an old park fall to this state. I’ll contribute a little to the efforts when getting back. Then we went downtown for the Saturday Market. Lots of tents, all a little too close together. It was still enjoyable and the fruit/vegetable/farmers goods selection and quality was impressive. Lasting memory was definitely the “Free Thinkers” section. We checked out the rest of the charming downtown with great restaurants, bars and eye-pleasing landscaped walkways. This is a very outdoor friendly city and bikers were plentiful throughout.
We then went over to the Phil Knight Funded Unive….er, sorry, the University of Oregon. We checked out the Museum of Natural History and then walked campus a bit. It is a nice campus and having the chance to walk the outside of famed Hayward Field was special. Also got to see shimmering Matthew Knight Arena, while then going back and shedding a tear for MacArthur Court. The former Ducks basketball auditorium was one of my favorite college basketball arenas with its famed three-tiered balcony seating and deafening noise. Miss that place. Afterwards, we crossed the Willamette River to the complex housing both Autzen Stadium and PK Park. Eugene’s Emeralds took on Everett in a pretty good contest that saw the Ems prevail with a go-ahead home run in the 8th. Stadium #152 started off poorly with oddly far out parking (in a complex that also fits plenty of cars for football). Then much of the park was designed for UO and it felt like the Emeralds were an afterthought. But once I inside, I really liked PK. It is an excellent intimate design with a steep seating pitch. The crowd was fun too as they got into the game and this was one of the rare times a mascot entertained me (great job Sluggo!). Lots more in the review coming in a few weeks. Well, this post went longer than I wanted, we’ll see if I’m able to keep the upcoming days a little shorter.
It’s smoky here in Oregon and being from the East Coast, I thought it was haze at first, but it’s smoke from wildfires to the south. Little nervous driving over the next few days and hoping we don’t run into problems. Today, there were no issues as we went from the Willamette Valley through the Cascades to the High Desert. It’s a cool ride on Rt.124 and the best views came at the lookout where we saw the Three Sisters mountain peaks (still snow-covered). Sad though as the nearby landscape was burned and charred from the 2003 B&B Complex Fire. We got into Central Oregon and the High Desert area late morning and set up shop in Bend, where there is plenty to do. We started at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Not really a monument, but more of a national park. Lava Butte is a cinder cone and I never imagined myself on a volcano, but there we were! We had the chance to drive up the cone and look down into the crater along with enjoying the surrounding views. Back down near the Visitors Center (which was terrific by the way), you can walk on the old lava flows and it takes some concentration on the creaking, jagged black rock. A short drive away is the Lava River Cave, a unique tube formed by lava. The 42 degree pitch black (but lantern-lit) walk is fun for about 30 minutes, then gets quite monotonous the rest of the way and starts feeling like survival until seeing light again.
Not often do I use Hotwire, but hotel prices were high in Bend, so I took a chance and landed a great $109 deal at the Riverview Hotel. Can’t figure out if this really is a fancy place, or one pretending to be. We had dinner there, but beforehand, I was able to check out the Bend Elks. They play at Vince Genna Stadium in the WCBL (summer collegiate-league). With a capacity of 3,200, they didn’t make The List, so no official review. Wasn’t sure if I was going have time to make the game, but it worked out and we were able to see about 6 innings of their victory vs Medford. It’s an old venue with cool nooks and crannies to the concourse and outside. It’s not exactly charming inside with no roof and lots of bleachers, but there was a good crowd that gave the kids a nice hand through the game. It is the biggest park in the league and it’s always great to get to watch the small-town charm of a team and league like that. No sports for the next few days before ending the trip with three in a row.
The formations that the volcanic chain of the Cascade Mountains have created are amazing and one of those marvels is Crater Lake. We spent the afternoon at that National Park, where the 7th deepest lake in the world glimmers deep blue. It really is an incredible sight and each lookout provides a different view. Too bad the haze/smoke is still lingering as the visibility wasn’t great. Otherwise, we loved checking out one of this country’s wonders. The road was nauseating for me as the cliff edge was right along the side of the shoulder (oh man, I’m queasy just thinking about it), but I made the 33-mile round trip drive ok and was rewarded with incredible views at the pullouts.
Along with Crater Lake, we saw more of Bend today as the Pilot Butte provided a 360 degree visual of the city below and the rest of Central Oregon. Then at night, dinner was along the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District, a remarkable mixed-use redevelopment of a mill. The place was packed, surprisingly so given it was a Monday evening. I had a pretty solid pie at Flatbread Pizza. One more Bend attraction tomorrow at the High Desert Museum before heading back to the Willamette Valley.
After spending the morning at the all-encompassing High Desert Museum (which was excellent), we drove another two hours towards Portland. I love travelling this country and being surprised at the layout of a state. There’s always a perception or singular thought of a state’s image and it is great to bust that. Driving in the High Desert, it looked like somewhere else in the US and not Oregon. Then boom! it went from sandy brush to Ponderosa Pine in a minute. The whole way we were driving towards Mount Hood and we drove up the snow-covered mountain to the famed Timberline Lodge. The historic building is architecturally quite impressive. Even better were the views as we walked up a bit, closer to the towering volcano. Some of the best skiing in the west takes place here and people can ski all year long. No one was out today and it was very nice with temps in the 60s and sunshine. The view looking down on the Cascades is breathtaking as well. While walking around, we ran into members of “Sons of Ben” that were in town to root on their Philadelphia Union players in the MLS All-Star Game tomorrow. Cool folks and they were admiring the area as well. After seeing Mt. Hood, it was down to Portland for an early evening. We’re setting up shop in Clackamas, where the price is right and location is good for the next few days.
Strip Clubs, Roundabouts, Hobos and Directional Street Names. Wherever we have been in Oregon, we have seen multiple of these. Today, we’re in Portland and it was a day fit for the wife. We started at the Oregon Zoo as the Vet Tech in her loves checking out each one. The zoo is within Washington Park, a huge highlight on a hill just west of downtown. After the zoo, we saw why we were in the Rose City. Just down the road is the International Rose Test Gardens and wow, what a beautiful place filled with rows and rows of different colored rose varieties. I think we have desktop computer background pictures that will last a year. Despite the beautiful day, fatigue set in, so we hopped in the car and drove a half-hour to Multinomah Falls, which was very simple to get too. Portlanders really have it nice with this waterfall so close. What a great place to live with all of this natural beauty (too bad it is gloomy weather-wise 3/4ths of the year). For dinner, we love Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and there were several choices. We wanted a true taste of Portland, so the Food Trucks in Rose City Park was the place. PDX671 delivered with amazing Guam-inspired food. Kelaguen Mannok….em-emm! We got back to the hotel in time to see the last 10 minutes of MLS beating Bayern Munich at the All-Star Game. Yeah! Jealous not to be there, but am way too stoked for Saturday’s visit to Providence Park. It will be hard for the reality to match the hype, but I think the Timbers will deliver. In the meantime, back to sports tomorrow with a visit to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
One leftover note from yesterday in Portland…here is a breakdown of the sports apparel I saw people wearing thru the day: 1) Oregon Ducks, (2) Portland Timbers (3) Seattle Seahawks (4) Oregon State Beavers and (5) Portland Trail Blazers. I always find it interesting to gauge the popularity of teams in that respect.
Anyway, today we visited the state capitol in Salem. First was the Williamette History Center at the Mill, where upon first look, it seemed to be a museum about a historic mill. However, the history of the entire area was broken down nicely throughout the grounds with informative displays. We were the only ones there and aside from some quirks, it was a great museum. Then into downtown we ventured, to the state capitol building. It was very odd not to see a circular dome at the top as Oregon’s has a strange cylinder with a statue on top. We got to go up on to that cylinder for a 360-degree view of the city and region. This was followed by wandering the historic district and eating at Wild Pear, a very cute little place where I had pulled pork with an amazing marionberry BBQ sauce.
Volcanoes Stadium is about 15 minutes away from Salem, in the town of Keiser. What a crappy ballpark. First, boo to their front office and way overpricing tickets (plus telling people that the 200 level seats were ‘sold out’ and just $20 seats or grassy areas were available). The design is terrible with a huge walkway behind home plate and a mostly bleachered ballpark set far from the field with lots of foul territory. Other negatives include the view of I-5, sun-weathered seats changing the color to pink and splintered picnic tables on the left-field line. I’m definitely not a fan of this place and I’m shocked it was built in 1997. The game took forever too (3:20), but the home team prevailed with a 9-5 win. Not all of the parks will be great and that keeps things interesting.
One more geographical region we ventured into today as it was over the Coastal Range to the Oregon Coast. Our GPS (I refer to her as Garmina) had a little snafu getting out there, but we still made it ok. We spent time in Astoria, which has a very unique layout, and got a great overhead lay of the land by climbing the Astoria Column. Every city should have some sort of lookout. The Pacific climate was as expected: cloudy, cool and windy. Back downtown, we ate at Baked Alaska, then went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum. While in the city, I couldn’t stop saying out loud: “Put That Cookie Down Now!” as Kindergarten Cop was filmed here in Astoria (so were The Goonies). Later in the afternoon, we dipped our feet in the ocean at Sunset Beach.
It was an hour and a half back on winding Route 26 to Hillsboro, where a visit to young Ron Tonkin Field went very well. It was a packed night and you can see why at least some sort of baseball team should be in the Portland Metro. Unlike last night, I loved the design of this ballpark and their space utilization is excellent. It is inviting for those looking to mill around and just hang out as well (the new hip ballpark goers). They did a lot of great things in this ballpark and though I’m not a huge fan of the actual seating bowl, everything else is done quite well. I also love that nickname of “Hops” and they have great, clean uniforms (unlike the over-the-top ones from Eugene). It’s amazing how much this area loves beer and nearly every adult had one in hand at this game. The crowd was good and energetic, just too bad so many left after the 6th inning. Hillsboro unfortunately lost this one and we are now 2-1 on this trip.
Our last day in Oregon was spent in Downtown Portland. It’s not easy driving around this city and downtown is especially tricky with TriMet trains on the street and random road closures. Walking around, I kept thinking about a slogan I saw from The Rose City: “Keep Portland Weird”. That’s all I got to say about that. We started by visiting famed Voodoo Donuts, where the 45 minutes in line was worth the wait (I went with the GrapeAde donut, the wife went for Old Dirty Bastard). Then we walked around the city with stops at Waterfront Park, an old historic Tugboat and Pioneer Courthouse. All good times, but I was really just counting the minutes to Timbers Matchday.
Finally, it was time! Providence Park is the coolest venue that I have seen as it is incredible how this 1930s facility turned into a modern soccer stadium. From the ivy walls on the exterior, to the rounded covered grandstand inside, I marveled at the quirky re-design that you just will not find anywhere else. Support beams, people watching on a treadmill from the attached fitness center, four-tiered corner suites, old-style bench seating….that’s just a few of the things. I’ll go into much more detail on the stadium in the review, but it is amazing. The atmosphere did not disappoint either as the Timbers Army is huge! They took up so much space and really did themselves proud throughout. It was a sell-out for the rest of the seats, thought I was a bit surprised at the late arrivers and early leavers. Portland beat Chivas 2-0 and that also meant seeing Timber Joey cut logs multiple times! What a great way to end the trip and the 155th stadium I have seen on this lifetime journey was a special one!