This is what I am

Foodie. Book lover. Travel enthusiast. My travel experiences have been bizarre. Things just happen when you're exploring the world. The following stories are taken from my travel journals over the years. Some have probably happened to you, my fellow reader, others may be more than your imagination can handle. Get ready for a journey around the world.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The 1 OH 1!!

The 101 - Washington and Oregon
September 25, 2009
Day 9 of Pacific Northwest Journey

The light is beaming in through my bedroom window, and onto me where I am lying in one of the comfiest bed I had ever had the privilege to lie in. That sunshine however is signifying that it’s time for me to get up. It’s time for me to start again. After last night’s adventure and me being completely drunk with happiness, it goes without saying I slept pleasantly in this lodge we are staying in Port Angles. The Olympic Lodge is a gem in this tourist town. The rooms are gigantic, clean, and beautifully decorated with a woodsy  feel and natural colors. The pool, hot tub, and full golf course are perks outside, while the inside lobby boasts a roaring stone fireplace surrounded my oversized brown leather couches. This is my kind of getaway. Food is first on the agenda! Mother and I decide to indulge in the cooked-to-order breakfast downstairs. We order oatmeal cooked in Washington apple juice with brown sugar, fresh blueberries and milk on the side. Heavenly!!
But we don’t have time to linger, we have the longest leg of our journey in front of us today. We are driving down the entire coast of Washington, over into Oregon, finally ending up in Portland. 

Just outside of Port Angeles is Hurricane Ridge, a 5300ft high viewpoint of the Olympic Mountains and the city below. We have decided that the slow, winding road will be worth the views at the top, and wow are they. We are above the clouds, and eye level with the mountain ranges surrounding us. Meadows and hiking trails offer either peaceful respites or sweat inducing hikes. All 360 degrees of our views are breathtaking. The colors ranging from the bluish mountains to the yellow flowered meadows are a beautiful contrasting palette for our eyes to feast upon. We are so overcome by the beauty of God’s nature that Travis recommends that we stop and pray and thank God for our journey, for each other, and for His beautiful nature that we are so blessed to partake in. It’s a memorable moment...praying there on the precipice overlooking the mountains. A bird flies by, and like him my soul seems to take flight as well.

At the bottom of the mountain, we are embarking once again on the 101 which will take us all the way down into Oregon. But first things first, we need coffee. One of the coolest things about this area is that there are little coffee huts by the road everywhere! Tiny little structures with nothing inside but an espresso machine, thirty-three flavors, and small, medium, and large cups. For a coffee lover in a hurry, this is ideal. Of course, to the coffee connoisseur, I have to wonder will the coffee even be any good?
I mean what kind of beans are they using, what quality of milk are they steaming? To my surprise, my vanilla latte is actually quite good, and I hear no complaints from the other three over their coffee orders, so here is a toast to you coffee huts! Love your concept, love your coffee!

The drive is beautiful, but slow as I explained in my previous entry the condition of the 101. We pass the gorgeous lake again, zip through Forks almost so quickly, it’s shocking that this little place is a national icon. I must admit, it looks nothing like I imagined it to be. The picturesque small town? Negative.
But moving on...I’ve covered enough Twilight for my entire blog’s history. The road snakes in toward the land and glimpses of the water disappear. We are in open fields with a 55mph speed limit...a true test of one’s patience. In the back seat, Mom and Penny decide to take a nap, so Travis and I settle on Sirius/XM’s Chill station and enjoy the winding road in silence. 

Have you ever heard of Kurt Cobain? Sure you have...brilliant musician, lead singer of Nirvana, married Courtney Love, committed suicide because he couldn’t handle the fame. His band was one of the one’s that came out of Seattle’s grunge scene. Well, he was from a little town called Aberdeen which we are driving through on our way south. Driving through this town with a population that hovers only around 16,000, it’s amazing to think that someone like Cobain came out of here. The houses are small and run down and the town looks like it’s been hit hard with life. The odd thing is, Aberdeen is the largest “city” in this area. It is the economic center of the surrounding Hoquiam and Cosmopolis. I thought I lived in the middle of nowhere with not much going on, but this place here might just have my area back in North Carolina beat. But what this area loses in activity and population, it makes up in surrounding natural beauty. We are right next to the Gray Harbor which leads out to the grand Pacific Ocean. Something interesting to note, the ship Lady Washington’s home port is here in Aberdeen and she was the featured ship in the “Pirate’s of the Caribbean,” the Curse of the Black Pearl. There are so many hidden gems along this road, it just takes a little looking into, a little exploring. 
The 101 creeps back toward the water again and we are rewarded with gorgeous views of Willapa Bay. It’s going on mid afternoon, and we are starving once again. Our breakfast and coffee from earlier is long gone. We grabbed snacks at one of the convenient stores to hold us over because we knew there wouldn’t be many options between Port Angeles and Astoria, the first real town over the Oregon border. Astoria has a film history believe it or not. The Goonies was filmed there along with movies like the Kindergarten Cop. The town’s picturesque views located directly on a major river is what makes it so popular for the small town feel kind of movies. 
Before we reach it however, we must cross the Columbia River Gorge. The water spreads out before us. The Columbia is no small river; it is the official marker between Washington and Oregon. As we drive across the lengthy bridge, at mid point, a sign welcomes us to Oregon. We have now covered two countries, an Island, and two states on this trip. 

Pulling into Astoria, we head for our dining stop: the Ship’s Inn, the recommended place for true fish and chips. According to the guide books, this place is fresh, hot, and delicious. No complaints, there.
The inside feels like the inside of a ship with everything decorated in nautical tones. There’s an oar, an anchor and a ships’s steering wheel. Nautical rope and fish nets drape the walls. This place could definitely use some redecorating.
The food however is just right. Mom and I order and share bowls of clam chowder and fish and chips. Travis and Penny opt for something a little different and get the seafood selection: a variety of shrimp, scallops, clam strips, and cod with thick sliced chips. I smother my plate with vinegar and indulge, for I know once this trip is over so is my indulgence in all of this deep friend food.  My arteries need to attend a health spa.

This is where our drive truly starts to get beautiful. The 101 begins to now cling to the side of the cliff that overlooks the ocean.  Below us, trees give way to sand that opens up to the gorgeous deep-blue Pacific Ocean. My wonder at it still hasn’t faded. Its beauty is shivering. The rugged Oregon coast is not disappointing in the least. It’s everything and more for your eyes to feast upon. 
Now, of course, I couldn’t come all this way and only look, I had to get out and feel the sand between my toes. What better place to do that than Cannon Beach? Known for it’s idyllic seaside town with cottages right on the sand, logs available for building a camp fire, and Haystack Rock, the third largest one of it’s kind in the world - it’s basically calling my name!  Once again the sun is just beginning to set as we arrive in Cannon. Two days in a row, I get to watch the sun set on the Pacific! God is good to me!

This beach is very different from La Push. To say this one is more pristine would be a grand understatement. This beach may be one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever beheld. My goodness this trip is getting a lot of “bests” from me, but that’s what the Pacific Northwest will do for you: deliver the biggest, the grandest, the best.
Slipping off my shoes, I spin and run around. Perhaps I’ll never grow up. Perhaps I’ll never lose my fascination in all things beautiful, but is that such a bad thing?

The rock out there in the ocean is a natural reserve for birds. PUFFINS!! Tufted puffins nest on the rock in the spring time. Obviously, we are in the wrong season for the puffins; however, the rock is smothered with white cranes and other birds swirling around. Cannon Beach seems to be not only popular with the human population, but also with the bird population as well. Perhaps it’s their vacation destination of choice?
The beach stretches onward to my left, hills with clouds hovering ominously overhead are on my right. Darkness is beginning to seep in with the sun dipping below the horizon. Families with their dogs are coming out to roast marshmallows and sip hot cocoa, and I can’t help but long to stay despite the sudden drop of temperature as a result of the absence of the sun.
But you know the story...time to move on.
Longingly, I head back toward the car, but not before declaring to every one of my companions that I will definitely be returning to vacation here. 

Portland, Oregon, however is now calling.
I honestly don’t know what I expected from Portland. I had heard four things about Portland: great coffee, bicycle friendly, Powell’s bookstore, and apparently it is the home of the most strip clubs per capita of anywhere in the United States...interesting. The coffee and the bookstore appeal to me, but obviously I could go without the other two. I had a feeling that the vibe would be earthy, hippie, free spirited - not exactly my type, but I was trying to keep an open mind.

By the time we arrive in the city, it’s dark, and although there are plenty of street lights, it’s still difficult to maneuver through a new city. I had read about a place called Voodoo Doughnuts located downtown Portland, and I thought it would be something interesting to close the night out, our little sweet treat for the day.

Travis turns right onto one of the main streets downtown and we are chattering away when all of a sudden lights beam in from behind us.
“Is that a train?” Travis suddenly asks.
My heart stops. A train? But there wasn’t a sigh for a train, and we weren’t on train tracks.
The three women immediately whip our heads toward the back, and sure enough there is a train speeding toward us. 
“GET OFF THE ROAD!!” Mom yells.
But we can’t. To our right is a sidewalk ladened with people, and traffic is coming at us from the other side.
“HOW DID WE END UP ON TRAIN TRACKS??” Penny is questioning him. 
We are approaching an intersection but it’s a one way street going to the left, and we are on the right. Travis whips the car right, just as he notices there are three police cars sitting on the other side of the road
But all of a sudden the lights disappear and the train is gone. Turning around, we see that it turned down the street we had just come from. I know there were no train tracks on that road.
We all take a deep sigh of relief, and Travis pulls back onto the road praying that one of the police officers doesn’t decide to pull him for pulling in the wrong way on a one way street.
“What was that thing? Was that a train?” Penny asks.
“I don’t care what is was. I’m just glad it turned. I didn’t see signs for it or anything, did you guys?” He asks us.
We all shake our head.
“I thought we were dead,” I laugh softly. Now it’s funny. Thirty seconds ago not so much.
Recovering from our shaken dispositions, we find Voodoo and park across the street. 

Entering into the throng of people, I immediately know I’m out of my comfort zone. 
We are in the grunge, the hippie; these people would eat my little sophisticated self 
The tiny square bit of a store is dim and packed with people lining up for doughnuts of all shapes and flavors imaginable. No, seriously use your imagination. Use it BIG time. There are shapes that I won’t list here. The flavors range from Cap N’ Crunch covered doughnuts to apple fritters, to maple with a full strip of bacon on top. I had never seen such doughnuts or such service people. The man behind the counter terrifies me with his super long beard and many pierces. Asking him for a recommendation is a mistake, for obviously little me was asking for a sarcastic remark. I settle on an original with creme filling, mom gets a giant fritter, Travis gets one with some kind of cereal on top, and Penny chooses one with bacon. In a circle outside, we pass around our doughnuts tasting and savoring each one. 
I have to admit, they are extremely sweet and extremely good.
Flame throwers, gypsies, street performers, homeless, and hippies are wandering around me cackling. My eyes bulge and I’m suddenly nervous.
It’s time to put this southern girl to bed; I’ll attempt Portland in the light of day...

~ Until Tomorrow

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