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Room at the Inn

A Gorgeous Day in the Gorge

Greetings!  It's been a while since I've updated my website, but it's been an interesting year for me with lots of changes -- and perhaps for you, too.  Most notably, I recently parted ways with my former company, Otak, where I had been their GIS (computer mapping) manager since 2006.   After working many 80-plus-hour weeks there in recent years (while getting paid for only 40) coupled with some on-going staff drama, I thought it was time to move on.

 

In this entry, I wanted to share with you a few stories about recent visits I've had with guests at my house in Portland, along with a trip that I took to San Diego recently to visit an old friend there.  I finish off this page with some photos of "Portland in the  Summertime."

 

I haven't mentioned it yet in this website, but I finally bought a house.  That was a few years ago and it's certainly been an adjustment after living in humble apartments for most of my adult life.  One big reason that I bought a house, other than the tax break, was to be a host and invite friends and relatives to stay with me for a while.  I've stayed at other people's houses so many times over the years that I wanted to return the favor.

 

Above:  Michael and my niece Christina in the Columbia River Gorge.

Along with getting a pool table (a must for any single guy), one of the first things I did after buying my house was furnish the guest room, and after several trips to Ikea, I can proudly say, "Mission accomplished!"  Then I sent out "My New Address" cards to my friends and relatives, inviting them to come and visit.  Back in 2001 as I was driving around the lively town of Oamaru, New Zealand, I posted a website entry called "No Room at the Inn," alluding to both the biblical reference and the constant parade of "No Vacancy" signs I passed as I searched frantically for an empty motel room -- any empty motel room -- in that overcrowded town.  And so I'm calling this entry "Room at the Inn."

 

Folks started taking me up on my invitation in 2010.  My first overnight guests were my niece Christina and her husband, Michael, who I visited in Tucson after their wedding a few years ago, which I described in my July 2009 update.   Eager to escape the summer heat in Arizona, they came up to Portland in June and spent a weekend at my house, and we had a great time.  I'd gone to Macy's just before they arrived and ordered a guest bed, which fortunately arrived just before they did, and earlier that week I bought a barbecue grill, though it was still in the box in the garage.  Oooh, yes, I have a garage now.  What a wonderful concept that is!

 

On Saturday, I showed Christina and Michael around downtown Portland, then on Sunday, I took them out to the Columbia River Gorge, where the mighty Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains.  It's a spectacular area dotted with numerous scenic waterfalls and amazing vistas.  After our tour, we returned to my house, put together my barbecue grill, and ate the very first grilled chicken that's ever been served at Del's Inn.  I need to work on my grilling technique, though, because it was more "blackened chicken" than barbecued.  But we had a good time nonetheless and it was wonderful to see them again.

 

       

Above left:  Crown Point (right) is the entrance to the Columbia River Gorge, where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains.  That building is the Vista House.  Beacon Rock, on the left, was named by Lewis & Clark who paddled through here in 1805 on their way to the Pacific.

Above center:  Here's the Vista House, a visitor center built in the early 1900's and the gateway to the gorge.  There's a little museum downstairs and the balcony upstairs provides a great view.

Above right:  Here's the view from the Vista House.  The Columbia River Gorge extends about 30 miles, from Portland to the town of Hood River, off in the distance.  The original highway through the gorge opened in 1922 and was an engineering marvel for its time, and one of the very first paved highways in the U.S.

 

       

Above left:  My niece Christina and her husband Michael, from Tucson.  That's Mt. Hood in the background.  This is at the Larch Mountain viewpoint, where you can also see snowcapped Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier.

Above center:  Here's Multnomah Falls, the highest waterfall in Oregon.  Combined, the upper and lower falls are about 1,000 feet high.  That's the Benson Bridge, named after an early Oregon timber baron and philanthropist.

Above right:  My niece Christina and me at Bridalveil Falls.  With all the waterfalls, ferns, and trees, this area is just a little different than Tucson, I'm sure.

 

   

Above left:  At 11,240', Mt. Hood is the highest point in Oregon.  It's snowcapped year-round.

Above right:  Having dinner back at my house that evening.  We'd just assembled my new barbecue grill and tried it out.  My "blackened chicken" was truly unforgettable -- as hard as they try.  But fortunately, my grilling skills have greatly improved since then.  Really.

My Friends from Minnesooooda

My second overnight guests arrived at Del's Inn a few months later in the fall.  My old friend Mark and his wife Jayne (see August 14, 2001) flew out from Minnesota (eh?) and spent some time with me.  Mark hadn't been to the Northwest in many years and this was Jayne's very first visit.  I wish the weather had cooperated, though, because it was drizzly during much of their visit and we only got one, brief peek at nearby, snowcapped Mt. Hood.  But despite the drippy weather, they still had a good time. 

 

Above:  Jayne and Mark holding gliders at the Astoria column, where we tossed them from the top.  It's an Astoria tradition.

I took Mark and Jayne out to the Oregon coast one day and they were especially intrigued with the city of Astoria, a city of about 10,000.  Astoria was named after the early 1800s fur magnate, John Jacob Astor, who was one of the richest men in America at that time.  The city has a fascinating history due largely to its location, because it sits at the mouth of the Columbia River.  I've traveled all over the U.S. and I think Astoria is the most interesting city of its size in America, largely due to its geography and thus its history.

 

Back in 1805, Lewis and Clark, the first white men to explore the Pacific Northwest by land, stayed in the Astoria area for several months after they had reached the Pacific Ocean, before heading back to St. Louis the following spring.  The town of Astoria was established shortly afterwards, in 1811, making it the first American settlement on the west coast.  There were a few other cities on the west coast of North America then, but they had been established by other countries, such as Sitka, Alaska (by Russia) and Los Angeles (by Spain/Mexico).  Also, Astoria is one of only two places on the U.S. mainland that was attacked by the Japanese during World War II, when a submarine harmlessly lobbed a few shells at nearby Fort Stevens one night in 1942.  The other place that was attacked, in case you were wondering, was down near Santa Barbara with basically the same negligible result.

 

 

Here's the only song any of us remember from the movie, "The Goonies."  This is Cyndi Lauper singing Good Enough.

   

But more importantly, though, as far as Mark and Jayne were concerned, is that Astoria is where the movies "Kindergarten Cop" and "The Goonies" were filmed, along with a host of other films, including "Short Circuit."  For some reason, Mark and Jayne were especially intrigued with the Steven Spielberg movie, "The Goonies," although they've never actually seen it.  We ended up spending much of the morning visiting sites that appeared in this movie that they've never seen.  That includes the jail, which is now a Visitor Center, and the house where "The Goonies" was filmed. 

 

Actually, there weren't any signs pointing to the actual Goonies house, so we weren't really sure which of several houses it was.  But it didn't matter much to Mark and Jayne, because just being in the vicinity of Goonie History gave them Goonie Goosebumps.  Mark and Jayne left Portland later that week totally pumped and determined to watch "The Goonies," though, as one who has seen it, I told them not to get their hopes up too much.

 

On their final day in the Northwest, they wanted to see Mt. Rainier, a beautiful 14,000-foot snowcapped volcano, because apparently there aren't too many of those things back in Minnesota.  It was a cloudy morning so I warned them that we might not be able to actually SEE the mountain, but I'd be happy to drive them there, and that's what I did.  Mt. Rainier National Park is about a three-hour drive north of Portland and, while we enjoyed the Visitor Center, the visibility outside was about, oh, 15 feet.  Nevertheless, a ranger pointed in the foggy mist in the general direction of the mountain and assured us that it really was up there somewhere.

 

It was great to see Mark and Jayne again, we had a nice time, and I enjoyed being their tour guide.  And if it's foggy the next time they drive me around Minnesota, I'll tell them that their cornfields remind me a lot of, well, Mt. Rainier.

 

   

Above left:  Astoria, Oregon, where the Columbia River (right) meets the Pacific Ocean.  Founded in 1811, Astoria was the first American settlement on the west coast. 

Above right:  More notably for some folks, including Mark and Jayne, Astoria was also where Steven Spielberg filmed, "The Goonies."  Here's the "Goonie's House."

 

   

Above left:  That's Mark under Horsetail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.  The trail goes behind the falls.

Above right:  We also hit the central Oregon coast and had lunch at historic Mo's, my favorite seafood restaurant in Newport.

 

       

Above left:  Darlingtonia are like venus fly traps and live in only a few places on the coast, like here north of Florence.

Above center:  We visited the beach near Florence and, after hiking for a mile, finally reached the ocean.  Then we kicked back and had a smoked salmon lunch.

Above right:  Cleawox Lake at Honeyman State Park near Florence on the central Oregon coast.  The sand dunes in this area are massive and seemingly go on forever.  Not quite like Minnesota, eh?

 

   

Above left:  We went to Mt. Rainier National Park one day, but sadly and because of the fog, this was the only mountain we ever saw.

Above right:  Enjoying the "view" at Mt. Rainier.  The rangers promised us that the mountain was up there somewhere.

Sharks?  What Sharks?

Sandwiched in between my visits from Christina & Michael and Mark & Jayne, I flew down to San Diego for a weekend to visit my old friend, Troy, and his wife Carlye.  Troy, Mark and I have been good friends ever since junior high, when we sat together at lunch every day and talked about baseball cards and debated the upcoming Nixon-McGovern presidential race of 1972.  I came out on the short end of those debates and the election, too.  But no matter, even though Troy and I have different political leanings, it has never affected our friendship, something that today's politicians could probably learn from.

 

Above:  Troy and Carlye in search of sharks.  Carlye wisely decided not to join us in the ocean.  And their wise dog decided not to, either.

I hadn't been to Troy's house since 2001 (see June 14, 2001), but he said he had plenty of Room at the Inn, so I packed my bags.  I flew down on a Friday afternoon and, after a stop for a burger with Troy and his kids, we headed out to a short, par-3 golf course where Troy and I have played more rounds over the years than I can count.  Troy has three kids, sons Logan and Ty and a daughter, Renee, and I was in luck because it just so happened that this particular weekend, Renee was playing in a soccer tournament.  Well, actually she plays in a soccer tournament every weekend, including Christmas and Thanksgiving, so maybe I wasn't so lucky.  But I really like watching soccer and enjoyed watching her play several times that weekend, and had fun watching Ty play in a basketball game one evening, as well.

 

The highlight of the weekend, though, was something Troy had been planning for a while.  He had read in the San Diego newspaper about leopard sharks that often cluster in the ocean in nearby La Jolla cove.  The sharks are harmless, but he was intrigued that you could wade in the ocean and be surrounded by a whole slew (no, that's not the right term.  A pod?  A pride?  whatever) of sharks.  A whole bunch of them.

 

 

Here's Jimmy Buffett singing about those pesky Fins.

   

So on Sunday morning, us three adults (apparently the ones without much sense) woke up early and went down to the beach, arriving there around 8 a.m.  Being a night owl, I don't get up that early for much of anything on a Sunday morning, even if my house is burning down.  But I figured this was going to be something unique -- like my house burning down.  I had swam with nurse sharks off the coast of Belize once, but never with leopard sharks in ritzy La Jolla, and Troy said he'd never swam with sharks at all.   On that chilly, drizzly morning, we waded out into the chilly, drizzly surf and began our search, but with no luck.  Twenty minutes later, with my teeth chattering, I suggested that we throw in the towel -- well not literally, because the towel was up on the beach.  But we finally gave up and never did see a leopard shark, a nurse shark or any other kind of shark.

 

But I learned the next day that the sharks may have seen us.  After I'd returned to Portland, Troy sent me a link to a story in the San Diego newspaper, saying that swimmers had spotted one and possibly two great white sharks (no, make that Great White Sharks) that same morning in La Jolla cove, right where we'd been swimming.  So the next time that Troy suggests we go swimming with the sharks, I'll stay on the beach as he wades through the water.  But being the good friend I am, I'll offer him lots of encouragement.

 

       

Above left:  Golfing with my lifelong friend, Troy, and his kids, Renee and Ty.  Troy and I have played golf at this little 9-hole course in San Diego for 25 years.  Only nine bucks for a round of golf -- what a deal!

Above center:  In high school, Troy always beat me at golf.  He still does.

Above right:  His daughter Renee (in red) played in a soccer tournament that weekend and we watched every game.  It was a lot of fun.

 

   

Above left:  Troy, the master chef.  No blackened chicken here.

Above right:  Troy and I visited the aircraft carrier USS Midway in downtown San Diego.  I've visited lots of U.S. Navy ships and submarines over the years, but never an aircraft carrier.

 

   

Above left:  Troy and I before our shark quest.

Above right:  Can you see my teeth chattering?  So where are these sharks that I've heard so much about?

Summer in Portland

I decided to throw a few more pictures onto this page to give you an idea of what my summers are like here in Portland.  The summer unofficially starts in Portland each year in early June, during a city-wide celebration called the Rose Festival, which has been held each summer in Portland for more than 100 years.  Portland is known as the Rose City (as in the "Rose Garden" where the Portland Trail Blazers play basketball and the Portland Thorns, the women's soccer team that the city is so proud of).  The biggest events of the three-week Rose Festival include an evening "Starlight Parade" that winds through downtown Portland and lasts about three hours and, a week later, the Grand Floral Parade, which is one of the largest parades in the country and attracts over 100,000 people to downtown Portland. 

 

Above:  The Grand Floral Parade during the Rose Festival kicks off the summer in Portland.

Another big event during the Rose Festival is the Dragonboat Racing competition on the Willamette River (that's pronounced "Will-LAM-met," by the way).  The Dragonboat event attracts thousands of participants and for many Portlanders is the highlight of their entire year.  That tells you something about Portlanders.  But seriously, it's a lot of fun.  I've never paddled in the two-day competition but maybe I will someday.

 

I often attend lots of other events in the Portland area during the summers, like assorted concerts and County Fairs.  But what I really look forward to is the end of summer and the start of college sports season.  I'm a big fan of college soccer and volleyball.  In fact, I proudly claim to be the #1 college volleyball fan in the Pacific Northwest, having attended more college volleyball matches in the Northwest over the past 20 years than just about anyone else.  Or is that something to actually be proud of?

 

Anyway, here are some shots of a summer in Portland:

 

   

Above left:  One of the most popular events during Rose Festival is the Dragonboat Racing competition on the Willamette River.  People come from all over the world to participate.

Above right:  Racing crews heading out for another race.  Hundreds (thousands?) of people participate in the races.

 

   

Above left:  After watching the Grand Floral Parade in the morning, people flock to Waterfront Park to watch the Dragonboat competition.

Above right:  Dragonboat racing is one of the most beloved activities in Portland.

 

       

Above left:  There are lots of free outdoor concerts during the summer months in Portland.  This is the Portland Symphony performing at Laurelhurst Park.

Above center:  Draft horses performing at Washington County Fair.  I love this fair and go every summer.

Above right:  Another of my favorite summertime events is the Crawfish Festival (don't laugh) in Tualatin, south of Portland.  They have a corn-on-the-cob eating contest there for little kids.

 

   

Above left:  And for bigger kids, they have a crawfish eating contest.  Got Tums?

Above right:  August, for me, means the start of college sports.  I'm a big fan of the University of Portland volleyball team.

 

   

Above left:  There's nothing like watching the University of Portland soccer team play on a beautiful weekend in August.

Above right:  The UP women's soccer team won the National Championship in 2002 and again in 2005.  Go Pilots!

 


 

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