Thursday, July 29, 2010

Seattle's wake up call

Going in/out of cities when you’ve been camping feels sort of weird, because suddenly you realize you probably should have opted for the shower, and things cost money again, and it’s not quiet anymore, and you have cell service! Also, the national parks have awesome newspapers that give you tons of information about what you should see and how to get there…they take care of most of your questions. But in a city, it’s a free-for-all—and when you’re not in the market of building itineraries in advance, it can be a little overwhelming. Hence why we wandered around Seattle.

We got some coffee from Tully’s (delish) and spent some time walking around the Pike Place Market, which would definitely be my go-to spot for flowers if I was local.


Flying fish!

During the afternoon, we lazed around in the grass at the Seattle Center, a big public park that contains the science/rock museums, fairgrounds, and the Space Needle. And most importantly, PUBLIC WI-FI! Oh and some pretty cool public art.

From there we concocted our next move…to see the Mariners play the White Sox at Safeco Field a few miles away! We found a $5 parking spot in a lot near the stadium, and the attendant said it was fine if we left our car there overnight (adding that it was the cheapest camping spot we’d ever find…almost true), so we got a 2-for-1 deal J The game was fun*, etc., and then we returned to our home for the night. Completely ignoring the then-desolate train tracks approximately 100 feet away from the van.

Fast forward to 3:11 a.m. when HEY-O THE TRAIN RUNS ALL NIGHT SURPRISE!!!!!!

And we were truly sleepless in Seattle.

*Brian got great seats (for a great price) behind home plate from a scalper, which led to me learning that he once recorded a pilot TV show about scalping tickets. Just married, still learning.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mt. Rainier

Every national park has some sort of distinguishing feature that sticks out about it. Well, Mt. Rainier has this big mountain, yes, but what we’ll remember about it is how much water is everywhere. Not just creeks or waterfalls, but water streaming out of boulders on the side of the road everywhere you turn…like the whole park is about to burst. Perhaps this has something to do with the 25 glaciers on top of the mountain? I don’t know.

The water that does get out in a major format is pure, aqua, and freezing!

We did a little hiking and stayed in the park one night, but were pretty worn out from our extravaganzas in Oregon so didn’t get into anything too big (aside from getting lost for the first time in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest – proof that when your map fails, your cell phone cannot save you). Pretty place though!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

White Salmon River

When you’re on the road, you can only do so much Google-ing before you start to take the first option that you find on each search, hence why we didn’t do any background checking on River Riders rafting company. We cruised past some nice office headquarters for other companies on our way to the RR launch point…bungalows, log cabins, actual parking lots, etc. Then we pulled up to our company—a dilapidated shack that looked like it was one loose board away from a lawsuit. The fact that we were the only people booked for our river trip didn’t make us feel much better. Then they told us their bus, nicknamed Purple Rain for the Prince tape that had been stuck in the tape deck for 20 years, made their “headquarters” look nice.

But (the magic word!), our guides were as skilled as the next, it was 70 degrees, and since we were the only 2 people, they let us stop whenever we wanted and go at our own pace throughout the afternoon.

Since Brian used to physically float down the creek in CO where tourists took rafting trips, I would say our comfort level in rapids is pretty different. Which explains why I was terrified when we got rushed at the launch point by some boats behind us and had to skip the paddling lesson and jump straight into a class IV rapid—weeeeeeee!

I loosened up after a few minutes and the rest of the afternoon was just straight up fun…and by fun I of course mean scary. We got to see a Great Blue Heron and an Osprey (yes, I have become a rare bird nerd on the trip), go inside caves, see lots of lava deposits, watch other boats flip, and do a little swimming in the 42 degree water.


River Riders gets 5 stars from us!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A porter in Portland

We cruised into Portland with no plan. After a little googling, I figured out that the Oregonians are big on their microbreweries, and there are a ton in downtown P, so I picked one out for lunch. While looking for parking, we realized that there was a festival going on. Interesting. We looked closer and realized it's the Beer 'N Burgers Festival. Now you're speaking my language!

Our tickets got us 5 different burgers and 7 different local beer tasters, and we got to chat with lots of locals (who informed us that it was unusually beautiful weather, thus confirming that we are good luck weather gods). So fun!

Broiled slider stuffed with mozzarella, pepperoncini, and beer-braised onions.

On our way out of town, we started looking into white-water rafting and an hour later had a trip booked for the next day just outside of Hood River (about an hour east of the city)! We started scoping out a place to spend the night when we realized that the Naked Winery was in Hood River, which is where our friend Kim ordered our wedding gift from (bottles of wine, naturally). What are the chances? After dinner in the town, we popped into the winery to check it out!

It was such a cute place, with live music and lots of young people. The staff was really sweet and friendly, and they seem to have a strong company culture. A culture that involves giving us free wine glasses and wine tastings! Ah, it's good to be a newlywed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Oregon Coast

We navigated our way back to the coastline by way of Eugene, an idyllic little college town where we had lunch with Brian's old friend from camp, Leslie. It's been fun to randomly connect (or try to) with people along the road, especially ones like Leslie, who Brian hadn't seen in 10 years. Crazy!

The Oregon Coast is everything you've heard of and more - strikingly beautiful landscapes (seascapes?) mixed with tiny towns hawking cottages and fresh oysters...too bad neither of us really like seafood. The whole coastline is truly endearing, though, and one of the best parts is the millions of state parks and campgrounds! We stayed at one just off the beach - pretty awesome location.

What they don't mention in guidebooks is a little thing called wind.

Unfortunately, that wind is what kept us off the beach and on the road. It is FREEZING out there, and in some spots the sand whips up and smacks your face or sends you running down the beach to catch your hat (Brian). Turns out the vantage point from the car is pretty nice :)

However, the northern coast did have a fantastic unexpected gem...the Tillamook Creamery.

By now you may have realized that I love love love cheese. And factory tours. Which makes Tillamook, Oregon's dairyville, one of my favorite stops on the whole trip.

The creamery had a really impressive setup with tons of history and information about the processes, and several viewing rooms. I was in cheese nerd heaven!

The best part, obviously, was the tasting. We got to try six different cheeses and then hit up the ice cream station, where I discovered one of the best chocolate ice creams I've ever had.

Tough decision.

The mild cheddar cheese was definitively the best cheddar I've ever had, which made me Tillamook's #1 fan.

Future Tillamook marketer.

One more word on Things to Love About Oregon: free roadside camping. We left the factory and headed inland towards Portland looking for a campground when we learned that you can kick it anywhere in the woods for free (at least in that area). There were lots of other people doing the same, so we felt good about it. After spending up to $35 on a campground site with no hookups, let me tell you, spending $0 on a site with no hookups is way better. What a great way to cap off our delicious day!

Brian's best fire yet.

Local artichokes and BBQ chicken.

Extra large marshmallows pilfered from our friends back in Mammoth. So giant that you can melt the entire outside and still have a solid marshmallow core left to enjoy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New favorite color: Crater Lake Blue

I was excited to get to Crater Lake in Southern Oregon, because my dad said it was one of his favorite places, and he had a PC desktop background to prove it. We were lucky enough to experience Sunny Day #26 at the park, thus making it the most beautiful days of all days to see the lake!

Here’s the lowdown on CL: a volcano exploded 7,700 years ago and left this incredibly deep and clear lake inside of the mouth. It’s the deepest lake in the U.S., and the water is so pure that scientists can see about 140 feet down. The clarity and depth are what make it SO INSANELY BLUE! (I’ll preface the photos by saying they were not photoshopped at all…)

Shazam! Had lunch on the side of the road with this view.

We took a ranger-led boat tour because we were feeling lazy and really had no idea what we were looking at. The tour would’ve been worth the money if the boat had gone over 10 mph, but we got good info nonetheless and got to be carted around the inside of a caldera for two hours, so no complaints.

Crazy lava formation protruding from the lake. Look at that reflection!

 Aqua water!

Weird vertically floating tree they call “Dead Man” — this basically shows you how clear the water is.

One reason to delay a trip to Crater Lake until August: MOSQUITOES. We had a 1-mile walk back up the mountain from the lake and were attacked by approximately 1,392 mosquitoes…so many that during the entire walk, we had to continually swat our backs with our hats to get ride of the 20-something that had landed on us in the last 5 seconds. Look, one even photo-bombed our picture, which we were terrified to stop and take:

 Next stop: Oregon coast!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Accidental awesome

I’m starting to learn that ditching the plan is the best plan there is.

We spent a little over a day driving through the Redwoods National Forest, which is pretty impressive, but you can only stare at trees so much until you start itching to keep moving…

Monday night was spent near the Oregon border, and Tuesday morning we started heading towards Crater Lake. Five miles down the road, the highway had a short detour which serendipitously led us right to the doorstep of the Del Rio Winery. Plan: out the window.

Stumbling into Oregon’s wine country was not on the agenda but it was at that delicious side-step that we learned of a cheese factory down the road, which was next to a chocolate factory. The exact trifecta of deliciousness guaranteed to render me helpless.

Lillie Belle Chocolate Factory. Run by a bunch of hippies, just our style.

Truffle as art?

By this time, we had picked up a guide on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is supposedly one of the best in the nation and just so happened to be in the next town (Ashland). We didn’t have a lot of choice there. Tickets: purchased.

With a few hours to kill, we wandered into Lithia Park, Ashland’s urban oasis. Think rushing creek, manicured lawns perfect for laying out and reading in the sun, walking trails, lush foliage, picnic tables, and a fire pit. Since we carry our kitchen with us, we started a fire, whipped up some dinner in the middle of the city park, enjoyed some of our local cheese and wine purchased earlier that day, played UNO, and cooked steaks. In the middle of a city park. And we saw two baby deer. I mean, really?

As if you couldn’t guess, The Merchant of Venice was impressive, and the theater (constructed to look like the Globe) opened up to a clear starry night above us.

We would get to Crater Lake eventually J

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sports fans are the best

So after our giant hike in Yosemite, we couldn’t really justify spending more time there—doesn’t that seem crazy? But really, on the hike we saw so many different terrains and fantastic views of the landscape. What were we going to do—go on another hike to see the same thing from another angle? We poured over the atlas for a while and decided to head for San Fran / Oakland, which wasn’t originally on our radar, but the A’s were playing that night and a baseball game sounded fun so why not? 

Our friend and wedding DJ James happened to be house-sitting in San Fran, so he met us for the game across the bay and let us stay at the beautiful little place he’s watching over.

As it turns out, the Pleasure Way garnered a lot of attention at the Oakland stadium. We get a lot of honks on the highway and a few congratulations here and there, but to the Oakland A’s fans, it was like we were the first people on the planet to get married and it was their duty to offer us anything they had. I’m convinced if someone had been carting around a sacrificial lamb, it would’ve been ours for the taking. Instead, we shared a Sierra Nevada with the local swim team coaches and then sat in our free seats (see, I told you) for a good-but-losing game against the Angels.

Our very tall new friend, Brian.

Look who we found in San Fran - Matt G.!

The next day, we spent an idyllic morning in the Castro:

Squat & Gobble crepery. You had me at sidewalk cafe.

Denver crepe. YUM!

Some bro love at an awesome view of the city.

And finally, an amazing slide (this is just the bottom portion) that someone built into a city park. Just about everyone catches air going down. Brian went at least 10 times.