Onward to Oregon

Some portions of our Washington State and Oregon trip were planned in advance. We had registered for our races and made reservations at two hotels.  But we had opted to leave some flexibility in our plans. There was so much flexibility, in fact, that after our visit to Mount Rainier National Park we had nothing else on our agenda for a few days.

Thanks to this priceless Mother’s Day gift from Hannah,

img_6990and a bit of research we eagerly headed to Walla Walla, Washington.  Besides being a stellar wine area, I just couldn’t resist being able to say I had been to Walla Walla, Washington.

Leaving  Mount Rainier National Park meant re-entered “civilization”.  Cellphone service suddenly returned in a barrage of pings as day-old messages popped up from our daughters. They were checking in to see if everything was alright since they hadn’t heard from us in 24 hours. As much as we appreciate modern technology, once we had realized there was no service on the mountain we had stepped back from our typical urge to share our spectacular experience via Snapchat, texts, and Instagram. We snapped photo after photo but delayed sharing the experiences until we had left which meant we were truly able to immerse ourselves in the moment.

As we continued on our drive we suddenly realized that the landscape had changed dramatically and unexpectedly from verdant woods to this.img_3142

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We drove through miles of rocky hills that were punctuated by acres of irrigated vineyards and orchards.

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There were scores of buildings like this along our route with wooden or plastic apple crates stacked stories high.

We stopped at a road side market selling the famous Walla Walla onions.

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Tired and hungry as we drove down Walla Walla’s tree-lined streets that hot August night, these signs assured us the trip had been worth it.

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A dinner of scrumptious sandwiches at Olive paired with a glass of wine from their expansive wine list revived us.

img_6865The next morning we enjoyed an early run through neighborhoods close to our motel. Having an opportunity to see the regional architecture in new locales is something we have appreciated as we’ve been on this quest.

We loved the quirky coffeeshops that we spotted throughout the trip.  Living in Maine, we can count on a Dunkin Donuts every few miles.  However, we were much more impressed with the individual creativity of these western caffeine kiosks.

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img_3208-2We were determined to take advantage of at least one of the multitude of tasting rooms in downtown Walla Walla before heading out to our next destination. As a result, we were in the Spring Valley Vineyard tasting room at 10:30 in the morning…and we weren’t their first customers.

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Although we had chosen Spring Valley due to their early opening time, in retrospect we didn’t think we could have made a better choice.  It is a family-owned and operated vineyard whose history in the area goes back for generations.  The wine tasting was extensive, sophisticated, and delicious and the staff was cordial and impressively informative.

Although the layout of numerous tasting rooms within a few downtown blocks makes it conducive to multiple samplings within a single stroll, we were content to hit the road and head towards the Columbia River Gorge.  I had made reservations at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Oregon before leaving home to celebrate our 37th anniversary (a day early). As we drove to Hood River the landscape was mesmerizing once again. The wind turbines were everywhere. We couldn’t stop exclaiming about them and, of course, taking more pictures.

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Once we arrived at the Columbia River we were even more enthralled.

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The hotel was exactly what I had hoped for with its elegant, historic accommodations, gorgeous views, and impeccable service.

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As we settled into our riverside room we were treated to an opportunity to watch scores of windsurfers who were zipping along at alarming (to me) speeds. We had read in our road trip book that this area offers some of the best wind surfing in the world.

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The placement of the hundreds of wind turbines along the river now made even more sense.

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The view from the dining room where we enjoyed a delectable  dinner and breakfast was gorgeous.

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We wished we’d had time to embark on a bicycle wine tour offered from the hotel.

Although we were reluctant to depart the next morning we were looking forward to our next race in Bend, Oregon.

Along the route a last minute decision to pull off the road into the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint provided us with a spectacular view of another river gorge, some enlightening information about how the bridges were constructed, and the most dramatic signage we had ever encountered.

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As we approached the canyon we were relieved to see a solid, waist-high rock wall along the edge.  Thinking of the sign that claimed that “many dogs have died here” we could only imagine wildly hyperactive canines who upon scaling the wall well over their heads had inexplicably flung themselves over the edge.  Thankfully we could see no way a pup could inadvertently venture too far and slip into the gorge.img_3202

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A display beside the canyon documented how the bridge was built out from each side until it eventually met in the middle.  They showed photos of workers casually traversing a single plank suspended between the two portions.  Just looking at the black and white photos left me feeling woozy.

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If you look closely you can see the bungee cords hanging from this bridge.  We watched several people take the plunge.

We had chosen the Deschutes Brewery Twilight 5K Run as our Oregon race without realizing what a popular area Bend, Oregon is.  We were envious of the throngs of people who were swimming, tubing, and paddling down the Deschutes River that runs right through town.  We regretted not planning to add more time here in order to take advantage of this spectacular vacation spot.

As the name suggests, the race was run in the evening.  I ALWAYS run in the morning, usually before I eat anything and never having had more than tea and toast.  So I was consciously calculating what and when to eat prior to the race.

As we drove into Bend we chose a restaurant online and carefully followed our GPS directions to the location.  When we arrived at Bangers and Brews I was dismayed to realize they only served sausages…and beer. How had that not been obvious to us?  I chose what I thought would be a mild order and hoped for the best. But, alas, I have learned that consuming sausage and beer, even hours before a race, is something I will never do again.

But despite that unfortunate lunch choice and a toasty starting time temperature, we were psyched to be spending our anniversary evening at a race.

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We started on the grounds of the Deschutes Brewery and made a loop along the river. The course was scenic and often shady and the route gave us a sampling of the fun this area offers. We ran past people stand up paddle boarding down the river, enjoying cocktails on riverside decks, and generally savoring the gorgeous summer evening.

Mike was a great sport and stayed with me despite my snail pace although he was in much better shape and could have cut several minutes off of our time.

However, we finished hand-in-hand on our 37th wedding anniversary and completed our 27th quest race.

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The plentiful beer and great music made for a festive finale. We met a couple from Florida who were spending the summer in Bend.  As we often do, we filled them in on our quest and I think we inspired them to give it a try, as well.

 

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Our final destination of our week-long trip was Portland, Oregon.  Since we had no reservations yet we used part of our driving time to peruse a number of online sites and apps such as Hotel Tonight, Priceline, and Hotwire to get a good deal on a nice room. We have had great luck with websites that offer you a guaranteed star-level and city area without learning which hotel you are booked in until you commit to purchase the room. We like the suspense, not having to make the final choice, and knowing that we’ve gotten a terrific bargain.

We ended up at Hotel De Luxe which is a boutique hotel within an easy walk of the popular Nob Hill district. The room had nifty features to support the “Hollywood’s Golden Age” era feel that is the hallmark of the hotel.

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The lobby

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Vintage music was playing on this retro radio when we entered our room.

We appreciated the efforts to “set the scene” including this new take on “Do not disturb” and “Please make up the room” signs as well as the creative bar cart.

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Portland was uncharacteristically hot the day we were there.

img_6893 After a short walk to NW 23rd Street we revived ourselves by slipping into McMenamin’s Ram’s Head for a fabulously refreshing cocktail. img_6890

Then a stop at Salt and Straw satisfied  our yearning for something cold and sweet.

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Making a choice from this menu was a challenge.  Enjoying our choice was not.

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It was easy to see why this establishment was a hot spot on a sweltering day.

We made reservations at Papa Haydn then returned later in the evening for an absolutely perfect dinner to top off a completely fabulous trip.

img_6897It seemed fitting that this view of the mountains, which had truly been omnipresent throughout our trip, would provide us with our parting image of Washington and Oregon as we flew home.

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Quest Race #: 27

State: Oregon

Date: August 18, 2017 (our 37th wedding anniversary)

The Bottom Line: Running a race on our anniversary was the absolute perfect way to mark the day. Embarking on this quest to run a race in every state has brought us immense pleasure and  tons of surprising adventures together.

We loved visiting Bend and Portland.  The Twilight 5K was a festive, scenic race. We only wish we had spent more time enjoying all that the regions have to offer.

February- “Do Something New for 30 Days” Recap

When I chose going someplace new each day as my “try something new for 30 days” plan for February, I assumed it would be a breeze.  We were already planning to travel to Houston for four days to visit family and friends and to run the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon.  Since we had never been to Houston, I figured that would easily take care of four days. I imagined filling the other 24 days of February with visits to new restaurants, shops, museums, and even just detouring from my normal routine to a slightly different path as I traveled along my everyday routes.

February 1st was easy.  Mike and I went to Portsmouth to Runner’s Alley to pick up a few things and stopped at The Fresh Press for hot chocolate and a coffee.

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The atmosphere was neat and it was fun to try a new spot.  So far, so good.  Easy!

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The next day we had another Nor’easter so I barely left the house.  Traveling to the barn to feed the horses seemed like an accomplishment.

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Bentley was the only one who seemed particularly happy with the weather.

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My only travel that day was virtual when we watched the movie, “Chef”.  It was fabulous, by the way.

The next day was a work day and by evening I hadn’t ventured to anywhere new.  No problem!  As I drove to a neighboring town to do an errand, I turned off the road I’ve driven on literally a hundred times onto a side road.  It had just snowed which made this new neighborhood look even more unfamiliar.  I was truly surprised to come across a large, old brick building beside the river that appeared to be some sort of old public water works building.  It was dark, so I wasn’t able to see it completely but I was so intrigued that this significant, interesting building was about a block from my usual path and I had no idea it even existed. I was enjoying this going somewhere new plan.

We had yet more snow that week which left the roads snow covered.  Eager to maintain my “going somewhere new” endeavor, I decided to take a slightly different road home from work.  The roads were still sloppy and I did have a tiny nagging thought that this might not be the best day to venture into uncharted territory, but the road I had chosen was (I thought) well-traveled and I convinced myself that it should be fine.  I had front-wheel drive and snow tires, which seemed sufficient for this plan.  So off I went, turning off the main road onto another road that was notably more snowy than the previous one. Undeterred, I  continued on with my plan.  The next intersection was where I would take a left and head off onto my new path home.  The moment I made the turn I realized how awful this decision was. Looming ahead of me was an immense, snowy hill!  Alas, there was no turning back because if I stopped or tried to turn I would immediately be stuck in the inches of slushy snow that covered the road.  There was nothing to do but floor it up this mountainous hill.

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This photo was obviously taken after the snowy road adventure. It looks completely benign. But it wasn’t!

I picked up as much speed as I could/dared and gripped the steering wheel as I climbed the hill.  Things started off fine but I quickly began to lose speed.  My wheels were slipping and the car was going slower and slower.  My heart was pounding and my palms were sweating as I silently prayed (literally) that I would make it up the hill.  As my forward motion steadily decreased, I began to downshift my automatic transmission, hoping that would give me a little more umph.  My mind was reeling with questions about what I would do if I couldn’t make it.  Who do you call?  “Hello, AAA?  I’m stuck half way up a hill in the middle of the road and I can’t get up.”  My car slipped more and more as I inched up the hill.  The accelerator was pressed to the floor as I willed the car to keep creeping forward. Miraculously, I crested the top of the hill going about 20 mph.  I was shaking and my heart was thumping when I turned the corner onto a relatively flat road and headed for home.  Well, that was exciting!

Not every foray into a new place was quite so dramatic.  We tried some new restaurants including 7th Settlement , a fantastic brew pub in Dover, NH that brews their own beers on the premises and serves locally sourced food.  We loved the lively, welcoming atmosphere. Our service was stellar and the food was exceptional.

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I couldn’t stop exclaiming over the Harvest Salad of baby kale, roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, blue cheese, and dried cranberries.

A couple of days my new place was simply a different trail in our woods.  When the temperatures finally edged above the teens, Hannah and I ventured out on snowshoes.  The snow was so deep that the fencing around the pasture was literally ankle high as we walked by on top of the packed snow.  As the horses watched us travel beside their pasture we commented on how lucky we were that they didn’t want to venture anywhere beyond their mere suggestion of a fence.

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My snow shoes are ancient but excellent for forging a good trail.

 

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Hannah shot this photo.

We loved being outside and trekking through a new portion of the woods. Our trip was relatively short because it was almost dusk. As we returned to the house we commented on the unusual, wide tracks that we hadn’t noticed on our way out.  We have had a porcupine living under the barn that makes a similar track.  But somehow it seemed different. Then we noticed that it seemed to originate in the field where the horses were….but were no longer! Realizing that we had inadvertently inspired them to try going somewhere new also, I tried to rush back to the barn to see if they were there.  Hannah retraced our path back into the woods. It’s hard to convey the feeling of desperation that wafts over me when I realize the horses have disappeared.

The snowshoes that minutes ago had handily tromped out a broad trail were now unwieldy as I tried to run (not possible) along a narrower, bumpy path.  I eventually pulled them off and made my way back to the barn.  Relief washed over me as I saw Molly standing at the barn door. However, that was fleeting because she darted down the driveway and Chelsea was no where to be seen.  I dashed into the barn to nab a scoop of grain- my only hope to lure them back to the barn.  Thankfully, our ponies are huge fans of grain.  A few shakes of the grain scoop and they trotting into the barn and all of our adventures had a happy ending.

Another late afternoon I set out into the woods on snowshoes on my own.  It was just beginning to snow (again) and the woods seemed especially inviting.  The snow was crisscrossed with a myriad of tracks, making me wish I could have seen the creatures that had been traveling throughout the woods.

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The snow made interesting formations on the fallen trees and beside the streams.

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Another day, I traveled to Portland with Hannah and enjoyed an hour of doing work in a new coffee shop while she was at a meeting.

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On the last day of February, Mike and I spent some time in the Old Port section of Portland.  We braved the still shocking cold and walked to the ferry terminal where we wistfully imagined a summer trip to the surrounding islands.  We contentedly immersed ourselves in a bookstore and then met Hannah for lunch. She suggested going to Duckfat which turned out to be a marvelous little restaurant that served scrumptious, unique food in a spiffy setting. It was a perfect way to end my month of going somewhere new.

I  loved consciously thinking about going somewhere new all month.  Whether it was traveling across the country to Texas where everything was new, driving down a different road, or just literally, taking the path less traveled (to paraphrase Robert Frost) this venture has provided some unexpected adventures as well as lovely moments of change, beauty, and enjoyment.

My plan for March is to experiment with photography by using different settings, filters, and apps for both my iPhone and my digital SLR camera.  I’m looking forward to honing my skills and learning new techniques.

Although I have only completed two months of doing something new, I find that I am carrying over the activity from the previous month into my actions and thoughts as I move into the next month.  It seems that it really is true that doing something new for 30 days can make a change in your life. Making a deviation from my normal routine has added a welcome spark (and sometimes even a jolt) to my life.