West Coast Road Trip – Day 19 
Friday, April 2, 2010, 09:43 PM
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I checked the temperature on my IPhone before dressing for a run, but it wasn’t until I opened the door that I discovered it was snowing. Soon-to-be-New-Englanders, we weren’t going to let this deter us from our workout. And we were rewarded handsomely with a magical, snowy run along the Deschutes River.

Paul spent the day job hunting online at our temporary home, the Days Inn.

I checked out the outlets and the Old Mill District and ended up with a fabulous deal on a snow pants (now I can stop wearing a pair of Paul’s) and some waterproof gloves. Then, I spent some time at the local library planning out the remainder of our adventure.

Paul and I enjoyed dinner at the same place I had been for lunch, Café Yumm, a Eugene-based chain offering simple and healthy bowls of brown rice, beans and other (as they name suggests) yummy stuff.

As luck would have it, our visit coincided with the Tour du Chocolat fundraiser downtown at the Tower. Just $5 got you a glass of wine or beer and 5 “tastes.” The difficult part was choosing just 5 from about 20 decadent chocolate choices. There were cakes, truffles, cupcakes, brownies and more created by professionals, culinary students and everyday folks. It was a great time and an extraordinary deal…although the fundraiser in me wonders why they didn’t charge more.

As we left, we saw that, despite being past closing hours, the running store right next door was full of people. We wandered in and discovered that we had stumbled on Bend’s “Art Hop.” Most of the downtown establishments were serving wine and treats. Even the bank!

While in the running store, I inquired about good running trails and was encouraged to sign up for the following morning’s Horse Butte 10-Mile trail race. I had found it online, but the site mentioned that the event usually sold out. The Foot Zone guy was nice enough to call up the race director just as she happened to walk in the store. She was very happy to allow us out-of-towners as late entrants.

With its many opportunities for outdoor recreation, its active population (the only place we saw overweight people was in Costco – seriously) and the friendliness of its residents, Bend is definitely our kind of town.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 18 
Thursday, April 1, 2010, 09:13 PM
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With a lot on tap for the day, we were on the road by 8:30am and, before heading out of Portland, made a quick stop at New Cascadia Traditional Bakery which is a completely gluten-free establishment.

With some snacks for the drive, we were ready for the Columbia River Gorge. We opted for the historic highway instead of I-84 and were so pleased with this decision. It is spectacular with both river views and amazing waterfalls. We took our time and stopped at a number of falls for short hikes.

We also stopped at the Bonneville Dam and, as part of a tour with Ranger Dan, viewed the power generating station and the fish ladder.

We chatted briefly with the fish counter, a guy who actually spends 8 hours a day counting the fish that swim by his window and up the ladder on their way to spawn. He must be able to quickly identify over 30 types of fish. This day was the very first day of counting for the season and so there were not many fish to keep track of, but I can imagine that it gets hectic at the peak of migration.

We took a brief stroll in downtown Hood River and then were lucky to catch a glimpse of Mt. Hood before driving up it.

The mountain had received 3 feet of white stuff in the previous few days and, while this winter’s snowfall had, overall, been disappointing, it was still quite impressive to me. We stopped at Timberline Lodge - which you may know from the horror flick, The Shining - where a sign declared the average snowfall as 21 feet.

We didn’t linger too long as it was still snowing and we wanted to make it safely down the mountain to our final destination of the day, Bend.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 17 
Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 07:21 PM
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After a morning run, we walked along the waterfront and then made a stop at Powell’s Books, a bookstore that occupies three city blocks and another "must-do" according to our Facebook friends. We certainly could have spent all day browsing, but didn’t want to tease ourselves as we’re trying to travel as lightly as possible.

I got a kick out of this hotel. Unfortunately, it's giving us Joyce's a bad name, as it was super sketchy.

We had a delicious lunch at Thai Peacock and then bought a MAX pass, so that we could take Portland’s light rail to the Japanese Gardens at Washington Park. Unfortunately, we discovered that the Washington Park MAX stop was at the zoo, two miles away from the gardens. It’s a huge park.

We backtracked one MAX stop and still had a 30-minute walk which got us to the Japanese Gardens with just 45 minutes until closing. It turns out that it was the perfect amount of time to make it through the gardens, which is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have ever been.

The visit was well worth all of the time it had taken to get there. Had the weather been warmer, I would have loved to spend time just sitting on a bench soaking up all of the serenity.

At dinner that night, I had my third reunion in as many days – this time with Katherine Daniels, another MHS class of 92’er. We met at Por Que No? in the Hawthorne District for yummy tacos and taco bowls. Our few hours together reminded me why we had been such good friends in high school and made me wish we lived closer.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 16 
Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 12:43 PM
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Paul and I split up for this Seattle morning as he was interested in the Future of Flight Museum and a tour of Boeing…and I was not.

My pick was “Bodies...the Exhibition.” Unfortunately, they decided to leave town early without updating their website and so I arrived at the location only to find a bunch of large crates being loaded onto a truck.

Nevertheless, I had an enjoyable few hours that included a 5-mile run on the waterfront, some more time browsing Pike Place Market and another reunion meal. This time, it was lunch with Jenny Joyce, a good friend from Melrose High School, and her adorable son, Max. We figured out that the last time we saw each other was at Kate Reynold’s wedding back in 2001.

It was wonderful to reconnect, although I felt old when I realized that our 20-year reunion is just two years away! I neglected to take a photo, so here's one from the old days.

Paul and I rendezvoused back at the hotel and drove out of Seattle toward Mount St. Helens. We had hoped to catch a glimpse of Mt. Ranier along the way, but the clouds did not cooperate.

Spring is not the optimal time to visit Mount St. Helens. It was a quiet, snowy place with "closed" signs on all of the visitor centers, as well as some of the roads. However, we were able to drive quite a ways up the mountain. The snow-covered trees made for stunning views.

We continued south to Portland where we stayed in the shadiest motel yet, the Value Inn. We’ve been operating under the principle that there’s no need to pay a lot for lodging when we spend so little time in the room. (Also, it can really add up on a trip as long as this one!) Well, after this place, we decided to stick with brand name motels. Nothing fancy, mind you, but places that are held to some sort of corporate standard.

For dinner, we chose Deschutes Brewery which offers gluten-free beer and hamburger buns. The beer, elk burger and sweet potato fries were quite a departure from our typical fare, but were quite good.

Our final stop of the night, Voodoo Doughnuts, had been recommended by a number of friends via Facebook. Upon arriving, we were shocked to find a line out the door. It was cold; it was 7:45pm; and it’s just doughnuts! But, these are no ordinary doughnuts – they have toppings such as Captain Crunch and Coco Puff cereals, Kool Aid powder and, one of their most popular, maple frosting and bacon. Yes, actual bacon.

Our original plan was just to take a look, but, after standing in line for 25 minutes and bonding with our fellow line-mates, I decided that the experience wouldn’t be complete without actually trying one of these concoctions. I opted for the Old Dirty Bastard, which was topped with chocolate frosting, crumbled Oreos and peanut butter.

How was it? Not bad. But, not good enough to eat the whole thing - half was plenty of sugar and calories for one night. The whole experience, however, was quite memorable. No trip to Portland would be complete without a Voodoo Doughnut!

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 15 
Monday, March 29, 2010, 10:58 AM
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And week 3 begins! It began with pouring rain and so we took our time with a morning workout in the hotel fitness center. Then, around 10am, we got all suited up in waterproof gear and walked outside - into sunshine. The weather can change in an instant in the northwest. We were fortunate to have very little rain, although temperatures remained quite cool, in the 40’s.

We walked around the Space Needle, but did not bother going to the top as the clouds would have obscured our view.

We then strolled along the waterfront and the Olympic Sculpture Park to Pike Place Market. This attraction definitely lived up to its reputation – fresh produce, gorgeous flowers, men throwing fish and a huge variety of ethnic restaurants.

For lunch, we enjoyed a lentil soup and beet salad at the Yarmarka Café, a Russian establishment. Although it was a tiny, open-air stall more than a restaurant, it was one of the best meals of our trip.

We walked down to Pioneer Square, which turned out to be a shopping area, and then decided to get out of the cold by heading indoors for a self-guided tour of the Seattle Library. This building is fairly new and is unique, beautiful and quite high tech.

Next up was the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum – two separate museums that share a building and have joint ticketing.

EMP had some historical exhibits (including, of course, the birth of “grunge” in Seattle), as well as opportunities to play a variety of instruments. Visitors could have their own rock star photo shoot (complete with props) and perform onstage with a simulated screaming audience. Not being the rocker types, we didn’t take advantage of all EMP had to offer, but this museum is a must-see for music lovers. I did really enjoy their photography exhibit though.

I cruised through the Science Fiction Museum fairly quickly and waited for Paul at the end. You really need to be a bit of a sci-fi geek to enjoy this one.

That evening, we had a reunion dinner with Kristin, one of my girlfriends from Mount Holyoke whom I’ve seen only a handful of times since I left Boston 11 years ago. It was great to catch up!

She brought us to Café Flora where we had our second lentil soup of the day, followed by gluten-free Moroccan crepes.

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