Friday, May 28, 2010

It's potentially tacky to use someone else's life to write a blog post, but it's on my mind. I got some sad news from the East Coast today, and it was kind of like being hit in the face. It made me really determined to quit focusing on the bad things in life (in Portland, currently a common topic of crankiness is the weather, which has been rainier and grayer than is normal even for this city!) and remember what is good, and really enjoy it.

On a related note, it also made me glad I moved to Portland when I did. Lately, I have been really missing certain parts of New Jersey, especially friends and family. I still miss them and, in light of this news, wish I could be with them, but I also am glad I made the decision to change my life for the better. Life is too short to be cranky or miserable all the time. Sometimes, we can't help it. Sometimes, we have to acknowledge bad things so that we can deal with them, and sometimes we have to feel this way to appreciate good times. But I'm going to focus on being this way less than I already am.

So, although it sucks that I can't go for my walks as much as I normally do, and the cold weather is not helping my tomatoes or peppers, the rain is making my Swiss chard and some of my herbs go crazy and the rain also makes the green of forest plants, such as Sword Ferns and Vine Maples, stand out gorgeously.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My day summed up by Google buzz

4:43pm dreaming of $5 cocktails at Delta.

4:44pm dreaming of $5 drinks at Delta.

4:45pm did you know that when you write the phrase "dreaming of $5 cocktails" as your chat status, google cuts it off in a rather awkward place!?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gone Coastal, Part Two and a Half - The Coast

This post is going to be mostly pictures.

First stop, Cannon Beach itself. Its notable landmark is Haystack Rock.

This type of geologic formation can, apparently, be called a sea stack. I don't know why, but I find this name funny. Maybe it's because it's late at night. I'm not sure, but I feel like "sea stack" could be a goofy, innocuous insult. Such as, "Your face is a sea stack!"

Note the shiny white streaks in the foreground of the above photo. What appears to be rain-streaked sand is actually a miniature creek that appeared across the beach. To approach Haystack Rock and take photos, we had no choice but to cross this treacherous body of water, soaking our shoes and even our jeans, halfway up to the knee.

Despite soaked jeans, Julianna looked classy taking photos of the sea...

Whereas I mostly looked like this.

Words cannot thoroughly describe how damp and cold we were. Rain fell from the sky. High winds blew this rain and a good portion of the Pacific Ocean back into our faces. The tide chased our feet as they sank into sandy puddles. After some time of this, it ceased to be as uncomfortable as it sounds; it was as though being damp was our normal state and we had known nothing else in life. Thus, when we left the beach, we went not to a dry cafe for lunch, but to Ecola State Park.


The trail eventually took us along a cliff. The path was narrow, with a wall of rocks and grass on one side and a drop into the ocean on the other side.

The path widened and took us deep into a dark forest.
We could see the ocean through the trees.

I made a friend in the forest! But then...

"AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!" I yelled above the sucking sound of mud swallowing my jeans. Within minutes, I was knee deep in mud.

"ARTAX!!!!!" Julianna called out mournfully as I struggled to escape the mud's malevolent grasp.

"What?" I asked.

We soon established that she had, and I had never, seen The Neverending Story.

In the above photo, note the yellow skunk cabbage, or Swamp Lantern, surrounding the mud consuming my legs.

Finally, after the above-mentioned trials and tribulations, we made it to the beach. A piece of driftwood took this picture of us.

The End.

The Whole Story
Part One - The Road
Part Two - The Elderberry Inn
Part Two and a Half - The Coast
Part Three - I Paid Seventy-Five Cents for This Story

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gone Coastal, Part Two - The Elderberry Inn

Anxiously, we drove on, westward, up and down mountains and into the delicate yet persistent snowstorms. Flashes of yellow just above ground level would get our hopes up. These could be daffodils, a sign of personal gardens and therefore, human life. But it was usually just skunk cabbage.

Here's where I need to make a botanical interjection for my East Coast readers, for whom skunk cabbage is Symplocarpus foetidus. Western skunk cabbage, Lysichiton americanus, is much like ours back East &mdash in the family Araceae, with a cluster of large leaves like a wild head of cabbage, and a skunk-like smell emanating from its inflorescence. Like Eastern skunk cabbage, Western skunk cabbage generates heat (I believe up to 70 degrees) warm enough to melt snow and keep the plant and its insect pollinators alive at the end of winter. But the spathe that shields the inflorescence of Eastern skunk cabbage is a streaky red and green hood; whereas the inflorescence of Western skunk cabbage peeks out from a spathe that is bright daffodil yellow. This explains its other common name &mdash swamp lantern.

It was these lanterns, not daffodils, that lit our way as the forest that walled in Highway 26 finally faded to a clearing. Scattered about the grass, some small houses and rusty parked cars began to appear, but no Chevrons or Arcos. When the Elderberry Inn came into view, with its neighboring convenience store and miniature gas pumps (announced by an equally tiny sign), I flew right past it.

"Wait! That was a gas station, wasn't it?"

As westbound 26 became once again a hallway through dense forest, an entrance to Highway 103 appeared like an arm extended to rescue someone who is about to fall down. We made a U-turn in the highway's welcoming hand.

The Elderberry Inn's gas prices were probably $0.50 higher per gallon than those in the city, yet it was with joy that I handed my credit card to the attendant.* Only a few feet away from my car sat two old men in folding chairs leaning against the convenience store. That is how close the building was to the pumps. If I wasn't careful opening my door, I might have knocked the men off of their chairs. Or I might have dented my car; the men were large. They had big, round faces peering from under trucker hats, and their flannel-draped frames were wide and solid.

"You know," said one man, "If you fill up you can get a free pop or coffee inside."

"Ooh!" I exclaimed. I can drink endless amounts of coffee on gray days. "Thanks!"

Julianna stayed with the car, and overheard one old man telling the other a crazy story involving guns. Which may appear transcribed here someday.

Inside the store, I scanned the scenery for unusual souvenirs. The same man who pumped my gas was at the counter. "Excuse me," I said. "I heard that you can get free coffee or pop if you fill up."

"Yeah, it's right over there. The coffee's by the pop machine in the corner."

"And where's the restroom?"

"By the pop machine.

"By the pop machine...over there?"


"Ok! Thanks!" I said, and skipped away to fill up a styrofoam cup.

It was not until I arrived back at the car that I realized what had just happened. While Julianna was mulling, in horror, over the old man's story involving guns, I was confronting, in horror, the fact that I had just referred to soda as "pop," more than once, without even thinking. POP. I SAID POP.

As we left the parking lot, we noticed that, across 26, a white car that resembled an old cop car sat on a hill. But, as we drove closer, we saw that the person behind the wheel was actually a monster mask attached to the driver's seat. Nearby, indicating the residence further up and partially obscured by the hill, was a large white sign with red lettering that announced: FREE KITTENS. Julianna pointed out that this was a permanent sign, a mini-billboard, always announcing free kittens. This seemed sinister to us.

The remainder of our drive to the coast was scenic and relatively uneventful. We occasionally yelled, "Why you do?" and "Where's God?" at the sky, but these inquiries were muffled by the snow and the thick clouds. The sky eventually became lachrymose and dumped weepy rain on us, the road, and the coast.

Trying to find public parking close to the beach took us into a maze of beach houses and dirt roads. Yes, dirt roads. This is another unique trait I've found about Oregon auto travel. Just as Oregonians recognize the distinction between highways and freeways, while referring to all such entities as "The (Insert Route Number Here)," such as "THE 26" and "THE 5" and not "US-26" or "I-5," and just as Oregonians don't pump their own gas, and just as Portland has one-way-width roads that are considered two-way, Oregon has "unimproved" roads. This is a fancy name for "dirt roads with giant rocks and potholes." In the country, this isn't so strange. But these roads are in cities, too! Are you paying attention, New Jersey? DIRT ROADS. IN CITIES.

And so, that is how we found ourselves in our next predicament. Unable to turn around at the end of a narrow street, we made a left onto what appeared to be a narrow hiking path that ran parallel to the ocean. This was, in fact, a road for driving. But its lack of "improvement" combined with the heavy rain had yielded a myriad of puddles. Faced with no choice but to force my car through a muddy pond that had appeared in the road, Julianna fretted over the prospect of us getting stuck in view of so many nice beach houses. "It's going to be the Donner Party!" she exclaimed again. I replied, "Aaaahh!" I suppose we would have been too embarrassed, had we gotten stuck, to merely walk out of the car.

But Stella the silver Sunfire made it through the road-pond. We were forced to park in a public lot several blocks from the beach itself. We covered ourselves with every layer of warm clothing and rainwear that we could find strewn about the car, and set out toward the beach. At last.

* By the way, NJ readers - Oregon is the OTHER only state that won't let you pump your own gas.

The Whole Story
Part One - The Road
Part Two - The Elderberry Inn
Part Two and a Half - The Coast
Part Three - I Paid Seventy-Five Cents for This Story

Friday, May 14, 2010


I want to drive to the Painted Hills and back in one day. It is just under four hours away. Not a single person had told me that this idea is not crazy. Even when I tell them that I'm a great long distance driver and have driven more than eight hours in one day during all of my road trips.

All I'd need to buy is gas, and maybe a park pass. I could pack sandwiches and snacks for lunch and dinner in the car.

I think this is worth a crazy trip:

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Gone Coastal, Part One - The Road

You may recall reading the chronologically-challenged Part Three a few weeks back.


I needed to get out of the city.

Which makes me realize how much being out West has changed me. The most densely populated state in America must be a fading distant memory if I think that a place as spacious as Portland—where streets only wide enough for one car are still unbusy enough to be considered two-way—is a city to be gotten out of.

After a winter that defied every warning I'd received about the Pacific Northwest, a cold front moved in. The week in which March ended and April began was gray, cold, and wet. Regardless, we planned to go to the coast; going to the Pacific Coast, at least in Oregon, is not going to the beach. You don't go for sun and swimming. This coast is gorgeously bad weather; it is rocks, wind, and fog. This coast is drama.


Our first coast trip was foiled by winter snowstorm warnings in the mountains and hurricane force winds on the coast itself. Not taking the hint, we planned a second trip for the following Monday. The trip began with coffee and pastries from Grand Central Baking Company. I had a rhubarb tart. It was the most perfect rhubarb tart you can imagine. But enough about the tart; this story is about the road.

US-26 will take you to the coast, to US-101, the same 101 that people talk about driving on in California. First, you cross the Willamette River on the Ross Island Bridge, and you find yourself in downtown Portland. Some poor signage misleads you about which lane you want, and if you're lucky, you find yourself on the freeway that 26 becomes. The freeway begins by taking you go through the suburbs, which fade into farmland. Here, US-26 (with its aggravatingly slow speed limit of 55mph) divides flat fields stretching toward the sky in either direction. The freeway ends; abruptly it becomes one lane highway as gradually, trees become more frequent in the landscape. The road plunges into darkness and stays there for quite some time—through several state forests and the Coast Range mountains.

It was here, in the mountain forest, that my need for a break in routine became apparent. I had done something very much out of character. I had done something downright reckless.

I had left the Portland Metro area without filling my gas tank.

This is how we found ourselves climbing the Coast Range in Clatsop or Tillamook or Whatever State Forest, with the gas gauge waving, like an antenna of crushed insect, just over the red "E."

"It's okay!" I told Julianna, artist and Adventure Monday traveling companion. "I have AAA."

Then we saw that pieces of the thick, gray sky were falling in our path. Gently but steadily, snowflakes drifted among the blackish green trees and onto the hood of the car. The gas gauge continued its desperate and frantic waving.

"It's going to be The Donner Party!" Julianna exclaimed.

To Be Continued...

The Whole Story
Part One - The Road
Part Two - The Elderberry Inn
Part Two and a Half - The Coast
Part Three - I Paid Seventy-Five Cents for This Story