Top 5 Things I’ve Done This Summer: #2 Camp In Awesome Spots

12 10 2012

Best site I’ve ever had.

I really enjoy camping, but I’m very picky about it.  If I’m crammed right in the middle of other campsites with no privacy or anything to look at, I’ll simply skip it.  Or if it’s way in the middle of a forest with nothing but more of the same forest around it, I’ll probably pass because I can get forest anywhere.  I also don’t leave anything to chance, I reserve online months in advance because the spots go quick, and I’ve spoken to camp hosts that have said to never assume you can waltz in and get one of the few non-reservable spots because those are usually filled.  So all that being said, for the 2nd to last spot on my ‘Top 5 things I’ve Done This Summer’ list, it’s obviously camping.  Here are 2 spots in particular I really enjoyed.

1 – Timothy Lake

It really doesn’t get any better than Timothy Lake, an amazing lake in the shadow of Mt Hood to swim in or canoe on, camp on the water’s edge, take hiking trails that intersect with the Pacific Crest Trail, and it has generously spaced camp sites.

The view from the water’s edge of my camp site.

Sun going down.

Taking a twilight canoe cruise with Mt. Hood in the distance.

2 – Cape Lookout State Park

There’s no camping like camping next to the beach (unless you’re in Texas, that sucked, mosquitoes).  Aside from being able to walk to the beach in less than a minute, you also get to hear the wind and waves all night long.  What’s more, you get to partake in the nightly ritual of watching the sunset with your fellow campers all gathered on the beach.  A bonus is that just up the road is the actual Cape Lookout.  It contains a hike that has AMAZING views, and is also one of the most butt-puckering trails I have been on, with a lot of “you fall, you die” parts.

Heh, that’s me.

People gather in anticipation of the sun setting…

…and there it goes.  And after this, you just walk back to your campsite, and burn stuff.  What could be better?

The best part about it, is that I have about 95% of Oregon’s campsites left to explore!

Top 5 Things I’ve Done This Summer: #3 Cheesy Tourist Stuff In Places That Aren’t Oregon

6 10 2012

I think it’s pretty clear that I enjoy Oregon, however sometimes you do have to get out and explore non-Oregon.  I’ve done that many times over the past few months, and that brings me to the 3rd in my series of ‘Top 5 Things I’ve Done This Summer’.   But not only did I get out, to make it more fun I did cheesy tourist stuff while out,  x 3!

Number 1 – Philadelphia, PA
My 1st touristy cheesiness was in downtown Philly going to the two famous cheese steak joints, Geno’s and Pat’s.  That correct, this cheesy activity actually involves cheese.  Well no it doesn’t, because I don’t consider Cheese Whiz to be actual cheese.

Geno’s is pretty in-your-face, where Pat’s is low-key.

I’ve been to the Philadelphia area a lot but never made it downtown to try them, and I’ve always wanted to answer the question I get when I’m there, “Are you Geno’s or Pat’s?”  I don’t eat a lot of meat, and when I do I like it to be really good stuff, like the Snake River Kobe Beef I’ve recently fallen in love with.  Well this meat is about the opposite of that, but I get it, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  So what I did is go to Pat’s and order a steak whit’ whiz, threw some hot sauce on it, ate half of it, trashed it, then went over to Geno’s and did the same.  The answer to “Are you Geno’s or Pat’s?” is…

<< Geno’s       Pat’s >>

I’m Pat’s.  Geno’s had less-grosser meat, but Pat’s overall flavor was better and a softer bun completed the package.   If you’re going to Philly, you should see for yourself and experience these two institutions.  Plus, I got to see some friends when I was there!

Yay friends!

Well, one friend wasn’t there so I Photoshopped her in.  I’m pretty good at Photoshop.

More sopapillas please!

Number 2 – Denver, CO
The 2nd cheesiness was in Denver, Colorado.  Before heading to the mountains for a week of relaxation with friends, I thought I’d hit Casa Bonita 1st to get the opposite of relaxation.  I last went here over 20 years ago, and well, time stops in Casa Bonita-land because not a thing has changed.  Except most of the other businesses in the strip mall have gone out of business.  If you don’t know about Casa Bonita, the South Park episode is pretty dead on.

You walk in and meander a long line with tons of people (think amusement park ride), order, and then your bland food comes out of a slit in the wall, really.  You grab your food get in a new line which takes you to a person who seats you in the enormous dining area that resembles an old South American town with a waterfall in the middle.  To which, actors will come out while you eat, roll through some lines and one invariably ends up diving off the waterfall into the pool below.

Food comes from where?

There are also mariachi’s roaming, fire-jugglers, caves to explore, arcades, a photo area where you can dress up in western garb, and a man dressed in a gorilla suit.  It’s awesome.


Number 3 – New York, NY
I’ve been to NY a bunch but always avoid the touristy stuff.  I do my best to look like a New Yorker and blend in, dressing in grays and blacks, not making eye-contact with anyone, walking briskly, and only giving a small nod when communication between humans is needed.  Not this time, I hit the Brooklyn Bridge and wore bright colors!

Substantial and pretty cool.

Although touristy, it’s more cool than cheese.  It does get crowded (and the poor bikes trying to cross it have to deal with tons of idiots in their lane) but I found that it’s worthwhile.  It’s a cool old bridge, good exercise, and you get a great view of the skyline.

This is from about a 1/4 in.

So there you go!  On to #2…

Top 5 Things I’ve Done This Summer: #4 Tree-To-Tree Adventure Park

2 10 2012

This may not look like it, but I’m about 50 ft up.

Continuing the ground-breaking series of “fun things I’ve been up to the last few months”, we arrive at #4.  After spending the day at Tree-To-Tree Adventure Park, I knew that its place on the list was cemented.  I felt like a squirrel climbing 50 feet above the ground, moving from one tree to another, jumping, climbing, swinging and zip-lining around on 3 different courses over 3 hours.

I made the required reservations a few weeks prior, showed up, donned their supplied climbing gear and got a 15 minute lesson on how to climb and navigate the courses.  Then you’re off on your own, although there’s always staff on the ground to help if need be. Once you’re clicked into your course you’re in it till the end, as you always have one of two harnesses attached to the course line, a welcomed safety feature.

You feel very close to nature up here.

The 3 courses go from easy to hard, and to get onto the hardest course you have to pass a “test” to make sure you have the strength to do it.  From what I could tell, most everyone was able to do the hardest course, although the test was indeed taxing and the hardest part of the day.  Obstacles varied from swinging steps, hanging rock walls, wire-walking, jumping platforms, etc.  And you’re way up there, people with a serious fear of heights should probably avoid T2T, but I went with someone who was “uncomfortable” with heights and after 10 minutes they were jumping around like a caffeinated monkey.  There was a slight breeze when I went, and feeling the trees sway was exhilarating… after the initial unnerving part, heh.

I have to say, this place is great, really fun.  It was $45 for 3 hours, and I was spent after that 3 hours, I couldn’t have done a 4th.  They also opened up a new zip-line course recently which is supposed to be pretty cool and surprisingly fast.  Maybe next time.

Courses go over, under and around each other.

The other cool thing about the park is the beauty of the forest that surrounds it.

The two things that keep you from falling to your death.

Top 5 Things I’ve Done This Summer: #5 The Oregon Garden

28 09 2012

I want these poppies in my garden.

Last summer I was busy with house projects and things like building a chicken coop.  Not this time.  This year it was all about using every weekend to do something new and fun.  You know, before the rains come (which they haven’t yet, weird). So now that things are slowing down I thought I’d recap 5 of my favorite adventures from the last 4 or 5 months.

#5: The Oregon Gardens

I’m a big fan of fancy gardens.  They’re vast, beautiful, relaxing and give me great inspiration for gardens at my house that I know I’ll never have the motivation to create.  The Oregon Gardens are about an hour outside of Portland in Silverton, OR.  They have all sorts of gardens – Northwest, wetlands, rose, conifer, children’s, etc.  It’s a large property and we spent about 2 hours here… with our dog!  Yes it’s dog-friendly.

This is actually not the 1st time we’ve been here though, they also have a resort on the property that we stayed at over the winter.  Obviously not much was in bloom then, which is why we came back.  But the resort is nice, and the main lodge is particularly cozy with its enormous hearth and bartenders that make uber-tasty Spanish Coffees.  Also a good place to get lunch between wandering the different gardens.

So I highly recommend a visit, I foresee it being a destination for me each year.

The view from the top, at the resort.

The view looking towards the resort.

See, it’s big.

Though this was fun part of the Children’s Garden.

This too.

Tasting NEPO 42

31 05 2012

ImageI found myself at NEPO 42 one night this week, but twice in the same night.  I was looking for a nice local spot with some personality and thought I’d give it a try.  I went 1st just for a drink and ordered a Sazerac.  Ever had one?… it’s a tasty concoction containing rye whiskey, bitters and absinthe.  Really good, and everything else looked good too, the food, the bar, the patio, etc.  It’s a quaint and simple place, staffed with very nice people.  I then left and spent some time in nearby Fernhill Park.  When it was time to leave the park however, I decided to head back to NEPO 42 to try out the food instead of going home for dinner.  Good decision.

ImageSince moving to Portland I’ve been intrigued by “chicken and waffles”, and they have it at NEPO.  Perhaps the combo exists in other cities and I just never noticed, not sure.  But, I thought it was time to try it even though I don’t eat much meat.  I must say that it was pretty tasty, and I get the appeal of the sweet/salty/savory blend.  Glad we didn’t get an appetizer because the breasts were huge, the bacon thick and the syrup sweet and sage-y.  I never thought I could finish the whole thing, but I did.

Another in our party got the smoked meatballs, yep, you read that right (below).  A simple and novel idea that I’m shocked I haven’t seen before (or done myself).  It was very well executed, and the two sides were also quality items, not afterthoughts.  The beans in particular were worth ordering on their own as a meal.

They also have decent veggie options like smoked tofu and veggie burger, but you can tell they take special pride in their meats.  Especially their smoking, to which they also do ribs and their wings appetizer.

This was the surprise find of the Summer so far, can’t wait to get back there.  One last thing, the music was spectacular and really added to the entire experience.  I heard Old 97’s, Mofro, Uncle Tupelo, Avett Bros, old Dylan, etc.  A myriad of indie-Americana.  Perfect.  A reviewer on urbanspoon said this, and it is dead-on, “This little place appears to be nothing from the outside but the inside is warm and inviting”

Relaxing interior, and nice staff and patrons.

*Just in case you haven’t figured it out, NEPO 42 = Northeast Portland 42nd St*

Nepo 42 on Urbanspoon

The Portland Art Museum

1 05 2012

A view from the main building through the sculpture garden towards the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art.

For the 1st year here I never made it to the Portland Art Museum, despite the fact that I love art.  Not sure why, but maybe because I thought it was small and not worth the effort?  That might be because I never saw it while driving around downtown so I made that stupid assumption.  And it does blend in with the surrounding buildings, but it is well worth seeking out because there’s a lot in there.  And “there” is actually two buildings, one for modern and contemporary art and one for everything else, connected by an underground walkway/gallery.

A blurry Rothko, my phone is old and bad.

Most recently I visited to see retrospective on Mark Rothko, a favorite artist of mine.  It was a great show, displaying his various early styles that I hadn’t seen much of, and then of course his more familiar style of rectangular color abstractions from the early 50’s on.  Turns out he has a Portland connection and lived here for a bit (graduated from Lincoln High!), as well as had his 1st major show here in 1933-34.  Great show, but as a surprise there was also an exhibit of an artist I hadn’t heard of, John Frame.  He makes very intricate marionette/puppet carvings and places them in their own environments.  He Also photographs and animates them.  I suppose it borders on “steam punk” but to me is more medieval-ish with a dark but playful feel.  Regardless, a very interesting artist.  See my crummy picture below, but I’d highly recommend checking out his website to get a better idea of what he does.  Or, go to the museum, but hurry because it’s gone at the end of May.

John Frame's work. There's an unbelievable amount of detail that doesn't show here (like all the eyes in the overcoat!), it's a show that can't be missed.

The permanent collection is comprised of what you’d think.  In the main building there’s European and American paintings, sculpture and photographs from all eras, as well as small galleries for Asian art, Native American art, and a nice local feature of Northwest artists.  The other building, the Jubitz Center Modern and Contemporary Art, houses a massive amount of, well… modern and contemporary art.  Between the two is a nice sculpture garden.  So go, become a member, and enjoy.  A few more random pictures of things I found interesting below….












This is a work by Joseph Beuys, and it’s quite large.

Works by Milton Avery, an American artist. I just love the expressions on the subject’s faces, sneaky looking. I want a portrait like that painted of me.

Their modern Japanese ceramics were all impressive and intriguing.

Lucky Labrador Brewpub With My Husky-Mix-Dog-Thing

20 03 2012

Ah yes, there’s nothing like buying a home and renovating it to make you stop blogging.  But, a renovated home is well worth not sharing your thoughts for many months.  So then, what monumental post would bring me back?…  Well, nothing monumental, just the Lucky Labrador Brew Pub on Hawthorne.

Lucky Lab has good beer but nothing too challenging (which i prefer), the food is simple, and most importantly, you can bring your dog.  That last one is huge.  This isn’t on the same level as a Deschutes, and they don’t try to be, I go here when I want cheap fresh food, good beer, and…. OK when I want to drink beer with dogs!

"I wish I had a beer!"

Here’s my Husky mix dog thing, so cute.  You should know you can’t take your dogs inside, but every location has an outside area for eating drinking and dogging (many covered).  I prefer the Hawthorne location because of the amount of dogs I’ve encountered and the menu, because each location’s menu differs.  I went to the location in the SW and it was mainly pizza, OK but I prefer sandwiches.  Plus, in addition to sandwiches Hawthorne has bento boxes, salads, soups (and a great veggie chili) and a lot of appetizers.  You order your food and drink inside and they bring it out to you.  The outside consists of picnic tables, a few heaters, and a water station for your pup’s needs.  They also have board games inside that you can bring out to play, which I do.

To sum up, fresh and simple food, good beer, nice people behind the counter, AND YOU CAN DRINK WITH YOUR DOG 🙂

FANTASTIC salsa, and chips. You can also get an idea of the outside dog/people area in this pic.

I got the Rose Garden above which was tasty and fresh (Hummus, Cucumber, Tomato, Lettuce, Feta Cheese & Guacamole on a Ciabatta Bun), but someone in my party also got the Three Cheese Meltdown (Melted Swiss, Cheddar, Pepper Jack,chopped Pepperoncini, Mushrooms & Salsa on Italian White) which was even better.

Here's where you get the goods inside. Always a good selection of beers, and even a cider.

As I mentioned, there are board games to play, here's my ass being handed to me in chess by um, someone quite a bit younger than me, heh.