coast of Oregon
Wednesday, July 11 2012
location: in a 2012 Prius on 29th Avenue just north of Ainsworth, northeast Portland, Oregon
At some point in the night I woke up in the Prius and decided to try sleeping in Gilly and Allen's basement again. This time I had no allergic reaction and quickly fell asleep.
But because of my ordeal last night, Gretchen resolved for us to sleep elsewhere for the rest of our stay in the Pacific Northwest. Today would be an action-packed day involving the Pacific coast, so we got started somewhat early.
Our first stop was the Dovetail Bakery, an all-vegan establishment that also makes sandwiches. We'd shown up before they usually make sandwiches, but Gretchen turned on the charm and the sandwiches were made. We also got a couple muffins and a cup of coffee for me.
We took US Route 26 west out of Portland through a vaguely Tuscan patchwork of agricultural crops that eventually settled on wheat. And then we climbed into the mountains, where the fields gave way to forests. The trees were being treated as just another crop, and massive clearcuts where visible everywhere. Attempts had been made to hide these from the road, but every now and then they peaked through. With more people using Google maps, of course, such cosmetic techniques have less utility.
Our destination on the coast was Ecola State Park, whose name is similar enough to "E. coli" to inspire giggles. ("E. coli" is our shorthand for the disorder and lingering unpleasantness of small children.) We parked our car at Canon Beach set out on a southward trail along the bluffs towards a series of rocks that included at least one natural arch. It was pretty, but it wasn't long before we were distracted by hunger and thoughts of those sandwiches we'd left in our car. So we turned around on the trail before it descended down to another parking area. Back in the parking lot, a little kid saw us with our bags of food and asked if we'd share our lunch with him. His mother seemed to take pride in his audacity even as she tried to shut him up.
We ended up sharing the cornchip part of our lunch with a couple White-crowned Sparrows at a picnic table just above the beach. It was surprising that these native land birds managed to muscle in before the sea gulls.
We headed north from Ecola to Astoria, a city on a sheltered penninsula near the northwest corner of Oregon. Most of what we listened to along the way was country pop music, including "Beers Ago" (which requires no interpretation) and "Springsteen" (which is as close to allegorical as pop country gets).
The bridge at the mouth of the Columbia is like nothing on the east coast (except, perhaps, the one at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay). I drove us into downtown Astoria and we walked along the waterfront past a large restaurant catering to tourists called Baked Alaska (we had to jump over a barricade at some point along the boardwalk). Eventually we went inland, past at least two music shops, and ended up at the Fort George brewpub. There we sat outside and I had their signature IPA, called Vortex. It was suprisingly cloudy and tasted a bit amateurish. I offered Gretchen a sip and she said it tasted a bit like something one of her crazy friends would have brewed back in Oberlin.
From Astoria, we drove back east along the Columbia, eventually crossing the next bridge across it near Kelso, Washington. The bridge offers a spectacular view of Mt. St. Helens as well as the heavily industrial north bank of the river.
Once in Washington State, we took I-5 south back towards Portland, but we diverted east on 205 to the town of Troutdale so we could visit Edgefield, the flagship McMenamins there. Edgefield was formerly a poor farm, and is home to their distillery, grapefields, and a good fraction of their other seemingly-harebrained efforts in vertical integration. Originally we'd planned on staying at Gearhart, a McMenamins on the Oregon coast, but then we'd found out that it lacked a soaking pool and a movie theatre, and that it mostly all about golf (something we're not into). So we'd altered our plans. We'd really taken advantage of our Prius' good gas mileage.
Edgefield is considerably bigger than the St. Francis School in Bend or even the Kennedy School; it has a large parking lot and it's easy to get disoriented when going from there to the check-in desk. But even with its size, Edgefield is McMenamins through-and-through, complete with decorations on most doors and electrical panels and silly little faces drawn on the fittings of the sprinkler system. Ours was Room 302, the BB King Room. It was at the end of the hall in a sort of penthouse with its own dormer and a large, partially-unkempt closet where (after some future rennovation) a bathroom might go. The thing that keeps Edgefield cheap is that all the bathrooms for the wing of a floor are clustered together in one place, keeping plumbing and maintenance expenses low. But they're nice bathrooms, each with its own lockable door and either a shower or a bath tub.
Soon after dumping our stuff in our room, we went on a search for a nice outdoor place to enjoy the first to McMenamin's two happy hours. Only after asking an employee did we learn that the best place to go was outside the Power Station, which is also where the movie theatre is. We both had happy hour veggie burgers and Gretchen had Ruby, her favorite beer in the whole world, while I had two IPAs, both of which were somewhat disappointing. Again, we found ourselves confused by the number and non-harmony of McMenamins menus.
Later we went to our room, donned our McMenanmins bath robes, and walked across the poor farm to the soaking pool (visible here). It was long and curved and contained its own island and sprinkler heads and steamed a little in the air from the heat. Instead of chlorine, it relied on salt to control the growth and propagation of unwanted microorganisms. I was a bit drunk from the IPAs, but that only added to the experience. Later we stumbled into the gift shop still wearing our bath robes. Some dude said something congratulatory about how casual we were being, and I agreed, saying we were being "balls out," a term I probably learned on The Colbert Report.
Gretchen went off to do something while I barricaded myself in one of the bathrooms with a bathtub (I believe it was actually a clawfoot tub) and took myself a nice hot bath while reading the New Yorker. Then I met up with Gretchen at the movie theatre to watch The Dictator again. This time, though, I had an IPA and Gretchen had a bloody mary. Judging from the widespread gasping in the theatre, not many of the people watching the movie had actually seen it before. I actually found the acting to be even worse this time through. For example, John C. Reilly was very poorly deployed and his performance was phoned-in at best.
After the movie, we went to the second happy hour, this time experiencing it from inside the Power Station. Unfortunately our waitress dispelled our illusions regarding the happy hour veggie burger, which, it turns out, contains actual cheese for some reason. Once we knew that, we couldn't order it, at least not from her. So we ordered vegan "bowls" instead. I'm not a big fan of the "bowl" foods having rice as their chief carbohydrate, but that might just be a psychological block. My Jamaican bowl turned out to be one of the most delicious things I ate on this whole vacation. I also pecked at an order of cajun-style tater tots. But I have suppressed school boy trauma wrapped around the memory of that flavor, and it's not something I'll ever really like.
The WiFi was bad in our room, so before bed Gretchen and I found our way to lounge on the first floor. Though it smelled of greasy food, the signal there was strong. So we hung out for a half hour or so while various drunken women wearing high heels and party dresses stumbled past talking loudly to one another about how they might need to throw up and what a dick "that guy" was being.
Clearcut along US Route 26 to the Oregon coast.
A foggy clearcut.
The beach at Ecola State Park.
Oceanic rocks, including an arch, at Ecola State Park.
A White-crowned Sparrow contemplates a corn chip at Ecola State Park.
A reverse lady beetle crawls across a coaster at the Fort George brewpub, famous for their underwhelming Vortex IPA.
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