Throughout our travels, we’ve been the beneficiaries of great hospitality, generosity, and openness. That’s especially true of Oregon, perhaps because we spent so long there, perhaps because the state attracts a special kind of people. I’m not sure. Probably both, and more.
I’ve been meaning to send some gratitude out into the world for this. It’s a post I’ve been avoiding (I mean, we crossed the border into California two moths ago now) for various complicated reasons. Maybe I was worried that I’m not up to the task of properly honoring all the people I want to mention. Of course I want to make each unique. Maybe it felt too personal, as if we were exposing not just ourselves but also these other friends to the blogosphere. Maybe it just made me a little bit sad that we’re not there anymore, that it will be some time before we are able to return.
(We will return, no doubt about that. I have a list of unfinished business, things I still want to do, or to do again, people to spend time with.)
In keeping with Chris and I practicing routines, we’ve started an accountability group (a “group” of two). My goal for the week was to post the two topics I’ve been struggling with. So, here goes!
When we cruised into Oregon, we already had some social plans. Chris had connected with a woman who he grew up with, someone who had since moved to Oregon for college and then settled and started a family. I have to say, I was skeptical about meeting someone he hadn’t really spent time with since he was a child. Would we have any connection? What would we talk about? Was this nuts? Oh, Alexis of little faith.
Chris’ friend is awesome, as is her husband and their two small kids. Her mom even came to dinner! It was really good fun. Of course I’m grateful that they hosted us in their home, made us a nice meal, provided us a warm welcome. One night staying with them turned into a weekend of house and dog sitting while they went to the beach. We got to play at being regular people. That was cool.
The thing that has really lasted though, in my memory, is how completely open they were — the kind of people who seem to be unfailingly authentic, who are willing to open their hearts and their minds, who (seemingly) easily bring up “real” topics as easily as they do they “what to do in our area” kind of conversation. I won’t divulge all their secrets, or their not-so-secrets here, of course. Yet I have to mention how much it meant to me to spend time with some really genuine people. Living on the road can be lonely and isolating. I clearly felt a little bit cynical about my ability to relate. It was a good lesson for me to have this comfortable connection, to feel human. Thank you, Chris’ childhood friend and her family. That meant a lot.
Leaving Portland for the Coast
While in Portland we also saw a former colleague of Chris’, someone who had recently moved out west. He and his other half are on an adventure of their own, and it was really fun to feel that spark. We met at cool place called the Hungry Tiger and had a fun evening of conversation about the area and their discoveries, both logistical and personal. It was exciting to hear about how their careers are developing, how they are exploring the world, finding things they love. I so admire their willingness to pick up and go. We wonder whether we’ll find a place on this travel adventure that we might want to relocate to, but it’s a pretty scary proposition. There’s something about the safety of the network at home that’s pretty hard to break. I so admire the bravery of these friends for getting it done.
Plus, they gave us some great suggestions, including a list of galleries to visit. Several weeks later, when my mom was in town, we used that to create a half day art outing. While we might have found the galleries on our own, they felt more intimate for having been suggested by a friend. I regret that we didn’t properly connect back to him to say “thanks” and share what we enjoyed, or that we didn’t do another outing with these folks. It wasn’t because of them. If anything, it was because of the ways we were discombobulated by travel at that time. I hope (I think) we are getting better at being appreciative visitors.
We also had a couple of lucky friend-of-a-friend meetings. One in particular bears mentioning for that same reason again — the openness and willingness to make time for a real human connection. In this case, with an almost complete stranger!
Let’s see if I can make this make sense — a friend back home had made an introduction for another friend we know when she was living in Oregon (but who sadly for us, went back east just before we arrived out west). So friend #2 (who I adore, but who was properly Chris’ friend through the arts long before I came into the picture) provided an email introduction. We thought Chris and I would stop in for a visit, but logistics worked out that I would be going alone while he was in Alaska. So these lovely people in Oregon found themselves wondering who this woman was — a friend of a friend’s of a friend’s partner, or something like that — arriving at their house to stay. I found myself wondering about them, too! (Yet also trusting our friend’s recommendation, as I suppose they did.) We sorted some of this out via email, and I arrived, trailer in tow.
This couple, who are closer our parents’ age than our own, had long lived and made their careers in Corvallis, but had recently relocated to Bend for a variety of personal reasons. That is where I visited them. The visit was a whirlwind of activity and energy. Multiple hikes. Directions to some of their newly discovered favorite eats and drinks / and discovering some new ones with them: ocean rolls at Sparrow Bakery, Looney Bean coffee overlooking the river, savory yogurt and other scrumptious middle eastern treats.
As someone who tends to be calm and watchful, I am in complete admiration of the energy radiating from the female half of this couple. She had the two of us writing together and the three of us playing drawing games; she was cooking and coming up with ideas; asking me to read them my poetry; showing me their art. He shared his music with me, and his interesting mind.
I feel like this is where I start to fail in my ability to describe these connections – especially the one in Bend. When I write it down, it sounds like a list of stuff! These details are part of my memory, but they don’t capture what seems so special, so unique. That’s more personal, intangible. I liked that I immediately felt like almost an old friend, a trusted one. It’s a nice quality, to make someone feel like that.
Some connections were more fleeting, but cool all the same. I visited the oldest cemetery in Eugene with a new friend, a fellow traveller, adventurer, and camper-liver. We wandered the moss covered hills for a couple of hours, talking about life, appreciating history. She showed me a slice of this town that I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered.
And finally, we made another set of new friends who might be lasting (we hope!). They are a sweet couple roughly our age, so full of excitement for life, especially life in Oregon. Once again I’m going to fail at describing everything I appreciate about them. They provided thoughtful lists of things to do in their city and around the state. We discovered Cape Perpetua because of them — a place we went back to again and again to watch the surf and to crawl around tide pools. They might someday (when parenting responsibilities allow for it) travel camp like we are doing. I know they’ll come up with some grand adventures, and will do it with full enthusiasm for all this planet has to offer. I hope that we can repay some of their kindnesses then, with some recommendations of our own.
I’m not sure if I’ve done any of these people justice. I wish I could mention everyone else, too, outside of Oregon. For now, I’ll just shout out to a couple of cool people in Poky. You know who you are. We appreciate you, too.
Alexis has already blogged about our time spent in Joseph, OR. In that blog she mentions a hike I did while there. Here’s a short blog about that long hike.
The Wallowa Mountains is one of those places I could easily go back to. It seems to be a backpacker’s paradise; for that is what it would take to get into some of the isolated beauty these mountains have to offer. The shortest day hike I could find that had a specific destination was to Aneroid Lake, a 12 mile round trip. Another three miles from the lake is Tenderfoot Pass, something I wasn’t sure I’d make and would play it by ear depending on how I felt. Did I mention there’s a 4000 foot elevation gain.
I hit the trail around 8am and told Alexis I’d be back between 2-4pm. It was uphill from the start and soon I was shedding off layers. It was one of those hikes that didn’t start really rewarding you until the last third. Sure, intermingled within the spruce and fir forests were some nice vistas and small waterfalls, but I was hoping for more.
And more I got. As I worked my way out of the real steep terrain, things began to open up. Beautiful meadows dotted the base of the rocky peaks with meandering streams carving their way around in no big hurry. A greater sense of isolation and vastness began to fill the air and I knew I was in a special place.
It’s nice to hike alone sometimes, and be alone while hiking. I only encountered one other person on my way up, a trail runner on her way down. As she jogged past me she said I’d have the place to myself. Hinting that I was close to Aneroid Lake, a spark of excitement ran through me. Sure enough, the lake was in sight a bit before noontime. Breaking for lunch at a scenic alpine lake is always rewarding.
I spent about an hour at the lake before deciding to continue on to see what laid ahead even though I was getting worn out. Soon the trail emerged into a breathtaking valley surrounded by peaks and bowls. It was a gateway I had to enter.
Before I knew it, I was at Tenderfoot Pass. I walked around this open area, taking in the rewarding views, the peaceful silence and crisp air. Feeling alive and free, feeling lucky to be able to be there.
Off in the distance, I saw a fellow hiker; we waved to each other, as if bearing witness to where we each were. His small body describing the immense space around us. He continued climbing towards a peak while I turned and forced my way back down. I was beat and knew I had at least eight miles of trail before me.
I’m lucky to have a mom who is wise, brave, resourceful, adventurous, chill, and really dedicated to continuing to raise this offspring of hers.
Recently, I was also lucky enough recently to have my mom visit me in Oregon for two whole weeks! I wanted her to come out; we had talked about it for a while imaging that the trip would happen at a different time. Finally, the timing was right, and I really needed that mom time. But two whole weeks? When she suggested that I had to be honest and say, “Thank you, that’s a long time, let me think about it.”
Think about it I did, and I decided to trust that it would be awesome. Mom and I have driven cross-country to Santa Fe together, jetted off to London for Thanksgiving together (though of course they don’t celebrate it there), visited San Francisco together while she was at a conference, seen Savannah together, and probably countless other mother-daughter trips that aren’t on the tip of my brain right now. Short version? I know mom and I can travel well together. (We travel with dad too, and as a family have some great away-from-home-routines like afternoon quiet reading time.) I knew it would be good.
While mom booked her flights, I contacted some friends and fellow travelers who run a couple of spectacular Airbnb locations in Portland. (Maker Flat is larger and filled with the work of local artisans for sale, Zen Loft is smaller and beautifully renovated with a wall of window-doors and a hot tub – consider them if you are in town, they are worth it and in a great location in Portland!).
Mom and I stayed at the Zen Loft for the first week or so, and then headed to Cannon Beach on the coast to (re)unite with Chris for a few nights – he had been there with the Cricket. When we returned to the city, Chris spent a couple of days at Maker Flat with mom and I before I took him to the airport for his own adventure to Alaska! And then mom and I had a few more days in the city.
What did we do with all this time? Most days began with a couple of quiet hours at “home” followed by some coffee shop time (mom & I liked this boulangerie best) and then either a walk or bus ride to some sort of destination.
- A half day at Powell’s (and then another visit too)
- A day at the art museum
- Gallery-hopping in the Pearl District (thanks to Chris’ friend, also Chris, for some great gallery suggestions) and sampling beers at Deschutes
- Consignment shopping on Hawthorne followed by crepes and cocktails
- Restaurants on Division Street, especially the happy hour pizza, mussels, and cocktails at Cibo (we want back for this several times!)
- Making up errands and walking around town
- Yummy local and humane burgers at the bar at the Nightlight Lounge
- And attending Wordstock (our second time together hearing Simon Winchester read – the first was in small town Connecticut)
But that’s just the tourist stuff (as great as it was). The thing we REALLY did, was talk. What else to do over daytime walks, happy hour drinks, dinners out, sitting in the kitchens of our neat local apartment spaces.
Yes, mom and I have traveled a lot together. Yet I realized during our visit that it had been TEN YEARS since our last trip like this, just the two of us.
It was good to do.
We talked in ways different than we do when we are “all together.” We also got deeper into conversations as we returned to topics again and again. It was different than visiting my folks at the Connecticut Farm.
We talked about her life, her sisters and brothers, her marriage, her first boyfriend. We talked about the safety of traveling alone (I was soon to head off on a solo jaunt). We reminisced. One night she made a joke about me “going clubbing” that I knew right away was a reference to a London trip, when I was 17 or 18. I had recently told Chris this particular story, in fact. (The story is about mom not allowing me to go clubbing, sane parent that she is.) But Mom and I realized that we remembered the details differently! So interesting, these conversations.
She said wise things. Drinking Belgian beer and snacking on a big bowl of olives in neat brewery, she said, in response to something I had said, “there’s backing down, and there’s shutting down.” It was a useful distinction. We talked about it in work contexts, in relationship contexts, all around.
By the end of mom’s visit I know she was ready to go home, to see dad, to chill at the farm again in her own routines. And I was glad to get back to the Cricket and Chris. That’s a good part of vacations, I think, being glad to go home.
I’m really thankful for the time we spent together, enough so that I said to her on one of our last nights — “This has been so great getting to know you this way (for all the reasons we had been discussing) — do you think dad would consider coming out to see me somewhere during these travels?”
I am so glad that dad’s response, several days later, was, “a seed has been planted.”
We’ll see what grows!
In the meantime, I keep coming back to all the good times mom and I had hanging out together in Oregon. I am very grateful that this bit of luxury is possible in our lives, that she was willing to do it, and that we have a relationship in which the idea of such a visit sounds like (and is) fun.
Thank you mom. Thank you universe.
“Where are you now?” if often the first question friends or family ask when we talk. I give updates big and small: the Pacific Northwest, Portland, a rocky cliff on the Oregon seashore where the waves crash hard into rocks, a field next to a barn, or walking the streets of a town.
So, where are we now?
Well, we updated the map tracker to show all of our scribbles in and around Oregon… back and forth from the coast … up and down from Eugene or Corvallis to Portland … an excursion out to Bend.
So that tells you where we were (roughly).
And as you can see by looking at the live tracker, we are now into California! We are moving slowly down the coast. We plan to go to San Francisco next, and have made reservations for the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving at a lodge outside of Yosemite. It’s cold enough there to make four non-aluminum walls and a roof a necessity. (NB: It also has a salt water hot tub!)
Then, back to the coast I imagine (nothing is decided) and heading south into warmer and sunnier climates. (Not that we are complaining!)
So that’s a quick update. More to come soon!
We’ll have several posts soon about my mom’s excellent visit to Portland, the adventures of Chris and Alexis on the coast, even more about Chris’ explorations of the coast, and other highlights of the last month like Olympic National Park and some new friends in Bend.
But since all of that will take a bit of time to mentally process, and because we have so many pictures to organize, I have another post first.
This week I had my first excursion alone with the Cricket. Those of you who know me well will not be surprised that I chose to spend part of that time soaking in hot water.
But first? A drive through snow!
The only logical way out of Bend took me over this pass.
For those of you worried about my safety with the trailer, I did pull over and wait until I could follow a plow truck.
And for those of you who, like me, are still learning the conventions of mountain life out west: those orange poles are guide markers for snow plows (for when the snow gets REALLY deep).
But soon enough I was through the snow and into light fog on a winding road along a reservoir … headed to Cougar hot springs.
The water really looked that aqua green, and the banks really looked that red.
There’s moss everywhere! And the foliage is still shining.
This next one looks like the temple of an ancient civilization, doesn’t it?
With the fog, it was really hard to capture a clear picture.
But these scenes had me banging on the steering wheel saying, “oh my god, oh my god” as I drove along the cliff edge.
It was amazing.
And endless. (Here’s my rig!)
I want to go back. Again and again!
This waterfall begins the short hike into the hot springs.
It was mossy and stunning. I thought it would be quiet there, because it was a Wednesday morning, and lightly raining.
But the four cascading pools in various temperatures were nearly filled with naked and semi-naked people lounging in the mountain air.
So I can’t show you pictures of the hot springs themselves. But trust me, they are worth all that driving!
Chris loves just about everything autumnal. Including (especially) pumpkins. And I love Chris.
So on my walks about Portland, I ended up taking a handful of snapshots of the amazing pumpkin art and other Halloween decorations.
It was all so very creative!
I love the nuances to the expressions in some of these jack-o-lanterns.
Look at that face!
A little family walk.
And finally, we look forward to Thanksgiving…
… when (most likely) we’ll be somewhere in California.
Joseph, Oregon was our first destination in a new state.
We intended only to stop for a day or two and pass through on our way to all the places in the pacific northwest that we already had on our radar. We were already stressing about how to fit it all in and beat the cold weather.
Yet when we arrived, we fell for this old timber town that had revitalized itself with bronze foundries and a cute main street. We also fell for the idea of “Alpenfest,” which would be happening a week after we arrived, and would be Oregon’s largest (or only?) swiss-bavarian festival.
Our time in Joseph was peaceful. Chris went on a 19-mile hike, about which he will blog one of these days. I took shorter strolls along a rocky stream. We lay on a blanket in a beautiful park, under stunning mountain vistas and towering pines. We drank at the local brewery, sipped coffee and caught up on internet chores at local cafes, and did a bit of small town browsing. We had those luxurious days at camp, in which it feels ok to just hang around, read, draw, and relax – no sightseeing necessary. Sometimes it’s just nice to feel normal.
So we stayed for alpenfest!
Below is one of the many posters covering the old building in which the main festivities were held. These travel posters from around the alps looked stunningly like the scenery to be had in Joseph.
We kicked off the festivities with the locals at a charming brewery, and we tried their Octoberfest beer. We met a man about our age who had, in the last several years, learned to make alphorn and to play the instrument beautifully. We met an adorable couple a little younger than us who had dressed up in their best rendition of traditional alpen-wear. So cute.
It was difficult to capture the dance hall where the main events were held, because of the lighting… but here is one attempt.
We took free polka lessons, which prepared us (a little bit) for a night of dancing. There were dance performances by professionals, but also plenty of time for us regular folk to strut around the dance floor. Chris is an excellent dancer and can throw me around with panache. We had one nice lady come up to us after a bout of dancing to say “if you two aren’t married, you should be!”
Here’s a sped-up clip of the professionals in their special garb. Chris and I were also lucky enough to partner with a cute couple from this troupe during a group dance, and we spun and spun just like in the video.
It was a three-bratwurst day for Chris (he doesn’t recommend any more than that) and a strudel, potato, and coleslaw day for Alexis. And then we were off to explore new territory…