Keep it Weird, Portland

Last week, I told you about the wine country portion of my vacation to Oregon with my boyfriend and his parents. Now you’ll get, the rest of the story [sorry, couldn’t miss the opportunity to go a little Paul Harvey] on Portland.

On our third full day in Oregon, we traveled back towards Portland and stopped for a morning hike at Multnomah Falls.

Multnomah Falls 7

The awe-inspiring 611-foot-tall Multnomah Falls

Now I’m from Ohio, and I’ve been on hikes. But my idea of a hike is a nice gravel path through the park with a few hills, but mostly flat. This did not fit that idea.

It started out easily enough. We made it up to the bridge no sweat…although the mist from the from the falls was already starting to wreak havoc on my hair…and paused for a few group photos, even acting as photographer for other tourists like ourselves before continuing on. That’s when things got interesting.

Multnomah Falls 5

That’s about the time this “hike” turned into a 3-mile round trip death march up the side of a mountain with more than a dozen steep switchbacks.

Multnomah Falls 8

I was too busy trying not to collapse or fall off the side of the mountain to snap a decent picture of the trail, so I borrowed this one from Black Watch Sasquatch

I used to be in shape, and if you recall, I was starting to get back into a nice fitness regimen [that has since fallen to pieces], but it had not prepared me at all. I made it about halfway up the mountain before I was really huffing and puffing and had to take off my sweatshirt. I started asking “Are we there yet?” a lot and paused every time someone passed us coming back down…this was both a way to catch a quick break and avoid getting knocked off the trail and plummeting to my death [not a completely invalid fear as we turned on the news later that night to hear about a girl who had fallen off that very trail…thankfully she survived]. I was motivated to keep going on by people making their way back down from the falls [their easy breathing and jaunty steps taunting me as I struggled] especially one crazy lady in dressy wedge sandals, a little dog whose legs seemed to go a million miles a minute but didn’t appear to tire [if he can do it then I definitely can!] and of course not wanting to look like a whiny, girly-girl failure in front of my boyfriend [no self-respecting farm girl wants be any of those things].

So, I pulled myself together and, with a lot of encouragement from my boyfriend, made it to the top of the falls.

We made it!

We did it!

And boy was it worth it because the view was amazing.

Multnomah Falls 6

Looking out from the falls over the Columbia River

After working so hard to make it to the top, I wanted to hang around a little and take in the falls. My boyfriend, ever the explorer, was happy for the chance to unleash his inner little boy and climb around off the trail.

Multnomah Falls 2

And we played a little game of “let me take a picture of you while you’re taking a picture of something without you knowing”…also known as “picture in picture” for short:

Multnomah Falls - Pic Within a Pic 2

My scenic inspiration and view of the top of the falls from the safety of the overlook

Multnomah Falls - Pic Within a Pic 1

His inspiration…this one would technically be a picture within a picture within a picture…well done boyfriend, well done

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His scenic inspiration and adventurous view of the top of the falls

Multnomah Falls - Pic Within a Pic 3

My inspiration…the photographer at work

After our adventures at the top, we rejoined his family and made our way back down the mountain, through cutback after cutback. I like to think that I looked as carefree as all those people I’d seen before, but I have my doubts. Going down my legs were starting to feel like jell-o from the hike and the trail was a bit slippery from the spray of the falls…not to mention I was more afraid of falling off the side of the cliff than on the way up so I was more or less hugging the inner mountain wall.

Multnomah Falls 4

In what seemed like no time at all [especially when compared to the going up], we had made it back to the bridge and our death march hike came to an end. But not before I could snap one last artsy photo of the falls.

Multnomah Falls 3

After the hike, we piled back into the car and traveled the rest of the way into Portland to check into our hotel, where I promptly collapsed on the bed to relax before dinner.

On our last full day in Oregon, my boyfriend and I struck out on our own to explore Portland. Now, I have to admit, that going into the trip, I thought I’d enjoy exploring Portland more than visiting winery after winery. Once again, I was wrong. Portland definitely has some gems, but I came to the conclusion [rather quickly] that Portland just isn’t the city for me. I do not fit into the Subaru-driving teen angsty-ness mold of Portland. The grunge/hipster/slacker thing the twenty-somethings of Portland have going on could not be further from my classic, pulled together thing [my boyfriend’s parents actually had their waitress at lunch ask where they were from because they didn’t look like they were “from around here”…which she swore was a good thing].

Like I said, though, there were gems. We started our morning off at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a cute/cool coffee shop with a trendy hipster vibe and a line almost out the door and so artisanal/against the man that they only accept cash…a fact I was willing to overlook because the pastries were delicious and the coffee was really good [different than that other Pacific Northwest favorite but in an interesting way].


Photo courtesy of Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Coffee in hand, we made our way to the mecca of bibliophiles everywhere: Powell’s Books.

Powell's Books Sign

I don’t even know where to begin! Photo courtesy of Wishing for Horses

The four floor building sits on an entire city block and is packed with row upon row of every book imaginable. I was so overwhelmed that all I could do was wander around with my mouth open, staring in amazement and running my hands along the shelfs of books as I passed. In the pressure of the moment I couldn’t decide what to buy, so I just got lost in the stacks [reliving my childhood in the children’s section and feeling entirely under-read everywhere else].

Powell's Books

So. Overwhelmed.

That afternoon, we hit up the other Oregon adult beverage staple: the microbrewery. We hopped across the river to Widmer Brothers Brewing where we toured their brewery and did a tasting. They were just finishing up their weekly brew cycle, so we didn’t actually get to see any beer being made, but our tour guide did explain all the steps:

First, the malt grain is dropped into the mash tun along with gallons of warm water (aka mash) where it hangs out at really high temperatures before moving on to the lauter tun, where the wort (water and sugars) is separated from the mash. Next it’s pumped into the wort kettle where everything boils and the hops are added at varying points to add bitterness, aroma and flavor to the beer. The last step of the process in this first room is for the wort to head to the whirlpool, where all the non-liquid settles to the bottom. On it’s way out to fermentation, it’s cooled down and yeast is added. The beer is fermented in giant tanks at different temperatures and for different lengths of time depending on the style of beer being made. Last but not least, the beer is bottled and kegged and shipped out for sale.

Brewery 4

The mash tun, lauter tun, wort kettle and whirlpool (they all look pretty much the same from the outside)

Brewery 3

Widman Brothers uses two kinds of hops one that’s more bitter and one that’s more aromatic. I think these are the bitter hops but I could be wrong.

Brewery 2

And that would make these the aromatic hops.

Brewery 1

The fermentation tanks

Our tour guide was really interesting and knew a lot about the microbrewery scene and brewing in general [he actually judges beer competitions and created one of the company’s brews]. Since we’d spent the first part of the week tasting wine and there’s a correct way to taste wine [the 4 S’s: See, Swirl, Smell, Sip], I was curious if there was a correct way to taste beer. Turns out it’s basically the same process you’re just looking for different flavors, aromas, etc.

I’m not a huge beer person and I can’t drink anything super dark [think Yuengling and that’s about as dark as I go], but I really enjoyed Widmer Brothers signature brew, the Hefe, an unfiltered hefeweizen. The company is starting to market some of it’s beers nationally now, so I was actually able to find a Hefe after I got back from vacation.


One of my new favorite beers. Photo courtesy of Widmer Brothers Brewing

After the brewery, we tried to hit up Voodoo Doughnut because a few friends had told me it’s the place to go. Turns out they were right, because there was a line out the door and around the block just to get in. We quickly decided donuts were not essential to our Portland experience.

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I like donuts, but not enough to stand in that line…I learned my lesson with Georgetown Cupcakes

We finished off our last night of vacation with take out pizza and an in-room movie as we packed.

Portland 1

We had a nice view of Oregon and Mt. Hood off in the distance as we packed

The next morning, we traveled at the crack of stupid again, but I guess when you’re heading back east and you’re already three hours behind, it’s better to get up at the crack of stupid than home at that time.

Portland 3

It was so clear the morning we took off that I may have been a little rebellious and not turned off all my electronic devices so I could snap a photo of Mt. Hood…at least I left everything in airplane mode!

All in all, it was a great vacation [if you get the chance to head to Portland and the Willamette Valley definitely do it], and I was sad to head back home to reality. One of the best parts about vacation was that I let myself completely unplug and turn all the alerts off for my cell phone. It was so great not to be constantly bombarded with dings and tied to my phone that I waited an extra day after getting home before reluctantly turning it all back on.

As we get ready to head into Labor Day Weekend and the unofficial end to summer, I’m a little sad to see all the summer relaxation coming to a close. But fall is coming up, and to tell you the truth, I think I’m a fall girl at heart.


Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy

I love my job but it is time for a much-needed vacation.

Photo Courtesy of Mutineer Magazine

As you read this, I’m likely sitting on a plane bound for the Pacific Northwest with my boyfriend and his parents. I get to spend the week in the beautiful [at least according to the travel websites] Willamette Valley of Oregon, sporting comfortable summer dresses, sandals and sunglasses while sampling some of the finest vino in the country. The Willamette [It’s Willamette, Dammit!] Valley is known for its Pinot Noirs, which means I will be one very happy girl. Not to mention all the time I will get to spend just being with my love. I’m very excited about this developing trend…


The Little Joys of Airplane Travel

With the unofficial start to summer just days away and a long holiday weekend awaiting, I decided it was the perfect time to ditch the District and visit my boyfriend in the Windy City. When you’re in a long distance relationship where being in the same place requires one (or both) of you to hop on a plane to get to where the other happens to be, four days and four nights together without having to take any vacation days is pretty much unheard of. But that rare gift was what we were facing. I didn’t even have to pay for my plane ticket – I’d swiped my credit card enough over the past year to earn a free flight and by some miracle Memorial Day weekend wasn’t blacked out! I should have known this was all falling into place too easily…

So yesterday, after a very successful and productive day of work and monitoring the Southwest website for hints of possible delays from the line of thunderstorms headed our way, I was feeling pretty good about life. Then 4:00 hit and my phone lit up with a call from the airlines saying my flight (which wasn’t until 9:30) had been delayed until 11:30. I started to curse Southwest. How on earth could they know five hours ahead of time that my flight was going to be delayed two hours when none of the flights between Chicago and DC had been delayed all day?!? Frustrated, I rushed home after work anyway to finish packing and grab Weasley for the trek to the airport in case the flight somehow left on time.

Napping the delays away

Napping the delays away

It turns out getting to the airport would be the easy part; leaving would prove more difficult. Apparently, the international airport forgot that it was a long holiday weekend so a lot of people would be leaving town after work on a Thursday night – oh, and that they scheduled several red-eye international flights – because lines to get through security where a nightmare. They only had two lines open and passengers snaked through multiple sets of elastic lane dividers. It was so bad that I was actually thankful that my flight was delayed because I would have missed it. By the time we got to security, the TSA agents were pretty harried and trying to push people through as quickly as possible, which is difficult enough when you’ve got to basically undress and unpack your suitcase before you can go through the screening machine, let alone when you have to undress, unpack and pull your dog out of his carrier, remove his collar and carry him through the metal detector, praying he doesn’t get spooked and leap from your arms only to disappear into the airport sans collar as the TSA agent swabs your hands for “residue.” Thankfully, my little Weasley is an expert traveler and was the model doggy airport passenger. He even got the TSA agent rushing people through the lines to relax and smile a little…and we relaxed and smiled a little when we found the classy airport Starbucks that was both a coffee shop and a wine bar.

After last night, I think Weasley is an even better traveler than me. He didn’t bat an eye or even whimper as the gate agent announced to the terminal that our flight [whose delay had been shortened and had an airplane “in range” to take us to Chicago] would actually now be leaving at 1:15 a.m. due to weather and a plane diversion to Cleveland. He also refused to let out a howl [happy of course] when, five minutes later, the same gate agent announced to the terminal that the plane had made it through the storm and we would actually be leaving at 11:30 after all. He slept calmly in his carrier under my seat throughout the, at times,turbulent flight and slightly rough landing. He didn’t even bark at the three other dogs in the baggage claim area as we were leaving the airport. Having Weasley be so calm when I’m stressing out about making my flight or if we’re ever going to take off or if one of those turbulent bounces might actually make us fall out of the sky, really helps calm me down and make the whole flying experience more enjoyable.

Weasley has already gotten back to his favorite city dog activity: watching all the people, dogs and cars passing below.

Weasley has already gotten back to his favorite city dog activity: watching all the people, dogs and cars passing below.

Now that our feet [and paws] are safely on the ground in Chicago, I realize that there are little joys hidden in even the most hellish flight experiences: the smile of that stressed TSA agent, that classy Starbucks, my sweet little puppy’s wet nose pressed against his mesh carrier, the honey roasted peanuts mid-flight and, of course, the smiling face and extra long hug waiting for me in the sea of strangers just outside the terminal. Now I’ve got four days and three more nights to enjoy this…