Monday, July 30, 2012


Wagon Tracks on
the Oregon Trail
Dimples Ancestor
The Covered Wagon
A short drive east brings us to Baker City, Oregon.  We spend a few days here at the Oregon Trails West RV Park.  This park is in a really great location, and their WiFi works OK, but their lack of any rules regarding the appearance of the permanent residences, leaves us feeling like we are slumming in the ghetto. But we’re out and about during the day and we don’t feel unsafe, just aesthetically polluted.

The major attraction that brings us here is the Oregon Trail Interpretive Museum.  Although neither of our families came west in covered wagons, this is a large part of the history of the western United States.  We spend a whole day, studying the exhibits and hiking the grounds. We even walk along some of the wagon tracks that still mar the landscape.

Sumpter Valley RR
Speaking of marred landscapes, another draw for this area is The Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge.  There we take a guided tour, shoot some pics and hike a bit amongst the tailings. We also spend some time photographing the Sumpter Valley Railroad Yard and some of their train cars.

Back in Baker City we walk around the historic downtown district photographing the incredible architecture in the late afternoon sun.  While downtown we decide to treat ourselves to an upscale dinner at the Geiser Grand Hotel.  After falling into disrepair in the 1960’s the hotel sat vacant until 1993 when it was restored to it’s current glory.  The restaurant’s main dining room sits in the center of the building. It is actually an atrium with a beautiful stained glass ceiling suspended two stories above.  The ambiance is elegant yet comfortable, paying homage to the bygone era of gold fever and early twentieth century elegance.  The menu however, honors the current trend of local, fresh and organic. We dine on a Crab Cake appetizer, Mesquite Smoked Prime Rib, Wild Mushrooms in Marsala Sauce Over Grilled Polenta, and finish off the meal with a House Special Bread Pudding in Whiskey Sauce with Marionberry Ice Cream.  The Crab Cake is a bit too “blackened” and bitter. The Smoke on the Prime Rib is a tad heavy handed along the edges, but the center is flavorful and tender.  The Wild Mushrooms are exquisite and deliver explosions of flavor and the Bread Pudding a wonderful finale for a pleasant meal in spectacular surroundings.
Geiser Grand Hotel
The Geiser Grill on Urbanspoon

While waiting for our table we see that the hotel is hosting a ghost-hunting event later that night with members of a local paranormal investigation group.  We discuss this and decide mid meal that we would like to participate if there are still spots available.  There are and we finish our meal shortly before the 9:00PM start.  We’re not really sure what to expect.  There are television shows featuring these types of events, but since we don’t watch a lot of television we are only aware that they exist and only have a small preconception of what can happen.

Hunting Ghosts

At the start we are divided into three groups. Each group is headed by an experienced hunter and supplied with gizmos and gadgets to record any findings.  Our group starts in the basement where supposedly there have been paranormal readings and ghost sightings.  The basement houses the washers and dryers for the hotel, all of which are running when we arrive.  Additionally all of the plumbing in the hotel runs along the ceiling and we hear the constant gush, dribble and stop of water as guests above shower and flush their toilets.  We sit in the dark and wait.  The hunter asks questions that would irritate any adult let alone a dead one.  She also continually turns about the room and takes pictures with her flash camera, blinding us and causing spots before our eyes.  (No wonder folks see and hear things that are more imagination than reality.)  This continues on the third and second floor and the kitchen and adjoining rooms.  Occupied hotels are busy and ambient noise is everywhere.  After each group visits the three specified locations, we all meet together and once more sit in the dark in the basement.  The finale is a post mortem where everyone reports their findings.  Our take on this is that the human imagination will fill in the dots and create what we want to believe, and if there really are ghosts or spirits in the Geiser Grand, they are probably just sick and tired of being prodded and poked to perform for a bunch of wannabe ghost busters.  Regardless, we left laughing and feeling that this was one of the funniest adventures we have participated in.

With nothing else to keep us here, we head out to work our way further east…



Wednesday, July 25, 2012


We arrived at Airstream Adventures Northwest bright and early. The folks there have done a beautiful job and Dimples looks all smooth shiny and polished.  After taking care of business (which was minimal due to the excellent service provided by Airstream Adventures and our Insurance peeps over at Progressive) we hooked up and headed off to Dayville, Oregon. 

Sheep Rock Fossil
It is a fairly long drive over the Cascade Mountain passes, circling around Mount Hood and entering a land of harsh and exquisite beauty. You may have heard that Oregon contains the most diverse unique geologic environment in North America, but once you actually travel east of the Cascades, unique takes on a whole new dimension.  We are awe struck around each turn and over each rise. This is geology on steroids, super ninja geology, f-ing awesome geology…
Fish House Inn

We stay at the Fish House Inn and RV Park.  We chose this place because it is conveniently located eight miles east of the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Once we arrived we discovered what a true gem this place really is.  Owner/operator Mike Smith offers the gamut of lodging: a private cottage, rooms in a great old craftsman bungalow, tent camping on manicured lawns and a six-space full service RV park.  They provide super clean laundry, restrooms, showers and Wi-Fi.  It is located right in the center of Dayville, a small-small town; there is nothing urban about this place.  Within walking distance are a café, the town mercantile, the post office and the gas station with mini-mart. All of the folks are genuinely friendly; it feels like small town America at it’s best. We feel like we are staying in a rich uncle’s back yard kicking back a few beers and petting his Golden Retrievers Zoe and Zander.

Maybe it’s the limited number of spaces, but the guests here are friendlier than any place we’ve visited so far.  Everyone has tips and suggestions of places to stay and sites to see, so we end up making changes to our next few weeks itinerary. We share meals and cocktail hours with Frank and Colleen from Kennewick, Washington who cook delicious Dutch Oven short ribs with roasted apples and potatoes and later in the week with Vic and Diane from up by Glacier Park in Montana who treat us to really tasty Buffalo burgers. We hope to visit both of these couples in the future when we travel through their neck of the woods.

Dayville Merc.
Foraging is pretty much limited to stocking up at Rays Market in Prineville, picking up items at the Dayville Mercantile, the Southport Mini-Mart and a trip to Thomas Orchards in Kimberly where we gathered some fresh picked peaches, cherries, Triple H Ranch artisan Cotswold cheese and Summer Sausage.

We spend the week exploring the area, especially the Sheep Rock and Painted Hills Units of the John Day Fossil Beds.  At Sheep Rock we visit the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, in the shadow of Sheep Rock, where we see fossils from all three units of the monument. The fossils are from the age of mammals, after the demise of the dinosaurs. We hike the short trails around the center and up the road at the Cant Ranch. In the Blue Basin area we hike the easy Island in Time Trail and the not-so-easy Blue Basin Overlook Trail.  We stop at Cathedral Rock and have to push our jaws up shut. The trails in the Painted Hills unit grant outstanding views. Everything here is otherworldly, it is unlike any landscape we have ever seen.  In lieu of words:
Sheep Rock
John Day River
Red Rock

Cathedral Rock

Blue Basin

Painted Hills

Next, we're off to Baker City for a few days to visit the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.



Wednesday, July 18, 2012



One of the great things about vagabondage is the freedom to change on a dime when the mood suits.  The other side of this equation is the pain in the ass it can be when change is not of one’s choosing.  Having to deal with the dent in Dimples is one of those times.  We cut our time in Hood River short by two days, cancelled our next two weeks reservations and headed west to the nearest Airstream dealer:   Airstream Adventures Northwest in Portland.   Once there the damages were assessed and we were informed that it would take about a week and a half to to get the replacement panel from Airstream and complete the repairs. We also met the insurance adjuster.  She figured out how the dent occurred.  Seems the dent is the size of a handprint, which was probably caused when one of our “neighbors” leaned onto the back edge of the roof.  At this point we make arrangements to stay for a week in the Portland Fairview RV Park. Dimples will go into the shop the following Monday for 3 days.  During that time we will have to stay in a hotel. Oh well shit happens and we know that we can make the best of things.

Foraging this week is a tad different.  We still have some fruit and produce from the Hood River and since we are in a major metropolitan area known for diversity, we visit the Fubonn Market and Anzen Hiroshi where we stock up on sobo noodles, unagi, and various other Japanese specialties for the pantry.

Our first night in town we are just not in the mood to think about cooking so we dine at Wong’s King Chinese restaurant. We started with the crab puffs and roasted duck and pork appetizer and added Special Chow Mien, Spinach and Mushrooms and Sampan Clams. Each dish has unique seasoning and all of the portions are generous. The only disappointment is the crab puffs.  The won ton wrappers are heavy, tough and ruin what could have been a savory treat. Even without these, we have leftovers for the next few days.  (Another reason for limited foraging.) The dish of note is the Sampan Clams.  These are plump and creamy; the sauce is zesty and filled with peppers, onions and greens.  These are just plain out of this world.  In fact, we used the cold leftovers from this dish to create a simple Asian salad. Just chopped up the clams and served them with the sauce over cold sobo noodles the next day – delish!
Wong's King Seafood on Urbanspoon

Vista House at dawn
We drive the historic Columbia River Highway and Scenic Waterfalls and spend an entire day hiking and photographing these wonders of nature.  While at the Vista House we see a flyer for a photo shoot on Saturday at 5:00 AM with notable Pacific Northwest photographer Gary Randall. This seems like a reason to get up before dawn. It didn’t seem so reasonable once Saturday rolled around, but we did it anyway and had a great time.  After the shoot, we headed back to Dimples and promptly took naps. ;o)

Artisan Spirits
Saturday afternoon, we head to Portland’s Distillery Row.  We pick up a passport for $20 which covers the $5 tasting fee at five distilleries, a cider house and an urban winery it also has maps, information and discounts for restaurants and other businesses in the area.  The House of Spirits is our first stop.  We are impressed with their Aviation Gin but we purchase a bottle of their Stillroom Series Coffee Liqueur. Eastside Distillery tempted our pocketbook with two selections. We originally made a pact to only buy one bottle per location, but we really wanted the Burnside Bourbon, and they had just released the Portland Potato Vodka that day and we couldn’t resist buying the third bottle off their shelves. At New Deal Distillery we are also impressed with their gin selections however, we pick up some Ginger Liqueur.  Our last stop is Vinn Distillery.  There we meet Michelle Ly. Her family has been making rice based spirits for over seven generations. In addition to their two rice wines and rice vodka they make rice based Baijiu. We first had Baijiu when we traveled to western China where one night ended with pole dancing in an Ugyer disco. So we picked up a bottle of Baijiu. Bottom line, we made it to four out of seven tasting rooms and came back with five bottles of artisan spirits.

After sipping all of those spirits, we are feeling a tad hungry so we head over to Cascade Brewing and Barrel House.  There we try some sour ales and a lovely artisan cheese and meat tray. The food is great, the bar comfortable and the bartender is pleasant and informative. We have never heard of sour ale, it is interesting, the best way we can describe it would be a wine-beer hybrid and it’s definitely an acquired taste. Then we order a chicken quesadilla this time accompanied by a Summer Solstice IPA, which is much more to our taste bud’s liking.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House on Urbanspoon

Checking in
Monday morning we drop Dimples off at Airstream Adventures Northwest.  Thanks to Progressive Insurance, and our trip interruption coverage, we check into the Governor Hotel in downtown Portland.  We stay here for two nights. (OK, you can all pull out your tiny violins here.) It is impossible to say anything negative about this hotel.  It is perfectly located for walking or using any of Portland’s public transportation systems to see the sights.  From the moment we pulled up it felt like we were hanging out with old friends and this continued throughout our stay.  The building boasts a quiet elegance and our room is spacious and exceptionally quiet.  They have three floors of meeting/banquet/ballrooms that have all been restored to their early grandeur.  We spend a good part of one afternoon taking photos of the hotel’s common areas. 

Food Carts

Now foraging takes on a new dimension… Fortunately right around the corner is one of the largest food cart pods in the city offering an ethnic smorgasbord with everything from street tacos to foie gras.  Dave and Dimples Portland travel tip:  There is virtually no place to sit down to enjoy these meals. So reserve a suite at the Governor.  You will have a great place to sit and enjoy your meals, and what you save on dining will more than cover the added expense for the rooms.

Hom Yee Dinner
After checking in, we grab a bite around the corner and set off to explore our new surroundings.  We stop and get manicures and Pedicures at The Morrison Nail Studio.  Their massage chairs are divine and we leave there polished and refreshed.  After, we walk to Old China Town in search of hom yu.  Hom yu is a Cantonese dish of steamed ground pork and salt fish. Chris grew up eating it at the Far East Café in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo and introduced it to me shortly after we first met.  Unfortunately, the Far East Café was damaged and closed after the Northridge earthquake. Since then, for us, hom yu has been almost impossible to find. (When we ask in a Cantonese restaurant, they tell us that it smells too bad to serve.) Twenty years ago we found a similar version called hom yee in Portland, but we can’t remember which restaurant.  So this time we visit each Cantonese restaurant until we find it.  It is the Fong Chong restaurant at NW Forth Ave. & NW Everett St.  Hom yee is not on the menu, but we ask and the server says it’s available.  We order one order with steamed rice and he suggests a stir-fry of ong choy garlic and jalapenos.  It is a real feast, and Chris cannot stop smiling throughout the entire meal.
Fong Chong on Urbanspoon

Tuesday we walk to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.  It is a delightful walk and a great opportunity to photograph the city architecture along the way.  At the Museum we view and exhibit on natural disasters, watch the planetarium show, Starry Nights Live and tour the WWII Sub.  On our way back we detour around and visit Powells Book store and Stumptown Coffee Roasters where we pick up a couple of pounds of  Peru Cecovasa.

On our final evening downtown it seems appropriate to indulge in a special dinner at Jakes Grill adjacent to the hotel.  We started with cocktails and oysters on the half shell. For entrees we choose the Seafood Papperdelle Pasta and the Carlton Farms Double Cut Pork Chop, these are accompanied by a flight of Pinot Noirs. Both dishes are fabulous. We finish off with the House Made Salted Carmel Ice Cream. A great memorable meal in a classic setting.
Jake's Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday we check out of the Governor and check into The Sunnyside Hotel AKA the  Ho-Jos in Clackamas.  (The Governor is 100% booked and we have no choice, at least we are closer to pick up Dimples on Thursday morning.)  We are in hotel shock.  But they say that every dark cloud has those fancy linings, well they, (whoever they are) are right. Next door to the hotel is Gustav’s an authentic German gastro pub.  We order the Scotch Eggs and the Pork Cordon Bleu.  The food is hearty and reminiscent of the Heidelberg Gasthauses we frequented in the early 1970’s. They also have great bock beer on tap.  The only negative of this meal was the abundance of screaming toddlers and their parents who do nothing to curb the decibels.
Gustav's German Pub & Grill on Urbanspoon

So tomorrow we pick up Dimples and head east to Dayville, OR to check out fossils…


Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The Gourge

After discovering the dent in Dimples and filing a claim with our insurance, we drive in a pissed off mood east, our destination, White Salmon, Washington, just across the Columbia River from Hood River, Oregon, smack dab in the Columbia Gorge and a wink away from the Dalles. The scenery is breathtaking, weather is good and the drive fairly uneventful… well…there is one panicky moment of “oh shit” when we cross the micro narrow toll bridge over the river and a huge empty logging truck is headed from the opposite direction, but with inches to spare (and they were really tiny inches) we all make it across just fine. (Whew.)

We stay at Bridge RV Park and Campground. This is a gentrified park (grass and asphalt as opposed to pine needles and dirt) with a definite pride of ownership vibe. It is one of the cleaner parks that we visit so far. Lots of flowers, zippy Wi-Fi and from our lounge chairs, sitting under the awning, we can watch a pair of ospreys doing osprey things in their nest up the hill.  On our first day after setting up, we meet Jackie a fellow Airstreamer.  She and her husband Gary keep their 28ft International here during the summer.  Gary is an avid windsurfer and this is a perfect get away from their lives in Tacoma.  Jackie fills us in on the local what’s what. (Thank you Jackie!)

After a day of phone tag we finally make arrangements to take Dimples down to Airstream Adventures Northwest/Portland next Tuesday for an assessment by their service department and to meet the insurance adjuster.  Looks like we will be cutting our visit short here.  So we look at our list-o-stuff and prioritize.

Blueberries in Season
Foraging is always our first priority in a new location and this area offers adventures in foraging beyond anything we have encountered so far.  The term gorge in the gorge is a well-used catch phrase here.  Right up the road from the RV Park is Dickey Farms, selling fresh local produce, wines, cheeses and gourmet items. It’s also a feed store and garden center. You have to love the place where you can pick up a bale of Alfalfa and a bottle of Pinot Noir in one stop shopping.  The Hood River County Fruit Loop is a 35 mile 30 stop adventure winding through the Hood River Valley. Although we drive the entire loop we do not have the time to stop at each location but we try really hard. Our favorite stops are the Gorge Whitehouse, Grandma Mary’s Fruit, Packer Orchards and Bakery and Viento Wines.  A word about Viento wines; Owner/wine maker Rich Cushman creates some outstanding wines. We were especially impressed with his Pinot Noir’s and his Rieslings. Yes I said Rieslings.  Like many, we are not fans of the overly sweet Rieslings found here in America (we lived in Heidelberg, Germany in the early 1970’s and it pretty much spoiled us as far as Teutonic vintages are concerned.) The Viento Rieslings are true to form and a pleasant surprise.  His Pinot’s were equally impressive.  Overall we were so moved that we topped off Dimples’ 10-bottle “wine cellar” with six bottles of Viento wines.


Hood River is a mecca for sports enthusiasts of all shapes and sizes. It claims to be the windsurfing capital of the world. Windsurfers, kiteboarders, kayakers and paddle boarders dominate the waterfront. In addition to water sports there is hiking, biking and shopping. (Yes, shopping is considered a sport in some circles.) Trendy shops and restaurants line the streets.  Everything appears to be clean and healthy, and even their mega supermarket Rosauers is like a giant health food store offering all local organic produce and specialty foods.

 Thirty miles to the north is the Maryhill Museum.  You know the phrase, “What the Sam Hill”?  Well there really was a Sam Hill and he left a legacy of the Maryhill Museum.  We actually visited the museum twice. First in the late afternoon to photograph the sculptures that dot the grounds and another full day viewing the current and ongoing exhibits including works by Rodin.

A few miles east of the Museum is the Maryhill Stonehenge, a full-size, astronomically-aligned replica of Stonehenge that Sam Hill created as a memorial to those that died in World War I.  Just West of the Museum is the Maryhill Winery.  We did not have time to visit the winery, but we did try some of their wines with lunch at Loie’s the Museum restaurant.

This area is magical and wonderful. But, after only five days we have to head back west to Portland.  Crossing the micro-narrow toll bridge we meet our old nemesis the logging truck.  This time he’s full and once again we slip by with tiny inches to spare.

Friday, July 6, 2012


in the land of kites
Another rainy drive up the coast brings us to Long Beach, WA. We are staying at another 1000 Trails preserve.  This was not our first, second or third choice of locations. It is the only place on our route that we could book with less than 60 days notice over the 4th of July.  The positive thing about this park is the location.  There is a walking trail to the beach that intersects with the Discovery Trail, a paved walking and bike path that runs north and south through the dunes.  The town of Long Beach is only a few miles north, and Astoria, Oregon is a half hour drive to the south.  Real fireworks (not the sissy safe and sane ones) are legal here so we will be able to enjoy the professional display in Long Beach and the anarchy of individuals blowing up the beach.  Woo Hoo!

The not so positive, is everything else. Crowded doesn’t even begin to describe this place. Someone in the past had the bright idea to double the occupancy on the cheap. They split the sites and changed the utilities to service 4 spots from one hook-up location.  That leaves half of the visitors hooked up on the wrong side, and it being a holiday week, only wrong side hookups are available. Our view from the dining area is the ass of a huge diesel pusher and the first must-do is to drive into town and purchase 20 additional feet of sewer hose.  

The park has Wi-Fi (available only in their micro trailer/clubhouse) and one evening, while checking e-mail and waiting for our laundry to dry, we meet Sandy, who has just completed a three-month tour as a docent at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center.  She is a veritable wealth of information on the history of the area and we are fascinated. Turns out she also spends time in Yellowstone every year and gives us a lot of tips about the park.  Then we discover that she will be staying in the same campground where we are booked, this coming September.  We look forward to seeing her again.

Foraging is pretty good here on the peninsula.  We find really fresh (as in picked an hour before) baby greens, a tasty loaf of banana bread, strawberries, raspberries, black berries and fresh veggies at the Friday Farmers Market in Long Beach, fresh roasted Sumatra beans from the Long Beach Coffee Roasters and more veggies and some tasty BBQ sauce from Big Daddy’s at the Saturday Market in Ilwaco.  Another week of fine dining on fresh regional products and our taste buds are happy.

It rains on and off all week and we find that there is a lot to do here both in and out of doors.

The town of Long Beach has an old fashioned feel with hi-tech sensibilities. This is a walking beach community at the western end of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Nineteen QR codes are posted throughout the town and a quick scan with our QR reader app gives us information about historical sites of interest. (Very Cool!)

two headed calf
A must do item on our list-o attractions is to visit Marsh’s Free Museum. Marsh’s sets the bar for roadside attractions. This is an uber collection of the weird and unusual merged with a novelty/souvenir store. We spend well over an hour taking photos and gawking at odd inventions, giant cooking utensils, strange taxidermy and the piece de resistance of The Weekly World News fame, drum roll please… JAKE THE ALLIGATOR MAN!
Columbia Maritime Museum

Of course, there are the other museums.  In Astoria we visit the fascinating Columbia River Maritime Museum.  We tour the Columbia Lightship; learn about the economic importance of the river and the dangers of the bar where the Columbia meets the Pacific.  There is also a current special exhibit of fifteenth through seventeenth century maps that have never been seen outside of Europe.

cranberry bogs
In Long Beach we visit two museums. The Cranberry Museum (yes there really is one) is located at the north end of town and is part of the Pacific Cranberry Research Foundation.  We do a self-guided tour of the cranberry bogs and learn a lot about production and cultivation. 

Japanese Kite
The World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame is located at the south end of town.  They have a great collection of kites from around the world, including military kites, used for gunnery practice and one that could shear wings off of WWII planes with the piano wire that was used to fly it.

We drive through Cape Disappointment State Park stopping to view the incredible scenery.

On the first sunny day we pull out and unfold the Montague bikes. (finally) We ride for nine miles through the dunes along the discovery trail.

In Ilwaco harbor we chance upon an inspector checking for clipped salmon and scanning sport fishermen’s catch. This is a nice follow up of our visit to Trask Hatchery where we witnessed clipping and learned about data implants in hatchery salmon.

Painted Lady

Also in Ilwaco, we stop at The Painted Lady Lavender Farm.  This is a family affair. Daughter, Sherry Housley AKA The Butterfly Lady gives us an in-depth, guided tour of the edible gardens and quaint outbuildings created and decorated by her parents Dwight and Susan (the youngest seventy year old we have ever met) Wallace. Sherry also proudly points out the beautiful iron gates, fencing and furniture created by her brother. They invite us to come back in a week for a gypsy music concert, but unfortunately we will be leaving on July 5th

this is one scary clown
in the parade
ka boom
Our final day in this location is the 4th of July, (second sunny day in over a week for those who are keeping track.)  At noon, we drive about 11 miles north to Ocean Park and witness a true small town 4th of July parade complete with politicians, police, fire fighters, belly dancers, kids on red white and blue festooned bicycles, clowns, a marching band and the local shopping cart drill team. And finally, fireworks on the beach.

Now for the bad news... On our pre trip inspection, we discover a huge dent in the middle of the back, under the center running light. @%#&*$!!!  So we call our insurance and notify them of the mystery dent. Looks like we’ll be doing more than sightseeing in the near future.

And so ends our sojourn along the pacific coast, now we make a hard right turn and head east.

Click here for more Photos.