My 2016 trip was a domestic experience that has reminded me how unbelievably lucky I am to live in this gloriously beautiful country. I have now found a new favorite state—Oregon. The word WOW came out of my mouth often as I drove around the state and saw different landscapes, each just as wonderful as the other. And the people! They were so pleasant, friendly, and nice, it made my time there so relaxed. I met a number of people who had lived in my area of Washington, DC and each time I said, “And so now you moved to have your real life start out in paradise.”IMG_5185

But the best part of the trip was spending time with my niece Zenia and her girlfriend McKenna. The girls were perfect hosts, showing me their home town and entertaining me in wonderful ways. If it wasn’t so far from my roots, I think I would easily transplant to this wonderful state. Two thumbs up for Oregon and I can’t wait to go back during the winter to see it in its winter splendor.

IMG_5237The trip started out not so great with United having troubles with planes and crews timing out. After waiting for about five hours, the crew they finally gave us said they were going “illegal” and working overtime. Praise to those great FAs who delivered us to Portland that night instead of cancelling. I finally made it to my Airbnb rental in Hood River and hit the pillow at 5 a.m. ET. The place where I stayed was wonderful and the bed was SO soft and comfortable. They were close to the downtown but in quiet place. They had a horse and the friendliest three-legged cat I’ve ever met which gave me a good feeling of home.

Day One: Hood River CruiseIMG_4927

When I drove in, it was dark so as I woke up and drove to the Cascade Locks where the Sternwheeler cruise was located, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. The river to my right was white-capped and surrounded on both sides by tall green trees covering towering mountains. I decided to take this paddle boat cruise up and down the Columbia River Gorge to see the sights from the water and a great decision that was. Not only was the boat fun, but we sailed up toward Hood River to see some windsurfers and the geological wonders that created the valley and then back down again under the Bridge of the Gods and past tons of docks along the river where the local Indian tribes people would fish. IMG_5086They throw out their nets and make a living from the river’s fish. And then we turned back at the Dam where several years ago, Lewis and Clarke took out their boats to go around the rapids that would have killed them if they kept on.

Bad Local Advice

After the cruise I grabbed a sandwich from a small local deli and listened to the owner chat away. It was nice to meet with so many people but unfortunately he convinced me to go way down the road to see some touristy places that ended up catching me in traffic that makes the DC commuter routes look like a walk in the park. So three hours later, after seeing a nice view from the top of the mountain (but not worth the traffic headache) I went back to what I wanted to do—just at a faster and condensed pace. IMG_4713I drove over the Bridge of the Gods because it looked cool and it was in that movie, Wild. And it took me into Washington—another state to check off the list! So I drove up the river coast on the Washington side getting cools views and then back over the bridge at Hood River where I got an incredible view of Mount Hood—so tall and snow covered.

Fruit Loop and Farms

I then sped on to a couple places listed on the Fruit Loop. First was an Alpaca farm where I thought there would be some cool things to buy. The cool things were super expensive so I just spent 25 cents on kibble and went to feed the funny looking guys in the barn. It was a quick stop and then I had time to stop at one fruit stand.IMG_4790 The jams looked yummy but I ended up just getting some peaches that I ate later on my trip—so much like candy! I decided to stop in town at an upscale pizza place that was packed. After walking the river path to see the last remnant of windsurfers (Hood River is the windsurfing capital) I then went to try out a glass of local wine and eat an overpriced personal pizza. But it was relaxing and nice way to end the day before heading to my rental place.

I had a wonderful relaxing evening on this mini farm, talking to my host, petting the horse and the kitty who meowed loudly at me as he crossed the paddock, and later gazing at the stars (no light noise makes the sky burn bright).

I could have stayed in Hood River longer but I got up early to head out for a long drive through the high desert and on to Bend, which I’ll discuss in the next post.IMG_5221

The Oregon Experience

Some things I saw a lot in Oregon were conservation efforts that put the rest of us to shame. They not just recycle but also compost, use solar and wind power, and act in lots of ways to protect our environment. I wish we could all make the effort they do to use natural resources but when you live in a swamp like D.C., it’s hard to see what you are protecting.

Also, in Oregon, drivers stop to let pedestrians pass everywhere—even in non-crossing places. In northern VA you are hard pressed to get cars to stop for people in walk ways. But you also get obnoxious pedestrians crossing against lights, so it’s lose-lose.

IMG_5296And then there were the marijuana dispensaries. It was interesting to see businesses that sold pot and to smell it around you, and it was all legal. But it really seemed to be a natural part of the culture in Oregon, which was pretty hippy but not in any weird or bad way—it all worked and seemed right.

Other observations to come, so read on if you want to hear about awesome Oregon!

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