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Post-Vaccination Vacation: Mai Tai Tom’s Oregon Trail Tale

Post-Vaccination Vacation: Mai Tai Tom’s Oregon Trail Tale

Old Jun 3rd, 2021, 12:45 PM
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Post-Vaccination Vacation: Mai Tai Tom’s Oregon Trail Tale

With Willie Nelson playing in our ears, it was time to get “On the Road Again.” Since Europe still didn’t want us to visit (they must have read our nefarious foreign exploits in other trip reports), Tracy and I packed up the car and headed north for a ten-day journey in mid-May to central Oregon’s wine country, the rugged Oregon coast, and ending with a few days in Northern California. Along the way, we’d also visit a national park I hadn’t visited since I was a kid, a cool waterfall, a famous rock and a spot directly out of a Steven Spielberg movie (literally), among other sensational sights.

We even met up with Paul Bunyan and his buddy. Our first stop was in Bodega Bay, where our long time traveling cohorts Kim and Mary would join us on the two-car caravan northward. Although not the optimal way for two couples to travel, we decided upon two cars due to the fact that one of our corgis (Frankie) has been fighting cancer for about two years, and if our house sitter called that he was struggling, we could immediately shoot back home.

As for my health, I had my usual pre-week vacation routine, including a nasty fall into my desk resulting in badly bruised ribs. In other words, a normal pre-trip week. Figuring I could survive nearly two weeks in the wild (or, in our case, comfortable hotels and B&Bs), it was still a no-brainer to go.

Luckily, we kept one step ahead of inclement weather for the entire duration of the trip, which made for a number of stunning photographic opportunities and revealed the beauty of the countryside we traversed. So open a bottle of pinot noir or two, then sit back and relax as we celebrate our “Post-Vaccination Vacation: Mai Tai Tom’s Oregon Trail Tale.” Link with photos below ... story without photos and more spelling errors below the photo.



Day 1 - The Iconic Bridge That Tells Time, Drought, Never Pass Up A “Vista Point Ahead” Sign, It Hasta Be Shasta, Castle Crags, Fatal Accident Averted, Home Sweet Home In Ashland, Foreshadowing the PGA Championship & Dinner In A Gorgeous Garden

Similar to the Lewis & Clark Expedition (albeit, in a blue Subaru … not really a Ford guy), Tracy and I started toward Oregon, with Kim and Mary not far behind. After a nearly four-hour trek, we reached our designated detour to a remarkable bridge that was dedicated on July 4, 2004, but not without a slight bit of controversy. Oh, and this bridge also tells time.

You might not expect an architectural wonder to be located in Redding, California, but that’s exactly where the Sundial Bridge spans the Sacramento River. The bridge links the north and south campuses of Turtle Bay Exploration Park, but it only accommodates pedestrians and bicyclists.

Sundial Bridge is also one of the world’s largest working sundials, although it only records time for four hours a day (11 a.m. - 3 p.m.). As we walked from the parking area along a tree-lined trail, the bridge came into view. Sundial Bridge can’t tell you the temperature, but all knew it was pretty darned hot for a May afternoon.

Before crossing the bridge we strolled along the river past the Turtle Bay Museum, which contains permanent exhibits explaining the history of the region, and, as the website states, “art, science, history, forestry and horticulture.”

The Turtle Bay Art Trail contains numerous pieces of art. This one had me singing “Happy Together.”

Some of the pieces just felt like fish out of water.

We had views back toward the bridge, which was conceived by famed Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, “the world’s premier bridge designer.” Sundial Bridge became his first free standing bridge in the United States.

After nearly being run over by a couple of bicycles ridden by maniacs, we successfully made it across the span containing 2,245 glass panels unscathed.

As stated earlier, the bridge was not constructed without some controversy. Many locals just wanted a more “folksy” covered bridge design. Proponents of the more expensive bridge prevailed, and, in our opinion, it was money well spent.

We explored for a bit on the other side of the river, thought about touring the Turtle Bay Arboretum Gardens, but realizing we had a couple of hours left driving, we pressed on.

Fortunately, we didn’t see any rattlesnakes.

If you’re heading north or south on Interstate 5 in the Redding vicinity, Sundial Bridge makes for a worthwhile diversion to stretch your legs and let your children expend some pent up energy after being trapped in a car with mom and dad for several hours.

By the way, the bridge is lit up at night, which offers a unique view (photo from its website)

Mai Tai Tom Sundial Bridge Fun Facts:

The bridge took 11 years to construct
It weighs the same as roughly 400 elephants (1,600 tons)
It’s the first steel, inclined-pylon, cable-stayed bridge built in the U.S.
The glass panels can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit in summer

Back on the highway we passed by Shasta Lake, which sadly was incredibly low. California’s lack of rain the past two years does not bode well as fire season rapidly approaches (actually it’s fire season 12 months a year here now).

Speaking of Shasta, a sign said a Vista Point was coming up in a short distance. Too short, unfortunately, for our stupid driver (aka me) who blew right past the turnout. We vowed to never let that happen again.

Looking at a snow-capped peak at one turn, I asked Tracy which mountain we were looking at. “It hasta be Shasta,” she said. It was good to know all those soft drinks she consumed as a kid came in handy.

Tracy was able to capture a few photos of the mountain out the window of our speeding Subaru. As Shasta’s peak peeked in and out of view on our drive, She also grabbed a shot of the granite spires of Castle Crags State Park. Had I known about this park before (my trip planning is still a little rusty after our Covid incarceration of the past 15 months), we might have added an extra day to our excursion.

Speaking of speeding, as we crossed the Oregon border a sign flashed something about cones up ahead (not of the ice cream variety), but we missed the rest of the verbiage stating when this event would occur. We probably should have paid more attention. Suddenly our two-lane highway quickly (very quickly) was becoming a one lane highway. The problem: we were in the rapidly narrowing left lane adjacent to a big (really big) rig about ready to crush us into a heap of blue Subaru scrap metal. “Floor it!” Tracy yelled. Mustering the acceleration that only a Subaru Outback can perform, we squeezed past the left front of the truck, nipping the last cone and narrowly averting a two-ton truck decimation of our car. Not even six hours into our first big trip in nearly two years, Tracy was already giving me “The Look.”

Breathing a huge sigh of relief, we headed into Ashland, where we immediately fell in love with “the look” of Ashland. Trees blooming and beautiful homes galore, Ashland looked like a place I could consider moving to in the future. Of course, we had to scout out the nearest hospital, because, well, you know.

Our lodging for the next two nights would be the Ashland Springs Hotel.

We walked into its gorgeous lobby that exuded a gracious, old school feel.

The hotel had a homey ambiance, which would immediately make a guest feel comfortable.

Kim and Mary occupied the primo room here, so we headed up to their sitting area where we sipped wine and munched on crackers, salami and cheese, as we gazed out over Ashland’s greenery. It’s always good to have pre-game snacks.

The foursome then took to the Ashland main drag (appropriately named Main Street) to walk off the crackers and cheese calories and to scope out a small part of our new town before our 7 p.m. dinner reservations.

We passed by the historical Ashland Library. Constructed in 1912, the building was formerly a Carnegie Library.

I should have realized the next landmark I witnessed was a clear sign and opportunity to make a lot of money betting on the PGA Championship. In front of the library stood the Mickelson Chapman Memorial Fountain. Coincidence … I think not!

Meanwhile, Tracy took a few photos of some floral arrangements in the window of a nearby coffee shop. She probably would have bet on Justin Rose.

Dinner time. I had made reservations for the Alchemy Restaurant & Bar located inside the Winchester Inn. However, instead of dining inside the beautiful Victorian building, we took advantage of their lovely patio surrounded by an array of colorful flowers and plants.

Our very personable and professional waiter guided us through the menu, and the food was spot on. Mary started with the Soup de Jour; asparagus and parsnip with Morel Mushrooms.

Tracy loved her harissa spiced scallops with fennel, orange slices and crispy prosciutto.

I very rarely pass up a chance at a steak tartare, and I didn’t here. This delectable tartare was made with Bagna càuda (a hot dish made from garlic and anchovies, originating in Piedmont, Italy, during the 16th century). It paired perfectly with the grilled baguettes on the side.

Our main courses were equally good, although one stood out among the others. On their long ago road trip, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby would have loved Tracy’s Moroccan Duck Leg Confit; maitake mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, along with preserved lemon & olive tapenade. It received a “Double Wow!” She thankfully shared a bite with everyone.

Mary enjoyed her Smoked Local Halibut; snap peas & baby artichokes, toasted quinoa with a San Marzano Tomato Glacé.

Kim said his Dry-Aged Ribeye Steak; bone marrow butter, salad of parsley, shallots & lemons, plus some “peewee” potatoes was full of flavor, but he didn’t necessarily think it was a ribeye. I checked to see if he was correct, but he had already eaten it.

Like steak tartare I rarely pass up a bucatini cacio e pepe, but our server convinced me that the Lamb Osso Bucco; soft polenta aligot, grilled frisee and achiote-fennel mojo was tremendous … and he was right.

Our server also doubled as our travel agent for the next day. The group was deciding on visiting local sights or a drive to Crater Lake, and our waiter told us a blue-sky day was forecast, so it might be a good idea for us to visit Crater Lake. Good call!

During and after dinner Tracy wandered the manicured grounds taking lots of plant and flower photos.

Yes, lots of photos.

A splendid Ashland spring evening in the gardens at our restaurant made for a pleasant and picturesque way to finish the evening.

We wandered back to our hotel, now lit up nicely in the darkening skies.

Tomorrow, would be our first full day of exploring Oregon. The day included a walk on a path overlooking a raging river gorge, the stunning beauty of Oregon’s only national park, a surprising lunch spot, a town directly out of an old west movie, a spectacular stroll in a park, and finally we’d really spice up our life with an Indian dinner in Ashland.


Day Two: Fill ‘er up!, Going Rogue, The Magic Card, Seeing Blue, Did You Bring Your Skis, Mr. Wizard, A Frosty Reception, Ice Cream Truck, Are We In Florida, To Be Or Not To Be, Picturesque Park, Frank Lloyd Wright-Inspired Home and A Spicy Dinner Under The Bridge
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Old Jun 3rd, 2021, 02:38 PM
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Nice start Tom!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2021, 04:14 PM
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We are a little behind you - we're departing on Thurs June 10 for a mainly Oregon trip.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jun 4th, 2021, 08:23 AM
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Count me in, Tom. I can't believe you got the look on the first day. Puppy hugs...one of my pals just adopted a corgi. Sweet girl.
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Old Jun 4th, 2021, 04:05 PM
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"I can't believe you got the look on the first day."

Sadly, it wasn't the last.
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Old Jun 4th, 2021, 04:54 PM
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Still reading and really looking forward to this - but had to toss in a couple of comments mid-report:

"The glass panels can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit in summer" . . . Which is 8° F plus or minus how bloody hot downtown Redding gets in late August

My mother was born and raised in a homesteaded cabin in what is now Castle Crags State Park. As a girl she killed her fair share of rattlers in and around the Crags before they moved into town (Dunsmuir)

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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 01:17 PM
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Perfect timing. Heading to Oregon on June 18th and can't wait. Off to read your report.
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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 02:33 PM
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Looking forward to reading about a lot more "looks" - and much else besides.
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Old Jun 6th, 2021, 06:07 AM
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Well it does seem that at least half of the US is headed to OR and WA this summer

I adore Crater Lake. Too bad the boats are not running this summer, but you would have been too early for that anyway. If you have never done it, I highly recommend it.

Our family ancestors were some of the first settlers in Jacksonville.

Looking forward to reading more.
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Old Jun 6th, 2021, 11:33 AM
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CHAPTER TWO - CRATER LAKE/JACKSONVILLE/MORE ASHLAND - On a crisp, blue beautiful day in southern Oregon, the "fearsome foursome" headed for the great outdoors on the second day of our Vaccination Vacation. After a stop at the raging Rogue River hiking loop, we’d arrive at Crater Lake. The lake’s blue color is almost impossible to describe, and the snow made it even more glorious. It literally is one of the best lake views on the planet. On our way back to Ashland, we’d stop at an amazingly good fast food joint, detour to a town virtually lost in time (Jacksonville), and still have a couple of hours to scope out more of Ashland, including lush and lovely Lithia Park. Nearby, we’d also take the cue to “not drink the water.” Story with colorful photos in link below. Story without incredible Crater Lake Photos below Crater Lake & Rogue River photos.



Day Two: Fill ‘er up!, Going Rogue, The Magic Card, Seeing Blue, Did You Bring Your Skis, Mr. Wizard, A Frosty Reception, Ice Cream Truck, Are We In Florida, To Be Or Not To Be, Picturesque Park, Frank Lloyd Wright-Inspired and A Spicy Dinner Under The Bridge

After deciding our plan of attack for the day, the four of us climbed into the MaryKim-mobile for the 90-minute drive to Crater Lake National Park.

Usually stopping at a gas station does not make for interesting fodder, but we were in for quite a surprise. As Kim exited the car to refuel, the gas station attendant ran up to tell him to get back in the car. We quickly learned that in Oregon, you can’t pump your own gas. It had been roughly 50 years since we had this kind of assistance, although the attendant didn’t wash the windshield (foreshadowing).

Mai Tai Tom Fun Fact: The only other state you’re not allowed to pump your own gas is … New Jersey.

As we approached the entrance to Crater Lake National Park, there was a sign for a Viewpoint. Heeding our new manta of not passing these up, we drove to the Rogue River Gorge Viewpoint.

We spent the better part of a 45 minutes hiking the 1/4 mile paved loop trail alongside the Rogue River, which offered some cool views of the steep forge. This was one swift river.

There is a longer hike (3 1/2 miles) with a trail that takes you to the Natural Bridge. However, the bridge we did see was wasn’t bad.

We passed by The Living Stump. where I presumed I would have to make a speech.

On the opposite side of the river we could make out the Lava Tubes, where molten lava has drained out and left behind a hollow tube.

We learned that more than 7,000 years ago, Mt. Mazama (now Crater Lake), located 27 miles from here, exploded and sent “torrents of whitish pumice and ash down its flanks to the Rogue,” and the river changed its path. Douglas firs abound in this area.

There are viewpoints along the loop trail that give exquisite views of the rushing water and small waterfalls.

Tracy thought it would be fun if I tried walking across the log above the river. Sadly, I had left my walking poles in the car.

We even got a little rainbow in one of the photos.

For some reason, one guy couldn’t figure out where the phone was located that was taking our photo.

It was a relatively short drive to Crater Lake from the Rogue River Viewpoint, and as we reached a higher elevation, the temperature dropped significantly, and, what do you know, snow lined the side of the road. We entered from the West entrance (both the North entrance and Rim Road were still closed to traffic).

As we approached the entrance, Tracy pulled out our National Park Senior Pass, a lifetime pass we purchased the last year lifetime passes were available (they are now annual passes). Showing it to the park ranger, he remarked, “Oh, you have the magic card,” and waved us through. Best ten bucks we’ve ever spent.

It was less than ten miles to The Rim Village, where we started shooting photos of this incredible lake that I last visited as a very young child.

Our waiter weather forecaster’s prognostication from the evening before was right on the mark. The blue skies reflected upon and enhanced the deep blue of Crater Lake, which at 1,943 feet, is the deepest lake in the United States. It’s also one of the cleanest and clearest lakes in the world.

Snow was all around us, which makes sense because Crater Lake’s average of 43 feet of snow per year makes it one of the snowiest spots in the U.S.

Attempting to find a restroom, Kim chatted with a park ranger. She told him the lodge would tentatively reopen the following week. She also said to drive over to the Discovery Point parking area (a little more than a mile from the gift shop, for more spectacular views.

Tracy took a photo of me “skiing” that she texted to my doctor as a joke. Actually, as you can see, I was really standing in the parking lot with my walking poles dug into the snow. She quickly sent him the follow-up, so he didn’t worry that he’d have a seriously injured old man on his hands.

The Discovery Point outlook provided an even better panorama of the lake and Wizard Island, which are the remains of the explosion of the once 12,000-foot volcano, Mt. Mazama, that erupted 7,700 years ago, forming Crater Lake.

It’s hard to believe many lakes in the world could have bluer water than Crater Lake.

We notified these idiots’ next of kin on the way out. One misstep could mean instant oblivion.

Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to return because the 33-mile Rim Road that includes 30 scenic pullouts sounds like one fantastic drive.

As we headed back toward civilization after our Crater Lake journey, we realized the hotel breakfast left us longing for good food. It was at a little before 2 p.m. when we cruised into the town of Shady Cove, a name that implied, “a town where bodies are never seen again.” In reality, Shady Cove is a town people go to rent rafts for traveling on the Rogue River. It also has a surprisingly good fast food place we now highly recommend.

Although a Mexican restaurant with a waterside patio beckoned us, Mary said, “Let’s try Phil’s Frosty, whose sign read, “An Upper Rogue Landmark.” We thought, “Well, Phil has never lied to us before.”

It seemed to be wildly popular. The parking lot of this drive-in was full, and we found out why. Our Bacon burgers were reminiscent of the ones we used to get at A&W drive-ins (even more foreshadowing). Kim and Mary’s burgers were also devoured. Sorry, In-In-Out, Phil’s Frosty’s hamburgers win.

Since we hadn’t hit a church yet on this trip, I scurried over to Our Lady Of Fatima Catholic Church. Although falling short of what we hope to see at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima in Portugal later this year, it did posses a uniqeness to it.

Before departing we spied an odd sight, and, for once, it didn’t include one of us. An 18-wheeler suddenly stopped in the middle of the road. The driver jumped out of his rig, walked up to the order window and came away with a giant ice cream cone. Now, that must have been one damn good cone to stop in the middle of the highway, and we were now sad we had ordered the french fries, because, although good, it left no room for ice cream.

Kim asked what we wanted to do next, and Mary replied, “Let’s go to Jacksonville.” I thought the recent high altitude might have gone to her head, because we wouldn’t even have time to reach Atlanta, but she reminded me that the historic town of Jacksonville, Oregon, was less than an hour away.

Jacksonville takes “quaint” to another level. Tracy said it reminded her of towns in Gold Country in California, which made sense since Jacksonville is a historic Gold Rush town (gold was discovered here in 1851, and the town was founded a year later). Main Street seemed to be stuck back in another time. Budget Travel Magazine recently named Jacksonville “one of the ten coolest small towns” in the U.S.

Mai Tai Tom Fun Fact: When Oregon became a state in 1863, Jacksonville became the largest inland trade center in the state.

We wandered part of Jacksonville’s historic section, which was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1966. I asked Tracy if she’d drop me off at the J’Ville Tavern “Husband Day Care Center.” For more than 75 years, it has served as a spot where Jacksonville wives can dump their husbands off for a few hours and more than a few drinks.

In front of the Bella Union Restaurant and Saloon, a plaque commemorates this historic building being utilized in the 1970 filming of the movie The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid.

A statue of Jacksonville Gold Miners stands in front of the town library. This guy was one deft pan handler.

I wanted to try this contraption out only for the fact that inquisitiveness is one of my main character traits.

The United States Hotel dates from 1880, while the adjacent Jacksonville Inn, built in 1861, is now an award-winning B&B.

There was a pretty patio for wine tasting, but unfortunately it was closed. Main Street was lined with lots of restaurants and shops, while the side streets offered up some beautiful Victorian and Craftsmen homes. I think Tracy would move here just so she could garden.

As we drove out of town, we made a couple of short detours. One of these was the former Jackson County Courthouse, completed in 1884. It also housed the Jacksonville Museum, which closed 15 years ago due to lack of funding.

Our last stop was the historic Beekman House, an 1870s Gothic Revival house owned by wealthy banker Cornelius Beekman. The house, which provides tours in non-Covid times, was one of a string of houses that lined “Millionaires’ Row” in Jacksonville back in the 1880s.

We arrived back in Ashland about 4:30 p.m., and after both couples took a ten minute power nap (ah, just like the good old days of traveling), we hit the Ashland pavement … and grass.

In the years BC (Before Covid), between March and October, Ashland hosted the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which features plays by the Bard, as well as other classic and contemporary plays, which certainly is not much ado about nothing. We stopped by the venue that I can only imagine on a warm July evening would make for a midsummer night’s dream.

As we headed for a stroll through Lithia Park, we spotted what looked like a bunch of water fountains in the Plaza. This unique landmark, the Lithia Water Fountain, was installed in 1927.

And here’s the sign to prove it.

According to seldom right, but never in doubt Wikipedia, “In 1907 a lithia water spring was discovered at Emigrant Creek several miles to the east. Upon analysis, the water was shown to have the second-highest concentration of (presumably beneficial) lithium in any natural spring (the highest being in the famous springs of Saratoga, New York). Although this water was once considered a health fad, it quickly fell out of favor because the water was rather disgusting tasting and some people equated the water’s “pungent aroma” to the smell of egg salad.

Nearby stood the Carter Memorial Fountain featuring “Pioneer Mike.” Mike has had an interesting history. He was hit by a truck in 1931, and in 1973 Mike somehow fell, breaking a leg. Vandals broke Mike’s hand both in 2001 and 2014, but the old boy was rededicated once again in 2016. Although he’s had his share of limb trauma, Mike looks pretty darned good for a guy who is 111 years old.

In just a minute, we found ourselves at he entrance to Lithia Park, “The Jewel of Ashland.” The 93-acre park includes a Japanese Garden, two duck ponds, a formal rose garden, playground, tennis courts and a plethora of plants, trees and flowers.

We walked in the various gardens for about an hour, and it truly is a spectacular park. Enjoying the creeks, path and expansive green areas, the four of us wandered in the midst of rhododendrons (man they grow big up here), lilacs, peonies and expansive green space.

In 1914 the city of Ashland asked John McLaren to develop a landscape plan for the lower 18 acres of the park. McLaren was also the designer of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Interestingly, no dogs are allowed inside the park.

Adjacent to the park and across the street, we admired a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie Style-inspired house. Though tempted, we didn’t ring the bell for a tour of this private residence. Tracy enjoyed the landscaping while Kim and Mary loved the architectural structure.

We walked by a very happening area full of people enjoying outdoor dining and libations. Alongside the Ashland Creek on Calle Guanajuato (an alleyway that has a number of restaurants) stands a gorgeous mural. “Las Calles de Guanajuato” is Ashland’s largest, and one of its most colorful, mural. The mural depicts Guanajuato, Mexico, which happens to be Ashland’s sister city.

We had 7 p.m. reservations for dinner a couple of blocks from here, and Tracy recalled she had seen the restaurant we were to dine at as we drove in from Jacksonville. She said we’d find it under a bridge. I thought she might be trolling me, but, as usual, Tracy was correct.

We were seated on the tree-shadowed, sort of creekside patio (sounds prettier than it was) of Taj Indian Cuisine restaurant, and yes it was located virtually under a bridge (as are a few other eateries here). The service was slow because it looked like they only had one server, but the food was worth the wait (and the weight gained).

Tracy and I love spicy, and the dinner certainly lived up to that moniker. From the ChannaMasala Chickpeas (wow), and the Shrimp Vindaloo (Tracy) and Chicken Vindaloo (me), our sinuses were pretty much cleared out by the time we finished.

Kim and Mary ordered their meals “medium spicy,” but they were both pretty hot, too. Let’s just say, the Taj Mahal beer came in handy for all of us.

Walking back through charming Ashland, I told Tracy I believed this town could be our next home. Of course, this is about the 17th town I’ve said that about.

We’d pack up our two cars the following day for our nearly four-hour drive to McMinnville, a place many of our friends thought that Tracy and I would like to move to some day. It would be a mostly relaxing day, but also one where I would make another error in driving judgement. Hopefully, Tracy won’t take the keys from me before we finish the trip.

Last edited by maitaitom; Jun 6th, 2021 at 11:40 AM.
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Old Jun 6th, 2021, 01:54 PM
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Great TR as ever Tom, loving the stories. However I think that a couple of years ago in Mount Hood my American travelling companion and I [she from Portland OR, me from the UK where "pumping your own gas is now the norm] must have found the only self service petrol station in the whole of Oregon. Of course we had the opposite experience to you - we just sat in the car and waited. And waited, Until we realised that other people were getting out of the car and helping themselves. Duh.
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Old Jun 6th, 2021, 02:22 PM
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Ann, it seems that in some rural areas, you can pump your own gas. And on our last stop before entering back to California, the guy actually cleaned the windshield of my car.
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Old Jun 6th, 2021, 02:26 PM
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Crater Lake shots particularly stunning. This will be my only trip to Oregon... don't stop now. 😁📸
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Old Jun 6th, 2021, 03:33 PM
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As we approached the entrance, Tracy pulled out our National Park Senior Pass, a lifetime pass we purchased the last year lifetime passes were available (they are now annual passes). Showing it to the park ranger, he remarked, “Oh, you have the magic card,” and waved us through. Best ten bucks we’ve ever spent.

Actually, lifetime passes are still sold - we bought one last year. They're called America the Beautiful Senior Passes and now cost $80.
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Old Jun 6th, 2021, 04:11 PM
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Thanks Melnq - I changed it on my website, and even got in an extra pun (sorta).

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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 09:44 AM
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Looking forward to the rest, so I'll know where to avoid telling anyone that my name is Tom when I do the Pacific Coast highway trip in July.
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Old Jun 9th, 2021, 08:07 AM
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Enjoyable and informative report as usual for you maitai. Second to naan, in fact.

I agree, my first (and only) view of Crater lake took my breath away. What a jewel. Ashland sounds like worth a visit for sure.

Looking forward to more.
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Old Jun 9th, 2021, 01:43 PM
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Sorry Tom, Oregon became a state in 1859 (Its on our flag). Another fun fact is that we have a beaver on the back side of our flag which makes our flag the only US state with a back side different from the front side.
The charter making Oregon a state was signed at Champoeg (sham POO ee) on February 14 1859.
Glad you are enjoying Oregon while I'm watching over it from a fire tower.
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Old Jun 14th, 2021, 03:41 PM
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Our next two days on our May road excursion took us to McMinnville, Oregon, where pinot noir reigns as King. However, there’s more to McMinnville than just wine. It is home to arguably the most famous airplane ever built, Howard Hughes’ “Flying Boat”, the Spruce Goose. It’s located in a fabulous air and space museum that is well worth visiting. And yes, we found time to visit a vineyard and a couple of tasting rooms where our wallets took a significant hit. Although many restaurants were still shut down due to Covid protocols, we found two (Latin American and French) that could not be beat. Our lodging was at a gorgeous B&B, complete with a fireplace and two gourmet breakfasts. Come join us for a couple of days in marvelous McMinnville. Link with story and photos below .... story without photos and more spelling errors underneath two photos.



Day Three: In The Mix, A Grave Find, Road Trips Are A Gas, Did You See A Shark, A Tuscan Affair, Missed It By That Much, Against The Grain, No … Not That “Q”, Wine Buying Begins & Dinner In A Pod

Our stay at the historic Ashland Springs hotel was a mostly positive one. The room was a tad shabby with a tub/shower (aka “death shower”) combo (the hotel “needed a little maintenance”). However, Kim and Mary’s room was charming, including a walk-in shower, a lovely sitting area and a terrific view overlooking Ashland. I’d return, but would request a Premium King Room with a view. On the plus side, the location was good with free parking. As for its continental breakfast, let’s just say we found a little bakery in town instead of eating the included meal (again in fairness, Covid restrictions make hotel breakfast a difficult challenge these days). If we return, I’d would definitely like to dine at the hotel restaurant, Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine, which garners rave reviews, but it was closed the two nights we were staying there.

The bags were loaded in the car when Tracy couldn’t find her keys, however she could still get the car opened. After I checked out, Tracy told me the tale, and we surmised they must be somewhere in the car since she could open it without her key fob and without me near the car with my keys. She emptied out the trunk and her purse to no avail. Finally, after nearly a half hour of searching, she found them in her “purse’s secret zipper compartment.” That’s her story, and she’s sticking to it.

We stopped at Las Calles de Guanajuato on our way out of town and ran into Kim and Mary who advised us to grab a pastry and coffee at Mix Bakeshop. It was another glorious day, as we dined at a creekside table. Mix’s baked goods are made daily in its downstairs kitchen, and my rum raisin cinnamon roll was fabulous, as was Tracy’s Egg and Gruyère croissant.

Could someone show this guy rocking his cool Crater Lake sweatshirt some manners?

The plan was to meet Kim and Mary in McMinnville. While they went to Medford to fill up the car ($3.14 a gallon at Costco), we hit the highway. About an hour north of Ashland, and 15 minutes north of Grant’s Pass, we saw a sign for a covered bridge. A short distance off Highway 5 we arrived at Grave Creek Bridge in Sunny Valley, and learned of the story behind it.

In the autumn of 1846, the first emigrant train from Fort Hall, Idaho, traveled the southern route of the Oregon Trail (known as The Applegate Trail) to the Willamette Valley. At the time the creek was called Woodpile, and unfortunately one of those who emigrated, 16-year-old Martha Crowley, died of Typhoid fever. She was buried 150-feet north of the creek, which became known as Grave Creek.

James Twogood purchased the land a few years later and renamed it Grave Creek Ranch in her memory. Grave Creek Bridge was constructed in 1920, and is the only covered bridge in Josephine County. Oregon has lots of covered bridges, however Grave Creek Bridge is supposedly the state’s “most viewed covered bridge,” thanks to its location just off Highway 5.

Nearby was The Applegate Trail Interpretive Center, which was still closed due to Covid restrictions.

We still had about a three hour drive to McMinnville, and Tracy asked me a couple of times how we were doing on gas. Of course, I was oblivious. During a long stretch of nothing, the car gave me the alert that we were in imminent danger of running out of gas. When I passed that information on to Tracy, I got the real “look,” and I guarantee it was not the look of love.

According to sometimes reliable Google maps, the nearest gas station was 7 1/2 miles off the highway in Harrisburg on historic Route 99. “Well, I guess it’s time to see the countryside,” I told her. My navigator was not impressed.

Pulling into the small station, I hopped out, only to be reminded by the young woman working there that I was not going to be pumping my own gas. Back in the car I sat patiently, but Tracy was once again looking slightly peeved. “Are you going to pop the lid open so she can actually fill up the car?” I was on a roll. On the plus side, we only paid $3.25 a gallon.

We traveled back to Highway 5, where only a few minutes later there were two large gas stations located on the side of the freeway. So much for Google maps.

The drive to McMinnville took us off Highway 5 and soon we were in Oregon’s capital, Salem. There was tons of traffic and to lighten Tracy’s mood I smirked, “Maybe they’re having some west coast witch trials here.” We pressed on.

Soon we were passing through the town of Amity. I told Tracy to be on the look out for “Beware of Sharks” signs. I think she chuckled.

After passing some colorful clover fields dotted with bee hives, we arrived in McMinnville at 2:30 at our destination of A’ Tuscan Estate B&B. My business partner and friend Tim had stayed here previously and he touted it very highly. He was right.

The Colonial Style house was constructed in 1928 and was known as The Williams House, since Dr. Williams was the owner. We were greeted by Erin, the innkeeper who showed us to our palatial accommodations (Tuscan Suite) that included a fireplace.

We were even given some welcome treats, which we immediately devoured.

Erin inquired if we wanted to eat breakfast the following morning at 8 or 9:30 and since we had reservations at a nearby museum, we chose 8 a.m. The breakfast room looked quite inviting.

The interior of the house is gorgeous with its hardwood floors and antique furniture.

Kim and Mary were about an hour behind us (they stopped to eat in Eugene), so we strolled the short five blocks to the main drag of historic McMinnville (3rd Street). Adjacent to the Yamhill County Courthouse stands the Memorial to Yamhill County Soldiers of the World War. The “Doughboy was originally dedicated to the Yamhill County soldiers of the World War in 1923, but its base now also contains plaques memorializing service members in later wars.”

3rd Street in McMinnville was dead on this Tuesday afternoon. Lots of businesses were closed and many McMinnville restaurants are not open on Tuesday or Wednesday. Additionally, when I tried to secure reservations before we left, many McMinnville restaurants had not opened back up due to the pandemic

We walked the length of the historic section, and a block up to the Granary District. There were spots to eat and shop, but nothing piqued our interest. We walked past the Elizabeth Chambers tasting room which had been recommended by our innkeeper.

At five minutes after four we entered and were greeted by a very amiable gentleman. The silver-haired man said he would love to seat us, but he could not because they closed at four. He was quite apologetic. As we started to walk out, he asked, “Hey, are you an Aztec?” I wondered how he knew I went to San Diego State.

As it turned out, he was not clairvoyant. I forgot I was wearing an SDSU mask. We chatted for a bit, and he told us his nickname was “Q.” Before I could ask, he quickly added, “The Q does not stand for QAnon.” He proceeded, “It also doesn’t stand for Q from Star Trek or Q from James Bond.” As he said that, his eyes looked up, and we quickly realized “Q” stood for Q-tip, as his silver hair kind of had that look. We laughed and said we’d come back the following day for a tasting.

We headed back to 3rd Street to check out our restaurant for the following evening. I perused the menu of this delightful restaurant, and I immediately knew what I would be ordering.

By now, Kim and Mary had arrived, and they met us at the Hotel Oregon, which happens to have a rooftop bar that we contemplated going to later on that evening.

We strolled along 3rd Street, and I stopped for a chat with Benjamin Franklin. He laughed and said, “ Look, we’re manspreading!” I replied, “Go fly a kite.”

I asked someone how often he goes to this place. “Once in a blue moon,” was the answer.

Well, it was about 5 o’clock and since we were somewhere where wineries and tasting rooms were prevalent, we stopped by the Willamette Valley McMinnville Tasting Room. The room was spacious and we were seated at a table for the $15 tasting flight. Tracy and I also bought a little charcuterie platter since we hadn’t any food (except for the truffle cookies at the B&B) since breakfast in Ashland.

The wine guy was fun and informative, and Tracy and I escaped with two pinots and two bottles of Grenache.

McMinnville is also laden with colorful flowers, which draws Tracy’s camera like she was a bee. We walked back to A’ Tuscan Estate to freshen up for dinner.

As I wrote, there were not a lot of good dining options due to Covid closings along with the Tuesday/Wednesday seemingly off days for local eateries, however Erin recommended a place where we made a reservation shortly after arriving in town.

Pura Vida Cocina serves Latin American cuisine inspired from countries like Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Peru, Argentina and Ecuador. There was indoor dining, but we chose to eat in one of its “pods” lining the street.

The food at Pura Vida was terrific. We ordered online from our table, and the restaurant totally deserves its rave online reviews. My Chicken & Veggie Enchiladas de Mole; two hand made corn tortillas, Cotija cheese, sour cream with a carrot mole sauce, mixed greens and beans. turned out to be a scrumptious choice.

Tracy’s Mixed Tacos (Taco Misto); Pollo, Camaron (sautéed shrimp) & Pescado (Alaskan true cod) was also a winner.

Mary opted for the Sandwich Cubano; roasted pork, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, and papa bravas, while Kim went for the Tacos Barbacoa (slow braised beef). The entire dinner was enjoyable, and it was lucky we had to walk for a bit back to the B&B (we took a circuitous, calorie burning route).

Back in our room, I changed into the dressing robe provided by the B&B (no photos of me in it, I don’t want to be blackmailed!) and turned on the fire. It was early to bed, because we had that 8 a.m. breakfast call and a short drive to a cool air and space museum, before an afternoon of, what else? wine tasting.

Day Four: Nuts For Oregon, Why Didn’t I See This In Long Beach, Channeling Our Inner Howard Hughes, Da Planes! Da Planes!, Spaced Out, Cracklin’ Rosé, One Tasting Deserves Another & Dîner Dans Le Jardin

I have finally realized that 7 a.m. comes a lot quicker as you grow older. It seemed like I had just finished that mole enchilada while preparing for our three-course breakfast. The Expando belt was going to get another workout.

We started with a scrumptious cruffin (croissant and muffin) with brie and apricot jam. I opted for the blueberry pomegranate juice, which really hit the spot.

Next on the food parade was a Caprese egg bake with little pieces of asparagus in it. I am not an asparagus fan, but this hot dish was delicious.

Finally, Erin brought out the homemade granola parfait, with yogurt, blueberry compote, lemon curd, and some of Oregon’s native hazelnuts. Erin extolled the virtues of hazelnuts, and I subsequently learned that 99% of the U.S. hazelnut crop is produced in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

We then drove the short distance to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, where we would see (and tour) the largest wooden airplane ever constructed, Howard Hughes “Flying Boat,” The Spruce Goose. When I lived in Long Beach, the Spruce Goose was housed in a dome hangar, but for some reason I never went to see it.

We had 10 a.m. reservations for the museum, and I ponied up an extra 40 bucks so the four of us could get a tour of the Spruce Goose before checking out the rest of the Aviation Museum. Our tour guide was the 80-years-young Jules, who was an aircraft carrier commander in the Viet Nam War.

He told us that the Spruce Goose weighed 300,000 pounds, or just slightly more than me after our big breakfast. Its wing span was 320 feet, the largest wingspan of any aircraft until 2019. The plane was mainly constructed with birch, but its spruce, and the plane’s whitish-gray color helped the aircraft earn the nickname Spruce Goose.

It was built during World War II, ostensibly to take troops and materials across the Atlantic Ocean (it was designed to transport 750 troops or two Sherman tanks)), because Allied ships were being sunk by the Germans at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, the plane was not completed until 1947.

The plane had eight engines, and they were the largest engines ever built at the time.

Jules showed us the cargo area, where we saw what looked like beach balls. Jules said that Hughes filled this area with beach balls, which would provide extra floatation in case the plane began to sink.

Now it was time to head up some winding, small, narrow steps to the cockpit area. As I carefully wound my way up, I heard Tracy tell Kim and Mary, “If Tom hits his head, he might get a ‘goose’ egg.” Fortunately, I navigated the stairs safely, much to everyone’s surprise.

After regaling us with stories of the plane, Jules told me to take the controls. The resemblance to Hughes is uncanny, isn’t it?

Then Mary took her shot at piloting, before she posed with Jules.

The plane became airborne only once, although it was an unscheduled flight. On November 2, 1947, Hughes and his crew took the “Flying Boat” for an unannounced flight. There were thousands of people present to watch what they thought was going to be Hughes taxi the plane in Long Beach Harbor, but Hughes had other plans. He lifted the gigantic aircraft to a height of 70 feet and it went about a mile before he landed it. That was the only flight of the Spruce Goose.

If you visit the museum, I highly recommend taking that tour.

We spent the better part of the next hour checking out the various aircraft in the museum.

Pilots back in the early 1900s really possessed the Wright Stuff.

We read a number of stories about the airplanes …

… and helicopters we were viewing.

There were also videos to watch on topics such as the attack on Yamamoto, which was a mission to assassinate Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the man who created the plan to attack Pearl Harbor.

If you are an airplane aficionado, this is a museum you could spend hours touring.

Kids here were digging all the airplanes, too.

We walked across the parking lot to the Space Museum.

It was also very well done.

From the Russian space program …

… along with the American Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs …

… the “space race” was well documented.

The successes, as well as the tragedies.

There were also exhibits that featured Chuck Yeager, who had “The Right Stuff,” and other aircraft such as the X-15.

Touring both the air and space museums was time well spent.

Outside we took a gander at some other planes before we left.

They included “Air Force Two,” which received its moniker when the vice-president flew in it. This plane served administrations from Gerald Ford to Barrack Obama.

We also took a quick look at one of the planes flown by the Blue Angels.

As we drove out, I wondered who made this incredible pinpoint landing.

The countryside awaited as we had 1 p.m. reservations at Coeur de Terre Vineyards in the hills above McMinnville. We wondered if we were on the right path as we traversed a gravel road, but after a couple of miles we found ourselves on a hilltop, with a building that overlooked the vineyards.

It was pretty hot, so we opted to sit in the lovely tasting room for our flights.

Somehow a few bottles of Syrah Rosé and Heritage Pinot found their way back into the trunk of Mary’s car. I can’t say “No.”

We headed back to McMinnville for … more wine tasting, this time at the Elizabeth Chambers Cellar tasting room. Sadly, “Q” wasn’t working on this day, but that didn’t matter as we were seated on the property’s delightful enclosed patio area.

The four of us enjoyed flights of Pinot Noir, Elizabeth Chambers’ specialty, in the garden, complete with a charcuterie platter. It looks like we had a good time.

Back inside the brick tasting room, which was formerly an electric company building, Tracy and I were coerced (ok, we bought it willingly) to buy a large format bottle of pinot noir.

After a short nap at the B&B, the four of us shared a bottle of Syrah on A’ Tuscan Estate’s porch.

On our way to dinner I sat down with another American legend. I assumed this must be Lincoln’s McMinnville address.

We had 7:15 reservations at Bistro Maison, and we were in for a treat. For one thing, the restaurant, in and out, is eye-catching. We were seated in a cozy corner of the side patio, with a 130 year-old peony towering over us. All of our servers throughout the evening were very personable, and one of them is also the bartender, and she makes a mean Manhattan.

Every dish served was marvelous, starting with the house-made baguettes.

I began with a scrumptious Escargot en croûte, and once again I was drawn to the steak tartare. Our server/bartender assured me, “People come from all over the world for our steak tartare.” It was very, very good.

Tracy and Mary shared a roasted beet salad, with fennel, oranges, nectarine, mango, goat cheese, Crème fraîche with citron and fresh, marinated white anchovies on the side. They ate it faster than I just described it.

For her main course, Tracy decided upon the hazelnut (can’t escape them) crusted pork chop, with strawberries, potato purée & sautéed cabbage.

Mary went with a steak au poivre the size of France, with Pommes frites and saffron aioli.

Kim, meanwhile, ordered the Confit de Canard in an orange Cognac reduction sauce.

Although too full for dessert, the rum cake called my name, so I bought one to go.

Bistro Maison turned out to be a merveilleux choix. We waddled back to A’ Tuscan Estate, where sleep was only moments away.

Tomorrow would be a driving day as we headed north for the Oregon coast and Cannon Beach. Since Kim had a Zoom call for a couple of hours before they could depart, Tracy and I decided to detour to a waterfall, however we ended up at a different waterfall. In Cannon Beach we had a momentary brain cramp at one hotel, a delightful lunch and walked what seemed like 100 miles to check out a famous rock. We’d end the day with a great meal at the same restaurant we dined at for lunch.

maitaitom is offline  
Old Jun 15th, 2021, 10:12 AM
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Bistro Maison yums, maitaitom!
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