Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Final Thoughts

Overall, my trip was great! I enjoyed all the wonderful, new and amazing things I saw: the mountains, the coast, the dunes, the flowers, the gardens, the waterfalls, painted hills, volcanic landscape and lush green tree landscape. Oregon surpassed my imagination of nature. The rivers were free flowing, clean and pretty. Their sound was so nice that I had to record it. I always would sit by them for a while. If I could - I would build my house near there. (Well my house is near a flowing canal!). 
I also did all the things I wanted to do and more. I walked the downtown of Portland, saw everything on my list, extra thing was the tram that I took. Then on the coast the dune buggy ride was a must for me! Except for a little time loss there, it was great! I wanted to have Tillamook ice cream and grilled cheese and I did. I drove everywhere that I could think of, or was possible. And I also got to do rafting! Despite that I could not get on the tour I really wanted, I still did it – the only regret is I have no photos because of the greediness of the Seventh Mountain people. But I have the experience in my mind forever and oh what fun it was!!

I ate everywhere I wanted to. I was not miser about it and honestly it was not that expensive at all. On average I think I spent about $15 per day – that may include all the chips, fruits and carrots I bought.
The drawbacks for me were: travelling solo and so not getting all the benefits I would have at certain places (like the buggy ride or the small hotel room); I had no one to share any of my experience with - I really missed having a loved one by my side. Kids do make it more enjoyable but then you are limited by how much you can do. But they do make it fun! Again, not much I can do there.

The other drawback for me was that I was doing everything all by myself. This can be very tiring. Sometimes I would have just like to sit back and enjoy the view. For me it was always a do or die issue…and since I am not planning on coming back anytime soon, I had to do it all.

But I did sit by the rivers and enjoy hearing the water is one other one as a last homage to Oregon.......

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Day 9

Last day in Oregon. Today is the day to see all the falls! It’s a 30 mile distance so should not take long to do. Left The Dalles around 9:00 am. No breakfast – only one banana. This motel was just so so. The flush was not that great, shower was too small and did not drain. Coffee was there but the quality was hopeless.  I guess I got what I paid for….

The drive towards west was confusing. Even though I know I have to go on Hwy 30, it was really confusing as it merged into I-84 once in a while and goes into Business 30 in some places. Ugh! I will not miss these stupid road confusions of Oregon.

Finally found the Hwy 30 I want to be on – it is also marked as the Historical Hwy. Very interesting highway. It is like the Hana drive of Hawaii; very curvy and narrow with stops all along the way for waterfalls. The waterfalls in Hana drive were small, however these ones were all something else!

Horsetail Waterfalls
I was going east to west (most people go west to east as they are coming from Portland).  So the first water fall I saw was Horsetail. Really tall falling like a thin tail. It was right on the road. Perfect. Very nice falls. 

Got on the road for the next one – Oneonta Falls. This one was first through a tunnel (which was also historical). I could not see the falls anywhere so started walking back, when a lady with two little kids came and mentioned that the falls are a little bit of hike. So I followed her. The hike was interesting. It was all a dry river bed. Walking through it, itself was an adventure. And then came the huge boulder, which I also managed, but I could not manage the next one on my own. It was a huge pile of dead tree trunks. There was no way I could have crossed that without any assistance. Even getting back on the huge boulder was not possible without this one guy helping me out.  Either that is supposed to be part of the adventure or maybe the people managing that area should really make a path. Disappointed, I came back.

What to do? Traveling alone does have its drawbacks.

The next falls was the most advertised one, the Multnomah Falls. The picture of these falls are everywhere! They had developed these falls a lot. There was a gift shop, restaurant, rest room, coffee and what not. Anyway… I went to see the falls first. Beautiful falls – and really high! I would say easily 10-12 stories high. The main problem was the sun - it was right where the waterfalls were starting so it was really hard to take a good picture of the entire falls.
There was a trek going up to see where the falls start from. Thought about doing that trek as it would be nice to see it. Talked to some people on the way and it seemed it was going to be uphill trek (normal, because the falls are falling from high up!). At one point I gave up, then a lady convinced me to keep going otherwise later I might feel that I should have gone. Well okay…so I kept going. Saw old people coming down and children going up, so I thought, sure I can do it too. But after going on for so long, a sign finally said, 0.8 mi trek. Ugh! I cannot do so much, especially with my back aching the way it was. I asked some people what was up and they showed me photos. And I changed my mind. It was only a stream. One cannot even see the falls falling because they are falling at an angle and there is no proper angle to see them. What a waste of time and energy! I came down. Of course coming down was way faster than going up.

Was so exhausted that I really regretted making the trek. Had soup and salad at the Multnomah restaurant. I had the prime seat. Right where I could see the falls! Beautiful. I was looking around envying all the people with families, but later realized, most adults were not talking to each other. If there were kids, they would talk to kids but otherwise they were all busy on their phones or just not talking. How sad. Here I am, dying to talk to someone, and they have someone yet they are not talking. Life is so unfair.

Went to the gift shop and bought myself a magnet. That is what I have been doing. I don’t know what other keepsake to buy.

It’s about 1:30 pm now. Got back on the road to the next waterfall – Wahkeena Falls. This seemed to be the least popular falls. The trek was not bad at all, the falls were quite pretty. There was only one other group there who left when I got there, so I was the only one. It was so easily accessible. One could go under the falls also.
Wahkeena Waterfalls
The next fall was Bridal Veil Falls. This was a little bit of a trek 0.6 mi one way. Up and down I went, but the falls are visible only from the very end of the trail. And what beautiful falls. I say that for all, but the truth is – I love waterfalls. To me they represent motion and beauty. There were many people here. Nice! Back at the parking lot was another trail going to see the overlook. Went on it – nice overlook – although later I got some better overlooks. I could have skipped this one.

Bridal Veil Waterfall

On to the Shepperds Dell Falls. Not very far from the road. A short upward hike led to the falls. This was divided into two falls like Multnomah Falls. One tall one and then flat and then again. There was a trail going up to the starting point – but no – this time, I cannot do it!
Sheppards Dell Waterfalls
The last water fall was Latourell Falls. I think this was the best! And the tallest. A little hike took me to the falls. Just so gorgeous and completely uninterrupted view! Too good.  The nicest part about all these water falls is that they are all fresh water, and they are easily accessible and there is no one preventing you (except your common sense) to bath in these falls. Some people were coming in with bathing suits while some were playing around. Fun!
Latourell Waterfalls
Then it was the Crowne Point Vista House – a viewing point. but apparently it used to be a resting point for travelers at one point. I was driving on a nice road so could not tell, but when I looked off the viewing point, we are hundreds of feet above the Columbia River. The view is amazing!

Next I had to decide whether to do the 14 mi drive up to a viewing point from which one can see 5 mountain peaks. Well…since I don’t have to walk, I can drive 14 mi. It was around 4 pm now. It was now or never. So I did it. The drive up was just a little stressful, very curvy and narrow – but pretty drive. There was not too much traffic, so had to be careful. Just when I was on a curve, a car would come from the other side.

Got up there in about 25 mins. Then did not know where to go for the view. Walked on the one single trail there. But then it spilt and there were no indications as to where I should go. I climbed one side (plenty of stairs), but then there were 3 splits. Came back. Luckily ran into a guy who was also going and he guided me to the right path. It was straight ahead (The Sheppard Point). And there were stairs!! Oh Lord! Why does it have to be stairs? Went up the stairs. I was not going to turn back now. And so good I did not. The view up there was amazing. There were very few die hards to come to this place so it was not crowded at all. Starting from the left was, Mt. Helens (a flat top mountain, as it lost a lot of its top during the last volcano), Mt. Rainier (not quite visible), Mt. Adams – perfectly visible as a beautiful peak, then Mt. Hood (oh what a sight!! It was front and center of all the peaks) and finally Mt. Jefferson (this was hidden behind some mountains, so only the peak was visible).

Admired the view for a while and then came down the stairs and drove down also. 5:30 pm. Have to keep track of time, as I have to return the car also today. One last stop at the Women’s Forum Overlook. Lovely view of the Columbia River and also the Crown Point. Did not spend too much time there.

Now it’s time to head back to Portland. Not looking forward to the crazy traffic and roads, but it has to be done. Did get lost going to Ramada, but finally made it after calling them for directions. Checked in (why don’t these hotels put in some elevators! Carrying a suitcase even one flight of stairs is trying when one is tired). 

Went to return the car. Was a little worried about leaving it on the road, but what to do – no choice. Walked across the huge Burnside Bridge to get to the Skidmore station to get the red Max train. I was remembering 9 days ago, when I made exactly the same trek on the first day of touring. How different that was! The train took about 50 mins to get to the airport. Called Ramada to send the shuttle to pick me up. Luckily there was one more person. Didn’t feel so guilty about just a pick up.

Got to the hotel and just wanted to crash! But there is no rest. Had to clean out my stuff and make sure everything was packed as I have to get up at 4:15 am – and I will not be packing then. Sleep was not easy to come as the stupid AC kept coming on and off and made a great noise when it was on. It was always one noise or another. Must have slept though!

Got up a couple times at night, but finally woke at 3:30 am. Don’t know what it is with the internal body clock, always wakes up before the alarm (for most part). Had send text to Bhaiya to wake me up at 4:15 am and he did call!

Then it was just about getting ready and taking the shuttle to the airport at 5 am. All went smooth. I am writing this now in Las Vegas airport as I have so much time to kill. And yesterday I was too exhausted to write. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Day 8

Have to drive to The Dalles (pronounced daals) today. Its about 4 hrs drive and I have to take one stop in the middle to see one water fall (Tygh River water fall). So got up late and packed my suitcase. Everything fit! Of course!   

Left around 10 am. The drive was straight up 97 and then 197. As 97 changed to 197, I stopped at McDonalds for lemonade and fries – perfect combo! It was a beautiful day outside so sat outside and ate. Lovely. I will miss this weather. As soon as I got on 197, the scenery took a 180 turn. Gone were the trees and greenery. It was rolling hills in a very strange rolling pattern and short shrub like trees everywhere. And the very common green/yellow shrub I have been seeing everywhere.  This looks very much like a volcanic area – which has been formed not too long ago since the vegetation is so less. Hwy 197 is even more desolate than some of the other highways I have been driving on.

There were snow peak covered mountains coming one after another. I kept thinking each one was Mt. Hood, but they kept coming…so no they were not. The drive was really beautiful, the valleys, the hills and the far away snow covered mountains…and the hills were either yellow or green (farming). Just gorgeous.

Took the Tygh White Water River exit. I did not even see any river, but by the time I reached the park, I could hear the river. It was a lovely park, so many youngsters were there having fun. The restrooms had plumbing!! I knew there was a little bit of a steep walk down (thanks to Google!), so took some water and walked down. It was 2 pm and was bloody hot! I got half way (as someone coming up mentioned that it might be enough). Going down is never a problem, its coming back up. And darn the water falls – they are not all like Niagara falls that you can walk to. Most are either up or down!

The river did not have much water in it, but still the falls were quite amazing. There were two parts to it, one cannot see both at any given time. I could see one from the top, the other part I had to walk down to. The river was muddy. The water fall did not quite look like I saw on Google pictures, so I knew that there was less water in the river or they would have been even more amazing.

The entire walk and look took about 30 mins. I was back on the road again. Wanted to go east for a little more scenic drive, but just did not have much energy. It was about 3 pm and decided to check into my hotel – the Oregon Motel. The owner turned out to be a Gujrati (my second Indian or 2.5 Indian if I count the Itty Bitty Inn owner). The room is very comfortable. On looking for things to do, besides driving, there is zipling – but that is 40 mins drive. Not doing it; and besides the last tour is at 5 and it lasts about 2 hours. I will be exhausted by the time I come back. I have another long day tomorrow, so just want to stay chilled today.

So then the other option is to do some local stuff. So decided to go to the Museum, which yet again was not a straight forward route. 

The museum was myeh – just okay. Oregon does have a lot of interesting history. I admire how tenacious people were in moving here from the east. The whole wagon thing is amazing. Really shows the adventurous spirit and determination of people back then. Or maybe they had no choice but to move. Now Oregon is thriving on lumbar, fish, cherries, wheat and not to forget tourism. There is so much outdoor activities to do here. At least in summer time, it would be criminal to stay at home. There was a little pathway around the museum, walked on it for a while. It was nice.

Next stop was the Sunshine Mill Winery. It seemed they had some interesting interior, so I decided to go. It is a really old building and they make their wine there. No tours were given, but tasting was on. So I thought why not? They had 5 wines for $7, and then you would also get one little copa to take (a little cup wine thingy).  The lady was pouring quite a lot of wine, so by the time I had my 5th one, I was a little woozy! And then she mentioned that white wines have little more alcohol content than red ones, and I like white better than red. I took some pictures, took my copa and came back to the motel. I was really feeling the kick of the wine by then!

On the way back from the museum, I noticed the Thai place next to the hotel. At about 7:30 pm I went there to get something to eat. Ordered some vegetable soup and vegetable rolls (the rice paper ones). Brought them back to the motel to eat later. Both were awesome! Best $10 spent. 

That’s it for the day. Am very tired and am just waiting to go back to Florida now.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Day 7

I have my rafting today!! I have to be there by 9:45 am so I have some time in the morning. Got ready. 

Reached the Seventh Mountain Resort on the Cascade Scenic byway by 10:45 am. Paid $43 for the 1 hr rafting. Cannot take anything that can wet, so had to leave my camera behind. On second thoughts I could have taken my phone. Oh well. There were four rafts on the Deschutes River. A family of four, another single girl and I were on one of them. We had a good guide. The rafting itself was sometimes a little boring, during the lull periods. I guess one cannot have rapids all the time. The first one was fun, the second, The Little Eddie, was the super soaker! We all got completely wet. Fun fun fun! The third one was a baby one. And then it was over. Back at the store they were selling pictures for $30! Incredible. Daytime robbery. Of course I did not buy them. I will go rafting again sometime.

Then it was time to do the scenic byway. The first 30 miles or so was beautiful. I stopped at a couple lakes to enjoy the scenery. Yet again, the prices of coffee etc. were so high at these places that it was not worth it. Was on my last stop near the dam, when an elderly gentleman starting talking to me.  We chatted for about 20 mins. He told me to visit Pauliana lakes and go up the hill to a scenic look like the Crater Lake. I thought why not.

After finishing the byway, I found the exit for Pauliana lake, but it seems the lakes were too far. I was tired of driving so much. So I did not go. About 10 miles from my exit was the Lava Lands, but did not realize that it was coming and missed the exit. So had to turn around and come back about 10 miles round trip. It was a national park so $5 entry fee.  In the park was a caldera (which had a shuttle going up but stopped at 4 pm, I was there exactly at 4 pm!). Oh well I have seen a live volcano so this was not such a big deal. I can still see it tomorrow if I want to.

There was also the 1 mile long lava tube to explore and a falls at about 1 mile hike. The lave tube also closes at 4 pm, so all I could do was go to the water falls. It was 4 miles further inside the park. No problem. Finally found the parking for the water falls. There was a family coming in a van, I asked them about the falls and the man said they were also going the same way. Great! I tagged along with them. They were a good family, Chinese, I think. Parents and three young boys. One thing we did not anticipate in the walk was mosquitoes. Today I was a buffet for them during the entire hike! Ugh!! 

Deschutes River is a one of the main rivers here in central Oregon. That is what the trail was on. We kept following it and suddenly the river started going faster, we could hear it also. For about 0.5 km, the river was going through over stones and it was really fast flowing and then came the water falls – which was not really that big of a fall, but certainly pretty! There was soooo much water! Lovely. And then I saw people were actually parking near the water falls also. The direction were not that great. Anyway, the walk back was equally mosquito ridden. The lady, Han, was great to talk to. We chatted all the way back to our cars.
The falls on Deschute River
Made it to the hotel by 6 pm. I was feeling like a mess – my hair was still strange after the morning rafting, my feet all dusty from the hike and of course all the mosquito bites on my legs and arms – bumps and scratches everywhere. I still had to visit the Old Mill place, so took a shower, changed into something nice and drove out to Old Mill. Really nice little area. The Deschutes River flows right there; there were all the brand name shops and a movie theater and of course, restaurants. There I asked a lady to take my picture and we started chatting. We talked for over 30 mins. She seems to be a world traveler! Rose – amazing lady. She also came to visit southern Oregon for seven days. We talked about all our travels. It seemed to me that she was really well off. Oh well – lucky her.

After goodbyes, I walked a little bit more (I was dead tired of walking and driving!). There seemed to be a lot of fun stuff to do: rent a 3 wheeler bike and load up with people and go around. There were people paddling and tubing in the Deschutes River. And then there was the cycling-moving bar where about 12 people sit around a table which is all a big bike. All of them pedal and go around the city, drinking and enjoying! A different experience.  The walk itself was nice for me. I enjoy watching people. Although I know for myself I would love to have YKH with me….but such is life.

Went to Izzy’s to have my pizza buffer. This was a disappointment. It was expensive with not enough choices for pizza and then of course I got charged for drinks when I did not know they were not included in the $8.99 buffet. Too pricey. Will not recommend to anyone.

That’s it. That is my day! Too long, too tiring but everything was good.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Day 6

Today was going to be a long day also. Got up early again. Why can’t I sleep till 8? Got ready and realized I left my hair spray at the Itty Bitty Inn. That’s what happens when I go back and forth from the car. Oh well – will just have to get another one. Went for breakfast. It was an English muffin and coffee.  Good enough.

Left at 8:45ish to first buy some hair spray. Walgreen is just next door – perfect. Picked up a travel size spray and promptly went out the wrong road! Ended up going to downtown. Turned around and came back on 97. Then things were in order. Went on 97, then 126 to 26 for the John Day Park. It was about a 2 hour drive. A lot of it was pretty but I knew I would be coming back the same way (then it would get boring). Stopped at McDonald’s in Prineville to go and have a hash brown. Consistency of the McDonald’s!! The drive was quite different than what I had been doing before. It was quite bare, hills were not that high and they all seemed different than hills I am used to seeing. also the foliage was quite different.
Reached the entrance of the park around 11am. It is a huge park, I started with the west side, the Painted Hills Unit. The actual trails start after 6 miles. The scenery got really beautiful and I started seeing the red hills. Amazing!! The visitor’s center on this side of the park was dismal. I needed to go but not in those toilets!! So I held it. Picked up the maps from there and started driving. It is hard to write how beautiful the scenery was. The small and large hills – colored red and yellowish and some blackish…just breathtaking. One has to be there to be able to admire it all. I wanted to do all the trails but one as that was 3 miles. The first overlook was the best. It gave me a feeling of as if I was in a different planet. Just different.

Went to three more trails, only one was just had a hill of broken rocks that have fossils. You cannot get close to it or pick any stones, so what’s the point? All the other trails were great. The plant life here is quite different too. I have never seen such plants before.

The next section – the Sheep Rock Unit is about 20 miles using Hwy 26, but since I had time, I took the scenic route from inside the park. It took me more than an hour to get to the other side, which I did not realize I was there until the trail came. Anyway…I am getting ahead. The drive itself was very picturesque – there were green mountains in the middle also. So many horse ranches here. After I got on Hwy 19, the John Day River joined me too…such a pretty drive. Driving along the river is always very romantic for me. Very long though! But definitely good one time around. I did something that I never do in USA!! I had to stop at a rest stop and go in the nature! Hehe! One thing to mention – all inside the park, the traffic was almost zero. Part of me was worried about me driving in such a lonely area, but then the horse ranches started appearing and life was good again.

And then I started seeing these beautiful green rocks and stopped to take pictures, without realizing I was already on the other side. Well – not such a big deal, as there is only one place to walk the trails. I saw all that there was to see before I reached the trails. There were two – a 3 mile and a 1 mile. By this time it was about 3:30pm. The sun was burning down at 100oF. I tried walking a little but gave up. The headache from the heat was too much, despite drinking water.  At least I have good pictures.

Soon after, the visitor’s center came. Yes – I never miss any visitor’s center as they have good information. Saw the 20 mins video on the park. Amazing! So the formations show the life over 60 million years! Layer by layer one can go from 60 to 50 to 45 to 30 all the way to 5 million years. John Day park is a heaven for paleontologists and geologists (who knew?!). Ever since the 1880s they have been discovering fossils here and they are still finding new ones. Apparently this area used to be a tropical area before, so all the animal fossils (bones etc.) are of strange species never to be found in USA. There are a lot of plant fossils also. Using all this the scientists can create what this area must have looked over 60 million years; and also determine what caused the changes in the ecosystem based on the soil study and volcanic activity.

I am really glad I went to this park. It was a little out of the way, but worth it for me. There were not many tourists here (like there were in the Crater Lake Park), so it was quite peaceful and enjoyable. I also learned that the green rock does not have copper!! It is made of a complex of aluminum, silicon etc…it is a complex – and that complex is green in color.

There was one more stop before leaving, sort of outside the park, called the Mascal Overlook. I am glad I took 20 mins to visit this one. The high elevation of this overlook shows a nice scenic view of the Sheep Rock area. It is just beautiful. And now that I know all this has fossils of 60 million years, I respect it a lot more. A lot of other parks don’t have such history or preservation or science. They are just scenic and some do promote the preservation of a particular ecosystem.

Anyway…the drive back was not that boring, RD Burman songs gave me good company. The scenery was still good, but now I was focused more on driving and getting back. The sun had given me a headache. I wanted to eat before crashing in the motel, so starting looking for Izzy’s on the list of restaurants I had, but could not find it. So decided to go for Mexican. Found a fast food type place, Baha Fresh was right on 3rd St. near the hotel. Had a quesadilla and some chips. Filled me up!! One of their salsa was very good – it was just chilles I think – but it was not hot.

All in all another good day!

Got an email back from the rafting guys that they did not have any openings. Called him to thank him for letting me know, and he told me about another company in 7th Mountain Resort that offers short rafting tours. So called them – they picked up – even at 8 pm! So now I am reserved to go in the morning at 10 am! Yay! I really wanted to do it. So tomorrow is also all set – rafting then scenic drive. Oh lord I am driving too much in this trip!! Please keep me safe.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Day 5

Have a long drive ahead of me and I did not really sleep well. Don’t know if it was the temperature of the room or the darkness. In any case, got ready and wanted to check out but Ric was not around. So gave him a call and he asked me if I had tea. I had but he had made some masala tea that he wanted me to have. And I also wanted to buy some soap – it was great! The tea was good. He gave it to me in a cup. It was tough to take it in the car but it was worth it. I started driving at 8:30 am.

Finding Hwy 42 was not hard at all. The scenery changed to mountains and valleys as the road went more east into Oregon. Lovely drive. Did not have to stop for much…just once for coffee and rest room. Also picked up a sandwich from Subway for lunch. There will be no place to eat in the Crater Lake Park. Got on to Hwy 138. Beautiful highway. I am always amazed at how well these roads are maintained.  There was some construction going on, but even that was managed so systematically. This drive was lovely…there was a river flowing right by the highway and the mountains behind it…just gorgeous. But after drinking so much coffee I really needed to go….but there was no rest area on 138. Stopped at Diamond Lake to check out the view. Had to go also, although I hate those kinds of restrooms but what to do?

Diamond lake is also a crater lake but not as big the Crater Lake. It was beautiful. The Crater lake is only about 15 miles now. I am excited to get there. It is about 12:30 pm now. Paid the $15 to enter the park and drove in. It was all very hilly. There were valleys and the look of it was very different. Later I realized it was because of volcanic soil. It looked like the parks I had seen in Hawaii.  The first stop of the Crater Lake was mind blowing! I did not expect it to be so blue and so beautiful. 

Spent some time there and then drove the rim drive. It took me more than 4 hours to do the 33 miles. I stopped at almost all the stops and took pictures. There were no major hikes. The boat ride was booked out for the day. So all I had to do was drive.

Had my lunch at one of the scenic stops. So nice to have this view! I will never forget it.
Saw one water fall from the rim drive. Almost missed one hike – it was for the wild flowers, about 1 km long. Did the hike as I love wild flowers. It started as a blah, but slowly became more and more pretty. Eventually it was so beautiful that I would have made my home there. There was a little stream flowing through and the sound of it was soooo soothing. (Turn on your speakers and listen to the sound below - for best effect, close your eyes). I am glad I did this hike. 

Soon it started raining also. As I was driving and looking out at the mountains, it seemed there was fire in the forests there. Oh no! it was quite spread out. Hopefully they can get it under control soon.

A little after 5 pm and now I am exhausted. All the driving, getting in and out, just now hit me. Now all I want is a bed! It was still going to be about a 2 hr drive to Bend. A lot of it, as since morning, was a two lane highway. It can be trying but I was in no hurry so there were no major issues. The scenery was okay – the road was amazingly smooth and good. Got to Econo Lodge after 7 pm. I was dead tired now. Got my room, brought in my luggage, took a shower and that’s it! I am not capable to doing anything else but write and watch TV. 

Tomorrow is also another driving day! 

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Day 4

Got up by 8 am and got out on the road by 9 am. The hotel was comfortable except for the bathroom – too small, even for me. Made my tea and left.

Stopped on a few stops and finally in Newport at the Pigs and Pancakes for breakfast. As usual went ahead and came back to find the restaurant. Ordered pancakes, eggs and hash browns. Eggs were tasteless but rest was okay. At 10:30am I was on the way to the Dunes! So looking forward to it. Stopped on so many scenic spots. Came to the sea lion caves but one step out and I decided not to go – the smell was unbearable.

Made sure to stop at the Darlingtonia natural preserve. There is a small botanical garden. Walked inside to the boardwalk and was so completely surprised to see the plants there. I felt I was in an alien horror movie! The plants there were all the same (Darlingtonia) which is a carnivorous plant, but it looks so green and so innocent. It was just a beautiful sight. It was a small area (maybe about 8000 sq ft) I wanted to stay longer but it was time to move on.
Got to the Sand Dunes Frontier for the buggy tour. The lady said a 30 min wait. I said okay- they were waiting for a 7 people group (although in the morning she told me they don’t take reservations – one of the problems of traveling solo). The wait turned out to be one hour! I bought the tame ride – as the wait for the more adventurous one was an hour or more. I could have easily done that one if I had known it would take that long of a wait! The driver was fun. The group of 7 came – 3 adults and 4 kids. All the adults were women! The ride itself was quite fun. Although it was rather short as far as I am concerned. The driver stopped way too long on one of the sand dunes for us to play on the sand. Even the kids got bored. The kids did make the journey fun.

The dunes were amazing. I have seen dunes in Jordan before but never really rode on them on a buggy. In Jordan it was a camel ride and the dunes were not so high. The Oregon dunes are about 30miles long and 3 miles wide. They keep shifting as the sands keep blowing in the wind. Very dynamic. Interesting thing was that the sand was all hot, but just 6 inches under was wet sand. (The kids were busy digging!). That was the reason the buggies could go on the dunes (because they are hard). Apparently the water is absorbed in the sands and in the low lying areas, it creates a small water body.  All is fresh water! It is all very interesting.

Next stop was the Itty Bitty Inn in North Bend. The owner (Ric?) is quite talkative. He promoted the local businesses…whch is great. I cannot imagine he does that with ALL the guests. The room was also cute. Again bathroom little tiny. Again the downside of traveling solo – everything is small.

Had a cup of tea and drove on to Cape Arago Park. It took about 30 mins to get there. North Bend and Coos Bay together make up a big city. The roads were all up and down, very pretty. Again stopped in different scenic locations before reaching the park. First went to the botanical gardens. Wow!! So beautiful. It was a private property and the owner (Simpson?) designed the gardens. Later the property was donated to the State and now they take care of it. Now its not just a garden, it is a botanical garden, all beautifully laid out and all plants labeled. It really was worth the drive. The roses and the dahlias were so gorgeous; the colors and smell – too good. All the plants looked really healthy and well kept. It just all very scenic.

Walked a few hundred feet to see the ocean. Another amazing sight. The earth had been broken down into huge rocks by the force of the waves creating spaces and holes in the rocks. When the water comes into them it just looks amazing. Of course there is no predicting where the water will go and when it will come. It was just wait and see what happens. And then on the way back found the daisy path….another lovely sight. All of them facing the sun looking admiringly at it.

Drove back by 8 pm. Stopped by Walmart to get some bananas and baby carrots for snacks. Tomorrow will be a long drive.

Had puris for dinner. Turns out I have also run out of my data plan on my phone! I have been checking maps so much and stupid google has been uploading my photos so that is all taking up my roaming data and T-mobile does not have enough towers here. So had to call T-mobile and buy data for $15. Ugh!! That was one call I did not make before leaving Columbus. Oh well….another downside to traveling alone – I have to be my own navigator, planner, manager etc. etc. so sometimes I miss the  something and end of paying by either losing my direction or my data! 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Day 3

Got up early, as usual, but stayed in bed for another hour – till 7 am…then got up and got ready as today I have to drive to Cannon Beach. Checked out by 8 am.  Getting to Hwy 26 was not as bad as I was expecting…but the traffic on the highway was interesting. The traffic coming into Portland was backed up maybe 5-7 miles. And then outgoing was backed up near Hillsborough! That was crazy. It was stop and go for a while and a couple times it was just sudden breaking.  Really cannot afford to look around at all – 100% attention should be on the road!

After I came out of city, then stopped for breakfast at McDonalds. Egg McMuffin (sans meat) and hash brown. Already had hotel coffee so no coffee.  I must say that McDonalds is one constant in all of the world – it has consistent service. Two most consistent things – fries and restroom!!

Filled up gas also and was ready for my long drive today. The scenery got better and better as I drove out of the city. Hills turned into mountains and valleys. The trees were amazing. What was not amazing was all the logging going on. There were a lot of shaven mountains – really pains for me to look at them. I really admire USA! The roads are impeccable, the signs are all there at the appropriate places and just when you think you need to go…there is a rest area. Too good.

My mp3 player was hooked on to my car’s speakers (auxiliary cable)…so life is good! Reached Cannon Beach around 10am or so. Pretty little town. All about shopping, eating and the beach. I also parked and went to see the famous rock. The beach is good. Smooth sand, and it goes so far out before water starts. Maybe it’s a summer thing. Walked almost a mile to get a good picture of the rock and then walked back. Walked around the downtown a bit and then drove on to Tillamook.

There were several scenic stops on the way. I stopped at all of them. Really good views. I could see Oregon coastline for miles. It was a bright sunny day and really hot. Good think I had filled up ice in my water bottle.

Reached Tillamook Cheese Factory just in time for lunch at around 12:30 pm. The place was jam packed with people! I had not expected that many people there. Walked up to the observation deck to see the cheese being made – its over rated because you really cannot “see” anything. Cheese is made in huge steel tanks. So what you really see is a nice huge chunk of cheese coming on the beltway and the packaging of it. Oh well…fine. Went to have my lunch of grilled cheese sandwich made of Tillamook cheese. It was cheesy!! Very tasty cheese.

On a personal note – as I was sitting there and looking around, I saw only families and groups of people. No one was alone – like me. I sat there for about 30 mins having my lunch and all the time I was thinking, “It would be nice to travel with someone. Someone I can talk to, someone who has the same interests as I do, someone who can watch my stuff while I use the restroom etc. etc.” The travelling solo is a good experience and in my case, no choice. But there are perks to traveling in company.

After the sandwich, it was time for ice cream as this place is also super famous for it. Got my favorite – butter pecan. It was good. Truth be told, I can only tell when an ice cream is bad, I cannot differentiate one good ice cream from another unless I have both in front of me. So yes, this was good.

Then it was time to get back on the road again. After stopping a few more times for scenic stops I reached Lincoln City. I almost missed it! There was no big sign saying “Welcome to Lincoln City Sapna!!” No problem. I had to go to 34th St. So I went up to 38th and realized I was in Lincoln, so I turned around and found my hotel (Whistling Wind Motel). On second thoughts I could have driven on to Newport today as I had originally planned. Tomorrow might turn out a longer day….but we’ll see.

The Motel is very comfortable. Since I am single, I got the “Porch Room”, which is literally a room made on the porch. It is comfortable room – just perfect for one person. The decor and supplies are amazing. Really nice job of making one feel welcomed.

After a taking a little nap and getting stuff from the car, I ventured out to see the town. Went to the shopping area. About 20 shops in the outlets…not bad to walk around. Went to Devil’s Lake – quite pretty. Had to drive so much down and then up! Yikes! And finally went to the beach to see the beautiful sunset. Lets see how the photos come out this time.  And then as I was coming back the full moon came out! Most beautiful.

End of another lovely day.  I walked about 5 miles today!! 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Day 2

Got up early yet again but was determined to sleep until 8 am. This is vacation after all. Had my puris for breakfast. Drove south to Canby to see the Dahlias farming. The drive was beautiful – the up and down of the highway, the river near the highway…nice slow drive. The farm was 2 miles inside Canby – it was lovely – just farms everywhere. Unfortunately the dahlias were not in full bloom (have  to wait till mid-August for that). There were still a lot of flowers so took a lot of close ups; but did not really see the rows and rows of flowers as I was hoping to at the actual farm that was advertised in the tour book. The gift shop was cute too! Stopped at another dahlia farm (much smaller) to take some pictures. Hopefully they will come out nice.

Drove up 99E to get to near Reed College to see the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens. Stopped on the way at Dollar Tree to get some water and snacks.

Driving here has been quite crazy – somehow I missed the exit I was hoping to take, so took the next one that said Reed College. Found the gardens. After the $5 entrance fee I walked around the garden.
It took about 40 mins or so. The layout was beautiful. There were a lot of ducks in the very large lake. There were some small falls here and there. Only few of the rhododendrons were in full bloom. The entire garden otherwise was quite green – no flowers. It was a nice walk (looong walk!) – but I enjoyed taking photos and just relaxing. (Note: Monday and Tuesdays are no ticket days – if I had known that I would have gone then!)

Then it was time to see the Grotto on Sandy Blvd. Getting there was yet again fun! Drove on Powell Rd east and decided to stop for a Subway sandwich. This Subway was so nice – good furniture and really comfortable looking – not the usual bare kind. Good sandwich. Time to get to Sandy Blvd – oh adventure awaits. And yes – it was fun as I went in the opposite direction on Sandy. Took a turn at KMart and ended up buying freshly picked strawberries from the farmer in the parking lot; only $3! And he was sweet to throw in another handful! Good detour. Finally got on track to Sandy and made it to the Grotto.

Grotto was amazing! Spent more than an hour here just soaking in the ambiance of the place. There were beautiful statues everywhere and the Grotto itself was magical. Just sat there absorbing the silence. Decided to get the $5 ticket to see the gardens. It took about an hour to see the gardens. It was peaceful. Again there were no flowers but the layout was beautiful and there was the story of Jesus and Mary around the whole gardens. There was a labyrinth which I walked in completion saying the Gayatri mantra. It was a good feeling. Finished the walk and then it was time to go shopping!

Drove to the Cascade Station. Another confusing drive but I did not get lost! Its only 4 pm so I have all evening to spend here. First stop IKEA! I always forget how large this store is! Walked through all the predesigned bedrooms and offices etc. and came to the luggage area where I had some great finds. The IKEA restaurant was right there so decided to have a little snack (soup and dinner roll) and coffee. All was tasty. Then went off for more finds in the kitchen and organizing area. I can always find stuff in the kitchen area. By now my feet are just killing me! Walked down to checkout but had to walk back up again to the luggage – yikes! I had forgotten to pick up the neck pillow. Finally got out and stopped at Marshall's and Ross as well. These are in Palm Beach also but their goods might be different. I don’t know if they were or not – but I checked them out and bought some stuff too. It was around 7 pm now – it’s really time to go home now. My feet are exhausted. I am not! I could have gone to downtown more if it were not for my feet.

The last drive home was also adventurous, as I first missed the direction for 82nd St. and then completely missed Sandy Blvd so had to take Burnside all the way back to the hotel. The drive was not too slow. It was not a bad drive – lovely houses with flowers and ups and downs on the road. The only problem was that I was driving towards the sun and there was street parking almost all the way – so it was just a little stressful.

All in all a good day. One thing I would say is if I had known beforehand about the beautiful Grotto, I would have skipped the Japanese Garden completely. I don’t think it was as peaceful as the Grotto was.

Total walking distance today – 7.5 miles!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Day 2

Got up at 6:30 am even though I thought I was tired. Lay in bed for another hour then got ready. Today will be a major walking day. 

Started with the Voodoo donuts….took the classic Portland Cream – it was awesome!! Walked to the Chinese garden – turns out it opens at 10 am (how did I miss that?) but then entrance is about $10 – it seemed like a small garden so I think I will skip this. Walked back to Burnside and on to Powell bookstore. Amazing bookstore! Soooo huge and such organization! There were lot of information desks and a coffee shop etc … great store. Of course bought a book – my favorite author – PG Wodehouse.  

From there it was to Bryant Square – near there are all the food trucks. Some were still in the process of opening. It was only 10:30 am – will come back later for lunch here. Walked on to Pioneer Courthouse. The fountain is nice there but other than that it is overrated. It is good just to take a picture there and move on (unless there is an event happening). Took the MAX (as I was getting tired!) to OSU.  It was a pretty place near the bookstore. Then walked to the Keller fountain – really pretty.

Somehow missed the road on which the Streetcar runs, so had to walk a mile back to the city center. Finally got on the Streetcar and rode around a bit, just seeing the sights. Portland downtown area is a nice area – so many places to eat and shop. But the look is quite diverse. It is easy to walk from a very nice looking block to the next one which is derelict.  The university district was clean and nice, but near the city center was not so clean. Got off the streetcar once at Jameson square – it was a nice open water area for kids to play. I am seeing toooooo many kids these days. Maybe they were always there but I never used to see them before.

Got back on the Streetcar to get back to the food trucks. Ate a bowl cup of tomato soup – so so and then went on to the Thai one to try the curry veg fried rice. Unfortunately it was way too spicy (hot!) and I did not quite enjoy it as much as I could have.  Walked to the Pioneer courthouse to eat lunch and incidentally there was a live music program going on. It was crowded – but in a good way. There was music, people and the sun was out – great day for me to have lunch there. Took the Red line MAX to Skidmore and back to Burnside to rent my car from Enterprise. That all went smooth.

Took a little nap of 20 mins and drove out to Washington Park. It was on the other side of downtown. Little confusing when you get in the general area. Saw the Japanese garden ($10) and Rose Garden (free). The Japanese garden is supposed to be very authentic – i.e. very peaceful. But it was not peaceful – kids were crying everywhere and there was traffic noise. The gardens themselves took about 30 mins to walk around. I did not find them so fascinating. 

The Rose garden on the other hand was free and far more beautiful – first of all – it smelled heavenly! I could tell that I was about to enter the rose garden. It was huge! All roses were in bloom. My only problem was that there was too much sun. So because of too much exposure, it was hard to take some good pictures. But I have taken enough rose pictures, so I did not miss that too much. I just enjoying walking around the garden, taking in the heavenly aroma and colors of the roses.  Too good!

And then I did the Portalandian thing to do – had coffee at Starbucks! Hehe. I was hoping to beat the traffic – but no – I was right there at 5:30 pm and it took me 30 mins to drive about 5 miles back to the hotel! Too much!! Just needed to rest a bit and wait for traffic to over, so came back to the hotel.

Around 7 pm decided to go for the tram ride. This turned out to be one tough place to find!! I got lost 4 times! Two times I just missed the right turns so I had to a full round again! There was no way to come back – silly roads! Finally 1 hour later (should have been a 10 mins drive) I was there. Parking payment again just like in Washington Park. I paid for 1 hr when only 30 min was required. The ticket was $4.50 for the round trip; the ride itself was about 5 mins one way. It was short but sweet. I think there is a hospital on the top so its more of a commuter tram than touristy, but it surely felt touristy. It was a nice ride. The view was amazing. The sun made it hard to take clear pictures (too much exposure), but otherwise really nice. 

After that I just drove in the general direction of downtown and finally got back to the hotel!

My first reaction of Portland was: smelly! Skidmore station smelled like urine. And later I realized that smell was all over the Rose Quarter part of downtown. Homeless population was too much there (reminded me of Vancouver). Because of homelessness, there was also a lot of trash everywhere. So many places I saw a poster that said, “Let Portland remain weird.”  Well, it would remain weird because no matter where I went I ran into one (weird Portlandian!); whether he was drunk or she was waving her hand in the air or he was just blabbering to himself etc…

Driving around was not easy; first it was the high traffic and then the roads were not so easy to follow – maybe because of the hilly nature of the place. But one thing is sure – there were a lot of trees everywhere – very green city. And if the sun is not too bright one can see Mt Helens and Mt. Jefferson. I do like the fact that the public transportation here is so good.

Oh and I set a new record on my phone app for walking – 8.9 miles!! 

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Oregon Diaries - Day 1

Reached Portland in the evening around 6 pm. The flight was quite uneventful. I had selected a window seat on my Southwest flight and I saw some amazing sights.....

Luggage came on time. Picked up a whole bunch of tourist information from near the luggage area. Took the MAX train to downtown ($5 for a one day pass). The train ride was good…I could see the traffic going by – a lot of it. I am glad I took the train. Got off at Skidmore station. It turns out that is the only station that is under the Burnside Bridge – so I had to haul my suitcase one floor up to the main road, then walk one block south to get the bus that would drop me closer to the hotel than walking 10 blocks!! All in all – got to Eastside Lodge all in one piece.  Settled in…it is a comfortable place, no coffee machine in the room though.

Used the rest of the time to go through tourist information and make plans for the two days. There were some things that were in the tourist book that were not on the web! Slept after 11pm even though I was still on Eastern Time. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Oregon Diaries

For some reason I had always wanted to go to Oregon. So many people had told me its a beautiful state, so it had been on my mind. This year I was not planning to go to India, hence - perfect time to take a trip to Oregon.

My planning started in April when I started looking at the state map and tried to figure out how many days I would need in Oregon. It turns out I would need 10-12 days to do the entire state. Of course I might also go cuckoo driving all this much and seeing so many things. The best thing was to try and do the maximum in about 9-10 days. There is only one major airport in Oregon, Portland. The smart thing would be start and end in Portland.

Over the next two months, I did a lot of research on what to do in Oregon and made my tour. I made my flight and hotel bookings. The distances I was planning to drive were not that much, but I still needed time to look around, take it easy and then recover in the evening to start driving again next day. The only portion I left out was the southern and eastern most parts of Oregon.

The route was from
Portland (2 days, 3 nights)
-> Lincoln City (1 night) via Cannon Beach
-> North Bend (1 night) (north of Coos Bay)
-> Bend (3 nights) via Crater Lake
-> The Dalles (1 night)
-> Portland (1 night)

Luckily for me everything worked out beautifully and without any hitch with the driving or car or hotels. My camera worked great and my legs were amazingly strong for all the hiking I had to do!