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!