We spent 10 days in the Pacific Northwest with the idea that we would visit family, visit the places my deceased father hung out in, quietly celebrate my 60th birthday and check out Bend Oregon as a potential retirement community.
On a Tuesday, from San Antonio, we flew Delta Airlines to Eugene, Oregon with a layover in Salt Lake City. Uncharacteristically, both flights were delayed because of equipment issues. The first leg (San Antonio to Salt Lake City) was delayed 1/2 hour while the airplane’s on-board computer system was rebooted.
The second leg was delayed hours because 2 screws had fallen out leaving an exterior hatch vulnerable to opening during flight. Delta was having trouble finding the correct screws from local Salt Lake City sources and had to fly in replacement screws from out of town.
Neither of these travel disruptions affected our trip as we were planning to spend the night in Eugene. We were surprised and dismayed after arriving in Eugene at how thick the smoke was from all the Forest fires in British Columbia, Washington, Idaho and Oregon. Acrid wood smoke hung in the air stinging our eyes and clogging our sinuses.
After checking into the Eugene Candlewood Suites, a residential hotel, we went to the grocery store. We bought enough food for dinner Tuesday night, breakfast Wednesday and lunch for the drive to Bend.
Not wanting to arrive too early at our hotel in Bend, we took our time Wednesday morning and didn’t leave our Eugene hotel until 10:00 AM. To avoid the Terwilliger fire that was burning near the McKenzie Highway (OR-126), we decided to take the Willamette Highway (OR-58) to the Crescent Cutoff Road (AKA Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway) to US-97.
We stopped for lunch at a rest area outside Oakridge, Oregon. The restroom needed more than a good cleaning. The grounds were nice but folks who didn’t belong were hanging out. High creep factor. My eyes never left our rental car.
We made it to our hotel in Bend around 1:00 PM. After checking in, we chilled for an hour before driving back to La Pine Oregon to meetup with family for an early dinner.
We were going to meetup at Norma’s Red Rooster Restaurant but it closes after lunch. While waiting for further instructions, I got a selfie of me and the Red Rooster. I swear I didn’t climb on the Red Rooster.
We all decided to eat next door at the Harvest Depot Restaurant.
The dinner was pleasant. On the way back to our Bend hotel, we stopped at the Bend Walmart to buy groceries. This is probably the most crowded Walmart I’ve been to. It was absolutely packed with people. I was especially impressed by the number and variety of RVs in the parking lot. We bought enough groceries to get us through to dinner the following day.
We discovered The Original Pancake House was right next door to our hotel. Wow! Pancakes have been around forever. The idea that there might actually be an original first pancake house is quite intriguing.
Never mind that the building was obviously built in recent times. The first pancake house ever? If you followed the link to the website, by now you already know what I actually discovered. This is a chain of pancake houses and the first pancake house in the chain, the original Original is in Portland, Oregon. It is definitely not the original pancake house in the sense of being the first pancake house ever. The originality claim comes from the breadth and depth in variety of pancakes on their menu. Maybe the next time I’m in Portland, I’ll find the original Original Pancake House to see if I agree with their originality claim.
Thursday morning, we went to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument (blog post). Very cool. After lunch, we went to The High Desert Museum (also a blog post). Both of these places are around 10 miles south of Bend.
We started out Friday by doing our laundry in the hotel. The hotel had two washers and two dryers. We had two loads of laundry. We had our laundry done before 9:00 AM.
Our first stop Friday morning was the Zamp Solar factory. I noticed that the solar controller on my Zamp US 160-Watt Portable Kit (Model ZS-US-160-P) didn’t have connectors to wire in additional solar panels. I wanted to know what my options were for increasing solar capacity.
Not exactly knowing what to expect, I opened Zamp’s door and went in. In the lobby a sign told me to press this button and someone from customer service would appear. I pressed the button and prepared myself for a long wait. Before I could even get started examining every single minute detail in the lobby, a door opened and out popped the friendliest and most helpful customer service agent ever. I told him which solar panel and controller I had. Then I told him what I had observed about my controller. Then I told him what I wanted to do. “No problem,” he said. “All you need to do is get another portable solar panel with integrated controller and just connect it up alongside the existing solar panel.” How easy. Problem solved. We chatted a bit. He also has a truck camper that he uses regularly. It is so refreshing to talk to real people who understand who uses their products and why. As a fellow RVer, he not only can talk the talk. He walks the walk.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Market of Choice, an amazingly good grocery store. This is the grocery store that Whole Foods in its glory days should have grown into. In the early 2000s, this is what Whole Foods produce might have looked like.
This is one Oregon company that I hope expands to my home town. Beats the heck out of “Whole Paycheck,” our pet name for Whole Foods.
Friday morning the smoke in Bend was horrid. We spent the afternoon in our hotel room hiding from the smog. We came out in the evening to eat at the restaurant at Cultus Lake Resort (blog post) outside La Pine, Oregon.
We had originally planned to visit retirement communities in Bend. We decided not to. Even though Bend is a great place to live, with the growth Bend is obviously experiencing, it isn’t the best place for us.
On Saturday we checked out of our Bend hotel and drove the Santiam Highway (US-20) west to Albany, Oregon. We arrived out our hotel just after 1:00 PM.
They didn’t have a room ready for us. The nice hotel clerk offered to let us check in anyways and we could come back when the room was ready or we could hang out in the lobby/breakfast area. We checked in and planted ourselves in the lobby where the clerk could easily see us. We made ourselves comfortable and conspicuous. This wasn’t our first Rodeo.
In this case, I understand why the hotel wasn’t ready for us. The Northwest Art & Air Festival was going on next door at the Linn County Fairgrounds. A large number of rooms turned over and they are remodeling so there are fewer rooms than normal to work with. Also, they don’t have to let you into your room until 4:00 PM even though you have to checkout by 11:00 AM. They can always do better. Within an hour, we were in our room.
Sunday morning after breakfast we got a wild hair and decided to drive west to the coast down US-20. Linda set the GPS to Newport, Oregon and away we went. We passed through Corvallis, home of Oregon State University. This may be the first time I’ve been this far west on US-20 even though I’ve been driving to Sweet Home to visit my Dad, also on US-20, since the early 1980’s.
At Newport, we turned south and drove down the coast on US-101. Our first stop was Yaquina Bay State Park. This was Linda’s first opportunity to see an Oregon beach. We wanted to see an Oregon State Park RV campground so we moved further south to South Beach State Park. After turning into the park, we followed the signs to the campground. At the registration booth, we told the ranger that we wanted to drive through and look at the campsites. She asked if we had an RV. We told her that we had a truck camper. She told us and marked on the campground map which campgrounds didn’t take RVs and which RV campgrounds closed in the winter. I asked if she had a printed copy of the Oregon State Parks Guide. She gave us a copy. She also provided us with instructions on how to make reservations at Oregon State Parks. Super helpful. We drove slowly through the campground while Linda took notes on ideal sites for our future camping.
The South Beach State Park campground was full up. Side to side, the campsites are close together. And the campground is HUGE! I can’t wait to camp here someday.
After touring the park, we headed back north up US-101. In Newport, we headed back the way we came. US-20. We stopped at Elmer’s in Corvallis for lunch. If you are not from the Pacific Northwest, then you probably haven’t heard of Elmer’s. It is a chain restaurant with locations in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. I’ve always found their food and service to be better and healthier than other diner chains (e.g. Denny’s). We usually eat at Elmer’s at least once each visit to Oregon.
I had the Beer-Batter Fish & Chips with a Yellow Bowl Salad. The Yellow Bowl Salad came first (with the dressing on the side as I asked). Half the croutons on my salad came from Linda’s salad.
Half way through my salad, the fish basket came.
The deep fried fish was excellent with a light batter crust. Their coleslaw is always good. The fries were just fine. We’ll continue our Elmer’s habit.
After lunch we headed back to Albany where we stopped off at Safeway to buy dinner before returning to our hotel. Our room has a microwave and refrigerator. Come dinner time, we heated up our ready-made dinner entrees in the microwave.
Monday morning we didn’t feel like eating in our hotel room again. We went to the Albany Elmer’s Restaurant. Wanting to try something new, I ordered the Northwest Skillet breakfast – 1,300 glorious calories made from zucchini, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheddar cheese and scrambled eggs on a bed of hash browns, peppers and onions. This was my first scramble/skillet breakfast ever. It was GOOD and over filling. I had to wash it down with decaf coffee to get it to fit in my tummy.
After breakfast, we went for a walk in Timber Linn Park. For the first time since we arrived in Eugene the previous Tuesday, the air was clear of smoke. The overnight rains had washed the air clean of smoke and soot. It was overcast and sprinkled on us as we walked through the veterans Blue Star Memorial in the park.
Sobering remembrances of those who gave their lives in the Service of the Nation proudly listed the names of the fallen for each of the foreign wars. Veterans who served in foreign wars are honored with their names inscribed on bricks mounted on pillars. I thought I recognized one of the names. It turned out not to be the person I was thinking of. Regardless, thank you both for your service!
My father was a veteran who served in foreign wars. He died the year the memorial was being installed. I’ll need to arrange for him to be honored with his own brick.
The cleaning crew was working in our hotel room when we returned. We turned about face and went out for a drive. A sentimental journey.
My Dad passed away four years ago. This is the first time since his memorial service that we have returned to the Sweet Home/Lebanon area where he lived for 35 years. We drove by all the places he lived and loved. We stopped in the places where we scattered his ashes.
Our first stop was McKercher Park on OR-228 west of Brownsville. This is a park where Linda and I went on a picnic years ago with my Dad and Step-Mom. After Step-Mom passed, we returned there for another picnic with my Dad. The Calapooia River flows past the park and provides for fishing, swimming and peaceful contemplation.
Our second stop was the Assisted Living facility where he lived five years after Step-Mom passed. After that, we visited his first house when he moved to the area in the early 1980’s.
Nostalgia makes me hungry. That and lunchtime. We ate lunch inside at The Point Restaurant in Sweet Home, Oregon. They had a very good Prime Rib Potato Soup as their Monday soup of the day. The restaurant overlooks Foster Lake. I got to watch fishermen buzzing around in their boats and traffic passing by on the Santiam Highway (US-20) while eating.
After lunch, we drove off toward Lebanon. Our first stop, Waterloo County Park. five miles east of Lebanon off US-20. My Dad and Step-Mom camped here. They also let us camp in their motorhome in the park in the late 1990’s. That was our very first time camping in an RV. Who knew where that would lead us?
We stopped at Walmart. My Dad used to ride his scooter alongside my Step-Mom as she walked to Walmart everyday. They lived nearby in an over 55 community after they moved out of their Sweet Home house. They lived there together until my Step-Mom died. Naturally, we visited the over 55 community next.
Our affectionate romantic tour of my father’s later life moved me closer to closure in my long grieving process. This has been a good and productive day.
After dinner we walked back over to Timber Linn Memorial Park for another walk around the memorial. The sun was setting. The air still smoke free and crystal clear. The flags at half-mast honoring Senator John McCain. Then back to the hotel we went.
Past gorgeous landscaping and past the Linn County event center the sun sets.
A fitting end to a memorial day of my father’s life.
Tuesday morning we did laundry at an Albany laundromat. I was surprised we were the first ones in there at 7:30 AM. By 9:00, we were back at the hotel packing up. We left the hotel to go to the airport after 10:00 AM.
On the way to the Eugene Airport, we stopped off at the Springfield Elmer’s for lunch. You can see I’m wearing the same Oregon Ducks green polo shirt that I wore on the flight into Eugene the week before. When in Eugene, do as the Eugenians do!
Our Tuesday flight to Seattle was on one of these little propeller jobs. Thankfully, the flight was smooth. We didn’t sit directly between the propellers, just a little behind between the two engines. It sure was noisy.
Seating in these planes is a bit cramped side to side. I kept being bumped into by people walking down the aisle. Surprisingly, there is more legroom on this particular plane than on many regional jets (e.g. Embraer Jets flown by US Carriers) making it more comfortable.
After landing in Seattle and collecting our baggage, we rode the airport shuttle over to the car rental complex to pickup our car. I was relieved that the smoke that had plagued Seattle in the weeks before our arrival was gone. The air was clear and fresh.
Pulling out of the car rental place, we turned right on International Boulevard and headed straight towards Dave’s Diner and Brew, another one of our favorite local landmark diner’s.
This is the first time in all the years we have been coming here we were seated in the bar. Linda didn’t like it. She said it smelled like a bar. I was too busy looking around at the walls to notice any smells.
Even though the dining and bar decorations share similar themes, I think the regular dining area is more interesting.
After a decent dinner, we shoved off and headed toward our hotel. On the way to the hotel we passed a museum that caught my attention.
It caught my attention enough that at the hotel I looked it up on the Internet. Quickly scanning their website, I decided that this was a must visit museum. I couldn’t resist another opportunity to walk down memory lane. I put the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum (blog post) on the schedule.
We checked into our hotel, a TownePlace Suites, near Southcenter. We had stayed here over ten years ago. When we reached the bottom of the stairs leading up to our room, we remembered why we decided to never stay here again. It took me several trips but I got all the luggage up the stairs to our second floor room.
Before 5:00 AM, one of our neighbors fell down the stairs with their luggage. I probably wouldn’t have fully awakened but their luggage with or without them fell down the stairs three more times. Bump-bump-bump-bump down the stairs. I resisted the temptation to scold them for being so noisy and went back to sleep.
After lunch we headed off to The Museum of Flight (Blog Post) which is south of Seattle’s downtown and adjacent to Boeing factories. After overloading on every imaginable type of air and spacecraft, we headed on over to the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum (Blog Post).
It being my sixtieth birthday and all, we headed to the Southcenter Cheesecake Factory for some serious birthday sugar overload. After my 590 calorie Skinnylicious Chicken Pot Pie, I went for the 1320 calorie Salted Caramel Cheesecake. The cheesecake was definitely a good choice. It is worth mentioning that we had a particularly good waitress. Here is a shout-out for Judy M.
On Thursday, we headed to the north end of Seattle to hang out with family. It had been years since we bowled. So long in fact, my first game I got around 60. The second game I barely broke 100. When I was in a bowling league 25 years ago, my average was 158. Apparently, not any more!
Spin Alley is a really nice bowling alley. They have good pizza for a bowling joint. We split a large between 4 people.
As Friday was go home day, we got up early and packed up. After checking out, we headed off for Dave’s Diner. On the way we stopped off at the gas station next door to Dave’s to fill the rental car before returning it.
We were the second table to be seated that morning. We sat in a booth across from the lunch counter.
After returning the rental car, we got in the courtesy bus and rode to SeaTac airport. The airport was nice and uncrowded until 8:00 AM when the floodgates of humanity opened. Our flight didn’t board until 11:00 so we had loads of time to people watch.
I’m not sure what mountain we flew by. Mountains poking up through the clouds are always so pretty. This made my flight.
After landing and collecting our luggage, I knew I had returned to South Texas after stepping outside to the relatively cool and humid 98 degree evening.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!