Archive for the ‘Oregon’ Category

T-day: It never rains in California

29 November 2009

26 November, Thanksgiving Thursday , Dayton OR to Grant’s Pass to California.

Today is the most important American Holiday. Just a four day weekend spent eating Turkey, giving Thanks and Travelling. No gifts, no commercialism until Black Friday (the US equivalent to Boxing Day, but they start shopping at 6:00AM). The day is spent with family and friends, and maybe watching football for the guys. Much more significant than our early October Canadian version, where we get a long weekend and eat turkey, maybe.

As Americans cannot stand the thought of anyone spending Thanksgiving on their own (much to their credit), I got two invitations. The first was from Larry Jaques in Grant’s Pass, Oregon and the other by Lymond Hardy’s friends in Fort Bragg, California. I ended up accepting Larry’s invite just because it was more likely that I would get there in time. And I also wanted to finally meet a wrecker friend for the first time in person. For those of you not in the know, wreckers are participants in the rec.woodworking Usenet group. It’s also available on Google Groups. I have been participating in this group since 1995, and have made many virtual friends, including Larry “C-less” Jaques (never spell the name with a “c” – he gets annoyed – which is very difficult for us with a francophone background; it’s even worse than spelling Georges without an “s”). Larry and I, among many others, have been trading barbs, quips, and ocasionally actual woodworking information and insights and all kinds of other information in the rec.woodworking group. We two go back to 1995 in the internet’s infancy.

I-5 in the Willamette Valley

So I had to get to Grant’s Pass by 1:00 PM. Larry had also asked me to get an apple pie, preferably sugarless for his diabetic neighbour’s father. I left at 7:00 AM in the rain. It cleared up eventually in the southern Willamette Valley. I stopped in Eugene to try to find a pie. I found a nice bakery, but their pies had sugar. They directed to another bakery and a grocery store (Market Choice). I found sugarless apple pies there and also some organic Bonaterra wine that Marilyn had like in Whitehorse. Oh, and a bottle of cheap Riunite Lambrusco. Riunite, which was made by a Communist cooperative in Italy, was the best-selling wine in the US in the 80s. I like fizzy reds, must be genetic.

On the way, there were hardwood forests that looked like oak, but all the trees were covered in moss. Larry had warned me about fog and the possibility of snow in the passes before Grant’s Pass. I told him (I should say wrote) that I did have some experience driving in snow. It started raining again as I gained altitude, but no snow.

It stopped raining by the time I got to Grant’s Pass and i finally met my first wrecker in person. I embarassed myself by not reccognizing a maple in his front yard, thinking it was an oak, but all the bark was covered in moss. Larry also has a giant tree in his back yard which i first took for a cedar, but it’s actually a coast redwood. My first view of a real redwood, I should have taken a picture of it. It’s unfortunate that it, along with its doug fir neighbour will have to come down as they are destroying his foundation.

We eventually had our birds, yams, salad. I contributed some pickled beets I brought from home and the apple pie. We also had long talks about woodworking, our current lives, the US health care system, and totally disagreed about climate change.

Larry

I left around 6:00 PM to try to put on some miles so I don’t get to Fort Bragg too late. Raining heavily most of the way on the Highway of the Redwoods, US199, a curvy narrow road with giant redwoods on both sides of the road. I crossed over into California and finally found a campground in the Smith River National Recreation area.

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In Portland’s clutch

28 November 2009

24 November, Tuesday, Portland Oregon

Slept in and after posting the blog entry and consuming the hotel room coffee, I headed out to another Stumptown on 3rd Avenue for a cappuccino and a blueberry-cranberry scone.

Just walked around on 3rd and then went up Burnside. Lo and behold, I saw Powell’s technical book store. Well I went in, found a manual for 1990 Chevy trucks as well as a used copy of the Joinery book by Gary Rogowski from Taunton Press and some other discount wooddorking books. I tried paying for them and getting them to keep them until I could pick them up later, but they wouldn’t do it On the other hand, they were perfectly willing to put the books on hold for me if I did not pay for them. Go figure!

I walked a little more and decided to take the streetcar to 23rd Avenue, known as Nob Hill; an upscale shopping and restaurant area with most stores in old Victorian era mansions. Interesting street full of shops and good restaurants. I had an excellent piece of halibut at Jo Bar and Rotisserie, then a salad with warm squash. I also went for a gelato & coffee further down the street.

Then I took the streetcar right to the other end of the line, hoping to go to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). There was the Aerial Tram, which I took to the top and took a number of pictures. I couldn’t get to OMSI by foot from there, so I went back to the hotel.

Mount St. Helens?

Mount Hood

By that time, it was almost time for supper. I settled on going to a French restaurant. When I got there, it no longer existed. I then went to Dan and Louis Oyster Bar on Ankeny Street. Great oysters and good beer. I forgot my credit card there, but retrieved it the next day. The server also prevailed on me to translate the text a t-shirt for her boss. It was in French and was about the Rolling Stones. She was going to do it using a word-by word translator on her cell phone. She did give me a free drink She also suggested that I go a bar at the top a building nearby (the Portland City Grill, at the top of the Big Pink) and enjoy the view. Reminded me too much of the Altitheque disco in Montreal of my younger days, including the crowd. I was starting to feel pretty tired and went back to the hotel room.

Musings US toilets.

I observed a custome in all those American Cities and Townes through which I passed, that is not used in any other country that I saw in my travels, neither do I thinke that any other nation of Christendome doth use it, but only the United States. The American, and also most strangers that are commorant in the United States, does alwaies, at their aisance use a circular strip of paper to cover that part of the seat that their arse doth touch. This form of shitting I understand is generally used in all places of the United States, their seat covers being for the most part made of paper. The reason of this their curiosity, is because the American cannot by any means endure to have his arse touch the same place other men’s arses have touched,  seeing all men’s arses are not alike cleane.

On the other hand, not a bidet to be seen anywhere, to the disgust of most Italians and Frenchmen. If arses are not washed, I guess one needs to cover toilet seats.

Now I don’t want to rest, I want to pee, take a dump and certainly wash after either one. So why call them restrooms? What’s wrong with calling them toilets or washrooms? We do wash or do our toilet in there, but unless you’re really weird, you don’t rest there.

November 25, Wednesday, Portland to Dayton, OR

Woke up late and then drove to Powell Technical books to retrieve my purchases of yesterday. I also looked for a “Car Toys” store to see if I could buy a Mexico map for the GPS. The store was no longer on its older 9th Street location. By coincidence, Nerissa Rosati had suggested that I go visit Gary Rogowski, who is in Portland. So after a bad piece of Pizza and another Stumpcity cappuccino, I headed across the Willamette to Gary’s studio and schools (The Northwest Woodworking Studio). Gary was not there, but I had an interesting conversation with Joe,

Joe

who is one of the mastery students there and then checked out the shop.

Aircraft Carrier

Gary came back, had a short talk with him as he was quite busy and I bought a t-shirt that reflects my philosophy about building. The quote from John Ruskin is: “When we build, let us think that we build forever.

I then went to http://www.woodcrafters.us/ the woodcrafters’ store for a good drool. I did buy Sandor Nagyszalanczy’s book on power tools, on sale for $19.95 from $40.00 ($65 in Canada).

. I had tried calling the dealership, but my cell phone subscription had run out of money. Headed out to Russ Chevrolet, stuck in traffic most of the way, it took more than an hour on US99. The . truck was almost ready. I had a coffee while the mechanic took it for a test drive. Finally back on the road with my Koolatron smelling bad because of the milk not being refrigerated fro three days.

So I went to another Car Toys store not far from the dealership on US99W. They did not have the maps, but did carry cell phones. As the Chinese lady in Seattle had warned me, they could not sell me additional time, so I had to get a new phone number and SIM card and got $50 worth of time at 10 cents a minute in the US. It took the woman at the counter over an hour and she could not get through to AT&T to validate my amount. I would have to do it later as either their system was down or screwed u in some fashion. She also showed me how to use the camera on the phone and I will post her picture as soon as I figure out how to download it.

I looked for a campground/RV park along the way and found one in Dayton, in the Willamette wine country. I headed there, got my site and looked for a restaurant. I found a “Cielo Blu” restaurant on the GPS, so I figured let’s go for non-ethnic food. The restaurant no longer existed, but there was an entry for the Joel Palmer House . Well, it is clearly one of Oregon’s best restaurants and the best meal I’ve had so far.

It started with a little amuse-gueule of porcini-truffle risotto every bit as good as the one I make using Italian porcini and Umbria black truffles. Except this was made from Oregon boleti and truffles picked by the chef’s father. I had a somewhat disappointing truffle in Seattle, which the chef explained was due to commercial pickers harvesting them before they are ripe. Unlike Italy or France, they do not use animals (pigs or dogs) to find them but just rake under Douglas Firs and sell everything.

I asked the server what her favourite wine was and she brought a wonderful Pinot Noir, Willakenzie Estate Pierre Leon 2006. It was so good I had to buy a bottle. I also tried a Pinot gris, which was too much like the Italian Pinot grigios for my taste (thin and acidy), and a chardonnay which was pretty good but nothing to write home about. The first course was the chef’s incredible version of won-ton soup: a mushroom consommé with shrimp broccoli and two wonderful meat-filled wontons. After that An absolutely perfectly and flawlessly cooked piece of fresh halibut, the meal crowned with a piece of flourless chocolate cake, an espresso and a shot of Muscat grappa. It sure made up for the bad piece of pizza I had for lunch. Off the bed at the campsite as I had to get up early to be at Larry’s for t-day at 1:00 PM.

Waiting for the clutch

24 November 2009
Russ Chevrolet, Tigard OR

Russ Chevrolet, Tigard OR

23 November, Monday, Portland Oregon

Headed out at 7:00AM to the dealer in Wilsonville to try to get the clutch fixed. Luckily, I had left-over coffee from yesterday. The Wilsonville dealer said they couldn’t do anything today, so I called Russ Chevrolet in Tigard, south of Portland. The service rep, Robert Murphy, said they could look at it. Diagnosis was clearly what I feared: clutch is burned and needs to be replaced and flywheel turned. They looked for a clutch and found an aftermarket one, available tomorrow. It turns out that GM’s parts depot for Portland is in Reno Nevada and it generally takes 2-3 days to get parts from there. Anyway, estimate is about $1,200 and the car might be ready tomorrow if I’m lucky but Wednesday is more likely. Yuck. I blame Larry Jaques and my brother for jinxing the truck. It has nothing to do with Malcolm’s driving over the track (road would be to generous a term) over the pass to Seagull Creek where we went to sexually harass gentle innocent moose or the steep hills on the streets around Seattle’s Pike Street market

Rented a car (a Hyundai something or other, or maybe some other small Korean job, I forget which, but they all look alike anyhow) and headed to Portland’s visitor centre, which is now open. I talked for a while with a volunteer and he gave me a number of tips and ideas of where to go and where to eat. He also told me about Powell’s book store. I found a room at the Hotel Fifty on the waterfront using Expedia.com, so I headed out there, checked in and parked the car. By that time, it was almost lunch time, so I decided to go to Portland’s oldest seafood restaurants: Jake’s Famous Crawfish Grill. I took the MAX, their light rail system which operates directly on city streets in the downtown area, and then turns into a more conventional system like underground in other parts. The neat thing is that transit is free in the downtown area.

Food Stands

Food stands

On the way there, I saw this series of ethnic food stands surrounding a parking lot. (There was only one non-ethnic one serving gelato and coffee).

At Jake’s I had four different kinds of oysters, three from Washington and one from Fanny Bay in BC. My favourite was the BC oyster, which is from near where Ted, Marilyn’s brother, lives on the Vancouver Island side across from Denman Island south of Comox. After that I had a salmon stir fry, which was excellent with the fish cooked to perfection.

Luigi drinking beer at Jake's Famous Crawfish

Luigi drinking beer at Jake's Famous Crawfish

I had a couple of local brews to accompany the salmon. I noted in their menu that the Arctic Char came from Iceland. ICELAND??? When they could get fresh char flown in from Whitehorse. I talked to the server and got the executive chef’s name (Billie), who wasn’t there at the time. I left him/her a note pointing out that Icy Waters and Ying Allen’s Wild Things could get them arctic char the next day and that the Icelanders probably got their eggs or hatchlings from Whitehorse. So there, I did a little export promotion work.

Luigi eating oysters at Jake's Famous Crawfish

Luigi eating oysters at Jake's Famous Crawfish

I then had an excellent coffee (short double espresso) at Stumptown coffee and headed to Powell’s bookstore, which may or may not be the world’s largest bookstore. Pretty amazing and tempting. As the guy at the visitor centre said, you could spend one hour or one week there. I resisted temptation fairly well, only bought two economics books and one old used Terry Pratchett (Guards, Guards!), which I hadn’t re-read in a long time. I resisted the temptation of buying a hardcover version of his latest. I also found a used copy of Alma Guillermoprieto’s Looking for History, which was recommended to me by Karyn Armour. What I especially like about this store is that used and new copies of each book are side by side and you can choose either, depending on what you want.Powell's bookstore

After that, I headed out the World Forestry Centre in Washington Park on the MAX. it went from being a streetcar to a subway, 300 feet below the park. Some interesting exhibits. I tried the harvester simulator: I will never make it as a machine operator.

I then went back to the hotel & tried to do some work. I have to start getting more disciplined about getting work done. This is supposed to also be a working holiday. The fact that I very little done has obviously nothing to do with the 3 glasses of wine at supper and the half bottle of Pinot noir leftover from last night’s supper.

Anyway, then went for supper at the hotel restaurant (H50 Bistro & Bar) where all they had was a tapas menu. Good tapas at that. I tried three different local whites (pinot Gris, Chard and a sweet Gewürztraminer which I liked a lot), and ate salmon fritters, clam chowder, a Caesar’s salad and “torched” salmon. The salad had an interesting presentation: the romaine leaves looked like a bunch and were held together by a ring or short tube of dried bread. The torched salmon was excellent: crispy on the outside and sashimi on the inside & bottom. I have to try that when I get home. It was served with soya sauce and square cucumbers slices garnished with thinly sliced jalapeños and sesame seeds.

Tomorrow I have to decide whether I go on a drive to the Columbia Gorge and Mount Hood, a wine tour in the Willamette, or stick around Portland.

In the clutch of a slipping clutch (groan!)

22 November 2009
Pioneer Square, Portland

Pioneer Square, Portland

22 November

Took it easy this AM & cleaned up the camper a bit. I left around 11:30 to go to the tourist information office in Portland to get details on a wine tour. Of course, it’s Sunday and it’s closed.

Nevertheless, I had checked things out on The Oregon government tourism site . I had a big sushi lunch in anticipation of imbibing a bit and not wanting to get drunk, even though I intended to spit most of the wine I tasted.

Ponzi Vineyards

Ponzi Vineyards

I first headed to Ponzi Vineyards but my clutch started slipping. Ponzi had a great Chardonnay, some good to excellent Pinot Noirs. I bought a few bottles and a magnum and then headed to an RV park in Wilsonville to while away the day.

Maybe I’ll go on an organized winery tour tomorrow while the truck hopefully gets fixed.

From Seattle to Portland

21 November 2009

November 21

I couldn’t leave Seattle right away, I had to go back downtown. I was going to the cell place in Chinatown but it did not open ‘til 10:00AM, so I went downtown to look for a camera first, and bought a nice little Nikon coolpix. Works a lot better than the old POS. Here is a picture of the sales clerk who sold it to me, the very first picture I took with it. I should have gotten her name.

I then went back to the Pioneer Square area to check out the Woodworking coop I saw yesterday. Some pretty amazing pieces at the (Northwest Fine Woodworking ), and it’s nice to see they manage to sell them at decent prices.

<rant>which might seem very high to all you non-wooddorkers at $1k per chair, but if you know the amount of time and effort and love that goes in producing one of these  rather than the cheap Chinese-made Ikea/Sauders termite puke (i.e. particle board) crap that ends up in the landfill in no time but not before it has had a chance to spew out copious amounts of formaldehyde and other pollutants in the meantime. </rant>

Fine Woodworking Coop Store

Fine Woodworking Coop Store, Jackson Street, Seattle

They also have an annual box-making contest that anyone can enter. Because of the depression, they have had to lay off some of their staff and they haven’t been able to put up all the pictures. Anyway, I voted for a box that looked like to old leather-bound volumes, done in different veneers. Beautiful work, but there were a lot more examples of beautiful work. We’ll see who wins on their web site.

Then I went to the cellular phone place in Chinatown and got a WiFi capable cell. The current number, while I’m in the USA is 206-390-8104. Please only use in case of emergencies. It will change when I get to Mexico.

A couple of final observations about Seattle: there is little traffic downtown: I can cross most streets easily and can find parking spots relatively close to where I am going. I don’t know whether it’s Seattle or the depression. One thing that is clearly a result of the depression is the number of people– mostly young men of all races: white black and oriental – who accost you begging for money or a meal. It is pretty shameful for a country that is supposedly the richest in the world. And supposedly is also the most religious and Christian of all the advanced economies. So much for the Sermon on the Mount and Christian charity.

Drove to Portland and arrived immediately after 5:00 PM. The tourist information office had just closed. I looked for a wine store & tried out a number of Pinot noirs (5 actually). None overly impressed me, but I bought two bottles of the one I like most (2007 Cameron Ashleys Leap). Maybe I should get some for David Ashley.  I then drove back to an RV park on the Columbia River.

Tomorrow the Willamette, tonight the risotto with porcini and truffles.

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