Dismal Nitch?


What, exactly, is a dismal nitch, you might well be asking. It could a place where the Lewis and Clark party spent six miserable days and nights near the mouth of the Columbia River. A place that William Clark referred to as “that dismal little nitch.”*

OR, it could be the inspiration for a new adaptation of “Macbeth.”


*When the party left the dismal nitch, they moved to a spot that Clark referred to as “blustering point,” “Stormey point,” and “Point Distress.” Do we detect a theme here?

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Undaunted Courage


Ready to begin another road trip with Judy at the wheel

Thanks to Stephen Ambrose for the title of this post. “Undaunted Courage: Because we are ending our trip on the banks of the Columbia River very near the place where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-1806 on their journey of discovery  of the west; and, because that’s the kind of mind set it has taken to accept that our journey of discovery with Heather and Judy is reaching its conclusion.

But a trip isn’t over until it’s over and we still have a few hours to spend together. So, let’s recap the past couple of days.

We headed west from Salem on Sunday morning under beautifully blue skies. This was another drive that showcased the diverse landscape that Oregon has to offer. Agricultural land, forested land, dairy land and astonishing coastal vistas.

First stop was Tillamook; see photo above to get a sense of the new-ish visitors’ center.  Lines for ice cream were too long; old folks just don’t have that much time to devote to dairy products.

Final stop was the Holiday inn Express in Astoria, Oregon.  It may be a chain hotel but its location right under the bridge is hard to beat. We did a little recce of the town, checking out some of the many brewpubs the town has to offer before settling on Buoy Brewery on the waterfront. Good beer, good cider, great view of the river.  Short trolley ride back to the Bridgewater Bistro for a delicious dinner.

Yesterday, we began the day with Lewis and Clark at Fort Clatsop, a reconstruction of their winter camp on the banks of the Netul River (also known as the Lewis and Clark River). The visitor center/museum provides excellent context for the visit and walking through the forest under the BIG evergreens dripping with lichens is very pleasant.

Fort Steven’s State Park and the wreck of the Peter Iredale were also on our itinerary.  Lunch of burgers at Fort George brewpub back in Astoria. Our afternoon included the maritime museum and a visit up the hill to the Astoria Column with its exterior covered with a spiral of sgraffiti images of the history of this area since the arrival of white people.  It was also good fun to watch people launch their balsa wood gliders from the top of the column and follow the paths of the little planes as they were buffeted by the winds.

Pink bubbly stuff back at the hotel and another delicious dinner at the Bridgewater.

We’ve packed quite a bit into the past sixteen days and, if Judy and Heather have enjoyed them even half as much as have we, it has been a most incredible vacation.

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A Second Slice of Salem


Rodney in our backyard

After a hotel with author-themed rooms, we returned to home base where the main theme is dust control . . . and the dust is gaining ground.

Splendid summer weather in Salem for our two days back. More Saturday marketing for Saturday dinner.  More dogs at market than last week as well as more buskers; both signs that summer is heating up.

We paid a brief visit to Salem’s “World Beat” festival at the waterfront. Masses of vendors and purveyors of everything from Peruvian knitted finger puppets to Indonesian print shirts to Hawaiian shave ice to Philippine lumpia. We saw ospreys and dragon boat races. We saw children playing in the water fountains and other children learning how to play African drums. In a city with a very pale past, it was great to see the tremendous diversity that makes up our community . . . a diversity that is still too often not seen.

Turns out our Saturday marketing was wisely done because Saturday night’s dinner was another grilling success.

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Sylvia Beach Hotel

Some people go to the beach, some people go to the shore, some people go to the seaside, we, in Oregon, go to the coast and that is exactly what the four of us did on Wednesday morning.  We threw a couple days’ worth of clothing into our backpacks, flung the backpacks into the back of the van and headed west.

Ultimate destination: The Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport; stops along the way: Driftwood Beach wayside, where we saw two abandoned shoes, mismatched, on the pathway; Cape Foulweather overview and visitor center, where we saw a bald eagle (in all honesty just a tiny white speck in a tree) and a gray whale, spouts and tail; and Mo’s at Devil’s Punchbowl State Park, where we had a tasty lunch.  Weather was mixed, mood was gay.

Oregon’s coast is diverse: Long, wide, sandy beaches; deeply indented, rocky points; huge sand dunes; and timbered hill/mountainsides that meet the water. The one common feature is that all of Oregon’s coastline is public land, the result of a 1967 piece of legislation enacted by the Oregon Legislature.  This means that we, the public, can access the coast.

We arrived at Sylvia Beach Hotel about 2 p.m. on Wednesday and checked into our rooms:  H and J in Emily Dickinson, M and V in Amy Tan.  For those of you who don’t know, the Sylvia Beach Hotel is a Newport institution. No, not that kind. Rather, the quirky, fun kind of institution.  The kind of institution where people actually want to stay.

The hotel is named after the Sylvia Beach who was the proprietor of the bookstore and lending library, Shakespeare and Company, in Paris during the years between the first and second world wars.  Each of the rooms in the hotel is named after an author and decorated in a thematic way.  The hotel is located in a large, creaking, wooden, four story building that is perched above Nye Beach in Newport. The building was built in 1913 and operated as a boarding house. Dining room is in the lower floor, rooms on floors two, three and four, and library and coffee room on four.  Shelley, the cat, roams at large choosing first one and then another lap on which to curl. People read and speak softly. It is charming and restful.

Thursday had our driver taking us south along US 101 all the way to Florence.  Stopped at Cook’s Chasm/Spouting Horn to admire the rocks and tide pools. The horn was not spouting as the tide was well on its way out but we did hear great booming sounds as the ocean pounded into subterranean chambers. We drove up to Whispering Spruce Trail and viewed Cape Perpetua through the shifting mist. We stopped briefly at Cape Perpetua and then drove to Heceta Head and walked up to its  lighthouse with its English lens, which is unique in Oregon (possibly all of the US) all others being of French origin (thanks to Heather for that bit of information). Mo’s in Florence, overlooking the Siuslaw River, was our lunch stop.

Wine in the library and a delectable dinner at Local Ocean on the harbor in Newport capped a perfect day.

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A World Without WiFi


J and H at their home from home in Salem

Okay, this is an excuse post.  I had planned on blogging two days ago but the dog ate my iPad . . . no, I dropped it into the toilet while I was brushing my teeth at the sink . . . no, no, I left it on the car seat and Michael sat on it .  .  . no, no, and no, the truth of the matter is that we spent the last two nights at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, and they do not have WiFi.  I know, any of the other three excuses seems more probable; but, the last is the reason for my tardiness.  More about the hotel in another post.

I could have given this post the title of “Back to Reality.” After our days at Kingston, Edgefield, and Sisters with their huge rooms and beds and many amenities, life in our little slice of suburban paradise seems a bit, well, less regal. I think our entire house might fit into one of the cabins at Five Pines. In spite of our somewhat more compact space, we have made good use of our time here at home base.

Saturday marketing was a delight and resulted in bags full of local yumminess for last Saturday’s dinner. Visits to Redhawk and Cubanismo wineries provided lovely vistas and tasty tastings. Dinners with friends on two evenings provided interesting conversations from different points of view. Rambles through Salem provided distractions as diverse as WPA murals, capitol visits, and woolen mill milling about. We also fitted in a trip up to the big city of Portland for a walking tour of “the best of Portland” with the bonus of a lovely lunch at Nel Centro and free time to browse at Powell’s Book Store.

We’ve had some very pleasant times sitting on our back deck enjoying our very self-contained view, the obliging weather and some of the many bottles of wine Heather has purchased from the Roth’s grocery wine department (one more trip and I’m certain they will offer her a loyalty card).

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“Sisters, sisters . . .

There were never such devoted sisters/never had to have a chaperone, no sir/I’m here to keep an eye on her.”

Oh, my gosh! What has happened? I sat down to write a brief post about our time in Sisters, Oregon, and, instead, I find myself in the middle of a Bing Crosby movie!  I must try to concentrate more. Focus, Virginia, focus.


Welcome to Sisters. It isn’t quite this quiet; this is a side street.

Thursday, June 20, was a day of leisure; and, a day off for our driver. We wandered the streets of this high desert, western themed town, popping into one shop after another, seeing what was on offer.  We discovered beautiful scarves hand woven by the lovely shop’s equally lovely proprietor, weavin’ Stephen.  We found that items called antiques and collectibles in one store with prices to match might also be found in a charity shop with bargain basement prices. We admired gorgeous quilts at a large, bright, welcoming fabric store and cringed at a store called “Antler Art,” two words that should NEVER be placed together. I bought a bunch of 50 cent children’s books perfect for my little free library.

The only sour note on our perambulations was our luncheon choice: Bowls of soup at a little café that were permeated with a charred flavor. Perhaps the cook was of the “a watched pot never boils” school.  She or he should have taken a few classes from the “an unstirred pot of a cream based soup always burns” school.  However, the beauty of the mountains surrounding Sisters and the incredible freshness of its air soon drove away this minor luncheon misstep.

Afternoon spend in individual pursuits: Reading, resting, ruminating and cruising.

More happy hour in the lodge, dinner at the Sister’s Saloon (ribs for one, salads for others) and a pleasant stroll home over the petite, covered bridge, through the pines, past the massive recreational vehicles in the campground capped a lovely day.

Thanks to Heather and Judy for letting me use some of their photos.




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I haven’t written a really good plumbing post for quite a while . . . and this isn’t going to be it. But really, who thought this was a good idea?


Won’t the hot water be cold by the time it finally splashes down?

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Moving Day


H, M and J huddled for warmth at Timberline

Yesterday, Wednesday, June 19th, we struck our tents at Edgefield and headed off for new adventures.  Our driver has been doing brilliantly on this trip and the fact that he made a wrong turn as we left the Edgefield driveway did nothing to shake our confidence in his abilities.

Our final destination for the day was Sisters in central Oregon but our midway stop (at Heather’s specific request and to everyones’ general delight) was Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood.*

Timberline Lodge was constructed during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Construction began in 1935 and was completed in 1938. The work was done by three of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal organizations: The Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Federal Art Project (FAP). Wherever one comes down politically on the New Deal public works projects or the current political divide, one has to admit that we are richer for having this incredible building on this magnificent mountain.

Built of local materials by out-of-work laborers and artists, it is splendid. The design, art and furnishings were inspired by three major themes: Native Americans, the pioneers, and Cascadia. Many of the materials were recycled: Enormous utility poles became newel posts anchoring the stairways with their mass and decorating them with their whimsical carvings; railroad rails were forged into andirons with curled ends inspired by rams’ horns; surplus World War I uniforms worn by the workers were cleaned, cut, dyed and hooked into the rugs that warmed the floors of the rooms; old linoleum was used as the canvas for painted murals.

We had the good fortune to stumble onto the beginning of a tour when we arrived. Without that serendipity, the two paragraphs above would not have been possible. We had a great guide.

We also had a very good lunch with a view. When we drove up the mountain to the lodge, the sky, which had been cloud covered at Edgefield and for much of our drive, cleared and gave us a glorious view of Mt. Hood.  During lunch, thin layers of cloud drifted across the mountain and then away allowing us to play peek-a-boo with the view.

After bidding good bye to Mt. Hood, we continued southish on Highways 26 and 97 going through many different landscapes as well as the Warm Springs Reservation before ending up in Sisters at Five Pine Lodge.  H and J in the Allen cabin, M and V in the Willitts, happy hour in the lodge, burgers in the roadhouse.

*Mt. Hood is the name given the mountain in 1792 by a member of the Vancouver exploration party. Hood being the name of some British Admiral who fought against us in the Revolutionary War. The Native American name given by the Multnomah people is Wy’east.  I think we should reclaim the original name.

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Roll On, Columbia or Into the Gorge


Another fabulous day and a half!

Departure from Kingston yesterday about 11 a.m. and shooting down I-5 had us arriving at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon around 3:30 p.m.  We checked into our king suites* (H and J in the Doris Baker room, M and V in the Crown Point room, which is a ground floor corner room with oodles of natural light) in plenty of time to wander the grounds before settling in at the Winery for refreshment.

Michael and I hadn’t been to Edgefield since we were last here with Heather . . . 2011.  I’d forgotten just how quirky and wonderful the place is.  It’s a delight to just wander the grounds enjoying the gardens and the halls enjoying the artwork. The details are fascinating and the overall vision it took to bring this place to life is unbelievable.

I don’t know how many little bars, grills, etc., are tucked into the various out buildings and into the nooks and crannies of the manor but it is significant. Money spending opportunities abound and money is being spent in all of them. There is something very pleasant about seeing people (young people, people with young families, old people) enjoying themselves in all the different venues.  I like it here.

Tonight Ziggy Marley and Michael Franti are in concert on the lawn and major preparations are underway.  Heard a sound check a bit ago and we will be able to enjoy (if that proves to be the correct word) the music without paying the price of admission. I thought we would be able to get high from the weed smoke wafting over the grounds but have been told that no dope smoking is allowed. Oh, well, one out of two isn’t bad.

Had a delicious dinner at the Black Rabbit Restaurant last night and anticipate the same result tonight.

This morning we drove up the gorge to Multnomah Falls to admire the cascades and then hooked onto US 30, the Historic Columbia River Highway, and headed back west to Crown Point. Along the way, we arbitrarily stopped at Latourell Falls, which turned out to be a brilliant stroke of luck.  Not only are these falls much less crowded than Multnomah Falls, they are situated on a gorgeous basalt formation.  It might not be of the size of the Giants’ Causeway in Northern Ireland but it is beautiful.

Our day began with some high clouds but by the time we got to Crown Point and Vista House, we had blue skies and sunshine. What a way to admire the views from that promontory.

Finally, back to Edgefield for a shared lunch and a historical tour of the manor.  The four of us will rendezvous at 6:30 in the Winery for preprandial sipping.

As I said at the beginning, a most excellent day and a half.

*There comes a point in one’s life when one doesn’t want to have to wander the halls in search of a toilet when one has to wee at 2 a.m. No extra cost is too much to pay for the convenience of en suite accommodations.



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The Gang’s All Here


Aren’t we a good looking group?

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