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Pilgrimage to Portlandia

Food Truck

Have you read “Wine Country Jamboree?” You might want to look at that first.

In the morning walk down the Willamette into downtown where I enjoy a lovely Sunday breakfast at the Broken Yolk Café before heading out of town. The place is open daily from 7:00am 3:00pm and, as the name might imply, serves breakfast all day. They also serve Bloody Mary’s, Mimosa’s, Irish Coffee and beer (oh so very Oregon).

I head back to the hotel, pick up my car and start on the road to my final destination, Portland. I should mention that I know people there. There are former coworkers whom I haven’t seen in 25 years and my step sister who I have seen in 15 years. She and her husband are opening a Guest House and I’ll be the first guest to stay there (just think of me as the laboratory rat of the Red Roost Guest House).

As I’m driving down the freeway I see a sign reading, “Aurora Historic District.” In my experience, historic districts of small towns can be quirky and fun places and, as I’m in no rush to arrive in Portland, I exit the freeway and drive the five miles down the road to check it out. There are about seven buildings and roughly five of them are antique shops. Apparently history is alive and well in this historic district. As I’ll most likely be selling my home, I’m not looking to purchase anything which I’ll have to turn around and sell on Craig’s List so I quickly move on. As I’m traveling to get back onto the freeway I see a line of forty-or-so people walking along the side of the two-lane highway with the people up front pushing a cart carrying flags. I pull to the side of the road, hop out of my car and ask if it’s a parade.

A Pilgrimage

“It’s a pilgrimage,” I’m told. “to honor our mother.”

“Who’s your mother (a little different than ‘who’s your Daddy?’)?” I ask

“The blessed Virgin Mary,” he responds.

He tells me that they’re walking 90.2 miles over four days, from Corvallis to Portland where they’ll end at the Grotto, which is a shrine to the Virgin Mary. This pilgrimage is organized by the St. John’s society through Oregon State University and Portland State University’s Newman Center. He asks me if I’d like to ask for a prayer (they take requests!) and, although I’m a Jewish girl, a prayer, a nice word or a good thought is always appreciate (couldn’t hurt – said with a Yiddish accent). After listening to the latest news on the car radio, I ask him to say one for just a bit of peace. That would be a good thing. We say our goodbyes and continue on our separate ways on our pilgrimage to Portland.

I arrive at my step-sister, Dana’s place and meet her husband and kids. It’s wonderful to see her as a mother. She shows me around her beautiful home which is located in an area of Portland known as St. John’s (looking at the first Drop Me Anywhere trip to St. John’s, Newfoundland, I think of this as a good omen). She then takes me downstairs, which houses the Red Roost Guest House. There are two bedrooms, with a choice of a hard or soft mattress (I’m a softy) a lovely bathroom, a sitting area/kitchen and a large living room with a flat screen TV (no regular reception but they do have Netflix). There’s even a separate entrance for privacy. The carpet is new, the tile is new, actually, everything is new. They’ve really done great things with this place and, even if I weren’t related, this would be a great place to stay.

live music

My plan is to head downtown in order to discover what great restaurants downtown Portland houses, but we all know how well planning works for me. As Dad said, “People plan and God laughs.” Dana and her husband Eric suggest we take a walk around the neighborhood to an camp fireinteresting location. This is a funky area of a small gathering of a farm stand and food trucks (yup, we’re in Portland) which include meatloaf sandwiches, noodles, hotdogs and beer. Yes, there’s a beer truck! There’s also live music, a campfire and a bus with sofas to lounge in.

live music

I step up and talk with Jackie, the bartender. After ordering one of the many local beers I ask Jackie what his story is, as he’s clearly not from around here.

Jackie the bartender

“No,” he says with a strong Scottish brogue. “I’m from Scotland, but I’ve lived here eight years.”

“Well, you haven’t lost a bit of your accent. How did you end up here?” I ask.

“Oh, that’s a story of unplanned travel and adventure,” he replies.

This just got interesting!

“Well, you see, I always dreamed of coming to visit America. I wanted to fly out to California and drive Highway 1. One day, I was working back home and I nearly cut off my thumb at work. I was due some Workman’s Comp. (it’s not just an American thing) and they offered me 600 Pounds. Then they offered me 800 Pounds. My lawyer told me to hold  out for more and, before you know it, they were offering 6,000 pounds. I took it and decided to use it to do my dream trip out west. When I looked into airfares, the cheapest flights were to Portland so I booked a flight and spent a few days in Portland before renting a car to drive down the coast. I went to San Francisco, Redwoods, San Diego and LA. I flew back to Portland a few days before my flight. As I had no plans, some people I met along the way invited me to stay at their house in Portland. They were having a barbecue that weekend. I showed up in my kilt (got to give the Americans their thrill) and I met this girl there. She had just returned from Mexico and arrived with a bottle of tequila (without a proper label, it just said tequila). Well, we spent the weekend together drinking tequila before I flew back home. That was 12 years ago. We stayed in touch and she came to visit me and I came to visit her. She came to visit me at Christmas and I took her to a very romantic place in Scotland and I proposed. We’ve been married eight years. It was the only unplanned trip of my life and it was the best adventure I’ve ever had.”

Oh Jackie, I can relate.

Tomorrow – Beer and Bikes. Oh, and the next vote!

Wine Country Jamboree

Have you read Naked and Afraid yet? You should head there.

After leaving the Willamettans and turning left, I end up in Sweet Home, Oregon (apparently Alabama does not have a copyright) because it’s on the road and, from the name seems like it might be a nice place. In the blink of an eye, I’ve passed Sweet Home and am on the way to Lebanon (no, I’m not that directionally challenged, I’m still in Oregon). It’s a rainy morning which matches my mood. This could be due to my near state of starvation (perhaps I exaggerate just a touch) as the restaurant at the Willamettans was not yet open for the season and therefore, not only did I not have any breakfast, but dinner the previous night consisted of salt water taffy and wine. I grab a bit really bad Mexican food, catch some wifi, and head off to find an interesting place – hopefully close to some of the many Oregon wineries – to crash for the night.

I choose to go to Corvalis simply because I’ve heard of it before. On the way I call a bike shop in town and ask about bike rental, indicating my wish to bike to some of the wineries close by as I’ve biked between pubs in England and it seemed like a good way to travel while enjoy a few of the local spirits.

“Sure, we rent all kinds of bikes,” I’m told.

“Great, how much would it be for just a touring bike?”

“We can get you one for $20.”

“Perfect. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

When I arrive in Corvallis I pass a Super 8 and a Roadway Inn. Hmmm, I was hoping to go a little more upscale than that, but a bit less than the B&B in Florence. After popping on asking Siri about my hotel options around here, I call the Holiday Inn Express which quotes me a price of $130. Really? That’s nearly the price at the Edwin K B&B, and I don’t think the Holiday In Express comes with sherry, a 100 year old metal bathtub and a five course breakfast. After Rowing Teamdriving around town with a quick stop on the banks of the Willamette River where I watch the Oregon State University rowing teams practice I head over to the Super 8 where I’m given a rate of $64 per night, which is about 1/2 what I paid at the Edwin K, yet the room is 1/4 as good. Still, it’s clean, it’s two blocks from town and I’m exhausted.

I wake up the next morning refreshed and ready to take on the lovely wineries that Oregon is known for. I head into town to rent my bike. I spend some time looking at maps and discussing which wineries are bikeable before finding out that the shortest ride will be about 18-20 miles to hit two wineries. And that’s if I put the bike in the back of my car and drive about eight miles to a park and then bike from there. Hmmm, not as simple as riding between pubs in the New Forest in England (click here to read Over the River and to the Pub). The man working there has pointed out the spots to park, take a ferry and the two wineries on a map. He then tells me that he can’t mark them in the map nor can he give me the map as it’s their only one. Are you kidding me? Oregon, I’ve been very understanding about your environmental initiatives such as not allowing me to have printed receipts and making me purchase any paper bags I need (sorry, my reusables are in my trunk at home). But really, you rent out bikes but cannot provide a map of any bike route or suggested locations? I get creative and take photos of the various points of interest on the map.

Oregon Map

Another service man then walks me next door where I’m shown a bike which will cost $40 to rent.

“Um, the guy on the phone yesterday said it would be $20.” I say.

“That’s for a one speed or three-speed. If you’re going to ride twenty miles, you’ll need this one.”

I start to get the feeling that these wineries weren’t meant for riding a bike to. More so, I think it’s a difference in priorities; the bike shop employees’ priority is bike riding while my priority is drinking wine.

I thank the gentleman for his help and head back to my car in search of the elusive fermented Oregon grape. Looking at the photo in my phone, I drive the route suggested by the bike shop guy and before long find myself at the Buena Vista Ferry which, for a whopping $3 will take both you and your car (and your bike if you have one) on a three minute ride across the Willamette River.

Ferry Crossing

Before long I arrive at Arkeny Vinyards. It’s a small place with a lovely porch and nice views of the vineyard. The wine tasting is $5 for 6 pours (a very good deal). Although the pizza made in the brick oven on the porch looks and smells wonderful, it’s just me, so I order a salad, quite proud of my healthy choice. I begin talking with Adam and Annie, the only other people there. They live about eight miles away and have never been here before. We bond over our similar tastes in wine (we like it) and they’re nice enough to offer me a piece of their pizza. They tell me about another winery about 15 minutes away that is a big place which has recently undergone a major renovation and has a concert today in honor of the holiday weekend. Before they leave, they order a bottle of wine from the waitress and give it to me as a gift. How incredibly nice is that?

Arkeny Vineyard

After lounging in the sun (the place has gotten crowded inside) and ordering another two bottles of wine to take with me, I get back in my car, get on the freeway and before long find myself at the Willamette Valley Vineyards. When I walk in it’s a completely different experience than the Arkeny Winery. This is a big place with many seating levels overlooking fifty acres of vines which rise from 500-750 feet in elevation on a seven to twelve degree slope in order to take advantage of the best sunlight and drainage for growing their Pinot Noir and various other grapes. Tasting here is $15 for four pours. I also order a dessert created by the chef the previous night. Strawberries with a balsamic reduction on the side with a sprinkle of pepper and a side of mascarpone sweetened and flavored with vanilla.

Willamette Valley Vinyards

After a really interesting short tour of the winery I look for a seat. As it’s very busy due to the big weekend and the concert on the deck below which we get to listen to, I end up sharing a table with Beth, Jason, Dan and Stephanie, two couples who live within 10 -15 miles of the winery. Apparently, these wineries are more for the locals than the tourists. They’re so friendly and entertaining. They offer to share some wine with me but, as I chose to drive instead of do the bike riding thing, I decide that the tastings have been enough and politely decline. I must say, many of the people I met in Eugene and in Corvallis weren’t nearly as friendly as the ones I met at the coast and the wineries (perhaps the wine just makes you friendlier).

Willamette River

I head on back to my fancy hotel, do a bit of writing then head out to dinner. Behind the Super 8 is a nice walking/biking path along the Willamette which I walk into downtown. I come across an Irish Pub and decide fish and chips are the meal for tonight. The bartender is nice enough, although I get the feeling that he thinks he’s a little too cool. In fact, I’ve gotten that feeling a lot on this trip. I guess the lady who sat down next to me really made it clear. “We’re very accepting of all different kinds of people here,“ she explains. “But we’re weird. If you’re not weird, you should leave.” Uh, that really doesn’t sound very accepting to me. And that’s been my conundrum on this trip.

Tomorrow – I head up to the City of Roses in Pilgrimage to Portlandia.

Naked and Afraid


Yesterday in Dunes and Nudes, I began telling you about my one-night stay at the Willamettans Family Nudist Resort. Today I tell you about my experience there.

After getting settled in the Gatehouse, I change into my swimsuit cover-up, sans swimsuit (baby steps) and head out to explore. I met Jan when I was checking in at the office and she seems quite nice and invites me to come down to her place to visit. Deidra has marked Jan’s place on the map so I trek on over. This is very much a campground-like atmosphere thus, one should always carry a flashlight. Besides my flashlight, I carry a bottle of wine, as mom taught me never to arrive empty handed. I reach Jan’s place and we stand outside talking for a few minutes. After a bit, she grabs some cups and we take a seat at her picnic table.

Jan has just returned to “The Willies,” as she and her husband, who arrives tomorrow, spend most of the year near her kids and grand kids in Bend, Oregon. As it’s right before the Memorial Day weekend, many of the “snowbirds” are arriving for Spring Fling, the big party to kick-off the summer. I tell Jan this is my first time in a nudist resort and it’s a bit out of my comfort zone. As she has no shirt on, she graciously asks if it makes me uncomfortable and offers to put on a top. That’s the thing here, although it’s a nudist resort, everyone seems very sensitive about not making this newcomer feel uncomfortable. I tell Jan that it’s nothing I haven’t seen before and I might have taken mine off if it weren’t a bit chilly.

I ask Jan if she and her husband have always considered themselves nudists and she tells me that they’ve always been very comfortable with their bodies. They found this place about ten years ago – it’s been around since 1953 – and enjoy the sense of community. The way she explains it, it’s not about being nude, it’s about not really caring about what the outside looks like. The women tend not to wear makeup and they head down to the office to do business in their bathrobes. They care more about what a person is like on the inside.

I ask what her kids think of it and she tells me that they grew up comfortable with their bodies and often come to visit at the resort. When her son and daughter-in-law come, her son is less comfortable and doesn’t generally go to the pool which, along with the sauna, is the only place nudity is required. Her daughter-in-law and grand-kids come to the pool, and her son has no problem with that.

As we chat, various people stop by to welcome Jan back. All are clothed and Jan has put on a top as night is falling. (Even nudists get cold.) Sally Jo stops by and, after inviting her to share our wine, she grabs a cup and takes a seat. Sally Jo has worked as a polygraph examiner for the sheriff’s office for 25 years. She’s now doing private consulting and will be leaving her job there soon. I ask her if her coworkers know that she comes here on the weekends and she says they do. “They just think I’m an old hippie.” Her granddaughter is coming up this weekend and she’s very excited.

While we sit around the picnic table they tell me stories of some of the residents (some live here full time in very elaborate RV’s, some live in the original cabins, some are snowbirds, and some just come up on weekends). There seems to be a true sense of community here; these people truly care about each other. After a nice conversation and a few glasses of wine, I head on back to my room to put on my pajamas (I’m guessing I’m the only one here who is wearing them) and catch a good night’s sleep.

I awake this morning at about 8:00, get some work done, pack some bags and head on over to the pool. I, once again, wear my swimsuit cover-up without the swimsuit. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around except for a guy sitting in the community building watching a reality show on the Discovery Network (here and there he switches to The Price is Right). I pass the showers and head IMG_1249straight to the pool (showers are required before entering the pool but I’ve just showered in my room and, well, I’m a rebel). There’s nobody at the pool and just two men standing by a pick-up truck on the road next to the pool. Putting on a confident front, I quickly remove my swimsuit cover-up and, well, I’m naked. I waste no time walking down the steps into the very warm swimming pool (thank goodness). By taking my clothes off when there isn’t anybody here, I’m literally dipping my toe into this nudist thing.

I float in the pool for about fifteen minutes not really noticing that I’m not wearing a swimsuit. Somehow the water feels safe and feels a bit like clothing. I don’t really notice that I’m naked until I begin to get a little cold and get out. I grab my towel and enjoy the atmosphere – blooming flowers, surrounded by tall pine trees in peaceful environment; very peaceful, in fact. When do these people wake up? I head down to the office to say good morning to Deidra. She’s very excited to learn that I “went swimming” (code word for took off my clothes). I load my luggage into my car and drive on back up to the pool area so I can get on the road as soon as my I’m finished with my visit.

When I walk through the community building the same guy is there watching the same reality TV show (not the swingin’ good time one might imagine at a nudist resort). I take my shoes off and enter the back hall which houses the restrooms – separate for men and women – and the showers which are unisex. As I must shower prior to going into the pool again, I remove my swimsuit cover-up and enter the shower. There’s one sixty-something year-old man in there (the average age of residents is fifty). I take a deep breath and choose the shower furthest away. I quickly rinse, grab my towel and enter the pool area. There is a couple in their forties at the other end of the pool. I look at them straight in the eyes and say a friendly hello while confidently removing my towel and stepping into the pool.

Before long five more people join us. There’s Frank and Laurie, who I’d guess are in their late forties to early fifties, a single man who sticks to himself swimming at the other end of the pool, and a gay couple in their fifties. We float in the pool talking for about forty-five minutes before I, again, begin to get chilly, as do Frank and Laurie. They invite me to join them in the sauna and, as they’ve preheated it which sounds very nice to my very cold, naked self, I join them. We enjoy the sauna, me wrapped loosely in a towel and them naked, while they tell me how they met and their future plans which include moving out of their already sold house next week and traveling the country in their newly purchased fifth wheel (which I think is a really big RV but could be some secret nudist code). After about twenty minutes, I’m feeling toasty and decide to get on the road to my next destination, wherever that may be.

After saying my goodbye’s and thanking everyone for making me feel so comfortable, I head on down the road and come to a T intersection. From there I have to decide; right or left. I choose left and go where the road takes me.

Tomorrow – A drive through wine country in Wine Country Jamboree

Dunes and Nudes

Have you read The Joys of Indoor Plumbing? You might want to read that first.

Following a fine night’s sleep I awake feeling a bit like a princess in my fabulous room. I, once again, pop in my shower and head down for breakfast which is served at 9:00am. Everyone in the house is there except one couple. Marv, the owner, goes on up to wake them (hmmm, I guess breakfast is required) and, before long, eight of us are seated at the table. Marv, one of the owners, is the front-of-house man and Marv’s wife, Laurie, works behind the scenes. Marv also loves to cook and, besides the homemade jams, mango/strawberry juice, spinach soufflé with raspberry chipotle sauce and cinnamon walnut bread, there are about five more things that I feel it necessary to eat every last bite of as to not insult our hosts (yeh, that’s it).

During breakfast Marv tells us about the various activities available to do in the area. There’s the Sea Lion Cave, climbing or riding a buggy on the sand dunes, touring the lighthouse and countless other options. I decide to walk through town and visit some of the quaint and quirky shops there. After buying a purse and some gifts, I make a call to Sand Dunes Frontier, an adventure sand dunes touring company Marv has recommended.

Dune Buggy

Within an hour, I arrive at Sand Dunes Frontier and head to the public restroom to change my clothes as I’m told I’ll get sand in all my nooks and crannies. Oh yay, again! There will be no exfoliation facials required after this trip. In just a few minutes I’m strapped into a four person dune buggy for a Sand Rail Tour with Mike and Mary Joe and Bob, our guide. Bob tells us it’s his first day on the job which, I think, he finds humorous. This would be a good time to let you in on my fear. I like adventure. In fact, from time to time, I’ve been called an adrenaline addict. Olympic bobsled run? Done that. Ultra lighting? Let’s fly! White water rafting? Take me to the river (ha!). Skydiving? Twice! Driving or riding in a vehicle up or down steep hills? Scares me to death, and I avoid it at all costs. I have no idea why. I think that might have been the cause of my death in a previous life. In the interest of letting you know if it’s worth doing, I’m biting the bullet (or at least a bunch of sand).

Bob the Guide

We begin by driving down a dirt road behind Frontier and before you know it, we’re staring up at a 300 foot sand dune. This is where Bob starts having fun. Suddenly we’re flying up the dune. Once at the top, Bob stops the car so that we’re looking down. . . straight down. Bob exits the car and points out the ocean, the pine islands and other sites and tells us that the dunes are currently at about 300 feet but, by the end of the summer, the winds will cause them to grow to about 600 feet. I could really start to appreciate the beauty if only I weren’t concerned about, you know, dying at any moment. Bob takes some photos for us and gets back in the car. I recheck my four-point harness, say a prayer and grab on to Mary Jo’s leg. From there we fly all around the dunes; sometimes straight up, sometimes traveling parallel along the side and sometimes doing a u-shaped up and down (that’s the scariest).

Throughout the trip, I tell Bob I love him (hey, he’s keeping me alive) and grab Mary Jo’s leg so hard I’m sure I’ve bruised it. I might have screamed once or twice (or perhaps, throughout most of the ride). While my eyes are protected due to the goggles provided by Frontier, I eat a lot of sand during this trip and discover the benefits of ear exfoliation. I’ve kept an eye on my watch and I prayed for the thirty minutes to go by fast. Yes, while thirty minutes may seem like a short amount of time, imagine thirty minutes on an out of control roller-coaster and you’ll understand a little bit better.

Upon returning to headquarters, I change my clothes again, thank Bob, apologize to Mary Jo for her bruised leg, and head off. I’ve decided to spend the night at the Willamettans Family Nudist Resort in Springfield, Oregon (also known as The Willies, I kid you not).

Welcome signI arrive at about 5:30pm and pick up the phone at the entrance in order to get through the gate (we don’t want any riff-raff in here). As I enter the office and meet Deidra who has arranged a tour with John, the president of the board here at the Willamettans (yes, there’s a board). He takes me around on a golf cart to the swimming pool, the rec. center and the Full Moon Saloon. Along the way I see people in various stages of dress (or undress) greeting each other, as the “snow birds” are just returning for the summer.


Before long, we return to the office where I ask Deidra some questions (she, by the way, is fully clothed). Deidra is the only full-time paid employee (there’s also a part-time one) as the residents take care of the place and volunteer in the community. I ask if she ever goes nude. Deidra was never a nudist before she worked there and still doesn’t consider herself one. She wishes she had gone nude early on as, if she does it now, she feels like it will be big news in the community, so she recommends that, if I choose to experience it fully, I join in right away. Still, there is no pressure to remove my clothes as it is certainly not a requirement. Deidra has stayed late for my arrival in order to greet me and help me feel at ease. She is also nice enough to provide me with a towel as it’s required you carry one with you if you choose to go nude as, well, there’s that whole sitting factor.

After chatting for a bit, Deidra provides the key to the Gatehouse, Towelswhich is attached to the office and will be my room for the night. I enter and feel very much like I’m staying in my grandmother’s house. It has that would panel smell with a sliding plastic shower door. The towels are actually the same towels my family had when I was growing up in the 70’s.


Next – I’ll tell you about my evening sharing wine with the residents and my morning being Naked and Afraid.



The Joys of Indoor Plumbing

Edwin K Bed

Have you read “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” yet? You might want to see what happened before this.

Do you have an important occasion coming up? An anniversary, perhaps, or maybe a marriage proposal. Heck, maybe it’s just a Friday. Read on as I have the perfect place to stay.

I wake this morning unsure of what I will do. I’ve contacted a few agencies and organizations in hopes of volunteering but most have not returned my calls. One called back but had no one-off opportunities. At about 10:00am my phone rings and it’s Josie, from The Dining Room calling me back. She asks if I can come in and volunteer from 12:00 noon to 2:30pm. Perfect.

I grab a bite coffee and some Green Eggs and Ham (yup, that’s what it says on the menu) at Theo’s Coffee House on the corner near The Dining Room. As I mentioned in “A Yurt by Any Other Name,” there’s a large homeless community here in Eugene. Run by Food for Lane County, The Dining Room is a place where people having housing and financial challenges can come to eat. In other places, this would be known as a soup kitchen, but in the interest of preserving dignity and respect, this organization’s “soup kitchen” is a restaurant. You can read more about The Dining Room on Rebel-With-A-Cause.

The Dining Room
Angie and a memorial mosaic made by guests in honor of guests lost.

At noon I report for duty and am welcomed by Josie who tells me more about the organization and shows me around the place. She introduces me to Angie, the Dining Room Coordinator and, before I know it, I’m grabbing an apron and some latex gloves. I’ve been assigned to busing tables.

Leftover flowers are donated by Trader Joe's and others. Artwork is done by guests.
Leftover flowers are donated by Trader Joe’s and others. Artwork is done by guests.

Within five minutes of opening we have 30 people seated at tables and 100 more outside. The need here is great and the volunteers truly care about the people and the organization. We’re constantly on the move serving main courses, desserts and drinks, bringing salt, pepper and hot sauce on request, clearing away dishes and wiping down tables. There’s just this one local college student who seems to have grown roots. While others tell me they do this because they enjoy helping others, they see the need and they’re happy doing it, when I ask her why she does it she tells me it’s required for credit for her degree. I hope she finds her passion.


I, very proudly, finish my shift without once sending dishes crashing to the floor or spilling coffee on anyone. I consider this a successful day. Vikki, the Volunteer Coordinator, asks me where I’m headed next. That’s a fine question. I haven’t a clue. I ask her how far the coast is and she asks how fast I drive (I like her). I tell her it seems that I drive faster than 90% of the population of Oregon. Really, in Phoenix, if the speed limit is 65 it’s expected that you will drive at about 75. We tend to think of speed limits as suggestions. Here in Oregon, if the speed limit is 65, they seem to travel no faster than 62 miles per hour. Vikki tells me that Florence is a cute little town on the coast about 90 minutes away. I head out to my car and have a little talk with Siri and we decide that the ocean sounds like a good idea.

After about eighty minutes shoes off, jeans rolled up, I’m walking out onto sand dunes towards the Pacific Ocean. It’s feels like it’s about 60 degrees with 60 mile per hour winds blowing sand in every place you don’t want sand. As I approach the ocean, I drop my shoes on the beach and fight the hurricane force winds in order to dip my toes into the frigid water. Toes in WaterMy freshly painted pink, sparkly toe-nail polish looks great with my blue feet. After about three minutes I head away from the water to collect my shoes and find a place to stay. If you take any of the advice I provide here on Drop Me Anywhere, please take this – take note of where you drop your shoes. There’s sand . . . everywhere. And one thing about sand, everything looks the same when you’re surrounded by it. After a ten minute search, I finally locate my shoes and do the long trek over sand dunes to get to my car.

Pacific Ocean

After a short drive into Old Town Florence, I come across the Edwin K Bed & Breakfast. Marv, who along with his wife Laurie, owns the place, is there to greet me. He is incredibly welcoming and shows me around the place. It’s a beautiful, 100 year-old Craftsman House. These are houses which you used to be able to buy through the Sears catalog with the note, “Assembly Required” (and you thought IKEA required some work). The house has had additions and now is a seven bedroom, nine bath, two kitchen, truly beautiful home. Marv points out the sherry which is served daily from 5:00-8:00pm and the shows me to the “Winter Room.” Sold!

Edwin K Bed

With beautiful blue, gray walls, ivory lace curtains and the most incredible attention to detail, I feel like I’m in a Currier and Ives painting. The original, metal bathtub is on a tile pedestal in the room. By “in the room” I not only mean that it’s in the bedroom, not in a separate bathroom, but contrary to the previous two nights, I don’t have to grab my flip-flops and a flashlight in order to use it or the toilet. Marv even gives great instruction on how to use a metal bathtub (fill it and let it sit for 10 minutes so the tub warms up).

Edwin K Bathtub

The $145 it includes a five course breakfast too! If you have a special occasion coming up, an anniversary, a marriage proposal, a weekend away from the kids or just a weekend away on your own, book this place now. It’s a truly wonderful experience.

I take a quick shower to wash the glacial sand out of my nooks and crannies and head down to share a sherry with my fellow guests. There’s a couple in their early sixties driving down the coast to Long Beach, a younger couple from Romania driving up the coast to Seattle, and a fifty-something single woman getting away for a few days. After a drink, we all head our separate ways to find dinner.

Marv has recommended Bridgewater Restaurant for some good seafood. I walk a block down the road, look at the menu and decide this is perfect. After a nice glass of wine and a healthy and tasty dinner of salmon (and a complementary shrimp cocktail) the waiter brings me a dessert menu. I do my best to resist and, when I see the size of the desert delivered to the table next to me, I decide that there is no way I can order a desert even if I want one as it’s enough to feed at least three people. The ladies on the receiving end of the dessert take note and, before I know it, they’ve asked for an extra plate and are sharing their hot fudge brownie cake with me. I could get used to this place.

I waddle back to the B&B and spend a few minutes sharing dinner stories with my fellow housemates before heading up to my beautiful bathtub. I run the tub, light my French lavender candle, put in some lavender bath soap to substitute for bubbles and hit the Mozart playlist on my iPhone. I climb in my big, beautiful tub, pick up my kindle, lay back and immediately slide down onto my back with my head under water while holding my Kindle up in the air. Note, short girls in extra-long bathtubs beware. After lifting myself back up, I carefully brace myself against the sides, sit back (carefully) and enjoy my night of indoor plumbing.

Tomorrow – Dunes and Nudes

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Spencer Butte

Have you read “A Yurt By Any Other Name?” You might want to do that first.

After a really terrible night’s sleep, I wake up vowing not to let it affect my mood this first full day in Oregon. I couldn’t get comfortable last night, but think it was more my own back issues than the Roundhouse bed. To quote Indiana Jones, “It’s not the years honey, it’s the mileage.”

I trek on over to the shower and drive over to a coffee kiosk a mile down the road that I noticed last night. I order a latte and a bagel and my mood vastly improves. I’m ready! But ready for what? So far, when I ask locals what their favorite thing to do here is, besides mushroom hunting, the consensus seems to be, hike Spencer Butte. So, now that I’m caffeinated, I throw on my yoga pants (I didn’t bring shorts as the temperature was supposed to be in the low 70’s and to this current Phoenician, that’s sweater weather) and lace up my hiking boots and I’m ready.

Water bottle in hand, I drive on over to Spencer Butte park, about 10 minutes away and begin the hike. There are a few choices of trails. I decide on the “Main Trail” as it’s about a 700 foot elevation gain in about a mile, as opposed to a 700 foot gain in about 1/2 mile. Slow and steady, thank you

I’ve been told by Nate at the Roundhouse that it’s an hour up so it should take a few hours. The online guide says it’s a 2 to 6 hour hike. As is true with most hiking guides they overestimated the time. It takes me about 45 minutes to reach the summit. The last part is true scrambling. I’m sure there’s a trail somewhere but I’ll be darned if I can find it. I’ve met a couple of women on the trail and they can’t seem to find it either. As we can see the summit, we decide it’s every woman for herself and make our own path. While the views along the way have been impressive, the views from the top are outstanding.

A view from the top

As I reach the top, not only do I see views of green rolling hills with tall pines and farmhouses to rival Switzerland, I also meet four twenty-somethings and their two dogs (no idea how old the dogs are). By “meet” I mean I catch my breath for a minute and say hello. They nod.

I decide I’ll win them over with my sparkling personality and ask, “Oh, are these the famous Guard Dogs of the Mountaintop?”

They say nothing.

As I like dogs and they generally like me, I hold out my fist to them to let them smell me (because apparently, to smell me is to love me). One seems nice enough but the other starts growling and showing his teeth.

I back off and say, “Um, are they friendly?”

The only response I get from the twenty-somethings is a sideways look and a smirk. For a minute I wonder if they speak English, but a few minutes later I hear them having a perfectly good conversation in my native tongue. I’m later told by one of the women I’ve met on the hike that this is typical of Eugene twenty-somethings. They tend not to speak unless it’s required of them. Apparently the possibility of me being attacked by Cujo didn’t rate high enough.

I sit and stare in awe at the most amazing view while chatting with Sonnet and Liz, college friends who have gotten together for a mini-reunion. Sonnet lives in Eugene and will be taking the Bar Exam this summer. Liz is a vet (the animal kind not the army kind) and the squirrels seem to know it as they’ve followed her to the top of the mountain. After about 30 minutes she announces that they must get going as she has to get a run in as she’s training for a marathon (I hate her).

Sonnet and Liz

After a few minutes more of enjoying the views, I make my way down, hop into my car and head downtown to hit up one of the famous Portland food trucks (I’ll carb-load for the marathon). I find a truck called Slurp which serves, Slurpwhat I’m told is the best Kahlua pork from a recipe handed down by the owner’s grandmother. I forego the rice, cutting the carbs (okay, no marathon for me) and get it only with the pineapple and cabbage. I take it over to Townshend Teahouse which has introduced me to Bubble Tea (fun to say and even more fun to drink) and Kombucha which is a fermented tea that’s supposed to be really good for you and is also quite tasty.

After eating my pork and drinking my Kombucha, I hop in my car and head over to The Hideaway Bakery to meet an old coworker for their Tuesday Pizza and Live Music evening from 5:00-8:00pm. They have beer, they have wine, they have pizza, they have music and they even have a sandbox. What more could you want? We get to catch up over another great Oregon brew while her three year-old plays in the sandbox and I get to hold her six month-old which I miss terribly since leaving my last job working with kids. Everybody’s happy.

Tomorrow – serving lunch, busing tables and The Joys of Indoor Plumbing!


A Yurt By Any Other Name


Have you read “I’ve Got Baggage?” You might want to read that first.

I arrive in Portland after an on time and uneventful flight. I take the extremely long walk to baggage claim to pick-up my tightly packed luggage and do some more walking to get to the car rental airport shuttle pick-up. Portland International Airport (PDX) has some on site car rental but I was a bit “Thrifty”, or perhaps I should say “Budget” conscious. Actually a little of both.

About a week before the trip I reserved a rental car with Thrifty Car Rental at a not-so-bad price of $254.08 including all of the crazy taxes and fees. On Saturday, I played Priceline’s version of Russian Roulette, Name Your Price. As the Thrifty rate of $171.68 per week, not including taxes worked out to $24.52 per day, I bid $14.00 per day on Priceline. I don’t really care who I rent my car from as long as it’s an airport location. Budget Car Rental accepted my bid and I’ll be paying a grand total of $196.57 for the week. including taxes and fees, a savings of $57.51. I’ve kept the Thrifty reservation just in case there’s a problem with the Priceline reservation and I need backup. If you reserve directly with a car rental company, there’s normally no need to provide a credit card number ahead of time and no cancellation fee. Between that and the airport parking in Phoenix I’ve saved nearly $100 this first day. And I’ve declined the rental car insurance as I checked my MasterCard prior to traveling and, between that and my own car insurance, I’m good. As Jake and Elwood said, “We got a full tank of gas, a half a pack of cigarettes (um, not really, I don’t smoke) and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it!”

I head on out of Portland (driving over the Willamette, of course) and, after a quick stop for a sandwich, I’m in Eugene two-and-a-half hours later. The only reservations I truly have for this trip are the first two nights (except for a guest house owned by my step-sister at which I’ll stay at the end of the trip). I’ve made those reservations through AirBnB . This is my first time using this well-known service which has become quite popular in the last year. People rent out rooms in their homes, or even entire houses or apartments on a nightly basis through AirBnB. As they are international, you can find places all over the world. I have found The Roundhouse which is a twelve-sided wooden structure in the backyard of Don’s home (he’s careful not to call it a yurt as, apparently, those are made of fabric). community libraryWhen I arrive I enter through the gate which Don’s pre-trip E-mails has described as being right next to the community library, a copper arched enclosed shelf. I purposely make some noise to let anyone know I’ve arrived. It’s strange walking into a stranger’s backyard while dragging your luggage behind you. As no one comes out, I proceed to make my way over the river rocks, which are beautifully landscaped though not at all practical when carrying two tightly packed suitcases and a tightly packed backpack.

Floor of Pennies
Floor of Pennies

I open the door of The Roundhouse and am pleasantly surprise; it’s well designed with hooks all around the inside to substitute for a closet and there are windows on each side as well as a skylight. There are collapsible tables attached to walls in order to make good use of the space. FYI – there is no television. Oh and the floor is made up of pennies! 59,206 to be exact. There’s even an old road bike should I choose to use it. Oh, and a dog, it comes with a dog! Okay, not exactly. His name is Boston and he’s a big, black, friendly dog who doesn’t seem to mind that strangers come and go from his backyard at all hours. Besides Boston, I meet Don’s son Nate. As Don is out of town for a couple of days, Nate is taking care of things.

Roundhouse backyard
Views from the Roundhouse

The one real drawback is that the bathroom is just inside the back door of the main house. It’s only about twenty steps away but it feels a bit like camping when you have to slip on your shoes and grab your flashlight (provided by Done, of course) when nature calls (and it always calls in the middle of the night just because you’re thinking of that walk). This is a good time to point out what you should bring if you stay here – a pair of flip-flops or other sensible, easy-on shoes for those late-night trips to the bathroom. Also, pajamas.

Your morning wake-up call should you forget your eye shades
Your morning wake-up call should you forget your eye shades

Yes, for those of you who sleep sans clothing, while Don and Nate are lovely people, I’m sure they, and their neighbors, wouldn’t appreciate you skulking around in their backyard wearing nothing but a smile (and sensible shoes, of course). Finally, eye shades. Even if you close all of the curtains on each of the five windows, there’s still that skylight. Trust me, bring the eye shades.

After getting settled, I head into downtown Eugene (about 2 miles away). I find parallel parking on Broadway, one of the main downtown streets. As I gather my purse, I notice the car in front of me has a sign in the rear window which says, “Homeless family of four living in car. Anything you can give is appreciated.” This is a great opportunity to mention the homeless factor here in both Eugene and Portland. There are a lot of homeless people here. One should be prepared that, if you choose to travel here, you will see this.

When I exit my car I hear bluegrass music coming from inside a storefront. Although there’s a closed sign out front, I enter and ask if I might listen. The five men with various stringed instruments agree. After their first song, I ask about this place. They tell me it’s the Jazz Station, a Performance Space and Gallery and every other Monday night local jazz musicians drop in for a jam session.

Jazz Jam Session

After listening to a couple of songs, I make my way down Broadway, one of the main streets in downtown Eugene, and stop in Jameson’s Bar. Oregon is known for their great craft beer and I aim to try a few on this trip. It turns out, this trip is starting out much like the storytellers I met on the St. John’s Newfoundland trip (read here) in regards to the strange men I seem to meet in bars on the first night. I strike up a conversation with a younger guy next to me who seems to know a bit about the local beers on tap. At his recommendation I choose a 10 Black which ends up being a fine choice. My challenge comes when I ask him what his favorite thing to do here is.

He answers, “I like to go pick wild mushrooms.”

Attempting to relate this to an activity which you might recommend to a complete stranger I ask, “Oh, so do you hike to go do this?”

“Yeh, there’s some hiking and some driving. Actually a lot of driving and a lot of getting lost.”

I get distracted for a moment by the ongoing bar trivia game and when I look to my left, he’s gone. Probably heading out on a mushroom hunt.

There’s now an older man who has taken his place. After some small talk I mention that I’m a bit shocked at how light it is still at 9:00pm. I then realize that it stays lighter later here as in Arizona we don’t do daylight savings time.

He shakes his head knowingly and says, “That’s because it’s a bunch of socialists there.”

Um, what? I’m not even sure what that means. I respond, “No, really, it’s just because it’s really hot and we want the sun to go down.”

Apparently, he disagrees and goes off on a tangent about naval ships with munitions racing cruise ships coming out of Puget Sound. Before long he’s mumbling to himself. I ask the bartender for my tab “before I kill him” and head off to my lovely Roundhouse in the Backyard.

Tomorrow – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

I’ve Got Baggage

Today’s the day! I’m off to Portland. I say Portland as that’s the airport I’m flying into, but let’s keep in mind that you voted to “drop me” in the Willamette River which, in its 187 miles (301 km) travels through many places in Oregon, beginning with Eugene to the south and ending in Portland in the north where it then empties into the Columbia River and heads out to the Pacific Ocean.

My flight leaves at 10:25am, which is a decent enough hour to get a good night’s rest. The only challenge is the Monday morning rush-hour traffic. Thus my 7:45am departure from my house. I’m traveling with one very tightly packed suitcase, one very tightly packed carry-on bag and one very tightly packed backpack. Why are they all so tightly packed? Packing for this trip was a challenge. Much more challenging than packing for Newfoundland in February. In Newfoundland, I knew it would be cold. Yes, snow boots, a winter coat, ski pants and sweaters all take up quite a lot of valuable luggage space, but you can wear two pairs of jeans and three sweaters all week. Portland in May is a hodgepodge of weather. It might better be described as “whether.” Whether it will rain the whole time or be sunny, whether it will be 80 degrees or 49 degrees, whether the fact that it’s already hit 104 back home will make 70 feel like I need to break out that winter coat. And then there’s the other uncertainty which is what Drop Me Anywhere is all about; what will I be doing? There’s hiking boots, water shoes, flip flops, sneakers and the more respectable black heels. If I find packing this stressful, it’s a good thing that’s one of the few planned activities.

I arrive at the Quality Inn in Tempe, Arizona at 8:25am. Why am I at a hotel a half-hour from my house? I’m trying something new. In an effort to save money I’ve found a website called Global Airport Parking. They have deals with local hotels to rent out their extra parking spaces. While long-term parking at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport would have cost me $9.00 per day, I’m parked at the Quality Inn for $4.99 per day plus a few fees. In the end this will save me about $38.00. Either way I would be taking a shuttle bus or rail from the parking lot to the terminal.

After being dropped at the airport I head over to the US Airways ticket counter to check my bag. As I’ve checked in online I hope that this will expedite the process. Alas, this is not to be. There are about 150 in line ahead of me. I resign myself to a long wait and take advantage of some fine people-watching time. I notice the man two lines in front of me in the long, snaking queue that seems to have had more trouble packing than me. He has three bags, all matching, of course, dragging behind him with each one attached to the next. He looks like the Pied Piper of luggage. I’m wondering if each one is packed or if he just couldn’t bear to break up the set.

Pied Piper of luggage

Before long I reach the front of the line. I must complement the US Airways staff here as those ladies organizing the line up front and directing people to the next available kiosk were efficient, yet polite. They even helped the people that, I swear, had never flown before or, for that matter, used a computer before.

Bag checked, I head on up to security. In order to prepare to go through the x-ray machine I remove my belt while on the escalator (I’m really good at undressing while riding transportation). When I reach the security agent I’m directed to a line to the left. Uh oh, I think. Great, I’m going to get the enhanced security check again. What is it? Profiling? Is it a redhead thing? There are 4 people ahead of me and each of us is instructed to leave our shoes and our belts on, leave our computers in our bags and just place our bags on the conveyor belt. Um, what? I feel as if I’ve won the lottery. Apparently this is the opposite of enhanced security.

I make my way to the gate and meet Isabella. She is three years old (although she insists she is five) and has a monkey on her back. We start up a conversation about said monkey which she insists is a backpack. She then offers me a cookie. While I’ve planned not to eat a bunch of sugar on this trip, when a child offers you a cookie it’s a bit like a Frenchman offering to give you directions in English – it almost never happens and you should feel honored when it does. As I don’t want to risk insulting Isabella, I graciously accept the cookie.

Before long, I’ve gate checked my carry-on bag as I’m in boarding group five on a full flight so the chances of there actually being an overhead space for it when I board is pretty much the same as Isabella offering me another cookie. As I wait for my boarding group to be called, I notice a group of men who have made themselves quite comfortable during their wait. They’re lying on the floor in front of the boarding line. Believe me, I understand the fatigue that traveling can cause, I even follow the website Sleeping In Airports. Laying in AirportsBut really, in what other place would grown men feel comfortable lying in the middle of the floor in a public place? Do you just pick a store in the mall, lay back and relax? How about the bowling alley? For the love of God, find yourself a seat and lean on a stranger’s shoulder like the rest of us. And please, try not to drool, we’ll be boarding soon.

Tomorrow – We’ll learn of about my first experience at an AirBnB in A Yurt By Any Other Name”

Where There’s a Willamette, There’s a Way

Willamette River photo courtesy of http://lizardheadcyclingguides.com/
Willamette River
photo courtesy of Lizard Head Cycling Guides

Hello Virtual Travel Buddies. Just thought I’d update you on the Kickstarter and the upcoming Oregon trip.

As far as the Kickstarter project goes – it was, for the most part, unsuccessful. I say “for the most part” because, while the final financial goal was not reached and I will therefore, not get any money, there were other successes. Those came in lessons learned.

First, I learned how to mount a Kickstarter campaign. It’s no small task. I did a lot of research before (very different than my travel style), conversed with others who had run successful Kickstarter campaigns, watched tutorials (paid more attention than I did in college) and read all kinds of blogs, articles and general information on crowdfunding campaigns. The most important input I received from others who had run campaigns was as follows: fulfilling the rewards is the hardest part and, you’ll be surprised by who gives and who does not. They were definitely on the mark there. Strangers, former clients, friends of friends, they all gave. Yet, when some friends said they couldn’t wait to buy the book I told them they didn’t have to. They could give $30 to the campaign and consider it their pre-order. I never heard from them again. I chalk it up to an instant gratification society. We want it and we want it now!

I learned that the support wasn’t about the amount of money pledged, but just the thought that people believed either in the project or in me – or, dare I say, both? From those who pledged $10 to those who gave $500, each gave me the warm fuzzies and felt like a big cyber-hug. And even those who didn’t pledge, but shared my campaign via social media and in person put a huge smile on my face. Everyone’s financial situation is different (if you read some of my previous work on My Own Adventure, you know that I understand this) yet there are ways to support people even if you’re short on cash (by the way, this was the original premise of Rebel-With-A-Cause – using your talent to help others). So to all those who supported my Kickstarter campaign, I say Thank You!

Let’s talk about what’s coming next. I will be continuing with this project and resulting book. I may re-launch the Kickstarter in the future is certain situations change. Of course I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’ll be financing it myself.

I’ve made my plane reservations to fly to Portland as you voted to “drop me” in the Willamette River. I leave on May 19, which is just over two weeks from the end of the vote. While I try to depart within two weeks of the voting results, airfares were significantly less beginning on this date. I’ve also made reservations in Eugene through AirBnB for the first two nights of the trip. This will be my first experience with AirBnB and I’m anxious to tell you all about it. From there, I’ll play it by ear. I’ll stay until May 28 as the last few days of the tip will be spent in Portland visiting with friends and family. Some have already begun telling me, “You have to go to this place!” or “You must eat at this restaurant.” My response, “Um, thanks, but what part of unplanned don’t you understand?”

I will admit to being slightly disappointed that the Thames didn’t win. I love a nice cream tea and also a beer with an actual alcohol content. And my good friend from New York will be performing his show in a chocolate factory in London this month (no, he’s not an Oompa Loompa. He’s actually quite tall and not at all purple). So, instead of going to England and attending a concert in a chocolate factory, I’ll go to Oregon and drink wine while perhaps singing Karaoke. It’s really the same (if you drink enough wine).

Looking forward to traveling with you in eleven days!


Winner, Winner, Wine for Dinner

Think outside the boxVoting is now closed and once again, you’ve chosen to think outside the box by choosing the “other” category and going with a write-in candidate. I knew I liked you! So, where will we be traveling? We’re heading to (insert proverbial drum-roll) the Willamette River in Oregon!

It’s a bit strange that, with all of the unique and exotic options I’ll be staying in my own country for this trip. Then again, with readers from all over the world, Oregon may seem exotic to some (FYI – it won with 38% of the vote). Perhaps this is a great way to show that you don’t have to go far to have adventure. Doing a trip without planning can make for some amazing adventures. Oh, and they make wine there so there will definitely be some adventure in that.

Just to explain to the new virtual travel buddies how this works; in most cases I leave for the trip within two weeks of the voting cut-off. I’ll find fun and interesting things to do, places to stay, people to talk to and more. I’ll tell you stories from the places that you decided to send me, give you links to the activities, accommodations, restaurants and, in the last article of the series, provide you with an expense report. No, I don’t expect that you’ll reimburse me (although I wouldn’t turn it down), but this will help you have some idea of a budget should you decide to do a similar trip.

Another important aspect is the volunteer part. Once I arrive at the location, I’ll find a deserving organization or project with which to spend a day, or part of a day, volunteering. I’ll tell you the stories from my experience and, on my philanthropic site www.Rebel-With-A-Cause.org, I’ll tell you more about the organization or project, who they help, and how you can get involved.

Lastly, due to the overwhelming interest and support of the Drop Me Anywhere project, I’ve decided to write a book. Watch for, “Drop Me Anywhere – A Travel Memoir with a Twist” in 2015. It will be a memoir of the year of doing this project and will include many of the stories from the blog written in memoir format and the joys and hardships of making this project happen. It will also include the stories from Rebel-With-A-Cause, as well as the untold stories from the road. “What?” you ask. “I thought we had an honest relationship and shared everything!” Well, you thought wrong. I’ve saved some of the stories which I hope will entice you to buy the book (see how I did that?). Remember, in a previous entry I mentioned that men always ask if I’m going to write about them? Well, the book will be the place. If you’re a publisher or agent, yup, we should talk. If you’re a man I’ve been romantically involved with during this project, you’ll be famous!

So, now all I have to do is figure out how I’m going to get to the Willamette River. From there, we’ll play it by ear. Don’t forget to subscribe by clicking that little box on the left which allows you to be a Virtual Travel Buddy. You can also follow on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Google+ (dear God that’s a lot of communicating). You’ll also get to see the Daily Travel Quote in order to inspire you to get outside your comfort zone and travel. Please feel free to contact me through the website or social media to ask questions, make comments or book me for speaking engagements.