Sunday, June 10, 2018

Weekend trip to Astoria

Looking out at the wide Columbia River headed towards the Pacific Ocean

A few weeks back me and some friends headed to Astoria out on the Oregon coast to explore and get some history.  Such a fun, eclectic and interesting town, which was founded as the primary settlement for a fur enterprise by John Jacob Astor.  This was to be the NYC of the west coast, the major port where business flowed through.  A recent booked entitled Astoria, by Peter Stark, details the two expeditions (land and sea) that set out to conquer and begin the business here.  It was a rough voyage by both parties and they couldn't make a go of it.  The War of 1812 had something to do with that as well.  Definitely a great read, full of adventure, history, comedy and life in the early 1800s.  Think you had a rough day?  Think again.

Anyways, we stayed at the Norblad Hostel, a classy spot right in the heart of town, most likely a former brothel as that was the type of town this used to be.  Perfect location for exploring the town from the cafes, to the breweries, to the local trolley.  That's right, we went on a trolley tour, a historical trolley tour, serving bloody mary's.  Can't beat that.

From the canning industry, to the logging industry to the filming industry (The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop), this town has been lots of things.  As they like to tell you, one thing they aren't, is quaint.  They prefer the rough and tumble approach, and seem to get along just fine with that.  It's a great town for a weekend visit, with great fish and chips, steady microbreweries all around (try Buoy Beer!) and a fun vibe all around.  Live it up!
Bridge over the Columbia, with Washington 4 miles away on the other side

Best fish and chips in Astoria, hands down.

View from the Astoria Column (130+ stairs high)

Sunday, June 3, 2018


Well, the pun above has been well used, but man, is the Columbia Gorge gorgeous.  Simply amazing.  Lots of natural beauty out there, just over a half hour away.  Can't pass up mountain views, good hikes, sharp hills coming down to the huge Columbia.  Although there was a large forest fire last year that caused lots of trail closures, there are still some great hikes available, and my dad and I headed there early Saturday morning.  Portland is an outdoorsy town, so when we got to the trailhead before 9am, there were just 2 parking spots left.  Booted up, we started the incline, working our way up through switchbacks for the next 1.5 miles, to our first viewpoint:

From there, we soon reached a plateau and then another awesome viewpoint, with complimentary wildflowers in full bloom.  Can't beat that:

Here are some other good shots from the day, perfect for an early summer day where the sun was out, and the temperature was perfect in the trees.  Great to get out and move those legs, with my dad and I doing around 8.5 miles, full of good movement and sunny vibes.

Awesome trail!
Columbia Gorge on the drive

Mount Hood shining through on the drive

Monday, February 26, 2018

Late winter is upon us

Waking up to a proper dusting of snow outside is amazing.  We finally have some winter here in Portland and although it shuts down some of the city, there is still fun to be had.  Here are some pictures from walking around the neighborhood with the dog, enjoying the stillness of empty, white streets.

Clover checking out the sledding attempters in the distance
How bout our white house?
Bamboo bending with pressure
Even the Virgin got snowy

Iced over bamboo in the backyard

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A day at the races

A couple weeks ago (before this winter snow hit Portland) some friends and I went on a sunny day to Portland Meadows, aka the race track.  Not many cities can boast a race track with a picture perfect snow capped mountain as the backdrop to the finish line.  Mount Hood stands in the background, and the horses put on quite a show in the foreground.  Those horses can fly! 

From checking out the horses before they head out to the track, to laughing at the horse names, it's a jolly good time at the track.  The place was buzzing with people, not dressed up like at the big races sadly, just a few dapper gentlemen and stylishly dressed women.  Pretty much an average Portland crowd, out for a good time, trying to get their bets right and eat some $2 tacos.  I ended up coming out ahead on the betting front, feeling pretty good, and getting a strategy down.  Nothing's foolproof, but it sure does feel good to choose a winner.

Here's a video of a fun finish, with the crowd pumping and cheering away:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Out exploring the coast

One of the best parts of living in Portland is the proximity to nature.  The mountains and ocean are both just over an hour away, and there are countless hikes, excursions and fun to be had within an hour.  Recently I joined up with some friends for an all day winter road trip to the coast.  I say a winter road trip, as with less daylight than in the summer, there really is only so far you can go before it's time to head back.  We made it all the way down to Florence, Oregon, a couple hundred miles away.  Man, it was good to see the Pacific Ocean again, smell the salt air and explore some new territory. 

It was my first time at Cape Meares, a well maintained spot with epic ocean views.  We took the hard way to get there, running into a dead end on the road, parking the car and walking the 1.5 miles to the parking lot (access via a different route), and it was well worth it. On a winter day in the NW when it wasn't raining, stretching those legs amongst the tall trees was perfect. 

The Oregon Coast is dotted with small fishing towns, a couple small cities, and massive amounts of open road surrounded by nature.  It's a great drive on the scenic 101, slow, full of turnoffs and places to explore.  Pretty much anywhere has a good view and something worthwhile to check out.  One of the highlights was at a place called Devil's Churn, where the ocean has forced itself through the land over time, churning inwards, creating a canal of frothy, powerful waves several hundred feet towards the road.  Here's a video from there:

Yachats is the coolest of the small towns, full of charm and great old western architecture right there on the beach.  South of there was pretty amazing as well, great ocean views and a good place to watch the sunset.  We had it timed perfectly, and yet it was mighty cloudy and didn't get a visual on the sun or any good colors. Still, a perfect 180 degree view of the ocean was worth it.  We got into Florence just before dark and then headed inland to get to the I-5 and head back to Portland, around 3 hours away (and yes, that was the fast way).  A solid day out and about exploring!

Watching the sunset

Feel the power!

Colorful driftwood at dusk

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Uncle time with Lulu

One of the perks of being back in the US after lots of travels is time with my niece, Lulu.  It's been a blast to see her change and grow in her 9 months.  She's full of life, pretty darn active and is smiling like a queen.  Pretty amazing to have her light up when you walk into the room.  We've been having a great time together and here are a few photos from the last weeks together celebrating life and smiling.
Lulu learns about the iPhone!

Christmas shirt from Lulu: Uncle, The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Fun times on Christmas morning

Friday, December 22, 2017

Santa Time!

With real life Santas around at all the shops, why not switch things up with switching on a Santa light?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Harvest time for apples in the PNW

It's that time again when the apple crops are booming and varieties you've never heard of are out and about.  I love it.  So much flavor, texture, coloring and sweetness to get into, and it's always worth trying out new apples that you've never heard of before.  From past trips to Kygyzstan to research apples with my friend Eliza, to working on an apple farm in Virginia, I've had some great times with apples in the past, and one of the best parts of currently living in the Pacific Northwest is the Apple Festival at Portland Nursery every October.  I've been a few times in the past, and went recently with some friends to get our taste on.

Imagine 60+ varieties of apples with names like Hampshire Beauty, Arkansas Black, Mutsu  and Northern Spy, all cut up, ready for you to work your way through, tasting each one, making notes on sweet vs. bitter, texture, etc.  It's an awesome time, and it's free.  Can't beat that.  And you can't beat that the apples are on sale for .99 cents, mainly from local/regional farms.  Simply amazing.  Life is good when you get to hang out with Mother Nature in the form of apple tasting.

Look who was farming for apples along with us!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Sunny baseball end of summer

On the end of a great trip to visit friends in Santa Cruz, several of us cruised over the hill to Oakland to catch an A's game.  3rd year in a row for this group and it was just as amazing as always.  Great weather, barbecuing out in the parking lot before the game, bleacher seats where you can sit wherever you want and a A's win made for a grand trip.  For such a large concrete monstrosity surrounded by parking lots, I'm a fan of the Oakland Coliseum.  Quite a fun crowd despite the top seats covered off, you always have a good view of the baseball diamond and can get pretty close to the fielders.

A highlight is of course the classic mascots racing around the track.  Ricky Henderson, Dennis Eckersley and Rollie Fingers, with their ginormous heads, race from left field underneath us, out around the bases to right field.  We had prime seats for the start of the race, and Eckersley gave me a shout out as seen in this picture.  I didn't tell him that Kirk Gibson hitting that infamous World Series home run over him is one of my favorite moments in Dodgers history.

And you know we went to In N Out after.  California!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Floating the river

Had a great day out yesterday floating in a river with a bunch of friends.  With Portland pass 90 degrees easily, it was a perfect time to get a float in.  End of summer, warmer water and still enough water to have a few rapids, we made a grand day of it. Here's a little video with sound of one of the ripple down rapids:

Sunday, August 20, 2017


Finland has been awesome. Great people, safe and efficient culture. I'd definitely recommend visiting in the summer for warm weather and sunny days. With my friends we went from the Lahti area nearby the summer cabin on the lake out to student friendly Turku on the west (more of a Swedish influence) down though some small towns like Fiskars (home of the scissors) and to Hangko (seaside town) and then Helsinki. Lots of fun over 10 days with a bunch of barbecues and laughs with the locals. Here are a few photos from the trip: