After a total of more than two weeks by Daniela in Tumwater, Olympia, it was time for us to move on, and to say goodbye. This time for real. We have absolutely enjoyed our time with her and her family, but all good things must come to an end. We think it is an incredible gesture when people open up their home to us. A show of trust! And even though Daniela and her family live in a big house, you get to know each other quite well over the course of a few weeks. Back home in Europe we do not have the same space, but we certainly hope that we will be able to repay this gesture somehow, when we meet next summer in Germany!
It is not often that you hear about Oregon when you hear about the US. It is fair to say that it is one of the more “anonymous” states. And to be honest we probably would not have visited, had it not been on our way down the westcoast from Seattle to San Francisco.
But already on our first stop in Oregons biggest city, Portland, we were pleasantly surprised. Not that we didn’t expect something good, because we certainly did, but Portland (aka “The City of Bridges”) turned out to have many engaging and attractive characteristics.
The city has approximately 600.000 inhabitants and seems much larger than it actually is. This perception may be caused by the fact that there are many cars in Portland driving in and out of the area, across the Willamette River on 8 bridges and on numerous highways cutting their way through the layout of the city. You would think that you would constantly be hearing the noise from all the engines, but actually this was not the case. There were some noise, but not to the extent that we expected. Of course, we visited on a Sunday, but all shops, cafés and restaurants were open, so the city center was absolutely alive. As in so many other well-functioning American cities, traffic is led into “main-corridors” which makes it possible to drive straight through, fast, if that’s what you want. And if you want to go to the city center itself, this is also fairly easy and fast. The separation of “near” and “far” traffic is smart, because only cars with a purpose are seen downtown, thus making the streets less busy.
You would think that Portland is built up from some sort of “master-plan”. It has all the straight streets and avenues that you see in many American cities, long river promenades, futuristic bridge constructions crossing the river, old victorian brick buildings, and it has its fair share of modern skyscrapers built in concrete, steel and glass. In other words: It has a bit of everything. We thought it was fantastic to just walk around the downtown area for a few hours. The only minus was the rather sharp contrast between the wealthier parts of town and the many homeless people you would find literally just around the corner. This is, however, not unique for Portland. We have seen this many times now.
An absolute highlight in Portland would have to be the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry - OMSI. Located right at the banks of the Willamette River it has an exciting view over the inner city and some of the many bridges. In here, children of all ages can have all the fun they can ever want doing scientific experiments and learn about physics, building technology, biological science and lots more. Robots, earthquake simulators, a dam simulator, wind-turbines etc etc. added to all the fun. Anton’s highlight was the “scientific playground” where he could play and have fun with sand and water. At the same time! Needless to say we had a wet boy with his pockets full of sand!
After Portland we drove towards the westcoast and started our journey down Highway 101. It runs all the way to Los Angeles (if not longer) and on many parts of the trip you can enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. We also plan to follow Highway 1 on some parts of the journey. This will be in California. Highway 1 is, by the way, the highway you always see in films where you have open Cadillacs, wind in the hair, sunglasses and a stunning sunset over the ocean as the characters drive along a curvy road. We are driving a rather boring and anonymous Ford Fusion with a closed roof. But I believe we will enjoy the trip just fine as we ride through cities like Malibu and Santa Barbara!
As we drove along Oregons westcoast on Highway 101 we stopped in Cannon Beach. We had been reading about “The Haystack Rock” which is a large rock located a few hundred meters offshore. It really does look like a haystack! What is fascinating about it is that by low tide you can walk all the way out there. This time of the year, however, low tide is only after darkness late in the afternoon/early evening or very early in the morning, before the sun rises. None of these times seemed to fit into our schedule, so we just went for a long walk along the windy beach, on a more “human” time of the day. We took quite a few photos of the stunning nature here!
In Cannon Beach we were able to make a good deal with a local provider of holiday accommodations. We got a nice little cabin with jacuzzi, fireplace, TV and a full kitchen. Not exactly basic, and definitely above standard for us, but when you arrive during low season people are open to make a good deal. So we had a pizza and watched a good cartoon in front of the fire that evening, while the rain was pouring down outside.
The next morning we went for a walk in the small village. A lovely, little gem which is most likely FILLED during the summer season. But in December everything is very relaxed and you can walk quietly along the street, just enjoying the many houses of historic importance. Most of them are neatly restored and beautifully decorated for the holiday season. In fact, all we needed was a few meters of snow, and we would have felt like being in the Alps!
Further down the Oregon coast we arrived in Newport. An important fisherman’s town with a historic harbour district. Here you find old, wooden sheds dating back a few centuries, that are still used for everyday business by many enterprises within the fishing industry. It was not hard for us to imagine how this whole neighborhood might have looked like a hundred years ago. The boats are still coming into the harbour, the fish trawl being dried in the sun, and the thousands of gulls are still lined up on the poles and fences trying to get their little piece of fish leftovers from the factories. Of course Newport also has its fair share of seafood restaurants. I am not a very big fan of seafood, but I did follow Alexandras rather insisting advice to try the Seafood Chowder. A thick, creamy soup. So I had a small cup of soup, and I must admit that I actually enjoyed it. It did not have that strong and particular taste of “sea” that I do not like. So I finished up my portion without any problems at all.
Just north of Newport you find Yaquina Head Lighthouse. An old lighthouse with a stunning view over the coastline. On the way out towards the lighthouse itself you pass by a small tidal laguna, partly human made. This is a shelter for seals, seabirds and many other interesting coastal animals. We went down there to greet some of the resting seals, lying lazily on the stones in the late morning sun.
The beaches along the coast of Oregon are remarkable. They almost seem endless! When you drive along Highway 101 you can often get a quick peek many, many miles down the coast. Magnificent beaches and mighty dunes! In fact these dunes are also an attraction. Many agencies are providing adrenalin-rides on 4-wheel driven “sand-buggies”. Up and down they go over the dunes that at times are rather steep! We did not try any of that, but we did go for a long walk on the dunes. Anton recalled the dunes in northern New Zealand where we went sand boarding. He wanted to do the same here, which was not possible. Also, as it was cold and frosty that morning, the sand was pretty hard. The disappointment was hard for the little man to swallow!
As we move along here in the US we are staying in low priced hotels. We book our rooms on a small smartphone app. It gives us a quick and easy overview of available options. Oftentimes we do not book more than a few minutes in advance. Smart! Mostly we have a coffeemaker, microwave and a fridge in the room. We are thankful for that! Because even though breakfast is also mostly included, the breakfast that these discount hotels serve is absolutely useless! We have tried to have a “hunger-breakdown” just about one hour after we had breakfast. That is really no good! So we always carry our own little box with cereal, fruit and milk, so that we can make our own breakfast without all the added sugar that will not do us any good. If there is bread available in the breakfast buffet it is mostly just “fluffy” white bread with no energy. But mostly they just serve some muffins or pre-mixed porridge which is 50% oat and 50% brown sugar. Just add hot water and stir! Even Anton will not eat that mixture! He is used to unsweetened porridge with a mashed banana. Some places they have a waffle-machine. You take some batter from a dispenser and pour it into the machine. The batter is flour, sugar, starch and water. After a few minutes you have hot waffles. And then you can soak them with maple sirup. Or rather, some glucose mixture with colour and maple aroma. No wonder that you find fast-food everywhere here! The Americans are hungry right after they leave the table, if they never eat anything with more “power” and substance! And they do not have easy access to good food if they are not used to “raise the bar”, demand better quality and take an interest in what they eat. As previously written there ARE in fact many places to buy good products, both in supermarkets and on local farmers markets. The problem is, many Americans do not know any better than junk-food. Sadly!
Oregon is bordering California. And just about where the two states meet the Redwood National Park begins. This is home to some of the largest and oldest trees in the world. I always wanted to see these. And you can read about them and our first California adventures in the next blog!
Meanwhile, click here for recent pictures!