6 days to Portland and back, 2 new Whiskies!

Be warned, the following post is long. It encompasses all 6 days worth of our trip to Oregon as part holiday and part scouting trip for relocation areas. Keep in mind the grammatical “tense” of my writing below will change dramatically and without warning as I wrote some of it on my laptop at the end of the days… then came back to it today to clean up a bit since I was very tired when originally writing.Day 1: 4am comes way too early. At 5am sharp and we were on the road. With just a few stops for gas (averaging around 35-40 mpg) by noon we had made it to just south of Weeds, Ca. about 45 minutes south of Redding, Ca.

This picture was taken while heading up into the hills through Shasta Lake:

By 4pm, we were crossing the Oregon Ca. border. At 6pm, we had stopped for the night in Roseburg, Oregon. We were no where near as tired as we expected to be (I could have easily made it all the way to Portland), we hit a brew pub called McMenamin’s for dinner and drinks… Get this; they not only brew beer, and ferment wine, but distill a whiskey (and rum, and gin) as well! It is called McMenamin’s “Hogshead” Whiskey from the Edgefield distillery. From the menu: “this rich, amber-hued whiskey is slightly smoky, with hints of vanilla. Hogshead is distilled from 100% malted barley & named after the oak barrels in which it is aged. $6.59 per glass.” So of course I had to order it! My take on it: very light nose of mild smoke and a hint of sweet vanilla. Palate has an immediate burn which fades out into vanilla again with short but fun story, then a smokey finish so light it stands as just a reminder of the charred barrel. Viscosity is light. Say 2-3 Boldness is the same 2-3 Story is a 3. Fairly short, but worthwhile. I give it a solid “B” rating.

The people we have met thus far (hotel reception, wait staff at the pub) were all amazingly nice. As it turns out one of our servers is a transplant from Brea who recognized the distinct bank card I use since she used to belong to the same credit union.

By the end of dinner, we adjourned back to our room, caught an episode of Lost and passed out. Seems we were indeed a bit tired from the 13 hour drive. We had decided to not try to get to Portland on the first night (tonight) as we wanted to take our time driving in to allow us to wander off the beaten path if the fancy struck. So we opted to bed down about 150 miles outside the city and wander in during the light of the next day….

My initial impression of the state thus far is one of wonder at its beauty. We have driven through only rural areas to this point, and have been surrounded by lushness of evergreens and other native foliage. Everything here is so wonderfully green! Still some yellow areas of dry grass in the southern part bordering California, but that just adds contrast to make the green even brighter.

Into Oregon; not exactly indicative of the beauty, but much greener than California!

I can’t wait to make the journey into the city tomorrow… if today is any indication, we will fall in love with a city that has lured us in before we even got there.

Day 2: Day 2 started out well enough. We checked out of our hotel in Roseburg, grabbed the complimentary continental breakfast, and got back on the road by 9am. I got a fair enough’s night sleep but not quite enough to really get me going in the morning, so this 170 mile drive was almost as rough as the previous days 800 miles.

Portland is only 105 miles away now!

We got into Portland at noon straight up, as we didn’t find any place between Roseburg and the city which was worthy of stopping at. Salem was on the radar until we actually passed through… really it is just another blue collar town just like all the rest, or so it seemed from the freeway. We wouldn’t know any differently since we didn’t stop to see.

Luckily our hotel allowed us for an early checkin, so we didn’t have to find ways to waste time. Once checked in we headed straight out for lunch at Henry’s tavern (the old Henry Weinhard’s brew pub). After a nice satiating lunch, and some orange wheat beers, we took the long way back to the hotel on foot just to see the sights and to visit Powell’s Books, a must do for any visitor to the area.

Back in the hotel, I took a bit of a nap, after which we decided that we would cut our stay here in the hotel short. You see, we realized what I had already known for a bit: we are not city people. I know this isn’t a shock to anyone who knows me, but the real breakthrough was with Jean. She realized as well that she just doesn’t want to live in the city either. The IDEA of a city loft is cool, but the realities of city living just aren’t our gig. That and the hotel was exactly what we were expecting. But that’s fine, you win some you lose some… so we decided that we’ll take Friday and look around the parts of the greater Portland area which we had scouted as potential living sites, and then head out to Astoria on Saturday for a bit of actual vacation. From there the itinerary is a bit open, to say the least… we’re not sure where or when we’ll end up, but it should be a fun adventure to fly by the seat of our pants so far away from home…

Once we got that all set with the hotel (cutting the reservations short, etc), we headed out for dinner at Kells:

Kells is a nice Irish bar that boasts an extensive whiskies list. I have to say the wall of whiskies is impressive to see, but the list left me a bit wishful. I only found about 5 I hadn’t had previously.

Following is a quick tasting note on the one I ordered: Tamnavulin Stillman’s Dram 25 year. $21.25 per dram at Kells in Portland.

Nose… Light caramel. A faint hint of oak. Palate… Caramel first then a nice mellow char (slight burnt taste) overall sweetness. Viscosity… 7-8 thick! Boldness… 6-7 Story… good solid 5. Not too short but not long either.

Personal taste… B+. I could drink this for a good long while. A nice initial sting flows into an easy to drink dram. Despite its viscosity, not chewy at all.

After Kells, we took the long way back to the hotel again to see a bit of the city. Once at the hotel we made our way to the top floor to hang out on the roof top garden patio area. We took in the view for a while, then headed back down to catch CSI before going to bed.

Day 3: We arose at about 8:30am and were out the door by 9. After another Hotel breakfast, we headed out to do our reconnaissance mission to see the areas around Portland.

We started with Gresham to the east of Portland. The city itself was nice, but the drive in was through some minorly depressed areas in all sorts of states of disrepair. Not exactly what we were looking for… so we pressed on.

Next up was Tualatin. A nice area which we began to see a trend in the homes… it seems that in most areas everything looks like the stereotypical middle American neighborhood with one added benefit: trees, and lots of them.

Beaverton and Hillsboro kind of meld together in look and feel. These two cities are true suburbs and show it. They are fairly self sustaining, with light industrial, commercial, and residential zones, with a population to support it all. We could see ourselves living in these two areas very easily.

Last on the list was Forest Grove, which is more of a rural area than a suburb. We loved the feel, but probably couldn’t handle the upkeep which the lots would require… we’ll see about this one. (As the days passed after our visit, the more Forest Grove is really looking appealing to us.)

While in Forest Grove, we found a nice winery and stopped in for a taste, which is how the afternoon began.

We ended up at 4 different wineries which all seem to specialize in Pinot Noirs, which isn’t too surprising for the area. They were all full of character in their own rights, but nothing special enough to warrant write ups here. Though we did buy 6 bottles…

While traveling through the different towns in the morning and then between wineries in the afternoon, Jean and I had a great chance to really discuss what we wanted, needed, and what fit us in terms of living arrangements. It was a great chance to really think and discuss what the right place for us really is.

After the last winery, we opted to take a slight detour through Lake Oswego to gawk and gander at the million dollar plus homes around the lake. Wow, what a DRIVE! These places would rival Newport Beach’s homes on the cliffs and in balboa. GORGEOUS.

From there we headed out to catch dinner at the local, ubiquitous, McMenamin’s. It is here we got our second detour… you see I asked where I could pick up a bottle of the whiskey distilled specifically for them by the Edgefield distillery (as a founding member of the 3DrunkenCelts I am obligated to do so). Turns out you have to go to the distillery to buy the bottles. So we got a brochure, entered the address into our GPS and got back on the road. Turns out it was only another 25-30 miles away, so it was an easy drive after the 100 miles we had already put on earlier, and the 1000 from the days prior.

We arrived at the Edgefield and found it to be entirely more than expected. The water tower at the Edgefield:

It was a hotel, and veritable campus of buildings housing the winery, brewery, distillery, restaurant, bar, pub, and other odds and ends which escape me. We got the bottle from the distillery bar, and then headed back to the front to take a look around the grounds and get a feel for the place. With European style rooms (no private toilets) I don’t think well be spending a night there anytime soon, though I may be wrong about that… perhaps I’ll save that judgment until tomorrow.

From the Edgefield, we headed back to the hotel for our last nights stay. So I sit here now, watching Dirty Jobs, drinking a nice gewürztraminer we picked up this afternoon, and logging the events of the day. Tomorrow is out to Astoria, then who knows what, our plans are REALLY open after that 🙂

All in all today was going to be the deal breaker for us if there was one. If we didn’t fall in love with the area today, we had no idea what we would do. Luckily, the more we find out about Portland, and the more we see of it, the more we love it and are SURE this is indeed the place for us. The people are amazing and the scenery is beautiful!

We KNOW that not only will we fit in around here, but many of our friends would as well if we can convince any of them to come up and live here…

Day 4: This morning started just fine… same as all the other days with a continental breakfast provided by the hotel.

From there we drove out to Astoria. The drive along the Columbia was gorgeous. We stopped in Astoria for lunch and then headed across the Astoria Bridge to Washington and back, for the simple reason that I just love bridges and this one was staring me down, demanding I drive on her.

We had left the day open in case we found stuff to keep us interested, but alas, Astoria is just a small port town. So we headed on south to Tillamook, Newport, and then on to Coos Bay.

Tillamook was a bit disappointing in that it was a bit more commercial than we had expected. The cheese factory parking lot was PACKED, so we decided to drive on and bypass the tasting/gift shop experience. It was far from the boutique type shop we had hoped for. This was pure American commercialism; which I can’t deny too much, but it still seemed a bit odd for the area.

We were, however lucky enough to find two separate lighthouses to stop at along the way. The first being the lighthouse used in the move “The Ring”:

And the second being a still in service lighthouse at the mouth of the Umpqua River:

The drive down the Oregon coast is the best part of today’s 400 miles as we were disappointed by Coos bay as well. What we expected to be a quaint little town like Astoria, was really just a depressed little shit-hole of a bay town with little to offer in terms of decent restaurants or accommodations.

So we pressed on to Roseburg for dinner and a night’s hotel stay just like the first night in Oregon. Not exactly to plan, but then again, it is better than Coos bay.

So here I sit, with a belly full of IPA and McMenamin’s American Dip sandwich, drinking another 22 oz. IPA I got “to go”. Tomorrow is our start down south, with a hopeful stop over in San Francisco to meet up with some friends. Then it is on to Santa Maria to hang with George and Kathy for a night before our return home… Stay tuned.

Day 5: Overall, this was just a boring day of driving and recapping what we had seen. Unfortunately and were both at a wedding in Sonoma the night before and wouldn’t be back in the city until well after we had already passed through/by. We were bummed we missed them, but such is life, especially since we hadn’t planned prior to the night before since we didn’t know when or if we would even be passing by the city.

This diverted the plan once more and we actually ended up at George and Kathy’s a night early, which turned out to be a good thing since it allowed us to take all of Monday and do some wine tasting in Paso Robles which we hadn’t done since at least 6 years prior.

Since I didn’t write up this at the end of the day and rather am attempting to recall from memory, I’ll cut this short and just say that we had a wonderful time visiting with Kathy and George. We very rarely get to spend time with just the two of them, and even more rarely do we spend much time with only Kathy, so it was nice to be able to take her to dinner Monday night while George was in a meeting.

While it was my intent to head home n the evening on Monday, the wine tasting had taken a toll on Jean and she didn’t feel like driving (read this as riding passenger in the car while I drove) and so we imposed on George and Kathy for one more night.

Day 6: We were up and out by 8:30 am, back on the road, this time headed straight home with no more detours. By this point, I was both ready to get home and sleep in my own bed, but at the same time I felt like I could drive for another week and just continue on discovering new places and people and food and drink!

Luckily we arrived home before I could commit to a hard left turn and keep on going. Home by Noon, and unpacked by 1pm, we took a nice nap at 3pm and ordered pizza for dinner so we could just sit on the couch and do nothing. That was very nice after a week of always doing something or planning something for the next hour/day…

The grand total mileage for the trip is 2,733.7 miles. With 900 miles up and back to Portland, that still left us with an additional 900 miles drive around the greater Portland area and Oregon Coastline. I think I’ll be riding my motorcycle for the next few weeks exclusively, just to get out of the car! The GPS doesn’t lie… unless you are looking at the max speed, in which case it does.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *