A Travellerspoint blog

Cowgirl Boots and Western Shirts

A wonderful time in Washington

Although Ryan and I had not originally intended to visit Portland, the change in schedule on Sunday, May 7 afforded us the opportunity to briefly see the city on Monday, May 8 before heading to our next destination in Washington. We made good time to The City of Roses, or as Ryan affectionately refers to it, the Hipster Capital of America. Our car was 3 minutes away from the Base Camp brewery when we suddenly came to a halt for a line of stopped cars. A train was going by, immediately followed by another train, resulting in a 30-minute delay. Flashback to our drive in northern California when Ryan was annoyed by the amount of tractor-trailer trucks on the busy 2-lane highway. He had insisted that “there needs to be more trains”, a statement that he soon retracted based on the circumstances. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?


Base Camp Brewing Company was well worth the wait. Ryan and I each sampled a flight of their tasty beer and scarfed down a delicious Mexican lunch courtesy of the food truck parked outside. They had the best swag of any brewery we had been to so we stocked up on souvenirs and a new stainless steel insulated growler. I was ready to hit the road west but Ryan insisted on “just one more brewery”. He was like a kid in a candy store! Our friend Ed, who introduced us, recommended Cascade Brewing which specializes in sour beers and was conveniently located just down the road. The beers were so good that we didn’t want to leave! We will likely be making a trip back to “the other Portland” for a longer stay in the future.


Ryan and I arrived at our friends Steve and Shira’s house in Touchet, Washington later that Monday evening. Steve, aka Dr. Adams, is a psychiatrist whom I had the good fortune of meeting during my pharmacy residency at the VA Maine. Brilliantly smart with many talents, like being a sharpshooter and professional trombonist, Steve quickly became a mentor and confidant. I knew he would get along well with Ryan since they both have a deep-rooted appreciation for the outdoors. Steve accurately speculated that Shira and I would hit it off because we also have a lot of common interests, especially good conversation and scrumptious food. We had the pleasure of befriending Steve and Shira, plus their daughter Sarah and son Harry, before they made the move from Maine to Washington for Steve’s job re-location last year. Ryan and I were excited to reconvene with the Adams and see their new home during our cross-country adventure.


As usual, Steve and Shira were extraordinary hosts. Shira prepared a fabulous lamb dinner with all the fixings, while Steve concocted our drink of choice when getting together, gin and tonic (in his fancy crystal glasses from Europe, of course). We toured their beautiful new home and basked in the gorgeous scenery of the surrounding Blue Mountains. The sunset was a spectacular site of pink, orange, yellow, and purple. Life is good.


Tuesday, May 9 was a fun day filled with local activities. Shira continued to spoil us with her top-notch cooking, preparing donuts and huevos rancheros for breakfast and Cape Cod-style chicken salad sandwiches on homemade bread for lunch. The four of us drove to Ranch & Home (“Raunchy Home”) that morning to browse the Western attire. I proudly bought my first pair of cowgirl boots and Ryan purchased an awesome Western-style button-up shirt. We cruised around for a bit before a delightful wine tasting in “Napa North” at Pepper Bridge Winery. From there, our company visited the Whitman Mission National Historic Site so Ryan and I could learn more about the 1847 massacre along the Oregon Trail. The weather was warm and in the 80s, a nice change from Crater Lake (and Maine, for that matter).


Following a rejuvenating afternoon siesta, Steve, Shira, Ryan, and I ventured into Walla Walla for a divine dinner at the French restaurant called Brasserie Four. The eatery had a “wine wall” where one could hand select a bottle of wine to compliment dinner. The boys and I picked out “Beast”, a smooth Cabernet Sauvignon made locally by Buty (pronounced “beauty”) Winery – get it? The description was fun and it appealed to me more than the adjacent $139 bottle, yikes! I ordered bouillabaisse for the first time and was astounded by the plentiful amount of seafood. It served as my delectable dinner that night plus I had enough left over for two more meals.


Wednesday morning came and we were on the road again to Glacier National Park in Montana. Prior to our departure, Shira cooked some scrumptious scones and packed us vittles to go. Ryan and I are certainly blessed to have such wonderful people (and chefs!) in our lives.

Posted by Parsons123 13:27 Comments (0)

The Beaver State

Our explorations through Oregon

Ryan and I arrived in Oregon on Saturday, May 6. Per a recommendation from Shira, who you will soon meet, we started listening to “The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey” by Rinker Buck. The description in Audible summarizes it as “an epic account of traveling the entire 2,000-mile length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way, in a covered wagon with a team of mules – which hasn’t been done in a century – that also tells the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country.” Ryan and I were instantly intrigued and plan to listen to the full 16 hours, 41 minutes by the end of our trip.


I reserved a tent site at the Crater Lake Resort prior to leaving Maine and we were yet again the only people not staying in a RV. Similar to our Kansas camping experience, the owners insisted it was going to be "too cold" and that we should ditch the tent for a cabin instead. These people obviously didn't know they were dealing with two true Mainers!


Sunday morning, we enjoyed our fresh fruit from California (cherries, strawberries, and clementines) prior to making the short drive down the road to Crater Lake National Park. The temperature got down into the 20s the night before but there were no more signs of winter where we were lodging. The landscape was a different story as soon as we crossed into the park. What started out as scattered patches of frozen precipitation on the ground quickly turned into snow banks alongside the road. The height of the banks grew higher and higher the closer we got to the lake. By the time we reached the visitor's center, the street had turned into a trench surrounded by 14-foot walls of white. This was certainly unexpected, especially since I was proudly planning hikes for us to conquer that day. Only the south entrance was accessible, and from there we were restricted to Rim Village since the remainder of the roads and most of the hiking trails were closed until summer. We watched a short video about the history of Crater Lake and soon learned that it averages 43 feet of snowfall annually. Despite this fact, the last time the lake froze over was 1949. Established as a National Park in 1902, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States with a depth of 1,943 feet. The 4.5 to 6-mile-wide body of water rests inside a caldera formed 7,700 years ago when a 12,000-foot-tall volcano collapsed following a major eruption. It is considered to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world and is completely fed by rain and snow with no connection to any rivers or streams.


Ryan and I were extremely glad we made the trip. After talking to one of the park rangers, he suggested a short hike atop the 14-foot banks packed with snow for a different vantage point of the lake. Those views, and the one from Sinnott Memorial Overlook, were absolutely breathtaking. I will forever remember the bright blue water that trumped the sapphire-colored sky on this sunny day in May. It was America the beautiful at its finest.


Because our visit to Crater Lake was shorter than anticipated, Ryan and I decided to start the trek north a day early. There was no cell phone service so I had to use a real atlas to navigate us out of the park (thanks, Mom!) We drove for several hours Sunday afternoon before serendipitously finding a resting spot in Coburg, Oregon. Ryan and I pitched our tent at Armitage Park Campground on the last available camp site. Thank goodness this random place right off the interstate worked out because we were both “hangry”, it was getting late, and the thought of driving another 2 hours to the next closest campground was unbearable. We settled in and soon became acquainted with a fellow tent-goer and plant biologist named Colin. A California native in his early 20s, Colin had just landed a new job in the area and was camping out prior to house-hunting over the next few days. We hung out by the fire and talked travel. He endorsed a brewery in Portland, Oregon by the name of Base Camp. I bet you can guess where the next chapter of our story takes us…


Posted by Parsons123 07:34 Comments (0)

California Dreaming

I first visited California when I was 3 years old and have since frequented the Golden State on at least 6 occasions. Ryan, on the other hand, had never been to this part of the west coast. A few hours after leaving Las Vegas, we pulled into Baker, California for a quick bite at the fast food chain known as Carl’s Jr. I have fond memories of the burger joint’s star-shaped chicken nuggets (aka “c nuggs”) that I enjoyed in my youth. The chicken tenders and fries were a decent solution for lunch. As I like to say about food that is not the most nutritious: “it’ll make a poop.” The thermometer rose to 101 degrees on the outskirts of Death Valley. Thanks goodness for air conditioning! We did not plan accordingly for gas and paid a whopping $3.57 per gallon in the desert. Ouch.


We rolled into Rancho Cucamonga, California around 5:00 pm on Tuesday, May 2. My Uncle Pete, the former President for Smithford Products, and his Chilean wife Cecilia welcomed us into their lovely home for the next two nights. Our stay at the “Hotel California” was a lot of fun. We started the evening with happy hour, which translates to alcoholic beverages, scratch-off lottery tickets, and munchies (cheese and crackers, in this case). Ryan and Pete grilled delicious New York steaks and we enjoyed catching up about life since the last time we saw them at our wedding in September.


Prior to our arrival, Uncle Pete emailed me: “Give us a heads up on ideas of what you and Ryan would like to see and do when you get to Calif.” I responded, “Ryan has never been to California so we are up for whatever. He wouldn’t mind seeing some of the sites. Perhaps a visit to the ocean? The less car travel time the better since we are getting plenty of that over the next few weeks." ‘White Passion’ took over and we ended up driving 240 miles throughout California that Wednesday! Good thing I packed my travel Jeopardy! and puzzle book for entertainment. Our first stop was the ritzy Coronado Island next to San Diego. We entered the parking lot for the Hotel Del Coronado and my jaw dropped when I noticed the price for parking was a minimum of $30 for the first hour. The exception was if you spent $50 or more at their retailers, the fee was waived down to $5. What a deal. Peter informed us that a lot of the Presidents vacation at this Hotel and I could easily see the appeal. Located adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, the flowers and construction were designed for royalty. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money, as was the case with the parking situation. Our group purchased a couple of souvenirs then took off for lunch down the road in La Jolla. A beach bar named Shore Rider received rave reviews for their Ahi tuna and Mexican-themed cuisine. The chips and guacamole were phenomenal and the outdoor seating made for a pleasant dining experience.


Following lunch, the four of us drove to Newport Beach. The sand was soft and the ocean was a refreshing 63 degrees. We all waded in the water with Ceci and I later coming to the unfortunate realization that we were in an area littered with petroleum oil. Luckily I was wearing my cheap Old Navy flip-flops! Pete and Ryan patiently waited while the girls tried to scrub the black resin-like substance off the bottoms of our feet. Even before the incident, Ceci kept saying that we should have gone to Laguna Beach instead. Touché.


Yet another unsuccessful casino stopover was followed by dinner at the Yardhouse. We received the late-night discount on our food and beverages which were all scrumptious. After a wonderful day of site-seeing, it was eventually time to get some shut-eye.


Ryan and I headed north to Santa Rosa on Thursday, May 4. Based on a terrific recommendation by our friend Sarah Farwell, we made reservations for two nights at the Hotel La Rose. We walked around downtown and found some local watering holes, including an upscale bar/restaurant called Jacksons and a British dive bar by the name of Toad in the Wall. We befriended the bartenders and chowed down on Bangers and Mash at the latter. Like Napa Valley, Sonoma County is well-known for its vineyards. Ryan and I booked a wine tour through Wine Country Journeys and were picked up in a swanky van that Friday morning around 10:30 am. Jerry was our knowledgeable guide who runs the business with his wife Amanda. We were joined by three other couples for the day-long outing. The first was Shawn, an ob-gyn, and his wife Stefanie, a social worker from Tampa, Florida (right to Ryan and I in the photo). Another pair from Denver, Colorado was Jason, a police officer in the canine unit, and his significant other Amy, a human resources representative for a government agency (furthest left in the photo). Lastly, Linessa, a pediatrician, and her husband Robert, a Harvard-taught lawyer, were from Houston, Texas and celebrating their 1-year wedding anniversary. Ryan and I were glad to be in the company of such a dynamic group of people.


Our entourage stopped at four wineries in the region. Ryan and my favorite was the first place called J Rickards. We reveled in the private tour and especially liked seeing the cellar where the wine barrels were stored. Since the region is renowned for its red grapes, we bought a bottle of J Rickards petit Syrah and a cabernet franc from J Pedroncelli. Other purchases included a t-shirt for Ryan at Kokomo Winery, lunch consisting of paninis and chips from the local general store, and a present for my sister Alayna from the David Coffaro winery. Afterwards I took a nice nap back at the hotel to rest up for another night out. Feeling rejuvenated, I accompanied Ryan to the local whiskey bar, Jack and Tony’s. We saw our bartending buddy Omar again at Jacksons and ate dinner there. A final trip to Toad in the Wall was a delightful way to end our stay in California.


Posted by Parsons123 21:39 Comments (1)

Viva Las Vegas!

Our stops at Arches National Park and Sin City

Denver, Colorado to Moab, Utah was the most picturesque drive by far. It started in snowy mountains and concluded in a rock-strewn desert. Ryan and I commented “that’s beautiful” literally 30 plus times. The route was entirely along 70 West which twisted through several nationally preserved areas. Our favorite was the White River National Forest, the most visited national forest in the U.S. named for the White River running through it. In order to be both mentally and physically present during our stays, I elected to begin the habit of writing my blogs during the long car rides.


Our friends and former neighbors, the Ridley family, were “boondocked” on public land just beyond the border of Arches National Park. Emma is my former pharmacy residency director at the VA Maine Healthcare System who subsequently became a dear colleague and confidant. Her husband Kevin is an electrical engineer like Ryan (in case you didn’t know, pharmacists partner well with engineers :) ) They have two daughters Eloise, who is 4 going on 5, and 8-month-old Eliza. After attending Ryan and my wedding last fall, I was officially dubbed “The Princess” by Eloise. Now that is a nickname I could get used to!


In May 2016, the Ridley family sold their house down the road from us to move into a new Dutchman Voltage 5th wheel. Even though we saw the Ridley’s right before they left Maine, we had yet to witness their new 39-foot home. It was a mini mansion fully equipped with a bathroom (shower/tub included), kitchen, king sized mattress, office for Kevin, kid’s room for Eloise and Eliza, plus plenty of other living space. Ryan and I comfortably slept on their sofa turned pull-out bed during our one-night stay. For more information on the Ridley family’s travels, I encourage you to peruse Emma’s blog: wickedwanderers.net


Ryan and I arrived around 2:00 pm on Sunday, April 30, giving us plenty of time to hit up Arches National Park that afternoon. We utilized our National Park Pass for the first time to gain entry, which otherwise would have cost us $25. The 12-month pass was $85, including shipping and handling, and covers entrance fees to more than 2,000 sites managed by the National Park Service. Speaking of “more than 2,000”, that’s how many arches are cataloged in the park. According to the information I was provided, Arches is 76,519 acres and consists of balanced rocks, towering fins and spires, and the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. It was truly a glorious spectacle unlike anything I had ever seen. The Ridley family joined us in hiking several short trails along “The Windows Section” which showcased Double Arch, North Window, and South Window. We drove until we ran out of road at Devils Garden, gazing at the Fiery Furnace, Balanced Rock, Petrified Dunes, and Courthouse Towers along the way.


Our visit would not be complete without a stop at the Moab Brewery. The adults guzzled down some local beers and the six of us enjoyed a nice dinner together. Kevin educated Ryan and I about Utah’s unique policies regarding alcohol and we were all happy to have the opportunity to catch up on life. The following morning, we were treated to scrumptious chorizo and egg breakfast burritos before it was time to hit the road once more.


The next leg of our journey took Ryan and I to one of my favorite places, Las Vegas! Along the way I experienced an interesting interaction at one of the rest stops in Utah. What appeared to be a local woman in her 50s singled me out on my way to the bathroom and asked, “do you have any pee quarters?” Not typically at a loss for words, I had no clue how to respond. Did this place require money to use the facilities? Was she yanking my chain? I replied, “Uh…I guess I don’t understand what you mean.” She retorted “P Quarters! Ya know, since you are from Maine! I have all the D ones but I need more of the Ps.” Of course, she wanted quarters manufactured by the Philadelphia mint on the east coast as opposed to the Denver mint near our current location. I informed Ryan I was going to put that gem in my blog, so there you have it.


Congested traffic added some time to the trip but we eventually got settled into our hotel room at Bally’s at 5:30 pm on Monday, May 1. Have I mentioned that I love to gamble?! My fix began at the MGM Grand where Ryan found his preferred quarter game called “Sigma Derby Horse Racing”. It involves a low-tech race track, five plastic horses, and bets based on the odds of which two will come in first and second place. I endorse the cheap yet very fun entertainment. After losing some coinage at the MGM, the two of us moseyed over to New York, New York. In lieu of a sit-down dinner, we opted for a soft pretzel with cheese followed by tasty corned beef nachos and mediocre mixed drinks at the Nine Fine Irishmen. Ryan plays the violin so he especially liked the live band performing at the pub; their Celtic version of “The Devil Went Down to Dublin” was quite good! We continued down the strip to the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace for more gambling. George Bernard Shaw once quoted, “In gambling the many must lose in order that the few may win.” The slot machines were tight and I left Sin City, as many do, with less money. Hopefully I will become one of the fortunate few when visiting again for a pharmacy conference in July. In the meantime, the road trip endures west to California.


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Snowy Stay in Denver

The most eventful drive of the trip so far took place on Thursday, April 27. Ryan has continued to be behind the wheel the majority of the miles. This time, however, he was a passenger hanging onto the “oh-shit” handle as I drove white knuckled through the plains of Kansas into Colorado. A tornado warning was in full effect and we experienced the tumultuous winds and downpour of rain that went along with it. Tumbleweeds, big and small, were coming at us from every direction. We kept a piece of one that was in our car grill for a souvenir afterwards. Eventually the storm cleared and the sun shined bright the closer we got to Denver. We finished listening to “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, the sixth-best-selling single-volume book of all time. Although the murder mystery got off to a slow start, we were intrigued from Chapter 3 until the end. We rate it 5 out of 5 stars. Ryan and I arrived to our destination in Wheat Ridge, Colorado at approximately 6:30 pm that evening.


I am pleased to introduce our hosts Austin and Abby. Austin and Ryan have been “brothers from another mother” since 7th grade. They grew up together and both attended the University of Maine in Orono for engineering. He and his wife Abby eloped last February 29, 2016 and are planning a celebration of their marriage later this year in Vermont. Abby is a super smart nurse practitioner completing her fellowship as a hospitalist/intensivist at the University of Colorado Hospital. They live in a posh apartment complex just outside of Denver with their dog Remi. The first night we arrived the four of us chatted until the early hours of Friday.

With Abby working at the hospital on April 28, I had the pleasure of spending the day with Austin and Ryan. We started with a workout in the morning before heading out to explore the region. Our first stop Red Rocks where we were fascinated by the stunning scenery and awesome amphitheater. From there, we went to Mountain Toad Brewery in Golden. The three of us ordered the BEST tacos ever from the Colorado Pig Rig, a food truck stationed just outside the brewery. We each had a chipotle chicken and Korean beef taco with a side of deep fried tater tots. Yum!! Next stop was New Terrain Brewing where we sampled more of the local beer offerings. It started snowing that evening and the snow would linger into most of the day on Saturday. We wrapped up the night by watching the biographical film “Lion”, which I would highly recommend. On a side note, April 28 was the day I was eligible for the Maine State Lottery’s $40,000,000 Fortune Final Event. The top prize was $2 million, plus they were giving away more cash, John Deere tractors, a Ford Mustang convertible, outdoor patio set, and a home entertainment system. My sister went as my proxy to the event which was held at the Augusta Civic Center. She was joined by my mom Rinda, dad Bill, and father-in-law Ralph. Regrettably, my crew only left with a new hat, water bottle, and two winning scratch-offs. Guess I am still saving my luck for Las Vegas…


Saturday was a beer marathon. With Abby having the day off from work, the four of us painted the town red. We started at the Denver Beer Co. where I purchased a sweet zip-up hoodie. The beer names were fun (I enjoyed the “Princess Yum Yum” and “Japance Off”, which had sake in it) and their warm pretzel was good, too! The Crooked Stave, which specializes in sour beers, was our second stop. We met up with Abby’s coworker Mike and his wife Jamie who accompanied us to the Wynkoop Brewing Company. Our assemblage of 6 expanded to 8 when we were joined by Abby’s fellow nurse practitioner Ashleigh (pictured with Abby and I outside) and her long-term boyfriend Dan. We visited another cool place called the Great Divide Brewing Company where more delicious beer was consumed. Mike and Jamie exited prior to the group’s dinner outing at Park Burger. Ryan and I got along swimmingly with Ashleigh and Dan who shared a lot of common interests. After many laughs and fun conversations, we eventually returned back to Austin and Abby’s place. I passed out around 2:00 am while the boys raged until 3:30 am. The noise of our alarm going off at 6:30 am the next morning was a rude awakening and the conclusion of our longest stay in one place for the month-long adventure.


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