Arriving at home base

We woke up one morning last week at Cannon Beach, drove up to the coast in Seaside, then headed to Portland to see our apartment.

two dogs play on the beach

making friends in Seaside 

On the way in we caught the Hillsboro air show. Military pilots were showing off their aerobatics next to the highway.

All was great until we pulled off of the highway to see the only available apartment that would take a doberman in the greater Portland area.

See, being as it is Oregon and we’d just spent the past few days staying at homesteads and camping on beaches and sightseeing all of the local character and making friends at every turn, we had a certain expectation about what our living situation would be. We were expecting it to be a little weird. We were expecting the local culture to be more laid back and west coastish. We were expecting lots of new shops and new household names and new cultural norms.

Imagine our surprise when we pulled off of the highway to a sea of consumerism at its worst. Every chain restaurant and grocery store and department store were all lined up in a perfect little row on each side of a congested street. The apartments we are living in look identical to the apartment complex next door, which are identical to the apartments next door to them. For this we could have stayed in Dallas.

We opened our front door to find a white box with white carpet and white appliances and white ceilings and white walls and white doors and white blinds and white cabinets and white floors. A glaring picture of antiseptic vanilla everywhere you turn. Outside on the grounds all is planted to match and manicured perfectly. All of the trees are the exact same kind and exact same height. All of the perfectly laid mulch is the exact same width from one plant to the next. All of the bushes are cut in exact squares. All of the plants match in type, height and width too.

Where had the fun, quarky Oregon gone? Where were the local mom and pop shops? Where was the charm and the redwood floors and the window seats and the hydrangea bushes and the rain chains?

This is not quite the picture I had in my head.

So far Oregon is great, but the location we have chosen to start out here is lousy. This place is for young business executives with no soul and blank personalities with no ambition. It’s where bad traffic and bad moods go to latch on to unsuspecting victims. Where people believe the way to be happy is to buy more stuff. Where status and matching coffee cups matter more than human interaction and creativity. Where a required $25/month trash valet saves you the trouble of walking your rubbish to the dumpster yourself. Heaven forbid you be seen doing something so lowly! This place is offensive and boring and…and synchronized pretension! That’s what it is! Antiseptic vanilla synchronized pretension!

It’s an adjustment for everyone. The dogs are adjusting from a yard full of squirrels and a doggie door that leads to a 2,000 sqft house to a 700 sqft apartment, no barking privileges and no access to the squirrels outside…should one gain a permit to enter the conspicuously kept grounds.

BUT, to find the positive, the location is great. We are walking distance to a park with redwood trees and grassy knolls (with only soft golf course grass of course). We are down the street from every store we could ever need. We are across the parking lot from one of the community pools and the mailboxes. We are down the street from a daily open air market. We are 10 minutes from downtown Portland. I am three miles from my job at Company X. We are three turns and two streets from the nearest dog park. We are in Oregon – we made it and we are officially here.

I decided if I can’t find the weird Oregon in my surroundings, I will bring the weird to me. My first order of business was to buy an eggplant purple living room set from Craig’s List. That’s right folks. Have a look.

This is the eggplant chair 

Then I bought a bike. Because you have to have a bike here. It’s too beautiful and bike friendly to not have one. Now I just need the stamina to pedal for more than a half mile.

Soots and I learning to bike together. 

Then I found the local university surplus store which I will hit up for unique book shelves next week.

I set out to the grocery store and was not disappointed. The produce section alone baffled me. Can anyone tell me what this is?

WTF is this?! 

Then I discovered WinCo. If any of you live locally and were at Winco last night and saw a woman wandering through the bulk section exclaiming things like “I love this place!” and “Would you look at this?!” to random strangers and “That’s it, I’m just going to move my stuff right here” that was me. I love a good bulk section, and this place had it all. Bulk dog treats. Bulk granola. Bulk cheese powder. Bulk smoked paprika. Bulk coffee. Bulk candy corn. Bulk almond flour. Bulk…..everything really.

And you guys. Tillamook makes more than two kinds of cheese. Tillamook makes sour cream and ice cream and many varieties of cheese.

And the fish! I can’t even name all (or recognize) all the kinds of fish I’ve seen.

This is not to mention my discovery of the local New Seasons Market, one of countless competitors to Whole Foods here that I can make it to with my half mile bike peddling stamina.

I live in a foodie paradise. And I am good with that.

It didn’t start out so great, but this place is ok. It’s not that weird, but it will do for the first ten months.

I lived

There’s something wonderful about the open road. Even though the world is more globalized today and every town looks the same from the freeway, adventure still lurks in the shadows for those that brave the long and winding road.

We have arrived at our new home, and tonight I sit reflecting on the adventure it was getting up here. Here are some of the things that happened to me over the past ten days journeying the open road:

I left and sold the home I’d put four and a half years into making my own.

I visited the wasteland that is Cadillac Ranch.

I slept in an earthship (and consumed water from the wrong tap…all is well though).

I survived torrential rains in the desert.

I discovered and promptly consumed watermelon licorice.

I met all number of strange, strange folk.

I dangled my toes over the Grand Canyon.

I played fetch with my dog in Lake Tahoe.

I made love under the stars.

I got a sunburn.

I got a toenail fungus.

I lied to a border patrol agent about produce in my vehicle (you can have my out-of-state snack apples when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands. Friggin’ California!)

I coined the term “friggin’ California”…but I don’t say “friggin’…

I got a speeding ticket.

I lost and found a credit card in Reno.

I lost a pair of sandals somewhere along the way.

I drove over the Hoover Dam.

I took a Doberman through Caesar’s Palace…we became our own Vegas attraction.

I watched the fountain show at the Bellagio.

I rushed into the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

I got sand in my sleeping bag.

I slept in an 1880s Oregon homestead.

I acquired three new keepsake coffee mugs from three amazing places.

I tried my first Oregon moscato.

I ate my weight in dungenes crab and salmon on the coast.

I moved into a place sight unseen.

I checked off a few items common to many people’s bucket lists. I don’t have a bucket list though, and I don’t want one. I don’t want to wait until I am old and dying to finally live. Death sneaks up on many of us. Should it sneak up on me, I don’t want to have a list of what I missed. I only want it to be that while I was able, I lived.

Day 2 at the coast

Currently we are homeless.

Our house in Texas sold and our apartment in Portland isn’t ready until later this week. So we are living out of our Subaru until then and it feels great.

Today we spent another day on the Oregon coast and it went something like this:

We have entered the land of hydrangeas. Everywhere you look there are giant bushes of them in every color. I didn’t even know hydrangea bushes could grow this big! This was in front of our hotel in Newport but we saw them all the way up the coast to Canon Beach where we stopped for the night. They are only allowed on furniture in hotel rooms. And they totally milk it.
The beach in Newport.

In Pacific City (and at the beach just north of Pacific City) you can drive out on the beach…and fly a kite…and have campfires…and do donuts…and chase seagulls.

…and chase frisbees.
  Are we a Subaru commercial or what?
  More beautiful scenery from Hwy 101.
Bicycles on Canon Beach.

The tide pools at Canon Beach.
Unwinding from a long day on the beaches.

A Day at the Coast

This is the Oregon coastline from Hwy 101.

We took a whole day and didn’t make it to all of the stops along the way or even do half of the coastline, but what a fantastic day we had!

This is part of Sunset Bay State Park.

This is Winchester Bay.
In Florence this guy saw me taking his picture and charged me!
Still in Florence, those little white things are jellyfish. Sights seen on the hike up to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, just north of the world’s largest Sea Lion caves above Florence.
  A river empties into the ocean at Devil’s Elbow Beach. From the lighthouse, looking down on Devil’s Elbow Beach and the historic bridge just past the tunnel.
  The bay in Newport.

We made it!

Today we arrived in Oregon.

But today was a big day for more than just that. Today I celebrated my 33rd birthday. Today we got the call the the buyers had signed, the loan was funded, and our house was officially sold. Today we got the call that my partner was approved for the new CPT vest that will allow him to do breathing treatments on the go instead of spend a few hours each day next to an outlet.

Tonight we celebrated. We swung by the grocery store and picked up salmon and chicken wrapped around asparagus and provolone, a cranberry walnut salad and a salted caramel cheesecake and drove to the Crystal Wood Lodge just north of Klamath Falls – a fantastic dog friendly lodge on a bluff in a meadow. There we met a great couple from the Bay Area and their dog. We spent the evening eating our gourmet meal, sipping Amaretto and learning about mushing from Liz, the inn keeper.

My amazing dinner.

Throughout this trip it hadn’t really hit me yet. In my mind I’m on vacation and in a few days I’ll drive back to Texas, unpack my stuff in my house and tell the girls at work what a great trip we’d had. It hadn’t clicked yet that this trip ends in Portland and we are staying this time. It hadn’t clicked that I am free from the House of Hell and the dreadful neighbors we used to have. It hadn’t clicked that the fresh air and clean water I’ve been enjoying are not temporal. In my mind I’m not on the journey of a lifetime. I’m just on vacation. I’m on a trip to Oregon, just as I was last summer.

But after tonight it is beginning to connect. After seeing the “welcome to Oregon” sign. After connecting with some people at the grocery store on what a great day today was (the woman behind me in the checkout line had just started a new job and was collecting a celebratory meal too, the woman in front of me was from Denver). After spending an evening on a porch with locals, drinking and talking late into the night. It’s so early. But it fits already.

I like this place.

Lake Tahoe TV

If you’re ever in Lake Tahoe, find the local news channel. It’s hilarious.

This morning I clicked the tv on in our hotel room and was immediately greeted by a man who no longer gave a shit. And it was awesome.

He stepped on the screen in a short-sleeved, white checkered shirt and began the weather forecast with “I’m sick of hearing people talk about ‘if we ever get a winter again’ I say ‘shut the hell up!’ because we’re on track to get a winter comparable to ’97 this year.”

Another gem included:

“I know you’re probably looking at this show and thinking ‘is this a Saturday Night Live skit?’ No. This is the real news. Yes, it looks like a high school production meets Al Jazeera, but Al Jazeera has better lighting.”

The next segment was the traffic. A pleasant young woman attempted to convince us there were construction delays and mountain traffic while street cameras gave us shots of completely empty roadways all over the city.

Then we went to the live interview from the produce section at the local market. The market has been there for 18 years and most of the produce is grown locally. Wow. Big news.

Next was an interview with a businessman that did boat tours and parasailing. I kid you not, his name was Captain Ron.

At each segment there were cutaways back to the main fellow that had done the weather for reactionary shots. So it went something like this:

“well Steve, we take folks out 1,000 feet from the coast and then attach a parachute to them…”

[cutaway to Steve looking impressed…but in the goofiest way possible]

“…and then we pull them behind the boat and they go hundreds of feet in the air.”

And then there were the commercials.

An establishment called Naked Fish has the slogan “if it’s not naked, don’t eat it.”

This was followed by the marijuana commercial.

If you find yourself in Lake Tahoe on a Sunday morning, find your way to Lake Tahoe TV. You won’t be sorry.

Viva Las Vegas!

Or as my Dad likes to call it, Lost Wages.

We took the pups to walk the Vegas strip on a Friday night for a few hours and it was amazing. It’s a lot like Times Square because it fills all of your senses. Bright, flashing lights. Loud music at every place. Smells of every sort. New textures to every building facade. Every kind of food you can imagine.

And while Times Square has its share of characters, Vegas is teeming with young co-eds in the midst of a life event or crisis. Every corner hosts a drunk couple fighting or a bachelor party. Drunk hipsters abound too. You can find them bar hopping and “directing traffic” in the streets. Playing cards with pictures of naked women are scattered across the sidewalks and talented balloon artists create pole dancing themed hats.

But balance that with the beauty of the fountains at the Bellagio or the view from the glass encased bridges that cross the strip. Drunken patrons aside, it really is an amazing place to see at night.

No one seemed to mind the dogs. Here we are chillin’ at the Bellagio.


"Success will come from your plans" paper inside fortune cookie

I got this in a fortune cookie today. Feelin’ pretty lucky.

The Grand Canyon

If you haven’t heard it enough yet, I will add my voice to the choir: the national parks are not underrated. If you have a chance to go to one, do it!

We made it to Grand Canyon National Park this week and you guys…it’s amazing! I never understood what was so fascinating about a giant hole in the ground, but now I get it. It’s breathtaking and majestic and you can stare at it for hours and still find new things to notice.

Now folks, there are two ways to do the Grand Canyon. One is to get out of the car, walk to the gated viewpoint, take a photo, remark how beautiful it is, then get back in the car and check it off of your bucket list. I tried it this way for the first few stops along the path. Then I opted for the second way. See, just to the sides of the marked viewing points, there are trails that lead to the edge and around the rim…and there’s no one there to stop you…and there’s no sign that prohibits explorers.

Can you spot me in this picture?


THIS is the way to do the Grand Canyon. Sneak off of the beaten path and find a ledge to sit on. You can sit in solitude for hours watching birds and dragon flies catch the updrafts from the canyon walls and feel the rush against your face from below. You can truly respect nature and the bounds you have been given as a tiny specimen on this great earth. You can see the sheer terror spread across your partner’s face as he yells at you from the secure viewing point to “crawl honey! Four contact points are better than two!” and thank him later for taking your picture and starting the discussion on life insurance.

Now some take this off-the-beaten-path attitude to an extreme. Allow me a silly story. As you travel along the rim of the Grand Canyon and stop at the different viewing points it is not uncommon to repeatedly see other travelers doing the same. We ran into lots of families time and again and there’s one that sticks out. One family had a…a…let’s go with “festively blessed” tween boy that knew no bounds. At many of our stops the peaceful sounds of awe spoken in a multitude of languages was broken by the desperate screams of a mother at the end of her rope on account of her son.

And there was Braden…why are they always named Braden? Is there a single well-behaved kid out there named Braden? Some men want to watch the world burn. Those men are currently in their formative years needlessly upsetting their mothers, and they’re all named Braden.

Braden was a…a…round young man in a bright yellow polo shirt that felt the best way to enjoy the Grand Canyon was to give his mother a heart attack. Braden could be seen skipping precariously along the safety retaining wall, jumping out to the farthest ledge and pretending to slip into the canyon, and running full speed towards the canyon only to stop at the last moment and laugh at the paleness that had permeated his mother’s face. This is NOT the way to appreciate the Grand Canyon by leaving the beaten path. But it made for some entertainment along the way.

The Grand Canyon is so much more than a large hole in the ground (FYI it’s a mile deep and 10 miles wide). It’s a chance to connect with nature and feel the humility of your humanity. It’s a place to awaken your spirit and feed your soul as you smell the sweet scent of the Utah Junipers and explore to the edges of your mortality. It’s a place to sit and sort out your thoughts. A place to feel tiny and insignificant, and yet connected to it all.

So if you get a chance to go see it, it’s worth it.

Closing on our house

Well folks, we signed all of the necessary paperwork to close on our first house and sent it overnight back to Texas for the buyers to sign.

We didn’t arrive to Las Vegas until after 5pm Texas time so we were on our own with a 20-something notary at a bank who had never seen anyone close on a house either.

Page by page we read carefully and affixed our signatures and initials to each place. Everything looked good. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the call to come from our realtor to tell us it’s over and we don’t own a home anymore.

That call is scheduled to come on my birthday and I can’t think of a better gift than to learn I am homeless.

Once the house sells [fingers crossed] we will be living out of a Subaru for about a week. And I will finally be able to take full breaths again.

dogs at bank

On their best behavior at the bank waiting for the notary.

On the road

We departed the Earthship this morning and headed into Taos, NM for lunch. On the way we encountered the Rio Grande Gorge. It comes up out of nowhere and then boom! There it is…with crisis hotline signs at every viewpoint.

The view from the top.
  Some fantastic local color at the gorge.We had a fantastic lunch al fresco at the historic Doc Martin’s Restaurant. Then did some sightseeing in Taos.

  The jowls. I love the jowls flapping in the wind.  On our way up to Durango, Colorado to camp for the night.