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Portland Insider iTunes App - Hidden (and not so hidden) in the corners of the Rose City await surprises that Keep Portland Weird. Portland Insider is an on-the-go travel guide for visitors and residents who seek unique activities.

Posts Tagged ‘Pacific Northwest’

tillamook

Tillamook, Oregon is a depressing working class town with two agreeable ways to kill an afternoon.

According to the tourist brochure, the Tillamook Cheese factory is one of the top ten visitor attractions in Oregon. (California this isn’t.) Signage inside reads “nearly 1 million visitors stop at the Tillamook Cheese Visitors Center” (a day? a year? since the beginning of time?)

It’s easy to ignore the many badly-designed, text dense displays; the entire factory —packing machines, conveyor belts, workerbees—is visible behind glass from observation decks. (“Wouldn’t it be great if they piped in Raymond Scott music?” said Ralph.)

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cape lookout

It was 21 degrees when we left Portland on New Year’s Eve day and it wasn’t much warmer at Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast, but the sky was a promising blue.

We unhitched the Airstream and drove to nearby Netarts to celebrate over steak and cocktails at the fanciest lounge we could find. “A lot of people here, are, uh…missing teeth,” Ralph observed. Somehow the evening cartwheeled into a fireball and we returned to the trailer after a wicked argument and fell asleep—back to back—by 9pm.

New Year’s day dawned clear and cold, offering a fresh start.

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toy museum

It’s hidden in plain sight on busy Grand Avenue in Portland in an unmarked, windowless, locked building. To gain entry you must knock, wait, and the door will be opened (when I visited, by a woman who returned to an unseen corner after speaking her only words: “Set your umbrella down—no, not there,” (the dirty worn carpet). “There.” (The dirty worn linoleum.)

The silent cramped foyer smells musty and is lined with display cases packed with shadowy objects. Enter the first brightly lit showroom on the left and be overwhelmed by cases and cases and cases of…toys.

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hi-way haven

I fully expected the WBCCI Oregon Unit members to know how to have a good time when I met their club president at the International. Expectations fulfilled: The HiWay Haven rally in Sutherlin OR—a nonstop block party with Airstreams and the people who love them—pegged the fun meter.

A little Airstream history was thrown in between the eating and drinking; the weekend commemorated the 50th anniversary of the famous Cape Town to Cairo caravan with a special lecture and a screening of two films about Wally Byam and his followers to Africa and Mexico. Other movies on the old drive in screen included the unwatchable RV and The Long, Long Trailer, unwatchable for other reasons.

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grand coulee dam

Grand Coulee Dam is 550 feet high! 5,223 feet long! Generates 6,809 megawatts of electricity! And other measurements as well. The best statistic comes from a jaunty pamphlet provided by the Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation: “Grand Coulee Dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world. What else could you build with 12 million cubic yards of concrete? A sidewalk four feet wide and four inches thick and wrap it twice around the equator (50,000 miles), or a highway from Seattle to Miami.”

Ok, ok. Wow. A visit to Grand Coulee on the Columbia River sounds like it might be boring but it’s quite the sight and has the most fun visitor center.

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food carts of portland

When I first moved to Portland lo these many years ago, there was nothing to eat. A damning indictment, as I was fresh from San Diego where fish tacos and mud pie were as haute as one could go.

Now, you can’t open Sunset or the now-defunct Gourmet without reading an article breathlessly praising a Portland chef, or a gushy review of the culinary craze that’s been sweeping the area in recent years: the city food cart.

Until last Friday, I worked a stone’s throw from one of the main lunchwagon pods downtown but rarely visited, preferring instead to eat a piteous salad at my desk.

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ufo festival

I didn’t have directions to the 11th Annual UFO Festival but it was easy to find: I simply followed the highway signs to McMinnville, parked the car, and followed the crowd carrying lawn chairs and wearing tinfoil hats. (At the town border I was disoriented by a guy in a Jeep Wrangler flying an enormous confederate flag stenciled with the word “REDNECK”. I though that was incongruous to the nature of the event, then remembered the rich history of American abductees.)

The UFO Festival is held every May to commemorate the Trent UFO Photographs, taken in 1950 by a local farmer that many agree are among the most credible images of a UFO ever captured.

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harvest fest

Under a new moon in October, all but deserted Viento State Park on the Columbia River is atmospheric and eerie. Even on the first day of modern firearm hunting season there were only a handful of campers, likely due to the park’s most distinctive feature: the train that thunders by at all hours of the day and night, blasting its earsplitting whistle scant yards from the campsites.

Saturday morning drizzle turned to a downpour as we passed the local purveyors and their lavish bins of pumpkins, squash and a dozen apple varieties on our way into the Hood River Valley Harvest Fest. Having been there before we knew to make an immediate beeline for the beer and brat tent.

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bend

Growing up, I was a hopeless nerd (shut up) and waited for each long lonely summer to come to an end so I could take my place at the desk nearest Teacher in September. This may be why, no matter where I’ve lived, that fall is my favorite season. Autumn in Oregon—especially east of the Cascades—has a refreshing vibe that feels, counterintuitively, like new beginnings.

If you paddle, cycle, ski, hike or fly fish, you already know about Bend. We spent the weekend just rubbernecking around town (Ralph applying his real estate appraisal knowledge like a tour guide as we passed through the neighborhoods) and hanging out in the sun at the campsite, drinking beer and watching the dogs roll in the dirt.

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almost home

The inn was full near Glenns Ferry, Idaho. We were unaware that the Three Island Crossing was taking place, the annual (and this year, final) reenactment of (yes) the Oregon Trail settlers struggling to cross the dangerous Snake River with their wagons and horses. Every RV park for miles was full: the state park, Power Pop Campground, everything. (“Power Pop”, that cracked Ralph up. “Is that next to Speed Metal RV Park? Across from Hair Band KOA?”)

We met Stan, the caretaker of Carmela RV Park, who took pity on our ignorance and graciously offered us a place to hook up in the parking lot of Carmela Vineyards, right next to the vines and tasting room.

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