August 2012


What would a trip up to Oregon be without taking a little time out to visit wineries. I always enjoy visiting the Willamette Valley. It’s pretty country to drive through and the wines are excellent. The last visit was all the way back in 2009. Time for a return visit.

I visited several wineries this time that I’d never been to. Here’s a quick recap of some favorites:

First up was Brooks. It’s a very small place and I was the only person tasting. I think I arrived shortly after they opened so I had a personal tasting. They were doing a complete tasting of their Rieslings. They also had a Rosé wine made from Pinot Noir. All very good though my fav here was their Janus Pinot Noir.

One of the more interesting tastes of the day was De Ponte Cellars Melon de Bourgogne. “green apple, pear, fruit blossoms, banana and citrus…” Ok then. This was tasty stuff.

My fav of the day went to the White Rose Estate 2009 White Rose Vineyard Pinot Noir. Click through for all the details.

Tip: If you’re coming up from the south like I was you can’t go wrong with a stop into Harvest Fresh in McMinnville. It’s a little grocery but they have a great deli and will pack up sandwiches for your trip out to the wineries. Lots of ’em have picnic tables and don’t mind if you have your lunch out there.

Check out the slideshow for some pics of the day.

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From Bend and the Cascades Gran Fondo I made my way through Eugene and west to the Oregon coast. Destination: Yachats. (Sounds like ‘Yah-hahts’) It’s a pretty drive – and a long drive. You’re on two lane roads the whole way and you’re never really going to be able to get going too fast. The drive up on 101 from Florence to Yachats is very scenic. It reminded me a bit of driving the coast near Big Sur.

Why Yachats as opposed to some other Oregon coastal destination? On more than one occasion I’d asked people from Portland where they’d recommend I go on the coast. Yachats got the nod more than once. So I wanted to check it out.

There’s not a lot to Yachats. It’s a small town with a few restaurants and businesses and plenty of homes scattered up the coast. I did not stay in a hotel but rather had arranged a home stay.

This worked out pretty well. They had plenty of suggestions for the best food and drink. First of all, you have to get up and get your morning coffee at the Green Salmon. This place was hopping in the morning. Be prepared to stand in line. Secondly, get yourself to the Drift Inn for at least one meal while you’re there. The two places are a block or so apart and it was funny that the person that took my order in the morning was working behind the bar at the Drift Inn later that day. Interestingly he was dressed like a woman in the morning and a guy in the evening.

The coastline here is beautiful. The photo of the gull here was taken in Yachats State Park which is essentially part of the town. The other photos were taken at the Cape Perpetua scenic area. I got a day pass there and hiked up into the hills. You can see a photo of the trail at one point. The other photos were taken from the trail.

You read about cycling the Oregon coast and it sounds like it’d be fun and scenic, but now having driven a chunk of 101 – the route that you’d have to go – I’d have to say the traffic looks like it would be daunting. It is marked as a bike route and there are definitely sections of it that have a wide shoulder. But there are also long stretches along the area I drove where it’s just two busy lanes with no shoulder. Unless you were with a pretty good group I’m thinking it would be a stressful ride.

The weather in Yachats seemed to be a perpetual 68 degrees. I slept with the window cracked open a bit and it never seemed to get that chilly at night either. If you’re looking for a quiet scenic spot to cool your heals for awhile, Yachats is hard to beat.

The primary motivation for heading to Oregon in the first place was to attend this cycling event. I had no context for it. I just knew I liked the area and it has been a fantastic place to visit in the summer so I thought I would give it a try. I ended up enjoying it a lot.

The event turned out to be a a little smaller than I imagined it would be. As you can see in the photo of the start of the ride, there were maybe a couple hundred people in attendance. I’m not sure what I expected but I expected it would be larger – maybe many hundreds, even a thousand. The ride started at the Mt Bachelor ski resort parking lot. There was just a little bit of snow left up on the mountain but certainly not enough to ski on. The parking lot was otherwise barren except for those that were at the Gran Fondo.

The was some speechifying at the beginning of the ride but not much. Chris Horner is a pro that races for team RadioShack Nissan Trek and is the host of the Gran Fondo. He spoke a bit at the start and then we were off. Weather was ideal. Even up on Mt Bachelor the morning temps were fine. The photo of me here is with Chris Horner after the ride. Nice guy though we didn’t really chat more than a few words. He took off initially with the ‘Full Gran Fondo’ which was 75 miles. I chose to do the ‘Mid Gran Fondo’ (53 miles) and because the routes deviated, I never did see Chris out on the road. He was host and visited with people and consequently I finished before him because I was doing a shorter ride.

The ride was well supported and as you can see in the photo here the rest stop snacks were top notch. Water, fruit, chips, cookies… plenty of stuff.

A Gran Fondo is a timed event like a race but it’s an open event than anyone can attend and in that respect it was organized and felt just like any charity ride I do around Austin. But being timed, there was competition and prizes for winners. The 75 miles took off fast and raced the whole way. Even though I was on a shorter ride the race group (which was maybe a dozen strong) passed me well before I neared the finish.

Climbing back up to Mt Bachelor toward the end of the route was a pretty good slog but it was not all that bad. The grade was steep but not horrible. The annoying thing was just the traffic. That part of the route back to Mt Bachelor was more heavily traveled.

I ended up keeping pace with and riding with the same people most of the way. That’s not unusual with these kinds of rides. So when we finished the ride and loaded up on food, we ended up eating lunch together too. I didn’t recall enough about them to capture any notes here but it seemed they did this sort of event often. Food was pretty good and I was plenty hungry. I was glad to have finished the ride plenty early. The wind was starting to pick up and became a real annoyance as we ate lunch. Hard to keep your plate from blowing away.

I liked the route and would consider doing this again. Not sure I’d arrange it so I’d go back to the Gran Fondo or not. I guess it would depend when it’s scheduled, but I’d definitely go back to that part of Oregon again and cycle. It’s beautiful countryside.

This final shot is of Mt Bachelor in the distance along the ride.

Best of Bend

Bend is an interesting and scenic town. With the snow-capped Cascades in the distance it’s close to outdoor activities and yet it has cool food and drink and places to stay.

1st off I have to highlight the Lara House Lodge B&B. I’d stayed there before years ago and it seems to me it’s only improved with time. I think it’s under new owners and it seems a little more upscale than it was the first time I was there (what was that, 2004?).

Lara House is an old house on a large lot right in the center of Bend. From the porch you can sit and watch the goings on in Drake Park just across the street. It’s also just a couple of blocks from the downtown area and you can walk to restaurants, coffee, shops and bars. The back of the house has a large outdoor patio. In the afternoon they set out some wine and cheese. In the morning there’s a pot of coffee ready and waiting. In either case, grab a drink and park it on either the porch or the patio. It’s August in Bend and the weather’s going to be good.

I’ve got a couple different shots of the interior of the house here. The style of the house both inside and out is primarily Craftsman. They’ve done a nice job restoring this house and keeping the interior looking nice.

Let me highlight a few other places in Bend that I would highly recommend.

As a traveler looking for interesting food and wine, you’re not going to be disappointed by a visit to the NewPort Avenue Market. I love going in this place. First they’ve got a great wine selection and 2nd they have a deli that’ll make you a great sandwich. Lots of cheeses to choose from too.

Bend is also home to a surprising number of craft beer places. They promote something called the “Ale Trail“. Check it out. I made it to only two of these during my short stay. The first was Deschutes brewpub in the downtown area. Enjoyed lunch there. The other, which I’d say I enjoyed even more, was 10 Barrel just a short walk from Lara House. I got the beer sampler, which you can see in a photo here. My favorite of that set was their Apocalypse IPA. Outstanding. That plus outdoor seating, live music and some pretty good pizza. What more do you want.

If you really want good food though, don’t miss a visit to Ariana. This place is small so you might need to get a reservation but I’ve been there twice now and each time the food was excellent. Both times I’ve had the pleasure of sitting out on the back deck with great weather too. I was still on Austin time so I was eating with the ‘early birds’ but no need for a reservation.

Finally just a quick mention of the bike shop that helped me out. I arrived with my Seven to do some cycling only to find I’d somehow messed up the headset when I reassembled it. This is not the first time. You’d think by now I’d have figured out how to adjust it right. I also needed to pump the tires since it’s not easy to bring a pump and the TSA is not fond of you bringing CO2 cartridges on a plane. Sunny Side Sports fixed up the headset in a jiffy though. And let me use their pump. Nice shop. I’d go there again.

I was already thinking as early as March that I wanted to get out of Austin and head to the northwest in the heat of the Texas summer – I get so sick of the heat here by the time the late summer rolls around. And then I happened across the Cascades Gran Fondo bike tour on some random facebook posting and thought, ‘Hey, that looks like fun’. Ok, so I’ve got a travel bike. Let’s do this thing.

At first I thought I might just plan a long weekend and as I got to planning things it quickly ended up being a whole week. By the time you fly to Portland and rent a car, you might as well take a little time and see a few things, right? At least that was my reasoning. So here goes. My blog posting summary(ies) of the best finds along the way. Your mileage may vary. Let’s start with Portland.

Portland

I wasn’t really in Portland all that long. I flew in on a Thursday evening and left the following morning. On the way back, I passed through on the way to the airport to fly home. Even so, I managed to catch two places I’d highly recommend if you’re passing through and are hankering for breakfast or lunch.

The first was the Bijou Cafe for breakfast. I met up with Jacque and Chris there and had an excellent omelet. I got the mushroom and ‘Bravo Cheddar’ omelet. Somehow I managed to walk in and find one table open. Just after snagging it, a line was already forming. While we were seated inside, the weather was great and they had the door open so it was a really pleasant spot.

On the way back through Portland as I was headed home at the end of the week, I met up with Blake at Clarklewis for some lunch. This is a place I’d been for lunch a few times before on business trips. It’s in the ‘Industrial District’ and if you didn’t know better you’d just say it looked like an old warehouse loading dock – which of course it was at some point in the past. I had a salad and the steelhead. Included some potatoes. Tasty. I really like this place and it’s just off the I5 freeway that runs through the center of the city.

I would be remiss if I didn’t recount at least some of my overnight stay in Portland before heading south to Bend. To cut to the chase, I chose a ‘home stay’ in the heart of Portland as my overnight stay. I’ll gloss over how such a home stay is arranged. Google it. I found a loft apartment in the Pearl District. The photo here is of the courtyard just outside the place. Note the artwork and the people. As it turned out, August 2nd was a Thursday – and in fact First Thursday in Portland. The place was hopping. Music. Drinks. Lots of people. My host for the evening was in fact the caterer for the food/drinks in the courtyard.

This was all fun and interesting until about 11pm when things started to wind down. Very fine by me considering the long flight to Portland and the 2 hour time change. It was 1am Austin time. But the interesting thing was that my host and many of the other denizens of this complex kept a little party going in the courtyard. It kept going and going and going. I was beat and nodded off quickly. By 3am though, I woke up. Keep in mind I’m in a loft apartment. The floor plan is entirely open. There’s one bathroom that’s next to where I’m trying to sleep. The party goers are starting to line up to use the bathroom. One by one. One after the other. 3am. 4am. 5am. Eventually even my host and his buddy crashed and only the sound of snoring could be heard. But of course by then on Austin time it was 7am. My body said ‘get up’. Sigh.

I contemplated making a lot of noise on the way out but instead just packed my things and loaded the car. Plenty of time on my hands before my planned meetup at the Bijou Cafe, so I walked a few blocks and grabbed excellent coffee and free wifi at Backspace.

Portland’s always fun – and the food and coffee great – but I was ready to head for Bend. In fact, mostly what I wanted to do was get to Bend and take a nap on the porch. By the time I hit the road though, I had enough caffeine coursing through me I never did get that nap. On to Bend…