A Dual-Purpose Trip: To visit the Palma Family and attend The Eugene Wordcrafters Fiction Writer’s Conference
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Easy flight but long. Meghan Danahey, a local weather forecaster, was on our first flight merrily basking in celebrity attention. Made me think of my buddy, Diane, who got her start as a weather girl in Lansing, Michigan. But her celebrity was tainted by having to endure her very own talking bird. One of Jim Gross, the station owner’s, worst ideas ever.
We ran like mad people to make the connection in Dallas. During our run we saw this mighty friendly Texas hello.
Our smiley and spirited Budget Rent-a-Car clerk was excited to tell us places to explore. We got a Ford Escape (SUV) for a slight upcharge, the perfect vehicle for Or’gun.
After floating around Portland a bit, we found the condo. I’d forgotten the AirBNB landlord’s instructions about where to find the key, so we were very fortunate that they answered their phone when we were trying to figure it all out.
We strolled around the very dead downtown area, and at 10:30 ended up at Wild Wings. The very place Melissa’s father, my brother-in-law, watched Michigan basketball just weeks prior.
Wednesday March 5th, 2014
We met my niece, Melissa and her two kids, Amaru ten and Paloma eight, at Mother’s Bistro for a late breakfast. http://www.mothersbistro.com/ It was a fantastic, cozy old place with multiple chandeliers overhead. Amaru got a funny face pancake. He must have liked pancake man too much – maybe ate an ear, but that was all.
We took them back to the condo so we could stash their car in our spot and then we headed out along the Columbia River Gorge — so big, like a long flowing lake — to see the Multnomah Falls. They are the second tallest in the U.S. Didn’t ask what the tallest was…Niagra?
Before reaching the giant falls, Kevin, Paloma and I took a little hike on a trail next to the road after stopping to see the smaller Wahkeena waterfall.
We slipped on mud and snow getting shoes soaked in puddles. Fun!
At Multnomah we met sweet Gareth Wilson, volunteer of the year who told us all about the area and the falls. I think he was also probably the longest-serving volunteer — he looked to be in his 80’s. http://www.oregon.com/Hike_Multnomah_Falls
After making our way up to the midpoint and back down in the blowing rain, we found refuge in the gift shop, where yet another squished penny was purchased for 50 cents. What a racket!
On the way back we stopped at The Vista House. http://vistahouse.com/ A vista-less vista because of all the fog. Dancin’ fools at the Vista House.
Yea, another gift shop. No pennies this time.
We ended our time with the Palmas at OMSI, The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It is a sprawling place full of wonder. Great Uncle Kevin fulfilled Paloma’s dream of going into the submarine. Not sure it was what she expected, but she’d been unable to coax anyone else in her family to go. What would you call this look? Befuddled?
Our favorite exhibit was the infra red imaging, where warm places on your body glow yellow and cold spots are black. I was the only one among us with a black nose. Had to be all the sun damage repair. Melissa and I had very hot crotches, which really cracked us up!
There is a beautiful new bridge going up over the Willamette River that goes thru Portland. It will be for public transport, bikers and walkers only.
That night we dined at Peacock, a wonderful Asian restaurant. Kids were fencing with each other using chop sticks until we distracted them with tic-tac-toe and a drawing game.
After dinner we went to Powell’s Bookstore – a true wonder of the publishing world. It takes up a full city block and has many checkout counters. Does a book-lovers heart good. http://www.powells.com/
Paloma had a Gap Kids gift card burning a hole in her pocket so Kevin kindly waited for us as went into the mall, found the store and tried to decide. So many choices!
They took off and we enjoyed lovely Portland from our condo window.
Thursday March 6, 2014
We wanted to experience a little more of Portland, so headed to the Visitor’s Center to see what we could do in a morning. The gal there was most enthusiastic giving us a map of martini road, and one for the breweries. So many choices.
This is a famous old part of the downtown. Note the wet streets. Note that most of the photos are wet. It’s wet there.
I went into the bathroom at the Visitor’s Center and saw one of the things Portland is famous for…its homeless. There were about five women, 30 to 60 brushing their teeth, combing their hair, and rolling up their sleeping bags.
I used the bathroom for the intended purpose and when I sat down saw the possessions of the gal in the stall next to me on the floor in front of her feet. On top of these things sat a little brown dog; probably a Chihuahua.
“Hi, little guy,” I said.
“Who are you? Do I know you?” the woman sitting on the throne next to me said.
“No, I don’t know you. I’m a visitor. But you have such a cute dog. I was just saying hello.”
“She’s my best friend.” The woman didn’t say it, she moaned it.
How easily I could be her. How easily she could be me. I never did get to meet her face to face but sitting next to her gave me pause — and made me grateful for my life. Life’s a crap shoot really, and I just got the lucky roll.
Rainy and cold, we decided to check out one of Portland’s most famous places of residence, the Pittock Mansion.
It was closed, but we had all our luggage so I would have been nervous to go inside for a tour after seeing this very ominous sign in the parking lot.
I was just as glad to look at the outside of this palace. We’d just seen the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach…so really had it up to here with opulence. Next move: downstate to Eugene.
We headed south on Highway 5 but decided to take a little scenic route on #214 along the way. Taking this jaunt, we passed through a couple villages, to get the flavor of small-town life in Or’gun.
First stop was Woodburn, a sorry little town. It felt like we were just north of our southern border. You want Hispanic food? Woodburn is the place.
Although small, there were many cars parked along the road into town. It looked like the whole town was in attendance at a burial-under-umbrella.
Next stop was Mt. Angel famous for its giant glockenspiel.
Finally, we stopped in Silverton. It was one thin dime for 24 minutes – actually all we needed to see the town. And to make sure we actually deposited that coin there was a parking fellow lurking across the street. Silverton is charming. Their claim to fame is the 24 gigantic murals positioned around the town.
One is of a hometown hero, Don Pettit, an astronaut who was on the space station when the Challenger went down.
Another was of Bobbie, The Wonderdog. Actually, there was much to-do about this little guy who lived in the 1920’s. He made his way back from Indiana to Silverton when he got separated from his owners. Another hometown hero.
I think I’m going to need to use the name of this Silverton lawyer in some future story…priceless!
There is a rushing river going right through town and under the oldest covered bridge in the state – a must see.
Even though it was rainy, we knew it was spring because the fields were full of baby lambies and their moms…the very green fields, that is.
On the way out of town, we gassed up the car, or should I say HE did. There are only two states that mandate gas pump attendants, New Jersey and Or’gun. NJ because people drive off without paying, Or’gun because folks there need jobs. This fellow got a kick out of me taking his picture. I was amazed that neither he nor his colleague (yes, there were two gas attendants!) had ever heard of Silverton’s hero dog, Bobbie.
We got to Eugene just in time for the opening reception of the writer’s conference I was attending. A bunch of really nice people. Seems writers are always nice people. We ended the day at the most over-priced restaurant in town. What did we know?
We wondered what the ear plugs were for on our night stands. Around 4:00 in the morning the train went by…right under our noses. Worst part is the horn blew the entire length of Eugene. Townsfolk told us this policy is very controversial and always on the table. So far the horn is winning.
Friday March 7, 2014
The writing conference was great with sessions all day long, including over lunch. It was the first time they had put on this conference, so the attendance was low at about 100 people. However, because of that, it was easy to meet people — nice people.
We had a break after the sessions and took a long hike thru lush underbrush and trees up one of the buttes surrounding the downtown. Beautiful views.
We went with a small group on a wine tasting mission. Next visit, the wineries themselves!
That night was The Introvert’s Ball. These nice people also know how to kick up their heels. We danced the night away!
Saturday March 8, 2014
Kevin volunteered to help at the conference and was a big hit with crime writers once they learned about his background. Diana Rodgers even invited him to attend “The Criminal Mind” session she taught.
But this morning he had other plans. Paloma’s ballet class was on his plate. What a grand Great Uncle!
After another wonderful day of learning the craft of fiction writing, the Palma’s joined us to hear the speaker and witness the young writers’ awards ceremony. Maybe Paloma and Amaru can enter and win next year!
We went out to a great place for dinner. It was Poppi’s, a Greek-Indian fusion restaurant. New concept. So Or’gun!
Kevin and I ended the night in the bar with some new, very nice writer pals.
Sunday March 9, 2014
Wouldn’t you know it we sprung forward overnight, so the 8:00 a.m. session was really 7:00 a.m. in our souls. Tough after closing the bar the night before.
There was a closing brunch which was especially lively since, by then we knew a slew of people.
One fellow even invited us to stay with him the next time we’re in Eugene. Talk about red carpet!
They held a 6-word story contest, which is right up my alley. Although my entries didn’t win, the thirteen 6-word stories I had written using the presenters’ names were read aloud prompting great hilarity. Like for Eric Wichey, who by his own admission takes Ritalin: “Is Eric twitchy? No just hyperactive.” For one of the headliners, Elizabeth George: “Her name, his name, Elizabeth George.”
Business cards exchanged and hugs all around, we were off. This photo is of the headliners holding a sign that says “Will Write For Food”: Elizabeth Engstrom, Terry Brooks, Elizabeth George, Susan Wiggs.
We went to the Palma’s lovely home in the hills and roused them. (It WAS a lazy Sunday morning, after all.) Across from their home is a stand of trees covered in moss, so their trees are green in the summer AND the winter. But if you are allergic to moss, watch out!
Got to see Mr. Lego’s latest projects.
We went to Yummi Bowls for a small lunch and then headed to the Eugene Library to hear Terry Brooks, one of the celebrity authors from the conference. He writes Young Adult Fantasy and has had over 25 best-selling books.
What better place to spend a chilly Sunday afternoon than the natural hot springs? We drove about an hour and then spent another hour lolling in the minerals. There is a screen over where the water comes up from the ground to prevent anyone from burning themselves on the water boiled by the molten rocks below.http://www.belknaphotsprings.com/
Quiz: Who’s hammin’ it up in this photo?
Back to the Palma ranch where the kids fixed us a taco dinner. Divine!
We went to The Sweet Life Patisserie, a dessert bakery in town. This sign made me think of Portlandia:
Our selections were way too big and way too rich, but all were luscious. I gave Paloma her birthday poem/riddle/skirt. Not a home run…but now I remember not appreciating clothes as a gift when I was a kid. Paloma was as gracious as an eight year old can be.
After the early wake up, busy day, hot springs and hearty meal, and in anticipation of our coastal journey the next day, we hit the sack early. (But not before I saw a strange contraption around the base of their toilet: a Squatty Potty. Read all about it here: http://www.squattypotty.com)
Monday, March 10, 2014
Our last day in Or’gun. We piled into two cars and headed out to the coast. Here’s a picture of the it-seems-like-they’re-always-laughing Palma family in front of their home before we took off.
Luckily, we had Rodolfo riding with us so we were able to hear all about his job. I never knew exactly what he did, so spending this time with him was excellent.
We saw all these orchards along the way, and of course I thought they were fruit trees.
Not so, unless Hazel Nuts are considered fruit. Big crop. So is Lavender. Probably also big business. Although I really don’t like the lavender infused cloths they pass out at the end of Yoga, it seems many do.
There are these amazingly tilted trees all along the coastline. It’s like they’ve been blown with a hairdryer.
We drove through Yachats (pronounced ya-hots) and then stopped at the Heceta Head Lighthouse.
Heceta is the most photographed lighthouse in the U.S. Folks at the Portland Visitor’s Center told us it showed up on a calendar of lighthouses in Maine…but was replaced in reprintings after a gentle cease and desist please, order.
The littlest one, who hadn’t eaten breakfast, had a meltdown…a regular occurrence for me when my tummy’s growling. So we found The Drift Inn, a restaurant with lots of history, and grabbed a bite, in the nick of time.
After this meal we parted ways. They headed back for Paloma’s hip hop class, we back to Portland.
We passed by Seal Rock at low tide so saw them looming. Apparently, at high tide, they are just small islands. It’s all about the timing.
Melissa told us about the sneaker waves. Sneaker Waves? These are rogue waves that come up without warning and can drag unsuspecting waders into the water. Since the water is freezing and the coastline rocky, those grabbed seldom have a chance.
Melissa met the mother of a teenager who died when caught up in one.
The Palmas always have one member on the lookout for these waves while they’re on the beach. To me, they’re more like Evil Sneaky Waves.
And, please be on the lookout for Tsumnami debris.
We went to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, which is a National Park http://www.yaquinalights.org/
The ranger at the check in point talked us into buying a forever senior pass. Oh all right, we qualify, so fine!
Here’s the lighthouse and a keeper, if I ever saw one.
There we found tide pools filled with colorful starfish and anemone.
The beach is covered in these perfectly round little rocks. Lotsa wave crashing going on at the Or’gun coast.
We saw many other critters along the way. This stately guy:
A Banana slug:
Sea Lions (or are they Seals?):
More Yaquita Lighthouse views:
After enjoying the Or’gun coast we headed back inland and then up to Portland. When we went through Corvallis, we passed by a golf course with nearly iridescent green fairways. No wonder some of the most sought-after golf courses are located here. But, we did wonder if they give rainchecks in Oregon. Maybe not. They might lose their shirts.
I know Or’gun is a progressive state, but I was amazed — they even have a Bi-Mart.
In Portland we went to an area a gal at the Visitor’s Center clued us in on. It’s Restaurant Row on 21st Street. So many eateries we couldn’t decide. We stopped a couple on the street and they raved about Kell’s Pub. Sounded good…nearly St. Patrick’s Day anyway, so that was where we landed for our last Or’gun meal. Not disappointed.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Got to the airport way too early, so no pressure. We finally saw Mt. Hood as we flew above the clouds departing from Or’gun. Magnificent!
We’ll be back!