Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

In my last adventures up in the pacific north west I decided to get back to nature since after all it was all around me and being from the shallow, fake world that is southern California and the concrete jungle that is New Jersey I needed to take in more of these amazing vistas.  Besides I already had gotten my drunken party out of my system and my urban exploration.  There were two more stops that had to be made: a journey to the sea and a trip up to Mt. Hood.

Ahh the smell of the sea

I had been land locked for days and although I was right on the Columbia River I needed to see some beach.  Plus if there is a coast line in reasonable distance of a place I am visiting I have a need to see what might be there.  If your a surfer you are always doing recon.  Heck I was scouting up and down the Columbia and every other mountain stream or brook for the possibility of a standing wave.  Of course I had absolutely no access to a board or gear, but if I found something intriguing a return trip could be in my future and one never knows whats around the next bend on the path of life.

Fuck, my crazy mother had me married to some park ranger who worked at Mt. Saint Helens, with six kids and living in the quaint little mountain town of Castle Rock, Washington.  See part II of this saga for more about those adventures.  One must remember that my mother is out of her gourd.  Lets face it the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree folks.  My whole entire family for that matter is nothing more then a jar of mixed nuts you could buy for $1.99 at the supermarket.

The drive out took almost two hours where we passed all sorts of crazy things including a giant chicken on top of a fried chicken and pizza restaurant.  We cruised through this very industrialized logging town.  It was a Sunday and the town just had this feel of a despairing rest.  Everyone who was there was trapped in their unhappy mundane lives wishing for more, but with out an inkling of a way out.  Maybe I was just reading too much into the place.  The few people I saw walking around looked rather sad and dejected.  My guess was it was the kind of town who’s inhabitants spent the bulk of their money at the raunchy local strip joint stuffing grease stained dollar bills in the g-string of over weight, toothless strippers, before adjourning to the street corner to pick up an even worse looking prostitute.

I love  those contrasts.  The town just before this one was a tiny little spot with cute Victorian houses on the river.  Kids playing in the front yard of their homes and grandma and grandpa swaying to and fro in a rocking chair on the porch.  Unfortunately in this world one extreme cannot exist with out the other.  I guess it comes down to how to best play the hand you were dealt.  Did I mention it was a long car ride.  Between my Sister and her fiance getting all snugly in the back seat next to me and my parents banter to one another I needed to get lost in my own thought.

That’s one giant cock right there.

From there we crossed a series of bridges yet nothing yet resembled signs that we were getting close to the sea.  Then the mouth of the Columbia River got very wide.  The ships on it became ocean liners and the air had the smell of the sea.  I took in a deep breath of relief.  Like a fish out of water finally returned I felt at ease.

The plan, cause everything on this trip had to have a plan was to go up to Fort Clatsop, the final ending point on the Lewis and Clark expedition.  As it turns out this spot was where they spent the winter before heading back east to report their findings.  There was a little museum and a replica of the actual fort the boys built back in the day.  The replica had in character period actors.  It was kind of interesting, but I hate all that Disney type shit.  As I was meandering around this fort one of these farce people came over and began talking to me like it was the early 1800’s.

I was about to fuck with the dude a bit when some other guy shows up wearing a Lewis and Clark t-shirt.  From there it was on.  Him and costume guy got into a giant debate over who was the best Lewis and Clark historian. Then some other woman also wearing a different Lewis and Clark t-shirt got involved while I slipped out the back of the fort before a heated game of dungeons and dragons broke out.  I was only wearing a Kramer style button down and there was not anyone there dressed like the cast of Seinfeld.

There were some cool looking hiking trails all along the park.  My mom really wanted to see the sun set over the ocean.  For us west coasters that is not big deal since it happens everyday but if you live on the east coast your shit out of luck.  There was a few hours to kill so why not go for a hike.  I love nature, who doesn’t?  The march began.  At first it was a mellow trail along the river passing by old logging drop spots and just greenery.  Walking through the woods up there is just so enchanting.  One gets the feeling of being in some fairly tale or fantasy movie.
As we were on this hike we began to hear what sounded like passing cars.  It was not long before we realized that our blissful solitary stroll through the woods was actually right along side a rather busy through way.  Over it I noticed another trail head that appeared to allow us to go deeper into the wilderness yet still circle back to where the car was parked.  Using my great powers of persuasion I convinced my party to stray from the plan and see what might come of us.

It did not take long for this trail to engulf us in the midst of a thick old pine forest with little streams running through it.  I straight up felt like I was in Lord of the Rings.  All this time in nature really had me wishing I had some pot.  I am not a big smoker or anything, but there is something just surreal about the way I interact with nature when I have some of its offerings inside my lungs.  As of yet I could not get my hands on even an eight.  Everyone at the wedding was a square and my day running around Portland proved rather fruitless as well.

By this point I was resolved on the fact that I just was going to have to enjoy nature with out the bud.  Then about half way through the trail it happened.  I noticed an orange prescription canister typical of the cannabis clubs.  I figured it was empty but at the same time thought it a terrible place for litter to be left and picked it up to throw it away later.  Just for shits and giggles I took a peak inside.  Sure enough it was full.  There had to be at least three grams in there and it smelled pretty good.

Talk about a gift from the gods.  Someone told me once a long time ago if I really wanted something bad enough and then focus my energy on its accomplishment things would materialize.  Its about fucking time that held true.  Now I was faced with a serious conundrum.  How the fuck was I going to smoke this stuff.  As we were coming into the park I remembered seeing a Rite Aid, boom papers and a lighter coming right up.

Myself, Larry, Val and my mother on this crazy little bridge we came across on the hike.

My evening was made.  A beach sunset with a fatty.   Soon a new problem presented itself.  Turns out we must have missed a trail marker and were completely lost in the woods.  The other issue was that the park locked it’s gates at 6pm and it was steadily closing in on that time.  My argument for not staying with the plan at this time had become very unpopular.  Panic began to set in upon my father, sister and her fiance.  My mother and I on the other hand were just cruising around taking it all in.  It was not until she pointed out that if we got locked in then I would have now way to smoke my weed.

All of a sudden I got very motivated to find a way out.  I thought  we should keep on our current heading till we made it back to the road then follow the road back to the fort.  I luckily assumed right and we just made it before lock down.  I stopped and got my papers, light and a green Cadburry Egg.  I love those things but usual can only find them around Easter.  I don’t know if this was a new product or just left over, but it was gone, down my stomach before I had a chance to contemplate it.

With everyone happy it was off to the beach to see the sunset.  We ended up in the town of Sea Side Oregon, which I thought was rather fitting for a car load of people from the Jersey shore.  Seaside ended up being a typical American beach town with hotels and bungalows, a beach walk and the rest of that jazz.  The beach itself was very large with big vast dunes.  It looked like there was some type of river mouth on the north end of the beach and a giant head land to south.  It was very cold with a stiff onshore wind.

The surf was very Ocean Beach, San Francisco looking and uninviting.  Given the biting chill of the air I once again being the voice of insanity was able to convince everyone to build a beach fire out of this giant piece of drift wood we were sitting near by collecting small kindling.  While this was going on I took to rolling my jay.  By the time I was lit and puffing away so was their fire.  Being from New Jersey where it is illegal to even listen to a radio on the beach the idea of building a fire and smoking was very novel to all of them.

Lets just say I was felling pretty good by the time this fireside picture was taken…

There we all sat the five us warmed by the heat of the fire watching the sun set on yet another successful day of adventuring.  At this point our time together was coming to a close.  As I sat there and looked over my family I could not help but notice how much all of us had changed over the last few years.  My parents although a bit older seemed more relaxed and happy not that they are retired.  My sister and Larry, soon to be husband and wife were holding one another near excited on the new chapter their lives are about to embark on.  Myself  at the moment caught in limbo waiting to see what life will unfold for me next.  For that moment nothing else mattered except the fact that we were all there on that beach enjoying the fire and the sunset together.

Time moves fast and it had never been so evident to me until this trip happened.  I have been caught up in the rapture of my own despair for so long I had almost forgot how great my family and spending time with them is.  Life can have a really steep learning curve at times.  Maybe I am finally getting around the bend.

Stay tuned for the finale, part V adventures from Mt. hood soon. In the mean time here is a cool picture I took of a bunch of shamrocks I found growing on the forest floor.  I once knew this chick who grew shamrocks.  She claimed she was Irish but I would later find out she was more like 1/8 Irish and 3/4’s Mexican and finally 100% cold hearted bitch.

Where is that Leprechaun, oh wait it’s Oregon not Ireland. Instead of a pot of gold I found a canister of green…he he

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Whats left of the once picturesque mountain type.

When I travel I am not one to sit around get a sun tan, especially in a place I have never been.  For me its all about adventuring and true to the source my parents are the same way.  I guess that is where I must get it from.  We all had a serious urge to go check out Mt. St. Helen’s in Washington the site of one of the most violent volcanic eruptions ever recorded in north America back in 1980.  Although the explosion took place a year before I was born I picked up a picture book on the incident at a yard sale and it was one of my favorite books as a young-in.

The barren volcano among the green pine filled landscape.

My parents and I cruised up to the site of the blast and I must say it is a very impressive sight to behold for a number of reasons.  First the blast itself ripped off the entire top of the mountain.  Then the shock wave from it ripped down every tree within a 17 mile radius and scorched others with in 30 miles.  57 people were killed including the scientists studying the seismic activity at the time.  Now thirty years later there is actually some life beginning to take shape in not only the surrounding areas but even around the area just at the foot of the mountain.

It got me thinking about how life will prevail even in the darkest of places.  I took it further to symbolize how life goes on despite occurrences no matter how adverse.  As it turns out ground hogs who had been hibernating when the eruption took place and were then buried by up wards of 75 feet of ash managed to claw their way to the surface and helped to bring plant life back to area. Imagine how fucking pissed off they were to have to do all that extra digging only to pop up and find their home completely trashed.  Insects and bacteria did as well.  In a way it was like miniature model of how life came to Earth.

These tree stumps are all that is left of an old forest torn to pieces by the blast. If you look closely at the surrounding hills you can see hundreds of downed trees. Yet around all this death and destruction new life is starting to take shape.

After leaving Mount St. Helens we heard that in the town of Castle Rock there was a giant Rock that stuck out over 100 feet into the air.  We drove all over the place trying to find this thing only later to find out that it was in the center of the town but that trees have all grown over it.  I guess the Indians used it for navigation back in the day but hundreds of years later it is  nothing more then a hill covered in foliage. Talk about the tour book blowing it.  The town itself was this really quaint little mountain town one would expect of the area.  I think they should rename the town Tree Covered Rock so as to stop any future confusion.   That night I cooked us up a nice steak dinner over orzo pasta in a lemon basil olive oil sauce.

Oregon Wine Tasting

I have been as of late enjoying all different blends and varietals from both Oregon and Washington.  Being a wine enthusiast I just had to make my way out to the wine country for a tasting.  According to most sources it seemed like Mc Minnville, Oregon was the closest center for local wines to where I was staying.  We cruised out to do some tasting but as a result of heavy holiday traffic my parents and I did not arrive in town till well after 3pm and most tasting rooms in the area closed at 5pm.  My dad had highlighted a tasting room which his tour book said represented the broader spectrum of the area’s varietals.

It turns out that part of the world is know for their Burgundy like reds and pinot noir. Being from Santa Barbara I happen to come from a place that grows some of the better pinot noir I just had to indulge.  I started chatting it up with the sommelier and next thing you know she is pulling out vintages and blends not on the tasting menu.  Let me say I was very impressed.  So much so I spent a bit more there then I had expected to and joined the wine club.  Time was of the essence considering everything was about to close.

The sommelier recommended two more tasting rooms to check out one a personal friend of hers who specialized in Italian varietals,  barbera, sangiovese  and a blend.  My Italian pedigree made this one a must stop for me.  The wine maker was a total bitch to me the entire time I was there thus ruining my tasting experience.  I must say though her barbera was very good. Given her attitude I was not about to spend a penny at her place. I got one more tasting in that was average before the day was over.

The town on the whole was pretty cool.  It reminded me a lot of Red Bank New Jersey, this little artsy town near where I grew up.  I would have liked to have hung out there a bit longer but my parents were over it so back to Portland we went.

A Night on the Town

Initially when I booked my trip I was told that Vancouver, Washington was just “steps away” from the city of Portland.  I know people in the pacific northwest on the whole are taller then much of the majority of America but even for them the route to Portland needed some big steps and many of them.  I suppose it was about time I got a taste of my own medicine, “yeah guys its just down the street”.  The fact of the matter is in order to get to the city from where I was staying it took at least a twenty minute car ride and the crossing of two bridges.  Forget about public transportation. There were a total of three buses that got over the river.  Out of that only one ran on weekends and none past 9pm.

Basically I was trapped stuck at the whim of my parents.  I felt like I was 15 again except I did not have a bike or high school sluts to sneak around with.  After 72 hours of nothing but the folks and the sleepy town of Vancouver I needed to get out.  I needed to party.  My friend Grant from back in the day had too much  going on for us to link up for some debauchery.   About to solo it my good friend and UCB hero Mauriello said I should hit up his friend Lily from college who happened to just recently move up to Portland for work.

This is what I have been constantly preaching here people, the coconut wireless, friends of friends of friends.  My whole life I have benefited from the loose connections I have with others and in return have offered up the same hospitality.  Fact of the matter is if you were to hit me up in Santa Barbara and mentioned you got my info from a friend of mine as far as I am concerned you are now a friend of mine and I will do what I can for you.  Lily in this case really came through for me.

My parents and I were going out to dinner at this fancy over priced steakhouse Morton’s in the heart of the city.  I hit Lily up and told her I was in town.  She just happened to be hitting the scene that night too and clued me in to a hot spot her and a friend were at.  Morton’s by the way was terrible.  My filet mignon was over cooked and poorly cut and so were my parents’.  I could have made a better meal myself for half the price at least.  The wine was good.

From Morton’s I left my parents with the reassurance “I have no idea whats going to happen, if I’m coming home tonight, tomorrow, or if I will even survive.  I love you.” and cruised to the club.  The place was called Blitz and from the outside it looked like my kind of place.  Neon lights, sick music and I mean sick music.  The DJ was this black dude with dreads and he was fucking killing it.  I literally danced all night.  The bar was packed shoulder to shoulder making ordering a drink very difficult.  At first I was being all polite waiting my turn and in the process getting pushed and shoved by everyone in attendance.  Finally I put on my boxing gloves and fought my way to the bar.

Everything was so cheap compared to Santa Barbara.  A tall rum and coke and a shot ran me $10.25.  I know whats with the fucking 25 cents.  I left at the end of the night with a pocket full of fucking quarters.  I met up with Lily and her friend Melissa  and lots and lots of dancing ensued.  Melissa bowed out early.  Lily asked me if I was over it and I just looked at her and replied “who do think your talking to?”.  The club ran till two am.  There was in impromptu limbo contest that this Asian kid owned,  I got into a dance off with this random chick but then somehow lost her in the crowd.

Lily offered me up her couch for the night, which was way better then my initial plan to go home with a fat girl if all else failed rather then spend over $80 on a cab home.  Unfortunately Lily gave her keys to Melissa leaving us locked out hanging on the steps of her apartment building waiting for someone to hopefully show up.  At 2:30am it was rather unlikely.  Eventually Melissa called Lily to see if she was alright and as it turned out she was in Lily’s apartment all along and she passed us down the key.  It was good cause I was starting to get hypothermia out there as my alcohol blanket wore off.  All and all I would say it was a solid night of party.

Click here for par 3 where I will discuss my day of urban exploration in the city of Portland and the wedding.

My Dad and I in front of some new pine tree growth less then a few miles from the base of the volcano.

This is some Mexican guy with one arm in a cowboy hat. I like to imagine he lost his arm bull fighting but most likely it was due to a logging accident. Yeah, I’m an idiot but a romantic idiot…

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The Columbia River from the Washington side looking up stream.

I awoke face to face with nothing but scenic vistas in all directions and gigantic evergreens in my vantage.  The air sort of had this extra freshness to it as I stepped out on the balcony of the house I a was staying at and gazed out over the river.  Im not used to looking at a body of water that ends so abruptly.   Still though the veiw there was rather breathtaking.  If  you were to throw in a point break I would be set.  I can’t remember if ever, the last time I saw so many trees.

The baller house I have been staying in. Nothing but the lap of luxury in Lisanti Land folks even on the road.  Lets just call this Lisanti Pacific Northwest HQ for this series.

To think less then ten hours ago I was in Santa Barbara who beautiful in her own right is like a completely different world.  Its been a long time since I had to do the whole travel thing, at least a year.  Besides the usual hassle of travel I also had the headache of a new roommate moving in while I’m out of town, a transition I would have really liked to have been there for.  I had family business in the form of my cousin’s wedding and since he did come to my now defunct marriage I figured I owed him the same favor.  No; I did not sleep with the bride. (everyone I told I was coming up for this wedding had warned me about such including my own mother.  Even I’m not that encouragable.)

I arrived super late with no major travel problems besides some over booked seating problems in San Francisco that caused a minor ten minute delay.  My new roommate dropped me off at the airport. I gave her a hug handed her the keys, told her please don’t wreck my car, kill my cat or burn down my apartment.  If I return and she has managed all three of these feats, completely destroying everything I have worked so hard to accomplish in the last few years I think then I am just going to cash out and get on a plane with nothing more then the clothes on my back and start a new.  The irony in that the remainder of my life I secured on my own to be completely destroyed by a woman is priceless in a literary sense.

One thing I must commend having short hair on is the ease through airport security.  What used to be a real nuisance of double security and full body checks now is a smile and “have a nice flight”.  Not traveling with a coffin chuck full of surfboards makes life much easier as well.  Having no checked luggage for that matter. I had the last fight out of the night and got into Portland after midnight.

My mother and I stayed up late catching up on things.  It was really nice to see my parents after the long time apart.  Next morning I cooked up a nice breakfast of omelets, toast, home fries and sausage. From there we decided to explore the bit of the up river portion of the Columbia River on the Washington side.  The goal was to work our way to the Bonneville dam to see the fish ladders.

This little guy only had about twenty more steps to go!

The Pacific Northwest and the Columbia River is riddled with dams.  In this area Salmon need to swim up stream in order to spawn.  These dams make getting to their breeding grounds near impossible.  In order to save the species and thank god by the way cause those guys are tasty mother fuckers all of the dams in the the area are build with a intricate system of steps and switch back so these fish can get past the dam.  I have always read and seen pictures of the system but now with it right in striking distance I had to go.

The fish ladders on the Bonneville Dam. They have to climb 75 of these against the current. If I had to do that just to get laid I think I would not even bother.

On the way to the dam we past this giant wood carving of Sasquatch that I made my dad  stop for a picture.  I mean how could I let that not happen? It turns out this was the entrance to the actual town of North Bonneville.  I would later find out as a result of an expansion project on the dam the town was moved about ten miles or so down river cause its original location was right on the plain that needed to be flooded.  Isn’t progress grand.  The poor fish have to bust their ass climbing countless steps against the current and an entire town had to pick up and move.  God bless America! Hey everyone gets cheap electricity. This town had this cute little park with all of these life sized wooden carvings of Sasquatch and I must say I got a kick and a half out of it.  Which meant lots of stupid pictures.

This is my Dad and I. He was not about the showing his sasquatch claws.

After losing an hour playing around with the wooden sasquatch we continued on to the dam.  Although it was far from the biggest dam I have ever seen the spill ways were going, which I have never seen before.  There was tons of water shooting all over the place.  I was sort of enticed on the notion of getting in a little boat and paddling around but none were to be found.  Turns out the dam was open for tours.  I could not turn down such an offer.  I had a choice of the turbine room or the fish ladders.

The Bonneville Dam spill ways in action!

Being my dad used to build power plants for a living I had a very good idea how turbines worked but have never seen fish swimming up stairs.  Inside the dam they have built these windows where visitors can actually view the fish swimming up the stairs.  It was pretty entertaining and then I found another job I need to work before I die.  In the fish room there was a lady hired whose sole job was to count the fish as they went through the dam.  Her job title: fish counter.  New life goal, become a fish counter.

We horsed around the dam, my dad got cut by some of the dam barbed wire (sorry couldn’t help myself) before we were thrown out at 5pm for closing time.  All that fish watching made me hungry for some salmon.  Before getting some fish we decided to visit a lake in the town of Camas.  Being from the ocean we find all these rivers and lakes rather novel.  It was nothing really to write home about, just your basic lake.   From there we procured some salmon and went back to Lisanti Pacific Northwest HQ.  I cooked up a nice grilled salmon dinner over risotto with roasted corn on the cob.  I don’t think one could ask for a more full day. Click here for part II.

Here is a slide show with some of the other photos I took from Day 1:

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Last night I got home from work, did some laundry, my usual internet prowling then threw on “Good Will Hunting”.  I recently scored it for 50 cents on VHS  and I don’t know if its childhood nostalgia or the fact that I still rock a 23 inch tube television, but there is something so much more inviting when watching a VHS over a DVD.  I have always been a fan of the film.  Say what you want about Affleck, Driver, Williams, and Damon but this film works and is powerful on so many different levels.

The character Will Hunting is a perfect example of human alienation in society.  Here is this extraordinary human being who as a result of a tough up bringing and a remarkable gift has become a societal recluse finding life easier to study on his own, clean the floors of MIT and on occasion secretly answer other people’s thesis projects in a few moments that took its master years to come up with.  When his talents are brought to the light it causes him a whole host of problems.

Would have taken a clip from the actual movie but this clip from “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” was just way more entertaining.

The movie got me to thinking everyone in the film had sort of settled into their own personal comfort zone.  I don’t really know if that is a good thing or not.  Lately I sort of feel like that is what I have done.  When I moved to Santa Barbara five years ago I had all these goals and visions of what might become of my life.  Now five years later I must say things have gotten rather mundane.  I surf the same spots, have worked the same job for three years now, am a permanent fixture at the same club.  I made this place my home.  That’s what you do when your home, develop a routine and stick with it.

It works.  I am 100% self sufficient.  I have learned how to make a “dollar our of fifteen cents” and exist in a city where the cost of living well exceeds the average income.  It exceeds my income by at least double.  I guess I am comfortable.  At work I am sure of myself and am working the job to the best of my ability.  Surfing wise I know all the breaks, when their best and for the most part how to ride them the best to my own personal ability.  My living space, ahh the Lisanti Palace.  Lets just say I made genie in a bottle type of situation.

Yet I find myself excruciatingly bored.  As of late that boredom has turned to frustration and even at times anger.  It has me asking “what is next for Chris Lisanti”?  Or is this it?  To quote Jack Nicholson from “As Good as it Gets”, “What if this really is as good as it gets”?  I suppose then the existence I have eked out is not that bad.  Complacently content?  I don’t know.  Have I hit a plateau?  I do live on the Mesa after all.

My entire life I had always been climbing this inevitable steep slope to an unknown peak.  Many of time I felt like Sisyphus.  I realize now that those times of intense hardship may have been the most invigorating.  When I blew out my knee and wondered if my surfing career was over, when everyone in the establishment said I was too commercial to make a dent on the sax, when I was brought to my knees by my ex-girl friend and lost a year of my life to drinking. Maybe  those were the times that were the most stimulating.  I don’t know…

Lets hope that I am just walking through a valley right now in between then next slope to climb.  Santa Barbara is a pretty darn nice valley to be in, my Rivendell.  At the moment I am going to make the most of what is around me and try and stay as relatively positive as a person of my demeanor can.  Heck I am sure there are scores of people who look at everything I have, and what I have accomplished and where I am right now who would happily take it.  I won’t sit here and cry.  On the contrary, this is me just thinking out loud.

Now for the reason I really began writing this.  In about five hours I will be boarding a plane to Portland, Oregon to meet up with some family for my first cousin Rich’s wedding.  I am not really one for weddings in general, besides the open bar and excuse to where a suit.  This is one I could haves easily declined like so many of the other’s in the past.  For whatever reason when I got the invitation a few months back something told me I needed to be there.   Truth be told I have not been anywhere outside of California and Southern California mind you since I went to Australia five years ago.  There was a time when if I was in the same place for more then a few weeks I got antsy.

This is rather out of character for me, but I am rather excited to get out of Santa Barbara for a few days and even more enthralled to get to spend some quality time with my family some of whom I have not seen in almost two years.  Remember I am Italian so to be a stranger for so long is considered disrespectful and borderline ex-communicable.  Also I am not bringing a board and have not surfed since last Tuesday.  I won’t be back till next Tuesday meaning this will be one of the first times not being injured that I went 14 days with out a surf session. I am bringing my computer so stay tuned for some travel blogs via Oregon with pictures and hopefully adventures.  Talk you from Portland folks.


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