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Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

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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