Cannon Beach, Oregon

The Oregon Coast – far enough away that I don’t get there as often as I would like, but close enough to get there every so often.

This particular spring day was warm enough that I, along with many other beach-combers, felt comfortable walking barefoot in the surf! It was amazing. I forget how the lovely the salt breeze, the sparkling soft tan sand and cool glittering water revives me. I forget that is, until I get there. Then I am surprised I don’t make the short trek more often.


Centralia & Chehalis, Washington

Two hours and fifteen minutes– that’s it!
 That’s all it was? Wow!
Yep – not far, huh?
No – not far at all!

Now you have a mini recap of the conversation I had with myself as I pulled up behind my old friend’s car in front of the house where she has been living for over a year now. With her extended family living relatively close to me, over the past year or two we had been occasionally meeting up when she came by to visit them. This time, my sister and I were visiting her!

With a couple 5 to 10 mile stretches of pouring rain, the trip seemed longer than the actual time it took. Oregon speed limit on I-5 caps at 65 miles an hour. In Washington it increases to 70 miles an hour. Even though I tend to push the speed limit, with the pouring rain, unfamiliar road and 5 mile an hour increase, at times the short trip north was a bit stressful.

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped in either Chehalis or Centralia beyond briefly stopping for hot chocolate (Dutch Bros or Fiddler’s) or to eat a couple of times (Country Cousins) on the way up to Bellingham. These two towns are very close and together had more than I expected or ever noticed from I-5.

After chatting a bit, my friend took us to her favorite area lunch place – Once Upon A Thyme. It was a quaint restaurant with down-home, antique charm. The kitschy covered high walls balanced the large open eating space with a warm country home appeal. I totally recommend the pesto and olive pizza! Thickly spread with pesto and generously covered with greens, feta, dried tomatoes and olives, on soft multi-grain crust, the slice made quite an impression on me!

After lunch we headed off to the Rails to Trails. I was told it is a fifty mile paved trail that runs where train tracks once ran, and it runs all the way to the coast. Apparently it is a favorite trail for bicyclists, walkers, dogs and their people, and blackberry pickers in the summer. Sadly, we had not gone far before the weather decided to shift from being merely overcast to down pouring with both rain and hail. As we hurried back to the car, we laughed about how quickly our Pacific Northwest spring weather can change. It’ll probably pass in a few minutes and be sunny the rest of the day we speculated, and we surmised correctly.

We went back to our friend’s house and enjoyed her homemade coffee cake and tea. As we warmed up, so did the weather. Even though we did not walk in it, it made for a nice, relaxed drive home for dinner. I should have stopped to photograph some of the bright green hills, blue sky and warm sunshine, but they will have to live on in my memory.

The road to a friend’s house is never long!
Danish Proverb

Seattle, Washington.

Last weekend a couple of my chums and I took a low budget and absolute blast weekend trip to Seattle, WA. Here are some of the highlights from our two-day, one night adventure! It wasn’t until I was compiling this list that I noticed that we visited quite a few parks. Seattle seems set up for enjoying nature and being immersed in it.

Pike Place Market – Pike St. & 1st Ave.
This eclectic and vibrant market area, where locals and tourists mingle, offers all sorts of goods to look at and buy. Fresh flowers, seafood, tea, coffee (first Starbucks location!), all kinds of food, clothing, collectibles, souvenirs and so much more from over 500 vendors please the crowds daily. Despite being packed like a cat in a small box, we ended up with 3 large bouquets of flowers on our drive home – couldn’t resist!

  • Free to wander and explore
  • Reasonably priced food and finds

Picture 1Picture 2
Sam Olympic Sculpture Park – Western Ave. & Broad St.
A city park and green space along the Puget Sound with interesting large sculptures and well-maintained gravel paths connected to Myrtle Edwards Park by a walking bridge.

  • Free to wander
  • Free western Sound view with art to admire

Picture 3DSC_0107Kerry Park – W. Highland Dr. & 3rd Ave. W
On the paper map it’s labeled Bayview Kinnear Park. This small neighborhood park overlooks the Puget Sound and the Seattle downtown skyline with a great view of the Space Needle and, on a clear day (which we didn’t have), Mount Rainier.

  • Free and often photographed view (think quintessential postcard)
  • Play structures

Lake Union & Lake Union Park
Water and waterways surround and interconnect Seattle. This particular lake, one of the smaller bodies of water, offers plenty, including sights of the Space Needle and historic Gas Works Park.

  • Center for Wooden Boats – free half hour sailing excursions on Sundays
  • Fremont Avenue Seattle Ferry Service – low cost tours of Lake Union
  • Free to wander and watch the boats sail

Picture 5Mystery Pop Machine – E. John Street between 9th and 10th
In front of the Locksmith shop resides an old soda pop machine. Its six selection buttons all labeled “Mystery” give you no clues to that day’s flavor choices. You could get Coke or you might get Pepsi. We tried all six buttons and got six different drinks.

  • $.75 for a random pop

Seattle Central Public Library – 5th Ave. & Madison St.
A striking structure designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus of the Netherlands and built in 2004, the abstract-looking building has caught my imagination numerous times. This time we actually went in and took a quick tour. Wow! It was more impressive on the inside than the outside! I’d never been in a library with escalators and spiral levels instead of floors. I loved how all the glass allowed for so much natural light.

  • Free self-guided tour of the 11 levels of the library

Picture 6DSC_0258Jack Perry Park – near S. Massachusetts St. on Alaska Way S.
A small, little out of the way, park and public water access next to the Coast Guard Station. It took us some time to actually find it, but if you get on Alaskan Way South and drive south, it’s on the edge of town, on the right, down an unassuming drive.

  • Free to park and hang out

A few miscellaneous thoughts on keeping costs low without sacrificing a good time:

  • Parking – It turned out to be cheaper on the street than a garage for the most part – for the areas we were parking. Street parking was between $1-$4.50 an hour, and Sunday was free to park on the street. However, we did find parking in garages with charges as cheap as $10 a day.
  • Gas – Our estimation was not too off, but we learned to estimate a little higher on the next trip.
  • Food – We packed most of ours and only bought dessert, drinks and snacks.
  • Lodging – We chose to stay at a place through Airbnb. It was not exactly cheap, but divided among friends the one we stayed at was reasonable for a safe and clean place to stay.


The other day I visited my local AAA branch office and picked up some old school paper maps! With my triple-A membership, I get them free!*

I love paper maps.

Sure, it takes more work to estimate the travel time, distance and route with paper maps than with online maps, but I don’t usually use them for that. I use them for the perspective and sense of place I get from spreading them out and seeing the big solid picture. That grounding element makes them worthwhile to me. I also use sticky note tabs to mark points of interest and get a visual that doesn’t disappear if I happen to jostle it and hit the back button too many times or accidentally unplug it. I use Google maps or Mapquest or TripTik to figure out the best way to get somewhere – the shortest distance, the quickest time, the one avoiding highways or with some other filter – and for turn-by-turn directions. Using paper maps in conjunction with online maps, I always feel better prepared. When I feel prepared, then I feel excited.

As you can see, I am preparing for travel up North – two trips potentially. The first one is a pretty definite weekend trip with a group of friends to Seattle; we’ve been talking about it for the better half of a year. I pass through Seattle several times each year, but rarely stop to enjoy the sights, so I am looking forward to spending some time there. A second trip could be a day trip to southwest Washington to visit a long time friend and possibly go explore Tacoma with her. However, if my dad drives to the Carolinas, the second trip will likely be postponed, as I would jump at the chance to drive cross-country again. And the Wenatchee and British Columbia/Alberta maps? They’re for travel dreaming purposes.

* Honestly just a pleased, not paid, satisfied member statement.

15 Ways to Sound like a Local Oregonian

While traveling, what do you not want to do? One of the worst things to do is to blatantly ignore local lingo and sound like an obnoxious outsider. No one enjoys a visitor whose accent prevents clear communication or one who doesn’t try to learn basic words in the local language or a visitor who expects everyone to speak his or her language. It is especially annoying when that visitor doesn’t even try to help you understand what he or she is trying to say. There is nothing wrong with being from elsewhere and, if you are respectful and understandable, speaking with your native accent is perfectly fine. I personally take pleasure in hearing foreign accents and seeing out-of-towners enjoying my hometown. It helps me stop and notice the unique and special parts that may have become common place.

But sometimes we travelers have reasons for not wanting to sound like foreigners. If you want to sound like a local or like you belong there, you pay attention to how locals say things. If you don’t want to call attention to the fact you are from elsewhere, you want to blend and experience the location and culture without alerting others to the fact that you are new to the area, you try to imitate the locals. If you are nervous about being taken advantage as a stranger, you keep your ears and eyes wide open, your mouth shut and when you do open it, you really try to sound like a confident local. If you want to be better understood, you try to assimilate some of the local accent. If you want to show respect to the people and customs of a culture, pronouncing things as the locals do can show that desire.

Through my own travels and by hosting visitors, I have noticed a few things that are different here at home. For whatever reason you might have, here are fifteen tips for sounding and coming across like a local here in Oregon, USA, particularly the Northwest corner.

  1. Call Interstate 5: “I-5”. The letter “I” and the number “5”. Don’t refer to it as “Route 5” as my mom’s cousins from the East Coast did.
  2. Highway 26 is referred to as “The Sunset Highway,” “The Sunset” or simply “26”.
  3. Pacific Highway is called either “99” or “99-W”.
  4. While Oregon has golden sandy beaches and we do “go to the beach”, we more often “go to the coast”. We never “go to the seaside,” because Seaside is a coastal town.
  5. When you see Mount Hood (or any of the other elusive snow capped Cascades), you note it by saying, “Look, the mountain is out!” There are days when it is not out, and you can’t see it, despite it being a relatively clear day.
  6. Oregon is pronounced “Or-uh-gun,” and if you can’t manage that, “Organ,” like the musical instrument, will do.
  7. People from Oregon are called Oregonians, pronounced, “Or-uh-go-knee-ens.”
  8. Willamette, as in the ‘Willamette River’ and the ‘Willamette Valley,’ is pronounced “Will-lamb-it,” not “Will-uh-met.”
  9. We refer to the state of Washington as simply “Washington”. We refer to the U.S. Capital as either “D.C.” or “Washington D.C.”
  10. The drinks of choice around here are coffee, micro-brew beer, tea, kombucha and water. If you want the fizzy, non-alcoholic soft drink ask for a “pop,” but if you happen to ask for “soda,” no one will notice if you keep the other lingo correct.
  11. Distance is gauged in time more often than actual miles. It is very common to say something along the lines of, “I live like 5 minutes from here” rather than estimate miles as in, “I live like 2 miles from here,” even though both may be true.
  12. There is no state sales tax. What the price sticker says is the item’s price is what you will pay for the item. You don’t have to be surprised and ask, “That’s all it is?” They get our tax money other ways.
  13. Most Oregonians go to the coast rain or shine. Granted, more people go in late spring through early fall, and it is busier with more things to do. Thankfully however, we have Mo’s restaurants – a local chain started in Newport, Oregon. Mo’s restaurants have the best clam chowder, and it tastes even better on a raw, rainy day after a good long walk in the sand. If you think rain is a reason for not going to the beach, people might wonder where you’re from. (California?)
  14. We have coffee shops and drive through coffee shops all over the place. One time when I was traveling with friends, we hit the road, and we consciously decided to pass about four coffee shops within 10-minutes of driving. Why? We wanted a particular coffee shop, and we wanted to drive up. This is not uncommon.
  15. Pumping your own gas is illegal here in Oregon. Trying to pump your own gas immediately tells everyone that you’re not from around here. (Again, California?) There are gas attendants who pump it for you. After you greet him or her, you say which (regular, plus or premium), how much (fill, so many dollars or so many gallons) and how you’re paying (sometimes with cash you have to walk in to the gas station to pay). It was so awkward for me the first time I had to put gas in a car; Clucker’s gas station in Wilmore, Kentucky will forever be memorable to me for it.

Orenco Woods Nature Park – Hillsboro, Oregon

Orenco Woods Nature Park, the newest park in Hillsboro, Oregon, is a place locals need to visit and visit often. Situated across the street from Orenco Elementary school on the west side NE 71st Ave, it meets its eastern boundary of NW Cornelius Pass Road with a .4-mile section of the Rock Creek Trail.onp1

Within its boundaries this park has ample car parking, restrooms, a playground, a covered picnic area, the historic McDonald House (built in 1912 for the owner, Mr. McDonald, of the Oregon Nursery Company), and both paved paths and soft surface loop trails. As the Nature Park is located on the same spot along Rock Creek where part of the old Oregon Nursery Company once existed, a weeping Deodar Cedar and apple trees remain as vestiges among large Douglas firs and oak. Along with people, you may meet deer, coyote, beavers, fish, squirrels and many birds.


As the flyer-map passed out at the Grand Opening on February 4th says, “As you explore the park you will see relics from its past, great things in the present and hints of an even more amazing future.” Speaking of the Grand Opening, it was fun! The energy was great and spirits were happy. There were doughnuts and apples to munch, speakers addressing a busy audience, Metro and Parks & Recreation booths, and lots and lots of children. If you have the chance to attend a park opening – take the opportunity! It could prove an enjoyable experience!


After receiving a map-flyer with the Orenco Time Machine scavenger hunt on the back, I set out to see what I could see. Preferring loop-walks to destination-walks, I enjoyed being able to see different parts of the park with an easy figure-8 looping walk along the paved and soft surface (mostly fine loose gravel) paths. It turned out to be about 1.2 miles, and I covered most of the 42-acre park in a short time. With paved paths, wheelchairs and strollers have options for exploration as well. Before you go, you may want to check out the Field Guide put out by Metro.


One uniquely interesting feature of this Nature Park is its interactive public art – a half apple sculpture painted bright green. “The Orenco Apple” and “Seeds of Orenco” I have heard it called. During the Grand Opening, kids and parents were standing and sitting in it and having their pictures taken.


On a side note, have you ever wondered about the name “Orenco” as I have? A weird sounding name, I always thought it derived from a local Native American language. Well, I was wrong! It apparently derives from the OREgon Nursery COmpany, which at one time included a town for employees!

Orenco Woods Nature Park
7100 NE Birch Street


Willamette Valley Snow Days

Happy New Year everyone!

Living in the Willamette Valley of Oregon means living in a very moderate climate. While we have four seasons, they are not as harshly distinct as in other parts of America. Each winter we usually see some snow (at least one dusting) and about every 6 years we get a mess of 6+ inches.

This winter has been a mess year. Between December and January we have had four separate and distinct snows. It has snowed, melted, and a few days later, snowed again. The last episode of snow was an unusually nice load of it too. The weather was dry for days after keeping the deep powder soft and fluffy for a full week. It was great! Sure, there were icy places in the road where cars had melted the snow, and it had frozen, but when you’re jobless (as I currently am), that doesn’t matter. I completely enjoyed the obligated chill time.

I’ve wanted to get up to Mount Hood or travel to Bend or another snow destination this winter, but I lucked out and the snow came to me. Snow changes absolutely everything -in the best ways possible. An area you once knew becomes suddenly new covered in snow. So I explored my own backyard in all its newness. With the powdery snow, I had no problems keeping traction as I adventured to the local park and around the neighborhood.

Walking in a winter land…

Toward the end of the week, when I heard we were about to get some freezing rain, I scrambled and found a few enthusiastic assistants. I had seen on some fun photos created with unique light, and I didn’t want to miss this unique opportunity with all the glorious snow. So after dark I took them out to a snowy open space, along with a handful of 4th of July leftover sparklers. Boy I wish I had had more! More sparklers and more time to experiment…

On a side note, with the reflection off the bright white snow, even after dark, I learned that my camera’s aperture did not need to be wide open and the shutter speed did not have to be too long to get a decent shot. I set the aperture about halfway open and the shutter speed to 10 seconds to get these shots. Oh and I learned that the person running around with the sparkler needs to move fast and keep the light away from her face! (The ghost you might make out is me…)