Life as Oregonians: Month 21 on the Road

For the first time ever this month, I heard myself say aloud, “I think we need to come up with a camper life exit strategy.”

Uh oh. Is this adventure slowly coming to an end? Not quite yet, but the lifestyle has been wearing us down a lot lately. It’s not all Oregon’s fault, of course, but the constant rain certainly isn’t helping.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Trip research and planning for places to stay and things to do was fun for a good long while, but doing it every week for nearly two years has become exhausting and so time-consuming. And since the campground booking industry is so archaic, every new place involves an excruciating reservation phone call to some dimwit that involves spelling my “weird name” a dozen times.

  • Also exhausting is the social aspect of full-time RVing. It’s a very public lifestyle with close neighbors and no viable way to get away from strangers, especially with a dog in tow. Unfortunately, we can’t go off-the-grid like all those free-spirited #vanlifers because of our all-consuming jobs. Yet being a hermit in the middle of nowhere is sounding better and better every day.

  • Our RV is falling apart. You’d think buying brand-new would prevent this, but the truth is that most RVs aren’t designed for full-time living. We’ve been having issues with everything from plumbing to heating, leaks, and a nasty case of mold growing inside the windowsills from the never-ending rain.

  • Now that it’s spring and summer is just around the corner, everywhere we want to go is crowded, expensive, and all booked up.
  • So many campgrounds in pretty much every state out here have discriminatory pit bull bans, which continues to be infuriating. I’m so tired of conversations with ignorant baffoons judging my little Monkey when she’s done nothing wrong.

  • The excitement of seeing and living in new places is starting to wear off and we’ve become stuck in routine. I know, cry me a river, but routine feels stifling no matter what lifestyle you’re living.

With all that said, we aren’t pulling the plug on the lifestyle just yet because frankly, we have nowhere else to go and no current inspiration to plop down somewhere in particular. But as those musings continue to develop and fester, we’ve continued to check out Oregon stuff and even flew my parents out to visit and see some of the state for themselves.


Here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on the road.

Salem, Oregon: Home on the Road #65 (continued from last month)

This was our second home on the road in Oregon, a rainy one, but also one with some fun things to do and an welcome social visit.

  • Highlights: Rock climbing gym with its own bar (too bad it was too early in the day for it to be open though), more lap swimming at a community pool, great campground Wi-Fi, a fun St. Paddy’s day with live music and lots of beer, visiting my friend Kelli and meeting her adorable little twins, seeing Sherlock Gnomes on opening day, shooting a gun at a gun range for the first time and not shooting my foot off
  • Lowlights: Crappy city traffic, rain pretty much every day, a 5K tulip farm race that turned into a mud pit with hardly any tulips in bloom


Welches/Mt. Hood, Oregon: Home on the Road #66

We stayed in the Mt. Hood area for just a week and for really just one purpose: a last round of snow sports. I left my snowboard behind and took up cross-country skiing and snowshoeing this time around, while the husband mastered the downhill slopes.

  • Highlights: Good ski conditions on the second day, giving cross-country skiing another try and loving the peacefulness and stress-free vibe of it, snowshoeing in the backcountry with Monkey while listening to podcasts, nice pool/hot tub/fitness center at our campground
  • Lowlights: Crappy ski conditions on the first day, lots of rain, cold, loud families everywhere for spring break, expensive to camp here

Portland, Oregon: Home on the Road #67

Five or six years ago, we came to Portland on vacation and loved it…so much that we actually shopped around for apartments and scoped out neighborhoods. This time around, Portland didn’t charm my socks off like that. Instead, I mostly felt bogged down by the rain, traffic, and not-so-awesome campground. But we were near the airport, which made it easy to drive around my parents and play tour guide for them on their first trip to the state.

  • Highlights: Bike/running trail nearby, checking out all of this with my parents on a fun 4-day weekend: Columbia Gorge, Multnomah Falls, fish hatcheries, hiking trails over the Washington border, Pfriem Brewery in Hood River, having my Portland-based cousin randomly visit our RV, International Test Rose Garden (with no roses though), Alberta Street, Vietnamese food, Oregon History Museum, Tillamook Cheese, Blue Heron Cheese, Seaside Aquarium, Hi Tide Oceanfront Inn in Seaside (a much-needed RV break with a fireplace and hot tub!), Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria boardwalk and column, and so on and so forth.
  • Lowlights: MORE RAIN EVERY DAY, crowded campground with nowhere for monkeys to pee


 

Looking Ahead to Next Month

Our time in Oregon hasn’t been all that pleasant, but we’re cutting out this weekend and heading up to Washington. Perhaps Washington is the land of endless warmth and sunshine? Ha!

We’re starting inland and hoping to dry out a bit. From there, it’s on to the Seattle area, all those weird little islands off the coast of Washington, and then up to Canada. We both got our renewed passports in the nick of time, so this journey is going international before we hit the 2-year mark.

Since this post was a bit of a downer, I’ll close with a happy photo of tulips and daffodils that I’ve managed to keep alive on the RV windowsill for the last couple weeks.

Oh, and maybe some alpacas…because who can’t resist smiling when there’s a fluffy and ridiculous alpaca next to you?

Over and out. Toot-a-loo.


Catch up with the journey:

Redwoods, Rain, and FINALLY in Oregon: 1 Year & 8 Months on the Road

Redwoods, rain, and retching….that’s how month #20 on the road started out. It was  a bit of a rough one, but then again, camper life is pretty much just like regular life but on wheels.

After dabbling in snow sports in the Tahoe area, we headed further north and to the coast to the town of Arcata, California. It’s a small town just north of Eureka, and it’s safe to say that it probably won’t be making it on our post-it note list of potential plop-down spots.

It was cold, it rained pretty much every day, both Monkey and I were sick, and my workload became downright insane. But of course, in true camper life fashion, we still managed to squeeze in more than our fair share of fun outings to the gigantic redwood trees and beyond. We also finally made it up to the promised land, Oregon, over a year later than we initially planned.

Here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on the road.

Arcata, California: Home on the Road #63

We stayed in Arcata for two weeks in a quiet, rainy campground. Interestingly, while staying here, I received a forwarded letter that I was summoned for jury duty…all the way on the other side of the country in DeKalb County, Georgia.

Well THAT’S something I’d never though of before! Long story short – being a full-time RVer actually IS legit grounds to be excused from jury duty. Thank god, because by the time the summons actually reached me via mail forwarding, the court date was literally two days away and I was starting to panic. The nice folks at the court had never gotten the excuse of full-time RVing before, but they were totally cool with letting me off the hook after I emailed over a letter and a few campground receipts as proof.

WHEW!

Jumping for joy about my one-year exception from Georgia jury duty.

  • Highlights: Hiking among the redwood trees, a few sweet breweries, driving through a tree, riding a gondola through the redwoods, views from the nearby beach, watching a roller derby match, finding some tasty Indian food, getting in some climbing at the local bouldering gym
  • Lowlights: Way too much damn rain, nasty muddy camper floors, many homeless people around and high theft risk, me being sick Monkey puking 4 times in one day (and subsequent gross laundry – not sure what was wrong, but I’m happy to report that she’s back to being healthy and her usual nutball self again), a nearby beach that was too cold and windy to hang out on

Paid $1 to walk through this “One Log House” that is almost exactly the same size as our RV!

Coos Bay, Oregon: Home on the Road #64

After two weeks in a cold, rainy place where there wasn’t even any snow to “do anything” with the winter weather, I was feeling a bit hesitant about proceeding further north to the magical promised land of the Pacific Northwest. But we had already booked a campsite in Coos Bay, and were determined to finally cross over into Oregon.

  • Highlights: Having a campsite with a deck overlooking the river, swimming a mile at the community pool, checking out a couple local free museums, my work finally feeling back under control, breaking out the bikes after a long while for a hilly ride around town, working outside once, some sunshine, reliable campground Wi-Fi for working
  • Lowlights: That day when 30+mph winds and sideways rain lasted all day, the never-ending saga of trying to get Amazon packages delivered to a campground, missing dry weather and frequent hikes


Salem, Oregon: Home on the Road # 65

We’ve only been here in Salem a couple days and have another week and a half to go, so I’ll pick back up with my Salem report next month. In the meantime, here’s the gist so far…

  • Highlights: Nice (Monkey trailer-friendly) paved bike paths behind Riverfront Park, spacious campsites and no next-door neighbors, drive-through coffee huts, reliable campground Wi-Fi for working, little campground fitness center for rainy days
  • Lowlights: Confusing bike paths blocked by homeless people and that require constant map checking to navigate, continued rain, failing at crocheting four times in a row


This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

  • Remember paper fortune tellers from like 4th grade? For some reason I did, which prompted me to make a couple and start playing psychic. I’ve been slacking on crafting since Christmas, so this is about it for homemade creations this month.

  • This isn’t to say that I haven’t attempted to create something. I failed three separate times at crocheting a pair of socks, went out and bought a loom to try that route, failed at the loom too, and finally accepted that the universe doesn’t want me to ever touch yarn again.

  • I signed up for a race! I’ll be doing a trail run at a tulip farm in about a week and a half with moderate preparation and Monkey in tow. I’ll be my first-ever race with a dog, so this should be interesting. I don’t typically like to pay somebody to go for run, but I’m in need of a few positive (and attainable) goals right now.
  • I recently got so overwhelmed with the fact that I could work 15 hours every day and still not get ahead that I pulled out my journal to make four lists and get my head straight: things that are making me miserable, things that are holding me back from making a change, ideas to make things better, and what I would do with magical free time. I haven’t done anything with these lists, but there they are.

  • I like coloring. It feels kind of creative without really putting much effort into it. My favorite coloring book is one with national park posters, and I only allow myself to color the pages of the parks that I’ve been too. I colored this page the day after we went to Redwoods National Park to hike in the cold rain.

  • Isn’t it ironic that not long after you stop dying your hair because of all the scary chemicals in hair dye that you start noticing grays?
  • Also, doing hair is hard when you’re trying to put on a dress and look less like a scumbag on a rare occasion out. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to follow British bimbos’ up-do tutorials on YouTube last Friday. Mad props to ladies with hair skills.


Looking Ahead to Next Month

We’ll kick off month #21 here in Salem by celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with some  good ole’ fashioned debauchery and perhaps a cherry blossom festival at the capitol if the rain holds out. I’m also planning to meet up with a long-lost friend nearby who I used to work with in Chicago and then head up to the Mt. Hood area for the last round of snow sports for the season.

Got any questions about what nomadic life is like, for real? Fire away. Thanks for reading!


Catch up with the journey:

An Introduction to Beer Tourism in Portland

The city of Portland, Oregon has more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in America. That makes this West Coast city a required destination for beer lovers from across the country and beyond. According to local beer magazine, Oregon Craft Beer, there are at least 56 breweries in the city of Portland, 76 in the Portland metro area, 30 in Central Oregon, 21 in the nearby city of Bend, and 12 in nearby Eugene.

To help you find a starting point in your craft beer tour, these are a few of the best craft breweries to visit in Portland. I’ve made it to a several of these already, and plan to hit up the rest when I return in the near future!

Lucky Labrador Brewing

Dogs are prevalent and welcome all over the city of Portland, and the Lucky Labrador celebrates the city’s love for canine pals. Lucky Labrador Brewing has been around since 1994 and the one in Hawthorne is the original of its four expanded locations. This is a great place to sit outside with a sampler flight on a nice day and to grab a bite to eat. The pulled pork sandwich is a local favorite!

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Bridgeport Brew Pub

The Bridgeport Brew Pub is the oldest craft brewery in Oregon, but that doesn’t mean it’s outdated or losing popularity at all. You can find this brewery in an old industrial building that’s covered in ivy in the Pearl District. This is a popular place to grab a drink and dinner after the city’s First Thursday Art Walk. Try one of the wood-fired pizzas or pick one of the vegan options on the menu to accompany your brew of choice.

Hopworks Urban Brewery

Just as Portland enjoys its dogs, the city also has a strong biking culture. Not only does Hopworks Urban Brewery encourage patrons to bike instead of drive to its pub, but it even has a stationary bike on site! Hop on and help power the brewery’s electricity and you’ll earn yourself a free pint! Hopworks is located in the Williams neighborhood in Southeast Portland, and it’s also a great place to eat if you’re a vegetarian.

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Storm Breaker Brewing

Storm Breaker Brewing is located in the historic and trendy Mississippi Avenue District of Portland, and it has a very chill atmosphere, both inside and in outside seating area. Feel free to bring your dog with you on the patio! Storm Breaker is a nickname for Mount Hood, which towers in the distance of Portland and is known to break storms coming off of the Pacific Ocean. And if you’re not into beer, you can also order a specialty house cocktail, a uniquely-designed burger, or the daily grilled cheese special.

Deschutes Brewery and Public House

Although the actual brewing facility for Deschutes is located Bend, Oregon, this brewery is so popular that it has multiple locations. The Portland pub is located in the posh Pearl District and has 19 Deschutes beers on tap. This pub gets very busy on evenings and weekends, but unfortunately, reservations are not accepted. Even non-beer-drinkers flock here because of the food, which is focused on all-natural, seasonal, sustainable, locally-sourced, and homemade ingredients.

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Rogue Distillery and Public House

Another famous must-drink location for brew lovers visiting Oregon is Rogue. The actual Rogue Brewery is located in Ashland, Oregon but if you don’t have time to make it out that way, stop by the Rogue Public House in Portland. Rogue is a huge institution in the Pacific Northwest, and the brewery has locations in Newport, Astoria, Eugene, San Francisco, and Issaquah, Washington. Portland’s Rogue Distillery and Public House is open 365 days a year, has 38 beers on tap, and allows dogs on the patio.

Occidental Brewing Co.

The Occidental Brewing Company is located in North Portland and is well-known for its German-style beers. Soak up the historic vibe of the St. John’s neighborhood and the nearby bridges of the city. The atmosphere is friendly, and although the brewery doesn’t serve food, you’re welcome to bring in something from home or a nearby restaurant. If you’re not yet familiar with Occidental brews, consider trying a 4-ounce sampler of the beers they have on tap to decide which one’s your favorite.

Cascade Brewing Barrel House

You can visit the Cascade Brewing Barrel House in the Southeast section of Portland and enjoy the large, friendly patio. If you’ve never tried a sour beer before, this is the place to do so because the brewers have become somewhat famous for their sour creations. As the name suggests, Cascade also specializes in barrel aged beers, which tend to be stronger and a little more expensive. You can find some very unique brews at Cascade and order some food while you’re at it too.

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Upright Brewing

Located in North Portland, Upright Brewing has a no-frills tasting room in the basement of a business building. Although it’s small, it’s incredibly friendly and a must for beer geeks. The brewmasters here are knowledgeable about their craft and love what they do. You can usually find about a dozen beers on tap, and the prices are very reasonable. But remember to bring cash, because Upright doesn’t accept credit cards!

Oregon Public House

Although the Oregon Public House doesn’t actually brew its own beer, it makes our list because it’s the first nonprofit pub in the world – with 100% of the profits going to charity. This pub partners with a variety of charities that work to improve social justice, community and environmental needs. The charities are responsible for bringing in volunteers to work at the pub when the organization is being featured, meet fundraising goals, and handle promotions. Recently supported charities include Braking Cycles, a local youth outreach program, and the Red Sweater Project, a nonprofit that assists children in Tanzania.

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It’s easy to get overwhelmed in Portland’s craft beer scene, but fortunately, there are lots of local experts who are willing to be your guide. And with so many breweries to tour and taste in town, some obvious safety concerns come to mind.

Hop on a guided BrewCycle to pedal off some of those empty calories while getting from Point A to Z a little safer. Current BrewCycle stops are the Lucky Labrador, Lompoc Brewing, Bridgeport, Pints, and Old Town Brewing Company. And while you’re in town, try to catch one of the city’s huge beer festivals, like the Oregon Brewers Festival, North American Organic Brewers Festival and the Portland International Beerfest.

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*A version of this article was published in an online travel magazine I write for, Trips to Discover

Sweet Beach Towns along the Oregon Coast

When many people travel to Oregon, they fly into Portland and only venture out a short distance to Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. However, Oregon’s western coastline is one of the best kept road trip secrets in America.

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Drive along the idyllic Highway 101 to experience nearly 400 miles of jagged cliffs, pine forests, historic lighthouses, and sandy beaches.  This stretch of seaside towns barely resembles the bikini-clad beaches of sunny California, but that’s part of the beauty of this mystical and romantic terrain.

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I recently got to experience the Oregon Coast for myself and visit several of these towns. I’m saving the rest for a longer future road trip when I have a little more time to spend in the area!

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So if you’re traveling north from California on a road trip of your own, don’t miss these charmingly beautiful beach towns along the Oregon coast. From bottom to top, these are a few of my favorites. Just don’t forget to bring a sweater because the average summer high temperature along the Oregon coast rarely reaches 60-degrees!

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Brookings/Harbor

Brookings and Harbor are two neighboring towns that have a combined population of about 10,000 people. The Chetco River is very scenic and this area known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World, since most of the world’s potted lily bulbs are produced in this region. You can set up camp at either Harris Beach State Park or Alfred A. Loeb State Park in this area at any time of the year.

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North Bend/Coos Bay

The cities of North Bend and Coos Bay constitute the largest population center on the Oregon coast, so there are plenty of dining, shopping, and lodging options available here for road trippers. North Bend even has an airport with regular commercial jet service. Before you reach Florence, stop at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which spans over 40 miles and has easy access for day use areas and hiking.

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The Sunset Bay State Park and the Cape Arago Lighthouse are worth a stop as well. This lighthouse sands 100 feet above the ocean, and although it’s not open to the public, you can view it from an overlook just south of the Sunset Bay campground.

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Florence

The town of Florence is tucked away behind some sand dunes along the river, and dune buggy tours are a popular activity in this area. There’s a casino nearby if you’re looking to test your luck, and there are some restaurants and shops in town to explore as well.  This is a great place to sample locally-made saltwater taffy and search for rare antiques. To get more in touch with nature, the Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park offers year-around camping opportunities.

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Seal Rock

Although Seal Rock is a very small and incorporated community, it’s worth a stop because of the picturesque Seal Rock State Park. Here you’ll find huge rocks extending out into the ocean and excellent wildlife observation areas to scope out seals, birds, and sea lions.

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Newport

Newport is the most well-known and popular Oregon coast town to visit, so it becomes fairly congested during the summer months. There are two lighthouses in this area, the Yaquina Bay and the Yaquina Head lighthouses, and both are open for public tours.

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Take some time to hike along the shore and out onto a jetty to watch locals fish for clams and crabs and to feel the cool ocean breeze on your skin. The recreation areas in this area are the Beverly Beach State Park and the Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site.

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Lincoln City

Lincoln City is another popular beach town, with a population of about 7,000 people and extending for about eight miles. Snap a photo by the world’s shortest river, the D River, and stop by the casino here if you need a short driving break.

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Stop by one of the local kite shops to pick up a uniquely designed kite to fly at the beach and take advantage of the steady winds. Devil’s Lake State Park is the nearest recreation site to explore at your leisure.

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Pacific City

If you’re craving a little refreshment at this point in the drive, make a stop in Pacific City to visit the Pelican Brewing Company, which enjoys an ideal location right along the beach.

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Pacific City’s beach resembles a postcard and is a common place to find surfers, stand-up paddle-boarders, horseback riders, and fishermen all doing what they do best.

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Tillamook

For something a little different along your drive of the Oregon coast, take a slight detour to Tillamook to see the region’s lush green pastures and samples some products from the local agricultural industry.

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One of the best places to stop is the Tillamook Cheese Factory, which offers free samples of cheese, sells ice cream, features a self-guided tour, and has a large gift shop.

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To sample even more local products, head down the road to Blue Heron French Cheese Company, which also has a petting zoo with fun creatures behind fences.

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Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is an upscale community that’s most famous for “Haystack Rock,” the most photographed landmark along the coast. You can hop on the town’s free shuttle bus to check out the town, which has very few permanent residents but sees big crowds on summer weekends. Make sure to stop at nearby Ecola State Park, which is located just a couple miles north of town.

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Seaside

One of the most family-friendly beach towns along the coast is Seaside, which has an arcade, bumper cars, and a carousel for kids to enjoy. Take a walk down Seaside’s Broadway to check out shops, restaurants, and mini-golf courses along the way.

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When you’re in this area, look for Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, just 1.2 miles seaward of Tillamook Head south of Seaside. Although there is no public access to this lighthouse, you can catch good views from the Oregon Coast Trail near Seaside.

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Astoria

Located along the Columbia River at the Washington state border, Astoria is a busy port town with a history of logging, fishing, and shipping.

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You can visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum to learn more about the region’s history and Lewis and Clark’s Fort Clatsop, a re-creation of the explorers’ fort just south of town. If you’re looking for a bite to eat at the end of your journey, consider stopping at the Astoria Brewing Company, the Wet Dog Café, or Bowpicker Fish & Chips. If you’re looking to camp in the area, Fort Stevens State Park takes reservations through the year.

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*A version of this article is published on one of the online travel magazines I write for, Trips to Discover.

Gnome-Painting…at a Craft Studio near You!

While traveling along America’s West Coast and East Coast this summer, I was reminded that gnomes (and the people that create them) are absolutely everywhere.  I always enjoy scouting out gnomish trends across the globe, and I recently discovered a new breeding ground for our little friends…local pottery craft studios!

mimosa0

I was exploring the trendy stop and restaurant scene on Alberta Street in Portland, Oregon one evening when a gnome in the window caught my eye. The window belonged to Mimosa Studios, a paint-your-own-pots ceramic studio and handmade gift gallery that was promoting a traveling gnome contest.

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To kick off the summer, Mimosa Studios encouraged gnome, art, and travel enthusiasts of to paint a gnome (eight sizes available!), receive a gnome adoption certificate, and snap traveling gnome photos to enter and win prizes.

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I spent an afternoon painting this little beauty with a suitcase and a fistful of dollars, who I promptly named Pennifer Pennypincher. To start building up her travel portfolio, I invited her to join me on a hiking expedition in California’s Lava Beds National Monument for a little photo shoot and caving adventure.lava beds

Just a few weeks later while strolling the streets of Brooklyn, New York, I glanced over to see a beautifully painted mural. Now there is plenty of street art to observe in Brooklyn, but this particular one was special because there were gnomes in it! The mural belonged to a ceramic craft studio called Baked in Brooklyn in the Williamsburg neighborhood.

Brooklyn gnome mural

Along with a lovely array of mugs, plates, and bowls, this studio has gnomes available to paint inside. Unfortunately, the studio was not yet open for business when I stumbled upon it, but I made sure to have my friend snap a quick picture of me excitedly pointing at the mural gnomes.

So when you have some time this fall, browse your neighborhood to see if any local craft or pottery studios are hosting gnome painting events in your area. They seem to be popping up all over the place these days and they’re loads of fun for all ages of gnome fans!

*A version of this story is scheduled to be published in the upcoming International Gnome Club Newsletter!

What’s So Weird About Portland? (An Unofficial Investigative Report)

While it may seem like I’ve been on a bit of a blog hiatus lately, I’ve actually been gobbling up a ton of new travel and outdoor material to fill up my little page in cyberspace. I recently traveled to Portland for the first time and was stoked to check it out this place that friends always said would be perfect for me.

We’ve all seen the “Keep Portland Weird” bumper stickers, and I was bound and determined to seek out the weirdest of the weird. But as I drove around the neighborhoods in all four quadrants, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Chicago I was desperately trying to get away from.

Keep Portland Weird

Photo credit: Gwyn Fisher

According to the Keep Portland Weird website, this is what “keeping it weird” is all about:

Keep Portland Weird is about supporting local business in the Portland Oregon area. We want to support local business because they make Portland stand out from other cities and make it a more unique place to live. They do this by providing consumers a wide range of products that represent the different cultures that make up Portland.

Perhaps I had unrealistic expectations or watched a few too many episodes of Portlandia, but for whatever reason, I assumed that “weird” would slap me in the face the moment I arrived in town. Although I had to scratch a bit beneath the surface, I’m pleased to report that I did find the “weird.” And although that “weird” wasn’t all that foreign to me, I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Without further ado, these are a few of my favorite encounters in Portland.

Breweries

With 56 breweries inside the Portland city limits and 76 in the metro area, Portland has more breweries than any city in the world. This particular flight was enjoyed at Lucky Labrador Brew Hall.

breweryDogs

Speaking of Labradors, Portland is crazy dog friendly. I rarely came across an outdoor patio at a brewery or restaurant that wasn’t inhabited by a few pooches. I definitely see a dog like Abner (who I fostered earlier this year) in my future so dog-friendly places catch my eye these days.

Abner

BrewCycles

With 56 breweries to tour and taste in town, some obvious safety concerns come to mind. Pedal off some of those empty calories while getting from Point A to Z a little safer. Current BrewCycle stops are the Lucky Labrador, Lompoc Brewing, Bridgeport, Pints, and Old Town Brewing Company.

brewery busWant to earn beer money for biking? Head over to Hopworks Urban Brewery to ride a stationary bike outside the front door to earn $1 for every 15 minutes you bike. Apparently you can burn off one 250-calorie beer with 30 minutes of easy biking. Who knew?!

bike for beerFood Trucks

After living in Chicago for nearly six years, food trucks aren’t much of an anomaly, but I was determined to scope out the Portland food truck scene for myself. Unlike the Chicago trucks that drive around downtown to feed disgruntled 9-5 workers, the Portland food trucks congregate in clusters in the trendy neighborhoods. I snapped this shot while devouring some dumplings along Alberta Street.

food trucksRose Garden

My favorite flower of the moment is the hydrangea, but roses are okay too. Unlike the nearby Japanese Garden, the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden is totally free to explore on a whim. And despite getting stung by a bee on the way into the garden (no allergies!), this was a totally relaxing stroll full of color and hushed voices.

rose gardenOutdoorsy Stuff

Speaking (i.e. writing) about beautiful places Portland’s location near amazing outdoor stuff is what really gives it a leg up on ole’ Chicago.

Multnomah FallsKeep an eye out for future posts about hiking the Columbia River Gorge (Multnomah Falls pictured below) and around Mt. Hood (Salmon River Trail pictured below).

Salmon River Trail

 Music & Art

It wasn’t difficult to find fun things to do after the virtual workday came to a close. One night, I checked out a free local bluegrass concert at a restaurant, East Burn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother night, I watched an outdoor showing of a 1960s Pink Panther film at a French pastry shop. And on another night, I joined a pub trivia game…and didn’t come in last place! PDX Pipeline was the best resource I found for random things going on around town.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne afternoon I joined a pottery painting session at Mimosa Studios, which was (believe it or not) running a traveling gnome promotion. Here’s how my little lady turned out:

Portland gnomeStreet-side Oddities

There were other weird things I encountered while roaming the streets all week, like the Lodekka Double Decker Dress Shop. Unfortunately, it was closed by the time I strolled by. Because honestly, what better response is there to “I love your dress!” than “Thanks, I got it in a bus!”

weird busAnd I passed by the occasional “oompah band” waiting for chiropractic care…

oompahBut as with any city, I suppose, Portland had its fair share of unpleasantries as well. Take for example, the impenetrable line at Voodoo Doughnuts…

Voodoo DoughnutsOr the surprising lack of designated bike lanes…

bike laneOr the scary wildfires on the outskirts…

wildfireTraffic was irritating, public transit had mind-numbing delays, and locals seem to be totally fine with waiting in line FOREVER for their food. Watch Portlandia’s “Brunch Village” to get a sense of what I’m talking about.

But despite those annoyances, Portland gets a gold star in my book. My friends may be right about it suiting me well because I sorta kinda miss it already…and I still have lots more in Portland to explore.