You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Willamette River’ tag.

Maria and I sample Thanksgiving food at Zupan’s grocery – finding some space away from all the other people in one of the aisles.

This month I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with friends and that helps brighten up cloudy days and warm up cold ones.

I spent November 7th with Norman and Rodel, as I already mentioned in my last post.

On Veteran’s Day weekend I met my friend Maria and her friend Le, at a wine/beer tasting with food at a Zupan’s grocery in Lake Grove, Oregon. I arrived a little before the others, so I explored this upscale grocery store and found a wine cellar!

The wine cellar at Zupan’s

Maria told me that the wine cellar at a different Zupan’s is larger, and hosts events. That is probably the fanciest grocery store I’ve ever heard of.

We spent the next hour wandering the store (squished among droves of other tasters) and tasting local wines, beers, and heaps of food from their deli counter and aisles. It was all delicious and we were all three stuffed when we left.

After leaving there, I stopped alongside the highway for an overlook point I had never previously investigated. Trees and bushes make the view difficult and I stood on top of a rock wall to see better Willamette Falls, a curved basalt falls in the Willamette River, that is 42 feet high and 1500 feet wide.

Willamette Falls in the Willamette River

A view of Mt. Hood beyond the falls.

An information sign there explains that (while you can’t see them), it is also the site of the oldest continuously operating multi-lift lock and canal system in the United States. Nearby is a museum, and access to the locks, which I definitely want to find another day.

My next stop was to visit a friend who is encouraging me to make a quilt. I got some fabric cut up, and developed some ideas, but it has not progressed yet. If I actually create a quilt, you’ll see it here.

The next day I watched my best friend Genevieve get married to my friend Lloyd. I have loved them so much for years, and their backyard wedding was very sweet. I was able to meet more of G’s family. Best of all I got to see the typically reserved and practical Genevieve look into Lloyd’s eyes with heaps of mooshy love. I’ve never seen that expression on her face and it was precious. I didn’t post any photos because they had a photographer there, and I’m going to defer to Genevieve’s judgement on what the most beautiful photos are to post.

Yesterday I spent the day with Ira & Deborah, visiting Oregon from Hawaii. They have been cold every day, but good sports about it. When they arrived at my house I checked their feet and saw good walking shoes, and suggested a tour of my property that they’ve only ever seen on facebook or instagram. My home itself is in total disarray, due to the kitchen construction. All the furniture in the kitchen, dining room, pantry, closet, and living room has been removed and crammed somewhere else in the house. Not ideal for entertaining. A walk outside seemed best.

Ira takes wonderful photos (find his Instagram account @potatohead_808). He took this one of my pond in the rain.

Ira, me, Deborah standing beside Beaver Creek in my back yard. Selfie clearly by Ira again.

We explored the Rainier marina, and “downtown” Rainier, only a few blocks long. Then I suggested a short hike to Beaver Creek Falls, which you have probably seen on this blog before. I love the falls because it’s close to my house, and great spot to take guests. Also, it’s the same exact creek that I look at every day, just a few miles closer to its mouth.

Someone’s rock sculpture at Beaver Creek Falls.

Ira soon began climbing the walls of the canyon, looking for an ideal perspective for photographs. Deborah and I chatted, and then it began to rain while we stood watching Ira. Not terribly hard, but persistently. I had no hat and no gloves and got soaked. Deborah was smart enough to bring better gear.

He would spot a place that seemed better, and would carefully climb over there. Then he would spot a new place, and make his way slowly. Before we knew it, he had made a whole circle of the canyon, including walking behind the waterfall!

Ira’s shot of Deborah and me from his location behind the waterfall. @potatohead_808

Ira hiking behind Beaver Creek Falls.

I assumed that in order to keep his feet dry, Ira would return the way he came. Nope, he hopped rocks and crossed Beaver Creek. Afterward he said, “I’ve been over and under Beaver Creek today!”

By this time we were starving. I obviously could not feed us, unless we would be satisfied with an avocado and a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. So we began driving to one restaurant after another, and all of them were closed because it’s Thanksgiving!! Purely by accident we stumbled onto a full parking lot in front of Stuffy’s II. They had a limited menu, serving only one meal: a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, choice of chicken, ham, or prime rib. We were delighted! A real Thanksgiving meal after all, when we had been ready to accept sushi or a taco, or anything that was open.

Next we hopped in our cars and made the trip to Astoria to try and climb the column before the sun went down at 4:30 pm. We made it!

Deborah at the top of the Astoria Column.

Ira creating another one of his brilliant photos.

Then we checked in at their Air BnB, which is on a pier in the Columbia River! I have been on that pier several times, because I like to visit the Rogue brew pub there. I had no idea there were rooms as well. Imagine being able to leave the pub and walk 50 steps to your room! (I am making birthday reservation plans as I type….)

We went into the Rogue Ales Public House and nibbled a little at amazing soups and some toasted cauliflower, and of course, sampled some ales. We talked and talked and finally hugged goodbye.

Apartments and a restaurant at water's edge.

Apartments and a restaurant at water’s edge.

I purchased a 2-hour Friday Escape cruise on the Portland Spirit for Tara and me, and then she wasn’t able to make it. Tara had to go to an overnight training camp for Outdoor School counselors. She’ll be gone this coming week, serving as a camp counselor for Portland Public School 6th graders. Outdoor School is one of my favourite Portland traditions: 6th graders across the entire school system spend a week of school at camp. They eat there, sleep there, everything! The curriculum is all science-related, so kids learn about watersheds, and ecosystems, and soils. The high school counselors are used not only as temporary teachers, taking small groups onto the trails and the river beaches and teaching hands-on science, but also to help with things like making sure kids eat, and sleep, stay focused on learning, and don’t get too sad. For some kids, this is their first time away from family, first time sleeping in a place other than a house, and first time living in the woods. It can be very upsetting. Tara loves all of it: the teaching (her specialty is soils), the comforting, the excitement, enthusiasm, the songs around campfires at night.

Anyway….

I had 5 days to find a new date. I called about 10 girlfriends, and half of them couldn’t get care for their kids and the other half had stuff planned already. Two friends would be at weddings that same day, go figure. By the end of the week I was getting a little desperate. Thursday I was writing a Craigslist ad in my mind: “Come hang out with me on the river! No druggies, no lonely college boys, no creepy people.” Luckily, I received a phone call Thursday night.

“Hey, Crystal, I’m in town for a couple days. I’m hoping we can find time to get together,” said my Uncle Mike. Yay! I’m saved from the creepy people! Mike is my mom’s twin brother and I don’t see him enough.

It was a beautiful day and we talked non-stop out on the deck. The Portland Spirit has indoor seating, served a meal, had a live band, and the whole gamut. Mike and I hit the prow and found no reason to move for the next two hours, but the music from the band was piped out to us at least.

Perhaps because of the light, or the non-stop conversation, I am not happy with most of the photos I took. No biggie. The point was to hang out with Uncle Mike. After we docked, Mike and walked around downtown and stumbled onto a new Irish Pub. The weather was still amazing, so we found a table on the sidewalk and kept talking while they brought us food and drinks. The gathering darkness forced us to wrap it up.

This is actually the only photo I really like from the whole cruise. A new bridge is under construction, and this scene was part of the construction equipment.

This may be the only photo I like from the whole cruise, maybe the one at the top too. A new bridge is under construction, and this scene was part of the construction equipment.

I find sailboats romantic

I find sailboats romantic

An uncommon perspective of Portland downtown.

An uncommon perspective of Portland downtown.

In no time, we were south of the city in some rural-looking areas. This is Waverly Golf Course and the club house.

In no time, we were south of the city in some rural-looking areas. This is Waverly Golf Course and the club house.

Two of Portland's 12 bridges spanning the Willamette River and the Columbia River.

Two of Portland’s 12 bridges spanning the Willamette River and the Columbia River. Actually, on the left edge of the photo, you can see a third bridge.

Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, and the famous submarine out front - part of the museum. Scenes from A Hunt For Red October were filmed in that tiny capsule.

Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, and the famous submarine out front – part of the museum. Scenes from A Hunt For Red October were filmed in that tiny capsule.

The finish line is the row of red floats beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

The finish line is the row of red floats almost beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

Tara and I took her friend to the Dragon Boat Festival today. They wanted to go and cheer on another friend who would be on one of the Dragon Boat teams racing, the youth team of the Bridge City Paddling Club. Dragon boating is a team paddling sport that originated in China over 2000 years ago and transformed into an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976.

The Dragon Boat Festival is held in September, and presented by Dragon Sports USA. The boat races are the main event, in which typically 4 dragon boats race side by side for 500 meters in a straight line. Teams include 18 or 20 paddlers, 1 caller and 1 tiller. The teams make it a very fun event, by getting totally fired up in team spirit with temporary tattoos and haircolor to match their team colors, team mottos, and team banners. There was a man walking around selling dragon-boat themed socks.

Paddlers of the Pink Phoenix team - all breast cancer survivors!

Paddlers of the Pink Phoenix team – all breast cancer survivors!

The spectators gather at the finish line, since the boats are small and sit close to the water, making them hard to see at a distance. We can see the black specks on the water when they first line up, but can’t hear the starting horn. Soon enough, the specks grow larger as the boats get closer, paddlers going so fast that water flies everywhere. The caller is allowed to use their own voice or a drum to keep the paddling time, and the tiller keeps them on course.

These boats were different than the others I’ve seen, and have dragon heads about the size of a human head. Still, I love the dragon theme of the boats, with carved heads and tails, and scales painted along the sides.

Boats drawing closer, passing in front of our famous Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Boats drawing closer, passing in front of our famous Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Teams blast across the finish line.

Teams blast across the finish line.

When the boats turned, the light was finally right, and I could get a shot of the dragon boat details.

When the boats turned, the light was finally right, and I could get a shot of the dragon boat details. Unfortunately, rather far away for my zoom capability, but you can still sort of see it. (click any image for a larger version)

After the race in which the Bridge City team with their friend took second place (Yay!), the kids played around a little, we hung out at the fabulous Saturday Market, and then they went off to a birthday party. Ah the life of a teenager.

Friends in the water

Friends in the water

This handsome fellow strutted so intentionally in front of the camera, that I knew he was asking to have his photo published.

This handsome fellow strutted so intentionally in front of the camera, that I knew he was asking to have his photo published.

Seeing the different style of boats used in these races reminded me that I began a post last year and never finished it. Those were the Dragon Boat races held during the Portland Rose Festival. I decided to include some of that information to show you the other boats. That time we had gone in support of a friend on a Wilson High School team.

Portland has been racing dragon boats in the Rose Festival for 25 years. We partner with our sister city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan in this endeavor, and the race is hosted by the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association (PKSCA). PKSCA owns eight Taiwan-style dragon boats; each boat accommodates 16 paddlers, 1 tiller, 1 caller, and 1 flag catcher required for each race heat.

These are photos from 2013:

DSC_1262

DSC_1264

Tara last year, with her friend from the Wilson team

DSC_1278 DSC_1261

Mossy snaking vines through the sky

Mossy snaking vines through the sky at Champoeg State Park

Not too far out of Portland, just southeast of Wilsonville, is Champoeg State Park. The morning was wet, and more wet was forecast for the entire weekend. The temperature was 37 degrees. We thought a flat park close to home might be the ticket on the cold, wet, grey day. Neither of us had been to Champoeg, so of course the burning question on our minds when we got to the visitor center was: “How do you pronounce it?!” (You were wondering, weren’t you?) It’s pronounced like the stuff you wash your hair with: Shampooey. It’s from the Kalapuya language of one of the Native tribes that lived in the Willamette Valley before Lewis & Clark showed up.

Runners doing laps through the trees for the Champoeg 30k/10k

Runners doing laps through the trees for the Champoeg 30k/10k

And guess what? Crazy important history happened here, and I had no idea. This was the area jointly held by two nations, called the Oregon Territory by the United States, and the Columbia Territory by Britain. Non-natives first showed up in great numbers for the fur trapping trade. When the beavers had nearly gone extinct, French trappers who had been working with Hudson’s Bay Company turned to farming, and the area became known as French Prairie. The town of Champoeg had a couple of steamboat landings that first hauled pelts and now took on wheat to be shipped to Russia or to nearby Fort Vancouver.

Daffodils are up in central Oregon! They didn't care if it was 37 degrees and raining.

Daffodils are up in central Oregon! They didn’t care if it was 37 degrees and raining.

With the population and economic growth, it became apparent that Oregon would need some sort of government, and so the very first democratic vote on the entire U.S. west coast was held. Though disguised as a vote on other topics, it was in truth a vote for who should own that piece of land once and for all. Wealthy British Hudson’s Bay Company was hoping to capitalize on the burgeoning local economy. The United States was embracing the concept of Manifest Destiny, and believed it was American’s destiny to expand from coast to coast. The two main groups of people here were United States citizens who for the most part wanted wanted Oregon to belong to the United States, and the French-Canadians wanted whichever would give them the best deal in the end.

In 1843 that first vote happened, and it was close: 52 to 50 in favor of establishing a provisional government and thus paving the way for Oregon to become a part of the United States (even though some people still wanted to annex Oregon at the time). Thank you French-Canadian trapper-plowers!

The only one of us that day who was happy about how wet the weather was.

The only one of us that day who was happy about how wet the weather was.

As the population swelled, the Indians were pushed into smaller and smaller areas till they began to resist. In 1855 the remaining Kalapuya were forcibly moved to the Grande Ronde reservation.

Just as the city of Champoeg was getting a good start, a terrible flood came through in 1861 and wiped out absolutely everything. Today a single structure remains from the original town, Robert Newell’s house. He is one of the 52 who voted to form a provisional government. The house is now a museum, but it is closed till June.

I love the mossy trees. If you look carefully, you can see a post marking a street location, there in the middle of the image.

I love the mossy trees. If you look carefully, you can see a post marking a street location, there in the middle of the image.

DeGrasse ST

DeGrasse St.

Arno and I walked the paths of the park and through the old town site. The streets had been planned out, though the town didn’t exist long enough for the blocks to actually be filled with businesses and homes. Today wooden posts mark the old named streets and strips of grass are mowed to show where they would have been.

Monument erected in 1901. Click to enlarge.

Monument erected in 1901. Click to enlarge.

At the location where the vote was held, a granite marker is placed. The monument was installed in 1901 and attended by Francis Xavier Matthieu, one of the 52. It was a very busy spot when we were there, since the Champoeg 30K run was in progress in the wicked cold rain. The monument site was also the race finish, and it was filled with the usual tents with music playing and freebies like keyrings and energy bars, and inside the Pioneer Memorial Pavillion, water bottles and pies were being handed out to runners.

High water mark is mounted on the pavilion.

1961 high water mark is marked on the pavilion.

The pies made our mouths water, so we headed into Newberg to look for food. We finally found a good restaurant on the highway south, toward our second park. After we ate a stone-baked pizza and some soup to ward off the unpleasant weather, we went south again.

Along the way, we went through the cute little town of Dayton, Oregon, and Arno spotted a blockhouse in the city park. The design of this one is so clever. By rotating the upper story 45 degrees, it provides better cover for the rifles inside. “No blind spots at the corners,” Arno pointed out.

The blockhouse was in a different site originally. It was near the Grand Ronde reservation. See, when increasing numbers of Indians were hauled in, the local whites feared they would revolt. So, this blockhouse was built and put on a hill to defend the whites from the Indians (who, I might add, would have nothing to revolt against if they hadn’t been put there in the first place). In 1911 the blockhouse was brought to Dayton to be placed into the city square, carried by <slaps self on forehead> Indians with wagon teams.

Blockhouse in Dayton, Oregon

Blockhouse in Dayton, Oregon. You can see the rifle holes.

We came around a corner and suddenly we were in line to get onto the Wheatland Ferry.

We came around a corner and suddenly were in line to get onto the Wheatland Ferry.

Arno in the middle of the swollen Willamette River

Arno in the middle of the swollen Willamette River

Suddenly, we were in line to get onto a ferry. A ferry! I didn’t even know there was a ferry across the Willamette till this trip. Walking through Champoeg Park it had seemed that the river was high, but here we could tell without a doubt that the river had overflowed its banks. We pulled in behind a small trailer of cattle. Our ferry ride went smoothly, as we were drawn along by cables. I was as excited as a little kid. That’s what discovering something totally unexpected will do to me.

Next we arrived at Willamette Mission State Park. Missions are another thing I hadn’t previously associated with Oregon. The mission here was established in 1834 by Reverend Jason Lee. Interestingly, he had been sent by the Methodist Church in response to a request from Nez Perce and Flathead Indians who wanted some of the power of the “white man’s book of heaven” for their own people. Lee established his mission amongst the Kalapuya (nowhere near Nez Perce or Flatheads) and was almost completely ineffectual with the Indians. When more and more white settlers arrived, Lee gave up on the Indians and began ministering to the white folks.

The 1861 flood wrecked the mission too, but not Lee’s legacy. He was instrumental in the establishment of the state of Oregon, by building the area’s first school and founding the city of Salem, now our state capital.

Just beyond the first parking area, the road was gated, with a sign that the road was closed due to high water. We were content to park there and walk into the park. The park maps here show all the old meandering arcs that used to be riverbed before the river changed its course. You can see different routes happened at different times. History made so very clear. If only the founders of Champoeg had access to an aerial map.

Rose hips in the rain

Rose hips in the rain

Rabbit has it's eyes on us

Rabbit has it’s eyes on us

We walked along the Willamette Vision Educational Trail. It was pretty muddy and not too remarkable, but we were happy to walk along and read the tree identification plaques. We startled a rabbit at one point, but stood very still until he came back out beside the path to munch leaves again.

The Nation's Largest Black Cottonwood Tree

The Nation’s Largest Black Cottonwood Tree

This park hosts the nation’s largest Black Cottonwood Tree. I had been very eager to see the Oregon Heritage Tree but was disappointed with this one. Possibly because I have lived in redwood country, possibly because it’s winter and the tree looked lifeless, but it’s not impressive to look at. It is believed to be 270 years old, measured at 155 feet tall with a circumference of 26 feet.

We reconnected with the paved road, and immediately saw why the road was closed. The path of the water here mimics a river, and this is what I was talking about with the map: it’s a historic path of the Willamette. Not the river, but a narrow curved lake on mild weather days. This day the water was raging through, however.

Our trail passed beside it uninterrupted, and we continued on. Soon we were back at the car again. It was time for us both to get back to our children. Miss Tara had spent most the day in Wilsonville for “Battle of the Books,” an academic competition where students read from a book list and then compete with quiz questions about the books. I had been receiving texts and knew they almost made it to the final round, so her team had done really well this year. What a great kid. I’m so proud of her! Arno’s boys were out in The Hood (what we call Hood River) and hungry. Though they can cook for themselves, they knew Dad would be showing up eventually to do it for them. Ha ha. We were close to I-5, so in minutes we were flying north again through the rain.

Arno stands beside Mission Lake, which is behaving much like the river it used to be.

Arno stands beside Mission Lake, which is behaving much like the river it used to be.

Me, in front of the cottonwood tree. (Look at the horrible bands I now have to wear on my braces. Vampire girl.)

Me, in front of the cottonwood tree. (Look at the horrible bands I now have to wear on my braces. Vampire girl.)

I had to lie on my back to get the whole tree into this shot

I had to lie on my back to get the whole tree into this shot

balloons hover above the Willamette River

balloons hover above the Willamette River

Today is my baby girl’s birthday. Scratch that. It’s my lovely young lady’s birthday.

I took a day from work and she skipped a day of the ballet intensive to celebrate by soaring up into the Oregon skies in a hot air balloon. Arno helped me make the decision to do this by mentioning that giving an “experience” can be more valuable than a gift. Miss T was certainly pleased all day, and I got a little charge each time she gave me a squeeze and a “Thank you!”

We flew with Vista Balloon Adventures, Inc. in Newberg, Oregon. I have not flown with other balloon companies in Oregon, so I am not able to compare. I can say that this one was professional, well-organized, and so much fun! The location is about a 45-minute drive from where we live in Montavilla in Portland, and I talked to a Salem couple who had made the trip in 45 minutes as well. So, it’s an easy trip for a lot of Oregonians. The roads were a breeze at 4:30 am. Yes, we had to get an early start. *Yawn*

The Ridge Runner lies flat, awaiting the infusion of air from the fans

The Ridge Runner lies flat, awaiting the infusion of air from the fans

One of my fellow passengers holds back the cords to keep them from burning up

One of my fellow passengers holds back the cords to keep them from burning up

As I pulled into the crowded parking lot, my spirits sank at first because I was hoping the weekday would mean fewer people and a more individualized trip. Once I got into the air I changed my mind. Being able to see four other balloons in the sky with us made my own experience so much more enjoyable. We could see what we must look like in the sky; where we had been; where we were about to go. A solitary balloon would have been wonderful, but fifty people in the sky was also an event! It became more and more celebratory as we saw incredible views and pastoral scenes floating past at speeds slower than a bicycle, but faster than a walk.

We checked in and were presented with name tags bearing the name of our mount (Miss T and I rode Ridge Runner), and directions to find her in the fields by the Newberg airport. Passengers are encouraged to get involved with inflating and deflating the balloon. There is also a crew of volunteers at each basket lending their expertise and their hands. Luckily for me, our basket was full, and thus there were plenty of people helping when I stepped away to take a photo.

There's our chase crew below, with the blue van

There’s our chase crew below, with the blue van and trailer. No, the tractors are not chase vehicles. 😉

The burner spitting fire into the balloon

The burner spitting fire into the balloon

Our pilot was Robert Craig, who dished out wisecracks all morning. “Do you think they still fall for those old jokes?” a volunteer asked him at one point. “They do!” he announced with a smile, “And I see no reason to get new jokes when the old ones still work.”

We lifted off into a perfectly clear morning. Still dark in the field, we rose rapidly and I witnessed the fastest sunrise of my life. It was so neat: first there was that little nub of molten sun leaking over a ridge, then it pushed up fast like a rising bubble: bloooooop! In two seconds, the sun was up and shining. (Yes, I know it was me that was rising so fast, and not the turning Earth, but the effect was pretty cool.)

The sun rose and fell at the horizon, as we did

The sun rose and fell at the horizon, as we did

Some of the other travelers with us, floating above the Willamette River

Some of the other travelers with us, floating above the Willamette River

Think about it: when you’re in a balloon, your craft floats with the wind. So in the basket, it’s calm. Few modes of travel could be this serene (except of course when the burners blast loudly enough to prevent conversation). Using fans, our pilot had shown us how he filled the large balloon with air as it lay stretched out across the field. Then he kicked on the burners, blasting fire into the center of the balloon, heating the air. Vista’s website had cautioned us to wear hats if the heat would be bothersome. Instead, in the chilly morning air, the heat was welcome. As we flew, Robert ignited the blaze often, to lift us, and then he pulled a cord that opened flaps to let air out, which dropped us. All five pilots impressed me with their handling skills because the balloons alternately dropped down to hover above ponds, or eye-level with stands of trees, then rose again.

Best of all was the river. The morning was so lovely that the river’s surface was clear enough to provide stunning reflections of the balloons. Our pilot took us over, and we watched as other pilots touched the baskets to water. It had a powerful effect by adding to our excitement; adding to the character of our photos. At the river, Tara and I took turns tearing the camera away from each other to get the shot that we didn’t want the other to miss. (oh, by the way, half these shots are credited to the birthday girl) we stayed at the river for some time, hovered two feet above, then wet the bottom of the basket and sat there as if floating. A paddle boarder came toward us, possibly wondering delightedly what was happening on the river. And then we pulled up again.

Great promo shot, eh?

Great promo shot, eh?

Tara took this one. Isn't it a wonderful perspective? There is a balloon below us, and our own reflection as well.

Tara took this one. Isn’t it a wonderful perspective? There is a balloon below us, and our own reflection as well.

Girlie and me on the Willamette River

Girlie and me on the Willamette River

DSC_0296We lifted in altitude up to 2000 feet to get a view of Mt. Hood, then settled back down closer to earth, and we watched the pastoral fields roll by beneath us. We excited a couple of hounds that barked their warnings/greetings at us. We frighted the sanity out of a flock of newly shorn sheep, who went tearing away from us.

Oregon fields from above

Oregon fields from above

terrified sheep

terrified sheep

As we drew toward the Mission Creek Reservoir, our pilot, Robert, began searching for a place to put down. He spotted a couple of fields and we moved in while the radios chirped back and forth about a low level cross wind.

We were low when the landing spot was chosen, so Robert was not able to give the chase crew enough time to get to us before we landed. He deftly landed us without a crew! The basket hit, tipped a little, went thump! thump! thump! as we dragged perpendicular to the freshly cut strips of hay stalks, and then settled down. It was much easier a landing than he had prepared us for.

getting ready to land in a hay field

getting ready to land in a hay field

It looked like the balloon was about to set down onto a hay bale

It looked like the balloon was about to set down onto a hay bale

Both crew and passengers hold the basket down while people climb out.

Both crew and passengers hold the basket down while people climb out. (That’s pilot Robert looking at the camera.)

In no time the chase crew arrived and took us back to the launch site for a champagne brunch. We all got glasses, and were led in a lovely traditional toast. Then we dished up food and ate from an unexpectedly lavish, delicious, and bountiful spread. There were the anticipated crackers with brie and smoked cheddar, marinated mushrooms, bowls of olives, and fresh veggies and fruit to include sliced mango. And on top of that, a real breakfast of potato casserole, a to-die-for polenta dish, scrambled eggs with bacon and cheese, breakfast wraps, biscuits and gravy, and a whole dessert section including chocolate cake, cream puffs, and Tara’s favourite: the rhubarb cake. I filled my plate twice. When everyone was finished, there was food left over.

That buffet, with refillable juices, lemonaide, or champagne to your heart’s content, would have been at least $30 in a restaurant, so I mentally subtracted that from the cost of a single passenger ($199) and came up with $169 for the flight. It’s surprisingly low, considering the number of staff, the fuel, the equipment, vehicles, and insurance. It was a reasonably priced birthday gift after all. Think of the experience we just shared!

the buffet table

the buffet table

...what they do when they're not at the airport

clown

(Thank you, Google calendar, for helping me keep my life organized during the last two weeks.)

We went into town to try to see the Starlight Parade as part of Portland’s Rose Festival. It didn’t end up being a satisfactory evening because it was crowded, so we couldn’t see, and because it was hot. Really? Yes, Portland gave us one hot summer night during a nighttime parade. That was actually a wonderful thing. However, heat does tend to make people cranky. I could barely see the parade and was shoulder to shoulder with steaming humanity and their screaming, cranky children, making screaming, cranky parents. The parade was so-so (what I could see of it). The high point for me was being able to see Darcelle XV – a local celebrity in the continuing legend of the Portland Darcelles.

One of Portland's many delicious traditions

We wrapped up ballet classes with a big performance the beginning of June. First, of course, there were the extended full cast rehearsals at the studio. Then there were the tech rehearsal and the dress rehearsal at the auditorium. Then there were the actual performances (plural). Mom/Gramy came into town for five days to see both ballet and graduation. Miss T’s dad came into town for the ballet performance. He could only take time off from work to attend one event, and he asked his girl which one. Ballet was the one!

Coast Guard ship docked downtown

The performance went well; a rather entertaining community dance event from Laurelhurst’s ballet program. Mom and I attended the first actual performance, and skipped the second. Tara’s dad made the second performance. All agreed the beginner dancers had one of the best pieces of the night, for entertainment value. In a follow up phone call a few days later from Jo Jo, her instructor, it was confirmed that Tara will be promoted into the next level if she returns to Laurelhurst after the summer with her dad. Tara really has her hopes on gaining an audition with OBT again. It would be so fabulous for all of us if T could get into the studio and I’ll do what I can to help her. For the first time I wish I was rich enough to give my kid privileged attention: I wish I could hire a private tutor just to get her up to speed so that she could get accepted into the school!

Food carts are HUGE in Portland. Here's Mom at my fave collection of mobile eats on SW Belmont

...and me at the food carts

Mom needed a place to stay, and Tara’s dad needed a place to stay. And me, well, I’m a nice chick. So our tiny little rental place was full for awhile. Not just full, but full of high-tension visitors. My mother and my ex-husband. Wow. Both remarkable. The last time Mom was here, her heart palpitations got so bad she left early to go back home in the midst of high, high stress on both our parts. And …there was no last time the ex crashed on my couch. This is unprecedented. After 13 years, we have finally reached a point of maturity sufficient to allow me to share my home with my daughter’s father. I used to hate that guy with a passion. Nice to know one can eventually rid herself of such an ugly emotion.

My girl on a sailboat in the Willamette. She was obviously enjoying it!

Spent Saturday shopping with Mom. I typically can’t stand shopping – particularly for clothes. I mean, seriously, CAN’T STAND it. But…I met a guy! Yes! Yay for me! We had only met on the Internet and we were planning to meet in person. And I haven’t purchased new clothes in about 10 years, so it was time to make myself look presentable. The people at work might appreciate seeing me in something other than jeans, too. I have been selected to do some training for VA this summer, and needed a wardrobe in which to stand in front of a classroom. Ok, ok, it was mostly for the guy.

Hawthorne from the water. It's my fave Portland bridge.

Capn. Shane and his guests

Then graduation on Tuesday night (my last blog post). For a celebration of the beginning of summer, Tara and I took an hour and a half sailboat cruise on the Willamette with Scovare Expeditions, Inc., and Captain Shane St. Clair. It rained part of the time, but stayed relatively warm, and the tour was a delight. Capt. Shane took us from our launch at the Sellwood Bridge, north to downtown Portland, and back again. He was able to give us some great background information about the river, the islands, the houseboat communities and particular structures we passed. He told bad jokes, kept us on our toes, laughed off the rain, and generally kept us entertained the entire trip. It was over entirely too soon. I had a blast snapping photos, and if you’re interested, you should check them out on my flickr page. I highly recommend the company, the captain, the 90-minute cruise!

Celebrated a friend’s birthday with a barbecue. Next day met the Internet guy, who lives an hour away and came into town for the occasion. It went well, so met him again. And that went so well we had a third date! That’s gonna have to hold us for awhile: both too busy now. It was Faerieworlds time again on Saturday! Miss T and I have gone every year since 2007. Faerieworlds gets its own post because it is a whole story in itself, so you’ll have to check in later for that.

Condos on the water. How freaking cool and surreal is this? Like a set from a sci fi movie!

Sunday, Tara left for California with her dad, and I made my way back home to attempt to recuperate for a few hours because TOMORROW I am jetting off to Seattle to see my friend, V, visiting from Honolulu. We met years and years ago, when I was still working for the National Weather Service. V is still a forecaster, and is on the mainland for a gamer’s convention (love my friends!). He extended his trip a little so I get a chance to drive up there and see him, and check out the city with a friend. I haven’t explored Seattle for such a long time.

Monday, a week from now, I’m flying out to Virginia to get some teacher training. I’ve volunteered to train newly hired VA employees to do what I do. This summer I will be sent to be an instructor for four weeks. Sometime. Somewhere. My employer has not yet decided, but when I do get my instructions, it will be an adventure! I will make certain of that.

I should get back from Virginia just in time to drive to my Pa’s house on the Snake River in southern Idaho for some desperately-needed R&R over the 4th of July holiday. If the wind cooperates, we may get the chance to launch some questionably-legal rockets and explosives over the river. While there, I plan to do some hardcore exploring for more petroglyphs, since my last post on the petroglyphs at his place has become one of my most popular blog posts since I’ve been keeping a blog! You guys apparently want to read about petroglyphs.

From the looks of things, my summer is already booked. Solid.

Mr. President and Natasha

Oh, p.s. how freaking cool is the President? OMG, this is the BEST.

Hawthorne Bridge with Canada Geese at Tom McCall Waterfront Park

I stumbled across an unexpected art display last month when I drove in to work rather than hopped my usual TriMet #15 Belmont bus.

Colored webs

Christo-esque, there were giant sheets of some kind of fabric stretched between the steel trusses of the Hawthorne Bridge. The #15 takes the Morrison Bridge, which is why I had not seen this display before then. And, since the display was temporary, had I never taken the car in, I may not have ever seen this.

In celebration of 100 Years of existence of the Hawthorne Bridge, the project was funded to transform the bridge in to a work of art during Portland’s annual bridge festival.

Changing colors

Portland is also called Bridgetown (and Stumptown, Rip City, PDX, the City of Roses, and more). And aptly so, for the bridges bisecting downtown are a key element of our city’s character. There are seven bridges in the center of town, though of course there are several more bridges north and south of those seven. Kids in the Portland Public School District must memorize the names of the bridges, in order!

Morning exercisers and commuters view the bridge art

The Willamette River (pronounced with an ‘a’ sound like in the word ham:  wil – a’ – met) is a physical and cultural boundary readily evident if you watch the signs.

First, it’s the division between east and west when you are looking up an address. Importantly, the river is a mental boundary that keeps people with their own, as in:

“Where is that great seafood restaurant?” “On the other side of the river.” “The OTHER SIDE of the river?!!”

Or

“How far away is Mt. Tabor? I have no idea of distances anywhere on that side of the river.”

The Willamette separates the trendier yuppies of the northwest from the grittier hipsters of the southeast. Portland’s tattoos may be administered on both sides, but they show up on the east side of the river. You may have money to spend in this downed economy, but you show some restraint till you’re on the west side of the river. It becomes obvious that most of Portland’s bicycle commuters come from the east side of the river, when you watch the commuter traffic in mornings and evenings. It is also evident that the greater wealth, education, and support for the fine arts can be found on the west side.

The Hawthorne Bridge is one of our darlings, not only because she is the oldest bridge in Portland, but the Hawthorne is also the oldest working vertical lift bridge in the United States. She carries over 30,000 vehicles and around 5000 bicyclists per day.

After snapping some photos of the art installation, I caught the photo below, which reminds me of a new chapter soon unfolding in my VA life. We are currently in the old Edith Green – Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, a recipient of one of Obama’s shovel-ready projects. The tired concrete eyesore is scheduled for much-needed updating and greening. In order to finish the repairs quickly, the whole building will be evacuated during the work, which means all the organizations inside must move. Along with VA, the IRS, Marine Corps recruiters, Railroad Retirement Board, and all the others must find a new, temporary, home by the end of October. Our new home will be in a shiny, brand-spanking-new, building recently completed, and one block away from our current location. Rather than move back to Portland’s Ugliest Building in downtown, we get to remain permanently in our new rented space. Yay!

Out with Old & Ugly; In with New & Shiny

Out with Old & Ugly; In with New & Shiny

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