Disappointment…Anything but

“Cape Disappointment” is located just across the Oregon border in Washington. We made a road trip last week to attempt to whale watch from the shores but arrived slightly after the ideal time. Like most things in the Pacific northwest, it didn’t really matter because of all the other amenities the area offered.

The spectacular views of the ocean were breathtaking to say the least. We started the day looking over a beautiful shore with enormous douglas firs seemingly growing out of rocks. We watched enormous waves crash miles of beach and stood quiet for 30 minutes to listen to the engulfing sound. Neither of us had ever seen such a wide beach before, but no spouts…at this point who cared?

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We made our way over to the “Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center” to tie all of the sights together with history. It’s a small museum but certainly not lacking in information. We wandered aimlessly picking displays to read and educate ourselves about area history as much as possible. One quote from Lewis Clark (November 18, 1805) in particular caught my attention: “Men appear much satisfied with their trip beholding with estonishment the high waves dashing against the rocks and this emence ocian”. I can only imagine what these men went through on their two year journey (really it was longer if you count supply gathering in Pittsburgh etc…). Of course it’s hard not to look at the quote and reminisce about our own journey. While not nearly as long and dangerous, it was every bit as frightening to Ginger and I. I say “was” because we have finally realized that we’ve accomplished a great deal in the last few months. This journey of  ours has been a test on many levels that neither of us expected.

After the interpretive center we made our way back over the border to Oregon and stopped in Astoria for lunch. Of course as we have been attempting to become Oregonians, we’ve had to discover certain secrets for ourselves (and bribed some locals and friends for the real skinny). I’ve talked about food numerous times (I’m Italian…I’m allowed) so it should come as no surprise I’m going to mention our lunch spot. What WILL come as surprise to those of you that know me is that I had fish at lunch. I had been craving fish and chips and we decided on a little place that had apparently been a staple in the area for a while. Score! As we waited in line a native struck up a conversation with us which would continue on a picnic bench under a tree with him and his wife (after we both received our food). This place had been there a while and it was a mother and daughter run business…where the mother cooks and the daughter does almost everything else. They use Albacore tuna that they catch fresh in the bay for the fish. It was as excellent as you can imagine…The best part you ask? The boat! You wouldn’t know it was a restaurant if the line wasn’t so long….because people line up on the bow port side of the boat and move at slower than snail’s pace.

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A fun wood carving adorned the boat’s bow.

The nice couple we met told us of a sight we needed to see while in Astoria, known as the “Astoria Column”. Another secret unlocked…at this point we need start “leveling up” like in a video game to keep track of the discoveries. The column was completed in 1926 and sits on Coxcomb Hill. The column itself is 125 feet (164 steps to the top) combine that with the elevation of 600 feet of the hill and you have a marvelous view of the Pacific ocean bays, and the mouth of the Columbia river. It was a chilly day but we managed to climb to the top of the column and take in the magnificent beauty from 725 feet above sea level. Awe inspiring to say the least.

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Looking at how far we’ve come in three months, it’s hard not to be proud. As hard as it was for Ginger and I to leave friends and family, we both knew it would not be hard to leave Texas. After seeing so much in such little time in Oregon, we know the right choice was made. The concentration of natural beauty that surrounds us in Oregon is astronomical and something that a Texan can’t comprehend. No matter how many pictures we post…no matter how many trips we take…it isn’t enough. It doesn’t even scrape the surface of what we’ve seen thus far, and that’s only in eight weeks (unemployed mind you). Couple all that with the emotional as well as physical uprooting, it’s been quite the trip. And if we “appear much satisfied”…well it’s because we are.

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I’m how old?

We were all young at some point…at least I think I was. What most of you probably don’t know is that I was a sweet innocent boy early in life. Contrary to most of you thinking I was born evil…I have documented proof that I was a good kid at some point. I’m fairly certain catholic school taught me how to be evil.

I attended catholic school for three years from seventh to ninth grade. Those years were fantastic and I would have loved to continue (and who knows…maybe I would have stayed catholic…or maybe not). My first year at St. Paul the Apostle in Richardson, TX was fantastic. Everyone was so friendly to this stranger who was coming to a new school and invading their class that had been together since practically first grade. One guy in particular was very similar to me. He grew up in a culturally embraced household similar to my Italian ruled family. We were also both smaller kids compared to some others and we loved the more eclectic music. We were listening to that crap long before it was culturally acceptable…so suck it society…(sorry I had a flashback).  He introduced me to some great music that I still listen to today.

At the end of my third year in catholic school, my mother got very sick and was diagnosed with malignant melanoma cancer. A fourth year in catholic school would have been too much for my family so I went back to public school. This was the first time in my life I missed my friends. No facebook, no email, no texting to make it easier for me. I had lost touch with most of them, but never forgot them and the great times we had together.

When the decision was made this past fall to move to Portland, I discovered that the friend I mentioned above had been living here for a few years. Small world! I had been looking forward to catching up with him. Last week I finally had that opportunity. As he strolled up towards burnside, I recognized him straight away. We gave each other a welcome hug and simply picked up where we left off over 25 years ago.

He was as cool now as ever. Portland cool. Not pretentious, hipster, vegan, or any other stereotype you want to place…just damn cool. He was telling me about the area and reaffirming quite a bit that I had already heard. So for us to be able to compare notes at this point of my relocation was comforting. We shared quite a few laughs over a beer while sitting outside in the gorgeous weather. We talked about the ride to adulthood that we both took and laughed while we looked back at our respective paths. What a ride it has been so far…

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Me and Javier circa 1986. Riding a bus to San Antonio for a missions tour. Damn cool.

 

Clicking In

I grew up riding my bicycles on the flat open plains of a Dallas suburb named Plano. I remember my first bicycle was an old 70’s schwinn 10 speed that was way too big for me. It was a hand-me down from one of my brothers. I remember wrenching on the bike, pretending like I knew what I was doing. I spent probably thirty dollars on reflective tape from k-mart to wrap the entire frame. For a day or two it was the coolest bike on the street. I quickly learned that surfaces MUST be clean before applying adhesive style products. In the early to late 90’s I started riding like it was my religion. I was joining every group I could find from mountain, road, and even to BMX. I stopped riding with the groups because  I was clocking around five to six hundred miles a week and it was eating me out of house and home. I started riding with a couple co-workers and one in particular helped bring back that childlike joy of riding, which helped me turn it back into a fun recreation with friends and not an exhausting chore with yell leaders (Ricardo, love you brother from another mother). I look forward to being able to ride with him again soon…given that he’s a mere three hours away now that we’ve relocated to Portland.

In the meantime, I’ve found another recreational group to ride with here in the gorgeous scenery of north Oregon. A few weeks ago I went on a ride with a few of them to a town named “Boring”. It was a very interesting ride because of the odd micro-climates we went through. One minute it was a gorgeous sunny day and the next I was freezing my butt off with a rain coat providing my only protection. This was probably my third ride since arriving a little over six weeks ago but that didn’t stop a woman from barking at me “share the trail”. Note to self: People around here like a little more space between your bike and themselves. I wasn’t that close…but I get it…sorry lady.

However, this past weekend I went on another ride with the same group to a town named “Buxton” (or thereabouts)  and I found that same childlike exuberance again! Upon arriving I rode down to the trailhead to find a familiar face (and fellow Texas transplant) waiting with a group I had not met just yet. He introduced me to a few of the riders and I instantly had a good feeling about this group. Everyone on the ride Saturday was super nice and had the “no man left behind” attitude, which is very important. A lot of the groups I had ridden with before had no problem dropping you if you didn’t keep up and that used to really upset me. This group was different, it was clear from the get-go that they were looking out for you as evidence by one of the riders having a flat at the start. Everyone pitched in with a variety of tools, supplies(since her bike was a little older), and skills to get her back in the saddle. As we rode the slightly inclined trail we all were chatting with each other. Another fellow transplant from Austin, Texas and I had a great conversation about life, work, and the state we escaped. We were laughing and sharing stories about the superior quality of life I was just beginning to appreciate up here. It was as if I was making up for lost time with old friends. Everyone was extremely kind and welcoming without judgement, another concept foreign to me having lived in Dallas almost my whole life.

Some of you who read this blog may not know what “clipless” pedals are on a bicycle. Clipless pedals enable you to cycle more efficiently by having cleats on the bottom of your shoes that snap in to the pedal like a ski binding. This bond between shoe and pedal enables you to make a more even stroke by not only keeping your foot connected to the bike, but also “pull” the pedal on the upstroke creating a more even circle of pressure while pedaling. When you step on to the pedal they make a “snap” or “click” noise signifying that you are locked in and ready to ride. So among riders it’s called either “clicking in” or “clipping in”(for us older riders). When I hear that sound I’m like a dog when it hears the leash come off the wall. I’m ready for the adventure ahead hanging my head in the wind, my figurative tongue flapping in the wind taking in all the surrounding scenery, smells, and sounds.

After the ride we all went to a local joint for lunch and drinks. We sat outside in the gorgeous 70 degree sunny weather sharing more stories while I was trying not to put off any of my new friends with my lack of Oregon knowledge. One of the women in the pack even complimented my beard which, as you probably know, was not received all that well in Texas. She also agreed to a picture for my beard’s facebook page which was newly formed so that I could show all my family and friends that I’m okay being myself out here. So once we finished lunch I said “okay, you agreed to a picture time to make good”.  I held up the phone, turned on the “selfie-mode”…and CLICK!

Just one of the awesome people on the ride Saturday. Thanks to everyone for making it my best Saturday thus far in Oregon!

Feel free to like my beard’s page, it will appreciate it.

https://www.facebook.com/phillsbeard

 

What was that?

I think spring is most likely an Oregonian’s favorite season and we arrived just in time. The weather has once again turned gorgeous this past week. We’ve visited the coast again, witnessed the tulip festival, and discovered a gorgeous (yet another) park close to our home. We explored the park twice already because it’s only four miles away.

Last week we saw the inevitable gigantic hail stone pictures coming out of Texas. We were glad to hear all our friends and family were okay. It certainly served as a reminder of one of the reasons we left Texas. That’s not to say Oregon doesn’t have its own set of challenges.

You’ve seen rock and mudslides on the news…nothing to balk at for sure. This week brought a very interesting natural event that we knew was coming (eventually). We were watching our normal Sunday night lineup of programs when we felt the apartment lift then sway and rumble a little. I didn’t have to ask but I found myself saying it anyway….”What was that?”. Probably a much cleaner version of events that actually occurred, but you get the idea. We had received a sheet from the complex on what to do in the event of an earthquake. It’s not too far from what you should do in a tornado. Within minutes I found that the USGS reported that the earthquake was 3.3 magnitude and about 10 miles from us. I’m thankful this happened for a couple reasons. 1) it was relatively small 2) it wasn’t that far away. It gives me an idea of what to expect from now on…and how to judge the severity. I’ve spoken with a few people in Texas that basically said “nope, I’ll take the tornados on the surface of the sun thank you very much”. Not us…while Ginger will miss the storms and lightning…I won’t. After the last tornado and hail storm we went through took out our roof, I knew I didn’t want to be in tornado alley any longer.

The idea of a severe earthquake scares the crap out of us, but what are you going to do? You have to pick your poison. No place is without faults, it just so happens in Oregon they lie beneath the surface a few meters.

We are here!

We have finally arrived. I know, I know….we’ve been in Portland a month but these things take time. Ginger and I have had to walk the fine line between sanity and job hunting. We would give ourselves permission to take the weekends off from job hunting (even though both of us would keep one eye on our computers/job notifications). There was a switch in my head that would flip occasionally during the week and I would tell G “We’re done for today(or this week)”…let’s go…pick your destination…it’s time to decompress.

A few weeks ago at one of those moments, a friend of a friend posted on her Facebook page that she was firing up her camera again and offering photo shoots. It just so happened I was in that decompressed state and was thinking clearly to myself “what a great way to meet this person and her family…and also commemorating our arrival in Portland”. So I jumped in and told her to pick a very Portland spot for G and I to get our picture taken for our memories.

First of all a friend from Dallas (Regina) introduced us over Facebook. Ginger and I think Regina is the bee’s knees, so we knew that her friend Kate had to be equally cool. Kate, her husband Ryan, and their daughter Lucy are the coolest little family we’ve met in a long time. We are thrilled to have finally been able to meet them and we look forward to getting to know them better. Kate’s work can be found at: kateblackmorephotography.tumblr.com

Thanks for the pictures Kate! We’re very happy with how they turned out…exactly what we wanted.

And here we are in bridgetown (one of the numerous nicknames for Portland)…

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Kate was very straightforward and told me my head was “sparkling” and we had to move…so I put on my hat. Ha! Now I see it…

 

Early morning fools.

For weeks G and I have been training daily for a grueling hike to one of the world famous parks in the Portland area. We understood the dangers going in and believe me, they were not taken seriously…a mistake would we not soon forget. Neither of us knew exactly what to expect given the odd weather patterns, elevation changes, wildlife, and the possibility of navigation challenges.

It began a little later than we had expected, 6am to be exact. We geared up at home with everything needed to navigate our route. We were trying to travel lightly but we had to ensure that we had the proper provisions for our journey. After a short 20 minute commute to the trailhead, we left our vehicle and all sense of security behind. As we both walked away from the vehicle we looked back in hopes we would see it again…that sense of security…our only piece…now gone. There was no turning back, we were both in this together. We recounted our training and the survival skills necessary for this trek. Since I’m a carnivore, I knew that the hunting would be left to me if we needed meat. I would rely on Ginger to provide us with safe plants and berries because plant identification was her specialty.

Over the past several weeks we discussed this moment. What happens now? What if we get lost? What dangers are we not accounting for? We kissed each other…hugged….joined hands and remembered this day 8 years ago in a gondola on the Las Colinas canals (when I proposed)…when Ginger agreed to accompany me on this adventure. It’s not every day we can take on such a grueling test of our resolve. Our footing was firm for the first tenth of a mile. The weather was a little rainy which made seeing our path in the dark a little tricky. We soon came up on our first real challenge…a very steep drop off. However, there was hope…a bright shiny button that said “push to activate crosswalk”. We pushed the button looked across the street for the bicolor light to change from an amber/orange hand to a bright white illuminated walking person. A beep counted down until that glorious moment…the accessibility voice proclaimed “THE CROSSWALK IS NOW ACTIVE”….We arrived! Our destination “Mill Ends” Park in Portland, Oregon. The smallest Park in the world.

The promise land.

The promise land.

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Ginger was first to conquer Mill Ends Park.

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Our trusty “Mag Light” assisted us in our navigation of the terrain.

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Here’s a close up of the park. Officially became a park on St. Patrick’s Day 1976.(Seriously)

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After such a huge undertaking Voodoo Donuts had to be visited to refuel.

April fools!

This is an actual park in Portland, Oregon. It’s a cute story about how it became a park…so if you want to know more visit:

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?action=ViewPark&ShowResults=yes&PropertyID=265