Drive: Portland

No need to travel today, so we took a scenic drive and visited a winery we know.

Plan A was to visit Multnomah Falls, but the signs were not auspicious. The digital signs on the interstate, that is. They were advising the overflow parking lot and shuttle at 11:00 this morning. Weekend, hot, holiday.

When we dithered over the time required to shuttle both ways with half-hour waits, a helpful park staffer recommended taking the old Columbia River Highway and visiting some of the other, less popular waterfalls. We did. It was lovely.


We caught up to bumper to bumper traffic at the Multnomah Falls area. Cars were parked all over the shoulder, and police were towing those that infringed on the white line at the side of the road. There were lots of these, as the shoulders are narrow, rocky and steeply sloped. We ate sandwiches in the traffic jam while we waited for the tow-truck to haul one off.

Then up the Columbia River to to cross the toll-bridge at Hood River, to pay a quick but pleasant visit to the Jacob Williams winery. For a change, we came back towards Portland on the Washington side of the river, and crossed back at Bridge of the Gods. Love the name.

Returned for a second dinner at Bistro 23. We perplexed the staff by eating on the patio despite the heat. At least we didn’t have to worry about the pizza getting cold.

Tomorrow, back to Seattle.

Calgary to Kelowna

Up before dawn to fly to Kelowna for breakfast. Taxi late. Taxi went to wrong entrance. Taxi then drove past right entrance without stopping or looking to see if anyone was waiting in lobby. Grr.

Airport security, yeah well. Airport food, never mind. Forty-five minute flight to Kelowna fine. Once again, pilots unknown to me. We were sitting close to the wheels, so the landing was “authoritive,” at least by Caroline’s standards.

Car rental people very nice. Upgraded us to Mitsubishi RVR.

Dingbat at death’s door. His power connector had been damaged in the suitcase and he could not recharge properly. He’s old these days, and his battery life is measured in minutes. Panic sets in.

Struggled to drive RVR to hotel because A) mostly lost with Dingbat suffering blackouts, and B) transmission in sport position that required manual gear selection while wiggling Dingbat’s cord and begging him not to leave us.

Caroline got us checked in early, courtesy of very nice manager formerly from Thunder Bay. While she was doing that, I snuck the owner’s manual out of the glove box to find the secret unmarked gearshift position that provides fully automatic function on fancy constant velocity transmission. No one saw, so I may be able to keep my man card. It’s pretty tattered anyway.

Found replacement cord for Dingbat in Best Buy for $21. Don’t ask me how I found Best Buy. Dingbat restored to grouchy glory.

Visit to Quail’s Gate Winery. My trout was good, but everyone else’s lunch was just expensive. I do like a Chenin Blanc, though, and QG’s is quite nice.

Dinner with family. Delightful.


Picks & Pans

The trip’s almost over, so it’s time for Picks & Pans before I get busy procrastinating and forget.

Tim’s Pick: Bozeman. Great scenery, great restaurants. Honorable mention to Cody, WY for trying to be a tourist town and failing to be truly tacky.
Tim’s Pan: Laurel, MT. What can I say. We hated it so much we paid to not stay there.
Caroline’s Pick: Bozeman. Walking on Pete’s Hill. Scenery, feel of downtown.
Caroline’s Pan: Hood River. Great scenery and bad restaurants that offer it.

Tim’s Pick: BW Hood River. Elegant room, spectacular view.
Tim’s Pan: BW Bismarck. Huge, confusing layout, miles of hallways. Wedding parties.
Caroline’s Pick: BW Missoula. The Atrium rooms. Best breakfast.
Caroline’s Pan: BW Hill City. No elevator, unusable Wifi, poor restaurant.

Tim’s Pick: Cody, WY. Little rapids and ponds.
Tim’s Pan: Walla Walla, for closing the entrance to the park and not marking the other trails.
Caroline’s Pick: Bismarck, ND for the variety of scenery and historical sites.
Caroline’s Pan: Billings, MT. Unrelenting box-store vistas.

Tim’s Pick: Hay J’s in Liberty Lake, WA. Ahi Tuna stood out as the best meal of the whole trip.
Hon mention to Pearl in Missoula. Best salmon of Salmon Run.
Tim’s Pan: Enigma in Rapid City, SD. Food fell completely short of the description.
Caroline’s Pick: Hay J’s. Every meal a delight. Hon. mention to Pirogue Grill in Bismarck for many good things but especially that Tomato tart.
Caroline’s Pan: Three Rivers Grill in Hood River. Inedible scallops.

Tim’s Pick: Helicopter over the Badlands. Awesome. Honorable mention to Mammoth Site because it’s a real dig.
Tim’s Pan: Licence plate spotting. Got tons in Yellowstone, then no new ones ever again.
Caroline’s Pick: Helicopter over the Badlands. Honorable mention to feeding the llamas in Sisters, OR.
Caroline’s Pan: Smoke Jumper Center in Missoula. Sort of interesting. What’s next?

Tim’s Pick: Hurtling down from Lookout Pass at 75mph while the semis do 25.
Tim’s Pan: Pasco, WA. Please don’t make me go there anymore.
Caroline’s Pick: The Needles in the Black Hills, SD. Hairpins. Pigtails. Tunnels.
Caroline’s Pan: Spokane to Prosser. Bleak scenery.

Tim’s Pick: Columbia Crest. Let us taste from the freebie list, the reserve list, and wine that wasn’t even supposed to be open.
Tim’s Pan: Waterbrook. Only wanted to push their $50 stuff, wouldn’t let us taste what we were interested in buying. So we didn’t buy anything.
Caroline’s Pick: Cougar Crest, because the host wasn’t trying to push anything, and listened.
Caroline’s Pan: Hogue. Les was annoying. And creepy around the young ladies.

Tim’s Pick: Bison herd swimming across a river in Yellowstone. Hon mention to Devils Tower.
Tim’s Pan: Interstates. They do the job, but visually? Google Glass me.
Caroline’s Pick: Forest fire and Sikorsky helicopter in Missoula
Caroline’s Pan: The high plains of eastern Oregon & Washington. Sad cow country.

Dinner Debriefing: Brasserie Four

Salade Nicoise

We hadn’t made dinner reservations but we were           able to get a patio table at Brasserie Four.
It was either that or wait until 2100 to eat inside.

(Sorry, their website seems to be under construction.) It’s traditional French cuisine.  There has been a heat wave – last week it would have been impossible to eat outside. Even today we had to put our bottle of Abeja Chardonnay into an ice bucket just to keep it cool. We dithered over what to eat; the vichyssoise sounded refreshing, but in the end we ordered salads.

Salade Verte

They tasted as good as they looked. The entrees weren’t quite as stellar. Caroline’s mussels were excellent but her pommes frites should have been pale little shoestring fries and they were more like English chips. My trout was wonderful, but came with nothing but a pool of brown butter – no veg or anything. That left me looking for some carbs to round out the meal, but none of the desserts quite caught our fancy, so we just headed back to the hotel and helped ourselves to the excellent lobby cookies.

Sisters, OR to Walla Walla, WA

As I mentioned in my previous post, we wanted to make an early start today, so we asked around about a good place to get breakfast early. The Ski Inn opens at 0600. I expected a kind of ski-chalet theme because of, oh, I don’t know… the name? Instead, we found a country-themed classic American diner. Country music, laminated framed pictures of wolves and deer on the walls. Two pictures of John Wayne, but none of Elvis Presley – although there were two empty spaces where they had sold something. However, they were open, the food was good, the service was friendly and the other customers were nice. There was a tiny problem with Caroline’s omelet, which they fixed, and then they insisted on taking it off the bill anyway.

After brekky, we drove most of the way back to the hotel and picked up the Sisters trail, a hiking path that wanders through the ponderosa forest. Unpaved and dusty, but well marked. Also very level. Plenty of tracks, including horse and bicycle, but for the first time we met no other users at all. We did see lots of mule deer. They aren’t quite as nonchalant about humans as the urban deer in Kenora, but we got close enough that I was watching for signs that any of them might have a fawn nearby. None of them seemed particularly skittish, so I guess not.

Made a pit stop at Ray’s grocery and bought a slightly larger cooler. Also got myself a road coffee at a real Espresso shack instead of my usual lobby coffee. It took ten times longer, cost infinitely more and wasn’t better at all.

Dingbat had one of his off days today. When we stopped for lunch at a park, he didn’t recognize the layout of the driveways and concluded that we hadn’t arrived; when we left, he let us run ten minutes down the interstate to the next overpass and then tried to turn us back to try again. We caught on and reprogrammed him just in time.

Took a slightly different route to Walla Walla (and here’s a link to MapBlast for those of you that have no idea where we are) so that we could keep Mount Hood and Mount Rainier in sight instead of just droning across the high plains of eastern Oregon. Easy run up the Columbia River (on the Interstate this time) and then a little zig-zag to cross the river and pop into Walla Walla via some wineries that we like. Dingbat was convinced the hotel was on the other side of the road and announced that it was on our right. We decided that he’s dyslexic, but that if Caroline drove, it would all balance out and we’d do just fine.

Prosser, WA to Hood River, OR

Another easy drive today, so we thought we’d put some extra time in on our morning walk. There’s a paved path that goes miles up the Yakima Valley; at least as far as Sunnyside. The southern end of the trail is in Prosser, and a few blocks from our hotel we hooked up just shy of the one mile marker. The two and a half mile marker would have been about where we would normally turn around, but since I left the weights in the car to give my arms a day off, we thought we’d go as far as the three mile mark. The milepost was missing, and we actually reached the three and a half mile mark before we caught on. So our walk was about a hundred minutes, which works out to ten kilometers at my usual pace, and the mileposts indicated about six miles, so that’s about right.

We stopped at Columbia Crest Winery for lunch today. It’s on the way, less than an hour from Prosser, and offers a choice between  patio tables in the courtyard or picnic tables by the pond. We chose the courtyard because it offered more shade and it’s still really hot.

When we got back on the road, we overruled Dingbat and stayed on the Washington side of the river – the Columbia River Highway is way nicer to drive than the Interstate on the Oregon side. On our previous trips through this area, we’ve always been trying to make miles, so with our lighter schedule, we were able to stop at a little winery called Jacob Williams. They had some nice reds, and a really nice dog; Sadie came and sat on the couch with me. Actually, it’s her couch, but I was allowed to sit on it as long as I didn’t stop petting her.

From there it was only another half hour or so to Hood River. We crossed the river on this bridge, and this is the view from our fabulous river-front room.

Tonight we’ll have dinner at Three Rivers. Speaking of which, I better get changed.

Liberty Lake, WA to Prosser, WA

An easy day with only a few hours of interstate driving, so we had plenty of time for a walk. We went back to the same trail as yesterday, but instead of walking down the road from the hotel, we drove to the parking lot at the trail head. That let us enjoy more of the riverfront scenery. There were still lots of cyclists, but also more joggers.

There really isn’t much I can say about the drive, so let’s just fast forward to Silver Lake Winery. We made it our first port of call in the Yakima Valley because it has a nice patio for a picnic lunch. 

We were surprised at how many people were in the tasting room as there was only one car in the parking lot. Turns out you can tour wine country on horseback. I suppose that if you overindulge, the horse knows the way home, but I don’t know about the combination of heat, wine and constant lurching. After lunch, we checked in at the hotel and found that in fulfilling our wish for a ground floor room, they had given us a handicap suite. We found the bathroom rather awkward, so they have moved us upstairs and now we have a fancy suite with a kitchen. It costs more, but it’s very roomy. 

We paid a visit to Hogue Cellars and still had time to soak in the hotel’s hot tub and tonight we’ll be having a simple dinner at a Mexican restaurant we know.