Mount Rainier’s Railroad

Perhaps you’ve heard that “Necessity is the mother of invention.” But I never would have guessed it invented time zones.

What began in Ancient Greece as a way for animals to pull heavy items or large quantities with ease, today’s trains move everything from products to people all over the world.

So when the first iron horse rolled across the tracks of Great Britain (way back in 1804), travelers from all over quickly realized one thing: schedules! Yes, crossing vast countryside meant wanting to arrive at a specific time. Hence the creation and unification of time zones.

Catching up to today, my husband and I just had to keep an eye on the time in our zone: an 11:30 am departure with the Mount Rainier Railroad

Elbe’s junction

Thanks to a coworker’s very special birthday gift, we found ourselves looking online at this heritage railroad company’s very seasonal event options. Wine tasting in September, brewing up October…the Great Pumpkin and The Polar Express—goodness! Gotta narrow it down to one. Letting our own existing schedules decide, we chose wine…

Arriving at the train station early, we checked in, then began to look around. One of the smallest churches in the country was tough to miss: the Elbe Lutheran Church—founded by German settlers and on the National Register of Historic Places—shares the same parking lot with Mount Rainier Railroad. And across the street—coffee!

Ready for a little java, we headed over to DeWitt’s Elbe Junction. What a fun store—plenty to peruse here. Lattes and biscotti in hand, we seated ourselves at a small table between two cozy rocking chairs and enjoyed the moment.

Mount Rainier’s RR

Finishing up our late morning treats, we headed back to the train station just in time to watch the beautiful vintage rail cars pull forward. Originally servicing Pacific Northwest logging camps of the early 1900s, this American Heritage Railways member now takes curious travelers to themed events by going back in time…

Boarding our coach, we found our table set and ready for our tasting event: one souvenir wine glass, six drink tickets and a mini meat and cheese tray. Perfect!

Our conductors—dressed in vintage style (complete with pocket watch)—posed for pics and answered my funny questions. Like: which way is the mountain? (In my defense, there was just enough cloud cover combined with a few curves of the track for me to lose sight of the tallest mountain in the state…)

The scenery was stunning—lots of forest and river views with every twist and turn. A staff member poured us a sample from one of the featured wine vendors awaiting our arrival at the tent.

The conductors—eager to share the great vistas with all passengers—invited everyone to make their way to the open air train car. They did not disappoint—plenty of viewing room on both sides of the car. I managed to arrive just in time to cross the Nisqually River with the mountain base making an appearance. Gorgeous!

Mineral’s party

Arriving in style, we stepped down from the train and into Mineral. A former mining town turned logging camp, this small community is now home to Mount Rainier’s logging museum and event locale.

Stretching our legs, we wandered a bit before visiting the wine and food tents. The museum’s featured artifacts are outside: logging equipment, including a very old ski plane. A few vintage steam engines were covered from the elements, but granted access to interested event patrons.

Back to the party! A live band played near the base of a Paul Bunyan statue (absent Babe). Showcasing Pacific Northwest vintners and brewers, five wine tents and one cider tent poured one sample per drink ticket. We chose varietals and vendors that were new to us, and all were delicious.

Shaken Bar Room and Bistro, also local, catered the event, providing finger foods like mini tacos and fresh fruits and cheeses. Very yummy stuff that kept our tummies happy. We headed back to the logging museum/gift shop and purchased a few bottles of the wines we liked best. And before we knew it, the whistle was blowing: time to make our way back…

Waiting for us at our table was a chocolate steam engine. Not too big—just the right amount of sweetness to end our vino focused meal as the train took us back to Elbe.

Truly a fun way to spend a few hours, I recommend you take this train ride back in time. A dose of history and fun near the base of Mount Rainier—in the train inspired time zone called the Pacific. Toot-toot! Just don’t be late… J 🚂

 

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Les deux Palouse

I dedicate this blog post to Pat, one of my very best friends, who just lost her courageous battle with cancer. She has been–and always will be–my inspiration in my writings, travels and parenting, and so much more. In her words, “If you can take the trip, don’t wait. See the world. Go…” I will–I promise. J 

There’s something about rolling hills and endless fields of grain under a beautiful blue sky that just gives off good vibes. French-Canadian fur traders of yesteryear referred to the area where the borders of Washington and Idaho meet up as “pelouse”—land with short and thick grass.

While the fur traders’ primary reason for visiting this land of rounded grassy mini mountains was, well, furry, The Palouse of today is all about growing food. And fun. And for two college towns, thriving economies.

On a recent road trip to this happening place, my daughter and I experienced for ourselves how this landlocked corner of the Pacific Northwest is anything but square…

Lodge-ical

Every fun road trip deserves a hip motor inn on its route. For us, that meant the newly renovated Monarch Motel. Friendly helpful staff, comfy clean rooms, and funky décor (like fuzzy orange throw pillows!) made this boutique hotel the perfect home base for our Palouse adventure.

And its location can’t be beat—walking distance to everything in downtown Moscow. Gotta love that! Just a few steps to stores, restaurants and one very swank farmers market…

Eventful

True to its name, the Moscow Farmers Market sells local seasonal produce—super fresh and very colorful. But this Saturday-only, May-October event isn’t just about fruits and veggies; nope. It’s all about pizazz…

We entered the market at one end of the closed-off road where a local band played upbeat tunes for all passers by. Walking with our friends, we encountered another band playing at a city park, surrounded by market vendors and patrons. No shortage of music here!

Selling everything from painted rocks to fresh cut flowers to yummy kabobs, this street party has it all. I even tried Egyptian food for the first time ever! A dish known as Koshari—and it was goooooood…

Not to be outdone by Moscow, Pullman was hosting its own event that same weekend: the National Lentil Festival. Yes, that’s right—this little legume has its very own annual party. Farmers in The Palouse grow and harvest about one quarter of the lentils (and other pulse crops) for the United States. Because of that stat, this town throws one heck of a summer celebration.

From the downtown parade to the ginormous vat of lentil chili, we found ourselves in good company. Ever present vendors selling their wares, alongside food booths, activities, cooking demos, and of course, lentils. My daughter opted for a bowl of the featured chili dish, while I (still full from my Egyptian brunch) acquired small bags of the dried take-home ready-to-cook variety.

Flavorful

In the mood for fried garbanzos, pasta and funky drinks our first night out, we stepped into Nectar. Just across the street from our hotel meant an easy walk back to our room, once we were ready to sleep off our long drive + food coma.

And we had this wonderful restaurant to thank for our recently remodeled roadside inn; Nectar owns the Monarch, offering its dining patrons who are overnight guests a 10% discount on all meals.

There’s a long list of fantastic food and beverage places we enjoyed here in this small town. Here’s the short version:

Bloom for brunch, serving me one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had to date. It’s not-so-secret ingredient? Cougar Gold cheddar.

Maialina for pizza—and not just any pizza! Unique is one word I would use to describe their menu; superb is another I’ll use to describe the flavors. Seriously good…

Hunga Dunga. Aside from the unusual name, this brew house has a delicious, ever-changing menu. I enjoyed a brisket sandwich on a pretzel bun. Stick-to-your-ribs gooooood…

The Breakfast Club. Fun decor, serving large portions, they’re not afraid to feed you the good stuff here.

Café Artista. Gotta have my java! Also One World Café. Gotta have more java… Both offer great coffee drinks very close to our temporary Moscow residence.

And in Pullman, our friends’ java joint of choice? Café Moro. Excellent coffee, and conveniently located on the same corner as our Lentil Festival parade perch…

Last, but not least: Colter’s Creek wine tasting room. What an upbeat place! Also within walking distance to our hotel, I really enjoyed my Chardonnay—made locally from their Lewis-Clark Valley vines.

Educational

Taking our legs for a walk is an easy thing to do in a college town. Just head for the campus. University of Idaho (established 1889) features an arboretum and botanical garden, and very convenient walking paths. It’s the one place where Vandals are accepted—in the form of their team mascot…

Over in Pullman, the Washington State University Cougars (established 1890) are busy making cheese. Really-really-really excellently yummy cheese! This commercial product made on campus at the WSU Creamery date stamps each can of deliciousness with the student employee’s first name too. Quite a nice personal touch.

Artful

From street décor to metal works to galleries to culinary masterpieces, there is no shortage of amazing art in The Palouse. In search of souvenirs, we managed to find a good concentration of all things artful at Essential Works Art Gallery. It was their sandwich board that drew me in: “Chocolate—Open” …yup…

The representation of local and regional artists was amazing. Before leaving the store, I purchased glass earrings, wine bottle ornaments, specialty coffee beans (after sampling the brewed version), and of course chocolate. Hope I didn’t forget anything…

Sustainable

Investing in its future, this beautiful corner of the world is all about sustainability. Along with recycle bins, I enjoyed discovering repurposed buildings and reminders painted on the street, asking to care about what drains to the streams. Before heading home, our friends took us to one last stop: The Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute.

In addition to providing us with beautiful walking trails, this local non-profit organization educates young students and adults alike in ways to care for our crops as well as the land, streams and animals. Important knowledge to share regarding The Palouse of tomorrow.

Heading back home, we enjoyed seeing the beautiful rolling hills one more time as our car followed the highway’s many curves. What a gorgeously fun place! But knowing that the locals are looking out for the land’s future gives me a good vibe for The Palouse of today. J 🌾

 

Sitka’s walkable beauty

To enjoy cruising with my friends means to enjoy a lot of great food too. Which also means needing to do a lot of walking to keep up with my culinary intake. So… to help me with my walkies goal, this day’s shore excursion of choice took my cabin mate and me on a hike through a small part of the largest national forest in the United States: Tongass.

Encompassing a big chunk of the Pacific temperate rain forests, this gorgeously green place is home to five species of salmon—and their prey—as well as old growth trees, countless critters and floral varieties galore. And for a day, me—and our eager group of hikers…

Cause and care

Seeing an eagle in flight is a pretty cool thing—hunting, soaring or resting for just a moment on a tree branch, this beautiful raptor creates excitement for spectators with every glimpse. But when these feathered flying machines run into trouble—into cars, wires or other human obstacles—life becomes an instant struggle. Our first stop for the morning? A place that helps rehabilitate such birds of prey: the Alaska Raptor Center.

This wonderful nonprofit facility aids all injured raptors (and non-raptor birds too) with rescue, rehabilitation and rerelease into the wild, and has done so since 1980. Entering the building, our group was brought up to speed on the history of the organization, as well as raptor characteristics. But… how does one treat a bird of prey without compromising its chances of returning home? With a very sophisticated routine. And a pretty cool physical therapy room…

Entering the observation area of the raptors’ PT building meant we had to mind our manners. Not that the birds could see us, thanks to the one way mirror and camouflage netting. Recovering eagles (and other birds, like owls) receive their food—primarily salmon—twice daily, but no actual interaction with humans.

In an effort to reacclimate the birds to their natural environment, openings near the ceiling allow outside air and weather elements to enter the room. Perches and ropes of varying heights serve as PT equipment. The higher a bird can go, the readier it is to go home. But what about those who can no longer make the climb?

Outside the building, just behind the PT room, we observed the raptors’ “retirement” facility. These retirees have rooms and netted areas open to the sky. They also receive quit a bit of human interaction, participating in educational events like field trips—even traveling on airplanes and making guest appearances in the lower 48!

Canopy and culture

Leaving the Raptor Center, we continued our journey on foot, heading for the next leg of our adventure: the Sitka National Historical Park. Honoring both the native Tlingit tribe and the Russian settlers of Sitka, this park features beautiful wide trails, lots of totem poles, historical and wildlife placards—and TONS of salmon.

While I expected to see our fishy friends swimming upstream, I did not expect to see them—so many of them—just chillin. From our trail’s footbridge, it was easy to spot Pink and Chum salmon in the shallow water, resting. Preparing. It was as if they were waiting for a starting gun to fire…

Walking along under this incredible canopy of trees, our guide Dana talked about the salmon, fish-loving bears and eagles, and the forest itself: the trees, plants and flowers, and the importance of the rainforest’s existence that keeps it all in balance.

Exiting the forest, we came to the park’s visitor center. And gift shop! I picked up two pairs of earrings featuring both the eagle and the raven—birds that symbolize a key balance in the representation and harmony of the Tlingit people.

Colony and church

Continuing our on-foot adventure, we followed the Sitka Sea Walk along the marina toward the city’s center. We stopped at a few points of interest along the way, one in particular that claims space on the National Register of Historic Places: St. Peters-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.

Completed in 1899, this rustically attractive place of Christian worship features a Star of David at the center of its gorgeous rose window. Truth be told, it wasn’t the religious symbol the Episcopalians requested on the order form. A slight mix-up at the factory.

But… given the craftsmanship and time put into this beautiful stained glass feature—and the distance it had to travel from the East Coast to Sitka (no Panama Canal back then), they decided to keep it. Respectfully, they came to honor the window’s symboled Star as a reminder of their own faith’s very beginnings.

Do you know that Russia’s presence in Sitka lasted over 100 years? Initially drawn to this area for fur trading, Russian settlers planted roots in this coastal Alaskan town, establishing a colony and creating their own home in the New World. We found out a little more as we approached the city’s center…

Saint Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral, established 1837 and now a national historic landmark, houses several pieces of very old Russian-American art. Under the beautiful green domes, a fire in 1966 claimed most of the original structure, but not before many of the priceless artifacts were rescued by some very daring souls.

Chips and coffee

Having worked up an appetite—specifically for fish & chips—my friend and I asked our tour guide for a recommendation. Her choice? The Sitka Hotel Restaurant and Lounge.

Not too far from the cathedral, we located its wooden façade and walked in. Clever driftwood art decorated the walls, with Mason jar lights illuminating the seating area. We found our table, placed our order and enjoyed some of the best fish & chips I’ve ever had!

To round out my Sitka mealtime, I topped off my tank with a latte from A Little Something espresso. A colorful place that serves an excellent cup of joe.

Our walkies adventure over, we made our way to the shuttle stop and awaited our ride back to the ship. Reflecting on our day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the clear stream, teeming with salmon, waiting for the next—possibility last—leg of their journey, just to complete their circle of life.

Except for a few bear and eagle interrupting their trip, I hope these fishy friends of the Tongass will always have that chance. J 🌲

 

Golden Skagway

“GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!” In the history of eye-catching newspaper headlines, this Seattle Post Intelligencer attention getter from July 17, 1897 did its job. Gold fever hit the nation right between the eyes. Suddenly everyone knew about such places as the Klondike River, Canada’s Yukon Territory and one small, soon-to-be-very-busy Alaska town: Skagway.

Located at the base of White Pass Trail—declared one of the “easier” treks to the Yukon gold fields—Skagway became a boomtown for many stampeders and other opportunistic businesses. Preparing to trek through the rough, tough, freezing and unforgiving wilderness wasn’t easy; neither was the trip itself.

Many gold seekers—and their animals—didn’t make it. Some managed to find their way back, whether or not they found gold. By sharp contrast, my recent trip up the pass was a lot easier…

Scenic route

Looking for a relaxing way to enjoy the mountain scenery, our cruise group of travel companions chose the White Pass Summit Excursion. How exciting to ride in an actual vintage train car! We boarded not too far from our ship, and began our own climb up to the pass. Along the way, we were treated to gorgeous views and brought up to speed on the train’s features—and its original purpose…

In that first year of attempts to reach the Klondike, and with soooooo many would-be miners struggling for a safer way over the pass than by foot, railroad companies and their tycoons soon found their way to Skagway.

Making our way through tunnels and along the rugged terrain, our train conductors and staff shared details of the train’s history along with fun facts about the flora and fauna visible just outside our cars.

The thrilling part for me was standing on the platforms between the connecting cars—one amazingly unobstructed view after another! I tried to imagine the views had by the construction workers all those years ago…

Construction madness

Just nine months after the infamous GOLD! newspaper headline hit the streets, the new White Pass & Yukon Railroad Company began construction. And about nine months after that, the main track reached the summit. It would be another year before the tracks made it all the way to the Yukon—about the time the gold rush came to an end.

Crazy working conditions for the thousands who built this engineering marvel, but appreciated by all who dared brave their way to—and from—their would-be treasure. And for the WP&YR, there was plenty of life after the gold rush.

From my perch on the platform, I loved seeing the train itself make its way along the bends and trestles of the track. The spectacular waterfalls—and trees growing from rock—were breathtaking.

But our own trip hit a bit of a snag; technical difficulties with one of the switches caused us to make a stop near the summit. We had to turn back before reaching our destination: White Pass.

The conductors and crew handled it all professionally, even assuring price discounts—and free swag—for all passengers onboard. Heading back down the tracks, I thought briefly of those hopeful miners and critters hiking up the freezing trail who had to turn back too. Only they wouldn’t have been issued a refund…

Boomtown

Ready to stretch my legs after our train ride, I made my way along the boardwalks and sidewalks of Skagway in search of souvenirs. And coffee. And a pastry. In general, such items aren’t terribly difficult to find in your average tourist town, except my family back home requested game meat. Um… okay…

I’d already located my java beverage at the White Pass Coffee Bar, but wanted to check items off my souvenir list first before enjoying my treats. As luck would have it, I found such gamey gifts—and my pastry—at Klondike Doughboy. Hurray! What a fun, clean adorable store—and the fry bread is amazing! They had a good selection of vacuum-sealed cured meat treats too; perfect for my shopping quest.

I doubled back to the coffee bar for my iced latte, then found a park bench to rest and refresh with my delicious fry bread and caffeine goodness. Ahhhhhhh…yum…

As I made my way back to the ship, I happened upon placards, statues and old time photos honoring the many people, businesses and events that put this boomtown on the map. For the very few fortunate enough to find gold, their claims and names would make the record books.

For everyone else, well… some are forever captured in the many sepia photos showcased throughout the town. I think it’s pretty cool of Skagway to remember and honor those who dared to dream; to reach those fields of gold. J💰

 

Up-n-down Juneau

Between the Gastineau Channel and the bases of Mount Roberts and Mount Juneau sits Alaska’s capital city: Juneau. Bearing a closer resemblance to a quaint coastal village than to a US government seat, this Southeast Alaskan hub packs a lot into its limited—and somewhat unreachable—locale.

At a recent cruise stop, I was able to experience a few of the literal highs and lows this town has to offer. While my cabin mate headed for Mendenhall Glacier, I opted for afternoon tea—about 1800 feet up…

Waterfront

Looking for a shore excursion that included a tour guide’s expertise (but also allowed for personal wandering time downtown) lead me to Gastineau Guiding’s Town, Tram & Timberline Trek. Our first stop? Saying hello to Tahku, the Humpback whale, who greats all his visitors with a splash roughly every few minutes.

This impressive fountain and statue—a beautiful life-like replica—lives at Overstreet Park, near the Juneau-Douglas Bridge. The statue’s detail is incredible, from the full breach pose down to the whale’s barnacles. Tahku came to town to help celebrate Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood. He’s simply gorgeous!

Upslope

After waving goodbye to Tahku, we headed to our mountainous mode of transportation: the Mount Roberts Tramway. Our sophisticated coach in the sky took us 1800 feet up (giving us spectacular views in the process!) to the next leg of our adventure: the Alpine Loop Trail.

Jocelyn—our fantastic guide—lead us along this meandering 1.5 mile path from the subalpine to the alpine level of Mount Roberts, bringing us up to speed on native plants and trees, the people of Juneau (native and otherwise), and also the “bear” facts, should we encounter any of the large fuzzy critters…

The views from the trail were amazing! The Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock provided natural frames for many a photo, including those I took of the cruise ships docked in the channel waaaaaaaay below our mountain perch. Several trees along the trail also sported carvings—stories being shared with each passerby…

Time for tea! One of my favorite events of any day, our little group of hikers entered the Alpine Tea Room, and enjoyed a few locally made teas, along with jams made from Alaskan berries and plants. My favorite brew was the Alaskan Wild Rose tea. And yes, I made a purchase of this item (plus a few other odds and ends) at their gift shop in the Mount Roberts Nature Center. Don’t judge…

Downtown

After returning to sea level via the tram, I made my way through the very walkable streets of Juneau to a rather famous watering hole: the Red Dog Saloon. Known as the oldest tourist attraction in town, it definitely has that “come inside” appeal. A friend and former Juneau resident suggested I stop in for a drink. Well, I didn’t want to let her down…

 

Meeting up with my cabin mate, we “bellied up to the bar” (…no—really! Not one table available; just two bar stools…), ordered our drinks and nosh, then swung around every so often to enjoy the live music. The sawdust on the floor politely hid the dirt from my hiking shoes. The décor on walls distracted us—in a fun way—from getting too carried away in conversation. One novelty in particular caught my eye: Wyatt Earp’s gun, framed and unclaimed behind the bar. Legendary!

While enjoying the sights and sounds of this happening place from the comfort of my own bar stool, I very much enjoyed my Copper River Queso and Chips as well (made with a ton of white cheddar!), along with a nice white Chardonnay all the way from California. But before you think I wimped out on having a real saloon drink, we ordered the penultimate shot: a Duck Fart…

You heard me! One part Kahlua, one part Bailey’s Irish Cream and one part Whiskey. After seeing this drink promoted just about everywhere in Alaska, I knew I couldn’t head back to the lower 48 without adding this experience to my memory bank. Truth be told, it was delicious! I now have a new favorite shot glass beverage, along with a copy of the recipe on a Red Dog Saloon magnet souvenir…

Our short-but-sweet trip to Juneau complete, we headed back to the ship. By sea or by air—the only two ways in and out of this capital city. Even though arrival and departure methods are a bit limited, a trek to this town is well worth the effort. And a Duck Fart at the Red Dog is worth it too… J 🥃

 

Sounders FC pride

Ah, football… there’s really nothing better than a contest between two rivals to excite and unite the fans. From the pre-game events to the post-game victory celebrations (or sorrow-drowning at a local pub), a team’s faithful followers are one. No matter their social class or DNA, togetherness comes from sharing the joy of cheering for the athletes who in turn represent a very special place: the fans’ home town.

Seattle is fortunate enough to host not one but two football teams: American football’s Seattle Seahawks, and soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC. Recently, we had the privilege of attending a very special Sounders match (against local rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps FC) honoring the beloved retiring football club player Chad Marshall, as well as honoring Seattle Pride 2019. And just how do the Sounders roll? In living color…

Assemble

The stadium’s neighborhood is a busy place, but especially so on game days. We arrived early (about 90 minutes before the match) so we could 1) park with ease, 2) visit the Pro Shop for souvenirs, and 3) have time for a drink at The Ninety. Recommended by our daughter’s boyfriend—who kindly took us to the game—this locale is not your average sports pub.

Open to the public only on matchdays, one can see the Sounders trophy case up close, grab a beer (wine for me today!), and even watch MLS matches in progress on the monitors. As a big fan of Dale Chihuly’s art, I especially enjoyed seeing one of his chandeliers here—sporting team colors—in this very special gathering place.

Now revved up and ready to cheer, we headed to the main event…

Unite

Our stadium’s had a few names since opening its doors in 2002, but for the last eight years we know it officially as CenturyLink Field. “The Clink” really is a beautiful structure. Seating 68,740, it also showcases millions of dollars worth of art. Heading to our seats was like passing by museum walls—fun and elaborate artwork everywhere!

Wanting a little something to eat prior to start time, we hit the concourse and found a favorite restaurant of ours: Din Tai Fung—one of 20 concessions inside The Clink. And after picking up an iced tea at the Starbucks Coffee Cart, I was good to go.

The pre-game events were show-worthy on their own. Chad’s smiling face was on the big screens, and literally in everyone’s hands (as a paper mask of sorts). Number 14 and his family were honored center field as his fans cheered their appreciation.

A giant pride flag flew above the scoreboard. Pride colors were featured throughout the stadium reader boards, souvenirs and team jerseys. But the grandest display of the symbolic colors came from the Emerald City Supporterstifo—under the scoreboard and covering the entire width of the field.

And one more honor to share with the fans: the singing of the Canadian and US national anthems while the countries’ respective flags were held outstretched on the field. United in our excitement, we were ready…

Celebrate

The game. Plenty of shots taken from both teams, keeping the goalkeepers busy and the crowd on its feet. But the real excitement came when a goal scored by the Sounders was called back due to the kicker stepping on the keep’s foot. Okay, so I’m not an official, but… where was he supposed to step? He’d just kicked a goal! Ah, but they didn’t ask me…

After that, the fans on both sides were extra vocal, pretty much exploding when the Sounders scored again in the last few seconds of the match. Wowza! The win gave the home team three points toward earning the Cascadia Cup, as well beating their cross-border rivals, thus adding a little sweetness to honoring retiring #14 and Seattle Pride.

As an added bonus, the four of us were able to step onto the field, post game. My first time ever, standing on a professional team’s field! And yes, I felt tiny, and a little in awe. Athletes who put their hearts and souls (and bodies) into playing a very demanding sport—in front of thousands—that’s something. Something worthy of pride. J ⚽️

 

 

Portland’s rosy glow

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare’s Juliet makes an interesting point when talking about her Romeo. After all, we don’t choose where we’re born—or to whom. And names are something someone chooses for us—or for something—like cities. Take Portland…

Now known as the “City of Roses,” this Oregon town was named by its founding fathers Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove on a coin toss. Each wanted to honor their East Coast home towns. Pettygrove won the toss. This means the West Coast almost had a Boston.

Nicknames, on the other hand, are something we have a say in, or something we earn as the result of an event. Portland’s rosy nickname comes from Episcopal Church convention visitors—waaaaay back in 1888—enjoying the gardening skills of the newly formed Portland Rose Society. And now? Time to bring you up to speed on my recent adventures to Almost-Boston…

Rails

Wanting to opt out of a Friday night traffic jam via the freeway, my husband suggested we take the train. Great idea! He booked our tickets on the Amtrak Cascades Seattle-to-Portland route. We boarded at Seattle’s King Street Station, then sat back and watched the scenery while noshing on items from the dining car.

From Portland’s Union Street Station, we took an Uber to the Courtyard Portland City Center, our hotel for the weekend. After checking in, we headed to our room and closed our eyes for the night.

Saturday morning’s light of day revealed a wonderful convenience to our weekend residence: the MAX Yellow Line’s pick-up stop just across the street. Portland’s light rail system made our travels around town super easy, and at very reasonable rates. But one other discovery I made across the street lead to some additional—very rosy—activities for the day…

Roses

What caught my eye, exactly? Colorful roses in beautiful bunches, decorating an antique cart and wooden bench outside the Geranium Lake Florist—just waiting for customers like me to happen by. The gorgeous display did its job, drawing me closer for a better look. So pretty and fragrant! I couldn’t leave without making a purchase.

Inside the shop, Chris very kindly wrapped my selection—what instantly became a gift for my daughter—and asked if we were in town for the festival. Naively, I asked, “What festival…?”

After I let him know we were participating in a 5K event later that day, he let me know that Portland’s Festival of Roses was taking place all weekend. In fact, the Rose Parade was happening one block away. Wait-what? Right now?!

Collecting my family members, we headed up the street to the parade route, and found our vantage point. In addition to cleverly decorated, rose covered floats, we enjoyed the performances of local high school and alumni marching bands, and parade-waved back at dressed up dignitaries, costumed business people, and of course, the royal court.

Soon after, it was time to patronize local businesses by doing a little shopping. Clothes, shoes, souvenirs, and a city block of books…

Books

Some stores are like giant magnets, pulling you through their doors and lining up your purchases with amazing efficiency. Others fold you into their walls, displays and shelves, giving you lots and lots to peruse while you lose all track of time. And then there’s Powell’s City of Books. Inside its many floors, the world’s largest used and new bookstore manages to accomplish all these shopping options.

Traversing this travel destination’s many nooks and crannies requires stamina. Looking to boost our energy levels, we meandered our way between the bookcases to the World Cup Café. The coffee drinks and baked goods are excellent! And the tables are great for reviewing books while enjoying your chosen treats. This combination makes the café a veeeeeery popular section of the store, any time of day.

Lucky for us, my daughter applied her NYC skills for spotting available seating, and we soon had a place at a shared table. Freshly energized, we continued our bookstore shopping until our time pieces reminded us we needed to get going…

Bites

I’m sure you’re familiar with the word brunch (breakfast-lunch); maybe less so with the word linner (lunch-dinner). Well, you can have them both, along with breakfast, lunch, dinner or nightcaps—at The Original Dinerant.

An upscale diner-restaurant combo attached to our hotel, this eatery quickly became an addition to our list of favorites. Along with great food and excellent service, The Original has a vibe with a pep all its own. Locals and hotel guests alike packed this place.

For our brunch time meal, all of us chose one of the signature house dishes: chicken and waffles. This southern dish features an Oregon spin: the addition of Tillamook cheddar, along with fresh jalapeños, tossed into the waffle batter. Out of this world! The chicken was crispy, flavorful fall-off-the-bone stuff; sooooooo goooooooood!

For our weekend linner option, we went with a friend’s recommendation to try out the iconic Jake’s Famous Crawfish Restaurant. A mainstay in Portland since 1892, this locale has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. If you’re looking to sample seafood fresh from the Pacific, you’ll find it here, along with many other delicious options.

It’s a great place to celebrate special occasions too. Warm, friendly, professional service, along with excellent food in a fine dining atmosphere, we vowed we would return dressed at little more formal than we were. You see, we’d already prepped for our 5K. And it was time to head to the race…

Bubbles

Aquariums. Dishes. Bathtubs. Champagne. All see their fair share of bubbles. Sprinklers experience kids running through them, and cannons usually fire ginormously heavy objects, aimed at destroying a target of some sort. So…how is it these items come together? At the FoamGlow 5K of course!

These sudsy run-or-walk events, benefiting various children’s charities, are a blast to experience. Nothing like wading through mountains of foaming bubbles cascading down on your head to put a smile on your glowing face.

Taking MAX to the 5K’s location (Portland International Raceway), we arrived a little early to pick up our registration packets. The crowd gathered as the pre-party began, just before sundown. All of us enjoyed the cannon fire of colorful bubbles raining suds onto our noggins. Many participants accessorized their white T-shirts, adding a little bling or glow paint to their 5K gear.

Once the race began, black lights illuminated the waves of people as they ran or walked by. The foaming stations assured all that the opportunity for head-to-toe bubble coverage was possible. Too fun! Crossing the finish line, we happily received our medals of participatory honor…

While taking MAX back to our hotel, we realized there was just enough time before The Original closed to have a nightcap. Bellies up to the bar, we enjoyed a fancy Bloody Mary, a whiskey on the rocks—or rather one big rock—and for me, my first boozy shake. Yummy stuff!

I always enjoy weekend trips to the City of Roses. Forever something new to discover and something tried and true to revisit. If you plan to spend a little time in Almost-Boston, be sure to try the chicken and waffles, then pick up a bunch of roses. And a good book or two…J🌹