A walk in the car to the coast

I took Claire on a mystery tour of the Oregon coast on Saturday and Sunday.

Well, what little of it we could see through the rain.

First stop was Astoria, homeland of the Goonies, so we HAD to stop by the Goonies house. Unfortunately it turned out that the Goonies were voting Romney, so we didn’t stick around.

“Hey You Guuuys!”

Astoria (oldest town West of the Rockies, which isn’t saying much), looked like it could be pretty on a nice day but we didn’t really stop to find out.

Next stop was the very revered Cannon Beach. We stepped on to the beach for all of 5 minutes. The wind was blowing up wet sandstorms and we were completely saturated with water almost immediately. There are several huge rocks jutting out from an otherwise perfect flat sandy beach. It looks like it would be be fabulous in the Spring.

We drove off hastily past ‘Seaside’ (a really bleak looking one-horse town) in an effort to get to our lodgings, near a town called ‘Manzanita’ (meaning little apple, but really referring to the type of tree-shrub that completely covers the area). We stayed at the ‘Zen Gardens guest house’ with our English hostess, Mrs. Smigel. Like everything else over the weekend,   we could only speculate on how nice it would be if the sun came out, particularly the outdoor Zen bath and relaxing in the beautifully groomed garden.

At the end of her road was the wild, rugged and absolutely wonderful Nehalem Bay beach. It was still a 45º power-shower on Sunday, but we braved it to wander for a couple of miles. It was slightly spooky as the mist quickly swallowed all other beachwalkers, leaving us feeling completely alone with the dunes and the strange driftwood sculptures.


Claire spotted an interesting set of tracks as we crossed the dunes. 
Then later on, when we were exploring a nearby wood, look who we saw!

(sorry about the blurry pic) She was totally blasé about our presence, but eventually got bored and wandered off into the woods.


This kind of lichen hangs off loads of the trees in the area – sometimes it grows so long that from a distance they look a little like haunted weeping willows.

Unfortunately my iPhone managed to also soak up water after that, and all the remaining shots are in an extreme 70s soft-focus. So I’ll just tell you about the spooky mudflats, the rows of posts going out into nowhere, visiting a lighthouse at dusk, and the intensely stormy drive back through landscape that rose out of the gloom like we were taking journey into the mouth of Mordor.
And now today it’s clear skies and a full moon!

Pumpkin Patching

Dan and Robin invited us out for a bright orange themed day of entertainment at Kruger Farms just North of Portland; home of epic cabbages, 1 pumpkin for every resident of Portland (maybe), and my first ever Mayan Maize Maze.

attack of the rustic cabbage-heads

Laura and Jay also ventured with us through the sometimes terrifying twists and turns:

We finished off the day producing a porch’s worth of incredible creations. I can honestly say that this was the most creative I’ve been in weeks.





After the move…

So the epic trek to get ourselves together concluded after Illy and Aaron’s wonderful  wedding on Saturday. What followed was an all-night marathon of cleaning which we finished just in time for our landlady to visit and to catch a taxi to the airport.
It was lovely to have Jo and Kev and Ian and Elaine and Katy and Laura there to see us off at the airport. Wish I’d taken a photo!!
I’ve got rather good at plane travel recently and what with a hoodie, a neck pillow and a bandana to hide my drool-face, I managed to sleep quite a bit on the flight.
We arrived at Minnesota, which looks beautiful from the air; the city is completely hidden by deciduous trees, which were turning gold and red.
You can’t tell from this shot, but Minnesota looked really beautiful!
There we had a bit of a panic as the immigration officer became impatient with my vague answers and sent me to the ‘interrogation room’ where we waited for what felt like ages. Luckily he ended up stamping my Visa for a whole year – the best result we could have hoped for.
We had to then leggit to our connecting flight – which really felt like one journey too many – and finally got to Portland!
Coming in to land at PDX
Wieden and Kennedy had hired us a car which we drove in to the city; a slightly hair-raising experience, particularly as a car drove straight into another one in the lane right next to us, it could have very easily been our lane, and we’d just put down a $1,000 deposit on the hire-car!
To begin with I had mixed feelings about Portland. Having just been on a road-trip where we saw Chicago, Seattle and Vancouver, I suppose I had a particular idea of what it would be like. It isn’t really an aesthetic place, which was a surprise to me. From the apartment I can see mountains and trees, but the things that really dominate the scenery are the freeways, an impressively ugly bridge, the really incongruous Union train station and a vast postal depot.
The view from our apartment – including picturesque postal depot.
Sometimes ugly freeways become almost beautiful…
Slap-bang in the middle of the city. Kind of like where St.Pauls would be in London.
There are some pretty bits but they don’t last long – for instance I’m only a block away from the river, but you barely tend to see it if you’re in the city.
The most striking thing about it so far for me is how quiet the city feels sometimes. There’s quite a bit of traffic in places, but on most streets there are only a few people walking up or down, even in the centre. It’s partly because, like everywhere else, downtown is more of a work area than a living area; most people live across the river in these incredibly American suburbs where they all have porches and flags and postboxes and you drive to the shops.
This area felt like cycling through a Disney set.
I didn’t really expect that of Portland, I thought it would be a bit more like San Francisco where people live everywhere and the suburbs have things like Golden Gate park right next to them. Having said that I definitely warmed to the area as I explored it.
There are loads of houses like this on the East-side…
This was someone’s front yard.
This was outside someone else’s front yard. 
I’m not sure how the neighbours felt about them…
I’m giving it quite a bad impression so far but there are lots of good things about it. It’s a really good city for cycling, I hired a bike from Pedal Bike Tours for a week. Cycling here feels so much safer than cycling in London. Car drivers seem respectful of cyclists even when you’re doing some mad last-minute change of direction on a five-lane road.
Not sure if it was ironic considering it was painted in a car park…
There’s a fantastic bakery across the road from us, and apparently there’s lots of little art and design places which I have yet to discover. Downtown has a standard office-block look, but then a really interesting eccentric area runs like a vein though the high-rises. The epicentre is a vast, amazing bookshop called Powell’s where odd people hang out and there are free talks every night. In the winter you can do cross-country skiing starting in the city and finishing in the mountains and everybody raves about hiking and camping in the countryside. I think the more that I’m around here the more that I’ll get to like the place.
There’s loads of random sculptures around the city.
Claire seemed relatively happy after her first day at work, and Dan and Robin (her boss and his wife) have been really nice to us so far and invited us to lots of restaurants and made us feel at home. We don’t really know anyone else here, so that will be quite a big barrier to break. So far it feels like people from Portland are nice when approached, but not as talkative as other places in the States.
So I’m still feeling excited about our adventure, although having gone through the many flaming hoops to get this far, I can now see that there is more work ahead to make this funny new place our home.

Before the move…

Up until this year our lives weren’t exactly super active. So it was a strange feeling to have to plan our tasks hour-by-hour, with the knowledge that no matter how quickly we worked, everything was not going to get done. It gives me even more admiration for the busy people (looking at you, Charlie and Emma) who work so hard and produce so much!

Our most intensive task was to balance seeing all our favourite faces with the absurd project of emptying and cleaning the flat. And spending two weeks driving across America right in the middle of it all!

We drove across London six times and to Wales, Oxfordshire and Stroud all in the last week. This epic journey was started when the bumbling five drove to Bridgend to visit Betty, and claire’s Grandad Ivor who was in hospital.



The climax was our friends’ wedding on Saturday followed by an all-night marathon of cleaning which we finished just in time for our landlady to visit and to catch a taxi to the airport.