Monday, July 28, 2014

Oregon Capitol

DSCN0774We are camped less than 10 miles east of Salem, the capital of Oregon.  We haven’t always visited the state capitol buildings when we have had the chance, but this one seemed rather unique so we drove over for a tour.



DSCN0785This capitol building was dedicated in 1938.  It was constructed because the prior one, which like the capitols in many states resembled the US Capitol, burned down.  Actually this is the third capitol building for Oregon as the first one burned down as well.  This building is a major departure from other states’ capitols as it has an art deco design.  Most of the structure is marble (maybe to keep it from burning).  There is an inner rotunda built inside the outer one which is what you see from inside the building as shown in this picture.


DSCN0789One of the defining features is the statue of a pioneer on top of the rotunda.  The statue is 22 feet tall and is made of bronze but is gilded with 23 carat gold.  The pioneer carries an axe in one hand and a tarp in the other both for constructing a shelter in the Oregon territory.





DSCN0787We took the tour to the top exterior of the rotunda.  There is a small diameter spiral staircase between the walls of the interior and exterior rotunda domes that leads to the roof.  There are excellent views from the roof as it is about the tallest structure in Salem.  The rear view includes Willamette University, founded in 1842 and claimed to be the oldest university in the Western United States.  The Capitol is surrounded by other State buildings and lots of greenery and flower gardens.

We walked the downtown area of Salem as far west as the Willamette River.  Along the river is a park that contains an indoor carousel constructed in 2001 in the hand-built grand style of historic carousels.



Spruce Goose

DSCN0737We follow several blogs and at times we read something we are very surprised to learn.  For example, awhile back we read that another blogger had visited an air museum in Oregon that is the home of Howard Hughes’  “Spruce Goose”.  The last we had known, the Spruce Goose was housed in a hangar in Long Beach, California.  We were planning to check it out if we had traveled that way.  But because of another’s blog we learned that it now is housed in the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, southwest from Portland.  This is not exactly new news.  The Spruce Goose was sold to the Evergreen Museum in 1992 and was transported there in 1993 and after a long restoration and reassembly was put on display in 2001.

DSCN0716For those who might not know, Spruce Goose is a nickname for an experimental heavy lift aircraft started during WWII to be constructed of materials non-essential for the war effort like aluminum.  Hughes built most of the plane out of laminated wood materials.  The Government put $18 million into the project and Hughes put $7 million of his own money into it as that was the only way for it to be finished as it wasn’t completed before the end of the war.  The design even employed beach balls for buoyancy in the wings (it was a sea plane as there were no airfields long enough to take off and land it).

DSCN0733The wingspan is greater than the length of a football field.  The overall size is similar to the largest transcontinental planes of today.  Congress was becoming unhappy with Hughes over the money which had been spent for a plane which never flew during the war effort.  After a hearing in Washington DC, he returned to California and flew the plane at about 70 feet of altitude for about a mile just to prove that it was airworthy.  The plane never flew again even though Hughes maintained it in flight-ready condition for nearly another 30 years.

DSCN0713There are many other air and space craft in the Evergreen Museum, but the real star of the show is the Spruce Goose, a name Hughes reportedly detested.  But then there also is a water park in the museum complex with a 747 mounted on the roof which is the launching pad for some the water slides.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

First Visit With Little Victor

Leeanne wrote that I traveled off somewhere by myself. So just where did I go?  Well, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio to see our first grandchild, little baby Victor.  Leeanne left me behind “to guard the fort” while she went back for her parent’s anniversary in March, so it was my turn to travel.  But then she left me in Las Vegas while I left her in ……..Silverton, Oregon.  That all doesn’t seem like the fairest of trades, but as I will explain later, it all will be rectified soon.


It was wonderful to see Natasha, Andy and little Victor.  They actually trusted me to baby sit him a couple times while they went out on some short errands  Victor and I got along famously even though he didn’t do a lot more than sleep.  He is a happy, healthy baby and a bundle of joy.  So, how is Leeanne going to get her turn to see little Victor?  We have decided that after Oregon we will continue our northward trek into Washington, but thereafter we will head off to the Midwest before wintering in Florida.  So by sometime in later September we both will be back and cuddling little Victor. 


10513286_783026875942_7564865219412600785_nThis picture has a little story that goes with it.  One time while watching little Victor, I commented later to his parents that he had given me a “look” similar to the one baby Derek Jr. had made at the end of the movie Zoolander.  They both told me they knew exactly what I was talking about – they had seen the same “look”.  That night they ran the video camera on Victor for awhile and sure enough, they caught him in a  “blue steel” moment.  When Andy posted it to Facebook, one commenter remarked that it looked a bit more like “magnum” than “blue steel”, but no matter – he’s a great looker whatever you call it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Oregon Gardens

DSCN0664While Gary was off traveling somewhere by himself (more to come on that in a future blog post), I used the opportunity to clean the inside of the motor home including a much needed carpet/rug cleaning. I took a break from cleaning and visited the Oregon Gardens located in Silverton. The Garden sits on the site of a former horse ranch and covers 80 acres. The site was selected to include the development of a wetland system to recycle the city’s treated wastewater. The water travels at up to 700 gallons per minute, through a series of ponds, creating a habitat for wildlife and plants.

DSCN0671They have over 20 different gardens some of which include the Wetlands, a Conifer Garden, a Children’s Garden, a Rose Garden, a tropical greenhouse, an Oak grove, and a medicinal garden. They have a large Christmas Tree garden – of which Oregon boasts they sell the most Christmas Trees in the U.S. Being from Michigan, I might argue that claim. They also have a Market garden that features 147 agricultural products grown in Oregon some of which include: berries, grapes, grass seed, hops, pumpkins, apples and quince. The produce from the Garden is used in their CafĂ© or is donated to area families.


They host many events throughout the year including weddings, car shows, and movies in the park. In 2007, they opened the Oregon Garden Resort which is a small “community” of 131 vacation cottages. Also located on the property is a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house, the only one in Oregon. Since reservations are required to tour the house, I only walked around to glimpse it.  Although it was a nice diversion from cleaning, it was perhaps not as impressive as some of the free gardens that we have visited including Niagara Gardens in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Willamette Valley

Wpdms_shdrlfi020l_willamette_valleyFrom the Oregon Coast, we traveled about a hundred miles inland over the Coastal Mountain Range into the Willamette Valley.  This valley surrounded by mountains runs from Eugene in its south end to Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland at its north end.  During the ice age, the valley was subject to many rounds of massive flooding.  The flood waters in the valley are estimated to have been as deep as 300 to 400 feet at times.  All these floods carried fertile silt that was deposited in the valley as the flood waters receded. 


In modern times, the Valley has been and is one of the most productive agricultural regions of the country.   Not only is the soil very fertile, but the growing conditions are excellent as well.  Because of the breezes off the Pacific, the Valley has cool wet Winters but warm sunny Summers.  It has a long growing season as well.

You don’t anymore than come east over the coastal mountains into that valley than you start noticing this huge range of agriculture.  As you travel through the Midwest you see corn and soybeans.  In the Plains there are endless fields of wheat.  In the Willamette Valley there are all kinds of crops.  There are grains, fruit and nut trees, fruit vines and bushes, vegetables, hops (yes, those aromatic little flower cones that provide aroma and bitterness to beer), flowers and bulbs, Christmas trees,grasses, and many other varieties of crops as well.  We read somewhere that 99% of all Hazelnuts (aka Filberts) grown in the US come from the Willamette Valley.  And, by the way, Rogue Brewing produces a superb Hazelnut brown ale with these delectable nuts.




Given the richness of this Valley, settlers of the American West streamed into this area via the Oregon Trail.    The majority of the population of the entire State live in this Valley.  We are camped near the town of Silverton east of Salem, the capital of Oregon.  We were lucky to find a campground that would give us the Passport America half off discount for our entire stay so we are getting the rate of $20 a day, quite good for Oregon in the Summer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Newport Wrap-up

DSCN0470We have moved on from Newport,Oregon so it’s time to finish writing about our adventures there.  As the weather was for the very most part quite cool and the ocean  quite cold, we didn’t spend nearly as much time at the beach as what we might have hoped.  So we used some of our time in Newport for very serious cleaning of the exterior of the motor home.  We scrubbed it down and waxed it by hand.  We even polished the wheels and treated the tires.  It’s looking really good for its 12 plus years.

The weather was perfect for some baking and as berries are coming into season in the Northwest, I took the opportunity to make a couple pies.  The first one was made with Bing cherries    Alley Cat photo bombed the picture of the first slice as she knew ice cream had to be around somewhere.  Look to your left, honey.





My other pie was made with a mixture of blueberries and red and black raspberries.  It was the first time I had ever made a lattice top.






We visited the Yaquina Head lighthouse, the one we could see from our campground, and saw thousands of sea birds and a few sea lions as well on the offshore rocks.  We took in more marine life at the Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.




DSCN0541And finally a last look at Newport’s Yaquina Bay Bridge one of the many arch bridges of Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rogue Brewery

DSCN0562One of the things that makes Newport famous is that it is the home of Rogue Brewing.  Rogue is one of the most renowned microbreweries in the country.  They were founded in 1988 making them one of the pioneers in the craft brewing industry.  They now are about the 30th largest brewery in the U.S.  But they don’t strive for high volume but rather produce a very large range of specialty ales that are mainly sold in painted bottles rather than ones with paper labels.  They tend to be one of the higher priced lines of ales.



DSCN0563So it was a pleasure to visit their facilities in Newport including their main brewery, the pub house which used to be the brewery and also is now a small inn with rooms on the upper floor, and even a micro distillery which we didn’t visit.





DSCN0561-00120140630_193214 (1)

DSCN0081Within their extensive range of ales, there is one that more than had us scratching our heads.  It’s name is Beard Beer.  As you won’t be able to read the description at the bottom of the pictures here goes:  “The brew dedicated to Beards, Beard Beer is brewed with a yeast created from Brewmaster John Maier’s Beard.  No need to freak out, Brewers have used wild yeasts in beer making for centuries.  John has had the same old growth beard since 1983 and for over 15,000 brews so it is no great surprise that a natural yeast ideal for brewing was discovered in his beard.”  Talk about spontaneous fermentation.  This was actually one brew we chose to pass on.  But we sampled a good many of their range.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sea Creatures

20140630_100404We read that it could be quite interesting to go down to the beach area at low tide – that there would be all kinds of interesting sea creatures that could be seen.  We waited for the morning that the tide was at the lowest during our stay here in Newport, Oregon.  Except at low tide all of these smaller rocks would have been covered by the ocean but at low tide they held tide pools and all kinds of things that were attached to them.

The stars of the show were none other than starfish. also known as sea stars.  They are not a fish.  They are fairly crude creatures that don’t have bones.  They have a mouth on the backside of the center of their body and they move along the rocks attaching themselves to their prey, largely small shellfish which they can open and essentially extend out their stomachs and eat.  There is presently an epidemic up and down the Pacific coast of something called Starfish Wasting Disease that is killing almost all of them.  Scientists are unsure of the cause, but it has happened before and eventually they did recover, hopefully they will again.


20140630_095158There were various forms of sea anemones which are other crude sea animals which at times seem like plants.  Some of these can feed on starfish.



There were rocks virtually covered with mussels.


20140630_095747 (1)And the beach was heavily littered with these creatures.  We guess that they were Portuguese Men Of War but some research indicates they likely were Velella.  Note that this one exhibits kind of a clear wing to the left of its purplish body.  This wing helps them to ride on top of the ocean being propelled by the wind and they have no means to move themselves.  They feed on plankton in the ocean and they do not sting humans.

There is a lot out there in the ocean beyond the fish and sharks.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Day Trip To Tillamook

We drove north up to the costal town of Tillamook, Oregon.  This is likely the farthest north we will go on the Oregon shore.  In total we have driven about 300 miles of the Pacific coast in northern California and Oregon.
The major attraction in Tillamook is the Tillamook Cheese Factory, the main facility of the Tillamook County Creamery Association, a cooperative of dairy farmers.  Settlers in the 1800s quickly realized that the Tillamook region with its bountiful grassland, rain, and moderate temperatures would be a great place for dairy farming.  But there was a little problem as the area was on the wrong side of the coastal mountain range from the population centers of the West.  The dairy farmers first built a schooner to carry milk and cheese to Portland.  In the late 1800s, the farmers came to the conclusion that it would be easier if they could create a product that would be easier to transport – so they built a cheese factory.  Tillamook cheeses are a very popular brand throughout the West today.
DSCN0510The factory in Tillamook makes various cheeses and ice cream  There is a second Tillamook cheese factory on the Columbia River in north central Oregon.  The factory in Tillamook produces around one million pounds of cheese a week.  The aging area has a capacity of 50 million pounds of cheese.  The factory tour consisted of a few overlooks of a production floor where large blocks of cheese were being cut and packaged along with several story boards.  At the DSCN0508end of the tour was a cheese tasting area including “squeaky cheese” or cheese curds that are made from the solids of milk coagulated with some form of acid.  They are only sold at the factory as they lose their freshness and “squeak” (fresh ones really do squeak against your teeth as you bite into them), very quickly after the curding process is finished.  Of course they had plenty of cheese for purchase as well and we bought a couple kinds but we were already familiar with their products from Oregon grocery stores.  And Gary felt the need to re enact a bit of his farming heritage.

DSCN0505And you may wonder what this pleasure boat has to do with the cheese factory.  Note that it is parked with all the cars in the visitor lot at the cheese factory.  Well we saw it rolling in right behind us when we entered the grounds of the factory.  Yes, it was rolling.  The owner has mounted the boat hull onto a vehicle chassis.  I talked to him a bit when I went over to take the picture.  His boat is a street legal fully licensed vehicle.  He had driven it over to the Oregon coast from Spokane, Washington.  There is a convertible top for it.   Not something you see every day.
On our way back we stopped in the town of Pacific City and had dinner at the Pelican Brewery located ocean front.  Gary was the adventurous one as he had the deep fried oyster po boy.  The brewery was a fine one having earned the honor of being name the Champion Small Brewery at the 2014 World Beer Cup.