Monday, July 27, 2009

Slowly settling in...

It has not rained once since I arrived 2 weeks ago. Not once. And it's scorching hot the last few days. Luckily Portland is a place with low humidity. Strangers have asked me how I like the Oregon summer so far. I always respond “it’s gorgeous!” And then a few will say – almost gleefully – “Well just wait until November hits with all the nonstop rain for 4 months!” At this point I say "bring….on…the rain".

There’s been a shift in the last week where I am less in vacation mode and more in business mode: the business of fixing my car and the business of finding a home to rent. I can’t help but wonder if having owned a home of my own for 7 years makes me pickier, but I am determined to find a place I love. The neighborhood I really like the most so far is called Sellwood but I’m open to other neighborhoods. Besides I'm told you can't go wrong with most places to live. Much of Portland is a bunch of neighborhoods with their own restaurants, boutiques and stores all sewn together. You can ride your bike from one neighborhood to another. And now that I have my own bike, I'm doing just that. I bought a refurbished bike that I love and feel safe riding. It may not be the prettiest thing, but it will be after I throw in a basket and a bell. Who knew I’d be riding on busy roads …sharing the road with cars?! I’ve spent more time on a bike since arriving here than my car – and that’s good because the car is currently in the shop getting a new head gasket: OUCH. 

Hiking is huge here. I hiked Eagle Trail in the Columbia River Gorge the other day and afterwards bought some fresh caught fish from fishermen in the gorge - and boy do they catch some big fish! I may have found the best tasting salmon ever.

There’s so much to do in Portland … I’m doing things I never imagined, like partaking in last friday’s Blogger’s and Beer meetup at the Green Dragon, where people mingle, blog, and drink. It was fun. Plus the ratio of men to women could not be ignored! (See more after video).

Alas, this past week hasn't been all easy as I settle more into being a Portlander and figuring out what direction to take with freelancing and creating online videos on the side. This week has also brought twinges of sadness, missing friends in Atlanta; being 3 hours behind makes a difference in talking. So as the nostalgia set in, I made a little video of the journey  over the last month from leaving Atlanta to heading west. The song I used in this video is one I played 1.1 million times on this road trip. It's a good reflection on what I was seeing and feeling.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Kicking things off in Portland, Oregon

When I first started talking about wanting to make change in my life a wise friend told me to find the city first and the rest will follow. I took that advice and have really been enjoying the experience; though I’m doing things a little backwards: I found the city. Now I’m looking for a neighborhood  to live in. And so on and so on. I just wrapped up my first week in PDX. Much of it was spent on Carolyn’s bike, riding around various neighborhoods... and she’s right: it’s the best way to learn a new town. Now I’m on the hunt for a bike of my own. 

One place I didn’t ride my bike was to Sauvie Island where there are a handful of farms and where you can pick your own berries. I chose to pick blueberries and raspberries on this beautiful inlet in the middle of the Willamette River.

Portland has some cool bridges and some beautiful sunsets. The Willamette River runs through the city and makes for pretty driving, including a drive to what is considered the suburbs. In the big city life of Atlanta, driving to the suburbs could easily take me 45 minutes to an hour depending on where I was going. Here, it’s 15 minutes to my friend Lisa’s house in Beaverton. I've been friends with Lisa since middle school. She and her husband Ross invited me to a party my first weekend here and boy what a party it was; complete with yummy catered Lebanese food and a rockin’ live band. Cool friends too. It was so much fun that I didn’t leave Lisa and Ross’ house until after dinner SUNDAY. I’m not sure I’ve chillaxed on a couch all day just reading and taking it easy in like… ever! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Arriving in P-town

First I’d like to give a shout out to my car Subie for being there for me through thick and thin, endless miles, countless gas stops, and a few mechanics intruding upon her insides a couple of times. She’s a real trooper and for as long as she’s up for it, I’m keeping her.

As I drove west to Portland on Route 30 along the Columbia River Gorge, the winds were whipping pretty hard and hundreds of wind surfers dotted the gorge. Then as I came around a bend, there to greet me was Mount Hood. What a sight and what a welcome!

My destination in P-town was a friend of a friends. My friend Laura in Atlanta had connected me with her friend Carolyn, who offered me a place to stay until I found a place of my own. But before I got to Carolyn’s I decided to stop at Multnomah Falls for a quick hike. Multnomah Falls is breathtaking. It stands at about 620 feet tall and is like the big kahuna of all the waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. 

It is a place that also attracts a lot of tourists so I decided since I live here now I can just come back. At that same moment I also realized I had locked my keys in the car. Talk about a great way to end a road trip and begin a new chapter. Luckily I had joined AAA a few weeks earlier! I finally got to Carolyns to find she is not only super cool but has a super cool dog named Jake. She lives in a beautiful 100 year old home with a fabulously thriving veggie and herb garden. It's a great way to start things up in P-town.

Carolyn lives in NE Portland which is close to a lot of things, like a gorgeous, sweet smelling rose garden park just down the street. Today I road her bike to a nearby neighborhood called the Alberta district. It sort of has an East Atlanta feel with tons of boutiques, restaurants, and coffee shops. 

There is so much to see here and I’m just getting started. 

Monday, July 13, 2009

Utah, Idaho, heading to new home

After leaving Crested Butte, I headed to Moab to check out the Arches. The plan whipped up that morning was to go to Moab, have lunch, keep driving. But as will be the case on road trips, my car 'Subie' was starting to have some issues. It resulted in an overnight stay in Moab which was fine by me. Moab is a cool small town filled with bicyclists, motorcyclists, and hikers. The Arches were incredible. It was like being in the Land of the Lost. I returned the next day and it was like i was seeing a whole new place. I think you can keep going back and seeing it with new eyes each time. Next time I'm in Moab I'll hit up Canyonland and get a bike ride in, but not this trip. Utah is a little schizo to me - you have desolute highway with not a building, person, animal in site for a hundred miles - just pretty mountains on the outskirts. Then you find yourself driving through mountains and valleys ... Deserts and Lushness. Utah is pretty cool. From there i was headed to Boise. I've always had this attraction to Idaho; now even more after seeing a huge billboard for Sierra Trading Post Outlet right in the city. Can you say exit asap? I spent an hour and a half inside and got some items while a huge storm raged outside. Boise is surrounded by mountains but has a surburbia feel to it, or at least a lot of franchises but still cool. I plan to make many trips to Idaho national parks once I settle a bit. 

It was about 45 minutes outside Boise and just minutes before Oregon border that I saw the most incredible rainbow - a full rainbow. I had to stop on the side of the highway to grab a shot. Now I'm sitting here in a hotel in Baker City, Oregon preparing to drive with "G" the 300 miles to Portland. More from P-town.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Crested Buttiful!!!

My first day in Crested Butte, Heather took me to a 7am yoga class with mountain views. 
I loved the town immediately. Crested Butte is nestled in the Gunnison National Forest, about an hour and half drive from Aspen when Keblar Pass is open - summers only. Hanging out in CB is unreal. Really unreal. It's like the scenery is out of a movie. With a population of 5,000 year round it astounds me this place isn't filled with outdoor adventure lovers. Maybe its the remoteness of the town. Maybe people don't realize this place is an outdoor playground for anyone. Another thing about this amazing town is that there isn't a stop light anywhere; just a four way stop to get you where you need to go. I absolutely love this place and had I visited a year ago this is the place I would be moving to. Yes, I know. I can stay. Heather told me I wouldn't want to leave. She was right. I'll be back to Crested Butte for sure. Along with my friend Mindy, Heather and I have also been friends since we were 5 going to school all the way through college -that's how me and my closest friends all come together and how that star of destiny shines upon us. She's an amazing skier and has mastered the talent of outdoor adventurer in just everything. She runs the kids ski school in CB and is doing an amazing job. I had such a good time with Hez and her super cool hubby Tim, who became an instant friend. After yoga, Hez took me hiking up Mount Crested Butte (elevation: 12,000) which required jumping on a ski lift - my first time ever - and the scene around us was absolutely stunning. Actually, CB itself is simply stunning. Later on, we checked out some live bluegrass, surrounded by mountains and good energy. I extended my stay an extra day because I like Crested Butte so much. Next day Tim and I hiked around Paradise Divide where the word exquisite doesn't do it justice. The place is just a mountain of paradise; maybe that's where the name comes from. I am a little sad leaving CB but knowing I'll be back here makes it a little easier. Get here sometime if you can, you'll be glad you did. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Aspen is aspenomenal

It wasn’t long at all after leaving Denver that the jaw dropping started… this is some beautiful country, from mountains to out of this world rock formations, though I have a feeling I’ll be saying this stuff all the way through Oregon. I came to Aspen to see my high school friend Judy who lives with her hubby Greg outside Denver but they were vacationing with friends in Aspen. So through the awesomeness of themselves and their awesome friends, they invited me to join them in the condo that Judy and Greg had. Pretty much the moment I arrived in Aspen the workout kicked in. First day was a 4 mile hike to Maroon Bells quickly followed by a 16 mile bike ride to, Woody Creek Canyon, an area outside Aspen … we bikded pass Snowmass and Aspen Highlands. It has been nothing short of magical. We ended by riding to the John Denver sanctuary and it was so overwhelming to be there that you couldn’t help but get goose bumps and choked up. Dinner in Aspen with some light musical entertainment made it a perfect day in this great town. Tuesday morning started with a 40 minute hike that goes straight up – seriously – the steep rocky Ute Trail, which ascends 1200 feet in just over a mile! The higher elevation had me stopping at times but the vistas were worth stopping for. I’ve said it over and over but I’m a lucky girl to have so many awesome friends & family to see on this trip from Cleveland – Toledo – Colorado. Next stop is Crested Butte where I’ll see my friend Heather. She’s put me in a direction where I’ll go to CB via Keblar Pass which Hez says is one of the most beautiful drives I will ever see in my life…. And it was!! More to come later.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I have some seriously great friends. That's what this trip is about in some ways; seeing the people i have known the longest in life, who have seen the good, the bad and still welcome me with open arms. Everyone I am seeing in Colorado are good friends from as long ago as 35 to 25 years of friendship. I've been to Colorado 4-5 times but this time something was different, like I was looking at what I've seen before with new eyes. As I rolled into Denver to see Chris and Iggy, one of the first things to see - again - was a rainbow! Chilling out in Denver was perfect as the deeper I drive west the more accustomed to a new life I become. Like a lot of american cities, Denver has great parks, cool neighborhoods and super cool people & dogs like Frazier. But the fact that it's so laid back and surrounded by beautiful mountains makes it stand out in some ways. From City Park you have views of the Continental Divide and Mount Evans. How cool is that? The holiday weekend was really special to me in many ways as I accomplished making changes that I wanted to within a year - those with me last holiday will know what that's about. But it was double special to hang with great friends and their awesome cool friends, gathering to eat, drink and celebrate so much. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Iowa & Nebraska

Thank gosh for books on CD. It's come in handy along 80 W. The driving route has been kind of boring though Iowa has some rolling hills, lots of green grass and lives up to its name, which has been nice. Nebraska is okay; I felt like I entered the West when I drove in. I saw windmills in Iowa and went under a cool bridge in Nebraska.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Week in Ohio

I am officially in transition in life as I leave my hometown Toledo, Ohio. Instead of returning to Atlanta, I’m heading to Portland, Oregon. So far, things are going well. It was a great week with my nephews. They are the best little guys an aunt could ask for - their mom and dad included. 

It’s been a jam-packed week, mostly with family but one night spent with old friends from as far back as kindegarten (Mindy & Laurie Amstel ... grade school friend Laurie Z also came by); the Rock and Roll hall of fame was a highlight, splish-splashing at my sister in law’s family home in Michigan was great, and at the awesome Crosby Arts Festival where Mindy's ceramics were featured, I discovered my nephews have at least some of my DNA…they didn’t want to leave the rockin’ Blues stage at the festival. On my final day in T-town I took Danny and Joey to see Up in 3D. I’m a lucky girl to have such great friends and family.

Next stop is Colorado where i'll hang out with more good friends. I'm heading out today and joining me is my new road trip partner “Garmina” (G for short); Thanks to Mindy and Andy I now have a GPS system to help me if I get lost or need a hotel. As Andy said “he can’t always be my Human Atlas!”…Thanks Guys I love it and you. The route is pretty easy, i'm taking 80 West and going as far as I feel like driving before stopping for the night ... probably doing the same tomorrow before dropping down to 70W and landing in Denver Friday.

I’ve added a little video tribute to a good week in Ohio. Just tried my hand at iphoto slideshow yesterday otherwise it would've been shorter as my producing friends all know.