July 15, 2012

The Blogger Tour of Oregon Ends Much Too Soon

Many relationships today are virtual. We e-mail, text, IM, or even Skype without actually meeting the people we spend so much time with. As part of my satisfying retirement my wife, Betty, and I just returned from a fabulous 12 day trip to Oregon built around turning virtual friendships into real ones. I wrote about the first half of the vacation last week.

Before heading to the coast and then central Oregon, our last two days in the Portland area continued to add memories to an already very special trip. Galen owns a cabin within spitting distance of Mt. Hood. The weekend getaway home sits deep in the forest, just above a beautiful stream. Our 4th of July was spent sitting on the porch, staring at the water and sunlight streaming through the trees. 


Then, to top off a perfect day Galen took us to dinner at the Timberline Lodge, halfway up the mountain. With mounds of snow surrounding the parking lot and still coating the top of the mountain, we were as far away from the Arizona desert as it is possible to be.



In one of those experiences that seems to define the uniqueness of Portland, our dinner the next night concluded with a barbershop quartet serenade. An international competition was taking place the week we were in town. It just so happened that one of the competing groups from New York was dining at the same restaurant as we were. Suddenly, the sound of several male voices, in tight harmony, began to fill the room. Everyone stopped eating to enjoy the spontaneous concert. The men even invited their waitress to sit with them while they sang  "Sweet Gal of Mine"  to her. That 15 minutes of singing was the perfect conclusion to our stay in a magical city.

Our time with Galen Pearl and Barbara and Earl Torris ended way too soon but we had more of the state to see. A three night stay at a B&B on the coast just north of Newport was the quiet and solitary opposite of the hustle of Portland. The weather was cool and grey, the clam chowder was to die for, and the lighthouses a photographer's dream.

Then, on to see Bill and Wendy Birnbaum who live in the small central Oregon town of Sisters. Obviously, with a population of just over 2,000 folks, Sisters was a quiet place that had a relaxing pace built around coffee shops and wine bars, or so we thought. Our first night in town Wendy and Bill took us to a local bakery that had a backyard set up as a concert venue. Suddenly a Beatles tribute band, Abbey Road Live, took to the stage. For the next 2 hours at least 80 folks of all ages danced and sang along with music. Cinnamon rolls from Angeline's bakery, wine from the bar, and some of the friendliest people we had ever met invited us into their lives.

For the next three days we became a part of Sisters. Wendy and Bill took us on hikes past incredible waterfalls and roaring streams. We saw lakes so clear that boats seemed to be floating on air. We were welcomed into their amazing home, perched on the edge of a canyon, several miles out of town to enjoy breakfast on the deck, dinners by the grill, and gazing at stars without the interference of any human-generated light. 


Sahalie Falls
Wendy, Bill, Betty, and me


We spent one afternoon in a local wine bar, talking about books and authors, politics and the economy with people who just drifted in, recognized Bill and became our friends, too. We were absolutely blown away by the incredible photography of Wendy. Her work is on display at a local gallery and on the walls of their home. She taught Betty more about using our point and shoot camera in two days than we had learned in 6 months. Bill and I shared stories of our past careers (both management consultants) and playfully disagreed about political issues.

A couple from our church spend the summer in the Bend area, too. So we had the chance to meet Al & Patti for a fabulous lunch on the banks of the Deschutes River the afternoon before heading home.

Finally, it was time to get on the plane at the Redmond airport and fly back to the heat and home. We packed as well as we could but got home and discovered we had left one thing behind: our hearts. Taking the chance of meeting new people and turning virtual friends into lifelong companions had been one of the most enjoyable and important trips of our life. I did promise more photos of Oregon wine country southwest of Portland, so here are a few pictures to make Napa California jealous!





Earl & Barbara Torris

Galen & Betty
Thank you, Galen, Barbara, Earl, Bill and Wendy, plus all the incredible people of Portland and Sisters. You haven't seen the last of us.

How to cross a street in Sisters..use a flag!


18 comments:

  1. You really did get to see the best of Oregon! I can't think of anything you missed, other than possibly standing in a long line for a Voodoo donut! Oh, and days and days of rain and cloudy weather ;-) We love Portland, and have lived here for 20+ years but we hope to relocate in a couple of years to a sunnier climate, namely Hawaii.

    P.S. I'm a regular reader, and would love to have you write sometime about what might be called "non-traditional" but still satisfying retirement sometime (which would be us) and how people are managing or doing that ("non-traditional" night mean still raising kids, living a *completely different* lifestyle than pre-retirement, and so forth).

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    1. We drove past Voodoo Donuts half a dozen times and each time the line stretched around the block! I'm not sure of the appeal, but that store certainly has a following. We love Hawaii, too but have found Portland is exciting and attractive in a very different way.

      Thanks Laura for the suggestions. If you'd like to send me some more specifics via e-mail of some of the topics you'd like to see covered, I'll be glad to see what I can do (satisfyingretirement@gmail.com)

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  2. I'm so glad that you got to meet some bloggers in person and enjoy that area of the country. I have never been, but I have a brother and sister in law in Seattle so at some point I need to take a drive up to that area and spend some time.

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    1. It is certainly different from Texas and Denver. The Pacific Northwest is well worth a trip. Just take a quilt in case you get cold.

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  3. Nice to have some actual faces to match up to the blogs, isn't it? I've done that a couple of times.

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    1. Yes, it is. A friendship takes on a whole new dimension when you can spend time with someone in their hometown.

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  4. What fun to hear about the rest of your trip after you left Portland. I think you have now seen more of Oregon than I have! In fact, at the end of this month, a friend and I, who have both lived in Oregon for decades, are driving down to see Crater Lake for the first time. Thanks again to you and Betty for sharing your vacation with all of us.

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    1. Thanks, Galen, for your driving, hospitality, and love of Portland. You have made us believers, at least in the summer! Sisters and Bend were so different but filled with people just as friendly and gracious.

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    2. Galen - I am SO glad to read that another long-time Oregon resident is just now getting down to Crater Lake - we haven't been yet either. It's on our list for next summer though!

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  5. Maybe we should split a place Bob. We could live there in the winter and you the summer :)
    It sounds like a wonderful trip. Some of the best people I know are in the Pacific Northwest. I never understood why they all seemed to be thin until I experienced the hiking up there!

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    1. It is a very outdoors-oriented part of the country. If they aren't hiking or running they are biking. If that fails, then you will find a large part of the population at sidewalk cafes enjoying their coffee. It is a lifestyle that appeals to me!

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  6. Sadly it's the part of the country I know least about. I'm not sure I would want to live there but it looks like a lovely place to visit, as you've verified. I'm sure a more temperate climate to visit in the summer must appeal to you folks in AZ. I, quite honestly, don't know how you handle the heat. We're having the hottest summer so far EVER here and I'm sick of feeling like a prisoner to A/C. By the same token I am SO grateful for A/C. ;)
    b

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    1. I don't think I could handle the winter weather, but it sure is nice in the summer. How we handle the heat? I have no idea. Personally, I simply ignore it. It is a fact of life so I just get on with it. But, that first glorious cool day (under 85) in late October is cause for a major celebration.

      What I can't fathom is how folks lived here before AC. Granted, Phoenix was cooler 50 years ago, both day and nighttime temperatures. But, seriously, 100 degrees without AC? Those people were real pioneers.

      I spent 8 years in the Boston area during my growing up years. We didn't have AC, just box fans. There was always a stretch or two of several days to a week when Boston hovered around 90 with high humidity. It was miserable.

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  7. Hey, Bob... Wendy and I are glad that you had such a wonderful time in Oregon. And we were super-pleased to host your and Betty's visit. We too had a wonderful time. And we'd hope to see you up this way again. You're always welcome. Bill

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    1. We are making serious plans to spend next August in Oregon (don't worry...most will be in Portland!) You and Wendy were the perfect hosts and made us feel as though Sisters was our hometown, too. Tell the lady from the wine bar (Jill?) that I am starting my first Craig Johnson book!

      BTW...you'll love being grandparents. Best of health and luck to everyone.

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  8. Brought tears to my eyes..............now that is GREAT writing - to evoke emotion! Thank you Bob

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    1. Great writing? Well, thank you. I am glad you found something to move you. The trip, and more importantly the people were very special to us.

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  9. All I can say "Top that world!". We are very proud of our state and it unique lifestyle. Thank you for being daring enough to come.

    b

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