November 9, 2015

PNW Part 2: Portland

Oh man.  Portland was so much better/more than I expected it to be.  It's not like I wasn't looking forward to going or anything, Portland's actually a city that has interested me for a while, but I had such a wonderful time in Seattle that I didn't really want to leave.  Portland, however, held its own and then some.
I didn't leave Gig Harbor until 4.  Bix and I had a slightly nuts reunion (does this dog do anything any other way?) in which he straight up yelled at me for leaving him for a month or so in dog days and I apologized a million times and then he settled right back into the driving routine.  We swung through Vancouver to see Carrie, who was one of my favorite youth group leaders back in high school, and her husband and their two little dogs, which was super nice.  I've connected with really random people on this trip, people I haven't seen in years, and it's been really great to do so.
I had found a Couchsurf host in Portland who'd hosted over three hundred surfers, contacted him really last minute, and gotten an almost immediate response saying sure I could come.  So I did!  He has a huge house in southeast Portland, a beautiful old thing with crystal doorknobs and hardwood floors and high ceilings.  Bix and I got the room with the biggest bed (#priorities), and after Justin explained all the rules and showed us a zillion maps of Portland, we crashed early.

The next morning we were up and at 'em, because Blue Star donuts were calling our name.  Voodoo is the touristy place, but a couple of locals recommended Blue Star and I gotta say, they were pretty A+.  I got blueberry basil bourbon and Mexican chocolate cake and both of them were darn good, and there was absolutely no line, at least in the location on the northwesty side of Portland.

Next up was Powell's Bookstore.  I've never met a bookstore I didn't like, and I've been to a lot of bookstores, but I gotta say, Powell's was pretty top notch.  It takes up a whole block, so the inside is obviously enormous.  It's a little overwhelming, but I wound through the literature (scooped up a McCarthy and something by an author I didn't recognize) to the sci-fi (had to tell myself I didn't need a second copy of GoT just because I left it at home) to the psychology/business/religion to the travel (got a tad heart-eyed over a beeeeautiful book called Inside Tracks that has these gorgeous photos from Robyn Davidson's journey and from when they were filming the movie, this one's going on the Christmas list FO SHO) to the food/music/art to the YA (I think I wound up buying An Abundance of Katherines, finally).  It was practically a library-caliber bookstore, and I don't say that lightly.

It was Boone-ing when we left, aka misting hard enough to get you damp but not enough to get in the way of plans, so off we went to Hoyt Arboretum, where we completed a "two-hour" walk in forty-five minutes (high five, Bix! we were probably supposed to linger at the signs or something).  It would have been nicer on a prettier day, obvs, but they had maples and ash trees, magnolias, other kinds, ones we've got at home and ones that change color, which was a nice little nuzzle for a slightly homesick traveler.
And then the food trucks!  There's this PLACE in Portland, it doesn't really show up on Google maps but it's at 10th and Alder on the west side, and I have never seen so many food trucks in one place in my life, unless you count the fair.  Maybe.  Thai and Mexican and Egyptian and Greek and Chinese, grilled cheese and macaroni and soup, pasta, pizza, everything you could think of.  I got a nice fat veggie burrito and sat in the nearby "park" where Bixby thought about chasing pigeons but didn't do it.  The chicken training is paying off!
Then the clouds parted and the blue sky shone through and Bix and I went to Hawthorne Boulevard (the east side, Portland is confusing btw and city driving sux) because Justin had recommended it for costume shopping.  They had LOTS of shopping, costume and otherwise, including a pet store for Bix, where we stocked up on treats and had his nails clipped.  I found an apron and some stripey tights, so Alice is coming along nicely, and I did a really good job of not buying any shoes and a less good job of not buying other stuff.  They got some CUTE stores on Hawthorne.  (Is this fascinating yet?)

Ooh!  This is an exciting twist in the story.  So in Seattle, I'd gone to see the Durham-based band Bombadil, who I love very much and see pretty much whenever they play near Chapel Hill.  While I was eating my food truck burrito, they posted on Instagram that they were in Portland, so I said I was too, and they said: let's hang out!  And - drumroll - we did.  We got happy hour drinks at a place called the Observatory, where I panic-ordered an IPA (update: still don't like IPAs), and then because James lived in Portland for a while and knows the cool kid Portland spots, we went to Mt. Tabor and watched all the little city lights buzz around while the sky got darker.  We got tacos and drinks and went to an actual tiki bar (but in the Pacific Northwest, so I'm not sure if it REALLY counts) and it was so, so nice to hang out with them because a) they're cool, b) they sometimes say "y'all," and c) they're not creepy Tinderboys.  Winning all around.
I'd originally planned to just stay two nights in Portland, but I was having such a really lovely time and also didn't have a place to stay when I left that I asked Justin if I could hang out an extra night and I'm so, so glad he said yes because I got to do even more cool Portland things, aka exactly what Bombi James told me to do.  I ate lunch at Pine State Biscuits, where I got incredibly excited over the fact that they sold Cheerwine and then ordered lemonade instead and also ate my weight in cajun fries (worth it).
Then I peaced out of Portland proper (this is a cool thing people who don't live in North Carolina say, or maybe they do and I just never heard it) and went for a hike in the gorge.  The trail I did was called Angel's Rest, where the parking lot was up a little and the hike was up a lot.  It was beyond worth it.  The top overlooked the gorge, a tiny road with its tiny cars far below and the wide, wide river and the mountains on the other side.  I got lucky and had an absolutely beautiful blue sky day, and Bix and I sat up there for a good half hour, just looking and taking pictures and looking some more.
Conveniently near Angel's Rest was Edgefield Winery, where Bombadil was playing a show.  I went, of course, and it was in this funny little basement hallway with Bombadil at one end and the audience filling the edges of the hall.  I sat near the front and listened to them play for two hours, old songs and new ones, songs I don't remember hearing them play live before.  We all went to the restaurant afterwards and got drinks and food, and I had a raspberry ale milkshake that was out of this world.  The tots weren't bad either ;)
I left early the next morning, just after receiving an email that Pegasus Farm in California had an opening for a WWOOFer.  So that was all of Portland!  Books and shopping and trees and food and a whole lot of Bombadil.  Two thumbs up, Bridgetown.  I like you.

November 4, 2015

PNW Part 1: Seattle

Seattle was the bomb dot com.  The bee's knees.  The cat's pyjamas.  All of that and then some.  Let me explain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.  (Princess Bride, anybody? yes? no? moving on...)
I dropped Bixby off at a little kennel in Gig Harbor, with lots of apologizing and promising I'd be back soon, and zipped over to Chris's aunt Joy and her husband John's house.  Chris and Mikey were already there, and we spent the afternoon watching baseball and eating all the crackers and cheese and apples and popcorn John put in front of us (thanks John!) and visiting the little dock they've got down the hill from their house on the sound.  I touched Pacific Ocean water for the first time in my life, and I will say that it's real cold.  We didn't do anything all evening, and for the first time in a good while I got to just relax with people I knew.
The next day, Chris, Mikey, and I did some adventuring.  We went to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, where we learned all about polar bears and petted some stingrays and saw teenage tigers and did not ride a single camel, but worse things have happened I guess.  Lots of babies and lots of animals, so I was pretty happy.  We went to downtown Tacoma for lunch at a sorta fancy little place called Indochine with really delicious food (pad thai!!).  Chris and Mikey went off to a bar for more local beer while I stopped in Mandelin's to look for an Alice dress for my Halloween costume, which I found very quickly, except I think technically it's a Cinderella dress that needs a little touching up.  Yay Tacoma!  Later we went to a brewery called Seven Seas for pre-dinner drinks and then got actual dinner drinks and dinner (way. too. much. dinner.) at a place John worked years and years ago, and he showed us his picture on the wall and we walked out to the end of the dock and looked at the boats moving around on the night water.
Things picked up speed-wise a lot once I got to downtown Seattle.  I went to the space needle but didn't go up it, and got sort of stuck in a blown glass exhibit they were having outside.  Once I got unstuck, I went to a sweet little cafe called Cherry Street Coffee House, where I very nearly got teary when Pandora started playing "Wagon Wheel" (and if I die in Raleigh, at least I will die freeeee) and then actually got up to tell the barista that she was playing music basically from my hometown all the way across the country when "San Bernadino" by the Mountain Goats came on.  After that, the Avett Brothers were pretty much inevitable.  Big country, small world. 
Then I went to Sean's apartment!  I know Sean because he and Sarah are both from Kingsport and went to high school together and played in the marching band together and generally were really delightful individuals together.  I hadn't met his wife, Stephanie, before, but she was from Kingsport too.  Sean and I walked aaaaaall evening.  It was great.  I saw so much of the city - missed a lot too, I'm sure, it's HUGE - but I'm fairly confident we saw a decent portion of it.  We went up Capitol Hill to a park with a volcano fountain that's near a bookstore where I found a copy of a book I've been looking for for a while and Sara Bareilles just happened to be upstairs signing copies of her book.  We went into the most overwhelming and Wonka-esque Starbucks I've ever seen.  We ate big delicious plates of Italian food for dinner and Stephanie showed up and turns out, she's a delightful individual too!
The next morning we went to Pike's Place Market, which is touristy but also a place locals use.  We got THE BEST greek yogurt (lemon curd, please and thank you!) and saw the fish place but none of the fishes got thrown and tried jalapeno raspberry jellies and chocolate pasta and all different kinds of balsamic vinegars.  Stephanie and I both got our fortunes told Big-style (any wise Libras out there wanna give me some direction?) at a magic store.  We poked around a comic book/cardboard cutout/nerdy little thingamabob store for a good long while.  And I'm so glad I know the kind of people who can't pass up a stationary store.  Then Sean and Stephanie took me to the library, which is a thing to behold.  It's enormous, and their Dewey decimal section is set up in an gigantic continuous spiral.  They've got a floor that's all painted red to represent the heart of the Seattle community, and from the very top floor you can look down and see the whole library below you.  It made my stomach turn.
After the library, we walked to the International District and got Chinese food in about two seconds.  And a Roy Rogers, cause I'm fancy like that.  There was a bookstore we swung through with strong fountain pen and sticker sections.  AND THEN.  GET READY FOR WHAT I'M ABOUT TO SAY.  Sean and I went to... A PINBALL MUSEUM.  You paid thirteen bucks and got unlimited play on all of their zillion (thirty??) pinball machines.  I was in heaven.  We stayed for nearly three hours, long enough for Sean's friend Hutch, who showed up, to get a parking ticket.  C'est la pinball museum.  Anyway, if you ever go to Seattle, go there.  They also sold beer.
We zipped back to the apartment and I moved my car for about the fifteenth time (parking is tricky in Seattle) and then all four of us drove to the Ballard Homestead to see - get this - Bombadil!  They're this little four-man band from Durham who I've been following since 2012 or so, and their music could be described as indie pop, or maybe alternative rock, or something.  It's generally really fun music and they're all very good and talented and their concerts are always great.  They just so happened to be playing in the same across-the-country spot I happened to be staying, so why not?  I went up and said hey to them afterwards, and then Sean, Stephanie, Hutch, and I drove off.
Sunday morning we had to get up kinda early to beat the hipsters to this yummy little (tiny) breakfast spot called Glo's where we had a good long wait and then I got cake and hashbrowns for breakfast and it was exactly what I wanted and so very good.  George Weasley the Hyundai Elantra and I left around noon because Chris and co. were watching the Panthers-Seahawks game, which was a very normal way to spend a Sunday afternoon, something I haven't done in a while.  Carolina won, hooray!, and then I picked up Bixby from the kennel, where he yelled at me for leaving him so long and then curled right up into his seat next to me and waited for us to get to the next destination...
...where we went, cause that's what we do.  Thanks for the great time, Seattle.

The Next Adventure!

I am so, so excited to write these words down: I am going to be a resident of Durham come December.

I love Chapel Hill with my whole heart.  I love the library and the arboretum and the green wall along the bike path to Carrboro.  I love Franklin Street during the day and Franklin Street at night.  I love the murals, I love the trees, I love the people.  Chapel Hill is a darn good place, and I have loved the time I spent living there.

I also love Durham.  Boo Duke always, but Durham is a really quality city.  It's got Loco Pops and Ninth Street Dance and Duke Gardens (and the concerts at Duke Gardens during the summer) and American Dance Festival and Brightleaf Square and the American Tobacco Campus and Durham Performing Arts Center and Elmo's (not as good as the Carrboro Elmo's but IT'LL DO, PIG) and Motorco and the Durham Bulls stadium and a million other things I'll find when I live there.  And - here's the kicker - I'll be able to bike to every single one of those places I just listed.

On this trip I have often referred to home without thinking of a specific location.  Home is Chapel Hill, yes, but also the Carrboro farmers' market and S&T Soda Shoppe in Pittsboro and Bynum Bridge and Durham's Duke Forest and even Raleigh for its ultimate frisbee fields.  Home is all the places I would take you if you came to visit me.  And in a month (a month!!), home is specifically going to be a little white house with a red door, nestled in a downtown Durham neighborhood, with two roommates, my bike, and, of course, Bixby.


October 29, 2015

WWOOF 8: Zillah

Welcome to wine country!  My next farm was a vineyard in Zillah, Washington.  I loved it there.  The hosts were Paul and Barbara and their two dogs, Marshall and Diggily, and they lived in a little ranch house surrounded by vineyards and orchards and fields.  I feel like there's not much to say about Zillah because everything was so normal there.  This is your life, this is your life on a vineyard.  I didn't have any huge adventures, but everything we did was like a tiny adventure.  Paul and I stripped the grapevines of the bird netting, him driving a tractor backwards and me riding on a platform and pulling the netting through a giraffe-ish tube into a barrel.  I stood in a huge bin of squashed grapes and dumped them into a press and we drank some of the wine that dripped out the bottom, even though my feet had been in it (wine kills all human pathogens (I hope this is true (my feet were clean))).  I helped out in the tasting room on a busy day, flirting with the customers and clearing the tiny plates of food morsels Paul and Barbara used to explain how your wine plays with your meal.  Barbara and I went for walks through the neighbors' orchards with the dogs all dashing delighted through the apple trees.  The three of us ate dinner together every night, and Paul would find some wine to pair with it.  I learned that I like polenta but that I still don't like mushrooms, no matter how hard I try.  I drank lazy sangria made from red wine and Sprite.  I mowed a lawn for the first time in ten years.  I picked a million bazillion tomatoes.  We slept.  We woke.  We worked.  We ate.  That's how it was.  Let's see some pictures!
Right, so first was Spokane, where I stopped between Plummer and Zillah.  Spokane for me was mostly a park and an Apple store, because my iPhone was acting up and I just so happened to bring it in eight days before the warranty ended.  Hooray new iPhone for me!  Here are the photos of the more interesting bits of the day.
He didn't do it.

The coolest thing about Spokane, that I saw anyway, was that in the middle of this big old city was a huge park with rivers and waterfalls and lots of green grass and even a gondola ride that was unfortunately closed for maintenance.  Good job on the nature front, Spokane!

Here we go.  VINO.  Lots of it.  This wasn't taken on my farm but on a neighbor farm where we went to use their press.

Foot wine.  Ya welcome.

Miss Piggy, who Bixby thought about a good while before deciding he didn't like her.

Zillah was a pretty gorgeous place, and it definitely didn't hold back on its sunsets.

Kids are the best, and kids of winos?  Even better.

Bee friends!

I tried to explore Yakima but it was really boring and I wound up visiting a gas station shaped like a tea kettle.  Central Washington, y'all.

Oh man!  The apples.  The apples were fantastic.  There were lots of neighboring orchards, and what I learned is that in big scale orchards, they leave a lot of fruit behind.  If they think it won't sell, it's not worth it to present it to the middleman.  So apples with sunspots or bruises or lumps or, you know, whatever, were left behind on the trees, and I ate them gleefully.  Once you rubbed the pesticides off, they were incredible.  Jazz apples, pink ladies, fujis, I don't even know, but gooosh, they were good.

Oh, and Bixby made possibly his very best friend.  Marshall was a rottweiler-shepherd mix, and they palled around the vineyards all week.  I know Bixby was sad to leave him.


Smush-face lovey dork.

Oh, and the tomatoes.  I spent many, many hours cutting back tomato vines and putting the ripe ones into bins, which turned into four pots of sauce.  At least.  I ate some of the smaller ones straight off the vine, and let me tell you, if you've never had an absolutely brand new cherry tomato - I won't say you haven't lived, but I will emphatically tell you to try one.

There you go - Zillah!  Great time, great wine.  Adios, amigos!  Next up, Seattle.