Road Trip!!!!

May 4, 2010

I travel. I write.

I’ll be wandering the Pacific Northwest checking out great places to Stay, Eat & Play.

Watch for new posts every Friday.

Until then!  MJ

A New Year

January 5, 2010

Little surprises every day so far.

Day One on my walk through the woods:  A tiny blond Faerie Princess in silver & orange gossamer standing under a cedar partially hidden in the ferns. Wha?  She didn’t move. But I, after catching my breath, walked ten paces around the bend into a grove of cedars and found her father, ceramic coffee cup in hand, mother in purple sweater with baby brother in backpack wearing knit cap with kitty ears. She was simply a three-year old in her new Christmas princess outfit. But still…

Day Two on my walk up the road, three things: Five guys in a hot tub – never would have known it was there behind that cabin in the trees without their ruckus. A man standing in the middle of the road talking on a cell phone, waving to someone unseen on the golf course. My favorite Rendezvous Grill waiter Brian driving past, stopping, reversing to tell me they found my red gloves, lost since November.

Day Three on my walk back from a friend’s – shortcut across the golf course, three things: A great blue heron pretending to be a stick next to a pond. A golf ball imbedded in the  soggy, matted fairway turf – almost stepped on it, how can that be? Another golf ball just off the fairway in plain sight. Pocketed smiling.

Day Four driving to the post office: Three neighborhood dogs frolicking around the county workman in the road holding the stop sign while others sawed off branches away from the power lines – one black lab-ish mutt sitting at his feet anxious for the man to play, one frisky young Malamute pawing at his sign pole, one older black & white sheep dog circling. All a happy mess.

Today, who knows? Lots of rain, river high.

Over the Mountains Washington State



Leavenworth – that ever-so-cute Bavarian themed town with all the festivals – is a draw to many and an “I’d rather be hit in the head with a bat” destination to others. Guess what? There’s a lot more going on. Younger folk seriously into recreation have discovered white-water rafting, hiking, biking, skiing, bird watching and rock climbing – a panacea just a couple of hours east of Seattle.


Olivia on top

To prove the point, we left the town behind (only a mile or so) and hiked way up Icicle Ridge on a hot afternoon crunching dry leaves and kicking up dust until I gave up not needing more spectacular views of the valley below from elevations making me increasingly weak-kneed woozy. Beer & bratwurst heaped with onions and sauerkraut for lunch and then a drive up the Icicle River canyon to watch John Race and Olivia Cussen rock climb up a granite cliff.  They also demonstrated “bouldering,” a new take on rock climbing without gear in groups who spot while friends take turns acrobatically scrambling up and down giant boulders. The married duo’s Northwest Mountain School teaches rock climbing, skiing and mountaineering all over the world, but their ideal location called home is Leavenworth. Training includes beginners to military survival techniques in Afghanistan.


Bouldering help

Back to town and a tour with a cheery guide in Lederhosen telling the stories behind all those painted murals. Lots of shops, many selling souvenirs and a few more discriminating. Not to miss: Schocolat hidden at the back of the filled-with-gorgeous-antiques Ganz Klasse. Dinner at Pavz where crepes rule, not your French delicacy, but American style huge with heaps o’ filling plus pies and chocolate cake slices big enough for a family of five.

sleeping lady

Sleeping Lady

To bed at Sleeping Lady Retreat, under a mountain backdrop profile of a sleeping lady whose nose, boobs, etc. have the ridge & retreat so named. Away from the crowds and away from anything Bavarian themed, no TVs or distractions, tucked in a cabin amid aspen woods.


Aspen woods

Next up: Apples & Float Planes.

Summer’s Over on the Road

October 21, 2009

Jetty Landing, Everett

Jetty Landing, Everett

PART I of three in Washington State

Summer went out with  a splash, warm days, brisk eves, five days on the road roaming first Seattle overnight in the dishy sleek new LEED certified Hyatt at Olive 8 – a mad dash through Barney’s & Pike Place Market before happy hour at the hotel’s Urbane where six of us gathered for shoestring fries, a cheese & salami plate, an excellent chicken liver pate with balsamic gelee and “savory clams” that were steamers a bit overpowered by Thai chillis.

In the morning off to Everett (four writers in a van with two p.r. young twentysomethings who drove and were supposed to represent Washington State yet were woefully unprepared but quite nice & pretty to look at). Toured the Future of Flight museum and the Boeing plant, top secret, had to leave purses in lockers no phones or cameras or anything not even spy pens or buttons. They’re building the 878 Dreamliner jet with tipped wings, very pretty, and they even have a jumbo Dreamlifter jet which opens sideways at the tail and the nose cone specifically built to retrieve wheels and fuselages, etc. too big for conventional cargo manufactured elsewhere in the world like Japan or Germany.

Still in Everett, who knew there was a pleasant waterfront hard to find amid industry, a new Navy base and Kimberly Clark paper mill. A ferryboat ride to the narrow, sandy Jetty Island manmade from dredging & tossing sand over the breakwater rocks which now after several years has volunteer cottonwood trees & wildflowers (good) blackberry vines & Scot’s broom that we always called scotch broom as kids (bad, with efforts to eradicate) but loads of birds, salmon fry taking advantage of a river-made lagoon at the far end and deer and coyote swimming over for a jaunt. Two miles long and about 40 yards across. Muddy sand flats stretch out into the bay from the jetty where we’re told kite-boarders swarm for easy launching and reliable afternoon winds.

Then it was a trip back and forth some 60 miles to Sultan in the foothills of the Cascades (Hwy. 2 that we would take right through Sultan over the mountains the next day, go figure…see above) to the Sky River Meadery, a small home-brewing outfit making honey wine, that is, mead – too sweet for some, delicious for others.

Ninety Farms

Ninety Farms

The GPS (!) got our drivers lost so we arrived a little too late to Ninety Farms outside of Arlington to take decent pictures of the sheep and cows meandering in the fields or the guard llamas that ran right up to us to make certain we weren’t going to harm their “mama,” Linda Neunzig, owner of the organic farm (lamb & beef supplier to upscale restaurants & specialty shops). The “local chef” for the evening in our itinerary, unnamed, turned out to be none other than the amazing Russell Lowell, of Russell’s Restaurant & Bar in Bothell (Bill Gate’s personal caterer). We were going to eat in the barn, but it was too chilly, so we gathered inside Linda’s cozy farmhouse full of her kids’ fair trophies for equestrian skills and showing animals. Washington wine (14 Hands cab for me) and butternut soup, salad, braised vegetables from the garden, cut-it-with-your-fork tender luscious home-grown beef perfectly done and the (ok-to-die-now) warm chocolate morsel with raspberry drizzle.

Russell's butternut squash soup

Russell's butternut squash soup

Lovely evening with Linda & Russell, good conversation and our one vegetarian (who had a specially prepared “tower” of layered veggies) wasn’t grossed out. Happy to bed at a motel catering to business folk along the ever-enchanting Interstate-5.

NEXT UP: Over the Mountains to Eastern Washington.

drive anyone?  So January & February took us by, um, storm up here on the lower edges of Mt. Hood  (that’s Oregon) and we usually don’t get this much at our 1300 feet to be snowbound two weeks. Luckily, the neighbors had four-wheel drive to get to the grocery store and our favorite Rendezvous restaurant where we’d commiserate with others who came out of weather-imposed hibernation glassy eyed and groggy. By nearly Valentine’s Day the  snow melted enough and I shoveled enough and hacked through ice enough for my neighbor to drive my car out our lane to the snow-plowed road, where thence I headed to the beach and its lower elevations and milder temperatures.   

After the weekend in Astoria at my sister’s playing bridge with friends, killer double solitaire and watching a silly Skandanavian movie, The Boss of it All, I headed south down the coast to Cannon Beach for three days to research lodging for my Oregonian newspaper travel column, Sleeping Around the Northwest then back to Astoria on Wednesday.

That night, sister Sue (deputy managing editor of the Daily Astorian) says, “Would you like to come down to the paper and learn Quark?”  That’s the page-making system for newpapers and magazines and I said sure as I like that kind of stuff having done mags and newspapers the old fashioned way by real cut and paste and layout without any computers.

Thursday morning she calls me before I leave her house and says “Oh just a formality, no one can use the computers without signing in so bring your driver’s license.”  When I get to the paper, its “just a formality” to check in with Deb at personnel and before I know it I have a gazillion papers to sign and am suddenly an employee of Steve Forrester’s conglomerate of I don’t know how many publications and newspapers–Pendleton, Long Beach, Astoria Daily News, etc.

OK fine, so now I can play around on the computer, which is entertaining but the “playing around” is on a real page that my sister whom I am now calling The Boss of it All has duped me into doing and then another, my favorite things “Religion” and the wrestling! sports page and then there’s proofing and editing and doing headlines too.  See, Patrick, the managing editor was out, so she was a little short-handed.  We finish for the day and fun had by all and we walk down the hill to lunch tuna melts at the Coffee shop and she says “I need you to come in tomorrow (Friday).”  Seems three editors will be out and she’s really in a bind.  Not 5:30 (a.m. her regular time) I say and she says no, no, knowing that I do not like to be mobile in the morning too much but indicates 7 a.m.-ish would be nice but by 8 for sure since the paper has to be to the printer (in the back room) by 11 a.m.

I wake up before my alarm to see dawn breaking (7:15 a.m.) over the bay illuminating Table Rock mountain so don’t begrudge the early rising and arrive about 7:45 and we get that sucker out in time and go to lunch, this time walking to Ft. George brewery for passable fajitas and OK tuna fish & chips.

It was fun seeing sister Sue in her mileau with writers, photographers, ad people, editors coming to her for decisions and she was efficient and nice and really competent and not paid nearly enough for all that she does.

That Saturday I head for home to find I still have a foot of snow compacted into ice and still cannot turn around in my drive, so I back the car in to have an easy exit from my sheltered garage, er, ceder tree. 

On Monday, this is February 19th now, Sue calls and asks if I can come back to help with the paper.  I can’t until Wednesday, so head back down for the same Thursday & Friday routine as before only Patrick is there, delighfully droll, so some pressure is off, but I still build pages, proof, edit and write headlines.

 That done and more bridge with friends and more killer double solitaire accomplished, on Saturday I head to Wheeler for two days to write a feature for the Travel section of the Oregonian but before I go the Coast Weekend editor needs Wanda’s Cafe photos in Nehalem so The Boss of it All says MJ’s going to Wheeler (Nehalem is on the way) and can take the photos.  Sure.  NEXT UP: Wheeler.

Later, MJ