I had a free open ticket from Southwest and a friend suggested I take a flight to the neighboring state of Oregon.
I never visited that state, but was intrigued by the stories about its forests, mountains, beaches etc. But I really had no time to plan the trip. I called my good friend Remco, who has moved there 2 years ago and was kind enough to build a route that would show me the highlights of that beautiful state in 3 days.
Try searching for Portland airport (PDX) on Google maps and you get the right map, but the title “Portland Air Force Base”. When you land there and see the long line of F-15s with open canopies along the runway, you understand why.
At Portland I rented a 4 wheel drive car (you never know if the mountain passes are open or not) and headed along the (very) scenic Route 26 to Mount Hood. You cannot escape that mountain for hours. You see it everywhere you look – still covered in snow at the end of May.
Remco recommended a stop for lunch at the Timberline Lodge and it was a great recommendation. The lodge is built into the mountain, meaning you see snow through the windows of the bottom 2 floors, and people skiing at eye level on the third, which is where the restaurant was. The food was good and not too expensive.
From there along Rt. 26 and 97, I reached Bend and proceeded to Remco’s place. Without a 4WD it would be impossible to visit that place during the winter, but thankfully we had great weather that week. We visited one of the many breweries in Bend (the name eludes me, but the menu did a great job of explaining the differences between the beers in a way even a novice could grasp). We later poured over the maps for the rest of the route. Sadly, Crater Lake was taken off the route of this trip, as it would have added close to 6 extra hours of driving to my trip.
The next day, I thanked Remco and his wife for their great hospitality and headed up to Paulina Lake. While part of the park was closed due to snow, I still got to the lake and watched fisherman launching their boats (and this was another place I was happy I took a 4WD car, as the whole place was muddy).
From there I took Rt. 58 – another very scenic route, but this time, more forests and lakes than mountains. I’ve seen so much green and blue that at one point it became almost to much to bear. Originally from an arid country, I always enjoy seeing a abundance of water – and this leg of the trip was an overdose.
I reached Eugene, a university town, before dark and took a room at a Courtyard right by the river – where I also had my dinner, and prepared for the last leg of my trip – going down to the ocean.
The next day I started my drive to Newport. This was a much more leisurely drive, as some of the roads have a low speed limit, or just one lane, or both. Don’t be tempted to speed – I’ve seen many people pulled over by highway patrolmen emerging from behind trees or shrubberies on the median.
After 3 hours I reached Newport and the Pacific ocean. Along it runs Hwy 101 – the same one that passes by house in California, a mere 13 hours drive to the south.
I visited several beaches and ate lunch at an Irish pub in Newport. Now, I spent nearly 2 months in Ireland and North Ireland and I tend to scoff at “Irish Pubs” in American cities – but this one is actually run by Irish people, along with their happy disposition, lilting accent and great cider (I hate Guinness – there, I’ve said it).
I continued north along the 101 for a couple of hours until I had enough of the ocean and started heading east back towards Portland. It’s amazing how the flora, fauna and weather changed as I was going back east. This state has it all: mountains, valleys, lakes and ocean. The air is extremely clean and so is the water – many people just a drill a well to get their water – and I understand why.
I spent one more evening in Portland and flew back to SJC the following morning. This trip added Oregon to the list of states I would one day want to move to – and it put it very close to the top of the list. Here's a link to the rest of the pictures I took. It really is about time to buy a more serious camera...