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An Anniversary Treat; Willamette River; Nutria; A Greek Reunion; Elmer’s; Portland Insiders

Sunday evening found us celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary. I had called Five Guys for a reservation, but it got lost in the ether, so I had to call friends and ask for a recommendation. When I looked at the on-line menu, I groaned… this was going to cost more than $6.95 per person! Oh well, you only have one 18th anniversary, right? We wound up going to Recipe, “A neighborhood kitchen – thoughtfully prepared wine country cuisine showcasing a seasonally adapted menu”. Sliders weren’t even on the menu, so we had to have something a bit more sophisticated; Suzanne had the duck breast with yogurt spaetzele, baby bok choi, rhubarb conserva and hazelnut aillade; Your Faithful Correspondent opted for the flatiron steak, yellow finn potatoes, preserved tomato tapenade and feta creamed kale. (The food was delicious, but identification and/or pronunciation of most of the side dishes was beyond me.) All in all, it was a romantic evening, and perhaps I even regained some points with MLB after the disaster mentioned in yesterday’s blog…

The last day of June was glorious here in Oregon; sunny and warm, but with a nice breeze. We decided to take the opportunity while camped at Champoeg State Heritage Area near Newberg to launch our kayaks on the Willamette River, which borders the campground. Here we see My Lovely Bride sponging out a bit of water from her 45 lb red kayak. (Well, what other color would you expect her to have? Mine is Kermit the Frog green… hmmm… is there more than one analogy here?)

This section of the Willamette (pronounced to rhyme with “dammit”) is remarkably undeveloped, with forested shores and vineyards set back from the river. Urban sprawl is not an issue here, although closer to Portland it gets much more populated. For most of our trip, there were only the sounds of nature, birds, wind and an occasional fish jumping to break the silence… until some goombah in a ski boat came by with rap music blaring at an obnoxiously loud level… “Hey, Suzanne, where is my grenade launcher?”

We saw red-tailed hawks, kingfishers and swallows, and one big splash alongside a tree was probably made by a nutria (Myocastor coypus), a furry rodent known in South America as a coypu. They were brought to North America by fur ranchers, but the little beasts are simply pests today. They are also found back in Louisiana, where they are a popular menu item for alligators. The only alligators to be found on Oregon’s rivers are those who are here on vacation to avoid Southern heat and humidity…

The Willamette is known for some serious flooding. There used to be a town of 200 people on the site of our campground at Champoeg (pronounced “Shampooey”), but it was literally washed away in the great flood of 1861. As we finished our paddle, we noticed the tiny blue sign on the top of the piling to the right of the guy with the kayak, about 40 feet above today’s water level. It read “1996 Flood Level”… that would not have been a good day for a paddling trip!

Monday evening found us visiting friends – Anne and Mark, from Newberg, Oregon, who had attended Suzanne’s events in Greece last summer. Like us, they had lost a child, whom Suzanne had brought through during a reading last year. They graciously invited us to their beautiful home on a hillside overlooking the Willamette Valley. Anne prepared a fabulous Greek meal of moussaka, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), stuffed mushrooms, fresh asparagus, a fresh salad of hand-picked greens and a scrumptious fruit cobbler, also hand-picked from their garden. It was a feast, and was complimented by a very nice Hafner Cabernet, from a small boutique vineyard owned by Anne’s uncle. (Am I too old to be adopted by a vintner?)

My Lovely Bride surprised me the other day when I asked her what she would like for breakfast. Normally I serve up a solid batch of gruel or porridge, but she insisted on a waffle. Since we do not carry a waffle iron aboard The Coach, and considering that the nearest Waffle House is in Colorado, I had to search for a suitable restaurant… fortunately, a local Elmer’s Restaurant filled the bill. MLB got her waffle and I got a fantastic German pancake, one of the best I’ve ever had…

This photo requires an explanation. When I drink coffee in a restaurant, I carefully place the empty Splenda packets in the empty cream containers, so that by the end of the meal, I have a sensibly compact unit of trash, rather than a disorganized pile of rubbish scattered about the table. Suzanne was giving me a hard time about what she called my neurotic behavior. I was somewhat offended by her cavalier comment, until she admitted (under pressure) that she would probably have done the same… 

While driving around the countryside near Portland on a clear day (that actually happens once or twice a year), you can’t help but notice Mount Hood – at 11,249 feet, it is the highest peak in Oregon and the fourth highest peak in the Cascades. Its 12 named glaciers and snowfields make it a challenge for climbers, and it won’t be on our assault list this year. I forgot to pack my crampons and ice axe, darned the bad luck.

We have also had a chance to visit with Portland spiritual artist Barry Mack and his lovely sister Sandy. They took us out for coffee and berries (it’s the height of berry season here in the Willamette Valley) at the South Store Cafe, a quaint little place near where they grew up in Scholls, Oregon. Sandy looks like a cheerleader, and coincidentally is married to a former Los Angeles Rams quarterback. They will also be taking us on a guided tour of the Portland Art Museum this week. (I have been studying up on my art history so I don’t come across as a total Philistine… I hope Barry doesn’t give me a pop quiz!)

1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    Posted July 3, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Glad you are enjoying the Portland area. If you get a chance go to Saturday Market on the waterfront. Brad


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