2009 Year in Review: Part III — Portland (and Forks) 2009

Prelude: 2009 was such a great year for me in many ways. Crap economy not withstanding, 2009 was a year of great development, great triumph and great fun. I’ll be recapping my year in a few posts. Here in Part III I discuss our awesome return trip to the Pacific Northwest featuring our return to Portland, OR and pilgrimage to Forks, WA

The very first trip The Mrs. and I ever took together was to Portland, OR back in June, 2001 for the wedding of our good friends Kim and Collins.  Collins is one of my best friends from high school and we traveled for his wedding where I had the honor of being in his wedding party.  Collins would return the favor in 2K3 when the Mrs. and I took our own vows.  Fast forward to 2K9 and Kim and Collins have two beautiful children.  On the occasion of Collins’ 30th b-day Kim throw a gala bash.  Long overdue for a visit with our far-flung friends and in need of a vacation we bit the bullet and made the trip.

Eight years is a long time between visits.  Back in 2001 we were barely 23 years old, just barely old enough to rent a car.  It was our first time driving in Mainland traffic and we had some challenges navigating the town (lol).  In 2K9 thankfully we have GPS which was a godsend for us considering what we would do on this trip.

Unlike the frantic pace of our NYC visit, the Portland trip was way more casual with nothing formal on the agenda aside from making the b-day party.  Our trip was highlighted by sight seeing, shopping, dining at new places and catching up with friends.

First some general comments. This was our first time being on the Mainland in the winter so it was HELLA cold for us and going into this trip we had no winter clothing so we had to buy some. Being winter I had hoped this would be my first time to see and play in the snow but it didn’t work out that way. Given the rainy roads though I’m kinda glad it didn’t snow as I really would have no clue how to handle driving in snow. It was a major trip for me to wake up and have the rental car caked in ice in the morning!

The trip kicked off with Collin’s party and our first chance to get to meet our niece and nephew (kids are soooooo darn cute!) It’s been several years since we had a chance to see Kim and Collins and their family so it was a nice evening.

Collins 30th B-day Party

Aside from visiting with Kim and Collins, we also had the chance to catch up with another high school friend Raenelle who I keep up with regularly through the power of social networking (namely Twitter).  We had a chance to catch up over lunch and dinner on a few occasions at Olive Garden and Red Robin.  This was my second chance to dine at Olive Garden (first being in San Diego back in 2K8).  I had never heard of Red Robin before this trip but I must say, they have kick ass food.

Olive Garden

Raenelle and I at Olive Garden

Red Robin

Red Robin

Being a leisure trip we took in some sights of the town including visits to the World Forestry Museum, the Oregon Historical Society and the Beverly Clearly Sculpture.

Going to the Forestry Museum and the Historical Society was a great learning experience. I learned a TON about the logging industry which drove life in the Pacific Northwest and the U.S. Western Expansion.

World Forestry Museum

Shell outside the World Forestry Museum

Oregon Historical Society

The Oregon Historical Society

Another great thing I learned about Portland is that it is the hometown of prolific children’s author Beverly Cleary whose works I loved and grew up reading as a child. I was most pleased to learn that some generous folks had built a memorial sculpture to Cleary and her works at Portland’s U.S. Grant Park. I learned all this off of Wikipedia one night earlier this year when I looked her up after voting for Hawai’i’s bid to receive free books in a literacy campaign. Being a HUGE Cleary fan (her works really influenced my love of reading as a kid) I just HAD to visit the memorial sculpture. I am glad to know Cleary is still alive and well in her 90s as of this writing 🙂

Me and Ramona Quimby

Me with Ramona Quimby of Beverly Cleary fame at the Beverly Cleary Tribute Sculpture at U.S. Grant Park in Portland, OR

Perhaps the most cool thing we did on this particular trip was take our first long distance road trip. Earlier this year The Mrs. fell head over heels in love with Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga (she read all 4 books in the span of a week after we saw the Twilight film on DVD). As luck would have it, Forks, WA, the town Twilight is set in, is about 4 hours away from Portland and has a thriving Twilight tourism industry. We made the obligatory pilgrimage.

This was the first time we ever did a road trip (living on an island makes it hard). Thank God was had GPS otherwise I probably wouldn’t have had much confidence to find our way there and back. I must say, driving for 8 hours is not a fun task as my feet got numb and needing to pull over and find a McDonald’s or gas station to make a pit stop breaks your comfort zone. Seeing the country is a blast though so I’m glad we had the experience.

The drive to forks was cool as we got to zoom across the Interstate from Oregon to Washington. It took about 1 hour on the Interstate to get to the U.S. highway in Washington that would take us about another hour to drive through several towns before we got to a two lane road that would take us to Forks. Forks, WA is a pretty remote place as it is about two hours through the Olympic National Forest from the nearest town on a simple two lane country road. It is another two hours from Forks to the next nearest town, Port Angeles which was also featured in the Twilight novels.

The Long Road to Forks...

The Long Road to Forks

Olympic National Forest

Majestic Olympic National Forest

Once you get to Forks you see it’s quite the quaint little town, the type where everyone knows everyone. This town is SMALL but it has a thriving Twilight tourist industry. Behind us there were no less than 5 other carloads (mostly teenage girls) arriving in town to check out the Twilight goodness. The hub of Twilightmania in town is a store called “Dazzled By Twilight” which sells Twilight memorabilia and other merchandise. The store provides a Twilight tour of the town (not ongoing the day we rolled into town unfortunately).

Dazzled by Twilight

The Forks Chamber of Commerce also sponsors a free self-guided tour of the Twilight attractions. Below are pics of the highlights.

Bella's Car

Shell with Bella’s car fronting the Chamber of Commerce

The Swan House

The Swan Family House

Forks High School

Forks High School

Forks City Hall and Police Station

Forks City Hall and Police Department

The Cullen House

The Cullen House

Once we got our fill of the sites and shopping (and a stop for lunch) we did the four hour drive back to Portland which put us back at the hotel at 7pm. It was pretty crazy as we’d gotten up at 4:30 a.m. to hit the road by 5am so we could make it to Forks by 10am. It was a looooong but fun day.

The rest of our trip back in Portland was fairly low key as we spent it catching up with Collins and Kim for dinner a few nights, shopping and taking in more of the cuisine. We tried the famous Voodoo Donuts (including the famous Maple Bacon donut, yum!)

Voodoo Donuts

Voodoo Donuts

Maple Bacon Donut, FTW!!!

as well as the famous to transplanted Hawaiians Kaua’i Island Grill. I can appreciate how great it must be to have a place that cooks food like home. The saimin was MUCH needed in the freezing Oregon weather.

Kauai Island Grill

Our trip ended with a final dinner with Collins and Kim and we headed home, thus ending a fun and relaxing trip with some great friends.


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