Posts Tagged 'Oregon'

Portland Notebook: The Barley Mill

I HAD A HANKERING – I wanted meat, and I wanted beer. But a simple burger joint would not do; I also craved atmosphere, a dark pub corner where I could hunker down over a hearty ale and dive into a book, or a place to sit back and feel the currents of Portland’s Southeast side. Belly grumbling and mind determined, I straddled my bicycle and set out into the streets.

I cruised over to Bellmont; at first I found only a rowdy sports pub, but I hopefully explored the sidestreets. Delightedly I stepped into an apparently quiet, candlelit spot only to find a couple pounding shots at the mostly-deserted bar, hooting and cheering after each drink they threw back. This wasn’t it.

I wheeled back to Hawthorne Boulevard. I paused at several spots, and even stopped to ask a couple dining al fresco at a pizza joint for a recommendation. They pointed me towards a restaurant down the street that looked a little too fancy for my mood, but I thanked them anyway and meandered in that direction. Standing on the sidewalk and feeling the onset of hunger pains I considered settling. But then I saw it, a corner bar with red neon light oozing from its windows; my thirsty soul had an inkling, and I followed my intuition beyond the doors of The Barley Mill Pub.

Hung on the walls was decor paying tribute to the Grateful Dead; the interior was cozy, all wood with dim lighting. I took a booth seat and looked at the menu to find that my search had been well worth it; there were burgers galore and local microbrews on tap. I ordered a burger with Canadian bacon and local Tillamook cheese and a pint of the “Terminator” stout. I sat back for a moment, feeling victorious, and then cracked open my book to dive into the dark world of Frederic Prokosh’s Asia.

The burger was phenomenal, the beer both rich and quenching. The atmosphere of the moment felt as thick and finely crafted as the brew I sipped.

After sitting for a while, a friendly couple named Danny and Daria – both with dreadlocks flowing from their heads – came up and asked me about what I was reading (Daria said she’s always looking for book recommendations). We learned snippets of each others’ stories, and as they moved to leave I said out of habit, “Well, maybe I’ll see you around.”

But I was just a traveler passing through; Danny lived in Portland, and Daria was about to catch a plane to Florida that night. And so she replied with an honest smile, “No, you probably won’t.” I reflected on her words for a moment as they walked out the door; the pub was just a juncture, a venue for the random occurrences of life, from which we would all eventually depart. Then I burrowed back into my book, turning page after page, my head swimming in the night.

Edited: 01.15.2008

Recaps from the Road:
This is a snapshot from TDT’s Tour de Cascadia.

Decompressing, the Oregon Coast, and Home

TO BORROW THE WORDS of Alex Garland in his description of Ko Sahn Road, Canon Beach is, for us, a decompression chamber. Here we soak in misty ocean vistas as we reflect on our trip, discussing from a comfortable distance what it will be like to return home – to the organized days of school and work, to familiarity, and to the challenges that lay waiting on the back burner.

After camping for several nights, the basic comforts of a hotel room seem amazing to us: a shower that isn’t quarter-fed, actual pillows (not stuff bags filled with clothes) and clean sheets. We feel reintroduced to modern society.

Despite having become largely a vacation spot, Canon Beach has mysteriously (and thankfully) retained an authentically Northwest character. Nary a modern building can be found amid the salt-encrusted wooden guesthouses, pubs and shops; while the young traveler may feel a bit out of place among the mostly middle-aged crowd, the atmosphere is unpretentious and provides enough breathing room for people like us, who are just seeking a little downtime.

Here I write postcards to relatives, read and take in the last coastal sunset I will see for a long time. But after a couple days of slow living, we take a breath and decide it’s time to go.


We stop outside of Portland to see Nick’s sister’s family, and are given a delicious meal of ravioli before making the final haul. Passing through Portland’s arteries I relive experiences from a month ago: time spent driving aimlessly with my dad, long bicycle rides on my own. Halfway over the Columbia River we see a sign welcoming us to Washington, and all of it is swept into the past.

By the time we roll into Seattle, treated to the skyline as we drive up and away from Tukwila, the sky is transitioning from a burning pink to a cool, fizzling purple. I drop off Nick at his house, exchange a hearty man-hug, honk the horn and head down south.

Back in the suburbs I debate what to eat for dinner, guiltily enjoying the fact that for once I know exactly where I’m going. I know that both Paul’s and Ai’s teriyaki joints will be closed because it’s Sunday, but am sure that Ichi will be open. I pull in, order the usual from back in my high school days, and get it to go.

As I pass through the streets that divide the memories of my youth, I accept that this is where I am from. I feel a sense of connection, of unexpected pride for my hometown as my car fills with the smell of rice and spicy chicken, knowing that – for better or for worse – these are my roots.

The things that have changed in this city – the new buildings, the closed shops, the unfamiliar families where friends used to live – are reminders of the time that has elapsed, and of all the places I have been.


This concludes the Tour de Cascadia – thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Happy travels.

Fourteen Hours

somewhere in northern california.

THERE IS SOMETHING MISCHIEVOUSLY satisfying about knowing you are one of the few people awake in a given city. And there is something absolutely cathartic about being able to roll up your tent, turn up the stereo, and blast past state lines.

And so that’s just what we decided to do.

Over the course of our southbound trip, Nick and I reevaluated our return plan. Originally we had settled on the notion of a slow meander back up Highway 101, but as time wore on and we increasingly had the itch to go back north, we decided to tackle the journey in one fell swoop. We would travel from Santa Cruz to Canon Beach in one day, mashing up through the center on Interstate 5 and totaling nearly 800 miles.

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