It seems everyone is brewing something at home these days. Beer, wine, kombucha even hard cider is making a comeback. The first question you may ask is, “Why brew your own when your store-bought choices are endless?” Centralia native, Chris Rohr, owner of Flood Valley Homebrew was just like you, asking himself the same question. [click here to read more on LewisTalk.com]
“If you walk into The Pearl Café when they open for breakfast at 8:30 a.m. you’ll be treated to the enticing aroma of freshly baked desserts. You’ll second-guess your decision to have breakfast and actually think about just eating the goodies instead.” [click here to read the rest of the story on Lewis.Talk.com]
Did you love trains as a child? Maybe still do? Do you know how you can ride the rails in your own vehicle? Check out NORCOA, North American Railcar Operators Association. Driving through Centralia on a recent I saw splashes of color out of the corner of my eye. As I passed over the railroad tracks on Main Street, I saw a row of colorful little “cars” stopped on the tracks. I quickly pulled over to find out what they heck they were.
Everyone was very friendly, willing to give information and let me look over their cars. NORCOA is a non-profit group of people who just love the old “railroad motorcars” (also known as “speeders”) that were used at one time to inspect railroad tracks for areas that needed repaired. Each car is privately owned. NORCOA arranges excursions around the country, renting lines from the owners. The trips can be as short as 10 miles or as long as several thousand miles, and run throughout both the U.S. as well as Canada.
NORCOA has about 1,700 members around the world. There is a cost to participate, from $10 up to nearly $2,000 for the very long excursions. Any member/owner can go on any excursion that they want, however, they do have to pass a certification test.
Owners trailer their cars to the beginning destination of the excursion. Each person is then responsible for their food and accommodations. Some stay in hotels, some go on excursions that take them near family or friends that they can stay with. Jerry and Karen Wagner of Eagle, Idaho, took this particular trip because they were both originally from Centralia and still have family in the area. They are very proud of the lovely hand-painted eagle on their car, created by local family member, Dale Harris.
Excursions are slow, leisurely events, stopping for sightseeing and food/restroom breaks. While the cars could go about 35 miles an hour, they typically only go 15-25 miles an hour. If you like traveling on Amtrak, this is an even better way to see different views of the countryside in an up-close and personal way.
So if you ever see these little cars out and about, be sure to stop and talk to the owners. They are more than happy to share their story. And if you do decide to check out the NORCOA website, be careful when you start poking around on it – there are motorcars for sale! Before you know it, you may have a new hobby!
On a recent girls’ weekend to Central Oregon, we thought visiting the farm looked like fun. Surely they would have a gift shop with tons of goodies made from soft, warm alpaca wool. As we pulled into the parking lot we noticed a baby alpaca, looking totally adorable in the field. It was still wobbly when it walked. We wondered how old it was.
Then we turned our attention to the gift shop, of course. Inside we were treated to multi-colored displays of gorgeous sweaters, hats, gloves, you name it! Yes, most of it was fairly expensive. But we noticed the sock display and had to check them out and ended up with some very soft ones that are making me look forward to the cold weather so I can enjoy them.
We headed out the door to go back to the car but noticed some people over in the barn with several animals. As we walked towards the barn, the alpacas started noticing us and slowly ambled towards us. Knowing that llamas can spit, I wondered if alpacas do the same thing – so I watched them trying to determine if I could tell. Would I see them making that face guys do when they get ready to spit?
My friend asked if we could watch and they were very welcoming, answering all of our questions as they got ready to shear one of the alpacas. It was a little uncomfortable for me to see the alpaca be stretched out for shearing, but it didn’t appear to be in any distress and was quite calm. They sheared off some of the wool and brought it over for us to feel. It was surprisingly soft because they said this animal was fairly old, so I guess I expected the wool to feel coarse.
The whole time we were watching this and asking questions, there was one alpaca in particular that was quite interested in watching us as well. Thankfully – it never spit!
The Crescent Moon Alpaca Farm is located just south of Terrebonne, Oregon. It’s very easy to find, right on the main highway at 7566 N Hwy 97. You can’t miss it – you’ll see several adorable alpacas in their field, and signs indicating whether they are open or closed.
For more information, check them out at http://www.crescentmoonranch.com.
Is it a river boat? A paddlewheel boat? A paddle steamer? A sternwheeler? A boat operated by paddle wheels appears to be known by all of these names. But on the Columbia River, it’s referred to as a sternwheeler. I’ve always wanted to take a ride on one and finally we had a chance on the Columbia Gorge, based in Cascade Locks, Oregon. My mother-in-law’s birthday had been earlier in the month and since we prefer to give experiences rather than “stuff,” we wanted to take her on this cruise.
As we drove into town, traffic was bumper to bumper. Then we notice the sign on the side of the road – “Sternwheeler Days.” “Oh, no, I hope we’re not caught up in a parade!” I quickly pulled out my iPhone and looked up the celebration. Whew! The parade must have just ended. We crawled along for just a few blocks until we spied the well-marked sign to the turn-in for the boat, at the Cascade Locks Marine Park. We easily found a parking spot, and headed into a small building, the Visitor Center and Locks Cafe. Inside was the ticketing desk off to the left, a small food area to the right, and behind that was a gift shop.
The whole building had fascinating old pictures and bookcases with antiques highlighting life years ago.
We already had our tickets but stopped at the ticket desk to ask if we were OK wearing sandals (we were) and if it was OK to take the camera on the boat (yes we were, as a matter of fact it was highly encouraged!) Then we stepped outside on the deck to enjoy the view until the boat came back from its trip upriver. It runs about ½ hour downstream, turns around, comes back to the dock and lets some passenger off and others on, then goes upstream about ½ hour and again returns to the dock. So there are different lengths of cruises you can take, as well as dinner cruises. We were taking the two-hour cruise.
When the boat came back to the dock, it was moving pretty rapidly. David and Josh were debating between themselves if it was truly operated by the paddle wheels or if it had supplemental power. Later we would find out, yes, it was truly operated by the paddle wheels! And its name was – Columbia Gorge!
Before getting on the ship, there was a sign that said for safety reasons everyone had to have their picture taken. We wondered if this was because we would be going close to the dam. Group pictures were allowed so we had ours all taken together. I did have to wonder later if it really was for safety reasons, because later, staff took all the pictures around to the guests and people could choose to buy one if they wanted. We had already planned and pre-paid for two pictures anyway, so we got ours.
Inside the vessel was gorgeous, a combination of antique looking decor with modern amenities such as a restroom and snack bar. There was a lower dining area for the lunch dinner cruises, and seating upstairs where the snack bar was located.
As we pulled away from the dock, looking north we were awestruck to see the scar on the land where a massive landslide happened hundreds of years ago. The captain, Michael Cain, explained how this landslide had completely blocked the river, backing it clear up to Idaho. Eventually the river broke through underneath, creating a natural land bridge, named, “The Bridge of the Gods” by local Native Americans. Crossing under the new steel Bridge of the Gods built to replace the natural bridge that eventually collapsed, we were taken back in time as we thought about how we were re-enacting a trip Native Americans might have taken under the natural bridge.
One fun unusual thing that happened – kayakers and paddleboarders would catch the waves from the boat and ride along on them!
Strong winds blasting up the Columbia River were a welcome relief from the heat of the day, even though the sky was overcast. On both sides of the river were odd-looking docks. The captain explained that Native Americans used to fish the falls in the area before the dam, and now use these docks to fish.
We continued on up near the dam, passing a rock that the captain told us was named, “Hermiston Rock.” Apparently rocks are named after the boats that crash on them! Yikes, let’s not have one named “Columbia Gorge Rock” OK?
We went as far as we could then turned around and headed back upriver. I overheard someone say, “Anyone can go in the wheelhouse” so of course, we headed in. Inside was the captain and two young men, crew members. The captain was more than happy to answer all of our questions, and then the dream of a lifetime – let Josh steer the boat! He was thrilled! He did it for quite a ways, until we got back closer to the bridge, then the captain took over. We finally left the wheelhouse but Josh just stayed in there, visiting and asking questions until we docked again.
We waited while the other passengers boarded, then headed upriver. By now the sun was coming out, the clouds were disappearing, and it wasn’t near as windy going east. The views along this route were more rural with lots of beautiful hills and trees. By the time we turned around and headed back, I think we were all relaxed as Jell-O. I didn’t want to get off the boat, I felt like all stress had drained away into the river, and all that was left was thoughts of the here-and-now.
We highly recommend this little cruise. The price is extremely reasonable, with different rates for different lengths of trips. For prices, check out their website at http://portlandspirit.com/sternwheeler.php.
We have a tendency to think of Sunriver Resort in Oregon as being an all newly-constructed development. But did you know that it has an old building with architecture reminiscent of the Old Faithful Inn? You may have attended a wedding, conference or other event in it, perhaps thinking it was simply built to look old and blend in with the rustic surroundings. But the Great Hall was actually built in 1944 by the Army Corps of Engineers on the land there that was once home to Camp Abbott. The hall was only used for about six months, as a cafeteria, then the war ended and the beautiful building constructed from local trees was abandoned and sadly fell into disrepair. At one point it was even used for a cattle barn. Fortunately for all of us, it was saved and has been totally restored and updated into a premier meeting space, while reminding us of the history of the area and the beauty of the natural resources used.
The log building features high ceilings with exposed beams. A massive stone fireplace burns a cozy fire, and a balcony of limbs surrounds you like welcoming arms– all of which can’t help but make you think of the Old Faithful Inn.
Replica fixtures illuminate the interior in a soft warm glow. Hallways adorned with historical pictures and stories lead the way to modern and comfortable meeting facilities. There is space just to sit and relax where your eyes are drawn out the large windows to an open field and expansive sky. You’re sure to see some sort of woodland wildlife if you are patient.
Events can be catered by Sunriver restaurants, as ours was this day at the Northwest Travel Writers Conference. The beauty and ambiance of this grand old building and the creativity of the dishes served and displayed made for a deliciously memorable experience.
If you are ever in the market for an event space, or simply want to stop in and pay respect to the history and architectural skill of the time, don’t pass up the chance to check out the Great Hall at Sunriver Resort.
For more information, see Sunriver-Resort.com.
We were hungry, but didn’t want any of the usual chains. But we were in a town (Bend, Oregon) that we didn’t know very well. We decided to get brave and I pulled out my i-Phone and tapped the Urbanspoon app hoping for at least a somewhat good idea. Up popped the Pour House Grill – with a 90% “Like” rate. We decided that was good enough to take a chance.
As we pulled up to the restaurant, we were worried we wouldn’t find any place to park, it was so busy. Another good sign! But we did find a spot, and headed inside. We were immediately greeted and seated by a very friendly waitress, who was also very helpful in answering our questions about the menu.
They had a nice variety of appetizers, burgers, and beer. They have some wines and even a few of my new love – hard cider.
We ordered appetizers and then our dinners. We were pleased with the portions, the prices, and the service. So much so that when we were looking for a place for dinner again a couple of nights later, we wound up back at the Pour House Grill to try some other menu items. Again, we weren’t disappointed with either the food or the service.
Bend’s Pour House Grill is definitely a go-back-to spot again next time we are in the area.
Do you use an app or review site to help you choose where to eat?
For more information, menu, and prices check out their website at http://www.thepourhousegrill.com/.
It’s 125 feet tall. And you can climb up the inside of it on a metal spiral staircase. Your legs will burn, you will be very glad for each landing where you can stop and take a breather and rest your legs. But once at the top – you will have one of the best views on the Oregon coast. “It” is the Astoria Column, built in 1926 as a monument to the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Typically, Astoria is usually a bit cloudy if not down-right rainy, so the view is hit-and-miss. This abnormally beautiful April day, the skies were completely clear, like nothing I have ever seen. We could even see Mt. St. Helens from the Astoria-Megler Bridge as we headed from the Washington side of the Columbia River to Astoria.
It’s fairly easy to find the column. You can easily see it and just head towards it and eventually you will see a white column icon on the roads that lead to the column. It’s a short winding drive up the hill, then there is plenty of parking, restrooms, and a small gift shop where you pay your $2.00 fee.
Even without going in the column the view is beautiful. To the south you can see Saddle Mountain and it’s obvious why it was named that. You can look down and see the area where the replica of Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark’s home for a short time, is set. You can’t help but look at that beautiful river and want to take a kayak on a long, slow cruise.
Before you go into the column, notice the writings and the drawings depicting the expedition, on the outside, going all the way up. Then you enter the column through a door at the bottom and start your climb up. It’s a long climb, but there are landings every so many steps where you can step out of the way of others and rest your legs and catch your breath for a minute. Once you come out on top there is a 360 degree walkaround to take in every bit of the view.
Off to the north is the mighty Columbia River. Maybe you’ll catch sight of a container ship, so large it dwarfs the houses down below.
To the northwest is the Astoria-Megler Bridge looking so long you think, “I came across that huge thing?!”
To the northwest and west, looking endless, is the magnificent Pacific Ocean. Looking south again is the even better view of Saddle Mountain.
The eastern view will reveal the dense northwest forests that the area is known for.
The Astoria Column puts the beauty of the northwest Oregon coast on display for all who choose to visit. It really is a fitting tribute to the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Getting there (from http://astoriacolumn.org/visit/hours-fees-and-directions/): The Astoria Column is located at 1 Coxcomb Drive. Directional signs can be found on 14th and 16th Streets.
In your travels, have you ever noticed that the really good food is in the restaurant where you think you would least expect it? However, you don’t always have to travel to experience the great little joints – don’t overlook the ones in your hometown. Shanghai Cafe in Centralia, Washington is one of those places.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside. It barely looks like a restaurant. It’s very small, non-descript and whenever we tell folks what to look for, it’s the big butterfly on their sign. When you walk in, it still looks small, but cozy not cramped. The Asian décor is fun, but looks dated. It should be – it opened in 1929! However, don’t let any of this deter you – have a seat and enjoy the feast to come!
They will start you out with a mild tea while you are looking over the menu and of course, they have other beverages available. On the table underneath a plastic cover, is the Chinese Zodiak calendar. I always enjoy looking at it, picking out myself, kids and grandkids.
David always does the ordering for us. He has been going there for years and introduced me awhile back – I have difficulties eating certain food and have to be careful, so luckily he knows what I can eat, and which of the foods won’t give me problems. It always sounds like he only order 3-4 dishes, but when the food starts coming out, it seems endless! First the Egg Drop Soup arrives, then the Kimchi, then Sweet and Sour Pork. Just as we finish that, out comes the Special Garlic Chicken, Orange Chicken and on and on.
We can never eat it all! But that doesn’t break anyone’s heart, the leftovers are even better after they’ve soaked in the juices overnight. But I always leave room for the Fortune Cookies, of course. And here’s an unusual idea for you – Chardonnay wine and fortune cookies taste amazing together!
Shanghai is a family-run business (the current owners are only the second owners) and they always remember you and what you like to order. You don’t get that kind of warm, personal service most places.
Our motto when traveling is “always check out the local restaurants.” So don’t forget those in your own town – who knows what you might be missing!
Shanghai Cafe is located at 519 South Tower in Centralia.
If you’re looking for a cool Irish pub to go to for St. Patrick’s Day, you need to check out Kells Irish Pub in Portland.
There are a lot of authentically old establishments in Portland, but Kells is not one of them. However, they did a great job of making it look like it. There are Kells located in Seattle and San Francisco as well and a second Portland brewery.
We were in the area for something else when we noticed the entrance, which simply looked intriguing and inviting. As we entered, our jaws dropped open and we stood there in shock. The first thing you notice is – there’s money everywhere on the ceiling! Well, heck, that just made us want to look around even more! Luckily it was early mid-morning so the place wasn’t busy. We asked if we could just take our own little tour and it was no problem.
The main floor has an inviting fireplace, warm wood furniture, and cute small chandeliers and exposed brick walls, all giving Kells its character.
When you go downstairs, the ambiance of the dark wood and stuffed chairs are so old-time reminiscent that you expect to see ghosts of mobsters smoking big cigars and beautiful women wearing diamonds and furs lounging off to the side.
How was the food? We have no idea! We didn’t have time to try that part of Kells, but maybe you can and let us know. The character and personality alone is enough to make it worth checking out. And if you’re there around St. Patrick’s Day you’re sure have a great time with all the activities and events they have planned. Enjoy!
Kells Irish Pub is located at 112 SW 2nd Avenue in Portland.