Ride the Rails in Your Own Motorcar with NORCOA

1-IMG_8199Did 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.

1-IMG_8213Everyone 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.

1-IMG_8197Owners 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.


NORCOA Rail Cars

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!

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Adorable Alpacas! Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, Oregon

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Crescent Moon Ranch

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.

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Baby Alpaca!

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Crescent Moon Ranch Gift Shop

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.

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Alpaca goodies!

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Adorable Gifts!

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?

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Just hanging out.

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.

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Alpaca wool.

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!

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Watching us…

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.





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Cruising the Columbia River

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

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.

Visitor Center and Locks Cafe, Columbia Gorge

Visitor Center and Locks Cafe

The whole building had fascinating old pictures and bookcases with antiques highlighting life years ago.

Old Items in the Visitor Center, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Old Items in the Visitor Center

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!

Paddles, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler


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.

Sue, Josh, Nancy, David. Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Sue, Josh, Nancy, David

Inside the Sternwheeler, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Inside the Sternwheeler

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.

Snack Bar, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Snack Bar

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.

Josh and the Bridge of the Gods, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Josh and the Bridge of the Gods

Under the Bridge of the Gods, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Under the Bridge of the Gods

One fun unusual thing that happened – kayakers and paddleboarders would catch the waves from the boat and ride along on them!

Paddlboarder riding the wake, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Paddlboarder Riding the Wake

Kayakers and Boarder Riding the Wake

Kayakers and Boarders Riding the Wake

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.

Native American Fishing Docks, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Native American Fishing Docks

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?

Hermiston Rock, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Hermiston Rock

Bonneville Dam from the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Bonneville Dam

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.

Captain Michael Cain, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Captain Michael Cain

Wheelhouse, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler


Josh Steering the Sternwheeler. Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Josh Steering the Sternwheeler

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.

Gorgeous Views, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Gorgeous Views

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.


Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Historical, Oregon, Outdoors, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Up to Its Name: Great Hall, Sunriver, Oregon

Great Hall, Sunriver, Oregon

Sunriver’s Great Hall

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.

Plaque, Great Hall, Sunriver, Oregon


Great Hall, Sunriver, Oregon

Great Hall

Outside the Great Hall, Sunriver, Oregon

Outside the Great Hall

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.

Stone Fireplace, Sunriver, Oregon

Gorgeous Stone Fireplace!

Fireplace Sitting Area, Sunriver, Oregon

Fireplace Sitting Area

Welcoming Balcony, Sunriver, Oregon

Welcoming Balcony

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.

Looking up!  Great Hall Lights, Sunriver, Oregon

Looking up!

Hallway to Meeting Rooms, Sunriver, Oregon

Hallway to Meeting Rooms

History on the Walls, Sunriver, Oregon

History on the Walls

Space to Relax, Sunriver, Oregon

Space to Relax

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.

Amazing Food!, Sunriver, Oregon

Amazing Food!

Amazing Food!, Sunriver, Oregon

Amazing Food!, Sunriver, Oregon

Amazing Food!, Sunriver, Oregon

Amazing Food!, Sunriver, OregonIf 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.

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Urbanspoon Scores! Pour House Grill, Bend, Oregon

Appetizer, Pour House Grill, Bend, OR


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/.




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The Astoria Column

The Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

The Astoria Column

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.

The Story of the Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

The Story of the Astoria Column

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.

Mt. St. Helens from the Astoria-Megler Bridge

Mt. St. Helens from the Astoria-Megler Bridge

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.

View to the south, Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

View to the south

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.

Beautiful outside of column, Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

Beautiful outside of column

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.

Astoria Column Spiral Staircase, Astoria, Oregon

Astoria Column Spiral Staircase

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.

View to the north - Columbia River, from the Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

View to the north – Columbia River

To the northwest is the Astoria-Megler Bridge looking so long you think, “I came across that huge thing?!”

To the west - Astoria-Megler Bridge leading to Washington, Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

To the west – Astoria-Megler Bridge leading to Washington

To the northwest and west, looking endless, is the magnificent Pacific Ocean. Looking south again is the even better view of Saddle Mountain.

Saddle Mountain, view from Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

Saddle Mountain

The eastern view will reveal the dense northwest forests that the area is known for.

Eastern View - Endless Northwest Forest from the Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

Eastern View – Endless Northwest Forest

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.






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Centralia’s Best “Surprise!” Food – Shanghai Café

Ready to eat! Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Ready to eat!

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.

Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Shanghai Cafe

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!

Inside Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Inside Shanghai Cafe

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.

Chinese calendar, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Chinese Zodiak Calendar

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.

Pot Stickers, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Pot Stickers

Kimchi, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington


Orange Chicken, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Orange Chicken

Mongolian Beef, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Mongolian Beef

Almond Chicken, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Almond Chicken

Sweet and Sour Pork, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Sweet and Sour Pork

Tempura Veggies, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Tempura Veggies

Spring Rolls, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Spring Rolls

Special Garlic Chicken, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

Special Garlic Chicken

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!

A great fortune!, Shanghai Cafe, Centralia, Washington

A great fortune!

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.

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Kells Irish Pub – Portland, Oregon

Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

Kells Irish Pub

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.

Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

Kells Irish Pub

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.

Money on the ceiling, Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

Look at all that money on the ceiling!

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.

Money on the ceiling, Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

Money on the ceiling

The main floor has an inviting fireplace, warm wood furniture, and cute small chandeliers and exposed brick walls, all giving Kells its character.

Fireplace in Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

Fireplace in Kells Irish Pub

Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

Kells Irish Pub

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.

Heading downstairs, Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

Heading downstairs

To the Cigar Room, Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

To the Cigar Room

In the Cigar Room, Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

In the Cigar Room

In the Cigar Room, Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

Also in the Cigar Room

Humidor in Kells Irish Pub, Portland, Oregon

Humidor in Kells Irish Pub

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.

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Smelt Dipping – It’s Not What You Think

Smelt, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington


My first thought was that smelt dipping is just another way of saying using chewing tobacco. My second thought was it had something to do with extracting minerals from ore (like copper, silver, etc.) because this is also known as smelting. Turns out I was way off on both thoughts.

The first time I heard of dipping smelt was about 28 years ago. I worked for two bosses who decided I needed to find out what this was all about. They said, “The smelt are running on the Cowlitz!” What? OK, smelt are a small fish, the Cowlitz is a river in Southwest Washington running through Kelso. You don’t catch these fish with a fishing pole, but scoop them up in a net. That’s why it’s known as “dipping.” So we jumped in their car and ran down there. We took a net and went to the river and – nothing. Gee, that was fun. David had tried it many years ago too, without success.

I never thought much more about it, although I heard a lot of people talking about it over the years. They would say how the smelt run used to be so thick you could just go down and dip net after net of the little fishes. But over the years the run got smaller and smaller until it finally became a protected species and smelt-dipping was no longer allowed – until recently. This is the second year that limited time has been opened to allow smelt-dipping.

Using a net to dip smelt, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Using a net to dip smelt

This past Saturday was one of those dates. We already had plans to go to Portland for the day when we heard about it, but as we drove down I-5 we could see the Cowlitz and a lot of people were out on it. David couldn’t stand it, he had to check it out so we got off the freeway and headed down to the river. It was packed with people, but many were leaving. Not only is the date set, but so is the time – you can only fish from 6am to noon and it was just before noon when we got there.

Pat and Dick Lindeman, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Pat and Dick Lindeman with their smelt catch

I saw a couple who looked friendly and asked if I could talk to them. Pat and Dick Lindeman are their names and they were very friendly and helpful. They even offered to let us use their equipment next weekend since there is another catch date set for February 14. They showed us their catch, which was the limit, and said they got it in only 2 scoops! Now that’s starting to sound like the stories I have heard!

Smelt in a net, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Smelt in a net

If you’re wondering what to do with smelt, Dick said that he will freeze some to use for bait, smoke some, and fry some.

Another nice part about smelt-dipping is that no license is needed, just a net, a bucket, and some good shoes to slog through the mud on the side of the river. Be sure to follow the rules, take only your limit – we want to make sure we do our part to help bring this fish back to its natural run, and we can do that by fishing responsibly. And even though you don’t need a license, if you are fishing past noon you can get a ticket for that, as well as if you go over your limit.

So where will we be on Valentine’s Day? You got it – smelt-dipping!


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“Coffee is a Journey” – Santa Lucia Coffee, Centralia, Washington

Santa Lucia Cafe, Centralia WA

Santa Lucia Cafe

When asked how he started in the coffee roasting business, Justin Page, owner of Santa Lucia Cafe located in downtown Centralia, Washington, looked at us for a moment, then quietly said, “Coffee is a journey.” His journey began when he was about 12 or 13 years old. His father was “in the coffee culture” in Seattle, and Justin has been passionate about coffee ever since.

Santa Lucia coffee roaster, Centralia, Washington

Santa Lucia coffee roaster

He began roasting his own coffee in 2002 in the basement of his Centralia home. He expanded to roasting from family, friends, and neighbors. Then he placed a kiosk on the front porch of his house and people would put their money into his mail slot. After a few years (and one visit from the Centralia Fire Department because of all the smoke coming out of his basement), Justin ran out of room and decided to open Santa Lucia Café in his current location in 2006.

Santa Lucia is the namesake for Justin’s wife, Lucy. The setting is rustic, with three rooms with tables comfortable chairs, and even books to sit and read with children. It’s cozy enough for small conversations as well as small work meetings. Local pastries from San Francisco Bakery in Olympia, Market Street Bakery in Chehalis, and Main Street Cookies in Rainier, are temptingly displayed.

David enjoyed his Santa Lucia coffee in the cozy cafe. Centralia, Washington

David enjoyed his Santa Lucia coffee in the cozy cafe.

Justin tells us that he gets beans from all over the world, but most specifically from a small farmer, Edwin Martinez, in Guatemala. Huge 150 pound bags can be seen sitting near the walls. One coffee roaster is placed in the third room. There Justin roasts about 200-300 pounds of coffee each week. We were surprised to hear it only takes about 15 minutes to roast a batch of coffee. He doesn’t have a set schedule, just roasts as needed as they run low on coffee, so it’s very fresh.

Coffee beans from Guatemala, Santa Lucia Coffee, Centralia, WA

Coffee beans from Guatemala

We asked about the “flavors” and how he achieves them because we truly had no idea. It turns out coffee is a bit like wine, that flavors are not added, but come naturally from the areas where the beans are grown. Then he decides which flavors he likes, what his “interpretation” of them is and then roasts them to bring out the flavors he likes best. This is done by varying the length of time of roasting as well as temperature.

David asked if he would like to see his product on big store shelves. Justin thought for a moment and said no, he actually preferred that people find him on their own based on the quality of his coffees.

As Josh is in high school and learning a lot about future careers, he had his own question: What would Justin tell a high school student thinking about opening a coffee roasting business. Justin replied that he would ask a lot of questions, why do they want to do this, how passionate are they – he would challenge them and ask deeper questions rather than just say, “Yes, do it” or “No, don’t do it.”

When asked where he thought his business would be in five years, Justin said that this is an individual journey for him and he expects to stay small and still be in the same place. The best part of this business for him is the personal touch, being part of the community and the friends that he has made. He feels that it is now at a point that it is a self-propelling entity and that is a very exciting point to be for an entrepreneur. He would only like to grow larger though, if it didn’t take away from the personal aspect that he enjoys so much now.


Santa Lucia coffees can also be found served at local establishments such as Centralia College and Jeremy’s Farm to Table restaurant.

Santa Lucia Café is open Monday through Friday, 7am-5pm, Saturdays 8am-3pm and Sundays, 9am-3pm and is located at 202 S. Tower Ave., Centralia WA 98531. They can also be found online at http://www.luciacoffee.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/santaluciacoffee.






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