Day 10: Rainy Pacific Northwest

This was departure day from Kent and the family, and as we had a lot of ground to cover we tried to get an early start.  We bid my parents adieu and right at the crack of 9:00 AM we were on the road heading south to Oregon.  In a strange twist of events, it was raining.  How weird, we haven’t seen rain in a good 7 hours but I suppose that was only because we had been sleeping.  On this particular drive to Portland it was raining so hard that I started to worry our windshield wiper motor was going to be completely burned out on our rental car by the time we got home in a couple of weeks, as if you only get so many swipes before it goes kaput.  I estimated we had used up roughly 97,000 swipes by this point.  Jim thought that maybe the constant wiper friction from the last 10 days would wear down the glass in the windshield and make a permanent indentation.  However, the rain was coming at us from all sides so the upside was that we finally knocked off the rest of the dirt we’d procured in Montana.

Doughnut Mecca

We arrived in Portland around 11:30 AM and were able to meet our dear friend Max for lunch at a delicious taqueria.  It was great to catch up with him, albeit briefly, and it worked out well because we had a second stop to make in Portland, as well.  Now, the second Portland stop is going to make us sound like donut epicurists (is that even a word?) but we really do not eat donuts unless we are on the west coast.  Maybe all the precipitation makes us crave a glazed sunny pastry moment?  At any rate, our second stop was to the famous Voodoo Doughnut shop for one of the apple fritters we discovered last time we were in Portland and have been dreaming about ever since.  These fritters are the size of a steering wheel, perfectly cooked so there is a lovely crispy edge surrounding a bread-y cinnamon-y inside, and have tons of genuine apple chunks.  I would be very hard-pressed to say who makes a nicer fritter, Voodoo or Happy Donuts, even though they are each different.  It would be like choosing a favorite child.  Just like it.

Congrats, you did it!

With our Voodoo Doughnuts safely in a lovely pink box and seatbelted into the back seat, we headed out of Portland.  I’d like to take a moment to congratulate Portland, because their campaign to Keep it Weird is working.

Multnomah Falls

We headed east on I-84 along the Columbia River Gorge.  At one point we exited the highway to use the scenic Historic Columbia River Highway bypass that runs parallel to I-84, and it was indeed scenic.  Along the way were many waterfalls, our primary destination being Multnomah Falls.  By this point it was raining so hard we thought for sure we’d be the only knuckleheads there, but nope, the parking lot was full.  I suppose the locals know that if you waited for clear(er) weather to see the falls then you’d be waiting a very long time.  It was a little ridiculous, really, at how much rain was coming down in the first place and then just downright silly when you consolidate that with the mist the falls themselves were generating.  Let’s just say it was a brief stop.

Meet Herman the Sturgeon

A few miles down the road from the falls were the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and Dam.  Perfect, we already felt like fish in water so we thought we could really identify with the subject matter.  We loved this stop, as not only did we get to feed the fish (note:  next time take pockets full of quarters for the feed machines), but we got to see Herman, the 450 lb, over 10 foot long, 70-year old sturgeon.  Herman seemed like a really chill sturgeon, although admittedly, I haven’t met many.  There was also the hatchery part where I remember reading they spawn and raise either 10 million or 53 million fish a year to release into Oregon’s waterways, and yes, I should have paid better attention.

After we learned (but clearly didn’t retain) all about the fish hatchery process it was time to move on to the dam and fish ladder.  Before we could enter that part of the compound, however, we were stopped at a guard gate by a very stern –looking, armed man who needed to make sure we were not there with malicious intent.  I’m not sure what exactly convinced him we were just tourists, our GPS, the map covering my lap with the camera on top, the trunkload of suitcases, the cooler, or our general wonderment.  After the all clear, we proceeded to go past an electrical station and the dam before getting to the Visitor’s Center that is run by the Army Corps of Engineers.  They had great displays and 4 levels of things to see.  The bottom level was the viewing window for the fish ladder, where you would occasionally see a fish fighting the current to get to the other side.  You got it, buddy, keep going!  The next level up we were able to go outside to see the actual ladder and there is also an indoor theater (we just missed the viewing of “Think Like a Salmon,” which I’m bummed about.  Do they ever inexplicably shudder if they see a tartar sauce wrapper in the ocean?).  Our final stop was another outside terrace to view the actual dam again and a power station, which is just an engineering feat of large scale.  As we were leaving the Visitor’s Center, the subject of Wisconsin came up with one of the rangers working there.  He noted that he recently visited there and it was his 50th state.  I thought that was odd, as Wisconsin isn’t generally someone’s last state.  I think somewhere like Maine, or Alaska, or Hawaii, or even Florida would be a more likely choice, especially since he was able to visit Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and part of Michigan without setting foot in Wisconsin.  But the important thing is he finally made it.

That dam couple

Feeling smarter than when we went in, we left the Hatchery and Dam compound and headed for Hood River before dropping down Highway 35 past Mt. Hood to take a more scenic route into Bend, OR, our final destination of the day.  It was still raining, naturally, and there was a very low fog in the entire region that completely obscured any view of Mt. Hood.  Jim and I often wonder what would have happened if Lewis and Clark went through the area on foggy, rainy days where they couldn’t see any mountains.  Did they message back east that nope, nothing to see here except a lot of trees?

At any rate, the drive was gorgeous through the Mt. Hood National Forest and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  And some of us in the car were less fussy about the rain than others.  We ended our day in Bend, OR, where we spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express.  It had been another great day filled with sweets and nature.  Does it get any better?

Leave a comment


  1. Ha! Laughing at your lack of retention. I do the same thing, and I take notes! I’ve learned far more than I’ll ever remember on my trips. I’m glad I’m not alone.

    Also–how did you get a photo of the falls in the pouring rain? I couldn’t even take falls photos on a sunny day in Yosemite, the mist coming off was far too much for my camera.

    • howieroll

       /  November 18, 2012

      My scientific take on what happened at the falls was the torrential rain held the mist down. Ok, maybe not but there was a lot of trying to shield the lens and we did get fairly drenched in the process. I was just happy that at least one photo sort of turned out so we could always have it for posterity…

      And yes, my brain should be a whole lot smarter after this trip, but things that are in there one minute are gone the next. See, that’s why I take pictures of everything – so as not to forget!


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