Last weekend we went back to Portland for first time in almost ten years. Lots of things have changed - our college has closed down, most of our friends have moved away and started families, the children of our closest friends have grown from adorable preschoolers and toddlers into amazing teenagers - but so many things were exactly the same.
The weather in February is still wonderfully cold, damp, and gloomy.
Downtown Portland is still delightfully funky and full of dreadlock-wearing hipsters.
Old Spaghetti Factory is still my favorite restaurant. Ever.
The coffee still tastes better than anywhere else on the planet.
The Pacific Ocean still makes me cry.
The Columbia River Gorge is still hauntingly beautiful.
The reasons I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest are still as powerful as the first day I drove into Portland in May 2000.
In short, it's been ten years too long since we set foot on Oregon soil, and we are determined that it won't be another ten years before we go back. Here's a recap of the best weekend we've had in years.
Friday morning the alarm went off at 3:00AM and we dragged ourselves to the airport for a 6:15AM flight that went to Austin and San Jose before finally landing us in Portland. By the time we landed we had been awake for eleven hours and in a plane for eight of it. Sammy did amazingly well on the plane. He watched movies and played apps on the iPad, played with his reusable sticker pad and toy cars and ate enough snacks to fill a grown man. Check out his tiny headphones!
Not once did he even show a hint of closing his eyes and taking a nap. Not. Once. He did, however, belly laugh every time we took off, landed, or hit turbulence. Weirdo.
We landed, got our rental car, and headed to our friends' house in Oregon City. Sam slept in the car, and was still exhausted when we got there, but it didn't take him long to warm up and play.
We ate lunch and rested for awhile. Then went to meet one of our professors, Brian Simmons, for a snack and a soda at our old stomping grounds, Taco Bell. (Why didn't I take pictures?! I'm blaming it on exhaustion!). Friday night was spent eating dinner and just hanging out with the Keikkala family.
Here's the thing about the Keikkalas. When we first met them they were the age that we are now! When I realized that it kind of blew my mind. They mentored us and helped us in ways that went above and beyond. They even let Aaron live with them for awhile! And last weekend they picked right up where they left off ten years ago. Do you have someone in your life that you could never possibly say thank you in a way that would be big enough to really encompass it all? That's the Keikkalas. And so many others. But especially the Keikkalas.
We drove north into Washington and took a ferry across the Columbia River.
We got to play at the dock for awhile.
As soon as the ferry took off Sam found a ramp for his toy car. Who cares about a ferry over the Columbia?! Lightning McQueen has places to go! Ahem.
A perfect Oregon February day.
Trees like this.
Trees that need to be climbed.
Three stumps. Three Keikkalas.
We left Fort Clatsop and headed south for Cannon Beach.
Sam was fascinated by the wet sand.
Hey look, a BIRD!
WHOA! Is that WATER?!
Do you guys SEE this?!
This is SO COOL!
And there's still sand.
No WAIT, there's WATER!
Come on, Daddy!
You too, Mommy! See the WATER?!
Wait hang on there's more sand.
Family picture time.
And then off to explore with the Keikkala kiddos.
While the big boys played with their toy.
Perfect for exploring.
Hi, Matt & Jen!
Another family picture. Sam is thrilled with being made to sit still.
It was a perfect Saturday at the Oregon Coast.
That picture makes me cry.
Sunday morning we got up and headed down the Columbia River Gorge on the historic highway - just the three of us. We didn't stop as often as we would have if it was just Aaron and I because every time we had to put Sam back in the car seat he cried this awful broken-hearted cry because he wanted to keep exploring. I could spend all day in the Gorge, but we were on a little bit of a time schedule because the Keikkalas were back at home. So we just stopped at the major places.
Mooooooom, let me gooooo! There are stairs to climb!
Down the historic highway.
Past several small waterfalls like this.
To Multnomah Falls.
Aaron hiked up to the bridge with Sam. My bad knee was swollen and sore, so I waited at the bottom for them. And resisted the urge to buy this.
From the Falls we headed back into Portland, stopping at our favorite little Chinese joint for lunch. Then we headed to downtown Portland with the Keikkalas. We to the Duck Store. Mommy got a sweatshirt, and Sammy got a toy duck.
We tried to go to Voodoo Donuts, but the line was wrapped around the building and the sun was going down, so we gave up on that and headed to the Rose Garden.
It's not very exciting in February but, in July 2002, Aaron proposed to me at this exact spot.
So it's sentimental.
This is what you call "consequences".
Sorry about the blurry pictures. We were losing daylight fast. And Sam isn't exactly still.
From the Rose Garden we went to my favorite restaurant, Old Spaghetti Factory. It's a beautiful building right down on the river, and their Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese is one of the most amazing things I've ever put in my mouth. Unfortunately Sam picked the hour we were there to have a total meltdown (he was EXHAUSTED!) which means I did not take one single picture. But he eventually calmed down so we made our way to Powell's City of Books. It's a bookstore that takes up an entire city block. 68,000 square feet of books! (I just heard my best friend's head explode when she read that). Jen took Sammy to the kids section where he made himself right at home.
Aaron and I wandered around and shopped a little bit. A journal for me. Bacon flavored jelly beans for him. (No, I'm not kidding.) And Portland-opoly for us to add to our Monopoly game collection. The last stop of the night was a funky little ice cream place called Salt & Straw. The ice cream is made fresh with all-natural Oregon ingredients. Look at these flavors!
I got Sea Salt w/ Caramel Ribbons and Strawberry Honey Balsamic w/ Black Pepper. I am still drooling over that ice cream. If you're ever in Portland you MUST check this place out!
On the drive home Matt stopped at a special spot so we could take a shot of the city at night.
Monday morning we said goodbye and headed to the airport. But first we went to see if our old house was there. When we first got married we lived in the attic of a house that had been built in 1912. The owners had renovated it and rented it out for super cheap. The kitchen walls were covered in four different patterns of psychodelic wallboard, the bathroom was painted harvest gold, and the rest of the rooms were done in dark wood paneling. The floor sloped to the west, and there was a steep, winding staircase that had been added on to the back of the house to allow access. It wasn't fancy, but it was home. And when we left the owners had just sold it to Safeway who was wanting to expand the store that was directly behind the house. We didn't expect it to be there, but....IT WAS.
See that long window? That was our sunroom. We used to the park our Honda Civic beside that old tree.
Ten years later we own a home in Texas, we have an 18 month old, and we've been through all the ups and downs that marriage brings. But we're still together. And for the most part we're having a great time.
Thanks, Portland! We had a blast!