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Astoria Weekend: A Fort and a Column

Day 3, Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday morning of our Astoria trip, we found a little breakfast place called Arnie’s Cafe, just south of Astoria (in Warrenton) and stopped for a bite. The food was delicious, and there was no wait! We must have gotten there at just the right time though because it got busy after we were seated!

After breakfast we headed to Fort Stevens State Park to explore. I have blogged about Fort Stevens before, home of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, and a historic battery dating from before World War I. We checked out the beach first, and of course explored the shipwreck! The kids had fun writing their names in the sand and looking for shells and interesting rocks. Unfortunately, this stretch of the beach, on the open ocean, isn’t known for having many intact shells.

The kids took off their shoes and waded in the water, despite the fact that it was a pretty cool day! That’s par for the course in the Pacific Northwest I suppose, having your hood up and tightly cinched around your head, while wading barefoot in the ocean. It was windy!

After we had our fill of the beach, and needed to warm up, we headed over to the battery. The Fort Stevens battery was built between 1863 and 1864, an earthwork battery meant to stand as a sentry to the threat of invasion by sea, and to stand guard over the mouth of the Columbia River.  They were more concerned about invasion by the British though, as there were long standing territorial disputes in the region. The fort was expanded and the current concrete batteries were constructed in 1897.

Thankfully, invasions never came, but the battery was shelled by a Japanese submarine on June 21, 1942.  The shells fell harmlessly away from the fort, and no damage was done; the Fort Commander did not allow his men to even return fire.  The battery was decommissioned after World War II and the guns were removed by 1947; it became part of Fort Stevens State Park. It is open to the public, and young and the young at heart can climb up on its walls and explore its rooms and stairways.

And if you are like me, you can step off a step, suddenly discover you stepped wrong, twist your ankle, fall down, and skin your knee. Yep. Not often, but sometimes, I’m a real klutz. Oops. It really hurt! Of course, it also hurt my pride as the flash of pain left me unable to get up for a few minutes, and the nice man down below watched me hit the concrete and called up to ask if I was ok? Yeah… I will need to sit here on my butt in the middle of the path for a minute though! I was undeterred in my adventure seeking, and not willing to give up on our day, so I soon powered through the pain and walked it off. OUCH!

Our next stop for the day was the Astoria Column. Built in 1926 as a way to showcase the history of the area and its discovery in 1811, the column is 125 feet tall and has an internal staircase rising 164 steps to the top. You can buy balsa wood airplanes for $1 at the Visitor’s Center; the kids enjoyed climbing to the top of the tower to launch them off the top. What fun and the views are spectacular!

That evening, we endured a long wait at Buoy Beer Company, but the kids were entertained by the plexiglass in the floor that allowed them to watch a huge male sea lion lounging on the dock below. The adults were entertained by the ability to enjoy a beer anywhere in the brewery, so we could relax with a cold one while we waited for a table. The food was amazing – I loved my fish and chips! The Champagne IPA was delicious!

Our last adventure of the day was to catch the sun lowering in the sky, and to drive over the Astoria-Megler Bridge into Washington. The bridge was opened in 1966 and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America at 4.067 miles long. The sunset was beautiful, and a nice end to a great long weekend, as the next morning it was time to head home and back to real life.  What a wonderful getaway!

Astoria Weekend: Lewis and Clark!

Day 2, Saturday, May 25, 2019

Astoria, Oregon

After visiting Seaside, we decided to head over to the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.  I have visited before, but Jeff and the kids had never been there.

Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery spent the winter 1805-1806 here in this approximate location; they named their camp Fort Clatsop.  When the expedition left the West Coast in the spring of 1806, they gave Fort Clatsop’s structures to the local Native Americans and the fort was eventually reclaimed by nature. A replica was built when the site was designated as a National Historical Park in 1958, but sadly it burned in 2006; a replacement was built in 2007. The replica is thought to be historically accurate, having been built from sketches and descriptions that Lewis drew in his journals.

We checked out the museum in the Visitor’s Center, with its artifacts.  Beaver hats and pelts, a Coastal tribe canoe, grasses and foods that the Native Americans in the area used, as well as historic muskets and examples of clothing that the expedition members would have worn.  It is always interesting to revisit a place.  We also checked out Fort Clatsop, and the kids enjoyed exploring it.  There wasn’t much space for 30 people to spend a cold, rainy winter!  Jeff and I enjoyed wandering and following after the kids, relaxing and reading the signs.

The kids did the Junior Ranger program and got their badges; just in the nick of time too, because it started raining pretty hard!  I didn’t really take many photos since I had visited there before, and apparently I was more into taking selfies!  For more about the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, see my previous post.

That afternoon we went to the Fort George Brewery for pizza and some beer; while we were waiting for a table we checked out some of the nearby shops in downtown Astoria.  The pizza was delicious, and everybody was happy!  Jeff and I tried a couple different beers, it was nice to do some sampling and see what we liked.

Nearby to Fort George Brewery is the Reveille Ciderworks; one day I’ll visit there and try their ciders!  It just wasn’t in the cards that day because the kids were more interested in pizza than some of the “weird food” they have at food trucks.  Traveling with kids is a change of scenery for me!  That said, I was still able to get a couple of oyster shooters at Fort George – nobody else wanted any – it was so strange because they are so delicious!

 

 

2019 Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

April 13, 2019, Skagit Valley, Washington

The Skagit Valley, just south of my home is one of the most productive agricultural areas in Washington.  Specifically, for flowers.  Even more specifically, for tulips and daffodils.  Every spring, the tulip fields are awash in color as the beautiful flowers peek out through the soil.  Every fall, these same fields are dug up, so the bulbs and their associated baby bulbs can be sorted; the bulbs large enough to flower are sold to people around the world who want beautiful tulips in their gardens.  The rest are replanted to grow bigger!

There are two main growers in the Skagit Valley who have beautiful display gardens.  In the spring, when the flowers are blooming, they charge an admission fee to see the gardens.  They are gorgeous!  Roozengaarde plants about a million bulbs each fall to create their display gardens, and each year the displays are different.  Yes, you read that correctly – a million bulbs!  In addition to the tulips, there are daffodils, narcissus, muscari and hyacinth.

Katy and I went down to see the gardens before continuing on to our other friend’s house further south.  The weather was dark, rainy, freezing and windy, but we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying the bright pop of color!  You can see in some of the photos just how windy it was.  The gardens are planted to create patterns; stripes and waves, and there are always a few surprise features.  This year it was the Seahawks football team logo!  Enjoy the tour!

After our visit, we stopped at the Porterhouse Pub for a bite to eat.  I had the salmon fish and chips and a cider, which were both absolutely delicious!

This is 44

Yesterday was my 44th birthday.  It was uneventful and quiet.  I went to work, and received very little birthday attention.  My two employees got me a card and a little succulent plant, and our payroll person wished me a happy birthday in a mostly empty lunchroom.  I like it that way.

After work, mom and I went out to sushi dinner, and although I fully intended on taking a birthday selfie with her, I forgot.  Sigh…  Dinner was delicious, and I tried a soft shell crab appetizer for the first time.  You even eat the shell!  Verdict – it was fine, but not amazing.  My cherry blossom roll was delicious – and mom even tried a bite of it – with raw fish!  She said it was fine, but not amazing…

Today I spent some time with some girlfriends. We went to the local Greek Festival, then a brewery, and poked around in an antique shop and a consignment shop.  I bought an antique book about Alexander Hamilton, and a one pound bag of assorted coins.  We each took turns picking a coin until we had chosen them all – it was fun!

43 was a year with a lot of ups and downs.  I started it in Maine, on my road trip, spending my birthday hiking Acadia National Park, and eating whole lobster and lobster rolls right on the coast, looking out over the water.  It’s hard to beat that.

Relaxing

I found love again, and found hope that I wouldn’t always be on my own.

I came home from my trip and got ready to get back into my career after my time away.

I lost my favorite boss and long-time mentor right before Christmas.

I lost my father in February.  I have had a new set of firsts to experience – first time visiting Dad at the cemetery, first Father’s Day, first birthday without him at my birthday dinner.  Those milestones are hard.

I found a new job which I enjoy.

My spring and summer have been spent working, with a few long weekend getaways mixed in.  It isn’t enough travel, but for now it will have to do.  I watch that vacation balance like a hawk, and in the meantime just try to put away as much money as I can for my early retirement.

I’ve got plans.  This life has a way of changing those plans from time to time, but I will keep doing what I can to get to where I want to be.  44 will be a good year!

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Dana-Thomas House

Day 21, Sunday, August 5, 2018

In addition to being the land of Lincoln, Illinois has another famous man who made a name for himself in these parts 50 years after Lincoln died – Frank Lloyd Wright.  He lived in a suburb of Chicago, but his designs were far reaching, with homes in Pennsylvania, Arizona and probably every state in the nation.  Springfield has a Frank Lloyd Wright home that has been incredibly preserved; the Dana-Thomas House.

Mrs. Susan Lawrence Dana lived in an Italianate mansion that had been her parents’ home; she hired Frank Lloyd Wright to remodel the home between 1902 and 1904.  It is truly stunning, and a home that stays very true to Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style.  Mrs. Dana married, but her husband was a bit of a dud and she ended up divorcing him; she never had children, but she was quite a philanthropist and set up a school of sorts to teach black neighborhood children at a time when education for the poor residents nearby was not a priority.  These children had fond memories of Mrs. Dana and spending time in her home library, where they could read, check out books, or play with toys.

In her later years, Mrs. Dana’s finances suffered, and she became ill with dementia.  As a result, her home and belongings had to be sold to pay for her debts and her care.  At that point, the Mr. and Mrs. Charles Thomas bought the home as a complete lot and lived there until Mrs. Thomas’ death in 1975.  Their estate sold the home to the state of Illinois in 1981 for $1 million, which was considerably less than they could have gotten had they parceled out all the furnishings and sold the home separately.

The state of Illinois offers home tours for a $10 suggested donation for adults, only allowing small groups on the tours to prevent damage to the home and furnishings.  It is incredible.  No detail was missed, and the home has been remarkably preserved over the years.  When Mrs. Dana had the home remodeled, one room was left in the Italianate style as a tribute to her parents; it is a contrast to the prairie style of the rest of the home, and interesting to see this dark, heavily decorated room in the center of the home.

Interestingly, Mrs. Dana was allowed to choose her own knickknacks and artwork to decorate the home; often a requirement of working with Frank Lloyd Wright was that he was in charge of all of your home décor, and you didn’t get much.  That vase on the sideboard had to be selected by him, if you were permitted a vase at all.  It goes without saying that I would have not been allowed to commission his work, being the collector that I am.

I really enjoyed this tour, although the tour guide wasn’t the warmest or friendliest person in the world.  I often wonder why people like that take jobs guiding tourists around, if they are sure to be unhappy in the role.  I snuck in right before the tour started, so I watched the movie about the history of Mrs. Dana and the home afterwards; be sure to check that out.

No photos are permitted inside (this seems to be true for all the Frank Lloyd Wright homes that are open to the public), so I did buy a guidebook that has photographs of the interior.

After my tour, I headed down to try out a Springfield microbrewery, called Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery.  Obed &Isaac’s is located in a historic home that is located on the property of Obed Lewis, a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln – Lewis’ three children played with Lincoln’s children.  Unfortunately, the Lewis home had lost its historic charm over the years with numerous remodels, and the owners made the difficult decision to raze the home.

They then purchased the Isaac Lindsey home, another Lincoln era home in Springfield, and moved it to the site.  While they were drawing up plans, they realized that it was too small, so the Isaac Lindsey home was converted to a coffee house, and the Booth-Grunendike home was finally the one that was converted into the Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery.  They really, really wanted to save a historic home!

At Obed & Isaac’s, I had the Strawberry Blonde seasonal ale, and their chicken and waffles.  They were excellent and it gave me the energy for more touristing!