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Sam’s summer travel blog

I just got back from my trip from Northern California and Oregon, and I had an amazing time. Portland was incredible. It’s a much more of a pedestrian-friendly city than Los Angeles, which I really like.

The first day we were there, we looked around downtown. Portland is divided in to five parts by the Willamette River and Burnside Street. The five parts are Northwest, Northeast, North, Southwest and Southeast. The closer you get to the intersection of Burnside and the Willamette River, the closer you are to the center of the city.

My family and I stayed in Northwest. When we first arrived we went to Reed College just to look around. Reed College is in Southeast and looks like a college I would love to go to (even though I’m going into tenth grade). It focuses on a lot of the subjects that I’m really interested in like history and literature. While we were there we noticed what looked like a free concert. At the slightest glimpse of interest, a woman near the entrance told us we had to come in and listen. The concert turned out to be an open rehearsal for a string quartet. They were playing a piece that I had played during the school year with my orchestra. The music was breathtaking (I literally held my breath), but unfortunately we had to move on.

Next we went downtown to the Portland Farmers Market. OK, there’s something I have to tell you: My mom is a farmers market freak and if we don’t visit one on a vacation, her trip is ruined. Well, that’s not really true, but we end up at one every time anyway. Don’t get me wrong, though. I really like farmers markets. They’re a great place for people watching, tasting and smelling new foods, and seeing and hearing about new thoughts and ideas. Although small, the Portland Farmers Market was no exception. Oregon is known for fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables (especially berries) and it seemed that it they were all brought together in this one park. We got lunch: wood-fire-baked pita stuffed with vegetables and goat cheese, and berries that were gone before we left the market.

Afterward my family and I roamed downtown. There are water fountains everywhere. They are always running, no button necessary. There was also an information booth on the street and benches everywhere.

Our hotel was… well let’s see. It was exciting, bright, colorful, sweet sauce, all that, the bee’s knees, rad, off the hook. As one reviewer said, it looks like it was designed by the Jetsons. There are huge vases of candy and bright colors everywhere. I settled right in.

For dinner that night, my family and I went to Higgins, a restaurant that serves Oregon cuisine. Oregon cuisine has a lot of French elements, but with the regional produce, meat and seafood. We all agreed that it was as good as, if not better than some of the best restaurants in L.A. My parents both got fresh salmon, which of course I tried. It was some of the best salmon I’ve ever had. It was juicy and it tasted exactly like salmon should. My brother also got fish: halibut. It might have been better than the salmon. But the epitome of the meal was my food. The "Whole Pig Plate." No, it wasn’t a whole pig. It was an entire plate of pork, cooked in a lot of different ways. There was pork sausage, ribs, roast pork and more. It was exquisite.

As soon as we got back to the hotel room, my brother and I turned on the Food Network. We don’t have cable at home and it’s our favorite thing to watch when we have access to cable. (I know, I’m kind of a loser. Oh well.)

The next day half of my family (my brother and I) laid around and slept until noon. When we finally got around to it though, we did one of the coolest, biggest things of the entire trip. Powell’s City of Books is supposedly the largest bookstore in the world. In fact, it’s so big you need a map to get around. I could happily spend a week in that store (once again, I’m a loser). We only got to spend two and a half hours though. I bought a few books and then we had to move on.

Next, on to Voodoo Doughnuts (cue creepy music). One of the funkiest, weirdest, most delicious places I’ve ever been. The interior is covered in strange pictures all of which are framed and involve doughnuts of some sort, like one the size of a large child. The woman that served us had short orange hair, a lot of tattoos and piercings, and a great job. They specialize in strange doughnuts like the Voodoo Doughnut, a doughnut which is in the shape of a voodoo doll with pretzels stuck in it. My brother and I got something else, though—The Maple Bacon Bar: a truly magical thing. It’s a normal maple bar doughnut…with bacon on top. Ahhhhhh! It was so good.

That was Thursday. Thursday evening, we went to something called First Thursday (of the month). It was in a neighborhood called The Pearl, where most of the art galleries and businesses stay open late and there’s free food. There’s also an art walk where local artists can set up booths on the street and sell or show off their art. Galen (my brother) and I got temporary henna tattoos. Almost everyone in Portland seems to have a real tattoo. Even the most conservative looking people had tattoos. My mom didn’t like that. I think it added something to such a diverse (not racially, Portland is very segregated. It’s the one thing I didn’t like about Portland) culture. There are all kinds of people, from the kind of hipsters that worked at Voodoo Doughnuts to conservative middle-aged couples. We had dinner at Hot Lips Pizza, a pizzeria that also makes its own natural, organic fruit soda, which was so good we bought some to bring home.

Friday was the Fourth of July, so a lot of stores were closed, but Galen and I wandered around The Pearl. We didn’t see much, but it was fun anyway. That evening we went to a minor league baseball game. The Portland Beavers played the Tacoma Raniers (referring to the nearby Ranier Mountains). I love going to minor league games. We always get much better seats than at major league games because they’re so much cheaper. Plus I like the minor league team names a lot more, because they’re more creative. (The Dodgers’ farm team is the Las Vegas 51’s, as in Area 51, and their mascot is an alien.) And you’d never get $1 hot dogs at Dodger Stadium. After the game there were fireworks, but by the time those were over we were all exhausted and my dad had a ten 10-and-a-half-hour drive the next day and a seven-hour drive the day after that.
That’s all for now. I’m back home, but I’m looking forward to my next trip.

Till then,

July 8, 2008

Yesterday was our last day of camping. We went on a long hike, almost seven miles, to Ramona Falls. It was a lot of fun and really beautiful. Even though my brother and I complained at first, we had a great time. A lot of the trail was along the Salmon River, which although was not full of water, was still cool. As we walked along the trail there was snow. Yes, snow. It was in the 80s at least, we were sweating bullets, and there was snow on the ground. It was very strange.

Then suddenly the temperature dropped. I was shivering, but it felt great after having hiked almost halfway. The waterfall was breathtaking and the mist felt wonderful. We got within about 10 or 15 feet of the falls, then we hiked back.

After the hike, we went to the Timberline Lodge, a historic site and a ski lodge. The lodge is on Mt. Hood, which is still covered in snow and with skiers and snowboarders. One interesting thing about the Timberline Lodge is that a few of the exterior shots for The Shining were filmed there. I’ve only seen part of The Shining, but I was still a little creeped out. We had lunch at one of the two bars there and then headed back to camp.

When we got back to camp, my brother and I wandered around the creek next to our site. Unfortunately the current was too strong to go swimming or even wading in the creek. After dinner, my family and I played cards (Gumpsh and Flinch) and started a fire.

This morning we packed up camp. We’re heading for Portland. I’m really excited for Portland because I’ve heard about how great of a city it is, but I’ll miss camping in one of the nicest campsites I’ve been to. It was beautiful and just an overall nice place, even though we had to pump water.
That’s all for now. I’m going to go enjoy the city.


July 2, 2008

Ashland is a wonderful town and I had a great time there. The town is completely centered around its internationally renowned Shakespeare festival. When I walked around Ashland, I saw Shakespeare everywhere. One of my favorite sightings was a record store called CD Or Not CD.

My family and I went to four plays in the three days we were in Ashland. The first day we saw "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," which was incredible. The production was set in the disco era instead of ancient times. "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" is a play by Shakespeare about four lovers who are lost in the Athenian forest, a group of laborers who are putting on a play, and mischievous fairies who make people fall in love with the wrong people or creatures. The fairies were dressed like punk ballerinas, the laborers were hippies who came on stage in a Volkswagen van, and the lovers were dressed in all white.

The production was even funnier than the play usually is. The rest of the plays we saw were not funny, but still good. That evening we saw another Shakespeare play, "Othello." "Othello" is about a black man named Othello, who is a general in the Venetian navy. He marries a white woman named Desdamona. For various reasons their marriage is ruined, and that’s not even the tragic ending. Although Othello was not a fun play, it was wonderful. To cheer up afterward, we went out for ice cream.

Sam floats in the Klamath River.

The next morning, we woke up early and were picked up by Kokopelli River Guides for a rafting adventure on the Klamath River. There was one other family of four on the trip. They were from Portland and really nice. They gave us some recommendations for when we go to Portland later this week. When we got to the river, we learned some safety rules, put on lifejackets and started on our rafting trip. It was so fun. There were two rafts, one with each family. Our guide did most of the work and showed us interesting animals and plants along the way. She is attending the local university, Southern Oregon University. Whenever we went over rapids, my mom would laugh really loud, but it was fun anyway. When we were in calmer waters, I got to jump out. The water was cold but refreshing (it was a hot day). Later, I played a game where I stood on the front of the raft and our guide spun the boat in circles. I tried to stay up, but it didn’t take long for them to toss me. The whole rafting trip was a lot of fun.

Afterward, my brother and I roamed around Ashland. I spent an hour in the record store. We didn’t have nearly enough time, in our short stay there to do everything we wanted to do. Before the play that evening, we saw the Green Show, a free outdoor concert hosted by the Shakespeare festival. The band was called the Stone Forest Ensemble. They played hip hop on instruments you might not expect. There was a violinist, a cellist, a drummer and a beat boxer. It kind of reminded me of String Project Los Angeles, a strings school where I play different styles of music.

The play we saw that evening was "Our Town," by Thornton Wilder. "Our Town," a 1940 play about a small fictional town in New Hampshire, was produced on the Elizabethan stage, a replica of the kind of stage Shakespeare would have used in his time. We went out for ice cream again after that. The next day we saw the matinee of "Fences," a play by August Wilson about a former Negro Leagues baseball player who never made it to the Major Leagues. These plays are some of the greatest plays ever written and they were put on incredibly well, with amazing acting. 

Afterwards, we walked around Ashland. I found another really great record store called the Music Co-op, At the music store, I bought my first vinyl record, "Go!" a single by hip hop artist Common.

When we got back to the house that we were renting, there was a storm. The wind was blowing really hard and it was raining, but unlike a "storm" in Los Angeles it was still really warm. It was a cool experience, although after a while, we went inside.

The next morning we left early and got back on the road to go camping again. I really loved my stay in Ashland. It’s a very hippie town, which I like a lot. My mom saw a sign in a laundromat that advertised a pancake breakfast with "wheat, buckwheat and vegan pancakes." All over the place we saw young people just traveling on their own or with friends. I think I liked it so much because I want to travel the country and the world when I’m out of school.

On our way to the campsite, we stopped in Eugene, Oregon, home of the University of Oregon and the 2008 Olympic track trials, which are going on this week. Track Town USA, is the city’s nickname We didn’t have time to stop to see any of the track events, but we saw the evidence everywhere. As much as Ashland is obsessed with Shakespeare, Eugene is obsessed with running. We saw runners of all shapes and sizes everywhere. There were also running themed restaurants, like Jogger’s Bar and Grill.

This time we are camping near Portland in a national forest, which is much more primitive than when we camped at Lake Siskiyou. There are no showers or flush toilets and we have to pump water from a well. Today we went on a trail that ran along the Salmon River. It had an underground observation room with a window into the creek so that you could see the salmon and trout. There were only baby salmon because of the season. It was still really cool. After that we went to the Mt. Hood Brewery for lunch. My dad insists that we go to almost all the breweries we see (we ate at a brewery in Eugene too, the Steelhead Brewery). I’m fine with it though because most breweries have really good food. For dessert I shared a berry cobbler with my brother. All the berries were local and delicious.

That’s all for now. I have to go cook dinner on our camping stove for my family. I’ll probably make something with eggs, because we have a lot of them.

Till next time,

July 1, 2008

Last summer I had the incredible opportunity to go to China. While there I wrote a weekly blog about my travels in the Far East. This summer I’m traveling again, but this time I’m hitting the road. My family and I are driving from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon and back in two weeks with a lot of stops along the way. This time I’ll be blogging about my trip also.
The long drives can be boring, but I mostly sleep through them. When I’m not, I listen to my iPod, read, and watch the world fly by. But once in a while the traveling gets to me. My legs start cramping up after three hours, I can’t stand my brother or I’m simply bored of looking at plants. It’s always an adventure, though, and I love it.

Our first stop was in Salinas, California. Salinas is a small town near Monterey in Northern California. It’s about 300 miles from Los Angeles. It took around six hours to get there. Our close family friend was visiting her parents there, so we stopped for the day to hang out with them. We went out to lunch and then walked around the marina in Monterey, but the highlight of the day was dinner. My family, our friend and her parents went to dinner at Phil’s Fish Market, a seafood restaurant with a beach on one side and a power plant on the other. The fish was fresh and the cooking was delicious. I had fried fish and shrimp. There was also crab, crab cakes and fish tacos at our table. All together, it was a fun day. We stayed in Salinas that night and the next day we were back on the road.

Sam and his brother Galen on Lake Siskiyou.

We drove to Lake Siskiyou, a beautiful lake only a few hours from the California and Oregon border. Lake Siskiyou is 365 miles from Salinas, but it didn’t take much longer than the last drive. The whole trip seems like a blur though. When we arrived my brother and I set up our tent and stretched out our legs. We camped there for three days and two nights. I slept better than I ever have camping. I was finally catching up on all the sleep I lost during the school year. It was so relaxing. We didn’t have to do anything.

The lake had kayaks, canoes and paddleboats for rent. My family and I went kayaking one day and then canoeing another. We took the canoe across the lake and ate lunch on the opposite bank. It was a lot of fun, but hard sometimes. Canoes are easy to tip, although miraculously we didn’t, but even so keeping a straight course with four people rowing is very difficult. I had a great time all the same. Two of the nights we went to a nightly free movie outside in a very small amphitheatre. The movies were all little kid movies, but I enjoyed them anyway. The second night was one of my favorite animated movies ever: The Aristocats. I used to watch The Aristocats all the time when I was a little kid, and now I realize that it has adult humor too and it’s still funny.

Thursday morning we packed up and piled in the car. First we stopped at the Black Bear Diner, a local diner that has now become a chain. It was a small, charming, little diner. The menus were replicas of 1969 local newspapers. It was really fun. After that, we took the short hour-and-a-half-trip (only 78 miles) to Ashland, Oregon home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The festival is supposed to be incredible and I’m really excited for it. I’m just settling in to our beautiful guesthouse as I write this. Ashland is a real hippie town and so far I love it. It’s a mix of young people, either from Southern Oregon University or just living here for fun, and older, retired people.

Till next time,

June 27, 2008