Pink and Blue

It’s been a fine springlike weekend here in the PNW – all sunshine, blue skies, and blooming cherry blossoms.

blossoms

I posted this photo to Facebook, and a friend who used to live in Portland but relocated to Ohio years ago commented, “Such a beautiful view. Brings back fond memories.” I asked her if she ever missed it here, and she replied, “Some things yes, the cost of living NO!”

Amen to that.

Tara and I took the light rail into the city yesterday so we could take advantage of the nice weather. Normally we’d have done a hike, but after the devastating Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia Gorge last September, most of our favorite trails are closed. We focus on urban hiking now. (Such a shame, too. Those hikes are spectacular…I hate that we won’t get a chance to do a few more before we move.)

The MAX ride was interesting. At one point a group of four got on, a young couple and her parents. They struck up a conversation with the person next to them, and it turns out they are from Arizona and planning a move to Portland in a couple of months. They’d flown out for an exploratory weekend of adventure in the Rose City. Sitting across from them, overhearing the excitement in their voices as they gushed about their future, I was aware of the weird dichotomy in our lives. They can’t wait to get out here, and we can’t wait to leave.

We missed our stop – ha, how long have you lived here, Mark?! – and had to backtrack a bit on foot, but Portland is very walkable and the weather was gorgeous. Our first stop was the PSU farmer’s market. Admittedly produce is a bit sparse this time of year, but we were hoping to snag some asparagus. No such luck, so we left empty-handed. Walked to our favorite food cart pod on 10th and Alder next and grabbed lunch, then continued on to the waterfront, where we did a loop around the river and walked through the Saturday Market. Tara bought a print and I got a garlic grater, final souvenirs from a place I’ve visited dozens of times over the years. We made one more stop at Pine Street Market to pick up some corn nuts (sounds weird, but Pollo Bravo makes fresh corn nuts from scratch that are pretty effin’ fantastic) before hopping back on the MAX train.

On the way home, we stopped at a Batteries + Bulbs store so I could replace a key fob battery. When the cashier asked if I wanted to sign up for their lifetime replacement program, I made the mistake of telling him I would, sounds like a great deal, yadda yadda, but we’re moving in a few months so I guess I’ll have to pass. He then told me they have stores nationwide and asked where we are headed. I still figured I’d be off the hook, because – you know – South Dakota, but as luck would have it they just happen to have a store on West Main Street in downtown Rapid City. I was kind of stuck at that point, but free lifetime battery replacements for a one-time fee of $17.95 plus tax isn’t a terrible deal, I suppose. It’ll give me incentive to hang onto my Mazda for a while, anyway.

The real kicker is, the cashier just moved out here from Rapid City last May. Turns out he was born and raised there. What are the odds?! I asked him if it was the weather that drove him away, and he said, nope – it was boredom. Ha! But he was a young guy and you could tell he was the type itching for adventure after growing up in a smallish town in the Midwest, so again, dichotomy was at play. We chatted about the area and he did mention the excellent job market out there, so that was encouraging. Just a crazy weird coincidence to run into a former Rapid Citian out here. You don’t come across many of those.

My parents had us over for dinner last night. We hadn’t been to their house in ages – at least not when they were home, as we did borrow their grill a couple of times when they were out of town – so it was nice seeing them again. We often try to guess what they’re going to make before arriving, and I nailed it yesterday. The grilled teriyaki chicken and macaroni salad were delicious. They even had that elusive asparagus we’d been unable to find, so it was a pretty well-rounded meal.

Countdown: 104 Days

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Farewell, Pyeongchang

I can’t believe the Olympics are over now. They’d been a near-constant companion for 2+ weeks, and I’ll miss them. And when I say “constant” I mean that. This has been the view from my desk at work:

Olympics

I even had to move my coworker’s plant out of the way, as she rudely had it sitting atop her filing cabinet and blocking my view. The nerve of some people! Our IT department (that may be a generous description given that it’s really just one guy) was kind enough to hook up a laptop and play highlights from the previous day’s events. I was especially thankful for this after realizing I’d somehow missed the initial broadcast of the men’s snowboard cross, the one event I was most looking forward to. The games were a nice little distraction during the day, and we watched quite a bit at home, as well. Now, onto Beijing in 2022. How different my life is going to look then!


I’ve mentioned from time to time Mark & Tara’s PNW Farewell Tour, a list of things to do and places to see before we move. We settled on 26 items and have been able to cross off 11 so far. On Sunday we completed another – lunch and a movie at Kennedy School, one of the McMenamins flagship properties. We met up with our friend Chris for lunch and cocktails, then Tara and I saw “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in the theater there. Afterwards, we grabbed a few more drinks at one of the onsite bars before calling it a day. Great way to spend a rainy Sunday.

edgefield signI know we’re focused on and excited about our move, but I would like to devote some of these blog posts to our favorite places in Portland/Vancouver. I don’t want anybody to think we won’t miss things around here – that certainly is not the case. Now’s the perfect time to discuss one of those places – or in this case, a chain of those places. We are big fans of the McMenamins mini empire, a family-owned chain of pubs, breweries, hotels, theaters, spas, and music venues. Portland brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin opened their first cafe in 1974, founded a hospitality company in 1983, and acquired additional properties over the years. They focus on handcrafting their own beer, wine, cider, liquor, and coffee, and serve up terrific food – in fact, they are one of the 50 top craft brewers in the U.S. Their locations now number in the dozens, and they have been expanding into Washington state in recent years.

boiler room bar

Boiler Room Bar at McMenamins Kennedy School – very typical of their decor.

McMenamins is a unique place to spend a a couple of hours or even a whole weekend, if you are so inclined. It can best be summed up as an “experience.” Their larger properties, like the aforementioned Kennedy School and the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, are a labyrinth of bars, theaters, and restaurants. Our favorite is Edgefield, a sprawling former county poor farm in Troutdale that features a winery, golf course, distillery, and amphitheater, where we have caught many a summer concert on the lawn. Bonus: the hotel is haunted. We can personally vouch for that!

All McMenamins properties are decorated in artist-commissioned hand-painted murals that can only be described as whimsical – even exposed pipes don’t escape the artist’s paintbrush – and they sell a passport book in which you collect stamps that are later redeemed for prizes. Quite frankly it’s a brilliant business concept and always a great way to spend a day. And I haven’t even mentioned their legendary Cajun tots. There isn’t anything else quite like McMenamins. It will be missed!

Countdown: 117 Days

 

The Shadow Never Lies

I had an unexpected snow day today!

Well, not exactly. I still worked. I just did so from the comfort of my recliner at home, thanks to a rare late February snowstorm. How rare? It’s been 23 years since we’ve had this much snow (3.5”) after Valentine’s Day. And they’re predicting more tonight. What a strange winter it has been. We were in the 60s a couple of weeks ago and it looked like Spring had arrived early. When Punxsatawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter at the beginning of the month, I thought to myself, the groundhog has lost his freakin’ mind. 

But the shadow never lies.

It actually snowed pretty much nonstop all day yesterday, but the temperature hovered right around 34 degrees and the ground was too warm for anything to stick. After sunset the temperature dropped and the snow picked up, so Tara and I found ourselves walking around outside right in the midst of the heaviest of it. I call that “South Dakota research.” This morning when I opened the blinds in our bedroom, I was greeted with the following sight:

snowglow

Gorgeous, huh? The sun was rising next to Mount Hood, and its rays cast a warm glow on the snow-flocked branches. Even Tara seemed to enjoy the magic of last night’s snowfall (or at least pretended to). Normally I’m the one gushing over frozen precipitation while she is rather blase over it all. We may just have turned a corner.

The funny thing is, Rapid City got a bunch of snow on Monday and I was jealous. Not anymore!

We got an email from HR this morning stating that the office was technically closed and we could come in at our own discretion or make alternate arrangements with our managers. I was planning on working from home anyway, because there is absolutely no need for me to do this job in an office (hint, hint!), so that worked out nicely. I’m always more productive working from home anyway. Got an early start too, so I’ll be logging off at 3:30 and heading to WinCo for groceries. Not because another storm is bearing down upon us; Wednesday is just our designated grocery day. Hopefully the store isn’t a madhouse.

Countdown: 122 Days

Homeward Bound

Bloody Marys, a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” marathon (thanks to a free HBO weekend. I can finally watch the newest season – yay!) and even a little snow in the air. Translation: not a half bad Sunday. It would be even better if I had tomorrow off like a certain unnamed female in the house does. Well, technically three females in the house have Monday off if I’m counting the cat, but whatever.

It’s been a pretty nice weekend. Originally Tara’s friend Betsy and her son were supposed to come up for a visit – they live in Vegas – but she inadvertently booked the trip for the wrong weekend and it would have cost something like $700 to change her ticket, so that visit is on hold. Which is probably a good thing, as the weather isn’t great. It took a while, but winter finally decided to arrive. Friday evening we went back to Shanahan’s. Last week we actually had to walk out and come up with a Plan B because every seat in the place was taken, but this time things were back to normal. We got our regular table (I joked that they should put a plaque with our names on it to commemorate our faithful patronage over the years) and enjoyed fried pickles and other wonderful pub grub. I am going to miss the hell out of that place.

Saturday we drove into Portland to kill a few hours. We’ve been stocking up on things we won’t be able to find in Rapid City, like Wild Roots vodka and Jacobsen sea salt. With only four months to go, it’s time to take this stuff seriously. Afterwards we headed over to my parents’ house. They are still out of town and won’t be home for another six days, so we borrowed their grill again and cooked up some chicken and asparagus. Drank wine and cider while listening to Crosby, Stills Nash & Young and Paul Simon. It was a very nice evening.

paul-simon-1Speaking of Paul Simon, I just bought us tickets to see him. His farewell tour is swinging through the Moda Center in Portland on Saturday, May 19. I was on the fence, because honestly it’s kind of a pain in the ass dealing with arena concerts, but I grew up listening to Paul Simon because my dad was a fan. The fact that it’s a weekend show, not to mention his farewell tour, sealed the deal for me. Our seats may be in the nosebleed section but this will be our last big concert before we move and, therefore, totally worth it.

Today I am making chicken noodle soup and plan to finish up Season 9 of Curb. It is otherwise a very chill, low-key day.

Countdown: 125 Days

Fake Like 38

I stepped outside this morning and was greeted with a blast of cold air and a brisk wind. A couple of hours later Tara called and, as we were chatting, I mentioned how chilly it was outside. But I immediately caught myself and retracted the sentence.

“It’s not really cold outside,” I said.

And it wasn’t. The temperature was hovering around 40 degrees, which – granted – ain’t exactly swimsuit weather, but it is only February. We’ve had an unusually warm couple of months, so a temperature closer to the norm felt extra cold to me.

Besides, I keep reminding myself how cold next winter is going to be. I’ve been following the weather in Rapid City religiously for months now, and there have been many days where highs were in the single digits, and nights have dipped below zero. So I’m trying very hard not to complain about fake cold like 38 degrees, because it’s all relative and a year from now that will feel probably feel warm!


My parents are currently on vacation in Florida, so we decided to take advantage of the situation by borrowing their grill. Being as how their grill is attached to the side of their house via a natural gas valve, we ended up borrowing their entire house while we were at it. (Don’t worry, mom – we brought our own wine!).

Grilling is one thing we both miss. When I was a homeowner I’d grill out at least once a week, pretty much all year long. But our apartment complex doesn’t allow grills, and even though some residents break the rules Tara and I choose to walk the straight and narrow. Which means grilling has turned into a special occasion.

flames

We picked up ribeye steaks from Costco, invited our friend Kara over, and had ourselves a feast on Saturday night, kicking back in their sunroom (we borrowed that, too) with the aforementioned steak, accompanied by sauteed mushrooms, shrimp, apricot pepita cabbage slaw, and garlic bread. We had a great time, even if Kara was a little unnerved by the creepy oversized doll in the living room. I didn’t mention how the thing comes to life sometimes and tiptoes up the stairs in the middle of the night, magically appearing in bed with my parents.

Just kidding, Kara.

Countdown: 131 days.